Night time in Gravity Falls was one of two extremes- either something big was happening or it was so deathly silent that the people who lived in the sleepy town worry about the wildlife count. Tonight, everything was still. No wind blew and disturbed the trees, and moonlight dusted its silver luminescence across the Mystery Shack. Nobody in the shack stirred sans one. The eldest of the Pines laid awake, staring at the flaking ceiling. He had long gained back the vast majority of his memory- the only hazy part was near the end of the decade that passed between being kicked out and unhappily reuniting with Ford. If what he did remember of that time served as clues, Stanley figured that it was probably for the best. Regaining his memory of the 30 years since Ford entered the portal, however, led him to an uncomfortable realization.
He had told himself that as soon as Ford was out of that damned device, he was done. That was it. Cut-and-dry, that was his final goal in life. Once this actually happened, however, he was made aware of this new threat to the entire universe. With that, he stiffly resigned himself to resolving this newest grand issue, and then he was done. All this was decided before his sacrifice, which was really too easy to make in the first place. It was two for the price of one, a deal that no conman worth his salt would pass up. It's been a week since then, and this strange, empty feeling has yet to go away.
He has nothing else to do with himself. The kids are safe and will be going home in four days. Stanford is back and alive and... still a bit angry with him, yes. Although Stanley had made an enormous sacrifice and literally saved the world, Ford still had perfectly viable reasons to be sour with him. It was he who had caused Ford the majority of his suffering through their lives, directly or indirectly. Despite knowing the treatment was justified, it still made his chest feel tight. Mabel and Dipper both caught onto the tension easily, and Stan was not blind to the way it made them uncomfortable as well.
What had he done recently that was completely good, with no ulterior motive or anything of the sort? He couldn't remember. He had been selfish to keep himself here for so long, hoping against hope that maybe Stanford would treat him a little warmer than he had been. Stupid to think that staying here would somehow make things better. Too worthless to really make that much of a positive impact.
Stanley had had enough.
With a popping in a majority of his joints- damn, he was getting old- he sat up in the bed that technically still belonged to his brother after 30 years. Pulling back the covers, he swung his legs out of the bed and immediately set them in the slippers that he had left there. He sat like that, hunched over for what could've been minutes or hours. He didn't know nor care. When he finally moved again, it was to glance at the digital clock. It read 3:00 a.m.
A bottle behind the clock caught his eye, standing a transparent orange that contrasted with the naturally dark tones of the wood and lighting that surrounded it. Reaching over and picking it up, he tried to see which one of his medicines it was. Usually, the various bottles were kept in the drawer of his nightstand, and he had no recollection of leaving any of his medicines out. He squinted at it, trying to avoid putting his glasses on, but eventually, he gave up and fit the large frames on his face. The label read 'hydrocodone' and the bottle was about half full of white oval tablets.
They were meant to help, to make his quality of life better or whatever the doctor had spewed. And they did. When his back pain got so bad that he literally could not leave the bed, this would help him get back on his feet. He tried not to take it too often, Pines men weren't weak, after all, and taking medicine because you couldn't handle a bit of pain spelled out 'wimp' in capital glowing letters. Now as he gazed at them, he didn't recognize them as little helping pills. He saw them as little keys to freedom.
Stanley Pines was no idiot, despite what his report cards said in high school. He could read people like a book and instantly make connections that would take others twice as long to realize. It was because of this that he knew with absolute certainty that if he decided to finally go through with it tonight, nobody would really miss him. The kids, he figured, would hardly be sad- he ruined their entire summer break with his lying and going behind their backs. He was no longer trustworthy to them, and Stan figured that was a logical and valid conclusion. Wendy and Soos only saw him as a taskmaster, stubborn and cold with a habit to penny-pinch on payday. And he would never forget the better half of himself- Ford.
Dear god, Ford.
How much pain had he caused his twin? After everything Stanley had done to him- breaking his project, ignoring him for a decade only to push him into an inter-dimensional portal, and then taking three more decades for his stupid self to get him back- it was insanely selfish and idiotic of him to take so long. Who knows what Stanford went through in those hellish dimensions? And the whole time Stanley was living it up using his brother's name, living in his house, and living his life on Earth for him. As soon as he got back where he belonged, Ford had made it crystal clear that Stan wasn't welcome anymore. He would leave after the kids did, even though his twin never kept his side of the deal.
Ford would be glad to see him gone, suffice to say.
After everything he's gone through with the few individuals that he surrounded himself with, he would agree with someone in a heartbeat if they told him he was worthless. Maybe not on the outside, though. He had an image to maintain despite how he truly felt about himself. He was some sort of human cancer, thriving off the people around him and living vicariously through them. Slowly, he would suck the life out of everyone he was with. He was the living embodiment of a quagmire. He helped bring about the end of the world, and he was almost the reason they lost. He had no purpose left and nobody to keep him here. Nothing to stay for.
