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“You can’t be mad at me,” Mabel explains, “Because it wasn’t even my idea.”

Dipper makes a skeptical sound, one that sounds like he recorded it straight from one of his detective shows to play back at her. “Who else would arrange some crazy matchmaking scheme then?”

“Well, okay, that part was me, but going to the Valentine's Day contest was actually Grunkle Stan’s idea.”

“What, why—” he slaps himself in the forehead, “The prize money,” he realizes, sounding annoyed.

Mabel nods. “Yup. Stan can’t go ‘cause that might give Lazy Susan the wrong idea—still dunno why he broke up with her—so he needs us to win him the prize money!”

“Uh-huh. And you set me up with Pacifica, why?”

“Because she likes you, Dummy.”

Dipper makes that dumb skeptical sound again. Mabel sticks her tongue out from behind, but he sticks his right back at her in turn via the bathroom mirror. “Well, whatever,” he says, covering his face in way too much shaving cream for his scruffy face, “Not like I can get out of it now anyway.”

She rolls her eyes. Despite all of his complaining, Dipper didn’t even try to get out of this one, and Mabel told him about it days ago so he’s had plenty of time to come up with an excuse. Pacifica definitely likes him, but he likes her just as much, Mabel can tell.

“We’ll have fun,” she promises, shoving him aside to start figuring out what to do with her own hair.

“Wait, we? Who’s your date?”

Mabel stares down at the countertop. Oh, hey, would you look at that? My toothpaste-glitter mountain is still intact. I thought Grunkle Ford already cleaned in here?

“Mabel? Earth to Mabel?”

She turns to her brother with a grin, “Don’t you worry your big, nerdy brain about it. He’s meeting us there.”

Dipper squints suspiciously but lets the subject drop. “So, how formal is this thing? Sneakers and a clean shirt or dress shoes and a clean shirt?”

“Semi-causal,” she answers.

He blinks at her.

“Sneakers are fine,” she says, rolling her eyes. “It’s still Greasy’s, Dipper, even if you are going with the richest girl in Gravity Falls.”

This time, he sticks his tongue out first. She retaliates by smacking him in the face, spraying shaving cream everywhere.

An hour later, they’re both dressed, the mess in the bathroom has been...mostly cleaned up, and Mabel has only had to take away Dipper’s dumb, elaborate checklists twice, which is honestly super impressive.

Unless he stashed one in his shoe…

She glances back where Dipper is still caught up in the hallway talking to their grunkles. It kind of looks like Stan is trying to convince Dipper to slick his hair back. He’ll be busy with that for a minute, so she takes her chance to check under the soles of his sneakers.

There is a checklist there, tucked carefully against the toe of the shoe. Mabel rolls her eyes fondly.

From where she’s kneeling, she can still hear Dipper bickering with the Stans; Ford’s trying to offer his own dating advice now but it sounds...questionable. She’ll cut him some slack, though, since his last partner was no doubt an alien.

Since they’re still busy, Mabel does the only thing an overly invasive sister can do, and opens the checklist. She didn’t have a chance to look through the other two she confiscated, but she would guess this is more or less an exact copy. It has everything from icebreakers to pick-up-lines to really bad poetry. She tears it up, throwing the little bits all over the hallway like confetti where he hopefully won’t notice them.

Mabel is about to stand up when she notices a shadow pass under the door.

She giggles to herself and flings open the door, ready to relish in the surprised look on whatever poor salesman came to the Mystery Shack door—

—Only to slam it shut a second later, stepping out onto the porch and into the personal space of Gideon Gleeful.

He’s taller now. Almost the same height as her which is super unfair. If Gideon outgrows her, she’s using the size-changing-crystal permanently.

She blinks. Right. Not important.

“I thought I told you to meet us at Greasy’s!” she whisper yells. Hopefully, Dipper and Stan don’t notice she’s missing. Grunkle Ford hasn’t really been caught up on the family history as far as she knows, but the others, well, even having his memory wiped, Stan still remembered wanting to ‘kick that little creep into the sun.’

This might be a very bad idea.

“Well, I was on my way there and I...took a detour?”

He has the good sense to look shame-faced about it, at least.

“Gideon…”

‘I know, I know,” he smiles at her, soft, “I’m working on it.”

