Chapter 1: In which a boy is forced to seek a new home
"He's right here. Don't shoot, please"
"Where is my baby? What have you done to my baby?"
Danny jumped, nearly toppling from his current perch. When had he fallen asleep? He looked around to see it was night wherever he was. The moon was nearly at its peak so it was near midnight. There was a road nearby, but other than that it was pretty much the middle of nowhere. Behind him was a wooden wall to some sort of building. . . Danny almost fell back down he jumped up so fast. The rest stop! He'd left Amity Park and was heading somewhere!
He sagged. He'd been headed to Vlad's. The only other person like him in the world. The only one who'd understand. But now? Now he wasn't so sure. What would happen if he told Vlad the truth? Vlad wasn't the sort of person to let things go. Would his love, twisted as it was, keep him from hurting his mother or would it dissolve? And then what? He didn't want his parents to be hurt, even if they didn't believe he was himself.
Too afraid to face Vlad now, Danny was forced to reevaluate his plans. He had no more friends, no home, he couldn't risk his parents lives telling Vlad. There was no choice really. He had to turn around, had to go somewhere else. Maybe he'd find some place even further away. After all, farther was better right? He nodded, not happy but at least satisfied with this choice. With a whisper of "Going ghost." He shot upwards, energy restored by his brief nap.
He didn't like the idea of going backwards. The risk of heading through Amity Park airspace was too great. There wasn't much value in taking another route, either. He'd never been outside Amity Park besides the single trip to Wisconsin, and he hadn't paid much attention to the way there anyway. In the end he decided to skirt his home town by as wide a margin as he could without getting lost then head to the coast. The northwest sounded good to him for some reason. So he followed the road he took back and gave his hometown a wide berth. And as soon as the lights of Amity Park had faded again Danny sped up; hitting top speed and moving coast-ward.
"If I see another tourist trap I'm going to scream. I mean it." Danny muttered as he slogged past yet another billboard, this one going on about 'Real Mummies Daily!' which did nothing to change his mind. He'd hit Oregon maybe a day or so (he wasn't really keeping track) after he'd left Amity Park and had been traveling on foot for most of his time there. People were after mindless amusement and weren't about to question a sixteen year old hitchhiker with no bags; which was a plus for him. He'd endured the chatter of several families before finally asking one if there was an actual town nearby. Gravity Falls was what he got; a place he'd never heard of, but he was given a roadside attraction map to a place called the Mystery Shack which he was assured was there. More interesting to the halfa, however, was the fact that the faint tugging he'd felt since reaching Oregon had gotten stronger as he'd gone along. By this point he figured it was pulling him towards this Gravity Falls place, or at least somewhere near it. It was a plan, of sorts, so Danny kept going.
Once past the World's Largest Ball of Yarn (and Knitting Needles!) things began to quiet down. It seemed Gravity Falls was further off the beaten path than he'd thought. After pacing for a minute or two Danny decided he needed an aerial view and transformed. He flew upwards until he could see the roads better. From his new vantage point Danny could find his way much easier. More importantly, he could see a small town beside a massive forest. "That has to be it!" he shouted and punched the air. Then he stopped. "And I'm talking to myself again, great."
Danny sighed and dropped down, invisibly skirting the roadside. Happy he was going the right way, the halfa let himself zone out a little; he needed some sort of plan when he reached town and he doubted there were any motels. Gravity Falls seemed like the kind of town you saw the sights and moved on from. Unless you lived there, of course, and Danny had no clue just how many people were in this town.
Danny was so wrapped up in his thoughts he ran smack into a large billboard. He landed with a faint thud and looked to glare at the obstacle. He was met by a cheerful image of mountains and trees, a water tower, and the sun rising from behind the words 'Welcome to Gravity Falls'. As Danny stood he spotted a second, much smaller, sign hanging by a corner from the bottom. Painted white and yellowed by weather, this sign shouted 'Home of the Mystery Shack!' in uneven red letters. With that detail neatly wrapped up Danny took off again; this time aiming for a once-over of the town to see what kind of people were in it.
Precisely fifteen minutes later he had his answer. The weird kind of people. That's who lived here. In just five minutes alone Danny had seen two cops practically fused at the hip, a woman with a lazy eye who stank of cats (he could still smell cat pee), a man he only ever saw the left side of, and some sort of abominably ugly gremlin man. But they all knew each other and everyone else in town. Danny sighed, a close knit place like this would definitely start asking why a lone teen was in town for so long, especially with the busloads of tourists coming and going. So Danny gave up looking for a place in town and began searching the woods.
Silence fell the instant he passed the treeline. Shocked, Danny whirled in the air, seeing the steeple of the town's church surprisingly close. He left the trees and could hear the white noise of people; which vanished once he slipped into the trees again. Danny did this a few more times just to make sure he wasn't going some weird kind of deaf before shrugging and heading deeper in. The forest was obviously very old. Old enough that Danny decided to stretch his senses a little and try and see how old. As soon as he did he was hit by a wall of energy. Danny recoiled in shock. He hadn't felt something like that since Frostbite had first taught him to sense spirits.
But there was no true spirit here, the untold years of life and death had melded together into a single aura, one so large Danny couldn't even begin to find the edges. He stood in silent awe as he reached out again, cautiously brushing against this massive existence, and smiled as he felt it reach back, a warm yet cool feeling rushed along his arm and to his core. There was no malice in it or good intent. It was simply there; and it had welcomed him. Danny spent several long moments simply taking in what he now knew was the heart of these woods before managing to shake himself aware again. By the time he did he was already deep in the forest, dodging joyously between trees and zooming up in the air to dive back in the leaves.
The Mystery Shack and a possible roof over his head were completely forgotten in favor of spiraling around a particularly tall redwood and coming to a rest on a high branch. He sprawled full length across it and looked out across the forest. Now feeling calm and a little tired, Danny realized the tug he'd been feeling was gone, a clearer sign than any that this was where he would stay. He stretched and settled in, staying in ghost form just in case he rolled off somehow.
Chapter 2: In which a bugbear makes a bad situation worse
Which was when the branch broke.
Two things happened as Danny fell; and it would be a very long time before he could begin to think about it. The first, something shiny and metallic caught his eye. The second, a screaming pain wrapped around his neck and set his core ablaze. His fall was halted for a brief moment as whatever caught him held briefly, then snapped and sent him tumbling, half conscious from pain, to the ground, which received him none too gently. Instinct made him try and change back but when he reached for the warmth of his human half a wall of burning pain blocked him.
He reached for his neck and was again repulsed by pain; the thin wire around his neck bit in tighter. Danny thought of running for help and tried to fly away but he quickly hit the ground. 'Powers blocked. Now what?' He squirmed in pain and came to his third unfortunate realization. 'Where are my legs?' Danny managed to shove himself up on to his hands and looked back, letting out a chocked scream as he saw his tail, faintly translucent and barely moving. There was no feeling in it either. Though he didn't need to, Danny was breathing hard; a cold sweat breaking out on his back. He was a sitting duck; injured by something he couldn't remove in a place he didn't know. At least whatever was on his neck had stopped tightening.
He managed to calm down long enough to feel around his neck. While he couldn't touch it he was able to determine it was a wire snare. He felt the hair on his neck rise in anger, remembering his hatred of the cruel devices. At the very least it hadn't cut very deep. It must have been hanging there for a long time to dull even slightly like this. He tried again to reach his humanity, hoping to be able to pull the snare off and get help, but he was again thwarted. The burn seared from his core to every inch of his being, making him feel like he'd been thrown in a fire.
Then everything went dark.
Danny woke up to pitch black and stifled a scream. He focused on his breathing as his vision cleared, his ectoplasm enhanced vision picking light from the darkness. Then sound returned and it was beginning to seem like his senses were at least back to normal (or at least ghost normal). But when he tried to fly he stayed firmly on the ground. "Okay, can't fly, just have the basics. Like, the basic basics. Oh, boy."
As he pushed himself up again he noticed his body felt lighter. It still wasn't enough to fly but he could get around by keeping his torso and tail lifted in a sort of backwards push up. He was strongly reminded of the iguana ghost he'd fought when he was just getting started. It was the same kind of movement. Actually, imitating that ghost's movement made his own much easier. He paced for a minute or two, just to get this new thing down, then began a slow search for someone to get rid of the snare.
The more he walked the easier it was to get around. Feeling had come back to his lower body and he'd started experimenting with it freely; holding his tail at various angles to find what did what. As he did so he felt a pulling in it, like someone had grabbed the tip and was stretching it. He froze as the sensation grew stronger and he began to slide back. He could hear a weird growling buzz that vibrated up his spine. Slow and cautious, Danny turned around. What he saw made him question his whole world.
It was as large as Cujo when angry and covered in striped yellow-white fur. Multiple limbs worked to drag Danny backwards by his tail, still clenched in dripping ursine jaws. His gaze traveled higher and was trapped by multifaceted green eyes that narrowed at him. He felt strangely disconnected as he rolled on his back and swiped at those eyes. The beast roared like a swarm of angry bees and reeled back, dropping him. He scrambled upright but was swiped aside, claws like scythes ripping into his chest. The bear thing turned to him and sank its claws into his tail, then yanked him right back to it; massive fangs closed around his torso and held him tight. Satisfied with its catch it turned to lumber off while Danny struggled to stay awake and in one piece.
Without the use of his powers there was no way to really get loose. It wasn't like Danny was completely helpless but without any other weapons he didn't have a lot of options. He squirmed around until the creature bit down, making him yelp and go still. Danny found this more disturbing than anything else; it wasn't eating him, hadn't even injured him beyond the initial attack so, what did it want with him? Seeing as he'd never encountered anything like it before Danny couldn't make even the most rudimentary guesses.
While he was being given a lumbering tour of the woods he began to scratch at the wire around his neck again; the leaking ectoplasm was beginning to dry but the wound had yet to close (he would have to keep an eye on it). He managed to rub away the flaking ectoplasm without knocking the wire around too much, he did not want to pass out now, and went back to weighing his options. The bear-thing, meanwhile, had decided it was being ignored and chomped down again. Danny felt the jaws sink in this time.
Then a fang slid too close to his core and he felt nothing else.
so this is when things get started. Danny's overall body is inspired by Zavraan's old evil Danny art on deviantart.
Chapter 3: In which the stage is truly set
Now let us skip ahead a little (believe me you don't want to know what happens next). Skip ahead and move back to town. Let's watch a bus arrive in front of the most tourist trappy money pit in the northwest. Welcome to the Mystery Shack.
But there's no tourists on this bus. Instead two children disembark; a boy and a girl. They are equipped for a long stay and only the girl seems excited. Meet Dipper and Mabel Pines; great niece and nephew to the Mystery Shack's owner, Stan Pines. Having decided their children need some time in nature their parents have deigned to send them for a summer with their great uncle. Three long months of working in the Shack's gift shop and whatever else Stan had in mind.Or at least that was the idea.
Not long after they arrived, Dipper found a very unique book. This discovery led both siblings into a much more exciting summer. And Dipper himself was captured by the mystery of the books author; determined to solve it before summer ended. With book in hand Dipper and Mabel found incredible things (sometimes by accident) and saved the town from a maniacal ten year old and zombies (that's a fun story).
Now, however, things are calm. A doldrum of sorts has arrived in Gravity Falls. No strangeness to solve or even a whiff of a critter to catch. The Mystery Shack is rebuilt, but things have been quiet since the zombie party incident, and Dipper has found himself in a drought. Well, except for his nightmares. Mabel, of course, is unaffected; she doesn't need a journal to have fun, she's got Waddles the pig and way too much glitter around. But Dipper didn't have that; he had a book, and a brain that wouldn't shut up.
Which was how Dipper found himself in the deepest part of the woods, following a trail of bear prints. They weren't Multibear's and that was what had caught his interest. Dipper's experiences had taught him a lot of things regarding the supernatural; each and every one of these lessons was at the forefront of his mind while he followed the tracks. They were fascinating, from a bear with multiple legs (which is why he'd thought they were from Multibear), one right paw had two toes missing. It's left hind leg tended to drag, making the tracks vanish at weird times so tracking was a bit slow.
Dipper had been following the tracks for at least an hour when he heard the roar. He ignored the tracks and ran to the source of the sound only to stop dead. Barely five feet from where he stood was a full grown male bugbear, fighting for its life. The bugbear was gravely wounded and simply could not keep up with its opponent. Whatever it was fighting was not only too quick for it, it was too quick for Dipper to see. All he could get was a blur of white and black, maybe a tail? It didn't matter; within a minute of encountering the battle the bugbear gave a pained wheeze and collapsed, blood oozing from a torn out eye. Dipper felt the urge to vomit as he realized there were chunks of brain and skull sliding from the socket as well. The other creature had begun eating it before it even stopped breathing.
Now that it was still Dipper could better observe it. Calming his stomach he pulled out his notebook and began frantically writing. It wasn't looking at him, thankfully, so he couldn't see much beyond the long black tail that looked slightly translucent and suddenly turned to pale skin at the waist. He could see two very human looking arms braced against the bugbear's corpse. As he was writing all this down a squirrel scurried across his feet. Dipper let out a yelp and slapped a hand over his mouth but it was too late. The creature's head whipped around and Dipper yelped again. Solid green eyes, no iris or pupil he could see, gazed at him from an all too human face; even with a bleeding hunk of bugbear flesh in its (his?) mouth. It tossed its head back and swallowed the meat, giving Dipper a glimpse of something metal around its neck.
While Dipper was distracted with what he'd seen, the creature pounced. Dipper's hat rolled away as his head hit the ground hard. Silvery white hair drifted around him like mist but was ignored in favor of its eyes. This close Dipper could see a faint bluish smoke that drifted from the corners. The creature shrieked at him and lunged; Dipper panicked and flailed at it. One hand slapped its neck and it screamed in pain and fled. Dipper remained where he'd fallen for a minute or two; whether it was shock or just trying to process what had happened, he couldn't say. He managed to pick himself up and looked around for his notebook, thankfully undamaged. Even though everything in him was screaming to leave he wanted a better look at the bugbear. So, swallowing hard he approached and looked it over, trying to avoid looking at its face.
It was huge, the head alone was bigger than him. But as he looked it over he noticed something; it's legs weren't right. This bugbear had all its toes and the rear left leg was perfectly healthy. Dipper felt a cold sweat on his neck. This wasn't the same bear that left the tracks. Just how many of these things were in Gravity Falls now?
Mabel, for once, was not bouncing in excitement. Instead she was watching Dipper with wide eyes as he paced. As soon as he returned they both began flipping through the journal in hopes of seeing this thing. But it was nowhere; not even in the ghosts. "So that means it's new." Dipper couldn't keep the joy out of his voice. Finally, something even the author had never seen!
"Or maybe he had and it ate him!"
"Then the journal wouldn't have been hidden, Mabel." Dipper pointed out. Though her idea wasn't too far fetched.
"Because he hid it and then it ate him! And now that you've seen it it's gonna eat you too!" Mabel had jumped off the bed to get in Dipper's face and was now making spooky noises as she flapped her sweater sleeves around.
"I don't think that'll happen. But I do want to try finding him again. Maybe we can get him to trust us and take that thing off his neck." Dipper winced as he remembered just how much pain that thing had caused, from a light brush! What could happen if someone really dug into it? No, he wanted to help if he could. And the sooner the better. "And maybe he can tell us why there's so many bugbears around."
Chapter 4: In which plans are made
Mabel managed to convince her brother that it would be easier to plan if he slept first. And to her credit she at least got him to go to bed. But sleep was hard coming. Dipper's mind was going in circles, trying to make a decent plan while simultaneously figuring out just what they were dealing with. In the end he only got a couple hours of sleep but he'd cemented the plan in his head. All thanks to one thing. In his encounter the creature's attack was prompted by food. He'd interrupted it eating and it responded appropriately. It wasn't actively vicious; a detail he was relying on for this to work. The only thing he had to wait for was Wendy and Soos to arrive, and they could get started. He would worry about the bugbear later.
With the lull in visitors it was easy to get everyone together, so Dipper wasted no time in explaining. Even though his audience groaned when he brought out the charts. "No guys it's okay. This plan's really simple I promise."
"As long as it's not a billion steps long I'm in, man." Wendy said as he flipped to his plan. It actually was simple and only needed a few things to work; a trap and the right bait. It was Wendy who came up with the trap. Dipper didn't know if the creature could fly or how well it could climb so she suggested a live trap for bears. "My dad made us all learn how to build them."
"Right, not going to ask. Now we just need the bait." Dipper started pacing, muttering out loud, "It'll have to be alive. I don't think that thing will bother with something it hasn't killed itself. So it needs to be small enough to wrangle and appealing to eat. So what could we,"
"LET'S USE A GNOME!" Mabel screamed, popping out of nowhere. Dipper probably set a couple of records in high jump and turned to his sister.
"Why?" He asked.
"Because, bro-bro. They're small, easy to catch and," she held up a finger for dramatic tension. "Revenge! For being so annoying." Dipper only sighed and agreed. They figured Shmebulock would be the best bet. So while Wendy and Soos got to work on the trap, the twins headed to the gnome cave to grab the bait.
It took the better part of the afternoon to get their bait. Shmebulock may have been touched in the head but he was still a gnome. So the twins were plenty roughed up once they finally managed to cage him. Even then Mabel had to keep the leaf-blower pointed at him or he'd try and chew the bars. But they still managed to catch him and return in time to see the trap finished. It seemed pretty simple; a long metal tube with a drop bar at the front. On the other side was a caged slot that Shmebulock was popped into and a latch was attached. After that it was up to the target to trigger it. Then the bars would slam down and, hopefully, hold their mystery beast until they could come get it.
Wendy gave the trap one last look over before they hauled it away from the shack to hide it. Dipper wanted to wait and watch but Soos talked him out of it with a well timed question. "Think it eats people too, dude?"
Dipper shuddered. "Let's not think about that right now." So the trap was set. It would probably take most of the night for anything to happen so they set up a fair distance away to watch.
Chapter 5: In which good intentions cause trouble
hungry hungry pain hungry pain bear stupid more food more want more where bear child? eat child? no eat child child bad
It chewed at its arm, pulling long thin stings out. It slithered along, just inches from the ground, pushing and pulling with long claws as if it were underwater. It had been forced to flee from its prey by the child but it could no longer smell them. The boy-child had left prints all around its prey but did not touch it. But it had been too long. The true food was gone but the meat would suffice. It would not heal its wounds so it would have to hunt again. And soon.
still hungry still hungry need more food need hunt better
Even after picking the last of the meat it was hungry. The pain of its body driving a desperate hunger. But it couldn't eat what it truly needed. The burn in its neck ensured that. It scratched at it frantically and hissed at the pain. It could not pull it away or rub it off. It stretched upwards, balancing on its tail like a serpent it scented the air. There was a strong smell wafting through. A large number of those little fuzzy face screamers had come through. It hissed; it couldn't stand the sounds they made. But it could not deny they were easy prey. It froze; the boy-child's scent was here too, with a girl-child. Their scents left with a fuzzy face scent. Were they hunting the fuzzy screamers too?
Now curiosity overwhelmed the hunger. It followed the trail of the children. They left deep tracks that were easy to see even in the swiftly dimming light. It froze at the treeline. Some sort of tunnel was ahead and the fuzzy screamer was clearly inside, with all the noise it was making. With its ears firmly turned downwards to block out the screamer's noise it approached. The tunnel was cold and its claws echoed on the surface. Night eyes burned bright and focused on the screamer, now silent in hopes of being ignored. It stalked in and pounced. At the same time its hand hit something and a loud bang echoed behind it.
trap! trap trapped stuck bad out need out need food out eat
It whirled on the screamer and yanked it from from where it had been cowering, fangs tearing away the strange fur and burying in the meat. Immediately a warmth suffused it. It could feel the injuries it had incurred earlier close tightly. And then there was more shouting and something grabbed the pain on its neck. It was paralyzed by the pain.
Dipper looked at his watch for, according to Mabel, the billionth time. It was just after sunset and they'd been waiting for nearly four hours. Wendy was taking a nap and Soos was, well, doing Soos things. Another hour and everyone was ready to pack it in when the screaming started. They ran back to the trap and found the door firmly shut. Wendy start shouting instructions and jumped up to the top of the trap with a pole in hand. A slot had been cut in the top to put the pole through. Wendy watched for the glint of the metal band Dipper had seen. As soon as she spotted it she thrust the pole down on it, hard but not hard enough to damage. The metal gave off greenish sparks and the creature inside screamed before falling still. Wendy kept the pole in place and motioned to Soos who stepped in with a pair of wire cutters. The handyman looked in and found the creature with the remains of poor Shmebulock in his mouth. It was growling but couldn't manage much else.
"Don't worry, dude, Soos'll fix this." he declared. Then reached in with the clippers and wedged them under the wire, trying to ignore the way it pulled flesh with it. The creature's growl turned to a low whimper of pain. Soos soldiered on and soon a loud click rang out. Mabel and Dipper immediately ran to look. The creature was laying on its side, eyes wide open. Dipper saw something in those eyes and leaned closer. Circles of ice blue grew in the field of green, the trails of smoke from its eyes turned darker and thicker. Then the strange pupils narrowed and the creature jerked upright with a shriek; leaping up and through the top of the trap, not a dent or crack left behind, and soared away.
Everyone turned to look at Dipper who swallowed and with a mirthless chuckle said, "Well, it's definitely a ghost. Oh, boy."
free joy joy free happy nopainnopain no pain! still hungry but no pain wait. . . smell food!
The fuzzy screamer dropped from its jaws, now cold. In the distance it could see a dim glow and the smell of food drifted from it. It followed the food scent to the glow and found an old building, a low buzz coming from the sign announced it as the 'Dusk 2 Dawn'. It merely tilted its head; it could not recognize the words. It drifted down in tight spirals, still reveling in its restored flight. The food smell was coming from inside and so it slipped through the roof to sniff it out. Just below it was an old couple drifting a few inches off the ground.
ghosts! food! foodfoodfood get food eat food EAT NOW
It gripped the ceiling and crawled along until it was directly above the chattering elders. Its head twisted around to eye the prey, tail dropping down behind the female. In a blink it had wrapped her in its tail and dropped on the male, sinking drooling fangs into his shoulder. As the female screamed he faded and collapsed into bluish smoke which was inhaled and swallowed. The female went the same way and it sighed as the burned ring around its neck finally began to close; blackened flesh crackling and falling away to leave a thin line of silver in its place.
pain gone feel good not hungry tired now need sleep find sleep
It drifted sluggishly out of the building and off in search of a safe place to sleep. Without the pain the forest felt more alive than ever. It felt a tugging in its mind; a powerful sense it had felt this power before. But in its tired state the feeling was ignored in favor of digging a temporary den beneath a thick redwood. Safely ensconced it breathed deeply, feeling the chill it had known all its life coating the entrance in a veil of frost to hide the hole. Tomorrow would bring much better hunting.
Chapter 6: In which consequences are discovered and something is lost
After the creature had fled Dipper started to run after it only to be grabbed by Soos. "No way, little dude. That thing is not in a friendly mood. Ah cool, I made a rhyme."
Dipper tried to make an argument but was cut off by a yawn. "Okay fine. But I'm still gonna look for it later."
"Whatever you say, dude." With that both Soos and Wendy headed home, leaving the twins to explain just why they hadn't been in the shop to Stan. Needless to say he wasn't very happy with their reasoning both because the shop wasn't manned and they'd gone after something potentially dangerous. With a heavy sigh he waved them off to bed, plopping into his chair to flip through whatever nonsense the Gravity Falls network had to offer.
The next morning was Saturday so the shop was closed so Stan could laze around. Which meant the twins could go looking for that ghost creature again. When they burst out the front door in excitement they found Wendy standing there looking concerned.
"You guys have gotta see this." She said. No matter what or how the twins asked she wouldn't say anything else. She brought them to the Dusk 2 Dawn and they went in (the door was still unlocked from the first visit).
"So what did you want us to, oh gross. . ." Mabel's voice trailed off as Dipper put his foot in a pile of greenish goo. The gunk was splattered all over the floor right behind the checkout counter. Where the chalk outlines should have been were just smears, as though something heavy had swiped across them. The dread Dipper had felt the first time he was here was gone as well. He knelt down to touch one of the piles. A faint almost electrical tingling washed through his arm.
"This is ectoplasm, no doubt about it." Dipper stood, flicking the goop from his hand. "Never seen it look like that though." There was barely any spark to it and it was fading as they watched. The only thing Dipper could find were three deep claw marks, shimmering with frost.
good sleep happy feel good
It woke with an enormous yawn, slithery frostbite blue tongue licking its chops. A light tap of claws shattered the thin frost sheet over its den and it emerged into the sunlight with a stretch, giving its tail a snap and flick. A faint hiss followed it as it flew to a nearby stream to drink and wash away sleep. As it leaned in it caught its reflection and a sharp pain happened in its head. It reeled back and collapsed to the ground; writhing as it was assaulted by memories. 'Where, who? I'm. . . Danny. I'm Danny Phantom.'
He snapped upright at this thought. How long had he been that way? How long had he been, Danny shuddered to think this, feral? And just what had happened in that time? He needed to know and now! Danny reached towards that human warmth and grabbed. . . nothing. He tried again and again, panic rising with each failed attempt. What was going on? He began shaking as he tried one more time. This time he found something, but it was not his humanity. It was his core, pulsing far stronger than it ever had; as strong as a true ghost's core. "I'm a full ghost now? I'm dead." Danny's voice was a pale wisp of a thing. Sudden dread and sorrow closing around his throat tighter than the silver snare ever had. He had died. Some time between coming here and losing his mind he'd died.
But what had killed him? He couldn't have just died from staying in ghost form. He'd spent days in ghost form during the reality gauntlet incident and come out of that fine. So something had to have killed him. That's when it hit him. The bugbear. It's fangs had hit his core; that must have been what sent him feral. He vaguely remembered the bear itself; even remembered a second one. But it hadn't bee the same bear. For some reason the thought of it sent a deep burning anger through his core. He wanted the bear dead. Try as he might he couldn't shake that urge. He felt the anger bubble and coalesce into a raging something that needed out. So he reared his head back and screamed.
Dipper, Mabel, and Wendy were on the porch when they heard it. A strange sound that cut the air like nothing they'd ever heard before. A low moaning sound like the wind through the mouth of a cave, then it turned to the high shriek of a storm briefly before turning low again. It rang out twice and then faded with a roll of thunder. The silence that followed lasted until night. Nothing dared make a sound after that roar. Even Soos, when he arrived after Wendy called him, spoke more quietly. All four felt afraid to speak.
Together they planned on tracking the monster they'd accidentally unleashed.
Chapter 7: In which Phantom finally settles in and find some limits
Two weeks had passed since Danny had returned to sanity. Much of that time had been spent inspecting and learning himself all over again. Early mornings were passed looking himself over in whatever still water he could find; cataloguing his changes. His sharpened teeth were fascinating (once he'd stopped cutting his tongue on them) and were excellent for catching and holding squirmy fish. But it was his eyes that truly gripped him. Danny could spend hours just staring at them alone. They were a ghost's eyes, through and through; not like Ember or the Box Ghost but like the more ancient and wild ghosts. It thrilled him to see the subtle contracting in his strange blue pupils and the wisps of bluish mist that he didn't know the meaning of. He spent endless minutes just touching his hair, enjoying the way it drifted about yet felt like the softest pelt he'd ever known.
When he managed to pull himself away from his reflection he began to relearn the rest of his body. His arms had become longer and with his new tail his balance was repeatedly thrown off. But he remembered how he'd managed the first time and soon adjusted. It was his tail that took the most effort. It was incredibly flexible and could stretch almost without limits. It was powerful too. Danny used it almost exclusively when building his permanent den. A single swipe could take out all but the thickest trees, there was no struggle to heft the giant logs and carry them. Between his tail and claws he soon had a veritable beaver dam to live in. Danny had even covered it in grasses and branches until it looked like nothing more than a pile of dropped trees; hidden among actual trees as it was.
His powers were a different issue. His ice powers stayed mostly the same if much stronger and easier to use. But his core felt odd. Whenever he used anything other than the basics or his ice it pulsed painfully, as if it wasn't ready for it. Danny finally concluded that it had become unstable, not dangerously so but it needed more time to recover. And speaking of recovery he'd found many of the scars he'd sustained in his time had healed all but one; the silvery band around his neck would remain, no matter what or how much he ate.
That was another mystery he'd found. He needed to eat. Living meals worked but ghosts were more satisfying. Yet he was certain it wasn't the ectoplasm itself his body was using. There was something deeper there, something that could be found in the living and in ghosts but oddly enough not in the dead. A cold corpse offered him nothing but meat which could only do so much for his hunger. But he still hunted animals as he could not bring himself to truly hunt a ghost just yet.
In the last days leading to the present moment Danny fully accepted his death and transition. He now understood the Far Frozen's creed 'Death is life'. He had not died, he had merely gained a new life. And he would not let this go to waste.
That determination found Danny crouched in a thicket watching the lake. He had spent that day invisibly roaming the town and he'd caught a rumor of a monstrous thing in the lake. Danny had decided to test himself by taking it down. Eyes glowing in the darkness (he was honestly surprised no one had seen them, they were so bright), he scanned the surface. Nothing disturbed the surface but his attention was caught by a small island. It was unremarkable, hardly large enough to be called an island and bearing only a few trees. But it surely hadn't been there yesterday had it? Danny thought back to previous visits to the lake and realized that island had never been in the same place. Maybe it was worth looking under the surface. He didn't need to breathe and he'd kind of always wanted to test how well this form moved underwater. He darted out of cover and hovered over the water; with an unneeded breath to steady himself he dove under, barely making a splash.
Danny felt something slip over his eyes as he entered the water and found it just as clear as above. 'So I can see underwater too, this is actually pretty cool! Wait, what was that?' Something big swam under him. He swam down towards it; happy to find that he was equally mobile underwater, his tail driving him forward like an eel. He leveled out and swam up to the thing's side, joy swelling inside.
It was huge and generally looked like the Loch Ness monster with head fins and gnarlier teeth. He darted forwards to swim in front of its face. It's yellow eyes shifted to him briefly before looking past him. It was like swimming with a whale. He kept up with the beast for a few more minutes before something else caught his eye. They'd swam close to the tiny island; showing Danny everything.
It wasn't an island. It was a head. A head that was awake and moving towards him very quickly. Danny shot out of the water with a shout and kept going up. The head followed him, shouting backwards gibberish that he didn't want to think about. He turned his head to look and saw nothing but a wide open mouth, the stink of hundreds of years of lake water and rot washed over him and he gagged. This was not what he had wanted to do; the thing he'd thought he'd be dealing with was a gentle loner, this was a nightmare. Danny couldn't think. He felt his core growing cold; but not in fear. He knew what to do. He pulled on the cold and surrounded himself with it, forming a thick layer of ice around his body. Then he stopped flying. He felt himself drop like a stone, slam into and through something soft, and heard it scream "!siht rof yap lliw uoY !tfir eht fo dlihc dratsaB"
He kept the ice up until he hit the water, freezing it around him. The head fell and smashed through, shattering the ice and letting Danny loose to flee for his unlife. He wanted to be as far away from that thing as possible and fast! Danny flew with is eyes closed, to scared to look back. He didn't open them until he was buried as far as he could in his den. Danny curled into a tight ball and did not move until long after the sun rose. Even then he refused to go back to the lake ever again.
Two weeks since they'd let that monster go. Two weeks of radio silence. Every day that went by without word or sign of this thing put Dipper more on edge. He had returned to the Dusk 2 Dawn several times, hoping to find something to point to where it had gone. All he'd found were the twisted up remains of Shmebulock and claw marks in the ceiling and roof. So he was forced to look elsewhere for answers. Elsewhere, of course, meant the Multibear. So Dipper waited for a quiet day at the Shack to duck out and head for his cave.
The Multibear let Dipper lay against his side as the boy went over the events regarding the creature. More for Dipper's own benefit than to fill in Multibear, who listened intently. When it was clear Dipper had no more to say, or mumble, Multibear tapped his chin with a claw. "Well, sadly, I don't have much to say. I haven't seen this creature. Though there was quite a commotion and a very strong smell of blood coming from the lake. Perhaps your monster made a visit?"
Dipper hoped not. There was no telling what it could get up to there. He thanked Multibear and moved to leave when Multibear made one more comment. Sending chills through him. "I also heard that awful head screaming."
That tore it. If the island head was involved in anyway then things were serious. He needed to meet up with Mabel and see what she learned.
Mabel herself had chosen to see one of the many covens in Gravity Falls. With so many witches around there was bound to be something. Finally she managed to track down the Eidel coven and got some info. They'd heard the screaming at the lake too but one of them (a newbie named Hazel) had been performing a ritual at the lake and seen the island head chase something. That something then smashed through its eye and knocked it out. Hazel doubted it was dead but it would definitely be angry.
Both siblings shared their findings and shuddered. "Are we really going to look for that head again? It tried to eat us last time."
"No, we're not going after the head, Mabel. I don't think we need to. But that thing did and it did not go well. Did Hazel say anything else?"
Mabel rolled around the floor for a moment before sitting back up. "Yeah! She said it yelled something at our monster. She said it was something about a rift and it said the b-word."
Dipper rubbed his chin, flipping through his notebook; which by now was nearly full of things about this mysterious new creature. Most of it was rough drawings but notes were scribbled along the edges of the drawings. Ghost? Eats other ghosts? Eats live things too. Very cold. Made the air around it cold. How? Too cold for normal ghost. Other drawings showed the ghost's tail and jaw, more notes abound; tail is physical kind of, sharp teeth, venomous?
Nothing in the journal came even close to matching their monster; a fact Dipper found strangely exhilarating and unnerving. Together, the two of them planned to search the woods as often as they could for as long as they could. Starting tomorrow.
Tomorrow came all too soon for Dipper, who had spent his third sleepless night contemplating what they would do if they actually found the monster. At least he hadn't tried to eat his shirt or anything; although the corner of his pillow was suspiciously wet. He ate breakfast (steadfastly avoiding anything that Mabel may have made) and sat on the porch. He was waiting for Wendy. He'd called her the night before for backup and she'd been more than willing to come along.
While waiting he pulled the wire from his vest and examined it. He'd taken it to Grunkle Stan after their ghost (he blamed Mabel for think of it as 'theirs') escaped to see if he knew what it was. And he did know; silver, pure silver. The journal did say that ghosts reacted to silver but nothing about silver snares. So it wasn't the author that made it. Whoever did couldn't have just forgotten it because Wendy was vehement about getting rid of things like that. Which led to the second reason they were going into the woods today; find more snares. Not just for the animals' sake but to keep their ghost from getting caught by another one.
"Hey, Dipper! You okay?" Dipper jumped and tumbled off the porch only to see Wendy looking down at him. She offered a hand and pulled him up. Mabel leapt at them both and together they set off into the woods.
(one hour later)
Dipper sighed. Not only had they split up not one of them had found anything. Not even another snare (much to Wendy's relief). Dipper was beginning to wonder if the ghost was even still in Gravity Falls. Maybe it ran away after the head attacked it. He wouldn't have blamed it. He still had nightmares about that thing.
So, lost in his thoughts Dipper did not notice the appearance of a lesser-known Gravity Falls phenomena; traveling cliffs. The ground in front of him melted away and took him down with it. But it there was one thing Dipper had learned here it was, when in doubt, tuck and roll; so he did, hands on his hat and legs tucked up as tightly as he could. He landed on his foot at the bottom, though, and wound up twisting it; forcing a pained shout from him. Which was accompanied by the sound of. . . splashing?
Danny had crept from his den with more caution than necessary that morning, afraid the island head had somehow followed him to the thicket, even though it's size would prevent such a thing. After confirming such a thing did not happen Danny set into the rigorous daily routines of hunting and cleaning. He flopped his tail over his shoulder and inspected it thoroughly for any rough patches or dirt then settled in for a nice tongue bath. At first he found it bizarre that his brain wanted this but it felt nice so he didn't fight it. Once he was clean he decided to head out for a small breakfast. Fish sounded good. He knew the river had a good stock and he wouldn't need to go near the lake.
Over, under and around as fast as he could go. Flying never lost its appeal for him and he loved to race about, dive-bombing small creatures for the heck of it. He whirled upwards and darted along the treeline leaving frost on the tree tops. The sound of running water announced his arrival and he dropped down to scope it out. He quickly spotted his favorite rock and settled down for some fishing.
Just as he spotted a juicy looking trout and snagged it in his jaws something came barreling down a brand new ledge and landed, injuring itself. A familiar scent caught his attention, awakening his lizard brain. scent know scent boy scent boy-child here? why here injured not want food needs help help boy-child Danny gulped down the fish and crept towards the boy, fading from sight slightly. He stayed low to inspect the ankle he was clutching and, without thinking, wrapped it in his tail.
Dipper yelped as a sudden cold gripped his ankle and he looked around frantically. He only just saw the faint blue on green in front of him. The eyes were locked on him as their owner slowly came into view. And just like that he was face to face with their mystery ghost. A vicious beast who even now was sizing him up for a meal. Dipper brought his arms up to protect his face only to feel a cold tongue lick a scrape on his left arm. He yelped again and looked over his arms to see what the ghost was doing. The ghost had pulled back a little, back arched in surprise with the beginnings of a snarl on his lips.
"Oh, geez. I'm sorry I didn't mean to scare you. You're just trying to help my ankle, right?" He spoke slowly, trying to keep his voice low so he didn't frighten the ghost away. "Um, do you have a name? Because I can't really keep thinking of you as the ghost or creature or,"
Dipper froze. He stared at the ghost. "Um, what?"
"My name is Danny. Who are you?"
The question prompted startled flailing from Dipper until the ghost, until Danny, grabbed his injured arm and started licking the scrape again. Leaving Dipper to shudder at the chill invading his arm. "Dipper Pines. I don't know why I gave you my last name that was a probably a bad idea."
While he fretted over his possible slip up Danny laughed. "I won't do anything with it. You're the one who got that thing off my neck so thank you."
Dipper couldn't believe it. He had expected some sort of confrontation not polite conversation while the thing he'd been chasing metaphorically iced his injured ankle. He struggled to find something to say, man he had so many questions to ask! But at the same time he felt that Danny didn't have all the answers himself. He'd seemed so out of it after they'd snapped the wire, he probably didn't even know what he'd been doing. What he'd done. Dipper shook his head; he had to ask. "Do you know what happened to you?"
Danny froze, literally and figuratively, ice began creeping down his back along his tail. It shot up in great jagged spikes as Danny began trembling. Dipper screamed and shoved the coil from his ankle as the ice coated it in a deadly edge. He backed towards the cliff face, not wanting to move too fast in fear of alerting an already tense Danny. The other was in a bad way. Ice had covered much of his body and thick fog spewed from his mouth and nose.
"Danny? What's going on? Snap out of it!" Dipper tried to reach for him to get his attention only for Danny to swipe out him with razor sharp frozen claws. He shrieked and lashed at him with his tail, forcing Dipper to turn and scramble up the cliff, shouting for the others.
This was bad. Really, really bad.
threw in a headcanon of my own here. Wendy's dad will not use traps to hunt, he'd rather fight it mano a mano. (I mean come on, he caught a fish with his bear hands and punched it to death. So Manly Dan's instilled a healthy hatred of lethal and injuring traps in his kids.
Chapter 9: In which Danny makes a friend, threatens and saves their life in one day
The shrieking continued as Dipper pulled himself over the cliff edge and darted into the trees. He could hear Danny climb the ledge after him and briefly wondered why he didn't just fly. Adrenaline made him forget his ankle as he dodged around to try and throw Danny off. It wasn't working; he could hear him crashing through as if it wasn't even there. Dipper chanced a look back and wished he hadn't. Danny was almost completely covered in ice; only his eyes remained, and they were almost more frightening than the rest of him. His pupils were gone again and the strange mist was darker than ever. Danny roared and Dipper nearly fell over himself. It was the same call they all heard weeks ago on the porch. Just as before the woods went silent in its aftermath. The only sound Dipper's frantic breathing and the shouts of his name just ahead.
Wendy and Mabel came bursting out seconds after silence fell and all three crashed into each other, hitting the ground in a tangle of panic. Dipper looked back again and saw those glowing eyes watching from the brush, waiting. Wendy got them all upright before grabbing Dipper by the shoulders. With her eyes on the bushes she asked him, "What is that?! Are you okay."
Dipper only looked at her and Mabel simply said. "I found him."
Shrieks and howls followed the three as they ran. Dipper gasping between words, "I don't know what happened! He seemed perfectly fine until I asked him what he remembered and then, well, that!"
'That' being the enraged mass of spectral ice clawing the ground as it chased them. It roared and charged, sending Wendy into overdrive carrying the twins under each arm. As she ran Dipper managed to explain better. "I found him by the river. He seemed nice enough, he even helped with my ankle. But as soon as I mentioned any memories he freaked out and turned into that thing. Either way he's chasing me so you two just go."
Two voices shouted at the same time, "No way, Dipper! He'll kill you!"
"No he won't! I'm sure I can snap him out of it. Just put me down and let me lead him off! I'm the one he's after anyway."
Wendy refused again and Mabel continued shouting alternatives. Finally Dipper dropped his last resort. "Look just go to the lake. If this goes bad I'll meet you there. If those witches are right he won't follow us on it."
Finally, Wendy relented. She pulled them off the trail and ducked behind a tree, wincing as Danny charged right past them. "Okay, fine but you're taking this with you. NO ARGUMENTS!" She thrust the hatchet she'd brought at him, tossed Mabel over her shoulder and ran. Mabel shouted one last word of advice.
"KICK HIS WEIRD TAILBUTT BRO-BRO!"
Dipper tossed a thumbs up and ran back to the path Danny had taken. With axe in hand he whistled. Danny screeched to a halt and spun around; he screamed and took off after Dipper. The axe was kind of heavy but Dipper was surprised to find he could carry it fairly easily. 'Wow, I guess I'm getting stronger! Woah!' Danny launched himself over Dipper's head and blocked his path, forcing Dipper to change direction. A claw nearly took his hat off as he jumped over a trunk. Both were so focused on the chase that neither saw the obstacle swiftly approaching. Until Dipper bounced off it; successfully pissing off his second supernatural creature that day.
