A Happier Time

By Aoikami Sarah

Chapter 1

In the aftermath of Weirdmageddon, most folks went home to their magically restored houses, pulled their loved ones close and went almost immediately to sleep. The Pines family was together, but both their home and their patriarch were in ruin. Once they discovered his memories could be teased back from oblivion, they quickly and happily set to work restoring his identity.

Mabel turned the page. "And this is the time we lost the Shack to Gideon and had to crash at Soos's Grandma's house!" she chimed.

Soos gasped. "Oh man! I gotta go check on my Abuelita! The last time I saw her she was a recliner!" He took a few steps toward the door then a few back toward Stan. "I… uh…"

"Go. Take care of your gramma," Stan waved at him almost dismissively, just as he would have had he had his senses.

Soos beamed at him. "You got it, Mr. Pines! I'll be back tomorrow, first thing!" Dipper and Mabel hugged him, Ford thanked him, and he wound his way through the detritus and out of the shack. As the heavyset young man passed through the doorway, a piece of crown moulding clattered to the floor and Ford sighed. Although it was only just getting dark, they were all considerably more exhausted than they had ever been. "Ok, no one goes upstairs," he ordered. "We'll sleep in the basement for safety's sake." He asked the children to gather as many blankets and pillows from the first floor as they could muster and take them to the second basement level. Once they were out of sight, Ford pulled a chair up in front of the dilapidated yellow arm chair and sat heavily in front of his brother. He groaned and winced, having forgotten to take care with his injuries, most of which were dealt by Bill himself.

"You ok, Sixer?" Stan asked, raising his brows in concern.

His nickname was like a healing balm for his soul and allowed Ford to relax a little bit. "I've been better. Nothing time won't heal. How do you feel, Stanley?"

Stan rubbed his hands over his arms and stretched his back in the chair. "I guess I'm ok. I think my back always hurts, anyway. Seems familiar. Heh," he pointed to a photo in the scrapbook in his lap. "Looks like I'm groanin' about it right here."

Ford stood and indeed, Stan, wearing a glittering gold tracksuit, looked incredibly annoyed with one hand pressed to his lumbar spine and the other balled into a fist, shaking it at someone off-camera. He chuckled. "What in the world were you wearing that atrocity for?"

"I lost a bet," he answered without missing a beat. "I left the kids in charge of the Shack for a weekend and fucked off to California to be on a gameshow. Lost. Real shame. Got to take a Cash Shower, though."

Ford shook his head. "I have no idea what that means."

Stan chuckled softly, flipping the page. "You were… you weren't here," he said, almost questioningly, but if he wondered why or was just conning his brother, he kept it to himself.

Ford opened his mouth to explain that he was still lost when these photos were taken earlier that summer, but thought better of it. There would be a time for the bad memories. It could wait. He needed to distract Stan and thought perhaps he could flip the pages toward the end of the book, claiming he wanted to show him something specific, but the brothers had been so distant, he could not think of one occasion that would have documented a happy time they'd shared. "A happy time…" he breathed, told Stan to stay put, and jogged out of the room, jumping carefully around debris.

In a few moments he returned with a book. Ford pulled his chair closer to Stan's and cracked it open. "Glass Shard High, class of 1972," he said and raised his brows.

"Glass… our home town," Stan whispered and took the book into his lap. He flipped through pages of black and white photos of teachers, sports teams, and academic clubs. "Where are we? Have I ever seen this before?"

Ford's face fell. "Uh… I'm not sure." He snatched the book back and flipped through quickly, trying to find the senior photos. They were taken in the fall and the book was printed before Stan left so he was sure they were both there. "Here!" he crowed and turned the page to face him.

Stan smiled wide. "Hey! Look at this! Man, I was something, wasn't I?"

"You are," Ford said quietly. The two young men in the photos, Stanley to the left of Stanford, seemed impossibly young and distant. Stanford's smile was most likely false, taught and nervous. Stanley's was a mirror of the one he currently wore-wide and unabashed. Ford took a deep breath and let his shoulders drop, then Stan started turning pages again.

"That's it, huh?" Stan said, flipping past pictures of young men and women palling around, going to the prom, playing in sports. Not one other photo of the Pines Twins had been published in the yearbook. "We didn't have much friends, huh?" His finger traced a photo of the star quarterback, Louis Krampelter and he frowned.

"No," Ford whispered. "We didn't really have any friends, except... each other."

Stan's mind whirred. His memories had, until this point, been trickling back in bit by bit as Mabel, Dipper, Soos, and Ford fed him stories. Each memory was tied to others and like ice crystals forming on a window pane, they spidered out, locking down even more than they originally suggested. Now, it was as if a dripping faucet had opened and images flooded in. His brother, just a young teen, in the room they shared, blushing cheeks, smiling eyes, shoulders loose and carefree, his face-very close. Very, very close. Then they were working together, hammering, sawing, fixing up a boat-the Stan 'O War, yet a derelict and firmly on the beach. They shared a soda under the hot, summer sun, only being able to afford one. The visions kept shifting, flying by in an instant. Ford was in tears, having been bullied yet again and Stan was swearing he'd kill the guy who hurt him.

Suddenly, Stan was yanked back to reality as he heard a tell-tale sharp intake of breath coming from his brother. His heart flew into his throat. The yearbook dropped to the ground and Stan launched himself from the chair, kneeling down and pulling Ford into his arms. "Don't cry, Ford! I got ya! I'm right here!"

Ford had only been sniffling, the pain of their separation four decades before taking his exhausted mind by surprise. He would never have allowed anyone to see such a display under normal circumstances, but his emotions were frayed and raw. His brother's arms wrapped around him and he disintegrated. Ford clutched at Stanley as if he were just a little boy and bawled into his chest, begging his forgiveness, praising his bravery, and uttering those three words that nearly gave his twin a heart attack. Stan pressed him close and ran his hand through his hair and stroked his back, calming and shushing him. "I'll always protect you. It's ok. It's ok now, Ford. It's ok. I love you, too."

From the shadows of the doorway, Dipper and Mabel watched the scene, holding each other close and tried very hard not to make a sound. "It's gonna be ok, Mabel," Dipper whispered and hugged his sister. She bit her lip, nodded, and cried silent tears for the beauty displayed before her.