He eyed the pills again. Shakily but without hesitation, he popped open the bottle and left it on the nightstand to get some water.
Dipper couldn't sleep.
Well, he could, he was physically capable of it, but he just woke up covered in sweat and panting harshly into the night. He loathed thinking about what would haunt him again if he dared to close his eyes. Instinctually, his eyes shot to his left to find Mabel sleeping far better than he did tonight. She had her fair share of nightmares as well, but he was glad that she was sleeping soundly so far. Mabel without sleep is a sorry sight to her twin.
Seeing his sister whole, breathing, and -dare he say it- peaceful was a major soothing wave to his frazzled nerves. He had no idea what he would do with himself if something happened to her, especially if he could have protected her. Dipper didn't consider himself much of a fighter, with his one chest hair and noodle-y arms, but he would fight anything to the death for Mabel. He had a feeling that the sentiment was mutual.
Quietly, he lifted the covers back and slipped out of bed, being extra careful to make little to no noise. Mabel had never really been a super light sleeper, but he had no idea how recent events may have interfered with that. He never really snuck out of their room at night in the first place. He tiptoed across the floor, wincing when a loose floorboard creaked under his foot but allowed himself to breathe when his sister didn't stir. He eased open the door and left, leaving it cracked slightly. He was going to get some water; the late hour be damned.
He snuck down the hall, being extra careful to avoid creaky pressure points in the flooring as he passed Grunkle Stan's room. He found it odd that there was no snoring coming from the other side of the door but shrugged it off. It was uncommon, sure, but not unheard of for him to be down in the lab at some hour of the night, or to have trouble sleeping. Dipper thought that it would be ridiculous if any of them slept completely sound after that whole event. It was all still fresh in their minds and would be for a while. The residents of the Mystery Shack have seen an awful lot of crazy things, but you can't just survive the end of the world as you know it and come out unscathed.
The young boy wandered into the kitchen and hesitantly turned on the light over the sink before finding a glass and going over to said sink to fill it up with water. He noticed that there was water in the bottom like someone had recently used it. The realization didn't bother him really, but he was curious to know who else was having sleep issues if they were up this late at night as well. He sat down at the table tiredly as he sipped his tap water. Neither of them were allowed to take food or drink outside of the kitchen at night, anyway, not like they really did in the daytime.
A few minutes passed as he sat there in his T-shirt before a dull thud was heard from somewhere upstairs. Immediately, Dipper's back went ramrod straight and his heart felt like it had stopped. Slowly, he slipped out of his chair and went for the nearest object that could be used as a weapon, which was an aluminum baseball bat kept on the other side of the doorway of the kitchen. With a suitable weapon in hand, the youngest male Pines crept up the stairs, being quieter than he was earlier. Right now, an intruder could be inside his home, and his sister or younger Grunkle could be in danger. He wasn't playing around.
As he neared the top of the staircase, he caught a clip of some sort of weird sound. It reminded the young boy of a tea kettle or the weird wispy sound that the vinyl-covered bus seats would make when you plopped down on it. Dipper crept forward on the top floor, edging closer and closer to the noise. He only stopped when he was certain of the origin of the noise, and that was from Grunkle Stan's room. He gripped the handle of the bat tighter, setting it on top of his shoulder. He might be young, under-developed, and somewhat lacking in upper body strength, but he would teach whatever attacker there was that nobody messed with the Pines family. He had almost lost so many of his relatives or friends to a crazy dream demon and had emerged victorious, so someone mortal never stood a chance in his record.
He gently pushed on the wooden door, and it glided away from him silently. His Grunkle must've kept the hinges well-oiled or something. As soon as he could fit the top of his head in the doorway, he did, eyes darting around looking for someone or something out of place.
He found someone out of place, but nobody else.
Grunkle Stan was lying in the floor beside his bed, halfway on his right side and halfway on his face. A weird, wheezy sound was escaping him in time of his shuddering breaths, which were irregular and gasping. Something was very wrong.
Dipper dropped the bat and rushed through the doorframe, toward his relative. His heart pounded in fear as he attempted to roll him over, so he completely laid on his side. The young boy heaved, and his great-uncle rolled just enough to lay flat on his side. The older male's skin was a weird shade of blue-grey and he was kind of clammy to touch. His eyes, unobstructed by the glasses that lay a few inches away, were glassy and unfocused, staring into infinity.
This was bad. This was really, really bad, and Dipper knew he couldn't handle it, and his sister couldn't either. That left one person left that might know what to do. Whatever was wrong with Stan, surely, he could fix it, right? The young boy ran out of the room with the name on his lips but never actually speaking it.
