After Dipper learns that this whole "being a demon" thing means he's going to live forever, he and Mabel talk about the future, and what he's going to do when everyone he knows dies. It's not until much later that he starts to realize that they'll never truly die -- just like he'll never truly get sick of ice cream.
Thanks to @toothpastecanyon for beta reading!
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“If you could choose one project to do and be guaranteed that you’d finish it eventually, no matter how long it took, what would you do?”
“Hmm....” Mabel replied, itching her scalp with a plastic hand clapping toy. “Oh! I’d get my hands on the Ultimate Magical Shimmering Rainbow-splosion Fluffykins doll! There’s only five hundred in existence -- they’re super duper rare!”
“No no no,” Dipper countered. “That’s too easy, and too short. All you’d need to do is set up some eBay alerts, bribe a few people, maybe sneak into the FluffCorp factory building. Not even -- you could just snap your fingers -” (he snapped his fingers for effect, causing a puff of blue flame to momentarily appear) “and conjure it.”
“I can’t -” Mabel started, but Dipper kept talking over her.
“I’m talking about something really unprecedented. Something that would take a long time, something you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do. Something that would change the world.”
“Oh, I get it now!” Mabel tossed the toy aside and flipped over, letting her head dangle off the end of her bed. “I’d call you a dork a million times.”
Her brother scowled at her and jumped out of his chair and into the air. “Hey!” he yelped over Mabel’s laughter. “I'̼͚̻͓͎̲m̡̖̰̘̣͎ ̖͇̕n̛̻ơ̰t̷̟͇̱ ̝̺̻a̳̦ ̪̟̮͖ḑor̞͓̭k̟̤̖!̛͍ And even if I was, that wouldn’t take you very long! At, uh, a rate of, let’s see, you could probably say ‘you’re a dork’ at least 30 times per minute, and if you didn’t ever sleep…”
Mabel watched the red tinge fade away from his features as he paced around in mid air, doing math in his head. “Yeah. You’re totally not a dork, Sir Maths-a-lot. You sure showed me.”
“- It wouldn’t even take you a month,” Dipper finished. “Besides, how would that change the world?”
“Hmm, well if I call you a dork enough times,” Mabel answered, “maybe my big scary demon brother would decide he doesn’t want to be a dork and instead he’d do something with his cool magic powers that ends up making the world a better place!”
Dipper frowned at her. “Your face is turning purple.”
“Touche,” she replied, rubbing her chin very seriously. She slid the rest of the way off the bed and clutched her throbbing head. “Owww…”
“That's what you get for giving me dumb answers,” Dipper quipped, arms crossed.
“You mean for giving you fun answers,” Mabel corrected, and then winced at another sting of pain. “Why are you asking me these weird questions anyway?”
A panicked look flickered across Dipper's face, and his feet touched the ground. “I don't know what you're talking about.”
Mabel, still massaging her temples, pushed herself semi-upright to give her brother a look. “Come on. ‘What would you do if you had all the time in the world?’ ’What movie could you watch a million times and never get sick of it?’ ’Do you think Stancakes have a shelf life longer than 100 years?’ Something is clearly up.”
Dipper giggled awkwardly (was there any other way he could giggle?) and stared at the ceiling. “Nothing. It's nothing!”
“What, are you really not gonna tell me?” Mabel pushed. ”What if I tickle you?”
Her brother recoiled in horror. “You wouldn't.”
There was a tense silence as the two twins considered whose was the stronger will: the expert fighter with a plethora of torture tactics at hand, or the demon. Mabel narrowed her eyes. Dipper sharpened his claws. No words were exchanged. The room was perfectly still.
Mabel jolted forward half a foot and Dipper shrieked.
“Okay, you win, just don't tickle me!” he begged, throwing his hands up. “I'll tell you!”
“Good,” Mabel replied. “Things were about to get ugly. Spill it, bro-bro.”
Dipper sighed. He dusted himself off -- a habit he'd gotten into lately even though he was pretty sure nothing he could do would make his orange shirt and vest look any less weird with his new body.
“Remember… Remember the thing I told you the other day, when I had that infodump and learned more about my powers?”
