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Ice Cream For Breakfast, Revelations For Dessert

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Pyrotechnics and popsicles, brilliant water balloon cleanup ideas and dumb things forever: it had been an amazing start to the day, right up until Stan said, "Kids, there's something I, uh, something I should tell you." The old conman had gone from relaxed to tense in practically nothing flat, and he had not looked this awkward and uncomfortable since that time he had tried to explain puberty, which did not bode well for whatever he was about to say next. "It's, um, well it's complicated," Stan said, rubbing at the back of his neck with one hand while his eyes roamed around, looking everywhere but at his great niece and nephew.

Though Mabel and Dipper Pines lacked any trace of the fabled 'twin telepathy,' at that moment their thoughts were perfect echoes of each other, because, really, there was only one thing they could have been thinking given the circumstances: Please don't let Stan be about to take another shot at the puberty talk! Not the puberty talk! Not the puberty talk! Sweet Moses, anything but the puberty talk!

"I... I'm gonna go refresh my soda," Stan prevaricated. And then, without waiting for a reply from either of the children, he darted around the side of the Mystery Shack and out of sight, not quite at his full running from the law speed but definitely in hasty exit mode.

Dipper and Mabel watched him go and then turned to stare at each other in a shared moment of perplexed yet somewhat relieved silence.

"Well," Dipper said, as he mentally fished around for anything that was not a direct reference to his relief at having dodged the bullet of Stan giving them a new and improved version of the puberty talk, lest he jinx their luck and summon Stan back with renewed confidence in discussing hormones and changing bodies, "that was at least slightly better than 'non-specific excuse,' right?" He wasn't being sarcastic, but he also did not sound particularly convinced of his own statement. "Where do you think he's really going?"

Mabel thought for a few seconds before answering. "He's probably just going to eat a big bowl of bran flakes," she said. "That's what old people usually do when they go running off all of a sudden. Or," she amended, "at least it is at this time of the morning, and you know Grunkle Stan and his fondness of gross breakfast foods."

"Yeah, I guess," Dipper said. He looked down and realized they were both still sitting in the mud from their grand finale dive into the last of the water balloons. If they stayed there much longer, Waddles was going to come out and join them. And if that happened, things would inevitably go downhill from there and get even messier, and Dipper did not think that wallowing in the mud with a pig was how he wanted to follow up an epic fireworks party and water balloon fight, not unless it would attract some kind of amazing cryptid they hadn't seen before, which seemed highly unlikely. With that in mind, he sighed, hoisted himself to his feet, and then offered his hand to help Mabel do the same, asking, "Do you think we should go get some breakfast too?"

"Nah, I'll just wait here on the porch," Mabel said with a grin and triumphantly held her icy-pop aloft, "because I've already got my breakfast right here. Besides, Grunkle Stan'll probably be back any minute."

"Yeah, you're probably right, Mabel."

Mabel wrapped a clammy arm around her brother's equally clammy shoulder. "Dipper," she said, "I'm always probably right."

* * *

More than ten minutes later, Mabel had finished her icy-pop and made a trip to the cooler to get more for Dipper and for herself, and Stan still had yet to return.

"Argh, just admit you were wrong already," Dipper complained, more for the sake of just saying something to break up the monotony than because he was feeling any real ire at his sister. "I won't even make you sing the Mabel Wrong Song or anything."

"Aaaaannnnnyyyyy minute now," Mabel said from her current position, which could best be described as a three-quarters upside-down sprawl on the outdoor couch. The adrenaline rush of getting to rampage with both fire and water was wearing off, and boredom was taking its place. Where was a random surprise attack or whatever when they needed one to keep things interesting? Nowhere, that's where. They'd had fun, but it was a sad state of affairs when it was barely eight thirty in the morning and in all likelihood the excitement for the day had already peaked. Only sugar was keeping Mabel going now. She held icy-pop number three for the day (or was it number four? Mabel had lost count in all the running around) above her face and let the runoff of slowly melting ice cream drip into her open mouth.

