“Thank you for coming along on this expedition, Stanley.” Ford fiddles with the gun in his hand. “It really means a lot to me.”
Stan rolls his eyes. “Yeah, well, if you had taken the kids, I would’ve thrown you in the bottomless pit. It’s way past their bedtime, for one.”
“Yes, and Mabel did seem rather anxious about the noise we’ve been sent here to investigate.” Ford finally holsters his gun, and a small part in the back of Stan’s brain relaxes. “Though, working from her description, I doubt the anomaly we’re investigating is a serious threat.”
Stan blows a raspberry to that comment. “To Mr. Smartypants Monster-Hunter, Nerd of Action, maybe.” He imitates his brother’s voice. “Look out, monsters! I’m a big buff nerd with twelve science degree things! I like to endanger twelve-year-olds!”
That gets a chuckle out of Ford, at least. “Haha, well, I’m pretty sure we’ve both put our fair share of danger on the kids.”
Damn. Ford has him there. He shrugs, and gives Ford a soft punch on the arm. “It’s the principle of the thing, nerd.”
“I know, I know,” Ford replies. He smiles. “Again, though, thanks for coming with me. I really missed...” He pauses, then waves his hand around with a dramatic flourish. “This. The banter, the excitement, being with you… I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
“Aww, shucks,” says Stan. He’s glad the woods are dark, so that Ford can’t see him blushing. Not that he is, necessarily. “Thanks, man. That means a lot to me. And for what it’s worth—”
Suddenly, Ford grips onto Stan’s shoulder. “Sh-sh-sh! Did you hear that?” he asks in a low whisper.
Stan fiddles with his hearing aid. If he strains hard enough, he can almost make out a kind of wailing, somewhere to their left. He hoists up the flashlight and points in the noise’s direction. “Let’s move.”
The two of them march towards the wailing, as quietly as they can manage. Something about the sound of the leaves crunched underfoot unnerves Stan, makes him feel tense. He’s too high on the excitement of the night to turn back now, though. And besides, with Ford by his side, there’s nothing that can stop—
“Stanley, look out!” Ford barrels into Stan, knocking both of them over. Stan looks up to see a white horse, galloping just behind them.
“Whoa,” Stan says. “That’s pretty neat, actually.”
“Never mind that, look out for the net!” And sure enough, before either of them can dodge it, a glittery, golden net (made out of magic, Stan would guess) falls on them, trapping them.
“Shit,” Ford swears. He tries to get up, but the net holds him down. “Fuck.”
“Yeah, you can say that again.”
“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Ford sounds like might actually start crying.
Stan tries to put a stop to that. “Hey,” he says, and puts a hand on Ford’s shoulder. For some reason the netting doesn’t seem to restrict him as much as it does Ford. Stan doesn’t know why; could be some magical spell that targets nerds somehow. “It’s gonna be okay, Stanford. We’ll figure a way out somehow.”
Ford sighs. “Yes, you’re right. But it’ll be easier if we can figure out who trapped us here.”
“My money’s on the horse.”
Ford cocks an eyebrow. “Horse?”
“You know, that white horse from earlier!”
“Stanley, the nearest horse is over 10 miles away, in the Northwest Manor’s stables. My money’s on it being some kind of—”
Ford is interrupted by the “horse” from before galloping in, and yep, now that Stan has a closer look, he can see the horn and technicolor mane. “Haha, look at what the cat dragged—oh, it’s you old geezers.”
“Unicorns. Great,” Ford intones dryly.
“Yeah, I was hoping for the younger Pines twins,” says the unicorn.
“Hey, aren’t you Celesto—Celestabeth—Celiac--that unicorn Mabel fought?” asks Stan.
“It’s Celestabellebethabelle, and yes,” the unicorn says, and Stan immediately files the name away into the part of his brain where puts all the other stuff he wants to forget, like the cost of repairs for the Shack, or where he found McGucket last night. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten my own name! We only spent a billon hours together dishing the goss during that Weirdsit-whatever thingy.”
Stan shrugs. “So sue me, okay? I just had my mind wiped.”
“Whatever,” the unicorn sneers. “I hope you old losers had fun. You ruined all my plans of revenge, you creeps.”