In front of him, standing nearly ten feet tall and weighing nearly half a ton, was a full grown bugbear queen. Dipper rapidly back away as massive fore paws slammed the ground inches from him; but not fast enough for him to miss a very important detail. A single missing toe. He ran around to the queen's left side and saw her leg drag as she moved to keep up. Dipper was forced to keep moving to avoid the queen's claws and rushes. He didn't even remember his other problem until it slammed into the queen like a freight train.
As the ice had covered him Danny could feel himself slipping. He tried to focus on Dipper's voice but it didn't work. All he remembered was that voice among many and a trap. The urge to attack overwhelmed him and he fell. When the ice covered him he found the boy already gone and found him scrambling over the ledge above. He coiled his tail tightly and launched himself upwards, claws scything into the dirt to pull him up. Something was running away from him, he couldn't even remember what, and his instinct drove him forward.
It felt like bashing a brick wall with his face. Instinct had him firmly pinned no matter how he squirmed. This shouldn't have happened; something about Dipper's question. It caught him by surprise sure but it shouldn't have done this. Right? His core wasn't even acting strangely. It was like this was purely reactive. He didn't want to think about what had happened and so he went on the attack. "Okay, so I know why this happened now but I can't fix it like this!"
Danny tried again to get loose and back in control but was roughly shoved aside once again. He briefly lost sight of the boy (Hecate, he couldn't even think of his name anymore) when he ran into the girl and another female. The female picked them up and started running so he gave chase, screaming. Soon they dodged him and he carried on his way, trying to find them.
"HEY I'M BACK HERE!" Followed by a piercing whistle sent Danny scrabbling along the ground to turn around. He screamed and coiled his tail again; springing over the boy and making him head left instead. A swipe earned him a mouthful of hat which surprised him long enough for his prey to gain distance. Then he heard the vibrating roar and it all came back.
The bear thing that damaged his core and sent him on his rampage was close. He caught the smell of it. He could also hear his prey kiting it around. Danny dropped the hat and crouched low, creeping up to them both. He saw Dipper struggling to keep away from the bear and the bear snapping in rage. His core pulsed hard as two instincts collided and agreed, sending him lunging at the beast in full rage. He buried his claws in its back and clamped down on its neck. The bear gave a vibrating roar and tumbled, crushing him in the dirt and forcing him to let go. He quickly rolled upright and launched at it again, this time burying his teeth in the paw that was just about to swipe at Dipper again.
Dipper couldn't help but stare as Danny attacked the bugbear again and again, more and more ice shattering each time he was hurled away. The bugbear whirled around again, this time clipping Dipper and sending him at a tree. He collided hard enough for Danny to hear. He froze where he'd been planning to make another leap and jumped over the bugbear entirely. He grabbed Dipper in his mouth and climbed up as far as he could; his faint weight making it much easier. He braced Dipper against the trunk and began checking him over. Dipper woke up just as Danny was looking at his eyes.
"Aah!" He shoved Danny and nearly tumbled from the branch only for Danny to grab him by the collar and haul him back. His little glance down showed that their lovely lady friend had not given up on them and was circling the tree; leaning against the trunk to test it. Danny growled at it.
He looked to Danny and carefully touched his shoulder. While Danny did jump he didn't snarl, just turned to Dipper and watched him. Danny nodded his head at the bear; silently prompting him for answers. He took a deep breath and began, "It's a bugbear. Specifically a queen. They work like bees, sort of. She's the leader and the biggest. But queens don't usually leave the caverns. There must be something going on, maybe she's an old queen who was kicked out. I haven't read much about bugbears, sorry." Dipper flushed, embarrassed that he couldn't be more helpful.
"So how do I go at this?"
"What do you mean?" Dipper asked carefully.
"What do I need to do to kill it?" There was an almost predatory glare in Danny's eyes.
"NO! No way, even an old queen is bad news. There's probably still some drones nearby and they won't hesitate to get involved."
"Then I'll just have to give her something to think about." Danny jumped from the tree and landed heavily on the bugbear's back, digging his claws in until he drew blood. The queen roared and began shaking hard. Danny wrapped his tail around her chest and began squeezing. Paws gripped his tail and tried to pull it away but he only wound it around them and froze them until they let go. Then came a loud crack and the queen gave a piercing buzzing sound that rattled in Danny's head. His tail came loose and he slid off. Both he and Dipper watched as the queen rapidly limped away. Defeated for now.
"That was awesome! Are you okay now, though?" Dipper started to climb back down when Danny slipped his tail under his hands; so Dipper just zip-lined down it and landed safely.
"I'm fine now just a bit dizzy. But, uh, let's avoid any memory questions in the future, yeah?" Danny held out his hand and Dipper shook it.
"By the way that was an alert call. We should go before those drones I mentioned show up." Dipper went back to the tree base to grab Wendy's axe. She'd be pretty mad if he lost it. Once he got his hands on it he felt a hand put his hat on his head. "Oh, tha-aanks!"
Danny had grabbed him and tossed him on his back with a quick shout to hang on tight. "Where am I going?"
"The lake but you don't have to go down to it. We heard what happened from some witches."
Was Danny bigger than when they'd met? He looked towards the ground and yes, his arms (legs?) seemed a little longer. But it was more than that. Danny just felt larger. Dipper shook his head, telling himself it was just an impression; left over from watching him take down one of Gravity Fall's most notorious predators. Yet he just couldn't shake it. Something had definitely changed between the river and now and it was entirely Danny.
Dipper just sighed and settled in for the short ride.
I'm always afraid to write dialogue for a canon character. But I'm starting to get the hang of it so hopefully there will be more conversations now.
Chapter 10: In which the Mystery Twins gain a member
Somehow between then and the lake Dipper had fallen asleep. 'Probably adrenaline crash. I didn't exactly help much.' Danny winced. Just like Dipper had, Danny noticed his changes; he'd grown. How much he couldn't be sure but he hoped it wouldn't continue. All he needed was more questions right now. He could barely keep up with all of it. He took the path back to the river, not at all eager to go near the lake. The cliff had moved on, leaving a gentle slope behind; much to Danny's relief. His body was sore from being tossed around so much and even just carrying Dipper made his back ache; it wasn't unbearable though so he left the kid there.
As he followed the river he could see the sleek shine of fish and was painfully reminded of his meager breakfast. He briefly considered stopping to grab a few but decided to drag his tail through the water instead; actually managing to snag a few fat ones which he quickly gulped down. Dipper stirred and wrapped his arms around Danny's neck as he woke. "Don't worry, Dipper I've still got you. We're almost there."
Dipper woke up fully and resettled himself. He could see the lake just ahead with Wendy and Mabel out in Stan's fishing boat. They saw him too and brought the boat back to the dock; watching warily as Danny strode up to the beach but not going further. Dipper could feel the tremors in Danny's back as he slid off. He put his hand on the ghost and forcefully turned him away from the lake. Danny flicked his tail in in surprise, feeling a slight tug on the sides of his head as well. Before he could ask Dipper answered. "I'll go get them and then we'll go back to the river so you don't have to be near here."
Dipper smiled kindly and Danny lay down to wait. He was remarkably resilient for a kid, accurately identifying a danger or even casually riding a ghost like it was nothing. Danny couldn't help but feel a flare of respect even though he'd only known him a short time. While he waited he reached a hand up and felt along his head; he wasn't even surprised to find his ears had changed. They were a bit longer and he found he could move them a little. Danny figured his body was still adapting to being full ghost. Though he had no clue just how long it would take or what he'd look like at the end. He'd never encountered a ghost that looked even remotely like he did currently.
He wanted desperately to go to the ghost zone and talk to Clockwork, or Frostbite, hell anyone who might tell him something useful! Even Vlad would be a relief at this point! He winced at that. Vlad was alone again; the only halfa. He wondered if the news had reached him. Who was he kidding? Vlad probably knew about it the night it happened. He hoped Jazz was okay. Eventually his thoughts went full circle and drifted back to Dipper. The kid reminded him a lot of himself when he first started fighting ghosts. Dipper wasn't really fighting anything but he had a healthy amount of experience sticking his nose where he shouldn't. Maybe if things went well meeting these two Danny could learn a little more about this place from him.
"You look so cool!" Danny sprang upright, tail lashing as he was tackled from behind by an enthusiastic ball of glitter and sweater. He managed to roll upright and felt his wannabe assassin on his back, waving their hand through his hair in awe. He saw Dipper and the girl from before headed his way, both trying their hardest not to laugh. At least until Dipper took pity on him and made introductions.
"This is Wendy."
"Sup. Cool eyes."
"And the one on your back is my twin sister Mabel." The girl in question flopped over his shoulder and greeted him as happily as she'd tackled him. Glitter flew from her hair and sweater and he swore he saw something glued to her skirt. He decided not to worry about it and turned to the older girl, Wendy. "You look familiar."
"Yeah, I got that snare off your neck. Dipper says you don't remember that though." She made a snipping motion with her fingers by her neck. Danny's own hand went to feel the raised scar and recalled the flicker of light he'd seen when he fell.
Dipper pulled the wire from his vest and showed it to Danny carefully. He really didn't want to set the ghost off again. "This. It was digging into your neck pretty bad when I first saw you. So we kinda, trapped you so we could get it off."
He had a vague memory of some kind of tube and someone pinning him; he guessed that must be what they meant. It didn't trigger any sort of panic or anger so he filed it away to dwell on later. He still backed away from the wire, however; just being near it felt like being in a field of Blood Blossoms. Dipper quickly put it away and made a mental note to stuff it somewhere Danny wouldn't stumble across it. Since Mabel refused to get off his back Danny figured they would follow him if he went somewhere so he shrugged and headed for home. He listened with half an ear to their idle chatting. Mabel and Wendy looking for details on what happened after they split; Dipper gave an energetic account of his fight with the bugbear queen.
"What the heck is that?" Wendy's question jerked him from his thoughts. He sniffed the air, nothing dangerous; so what the heck was she talking about? He looked and saw her pointing at his den.
"That's kind of where I live, um, dwell? Whatever ghosts call it. Why?"
They were looking at him like he'd grown a second head. Danny checked his shoulders just in case he had. Okay, looking at it it did look like a giant beaver lived in it but hey, for someone who had never built a house it looked pretty good! Mabel jumped off his back and stood in front of him, hands on her hips and a serious look on her face. Which was ruined seconds later when she poked his nose with a "Boop!"
Dipper just shook his head, practically reading her mind. "Mabel wants you to come with us."
"Why?" Boy, Danny had been asking that a lot lately.
"Well, we need to figure out why there are bugbears here. They're not native to Gravity Falls. And if things go badly it would be a huge help to have someone who can fight them. Plus, Mabel wants to knit you a sweater."
Danny looked at her and found her nodding so fast he was afraid her head would fly off. There was something endearing about her never-ending energy but Danny had to refuse. The idea of living so close to people again, even people he liked, caused an uncomfortable twinge in is neck. "That's really nice of you, Mabel but I'm just not that comfortable being close to people. I've seen the business the shack gets and I don't think I can handle that just yet. But I will try to move closer if you guys need my help."
Mabel's grin grew wider. "Works for me! Welcome to the Mystery Twins."
"It's starting to be a club." Dipper said with a smile.
Chapter 11: In which Danny deals with a certain triangle
Danny had enjoyed hours of entertainment from the Mystery Twins (as Dipper had accepted being called). With Mabel and Dipper recounting just about everything that had happened to them since their arrival. Dipper even showed Danny the journal. It was amazing but Danny had to laugh at the ghost category. The reaction had Dipper reaching for his notebook and pen; eager to hear from someone with more than one night of ghost experience.
Eventually they chose to leave him be, just in case he wasn't nocturnal (Danny wasn't exactly but he wasn't a day animal either). Which left Danny free to relax for a little while, something he took full advantage of. He tucked himself into a small divot across from the door where he could hide but keep watch at the same time. With his den secured Danny gave himself a once over, looking for any wounds from the bugbear queen. Once he gave himself the all clear he curled up to rest.
He wasn't sure what woke him up first, that he was floating randomly or the sudden lack of any sound or scents. Danny flew out the entrance and found nothing but gray. He was immediately on edge; he'd never had a dream like this before and strongly suspected interference. But it certainly wasn't Nocturne. The dream ghost had been a lot more overt about entering Danny's dreams and only really did it to talk to him. Nothing was moving either. Danny swept the grass and kicked up dirt to watch it freeze mid motion. As he glided further the world around him blurred; clearing to show. . . his room.
Danny tensed. He was back home. The ecto burns still scarring the walls and floor. Skulker, stripped of his armor, was cowering motionless in the corner. Loud booming echoed around him. He felt tremors down his spine as the room spun dizzily. Then he felt it, something watching him. He whirled around and darted towards the ceiling, claws out and frozen over. He dug his claws in and was met with laughter as the wall crumbled away to brick. A single eye opened and the wall reformed itself into a glowing yellow triangle. With a flash of blue fire the shape finally resolved itself into a being Danny had been warned about since his first days in the Far Frozen.
"About time you got here, Schrodinger boy! Oh, guess I can't call you that anymore, can I? Or can I? You still don't know what you are!" The shape laughed madly, flickering through various colors and bits of his own memories. Danny tail-slapped the wall away as his room crumbled to nothing, leaving them both floating in a red-tinged nightmare vortex. Danny tried not to look at the images passing by. "I know who you are, Cipher. And I'm not agreeing to anything you say!"
Bill laughed again. "I don't need anything from you, kid. Not yet at least. Consider me the welcoming committee!" He removed his hat and confetti shot out, confetti made from flakes of bone. Danny shot backwards, trying to keep it off his skin. "What's the matter? Don't wanna be the LIFE of the party?"
Danny rolled his eyes. He could see why people were taken in by this. He'd faced plenty of ghosts who played happy go lucky while terrorizing. Although his jokes were more annoying than the Box Ghost. And that was saying something. "If you don't have anything to do with me, why bother me in the first place?"
"Aw, first Pine Tree and now you. Can't I make one friend?" A sparkly tear welled up in the single eye.
"Yeah, yeah. Dipper told me about your little trip in Stan's head. I'd rather eat my own tail than be your friend."
The demon just stared at him, for a disturbingly long time. "Maybe that can be arranged! Bye!"
Bill vanished, sucking the red dimension away with him and dropping Danny back in the monochrome landscape he started in. Only now color was leeching back in and sound had returned. Even his den was back but he didn't want to go in. It felt like a trap. So he gave his tail harsh yank and. . .
Snapped awake inside his den. An owl hooted above and crickets sang from the dirt below him. He gave a relieved sigh at the night sounds before leaving his den. After that dream visit he just didn't feel safe in there. But he wasn't really hungry so hunting wasn't an option. Maybe he could scout out the Mystery Shack now that it was dark. That sounded better than just sitting in his den avoiding sleep so Danny kicked off and flew to the shack.
Anxiety fueled his flight, bringing him to the shack in record time. Everything was quiet; all the windows were dark and the only movement was a ragged looking goat by the trash. Danny phased through the upper window and moved slowly through the house. He was hyper aware of every pattern and design, searching for the eye and triangle that seemed so prevalent throughout the town. Even here he could see it. Down in the gift shop he growled and dug his fangs into the rug, tearing apart the eye with reckless abandon. He moved on to the living room and tore up the eye shapes in the wood and on the recliner. By the time he reached the second floor he was in a right state. He barreled silently into the attic room and froze.
He had entered the twin's room. There were two beds on opposite sides. Above one was posters of boy bands, kittens, and rainbows. The other bed was relatively neat, if one ignored the scattered papers. He was headed up to the ceiling beam when he was stopped by a curious snort. Danny turned and found himself face to snout with a young pig. The pig made an odd sort of honking noise and licked Danny's face, much to his surprise. He nearly dropped out of the air but caught himself and flew to the beam where he lay down. The pig wiggled out from under Mabel's arm and trotted to the center of the room to watch him. Danny just stared back.
They stayed that way until morning when both nodded off.
Chapter 12: In which Danny gets a job behind the scenes
Dipper awoke to loud, joyful squealing. He jerked upright and looked over to Mabel's bed. It was empty but Mabel was jumping around with Waddles in her arms. The pig was looking up and stayed focused no matter how much his owner spun around. Dipper followed Waddles' gaze and found, to his surprise, Danny sprawled across a roof beam with his tail coiled around it like a snake's. Dipper could see he'd changed again. His ears were more pointed and twitched in his sleep. How he'd slept through Mabel's joy was beyond him. But sleep Danny had and continued to do. Was that cotton in his mouth?
"WHAT IN THE NAME OF BENJAMIN HAPPENED HERE?!" Stan's voice echoed from the gift shop. Dipper and Mabel rushed down and found the place a mess. The rug was torn to shreds and bite marks were sunk deep into nearly every surface; even some of the windows were covered in viscous green goo. The three of them went in through the rest of the shack to take stock of damages. Stan nearly wept at the sight of his chewed up recliner. He ran up the stairs and they heard him yell, "Who bites wood?! C'mon!"
Dipper and Mabel shared a concerned look before chasing down Grunkle Stan and spilling everything; eventually bringing him to their room to show him. Stan rubbed his chin and stared at Danny with a raised brow. Danny continued sleeping. At least now Dipper knew where the cotton had come from but he was mainly concerned with what Stan would do, or try to do, considering how strong Danny had proved to be. His concern only mounted as Stan started shouting at Danny.
"Hey you! What the heck's your problem? You break into MY house, chew up MY furniture, then go to sleep in my GRANDKIDS' room like nothing happened? Hey, wake up already!"
Danny snuffled and yawned, cotton falling from his mouth with a wet splat, then gazed blearily at Stan. Dipper went cold as he started moving; slowly lowering himself to the ground with serpentine ease. He braced his arms and held himself upright and Dipper nearly screamed; he was nearly as tall as Grunkle Stan! How much was he going to grow? Stan wasn't fazed, however, merely shifting his gaze to lock eyes with the one who wrecked his house. Danny yawned again but had the decency to look embarrassed, ears tilted down.
Stan's foot was tapping as he jabbed Danny with a finger. "I hope you know you'll be paying for this, got it? We'll talk details later. Right now you can start by getting rid of the furniture you wrecked!"
Danny sniffed and nodded, heading downstairs immediately to clean up. And there was a lot to do; Danny was shocked to see the extent of his anger. There was little he, or anyone, could do for the wood surfaces, but the windows could be cleaned. All he really needed to do was get rid of the torn up recliner. As soon as he figured out how to do it.
In the end Danny just broke the old thing down completely and decided to carry the pieces back to his den. His tail flicked nervously at the thought of it. Even now he couldn't shake the thought of Cipher leaving some kind of trap there. Maybe it would be better to den near the Shack for now, at least until he was sure his home was Cipher-free. Until then Danny would deposit the remains of the armchair, keeping a piece for him to chew on (for some reason his mouth was hurting; chewing helped).
Once things were fixed to Stan's satisfaction, which basically meant it was still standing and didn't smell too terrible, Danny was allowed to leave the Shack for the day. He took his chance at freedom to go to the roof and watch the crowds from behind the letter 'H'. It was hard not to laugh at how many people showed up. Between probably the third and fourth group to tour he heard the creak of a ladder and saw Dipper sit down on the lawn chair Danny had seen above one of the windows. He ducked down a little before remembering he was invisible.
Dipper grabbed a soda from the ice chest and took a sip before, loud enough for Danny to hear, asking. "So why did you tear up the Mystery Shack?"
Danny drifted down to the other, fading in just enough for Dipper to see without being completely visible. "Cipher."
Dipper choked and pounded his chest. "W-where? Is he here now? But we aren't asleep!"
"He was in my dreams last night. Taunting me and just being annoying. He made some pretty obvious threats and left. I didn't feel safe and I was worried about you guys so I came here."
"Did he offer anything or want anything?"
"If he was I cut him off at the pass. I'd been warned about him pretty explicitly even before I came here."
Dipper breathed a sigh of relief. "Okay, that makes sense but it doesn't explain why you wrecked the place. Or why you were asleep in our ceiling."
Danny felt an ear twitch. "I was checking on you and I saw the triangles everywhere. And eyes. He can see through those eyes. I had to destroy them. I'm sorry that I went overboard."
The answer made Dipper go cold. Memories flashed through his mind; in almost every one there was a triangle or an eye shape. Even in his and Mabel's bedroom. Bill had been there the whole time and no one knew. How much had he seen? There was nothing Danny could say to comfort him. All eyes were his; Danny couldn't get all of them. The most he could do was keep Cipher out of their home. Which meant staying there. Leaving Dipper to his thoughts, Danny gathered up the broken chair and hauled it to his den. He threw the remains to the far back with an unhappy hiss. Then he landed on the top of his den and sent a surge of energy through it; the ice melted (though it may be more accurate to say steamed) away and the den collapsed.
'It never really felt like home anyway.' Danny thought on the way back.
Chapter 13: In which Danny goes mama bear
Upon his return Dipper and Mabel were quick to look for a place to put him. Danny tried to protest, saying he was comfortable on the beam, but Mabel wasn't having it. She nearly dragged him, impressive all things considered, through the empty rooms until they found themselves in what had been the wax museum. Danny found the room rather nice; it was large enough to move in and small enough to be defended. He'd have to do something about the window and the fireplace but, all in all, he was satisfied. Thankfully Mabel was too. Although she did insist on there at least being some pillows and blankets just in case. "Some pillows" quickly turned into every spare piece of bedding in the house being woven into a sort of covered nest packed with pillows.
Danny poked his head in and quickly slithered in the rest of the way. He pushed pillows around and out of the nest until things were satisfactory. Even with all the blankest it wasn't hot in the nest; indeed it was pleasantly cool inside, like standing in front of an open fridge. A low rumble vibrated through him and he heard Mabel squeal, "Dipper, he's purring!"
This was taken down in Dipper's rapidly filling notebook. At this rate he'd need a new one by tomorrow. With that the twins left to let Danny settle in. And if Mabel snuck in now and again to leave a stuffed animal or two by the nest no one said anything.
'Here we go again.' Danny looked out of his new nest to find himself outside the shack. Once again everything was gray and still. Heat pressed on his neck as Bill settled on his back, examining his nails.
"Y'know, Schrodinger boy, I don't appreciate you BREAKING MY STUFF!" His voice rose to a roar, turning red and burning; forcing Danny to buck him off. He leapt away and spun around to face the now raging demon.
"I take the time to drop in, maybe give a little warning, you know, real neighborly stuff. And you go on ahead and blind me! What kind of courtesy is that?!" He jabbed his cane at Danny, who growled in response.
Danny whipped his tail, giving Bill a harsh slap. "Some warning. It was more nonsensical than your usual crap."
Bill didn't flinch. "Alright fine. You don't want to play, Schrodinger boy? I'm sure I can find someone else." He briefly flashed an image of the twins before disappearing. Too thrown off to even leave a passing taunt. Danny just sighed.
"Congratulations Danny, you just pissed off a demon. When will I learn?
The morning sun found Danny stretched across the 'T' engaging in the time honored tradition of avoiding Grunkle Stan. From his perch he watched Dipper, Mabel and Soos headed for the woods. Curious, he sprang from the 'T' and glided down to land in front of them. He tilted his head and used his tail to pull on the journal a little. "You guys headed somewhere?"
Dipper pulled it back and flipped it open, showing Danny a picture of a tree. "We found out there's a bunker under here. Wendy's supposed to meet us out there to check it out."
Danny didn't miss the faint stutter when Dipper mentioned the redhead. He looked at Mabel who just shrugged. She was smiling but when Dipper started walking she frowned. Danny followed her; sharing her sudden concern. "You okay?"
"I'm fine but I don't think Dipper is. We've never had Wendy with us but he asked her along. He has this crush on her but he says he's over it. I just, I don't know." She sagged. Danny moved closer and let her climb on his back, where she flopped over and started mumbling into his hair. He stayed with the group until they reached the tree. To Danny it didn't look too unusual; a bit too rigid with too regular branches and a faint scent of. . . metal? Okay, so maybe it was a strange tree. He felt Mabel slide off him and go talk with Soos, she seemed a little better but he would check back. He watched Dipper inspect the tree and then turn to talk with the others.
When Wendy showed up Danny stood to leaved. She spotted him immediately. "You're not coming in with us?"
He just shook his head. "I wasn't invited. Besides Stan probably has something for me to do by now."
Wendy shot him a two-finger salute and he nodded in return. They'd formed a sort of silent camaraderie; the exact sort of friendship he'd never quite had with Sam and Tucker. Even now his heart/core still dropped a little when he thought of them. It was strange now that he thought it, every moment was filled with chatter; even star-gazing with them was full of background talk. But with Wendy they could just sit and watch things; or toss pine cones. She didn't care that he was some supernatural predator that was constantly changing, she thought it was interesting and it gave her something to hold over Robbie. After all, being friends with an actual ghost beat living by a graveyard any day.
It turned out that what Stan wanted him to do was, as he put it, add a little extra to the usual tour. So Danny spent the afternoon invisibly following group after group; blowing cold air down necks and tugging clothes, and occasionally sneaking a few extra bucks out of a wallet or two (entirely of his on volition, though Stan wasn't about to stop him). Not to mention his presence alone dropped the temperature that few blissful degrees, bringing more people to the shack to fleece. He wasn't going to lie, he did enjoy spooking people. It was mostly harmless with the exception of those wallets and that was easy enough to ignore.
This act kept up until the last of the tourists had been shunted out at closing time; most of them grumbling about the heat outside. With the Shack clear and Grunkle Stan in his office counting the day's take Danny took the opportunity to do a security check. After Bill came after him for blinding him Danny had taken it upon himself to keep him blind, at least where the Shack and its residents were concerned. Thankfully for Stan's wallet he'd found less destructive methods, namely a lot of obnoxiously bright paint and some wood shop lessons. Any new eyes were quickly given a splash of paint and covered by some hastily made, but tasteful, wood panels. If Stan noticed the change he didn't say anything.
With his rounds complete and no new eyes to be seen, and he had had to look in some pretty strange places, Danny retreated to the roof again. He found himself looking in the direction of the metal tree, the throb of his core pulsed stronger and he felt a tingling in his spine. Without questioning Danny took off towards the tree. Its appearance had drastically changed; the ground around it was sunken in and stairs emerged from the walls. Danny followed them and phased through a few walls, stopping briefly in what he assumed was a trap to give an impressed whistle. "Wow, Tucker would love, oh right."
He sagged a little when he remembered but shook his head and moved on. The throbbing grew stronger until he found Mabel and Soos. They were goofing around, normal for them. Danny dropped between them. "Wha~t are you doing?"
Soos jumped a foot and swung the briefcase he'd been holding at him. He let the case phase through and waited for the heart attacks to subsides. Then they began bombarding him with questions. Danny backed away before cracking his tail like a whip. "Quiet! I only came here because something felt off." He looked around the narrow room. "Where's Dipper and Wendy?"
Mabel giggle-snorted and pointed to a large hatch on the far end. "I locked them in there so he'd finally tell Wendy about his crush. There was a lot of yelling about something being in there but I know he was just trying to weasel out of it." She snerked. "Weasel Dipper."
Danny's ears shot up at the yelling part and he darted towards the door, looking it over closely. There was nothing unusual about it; a standard bulkhead through and through. So he pressed an ear against it and knocked. There was a rather noisy echo behind it, more so than a closet should have been able to make. He backed away and sat, tail flicking in thought. Then he braced himself and swung his tail at it. Electricity shot to life and knocked him back. Mabel and Soos were at his side in an instant. Soos propped him up, "Woah, you okay, dude? What was that?"
His head was buzzing unpleasantly and he shook his head trying to get rid of it. He stumbled back to the door to inspect it again, cautiously putting a hand on the metal. Though it buzzed against his hand it didn't shock him again. "Probably some kind of ward. If this author guy was half as paranoid as he seems then I should have expected it. This hatch must lead to something major."
Curiosity at a peak, Danny opened the hatch and peered in. It did look like a closet but the back had opened into a massive cave system. "Well, that explains the echo." Danny left Mabel and Soos to get back to messing with the screens. Just as he was setting hand on the dirt they came in after him. "Danny wait! Dipper was right there is something down here!"
Before he could ask Mabel dragged him back to the screens and showed him a series of tubes; one of which was broken and leaking what he assumed was some sort of nitrogen mist. Mabel and Soos charged through the hatch to search for her brother while Danny trailed behind. He tried the panel and searched the other cameras; most of which were either broken or knocked off course. He sighed and entered the hatch, deciding to go find the cryo tubes instead.
The cryo tubes were installed in one of the tallest caverns; each one at least six feet tall and connected to a thick pipe that disappeared into the dark of the roof. Danny was currently at the foot of the broken tube. He couldn't find any signs of what had been in it or footprints from an escape. At least not on the ground. When he flew to the roof he found sticky prints and deep pierce marks in the stone. The trail was old; whatever had made it had been out for a long time. Long enough to get a feel for the caverns. Danny dropped to the ground, alarms blaring between his ears. He reeled back and launched himself forward, flying close to the ground to keep speed.
He arrived at a confusing scene. The ground was soaked and Dipper was sobbing over an unconscious Wendy while a second one stood behind him. 'Shapeshifter! Dipper turn around.'
The other Wendy called to Dipper and the unconscious one stood and launched at her. 'Damn wrong one. Come on Wendy!' Danny cheered silently, waiting for a possible opening. He got it when Dipper planted Wendy's axe in the the Shapeshifter's stomach; it wailed in overdramatic pain and cycled through several forms before its real one. Distracted by its theatrics it couldn't stop Danny charging it and half shoving/half dragging it back down the tunnel, savaging it the entire time.
Wendy ran after to help but was pulled back when Dipper saw the ice sprouting along Danny's spine. The growling and pained howls grew louder. "We should go. Now." He muttered, not wanting to be in possible line of fire when the Shapeshifter finally perished. They turned tail and ran, not stopping until they were past the hatch. Dipper grabbed Mabel and the four of them fled the bunker.
Once outside Mabel turned to her brother. "Where's Danny?"
"He's fighting with that thing. He started getting really nasty so I thought it might be better to let him at it." Dipper shrugged and scratched his head, sparing a nervous glance at the stairs. As all of them turned to look there was a final, dying scream from the Shapeshifter followed by a freezing cold wind and Danny shooting out of the stairwell. He spiraled overhead impatiently. "I guess he wants to walk us back."
Danny only looked down once and saw Dipper and Wendy talking. 'I suppose that's something good out of all this.' He dropped a little lower and listened in. When they reached the Shack Wendy split off and headed home. Danny landed and Dipper put a hand on his shoulder. "You okay now?"
"I went a little crazy but I'm okay now."
"Hey, dudes, check this out!" Soos shoved the briefcase at them. The latches had come undone and revealed a cracked CRT screen and keyboard stuffed inside it.
"It's a laptop! Maybe it was the author's!" Dipper nearly squealed with joy. Soos said he'd take a crack at fixing it. Danny wasn't too sure about it but Dipper was happy so he let it slide.
Chapter 14: In which Danny finally finds some answers
The house was grey and silent when Danny peaked out of his nest. "Great. Here we go again." He flexed his claws and stretched. This was becoming a routine, and not a fun one. "C'mon Bill, let's get this over with. You here to threaten me? Make bad jokes at my expense? Yell at me some more?"
But there was no answer. It looked like Bill was just content to let him wander a monochrome hell for a bit. He phased through the closed door and paced the hall; searching for any signs of Bill's current game. There wasn't even a manic chuckle or random eye popping open under his hands. Suddenly a prickling started in his scalp and he darted towards the twins' room. The door was open. He ran in and skidded to a stop before he could even comprehend what he was seeing.
Eyes. Glowing, yellow eyes. On every surface of the room. Every single eye was pointed at Dipper with a wicked glee in them. Danny leapt to the bed. Or he tried to. He looked down to see blue flame pinning his hands and even his tail to the ground. He growled and screamed as the eyes slid in unison towards Dipper. They merged into a single red eye on the wall beside him. Letters burned into the wood. "Z kfkkvg szh yvvm xslhvm. Blf xzmmlg kilgvxg srn uiln srnhvou. Yfg rg droo yv ufm gl hvv blf gib."
Danny writhed in the flames, unable to phase free. He was forced to watch as the eye became a single hand that grabbed Dipper and pulled him into darkness. Manic laughter echoed around him as he tried to block it out. Then the fire spread and burned like blood blossoms; Danny collapsed in pain, feeling it eat at his core.
It was the first time Bill got him to scream. Danny woke in his nest and panicked, throwing himself from it and rolling on the floor, still convinced he was burning. He heard pounding footsteps and the door slammed open. Then two pairs of hands stopped him. "Danny! Wake up!"
'Dipper? Where am I?' Danny stilled, carefully opening his eyes he saw Dipper and Mabel staring at him with concern. Danny shied away and curled around himself tightly. He had never been so affected by a dream before. Not even Nocturn had managed that kind of terror. Had he really gotten so attached to these kids? They followed but didn't touch him and instead sat down; letting him speak on his time. Eventually Dipper spoke up. A single word. "Bill?"
Mabel gasped, eyes watering as Danny nodded. "This is the first time it was this bad though. Usually I can just let what he says roll off but this, I couldn't handle it."
"What did he say to you?" Dipper's voice was hard and cold; even Danny felt a chill at it.
"It's, I. . . I can't say. It might not even mean anything. He was just trying to get to me because I've been ticking him off."
Danny waved off any further questions by climbing out the window and to the roof. He didn't need Dipper worrying about his problems. Soos was still working on the laptop. Although calling it a laptop would have been like calling an elephant a puppy. It was so oddly designed that Danny doubted Technus could get in it. So he had left it alone. Still, between the Shapeshifter and that last dream; he had some nasty ideas of Bill's plans. At least this time. If only someone could understand what Bill had said. He could barely remember it but if he had to repeat it he could, somehow it stuck with him.
"If only there was a portal here." He mumbled. Not long after he felt a painful itch in his fingers. He licked and chewed his hand but it just got worse. It felt like he had laid on them and they fell asleep. He growled and dug his nails into the wood below him, making deep gouges in the soft wood. As he kept scratching he felt something snag. He tried to pull his hand free; it came loose with a hiss and the air split open, revealing a glowing hole just like Wulf's. Danny looked from his hand to the portal and back again. "Well if there was ever a time to look for answers. . ."
With a nervous look back at the Shack Danny dropped off the roof and into the portal.
Even the Ghost Zone felt different to him. The air felt more electric and he could practically see sparks bouncing off him. His first stop was the Far Frozen. He hoped Frostbite might know what was happening to him. Thankfully, he had entered nearby; he could see it from where he was. There was a tingling in his back but he ignored it; moving as quickly as he could to find Frostbite. With as fast as he flew he didn't notice the ghost in front of him until it wrapped him a furry and icy hug and greeted him with a cry of "Great One! It is an honor to have you back."
Danny shook his head, a little dizzy from the sudden stop, and found himself being held at arms length; Frostbite's scrutinizing stare practically burning a hole through him. "You have changed, Great One. And I can see you are still changing."
Danny panicked at that and squirmed free, landing on his hands with his tail lashing. He pressed himself into the snow. He heard Frostbite chuckle as a furry hand rested on his back, rubbing it soothingly. "Calm, Great One. These are not bad changes but ones that will lead to a greater you."
Frostbite managed to get Danny out of the snow and motioned for him to follow. Danny stayed grounded, the tingling got worse flying, and followed on his hands. Frostbite raised an eyebrow but smiled and nodded.
He led Danny to the same cavern he had been in when his ice core developed. "Come, make yourself comfortable, Great One."
Danny hopped onto the healing tube he had woken in that time and curled his tail around it, ears perked towards Frostbite, who laughed at his eagerness. "I'm glad to see you're curious. I may know something about what is happening to you but your previous halfa nature muddles the situation some. But do not worry.
"It would appear that your development as a spirit was delayed by your human side. Your body is now catching up to where you should be in regards to your powers but your powers had been limited by your humanity as well. Now both seem to be progressing faster than your core can handle."
Danny felt his stomach drop. "Is there anything you can do? What'll happen to my core? And what the heck am I becoming?"
"Calm yourself. It would seem your core has some developments of its own to do. You have learned much of the residents of the zone but not about its functions. The zone is a creature all of its own; made from the broken bits and pieces of new and dying worlds. You see this realm has had many names; Ghost zone being the most recent. But its oldest residents simply call it the rift as that is its true nature. An empty space in between planes of existence. Because of its chaotic nature the rift is constantly creating and destroying what exists inside it. You've seen those tiny, formless ghosts correct?"
"Those are larvae; the weakest forms of ectoplasmic life in the zone. They do not last long but if they can then they grow and transform. This larvae are so common that they run the risk of overflowing the rift if not controlled."
"Then what controls them?" Danny felt a quiver in his tail, as if it already knew the answer.
"Humans call them wraiths. Inside the rift they are called "rjcpvcuou" or just phantasms. They are the wolves of the rift. Feeding on the weak larvae. And just like wolves, without them the environment would be quickly thrown out of balance."
"Why do they eat the larvae?"
"The phantasms feed on a force called aether. Aether is the most primal form of ectoplasm. But they cannot process it directly. It needs to be filtered through other creatures or it could overwhelm them. Therefore they target the larvae or other weak spirits."
"So what does this have to do with my core?"
"I believe you are a phantasm as well. Normally phantasms are rift-born creatures. But you were born a living being which complicated many things. This may have altered your development path. I have no stronger evidence than your core. An ice core is unheard of among phantasms; who usually develop fire or other heat-based cores."
"But if I don't have the right core why do you still think I'm a phantasm?" Danny felt the tingling spread to his spine and up his neck. It was making him rather excited. He shook his head. He glided from the tube to wrap around Frostbite's shoulders.
"I had my suspicions before but it wasn't until you developed your, Ghostly Wail, as you call that I was certain. A phantasm has fangs and claws, yes, but their biggest weapon is a sonic attack. Furthermore they are instinctive creatures with a knack for switching to clear thinking on a dime. But they are also social creatures which was the first thing that confused me. However, if your core develops in the manner I believe it will then it will confirm my theories."
Danny just titled his head which Frostbite took as a sign to continue. "When your core developed I simply believed you were an ice spirit but now I believe you to be a subspecies of phantasm called Endigo. Endigo do not belong to a group as their powers differ too greatly but there is another reason, one I feel could pose a danger if you do not know about it."
Frostbite hefted Danny off his shoulders and held him there. Looking him in the eyes with utmost seriousness. "The endigo phantasm does not have the sensitivities of its brethren. They can extract the energy from anything; a sufficiently powerful one could subsist on just the aetheric energy in the air, even in the living world. But you are not at that level and should instinct overtake you you may attack living creatures to obtain that energy."
Danny drooped. That was the exact thing he had been afraid of. Being told he was a threat. "So because some bear bastard cracked my core I'm going to turn into some rampaging monster? Typical."
Frostbite did not respond, only bringing Danny into a comforting hug. "You will not become a monster. There are those who will support you through anything. But if you are truly frightened by your potential you may stay here where I can oversee your development. I will also seek other spirits to help you with any powers that confuse you."
He'd never felt more relief and hugged Frostbite tighter. Coming to the Ghost Zone had been the right idea.
Danny had no real sense of time in the zone outside of Clockwork's tower and now things were even more muddled. He lay in a pile of furs, sweating and writhing in pain. Frostbite had said that being here would probably increase his development rate but he didn't know it would happen this fast. He screamed as a vicious surge of pain dug in his spine. The tingling he had felt before had turned to a full fledged burning not long after he chose to stay in the Far Frozen. Frostbite, thankfully, had acted quickly, wrapping Danny in aether infused furs and tucked him away where others wouldn't stumble upon him. There was no telling what his body would do and so Frostbite could only make him comfortable.
Right now his body seemed set on turning itself inside out through his back. All the pain was centered in four spots on his spine and was currently drilling in as deep as possible. He could feel something pushing against the skin. Could he call it skin anymore? Another pang shoved his thoughts away. He was going to puke if this kept up. He called for Frostbite who appeared with a bowl and glass of water. The yeti helped him drink before soaking a rag and carefully laying it across his back. Beyond keeping him cool Frostbite couldn't do much.
As Frostbite soaked the rag again Danny gave a ragged wail, unleashing a sonic boom that knocked Frosbite away. The pain in his back reversed, pressing harder against his skin until four spikes of ice burst through, ectoplasmic blood already freezing on their surfaces. Danny jerked and seized as the spikes swelled like blossoms before unraveling into four ragged, insectlike wings. Once the wings fully emerged the screaming stopped as Danny collapsed and passed out.
Frostbite sat where he'd been thrown, unable to do more than stare as he watched the wings fall lifelessly to the ground. Then he jumped up and nearly ran to Danny's side. Greenish blood oozed from four punctures in his back. He pressed the rag to the wounds and roared for a medic.
It wasn't long before the quiet cave was bustling with healers and the occasional gawker. The open wounds were stitched closed (as well as could be with the wings) and Frostbite was gently washing the blood from the wings; looking at them as he did. Even in the darkness of the cave he could see the individual cells shimmer like stained glass. Only once the wings were clean and Danny was resting easy did Frostbite clear the crowd away. He stayed behind to watch over him. The boy's core had become dangerously unstable during the wings growth; any wrong move could have shattered it. Now, however, it appeared to be settling again. Though Frostbite could sense something new had been introduced in its makeup; it felt like being in the eye of storm.
Chapter 15: In which Bill gets on Danny's shit list
Frostbite kept Danny for several days after; to ensure he had a good grasp of his wings and their function. He was overjoyed to find just how much they added to his control and speed. One wing beat could send him twice the distance he could cover before. Danny felt more free than ever before. When he was fully recovered Frostbite sent him to Dora's kingdom to learn more about keeping his wings in good shape. Danny then asked if she knew someone who might understand the phrase Bill had spoken. She in turn pointed him towards Ghostwriter and, while their last meeting had been less than stellar, they were both sure he'd help. If only because it was a language puzzle and they were his favorite.