Sprawled on the couch beside her, Dipper mirrored Mabel's actions. If Grunkle Stan came out and asked what they were doing, they would tell him that they were keeping his seat warm for him. However, considering they were still soaked from the water balloon fight, what they were really doing was making his seat cold and wet for him.

Stan really should have come out and asked them what they were doing by now.

"It doesn't take Stan this long to eat a bowl of bran flakes," Dipper said, and as he spoke he earned himself a drip of ice cream splattered on his chin for having his mouth closed at the exact wrong moment.

"Then maybe he isn't eating bran flakes," Mabel said. She paused to catch a drop of ice cream on her tongue so she would not share her brother's sticky faced fate. "Maybe he's been overcome by the spirit of awesome summer Saturdays and decided to cook us a fancy breakfast."

Dipper groaned. "You say that like it's a good thing, but you also said it yourself earlier: we know Stan and his fondness for gross breakfast foods. Remember the last time he decided to get fancy with breakfast, after that weird lady was short on cash and Stan actually let her pay for her tour of the Shack with five pounds of scrapple out of her cooler?"

"Ew, you're right." Mabel scrunched up her face in disgust and barely unscrunched it again in time to catch more falling ice cream drops. "Why did she even have that? I've never eaten anything so..., so beige. It even tasted beige, like liver and cardboard got married and had a monstrous, barely edible baby. I couldn't even give it to Waddles when Stan wasn't looking, because I'd read the ingredient list."

"So gross," Dipper agreed, and the young twins shared a simultaneous shudder at the memory. They both got melted ice cream drops splattered on their faces in the process, but neither of them paid it any mind, because they were too caught up in contemplating the horrors of scrapple. "Good thing we're already having ice cream for breakfast."

"You said it, bro-bro." They gave each other a sticky fist bump with their free hands then went back to letting melted ice cream drip into their mouths.

"Stan said scrapple tasted like nostalgia," Mabel added after a thoughtful moment.

"If nostalgia tastes like eating a sandwich made with the world's worst meatloaf for filling and old photographs instead bread, then yes, Stan must be right."

"Of course Stan must be right, because your Grunkle Stan is always right, kids," Stan announced, having picked that moment to come back to the porch from wherever he had been. "Uh, what were you talking about? Also," he said, finally noticing the position that the children were in, "what the heck are you two doing?"

"We're keeping your seat warm for you," Mabel said happily. She rolled herself back into a vertical position, only flinging around a few drops of melted ice cream in the process, then tucked her knees under her and bounced on the couch as if to emphasize her point. The sodden couch cushion squelched sullenly under the abuse, contesting her claim. "Kind of," Mabel amended. "It's warm in spirit, if not in body."

"Sure it is."

"And, we were talking about the irrefutable merits of ice cream for breakfast over all other possible options," Dipper said, hoping to change the subject away from their mistreatment of the couch.

Stan gave him a skeptical look.

"What, are you really going to try to convince a couple of twelve year olds that ice cream for breakfast isn't the best? You always tell us that time is money," Dipper challenged. "How much of it are you willing to spend on this kind of a fool's errand?"

"At the moment, none. Lucky for the both of you I was coming out here to tell you it's almost time to open, so go get yourselves cleaned up before the first bus arrives. If you don't, I'm gonna have to roll you two ice cream covered gremlins in peanuts and put you on display as sundae monsters."

The twins groaned but weren't quite in the kind of mood to openly dissent, so they got up and headed back into the house. Then Mabel stopped at the door and turned around to look at Stan.

"What about before?"

"Before what?" Stan asked, looking confused, though with Stan chances were always an even fifty/fifty split on whether he was genuinely confused or just stalling for time.

"Before you left to go get more soda," Mabel said. "What were you going to tell us then?" She crossed her arms and did her best to look serious and stern, doing a surprisingly good job it for a twelve year old girl covered in mud and ice cream.

"Oh," Stan said. "That."

