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Car Thief

Chapter Text

Stan’s feet ached. The back of his neck was sunburned and his lower back felt like a knife had been driven into it. He’d walked almost six miles in the blistering Texas heat, empty gas can in his hand. He wasn’t sure if he’d even have enough money to fill the can, or the energy to hike all the way back to his car.

He sighed. He’d thought the Stanley-Mobile would have enough gas to get to Austin, but apparently not. His mouth was parched, he was dying for a drink of any kind. Cheap beer would be ideal, but he’d be willing to settle for water.

He heard the rattling of an old engine behind him. A very familiar rattling.

“What the-” He whirled and stopped dead. The Stanley-Mobile was up and running again, coughing out fumes. It zoomed right past him, and he heard loud, obnoxious laughter. He caught a glimpse of wild black hair as the car passed.

“HEY!” Stan took a few running steps after the car as it sped toward Austin. “THAT’S MY CAR!”

How the guy had gotten the car moving again was a mystery. Stan set his jaw. He would find his car, again. Hell, it had everything he owned in it. He had to.

 

It was a brutal week in Austin. The sun baked him during the day, and he was lucky if he could find a quiet back street to sleep in at night. He picked a few pockets to get himself enough to eat, but it wasn’t sustainable and he knew it.

He wandered the streets, asking around about his car. He checked the dump, the car lots, the impound, and every back street he could find, but no dice.

Just when he was ready to give up hope, luck turned the tide.

He was in a bar. It was a shitty one, with shitty booze and shittier music. He was there to get good and drunk, then maybe pass out under the counter in the bathroom. Who knows? He slammed back a tequila shot and wiped his mouth on his wrist.

He heard laughter from up on stage. It sounded familiar. He turned his head.

Wild black hair. The same head of hair he saw in his car as it zoomed by. It was attached to a tall, skinny guy wearing biker boots with spikes, a very low cut tank top, and a collar necklace. He was holding a guitar and was playing a lazy song with two other guys who looked like some kind of bird person and a scruffy cat. He had to admit, they were good costumes.

The guy had an obnoxious smirk on his face. He made eye contact with Stan from across the bar and stuck his tongue out.

Stan seethed. He pushed away from the bar and slowly walked through the crowd, his fists clenched.

The song grew more upbeat and energetic as he moved closer to the stage. The lyrics were practically screamed into the microphone.

Stan was right by the stage, now. The guitarist looked down at him and winked.

Asshole!

Stanley snapped. He climbed up on stage and swung a punch.

He caught the guitarist right in the cheek. He might as well have lit off a firecracker. A bar fight broke out, and next thing he knew everybody was punching, swiping, and kicking at anyone within reach.

Stan wrenched the guitar from the guy’s grip, tossed it to the side and swung another punch at the guitarist, catching him on the other cheek. He tackled him to the floor and raised a fist to pummel him, but the guitarist spat up at him.

Yech! ” It had caught him right in the eye and he flinched.

The guitarist got one bony knee up into his ribs, but it didn’t do him much good. Stan got his fist into his hair and screamed into his face over the din, “ Where the fuck is my car?

The guitarist looked surprised. He didn’t flinch when Stan’s spittle hit him in on the cheek. His lip was bloody and his eye was swollen. “W-w-what car?”

Stanley was still seething with rage. “ My car! The Stanley-Mobile! Dark red, white hood, “EL DIABLO” written on the side! My car!

“Th-that’s your car? I-I-I thought it was a piece of junk somebody left on the side of the road!”

“It’s not junk! It’s my home!

“Yeesh, no wonder it smelled like somebody lived in it.”

Stanley gripped the front of his shirt and raised his fist to deliver another punch, but he heard a few shouts from the front of the bar.

Cops!

Stan immediately dropped the guitarist and started to look through the crowd for an escape route, but found none.

“Rick,” said the bird person in a monotone voice. “It would not be good for Squanchy and I to be caught by your earth police.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said the guitarist, Rick. He burped. “I-I know a shortcut.” He leapt to his feet and dashed back behind stage, his two band mates hot on his tail.

Stan really didn’t want to be banned from Texas too, so he followed them, even though he didn’t understand half of what they just said. What the Hell is a “Squanchy”?”

They burst out into the back alley, and before his eyes, his car materialized out of thin air. Rick fiddled with his watch while it did this, and he opened up the door.

“Pile in!” he said to his cohort.

“What about the instruments?” asked Squanchy, and Stan was wondering if it was really a costume. “Can we really leave ‘em here until next squanch?”

“Fu-fuck ‘em! W-we’ll steal new ones!” They climbed into the car and revved the engine.

“HEY!” Stan ran up and planted his hands on the hood. “GET OUT OF MY CAR!”

“Shit, this guy?” Rick stuck his head out the window. “Go away, asshole! Finders keepers!”

“It’s my car!

Stan whirled when he heard a voice shout from the front of the alley. “Hey, who’s down there?”

“Shit! Cops!” Rick growled. “ G-get your hands off the car!

“NO!” Stan wasn’t gonna let this asshole drive away in his ride. He would rather make a fuss and get them all arrested.

Rick snarled at him, glanced back down the alleyway, and shook his head. “Shu-shut up and get in!”

“But-”

Do you want us to get arrested? G-get in!”

Stan climbed into the back seat with Squanchy, and Rick slammed his foot on the gas and pealed out of the alleyway, slamming into a few garbage cans in the process.

“I-I think we’re good,” said Rick as the police sirens faded behind them. “Well, what’s your deal, m-mullet man? Sweet ride.”

“Thanks,” said Stan gruffly. “I’d like it back soon, car thief.

“Oh, boo-hoo. Maybe don’t leave the keys in it next time, d-dumbass. Th-the name’s Rick Sanchez. This is Birdperson and that’s Squanchy. We’re The Flesh Curtains.”

“The what?”

“We’re a band,” said Birdperson. Stan really wanted to touch his feathers, they looked so fluffy. But that was probably pretty rude.

“I’m Stanley,” he said simply.

“Hi, Lee,” said Rick. “N-nice left hook.”

Nobody called him Lee. “Uh. Thanks. Sorry I beat you up?”

“Nah, we’re cool. I-I thought you were pounding on me ‘cause I winked at you, not ‘cause of the car. Hell, I would have pounded me, too! Hah!” He slapped the steering wheel. “Where to, Birdperson?”

“Squanchy and I will get out here,” said Birdperson. “I will see you again when the beacon is lit, Rick.”

“Squanch ya later, Rick!”

“Squanch ya later!” said Rick as his two friends hopped out onto the sidewalk and ran down the alley. There was a strange flash of green out of the corner of Stan’s eye.

“So… um…” Stanley climbed into the front seat. “Any chance that I can have my car back?”

“H-how about I buy you dinner, first,” said Rick. He smiled flirtatiously. “Y’know, to apologize for being a car thief.”

Dinner sounded great, so Stan’s first inclination was to say yes. Then he noticed the flirty smile that Rick was wearing.

“Are you a queer?” he blurted.

“Y-you can’t be straight in outer space.”

That didn’t really answer Stan’s question, but Rick’s tone told him to leave it. “Hmm.”

Rick rolled his eyes. “Look, asswipe, d-do you want some fu-fuckin’ pancakes or not?”

“Pancakes?”

“I-I play music, Lee, do I look like I have a steady income?”

“Pancakes sounds good.” Stan was never one to turn down free food, no matter who it came from.

 

They were surprisingly good pancakes. Stan shovelled them in like the starving man he was.

“So, what’s your story?” asked Rick. “W-with a horrible mullet like that, it’s gotta be a good and tragic one. Wha-what is it? Did your girl kick you out? Oh, did you have to sell your ass on the street in order to get by?”

Stan frowned at him. “Can it, asshole.”

“W-well? Was I right?”

Stan poked at his food. “Kicked outta the house when I was seventeen after wrecking my genius brother’s science project that could’a got him into a good school and made us rich.”

“Ooh, ouch. H-how long ago was this?”

“Four years. Alright, what about you?”

“Y-you really wanna know?” asked Rick.

“Uh, sure.”

“Y-you might not believe me,” he said in a taunting voice. Stan noticed he had a tongue piercing.

“Try me.”

“W-well, I am wanted by the intergalactic government for terrorism acts and possession of illegal artifacts relating to crossing dimensions, so I-I’m currently hiding out on my home planet for a bit while making a few bucks on the side with scams, concerts, and weird inventions.”

“Huh.” Well, this guy was nuts. He barely understood a word of that mumbo-jumbo. “Fascinating.”

“You d-don’t believe me,” said Rick. He let out a loud burp that turned the heads of a few other late-night customers. “Fine.”

Stan scraped the last bit of syrup around on his plate. “Your eye looks pretty bad.”

“Ham-fists.”

Stan snickered. “I gotcha good, huh?”

“Sorta. I-I was about this close to turning the tables, though.” Rick indicated the tiny distance with his long, thin fingers.

“Pssh, no way. I had you pinned good, you skinny twerp. No way you could have flipped me.”

“I could have!”

Stan waved him off. “No way. If I’d wanted to, you’d be in the ER right now.”

“Prove it, you b-big dumb moron!”

Rick was trying to get under his skin and he knew it. “You want me to beat you up?”

I’ll beat you up!” Rick stood and planted his hands on the table. “L-let’s go, mullet-boy! Hit me with your best shot! I bet you ain’t man enough, you quivering pussy!”

Stan was itching to punch something. It was super tempting to slug his knuckles right into Rick’s stupid pointy jaw.

Rick grabbed the front of Stan’s shirt and yanked him close. Stan could smell the whisky and coffee on his breath.

“W-what? Are you a chicken?”

Stan reeled back and slammed his fist into his pointed nose. Blood spurted from under his knuckles. Rick slumped back into the booth, looking comically shocked.

“I-I didn’t think you were gonna-”

Stan didn’t like Rick’s attitude. “Let’s take this outside, punk!”

Rick’s expression hardened. “You’re on!”

They sprinted from the diner, ignoring the calls of the staff who wanted them to pay their cheque.

Stan grabbed Rick’s shoulders and shoved him into the alleyway. He slammed him against a brick wall and pinned him there with one solid, meaty hand.

“Want me to kick the shit outta ya?” shouted Stan. “That’s what I’ll do!”

“I’d l-like to see you try!” Rick’s fingers shot out and poked him in both eyes.

Augh! Cheap shot!”

Rick spun them around and slammed Stan against the wall. His knee came up and struck him right between the legs.

Stan got his thick fingers into Rick’s hair. Before he could pull back and punch him, Rick smashed their mouths together.

Uh.

What?

It was a hard and bruising kiss. Teeth clacked together painfully, and Stan could taste blood that wasn’t his. He could smell Rick all around him, whisky, coffee, and some kind of cologne.

Rick pulled away, panting.

Stan frowned and shoved him away. “What the fuck?

Rick frowned. “D-did I misread the situation?”

“Um, yeah! I thought we were fighting?” He really didn’t like how his voice sounded so strange to him, or how much he liked that kiss.

“Yeah, w-we were... but you’re so hot! A-and when you grabbed my hair like that… damn.”

“What?”

“What?”

Stan chewed on the inside of his cheek. “Nobody’s said that to me, before.”

“Well, then everyone else is an idiot.” Rick stepped close enough that Stan could feel his breath. “Lee, you have a nice car, a good punch, and you’re hot. Wanna hang for a bit?”

Stan blinked. “I have no money.”

“Neither do I!” he laughed. “Why do you think we pulled a dine-and-dash?”

“I’m confused. I met you an hour ago, you took me for pancakes, picked a fight with me, kissed me, now you wanna hang out?”

“Yep.”

Stan’s mind was reeling. “You know I’m straight, right?”

“And I’m the Queen of England,” said Rick, rolling his eyes dramatically. “Or did I just imagine that you kissed me back?”

“Maybe?”

“Listen, Lee. D-do you wanna make some money?”

Stan’s eyes widened at that. “Do I!”

“I-I have a few plans cooking, but I can’t make ‘em work on my own. We can make some fast cash, and I have plenty of brains but I need muscle. ” He patted Stan’s bicep affectionately. “Which you have plenty of.” Stan tried to ignore the way he purred when he said that. “Y-you seem like a morally flexible kinda guy, Lee. Whaddaya say?”

“I say that I got nothin’ to lose.”

Rick’s grin was borderline manic. “W-with my genius and your muscles, we can conquer the world!” He seized him and put him in a headlock, drawing him close. “I-It’ll be us against the world! Rick and Lee! A hundred years Rick and Lee! We’ll get drunk, stoned, and fight anyone who crosses us!”

“You’re crazy!” gasped out Stan, but he had to admit one thing… it was a good kind of crazy. Maybe this Rick guy would be fun to hang around.

Fuck it. He threw the rest of his common sense out the window and put his arm around the stranger he’d just met, who had become his partner in crime in one short hour.

“Rick and Lee forever!” they cheered.

Only the crickets replied.

Chapter Text

“Morally flexible” was right, Stan thought. He was sitting at a table in a shitty motel, wearing nothing but underwear, grinding up tiny purple crystals and sealing them into small bags. These didn’t look like any kind of drugs that he’d ever seen, but he wasn’t really in a position to question things.

“I’ll do the talking,” said Rick as he weighed the bags on a tiny scale. “Y-you’ll keep your mouth shut and look intimidating, capiche?”

“Capiche.” He yawned. “What time is it?”

“S-sleep is for the weak, Lee.” Stan knew for a fact that Rick hadn’t gone to bed in two days, and it was written clearly in the bags under his eyes. “W-we have big plans cookin’. Don’t need sleep. You look hot in your underwear. I have consumed my weight in coffee.”

Stan blinked his tired eyes. “Uh, what was that last part?”

“I have consumed my-”

“No, before that.”

Rick smirked. “Ju-just a little harmless flirting, Lee. D-don’t get your panties in a knot.”

The insult rolled off of him like water off a duck’s back. “Sanchez, when are you planning on sleeping?”

“After this deal is done,” he said, with wide red-rimmed eyes peering down at Stan. “Y-you’re squinting a lot.”

“Um.”

Rick looked back down at his numbers. “Put on your glasses.”

“I don’t-”

“I-I’m not stupid, Lee. I’m th-the opposite of stupid. I’m a genius. Put on your fucking glasses.”

“Fuck you!”

“M-maybe later, Lee. Right now, we’re kinda busy.”

Stan tried to ignore Rick’s flirting, but he couldn’t stop himself from blushing bright red. Part of him felt that Rick’s advances were unwanted - he was straight, for God’s sakes - but he didn’t ever tell him to back off. Part of him liked it, and he knew for a fact that he liked Rick at least as a friend.

“Alright, that’s all. L-let’s clean up.” Rick stood and swept the packaged bags into his backpack.

Stan’s eyes lingered on him in his boxers for a few extra seconds. He was thin, and his ribs showed through his skin in some places, but it wasn’t off putting. Rick was tanned, wiry, and lithe. He didn’t have the same power behind his movements that Stan had, but he had a gracefulness that Stan could never possess.

Plus, there was a sizable bulge in his boxers that made his face flush.

I’m not a queer, he told himself.

“Hey Lee, my eyes are up here.”

Stan’s gaze snapped up. “I wasn’t staring.”

“Whatever, I-I can see you’re in denial.” Rick pulled on his ripped jeans and picked at a scab on his cheek. “Can I cut your hair?”

“No.”

“W-we can’t go out with you in a mullet, Lee. It won’t happen.”

“Nobody calls me Lee,” he muttered.

“I-I do. Get your clothes on. I’m cutting off your mullet, th-then we’re going to sell this shit.”

“But-”

Rick picked up the scissors. “Nope. A-away it goes!”

Before Stan could fight him off, Rick had snipped off the longest part of his hair and let it fall to the floor.

“Hey! You can’t-”

“I j-just did,” said Rick smugly. “L-let me clean it up.”

Stan frowned as Rick snipped at his hair, cleaning up the neckline. “Why am I taking hair advice from somebody whose hair looks like a fuckin’ rat’s nest?”

“B-because mullets are terrible, Lee. No arguing that.” He set the scissors aside. “Get dressed. We got shit to do.”

Stan caught a glimpse of himself in the window as they left the hotel room. He was forced to admit that the new haircut was a significant improvement.

 

Stay still. Mouth shut. Look intimidating.

Simple instructions, right? Stan should be able to follow basic directions, shouldn’t he? You’d think that, and you’d be wrong.

The guys who Rick was selling these purple crystals to were… scary. Scary was the easiest word for it. One of them had a scar down his face and a pure white eye, and the other was missing half his teeth and had replaced them with gold. Stan idly wondered how much his mouth was worth.

They were in a warehouse. They were standing in the largest part of it, but Stan could see many smaller rooms up a flight of stairs.It smelled like mildew and dirt, and there were many wooden crates with words in Spanish or languages he didn’t recognize stamped on them. Stan could hear laughter in another room.

“So,” said Rick, leaning against the warehouse wall, backpack full of drugs on his arm. “I reckon seven hundred flurbos for the lot. Whaddaya say?”

“Four hundred,” said one-eye, his arms crossed. “That’s shit crystal, Sanchez, and you know it.”

“Shit crystal? I-I fuckin’ hid it up my asshole to get it past security! D-do you know what that does to a man?”

“This was in your ass? ” gold-teeth asked, holding the bag like it was a dead rat. “Fuckin’ Christ, the price dropped to three hundred.”

“Come on, guys! I-I probably took five years off of my life smuggling this onto the planet!”

Stan had no clue what was going on. “What the fuck is a flurbo?”

Shut up, Lee! ” hissed Rick. He burped, then cleared his throat. “Fine, six hundred.”

“Three,” said one-eye.

“Five fifty.”

“Four fifty.”

Rick ground his teeth together. “No way! Y-you can get it at my price, or Lee here can bust your teeth in and we’ll take those, too!”

Stan cracked his knuckles. He hoped he looked threatening.

“Your bodyguard doesn’t scare us,” said one-eye. “Sanchez, why don’t you just take your boyfriend and piss off. We don’t wanna buy.”

“Boyfriend?” asked Stan. “We’re not-”

“Lee, shut up.” Rick put on a fake smile. “C-c’mon, guys! We went through all this trouble, let’s not leave empty-handed!”

“Listen, you faggot, ” said one-eye, jabbing a finger into Rick’s chest. “You and your boyfriend are gonna turn and walk away. You’re gonna take your shit crystal and leave without saying another word or so help me god I’ll shove it up your ass for a second time.”

Stan’s blood started to boil. He clenched his fists.

Rick growled through his teeth.

“Yeah, you heard me.” One-eye folded his arms. “If you take your boyfriend’s cock out of your mouth long enough to come around here again, I’ll kick your ass into next week you quivering pussy .”

Stan was about an inch away from beating the shit out of this guy. He saw Rick’s shoulders tense.

“Don’t talk to him like that,” said Stan quietly.

One-eye looked over to him. “‘Scuse me?”

“I said ,” repeated Stan, a little louder. “Don’t talk to him like that, or you’re gonna deal with me.”

“Oh really, tough guy?” said one-eye with a smug look on his face. “What’re you gonna do, tickle me?”

Stan clenched his fists a little tighter.

“Lee, don’t-” started Rick.

“Jesus, Sanchez, keep your boyfriend under control.”

Rick met Stan’s eyes and shook his head slightly.

Stan forced himself to stay still. For a few seconds, he believed that they might be able to make it out of there without picking a fight until gold-teeth piped up.

“Jeez, look at these two homeless freaks,” said gold-teeth. “A freaky genius and a dumb, sweaty sidekick. Who’s willing to bet that these two queers will be behind bars by the end of the month?”

One-eye snorted. “Freaks.”

Freak.

He saw the hurt in Rick’s eyes, no matter how much he tried to hide it. The word freak tapped into about a hundred childhood memories of him and Ford.

He really missed that six-fingered high five.

With a roar of anger and grief, Stan lunged forward and slammed his fist into gold-teeth’s jaw. It bruised his knuckles, but it felt good.

“Lee! W-what the fuck?” yelled Rick.

Gold-teeth sprawled onto the floor. One-eye growled and hurled himself at Stan.

Then he promptly turned to dust.

Stan spluttered and spat out dust, his mind reeling, and gaped up at Rick. Rick was aiming the gun at gold-teeth.

“Hand over your guns and y-your cash!” he yelled, brandishing his weapon.

“Holy shit,” muttered Stan, getting to his feet.

Gold-teeth began to dump his pockets, and Rick leaned over to whisper in Stan’s ear.

“G-go get his shit, Lee,” he said. “This baby only had one shot in it. I-it’s about as useful as piece of cheese, right now.”

Stan didn’t waste any time grabbing the two guns and wad of bundled-up bills that gold-teeth had dumped on the ground. Stan aimed a kick at his mouth for good measure.

“Fuck you,” he said to gold-teeth as he handed a gun to Rick. “C’mon, Rick, let’s get outta here.”

“HEY! SANCHEZ KILLED EDDIE!”

“Shit!” Rick grabbed Stan’s wrist. “Run, Lee! RUN!”

Stan didn’t waste any time sprinting after Rick. They ran up the stairs, and Rick threw his body against a locked door.

“Fuck!”

“Let me.” Stan raised his foot and kicked, and the door swung open.

There were shrieks, and a woman pulled the covers over herself and the guy she was with.

“Out the window!” Rick grabbed the side table lamp and hurled it across the room, shattering the glass.

Stan crawled out the window after Rick, slicing his hands on the glass, and out onto the roof.

“Hurry!” Rick jumped off the roof.

Stan leapt after him, into a large bush.

“OW! Fuck! Thorns!” Stan scrambled out of the bush, after Rick. El Diablo was waiting for them at the curb.

Stan leapt over the hood and climbed into the car, starting up the engine. Rick was next to him.

“Go, go, go!” chanted Rick, cocking his gun.

“HEY! There they are!”

A bullet shot through the back window, shattering it, and smashed right into Stan’s radio. Stan and Rick yelled in surprise.

“DRIVE, DRIVE!” yelled Rick.

Stan slammed his foot on the gas. With a squeal of the tires and the smell of burning rubber, they took off.

“I know a shortcut!” said Rick. “Turn left!”

“But-”

“Just do it!”

Stan veered left, across a bridge, then around a strange bend. The sound of shouts disappeared behind them.

“There, lost ‘em. F-for now.” Rick slugged Stan in the shoulder. His knuckles were bony .

Ow! ” he cried. “What was that for?”

“W-why did you have to do that?” shouted Rick. “N-now we’re gonna have to skip town, and we can never show our faces to those guys again! Fuck!” He slammed his hand on the dashboard.

“They broke my radio,” said Stan, looking at the fizzing and sparking machine on the dashboard.

“Your radio? W-we almost died and y-you’re worried about your radio?

“Um.”

Ugh. ” Rick rolled his eyes. “I’ll build you a better one. Just drive. I’ll feel safer once we cross the state border.”

Stan kept his eyes on the road as they left town. He heard the rustling of money as Rick counted the cash.

Stan glanced at Rick out of the corner of his eye. He had his feet up on the dash, and

“Shit. He had only a hundred flurbos.”

“Uh, Rick?”

“Yeah, Lee?”

“What’s a flurbo?”

Chapter Text

“Okay, Lee, I-I’ll be the first person to admit that the collaxian crystals were a bust. I-I’ll accept my blame on that, sure. This time, though, this plan is sure to work.”

“I dunno, Rick.” Stan had tilted his seat all the ways back and was trying to catch some shut-eye. “So far our success rate has been nil.”

Rick folded his hands behind his head. “Th-that’s how it always works! D-do you really think that we’ll nail it on our first try?”

“To be honest, I’d kinda hoped.”

“Jeez. H-how’ve you survived so long on your own?”

“Through treasure hunting and scamming people. You?”

“Drug trafficking, mostly.”

“Nice.” Stan yawned. “I’m gonna get some sleep. You should, too.”

“I’m n-not tired.” Rick put his hand over his mouth as he yawned. His nails were painted black. “W-whatever, maybe a bit.” He draped his arm over his eyes. “I gotta really good idea, Lee. D-drug trafficking is fine and good if people buy, but…”

“But?”

“But nobody’s buying! ” he waved his hands weakly in the air, frustrated. “I got a better idea. I-it’s a good one. A real good one.”

“Mm?”

“We’re…” He yawned and closed his eyes. “W-we’re gonna… rob…”

“Gonna rob who?”

“A… bank…” With one last yawn, Rick started to snore.

What? ” Stan sat bolt upright and gaped down at Rick. “We’re doing what?

It was no use. Rick was already asleep.

“What the fuck, Rick? You can’t just dump that kinda news on a guy and fall asleep! ” He was tempted to shake him awake, but he knew that Rick hadn’t gotten enough sleep in days.

Stan sighed and slumped back into his chair. He looked up at the sky through the windshield. The stars were so bright out here, in the middle of nowhere. The only sounds were the crickets and the occasional car passing on the highway.

“Stars sure are nice, tonight,” said Stan, partly to himself, partly to Rick.

Rick only snored in reply.

 

Stan was morally ambiguous at best, but he had a code of his own. His code included don’t hurt kids, don’t steal from old people or poor people, don’t rape, and don’t kill.

Stan wasn’t even sure if Rick had a code.

“L-look at the big picture, Lee,” he said with a burp as he tossed him a pair of large leather gloves. “N-nothing matters and we’re all gonna die someday.”

“That’s not- Rick, you can’t use our insignificance as an excuse to do shit.”

“Sure I can. I-I’m doing it right now.” He slugged back a mouthful of whisky and burped. “Here.” He handed Stan the flask.

Stan took a tentative sip, then a long gulp. It burned on the way down, but it was good.

“S-so this is the plan.” Rick spread a long, rolled-up paper over the back seat of the car. “The bank is closed right now. I took the l-liberty of doing a little scoping while you were off pickpocketing people.”

“Hey, that bought you breakfast, didn’t it?”

“A-and I love you for it, Lee, but shut up. Anyway, we’re gonna have to act fast. I-I’ve got a little thing right here that will let us hack the ATMs.” He held aloft a small square box with blinking lights. It was small enough that Stan could probably fit it in his mouth. “They’ll spit out all their cash, easy peasy.”

“This is kinda huge, Rick. Aren’t we taking, like, a lot? ” Stan had never stolen more than fifty bucks, before.

“That’s the point, numbskull!” Rick rapped his knuckles on Stan’s head. “Anywho, w-we have about an hour to get this done. I-I wanna skip town before anyone gets wise.”

“Sure, I guess.” Stan eyed the gun that they had stolen. “Nobody’s gonna get hurt again, are they? I feel pretty bad about that guy you disintegrated.”

Rick burped. “Here’s a free tip: don’t. H-he tried to kill you, so I killed him. Boom.” He loaded the bullets into his handgun.

“But what if he had a wife and kids or something?”

“A-and what if he was a child-molester-rapist-pedophile-granny-punching-dog-kicking scumbag, Lee? H-how do you know that?”

“Oh. I-”

“Let’s work through your existential crisis later, Lee. R-right now, we got shit to steal.” He pointed to the paper. “The ATMs are right here, next to the front doors. We’re gonna pick the lock, I’ll slip in and take the cash from the machines. If we hear sirens, we’ll hightail it outta there. Can you pick a lock?”

“Yep,” he said, quite proudly.

“Well in that case, you can tackle the safety deposit boxes.” He tapped the paper. “They’re upstairs and to the right.”

“I dunno, Rick-”

“That’s people’s personal stuff, blah, blah. C’mon, we own nothing more than the clothes on our back and this car. We need it more than them.”

“But-”

“But nothing! L-let’s go!”

Stan still didn’t feel too sure about this. He climbed into the front seat and started the car, pulling out of the vacant lot they were parked in. He pulled around and parked behind the bank, his heart pounding in his chest.

Rick kicked the door open and emerged, wearing his backpack over his thin shoulders, a black t-shirt, and balaclava over his face. He pulled on his leather gloves.

“I can’t believe we’re wearing this getup,” said Stan. “We look like robbers in a movie.”

“Yeah, well it’s traditional for a reason. Don’t use my name, th-there are security cameras.”

“Sure. Hey, isn’t my car kinda recognizable?”

“I dunno!” Rick threw his hands up in the air, clearly miffed that Stan had thought of something he hadn’t. “L-let’s just do it, okay?”

“Sure.” Stan pulled the mask down over his face. It was uncomfortable and hard to breathe in. He pulled on his gloves and climbed out of the car, engine still running.

By the time he’d walked over, his own bag slung over his shoulder, Rick was already working on the lock.

“Sh-shit,” he cursed. “M-my hands are shaking.”

“Don’t be a pussy.”

“Fu-fuck you, Lee!”

“Didn’t you just say not to use names?”

Rick growled. “I’m nervous, okay! I-I’ve never broken into anywhere, before.”

“For real?” Stan hadn’t ever broken into a bank, but he’d had his fair share of B&E. “Couldn’t we have started smaller or something? Like, a house and not a fucking bank?

“Shut the fuck up!” Rick snarled as the lockpick broke. “ Fuck!

“Let me try.” Stan kneeled down and slid his own lockpick into the keyhole. He hummed to himself as he carefully prodded at the cylinders. “Pickin’ a lock, doodly doo… To break into a bank and take some money, deedly dee…”

“W-what the fuck are you singing?” asked Rick, somewhere between appalled and amused.

“Sorry, I hum while I do stuff. Got it.” The door swung open and Stan held it for Rick, wearing a shit-eating grin. “After you.”

“Y-yeah, yeah, don’t break an arm jerking yourself off, Lee. W-we ain’t outta the rough weather, yet.” Rick dashed past him.

Stan peered into the main hall and saw Rick attaching the device to the ATM. It began to spit cash into his backpack.

Stan reluctantly climbed the stairs and found the safety deposit boxes, all in a long row. He had no way of knowing what was in them, so he opened as many as he could.

He got through four. He found two pearl necklaces, five pairs of diamond earrings, a wad of hundred dollar bills, and a dead spider.

Then, he heard the sirens.

“Rick?” he called down.

HEY, YOU! GET ON THE GROUND!

“W-what the fuck?” came Rick’s voice. “Hell no! Get away from me!”

There was the bang of a gun, then two more. Stan sprinted down the stairs and nearly ran into Rick as he bolted by.

“Cops!” he yelled.

Stan ran after him, and threw his bag in the of the car back. Rick was already in the car when Stan climbed in and slammed his foot on the gas.

“Owww… sh-shit, they got me.”

Stan couldn’t glance over at him. He screamed out of the alleyway and out onto the road. He could hear sirens behind them, getting closer and closer.

“Fu-fuck.” Rick reached into his bag and rummaged around. “Sh-shit, where is it?”

Stan was sweating bullets. “Oh man, oh man, oh god…”

“Shut the fuck up, Lee! Bingo!” He found a small metal ball, pressed a button, and tossed it out the window behind them.

The explosion sent bits of debris shooting in all directions, and Stan could hear the flecks hitting the car as they drove away.

“That’ll stop ‘em,” said Rick smugly.

“What the- You were carrying a bomb this whole time?” yelled Stan.

“Yep.” He burped. “Hey, l-let’s stop in the McDonalds on the way out of town. My treat?” He waved a bundle of cash and snickered.

Are you kidding me? ” Stan yelled. “We’re on the run and you got shot!”

“Th-that’s no excuse not to get a Big Mac.”

Stanley growled through his teeth as they drove out to the edge of town and pulled into a drive thru. They could see nothing but highways and cornfields before them, and they could faintly hear sirens behind them.

Rick pulled off his balaclava and reached over to pull Stan’s off for him. “There. Now we w-won’t look like criminals.”

“But we are criminals.”

“Yeah, b-but we don’t have to look it. ‘Sides, I missed your handsome mug.” He cuffed Stan’s jaw lightly, then groaned in pain at his wounded arm.

Stan pulled up to the window.

“What can I get you?” asked the dead-eyed teen at the window.

Stan gripped the steering wheel nervously. “Um… two Big Macs, large fries, and two cokes.”

“Kay. That’s ten dollars and seventy five cents.”

Rick passed him a twenty, and Stan handed it to the teen.

There was a smear of blood on it.

The teen examined the bill and frowned. He peered past Stan, looking at Rick. “Uh… is that guy okay?”

“Peachy,” said Rick. He groaned in pain, his hand pressed over his wound.

“He’s fine,” said Stan quickly. “We were… uh…” He looked at Rick for inspiration.

Rick shrugged, then grimaced.

“We were just at a costume party,” said Stan, turning back to the teen. “It’s fake blood. Corn syrup, water, and food colouring.”

“Neat. Was it fun?”

“Yeah, sorta.”

The teen handed them back their change. “Have a nice night. You can pick up your stuff at the next window.”

“Cool, thanks.” Stan drove over to the next window. “Hey, Rick… you wanna, I dunno… go to a hospital after this?”

“N-nah, man. W-we can patch this up. I-I just gotta eat. Besides, they only nicked me.” He pointed to his shoulder. Blood was soaking his black t-shirt.

“Here’s your order.”

“Thanks.” Stan grabbed the bag of food and their drinks, put it between them, and took off.

The highway was mostly empty. Only one or two cars passed them as they drove by.

“Um… Lee?” Rick gave him an apologetic smile. “I may or may not have shot one of the cops in the chest and he may or may not be dead.”

Stan breathed hard through his nose. “Honestly? Whatever. I’m just glad you’re alive.”

“Aww, I love you too.” He stuck out his tongue and pulled off his shirt. He reached into the back, flinching, and grabbed the antiseptic. “See, h-he barely got me.”

“You wouldn’t know from all that blood.” Stan glanced over. “Ooh. That’s gonna scar good.

“You think?” said Rick. “Geez.”

“Hey, that’s not a bad thing. Scars make you look like a badass.”

“Sweet.” Rick bandaged it up while they drove, and reached for his Big Mac. He sank his teeth into it, moaned with joy, then let out a whoop that scared the shit out of Stan.

“WE DID IT!” he yelled. “HOLY SHIT, WE DID IT!”

Holy shit, they did . Stan laughed. He laughed and he couldn’t stop laughing. Rick joined in, and they laughed until tears rolled down their cheeks.

They almost veered off the road, but Rick grabbed the wheel. “W-watch the road, Lee! Ahaha! We did it!”

“How much did you get?” asked Stan. His heart was pounding and he couldn’t stop grinning.

“A-about five thousand bucks, give or take. You?”

“Some jewelry, maybe another thousand.” Stan let out a relieved sigh. “Wow. That was awesome. What a thrill.”

Rick poured some whisky into his coke and took a long drink. “G-glad to see I’ve converted you, Lee.” He leaned over and planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek.

“Whoa, what?” Stan looked over at him with wide eyes.

Rick ignored the question. “Find a spot to pull over. W-we’re an hour away, now.”

Stan found a little back road and turned off on it, parking on the edge of a pullout. He opened up his Big Mac and gobbled it down in a few seconds.

“Why did you do that?” asked Stan, wiping his mouth on his wrist.

“Do what?”

“Y-y’know?”

Rick played dumb. He frowned hard, looking comically confused. “I-I dunno what you’re on about, Lee.”

“You kissed me,” he said flatly. “Why?”

“Easy! Y-you look super hot with your hair all mussed.” Rick grinned. His hand rested on Stan’s arm. “Plus, I-I-I got adrenaline pumping through my veins and I’m randy as f-fuck!

“I’m not having sex with you,” said Stan, still in a monotone.

“W-who said anything about that? ” Rick rolled his eyes, but Stan could see that his face was red.

Stan smiled a little. He liked Rick, he really did. He was a wild ride, and this last week was more fun than he’d had in the last four years.

He grabbed Rick’s jaw with his thick fingers and pulled him close, kissing the corner of his mouth.

Rick shoved him off. “Quit that! Y-you’re acting like a blushing virgin.”

“As if you’re not.”

“Shut up, Lee.” Rick’s face was bright red, and he was clearly trying to hide a pleased smile. He reclined his seat and relaxed, looking up at the sky through the windshield.

Stanley leaned back, sipping his coke. The fear of the robbery was wearing off. He was beginning to feel pretty tired.

“S-stars sure are nice tonight, huh?”

“Mm?” Stan glanced over at Rick. “Yeah, they sure are.”

“Look at ‘em. So many worlds, so many possibilities.” Rick sighed. “Y-you ever wanna leave this planet, Lee?”

