The book heist does not go well.
Bill wakes up in the hospital, where Mabel rattles off a list of his injuries while Bill tries to get Dipper’s brain moving faster. He’d forgotten about this: sleep. Well, not sleep precisely; more what a huge inconvenience it is.
By the time Mabel has finished her list (“And like, four concussions”) Bill knows three things.
One, he’s still in Dipper’s body. He can feel each and every injury Mabel just listed, right down to his throbbing head, probably from the concussion (or concussions. He can never tell when this one might be exaggerating). Two, Dipper is still out of Dipper’s body. He casts about the room looking for something to inhabit, but all the sock puppets have been destroyed, and wherever Mabel stashed the Mabel puppet, it’s inaccessible to him at the moment. Occasionally he turns to Mabel and says, “It’s not me,” in a voice that indicates he’s been doing this at least since they got to the hospital. And three, Mabel doesn’t know.
Bill’s not stupid. He knows he can only fool Dipper’s twin for so long. The sooner he can get his hands on the book, the better.
Mabel narrows her eyes, and it looks comical. A laugh bubbles up before Bill suppresses it. He’s supposed to be the brother.
“You are Dipper, right?” she says.
Bill opens his mouth to answer and all that comes out is “aaaaaauuoow.” Dipper’s mouth isn’t functioning properly. Should he try again?
Before he can decide, Mabel sits back. “Good enough for me.” Above, Dipper smacks his palm into his forehead.
Well. If making strange noises is all he needs to do to convince her, this is going to be easier than he thought.
They won’t let him leave the hospital. No matter how much he tries to demonstrate he can walk (he can’t; curse these noodle legs) or how much he tries to insist he’s not in any pain (he is, but who cares?), they insist on keeping him overnight.
“Aww, don’t worry about it, Dipper,” Mabel says. She holds his hand (the one without the wrist brace; who knew slamming his hand repeatedly in a drawer would do long-lasting damage?) as she leans on the bed where he is forcibly confined. “I’ll stay here all night. Grunkle Stan can come get us in the morning.”
Bill doesn’t want Stan to come in the morning. It must show on his face (that whole “facial expression” thing isn’t really an issue when you take the form of a triangle with one eye, after all), but thankfully Mabel interprets it as something completely different.
“He’s at the Mystery Shack,” she says. “He said, ‘After that fiasco, people are going to want something actually fun to do. I like making money and I hate puppets.’” She deepens her voice in imitation of Stan’s, but she can’t capture the gravel, so Bill stares at her for a few seconds before getting it. Fortunately, again, Mabel misinterprets.
“Okay, he didn’t actually say that last part,” she says, “but he was thinking it. I could tell.”
Her legs swing under the chair and she bounces on her seat.
“Mabel, how can you possibly be so hyper?” Dipper says angrily, floating above her head. “Even if you don’t know what’s going on, and by the way he’s not even acting a little bit like me, you think your brother’s in the hospital! I can’t even walk! Did someone give you extra sugar? Oh, no,” he says, his tone now turning to weary acceptance, “it was all that Mabel juice before the show. Does it ever wear off?”
“Hey, Mabel,” Bill says. “After I passed—I mean, after Bill passed out, where did you put my journ—”
Mabel holds up a finger to stop him. “Ah ah! Nope! Not telling,” she says, and for a second he thinks she knows, she’s figured it out, but then she goes on to say, “Not until you’re out of the hospital. Even if you are Dipper, you should recover some first.”
Bill swallows, and a grin stretches across his face. He can’t tell if it’s a natural look for Dipper or not, but Mabel’s still smiling at him, so it must be. “Don’t be silly, sis,” he says. “Of course I’m Dipper. Where’d you hide it?”
She smiles serenely and kicks her legs under the chair again. Bill hopes she falls flat on her face, but no such luck.
Dipper doesn’t need to sleep, but Bill does, and it’s maddening. Come on, he already passed out at least once in the past 24 hours, isn’t that enough? Worse than the waste of hours is that every time Bill is on the edge of sleep, Dipper shouts.
It’s two in the morning before Bill finally says, “Yell all you want, kid. I’m not going anywhere until I’ve destroyed that journal.”
