Mabel ran around the kitchen, gleefully gathering ingredients for her Grunkle. Flour was found in one cabinet, and sugar in the next. She piled the various bags and containers on the counter next to Stan’s mixing bowl.
“I found the eggs!” she said in a sing song voice, gently tossing them at him. Stan moved quick to catch them, managing to recover two in one hand.
“Whoa there, careful sweetie! This ain’t the supermarket aisle.”
Mabel rocked back and forth on her feet, grinning sweetly with an almost concerning glint of mischief in her eye. “Just checking your reflexes. Don’t worry, you’re doing great for a person of your age!”
“A person of my… hey!” Stan barked in mock indignation, shaking his spatula at her. “Are you calling me old, you lil’ gremlin? Huh? You callin’ your Grunkle Stan old?”
Mabel let out a joyous giggle as he caught her in his arms and gave the top of her head a noogie. Her legs dangled above the ground, kicking at air and coming dangerously close to Stan’s ankles.
“Hey kid, hey, hey, careful where you’re kickin’! I may be an ancient bag of bones, but I still need those joints. And how ‘bout you do me a favor and wake up Ford for breakfast, huh?”
Mabel shot her hand to her head in a mock salute. “Aye, aye, captain!”
He set Mabel down and watched her skip out of the kitchen, down the hall to the room where Ford slept. He couldn’t help but let a smile stretch over his lips, watching his great niece. She was a real sweet kid- crazy, but sweet. Humming in content, he returned to the stove top and began mixing batter for some of his world famous Stancakes. He threw a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon into the mix, one of his little secrets. As he was beginning to pour the first bit of batter into the frying pan, he heard soft little footsteps slowly enter the doorway behind him.
“Mornin’ Dipper,” he said without turning his head. He knew far too well there was only one twin in this shack who woke up with such a low drive of energy to match the sheer crawl of those footfalls he heard.
The kid only yawned in response, and promptly collapsed half asleep into a chair. Stan watched with amusement as he dropped his head against the table, producing a solid clunk. Dipper’s hair was a matted rat nest, and he simply looked exhausted. Poor kid.
“No sleep last night, huh?” he asked, glancing between the boy and the pancake slowly browning on the griddle. “You up late readin’ again? I know you like your books kid, but you need ta stop makin’ that a habit. I mean, one insomniac in the house is bad enough,” he said with a slight chuckle.
He glanced towards Dipper. For a moment there was no response. The kid just kept laying there. Motionless. Sweet Moses, was he okay? Worry creased his brow.
“Dipper? Hey. You alive there, kid?”
“I wasn’t reading,” he mumbled in response, not lifting his head from his arms.
Dipper shifted uncomfortably, lifting his head up enough for Stan to see the dark rings around his eyes.
“Nightmare,” he said matter-of-factly.
Oh. Oh. Of course.
“M'sorry, kid. D'ya wanna talk about it?” He flipped the pancake over, salivating a little when it sizzled.
“Mm, not really.”
“Does Mabel know?”
“Didn’t wanna upset her.”
Stan leaned back against the counter, watching his great nephew for a second. The kid absentmindedly picked at his shirt, his eyes unfocused. His motor movements were sluggish. Running on next to nothing. Stan recognized the look on his face- it was on he’d seen reflected in the mirror numerous times over the past thirty years after waking up from terrors, visions of his brother alone in some god forsaken wilderness. Visions of Ford starving, strafed by wounds, at death’s door. Even though he may not know exactly what haunted Dipper, he could make a pretty good guess. He could tell this kid needed some time to rest today, some time spent away from town and any reminders of what had happened.
He took the first fully cooked Stancake off the stove, and poured some new batter into the pan.
“Hey, how 'bout we stay in today instead of going to the lake?” he offered, hoping Dipper would give him some positive response. “Watch some movies? You and Ford could play that nerd game of yours, whatever you want.”
“I’d like that,” the kid muttered, a corner of his lip curling into a half smile.
Stan continued to cook for the next few minutes in comfortable silence, letting the boy rest. The plate of Stancakes multiplied quickly, and soon a stack of twelve sat as the centerpiece of the kitchen table, surrounded by plates and utensils and a questionable carton of orange juice that was probably a few days past the sell-by date. The scent of pancakes carried the other two twins through the doorway, Mabel riding gleefully on Ford’s back.
The four took their places at the table, beginning another morning together as a family. An odd family unit they were, but Stan supposed that only made more sense, living in such an odd place as Gravity Falls.