He had gotten the number from Ma, of course. Not that he ever asked for any of the addresses she sent. Regardless, she always sent a letter or a postcard, something with his new address and whatever small update she deemed innocent enough to give him. Sometimes, all he got was a note, no address, no number. 'Your brother is in Las Vegas, how fun!’
She usually only sent letters though when there was something new about Stanley. Well, either regarding Stanley or for whatever other reason. He’d never figured that out, honestly. A slight bitter note in his head told him that Stanley would have realized, he was always good with that sort of stuff. He pushed the thought down before it could go too far though. Even when he had time he didn't like to dwell on Stanley, but lately it also seemed like a bad idea in general. Today he had a special reason not to get caught up in his thoughts. He needed to actually contact his twin today.
He got the latest postcard not long after the incident. If the whole situation weren’t so serious he would have called the timing funny, but no. It wasn’t funny. It was striking in a way that made your mind feel suddenly clear and focused, like a polished mirror or glass, if only for a moment. There was an address and phone number on the postcard this time. Ma had rejoiced at him being closer to home than before, though there was no mention of actually going to visit him. Reading the post card left a bitter note in his mouth, but any postcard with a mention of Stanley did that. Even still, it was a welcome distraction. More than just that though. Although sour, it was a distinct possibility opening up; it was something removed from Him.
Ford stood over the messy desk with the phone set atop of a rare cleared off spot, his hands planted on either side of it.
Call Stanley, that’s what he had to do.
Or that’s what he was trying to decide if he had to do. It was the best course of action, really. He’d hidden his other journals in Gravity Falls, so if he could get the final one far away from here then it really would be safe, wouldn’t it? Hell, Stan was even back in New Jersey again, back on the other side of the country. The other side of the world would have been better, but this was enough to make him actually feel like it would be safe. It would finally be safe. All he had to do was call Stan and give him the book, then maybe he'd be able to focus on a solution or better yet be left alone entirely. That second option wasn't likely, but oh how he wished it would happen. Maybe Bill would realize how futile it was trying to coerce him and give up. Maybe he wouldn’t, that didn’t matter right now though. Once he took care of his research, all he would have to worry about was the information inside his own mind. This would at least take care of the portal specific issue. He still had other issues to deal with, but on the bright side, the possibility of immediate global destruction wouldn’t be one of them just so long as he did this.
Well, this and destroy the portal, but he was just waiting to ensure the journals were safe before he did that. On the list of things to do, he assured himself. Hiding away the journals was simply more important and had to be taken care of first.
He knew he was going to call Stan for some time now. In truth he’d known the moment he had gotten the most recent postcard from Ma weeks ago. A crystal clear moment struck him when he saw the small paragraph and phone number. An instant realization that Stan was the only one. The only one removed from this. The only one he could possibly begin to…
Ford shifted his hands on the phone, holding onto the handle. He almost wished he had tried calling when he’d gotten the postcard. After all, he’d already known by that point, but what were last resources for after all? It had been such a singular outstanding moment though, he only had had a few like it, and at that only one he let himself think about. The moment Fiddleford sat up, blue light shining a short shadow to his left, and without turning around he warned him in a cryptic message. ‘The beast with just one eye.’ An obvious warning as to who. Not just that either, but the underlying intentions.
If only he had paid heed to Fiddleford's warning and his own realization in that moment. Although, if he had just paid heed to Fiddleford’s previous concerns or the explicit warnings about the summoning then he wouldn’t be in this situation now.
Both of those times, everything clicked together. Ford understood perfectly, everything suddenly in focus. Although there was a key difference between them. Seeing Stan’s number was similar to swiping off the dirt from a mirror to see a clear reflection. Fiddleford’s words had felt like cracked glass, something inherently cold and just one treacherous tap of a finger away from turning it into jagged pieces shattering out of the frame.
Yet he still brushed over the moments. Read through the paragraph at a forced calm pace. Told his old friend to get a hold of himself. He continued over them as if he hadn’t noticed them. Then within minutes he’d reasoned excuses to try to put them out of his mind. He didn’t need them, after all, so everything was fine.
They weren’t the only epiphanies he had had, but they were the ones he had smoothed over in his own mind as irrelevant or faulty the instant he had them. Believing in the rare couple he had beforehand had not left him better off though, he thought to himself. His memory dredging them up in faded still frames.
