As consciousness flits back into Stanley’s grasp, the first thing he registers is the fact that very much does not want to get up. The bed below him is very soft and the blankets very warm. He even is on his good side, so his shoulder is not screaming in his face about it’s pain-
since when did he have a bed?
He eyes snap open and he jolts up, crying out as his shirt touches his burn. Immediately, he takes it off and throws the unrecognized shirt across the room (also unrecognizable, when he takes a second to look at it.)
He takes a shaky, deep breath and swallows his fear. He’s been kidnapped enough before to know that the first thing he should do is take stock of his surroundings. He’s wearing underwear that’s too big. He still has his long hair. His burn still hurts but not any more than yesterday. The room is too dark to see much of anything else, but Stan can see a baseball bat next to the bed and grabs it, before stalking over to the door.
He opens it slowly, peering out before deeming it safe and tiptoeing out to one side of the hallway. As he goes, he feels a sense of eerie familiarity rise up from the pits of his stomach. He has flickers of thoughts but he quickly shuts them down, leaving himself not knowing what to think. (After all, he’s only been in Ford’s house a few days now, so he can’t have a great memory of it. He’s just mixing things up.)
He quiets his breathing as he comes closer to the corner in the hallway, in case anyone is on the other side. He tries to quiet his footsteps as well but the wood underneath him looks at least a century old. His shoulder burns like hell but he raises the bat anyway, inch by inch, becoming closer to peeking around the other side.
“Hey-o! Why ya creeping?”
Stan lets out an undignified yelp and spinning around. He drops the bat in his surprise, which is embarrassing to say the least. However, standing there is an unalarming girl, who looks to be in the tween age.
Stan grabs his chest like he is much older than he is and makes a dramatized act of trying to catch his breath again, which earns him a small giggle from the girl. “Kid! Where’d you come from?”
She flashes some teeth and glints braces shining brightly. “I live here!” She bounces out, seeming to have a constant loud voice that hurts Stan’s ears. “Where’d you come from?”
Stan reached down and grabbed the bat in what he hoped was a casual manner. She lives here? “I woke up here.”
“Really?” She asks, stars practically in her eyes, “Wow! A real mystery! Let’s go get my brother.” She turns on her heel and skips down the hall and Stan has nothing better to do, so he follows her.
They go through a maze of hallways and rooms and Stan is once again stricken with a familiarity that doesn’t settle quite right. They climb stairs and after what feels like too long, they arrive at a door, that the girl shows no hesitation at and opens immediately.
Inside, Stan can tell it’s a bedroom, with the beds and all. There’s a boy that’s sitting on -Stan guesses the word is blander, as the other side sparkles so much it hurts his eyes- side, nose deep in a book that Stan can see the cover of, murmuring to himself, sending a heartbeat of longing through Stan.
“Dipper!” The girl yells, careening into the boy-Dipper. His eyes widen at the last second and he flails, clutching the book close to his chest.
“Mabel!” Dipper cries, with an age-appropriate voice crack that reminds Stan of better days. He looks like he wants to say something, but meets eyes with Stan and his expression changes to wonder. “Who is this?”
“I don't know!” Mabel yells, perhaps a little too brightly. “I found him in the hallway!”
“And brought him here, in his underwear?” Dipper shakes his head and pushes himself up from the bed. He walks over closer to Stan, but keeps the book close to his chest. As he gets closer, Stan can finally see more details (thanks to not having his glasses) and see that it’s instead a journal, a journal that looks familiar, a journal that has a gold hand, a hand that’s not normal, a hand with six-
Instantly, Stan reaches out and grabs it, ignoring the “Hey, give the back right now!” from Dipper. Undoubtedly, this is His journal. But it’s wrong, it has a three on the front?
Stan tries to make himself seem as threatening as possible when talking to kids without a shirt and in underwear, “Kid, where did you get this journal?”