The knot in his stomach still returned as he perched on one of the lion statues in front of the author's lair. His tail twitched uneasily but he took a deep breath and drifted to the door, knocking loudly but tentatively. The doors creaked open and he heard Ghostwriter call, "Do come in just leave my books alone this time, hm?"
He seemed to be in a good mood but Danny was still nervous. He passed the shelves, giving them a wide berth, until he approached the center he remembered from before. Just like then Ghostwriter was surrounded by screens and keyboards; typing rapidly and with fantastic rhythm. He stopped momentarily to look at Danny. "Dora sent word. What exactly is this phrase?"
Danny hesitated for a moment before repeating it as well as he could. Ghostwriter had him do that a few times more; letting him gain confidence in his phrasing until they were both sure it was as accurate as possible. Only then did Ghostwriter turn back to his screens, fingers flying. "How strange. The only thing that comes close are ciphers though I've never heard one spoken before. Certainly strange sounding. If I knew what cipher it was I could give you a better answer but all I can tell you now is it mentions a puppet and watching you." Danny's tail went stiff and he swept from the library with a rush of wind.
Ghostwriter raised a hand. "At least close the,"
"Door. . . ugh."
It was midnight when a thin line of green appeared in the air above the Shack; it split open and Danny came through like he'd been thrown. He spun in the air for a moment before righting himself and looking the Shack over. All the windows were dark and Dipper was out on the roof ledge; laptop in front of him and surrounded by stacks of books and paper. Danny frowned at the heavy bags under his eyes. Dipper fell forward and rested his head on the laptop case; it was safe to assume he wouldn't be moving for a while. So Danny took the opportunity to check on Mabel. He slipped through the floor and found the twins' room was a mass of sock puppets and glitter. Mabel's bed was covered in the things and she was huddled in the midst of them. Poor Waddles had been forced to sleep on the floor as there was no more room for him. He snorted sadly as Danny came down and scratched his ears, letting the pig lick his face for comfort when he reappeared.
"Looks like Mabel hasn't had much time for you, huh?" Waddles sniffed and turned around, sadly displaying the sock glued to his backside. He wiggled his tail and gave Danny a puppy dog stare. He smiled and patted the hog again. "Don't worry, little guy. You can always hang out with me."
He put his hands on the sock and carefully pressed his energy into the glue. It cracked and fell away, leaving Waddles to wiggle to his hearts content. Which he did, right into Danny's arms. Next to Mabel, Danny was easily Waddles' favorite thing in the world; and food. Okay: food, Mabel, and Danny, in that order. Freed from the tyranny of butt glue Waddles let Danny clear a space on Mabel's bed and set him down; he fell asleep very quickly after that. Danny let a smile cross his face before going back up to see how Dipper was doing. He arrived right as Dipper woke with a scream. Before Danny could check on him he packed things up and went back inside. Danny sighed. Looks like he had some catching up to do. But first; some sleep.
He had no dreams that night.
Morning arrived slowly for him. He dragged himself lazily from his nest and across the floor, yawning hugely. He could hear the racket of Mabel and her friends putting more sock puppets together. Not wanting to be recruited into the madness he phased through to the kitchen where he found a very strange sight. Dipper was pouring soda on his face and laughing. He seemed to be talking to someone as he walked to the drawers and started slamming his arm in one. Danny grimaced at this bizarre behavior. Before he could question anything Mabel ran past, shouting something about the journal.
Danny went to follow her but was stopped by an unpleasant tingling along his wings. They fluttered rapidly before resettling along his back; almost a reflection of his own misgivings. He knew Dipper could act weird on no sleep but this was a whole new level for him. Not to mention the chill that clung to him. Danny slipped past both siblings and went up to the attic room. He found the laptop crushed to pieces. He lifted the shattered case, wrinkling his nose at the smell of burnt electronics.
"Dipper wouldn't do this. He was way too interested in getting it to work."
As he looked around for answers his gaze fell on the triangular pane; the only window in the room. A low snarl bubbled from his chest. He roared, smashing the pane with a scream. He flew through it and saw Dipper's body get in the car with Soos and Wendy. He was saying something but he was too far to catch it. "BILL!"
Danny followed the car from above, staying invisible to prevent the demon from seeing him. He appeared just enough to be barely seen and pressed his face against the window, getting Bill's attention. He gave the demon a grin full of more needle sharp teeth than Bill could pull on a good day. Then he phased through the car window and coiled around him briefly, whispering. "You shouldn't have done that."
He left the car, and a thoroughly unnerved Bill, behind, speeding ahead to the theater. He weaved through the props backstage to find Mabel in the green room. She was dashing to and fro; grabbing puppets and CDs and tossing them in a box to run them up backstage. Danny called her name but she waved him off. Finally he grabbed her by the shoulders and picked her up. "Mabel you have to listen to me. That isn't Dipper, it's,"
"Not now Danny! If this show doesn't go off without a hitch I may never have a chance with him again!"
Danny dropped her. "With who?"
She took his hand and brought him backstage, peeking around the curtain just enough to point out some weird guy with puppets on both hands. Danny raised a brow and watched Mabel run back for more puppets. He looked back out to the audience and saw Not Dipper sit down near the front row. He growled and went up to the catwalk; hoping to catch Bill before he did anything to anyone.
'This is SO boring!' Danny was falling asleep on the catwalk. The play was some sing-songy romance that lost his interest a minute in. As his eyes drifted closed he heard shoes on the catwalk and turned invisible. He watched Mabel run to the Papier-mâché cake tied to the railing. Before Danny could reach her she tumbled into the cake and grabbed the journal inside it. He saw someone grab the rope to stop the whole thing from falling. When Bill stepped out of the shadows he roared, leaping from his own hiding place and charging at Bill.
Bill tried to dodge but had the rope wrapped around his hand making him fall in the cake with Mabel; causing it to plummet to the stage. Danny tried to grab for them but Mabel threw the journal at him. He caught the journal with his tail and leaped after the falling cake, snatching Mabel out of it and curling around her. All three crashed on the stage to the shock of the audience; Danny bounced off it and released Mabel as he righted himself. He passed her the journal and pushed her behind him. Bill/Bipper charged at him and he shrieked, sending a targeted cone of sound straight at him and knocking him to the other end of the stage.
Once he was dizzy Danny pounced, easily pinning Dipper's sleep deprived body to the ground. Behind him Mabel cheered. "Get that annoying demon, Danny! Get my brother back! Whoo!"
Danny leaned down and snarled. "You really fucked up this time, Bill. From now on I'm gonna be chasing your two dimensional ass from here to judgement day." He threw his head back with a howl and sank his teeth into Bipper's collar. He pulled him upright and thrust a claw through his chest shoving Bill out and away. He ran back to Mabel with a waking Dipper under one arm. All three looked back at the sound of Bill's laughter to see the Dipper puppet crawling towards them. "This isn't the last you'll hear of me! Big things are coming! You can't stop me!"
Danny just barely heard Mabel mutter, "Sorry, Gabe." Before fireworks exploded behind him, sending puppets and fire flying everywhere. Startled, he grabbed the twins and wrapped all three of them in his wings until the chaos stopped. Once things were quiet they emerged to a stock-still audience.
"Don't worry." Mabel said. "I've seen enough movies to know this is the part where the audience thinks it was all part of the show and loves it. Cue applause!" But the silence continued; slowly broken by mumbling statements.
"Was that supposed to happen?"
"I hope they get that fire under control."
"How the heck did she make that monster thing? It's awesome!"
At that cheers burst out and the audience stood to applaud. Most seemed directed towards Danny, a fact that had him flushing and backing away. The twins were left staring as the people filed out. Only Gabe was left behind; he did not look happy. Mabel laughed nervously. "So Gabe, great show right? Wanna stick around for the wrap party?"
Gabe harrumphed. "You have made a mockery of my profession. Let's go."
Dipper and Danny both looked with wide eyes. "Uh, did he just make out with his puppets? I think you dodged a bullet there, Mabel."
Danny shook his head, smiling at the twins before picking Dipper up. "I'm gonna drop you off at the hospital, okay? Who knows what Bill did to your insides."
Dipper grimaced at the thought. Mabel demanded to come with so Danny lifted her too and took off. "Mabel, if it's alright with you, I think I'll shred the rest of the puppets when we get back."
"Be my guest, Danny."
Chapter 16: In which Dipper unlocks Danny's backstory
Dipper did not like hospitals, at all, but when Danny brought him in he made him promise to stay. Neither one of them were sure just what hell Bill had put his body through and Danny wanted to make absolute sure that Dipper wasn't about to keel over from unseen complications. To do this he stayed by his side regardless of what was happening. Or at least he tried to. Not long after Dipper was dropped off he was carted off for examination; they found a hairline fracture on his left arm as well as puncture wounds, internal bruising, irregular heartbeat from exhaustion, and CT scans showed some unusual brain activity that would need monitoring. He was quickly admitted and given a single room to better aid mental recovery.
This was perfect for Danny, who could now watch him without constantly being hidden. Dipper enjoyed it as well, since Danny didn't need to follow hospital rules; visiting hours meant nothing to him. Dipper hated hospitals because he was alone, but Danny made sure he wasn't, making this stay just a little more enjoyable for him. Then there were the stories. They started out rather tame; campfire style stories that he was sure he had heard before, but quickly escalated to the ghosts he fought on an almost daily basis. Dipper listened with wide eyes to Fright Knight's attack and the battle against Pariah Dark that sucked an entire town into another dimension. There was story after story of the Box Ghost that had him gasping from laughter. He learned about the many ghosts Danny had befriended and yet, something was missing. In every story Danny seemed to skirt around certain details until finally he would just skip them.
After what seemed like years, Dipper managed to wrangle the reason from him. The truth almost made him regret ever thinking about it.
"I suppose I should start from the beginning, then. I'm from a town out east called Amity Park. My family was considered kind of, eccentric. See, they were inventors but were more interested in studying ghosts. Most folks avoided us if they could. Still, I managed to make a couple of friends; Sam and Tucker. I met Tucker when I was just a little guy and we hit it off in the best way. When we were both about ten Sam's family moved to town. Her parents hated us; she loved it. Sam was pretty goth even then so anything her family hated she was all over. It only got better when she learned about the ghost thing. Eventually we got to know each other and we became friends.
"Well, things were good, minus the crush I got on Sam and couldn't say a word about. Then, about four years later, not too far into the school year, my parents finished their masterpiece; a portal to the other side. Jazz wasn't interested so Sam and Tucker came to watch with me. Dad was a huge show off for stuff like this. The portal was designed to tear open the fabric of realty so, obviously, we were pretty nervous. Then dad plugs it in and, nothing. Years of work for a few sparks. Dad was heartbroken. Mom took him to the kitchen and that's when Sam started poking around.
"She was going on about how cool it be to see the spirit and managed to talk me into talking a look. I wanted to impress her so I went in. My dad, in all his genius, had put the on button INSIDE the portal. My lucky self happened to push it and that's where I got this."
He held his left arm out. Dipper could just see a faint lightning pattern that grew into a single scar on his hand. The hand itself still carried a circle of charred tissue. "It's one hell of a Lichtenberg scar, huh? Anyway, that's how the whole "fighting ghosts" thing started. It took a long time to get used to it. Though, now that I think about it, I never really did do that. Until now anyway. But as for how I got here? That's another story."
Danny fell silent, ears back and tail drooping. It was obvious he didn't want to say anything but if there was one thing Dipper had learned it was that it did no good to hide anything. So he gently nudged and encouraged Danny until the ghost gathered himself enough to continue.
"I guess Sam didn't feel the same way I did. I thought I showed her well enough, in my own way. Finding my best friend and the girl I loved. . . kissing in a closest like that. It sounds like a bad movie cliche but that's what happened. Even growing wings didn't hurt as much as seeing that did. I locked myself in my room; even melted the lock so my sister couldn't get in. Then Skulker showed up and I just. . . lost it. All the anger and pain I vented on him. It destroyed my room. The noise brought my parents in. They didn't see their son fighting a ghost; they saw the monster who had been terrorizing the town. I tried to make them see the truth, even changed back to show them it was me. But," Danny's chest heaved as tears began to fall.
"They didn't believe me. I gave up my biggest secret and they didn't believe me. I watched my mom cry as she accused me of kidnapping myself. I had to listen to them call me a monster with that awful gun ready to tear me molecule from molecule. If Jazz, my sister, hadn't distracted them by dropping the ghost shield they put up I would have died right there. After that I thought of going to Vlad, he was the only other halfa I knew; the only one who could help. But I was scared. Who's to say he wouldn't attack my parents in retaliation? In the end I turned my back on Amity Park altogether and followed my instincts here."
Danny collapsed across the hospital bed, pinning Dipper's legs. It was as if that story had taken everything out of him. His shoulders trembled and Dipper carefully put his good hand on his back. Danny only twitched; even his wings seemed duller in the wake of it. The room fell silent, broken only by the occasional hitching sob from Danny. After a few minutes the sobbing ceased, and Danny lifted himself from the bed to curl up underneath it. Dipper laid back to think about what he'd learned. There were details missing; things Danny had clearly avoided for his own sake. Still, it all painted a very solid picture of why he was the way he was now.
For the remainder of Dipper's stay Danny remained silent, lost in his own memories. He stayed near Dipper but did not touch or interact with him. This was all very worrying to him. Maybe he'd pushed too hard? He shouldn't have tried to learn more. As Dipper loomed over a pit of self loathing he felt a cool shape nudge under his back, lifting him upright and curling around him slightly. Dipper smiled, Danny may not be talking but he wasn't angry with him, just hurting; Dipper shifted as much as he could without pulling on any tubes and gave Danny a half hug, drifting off to the sound of quiet purring.
When he woke Danny was nowhere to be seen and a nurse was removing the various wires and tubes on his person. She smiled when she saw him awake. "Today's the day! You've got a clean bill of health and are ready to go home! We've sent your things down to the waiting room where you're family's waiting."
Dipper heaved a relieved sigh as the nurse left the room and came back with a fresh change of clothes. After having to wear a hospital gown it was like a little slice of heaven. He felt a light weight settle on his shoulders and Danny whisper, "Shame, you totally rocked the patient look."
He laughed quietly, happy Danny was talking again. The nurse walked him down to the waiting room where he was immediately assaulted by hugs and shouting from concerned friends and family. They all piled into the car headed home; Danny flying ahead. Dipper considered telling Mabel about Danny's past but decided against it. She didn't really care about what brought Danny to Gravity Falls; he was here and that was that. If Danny wanted to tell her he would and it wasn't his place to decide.
Back at the Shack Dipper took the opportunity to walk around; legs tired from being bed bound for so long. Upstairs he found the door to Danny's nest room open. Danny wasn't there; his nest was still a mess from the nightmare Bill had given him and the window was broken. Dipper shivered, suddenly worried that he'd pushed Danny over the edge and he'd lost it again. He ran outside and found a faint trail of frost in the air, leading out from the window. He followed it out through the woods to the far edge of the lake, and there he found Danny, stretched along the shore and staring intently out across the water. Dipper approached as noisily as possible; not knowing what the other's state of mind was and really not wanting to go back to the hospital so soon.
Ears twitched with every crunch behind him but a quick sniff gave him no reason to move. He looked to the side as Dipper sat down with a sigh and started skipping stones. After a few minutes of companionable silence Dipper spoke. "So, what are you thinking about?"
A tail twitch. "That head that lives here."
Dipper shuddered. "Can't believe you're doing that willingly."
"Just that it's funny. If it had never chased me you guys would have never really gone looking for me. I bet you would have just chalked me up as something else weird and just left me more or less alone."
Dipper watched a stone plop gracelessly in the water. "To be honest you may be right. I figured you were just another creature to study but you helped me when you could have left. That's how I knew you were worth talking to. You made the effort to connect with me even after we had trapped you. And I'm glad we did."
"I'm glad you did too." Danny gently wrapped his tail around Dipper's waist and the two stayed by the lake until sunset; talking about nothing at all.
I got a few questions about this towards the beginning of the story so I decided to add a chapter for it. Danny isn't quite ready to tell the whole truth so he summarized pretty heavily.
Chapter 17: Interlude
a brief look at what was happening while Danny made his way to Gravity Falls
(many weeks ago)
Jazz pulled to the side of the road and rested her head on the steering wheel. Her back and legs were stiff from hours of nonstop driving on empty roads, and her eyes stung from tears. After she dropped the ghost shield she drove to her dorm room; Danny knew to go there if something was up or he needed to talk. He was safe yet her mind kept going back to the what ifs. What if she hadn't been home from college for a visit? Would Danny have found a way out on his own? Either way her dorm had been empty so she went to Sam and Tucker, neither of them had seen him and neither would look at her when she asked. Danny wouldn't want to trouble Valerie's dad with another mouth to feed so that left her with one resort; Vlad.
Which was why she was pulling a red eye drive to Wisconsin. As much as Danny and Vlad fought she knew he looked up to him. Every time they fought he picked up on some new skill that he spent hours and days practicing. Vlad may not have gotten a direct pupil but he had aided in Danny's growth as he wanted. Danny at least trusted him enough to take care of him as a fellow halfa if nothing else.
Her whole body was screaming for rest but she just couldn't stop. She had to know if he was there; even if he wasn't Vlad would at least be able to help her find him. She hoped. Worry caused her to press hard on the gas, having inherited her father's lead foot, and she forced herself to slow down. Vlad's castle wasn't going anywhere and hopefully neither was Danny. Thankfully she wasn't far off now. Another hour of driving had her pulling into the white stone gravel driveway to the front. She pulled up right at the stairs and got out as fast as her tired legs would let her. She took the stairs two at a time and began ringing the bell frantically.
Vlad didn't know what he expected when he opened the door at two in the morning but a sobbing Jasmine Fenton, so tired she could barely stand, was not one of them. She stumbled forward and he rushed to catch her. She fell asleep the second she hit his arms. He laid her on the sofa and went to investigate her car. There were no bags and no sign of her brother. Vlad felt his hackles rise, along with a faint sense of panic for Danny's safety. He just barely heard Jazz rouse and come to the door.
"Sorry, Vlad. I drove straight here from home."
Vlad whirled around, eyes glowing faintly. "Where's Daniel?" He just barely kept from shouting.
That woke her up. "You mean he's not here?!" Panic entered her voice.
"Go back inside. I believe you have something to tell me"
When Jazz finished Vlad was shaking in fury. It took absolutely every ounce of control to stop himself from transforming and raining vengeance on Jack and even Maddie. He could practically feel the love for her drain from him, leaving only burning hatred behind. A trembling hand touched his shoulder. "Vlad?"
He stopped and looked over. Jazz was crying again. He found himself pulling her into a protective hug. "We'll find him, Jasmine. I promise."
"I have my ways, dear girl. Don't worry."
Chapter 18: In which a Queen is dethroned and further troubles arise
It was a few days after Dipper was released from the hospital and man, was he sore. Mabel had told him off; saying he shouldn't have done so much walking so soon. Dipper just accepted it for what it was and kept going out. Though he did accept rides from Danny more often. The current day found them both out in the woods, as usual. Danny's ears were pricked and twitched with every noise. Today was important for him; today Dipper had agreed to help him find the bugbear queen and deal with a possible hive. Help, of course, meant track it down and then get out of the way so Danny could go whole hog. Dipper was not about to argue with that.
Both felt the best place to start, in terms of tracks at least, was where Danny had chased off the bugbear that attacked Dipper. With how dry the weather had been there should be prints. Danny had long discounted catching a scent. Even if there was one he'd never learned to hunt by scent. Either way they started at the river and backtracked to the where the fight took place.
It was as much of a wreck as it had been before; claw marks on trees, grass torn up and thrown about, there was even traces of frost still on the ground somehow. But most importantly there were footprints. Everywhere. Dipper carefully slid off Danny's back and leaned against him, Danny leading him to the least dense concentration. He sat back as Dipper went into full investigator mode.
"It looks the queen came back for a bit. The smaller prints are drones so she wasn't alone. They collected here and headed east; deeper in. I looked into it a little more and that was a young queen. So she's looking for a place to settle in; that's the good news. The bad news is she's probably managed to do that and already started birthing workers and warriors. They birth in litters but I don't know how often or how many at a time. If we're,"
"If you are going to do this I can't say how big an opposition you'll be facing."
A snort. "You remember Pariah, right?"
"You had a robot."
"And now I could tear that robot apart, no matter who's in it. Besides I'm not gonna rush in. Learned that lesson the hard way. Now c'mon." He crouched down and let Dipper back up, feeling him lean forward to point the way.
"It might be possible to get you in without a fight. If we can draw the drones away from the hive then you can kill the queen. She's the key to all of this, without her the others will either wander off and starve to death or just drop dead on the spot. I think that's a mental thing."
"Anything to cut the numbers."
The forest was silent as they followed the trail, not even a rustle of leaves. The quiet put Danny on edge and he looked to his passenger. "Why is it so quiet?"
"Bugbears are predators. Top of the food chain in most places. Anything that hasn't been eaten by the queen or workers has cleared out."
"So does that mean they aren't natural here?"
"No. That's the most concerning thing. They're supposed to live in the southern states. Anywhere else just gets too cold."
"So why is it here at all?"
"Like I said, young queen. Most queens don't survive swarming; they just don't have the experience to pick the right territory. But they can defend a hive just as well as a warrior."
"ARE there any warriors?"
"Depends on how long she's had a full hive. They don't start producing warriors without a good sized hive."
After that they went quiet; not wanting to make more sound than necessary without any animals to cover it. Danny soon turned his ears down, pressing them tightly to his head; he didn't like the lack of sound. Besides Dipper would let him know if anything happened.
It turned out sound wasn't needed, however, as a strong sweet smell filled the air; a faint scent of something sharp and musky just underneath it. From the sniffing sounds behind him Dipper could smell it too. He leaned closer so Danny could hear him.
"There's enough of them to start making honey. This might be rough."
Dipper pulled his pack in front of him and started digging through it. With a grin he pulled out a flashlight with a gem taped to it. Danny tipped his head. "What's that?"
"The chance you need."
It took them another hour and a half to find the actual hive. It was half buried in the soil and the exposed half was little more than a pile of dirt and leaves; a bit like his first den had been. The smell was almost dizzying out here; clearly his nose was more sensitive now. How was he supposed to fight inside where the smell would be even stronger?
Danny's tail flicked in frustration, but before he could say anything a small bottle was thrust under his nose and a faint scent of lavender filled his senses; completely blocking out the sweet smell. He snorted and rubbed his nose. "The heck was that for?"
"The honey has a pheromone in it that can confuse anything that gets in. The lavender will block it out."
With a nod to him he let Dipper off his back to go find a hiding spot. The plan they'd come up with was rather bare bones for Dipper's taste but it would be effective. Danny would rile up the hive until whatever caste was defending came out and Dipper would shrink them, leaving Danny free to head in and challenge the queen. There was no way to know what the hive was like inside so he was pretty much on his own once he was in. Either way it was the best they could get on short notice so that was what they were stuck with.
Dipper hung the bottle of oil from Danny's neck and darted away from the hive, flashlight in hand. Once the other was safe Danny faded from sight and flew to the top of the hive. He started to bounce on the roof, slapping it with his tail until he could feel it starting to loosen. A low buzzing that quickly rose in pitch began to vibrate through his arms, making them go numb and forcing him to let go. He continued to beat on the hive with his tail; even sending some energy in to bring a chill.
The buzzing dropped low again and became a growl. Three large bugbears crawled out of the hive followed by another, slightly smaller one bulging with muscle; drones and a warrior. Danny tensed as the beasts sniffed Dipper out. They quickly converged on his hiding spot only to be caught in a flash of pink; all three shrinking out of sight. Dipper gave him a thumbs up as another set of warriors appeared and was shrunk. They continued until no more bugbears emerged.
With the last of the hive's guards dealt with, Danny phased in through the roof and started his search for the queen. When he first came in he froze. It was dark in the hive; dark enough that even his eyes had trouble seeing, at least at first. Then he felt a slight dizziness and his vision filled with color, but he wasn't seeing with his eyes. 'Okay so now I have heat vision.' He made a mental note to check his reflection after this little adventure; for now he'd just accept it. Though he was starting to feel like some overpowered game character. Forget his reflection, once he was done here he was going straight back to the ghost zone to find Clockwork. A least he'd be able to get some kind of answer there; however circuitous the explanation might be.
He stopped to look around again. He could see a large warm patch off to his left and looked down to follow the still warm prints of the warriors. The only draw back to this heat vision/sensing thing was no depth perception; he'd learned that the hard way after walking into several honey covered walls. So now he was left following footprints and hoping they were the right ones. He licked honey off his hands; he would need his icy claws for the fight and the honey dulled their edge.
A faint buzzing echoed in down the path and he perked up. He knew that noise. He felt his core pulse like it knew what was down there; like it knew this creature had nearly destroyed it. Danny's body began to steam in the warm air as his temperature dropped in preparation for the fight. He pressed himself to the floor and crawled closer to the royal chamber, pressing the growing buzzing out.
The queen had somehow managed to grow even bigger since their last meeting. She lay in the center of the chamber on her side; deeply asleep. Danny scanned the honeycomb floor of the room. The many cells were empty but he wasn't sure if bugbear young worked that way. He shook his head and refocused on the task at hand. The queen was starting to wake up so if he was going to strike now was the time.
Danny braced his tail and dug in his claws, using them to launch himself towards his quarry at lightning speed. He collided with the queen's chest with a hive shaking thump. The queen roared and swung at him, paw meeting air as Danny flung himself ceiling-wards. He bounced off and coiled around the bugbear's neck, sending searing cold into her flesh. A pained howl met him before he was thrown to the floor under a near ton of fur and claws. Danny dug his own claws into the fur under him and held on while the bugbear thrashed, trying to throw him off.
The queen reared up again and tried to grab at Danny, forcing him off her and sending him scuttling to the far edge of the room. He turned invisible and watched for another shot. As soon as she dropped down he pounced again, this time he aimed for her already injured leg and sank his teeth into it; shredding the thick hide. From there he climbed on and up her back to her head. He wrapped a hand around her jaw and slammed a fist into it; feeling bone and teeth shatter. She swiped at him again and caught him by the head.
Danny was well and truly pinned; despite the lavender oil on his neck being this close was causing the pheromones coming from the bugbear queen to quickly saturate his brain and slow him down. He didn't want to risk any plane jumping by going intangible in this state and instead squirmed as much as he could; eventually getting enough room to roll on his back and take a deep breath.
And he howled.
The Wail sent the bugbear queen crashing into the wall of her hive and pinned her there. The walls began shaking, debris crashing down around him, but he closed his eyes and kept going. Only when he felt the hive collapse and the muffled shouts from Dipper did he stop. He stood panting for a moment, then moved to the pile where the queen lay. He tossed it off with a flick of his tail. The queen was still breathing but unconscious. Still burning with life.
prey prey down life soul food eat food FEED
Danny surged forward, jaw nearly unhinging as he sank his teeth into the meal beneath him. He carelessly gulped down the honeyed flesh then froze; fangs sinking into something that shattered like glass in his mouth. A painfully sweet feeling engulfed him and he collapsed, twitching helplessly.
Dipper carefully examined the grass, picking up the shrunken bugbears and popping them in a jar he'd brought along. He left the lid on loose. When the first roar reached him he nearly dropped it. From his hiding place he could see the hive physically shake as the two predators fought inside. Then the howling came and he felt a chill run up his spine. It had changed from the first time he'd heard it. The low moan remained, but it was undershot by a chilling wail, like a winter blizzard, and the cracking of ice and mounting lightning storms.
He had to force himself to stay still as the hive fell apart; showing Danny, locked in by the wail. He shouted as loud as he could and saw Danny freeze, the cry fading with the rumble of thunder. He stayed stock-still as Danny shifted a pile of debris (hurled more like it, how strong is he?) then lunged at the revealed queen, tearing her open and devouring something that sent him into paroxysms of some sort. Then he stopped moving completely minus some twitching.
Dipper approached carefully, hand outstretched. The jar of bugbears lay forgotten in the grass, the bugbears themselves had collapsed when Danny landed the death blow. The ghost's chest was heaving in unnecessary breaths and his eyes rolled back. Dipper tapped him lightly, then shook him a little. Danny gasped as he snapped out of it, rolling on his stomach and trying to stand; he wobbled, arms weak from the spasm. So that was what eating live aether felt like? He could see the appeal. He shifted his gaze to Dipper; licked his chops and took a step forward.
"Oh boy, I know that look. Danny, it's me. I'm not food no matter what your brain is telling you."
Another step forward.
"Ugh! This hangup of yours kicks in at the worst times! SNAP OUT OF IT!" Dipper aimed a kick at Danny and caught him full in chin, forcibly closing his jaws with a clomp. Danny reeled back and fell over his tail. Dipper took a run for the bush, grabbing the flashlight and turning it on Danny just as he was getting back up. Dipper turned the light off when he was about kitten sized then went and grabbed him by the tail. It was like holding an ice cube but Dipper kept a grip on him; even as Danny squirmed and struggled to get his tiny fangs into Dipper's thumb. It was honestly cute to watch and Dipper failed to hold back his laughter; which snapped Danny out of it.
Danny licked his teeth and looked down at what he caught, only to see a giant hand surrounding him. He gave a frightened squeak and darted to the edge only to have another hand cover him gently. From above he heard Dipper, between poorly hidden laughs, say, "Easy now, Danny. It's just me. You came after me so I shrunk you down. I'll put you back to normal now."
"No don't!" Dipper put the flashlight down again and sat, uncovering Danny to see eyes full of concern and fear.
"Just leave me like this. It's safer." Danny flopped down. "Every time I fight I lose control. How am I supposed to protect people from monsters if I can't even protect them from me? You won't always be there to reign me in. "
There was a quiet sigh above him and a finger came down to stroke his back. "But I'll be there as long as you need reigning in. You're my friend, and I'm always there for my friends."
He lifted Danny to eye height and winked. "Even when they don't want me to be."
Danny smiled back. "Okay, but maybe leave me like this a little longer. For my own sake?"
Chapter 19: In which Danny takes time for a new perspective
Dipper's been hogging the limelight a bit too much. Besides, everyone could use a little Mabel Time.
The way back was spent with Danny wrapped loosely around Dipper's neck. Something he wasn't about to protest because, like always, Danny was pleasantly cool and doing wonders for his own temperature. Of course that didn't dissuade Dipper from his own thoughts; namely about his friend's state of mind. It was clear from his first meeting with him that he was strong, and getting stronger, but he seemed to be terrified of that strength. Even more so than his occasional loss of control. He was holding something back and Dipper was sure it related to his powers, somehow.
Either way, he wasn't getting an answer today. Danny was clearly in no state for conversation; asleep on his shoulder as he was. He reached up and gently stroked his head, eliciting the tiniest of purrs. Dipper chuckled when he felt the miniature claws knead at his shirt and pet him just a little more.
Back home Dipper cupped Danny gently to his chest as he bounded up the stairs to his and Mabel's room. Inside Mabel was getting Waddles 'dolled up' for, apparently, a hot date with Gompers. The pig was either actually enjoying it or just tolerating it in hopes of getting food. Both looked up when he entered; Waddles squirming away from Mabel and trotting over, sniffing curiously. Mabel put down the ribbon she'd been trying to tie on Waddles' ear and looked around her brother. "Where's Danny? Did you two deal with those bugbears?"
Dipper opened his hands and showed her Danny, coiled up like a tiny snake in his palms. She 'squeed' quietly then whispered, "What happened, is he hurt?"
"He beat the queen, but then he lost control and attacked me. I had the flashlight so I shrunk him. Now he's too scared of himself to go back to normal."
Wordlessly, Mabel held out her hands and Dipper placed the still sleeping ghost in them. "I'm going to do some research; see if I can figure out something that might help. Without hurting him."
They both thought of the silver loop and flinched. Dipper smiled and gave his sister a thumbs up, grabbed his bag of books, and headed to the attic room to start searching. Mabel watched him until a small yawn grabbed her attention. Danny gave himself a good full body stretch and shake, taking his sweet time to wake up. When he finally did open his eyes he found Waddles' big pink snout in his face.
"So, how are you feeling?"
Danny looked around before focusing on Mabel. "The bugbear queen threw me around a bit but I'm fine."
She furrowed her brow. "That's not what I mean and you know it." She said as she plopped him on a pile of fabric and yarn. She turned back to getting Waddles' make up just right before starting on his outfit. Danny turned away.
"Terrible. How else am I supposed to feel?"
"I don't know. Relieved that you didn't actually eat my brother? Happy to know there's at least one way to stop you?"
"Scared that that one way is going to fail? Terrified of myself and what I'm turning into?"
She huffed and got down to look him in the eyes. "And just what are you turning into?"
Even with his small size it was painfully easy to see the tears streaking his cheeks; to hear the choked breaths he tried to hide. Mabel picked him back up and covered him with one hand. She smiled softly. "Maybe you are. But I can tell you're a good monster. Bad monsters don't regret what they do. They don't feel guilty when they hurt someone. You're feeling all that and more. So even if you turn into a monster on the outside you'll still be a good person on the inside."
Danny felt his chest hitch. "Why are you so sure about this? How can you know?"
Mabel gave him a Cheshire grin, her eyes practically sparkling (or maybe that was just glitter). "Because you're in Gravity Falls! Me and Dipper have made friends with so many creatures that people would call monsters! Maybe," She gasped as the idea hit. "Maybe you just need to meet some of them!"
He wasn't all that enthusiastic about the idea but he wanted to at least humor her. After all, she was trying so hard to cheer him up; he hated to hurt her feelings, even a little. He sighed. "Okay. I'll give it a shot."
"But you can't be small. Otherwise you might wind up getting snacked on, instead."
Before he could even protest, Mabel had grabbed the flashlight and flipped the crystal; zapping him back to normal. He stumbled a little, dizzied by the swift change in size. He heard her giggle. "Oops. Forgot how fast that thing works. But no time for that let's go!"
She grabbed him by the tail and dragged him back outside. Danny scrabbled at the ground trying to slow her down. "Mabel, come on! Can't this wait until tomorrow at least?!"
"No way, spooky butt, the longer we wait the more depressed you'll get! Now stop making yard canyons and let's go." She gave his tail rough tug, which made him jump and stand upright. He finally decided to just give in and follow along. "If I fall asleep though, don't wake me up."
The first stop on Mabel's "Monsters Are Great" tour was, of all places, the lake. On seeing it Danny dug his claws in and went as stiff as possible, even icing himself to the ground. Mabel only noticed when she stumbled and let go. She turned around and saw Danny was actually scared. Remembering how they'd found him before she quickly took to comforting him, climbing on his back and laying on it while she pet him. She could feel him trembling. This was all that head's fault! She started rubbing around his ears in a way she knew Waddles liked and felt him start to relax. "Don't worry, Danny. That head is really scary but it only comes out at night. If it shows up at all. You don't have to go in the water either! You can just sit right here and wait."
When Danny gave a shaky nod she hopped down and skipped to the end of the pier where she pulled a bag of meat from underneath it. She waved Danny over and started tossing the meat on the water, making gurgly mooing sounds as she did.
"Uh, okay. Is this some weird ritual around here?"
He tilted his head and lay down beside her, following the arc of the meat slices with his eyes. Mabel glanced down and smiled. "Open up, Danny!"
He did and got a mouthful of honey-roasted ham. He purred loudly as he ate the slice, tail thumping happily. Then something started rumbling near him. He looked out to see a massive wake coming closer. Danny arched his back and leaned away. Mabel stopped tossing long enough to pat his tail. The wake slowed and vanished as it reached the pier. The water burst upwards in a tower of greenish grey and a familiar head lowered down, chucks of ham dangling from its maw. It mooed at the both of them and nudged Danny with the side of its snout.
"This is the Gobblewonker! She's really sweet and loves ham! So obviously I will not be introducing her to Waddles."
For the first time in a while Danny laughed. A true honest laugh. He simply couldn't help it! Everything about Mabel was so honest and excited. Just like he could have understanding silence with Wendy he felt Mabel's actions were honest; just a pure desire to see him happy and unafraid of himself. And as he watched her hop on its nose and bounce around its head he felt just that.
When the ham was finished the Gobblewonker gave them each a lick and swam back to the deep. Mabel jumped on Danny's back and shouted, "High-ho Danny away! Let's scare some gnomes!"
Danny reared up on his tail and gave a whinny. Mabel whooped and laughed as she directed him to the gnome's hideaway. She was having a wild time and it was thoroughly infectious. With a joyous yelp Danny dove down the hole to the gnome glade and skidded to a stop. The gnomes shrieked and scattered making the two break down laughing. Danny bucked her off and rapidly coiled around her before she hit the ground. With her helpless he started tickling her.
The gnomes slowly came out of hiding to watch their queen (at least she was to them) and thought she was being attacked. They screamed and charged. Danny rolled upright, keeping Mabel coiled safely away from them. He crouched down and let his eyes burn brightly, mist billowing from his mouth. He winked at Mabel and let loose a roar, blowing several gnomes back. The rest skidded to a stop. Danny gave a grin, revealing every pointed tooth, and laughed deeply. "Well, well. It seems my mistress was right. Look at all of you little morsels. Mind if dig in?"
He lunged with a snarl, sending the gnomes scattering again. From behind he heard Mabel's laugh reach a new peak; gasping and snorting of all sorts were coming from her. "That'll teach 'em to kidnap me! That was so awesome, Danny."
She wiggled free of his tail and clung to it as he climbed back out of the hole. It looked like being able to act out a little menace did wonders for Danny's mood; the tip of his tail was flicking lazily. While Danny wandered she started talking about her mini golf contest with Pacifica. How it ended with them teaming up against the Lilliputtians. Danny grinned when she started going on about whacking the little boogers with clubs and the noises they made when they went flying.
"So yeah she's still kind of annoying but she's fun."
"Heh. Can you two do anything without almost getting killed?
"Eh, it's kind of just what it's like here."
He rolled his eyes. "Really? It seems like the folks in town get along just fine."
"No they don't. I'll prove it."
With a huffed laugh Danny flipped Mabel from his tail to his back. Then he took off and headed into town. As soon as Mabel realized they were going to fly she cheered and started singing as loud and off-key as she could. "IT'S A NEVERENDING STORY! LA LA LA LA LA! YEAH!"
As they neared town Danny turned invisible, immediately hearing "Ooh, tingly!" from behind. Mabel pointed towards Greasy's Diner where a trio of gnomes were stacked up to snag a pie on the window. Beyond the diner she pointed out a giant bat sleeping in the town's bell-tower and a fleeting shadow making a grab for the mailman. They continued on over the town with Mabel showing him this and that.
In the end he was forced to accept that the monsters of Gravity Falls DID NOT stay in the trees. In fact, they seemed to have formed a relationship of sorts with the people; though the humans remained unaware. Sometimes one got a spook and that made the monsters day. But still.
"Why doesn't anyone notice this?"
"Dipper's been trying to figure that out since he found out about it. All we know is that Grunkle Stan knows about it and this author guy was writing about it. That's why Dipper wants to find the author. He thinks there's some great secret to all this and that this guy knows what it is."
Mabel led him to the water tower. It offered a perfect view of the town, especially from the very top where Danny settled. From there it was easy to see the nearly transparent creatures that drifted, jellyfish like, through the air. Danny found himself wondering what something ate up there. He felt Mabel flop down on his back, resting her head on one arm and drawing little nonsense shapes with a finger.
They stayed that way for an hour or so, until the sun started setting. Then Danny gave a wide yawn and gently lifted off the tower. He kept a sedate pace back home (when did he start calling it home?) to keep Mabel, who was still doodling, from falling off. As the Shack came into view he dropped down and slipped through the open window in the twins' room. Mabel rolled off his back when he landed and turned to look him in the eye. She said nothing as she hugged him, and there was no silent battle needed for Danny to eagerly return it. Eventually, to Danny's disappointment, the hug ended; Mabel proclaimed she needed to get started on the sweater she would make him and ran off to gather her supplies.
Danny purred softly as she left, then went to check on Dipper. He was in the attic again. A pen, close to bursting, being chewed to oblivion. Danny easily strode past the mess of paper on the floor to sit cat-like on the windowsill. His tail fell limp across the floor, disturbing papers with its gentle motions. They stayed that way for several minutes until Dipper dropped the journal with a loud groan, head dropping back. "No luck I'm guessing?"
"None at all. But I started thinking. What if the author isn't around anymore? What if he died?"
"And you want me to see if I can find him." Danny felt an ear twitch, he knew where this was going.
"Exactly! What if he became a ghost and is in that zone you talked about? Then you can just,"
Danny held up a hand, cutting him off. "You don't automatically become a ghost when you die. And even if they did become one there's no way of knowing if the even made it to the zone; some ghosts just pass right through. Plus I can't just wander around there asking for them; that's a surefire way to get Walker on my case again. Next time I go I'll keep an ear out but I'm not going back on a wild hunch. Sorry, Dipper."
Dipper sat upright, a defeated look in his eye. Danny gently took the journal from him and lifted him off the windowsill. "I promise I'll try when I go but for now it's getting late, and Mabel's told me what happens when you miss too much sleep so iru dormi."
He shooed him off and Dipper managed a smile. Clearly some of his sister's mood had rubbed off on the ghost.
I figured it was time for Mabel to have some fun with Danny. Her character is exactly what he needs right now.
Chapter 20: In which a dog gives Dipper what he needs
According to spellcheck, half the words I used here don't exist.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Boring, boring, boring! It's so BORING right now! No one wants to play and master isn't here. Oh! Master! He'll play with me! I just gotta find him.
Inside a bush, inside Amity Park's well, park a little green puppy poked its nose out. It sniffed at the ground enthusiastically.
Hmm, no master here. Not for a long time. Let's try somewhere else!
The puppy dug into the ground and vanished with no hole left behind. When it surfaced next it was in a forest, little nose going wild.
Master's here! I'll find you soon. Just you wait!
With a happy yip the puppy took off, nose to the ground until it bumped into a wooden wall. Then it walked straight up it to an open window. The puppy kept following the scent until it walked into a pink mound. It snorted at him.
