Didja miss me? Admit it, you missed me.
"Hey, kid! You're near the fridge, grab the butter, will ya?"
"Grunkle Staaan! You didn't clean the cups right again!"
"I apologize, Mabel, that was me."
"Grunkle Stan, I don't see any butter in here. Only margarine."
"Kid, just give it here. Stop bein' a wise guy."
The kitchen bustled with energy, four different figures weaving around each other in an attempt to continue their routines for the morning. The scent of Stancakes and bacon wafted through the air. The sound of sizzling meat and the blender preparing the day's worth of Mabel juice was a cacophony, shouting words necessary to be heard. Sunlight streamed through the window, bathing the kitchen in bright yellow light. The storm clouds had long since passed, Soos had already gotten to work clearing out the gutters, and the mud puddles were slowly disappearing.
Stan grumbled under his breath as he flipped a pancake in the skillet, nearly elbowing Mabel in the face as she passed by with a container of glitter and a bag of plastic dinosaurs. He approved silently when Ford reached over from pouring a glass of orange juice to pluck the items from her hands and shake his head no. Dipper wove under his arm, the Journal in one hand and a banana in the other before he clambered up onto a kitchen seat. As busy as the kitchen tended to get, the energy resonating through the room was welcoming, a decent start for the day. It was better than waking up alone like he had months prior, Stan figured.
"Alright, let me just announce my plans for the day," Ford spoke once the blender stopped, and he eyed Mabel as she struggled to reach up to pour her drink into a glass, her bulky cast restricting her to a one-handed grip. The heavy blender wobbled in her hand, and Dipper abandoned his book to rush over to help her. "No, no, I got it!" Mabel insisted vehemently, but Dipper assisted anyway.
"If you're gonna warn me about possibly makin' the Shack combust," Stan began, flipping the last pancake onto a plate before shutting off the stove. "I'm puttin' a stop t' whatever crazy experiment it is you're doin'."
"I wasn't aware the substance was volatile to combustion! At least I took the precaution, even if-" Ford huffed, pushing up his glasses while grabbing his cup of orange juice and sliding into a seat beside the twins. "Anyway. I need those over-the-counter pills, however cheap they are, so I can work on those. And perhaps stock them for any later times."
"No one else is breakin' a bone here," Stan huffed, snapping down the plate of Stancakes in the middle of the table. Mabel reached over and dragged one on her plate before swiping up the syrup, and Dipper only glanced at the food in barely hidden disgust. "In fact, the amount of injuries in this place is skyrocketin' like nobody's business."
"I thought you were all about toughening us up," Dipper commented as his sister poured a copious amount of syrup over her breakfast. Ford slammed his orange juice down and quickly confiscated the bottle once the lake of syrup overflowed across the table and into his lap, and Mabel smiled at him sheepishly.
"Toughenin' ya up is one thing. Makin' me have t' think of more excuses for your parents is another," Stan stated, pointing a finger at the boy twin. "In fact, smart mouth, if that banana is all your eatin', go buy Ford those pills if ya got nothin' else better t' do." The businessman withdrew a ten dollar bill from his suit sleeve, staring at it reluctantly before throwing it Dipper's way and taking his seat. "Chop chop."
"Aw, Grunkle Stan," Dipper complained, shooting his Grunkle a reprouchful look as he caught the money. "I don't wanna go out now. I've decided to research more about the caves a mile or two in the north now that the rain's stopped! Mabel and I ran into those a while ago, but we didn't have time to investigate and-"
"Those are only temporary living grounds for the eyebats," Ford informed over his pancake, as Stan glanced over with coffee mug in hand. "And besides, they start migrating this time of year. All you'll find are some empty caves and perhaps a squirrel carcass or two."
"Oh. Ew." Mabel made a face as Stan triumphantly looked over at his nephew before jabbing a thumb towards the front door. "Out."
With a grumble, Dipper slid off his chair and stalked out of the kitchen, tugging his hat brim over his eyes. The front door slammed, and Stan rolled his eyes as he swallowed more of his morning coffee. He had a feeling he'd be draining the whole pot before the Shack even opened.
