Okay, so, lesson learned, puppets were a mistake.
A very big mistake.
After a lot of coaxing (mostly for Dipper, Mabel can be convinced to do pretty much anything under the promise of entertainment or sweets), he finally managed to get the kids to pile into the back of his rusted old beater with the proposal of a "fun surprise".
Their parents, who are obviously run down by both a hyperactive child and a nervous clingy one, graciously accepted his offer, letting him take the little rascals into town for a bit of "family bonding."
The car trip over was a mix of loud singing and the game of eye spy. According to Mabel, he's terrible at both but deserves a sticker for trying, which warms his heart a little bit.
Only a little.
Dipper, on the other hand, remains quiet, and Stan has never seen a kid that paranoid. Seriously, he's just a little kid and he's more tense than most adults. The occasional nervous look (and annoyed glare, most likely from the last occurrence of him yelling at Mabel) is all Stan can get from him. Yeesh, the kid needs to relax.
With confidence in his decision, he pulls up to the Gravity Falls public library and stops, getting out of the car and bringing the kids in tow, just a few minutes before the "free puppet show (for educational purposes!)" starts.
He herds them inside, watching as Mabel grab Dipper's hand and drag him to the carpet in front of the makeshift cardboard box of a "stage".
Stan leans against the wall, smiling slightly as he watches them, Mabel all excitement, Dipper looking nervous but actually... A little excited too.
Score for Stan. He's the king of bonding. He could work with kids for a living he's so good at it.
Then the puppet show began.
Stan sure as hel- heck did not expect to hear Dipper scream as soon as the first fluffy hand popped into view.
Nor did he expect that he'd- the same kid who has been avoiding him for a week- the run straight towards him with tears in his eyes and cling to his legs, trembling and hiding his face.
He's unsure what to do, having never dealt with a really hysterical kid before. He reaches down, awkwardly patting his hair while trying to calm him down.
"Hey hey hey- Relax kid, they're just puppets. They're not gonna' hurt you." He pulls at his collar, looking nervous.
Dipper, obviously not able to be reasoned with, like most 6 year olds, shakes his head and quivers more, trying to shrink away. "No! Make t-them go away!"
He glances around, really staring to get anxious here, not sure how to get this kid to calm down, his crying drawing attention from parents and other kids.
It's not until he notices the crowd of kids that he snaps to attention. The little ones just look confused or even upset, but a group of slightly older kids, obviously destined to be bullies, snicker and laugh as he hides from the harmless puppets.
Something tugs at Stan's gut, an angry feeling of protectiveness that reminds him of another time, another bully, another nervous twin.
He scowls, reaching down and lifting the little one up, letting him bury his face in his suit jacket.
He reaches his hand out to Mabel, who already rushed over to check on her twin, concern written all over the typically-smiling girl's face, trying to rush them away from the puppets as fast as possible.
"How about we get some ice cream, eh? My treat."
Mabel bounces up and down, Dipper reveals his puffy face and cracks a small smile.
They get ice cream. He actually manages to make the kid laugh, and boy can that kid be a goofball when he relaxes. He got more fire from his sister than it seems.
Dipper falls asleep on his shoulder later that evening, Mabel isn't far behind.
He breaks his T.V. trance, glancing down at the sleepy little girl leaning on him.
She hesitates, shooting a nervous glance towards her twin. "No more puppets, okay?"
He nearly laughs, but he manages to just crack a smile. "I promise."
She nods, then drifts off as well, him soon to follow suit.
These kids. Didn't take them long to wrap him around their little fingers, did it? He glances down at the two sleeping figures one more time, before leaning back and letting his eyes fall closed.
Maybe that isn't such a bad thing.