“Not really. I prefer this place that I know to an entire universe I don’t.”

“I do. Not knowing what’s out there? That’s the fun part. Who knows what strange and mysterious things are out there among the stars?” Rick seemed to debate something internally for a few moments. He sighed. “I-it’s a big, crazy, beautiful universe, ain’t it, Lee?”

Stan could sense that Rick wanted to say something else, but decided to let it slide. He closed his eyes. “Yeah. It sure is.”

Chapter Text

It was the first time Stan had spent the night in a hotel. Not a motel, an actual hotel! Oh, the beds were big and luxurious, there was a big TV, a proper kitchen, a huge tub, and it didn’t smell like piss. Actually, it smelled pretty nice.

Stan flopped onto his bed with a heavy, contented sigh. His belly was full, his hair was damp from the shower, and he had a stack of brand new clothes in his brand new suitcase. He’d even taken a few minutes to shave and brush his teeth. He almost felt like a new man.

He could hear the shower running. Stan grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. He flipped through a few channels, eventually settling on wrestling. It was so obviously fake, but it didn’t take much brain power to watch it and he appreciated that.

The shower shut off and the door to the bathroom opened. Rick emerged, wreathed in steam and with a towel wrapped around his narrow hips.

He stuck a finger in his ear to get the water out. “Feels good, d-don’t it, Lee?”

“What does?” he asked.

“H-having motherfucking money! ” Rick laughed, throwing his hands up in the air, then winced and lowered his arm again, grabbing his wound with his free hand. “Ow.” When he pulled his hand away, it had blood on it. “Sh-shit.”

“Jeez, don’t injure yourself.” Stan reluctantly stood, abandoning his comfy spot on the bed. He grabbed the first aid kit they bought and walked over to where Rick was standing next to the counter. “Let’s take a look.”

“I-I already bandaged it, Lee, don’t get off on thinkin’ you can patch me up!”

“I was a boxer, I spent most of my teens patching up bruises and broken bones. Just let me look.”

Rick huffed and let Stan peel away the bandage. It was gross and dirty stained red from blood and yellowed from pus. The wound wasn’t deep, but it looked very sore. “Jesus! Rick, it’s infected. This must hurt like a bitch.

“I-it’s no big deal.”

“I’m gonna clean it out properly, not just dribbling antiseptic on it and slapping on a dirty bandage.” He frowned when he examined it. “Jesus Christ, that’s disgusting. I think you need stitches.”

“Th-there’s stuff for that in the kit.”

What? ” Stan was horrified. “You want me to sew you shut or somethin’?”

“Or something.” Rick rolled his shoulder. “I’ll be fine. J-just get on with it, Lee.”

“Shouldn’t we, like, go to a hospital or-”

“No w-we can’t, Lee! H-how are we gonna explain the wound? Besides, e-everyone is looking for us. W-we gotta lay low for awhile, y’know? J-just swab the cut and stick a needle in me, already, fuck!”

“Okay, fine, whatever.” Stan grabbed a cloth from the bathroom, put some antiseptic on it, and patted Rick’s wound.

He hissed through his teeth. “ Yeesh! Ow.”

“You okay?” asked Stan, hesitating.

“D-don’t mind me, Lee,” said Rick. “I-I’d rather have this pain than the pain of having to amputate my arm.”

“You’re not gonna have to amputate your arm, don’t be a drama queen.” Stan patted his arm gently, smearing away the blood and pus. “This is super gross. Why didn’t you say that it hurt?”

Rick shrugged. “I-I dunno, Stan. I-I ain’t no pussy.”

“Shit, Rick, you don’t have to worry about that ‘round me.” He put the cloth aside, opened up a sterile needle, and began to thread it. He took a wild guess about how long the thread needed to be, and tied a knot on the end. “I have no idea what I’m doing, here. Do you, like, wanna bite into something?”

“I’m not a pussy, Lee.”

“Suit yourself.” Stan decided to get it over with and stuck the needle into his arm.

“YOW! Okay, fine, give me something. I need whiskey.”

Stan handed him his flask and a clean, damp rag. Rick slugged back a large gulp and sighed.

“Get on with it.” He put the rag in his mouth, his face red.

Stan worked as quickly as he could while still being careful. He’d taken textiles in grade ten and had helped his mom patch up his clothes, but that was all the experience he’d had with sewing. Worse, between stitches, he’d have to pat antiseptic onto the wound and clean the blood away. He didn’t wanna think about how much this hurt.

He heard Rick whimpering into the rag. Sometimes, when it was especially painful, he’d jerk away or let out a loud yell. It was hard to resist the urge to comfort his friend, so Stan hummed to himself while he worked.

“Stitchin’ up my friend’s arm, doodly doo… It’s not gonna get amputated, deedly dee… It’ll be over soon, dadada daa… Please don’t rip your stitches, doodly doo…”

Rick relaxed a little bit and hummed along. Stan finished the stitches and snipped the string, patted it with antiseptic one last time, and began to wrap gauze over it.

“There. Should hold for awhile. I’m sorry it hurt.”

Rick spat out the cloth and tossed it away. “Thanks, Lee. I-I owe you one.”

“You don’t owe me nothin’,” he said gruffly. Stan ruffled Rick’s dark hair affectionately.

“Are we friends?”

Stan was afraid. He was worried that Rick was gonna laugh and say they were business partners or that he just liked Stan for his ass or something. He smiled nervously and said, “Yeah?” Ugh, his voice cracked. What was he, twelve?

“Christ, wipe that anxious look off your face, Lee. Of course w-we’re friends. Amigos.” He grinned. “I wouldn’t rob a bank with just anyone, you know.”

“I wouldn’t stitch just anyone’s arm up, either.” Stan yawned. He stretched his arms above his head, his t-shirt riding up on his stomach and his boxers low on his hips.

Rick was staring at him, slightly slack-jawed, his flask held loosely in his hand.

“Something on my face?” asked Stan.

Dios mio. ” Rick blushed and looked away.

“What’s that mumbo-jumbo?” asked Stan.

Rick smiled. “Spanish, you neanderthal.” He cuffed him in the shoulder. “My dad was Latino. Idiot.”

That stung a little bit. Rick was clearly a genius, he knew the type. Did he think Stan was stupid?

Stanley crawled back into bed and turned up the TV. He tried to shake off the casual insult. Rick really didn’t mean it or anything, that’s just how he acted. He needed to grow a thicker skin, that’s all.

Rick changed into his boxers. Stan tried not to look at him and failed.

He had a surprisingly nice ass.

“Jesus, Lee, sh-show some discretion.”

“Sorry! Damn.” Stan looked back over to the TV.

Rick crawled onto the bed and lay on top of the covers. “Checkin’ out my bod?”

“No,” he said, a little too quickly.

Rick just laughed. “Turn down the TV. I wanna sleep.”

“Sure.” Stan muted it, and turned out the lamp.

He heard Rick shuffle around in the covers before settling down. Hurt at the remark burned in Stan’s chest. Maybe he shouldn’t be so damn sensitive, but it wasn’t the first time Rick had offhandedly called him stupid.

“Um… Rick?”

“Yeah, Lee?”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Sure. W-what is it?”

“I… uh…” Stan sighed. “It’s dumb.”

“C-c’mon, you can’t just ask something like that and pussy out halfway through. W-what’s on your mind?”

Stan chewed on his lip. “It’s… I dunno…”

He heard Rick getting up from his bed. He walked over to Stan, towering over him in the gloom. The TV flickered in the background.

“Tell me what’s on your mind or I’ll make you.”

Rick couldn’t take Stan in a fight and they both knew it. “Oh really? How?”

“Um.” He clearly hadn’t thought that far. “I’m a genius, I’ll figure it out.”

“Sure.”

Rick swung one lanky leg over Stan and settled on his stomach. He planted his hands on his chest.

Stan widened his eyes. “Uh.”

“What’s bugging you?” He smoothed his hands over his chest.

Stan tentatively traced his finger over Rick’s hip. “I just…” He sighed and mustered his courage. “Rick, do you think I’m stupid?”

Pause.

“What?”

“Am I an idiot?” God, he sounded pathetic.

“Stan, what brought this on?”

“I-I dunno,” he said, panicking. “You called me dumb a few times, and I guess I’m just kinda… My brother was a genius, y’know, and whenever I stood next to him I felt like an idiot. I rode on his coattails through high school, and whenever anybody insults me, “stupid” is the first thing they reach for. Rick, be honest with me… am I stupid?”

“Y-you’re stupid for asking such a dumb question. I’m a genius, everyone is an idiot, to me.”

Stan pushed Rick off and he flopped onto the bed gracelessly. “You’re an asshole. I told you it was stupid.”

“Stanley, listen to me. I-I don’t know much of your life’s story or whatever, but I know you’re not stupid. Y-you’ve got sharp eyes, Lee, and steady hands. You don’t give much truck to all that math and science mumbo-jumbo as you’d say, but that doesn’t mean you’re stupid. Science and math aren’t everything, I-I’m sure there’s some stuff you can do that your brother blows at.”

Stan felt touched. “Rick, I-”

“Hell, you can read people better than I ever will. I-I can’t always tell when somebody’s kidding or not, but you can tell whether somebody ate breakfast that day. You’re smart, Lee. N-nobody can trick you, you’re built like an ox, you’re not squeamish, you’re loyal, good-looking and you’re just… just…”

“Just what?”

“Amazing. D-damn that’s gay. My point is, Lee, a genius like me is one in ten million, tops. A-a man like you is one in a billion.” Rick’s face was flushed in the gloom. “Wow. That was super gay.”

“I don’t mind.” Stan’s heart was hammering in his chest. “Nobody’s said anything like that to me, before.”

“They should. Y-you’re great.”

“You may seem like an asshole, Rick, but I see a softie in there.”

“Fuck off, Lee!”

“Aw, don’t be like that.” Stan rolled over and draped one arm over his waist. “I’m always gonna remember this.”

“I’m tipsy. That’s all.”

“You’re always drunk, Rick.” He palmed his bony hip.

“Not always. J-just most of the time.” Despite himself, Rick nestled back into Stan’s warmth. “God, y-you’re like a fuckin’ furnace.”

Augh! Your feet are like ice!

Rick laughed. “Good.”

“Um… Are you planning on going back to your bed?”

Rick shifted, feeling nervous. “Should I?”

Stan pulled him a tiny bit closer. “Nah.”

Rick grinned. He could feel Stan’s breath on the back of his neck as he drifted to sleep.

Stan lay awake for another few minutes. He couldn’t believe that he was lying in bed next to Rick Sanchez. He wasn’t gay. He’d dated girls, kissed girls, fucked girls, and he’d liked it.

Maybe Rick was a one-time thing. Just one guy he wouldn’t mind kissing.

Stan didn’t feel sure. Still, he eventually fell asleep.

Chapter Text

“Rick, your ideas suck balls. This time, let’s do one of mine.”

Rick rolled his eyes and lit a cigarette. They were sitting on the porch of the hotel. It was late in the day, and the sound of crickets could be heard from the empty lot below them. The air was pleasantly cool. “Alright, Lee. W-what’s your idea?”

“I wanna turn our money into more money. We haven’t exactly been careful with our funds, Rick. It’s been three weeks, and we’re beginning to dip low. We started out with ten thousand dollars or so and now it’s dipped down to three.”

“I-I dunno what you’re talking about, Lee,” said Rick as he fiddled with his new gold earrings.

Stanley huffed. “Rick, I know a good place where I can fight. Bet on me, I’ll win, then we rake in the cash! Easy.”

“How do we know you’re gonna win?” asked Rick.

He punched his fist into the air. “Because I’m Stanley-fucking-Pines!”

Rick rolled his eyes. “Th-that’s not a good enough answer, Lee.”

He jostled Rick’s shoulder playfully. “C’mon, Rick. It’ll be fun! I haven’t gotten a chance to hit anyone since I kicked your ass last month.”

“Y-you didn’t kick my ass,” said Rick. He exhaled smoke. “That fight was about to turn.”

“Whatever, man. What about my idea, huh?”

Rick puffed on his cigarette, looking agitated.“I-I dunno, Lee. Seems kinda…” He made a vague gesture. “Risky?”

He raised an eyebrow. “I thought you liked that.”

“I dunno, Lee.” He twirled the cigarette in his fingers. “I-I’d rather just rob something else.”

Stan elbowed him. “C’mon, Rick. It’ll be fun! We can make a night out of it. I can punch some stuff, you can make money, and we can both get hammered!”

Lee was right. He was being a pussy. What’s life without risks? Since when did he become Captain Conservative? “Y’know what? Sure! L-let’s do it, Lee. I-i-it’ll be fun!” He put the cigarette out on the ashtray.

“Our money did disappear pretty fast,” said Stan. “Let’s see, food, clothes, hotel, gas, some new jewelry… what else?”

Rick twiddled his thumbs. “I spent a chunk of it on equipment. Normally I steal it, b-but I had to get some really rare stuff and… yeah.”

“So that’s where you went last week,” said Stan, a little miffed that Rick hadn’t told him sooner. He’d seen the doodads and graphs and piles of equations on the table in the hotel room, and the occasional explosion wasn’t out of place, so he really shouldn’t be surprised. “Well… got anything good in the works?”

He gave a shrug. “Mm… kinda. I-it’s not perfect, yet, but it’s sure g-getting there.”

“What is it?”

“I’ll show you.” Rick stood up from his deck chair, and Stan followed him into the hotel.

Rick rummaged around on his table, covered in wires and electronic parts, pushing precarious stacks of paper over, until he found one in particular.

“I-it’s a portal gun,” said Rick, handing the paper to Stan. “I-it’s not much now, but it’s a start.”

Stan wasn’t one for reading blueprints, but he could make out the shape of the portal gun, drawn in light blue pen on graph paper. It was large and boxy, with many clumsy and dangerous wires coming out of it. He could see Rick’s scribbly handwriting talking about dark matter and condensed wormholes, but he didn’t understand it, really.

“What’s it do?” he asked.

Rick gave him a nonplussed look. “I-it makes portals.”

“Oh, duh. To where?”

“Anywhere!” Rick flung his hands up in the air. “W-with this bad boy, we could go anywhere!

Stanley was impressed. This was some next level poindexter shit. “Anywhere on earth? Wow.”

“Jesus, you’d think with ears that big you could hear me better. I-I said anywhere. Period!” Rick opened up a plastic box on his table. He pulled out a model of the gun. It had little blue and red blinking lights and dials on the side. “Th-this is the prototype. Lee, i-imagine the possibilities!”

“Wow.” This sounded like some of that science fiction mumbo jumbo that Ford used to go on and on about. He handed the paper back to Rick. “I ain’t much good at that sorta thing, but… y’know. That’s amazing.”

“S-stellar praise, Lee. The only thing I haven’t worked out is how to identify the coordinates of the places I’m going. Otherwise, w-we’d step through the portal… and never come back.”

“Ooh. Guess you’d better sort that out, huh?”

“Y-yeah. I-I have some places mapped out, some places I’ve been before, a-and the thing is rigged so it won’t shoot us out into space or onto a sun or into an ocean, b-but yeah.” Rick stuck the gun into the plastic box and tucked it into his bag. “D-do you know where we can pick a good fight?”

Stan pulled on his leather jacket. “Yeah, I know a place. Let’s pack up our stuff. We can find a new hotel, tonight.”

“G-good thinking.”

 

Stanley had a knack for finding dingy, run-down dives to get hammered in. However, with their nice new clothes and extra cash, they settled for a more upscale place.

It was about ten times cleaner than the bars they were used to. Live music was played from onstage, the ambiance was soft and relaxed, and from the back came the clack of pool balls.

“Y-you sure this is the right place, Lee?” asked Rick.

“Yep.”

There was a loud roar from somewhere backstage and the sound of a bell, muffled by the wall and partly covered by the music.

Stan stepped over to the ba and slipped a fifty to the bartender. “Where can we go to hit a few things?”

The bartender took the bill and gestured with a tilt of his head to the back. “There’s a red door labelled “Staff Only”.”

“Thanks, man.”

Stanley pushed his way through the crowd, Rick following behind him. They pushed through the door and found themselves in a very large room.

There were small, round tables with people seated at them, a bar in the back, and a table where a man in a suit was taking bets. Smoke hovered around the room in a haze, and in the centre there was a boxing ring. The whole thing felt very classy in a strange way.

Rick picked a table next to the man taking bets. He slumped down into the chair and gave Stan a weary look.

“Y-you sure about this, Lee?” he asked as Stan pulled his shirt over his head.

“Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?” He wound bandages around his hand and wrist, his brow furrowing in concentration. His movements were practiced and methodical.

Rick ordered a drink from a passing waiter. When he returned, he slammed it back quickly, smacking his lips.

“Good luck, Lee,” said Rick.

Stanley sent Rick a cocky smirk. “Luck ain’t got nothin’ to do with it, Rick.”

Stan grinned when Rick’s face flushed. Rick rolled his eyes and started counting out bills.

He watched as Stanley put his name down on the list - an alias, Stuart Conifer - and Rick snorted, not that his was any better (Richard McPines). Stan crossed the room and went to line up with the five other boxers who’d showed up for the night.

Rick wasn’t sure about this. Two of the guys looked easy enough, two looked like they might be tougher, but the last guy… Yikes. He towered over Stanley, his biceps rippling. His hands were the size of garbage can lids. Stan didn’t look nervous, but he rarely did. He still wore that cocky know-it-all grin.

Rick felt nervous. Just a bit. Not for his friend (honest!), but for the money he might lose. He tugged at his collar and popped open a button.

“We have a new boxer, tonight!” said the man in the ring, wearing a too-big smile plastered on his face. “Well, better late than never, eh folks?”

A few people chuckled. Rick did not.

“Please welcome Stuart “brass knuckles” Conifer!”

Stan went up on stage, wearing his stupid grin. He made eye contact with Rick, and his smirk only grew.

He did look good shirtless. Big shoulders, broad, hairy chest, thick arms to die for.

“The next match is Stuart versus Eddie Brave!”

Rick let his shoulders relax as he saw one of the smaller guys climb up into the ring. He laid a heavy bet on Stan.

He really ought to be used to watching Stan throw his weight around, by now, but it was still impressive to watch.

Stan’s fists were like lightning. He swung and jabbed and dodged more elegantly than Rick ever could with his long limbs and boney elbows and knees. His huge fists had a ton of force behind them, and Rick was still awed by how careful his huge fingers could be. Blood spurted from a broken nose under Stan’s fist. By the bell, the opponent was down for the count.

Stan turned and grinned at Rick as he raked the cash in. He gave him a thumbs up.

Rick grinned back. Maybe this was a good idea, after all.

Two more opponents went down, and the crowd cheered for “Stuart”. Stan ate up the attention, and Rick raked in the cash on his bets. He had some more whiskey, and next thing he knew, he was cheering Stan on, too.

All good things come to an end.

The big guy stepped into the ring.

Stan squared off with him. Rick could see the sweat pouring down his back, from exertion or stress he wasn’t sure.

At first, Rick felt optimistic. He’d taken down three other guys, that day. What was one more? He put a hefty bet on his best friend.

The optimism faded as soon as Stan tried to aim a punch for the other guy. His fist hit his rock-hard stomach, and the guy barely shifted from the blow.

Uh-oh.

The opponent’s fist slammed into Stan’s jaw and sent him reeling.  He slumped back against the edge of the ring and spat. Blood dribbled down his chin.

Rick wanted to retract his money (not to mention his friend from the ring), but it was too late. He watched as Stan hurled himself back in the fight, only to be knocked down again and again. Blood from his nose and mouth spattered over his face and chest.

The opponent reared his fist up one last time and slammed it down.

Stanley fell.

Rick leapt up and dashed over the edge of the ring. “Lee! A-are you okay?”

Stanley didn’t move.

Rick panicked. He reached out and grabbed Stan’s hand, his fingertips over his wrist. A strong pulse beat under his fingers.

The countdown started.

“Ten, nine, eight…” said the announcer.

Stanley shifted, his hands spreading on the mat to heave himself up.

“Lee, stay down!” hissed Rick.

“B-but the bet-”

“Seven… six…”

“Fuck it! If you take one more hit, you’re gonna get fu-fucked up for real!”

“S-so?” Blood dripped from his nose and mouth onto the mat. “N-not like anyone gives a shit whether I live or die.”

“Five… four…”

Rick’s blood boiled. How could he say that? Didn’t he understand that Rick had never had a friend like him, before? How could he really believe that nobody would miss him? How could he value himself so little?

“Three… two… one…”

“Jesus, Stanley, I care! ” Rick shouted.

Stan’s eyes went wide.

The announcer rung a bell. “Stuart is down! Tony goes on to the next round!”

Rick could hardly get his feet under him as he climbed up onto the stage with Stanley. His hands shook as he gingerly hefted his friend’s arm over his shoulder.

“Jesus,” said Rick, “y-you really could’a got hurt.”

Stanley grinned. His teeth were bloody. “How did we do?”

“M-made another thousand, just lost two hundred.”

“Nice.” Stan eased himself down into a chair. Rick handed him a towel from his backpack to wipe away his bloody face.

“A-anything broken?” asked Rick.

“Nah. Just bruised. I’ll be fine.”

He pulled on his shirt, much to Rick’s disappointment. “Wanna get outta here?”

“W-want a drink first?”

Stan shook his head. “Nah. Y-you smell like whisky, so I’d better drive.”

“Y-you’re not driving like this, Lee. I-I’ll be fine. L-let’s get to the car.”

Rick found it hard to ignore Stan’s limp as they left the bar. He wanted to wrap his arms around him again, but he was worried about touching a bruise.

Stanley collapsed into the passenger seat of Stanley-Mobile and began to unwind the bandages from his hand. His lip was split, his nose was bleeding, and he spoke thickly, like he bit his tongue.

“Where to?” he asked.

“I-I’ll just find a hotel to spend the night, shall we?”

“Sure.” Stanley leaned his head back and let his eyes close.

Even covered in blood, he sure was a handsome devil.

Rick started up the engine and pulled out from the curb.

 

Maybe Rick was a little more drunk than he initially thought. Just a little.

The car wove back and forth over the road, despite Rick’s best attempt at concentrating hard on driving. He didn’t think much of it, since it was late and hardly anyone was on the road, anyway.

He became far more concerned when he heard the sirens and saw the red and blue lights behind him.

“Uh… Lee?”

Stanley opened one eye. “Shit. Uh… what do we do?”

“I don’t know!” hissed Rick. “What should we do?”

“Pull over I guess? W-we can run for it if we have to.”

“... Okay?” Rick didn’t wanna argue with Stan, it wasn’t something he enjoyed that much. He pulled over onto the shoulder.

He slapped his cheeks a few times to sober himself up as much as he could before the cop tapped on his window. He couldn’t do anything about the smell.

He reluctantly rolled down the window, questioning Stan’s sanity.

“Evening, officer!” chirped Stan.

The officer hooked his thumbs in his belt. “Evening, fellas. Do you know why I pulled you over?”

Rick looked over at Stan, but he was already picking up the slack.

“I’m afraid not, sir.”

The cop didn’t seem impressed. “It’s a case of DUI, judging by the smell of your friend, here.”

“Don’t bother talking to him, he can’t speak English. Si? ” Stan gave Rick a pinch on the back of his hand.

Si ,” agreed Rick quickly. “ No comprende.

“Well, I have to arrest you two for DUI.”

“Officer, we can explain. I was at a good-old-fashioned boxing match and I got knocked out. My friend Richard was just driving me home so I could recuperate.”

“Call a cab, next time. I’m taking you in.”

Shit, ” cursed Stan under his breath.

The radio on the officer’s chest buzzed and a tinny voice came out of it. “ Hey, Derek, ain’t that the car seen at that bank robbery?

The officer pulled a pair of cuffs from his belt. “Step out of the car.”

“Shit!” spat Rick.

Drive!

Rick slammed his foot on the gas pedal and the car pealed away from the shoulder of the road, whipping around and spinning off onto a side road.

“What do we do?” yelled Stanley.

Two police cars approached them from behind. “I-I dunno!” shouted Rick.

“Got another bomb?”

“I-it’s in the back, under the luggage.”

“Shit!”

Rick turned and choked out a breath.

Stanley’s eyes were wide and desperate. They were approaching a bridge, no turns ahead, that ended in a construction zone. “Dead end! What do we do, Rick? I-I don’t wanna go back to jail!”

“T-take the wheel!”

Stanley grabbed onto the steering wheel while Rick dove into his backpack, grabbing the portal gun prototype and punching in some numbers.

“Please god, oh lord,” he said, fiddling with the dials. “P-please don’t turn us into mush, please d-don’t deposit us in volcano!”

He stuck his hand out the window and pulled the trigger.

A green circle of light shot out in front of them, turning into a portal. It glowed and swirled, illuminating the bridge in the dark night.

“Are we going in there?” cried Stanley. “Where does it go?”

“No idea!”

“This is crazy!” he said. He didn’t sound scared, he sounded… awed.

“Ain’t it just!” yelled Rick, his heart pounding in his chest. He laughed, not able to help himself. “Rick and Lee a hundred years!”

“Rick and Lee forever!” Stanley grinned and whooped as the car skidded along the cobblestones towards the swirling portal.

It occurred to Rick that he couldn’t have asked for a better partner in crime.

As they passed the green barrier, Rick’s fingers locked into Stanley’s. Just in case.

 

The police report that the officers had to write was unsatisfactory (read: two guys disappeared into a green circle while laughing their asses off) and resulted in psychological examinations for those involved.

Chapter Text

With a swirl of green, the car skidded out of the portal and right into a purple bush.

Shit! ” Stanley blinked in the bright sunlight, rubbing his sore neck. “Where are we?”

“No idea.”

Rick didn’t like the sound of those words. He put the car in reverse and carefully inched back onto the dirt road.

It was a sunny day, but the sky was pink. Strange trees with large, triangular fruits lined the side of the red dirt road, and the clouds were teal. A yellow sign with black squiggles on it and an arrow seemed to indicate a destination.

“What is this place?” asked Stanley. He sounded awed.

“I-I dunno. I have no way of f-figuring it out, either. Shit! ” Rick slammed his hand against the wheel. “This was a dumb idea!”

“Hey, at least we’re not being chased by the cops,” said Stanley, laying a reassuring hand on Rick’s forearm. “That’s a step up, right?”

Then they heard the roar from behind them.

Rick slowly turned his head.

An enormous eye peered at them through the broken back window.

“SHIT!” Rick slammed his foot on the gas.

RICK, WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?

“I-I-I DON’T KNOW! I’VE NEVER SEEN THAT BEFORE IN MY LIFE!”

“GUN IT, GUN IT!”

“TAKE THE WHEEL!”

Stanley grabbed the steering wheel and kept them on the road while Rick stuck his head out to look behind them.

The creature was as large as a building, with huge, jagged teeth and leathery skin. Rick frantically fiddled with the portal gun.

It sparked in his hand, zapping him. “YOW!”

The numbers on the screen flipped past faster than he could see. He picked a new dimension, stuck his arm out the car window, and shot another portal.

The car drove through it, leaving the roaring monster behind, and spat them out onto a dusty white landscape. Above them was an enormous planet.

“Where are we now?” asked Stanley.

“On a moon.” Rick took a deep breath. “Thin oxygen, but we can breathe.”

Stanley threw open the car door and collapsed onto the dusty ground.

“Shit!” Rick stumbled out after him, just to hear him retching. He slid his arms around him and helped him to his feet. “Y-you okay, buddy?”

He dragged a large hand over his face. “Ugh… m’fine…”

He heaved and threw up at their feet, splattering Rick’s shoes.

“Aw, sick!” Rick jumped back.

Stan leaned against the car. “Ugh. M-my head is spinning.”

“Y-yeah, portal travel does that to you.”

“Oog.” Stanley rubbed his eyes. “I feel like death.”

“L-let me clean you up, Lee.”

Stanley sat on the hood of the car while Rick gently wiped away the dried blood on his face and the vomit around his mouth and checked him over for wounds. His ribs were cracked, his nose was almost broken, and he’d bitten his tongue, but that was about it.

Stanley looked up. “What planet is that?”

Rick looked up at the blue-yellow ball hanging above them. It looked enormous and close.

“No idea.”

Rick really didn’t enjoy feeling this clueless. He couldn’t even imagine how Stanley felt.

“Lee, I-I gotta tell you something.”

Stan looked wary, like he was expecting something heavy. “Uh… sure.”

“Th-this isn’t my first time off-planet. I-I was abducted by a couple of jack-offs who like messing around with humans, I hijacked their ship and found a portaling station, after that… well, the rest is history. C-customs is a bitch.

“Oh. Huh.” Stanley didn’t seem too surprised, but Rick supposed he might just be in shock. “Like it?”

“Sometimes it’s nice, sometimes you end up running from a monster.”

“Well, can’t we find our way back to a… what was it?”

“P-portaling station, Lee.”

“Yeah, that. We can go find that, can’t we?”

He gestured emphatically. “Th-that’s the problem, Lee. P-portaling stations are all well and good, b-but they can only transport us to different places in one universe. W-we might not be in our own universe, anymore. W-we’re lost in the multiverse.”

Stanley tilted his head. “Multiverse?”

Rick rubbed his temples. Dammit, why did Lee have to look so damn cute when he was curious? “Th-there are an infinite number of universes, Lee. Infinite! Th-they go on into eternity. Infinite universes, infinite possibilities, and we could be in any of them.”

“Infinite possibilities? Does that mean that there are other versions of us?”

“M-most definitely.”

“Will we run into them?”

“Th-the likelihood of that is astronomically tiny, Lee. W-what are the odds that we’ll run into ourselves?”

Stanley shrugged. “Dunno.”

“One to ten to the power of infinity, Lee. I-it’s extremely unlikely.” He let out a heavy breath. “I-I’ve never left my own universe, before.” Rick sat up on the hood and pulled his lanky legs up, wrapping his arms around his knees.

“Rick?”

“Yeah, Lee?”

“What’s the likelihood of us getting back to our own universe?”

“Very, very unlikely. Astronomically unlikely.”

Stanley let his head hang. “Fuck. I wish we’d just let ourselves get arrested.”

“Me too, at this point.”

“I miss my brother, Rick.”

Rick didn’t give much truck about sentimental stuff, but he forced himself to say, “Yeah?”

“He’d be so jealous of this adventure we’re on!” he said with a laugh, but he sounded very tired. “I have to get back to him, Rick. I have to tell him about this, about you, about how… how fucking sorry I am.” He wiped his eyes on his wrist. “Fuck.”

Rick laid a hand on his forearm. He wasn’t great with words.

Stanley gripped his fingers.

The planet loomed above them, dark and silent against a background of stars.

 

Stanley was driving. Rick sat in the passenger side, tinkering with the portal gun.

They were on a strange planet where chairs were people and people were chairs. Stanley really wasn’t sure how he felt about a sofa being president of the United States.

Rick whacked the portal gun against the heel of his hand to jog the wires into place. “I-I think you’re being racist, Lee. A sofa can be president if they want.”

“I just feel weird about something that’s acquainted with my ass leading the country. Got any progress on that thing?”

“N-not so much, but a bit.” Rick twisted a screw back into place. “Jeez, this is a piece of shit. Alright, Lee. You ready?”

“Yep.”

“Thirty-fourth time’s the charm!” Rick shot the portal ahead of the car and they drove through it, much to the shock and awe of the onlooking chairs.

The car was ejected into a wheat field.

“Rick,” said Stanley as he drove towards a dirt road. “What’s to stop us from popping out in the middle of the ocean or in space?”

“Honestly? D-d-dumb luck. It’s rigged so it won’t drop us into space, but there’s nothing stopping it from putting us in the middle of a volcano.”

“Oh.” Stanley really didn’t like the fact that they were risking their necks with every use of the gun. He remembered the car popping out into a swamp sometime yesterday. That wasn’t the best. “Alright.”

“L-let’s drive around for a bit, see what we got.”

Stanley pulled out onto the road, the car bumping along the potholes and dips. Very few trees were to be seen, but a highway was nearby.

Stan turned on the radio. Garbled voices speaking a non-human language screeched from the speakers, making Stan shout in surprise and shut if off immediately.

“W-well, still not on earth.” Rick tilted his head back and let out a long breath. “Lee, whaddaya say to us setting up shop on some other planet? C-could be a good time.”

“Could be.” Stan tapped his fingers on the steering wheel.

“Oh, h-how about this,” Rick shifted so he was facing Stanley. “W-what if we find earth again, k-kill our parallel selves, and take their places?”

What? ” Stan gave him a horrified look. “Shit, Rick, that’s fucked up! What about the dimension we left behind?”

“S-so? There are infinite dimensions, Lee! Th-there are dimensions where you died when you were a kid, or committed suicide, or you were conjoined with your brother! There are dimensions where we never met, where we’re older, younger, female, have our hands where our feet are, whatever! Infinite possibilities. Best not to think about all of ‘em. I-it’ll give you a headache, trust me.”

Stanley turned onto the highway. The road signs weren’t in English, and the language didn’t even look human. “Do you think there’s a universe where we’re dogs?”

Rick shot him a look. “D-d-do you not grasp the concept of infinity, Lee?”

“Right, right.” He let out a breath.

Rick tinkered with the portal gun as Stanley drove along the highway. It was long and flat, and there were no turns or rises in the landscape. Fields and small outcroppings of trees whipped by. The trees were a strange shade of chartreuse.

“Hey, Rick. A town.”

In the distance, there was a cluster of maroon buildings. There was no other traffic on the highway.

“L-let’s see if they have a portaling station to take us to this universe’s earth.”

“Will we be able to get the car through?”

“Lee, it’s just a car.”

Stanley glared at him. “It’s not just a car! It’s El Diablo! My home, and my best friend… before you came into the picture, of course.”

Rick let out a long-suffering groan and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Fine! I-I promise not to ditch your ride.”

“Thanks, Rick.”

“Whatever,” he said gruffly.

 

The town was empty. No people walked through the streets, no lights were on, and cars were abandoned in the street. It took careful maneuvering to inch El Diablo through the mess of cars in the streets.

“I don’t like this, Rick. It’s creepy.”

“Y-yeah. P-probably some plague swept through here or something. L-let’s check around for free shit!”

“Plague? What if we get sick?”

Rick shrugged. “Hey, d-do you see any bodies? No? I-it should be fine.”

“Alright, whatever. Is that a bank?” He pointed across the street, hand still on the wheel.

Rick leaned over and peered out the window. “Hey, d-d’you see that little symbol over there? Hanging above the door?”

“Yeah, it’s a green circle with an arrow.”

“Sh-shit, motherfucker! It’s a portaling station! We’re saved!” Rick threw his hands up in the air. “Hallelujah!”

“Woo!” Stan pulled the car over and jumped out. “Let’s get some free shit!

Rick tore after his friend as Stan took a brick and smashed in the window of a nearby store. He grabbed a shopping cart and hopped in while Stanley grabbed the handle and pushed him forward at breakneck speed.

Cash registers were dumped into shopping bags, chips were stolen, windows were broken. They stole jewelry, watches, clothes, and canned food. All of the fresh fruit and meat was rotten, and it smelled eye-wateringly bad.

“Jeez,” said Stanley. “This place has been abandoned for a few weeks at least.”

“L-let’s not worry about that. M-maybe they were all religious type who killed themselves in mass koolaid-suicide pact.”

“Could be. Or there could be a monster, Rick.”

Rick laughed and waved a bag of cash in his face. “Lookit all his shit, Lee!”

Rick was right. Who gives a shit how this town was abandoned? He pumped his fist in the air and sprinted out into the street, pushing the shopping cart in front of him. “Rick and Lee forever!”

There was a loud, gurgling groan.

Stanley skidded to a halt and whipped around.

Rick gripped Stan’s shoulders to steady himself as he kneeled and peered upwards.

Rick would later deny screaming like a girl at the sight.

It was a massive conglomerate of bodies. The bodies were humanoid, except for lavender skin and extra legs. Men, women, and children were all mashed together to form one enormous, horrific monster. It towered above them, the size of three inner-city buses put together, saliva dangling from its jaws in thick yellow ropes.

Rick’s knees knocked together. He dug his fingers into Stanley’s arm.

Stanley shoved Rick down into the cart and took off, barrelling down the street as fast as his legs could carry him. The monster let out a low, bubbling roar and began to pursue, its conglomerate crawling over buildings and cars with ease.

