no matter what we breed
Stanley nods toward the Mystery Shack, a determined yet proud look on his face. "I'll be back, Mysty," he calls out before turning his back, his childhood habit of naming non-sentient objects coming through despite the old, hard years. Such was the case with Goldie, Scratchy & Shaky, and Mister Tummy.
He'd call it his child, if he could. The Shack's been with him so long- he's invested so much more than Benjamins, or manpower. His brother may have been the one to build it, but Stanley's the one who's made it grow. He's the one who shared its wonders and mysteries to the world- those too much for just one man. He's the one who's made it's core come to life after so many years of waste and misuse by its... former tenant.
And where has it gotten them? Gravity Falls is all the more entertained of the mysteries- entertained, that is, without the danger the true anomalies in their own town posed. The Shack's helped Stanley grow himself, saving him, even, from the peril he could've gotten into should his life had spiraled into the unknown beyond what he only knew then of drugs, and sex, and crime. He could be in jail, serving a life sentence. He could be dead, just another lost John Doe in the world. No one out there cared if he was Stanley Pines. His own family abandoned him.
In the Shack, though, everything was different. Stanley Pines was who he was best, revered enough, even, to be elevated to the endearing status of 'Mr. Mystery'. Here, he was fed, he was clean, and he was warm, and people actually cared about what he had to say. He wasn't mindlessly selling coke on the streets, fearing every headlight that shone on him. Not sucking cock, on his knees, in the dark, wet alleyways of God-knows-fucking-where. Here, in the Mystery Shack, he was safe- even if at the price of losing his own name.
we still are made of greed
When his Pops kicked him out, it had been tough. For sure. But he'd braved through it. When his father pushed him away, without a single consideration for his side of the story. When his Ma didn't open the door like he'd imagined, telling him to come back inside and that his father was just having one of his moods. Stanley braved through all the pain, even when his own twin brother- his literal other half- closed the curtains on him. Stanley, for once, never lost hope. His father had dared, despite how sarcastic and unserious, that he earn the potential millions he'd cost their family, just to be welcomed back. "You've done nothin' but ride on your brother's coattails," his father had told him. "And you pull this shit?"
"All your life, you gonna be an empty-headed punk with nothin' goin' on for you," Filbrick had continued to spit out. "You mark my words, kid, if you think you're gonna make it out there, then you got another thing comin'."
Stanley did not cry that night, nor did he give up so easily. He cursed them from outside the house and drove away. He promised to himself that he would make his father wrong. Stanley will be someone.
The time he did cry and admit defeat was when he was declared banned from New Jersey. Foolishly, for an aspiring con-man, he didn't think to change his name. Now it was registered, and made legal, and publicly propagated, like some banner draped onto the cold fucking world to see: Stanley Pines was never coming back home.
He would've wanted that. He would've wanted to leave, and never come back. But that dream involved a choice. That dream involved a boat. That dream involved... other things.
Stanley would have wanted to say that he kept just one thing to himself as he left his hometown, and that would have been his promise to prove his Pops wrong. He'd grab all the money he could, probably be a millionaire by 30 if he worked hard enough- he was no stranger to greed, anyway. Stanley knew how to want.
He would've wanted to say that riches was his focus now, and that he left his respect for his Pops, and his love for a mother who's affections seem to have expiration date. He would've wanted to say that he would build a new Stanley Pines- maybe form a new name along with it- someone unaffected by things like family, and warmth, and long days at the beaches, and boats, and caves, and shared bedrooms, and stolen glances and-
Stanley just... He would've wanted to say he would find himself- his true self- in this voyage, and forget everything else. But when he sleeps that night, shaken half-awake by the coldness of the night that seeps into his car, he swears he hears a familiar lilting voice, lulling him back to sleep.
this is my kingdom come
"You're really not gonna thank me, are you," Stanley asks, and by how his mouth contorts distastefully, Ford thinks his brother may as well be cussing him out. He ignores the need to tighten his fist in preparation for impact. He was not punching his brother right now.
