This story was partially inspired by "A.K.A. The Most Powerful People in the World," by markmak.
"I'll have Felicia take care of it right away, Miss Pacifica," the young butler reported crisply. "You needn't worry about the carpet."
It wasn't the carpet I was worried about, Pacifica thought, but she kept that to herself. "Thank you, Jakob," she said, offering the butler a rare smile. "I can always count on you."
The young man bowed to her, then turned swiftly and started off toward the servants' hall to collect the maid. Pacifica turned away from him, her smile fading. It hadn't taken long to find someone to clean up the mess they'd made, as Jakob was dusting a vase in the corridor just off the main hall. As fun as it had been trashing the carpet with Dipper—their combined laughter still echoed in her ears, and she suppressed a fond smile—she was thankful it'd be cleaned up before her parents could find it. Granted, a ruined carpet would simply be the icing on the shockingly large cake of everything that had happened tonight, but there was no need to antagonize her parents further.
I'm going to be in enough trouble with them as it is…
As if to punctuate her thought, her father's voice rang through the corridor from behind her. She froze for a moment, her entire body tensing up, before she forced herself to relax. I knew this was going to happen sooner or later. Might as well get it over with.
She turned to face him as he stormed down the hallway towards her, his wife a few paces behind. "Father," she said coolly.
Preston said nothing as he closed the distance between them. Pacifica braced herself as he approached. When he grabbed her, it wasn't as rough as she'd feared, but it certainly wasn't gentle, either. He quickly pushed her around the corner, out of sight of the main hall and the partygoers.
Out of sight of anyone who might help her.
"Don't you 'father' me, you brat!" he hissed once they'd rounded the corner, pushing her away from him. For a moment, he looked like he might strike her, his face twitching with rage. "You've ruined the party! Destroyed our reputation! And, worst of all, disobeyed me!"
Pacifica risked a glance at her mother—not in search of support, simply to see what she was thinking. Priscilla Northwest had not been the one to ring the bell, not the one to condition Pacifica to respond to it. Nor was she one to stand up to her husband, to offer solace to her daughter, or to protect her from him. True to form, she stood by, her anger not as deep as Preston's, but offering no help to Pacifica, either.
The young blonde took a breath, and met her father's gaze squarely. Don't let him see your lip tremble. Don't let him see your eyes tear up. Don't let him know how scared you are. "I did disobey you," she agreed, tone carefully neutral.
His eyes were blazing as he glared down at her. "And you have nothing to say for yourself?!"
"No, dad, I don't," she said, maintaining her stance. "I think my actions speak pretty well for themselves."
"Your actions?" Preston spat, glaring down at her. He looked at his wife, then back to his daughter, then placed one hand over his eyes. "Your actions." His head and shoulders sagged on the second repetition. He suddenly seemed very tired. It had been a long day, to be fair.
He straightened up, and looked down at his daughter. "Your actions, young lady, are exactly the problem. I thought we'd taught you everything you needed to know to be a proper Northwest heir. But it seems you still have much to learn." He glanced down the corridor to the basement door. "Once the party concludes, we'll begin immediately."
"No." She surprised even herself with her response; she'd known what she was going to say, but she hadn't known she'd be able to say it with such force and confidence.
Preston wheeled on her, eyes wide with more shock than rage. "What did you just say?"
"You heard me, dad," Pacifica said, an edge now entering her voice. "I'm not going to the basement after the party. In fact, you're not taking there ever again. You aren't going to touch me, and you aren't going to ring that bell."
His jaw actually fell open.
"Pacifica!" her mother hissed. "What can you possibly be thinking?"
Pacifica looked from one parent to the other, allowing herself a smug smile. "All the money your families spent on your educations, and you can't figure it out?"
"Figure what out?" Preston growled.
"I think I can explain, sir."
Pacifica's heart jolted at the new voice, then jumped when she realized who it was. She spun around, coming face-to-face with the young boy, still wearing the tuxedo she'd lent him. "Dipper?" she gasped.
"And Mabel!" Mabel shouted, rounding the corner after her brother. "You know, in case you hadn't noticed I was here."
Pacifica's parents glared down at the twins. "What do you think you're doing here, boy?" Preston said, his voice more even now that they had an audience, but still cold as ice.
"Ugh! Boy and girl! Do people just not notice me anymore?" Mabel groaned.
Dipper ignored his sister, looking directly at Pacifica. He was searching her eyes—he's making sure I'm all right, she realized with embarrassment—and gave her a small smile when he seemed satisfied. Only then did he look up at Preston. "We just had some people who wanted to meet Pacifica," he said. He looked back around the corner. "Come on, everyone!"
And they came. They all came. Dipper and Mabel had somehow gotten all the party guests, all the dukes, duchesses, sultans, and sportsmen, to come with them into the hallway. It was rather crowded, to be sure, and only became more so as they all surrounded Pacifica, smiling at her and shaking her hand. She was so overwhelmed by the attention that it took her a moment to realize what they were saying as they greeted her. But eventually, she began to parse the expressions of praise and gratitude. "It's an honor to meet such a brave young lady!" "I'm so grateful you saved us!" "You do us all proud, Miss Pacifica!"
