Candace's Bad Bug
The sun beat down on the pair of twins, who were currently picking their way through the dense forest that surrounded Gravity Falls. Sweat rolled down Dipper's neck and his hair stuck to his forehead. As much as he wanted to go back home or see what Phineas, Ferb and their crew were up too, he knew he needed to do this.
Mabel was a bit more optimistic about their near-impossible mission. She skipped ahead of her brother, knuckles wrapping against the bark of each tree she passed. But the sound they were both hoping for-a hollow, metallic ring-did not come.
"This is a fool's journey," grumbled Dipper, wearily smacking yet another tree.
"Someone's gotta do it," said Mabel cheerfully, darting about like an energetic bunny.
"How long have we been out here?"
"Uh…well, we didn't escape morning chores…so we got out here at eleven. Maybe five hours? It feels like five hours."
"I can believe that. I didn't bring my watch, so when the sky turns orange we have to head back. We can't be out too late and we definitely can't do this every day." Dipper huffed in frustration. "We have to do our chores, work at the Shack-"
"And socialize with our new friends," chirped Mabel. "You know, if we asked them to help us, we might find the hollow tree faster! Plus, we'll have five times more fun!"
"I'm willing to tell them the pressing dangers of Gravity Falls. But under no circumstance are we going to tell them about Three," said Dipper firmly. "Far as they know, most of this town is oblivious and we've just gotten lucky with our sightings."
Mabel sighed, but nodded in acceptance. "I got it. Your baby is top secret."
"The journal is not my baby!" Dipper snapped, bristling. "Stop saying that!"
"Alright, Mr. Touchy. Come on, I bet I can knock on more trees than you can!"
After a few more hours of intensive searching, they finally decided to call it a day. They weren't even close to making a dent and Dipper suspected time was running out. He still didn't have a clue as to what the earthquake was about, and the only thing he had to go on was the hunt the author was sending him on.
"Tomorrow's another day," said Mabel optimistically as they trekked back to the Mystery Shack.
"We have the afternoon shift," grumbled Dipper, wiping the sweat off of his forehead. "Which means we have an early morning ahead of us."
They reached their home and entered through the front door. When they stumbled into the living room it was to see a teenage redhead laid out on their couch, eyes closed. Mabel squinted. "That's not our redhead," she remarked. "Who is she?"
"I…I don't know." Dipper cautiously approached the edge of the couch. "Better question is, how did she get in here?"
"Grunkle Stan hardly ever locks the doors during the day."
"Okay, new better question. Why is she here, asleep on our couch?"
Mabel shrugged. "I dunno."
"One way to find out." Dipper extended a hand to wake the girl, but paused when Wendy came into the room, holding a freshly-soaked cloth.
"Shaking her isn't going to help," she informed, settling the cloth on the teen's forehead. "I tried."
"Colour me confused. Why is there a random girl in our living room?" asked Dipper. "And does Grunkle Stan know?"
"Of course he does. Heck, he was the one that told me to bring her here and look after her. We don't know where she's staying or who she's with."
Dipper studied the girl's face. "You know, she looks kinda familiar…"
"Her name is Candace, if that means anything," said Wendy, sitting down on the arm of the couch.
"The name doesn't ring a bell." Dipper scratched his head, confused by the niggling sensation of recognition. "Anyway, what happened?"
"She passed out in the Shack. Came out of nowhere. I was talking to her earlier and she seemed fine."
"Maybe she ate something funny," spoke Mabel. "That happened to me once. Remember the Smile Dip?"
"I'm trying to forget about that not-so-great incident," muttered Dipper. "You were sick for almost a week. It was so gross." He glanced at Wendy. "How long has she been out?"
Wendy thought. "Ten minutes, I think. I'm starting to get worried, though. If she doesn't wake up soon we're going to have to bring her to a hospital. But we don't know who to contact. If she needs the hospital then she's going to need her parents or whoever to fill out the forms."
Dipper found his eyes focussing on the girl's red hair and the unique shape of her head and neck. They were distinct characteristics, ones that reminded him of-
Their hair colour, while not exactly the same, were similar. Phineas had a triangular head and Candace had a long neck. There was a good chance the two were related.
"I think I know who her family is," said Dipper. "I'm going to go see if I can find them."
"Cool. I'll stay with her. If we're gone by the time you come back, we're on route to the hospital," said Wendy.
"Let's go, Mabel."
The twins hurried from the Shack and sprinted for the cabins. They came to a halt once they came upon the rows of wooden structures. "I don't know which one they're staying in," said Dipper in dismay.
Mabel took a deep breath. "Phineas! Ferb!" she screamed.