Waddles had spent much of the morning being fawned over by Mabel and Danny. The ghost was very fun to be around and his tail made an excellent napping spot on hot days. Plus, there was just something about him that drew critters in. Now he was snoozing on Mabel's blanket which he'd pulled from the bed to lay in the breeze from the open window.
Something cold bumped into his rump, waking him. He turned around snorted at the green pup that woke him. The dog jumped back, stared at him for a moment, then gave a happy yip and wagged his tail while running madly around the pig.
The two started chasing each other around the room, running under the beds and bumping things; generally making a mess in their game. Waddles went out and down the stairs, through the living room to the gift shop and out the front door. The pup followed him all the way.
Suddenly the pup skid to a halt, little nose twitching. Waddles snorted in question. The pup put its nose to the ground and started sniffing about; eventually following the scent around the shack where,
Waddles turned the corner and found a very, very big green dog. It had Danny pinned and was licking his face and barking. His girl and her brother seemed very startled despite how happy Danny was. He trotted over and squealed. The dog stopped, turned to him and barked happily, backing off Danny. Cujo dragged his tongue along Waddles' back. The pig snorted and backed up as Danny appeared over the dog's shoulder.
"Did you and Waddles make friends?"
"Aw, how sweet. Be nice to him Cujo. He's still alive."
Cujo woofed again and nudged Waddles carefully. Waddles licked the dog's nose and butted him softly, as if to say, "You can stay here. I'm going back to nap." Cujo barked the affirmative and licked Waddles one more time. Once the little pig had gone back inside Cujo looked to his master with unrestrained joy. His tail wagged so hard he knocked himself over; to be met with his master's laugh and the laughter of the two children.
Danny curled around his torso and settled on the dog's head, gently tweaking his ears. Cujo 'boofed' and lay down, eyes on the twins. When Mabel calmed down she patted his nose; eyes big and sparkly with unrestrained squeeing.
Dipper was more reserved, watching the dog with a thoughtful expression. It wasn't the changing size that got him, after all, he'd seen Danny do that; though not at will. But rather how Cujo had found him. So he had to ask. "How did he know to come here?"
"He probably didn't. He's just got a good nose. Isn't that right?" Danny leaned forward to smoosh Cujo's cheeks and kiss his snout.
"Can he find other people?" The idea was forming. He just need confirmation. Danny looked at him sternly. He knew exactly where this was going. Dipper hadn't been willing to drop the idea of the author being in the ghost zone somewhere. He wasn't willing to risk bringing the twins there, knowing the kinds of problems he'd had bringing a certain other pair there (he felt that twinge of pain and anger, faint but worryingly there).
"He would need a scent. And you've been pretty handsy with that journal. Unless you can find something of theirs that you haven't touched it's a no go."
Danny slithered off Cujo until he was completely airborne, then he started dangling his tail in front of the dog's monstrous jaws. Cujo barked and clamped on, shrinking down as he did. Danny started carefully swinging his tail while Cujo worried it with tiny little growls.
Dipper turned away as Mabel joined the fun; also dangling from Danny's tail by her teeth and growling. 'Something I haven't touched, huh?' He went inside and started looking through his things, trying to find something that was related to the author. There was the remains of the laptop; maybe the scent wasn't entirely covered up. He shook his head and kept looking. Then it hit him. The bunker! There was surely a strong enough scent for Cujo down there! He just needed to get him there.
He looked out the window to where Danny was now laying on the ground with the dog on his chest. It looked like Cujo was worn out for now so he'd have to wait. He thought of sneaking the dog off but Danny would doubtless catch him, and then any chance of using Cujo was out the window.
It was a long minute before Dipper decided to just chance it and ask him for Cujo's help. He waited until Danny came inside and tucked Cujo in next to Waddles. Both critters snuffled and moved closer to each other. Dipper swallowed and took a deep breath, only to freeze when he looked up. Danny was watching the two little animals with a soft smile that could only be compared to that of a mother's watching her sleeping child. Dipper felt butterflies the likes of which only Wendy could have brought on. The light from the window caught his misty hair, sending prisms of light dancing around his head.
Dipper felt sweat trickle down his neck; the breath he'd been holding puffed out with a quiet, "Oh no."
What's this Dipper? Are you feeling FEELINGS?
Chapter 21: In which a threat returns
Dipper c'mon, you gotta control those hormones man.
'Ah, geez. Why now? I was just getting over Wendy! Maybe I can blame it on puberty. Yeah, hormones making me go after every pretty face I see. Wait, did I just call Danny pretty? I mean, he's not bad looking. I mean, the ears are kinda cute, and that hair makes him look kind of. NO SHUT UP SHUT UP! Oh, I hope he can't read minds.''
He jumped back with a shout, stumbling over his own feet and landing on his butt. Danny was immediately at his side, wrapping his tail around his waist and lifting him up. As Dipper regained his balance he felt Danny put a hand on his shoulder to steady. 'Why does he have to be so physical?' Dipper groaned internally. Once he was stable he stepped away from the ghost and took a few breaths to steady himself. He had his arguments all prepared, now he just had to say it. 'Well, here goes nothing.'
"I want to take Cujo to the bunker."
Danny sighed. "Fine."
"See I was thinking that, wait what?"
"You're obviously not going to let this go until you get an answer either way so, fine, you can take him."
Dipper stumbled back as Danny pressed close. "On two conditions. One; I go with you and two: do not take him past the bulkhead."
'He's coming? Shut up, you can do this!'
"Works for me. Can we go now?"
Danny pointed at the two pets with a thumb. "You have no idea how hard it is to get Cujo worn out. I'm letting him sleep. We'll go when he wakes up. In the meantime I'm going to check that bunker for any other boogeymen."
Not waiting for the inevitable protest, Danny took off towards the bunker. The idea of bringing Cujo down there did not sit well with him, but he needed Dipper to realize that not everything could be solved by ghosts. Hell, most of his problems had been caused by ghosts. Of course, he only really had himself to blame. He could have just sat back and let things go; so why didn't he? A hero complex could only explain so much. A hero complex wouldn't have let him leave so easily. There had been something else at play; some level of possessiveness that kept him in Amity Park.
And now that same need to possess kept him in Gravity Falls; but what was it, and who was it directed at? Sure he was drawn to the twins, but he could hardly claim to be possessive; protective yes, but he didn't want to control them like he did Amity or the Falls. Wait, was that it? He wanted control of something? If that was true then did he control Amity Park, and what made him relinquish that control? He had to have done so or he would be going back there. What makes a ghost give up their, well, territory? A stronger ghost, yes but that wasn't the case here. Was it his parents or former friends? No, Amity Park could hardly be considered their territory. It wasn't Vlad either so what? WHAT?
Danny growled. He wasn't in the right state of mind for this. If he wanted clarity he would need to see Clockwork. The sooner the better. He made his way to the metal tree and was happy to find it in one piece. He phased in and looked around the entrance rooms; nothing off there. Then he went to the main room with the bulkhead door. It was open; he couldn't remember if it had been shut or not. Still, the sight sent prickles down his spine. He entered cautiously, closing the bulkhead behind him, just in case.
The air was cold; even to him, and that was saying something. Head down and braced for an attack, he continued into the tunnels; senses stretched to their limits and tail lashing in growing unease. The air nearly echoed in its silence. No water dripping, no faint breeze from air moving, nothing. Danny's ears started ringing and he pressed them back.
He traveled down the tunnels, moving deeper to where Wendy had fought with the Shapeshifter. The ground was still wet in places; the dark, cool air not letting it soak in or evaporate. He avoided the puddles as he searched the area. Nothing here either, but he still couldn't shake the feeling from his spine.
Moving away he found himself in the chamber that held the cryo tubes. He passed by the inactive tubes with more caution; painfully reminded of his own fears of experimentation. That was when he caught it. A faint, pained wheezing and the crackling of falling stone. He looked up just in time to dodge the falling Shapeshifter, ears shifting downwards as it shrieked obscenities at him.
It was gravely injured; green blood oozing from unhealed bites and slashes. The left side of its face was gone, leaving a mass of throbbing, frostbitten gore. It was unable to recover from the injuries he'd given it, though the body continued to try. It shrieked again and lunged forward, remaining arm transforming into a twisted, writhing mass of fangs and claws; all uncontrollably growing and melting away.
Danny twisted away from the malformed limb, forced to continue dodging as it followed him, stretching and tearing itself to try and reach him. The Shapeshifter pulled the limb back and charged him, slamming its full weight into him. Danny gagged; the pallid flesh reeked of delayed rot; the creature's own abilities prolonging its decay. He slammed his tail into it, gaining some distance to pull back and think.
He watched it fall back, stumbling on three legs; one badly broken and nearly falling off. If he was being honest he almost felt sorry for it. It simply couldn't die. Anything else with those kinds of injuries would have succumbed to shock or blood loss long before now. But he could see the flesh melting over its wounds, only to pull back as whatever he'd left in them rejected it. The pain of its continued existence had driven the creature, a creature of wicked intellect and strength that the author could only freeze and contain, completely mad. Every iota of that insanity was focused on destroying the one who had left this curse. Danny.
It lumbered forward again, single pink eye focused entirely on him. He crouched down, tail arched over his back, and gave a screaming hiss. Ice lanced down his back, forming a spiny blade on his tail. He waved it menacingly but the Shapeshifter just kept coming. With a sudden rush it grabbed for him. Danny spun on one hand, whirling himself like a mace and lacerating the Shapeshifter even further. He sprang backwards and onto a cryo tube; thinking it a miracle they hadn't smashed into any of them. Until now, that is. Danny tore the hoses from the top; clinging to them as he uprooted the tube with his tail and flung it towards the Shapeshifter. Unprepared for such a large projectile the Shapeshifter failed to protect itself and was thrown back several feet, landing on its back and falling still.
Danny dropped down and carefully approached, arms tensed to throw himself back and any second. The Shapeshifter lay unmoving, but for the faint rasping breaths wheezing from its crushed lungs. Now determined to truly kill this thing, Danny climbed on it and pressed down, feeling the body beneath slowly start to give in.
'It's like crushing Jello. Hmm? That smell. It's the same thing I smelled on the bugbear. If I eat it, will this thing be dead for good?'
He leaned in and, after hesitating at the smell, sank his teeth into the yielding flesh. The stench of death flooded his mouth and he gagged, almost giving up on it entirely, but he forced himself to continue digging through until he reached the source of the scent. This time he stopped himself, reaching in and feeling for the thing carefully. A faint buzzing in his fingers told him he'd found it and he pulled it free.
"Huh, I was expecting something more."
In his hands was a small stone, lumpy and malformed. It was rather ugly, all things said, but it smelled delicious. Danny shrugged and tossed the stone in his mouth, feeling it break. But the surge of energy wasn't quite the same. It felt almost, sluggish, like it was ready to give up on everything. Swallowing it gave him a profound feeling of apathy; nothing was worth it anymore.
Danny nearly gave in to the urge to just lay down and give in when he heard a happy yip and was assaulted by a wash of dog spit. He jerked up and watched Cujo tumble off him, tail wagging all the way. It was cute enough to make him forget all about the feeling from the stone. He picked the pup up and nuzzled him.
"Thanks for that, buddy!"
(an hour earlier)
Dipper sat on the floor of the bedroom, notebook pages scattered around him. While waiting for either Cujo to wake up or Danny to return he decided to try and collect what little he'd learned of Danny so far. The only reliable information he had was what Danny had told him in the hospital, and that didn't cover anything; just how he'd got his powers and how he got here. Nothing about what he was capable of or even if any of it related to how he was now. It wasn't like he could go to his town and ask questions either; from what he heard, no one there knew about him beyond Phantom existing.
"AUUGH! This is so annoying! It's like he never existed outside Amity Park until now!" He flopped backwards, hands over his eyes. He sighed heavily. On the bed Cujo's ears perked at he sound, waking him up. He looked down at Dipper and whined curiously before jumping off the bed and going to him; licking his cheek and wiggling his nose under his hands. Cujo yipped and climbed on Dipper, still licking whatever parts of his face he could get to. He didn't let up until Dipper started laughing and sat up.
"Well, since you're awake we might as well go. Might meet Danny on the way." Cujo yipped and pranced around Dipper's legs as he descended the stairs, backpack and journal in hand, and made his way back to the bunker. When they reached the tree Dipper groaned aloud as he saw Danny hadn't opened it. The tree was too slick for him to climb and Wendy was working so he couldn't call her (not to mention she never wanted to come here ever again). He looked down at Cujo, already sniffing around the base of the tree, and whistled to get his attention.
"Let's hope this works. Cujo! See the stick? Fetch!" He pointed at the lever branch. Cujo looked up and barked, making a few jumps before growling. He spun in a circle for a second then switched sizes. The now massive dog didn't even need to jump, merely standing on his hind legs and leaning against the tree long enough to pull on the branch. Dipper underestimated the dog's strength, however; the branch came out with a crunch. Thankfully it still worked so the stairwell opened up anyway. He whistled again and Cujo dropped the branch and jumped down the hole; waiting for him at the bottom with his tail a-wagging.
The trap room had had most of the bricks broken to pieces; likely Danny's doing to make things easier. As they entered the room with the iron door they heard and ear-piercing scream. Cujo didn't wait for Dipper; he grabbed the door in his jaws and hurled it away, forcing poor Dipper to duck.
They arrived to see Danny slump down, as if falling asleep; the corpse of the Shapeshifter nearby. Cujo scrambled towards him, shrinking down and yapping loudly before lavishing his owner with slobbery kisses. Dipper heaved a sigh of relief on seeing Danny nuzzle the pup but stil felt uneasy seeing the dead Shapeshifter. If Danny killed him it would only be fair that he had eaten his soul, or whatever it was he was eating.
Cujo jumped down and started sniffing around, eager to explore this new place. Dipper watched him carefully, looking for any signs he'd caught a scent. Danny stayed close as they followed the ghost dog through the tunnels, moving slowly from one end of the bunker to the other. Sadly, except for a brief sniff/gag in regards to the Shapeshifter, nothing was getting his attention.
Danny sat down and sighed. "I don't wanna say I told you so but,"
Dipper shook his head. "I know, I know. I just thought that, maybe."
A tail came around his shoulders and squeezed lightly. Danny whistled for Cujo and started to leave, tail moving to Dipper's arm to pull him along, as he was lost in thought. With this gone Dipper was running out of ideas. Unless he could get Danny to look in the ghost zone then there was nothing left. For now he would sit back and regroup. Maybe this was a sign that he needed to relax; at least for a little bit. Actually that sounded nice.
Chapter 22: Interlude ll
Once again, we return to Jazz and Vlad.
(twelve weeks ago)
Jazz had refused to go home afterwards, so Vlad sent one of his maids to retrieve her things (not trusting himself to see Maddie). Since then she'd been living in the manor while they searched for Danny using the equipment in Vlad's lab. Vlad had been surprised to learn she knew he was half-ghost but, as she had said. "Once Danny told me it was easy to figure out for you. You gave a lot of the same signals, you know."
"Did I now? Interesting. You'll have to tell me more about that later but for now come with me."
The two of them went down to his lab where, to Jazz's surprise, Skulker was waiting. He didn't say anything to them, merely handing over a usb stick to Vlad and walking back through the open portal. She pointed towards it, then at Vlad, mouth hanging open. He held up a hand to stop her.
"I've been working with Skulker since he first started chasing your brother. His suit has multiple recording devices that were helpful in studying him. I've asked him to go through his recordings and find anything that might be related to Daniel leaving."
Vlad inserted the stick and loaded its contents. A series of video thumbnails opened on the computer screen. Two of them were marked as important. He started the first one. The camera feed started on the roof across from Jazz's house, a roaring wind approached as Danny rushed by and phased inside. The feed then jumped to the outside of the house, moving slowly from window to window, looking for Danny.
They continued to watch as the camera eventually leveled with Danny's room, where he was laying face down on his bed. He sat up briefly to melt the doorknob, Jazz winced as her hand gave a twinge, then turned to the window as Skulker came through. Even Vlad was stunned at the sheer ferocity Danny showed in the fight. Whatever had happened to him before had thoroughly broken his restraint. The first tape ended as Danny lunged towards Skulker, eyes blazing and, smoking?
The second tape was jumpy and distorted, a clear sign that the armor was still damaged. Thirty seconds showing Danny fleeing the house and headed east; clearly headed towards Wisconsin. A soft whimper stopped Vlad from questioning why he hadn't made it here. Jazz was no longer looking at the screen, hadn't been for some time. She was hugging herself, struggling to hold back tears. As Vlad pulled her close she let them go, wailing. "Why didn't I just stay and talk to him? If I had stayed he'd still be here!"
He rubbed her back. "You can't say that for sure, Jasmine. With how he was acting in that tape who's to say he wouldn't have attacked you once Skulker was dealt with?"
Jazz froze. The idea that her brother would attack her seemed ridiculous, but every time she tried to shrug it off the look on his face would come back. The pain and anger in his eyes was something she would never forget. What was happening to him now? She stepped back and dried her eyes.
"We need to find him. Now more than ever. Not just for his sake but for the safety of others."
Chapter 23: In which the gears begin turning
'Thank Hecate no one looks up in here.'
Less than a week had passed since revisiting the bunker and Dipper had already found some new trouble to chase. Danny had waved him off with a 'tell me later' attitude, then gone to hide in the dark spaces of the roof. That was where he was still, as Dipper felt he would be needed. "That kid is starting to rely on me way too much."
It was true. Before he would have just soldiered on until the next lead, but now he was turning to Danny for everything. As though having a ghost around was like an all access card to mysteries. He had to put a stop to that. The sooner the better too. So when Dipper passed below, calling for him and saying something about Old Man McGucket and the author, Danny quietly slipped into the twins' room and snagged some of Mabel's scrap paper and glitter pens. He scribbled out a note and stuck to Waddles' belly, telling the pig that only Mabel should see it. The pig grunted and licked his hand then turned to find his girl.
With that taken care of, Danny flexed his claws and ripped open a portal, making double sure that he closed it completely. He wasn't sure who to talk to, though. Frostbite had given him a solid start but he really needed to know potentials, not past knowledge. He decided to start with Ghostwriter, if he was willing to talk; he had a tendency to get wrapped up and might not even notice Danny was there. Danny shook his head, it was a good place to start; at least until/if Clockwork decided he was needed.
The Ghostwriter's lair was just as it had been the very first time he saw. Seeing that was a relief. So many things had changed so quickly he felt sure the Ghost Zone would be completely different next time he went. As it was very little had changed; a few places had drifted a bit and some ghosts' lairs had grown or shrunk as their power and influence fluctuated, the same as always. He gripped the marble stairway tightly, flexing his claws on them.
Inside the air was warm, silent and, oddly, inviting. Danny flew directly to Ghostwriter's desk, finding it empty. Danny blinked. That was strange, Ghostwriter was always here, wasn't he? Or maybe Danny just had weird timing. He flew higher and looked around, hoping to spot him between the shelves. "Ghostwriter? You here?"
"It's actually Andrew. Haven't you ever heard of a penname?"
Danny let out a squeak and shot upwards a couple inches. He heard a chuckle behind him. "A little undignified for a being such as yourself."
As soon as his core stopped spasming he spun around. Ghostwr-Andrew, was hiding quiet laughter behind a hand. Danny snuffled and flipped upside down. "You startled me! I'm not very good with all these senses yet. I never know which one to use or when."
Seeing the unofficial Ghost King (no was willing to risk Pariah again for a crown, supposedly a new one was being made somewhere) so unsure, Andrew relented and cleared his throat. "Sorry. So what brings you to my lair so soon?"
"I need to know about phantasms. Whatever you have. Please. Endigo." There was desperation in his voice, but he didn't care. He needed to know what was going to happen to him and if he could ever be controlled. He needed a way to keep the PInes safe, from himself.
Andrew stroked his goatee for a minute, reviewing his stock. "I may have something. Not much mind you. Pariah was very thorough in clearing away the past and my library suffered for it. Not to mention how rare an Endigo is in the first place."
Danny sighed, hanging limp in the air. It was worrying him badly, the ghost 'Phantasm' he corrected himself, had never looked so defeated. Even when he'd been trapped in a Christmas poem. "I'll try to find something. In the meantime you need rest, follow me."
The writer lead Danny out of the library to a smaller sort of bedroom. He assumed the rest of the lair was beyond it but Andrew brought him to a large, luxurious sofa; cream colored with soft, overstuffed pillows. Danny felt it cradle him as he sank down on it, tail draped over him like a scarf. He wriggled around until he had made a sufficient dent for himself. Only then did he settle and fall asleep.
Andrew sighed once the other was settled and returned to his library. He went to his desk and brought up the screens. While he knew his stock like the back of his hand it was still easier to use the tech; especially when it came to such a rare subject as phantasms. While he hadn't been lying about Pariah's destruction of his books he neglected to mention that he had managed to save a vast majority of it. Or rather, his lair had. The library was a collection of books unlike any other. All that exists or had existed was on these shelves. Andrew had access to the entirety of Alexandria's lost texts. Even books that had yet to exist could be found here. Surrounded by such incredible things it was little wonder why he would react so strongly to even a small piece of the collection being destroyed.
Books on the workings of the Ghosts Zone were few and far between; even if they were all here. No matter how he searched he got only three answers. Regardless, they were there, and so Andrew went to get them. The books themselves were unremarkable; one was written by someone who's name had been furiously torn up, he flipped through that and discarded it with a sneer. 'Ghost hunters, feh.'
The other two held precious little information beyond what was generally known. Andrew sighed again. He went back to his computers and tried again; this time searching Danny himself. The screen beeped loudly and shut off, whirring in a worrisome manner for several seconds before coming back up. The words 'CLOCKTOWER' in bright red letters.
Now, Andrew had never met the Master of Time, but he did believe in him, as one believed in a higher power. So there was no doubt in his mind that this is was his answer. Shutting his beloved screens down, Andrew returned to his main quarters where Danny lay sleeping. He huffed at the sight of him. Even with his tail folded over he was almost too big for the sofa; he was hanging half off the side. His claws kneaded the fabric and Andrew could hear a deep purring, like a cougar. He cleared his throat noisily and the purring stopped, when he looked again Danny was staring at him. He huffed and stretched, flicking his tail out and nearly smacking Andrew with it; petty revenge but satisfying.
Fully awake and relaxed Danny looked at him with a smirk, Andrew returned it with a sarcastic bow. "Sorry for waking his majesty but I think you've been summoned."
There was no need to explain anything. As soon as Danny heard that he was off the sofa and out like a shot, only stopping once to turn around and thank Andrew for the help. He found himself smiling as the ghost sped off. "Just as impulsive as ever, aren't you?"
Being in the territory of Clockwork was like sitting blindfolded in a clockmaker's shop. The ticking of gears surrounded you at every turn and the dark skies made it difficult to see. The only light at all came from the floating clock parts and, of course, the tower itself. Long ago, when he first found the tower, Danny had thought it was built of similar materials as Pariah's castle. He has since learned the truth. The stone of the clocktower is like nothing else in the rift; because it was not built from anything in the rift. Clockwork's lair was formed whole from bits and pieces leftover from the birth and death of universes. The tower came into being with the rift and, as far as Danny knew, Clockwork had been around just as long. If there was anyone who would make a better mentor Danny had yet to meet them.
Yet Danny found all this supremely calming. Even the Far Frozen couldn't relax him the way this place did. Maybe it was the role Clockwork had played in his life, both as an adversary (however briefly) and as a teacher; whatever it was Danny's connections to this place were stronger than any other, in or out of the Zone. The enormous doors swung open at his approach, the ticking dulling to low thrum as he entered. Above his head the three grand bells tolled to signal his arrival.
He found a little nook above one of the mirrors and settled down to wait. Clockwork already knew was here, after all; he would likely finish whatever work he was focused on before coming to speak with him. It was a predictable routine they engaged in every time Danny came here. One that gave him plenty of time to relax before facing whatever it was that Clockwork had called him for. Unlike other times, however, this time Danny knew exactly why he was here. He might finally be getting some help in all this. Words were nice but they were nothing compared to proper detail.
With barely a flicker of recognition, Clockwork entered the room. He checked over his mirrors briefly, nodding to himself, then turned to greet Danny. They chatted idly for a moment or two, Danny sliding down to his mentor. They lapsed into silence as Clockwork looked him over, impressed. "You've grown quite a lot since you first came here, Daniel. It's refreshing to see you actually make it this long."
"You know what's happening. I don't know how you keep surprising me."
"Yes, though not as clearly as I do others. Ever since I took you under my wing your future has been splintered. Many of these shards are blocked to me; I can only see the path that leads there."
"Am I at least following the right one?" His voice was hushed, reverent. Even though he was taller than him now, could completely encircle him in his coils, he still stood in awe of this ancient spirit. A spirit that, through his own volition, had deigned to teach him and provide a direction.
Clockwork gazed up at his mirrors for a moment. "I can't say for sure. The path you've chosen to walk is the most splintered of all of them. So many end abruptly and I fear you may be headed down one of those."
Danny was shaking as he asked. "Can I change it? Or is this just where it ends for me?"
"Every path can be changed, Daniel. I thought you'd know that by now. The direction you go now relies entirely on your own perceptions."
Chapter 24: In which Danny receives advice from a most unusual source
Danny frowned, confused. "What does that have to do with anything? My problem is that I keep going crazy and attacking things; that's what is going to get me killed! I've killed ghosts, for lack of a better word. I don't even know what I'm doing to them."
"And therein lies your trouble. You perceive your behavior as troublesome and ignore it, pushing it away until it returns again. And return it does, often in the worst situation. Follow me."
He swept from the room, leaving Danny to catch up. He followed his mentor down a passage he had never seen before. It didn't trouble him, ghost's lairs followed their owners will; if Clockwork decided he needed that hall right now there it was. Still, this particular hall carried an energy to it that made the pulse of his core speed up. It was familiar in a way he didn't want to acknowledge. But it was only when they entered a small chamber that he really felt afraid. The room was empty of anything except, a thermos. Heavily dented from the struggles of the being inside. Danny's core thrummed like an engine, and only the presence of Clockwork kept him from bolting.
"Daniel, your view of the world has been strongly black and white until now. But you know as well as I that that isn't true, especially when it comes to the otherworldly. Now you are beginning to see the gray areas in all this and that has upset your sense of self."
"I've been eating ghosts or souls or something!"
"Yes you have. To survive. Would you deny a wolf its prey because you think killing is evil?"
That was not Clockwork's voice. He looked around frantically to find Clockwork had lifted the thermos and was removing the lid. Danny couldn't move. A plume of smoke emerged and became the one being who continued to haunt his nightmares.
Dan grinned. "Well, little one? Would you?"
Danny scrambled back, pressing tightly against the wall. He looked to Clockwork but he was gone. It was just him, and the worst parts of himself. Dan raised a brow; he was waiting for a response.
"A wolf needs to eat. Morals don't come into it." The answer spilled out in a rush, nearly incomprehensible to anyone.
It seemed to be the right answer, thankfully. Dan's grin grew wider. "Precisely. A wolf's main concern is their territory. Something you have never had. At the rate you're going you'll never have one, either."
"What does that mean?"
He laughed. "All this caution and restraint is going to kill you long before any hunter manages it. You're not a wolf in sheep's clothing, you're a wolf with a sheep's brain!"
A ball of ectoplasm exploded over his head and he looked down. Danny had stopped backing away. Dan laughed again, the sound booming in the small room. "What are you going to do, child? Run away to Clockwork?"
He lunged at him, burning energy searing the stone just inches from his tail. "Still just a cowardly weakling after all these years."
Danny growled. "I'm not weak. I'm not a sheep. So stop calling me that!"
They both slid into a battle stance, Danny's tail lashing wildly. "Then prove it. Take control and take what belongs to you!"
Clockwork felt the stones rattle, dust falling from the ceiling as the two spirits collided. Forcing Danny to confront his other self was a gamble, even by his standards but so many of the timelines were tied together by this conflict that it needed to happen for anything to really begin moving. As for who would win, well, Danny would have to face his biggest fear to win. Even though he couldn't see the real outcome of this fight, Clockwork had utmost confidence in his charge.
Though he still waited nearby; on the off chance Dan won he would need to be contained. Another explosion, this one accompanied by a burst of below zero ice cracking through the door, assured him this would not be the case. He peeked in briefly to find Danny had swelled in size, nearly too large for the room; Dan was pinned against the far wall, raining punches down on the tail keeping him down. Clockwork watched, fascinated as Danny threw him in the air, blasting him with a short wail and sending him careening from the tower. Danny went after him and pinned him again, coiling around the tower like a dragon.
Dan hung limp, panting harshly; yet still grinning. Halfway through their first clash Danny's eyes had begun smoking and now here he was, held tight to his prison by a creature more than twice his size. The tail squeezed and he gave a ragged cough, looking up at Danny. This was the fight he had always wanted, had always dreamed of.
Danny shrank a little and looked him in the eyes. There was no uncertainty, no hesitation; whatever he needed to do to end this he was prepared to do. Dan coughed again and extracted an arm, laying it on the tail; Danny tensed. "Heh, no cowardice here. Well, what are you waiting for? We both know what happens now. The wolf has taken down it's prey. Take what's yours, both here and outside the zone."
He closed his eyes as he felt the razor fangs descend around him, then nothing.
this chapter surprised even me. I knew I wanted Dan to be there and possibly fight Danny (I tried it so many times without one and it just didn't work). But that ending though.
Chapter 25: In which the clock starts ticking
Sorry if this chapter comes of as really disjointed. I wanted to keep Danny out of gravity falls for awhile and I wasn't sure what to do so I basically summarized a few episodes.
This was nothing like before. He swallowed down his former bane and felt his core boil away inside him. Then came the fire. It burst from inside him, burning close to his body like it wanted to consume him in turn. Danny felt himself being eaten away to nothing and yet he remained conscious. From an unknown stand point he watched the flames expand and crystallize, creating a cocoon around him. He saw Clockwork retrieve it and bring it to the main chamber, setting it below the largest clock to let it bathe in the energy of the area. Then he felt darkness slipping in, and he embraced it without fear.
Clockwork looked over the chrysalis with a warm glow of pride. He didn't often allow himself such a feeling but being able to play a role in the development of an Endigo was an achievement he would not ignore. The last time one had existed had been before anyone even heard the name Pariah Dark. Now he was looking at one in the final stages of growth. Danny would be a full fledged Endigo when he emerged. Now the only mystery is what his core would be.
Endigo all had an ice core but differences in the environment influenced the exact variety of core; much like the temperature in an alligator nest changed the sexes of the young. Danny had been exposed to so many different types of core energy there was really no way of knowing what he would come out with. That wasn't even including his brief stint with weather control or his uncanny ability to use powers after observing them. If Clockwork were to make a guess, he would assume some sort of adaptive core; possibly an Imiti or Trikisto.
There was really no use trying to predict it, in the end. Danny had always been able to defy expectations of him in the most surprising ways. So he would do his duty and observe, as always.
(Gravity Falls, 72 hours remain)
When Mabel saw the note attached to Waddles she took great pains to keep Dipper from seeing it, but his paranoid nature meant he found it anyway. Now he was pacing their room while Mabel debated the merits of going to sweater town.
"I depend on him too much?! What does that even mean? I don't depend on him; I respect him and what he can do, that's all!"
Mabel peeked at her brother from under her bangs. "You kind of do bro-bro. You haven't gone anywhere without him since you got out of the hospital. You can get around fine now so you're relying on him. He doesn't know everything, Dipper. Besides, he's got his own problems. That's why he left."
Dipper's pacing didn't slow but at least he stopped ranting. He groaned, rubbed his itchy arm. Maybe he had been turning to Danny a little too often but, the ghost's experiences made him able to make insights that Dipper wouldn't have thought of. But that was the problem wasn't it? He was relying on those insights and forgetting his own skills. He'd been the one to figure out Fiddleford's connection with the author! Granted that was only because he thought he was the author but it still worked out. They'd found the Society of the Blind Eye and taken them out, retrieving Mcucket's memories with them. Thanks to those memories he was slowly making his way back to who he used to be, with a few extra quirks here and there.
Even better he could fix the laptop, which is what he was doing now. Dipper hoped they could find some important information regarding the author or Gravity Falls on it. Maybe even learn about him straight from McGucket! It was an enormous breakthrough and Dipper felt a weight lift from him when it happened. It brought a small smile to his face thinking that Danny would be so proud, maybe he'd hug him or, 'Ack, not again! No! Bad thoughts!'
Now was not the time for that sort of thing. Dipper shook his head violently. At least he wasn't at the laying awake at night point, yet. Although he'd fallen harder for Wendy, he was falling faster for Danny, it seemed. Maybe he just had a thing for people's names ending in Y. That's what he was going to tell himself for now, anyway; he wasn't quite ready to tackle any sort of relationship right now, whether it was possible or not.
It wasn't the time for anything, really. Dipper had no real leads or mysteries at the moment. The most he could do now was sit around until Fiddleford either fixed the laptop or got enough of his memory back to talk about the author. So until that happened Dipper found himself wandering around the shack.
(48 hours remain)
They'd been cut, bruised and tossed around for who knows how long but this? This was just ridiculous. Of all the challenges Globnar had thrown at them, laser tag was the final one? Really?
"Oh, I know it doesn't seem that challenging now, but just wait till they turn on that fog machine. You'll be done for! You just wait until ya--"
Hit, Hit, Hit!
Dipper barely even gripped the gun as he turned around and shot Blendin. And again. And a third time. It was pathetically hilarious and Dipper probably would have stood there forever but they had a game to win.
"Mabel, grab the orb!" Mabel was up the pyramid steps and had her hands on the wish before Dipper even finished the sentence. Then, with a loud burp, Time Baby finished his bottle. The time for sentencing was at hand. Mabel screamed for death before Dipper calmed her down. The two exchanged a long look before turning to Time Baby.
To everyone's surprise they chose not only Blendin's freedom but, his job back, and some hair (Mabel's choice). So with the time wish firmly in hand they returned to Soos at laser tag; neither aware of the path they set by leaving a single screwdriver with one young boy who missed his father.
With his job restored Blendin's first task was to escort the twins back to their proper time. Sadly for his new look, time travel still caught him on fire and he lost his hair. . . again. Soos was ecstatic to see the twins, having thought they'd abandoned him. As for the time wish? Well, Mabel and Dipper thought he would wish to see his father; instead, in true Soos fashion, he wished away his friends injuries. A much better wish, he thought, for his real family. Plus, he got a slice of infinite pizza. It would keep coming back for, like, infinity.
(Clockwork's Tower, 24 hours remain)
The chrysalis had swelled to twice its size in the last two days; the aether rich environment of the tower feeding it like melt-water in a river. Veins of blue had appeared all over its surface and a low moaning sound, like wind, could be heard when standing near it. Clockwork looked it over, searching for cracks or bruising, same as he had since his, student? Apprentice? First entered it.
The moaning was louder than ever as he placed a hand gently on one crystalline spike, seeing the flow of energy siphon from his hand to the brightly pulsing core inside. Every hour he checked the core, and every time he checked he fed a little extra energy to it. He took every measure to ensure that Daniel stayed healthy throughout this ordeal. In this at least, the path was clear, Danny had to survive or else.
Dipper gasped and coughed, staring in amazement as the wood receded. He jumped off the table and ran to Pacifica, nearly hugging her in joy. They looked at the Lumberjack Ghost as he sighed, "Finally, lumber justice." and vanished. The doors burst open and the crowd rushed in; in seconds the once high society party was a mass of chaos as the townsfolk partied in luxury. It was perfect. Even Pacifica was truly happy for once.
Mabel and her friends looked at each other, Greta gently placed Candy down; all three were terribly guilty."Grenda! We are so sorry."
Mabel nodded along. "We shouldn't have left you behind."
"It's okay. Maybe I do need to work on my flirting. Come on, let's go dunk our heads in some cheese and chocolate. Friends?"
All three hugged and were about to head to the snack table when they were stopped by the boy they were fighting over. Marius had been deeply impressed by Grenda's strong personality (and strong everything else) he left her with his phone number and the three girls squealed with joy. All in all things had gone well. Dipper and Pacifica even shared a laugh at smearing mud all over her mother's favorite carpet.
When she left to get someone to clean the carpet McGucket ran up to him, shouting hillbilly nonsense. "Woah, calm down, McGucket. What're you, woah!"
McGucket hauled him from the party to a quieter hallway. He slipped his goggles on and held up the briefcase, popping it open to show a countdown. "I fixed the laptop. I been doin' calculations, and I think something terrible is comin'! The apocalypse! The End Times!"
Dipper sighed, not willing to listen to any doom talk in all this fun. "You know what, McGucket? How about we talk about this stuff tomorrow? It's a party. Let's have some fun for once, huh?"
As Dipper walked away, McGucket found his gaze drawn to an unnerving looking tapestry. "Oh, this is bad!"
Two figures ducked into a closet. If a passerby were to press their ear to the door they would hear muffled mentions of readings and machines. Nothing that would make sense but would leave an eavesdropper with a faint sense of dread; a feeling that something big was coming to Gravity Falls, something that would change everything.
Far away, a clock chimed.
Clockwork entered the room in silence, looking to the chrysalis. In the last few hours it had changed enormously, the shell had thinned to the point that he could nearly make out the figure inside; though it was heavily shrouded in a fog that had filled it. His core, however, shone bright and clear as a winter star. It pulsed so strongly he could feel it from a distance. He smiled. Daniel had survived. Now all that was left was to wait.
Thankfully he wouldn't have to wait long.
He turned to leave the cocoon in peace, but as he did so a crack formed along the length of the shell, making it shatter and fall away like shards of a broken mirror. As the fog cleared the creature inside spread it's soft dragonfly wings; pair by pair until all six glimmered in the strange light of the tower. Pale, bluish white skin turned to frostbite black along the still human-like arms and down from the waist. The tiny, smoother than silk scales darkening until the tail seemed to be absolute void, absorbing all light. Clockwork gazed in utter awe at his formerly human charge; who now stood taller than even Pariah Dark. His hair had grown as well, spilling along his chest and shoulders to dissipate like the mist of a waterfall, yet it still rippled in an unfelt breeze. As Clockwork moved face to face with him he could see a single horn, gently curving and reminiscent of quartz. It had a multicolored gleam like white opal, yet still seemed to catch the available light like a prism.
"Daniel." He called.
Ears pricked up and his eyes opened, unchanged yet full of new life. A smile tugged at deep blue lips. He sat back on lithe dragonic legs and looked over himself without an ounce of fear. Gently touching his wings and skin as though he'd never seen them before. He caught his reflection in one of the clock faces and jumped back a little, but he quickly recovered and returned to investigating; twisting his much longer body around like a sea snake.
Suddenly, he froze, ears twitching towards something. His wings snapped out and he whirled around, shooting through the doorway that Clockwork had opened just for this reason. The time spirit watched him fly away with a content smile. He closed the doors and turned to greet the cloaked figures that had entered. "Well, gentlemen?"
One of the figures removed their hands from their cloak, revealing a small crown, similar to the crown of fire, forged from a black metal and bearing a single star sapphire in the center. "The crown is complete. We shall leave it in your care until the king returns to claim it."
Clockwork bowed to the figures, taking the crown in careful hands. "Your verdict?"
A rasping, time-worn voice, hissed. "Imiti Stormon."
"A perfect fit for him. Thank you." When the figures left he followed after. Now it was time to deal with the Observants. They had little to stay, having long fallen silent in regards to Danny. After, when the Master of All Time takes a liking to someone there is very little that can be done to change it. The most anyone can do is grumble; which the Observants did a lot of. In the end it was a generally positive response, as far as they could see nothing world destroying was going to happen, at least at Danny's hands, so they were content.
(Gravity Falls, Junkyard)
Fiddleford sat on the roof of a car, watching the sky. He was the only one who saw it tear open in a flash of green. He jerked back and fell from the car, missing the dragon-like figure that burst from the hole and spiraled gracefully through the sky towards the lake. Yet despite his fear, he felt a sudden burst of calm; that portal wasn't dangerous. To prove it he looked at the countdown, it was still going.
Up above Danny whooped happily. While his new body was strange it was no longer frightening. All the changes he went through before had been terrifying, not knowing what would happen, what he would become. Now he was free of that, he could finally truly feel the aether inside and in the air around him, it filled him with a greater sense of belonging than any before. He was ready to take whatever the falls had to throw at him.
And he knew just where to start.
The lake was still when he arrived, but he wasn't fooled. He knew exactly what to look for and where. He didn't bother diving under, instead skimming the surface to a particular patch of trees. He grinned viciously and buried his claws in with a cry of, "Rematch! This time I won't run!"
The head burst from the water with a wail of pain. It spun him off then turned to face him. Recognition flashed in its remaining eye and it roared at him.
"!htarw ym epacse ton lliw uoY !dratsab tfiR" It charged with surprising speed, mouth agape to swallow him.
Danny held steady, wings whipping the air to an icy flurry. At the last second he dropped under, hooking a claw into the stone crusted flesh. He dug every talon in and clung tightly as the head began spinning wildly, soaring out over the forest with roars of dismay.
The sound reached all the way to the shack, waking the twins and Grunkle Stan. The three rushed up to the roof to watched the battle. Stan and Dipper in shock, Mabel cheering for Danny. They watched as Danny coiled his entire body around the head, suffering multiple bites along his legs and tail for it, screaming and howling the whole time. He barely felt them; too caught up in the rush of having the upper hand with this thing.
As he clawed and bit the hard flesh, searching for weak spots, a truly wicked idea struck him. Whereas before he would have ignored it for moral reasons, he now followed along eagerly; phasing into the heads body and curling up tightly. He pulled all his energy to his core, squeezing it tighter and tighter until he could hold it no longer. It exploded from him with the force of a nuke. The head froze from the inside out in an instant, shock clear on its face. It died before it even knew what was happening. From his current place, Danny steered the now falling head back to the lake; only letting it fall when he was certain it would hit nothing.
He reappeared outside in time to watch it hit the water, but instead of sinking it shattered. The flesh had been frozen so quickly it was brittle as a snowflake. He would later admit it had been shock that held him there as the Gobblewonker came to suck up the pieces of flesh like a vacuum. The fight had just ended so quickly. Shock was quickly put aside for joy. Danny laughed and rolled in circles. After a few laps he set his sites on the highest point in Gravity Falls, the perfect place to announce his claim.