“Yeah, well…” Mabel deflates. “Look, just...I’ll meet you there. Seriously. We were just leaving. I just haven’t told Dipper about this yet, he’s pretty freaked about his date with Pacifica, so—”

Gideon leans forward, leaving Mabel with only a moment's warning before his lips press against her cheek.

She swats him in the arm, a little too hard to be playful but far lighter than she’s hit him in the past. “Gideon, I meant it when I said you had to slow down. I’m not ready to jump right back in where we left off—I wasn’t even ready then!”

His eyes widen and, briefly, Mabel thinks he is about to make some crazy declaration; about to call her his queen or future bride or something equally nauseating. The rage never follows, though. He looks...confused?

“I am goin’ slower,” he points out, “Ain’t I?”

They’ve been talking ever since last August. Dipper told her what he did to help save her, how he stood up against Bill for her. They held hands to form the Zodiac and, even though that didn’t end up working and she told Gideon that it didn’t mean anything... it did. It did to her, anyway. Not in the way Gideon wanted it to, but it mattered. It still matters.

He got her address, somehow. She’s not sure if she gave it to him when they first met or if he just found it later on when he got all creepy, but he sent her a letter apologizing and asking to start over.

They talked, and when school let out early (officially due to a gas explosion, unofficially, she and Dipper angered the fire spirit living in the school’s furnace) she convinced her parents to let them spend the week in Gravity Falls, right in time for Valentine’s Day…

Arguably, this was her idea. But she made it very clear to Gideon that if he tried anything like last summer she was going to get him sent back to actual adult prison.

Or, she thought she was clear. Then again, though, considering the way he acted before, this is a huge improvement.

She reaches forward and grabs his hand. “Much slower,” she agrees, “But can we go slower still? No kissing, okay?”

He frowns once more but nods nonetheless.

Mabel smiles. “You’ve changed a lot since summer,” she reminds him.

“Aw, well, I had a good motivator,” his blush is stark against his pale skin. It’s cute.

Behind her, Mabel hears the doorknob start to turn. She panics and leans her full weight against it as casually as she can. Gideon notices the knob as well, but he just says, “I’ll meet you at the diner, then. Make sure you warn your brother before y’all get there, okay? I don’t want him gettin’ the wrong idea.”

“I will, I will,” she smiles, “Now get going!”

Gideon gives her one more fond smile before taking off around the side of the house. Either he’s taking the long way away around or he’s just waiting until they get out of sight to meet up with her after.

She takes her weight off of the door and Dipper abruptly stumbles out.

“Mabel, what the heck?”

She shrugs. “You ready to go?”

He gapes at her for a minute, blinking cluelessly as he tries to figure out what to say. Eventually, he settles on, “You are so weird.”

“You know it!” she says with a bright smile.

Dipper rolls his eyes but says nothing more as they set off together down the dirt road. They had planned to take the golf cart into town but, well, Ford is in the middle of performing some upgrades on it so that’s off the table right now. Mabel doesn’t mind, though, it gives her a little bit more time to try and talk to her twin.

The only problem is, she’s not quite sure how to start that conversation.

She’s just going to go for it. Dipper’s the plan guy and it gets him into more trouble than it gets him out of.

“So, I have something I need to tell you.”

“Uh-huh.”

“It’s something you’re not gonna like.”

“Okay?”

“And you have to promise not to go ballistic.”

“Ballistic? Mabel—”

“I’m serious!”

Dipper rolls his eyes. “Look, if this is about the backup-backup list in my shoe, I already know you destroyed it.”

“What? No, it’s not that—”

“Then what is it?” he asks, sounding equal parts fond and exasperated.

Mabel takes a deep breath, "So...my date to this thing—"

"Oh no. Mabel, what supernatural creature did you fall for this time?"

"I didn’t! He's a human boy!"

Dipper looks at her skeptically. "You're sure?"

"Yes. I'm pretty sure we'd know if Gideon was inhuman by now."

There's a beat of silence.

"Gideon?"

Mabel laughs nervously. "Surprise?"

"Mabel, you can't go out with Gideon. He's—that's— Gideon? Did he hypnotize you? Possess you? Is he blackmailing you?"

"No," she shoots her brother an annoyed look. "I asked him, for starters, and he's really been working hard in counselling, and we've been talking ever since school started—"

He stares at her like she's shoved a dozen gummy worms in her nose. "No, seriously, what'd he do?"