“You won’t ever get that journal!” Dipper says, but he’s ghostly and pathetic, and hard to see in the dark (do all humans have vision this bad, or is it just Dipper?), so Bill ignores the threat.
“All I have to do is act like you until I find it,” Bill says. “It’ll be easy: short and angry. Haha!”
“This will never work,” Dipper says.
“Really? Hey, I’ve got Shooting Star fooled, and she’s your twin! It’ll be a piece of cake.”
Dipper floats there uselessly. Bill can’t see his expression, but he’s guessing “defeat.”
“You won’t win,” Dipper says, without conviction.
“Oh, yeah? Try and stop me,” Bill says. “Oh, wait! I forgot. You can’t!”
Mabel twitches in her sleep, but doesn’t wake up. Dipper shuts up, and Bill is finally left to sleep.
He doesn’t like it at all.
Another thing Bill has to do now is eat. He wakes up with his stomach hurting and doesn’t get it until Stan comes in with a variety pack of mini cereal boxes. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to figure out digesting; that seems to be something the body does on its own. Even more thankfully, Stan drives them back to the Mystery Shack right after they finish eating.
“Grunkle Stan, isn’t there some paperwork you need to sign?” Mabel says uncertainly, as they pile into the car.
“You know I never sign anything,” Stan says.
Sure enough, when Bill looks back, there are two nurses at the door to the hospital. But Stan takes the turn out of the parking lot too sharply for them to follow. It’s too fast for Bill to keep watching, too, but before he’s jerked back into his seat, he sees Dipper hovering above the nurses’ heads, giving the car a death glare. Ha! The kids been bodiless for a day and a half and he hasn’t figured out how to take advantage of it yet. That ought to give Bill plenty of time to find the journal and destroy it without Dipper hanging over his head.
“So, Mabel,” he says, as she helps him buckle his seatbelt (the wrist brace, it turns out, makes things hard to hold onto), “where’d you put my journal?”
“I’ll tell you when we get back to the Shack,” Mabel says so blithely that Bill feels a wild stab of suspicion. But humans are easy to trick, and Mabel’s smile seems genuine enough. She doesn’t have a devious bone in her body.
He contorts his mouth to smile back, and she looks out the window.
“You said you’d tell me when I’m out of the hospital,” Bill says. “And here I am. Out of the hospital.”
“C’mon, Dipper, you can wait a little while longer,” Mabel says. “Anyway, you have to wait until we get back to do anything with it. It’s not here in the car.”
Can’t argue with that logic.
“Okay,” Bill says. “But as soon as we get home…”
She kicks her feet under the seat and goes back to staring out the window. Bill takes that as a yes.
Mabel does not tell him where the book is as soon as they arrive at the Shack. She avoids telling him, and he’s sure it’s deliberate, but he can’t prove it. She’s just acting like her usual self, finding distractions every time he gets halfway through asking her where it is. And when she finally, finally stays still long enough to listen, she says, completely innocent, “Oh! I stashed it under your bed.”
Without another word, Bill is upstairs in the attic with Dipper’s body stuffed halfway under the bed, and the book is not there.
He comes out, covered in dust bunnies, to find Dipper floating above an oblivious Mabel’s head while she tickles her pet pig’s belly.
“There—whoa, what happened to you?” Dipper says.
Bill ignores him. “Haha, Mabel,” he says. “Joke’s over. Where’d you stash my journal?”
“Wait,” Dipper says. “You mean—”
Mabel turns and smiles at Bill. “Oh, I forgot,” she says. “I hid it somewhere only Dipper would be able to find it. Just in case. You’ll find it.”
“I can’t believe it,” Dipper says. “Mabel! You’re a genius! Now all you need is a way to get him out of my body. I’m sure there’s a spell in the journal. There must be. You just have to get it out when he’s not looking and—”
“I’ll give you a hint,” Mabel says, and Dipper deflates. “It’s hidden somewhere you’ve been in the last… let’s see… week.”
Bill and Dipper, together, say, “What kind of a hint is that?”
“The only one you’re getting,” Mabel says happily.
She doesn’t know. How could she know? She’s playing a game. Dipper floats silently above them, like he’s waiting to see how this plays out.
