Everyone knows everyone in Gravity Falls, Oregon. The sleepy little lumberjack town was sparsely populated, completely isolated and, if you asked a certain resident, also geographically perfect. Things didn’t change much, time moved slowly, and when a new face showed appeared it stuck out like a big, sore, city-slicker thumb. Just one thing really set Gravity Falls apart from all the other back country cities out there and that was that weird things always seemed to happen there. And some of the the weirdest residents of the weirdest place in everyone’s book were the Pines Twins that lived in the house up on the hill in the middle of the woods.
The strangest part about them was that they weren’t an isolated pair; they came to town often, chatted with the locals, shopped the grocer and went to the Greasy Diner at least once a week. But that didn’t stop their uncanny air; if anything it enhanced it. Truth be told, the boys stuck out in their own way and were living local legends in the eyes of most. Stanley, with his eye patch and scars, whose story always changed when asked how he got them. Stanford, a 6-fingered polydactyly with a genius IQ. To top it all off, their house was half a whack-o tourist trap, half an inventor’s science lab, with a little space in between for something resembling living quarters. Stan ran the tourist trap and a museum with so many weird creatures and body parts, almost everyone debated on if they were real or not. Stanford - who always insisted on ‘Ford’ for ease of everyone - would chat endlessly about his newest invention if asked but hell if you ever saw it show up in the lumberjack town once (though if you ask him, the Owl Trowel has his name written all over it).
But if the truth wasn’t strange enough, the fiction and tall tales surrounding the boys were even stranger. The rumors varied from one story to the next depending on which old local you chatted with, but there was an underlying theme to all of them; around 36 years ago, Stanford Pines showed up - still a strapping young man - built himself a house in the woods, and holed himself up for half a decade working on all sorts of “weird science”. He came to town still, but around 1982 he just… up and vanished without a trace. Nobody saw him leave, and his car still sat outside, as if he had never left. Kids checked the house out, looking to loot or looking for evidence of a terrible crime, but nothing was ever found and they all just left with the same face - the face of someone who had seen a ghost. So people just blamed the science on his disappearance, blamed the science for the eerie atmosphere that pervaded the building, as if the house itself was alive and breathing in it’s owner’s absence.
Even weirder is that as the story goes, around 15 years later, he just reappears again, as if he never left. For 15 years, a man written off as dead just sprang back to life, and this time he wasn’t alone. Stanley showed up with him, already sporting an eyepatch and scar through his good eyebrow, but for all his brother’s privacy, Stan was loud, charismatic and utterly infectious. He fell in love with the town and decided to settle in with his brother, taking advantage of the legends around him and his twin to spring up his tourist shop, “The Mystery Shack”, which proved lucrative enough to keep them both comfortable for the next 15 years and counting. They were a part of the life blood of the town, and for all their secrets, they were both well-received and many don’t remember a time when those old Jersey natives weren’t a part of what made Gravity Falls such an interesting place to live. And the Stan Twins, well, they were confident in their ability to say they had the whole of Gravity Falls figured out and often joked there wasn’t a mystery left out there that they hadn’t uncovered.
Little did the boys know that the biggest game changer of all wasn’t what lay inside Gravity Falls, but what was quickly making it’s way towards that remote, forgotten blip on the map.
It was the first Monday morning of the summer when Stan heard the knock on the front door. He was sitting in his living room, watching the public access TV in his white cut off, sweatpants, and slippers when he looked up, frowning. It was too early for the mail and they hardly got off-hour visitors, so his mind immediately jumped to ‘stupid tourists’. He rolled his eyes and sighed, going back to the TV; they’d figure out what the “CLOSED” sign on the door meant eventually. Mondays were his off days; they could come back tomorrow. He was just getting into the latest news story about rampaging bears when another knock rapped against the front door, harder and more urgent than the first. He itched under his eye patch and he stood up, grumbling.
“Alright, alright, keep your pants on, I’m coming,” he said, cracking his back. He trudged through the living room and into the foyer of the house, raising his eyebrow at the two shadows on the other side of the door’s window. To his left, Ford descended the stairs, staring at the door, perplexed.