"Well?" Dipper prompted, following Mabel's lead and also crossing his arms. Maybe if they presented enough of a grumpy and adult looking united front they could avoid any mention of puberty through sheer force of will. Luckily for everyone, Stan turned out to have other matters he wanted to discuss.

"Look, kids, this is important. Uh, I haven't always been on the up and up with, well, anyone really," Stan began haltingly. "And there might, I mean just might possibly be some government looking types poking around here in the not too distant future. Don't talk to them!" He winced, paused, opened his mouth, snapped it shut, paused again, seemed to hold some kind of internal debate with himself, and then continued on. "I mean, if you see anyone who looks like they should be called a Suit with a capital S, tell them I left town." His words came slowly at first but quickly gained speed. "No, better yet, tell them my plane disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle while I was on my way to a non-extradition country! But they can't declare a person dead without a body for seven years, so tell them to keep their hands off my stuff until they've waited that long! But other than that, don't talk to them! Yeah," he concluded in a rush.

Mabel and Dipper looked at each other and shrugged. It wasn't the weirdest thing Stan had ever told them, and anything was better than the puberty talk.

For a long moment, no one said anything, until Mabel finally broke the silence. "Grunkle Stan," she ventured, "have you been cheating on your taxes?"

"Again," Dipper added.

"Or is it more like 'still'?" Mabel said.

"Um... Yes! Yes, that's it exactly," Stan said, perhaps a little too enthusiastic in his agreement for comfort, but then he had always been fond of bragging about his crimes. "I have been cheating on my taxes like you would not believe! And they're never gonna catch me for it, either. Hahahahahah!" And then his laughter cut off as suddenly as it had started, and he was back to his usual self, all business, glancing at his watch and saying, "First tour bus is here in less than five minutes. You can go change your clothes and wash your faces, or you can be dancing sundae monsters for the day. The choice is yours, but either way, hurry it up, chop chop." Stan clapped his hands together and shooed the twins into the Shack.

Mabel took one last glance over her shoulder as she went inside. She half expected to see helicopters swooping down, or special agents in body armor swinging in on ropes, or ninja accountants, or whatever the IRS sent after tax evaders of Stan's caliber, but she saw nothing out of the ordinary out there, just their usual patch of gnome-infested Oregon forest. There was no attack coming by anything worse than mosquitoes. She remembered her thought from a few minutes before Grunkle Stan rejoined them on the porch, the thought about how the level of excitement had already peaked for the day.

She resigned herself to a day of boredom, unaware of the giant red digital clock in the secret room dug into the rock several stories down below her feet, counting down the hours until she and Dipper got to meet a new Grunkle.

* * *

Once the Mystery Shack opened for the day, it was business as usual. Gullible tourists poured into the museum, and their money poured into the cash register, and into assorted buckets and sacks produced at opportune moments, and sometimes straight up Stan's sleeves.

Mabel followed behind the group, moving exhibits a few feet in one direction or another when no one was looking so as to confuse people's spatial perceptions and make the display area seem bigger and more mysterious. The job was harder than it looked but also fun. It required all of her sneaking skills, and mostly she needed to stay hidden up in the rafters. It was great practice for if she ever managed to get elected president of the squirrel people.

"And here we have the anti-platypus," Stan said, gesturing at his latest taxidermy creation, "the creature with the head of a beaver, the body of a duck."

The tourists 'ooh'-ed and 'ah'-ed and took pictures, just like they always did.

"It neither lays eggs like a duck nor bears live young like a beaver," Stan said, continuing his Mr. Mystery spiel. "Instead, it reproduces by ordering offspring through mail order catalogues. As you can see, it isn't exactly equipped to hold a pencil or stuff an envelope, so it's rarely able to properly complete the order forms and is thus nearing extinction. This was the last specimen known to have been able to squeak without a Canadian accent."

The tourists muttered to each other in reverent voices and took more photos just like the ones they had already taken. It helped them feel like they had gotten their money's worth.