He raced down the hall and went to the left of the stairway to check the guest room, just in case Ford was actually sleeping normally for once. As he shoved the door open, he saw that there was nobody there. Cursing lightly under his breath, he doubled back and sprinted down the stairs, uncaring of how much noise he made right now. He didn't know exactly what was wrong with Grunkle Stan, but it was more than likely a life or death situation. If he woke Mabel, he would have to apologize later.
As soon as his bare foot hit the bottom of the staircase, he made a beeline for the vending machine. He knew that at night Ford was only one of two places. Punching in the code faster than he ever had before in his life, he threw open the secret door and went down those steps too. At the elevator, his hand shakily pressed the first button, hoping against hope that he had at least fallen asleep in his study and not his lab. When the doors opened, Dipper saw the familiar figure hunched over in the desk, head in his arms, snoring.
He wasted no time in running over to the adult and shaking him awake.
"Grunkle Ford! Grunkle Ford, please wake up! Something's wrong with Stan!"
The elder of the two in the room stirred as Dipper kept shaking his shoulder, calling his name like a mantra in a borderline hysterical voice.
The sweater-clad man shot up straight in his seat, hand going to his belt for a weapon that wasn't there. His wild eyes, tinged with sleep, shot around the room before landing on a visibly shaken and panicking Dipper. His eyebrows lowered in concern and confusion.
"Woah, Dipper, what's the matter?" His voice was sleepy and gravelly, and in response, Dipper started tugging his arm away from the desk, making him move in his rolling chair. The boy's chest heaved with shallow breaths and Ford could see the beginning of tears prick his eyes. This had to be something serious, either with Dipper or someone else.
"Grunkle Ford, we have to hurry! Something's wrong with Stan!"
That got him up. He shot to his feet like he was fired from a gun, and his eyes turned hard and serious. Immediately, he grabbed his medical kit and headed for the elevator with no hesitation at all. Dipper followed him and a second later, the gate closed. The tiny room ascended, a human statue with a steely resolve and a frightened 12-year-old boy in tow.
"Where is he, and how did he look?" It was a question but phrased as a statement, curt and dry in tone. Dipper fidgeted as the elevator rose.
"He was on the floor in his room, and he was all bluish-gray and he wasn't breathing right, a-and..." The elevator dinged and the gate folded up to the side. They wasted no time in barreling out of the doorway and up the stairs, coming out from behind the cracked vending machine. The pair nearly collided in the doorway to the gift shop, both going as fast as they could toward Stan. They climbed the stairs two or three at a time, racing against the clock. Once they got to the room, Ford stopped in shock at seeing the state of his twin.
Stanley was lying on his side, facing away from the door. With a firm hand on the shoulder, Ford told Dipper to stay exactly where he was and entered the room swiftly, dropping to his knees next to his brother. His hands found purchase on his bare shoulders and he shook them lightly, mentally cataloging the clamminess.
"Stanley? Stanley, what's the matter?" His voice was tight with concern. At receiving no response, he shook the shoulder a little rougher before catching a glimpse at his twin's eyes. They sat like dull marbles in his head, staring sightlessly at the void under his bed. The rest was like Dipper had described, his skin was a strange color and what little breath he got came in gasping wheezes. What could have gotten him in such a rough state? He didn't have any sort of heart or respiratory prob-
His observant eyes landed on an uncapped, orange bottle that had seemingly rolled under the bed. Quickly, Ford snatched the little container up, reading the label before his eyes widened.
Oh please, God, no. Don't let it be what he thought. Please.
Ford didn't have much time to react before he felt more than saw his brother tense up. His entire body went absolutely stiff like a compressed spring before a strange sort of whimper escaped his throat and he began convulsing, his limbs jerking wildly. The elder twin cursed nastily before throwing down the empty bottle and snatching up Stanley's pillow from his bed, placing it under and around his head like a helmet to prevent any damage to it. He repositioned himself to somewhat lay between the bed and his brother, assuring that any sort of contortion would hit him instead of the oak bedposts. He laid with his hips on the ground, supporting his upper body with fully extended arms as his eyes sought out the luminescent numbers of the clock kept on the nightstand. It was 3:29 a.m. Taking extra precaution to clear his mind of anything but the hard facts of the situation, Stanford began counting.
"Dipper, I want you to go stay with your sister. If she wakes, keep her and yourself in that room unless I specifically call for either of you, regardless of what you may hear." His voice held an authoritative inflection. Dipper began to protest but Ford wasn't having it. Tearing his gaze from his brother, he looked the boy straight in the eyes.
"Go!" He flinched at the volume, nodded, and left, the first few tears of undoubtedly many beginning to stream down his face.
