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Sleep Easy, Little One

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“Those little tykes are going to be the death of me.”

Stan groaned quietly to himself, the darkness hiding the soft soppy grin that slid across his face with the words. He continued to stare up at the ceiling, a small chuckle shuddering through his shoulders as he tried to settle down and found himself far too happy from the day to really do so.

They really were something. Those kids.

The happiness dampened unexpectedly, his smile dropping within a second. A thick heavy guilt burrowed into his heart, a sadness as he checked his watch and realised that usually he’d be down in the basement at this time of night. That he couldn’t sleep even after an exhausting day chasing after two small children showed that he should be somewhere else, doing something important.

He should be focusing on work, focusing on what he had to do. Sat in that cold lonely place until he brought his brother back. He shuddered at the thought, burrowing further into the duvet around him even as his thoughts turned treacherous and spitting vindictively at his antics. He didn’t deserve this… warmth, this happiness, not until he had completed that task.

…But that was so many miles away tonight. He closed his eyes, taking a steady breath as he clung to the soft warm fabric, fingers bunching in the multitude of colours he couldn’t see but knew were there. Picked out especially for him by two bundles of joy.

He was allowed a break now and then, wasn’t he?

Ford wouldn’t begrudge him that… would he?

Stan blinked, head tilting as he heard whispers from outside his door. The guilt and sadness eased as he heard laughter, his niece and nephew making their own way to bed, shushing one another as they went. His heart warmed again, the thoughts dissipating to the back of his mind as he listened intently, let them ground him to the present instead of his past mistakes.

He slipped his hands behind his head, his smile drifting back on as he caught sight of the picture frame beside his bed; a family photo resting proudly just for him. A bright sunny scene from his last visit to them.

He’d made a few of them over the years. Only short stays each time, he couldn’t leave the portal for too long without the dreaded looming shadow burrowing deep into his core, but regular visits all the same. Ever since the kids had been born and he’d held them in his arms. Ever since they’d melted his heart with small fists wrapped around his fingers, and caught him in tight grips that he couldn’t escape from.

Ever since one of them had managed out the garbled ‘Grunkle’ and the other had taken up the word with gusto because ‘Great Uncle’ was far too hard for their tongues to work around just yet, he had known that he was well and truly wrapped around their little fingers and would make it down for every birthday and every occasion they demanded his presence at.

And after a while, coaxing from their parents vastly ignored, the name had stuck. He’d become a regular fixture in their little family, one that warranted a much less formal sounding name than ‘Great Uncle Stan’.

A name just for him.

Maybe when they were old enough, their parents might even let them stay with him at the shack in one of their school holidays. He didn’t know why that had him so excited and panicked at the same time.

Me. In charge of kids. He snorted where he lay, slapping a hand over his mouth when he worried the sound carried. That should never be allowed.

And yet his nephew had left him unsupervised with the two terrors just that day and they’d had fun. A lot of fun! And nothing bad had happened like he had expected.

Maybe it wouldn’t be that hard after all, an adventure to make that house in Gravity Falls feel more like a home, more like this one did.

After all these years, he had a family back.

…Ford really couldn’t begrudge him indulging in that, surely.

Well, no, he probably could. He could hear the anger whenever he made the drive down here. Stan had taken his name, his life, warped it into something he could use to keep the house without anyone getting too suspicious of him. But he had had to, he didn’t want to but how else could he get Ford back-

But none of that mattered whenever he arrived at the now familiar house. Whenever he heard the happy chirping cry of ‘Grunkle Stan!’ from the doorway.

Not Grunkle Ford.

Grunkle Stan.

He’d done that. He wasn’t pretending to be his brother, not really. In name alone he was Stanford Pines, but he could hardly be his genius brother. No, deep down he was just Stanley, he always had been and always would be.

But the kids… they loved him all the same.

He huffed, sitting up straight as he re-evaluated and pushed down the wash of guilt that still sat low and ready to rear up when he least expected it. So maybe Ford wouldn’t be impressed at his short stays and breaks with what could technically class as his family and not Stan’s. But from where the Pines family stood now, he had earned that spot with them. If they didn’t want him around they needn’t have invited him, and hearing them whisper happily about the day they’d spent together when they thought him and the kids were asleep cemented that thought in his head.

You’re wanted here. You’re allowed to be here.

Besides, Stan kicked his feet over the edge with a shrug and sigh, once Ford is back and they all realise you’re a conman, it might all change.

Might as well take what you can get now.

With that he stood up, suddenly his thoughts too overcrowded to keep sitting or lying still. It was too dark, too still after such a vibrant day and he didn’t want it to end on this dark note. Why was it when he had a great day, his brain felt the need to catch up with him later on to point out what could have gone better? Or what he should have been doing? Was he really not allowed just a few peaceful days?