“You’re the creep!” Ford snaps. “I don’t care so much that you were hard on me, but Mabel is a twelve-year-old girl. She doesn’t need your sass affecting her already fragile sense of self esteem. She was very hurt by the way you treated her when she went to get the unicorn hair, and I’m surprised she wasn’t angrier at you when she came back.”
“Yeah, what he said,” adds Stan. “Plus I wasn’t too impressed by the quality of your gossip, either, pal.”
“Okay, first of all, how do you even remember that,” the unicorn says. “Second of all, this isn’t even about the unicorn hair. I’m not even mad about it anymore, see?”
“Then what is it about?” asks Ford.
The unicorn paces. “Okay, so like, I had this cup, which I really liked, so I brought it to the Shack with me, when I was escaping the monsters...”
“So she broke the cup,” Stan interrupts. “Big whoop, Bethany. We can buy you a new one.”
“Nononononooooo, she didn’t break it!” cries the unicorn. “Okay, so one time I left it on the counter, and she actually drank from it!”
“For fucks sake!” Stan screams, and gets up to punch Little Miss Celereallydumblongname in the face.
“Wait, wait, Stan,” says Ford, and Stan stops in his tracks. “How come you can move around under this thing, but I can’t?”
“Um,” says the asshole unicorn. “Haha. Ahahahaha.”
Stan can feel his blood pressure rising. “What did you do?”
“That,” answers Lady Jerkicorn, “is a special Unicorn net. It only works on virgins.”
“See, I needed something that’d trap those kids for sure, and—”
“You planned to use a magical virgin net against some kids!?” Stan roars. “How the fuck were they supposed to get out?”
“I was gonna hold them for ransom!” cries the unicorn. “My uncle knows a magic spell that can deactivate the net, so—” The unicorn does not get a chance to finish that thought, because Stan punches her, repeatedly, in the face. “Hey! Ow!”
Then Ford speaks up. “Stanley, quit punching that horse for a second. It’s satisfying, but I need to ask it some questions.”
Stan relents, but keeps the probably-a-sex-offender unicorn in a headlock, just in case.
“Now,” Ford begins, “when you say ‘virgin’, just what, exactly do you mean?”
“Oh, haha, you know! Anybody who’s never done anal, oral, or the regular kind of sex.”
“And other types of sexual intercourse don’t count?”
“There are other types of sex?”
Ford rubs his eyes, pushing up his glasses. “Well, I guess that’s why I count as one. Who could have possibly known that taking it up the ass would save my life one day.”
“Pffft!” The unicorn blows a raspberry. “It’s no wonder a nerd like you never got any! Frankly, I’m amazed your brother isn’t trapped here with you!”
“Hey, I used to be quite the Casanova as a young man,” Stan protests. More accurately, he used to be quite the hustler as a young man, turning tricks when all other jobs failed. He’s not going to bring that up in front of Ford, though. Some things he just doesn’t want his family to know, even after Weirdmageddon.
“Well, I’m not staying here for the rest of my life,” Ford grouses. “You! With the funny name! How soon can you get your uncle over here?”
“Umm.” The unicorn paws at the ground. “I don’t know. Maybe a year?”
"Fuck you!” Stan yells. He starts punching her again. “You were gonna put fucking children in that thing, you fucking asshole!”
“Ow! Ow! Hey, quit it!” says the unicorn, who is frankly getting less than she deserves.
“Ford, shoot at her with your gun.”
Ford grabs it from his holster. “My pleasure.” He aims, but before he can fire, the unicorn breaks free of Stan’s grip, dashing off into the night.
“Don’t come back, you asshole!” Stan shouts after her.
“And don’t be so dismissive of non-penetrative sexual acts!” adds Ford.
Stan slumps down to the ground. “Fuck.” He feels like he’s going to cry.
“Now, Stanley, it’s alright,” says Ford, putting the gun back in its holster. “We’ll figure a way out of this, just like you said earlier. For starters, why don’t you try getting out from under this net?”
As it turns out, it’s easy for Stan to escape the net’s grasp, but no matter how hard he tries, he can’t help his brother get free. Whenever Stan makes an opening to let Ford out, the netting clings to him so tightly that he can’t move.