With a well-practiced sleight of hand trick, Stan produced a bucked from seemingly nowhere and said, "Donate now to the Save The Anti-Platypus Fund and ensure that no more of the noble creatures need to remain childless due to the lack of a properly addressed return envelope!"

The tourists threw money at him.

"Oh, oh, Mr. Mystery," a middle-aged woman with fluffy pink hair and a neon green 'You Are Here' tee-shirt called, jumping up and down to make herself more visible in the middle of the tourist group. "Was the anti-platypus what caused all those scorch marks outside?"

"No, ma'am," Stan said with a chuckle, "that was a dr--"

"It was a kitten with a unicorn horn and laser eyes!" Mabel shouted, dropping out of the rafters in a shower of dislodged splinters (she liked to think of it as wood confetti) to land on Stan's shoulder.

To Stan's credit, he barely staggered under the impact and only growled a little bit through his entertainer's smile when he corrected her with, "We all agreed the evidence pointed to it being a dragon, sweetie."

"It was a dragon that looked like a kitten with a unicorn horn and laser eyes," Mabel told the woman. "I saw it myself. It was both majestic and adorable, and too magical for this harsh modern world."

"Was it more of a dragonish kitten or a kittenish dragon?" the woman asked.

"It was the perfect mixture of both, and I'll treasure the memory of its fiery purr for the rest of my life," Mabel said, clutching her hands over her heart and collapsing in a fake swoon against the side of Stan's head.

The group of tourists let out a collective, "Awwww!"

"Better?" Mabel whispered in Stan's ear quietly enough that even he could barely hear it.

"Yeah, that's my girl," Stan whispered back, just as quietly.

"My work here is done," Mabel announced to the crowd. "Remember, you can find magic wherever you look for it in the world, but it's especially strong in the gift shop!" And with that, she bowed, blew a kiss to the crowd, then took out her grappling hook and used it to disappear back up into the rafters with a happy cry of, "Mabel, away!"

"Ladies and gentlemen, my niece, little Miss Mystery," Stan announced with a flourish to indicate the empty space where she used to be.

The crowd applauded and threw more money at Stan before allowing him to lead them to the next exhibit where he could bamboozle them all over again. Yes, it was business as usual.

No one in the crowd noticed the taxidermy anti-platypus gently rise a few inches into the air, hover for a moment, and then drop back onto its display table. Mabel noticed it though. She nimbly jogged along the rafters to the wall farthest from the tourists then dropped down to the floor and slipped out of the display area to go find Dipper.

* * *

The Mystery Shack had closed for the day a few hours earlier and now the young twins were investigating the mystery of the randomly levitating objects. At least, they were trying to investigate the mystery. They had spent some time running around the nearby woods and downtown Gravity Falls, hoping to gather more clues, but despite witnessing a few more levitation events and hearing accounts of others they could not determine any kind of pattern to it beyond the fact that it seemed to be getting stronger, whatever it was. Without anything else to go on, the twins had returned to their attic bedroom in the Mystery Shack to regroup and brainstorm.

They had wanted to question Grunkle Stan to see if he knew anything, but even though his beloved car was still in the parking lot, the man himself was nowhere to be found. The twins had briefly debated whether the IRS had actually turned up and gotten him, but they both agreed there would have been more signs of a struggle if that had happened, so their Grunkle's whereabouts became just another mystery added to the pile.

"I still don't think this is the work of a beaver ghost and a duck ghost teaming up to get revenge on Stan for impugning their ability to fill out paperwork," Dipper said. He was sitting on his bed and clicking a pen with one hand while paging through Journal 3 with the other.

"But it's the only explanation that makes any sense," Mabel insisted from her spot on the floor, surrounded by her scattered materials for writing a letter to their parents, making a scrapbook entry for the day, and a construction paper collage of Waddles, all at the same time, multitasking at its finest.

"Nothing about this is going to make sense until we have more data," Dipper said, clicking his pen faster as his agitation grew.

Mabel's phone chimed a text message alert, and Mabel said, "Here's some data. Wendy says all of Greasy's Diner just lifted up and flipped upside down. Greasy's is log shaped, Dipper, another sign pointing to this being beaver ghost related."

