Mabel and Dipper arrived back at Stan's home right before sunset.
And of course when they got home, Grunkle Stan was ready with a list of chores for Dipper for missing his work and nothing Wendy said to get him out of it worked. He didn't bother much, though, starting right after dinner, which was served at 7:00.
So while Dipper had to cut some wood for the fireplace and stove, Mabel asked Melody to help her try to bake something she always wanted to: apple pie. Mabel liked apple pie and always wanted to try making it, but the palace kitchen's servants had never let her do so.
So she had quite the time as Melody showed her how to make a proper pie. She needed to prepare the pasties, chop the apples, add cinnamon, sugar and other ingredients before putting it in the stove. The wait was so long it seemed like hours. Mabel was so eager to get it when Melody announced it was ready that she almost burned herself.
But finally, she tasted it. And, to her surprise, it was good. Excited, Mabel got a lot of plates and started cutting slices of it to give everyone. Soos quickly ate his before he escorted Melody back to her house.
"Hey, Stan, Roderick, Robbie, what do you guys think of it?" The princess asked, not able to contain herself from sheer happiness, resting her chin on both hands.
The three men were sitting across from her at the table, tasting the apple pie as she asked.
"Well, it's good indeed…" Grunkle Stan mumbled to himself, chewing.
"Yeah, watch out or he might ask you to make some he can sell." Commented Robbie in a joking tone.
"But of course, who would I be if I passed up the opportunity to get my hands on some gold? I'm a pirate remember? I've been one for longer than you've existed."
"Yeah, yeah…" The younger man mumbled, rolling his dark blue eyes.
"Anyway, it is very good Mabel. Especially it being the first time you really tried to cook something." Roderick complimented, finishing his slice.
At that moment, Dipper walked down the stairs, already in his pajamas after taking a sponge bath to remove all the sweat from his Grunkle's extra chores. Mabel promptly jumped off her chair and handed him a plate with a slice of pie.
"Here! Taste it! I made it myself!"
Dipper looked at it and then back at her, a bit suspicious.
"It's not like the sunny side up eggs event, right?"
"No. I may have exaggerated a little bit. I didn't do everything, actually I helped Melody do this all while she taught me to, but I helped a lot, okay? More than I have ever done before and it is good. Ask them if you have any doubt."
"Just eat it, Son. I promise you're not gonna get sick." Roderick joked, but he meant it.
Dipper shrugged and accepted the plate nonetheless, quickly eating the contents and praising Mabel, who was anxiously awaiting it.
When Soos got home, he ate another slice before he went to sleep. They left the remains of the pie on the table with a white piece of cloth on top to protect it. And so Mabel collected all the dishes and started washing them.
"Would you like some help?"
"Thanks, but no. It's not much and you were probably busy all day, Roderick."
"Dipper can help you."
"Please don't. He took me out to see the city and his Grunkle Stan just gave him chores to do when we got back. He didn't deserve this just because he was doing me a favor. Besides, he probably already went to sleep."
"I'm sure he didn't mind the trouble. Anyway Stan would have given him those chores to do sooner or later and Dipper knew it. He was raised by Stan, you know."
"I know. He told me so. You were already a pirate, back then, right?"
"Indeed, you're right."
"Roderick, if I may ask, why did you become a pirate?"
The man choked out a small laugh.
"Something was taken from me several years ago. I lost everything. Well, almost everything and what I had was difficult enough to keep. So I decided that no one would trample over me again, that I'd never have to go through suffering like that another time. I grabbed my opportunity to be powerful. Stan trained me and then I took over his ship and what was left of the crew. Then I started sailing the seven seas after everything I could get my hands into. It was way better than to remember the pain of what I lost."
Mabel gave him a sad smile. It was only a few simple phrases that summed pretty much half of his life but that revealed so much to the caring girl.
The captain then decided to go sleep like everyone else was already doing, not forgetting to tell her to go soon as well. He knew no one needed to keep an eye on her, he knew she wouldn't try to escape again, because he trusted his son's judgment. Besides, she didn't have anywhere else to go.
Dipper tossed and turned in his sleep, soon finding himself waking from his slumber. As he opened his tired eyes, he could see the dark guest room and hear his father breathing on the other side of the chamber. He cursed himself for waking, but sat up anyway. He was thirsty, so he stood just to walk all the way down to the kitchen and fetch some water.
After finally satisfying his thirsty throat, he groggily staggered back upstairs. But on the way to the guest room, he noticed something weird. On the other side of the door of his room, there was light. He rubbed his tired eyes just in case his mind was playing some trick and looked again. No, there was definitely a source of light coming from the other side of the door.