“Oh yeah,” she said. “You found out that your omniscience tells you whenever anyone farts.”
“No!” he squeaked. “Although, you are right, it does do that and it's annoying, especially because now I can smell it from like a mile away.”
He wrinkled his nose, staring off into space for a minute before shaking his head. “But that's not what I mean. I'm talking about… how I'm never going to die.”
It had been about a week since Mabel had walked into the living room to find Dipper writhing and sobbing on the floor. She remembered the way he’d looked right through her, how he hadn’t seemed to even notice her presence when she sat him upright, how he kept muttering “still alive, still alive” over and over again, and it hadn’t made any sense to her then, but when he finally snapped out of it and was able to vocalize what he’d seen…
She shuddered at the memory of it.
“Since then,” Dipper continued, “I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to deal with it. And I had this idea that I could come up with things to do to fill the time.”
“What, so you’re going to plan out your whole life?” Mabel asked, incredulous. “Let me guess -- you’re making a checklist? Hah! Can you imagine?”
She giggled, and then he reached into his vest and pulled out oh sweet Moses.
“I’ve already got some good stuff on here,” Dipper said, ignoring or not noticing his sister’s flabbergasted expression. “I’m gonna learn how to make a sword by hand. I’m gonna watch all of Tiger Fist backwards to see if there are any hidden messages. And there’s this spa getaway weekend that the Multibear invited me on -- shoot, wait, he’s gonna be dead by then, umm…”
Mabel raised an eyebrow as her brother started scribbling on the checklist. “Dipper. This is obsessive even for you.”
“What would you know?” he shot back. “You’re not the one who’s immortal.”
“I know how to have this thing called ‘fun’,” she replied. “Maybe you’ve heard of it?”
He grumbled at her, eyes locked on his checklist. He couldn’t believe he forgot that the Multibear spa trip thing was a limited time offer. That kind of stuff was slipping his mind more and more these days, like the time Mabel asked him to play cards with her and he was so busy alphabetizing his Sibling Brothers books that he neglected to respond to her for three days.
Although, now that he thought about it, that might’ve been before he became a demon.
Something damp and cold hit Dipper in the face, and he spluttered in surprise. “What was that?” he shouted. One of his flailing hands happened to close on the object as it fell, and he held it up to the light.
“It’s a popsicle, doofus!” Mabel said. She’d fetched two from the minifridge in their room while he was distracted, and was busy licking away at her own, which was chocolate. “Remember those?”
He wrinkled his nose. “I don’t have ti-”
“I’ll throw another one at you,” Mabel interrupted.
“- I guess I could have some ice cream,” Dipper finished.
He floated over and sat on the floor next to his sister. He removed the paper from the popsicle and gave the object a sniff. The aroma of orange and vanilla caressed his sensitive nose, and he realized how long it’d been since he had any sugar. Without a second moment’s thought, he threw his head back, stretching both his neck and jaw further than they were supposed to go, and placed the entire popsicle -- stick and all -- into his gaping maw.
“See, what’d I tell you?” Mabel said, smirking at the satisfaction on her brother’s face. She reached up with her popsicle to scratch an itch on her nose, and then went right back to eating it. “I always know what to do with my time. I wonder what it’d be like if I lived forever…”
Dipper eyed the glob of chocolate ice cream on the bridge of her nose. “The world would probably be a much more chaotic place.”
“You mean a much BETTER place!” she declared. “Everyone would have fun and ice cream all the time!”
He grinned. “You’re right. It would be a much better place. Because my best friend would be there.” Mabel looked at him, a twinkle in her eye and ice cream all over her face, and his grin fell away. “I guess this is what you felt like when I said I was going to be Grunkle Ford’s apprentice, huh. I’m such a shitty bro-”
Mabel at once had her hands on his face, squishing his cheeks together so he’d stop talking. “Nuh-uh. Bro-bro you’re gonna stop hating on yourself Right. Now.” She was still smiling, but her tone had twisted into something harsh. “Okay, sure, I’m gonna die someday and then you’re gonna have to figure out what to do on your own. But I’m not ready to think about that and neither are you! We’re hecking 13 years old! We should act like it, while we’ve still got the chance. Please don’t make me think about dying yet.”
