Author's notes: Day 4 of Gnome-vember...is two months late! I'm not sure if I'm even going to do the other days.
Credit to Allieinarden on Tumblr for the interesting headcanons about Wirt's family.
"Where am I?" Greg asked eagerly. He tried to grab the paper off of the table, but Wirt threw his arms over it to block him.
"Greg, don't touch! You're right here, in the box next to me."
"What are we talking about?"
Their mother had just walked in the backdoor; she was followed by Wirt's stepfather, Marvin, who was carrying a grocery bag in each arm. He set them down on the counter as their mom glanced over Wirt's shoulder.
"Wirt's making a family tree! He won't let me draw any leaves on it, though."
"It's for school. We're pretty much just doing busywork until Winter Break," he added.
"There's me! And there's Wirt, and there's you, Mom, and there's Dad!"
Marvin, having put away the groceries, spared a glance himself. "Hey, I made the cut!" He gave Wirt a playful slap on the shoulder. "Thanks, son."
Wirt forced a smile. He sort of had to put Marvin on the tree if he wanted to include Greg, but he decided not to mention that. Not long ago he would have tried to weasel out of adding him anyway, but Wirt found Marvin's presence less annoying than he used to. It was one of the little things that had changed since Halloween.
Marvin headed out of the kitchen, but their mom lingered as Greg continued to ramble. "And there's Grandma and Grandpa, and Aunt Tammy and Uncle Ken, and Angela and Kimberly, and I don't know who this is!" Greg said cheerfully, pointing at an empty box.
"That's my dad. I just haven't written his name yet."
Wirt's tone was suddenly brusque, his shoulders hitching slightly. His mom may have noticed, because she smoothed his hair in a way that Wirt didn't actually like but which she clearly thought was comforting.
"And what did you do at school today, Greg?"
"We learned about turtles! For homework I colored in this picture!" he said, picking it up from the table. "I made this turtle black instead of green, but he's in Turtle Time-Out for making the dog I drew mad. And I gave this one sunglasses and a hat!"
"You're very creative," their mother said dryly, patting his head too before heading back to her room.
Greg put his picture down and went back to watching Wirt, who tapped his pen on the table as he regarded the blank spots on his tree.
Greg pointed. "Who are these blank squares next to your dad who's still a blank square?"
"They're his brothers."
"What are their names?"
"I don't know," Wirt said, his throat suddenly feeling tight. "I know he has brothers, but I...don't know their names."
"I don't know his parents' names, either. You know, my other grandparents." He pushed his chair back, balancing on the back legs while letting his hands fall limply at his sides. "I've never met any of them or anything."
"Do you know your dad's name?"
"Yes, I know my dad's name, Greg! I just—haven't—written it yet!"
As usual, Greg seemed oblivious to his brother's bad mood. "Where's Uncie Endicott?"
Wirt sighed, a calmer annoyance replacing his anger. "I told you, Greg, he's not actually our uncle. That's why he lives, you know, over there instead of with us."
"What about Jason Funderburker? Where's he?"
"He's a frog."
"But he's family!"
Wirt was going to argue, but then he rolled his eyes, letting his chair fall to the floor. He leaned over his tree and wrote +J.F. in small letters below the box with Greg's name. His brother beamed.
The phone rang. "I'll get it!" Greg called, jumping down from his chair and clambering up another chair so that he could reach it on the wall. Wirt returned to his work, staring at the blank spots as though he could somehow puzzle out the missing names.
"Hello?" Pause. "This is Greg. And who may I say is calling?" Pause. "Oh, hi! I don't think he can come to the phone right now. Hey, do you like turtles?" Pause. "Well, we were learning about turtles in school today, so I was just wondering—"
"Greg, are you bothering another telemarketer?"
"No. It's your dad."
Wirt nearly fell out of his chair, then spun around as he jumped to his feet. Greg turned nonchalantly back to the phone. "Okay, I guess he does want to talk now. Bye Wirt's dad whose name I don't know!"
