Based on a comic by moringmark on tumblr.
Ford's a bit OOC here, but I still love him. I just need there to be more Ford and Mabel fluff in the world.
Mabel was at the end of her rope. The hurt and the sadness had been nagging at her for days now, and now she could feel it festering and there was nothing she could do to stop it. She watched as Dipper stuffed Journal 3 into his bag, growing more and more upset every second.
"You promised we would hang out today," she said thickly from her seat on her bed across the room. She had been excited for it. They were going to play one of Stan's weird board games and get caught up on Ducktective. Maybe play around with her grappling hook.
But Ford had suggested to Dipper a monster hunt, and suddenly her twin had forgotten all about her.
"Grunkle Ford said he wanted my help," Dipper said defensively, shoving his feet into his shoes. "He could be going after something dangerous! He'll need me!"
"But we never hang out anymore," Mabel protested desperately. Ever since Ford had come out of the portal Dipper had been spending less and less time with her until she barely saw him anymore. He would pop in for meals and she saw him before bed, but during the day he was running around after their recently discovered great uncle or hanging out in the lab where Mabel felt unwelcome.
"We can hang out later," Dipper shrugged, tying his shoelaces. "I'm going with Grunkle Ford today. Maybe Stan needs some help around the Shack or something."
Grunkle Ford came into their attic room just as Mabel burst, shouting at her twin. "I don't want to hang out with Grunkle Stan today! I want to spend time with you!"
Ford paused, staring awkwardly at his great niece and nephew. "Dipper?" he asked hesitantly. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yeah," Dipper said at once, adjusting his hat.
Mabel leapt to her feet. "Why do you care so much about your dumb mysteries?!" she yelled, tears threatening at the corners of her eyes. "I was so excited for today, and – and… and now you've ruined everything!"
Dipper looked shocked for a moment, then his brow furrowed and he glared at his sister before storming out of the attic without another word. Mabel bit her bottom lip hard and turned around so Ford couldn't see her so close to crying, rubbing furiously at her eyes.
She heard her great uncle sigh heavily. "Mabel… I know you're upset and I'm sorry, but your brother and I have very serious work to—"
"I should have pressed that button."
The words hung horribly in the air, and Mabel could barely believe she'd let them slip out. At once she clapped both hands over her mouth, horrified with herself.
Ford's stomach lurched when his niece said those words, the weight of their meaning hitting him with the force of a freight train and stinging a thousand times worse than any corporeal hurt he'd experienced.
He didn't know how to reply. He didn't know if he even could.
He lowered his head and turned around, trudging slowly out of the attic and softly shutting the door behind him. He slowly descended the stairs, his mind racing. He felt sick. Mabel hated him. That was the only explanation he could come up with.
Dipper stood at the bottom of the stairs, fuming. He looked up when Ford reached the last step. "Are we going?" he asked, his expression gaining a spark of hope amidst the fury.
But Ford shook his head. "No… not anymore. Sorry, Dipper. I just… I don't have it in me right now." He stuffed his hands in his pockets and sighed, shuffling past his nephew. He reached the gift shop and passed Stanley, who was restocking t-shirts for his tourist trap.
"What happened to you?" Stan asked, raising an eyebrow.
Ford stared at him, not sure what to say. The usual feeling of resentment he got when he looked at his twin wasn't even rising up, he was so disturbed and upset by what Mabel had said. "I… Mabel…" he trailed off and shook his head, giving up and pressing the button on his watch that caused the vending machine to swing out. "I'll be in my lab," he said numbly, trudging behind it and clicking the button on his watch again.
Just before it shut he heard Stan asking frantically, "Wait, Sixer! What happened to Mabel?!"
Left alone, Ford brought a hand to his head and gritted his teeth. "She… she hates me," he whispered, his chest throbbing painfully again.