Dipper winced, and she let go of him. “I’m sorry,” he murmured.
“S’okay.” She patted him on the back, harder than he’d been expecting, and he was so surprised that he coughed up the popsicle stick he’d eaten earlier.
For a minute, neither of them said a word. Dipper lifted a hand to his face, where he felt something sticky.
“You got chocolate on my face.”
“Yeah. On your vest, too.” She stuck her tongue out at him. “What are you going to do about it?”
He looked at his hands, still small and smooth like a child. With a thought, he bathed both hands in a blue flame, searing away the chocolate and leaving them clean, just the way he liked them. Then he cleared his throat.
“I’m gonna chase you around the house,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Smiling ear-to-ear, Mabel jumped up and ran to the wall. “You’re nuts if you think you can catch me, even with demon powers!” Cackling, she threw the door open, which bathed her in a blinding white light.
Dipper thought about his infodump from the other day, thought about the part he hadn’t told Mabel, the tiny glimpse he’d gotten of his sister when she’d been old, pale, and still -- too horribly, horribly still. It was just a glimpse, but it haunted him -- the thought that one day there wouldn’t be a single trace left of Mabel Pines anywhere in the world. She was right -- as always -- that he was obsessing, that he was letting a thought hurt him when it didn’t have to.
He wasn’t ready to think about growing up yet, either. No matter how strong the pull to obsess was, he had to find a way to fight it.
“You can’t get away from me!” Dipper roared, and flew after his sister into the future.
"Wahoo! That was a great idea -- getting ice cream -- Dipper! I feel so much better! You always know how to cheer me up."
Dipper, clad in his usual human disguise, collapsed onto the bench with a grunt. "I dunno, this stuff tastes off. You’d think with all the technological advancements since the Transcendence that they’d have found a way to perfect ice cream."
His friend Arin, who was somehow managing to carry five popsicles in two hands, nodded with a serious look on her face. "Yeah. Oh sure a lot of old timey diseases were eradicated and we've got flying cars and stuff. But not one of these ice pops actually tastes like orange!"
She stared at him for a beat longer, then finally broke into snickers. One of the popsicles fell out of her hand, and a stubby arm immediately shot out from under the bench to catch it.
His face twisting in confusion, Dipper bent over to look under the bench. There were two gnomes right beneath him -- one of them hissed when they saw him, making him jump and making Arin laugh even harder.
"Ha-ha, okay," Dipper said, hand on his chest like his heart was racing. Despite this, he couldn't keep a small smile from creeping onto his face.
So much had changed in the last five hundred years, and yet so much else had stayed the same. Wars were fought, societies had formed and collapsed, but people were still people, and Dipper was still Dipper. Even though he’d had more than a few incidents where his demonic nature overcame his humanity, he always seemed to land back on his feet again eventually. Sometimes all it took was a friend.
Right now, his friend was a girl named Arin who he’d saved when someone else had tried to sacrifice her to him. He remembered how grateful she’d been, how she gave him a hug despite him being a void black monster splattered with blood, and how she then spent 20 minutes chatting with him about dragons even though she’d just had a very traumatic experience. She seemed, in other words, cool. So he later presented himself to her as fellow undergraduate student Dipper, without revealing that it was him who’d saved her that night, and they’d been good friends ever since.
Arin sat next to him and started taking bites out of her ice pops. "Yknow, the Transcendence-era wasn't that great," she said, although with her mouth busy it sounded like she was drowning.
Dipper's brow creased. "What do you mean?"
She gulped down the hunk of ice in her mouth. "No offense -- I know you're totally obsessed with Transcendence history stuff -- but that was soooo long ago. There's no one left who was alive back then, except like vampires I guess. But vampires don't eat ice cream so it doesn't matter."
Dipper bit back the urge to say "I know a vampire who loves ice cream as long as there's blood in it". What came out instead was "So?"
"So!" Arin shoved an entire popsicle into her mouth, and then had to take a minute to cough up the stick. "S-so," she continued amid gasps, "no one knows for sure what ice cream tasted like in the year 2012. And that includes you, Mr. Argues-With-The-Teacher! For all we know, old timey ice cream tasted like sawdust!"