It took next to no time to find and settle on a high plateau that rose from the cliffs. From up there Danny could see the whole of Gravity Falls and then some; his song would carry a long way. So sing he did. Reaching out, he began weaving the energy of his core with the aether surrounding him; a low hum building in his throat. As the air became suffused with sound and power the hum grew as well. When it thrummed through his entire being he let it out in a sonorous howl, like a thousand wolves calling on the open plains; the call buoyed by the moan of winter wind that was ever present in his cries.
At the Mystery Shack, Stan had returned to bed after the fight. Dipper and Mabel stayed behind, and were now listening to Danny's claiming howl; eyes closed and smiles on their faces. The surrounding forest had gone silent as well, listening in awe as sound washed over everything, carrying with it an agent of change; as well as a foreboding chill. The Falls may have a new owner, but who knew how long that would last?
Dipper and Mabel stayed on the roof until long after the song had ended and the morning birds began their own tune. When Dipper gave one last look out he caught the silhouette of Danny spreading his wings and taking off, vanishing from sight the instant he was airborne. Neither of them expected Danny to come back, so when they came back to their room and found him, significantly smaller and snuggling with Waddles and Cujo, it was a shock to say the least.
"B-but, how, why? What?" Dipper's eyes crossed as he tried process all this. They darted over every inch of Danny so quickly he felt dizzy, though they lingered on his lips and hands a bit more than elsewhere; much to Dipper's chagrin. He was snapped out of it when Mabel screamed with joy and launched herself at their friend, pulling his wings out straight and looking through the glass-like cells. She was loving how they tinted the room in different colors and spent nearly a minute bouncing from cell to cell to see it.
"A wolf needs a den. My pack is you guys so it just makes sense." He shrugged, sending Mabel rolling off him to the bed.
"OH, that makes sense, not! What are you talking about!" Dipper griped.
"Does it have to? It's just a metaphor, kind of. You're my pack, friends, family; however you want to put it. Instinct tells me to protect my pack so here I am." He rolled on his back and pulled Mabel up with a hind foot, letting her dangle there for as long as she wanted.
Eventually Dipper just shrugged and accepted it; when it came to Danny some things would just be a mystery. Danny glanced over at him and smiled, motioning for him to come join. Dipper immediately began sputtering and coughing. "No! No, it's fine. You guys have fun I have some stuff I need to oop!"
Danny's tail snapped around his waist and pulled him to the bed, dropping him in a sprawl over his torso. He let out a purring chuckle as Dipper scrambled to right himself, only to end up laying full length on his stomach, Mabel laughing at him. When his face was no longer beet red he laughed too. This was nice. It felt right.
The sunlight entered Danny's room to reveal it playing host to a slumber party. Danny was curled around the twins in his nest, tail and one leg (covered in neon band-aids and heart stickers courtesy of Mabel) hanging out; the pets were cuddled between the twins. All five snoring away.
While the rest of the house was sleeping Stan was awake. He had not, in fact, gone to bed. Instead he had gone to the vending and punched the keys in a certain order. The vending machine swung open and he quickly ducked inside the now open doorway, looking around cautiously before descending the stairway inside.
To get an idea of what I was thinking this chapter check this post.
Chapter 27: In which gravity fails
Merry Christmas ya'll! Have some drama! The Author is finally here!
An elevator carried him further down to a pair of rooms. The first filled with various machinery and tanks; the second was massive, containing only a metal frame holding an inverted triangle. Stan poured drums of chemicals into a vat, watching the meters slowly fill. "Almost there. It'll be just enough."
He pressed a button and the center of the triangle opened, revealing a whirling vortex of color. As he gazed at the working portal he started to lift off the ground; things were floating away outside as well. Suddenly, everything dropped. Stan returned to the control panel and synced his watch with a countdown displayed on it. "Everything changes today."
Upstairs, Danny mumbled in his sleep, wings twitching. When things started floating he woke up, carefully shifting around his guests to peek out of the nest. He looked down to see his nest several feet off the ground. When it stopped he quickly darted out and, growing larger, caught the nest and gently set it down. After he checked to see if everyone was okay (they were, still sleeping like rocks) he phased through the wall to look around.
A lot stuff had been knocked around out here, too. Frantic bleating led him to poor Gompers, who had been completely upended. The only upside for him was he was close to a knocked over trash can. So Danny left him there, merely setting upright so he could reach the trash better. So what caused it? Danny didn't know, and as long as it didn't happen again he would happily right it off as just natural weirdness.
Of course it wasn't a one time deal. Between the first one and Mabel waking up it had happened again. He flicked his ears, tracking the movement in the house; Mabel had run down the hallway above him slamming doors, stopped, ran back to the attic, and now both her and Dipper were running back to where she stopped. Curious Danny phased through the floor, going invisible and hanging off the ceiling when he saw Grunkle Stan around the corner. Ever since he had started living in the shack Stan had been seeing him less as a tour prop and more as family. Of course, he couldn't really work in the shop unless he figured out a way to hide his look better. So it was a sort of grudging family acceptance. The kids liked him, he liked the kids and, if something happened to the kids both of them would raise hell.
So when three of them went upstairs with the boxes of illegal fireworks, it was a silent agreement that he would come along. And that was where they were now. Danny, just visible enough that the family could see him, watching the various explosions go off with his tail wagging and ears perked. He watched Grunkle Stan light a firework that Mabel was holding like a grenade launcher. "Go light something on fire for me, will ya?"
"I AM THE GOD OF DESTRUCTION!"
The firework shot over the yard and crashed into the totem pole, lighting the top on fire. All the noise brought Bubbs and Durland to the scene. "Got a permit for those?"
Stan immediately shot back. "You got a permit for being lame?"
They all laughed and Bubs and Durland left with a "Stay safe."
After the fireworks devastation, Mabel and Dipper had moved on to a water balloon fight in the yard. Danny sprawled across the back of the couch, just chilling with Grunkle Stan and watching the kids. One ear flicked towards him as he caught a low sigh. He could see Stan in deep thought over something, coming out of it to comment on the fight. The two of them eventually built a pile of balloons to burst; then, with a toast to Stan, hurled balloons at the two couch potatoes. Danny let them phase through, blowing a raspberry at them.
He stopped making faces when Grunkle Stan cleared his throat. "Kids, there's something I, uh, something I should tell you. It's, um. Well it's complicated. I... I'm gonna go refresh my soda." Stan stood and walked away. Curious, Danny followed, managed to catch a small remark. "Enjoy it while you can,Stan. They'll find out sooner or later. Today's the day."
'The day for what? What is he hiding?'
Danny left the yard to follow along, going invisible and staying that way. He saw Stan punch a code on the vending machine and it open. He waited for Stan to go in and leave before checking it out. It would be easy to phase through and see what's what. Or at least he thought so. When he tried it felt like he was trying to push through sand, and when he stopped trying he was quickly forced out and tossed some distance away.
With a confused chirp, he rolled back on his feet and stood at the wall. He was not going to try going through again, that had been almost painful. Instead he started sniffing the wood and the area around the vending machine. Anytime his nose strayed to close to the surface he felt a faint electrical zap; a smaller version of what he'd felt in the bunker. Danny snorted and sat back. So the author had built this too?
Did that mean the shack belonged to them as well?
Now he knew what Dipper meant. One answer in this place just gave you more questions, and Danny was not in the mood for that right now. So he wrote it of for later and headed back out to see how the twins were doing "cleaning up".
What he found was Stan dragged to a car and the twins surrounded by men in black suits while the shack was swarmed by vans and swat agents. The men held them back as Stan was cuffed. "You've got the wrong guy!" Mabel cried. "Grunkle Stan might shoplift sometimes, okay a lot. But he's not some super villain."
The agent closest to them (Danny could see a badge that read 'Powers') knelt down and looked at them both. It was obvious he wasn't the comforting type. "We've been watching your family all summer and we've seen some disturbing things. But nothing as dangerous as what your uncle is hiding. Hidden in this shack is a doomsday device!"
He turned to the agent behind him. "Trigger, you take the children. I'll talk to the old man. Sorry to break it to you kids, but you don't know your uncle at all."
Trigger reached for the twins and had just laid a hand on Dipper when they heard Stan scream from the retreating vehicle.
"Danny! Protect the kids!"
His eyes flashed and he roared, fog spilling from his mouth. Danny leapt for the twins, growing to full size and knocking the agents away. He grabbed Mabel and Dipper and shot off into the woods. They could hear one of the agents shouting at them, but Danny quickly rolled his wings down to block their ears. He ran until the shouts were gone, even for his ears. Then, and only then, did he put Mabel and Dipper down; settling around them sphinx-like to protect them. Mabel threw herself against his chest and began sobbing. Dipper laid a hand on her shoulder; Danny tucking them both in closer.
"You're right, Mabel. Grunkle Stan isn't a bad person. We just need to find a way to prove it."
After checking the area, using the heat pits just under his eyes (thankfully he kept those, even if he wasn't sure why he needed them), Danny shrank down to about horse size and gently licked Mabel's tears away. She giggled softly and nestled closer. He looked back up at Dipper. "Hmm, you know what I always found weird? For someone so money-hungry you think he'd have a camera or two around. . ."
This made Dipper jump up, grabbing Danny's face in sudden excitement. "He does! He's got them everywhere in the shop! We just need to find the tape and, and that'll prove it! C'mon!"
A tail wrapped around his waist and pulled him back. "Easy there, sapling. Those government lapdogs will probably be hanging around still. You'll be carted off if you're spotted."
He wilted with a sigh. "Bu~t, you happen to be lucky enough to be friends with a guy who can, oh I don't know, turn invisible and such?"
Dipper jumped up, grinning at him like a puppy with a new bone. "Alright! What do we do?"
He pulled Dipper up next to him, both he and Mabel turning to him. "It's your call, sapling. I am at your command."
"Okay, here's what we do."
Dipper and Mabel watched from a bush as the agents and vans swarmed over the shack. Mabel raised her grappling hook and they nodded; now for the signal. They didn't have to wait long; soon agents were pointing at the sky and shouting to each other. Danny came screaming out of the sky, eyes blazing with righteous fury. He opened his mouth and, with a chilling howl, fired a burst of pure aether that would make Godzilla run scared. He made two more runs, leaving eerie green fire in his wake; he even snatched up a couple cars full of people and made off with them like a bird of prey.
With the chaos in the yard at its peak, no one saw Mabel fire at the window and the twins zip-line into the shack. They slip past the few agents still inside and into Stan's office, sharing a fist bump.
Searching the shelves got them nothing. Then Mabel fiddled with a broken horn on the "antlerabbit" (as she called it). The wall turned around to show an old TV and a rack of tapes, each labeled with a time and location in the shack. "Security tapes! And look, here's the one from this week!"
Dipper popped the tape in and fast forwarded to the night before. There was Stan stocking the shops; like always. Dipper and Mabel breathed a saw of relief. That feeling lasted until they fast forwarded again, to eight pm. The shop was empty.
"Maybe he's just going to the bathroom. Outside. Like nature intended." She was trying and failing to hide the tremble in her voice. Dipper hit fast forward one more time, to five am.
There was Stan. . . in a hazmat suit. . . carting in barrels of toxic waste. "Oh, no. Stan."
"Okay, okay, so maybe Grunkle Stan stole some toxic waste. Doesn't mean he's leading some nefarious double life! Right?" Mabel's voice was shaking out loud now.
"Not sure about that, Mabel." Dipper pulled out a cardboard box. Inside they found IDs with Stan's face and all sorts of names, newspaper clippings, and passports. "You wouldn't need these unless you were hiding something. And look at this."
He pulled out a clipping that was hidden in the very bottom. A piece of the front page; on it was a photo of a burning car and the words "STAN PINES DEAD".
Dipper read it off. "Fiery crash, brake line cut, foul play suspected." He pulled out one more clipping. "Unnamed grifter at large.' Why would they call him unnamed? Unless. . . "
They and said at the same time. "He's not Stan!"
There was panic for too long in the room; Dipper mumbling to himself and pacing, Mabel frantically digging through the box for something that could shed light on this. She pulled out a yellowed slip of paper with a grid drawn on it. "Huh, secret code to hideout?"
She showed the paper to Dipper and they both stared at it. Dipper pulled out Journal 3 and the blacklight he started carrying after the zombies. "A1, B, C3. . . I've never seen anything like this."
Mabel grabbed him by the shoulders. "The vending machine! Dipper let's go!"
They rushed downstairs to the shop and found Soos guarding the vending machine. He spotted them and back against the machine. "Hey, dudes! Stan gave me a mission to guard this machine. And I thought I loved snacks!"
Dipper crept closer, hands up in a placating gesture. "Soos, listen. Something huge is going on here. If Stan is hiding some dangerous secret, we need to find out what it is! I need you to step aside."
"Just let us through so we can prove this is all just a big misunderstanding." Mabel pleaded at him with her eyes.
"Guys, I know this seems crazy, but I promised Stan I would guard this with my life."
Dipper nodded at Mabel and she sighed. "I'm sorry for this."
She reached into her sweater and pulled out a handful of glitter, blowing it at Soos like a sparkly version of the Asian Mist. It hit him right in the face and he staggered back. "Aah! Attack glitter! It's pretty but it hurts!"
The twins jumped on him and clung tight while he struggled to get them off, without hurting them. "Please you guys. I don't wanna fight. This hurts me more than it hurts you!"
Mabel kicked his face. "And it hurts me a lot!"
They battered back and forth for a while before Dipper called for Danny. He came through the ceiling and hip-checked Soos as gently as he could; knocking him back far enough for Dipper to reach the keys and punch in the code. The machine swung against them hard enough to toss them against Danny, who braced and caught them easily.
Soos went first with Danny taking up the rear. He was still quite large and Dipper wasn't sure how he fit; until he looked back and saw the walls warping around him, reality literally being pushed aside to make room. 'He just keeps getting cooler.'
"Man, this is like a video game."
"Or a dream."
Dipper scoffed. "More like a nightmare."
At the end of the stairs was an elevator. The four entered and went down. When the doors opened they gasped. Danny felt a prickle of energy in the air; it made his skin crawl and he started growling low in his chest. His back arched and he stalked forward slowly, eyes never leaving the twins as they investigated a desk/control panel in front of an enormous window.
"Okay, so he's got a ginormous lab. Everyone has secrets." Mabel found herself looking at the picture from their fishing day. She picked it up gently. "It's Stan. He loves us and we love him, right?"
On the other hand Dipper had found something damning. "The other two journals?! All this time... all this time, Stan had them?! I can't believe it! Was anything he said to us real?! Why would he have those journals?!"
He tried, he really had tried to believe in Stan through all of this. But this, this?! It was the last straw. Dipper felt his trust shatter like a dropped Christmas bauble. Whatever reasons he had, they had better be damn good. Danny felt the rising anger from him and laid his tail across his shoulders, only for Dipper to slap it off. He opened all three to the strange design he'd seen and flicked on his blacklight. "'I was wrong the whole time. The machine was meant to create knowledge but it is too powerful. I was deceived, and now it is too late. The device, if fully operational, could tear our universe apart! It must not fall into the wrong hands. If the clock ever reaches zero, our universe is doomed!'"
Above them a clock read just over one minute. It was ticking down, fast.
Soos gasped. "It's the final countdown! Just like they always sung about!"
Dipper flipped through the pages and found one. "Guys, there's a manual override for this."
He looked around the lab, nerves falling apart faster than Christmas tree in a room full of kittens. "There! We need turn these at the same time! One, two, three!"
The keys clicked and a pole rose in the room with the device. A dome of black glass flicked back, revealing a bright red button. "The shut-off switch. This stops now!"
Danny, who had hung back, still stunned by Dipper's reaction, only just saw Stan run past him.
"DON'T TOUCH THAT BUTTON! Please, Dipper just back away. Don't push it, please." He gasped. His clothes were ragged and torn and he was bruised badly. Danny slipped up beside him, worry and confusion in his eyes.
"Why should I? You've been lying to us all summer. Are you even who you say you are?!"
Danny took a step towards him when a beeping caught his attention. Both he and Stan looked to Stan's watch. His eyes went wide. "Uh-oh. Everyone brace yourselves!"
And gravity failed completely. Everyone began floating up and Danny shot outside to minimize the damage, not thinking of what could happen inside.
Dipper scrambled towards beam floating past and frantically looked for his sister.
"Dipper!" There she was, her foot had gotten wrapped in wires and she was being held several feet above the ground.
"Mabel! Hit the button, shut this thing down!"
She nodded and started pulling herself towards the button. "Wait, sweetie stop!"
Stan tried to swim towards her but was tackled by Soos. "Sorry sir, you gave me a job but I've got a new mission. Protecting these kids!"
Dipper jumped from the beam and knocked both of them towards the wall. "Hurry Mabel!."
"Mabel don't! Please, you gotta trust me!"
She sobbed. "How can I?! I don't even know if you're my Grunkle!"
All three fell silent as the tears drifted from her eyes. "Remember when I said I wanted to tell you something this morning? I wanted to say that you're gonna hear some bad things about me, and some of them are true, but trust me. Everything I've worked for, everything I care about, it's all for this family!"
She looked at him, Dipper's voice and all other sounds had backed away to vague fuzziness. She looked in his eyes and he never broke contact.
"Grunkle Stan," She let go of the wire. "I trust you."
The portal whirred faster and faster, framing her in its light. Then a blast of pure white shot out, blinding all of them and engulfing the entire town. Danny froze midair as it washed over him. His entire form trembled from the wash of dreadful feeling energy. He whirled around and flew back to the shack, reaching new top speeds in his rush.
From the portal strode a man wrapped in tattered clothes, a rifle of unknown design strapped across his back. He walked towards them all, stopping briefly to pick up the fallen Journal 1 at his feet. Dipper groaned and looked up. "W-who is that?"
Stan sighed. "The author of the journals; my brother."
Chapter 28: In which Dipper loses faith but forges a new bond
"You're finally back! Stanford!"
Stan ran up to his brother, arms wide open and a grin on his face. His brother did not feel the same, however. As soon as they were close he swung; punching him square in the jaw. "Do you have any idea what you've done?! Restarting the portal was extremely risky! Didn't you read any of my warnings?"
"Wait," Mabel said. "I thought you were Stanford."
"You even took my name? What have you been doing all these years?"
Stan threw a punch and Ford ducked, lunging for him and tackling him to the ground. The two started arguing. Meanwhile Dipper had to brace himself against the wall. The excitement was making his stomach churn. He heaved a couple of times before gulping air.
"I think I'm going to throw up."
Danny appeared from the dust, having formed a protective dome over Soos and the twins, and started rubbing his back. Ford looked up from where he had Stan pinned, saw him and gasped. He whipped his gun off his back with a shout. "Out of the way!"
The bullet tore through one of Danny's wings and he shrieked in pain and shock. Suddenly afraid of this man he turned and ran blindly from the shack. The room went deathly still in the aftermath. Dipper stared at Ford; his adoring grin turning sour.
"What was that for? He wasn't hurting me!"
This was not the reaction he'd expected. "That was an Endigo Phantasm. One of the most dangerous spectral entities to ever exist!"
"Danny's a good person!"
"It was gaining your trust so it could feed. That's what they do. It was tricking you!"
"He saved my life, more than once. He's chosen to protect this whole town."
Ford gasped. "It's taken the town? How long has this thing been here? It must have done something to you as well. Don't worry. I can get rid of its possession."
Tears gathered in Dipper's eyes. He couldn't believe it; didn't want to. This was the author? The man he'd spent so much of the summer idolizing, dreaming of meeting? The man who got up close and personal with so many creatures; shouldn't he have been more understanding? Or did he think the same of all the journal's entries? Hearing him talk like this, calling Danny a monster and it. It was more nauseating than his excitement had been. He looked down at Journal 3, tucked in his vest like it had always been. Gripped by sudden fury, he took it out and hurled it at Ford, striking him hard in the chest.
"YOU'RE THE ONE THAT'S POSSESSED!" He ran back to the elevator and didn't stop running until he reached the lake; barely registering the chaos that had been left in the yard. He arrived in time to see Danny, injured wing trailing, tear open a portal and walk through.
"Danny, wait!" He cried. He made a flying leap and grabbed a hold of his tail just as it passed through.
All he could see was green. There was no sky, no ground; just doors and crags of floating rock around them. He clung tight as Danny spiraled between them, noting the slightly off-kilter way he flew. He managed to look up at the injured wing and found the bullet had punched through a small collection of cells, tearing a fist sized hole in the wing. Ectoplasmic blood seeped from the wound in worrying amounts. He carefully climbed up Danny's back until he reached the damaged wing. Unthinking he took his hat and bunched it up, pressing it to the wound as well as he could at the angle he was at.
Eventually he noticed it getting cold, very cold, much colder than even the rest of this place. He chanced a look around and found them swooping down a tunnel of strange blue stone. They burst from the tunnel and flew over a plain of snow, untouched by anything. Finally the pain became too much for Danny, he drifted down and skidded in the snow, unconscious.
"No, no, no. Danny, wake up." He shook him several times, then stood and began pacing, rubbing his arms to try and stay warm. "Stay calm. He came here on purpose, right? So he must have allies or something. But I can't leave him here. I don't know this place. I hope someone finds us soon. Someone good."
He took off his vest and put it in the snow for at least a somewhat warm place to sit. Then he pulled Danny's head into his lap, unsure of how to check his health. He shivered as a gust of spectral wind passed them and curled over Danny. It was silly, he knew; Danny was not only used to these temperatures he was adapted to them, but he still felt the need to keep the wind out of his face at least.
He, however, felt every chill. As he pressed closer he felt a warm thrum in the body beneath him. It was faint, but just enough to keep the worst of the cold away. 'That must be his core. It's warmer than I thought it'd be.' He thought briefly.
Staying awake was getting harder. The more he struggled against sleep the harder it pulled. As it made what he felt would be the fatal tug a large shadow fell over them. The last thing he heard before his eyes closed, "How do you keep getting in this state, Great One?"
At least the voice seemed kind.
"--coated in an extract of blood blossoms, to stop the wound from healing. Blood blossoms are toxic to ghosts. Just being near them causes intense pain."
'That sounds like Frostbite. So I made it after all."
"But how did he get them? They sound rare."
'And that's Dipper. Wait, Dipper?!'
Danny's eyes shot open to see Frostbite and, yes that was him, Dipper kneeling on a fur rug a few feet away. They'd clearly been talking awhile, judging by the look on Dipper's face. Frostbite laughed good-naturedly.
"Unfortunately they grow quite readily in most of North America; as they are primarily prairie flowers. Thankfully, the Great One chose an area they simply cannot grow in."
He tried to stand up and found his body not responding. Instead of panicking he licked his teeth and found a familiar taste clinging to them; he relaxed. Next to his head was a bowl of fuzzy green-blue leaves mixed with white flowers.
"But what about that flower you gave Danny? It looks like a run of the mill foxglove."
Frostbite laughed again, clearly enjoying the open curiosity. "Nepeta Effigia; Ghostmint. In small quantities it's like catnip but, when mixed with the right things it becomes a powerful anesthetic. Helpful when treating something as delicate as a wing cell."
So it had been bad enough to need surgery, lovely. But how had Dipper gotten here? He managed to wiggle enough to get their attention.
"Ah, you're awake Great One, wonderful! Just a moment and I'll give you something to stop the paralysis."
He stood from the fur and lifted Danny to it. He was put down close to Dipper; as soon as they made contact he could feel the tension drain from him. Dipper put down the notebook he'd been writing in and collapsed on him in a hug.
"Oof! Well at least someone was worried about me. But how did you get here?"
The grip on him grew tighter, he felt tears fall on his neck and freeze. "Dipper?"
"Shut up. I was so scared. I didn't know he was like that. He could've killed you!"
Some of the feeling had returned to him by this point; at least enough for him to twist his upper body slightly and return the desperate hug. Frostbite came back to this and quietly left the bowl near Danny; who took it with his tail so he didn't have to let go. The medicine worked quickly and he was soon able to wrap his entire body around Dipper; he sighed.
"No one knew what the author was like. Even Stan seemed surprised. I guess they must have drifted apart before this whole portal thing.
That was a sad thought. The idea that the same thing could happen to him and Mabel sent a shiver down his spine; one that was quickly calmed by Danny's low purring. The ghost was having similar thoughts. He knew Jazz had dropped the shield and distracted their parents to let him escape, but what about now? He'd never thought to go back once and now months had passed since then. Was she still looking for him or had she given up? And what about Amity Park in general?
He shook his head. Amity Park could fend for itself, he had Gravity Falls to protect now. And judging from what little he'd caught from Stanford he may have to do that soon. Dipper gave him another squeeze before letting go enough to sit up. He wiped his nose and took a deep breath. "I followed you down to the lake. Grabbed your tail when you were going through the portal. I was scared you weren't thinking."
Danny chuckled. "Thank you. I wasn't thinking, really. Just get out and get help. Didn't even consider if something bad would happen."
He smiled. "Someone has to do the thinking. It might as well be me."
"So, starting a new notebook?"
Dipper jumped up and grabbed it, showing him all the pages he'd already filled. "Oh, yeah! After, well, what happened I realized that maybe some of what's in the journal is flawed. I decided to make one with both sides of things. Frostbite's been helping me out. He's really awesome."
"Yeah you could say he's pretty cool." Dipper whacked him. "Ow, hey. Your bedside manner is terrible."
"Far too many books have been written by those who disregard the well being of the paranatural world. I'm more than happy to help someone with our interests in mind as well. Speaking of which; let me see your wing."
Frostbite had entered during their conversation, carrying a large tray stocked with several wooden bowls, two were steaming and Dipper felt his mouth water at the thick stew set in front of him; he inhaled it with glee. Still looking at the copious writing Dipper had already put down, Danny pushed the second bowl to him as well before offhandedly flexing his damaged wing towards Frostbite, who took it with far more care. He had been unsure how to repair the damaged cells, as such he only applied some balms to remove the blood blossom taint and covered the wound. As he peeled away the bandage he could see it had been the right choice. Without the tincture Danny's own healing had dealt with the issue posthaste; all that was left was a gummy layer of ectoplasm.
When it hit the air Danny curled it towards his face and started to lick it clean. Dipper forgot what he was about to say and started writing that down, flipping to a new page. Which, of course, got his attention. He smirked. "Like what you see, Dippingsauce?"
Dipper immediately sputtered, started coughing, and dropped the notebook. When he finally recovered he leveled a playful glare at him and started writing again. "Frostbite told me there's very little actual information about Endigo phantasms, which is what you are. So if I'm going to contribute anything at all it might as well be that."
With an affirming noise Danny went back to cleaning his wing off; once that was done however, his brain said more was needed so he began cleaning his other wings before moving on to the rest of him. Dipper watched with a clinical eye; noting the flexibility of his frame, the method, even touching his tongue to feel the texture. All of this went on paper, along with a few rough sketches.
After a rather satisfying tongue-bath, Danny submitted to more in-depth study from Dipper. He looked over his shoulder as fingers poked at his wings and down his legs; noting how only his lower body had scales, the rest was skin. He walked around him to study the shape of his feet, testing the dexterity of the toes. "Wow. A little practice and you could use these as extra hands!"
"And what a terror I'd be then." He snarked, kicking him lightly. "Stop that, it tickles too much."
Dipper left the feet alone, instead running a hand up Danny's spine to see if there was anything interesting. He squirmed a little from the barely there feeling. Then he squeaked at a sharp pinch. "Hmm, so nothing unusual beyond sensitivity. Have you always been that sensitive?"
His tail came up to rub the sore spot. "No, but I think that has something to do with the aether feeding thing. I can basically just eat with my skin if I want; like frogs breathe."
"That's gross. Fascinating but gross. Can you taste with your skin?"
Danny slapped him with his tail. "Now who's being gross? Thankfully, no or I'd have been tasting your unwashed butt the whole way here."
He was rewarded with a raspberry. Dipper finally set the notebook down in favor of just relaxing; leaning against the ghost. He shifted enough to curl around him more before settling down to sleep.
When Frostbite returned to retrieve the dishes he found the two of them tucked comfortably close on the fur rug. He smiled and brought another out to cover the human. After he left he hung a curtain over the doorway; a simple message to leave the place be.
Back inside the underground lab Stan turned away from his brother, instead lifting Mabel and stroking her hair. "Listen here, Poindexter. I'm taking Mabel upstairs to tell her the truth. You, on the other hand are going to stay far away from these kids got it?"
Ford took a step forward, ready to argue again. "And if you're so determined to keep this a secret you can do something about the mess in the yard."
He looked up at that. "The yard?"
But Stan was already gone, leaving him with no option but to go up himself. He looked around the shop with distaste; utterly dismayed at what his home had become. For goodness' sake some of his experiments were being displayed as jokes! This was not going to stand for long. Once the summer was over Stan was gone, family or not.
The yard was a disaster zone. Scorched grass and agents lay everywhere, unconscious but slowly waking up. In a few places there were green flames still burning. Ford took one look at everything and went back down to the lab to look for a solution. Among the rubble he found a small weapon. An odd looking gun built from polished wood with metal flourishes. It had a long light bulb for a barrel, behind which sat a thin panel of red-tinted glass. Extending from the top of the chamber was a metal canister with a small glass tube inside. The canister could be removed and after some fiddling he found he could input various phrases.
Thinking back he recalled seeing blueprints for a similar device in Fiddleford's possession before he'd left their project. "Ah, a memory gun. Perhaps I can. . ."
He went to the totem pole and opened a small compartment inside, inserting the bulb and setting it to erase any memories related to the shack, its contents and residents. Once the parameters were set he pulled the trigger, sending out a sphere of whitish light that covered the whole of the land around the shack for a brief second.
After the light had cleared he stepped outside with a sheet of blank papers and a half-cocked idea. He waited for the agents to wake up fully.
Trigger was the first one up. "Where am I? Why am I standing in front of some sort of goofy fun knick-knack house?"
Ford shuffled the papers in an official looking manner before clearing his throat. "Stand down, gentlemen! I've been sent with the latest intel from Washington. According to this very real report, the power surges in Gravity Falls were actually due to radiation from an unreported meteor shower. A total embarrassment for your whole department. Luckily I'm here to take this mess off your hands, but I'll need of all your... floppy disks, and 8-tracks...right?"
"Uh, everything about this case is contained on this drive." Powers took something from Trigger and handed Ford a small black plastic stick labeled "PINES".
"Well, what are you waiting for, a kiss on the cheek? Get out of here before I have your butts court-martialed!"
He tossed the flash drive to a nearby goat and waited for the agents to stumble away to the few functioning vehicles and drive off. Now all that was left was the wreckage and the. . . fire.
Where did it go?
As soon as he'd looked away the fires had seemingly burned out without a trace. The burned out cars were gone as well. It was as if some force had simply hit the reset button on the place. He scratched his head and made a note to look into it. Then he went back to his lab to clean up down there.
"What is going on here?!"
Ford had returned to find the lab in order as well. Or at least the portal cleared up. Once again it was all pristine, as though he had just built it. By now he was convinced someone or something was messing with him, and he was not enjoying it.
It had to be that Endigo. With all of Gravity Falls in its claws who knew what it could do? It had clearly already affected that boy; he let it touch him! At the moment there were no signs of Cipher, that he could see, anyways; so he would focus on freeing the kid and whoever else it had in its thrall. Then he could finish his project.
Speaking of which; he looked around and found his third journal, still lying where it had bounced off him. He began skimming through it to his last entry, only to find that someone (probably the boy) had began using it as a diary! At least partially. He flipped back to the beginning and found the kid had scribbled notes on a number of his entries. Later on he included other creatures he'd seen even, "The Endigo!"
He immediately went up a floor to his study, haphazardly tossing the book and himself at his desk before reading. It was admittedly fascinating. The boy lacked a clinical distance with his writing but, given the thrall he was under, it was understandable. What he had written was still remarkable. He'd noted (with pictures) the apparently slow development of the creature. From its eerily human appearance at first arrival, to its increase in size and power and finally its current state.
Several entries described the Endigo's encounters with other creatures of the falls; native or otherwise. The two most prominent were an encounter involving a hive of bugbears in which the Endigo killed and devoured the queen, also attacking the kid; and its fight with the island head which, again, ended with the head being killed but not eaten.
But as he flipped through to the front again a certain name caught his eye. He turned to the page and began reading.
"I should have listened. I really should have. But I was so desperate to see what was on the laptop, and that countdown. It just made it too easy for Bill to get me. He took over my body and just, beat the heck out of it. I'm still in the hospital a week later. At least I'm awake now. Mabel said I passed out after I said I had to go to a hospital, so I knew I needed help, I guess. I hate hospitals. But I'm not alone this time! Danny's staying here! He told me what the doctors found so I knew what happened and now he's been telling me stories. Boy, does he have a lot. And he's been fighting ghosts for like, three years! I've only been dealing with stuff like this for a few months and I'm ready to go nuts.
"I guess Bill tried to get to Danny first before he went for me. Danny told me he'd had his dreams invaded a few times. He'd learned how to fight that kind of thing from a ghost called Nocturne, who apparently rules dreams? Or at least has some control of them. Danny isn't sure which. Either way, he irritated the heck out of that stupid demon! Too much. He thinks if he hadn't poked the bear so much I'd have been spared, but I told he was being stupid; Bill probably would've gone for me anyway. That just made him panic so I changed the subject."
Ford frowned. Cipher was rarely mentioned. He skimmed until something else caught his interest.
"Today I finally learned why Danny came to Gravity Falls. There was no real reason; he was just running. He'd somehow died halfway due to an invention of his parents' and became what others called a halfa. He used the powers he got to protect his home town; friends, family, all of them. Even when they thought he was dangerous. Even when one ghost turned the whole town against him he kept fighting. And the whole time no one but his friends and sister knew about it. Then everything goes wrong. He was forced to give up his secret to his parents. He said he hoped they would still love him but no. His own family" (And here the ink was smudged from tears) "His own family tried to kill him. Called him a monster to his face and shot at him. So he ran. Gravity Falls drew him in and he ran here.
"Just writing that upset me so I'm going to stop. Danny's gone under the bed, he's stopped crying but he won't talk. I hope he doesn't hate me know."
He closed the journal. 'That wasn't helpful at all. How long has this kid been enthralled?'
He started looking through other entries to see if he could pick up on when the kid went under. It didn't take long, thankfully. Barely a few weeks in he started writing about strange bear tracks he had followed to his first encounter with the Endigo in its early form. 'Perhaps a juvenile state. Would they develop like insects?' And its fight with a bugbear drone. This entry noted a circle of silver wire around it's neck and the condition of the drone's corpse. Afterwords he went to his friends, one of which had been in the portal room, and asked for help catching it.
It continued to detail the building of a trap and the removal of the wire. Which apparently lead to the "death" of a pair of ghosts that inhabited an abandoned convenience store. He skimmed over the rest and shut the journal with a huff.
"That poor kid. He's been in it's thrall for months. But when did it get to the rest of the family?"
No matter how hard he looked there was nothing else about the Endigo. "Of course there wouldn't be. That thing wants to keep as much quiet as possible." He sighed. "At least it's not working with Cipher."
A small comfort, considering what it seemed to be capable of.
The mention of Cipher brought a new thought to mind. If the kid had been possessed once by the demon then he needed to be protected from it again. So Ford started thinking, and as he thought his gaze fell on the now burnt out memory gun. "Erasing his memory won't work. It'd just make him more vulnerable, really. Maybe I can encrypt his mind somehow."
Ford grabbed the gun and started tearing it apart. If he was going to do this he needed to know how it worked first.
"Wow, so that's why you had all those fake IDs."
Stan scratched his head and sighed. "Yeah it is, sweetie. I wanted to tell you two sooner but things just kept coming up. I'm sorry I had to lie to you."
Mabel gave him a hug, plopping his fez back on his head. Waddles squirmed his way in to give Stan some kisses of his own. It was good to know a little more about her beloved Grunkle; she could tell it had been hard for him to talk about himself so much but he got it all out in the end and they both felt better for it.
"So, where'd your brother go?"
"He ran after Danny. He got shot."
Stan groaned and stood, muttering to himself. "Dangit, Poindexter. I thought I was the impulsive one."
"Hurt or not, Danny won't let anything bad happen to Dipper. That's something we have in common. Most we can do now is wait for them to come back."
Mabel nodded and hopped off the bed to follow him back down. They both agreed she'd be the one to tell Dipper when he got back as neither of them knew what state of mind he'd be in. Having seen his hero shoot his best friend and all. Not to mention his utterly destroyed trust in Grunkle Stan. As far as Dipper was concerned it was him, Mabel, and Danny; they were the only ones he could trust.
That gave him a goal; from now until summer ended he would do whatever he could do win back his great-nephew's trust.
There's probably not gonna be a lot of Ford's perspective in this. It's not that I don't like him it's that I can't write him for shit.
Also I don't want to clog the comment boxes with my replies so I'm going to start putting my tumblr up. Feel free to ask all your questions there! http://prince-of-mindscape.tumblr.com/
Chapter 30: In which Dipper gets the shovel talk
If you're worried about asking spoiler questions you can drop them at my tumblr where I'm more active. http://prince-of-mindscape.tumblr.com/
'When you're not freezing this place is actually nice.'
Dipper thought as he watched Frostbite and the rest of the yeti set tables and bring out blankets and trays packed with delicious smelling foods. As for why the feast? Danny was up and walking. He was nowhere close to flying again but he was moving about. Which was enough cause for celebration for them.
Dipper smiled, remembering that Danny said this exact thing would happen once he was well enough to get around. Apparently when he'd first started coming here, back when he was still a halfa, they'd have a feast every time he came back.
"Not that Tucker minded, guy was a bottomless pit." Dipper hadn't missed how his mouth still quirked down but he was using his old friends names again. Which was a massive improvement. He still wasn't about to talk about them in full, but Dipper was willing to wait. If he decided to never talk about it, well, that was just fine. Some things you just had to let go.
Speaking of letting go, Dipper had let nothing go faster than his obsession with the author. The second that bullet hit the air Dipper had abandoned any plans of comparing experiences, getting praise for his own discoveries, becoming his apprentice; all blown out the windows by Danny's scream of pain.
As the last of the preparations were set, Frostbite waved the two of them over. Dipper helped Danny up (his bad wing offset his balance a little, they'd learned) and they eagerly took part. That was another thing he'd learned. Human food did very little for Danny if it was cooked; raw foods were better but neither was as good as food from the Ghost Zone. He was worried he couldn't actually eat it but, to his surprise, that hadn't been the case.
"It's pretty much the same as normal, just with a little extra for us spooky types." Danny quipped.
Extra or not, it was delicious! By the time it was over Dipper was too stuffed to move. Danny wasn't much better; he'd fallen asleep at the table. A lot of poking and nudging later he managed to get the endigo up and moving, at least as far as the caverns. Once there they both plopped on a pile of furs and dozed off.
It took a few more days (at least he assumed so, there was no night or day in the zone) for Danny's wing to heal to Frostbite's satisfaction. Once it was healed however he was rarely on the ground. He looped through the air, with or without Dipper on his back, suffused with pure joy at regaining his flight. It was something neither of them could get enough of.
Eventually Danny suggested that they should probably head back; an idea he was not ready to accept. "I can't! If I got that back there I, I don't know. But if the author, Stanford is still there then you won't be safe. And I don't trust Grunkle Stan, you know that."
Danny stopped grooming one wing. "But you still call him your Grunkle."
That stopped him. He thought for a moment. Maybe Grunkle Stan had lied about a lot of things, but who was it that stepped in when the things got out of hand? Who was it that fought a dinosaur to get Waddles back for Mabel? Stan had stuck by them time and again; it was hard to ignore that he risked zombification by fighting with brass knuckles to protect them. In the end, trust or not, Stanley Pines was family, and that was that. Dipper felt a grin form.
"Yeah, you're right. I may not trust him completely but, to be honest, I'd always felt he was hiding something so that never really changed. But still, there's StanFORD to worry about."
Danny smiled back. "We'll jump that hurdle later. I don't feel all that ready to deal with him either. Something about him makes my wings tingle, and not in a good way."
He curled around Dipper, who climbed on his back and played around with his hair; swishing his hands through it like a fog fountain. Somehow, despite the nature of it, Danny could feel the motion; he found it quite soothing.
Since neither of them were quite ready to go home Danny decided to pay a visit to Andrew. Considering the last two times he'd been there had been near panic emergencies, he figured it might be nice to actually lay back and talk to the writer. Maybe Dipper would appreciate meeting an author that wasn't crazy; or at least somewhat sane. Knowing he would be fine as long as they stuck together Danny didn't bother saying anything before lifting off and leaving the Far Frozen.
Unlike his sister, Dipper did not get the chance to fly with Danny before he changed; he had nothing to compare too, but he almost instinctively knew this was hundreds of times better than any other way he'd gotten around. It was surprisingly comfortable too; with Danny's core fully developed he no longer leaked energy, and thus no longer dropped the temperature around him. He rested his head on Danny's back, comfortable enough to daydream while he went wherever he was going.
The skies were mostly the same to him, though Danny had said it looked different if you were more "aware" (how he'd managed to pronounce the quotation marks was a mystery); a process that, apparently, involved almost continuous exposure to unnatural activity. According to him, most of Amity Park was aware due to the presence of a, fairly large, stable portal in its limits. The constant outpouring of spectral energy had completely torn down the veil on the town, at least visually.
Just staying near Danny seemed to be doing the trick really; the guy was like a massive generator. 'Probably an Endigo thing.' Or maybe it was being here that did it.
Before he could ask, however, Danny suddenly dropped; gliding down to land on the steps of an enormous marble building. With the two stone lions outside it looked exactly like a stereotypical library. The wooden doors swung on well oiled hinges, Danny barely nudging them.
The inside was the library of his dreams; shelves loaded with books, the vaulted ceilings and soft, Persian rugs, even old fashioned armchairs with stuffed cushions. Dipper didn't even wait for Danny to let him off, he jumped down and darted straight to the closest set of shelves. He'd never heard of most of these books and couldn't resist taking a few to the chairs and start reading.
