When Mabel had suggested that they spend a fun Friday out in the woods, running for their lives from an angry troll in the rain hadn't been Dipper's first thought. Oh it had started out nice, the sun had been slanting through the trees and everything had turned that nice yellow green color of the Oregon forests. Mabel had led the way, skipping happily and twirling around as Dipper had followed with their backpack of food, pretending not to hum along to that catchy pop song she was singing. They had settled for a nice clearing, with a fallen log to sit upon and pine trees all around in which woodpeckers flitted about their business. A large boulder sat over to one side of the copse, covered in moss and what Dipper suspected was a healthy coat of mold.
"Picnic time!" Mabel sat on the log, swinging her legs back and forth. "C'mon, Dipper! Get out the food!"
"Hang on," Dipper groaned and let the heavy backpack slide to the ground. "Oh man, my shoulders."
"It'll be lighter after we eat." Taking the package he handed to her, Mabel unwrapped her lunch eagerly. "Peanut butter and marshmallow, best sandwich ever!"
"Ew." The boy revealed his own lunch, "Ham and cheese, classic."
"You and your boring sandwiches." Mabel rolled her eyes. "You should really b'rnc 't"
"Mabel I don't speak food." He smothered a laugh as his sister chewed around the sticky substances.
As they ate, Dipper pulled the ever present Journal out from the inner pocket of his vest and began thumbing through it. He'd already read the thing three times, but he just couldn't resist looking through its mystery filled pages every chance he got. Gnomes, Bill Cypher, Trolls- Dipper stopped and skimmed the page absently; there was a picture of a troll standing up, one threatening an unsuspecting bridge crosser, and another curled up into a ball to sleep.
Huh, looks like a big rock to me. Dipper froze, looking up into the clearing. Clouds had covered up the summer sun, and the little copse was much less friendly in appearance than when he'd arrived. Oregon's weather was notorious for its sudden rainstorms, and even as Dipper looked the first few drops began to fall. The moldy boulder which had been sitting silently off to the side began to move, and Mabel looked up in alarm to see what her brother was watching.
"Um, Dipper?" Her sandwich forgotten, the girl stood nervously, "Is that rock, stretching?"
"Yeah," Stowing the Journal quickly back in its pouch, the boy slowly took his sister's hand. "Yeah I think it is."
Uncurling, the boulder which Dipper now recognized as a troll stood and yawned cavernously, showing sharp yellowed fangs that were as long as kitchen knives. A blunt nose sat under heavy brow ridges, and the eyes that blinked sleepily under them were a sickly green color. Moss formed a pattern reminiscent of chest hair over the rocky hide, and the creature's arms were brutishly large; a gut which would have been termed "saggy" if the creature had possessed skin stuck out over bowed legs that ended in large moldy feet.
"Ew." Mabel blurted quietly, her hair being plastered to her face by the rain.
Though the exclamation had been quiet, the troll still seemed to hear, and it turned to the two intruders with a mixture of curiosity and hunger. Dipper very slowly pulled Mabel behind him, looking up at the almost seven foot tall beast with wary concern.
"Maybe it's friendly?" Mabel whispered hopefully.
Finally seeming to realize that there were two snacks sitting right in front of it, the troll opened up its huge mouth and roared, sending a gust of foul smelling breath rolling over the twins.
"Maybe not. Run!" Taking off, Dipper pulled Mabel behind him in a mad dash back towards town. The ground had already turned soggy, and the children's running feet caused gouts of water to spray whenever they hit a puddle. Behind them the trees shook as the troll pursued its prey in a sort of rollicking gallop; a family of woodpeckers flew for cover as the pine next to theirs was brutally knocked over. The rain began to pelt down in earnest, soaking the fleeing humans and running off the stone pursuer in rivulets.
"Dipper! Dipper it's catching up!" Mabel gasped between breaths, her feet were on fire. How long had they been running?
"We'll have to lose it!" Her brother wheezed back, veering off the muddy trail they had been following and into the undergrowth.
Crashing through bushes and jumping fallen logs, the two ran pell-mell through the forest in an effort to lose the beast, their breath coming in ragged sobs as the sound of its thundering pursuit echoed behind them. Up ahead Dipper could see a deep gulch from a long ago stream; it was about five feet deep and two feet across, its edges were concealed by long grass which shivered under the onslaught of water.
"What? It's just a ditch!" Mabel almost stumbled over a root as they fled.
