Summary: When Ford gets into a little disagreement with his niece, he must figure out a way to make it up to her and prove just how much he truly appreciates her.
Mabel currently had the entire living room to herself. Stan had gone out to run some errands, Dipper was out doing ‘boy stuff’ with Soos, and Ford was working on something in the basement and had explicitly told them that he was not to be disturbed unless they somehow got themselves caught up in some intangible situation that would require him to intervene.
But her boundless curiosity couldn’t be deterred by a simple warning. Surely, Ford wouldn’t mind having a little company while he was working on one of his nerd experiments, would he? He always allowed her brother to help him with one of his projects, so why shouldn’t she be permitted to assist him once in a while?
With that in mind, Mabel rose from her place in front of the television, where she had been watching one of the latest reruns of Ducktective. She was suddenly filled with a sense of determination, eager to bond with the newest member of her family. Because of this, she remained blissfully clueless of the repercussions that her actions would bring, bringing old insecurities and fears to light. For the moment, the only thing Mabel could think about was having a chance to connect with her other Grunkle, something which only Dipper had managed to accomplish.
She ventured into the gift shop, coming a stop in front of the vending machine, where a distinct blue glow was emanating from the edges. Without a moment of hesitation, Mabel quickly coded in the proper combination and stepped back as the door swung open automatically.
Enthusiasm inflaming her veins, she made her way through the entrance and began her descent down the old, creaky stairs. When she got to the elevator, Mabel slowly punched in a number and waited patiently as she felt the shaft beginning to descend down to where Ford’s lab was. As it made a stop on the third floor, she couldn’t help but smile gleefully, sprinting out the parted doors at a speed that would make a jaguar seethe with jealousy. She quickly spotted Ford hunched over his desk, writing something down in one of his journals.
Suppressing a giggle, Mabel bounded over to where her uncle was sitting, hugging him from behind.
“Hey, Grunkle Ford!”
His response was definitely not what she expected it to be. Instead of greeting her warmly, like he would with Dipper, his reception was something more akin to annoyance. The stoniness in his eyes made his expression seem almost cold, prompting Mabel to relinquish her grip on him and take a few tentative steps back. Noticing this, Ford made an effort to drudge up a smile, trying to retain some semblance of geniality as he directed his full attention to his niece.
“Well, hello there, Mabel.” Ford said, trying his best to keep the tension out of his voice. “Is there something I can help you with?”
Mabel shook her head in response, smiling innocently. “No, I’m okay. I just wanted to come down and see if you needed help with anything.” She peered over his shoulder, trying to see through the plexiglass that concealed what remained of the portal. From what she had overheard of Ford and Dipper’s recent conversations, the portal that Grunkle Stan had spent thirty long years toiling over had finally been dismantled. Mabel didn’t really know why it had to be taken apart, but secretly, she was glad it was gone. The only benefit that even came out of starting up that stupid contraption was getting Ford back to his own dimension again. The resulting stress that had been brought upon the rest of her family as a result of her decision to trust Stan, however, was definitely anything but a benefit.
“No, no, that’s quite all right, dear.” Ford quickly got up from his chair and strode over to his niece, taking her by the shoulders and leading her back towards the elevator shaft. “I’ve got everything under control here. You can just run along now.”
“Aw … But, Grunkle Ford!” Mabel pouted, looking up at him pleadingly. “I wanna help you with your work! Isn’t there anything I can do? What about that portal thingy you took apart? Maybe I can help clear away what’s left of it.”
Ford immediately halted in his tracks, regarding her with a mix of fear and apprehension. “How did you know that I dismantled the portal?”
Mabel blushed slightly, looking sheepish. “Well, I mayyyy have listened in a teensy bit when you and Dipper were talking the other day. I heard something about you destroying it and needing to contain something that came out of it or whatever.”
Ford immediately crouched down to meet her height, placing his hands on her shoulders and looking at her astringently. “Listen, Mabel, I want you to ignore everything that you may have heard about the portal. It’s too dangerous for you to know the consequences that have been unleashed as a result of its reactivation.”
Mabel seemed confused. “Consequences? What do you mean?”
Ford proceeded to sigh heavily, relinquishing his grip as he stood and turned away from her. “Believe me, Mabel, the less you know, the better. Now please just … just run along and forget that we even had this conversation.”