Mabel groans. "Dipper, I mean it. He's working really hard to be a good person."

Her brother scoffs.

"If Pacifica can change, why can't Gideon?"

"Uh, because Pacifica never tried to kill us?"

She glares.

"Okay," Dipper sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I won't...go 'ballistic' or whatever it is you're worried about, but if he starts that crap he gave you last summer—"

"Dipper," she smiles, "I can dump a guy on my own."

He gives her a look.

"Now," she amends sheepishly. "I can dump him now if I need to. But until he goes all crazy on me or, like, I'm just not feeling it...just, lemme enjoy myself, okay?"

Her brother nods, hesitantly accepting. "Okay," he says, smiling wanly at her, "I trust you."

She laughs, "Yeah, you better!"

They share twin grins. Mabel punches his arm for good measure.

The two lapse into a mostly comfortable silence. It would be an actual comfortable silence if Dipper could stop overthinking beside her, but Mabel knows that that's not stopping anytime soon. She just hopes she didn't add another thing for him to overthink about.

The air around them becomes steadily tenser, though, and by the time they arrive at Greasy's Dipper's on the verge of sweating through his deodorant.

She pulls him aside, just outside the door. "Dip, you're freakin' out."

He groans. "I know. This is so stupid," he reaches for the collar of his shirt where he usually has a pen clipped. Finding no pen, his hand changes course and runs through his hair, loosening a bunch of hair the two had worked so hard to contain in a less-poofy style. "I mean, we fight monsters every other day and lived off Stan and Ford's cooking," he starts pacing now, "How hard can one date be?"

"That's...not really the spirit," Mabel frowns. "Look," she says, stepping into his path, "You're supposed to say 'How hard can one date be?'"

"I did—"

"No, you said it all hopeless and junk. Just," she sticks her fingers in his hair, doing her best to tame the mess Dipper made. "I know this is kind of a big deal, but dates are supposed to be fun. There's games, and snacks, and prize money, and you don't have to stay for the whole thing if it sucks but we've been to some really bad parties, and fought some crazy monsters, and survived Stan and Ford's cooking, so I know this'll be a piece of cake."

Dipper sighs, shoulders slumping in, not defeat but definitely not relief either. "I just...I really want this to go well," he admits. "Pacifica is...well, she's pretty fun."

"There you go then," Mabel grins, "If you two could have fun while being hunted by a lumberjack ghost and Pacifica's parents, then you'll have a billion times more fun here."

He smiles. "Thanks, Mabes."

She finger-guns at him, "I gotchu, Bro. Now, let's go woo some old enemies!" she declares, spinning him around and shoving him through the door.

"Ew, Mabel, don't say it like that," he laughs.

"Yeah, Mabel, I don't think I was ever your enemy. Just better than you."

Mabel rolls her eyes as Pacifica joins them, but can't even finish her eye-roll as she takes in the sweater-dress the other girl is wearing.

"Pacifica, oh my gosh, that's so cute! Where did you get it? Did you make it?"

"What? No, it’s designer. I can't knit."

Mabel gasps. "I could totally teach you how!"

Dipper grasps her arm and begins hauling her off, "Hey," he says lowly, " Our ex-enemy, my date. Go find your own."

She pouts. "Fine, Mister Grumpy Pants. I'll leave you alone. For now."

"Good, now get going. Go find," he shudders exaggeratedly, "Gideon."

Mabel smacks him, but concedes. She pulls away from Dipper, waving in an exaggerated manner over her shoulder, "Bye, Paz!"

Behind them, Mabel hears Pacifica sputter.

Giggling, Mabel makes her way to the counter. The stools that usually rest there have been removed, leaving the space open for party-goers to get at the counter-turned-buffet table unimpeded. The whole counter is stacked full of sweets, everything from pancakes and crepes to cupcakes and cookies sprawl across the surface. Mabel can handle her sweets, but even she might have a hard time with this many.

That doesn't stop her from overfilling her plate, though. She's absolutely determined to try everything. Mabel is in the process of reaching for some kind of jam tart when another hand grabs the one she was going for, plucking it from the serving platter.

She whirls on the thief, more to see who it is than to start anything, only to be face to face with Gideon for the second time that night.

“We have to stop meeting like this,” she laughs.

“I never want t’ stop meeting you.”

Mabel blushes. “You sap.”