"If you think I'm gonna thank you for ruining my life, Stanley, then you have another thing coming for you," he spits instead, immediately snuffing out the guilt he feels when his brother flinches from the loaded reply. He knows what effects those words have on Stanley. He's memorized the way that night played out, just as much as Stanley, no doubt, had.
He wants to apologize. The comment was terrible, and brought more hurt to Stanley than Ford was willing to give in his moment of contempt. But then again, Stanley's hurt him far more than some out-of-place comment. So what if Stanley didn't mean to destroy his college dream, or push him into a portal? If we gave everyone leniency, judging by intention rather than outcome, then where would Ford be? Certainly somewhere, someway far worse than where he's been for the past 30 years.
Life was unfair like this. Intention didn't mean as much as outcome did, even if intention was the driving force. Somehow, life changed what you intend from what you actually experience. Somehow, close brothers who've known no one but each other will find themselves years and dimensions apart with all the people to trust before they finally choose each other. Life did not adjust to someone's intention. Ford knew, deep down, that Stan was probably good- if he was powerful enough to grant his own wishes, he'd perhaps wish for only good things for Ford. Perhaps, in some dimension where Stan did have this power, this would be true. But this was not that dimension- in this dimension, his perpetual motion machine remains broken. His college aspiration remains unfulfilled.
Stanley was a victim to life's unknowable algorithm. He may mean the best, but with the algorithm in place, everything he did was a trainwreck- even worse, a train only centered to wreck around Ford. Stanley was just a victim of life, for sure- but Ford was a victim, just the same. Why was he going to grant Stanley a leniency he can't even give himself?
"I want my house back," Ford seethes, suddenly embittered by his thoughts, "my name back," he steps toward Stanley, whose only movement is to look at him incredulously, but nothing more, "and this Mystery Shack business closed down for good."
"On one condition," Stanley almost growls, not skipping a beat, "you stay away from the kids. I don't need them getting into unnecessary dangers, thanks to you."
Ford's mind immediately goes to Bill Cipher, a demon he supposes he's 'awakened', those 30 years ago. He wonders if Bill's continued doing wrong in this dimension- if the reactivated portal's anything to go by, he'd say Cipher was about to do something, and soon.
"And as far as I'm concerned," Stanley continues, "they're the only family I have left."
He spares Ford a look back, before climbing up the rickety oak stairs.
Alone, finally, Ford spares a sigh. He honestly... doesn't know what to feel. Somehow, all he'd ever wanted was to realize the full gravity of Weirdness in this odd town- finally find a place he can fit himself to, a space that allotted his extra appendages- and perhaps even make a sort of scientific discovery about it. Let the world realize, once and for all, that those they called 'freaks' were just like them. Normal. Maybe if science found a way explaining how weird things came to be, then people warm up to the idea of a six-fingered freak walking around. Ford's only wanted to relate Weirdness to Gravity Falls, and now that he had some semblance of an answer, he wanted... well...
What did he want? Did he want Bill gone? Destroyed? Did some part of him still want to feel like he belonged, even if at the cost of the entire universe?
Why was it that his old dreams seemed to come back and haunt him now? Even Stanley, who he wished would let him go, even just a little, basically denounced him as his brother. This was not what he wanted. Everything was going to the extremes of what he planned. An answer to Weirdness became a threat to everyone's lives. A little space from an almost dependent brother became... estrangement.
Ford stares at himself in the mirror, suddenly tired. He sees how his jaw locks in anxiety, and how the wrinkles below his eyes seem to pull down once youthful, firm skin. Time, while not exactly as unforgiving to him as it was to his brother and his uneven frame, did not wait for him. This was a realization that had him going, almost immediately, toward the machine that would lead to his basement laboratory.
"We are wasting time we cannot afford," he tells himself, steeling his mind for the all-nighter he's certainly no stranger to. "You are the only one who can pull this off. Get yourself together, Stanford."
idk why i made them say 'die/kill' instead of 'zapped memories the fuck out' but hm why not, drama points yknow
"Are you- are you crazy?!" Ford asks, hands flailing gracelessly beside him, trying to physically convey what his tired mind could not.
"And you think yours is any better?" Stanley easily counters with a huff, crossing his arms in front of him. "Principal Gold-Chain-Jackass would be rolling in his grave knowing GSB High's 1969 Valedictorian didn't have some kinda brain on him. Boy, what would Cathy Crenshaw say?"