Ford waited until the footsteps had faded and he was sure he was alone with his brother before he took his eyes off of the now empty doorway. Shooting a cursory glance at the clock, his internal counting proved correct when it said one minute had passed. Stanley started making odd choking and gurgling sounds, and the conscious sibling furrowed his eyebrows at the foam beginning to dribble out of his mouth. He took the throw blanket off of his brother's bed and gently wiped away the building saliva as it accumulated. Past that, he could do nothing more than watch his other half suffer through a seizure. Ford's heart was racing as his brother turned bluer, but his countenance remained calm, if not a touch concerned. He knew that acting on his emotions would only jeopardize the chances his brother had of surviving.
After another full minute, Stan's shaking subsided. Neither of them got a moment to rest, since mere seconds after it was over, he rolled over weakly onto his hands and knees and retched. What came up only confirmed Ford's suspicions- not like there was really anything else he thought it could be. Half-digested pills lay in a sickening puddle underneath the weakened man, and his body still heaved despite having nothing left to dispel. His arms shook beneath his weight, and Ford dived forward to catch his brother before he lost all strength in his arms and faceplanted into his own vomit. That would have been disgusting for both of them. As Ford helped the physically compromised man to sit up, he went limp in his arms. He didn't move. He didn't breathe.
Ford's heart skipped a beat.
For a moment, he just sat there, unable to comprehend what was happening and what he should do next. In the next, he had Stanley flat on the ground, scanning his chest for any breath entering or leaving. There was none. A trembling hand came up to gently rest under his jaw and felt for a pulse.
There was none.
His breath caught in his throat and he grabbed two fistfuls of his brother's T-Shirt collar and wrenched. The fabric came apart with a loud rip, exposing the upper part of the torso. Ford didn't hesitate in lacing his hands together, one on top of the other, locking his arms, and pushing like his life depended on it. In reality, it was his twin's. After what he was sure was thirty compressions he paused and scanned his chest again for any movement. When there was still none, some sort of strangled sound escaped his chest and he began another round of compressions.
He had no idea how much time he had spent doing this. He knew he wasn't going to give up- he couldn't. He wouldn't. It was not an option. Time blurred together in a mass of desperate thoughts, sets of thirty, and deep-seated tiredness that seemed to go all the way to his bones. He couldn't focus on anything else other than his best attempt at CPR. The class that he had taken for this was so long ago, and he had never needed it but once until now.
He stopped pressing on Stanley's chest for what had to have been the umpteenth time before desperately searching his body for any sign of breathing. He waited two seconds, then five. Miserably, he shook his head and moved to start back the exhausting task of willing life back into the other man. Before his hands could come back down on his chest, it expanded with a shuddering gasp and weak coughing. The sound was hoarse, dry, and seemed painful to make, but it was undoubtedly the best sound he had ever heard. Exhausted, Ford turned his brother on his left side, watching as he breathed.
He had done it. He had actually done it. His whole body sagged with relief.
The sick man took in trembling breaths and gasps, trying to get enough oxygen. He didn't notice that his brother was breathing very similarly. The spectacled man's hands shook slightly, and he was in emotional shock. He had no idea how to process what he just witnessed. He knew, logically, what happened. He mentally cataloged every moment of it in chronological order and he had a good feeling that his brother's grey, seized face would be appearing in his nightmares soon enough, alongside the feeling of him going slack in his arms.
His twin had just attempted suicide. His best friend since birth had almost died inches away from him, and he knew that if his heart had stayed inactive, he would have been powerless to help more than he already was. His nerves were completely shot. He felt nothing and could only hear an odd buzzing in his head as he leaned up against the side of the bed, feeling his heart rate gradually slow. As the adrenaline left his body, he could feel himself becoming more and more exhausted. This night was far from over, however, and he only allowed himself a couple of minutes to rest before he pushed himself back into a sitting position. Glancing over at his brother, he saw that his breathing was slow and mildly shallow and that his body was relaxed but not slack. Ford felt something stir deep in his chest but didn't particularly care to look into whatever emotion it was. He scooted over to Stan on the floor before gently taking his hand, the other one going under his back. In no time, he was coaxed into a sitting position.
"Come on, Stanley, we need to get up. We aren't going to be staying in here," Ford muttered. The weaker man didn't say or do anything to indicate that he understood, but when the sweater-clad man hinted at getting up, he leaned his weight onto his brother and made a solid effort to stand. When the set of twins were both standing- one more sturdy than the other, they slowly began to leave the room. The task was physically taxing to the both of them, Stan for obvious reasons, and Ford due to the deep-seated exhaustion that weighed him down. Something kept the elder one going, some sort of quietly burning determination in his veins as they made their way down the upstairs hall agonizingly slowly.