“Hmmm, weird, you never give tours on Mondays,” he said absently, and Stan just waved him off as his brother walked to the kitchen to get himself breakfast.
“Prolly just some stupid kids trying to stick their noses where they don’t belong,” he retorted, and winced as another knock met his ears. He unlocked the door and turned the knob, pulling it open grumpily.
“Sorry, we’re closed on -” Stan began, but he trailed off as he stared at the two women standing in front of him. They were both dressed sharply, their suit and pants pressed without a wrinkle. They were both shorter than Stan; the one had dark hair and glasses and a soft face, the other long blonde hair pulled back and sporting a bored look. He straightened up and raised his eyebrows.
“What, are you here to inspect the place? I already told the last guy, we aren’t due for one for at least another year.”
“I assure you we aren’t here for any inspections, Mr. Pines,” the blonde stated simply. She frowned as she looked him up and down, her eyes straying on the scars visible on his shoulders. After that, she gave her assistant a glance and they nodded, moving aside. As they moved, two more people - considerably smaller than even the two small women - came into view. A boy and a girl, no older than middle school age, stood there, looking awkward and out of place. They both had thick, brown hair - the boy’s mostly covered by a ratty-looking hat -, brown eyes, and what looked to be the exact same nose. The girl was wearing a sweater and skirt; the boy, a t-shirt, shorts, and a vest. Aside from that, they were so similar you would have sworn they were…
As Stan stared the girl’s eyes skirted across his face before shyly looking away. Her hand darted out to grab the boy’s wrist and instead of pulling away, he moved his hand into hers. Neither of them met Stan’s face, so he looked back to the women for answers. Before he could say anything though, he felt movement behind him.
“Hello ladies, what can we do for you this morning?” Ford had finally arrived to join the party at the front door, taking a sip of his coffee as he did so. Such an innocuous motion caused quite a stir to the strangers outside, as both of the women’s eyes went wide. The boy had looked up to see who the new voice belonged to and his jaw dropped before elbowing the girl - his sister? - in the side. She looked up and squeaked, causing everyone to turn to her. Her cheeks flushed a deep red and she quickly looked away heavily embarrassed. Stan could only raise an eyebrow in the direction of Ford, who blinked mildly before letting out a laugh.
“Yeah, I get those reactions a lot,” he said and lifted his other hand into view, waving the 6 fingers there. “Makes for great party tricks.” The girl just blushed deeper at that, flicking her eyes up and between the two brothers whenever she thought she wouldn’t get caught doing so. The boy looked up but never looked away, resolutely keeping his gaze on the Stans. The blonde cleared her throat, and they all turned to her.
“We’re sorry to bother you gentlemen so early in the morning, but we have been informed that this is the residence of the twins Stanford and Stanley Pines.” Ford frowned slightly and Stan felt his fist close reflexively.
“Yes, that’s correct. Is something the matter?”
“Well, the matter happens to lie with these two,” the one with the glasses said, motioning to the two children behind her. “Last month, the son of your brother, Sherman Pines, and his wife perished in a car crash just outside of Piedmont, CA. The late Mr. and Mrs. Pines are survived by their children, Mabel and -”
“Dipper,” the boy interrupted loudly. Stan and Ford raised their eyebrows at him.
“- Dipper Pines,” the lady finished kindly, while the other just rolled her eyes, grumbling. “In their standing will, the parents asked for the children to fall into the custody of their next-of-kin. After an extensive search… we’ve concluded that you’re it.”
“What?” both of them said at the same time. It was Ford who recovered first, clearing his throat as the two women frowned.
“I- um, this is a bit of a shock. We didn’t even think our family - well, we were never really very… is there really no one else?” Stan caught the look on Mabel’s face when Ford said that last bit and debated kicking his brother in the shin.