"Are you instigating another fight, Stanley?" Ford dares him, even while knowing they had absolutely no time to waste. He remembers, from the boxing lessons he used to attend with Stanley, to clench his fist and clench it hard before delivering a left hook.
Stanley merely looks at him straight in the eye. "Only if you say no."
"I..." Ford starts, only to hesitate and trail off. His eyes dart toward the corridor Mabel and Dipper ran into, hearing the threatening boom of Bill Cipher's voice echo throughout the Fearamid.
"I"m gonna get you kids, and I sweaaaar with all my pyramidic being," the deity singsongs. "that you'll never find REST!"
Ford looks back to his brother. "You know what this means, don't you? What this could do to you? What it's going to cost you?"
"...Yeah," Stanley breathes, after a slight consideration. He removes his fez, despite a lack of verbal agreement on Ford's part, and Ford merely watches. He looks at his brother's soft hair- his younger brother's hair, shades lighter than his own. He looks at his brother- really sees him for once- and recounts on one hand how many times his brother's saved him. Despite the extra finger, he needs more than one hand to enumerate all instances. On the other hand, he recounts how many times he, as the older brother, protected Stanley.
He doesn't count much more.
'Am I my brother's keeper,' he remembers suddenly, that infamous line, spoken by Cain- the guilty, older brother who had cost his younger brother his life.
At least I won't be killing my brother out of envy, he tries to reason with himself.
"Stanley," Ford interrupts, placing a hand on his brother's shoulder just as Stanley was wriggling out of his coat. "I need to know you realize exactly what you're giving up."
"What, I'm too dumb to understand?" Stanley scoffs, dismissive and pointed at the same time, obviously in reference to something bigger. Something... that's passed. "This isn't some Physics or Quantum Phase Bullshit or Perpetual Motion textbook, Poindexter. I understand just fine." Ford watches his brother's shaking hands make their way to his tie.
"Now's not the time to be bitter about the past, Stanley," Ford pleads with him, swallowing the groan he wants to voice out in fear it would provoke Stanley's mouth into a tirade that would no doubt kill the both of them.
"When can I?!" Stanley suddenly snaps, at the same time almost ripping at the opened fabric of his collar. He slides down the glowing blue bars of their prison, hands pressed into his face, elbows on his knees. "I've waited 30 years to get you back. 10 more years before that actually just dreaming you'd let me see you again. I finally get you back, and we're more strangers than twins, Stanford. I have some things I want to get off my chest. When am I allowed to feel bitter? After this, I'm- I'm-"
Ford doesn't know what to do except to slide down next to his brother. "Dead," he continues for him. "I know. And I..."
'And I' what?
He trails off, both becoming silent. What did you say to your sibling, knowing they would be gone soon enough?
He takes a glance at his brother. Notes the darkness under his eyes. He doesn't think Stan's slept much since 30 years ago. Thinking your brother might be dead, somewhere out there, even while trying to keep the hope that there was some kind of solution... The feeling no doubt should have haunted Stanley through the years, if Ford's own feelings now were anything to go by. He can feel the happy years escape his grasp already. Stanley- remembering Stanley in this fucking lightshow of a prison- Ford just knew this imagery was going to stay with him forever. Long after Stanley's dead.
"It's fine," Stanley suddenly breathes. Ford snaps out of his stupor to see his brother gazing at him with a set, determined look on his face. "I'm not a good-for-nothing kid anymore. I know what I'm fighting for. I know what I have to do."
The sudden emotional whiplash has Ford shook. He was not prepared for that. Stanley was telling him to be fine. Dead- a rotting corpse, Stanley- no corny jokes or sassy replies, Stanley- no light in his eyes, Stanley- unresponsive, pale, open-mouthed, Stanley- and here was his fucking idiot brother, telling him simple and clear as day, "Hey, dude-bro, don't worry about it!"? Here Ford was, steeling himself to be the foundation for once, ready to cradle a crying Stanley in his arms. And now his brother was telling him it was fine? Stanley was certainly not being the foundation now.