Instead of obeying her great uncle’s wishes, Mabel stood her ground, crossing her arms and glaring at him defiantly. “I don’t want to forget this conversation! Why can’t you just tell me why you had to take that portal apart? Grunkle Stan spent the last thirty years rebuilding that stupid thing so he could bring you back! The least you can do is give me an explanation for it!”
Ford returned her glare, his frustration becoming more evident. “Do you not understand what I’m trying to tell you? I can’t tell you why I took it apart, because it’s not safe for you to possess that kind of knowledge!”
“Oh, but it’s perfectly okay for Dipper to know! Since he’s the smart guy and I’m just the dumb little girl who can’t understand anything! You know, ever since you got back, nothing’s been the same. Grunkle Stan’s been really depressed, and Dipper has his head stuck in that your dumb journal and barely even talks to me anymore. And Stan spent so much time trying to bring you home, but you can’t even show an ounce of appreciation for all the trouble he went through to get you back! I know he’s made some mistakes, but it doesn’t do either of you any good to shut each other out like this! And I honestly don’t know what bringing you back has accomplished, because all it’s done is mess everything up! I should’ve just listened to Dipper and pushed that stupid button, then you wouldn’t be here. I mean, it’s obvious that we’re better off without you!”
As soon as the words left her, Mabel quickly covered her mouth in shock, regretting them as soon as they were spoken. Ford was cast into a state of total disbelief. His lips were parted slightly, his eyes blank and devoid of emotion, and his expression was stoic. He slowly bowed his head, preventing Mabel from seeing just how her words had affected him.
She attempted to apologize, the guilt being too much for her to bear. “I-I’m sorry, Grunkle Ford! I-I didn’t mean-”
“You know, I only wish that you had shut down the portal when you had the chance. Maybe then this family wouldn’t be in so much peril.”
Mabel’s eyes widened, her lips parting in shock. “W-What?”
“You should’ve known better,” Ford continued on, not seeming to take notice of the sadness etched in his niece’s expression. “You should’ve know better than to trust Stanley … all he’s done is lie and cheat his way through life without any regard for the people around him. He nearly destroyed the entire universe when he reactivated that portal, and now look where it’s got us! Bill now has the potential to tear this world apart piece by piece, and it’s because of you and my brother. If either of you had had even an ounce of common sense, we wouldn’t be in this mess!”
Mabel felt the oncoming tears scathing her eyes like molten lava. She tried desperately to reach Ford through the thick veil of anger that had clouded his senses. “Y-You don’t mean that-”
“Yes, I do!” Ford seethed, invoking a sensation similar to having poison darts piercing her heart. “If you hadn’t been so naive as to extend your trust to someone who self-proclaims himself as a professional conman, then you wouldn’t have subjected our entire dimension to the possibility of being destroyed for good! You think that protective charm I put over the Shack is going to keep us safe forever? Bill’s eventually going to find a way to break through, whether he uses any of us as a vessel or not. You just don’t realize the implications of your actions, misguided as they were, and you don’t even know the danger that you’ve inflicted on everyone as a result of your foolishness!”
That’s when the dam finally broke. Mabel gave in to the regret that had been lingering in her heart and allowed her tears to fall. She swallowed down a sob that threatened to escape, struggling to conceal just how hurt she was. This immediately brought Ford out of the angry haze he was in, his eyes softening as he saw just how much his words had pushed Mabel over the cusp of her own guilt. Feeling a sense of regret, he reached out in an attempt to rectify the damage he had caused. “Mabel, sweetheart … I-I’m so sorry-”
Mabel wrenched herself out of Ford’s reach, letting out a choked whimper as she turned and ran towards the elevator shaft. She darted past the doors and pressed the button, all the while ignoring the sound of Ford’s voice as he begged her to come back. Only the recantation of his harsh words floated through her mind, extricating a broken sob from her lips as the elevator slowly began to make its ascent.
Upstairs, Stan had just returned from running his errands. He was twirling his keys on his index finger, whistling a jaunty little tune, when a pink-and-purple blur embodying his great niece burst into the room and engulfed him in a desperate hug. Stan smiled and wrapped his arms around her, thinking she was just being her usual affectionate self. That is, until he felt the distinct warmth of tears dampening his suit, along with a small body trembling against his own.
“Hey there, sweetie … what’s the matter?” he asked gently, placing his hands on her shoulders and guiding her back so that she could face him. He was shocked to see her eyes practically drowning in their own tears, with remnants of the moisture still lingering on her cheeks and neck.
“G-Grunkle Stan …” she whimpered.