Ford led them to his room, depositing his brother on the wraparound couch. Stanley made no move to lay down, he just stared a hole into the ground. Stanford, despite his fatigue, paced. Something was bothering him, but he never wanted to make an accusation without all the facts. A course of action sprung to life in his psyche, and after a moment's more consideration, acted on it.
"What is your name?" The question had no lilt to it or any additional tone. It hung in the air as it went unanswered for a moment, making the air thicken with tension.
"Stanley Pines," came the response, dead and monotone.
"Where are we right now?"
"Gravity Falls, Oregon," he slurred out sloppily. An instant later his cheek burned, and his head wrenched to the side by the force of the slap. He held his face in shock, looking at his brother in the eyes. There was something wild there, something desperate and pleading. Stanley figured that among everything else he excelled at, Ford was a consummate actor as well.
"You cannot fall asleep, not with those narcotics concentrated in your system," he said firmly. "What is my name?"
"What are the names of your great-niece and great-nephew?"
"Mabel and Dipper."
"Where's Bill Cipher?" A shudder ran through him at saying the name again.
"He's dead." At this point, Ford figured he was conscious enough to answer legitimate, serious questions. Stan's voice was sleepy and gravelly, but he answered all the same.
"Okay then, what were you doing before we got here?"
It was silent for a solid minute before the answer came.
"You're blind, Ford. Not stupid. You know exactly what that was."
"Yes," he agreed, his voice exasperated, "but I seriously hoped I was incorrect." The statement was true, yes, but even he had to admit that he was hoping against hope in this situation. Every symptom, every clue pointed to the glaringly obvious answer. Stanford clenched his fists as he paced back a forth a few more times, getting up the willpower to ask the question that they both knew was coming. He opened then closed his mouth several times, looking like a fish out of water when all he was trying to do was speak.
"Why? Why would you possibly do... that?"
Stanley scoffed at his older brother. After everything, he still has the nerve to act as if he cared about his useless sibling? "Don't act like it really matters to you, Sixer. You can drop the act."
Ford stopped pacing. Everything went entirely still as the gears in his mind ground to a halt. He stopped thinking, stopped breathing, stopped altogether. What did he just say? Is he really implying what he thinks he is? Before he could say anything in his defense, the other twin plowed on.
"I'm not stupid either, you know. I know you always got the star grades and whatnot, and you were wanted by that college, but I definitely never flunked out of anything. I heard what that principal said, and he was lying. I was passing, Ford, despite what you thought. I figured it woulda been easier to let you think what you wanted to of me instead of shattering whatever image you had painted in your mind. It was easier that way. But since getting kicked out, I was completely homeless, Ford. I could never get a stable job that paid well enough to eat on, much less one to pay for an apartment or any sort of other housing. I lived outta my car for a decade. A decade. I've done things I'll never be proud of at that time, and they still haunt me. And after all that suffering, I get that damned notecard from you. I finally think we'll be reconnecting, and that we would both make up for our mistakes. But no, Ford, things with you could never be that simple," he said, his tired voice edged with a bit of disdain, "you only wanted me here to take your book and leave you be. To never see me again, most likely. Do you have any idea how much that hurt? Any idea at all?"
The other man was silent.
"Of course not. It was never something you had to deal with because I never hated you. And then the portal happened. Maybe you didn't spare it a second thought, but I spent thirty years of my life fixing that thing. Thirty years buried in your jargon that I didn't have a hope of understanding. I woulda done anything to get my brother back. I had no regard for any aspect of my health in favor of trying to fix what seemed like a small problem in the portal. I read and studied. I stressed and I lost sleep. I worked tirelessly on the machine. And after all those years dedicated to that, I never even got a 'thank you'. You came out and the first thing you did was punch me in the damn face. I understand you're angry with me, you got a right to be, but-" his voice cut itself off, and he cleared his throat. "But you and I won't ever be the same, will we? We ain't in Glass Shard anymore, Ford, ain't who we used to be. Past this house, I don't have anywhere to go and certainly no friends to see. You didn't keep your side of the deal, yeah, but I've gone back on my word to myself too many times. Do you know what it's like to live under the same roof as your twin who hates you, Stanford? Someone who you're sure won't miss you if you're gone, and acts like everything you do is terrible? What did you expect me to do?"
The silence in the room was deafening as Stan finished speaking. His twin was quiet, and he huffed.
"I don't know why I even bothered telling you that. It's not like you really care," he muttered, angrily whispering the last sentence.