“Believe us, we looked. However, it appears nobody else in the Pines family is alive or capable of caring for two children. It was hard enough finding you two; since you went off the grid for most of the 80’s and 90’s, and you hadn’t spoken to you family years before that, anyone who knew you both considered you dead. Imagine our surprise when your names showed up in this sleepy Oregon town.”
Stan swallowed and his eye flicked to Ford. His brother was gripping his cup of coffee a little too tightly, and Stan could see his brain working, probably thinking of how they could have showed up at all, and how to tighten security around the house. Eventually, Ford took a breath and looked the guests in the eye again, a small smile on his face.
“Would you all like to come in for breakfast?”
Stan poured over the papers scattered across their kitchen table. The skin under his patch was starting to itch again but he did his best to ignore it; there were more important matters at hand that deserved his attention. Like the mountain of shit that had just landed on their front porch in the form of two small kids that morning, for one thing. Breakfast was long over, the dishes set aside so that contracts and paperwork could be brought up and looked over. His eye swam at all the text in front of him and he rubbed his one good socket, looking away from the sea of tiny text and images in front of him. Instead, he turned his head to peer into the living room, where the twins sat watching the television. Stan could see from there that they were watching Ducktective and he absently wondered which episode they were on. In his ear, he listened to Ford conversing with the two female social workers. The one with the glasses - Claire - was talking now, keeping her voice light and positive.
“We’re sorry about having no warning on this. It happened very suddenly and the last few weeks have been a flurry of funeral arrangements, expenses, hunting for living family members to notify… we didn’t know you two even existed until just a few days ago; if we did we would have notified you much sooner.”
“So we are the last resort before… foster care, I would assume? Adoption?” Ford was doing most of the talking; he excelled at more sensitive matters and conversations. Where Stan was more direct, his brother was more discreet, treating things with the brevity they deserved. It was better that way; negotiations were boring sort of work to Stan, so instead he just kept his mouth shut and listened, his eyes on the twins while they talked. They were both curled up into his armchair, engrossed in the current cartoon. Dipper sat with his arm around his sister and she looked ahead, hugging her knees.
“Yes. As it stands, no other living family members can be located. You two were hard enough to track down, so we won’t be looking any further. If you two decide not to take them into custody, they will go with us and be placed into a foster program.” Stan sighed next to them, wiping a hand over his chin.
Twins. It just had to be motherfucking twins.
“How old are they?” Ford inquired.
“12; they’ll be 13 on Aug 31st. Mabel is older by 10 minutes, if the birth records are accurate.”
“Any reason the boy prefers “Dipper” to his real name?” Stan asked offhandedly. “What even is it, anyway?” He looked across the table and the blonde officer - Elizabeth, he thinks her name was - just shrugged her shoulders.
“You’d have to ask him that question, Mr. Pines. Apparently, it’s a fairly personal issue. He spent the entire drive here convincing me to call him by his preferred nickname.” Stan watched as Claire handed Ford a large manilla envelope, fat with documents. Ford flipped through it absently as the girls continued talking, handing it off to Stan when he was finished. Stan took it, opening it up himself.
Inside were a multitude of images, newspaper clippings, documents, and lists. The pictures included old polaroids of parents holding their two kids up for birthdays, going on vacations to the beach, fishing… Stan swallowed thickly and moved the photos to see paper headlines about a fiery car crash where the daughter was pulled out but the parents didn’t survive being life-flighted to the hospital, obituary clippings… he pulled out a page that was colorful and in crayon reading “Mabel’s Likes: Dislikes” and a list of about 20 different things on each side.
He closed the book and rubbed his eye again. He was too tired for this, too tired to really listen to the women droning on about legal matters that he cared so little about. Not when these two small lives were hanging in the balance, two kids who were probably dealing with having their world shattered and here they were, discussing things like taxes and state mandates and legal guardian status. There was only one real important question he was hunting for, and when he finally heard it, he zeroed in on it like a predator to its prey.