Bill says, “Is it in the—”
“Nope! Not telling!” Mabel says. She starts scratching the pig’s belly again, and when Bill opens his mouth to speak again, she says, “C’mon, Dipper, don’t you think you need to relax? Come and pet Waddles with me.”
Bill swivels and leaves the room without another word. Looks like he’ll be on his own for this search.
He isn’t quite on his own. The Mystery Shack opened for business as soon as they arrived home from the hospital, which means there are customers everywhere, not to mention Stan, Soos, and Wendy all wandering around making it difficult to look for anything without being questioned.
When he tries to go and check Stan’s room, Stan says, “Hey! Dipper! Where are you going? You’re on sucker duty with your sister.”
Bill doesn’t know what “sucker duty” means, but Mabel demonstrates admirably by throwing herself into the path of a customer who was about to leave and spinning some ridiculous tale about the nearest useless scam of an item. Once that customer is out of their hair, she turns to Bill.
“What’s the matter, Dipper?” she says. “You could have jumped in anytime! Everyone loves the twins act.”
“Oh,” Bill says, “I guess I’m still worn out from all my injuries. Haha! Say, can I take a break?”
“Nope,” Mabel says. “You have to help. Right, Grunkle Stan?” She calls the last part over to the cash register, where Stan is gleefully taking people’s money.
“Right,” he calls back over, clearly not really listening.
Bill scowls. Above, Dipper grins.
“Gonna be tough finding that journal now, huh?” he says. “You won’t have a chance to look until the Shack closes, and that’s not for ages.”
While Mabel is scouting out the next sucker, Bill shoots Dipper a glare. Gloat all you want, Pine Tree, but you haven’t won. Oh, no. You can’t win. I’ll have your body for as long as I want, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.
Dipper just floats there, grinning. Bill turns his back on him just as Mabel waylays the next sucker.
As much as it rankles Bill, Dipper is right. There isn’t a single moment all day that he can sneak away and find the journal. When he gets away from Mabel, there’s Wendy demanding his attention, and when he makes an excuse to her, Soos blocks his path, and when he gets around Soos, Stan calls him back to do some other inane task. Even when he manages to avoid all of them, there are seemingly endless, mindless customers demanding to be served.
At the end of the day, he has still not found the book, and he hates each and every one of the customers and staff in Stan’s stupid Mystery Shack.
Mabel proves to be an infuriatingly difficult obstacle. In Dipper’s body, he has weaknesses, and she knows them all. Every time he tries to go search for the journal, she stops him with a tickle-fight, or a surprise game of tag, or something that she absolutely has to show him right now and no, it can’t wait. He could get by her if he left the body, but then Dipper would be able to inhabit it again, and that’s the last thing he needs. Without Dipper’s body, he’ll never get the book; with Dipper’s body, he’ll never get past Mabel.
His body, too, is still recovering, and for that, apparently, it needs even more sleep than usual. He’s beginning to detest sleep. Of course, without it, his own powers would be fairly useless, but he appreciates it a lot more when he’s not the one reduced to a snoring, defenseless lump. Dipper doesn’t seem to care about what state his body’s in—he’s not the one inhabiting it, after all—so he prevents Bill from getting sleep as much as he possibly can. Since no one else can hear him, this often means shouting. With Dipper’s help, he wakes up the following morning already feeling grumpy, groggy, and just about ready to kill someone. Too bad Dipper’s floppy arms make that impossible.
And then there’s the fact that everyone in the Mystery Shack seems to be conspiring against his finding the journal. They can’t know—they don’t even know who he is, let alone that Dipper isn’t in control of his body at the moment—and it’s all just slightly too innocent for him to claim they’re doing it on purpose. But again, he doesn’t have a free moment to search. Mabel keeps dragging him places, Wendy keeps wanting to talk, and Stan keeps demanding that he do menial tasks. Apparently, that’s the norm, since no one else says anything, but Bill has to grit his teeth to keep from bursting into screams at all of them.
All in all, it’s a frustrating day. And that night, Dipper does his best to prevent Bill from sleeping again. The kid’s got determination, Bill has to give him that. Determination, or single-minded stubbornness. Whatever it is, it’s annoying.