Ford stood with his back facing his brother. In the stillness, he caught every single word that was uttered, each one echoing off of the walls and stabbing him in the heart. The feeling from earlier came back with a vengeance, stirring and bristling like an affronted lion. He was angry- no, he was pissed. He stalked over to the wall with a dangerous look on his face and kicked it, trying to vent all his negative emotions in one action. His booted foot went through the wooden wall with a loud crack. With a swift yank, his foot was dislodged, and his fist was the next to damage the paneling. He struck again and again until he was heaving for breath, his arms completely given out and his knuckles raw and bloody. Ford paid no mind to the splinters embedded in his flesh or the liquid that was beginning to run down his hand. Instead, he planted a hand against the wall and braced on it, hanging his head.
This was all too much. Everything was too much. What was he supposed to say to that? He tried to think of something he could possibly do to defuse the situation, but he didn't ruminate on it long. He turned to Stanley, who had watched the whole event happen with widened eyes. His socially awkward mind did what it did best, and words left his mouth with no filter.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?!" The younger brother flinched away violently, as if afraid of being struck. Ford was never one to lose his temper, much less curse. He was always the one that hid himself away, physically or emotionally. He was the one with tear stains on his pillow at midnight. "My brother, no, my best friend, almost left me, and he thinks I wouldn't care?!" His polydactyl hands flew to his head and carded through his hair, a sign that Stanley had categorized as overwhelmed from their teenage years. "He thinks I hate him and that I'm only troubled by him? And he's been suffering in silence for who knows how long because... because why?" His voice trembled as he spoke again, "You son of a bitch..."
It was then that he turned slightly away from the other, one hand quickly swiping his glasses off of his face and the other wiping his eyes with his sweater sleeve. Stanley gazed, a little confused. He didn't really understand much of what he was seeing at the moment, just that Ford was angry at him and then... then he wasn't? Just like that?
"Are you... are you crying?" He stupidly asked. Ford faced him again, letting the tears stream down his face unhindered.
"Yes, I'm crying, Stanley! Do you have any idea- I don't- why didn't- I don't know what I would have done with myself if you'd-!" He choked on a sob, eyes screwing shut and clapping a hand over his mouth to stifle the noise. His whole body was quaking and he sunk to his knees, unable to support his weight at the moment. The arm still holding his glasses wrapped around his midsection, a habit he acquired while hopping dimensions. Nobody else was going to bother giving him the physical comfort he needed, so he had to give himself the cheapest imitation of it. He doubled over on himself, a shadow of the dignified person he usually was. Stanley felt a wave of self-loathing wash over him like water. He had caused this. He couldn't even die right, could he? What else could he possibly be good for at this point? Good at nothing in life and not good at ending it. He was trapped here, in a living limbo. He figured an apology was in order at the very least if he had to make his brother put up with him for longer than he needed to.
"I'm sorry, Ford. I didn't mean to make you feel like this. I'll- I'll try harder next time, alright?" The adrenaline and pain had both faded from the slap his twin gave him earlier, and his words were starting to slur together again as he drifted in and out of focus. Maybe if he concentrated on the feeling of losing awareness, then maybe he could slip away completely. With all of the medicine that's still in his system, maybe it wouldn't be so hard. "I didn't mean to make you upset." He leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes. He concentrated on slowly, ever so slowly being swallowed by the darkness. Of course, that never happened. He felt the impact on its own before the familiar pain laced its way across his face. Heavy hands landed on his shoulder and he had little time to react before he was being shaken vigorously.
"Don't you dare, Stanley. DON'T YOU DARE!" Ford's voice tinted at sheer hysteria. He stopped shaking Stan, and the younger used that as an opportunity to look at his sibling in the eyes. He wished he didn't.
Tears streamed down his face and his glasses laid in the floor behind him, discarded. His usually fluffy hair was completely untamed and ragged at the edges. His eyes swirled with so many emotions that Stanley couldn't begin to process them all. Anger, fear, desperation, heartbreak... it was almost too much for him to bear. He felt his heart lurch painfully as his twin sniffed pitifully and fresher tears followed the tracks made by those before them. Ford's face was screwed up in the oddest mixture of fury and sorrow.
The younger brother made a confused and overwhelmed noise at his brother's reaction to everything. "I thought that out of everything, Poindexter, you would be happy that I at least tried," he said, trying to make it sound irritated but only succeeded in sounding confused and extraordinarily tired. The other sibling choked slightly at his words. How could he possibly be glad that this happened? How could he find comfort or solace in the fact that his brother just tried to commit suicide? Why would he think he wanted this to happen?
Whatever was left of Ford's already delicate restraint shattered like untreated glass and the sweater-clad man lost himself in his best friend's shoulder. His breath hitched and his body convulsed with his cries, and his arms encircled his brother like he would cease to exist if he ever let go. He didn't know what else to do when someone who meant so much to him thought and believed things so wrong about himself.