"We can hide at the bottom!" Dipper panted desperately, "It's our only chance!"
Reaching the gully, the twins leapt into it with reckless abandon, jarring their ankles upon landing on the muddy, stony earth. Around them the dirt walls shook as the troll bounded up to their hiding spot; gasping for breath, Dipper pulled Mabel under an overhang and pressed himself as flat as possible. A large hand was lowered into the ditch as the troll fished around for its prey, but the creature couldn't bend its arm properly to get at them.
Thank goodness it's stupid. Dipper released a shaky sigh as the troll bellowed with fury, crashing around and pounding tree trunks in rage. Beside him Mabel was regaining her own wind, listening to the roaring creature above them.
Casting a last toxic glare back at the hateful ditch, the troll stumped away gloomily; it would try to find other prey before the rain was over and the evil sun reemerged. The forest around the twins' hiding place grew silent but for the patter of rain on the leaves.
A small stream of runoff soaked Dipper and Mabel's feet, the water and rain were cold for all that it was summer. Looking up as his sister shivered, Dipper shrugged off his blue vest and handed it to her. "Here."
"I'm fine." Looking farther along the gulch he pointed to a slightly eroded edge. "We can get out over there and head back to the Mystery Shack."
The hike back was long and cold, and the rain continued to mock them as it poured cheerfully down on the forest below. Dipper couldn't prevent a small whimper of relief when the familiar wooden frame of the Mystery Shack came into view. Grunkle Stan was pandering to a bunch of tourists as usual, and Wendy was minding the cash register with a bored expression pasted on her face. She looked up in surprise as the pair stumbled through the door, taking in their muddy, soaked appearance with gracefully raised eyebrows.
"What happened to you guys?"
"Rain." Dipper groaned.
"And a troll." Mabel finished.
Wendy chuckled, "Trolls, sure." the twins were always telling stories.
Straggling up the stairs, Dipper and Mabel retreated to their attic room and began to change into dry clothes, hanging their soaking wet ones over the shower rail to drip dry. Dipper carefully removed the Journal and checked that it was in-tact, setting it on the shelf reverently.
"Wanna go play go fish with Soos and Waddles?" Mabel tugged a vibrant orange sweater over her head.
"No thanks." Dipper muttered. Was it normal to be this tired after running from a troll most of the afternoon? Somehow he didn't think anyone would be able to offer a comparison. The normally warm attic felt cold to him as well, checking to see if the window was shut, Dipper then crawled into bed and settled under his blankets with a sigh.
"Ok then," Mabel gazed at her brother; he didn't normally go to bed before dinner. Then again he didn't normally get chased by a monster before dinner. Shrugging, the girl skipped down the stairs and ran to greet her pig, who snorted ecstatically at her.
"Dude, where's your brother?" Soos was fixing a window towards the front of the shop, grunting as he lifted the heavy frame the large man glanced back at the girl and her pig.
"Dipper went to sleep." Mabel cuddled Waddles close to her. "He's really tired."
"Must be." Replacing the frame, Soos hammered the hinges back into place and stepped back to survey his handiwork. "Perfect."
Grunkle Stan walked through the door, thumbing through a short stack of bills which he had managed to hoodwink from the unsuspecting tourists. His eye patch was flipped up so that he could see clearly, and a satisfied smirk was pasted across his stubbly face.
"Aha those saps get dumber every year." Stan glanced down at his niece. "Hey, Mabel, where's the kid?"
"Asleep." Wendy answered for the girl. "They both got soaked out in the rain."
Walking over to the cash register Stan placed the money inside and smiled at the "ding" as it closed again. "Alright, shack's closed. Wendy, Soos, get lost." A small smirk took the sting out of the dismissal.
"Wohoo! Outta here!" grabbing her coat, Wendy opened the door and stepped onto the porch. "Seeya, Mr. Pines! Bye, Soos! Later, Mabel!" Striding out into the rain, the teenager hopped in her car and drove off.
"See you tomorrow, Mr. Pines." Soos trudged out the door and began walking down the road away from the shack, throwing potato chips from a bag into his mouth as he went.
"Right, now let's eat." Stan placed his fez on a hook and led the way to the old kitchen, "The kid coming?"
"Doubt it." Mabel sat in one of the rickety chairs. "What are we having?"
"Ham and beans, kid. Put some meat on those bones!"