“Alright, alright,” says Ford, trying to maintain his composure. “Hmm. This is a tricky one. Let’s try something else. We have plenty of time, after all.”
“Right,” says Stan. It’s just a matter of going through everything until they find a solution.
It’s been over an hour since they first got stuck in the net, and they’re still no closer to getting Ford out of it. They’ve tried cutting it, shooting at it with the gun, a counterspell or two, and a few of Ford’s more unusual gadgets. Still, nothing.
Ford sighs. “Well, I must admit, this is a tricky one. We may not be able to find a solution before dawn. Should we try tracking down that unicorn’s uncle?”
Stan shrugs. “Could be that a year to get here means ‘he’s on the other side of the country’ or ‘it takes about a year for him to calm down enough to deal with his asshole niece’. I doubt we’d ever find him without that jerk, anyway.”
“Huh. Do we know any wizards?”
“Last wizard I saw was when you summoned Probabilitor.”
Ford sighs, again. He’s been doing that a lot lately. “Well, then, I’m fresh out of ideas.”
“We could get a gnome to fuck you.”
“Stanley, I am not getting out of this mess by raping a gnome.”
“Hey! They could be into that!” Stan protests. “You never know. I bet there’s dozens of monsters in this forest who want to jump on the dick of Mr. Monster Hunter extraordinaire.”
That gets a small chuckle out of Ford. “I think you’re vastly overestimating how popular I’d be. At least, I wasn’t very well liked around here thirty years ago.”
“Hey, that was when you were a nerdy asshole! Now you’re a buffer, still nerdy, slightly less of an asshole!”
Ford laughs so hard, he clutches onto Stanley to keep his balance. He keeps holding him, even after the laughter subsides, when he calms down. “Well, you certainly have a way of putting it.”
Stan pulls his brother into a hug, and they sit there, taking a breath, enjoying each other’s company. Stan closes his eyes and gets lost in his thoughts.
That damn net and its fucking bias against… “non-penetrative sexual acts”, as Ford put it. What was it made by, snickering teenagers? Ford wouldn’t be in this mess if the net had counted handjobs against its whole weird virginity thing. Stan knows this for a fact; back when they were teenagers, too young to be messing around like that but old enough to know better, they had… fooled around, once or twice. It was dumb teen stuff. Stan’s not exactly proud of it.
(Lying on the bed at night, blankets pulled up all around them so that no one could see them, just in case. Ford panting, a staccato rhythm matching Stan’s own.
Stan’s not sure if Ford knows he remembers.)
“Hey,” says Stan. The noise rouses Ford from his thoughts. “I think I have an idea.”
“Well, let’s hear it.”
“You’re not gonna like it.”
“I’ve been stuck in this infernal net for over an hour. Try me.”
“Okay, so remember when I suggested you fuck a gnome?”
“Stanley, I am not fucking a gnome,” Ford says flatly.
“Okay, but if we got someone else…”
Okay, Stan really doesn’t want to have to say this…. “Who else is around, knucklehead?”
To Ford’s credit, he really only needs a moment or two to pick up on it. “Oh. Stanley… you don’t… have to if you don’t—”
“It’d be easier than finding a fucking wizard, right?”
Ford pulls his hand down his face. “I guess so,” he says. “Oh, fuck. Stanley…”
“I know, I know,” Stan replies. “It’s… fucked up, but at this point, what other choice do we have? It’s a quick way out, at least.”
“Give or take fifteen minutes,” says Ford, small smile on his face. His expression darkens. “Shit. I probably shouldn’t be making jokes at this time.”
“It’s fine! For fuck’s sake, Ford, whose idea do you think this was?” Stan motions towards his brother’s groin. “Okay, pull down your pants for me.”
Ford grunts and unzips. Stan can just barely see the faded UFO pattern on Ford’s boxers by the light of the flashlight. “How’s this?” asks Ford.
“Good, good.” Stan swallows. He’s going to be doing that a lot over the course of this evening, he figures. He sets the flashlight down on the ground, letting its light spill over them. “Now.” Stan leans down over Ford’s crotch, hesitating.
“You’re not going to be doing any disrobing yourself?” Ford asks.