As cheesy as he can be, Gideon’s dumb little lines and gestures get to her really easily.

He plops tart onto her plate and grabs one for himself. “So, how’d brother dearest take it?”

“Eh,” she shifts her hand in a so-so motion. “He thought you were blackmailing me or something, but I talked him down.”

Gideon frowns. “Well, I s’pose I deserve that.”

“He’ll come around. Don’t worry about it.”

Of course, saying ‘don’t worry about it’ doesn’t ever do much to alleviate Mabel’s own worry, so it doesn’t surprise her when she looks over to see her date staring across the room at Dipper and Pacifica, a hard look in his eyes.

“C’mon,” she gestures to an open table, “I’m starving.”

His focus snaps back to her in an instant, and she’s pleased to see that whatever was bothering him seems to have fled for now. Still, she makes sure Gideon’s back is to her brother, just in case. She doubts the two of them will get along right away, she doubts she’ll get along with Gideon all of the time either—attempted murder, kidnapping, stalking, stealing the shack, it’s going to be a lot to get over—but she wants to give him a chance, and she hopes Dipper and her grunkles will too.

“So,” she says very seriously, “How tall do you think I can stack all of these sweets?”

He adopts a serious expression of his own. “This high?” he says, holding his hand about a foot above her plate.

“I’ll raise you one,” she winks and sets in on her challenge. Gideon watches her indulgently the whole time, passing her the next baked goodie that he thinks will suit the tower best.

Between the two of them, the tower becomes a behemoth of sugar. Lazy Susan walks by and gives them each a ribbon for it, even though food stacking isn’t an official event. Dipper shakes his head at her from across the room.

A bell clangs at them a few minutes later, interrupting Gideon’s attempt at beatboxing—a skill Killbone is teaching him.

“Alrighty, lovebirds! It’s time for our first event!” Lazy Susan declares from atop a rusty stool.

Mabel grabs Gideon’s hand, dragging him to what looks to be a starting line on the far side of the diner. A few other couples join them as well, including Dipper and Pacifica, Robbie and Tambry, Manly Dan and Mayor Tyler, and Grenda with Candy as Marius’ stand-in. She waves excitedly at the two of them.

Lazy Susan passes along in front of the contestants, handing out red, pink, and purple ropes. “The event…” she pauses, “Is a three-legged race!”

"Shall we?" Gideon asks, already kneeling down to secure their legs.

"Oh, we are gonna kick some butt."

Legs tied together, they wait with bated breath. The other contestants lean forward eagerly, some of them—Robbie—literally toeing the line to try for an advantage.

"Remember," Susan says, "Win enough ribbons from these contests and you could earn two-hundred dollars that you and your honey can put towards another date!"

The racers become even antsier.

"Okay. On your marks...get set...go!"

Gideon and Mabel leap into action, along with every other competitor. It's...harder than it looks. They literally get off on the wrong foot and nearly trip right at the start. Internally, Mabel thinks of course she and Gideon wouldn't start in the same place, but after some fumbling steps they fall into a rhythm that works. They keep pace with most of the others fairly easily, but Manly Dan and Mayor Tyler and Candy and Grenda are clearly in the lead. Candy is standing on Grenda's toes as she races them to the front all on her own, and Manly Dan has forgone the 'three-legged' part of the race altogether and has simply tied Mayor Tyler to his chest instead.

The race is over in moments as Manly Dan crosses the finish line in a matter of a few long strides. Candy and Grenda are the next to pass, cheering and fist-bumping the mayor in excitement.

"We can still get third!" Mabel yells as they continue on. They pick up the pace, passing Robbie and Tambry to take the lead. The finish line, a torn-up wad of tape on the ground, is no match for them. They pass the line with time to spare as the other contestants push to follow them.

"We have our winners!" Lazy Susan yells. Some of the other racers—Robbie, again—boo.

Mabel doesn't even bother untying their legs before throwing her arms around Gideon, who stumbles backwards under her weight.

"We won!" she cheers.

"You got third, actually," Dipper reminds her from somewhere nearby, but she barely acknowledges him, too comfortable with her arms around Gideon's neck. Hesitantly, he hugs her back. Mabel laughs.

"Ahem," Dipper clears his throat in a blatantly fake way. He sounds pretty close, actually...

She jumps back, pulling Gideon with her once more. She moves too abruptly, though, and the two topple to the ground in a heap.