"And as for me!" Mabel shot up in her seat, the pancakes somehow already gone from her plate, or perhaps just dissolved completely in all the syrup. "Grenda and Candy invited me over! Grenda just got the new copy of Life with a Wolf Boyfriend and I just need to read it! It's a life-threatening situation, Grunkles!"
"Will you be alright with your cast?" Stan gestured to the clunky object in question, and Mabel grinned in his direction and lifted it up. "Yes! It's alright, Grunkle Stan, I think I can work with it! 'Sides, look! Grunkle Ford and Dipper even signed it!" She pointed to the signatures scrawled on the surface, tapping both before hopping from her chair. "I'll be back later!"
"Be back 'fore lunch. Last thing I need is ya t' be cryin' around the house in pain again. It disturbs my TV time."
Mabel nodded before zooming out of the kitchen, the door slamming shut in the same manner as her brother's, but more out of haste than anger.
"...you just hate seeing her in pain," Ford pointed out from his place near the counter, pouring a mug of coffee, and keeping it black as he chugged half of it down.
"Sure. Whatever." Stan scrubbed at the stubble on his jaw before tossing back the rest of his own coffee. He placed the mug back down with a thunk and waved a hand at his twin. "Now since I've got even a semblance of peace and quiet, get lost. I'd like eatin' my breakfast in peace."
"It's going to take more than gestures to chase me away," Ford assured, leaning on the counter with mug in hand. "Besides, I figured you might want to know the project I'm currently working on. Fourth of July is approaching, and pretty much in all dimensions, children adored fireworks. Well...dimension 481 was nothing more than a white expanse of nothingness, but I'm sure-"
"If ya think I'm gonna buy these kids expensive things just t' blow up..." Stan glanced at the newspaper in the middle of the table, the dreaded holiday ad displaying triple digits. "...you've got another thing comin'. I ain't spendin' hundreds of dollars on fireworks, and neither are you!"
"I wasn't going to propose that idea," Ford continued. "I know you don't believe it Stanley, but we're all well aware of your cheapness."
"Of course, I could get some nifty fireworks at a discount," Stan pointed out, musing as he rubbed his jaw. "Though, you'd gotta lift that whole no-more-buying-illegal-objects rule."
"I believe that was Mabel's idea, banning illegal activity for...what'd she say, a month?" Ford took a sip of coffee. "And for all of our safety, that rule is staying. No, you see, the project I've been working on is free of charge. Homemade fireworks!"
"I thought our safety was in consideration here," Stan grumbled, dragging the remaining Stancakes in front of him.
"No, Stanley, listen! I've managed to form some good creations!" Ford excitedly moved to the table, standing over the newspaper and its colorful ad with trademark red-white-and-blue palette. "My fireworks will be three times as brilliant as the manufactured type. They're a breeze to make, really. Gunpowder isn't too hard to get..." He paused, catching the pointed look from his twin. "...mind you, I acquired that long before Mabel's rule. Some sodium compounds, copper, a couple fuses, it's already half constructed! And this was one of those times I took very careful consideration regarding lab safety, if you're oh-so-concerned."
Stan sent his twin a reproachful look. "Ya know, making fireworks is illegal too."
"Or you could buy them." Ford shrugged, feeling triumphant at the face his brother made at the cruel suggestion. "But you and I both know, the children are going to want fireworks. Honestly, it'd be terrible not to indulge them. They've been through quite a lot the past few weeks."
"Yeah, someone takin' Dipper hostage. Never gonna live that down." Stan sighed over his coffee mug, avoiding his twin's gaze. "Go ahead, use your stupid nerd inventions."
"Yes!" Ford grabbed his coffee, taking off down the hall. Stan could hear his twin open the vending machine door, then promptly trip and roll down the stairs. He stuck a fork into his stack of pancakes, watching out of the corner of his eye as Waddles wandered in.
"...ya know, you're honestly the easiest one t' deal with," Stan confessed as he stuck a piece of pancake in his mouth.
Waddles only blinked in response.
"Look at THIS one, Dipstick! That one looks awesome! Ooh, and these ones are shaped like little tanks! And this one's pink and blue! Complimentary colors, Dip!"
