The sunset would have been prettier if the skyline wasn't so crowded with buildings off in the distance, but the changing colors were still nice to watch.
Mabel sat alone on a swing in a little used park, enjoying the view of the purple-pink clouds drifting high overhead. It was either that or keep watching the lone jogger circling the track which meandered around the outer edge of the park. The park was small and usually not too crowded, and the fact that it was a school night meant that the young children and their parents who would have otherwise been here were all at home by this time.
Mabel had decided that the jogger kept track of every mile they ever ran in this park inside a little diary somewhere and was hoping to one day rack up enough distance to have circled the equator - it probably wasn't true, but coming up with a back-story for the stranger running in determined circles around her had kept her mind occupied for a while and off of gloomier subjects.
Her eyes were still hot from when she'd left the house earlier, slamming the door behind her, but her breathing was even now. Most of the anger, the real hot serious anger that felt like it would choke her from the inside, was gone. She was slightly embarrassed when she realized that she couldn't actually remember what had started the fight in the first place.
Not that it really mattered. Every fight with her parents felt the same - always boiling down to her not being enough. Her grades weren't good enough. She didn't spend enough time studying. She didn't do enough around the house.
It felt like her folks were saying that she wasn't good enough. She knew its not what they actually had said or what they had meant, but that's how it felt.
Just thinking about the fight again made her stomach knot up into a fist and she kicked at the gravel beneath her feet. Unfortunately she kicked too hard and had to fling her torso awkwardly to the side to keep from falling over which sent the swing listing around from side to side.
"I don't think you're doing it right," a familiar voice called out.
She turned, and of course he was there - walking toward her with his hands in his pockets.
"It's a new technique I'm trying out," she answered.
"I think you might need to work on it a bit more," Dipper said.
"Perfection takes time," she said, "Maybe if I 'applied myself' more to it I'd have it by now," she added in a tone that even she knew sounded just a bit too sulky.
"You doing okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Mabel replied.
The side to side swaying of the swing creaked to an unceremonious halt and the two faced each other for a few moments. Dipper walked closer and took a seat on the swing beside her.
"Want to talk a bit?" he asked.
"Yeah, but not about that junk," Mabel said.
She pushed back off the ground and then kicked her feet forward in a more conventional swing technique.
Dipper shrugged and kicked off the ground, somewhat less gracefully, trying to match the rhythm of his swing to hers.
"What would you want to talk about then?" he asked.
She leaned back at the top of the upswing, enjoying the wind rushing through her hair.
"We could talk about how bad you've gotten at this - I'm practically twice as high as you now," she teased.
"Hey, cut me some slack - I'm a lot heavier than when we used to play here," he called back, sounding just slightly out of breath.
"Excuses, excuses - it always comes down to skill in the end," Mabel chided.
They snipped back and forth for a while, playful insults flying in tempo with their pendulum arcs on the swings.
"Hey," she called, "I bet I could jump farther off the swings than you."
"I don't plan on jumping, so you probably could," he said.
"Are you sure?" she asked, "Is this really the same guy who fought a giant robot to rescue me?"
"If I recall correctly I actually fought a pudgy kid to save you - the giant robot was more like scenery," he said.
"Well if felt real enough to me since I was the one stuck in his big metal robo-fist," she said.
"I bet," he said.
There was a beat of silence.
"You ever wonder if that stuff that we did maybe kind of messed us up?" Mabel asked.
"I don't think so," Dipper said, "At least, I don't feel like we're any more messed up than the average person."
"Oh yeah, totally normal pair of teens here - winner of the most average brother and sister in the USA award," Mabel said.
Her tone was light, but there was an edge to her voice when she'd said 'brother and sister'.
Not like they weren't brother and sister of course, they definitely were but they were also something different now. He still wasn't quite sure what exactly... none of the terms he knew really seemed to fit their situation.
Dipper was silent for a moment, not really sure of what to say.
"Okay," he said, "So maybe we are kind of messed up."
"Maybe just a touch," Mabel said.
"Is that what's been bothering you?" he asked.
They were silent for a while, no sound in the park except for the creak of the swings chains and the soft rhythmic thump of the joggers sneakers on pavement in the distance.
"No, not really," Mabel said. "I mean, for a while yeah but not anymore."
Dipper felt the tension in his chest loosen up.
