Ford leaned against the gates beside his brother. They were currently outside the gates of Wildwood Middle School, Piedmont, waiting to pick Dipper and Mabel up from school. They had arrived in California unannounced. They’d docked the Stan O’ War II over in Emeryville and had been picked up by Dipper and Mabel’s parents. Neither party had told the kids they were coming - it was a surprise. It was roughly two months into the school year and two months since the older Pines twins had first set sail on the Stan O’ War. They had decided to pay the kids a visit. Dipper and Mabel’s father, Jason, had been overjoyed to discover that his supposedly ‘dead’ Uncle Stanley was actually still alive and that Ford was here too. It had been a fairly tearful reunion on both parts - Ford had barely met his nephew before and he’d been elated to finally get to know him properly. The younger twins’ mother, Kristen, was really pleased to meet them too.
“What time did Kristen say the kids finished?” Ford looked over at Stan. “Three, wasn’t it?”
Stan checked his watch. “Yeah, they should have been out by now, surely.”
As if on cue, a loud bell rang out across the school grounds and a minute later kids started filing out, meeting up with their parents and friends and leaving. The older Pines twins scanned the sea of children for any sight of Mabel and/or Dipper. After five minutes, Mabel’s familiar cheery voice could be heard over the crowd. Stan and Ford stayed put, waiting for her to get closer. Mabel walked right past them, barely able to see them beyond the taller kids either side of her. She seemed to be looking for her parents.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Stan called.
Mabel whirled round and gasped. A wide smile instantly spread across her face and she ran towards them. “GRUNKLE STAN! GRUNKLE FORD!” She exclaimed, running up to them and embracing both of them in tight hugs. “What are you doing here?!”
“Well, we were passing California and thought we’d come and visit you.” Ford was beaming, hugging her tightly. “We docked the boat over in Emeryville.”
“We couldn’t resist coming to see you,” Stan grinned, lifting Mabel up and embracing her tightly. The little girl wrapped her arms around his neck, giggling.
“It’s so good to see you too! What’s the boat like? Have you found any monsters? Have you found any treasure?!”
“Relax, pumpkin,” Stan chuckled, setting Mabel back down again. “We’ll explain everything when we get home.”
“You’re staying with us?!” Ford didn’t think it was possible for Mabel’s smile to get any bigger, but he was proved wrong. “Really?!”
“Yep,” Ford grinned. “We’ll be staying in the spare room at your place,”
“How long will you be staying?”
“Dunno,” Stan shrugged. “Until your parents get fed up and kick us out.” He smirked.
Ford laughed. “That could either be in an hour or a month.”
“Dipper’s gonna be so happy to see you guys!” Mabel turned round, scanning the crowd for her twin. “When he eventually gets out.”
Ford stood on the tips of his toes to look over the heads of the parents in the crowd. For a moment, he was looking for the familiar blue and white pine tree cap, but then remembered the boy had traded hats with the ginger Mystery Shack employee (Wendy? Was that her name?) before they had left Gravity Falls. Sure enough, he soon spotted the boy amongst the crowd. “Dipper!”
Dipper perked up as he heard his name being called. He frowned. That couldn’t be who he thought it was, could it? No, they were out on the boat - That was until he saw Grunkle Ford’s head above those of the other parents. “Grunkle Ford!” He rushed forward, shoving kids out of the way.
A split second later, Ford had been tackled by the young boy. He laughed, scooping Dipper up into his arms and hugging him tightly. “Good to see you too!”
Dipper laughed, his deerstalker hat lying lopsided on his head, as he wrapped his arms around Ford. “What are you doing here?”
“We were sailing past California and decided to come and see you.” Ford grinned, putting Dipper down beside his sister. “We’ll be staying at your place for a little while.”
“Really?!” Dipper’s reaction mirrored his sister’s. “Wait… we?”
Stanley laughed. “Hey, where’s my hug?”
“Grunkle Stan!” Dipper ran over to the other man, hugging him equally as tightly. “You’re here too?!”
“Course. What, you thought Ford left me on the boat so he could see you all by himself?” Stan chuckled, hoisting Dipper up into his arms for a better hug. “No way was I staying put on the boat!”
“Come on, you guys!” Mabel grabbed Ford’s hand and started dragging him towards where the car was parked. “Let’s go! I’ve got so much cool stuff to show you!”
Ford laughed and looked over his shoulder at Stanley. “Yeah, Stan, come on! I can’t drive, remember?”
Stanley scoffed and put Dipper down, following his brother and Mabel over to where they’d parked their parents’ car (they’d borrowed the family Volvo). “Only because you forgot how to,”
Ford tried to look indignant, which was kind of difficult with a hyperactive thirteen-year-old clinging to his wrist. “Hey! It’s not my fault I didn’t drive for thirty or so years while I was lost!”
