Gravity Falls, Gratitude

Title: Gratitude [Mabel and Stan]
Rating/Warnings: G
Summary: For a whole three seconds, Stan thinks he might have actually gotten it right.
AN: hi I mainlined Gravity Falls all weekend and now all I want to do is hug Stan and Mabel very tightly. Spoilers for season 2, episodes 10-11.

Gratitude

There’s a whole three seconds where Stan thinks, as he’s peeling himself off the floor and fighting off the vertigo of the gravity being turned back on, that his brother will be actually glad to see him. Where all of the frustration and anxiety of the last thirty years is replaced with relief and lightness, victory searing the back of his throat along with the metallic, ionized air.

Then Ford punches him right in the face, and reality sets back in. It’s almost too much to bear, that pompous windbag yelling at him like he’s the asshole here for wasting more than half his life living in the middle of nowhere, alone, teaching himself fucking astrophysics just to save this ungrateful, pig-headed—

Fortunately Mabel’s shrill questions snap Stan out of it before he can really tell Ford what he thinks about him, and then they get distracted telling the story and sending the government men packing. It’s easy to get carried away in the fun of it, adrenaline probably wrecking whatever’s left of Stan’s kidneys, and Stan has to keep reminding himself that it’s not like old times at all.

It won’t ever be like old times again, and maybe they’re still mirror images of each other, but Ford might as well be on the other side of that portal with the way that the past thirty years sits heavily in between them.

By the time it’s all over, Stan uses the last iota of his energy to tell Ford to stay away from the kids, before he messes them up just as badly as he’s messed up everything else, and then he collapses into his chair, too tired to even make it to his room. He closes his eyes and takes deep slow breaths, feeling the way that he hurts all over, both inside and out.

Twenty years ago he might have cried at the frustration and the let-down of it all, hell, fifteen or ten he might still have, but now he feels too hollowed out to even manage that. He wishes he could just sleep off the worst of the feelings, like a terrible hangover, but his brain keeps rolling everything over and over in a sickening loop, refusing to rest.

A warm weight plopping into his lap interrupts the cycle, and Stan opens eyes his to find Mabel grinning up at him, her purple nightshirt comically long over her elbows and knees.

“Thought I told you kids to get to bed,” he says gruffly.

“Dipper’s hogging the bathroom hyperventilating about meeting the author.” Mabel shrugs. “Grunkle Stan, are you okay?”

“Sure, never been better,” Stan lies with practiced ease.

“Because you’re making this face.” Mabel does an impression of him that is hilarious in its accuracy, all hunched shoulders and caterpillar eyebrows and jaw stuck out like a caveman.

“That’s just my face,” Stan grumbles. “Did you come down here just to kick an old man while he’s down?”

“Nope!” Mabel chirps, and before Stan knows what’s happening, her arms are tight around his neck. Mabel smells like toothpaste and cupcake icing, which should be gross but on her it works, just like the way that her hug is so much stronger than it seems like her tiny body should ever be able to manage. “Thanks for saving Great Uncle Ford. It was really amazing how you rebuilt that whole machine yourself!”

“Not that amazing.” Stan shifts uncomfortably at the realization that he isn’t the only one owed a thank you. “Anyway I should be thanking you. If you hadn’t trusted me, all that work would have been for nothing.”

“Of course I trust you! You’re family!” Mabel insists, like it’s nothing. Stan tries to remember what that felt like, thinking trust and family were simple, immutable things. “And Dipper does too, I know it. Don’t be mad at him, okay? He just panics when he’s scared.”

“I know the feeling,” Stan says. “Ugh, not so tight, kid, my bladder control isn’t what it used to be. Okay, okay, show’s over, time for bed.”

Somehow as he’s shooing Mabel off his lap, Stan ends up on his feet after all, only half-listening as Mabel asks if they can have Stancakes for breakfast and where is Great Uncle Ford going to sleep and does Grunkle Stan want to borrow Waddles for the night?

“In case of nightmares,” she is saying seriously when Stan manages to focus his exhausted eyes on her. “He’s a great therapy pig, you know.”

“I haven’t woken up with a pig in my bed since the last time I was in Vegas, and I don’t intend to relive that part of my life, thank you very much.” Stan points up the stairs, trying to look stern and not like he is swaying from exhaustion.

“I’ll sign you up for a morning session,” Mabel tells him, undeterred. “Good night, Grunkle Stan.”

“Good night, pumpkin.” Stan watches Mabel trot up the stairs, skipping over the two missing steps without a second thought, and hopes fiercely that she’ll never turn out like him, that she’ll never be alone. The parallels between her and himself, between Dipper and Ford, make Stan want to grab something and shake it half to death because he doesn’t want that for them.

But there’s nothing he can do about it right now, Stan knows, nothing he can do about anything except for to crawl into bed and try to get enough sleep that he can make Stancakes in the morning without burning down the whole Mystery Shack.

Maybe overnight a miracle will happen and in the morning he’ll be smart enough to figure out what happens next.

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