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Holiday Pines in Piedmont

Title: A Surprise for Grandpa Shermie
Author: chilibreath
X-posted to: Tumblr / FF.net / AO3
Rating: T
Summary: Sherman Pines couldn't resist when his grandchildren extended an invitation to spend Christmas in Piedmont.

“And you still won’t tell me what all the fuss is about?”

Ben Pines smiled as he turned right at Ariel Street. “I’m under strict instructions from your grandchildren not to give any spoilers,” he replied.

In the passenger seat, Shermie Pines snorted in amusement, twirling his cane in his hand. He suspected it was Mabel’s idea; his granddaughter always did have a penchant for the dramatic.

Just like her grandmother, he thought wistfully.

Shermie rarely comes to Piedmont for the holidays; he usually waits for Ben and his family to fly into to Florida to spend Christmas with him. A few months ago, however, he couldn’t resist the invitation he received over the phone.

“Grandpa Shermie, you have to come here for Christmas!” Mabel pleaded. “Pleeeeease! We have a surprise for you!”

“Do I have to?” Shermie asked teasingly. “Couldn’t you ask your parents to send it to me by Express Mail?”

“Uh…they might not be able to make that delivery for this surprise, Grandpa Shermie,” Dipper replied carefully.

“Pleeeeease!” Mabel repeated. “It’s important!”

Shermie laughed. “Alright, you kids have me convinced. Anyway, I haven’t been to California since the two of you were running around in your diapers. I suppose I’m due for a visit this time…”

Shermie smiled at the memory as Ben pulled into the driveway. He didn’t notice the small rental car that was parked in front of the house.

“You go on ahead in the house, Dad,” said Ben as Shermie carefully hopped out of the van. “I’ll unload your stuff. Sarah and the kids are waiting for you inside.”

Shermie nodded and walked up the side door and knocked. He was tapping the bottom of his cane on the mat when the door opened.

“Welcome back to Piedmont, Dad!” Sarah greeted him warmly as she pulled him into a hug.

“Glad to be back, Sarah,” Shermie replied, patting his daughter-in-law on the back. He let go and looked around the festively-decorated kitchen and breathed in the cooking smells. “I can feel the Christmas spirit already! Where are Dipper and Mabel?”

Sarah’s smile seemed to have frozen in place. “The kids are in the TV room,” she said, a bit loudly. “Uh, here, let me get your coat for you while you take a breather first…”

He waved her off and started to walk towards the living room. Despite his need for a cane, Shermie could cover a lot of ground in a short while. “I have time to rest later. I want to see my grandkids now!”

He walked out of the kitchen and headed to the hallway. He heard voices coming from the closed sliding doors leading to the living room, deeper than those of his grandchildren and sounding strangely familiar. He reached for the door and slid it open.

“Hey there, kids!” he said as he stepped into the room. “How are my—my…”

Shermie had taken a few steps inside before he took a look at the occupants of the sofa.

Sitting in the middle of the sofa were Dipper and Mabel, wearing their most festive Christmas sweaters. Sitting on either side of his grandchildren were two familiar gray-haired men, identical in looks except that the man sitting next to Dipper had a cleft in his chin and was slimmer in build than the man next to Mabel.

Shermie’s ears suddenly filled with a buzzing noise.

I buried one of them thirty years ago, he thought before everything went black.

XXXXX

Someone placed a cold, wet cloth on his forehead. Shermie was coming around, and the murmuring sounds became comprehensible to him.

“Shermie? Shermie, can ya hear me?”

“What have we done? We surprised him to death!”

“No, it’s not fatal, he only fainted, Mabel. He’ll come around. But we did shock him.”

“I’ll say; I’ve never seen Dad pass out in my life until this moment.”

“Look, he’s waking up!”

Shermie opened his eyes. Someone placed his glasses back on his face as a wet nose snuffled his face.

“Look, Waddles is waking him up!” he heard Mabel say approvingly. “Good piggy!”

“Wa-Waddles?” Shermie slurred. He took the compress off his face and looked around; he was lying on the sofa in the living room, surrounded by people. Mabel and Dipper crouched near his head. His granddaughter had an arm around a fat, pink pig wearing a red and green sweater; the creature tried to lick his cheek. Behind them stood Sarah, who took the compress from his hand. Sitting on the edge of the sofa was Ben, looking at him worriedly. And standing by the foot of the sofa…

“Stanford?” Shermie whispered as he sat up carefully. “Stanley? The both of you…but how…?”