From behind Gideon's head, Dipper is giving her another one of his looks.

"Oh, let me celebrate," she gripes.

"Yeah, yeah," his head disappears from view, but she can feel her twin untying their legs for them.

“Nice finish,” Pacifica teases as Mabel hauls herself to her feet.

“Well,” Mabel grins sheepishly, “Gotta go out in style?”

The blonde gives a doubtful look almost exactly like the one she gets from her brother. “Not sure I would call that style, but you certainly got people’s attention.”

She’s right, Mabel realizes with a start. The other contestants, the other partygoers, ‘Bodacious’ Toby Determined in the corner with his camera... yikes. Suddenly, she’s reminded of why she felt so pressured last time she went on a date with Gideon. It probably doesn’t help that the whole town already knows their history.

“Doing alright?” Dipper asks as he catches her eye.

She glances over at Gideon. There’s a blank look on his face, a nervous glint to his eyes, and his fists are clenched at his sides. He keeps glancing between Mabel, her brother, and the crowd around them, glaring at Toby in particular as a camera flashes in her peripheral.

Mabel smiles, first at Gideon, then Dipper. “Yeah, we’re good.”

The tension eases. It doesn’t disperse entirely, not with the way Gideon and Dipper…don’t glare exactly at each other, but those definitely aren’t friendly looks either.

Her brother and Gideon might never get along. It’s...something Mabel has considered but kind of hoped wouldn’t be the case. They don’t have to get along right now, though, and she can help them make up, she just has to redirect their hostility.

“You two better bring your A-game to the next event,” she teases.

Competitiveness is a healthier outlet, right? She’s okay with the two of them trying to grind each other into dust as long as the battleground is a board game or a community competition.

Pacifica takes the bait first, or maybe she just picks up on Mabel’s intentions, because she says, “The only reason you beat us at all is because I wore heels.”

Dipper nods in agreement. “We have the next contest in the bag.”

Mabel and Gideon share emboldened smiles. “You're on!” they chorus.


The next event is bingo, which...isn’t going so well. So far, all of Mabel’s numbers have been sporadically spattered across her card. Gideon’s not doing much better, unfortunately. He keeps managing to get four out of five in a line and then missing the final, crucial space.

“‘Be mine’!” Lazy Susan calls from near the buffet. “The next space is ‘be mine’!”

Mabel dabs her card. Gideon slumps in his seat.

“At least Dipper and Pacifica don’t seem to be doing much better,” Mabel points out. She can see her brother a few booths down, red in the face with bingo frustration. Or, maybe he’s just red because Pacifica is sitting beside him this time, resting her head on his shoulder as she lazily fills in her card. 

Mabel shoots him a thumbs up, to which Dipper just flushes more.

“‘Pick you up at eight’!” Lazy Susan calls again.

Gideon hunches over his card as he scans his squares, giving Mabel a pretty spot-on-view of his roots. Not that she means to stare at his hairline or anything but, well, he's wearing it down now and it's so long and pretty and his roots are red instead of white—

His eyes meet hers as he settles correctly in his seat. "Somethin' wrong, Suga—Mabel?"

She smiles gratefully. She's not opposed to the nicknames, but it's nice to see that he really is carefully considering what might be too fast.

"No, no, it's fine, just..." this might be rude, but Mabel has never been good at containing her own curiosity, "Do you dye your hair?"

Gideon turns bright red. "Oh, that, um, oh, I'm so embarrassed."

"Sorry," Mabel flushes herself.

Across the room, Susan calls, "'Chocolate gift’!" as the next bingo space, but neither she nor Gideon bother checking their cards.

"Don't apologize," he assures, "It's fine, really. I just didn't know my roots needed done up again."

"I think you'd look good as a redhead," she says honestly.

"Ah, well, that's sweet o' you," he rubs his neck nervously. "Truth is, my hair turned white after I started using that ol’ amulet, y’know, the one I used in my shows? Started growin’ out red ‘bout a month ago, an’ I’ve been dying it ever since.”

Mabel giggles. “Most people go grey and stay that way. It’s pretty cool that you’re going backwards.”

Gideon shrugs. “I s’pose so.”

“I’m serious, you should really steer into the skid on this. Regular ol’ kid and all that, right?”

“Well,” he laughs, “Maybe.”

