"The more things change, the more they stay the same…"

You must've heard that tired old cliche at some point in your life, yes? Ever understood the definition of this phrase?

If you have, then please let me know exactly what the hell it means. And what exactly the creator was on when he said it.

Because from where I'm sitting, in completely different surroundings and with a completely different way of life (more on those later) it makes about as much sense as a twelve dollar bill. I swear, Papa Stan really needs to stop forging banknotes if he doesn't understand basic currency…

Oops, I went and blabbed the big secret, didn't I? Shame, I was setting up that particular revelation for a heartwarming conclusion. Ah well, I guess this section of my diary will be like my life up til' about a month ago: messy, complicated and without any clear sense of purpose.

(Of course we can also add to that: depressing, abusive, controlling and hopeless… but you know about all the bad stuff already. Let's just skip over that for now, and concentrate on my 'happy ending', shall we?)

Yep, welcome to my new family of assorted geeks, losers and miscellaneous misfits. The sort of wacky weirdos I would've crossed the border to escape in my former incarnation as the 'glamourous' heir to the Northwests. (and that's the last time I'll ever say the second-most awful 'n' word… you know what the first one is)

Now though, things are slightly different. For starters, it's a bit difficult to carry on despising folk who've become the first people you've ever met to give a genuine damn about you.

Yes, others who shall remain nameless until the end of time might've showered me with money, gifts or compliments, but these empty gestures were only ever designed to get something in return. Whether it be my obedience, tolerance, a seedy roll-around in the back of a sports-car…

Anyway, I digress. If you want a more accurate image, think of that fictional princess with the long blonde locks imprisoned in the tower for many years, until Prince Charming or whoever came along to rescue her from undeserved captivity, unrelenting boredom and rampant dandruff.

Well, that 'princess' is me (although, my hair is a bit shorter these days. I finally got to decide on the length. WOO HOO!) and my brave rescuer is not some bland pretty boy from a far-off kingdom with an unpronounceable name.

Rather, it's a crazy sweater-wearing girl and her pink, oinking 'steed'. Alongside her are her faithful valets: A clever foreigner who's a whizz with gadgets and gizmos of all kinds, a strongwoman who could lift us all with one arm tied behind her back (a fact that she's demonstrated. Repeatedly.)

The princess had gotten used to her life of privilege and pain, even though it was evident to all she wasn't happy. She gainfully kept up the pretense for many years, venting her entrenched frustrations on innocent parties to hide the hole in her soul where joy and fulfilment might have resided (a bit soppy to write, but like I said in the last part or something, these pathetic nerds have gotten to me emotionally… and I love it.)

Then, on the not-so-sweet 16th anniversary of her incarceration, a slim shaft of light was finally cast through the dank gloom. It came not from the sun peeking out through a grey cloud, but the rather less poetic motion of a rusty grappling-hook smashing through her bedroom window.

To cut a long story short (you already know about the rest if you've read the whole of my diary… HEY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING READING MY DIARY?! I WILL SUE YOU!) after a 'bracing' ride in first a space-impaired sack and arguably the oldest rustbucket in existence, she experienced a new form of imprisonment in the upstairs room of something called the 'Mystery Shack'.

(Of course, the real 'mystery' is how such a ramshackle dump had managed to stand for so long without either collapsing or being condemned, but I shouldn't say those things in front of my new foster… oops, getting ahead of myself there again)

Then, a process some would refer to as 'brainwashing' began, but I prefer to call 'detoxification'. The sheltered princess was presented with the truth of her hollow, brutal life, and faced a stark choice: would she carry on as before… miserable and wretched, taking out her anguish on others who had nothing to do with her perpetual suffering?

...Or would she change her cynical outlook to that of the grinning goobers cloistered around her tied-up form, where nothing short of a satellite falling on their heads would cease their insufferable smiles and gratuitous grimaces?

Tick Tock Paz...

...Well, maybe I can save the suspenseful music, since you already know the answer. Not only did she opt for the path that was 'righteous and true' (cringe) but she also saved the bacon of her new friends when her moustache-twirling captor and his fire-breathing dragon wife came looking for her.

On that note, It is with some satisfaction that I can now report that both are now doing proper time now in actual penitentiaries, not allegorical ones like mine. For various tax embezzlement and child endangerment reasons I hear, but who cares? Just as long as I don't have to hear or see them ever again, that's enough for me. And you should see the luminous orange jumpsuits they have to wear twenty four/seven, talk about a fashion disaster zone! Bleugh!

On a lighter topic, once all the camera crews had left the scene that dramatic night and things quietened down a bit, the princess found she was now castle-less and faced being forcibly placed in a little thing called 'the system'.

For the uninitiated, it basically meant having to share a big house with a bunch of similarly parentally-deprived kids until someone cared enough to give them a permanent place to call 'home'.

As you can imagine in these selfish times, this doesn't happen all that often. So my immediate future looked to be stuck under a roof with dozens of rowdy teens who'd give me no privacy whatsoever. I'd never be able to fully do my makeup ever again! My mascara and blush jobs would be competent, instead of inspired! Travesty!

