Stan blinked as his vision came back into focus. He’d been zoning out again, daydreaming about… crud, he couldn’t even remember now. Too many long nights with the portal this week. What had he been doing? Oh yeah, he was in the kitchen. Probably getting a snack. He stuck his head in the fridge to see what looked appetizing. The sound of the kids coming down the stairs and into the kitchen distracted him as he tried to tell which container of leftovers was least moldy. The kids both sat at the table expectantly. Stan glanced at the microwave clock. 7:00! He’d zoned out longer than he’d thought!
“Alright, what do you kiddos wanna eat?” He asked.
“Chocolate chip waffles!” Mabel cheered.
“Is it your turn to cook?” Dipper asked.
That was a weird question. “Since when does anyone else in this house know how to cook?”
“Hey-oh!” Mabel laughed. She and Dipper burst into giggles. Whatever was so hilarious, it was lost on Stan.
Whatever. Breakfast for dinner, he could go for that.
“We can have regular waffles. I haven’t got any chocolate chips.”
“Check in the butter-box on the door.” Dipper suggested.
Stan opened the box and found a half-used bag of chocolate chips. “What the…”
“How do you know all his hiding places?” Mabel asked her brother in awe.
“Great minds think alike.” The boy said proudly.
Ok, so apparently Soos was hiding candy in the fridge now, or something. They were going to have to talk about that. Or maybe this was one of those weird Gravity Falls things. In which case he’d better just ignore it like usual.
He’d gotten all the ingredients out and was searching for a mixing bowl and the waffle iron when he heard the door open again. Who could that be? The were close for the day; Wendy and Soos should both be home for their own dinners.
What Stan saw when he turned to look startled him right out of his slippers. He tripped back into the pantry shelf. He was stunned speechless as his mind raced to find an explanation. It had to be his reflection or a trick or something. What he was seeing was impossible.
The real Stanford Pines, not the show Stanley had been putting on for the past 30 years, was standing right in front of him. His brother was here.
“Are you alright?” Ford asked, reaching down to help his brother up.
Stan grabbed onto his hand like a lifeline, felt six fingers close around his own. It was real, tangible, not an imposter or a ghost. This had to be a dream. The kids seemed completely unfazed by the stranger standing in the kitchen and were much more concerned with their Grunkle, the one they knew, falling on his rear-end.
“You-y-you’re… h-how are you here?” Stan spluttered as he almost regained us of his tongue.
Ford’s expression switched to the ‘a-ha’ look he got when something clicked and his mind kicked into genius-mode. Apparently whatever it was clicked for the kids too. They wore twin looks of realization.
“I’ll go get my scrapbook.” Mabel said, getting up from the table urgently.
“I’ll… go with her.” Dipper followed after his sister. He knew what was coming and he knew Stan would be embarrassed later if anyone saw it.
None of this made any sense to Stan. There was only one explanation.
“I don’t care if it’s a dream. I’m gonna enjoy it while it lasts!” He threw his arms around his brother and hugged him. Maybe even cried a little. It was a dream. He didn’t care. Ford rocked back a step to keep his balance, but hugged Stan back the best he could, comforting him.
“It’s not a dream, I promise.” Ford assured his brother. Stanley tended to be even more dangerously reckless than usual when he thought he was dreaming, and it was harder to bring his memories back if he didn’t accept the present as reality.
“You did it! You reactivated the portal! I’d still be trapped between dimensions if it wasn’t for you.”
“...And you’re not mad?”
Stanford sighed heavily. “Not anymore.” was all he said.
They just stood there in the kitchen for a moment while Stanley tried to regain his composure, until Mabel poked her head in the door. She seemed worried, but she smiled when she saw the older twins hugging.
“Are you two ready?” She asked.
“Ready for what?” Stan asked.
“Come on, I know you’re confused by all this. Don’t worry, we’ll explain everything.” Stanford led him into the living room. Dipper and Soos were already there. For some reason Soos was dressed up as Mr. Mystery.
“Do you remember who I am?” Soos asked the second he saw Stan.
“Soos, why the heck are you wearing my suit?”
“He remembers!” The young man cheered, relieved.
“Ok, so it looks like you remember everything up to some point last summer.” Mabel said, sitting Stan down in his recliner and opening up her scrapbook. “So I guess we’ll just start with Gideon stealing the deed to the Mystery Shack.”