He didn't doubt her feelings for him, and he hoped that she didn't doubt his but this thing they had just felt so fragile sometimes.
Maybe it wouldn't last. Maybe it couldn't.
Maybe it shouldn't.
But if it was going to end he was glad that it wasn't going to happen today.
Maybe ending it could just be put off indefinitely like laundry and the two of them would be able to just enjoy it forever instead.
"I'm going for it," Mabel announced, apropos of nothing.
"Going for what?" Dipper asked, snapping out of his gloomy brooding.
Mabel kicked back hard off the ground to pick up speed and then on the return swing she jumped off with a shout, joy and fear mingling together in her voice.
Dipper's eyes widened and he felt his muscles tense, ready to rush out if she crashed, but to his surprise Mabel rolled once on the grass and then popped up off the ground like a jack in the box without a scratch on her. She was breathing hard but her face was beaming with a smile that split it from ear to ear.
"I knew I hadn't lost the touch," Mabel said.
"That was a nice one," Dipper said.
"You think that you could beat this distance?" she taunted.
"Nope, I concede," he said.
"It's no fun grinding my victory in your face if you don't actually try," she said with an extremely fake pout.
"Oh, what the hell," he said.
Mabel watched, her arms crossed and her expression screwed up like the most biased competition judge as Dipper launched himself off the swing. For a second it looked like he was going to land right on his feet but the grass was damp from an afternoon drizzle and his heels slid out from under him, sending him thumping to the ground right on his butt.
"How was that?" Dipper asked from between clenched teeth, lying flat on his back in the grass.
"Your distance was good but we're going to have to shave points off for that landing," Mabel said.
"Then the trophy is still yours," Dipper said, "with the added bonus of me feeling like I've been kicked in the ass by a giant."
"You'll be fine you big baby," Mabel said, "besides if you broke something I'd always splint it for you."
"How exactly do you splint a butt?" Dipper asked.
"Very carefully," Mabel replied with complete seriousness.
She walked over and bent down, offering her fallen brother a hand and the pair grunted together as she helped to heave him back to his feet.
Dipper walked with stiff steps back to the swing and sat down heavily.
"Well, now that you've beaten me in swing-jumping, which I didn't even know was a sport by the way, do you want to start heading back home?" he asked.
Mabel glanced up and saw that the jogger had completed their final circuit and was already walking toward their small silver colored car - the only car in the lot aside from Dipper's busted old blue sedan.
She turned back to Dipper and saw something on his face, the hint of the fond expression he'd had when she'd been turned away and he thought she couldn't see him.
"Not just yet," she said, with a touch of a playful lilt to her voice.
Dipper leaned back as Mabel walked close and grabbed the chains, holding the swing in place. In two quick movements she had stepped forward over his legs and then seated herself down in his lap, her face only a few inches from his.
"Hello," Dipper said, feeling a flush come to his face over how silly that must have sounded.
"Hi," Mabel said in a bright voice.
She could see how nervous he was with her just plopped right down on his lap in public and felt a little thrill in her chest as seeing his reaction.
Not that being this close to him wasn't also getting the pulse racing a bit for her too, but she liked to think that she was better about keeping it under wraps than he was.
Of course since they were all alone now there wasn't really a need to keep anything under wraps.
She leaned in closer and pressed her lips against his, feeling that little thrill of excitement in her chest as he kissed her back.
Mabel's hands released their grip on the swings chains and there was one precarious moment where she thought she'd fall right off of him, but she caught her balance in time and then draped her arms around Dipper's shoulders.
The broke the kiss and leaned together with their foreheads touching.
"That, in case you were wondering," she said, "was your consolation prize for coming in last place in our contest."
"Second place," Dipper said.
"Second out of two is still last," Mabel teased.
"Fair enough," Dipper conceded.
She leaned in to kiss him again, slow and sweet, as the last of the sunlight faded out in the sky overhead and the stars began to peek out one by one.
"Okay," Mabel said, "Once we figure out how I can get off of you without us both falling on our butts we can go home."
Dipper glanced down at their position and tried to work out what sort of gymnastics they'd have to pull off to accomplish that.
"Guess we'll just have to stay here forever," he said.
"Well isn't that a shame," Mabel said with a grin, leaning in to plant another kiss on the corner of Dipper's mouth.