“We know it’s a lot to bring on you at once,” Claire said gently. “We have their possessions ready in storage, but they can be brought up at any time. As for you two, we’re giving you a week to decide, get all of your ducks in a row. We’ll be staying at the local motel while you decide if you’d like to fully adopt or -”
“We’ll do it,” Stan said gruffly. Somewhere next to him, Ford made a strangled noise. Stan hardly paid attention to his brother and fixed Elizabeth and Claire with an unwavering stare. Though they both were surprised by his quick statement, Elizabeth wasted no time staring him down, her frown deepening.
“Are you absolutely sure? This is a huge commitment. There’s a large financial and personal burden in caring for one child alone, but two? This is twins we’re talking about here, Mr. Pines. We don’t want you to take this situation lightly or get the wrong -”
“I said we’ll do it,” he growled out, cutting her off. She blinked and glared at the interruption but closed her mouth anyway. The two shot daggers at each other while Claire laughed nervously, motioning to Ford.
“Sure you don’t want to ask him for his opinion first?” she said lightly. Stan just gave her a blank look before leaning back in his chair, arm slinging over the back of it casually as he twisted to look at Ford, who was standing to his right.
“Sure thing. Ford?”
Ford appeared on the verge of clocking his brother in the face and Stan fought the grin that pulled at the corner of his lips. He raised an eyebrow at his older brother as Ford let out a breath, straightening. He cleaned his glasses before putting them back on and turning to the girls.
“Would you two mind if I had a word with my brother? Privately?” The emphasis on the last word caused Stan’s brow to furrow.
“Of course not,” Claire responded. Ford gave them a curt nod in acknowledgement before grabbing Stan’s arm and pulling him from the chair and out of the kitchen. From there, he glanced into the living room and crossed the foyer, heading up the stairs. Stan trailed behind, but as soon as they both reached the top Ford wheeled on him, pointing a finger straight into Stan’s solar plexus.
“What the hell do you think you are doing?” he hissed between his teeth. Stan blinked at him.
“Taking on the kids! Did I- did I not make that clear?”
“Oh you made it crystal clear, Stanley, but will you stop and think about this before jumping to conclusions for once in your life? We are not in a position to be looking after children, let alone twins! Our business alone is shady enough, not to mention our very relationship is considered far from kosher in this dimens-”
Stan shushed him at that, waving his hands as his brother’s voice carried dangerously. Ford closed his mouth and they both peeked over the landing, listening carefully. Thankfully, nobody was snooping on their conversation, and any noise was drowned out by the quacking coming from the television. Ford turned back to Stan, his glare still in place as he lowered his voice even more.
“Regardless, this is a risky undertaking. Having employees around regularly is bad enough, but it’s the summer, Stan, they are kids and they won’t have school or jobs, they’ll be here 24/7, poking around, getting into things, sneaking around the lab -”
“They won’t get into trouble.” Stan dismissed his brother with a wave of his hand. “And besides, we make plenty of money to support two kids, we have a fairly lucrative business going on - “
“-And I’m very aware of all the dangers involved with said business - “ Ford snarled, but Stan just kept right on going.
“- the house is definitely big enough to keep them happy, though they may have to share the attic for a while, they’ll love the townspeople, they will have kids their age to make friends with -”
“Stanley -” Ford whined, rubbing his temple.
“Oh, what? What would you rather propose we do, huh? Let them be homeless for a while, let them be with total and complete strangers -”
“We’re strangers to them, Stanley!”
“Ugh, you’re missing the point, Poindexter! Look at them! They’re twins and they’re family and like hell am I going to sit here and watch them go through what we did at such a young age.” Ford groaned out a sigh and looked down at that. He pushed his hand up under his glasses, covering his eyes. When he looked back up, his eyes drifted down the staircase towards the living room entrance at the bottom.
“Stan.. we - we don’t even know them. They don’t know us. So many things could go wrong, what if they don’t even like us?” Stan laughed at that and threw his arms out wide.
“Are you kiddin’? A conman bruiser with one eye and a nerdy science inventor? And then there’s all the fun ‘side work’...” his eyebrows wiggled and Ford groaned.
“They are not to know about that, Stan. For the sake of their safety, okay?
“Do you want them hurt?”
