"Wirt! Wirt! Come on! Wake up!"
With a tired sigh, the teenager only rolled over to his side, burning his face in his pillow and roughly shoved the tiny yet strangely bony hands away from their current position, digging into his rib cage. His thin lips curled into the tiniest of smirks when he heard his little step-brother huff in annoyance and the sounds of the bed squeaking, signaling his departure.
His peace, however, was quickly shattered when he felt a sudden weight on his hip and stomach, those tiny and bony hands back again to shoving into his non-muscular body, this time much harder. He groaned loudly, slamming his head hard against his warm, fluffy pillow, his dark hair a complete mess with his long bangs tickling his nose.
Greg squinted and bit down on his bottom lip, confusion settling in as his attempts of shaking his big brother out of bed were futile. Or at least, that's what it seemed. "Come onnnnn, Wirt! Get upppppp!" He urged, bouncing up and down on his flat stomach with impatience, making him groan and hiss in pain and slight irritation.
One minute later, and the sight of a thick mop of brown hair was replaced by that of his brother's pale and tired face, one eye open yet squinting at him. Despite the apparent annoyed look on his face, there was still a faint ghost of a smile.
"Okay, okay, I'm up! What do you," he paused to yawn and sleepily rub at his eyes, "want, Greg? It's...what? Three in the morning?!? Why are you up right now? We have school tomorrow!"
He watched with a rapidly beating heart and a panicked expression as Greg's happy smile grew and there was the slightest hint of mischief. Not a good sign, knowing just how much trouble his little brother could get into, despite being only eight years old.
Wirt felt his heart race. A breeze swept through his room and brushed delicately against his nape. He shivered and curled up further into the sheets, not that it was much help anyway. Why was it so cold in there anyway? "Oh my gosh. Greg, what did you do?"
The little boy huffed and placed his hands on his round hips, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. When he saw Wirt's confused and dazed (he was still really tired), his cheerful smirk was back on and there was a light shining brightly in his big brown eyes.
"Just come with me, brother o' mine!"
That was all he heard before he was roughly yanked and pulled out of bed by the wrist, Greg had quite the grip when he was really excited, all while dragging his bedsheets behind him in an attempt to stay warm. Wirt was actually shocked by how excited his little brother was, whatever was going on must've been really huge, and nearly tripped over his own feet several times on the way downstairs.
When Greg finally let him go, they were in the living room, dark and deserted with all the binds closed and even the crickets nestling in the corner of the room were as quiet as a mouse. Wirt stood there, in the middle of the cold room with scratchy carpet, wrapped up in thin freezing sheets and looking throughly annoyed.
If Greg was playing one of his games with him this early in the morning, so help him, he'll get such a rude awakenin-
He was cut off from his crankiness-driven thoughts when he heard the sound of a lock slowly clicking and sliding out of place. Looking up, his eyes widening when he saw Greg step outside into the darkness of early morning. Heart racing, he could barely contain his panic as he raced after him, dragging his river of sheets behind him. "Greg!" He hissed, not daring to increase his voice even the slightest in fear of waking up their parents.
"What do you think you're doing? Get back in here!" He stood in the doorway, praying for God that he didn't wander off mindlessly like always. Not in the cold darkness, right within arms reach, just like...the last time.
He heaved a sigh of relief upon hearing that cheerful giggle just a few feet from where he was standing. Opening the door wider, his jaw dropped when he saw what was really happening.
Snow was falling everywhere, like beautiful crystals gleaming in the faint light they caught, piling up on the ground into giant mounds already. Wirt slapped himself, literally, to be sure this wasn't a dream. The stinging feeling on his cheek screamed at him that this was definitely real.
Greg was in their front yard, twirling around and jumping in large mountains of thick crunchy white powder, sending large puffs of wispy white smoke everywhere. Flakes were decorating and sprinkling in his dark hair, a large toothy smile on his face as he sang.
"Ooh! It's snowing, cold and soft, and it gets on all my clothes, but I don't care because I have no school! Hooray for snow! Hooray for snow! Come on and play with me, my bro! Hooray for snow! Hooray for snow! We're gonna have no school for the day-o!"