Rick stared up at the creature in petrified terror as Stanley booked it. He let his friend shove him into the passenger side of the car and gun the engine.

“Lee, w-what’re you doing?” he cried as he turned around to stare at the monster shuffling up to them from behind.

“Getting us the fuck off this planet!” He forced the car up onto the sidewalk and crashed it through the double doors at the portaling station.

The portal was shut down, but its framework was still intact. Rick shook himself and jumped out of the car, leaping over the ropes meant to keep people in line.

“I-it should be big enough!” Rick shouted, slamming his hand onto the on button.

The green portal sparked to life, swirling into a vortex.

Stanley grabbed a gun from the back seat of the car and aimed it out the door, towards the monster.

When the creature first began to appear, Stan shot a few choice rounds into the conglomerate. It squealed in pain and shuddered, and Stan took this opportunity to lob a grenade at it.

“Got it yet?” asked Stanley.

“Keep stalling!” Rick frantically searched through coordinates, trying to find earth. He was close, he had narrowed his search down to the Milky Way galaxy.

Stanley was running out of ideas. His weapons barely made a scratch on the conglomerate. He fired again and again, the monster getting closer and closer with each passing second.

A part of its saliva flicked out from the monster’s mouth and landed on his forearm, and he suddenly felt… relaxed. Maybe becoming part of the biomass wouldn’t be so bad. It seemed to beckon to him.

Come with us, Stanley.

You’ll finally belong, Stanley.

We love you, Stanley.

Become part of the Conglomerate, Stanley.

Rick pricked his thumb on the DNA reader.

Name: Rick Sanchez, ” said the machine in a feminine voice. “ Galaxy: seven-eight-five. Planet: two-two-six-dash-one, colloquially known as Earth. Warning! Patterns inconsistent with current data, Rick Sanchez is already on Earth. Error sent to Galactic Federation.

The portal swirled, and Rick knew where it would lead them.

“Lee! I got it!”

He turned and gaped. Stanley had dropped his gun, and he was slowly shuffling towards the monster. Its yellow saliva splattered the floor.

“Shit, shit, shit! ” Rick sprinted towards Stanley and grabbed his shoulder. He spotted the saliva on his arm and wiped it off with his sleeve.

“Rick?” Stanley turned to him with a faintly vacant, slightly happy expression. “Come with me, Rick. We can join the conglomerate.”

“Fuck that, Lee!” yelled Rick, spittle hitting him on the cheek. He dragged him back to the car and shoved him in, crawling behind the wheel. “W-we gotta get outta here!”

Stan blinked. “Don’t you want to feel the love of the conglomerate?”

“Fu-fuck no!” He twisted the key in the ignition, but the engine sputtered. “Aw, fucking hell!”

“Nobody loves me,” said Stanley sadly as Rick struggled with the engine. The conglomerate grew ever closer. “The conglomerate said it would love me.”

Rick growled while he twisted the key in the ignition. “Y-y-you fucking thick-headed asshole, Lee! I love you! I love you enough to risk my neck to save your dumb car!”

The car sputtered to life, and Rick gunned the engine, tearing away from the grip of the conglomerate.

“You do?” asked Stanley, dazed. His eyes were beginning to focus.

“Duh!” He bumped over the divider lines, and Stan’s head cracked into the side of the car.

“YOW!” Stanley seemed to snap back into focus all at once. “Holy shit, Rick, get us the fuck outta here!”

“Already on it!”

They shot through the portal, dragging fifty feet of divider lines with them, and popped out on the other side.

They crashed through the wall of a grungy living room. Splintered wood flew in all directions, and they heard screams of shock that definitely weren’t theirs.

Stanley let out a heavy breath. “W-where are we?”

“Oregon.” Rick tried to hit the gas, but the car’s tires spun uselessly in midair. “Fuck. W-we’re stuck.”

Stanley’s eyes were wide. “Uh… Rick?”

“What?” He looked up at Stanley’s blanched expression. He followed his gaze.

Standing before the car was… them. They were much older, from the looks of it. Grey hair and wrinkles. Stan was wearing a suit, and Rick was wearing a white labcoat.

Stan, young Stan, gave Rick a confused look.

“Jeez, we don’t age very well,” he said.

Rick was at a loss for words. That in and of itself was a rare event. “No kidding.”

Chapter Text

Stanley climbed out of the car, his eyes locked onto his other self. Jeez, he hadn’t aged gracefully. He looked about a hundred. His cheeks were rough with grey scruff, his eyes had dark bags, and he wore a red beanie over his greying hair. He was still broad in the shoulders, but he’d developed pudge around his stomach. Well, more than he had, now.

Rick stared at his older self. He knew that other versions of him had to exist, but it was much more jarring than he’d anticipated. It was like looking into a mirror, except his reflection had greying hair, a bald spot, and more wrinkles than he thought were possible.

“Yeesh,” said Old Rick. He folded his arms. “Y-you idiots sure know how to make an entrance.”

Young Stan leaned over and said to his Rick, “Are we still gonna… y’know?”

“Nah. L-look how old they are. This is no good. W-we gotta find another universe.”

“Rick, I don’t wanna use that portal gun again unless we have to. It could drop us anywhere, and-”

“J-jeez,” said Old Rick. “Quit whispering, our hearing hasn’t gone, yet. Where are you two fuckers from?”

“Rick,” said Old Stan. “Why is there a car in my living room?”

“Y-yeah,” said Old Rick, folding his arms. “I-I’d like to know that, too.”

“I-I don’t owe shit to you, old man!” shouted Young Rick. “Fuck off!”

“L-looks to me like you ain’t getting outta here on your own, dumbass.” Old Rick sauntered up to the two of them. “What universe are you from?”

“How am I supposed to know?” snapped Young Rick.

Old Rick pinched the bridge of his nose and groaned. “Y-you mean to tell me that you jumped out into the i-infinite multiverse without learning your place on the Central Finite Curve? G-god, you’re a moron.”

Young Rick balled his hands into fists. He climbed down from the pile of broken wood and car parts and took a few steps towards his parallel self.

Old Rick cuffed up the sleeves of his labcoat. “Y-yeah, bring it, brat!”

“Wait!” Young Stan grabbed onto his Rick’s shoulder. “Rick, you’re right. Well, he’s right. We need their help.”

“Oh, changed your minds about killing us and taking our places?” asked Old Stan dryly.

“I-I’m still considering it, you old bastard!” snapped Rick, but he didn’t make a move. He pulled out his portal gun and typed in a random coordinate.

“L-let me see that.” Old Rick yanked the portal gun away and inspected it. “Christ, what a relic! How many times have you z-zapped yourself on those exposed wires?”

“N-none of your business, old timer!”

Old Rick threw his head back and laughed. He tossed the portal gun back to him. “So what, you just put in a random number and pop out anywhere? How many times have you used it?”

“Thirty-something,” said Stan. He couldn’t take his eyes off of his double.

His Rick punched him in the shoulder. “Shut up, Lee!”

“Quit fighting, you guys,” said Old Stan. He cuffed up his sleeves. “Let’s get your car outta my living room.”

The Ricks grumbled, but the four of them put their hands on the hood of the car and pushed it back outside. It bumped and scraped as it went, and there was an enormous hole in the wall left over from it.

“My poor car,” lamented Stan. “It’s wrecked! It’ll take ages to fix.”

“Your car? ” snapped Old Stan. “What about my house?

“I-I always thought that wall needed a window,” said Old Rick.

Old Stan turned to the younger duo. “So, are you guys gonna drive off and get lost, or are you gonna let us help you get back to your dimension?”

“W-we’re gonna what, now?” asked Old Rick.

“C’mon, Rick,” said Old Stan. “You remember being young, don’t you?”

“Only too well,” he grumbled.

“I wanna go back to my universe, Rick,” said Young Stan. “These guys might be old jerks, but they can probably help get us home.”

“W-we can do it on our own!”

“C’mon,” said Old Stan. “It’ll be easy-peasy!”

“W-why d-do we have to help ‘em?” asked Old Rick. “They-urp!-they don’t wanna be helped.”

“D-damn straight!”

“C’mon, Rick,” said Young Stan, grabbing his shoulder. “I wanna go home.”

Rick glowered at him.

Stan did his best puppy dog eyes. “C’mon, Rick…”

“Arg, fine! W-whatever, you goddamn conman!” He shoved him away and crossed his arms. “We’ll accept your help!”

“There, was that so hard?” asked Young Stan, wearing a shit-eating grin.

“F-fine, then.” Old Rick took a flask from the pocket of his lab coat and took a long, deep swig. He beckoned to the younger duo.“You two, come with me. W-we’re gonna have to figure out which universe you’re from.”

Soos! ” bellowed Old Stan.

“Yeah, Mister Pines?” came a voice from another part of the house.

“Come fix this hole in the wall!”

“Can do, Mister Pines!” A chubby man in a suit and red fez dashed into the room, then his jaw went slack when he saw the younger duo.

“Sh-should we be worried about people seeing us?” asked Young Rick.

“Nah,” said Old Stan. “Tons of weird stuff happens ‘round here.”

“Oh. My. God.” The guy named Soos grabbed Young Stan’s hand and shook it vigorously. “So this is what Mister Pines looked like when he was younger! It correlates most perfectly with my headcannons!”

“Uh.” Stan yanked his hand away. “Nice to meet you too, pal.”

“S-stop flirting and c-c-come on, ” groaned Old Rick.

Young Rick and Stan followed Rick’s older counterpart out of the living room, through a strange-looking gift shop, and to a vending machine.

“I could use a snack,” said Stan.

“W-w-we’re not eating, smartass!” Rick pressed a few buttons on the machine and it swung away from the wall. There was a hallway behind it.

“Whoa,” said Stan, impressed.

“D-don’t encourage him,” hissed Young Rick.

They followed Old Rick down a hallway full of cobwebs, around corner, and to an elevator. Rick punched in a number and the doors opened. They stepped inside and the doors creaked shut behind them. It squeaked and squealed as they descended. The light at the top of the elevator flickered.

“Jeez Louise,” said Stan. “How much more cryptic can you get?”

“Y-yeah,” said Young Rick. “Y-y-you’re totally rocking a retro sci-fi vibe, old man.”

“Stuff it, twerp. B-besides, I-I-I didn’t build this part.”

The elevator creaked to a halt, and they stepped out into a room with enormous blinking consoles on either side. Tables were piled high with textbooks and papers, and there was a side room up ahead where two people could be heard talking.

One of the voices sounded somewhat familiar to Stan. He took a tentative step towards them, but Old Rick grabbed his shoulder.

“Th-this way, losers.” Old Rick pulled them away from this room and steered them into another laboratory area.

This room was even stranger than the last. Rows of test tubes, half-finished electrical projects, and stacks of papers covered the shelves and tables. A bulletin board was stuck up on the wall, covered in scribbled notes and ideas. A whiteboard covered in equations and doodles of strange monsters sat in one corner. Tools were lying around, and there seemed to be some enormous glowing incubation chamber in the back of the room. Something inside it moved.

“C-come here.” Old Rick pushed the two of them into creaky wooden chairs. He sat in a spinning chair, strapped on a strange-looking pair of goggles, and started typing on a strange machine with a monitor on it.

“The hell is that?” asked Stan.

“I-it’s a computer, numb-nuts,” said Old Rick without turning to them.

“Impossible,” said Young Rick with a snort. The thing was small enough to lift, that’s no computer! “W-where’s the rest of it?”

“Tech has c-come a long way, numbskull. Let’s see…” He typed in some numbers. “E-eliminate all universes where there is no Rick, all universes where there is no Stan, and-urp!-and all universes where you’re too young or too old. H-how old are you guys?”

“Twenty two,” said Stan.

“T-t-twenty seven,” said Young Rick.

“Christ!” Stan laughed. “You’re old!”

I’m old?” He pointed to Old Rick. “Have you seen that guy?”

Old Rick snapped at them, “Sh-shut up, you two! Now we eliminate all universes where you’ve died. A-are you two criminals?”

Stan glanced over at his Rick. “Um.”

Young Rick shrugged. “No?”

“A-alright, eliminate the universes where you two obey the law, now when did you meet?”

“About two months ago?”

“Y-y-yeah, about them.”

“S-so eliminate the universes where you meet as kids, teens, or old men, a-and now I need some blood.”

“What?” asked Stan.

Before either of them could react, Old Rick had plunged a needle into Stan’s arm, then into Rick’s.

“OW!” cried Stan.

“A-a little warning next time, asshole?” shouted Young Rick.

“Whatever.” Old Rick put the blood vials into a machine that hummed to life. “There. Now that we narrowed the possibilities down to a few thousand, we should know which universe you guys are from soon enough.”

“How is our blood gonna help?” asked Stan, rubbing the wound on his forearm.

“E-every person contains trace particles from their universe that they bring with them no matter where they go. I-it’s a matter of isolating those particles and identifying where they originate, then bam, home you go.”

“W-when will it be ready?” asked Young Rick.

Old Rick pulled off the goggles and set them aside. “Soon! B-be patient, not like anybody’s waiting for you losers.”

Young Rick spotted something on Old Rick’s hip. It looked like a gun. He lunged for it.

Old Rick leapt out of the way. “Manners, kid!” He put his foot on Young Rick’s face and kicked him away. “You wanna take a look at my portal gun, j-just say so!”

Rick scowled and crossed his arms and legs as he sat on the floor. “Fuck you!”

Stan let out a heavy breath. “Christ, Rick. He’s helping us get back home, the least you could do is ask before you grab.”

“Fuck you, Lee!”

“Th-this baby is wa -urp!- ay safer!” said Rick. “The trick is, you have to know where you’re going. S-since my Stanley has got me by the balls, I-I might consider teaching you how to read and program multiverse coordinates. Maybe.

“Fuck you! I-I can figure it out on my own!”

“Rick, for fuck’s sake!” said Stan.

“I-I didn’t do a damn thing!” chorused the Ricks.

Stanley rolled his eyes and let them bicker.

“Stanley!” came a voice from the other room. Footsteps approached. “I thought I heard you downstairs! Listen, Fiddleford and I just found another anomaly, this time in-”

The newcomer stuck his head into the room.

Stan’s heart damn near stopped. His throat tightened, he could hardly draw a breath.

It was Stanford.

Chapter Text

Stanley wasn’t an emotional guy. He didn’t cry when he got kicked out of his parent’s place, he didn’t cry when he got beat up during boxing or fist fights, and he sure as hell didn’t cry when he found himself lost in the multiverse.

He did cry when he saw his twin brother for the first time in five years.

He would deny it to his grave, but tears rolled down his cheeks.

This wasn’t his Ford, he knew that. It was a double, a twin of his twin. He was a lot older. His hair was grey and his face was lined, he wore a tattered brown coat, his glasses were a thicker prescription and one of the lenses was cracked but…

It was Ford.

“Oh, man,” said Ford when he saw the young duo. “Where did you two come from?”

“Th-that’s what we’re trying to find out, dingus,” said Old Rick. “Go play footsie with your boyfriend.”

“Like you’re one to talk,” he snapped.

“F-Ford?”

Stanley hated how broken his voice sounded.

Understanding dawned on Ford’s face. “Oh, no. Are you from a timeline where we fought and haven’t made up, yet?”

“You let Dad kick me out!” he bellowed. “How could you? I-it was just an accident, Ford, I-I didn’t deserve to have my whole life ruined! You didn’t even try to get in touch with me, afterwards! I’ve been to prison! I chewed my way out of the trunk of a car! How could you just abandon me? We were supposed to be together forever!”

Ford let out a sigh. “We’ve already had this conversation, in this dimension.”

“Well if it’s already over and done with, why don’t you give me some fucking answers, Ford? How about that!”

Rick, his Rick, laid a firm hand on his shoulder. “Lee, calm down. Y-you sound hysterical.”

“I’m not hysterical, ” he said mockingly.

“Stan,” said Ford, “why don’t you come into my study? I’ll make you tea. We can sit and talk.”

Stanley balled up his fists.

“I-I think that’s a good idea, Lee,” said Young Rick.

“Who asked you?” he snapped.

“Lee,” said Rick quietly. “Let’s go talk to him.”

“Why do you care?” he asked, voice choked. He was teetering between wanting to strangle Ford or high-tail it outta there. “I don’t wanna talk to him!”

“Lee. Y-you’ll feel better if you do.”

Rick didn’t normally give a shit about family stuff like this, so he thought talking was a good idea, Stan figured that maybe he should listen. He sighed and let his shoulders slump.

He numbly followed Ford into his study, leaving Old Rick behind in his lab, with Young Rick steering him along, hands on both shoulders.

He passed through the room with blinking consoles, into the adjacent room. Rick sat him down onto a couch and perched beside him on the arm of the sofa, one arm draped protectively over his shoulder.

“Darlin’,” said a southern drawl. “Who are these two fellers?” An older man with a scruffy white beard and a labcoat appeared beside Ford.

“Some interdimensional travellers,” said Ford. He pulled up a chair. “I don’t suppose you could make Stanley some tea, could you, Fiddleford?”

“That I can.” He put a kettle on the bunsen burner in the back. “Should be ready in a few minutes.”

Ford let out a sigh and crossed his legs. “Ask away, Stanley.”

“Why did you let dad kick me out?” he asked, his voice ragged.

“I was a kid,” he said quietly. “I had no more of a choice in that than you did. I was mad as hell about the mess-up, and it took me a long time to forgive you, but I did. I missed you a lot.”

That made Stan feel a little better. He swallowed, his mouth dry. “Why didn’t you try to get in touch with me?”

“I didn’t know how, Lee.”

“But Ma-”

“Yeah, I know you called her once a month. I didn’t, back then. Your Ford probably doesn’t know.”

Stan twiddled his thumbs. “How could you just… abandon me? You know it was an accident, right? I didn’t mean to fuck up so bad.”

“It was an accident, Stan. I know that, now. Back then…” He sighed. “One thing we have in common is our stubbornness, that’s for sure. I put mine towards science, you put yours towards…”

“Crime and scamming people?”

Ford looked away. “Yeah. That.”

“Do we make up?”

“I live here, don’t I?” he said with a smile. “We do. Eventually”

“How? When?”

“Well…” Ford sighed. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-two.”

“I can’t give you any details about your future, because it could alter it.”

“A-are you kidding?” snapped Rick. “A-are you seriously using that lame excuse?”

Ford blinked owlishly. “Well, I suppose that’s true. I can’t speak to the accuracy of what I’m telling you because we are from different timelines. Who knows how things will play out in your universe?”

The relief he’d felt moments ago vanished abruptly. “Does that mean that Ford, my Ford, and I… we might not make up?”

“It’s a possibility.”

Stan put his head in his hands. His shoulders were shaking.

The look that Rick gave Ford was positively murderous. Ford had been on the receiving end of that look from his Rick, and last time it had ended with him going to the hospital for a broken nose.

“I suppose it’s up to you,” said Ford, folding his six-fingered hands together, “whether you want to make up with me.”

Stan rubbed his temples. “How would you propose I do that?”

“Call and ask Ma where I am. In this universe, when I was twenty-two I was finishing up my PhD and moving here, to Gravity Falls. It might be different in your universe.”

“Tea’s ready!” Fiddleford handed Stanley a steaming mug. “Careful, it’s hot.”

“Thanks, Fiddleford,” said Stanley gruffly.

“W-what kinda dumb-ass name is Fiddleford?” asked Rick.

“Shut your mouth,” said Ford, pointing a finger at him. “We’ve already done this song and dance in this dimension, save it for when you meet your Fiddleford.”

“Oh, I-I-I plan to. I’ll start composing a list of nicknames.”

Fiddleford tousled Ford’s hair, kissed him on the cheek, and went back to work on his blueprints. Ford’s face was red and he wore a stupid smile after that.

“Are you two…?” asked Rick, gesturing to Fiddleford.

“Yeah, we are. Oh, I guess I should explain. In the future, gay people are more or less accepted in North America. He’s my fiance.”

Stan raised his eyebrows. “Whoa. Weird.” He wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

“Times change,” said Ford serenely. “Do you have any other questions for me?”

Stan took a sip of tea. It burned on the way down, making his tongue feel hairy. He wiped his mouth on his wrist. “Um… what should I say to him? My Ford?”

Ford sighed. “I guess it depends. If I were you, I’d go sooner rather than later. In this universe, when we met… I was very unstable. I’d been driven half to madness from my projects. We fought and… I found myself in much the same position you two are in, now.”

Stan felt a little sick. He didn’t want to think about his twin, lost in the multiverse, all alone with no one to help him. “So… what should I say to him?”

“First of all, I propose speaking calmly and not raising your voice. If I look okay, you can just jump right into it, but… if I look like I haven’t showered or shaved in a week, I suggest proceeding with caution. I… I’ve already told you too much.” Ford paused with his brow furrowed, thinking hard. “Oh, one piece of advice… if he shows you a machine that he calls a portal or a gateway, don’t approach it. It’s very dangerous. If you get into a tussle, move away from the machine at all costs.”

“Okay?” Weird advice, but Stan supposed he had his reasons. He took another long sip of tea.

Ford chewed the inside of his cheek. “One last thing… If you ever meet a guy who looks like a triangle with one eye… don’t listen to a damn word he says.”

Again, weird advice. Stan nodded. “Can we have some food?”

“Dinner’s gonna be in a few minutes,” said Ford. “We can go upstairs. With a house this full, a few extra mouths to feed won’t mean a thing.”

 

Stan and Rick hadn’t had a meal that wasn’t out of a fast food bag or takeout container in weeks. The smells of homemade macaroni and cheese wafted through the kitchen, making them drool.

“How long has it been since we’ve eaten?” asked Stan.

“I-I dunno, Lee. D-dimension travel does weird things to your sense of time.”

Old Stan was sat at the end of the long table, his Rick on one side, his Ford on the other. Fiddleford, that Soos guy, and some girl named Melody came next, then three teenagers ran into the room, laughing and talking.

Stan and Rick stared at the kids. Two boys, one girl. The girl had long hair and a red sweater, one boy had on a fur hat that looked way too warm for the current weather, and the other boy was wearing a yellow grass-stained shirt.

The three of them stopped dead when they saw Rick and Stan.

“Uh… Rick?” said the boy in yellow. “Who are these guys?”

“J-just some jerks from another dimension, M-Morty. Y-you know the drill, by now. C-come eat.”

The three kids plopped themselves down at the table and served themselves.

The family talked for the next ten minutes while Stan and Rick shovelled macaroni and cheese into their mouths, punctuated with occasional exclamations about how good it was. Old Stan couldn’t help but smile at the two of them when he was sure they weren’t looking.

Young Stan slugged back a beer and smacked his lips. He looked around at the table. It was all so… domestic. Was this his life in his old age? Seemed kinda… nice. In a super corny way.

“S-so,” said Rick, slamming his utensils down. He pointed at the three kids. “Where did you come from?”

The kid in the hat folded his arms. “I might ask you that!”

“Don’t be a smartass, Dipper,” said Old Stan. He looked over at his younger self. “Dipper and Mabel are my great niece and nephew.”

“M-Morty is my grandson,” said Old Rick. He took a swig from his flask.

Old Stan smacked him on the wrist. “Not in front of the kids!”

“Whatever.” Old Rick stashed the flask away and folded his arms.

“I have a grandson?” asked Young Rick.

“A-a-and granddaughter. And you’re both useless pieces of shit. ” He pointed at Morty accusingly.

“I-I didn’t do anything!” stuttered Morty, offended. He had apparently inherited Rick’s speech impediment. “W-w-why are you always picking on me, Rick?”

“Jee, I dunno, m-m-maybe it’s because your stupid voice is an enormous thorn in my side!”

“Christ,” said Young Rick.

Old Rick glared at him. “Got a problem with me, punk?

“Easy, Rick,” said Morty from across the table.

“Maybe I do!” said Young Rick, balling up his fists.

“C’mon, man,” said Young Stan. “Not at the table. They just fed us, for God’s sake.”

Rick realized he was right. He slumped back into his chair.

Old Rick smirked and muttered something under his breath that sounded an awful lot like “pussywhipped”.

One of the kids, Dipper, tapped his fork against his lip, humming thoughtfully. “So… what brought you guys here?”

“A sh-shitty portal gun,” said Old Rick.

“Who asked you?” snapped Young Stan. “But yeah, he’s right. We were running from… uh…”

Old Stan raised an eyebrow. “Let me guess. Cops?”

“However did you know?” he asked flatly. “But yeah, cops. Tried to use the portal gun as an escape strategy, ended up driving away from another monster at full tilt.”

Old Stan snorted. “Slick.”

“W-when do I have a kid?” asked Young Rick. “I-I don’t wanna get married!”

“Y-you’re gonna knock her up,” said Old Rick. “Trust me. It’s how it’s gotta be.”

“Fuck you, old man! I don’t gotta do shit!

Mabel stared at Young Stan with wide eyes. It unnerved him.

“What’s with you?” he asked, glowering.

“You’re just so young, ” she said, propping her chin up with her hands, elbows on the table. “I can’t believe my Grunkle Stan was young.

“Well, here I am,” he said gruffly. “Ta-da?”

“You’re funny!” she said. “How did you meet Grunkle Rick?”

“Grunkle- Uh, he stole my car.”

Old Stan blinked. “That didn’t happen in this universe.” He turned to his Rick. “How old were we when we met?”

“I-I met you when I came to Gravity Falls to uh… I can’t remember. I-I didn’t steal your car, though. We were a little older. I-I think that it involved a night in Vegas and Russian Roulette.”

“This universe is officially different!” said Young Rick. “Ha!”

“Why do you care?” asked Young Stan.

“It means that this isn’t necessarily our future!” he said, waving an arm. “We could be millionaires, in our reality!” He laughed.

Stan laughed too. Rick’s laugh was infectious.

Rick slugged him in the shoulder and held up his beer. “T-t-to the future!”

“To the future!” He clinked cans with him and knocked it back.

Dipper and Mabel shared a look and clinked their juice glasses.

 

“Th-the stars are different in this universe.”

“How can you tell?” asked Stan. They sat on the roof of the house, next to the gaudy letters that read “Mystery Shack”.

“Big Dipper’s pointing the wrong way, see?” He drew a line in the sky with his finger. “I-it should face the other way.”

“Oh. Cool.”

Rick leaned his head against Stan’s shoulder. “Ugh, I’m beat.”

“Same.” He let an arm slip around his friend’s shoulders. He pulled him close.

Rick let out a contented sigh. “You’re so warm, Lee!”

Stan’s face felt hot. “I keep it that way just for you.”

“You sly sunnovabitch. Y-you got me wrapped around your pinky.”

Stan chuckled and pulled him a bit closer.

He thought back to when they were escaping the Conglomerate. He remembered getting hit by the saliva and having this urge to join it, but he couldn’t remember much beyond that. His mind was a little fuzzy.

What else did he remember? He remembered being manhandled into the car… the green portal… Rick saying something...

Y-y-you fucking thick-headed asshole, Lee! I love you!

Had he really said that?

“W-what’s on your mind, Stan?” asked Rick. “Y-you usually can’t go this long being quiet.”

“I think you’re thinking about yourself.”

“Point. W-whatcha thinkin’ ‘bout?”

Stan shrugged. “Just thinking about that Conglomerate we escaped from.”

Rick cringed. “Christ, d-d-do you really still believe its lies about it loving you?”

“What? No! It’s just…” Stan was sweating. He scratched the back of his neck. “Um… I think you said something to me? While we were going through the portal?”

“L-like what?” Rick wasn’t going to make it easy for him, was he?

“It’s a little fuzzy, but… something like “you’re an asshole and I love you”. Or something.”

“Oh. That.” Rick balled his fist in Stan’s shirt.

Stan waited. A warm night breeze rustled their hair and clothes.

“Well?” asked Stan.

“W-w-well what?”

“What about it?”

What about it?”

“Did you mean it?”

Rick sat up. He coughed and let his feet dangle off the edge of the roof. “I-I thought we were gonna die, a-and I thought saying that might help you snap out of it. Or s-s-something.”

Stan didn’t believe him. “Oh. That’s all?”

Rick fiddled with the hem of his shirt. “I-I dunno, Lee. Is it?”

“What do you mean?”

“I-I mean that it’s not every day I break out the “L” word,” said Rick. “I-I don’t wanna w-waste it on some asshole who won’t even say it back!”

“You’re my best friend, Rick. Of course I care about you.”

“Is that all?” he asked accusingly. “J-just best friend?”

“I-I don’t know!” he said, flustered. “I don’t exactly break out the “L” word much, either!”

“It pops out pretty easily, as it turns out!” he snapped.

Stan took a deep breath. “I care about you, Rick. I’m just… kinda confused.”

“A-about what?”

“I-I thought I was straight.”

Rick snorted.

“It’s not funny!” said Stan.

“I-it’s a little bit funny,” said Rick. “Lee, gender is a made-up thing. Some cultures on earth have six genders, did you know that? I-I’ve been to a planet where they have eleven! D-don’t get caught up in that petty societal bullshit.”

Rick made a good point, but it was hard to forget twenty years of gay slurs and watching queer kids get beat up. Stan gave a little shrug.

“I care about you, Rick,” said Stan. “I just… I dunno. The “L” word means a lot to me. I kinda wanna wait on it. I guess I’ll know if and when to say it. I love you like a best friend for sure, but… I-I dunno.”

“Oh.” Rick sounded pretty cut up about it. “W-whatever.”

“Don’t be like that.”

“Like what? Don’t be upset th-that I laid my feelings out and you didn’t reciprocate?”

“Is that what you call “laying your feelings out”?”

“Sh-shut the fuck up, Lee!”

Stan chuckled. He looped an arm around Rick. “Aw, your poor feelings! ” he said in baby-talk.

“Fuck off!” He punched him in the side and pushed him away.

“I didn’t say I didn’t reciprocate,” said Stan, rubbing the bruise absently. “I’m just… sorting it out.”

Rick looked over to him. He smiled. “Well, I guess I am, too. I-I mean… I thought we might die. I-it felt like a now-or-never, y’know?”

“So… we’ll get back to the “L” word some other time?”

“Sure, i-if you want.” Rick put two fingers on Stan’s jaw and turned his face towards him. “So, princess… you gonna g-give a kiss to your knight in shining armour who saved you from a Conglomerate?”

Stan smirked. “Why the hell not?”

Rick grinned. He smashed their mouths together. It was not romantic.

“Ow,” said Stan when he pulled away. He tangled his fingers in Rick’s wild black hair. “Maybe a little gentler?”

“Sorry.” Rick leaned down and pressed a softer kiss to Stan’s mouth. Stan tasted like beer, smelled like sweat and engine oil, and his scruff scratched at Rick’s jaw in a wonderful kinda way.

Stan’s hands dug into his hair and pressed into his back, holding him in place. Rick draped his arms around his neck. A spark of excitement zipped up his spine when he heard Stan moan into the kiss. He’d never fucked on the roof of a house, before. Could be fun.

As much as Rick hated that sappy shit, it sure was a romantic setting. The stars twinkled brightly, the trees swayed in the forest, and it smelled like summer and dew. It was pretty much perfect, except for the splinters in his ass.

Until he heard the moans.

Stan pulled away and frowned. “Uh?”

Rick shook his head. “Not me.”

Fuck, Rick! ” came a voice. Stan’s voice. Old Stan. It was coming from right below them, through the open window.

I-isn’t that the idea? ” came Old Rick’s voice. He moaned loudly.

Keep it down! The kids’ll hear!

Nothing th-they don’t know about-Aw fuck!

Harder!

Young Stan and Rick looked at each other, mortified.

“Are they…?” asked Stan.

“Th-they are!” said Rick.

They paused.

They burst out laughing.

It was hilarious, there was no way around it. How were you supposed to react to hearing parallel old-man versions of yourselves fucking the night away? There was no rule for that kind of situation, no manual.

Fuck rules.

They laughed long, loud, and hard. They laughed until their sides ached. They laughed until tears rolled down their cheeks and they were gasping for air. They heard the startled shouts from below of their older counterparts who heard them laughing.

Shit, Rick, think they heard us?

N-no shit, Lee!

Rick snickered and wiped away tears of mirth. “Looks like it really is gonna be Rick and Lee for a hundred years!”

“Rick and Lee forever!” said Stan with a laugh.

They both decided not to mention that the Old Rick and Stan’s relationship seemed far past platonic, and that seemed to be in the direction they were headed. One step at a time, right?

It was a beautiful night for laughter.

Chapter Text

Stan and Rick spent most of the next day fixing up the car. It needed new paint in the places it had been scratched, the fender had to be reattached, and the tires had been busted by the landing. Rick was very quick with the tools, and Stan was patient with the paint. He knew he’d have to add another coat sometime, but at least it didn’t look like shit on wheels, anymore.

Stan pulled the jack out from under the car. “Three tires down, one to go!”

There was a sound of something sparking, a muttered curse, then music started blasting through the car. It shut off immediately.

Rick poked his head out. “I tinkered with your radio. You can play tapes, again.”

“Thanks, Rick.”

“Hi, Not-Grunkle Stan!” That Mabel girl skipped over to the car they were working on. “I brought you lemonade and sandwiches!”

“Aren’t you just a peach,” said Stan, taking a glass and a sandwich. He took a sip and a bite. “Mm! Good.”

“Thank you! It has extra glitter in it, just for you!”

“You don’t say?” he said, amused.

Rick stepped out of the car, took his lemonade and peanut-butter sandwich, then he discreetly poured some whisky into it. “W-what brought on this random act of kindness?”

“I’m just a kind person,” she said, her hand over her heart. “Besides, it’s hot out.”

“Very true.” Stanley decided not to point out that wearing a sweater probably made her even hotter. Ford always wore sweaters, too. Maybe a sweater-gene runs in the family? He took a bite of his sandwich, raised an eyebrow, and pulled back. “Is that an m&m?”

“Yep! For luck and flavour.” She sat on a stump by the house, her chin in her hands. “So Not-Grunkle-Stan, why did Not-Grunkle-Rick steal your car in the first place?”

Stan paused, then turned to Rick. “More to the point, it was out of gas. How did you get it started?”

“I-I had a little bit of fuel in my backpack,” said Rick. “I’d been hitchhiking for nearly two hours. I-it was enough to get me into town, where I gassed up.”

“Did you see me when you drove by?”

“Y-yeah. You looked like a highway bum.”

Stan huffed. “Jackoff.”

“Pussy.”

Mabel giggled. “You’re just like my Grunkles!”

“D-duh, kid,” said Rick, rolling his eyes. “We’re alternate versions of your Grunkles. Of course we’re like them.”

“I mean, the way you talk to each other,” she said. “I’ve met alternate versions of my Grunkles, before. Not all of them are as nice to each other as you guys are.”

“Oh,” said Stan. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that, exactly.

“I’ve met other Mabels, too!” she said cheerily. “I think my favourite was Mermabel, she’s a pink mermaid!”

“Neat,” said Stan. “Was there a mermaid version of me?”

“Nah, Mermabel was with Gar-Grunkle Stan. He was a gargoyle.”

Stan was fully ready to accept this. He could totally see his older self as a gargoyle. “Cool.”

Rick knocked back the rest of his lemonade in one gulp. “Pass me the Jack, Lee.”

Stan grabbed it and passed it to him. “One more tire to do.”

“P-put on some music. None of that old swing crap you like. M-m-make it punk rock.”

“That screaming stuff? Ugh, no.”

Rick gave him a sly look. “W-what if I say please?”

Stan gave him a look. “Please? Ugh, that word gives me a burning sensation.”

“W-would you do it for a kiss?” teased Rick, forgetting for a moment that Mabel hadn’t walked away yet.

Stan blushed. “Um.”

Rick pecked him on the cheek and lingered for just a few moments. When he pulled away, he was wearing a shit-eating grin and his face was red.

Stan huffed, reached into the car, and turned on the radio. He fiddled with the dial until “London Calling” was blasting through the speakers.

“Eeeee!”

Rick and Stan turned. Mabel was still sitting there, her hands on her cheeks, her eyes starry.

“Just like Soos’s fanfiction!” she said in a hushed whisper.

“D-don’t you have somewhere to be?” snapped Rick, his face still red.

“Nope! It’s summer! Take care, young lovers!” she said in a sing-song voice as she skipped off to play with her brother.

Rick sighed. “J-jeez. Is that in our future?”