“They wouldn’t get hurt.”
“You don’t know that. Besides, look at you; you’re a walking-talking example of how dangerous our line of work is!” Stan frowned, scratching at the scar that bisected his good eyebrow.
“Okay, yeah, you got a point there. Fine. Here’s the deal. We take them in; adopt them. But under the condition that the business stays a secret and hidden for their safety’s sake. Sound good?” Ford crossed his arms, chewing at his cheek. When he didn’t respond, Stan nudged him, grabbing his attention.
“Sound good, Sixer?” he said, repeating the question. Ford grumbled and turned to him, rubbing his temple.
“Fine-fine! We’ll...we’ll take in the kids. But no funny business around them, not even with me! Especially not with me- ya got it?” Stan grinned and held his hands up.
“I’ll keep it behind closed doors if you do.” Ford nodded resolutely and Stan’s face brightened like the break of dawn. He clapped his hands together happily.
“Great! Now let’s go tell our happy guests the good news.” Ford mumbled his discontent and Stan pushed him down the stairs and back into the kitchen. Ford tried protesting against his stronger brother but decided against it as they entered back into the kitchen. The social workers looked up from their paperwork and cut off their idle chat. From behind him, Ford could practically feel the grin on Stan’s face as he adopted his best, most gleeful tour guide voice.
“Ladies and…Ladies! Behold! The incredible 12-fingered man has an announcement to make!” Ford couldn’t stop the angry flush that rose to his face as Stan grinned like a hyena over his shoulder. The girls stared expectantly at Ford, waiting for him to respond. Ford simply rolled his eyes and sighed, resigned to his fate.
“We’ll… keep the kids. We’ll adopt them,” He groaned out, fearing how much he was going to regret those words later. Stan cheered silently behind him, jumping in the air. Elizabeth simply nodded while Claire beamed beside her, her cheeks pink.
“Great! We’ll let you fill out the paperwork right away and get all their belongings sent up to the house!”
“Just a reminder though,” Elizabeth piped up, causing Stan to stop playfully pushing his brother and both of them to look at her. “We will be coming up to make routine visits. We need to check every now and then to make sure everything is going fine, and that the kids are adjusting well. You know, simple things, like looking over the place, checking on the emotional and physical health of the kids, making sure you guys are truly fit for the responsibility of taking care of two extra lives. If we find you aren’t doing that job or we suspect you might be abusing the kids then…”
“We would never!” Stan barked, but he calmed down when Ford shot him a glance. Elizabeth glared at him but continued.
“-then they’ll come back with us and return to our custody.”
“But it’s only for the first 6 months!” Claire added encouragingly. “After that, you’re basically home free!”
Ford felt the sweat bead on his face and he side-eyed Stan. Stan, for all his swagger, didn’t miss a beat as he laughed off his earlier angry outburst.
“You bet! You’ll see; we’ll be the best great-uncles - no, GRUNKLES! - a pair of twins could ask for!” Elizabeth nodded,d looking them hard in the face.
“That’s good, because if not, we’ll definitely know - and there will be consequences to pay.”
Stan just nodded and kept on grinning. He grinned through the paperwork, the contracts, the signings, the legal documents. The whole time though, he kept a hand planted on his brother’s shoulder, squeezing his grip tight every now and then. He couldn’t see it, since Ford was on his blind side, but he could feel him look over at him, every now and then. No matter what though, he kept that smile plastered to his face, made sure it reached his eyes and the rest of him, until finally, what felt like hours later of chatting and negotiating, the workers took their leave out the front door. The twins stood there and waved them off, Stan clamping his free hand even tighter to Ford’s shoulder. Ford didn’t need to glance at it to know it would probably bruise a bit come morning.
It wasn’t until the two were completely out of sight down the hill that Stan’s wiped the grin from his face and completely dropped his jovial attitude. He took a deep breath and looked to Ford, the panic rising his stomach. He could see the feeling was mirrored in his own face, and he swallowed hard before letting out a nervous laugh.
“We are so fucked.”