Upstairs, Mabel collapsed into a heap, sobbing. This settled it. She was a terrible person. She couldn't believe she'd said that to Ford. He didn't deserve that. It wasn't really his fault. She was just upset and lonely and missed her twin, and now she had taken all of that out on him. And she was an awful person.
She didn't know what to do. She felt sick, and everything suddenly hurt. Her stomach was rolling and her heart felt as though it was shriveling up and dying. She sickened herself. She hated herself. She had wanted to hurt someone, but she never should have gone through with it. Especially not in the way she had.
Stan raced as fast as he could towards the stairs, passing Dipper in the living room. "Hey, Kid, is something the matter with your sister?" he inquired, close to panicked. Ford had been irritatingly cryptic back in the shop, and he was terrified something had gotten Mabel.
But Dipper shook his head, his expression dark. "No. She's just being… she's just being dumb."
"What do you mean? Details, Kid," Stan demanded, though his panic was fading. He was still worried, but in a much different way.
Dipper sighed exasperatedly. "She wanted to hang out today, but Grunkle Ford asked for my help on a really important mission and Mabel got mad, and now we're not even going so it doesn't even matter!" He plopped down on the ground with his arms folded over his chest, the anger practically rolling off of him in waves.
Stan groaned and rubbed his temples. He knew tensions had been running high in the Shack for a couple of weeks now, and he supposed all of it had suddenly exploded over everyone, leaving him to clean up the mess of hurt feelings and emotional instability.
Out of everyone he was most concerned for Mabel. Dipper had been content to distract himself on adventures with Ford for a while now, and Mabel had been coping as best she could without her twin. Stan tried to keep her company as often as he could, but he couldn't always be there for her, and certainly not in the way Dipper used to be. He recognized the signs of depression, and he hated to think Mabel, sweet kid that she was, was spiraling into it.
"Stay there," he ordered Dipper, and his nephew scowled up at him but did not protest. Stan sighed and proceeded out of the room, heading up the stairs until he reached the top and knocked on the attic door. "Mabel, sweetie?" he called through the door. He didn't receive an answer. "Mabel, I'm coming in."
He pushed open the door and let his gaze sweep across the room. At first he thought there was nobody there until he heard the sounds of muffled sobbing coming from the closet. "Oh, no," he mumbled, crossing the room and nudging the door open.
Mabel was wrapped up in one of the blankets from her bed, curled up on the floor amidst spare boxes and trembling violently with the intensity of her sobs. Her eyes were squeezed shut and her hands were clapped over her ears, like she was trying to block out the world.
Stan shoved his way into the closet, moving boxes to give him room enough to kneel down next to his great niece. "Mabel, sweetie," he said gently, reaching out a hand and placing it on her shoulder. She jolted and reeled backwards, her hands darting out to swat at his, and he pulled it back as she stared up at him. Her expression was killing him. She looked so broken.
"Mabel," he said again, softly. "It's okay."
Immediately she started shaking her head. "No! No, it's not okay!" she cried, breaking down all over again and burying her face in her arms. "It's not!"
Stan sighed and shifted closer to her, getting his arms beneath her and drawing her into his chest, holding her close. She struggled at first, but as Stan's hold on her tightened, refusing to let her go, her resistance wavered until she was clinging to his shirt, sobbing into his shoulder.
Stan combed fingers through her hair and rubbed the small of her back, letting her cry until her breathing started evening out. "Tell me what's wrong," he said quietly.
Mabel took a few deep breaths, clearly loath to tell him. "I… Dipper promised last night he'd spend time with me," she explained through gasping breaths. Stan held her just a little closer, not wanting her to work herself up again. Mabel swallowed hard. "But Great Uncle Ford this morning asked him to go with him on some monster hunt, and Dipper was going to ditch me again, and… and… and I miss him, Grunkle Stan!" Tears started rolling down her cheeks and she lowered her head, beginning to shake again. "And then… then…"
"Sshh," Stan whispered. "Calm down, then finish, okay?" he pulled her back into him, one hand on the back of her head. "Just breathe, sweetie."