Dipper flinched. "That's not going to-"
The door to cabin 235 opened and the two boys stepped out. Dipper clamped his mouth shut and ignored his sister's smug expression.
Phineas and Ferb caught sight of them and walked over. "Hey," greeted Phineas. "What's up?"
"Do you know anyone named Candace?" asked Dipper.
"Sure," said Phineas with a smile. "She's our sister."
"Perfect!" cheered Mabel. Dipper shot her a glare and she flushed. "I mean, it's perfect that we know who she's related to," she quickly clarified.
"She passed out in the middle of my great-uncle's shop," informed Dipper. "She's on our couch right now."
Concern immediately flooded their faces. "Is she ill?" questioned Ferb.
"We're not sure." Dipper shrugged helplessly. "Do you want to get your parents?"
"Thing is, we're not sure where they are right now." Phineas frowned. "They went out on some hike and I guess they're running late."
"In the forest?" squeaked Dipper.
"No," assured Phineas. "Around. Can you take us to Candace? We can bring her back to our cabin and wait for Mom and Dad to get back."
Dipper nodded. "Sure."
"Just follow us!" cried Mabel, and the four kids raced back to the Mystery Shack. When the large wooden tourist trap came into view, Phineas and Ferb turned on the jets and hurried through the front door.
Wendy looked up as the group burst into the living. "Guess who woke up," she said with a smile.
"Candace!" Phineas cried, moving to his sister's side. "Are you okay?"
Candace managed a small smile. She was pale and sweating with bloodshot eyes. "I got a killer headache, but other than that I'm fine," she said, her voice raspy.
"Mum and Dad should be back soon," voiced Ferb. "They can take you to the hospital."
"No, no," said Candace quickly. "I'm fine, really."
"You sure?" asked Phineas, brow creased in concern.
Candace nodded. "Positive."
If her parents brought her to the hospital, there was a good chance they would call off the vacation. She would not do that to her brothers, not when they were having so much fun with their friends.
"If you say so." Phineas offered his arm. "Let's go back to the cabins. Maybe some sleep will do you some good."
"Maybe." Candace slowly stood up, trying not to flinch at the fierce pounding occurring in her head. "Thanks, Wendy," she directed towards the teen. "I'm sorry for causing a ruckus."
"Don't be ridiculous," dismissed Wendy. "It's totally not your fault. When you're feeling better, come back and we'll hang."
Candace smiled. "I'd like that." She looked at the pair of twins standing off to the side. "I guess this is your place, huh?"
"Our great-uncle's, actually. We're staying with him for the summer. I'm Dipper Pines, and this is my sister Mabel."
"Hey. Tell your uncle that I appreciate him letting me crash here." Candace linked arms with her brothers. "See you all later. Candace is going to sleep until this stupid headache goes away."
After exchanging goodbyes, Phineas and Ferb led their sister back to her cabin. Mabel watched them leave before turning to her brother. "She really doesn't look so good," she said softly.
Dipper nodded, brow furrowed. "No…no she doesn't."
Perry sat on the edge of Candace's bed, the old, leather-bound book One balanced in his lap. He flipped carefully through the frail pages, eyes taking in every word for the umpteenth time. Even if the journal did not offer any information about the possible creature Heinz unleashed, it was nonetheless useful.
If he could learn some spells, then he'd be able to use them whenever he needed them. That would definitely boost his chances against whatever he was going to be facing.
The doorknob turned, causing Perry to throw the book underneath Candace's bed and go into 'mindless pet' mode. Phineas and Ferb entered, supporting Candace between them. Perry kept his concern well masked-Candace seemed to have gotten worse.
"There you are, Perry," Phineas said, easing his sister down on her bed.
"Do you want us to stay?"
"No, you guys can get back to your friends. They're probably wondering where you are." Not caring that she was fully dressed, she crawled under her covers and rested her head against her pillow. "Can you do me a favour? Don't tell Mom and Dad I blacked out today."
Phineas and Ferb exchanged glances, but gave slow nods of agreement. "We won't," promised Phineas. "But if you get worse, do you promise to let Mom and Dad know?"
"Promise," said Candace, closing her eyes.
Phineas and Ferb left quietly. Perry waited until the girl started snoring before getting up. He studied her with a soft frown, noting the sweat that beaded on her forehead.
Poor kid, he thought with sympathy, moving strands of hair away from her face. She's on vacation and gets the worst bug she's probably ever had.
Settling back down, Perry decided to call it a night. He pressed against Candace's side, eyes half-lidded. Before he fell completely into slumber, he could not help but think,
'If Heinz released a fire demon, then where the heck did it go?'