Dinner was a short affair, with Mabel playing a game in which the losers were eaten by the horrible "Monster Mabel" and Grunkle Stan pretending to read the paper and really watching his great niece with fond amusement. After dinner they retired to the family room and sat on the overstuffed armchair to watch "Baby Fights". Mabel sat perched on the arm of the chair, and felt a bit out of place when she looked at the spot by Stan's feet where her brother usually sat. There was an asymmetry to the whole scene that left her feeling a bit lost, and so she begged off early to go check on Dipper.
Padding quietly up the stairs, Mabel opened the door and tiptoed inside; her brother was cocooned in blankets, sleeping on his side with a corner of one sheet clutched in his hands. His hair had finally air-dried after the dousing in the rain, and he appeared to be sleeping peacefully. Walking to the bathroom, Mabel brushed her teeth in relative silence and donned her oversized nightshirt before crawling into her own bed and dousing the kerosene lantern that sat on the dresser.
"G'night, Dipper." It was the merest whisper, and though there was no reply Mabel felt better for uttering it. Turning onto her side, the girl closed her eyes and drifted slowly off to sleep.
"Urgh, what time is it?" Mabel rubbed sleepily at her eyes and sat up in bed; stretching her arms out and yawning. From the sunlight slanting through the window it was fairly late in the morning. Mabel frowned; even though it was a Friday and the shack opened late, Dipper never let her sleep past nine, it had to be nearly ten thirty by now.
"Dipper?" Her brother appeared to still be asleep, facing away from her and curled up. This was also odd; Dipper was almost always up by seven, and he tended to sleep stretched out.
Sliding from the bed, Mabel crossed the distance between their two beds and gently shook her brother's shoulder.
"Dipper? Dipper it's time to get up."
The boy in question shifted slightly under her touch and let out a snuffling sort of whimper. Frowning, Mabel climbed up onto the bed and bounced up and down twice.
"Dipper, Dipper I'm jumping on your bed!"
Nothing. Trying to ignore the unease curling around in her normally cheerful mind, she pressed a hand carefully to Dipper's forehead.
"Lettin' 'em sleep late today, huh?" Wendy raised an eyebrow, taking her position by the ancient cash register.
"Lazy kids these days." Stan grumbled, "The stairs are too hard for me to go up, that's all."
"Uh huh." Wendy traded a knowing glance with Soos, who was replacing a lightbulb.
Three heads jerked up sharply. They knew Mabel; they knew her cheerful tone, they knew her yell for attention, her cheer for the winner of a fight on television, and they knew her shout of glee when something cute appeared. This was none of those; this was a yell of distress, an appeal to the highest power she knew in the area.
The girl came stumbling down the steps and into the room, running to her uncle with arms outstretched. "Grunkle Stan!"
"Mabel, what's goin' on?" The man set his eight ball staff aside and pulled up his eye patch.
"Dipper's sick! He feels really hot and—and he's been sleeping forever and he won't talk to me when I shake him!"
This time Wendy's shared glance with Soos was one of concern, and for all that the stairs were supposedly too hard to climb Stan managed to run up them fairly quickly to trail his great niece. Striding across the room, Stan Pines gazed down at his great nephew with concern; there were dark circles under the boy's eyes, for all that he'd been sleeping, and his expression was one of distress.
Feeling Dipper's forehead, Stan's grey eyebrows rose. "Mabel." He addressed the girl at his elbow. "Go into the bathroom and bring me the thermometer and a bottle of Tylenol."
The girl rushed to obey, and Stan shook Dipper's shoulder firmly. "Kid, Dipper."
Uttering a whimper of protest, Dipper turned his face away and curled more tightly into the blankets.
"Kid, I need you coherent for a sec'. C'mon, up."
Mabel arrived back in the room and delivered the required items to her uncle's lap. "What are you doing?"
"Tryin' to wake him up. I need him to be able to answer questions."
Dipper always listened to Grunkle Stan, even if he didn't always agree, he always obeyed. Stan frowned at the boy, worry beginning to creep across his face; next to him Mabel's face scrunched up as she fought tears, and her uncle was surprised when she spoke up.
"Dipper!" It was only his name, but it was delivered in a tearful sort of yelp that was not characteristic of Mabel in the least.
Even more surprising was the fact that Dipper stirred and raised his head just high enough to look around with glassy eyes. "Mabel?" his voice was a hoarse whisper.
Stan would have whistled had he not been so relieved; the kid was so keyed into his sister that any sign of distress from her was enough to push through the haze of fever. Taking advantage of the child's relative alertness, he held up the thermometer.