"None of that implicates a duck ghost though."

Mabel's phone chimed again.

"The bakery just lifted off its foundation," Mabel read.

"Without proper documentation, we have no way of knowing whether it's related. The bakery could just be having another problem with yeast and sugar measurements. Besides, Mabel, ducks aren't even supposed to eat bread. It's bad for them."

"But they love it so much!"

Dipper sighed. "Fine, I'll add it to the 'maybe but not confirmed' column." He made a note in the Journal. Or, at least he tried to. It was suddenly much more difficult to write, because he was drifting up off of his bed and into the air without any support from below. A glance to the side told him that Mabel and half of the room's contents were suffering the same fate.

"Wheeee!" Mabel squealed. She laughed as she wobbled in midair for a few moments. Then she found her bearings and executed a perfect summersault.

Dipper tried to mimic her level of control but only managed to rotate forty five degrees along a different axis than he had meant to while flailing helplessly. "How are you doing that?" Was it just his own shifting perspective, or was the whole Shack levitating and moving around them too?

"It's like jumping on the bed without the jumping or the bed," Mabel said with a giggle. She reversed the direction of her summersault.

Dipper thought he might understand what she was talking about and tried to put it into practice, only to find himself being flung sideways against the wall with a pained, "Oof!" He was about to complain to Mabel that this was nothing like jumping on a bed, with or without anything, but then he noticed that his sister was pinned against the wall right next to him.

"Okay, so maybe there are some minor differences," Mabel admitted, sounding slightly dazed.

"Mabel, are you oka--" Dipper didn't even get to finish the word before the world suddenly went white and strange.

* * *

There was no way of knowing how long they had been unconscious. It could have been a split second or it could have been hours. However long it had been, by the time Mabel and Dipper woke up again, gravity had reasserted itself and their attic bedroom was messier than before but otherwise normal.

"What. Was. That," Mabel said. She pushed herself into a sitting position with a groan and flipped her hair out of her face.

"I have no idea," Dipper said as he too sat up with a groan, "but we really need to find out soon."

"Definitely," Mabel agreed.

Just then, there was the distant noise of thumping and banging coming from somewhere downstairs. On its own, it was a worrisome sound. Combined with the fact that it seemed to be getting louder and closer, it became a very, very worrisome sound. It had sounded like it had started somewhere on the ground floor, or maybe outside, but as they listened it moved up the first set of stairs to the floor below them, somewhere near Stan's office.

"That's probably just Grunkle Stan," Mabel said with false cheer. "He probably fell asleep somewhere and now he's coming to yell at us for making a mess, right?"

The thumping and banging got closer and louder. It was coming up the second set of stairs now.

"Grunkle Stan doesn't have enough feet to walk like that," Dipper said.

The thumping and banging got closer and louder. It was coming from the landing right outside their door now. The twins scooted closer to each other for mutual protection.

"Maybe it's the beaver ghost and duck ghost come to tell us we guessed right? That would be good, right Dipper?"

"Ducks and beavers aren't that big, Mabel."

The thumping and banging was right outside their door, and now it was also interspersed with deep grunting and inarticulate snarling of the type unlikely to be coming from Waddles. The doorknob rattled, but the frame had apparently been thrown out of alignment by the earlier abuse the Shack had taken, leaving the door stuck closed.

"Maybe it's the ghosts of a prehistoric mega-beaver and a proto-duck," Mabel whispered. "You always said lots of animals were way bigger during the ice age. Their spirits have had thousands of years to grow wise and now they're going to thank us for taking their side by sharing ancient pond life secrets with us. Right, Dipper?"

Something heavy slammed into the door. Mabel and Dipper were now huddling against each other without any pretense.

Whatever it was slammed into the door again, even harder this time. The door flexed in its frame but held.