She found a lump forming in her throat, barely managing to croak out a "thank you" to each new compliment. It was true, she'd saved all their lives, but seeing the gratitude written on their faces, hearing it in their voices… it was almost more than she could bear.
She caught a glimpse of Dipper and Mabel through the crowd. They were smiling at her. She tried not to smile back. She did not succeed.
Eventually, Marius von Fundshauser found his way over to Preston. "Mr. Northwest," he began, bowing once more. "I wish to thank you for such a delightful evening. The party was as splendid as ever, but allowing the townsfolk in really livened things up! I was delighted to meet the people of Gravity Falls."
Preston looked about nervously. "You… ah… you were, were you?"
"Oh, yes," Marius went on enthusiastically. "You really should have opened up the gates ages ago." His eyes and voice suddenly hardened. "Especially since doing so would have stopped that ghost before he turned us all to wood."
Preston took a step back, tugging at his collar. "Ah, yes… most unfortunate, that, but…"
"Make no mistake, Mr. Northwest," Marius said lowly. "I am young, but I am no fool—and I am not to be trifled with. I know whom it is I owe my life"—he motioned to Pacifica, still thronged by admirers—"and I will do all I can to ensure her continued well-being." He glared up at Preston, somehow looming over him despite being the shorter of the two. "Are we clear?"
"Y-yes," Preston stammered, even though he looked more confused than ever.
"Good," Marius said, brightening considerably. He turned around. "Now, where did Grenda run off to? She was saying something about taking me to a gun show." He moved off through the crowd.
By now, the guests were not pressed quite so tightly around Pacifica; some of them had already returned to the main hall. The young blonde turned to her parents, Dipper and Mabel moving through the dispersing crowd to flank her.
Preston and Priscilla exchanged an unsure glance. "What… just happened?"
"Well," Mabel said, putting a finger to her chin, "I wanted to appeal to your better nature. Show you that Pacifica did the right thing, and that you shouldn't punish her for it." She shrugged and grinned. "But Dipper said that wouldn't work, so we decided to just threaten you instead."
The Northwests' eyes widened. "Threaten… us?" Preston managed.
"Look at who you're talking to, man," Dipper said, stepping forward. His voice had deepened with an affected drawl as he grinned smugly, eyes half-lidded. "You're hosting a party for the most powerful people in the world."
Preston began to tremble. "Are you mocking me, boy?"
"Do you really think they'd come here if they had to rub elbows with your kind?" As Dipper went on, the mirth left both his face and his voice. "The kind of man who would leave them to die—and then punish his daughter for saving them?"
Pacifica's parents froze.
"You see, dad," Pacifica said, moving in front of both twins, "this is what I was talking about. If you so much as touch me, the people you invited—the people I saved—are going to find out about it. And they are going to make sure you regret it."
Preston and Priscilla exchanged a look, realization slowly dawning.
"And that," Pacifica continued, "is why you aren't going to take me down to the basement for more 'conditioning.' It's why you aren't going to ring that bell ever again. And it's why you're going to support me in righting our family's wrongs." She looked around at the remaining guests, then fixed her parents with a defiant smile. "Understand?"
Preston was still quivering, but there was uncertainty mixed with the rage now. Priscilla took a step forward. "Preston," she breathed, eyes fixed on her daughter.
After what felt like an eternity, the senior Northwest finally straightened up. "Very well, then," he said. "For defying your parents, a good old-fashioned grounding will have to do. For the next two weeks, young lady, you are confined to the manor and grounds. No friends. No parties. And definitely no shopping." With that, he turned on his heel, and marched down the corridor.
Priscilla looked from her daughter to her husband, then back again. Her face collapsed into an unreadable expression, and she hurried after her husband.
As soon as Pacifica led him and Mabel back into the main hall, Dipper collapsed against a column. "It's ok, heart," he said, thumping himself in the chest. "We survived. You can start beating again." After a brief pause, he gave it another thump. "Any time you're ready, heart."
Pacifica tried not to smile as she moved to the balcony railing. The corridor let out into the main hall on the second story of the manor; she found herself looking down on the partygoers below as they enjoyed the food, the dance floor, and the company. "You know," she called back to the twins, "I didn't need you guys to rush in and save me. I can handle my parents."
"Hey, we didn't just do it for you," Dipper said, straightening up and grinning. "I've said it before, and I'll say it again: revenge is underrated."
"What my brother means to say," Mabel cut in, shooting Dipper a dirty look, "is we figured you could handle them. But we also figured having all those guests show up would help drive the point home." She grinned at the blonde. "Think of it as a visual aide."
Pacifica rolled her eyes as she turned back toward them. "How'd you get them all to come with you, anyway?"
"Oh, I'm really good at making friends," Mabel explained.