“She seems well-meaning,” said Stan. “Not sure about that Dippy kid, though. He looks like he sweats too much.”

“And what about M-M-Morty,” said Rick. “He looks like he’s got a sex doll s-squirreled away in his bedroom.”

“Don’t judge,” said Stan, pointing at Rick as he slid the jack under the car. “Puberty does weird stuff to a kid. I remember well enough.”

“Yeah, yeah, I-I don’t need to hear about your sweaty, acne-ridden teenaged sexual exploits.” He cranked the car up, grabbed a wrench, and started taking the bolts off the tire.

Stan chuckled. “I spent most of my teens hanging out with my brother. We were inseparable… until I fucked up.” He let out a heavy sigh.

Rick didn’t say anything for a few minutes. He took off the hubcap and the busted tire, put the other one on, and started tightening the bolts back in.

“I-if it makes you feel any better,” said Rick quietly. “If you hadn’t been kicked out, we never would’a met.”

Stan smiled a little. “Y’know? It kinda does.”

There was a quiet throat clearing.

Stan looked up.

It was that Morty kid. He gave an awkward wave. “H-hi, Stan.”

“Hey.”

“H-hi, Rick.”

Rick gave a grunt.

“Um, Rick said… I-I mean my Rick. Grandpa Rick. He said that you guys are from Earth Dimension G-376.”

Rick perked up. He seized a scrap of paper from the car and scribbled the number down. “Th-thanks, M-Morty.”

“The G refers to the rarity of your universe, or the probability of being on the Central Finite Curve,” said Morty, reciting what his grandpa had taught him. “I’m sure you know that even though there are infinite universes, not all of them are accessible to us, yet. While the possibility of any conceivable reality exists, some of them are more probable than others. F-for example, the probability of you eating pizza in your life is high so that’s an “A” reality, but the probability of you becoming pizza in your life is very, very low, so that’s a “Z”. Universes are rated on that scale.”

Rick pretended to know this. This Morty kid was sharper than he looked. “Right, duh.”

“Anyway, th-th-the 376 is your designation. Sometimes there are other numbers attached onto the coordinate, usually sp-specifying some kind of trend amongst the m-multiverses. The coordinates of your Earth are 10-567, 77756-3, 45628-001. P-punch that into your portal gun and you should pop out in Northern California. Oh, here.” He handed Rick the portal gun. “I updated it.”

“You did?” asked Rick. It had a proper screen, multiple dials, and a strange green bulb on top. It was sleeker and safer than the one he’d been using, before. Maybe he’d misjudged Morty’s intelligence. He shot Morty a glare. “Hey, did you steal this so you could fix it?”

“It was lying on the seat beside you while you slept,” said Morty, rolling his eyes. “It wasn’t hard. But yeah, I-I fixed it up. Grandpa Rick told me what to do. I’m a l-l-little slow.” He laughed at his own self-beratement.

Rick pressed a button on the side and scrolled through the saved dimensions. One of them was labelled “HOME”. Another was labelled “GRAVITY FALLS”. Another was labelled “COUNCIL OF RICKS”.

“I also saved the coordinates for this dimension, in case you need anything. M-my Rick told me to tell you not to come back, but my Stan told me you could. He also said you could stay for dinner, if you want?”

“I’m always DTF,” said Stan.

Rick waggled his eyebrows.

Morty turned red. “Um…?”

“Down to Feed!” said Stan with a laugh. “Get your mind outta the gutter!”

Morty gave a nervous laugh. “Aha, you got me!” He dashed off, back into the Mystery Shack.

Rick finished putting the tire on and tightening the bolts. Stan ate the rest of his sandwich, enjoying the crunch of m&ms between his teeth. It was quiet, except for the punk music on the radio and the sound of Soos’s hammer a he fixed the hole in the wall of the shack.

“Hey, Lee?”

“Yeah, Rick?”

“W-we don’t have to go back to Earth, right away. We could go back to our dimension, explore space? Maybe meet some hot alien babes?”

Stan shifted a little. “I dunno, Rick.”

“But babes, Lee!”

“I’m not sure, Rick…”

“How about this,” he said, sitting up on the hood of the car, next to Stan. “W-we go to a bar. An alien bar! Could be fun!”

“Heh, sure.”

Stan didn’t sound too enthusiastic. Rick nudged him with his shoulder.

“W-what’s on your mind, Lee?”

“I dunno…”

“Spill.”

Stan gave a small shrug. “Just… seeing Ford dragged up a lot of old hurt, y’know? I wanna go talk to my Ford, but… I’m worried he’ll hate me even more than he did when I left. Hatred does that. It festers and boils away at you as more time passes.”

Rick grumbled to himself, scratching an itch on the back of his neck. “Lee, i-if Ford is as smart as you make him out to be, he’ll let you back into his life, n-no questions asked. You might have to scrap it out, but he’d be an idiot not to see how great you are.”

“You think so?” asked Stan.

“I-I know so. If he’s still mad at you, he’s a dumbass. Y-you’re the best person I’ve ever met.”

Stan jostled him with his shoulder. “Thanks, Rick. But…” He heaved a sigh. “I dunno if I’m ready to go talk to him, yet. I wanna stick with you.”

“I-I wanna stick with you too, Lee.” Rick let himself lean against Stan. He draped an arm around his shoulders. “Rick and Lee, a hundred years.”

“Rick and Lee forever,” said Stan.

 

It was pizza for dinner, that night. Old Stan and Rick sat on the sofa on the porch, watching the three kids chuck water balloons at each other. Stanford and Fiddleford crammed themselves on the same couch. Fiddleford had some tiny robot that he was tinkering with. Old Rick was half asleep.

Young Stan was with his Rick, sitting on the hood of the car and munching down their fourth slices of pizza.

“This is so… peaceful,” said Stan. “A sunset, kids laughing, good pizza…”

Rick grunted. He didn’t like peace, much. Peace was boring.

“This wouldn’t be a bad way to live out the last few years of my life,” said Stan.

Rick wrinkled his nose. “It’s so… domestic. Where’s the booze? Where’s the adventure?”

Stanford turned his head towards Young Rick when he heard this. “You think we don’t have adventures?”

Rick rolled his eyes. “Duh! Y-you’re old!”

Old Stan snorted. “We don’t live here! This is where we spend our summer holidays. The rest of the year, we’re off sailing on the Stan O’ War II.”

That hit Young Stan like a punch in the chest. “We… go treasure hunting?”

“More like hunting for monsters,” said Stanford.

“I punch them!” said Old Stan.

Young Stan took a bite of his pizza and chewed it thoughtfully. He swallowed. “Maybe being old won’t be so bad.”

Ugh, what I wouldn’t give to have a twenty-year-old body!” said Old Stan, stretching his neck and popping his back.

“Or a twenty-year-old mind,” added Fiddleford.

“So, Lee,” said Rick, tossing his paper plate aside. “R-ready to go be young, again?”

“Sure,” said Stan. “What do you have in mind?”

Rick tried to snap his greasy fingers, wiped them on his shirt, and snapped them again, successfully. “Got it! I-I know this sick place in our universe. I went there once before! It’s called Blips and Chitz. It’s got everything! Arcade games, booze, babes, all kinds of candy, food from every known planet, and rooms we can crash in! It’s perfect!”

Stan grinned. He always had a weakness for video games. “Alright, let’s do it!”

Rick grabbed his portal gun and fiddled with the dial. He found dimension G-376, and scanned through galactic coordinates to find Blips and Chitz.

Stanley got in the car, behind the wheel. “Ready to rock?”

“Only always!” Rick slid into the passenger side.

Stan started up the motor. It purred like a kitten. He cranked up the radio, leaving it on the punk rock station. They pulled the car out and around, stopping for a second in front of their older counterparts.

“Heading out so soon?” asked Fiddleford.

“W-we got bigger fish to fry,” said Young Rick. “See you guys around, but probably not!”

“See ya, chumps!” said Old Stan.

“Wait!” Stanford jumped up and ran to the car, putting his hands on the door. “Stanley, do you remember the advice I gave you?”

Stanley raised an eyebrow. “Uh… be gentle with you when I talk to you?”

“Don’t go near the portal,” said Ford firmly, “and if you meet a triangle named Bill Cipher, don’t trust him. He’s one of the few beings in the multiverse who’s aware of the multiverse and all its complexities. He lives for chaos. He tricked me, don’t let him trick you.”

Stan nodded once. “Got it. Don’t trust Bill.”

Stanford stepped away from the car. “Good luck, you two.”

“Luck ain’t got nothin’ to do with it!” said Young Rick. He shot a portal before them. “Let’s get outta here, Lee!”

Stanley whooped as he revved the engine and zoomed into the green portal. He saw Dipper, Mabel, and Morty in the rearview mirror, waving to them as they left.

 

The portal disappeared as they passed through it.

Stanford sighed. “Please don’t let him make my mistakes.”

Stanley scratched his head, under his beanie. “Hey, Rick? Did you ever give them a charger for that gun?”

Rick raised his brow. “Whoops.”

Stan snickered. “Eh, they’ll figure it out.”

Chapter Text

Stan hadn’t been to an arcade in years, and he hadn’t been to an arcade like this ever!

Blips and Chitz was heaven, pure and simple. He and Rick converted their last few thousand bucks into flurbos and went wild. They drank, partied, played video games, played pool, played a weird version of space pool with extra-long cues and tiny creatures as the balls, bet on hovercraft races, and drank some more.

They met alien babes with four breasts, alien dudes with twelve hands and green skin, and this one guy who was eight feet tall and covered in fur. They gambled and won, then they spent their winnings on more booze and more games.

It was amazing. No cops to ruin their fun, no moral quandaries to deal with, just booze, games, and his best-friend-maybe-something-more. Stan hadn’t felt this carefree in years. Rick hadn’t felt this happy since… maybe ever?

On the sixth day, Stan woke up in the bathtub of their room with a necktie around his forehead like a bandanna, his clothes soaked in slime. His head pounded and he groaned, dragging himself to a sitting position.

Rick was curled up on the floor beside the tub, his head resting against the cupboard and his foot jammed up against the toilet.

Eurg. ” Stan wrinkled his nose at the smell of vomit, reached over, and flushed the toilet.

Rick sat up with a groan. His black hair was plastered to his head on one side, and just as wild as it usually was on the other. He looked a little green, and the bags under his eyes were darker than usual.

“Morning, sunshine,” said Stan.

“F-f-fuck off, Lee.”

Stan looked over at the counter, eyes fuzzy, and squinted. “Why do we have a salamander?”

Rick rubbed at his eyes. “I-it’s a quarxian axolotl, Lee. We won it when we played poker last night, remember?”

“Honestly, the last few days are kind of a blur. The best blur ever. ” He looked down at his front. “Rick, where did all this slime come from?”

“S-some mucho-trivian girl wanted to have her way with “the cutest bipedals she ever saw”, remember?” Rick rubbed his temples and groaned. “ Ah, Madre de Dios! Duele.”

“How far did she get with us?”

“All the way. Y-you’re covered in her eggs.” Rick stood and cricked his back. “Sh-she liked you, better.”

Eugh! ” Stan scrambled to his feet and started tearing off his clothes, glad he was in the shower. “I’m not gonna be a dad, am I?”

“Not unless y-you’ve got a bucket of mucho-trivian semen in you.”

“Ew.” Stan dumped his clothes in the trash since there would be no way that he could possibly wear that shirt again, pulled the shower curtain shut, and started to run the water.

It was scorching hot, just the way he liked it. He scrubbed the slime from his hair, wrinkling his nose when he found out just how much of it had gotten matted in his chest hair. He felt a little more awake and painfully sober. His mouth tasted like the floor of his car.

He let out an undignified squeak when Rick opened the shower curtain.

“Room for one more?” he asked with a lazy grin.

Stan gave a so-so gesture with his hand. “Not really.” The shower was cramped, and the stream of water was weak.

“Eh, I-I’m a skinny guy. B-budge over.” Rick climbed in and pressed himself up against Stanley, his chin resting on his shoulder.

Stan was bright red. Rick was naked and touching him , and if he wasn’t so fucking hungover he’d be hard as a rock. That said, he really wasn’t in the mood to do this, especially not while he’s washing eggs out of his chest hair.

“Rick,” he said, “I know we haven’t had much of a chance to fool around yet, but this isn’t how I wanna do it.”

It was true. Besides a few kisses over the pool table, a groped ass while waiting at the buffet, and that mucho-trivian girl who slimed over them both (while not letting them touch each other or take their clothes off?) the last week was filled strictly with games and booze.

Not that Stan hadn’t wanted to push Rick up against the wall and kiss him stupid. He was just too busy playing Roy.

“Nah, me neither.” Rick wrapped his arms around Stan’s stomach. “Just wanna stand here.”

“With me?”

“W-with you.”

“You gonna scrub up?”

“P-pass me the soap.”

Rick began to wash his hair and spike it back into its usual shape. Stan hummed to himself while he got the last bit of egg-slime out of his chest hair.

“Showering with my best friend, doodly-doo… Getting eggs outta my chest hair, deedly-dee… This is feeling kinda gay, doodly-doo…”

“Th-this is super gay, Lee,” said Rick, sliding past him so he could stand under the faucet.

“I didn’t say it was bad,” said Stan with a grin, casting a not-so-subtle glance over Rick’s body.

Rick smirked and leaned in for a kiss.

It was sloppy and clumsy. Stan wrapped his arms around Rick’s neck to bring him in closer, tilting his head to get a better angle. Their teeth clicked together and their noses bumped, but soon they got the right rhythm. It was nothing like kissing a girl… it was infinitely better. But he supposed it was just because it was Rick.

Rick ran his hands over his chest and shoulders, pulling him in close. He nipped at his lip then lowered his mouth to suck a hickey into Stan’s neck.

Fuck, ” groaned Stan, shivering against him. He ought to be ashamed of himself, but he really wasn’t.

Rick chuckled and moved up to kiss him again.

Stan shifted a bit and they knocked heads.

“Ow,” they both groaned, holding their throbbing heads. Their hangovers returned with the full force of a tsunami.

Stan’s eyes were watering. “Aspirin?”

“Sure.” Rick shut off the shower and climbed out of the tub. He wobbled, then he pitched forward, grabbing onto the toilet and dry heaving.

“Jesus christ!” Stan grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his waist. “Rick, are you okay?”

Rick didn’t move. He gave a thumbs up.

Stan reached around the axolotl tank, grabbed a glass and filled it, then a washcloth and soaked it, handing both to Rick.

“Th-thanks.” Rick rinsed his mouth, spat in the toilet, then drained the glass in one gulp.

“I’m gonna get us some clothes,” said Stan. “How much money do we have left for breakfast?”

“Uh, we should have some flurbos that we won,” mumbled Rick, the washcloth now on the back of his neck. “Sh-should be in a green duffel bag.”

Stan stepped out into the hotel room and cringed. The place was trashed. The sheets were strewn over the floor, the TV was on its side, their clothes were tossed everywhere, the carpet was soaked with booze, and the door was cracked open. There was no green duffel bag in sight.

“Um, Rick?”

“What?”

“I think we were robbed.”

“N-no,” said Rick. He stumbled out into the hotel room, blinking blearily. “N-not possible. W-we’re robbers, we don’t get robbed!

“Well, we did.” Stan spotted a bill on the ground and stooped to grab it.

“H-how much we got left?” asked Rick, leaning heavily against the wall.

Stan held up the bill. He felt sick to his stomach, and it wasn’t just the hangover. “Five.”

“Five thousand? F-five hundred?”

“Nope. Five.”

“Five flurbos!” cried Rick, his hands in his hair. “Th-that’s not even enough to clean between your toes with!”

Stan winced at the loud noise. He closed the door and locked it, then flopped onto the bed. “I feel like shit.”

“W-we need to get outta here, Lee!” said Rick stumbling over to him. “B-before they get us to pay for the room!”

“In a minute.” Stan yawned and scratched his stomach. “Sleep, now.”

Rick launched himself at Stan and furiously began to tickle him, his long fingers reaching over his stomach and chest and into his armpits.

Stop! ” cried Stan. “ No! Don’t- don’tyoudare!

He shoved Rick off of him. Rick rolled over, off the bed, and onto the floor with a thump.

“I guess I’ll add “tickled by a naked man” on my list of things I did today,” said Stan, wiping the sweat from his forehead. He tossed his towel aside, found a pair of boxers, and pulled them on.

Rick whined from his place on the floor. “D-do you have to get dressed?”

Stan found a shirt, sniffed it, decided it didn’t smell too bad and pulled it on. “Yep.”

“I-I had no idea you were ticklish,” said Rick with a wicked grin. “It was just a guess.”

Stan laid the back of his hand over his forehead. “Well, now you know my secret! I have ticklish armpits! I implore you to use this knowledge for good and not evil!”

“N-no promises.”

They dressed, knocked back a few aspirin pills, and packed up their clothes. It was a slow process, since they’d gotten about three hours of sleep the night before, between gambling and getting egged in the grossest way possible.

Stan stood in the bathroom, staring at the tiny tank with the axolotl in it. “Uh, Rick? What about the salamander?” He wanted to keep it. He didn’t know why. Its pale skin and big eyes were creepy, but he liked it a lot.

“F-flush it down the toilet,” said Rick from the other room. He was loading bullets into his gun.

“What? No way!” Stan grabbed the tank in both hands and carried it into the hotel. “It’s coming with us!”

“H-how are we gonna look after it, Lee?” asked Rick, holstering his weapon. “I-it’s gonna die with us and you know it!”

“Maybe it won’t! We can take it with us, and raise it to be a strong salamander with questionable morals and good fighting skills! We can be its dads!”

Rick scowled at him. “A-are you still high?”

Stan squinted at the axolotl. It floated in its tank serenely. “No, I just like small things that look weird. I like you, don’t I?”

“Har har. But seriously, we can’t take care of it.”

“There’s room in the trunk of the Stan-Mobile. He can stay with us and be our mascot! Isn’t that right-”

“No, don’t-”

“-Stan Junior?”

“-name it. Fuck. Y-you named it.” Rick groaned and grabbed the tank from Stan. “Fine! I-I’ll carry your stupid salamander if you carry everything else.”

“Thanks, babe.” Stan pecked him on the cheek.

“Babe?” asked Rick, amused and blushing.

Stan picked up their backpacks and bag full of clothes. “What’s wrong with that? Would you prefer sweetheart?”

“I-I’d prefer Your Majesty.”

“Don’t break an arm jerkin’ yourself off, Your Majesty.

Rick laughed and gave him a nudge as they left the hotel room.

 

The car bumped and skidded on the dirt road when it landed back on Earth, the swirling green portal closing shut behind it.

“Home sweet home!” crowed Stan. “I never thought I would miss this miserable dimension!”

“Eh, I can still take it or leave it. The only good thing this dimension made was you.”

“Aw, shucks,” said Stan, jostling Rick with his elbow. “Anyway, where are we?”

“N-northern California,” said Rick, stashing the portal gun in the glove compartment. “W-we need cash, stat.”

“I still have our ski masks,” said Stan. “And it’s nighttime. Wanna rob someone?”

“Y-yeah, sure. How about a convenience store?”

“How convenient! ” Stan snickered.

“Sh-shut up, Lee! P-pass me my revolver!”

Stan passed Rick the gun and pulled the car into the parking lot of a 7-11. He pulled on his dorky ski-mask, grabbed his gun, and cocked it.

“Ready?” asked Stan.

“Always!” said Rick.

The two of them stepped out of the car, sprinted across the parking lot, and burst into the 7-11.

“Hands in the air!” yelled Stan, waving his gun threateningly.

“D-don’t anybody move!” shouted Rick.

Five police officers turned to face them, each holding a pack of cigarettes or a box of doughnuts. Four of them dropped their merchandise and grabbed their guns.

“Oh, shit,” said Stan, raising his hands above his head.

“Oh, shit,” agreed Rick.

Chapter Text

“Well, this is great!” Stan paced back and forth in the cell, seething. “Just fuckin’ dandy!”

“Lee, sh-shut up,” said Rick from his place on the bench. “Y-you’re giving me a headache.”

“Rick, they’ve got my car! Our car! We got no weapons, no portal gun, and no Stan Junior! We’re gonna get shipped off to some friggin’ prison and that’ll be that! We got no money for lawyers, no nothing!” He slumped back onto the bench. “Shit. We’re fucked.”

“Listen,” said Rick, looping an arm around Stan’s shoulders. “N-no matter what happens, it’s Rick and Lee a hundred years! I-I still got your back.”

“Rick and Lee forever,” grumbled Stan, squeezing Rick’s knee.

“W-we need an escape plan,” said Rick, scratching his chin.

“Got any ideas, wise guy?”

“So far, n-not really. Just that maybe you could use those muscles o’ yours and rip the bars off the window, or we could shrink down and flush ourselves down the toilet.”

Stan looked over at the toilet. There was no seat and it was encrusted in filth and grime. “Um, no to that second one. And unless I turn into the Hulk, that first thing isn’t happening, either.”

“Then I guess we only have one course of action.” Rick reached into his sock and pulled out a joint. “Get stoned in jail.”

Stan wrinkled his nose. “Oh, ew. It’s gonna taste like your sweaty feet.”

“A-a joint’s a joint. Got a lighter?”

“Yeah, on an inside pocket.” He rummaged around in his leather jacket and produced a lighter. He flicked it open and held it to the joint.

The fire caught and the end of the joint smouldered. Rick put it in his mouth and inhaled, then exhaled a cloud of smoke.

“It’s pretty weak,” said Rick, but his posture said otherwise. He slumped down onto the bench, a slightly dazed expression on his face.

Stan plucked it from his mouth and took a pull. He felt all the tension leave his body. He took another pull and exhaled, breathing smoke into the cell. He sighed. “This is nice. Getting stoned in jail.”

Rick snatched it back and put it to his lips. “Only the finest of adventures for Rick and Lee.”

“Cheers to that.”

They jerked up when they heard footsteps. Rick jumped up onto the bench and tossed the joint out between the bars of the open window.

The guard stepped up to the cell and glowered. He looked at the smoke, he looked at Rick and Stan and their bloodshot eyes, and he took a deep breath. He grimaced at the scent of weed.

“How did you two smuggle drugs into your cell?”

“What drugs?” said Stan.

“I-I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Rick, crossing his arms.

Stan snickered.

Rick giggled.

Soon, the two of them were laughing, Rick’s arm slung over Stan’s shoulder, Stan’s forehead pressed against Rick’s neck.

The guard was not amused. He folded his arms and waited, tapping his foot.

“You boys are in a heap of trouble,” he said flatly.

Rick wiped away a tear of mirth, still chuckling. “Oh, really?”

“Trouble, double, trouble, double,” said Stan, enjoying the way those words sounded.

“W-what’re you saying?” said Rick wearing a silly, dazed grin.

“There’s two of us,” said Stan, forcing a serious expression onto his face. “So we’re double the trouble. Double trouble.”

Rick snorted. Stan muffled his laugh behind his hand. It wasn’t funny in the least, but to them in that moment, it was hilarious.

The guard exhaled through his nostrils. “I don’t know if you expect us to believe that all those weapons in your car were bought legally, but you’re both idiots if you think we’re gonna fall for that. Want me to read the charges that have been laid against you two, so far?”

“Go ahead,” said Stan.

Rick made a flamboyant gesture with one hand. “Proceed!”

The officer cleared his throat and opened his notebook. “Attempted robbery, possession of illegal substances, possession of illegal and unregistered weapons, forgery of identification, petty theft, unregistered license plate, not to mention the other weird shit we’ve found in your car that you need to explain.”

Rick thought about the portal gun and he paled. It was his life’s work, and he hoped to god that those idiot cops hadn’t busted it up.

“Turn around and put your hands on the wall,” said the guard. “We need to ask you guys a few questions.”

Stan grumbled and did as he was told, and Rick copied him.

“We gotta get our stuff back,” hissed Rick.

“How?” asked Stan as the guard approached.

“Y-you’re better at on-the-spot thinking, I’m better at science. Y-you think of something.”

“Gee, maybe we shouldn’t have gotten stoned.”

“W-we’re only a little stoned.”

The guard cuffed the two of them and steered them out of the smoky cell, down the hall of the police detachment, and into a tiny room with three chairs and a table.

A police officer sat at the table. Rick and Stan sat across from him, their cuffed hands resting on the table.

“You gentleman are currently looking at twelve years in jail for the crimes you’ve been accused of,” said the officer. His nametag said “Bob Tess”. “We found these.” He dropped a box on the table. It was full of fake IDs, passports, and driver’s licences, all made by Stan. “I don’t suppose you’d care to tell us your real name, Steve Pinington? Or is it 8-Ball Alcatraz?”

“Stu Peppers,” said Stan. “And this is my partner, Ricardo Salt.”

Officer Tess raised an eyebrow. “Salt and Peppers? Do you think I’m stupid?”

“Of c-course not,” said Rick, eyes wide in mock shock. “W-we wouldn’t want to insult you in any way!”

“Can you answer one simple question?” asked Officer Tess.

“Yes,” said Stan.

“Why did you two have a salamander in your car?”

“Whoa, buddy. You only said I had to answer one question, and I did! The answer was yes.

The officer gave him a bored look. “Why did you have a salamander in your car?”

“He’s my son,” said Stan. “I care for him very deeply and I will raise him to be big and strong. Next question.”

“Ugh, fine. What the hell is this? ” Officer Tess plopped the portal gun onto the table.

“Easy,” said Rick, his eyes bloodshot and unfocused. “I-it creates cotton candy.”

Stan raised an eyebrow at him.

Rick shrugged.

“Very funny,” said the officer. “What is it, really?”

“I-I wouldn’t lie to you!” said Rick in a fake concerned tone. “Would I?”

“Never!” said Stan. “Not ever! In fact, his nickname is “Honest Ricardo”!”

“We’ve taken a look at this gun,” said Officer Tess, ploughing on regardless, “and we’ve concluded that there’s no way you could have gotten your hands on the materials to make this through any legal means. The technology is… remarkable.”

“Th-thanks,” said Rick. “I-I had a little help from a parallel version of myself and his grandson.”

“Uh-huh. So you were responsible for its creation?”

“Maybe.”

“Sirs,” said the officer, exasperated. “I would like to point out that if you’re more cooperative, we might be more willing to assist you. It’s not looking good for you boys.”

“I think we look good,” said Stan.

Y-you look good,” said Rick with a goofy, flirty smile.

Stan waved him off. “Aw, shucks!”

“I’m going to give you queers one more chance to explain this technology,” said Officer Tess curtly. “We know it’s some kind of weapon. What is it?”

“I-it’s not a weapon,” said Rick. “It’s a portal gun.”

“Fine, be that way.” Officer Tess put the gun out of sight and placed a stack of papers on the table that were held together with a paperclip. “These are the charges that have been laid against you, in detail.”

“Wow,” said Stan, pulling the papers towards himself. He squinted at it and turned it around, trying to make out the letters.

“Y-you’re not wearing your glasses, idiot,” said Rick.

“I knew that,” said Stan with a scoff. He pushed the loose papers to Rick. “Here, you read ‘em.”

Rick shuffled through the papers, bored. He didn’t much care for stuff written on paper. Paper meant paperwork, paperwork meant bureaucrats, bureaucrats meant a headache. He pushed the papers back, bored already.

“I-it’s just the same stuff that other guy said,” said Rick.

Officer Tess heaved a weary sigh. “Look, you two idiots obviously couldn’t have gotten all this stuff on your own. Just tell us who you’re working for, and we’ll cut you some slack. I know a good lawyer who could whittle twelve years down to five or six.”

“W-we’re not working for anybody, asshole!” said Rick.

“We’re lone free rangers!” said Stan. “Like Grandpa the Kid!”

Rick gave him an exasperated look. “ Nobody likes that show.”

“I can relate to it!” said Stan defensively.

“ENOUGH!” shouted Officer Tess. “You idiots are going back to your cell!”

“What about our phone calls?” asked Stan.

“Ugh, fine! Not like it’s gonna do you much good. You’ll be lucky if you don’t die in prison.”

Stan and Rick were ushered out of the interrogation room and into the hall where the phones were.

“Make it snappy,” said the guard.

“I-I have no one to call,” said Rick as they walked over to the phone.

Stan picked up the receiver. “I do.”

“G-go ahead. I-I’m totally eavesdropping, though.”

Stanley dialled the number for Ford’s dorm and held the phone to his ear. He remembered the number that his Ma had given him a few months back and prayed that it hadn’t changed. He twirled the phone cord around one of his thick fingers as it rang, listening to Rick whistle something that sounded like one of the “doing things” ditties Stan liked to hum.

“I-is this gonna get us outta here?” asked Rick.

“Probably not,” said Stan. “I just haven’t been anywhere near a phone for the last two weeks and I wanna build some bridges.”

“What?” Rick glared at him. “A-are you serious, Lee? I-I thought that this was all so we could g-get your nerd brother to bail us out or something!”

“Relax, Rick. I’ve got a plan to get us outta here. It’s a good one, too.”

“Sure. I-I’m willing to bet it relies on improvisation more than a-anything.”

Stan gave him a sly look. “Hey, you said I was better at on-the-spot thinking!”

Rick muttered and grumbled to himself under his breath.

Hello? ” said the voice in Stan’s ear.

“Um.”

So much for on-the-spot thinking. There was so much he wanted to say to Ford, but he was strapped for time and he wasn’t sure how much of it he wanted to let Rick hear. He wanted to say something that wouldn’t make Ford want to hang up on him immediately. In the end, after a few seconds of debate, he settled for something sophisticated, eloquent, and would surely win him his brother’s sympathy.

“Hi, Ford.”

“Smooth,” said Rick, rolling his eyes.

There was silence on the end of the line for a few achingly long moments.

“I’m in jail, this is my phone call,” he said quickly, panicking. “Please don’t hang up.”

More silence.

What do you want, Stanley?

His voice came as a relief, but it sparked anger in Stan’s chest. His hand tightened around the receiver. “I-I call you for the first time in four years and all you can say is “what do you want”? What the fuck, Ford?”

I don’t have any money, if that’s what you’re wondering.

“What- aw, fuck, Ford. I don’t give a shit about that. I-I just…” He let out a heavy sigh. “I wanted to talk to you.”

Well, we’re talking, ” said Ford. “ What do you want to talk about? Maybe about how you cost me my dream school?

“Can’t you at least be civil? Maybe even sympathetic?”

I’m civil. This is me being civil.

“Ford, are seriously you still hung up about what I did? I-I made one dumb mistake. I was seventeen, I didn’t know any better, and I swear to god that I didn’t do it on purpose. Do I really deserve to be punished for the rest of my life?”

There was a long pause, like Ford was considering it.

“I-if you say yes, ” said Rick, pushing Stan’s face out of the way so he could speak into the receiver, “I-I will personally hunt you down and kill you. Lee deserves better than y-your shit.

Stan, who the hell was that? ” asked Ford, who sounded caught between baffled and frightened.

Stan shoved his friend away so he couldn’t smell his weed breath, anymore. “That’s just Rick.”

“Hey,” said Rick, jamming his face against Stan’s.

Um, hi. Is he a friend of yours?

“Something like that,” said Stan flatly.

“F-fellow conspirator, partner in crime, lover , take your pick!” added Rick.

“Rick shut the fuck up!” snapped Stan, shoving him away.

Ford chuckled. Stan hadn’t heard that sound in so long, and with it he realized that he was maybe, just a tiny bit, forgiven.

Rick winked and silently mouthed, “ You’re welcome .”

I guess you’re right, Stan, ” said Ford. “ We were kids. I don’t forgive you, but… I can’t hold onto a grudge forever, can I? How are you not furious at me?

“For what? Like you said, we were kids. Not like you could go against Dad’s word when he kicked me out.” He blew a stray hair from his eyes. “Good ol’ Dad.”

Ford coughed awkwardly. He was very good at being awkward. “ So, um. You’re in jail?

What an icebreaker. Good job, Ford.

“For now,” said Stan with all the certainty of somebody who didn’t plan on being there for very long.

Do you, like, need bail money or…?

“No, we’re figuring something out.”

Okay, whatever you say. You sound real rough. You alright?

“I’m coming down from a pretty strong high and I’m still feeling hungover from a solid week of drinking and partying so… Not feeling great right now.”

Holy shit. Stan, what’s going on? Are you okay?

“I’m in jail, as we established, so I’d say so-so.” Stan looked over his shoulder at the guard who was approaching. “Ford, where can I meet you?”

Ford sounded flustered. “ Um, I dunno! I’m going to this place called Gravity Falls, just-

“Talk to you soon, bro! The guard’s coming. Bye!” He hung up just as the nightguard walked over.

“Are you two quite done?” he asked.

“Yep,” said Rick.

“Just called our lawyer,” said Stan.

“B-best in the country,” added Rick.

“Sure. Back to your cell, boys.”

The two of them were shuffled back into their cell, their cuffs were removed, and the cell door was locked behind them.

“N-now would be a good time to start enacting that plan o’ yours,” said Rick, his arms folded.

“Don’t worry,” said Stan pulling out the paperclip he’d swiped. “I’m already on it.”

Rick snorted. “Y-you had that with you the whole time?”

“I’m always one for the dramatic reveal.” He lowered his voice. “I’ve done this before. We’re gonna pretend to sleep for a bit, right? When the lights get dimmed after midnight, we make our move.”

“Sure.”

“Just don’t actually fall asleep.”

Rick stretched out on the bench and yawned. “Sure, whatever.”

Stan stretched out beside him, one arm slung around Rick’s skinny waist. It wasn’t an ideal position, but at least he wouldn’t fall asleep.

Rick fell asleep within minutes. His snoring echoed around the cell.

Stan concentrated on his sore shoulder pressed against the cold, hard bench and the idea of escape to keep him awake.

After half an hour of no stirring in the rest of the police department, Stan gently shook Rick awake.

“Let’s go,” he whispered.

Rick sat up and watched blearily as Stan reached his huge hand through the bars and picked the lock to the cell with his paperclip. Rick grumbled and laid back down.

What’re you doing? ” hissed Stan.

“M-more sleep,” he moaned, rolling over. Snoring echoed quietly in the cell.

Stan groaned. He went over and shook Rick. He didn’t stir.

He gently patted at his face. Still no reaction beyond a snort in his sleep.

Finally, Stan grabbed his arm, dragging him off of the bench.The thump echoed through the police department.

Stan quickly and quietly pulled the door shut and hid the paperclip in his palm as a guard walked around.

“What’s going on?” he demanded, shining the flashlight into Stan’s face.

“Nothing,” he said. “My friend rolled off the bench in his sleep, that’s all.”

“Ow,” said Rick from his place on the floor.

The guard narrowed his eyes at him as he walked away.

Stan remained motionless until his footsteps died away. “C’mon,” he whispered, pushing the door open. “Let’s get the portal gun and Stan Junior.”

“Christ, will you shut up about that stupid salamander?” asked Rick as they tiptoed through the police department.

“Not until you admit he’s adorable!” he whispered as they found the door to the evidence locker.

“W-work your magic,” said Rick as Stan knelt to pick the lock.

“I am, I am, jeez.” After a few painful minutes of Stan toying with the lock, and Rick jumping at every sound that breezed through the building, the door swung open.

“... two idiots are gonna be locked away for a long, long time,” said a voice as footsteps approached.

“What assholes, ” said another voice.

Shit! ” whispered Rick, pushing Stan into the room. “ Go, go, go!

They stumbled into the evidence locker. Stan quickly found his car keys in a bin, Rick found his portal gun, and they each grabbed as much as they could carry. They also found Rick’s bag of clothes and tools, and Stan’s duffel bag of clothes and dirty magazines. Stan grabbed his fake IDs and stuffed them into his bag along with two handguns, a pistol, and a shotgun. Rick found his knife, a revolver, a shotgun, and a machine gun.

Stan grabbed Stan Jr.

Are you for real? ” growled Rick as he peeked through the door, making sure the police officers had passed. They slipped out of the evidence locker.

“I’m for real!” retorted Stan, hefting the tiny tank under his arm. They crept quietly through the hallway, slowly but surely making their way towards the rear exit of the station. “I can’t just leave my son in police custody! I’m not a monster!”

J-Jesus Christ, Lee, keep your voice down!

“Sorry,” he whispered.

It wasn’t a large department. He could hear the night guard chatting with some of the other officers, and the sound of a coffee machine in the lounge. They slipped quietly past the door of the lounge. They were almost out, the back door was in plain sight, the dark of the night beyond.