Mabel knelt on the living room floor, a fireworks catalogue spread out before her, a green gel pen in her useable hand that she used to circle her favorites. No one questioned how exactly she got it in her possession, but the explanation most likely had Wendy involved. Dipper was draped across Stan's yellow armchair, solving a crossword puzzle and scratching at his ear with the eraser of his pencil. "Don't call me Dipstick," he merely commented before filling in one of his answers.
"Lookit this one! It's two hundred bucks, but sooo worth it!" Mabel pointed at the picture with her pen, turning back towards her inattentive brother. Her wide smile dropped at his lack of excitement. "Dipperrr, you're not looking!"
"Why would I want to, Mabel?" Dipper studied the puzzle for a second before jotting something down. "It's not like Grunkle Stan is gonna let us buy anything like that. So much as ten bucks will give him a heart attack."
"Just about anything nowadays could give him a heart attack," Mabel quipped, adjusting her cast. The pain had thankfully abided, but now she was laden with the burden of the extra weight.
"Besides," Dipper continued, peering at his sister over his work. "If I'd look at it, I'd want it, but I'm never getting it. It's torture in its own way."
"Wellll, maybe Grunkle Ford can buy something!" Mabel countered hopefully, flipping a page with a flourish. "These sparklers are pretty. And only three bucks! Aaaand you and I both know our Grunkles still wanna spoil us."
"Not us. You. Spoil you." Dipper filled in his last answer, before setting the puzzle down. "You're the one with a broken arm."
Before Mabel could argue, the gift shop door flew open by the swift kick of a person's boot. None other than Ford bounded in, his arms laden with a heavy-looking cardboard box. Both twins focused on it, their eyes widened simultaneously.
"Did somebody say fireworks?!" Ford declared, glancing alternatively at the twins through lopsided glasses.
"No," Dipper intoned.
"Oh." Ford sounded disappointed. "Well, that would've been perfect." He started for the foyer, and Mabel immediately scrambled to her feet, her catalogue forgotten. "Did you buy fireworks?! Big ones?"
"No I did not, my dear," Ford replied, looking over his shoulder towards the girl twin. "I made fireworks. And before you ask, these have been marked as a scientific experiment and are in no way illegal."
"Who cares, it's fireworks!" Mabel cheered, as Dipper arched an eyebrow at the mysterious box. "Uh, Grunkle Ford? Normally, I'm not one to question your, uh, experiments, but-"
"Door, please," Ford rang out, standing before the front door. Mabel stood in a flash and obliged, watching Ford stride through before following immediately after. Dipper stammered, only slightly peeved at being ignored before he slid off the chair and followed them outside.
The sun was just beginning to set, dipping below the treetops, with the wooded landscape washed with brilliant orange hues. Mabel skipped around the dead lawn as Ford carefully set down the box with an unusual gentleness. Dipper tripped off the porch and rushed to his Grunkle's side, looking steadily more nervous.
"A-as I was saying, normally I don't criticize your stuff but don't you think this is a bit-"
"Oh, you never criticize my experiments, Dipper!" Ford assured. He withdrew a knife from his boot and slid it across the box flaps, tearing the tape. "To be fair, you often don't know enough to criticize correctly."
"...ouch," Dipper murmured, as Ford opened up the box with an exuberant grin. "But, uh, isn't this a bit dan-"
"It is fireworks!" Mabel hopped forward, banging shoulders with her brother as she studied the contents of the box. Ford proudly lifted objects out, setting them up on the dry lawn. He finally revealed one of the fireworks, painted a bold and brilliant red that contrasted sharply with the yellow grass. The fuse snaked over Ford's boot, and he looked immensely concentrated as he worked.
"It's a brilliant invention," he proudly explained, patting the thing like it was a cherished pet. "I've conducted a recipe from a far more advanced dimension. Gunpowder that's been enhanced, it can blow this baby for miles."
"Like in the movies!" Mabel gasped.
"But...can it blow a limb off?" Dipper meekly added, taking a step back and eyeing the firework like it'd bite him. "Grunkle Ford, I don't think this is a good idea!"
"All ideas are good ideas!" Mabel proposed, pointing at her brother accusingly.