“I don’t need to take my clothes off for a blowjob, Stanford,” answers Stan. “Unless you’ve got any lube handy.”
Ford scratches his chin. “I have some… lubricating substances, but none that would be suitable for sex.” He breathes in and out. “Okay, boxers next, right?”
“I can take care of that,” says Stan. He reaches for the elastic band, but Ford catches his wrists.
“Before you—” Ford starts, and then looks away, coughing. “Before you, uh, go any further, promise me you won’t laugh, Stanley.”
“I’ve seen a dick before, Stanford,” Stan protests. “Quite a few, in fact. Whatever you’ve got, I can handle.”
“Just… promise me, okay?”
Stan relents. “Okay, okay, I promise.”
“You promise what, Stanley?”
Stan rolls his eyes. “Fine, I promise I won’t laugh at your stupid dick, okay?”
“Good, good.” Ford lets go of Stan’s wrists. “Continue.”
Stan slides down Ford’s boxers, and comes face to face with his brother’s dick, which, for some goddamn unknown reason, has been tattooed to look like some kind of sea monster. A smiley face is tattooed on the head of it.
Stan lets out a brief, hushed snicker before he remembers his promise. “Oh my god, Stanford,” is all he can say.
“Yes, it really wasn’t one of my better ideas,” Ford admits. “Might have something to do with… why we’re in this particular predicament.”
This “particular predicament” isn’t going away any time soon, so Stan gets started. He takes his brother’s dick and puts the head in his mouth, licking the underside.
“Oh, fuck,” says Ford. “This is actually happening. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.”
Yep, you can say that again, thinks Stan, as he goes to town on his brother’s dick.
“Keep—keep going, Stanley.” Ford’s fingers graze the hairs on the back of Stan’s head, below his fez. “You’re doing—we’re making progress, here.” He starts breathing heavy and low, hitching now and then.
Stan takes the head of Ford’s cock out of his mouth, briefly, to suck at the base of it for a while. He both wishes he could unhear the moan his brother makes when he does that, and that he could hear it a thousand time over again.
“Ah, ah, ah,” Ford pants. “Fuck, that feels—goddamnit.” He caresses Stan’s hair again, this time knocking his fez off. Six fingers clench and unclench in his hair. “Ohhhh, shit,” Ford moans.
Stan starts sucking the head again, this time working the shaft of Ford’s cock up and down. It’s been a while since he’s had to deepthroat someone, but he can pull it off, if he has to. (Not that he wants to, of course. It’s his brother, for fuck’s sake.)
“Fuck, Stanley,” says Ford, sounding choked up as all hell. “Where did you—nevermind. Keep, keep going.” He moves one of his fists up to his mouth, keeping the other entwined in Stans hair, tightening and loosening according to some unholy rhythm.
Ford’s slowly and steadily getting harder and harder in Stan’s mouth, so it’s only a matter of time before he finishes. Stan closes his eyes and tries not to think about the expression on Ford’s face, all clenched teeth forming a crooked grin; tries not to think about how good Ford’s dick feels between his lips, or how hard his own dick is getting; tries not to think about one hot, sweaty night, over forty years ago…
(The come down had been harsh. Stan still remembers the burning, terrible shame, an emotion Stan had never been acquainted with before, and half-thought he could never feel. He and Ford lay on the bed, panting from exertion.
”Oh-oh man,” said Ford. “H-how are we going to clean all this up? If Mom and Dad get back before—”
”They won’t,” Stan had said. He took the sheets off the bed, taking them to the washer, while Ford replaced them with fresh, clean ones. It took nearly an hour to erase all the effects of what they had done that night.
“We’re never doing this again,” Ford had said, and Stan agreed.
They didn’t keep that promise, though.)
“Stanley!” Ford cries, bringing his brother back to the present. “L-look out! I’m going to—Nnrrgh!”
Ford comes in Stan’s mouth, and not a moment too soon. Stan swallows him down, nearly choking on the size of Ford’s load. He takes his brother’s dick out of his mouth with a pop! and crouches on the forest floor, retching.
Behind him, Stan can hear Ford zipping his pants up. “Fuck, Stanley, are you okay?” Ford says, laying a hand on Stan’s back.