Then, Rick dropped the revolver. He cursed, loud, long, and creatively.

The gun skittered across the floor, landing at the feet of the nightguard.

“How’d you two get out of your cell?” he asked, eyes wide and panicked.

“Uh,” said Rick.

Without hesitation, the guard pulled a gun on them.

“DROP YOUR WEAPONS!” he shouted, brandishing his weapon.

“Shit!” Stan dropped his bag but still tightly held Stan Junior.

What do we do? ” hissed Rick.

I have an idea, ” said Stan. “ Play along.

Rick gave him a questioning look which would have been adorable had they not been caught escaping jail by a night guard.

Fast footsteps approached and more police officers showed up, their guns at the ready.

“This is just great!” said Stan, throwing one hand up in the air as they approached, the other tightly wrapped around Stan Junior’s tank. “Why is it that whenever you lead, we always get caught?”

Rick caught on to the scheme quite quickly. “ Me? W-w-why is this my fault?” snapped Rick, giving Stan a little shove.

“When is it not your fault?” asked Stan, shoving him back. There was a glimmer of amusement in his eyes, even though his face was drawn in a very clearly put-on mask of anger. “Every plan you’ve come up with has ended in disaster!”

“Fellas, settle down-” started the night guard, but Rick and Stan didn’t listen to him.

“I-it has not, ” said Rick. “As far as I recall, robbing the convenience store was your idea!”

“Was not!”

“W-was too!”

“And who was it that got us lost in the first place?” asked Stan.

“At least I-I didn’t screw up so bad my dad kicked me out!”

Hurt shone behind Stan’s eyes and Rick cursed himself. He touched a nerve and he knew it. Shit.

“At least I have a family!” Stan said, giving Rick another shove.

“Oh, fuck you,” snapped Rick. Stanley’s comment hurt more than he could know. “Y-y-you don’t know my story!”

Stan turned himself so his back was facing the officers, who were still shouting at them to stop fighting and put their weapons down. “I know plenty! I know you’re a complete asshole to everyone you meet!” He lowered his voice. “ Portal gun, ” he hissed.

Rick shook himself, trying to shrug off Stan’s biting words. He grabbed the portal gun, spun several random coordinates, and shot several portals into the walls and floor. Swirling green created a block between them and the police officers.

“RUN!” shouted Stan, grabbing his bag.

Things came out of the portals. Killer bees, tentacles, water, slime, and sand. They all flooded into the police department. There were screams of terror from the police officers as they were pulled into the portals, attacked by swarms, or drenched by an ocean’s worth of water and snapping fish.

Stan and Rick didn’t look back as they sprinted away. A siren began to wail in the building as the two of them burst out the front door and into the parking lot.

“There!” Stan sprinted across the parking lot, over to the Stanley-Mobile. “Fuck! It’s booted!” He kicked the yellow boot strapped to the wheel of the car.

“Th-there’s a trick to it,” said Rick, grabbing a pair of pliers and a wrench from his backpack.

Stan, meanwhile, put Stan Junior into the back seat of the car and strapped him down tightly with a seatbelt.

“It’s not a child, Lee!” cried Rick as the boot came off and clattered to the concrete. “Let’s go!”

“He’s my son! ” protested Stan, slamming the car door shut. He leapt across the hood, climbed behind the wheel, and started the engine.

“Gun it!” shouted Rick, loading another saved coordinate onto the portal gun. Gravity Falls.

He tried to shoot another portal in front of the car.

The gun fizzled and died.

What? ” shouted Stan, eyes wide in the dark.

A little “low battery” sign flashed on the screen of the portal gun.

Fuck! ” shouted Rick, slamming his fist into the dash. “A-a-are you kidding me with this shit? Drive, get us outta here!”

“Our parallel selves are scumbags! ” shouted Stan as he cut the wheel and ripped out of the police department’s holding lot.

Rick cocked his gun just in case they were followed, but to their surprise, nobody came to pursue them. The sound of sirens faded into the distance as they drove North.

Rick guessed that nobody followed them because how were the police supposed to explain tentacles and monsters emerging from portals in their police station. The ones that survived were probably struggling to find an explanation about what happened and would likely prefer to forget the experience.

Stan didn’t say or think anything about their escape. His jaw was set rigidly as he drove, white-knuckled hands clutching the steering wheel.

“Did you mean it?” he asked after almost half an hour of driving.

“M-mean what?” asked Rick.

“About what you said back there in the station. When we were fighting. That I’m a screw-up.”

“W-w-we’re both screw-ups.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“I-I didn’t mean it,” he said, looking out the window at the passing telephone poles. “I-I just got carried away. I’m sorry.”

“I didn’t mean anything I said, either. You’re my favourite person.”

“You’re mine, too. F-f-forgive me?”

“Only if you admit that Stan Junior is our son.”

Rick gave an eyeroll and folded his arms, his gun dangling from his long, limp fingers. “Fine. He’s our son.”

Stan gave a small smile. “See? Was that so hard?”

Rick snorted. “Let’s just find a motel.”

Chapter Text

Stan pickpocketed a few drunks and the two of them scraped together enough money for a motel and some chips. It was four in the morning by the time they finally got to the room.

Stan flopped onto the motel bed and let out a heavy sigh. His shoulders ached beyond all belief, and his eyes were heavy. His fingers were greasy from his potato chip “dinner” and his mouth tasted like stale salt.

Rick collapsed next to him and wrapped his lanky limbs around him, one arm over his stomach, his legs tangling with Stan’s.

“Helluva day,” said Stan.

“Y-you’re telling me, querido*. ” Rick rested his head on Stan’s shoulder.

“What does querido mean?”

“I-it means dipshit.”

Stan snorted and rubbed at his eyes. “Nice. You should teach me Spanish. That would be cool.”

“Heh, yeah. C-could be cool.” Stan? Speaking Spanish? Holy shit. It was a sexy language, the language of lovers, and the idea hearing it in Stan’s wonderfully gruff voice made him pretty damn horny.

“Your dick seems to like that,” said Stan, sounding amused.

Rick couldn’t resist rutting against his leg to emphasize the point. “W-what can I say? Estoy caliente**.

“Nng, too tired for your horny bullshit,” said Stan, letting his head loll to the side.

Rick teased his fingers along Stan’s chest. “I-if you want, you could just lie there and I’ll do all the work?”

“Nice try, but I’m already falling… asleep…” Stan yawned. “Couldn’t keep my dick up if I tried.”

“True.” Rick yawned and curled even closer into Stan and his heat. “Sleep well, mi novio.***

Stan was already snoring. Rick pressed his icy feet against Stan’s leg, tucked his head under his chin, and fell asleep.

Even with the cops looking for them, he always felt safe in Stan’s arms.

 

They were on the road again bright and early, after about four hours of sleep. Stan was groggy and not in the best mood. Rick was downright exhausted and in an even worse mood. He didn’t care for all this sunshine, like, what the fuck kind of right does the sun have to be so damn bright?

They’d been driving for about three hours, and they were close to the California-Oregon border. The trees were tall, thick and green and the air smelled like hot asphalt and wildflowers. Rick put his feet up on the dashboard and lit a cigarette. He cranked the window down and let a fresh breeze blow in. “W-where are we going?”

“Gravity Falls,” said Stanley, twiddling with the knob on the radio. “Not like we got anything better to do.”

“We’ve got no gas money, Lee. L-look.” He pointed at the indicator. It was hovering dangerously close to empty. “D-do we even have enough to make it into town?”

Stan gave a shrug. “We’ll make it. Then we’ll sneak up to a gas station in the dead of night, fill up, and drive off. Easy.”

“W-we need money, Lee. Face it.”

“True. Well, I have an idea. It’s not illegal.”

“Sh-shoot.”

“Stanwiches!” he said with a stupid grin. “We buy loaves of bread at a discount, whip up lame baloney sandwiches, and sell them for two bucks a pop!”

“S-Stanwiches?” asked Rick. His voice was flat and monotone.

“I thought it was a good idea,” said Stan defensively.

Rick wasn’t in the mood to fight with him about Stanwiches. “No! N-no, it is, querido. L-let’s do it, you an’ me! We can make some money next to the food carts.”

“We’ll have to get a five-finger discount on the bread and meat,” said Stan. “We have nothing, remember?”

Rick glanced at the freeloader in the back seat. “I-I bet that salamander could sell for a few hundred bucks.”

Stan shot him a glare. “If you suggest we sell Stan Junior one more time , I swear to god-”

“Fine, fine! W-we can keep your slimy son.”

Our son.” Stan switched on the turning signal as he changed lanes. “Forget the Stanwiches. Dumb idea.”

“I-I thought it had potential.”

“No, it’s dumb.” He sighed. “So, we need money.”

“How about a burglary?” suggested Rick. “I-it’s safer than robbing someone at gunpoint.”

“Very true.”

“H-how much gas does your car have?”

The engine sputtered. Stan cut the wheel and managed to pull off and onto the shoulder before the engine died.

“I-I guess that answers my question,” said Rick. He blew a cloud of smoke out the window and rolled it up three-quarters of the way.

Stan thumped his fist against the wheel. “Fuck.”

“Now, what?”

“Now, we hitchhike.” Stan grabbed a duffel bag, loaded it with some clothes, their last bag of chips, and two handguns, and slammed the door shut behind him.

“W-where are we?” asked Rick, walking around to his side of the car.

“Buttfuck, California from the looks of it.” Stan turned when he saw a semi coming and stuck out his thumb. He was wearing the biggest, corniest grin imaginable, hoping to entice the driver into picking them up.

I didn’t work. A cigarette butt hit him on the shoulder as the truck passed. “ Ack! ” He brushed it off and stomped it out. “Asshole! He burned my shirt.”

Rick snorted. “Maybe I-I should try stick my thumb out, I’m the better looking one.”

Stan jostled him playfully. “You said yourself that I was!”

“Whoops, y-you got me.” Rick forced a small smile.

They stood there for a few minutes, Rick smoking his cigarette, Stan humming the “waiting song”.

No cars passed by for a whole half an hour.

“I-I guess we should start walking,” said Rick.

“But what about the Stan-Mobile? And Stan Junior?”

“Look.” Rick pointed down the road at a green sign with town names listed on it.

Stan squinted. “Can’t make it out.”

“Wear. Your. Glasses.”

“No! They make me look like a nerd!”

“God, y-you’re childish! The sign says that Buttfuck, California is ten miles away. W-we can walk that.”

“Fine, whatever. I can’t believe you’d abandon our son.

“Oh, for the love of-”

Stan pressed his face to the window. He could see the little salamander in his strapped-down tank, swimming around lazily.

“Dad’ll be back soon, Junior,” said Stan, his face smushed to the glass. “Just gotta steal from some suckers.”

“If you kiss it, I-I’m gonna puke.”

“Let’s just go.”

 

It was twilight by the time they got to the town. It was cute, quaint, and clean in the suburbs, but Rick and Stan were drawn to the scuzzy, scummy side like moths to a flame. They ended up in the downtown after dark, where the buildings were tall, crooked, and run-down. The alleys smelled like piss and puke, and nightclubs dotted the street, pouring music out onto the sidewalk. Nobody gave them a ride.

“I-I don’t know where we could find anyone worth stealing from ‘round here,” said Rick. “We’d have better luck out in suburbia.”

“We’re less likely to get picked up by the cops, here. It’ll take a few tries to get enough gas money, but it’ll be harder to get caught. I don’t wanna tempt fate, y’know?”

The streetlamp they were standing under flickered. The air was thick and muggy, and there were too many mosquitoes buzzing around. Two drunks stumbled by, laughing loudly, arm in arm. A woman in a tight top, a short skirt, and too much makeup winked at them from across the street.

“W-we could take a leaf outta her book,” said Rick, jabbing his thumb towards the woman. “Offer your ass, get some fast cash.”

Stan wrinkled his nose. “Have you ever done that?”

“Nah, but I’ve considered it.”

“Well, it ain’t worth it, trust me.”

Understanding dawned on Rick’s face. “Aw, sh-shit, Lee. I-I had no idea.”

Stan waved him off. “Nah, it’s fine. It was only once. Got about two hundred bucks for it.” He stuck his hands in the pockets of his jacket. “Not gonna do it again, though.”

“Fuck, man.” Rick ran a hand through his hair. “Th-that blows.”

“Yeah. Kinda did. You’re the only person who knows ‘bout it.”

“Shit, really?”

Stan laughed without humour. “Rick, I’ve stuck with you longer than anybody. Who would I tell to? Those guys I hung out with in the drug cartel? My prison buddies? My suckered customers?”

Rick shook his head. “What else don’t I know about you?”

Stan gave half a grin. “I’m a cat person. I think that’s everything.”

Rick felt a little bit guilty, now. It seemed he knew everything about Stan’s life, now. He knew that he grew up in New Jersey, he had a twin, how he was kicked out, how he was a salesman, went to prison in the United States and in Mexico, and all of the details of those events. He pretty much knew his life’s story. Stan, on the other hand, knew very little about Rick. That had been intentional, but fuck, maybe Rick should open up a little from time-to-time.

“Um,” said Rick. He wanted to say something, but he didn’t know what. What should he tell Stan, first? His own story wasn’t exactly full of sunshine and rainbows, either, but at least Stan had a happy childhood. He wished he could say the same. In the end, he went with, “I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico.”

Stan looked at him, surprised. “Was it nice?”

“N-not with my old man.” He thumbed an old scar on his forearm. A cigarette burn.

Stan didn’t press. He slung an arm around him and pulled him close. “I know how that feeling.”

Rick slung his arm around Stan’s broad shoulders. “I-I’m never gonna have kids.”

“But the other version of you-”

“So? He’s not me! B-besides, he called his own grandkids pieces of sh-shit. I’m not the kinda guy who should have kids, Lee. J-just look at me!” He gestured to himself. Ripped jeans, skull belt, filthy tank-top, greasy jacket. He had a flask in one pocket and portal gun in the other. “I-I’m not fatherly material.”

Stan gave him a jostle. “Besides, I don’t think you could get me pregnant.”

“Heh, yeah.” Rick rested his cheek on Stan’s head.

A drunkard from across the street flipped them off. “ Get outta here, you queers!

Fuck you! ” shouted Stan, raising both middle fingers at him.

The guy raised his bottle to his mouth and took another swig. “Y-you’re unnatural! You’re going to hell!”

“Can’t argue that!” shouted Rick, fisting his hand in Stan’s shirt. He dipped down and pressed his lips to Stan’s, mashing their mouths together.

Stan pushed him off, shooting a glare at the guy across the street, who was no longer paying attention to them.

“Let’s go,” said Stan, turning and stomping off through an alley. He kept his head down and didn’t look at Rick as he walked away, out of the light of the street lamps.

“W-why the cold shoulder, Lee?” asked Rick, jogging up to him and grabbing his arm.

Stan yanked his arm out of Rick’s grip. “You can’t just grab me and kiss me anytime you want,” said Stan, folding his arms and leaning against the brick wall. “Do you wanna get beat up by some assholes who don’t like it?”

“N-nobody’s gonna beat us up,” said Rick, rolling his eyes.

“Oh yeah? Tell that to my twin who got the snot beaten out of him when he was fourteen because he made some casual comment about this guy he thought was cute. ” He jammed his fists into his pockets. “People are mean. We already have it hard enough as it is.”

“Oh, is that it?” asked Rick, clenching his fists. “Or are you just ashamed of me?”

“Rick, c’mon, don’t be-”

“D-d-don’t be what? Defensive? Don’t be mad? I-I-I’ll be whatever the fuck I wanna be, Lee! Are y-you really gonna let some jackasses stop us from making out?” He was advancing on Stan, stepping into his personal space.

“Fuck off, Rick, stop taking everything the wrong way!” Stan shoved him away.

“Or what?” snapped Rick, spittle hitting Stan on the cheek. “A-a-are you gonna let other people control your life, Stan? W-what if some asshole makes a comment about us being queers again, huh? I-is that why we haven’t slept together, yet?”

Stan balled his hands into fists. “Rick, it’s not-”

“W-what if your brother doesn’t like me, huh?” he said challengingly. “A-are you gonna dump me and follow him around like a lost puppy? One fu-fucking call from him and you’re willing to go all the ways t-to Fucksville, Oregon! W-what about me, huh? I-I saw you at your worst and I still wanted you! I want you, and I’ll always want you, no matter how often you fuck up! I-is your brother gonna want you when he knows what you’ve done? What we’ve done together?

Fury burned in Stan’s eyes. “Fuck off , Rick!” He gave him another shove.

Rick shoved him back. “ Make me, b-bitch!”

Stan dropped the duffel bag and launched himself at Rick. Rick’s back hit the concrete ground and Stan’s fist cracked into his cheek. Rick jabbed an elbow into his ribs and scratched his nails down his arm, drawing a minute amount of blood. He bit at Stan’s arm, hard to do through his leather jacket, and he rolled them over to he was pinning him down, his fist clenched around Stan’s t-shirt, his other fist delivering blow after blow.

Rick’s upper hand didn’t last long. Stan put one hand on his chest and easily shoved him down. He raised his hand punched him once more.

Rick’s head snapped to the side and he went limp, dazed.

Stan panicked. He climbed off of him, his hands hovering, unsure whether to touch. “Shit! Rick, are you okay? I-I didn’t mean, I just-”

“I-I’m fine.” He sat up, spat, and blood hit the concrete. He wiped his mouth, raised a hand to deliver another punch, then winced, holding his ribs. “Asshole.”

“Cocksucker.”

“Cunt-face.”

“Asswipe.”

Stan glared at Rick.

Rick growled at Stan.

They both jumped when they heard applause.

“That was hilarious! ” said a strange voice. A guy stepped out of the shadows in the alleyway. He was tall, skinny, and sickly pale. He grinned with all his teeth and in the distant light of the streetlamps, his eyes looked almost yellow. “Two best buddies, scrapping it out. It reminds me of two ANCIENT GODS OF DEATH AND DESTRUCTION warring it out about five BILLION years ago! Hysterical!” He laughed. It was an unsettling sound.

Stan looked around. They were alone, no bystanders or cops in sight. Desperation for money and food mixed with his anger with Rick. He lunged to his feet and grabbed the stranger by the front of his greasy yellow t-shirt.

“Wallet! Now!” he shouted in his face.

His too-wide grin didn’t leave his face. “Sure, kid! It’s not mine!” The guy grabbed the wallet from his pocket and handed it to him. “I don’t have any use for that MEANINGLESS paper currency you HUMANS use for goods and services!”

Stan opened it up. There was at least a hundred bucks in there. He narrowed his eyes at the guy, wondering why he didn’t try to run after he let him go.

Rick stood, holding his tender ribs, and eyed the stranger warily. “W-w-what’s your deal, man? Get lost!”

“Why would I do THAT when I could TORMENT YOUR PATHETIC HUMAN SOULS for a few minutes?” He walked over, arms held awkwardly out at the side. His elbows jutted straight out, his hands hanging downwards, palms facing away from them. “You two aren’t looking too good there. IF ONLY IQ COULD SEE YOU NOW” He let out another laugh, high and maniacal.

“Who’s IQ?” asked Stan, backing away carefully.

“Oh, I think you know!” The man wiggled his fingers. His grin never left his face. “Anyway, he’s not important. You two are. Let’s take a look.” His unblinking gaze swivelled over to Rick. “You’re a GENIUS SCIENTIST BENT ON THE DESTRUCTION OF EVERYTHING YOU LOVE, too! Nice hair!”

Rick patted down his wild black hair unconsciously. “Fuck off, asshole!”

“Ooh, touchy. I think I’m gonna call you Flask! Or perhaps WHISKEY? That’s your favourite, isn’t it?”

The stranger laughed at Rick’s frightened expression.

“W-w-who the fuck are you?”

“NOT IMPORTANT!” he quipped. He looked over at Stan. “I’m still working on a nickname for you, wise guy. Hey, maybe WISE GUY! A fitting nickname for a fitting ADVERSARY WHO’S INSTRUMENTAL IN MY PLANS!”

Stan picked up his bag and backed away, carefully placing himself between the creepy stranger and Rick. “Jesus fucking Christ, what the hell’s your problem?”

“Nothing! I’m always like this!” He laughed again, loud and hard and for slightly too long. “ETERNITY IN A DEMONIC HELL DIMENSION will do that to a guy!”

Stan grabbed Rick’s wrist. “C’mon, let’s get outta here!”

“Sure, have it your way!” said the stranger. He stooped down and picked up a loose brick. “SEE YOU REAL SOON!” He stood straight, brick in hand.

Without flinching or losing his manic grin, he smashed himself in the face with the brick.

Holy shit! ” cursed Stan, stumbling backwards, into Rick.

The man fell to the ground, blood splattering, a chipped tooth knocked clean from his still-grinning mouth. He didn’t move.

Rick and Stan stared at each other in horror.

“What do we do?” said Stan.

“W-we fucking run! ” Rick grabbed Stan’s wrist and the two of them sprinted away from the scene, blood pooling under the man’s body.

“W-what about him?” asked Stan, panting as they turned the corner.

“Fu-fuck him! He’s crazy!”

They slept beside a dumpster that night, huddled together in fear, terrified that the stranger with a bashed-in skull and a mouth full of broken teeth would follow them.

Rick didn’t think much of it. The universe was full of strange and bizarre people who liked to scare the shit out of humans. It was best not to linger.

Stan wasn’t so sure. Something about him seemed awfully unsettling, his promise sounding a little too certain.

See you real soon.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Stan filled up a gas can at a road stop, grabbed sandwiches, water, beer, and toffee peanuts, and the two of them hiked ten miles back out to the Stanley-Mobile, eager to put the creepy town behind them. They didn’t see the stranger who smashed his own face in, either.

It was a long, almost unbearable walk. Not only was it hot with the sun beating down on the backs of their necks and making them sweat through their grubby t-shirts, but the company was less than pleasant.

Stan was still feeling irked about their argument, yesterday. He’d barely spoken a word to him all morning aside from asking what kind of sandwich he wanted.

Rick’s jaw was swollen from Stan’s fists and he was dying for an aspirin. He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to apologize to Stan or punch him again. It was achingly quiet, save for the sounds of the highway, birds in the trees, and their footsteps on the dusty road.

Rick didn’t want to be the one to break the silence, but he couldn’t stand not hearing Stan talk. They were always talking, be it bickering, telling stories, or very rarely, saying sweet things that warmed his heart. This silence was crushing, but Rick knew he probably deserved it after the shit he said.

Rick’s palms felt sweaty and his feet slid around in his slightly-too-big shoes.

Stan carried the gas can. His muscles bulged and tightened under its weight.

Rick flushed up to his hairline and quickly looked away. Now was not the time to think about how goddamn gorgeous Stan was. Not while he was mad at him.

Thankfully, the Stanley-Mobile hadn’t been towed. Stan threw his hands up in the air and thanked his lucky stars for that.

“No way in Hell would we have been able to pay that fine,” he said, draining the gas into the tank. He chucked the gas can in the trunk and pressed his face to the back window. “Hey! Stan Junior’s okay!”

Stan Junior was still buckled into the back seat, and he was swimming happy circles in his little tank, flaring his gills.

“Yay,” said Rick nonplussed.

Stan glowered at him sourly. “He’s our son. Be nice.”

Rick secretly felt relieved. If Stan was willing to joke around about the salamader , maybe he wasn’t too far from being forgiven. He tentatively placed a hand on Stan’s shoulder.

Stan pulled away.

Rick shoved his hands into his pockets and climbed back into the car.

Stan slid in behind the wheel, put the keys in the ignition, but didn’t start it, yet.

“W-what’s up?” asked Rick.

Stan sighed and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “Are you seriously upset that I didn’t wanna kiss in public?”

“G-great, we’re gonna talk about our feelings, ” said Rick, folding his arms, his feet up on the dashboard. “D-do you know what feelings are, Lee? Th-they’re just chemical reactions in your brain that trick you into experiencing emotions! I-it’s stupid bullshit and I’m working on curing it.”

“Rick, just because it’s chemicals doesn’t mean it’s not real.” Stan’s voice was calm and carefully controlled. He desperately wanted to shout and scream at Rick for being unreasonable, but he knew that it would do him no good. He got stupid when he got mad, and the last thing he would want is to do something unforgivable.

Rick didn’t answer him. He huffed and turned away slightly.

Stan decided to at least try and make things right. He ran his thumb along the steering wheel of the car. “Can you just answer one question?”

“Nng.”

Stan took that as a yes. “Are you… I dunno… afraid that I’m gonna choose my brother over you?”

“W-what kinda bullshit question is that?” snapped Rick. “Fuck you, Lee!”

Stan took a deep breath and exhaled through his nose. “I just wanted you to know that’s never gonna happen. It’s not a competition between you and my family. I care about my brother a lot, he’s my brother, but I know that you’re the guy who’s stuck with me through one of the roughest times of my life. I’m so goddamn lucky I ran into you.”

Rick grumbled and didn’t look at him.

“I wish I could kiss you in public, Rick,” he continued. “But… it’s just not a good time for that. At least, not here. Maybe if we were in one of your space bars where interspecies sex is okay or some shit. Hell, I’d probably be grinding with you on the dance floor! Just… I dunno.” He flicked a nonexistent speck of lint off the steering wheel, grabbed the key, and started the engine. “Forget it. It’s dumb.”

“I-it’s not dumb,” said Rick.

He turned the wheel and they bumped out onto the road, once again heading north.

“I-I guess I shouldn’t have picked that fight,” said Rick. “I-it was stupid of me.”

“It’s fine. I do stupid shit all the time.”

“Y-you’re not stupid, Lee.”

Stan glanced at him but didn’t reply. He didn’t even turn on the radio to listen to that cheesy dancing music he likes so much.

Rick lit a cigarette and handed it over to Stan as a gesture of peace.

Stan parted his lips and let Rick place the cigarette between them. Rick let his fingers trail along Stan’s scruffy jaw before he pulled away.

Rick really didn’t like apologizing for stuff. It meant that he was in the wrong, and wrong was just a stupid moral concept made up by people who had strong ethics codes. He didn’t, so he didn’t usually apologize for anything he did. Besides, it wasn’t like he was wrong in the first place . It wasn’t like Stan wasn’t ready to drop everything to go see his brother. Maybe it was a bad idea to pick a fight, but he had a good reason to.

It’s not a competition between you and my family.

Maybe Stan was right. Rick didn’t give a shit about what was left of his own family, but that doesn’t mean Stan can’t care about his, no matter how crappy it was.

He put his elbow on the armrest of the car and lit a cigarette for himself. Fuck, all he wanted was for him and Stan to be happy and make money on the side. If this was going to make Stan happy, so fucking be it.

 

They were in southern Oregon by the time they parked the car in a highway pullout to crash for the night. Stan handed him a sandwich he’d bought at 7-11 when they were in town.

“Stanwich,” said Rick, picking at the bologna.

Stan snorted. “Christ, that was bad, wasn’t it?”

“I-I’ve heard worse.” Rick took a bite of his sandwich, pulled out the portal gun and a screwdriver and started twiddling with the panel. “Yikes, this thing has a short battery life. G-gotta fix that shit.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t have wasted so much juice at Blips and Chitz using it to portal snacks into our room?”

“Th-that wasn’t a waste. It was a good use of it, in my opinion.” Rick reached under the seat for the box of electrical parts he kept and began to fashion a charger.

Stan reclined the seat back and munched on his sandwich, chewing thoughtfully.

“H-how long are you planning on staying with your brother once we get there?” asked Rick. Not that he was jealous or anything.

“I haven’t really thought about it,” said Stan. “Besides, he might not want me to stay with him. It’ll just be nice to see his face for the first time in four years or so.”

“Don’t you have the same face?”

“It’s not the same!” said Stan exasperatedly. “Y’think I didn’t try to talk to the mirror in his voice and pretend it was him?”

Rick didn’t say anything. He twiddled with the wires, wrapping them in electrical tape.

Stan sighed. “I dunno. I just… I sorta want closure, you know?”

“Y-yeah. I know how that feels.” Rick took a bite of his sandwich. He glanced over at Stan to see that he was breaking off bread crumbs and dropping them into Stan Junior’s tank.

“S-salamanders don’t eat bread, Lee,” said Rick.

“This one does! Look at ‘im go!”

Rick turned his head and watched the little axolotl chase after the bread and tear it up in the water. The stupid thing was cute, in a weird and fishy kind of way.

“He’s lovin’ it, aren’cha?” Stan slumped back into his chair, wearing a goofy grin as he watched his pet swim in its little tank.

Rick twisted some wires together absently, his eyes on Stan. Stan had the best smile in the world, in his opinion. He grinned with all his teeth, making him look like a kid at the carnival on a Saturday. His smile filled up his whole face, making Rick want to smile, too.

Stan saw him staring and tossed his sandwich crust out the window. “Something on my face?”

“N-no.” Rick hurriedly turned back to his portal gun, stuffing the rest of his sandwich in his face. He wondered if he could make a port so he could charge it from Stan’s car battery.

Stan propped his chin up in his hand, his elbow resting on the reclined car seat. “I’m not mad anymore, you know.”

“Mmg?” He swallowed his sandwich and coughed. “W-what?”

“I’m not mad at you,” said Stan. “I’m over it. People fight, and people get over it.”

“Yeah.” He rubbed the bruise on his cheek. His eye was swelling pretty bad. He knew better than to pick a fight with Stan, what the fuck was he even thinking?

“Want me to kiss it better?” asked Stan teasingly. He had a gentle smile, and his cheeks were pink.

Rick dropped the portal gun into the box and kicked it back under his seat to work on, later. “Th-that might help to ease my woe.”

Stan reached across the space between them, his strong fingers gentle as he took Rick’s hand. He brushed his lips across his knuckles, locking their fingers together. It was a gesture of pure, unadulterated affection.

It was… sweet. Stan was so gentle it made his heart hurt. Rick didn’t feel like he deserved something this tender, not after the shitty way he’d been acting. Still, he wouldn’t dream of stopping whatever was happening, here.

“Can I kiss you?” asked Stan, his mouth still against Rick’s hand.

“I-I thought we already established you could.”

“I was trying to be romantic, asshole.”

“Oh, i-in that case,” said Rick in a teasing voice, “of course you can, querido! Bésame*.”

“What does querido mean, again?”

“I-it means darling,” said Rick, leaning in closer.

“Aw,” said Stan with a silly smile. “I knew it didn’t mean dipshit.” He pressed his lips to Rick’s.

Rick slung his lanky arms around Stan’s neck and pulled him in closer, tilting his head and leaning into the kiss. Stan tasted like toffee peanuts and cigarettes, and his mouth felt so good against his own. He was generally a very gentle kisser and he didn’t bite aside from the occasional gentle nip to Rick’s lip or tongue. Rick, on the other hand, would kiss him hard and enjoyed biting at Stan’s lips and leaving his mouth bruised from the kisses.

“Ow,” mumbled Stan softly. “Not so rough.” He cupped Rick’s jaw and kissed him again, gently but firmly. Rick melted against him as Stan parted his lips with his tongue.

He’s got me wrapped around his little finger, he thought.

Rick pulled away slightly. “I-I wanna do more than just kiss, Lee.”

“Oh?” Stan sat back into his seat, smiling coyly. “Like what?”

Rick smirked and pulled his legs up so he could climb over and onto Stan’s seat.

“Ow! Your knees are bony!”

“W-well, that makes one of us,” said Rick, settling down onto Stan’s lap. He spread his hands over his stomach. Stan was a little chubby, and Rick loved it. He loved his broad shoulders, thick arms, and soft curves. Rick loved Stan’s body, loved every inch of it, and wanted to have it all to himself.

Stan flushed red and let out a nervous laugh. “H-how far do you wanna go?”

“A-a-as far as you want,” said Rick, running his hands down Stan’s chest. “N-not gonna lie, Lee… I-I’d love to suck your dick right now.”

Stan’s eyebrows shot up towards his hairline. He smiled. “I-I… I’m sure as hell not gonna turn that down.”

Rick grinned. He pushed Stan down onto the seat, his mouth latching onto his neck. Stan groaned into his ear, and god it sounded amazing. He wanted to make Stan moan like that every day for the rest of his life.

Rick ground his hips down against Stan, sucking a bruise onto his neck. Stan’s hands scrabbled for the hem of his shirt and pulled it over his head before pressing their lips together.

It was different from their previous kisses. There was urgency and heat that hadn’t been there, before. Stan parted his lips and kissed him deeply and harshly, almost as if they were fighting for dominance. With a bite to Stan’s lower lip, Rick won. He tangled his long fingers in Stan’s shaggy hair and pulled him away, guiding him down his neck and chest.

“Fu-fuck, Stan,” panted Rick as Stan mouthed at his neck, leaving love bites that would be there tomorrow. His jeans were way too tight he wanted them off of his body that instant. More importantly, he thought that Stan’s clothes would look better on the floor of the car.

“W-wait.” Stan pulled away, grabbed Rick’s shirt, and draped it over Stan Junior’s tank.

Rick raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t want Stan Junior to see this,” he said. “No child should ever have to see his parents fuck.”

Rick snorted with laughter. He pulled Stan’s shirt over his head. “Y-you dork!”

“Nerd.”

“Jackass.”

“Cocksucker.”

“C-can’t argue that,” said Rick, moving down on Stan’s body. He ran his hands through his chest hair and pressed hot, open-mouthed kisses along his happy trail.

Stan groaned and tilted his head back. “Christ, Rick. Have I ever told you how fucking hot you are?”

“N-no,” he said, his hand sliding between Stan’s thighs to massage his bulge. “Tell me.”

Stan hissed between his teeth and balled his fists. “You’re gorgeous! You drive me crazy! Fuck, you’re like some kinda sex god!”

“I-I promise to try and live up to that high standard,” he said slyly, sliding down his body. His butt was pressed against the steering wheel and it was kind of cramped, but that was honestly the last thing on Rick’s mind at that moment.

Stan’s pupils were blown wide. He gnawed on his lower lip as he watched Rick lower his head to his crotch.

Rick mouthed at Stan’s clothed erection, earning him a pleased groan from Stan. He popped the button on his jeans and pulled his pants and boxers down just enough to free his cock.

Stan was thick. He was thick and very hard and extremely embarrassed. Rick glanced up at Stan when he tensed. He was bright red and had a hand over his face.

“S-something wrong?” asked Rick, pulling away slightly. Had he done something to upset Stan? He thought he’d been doing pretty well.

“N-no, not at all! This is great, better than great,” said Stan. He chuckled nervously. “Sorry, I-I guess I’m just a little overwhelmed that this is finally happening.”

“Are you shy? ” asked Rick incredulously. A grin spread across his face.  “H-holy shit, Lee, th-that’s adorable!”

“Shut up, Rick!” Stan pulled his hand away from his face and buried his fingers in Rick’s thick black hair.

Rick got the message and didn’t hesitate. He wrapped his hand around the base of Stan’s dick and slowly laved his tongue over the head. He could feel the little metal ball on his tongue dragging along Stan’s skin.

Stan cursed under his breath. “ Fuck! I forgot you had a tongue piercing!”

Rick snickered. “Th-this is the only reason I still have it in.” He drew his tongue over the head again.

Stanley let out a shuddering sigh that was absolute music to Rick’s ears. It encouraged him to lick again, trailing his tongue along the side of his length before taking him into his mouth.

Stan hissed between his teeth, his fingers tightening in Rick’s hair. His hips stuttered as Rick sucked, purposefully slurping and making the most obscene sounds imaginable. He could hear Stan cursing quietly under his breath, and god that turned him on more than anything. He massaged Stan’s thighs as he picked up a rhythm, his head bobbing as he sucked.

He stole a glance upwards and was rewarded with the sight of Stan, his face red with flush, his forehead beading with sweat, his lips parted in a silent gasp.

Rick moaned around Stan’s cock. Stan’s hips stuttered and between breaths he gasped out a warning.

“Uh, R-Rick… I-I’m gonna…”

Rick took him in deep, until his nose was buried in Stan’s curls. He swallowed around his dick as Stan gasped his name breathlessly.

Rick pulled away and wiped his mouth on his wrist. He was blessed with the view of Stan looking utterly debauched. His hair was ruffled, his body damp with sweat, and he was wearing a dazed expression that looked utterly wonderful on him.