Stan automatically reached out to wipe the tears away, allowing his hands to cup both sides of her face. “I’m here, sweetie. Tell me what’s wrong. Are ya hurt or somethin’?”
She shook her head, sniffling softly. “N-No. G-Grunkle Ford … he just … he didn’t mean to …”
He tenderly brushed the bangs away from her forehead, frowning in concern. “Calm down, pumpkin. Jus’ breathe an’ take a moment to calm yerself.” She did as he asked, breathing in, and releasing a shaky exhale. Stan smiled encouragingly. “Atta girl. Now, what exactly Ford did say to get ya so riled up?”
Mabel sniffled again, attempting to dry her face with the sleeve of her sweater. “I-I went down to the basement to see if Grunkle Ford needed help with one of his projects, but he said no and tried to bring me back upstairs. T-Then I started to talk about the portal and …” she trailed off.
The grip Stan had on her shoulders tightened ever so slightly. “What about the portal, sweetie?”
“W-Well, I asked him if I could help clean up what was left of it … since he took it apart and all. That’s when he started getting really defensive and said that I shouldn’t be getting involved in something that I wouldn’t understand. T-Then we got into this really big argument, a-and I told him that I should’ve pushed the button so that he never would’ve come out of the portal … but I didn’t mean to say that, Grunkle Stan, I didn’t!”
Mabel began to cry afresh, provoking Stan to pull her into his arms, using his hands to rub gentle designs into her back. “Shh, I know you didn’t, honey. It’s okay …” It took over ten minutes of coaxing and reassuring, but he was finally able to calm her down enough so that she could speak properly again.
“I-I didn’t mean to get Grunkle Ford so upset … I just wanted to spend time with him. I mean, it’s not fair that Dipper got to bond with him and I haven’t. But maybe I’m just too different. I mean, he’s so smart and cool … and I’m just silly and dumb.”
“No, you’re not, Mabel.”
Mabel’s head immediately snapped up, as did Stan’s, allowing them to see Ford standing in the threshold of the vending machine. He looked to be the epitome of a man broken down. His eyes were replete with regret, his body slumped as if he were carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. He looked over at the two of them, his expression pleading.
“Stan, if it’s all right with you, I’d like to have some time alone with Mabel so I can talk to her about what happened. No doubt she’s already told you about it.”
Glaring, Stan continued to keep the protective stance he had over his niece. unwilling to let her go after the way his twin had treated her. Then he felt a gentle squeeze to his hand. He looked down to see Mabel giving him a small smile, mouthing the words, 'It’s okay’, in an attempt to reassure him. Reluctantly, he released his grip on her, taking the opportunity to whisper something in her ear.
“If he gives ya any more guff, you be sure to let me know. All right, sweetie?”
“Thanks, Grunkle Stan.” Mabel whispered, leaning forward to kiss him sweetly on the cheek. Then she slowly made her way over to Ford, taking the hand he offered to her and allowing him to lead her towards the kitchen.
With one last lingering glance at the two, Stan decided that he would head into his office in order to give them some privacy; praying that his brother would be able to work things out with their niece.
Once they got to the kitchen, Ford pulled out a chair and sat down in it. Then he held his arms out, smiling as Mabel climbed into his lap and snuggled against his chest. One of his hands reached around to cradle her waist, the other tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. Before he could say anything, however, Mabel’s soft voice intercepted the silence between them.
“I’m sorry for what I said to you in the basement, Grunkle Ford,” she murmured, idly playing with a loose strand of yarn hanging from her sweater. “I didn’t mean to make you mad.”
Ford let out a sigh, proceeding to gently card his fingers through Mabel’s hair. “There’s no need for you to blame yourself, dear. If anything, I should be the one apologizing to you.”
Mabel lifted her head slightly, taken aback by Ford’s words. “Why? You were right. What you did with the portal was none of my business, and I shouldn’t have been so nosy. I guess I was just jealous that you and Dipper have been spending so much time together. I mean, it’s great that you guys were able to bond with each other and all, but …”
Ford ceased his ministrations on Mabel’s hair, placing his hand beneath her chin and tilting her head so their eyes could meet. “But what?”
“I wish I could spend time with you too.” she whispered, burying her face into his sweater. That’s when Ford felt the distinct coolness of tears beading onto the fabric of his turtleneck.
“Mabel …?” Ford inquired, concern coating his voice like heavy cream. “Sweetheart, are you all right?”