With another sigh he walked to the door, hoping just to peek in on the kids, hoping that seeing them peaceful and happy might settle his nerves enough for him to rest.

He opened his door, the creak louder than he had anticipated and causing him to wince. He closed it behind himself hurriedly, now stood in the light of the hallway and feeling irrationally foolish as the light took away from the gloom that had been looming over him like a dark billowing cloud.

Get it together, Stan. You don’t need to see the kids, they’re fine- you’ll probably just wake them up!
Then what would you do?
Just go get some water and get to sleep.

With a deciding nod he turned back the other way towards the stairs, shuffling towards them slowly, ever grateful for the kids being at an age where they left the light on so he didn’t fall flat on his face and wake the entire household.

He didn’t get far.

A soft sniffle instantly caught his attention in the quiet hush of the night.

He paused in his movements, head tilting back over his shoulder as he waited for the sound again. His eyes locked on the open doorway further down the hall just as another louder sniffle echoed out to him.

His heart panged, all other thoughts hushed past the protective instinct that solidified through him as he made quick quiet work of the small walk back to the other room.

He stayed outside the room at first, watching as his five year old great niece scrubbed at her eyes with one hand and brought the biggest stuffed animal, that was within reaching distance, to her chest with the other. His heart gave another painful thump as her lip wobbled pitifully and with a quick glance at her sleeping twin he knocked quietly on the door to grab her attention.

“Hey there, sweetie. You’re up late, aren’t ya?” Stan gave a reassuring grin, the words a warm quiet tone that he hoped were as soothing as he meant them to be.

“Grunkle Stan!” The words made Stan wince. His little Mabel still didn’t have very good volume control, her inside voice as exuberant as she was, or in this case as distressed.

“Hey, shh, it’s OK.” He cast another glance over at Dipper, his eyebrows furrowing before he turned over in his sleep. Stan let out a relieved breath before shuffling close to Mabel, hoping that if he was closer she wouldn’t feel the need to shout.

Stan knelt down beside the bed, ignoring the pain in his knee as he put himself at eye level with Mabel, wanting to make sure she felt like he was taking every word that came out next seriously. Which he was. If there was something or someone upsetting his Mabel, then he would be a force to be reckoned with. “Now, how about you tell me what’s up, sweetie?”

Mabel scrubbed at her eyes again, fresh tears bubbling up but Stan was quick to wipe them away, a small warm feeling blossoming as she seemed to relax slightly at the motion. “I-I- there was a monster outside the door.”

The words came out in a hiss of panic, her eyes darting back to the door frame in a way that made his blood freeze inside his veins. The words brought forth all manner of theories, Ford’s journal logs of weird and terrifying creatures tallying up in his head to the most likely options alongside his own memories of terrible people that inhabited the earth, the types of very real, very probable human terrors that Mabel could have seen that he’d never want her to see.

But he schooled his face, making sure none of the fear showed as she stared at him openly, obviously hoping he’d make everything better and frankly he didn’t know what scared him more.

How was he meant to help with that?

“You saw a monster?”

Mabel nodded, arms tightening around the stuffed toy and Stan wanted to reach forward and pull her in tight but he wanted to let her get whatever she needed to out first. “Y-yeah. It was just standing there and I couldn’t move and-” She hiccupped loudly, burrowing her face into the teddy and Stan couldn’t take it anymore.

“Hey, hey, it’s OK.” Stan bundled her up into his arms, feeling the arms around the stuffed toy relax and grip him instead. Sleep paralysis, that’s what it’s called right? A nightmare. She had a nightmare. He continued to shush her, rocking her back and forth as she babbled more about whatever horrid dream had woken her though from the sounds of it, this wasn’t the first and nor would it be the last.

“It was real, right, Grunkle Stan? Mum always says there’re no monsters, but…”

His stomach tightened, rolling nauseatingly. He knew the truth, there were monsters of all kinds out there, hiding in the darkness. He wanted her to be prepared for it all, wanted to make sure nothing ever hurt her. On the other hand, he wanted to protect her from it all, keep her safe and sound and away from all of that. But should he lie to her? Tell her, her mum was right and there was no such things as monsters?

He glanced down at her baleful eyes, big and wide and waiting for his response. Anything he said now would be taken to heart, and as much as his heart hurt that she would trust him so openly, he couldn’t help but lie to her.

She was just a kid, she didn’t need to know that monsters existed yet. Not for a long time.

So why was it always so hard to lie to her?

Why did she have to trust him so easily?