“God,” said Stan, wiping the sweat from his forehead with his wrist. “Y-you’re a natural!” He winced when his skin peeled from the leather seat of the car. “Eugh.”

“H-here.” Rick grabbed a blanket from the back and spread it over the seat, pushing Stan back down. “How do you feel, querido?

“Like I could float away,” said Stan with a smile. He pulled up his boxers and shimmied out of his jeans. “C’mere, babe.”

Rick let Stan pull him into his arms so his back was pressed to Stan’s front. Stan pressed kisses to Rick’s neck and shoulder, one arm under his head, the other hand resting on his stomach.

“Can I jerk you off?” asked Stan, his finger tracing Rick’s navel.

“I-I’m not about to say no to that,” said Rick. He let his eyes close as Stan opened the button on Rick’s jeans and pulled them down.

Stan held his hand out to Rick. “Spit.”

Rick obliged, then wiped the drool from his mouth as Stan lowered his hand. He muffled his moan as Stan’s hand slid into his boxers and slowly started to stroke him. Stanley took his sweet time, but Rick knew he wouldn’t last long, anyway. Not with Stan pressed up against him so nicely.

“You’re gorgeous,” murmured Stan into Rick’s neck.

Rick couldn’t help but smile. He pressed himself back against Stanley, humming with pleasure as he stroked his dick. He relished the kisses that Stan scattered over his back and shoulders. He pressed gentle kisses to his swollen cheek and murmured apologies under his breath. Moments later, Rick let out a gasp as Stan sank his teeth into one of the hickeys he’d already placed on his neck, darkening the bruise even further. Everything Stan did was fucking great, he just wished that his legs weren’t cramping up from being jammed in the car.

Stan stroked him hard and fast, no teasing, and Rick was glad. He bit down on his knuckle, holding in his moans as he got closer and closer to the edge. He could hear Stan murmuring compliments and praises against his skin, making his heart pound.

I love him so fucking much.

Rick moaned Stan’s name as he came, his body tense and shuddering against him. Stan pulled away, wiped his hand on his boxers, and wrapped both arms around Rick.

“Good?” he asked.

Eso fue incredíble,** ” said Rick, panting. He cuddled back into Stan, one hand reaching around to grab his butt. “ Te quiero.***

“What does that mean?” asked Stan, grinning like the love-struck dummy he was.

“I-it means I need a smoke.” Rick opened the glove compartment and grabbed cigarettes and a lighter.

Stan whined at the loss of contact and weakly grabbed for him.  “No, come cuddle!”

“H-how about we step outside for a sec?” said Rick. “I-it’s getting real steamy in here.”

It was true, Stan realized. The air in the car was thick with humidity, and it was kind of stuffy. He started to reach for his jeans, but Rick grabbed his wrist.

“Th-there’s nobody out here,” said Rick, his eyes lingering on Stan’s body. “A-and it’s pretty warm out.”

Stan looked over at Rick. Rick looked gorgeous in the dim light, every muscle prominent, his tanned skin still damp with sweat. “True,” he agreed, and he decided he never wanted to even look at clothes ever again.

Stan opened the car door and stepped out into the warm night. He took a deep breath of fresh air, walked around to the hood of the car and sat on it. Tiny pebbles stuck to the soles of his bare feet and he brushed them off.

The pullout was pretty small, just enough room for two cars. There was a picnic bench off to one side, and an outhouse off to the other. There was a single streetlamp that cast orange light over everything and drew moths to it.

Rick sat next to him and handed him a lit cigarette. Stan took a long puff and exhaled a cloud of smoke.

It was almost completely dark, by this point. The streetlamp provided a little light, but there was no moon. A canopy of stars lay above them. They looked brighter and closer than ever.

“I can’t believe we’ve actually been up there,” said Stan, gesturing up to the sky.

“I-I can hardly believe it,” said Rick. “I-I see crazy shit every day, and it’s still hard to comprehend.” He puffed on his cigarette and leaned back, lying down on the hood of the car.

Stan mimicked his position. The hood of the car was cold against his warm skin. He tapped the ash off the end of his cigarette. “It’s kind of a power trip to know that we’ve been up there. Most people on this planet are stuck here. We’re not.”

“P-preach!” said Rick. “We’re gods among men.”

“Well, you are.”

“Y-you too, Lee. You’re the best person I know.”

“Yeah, but… I’m not a genius.”

“H-hardly anyone is!” he said. “Y-you can’t take offense to it. B-besides, I would have been instantly fucked if I’d gotten lost in the multiverse alone! I-I would have been eaten by some kind of monster or I would have just given up.”

“Thanks, Rick.”

“Anytime.”

Stan looked up at the stars. Infinity is pretty boring to look at, because the human mind can’t comprehend it, so it is therefore meaningless. Stan tried for a minute to wrap his head around the concept of forever in the true sense, but he couldn’t. The universe was enormous, and the multiverse outstripped that a million times.

Stan looked over at Rick. “Do you ever get the feeling that we’re just… so fucking tiny?”

“Every g-goddamn day,” said Rick. “But on the bright side, it doesn’t matter.”

“Nothing matters.”

“Nope.”

Stan gave a little sigh. “I guess the good thing about that is that we give life our own meaning, you know? It doesn’t have to mean a damn thing to anyone else, but it can mean something to us.”

“True,” said Rick. He’d never really thought about it, before. He’d always accepted his meaningless in the grand scheme of things and had sought to make an impact, but it didn’t occur to him to give life its own meaning simply by living.

Stan reached over and placed his hand over Rick’s. “I’m glad you’re my boyfriend. There’s nobody else I’d rather be doing this crazy shit with.”

Rick grinned. “M-me too.”

They finished their cigarettes and slept in the car, their limbs tangled up, bodies pressed close together with no room between them.

Chapter Text

It was raining, the next morning. The wipers swished across the windshield, pushing the rain aside as it pelted down. Rick tinkered around on the portal gun, having rigged a charger that could run off of the car battery while they drove.

“W-we should be able to portal to Gravity Falls, now,” said Rick.

“I’d kind of like to drive,” said Stan.

Rick glanced over at him. His hands were white-knuckled on the wheel.

“W-want me to drive?” asked Rick. “Y-you could take a break.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“Are y-y-you alright?”

Stan gave a little shrug and turned on the radio. He flipped through channels, half of them static because of the lousy weather, until they came across one that was playing rock. He turned it down so it was quiet.

Rick picked at a hole in his jeans, his chin resting in his hand. “Y-you wanna talk about it?”

“I thought you didn’t give a shit about feelings.

“I-I do if they’re yours,” he said tersely. “But, y’know, w-whatever.”

Stan sighed and relaxed his hands. “Sorry. I just… ugh. Is it possible to be excited, terrified, and angry all at once? Also kinda like I wanna sneeze?”

“Definitely.” Rick opened his jacket and offered Stan his flask.

Stan shook his head. “First of all, I’m driving. Secondly, I kinda wanna make a good first impression, you know? I haven’t seen my brother in four years.”

Rick took a drink and stowed his flask away, again. “W-what’re you talking about, Lee? You’re great at first impressions!” he said, grinning. “You punched me in the face, remember?”

Stan rolled his eyes. “Yeesh, don’t remind me. That’s the sort of thing I’m gonna try not to do when I meet my brother.”

Rick snickered. “I-I bet you could take ‘im!”

“Oh, I totally can,” said Stan, waving his hand nonchalantly. “He’s a wimp with noodle arms.”

Rick admired how Stan’s biceps looked in his t-shirt with utter shamelessness. “Y-yeah.”

Stan turned up the radio as they neared the town. Rick pulled out his box of parts and started tinkering around with some strange gadget that had too many blinking lights and sparking wires.

Stan relaxed back into the seat and steered with one hand. Nobody else was on the highway. They zoomed past a large green billboard that said, “Welcome to Gravity Falls”.

Then, they heard sirens.

“Ooh, boy,” said Stan. He began to pull over.

“W-what’re you doing?” hissed Rick.

“Hey, I don’t have a criminal record in this state, yet,” said Stan as he pulled out onto the shoulder. “Besides, small town cops are dumb , trust me.”

Rick quickly hid his gadgets under the seat as Stan rolled down the window.

“Good morning, officer!” said Stan brightly. “What can I help you with?”

The police officer grinned at him with all his teeth, eyes slightly too wide. “You guys were ten miles over the speed limit! It’s almost as if you two don’t VALUE YOUR NONEXISTENT IMMORTAL SOULS enough to drive safely!”

Stan widened his eyes and gripped the wheel tightly. That voice. It was the same voice that the other guy had. This man looked nothing like the blonde who’d smashed himself with a brick, but he had the same voice, same awkward mannerisms, same strange eyes.

Stan looked over at Rick, whose jaw was slackened with shock.

“Um,” said Stan, turning back to the police officer, his knuckles white from tension. He put on a forced smile.  “Sorry? It won’t happen again.”

The officer laughed. It was a haunting sound. “I’m so glad you two are here! Welcome to Gravity Falls! I hope you enjoy the CHAOS AND MADNESS that this town has to offer! See you real soon!

A shudder of horror went up Stan’s spine. As soon as the officer stepped away from the car, he flattened his foot on the gas and took off, streaking out into the rain.

He saw the cop in the rear view mirror, his arms held out at his sides at a strange angle, his head tilted back as he laughed.

 

They stopped in a cafe called Greasy’s Diner to get some breakfast and maybe ask around for his brother. They each ordered a plate of pancakes.

It was fairly quiet. Stan tapped his fork against his half-empty plate. He wanted to say something, it was on the tip of his tongue, but he was struggling to put it into words.

That cop. It was the same guy who’d surprised them in the last town they were in. It had to be. How was that possible? Was he following them? But he didn’t look anything like the other guy, not one bit. Not to mention the other guy was missing a bunch of his teeth from that brick, if he was still alive at all.

Stan felt dread deep in his chest that mixed with the nervous nausea of trying to find his brother. If he wasn’t starving, he wouldn’t even want to think about eating.

Rick took a bite of his pancakes. “You’re real quiet. W-what’s on your mind, Lee?”

“That cop.”

“Oh.” Rick poked at his food. “You look freaked out.”

“It’s the same guy, ” said Stan under his breath. “Same guy in a different body or something! I don’t like it.”

“H-have you heard of hive minds?” asked Rick.

“No?”

“W-well, put simply, they’re creatures that take over th-the bodies of other creatures, so it’s like five, ten, or a hundred people being controlled by one mind.”

“Is that what that guy is?”

“Shit, I-I dunno!” Rick threw his hands up in the air. “Probably! I met a hive mind, one time. Holy shit, were they good in bed!”

“You slept with a hive mind?” asked Stan incredulously.

“Y-you would have, too, if you’d seen them!” said Rick. “Five people a-at once, all in p-perfect sync? Holy shit.

Stan laughed. Some of the tension from meeting that guy was gone, but still… he couldn’t help be worried. He decided to let it slide, since Rick clearly didn’t seem to think much of it. Weird stuff happened all the time, they could deal with it later. They had other stuff to think about.

One thing still bugged him, though. Okay, so if this guy was a hive mind or whatever, how did he know where Rick and Stan were? Was he following them? Why would he follow them? What did he want?

Stan decided to backburner those thoughts for a while. He had bigger fish to fry.

The waitress came back to their table. Her dark red hair was swept into an updo, and her apron was stained. Her lipstick was on way too thick, and her nametag said “Susan”. “Are you boys alright?”

“We’re good,” said Stan. “Hey, on a completely unrelated note, have you seen a fella come through here who looks exactly like me except he wears nerd glasses and isn’t as handsome?”

“Oh, that scientist guy! Yeah, he came through here yesterday.”

Stan put on his most winning smile. “I don’t suppose you could tell us where he might be?”

“Well,” said Susan, scratching her chin. “I heard from Danny Corduroy that he bought a plot of land out in the woods. I can point you in the direction of the property. They might be out there. Otherwise, you got me.”

“Sure, thanks.”

Rick poked at his food while Susan drew a map on a napkin and wrote down some details. He scowled when he saw that she added her phone number.

“Just call me if you need anything else, handsome,” she said with a wink.

“Sure thing, dollface!” said Stan cheerily.

Rick kicked him under the table.

“Ow!” said Stan. “What was that for?”

“A-are you flirting with her?” he asked, folding his arms.

He lowered his voice. “What? No, that’s just the way I act when I’m trying to win someone over! I’m not actually gonna call her!”

“G-good,” said Rick, trying not to sound petulant and failing miserably. Stan was right, he had no business being jealous. He grabbed his fork and finished eating his pancakes.

 

It was still drizzling by the time they got to the property. The ground was muddy, soaking Stan’s sneakers. His leather jacket was buttoned to his throat, and Rick was wearing one of Stan’s hoodies and a raincoat. The air smelled crisp and clean, all wet grass and fresh outdoors.

There wasn’t much, out there. Coniferous trees towered over the plot of land. The ground had been levelled and the foundation had been lain. There was a large stack of boards and materials and a tent where there the tools and machines were being kept. Some people were standing under that tent to get out of the rain, hovering over a table with a blueprint on it.

One of the guys was tall and had red hair. He looked like a lumberjack sort.

The other guy was pretty short, had blonde hair, round glasses, and a thick jacket.

The last guy was Stanford.

Stan thought he would be prepared to see his twin, but he was wrong. His brother looked like he was in good shape, his clothes were good quality, and he looked happy. Not that Stan wasn’t happy, but he certainly wasn’t well off.

Rick gave him a nudge. “L-let’s go.”

Stan forced himself to trudge through the mud, up to the tent. The lumberjack and the short guy turned and looked at him, wide-eyed and confused.

“What’re you looking at?” asked Stanford, turning.

His jaw slackened when he saw Stanley.

“Stan?” he asked.

“Hey, Ford,” he said gruffly, his hands jammed into his pockets. “Long time, no see.”

Ford glowered at him. “What are you doing here? Who’s this?”

“I-I’m Rick.” Rick folded his arms and straightened his back, doing his best to look tall and intimidating. “So, you’re Lee’s twin, huh?”

“Indeed I am,” he said, folding his hands behind his back. “Stan, what’s-”

“I told you I’d be coming,” said Stan. “Don’t act all surprised. I thought we cleared that up all over the phone.”

“You said you were in jail!”

“I figured it out,” he said, hoping his tone of voice would make him leave it at that. “I told you I’d be coming to see you, and here I am. Who’re these chumps?”

“I’m Dan,” said the lumberjack, then he proceeded to walk over to the construction site, not eager on participating in this family reunion.

“I’m Fiddleford,” said the other man. His voice had a southern twang, and he looked pretty nervous. “I’m Ford’s partner.”

Rick’s eyes lit up. He leaned in to Stan and whispered, “I’ve got a list of nicknames for this dork that’s ten miles long.”

“Me too,” he whispered back. He cleared his throat. “So, um. What’re you doing out here in Fucksville, Oregon?”

Ford looked taken aback at Stan’s language, a harsh reminder that he’d become even more rough around the edges in the last few years. “Research. You’re even more crass than I remember.”

Stan fidgeted a little. “Well, being homeless for four years does that to a guy, y’know.”

“Oh. Right.” Ford scratched the back of his neck. “How’ve you been getting by?”

“You’d probably rather not know,” said Stan, jamming his hands in his pockets. He took a few steps closer so he was standing under the tent.

Rick was torn. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to walk away and give Stan a little privacy, or if he wanted to be there to jump to his defense in case his twin said or did something stupid. He waited for Stan to give him a cue.

Stan looked over at him and gestured with his shoulder to follow. Rick walked along behind him, arms folded.

“What’re you researching?” asked Stan.

“Anomalies,” said Ford airily. “Like… strange things. You probably wouldn’t understand.”

Rick saw Stan start to bristle at the comment. He put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed firmly.

“I-I think we can keep up,” said Rick sourly.

Ford heaved a long-suffering sigh and dear god did Rick wanna throw down. Fiddleford glanced back and forth between the two brothers, shoulders rigid, fists curled tightly.

“Put simply,” said Ford tersely. “I’m researching things that are strange and unusual. Ghosts, monsters, demons, that sort of thing. It’s not a highly respected field, but it is one with a lot of potential.”

“That’s not so complicated,” said Stan testily. “But why in the middle of nowhere?”

“This area is particularly prone to such sightings, and I intend to find out what they are and why. Stan, you really shouldn’t be here. I’ve got enough on my plate right now without you.”

What? ” shouted Stan. “This is the first time I’ve seen you since we were in high school and you just wanna slam the door in my face, again?”

Ford scowled at him. “What am I supposed to do, Stanley? You showed up here uninvited, reeking of alcohol, and you look like you haven’t showered in a week!”

“Three days,” he said, scoffing. “It’s only been three days.”

“Oh, excuse me,” said Ford mockingly. “From the smell, I’d say it’s been much longer.”

Rick dug his fingers into Stan’s shoulder but didn’t say anything. Not yet.

Stan rolled his eyes, arms crossed. “Well, I’m sorry that I don’t have access to the shower every day considering I’m homeless! Or did you forget that?”

“And whose fault is it that you’re homeless, anyway?” asked Ford, stepping closer. “It’s not my fault that you fucked up my project and ruined both of our lives!”

“Oh, because your life is so ruined!” said Stan, his shoulders squared and tense. “That’s rich! Living it up with your scientific bullshit out here in the middle of Buttcrack, Oregon! Such hardships! I’ve been to prison in the US and in Mexico, Ford! I’ve been chased out of five towns for being a con artist, and I’ve done some shit that I’m gonna regret for the rest of my life! You don’t know the meaning of hardship, Ford!”

“I do, too!” he snapped, his fists balled. “I’ve worked my ass off for the last four years! I finished two doctorate programs in four years, and I’m working on my third PhD right now! You’ve never done a day’s honest work in your entire life!”

“You had a roof over your head! You had food on your table! You never had to gamble or cheat or steal or sell your ass to get by, Ford! Get the fuck out of my face if you think you’ve had it harder than me for one goddamn second!

Ford’s eyes went wide with shock. Fiddleford’s hand went to his mouth to cover a tiny gasp. “Stan, I-”

Stan’s eyes were stinging with tears and he prayed that he wouldn’t cry. “ Shut the fuck up! You work hard because you want to! I don’t even have a high school certificate under my belt, so I have to do things I never would’ve had to if I was in your shoes! How dare you try and tell me that your life is harder than mine?”

Ford set his jaw and he scowled. “Oh yeah? And whose fault is that, huh? If you hadn’t been fucking around with my science project, you could have a good job, by now! It’s all on you, Stan! You brought this on yourself!”

“It was an accident, Ford! I was just a kid!”

“You couldn’t handle being on your own, so you sabotaged me! You were a dumbass, and you know it! You still are if you think you can just waltz in here and have me forgive you!”

Stan’s fists were clenched so hard his nails drew blood in his palms. “I am not an idiot, Ford!”

Rick gritted his teeth. One more word out of Stanford Pines, and he was ready to kick his ass.

“You were always the dumb twin,” said Ford. “You couldn’t solve a math quiz if the answers were written on your fucking forehead! You’re an idiot, and all you ever did was slow me down!”

Stan’s words choked in his throat. His hands shook. He had never wanted to hit his brother this bad until now.

Rick beat him to it.

With a roar of anger, Rick threw himself at Ford, knocking him off his feet and to the ground. Ford let out a winded sound and pushed his hands into Rick’s face, trying to shove him off. Rick straddled his chest and threw punch after punch at Ford, knocking his glasses into the mud.

Ford briefly got the upper hand, pinning Rick down into the dirt and driving his knee into his chest. Rick jabbed his fingers into Ford’s eyes. Stanford let out a cry of pain, Rick scrambled to his feet and threw himself at him again, putting him in a headlock. Ford grabbed at Rick’s hair and yanked, taking a few strands with it.

There were shouts, and Rick found himself being pulled away from Ford. Stan’s arms were wrapped around his waist.

Fiddleford was restraining Ford, holding his hands behind his back. Impressive for such a small guy, but he did sound like he grew up on a countryside farm so anything was possible.

“I-I’m gonna kick his ass,” snarled Rick.

“Rick, it’s fine.” Stan sounded so goddamn defeated, it broke Rick’s heart. “I guess I was wrong about it being water under the bridge, huh?”

Rick struggled against Stan, but there was no way he was gonna break his grip. “I-I’m not gonna let him talk to y-you like that! Just one more punch!”

“Rick, let’s just go, okay?”

Rick relaxed. Stan let his hands stay on Rick’s hips. He still wanted to beat the shit out of Ford, but if Stan said he didn’t want it, he wouldn’t do it.

Rick glanced over at Fiddleford and Stanford. He gave a little snort and elbowed Stan gently. “Look.”

Fiddleford had Ford by the ear and was giving him a lecture. “... listen here, you numb-skulled prickly pear! You can’t very well just send ‘em off, look at ‘em! Besides, he’s your brother, and it’s been four whole years! Get over yourself, Stanford Filbrick Pines!”

“But-”

“No buts! They can stay with us for one week, then we’ll see. You two can’t very well stay mad at each other forever, can you?”

Ford pried Fiddleford’s hand off of his ear. “Fine, one week.” His eye was already swelling shut from Rick’s fists.

Fiddleford smoothed out his jacket, adjusted his round glasses, and straightened his tie. “Very well. I apologize on Stanford’s behalf.”

“Apology accepted,” said Stan gruffly. “You didn’t do a damn thing, it’s Ford that’s being a fuckwit.”

“That he is,” agreed Fiddleford wholeheartedly. He offered his hand. “Fiddleford Hadron McGucket, at your service.”

Stan took his hand and shook. “Stanley Pines, but you knew that.”

“True.” He turned to Rick and offered his hand. “That’s a nasty shiner you got there. What happened to you?”

“Lee happened to me,” said Rick, taking his hand roughly. “Rick Sanchez, n-not at your service.”

“You two were fighting?” he asked, eyebrows raised.

“It was a rough day,” said Stan.

“Well,” said Fiddleford, “We’re currently staying at the motel in town. This right here is gonna be our lab and home.” He gestured to the construction site, where Dan was rounding up a few hands to start putting the beams in. “Ford got a pretty hefty grant for this project. If you two wanna lend a helping hand, I’m sure we could put you to honest work.”

“H-honest work isn’t really our gig,” said Rick.

“Never too late to turn a new leaf!” he said cheerily. “Well, far be it from me to force you fellas into a decision. Just let us know if you wanna help out, and we can pay you a living wage!”

“We’ll think about it,” said Stan gruffly. “C’mon, Rick. Let’s go. See you ‘round, McSuckit.”

Fiddleford stammered for a few seconds, clearly flustered, before clearing his throat. “It’s McGucket.

“I know,” said Stan, not able to hide his grin.

Rick followed Stan back to the car and climbed inside. Mud kicked up from under the tires as they pulled out. In the rear view mirror, Rick could see Fiddleford talking to Stanford, watching the car as they drove away down the dirt road.

 

An hour later, and Stan was still griping about his brother.

“I can’t believe he’d be such an ass!” he said as they sat on the hood of the car. They’d parked up on a cliff, overlooking Gravity Falls. The rain had stopped, but it was still very cloudy. Stan was puffing angrily on his cigarette.

Rick drummed his fingers against the car. “H-he’s a douchebag.”

“You said it! I can’t believe I ever thought- Why would he- I can’t believe he would say something like that!” He rubbed his forehead. “God, I’m a moron.”

“Y-you’re not a moron, Lee!” said Rick, prodding him with his forefinger. “You’re every bit as smart as your twin!”

“I’m a highschool dropout, Rick!” he said. “Ford’s got two PhDs and one on the way, you heard him! How am I supposed to compete with that?”

Rick was infuriated. He wanted to kick Ford in the ribs until he couldn’t move. “F-for god’s sake, Lee, you’re your own person! Y-you don’t gotta compare yourself to your piece of shit twin brother! PhDs don’t mean a goddamn thing, I don’t have one! I-I dropped out of high school, too.”

“You’re not a prime example, Rick.”

“Ugh,” said Rick as he rolled his eyes. “Remind me who invented the world’s first portal gun?”

Stan sighed. “You did. I guess you’re right, but I can’t ever wrap my head around that. All I can do is lie, cheat, and steal.”

Rick touched his leg. “Th-that’s a lie, and you know it. Fuck Ford. I-if he can’t see how good you are, h-he ain’t worth your time.”

He leaned back against the car. “Ugh, I feel like I might puke. I’m mad and sad at the same time.”

“Malcontented?” suggested Rick.

“Smad.”

Rick snorted and draped an arm over Stan’s shoulders. “W-we’ll be alright. Fuck your brother with a cactus! H-he doesn’t deserve you, Lee! I’ll stick by you, through thick and thin! Rick and Lee a hundred years!”

Stan pulled Rick tighter against him. “Rick and Lee forever.” He didn’t sound totally convinced. Rick was sure he wanted to try talk to his brother, later.

They sat there on the hood of the car until it started to rain.

Chapter Text

Stan stood guard at the payphone while Rick cracked the thing open, tinkered with it, added some strange sci-fi doohickey, and placed a call to Birdperson and Squanchy. He blocked the view with his body so any passersby wouldn’t see that Rick had essentially disassembled the phone.

Stan wasn’t in the greatest mood. He wanted to go see Ford again, but he felt like he needed to cool off. Next time he saw Ford, it would be a civil conversation, one hundred percent. He wanted to be a part of his brother’s life, again.

You were always the dumb twin.

You’re an idiot, and all you ever did was slow me down!

Ford’s words haunted him. They hurt more than he could know. After all, Ford was a terrible liar, so he must be telling the truth. Rick, on the other hand, was a pretty good liar when it came down to it. Stan wouldn’t put it past him to lie about how much he meant to him, how smart he was, or whatever. Maybe Rick had some ulterior motive, or maybe he just liked praising Stan. Who knows?

I guess I am an idiot, after all.

He was torn. He wanted to make up with his brother, but his brother made it clear that he didn’t want to see him ever again.

“W-well,” said Rick as he hung up the phone, “guess what? We’ve got a gig!”

“What kind of gig?” asked Stan. His throat felt tight.

“Flesh Curtains performance, baby!” He slung an arm around Stan’s broad shoulders. “Y-you can come up with us and be eye candy! I-I bet the crowd would love you!”

“Heh, sure.” Stan wasn’t really in the mood for this, but if anybody could make him feel better, it was Rick. He tried to let his anxiety slip away, but it was difficult. “I’ll be your band bitch.”

Rick gave him a noogie. “Portal gun’s charged up! L-let’s hide the car and go make some music, motherfucker!”

Stan smiled, but it was sort of forced. Rick cared about him. He made that perfectly clear. He’d been there for him when Ford wasn’t. That should be enough.

 

Ford was somewhat relieved when Stan didn’t show up the next day. Or the day after. Or the day after that. A whole week passed, and his brother never came.

“I hope you’re proud of yourself, Stanford Pines,” said Fiddleford testily on the morning of the seventh day. He was already dressed and was working on his second cup of coffee when Ford woke up.

“What?” he asked, pulling his sweater over his pyjama shirt as he walked into the hotel room kitchen area. “What did I do?”

“Ya drove off one of the only people in your life who loved you unconditionally, you bone-headed jackalope!” said Fiddleford crossly. “How could you say those things to him? Callin’ him the dumb twin an’ all, are you serious?

Ford shifted uncomfortably. “I was mad.”

“You had no right to say those things! I’d be surprised if he ever comes back after that stunt you pulled,” said Fiddleford.

“What?”

“Christ almighty, Stanford, you told him that he was a waste of your time to his face! I don’t see him putting that behind him anytime, soon. Looks to me like you’re the one in the wrong, here.”

“But he broke-”

“If you bring up that machine again so help me, God! ” snapped Fiddleford, slamming his mug down on the table.

Ford’s jaw slackened. Fiddleford was not the type to be easily upset. He was in deep shit.

“You listen here, Stanford, and you listen good!” said Fiddleford, hands on his hips. “It’s been four years! There’s a statute of limitations on things like that. Your brother says it was an accident, and I believe him! At this point, though, it don’t even matter whether or not it was. He was trying to make amends for a crime he never committed. How could you be so cruel to him?”

Ford twiddled his fingers together, shame flushing up the back of his neck.

“Did’ja even take a look at ‘im?” asked Fiddleford. “He was in rough shape. He was livin’ outta his car, and he still didn’t come back here to stay with us. I’m not surprised that they didn’t take me up on my offer with your attitude. You hurt him real bad, Ford.”

“Do you think he’s okay?”

“What am I, a psychic?” asked Fiddleford, folding his arms. “He didn’t look that okay to me, if you really wanna know. If your brother comes around again, and I doubt he will, you are going to be civil.

Ford seethed. “I’m civil! I can be civil!”

“Oh, do you call sayin’ “It’s your fault that you’re homeless” being civil? Take your head outta your ass for one goddamn second and see that the universe had delivered you a chance to make up with your twin and you blew it!”

“He called me from jail! ” said Ford. “I don’t see how he could have gotten bail money, so I’m guessing he broke out! My brother’s a criminal , Fiddleford! What am I supposed to do, just say “ Hey, Stan! Long time no see! Why don’t you and your shady-looking friend come stay with us for a bit while you hide from the cops? ” I have too much at stake, here! I have a reputation, a grant, a future nobel prize! I can’t let him ruin my life again!” He rubbed his black eye. It had turned to a sickly shade of green. What a lovely gift from Rick Sanchez.

“Does the word unconditional escape you?” asked Fiddleford. “He’s your brother! Brothers don’t let brothers live outta their car! Brothers don’t let brothers steal to get by! Brothers don’t let brothers prostitute themselves, Stanford!”

Ford flinched at that. He put his head in his hands, rubbing his eyes under his glasses.

Fiddleford picked up his mug again and took a long drink of his coffee.

Ford was quiet. Guilt washed over him. Fidds was right, as usual. He’d fucked up bad. He shouldn’t have said those things. Had he really just lost his brother forever?

“Do you think he was telling the truth?” asked Ford quietly.

“About what?” said Fiddleford, leaning back against the counter.

“That he was… y’know. Selling himself?”

“If he wasn’t, he’s a damn good liar.”

He shrugged. “Our mom was a phone psychic. He takes after her.”

“Well,” said Fiddleford thoughtfully, “people have a right to tell you how they feel and you have a right not to believe them. That said, you can’t tell ‘em that you don’t. You have to support them, regardless.”

“Oh.” It didn’t really make sense to Ford. Why should he support someone who’s not telling the truth? He trusted Fiddleford to know what he was talking about, though.

Fiddleford checked his watch. “I gotta call the missus. You go do what you do best, Stanford.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Think it out,” he said with a wan smile before walking over to the motel room phone.

Ford made himself a bowl of cereal and sat back at the table. He could hear Fiddleford chatting on the phone with his wife and cooing to their newborn baby.

His chest felt tight. He’d fucked up really bad, maybe beyond repair. He wanted his brother back, but there was no way that things would be peachy between them, now. He felt conflicted at best, nauseous at worst.

He wanted to say sorry to Stan. He at least deserved that.

 

Stan stood up on stage wearing nothing but a pair of jeans, his worn sneakers, and a million-dollar smile. The band was backstage getting ready, and he’d been sent out to entertain for five minutes while they set up their instruments (and snorted a few lines of collaxian crystals). He’d been doing this for a week now, and he’d gotten pretty good at holding a crowd. He realized very quickly that he missed doing these cheesy scams.

“And here I have a water bottle, used and signed by Rick Sanchez!” said Stan into the microphone, holding a plastic water bottle up. In truth, Rick hadn’t even touched the thing and Stan had forged his signature himself. “It’s yours for fifty flurbos!”

Wads of cash were shoved into his face from people in the front row. The crowd consisted of aliens from every walk of life, some species he recognized from his week at Blips and Chitz, some he’d never seen before in his life. Tentacles, feelers, strange hands, and tongues all reached for him.

He snatched a wad of cash from a three-fingered hand and tossed the water bottle into the crowd, chuckling as a fight broke out over it. He shoved the cash into his pocket and reminded himself to get it converted, later.

Despite this grinning facade, he still felt bitter about his brother. Maybe Ford had been right about him all along. It would be better to just leave him alone, let him do his work. He could avoid more heartache, his brother wouldn’t hate him for breathing, win-win?

The band came out on stage and the crowd went wild. Stan put on his phony grin and said into the mic, “Ladies and gentleman and others,” he said, looking out over the crowd of aliens. “I present to you The Flesh Curtains!

With that, Rick struck the first chord on his bass. Squanchy kicked up a heavy beat on the drums, and Birdperson began to sing. It was a strange tune in a language Stan didn’t know, and it warbled and swayed in ways that no human language did. He walked over to the side of the stage, pulling back from the edge when strange hands and other limbs started to grab for his leg.

“Easy, folks!” he said, flattered by the attention. “Control yourselves!”

One song faded into the next and into the next. Stan passed out water bottles to the band and Rick threw his into the crowd, bouncing off of somebody’s head before it was caught.

Who’s ready to get riggity riggity WRECKED? ” screeched Rick into his mic. He began to sing some punk song about the establishment that Stan didn’t really recognize. Rick wasn’t much of a singer, but he did have a wonderful voice. At least, Stan thought he did.

The crowd roared. Stan sauntered over to Rick and started to dance.

Rick’s gaze scoured over him, and Stan felt like the only person in the world. He smirked, pulling a screeching chord from the bass and gesturing with his shoulder in a “come hither” kind of way.

Stan had his hands on him, just like during every performance, and the crowd went nuts over it. Some people booed about wanting Rick to themselves, but most of them cheered.

It was almost the end of the performance. Rick’s hands deftly plucked at the strings while Stan’s hands settled on Rick’s hips as he danced against him, skin to skin.

As the song ended, Rick tossed his bass aside carelessly and wrapped his arms around Stan, crushing their lips together, his hands on his ass.

He pulled away and flipped the crowd off, shouting into the mic, “Thank you and goodnight!” before pulling Stan off the stage.

“You guys did great,” said Stan, his arm around Rick’s waist.

“S-sure did, motherfucker!” said Rick with a wide grin. He slung an arm over Stan’s shoulders. “L-let’s go get fucked up, querido!

 

Back in their trailer, Rick and Stan were plastered. Squanchy and Birdperson had gone off with some groupies, but Rick turned down the offer.

“I-I don’t need those whores,” he stammered, already completely sloshed. “I-I got the best whore right here!” He had placed a big, sloppy kiss on Stan’s cheek.

Now, they were lying on the tiny bed in the trailer, arms tangled around each other, butt-ass naked and sticky from sweat. Stan was coming down from his high. He wasn’t sure what he snorted, but it wasn’t like any kind of cocaine he’d ever tried, before.

“Hey, Rick?”

“Y-yeah, Lee?”

“It’s been a week since I fought with my brother. Should I… I dunno. Go make up with him or something?”

“Fu-fuck him,” said Rick, digging his fingers into Stan’s arm. “H-he hurt you, Lee. H-he doesn’t deserve you.”

Rick was a very good liar, Stan remembered. He was probably lying about Ford not being as good as him. He fidgeted uncomfortably. “He’s still my brother. I wanna make things up to him, get closure.”

“L-let’s let him stew a bit,” said Rick. “Keep him waiting. H-he’ll still be there when we get back.”

His brother didn’t want him around, anyway. “Yeah. How long is this tour gonna last?”

“As long as you want it, Lee,” said Rick, tracing his fingers through Stan’s chest hair. “A-as long as you need!”

“Let’s just see how it goes, then.”

“S-sick!” Rick punched the air in victory. “A-and better yet, l-let’s save up all this cash, right? W-we can get ourselves outfitted and show up in style! Th-that would make him jealous!”

“Heh, yeah!” Stan’s bad mood was beginning to turn. “Fuck him! Let’s make him jealous of me for a goddamn change!”

Rick kissed Stan’s shoulder. “H-he should be. You’re so fucking hot.

Stan grinned and pulled Rick even closer. Even if Rick was lying to him, it sure was nice to hear him say these things. Fuck Ford. He could stew in guilt for a while, if he felt guilty. Stan fucking hoped he did.

 

It had been three months since Ford had seen Stan. Their house was almost built, they were just finishing up the paint job. Fiddleford had forgiven him for fighting with Stan (somewhat), and they’d begun their research into anomalies.

Fidds was back at the house, working on his “portable computer” device that was going nowhere. Ford was out in the woods, like usual.

