Wendy flipped through her magazine and sighed deeply. It had been an extremely slow day at the Mystery Shack, so she was hiding away on the roof of the decrepit lodge that was her current employment. Often on days like today, where the inhabitants of the small town of Gravity Falls were not in the mood for being conned out of their money by the crotchety old miser that she called her boss, she would often come up to this secret haven to think about how boring her life was.
Today was different however, as this time her mind was preoccupied thinking about the two new tenants of the Mystery Shack. Dipper and Mabel, the Pines twins or as Soos liked to call them, the Mystery twins. The only real mystery about the pair to Wendy was how on earth they were related to Stan. Otherwise the two seemed like your average dynamic duo. As she thought about it though, she realized there was more to the twins than met the eye. While Mabel may be an optimistic, boy crazy little girl, she had become kind of like Wendy's silly little sister, which was kind of nice since she came from a family of all boys. Dipper was different from his sister. He was paranoid, always thinking everything was part of some great conspiracy plot, but he was very mature and in her opinion, a very brave 12 year old boy.
She thought back about how he had saved her and her friends from the ghosts that had attacked them in the condemned Dusk2Dawn convenience store almost a week ago. At first, when she had heard the ramblings from the twins about the strange and mysterious things in Gravity Falls, she had thought they were just two preteens with overactive imaginations. Even when they came back on their second day staying at the Mystery Shack with the golf kart she had let Dipper borrow, claiming that gnomes had destroyed it to their very upset great uncle, she had thought they just got into a little accident and were trying to make up a story to get out of having to pay for the damages. Now she started to believe.
It at least made their adventures feel more real. She remembered when she was their age, going on adventures with him. The boy from her childhood. The twins often reminded her of her youth and how she used to go explore the mysterious town with him, but then he left Gravity Falls. He left her. He almost left without saying a word, but he had sent her one last correspondence before he just disappeared. She wanted to write him back, ask him why he left their hometown, but the letter had no return address. She still had the letter, hidden in her room. It reminded her of him, kept his memory alive, even though she wasn't sure if he was. She always loved his writing, always seeing him with his journal, writing something down. She would ask what he was writing, but he never showed her, always giving her a gentle laugh and saying, "Maybe one day I'll show you."
During this reverie of her past, she didn't notice how the sun was starting to set beyond the horizon of tall pine trees. She also didn't notice the dark blue 2000 Mercury Sable that drove up to the Mystery Shack nor did she hear the car door shut as it's driver stepped out of the vehicle.
"Hey Wendy! Still got your little hangout on the roof, I see."
The shout stunned her and broke her of her daydream. The voice that called out to her wasn't one of her friends from school, but there was a tinge of familiarity to the tone. She set down her magazine and got up from the lawn chair. Looking over the edge of the roof, she stared at the stranger who was now sitting on the hood of his car, staring back at her. She racked her brain, trying to figure out who this mysterious young man was when he laughed. Then it all clicked, and she gasped in surprise. It was him. He was different from her memories, but the laugh was the same.
"I...I..don't believe it, it's you!" she stuttered.
"Well, am I going to get a proper welcome or what?" he asked, smiling up at her.
"Hold on, I'll be right down." Wendy yelled, as she rushed back to the trap door that lead back down to the Mystery Shack gift store. She couldn't believe it, her excitement giving her a sense of warmth that she hasn't felt for many years. He had returned to Gravity Falls. He had returned to her.
The Pines twins had just made it back from a long day of monster hunting when they heard the familiar jingle of a bell, signaling that some unfortunate soul had crossed the threshold into the infamous Mystery Shack gift shop. Many a tourist had lost their money buying some worthless piece of junk that their Grunkle Stan passed off as an ancient relic or some other such nonsense.
"Hey, come on Dipper. Let's go see who it is."
"Ugh, Mabel. It's probably some boring tourist who doesn't know anything." Dipper replied frankly, tired from their little adventure through the woods that was fruitless yet again.
"Besides the Shack is closed. Grunkle Stan will just kick them out of the store anyway."
"Oh lighten up Dipping Sauce. I know you're curious to find out who it is." Mabel said, and then proceeded to make weird noises and poke his face with her forefinger.
Dipper yelped when she almost caught him in the eye.
"Okay fine. As long as you promise to stop doing that!"
