The truth of the matter is that Ford doesn't deserve Stan. No Ford does but especially not this arrogant, childish Stanford Pines, face still unwrinkled and soft around the edges, who is so devoted to the cold mistress of science (so beautiful and wonderful and powerful; so like Stan).
It's ridiculously easy to seduce himself; he’s forgotten how easily he fell prey to praise. It's been decades since he's been so naive, but even he remembers the shame of the extra fingers and obsession with the strange. It’s only easier when the young Stanford notices his elder's twelve fingers. The boy is under the impression that the two of them can bond over this, frankly, minor difference that sets them apart from the other, ten fingered population.
Ford doesn't integrate himself into the boys’ school; he can't stand all of those hormonal juveniles falling over each other in pointless competition and petty squabbles. He chooses instead to remain a steady, subtle presence on the polluted shores of Glass Shards Beach. He brings Stan with him sometimes, when Stan is grounded enough in reality to be trusted beyond a locked door. But, as time goes and Ford becomes more and more familiar with the boys, it becomes more and more painful to wait hopelessly for any spark of recognition in Stan’s eyes as they slowly wonder their childhood haunt.
Ford starts to leave his brother behind.
Ford observes the young twins working away on the original Stan-o-War. Well, the young Stanford works. Stanley, himself, seems content to stare openly at his brother in naked want that seems as obvious as Ford’s sixth finger. Ford wonders if his Stan ever looked at him like that. (It doesn't matter now, Ford tells himself.)
“She's coming along wonderfully,” Ford says, making both of the twins jump. Stanley quickly makes himself busy, shooting unsubtle glares in Ford's direction.
“Thank you!” Stanford quickly clambers from the boat, flushing under the praise and no small amount of his own unsubtle infatuation. “We're hoping to get her seaworthy by summer.”
“Oh.” Ford feigns surprise and looks over the craft. He knows that the boat will never leave the beach. “I thought you were working on that science fair project. What was it again?” Ford leans in, just enough. Stanford flushes darker, hands fluttering nervously.
“Oh, ah, the. Yes, the perpetual motion machine. I mean, it's far fetched but…” Stanford rubs at the back of his neck shyly.
“Eh. We don't need that sci-fi stuff!” Stanley launches himself on his brother, a possessive arm going around Stanford's shoulders. “After this year we're outta here! Right, Ford?” Stanford looks away and Ford knows that face. Stanford is already considering a life away from Stanley (who is the best thing that will ever happen to him, the arrogant fool). Stanford smiles tightly.
“It'd be nice to try, though,” he says. Ford forces his face to relax into a smile.
“I could help. Possibly. It's been a while since I've worked with theoretical physics but it would be a nice challenge.” Stanford's face is like a lighthouse. Stan is a thundercloud.
Ford is finally alone with Stanley when Stanford is sequestered at the school, obsessively tinkering away at his project. Ford recognizes that ferver from so many years ago (he might even encourage it, stoked it until it has all but consumes the boy).
Stanley is alone at the swings. He looks miserable, and Ford's heart aches to comfort him. Ford approaches quietly, and Stanley nearly jumps out of his seat as he shouts in surprise.
“Apologies,” Ford says with a smile. Stan mumbles a curse and glares at him.
“Hell ya doin’ here? Thought ya’d be nerdin’ it up with Ford.”
“Your brother is... quite focused. I doubt he'd even notice my presence,” Ford says. (It's a lie. Stanford has been fawning over him and in another world Ford would bask in the warmth like a lizard.) Stanley snorts and hunches into himself.
“No kiddin’,” he mumbles and kicks the ground, making the seat sway.
“Did something happen?” Ford asks and takes the open seat. He’s a bit too big for it, it’s made for a smaller Stanford but, Ford makes it work.
“What'd ya care?” Stanley glares at him, round face tensing. “Yer just some creep stalkin’ Ford. You don't give a damn about me.” Stanley clenches his hands into fists around the creaking chains of the swing.
“That's not true.”
“Hell it ain't.” Stanley’s eyes light up and he shoves himself off the swing to stand. The seat jerks in the air behind him. “Everythin’ was great until ya showed up!” Ford stands and raises his hands in surrender.
“Stanley, I'm not sure--”
“We were gonna sail away and get rich! We were gonna be somebodies and then ya show up and now Ford-” Stanley's voice cracks over his brother’s name before he shakes himself. “You convinced him I wasn't good for nothin’,” Stanley says lowly, like he doesn't want to say it aloud. Like saying it will make it real.
“Oh, Stanley,” Ford says, hurting for this young and soft version of his brother.
“It's yer fault.” Stanley says darkly.
“I'm sorry, Stanley.” Ford reaches out to touch, but lets his hand fall when Stanley pulls instinctively away. “But your brother, he...” Ford hesitates. “Ah, no,” Ford shakes his head. “Nevermind.” Stanley looks at him shrewdly, accusingly.
“Ya got somethin’ to say?” Stanley draws as tall as he can, squaring his shoulders. He has a few more years to reach Ford’s height, though neither of them are very tall.
“Did you ever consider that your brother might be…” Ford hesitates.
“What?” Stanley demands and curls his fists.
“If your brother might feel...uncomfortable alone with you?” Ford finishes softly, but Stanley flinches all the same, as if struck.
“What--the fuck does that mean?” Stanley shifts self consciously, fists curling and uncurling at his side in a nervous tick.