Wirt chuckled and his grip on the door started to slack off as he started to relax, although he was still rather chilly thanks to the nippy air. Greg always had a talent for making up songs on the spot and most were often better than what he heard on the radio any day, not to mention ridiculously catchy. In fact, that little ditty he just chimed out sounded an awful lot like "Adelade Parade", a song that was one time a symbol of hope and happiness only to now be a reminder of just how ironic their entire journey was in the end.
He felt a small pang in his chest upon thinking back to their, ahem, "adventure" to The Unknown, which many had brushed off as simply a dream made of a near-death experience. Guilt formed a tight choking feeling around his throat, making him attempt to clear his throat to try and get rid of it. It was hard trying to ignore everything that had happened there, real or not. You can't just ignore something that big.
Greg embraced the memories with positivity, understandable since he was only a child and too naive to understand what was really happening. He didn't know what The Beast had planned for him. What he would've become had The Woodsman and Wirt hadn't been there at the right time.
Wirt shuddered at that memory, for obvious reasons. Sometimes he couldn't help but think what would've actually happened to the both of them had he really went through with his "deal" with The Beast instead of finding a loophole in his lies. Had he become the second lantern-bearer of the dark woods. He already knew that that monster wouldn't have gone through with his part, instead relying on mental manipulation. What would become of him then? Would he just aimlessly wander around The Unknown for the rest his life...or death.
What would've happened to him in this life then?
He blinked and snapped out of these thoughts when he saw Greg pack a handful of snow and stare at it with a bizarre fascination and a large happy grin. The older boy chuckled and leaned against the doorway, a smile planted on his face only to drop quickly when he saw his brother turn and give him the evilest of smiles. He then had to duck and dodge a flurry of snowballs aimed at his head while Greg laughed and, in an instant, the war was on.
Wirt knelt down from his safe position in the doorway, scooping up large chunks of cold powdery softness, and rolling them into large snowballs. He hissed upon feeling a freezing stinging feeling in his palms and fingers, thanks to not wearing gloves. Looking up at Greg, he finally noticed that he was dressed in red rubber snow boots and thick wool mittens. He still wore his thin striped pajamas, but he was still dressed much better than his big brother.
He squeaked when he felt himself get smacked hard in the face with a sudden rush of coldness and pieces of frozen chunks plastered all over his face. His eyes narrowed when he saw Greg do a little victory dance, bouncing up and down with a disturbingly happy expression on his face. "Ha ha! Victory! I can smell my victory, Captain Wirt!"
The boy chuckled, wiping away the pieces of snow off his face and his hair, as he stood back up and dusted his powder-covered hands off. He went to retort, he instead froze.
In the darkness of early morning, the streets were quiet and lightless, save for the street lamps on the occasional sidewalk, but he couldn't help but feel as if they were being watched by someone—or something.
In the darkness of night, he saw a pair of bright ovular lights, side by side. They looked like headlights, save the car. They were close to one another, almost like a pair of...
He closed his eyes tightly and shook his head. No, no, this wasn't real. This was all his imagination; his tired, worn out imagination based on his own paranoia and fear. That's what his therapist had told him, so it must have some level of truth, right? When he reopened his eyes, the lights in the dark were gone.
With a relieved sigh, he started to walk back inside only to pause when he heard Greg ask curiously, "Surrendering already, captain?"
He turned his head, glancing over his shoulder over at him. His lips curled into a small mischievous smirk. "Not today, Gregory. I've just gotta get into something a little more...you know, comfortable. You know what I mean?"
Said little boy glared at him and stuck his tongue out in distaste at hearing his full name. "Okay, Walter, hurry up."
Wirt's face scrunched up in distaste but he still chuckled at his comeback. "Oh, you wound me, young skipper. Heh, heh, heh...I'll be right back."
With that awkwardly said and done, he spun around and walked into the house, quietly shutting the door behind. He sneaked up to his room and put on his gloves, a scarf, his boots and a fur hat. As he walked downstairs, he glanced at the old clock leaning against the wall.
Hm, 3:10 in the morning...3:10 IN THE MORNING?!?