"Yay!" Mabel exclaimed, as she skipped toward the source of their newest distraction for the day, with her twin brother grudgingly in tow.
The Mystery Shack hadn't changed much since the twins had arrived here from Piedmont, California, when their parents dropped them off to spend the summer with their great-uncle Stanford Pines in his house/tourist trap, in the small town of Gravity Falls, Oregon. At first, Dipper thought that this was going to be the most boring summer he would have to endure. That all changed when he found 3, the mysterious book that was hidden in the woods near the Mystery Shack. Ever since, the seemingly plain town grew into a place filled with frightening mysteries and other strange occurrences. Why in the time that they had spent there, Dipper had saved his sister from an army of gnomes, took pictures of a giant lake monster, defeated their Grunkle Stan's collection of cursed wax figures, saved Mabel again (although Mabel would constantly say that she had saved him), this time from a little circus side-show freak with a magic amulet, not to mention his encounter with the ghosts haunting the old convenience store and his test of manliness with the Manotaurs. Even though his sister would have figured out someway to make the summer enjoyable, Mabel too liked going on these adventures with him, even if more times than not she would end up in some sort of danger. It helped keep her mind off the abysmal luck she was having finding her "epic summer romance".
Yes, it had all started with that tattered old book, with its cryptic messages whose author had seemingly disappeared before they were able to finish writing, and filled with knowledge of the different magical creatures that roamed the area around Gravity Falls. In his free time, Dipper spent it either reading all the information the book had to offer or he would jot down any new discoveries he had found on his and his twin's adventures.
The hidden warnings and ciphers in the book continued to haunt Dipper. He had been able to crack some of the codes, but they hadn't really shed anymore light on the dark secrets of the small town. The warning he took most to heart had been scrawled into the page like the writer had been under great stress, perhaps running away from the person or thing that they had said was watching them.
TRUST NO ONE
While Dipper had obviously made exception with his sister, Grunkle Stan, and now with getting to know them more in the month they had stayed there, Wendy and Soos, Dipper didn't really trust anyone else in Gravity Falls, tourist or resident. So when the twins came upon the gift shop, Dipper began to feel his paranoia set in, preparing himself for the strange intruder that had stepped into what was now their home.
The gift shop was the same as it always had been, with poorly put together wooden shelves filled with even more poorly made trinkets marked for twice what they were probably worth, if they were even worth anything. Otherwise the shop was mostly empty, besides the two figures standing near the entrance of the Mystery Shack. One the twins immediately recognized as their great uncle Stan. He was standing behind the counter counting the money from the cash register in his signature tuxedo outfit, his gray hair topped with a red Shriner fez. His thick black-rimmed glasses shielded his beady eyes as they stared down greedily at the crisp green bills. The other person Dipper surmised, was the visitor they had heard enter. Unfortunately the setting sun's rays bled through the door window, casting the stranger in shadows, hiding the figure's details from the two youngest inhabitants of the Mystery Shack. From the twins point of view, the stranger was standing in profile facing the counter, seemingly waiting for Stan to acknowledge the intruder.
After a few moments of silence, Stan finally spoke.
"The Mystery Shack is closed for the day. So, you know, scram rube." Grunkle Stan grunted in his usual low gruff voice.
This did not seem to deter the stranger, as the figure instead leaned forward, resting their arm on the top of the register.
"Now, is that any way to treat an old friend, Mr. Pines?"
From the tone, Dipper realized that the visitor was a young man. While the voice itself didn't seem very unique, no more than a typical Americana dialect, it was filled with a sense of confidence.
This response surprised Grunkle Stan and he diverted his attention from his stack of money to stare at the young man. Suddenly, Stan's eyes shot open, almost like he had just seen a ghost, a feeling Dipper knew better than anyone.
"Well, I'll give away half my money to charity, Adam!" Grunkle Stan laughed and shot out his hand, which the young man grabbed and shook vigorously, joining in with his own laughter.
"It's good to see you haven't changed a bit, Stan."
"Wish I could say the same to you. Look at you! How have you been? Wh..where have you been?"
Right before he was about to answer Stan's barrage of questions, Adam turned to greet Soos, who just appeared out of nowhere.