“Give it up, Pine Tree,” Bill hisses at about four in the morning, while Mabel sleeps soundly on the other side of the room. “You can’t beat me.”
“Really? You haven’t found the journal yet,” Dipper says.
“I’ll find it,” Bill snaps. “You can’t stop me. None of you can.”
“We seem to be doing a pretty good job so far.”
“Oh, Pine Tree,” Bill says, his lips stretching into something that can’t really be called a smile. “You give yourself way too much credit! You’re useless to everyone. Including yourself!”
Dipper smiles. Bill turns over huffily and pulls the covers over his head.
The lack of sleep is starting to get to him. The body moves clumsily, no matter how he forces it. And Mabel still won’t tell him where the book is.
He vows to look for it as soon as he is left alone, but he isn’t left alone. Either Stan needs him for stocking inventory or spinning some ridiculous yarn for stupid customers, or Mabel wants him to run around in the woods or play with her stupid pig, or Dipper’s body betrays him with hunger or a need to pee.
Dipper follows him around constantly, trying to make him break character and shouting at everyone who can’t hear him that it isn’t him, and at night he does his level best to make sure Bill doesn’t get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning. He ignores all of Bill’s threats, and to be fair, Bill can’t do anything yet. Not until he finds the journal.
And he will. No matter how long it takes.
It’s been a week. It’s been a full week and Mabel has neither revealed the location of the journal nor acted like she believes Dipper’s body is inhabited by anyone but Dipper. Bill doesn’t know which one is more infuriating. He’ll give her nightmares for the rest of her life as soon as he gets the chance.
Today, Stan has decided it’s a family day. This means that the shop closes early, and that he spends all day trying to get the kids interested in idiotic activities, like bird watching and a game Stan calls “Will Soos Eat This” (and the answer, inevitably, is yes) and a whole lot of pointless reminiscing. It drives Bill even more crazy than when the shop is open.
Eventually, though, even Mabel seems to tire of it; she wanders away to play with her pet pig (and Bill wishes death on him, too, but what good would giving nightmares to a pig do?). Bill’s about to leave the room, thinking maybe, finally, he has a chance to search unimpeded, when Stan says, “Hey, kid. Come here for a minute.”
He’s got a photo album on his lap. Probably wants to show Dipper something. He’d better not want him to sit on his lap, because no matter how like Dipper that would be, he’s not doing it.
“Come here,” Stan repeats. “Don’t make me put you in a headlock, kid.”
As Dipper hovers overhead and wearily mutters, for the 57th time that day, that it isn’t him, Bill comes over and leans on the arm of Stan’s chair.
“See that?” Stan says, pointing at a photograph. It shows a younger Stan, beaming from ear to ear and standing in front of a run-down looking shack. This very one, in fact. Before it was the Mystery Shack. He’s got the letters, though, all set up on the sign behind him. It just isn’t on the roof yet. “That was the day I bought the place. The old owners didn’t think anyone could live there, so I got it cheap. Ha! I sure showed them.”
Bill glances up at Dipper. What would he say now? But Dipper has his lips pressed tight together and his arms crossed. He’s not giving Bill any helpful hints.
“That’s great,” Bill tries.
“Yeah, I know,” Stan says. He flips several pages at once, and suddenly the pages are filled with pictures of him and Dipper and Mabel. “And there we are. Me, Mabel, and Dipper.”
Above, Dipper’s arms uncross. “What?”
Belatedly, Bill realizes what’s wrong with that sentence, and echoes Dipper. “What?”
“Me and my grand-niece and nephew,” Stan says.
The silence stretches to an uncomfortable length.
“Yeah,” Bill says. “Me and my sister.”
Stan closes the album so suddenly that Bill jumps back. “Yeah? You think?”
Bill ignores Dipper’s shout of “Yes!” and says, “What do you mean, St—Grunkle Stan?”