"She had a friendship bracelet ready for the guy delivering our Chinese food the other night," Dipper added. "And before he left, he'd made her one, too."
Mabel nodded. "I'm hoping to become pen pals with the pizza guy next."
Again, Pacifica had to stifle her laughter. "That's… pretty cool, actually," she said. "You may have almost impressed me, Mabel."
"That may be the closest thing to a compliment I get from you, so I'll take it," Mabel replied happily, putting her arm around the blonde. "And hey, I guess I finally got to be friends with you, huh? Right? Party invite buddies? Huh?"
"Don't push your luck," Pacifica muttered, gently slipping out from Mabel's grasp. Although now that I think about it, that's all she's ever done: try to befriend me. At the Mystery Shack party, at Pioneer Day… right up until I showed her up at mini-golf. And I responded—
She shuddered a little. I responded like a Northwest.
"Hey," she said aloud. "I didn't need your help, guys. But…" She took a breath. "Thanks anyway."
Mabel's grin threated to split her face in half. Dipper smiled, too, but it was smaller, more reserved. And was it just her imagination, or was he… blushing?
"Guess she's not 'the worst' after all, huh, bro-bro?" Mabel said, giving Dipper a playful punch.
Now he was definitely blushing, even as he rubbed his arm where she'd hit him. "Maybe not the worst," he acceded.
Uh-oh. I hope I'm not blushing now.
"Whelp," Mabel said after a moment, "that's enough emotional bonding for right now. If you guys need me, I'll be standing by the fondue table looking adorable until somebody asks me to dance." She peered at the table. "Also, I think Candy's trapped again, so I'd better go help her out." She scurried off.
That left Pacifica alone with Dipper, a fact of which they were both suddenly and uncomfortably aware. Dipper looked around the room, shifting uncomfortably in his borrowed tuxedo, whistling tunelessly. Pacifica looked around as well, but found her gaze continually settling back on him. The frequency and intensity of her stares increased. Eventually, he glanced over at her. "What is it?" he asked.
"It's just…" she shook her head. "Earlier tonight, you thought I was just as bad as my parents. But just now, you tried to rescue me from them." She smirked. "My knight in shining armor."
He made a face. "Call me that again, and the next time you need a ghost busted, you can find someone else to answer the call."
She rolled her eyes. "Whatever. You'd be lucky to save this princess from a dragon."
"I'd be a little nicer if I were you," Dipper said, stretching his arms. "Considering I know your secret."
She tensed up, looking at him suspiciously. "What secret?"
"That underneath all the selfishness, pettiness, and condescension"—he smiled at her—"you're actually a decent human being."
She felt a frown tugging at the corners of her mouth, and her eyes started to water. Silence wore on between them, and the longer it lasted, the more uncomfortable Dipper became. "Hey," he said at last, "I didn't mean to—"
"No," she interrupted. "It's just…" she cleared her throat. "After everything that's happened, everything I've done… you really think I'm…" She looked him straight in the eye. "You really think I'm decent?"
He blinked at her, then averted his gaze. "Well… yeah." He kicked at the ground. "If things had turned out differently, maybe…" He met her eyes once more. "Maybe we could have been friends."
Silence hung in the air between them.
"Maybe we still can be," Pacifica said softly.
The party wore on around them as they looked at each other. She saw in Dipper's eyes a reflection of what she herself felt. They were caught in an awkward moment in their most awkward years, neither quite sure what to say or do, feeling wholly uncomfortable… and yet, for reasons she couldn't quite name, she was also happier than she'd been in a long time.
At last, Dipper coughed unsurely. "You, uh… you want to join Mabel? Maybe spill some fondue on your parents' carpet?"
She couldn't help smiling, but shook her head. "Nah, I think I've had enough of that for one night." She glanced down at the floor. "Besides, it looks like Felicia's already working on the carpet; she'll be devastated if we mess it up again just as she's got it cleaned." She smirked at him. "I have a better idea."
He glanced at her. "What's that?"
She suddenly grabbed his wrist. "Come on, Dipstick. Let's find out if you're as hopeless at dancing as you are at bow ties."
His eyes widened. "Wait, what—"
His question turned into a yelp as she suddenly started toward the dance floor, yanking him along helplessly behind her. He was babbling a string of confused protests as she dragged him along, nearly falling once or twice as she dragged him down the stairs. But he fell silent when he got a glimpse of her face. She was smiling—laughing, just like she had been earlier. And before either of them knew it, he started laughing too, grinning like an idiot as she pulled him along.
They ran on, the girl towing the boy behind her, weaving their way through guests and crashers alike toward the dance floor. For just a moment, they ignored the horrors both ghostly and human they'd witnessed that night, and laughed like the children they were meant to be. And, with the façade dropped—the girl who'd gone out of her way to humiliate and denigrate her rivals gone, and a girl who wanted to run and dance and laugh with this boy taking her place—Pacifica felt something she hadn't felt in ages.
She felt like herself again.