Dipper couldn't believe that he had not seen Soos enter the room. However the lovable man-child had a knack for pulling this particular magic trick, always there in an instant whenever their Grunkle Stan needed him. Dipper had always wondered if there were hidden maintenance halls in the Mystery Shack which allowed Soos to accomplish this feat.
"Soos, long time no see."
"Hiya dude. Welcome back." Soos said, and the two proceeded to participate in what looked like some weird secret handshake, which culminated with them spinning in circles, beating their chests with their fists and finally ending with them shaking hands normally.
As Dipper and Mabel watched the scene unfold, they almost didn't hear the sound of footsteps coming from above them. They turned to see Wendy, who shimmied down the ladder and rushed past the twins, almost knocking them over in the process.
Wendy stopped a few feet in front of the trio of men, her eyes fixated on the new visitor Adam. As the commotion between the three died down, Adam turned to meet Wendy's gaze.
"Hey there." Adam said, and he raised his hand up in front of him, his palm facing her.
Wendy looked at him, still in shock from his entrance earlier. She still couldn't believe that he had returned.
"Well, don't leave me hanging."
"Adam, it's you. You came back."
Wendy jumped toward him, wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her head into his shoulder. Adam stumbled back a bit, clearly caught off guard by Wendy's reaction. He recovered quickly though, wrapping his arms around her and giving her a tight squeeze. He chuckled softly.
"I missed you too, dork."
Wendy laughed a little, squeezed him back, and the two finally separated. Dipper felt something in the pit of his stomach rise up into his throat. While he would not admit it out loud, he couldn't deny the fact that he had feelings for the red-headed fifteen year old. Seeing her show such affection toward someone, something that had seemed so out of character for the girl he had come to love, made him filled with jealousy. When Mabel saw Dipper tense up, she reached out and touched his shoulder. Dipper looked at his twin and smiled, grateful for the support. They both strode out into the store to meet this new young man.
As the twins neared Adam, they finally got a good look at this strange new visitor. He was a taller fellow, towering a few inches over Wendy. He wore tennis shoes with tattered soles from excessive use. His blue jeans, also faded with age, stood out against his clean white shirt. Over this he wore an unbuttoned, long sleeve plaid shirt, similar in style to the one Wendy always wears except instead of being green, it was sky blue. His skin was fairly pale, but showed signs that he had been outside in the sun. This was a comforting sight for Dipper. Otherwise he would have to hear from his sister all day that this lanky young man was a vampire. Scruffy blonde hair lined his chin and around his mouth, making him appear older that the twins believed he was.
While he was a rather ordinary, somewhat handsome guy, he did have one trait that the twins noticed that would have made him stand out in a crowd. Unlike the one Gruncle Stan would wear as part of his "Man of Mystery" persona, Adam wore a cream-colored rectangular medical patch that rested over the area where his left eye and eyebrow would have been, held in place by white strings that were strapped behind both ears. His right eye which lay unobstructed, shared the same hue as his plaid over-shirt, a piercing light blue. His shaggy corn silk hair was long enough that the bangs reached down to brow level, while on the back of his head, it went as far as his shirt collar.
Finally Dipper spoke, alerting everyone in the shop to their presence.
"Hey guys, what's going on in here?"
All of them turned toward the twins smiling, except for Adam who gave them a surprised, almost confused look.
"Sorry, I didn't know there was anyone else here." Adam said, taking a few steps towards the Pines.
"My name is Adam, and who might you two be?"
Dipper had opened his mouth to speak, but his sister beat him to the punch.
"I'm Mabel Pines, and this is my twin brother Dipper." Mabel stated in her usual up beat tone as she for no logical reason pushed Dipper, who comically fell to the floor.
Adam's eye widened. Apparently everyone was seeing ghosts today.
"Wait, as in Stan's grand-niece and nephew?!"
The twins nodded.
"Wow, I don't believe it. You're all grown up now!"
"I'm sorry, but have we met before?" Dipper asked as he stood up and brushed dust of his shirt, clearly confused since he had no recollection of ever meeting this man until today.
"Yeah, but I'm sure you wouldn't remember that. You two were just babies back then. Your mom and dad came up to see Stan and they brought you with them. But now look at you!" Adam exclaimed as he watched Mabel who was spinning around in circles, modeling for him.
During Mabel's little show, Dipper made his way over to Wendy and whispered, "Who exactly is this guy?"