"Dipper, I--"

"Mabel--"

On the third impact, the door broke free and swung open to slam against the wall, allowing a disheveled but grinning Stan Pines to stagger into the room from the momentum of his kick. His hat was missing, and his hair was tousled. His clothes were torn, and his glasses were askew. His right shoulder was hanging funny, like it might have been partially dislocated. His left arm held what looked to be a struggling, scruffier version of himself in a headlock. Despite a large bruise on Stan's jaw and a swelling black eye, he was grinning like it was the best day of his life, as he awkwardly hoisted his prize a few inches higher and shouted, "Hey, kids, look what I found in the basement!"

Mabel and Dipper both reacted in what they each considered to be the most logical manner. While Dipper said, "Wait, I didn't think this place had a basement," Mabel screamed, "Argh, pile of gnomes in a trenchcoat, kick it in the Shmebulock!" and ran over to boot the stranger in the shin.

"Woah there," Stan started to say, but Dipper had already been spurred to action by the realization that he probably shouldn't let his sister get too close to a potential enemy.

"Wait, Mabel!" Dipper cried, "Gnomes couldn't look that much like Stan. It must be a clone from the copy machine. Melt it with water!" He found a bottle of water, on the floor, pulled off the cap, and threw in the stranger's face. The stranger stubbornly refused to melt.

"No, kids--" Stan tried again.

"No, Dipper," Mabel's own aggression and panic feeding off her brother's. "It has to be the Shapeshifter! We need to incapacitate it with cold." She grabbed a convenient fire extinguished and blasted in all over the man and some on Stan too. Neither seemed particular frozen.

"No, Mabel, it’s a cursed wax statue! We need to kill it with fire!" Dipper grabbed one of Mabel's can's of hairspray and a lighter and improvised a small scale flamethrower with them, blasting the man in the face.

"Hot Belgian waffles," Stan shouted jumping backwards and dragging the other man with him. "This is seriously getting out of hand."

If Mabel and Dipper had been bothering to pay attention, they would have heard the stranger say, "That's okay, I needed a shave anyway."

However, the young twins were not listening. They were too busy putting everything they had learned over the summer to use.

"It's a vampire casting a glamour to make you think it's a long lost family member," Mabel shouted. "Repel it with holy symbols."

Dipper made his fingers into a cross.

Mabel made a finger-star-of-David to cover an extra religious base.

Not to be outdone, Dipper tried to do an Islamic star and crescent, but he failed.

Not noticing the dejected slump of her brother's shoulders, Mabel did a shadow puppet Buddha, then excitedly shouted, "Oh, oh! Dipper, you can be the flying spaghetti monster! Touch him with your noodley appendage!"

Dipper grumbled that his arms weren't as bad as they had been at the beginning of the summer but did as he was told.

The only reactions the children received for their efforts were a bemused look from the stranger and a stifled snort of amusement from Stan.

"None of these are working," Mabel complained. "Maybe he isn't a vampire. Maybe he's just a random stranger whose presence in town and close physical resemblance to Grunkle Stan are both pure coincidence?"

Dipper paused to run a hand through his hair as the thought. "That one doesn't sound so bad," he ventured.

"Huh, you're right. Maybe we don't need to fight him." Mabel whirled around and, with a triumphant grin, pointed at the two men, ordering, "Take him to the gift shop and bleed him for every penny he's got, Grunkle Stan!"

The stranger glanced between Mabel and Stan and said, "I don't think I have anything that would pass for legal tender in this--"

"In that case," Mabel interrupted, "he's a zombie ancestor here to eat us because the brains of your family always taste the best, blow up his head with song!"

"That's my girl, Mabel," Stan crowed.

"Whose side are you on, Stan?" grumbled the stranger.

"Sorry, I'm just so proud of her right now, you know?" Stan turned his head and wiped away a single manly tear against the shoulder of his jacket. "She's gonna be a great business owner someday."

"Stan," Mabel ordered, "stop muttering to the zombie and hit a middle C."

Stan dutifully helped Mabel and Dipper perform a couple of verses of Disco Girl, but no cranial explosion was forthcoming.