He handed the phone to his brother, hopped down from the chair and wandered out of the kitchen.
Wirt's hand shook as he put the phone to his ear. "Hello?"
"Um—hi, Wirt." It was strange how the voice both did and did not sound familiar. "It's me. Your dad."
Wirt tried to sound casual. "Hey. Hi. Dad."
"How are you? How are—things?"
"Things are...fine. I guess."
"Your brother seems as excitable as ever." His voice was far too nervous to sound properly amused. "How's your mom? And, uh—Marvin? You two still butting heads?"
"No, we're—we're actually doing alright lately."
"Oh." His father almost sounded disappointed. He cleared his throat. "I know I haven't called in a while."
"Not since my thirteenth birthday," Wirt said without thinking.
"...Yeah. I meant to call this year."
"Then why didn't you?" Wirt said, surprised and a little frightened by the angry edge in his voice.
"I'm sorry, I just forgot—"
Wirt could somehow feel his father wince through the phone line. "I'm sorry," he repeated.
"It's fine," Wirt lied.
Neither of them spoke for about five seconds, though it felt like far longer.
"I heard that you and your brother had a pretty bad accident a while back."
"Yeah. On Halloween." Which was more than a month ago, a voice in the back of his head sneered.
"What exactly happened?"
Wirt scoffed in spite of himself. He could probably write a book about "what exactly happened" that night, and at least half of it would be speculation. He gave the short answer. "We fell in the river."
"I heard that you almost drowned. They had to call an ambulance and everything."
"Yeah, we—were in the hospital overnight. It was no big deal."
"Good. I'm glad it—I was worried," his father said. "And—I'm sorry to be calling like this, you know? Because you had an accident. I should have called—for your birthday, or the holidays, not for something bad. I keep wanting to, but I think, 'oh, I'll wait until I have enough money to go and visit,' but I never do, something always comes up, and—then you almost drown, and—"
He was rambling. This was a new kind of awkward—Wirt felt embarrassed for the guy. That was weird, right? Your parents were supposed to embarrass you, not the other way around.
Worse, Wirt recognized this style of rambling. It came out of his own mouth all the time.
"Dad. It's alright. Really."
His father took a deep breath. "No, it's not. But I'm gonna try and do better. I promise."
Wirt wasn't sure what to say to that. He was silent for several long seconds.
"...Wirt? You still there?"
"Uh—yeah. I'm here."
"Okay. I thought maybe you hung up."
He tried to think of something else to say.
"What are your brothers' names?"
His father coughed. "Pardon?"
"It's just—before you called, I-I was working on this family tree project for school. I remembered that you have brothers, but I..."
"Okay." His father chuckled nervously; it was a strange sound to Wirt's ears. "Yeah. Um—my oldest brother is named Stanford. Lives across the country somewhere. The other one was named Stanley. They were twins," he added. Then, "Stanley is actually gone now. He was in a car accident, about ten years back. Guess I never mentioned it to you."
"Oh." Wirt had a sudden image of Greg, pale and covered with creeping edelwood vines. He shivered. "I'm sorry."
"Well—they were a lot older than me. I don't even remember him. But...that makes it worse, in a way. There'd been some falling out between him and the rest of the family, but...I sort of wish I'd reached out to him. You know?"
"Yeah." He didn't know what else to say, but he understood. A few minutes ago he had been depressed that he didn't even know his uncles' names, and now he realized that that might be all that he would ever know about one of them.
"Once you're gone, you're gone," his father mused. He took a deep breath. "But I guess I didn't learn that message the first time. Because I just keeping thinking, if you really had drowned...and I haven't even...spoken to you since..."
His voice cracked, and Wirt winced when he heard a small sob. He suddenly found it hard to breathe. The phone felt heavy in his hand.
His father collected himself, then cleared his throat. "Sorry," he said thickly. "Got a little sappy there. Anything else you need to know, for your...homework?"