Danny laughed at his burst of energy. "Just be careful with those. The ghost who lives here is VERY protective of his collection."
After receiving an enthusiastic nod, Danny set off to sniff out Andrew. It didn't take long with his nose; he'd been practicing while he recovered, he could now identify each of the Far Frozen by smell alone. The writer was tucked in his private room, also reading. He'd shown no signs of knowing he was there so Danny decided to have a little fun. He shrank down as much as he could (which, thanks to practice, was about the size of a monitor lizard) and crawled on his belly to the lounge, up the back, and clung there for a moment before poking Andrew's neck with the very tip of his tongue.
Andrew jumped like he'd sat on a livewire, nearly hitting the ceiling. He grabbed his neck and turned an accusatory glare at him, the look softening as Danny laughed. "Welcome back, Danny. You look much better now."
Danny hopped off the lounge and turned a slow circle, showing off a little. "I feel a lot better. I felt like it was time I visited you without my health or sanity on the line."
He laughed. "A good choice. And who is your friend outside?"
"Dipper. He sort of saved me. More than once actually."
Andrew scratched his chin. With a rather grandiose gesture he went out to the library, Danny following closely. Dipper had already gone through enough books to make a stack his height; skimming them to see what was in there and stopping to read every time something jumped out. Which happened a lot as many of the books had been set aside on the table, open to a certain page or image. The notebook was out as well, words nearly illegible from the speed he was writing at.
"You seem to be enjoying yourself, Dipper."
He yelped and nearly threw the notebook at them both. Danny caught a loop on his horn and let it hang there. He trotted over to pat his back, helping him get his heartrate normal. With that accomplished Dipper took his notes back and set them on the table, turning to look at Andrew.
"I'm sorry, I just saw all these and got excited! There's so much in here that I've never even thought of."
Andrew put up a hand to stop him before he could go on. "No problem. It's always nice to meet a fellow bibliophile. But tell me something; what are you writing down?"
A big smile grew on his face and Danny just grinned at the writer. "Now you've done it."
"Okay so the guy I've been idolizing for like, ever."
"Since the start of the summer." Danny interrupted; Andrew snirked.
"Whatever. He turned out to be kind of a crazy jerk. He shot at Danny 'cause he claimed that he was using me or something. I followed him here and we spent most of the time with those yeti people."
"Far Frozen, Dipper."
"Right. So I decided to write my own. And since there's so little information about them I'm going to write down as much about Endigo as I can learn from Danny."
Andrew's brows raised; the answer had been a huge surprise to him. For someone so young to make that sort of decision. Humans had spent centuries trying to puzzle out the afterlife and its denizens and barely made a scratch. Hell, even recent portal tech can only get a human to the upper planes of the zone, and that still looks like a mess of nothing to them. For Dipper to not only be able to make such observations such as seeing the zone properly; something paranormally profound must have happened to him. Even with proper study and training, it could take decades for a human to open their third eye fully. Dipper's? Was wide open and ready for whatever for whatever came its way.
Well, his curiosity was well and truly peaked by now. He approached the human delicately. "May I, possibly, have a look at your writing?"
"Oh! There's not a lot and it's pretty messy so I don't know if you'd-"
"Not at all! From one writer to another I'd love to see your side of things."
Dipper flushed deeply and handed over his notebook; watching wide-eyed. Andrew turned the pages carefully, like an archivist with an ancient tome. He found a number of pages were covered by messy but skillful sketches, mostly of Frostbite and other Far Frozen. When he got closer to the end he felt a smirk on his face; the last dozen pages were dominated by Danny. What actual research there was few and far between; overshadowed by detailed drawings of the endigo in varying poses. There was a level of care in these that went far beyond mere research.
"Fascinating! I'd love the chance to read the complete version when it comes around. You show quite a lot of promise as an artist as well. You are more than welcome to use my library for your purposes. As long as you don't damage anything."
Andrew handed the book back with a smile. At some point Dipper had stopped looking at him and turned his gaze to the other ghost in the room; watching Danny drift about in the stained glass dome of the library, observing the tiny details up close. Andrew leaned in close, gripping his shoulder hard, and whispered.
"He's already been hurt once, and by someone he loved for years. Take care with him or I'll be the least of your worries. Some of the most powerful beings in existence think of him as their son. So watch yourself."
He took the books on the table and left to reshelve them, humming jauntily as though nothing had been said. Dipper sat there for several minutes.
"What just happened?"
Danny dropped down and hovered by him. He shrugged. "Andrew's Andrew. Sure I don't know him as well as others but, hey, I've got a pretty good view of him now. He's just protective of his books; they're his obsession. So let's leave him to it, then."
Dipper nodded and they left, the doors closing silently behind. He climbed on Danny and they took off. To where, Dipper didn't know. Or mind.
She knew it all now. Why he'd been so hurt, so angry.
All thanks to Skulker's tapes. He'd followed him throughout the day, looking for a chance to strike. He'd caught it all. Danny sensing him and running for a closet. The argument with Sam followed by her confiding in Tucker. The way simple confiding became a frustration fueled kiss. Danny opening the closest to find them and fleeing.
That's where the tape ended, but it was more than enough to make the connections. His friends seemingly going behind his back to be with each other followed by the absolute betrayal of his trust by his own parents. It was a miracle he didn't snap right there. Though, now that she remembered the state of his room maybe Skulker had done them all a favor by antagonizing him.
Now in her room Jazz paced, restless. With the why solved there was little else for her to do but wait until Vlad figured out the where. Skulker had, to all their frustration, lost track of Danny four miles out of Amity Park; less than an hour after he'd turned back from Wisconsin. None of them had yet learned how. Skulker's tech was designed to find a ghost in any state on any metaphysical plane. He had traps that couldn't be phased through and sensors that could find the invisible, and, if his bragging could be believed, some in work tech that could find ghosts between planes and spectrums.
With all that gear the fact that he just straight up lost him was an enormous blow to the effort to find him. Skulker had received a thorough berating and been succinctly threatened away from Danny, should he be found. With an exasperated groan she flopped on her bed and rubbed her eyes. She wanted to do more! There had to be something; some off-hand comment he had made or thing he'd done to give them a hint. She found herself drawn into a memory; a night not long after his dealings with his future self, when she'd come clean about knowing his secret.
They were sitting on the roof. No tools, no telescope, just laying back and enjoying the relative silence. Just as she was about to nod off she saw Danny sit up and walk to the eastern corner of the roof. He leaned on the wall and just stared. Growing concerned Jazz joined him. "Danny are you okay? I know all this was, exciting, but you know I'm here for you if there's anything. . . left over."
He shook his head. "It's nothing major. I don't think so, at least. But," He sighed and closed his eyes, as though trying to piece things together. "Ever since I changed I've always felt pulled in two directions. And that's not a metaphor; I mean it literally. My core wants me to stay here but something out that way keeps butting in. Like those weird thoughts people get."
"Intrusive thoughts? It's nothing dangerous right?"
"Yeah those. And no, I don't think so. It's just that my ghost half really, really wants to go there. As far west as I can go."
She gasped and shot off the bed, running to the door.
Just as she was about to open it, it opened to reveal Vlad. His face was drawn and haggard, a strong display of his concern and lack of sleep. She came to a screeching halt at the sight. He wobbled as he stood, nearly falling over several times. Jazz took his arm and lead him to her bed, forcing him to lay down. He groaned in both pain and relief, sleepless nights bringing back every tiny injury and then some. When she got him settled she smiled.
"I may actually have some good news, Vlad."
He cracked an eye open, still trying to ward off an impending headache. "And what might that be, Jasmine?"
"I think I know where to look for Danny."
He nearly flung himself off the bed, headache forgotten in the sudden surge of hope. "Really? How?"
"It kind of depends on you. When we talked one time, he mentioned feeling a pull towards the west coast. I don't know if you feel something like that or if you can but it's a place to start; and if you do feel it then we could find him that much faster!"
It was a solid plan, and one he felt was sure to work. He'd often felt similar tugs on his core. If there was a location drawing it in then Daniel would doubtless be there! The trouble lay in their differences. Daniel had always been more energy sensitive, it was part of what made him so adaptable. While Vlad had felt such things they were likely much weaker than what his young counterpart had felt. But there had to be a way to make it work. Something similar to him in energy.
'Of course! The core samples I used when cloning him. They should still be viable!'
"Jasmine, help me down to the lab would you?"
She shook her head firmly. "No way. We can work on this later. Right now you need some sleep." She yawned. "So do I. We won't be any good to Danny if we can't stand up straight."
"You're right, of course. At least help to me to my room then."
She did. In the morning they'd get to work.
'Don't worry, little brother. We're on our way.'
One more interlude after this one. It'll all come together then. (boy that sounds ominous)
Over the course of the next several days Dipper got to see a large portion of the Ghost Zone. Though it was mostly because Danny needed to assure his friends and allies that he hadn't passed on. Word of his transformation spread quickly after that.
Now he was sitting in awe (and more than a little fear) as the two of them shared a late afternoon snack with Pandora, of all people. Cerberus crowded its three heads around him, whining and pleading for some of his food. He set down his sandwich long enough to give them each a scratch on the nose. They gave a trio of happy barks, nearly knocking him over, and scampered away to play with Cujo, who, once again, tunneled in to find Danny.
As for Danny, he'd left him with the pseudo-goddess to deal with an infestation in her realm. A small group of berbalangs had made their way into the labyrinth and holed up there. They were most likely searching for a weak spot with which they could enter the human world. She knew Danny would show no mercy in dealing with the child-killers.
Even before he'd transformed, Danny had been protective of young humans, often ignoring his own safety (particularly when the town was against him) to see to their own health. Again and again he put his needs to the side for them. Even going so far as to visit them in hospital and home to ensure they were recovering. Parents, of course, did not like this; the children were delighted to see him regardless of the state they were in.
When he became more in tune with his powers and the zone itself it became clear that he would brook no creature that was a danger to the young; no matter how the harm came. Physically or mentally, any threat was met with the same severe response. Annihilation. So she could think of no better creature to eliminate those things.
The labyrinth was disturbingly empty. Not even the most stalwart of minotaurs wanted to stick around once they got wind of the berbalang nest. Without their searching snuffles in the air the place made his hackles rise, but that wasn't all. Even from here he could catch the faint, rotting smell that proceeded them. Their call was loud in his ears, forcing him to double back and try a new route.
Hunting berbalangs was a disorienting experience for even the most professional of trackers. Berbalang calls were designed to grow softer as one drew close, a technique used by only one other creature, to his knowledge, El Silbon. However, unlike Silbon, berbalangs could be killed, and often were. Often enough, in fact, for humans to have developed surefire means of locating the things and defending themselves.
Danny was not what one would consider experienced but he was determined, and that alone was enough to keep him circling back repeatedly when the calls grew even the tiniest bit louder. It took nearly three hours according to his internal clock (something that visiting Clockwork made much more accurate), but he was finally closing in. The moans were finally starting to quiet.
Just as they went silent he bumped into a hedge. It was very solid hedge and knocked him for a bit of a loop. When he recovered he smirked, he'd forgotten about the whole "ghosts are solid in the zone" thing. They could still be invisible however, so he dropped off the spectrum and climbed the hedge. 'No minotaurs means no rules.'
Creeping along the hedge lines, he could see right into a dead end. A wide gulf had been dug out and the dirt from it piled on the other side up to shoulder height, effectively cutting it off from the rest of the maze. More dirt had been tossed up from a hole in the center. From his perch he could just hear the moaning again, confirming that this was the nest. 'As if I needed any more hints.'
He climbed down the other side, keeping himself off the ground as much as possible. Berbalangs were fliers but they nested in burrows, which meant they were very sensitive to vibrations. If he didn't want a swarm on his hands then he needed to move as carefully as he could; once again, he was thankful he was a perfect predator. Or near to it, anyways.
Creeping as close as he could to the hole he shut his eyes and searched for any heat inside. Berbalangs lived and bred in the ghost zone, but were not spirits themselves. As such they put off about as much heat as something their size would normally. Which is to say something the size of a human head. The burrow was its own maze, the berbalangs had dug over a dozen feet already so they hadn't formed a nesting chamber yet. Danny had no trouble seeing them, given their relatively high temperature in the cool surroundings.
Now all that remained was how to get to them. He could probably shrink small enough to get down for a little while but he didn't want to get over his head if there were too many. That left either drawing them out or just bombing the den and hoping that was it. He sat back and thought for a long while. Both plans had their flaws; drawing them out meant swarming, which meant he could lose some, but if he ice bombed the den he could catch a large number all at once, but that plan held the risk of not all the berbalangs being there. If even a few got loose they'd dig in somewhere else and who knows how far off they'd go.
As he was deep in thought the soil under him began to shift, a single berbalang wormed its way free and sank its teeth into his leg. Or tried to. As soon as it bit down it flash froze to the limb. Danny hopped up and tried to shake it off, flinging it away to the hedge where it shattered. At the sound a second berbalang wiggled to the burrow entrance, Danny carefully tiptoed behind it; staying there as it looked around. Not seeing anything it went back in and Danny sighed.
Then they all came out. Danny backed away, curling his wings around his face. The berbalangs swarmed, moaning faintly. One broke from the ball and dive-bombed him, jaws open. He ducked and rolled away growling. "Can't this be easy for once?! Agh!"
One managed a lucky shot and bounced off his back, leaving a tooth behind. He used his tail to swipe it off and smacked another going for a cheap hit. The berbalangs were full on swarming him now. He crouched down, covering his face; this was getting out of hand. He needed to finish this fast, before they realized he wasn't an easy meal. He tried to think of a way to take them all out at once something big, something. . .
"This is because the cold is contained within you and ever since you acquired your ghost abilities you've only been letting it out in small amounts. But now you must learn to let it out all at once. Now then, concentrate. Let the energy build until it has nowhere to go but out."
Danny sucked all the power he had into his core, forcing it down as hard as he could. This wouldn't be like using his wail, he needed to send it out all around him, as hard and as strong as he could. It needed to stay concentrated while simultaneously dissipating. The full force of the swarm descended on him as his eyes snapped open, filled with pure white light. An eerie silence hung around it all as the power burst forth, searing the ground with the antarctic chill he gave out. The berbalangs froze to the core in seconds, not even having time to know what happened. Then they fell. So solid they didn't even shatter.
He gasped, stumbling against the now dead hedge. In his core he knew nothing would grow here ever again, but he didn't have the energy to care. As he saw the minotaurs appear and start crushing the frozen pests he smiled, eyes closing.
Danny woke up to a quartet of worried whimpers and licks. He shoved away the wet noses with gentle shushing and slowly sat up; his body protesting every second. His vision was badly blurred and it hurt to open his eyes too much. He laid back down pretty quickly after the first glimpse and didn't open them again, even when he heard Dipper's voice. He was keeping as quiet as possible despite his clear excitement.
"What the heck was that, Danny? We saw it all the way from up here!"
He groaned, trying to think of what he meant.
"Go, go! Do it now!"
"Yeah, fury attack!"
All three cheered as the little purple dragon let loose with a whirlwind of fireballs, taking out every enemy on screen. "Okay the reboot's pretty cool, Tuck. But only because of that."
"Just wait till you see Cynder, man."
Finally opening his eyes to the clear sight of Dipper; worried and happy all at once. He smiled back. "I think I'll call it. . . aether fury."
An hour later Danny was mostly functioning again. He was tired and could barely lift his wings, but he was awake enough to talk.
"So what happened out there?"
"I overthought the situation, got paranoid and didn't notice a sneak attack when I should have. You know; same thing that always happens." He shrugged. If he hadn't remembered Frostbite's first lesson he probably would've, well not died but he'd be pretty chewed up. Worse, there would be a swarm of berbalangs loose in the ghost zone. Dipper scribbled in his notes for a second, then looked at him.
"So where did you get "Aether fury" from? I've never heard of anything like it."
"Tucker got me to play this game back home. The little guy could do these things called fury attacks. They were actually pretty similar to the first thing Frostbite taught me to do. Although, Sam would always have to remind me I had it."
Dipper stared in silence. He tilted his head. "What's wrong? Something not sitting right?"
"You didn't flinch."
"Whenever you mentioned them before, you would flinch. But that time you didn't. It must not have hurt to mention them."
He tilted his head again, ears twitching; thinking. The memories were happy ones, so maybe. He shook his head, that wasn't it. Even happy memories had hurt to think of. Now though. Now reminiscing was easier. While he wasn't ready to face them physically yet; that fear came more from their reaction than the things that had happened. Maybe he could try talking to them? No, that idea was met by a twinge. He definitely wasn't ready to face them.
But at least his memories were no longer tainted by that hatred. So instead he chose to look forwards to a time when he could talk to them; find out what really happened instead of what he saw.
That thought brought a gentle warmth to his core, like basking in the winter sun. For the first time since all this began he felt things would be okay.
Both the creatures mention in this chapter are real myths. The berbalangs are a vampire in Filipino folklore, however the version described in the story actually comes from a short story I read when I was younger. El Silbon is from Venezuela, it's origin varies but it's usually the spirit of a selfish young man who murdered his father/mother and was brutally punished by his grandfather.
Outside the ghost zone time was passing just as fast. It had already been over a week since her brother had disappeared after their injured friend and Mabel was quickly losing the short bit of trust she'd fostered for her new great uncle. Ford stayed secluded in his lab, coming out only for brief meals with them that were as uncomfortable as they were silent.
Grunkle Stan managed the shop, as always. Though Soos and Wendy had also picked up on the tense atmosphere; both took great pains not to mention it. Instead keeping themselves and Mabel distracted with their own shenanigans. Even Stan joined in occasionally, seeming to be purposely distracting himself from his failed reunion.
Over the course of the following days the world found its own ways to distract them all. The mayor passed away and during the course of the following election (which was less an election and more a bird popularity contest) Gideon Gleeful made a return; controlling his father like a puppet in an effort to take over Gravity Falls. He nearly won, too. Kidnapping Mabel and leaving her inside the statue being carved for the winner. Grunkle Stan realized this and impressed the crowd with his dedication to his family. Climbing inside the statue and grabbing her before the TNT inside exploded.
Stan won by the rules of the election (the eagle kissed him, don't ask) but, since neither he nor Gideon had actually done the paperwork, the win went to Tyler Cutebiker; the only candidate to fill out all the forms. Stan didn't really care though. Mabel was safe and Gleeful had lost, again.
That night both of them talked over pancakes, surprised when Ford joined them. He showed them what he'd been working on. A helmet, based on the memory gun. Before either one could react he quickly explained that it didn't erase memories but rather encoded them; preventing the mind from being invaded or manipulated in any way. He'd seen Dipper's entries on Bill and he wanted to keep anyone of them from suffering that again.
Which led, at last, to his side of the story. The things that led to Gravity Falls and what he'd done there. How Bill had claimed he was a muse, tricking him into being possessed and building the portal. The portal, which he said, led to a place called the Nightmare Dimension. A place that was tearing itself apart and so Bill sought to escape to their world. The helmet was almost complete, he said, but it wouldn't work on him. He'd had a metal plate put in that kept Cipher out of his head. The problem was that the encoding process would take a long time.
Stan decided to let him try but only when he was sure there were no problems with the helmet. And whoever did it had to choose to. Ford agreed, finished his pancakes and left. The air in the shack felt slightly lighter after that, letting all of them sleep a little easier.
The next morning woke Mabel, not with sunshine and birdsong, but with crackling static and the taste of lime in the back of her mouth. She sat up to the sight of a whirling green hole in the middle of the room. The glow darkened into an unfamiliar shape that leapt free and landed silently. She found herself unable to look away from the figure riding the other. She grinned bigger than she ever had. "Dipper! You're back!"
She pounced on him as he dismounted, knocking them both into the third, who gave a very familiar grunt. "And Danny! Holy cow, you look awesome. Like some kind of dragon sphinx fairy-thing!"
Danny lay down and let her jump around him looking at every new scale and claw, she even pointed out a series of almost invisible spots under his lips and along his sides; Dipper pointed out their similarity to the ampullae of Lorenzini, like sharks. As soon as she calmed down enough to speak in coherent sentences she fell on Dipper and demanded to know everything that had happened. Since he'd been out for most of of it Danny happily let Dipper tell the story.
Then came Mabel's turn. She didn't have much to say besides one big thing. "So Ford says he might have a way to keep Bill out of our heads. He's working on some weird helmet thing."
Immediately the room went cold as a low growl rumbled in Danny's chest. Dipper seemed to feel the same way, his face fixed in a scowl. "No offense Mabel but I'm not about to trust that guy. He just shot at Danny; no questions asked. And it doesn't sound like he's trying to make friends around here, either."
Mabel deflated a little. She had kind of hoped her brother had calmed down a bit while away. Instead it seems they had gotten closer, making him even more protective. She expected a full on rant from Dipper, but he was thinking about something. "Dipper? You okay? It was just a thought."
He waved a hand at her. "No it's fine. I just remembered something I'd read while at Andrew's. Something about unicorn hair."
This got Danny's attention. He flicked an ear towards the kids. "Unicorn parts can do a lot of things. Supposedly their hair can be placed around things to prevent negative spirits from entering."
Suddenly Mabel was on his back, nearly pulling his ears. "UNICORNS!? AWESOME! ARE THERE ANY HERE? LET'S GO FIND THEM!"
She jumped off him and was half out the door before he managed to snag her with his tail. "Woah, Mabelton, slow down there. I don't know if there are any in this world, let alone this town. Plus they're kind of. . ."
"Kind of what?" Both twins were staring at him now.
He rubbed his cheek, looking away. "Annoying. Well not kind of. They're really annoying."
"How are they annoying?" Mabel looked almost offended at the idea of a unicorn being anything but majestic and glorious.
It was a good question. Every ghost just told him that real world unicorns were annoying but no one ever said how. Until he got to meet a few who were "recently deceased". Just a few minutes of listening to those two made him feel much more kindly towards Box Ghost and Technus' rants. Hell, any ranting would have been preferable at that moment. But Mabel hadn't met any of them so how was he going to describe this? 'Oh, got it!'
"Remember what Pacifica was like when you first met her?" Both of them immediately cringed; Mabel less so while Dipper openly gagged. "Well think that and multiply it by gnomes to infinity."
The twins' jaws had dropped, they shared a nervous look. Danny's description had thoroughly quashed any desires on Mabel's part to see a unicorn. Dipper sighed and pinched his brow. "Annoying or not; unicorn hair sounds like our best bet to keep the shack safe. So let's pack some things and get going."
"No way, bro- bro."
"What?!" He looked incredulous.
"You just got back from all that craziness. You need rest, both of you." She tossed a pointed stare Danny's way, he had the decency to look embarrassed. "I'll go. I'll call Candy and Grenda and we'll get that unicorn hair. No matter how annoying they get. Promise."
Dipper still had some reservations but Danny interrupted before he could speak. "Mabel's right. Human's aren't built for extended stays in the ghost zone. You're going to need time to readjust. So we'll stay here. Besides, if anyone can handle a bunch of snooty horses with pointy heads, it's her."
She smiled and gave him a hug, then ran downstairs to call the girls over and discuss a plan of attack. Downstairs she ran into Ford again. He glanced over in surprise. "It's kind of late isn't it? What are you doing?"
Rather than mention anything about her brother or Danny she instead said exactly what she was doing. "I'm going to call my friends and we're going unicorn hunting! For their hair."
Ford smacked a fist in his palm, not even questioning how she had this information. "Of course! We can put a circle around the shack with it. Here, you'll need this to get in."
He handed her the third journal; open to a page describing an enchanted glen. "Let's hope one of you has a deep voice."
It was a genuine gesture and joke so she didn't hold back when thanking him. Meanwhile Dipper had come down to get something to eat. Ford spotted him and grabbed him, dragging him back down to the lab. Once there Dipper managed to yank his arm free but Ford stopped him before he could run. "Ah, wait. I'm sorry for being rough but helping you was a priority."
"I told you I'm not possessed. Danny hasn't done anything!" He snarled.
Ford sighed. "This isn't about the phantasm. I investigated the town after you disappeared and found nothing involving it. Either it's laying low or I'm forced to admit it's at least neutral."
"Danny. His name's Danny. And if you stop calling him "it" I'll go along with whatever this is."
He held out his hand, glowering at the other. Ford gave an honest smile, relieved, and shook it. "Deal. Now please come over here."
He followed closely, watching Ford lift the bizarre looking helmet that Mabel had mentioned. "I've been working on this since you vanished. You and I are at the greatest risk from Bill; he's taken over each of us before. I can use this to scramble your brain-waves, making them impossible for him to detect!"
Dipper eyed the device warily before nodding. What was the worst that could happen? Ford was obviously all business when it came to Cipher, there was no chance of him cutting corners on anything meant to stop him. Ford motioned towards a chair set in front of a large screen. When he was settled the helmet went on and Ford immediately began observing the incoming data.
It was then that what he'd said hit him. "Wait, you said you'd been possessed by Cipher too?"
Ford sighed again. "When I first came here to study my unified theory of weirdness I hit a stumbling block rather quickly. While exploring the local caves for some inspiration I encountered cave paintings left by the natives. It was the same wheel that I drew in the journal; you've seen it."
Dipper nodded. He'd never forget that thing.
"With it was a prophecy. I ignored it, foolish as it was, and read the writing surrounding it. I let Bill into our dimension, let him access the minds of it at least. He can't do more than that without a body. Not long after he spoke to me in my dreams, called himself a muse and claimed he only approached the greatest, most promising minds of the time. I fell for it hard. He used me to build this portal and my best friend suffered for it."
"He told us about it."
"Fiddleford?! He's here?"
Dipper put his hand up. "Yes, but he's nowhere near ready to talk to you. I don't know if he even remembers you. He used the memory gun on himself so many times he went crazy. He's still recovering from it all."
The idea that his close friend could be driven mad by his hands was almost too much to bear, but the beeping of the screen, indicating that it was ready to begin the memory encoding, snapped him out of it. He started the process and watched the memories flash by. Most of it wasn't anything interesting.
Until the image of the phantasm flashed by. Ford immediately stopped the process to cycle through those memories. Dipper slipped the helmet off while he was distracted to observe his reactions.
Ford was fascinated with the whole process. The capture and release was masterfully done, and there was something strangely poignant in seeing the phantasm's eyes so close. It felt. . . almost human. When Dipper slipped down the bank and encountered it again in a later memory he found himself entranced. The phantasm approached him and was quite friendly, until Dipper said something that set it off.
One last memory struck the final cord for him. Seeing the lengths it, Danny, went to keep Dipper safe while fighting Bill. Carrying him to the hospital personally. The honest tears he shed as he spoke about his past. Seeing this he realized the truth. 'He was never a monster. Just human in the body of one. Dealing with something he had never asked for.'
Seeing Dipper out of the chair watching him he turned and said. "I'm sorry, Dipper."
Dipper smiled but still shook his head. "It's Danny you should be apologizing to; not me."
"You're right, and I will. When he wants to."
"That's all I can ask." Dipper hugged him briefly then ran back upstairs. Neither of them remembering why they'd come down there.
Dipper came back to the room to find Danny curled up in the far corner with Waddles and Cujo asleep in his arms. He was randomly struck by how accurate Mabel's description was. With the way he was sitting Dipper almost expected to be asked a riddle before he could do anything. He took a step forward and saw one ear flick. Danny's eyes opened and he smiled. He felt his heart skip and he thumped his chest. 'Stop that! Now is not the time!'
Danny lowered the two pets and made a small hop over to him. "You okay?"
"Fine! I'm fine!" He scratched his arm nervously. "So um, I managed to get Ford to think about things and he's finally accepted that you aren't a threat."
A heavy snort. "About time."
Dipper ignored it and plowed on before nerves got the better of him. "He wants to apologize."
There was no response. He half expected him to have just vanished, possibly angry. But no, he was still here. That long tail waved silently as he thought over the idea. He really didn't want to get close to the man again; the pain from the bullet was still very sharp in his mind. One look at Dipper, however, made him at least want to try.
He leaned down a bit and nudged him, cat-like. "I'll listen. But we meet on my terms, and no weapons. Tell him that, okay?"
It made sense to him. That gun had done some serious damage. Plus, being in the heart of his domain would leave Ford little means of escape if he planned on fighting. He blushed at the light touch and nodded furiously. First thing in the morning they would plan it out. For now he wanted nothing more than to take a nap, possibly with company. He climbed on Danny without a word and the two of them returned to the cozy little pile of critters and torn up socks that made up Danny's nest in this room.
so I actually have the rest of the story written up. I just need to proofread and upload them. But I get easily distracted so if you think I may have forgotten this story come yell at me on tumblr. http://prince-of-mindscape.tumblr.com/
Chapter 34: In which we see a rainbow aftermath and Ford's a creeper
After the nap Dipper went back downstairs to see Ford sitting at the small table. He remembered the memory scrambler and winced. "Hey, Great Uncle Ford. Sorry I ran off on you."
"No, no I understand. You needed to talk to Danny, right?"
He nodded and went to the fridge, grabbing a Pitt for each of them. They sat together in silence until the door banged open and Mabel ran in, slamming a handful of brightly colored hair on the table with a near manic grin. "DID SOMEONE SAY UNICORN HAIR!?"
They looked up to see Wendy, Grenda, and Candy as well; all equally covered in sparkly rainbow fluids. "Um. . . no one said anything."
"Oh well, that would have been perfect if you did. Anyway we got the hair. And they gave us all this money to make us leave!" Grenda dumped a pile of treasure on the table.
"Along with what looks like snot and tears and, I think blood. How hard were you hitting them?" The voice came suddenly, sending them all jumping; Ford almost fell out of his chair. That was met with laughter as Stan ran passed, grabbing as much of the gold as he could screaming, "MONEY!"
"DANNY! Check out these hoof-bruises!." Mabel darted to the doorway, where Danny had just appeared. He sat and listened to her story, oohing and aahing as needed. All the while carefully avoiding making eye contact with the other person at the table.
Ford didn't mind, he hadn't quite managed to put an apology together. For that matter how do you apologize to one of the most deadly creatures to ever be spawned by the Other? He doubted a sorry would cut it.
Outside, Ford groaned. He wanted to get started on the circle ASAP, but Danny wouldn't let anyone do anything until all four girls were clean, and for him that meant tongue baths. Even Wendy submitted to one. Dipper almost wished he'd gone with them. His face went red at the thought and he shook his head so hard he nearly fell down.
When Danny was satisfied with his work he let them go. Grenda and Candy went home, escorted by Wendy. Dipper and Mabel stayed outside to help Ford put down the unicorn hair. They all followed him around the shack; Danny casting a critical eye at the runes Ford put down before gluing the hair on.
Ford glued the last of the hair on and stepped back to admire his work. Except nothing happened. Ford scratched his head. What was wrong? They had done everything right but the circle wasn't active. Then he felt Danny stop beside him, cold air pouring off him as he squinted at the runes. Ford took an instinctive step back as he raised a hand, claw pointing down at the runes.
"These two runes are in the wrong order, and that one's upside down. This one here is the wrong shape."
Ford leaned down to get a better look and found that, yes, he had messed up on the runes in question. He peeled off the hair and re-marked the runes indicated. "Anything else?"
"If you're sincere in wanting to apologize then meet me at the broken railroad tracks. Left cliff. I'll listen to what you have to say then. Come whenever you get the spine to." He started to leave, then stopped; tossing one more comment over his shoulder. "By the way, you really shouldn't mix the elder and younger futhark like that; there's too much crossover in the runes."
With that Danny walked away, stopping by Dipper to say something; he didn't hear what. Ford watched him go, taken aback by the sudden change of subject. Absently, Ford scooped up the remaining hair and headed inside to continue working on his project; a special gift for Bill Cipher. As he hefted the metal mass up, however, something else came to mind. "The train tracks? I thought his den was here. Just how big is his territory?"
Ford woke the next morning to pain in his back and shoulders; he was still at his workbench. He must have fallen asleep there. A grunt of pain greeted him as he stood and forcing his back straight didn't help it at all. He shuffled upstairs, hunched over, and found his brother fixing pancakes. Both twins were seated at the table, Mabel pouring a towering glass of something purple and full of glitter and what looked like plastic dinosaurs while Dipper watched with a grossed out expression. Stan saw him out of the corner of his eye. "You're starting to look like me in the mornings. Sleeping down there ain't good for you, take it from me."
He just grunted at that, sitting down with a groan. Mabel pushed the pitcher of juice towards him. "Some Mabel Juice will fix those aches!"
Dipper waved his hand across his throat frantically, making negative noises. Ford politely turned the offer down on seeing that. Breakfast passed just a little awkwardly. Stan and Ford avoided eye contact while Dipper and Mabel discussed the day's plans. Apparently the beavers on the lake had broken their chainsaw trying to cut stones so they were getting them a new one. Mabel suggested they go to the hardware store and get them a stone cutter too but Dipper said they didn't have a way to pay for it. At that Danny popped in from seemingly nowhere to say he'd squirreled away some of the gold Mabel had gotten from the unicorns.
Now that they had a way to get them they decided to go to the hardware store for the chainsaw as well. Danny went with them, much to Ford's relief. Since yesterday he had been unable to forget the feverish chill that radiated from him, like standing in winter lightning storm. Between that persistent feeling and the coming confrontation with him, one he found himself dreading more than Cipher almost, it was impossible to work on his project.
He watched through the kitchen window as the twins climbed on Danny and all three vanished as he went invisible; only the kicked up dirt marking the phantasm's path. Even though he had accepted that Danny was no threat to the family he had seen no concessions made for the rest of the town.
He had to know.
Which was how he found himself trailing several feet behind the trio, ducking behind whatever was convenient at the time, with his journal and pen in hand. The invisibility had apparently only been used to get by the packs of tourists; coming to see "The Mysterious Sphinx! Straight from (and here the words of the sign were scribbled over, adding to the illusion)! Here for a limited time only!"
Of course it wasn't true but, folks would pay out the nose for anything they thought was exclusive. Yet, the people of Gravity Falls didn't bat an eye as the odd trio made their way through town. Looking closer, Ford realized that was because they weren't actually seeing Danny. He brought out a small pair of binoculars (specially invented by him) for a closer look. It was true. Even when someone looked straight at him their attention was somehow always just past him too. He could see a faint shimmer surrounding him, one that seemed to be responsible for the redirection. Yet it also appeared to be altering space around him. A knot of people were suddenly moving in different directions, tight pathways bent back to let him through. It was as if reality itself rearranged itself to make room; as though it were less important.
Ford continued to follow them as the twins went in the store and then down to the lake. Instead of carrying the twins across though, Danny and Dipper stood to the side while Mabel made weird sounds and threw meat in the water. He started writing frantically as the monster surfaced. Then stopped in confusion when it burbled at them all and licked Danny, tongue getting stuck on him for a moment. The twins climbed on the monster while Danny glided along beside them.
Standing on the shore, Ford nearly dropped his journal in awe. In all his years in Gravity Falls he had never, ever seen its inhabitants interact in such a peaceful manner. Was this Danny's doing or Dipper and Mabel? Dipper had written about befriending some of the creatures here but this was leagues beyond that. It almost seemed. . . tame. He shook his head. That was impossible. The things here were too different to be understood by mere humans. But maybe, just maybe, Dipper was no mere human? Bill had already shown a draw towards him. Perhaps they were similar?
Maybe he could ask him for help with that.
For now, he continued his observations on the trio. They stayed on the island for nearly an hour, making sure the beavers knew which tool to use on what and taking the time for lunch. It was during this time that, through his binoculars, Ford saw Danny curled around his great grand nephew; nuzzling into his lap. Dipper was clearly flustered by this but let his hand rest against the others upper back. Mabel discreetly finished her sandwich and wandered off with a disposable camera in hand, just in case.
Adjusting the filters on his binoculars showed Ford that Danny was drawing something from Dipper. At first he believed it to be his life-force and nearly ran into the lake. On closer inspection he instead saw it was some sort of energy that Dipper was putting off. 'Some kind of emotion based feeding?'
It flew in the face of everything he knew, everything he'd been told, about phantasms. They fed on the flickers of ectoplasmic life; things without brains or feeling. Stupid little things that sometimes got lucky and evolved. "Why? What makes him so different? Was it how he developed? Or something else perhaps."
He paced on the shore, not caring if he was seen; too consumed by this new mystery and what it meant for all the things he learned. "Tonight. I'll get my answers on the cliff."
He just hoped he wouldn't regret his decision.
Chapter 35: In which Danny gets his apology
Danny had known they were being followed the entire day, but as long as the dimension hopper made no move to harm him or his friends he didn't care. He could creep on them to his heart's content.
Now he was watching him pace the shore, he couldn't hear what was being said, and he was too comfy where he was to bother moving. Still, he could tell when Ford finally worked up the nerve to head to the cliffs. He yawned and stretched, lazily grooming his wings. He told Dipper what he was going to do and they went to collect Mabel.
They found her on the far shore playing with a pelican. As soon as she saw them she grabbed its lower bill. "Hey, fellas! Good to see you again. I got some new jokes for you, wanna hear 'em? Yeah you do."
Dipper groaned and dragged his hand down his face. Before Mabel could start Danny snapped at the pelican and scared it off. "Aww, I had some really good ones too. You're a butt, Danny."
He smiled. "The biggest butt. But I have something I need to take care of so I want to make sure you two get back alright before I go. Things have been pretty antsy out here lately and I didn't want anything taking a panic swing at you guys."
There was a lot of groaning but the twins did climb on. To quiet the complaining, Danny engaged in some gentle aerial stunts. It worked wonders in changing their moods, like always. There were few things that couldn't be solved with a nice ride, he found. Even when he was young nothing had calmed him like a car ride, no matter how crazily his parents drove.
He slipped through the barrier, feeling it buzz faintly against his skin. 'That actually feels kind of nice.' When they were in he dropped them off in their room, taking a second to nuzzle Waddles and Cujo who, as always, were napping in the noonday sun. He hugged the twins (Mabel never let him go anywhere without one) and hopped on the window sill, playfully flicking Dipper's neck with his tail. 'He never did get another hat, did he?'
Oh yes, Danny knew about Dipper's crush. When you could see auras and feelings it was hard to keep secrets. Though his aura was so obscured with anxiety, paranoia and all the wonderful things that come with puberty it took him awhile to figure it out. Once he did he responded by teasing. Joking around was what he did. More accurately; it was what he did to cover his own insecurities. His last few tries at a relationship had ended badly, to put it lightly. With so much change happening so quickly he had no idea how to keep himself steady, let alone another person.
So Danny would tease him; just until he got his own emotions in line. Who knows? Maybe he could help Dipper with his own issues along the way. And if Dipper opened up first he certainly wasn't going to reject him. The two had spent so much time together already he would have been more surprised if something hadn't developed.
Yes. Danny knew all this. And it wouldn't be a stretch to say he shared those feelings.
But feelings could be discussed at any time. He had something more pressing matters to attend to. Things involving a certain so called researcher.
It was midafternoon when Danny arrived at the cliffs, soaring high above them to see if Ford had arrived yet. With no sign of the man he glided down to the right side cliff and perched in the trees; using a brief blast of ice to firm up his chosen branches. From here he proceeded to oversee the area, searching for anything or anyone that might interrupt this important meeting. Seeing nothing, he settled himself on his perch and dozed; not knowing when Ford would arrive.
He woke an hour later to the rather unpleasant feeling of ice crackling down his back. Someone was here. He shifted the ice off carefully, wincing as it crashed down. The person flinched at the sound, swinging something towards him. He felt his hackles rising as he went invisible and lifted off. In the air he saw it was Ford, making his own preparations it seemed. The older man was setting down a protective circle. To keep him out? He snorted.
'If he wants to make a play let's see it.'
Danny folded his wings back and power dived, snapping them out and shooting over Ford's head at the last possible second. The move sent a fine layer of powdery snow forming on the cliff. Ford shook himself and looked at the circle, breathing a sigh of relief that it was untouched. He crouched down and started making the second ring when Danny rushed him again, this time snagging the collar of his coat and phasing it off him. Then he cooled the air rapidly, until Ford was visibly shivering. But he still stayed.
'So at least you're determined, if paranoid.'
Satisfied that Ford wasn't going to run off he stopped playing with him. He stayed invisible and crept up to him, snatching the small pistol off him before he could step in the circle.
He watched Ford take a deep breath and shout. "Alright, Danny! I'm here so enough of your games and let's just talk!"
He appeared just a foot away, making him jump visibly. From one claw he dangled the pistol; whiffs of blood blossom nectar leaking from the barrel. He tsked loudly, tossing the gun behind him and slashing it in half with his tail. The nectar burned him briefly as it dripped off.
"Naughty, naughty, Stanford. I do believe I said no weapons. How am I to trust anything you say now?"
He stalked slow circles around him, like a lion judging a catch. Then turned his back on him to leap up to the plateau above, where he could sit sphinx-like and observe. He crossed his paws and glared at him. Ford stayed firmly inside the circle.
"Can you blame me for being cautious?"
"I can't blame you, no. But there's a difference between caution and blind paranoia. Guess which one you are."
"Exactly. Caution would be the circle. Paranoia demands a weapon, even though you've clearly seen how little threat I am; not just to the family but to the people here. And yes, I knew you were following. It's hard to miss someone dressed like you."
Ford was getting the distinct feeling he was being scolded. He opened his mouth to defend himself but was cut off.
"Shush. I don't know what happened to you in those thirty years you were gone. I can't claim to know what you saw or what you went through. While I'm sure those experiences justified your current reasoning, now it will just get you in trouble. The world changes; sometimes faster than we can keep up with. So we build up walls to keep the things we're comfortable with close to us. Then something comes along that tears all that away and all you can do is react with violence. Maybe that's the right move and maybe it isn't but if you continue to act on past experience not only will you drive away the one's trying to help you, you may end up killing the one person who could truly help you."
Ford tried to keep his eye on him but found it difficult. Staring directly at him made his head go fuzzy and his eyes sting. He was forced to look away, like a child caught sneaking cookies. He felt like one too.
"Stanley is doing his best to try and help you, even now. If you really want to complete your goals and destroy Bill I suggest opening yourself up and getting to know those around you better. It may come in handy sometime. Because no matter how many walls and shields you put up. . ."