Stan sits forward and looks at Bill. “See, the thing is, I like Dipper. Don’t tell him I said that,” he adds (and above, Dipper calls out, “Too late! No take-backs!”), “but he’s a good kid, y’know? I like having him around. You, on the other hand—”
“Haha! Such a kidder,” Bill says. As if he’s still got a chance. “Of course I’m—”
“Whoever you are, you’re not my great-nephew,” Stan says. He’s holding eye contact now, and though his tone is still pleasant (as pleasant as Stan Pines’ voice can ever be, anyway), the eye contact is starting to seem threatening. “And I don’t think you should be in that body.”
Abandoning all pretense, Bill says, “Maybe not, but there isn’t anything you can do about it!”
“Oh, I know I can’t hurt you,” Stan says. “Not without hurting him too. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything.”
Bill grins. Dipper has floated down to the other side of Stan’s chair, watching this unfold in silence. His expression is one of utter fascination.
“I don’t think you get it, Stan,” Bill says. “You can’t hurt me at all. Nothing you can do—”
“You think so, huh? Just remember, kid. I might have to pretend you’re my grand-nephew. But so do you.”
“Hey, Soos!” Stan calls. “Get in here!”
Bill frowns. “What are you—”
Soos appears in the doorway. “Hi, Stan. Hi Dipper. You won’t believe what I just ate.”
Stan doesn’t seem to hear him. “Dipper wants to hear all about your weird bodily functions,” he says.
Soos brightens. “You mean like the gray hair growing in my belly button? And the time I fell asleep outside and woke up with this weird crusty goo all over my—”
“Yeah, like that,” Stan interrupts, and Dipper and Bill breathe a sigh of relief together. “Just don’t leave any details out. He wants the full story. Don’t let him leave until you’re done.”
“Wow,” Dipper says. “I knew Grunkle Stan was cold, but I didn’t know he could be that cold.”
Bill makes for the exit. Stan grabs him and holds him while he struggles in his tiny, spaghetti-limbed, noodle body.
“Here,” Stan says. “Why don’t you sit on Soos’s lap?”
If Soos is aware that something strange is going on, he gives no sign. He sits down in the armchair, and Stan lifts Bill up and places him on Soos’s legs. He makes another bid to escape, but this time it’s Soos’s big, fat arms that prevent him from going anywhere.
“Okay, Dipper,” he says cheerfully. “Where should I start? I’m gonna start with the hair. You know, I thought I had a gray hair on my head first, but it turned out it was just a trick of the light. And then another time…”
“You’ll regret this, Stan Pines,” Bill snarls as Stan leaves the room.
Stan ignores him, but Dipper floats out after him, grinning like he hasn’t since he lost his body. “Have fun hearing about Soos’s weird bodily functions,” he says.
And he’s gone, leaving an oblivious Soos holding Bill, who hangs over the arm of the chair in abject horror.
Bill stumbles out hours later, exhausted and scarred possibly for the rest of his existence. Soos has plainly been looking for someone to tell his inane stories, all of which went on longer than Bill would have thought possible, and listening to him is both horrifying and utterly tiring. No torture Stan could have devised could be worse than that.
It’s almost a relief to see that the person in this room isn’t Stan, or Mabel, who both know. It’s just the redhead, who probably doesn’t. She’s leaning against the counter, and when Bill comes in, she raises her soda in greeting.
It’s too much bother to remember her name, so he says, “Hi, Red.”
“Hey, ‘Dipper,’” she says.
He can hear the quotation marks. He can see the quotation marks. He can feel the quotation marks down to the marrow of his fragile bones.
For Pete’s sake. Is there anyone left around here who hasn’t figured it out?
It’s useless to pretend, so he says, “How did you do that with your voice?”
She sips her can of soda and stares at him coolly. Other than the quotation marks, she gives no sign that she knows it’s not Dipper.
Bill grits his teeth and stalks out of the room.
Nothing happens the next day. Stan doesn’t force him to listen to Soos, Wendy doesn’t do the quotation mark thing again, and everyone treats him like he’s Dipper and like they never thought otherwise. But the ordeal isn’t over. Apparently, it’s movie night.
Movie nights, Bill gathers, are usually for Stan and the twins, but tonight, both Wendy and Soos are around, too. Maybe, under cover of darkness and company, he can sneak away and search the house for the book—but that plan is dashed when Stan grabs him by the back of his shirt and sits him down next to Mabel on the floor.