How did these kids get a journal? Did that mean other people could have more of His journals? Where was Stan even? It looked like His house but different and if it was different then Stan wasn’t there with the portal with Him and that meant that He was as good as dead because Stan couldn’t save him-
“That’s mine! Give it back!” Dipper makes a lunge for it but Stan can easily move out of the way.
Stan is about to retort but is cut off by a gasp from Mabel, “Oh! What happened to your shoulder?”
Stan turns around to face her and grumbles out of the side of his mouth, “An accident.”
Dipper now can see the burn, “I’ve seen that before…”
Stan, who knows that symbol to only be in the basement of His house, panics. “What? No you haven’t.”
Stan turned towards Dipper, so now Mabel can see it once again. “Now that you say that, it feels familiar to me too.”
While he’s distracted, Dipper slides and grabs the journal, Stan reaching for it and missing it as Dipper starts to flip through it. “Nope,” He mutters.
It’s a moment of silence from the siblings before they both exclaim at the same time in such a way that it reminds Stan of-
No, Don't Think Of Him. Too Much Pain.
It takes a second for Stan to process that these kids just yelled out, “Stan!” at the same time.
“What?” Stan says.
“What?” The kids both say at the same time again.
“How’d you know my name?” Stan asks.
“What?” The kids say again, rather creepily.
“Stan, that’s my name.” Stan says slowly. Stan makes a face and poses with a finger gun, “Maybe you’ve seen me from one of my many commercials. Stan Pines from Stan Co.”
“What?” The kids say, yet again.
“Wait,” Dipper says, “What did you say your name was?”
“Stan Pines,” Stan says warily, people seeming to know him was never a good sign.
“Oh no,” Dipper says at the same time Mabel says, “Dipper, what did you do?”
Dipper flips through His journal and shows a picture of some mushrooms and words that look like they are in a different language. “I was reading some spells and I accidentally read them out-loud - but they shouldn’t work without having the mushrooms! Oh, I have to write this down,” And Dipper produces a pen from somewhere and starts writing in His journal.
“Hey!” Stan says, taking His journal from Dipper again, “That doesn’t belong to you. Don’t write in it.”
Dipper looks embarrassed, like he’s felt guilty about that before but Stan reads the page that Dipper had been writing on. “Age-altering mushrooms?”
Dipper nods, looking like he gains a little confidence as he points to a part on the page, “Yes, it says here that holding the mushrooms while saying the spell will revert your age back thirty years, while retaining your memories, for 24 hours. It seems like without the mushrooms, you won’t keep your memories.”
“So,” Stan begins, “You are saying that I became younger?” Dipper nods and Stan realizes something, “Wait, you said the spell. How come I got younger and not you?”
Dipper thinks for a moment, “Well, I’m not thirty. Maybe it’s because you were the closest person that was at least thirty. I’m not sure.” Dipper doesn’t seem happy that he doesn’t know the answer.
“Seems like I’ll be staying for a minute then,” Stan says, closing His journal and holding it at his side, “Got any clothes?”
Mabel leaves and comes back with clothes from the gift shop that Stan apparently owns in the future, and some burn medicine she had found in a cabinet. They say the shop is successful and Stan is honestly surprised that his life went towards that route. They give him a tour around the shop and the house and Stan and definitely see that this is His house, aged thirty years. Why would Stan be owning His house still? And Stan didn’t see an entrance to the basement. Where is He anyway? It all gives Stan a bad feeling.
They all take a seat in the living room, Stan sitting in what Mabel tells him is his chair in the future. She also explains that they are his great nephew and niece. They’re twins. Stan had been looking for any signs of Him, any discarded books, jellybeans, sweaters, anything. But Stan couldn’t see anything. He decides to ask the kids.
“So,” Stan starts, quietly nervous, “Where is Stanford?”
Dipper and Mabel share a look before Mabel answers, trailing off at the end, “You are Stanford.”