"God damn it, Stanley, you don't have to be a saint!"
And Ford was certainly not crying.
"'I'm not a good-for-nothing kid anymore'? You fucking dunce, if this is your way of proving yourself to a man long dead, you're an idiot!" Ford continues, watching Stanley's mouth go slack open. "A real knucklehead!"
"Ford," Stanley gently calls to him, reaching out a slow hand. "...Don't cry."
"I'm not crying!" Ford replies too loud, even when he brings a quick fist to his eyes to wipe away at his tears-so fast he could've punched himself silly. The scene almost reminds him of his youth in New Jersey, when he'd come up into their room from a day of being bullied at the beach or in school. Stanley would always be there to comfort him, or hold him close, or offer him jelly beans. He looks away to save him from the shame.
Ford knows he's being completely illogical. Only a while ago, he'd been afraid that Stanley would inevitably take too long talking, or ranting, or doing any Stanley-related activity, really, for Bill to actually catch up to them and finally kill them. But now... Now, well, hell to his wide-eyed brother, and Ford's cracking voice, and his blurry eyesight, and everything else. The world would wait.
"You..." Stanley starts awkwardly, as Ford feels arms around him.
"...are a real knucklehead." Stanley finishes. "The real knucklehead." Ford lets himself be pulled toward his brother, and he lets himself cry.
"I'm not about to kill myself off for some neglectful Dad to finally take a shine on me," he continues, and Ford just listens.
He's hopeless. He's tired. He just wants this. He wants this time with his brother. "Neither did I spend 30 years trying to get that damn portal to work, just to get some kinda validation."
"Yeah, it was to shock your brother, when he came back, on what Neanderthal ways you used on the machines, that actually made it work. Duct tape's your trade," Ford tries to joke.
It should have been his first sign- Stanley not laughing at his joke. Not even... acknowledging it, even.
"Sixer..." Stanley breathes, and the deep, seriousness of his voice is enough to make Ford feel some sort of dreadful anticipation looming over him. "I would do anything for you."
The admission has Ford's already anxious-riddled brain shaken. The words, while possibly platonic, was slightly more... suggestive... than he'd expected. Not necessarily sexual, no. Just...
loaded. With severe implications. Implications he didn't think he had enough willpower to sift through and individually study.
"I know nothing's been the same between us ever since," Stanley keeps going on, unaware, apparently of the fear starting to build up in Ford's mind. "The kids are all I feel I have, and nowadays they're the only real things keeping me going." He takes a pause. "I... don't know where I'm standing... when it comes to you. I'm an idiot. You want me out as soon as possible, and here I am still feeling the same way I used to feel 40 years ago..."
Something clicks in his brain.
The beach. The boat. The shared bedroom. The hand holds. The nights they spent together on Stanley's bunk. The glances Stanley probably didn't think Ford notices. The teasing.
("Ford, why, you look good enough for Cathy Crenshaw to eat!")
("Sometimes, I think being twins was some kind of message. That I'm your half. And you're mine. You ever feel like that, For- Hey, don't laugh!")
That impossible dream.
("We're gonna sail outta this backwater town, Sixer. Just you and me.")
No. God. No.
"Stanford, I'd die for you."
The admission is worse than he expected. Granted, he would've freaked out more if Stanley directly broke out the 'L' word, but here it was: "I'd die for you". Suddenly, his brother's unnatural devotion to him is confirmed. All those years, in face of Ford and not. Everything makes sense, suddenly. Ford, in his youth, had sometimes detested the extra exposure he got to his brother beyond the 'usual'- like an extra hug outside the usual amount of hugs- while Stanley demanded it like some kind of necessity.
He wants to tell Stanley a lot of things. He wants to tell Stanley he's known all this time. And he has, in a way- his brother's own "anomaly" did not go unnoticed throughout the years. He wants to tell Stanley he was gross- frankly, however, he would admit that these things happen- people do fall in love with who they perhaps know the most. And being exposed to the different Weirdnesses in Gravity Falls has made him somehow tolerant of things outside the norm. Meaning to say, he completely understood this. This was... well, reasonable. This, however, didn't mean he shared the same regard toward Stanley.