"But it isn't!" Dipper pressed. "Mabel, you've already got a broken arm! I don't want you to lose a hand or something to a firework!" The boy hesitated, finally noticing Ford's concerned stare. "L-like, I totally trust you, Grunkle Ford, but..." The child straightened his back like a soldier demanding authority. "I don't condone this!"
Ford awkwardly scratched the back of his neck, feeling unusually chastised. His gaze flickered down to the firework in question, his frown deepening. "Ah...Dipper, I did this to make you and your sister happy." He hesitated when the boy didn't reply. "...it's a gift."
"Well...th-thank you." Dipper placed his hands on his hips, ignoring his sister's indignant noise. "But I'm not happy. Like, we really really appreciate it, but Mabel's already hurt! We just...shouldn't take risks is all!"
"You never wanna take any risks!" Mabel bit, her chipper attitude dwindling. "C'mon, Dip, everything in this place is dangerous!" She gestured to the woods, the Shack, their entire surroundings. "Anyone remember that near-apocalypse we had? 'Cause I sure do!"
"We don't need something else added to the mix, something that could blow you to pieces!" Dipper shot back vehemently, his anger making him quick in firing back.
"Oh, what do you know?!"
"That this is ridiculous! You're hurt!"
"I can take care of myself, Dipstick!"
"Alright, alright, settle down!" Ford stood between the twins, the children holding identical fighting stances. He wasn't sure if they ever actually physically quarreled, but he wasn't going to take chances. "Dipper, I promise you, if anything happens, I won't let you two get hurt. It's up to you if you want to help me set it off...but if you don't, I understand."
"I don't," The boy huffed.
"I do!" Mabel hastily fought in. She stuck her tongue out at her brother and Dipper promptly stuck his out in return.
"See, that's settled!" Ford clapped his hands together in fake glee, a false hopeful smile on his face. "No more arguments here!"
Dipper glared and Mabel huffed, but the argument ended there. After a beat, Mabel lifted her head, showing off puppy-dog eyes. "So...can I set it off?"
"Of course you can!" Upon hearing Ford's approval, Dipper spun on his heel and stomped back into the house. Mabel paid no attention to her moody brother, only giving him a single backwards glance before stooping down to the firework, balancing her cast on her knees. She gave the item a small poke. "Is it big?"
"Spectacular!" Ford assured, pulling a box of matches from his pocket.
Stan wandered into the living room with a Pitt Cola in one hand and a rolled up newspaper in the other, muttering under his breath about the latest profit margin. Upon his entrance, he paused, finding Dipper curled up on his yellow TV chair, the kid angrily glaring at the upholstery like it had personally pissed him off. Stan only waved his paper at the boy twin, his tone dry. "Yeah, gotta get rid of that weird lump in the couch."
When that didn't elicit a response from the kid, Stan heaved a sigh and approached. "Alright, kid, what's wrong? You're not one to mope around the house like this, that's Ford's job."
"S'nothing," Dipper grumbled, not even looking up as he tugged at the brim of his cap. "I'm fine."
"Don't believe ya." Stan waved his paper a bit more menacingly. "Spill it, or I'll smack ya."
Dipper seemed to consider the circumstances, before his pout intensified. "Grunkle Ford," he huffed, finally stretching himself out and facing Stan. "It's Grunkle Ford. He's got a box of...some kinda fireworks, and he didn't let me help!"
"Help set them up, or help make them?" Stan's tone was undoubtedly bitter, and he sounded displeased at his brother's latest invention.
"Yes," Dipper answered before sprawling back on the couch.
"He told me about it since morning, so don't be a killjoy, runt. He wanted it to be a surprise," Stan informed, glad to see the kid's eyes lift with sparkling curiosity and some form of assurance. "It's not a personal attack on ya, promise. Besides, making fireworks isn't something you oughta know."
Dipper's nose wrinkled at his Grunkle's words. "But you taught us counterfeiting, lock picking, hot wiring, the art of bank robbing in ten easy lessons-"
"Those could help you someday," Stan hastily interrupted. "Making weird inventions on the other hand, not so much."