Panic poured throughout his throbbing veins and pulsed against his thundering heart. He raced for the door, twisting the freezing knob at lightening speed. He could still feel the cold even through the warm material of his gloves. He threw the door open, cringing as he heard the squeaking of the hinges. An icy blast of wind assaulted his poor uncovered face and he squinted through the flurry of pouring snowflakes. He could just barely make out the silhouette on Greg playing in the snow, blissfully another of the storm that was starting to brew up in the neighborhood.
"Greg!" He hissed, trying to be as quiet and discreet as possible. If anyone was awake and looking in that direction at the time, hopefully they ether wouldn't have recognized them or just didn't know who lived in this house. His mom and Jonathan would have double heart attacks at the thought of their only children doing something as risky and stupid as wandering into a snowstorm in early morning. No, that would not be good at all.
He saw the head of the chubby shadow-y figure turn and look over at him, tilting to the side curiously. With a sigh of relief, he cupped his hand around his mouth and called out, "Get in here quickly! And be quiet, you don't want to wake-no, wait, don't come in yet! Stay right there! I'll get a towel to dry you off, you probably look like a mess right now! Don't wander off! Stay right there, okay! Stay. Right. There. Don't. Movveee....got it?"
The round small silhouette shrugged his tiny shoulders and then plopped down on the ground, sending snow flying everywhere without a single care in the world. Greg smiled brightly and saluted, not noticing him heave a sigh at his antics. "Aye aye, captain!"
Wirt sighed and went to get a towel, reopening the door in less than two minutes and hurriedly shoving his brother into the house, while freaking out about him tracking in snow as quietly as he could; but that was a feat easier said and done. Especially when Greg decided it was his decision to speak his mind, and as loud as possible.
"Hey! What's the rush? The war isn't over yet, captain! The battle shall commence!"
Wirt rolled his eyes as he tugged him upstairs, pulling off all winter garments and putting them in their proper place while Greg still complained over having his fun interrupted so rudely by "stupid time". It's very rare to see his young brother so annoyed by such a mundane thing as snow, but then again, it was very rare to see to see that as well.
Throwing a big fluffy towel over his head, he ruffled his hair, all spiked up thanks to his playing around. "We can play battle later," he muttered as Greg glared at him with those large, always gleaming, eyes, "when we can have more players."
Greg immediately lightened up at the mention of this, a wide smile stretching across his puffy cheeks. "Is Sara coming over?"
Wirt coughed, a faint blush dusting over his pale cheeks. He really hoped Greg couldn't see his face in the darkness of his room. Ever since Halloween, they've been hanging out more and more and, while Wirt was getting less shy or stutter-y with being around her, he wasn't ready to fully admit his crush yet. Still, she was still really cool and was probably the only close friend of his that actually appreciated his clarinet playing-poetry indulging self, and not just out of pity like the rest of her little group.
Still Greg pressed on. "What about Jason Funderburker; will he be coming too?"
Wirt felt his teeth grind together, but he tried to keep his cool. Relax, there are two Jason Funderburkers we know, I just hope it's not the one I'm particularly thinking of right now. Clearing his throat, he pulled the towel away from his brother's mussed up brown hair. "Which one?"
An annoyed glare. "The frog! Duh!" Oh, that's right. He didn't know where that name really came from. In fact, they only really met on Halloween, but Greg was too wrapped up in his story telling to realize that the blonde was confusing his new frog for him.
He jumped back in surprise when Greg suddenly jerked away from him, spinning around with a bright gleam in his big brown eyes. Clasping his hands together, he looked as if he were ready to start singing.
"Yay! I can't wait to tell him-"
Wirt lunged forward and placed a thin finger against those wide and curled lips, eyes wide. "Shhhh! Do you want to wake mom and Jonathan?" His eyes narrowed when he saw him shake his head, but that cheerful smile was still plastered all over his face.
The teen sighed and ran his hand through his hair that seemed persistent on standing up straight, rubbing the small space between his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. "Yes Greg?"
"Will Beatrice come too?"