Dipper had a very curious nature, so it wasn't in him to just forget about that and go back to bed. If there was a mystery to solve, he wouldn't just go to sleep. Pressing his ear against the wooden door, he tried to hear what was going on. There was no sound, so he imagined Mabel had just fallen asleep with a lamp lit up, so he silently entered in the room.
The moment the door creaked open; he heard a yelp that was soon shushed. Mabel was sitting at his table and she was so startled that she jumped from the chair, making noise as it slid against the floor, but not enough to wake anyone. The girl panted, startled and he looked at her in a mix between astonishment and disbelief.
"Geez, Dipper, you nearly scare me half to death!" exclaimed Mabel, holding her heart that was hammering so fast she felt like it could just beat through her chest and out to the world.
"Mabel, what are you doing?" He asked slowly, taking two steps into the room, leaving the door half open.
She sighed looking to the side, one hand mindlessly tidying up the pajama she'd stolen from him. She'd been wearing the white nightgown they gave her, but it was still wet from when she washed it earlier the last time she checked. The weather was too cold and humid for fabric to dry fast.
"It's not what it looks like…"
"You lied to me. You're sewing, aren't you? It's like three in the morning and you'd probably stay up all night just to do that stupid…"
"It's not that!" she replied before he could finish the sentence, suddenly irritated. "I didn't lie."
"Oh, no? So you deny you were sewing that pajama?"
"No. But you don't understand. I'm not awake because I'm sewing. And that's why I didn't lie. You asked me if I was awake to do this and it's not true. It's the opposite. I'm just doing it while I'm awake."
"What? Then just go to bed already. It's late and I know you're tired. I don't need a new pajama now, I told you a billion times!"
"Gosh, you're so self-centered. I'm not doing it because I'm in a hurry. I'm just doing it because I can't sleep. If it wasn't your pajama, I'd just find other stuff to do."
"What do you mean you can't sleep?" He questioned suddenly much more curious and worried than angry.
"It's nothing, just forget about it." Instead of leaving like she wanted, Dipper merely crossed his arms and looked at her with a raised eyebrow. Mabel sighed, knowing it meant he was going to stay there until he got an answer. Sometimes Dipper was just too stubborn. "It's just ridiculous, okay? So it doesn't matter."
"If it matters to you, it matters. And I'm not gonna laugh if that's what you're afraid of." He assured while she just fell back into the chair, crossing her arms stubbornly.
"It's just stupid."
"You can tell me." His voice was so reassuring she couldn't help but believe him. Dipper kneeled down closer to her so he could be on a similar eye level.
Mabel looked at him intensely, searching for a reason not to tell him, but she found none. He was so generous and strong at the same time it made her feel safe. She bit her lip for a few moments until she could gather up enough courage to speak.
"It's just that since the night Robbie went all crazed up, high in alcohol and tried to attack me I can't sleep. I just can't let myself sleep."
"Mabel, if that was it you could have just told us. He can sleep back in the ship for as long as you want him to. Even without him being tied up, though I'd love that." He tried to joke and almost made a smile grace her lips.
"He is not the problem, Dipper. I am. It's that I just realized how weak and vulnerable I am. My dad was right, you know… I wouldn't last a day out there by myself. And that kinda scares me enough to leave me restless."
"Well, you could just lock the door."
"I don't really like it and anyone could just open it or pick the lock, anyway.
"And what was your plan? Stay up all night for the rest of your life? That's not gonna fix anything."
"I know, but I just can't fall asleep. Every time I close my eyes it's like a burning fear sensation creeps into me because I realized that if someone tried to attack me while I'm sleeping like Robbie did, but sober and with full intention to hurt me, the person would probably kill me even before I manage to scream. You don't know how useless I feel…" Then she started running her nervous hands down her side braid, she usually tied up her hair to sew so it wouldn't fall in the way.
"Oh, Mabel, just tell me when something is wrong, okay? If you want me to, I can sleep here on the floor or in the corridor if it makes you feel better."
"That's really sweet, but I want to be able to feel safe by myself. Look, just forget it and go to sleep, okay? I'll eventually forget it and sleep too."
Dipper frowned, not really believing her, and looked to the side thinking what to do when an idea suddenly hit him. "What if I teach you how to defend yourself?"
Her eyes sparkled. "Really? You'd do that for me? But are you sure I can do this? My dad always told me fighting is not for princesses…"
"Your father isn't here and if he was, I'd tell him I don't agree with him at all."