"Maybe we're going about this the wrong way," Dipper said, beginning to pace. Both he and Mabel had lost any trace of fear by this point, but both were caught up in the challenge of trying to solve this puzzle. "Grunkle Stan, maybe he's a time traveling ancestor looking to usurp your decadent modern life filled with technological wonders?"

"Yeah," Mabel chimed in, "distract him with something shiny and overly complicated until we can send him back in time and force him to kiss great-great-great-great-great grandma!"

"Which one?" the stranger asked with trepidation.

"All of them!"

"Ew," said Stan.

"Pragmatic, but ew," agreed the stranger.

"Or, Grunkle Stan," Dipper continued, "maybe he's your time traveling self from a dystopian future looking to usurp your simplistic old-timey life filled with the ignorance of just how bad the future can become."

"In that case we definitely send him back in time and force him to kiss great-great-great-great-great grandma!" Mabel shouted with glee.

"Wait, what?" Dipper stopped pacing to stare at his sister.

"Would you? want to stay anywhere people were trying to make you do that? It would be a clear sign that this is already a dystopia and he needs to find some other version of his life to hijack," Mabel said as if it should have been the most obvious conclusion in the world.

"You just want an excuse to push two people together and make them kiss."

Mabel shrugged. "Maybe."

"Well it doesn't matter, because it probably isn't time travel anyway," Dipper said. "I bet this is a corporeal ghost trying to trick you into thinking you're talking to yourself, Grunkle Stan. We'll trap it in a silver mirror." Dipper pulled a small hand mirror out of his vest and attempted to do just that. Like everything they had tried before it, it didn't work.

"Kid, why do you even have one of those handy?"

"I fought a level ten ghost literally just last night. It's going to be weeks before I go anywhere without one of these handy." Dipper slipped the mirror back into his vest to emphasize the point. "Anyway, if he's not a corporeal ghost, then he must be an evil twin! Trick him into monologing about his backstory until you can knock him out, tie him up, and call the cops!"

"Evil twin?" Mabel sounded offended by the very notion. "Boo, lame!"

"Sorry," Dipper said with a shrug. "I'm kinda running out of hypotheses here."

Grunkle Stan shifted uncomfortably. So did the man he was still holding in the no longer particular tight chokehold. "Uh, actually, kids..." Stan let go of the other man, who dropped to the floor and caught himself on hands that were suddenly conspicuous for having too many fingers, and while Stan waited for the implications of his words to sink in for Mabel and Dipper, he walked over to the slightly splintered doorframe and casually popped his shoulder back into joint against it as if he had a lot of practice doing that sort of thing. He probably did.

After a moment of disbelieving silence Mabel and Dipper both spluttered, "Wait, what?" at the same time.

"Like I've been trying to tell you knuckleheads," Stan grumbled fondly, "I want you to meet the author of the journals, my brother."

"I have to give credit where it's due, Stan," Stan's brother said, brushing off his clothes and straightening his coat, "You've certainly raised these two with a thorough grounding in how to handle the supernatural. Congratulations."

Now it was Stan's turn to splutter. "Raised? They're only here for the summer, Ford. They're Shermy's grandkids, not mine."

"Either way, I like them," the man, apparently named Ford, said. "They're both weird and resourceful." He knelt down and offered a hand to each of the younger twins. "Greetings. Do kids still say greetings? I haven't been in this dimension for a really long time."

Behind him, Stan rolled his eyes. "Nobody ever said greetings in this dimension," Stan groused. "That was always just you being a nerd."

"We can start now," Mabel declared. She stepped forward and took Ford's hand, shaking it firmly. Dipper mirrored her actions.

"Greetings," they said and then burst out laughing.

"Yeah, yeah, hurry it up," Stan said, glancing at his watch. "Soos should be here with pizza any minute, and he needs to meet you too, so let's go."

Together the four members of the Pines family filed downstairs and into a future much like the one we know yet possibly different.

And that was how, in an alternate universe, Mabel and Dipper could have met their Great Uncle Ford.