Stan suddenly remembers the lie he told that person in the shop. How he was planning to fake his death and he feels sick to his stomach. Why would they think he is Stanford? What all these clues mean finally have became to much and Stan rushes over to the bathroom, stumbling. He throws up. His shoulder throbs.
“Grunkle Stan!” Both the kids exclaim behind him and it doesn’t help. They think Stan is short for Stanford. Do they even know about Stanley?
“How many great uncles do you have?” Stan asks, face still in the toilet.
“Just you,” Dipper says, a questioning tone evident, “Our dad’s dad is Grandpa Shermie.”
They don’t know that Stanley even exists. They think that Stan has one brother.
Stan throws up again.
Stan wipes his mouth and sits against the bathtub. He picks up the journal from the floor and flips through it. Abruptly, Stanford’s comforting cursive letters stop for reasons that sends Stan’s stomach turning once more and there’s a different handwriting and Stan assumes that is Dipper’s handwriting.
Stan knows the twins have questions but he doesn’t know if he can answer them, so he asks his own. “Where did you find this journal?”
“I found it accidentally,” Dipper says somewhat nervously. Stan thinks that Dipper hasn’t told future Stan about the journal. “I found a metal tree that had a lever in it and when I flipped it, a secret compartment opened up and had the journal in it.”
Okay, Stan was never going to find that. No wonder Ford still wasn’t here. Mabel asks the next question.
“Why did you get sick, Grunkle Stan?” And she has worried, puppy eyes that Stan can’t look at without Feeling Things. So, he looks away.
“Must be the magic mushrooms,” Stan grumbles as he stands up and he knows the kids can tell he is lying, but they seem used to it and don’t say anything. They just follow him as Stan flips through the journal and uses his muscle memory to lead his feet to where the basement entrance should be. Stan is led to a vending machine, to which he huffs in frustration at.
“So,” Mabel says, hands behind her back and Stan can tell that she is purposely making herself cuter. It’s working. “Young Grunkle Stan, can you tell us about stuff? Like, how’d you get that burn on your back?”
“It’s not a burn,” Stan mumbles out, not paying attention as he pokes and shakes the vending machine. Chips fall to the bottom. “It’s a scratch.”
“No,” Dipper speaks now, “I can tell that it’s a burn, with the redness and all. It looks like a brand.”
Mabel must have given Dipper a weird look because he adds, “What? I was bored so I researched medical things.” And shit, that sounds like something that Stanford would do.
“I fell on it,” Stan says, tapping on the glass.
“You fell,” Dipper repeats, sounding like a tired parent talking to their child, “On a brand?”
“Yep,” Stan says as he presses his face against the glass, looking for something. What- he doesn’t know. “It was an accident. I don’t blame him.”
And it’s true. Stan doesn’t blame Stanford. It was an accident. Sure, it hurt and still hurts like hell and it sounds like he still has the scar thirty years in the future, but Stan had done much worse to Stanford, so he felt like they were even or, until Stan had pushed Stanford into a portal that he stayed in for at least the next thirty years .
“What’s our Grandpa Shermie like?” Mabel changes the topic and Stan is grateful, but this is still a hard topic. When was the last time he saw Shermie?
Stan shrugs as he begins to poke at the vending machine buttons. This is the exact spot where the basement entrance was and Stan knew himself, so there’s probably something going on here. “I don’t know, haven’t seen him in a while.”
Mabel pouts, and then brightens again as she asks another question. “What about your parents? Our great-grandparents! We never got to meet them.”
Stan continues presses buttons, harder now so they can’t see him clench his fists, “Haven’t seen them in a while either. Mom would love you guys. Dad, eh, not so much.”
“What was it like growing up?” Dipper asks now.
Stan looks over his shoulder for a moment to look at the twins, “What? Do I never talk about anything or something? Why you asking so much?”
Mabel shakes her head, “You’ve never even shown us pictures! This is the first time we’ve seen you not as an old man.”