Stanley sat, frozen, as his brother embraced him. He, like Ford, had hardly gotten much physical contact over the years. Of course, he got more than Ford had because of the kids, but nothing even remotely like what he was receiving now. He hadn't been held this closely or tightly since he and Ford were teens- when the bullying became too much for his older brother. However, looking down at the usually put-together man sobbing like a child into his shoulder, something in him cracked. Stanley never was one to cry, he was always the sibling prone to anger, but as he felt dampness spread on his shoulder and saw the way Stanford's entire being shook with his sorrow, his eyes burned. This wasn't something he could pass off as some dust in his eye. Neither of them would believe that excuse, and right now, everything as laid out on the table between them. The two brothers didn't dare lie to each other right now.
Hesitantly returning the hold, he simply held Ford as he shed tears over everything that had happened. Suddenly, before he could even think about stopping himself, his chest shuddered with a sob. He tried to suppress it, to keep whatever dignity he had left, but several others quickly followed suit and soon he was bawling right alongside his brother. He was only human- he could only feel so bad for so long and endure so much before he cracked. Mirroring his twin's action, he buried his face in the other's shoulders and let go.
Ford felt all of it. All of the things he was supposed to feel and then some. He felt the tension in his brother for the first few seconds, then how he relaxed. He felt how his chest heaved and felt his arms wrap around him, almost protectively. It sent him way back to how they used to be before everything happened. He had missed this dearly. He had missed Stanley, and he had almost lost him forever. Feeling his emotionally turbulent brother begin to cry into his shoulder, Ford could only cry harder. He knew you had to break before you could heal, and maybe Stanley finally letting go could be the start to his healing. Maybe they would be okay. Maybe.
Neither of them knew how long they held each other. They just knew that at that moment, regardless of how long, they needed each other. They needed the physical contact, and they needed comfort. Neither of them minded giving it to their other half. Long after their tears stopped, they still held each other. While they felt comforted by the fact that the other was there, Ford still had something to get off his chest. Gently, he took a breath and opened his mouth, but Stan cut him off.
"If you're gonna say sorry, don't. You don't gotta apologize for any of this. It's my fault that I even got this bad and I don't want you to think-"
"You know I care, Stanley, right?"
It was barely said, soft and shaky like he was about to break down again, but Ford's words hung in the air every way except physically. It immediately cut the younger brother short and some of the breath left his lungs. The situation from earlier was reversed as Ford continued, not allowing Stan to get a word in edgewise.
"I never stopped caring. I know it really never seemed like it, but it's true. The whole decade after father kicked you out, I still worried about you even though I was still angry at you. The whole time, I tried to keep that anger with me to justify the things that I've done to you. I tried to live my life like it was complete without my best friend at my side. I was never able to do it. No matter how I was set up or wherever I was, it always felt incomplete. I hardly experienced true happiness after that night, Stanley. Maybe once or twice I was able to grin without it being completely forced because I just sat there and let him throw you out onto the streets. I was angry with you, furious even, but that doesn't excuse me just standing to the side. I should have stood up for you as you did for me every day. But I didn't.
"I graduated high school and got accepted into college, just not a good one. I tried to keep the thought of your whereabouts out of my head. I tried not to think about how you were making money or where you were living, because why should I care about someone who had wronged me so grievously? Even then, I knew I was lying to myself. I knew that trying to justify it like that was complete bullshit. I just don't know why I didn't try to stop.
"I met someone by the name of Fiddleford McGucket there, and we eventually became friends. After graduation, he came with me to the little town of Gravity Falls to help me study the anomalies here. I made a deal with Bill, we built the portal, and the rest is history. The whole time you were suffering, I was living fine and dandy, like a semi-normal person, and I feel so, so guilty about it, Stanley. I can't believe myself for not trying to reach out to you until I needed you to do something for me. When you came, I'm sure you remember, I wasn't really myself. There were too many things that could have possibly gone wrong at any given moment, and I didn't give your feelings any thought at all. In retrospect, you were perfectly in your rights to be that upset with me. I shouldn't have treated you so poorly that day, you and I both know it well.
"Those years in the portal were absolutely hellish, and I daresay that our roles were reversed for that time. You were living comfortably, somewhat, and I was struggling to survive every day, on the run from less than pleasant things and unable to know when I'll eat next. I thought it would never end. Then after so long, the portal opened again and instead of some new dimension that I haven't visited yet, I see you. My brother, my best friend, my other half. And all I felt was the familiar burning anger because you endangered everyone to bring me back. I was prepared to never see the Earth again. I was prepared to die in an unfamiliar universe as long as the one I came from was safe. However, despite all the bad things that I knew had a high probability of coming into fruition, I was glad to see my home again. I know I never thanked you, and I know that I should, and I will."
Ford pulled away from Stan's shoulder and looked into his eyes, which were wide and stunned. With a sad, sorrowful smile, he said the words that the other had wanted to hear for so long.