Some would say this was fitting penance for my previous activities. They would probably be right, too… but it doesn't mean I have to like or even accept it. Oh, what is a lost little formerly rich girl to do?

...Well, as it turned out, the answer was 'something else'. Papa Stan approached me with an offer I couldn't refuse, and what do you know, I said "yes".

(Full disclosure: it was actually more like "YYYEEESSS!" followed by an embarrassingly tearful hug even Mabes might've found excessive, but let's not dwell on that)

So here I now sit at the newly repaired Mystery Shack counter… valued employee, honest citizen and daughter to two of the most eccentric brothers around. Yep, you guessed it: turns out the two old geezers couldn't get enough of the 'dumb blonde' after all, so here I am to stay. Whoopee!

What can I say about my new 'salubrious' surroundings? The food is below-par. The damp is rising. And I'm sure I spotted a rodent-like figure poking it's whiskered head from under my broken mattress earlier…

But, what do you know? It still gets a maximum five stars from the official Pacifica Guide of places to stay, mainly due to the excellent company, great atmosphere and distinct lack of bells anywhere. Hurray!

Besides, it's better than ever now. After my former captors went to jail, I was the sole inheritor of their misbegotten fortune… a large chunk of which had to be paid back to the state. Ouch.

After those considerable deductions, what was left over just about covered the reconstruction costs of the gutted Mystery Shack… and even put in a functioning toilet. Pappy Stan spends almost as much time inside there as his laboratory, he really should lay off the stewed prunes at supper time…!

(For future reference: Huckster Stan = Papa Stan. Genius Stan = Pappy Stan. Got it? Good, because I won't explain it again.)

And obviously, how can I forget my new step-sister/brother, Mabel and Maso… Dipper Pines? The upstairs bedroom gets a bit cramped with the three of us hunkering up there, but we play games and chat and sometimes I cry and they comfort me and they cry and I… try saying something nice.

Frankly, they're much better at this whole 'sympathy' thing than I am, (I didn't exactly have very good teachers growing up) but I'm learning. Mabel always beams with encouragement and Dipper nods appreciatively at my efforts, and with their help I'm getting better every day.

At least, my big apology to the whole school regarding my shameful past conduct seemed to have gone down well. Tiffany joined me up on stage, and together we swore never to bully anyone again.

The other students seemed to accept my sincere words well enough, considering everything I'd put them through. Maybe it was my carefully chosen words than won them round, scribbled meaningfully on the back of a napkin the previous day. Perhaps it was the reassuring presence of the twins beside me during my time of need, which gave me the confidence I needed to express what needed to be said…

Or maybe it was the gold watches I bought them all by means of 'sorry', which gave me such a rapturous reception in the hall that day and left me with an aching back from all the hard pats I got afterwards.

Did I mention there was a bit of coinage left from the remunerations to the shack? Silly me. Must've slipped my mind.

Shameless bribery aside, me and Tiff were more than pleased with the reaction to our big moment, and since then we've just been two of the girls. With no geeks to threaten to do our homework for us though, we have to cram harder than ever to pass our exams… but that's just fine with me.

Putting my head down and working hard helps stave off the bad memories of the past I sometimes still get when I'm alone, plus it gives me the excuse I need to spend time with a certain special becapped 'tutor' I hand-picked personally for the important role. Speaking of which…

"Hey Paz, what are you still doing here? Don't tell me Wendy's late for her shift again." Dipper frowned with annoyance as I suspended my entry for the day.

"Give her a break Dips, it must be tough having so many brothers and a dad who spends more time in the forest then at home taking care of them." I defended my ginger friend robustly.

You'd think being a former crush of Dip-dop, they'd be some hint of lingering animosity there, but no. After all, we 'tough' young ladies need to stick together. Until there are less Chads in the world, at least.

(Speaking of which, I haven't seen much of him or Chantal lately, not that I'm complaining. Rumours abound that either they've eloped, he got her pregnant or they jumped off a cliff together as a sign of their 'love'. It doesn't occupy my headspace too much, put it that way.)

"I know. It just doesn't seem fair, leaving you to work overtime for no good reason." Dipper sighed in annoyance on my behalf. "It's not like Grunkle Stan even pays you that well, to expect you to work more hours for basically spare change is just…"

"Dipper, I just told you. It's fine. If money meant anything to me these days, would I really have given up the life of a moviestar to come and cohabitate with you losers?" I said that last part with a palpable wink. I could still be myself, the difference is now such harsh words were purely meant in jest.

"Flattery will get you everywhere, Paz." Dipper scoffed in response, before nervously glancing around as if he had something to say, but couldn't quite spit it out.

"What? Do I have a pimple on my nose? A broken nail? Bad body odour?! Tell me this second, Mason Pines, before I come over there myself and throttle the information out of you myself!" Despite being a much calmer individual these days, I still had my moments of madness… especially where stinky underarm stenches were concerned.

"Whoa! Chill out, 'Pacifica Pines', it's nothing quite as 'horrible' as that! I was merely plucking up the courage to… g-give you something…"

Instantly, my whole bad-tempered demeanour popped like a balloon, and I became an abject figure of stammering nervousness myself. "Y-You want, t-to give me something? The girl who has… I mean, had everything?"