Stan coughs, and is glad that the flashlight is dim enough to hide his erection. “’M fine. Just… out of breath, is all.”
“Oh, god, Stanley.” Ford moves to hug him, but Stan pulls away; he can’t risk Ford knowing how hard he is right now. “Where did you learn all that?”
Stan shrugs. “I don’t know,” he lies.
“Fuck,” Ford says, and when Stan turns to look at him, his face is red and teary. “I’m so sorry… Fuck.” He slides to the ground, sobbing.
“I know,” says Stan, and before he knows it, he’s sobbing himself.
It takes about fifteen minutes for the both of them to get it out of their system. Stan gets up first, and helps Ford up. He tries not to notice how wobbly Ford is, legs shaking like jelly.
“Thanks for the help, Stan,” says Ford. “If anyone asks how I got out of this mess, tell them I fucked a gnome.”
With the virginity net in tow (Ford had insisted on taking it, both to study it and, in his words, “to figure out the best way to shred it molecule by molecule”), the two brothers march back to the Shack.
“Grunkle Stan! Grunkle Ford!” Mabel calls out from the porch. “Did you find the monster?”
Stan and Ford exchange a look. “We found her, but she got away from us,” answers Ford. He steps forward. “Mabel, did you know it was that unicorn?”
Mabel frowns. “Well...”
“Tell me the truth,” says Ford. Then, quickly, he adds, “I’m not mad. I just want to know.”
“Yeah, okay,” answers Mabel, dejected. “She called Candy and said she had a beating waiting for me.”
Ford kneels and puts a hand on Mabel’s shoulder. “Now, Mabel, Stan and I weren’t bodily harmed in our attempt to catch her. But she did have a trap lying in wait for us, which took quite a bit of… effort, to overcome. I can’t say for sure what would have happened if we had known about the monster being a unicorn beforehand. But I do think we would have been better prepared, in that case.”
“I’m sorry,” says Mabel.
“Regardless,” Ford continues, “you did the right thing by getting us to handle the unicorn for you. You would have been no match for her schemes. I shudder to think what would have happened if you or your brother fell into her trap.”
“Eww, yeah,” Stan adds. “Let’s never think of it again, thanks.”
“Now,” says Ford, ruffling Mabel’s hair, “let’s go in and see your brother, shall we? I’m sure you’d both be interested in some ice cream.” He looks back at Stan, smiling. “In fact, I think we could all use some. Care to join us, Stanley?”
“Nah, I’m good,” Stan says, a little flat. He’s not sure he could deal with himself right now if he sees Ford eating or licking something. “Think I’m gonna take a shower, and then head up to bed.”
Ford looks… way more hurt by that than Stan would expect. “Oh,” he says. “Well, then. Good night.”
“Night.” Stan heads into the shack, the virginity net under his arm.
“Hey, what’s that?” asks Mabel, pointing at the net. “It looks so pretty! Can I touch it?”
“Absolutely not,” says Ford, maybe a little harsher than he needs to be. “You’re going right to the kitchen with me.” He picks her up and carries her into the Shack.
Stan pauses, briefly, by the door, leaning against the wall. He listens as Ford and the kids get their ice creams from the gift shop’s freezer. Then he heads up to his room, shoves the net into the bedside drawer, and sleeps off the night.
When the morning comes, Stan stands outside Ford’s room with the net. “Hey, Poindexter, open up!” he shouts. “I got that thing from last night you wanted to study-slash-destroy!”
The door opens, and Ford peeks out, looking rougher than he has in weeks. “Hello, Stanley,” he says weakly. “Just hand me that net, and don’t let any of the kids touch it, thanks.”
Stan passes it to Ford. “Uh, wow, you get any sleep last night?”
“Some,” answers Ford. “I had a rough night, so if you could please refrain from touching me or acknowledging me at all today, that would be a big help. Thanks in advance.” He slams the door.
Stan just stands in the hallway, staring, like he’s affected by this or something. “Shit,” he says at last.
“What did you just say?” asks Mabel.
“Uh, I said ‘bit’,” Stan lies, thinking quickly. “There’s a mosquito in here, thinks he’s the boss. Hey, where’s your brother?”