Dipper considered his chocolate popsicle, which he's barely looked at since the first taste. "I guess you're right." He gave it another wary lick.
It didn't taste like chocolate the way he remembered it, but it was close enough.
"Do you ever think," he asked, unable to meet his friend's eyes, "about all the stuff that used to exist but doesn't anymore? All the ideas and food and... people?"
Arin groaned. "Is that what this is about? My best friend of the past 2 years -- secretly one of those 'I was born in the wrong century' people?"
"No!" he shot back, before taking another lick of the popsicle. "I just think it's sad that stuff goes away and no one's there to remember it."
"Well, maybe no one remembers that stuff, but that doesn't mean it's forgotten."
Dipper looked up. "Huh?"
Arin scarfed down her remaining two popsicles, which had begun melting onto her hand. "People die and ideas change and the world moves on. It happens constantly! But those people influenced their friends and their family and their coworkers. Who in turn influenced other people. Those people might be dead, but they live forever in the words and actions of everyone who came after."
Dipper just stared at her, jaw dropped. "Where did that come from?" he managed to get out. "Five seconds ago you were gagging on frozen sugar! You're not allowed to be this insightful!"
"Sugar rushes always make me super thoughtful," Arin said, patting him on the back. "It's 'cause I'm a genius. I'm probably gonna crash hard later though. Also by the way your ice cream is totally melting."
"Ah, shoot." Dipper hurriedly tried to catch the melting ice cream with his tongue, and Arin giggled again.
"The point is," she said, "if you've always got your head stuck in a history textbook, you're gonna miss out on the present. If you're always thinking about the dead guy who invented ice cream, you won't be around to eat any with me."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," he said. He felt an itch on his nose, so he wiggled it. "Thanks, Arin. I feel better- why are you looking at me like that?"
Arin was indeed staring at him with a perplexed look on her face as if she was not the one who'd just swallowed a metric ton of ice cream. "Why do you do that?"
Dipper frowned. "Do what? AGH-"
He yelped as Arin whipped out her phone and snapped a photo of him, blinding him with the flash even though it was a bright, sunny day out. "What was that for?"
She didn't say anything, simply handed him her phone. It certainly was not the best photo ever taken of him. It was blurry, his hair was a mess, and his mouth was contorted in shock.
On the bridge of his nose was a dollop of chocolate ice cream.
"You do it every time we get ice cream," Arin said, taking her phone back. "I mean, you call me weird, but I'm not the one always itching my nose with an ice pop."
"Oh," Dipper said. He paused and looked at his fingers, which were all chocolate-y too now. "I didn't even notice I was doing it."
"Suuure, weirdo," Arin chuckled. She stood up, wobbling a bit as she did so, and steadied herself on the back of the bench. "Listen dude, this was fun but I think the sugar's starting to hit me. I'm gonna head back to the dorm before I collapse. Wanna hang out later?"
"Definitely!" Dipper replied. "You should get some rest! Try not to give psychological counseling to anyone on the way -- you're gonna burn out your brain!"
He waved at his friend as she staggered away, and watched her until she turned a corner around a building. Then he sighed, and wiped his nose with his finger.
"Hey Mabel," he whispered, looking at the chocolate he'd collected. "It’s me, Dipper.”
A passing jogger sent a pointed look at the young man who was talking to his finger, but Dipper ignored them.
“I seem to remember you saying something to me about living forever. You said that one day you’d be gone, and I’d have to find a way to carry on alone.” He thought about Arin’s words, and felt something swell in his chest. “But I guess you’re still alive after all.”
He sniffed, and looked up at the sun as it started to bathe the sky in the pinks and purples of evening. He saw people in flying cars, people rushing through pneumatic tubes, people high fiving on jetpack because it was a wonderful day to be out. And he thought about what Arin said; thought about all of the sicknesses he'd seen friends and family afflicted by that no one ever had to suffer from again. He thought about all the preters he saw walking freely and happily on the campus, without worrying that they'd be attacked.
"And you were right," he said. "The world is a better place."
Dipper licked the remaining chocolate off his fingers, and got up. As he headed back toward his dorm room, he wondered what other legacies his loved ones had left in him.
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