“Your brother is not as unobservant as he seems,” Ford says carefully. “I know you care for him, Stanley, but,” Ford gives Stanley his best sympathetic look. “I don’t think your brother...feels the same.”
“What? N-no.” Stanley stammers as his eyes flick to the rough glass-and-sand gravel of the beach. “You’re right. He’s got that fancy college. Doesn’t n-need big, dumb Stanley Pines anymore.”
“Stanley,” Ford chides. “You know that’s not what I meant.” Stanley stares at him, eyes widening in panic, shiny and bright.
“Fuck off.” Stanley says and turns to leave (running) but Ford jerks him back by the arm. Stanley wastes no time whirling around, aiming to punch Ford in the face. Ford easily catches Stanley’s fist. “Get off me!” Stanley wrenches his hand back and Ford lets him; he watches Stanley stumble back.
“Y-ya come around and--and start with all this bullshit!” Stanley shouts. Ford looks around, but the beach is fortunately deserted in the twilight.
“Stanley!” Ford hisses.
“What did ya tell him?” Stanley pushes into Ford’s space, retreat forgotten now that he knows what Ford knows.
“You need to be quiet,” Ford says and stands his ground, almost pushing into Stanley’s flushing face, resisting the urge to grab his white shirt.
“What did ya do to my brother?” Stanley shouts and lunges, throwing his entire body into Ford. Ford only falls because he does not expect it.
Stanley isn’t fighting like a boxer; he isn’t going to pull back at first blood. Stanley is fighting like a cornered back alley stray with nothing to lose, going for the most sensitive areas of the body, the most damaging. But, Stanley is young and soft and has never had to fight for his life. He’s too wild and underestimates the aging nerd that Ford appears. (Though, he does land a blow to Ford’s gut that winds him and Ford definitely has a bloodied nose. He’s almost proud.)
The fight is over when Ford slams his head forward into Stanley’s (the metal plate makes it particularly effective) and shoves him back and Stanley falls. He’s stunned, blinking away tears as his brain recovers from being slammed suddenly into his skull. Ford quickly straddles him, a loose hand curls gently but firmly over his exposed throat and the other stays steady against Stanley’s shoulder. Stanley shakes his head, only making the disorientation worse. Unable to see or focus, Stanley starts to thrash wildly, his arms come up to try and push Ford away.
“Stanley, calm down!” He barks down at the boy who just snarls back. “You need to be quiet!”
“Fuck you!” Stanley has both hands wrapped around Ford’s wrist, trying to dislodge it.
“I mean it,” Ford warns, leans just slightly on Stanley’s throat.
Stanley’s eye widen when Ford squeezes his neck (just enough that he can feel the carotid artery and jugular vein move like undulating worms under his fingertips; can feel the hard cartilage of Stanley’s trachea push against his palm). Stanley claws at his arm but, between the trauma and the hypoxia, Stanley’s brain is simply too weak to function after even a few seconds. Stanley doesn’t go completely limp as his eyes lose focus and saliva gathers at the corners of his gaping mouth, but his body becomes yielding. (Ford is almost disgusted with himself at how erotic the sight is; Stanley drooling as he tries to gasp for air, his eyelids fluttering.) Ford carefully and slowly relaxes his hold, raises his other hand to cradle Stanley’s face as he gasps for air and adjusts to his brain flooding with oxygen rich blood. “Take deep, slow breaths.” Ford rubs a thumb along Stanley’s neck, attempting to soothe. His hand rises and falls with a thick swallow.
“F’ck.” Stanley glares limply at Ford. Ford smiles gently at him.
“I never did anything to your brother, Stanley.” Stanley tries to turn away from Ford’s hand on his cheek. “I never told him anything.”
“G’ off,” Stanley says after a long moment. Ford draws back but continues to sit on Stanley’s hips, to keep him from running and doing something regrettable.
“Your throat is going to be sore,” Ford says. “Be careful when you stand.” When Ford feels that Stanley won’t run, Ford carefully gets up, making a show of rubbing his knees. Stanley tries to rise quickly behind him, but stumbles. Ford catches his arm before he falls; Stanley tries to pull away, but just stumbles again. Ford frowns. “Let me see your eyes.” Ford doesn’t wait for consent, grabs Stanley’s face and looks carefully over Stanley’s squinted glare. Ford sighs when nothing seems worse than expected.
“Lemme go, psycho.” Stanley pulls away again and Ford lets him. “I’mma call the police.” Stanley rasps and Ford doubts that he really would.
“You have no reason to,” Ford shrugs. “Though, I think you could do with something for your throat. The Juke Joint isn’t too far.”
“‘M not grabin’ a drink with ya.” Stanley rubs his throat and coughs. “Ya tried to kill me! Yer gonna drag me off an-an’ finish me off!” Stanley tries to shout, work himself into a rage but just coughs painfully. (Ford might have overdone it.) Ford places a bracing hand between his shoulder blades and feels his powerful movement of his ribcage.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Ford snorts and starts to guide the two of them to the boardwalk. “I do apologize though.” Ford pauses to consider what to say. “I...don’t do well being startled like that.” Ford looks at the stars briefly, remembering.
“So ya go fuckin’ apeshit?” Stanley scoffs and Ford smiles tightly.
“It’s saved my life more than once,” he says. Stanley looks at him suspiciously, but there is a small seed of curiosity.
(He doesn’t call the police.)