“Your mum’s right, sweetie. There’s no such thing as monsters.” He ruffled her hair with a bright smile as his eyes caught on the teddy and suddenly the world seemed that much simpler. “You know how I know these are just bad dreams you’re having?”

Mabel shook her head, her eyes now doubtful as she pulled away from him, the motion hurting him more than in should.

Stan plucked the stuffed toy from her lap, poking her nose with its and getting a small startled giggle. “Well, I know because- Uhm, Mr Snuffies-”


“-Right, that’s what I said.” He prodded her again, getting another laugh as she pushed him away. “So, Mr Snuffles here, he’s always looking after you. Did you know that?”

“Mr Snuffles is?”

“Yeah!” Stan clapped a hand to his mouth at the volume, glancing around again to the other sleeping occupant before returning to the task at hand. “Now, I have a question for you. Do you think I’m scary at all?” The question left something bitter at the back of his throat, as he abruptly realised that if he was completely wrong, his entire lie could nosedive.

Luckily, and to his utmost relief, Mabel shook her head fervently, eyes wide with shock. “Of course not! You’re not scary, Grunkle Stan! You’re a giant teddy bear!”

Stan was almost glad no one else was around to hear that.

As it was, he was just painfully aware of just how relieved he was that Mabel thought that of him.

“Right. Well, sometimes at night I come and check up on you while I’m here. Make sure that you’re both completely safe, you know?” He was again happily rewarded by another serious and, dare he say it, comforted nod. “Now this here friend of yours, this one right here is always looking after you at night while you sleep.” He pushed the toy into her hands, nudging her to hold it like she had before. “He’s always on the lookout for anything or anyone that shouldn’t be in here. He even growls at me every time I walk inside your room while you’re asleep.”

“Mr Snuffles! That’s not very nice!” Mabel gasped, her eyes back to her toy as she pointed a finger at him warningly. “You shouldn’t growl at Grunkle Stan!”

“No, it’s good that he does.” Stan ruffled her hair as she held on to the toy. “You see, if he even growls at me, then there’s no way he’d ever let a monster get anywhere near you, now would he?”

Mabel shook her head in agreement, eyes seriously appraising the toy as she took Stan’s words to heart. “Is that true?”

Stan huffed, putting his hand to his heart as if her words pained him. “You think I’d lie to my favourite little niece in the whole wide world?”

“I’m your only niece.”

“All the more reason not to lie to you.” Stan kissed her forehead as he patted the toy on the head. “And believe me, I feel a lot safer at night knowing he’s looking out for you too. So you keep him close, OK? And I promise you none of those monsters will ever hurt you.”

Mabel nodded, her small frame far less worried and upset than when he had first entered the room and he couldn’t help but feel the budding accomplishment warming him from the inside out at having helped her through this moment.

“Now then, on that note. You really should be getting some rest, little lady.”

“Mmm… g‘night, Grunkle Stan.”

“Night, sweetheart.”

Stan waited until her eyes started to droop, a much more tranquil expression on her face as she clutched the teddy tight, before he finally slipped out of the room.

He had fully intended to walk the short walk back to his room and sleep himself.

But then as he reached the stairs, there was a feeling he couldn’t shake, his feet moving even as he disregarded the notion as ridiculous.

Even if his nephew gave him a perplexed look, coming out of his room for a drink a while later to find Stan shuffling about downstairs, he’d never admit, not even to himself, that something defensive and protective inside him had needed to make sure that Mabel’s ‘monster’ really was just a child’s nightmare.

Stan blinked as he shuffled upstairs the next night, a half flopped over toy staring back at him from the open doorway. He bit his lip, trying not to smile as he wondered what had gone through her head. Was she posting him as a sentry? Making sure that he caught anything before it came into the room? Either way, as Stan poked his head in and saw two very peaceful sleeping children instead of one, he took the act as a sign of victory before he plodded off to his own bed.

Halfway through that same night, when nature called and he slipped out of his room, he realised said toy was no longer there. He made a beeline for the door, worry clouding his judgement before he gave a snort of laughter, his Mabel yet again fast asleep but with the teddy wrapped tightly in her arms.

Obviously, the comfort of the toy there in her arms had outweighed whatever logical process had made her put it at the door in the first place.

“Sweet dreams, sweetie.”

Stan turned back away, his smile soft and hopeful.

Baby steps. If he could make Mabel feel safe then that was half the battle.

Years later, when Stan tried to hide just how excited he was as two bright sparks stepped into the Mystery Shack, ready for a summer of adventures, he couldn’t quite push away the soft smile on his face as a familiar, now threadbare and well-loved toy accompanied them.