Stanley shoved his brother’s shoulder playfully as he caught up to them, Dipper by his side. “Yeah, I know, Poindexter. Those alien cars were too weird, huh?”
“Do you have any idea how difficult they are to steal - I mean operate?” Ford coughed.
Stanley burst out laughing. “You tried to steal one? My brother, Mr Couldn’t-Even-Take-Free-Samples? Didn’t that Sanchez guy ever lend you his car?”
“A) It was a ship, not a car,” Ford held up a finger. “And B) No, he was always the one driving.”
Stanley rolled his eyes as they got to the car. He climbed into the driver’s side. Ford went to open the passenger side door, but Mabel beat him to it. “I wanna sit up front!”
“No fair!” Dipper protested. “You had shotgun on the way here!”
“Did not. You’re lying,” Mabel stuck her tongue out at him.
Ford gently pushed Mabel out the way and stood in front of the door to the front passenger seat. “Right, how about I get shotgun privilege, since you can’t decide who gets it?”
“No!” Both of the younger twins cried in unison. “That’s not fair!”
“Grunkle Ford Mabel had it on the way here!” Dipper protested.
Ford shrugged. “Maybe I want to sit in the front seat for a change?”
Stanley was laughing. “Just sit in the front, Mabel.” he chuckled. “But Dipper gets shotgun on the next two trips, okay?”
Mabel stuck her tongue out at Dipper again and climbed into the front seat, dumping her school bag on the floor. “Thanks Grunkle Stan!”
Dipper pouted and got into the driver’s side rear seat. Ford sat next to him and pulled his seatbelt on. “It’s alright Dipper. You get shotgun next turn, anyway.”
Dipper smirked. “Okay,”
Stanley started the car and adjusted the rearview mirror. “Seatbelts on?”
“Yes!” The three passengers said simultaneously.
Stan looked in the mirror at his brother. “Was that really necessary?”
Ford crossed his arms, a smug grin on his face. “Yep, now would you just drive?”
Stanley rolled his eyes and put the car into gear before pulling out into the road and heading back towards the kids’ house. Ford leaned back in the seat, one arm around Dipper’s shoulders. Dipper leaned against him. “So,” Dipper said. “What’s the boat like?”
“It’s not bad, actually,” Stan said. “McGucket helped us with a lot of the construction, so as you can imagine it’s got a lot of tech built into it. He somehow managed to invent and then integrate a filtration system that filters all the crud and salt out of the seawater and then even heats it so we can have a functioning shower and taps and everything. That way we don’t have to make frequent stops at ports to have the water tanks refreshed.”
“He also hooked up fully functional solar panels so we could have a constant source of power,” Ford added. “He’s found a way to use the panels to charge a main battery in the boat so that we have power during rainy days too. There are several backup batteries on board too.”
“He even managed to set up a system so that we could have constant phone and internet signal.” Stan said. “The man’s a genius.”
“So you can, like, watch TV and stuff while you’re on the boat?” Dipper grinned. “That’s awesome.”
“Well, no, on account of the fact that we don’t have a television on board,” Ford pointed out. “As much as Stanley wanted to have one, it would use far too much power. We each have a laptop, though, and plenty of books.”
“What! No TV?” Mabel gasped. “How on Earth can you manage without TV?”
Ford laughed. “That’s what Stanley said, but he’s been just fine so far.”
“So far,” Stan emphasised. “Trust me, I’m slowly going insane on that boat what with Ford’s incessant rambling.”
“I do not ramble!” Ford said indignantly. “I have perfectly meaningful conversations with myself!”
“First sign of madness - talking to yourself.” Stan pointed out. “Face it, Poindexter, you’re losing it.”
Ford laughed. “Of course I’m insane if I spent the last two months stuck on a boat with you.”
Stanley glared in the mirror at his brother, only causing Ford to laugh again. “You know I can still throw you overboard in your sleep.”
“I can swim,” Ford crossed his arms. “Plus, I know you wouldn’t throw me over.”
“Could we see the boat?” Mabel asked. “It sounds really cool!”
“Of course! We could take you down after dinner, if you wanted,” Stan offered as he pulled into the driveway. The kids immediately jumped out and ran up to the front door. Ford climbed out, soon followed by his brother. Stanley locked the car and followed the kids up to the front door. Dipper unlocked the door and let them in.
“Mom! Dad! We’re home!” He called.
“Why didn’t you tell us Grunkle Stan and Grunkle Ford would be here?!” Mabel demanded as her mother came out of the kitchen.
Kristen laughed. “It was meant to be a surprise! They arrived a couple of hours ago.”
Mabel turned and glared at Stan, smirking slightly. “So you told them you were coming but you didn’t tell us?!”