"That's right!" At the sight of my own anxiousness, Dipper seemed to relax a little, and swiftly shoved a roughly wrapped package into my shaking hands. "Happy birthday, Paz! Sorry the other one got trod on by the cops during that whole 'invasion' thing a month ago, so here's a replacement! You better eat it quickly though… you know what a sweet tooth our sister has…"

He was cut off by the unexpected embrace I gave him a with both arms, for I knew by his unsubtle clues exactly what lay beneath the packaging of this seemingly insignificant present.

Then, without any further ado, I tore it all off to reveal exactly what I'd expected to see: the tiniest of tiny cupcakes sitting there, half-baked and with a single candle sticking out of it's stodgily assembled middle.

You could tell Dipper had made it all by himself. It looked barely edible, a miniature heap of mush which would probably collapse into an avalanche of crumbs at the merest hint of pressure…

And yet, it was simply the best present I'd ever received. Better than the golf clubs, the peahens, the fabulous outfits, Sergei…

Okay, maybe not the pony, but it's a very close thing, okay? Let's just say, it's the best thing I have right now. Satisfied?

"So, are you gonna make another wish?" Dipper's warm words broke me out of my temporary stupor, as he wandered over with a Papa Stan shaped lighter (from the rest of the crappy merchandise downstairs, no doubt).

"D-Do you mean, I get another one?" I looked up at him apprehensively, as he lit the wick. "Doesn't that break like, some unknown cosmic rule? Especially when you consider how many other less lucky people are hurting out there…"

"Hmm, not too sure about that. Maybe that's something I'll have to look into: 'Do Birthday Wishes come true, and what are the limits'?" I could already see the geekazoid was planning a new entry into his journal. Him and Pappy Stan, two peas in an insufferable pod of scientific guff. "For now though, just give it a go. If anyone deserves an extra break, I'd definitely say it was you."

Doing my utmost to disguise the all-over blush those kind words brought out in me, I lowered my head to pass the obligatory gust of air from my lungs, as well as rapidly skim through my list of options regarding what I could possibly want.

Seconds passed…

Then minutes…..

What to do, what to do...

Before I knew it, I'd been staring at that stupid cake for the best part of half-an-hour.

"Well, have you thought of something yet?" Dipper enquired from a nearby brochure. He was so bored of waiting for me he'd even resorted to reading Papa Stan's illiterate (and mostly falsified) Mystery Shack literature. Poor guy.

I better do something.

"T-The fact is Dipper…"

"Yes, Paz?"

"I don't really need anything any more. Everything I could possibly ever want or need, is right here."

"R-Really?"

"Believe me, no-one is more surprised than I am to hear this coming from the girl who once had her own minor league baseball franchise, but it's true. Turns out all I needed to be content is a scheming old miser, his intelligent yet socially-inept brother and two of the most annoying step-siblings ever to talk to the wee small hours, completely ruining my beauty rest."

"Y-Yeah, about that… I'm s-sor…"

"Your apologies mean nothing, until you stop doing it. Now Dipstick, seeing as Wendy looks like she'll never get here, and today seems a particularly slow one for business, hows about we join Mabel, Candy and Grenda down at Lazy Susan's for ice-cream waffles sprinkled with Smile Dip? I've never tried them before, but Mabes assures me they're the tops. Gee, I hope I'm not going to regret this later…"

"E-Er Paz… there's something you should know about S-Smil..."

"No time for second thoughts now, Darling. I knew what I was letting myself in for when I joined this motley crew, and now I must face the consequences. Grab your scarf, 'cos I'm not lending you mine again. And you're treating me, because as you so rightly state, Papa Stan's wages are nothing short of scandalous."

And without any further delay, Pacifica marched brusquely over to the door, unceremoniously discarding her big '?' tee en route to reveal a far more fashion-conscious hot pink top underneath. Flipping the 'Open' sign to 'Closed', she walked off without looking back, knowing full well that Dipper would soon follow without needing the slightest prompt.

First of all though, something seemed to be troubling him. It related to what he'd just heard, which had turned his insides to goo and sent his beating heart into such a flurry, a cardiac arrest seemed inevitable later.

"D-Did she just call me, d-darling?" he stuttered, after all it was a noticeable change from the usual parade of insulting 'd' words she spouted in his presence.

"Well, are you coming then, dear?!"

"Y-Yes, yes… a thousand times yes!" Dipper finally snapped out of his funk to scamper outside in earnest, but not before shutting the door on both the shack and this story.

And yes, everyone lived happily ever after.

...Except for the ones who didn't deserve to. Hehe.

THE END

….

AUTHOR'S NOTE...Welp, that's finally it. The last part of a story I started almost five years ago is now finally complete. Hopefully, the fact I at long last managed to conclude a chapter fic will give me confidence to complete the rest of my unfinished work, but don't count your chickens just yet. It remains to be seen whether this is the start of a welcome trend, or merely a temporary spark of activity in my humdrum life. For now though, I'd like to thank every single person who read, commented, shared or just plain enjoyed this fic based on one of the greatest shows ever. I'm outta here. Buh-bye for now! :)