Holding onto that blue pamphlet for the first time, the one that advertised for West Coast Tech with enticing gold trim. The different studies and resources he could already see just skimming the page and the principal's words filtering across the desk.
A clean glass lit up and shining.
He wanted to go there.
Constant New Jersey Sun shining down on the beach. The boat with its mismatching wood and moth-eaten sail haphazardly lying over the side of it. The mast strung up as they wound a thick braid of rope around it together. Catching a sight blazed into his memory as they had worked around the mast in a tight circle.
The horizon of the ocean, the boat, him. Everything. Everything except for all the sand between them and the shore. The distance to the lapping waves seemed nonexistent, as if they were already out there.
A gem like lens reflecting light over everything and an image in every facet.
He was meant t
o go sailing with Stanley.
What a stupid-
Focus. He had to focus.
Ford let the thought slide away, not dwelling on either old memory threatening to drag him out of the present. He was going to call Stan and ask him, very simply, to come. He picked up the phone holding it to his ear and went still. The flat monotonous tone made his head buzz and scrambled his thoughts.
He sighed and set the phone piece back down onto the desk to where he couldn’t hear it, rubbing at his eyes and blinking them open again. He couldn’t even deny he was tired by this point, and he wouldn’t be surprised if he was sick too. His body felt like lead and there was so much else, but every symptom could easily be from the various conditions.
He took a breath and carefully dialed the number, putting the phone piece back up to his ear and listening to the ringing. A simple request, it was easy. The conversation wouldn’t even have to last for longer than thirty seconds. Soon enough, he heard his brother’s voice for the first time in years, crackling slightly through the line.
“...What? ” He made a face, holding onto the phone with both hands.
“Oh,” Stan’s voice paused on the other side of the line, “who is this?”
He stayed quiet for a moment, listening to the other line. It was definitely Stanley, and he could pick up on the indistinct sounds coming out of the phone as well. Wind in the receiver and rustling material. He was about to speak up when there was a quiet high pitched noise.
“Just a sec.” Stanley told him, and all the sounds were quieted, muffled up against his shirt or something, but even still he could vaguely hear Stan’s voice though he couldn’t tell any words nor the tone. He didn't sound particularly emotional one way or another though. All the background noises came back as before and his voice came out of the receiver again. “Okay, now who is it again?”
Ford swallowed before answering. “Stanley?”
There was a long pause before he got a disbelieving response. “Ford? Is- that’s not you is it?”
“Yes. I-” He couldn’t help trying to think of some explanation or excuse to ease into the conversation, ‘just calling to check up on you,’ ‘ma gave me your number,’ ‘it’s been a long time but i needed to call you.’ He decided against it. Simple. A simple conversation, no need to mention unnecessary details, this needed to be straightforward.
“You need to come to Gravity Falls, it is of the utmost importance.” He told him.
There was an initial scoff in reply. “Uhh, I’m sorry, what?”
“You need to meet me in Oregon.” He said evenly.
“Meet-Why? What’s going on?”
“I can’t explain over the phone.” Ford shook his head as he held onto the phone.
“You can’t explain,” Stan deadpanned, a second later there was a sigh.
He felt himself getting agitated, this was suppose to be simple. “It is not safe.”
“... Are you in trouble?” And there was just a tinge of- concern, disbelief, Ford couldn’t pick whatever it was out of Stan’s voice. Frankly, he didn’t care what it was. He just wanted to convince Stan to come out to meet him.
“You don’t understand who could be listening, Stanley.”
He scoffed. “Look, this line is secure, nobody’s listening to us through the wires.”
“You don’t know that. It might not even be you,” Ford muttered. Stupid, this idea had been utterly stupid.
“Okay, right. You’re the one that called. If one of us might not be us then it’s you.” Stan countered bluntly. “In fact, I’m having kind of a hard time believing this isn’t a bad joke.”
“No,” he replied harshly, “I’m being serious, Stanley. Your voice could just be a manipulation of waves to sound like you, and I don’t care how ‘secure’ this line is someone could still be listening. Just talking aloud in of itself could be enough.”
“Okay, okay, come on. If it wasn’t me, then who else would it even be?”
Ford didn’t answer at first, definitively not willing to bring up Him. “... Any multitude of people.”