Across the diner, Tambry stands from her seat. “I, like, got a bingo?”

Mabel and Gideon share a sheepish look, glancing down at their half-filled cards. Whoops.


“Mabel, I’m not sure ‘bout this. It’s dirty down there.”

Mabel pops her head up from under the table of their booth. “Look, there’s gotta be more hearts around here somewhere and this is the only place we haven’t looked yet.”

He shuffles nervously behind her. “Careful! You got gum in your hair.”

“Ew,” she stands. “Do people really put gum under—Nevermind,” she interrupts herself, “Last summer, Grunkle Stan put gum behind his ear. It saved our lives, but still. Do you think you could...get it out? I don’t think I can pull off my grade two haircut again.”

“Uh, sure, one sec,” Gideon races off towards the buffet table.

This last contest has been going...not so well. It’s a little diner scavenger hunt for foam hearts Lazy Susan has hidden all over the building, including the kitchen. The game was they had ten minutes to find as many hearts as possible, but Lazy Susan is really good at hiding hearts because she and Gideon can hardly find any. They have six between the two of them and time’s almost up.

“I’m back,” Gideon returns with a sandwich bag on his hand like a glove. “It doesn’t look too stuck, so I’m gonna try pullin’ it out first.”

“Okay,” Mabel takes a seat in the booth to give Gideon a better angle.

He holds her with his un-bagged hand, gently tilting her head. If it weren’t for the rustle of plastic, Mabel wouldn’t have been able to tell Gideon had started. There’s hardly any tugging and, moments later, Gideon lets out a triumphant sound.

“Did you get it?”

“Sure did,” he says proudly. “Lucky for us, it was pretty solid.”

Mabel laughs, “Gross.”

He nods in agreement. “This town is disgusting,” he says, throwing the gum and its bag in the trash.

“It’s not so bad. The gross is...part of its charm?”

“If you say so,” Gideon shrugs. “How many hearts are we at?”

Mabel opens her mouth to answer, but a bell rings loudly and interrupts her.

“Times up! Bring your hearts over here and I’ll count ‘em up!” Lazy Susan shouts.

Shrugging a little sheepishly, Mabel joins the line, Gideon right at her side. The teams go through fairly quickly as Susan counts the contestants' findings and dutifully marks them down on a little clipboard. She makes no comment as Mabel hands over their hearts, maintaining a supportive, give-nothing-away smile that makes her think Lazy Susan should definitely join her and Stan for poker night.

Hearts counted, the partygoers return to mingling, dancing, and fighting for the jukebox. A BABBA song comes on, and Mabel catches sight of her brother across the room, guiltily tapping his toes until Pacifica gets fed up with him and pulls him onto the dance floor.

Laughing, Mabel does the same to her own date, although Gideon seems delighted to join in. She doesn’t know the name of most dance moves, but she does recognize the spins and twirls and fancy footwork Gideon leads her through. The moves are more suited towards swing than pop, but Mabel has never really cared about conventional anyway.

She steps on his toes probably more times than she even knows, and she’s breathless and dizzy and maybe slightly nauseous from all the sweets, but her smile stays happily in place and doesn’t waver even as they retire to their booth.

“Where’d you learn to dance like that?” she asks, blowing several runaway strands of hair out of her face.

Gideon smiles. “Ah, y’know, I took quite a few dance lessons. Part of showbiz an’ all.”

“You’ll have to teach me your moves so I don’t step on you so much next time.”

“Like a—” he pauses, swallowing nervously, “A second date, maybe?”

Mabel blushes, but her smile still doesn’t falter. “Like a second date,” she agrees.

“Okay, heartthrobs!” Lazy Susan calls, “It’s time to announce our winning couple!”

A hush falls over the room, backed by Danger Lane to Highway Town blaring from the old jukebox. Lazy Susan pauses for several seconds, allowing the tension to swell within Mabel and the room.

“The winners are Grenda and Candy!”

Reluctant clapping fills the room, aside from Mabel and Candy and Grenda themselves, who cheer loud enough together to make up for it.

“Well, Grunkle Stan’s gonna be sad he’s not getting any prize money,” Mabel notes, shaking her head fondly.

“Is that the only reason he letcha go out with me tonight?” Gideon asks bitterly.

“Ah, well, about that...I figured date numero uno should be a secret from him. Y’know, so he didn’t grab the gun before we even got to try this out.”