He’d been blown away by what he’d seen. Gnomes, unicorns, minotaurs (uh… man otaurs?) and fantastical creatures of every type. He began to keep a journal to record his findings, and it never left his side. He was ecstatic with his discoveries, but one question still plagued him… why was this town in particular such a hot spot for these types of creatures? What was it that caused the weirdness?

He walked through the woods, peering up at the trees. It was a beautiful day in summer. It smelled like pine needles, and the sound of birds echoed through the trees. Stan had always been more outdoorsy than he had been. He idly wondered what he would think of the strange creatures that he’d been researching.

He’d probably want to fight them, thought Ford with a chuckle. That made his heart hurt. He wasn’t sure why. He never was good at figuring out emotions.

Then he tripped.

Waugh! ” His foot caught on a large tree root. Head over heels, he tumbled into a hole, his notes scattering over the dirt.

“Ow,” he moaned, holding his head. He collected up his notes, dusted himself off, and stood, trying to sort out where he was.

He found himself standing at the mouth of a large cave. Stalactites and stalagmites jutted up and down like enormous teeth. It was significantly cooler down here, a welcome relief from the summer heat.

Ford pulled out his lantern and turned it on before venturing inside. He didn’t plan to go far, not without backup, but he did start charting a mental map of the cave so he could find his way out, again.

The air smelled cool and earthy, down here. He walked deeper, his feet sinking into the soft dirt. His flashlight glittered off of elaborate crystal formations as he walked deeper.

“Heavy calcite deposits,” he noted when he saw the glittering rock. The entrance was far behind him, his lantern glowing alone in the dark.

A flash of colour caught his eye. He ventured over to the far wall of the cave.

“What the…?”

A strange figure was painted on the wall. It was a large yellow triangle with a black circle painted crudely in the centre and black limbs jutting out from the sides. There were small figures surrounding him, prostrate in torment. There was an inscription below it that he recognized as an ancient language, extraterrestrial in origins. It matched the writing in the spacecraft exactly, and Ford figured that if he worked at it, he could have it translated within an hour.

Ford walked over to the next painting. It was a similar figure, albeit painted in much more detail, this time surrounded by a strange wheel. There were symbols littered around the edge, including a six-fingered hand, a pair of glasses, a bottle of some kind, and a strange-looking fish.

Ford pulled out his journal and quickly recreated the paintings in his journal. Then, he set about translating the ancient and alien language.

He read the inscription aloud, not making much sense of the language, but nothing happened. He felt the same, nothing materialized or appeared before him. A bat squeaked overhead.

He left the cave feeling a little disappointed.

In the mindscape, Bill Cipher rubbed his hands together.

See you tonight, IQ! ” he cackled as Ford trudged back home in the hot summer sun.

Chapter Text

Rick pushed Stan up against the door of the motel room, his mouth on his neck, darkening the hickies that had been scattered there over the weeks. Stan grabbed at Rick’s ass, pulling him closer and grinding against his thigh. He moaned as Rick rutted against him.

“Y-you’re such a slut,” said Rick fondly, running his fingers through Stan’s curls.

“I’m your slut,” he said breathlessly.

“And I-I’m yours, querido .”

Te deseo* ,” said Stan.

“Y-your accent is improving,” said Rick, nudging Stan towards the motel bed.

Stan let himself be pushed onto the bed, his shirt pulled off, and his hips straddled.

Rick ran his hands over Stan’s stomach and chest, admiring every muscle, every freckle, every hair, every curve. “G-god, Lee, y-you’re fucking gorgeous.”

Stan hummed approvingly as Rick kissed down his chest, his fingers plucking at his nipples. He tried to keep his blush down, but oh it was hard to do when Rick murmured compliments and praises against his skin. He grinned as Rick pulled off his jeans and boxers, chucking them to the floor.

“Um, babe?” said Stan as Rick pulled off his own clothes.

“Y-yeah?” asked Rick, crawling up towards him.

He blushed. He couldn’t help it. “I wanna suck your dick.”

“W-we’ve been doing this for months, Lee. N-no need to be shy.” Secretly, Rick thought that Stan being shy was the cutest thing he’d ever seen in his life. He moved closer to Stan, straddling his shoulders backwards. “I-I’m gonna suck you off, too.”

Stan kissed his inner thighs, his hands massaging his ass. Rick let out a low groan when he felt Stan’s tongue trail along his dick. It motivated him to suck Stan in, hard and deep.

Stan’s curse was muffled and Rick grinned devilishly. He pulled out all the stops, sucking and licking and teasing, forcing Stan to moan with Rick’s cock in his mouth. He relished the little whimpers and shivers that Stan would make.

Rick pulled away and bit Stan’s inner thigh, digging his teeth into the soft flesh. Stan let out a sharp gasp at this, but he didn’t pull away or protest. Rick sucked hard and ran his tongue over the bite. He wanted Stan to remember this encounter every time his thighs rubbed together.

Stan’s hips stuttered as Rick took him deep, the head tapping the back of his throat. Rick pinned his hips down, shivering as Stan teased his tongue along the side of his cock.

Stan pulled his mouth away with an obscene pop. “You’re so fucking sexy, baby.”

Instead of replying, Rick dug his nails into Stan’s hips and sucked hard. Hard enough that Stan sank his teeth into Rick’s thigh and moaned, hips jutting upwards as he came.

Rick swallowed and let Stan’s softening cock slip from his mouth and pushed his hips back towards Stan’s face. “F-fuck, Lee, finish me!”

Stan took him back into his mouth and sucked in earnest, his hands grabbing at Rick’s ass and squeezing hard enough to leave fingerprints. Rick cursed under his breath, gripping Stan’s hips for balance, his eyes squeezed tightly shut.

Stan hummed lightly around Rick’s cock. Rick let out a loud, unashamed groan and couldn’t help thrusting his hips down and into Stan’s mouth as he finished.

Stan spat on the floor of the motel room, because they were past giving a shit at that point. He grinned as Rick flopped down onto the bed next to him and wrapped an arm around his stomach.

“G-goddamn, Lee. Y-you’re a fucking god. ” Rick pressed a sloppy kiss to the corner of Stan’s mouth.

Stan slung an arm around Rick’s shoulders and let his eyes close. “Nah, I’m just a lucky guy.”

Rick clumsily patted Stan’s chest. “Y-you’re so much more than that, Lee.”

Stan let out a contented sigh. He let the silence hang in the air for a few minutes. He listened to Rick’s breathing, and let him tangle his fingers in his chest hair. They could hear shouting and arguments outside the motel room, both in English and in strange, alien languages, but it was peaceful where they were. Almost like a little bubble, sealed off from the rest of the universe.

Until reality set back in.

“Um, Rick?”

“Y-yeah, Lee?”

“I wanna go see Ford. I think I’m ready.”

Rick sat up and turned to him. “Y-you sure, Lee?”

“Yeah. I’m sure.” He scratched his belly. “I think I’ve let him stew long enough, don’t you?”

Rick shrugged with one shoulder. “I-I’d be happy to let him rot w-with the shit he said.”

“He’s still my brother. I mean, he can be a real dipshit and stuff, but I still care about him.”

“F-familial bonds are garbage, Lee!” said Rick, waving his hand emphatically. “W-what matters is who you choose to care about, not whether you shared a uterus or w-whatever!”

“Well, I’m choosing to care about Ford, Rick,” said Stan, trying not to let exasperation seep into his voice. “You don’t have to come with me if you don’t want.”

“L-like Hell I won’t!” said Rick, folding his arms. “I-I need to be there in case your brother needs the sh-shit beaten out of him, again.”

Stan chuckled. “I hope it’ll go smoother, this time.”

Rick sank back into the sheets and rested his head on Stan’s shoulder. “S-sure. That Fiddleford guy seems okay enough.”

“Fiddlenerd.”

“F-Fiddlesticks.”

“Fiddle-Dee-Dee.”

“Hey diddle-diddle, the cat and the Fiddleford.”

Stan snorted. “That’s too long.”

“A-as if Fiddle-Dee-Dee isn’t?” asked Rick, giving him a light pinch.

Stan chuckled and squirmed away, swatting at Rick’s hand as it tried to tickle him. “True, I guess.”

“S-so, if you’re bent on going to see your asshole of a twin, I-I ain’t gonna stop you. W-when do you wanna go?”

Stan sat up and stretched. “Now, I guess?”

Now? ” whined Rick as Stan got to his feet. “B-but we just fucked!

“I know you like cuddling, babe,” said Stan, pulling on his jeans, “but it’s been three months. Hell, if he fucks up again, it might be even longer before I see him again. May as well get it over with.”

Rick wrapped his arms around Stan and pulled him back onto the bed. “H-he can wait a little more.”

Stan let himself be pulled back. He turned and sank into a deep kiss, slinging his arms around Rick’s waist. Rick smelled like cigarettes and whisky and he gripped his shoulders a little too tight, but Stan loved every second of it.

Rick pulled away and leaned his forehead against Stan’s neck. “You smell good.”

“I smell like sweat.”

“I-I like your sweat, Lee. Th-thanks for putting up with all my bullshit.”

“Well, thanks for putting up with mine.” Stan kissed him on top of his head, Rick’s messy black hair tickling his nose.

 

Ford was sitting across the kitchen table from Fiddleford, scribbling away in his journal. Fiddleford was typing something out on his portable computer, his brow furrowed in concentration.

Ford tapped his pen against his lower lip. He was supposed to be writing about the mindscape, but under his hand there was a scrap piece of paper with his sketch of Fiddleford on it. He tried to capture every detail, from the little moles on his chin, to the crinkle of his brow, to the flyaway hairs on his temples.

Maybe it wasn’t appropriate to stare quite so long at his friend. His married friend. His married friend who was smart, kind, sweet, handsome and- Aw, fuck.

Ford stashed the drawing between the pages in the journal and tried to focus on his notes.

“Any progress?” asked Fiddleford.

“A little.” That wasn’t quite true. He’d been doing very well, but he figured that maybe Fiddleford shouldn’t know about his muse just yet. He didn’t care much for things like that, and he might not understand. “You?”

“Oh, I’m doing quite well,” he said. “Got another fifty lines of code done. Woo-ee, this is takin’ long. ” He sighed. “Should be worth it.”

“Portable computers are a dead end, Fidds,” said Ford. “Trust me, this is where it’s at!” He waved his hand about the cramped kitchen with false grandiose.

With a whoosh and a swirl of green, two people bodily fell onto the kitchen table, breaking it clean in half.

Fiddleford yelped and snatched up his portable computer, but Ford was too late. Pages of notes cascaded everywhere, covering the floor, sliding down the hall, and some slipped under the fridge.

What the hell? ” he shouted.

The two people sat up in the wreckage that was once their kitchen table. It was Stan and Rick.

“Oops,” said Stan, examining a strange device he held in his hand. “Looks like we were a little off.”

“I-I think we made an excellent entrance,” said Rick, standing and brushing himself off. He grabbed the device and shoved it hastily into his backpack before Ford could see.

Ford gazed at the two of them, baffled beyond all belief. He was still reeling from the way they’d entered, but he also noticed the way they were dressed. Stan was wearing tight pants, a clean pink button-up, and a gold chain around his neck. Underneath, a black band t-shirt was peeking out, but Ford couldn’t make out the words. Rick was wearing a new leather jacket, a low-cut tank top, a belt with a skull on it, and new studded leather boots.

“W-where have you been?” stammered Ford, too shocked to be angry about the table.

“How in all of tarnation did’ja appear so fast?” asked Fiddleford, eyes wide.

“Th-that’s for us to know and you to w-wonder about,” said Rick. He took out a flask and took a swig.

“Hey, Ford.” Stan gave him a hapless grin. “Sorry ‘bout your table. I’ll get you a new one.”

“Uh… it’s okay, we found it at the dump,” said Ford, eyes still wide. “How did you… what?” He looked over Stan again. His brother’s eyes were a little red, he smelled like alcohol, and his neck was bruised. “What happened to your neck?”

Stan flushed red to the roots of his hair and buttoned up his shirt. “Nothing! Trick of the light!”

Ford glanced over at Rick. He had similar blotches on his neck, but he hadn’t bothered to cover up.

Ford was dense when it came to that sort of thing, but he wasn’t that dense (most of the time). Seems like Rick wasn’t kidding when he said “fellow conspirator, partner in crime, lover ”. For once, he decided not to point it out. Instead, he chose to focus on why Stan was back.

“Um,” said Ford awkwardly, picking up his notes that had flown everywhere. “I didn’t think you’d be back so soon.”

Stan frowned, and Ford realized that he may have sounded unkind.

“I mean,” he amended hastily, “I was… pretty mean, wasn’t I?”

“You were,” said Stan flatly.

He looked to Fiddleford for help. Fidds had set his project on a safe surface and was gathering up papers. He made a gesture with his hand, telling him to proceed.

“Stan,” said Ford, holding his journal in his hands. “I… I’ve had a lot of time to think, since the last time we’ve talked. I’m sorry. What I said was… uncalled for.”

Stan gave a vague gesture with his hand. “I wasn’t the nicest I could have been.”

“Do you forgive me?”

Stan gave a wan smile. He put a hand on Ford’s forearm. “I do,” he said sincerely.

Ford felt a wave of relief wash over him. He smiled. “Thank y-”

But, ” said Stan, “and this is important… I don’t want to lose you, Ford. Not again. Not forever. Please… just let me be a part of your life, even sporadically.”

“Of course, Stan, whatever y-”

“Plus,” said Stan, cutting him off again, “just because I’ve forgiven you doesn’t mean everyone has.” He tilted his head towards Rick.

Rick shot him a nasty look. He walked over and jabbed his forefinger into Ford’s chest.

“D-do not ever speak to Stan that way again,” said Rick, “or so help me I will tear your molecules apart.”

Ford nodded hastily. “Of course! W-whatever you say, Rick!”

Rick glowered at him and slowly backed away, his attention drawn by the other oddities kept in the kitchen. He pointed up at a mounted rabbit head with deer antlers. “Th-the hell is this?”

“A jackalope,” said Ford weakly. He turned to Stan and crossed his arms.

Stan narrowed his eyes at him. “What?”

“Your turn,” said Ford.

“My turn for what?”

“To apologize!” said Ford, waving his six-fingered hand exasperatedly.

“I didn’t do a damn thing!” snapped Stan. “I didn’t call you names or anything!”

“Ford,” said Fiddleford in a warning tone. “Don’t force what he ain’t ready to give.”

Ford clenched his fists. He glanced at Fiddleford and muttered, “He never apologized for breaking my machine.”

Anger flared up in Stan’s eyes. He clenched his fists and squared his shoulders, daring Ford to take another jab at him. Ford knew he wouldn’t stand a chance next to Stan. When had he gotten so damn buff?

“There’s a statute of limitations on that, Stanford,” said Fidds before he could open his mouth and say something else stupid. “Let. It. Go.”

Ford had let it go. He’d let it go ever since he got wrapped up in his research in anomalies. But every time he thought of Stan or spoke to him, all that old anger got dragged up again. He didn’t know why. It just did.

Maybe Stan sabotaged him, maybe he didn’t. Maybe he would never apologize for breaking his machine. Maybe it shouldn’t matter.

Fiddleford adjusted his tie and apologized to Stan on Ford’s behalf again. If he’d ended up at West Coast Tech, he never would have met Fiddleford. At least one good thing came of that wretched mistake.

“You fellers can share the attic room,” said Fiddleford cheerily. “If you want a place to stay.”

“That would be great, actually.” Stan grabbed his duffel bag and slung it over his shoulder.

Fiddleford stacked Ford’s papers in a neat pile on one of the kitchen chairs. “I can get the twins set up-”

“W-we only need one,” said Rick firmly.

Stan blushed and leaned against Rick, slinging an arm around his narrow waist.

Fiddleford raised his eyebrows. “Oh! Well, I suppose not. Help yourself to some food, if you feel so inclined.” He took his portable computer with him as he went upstairs to fix the bed.

“Thanks,” said Stan gruffly as he left, stepping over debris to the fridge. He and Rick pulled out jars condiments and packages meat, grabbed bread from the top of the fridge, and whipped up at least six turkey sandwiches.

Ford continued to gather up his papers and pick up pieces of the broken table to toss in the corner for later. He watched out of the corner of his eye as Stan and Rick chatted together. It was affectionate and intimate in a way that Ford had never seen his brother act, before. Small touches, little jostles with their shoulders, stupid, dopey grins. Stan had it bad.

Then, without warning, raucous laughter would burst out and Rick would slug Stan in the shoulder or vise versa. Or maybe one of them would make a stupid face and the other would snort. Or Rick would grab Stan’s ass, earning a strangely high squeak from his brother, making Rick bust a gut laughing. Between laughter and flirting, Ford picked up snippets of stories, about drugs, booze, guns, and maybe aliens. He wasn’t sure about that last one. It might have been wishful thinking.

The back of Rick’s leather jacket had the red A for anarchy hand painted onto it. As Ford watched, Rick reached over and swiped cranberry sauce over Stan’s chin. Stan laughed and wiped it off, smearing mayonnaise on Rick’s cheek.

They were definitely together. Ford had no idea how Stan met Rick and he wasn’t sure whether he even wanted to know. Knowing his brother’s new “habits”, he could likely be arrested just for knowing about some of the shit he did. He turned his attention back to his notes.

He picked up a page with Bill drawn on it in careful lines. Bill Cipher had been one of the most interesting and useful people that Ford had ever come across. (People? Creatures? Geometry? Ford wasn’t really sure what he ought to categorize Bill as.) He liked puzzles and codes, and preferred to give Ford hints about what he wanted to know rather than a plain and simple answer. Despite that, he was a perfect gentleman, and Ford had made at least a dozen discoveries thanks to him. He had a good feeling about this new friend of his.

He slipped the page back into his journal.

Chapter Text

Fiddleford’s hands trembled. The voice of his wife was far away, distant, crackling through the telephone line.

I’ve met someone else, Fiddleford. It’s over.

“B-but Delilah-”

Fiddleford. We knew that it was never going to work. It was a shotgun wedding and you know it.

Tears pricked at his eyes. He removed his glasses and wiped his cheeks. “I-I understand. I’m sorry.”

Don’t be sorry. We both know about your… preferences, ” she said, sounding slightly distasteful.

He regretted ever coming out to her when she said that. He sighed and leaned his forehead against the wall. It still smelled like fresh paint. “What about Tate?”

What about him?

“Will I get visitation? He’s my boy.”

Delilah clicked her tongue. “ Not like you see him much to begin with.

Fiddleford let out a weary sigh, guilt clenching in his chest.

You are a good dad when you’re around, Fiddleford. If you want dual custody, we can do that.

“Thank you. I-I hope we can work through this in a civil way. I don’t want to hurt Tate. I’m sorry it had to end like this.”

Of course, Fiddleford. We can still be friends.

“I have to go. I’ll call you later, Delilah.”

Bye.

He hung up and rubbed his eyes. He was torn between being terribly sad and curiously numb. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, leaned against the wall, and hung his head.

“Rough day?”

Fiddleford’s gaze snapped up. He hastily replaced his glasses in the hopes of hiding his red-rimmed eyes. “Sorta, yeah.”

Stan leaned against the wall next to him. He was only wearing boxers and a tank top, and his bedhead stated that he’d just woken up. “Wanna talk about it?”

“I barely know you,” he mumbled.

“Well, who else do you wanna talk it out with? My brother who wouldn’t know a heart-to-heart if it hit him in the face with a brick?” He jostled him lightly with his shoulder. “C’mon, what’s eat’n ya?”

Fiddleford twiddled with his fingers. “My wife left me,” he said flatly.

“Oh, man.” Stan sounded lost for a second. He laid a hand on Fiddleford’s shoulder. It felt like one of the many times Ford had put his hand on his shoulder, minus a finger. It made his heart hurt even more.

“I’m real sorry,” said Stan.

Fiddleford gave a small shrug. He didn’t trust himself to speak without his voice cracking.

“I’m told that I give excellent hugs,” said Stan, “if you’re interested?”

Fiddleford let out a sob and buried his face in Stan’s chest. Stan stiffened for a moment before letting one of his arms drape around him. Stan’s hand came to stroke soothing circles on his back.

“Let it all out,” he said softly. “Ain’t gonna do yourself a favour bottling it up.”

Fiddleford sobbed, digging his blunt fingernails into Stan’s shoulder, his tears dampening his undershirt. He was somewhere between painfully rejected, utterly heartbroken, and strangely relieved. He was hurt and guilty, but… at the same time, a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. That feeling only added to his guilt.

After a minute or two of tears, he took a few deep breaths. His mouth felt dry and his eyes were puffy. He pulled away and wiped his cheeks. “Thanks, Stanley.” His voice was thick with emotion.

“No problem.” He gave his shoulder a squeeze. “If I were you, I’d go make myself busy. It’s no good to sit around on your ass with nothing to do while you’re upset.”

“Good idea, Stan.” Blueprints swam through his head. He widened his eyes. “I’m gonna build a robot. A giant robot.”

“Uh?” Stan didn’t really like the sounds of that.

Fiddleford straightened his labcoat. “Thanks, Stan! You’re the best!” He broke into a run and sprinted down to the lab, whirling past Ford, who’d just finished his cup of coffee. Stan came into the kitchen and put on another pot.

“What’s with him?” asked Ford, jabbing a thumb at the hidden door as it closed shut behind Fiddleford.

“He’s going through some stuff,” said Stan, scratching his stomach. He yawned and rubbed his eyes. “Wife left ‘im. He’s in rough shape.”

“Oh.”

Stan shot his brother a look. Ford looked conflicted. His shoulders were slouched and his coffee mug was limp in his hands, but his expression looked... curious? Maybe excited? This wasn’t the right reaction to being told that his best friend’s wife left him.

“Maybe Fiddlenerd could use his friend in his time of need? ” suggested Stan. “What’s with the dumb look on your face?”

Ford shrugged weakly. “I-I just… I’m just surprised. Why would anybody want to leave him? He’s wonderful. Kind, thoughtful, intelligent… handsome.”

Stan raised an eyebrow.

Ford flushed up to the tips of his ears. “Not that my opinion matters or anything. He’s just a dear friend.”

“Uh-huh. Well, I think the dude needs some time to heal. He mentioned something about giant robots?”

Ford’s eyes widened in fear. An acute memory of second year university floated to his mind. Fiddleford had gotten a failing grade on an assignment, and the next day Ford had woken up to a machine lumbering around their shared dorm. It had broken Fiddleford’s bed, the bookshelf, upset his piles of textbooks, and smashed through the front door before they could turn it off.

The lesson was that Fiddleford really shouldn’t express his emotions through robots.

“Oh no,” said Ford. He sprinted downstairs after his friend.

Stan shrugged and made two cups of coffee. His had lots of cream, Rick’s had plenty of sugar. He took the two mugs upstairs to their shared room.

Rick rolled over in bed when he opened the door. “Hey.”

Their room was small and cramped, but they’d already chucked their clothes everywhere. Stan Junior sat in a slightly larger tank by the window, swimming in happy circles. The window was triangular shaped and had a very strange design on it, like an eye watching them.

“Hey. I have coffee.”

“Woo.” Rick sat up and took the mug from Stan. “Th-thanks, babe.” His gaze travelled downwards. “W-why’s your shirt wet?”

“Fiddlenerd’s wife left him. I was a shoulder to cry on.”

“T-tough break. D-did he get a letter?”

“Phone call.”

“Yikes.” He took a sip of coffee and sighed. “Y-you make the best c-cup of joe, Lee.”

Stan grinned and crawled into the bed with Rick. It was small and cramped, but very cozy. Stan grabbed the newspaper and tried to read, squinting at the tiny text.

“Use y-your glasses, you dweeb,” said Rick. He took another sip of coffee.

Stan huffed. “I don’t need ‘em.”

“L-like hell you don’t. D-do you still even have ‘em?”

“Um, I think they’re in my bag but the prescription’s a little outdated.” He reached under the bed and fished through his duffel bag. He found a case, opened it, and put the glasses on his nose. “Satisfied?”

Rick’s face was abruptly brought into sharp focus. He could pick out every little hair, the freckles on his temples, and the cocky smirk he wore. He was blushing.

“J-Jeez, Lee, you look fucking’ adorable.” Rick planted a kiss on his jaw.

Stan blushed but couldn’t help smiling. “Whatever, Rick.” He started to read the paper.

“N-next time you blow me, p-please wear those glasses.”

“Sure, Rick.”

Rick finished his coffee and pulled out his box of doo-dads and gizmos. Stan loved watching Rick work. His long fingers were careful and precise with every turn of the screwdriver, every twist of the wires. His brow would crinkle in concentration and sometimes he’d bite his tongue between his teeth if he was working especially hard.

Man, I’ve got it bad, thought Stan. He sipped his coffee.

 

Ford still wasn’t sure about Stan being here. He had a tendency to break things or get in the way, and Rick seemed like a super shady character. They were both covered in bruises, hickies and otherwise, and they smelled like alcohol. Their bags clanked in a way that didn’t reassure him. It sounded like machine parts... or weapons. Additionally, he heard some moans last night that told him they sure as hell weren’t playing checkers.

Ford decided to do something very sneaky and not very ethical while he left Fiddleford to his inventing. While Rick and Stan were out collecting El Diablo from its hiding place, he went into their room to poke through their bags.

The stairs creaked underfoot. Stanford tried to justify what he was doing.

It’s my house, I can look in their room if I want.

I need to make sure they don’t have anything dangerous.

What they don’t know won’t hurt them.

He pushed open the bedroom door and wrinkled his nose. Dirty clothes were thrown everywhere, chip bags lay on the floor, the blankets on the bed were rucked up, and they had some suspicious stains on them.

“Just gonna ignore that,” he muttered under his breath. He stopped in front of the axolotl tank. On the side of the glass, there was a sharpie scribble that read “Stan Jr”. The little creature flared its gills at him. Ford idly wondered where and why they got a salamander, but then he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. Ford decided to leave the tank alone. He leaned down and opened up Stan’s duffel bag.

Clothes, dirty magazines, Stan’s glasses case, a bag of toffee peanuts, and another bag of some strange snack he’d never seen before. The writing on it didn’t look like any language he’d seen before, and the bag squeaked and squirmed in a way that made him drop it with a  less than manly shriek.

His six fingers touched cool metal. Ford’s hand trembled as he pulled a gun out of his brother’s bag.

It was a handgun, and it was clean but well used. Stanford opened the chamber and found it fully loaded.

Has my brother killed anyone? Ford wondered.  He had some idea of what had transpired in the years they’d been apart, but he realized that he had no clue as to the full extent of what had happened to him. He grew more frightened when he realized that he might not know his brother at all, anymore. He gingerly replaced the gun and went looking for Rick’s bag.

Rick’s backpack stank like booze. It had some balled-up laundry at the bottom, another gun, some tools, and strange little bags filled with pink powder. Ford tentatively opened the bag, poked his finger in, and licked it. It tasted bitter, but as soon as it touched his tongue colour exploded before his eyes.

Holy shit, ” he mumbled, eyes wide. His limbs felt jittery. His heart was pounding. All the colours seemed brighter, and the sound of footsteps was really far away. “I really wanna dance.”

“Ford, what the fuck?”

Ford whipped around, eyes wide. Stan and Rick were standing above him. Stan looked mad, but Rick looked enraged.

“W-why are you going through our shit? ” yelled Rick, grabbing Ford by the front of his shirt. “Y-you don’t trust Stan, do you? W-what the flying fuck gives you the right? H-he trusts you, w-why can’t you f-fucking trust him?”

Ford’s thoughts were running wild. He waved his hands and tried to articulate why he was in their room, rummaging through their bags, but all that came out was a series of stuttering consonants. Everything was loud and colourful and he couldn’t keep himself still, not that he wanted to try.

Rick’s grip on him slackened. “Shit, Lee, l-lookit his eyes! H-he’s fuckin’ high on collaxian!”

“Aw, Fuck!” Stan kneeled down and gripped Ford by the shoulder. He cringed when he saw the drug on his lip. “Rick, he fuckin’ ate it.”

“Oh. Oh shit. ” Rick dove for one of their bags and started rooting through it. “Ask him how much!”

“Ford, how much did you eat, you moron?”

“Uh… bleventeen…” He said. His pupils were blown wide. Before Stan could stop him, he lunged to his feet. “I NEED TO DANCE!”

“Ford, stop!” Stan stumbled after his brother as Ford danced to a nonexistent beat.

“Dance with me, Stan!” Ford grabbed his brother’s wrists and moved them without coordination. “W-we haven’t danced since prom! You remember prom? It was great! We were covered in punch!”

“Hold him still!” said Rick. He had a needle of some kind in his hand.

Stan grabbed his brother, stripped off his coat, rolled up his sleeve to expose his shoulder, and held him tightly.

“You give great hugs,” said Ford sincerely. The blue tint was starting to fade from his eyes.

Rick swabbed his arm and poked the needle into him, injecting a blue serum into his skin.

“Y-you can’t eat collaxian crystals, dumbass!” said Rick. “I-it’ll cause you to go into cardiac arrest! How much did you have?”

Ford was starting to come down from his high. “J-just a taste.” He giggled, but he was beginning to feel less jittery already. His heart was slowing down. “Why’d you poke me?”

“Antidote. Christ. Stan, I-I thought your brother was a genius.”

“He’s got no common sense.” Stan pulled his coat back on and sat his brother on the bed. “Why were you poking through our stuff?”

Ford shifted uncomfortably. His mouth tasted like sandpaper. “Um. I was just worried.” The high was definitely gone, and he missed the feeling of bliss. He suddenly understood why Fiddleford used to bake pot brownies, no matter how much he voiced his disapproval.

“I can take care of myself, Ford,” said Stan tersely. “I’ve been doing it for a while, now.”

“I know, I know.” Ford looked green. “Why do you guys have weapons?”

Stan glanced at Rick. Rick offered a shrug.

“I told you that I’ve had to do things I wasn’t proud of, Ford,” said Stan. “I guess you didn’t really get what that means.”

Ford wiped the sweat from his forehead. “I feel clammy.”

“Th-that’s a side effect, doofus,” said Rick. “D-don’t you know not to go p-pokin’ through other people's’ shit and tasting weird powders?”

“What kind of drugs are those?” asked Ford.

“Collaxian crystal,” said Stan. “You’re supposed to snort it, not eat it. Dummy.”

Ford rubbed his temples. He had no idea what collaxian crystals were, and he made a note to ask when he wasn’t feeling so rotten. “I guess I deserved that.”

“Ford, I’m glad you’re letting us stay with you, but don’t go through our shit. It’ll be better for everyone.” Stan offered half a smile. “I’ll make dinner?”

“You can cook?” asked Ford, baffled. When he left, Stan couldn’t even operate the microwave.

“There’s lots you don’t know about me,” said Stan. “Let’s catch up. Also never come in here again. And don’t put your hand there.”

“Ew.” Ford jumped up from the bed, his face pink. “So, uh, I guess you two are…?”

“F-fucking?” offered Rick.

“Together,” he said lamely.

Stan folded his arms. “Yeah. We are. Got a problem?”

“No! No, not at all. You know me.” Ford wasn’t exactly discreet about his affection for boys when they were younger. He just didn’t think that Stan shared that trait with him. He was always such a Straight Man. “I’m… I’m happy for you, Stan.”

Stan looked surprised. He relaxed his shoulders. “You are?”

“I’m okay with anyone who you care about,” he said, folding his hands together. “I can help with dinner?”

“Sure. Thanks, Ford. Don’t touch our shit again.”

“R-really,” added Rick. “I-I’ve got some stuff here that’s illegal in certain dimensions.” He kicked a box under the bed.

Ford caught a glimpse of strange machine parts in there. He knew he’d have to ask about it, later.

The three of them jumped when a loud noise crashed through the house. There was a loud roar and the sound of splintering wood.

“Oh, no,” said Ford. He gathered himself up and sprinted downstairs, throwing the door open in time to see a huge robot shaped like a crude Godzilla lumber away from the house and into town.

“What the fuck, Ford?” asked Stan, dashing down the steps and peering out the door.

“Fiddleford deals with his emotions by building robots,” said Ford.

“Shit, man! What do we do?”

“I-I say we let him burn himself out,” said Rick, putting his hands on his hips. “I-I’d rather not get in the crossfire.”

“Hear, hear,” said Stan.

Ford agreed, one hundred percent. He still had a scar on his shoulder from Fiddleford’s last invention gone awry. He turned to his brother and said, “We have some pasta. Can you make mac ‘n cheese?”

Stan shrugged. “How hard can it be?”

 

Ford kept the radio on while they made dinner. He stirred the white sauce on the stove, half listening to the reports, half listening to Rick flirting with Stan.

The radio petered in, “ ... robot attacking the small town of Gravity Falls. Culprit still unknown, motivations unknown, police are attempting to apprehend…

Rick let out a loud laugh and punched Stan in the shoulder. “Y-you’re killin’ me, Lee!”

“Obviously not, since you’re still kickin’,” he said, jostling him gently.

Rick slung his arms around Stan’s waist and leaned in to whisper loudly in his ear, “I-I’m gonna suck your soul out through your dick, Lee.”

Stan snorted loudly. “Fartface.”

“Shitstain.”

“Bitch.”

“Dork.”

They giggled.

Ford rolled his eyes. He didn’t really understand their relationship, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t appreciate it. He saw the genuine affection in their eyes, even as they were hurling half-hearted insults at each other. He knew enough to know that that’s what matters.

“... robot has been cornered, ” said the radio, “ and the suspect apprehended. Police are bringing him in for questioning, now. Suspect is confirmed to be Fiddleford Hadron McGucket-

Ford turned off the radio. “Fiddleford got arrested.”

Stan snorted. “Well, that means out of the four of us, only you haven’t been to jail, poindexter!”

“J-join the jail club!” said Rick, hoisting his flask in the air.

“Jail club! Jail club!” chanted Stan, pounding his fists on the table.

“I’m gonna go bail him out,” said Ford. “Can you two finish making dinner?”

“Have fun with Fiddlenerd,” said Stan as he grated cheese, ignoring Rick as he tried to wind his arms around torso. “Don’t take too long.”

“T-take as much time as you want,” said Rick, trailing his fingertips along Stan’s shoulder.

Ford made an exaggerated sound of disgust, and grabbed his car keys and his jacket from the back of the chair before jogging out the door. He climbed into the little green car and bumped off down the road to the Gravity Falls police station.

 

Fiddleford looked thoroughly ashamed after Ford paid his bail money. He shuffled miserably after Ford out of the police station, his coat torn, one shoe missing, his head bowed. He climbed into the car without a word. Ford rested his hands on the wheel but didn’t turn on the ignition.

“So, um…” Ford didn’t know how to approach this. He drummed his fingers on the wheel. “Are you okay?” Wow. Lame, Ford. Super lame.

“Not great,” said Fiddleford, folding his arms. He looked like a petulant child. “Just drive, won’cha?”

He didn’t start the ignition yet. “You’re a wonderful man, Fidds. Anybody would be lucky to have you. Please don’t forget that.”

“I-is it weird that I’m kinda happy she left me?” he asked.

Ford gave a shrug. “I dunno.”

“I mean… we weren’t great for each other. We were friends, and we made a mistake which resulted in Tate but… we were never really in love.” Fiddleford sighed. “I guess I’m glad she did this. I mean, now we both get a chance to fall in love for real, y’know?”

“I’m still sorry you have to go through this,” said Ford, hoping he was saying the right thing.

Fiddleford sniffled and pulled his legs into his chest, turning his face away. “Thanks, Ford.”

Ford tried and failed to ignore his friend’s quiet sobs as he drove back to the house.

Chapter Text

It was late at night when Stan stumbled downstairs for a drink of water, eyes still crusty with sleep. He yawned, grabbed a glass from the cupboard, and walked over to the sink to fill it up. He took a long drink, set his cup down, and wiped his mouth on his wrist.

He heard a scuffling and turned his head. “Ford?”

“... guys, let’s get outta here!”

“Shmebulock!”

Stan fumbled over to the wall and turned the light on. He let out a yell of surprise.

Tiny men with red pointy hats were scuttling out from under the table. “Scamper, guys! Scamper!” said the leader.

RICK!!! ” yelled Stan, clambering up onto a kitchen chair. “ FORD! FIDDS! WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?