Dipper snorted at that, but he pressed his cheek against the armchair and crossed his arms in the vague form of a pout. As good as a pout the kid could make anyway, nestled in the chair cushion. "And I just don't feel so good about it. I mean...I mean, I trust him, I do! I have to, he's my Grunkle, but what if something goes wrong?"
"You say that about everything, kid," Stan stated, taking a long sip of his soda.
"But it's true," Dipper insisted, his voice nearing a full-on whine. "Mabel already broke her arm. And now Ford's using some inter-dimensional gunpowder? Like, I'm all for personifications, but fireworks are terrifying, I got burned once! I mean, it was a sparkler and Mabel just got too close, but this is different! It's combustible and dangerous and insane-"
"Hold the phone." Stan set a firm hand on Dipper's head, squishing the kid's hat down. "...what did ya say about the gunpowder?" There was a beat of silence, as Dipper seemed wary of spilling the details. "Don't tell me that idiot went ahead and strayed from the book again."
Dipper stayed quiet.
"...well?" Stan slightly shook the boy twin's head. "Spill it, kid."
"But you told me not to tell you," Dipper replied in a thin voice, watching the horror wash over his Grunkle's face. "...is this bad? Please don't tell me it's bad."
Stan couldn't reply.
Both Grunkle and nibling were suddenly tossed to the floor as a huge blast echoed outside, reverberating throughout the trees. Screams rose, utterly frantic, and there was a beat before something crashed and the yells spiked in volume.
"...it's bad," Stan deadpanned.
They scrambled up from the floor, making the journey into the yard within seconds. Dipper screamed Mabel's name, stopping short once he reached the porch.
Multiple pine trees were thoroughly engulfed in flames, and a blaze was devouring the dead grass, approaching the Shack at a terrifying pace. Smoke filled the air in a gray haze, the scent of the wood burning something neither inhabitant had caught in a while.
"Mabel!" Dipper cried, intensely wishing it was only wood that was burning. Stan rushed for the hose, as Dipper leapt off the porch and raced through the grass, scanning the area for his sister. "Mabel, answer me!"
There was only the foreboding crackling of the burning trees above. He scanned the surroundings, trying to determine where the two could've hid while waiting for the blast. The woods seemed to be the only option, a good distance from where the firework had set off (a spot Stan was dousing in water and rapidly cursing at) and his heart sunk. If Mabel was there, she was directly underneath the trees, so close to the fire she surely had to be injured.
"Mabel, I'm coming!" Dipper hurried over, the heat rolling towards him in waves, and he coughed as the acrid smoke filled his lungs. Stan shouted after him, but the boy twin ignored his Grunkle, venturing into the closest brush and gasping for air.
Burning cinders swirled around him like snowflakes, the crackling nearly deafening. The trees were only a few feet away now, the fire so close he felt as if his eyebrows were singeing off. He desperately searched the area, digging through bushes, hoping he could catch a glimpse of a bright sweater or tan trench coat. Oh god, were those things flammable? Oh god, surely they couldn't have burnt away into nothingness! He would've noticed!
The fire raged, beginning to jump to other trees, and he found himself becoming steadily surrounded. Sirens shrieked in the distance, but he was only focused in finding Mabel amongst the brush. Any tears gathering at the corners of his eyes evaporated with the heat, and his face burned. He was slow-cooking really, he had to get out, but Mabel...
Oh, god, he was already hearing her voice.
"Dipper, we're over here!"
He was going insane, wasn't he? He was going to slowly wither away...
"Dipper, you doof, answer me!"
His back straightened and his head swiveled back towards the Shack. There his sister was, nestled in the arms of Grunkle Ford. The two of them were ash-ridden, black streaks covering their clothes, but they were alive, certainly alive. Dipper felt relief flood over him, even with the fire around him. They'd made it, and that's what mattered.
"Dipper!" Ford snapped, his voice resonating through the crackling of the fire before he deposited Mabel on the floor and began running in Dipper's direction. "Dipper, come back, it's too dangerous! You need to-"
An ear-splitting crack sliced through the air, sending a shock of energy through Dipper's spine. The boy stepped a pace to the side and raised his head in panic.