His head shot up. With his breath caught in his dry throat and his mouth hanging open, he hesitated. What would he tell him? Oh Greg, I'm sorry but Beatrice is dead and our entire journey throughout The Unknown was really us caught in the limbo and us defeating The Beast would impact whenever or not we live. Yeah, that not really cutting it, especially considering Greg's young age and unbreakable innocence.
So instead, he flashed a small smile, shrugged, and softly muttered, "Maybe."
As he moved to clean up any snow-related mess, he heard Greg mumble something under his breath. Turning around, he looked over the little boy to see him staring down at the floor, bottom lip jutting out in a pout. Concern controlled the following actions as he walked back over to him and kneeled, placing a hand on his shoulder.
"You said that at Thanksgiving too..."
He nervously swallowed but he still forced a smile on his face, rubbing the back of his head, he watched as Greg's eyes glance up at him with a shine that made him seem like he was crying. Oh god, don't let it have come to let.
"Greg, it's just...Beatrice is...she's just...very, very busy..."
"Too busy to visit us?"
Wirt was now starting to avoid his gaze, biting down on his bottom lip as he was trying to think up a clever excuse that his naive but still very smart brother. "Y-yeah, I guess so..."
Large eyes narrowed sharply and he flinched when he felt a chubby little finger jab him roughly in the side. "Well, next time you see her, tell her to stop being busy and get her butt over here to play with us! I miss her."
Wirt felt his eyes tear up slightly, but he was quick to hide them as his hands began to twitch, much as they had when he was laying in a boat, freezing, what seemed like forever ago.
"Yeah...I...I miss her t-too, Greg. I'll be sure to..tell her...next time."
Greg's frowning lips twisted into a bright and shining smile and he reached up to wrap his tiny arms around his brother's neck, who stiffened up at first but then slowly relaxed into the touch. "I can't wait to see her!" He flinched when he felt the hot breath tickling the cold shell of his ear.
"Me too," he sighed into his brother's short and fluffed up hair. When they pulled away, he felt sweat begin drip down his temple when he saw just how happy Greg really did look. Guilt began to bubble up in the pit of his stomach. He didn't want to have to deal with this right now.
With his eyes darting to the sides and his fingers knitting together, he tried to avoid looking at that innocent face as he spoke, "Well, skipper, you better get yourself to bed. We have a big day tomorrow."
He noticed the confusion on the boy's face and momentarily panicked, but he calmed down once he realized that he wasn't going to question him. "Okay, I will. Goodnight captain Wirt."
Wirt felt a smile tug at the corners of his lips as watched the child hobble away, standing on his toes.
"Goodnight skipper Greg."
Once he was sure he was gone, getting the hint when he heard the sound of a door closing, he sighed and slumped down on his bed. He groaned when he felt a bubbling feeling in the pit of his stomach. He wanted to puke, but he held it back. He didn't want Greg to see him like that or anyone for that matter.
Glancing out the window, he froze when he saw those bright white circular lights peaking at him through the darkness of the early morning.
Jumping up, he ran over to the window and yanked his blinds closed. He fell to his knees and hugged himself, shaking like a leaf. His breathing was shallow and while he did try to maintain a calm demeanor, he failed miserably.
"Calm down, Wirt. He's not real. He's not real. He's not gonna get Greg again. Get a hold of yourself..."
But even through his crazed ramblings, he could still faintly hear:
Come wayward souls...
Elsewhere, the darkness dipped down on the small town save for the tiny white lights that shined throughout the streets. In that town, there was a graveyard, cold, vast, and empty. In that graveyard, there was a wall, old, cracked, and withered.
On that wall, the tiny pale fingers of a tiny pale hand curled alongside the very edge. Five fingers were quickly joined by five more, and there was not only a slight grunt but the tips of moussed up snowy hair peaked up from behind the brick curation.
With a heave, Gideon Gleeful climbed up and over the garden wall, soaked to the bone. In his stubby hand, he held a cold black lantern with the dimmest of lights but there was still some life left in the small object.
A large, smile stretched across his face like threads that make up a spiderweb. Giggling to himself, he reached into the pocket of the raggedy brown coat he wore and pulled out a fancy looking cell phone. There was the sounds of clicks and beeps and then the traditional, overly long, drawn out dial tone.