Stan put his hands up in defence, grinning. “Hey, you were happy to see us, weren’t you?”
There was a snort from the kitchen before a small pink blur knocked Stan over and started licking his face. The man laughed and lifted the pig off his chest. “Good to see you too Waddles.”
Ford knelt down and gave the pig an affection scratch behind the ear. Waddles snorted happily before trotting off into the living room. Ford stood back up straight and looked at Kristen. “So you weren’t particularly against having a pig in the house?”
“No, he’s surprisingly well trained,” Kristen looked to where the pig was settling down into a small dog bed. “No mess and he barely leaves hair anywhere.”
Dipper grabbed Ford’s hand and started dragging him towards the stairs. “C’mon Grunkle Ford you gotta see our bedroom!”
“Hold on Dipper,” Ford laughed. “Let me take my shoes off first.” Dipper waited all of thirty seconds while Ford removed his shoes before dragging him up the stairs again. Mabel dragged Stan upstairs too. The kids showed Stan and Ford all their schoolwork, pictures, projects and everything they’d been doing since they left Gravity Falls. Dipper showed Ford a journal he’d been writing in, similar to Ford’s own journals, and Mabel showed Stan all the new sweaters she’d knitted. She presented both of her grunkles with a new sweater each. Ford’s was a deep navy blue with a golden six-fingered hand embroidered on the front. Stan’s was dark red with his ‘Order of the Holy Mackerel’ logo on the front.
At about five o’clock, Kristen called up the stairs. “Dinner’s ready!”
Mabel and Dipper instantly dropped whatever they had been holding and rushed downstairs. Ford and Stan followed them. They sat down at the large dining table in the kitchen just as Kristen was setting down plates of lasagne portions in front of the kids. She gave another plate each to Stan, Ford and her husband before taking her own and sitting down.
“So,” Kristen started. “What sort of things do you eat on the boat?”
“Dried and canned things, mostly,” Ford said. “We’ve got a freezer on board, so we can have frozen meat, veg and fish too, but nothing anywhere near as good as this,” he placed a forkful of lasagna in his mouth.
Stan was wolfing down his food at a rapid pace and nodded. Ford whacked his shoulder. “Stan! Eat properly, not like a pig!”
Waddles gave an indignant snort, causing the family to chuckle. Stan swallowed. “I’m not that bad!”
“At least chew your food, don’t inhale it.” Ford rolled his eyes and kept eating. He looked across the table at the kids. “How was school?”
Dipper seemed to go quiet as Mabel instantly burst into a speech about everything she’d done. “Well, first off in Chemistry we got to make crystals, then in Biology we dissected a kidney, then in Art we got to draw any creature we wanted - I drew Waddles, obviously, and Dipper drew a gnome - then in English we had to write a short story, then in -”
Ford seemed to zone out to what Mabel was saying, more focused on Dipper. The boy had his hands folded in his lap and his head was down, his dinner sitting on the table forgotten. He kept clenching his eyes shut and wiping them with the back of his hand. Ford cleared his throat and put his fork down. “Dipper? How was your day?”
Dipper seemed startled by the question, rubbing his eyes furiously. “Oh, it was… it was fine. Kind of boring, really,”
Ford frowned as the boy kept eating, albeit slowly. He decided not to press the issue any further at the dinner table. Mabel was still excitedly telling her parents all about the story she had written in English. Once they had all finished eating and the kids were excused from the table, Dipper went straight back upstairs. Ford heard him slam the bedroom door shut. Mabel, however, frowned and went into the living room and began watching TV. Waddles trotted after her and sat on the floor in front of the couch.
Ford rose from the table. “Excuse me a moment,” he said, tucking his chair in and heading upstairs to the kids’ room. He knocked on the door gently. “Dipper?”
Ford heard sniffling from behind the door, before a quiet “Come in,” was heard. The man turned the doorknob and let himself in. Dipper was sat on his bed cross-legged and wiping his eyes. Ford closed the door quietly behind him and sat beside the boy.
“Care to tell me what’s wrong?”
Dipper stayed quiet for a moment, thinking. “.. have you ever felt like no matter what, people are still really mean to you, even if they don’t know you?”
Ford bit his lip and weighed his options. He could approach this question in several different ways. He could ask why Dipper felt this way, give a quick laugh and assure the boy that he had, or reassure Dipper that he was a perfectly wonderful young man who didn’t deserve the treatment he was getting. He opted for the straightforward answer. “Yes, unfortunately these -” He held up his hands and moved his extra fingers “- meant that, without even getting to know me first, my classmates treated me horribly.”
Dipper nodded, quietly avoiding Ford’s concerned gaze. He wrung his hands in his lap, biting his lip nervously. “Right… should have guessed that…”
Ford laid a hand on Dipper’s shoulder gently. “Trouble with kids at school?”