Danny leaped down and breathed a gust of ice through the circle, pushing Ford out of it. He gasped.
"But the circle. How did you?"
"I told you before didn't I? Your work is sloppy." He leaned in close, so close Ford could have counted each and every fang, and. . .
"There will always be someone who can break through. In the most surprising ways at times."
Ford stumbled back and dropped on his rump. This had not been how he thought it would go. He'd been expecting a fight of some sort, hence the gun, not scolding and teasing in equal measure. He was rather stunned by the whole thing. Hell, he had shot him! Aimed to kill if possible. And after all that, how does Danny react? By critiquing his rune work and stealing his coat! Speaking of which.
He looked around to find it and saw it dangling in Danny's jaws. Danny shook it lightly, bowing down and wagging his tail. He chuffed at Ford and hopped away when the other made a grab for his coat. Every time Ford went for him he dodged away. Eventually Danny managed to rope him into a game of chase. They careened about the cliff, sliding in the light powder, for the better part of the afternoon.
Finally, with the sun setting, Ford collapsed in the snow, panting and laughing. Danny trotted to him and dropped the much sought after coat directly on his face, making him laugh that much harder. Laying on the ground, Ford was utterly amazed at how easily the phantasm had changed his view of him. In the span of a few hours he had truly proven his character. And that character was someone Ford would trust to have his back.
Once he managed to catch his breath he sat up. "Say Danny, would you be willing to answer a few questions?"
"If I can. I'm still learning this whole thing too, you know."
'He was, huh? So that's why he was so all over the place in behavior.'
"Alright. What makes you so different from other phantasms. I know you're an endigo but that's it."
That was answered with a sigh. "Had to pick that one, huh? Truth is I don't know. Endigo are rare, even among phantasms. I only just learned both existed at all a little while ago. Not even ghosts know much about them. Apparently I'm the first in, what, a thousand years or so? Sorry."
While Ford put his coat on he tried another question. "What about feeding? I mean, I saw you eating something from Dipper."
"I taught myself that. Since no one knows what an endigo really does, beyond the whole "eating ghosts" thing, I decided to just do my own thing. Found out that auras aren't some mystical soul indicator; they're a combination of energies humans create as they feel different emotions. I also found out that if I completely drain one source the human stops feeling that particular emotion. For a little while, at least."
"Interesting. So what have you been doing with that?"
He shrugged. "Mostly keeping Dipper calm. He's been going high to low faster than a rubber ball in a bounce house these last few weeks. Get him too fired up and he just pukes."
Come to think of it the boy had looked pretty nauseous when he'd first stepped through the portal. It sounded like a full time job, in his opinion. But now that he knew this he couldn't resist asking. "So, what do emotions taste like?"
This got him a good belly laugh from Danny. "It would take me way too long to list them all so let's just say the good ones taste good and bad ones taste bad."
"How about me? What do I taste like?" And boy wasn't that the weirdest question he'd ever asked.
"Mostly black licorice and cinnamon. Make of that what you will." He trotted to the edge and looked out over Falls, grinning. "Anything else you want to know?"
"How big is your territory exactly?"
With a flick of his wings he was hovering just a few feet above him, arms spread. He put on noble voice and said with a grin. "Everything the light touches is my domain. And what it doesn't touch too. So basically all of it."
Oh that. . . that was a lot of space. He had severely underestimated the size. And knowing that size equaled power meant he was very glad they were getting on better terms now. Danny let out a misty breath, like a cigarette smoker, then dropped to hover in front of him. "Think we should get back before they come looking for our bodies? Seeing as you've gotten your answers."
"Certainly. Incoming!" Ford took a running leap off the cliff; Danny laughed aloud and dived for him, catching his hands in his feet and carrying him off towards the shack. Ford took the time to enjoy the feeling of the wind as well as the wonderful view of the Falls. Something seemed off however. A look down showed him just what. The forest was silent; none of the usual creatures were out and about. He tugged on Danny's foot to get his attention.
Danny slowed to a stop and passed Ford up to his hands. "What's up?"
He directed his attention down. "Is the forest usually this quiet now?"
"No. Things have been like this for the last few days. Since the portal activated actually."
The two of them looked at each other for a second; then Danny tossed Ford on his back and dove down, skimming the tree line. It looked like most of the creatures were hiding; those that weren't were too small and stupid to really tell anything was different.
Danny glided down and loped to a stop, ears standing straight; almost trembling in their bid to catch any sound. He felt Ford lay close to his back, whispering to him. "This doesn't seem right. If the portal caused this then I need to get back to it as soon as possible."
He nodded. "In a jiffy. Watch this."
He whirled around and slashed open a portal. Unlike the others, this one did not lead to the ghost zone, but to the stairwell. He hopped through and let Ford off. "I can't open one straight to the lab, too well protected. I'll leave you to it. Hope you find something."
With that he left, concern on his face as he went back through the portal to patrol his territory. Filled with a desperate hope the strangeness was something he could fight.
High above the shack a single eye watched. The shack was impenetrable now, a perfect haven. At least for anyone inside it. A dark laugh filled the air as images of the town's populace flashed through the eye.
Chapter 36: In which Dipper finds himself torn but still makes a choice
A.K.A. Dipper is blinded by pride and makes a terrible decision
Dipper was awake. This was not unusual. Since his return from the ghost zone he'd found it difficult to sleep. He spent most of the time collecting the information he'd gathered while there, but the rest was filled with concern for Danny, and for both Stans. The air in the shack was still tense, though less so than when he'd first come back.
Though he had told Mabel most of what happened to him while in the Zone, he'd neglected to mention one thing, something he didn't tell Danny either. Somehow he'd gained the ability to sense Danny's location. Through that he knew the phantasm had spent the entire night out in the woods. To his frustration he couldn't sense why Danny was out there, just that he was. At least he didn't seem to be hurt, just stressed.
He was still awake when the sun started peeking through the window; when the soft knock came at the door. Ford was on the other side. He put a finger to his lips and motioned for Dipper to follow him so they wouldn't wake Mabel. Ford led the way down to the lab where he told Dipper to wait while he got something. Dipper wasn't sure what he was expecting, but a small orb holding what looked like a tiny galaxy wasn't that far off. "What is that?"
"Your friend and I spoke last night, wound up getting along quite well. While he was bringing me back we noticed the lack of activity in the area. He said it might be the portal so I came in here to look and I found this. A piece of the rift. I managed to contain it with this but it's already breaking."
"Wait, how is it doing that so soon? This ball looks pretty tough." An edge of nervousness crept into his voice.
"The portal's activation was extremely powerful this time; leave it to Stanley to go overboard. Bill wants this. He can use the rift's power to tear open a hole to his own dimension and physically enter this one. And if he does it'll bring about an event known as Weirdmaggedon. That event will cause all of reality to unravel at the seams!"
"H-how do we stop it?" Panic was joining in now, making his voice crack.
"Calm down. It can be repaired, but we need to move quickly."
Now he was panicking. What if they didn't repair it fast enough? What if Bill managed to get the rift anyway?
"What about Mabel? And Danny?" Should they get them, or Danny at least? Danny knew about portals, maybe he could seal it up before it cracked more.
"It's okay, Dipper. You should totally go with Grunkle Ford to save the world or whatever."
Dipper yelped and spun around. Neither of them had seen her get up or come downstairs.
"Are you sure?"
"It's fine, bro-bro! Besides, I've got a busy day planning our super special 13th birthday bash!"
"How could I forget our birthday? Mabel I'll come with you!"
Ford coughed. "Did I mention the fate of the universe is at stake here?"
Mabel handed Dipper a backpack. "No way, Dipper! I got a big surprise in store for you so this is perfect timing! Plus, I packed walkie talkies! So we can talk to each other. And a camera; make sure you take lots of pictures."
Dipper tested the walkie-talkie a few times then smiled at his sister. They hugged and Mabel dashed back out. Ford followed after her and Dipper went last, bumping into the wall from giddiness.
'Ford and Danny made friends and I get to go on a secret mission with him! This is awesome!'
Danny followed Ford to the base of the cliffs, a light snow dusted dusted the trees and ground all around them; a sign of Danny's effect on the place. His walkie-talkie crackled and spit. He pressed it close to his ear but couldn't figure out what his sister was saying. "Sorry Mabel, I'm in a bad patch. I'll try and contact you later."
The two of them slid down a path that brought them to a patch of land in front of the cliffs, sitting perfectly in the middle of them. He tried to get ahold of Mabel but only got more static.
"Alright, Dipper. Listen up. To seal that rift permanently is going to take an adhesive stronger than anything on earth. Something, extraterrestrial in origin."
"What do you mean?"
He pointed toward the empty space between the cliffs. "Take a look at the shape they make. Does it remind you of anything?"
Dipper tried to see the shape but just wasn't getting it; until Ford pulled out a UFO keychain and held it just right in front of him. He gasped. "Shut. Up. No way!"
"According to my research, the entire valley of Gravity Falls was formed when an extraterrestrial object crash-landed here millions of years ago. Is the craft the reason this town is so strange or was the town strange before the craft crashed?"
"So where did the saucer go? It couldn't have just vanished." He paused. "Right?"
"Sometimes the strangest things in the world are right under our noses." Ford heaved a large stone away, revealing a metal hatch just poking out of the dirt. "Or our feet in this case."
He let Dipper gape at it for a few seconds, reveling in the awe and respect he was being given. Then he pulled out a bulbous looking gun with three tangs instead of a muzzle. "Stand back. I've seen this magnet gun tear out a man's fillings from 100 feet. Very messy. Also very expensive."
Dipper scrambled back with his hands over his mouth, just to be safe. Ford activated the gun and pulled away the hatch with ease. The hatch dropped with a heavy thunk as Ford quickly climbed inside. "I used to raid this thing for parts all time. It's how I got most of the materials for the portal, in fact."
Just barely containing his excitement, Dipper followed him down. He was almost dizzy looking at everything around him. But he was drawn especially to the writing on nearly every surface. It looked familiar to him but he couldn't place why. It almost looked like something he'd heard spoken before. He took a picture to cross reference later.
"The adhesive is strong enough to seal the hull of a spacecraft together so it'll be just the thing to fix the rift. Also, if it touches you it'll seal every orifice in your face so try to avoid that. Now hold on tight!"
Ford grabbed him and used the magnet gun to stick to an enormous pillar, riding it down with wild abandon. If he was asked later, Dipper would deny screaming like a little girl on the way down. The walkie-talkie crackled again, but all he caught was a faint hiss. "-going down in flames. Over."
She sounded depressed.
Further below ground Ford inspected the walls closely for loose patches they could gather adhesive from. Dipper did the same.
"Dipper, let me ask you something. Have you thought much about your future?"
Dipper shrugged. "Beyond graduating high school with a photography major and maybe a degree in folklore or something, then getting into paranormal studies. Since the people involved now are way too torch and pitchfork to get any data that's not completely biased. I've already started on that last bit with my notes on Danny. Heck, if I get enough I may even publish it!"
"It's like talking to a younger version of myself. If you're so sure of what you want out of life, why wait? Why put up with the stress and mess of school?"
"Trust me, I'd love to fast-forward the whole thing, but it's not like I have a choice. I'm just a kid."
"Dipper, I've been thinking. I'm getting too old to investigate Gravity Falls, let alone the world's mysteries. I need someone I know understands these things; someone to carry on where I'll leave off."
Dipper tilted his head with a quizzical sound, something he'd picked up from Danny. Ford stopped beside him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"I've read your additions to my journal and I'm honestly impressed with your potential. What would you say to staying in Gravity Falls after the summer ends and becoming my apprentice?"
"Wait, wait. What about school? My parents?"
Ford gave him a flat look. "Dipper, I have 12 PhDs. Your parents would be thrilled I could give you such an advanced education."
"There's also Mabel. She'd be all alone in California." He sighed and looked over his shoulder at his bag. 'Not that I'm keeping her much company now.'
He scoffed, waving it off. "Mabel will be fine on her own. I watched her become pen pals with the pizza delivery man in the 60 seconds he was at the door. Impressive, actually."
"But we've never been apart before. Especially for this long."
"And isn't it suffocating? Dipper, can you honestly tell me you never felt like you were meant for something more?" The hand gripped tighter as Ford knelt down to look him in the eyes.
"It sounds amazing. Really it does. But I need her. She keeps me from jumping to wild conclusions; keeps me grounded."
Ford wasn't about to give up however, and went for the gut. "You'd be able to stay near Danny. I've seen how close you two are."
That made Dipper stop and think. Being able to see Danny whenever would be nice. And being here? Maybe he'd be able to work up the nerve to tell him! It sounded like a dream come true, to be honest. But still. . . Mabel.
He groaned and kicked at the wall, yelping in pain. The panel fell away and Ford caught sight of a pinkish goo dripping down the back. "Dipper you found the adhesive! Great work!"
They took a quick photo together then swiftly made their way out of the downed craft. Dipper felt proud of himself, really and truly. Outside they saw Danny swoop through the trees, skimming the ground close enough to snag Dipper for a quick hug and hair ruffle. Ford pointed at him as he flew off; both watching him slip through a portal. "That's exactly what I mean. How many twelve year olds can say they've befriended a phantasm? And not only that, an endigo phantasm? The very creature said to be responsible for such legends as elementals, dragons and sphinx, and, of course, the infamous Wendigo. And you're friends with him! Not just friends either; he clearly has a great deal of attachment to you."
Dipper blushed happily.
For Mabel things weren't so cheerful. She sat on the floor looking over her summer scrapbook. Her breath hitched as she struggled to hold back tears. Everything was going wrong today, it seemed. She heard the door creak open and the pop of a soda can.
"Hey, sweetie, everything okay up here?" Grunkle Stan sat down beside her.
"I can't believe summer's almost over. And now that I've seen how awful it is, I'm in no hurry to start high school."
Grunkle Stan gave her a one armed hug. "No one's likes getting older. But just because you grow old doesn't mean you have to grow up, you know? I mean look at me! Seventy years old and still eating ice cream for dinner!"He raised the can in a self toast.
She sniffled, wiping her nose on her sleeve. "But I don't wanna say goodbye to Gravity Falls, or you."
"Hey, at least whatever happens after this summer, you'll still have your brother along with you through thick and thin. Not everyone can say that, you know." He gave her a playful noogie and left, gently shutting the door behind him.
"He's right. I've still got Dipper." She looked to the photo of them from the beginning of summer. "Good, reliable old Dipper."
She didn't hear her walkie-talkie crackle to life.
The two of them had made it halfway home when Ford stopped them for a rest. He quietly cursed his old bones for getting tired so easily. Dipper dutifully stood with him, shifting the bag to make sure the rift was still there. Ford smiled and gestured to the area around them.
"Dipper: this town is a magnet for things that are special. And that includes you and me. It brought both of us here for a purpose! Stay here with me, Dipper. Become my apprentice."
He nodded and took Ford's hand. "I'll do it. I'll stay."
"Excellent. Now who wants to save the world, apprentice?"
The walkie talkie warbled and snapped in his bag.
When they returned to the shack, the two went their separate ways to give Ford time to prepare the adhesive. Dipper ran up the stairs and burst into the room, cheeks glowing with pride and happiness. "Mabel! I just had the best day of my life! UFOs are real and there's one under the town and, what's wrong?"
Mabel lay face down on the bed, not moving. Her voice came muffled through the pillow. "It's not true, you were just joking, right Dipper?"
She suddenly sat up and grabbed the walkie talkie on the bedside table; angrily thrusting it in his face. "Ford's apprentice? Seriously? Before you didn't even trust him! What makes it all so differently suddenly?"
"It's a huge opportunity for me, Mabel. I'll get to work on my own book and stay with Danny!"
"Is that all you want, Dipper! You spend so much time thinking about him that you'd forget your own sister?! I just had the worst day of my life! When we turn thirteen, the summer ends, and I have to leave everything behind. You're the only person I can count on and now you're leaving me too!?"
"We'll make it work, Mabes. I promise." He reached out to comfort her. She slapped his hand away.
"I don't want to make it work! I just wish summer would last forever." She sobbed aloud, tears pouring down her cheeks. She shoved him aside and grabbed the closest bag, running outside without looking back.
"Mabel, wait! What have I done?"
sometimes you have to use the episode dialogue. Sometimes it's better than anything you could come up with. At least that's true for me.
Chapter 37: Final Interlude
Here we are, the final look at Jazz and Vlad. Their storyline connects to the main one with the madness already in progress.
This one wound up being shorter than I thought. But it works out thematically so that's fine.
It was finally time. After all the heartache and stress, it was time. They found Danny and were going to bring him home. Jazz's hands trembled the entire day as they made final preparations. There were no portals, natural or otherwise, that led to Gravity Falls, so they were forced to travel overland to reach it. Vlad wanted to avoid drawing attention as well, being who he was, and chose instead to pack everything into an unremarkable white SUV; although he did make a few "adjustments" to the engine.
Quick, subtle, and unlikely to make a splash in any location. It was the perfect means to get into a tourist trap town. All they needed to do was leave. And for Jazz that couldn't happen soon enough.
"Jasmine I'm getting tired just watching you; do sit down." She didn't even realize she'd been pacing until Vlad's voice reached her from the porch. She immediately dropped onto the nearest chair and collapsed with a trembling sigh.
"I'm sorry. We're just so close that it's almost impossible to wait!"
He nodded and patted her shoulder; a gesture of silent agreement. "I understand your haste, Jasmine. This has been a long time coming. If it would help we can leave tonight?"
"If you're up to it."
He laughed. "I only look like an old man, Jasmine. Grab anything else you want to bring. I'll be in the car."
Vlad didn't have a lead foot like Jack did, but that didn't keep him from driving as fast as possible on the empty roads. Jasmine's adrenaline had called it quits on her a couple hours in and she passed out in the passenger seat. The drive would be demanding for certain but Vlad knew more than a few shortcuts to speed things up. If those shortcuts still worked, and nobody tried to stop him, they would be there by tomorrow morning.
Luck was not on their side, it seemed. Only a few of Vlad's shortcuts were working, and with the occasional pit stop for food and breaks, it was nearing dusk when they arrived in town. He and Jazz had swapped places to let him get some rest. So when Jazz spotted the cheery 'Welcome to Gravity Falls' sign she had to shake him awake. The two of them quickly set about finding a place to eat for dinner. It was only when they pulled up in front of Greasy's diner that they noticed just what was happening.
The diner was closed; its owner chasing a swarm of flying eyeballs with a broom. The two of them pulled away and drove into Gravity Fall's itself, only to find more chaos. It looked like dinner was going to have to wait as the entire town seemed to be in a crisis. People ran screaming from more flying eyeballs. Colorful bubbles drifted ominously down the streets. And over it all the sky was turning an unnatural shade of orange accompanied by manic, echoing laughter.
"Well, this isn't good." Vlad remarked.
As the words left his mouth something landed on the car, digging in foot long claws and taking off with it. They didn't have a chance to see what before it delivered them to the nearest building. Via airmail.
Mabel rocked herself as she pressed against the trunk of a tree, sweater pulled as far over her head as she could get it. She blindly dragged her backpack to her and dug through it. "Only party candy can cheer me up now. Wait."
Her head popped free from her sweater as she pulled out a pile of notebooks and pens. She groaned; pulling her sweater back up. "Wrong backpack. Not fair. I just wish summer would last forever."
"That might be possible." A voice called from the bushes. Mabel sat up and peeked out. She couldn't see anyone and tucked herself closer to the tree. "Sweater town is not accepting incoming calls, try again later."
The bushes rustled and Blendin appeared, fiddling with his camouflage watch, as always. He smiled at her in a too friendly manner. "It's just me and I-I can help. You said you didn't want summer to end right?"
"Yeah, why?" She gave a suspicious glare.
"Well it's k-kind of against the rules but you guys really helped me out so. . ." He chuckled nervously. "It's this thing called a time bubble. It freezes time wherever you put it. With one around Gravity Falls summer would last as long as you want it too!"
This got her attention. Mabel wiped her face in her sleeve; a tiny smile forming. "How's it work?"
Blendin made his watch display a hologram of a small ball; it looked like a galaxy was inside it. "It just needs this little thing from your uncle. It's so small he won't even know it's gone."
"I saw uncle Ford with that today. Maybe he gave it to Dipper." She rifled through the backpack again; her hand brushing cold glass. She pulled it out. "That's it, right?"
"Yes that's it! Now hand it over and just I'll do my thing. Unless. . . you want to leave Gravity Falls after all?"
She hesitated, staring into the rift. She nearly put it back, but then her brother's words played back in her mind. She frowned and gave Blendin the rift. "Just a little more summer."
Yellow eyes flashed, hidden behind reflective goggles.
(In the lab)
Dipper took the stairs in twos, nearly falling a few times. This was it. The rift would be repaired and they'd never have to worry about it again; he was staying in Gravity Falls with his great uncles AND Danny. Nothing could be better!
His foot caught on the last stair and he tripped. Ford caught him before he could fall; though it still knocked the wind out of him for a second. "Easy there, Dipper. I know it's not every day you save all of reality but you don't need to knock yourself out doing it!"
He rambled out an apology and practically skipped after him. Ford brought him to his workbench where a complex series of glass-work was set up. The adhesive sat in a small flask on the far left, hooked to the rest and suspended over a Bunsen burner. Ford had been sending it through the maze of glass repeatedly to make the gunk more managable.
"Alright Dipper, the adhesive's ready. Now just hand me the rift and let's seal this baby up."
Dipper nodded and reached in his bag. Confusion replaced joy as his hand fell on a piece of paper. He pulled it out with growing worry. "A birthday flyer? Then Mabel. . ."
"THE RIFT!" They both cried in disbelief.
"WHOOPS!" Blendin laughed manically as he dropped the rift, stomping on it and shattering the glass orb. He ripped off his goggles and fixed those, painfully familiar, yellow eyes on Mabel's distraught face. It was too late to stop now, and she knew it.
"Finally! At long, long last! The gateway between worlds has opened! The event one billion years prophesied has finally come to pass! The day has come! The world is finally mine!"
The laughter echoed as Bill peeled himself from poor Blendin, the time-traveler falling unconscious in the dirt. Bill rose higher and higher as his laughter did the same. He snapped his fingers and Mabel dropped as well before being caught in a bubble the same color of her shooting-star sweater. Chains and locks surrounded it as Bill carried it away with him. Up above the sky split open in an impossible fashion, the cross shaped tear super-imposed over the clouds.
A howling gale swept through the town, sending the people scattering in fear. Ford and Dipper ran outside. "Uncle Ford, what's happening? What is that thing?"
"We're too late, Dipper! Weirdmaggedon's coming!"
Decided to post two this time since the chapters were a little short.
Chapter 39: In which things get weird
when the world goes mad, sometimes the best response is to go insane yourself. AKA Danny goes feral round 2
It had been nice surprise to find nothing wrong in his territory. The creatures were merely still adjusting to his presence. A few claimed something bad was coming but, as they were mostly gnomes, he ignored them. The gnomes hated him anyways. After a brief fly over where he saw Dipper and gave him a midflight hug, he decided to head to the zone and see if anything needed to be done there.
Things were quiet here too; a welcome change indeed. Danny flew freely without the weak pull of gravity on him. He closed his eyes and navigated purely by the pulses of aether passing over him. Never in all his time would he ever be able to describe the sight of it to someone; it was the closest he could get to seeing the true appearance of the rift, and he reveled in it.
Staring at the rift in this way was calming. There were no lairs or ghosts to distract him, just blackness studded with points of light in colors he could have never imagined, a gentle current washed over him with every pulse he rode; like a dolphin in the surf. He opened his eyes and rolled to his back, looking down his body to watch his tail flick in the nonexistant current. His gaze fell to the tiny spots Mabel pointed out. Dipper had compared them to a shark's sensory pits, and they did seem to work the same way.
The pits were particularly sensitive at this moment, the energy in the zone setting lines of electricity racing down his sides. Yet no matter which way he looked he could neither see or sense anything. It was like something had unsettled the dimension itself; forcing it to shift and roil like a sleeping dog.
Judging from what he felt however, that dog would not be asleep much longer. And if this was as big as it seemed to be he needed to find a place to ride it out. Fast.
Thankfully, he spotted a small alcove secured to a much larger isle. The isle was static, unaffected by even the harshest current. It would be perfect. So Danny flew down to it and crawled to the back; pressing himself as close to the wall as he could. As an afterthought he sprayed sleet on the entrance, freezing it over for added safety.
Then he waited. And waited.
He waited for so long that he dozed off.
Which, of course, is when it started.
The first Danny knew of the rip was feeling the veil fall to tatters; something in reality rending it to pieces. The rift felt the effects soon after; the entirety of the Ghost Zone tumbling out into the living world in a chaotic jumble. He went with, swept along in the flood before he could understand what was happening. He rolled to a stop and jumped upright. Ghosts were fleeing in all directions and the town was burning. He watched the Paul Bunyan statue stomp across the square before its top half was bitten off by an animated water tower.
Then he saw Bill. He snarled and launched into the air determined to chase him down. Blinded by anger and confused as he was he didn't see the bright pink bubble until it had engulfed him.
And then it was too late. His vision went dark and so did his mind. The last thing he heard was Bill's taunting voice.
'Surrender to madness.'
Ford and Dipper watched in terrified awe as Bill constructed his world. They had joined the small crowd in the square to see it; as though summoned to watch their end. Dipper, desperate to look anywhere but the demon, was the sole witness to the Ghost Zone's arrival. He was the only one who felt the howl of the spirits set free on the world.
Ford tried to get his attention; to get them both away from there, but to no avail. Ford couldn't see the ghosts, and so didn't understand why Dipper suddenly looked so concerned. He grabbed his distraught nephew and dragged him away from the epicenter of it all. They ducked behind a stack of boards in an alley, crouching further when an eyeball bat zipped by, petrifying bystanders like an anteater slurping ants.
Ford gripped Dipper by the arms, finally snapping him out of his fugue. "The rift is shattered. Bill's world is spilling into ours and every minute his powers grow stronger."
"It's not just his world, Uncle Ford. I saw ghosts coming through too. And Mabel! The rift must have cracked inside her backpack. She must be in danger. I have to go find her!" He grabbed the walkie-talkie from his bag and started running, trying frantically to get a response from it. Ford snagged his collar and yanked him back.
"Dipper. Listen to me. We can find your sister soon, but first we have to stop Bill. If we can blast him back through the rift he came out of, we just might be able to stop him before his weirdness spreads across the entire globe."
"Is that even possible?"
"I'm not sure. But being a hero means fighting back even when it seems impossible. Will you follow me?"
Dipper nodded. He closed his eyes and took a second to calm down. "To the ends of the Earth."
"Good. Because that's where we're heading"
They ran down the street, headed for the church, ducking inside to avoid the period waves of weirdness washing across the town. Every wave tearing reality just a little more; leaving people and things transformed or driven mad. The church doors were heavy but, they swung open easily, slamming shut with more force than necessary as Ford ran for the belfry; Dipper hot on his heels.
No, I don't want to go back there! Give in. NO! Stop!
Danny felt himself sinking down; memories filling him to sickening fullness. A ghostly old couple, sweet as sugared tea, a wild eyed gnome, all falling victim to his own ravenous hunger. He screamed but there was no sound. He was being pulled into the stinking blackness of insanity, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He stopped fighting.
Good boy. Now go have some fun.
He howled to the voice.
Across town a ghost harpy spotted an SUV; it stooped and snagged it, whirling around and hurling it towards the nearest building then flew off, cackling. Inside, Vlad put a sphere of energy around Jazz; both of them bracing for the impact. Right when they expected to crash, however, something else dug its claws into the car. The vehicle was carried to the ground and set down gently. Both passengers immediately scrambled out to see what had saved them.
"Danny?" Jazz whispered. "Danny!" But he showed no sign of having heard her, watching the bizarre creatures flying about. She called to him one more time, and this time he turned. She screamed. His eyes were abysses of swirling color; spewing smoke and thick oily ectoplasm that froze on his cheeks. She tried to approach him, hands held out in a calming gesture. He shrieked and leaped at her; forcing Vlad to transform and haul her into the air.
They both watched him come to a halt; wings vibrating with sound of a locust swarm. He chittered eerily and, thankfully, lost interest in them as an eyeball bat swooped to low trying to petrify a fleeing crowd. Danny roared and pounced, snatching it in his hind claws and carrying it away to elsewhere.
Only when he was absolutely sure he would not be coming back did Vlad lower them both to the ground. Jazz immediately tried to run after her brother, only to be stopped by a firm hand on her arm. She rounded on him with tears in her eyes. "I have to go, Vlad! Something's really wrong with him."
"I'm not blind, Jasmine. But whatever is wrong with him has affected his mind. He didn't recognize either of us. For now let's focus on finding a safe spot to plan."
She didn't want to, he knew, but she acquiesced to being removed from the midst of the mayhem and taken elsewhere.
Danny watched his own claws carry him away from everything; chasing anything and everything that smelled even slightly interesting, most of it ending up in his stomach. The whirling colors in his eyes made it hard to see what was happening around him; tunnel vision keeping him focused only on the next prey.
Stop this! I want my friends!
But this is so much better. No worries about things like friends just food and fun.
No it's not. Let me go! HELP!
The voice grew deeper as a vibrant yellow eye opened before him. THAT'S IT! I'M SICK OF YOU COMPLAINING! MAYBE THIS'LL FIX YOU.
The eye grew painfully bright; sapping away the last of his consciousness. His eyes went blank blue and he grinned. A screaming howl erupted from him as he lost control. The last thing he saw was a flash of silver in his mind. Then blackness.
With a groan Dipper pulled himself free of the collapsed bell tower. Ford's plan had failed. He remembered seeing his great uncle aim the massive weapon, focusing on Bill. In slow motion he saw a wave pass through the tower, bringing the bell to life. It's sudden voice had thrown off his aim; drawing Bill right to them.
His stomach rolled at the memory of Bill's taunting; how he'd turned him into a golden statue and carried him away to that pyramid of his, laughing all the way with his lackeys in tow. He forced himself to stand; every part of him in pain and crying to just lay down and accept it. But he wouldn't. Mabel needed him, and now Ford did too. He had to find a way to help them. Even if it killed him.
Help came in an unexpected form of a net trap baited with nachos in the mall. At first he struggled a little, then settled in to accept his fate; munching away at the cheesy bait. He didn't even react when the potted bush rustled and Wendy emerged; crossbow aimed at him for just a second before she recognized him. She got him free and they went to her little shelter. From there they made their plan. The first step? Freeing Mabel.
okay here's the actual chapter 39.
Chapter 40: In which sanity returns and siblings reunite
so much noise much food eat more still hungry.
It stalked after a wounded thing. It wasn't sure what the mass of oozing tar was but it smelled delicious. He pounced and sucked it down in an instant. Then gagged and vomited it back up. The tar ball rolled away, nonplussed.
no bad food. sticky gross. ooh new smell!
The smell of vehicle exhaust got its wings buzzing in anticipation. It launched itself skyward, following the sounds of wheels racing. Each one was heading for a big bubble. A bubble that smelled very appetizing. It swooped down and headed for it.
The thing was very solid, much to its frustration. It tried to sink its teeth in again and again. All it got was nasty tingling in its mouth and nothing to eat. The sound of a horn drew it's attention back to the crowd of trucks, now parked at the bottom of the cliff. It licked its lips, cheeks tearing apart as its jaws opened in a serpent's gape; each glass-sharp fang nearly gleaming in the dying light of the sun. Green, glowing blood dripped from the new wounds.
hungry gone soon much food to have must wait first then feast
It clung to the orb, crawling spread eagle to another side; where it wouldn't be seen until too late. From it's perch it watched a tiny human in sparkling clothes blow a horn. It drew its ears back at the loud sound and ducked in further as the horn summoned a swarm of those tasty flying eyeballs. As the swarm drew closer to the pack the two small humans talked to each other. It couldn't hear the words but they seemed to stir something in the sparkly one. The shiny human handed over something then led their pack of scraggly humans and vehicles to the bats.
It was confused by that. Whatever the other human had said must have changed the sparkly one's mind.
no time no time food coming three food hide!
Dipper, Wendy, and Soos stood in front of the orb that held Mabel. All three were captivated by the glow of the orb and didn't see the creature stalking them. Until it pounced.
It hit Dipper like a freight train; he went down with a pained scream. Razor fangs buried in his shoulder in a frenzy of blood. Frantic, Dipper managed to land a left hook on his attacker; it fell with a pained screech. Wendy and Soos pulled him up and back from it, both moving to stand in front of him in case of a second strike.
Dipper had expected to see one of Bill's henchmonsters, possibly the pink one with big teeth, or just the teeth; what he did see made him wish it had been one of them.
"Danny. Not you too."
His eyes began to burn with tears as he looked at the phantasm; as he saw what the madness had done. Standing there he felt like everything he'd done during this summer, everything he felt with him, was gone. Just like that. Bill had taken everything from him now; there was nothing left. He dropped to his knees and cried, letting all the fear and pain inside him come out.
The creature chirruped, confused. The blow to it's head had done little to dissuade it. It rose for another attack when the sound caught it's ears. The prey was, crying? It looked at the small human, half hidden by his larger companions. It sniffed the air.
tears? human in pain, humans cry when pain but
It sniffed again, darting towards Dipper for a better whiff. Wendy and Soos cried out as an invisible force shoved them aside. Face to face, it licked the tears.
not pain taste, sad taste. why prey sad? sad it going to die no sad for something
sad for me?
The thought knocked it stone still. It dropped to its rump, ears working frantically as it's brain buzzed in its skull. The human sniffled and stepped closer; ignoring the shouts of its companions. He threw his arms around it and hugged it tightly. This just confused it more, but, with the human so close, it could scent it better; the scent was familiar.
A memory came to him; summoned by that trembling touch and wavering scent. Of it and this boy, and the time they spent together. It started coming back; slowly at first, then a flood. It felt the name leave its lips weakly; trembling like a newborn beast.
It snarled, tearing itself away from the human. It's mind was a jumble in a windstorm. Flashes of faces both old and new ripping through it's brain in almost painful speeds. It howled in fear and tore at its skull, trying in vain to get rid of all this confusion.
human started it eat human make it stop!
Dipper watched his close friend writhing in mental agony. He took a step towards him and he froze; trying to tackle him again to end it all. He rolled away from the weak attack, refusing to look at Danny. A sob hitched in his lungs.
"I'm sorry Danny."
In a movement too fast for it to follow the human pulled something from his vest and pressed it to its chest. Immediately its core was awash with pain. It reeled back, stumbling into the orb behind it, and collapsed; whining weakly. The older humans unlocked the chains around the orb and waited for the other to join them. It felt a hand touch its shoulder gently, the boy's voice whispered in its ear. "I'll come back for you. I promise."
Before he walked into the orb the creature swore it felt a hand on its cheek. "Dip-per."
How long it was paralyzed it wasn't sure, but when it could move again it was not in pain. Thought came easier to it, as did movement. It stood and shook itself, surprised when the thing the human put on it didn't fall off. It looked down to see just what had been attached.
The object was hardly impressive. Just a tangled mass of silver wire with a waxy sheen to it and a jumble of small stones on the center. The whole thing smelled strongly of sage. It tried to pry it off with a claw but it held fast, glued on by the waxy substance it was coated in. Balancing on it's right arm, the creature wrapped a hand around it and pulled hard.
The bauble sparked green, sending a jolt of power up it's arm, cracking the scales and making old scars reappear. The sparks burrowed down to it's core and wormed their way in. At the same time the core began to pulse faster and faster, sending rapid surges of energy through it's entire body. It jerked and twitched, falling over as it seized. More memories surfaced; of this same pain and the boy, Dipper. Memories of fun with a new family.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the sparks stopped. The only sounds on the cliff-side were weak breaths and the gentle pulsing of the orb.
'What was that? Wait. Hold on.'
He rolled to his feet, patting and pinching his cheeks; sure he was dreaming. Then he looked down at his left arm, seeing the glow of his Lichtenburg scar through the broken scales. He smiled, wincing only a little at the pull on the new, healing scars on his cheeks. "I'm okay. I'm me again! Yes!"
Danny pumped the air with both fists, knocking something from his chest. He glanced down at Dipper's amulet. He smiled and looked to the orb; knowing instinctively where the other was. With a strong sense of reverence Danny lifted the amulet and put it to his chest, forming a breastplate of ice to keep it in place. He rapped it with his knuckles, checking how solid it was. As he turned to face the orb, ready to join his friends, he heard the scream.
Forgetting the orb entirely he launched from the cliff; it looked like his first fight would be for his family instead. Without knowing exactly where to go, Danny relied on his inner sense to find his way to his sister; only one question burned in his mind. 'What is she doing here?'
Down below Jazz and Vlad were pressed together by a horde of mutated forest creatures. Jazz yelped as a rabid deer snapped at her and blasted it with a Fenton laser lipstick, one of several of her parents' weapons she snuck off with. Vlad wasn't faring much better; whatever force had altered these beasts made them practically immune to his powers. He cursed, actually cursed, when a crazed raccoon jumped off another deer at his face.
With Jazz still firing, Vlad carried them both up the closest, nonliving tree to regroup. "This is pure insanity. I always imagined the end of the world would be more, I don't know."
"Fiery?" Jazz supplied.
"Yes, that. Instead it's crazy animals and even crazier monsters. I may have to retire after all this."
Jazz watched beavers, equipped with chainsaws, amass at the base of the tree and start cutting. "IF we live through this, that is." She muttered.
The tree crunched ominously and began tipping. Vlad grabbed her and let the tree fall, staying in the air as the animals complained to the beavers over their failure. "This has to be the most surreal thing I've ever seen." She observed ruefully.
There was no visible way to go down without being swarmed and Vlad was getting tired; she could tell. When his powers failed all that faced them was a long drop. Even if they survived that she only had so many weapons that actually hurt these things. At this point she found herself desperately hoping for a miracle.
And she got one. In the form of a freezing streak of screaming energy divebombing the area. Vlad nearly dropped her in shock; managing to collect himself long enough to land. Whatever it was went by again, circling around to land with a heavy thud behind them. ''That shadow's as big as both of us combined! Please be friendly.' Jazz silently pleaded. The animals had all stopped to stare at the newcomer. She felt the air getting colder as the thing sucked in a huge breath.
The animals were blown away by the cyclone of ice and lightning, trees were knocked over, and everything was coated in a thick layer of frost. When the scream ended all she could hear was the ringing in her ears. From the corner of her eye she saw their rescuer cross to stand in front of them. She felt a claw under her chin, nudging her chin to make her look up. She gasped, feeling tears of joy well up. Even with all his new limbs and changes, even though he stood almost two feet taller than her, she would recognize him anywhere.
Her brother, free of whatever had possessed him in town. She jumped to hug him, wrapping her arms around his neck as he held her with one arm. Vlad stood behind her, just staring. He felt a little awkward, to be honest. But Danny clearly knew what to do; he pulled Vlad in to join the hug.
"I'm so glad you're okay. You look better than okay, actually. What happened?"
Danny set them both down. "That's kind of hard to explain. I'll do it later when the world isn't trying to end. What about you two?"
She shrugged. "Works for me. As for us; when you didn't show up again I got worried and left to find you. I thought you'd go to Vlad. I've been living there since while we worked on finding you."
Vlad chose now to join the conversation. "Why didn't you come to me, if I may?"
Danny sighed and sat down, tail tucked between his legs. "I was afraid that if I told you what happened you would, well, attack my parents. I may hate them for what they tried to do but I still don't want to see them, or anyone, die. So I came here. Following my core."
A loud sound, exactly the sort made by an angry hoard of mutant animals, echoed towards them. Danny stood and motioned for them to follow. "C'mon I think I know a place you'll be safe while I deal with things out here."
The forest was somehow more a mess than the town, even with Danny scaring off anything that made a lunge for the group. Jazz and Vlad carefully made their way through the havoc, following the swaying tip of Danny's tail. Even in his new form, the urge to protect was strong. And that urge was what drove him to lead his remaining family to the Mystery Shack. The last haven in a town gone truly mad.
40 chapters and we're still not done! And to think this whole thing was supposed to be about half that long.
Chapter 41: In which paths converge for battle
Danny felt his core clench as the three of them approached the shack. It looked untouched; the circle of unicorn hair had protected it from the worst of Weirdmaggedon. Danny nudged them towards the shack. "It's safe; there's a barrier around the place. To be honest it's probably the only reason the old thing's still standing."
He started heading back to town when Jazz stopped him. "Danny, there's no one left in town. They were all taken by those eyeball things. If there are people here then they'll need your help more. Don't you think?"
"You're right." He slipped through the barrier and waited for them at the door. As Jazz reached to knock on the door she stopped, noticing Vlad wasn't with her. He was standing at the bottom step, looking down. "What's wrong?"
"I don't think this will let me pass." They both looked at Danny. The barrier didn't stop him because he wasn't what it was preventing. He hadn't thought about other ghosts trying to get through.
"If you're not here to cause trouble it will. Name's Stanley, c'mon in." The newcomer certainly didn't look like the sort to be running anything, let alone a refuge. Wearing a stained tank top and boxers, he looked more ready to go to bed than anything else. Then he spotted Danny and perked right up.
"Danny! Looking good. The kids with you?"
Danny shook his head sadly. "No, they're up in there." He pointed at the orb between the cliffs. "Mabel's being held there. Dipper, Wendy and Soos went in after her."
Given his expression Stan decided not to press on where he'd been. So he elected to show his friends around instead. "The shack's pretty crowded right now. Anyone that didn't get turned to stone wound up here. Not much any of us can do against all that."
That didn't sound right. Stan giving up? It didn't sit with Danny but he ignored it in favor of making sure Jazz and Vlad were okay. As he did so he felt someone tap his arm. It was Pacifica. She was such a nervous, dirty wreck that he curled around her and started to purr, licking her face clean without a second thought. The sudden action made her pause, unused to affectionate contact, but she recovered enough to speak. "You're Mabel's ghost friend right? If we don't make it will you tell her I'm sorry? For everything."