A limb from the tree above him fell towards him, completely on fire. Once it hit him, everything went black.
"This place smells weird."
Stan strode through the hospital's hall, his shoes squeaking against the linoleum and echoing down the blindingly white path. He shut his mouth, looking out of the corner of his eyes to see both his brother and Mabel glaring in his direction.
"What?!" Stan defended, throwing his arms in a helpless shrug. "It does!"
"Be sensitive, Stanley," Ford admonished, shifting his hold on Mabel as they turned a corner. The young girl had been in his arms for the past hour...hour and a half? Maybe even two. With Dipper being whisked away in an ambulance, and the rest of the family forbidden from going with, the ride had felt far too long.
Mabel shifted her cast, wearily laying her head on Ford's shoulders as they entered the elevator. Stan confirmed the floor with Ford, then punched the right button, and they ascended to the children's ward.
"He's okay, right?" Mabel's voice was thin, and she sniffed hard at the incoming tears. She regretted the action, since all she got was a whiff of smoke from Ford's coat.
"He'll be fine," Ford assured. "His burns were first-degree. The only things past saving are his clothes."
"I'm not payin' for that," Stan mumbled. "In fact, once that kid can walk, we're bailing this joint. I'm not paying that medical bill."
"I'll pay," Ford sighed, as the elevator doors opened, revealing colorful walls decorated with countless murals. They walked forward as Ford grumbled. "Was mostly my fault anyway."
"It was," Stan bit, sounding fully annoyed. "Seriously, Sixer? Inter-dimensional gunpowder?"
"It seemed a good idea at the time!" Ford countered, but was promptly shut up as Mabel slammed a hand against his face. He made a small noise of protest as Mabel shrieked and pointed. "Stop! There, room 56!"
"I thought it was 65," Stan voiced.
"Well, it's not," Mabel snapped. "It's 56, I know it, they said those exact numbers! Also, that's the number for how many pancakes we ate in one sitting, I remember, so that's gotta be it!"
"Well, you're the genius here, kiddo." Stan gestured to the door as Ford lowered the child to the ground. "Go on ahead."
Mabel twisted the doorknob and pushed her way in, already calling her brother's name before she even passed the threshold. Stan and Ford mutely followed, watching as the girl immediately bounded to the bed.
"Mabel!" Dipper was awake and surprisingly alert, sitting in the hospital bed almost resignedly. His floppy hair hung over his eyes, the ends singed and uneven, his hospital gown hanging off of him as if it were two sizes too big. His torso and arms were covered in sterile fabric, the red burns on his skin looking painful, but he accepted Mabel's hug nonetheless with a happy smile. The twins embraced for a solid ten seconds, and Ford had to carefully extract Mabel without hurting Dipper further.
"Nice place ya got here," Stan said, eyes scanning the baby blue room with animal motifs on every fabric surface. Even Dipper's gown was covered in the cutesy design. "And by nice, I mean the exact opposite."
Dipper offered a lopsided smile, his slightly singed eyebrows making him look even goofier. "I'll manage."
"How're you feeling? Are you doing okay? Do you need water, soup, another hug?" Mabel pressed against the bed's mattress, her cast pushing against her brother's leg.
"Fine. Yes. No, no, and for now, no." Dipper painfully brushed his fingers against his arm, past the burn cream slathered onto the more milder areas. "How about you? You didn't get hurt, did you?"
"I'm not the one in a hospital bed, silly." Mabel propped her chin on her hand.
"How long did you guys wait?" Dipper finally turned to his Grunkles, noting the exhausted expressions on both their faces. "It's already night. I think we've been here a while."
"A very long while. The doctors wouldn't let us in or tell us much for a good chunk of time there," Stan informed, sounding peeved. "Do you remember anythin', kid? Any event back there ya can piece together?"
"I know it was that firework that started it," Dipper assured, shifting against the dotted pillow propping him up. "And I ran into the forest looking for you guys and something fell. But everything after that is just a blur. I think I passed out, because I feel like the next time I woke up, I was in this bed."
"Well, I guess that's kinda good. You skipped most of the bad parts." Stan rubbed his chin, giving a look towards Ford. When his twin stayed silent, Stan continued. "Ford reached ya right when that branch fell, so he hoisted that thing off and rolled off the flames off whatever clothes ya had. That vest of yours is a goner."