“So, we’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled between now an’ the second date then?”

She nods.

“Ah, well, just like ol’ times then.”

“Well, hopefully not just like old times,” Mabel laughs. Gideon gives her a nonplussed stare. “Right, sorry,” she apologizes. Her gaze wanders across the diner, sliding over the faces of her friends as she tries to think of some way to change the subject.

She double-checks the faces. “Where’s Dipper and Pacifica?” she asks, brow creasing in worry.

Gideon shrugs. “Maybe he left early?”

“Well...he doesn’t like parties…”

In her pocket, her phone buzzes. She and Dipper each got simple flip phones when they returned home from the summer as birthday gifts since they were officially teens and would no doubt be out and about on their own more often. Curfew was extended with the phones, so long as they promised to stay in contact with their parents when they were out.

Mabel opens her phone, laughter bubbling up from her throat at the text. “He’s fine,” she tells Gideon, “He just went to go make out with Pacifica in the woods.”

“He texted you that?” Gideon asks incredulously.

“He didn’t have to,” Mabel tries to stifle her giggles. “Why else would they ‘go out stargazing’?”

“Seems a li'l arrogant for a boy named Dipper,” Gideon gripes.

“He’s probably gonna try some dumb line on her,” Mabel says conspiratorily,  “Or worse: poetry.”

He laughs at that. “Well, now that we’re finally alone,” Gideon offers up his hand, “Can I walk you home? Curfew’s comin’ up soon, but I can’t say I want this t’ end sooner than it has t’.”

“Sure!” Mabel accepts his hand, squeezing it as they leave the diner and head into the cold night.

The crisp February air is invigorating in her lungs, although more than a little chilly on her skin. She presses closer to Gideon’s side and he leans into her in turn. Whether he’s indulging himself or her with that move, she’s not really sure, but she doesn’t really mind either way.

He pulls away a moment later, removing her hand from his own. Mabel opens her mouth in protest but doesn’t get a chance to say anything before Gideon drapes his jacket over her shoulders.

“Thanks,” she says, taking his hand once more.

It’s hard to tell in the dim lighting, but he grins when he says, “Anythin’ for you.”

They walk together in content silence, hands warm in that of the other while the chill bites in everywhere else.

The Mystery Shack appears all too soon.

“Thanks for a great evening,” Mabel says, offering up Gideon’s jacket.

He holds up a hand in protest. “Keep it. You can return it on our next date if you still want it.” Despite how he tries to hide it, Mabel can hear the anxiety in his voice.

She pulls both of his hands in hers. “Okay then. Until the next date.”

They stand there for one more indulgent minute before Gideon slowly pulls back. “Have a g’night, Mabel,” he says, backing off the step.

Mabel lingers for a moment, fighting down the fierce and sudden reluctance to part. “Goodnight!” she calls, turning towards the door. She has it part-way open, one foot in the door when she abruptly turns around. Gideon is further down the path now, but he’s still looking at her.

“This really was a nice date, Gideon!” her voice echoes through the trees.

A real really nice date. It wasn’t at all like last time.

Before she has a chance to do something else impulsive, Mabel pulls herself through the door, breathlessly leaning against it. Take it slow, she reminds herself, pressing her fists into her eyes. Why do I always have to fall hard and fast?

Stan yells from the next room, giving Mabel what has to be an instant heart attack. “Gideon? Ford, get your gun! Gideon’s here!”

Her grunkle Stan is in the entrance in an instant, eyes scouring her first for injuries or upset before latching onto the sparkly jacket in her arms that he knows isn’t hers.

Shoot.

Ford appears a moment later, nerdy laser-gun in hand. “What’s a Gideon and where do I aim?”

“Gideon,” Mabel says slowly, blushing furiously and glaring, “Was my date, so you don’t aim at all.”

Her grunkles share a look that Mabel can’t interpret. Twin looks, apparently, don’t transfer across generations.

“C’mon, Ford, that twerp’s probably still in the yard,” Stan says, stalking forward. He grabs the handle, swinging the door open in one swift motion, leaving Mabel no choice but to jump out of the way or be doored.

On the porch, Dipper stands, a lipstick stain on his cheek and a dopey look on his face.

“Hey, guys,” he says, face flooding red but trying desperately to recover. “Uh, what’s up?”

Behind her shocked grunkles, Mabel facepalms.