"Uh—yeah." The sudden return to topic caught Wirt off-guard, and he was surprised to hear his own voice quiver. "What about your parents? I don't know their names, either."
Wirt's grandfather had apparently been named Filbrick; he had died, too, a few years before. His grandmother Caryn was living in a nursing home in New Jersey, but currently suffered from both Alzheimer's and throat cancer. Wirt scribbled the names down on the pad that they used to take phone messages, frowning at all of the bad news.
"I wasn't too close to them, either," he father said sadly. "Heck, I was barely older than you when I ran away from home. Then I met your mom, and..."
He didn't need to finish. Wirt had done the math and seen the wedding photo.
"You're birthday's coming up," his father said suddenly. "Less than two weeks. I'm coming to see you. Unless—you already have plans or something."
"No, I—I-I think that's okay. If you're...sure you can really come. With money and everything."
"I'll be there. I promise. We could go to a football game or something."
"...You don't like football, do you?"
"No, I—I mean, kind of? Actually I've been trying to get into it more, my friend Sara is our school mascot so I've been—"
His panic was interrupted when his father suddenly laughed, a sound so startling that Wirt immediately shut up.
"I hate football. I don't even know why I said that. Every time I asked my dad to take me to a museum or something, he'd always drag me to football or boxing instead."
"...I like museums."
Two seconds passed, then his father said, "Heh. Okay, then. Anyway, I gotta go. This is long-distance. But I'll call again in a few days. You, your mother and I can hammer out the details."
One final beat. "I love you, Wirt."
"Yeah. You too."
He hung up quickly, then sighed, suddenly feeling exhausted. His body went limp, his forehead resting against the kitchen wall.
He heard a slight noise and jumped. His mom was standing in the doorway. She walked toward him, smoothing out his hair again and then resting her hands on his shoulders.
"Your brother told me that your dad called. And that he 'sort of' likes turtles," she added, rolling her eyes. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah. I guess." Then he asked, "Did you—call him? He knew about Halloween."
She smiled wanly. "I...tried. I found his old roommate. He said that he'd try to track him down. Did he say where he's living these days?"
"No. But...he's coming for my birthday. Is that alright?"
"Of course," she said, but there was a hesitant note in her voice. Or more likely a skeptical one.
"I think he really wants to come," Wirt said, his voice getting stronger. "He said that he was sorry, for not being around more." His eyes fell to the floor. "He doesn't have a lot of family anymore. I think it scared him, realizing that I almost died."
Wirt stiffened as his mother hugged him.
"It scared all of us, Wirt. Marvin and I—"
She didn't finish, just squeezed him harder. Wirt wasn't much of a hugger, but he reached his arms up and hugged her back. Finally she let him go, wiping a stray tear from her eye.
Wirt suddenly noticed that Greg was hovering on the threshold now, just like their mother had been. For once he actually seemed to read the room, staying back and looking uncharacteristically subdued.
"Do you need something, Greg?"
"No. I just wanted to see if you were doing your family tree again. I was also gonna ask about your dad, but then Mom told me not to."
Wirt and his mother both snorted. Greg continued to look politely earnest.
A minute later their mom was getting started on dinner, and the brothers were back at the table again, Greg standing on a chair to read over Wirt's shoulder.
Wirt added Filbrick Pines, Caryn Pines, Stanford Pines and Stanley Pines to the family tree. Then, after a moment's pause, he added Sherman Pines in his dad's empty spot.
He smiled to himself. His eyes roved over the finished product, looking for any mistakes or omissions. A glance at his mother's side brought back an idle question from when he began the project.
"Hey, Mom? What was Grandma's maiden name?"
"Endicott," she said, not looking up from the carrots that she was cutting.
Wirt blinked. Greg's eyes widened, his mouth expanding in a happy gasp.
"I knew it! He really was our uncle!"
A/N: I'm gonna be honest—I originally came up with this idea just to facilitate that joke.