She did, inhaling and exhaling slowly to regain her composure before she looked up at Stan miserably. "Great Uncle Ford came upstairs and I was yelling at Dipper, and then… I told… I told Ford…" she lowered her head again, burying her face back in Stan's shoulder. "I told him I wished I'd pressed the button."
Stan's eyes widened as Mabel fell apart again before he tried to hold her closer than he had before. That must have hurt Ford like a dagger to the heart. No wonder he'd been so distracted and mopey downstairs. Clearly it was destroying his niece, too. "Oh, Mabel," he sighed.
"I'm horrible," Mabel wailed, her voice muffled. Her small hands clutched the fabric of Stan's shirt so tightly her knuckles turned white. "I'm a horrible person!"
"No, you're not," Stan said forcefully, and Mabel looked back up at him. Her eyes were red and puffy and there were tear tracks all down her cheeks.
"You… you don't think I am?" she whispered pitifully.
Stan used one hand to rummage in his pocket for a handkerchief or something, but no such luck. He gave up and instead started brushing Mabel's hair out of her face. "Of course I don't. You're a great person, sweetie."
"But… but Great Uncle Ford… and when you ran for mayor, that… that tie…" she protested miserably, but Stan shushed her again.
"So you've made mistakes. We've all made them. Trust me, sweetie, I know that better than anyone," Stan said, rubbing her shoulders. She was still trembling, and he just wanted her to stop. "Mabel, those things you did don't make you a bad person, okay? You try so hard to be your best. That's what makes you so good."
Mabel wrapped her arms around his neck, starting to cry again. Man, this kid could go on forever. How could she even have so many tears in her? Still, Stan hugged her close. "I love you, Grunkle Stan," Mabel mumbled into the crook of his neck.
"I love you too, sweetie," Stan whispered, letting her cry it out again.
As Dipper sat in the living room, his anger slowly subsided. He was so upset with Mabel for ruining his day out with Grunkle Ford, but more and more he started wondering what his sister did when he left her alone. She said she played with Waddles a lot, which he knew she probably enjoyed, but he bet it was still lonely with just a pig to run around with.
And he had promised, he realized with a sinking feeling in his gut. He'd said the very words. I promise I'll hang out with your tomorrow. And Mabel had been so happy when he'd said that. So reneging on his promise… he had probably destroyed her.
Oh, god. It was his fault. Not hers. The fight. He'd deserved her yelling and her anger. He'd caused it.
When he heard Stan coming back down the stairs, he stood up, intending to go up and see Mabel himself, but was surprised to see her follow their great uncle into the living room, looking sheepish. She bit her lip as she stared at her brother. "I… um… I'm sorry," she mumbled, her eyes downcast.
Dipper shook his head. "No. You don't have to—"
But she wouldn't stop talking. "I know you love spending time with Great Uncle Ford, and we only have a couple weeks left before we go home, and we can hang out all the time after that, so I shouldn't have—"
"Mabel, stop," Dipper exclaimed, starting forward, and she did. "It wasn't your fault," Dipper admitted. "I made a promise. I shouldn't have tried to break it."
The corners of Mabel's lips twitched up. "So you want to hang out?"
"Yeah," Dipper smiled back. "Um… awkward sibling hug?"
She nodded and held out her arms. "Awkward sibling hug." She embraced her twin and they each patted one another's backs twice at the same time before drawing back, laughing slightly.
"So, what do you want to do?" Dipper asked. "We could play that board game we found in the closet last week."
Mabel smiled. "Yeah. But, um…" she looked towards the door that would lead to the gift shop. "There's something I need to do first."
Ford sat at the desk in his lab holding his head, mulling over Mabel's words. He couldn't decide if she'd meant them or not, but she'd sounded angry enough that is was possible she had. He hadn't been able to see her face, but that may not have helped anyway. Thirty years away from this dimension had made him lose his ability to skillfully read facial expressions.