“If you don’t think it’d be me then why did you call? Hell, why are you calling me now of all times, anyways?!” Stan let the question snap out, the implied sentence unspoken in the air, but perfectly well known. You didn’t call for ten years.
“This is the only way I could reach you. It’s the only thing I have right now.” Ford admitted sullenly.
“Ford-” The sound of a door opening cut Stan off, and there was some aggressive voices and footsteps all of which were quickly muffled after a short, “Hold on.” Ford strained his ears to listen. There was struggling and the sound of shoes scuffling loudly on a smooth stone ground. He couldn’t understand anything, but judging by Stan’s tone it wasn’t anything outright concerning or dangerous. He continued to listen, but ultimately the mostly unconcerned tone of other voices settled his conscience. It’d have been preferable for nobody to be around at all, but better than- A sudden loud noise almost made Ford drop the phone, barely catching onto the slick surface and clutching it so it wouldn’t slip out of his grasp. He carefully re-positioned his hands to get a better grip to bring the phone back up to his ear.
“-rd, ya still there?” There were footsteps, clearly walking away from everyone else as the background voices were getting more distant and harder to even detect much less understand.
“Yes.” He answered quickly.
“Do you want to tell me what’s going on?”
Ford couldn’t risk it, and even if he could he didn’t want to. “... How far away are you from Oregon?” He asked.
“Doesn’t matter.” Stan said dismissively. “I’m coming on over. Whatever’s going on over there, I don’t like it.” A beat as a door closed and it was nearly silent aside from Stan’s voice. “I know you can’t really hear yourself, but trust me you don’t sound good and the whole vague not telling me anything isn’t that comforting either.”
Ford let out a quiet sigh of relief when he heard Stan’s reply. “I really can’t risk telling anything to you like this.” He insisted even still.
“Yeah, see, that? That’s like B horror movie cryptic, okay.” Stan pointed out.
“I can tell you when you get here.”
“So, you know in movies where someone gets warned about like some serial killer or whatever and get promised answers later? Then they show up or try to call again or something and oops whoever it was is dead and that first person still doesn’t know jackshit. You know, one of those really annoying parts where you just wanna scream at the characters because they could have just summed it up in two sentences and saved a whole lot of trouble?”
“Look, okay, all I’m saying here is that if you’re not going to tell me what’s going on now then at least stay SAFE. I’m scared I’m going to end up at your place and it’s going to be a crime scene.” He sighed. “Where are you at anyways?”
“Gravity Falls, Oregon. Gopher road, it’s the house in the woods.”
“You live out away in some cabin in the woods?” Stan said in disbelief, “You’ve gotta be frickin’ kidding me.”
“Stanley-” Ford started, putting a hand over his eyes.
He cut him off appeasingly. “Right, right, right. Look okay, I’ll be there as fast as I can. It’s gonna take me a while, but just do me a favor and actually be alive when I get there.” He paused briefly, “stay safe from… whatever, just stay safe.”
“I- I’ll be here. You have to be careful, though, Stanley. Trust no one.”
Stan let out a slow breath. “Alright, got it,” he said, “I’ll be there soon.” The line died as Stanley hung up.
Ford slowly set the phone back down onto its holder, letting out a shaky breath. Even though he was relieved that didn’t shake off his doubts. It could very easily not have been Stan at all and even if it was there was still no guarantee he’d hold to what he had said. It wouldn’t have been the first time he had lied, he thought to himself bitterly.
Stanley had actively agreed to come though, and that meant there was at least a possibility of it actually happening. And if he did show then really how much could go wrong from there?
Have him leave with the final journal, simple and easy.
All Stan would have to do was take the book and get out of Gravity Falls, preferably the state itself. It'd be best if he went across the country again or to the other side of the world, but Ford would feel safe enough as long as it was two states away. Although, since he was coming from New Jersey there was a very good chance that’s where he would go back to.
Regardless, it was safest to assume Stanley wouldn’t show up. The more time he wasted waiting for him the more time something could happen. If he could just get the last journal out of Gravity Falls and Bill’s major realm of influence then nobody would be able to activate the portal again. He was sure of it. Hide the research and deal away with the portal; it’d be fine.
The only real problem left was getting the journal out of Gravity Falls… and even after all the planning and time spent hiding the other two he had still only thought of one option. Stanley.