"Aw, man." Dipper huffed.
"But it's a miracle he reached ya at the right time. First-degree burns, you're pretty darn lucky given those circumstances."
"And Stan doused you with the hose!" Mabel added. "Well, he sprayed all of us, but mostly you."
"That explains the damp hair." Dipper ran his hands through the hair in question before pausing. His eyes flickered up, gaze landing on a rather silent Ford. "So you saved my life."
Ford gave a humorless laugh, waving a hand from his crossed-arms position. "No, Dipper. That fire was my fault alone. If anything, I dumped you in the problem, then pulled you back out like I oughta. It was mandatory, really."
"But you saved me," Dipper insisted, and Mabel looked concerned as he gaze shifted between the two. "You saved Mabel! You still got us both out, I think that's worthy enough of a thanks."
"Not entirely." Ford scratched his chin, feeling as if his family's gazes made him shrink. It wasn't pleasant. "You were right. I shouldn't have tried creating fireworks out of all things. Should've done some sparklers or something instead, would've been a far more...safer route."
"And less all...destroying nature-y," Mabel pointed out.
"Regardless of my heroic actions, I don't deserve any praise." Ford tugged at his collar, knowing Stan's eyes were boring into him. "I put you two in danger, again, and I'm sorry. I think I'm...I might reside to the bunker for a while from here on out."
"What?! Why?!" Both twins cried in unison, Mabel closing her exclamation with a gasp.
"You've sustained enough injuries, and this has proven I'm most dangerous!" Ford insisted. "Mabel already broke her arm, and now you're in the hospital out of all things...I couldn't bear it if I caused further harm. So it's settled. I'm moving into the bunker until the summer's over."
Ford finally cast a glance at Stan, catching the sour look on his brother's face. Stan's glare was icy, his scowl displaying enough disapproval at the idea.
"Are you stupid?"
Surprisingly, that comment didn't come from Stan.
Both brothers turned back to the bed, finding Dipper glaring at the two of them with a look he only could've inherited. Mabel looked just as annoyed, her cheeks puffed in irritation, one arm over her cast in the substitution of a pout.
"...excuse me?" Ford weakly replied.
"Are you stupid?" Dipper repeated, with absolutely no sympathy. "Like...that's not the answer to this!"
"Definitely not!" Mabel added.
"You're our reckless and crazy Grunkles, this kind of stuff is bound to happen at some point. With the town we're in, I'm surprised we came this far without being landed in a hospital really."
"It's a miracle!"
"But even if you guys unintentionally hurt us..." Dipper paused, as if pondering over his words. "...we still love you. A lot. And we'd miss you if you decided to isolate yourselves off somewhere, like it'd help us."
"Because it won't!"
"And all we gotta do here on out is be a bit more careful. But it's okay, 'cause we forgive you for anything you guys did, including today, and we'll just try to be less clumsy ourselves. So you can't leave us! You've gotta stay at the Shack, like it or not!"
"And so is decreed!" Mabel pounded her fist on the mattress and Dipper nodded in her direction. "Thank you, Mabel."
"Well..." Stan hesitated, looking over at Ford, who looked a cross between stunned and fighting not to cry. "...ya know what, we can't fight against a Mabel law."
"No, we certainly can't." Ford swiped at an eye under his glasses, clearing his throat upon his brother's look. "The, uh. The chemicals of the floor cleaner are irritating, is all!"
"C'mon, bring it in!" Mabel held out her free arm and Dipper held out his, a clear invitation.
The four hugged, erupting into laughs and giggles and declarations of happiness. Stan tousled Dipper's hair and Ford kissed the top of Mabel's forehead and thanked her genuinely. Eventually, the four broke upon Dipper's squeaks of pain.
There was a beat of silence.
"...I was serious about bailing," Stan informed.
"Can you walk?" Ford addressed Dipper.
"I think so."
Soon, the four Pines members were rushing into the parking lot with alarms blaring behind them, piling into Stan's car, and taking off down the road in a mariachi-music-blasting blur.