That makes sense. Can’t talk about too much without mentioning Stanford. Can’t show much pictures without showing Stanford, too.
Stan keeps pressing buttons, now trying to do sequences. “New Jersey was nice. We had fun exploring the beach.” Stan can’t get anything so he weakly hits his fist against the machine and sighs, dragging himself over to the counter and sitting on top of it.
“You grew up in New Jersey?” Sheesh, these kids really didn’t know anything about Stan.
Stan nodded, “Ma’s one of those fake psychics. Dad owns a pawn shop: Pines Pawns.”
“How do you know about the journals?” Dipper asks and Stan doesn’t really know how to answer that.
So, he tells the truth, part of it. “Uh, I know the guy that wrote them.”
The kids both exclaim, “What?” at the same time.
“What? Is that a big deal or something?” Stan really hoped it wasn't. He didn’t want to mess up the work that he did himself in the future.
“Grunkle Stan!” Dipper somewhat yells, beginning to pace, “All summer so far I have been wondering who the author was, and you not only knew about the journals this entire time, but you know who the author is!”
Shoot, this sounds like it was a big deal. “Er, yes.”
Dipper spins and turns towards Mabel, “Mabel, this entire time, the biggest mystery was right under our noses all along!” Dipper turns towards Stan again with a pointed finger and Stan gets nervous. “Why did you ask ‘Where is Stanford’?”
Stan avoids Dipper’s gaze because it reminds him of Stanford it’s harder to lie looking at them, “I had amnesia from the magical mushrooms.” But Stan has apparently been living with the kids for the entire summer, so they can tell when he is lying.
“How come you keep messing with the vending machine?”
Stan looks over to the shelf where there are snow-globes, labeled at two-hundred dollars. Ha. “I was seeing the future technology.”
“How come you asked how many great uncles we had?”
Stan looks over to the hats, sees one similar to the one on Dipper’s head. “I was wondering if ma and pa got busy when I left.”
Dipper comes over to the counter and smacks his hand on it. His hand is small, but it’s intimidating, nonetheless. “Gosh darn it, Stan! Why don’t you tell the truth for once?”
Stan throws his hands up. “I am telling the truth,” Stan lies.
Stan knows he needs to change the subject, so he stands up. “Why don’t you show me my room? I want to see how my old self is doing.”
That seems to intrigue the twins enough for them to comply. They lead Stan to a room different from the one he woke up in - which Stan figured was his room - to one that more resembles an office. There’s many ‘Keep Out!’ signs plastering the front, which they both ignore as they trudge in.
Stan walks over to the painting on the wall, behind the desk. He points to it while looking at the twins, “Is this me?”
The kids both nod and Stan snorts, “I have good taste.”
Stan pokes around at the things in there; the copier and the books on the bookshelf. Stan sees the jackalope on the wall, with the misshapen antler and frowns at it. That seems obvious. Almost too obvious.
Mabel seems to pick up on that too. (Or she saw Stan staring.) “What’s with the antelrabbit?”
Dipper follows her finger and places a thoughtful hand on his chin, “You mean the jackalope?”
Mabel rolls her eyes as she crosses the room over to it, “That can’t be right.”
Stan watches with bated breath as she reaches up and pushes up the antler. Instantly, the wall turns around to reveal what must be a t.v.. It reminds Stan of Ford .
The kids are both distracted at the security tapes, picking one seemingly at random and pushing it into the t.v.. Stan, however, is distracted by the box underneath it, seeing a little piece of plastic that is very familiar.
Hurriedly, he picks up the box and holds it close to his chest, above the heads of Dipper and Mabel, so they wouldn’t be able to see what’s inside. The box was all of Stan’s old ID’s. Drat, Stan was a sentimental old man. He looks at a newspaper clipping. It says, STAN PINES DEAD in big letters. Seems like Stan went through with the plan of cutting breaks. Good to know that it worked.