"Adam is an old friend. He was born and raised here in Gravity Falls." Wendy replied.
"Yeah! He used to work for me, along with these two knuckleheads." Gruncle Stan chimed in, pointing to Soos and Wendy.
"We used to hang out all the time, but he left about four years ago." Soos interjected, not wanting to feel left out of the conversation.
"Speaking of which..." Wendy started, speaking louder to get the one-eyed man's attention.
"Why did you leave us?"
Her voice was filled with hurt, again surprising Dipper, and the merriment that had once permeated the shop disappeared in an instant. Even Mabel stopped twirling around, as all eyes were now fixed on the boy from the past. The smile that had been plastered on Adam's face since his arrival at the Mystery Shack slowly faded away. It appeared that Dipper had not been the only person to recognize the sorrow in her tone.
"I suppose I have a lot of explaining to do." Adam said, sounding somewhat defeated as he sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck.
"C'mon," said Gruncle Stan, "let's go into the living room. We can talk there."
Everyone followed Stan toward the other side of the Mystery Shack. Dipper and Mabel walked closely behind Adam, who had his left arm around Wendy, while his right gripped Soos' shoulder. All of them anxiously awaited to hear the young man's story.
Everyone sat around the discolored yellow cross-stitched chair in what the Pines called their living room. Instead of staring at the TV watching some black and white chick flick, Grunkle Stan was standing in the doorway to get a better vantage point to listen to Adam's tale of the four years he had been gone from Gravity Falls. The twins sat on either side of Adam, while Wendy and Soos sat cross-legged in front of the chair.
"I just can't get over how much you guys have changed." Adam said looking at everyone staring at him.
"You too, I mean look at you. The last time I saw you, you couldn't grow any facial hair to save your life. Now you have a beard." Grunkle Stan replied.
"Yeah, well living on the road all the time doesn't give you many chances to shave. What's your excuse, Stan?"
"What with the fancy parts they use in razors today, sheesh forget about it. It's not like I'm made of money."
Adam laughed at this. It was good to know that although they had all changed so much in the time he was gone, they were still them. It was a comforting thought.
"Dude, you've been traveling, where to?" Soos asked, excited to hear about Adam's adventures.
"All over the place. Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, you know everywhere."
"That still doesn't explain why you left, though." Dipper replied, anxiety working its way through his small body. To say that Dipper didn't particularly trust this new "friend" was probably the understatement of the century. While Adam seemed like a nice enough guy, there was something that felt off about him, almost like he was hiding a giant secret. The smile had again faded from Adam's face, he knew that he couldn't keep dodging this question anymore.
"Was it because of what happened to your parents?" Wendy asked, staring at Adam with eyes of sadness. Everyone turned to face the teenager. Wendy had been pretty quiet after Adam's arrival, seemingly feeling uneasy after the boy from her childhood had made his heroic appearance back to the bleak town. The older members of the Mystery Shack knew what Wendy was referencing. All of Gravity Falls still remembered. After what seemed like a lifetime, Adam hung his head.
"Yeah, pretty much." he mumbled. The twins had hoped that someone would explain the circumstances surrounding the young man's parents, but after seeing everyone looking as downtrodden as Adam, they thought it better not to ask about it now.
"But why come back now?" Grunkle Stan asked, still confused as to the reason for his sudden return.
"I guess, I was trying to find a new spot to call home, but soon before I knew it I was 20 years old and I was still without a home. So I figured that I would come back here, go..."
"You think that just because you came back, everything will go back to being normal!"
The voice surprised everyone, as it had come from Wendy. The usually calm and sarcastic red haired girl, was now almost hysterical and on the bitter edge of tears. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. He had just disappeared and now he thought he could just waltz back into her life, as if none of it had ever happened. He left her, abandoned her when she had needed him most. Her dad had been out of a job and she had started having troubles in middle school. He wasn't there then, and now he comes back to this backwards bumpkin town to be her friend again, it made her incredibly upset.
If anyone was more shocked by her behavior, it had been Adam. His head jerked back up, his narrowed eye fixed on her. He had noticed the subtle changes in the teenager's mood, but he had never seen her act in this way before. He wondered what had happened to the sweet little girl he used to know, who had been so full of life and mischief. He could remember the fond memories of the time long ago, she would come up with an idea for their exploits or a prank they could do and he would be crazy enough to go through with it. It seems that even though most of his other friends hadn't changed, she was the exception. This made him overcome with shame, as if he had caused this change in her.