The larger of the two men cleared his throat and said, “Sherm, I’m Stanley. This is Stanford.”

Shermie looked from one man to the other. The leaner twin with the dimpled chin raised his hand and wiggled six fingers in the air.

“Stanley,” he breathed. “We buried Stanley—you, thirty years ago…the car crash. I…”

“He faked the car crash, Grandpa,” Dipper said quietly next to him. Shermie looked away from the apparitions to his grandson. Mabel touched his hand as Dipper continued, “Grunkle Stan faked his death so that he can pretend to be Grunkle Ford and stay at his house…”

“He had a good reason!” Mabel butted in. “He’s not bad!”

Shermie turned back to Stan and Ford, who looked back at him with slightly nervous expressions.

“We have a lot to talk about,” he said gruffly. “But first things first…” he turned to look at Ben, Sarah and his grandchildren. “You knew before I did that both my baby brothers are alive?”

“Actually, Dipper and Mabel knew before we did,” Ben replied as he stood up to give his father some room. “The real Stanford appeared while they were in Gravity Falls last summer.”

Shermie looked from his son to his brothers. Brothers…he never thought he would see them together again after coming home from ‘Nam and finding out what his father had done. Shermie balled one hand into a fist; he never forgave Filbrick for kicking Stan out on the streets.

“You knuckleheads,” he whispered, shaking his head. Then, more audibly: “Are you telling me that thirty years ago, I attended Stanley’s funeral with Stanley posing as Stanford?”

Stan nodded. “I had to stay and find a way to bring Ford back. I couldn’t let anyone find out that it wasn’t Ford who’s living in his house. Also, taking myself out of the picture wiped out my criminal record in one go!”

“Bring Ford back?” Shermie repeated. He looked at Ford. “What happened to you?”

Ford tugged at the neck of his sweater before replying, “I got sucked into another dimension until Stan brought me back thirty years later.”

Shermie snorted. “Really? Don’t give me some sci-fi mumbo-jumbo Stanford, I’m your brother. You can tell me the truth; you at least owe me that after disappearing on us for thirty years.”

Stan and Ford looked at each other.

“He doesn’t believe it,” Mabel whispered. Dipper could only shrug as he looked at his Grunkles.

Ford let out a sigh and rubbed the back of his head. “The truth is,” he said hesitantly. “I…I made a mistake. I trusted someone and they turned out to be a monster.”

“Not literal!” Stan added. He gave Dipper and Mabel a warning look when he saw them open their mouths to butt in.

“I got that,” Shermie said drily.

“They made my life hell,” Ford continued, placing his hands behind his back. “I was in a bad place; I couldn’t eat or sleep. I become paranoid like you wouldn’t believe. Finally, I reached out to Stan for help.”

“And made things worse,” Stan muttered, looking down at his feet.

“We were in no fit state to help anyone,” said Ford, looking sadly at Stan. “And then there’s ten years of unresolved issues between us. Naturally, we ended up fighting. And because of that fight, I…I was…”

“Gone. Lost somewhere and I…found myself alone at his house with no idea where he went,” said Stan. “It’s more complicated than that, but that’s about the gist of it.”

“Gone?” repeated Shermie. “Wait, where did you go Stanford? Were you kidnapped?”

“More accurately, I went into hiding from the ‘monster’ I told you about,” Ford said grimly. “He went after me for thirty years.”
Shermie leaned forward, staring at Ford. “You were being followed…is he still following you now?” He turned to take a peek between the curtains, half-expecting some hooded stranger standing outside his son’s house.

“No,” Ford said firmly. “He’s gone now.”

Shermie turned back to him. “Gone?”

Ford nodded. “Absolutely gone. And it’s thanks to Stan here that we—I’m free of them.”

Shermie raised an eyebrow and looked at Stan. “Do I want to know how you got rid of Ford’s stalker?”

Stan raised his hands. “It’s not what you think. Perfectly legal! Scout’s honor!”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Shermie muttered. “And I know you never became a Scout, Stanley.”

Shermie stared at his brothers again, with another feeling replacing the confusion he had when he woke up.

“So, that’s the truth?” he asked quietly.