“What’s that?” Mabel asks, grabby hands reaching up.
“Nothing,” Stan says, holding it higher out of her reach. Stan sees a paper that says Secret Code to Hideout and wants to slap himself. It looks suspiciously like vending machine numbers . Stan puts the paper in his pocket. Stan reaches up and puts the box on the top shelf where the twins can’t reach. Doing so, Stan knocks off what looks like a couple papers that float gently to the floor.
Seemingly moving faster than the eye can perceive, Dipper grabs the papers and looks at them, eyes widening. If Stan thought to hide the box up there now, that most likely meant he was already hiding something up there…
“Grunkle Stan, what’s this?” And Dipper turns the papers around and it turns out that they are pictures. Stan didn’t even need to be close to them to tell that they are his; Stan could recognize them as the ones that he kept in his duffel bag, not even unpacked yet.
The one that Dipper was holding up was maybe the last picture Stan and Ford ever took together. Ford holding up his perpetual motion machine, smiling brightly with Stan’s arm around his shoulders. They were just leaving that morning for school when their mom pulled out the camera. Ford had to turn in his machine that day and was bringing it to school. And although that was ten years ago, when Stan still had a childish innocence, wasn’t hardened by a decade on the streets, when he had his mom to cut his hair, enjoyed boxing, had a roof over his head; it was no denying that that was Stan in the picture.
Stan and a person that looked exactly like him that these children knew nothing about.
( Great, Stan thinks, 27 year old me managed to spill the secret in less than 24 hours when 57 year old me seemed to be managing just fine. No wonder I waited until I was that old to see Dipper and Mabel for the first time. I don’t have enough experience to handle the secret around these smart kids. )
“I don’t know who that is,” Stan says, rather dumbly.
Mabel has seen the picture now and gasps loudly, “ Grunkle Stan ! Do you have a twin?”
“No,” Stan says, snatching the pictures from Dipper and putting them on top of the bookshelf again, “That’s a clone.”
“How come we don’t know about him?” Dipper asks, and a moment later, “Is that why you asked how many great uncles we had? You knew we didn’t know about him?”
Dang, this kid is Ford levels smart. “I don’t know what you are talking about. I have never seen those pictures. Must be some modern technology. Ask future me.” Great, Stan was just giving problems to his future self to deal with. Oh well, Stan was sure he would understand. Stan leaves the room to try and escape them but they follow him all the way to where he takes a seat on his future favorite chair.
Dipper and Mabel stand in front of Stan and manage to make their short selfs threatening.
Dipper crosses his arms. “Grunkle Stan, start answering things now .”
And, Stan doesn’t want to do that, so he deflects. “Hey, that isn’t fair. I’m not even your Grunkle . You made me younger and now you’re interrogating me. If you have questions, ask your actual great uncle.”
“But please , Stan?” Mabel asks, making her eyes big, “Please? Please? Please? Please with a cherry on top? Please? Please with sprinkles on top? Please? Please?”
This continues for the next twenty minutes.
(Stan is just so glad that they seemed to have inherited the stubborn gene.)
Stan watches the clock tick it’s twentieth minute and that is finally when Stan cracks.
He explodes up, pacing back and forth in front of the television as a way to dissipate his frustration. These kids will not give up and Stan can not wait out the rest of the 24 hours. He decides he can compromise. “Fine. You guys get ten minutes to ask any questions. I will answer honestly.”
They suddenly don’t know what to do with the power.
Mabel asks first, one minute burned away. “Was that you and your twin brother in the picture?”
Dipper next. “How come we don’t know him?”
“I haven’t told you about him.” It’s true, in a way.
Dipper again. “How come you haven’t told us about him?”
“It will raise too many questions.” Again, true, in a way.
“Why?” Mabel asks.
Time to rip the band-aid. “I took his identity.”
(Stan considers that he could have just not told them the truth. But, he’s not that much of a bad guy.)