“He’s outside with Soos, trying to catch a gnome.”
“Well, wouldja bring both of them to the car? Your Grunkle Ford’s going through some stuff, so I want you guys out of the house while he cools down. How does a movie sound?”
Mabel squeals with delight and tells Stan he made the right choice.
At the movie, Stan finds that he can’t focus on anything happening on the screen. He just stares off into space, while the kids and Soos beside him consume the mountains of snacks Stan bought at the concession stand.
(“Grunkle Stan, are you okay? I’ve never seen you spend this much money for someone other than you before.”
“Of course I’m okay, Dipper. Now quit grousing and watch your dang show.”)
He can’t stop thinking about last night, the feel of Ford’s fingers in his hair, Ford’s dick slowly filling up his mouth, his moans and sighs…. Stan doesn’t want to admit it, but some small, sick part of him wants to try it again. He sits in the crowded theater, stewing in his thoughts, until he can no longer take it and gets up to go to the bathroom.
(He can still hear Crampelter’s cruel laughter. “Why do you dorks even bother with girls? I bet you jerk each off all the time?”
Stan’s first impulse was to argue back, that Crampelter was just being a sicko, and of course they would never, and… Ford hung back, frowning, his face turned away.)
Stan wouldn’t know for sure, but he thinks, now, that maybe that bedroom incident was why Ford pushed him away in the first place. He honestly wouldn’t blame him. Stan’s never been a model for moral behavior, but fucking your own brother is just wrong and sick, even by his low standards.
He stares at his reflection in the mirror as he idly washes his hands, thinking about what this means for his relationship with Ford, now. They had been doing so well up to this point, after Weirdmageddon, and now some fucking Unicorn has to ruin it. But he always had a choice, didn’t he? He could have gotten McGucket to make up some invention to get out of that mess, could have searched Ford’s old study for a spell that’d work on the net, hell, could have found a gnome for Ford to fuck. The only reason this happened is because Stan let it. Maybe Ford doesn’t want Stan as a brother anymore, and if he doesn’t, Stan honestly couldn’t blame him.
Because even Stan himself doesn’t know what he wants from Ford right now. It’s better that they remain as brothers, of course, of course, but when he thinks about having sex with Ford again, his body burns with desire. He wants to take Ford in hand again and twist him to orgasm, like they did when they were teens. He wants fuck his brother against the wall, wants to see his face clearly as he climaxes. He wants to get sucked off by Ford, this time, and drag his fingers across his brother curly gray hair. He wants to take McGucket’s memory gun and erase last night from his mind, pretend it never happened. Fuck, this is just… fucked up.
A man taps him on the shoulder. “Sir? You’re letting the water run.”
Stan looks down at the tap. “Oh. Haha, sorry.” He turns off the faucet. “Don’t know what came over me, to be honest.”
He arrives back at the movie just in time to see the climax. The vampire lady is defending her wolfman boyfriend against her mother.
“It’s disgusting, child, seeing you date one of our mortal enemies!” the mother sneers. “Have you no sense of shame?”
“Where’s your shame, mother?” the vampire lady snapped. “Don’t you know that true love is never wrong?”
Stan pretends to see something very interesting on the floor of the theater.
“Personally, I thought the whole central conflict was really contrived,” says Dipper. They’ve been talking about the movie the whole car trip home. “I mean, why would vampires hate wolfmen so much? Unless they spent too much time on the internet.”
“They had to be at war, so that Vampiress and Wolfnardo’s love could burn the brightest of all!” Mabel protests with a romantic sparkle in her eye. “You have to have lots of pining and anguish over their feelings for each other, or else it’s no good at all!”
“Dude, I just liked it when Wolfnardo punched that awful gym coach in the face!” Soos mimes a punch into his palm. “Pow! Hey, Stan, what did you think of the movie?”
“Huh?” says Stan. He hasn’t been paying much attention to the conversation. Or the road. “Oh, yeah, the movie. Well, it sure did last for two hours. Or ninety minutes. I honestly can’t remember.”
The silence from the back is deafening. “Grunkle Stan, do you need to adjust the dose on your medication again?” Dipper asks.