The only reply he got was a sniffle, followed by a barely-concealed sob. Ford instinctively wrapped his arms around Mabel’s trembling form, cradling her head against his chest. He proceeded to rub her back in soothing circles, rocking her gently in an attempt to soothe her cries.
“Shh, it’s all right,” he murmured softly, “Don’t cry, pumpkin. I’m here, I’m here …” Ford continued to croon sweet words into the girl’s ears, continuing to stroke her back while periodically pressing gentle kisses to her forehead. After a while, her sobs slowly ebbed to soft sniffling and regulated breathing, which prompted him to look down at her with a mixture of relief and concern.
“Feeling any better, sweetie?” he asked, reaching out a hand to cup her cheek and tilt her head so that their eyes met. Ford felt a pang in his heart as he took notice of his niece’s saddened face. Her cheeks were flushed pink, along with her nose, and her eyes were glossy and rimmed with red. He tenderly cradled her face in both hands, using his thumbs to wipe away every tear that fell from her eyes. Mabel found herself leaning into Ford’s gentle touch, letting out a soft hum of contentment as she did so.
“Y-Yeah, I feel better now.” Mabel replied, a small smile appearing on her lips as she felt another kiss being placed on her forehead.
“Good.” Ford said, using his fingers to carefully push the bangs away from her eyes. “Look, Mabel, I want to apologize for how I acted towards you earlier. You were only trying to spend time with me, and I pushed you away and made you feel like you were unwanted. But, sweetheart, you have to know that I think you’re a wonderful girl and I care for you very much. I never meant to snap at you the way that I did, and I hope that you can forgive me for doing so.”
Mabel grinned, her eyes suffused with warmth and love as she reached up to pull her grunkle into a rapturous hug.
“Of course I forgive you, Grunkle Ford!” she cried, swooping in to give him a swift kiss on his cheek. “You must’ve been pretty stressed after all that nerd writing you’ve been doing! Next time, I’ll let you know when I’m coming down to visit you. And I’ll even bring you some Mabel Juice too!”
Ford chuckled, pulling his niece close to him as he nuzzled his face into her hair, his olfactory senses being stimulated by the scent of strawberries and cinnamon that emanated from her.
“That would be lovely, my dear!” he said, reciprocating her affections by kissing the tip of her nose, making her giggle in delight.
“Oh, that reminds me! I need to make a new batch, and I know that Mabel Juice ain’t gonna make itself!” Mabel carefully climbed down from Ford’s lap, holding out one of her hands to him. “Care to give me a hand, Grunkle Ford?”
Ford took his niece’s hand without hesitation, smiling lovingly at her. “It would be my honor, Mabel.”
And with that, Mabel lead her grunkle towards the other side of the kitchen. Then she had him lift her so that she could reach into the cupboards, procuring the ingredients she needed to make her special beverage. Once she had an armful of assorted additives, some of which Ford noticed that weren’t exactly fit for human consumption, she set them down on the counter and got to work. Ford carefully monitored her as she used the blender, disregarding her protests that she had used it many times without any mishaps.
When the juice was finally made, Mabel quickly grabbed two cups from the sink and poured an adequate amount of liquid into each of them. Then she brought them to the table, handing one to Ford, who thanked her as he took a seat beside her.
“This was a lot of fun, Grunkle Ford!” Mabel smiled brightly, taking a large swig of her overly-sweet concoction. “We should do this more often!”
Ford nodded in agreement, grimacing slightly as he took a more hesitate sip of his own drink. “Indeed we should. Maybe you could accompany me on a fairy-hunting expedition I’m planning tomorrow?”
Mabel’s eyes widened, her lips parting in shock. “You want me to help you with your research?”
He nodded, smiling in order to reinforce his statement. “Why, of course! I cannot think of a better person to help me than- “
He was cut off by a loud, girlish squeal. “OMG! Hunting for fairies with one of my favorite people in the whole world? That is The. Coolest. Thing. Ever!” Ford let out a soft oomph! as he was tackled in yet another enthusiastic hug. “Thanks, Grunkle Ford!”
Ford grinned affectionately, wrapping his arms around his niece and squeezing her tight. “Anytime, sweetheart.”
Once they separated, Mabel gave him a sweet smile, patting him gently on the hand. “Well, I better go check on Waddles and make sure he hasn’t destroyed the attic or anything. I’ll see you later, Grunkle Ford. Love you!” She gave him one last kiss on the cheek before sprinting out of the room.
Ford chuckled, looking fondly after his niece’s retreating from. “I love you, too, pumpkin.” he murmured.