"Apparently you won't sleep until then so we better start as soon as possible so I can go back to sleep." Dipper announced standing up. "But it will be just a few moves, one quick lesson, enough for you to see you're not that hopeless. Fighting takes some time to master and you won't be doing this in one night. You'll manage to just get away to scream, though. I guess it will help you sleep."
She thanked him as he extended a hand to guide her out of the chair and up.
"So how do we begin?"
"You said you're scared of someone caming in the middle of the night, right?" She promptly nodded, her usual cheerful smile already on her face again. "Well, so… I guess you should… lay down…" He trailed off finally realizing how stupidly awkward it would get.
Dipper gulped and discretely closed the door, almost regretting offering. It was going to be excruciatingly awkward. But he couldn't back away now. She needed it. And as weird as it sounded for him, Mabel came first. He would not let her down.
She laid back down on the bed, like she was when Robbie tried to attack. Dipper ran a nervous hand through his chestnut hair, it was dark but even so, she could see the trace of his birthmark on his forehead. He approached to sit on the corner of the bed.
"I-I'll start with something basic. If someone comes to try and choke you, for example, the person will probably use both hands. Like this." He started, bringing his hands near her neck, thanking the Gods he wasn't trembling from nervousness because it would only make him feel more stupid. He stopped before he could even brush her skin. "I won't hurt you, okay?"
"I know." Her soft voice surprised even herself. She really did know that she trusted him so.
Her heart skipped a beat. Since when had started trusting so fast? Sure, she trusted him from the beginning, but she didn't know it was that deep. With everyone else she had relied on in the palace, it felt like forever before she trusted them. She felt safe with Dipper, he was the source of her calmness and assurance and a week ago she hadn't even known he existed. Lost in thoughts, she barely noticed when he somehow placed himself on top of her, yet he was as far as he could be, barely touching her at all. Once again she was surprised to notice she wasn't one bit scared.
Dipper gulped, imagining how his father and Grunkle would react if they ended up seeing him like that. They'd probably kill him, thinking the boy was taking advantage of her or something like that.
"So, first, if someone tries to choke you, he or she will probably be in a position like this and then would reach your neck like I'm doing. So what would you do to break free?"
"Try to push their arms away?" She answered but it sounded like a question, holding his forearms to demonstrate what she'd do.
"Yeah, that's what most people would do, but it's not really effective, especially if the person who is trying to kill you is stronger. And men are usually stronger than women."
"So what could I do, then? If the person is stronger there's nothing I can do."
"Of course there is. Everyone has a weak spot and even if you're facing the strongest man in the kingdom, there's nothing he could do if you make him lose balance."
"And how do I do that?"
"You break the point where he's applying the most strength. You'll clamp your fists together over your belly and then hold each hand tight as you push your fists up above your head. Try doing it slowly." She complied and saw that when she pushed her arms up, he'd have no way but to let go of her neck. "See? If you do this very fast when someone is choking you, you'll be able to break free."
"But then what? How can I keep the person away, he could just go and try choking me again."
"What would you do if I was trying to get closer to you right now?"
She gulped, feeling embarrassed and reaching out her hands to touch his chest.
"I'd try to push you like that."
"No, because I can easily turn my torso and break your resistance. You should hold the shoulders right here." He instructed guiding her hands from his chest to right place. "And stay with your arms extended so the attacker won't get nearer to you than your arm."
"What if someone tries to hold my hands down?"
"Like that?" He asked suddenly holding her wrists down on both sided of her head. He wasn't applying enough strength to hurt her, but he also wasn't holding her like she was made of glass. Mabel tried to break free, turning her wrists to make him let go, but it was no use. She still wasn't scared of him, but she was frightened of the situation. There was no way she could get free, yet he wasn't really making too much effort. "The advantage is with the person on top, gravity will make it more difficult for you to break free. In this case, you should try to use your legs. Legs are always stronger than arms."
"How will I do that if you're on top of me?" Mabel didn't mean to, but she blushed anyway.
"Simple, you try to turn your body and hips enough to put your knee up." He instructed guiding her body with a free hand, he was being totally respectful, but even so, she felt butterflies in her stomach to feel him touching her. "Then, try to place your foot on my hip and push it."
Mabel wasn't really meaning to shove him hard, but she did anyway. When she realized what she was doing, Dipper was already on the floor. And it wasn't like she really used strength; it was more because he didn't expect it at all.
"Oh my god, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to hurt you!"
He slowly stood up holding the place she kicked him. Mumbling and wincing in pain, he was finally straight up with her by his side, asking for forgiveness.