“I’m fine,” Stan answers. “Just need to adjust after that darn unicorn trap. Oh look, we’re home.” He pulls into the Shack’s driveway. “Everybody out.”
As Soos and the kids pile out of the car, Stan can hear Dipper and Mabel whispering to each other. He’s not sure, but he thinks he hears an “It’s not your fault, Mabel,” in there, somewhere.
Ford is just inside the Shack, waiting for them. “Alright, now hold up. You three, Dipper, Mabel, and Soos. Go clean up the exhibits. They’re getting dusty from disuse.”
All three of them groan. “But we have the day off!” Dipper whines.
“No buts!” says Ford. “I need to talk to Stan. Alone.”
The kids and Soos grumble as they march dejectedly towards the exhibit room, leaving Stan and Ford, alone. Stan fiddles with his hands. “So… what was it you wanted to talk about?” he asks.
“Not in here,” says Ford. “I can’t risk anyone hearing us. Meet me on the porch in about five minutes.”
Stan swallows and hopes Ford doesn’t notice how nervous he is. “Okay.”
Stan waits on the porch couch, twiddling his thumbs, and sure enough, five minutes later Ford comes out with two beers and some weird radio-looking doohickey. “This should dampen the sound in our immediate area, in case anyone gets nosy. So!” He tosses Stan a beer. “Let’s talk, shall we?”
“Whatever happened to not touching or acknowledging you for the rest of the day?”
“Well, I found out how to destroy that net, for one, which was a big mood booster,” Ford replies. “It’s now a pile of ashes sitting in a box in my room. Don’t let the kids into it, by the way. I still haven’t figured out if it’s retained any of its magical properties.” He sits down on the couch next to Stan. “The other was, I figured I owed you an explanation after… well, the events from last night.”
Stan finds he can’t look his brother in the eye. “Oh yeah?”
“Stan…” Ford begins, and he swallows, loud enough for Stan to hear.
“Listen, Stanford, I’m…”
Ford raises his hand. “No, no, let me finish.” He stares off into the forest. “You may not want to hear what I have to say, but… but I think it’s important for you to listen.”
Stan’s heart is pounding in his chest. “Yeah?”
“The truth is, the things we did back there…” Ford rubs at his eye, then starts again. “Really, there was no excuse for how I treated—took advantage of you last night. It was a choice borne out of panic, and not a fully considered examination of the situation. I have no doubt I could have come up with a solution without your… without what I did to you last night.”
That’s… not the kind of explanation Stan was expecting. “Oh?”
“Yes,” Ford replies. “If you would… I mean, I would understand if you don’t… if you aren’t comfortable being around me anymore.”
“Oh, huh.” Stan scratches the back of his neck. “Well, that’s kind of what I would’ve said to you. Y’know, about… taking advantage, and how we probably should’ve come up with something that wasn’t… that, and how if you never want to see me again, that’s, that’s fine.”
“Oh.” Ford sounds simultaneously deflated and relieved, which is exactly how Stan is feeling right now. “Huh! Alright.” Ford cracks open his beer, and Stan realizes he hasn’t opened his own yet, so he gets right on that.
“Yeah, see, ‘cause I would never have done that if it was the kids, right?” Stan takes a gulp of his beer.
“Of course not,” Ford agrees. “So… you’re not upset with me, then.”
Stan shrugs. “Not if you aren’t.”
“Well! Okay, then.” Ford leans back into the couch and smiles, a picture so beautiful Stan wishes he could print it out and frame it. “Who ever would have thought that talking things out could work out so well,” he adds with a laugh.
Stan nods. “It’s nice, now that everything’s out in the open.” Well, not exactly everything, since there’s still Stan’s fucked-up feelings for his brother they haven’t discussed. But—that’s just a passing fancy, Stan is sure. It’s not worth it to bring up something that’s going away in a week or so, anyway. Probably.
“So,” says Ford, “think we should let the kids out, now that we’re done?”
“Eh,” Stan answers, “I kinda just want to be alone with you for a while, if that’s alright.”
“Fair enough!” Ford says, and he drapes an arm around Stan. It’s a beautiful day out, the sun just about to set beneath the trees, and Stan couldn’t think of a better person to spend it with.