A few seconds pass as they process the information.
Mabel asks again. “Why did you take his identity?”
Stan considers it for a moment; after all, he hasn’t done it to this full extent yet. “Well, I was living in his house and had to pay his bills. Plus, my name didn’t have a good background.”
Dipper now. “Why were you living in his house?”
Stan takes a shaky breath before answering. “He fell into a trans-dimensional portal. The portal is in his basement. I have to fix it.”
A few more moments to process.
Mabel asks now. “So, your brother is the real Stanford?”
Mabel again. “What’s your real name?”
“Stanley Pines.” Man, Stan hasn’t said that in a long time. He can’t imagine how he feels thirty years in the future.
“Wait,” Dipper begins, “Is this your brother’s house?” referring to the house they are in.
“Yes,” Stan nods.
Dipper again. “When did your brother fall into the portal?”
Stan thinks for a moment. “A week ago, I think.”
“Your brother has been in a portal for thirty years?” Dipper asks at the same time as Mabel says “You haven’t seen your brother in thirty years?”
“Future me, yes,” Stan says simply.
Dipper asks the question. “Why did your brother have a portal in his basement?”
Stan shrugs, “I don’t know.”
Mabel asks next, quietly, “What’s Stanford like?”
Stan gets an annoyed frown as he kicks at the ground, “The world’s dumbest genius.”
“He’s a genius?” Dipper asks, intrigue evident in his voice. Stan smiles and nods.
“Ever since we were kids, he had a genius level IQ. Loved studying and learning, especially anything that might be weird. We went exploring a lot, but he would call it ‘scientific expeditions.’”
Stan picks up the journal from where it was discarded on the table earlier. His reflection in the gold hand burns back at him. “Weird things always intrigued him because of his hands.” The side of his mouth quirks up. “Makes sense that he would fill out almost three entire journals about his research on them.”
“Wait, what?” Dipper says, mouth opening and closing for a few moments, “Our Great Uncle Stanford wrote the journals?”
Great Uncle Stanford . Makes Stanford sound old when it’s said like that. But, he is old, at least for Dipper and Mabel. Stan can see the news headline now, ‘Twins born thirty years apart . Ford is almost freaking sixty. Somehow, that makes Stan feel more sick than thinking of himself as that old. “Yes,” Stan says, giving a chuckle that contains no humor, “And he put his own damn hand on the cover, that-” -He makes eye contact with Mabel- “-Butthole.”
“He has six fingers?” Dipper asks softly, almost sounding hopeful.
Stan nods, smiling wide now. “Yeah, he was always embarrassed. Used to call him Sixer.” Dipper smiles at that too and Stan is left wondering as to why.
Mabel makes a “ Psheew ” noise as she moves her hands away from the sides of her head, “Mind blown.”
Stan gets up and stretches, looking at the clock. “Hey! You guys kept me past my ten minute limit. Why don’t you save the rest of the questions for older me and show me around the town?”
They agree, looking reluctant, and they go into town. Stan is happy that in thirty years he still has the Stanley mobile. Dipper and Mabel show Stan around town while telling him stories of things they do in the future. They really are a chip off Stan and Ford’s block. Ford would absolutely love them .
Night falls too quickly and they ready for bed. Just before they lie down, Stan pulls Mabel to the side.
“Hey, can you call my older self ‘Stanley’ when you first see him? Give him a little heart attack? You can tell him it’s from me.”
Mabel nods with a bright smile. Before Stan can react, she surges forward and wraps her arms around his middle. “It was nice seeing you, young Grunkle Stan. I love you.”
When was the last time he heard those words? He can’t help the loving smile come over his face as he rubs her hair, “Get some sleep, kiddo.” She gives one last shiny smile before bouncing up the stairs.
Falling asleep, Stan dreams of handy-men and pigs, of pine trees and summer skies, of pancakes and haircuts, of flashes of memories, as Stan ages thirty years.