Then there was another click. "'Ello?"
"Daddy, I'm back. Get over here; it's starting to snow and I'm not properly dressed. Now!"
"Did ya get wha ya needed?"
"Yes I did! Hurry it up, will ya? I'm freezing over here!"
"Don't worry, pumpkin. I'm driving around the corner now."
As he shook, his lips were molding into a sneaky grin, "Good."
No later than when he hung up, a large red truck swerved around the corner at the entrance of the grave yard, one headlight cracked and the horn tired and groaning. Gideon squinted at the bright light that assaulted him, he had been in the dark for so long, but he tried to adjust as he hobbled over, skidding on the ice that the puddle he left behind had so quickly became. He was shaking like a leaf, trying to rub down the millions of tiny mountains on his arms, with his skin a deadly white, lips blue as the night sky, and his hair hanging in his face, still wet as a dog. The lantern swung each time he moved, but that little bit of light still stayed lit.
Bud Gleeful's double-chimed head popped out from the driver's window, concern and relief all over his usually happy demeanor and a stark contrast to the permanent smile he seemed to have been working on for the last twelve years. Gideon paid no mind to this as he yanked hard on the car door, a warning growl bubbling in his throat before his father finally got the hint and quickly unlocked it. Powers or not, the Gleeful child was not one to anger so much and he was already clearly annoyed as was.
"You sure took your time, old man," he grumbled as he plopped down in the passenger's seat, setting the lantern down in his lap and rubbing his frozen hands together, "turn the heat up!"
Bud did as he was told, eyeing his son nervously. He was completely soaked and covered from head to foot in smeared snow. He was shivering, so much so that his teeth chattering was clearly audible. Still though, he smiled like always.
"Ya'll sure took a long time in there," he hummed as he started the car back up. Gideon scoffed and rolled his eyes, already trying to brush the powdery substance off of him.
"It was a lot longer in there than here. Dimension time zones sure are weird, not to mention the people aren't the smartest ether."
Bud's plump brown eyebrow rose at this, "Dimension? Now boy, you know what we agreed to: no spooky magic stuff. You've already giving our family a bad name because of your lies and schemes. Do you know how hard it is to go out in public after your extremely famous and once universally loved son gets arrested? I was lucky that I was even able to run for mayor! Or keep everyone else in town from knowing of our alliance!"
Gideon hummed and anxiously rubbed the sides of the lantern, watching the tiny amount of dim light flicker and dance, smiling softly. "Oh, don't worry daddy. There won't be any spooky magic stuff this time-or, at least, not a lot."
"Why did you make me drive you all the way up here to get some old lantern if you're not going to do something that involves magic? Why do you need that darn thing anyway? I could get you any lantern you want back in Gravity Falls!"
Gideon giggled his trademark child-like giggle. "Oh daddy, you think this is just any old lantern? Oh no, no, no. This is a special lantern, you see. This holds the soul of one of the most powerful and feared entities of the entire multiverse!"
He held the lantern up to his eye, watching the flame dance as the wind pushed it around. "Or what's left of it, at least. I'm doing a favor for an old friend of mine; he needs it for some reason. All I know is, if I give this to him, he'll help change this family's name! With his help, everything will soon go back to normal!"
Bud didn't really want to know, but curiosity killed the cat. "Back to normal? Wha do ya mean by that?"
Gideon's toothy smile stretched across his bone white face and went on for what seemed to be all eternity.
"My powers. My fame. My fortune. My success. My luck! And with all that back and fresh at my hand, I can finally rule our town and make sure the world is rid of the Pines family once and for all!"
Then he laughed evilly, throwing his head back and cackling like mad.
Bud bit down on his lip, trying to focus on the road. Something soon caught his eye and he lightly nudged his young son, cutting him off. Seeing his annoyed glare, he pointed up ahead.
"They have a Hen Hut just up this road. Ya want anything?"
Gideon tapped his chin in thought.
"Give me a five piece kiddie combo with extra fries and a milkshake. And don't forget the toy!"
He then resumed to his maniacal laughter.