He genuinely liked Mabel, which is why her words had hurt him so much. He may not have spent much time with her, but she was always an adorable ball of positivity and energy, and he liked that. He liked knowing there was at least one optimistic, cheerful person in his family.
But now he wasn't so sure. The girl upstairs who had said some of the only words in any dimension that could truly destroy him was not a cheerful ball of positivity. She was stony and cold, and sad. Even worse, he knew he had deserved her lashing out, at least just a little. He had been taking her brother away from her constantly, and he hadn't given it any thought until today. It was something he had always struggled with – thinking past his own feelings and trying to see the world from someone else's point of view.
When he heard the elevator kick into gear he didn't turn around. The doors slid open and he sighed, his head down with his eyes trained on one of the papers on his desk. "I told you, Dipper, we're not going."
"I know. Dipper told me," the small voice came from behind him, and Ford jolted and swiveled around in his chair to look at Mabel. She had clearly been crying recently, as her eyes were red and slightly swollen. She looked more than a little scared as she chewed on her bottom lip, staring at the floor.
Ford stood up at once, crossing the room to her. "Mabel, I… I'm not sure what to say," he said awkwardly, kneeling down next to her.
Tears were welling fast in her eyes, and Ford was slightly startled when she flung herself forward into him, wrapping him in a hug as she started crying. "I'm so sorry, Great Uncle Ford!" she apologized desperately through her tears. "It was an awful thing to say to you and I… I feel so bad about it!"
Ford slowly wrapped his arms around her, hesitantly rubbing her back. "It's okay," he mumbled. He was just so relieved she didn't hate him. "It's okay. I forgive you, Mabel. Of course I forgive you. And I'm sorry, too."
Mabel pulled away, her eyes big and weepy. "For… for what?"
Ford sighed and pulled her back into him. It had been so long since he'd hugged anyone. He'd forgotten how nice it felt. "I've been selfish, Mabel. I know that. I'm sorry for splitting you and Dipper up so much. I'll try to spread out our adventures in the future."
Mabel sniffled and nodded, burying her face in his jacket. She was still crying.
"Mabel, is there something else bothering you?" Ford asked, growing concerned. "Because I'll listen if – if you want me to."
He heard Mabel's breaths hitch and felt her muscles tense. She let out a shaky exhale. "Um…n-no…"
"Mabel," he insisted gently. Now he definitely knew something else was wrong. He pulled away from her, keeping both hands on her shoulders. "You can talk to me."
She stared down at the floor, nervously rubbing one arm. "I just… I think there's something… wrong. With me," she whispered.
"What do you mean?"
She squeezed her eyes shut. Clearly, saying what was wrong aloud was painful for her. "I used to be so happy. I used to love the person I was, but now… I'm just lonely. All the time," she admitted, wiping at her eyes as more tears fell. "And it doesn't matter if I'm with Dipper or Grunkle Stan or my friends. I still feel alone. And I hate it. I hate… I hate myself." She let out a choked sob and Ford immediately drew her back into him as she broke down. "I hate being mad all the time!" she wept into his shoulder. "But I can't turn it off! Just – nothing helps, Grunkle Ford! Not even Waddles or knitting or art… I can't make it stop, and I want it to stop, but it won't!"
Ford shushed her, placing his hand on the small of her back and trying to hold her as tight as he could. She had called him "Grunkle." It was a term she'd always reserved for Stanley, and now she had awarded him the title. It had to mean something. That she trusted him, at the very least. Maybe even that she loved him. It made Ford that much more desperate to help her.
"Mabel," he said softly. "I'm not going to tell you that you shouldn't feel all these things because… well, I understand what it's like to feel all these things."
"You do?" the voice was muffled, but the confusion in it was clearly conveyed.