Danny stopped his licking long enough to turn her head to face him. "We'll make it through this. From what I've heard you're a tough girl, strong-willed and headstrong; exactly the sort to survive these things. So stop with that kind of talk."
She gazed up at him, taking it all in. "How can you be so sure?"
"Because I've seen the end of the world more times than someone my age should. And I've come out of those okay. So why not this time?"
It made sense to her. Pacifica smiled and settled down to let him finish grooming her. It was a little weird, after all he was still mostly human looking, but kind touches were few and far between for her so she would take what she could get. On the note of kindness she noticed that the entire shack seemed a little calmer now that he was here. The place had been a cacophony of arguing and panic; full of humans and monsters fearing for their lives. It was also the only place she could turn to. The people here were nice to each other when no one else was; trying to understand her despite the cold front she put up.
When Dipper came to deal with the ghost in the mansion it was the first time she really opened up to anyone, and while he had taken the truth as badly as he was entitled to he still came back when the ghost attacked again. In the end it had been his words that gave her the courage to defy her parents and open the gate. She would never forget that.
She got the same feeling from Danny; so she stayed by him as he went from person to person, checking them over and doing what he could to calm them. Just like Dipper and Mabel would.
After Danny had tended to who needed it as well as he could he went back to Jazz and Vlad. Not to talk or anything, just to be near them. They represented the small part of Amity Park that had accepted him, and right now he needed that silent acceptance. He curled around them both, letting them settle against his side, and tucked his limbs under him; his eyes were closed but his ears were pointed to the door, waiting for Dipper and Mabel to come.
He knew they would; just not when.
Danny was one of the few in the room with senses sharp enough to hear the bubble burst, but he was the only one who knew what it meant. And he was the only one, barring his sister and Vlad, who didn't get ready to fight when the door started rattling. He just stretched, gave a big yawn, and lay back down to watch what happened next. It proved to be quite funny, and heartwarming.
The door burst open, admitting the quintet of wannabe warriors; all of them bearing some sort of makeshift weapon. Both parties stopped before charging. "KIDS!"
Dipper and Mabel tackled him, all three happy to see each other. Danny stayed back to let them all reacquaint with each other before stepping forward himself. Dipper was equally happy to see him in his right mind again and curious about his two companions. The reunion slash introductions were interrupted by an eyebat swooping past, red beam searching for anything it could snatch up.
Mabel untangled herself from the crowd after it passed, turning to Stan. "So how did all this happen?" She asked motioning to the mixed group.
"Well I was hammering signs out back when the sky started vomiting nightmares. Well, I listen to a lot of AM radio so I knew what it meant; the end of the world. What I didn't expect was the yard art to try and attack. But it turns out whatever you guys and my brother did to the shack with your unicorn voodoo made the crazy place invincible to weirdness."
He pointed at McGucket. "That's when Possum Breath over here shows up leading a bunch of injured stragglers through the forest. They needed a place to stay and since the mayor got captured, I elected myself de facto chief. The plan is to stay in here and eat canned meat until we run out, then we eat the gnomes. "
The gnomes complained and scampered over his feet in protest. Dipper glared at him as he laid back in a lawn chair and got the Multibear to give him a massage. "So you're just gonna let Bill win? Just like that? The town, and the whole world is in danger! Me and Ford tried to stop it, but. . . Ford got captured."
Stan just waved him off. "My brother's had some stupid plans, but going up against an all-powerful space demon was his worst one yet. 'Sides we got a sweet deal here. Plus, I'm sure everyone else is fine."
He sat back, knocking the remote to the ground. To the shock of everyone, the TV turned on. Shandra, the local reporter, appeared onscreen looking like she'd been dragged through a woodchipper, and began shouting into her microphone.
"This is Shandra Jimenez reporting live from the inside of Bill's castle. Here for the first time are images of what's happened to the captured townsfolk. Viewers are advised to look away if they don't want to see their friends turned into a twisted throne of human agony."
The camera flashed over images of several people. Pacifica and Wendy's families, poor Deputy Durland, and several others; all wearing expressions of terror. It cut back to Shandra as an eyebat caught her in its beam. "Is there no one who will save the people of this town? I'm Shandra Jimenez, and I'm being turned into stone by a flying eyeball."
The TV clicked off and the room went silent. Mabel, finally having had enough, climbed Danny's back; standing on his shoulders like he was a podium. Dipper climbed up after her and the two of them looked over the worried crowd.
"Guys, don't you see? Our friends need us, but we can only save them if we fight back."
"Mabel is right. Bill wants us to run and hide. He wants us to think he's invincible. But Ford told me before he was captured that he knows Bill's secret weakness."
"Now, if we band together, if we combine all of our strength, our smarts, our...whatever Toby has... then we just might be able to rescue Ford, learn Bill's weakness, and save Gravity Falls!"
The crowd cheered, ready to face the odds. But Stan had other ideas. He pushed through the crowd to stand in front of them. "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Have you all forgotten who's in charge here? Besides, we're only safe inside! It's not like we can take the Mystery Shack to Bill."
McGucket jumped up beside him, shouting and babbling with excitement. "Holy hootenany! Flapjack and fiddlebanjos! Sorry, Sorry. Got a little excited. What I meant to say is I think I figured out a way to fight Bill and rescue Ford. But we're all gonna have to work together Now. You just..."
Everyone but Stan leaned in to listen to him. Danny's tail was wagging and his core thrummed. This plan was nothing but crazy and he loved every detail.
Chapter 42: In which the sun rises on the final fight
Everyone banded together and worked through the night to complete McGucket's plan. It was his most ambitious creation to ever be used for good. As the sun rose on the shack, illuminating Danny climbing on its roof to make the final adjustments, the rebels raised their flag and hit the switch.
Danny stayed on the roof as the shack rumbled and hissed, rising on mechanical legs. It was beyond crazy. McGucket had turned the place into a freaking mech! Even at their craziest, his parents would never have thought of something like this! With a final hiss and blast of steam the Shack-bot was ready for battle. Now to get the opponent. Danny flicked his wings and took off for the pyramid. The thing was an eyesore, in his opinion, literally; it hurt his inner sight and regular sight to look at.
So when he landed he made sure to dig his claws in and tear it up as much as possible; both to get Bill's attention and out of spite. The only window on the whole thing was up near the top, he climbed to it and peeked in. He ignored the partying monsters to look for the host and found him, with Ford in chains, near the back. Ford didn't seem injured but he wasn't moving. Neither was Bill, making it pretty clear just what he was up to.
Metal plate or not, anything would break if pushed hard enough. He needed to keep that from happening. He laughed. "All right, time to start a panic at this disco!"
He kicked off the window, dropping on the party to claw and freeze them at random. On his third pass he snagged a monkey bread loaf thing and used it like a battering ram to clear the floor. Eventually the sounds of screaming reached Bill and he snapped out of the mindscape to the sight of his minions being chased around by Danny. Poor old 8-ball was being dragged in his mouth like a chew toy.
Danny slid to a stop, using the momentum to fling the dumb gremlin into the remaining crowd; they scattered like pins in a bowling alley. "AND JUST WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING, SCHRODINGER BOY?"
"Just doing a little crowd control, Captain Dorito! Wanna do something about it then come get me!" Danny wiggled his rump in Bill's eye, blowing raspberries to the last bars of Yankee Doodle.
Bill roared and turned giant, swinging a fist at him. Danny easily dodged with a cheeky little hop over his head. He flitted to the window and wiggled his butt again, lifting his tail with another raspberry. Bill turned red and swung at him again, smashing the window completely and flinging Danny into the air. He spun away from the blow and hovered nearby, waiting for Bill to take the bait and follow.
It didn't take long. The glowing black eye filled the shattered window, quickly followed by the rest as Bill smashed his way out of his lair. Roaring unthinkable things the demon chased Danny at speeds unseen to human eyes. Danny was forced to fly harder and faster than he'd ever gone before just to keep out of reach. It felt like time and space were ripping apart around them as he lead Cipher to the Shack.
Just as the shack was coming in to view he felt a hand swipe his side. He yelped and tumbled from the air. He saw a hand lurch out to grab him and he prayed it was the shack. Thankfully someone was listening, (Danny didn't care if it was the Devil himself) because he landed with a wet squelch on the tongue of the amber trapped T-Rex that formed the shack's left arm. It spat him out on the porch and he quickly scrambled back to the roof. "Here he comes! BRACE YOURSELVES!"
Bill rushed the shack with growl. Inside Grenda and Mabel pulled the arms to block him. Danny felt the shack shudder from the blow but it held. The barrier kept Bill from tearing the shack to pieces. He slammed into it over and over, heedless of the blows the shack was landing on him; too furious to care. Bill's eye slid down and spotted the unguarded legs; he grabbed one and pulled, sending the whole thing crashing down. Danny screamed and flew at the unguarded eye, burying his horn in the sensitive orb.
With horn and claws he sliced it to pieces, blinding the demon. Bill flung him away, shouting. "Do you have any idea how long that will take to regenerate?!"
"All right he's distracted. Rescue team go!"
Mabel tucked her grappling hook in her sweater, Soos grabbed the memory gun (repaired by McGucket) while Dipper did a system check with the height flashlight. Fully geared up the rescue team took up position in a series of exit tubes. Pacifica got in the last word before they were fired. "If we die, I'm suing all of you."
Muffled booms came from the robotic Gobblewonker head as it fired them all out. The angle was perfect and they landed in the Fearamid with minimal trouble. Dipper looked out the hole one last time before heading in; seeing Danny and the remaining crew of the Shackatron holding Bill's attention, mostly by judicious use of Danny's freezing breath and aether blasts.
A chorus of shocked gasps dragged his gaze away, leading him to the gruesome sight of Bill's throne. He felt his stomach roil, both from the image and rising nerves. "It looks even worse in person."
Mabel fired her grappling, catching on Manly Dan's bicep, and hauled herself up the literal throne of human suffering. "I found Great Uncle Ford. He's golden and not in a good way!"
Dipper started to pace, barely dropping Mabel's grappling hook as she tossed it to him. "How are we going to unfreeze him?"
"I know how!" The voice came to them from above. They looked up to see Gideon, wearing a humiliating looking outfit, locked in a gilded birdcage. He was dancing and looked to have been at it for awhile.
Mabel gasped. "Gideon! What happened to you?"
"Bill captured me. He's been forcing me to do cute dances in this cage for all eternity. I'm so tired of being cute!" He started to cry.
"How do we undo this?" Dipper demanded.
"Mayor Tyler." He gasped. "He's the load-bearing human. Pull him out, and the whole thing goes down."
Dipper ran around the throne until he spotted Tyler. Grasping his arm he pulled hard until the mayor tumbled out, returning to normal as he went. As soon as Tyler was loose everyone else changed back as well; tumbling down and over each other with complaints and sighs of relief. Gideon's cage was knocked loose by a falling Durland. The cage broke when it hit the ground and Gideon took the chance to get out of harm's way.
Dipper and Mabel smiled as Wendy hugged her family. They smiled even bigger when Ford walked up to them, a little stiff from his time as a statue but none worse for the wear. He greeted McGucket and the old coot just hugged him. Stan snorted. "Yeah, real good to see you to, bro. Now can we get out of here?"
Dipper pulled on Ford's sleeve. "Listen, Uncle Ford, we don't have a lot of time. Remember how you told me right before you were frozen that you knew Bill's weakness?"
"I did? Yes, that's right!"
"DON'T YOU DARE, SIXER!" Bill came barreling back into the Fearamid, still red with rage. He lunged for Ford and was tackled out of the way by a shrieking Danny. The phantasm kicked him down and went to the kids side; watching Ford.
Ford looked around for something to write with, spotting a spray can that had rolled out of Robbie's pocket when he fell down the throne. He grabbed it and started drawing on the ground. Bill growled, floating up and heading for him.
"Danny, keep him distracted!"
He rushed the demon once again, growing to full size and then some as ice covered him completely. The air was filled with the creak of the ice as the two collided, Danny successfully hurling Bill back against the wall. Not giving him a chance to recover, Danny closed in and pressed his advantage, hitting him with close range ecto-blasts and bolts of lightning.
Bill crumpled under the assault; physical and metaphysical forms suffering enormous wounds. Away from the fight Ford continued his drawing, rushing to complete the circle in time. Bill burned with black fire, rage peaking. "ENOUGH!"
He rose up, form flickering and rearranging; releasing multiple tentacle-like arms that coiled around Danny tightly. Thus bound Bill slammed him around, grinding him against the walls and floor with vicious glee. Danny struggled in the grip but failed, he felt himself starting to weaken. He gathered his remaining strength and let loose with an aether fury; pouring every last bit of energy both in and around him into the attack.
When the dust cleared Bill was still standing, grinning wickedly with an oozing maw. He laughed madly and hurled him with supersonic speed at a nearby pillar. His body wrapped around it backward, letting out painful cracks.
Danny howled once and went still, Dipper felt like his heart would rip to pieces. Tears fell freely and Mabel held him tightly, keeping him from running over to him and right into Bill's grasp.
Bill continued to laugh at the sight. "HAH! Not even an Endigo can beat me! So what chance DO YOU HAVE?"
"We have this!" Bill turned to Ford and spotted the completed circle. His wheel. The same thing that granted him entry to the world and the only thing that could force him from it. All the sections were filled, each person represented standing around the central mark. Even Gideon had taken his place. And even with his heart breaking Dipper took his place too, glaring at Bill with such fury that he felt it burn on his flesh.
The only one not touching anyone was Stan. "You guys know this all a bunch of hogwash, right?You really think some caveman graffiti is gonna stop that monster?"
Gideon growled at him. "Dang it, old man! Now's not the time!"
"Come on, dude!"
Even Pacifica was fed up. "What are you doing? You're gonna ruin this!"
Robbie mumbled, distractedly. "I've never held hands this long and I am very uncomfortable."
Stan put his hands up in self defense. "Whoa. Hey. I'm not the enemy here, people. Don't forget who literally created the end of the world."
Ford looked to him, sadness and determination in his eyes. "I'm sorry, Stanley. I know. Just help me fix it. Please."
He groaned. "Fine. Just do one thing. Say "thank you.""
"I spent thirty years trying to bring you back into this dimension and you still haven't thanked me! You want me to shake your hand? Say "thank you." Now."
"Fine. Thank you."
Stan took his place in the circle, taking Soos and Ford's hands with a grin. The circle began to glow. Bill recoiled from the light. Dismay filled him. How could these humans beat him? He was all powerful! He'd defeated an ENDIGO!
As the light grew brighter and began to reach for him. Stan made one more comment. "Now, see. Between me and him, I'm not always the bad twin."
Ford coughed. "Between "him and me." Grammar, Stanley."
"I'll "grammar Stanley" you! You stuck up son of a gun! I mean come on!" He dropped his hands and grabbed for Ford. The circle flashed, throwing everyone down; the light fading away. Bill looked up.
"Ha ha ha! This is just too perfect! Didn't you brainiacs know the zodiac doesn't work if you don't all hold hands? And what's better, you've brought every threat to my power together in one easy-to-destroy CIRCLE!"
He ignited the circle, grabbing Stan and Ford from the flames; waving them tauntingly in front of the others. "Wanna see what happens when you don't get along with family?" He sneered.
With a flash of light everyone but the two pairs of twins vanished. Above Bill seven tapestries unrolled; on each was one of their friends, screaming in fear.
A cage of red hot beams shot up from the ground, neatly encasing Dipper and Mabel. The twins screamed and clung to each other, looking fearfully to the older pair. Stan watched them in equal fear. "KIDS!"
"This is your last chance, Sixer. Tell me how to make Weirdmaggedon global and I'll let the kids go!"
Dipper and Mabel booed. "Don't do it, Ford!"
"Yeah, Bill makes bad deals!"
Bill snarled and leaned in towards the cage. "Quiet, Shooting Star! I see EVERYTHI-AGH!"
Mabel took the chance to spray the last of the spray paint right in Bill's eye. He tried to wipe the paint out of his eye; inadvertently dropping Stan and Ford. Dipper took out the flashlight and grew the cage around them, jumping out while he kept screaming.
"You guys run. We'll deal with Bill" Dipper said, coming towards. Ford sputtered in surprise.
"That's a suicide mission!"
Mabel came to her brothers' side and they fist bumped. "Don't you worry. We've beat him before and we'll beat him again." She whistled to Bill and the two starting mocking him, running off; laughing at him.
"Kids no!" Ford and Stan tried to follow, only to be trapped in a cage by Bill; the demon burning red and warping horribly.
"You two wait there. I've got some kids I need to make into CORPSES. Toodle-oo!"
They managed to get a good head start but it wasn't long before they could hear Bill thundering behind them; a thousand gibbering maws hurling threats. Arms reached for them with wicked claws snagging at their clothing. Seeing him close in, Mabel fired the grappling hook and pulled them both further ahead.
Back in the throne room Stan and Ford looked at the dark hall in despair. Stan sighed heavily and sat down. He put his hands over his face. "Oh, I can't believe this. The kids are gonna die and it's all my fault. Because I couldn't shake your stupid hand! Ugh, dad was right about me. I am a screw-up."
Ford sat down beside him, putting a hand on his back. "Don't blame yourself. I'm the one who made a deal with Bill in the first place. I fell for all his easy flattery. You would have seen him for the scam artist he is."
"How did things get so messed up between us? We used to be like Dipper and Mabel. The world's about to end and they still work together. How do they do it?"
Stan chuckled wryly. "Easy. They're kids. They don't know any better."
Ford stood up suddenly. "Woah, where are you going?"
"I'm going to play the only card we have left. Let Bill into my mind. He'll be able to take over the galaxy and maybe even worse, but at least he might let the kids free."
"What?! Are you kiddin' me?! Are you honestly telling me there's nothing else we can do?!" He stood to follow; trying to keep his brother nearby.
"Bill's only weak in the mindscape. If I didn't have this darn plate in my head we could just erase him with the memory gun when he steps inside my mind."
Stan got an idea at that. He stood in front of his brother. "What if he goes into my mind? My brain isn't good for anything."
It was Ford's turn to laugh. "There's nothing in your mind he wants. It has to be me. We need to take his deal. It's the only way to save those two."
"You really think he's gonna keep his end?"
"It's the only choice we have left, Stanley."
Stan crossed his arms, grinned, then took his brother by the shoulder and brought him close. "Maybe not. Listen close, bro."
Dipper looked up at the wall in front of them. They had managed to outrun Bill for a second time, only to run straight to a dead end. There was no way out and turning around was not an option. "Mabel, what now?!"
Mabel took the flashlight. "Like Grunkle Stan always says, when one door closes, choose a nearby wall and bash it in with brute force." She used it on her hand and punched the wall with victory scream. Dipper hopped through while she shrank her hand again. On the other side they saw the rest of the refugees, tied up and pinned by Bill's surviving minions.
"Peekaboo!" Bill burst through the opposite wall, glowing red, sections split apart and gaps filled with teeth. He lashed out with a dozen glowing yellow arms, coiling around them.
Bill shoved his way in the throne room to see Ford and Stan sitting on the floor, completely defeated. Several sets of teeth grinned at the sight. "Time's up, Ford. I've got the kids and I think I'm gonna kill one them, just for the heck of it! So let's see."
His gaze flicked back and forth, switching from a pine tree to a shooting star. The symbols flashed faster and faster until, with an unsettlingly cheerful ding, it stopped. On the star. Dipper felt his stomach drop, he yelled for her; despair choking him. Mabel had gone pale, quite literally staring her death in the face.
"Wait!" Ford cried. He threw his hands up in surrender. "I surrender, just don't hurt them. Please."
Bill gave a victorious laugh, dropping the kids with little care for their safety. Dipper felt a weak buzzing in his chest; a buzzing from Danny. He was alive! As much as he wanted to he couldn't make his legs work. He couldn't stop his great uncle and he couldn't be by Danny's side. He was paralyzed.
Stan stood up, trying to stop his brother. "Ford wait! It'll destroy the universe!"
"Even when you're about to die you two can't get along. Hilarious!" With a snap of his many fingers, Bill dropped the cage surrounding them and shrank back to his original shape.
"My only condition is that you let the kids and my brother go." He extended his hand. Danny moaned, blurred vision only just registering something off about the glove Ford wore. He struggled to move; eventually collapsing again.
"It's a, DEAL!" Bill took the offered hand, physical form turning to stone as he was sucked into Ford's mind.
Bill took a gander at the mind around him. It was empty, blank and silent; only a single door breaking the monotony. Perfect. "I gotta hand it to you, Sixer. You know how to keep things clean. Now let's get to work."
He threw open the door, only to stop. There was no Ford. He was in the living room of the shack. Stan was sitting in the recliner, playing with a paddle-ball. Stan threw him a wink and a finger gun. The door slammed shut.
"I do a pretty good impression of my brother, huh? Switch clothes and no one can tell us apart. Used to do that when we were kids. Anywho, welcome to my mind. Surprised you didn't recognize it."
Bill ran to the door and tried to open it, frantically rattling the knob as he realized he'd been tricked. "The deal's off! Let me out!"
Blue fire shot from the keyhole, knocking Bill away, and swiftly filled the room, slowly closing in on the two of them. Now it was Stan's turn to laugh. "Oh yeah, you're going down. Getting erased. Memory gun. Pretty clever, huh?" He made a gunshot motion at his forehead.
Bill started pounding on the door, trying in vain to break it down. Stan grabbed him and spun him around. "You look at me, you one-eyed demon. You think you're clever; a real wise guy. But you made one. Fatal. Mistake. You messed with MY FAMILY."
The fire reached Bill and started to devour him. His form began glitching and twisting, warping painfully even as he continued to plead for freedom. Stan ignored all of it in favor of throwing one final punch. Slamming his fist into that eye that had haunted them all summer. Under the pressure Bill's fragile body finally shattered.
Stan panted hard. With a smile he returned to the recliner and took up the picture of his family. He let the tears roll down, keeping his gaze locked on the image as the fire reached him too. He gave a sad laugh. "Looks like I was good for something after all."
He closed his eyes and smiled. The fire swept over him without a sound.
The gun dropped from Ford's shaking hand. He fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around his brother, sobbing. Dipper and Mabel joined him. Around all of them the Fearamid began falling apart as the rift opened to pull it in. The tapestries vanished; their captives pressing in with the others.
When the last of the weird was pulled through they fell. Dipper kept his eyes closed; not willing to watch their final moments.
Their fall was halted by something soft, and cold. Dipper opened his eyes to an expanse of pale blue and the sound of gentle wind. A voice, tired but cheerful, assured them all they were safe. "Ladies and Gentlemen, you are now flying Deus Ex Machina airlines. We will be landing shortly so buckle in and enjoy the ride."
Dipper and Mabel sobbed with joy, clinging to Danny. The endigo flew slowly; ensuring no one so much as stumbled.
At the sound of the rift closing Jazz and Vlad climbing out of the wreckage of the shack. Vlad had turned them both invisible as the bats swarmed for the refugees; pulling them out of the way. They looked to the sky to see the ruins of the Fearamid be pulled through and, silhouetted by the sun, Danny carrying all of them back.
They rushed to him, helping the refugees to town where an ambulance, called by Jazz as soon as the outside world could be contacted, was waiting. Mabel and Dipper helped Stan inside the shack, into the ruined living room; all of them looking at the caved in roof. Stan's chair had survived, somehow, and Dipper lowered him into it while Mabel put his fez on. "That was amazing, Grunkle Stan!"
He chuckled, looking at her blankly. "Thanks, kiddo. But, uh, what's your name?"
Danny felt his core drop. "No. He didn't. He, he couldn't have."
"That's really funny, Grunkle Stan. It's me, Mabel!" Dipper pulled her back into a hug. "Grunkle Stan, it's me!"
Danny curled around them both, tucking them against his chest his as he too cried. He looked to Ford for answers. "We had to erase his mind to defeat Bill. It's all gone. He doesn't know it, but he saved the world. He saved me." He knelt beside his brother, hugging him. He whispered a heartfelt thank you in his ear.
Stan looked up, finally seeing the shack. "Hey, this a nice place you got here."
Dipper choked. "It's your place, Grunkle Stan. Remember?"
"Nope, but this chair feels like my butt remembers it." He wiggled in it and leaned back with a sigh. "Hey, why the long faces? You look like it's somebody's funeral. And what's with the shaved gopher crying in the corner?"
Soos let out an ugly wail and turned away; Wendy patted his shoulder.
Dipper pushed off Danny's chest, eyes red. "We saved the world, but what's the point? Grunkle Stan's gone."
At this Mabel climbed out of the embrace; Danny let them both go. "No, he's still in there. There's gotta be something that can jog his memory."
A sharp yip made her look down. Cujo and Waddles sat at her feet; the scrapbook held carefully between them. She grabbed it and jumped on the arm of the recliner, shoving the book in his face. "This has to work! This is the first day we came to Gravity Falls, Grunkle Stan."
Dipper perched on the opposite arm. "The day we went fishing? Summerween? Don't you remember anything?"
Danny slipped behind the recliner to rest his head on Stan's shoulder, whining softly. Stan pushed him off. "I'm sorry. I don't know any of this or who you are, GAH!"
Waddles and Cujo jumped in his lap at the same time; Waddles licking his face. "Get of me Waddles. I'm trying to hear my life story!"
Everyone gasped. Dipper leaned in. "What did you say?"
"I said; get Waddles off me."
Ford was shocked. Happy but shocked. "It's working! I don't know how but it's working!"
Soos ran out of the corner, bouncing happily. "Skip to my page! He needs to remember our boss-employee relationship!"
"Hey, just because I have amnesia, don't go trying to give yourself a raise, Soos." Stan groused.
"It's happening! Keep going, Mabel."
Mabel turned to the first page of the scrapbook, looking at her friends and family with a smile. "Okay. Okay. "Day two. Grunkle Stan smells weird but we're starting to bond. He told us a lot about being a business man in the '80s and seemed happy when we pretended to listen. He also gave me a grappling hook which everyone is impressed by. And in more important news, I met some neighborhood hotties.""
The shack filled with laughter as she continued reading. Danny and Dipper looked at each with other; Dipper finally deciding to test a theory of his. 'It's gonna be okay, isn't it?'
Danny's ears twitched in surprise. He turned to Dipper and nuzzled his cheek. "Yeah, it is."
And thus we've reached the denouement. The battle is over, but the story isn't. Just a few more chapters to go.
Only a day passed since the beginning, and end of The End, and Gravity Falls was recovering with all the vim and vigor of a small tourist town. The townsfolk had gathered in the square where Mayor Tyler Cutebiker stood on a small stage for his announcements. Beside him stood all four Pines and Danny. He sat up, wings spread proudly. Shandra stood behind the crowd, broadcasting the news as though nothing had ever happened.
The camera zoomed in on Tyler presenting them with medals; Danny just turned his neck intangible so Tyler didn't have to jump. Then he took his place at the podium to speak.
"None of us really understand what just happened and none of us want to. That's why I'm passing the Never Mind All That Act. If anyone goes asking around about the "events" of the last few days or anything odd, for that matter, what do we say?"
"Never mind all that!" The town cried.
"And if something funny happens in town you go to the Pines or Danny. Ya hear?" The crowd cheered and split off to finish with repairs. But not before surprising Dipper and Mabel with a huge cake.
"I can't believe you guys got together to throw this party for us." Dipper said as he and Mabel climbed a step-ladder to reach the candles.
Tyler flapped a hand. "Oh pshaw. After everything the Pines family has done for this town it was the least we could do."
"Hurry up, dudes, blow out the candles!"
They did, then Mabel pushed Dipper in the cake and jumped in after him. Even Danny got into the act, shoving his head in to lick them both until they were wheezing with laughter.
As for why Danny was the sole exception to the Nevermind act? Well, after considering all the good he had done both before and during Weirdmaggedon, Danny was given the title of Supreme Commander of the Defense Against Weirdness Bureau. His job, along with Dipper and Mabel's, was to monitor incoming and outgoing weirdness and protect against any supernatural threat to the town. Since Gravity Falls was already his territory he would do this anyway; the title just meant no one could interfere with him. In a way, it was a bit like being given an endangered status.
The end of Weirdmaggedon had also allowed the veil to repair itself. Soon all the ghosts had returned to their homes as well; with Danny aiding in any needed repairs. As thanks the many ghosts had helped the Pines family repair the Shack to peak condition. It wasn't long before it was back in business.
A week later and everything had settled back into small town life. Stan was seeing off the last of the tourists when he got a faint shock of lime on his tongue. He spotted a letter with the Pines name on it and brought it in. Curious, everyone piled around as he opened it.
"The following individuals are hereby invited to the Coronation Ceremony of Daniel Phantom. To take place at the Hall of Time at the time of acceptance of this letter; Stanley Pines, Stanford Pines, Wendy Corduroy, Jesus "Soos" Ramirez, and Lord Waddles Mysteryham. To accept this invitation please burn."
"Coronation? So that's where Danny's been!" Mabel said.
"Danny's going to be a king? Wow." Dipper whispered in awe.
Stan took the letter into the kitchen, lighting the burners on the stove. He waved it over them, smiling at the kids. "So what you think kids?"
"Burn it, burn it!" They chanted, hopping up and down.
Stan let the letter fall on the flames, consuming it instantly. The world went wobbly and green around them as whatever power was in the letter pulled them with it.
Danny was pacing, as he'd been for the last half hour since the letter was sent. He licked the scar on his left arm, it itched when he was nervous. He only just heard the rustle of fabric before a gloved hand touched his shoulder. He yelped. "Daniel, if you keep this up you'll wear a hole in the floor."
Clockwork smirked at his apprentice, gently moving his arm away to keep him from chewing on it more. "Your friends will be here. I checked."
Hearing that calmed him down some, but he was still worried about the ceremony itself. He had never attended something like this never mind being the subject of one! What if he tripped on his feet? Or got hungry and accidentally ate a guest?
Another hand patted his back. Andrew straightened the burnished gold gorget on Danny's neck; a gift from Haphaestus, specially made with Dipper's amulet as the front clasp. As if he had read his mind, he said. "You won't do any of that. I'll make sure of it."
Danny whined, still nervous despite the assurances. Then he caught the faint scent of smoke, followed by bizarre collection of tree sap, pizza, parchment, coins, sugar, and a mix of fir needles and mosquito cream that could only belong to one group of people. He perked up and ran to the doorway where the group stood, staring in awe; only Dipper saw him coming.
The two collided in a hug that completely enveloped Dipper as Danny curled his entire body around him. "Aww, Dipper gets the best hug." He heard Mabel mock-complain.
He let Dipper out for air and greeted the rest. "I'm so glad you actually came!"
Stan thumped his arm. "Hey, this is a big deal for ya, Danny. And I wasn't about to let Dipper worry about where you disappeared too. He was starting to eat his shirt."
"No I wasn't! Maybe just a little."
Amidst the laughter a ghost, one of Princess Dora's ladies in waiting, tapped Danny on the arm. "It's time, sir. I'll show your guests to their seats."
Throwing a last grin their way Danny went back into the hall to finish preparing. The young lady brought them into a second part of the hall where a large curtain covered the front, most likely where Danny would be brought out. She lead them to the front row and bowed. Not long after they settled more ghosts began filing into the hall; all of them dressed in their very best. Dipper expected to feel out of place, but it never happened. In fact he felt more normal here than anyone else.
When the hall was filled the light dimmed and the curtain opened. On stage was a ghost Dipper had never met before. A clock in his chest and on his staff clued Dipper in that this was Clockwork, Danny's mentor. To his left stood a cluster of spirits with glowing red eyes and purple cloaks; all of them hooded to hide their faces.
Clockwork lightly tapped the ground with his staff and the audience fell silent. He scanned the ground and began. "Just two years ago, at the tender age of fourteen, Daniel James Fenton entered a portal invented by his parents. The portal, activated by his own hand, infused his DNA with the very essence of our world; creating a rarity, a halfa. In the time that followed he became both a nuisance and hero to both humans and ghosts.
"Yet despite being looked down on by ghosts and feared by humans he continued to protect both sides; never letting anything stop him from defending those who needed him. This drive would lead him to the great deed of defeating Pariah Dark and, in doing so, taking the title of Ghost King for himself. However, now is the time for him to rise to the occasion. He is now a fully matured phantasm. This power allowed him to play a major role in the defeat of the demon William Cipher and negate the Weirdmaggedon. Because of these actions the Ancients have deemed him ready to truly accept the title of King. Daniel, come forward."
The audience cheered as Danny came onstage wearing a cloak of the same royal purple; head held high and wings upright, the cells catching the light through the windows and sending a dazzling display of color dancing across the walls. The Ancients approached him, carrying the a dark crown on an emerald green cushion; beautifully embroidered with flakes of snow.
Danny settled in couchant, head bowed. Whispering sacred blessings, one Ancient gently lifted the crown, holding it high for the crowd to see. Dipper felt his breath catch. The crown of meteor metal glowed with an inner light cast from the large sapphire set in it. The Ancient's voice was a faint rasp, yet it echoed through the hall with authority. "By Our power, and by the Powers of the Rift itself, we do bequeath upon you this crown. And with it the title of King of Ghosts. Long may you reign."
The crown settled above his head, floating by its own power. Danny rose to boisterous cheers.
"Long live the king!"
"Le roi est mort, viva le roi!"
And many more in many other languages. Danny was suffused with pride at the sight and sound. He took to the air and let out a burst of positive energy; sharing his joy with the crowd.
After the ceremony Danny joined his friends. Dipper backed out of the crush (he'd been getting anxious). He bumped into someone and turned to apologize, only to be met with Clockwork himself. He gulped, not sure what to expect or say. To his amazement Clockwork bowed! "Mason Pines, we have you to thank for this day."
Stunned by the use of his real name he tripped over his words. "W-what do you m-mean?"
"If you had not been so determined to help him, Daniel would likely have perished; feral and mindless. A sad end for a hero, don't you think?"
Oh, that's what he meant. Dipper blushed and dragged his foot on the floor. Being thanked by the Master of Time, who'd have thought! The heat rushed to his head and he started to feel dizzy. Danny saw him wobble and grabbed him with his tail, calming him down. He laughed. "C'mon Clockwork, don't go sending him in a tizzy. Even though it's really easy."
Dipper chuckled weakly, still a little dizzy from the head rush. The rest climbed on Danny's back for the ride home; he held on to Dipper, not wanting the wind to make him sick. On arriving he took Dipper to bed. He shrank down to join him for a nap; the adrenaline from the day wearing off.
Danny is now the official King! Just one more chapter!
Chapter 45: In which there are farewells
I absolutely HAD to include Dipper's speech from the last episode. It was just too perfect a way to end this off.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Dipper and Mabel stood in the door, just looking at the room they had lived in for three months. Now empty of their belongings it looked almost. . . wrong. They carried their bags downstairs and set them by the door before joining their family for one more breakfast. Stan and Ford had a map spread out on the table and were hunched over it, muttering animatedly to each other.
"What's up, Grunkles?" Mabel asked.
The older twins stopped and looked up. "Well," Ford began. "Even though Weirdmaggedon was contained I've been detecting pockets of anomalous activity near the arctic ocean. I can't investigate on my own so I've asked Stan to come with me."
"Yessir, kids. We're headed off for adventure, treasure, and babes!" Stan stopped. "There will be babes, right?"
Ford nodded. "There's a high possibility."
"The only question is what to do with the Mystery Shack. I think the town's had enough mystery to last a lifetime so I've decided to close the shack. For good."
There was a loud, offended gasp behind them. Soos tromped in the kitchen and put his hands on his hips. "You shut down your mouth for good! I'm sorry, Mr. Pines. It's just that this shack is the most magical place on Earth. Sure, the attractions are all fake, but dreams aren't fake."
He picked up a Fiji mermaid, gazing at like it was made of gold. "Like, this mermaid. It's not just a dead fish butt sewn to a monkey carcass. It's a marvelous creature that makes us believe that anything is possible. You shut down this shack, and you shut down our dreams! At least...my dreams." He put the mermaid down with a sigh.
"I'm sorry, Soos. It's just that with no one to run the shack can't stay open. That is, if I hadn't just found my replacement." He took off his fez and put it on Soos.
Soos squealed, hands over his mouth. "You mean it, Mr. Mystery?!"
"You're Mr. Mystery now, bud. Try not to burn the place down."
That evening, family and friends gathered at the bus stop to say their goodbyes. Candy hugged Mabel and Grenda, lifting them both off the ground with her hug. "Do you really have to go? There's still so much we haven't done together." Candy said.
"Summer's over, Candy. It's time for us to grow up."
"But not too much, Mabel. Not too much." Dipper said.
Grenda gave an angry grunt. "I hate my dumb heart for making me feel things. Cut. It. Out. Heart!" She said, punching herself in the chest.
Soos and Candy gathered around her. "Hey, can you punch my heart, too?"
"No, mine! Punch my feelings away."
Mabel hugged them both again. "Candy and Grenda, thank you for being my people. You'll always be my best friends. Grunkle Stan, thanks for wearing my goodbye sweater."
Stan snorted "Ah, it's cold out. I had to."
"What? But it's like eighty-something degrees out today."
"Can it, Soos!" The older twins shouted.
Wendy knelt down by Dipper, fist out. "Hey, you mean a lot to me, man."
Dipper returned the bump. "You too."
As she stood up she whipped her hat off and dropped it on his head. "Boom, new hat! Just something to remember me by." She also handed him an envelope. "Oh, and this. Read it the next time you miss Gravity Falls."
Mabel grabbed Waddles, having chosen to bring him with her. The bus driver tried to argue and in response Ford and Stan pulled out a ray gun and brass knuckles, respectively. While all that was happening Dipper felt Danny come up behind him. He'd shrunk down to about Wendy's height. Dipper pulled him close and held him tight. "So what's going to happen to you."
Danny returned the hold with equal warmth, then pointed to Vlad and Jazz; who were just joining them. "Since Vlad's car was destroyed in the craziness I'm going to give them a lift home. And then." He sighed. "It's time I went back to Amity Park. I think I'm finally ready to see Sam and Tucker."
"But what about Gravity Falls? Don't you have to defend your territory?"
Danny gave a hearty laugh. "This place practically defends itself. But I'll be back before next summer if that's what you're worried about. By the way. I have a surprise for you too."
Before he could ask what, Danny planted a chaste kiss at the corner of his lips, pulling away with soft, barely there, smile; eyes glowing in the dying light. He laid a palm on Dipper's birthmark, staring at it in silence for a moment. "Goodbye, Dipper."
He stood, mouth open, as Danny lifted Vlad and his sister on his back. Mabel, who saw the whole thing, skipped to her brother and took his hand, pulling him on the boss. "Come on, bro-bro. Before a bug flies in your mouth."
The bus pulled away with a hiss. For just a short while, everyone followed it; shouting goodbyes. Up above, Danny flew with the bus until it crossed the state line; then split away to head for Wisconsin. Dipper opened the envelope and took out a letter; every inch of paper covered in well wishes and "See you next summer" in the center. Dipper smiled and let his head rest on the window.
If you've ever taken a road trip through the Pacific Northwest, you've probably seen a bumper sticker for a place called Gravity Falls. It's not on any maps, and most people have never heard of it. Some people think it's a myth. But if you're curious, don't wait. Take a trip. Find it. It's out there somewhere in the woods. Waiting.
And thus we reach the end of our story. Almost. Just one last thing to do.
(two years later)
The brakes of the old Speedy Beaver bus squealed to a halt, letting off its usual collection of tourists; along with two young teens, remarkably similar in appearance. They were greeted at the stop by a man in a fez and a lady with a sweet smile, both seemingly made of curves and circles (many claimed the man was actually some sort of hairless gopher).
The twins followed the couple to a kitschy looking house in the woods. A large crowd was gathered outside. All of them waiting for the day's opening of the famous Mystery Shack.
Once they were inside the twins waved to the couple, leaving them to the tours and gift shop that filtered the gullible and strange minded on a daily basis. Unconcerned they went up to the attic that was their room. Ready for three months of fun.
"Almost hard to believe, huh bro-bro?"
"What do you mean, Mabel?"
Mabel slapped a poster of penguin unicorn riding a rainbow dragon on the wall. "I mean, the first time we came here. All the stuff we did and saw. We didn't think any of that would happen. Now we're so used to it that being home feels weird."
Dipper chuckled, setting up the small stand that would hold the laptop his Grunkles sent him. He set the brand new camera down beside it. His website was about to get a lot more active in the following months. "Yeah, you're right. I still can't believe people just walk around without an obsidian knife or a mirror."
Even with the rise and acceptance of strange things and weirdness, Piedmont somehow avoided it. As though the sheer normality of the place negated it all. Still, it was a nice change of pace sometimes.
After unpacking Dipper headed down to the lake. He wasn't sure when, but at some point it had become their meeting spot. It fitted, he supposed. After all, the lake was the reason he had first met him; where they had often come just to be alone. Though he had made his claim from the cliffs, Scuttlebutt island had become the heart of his territory. Dipper whistled twice, hearing it carry to the island, then sat down to wait.
Only a faint breeze announced the other's arrival.
Neither said a word; both happy to be together again. Danny curled around him, kissing him lightly on his birthmark and laying across his lap. Dipper rested a hand on his back, feeling slightly giddy. Oh yes, he thought, it's good to be back.
And that's the end, for real this time. The next chapter's a message from me.
Chapter 47: Author's Note
It's a strange feeling isn't it? When you finish something you've worked so long and hard on. You feel elated, yes, but also a little sad, a little empty. You pour out this story until there's nothing left inside. A bit like puking after a carnival ride. But that emptiness, I've learned, is easily replaced by the enjoyment of the people who see your work. You aren't just dumping it into the void, you're giving a piece of yourself to those who see what you've made. And that piece stays with them along with yourself. So yes, this story is finished, and I'm empty right now. But just like a kid at the carnival, I'm going back to the food stands and pretty soon I'll be ready to puke out another one.
So rest assured that I'm not closing the book on Gravity Shift just yet. There's still so much I want to do and am going to do with this universe. Thank you to everyone for all the comments and kudos. Seeing people enjoy this gave me the courage to continue writing. I almost gave up many times, when the ideas went dry, but I pushed through and I'm much happier for it. So thank you sincerely. And I hope you'll also join me for the next ride.