"See? You did it." He managed to say as the pain passed. "I mean, you did catch me off guard, but you pushed me off of you all by yourself. And I'm fine, at least you didn't hit me in my weakest spot. I'd be on the ground even now... When in need, always try to hit a man where it will hurt, but try hard or it will only make him mad... Well, I guess it's enough of a lesson for today, right?"
"Yeah. You're right." Mabel responded, hugging him in thanks. "Thanks, Dipper! I did it! You made me feel so nice!"
"So, I think it's better for us to go sleep now..." His face was redder than an apple.
She let him go, agreeing, and he started to open the door to leave, when she stopped him mid way, pulling him lightly by the fabric of the pajama at the same time she got up on her tiptoes to gently kiss his cheek. She whispered another, "thank you" and then turned back to her temporary room. He left the chamber closing the door without even recognizing what he was doing, so surprised he was. It took him a while to fall asleep that night.
Dipper felt himself being shaken awake in the morning by his father.
"Stop with this laziness, Son. It's already morning."
"Let me sleep..."
"No, you have work to do and so do I. Come on, get up and get dressed, I'll meet you downstairs."
Dipper groggily sat up, rubbing his eyes, gathering strength enough stand. Soon, he washed his face with the bowl of water over the drawer, got dressed and made his way to the kitchen. Strangely, that morning Mabel wasn't there to greet them.
"Mabel is not awake yet? Weird, she's usually the first to wake up..." Stan pointed out, roasting coffee beans.
"Maybe she was just tired. Let her sleep for a while." Dipper said, grabbing some fruit and sitting at the table to eat. He already knew she hadn't had a real night's rest since they ported and that she was not sleeping at all since the Robbie incident. In fact, he was hoping not to see her there this morning, it meant she was still sleeping and she needed the rest.
"Yeah, but I'm checking on her just in case." The captain announced before he left the kitchen.
"Just don't wake her!" He heard Dipper's voice before he started going up the stairs again.
Roderick nodded as he walked up the stairs. He gently knocked a few times on the door that was his son's bedroom, but there was no answer. He knocked again before announcing he was coming in. Part of him was afraid she had tried to run away again, not only because of the money part (though that was also very important), but also Roderick hated to admit it, he was becoming fond of her and he didn't want her to get hurt or be in danger. Another part of him trusted the girl, she said she wouldn't try to run away again and she didn't seem like the type of person to lie so easily.
So he was both relieved and convinced at the same time when he opened the door to find her sleeping peacefully on the bed. She was sleeping so deeply that even the blinding light of the sun was not enough to disturb her slumber. Maybe Dipper was right; she was tired and just needed some rest.
With a small smile, he slowly walked to close the wooden window cases making the room a bit darker. Then he covered her a little more to protect her from the cold of the north, before he exited the room.
"You were right, Son. She's still sleeping." Roderick announced after going back downstairs. "Let her be for a little while. Anyway, Stan and I will be going now. We'll be back at night."
"Father, I remembered something. You know, the night of the kidnapping, I didn't leave empty handed. Or, should I say with my pockets empty… Anyway, I got a necklace, full of diamonds and stuff. Maybe it will be worth enough gold to stall the crew for a while…"
Dipper had forgotten it since that day, only remembering it recently, waiting for a chance to talk to his leader. Roderick got the necklace, indeed it seemed quite expensive.
"You're right. I shall exchange it for some gold today. Good thinking, Kid. I taught you well."
Putting the necklace in his pocket and ruffling his son's hair, the captain left with Stan. With a bit of laziness and a sigh, both Dipper and Robbie headed to the shop to start working.
It had been a while since Mabel had slept so deeply that she didn't rise with the sun. In fact, when she noticed it was morning, half of it had already passed. That was when the princess jumped out of bed and quickly started getting dressed. And while she was at it, she couldn't stop thinking about a certain chestnut haired pirate.
The memories of last night were still vivid in the back of her mind. The way Dipper looked at her, so full of attention and care, the way his soft voice told her what to do, the way he held her, not too strong and not too weak, just the perfect measure to feel wanted and respected at the same time. Just the thought of him made her shiver.
She did her best to push those thoughts aside and went downstairs. She grabbed an apple in the kitchen and entered the shop finding her three friends already there.
"Finally you decided to grace us with your presence." Robbie said, sarcasm evident in his voice. "Geez, you slept like a rock."
"Sleep well?" Dipper asked and Mabel felt her heart skip a beat, her mind tracing back to last night.