Which scared Ford. Honestly, a lot of things scared Ford. For one, he'd done his fair share of casually stripping in their bedroom, knowing his brother didn't care enough to look. Now... Well... He wasn't so sure. And he knew just how perverted Stanley could be. They did share the same bedroom. And he did, for some time, regard Carla McCorkle solely for her "Hotpants"... and her "hot legs"... and her... well. Other hot parts.
It was weird, and awkward, and scary. How many things in their daily lives were, on Stanley's behalf, filled with ulterior motives? He knew his brother jerked off- of course, his brother was a human being allowed to enjoy such things, and really, Ford isn't trying to be a creep, it was just something you postulate and just wave off as truth when the bed creaked on a somewhat regular schedule. But how many of those times were actually done to the thought of Ford? Stanley was self-indulgent. It was possible.
And what would happen should he confront his brother with the possibility that... well... he saw him only as a brother? What if Ford didn't fit into Stanley's need to be indulged? Stanley could withhold himself from sacrifice. The world would end. Bill would reign. A darker, less honest part of Ford wants to assure Stanley that the feeling was completely mutual. Have some kind of assurance that Stanley would save the world. The universe's safety, at the cost of a meaningless lie.
But did Stanley really deserve that? The universe, after all, owed nothing to Stanley Pines.
Stanford, however, did.
With a heavily thumping heart, he draws away from his brother. His throat constricting with the guilt and fear of his own admission, Ford forces to grit out, "I don't feel the same."
It was terrible. They were brothers, for God's sake. But at the same time, he supposes he understands.
He looks away, wanting to shield himself from the inevitable telltale signs of turmoil marking his brother's face. Even worse, from the sight of eyebrows drawn together, and from the words- something akin to, "If you won't fuck me, then the world can go fuck itself."
Stanley Pines has, honestly, been the most selfish man he's ever met in his entire life.
It was possible.
He is afraid. He fears for the world.
He fears for himself. He fears Bill Cipher, and his brother.
He's shocked when he hears laughter.
His head whips up immediately.
"I know," Stanley says, when they meet eye to eye. "You don't have to, you knucklehead. What is this, Grade 2 Christmas? Leave the exchange gifts to 1958."
"I..." Ford feels dumb. "What?"
"I get it, okay? Don't feel so bad about it," Stanley says. "I know Cathy Crenshaw's the only one you'll ever love," he even teases. "Now get stripping. Bill's gonna come back here sometime." Stanley starts unbuttoning his shirt, having even, the decency to face away from Ford. It makes Ford want to cry again- out of shame for thinking so lowly of his brother, and out of a bursting new-found appreciation for his brother.
"I..." Ford tries again. "What?" is all he, once again, manages.
"You might as well know before I die," Stanley says simply, not turning to face him. Ford only continues to stare at the back of his brother's head, incredulous.
When Stanley drops his pants, Ford turns around to do the same.
They quickly exchange clothes after. And they fix each other's hair. Ford manages to get Stanley's hair puffy and standing enough to pass as his, just as they hear footsteps growing louder toward them.
"Which of you two am I going to kill first?" Bill singsongs. They hear it echo throughout the room.
"Shoot me as soon as he gets into my head," Stanley whispers to him, handing him the gun.
"I... I can't-!" Ford suddenly panics.
"You can, and you will," Stanley says, expression suddenly soft. "I know what I have to do. Do you?"
Ford is afraid. To have cost Stanley his years, his heart, and now his life?
In the back of his head, he knows he's to blame. He sought a dream demon out. He looked for this. He wanted this to become his reality.
When Bill barges in, he dreadfully knows it already was.
Stanley's voice is loud and sure, shaking him off his fear. "I'll give you the equations, Bill," he says, mimicking Ford perfectly. "...Just make sure you keep them safe." He looks back briefly to his brother.
Bill all but drops the children, floating to Stanley with a glowing eye and a burning palm. "You have my word, Sixer! A deal's-"
Bill grabs Stan's hand.
Bill Cipher drives himself straight into his brother's head, and Stanley screams.
I know what I have to do.
Ford cocks the gun with shaking hands.
this is my kingdom come