“You can’t miss movie night,” Mabel says. “Don’t you want to watch ‘Were-Witch-Pire 2?’”
“Yeah, you can’t miss ‘Were-Witch-Pire 2.’ ‘This time, it’s personal,’” Wendy says. “C’mon, Dipper. You scared?”
“I’m not scared,” Bill says indignantly.
“Give it up, Bill,” Dipper says. “Everyone knows it’s you. Even Soos knows.”
They both glance over at Soos, who is happily scarfing his seventh hotdog of the night, his eyes glued to the television.
“Okay,” Dipper says, “maybe not Soos. But Mabel knows, Grunkle Stan knows, even Wendy knows! You’re not fooling anyone, and no one is going to tell you where the journal is.”
Dramatic irony dictates that now is the time for someone to blurt out where the book is hidden, and both Dipper and Bill allow a pause for it. But no one says anything.
“It’s pointless!” Dipper resumes, as onscreen, the were-witch-pire stalks its first victim. “You can’t win this one. Not like this. You’ll just have to give me back my body and find another way. Or better yet, leave me alone!”
No matter how hard Bill stares at the screen, he cannot shut Dipper’s annoying little voice out.
“You know it’s useless! Mabel will never tell you where she hid it, and you’ll never find it! Soos doesn’t run out of stories. He keeps getting new ones. And you know Stan’s not above it.”
He keeps talking. Bill misses all the dialogue in the movie. The heroine is introduced, or maybe she’s not the heroine: a blonde waif whose boyfriend got devoured ten seconds ago.
Bill jumps up. “I’m going to get—”
Snacks, popcorn, a drink, out of here. He doesn’t get to finish the sentence before Mabel stands up and says, “I’ll go with you!”
“‘Dipper,’ could you grab me a soda while you’re up?” Wendy says, and he’s less sure he heard the quote marks this time, but something snaps.
“All right,” he says, nearly shouts. “That is it.”
All eyes are on him. Dipper’s gone silent, and Soos has even paused with a hot dog halfway to his mouth.
“I thought this would be easy,” Bill says. “Get in, get the journal, get out. But noooo. First, Mabel has to hide the journal! Well, no problem, I can find that! But then you all have to start acting like this! I don’t get a moment alone for a full week! Ohh, but you know what’s even worse than that? You all act like it’s a coincidence! As if I don’t know you know.” He pauses for breath and looks at Soos. “Except you, Question Mark. I honestly can’t tell if you know anything or not. But the rest of you!” He points an accusing finger at Mabel, Wendy, and Stan in turn. “You with your constant games, and you with your quotation marks, and you with your psychological torture!”
“Aw, you flatter me,” Stan says with a grin.
“Shut up! I’ve had it with you people. Keep your stupid journal! But mark my words, Pines, you haven’t seen the last of me! I’ll be back!”
Before any of them have a chance to react, he pushes out of Dipper’s body and vanishes into the mindscape.
Dipper’s body lies crumpled on the floor only for a second before Dipper swoops back into it.
He wiggles his fingers. They move. He gets to his feet. His body moves.
“You did it!” He laughs aloud in delight. “Mabel, everyone, that was amazing! How did you—?”
“Aw, don’t be silly, Dipper,” Mabel says. “He never fooled me even for a second.”
“Yeah, high five,” Wendy says.
Dipper tries to move toward her, trips over his feet, and falls.
“Ow,” he says weakly. “I got so used to floating I guess I forgot to walk…”
They all laugh. Still on the floor, Dipper laughs, too.
“Come on, Dipper,” Mabel says, helping him to his feet. “Let’s finish the movie.”
Dipper gets back into his place just in time for the commercial break to end. As the heroes discuss what to do about the were-witch-pire, not knowing that it stalks them at this very moment, Dipper says, “By the way, Mabel? Where did you hide my journal?”
“I’ll tell you later,” she says.
“But I—” Dipper stops. “Okay.”
“It’s good to have you back, Dipper,” Grunkle Stan says.
“It’s good to be back,” Dipper says. “Especially with all this new blackmail material I have.”
Grunkle Stan freezes. “Blackmail material? What are you talking about? What did you hear?”
Dipper grins. “I’ll tell you later.”