"Yes. Thanks." She ignored the red cheeks and took a bite of the apple, looking away.
Because of Mabel's luck, someone entered the shop and the attention was diverted from her. It was Melody, with a cheerful smile on her face and a paper in her hand.
"Hello, guys. Good morning. I'm going to make lunch for us again. I'll need something from the grocery, though. Could you two strong guys be so kind to go for me? Grunkle Stan left some money." She said handing Dipper the paper, which was a list of stuff to buy and then gave him a sac with golden coins. "I'll be here preparing to cook."
"Sure. We'll be back soon. Mabel, would you like to come as well?"
"I would, but maybe I should stay here with Wendy."
"Oh, okay. I'll see you soon. Bye." He bid farewell, a little disappointed that she didn't come as well, even if Robbie would be with them the entire time. But he didn't let it show.
Mabel wanted to go, however she chose to stay because she felt like she needed to think by herself for a while. She wouldn't say organize her thoughts because Mabel wasn't really an organized person, but she needed to let herself analyze what she was feeling without interference so she could understand her feelings towards Dipper. She sighed in her reverie.
"What is wrong, Mabel?" Wendy asked, remembering not to call her princess. Even though she saw her as a friend, it was still difficult to treat her like a commoner sometimes.
"I'm just… I just miss my friends, that's all."
"Are you… homesick?"
"No way." She said waving a hand around and making a fart-like noise with her mouth. "I don't miss that place at-all! But I miss my friends Candy and Grenda. I just wanted someone to talk to. And I wish they knew I'm okay."
"You talk a lot with Dipper. You guys get along pretty well. Why don't you go talk to him, then?"
"Well, I can't really talk to him about… well… him…"
Wendy practically jumped, smiling from ear to ear very excited.
"You mean you want to have a girl-talk? You're so cute!"
"Don't be so loud! Someone might hear you…"
"That's so exiting! I haven't had girl talk in ages! I grew up with only boys, my dad and brothers and I live most of the time in a ship full of men. I never get girl-talk. So, what is it?"
"Well… I just… I don't know; that's the problem."
"What? You kinda lost me here…"
"It's just that… I like being around him. I like him, but at the same time, I don't know what I feel. I know I'm not supposed to love him, so what do I feel?"
"Wait, why are you not supposed to love him? He's a good guy."
"I know. But he's a pirate, and I am a princess." Wendy was about to complain, she was sure Mabel was underestimating her friend and she wouldn't agree with it, but before she had the chance to continue, Mabel did. "How could he love me?"
"How could he love me? I'm just a spoiled, pampered naïve girl with stupid dreams and no sense of how the world really is outside the palace walls." Mabel said, caressing her long hair mindlessly, resisting the urge to chew it like she always did when she was very anxious. He was free; he could have everything he wanted. "He deserves someone that he can take on adventures. Someone that won't weigh him down... Someone that will not be merely a problem for him to take care of... Someone who can go with him on adventures.,, Someone like you."
Wendy wanted to tell Mabel that Dipper shared a quite self-underestimating feeling, but she knew it wasn't up to her. If they sorted things out and got together, that would be up to them and not her. She could only try to guide them to see the truth.
"Don't be silly, Mabel, you can be that person, too."
"Can I? Really? I can run from the palace but I'll always be a princess. I'll never be truly free. I can't chain him down too."
"It doesn't have to be like that, you know? You could be part of us. Part of our big, weird pirate family."
"I guess I could try. But I don't really know what I feel yet, I just don't want to get myself into something if I don't even know if I'm sure if that's what I really want and feel… I never got to get much experience in the palace. I knew a lot of royal guys my age. Princes, sons of dukes and countless young noblemen... But I never really got to know them. I have nothing to compare what I'm feeling."
"You can't really compare love, Gal. It's different for everyone."
"What do you mean?"
"For example, I have a lot of brothers. And I love all of them even though I fight them all the time too. But the feelings I have for each of them are different. It kind of depends of how close we are. And the love I feel for them is different than the love I have towards my father. Love is always different. But is love nonetheless."
"Then how can you be sure if it's love?"
"Love is a very strong and powerful feeling. It makes us want to do stuff we normally wouldn't. It gives us strength to be able to do stuff we don't want to do. If I have the chance, I'd gladly die and kill for the ones I love because the thought of living without them is just too painful for me to bear. I'd never let them get hurt if I can stop it. Sacrifice for the ones you love comes in many different ways just as love feels different for each person."
"That's beautiful, but then… How can I know if I feel it?"
"Well, my dear, that's something only you can answer."