And so Mabel went through, recounting everything they’d done that summer, using pictures and things in her scrapbook to help tell the story. At first Stan didn’t understand why she was doing this. He knew everything she was telling him, it’d happened just last week! But then she started talking about government agents snooping around, and zombies, while Dipper and Soos often interjected their own comments. Stan didn’t remember any of this happening… but then he did. The more they told, the more images and memories resurfaced in his mind. He remembered a particular thought he’d had when Mabel explained finding the solution to their zombie problem.
Invisible ink, that punk! If Stanford’s not dead when I find him, I’ll kill him!
As the stories of last summer continued, Stanley remembered more and more, even things the kids didn’t tell him. He remembered long nights pouring over each page in the Journals with a black-light. He remembered the confrontation with those pesky agents. He remembered the moment he brought his brother home.
“Finally, after all these years! Brother!”
“You punched me in the face!” Stan pointed at Ford, interrupting Soos’s account of protecting the vending machine.
Stanford averted his gaze sheepishly. “Uh, yes…”
“Yeah, you two were pretty mad at each other to start with.” Dipper nodded.
“But then you had to work together to save us and you made up and everything’s better now!” Mabel tried to move on to a happier subject. “So, not long after that, the old Mayor died, and you decided to run for office….”
And so they continued, and Stanley kept remembering more and more, but his attitude had changed. It was subtle, but he seemed to be… grumpier than usual, if that were possible. They only got another page into the scrapbook when Stan stopped her.
“Alright, I’m good, it’s all coming back now.” He said, rubbing his temples.
“Hmmm… What did I get you for your birthday this year?” Mabel asked, testing his memory.
“A sweater with your face on it.”
“A hat and gloves.”
“Ok, you’re free to go.” She consented.
Stan was uncharacteristically quiet all through breakfast. He cleared the table brusquely and jammed the dishes in the dishwasher loudly. Later, as the family sat down to watch TV, Stan pointedly ignored Ford’s request to pass the popcorn, and instead gave it to Dipper, who was sitting on the opposite end of the couch.
By the end of the day, Ford had had enough of the barely concealed glares and silent tension. He waited until everyone else was busy in the gift shop and then confronted his brother.
“Alright, what is it?” Ford asked him, standing with his arms folded.
“Huh?” Stan asked from his recliner, refusing to turn and look at Ford.
“It’s obvious you’re upset with me about something, although I can’t figure out what , so let’s just get it over with. If it’s about the mop, I thought we’d already resolved that issue.”
Stan didn’t answer for so long that Ford was sure he’d gone back to ignoring his brother. “... That’s how it should’ve been.” Stan finally grumbled.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Ford asked impatiently.
“Earlier this morning, when I was havin’ the memory lapse, that’s how it should’ve been when you came home.” Stan explained.
“... That’s what you’re mad about?” Ford asked exasperatedly. Stan just sat there moodily. “You do realize that was an incredibly unrealistic expectation, right?”
“Oh, what, I was supposed to expect you comin’ and punchin’ me in the face?” Stan snapped.
Ford pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’m not saying what I did was right, but we couldn’t have gone from the state things were in when… I left , to where we are now without some friction in between.”
Stan sat and grumped some more. Ford really didn’t understand what his brother wanted from him at this point. It had been almost a year now, they’d moved on, their relationship was on the mend… wasn’t it?
“Stanley, I can’t go back and change what happened, not without seriously endangering the timeline, anyway, but I really am sorry, and I really am trying to be better. Maybe I’m not doing such a good job--”
“No.” Stan grunted, “You’re doin’ a great job. Just let me wallow in self-pity for a while, jeez.”
Ford rolled his eyes. “You’ve been wallowing in self-pity all day!”
Stan finally turned to look his brother in the eye. “So?”
“So, I care about you too much to let you do that. Also I don’t like being gypped on popcorn.”
Stan finally smiled. “Should’ve known that’d be what finally got to you.”
He stood up and the two of them walked down the hall to join the rest of their family in the gift shop.
“I guess I could stand to do some apologizing too. I wasn’t exactly Mr. Nice Guy to you.” Stan said.
“Some might say you were justified, given my actions.”
Stan rolled his eyes. “Just accept the apology, Poindexter. I’m trying to be better too.”
Ford smiled. “And I think you’re doing a great job.”