The boy nodded, tears stinging his eyes again. “Yeah, they keep picking on me, and calling me mean names,”
“Can I ask what?” Ford asked gently.
“Dipshit, dipstick, starboy and… uh…” Dipper bit his lip harder, almost enough to draw blood. “Freak,”
Ford felt an icy chill go down his spine. He was more than used to hearing others call himself a freak, but to learn that Dipper was also on the receiving end of such insults was sickening. His grip on the boy’s shoulder tightened momentarily. He loosened his grip, pulling Dipper closer to sit in his lap. He shuffled back on the bed, sitting up against the wall. “Di - Mason, can I tell you something?”
Dipper, still unused to hearing his real name from anyone other than his parents, took a moment to answer. “Yeah,”
Ford swallowed and took a deep breath. “When I was growing up, between the ages of four and eighteen, I had a similar experience to yourself. People took one look at my hands and decided that, as I was different, I should be punished. At every opportunity, I was insulted, shouted at, shoved, punched, kicked, beaten and I was frequently the primary target in food fights. After a while, I’d had enough” He held his left hand out in front of Dipper. “See that scar?”
Dipper held Ford’s hand in both of his own, looking at the thin scar running across the knuckle of his sixth finger. “Yeah,”
Ford took another deep breath. “I was fifteen when I did that. I locked myself in the bathroom one evening with a knife and attempted to remove my finger. I thought that maybe, if I got rid of the extra fingers, I could be normal. People would stop picking on me and I could finally get along with my peers.” His hand was shaking slightly, his voice beginning to crack. The memory was still painful. “I was a fool, and if hadn’t been for Stanley, I would have succeeded. He broke the door down and brought me straight to a hospital. He made it absolutely clear to me that removing my extra fingers was not the solution. It took me thirty years drifting through all sorts of interdimensional horror to realise that.”
Dipper was quiet, his mind processing everything that Ford had said. He hadn’t expected his great uncle to confess something like that. His thumb ran absentmindedly back and forth across Ford’s scar. “I sometimes wear make-up,” he eventually said. “To cover up my birthmark. I use Mom’s foundation. That’s why I always used to wear my pine tree hat, ‘cause it pushed my hair down over my forehead so nobody would see it.” The boy turned around so he was sitting facing Ford. “I don’t like wearing makeup, but it’s the only thing that stops them laughing at me. They laugh at me for wearing makeup, too,”
Ford sighed quietly, pulling Dipper into a hug. He laid his chin on top of Dipper’s head. “It’s tough,” he said quietly. “Especially when it’s not something like a person’s weight, which can be altered with some effort.”
He felt Dipper tremble in his arms and felt something wet seeping into the top of his shirt. He stroked Dipper’s back gently. “It’s okay… shh… it’s okay…”
Dipper laid his cheek against Ford’s chest, listening to his heartbeat. Ford lifted his sleeve to dry the boy’s tears. Ford ran all six of his fingers through his nephew’s hair soothingly. “It’s going to be alright, Mason. I know your classmates’ behaviour may tell you otherwise, but the biggest supporter of you is yourself.” He kissed the top of Dipper’s head gently. “You’ve always got Mabel too. You’ve always got your twin by your side, which is more than can be said for some people.”
Dipper nodded, wiping his nose on a tissue. “Yeah, I guess. She’s got so many friends, though. I don’t want to be a burden on her.”
Ford squeezed Dipper’s hand. “I felt the same way when I was at school. My brother had the potential to have a lot of friends, but he constantly spent his time keeping bullies away from me. He could have been very popular if it hadn’t been for the fact that he was protecting me. But let me tell you something: he wouldn’t change his actions for the world. You can ask him - he doesn’t regret any of it. I’m sure Mabel would be more than happy to spend time with you.”
Dipper smiled. “Thanks, Grunkle Ford.”
Ford smiled. He turned Dipper round to face him. “Besides, I’m sure you remember some of those curses from the journals. If people continue to give you trouble, have at it.”
Dipper laughed and hugged his uncle. “Thanks Grunkle Ford, seriously.”
Ford hugged him back and ruffled his hair. “No problem. Now, what do you say we got and get some ice cream from the parlour down the road?”
Dipper smiled and got to his feet, pulling Ford up off the bed. “Sure.”
the Pines family taking a break from all of that trip down the memory lane, and now the younger twins lean on their grunkle like a teddy bear
i hope there is still time for Stanuary seems here in my country is still feb 4 while theirs is…still feb 3??? hop’so… gonna making prompts for Fordruary but then i’m gonna be busy for the whole month… goddamnit aaaaa
Go ahead and take that photo while it still last, Ford. Your niece will surely be happy when she sees it.