"Kid, you're sick. You're runnin' a fever and I need to know how bad it is. Take this and keep it in your mouth 'till it beeps, got it?"
After a ponderous nod Dipper accepted the thermometer and rested his head back on the pillow. Stan turned to Mabel. "Read it when it's done and tell me the number, I'm going to get him a glass of water to take that Tylenol with."
Stumping downstairs Stan Pines retrieved a glass from the kitchen and poked his head into the store portion of the Mystery Shack.
"Shack's closed, clean up and leave."
Wendy and Soos blinked in surprise.
"What?" the teen spoke first.
"Kid's got a fever, don't know the number yet, but it's high. Barely responds to anything—wouldn't have woken up for me at all if Mabel hadn't helped."
"Dude, that sounds awful." Soos rubbed the back of his head.
"Ok." Wendy flipped the sign on the door from 'Open' to 'Closed' and watched as Mr. Pines disappeared back into the hall. "Guess we'll sweep or something and go?"
"Nah, I think I'm gonna stick around here for a bit." Soos shook his head, "Mr. Pines might need help."
"You're a good man, Soos." Picking up the broom, Wendy got to work.
"103.5." the information was hurled at him as soon as he walked in with the glass of water.
"Alright." Stan pulled the old chair in the corner over and sat on it with a groan. Dipper regarded his great uncle tiredly and raised his head again. "Dipper, I need ya' to take two of these." The boy was presented with two Tylenol. "After an hour we'll check your temperature again."
Mabel anxiously helped her brother to sit up and watched as he took the medicine, twisting her hands in her nightshirt. As if the simple motions had exhausted him, Dipper sank back down onto the bed and shivered miserably.
"Do you want another blanket?" Mabel would gladly share one of hers if it would get Dipper back to normal.
"Sorry, Mabel." Stan cut her off. "Kid doesn't need to be any hotter, I know he's shivering but he's still got a fever."
"What about some juice? Gregorian chants? How about—"
"What your brother really needs is rest." Stan made shooing motions at his great-niece. "Why don't you go watch TV with the pig or something? I'll stay up here; too old to be going up and down those steps all day."
Reluctantly the girl edged out of the room with a last glance at her brother, who had curled up again and was sleeping fitfully. Glumly Mabel walked down the steps, not even bothering to jump on the squeaky fifth stair like she usually did; things just weren't the same without Dipper there. There was no one to race to the remote when she turned on the TV, and no one to root for the opposite fighter when she settled on "Baby Fights".
Soos ambled down the hall and looked into the living room, sparing a look of sympathy for the girl who was sitting on the floor in Dipper's spot, cuddling Waddles the pig halfheartedly. It was weird to see one twin without the other, almost like seeing someone with a missing limb; sighing, the handyman shook his head and continued down the hall—there was a loose floorboard in the back room that needed nailing down.
The afternoon seemed to drag by for Mabel; there was nothing to do. Dipper usually picked the afternoon to open the Journal and send them both on a crazy adventure, but that option was out. Wendy had left hours ago and Soos was snoring on the sofa in his break room; frowning, Mabel decided to go upstairs and check on her brother. Tiptoeing up the steps, being mindful of that fifth one, the girl slid down the hall in her socks and carefully peeked around the doorframe. Grunkle Stan was slouched in the chair, his head tipped back and mouth open; every so often a gruff snore would emerge into the room like the call of a wild animal. Beside the chair on the floor was one of Dipper's many books, it was lying page down like it had fallen from Stan's hand as he had fallen asleep. Mabel smiled, entering the room carefully and giving her great-uncle a fond pat on the arm.
With a snort Stan Pines jerked into wakefulness, wiping something that was definitely not drool away from the corner of his mouth. The sun slanting through the attic window indicated that it was getting on towards evening; he must have been out for a few hours. Stifling a yawn the man looked down at his great-nephew and blinked in surprise.
"Huh, could've sworn there was only one of 'em before."
Dipper was curled into a loose ball under his sheets, looking much more comfortable than he had earlier. The red flush of fever had left the boy's cheeks, and his breathing was much less fitful than it had been before; over all it seemed that the Tylenol had done the job. Curled opposite her brother was Mabel, sleeping on top of the covers with her forehead just barely brushing Dipper's. One of her dainty hands was wrapped around his, and her breathing was perfectly synchronized with her twin's.
Grunkle Stan couldn't wipe the small smile from his face as he stumped quietly from the Attic; he would check up on them later.