"You just up and leave us. We were worried about you!"
"I was worried about you guys too. It's just that..."
"We thought you had died. You could have called, told us you were okay. No, you were just on some big adventure without us. Without me!"
"You know what, forget it. Welcome back you big jerk!" Wendy yelled at the top of her lungs, tears rolling down her cheeks. Then she stood up and dashed out the door. Dipper went to go after her, maybe being able to go comfort her or at least find out why she was acting so odd. He got up from the couch, but Adam quickly grabbed his shoulder and shook his head.
"Just let her be mad at me for awhile."
To say the moments after Wendy's outburst were awkward would be the most correct statement one could ever utter. They had all been astonished by her reaction to one of her best childhood friends coming back to their beloved hometown. Stan finally decided to break the uncomfortable silence by clearing his throat.
"Well, that happened. So Adam, it's getting kind of late."
Sure enough, when the twins looked out the window that was recently fixed from Grunkle Stan's incident watching The Duchess Approves, they saw that the sun had long since passed below the horizon and the sky had started to fade to darkness.
"Actually, that's what I was kind of meaning to talk to you about Stan. I bought a place in town, but until the house is finished I have no place to stay. Would it be alright if I stayed at the Shack for a while?"
"Well, I'm not sure. What with the kids here already..."
"Oh c'mon Grunkle Stan, please let him stay." Mabel spoke up, giving her great-uncle the most sparkly pout she could muster. Mabel had been pretty quiet throughout most of the new arrivals stay, besides rambling to him about her bedazzleing her face. While she didn't know too much about the one-eyed former employee of the Mystery Shack, she really liked the young man. Something had made her feel drawn to him. While she didn't know if Dipper felt the same way she did, she could tell that Dipper had noticed it as well. Plus she thought it might be kind of nice to have someone else living with them. She loved her dear twin brother to death, but she did often get tired of the times he would just sit on his bed all day and read his book.
"Oh alright. You can stay," Stan Pines grumbled, "but there might be a small rental fee."
Adam laughed and said, "You got it."
He then turned toward Mabel.
"And thank you, Mabel." Adam said, and gave her a big friendly grin. She smiled back at him as Dipper stared at his twin sister with big, bulging eyes. Dipper did not like the idea of this stranger staying here in their Grunkle Stan's home. He was going to have a talk with Mabel before they went to bed.
"Well I'm going to hit the hay, you animals should do the same." Stan yawned and went into the kitchen, going toward his room.
"Okay, I call the bathroom first." Mabel yelled and rushed up the stairs to get ready for her shower.
"Well I still need to get stuff out of my car. Have a good night's sleep, Dipper." Adam said, and then proceeded to go outside to his vehicle.
"Yeah, you too." Dipper mumbled under his breath, clearly still skeptical about this whole situation.
After Mabel had gotten done with her shower, Dipper took his. As the hot water washed down his bare chest, he thought about the all the commotion that Adam had caused. Dipper was worried about Wendy. She had seemed so upset. After he finished drying himself off and putting on his pajamas, he noticed that his sister had fallen fast asleep. He didn't have the heart to wake her to talk about her brash decision to let Adam stay, and the fatigue from earlier had come back almost tenfold. So, he crawled into bed and drifted off to sleep.
Stanford Pines had been called many things in his life. A con-artist, yeah. A thief maybe, but none had ever called him heartless. While he wouldn't miss an opportunity to make a quick buck or get something that he needed without paying for it, he had never thought to put another person's life in danger because of his schemes. However, he could no longer afford that luxury. As all was quiet in the Mystery Shack, Stan made his way toward the gift shop. Adam was a good friend, had been a good employee, but his unexpected presence in Gravity Falls disturbed Stan. It meant his plans were accelerating. Stan cursed himself for even allowing his brother's son to send his kids to live with him for the summer. He had come to deeply care for their safety, but he knew that now, they might not be able to escape this place before it happens. He neared the vending machine at the edge of the room, hitting the secret code and slid behind the machine as it sprung out from the wall. It then closed behind him, lights flickering off. The stage was set, now it was just a matter of time.