Ford nodded. “With some omissions here and there, for, uh…”

“Classified!” Stan added. “Classified reasons. We—they told us not to give out too many details and…”

“Never mind all that!” supplied Mabel.

“That’s pretty much it,” agreed Dipper.

Shermie sighed and adjusted his position on the sofa to a regular sitting position.

“Are you two going to sit down?” he asked quietly. “You look like you’re about to bolt from Ben’s house for some reason.”
“No we’re not,” Stan mumbled as he followed his twin to sit on the Lie-Me-Down chairs across the sofa. Meanwhile, Dipper and Mabel sat down on either side of their grandfather. Waddles trotted to lie down by Mabel’s feet.

“What I want to know is: why didn’t either of you call me?” Shermie asked. He wasn’t able to hide the crack in his voice. “Stanford, I know Ma gave you my number after you graduated from Backupsmore. You could have reached out to me, and I would have made the trip from California to Oregon to help you! Ruth would have understood!”

Ford looked stunned. “Shermie, I—”

“And Stanley, I know we haven’t seen each other since I was shipped off to ‘Nam,” Shermie continued. “I know you’ve been calling Ma on her hotline to keep her from worrying. I told her to tell you where I was and how to contact me! I wanted to help you since I found out that Filbrick kicked you out. Didn’t you get it?” He ran a hand through his thinning gray hair. “Good gravy, I just realized that you only called me once to tell me about your own funeral arrangements!”

“Dad…” Ben said in concern; his father was getting louder. He was afraid it was going to scare the kids, but he didn’t need to worry. Beside him, Mabel and Dipper reached out to take each of Shermie’s hand and give him a reassuring squeeze.

“Shermie, we’re sorry,” said Ford. “Honestly, we didn’t do it on purpose! My only excuse at the time was that I was mentally in a bad place. I was out of my mind.”

“And I was still thinking I couldn’t face any one of you until I became rich,” Stan shared flatly. “Ma did give me your address and number, but I was—I didn’t know how you’d react if I showed up on your front doorstep…”

“You knuckleheads.”

Stan and Ford stared at their older brother, who lifted himself off the sofa with his cane.

“Yes, the both of you!” he said gruffly. “You worried the HELL out of me for over forty years and didn’t think to try to reach out to me?! Especially you, Stanley,” he said, pointing a finger at his youngest brother. “You had me fooled until you came here when the kids were born! You slipped up and forgot to wear mittens like you did at your ‘funeral’. I counted five fingers while you were holding my grandkids. Do you have any idea what I thought when I realized that you were Stanley all this time? I mean, when you asked me to start calling you ‘Stan’ I thought ‘Stanford’ was having some kind of guilt-trip crisis! I didn’t know how to broach the subject with you until now!”

“If it makes you feel any better, you were pretty fast for a guy who needs a cane to walk around,” Stan offered meekly. “Ya cornered me before I reached the elevators and made off with the kids.”

“Oh please,” Shermie scoffed, using his cane to tap his brother’s leg lightly. “You stopped running when Mabel started crying.”

He sighed out loud and said softly. “The point is: I would have helped you…both of you. You shouldn’t have left me out when you needed it most. I understand if it’s some kind of twin thing between you, but…” He paused to look at Stan. “I’m not Filbrick; I’m your brother!”

Stan and Ford looked at each other.

“We’re so sorry, Shermie,” said Ford, rising from his seat. “I can’t explain why we didn’t think to tell you. The best explanation we could give you is that we didn’t want you to worry. This was our mess, and we’d rather clean it up than bother you with it.”

“And I didn’t want to disturb you and your family life,” said Stan, standing up as well. “I’m the family screw-up, remember?”

“As far as I’m concerned, Filbrick messed up your lives when he kicked you out of the house,” Shermie said gruffly. He looked at his brothers and spread out his arms. “C’mere, ya gremlins,” he said, smiling. “We’ve got some more catching up to do.”

He nearly lost his balance when his brothers walked forward and embraced him.

Later, Shermie would thank his grandchildren for setting up the best Christmas surprise he ever received.

Author’s Note: The vague but truthful story the Stans shared is inspired from thesnadger’s brothers’ reunion ficlet. This story is meant as a prequel to “Not What It Seems”, but I hope I wrote it in a way that it could stand alone on its own.