"I do," he sighed, rubbing her back again. "Feelings like that still creep up on me. It's why I try to stay so busy. It's… well, it's why I like spending time with Dipper. It's good to be around people when you feel these sorts of things."
"You could spend time with me," Mabel mumbled, and Ford flinched. She wasn't wrong. Sometimes he intentionally avoided her because he saw so much of Stanley in her. But he had to remind himself she wasn't his brother. She was her own person, and the person she was he found wonderful. He just found it easier to approach Dipper, for some reason.
"Grunkle Ford?" Mabel asked, her face still buried in his shoulder. "Do you… I mean… do you like me?"
Ford's heart lurched. She doubted that? "Of course I like you, Mabel," he assured her at once. If he could hold her any tighter, he would. "You're a wonderful girl. I like you a lot."
"But you don't want to spend any time with me."
He hadn't felt true guilt in a long time, but he recognized the knot in his stomach. "That's not true," he said. "I know I've been distant, but that's not because I don't want to spend time with you. I'd really like to spend time with you."
"So why don't you?" Her questions just got harder and harder, it seemed.
Ford swallowed back a groan. "I don't… it isn't as… easy," he admitted with a heavy sigh as he started running his fingers through her hair. That was comforting, right? "Dipper is very similar to me, so it makes it easier, I suppose."
Mabel pulled back just enough to look him in the eye. "And you think I'm like Grunkle Stan?" she asked thickly. "Is that why it's harder to hang out with me?"
She was perceptive, that was for sure. She could read people much better than he ever could. As much as he wanted to hide the truth from her, he knew he couldn't. "Stanley and you do share some similarities," he sighed, feeling guiltier and guiltier. "But it's my fault for not being able to see past them, Mabel. Not yours."
Mabel rested her cheek against his shoulder. She had stopped shaking at long last, which was a small comfort to Ford. "I'm sorry, Grunkle Ford," she whispered again.
He shut his eyes, lowering his head so his brow rested in the crook between her neck and shoulder. "I'm sorry too, Mabel," he apologized softly. "Really, I am."
The pair stayed that way for a few moments, recovering from the emotional upheaval in silence until Mabel finally whispered, "Do you want to hang out with me and Dipper today?"
Ford chuckled and pulled back, still keeping hands on Mabel's shoulders. "You want me to?" he asked.
She nodded and wiped a lingering tear off her cheek. "Yeah. I… I want to spend time with you too, Grunkle Ford. And Dipper would like it if you were there, and maybe we can even get Grunkle Stan to play with us if you're okay with—"
She was cut short by Ford wrapping her into another abrupt hug, and he was glad to hear her let out a small noise of contentment. "You really are a wonderful person, Mabel," he said. She didn't answer, and he knew based on what she had told him that she was skeptical about that. He didn't try to convince her. That would only make her feel worse about herself. So instead he offered, "And if you ever feel alone, well… you can always come down here and keep me company. We can be alone together."
He heard her sniffle before she mumbled. "Okay. I'd… I'd like that."
"Do you want to go back upstairs now?" he asked, and she nodded. He squeezed her to him one last time before he let her go and stood up, helping Mabel to her feet. "So, what are we going to do today?"
At long last, she smiled and grabbed his hand. "All sorts of things!" she said, leading him to the elevator. "We found a board game in the closet we're going to play and we might start a water balloon fight—"
As she went on to explain all the possibilities their day could hold, Ford felt himself starting to grin. She would be okay.
They all would.
I pounded this out in about two hours. Basically just a way to de-stress in the midst of studying for an O Chem exam and an Econ test, both which I have this week. I'm still working on "When I Fall" chapter 15, I promise, but it's slower going.
Please review, and thanks for reading!
(p.s. I had a lot of anxiety over posting this because Mabel is getting so much hate lately, but I still love her and will defend her always because she is a precious cinnamon roll, albeit one who has made several terrible mistakes, and is showing early signs of depression and I am very scared for her.)