"Thank you, Stanley. Thank you so much. I'm so sorry about the way I've been treating you, you never deserved it. Not one bit."
Despite the fact that they had just spent who knows how long crying, Stan's eyes welled up again. The younger brother looked like he wanted to say something, but Ford held his finger up. Maintaining eye contact, one hand rested on his shoulder, and the other gently held the back of his neck as he spoke with sincerity.
"You are not any of the things you called yourself earlier. No, not even one, shut your mouth, Stanley. Don't look at me like that, I know exactly what you were about to say. You are wonderful, funny, brilliant, and worth the entire world. You don't get to call yourself stupid either, because you figured out all of that science mumbo jumbo that only a few could even begin to grasp, and you brought me back from a different dimension. You're courageous and kind-hearted, and always so full of life. You can light a whole room just by walking in the right way. You've always stuck up for me even though I'm technically the older one, and you were always loyal to me, even if you could've been extremely popular in high school if you hadn't stuck with me.
"Don't you see, Stan? We would all be miserable if you had left us. You keep everyone together- Mabel and Dipper, Wendy, Soos, and me. You keep us all sane, and not one of us would know what to do with ourselves if you weren't here. So please, Lee, don't try to do this again. Don't try to leave us. I don't think I could handle it if you ever succeeded," he said, eyes still boring into Stan's, who had started quietly crying again. He radiated sincerity and gentleness, and his eyes held a sad sort of begging quality to them. "I need you, dearest friend. Don't go. Please."
This time, it was Stanley, not Ford, who hugged first. Again, they held each other like they needed the other there in order to breathe. They sat there, quietly basking in each other's presence long enough to make up for those four decades, until a quiet mutter broke the silence.
"What are we gonna tell the kids?"
Ford sighed, sounding like the weight of the world had just settled on his shoulders. "We tell them the truth, Stanley. No more lies from anyone anymore." The younger one sighed miserably but otherwise nodded. "I'll tell them, Lee, don't worry yourself with it. You shouldn't be getting up. I don't know how they will react, so I'd brace myself if I were you."
"Can I at least have a new shirt, first?" Stanford looked at his brother and, sure enough, his shirt hadn't magically mended. "Wait, why is it ripped in the first place?" He was sure that if he could think a little bit faster than he was, he would've been able to put two and two together, but right now wasn't a good time for inductive reasoning.
"You aren't feeling any pain at all right now, are you?" It was a question but said in a way that heavily implied that he already knew the answer. Stanley shook his head negative. He sighed with no discernible emotion before addressing his brother again, unable to look at him as he spoke.
"The effects of a narcotic overdose on the human body aren't pretty, Stan. You had a clonic-tonic seizure and your heart stopped. I had to give you CPR," he said, then stood to retrieve his glasses. After he had them settled over his eyes, he glanced at his brother, who was still sitting on his couch. His face was carefully blank. "Your chest will most definitely be sore in the morning, you've got a hell of a bruise." He walked over and settled down on the couch again, right next to his twin. "Do you need a few minutes? I can go ahead and tell Mabel and Dipper if you wish to be left alone for now. I can't promise that they will leave you be, however," he said gently, with a light chuckle at the end. Stanley, who knew exactly how those two got, chuckled as well.
"You can go ahead and tell them, I'll be okay. Promise," he said at his older brother's skeptical look. He wasn't lying, he would be fine. It wasn't that much of a shock to hear that, it was what he had planned on. He expected it. Ford hugged him close one more time before he stood and left the room, a weary look on his face.
Stanley only halfway paid attention to the voices that came through the walls a few rooms over. Mabel, it seemed, woke up due to the commotion. He could hear her high tones and Dipper's barely-lower ones, as well as Ford's soothingly familiar voice. Soon enough, he heard the pitter patter of adolescent feet running down the hall, and he physically braced himself as well as he could before Mabel launched herself at him. She collided into him with a thud, and she was already crying. Dipper followed at the same pace, but instead of launching into his lap, he firmly affixed himself to his Grunkle's side, letting his tears run down his face with quiet sobs. Ford arrived after Dipper at a much more serene pace and smiled slightly at the sight before him. He walked further into the room and took his previous place on the couch, next to his brother where he belonged. It was like he never left.
Being surrounded by his family, all caring and supporting, made a blossom of hope spring up in his chest. It made him feel warm, loved, and whole. A gentle, tired smile graced his face as he brought both kids into his arms. Their small arms wrapped around whatever part of him they could, and Ford joined them a second later. They were all crying, but Stanley felt something else, something new and foreign. With a jolt, he realized he was feeling lighter than he ever had before. He felt truly happy.
Maybe he really would be okay.