Loud footsteps pounded down the stairs. Rick ripped around the corner, gun at the ready.

Holy shit! ” he shouted as the little men pelted past him. He fired his gun twice, only striking the wall behind them.

Run! ” screeched one of the little men. “ He’s crazy!

Ford and fiddleford pelted into the room and skidded to a halt. By now, the last of the little men had dashed out the front door and slammed it shut behind them.

“What’s all the hubub?” asked Fiddleford.

“Th-there were these guys!” said Stan, hopping down onto the floor. “Red hats, really tiny? Like, what the flying fuck?”

“Oh, those are just the gnomes.” Ford yawned and rubbed his eyes. “Christ, Stan, call us if it’s something important next time.”

“Th-this is a normal thing that happens?” asked Rick.

Fiddleford blinked at him blearily. “Why do you got a gun?

“Y-you might not wanna know how many answers that question has, Fiddlesticks. Get lost, nerds.”

Ford rolled his eyes and huffed, grabbing Fiddleford by the shoulder. “Let’s go.”

“Hey,” said Rick after they left. “W-what the fuck, right? What’re you doing up?”

“Just thirsty.” Stan yawned. “That was goddamn weird.

“Y-your jerk of a brother did mention that this place was weird,” said Rick. “But hey, w-we eat shit like that for breakfast, hey?”

Stan smirked a little. “Sure.”

“C-c’mon, querido. Let’s go back to bed.”

 

As soon as Ford’s head hit the pillow, he was asleep again.

When he opened his eyes, the familiar deep blue of his mindscape met him. Books and furniture floated nearby. It was quiet, except for some low classical music playing faintly in the distance. He looked around for his companion.

“Bill? Are you still here?”

“Heya, IQ!” said Bill Cipher. The yellow triangle floated over to him, adjusting his top hat and bowtie. “Why’d you run off? Did you have to SUCCUMB TO YOUR HUMAN BODILY FUNCTIONS again?”

“No,” said Ford. He summoned his coat in the mindscape and pulled it on, adjusting the lapels. “It was my idiot brother. He woke us all up because he saw some gnomes in the kitchen.”

Bill floated a little closer, twirling his cane. “That brother of yours! He’s a real character, ain’t he?”

“Pssh, yeah.” Ford summoned a piece of chalk and walked over to his board of equations that he and Bill were working on. “He’s a nutcase. I dunno about that Rick guy, either. Seems… shady.”

“Oh, he most definitely is!” said Bill with a laugh. “Your eyes would POP RIGHT OUT OF YOUR SKULL if you heard half the things they did together!”

Ford thought back to the creaking mattress and muffled moans he’d heard at night. “Eugh.”

“I’m not talking about that, ” said Bill, waving his hand. “I’m talking about HIGH TEMPO SHENANIGANS OF CRIMINAL NATURE! I’m honestly surprised you’re not more curious, especially after that encounter with the collaxian crystals!”

“Yeah, well,” he said, scribbling down a few numbers, “I should stay out of it. I could probably get arrested for affiliating with them.”

“Oh, most definitely!” said Bill cheerily. “They robbed a bank!”

“They what? ” Stan whipped around and stared at him. “You’re kidding!”

“NOPE! And they sold drugs, killed people, and traversed half the galaxy with a punk band! Seriously, Fordsy, you ought to keep better tabs on your family! If you like, I could describe in EXCRUCIATING DETAIL some of the horrible things your brother had to do to keep himself alive over the last four years!”

“What? No!” Ford rubbed his temples. “God! Why are you telling me this, Bill?”

“You should know!” he said. “He’s your brother! I’d want to know if a murderer-bank robber was living under my roof, wouldn’t you?”

“Well, yeah, but-”

“Well, he is! And don’t even get me started on Rick Sanchez! His self-manufactured GOD COMPLEX matches almost perfectly with your brother’s INFERIORITY COMPLEX! Perfect yin and yang!”

“My brother doesn’t have an inferiority complex,” he scoffed, folding his arms. “You didn’t hear the way he went on about himself in high school.”

“Gee, Fordsy! Good thing you have a friend like me to help you SEE PAST THE TIP OF YOUR OWN ENORMOUS NOSE! Can you imagine being an average guy and having a brother like you? Everything you could do, he could do smarter! Look at it this way, IQ… he was the FIRST DRAFT! You were the GOOD COPY!”

Ford frowned. “Bill, can we just work on the equations?”

“Whatever you say, pal! I’m just saying, maybe it would be better if you SHIELDED THE LIGHT OF YOUR GENIUS from your brother!”

“What do you mean?”

“Can you imagine how he would react if he knew about me? He’d probably try to SLAP ME OUT OF YOUR HEAD WITH HIS MEATY HANDS! Don’t tell him about your work. Keep it all brotherly! Watch movies together or something. He shouldn’t stay here long, you know. He might RUIN YOUR CHANCE FOR GREATNESS again!”

Bill definitely had a good point. He let out a sigh. “You’re right. Stan wouldn’t understand this.”

Bill pointed to the blue chalkboard with his cane. “You forgot to carry the eight!”

 

Fiddleford idly plucked at his banjo while he sat out on the front porch. He felt exhausted. He hadn’t been getting much sleep, lately. Not to mention he was currently fighting the urge to call his wife.

Ex wife. Right.

He knew that he would sound tired and pathetic, and he didn’t want to call until he’d gotten his shit together. He wasn’t sure how long it would take. At the moment, he felt like he’d been wallowing in misery forever, and it would always be like this. He felt… hopeless.

“You okay, Fiddleford?”

Fiddleford turned his head. Stanford was standing at the doorway, hands in his pockets.

“Yeah,” he said, plucking at his banjo strings. “I’m doin’ as alright as I can be.”

Stanford shuffled his feet. “Is there anything I can do?”

Fiddleford gave a small shrug. “I dunno. I appreciate the offer, though.”

“We could go into the woods? Maybe try and find a unicorn? I’ve never seen one, before.”

“That would cheer you up, Stanford,” said Fiddleford, “I just don’t really feel like it, now. But thank you kindly.”

“I’ll just… Do you want coffee?”

Fiddleford gave him half a smile. “Sure. Thanks.”

Stanford went back into the house and walked over to the kitchen. His jaw slackened when he saw a bag sitting on the recently-repaired table, spilling bundles of cash. Stan and Rick were sitting at the table, counting the money, each smoking a cigarette.

“What the Hell is all this?” asked Ford.

Stan glanced up at him. “What’s it look like, nerd?”

“It looks like… money?” Stanford picked up a wad of bills. “I’ve never seen this kind of currency, before.”

“I-it’s a m-mix of flurbos, nar-nars, and Canadian dollars,” said Rick, jotting down some numbers on a notepad.

“Where’d you get all this cash?” asked Ford.

“Found it,” said Stan gruffly, puffing on his cigarette. “Rick, jot down another five hundred flurbos.”

“Got it.” Rick scribbled down some numbers.

Ford put on a pot of coffee and glanced over at the table. Stan’s brow was furrowed in concentration, and he was actually wearing his glasses for once.

“There’s no way you found all this money,” said Ford, turning back to them. “Where’d you get it?”

Stan frowned. “Do you want the real answer?”

“I already know that you’ve robbed a bank together,” he said before he could stop himself.

Stan and Rick stared at him, wide-eyed, jaws slightly slack.

“I-I never told you that,” said Stan, horrified.

“I have my sources,” said Ford haughtily, folding his arms. “And if those crystals I found are any indication, you’ve been dealing drugs, too.”

“Not dealing,” said Stan.

“C-consuming,” added Rick. “N-nothing makes a performance better than snorting a few lines of collaxian before getting up on stage, my man.”

“Stan this money looks alien, and I’ve never seen drugs like those crystals anywhere in my life.”

“You haven’t ever seen Earth drugs, either!” said Stan.

“Hey-O!” Rick gave him a high five. “Loser! Haha!”

Ford decided to stop tiptoeing around the question. “Rick, are you an alien?”

Rick rolled his eyes. “ No. I wish. Th-this planet blows.”

“You two… have been off the planet?” asked Ford suspiciously.

“Um, yeah,” said Stan. “Where do you think we’ve been for the last three months?”

“I dunno!” Ford threw his hands up in the air, frustrated.

“Well, we’ve been touring the galaxy with a space-punk band,” said Stan.

My space-punk band,” said Rick, blowing out a cloud of cigarette smoke.

“And before that we were jumping through dimensions.”

“W-we ran into ourselves from a parallel universe.”

“One where we were way older,” said Stan, scratching his chin. “Also I almost got absorbed into a strange monster.”

“W-we went to a universe where chairs were people,” said Rick.

“And we spent a week gambling money away, and all we have left from that is Stan Junior, our son who will grow up to be big and strong and a better man than any of us.”

“H-he’s an axolotl,” said Rick turning back to his notes. “Did we leave anything out?”

“I think that’s most of it,” said Stan, thinking hard. He snapped his fingers. “Oh yeah, and we got arrested for robbing a convenience store.”

“Eh, that’s pretty boring.”

“Our escape wasn’t.”

Ford seethed. They were clearly making fun of him. He clenched his hands into fists. “Forget I asked. You two are nuts, clearly! Space travel doesn’t exist! It’s impossible! You two are having me on, aren’t you? Haha, very funny, laugh at the genius! There’s no way I’m gonna fall for your dumb lies, Stanley!”

Stan shrugged. “Whatever helps you sleep at night, bro.”

“Stanley, are you high?

Stan indicated the tiny distance between his thumb and forefinger. “ Just a bit.”

“Ugh! I should have known.” No way these two idiots would be able to crack space travel before Ford did.

Then again… what was that green thing they popped out of? What about those crystals and that money? Those clearly weren’t of this Earth. Ford knew that aliens were real, he had the spacecraft parts in his laboratory to prove it, but he refused to believe that his brother had encountered life from other planets before he did.

They probably just stole that stuff or made it themselves, Ford reasoned. Stan was always a master of cheap parlour tricks, and he wouldn’t put it past him to steal something that would make it seem like he popped out of thin air above their kitchen table. Yeah. That had to be it. There’s no way that those stories they were telling were true. They had to be made up.

Right?

Ford plopped himself down at the kitchen table and pulled out some of his notes to work on while Fiddleford’s coffee was brewing. He scribbled down some equations on a pet project he was working on, a machine that could copy living things. He’d need a dash of mermaid’s scales, and he had no idea where he would find those.

Rick peered over the table at Ford. He pressed one long finger onto the page of his notebook. Ford noticed that his nails were painted black. “F-far be it from me to tell you h-how to do your job, nerd, but I-I think you meant six to the power of ten, not six to the power of twelve.”

Ford frowned at him. “I can do math, Rick.”

“I-I didn’t say you couldn’t,” he said, pushing the cash back into the bag and sticking his notepad in his pocket. “C’mon, Stan.”

Stan jumped up and grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair.

“Back soon,” said Stan as the two of them jogged out of the room. Rick was pulling something from his pocket. They disappeared around the corner.

There was a flash of green and a whooshing sound, then silence. Ford jumped up from his seat and raced over to the hallway, only to find it empty. They were gone without a trace.

Ford’s head was swimming. He shuffled back into the kitchen, more confused than ever, and sat down with his notes.

He double-checked his math and cursed. Rick was right, it was six to the power of ten. He scribbled out his numbers and added the correction, hating that he had been wrong. He wasn’t used to the feeling.

Still agitated, he brought Fiddleford his coffee a few minutes later.

His heart gave a strange little flip when he saw his best friend smile. “You know the way I take it,” he said quietly.

“Yeah,” he said, flustered. “Two sugars, no cream. We’ve been friends for what, over three years?”

“About.” Fiddleford set his banjo aside and took a sip of coffee. “Divine.”

“I’m glad you like it.” Ford sat next to him on the porch bench. He put one hand on the armrest, drumming all six fingers against the weathered wood. He let the silence hang in the air for a few moments. It was quiet except for Fidds taking sips of his coffee, and the sounds of crows in the pine trees.

“I think Rick is a genius,” said Ford, scratching his head. “Or… something. He pointed out a flaw in my math.”

“Ooh, I bet you loved that,” said Fiddleford teasingly.

Ford snorted. “But, like… I don’t get these two. They show up with these drugs I’ve never heard of, money that doesn’t look like it’s from our world, tell me stories that can’t be real, and not to mention how they broke our table…”

Fiddleford took another sip of coffee. It was clear that he was only half listening. His eyes were distant, faraway, maybe still a little sad.

Ford realized that maybe this wasn’t the moment to talk about his frustrations with his brother and his best friend. Boyfriend? Boyfriend.

“Sorry,” he said.

“For what?”

“I dunno. Something.”

Fiddleford chuckled. “In that case, I forgive you. For something.”

Stanford’s ears were burning. “Do you think you could show me a few banjo chords?”

Fiddleford raised his eyebrows. “You always complained when I played.”

“Well,” he said, shifting where he sat. “Maybe I changed my mind.”

Fiddleford grinned, set his coffee aside, and grabbed his instrument. “You could probably make up a few new chords with that extra finger o’ yours.”

“Well,” said Ford, “I’d probably still not be as good as you.”

Fiddleford smiled widely. “No, probably not.”

Ford laughed, and so did Fidds. Stanford decided that he really liked how Fiddleford laughed. He would snort and guffaw, letting out great belly laughs or soft chuckles. Whichever way he did it, it was wonderful.

Chapter Text

Stan picked at the sleeves of his new suit. It was black with padded shoulders and a maroon bow tie. It fit him very nicely, but he wasn’t sure how he felt about the change from his normal t-shirt and jacket. He felt a little bit like an alien in his own skin.

“Q-quit it,” said Rick. He was wearing a similar suit, but his was grey and he was wearing a regular tie. He’d actually combed his hair for once in his life, but it still stuck up at odd angles. “Y-you’re gonna make your suit fray.”

“Why are we doing this?” he hissed under his breath.

“B-because we’re gatecrashing the fanciest party in the Sirius star system,” said Rick, straightening his cuffs, “and we have to look classy to get in. Y-you think they’re gonna let a couple’a bums like us head in there wearing leather jackets and stained t-shirts? I-I-I don’t think so.”

“Yeah, but why?”

“F-for fun!” said Rick, throwing his hands up in the air. “For a laugh, y’know?”

Stan chuckled and adjusted his bowtie. “I’m dressed like an old man.”

“A f-f-foxy old man!” Rick slapped his hands away and adjusted his bow tie himself. “There. Th-the cut really suits you, babe.” He smoothed out his lapels for him.

Stan gave a crooked smile. “Thanks.”

Rick stooped and placed a kiss on his cheek. “L-let’s blow this joint wide open.”

Rick grabbed Stan’s hand and the two of them stepped out of the back alleyway, pushed past two green aliens that were nine feet tall, and cut to the front of the long line that went halfway around the block.

“Ex-excuse me,” said Rick, pulling out one of the fake IDs that Stan had whipped up. “I believe that w-we have priority.”

The bouncer looked them over, squinting carefully at their IDs. He was tall, with massively broad shoulders, pitch black skin, and four beady black eyes.

“Take off your glasses,” he said to Stan.

Stan complied easily, winked and clicked his tongue. “Anything for you, hotshot.”

“Save it,” he said, shoving the IDs back into Rick’s hands. “In you go.” He unhooked the rope so they could pass through.

Stan gave a two fingered salute as they passed him and into the doors of the party. Rick grabbed his sleeve and tugged him through the door.

The room was packed. People of every shape, size, colour, and possible gender were there. People who oozed, people who had scales, people whose antennae brushed the ceiling, and people who had six legs. People were chatting and mingling, soft pre recorded piano music playing in the background. Trays of h'orderves were spread out over a long table, and huge pitchers of booze that was as black as tar.

“Why are we here, again?” asked Stan, tugging at his collar. It felt like it was strangling him.

“T-to fuck it up!” said Rick, grinning wickedly. “N-not every day we get to gatecrash the fanciest party in the quadrant! F-first thing we gotta do is fix the music! I’ll do that, y-you start f-fucking around with those finger foods over there! L-let’s get f-fucking wrecked!

“No need to tell me twice,” he said with a grin.

Rick shot a wicked grin over his shoulder before he disappeared into the crowd.

Stan put his glasses back on and waltzed over to the table, grabbing a plate and loading it with strange little vegetables, some kind of shellfish, and something that wriggled and squeaked but Stan thought they smelled heavenly. A few months ago, he would have been terrified of being alone in a place like this, but he’d gotten used to being the only human in the room. There were some languages he didn’t speak, but he found that a lot of alien worlds seemed to develop a language similar to English and it was almost like a pigeon dialect.

“Where are you from?”

Stan turned, mouth stuffed full of wiggling, squeaking snacks, and looked down. It was a short, yellow alien with suckers on its face. Stan swallowed hard, coughed, and thumped himself in the chest. “I-I’m from Earth.”

“Oh, that little podunk planet?” the alien asked, folding its tentacles. “That’s adorable! My friends and I love to go down there and mess with the inhabitants. Buzz ‘em, you know?”

“Buzz them?”

“Yeah,” he said, “it’s hilarious! Find somebody that nobody will believe out in the middle of nowhere, fly down in your ship, strut around in front of them wearing antenna and going “beep boop”, then take off again!”

“I suppose you leave patterns in our corn fields, too?” asked Stan, amused.

“Oh, so that’s what that stuff is!” he said, laughing. “It tasted real weird.”

“You just eat the yellow kernels, dude. Green stuff’s no good. You usually gotta cook it first, otherwise it’s real mealy.”

“That explains a lot,” he said, nodding along. “Well, I’m from Ostro-Sirius nine.”

“What’s it like?”

“Mostly marshy,” he said thoughtfully, “but the poles are pretty cold.”

“Cool. Maybe I’ll visit.”

“Oh, you should!” he said, all twelve eyes widening earnestly. “We have more varieties of insects than any other planet in our star system, and most of them are pretty delicious.”

“Cool.” Stan popped another h'orderve into his mouth and made a face. “Eugh. Salty.”

“Try the shnapp-shlums,” said the alien. “They’re super good. Make my eyes water. Mm.

“Thanks, man.” Stan turned back to the table and loaded up his plate.

At that moment, the music died down and was immediately replaced with screaming punk rock that Stan immediately recognized as one of The Flesh Curtains’ most popular songs. He shovelled food into his mouth, sloppily poured himself a drink, and guzzled it down.

The pleasant buzz hit his brain and everything seemed way funnier. He giggled to himself as he ate more of the squeaking things. He was vaguely aware that some people were complaining about the music, but a crowd in the middle was starting to dance to it.

“I love this song,” said the alien from Ostro-Sirius nine, shaking its tentacles.

“I’m fucking the lead guitarist,” said Stan, shouting over the music.

The alien widened his twelve eyes again. “Shut. Up. Can you get me an autograph?”

“I dunno! Let’s go find him!” He tossed his plate aside, letting it shatter on the floor, then downed another glass of black alcohol before throwing the cup away, too. People muttered and shrieked at the sound of breaking glass.

Rick wasn’t hard to find, as it turned out. Stan pushed through the crowd and found him standing up on top of a table and dancing, singing along to his own song.

“Babe!” Rick reached down, grabbed his hand, and pulled him up onto the table. “C-come dance with me!”

Most of the people surrounding the table were making exclamations about, “Wow! It’s Rick Sanchez!” or were dancing to the music that was screaming over the speakers. Stan could see people rushing around in the back to turn it off, unaware that Rick had climbed up into the rafters and rerouted the entire sound system. Some people were shuffling off to the side to mutter about how unbecoming this was, and that somebody should call the authorities.

Rick snatched a few pens and signed a few shirts, cups, receipts, whatever he could get his hands on. The Ostro-Sirius nine alien gave Stan a thumbs up when he got his signed shirt, at least Stan was pretty sure it was a thumbs up, it’s hard to tell with tentacles.

A new song came on, one that Stan hadn’t heard before. He couldn’t hear Squanchy’s usual crazy drumming or Birdperson’s throaty singing. Instead, it was just Rick’s bass and his scratchy voice. It was a fairly slow song, perfect for dancing to, and over the crowd Stan could only catch a few lyrics.

Met you with a punch to the face

Can’t imagine another in your place

Together we run

Together we fight

It ain’t wrong

And it ain’t right

If I could do it again

Just let me say

You stole my heart

And I’d steal your car any day

Stan broke into a huge grin, wrapped an arm around Rick’s shoulders and pulled him into a tongue-heavy kiss, his other hand linking with Rick’s.

Rick pulled away. His face was pink and he was trying not to look embarrassed.

“I-it’s still a work in progress,” he said.

“I love it,” said Stan. His head was woozy with alcohol and he didn’t care about the people staring or the shouts that were slowly getting louder. “It’s perfect.”

“Y-you sap,” said Rick, pulling away slightly.

“Hey, you wrote it,” said Stan, cuffing him on the shoulder. “You’re even sappier than me!”

“Pssh, w-whatever,” said Rick, but Stan knew he was pleased. “I-it’s not my fault that it’s s-so easy to write about you.”

“Hey! You two! Get off’a there!”

“Wuh-oh,” said Rick. Two insect men were standing there, arms folded.

“You two aren’t supposed to be here,” said one of them, its lip flaps moving when it spoke. “Come quietly and we won’t rough you up.”

“RUN!” Rick leapt off of the table and into the crowd, Stan on his heels. They staggered away, heads fuzzy with alcohol, and rushed to the back table, grabbing drinks as they went. Stan guzzled two more shot glasses, threw the cups down on the ground, and sprinted after Rick.

They rounded a corner, knocked a table over, sent people scattering, and Stan grabbed a chair and hurled it through the window. Rick jumped through, followed by Stan, and they landed in a dumpster.

Stan and Rick could hear voices inside. “They’re in the alley! Get ‘em!”

“H-hang on!” Rick fumbled with the portal gun as they climbed out of the dumpster. “Uh… shit, everything’s fuzzy.”

Stan hiccuped. “How much… how much did you have to drink?”

“N-not enough, motherfucker! Haha!”

Stan’s vision was swimming, even with his glasses on, but that didn’t stop him from grabbing the portal gun from Rick and picking one of the preset locations, hoping that it said “Gravity Falls”. He shot a portal towards the brick wall and dragged Rick through it just as shouts were starting to come down the alleyway.

They popped out in a place that was far too bright. White walls, white floors, white ceiling. People stared at him, but they all looked the same, or almost the same. Stan’s head felt dizzy.

Then he saw the bronze statue standing before him.

Rick blinked up at it blearily. “I-is that me?

 

Ford and Fiddleford sat at the kitchen table. Fidds was tuning his banjo, Ford was making sketches. He was supposed to be putting finishing touches on his drawings of the eye-bats, but instead he was drawing Fiddleford. Again.

Ford was trying to draw his hands, but he kept moving so it was hard. He managed to get the rest of the pose almost perfect, but his hands were tricky.

Ford loved Fiddleford’s hands. His palms and fingertips were always calloused from working with tools or stained from chemicals. His hands were rough and capable, but careful and dextrous when they needed to be. It was a thing of beauty to watch Fiddleford tune his banjo.

Fidds glanced up at him. “You’re staring.”

“Sorry,” he said, hastily shoving his drawing under a stack of graph paper.

Fiddleford looked at him curiously, head tilted, but didn’t say anything. He plucked out a few notes and fiddled with the key on the head of the banjo.

“How are you feeling?” blurted Ford.

“A bit better, I suppose,” he said thoughtfully. “I might be up to do some field work, soon.”

“It’s been too long since we went out together,” said Ford, turning a page in his journal. “Maybe we could go to the ship we found? Get some more parts?”

“Parts for what?” asked Fiddleford.

“Whatever you might need!” he said. “You’re always working on something .”

“Oh, well,” said Fiddleford, blushing. “I have this idea for bionic limbs, prosthetics for people who’ve lost body parts? It’s just on paper, now, but-”

“It sounds amazing,” said Ford sincerely.

Fiddleford blinked. “Your face is red.”

“So is yours,” he countered.

Fiddleford put a hand to his cheek, feeling how hot his face was. “Oh. Yeah. Hah.”

Ford held his gaze. Fiddleford's eyes were emerald green, hidden slightly behind his round glasses. They were an unusual colour, and Ford could appreciate that. He thought they looked lovely.

Fiddleford raised his eyebrows. “Uh, Stanford?”

Ford choked on his words and stood abruptly, stowing his journal into his coat. “I-I gotta check on the specimens in the lab. I'll be back in a second.” He dashed off, coat billowing behind him, ears burning.

Fiddleford chuckled behind his hand and looked over at the stack of graph paper. Some of it was covered in numbers and equations. When he asked Ford about them and how he’d come up with such complex equations, he would get the sweats and say that he was keeping in touch with a “friend” he met back in Jersey, and Fidds got this strange feeling that he wasn’t telling the truth. He ignored the papers and pushed them aside to see what Ford had hidden.

It was a drawing of him. Fiddleford picked it up and examined it. It was very lovely, Ford’s pencil capturing his looks down to every stray hair and every wrinkle in his khaki shirt.  His hands were still rough, but the rest of his drawing was incredibly precise.

At the bottom of the page was two names surrounded by question marks.

Stanford McGucket

Fiddleford Pines

Fiddleford flushed red to the tops of his ears. He couldn’t help chuckling. It was like Stanford was a sixth grade girl doodling his crush’s name in curly letters with hearts dotting the eyes.

Fiddleford knew that Stanford liked guys, no matter how much he tried to say that the “friends” he went out with on Friday night in college were just friends. Ford would stumble home the morning after, hair mussed and clothes rumpled, and when Fiddleford asked who the lucky girl was, he would make up a name on the spot (Fiddleford knew he made them up because the same three names would cycle through whenever he asked him, and he knew for a fact that there was no girl called Marian Hawthorne who liked RPGs and Star Trek on campus). These days didn’t happen often, since Ford was very focussed on his work, but they did happen.

Fiddleford felt conflicted. His heart was too raw to think about dating Stanford. He was still healing from the rejection of his wife. Still, it was nice to know that somebody felt that way about him.

Stanford made his heart pound and his stomach do strange little flips. He had for a long time. He remembered staring at him while they studied together, admiring his strong jaw and soft brown eyes and the way his brow would furrow in concentration. He remembered the pangs of jealousy he would get when those morning-after days would come around. It was part of the reason why he was so eager to join him in Gravity Falls to help with research… and part of the reason why he got married so quickly. He had hoped that getting married to the girl he’d knocked up would help stifle his feelings for Ford, but it only made for more heartache.

Fiddleford heaved a sigh and replaced the drawing, hiding it under the graph paper again. He liked Stanford. He was the best friend he’d ever had. He was smart, handsome, adorable, and sweet. He was a little thick-headed and blind to human interactions sometimes, but he was learning. Fiddleford had daydreamed about kissing his jaw or running his hands over his chest more times than he cared to admit.

A small doodle on one of the papers caught his eye. He picked it up and adjusted his glasses.

It looked like the all-seeing eye from the dollar bill, but with arms, legs, a top hat and a bowtie. Next to it there was a nearly indecipherable scribble of numbers and words, like Ford had written it just after waking up, but Fiddleford could just make out Ford’s messy handwriting.

Bill told me it would work if I multiplied it by infinity. Can’t figure out how to do that.

Who’s Bill? You can’t multiply things by infinity, it would just be infinity. Infinity isn’t a number, it’s a concept. How was that supposed to do anything?

Fiddleford felt like the drawing was watching him. He quickly slid it back into the pile of papers, picked up his banjo, and went to go put it in his room.

Chapter Text

Rick and Stan walked around the citadel, leaning against each other for support as they squinted at the bright light. The ceiling was high and cavernous, there were bronze statues of Rick everywhere, some sporting quotes on plates at their feet, and in the courtyard there were flowers and fountains.

“What the fuck is this place?” asked Stan.

“I-it’s like there are a million clones of me,” said Rick.

It was true. There were Ricks everywhere. Old Ricks, young Ricks, really young Ricks, Ricks that looked like fish men, Ricks that looked like horrible monsters, fancy Ricks, grubby and grimy Ricks, Ricks that were wearing suits, labcoats, jackets, and everything in between.

“Citadel of Ricks,” said Stan, adjusting his glasses to read the sign that hung above the entrance. “Huh. Is this some kinda place for all the Ricks in the multiverse to gather?”

“H-Hell if I know, Lee.”

“H-h-hello!” said a cheery voice.

The two drunkards turned to see Rick. This one was wearing a crisp, clean suit and is wearing a gameshow smile. He was wearing a nametag that says “Rick”.

“First time to the citadel?” he asked. “Welcome! I-I’m Tour Guide Rick!”

“Y-yeah,” said Rick. “W-what is this place?”

“A spot between dimensions,” said Tour Guide Rick simply. “L-lots of Ricks get in trouble with their own government, s-so a few thousand versions banded together to create the citadel! S-since it’s your first time here, I-I’ll give you the tour, th-then you gotta put your coordinates down so you can be registered.”

“Uh, okay?” said Rick.

“F-f-follow me!”

They stumbled after him, gazing up at the high ceiling, trying to take it all in. It was a beautiful building, and as they moved out of the courtyard, the crowds got busier and advertisement signs popped up along the walls. It was nothing they hadn’t seen at Blips and Chitz or in space malls, but it was hard on the eyes and ears all the same.

“Here’s the market, where the Salesman Ricks sell their wares,” said Tour Guide Rick, pointing down a corridor that was framed with shops and identical people shouting down more identical people and haggling prices. “If I had to make a recommendation, I’d tell you to visit Adult Video Store Rick. H-he’s got a good selection, amigo!”

“Cool,” said Rick. “W-where can we go to get wasted?”

Tour Guide Rick laughed. “M-most parts of the citadel have a bar! Y-you just have to look. This way!” He jogged off, away from the marketplace.

“Ugh, how does he have so much energy? ” asked Stan bitterly as they tried to keep up with him.

They passed by the theatre, the conference room, the arcade, the archives, Jerryboree, the Morty Daycare, Tour Guide Rick explaining the details while they went. They were still pretty drunk so half of what he said went in one ear and out the other without stopping in the middle.

After a while, they came to one building in the citadel that looked an awful lot like-

“I-is that the house?” asked Stan, eyebrows raised.

“No,” said Tour Guide Rick. “Well.. yes. I-it’s the Shack of Stans, where all visiting Stans can go hang out. L-lots of Ricks have Stans, s-so the council decided to build a place for them. Y-you should wait there while your Rick is registered, we won’t be long!” Tour Guide Rick grabbed the other Rick by the shoulder and steered him away, ignoring his protests.

“Back soon!” he said cheerfully.

Stan gave a shrug and stuck his hands in the pockets of his suit as he walked towards the shack.

“Ooh, a Stan!

“He’s a cute one! Y-young, but no mullet.”

“Nice suit, Lee!”

Stan turned and saw a few Ricks jeering at him. One looked much older, his hair a strange blue-grey, a stained labcoat wrapped around his skinny body. Another one was wearing a purple shirt and obnoxiously coloured sunglasses. The last one looked quite young, maybe in his late teens, and his black hair was pulled into a messy ponytail.

“God, you’re hot!” said the old Rick, stumbling over to him. He draped a lanky arm around his shoulders. “Come with us, w-we can show you a good time, baby!”

“I-I’m the Rick who’s best at sucking dick,” said the young one.

“C-c’mon,” said the Rick with the sunglasses. “I-it’ll be fun!”

Stan was feeling pretty damn conflicted. On one hand, this was probably cheating. On the other hand, the idea of having sex with three versions of his boyfriend sounded like an amazing time. On the other other hand, would this be considered cheating? He was technically still having sex with his boyfriend… it was just another version of him. On the other other other hand…

“Hey guys, get lost! Leave the rookie alone. This is his first time at the citadel.”

“Aw,” whined the young Rick, pulling away from Stan.

“W-we’re just trying to show him a warm welcome,” said the old Rick.

The Ricks grumbled as they slouched off, muttering about some people being total buzzkills.

A large hand clapped onto Stan’s shoulder. “C’mon, kid, let’s get in the shack. Th-that’s the Stan-only zone.”

Stan turned and saw his own eyes staring back at him. It was a slightly older version of himself, maybe in his late twenties, early thirties.

“I’m Stanley from dimension J-932,” said the other Stan. He was wearing a vest and a bowtie with question marks on it. “I’m Magician Stanley. I’m good at card tricks, still working on sawing the lady in half. First time in the citadel?”

“Yeah. I’m Stan G-376.” He offered a hand to shake. “Uh, no title.”

“Nice.” Magician Stan shook his hand. His grip was firm. “You look drunk and smell like booze.”

“I am drunk,” he said, his knees feeling wobbly. “W-we were gatecrashing a party.”

Magician Stan chuckled. “You ready to sober up, or do you want more to drink?”

“W-whichever. My Rick isn’t gonna be sober, yet.”

“C’mon, let’s get into the Shack.” Magician Stan grabbed onto his arm and pulled him into the Shack.

It looked different from Ford’s house. It was a little more broken down, a little more weathered, and a lot roomier. The walls were decorated with cheesy memorabilia, licence plates, and photos. Most of the photos seemed to be of Stan and Rick, but it was clear that it wasn’t the same Stan. There were tall Stans, short Stans, Stans with red hair, female Stans, fish Stans, monster Stans, and more. All these photos littered the walls leading into the main room, where the kitchen would be if Stan was back home.

The room was full of people who looked just like him. Some were sitting around a table playing poker, some were at the bar being served by Bartender Stan.

“Hey, gents!” said Magician Stan. “We got new blood!”

“Hey! Welcome!” A Stan that looked like he was made of stone and had large wings folded behind him raised his glass from his spot at the poker table. “I’m Gargoyle Stan.”

“I’m Hopeful Stan!” said another cheerily. He was wearing a yellow t-shirt with a smiley face on it.

“I’m Dancer Stan!” said another one wearing a white shirt and gold chain.  He snapped his fingers. “Always ready to throw down!”

“I’m Miami Stan,” said another wearing horrible pink sunglasses and an awful purple Hawaiian shirt. “I just got married.” He showed off his huge purple diamond ring.

“Congrats,” said Stan, offering him a thumbs up.

“Don’t encourage him,” hissed Magician Stan under his breath. “For the record, the other three here are Bartender Stan, Portal Stan who was lost in space for thirty years, and Test X-945 Stan. His Rick accidentally killed him and tried to bring him back, it wasn’t pretty.”

Bartender Stan gave him a simple two fingers in hello. He was wearing an apron and he looked pretty young, about as young as him. Portal Stan was missing an arm and wearing a ratty coat, staring at the wall and not talking to anybody. He was also sporting a pretty sweet beard that Stan felt mildly jealous of. Test X-945 Stan… didn’t look good. He was floating a few inches above the ground, staring off into space, his body covered in pink goo, his limbs scarcely more than stumps. It was pretty grim.

Stan sat at the bar and opened his wallet. “Uh, whiskey, please.”

Bartender Stan smiled at him. He was the only Stan other than Gargoyle Stan who was wearing glasses. “Sure. Got a title, yet?”

“Title?”

“Like how I’m Bartender Stan, that’s Magician Stan?”

“Oh. No, I’ve only met one other version of me, before. He was old and really gay, that’s all I know. What should I call myself?”

“That’s not how it works, ” said Magician Stan. “ You don’t come up with your nickname, man! We do! So, start telling us a bit about yourself, and we’ll pick a title for you.”

Gargoyle Stan abandoned his poker game with Dancer, Miami, and Hopeful and took a seat next to them at the bar. “I’m great at coming up with these names!” he said, buffing his claws on his suit.

“Take it easy, old timer,” said Bartender Stan. “Don’t exert yourself.”

“Quit patronizing me! Anyhow, kid, tell us a bit about yourself!”

“Not much to tell,” he said with a shrug. “Kicked outta home at eighteen, been on the road for four years.”

“That happens to most Stans for one reason or another,” said Magician Stan. “Kind of a constant in the universes, like how Ricks are geniuses.”

“That’s… depressing,” said Stan, looking down at his drink. “Well, I met Rick when he tried to steal my car. Found him in a bar a few days after, beat his ass in, and we’ve been in it together ever since.”

“That’s romantic,” said Bartender Stan with a slight sigh.

“You’re such a sap!” said Gargoyle Stan gruffly. “I bet dating Fiddleford did that to you.”

Stan snorted. “ Fidds? You’re dating that nerd?”

“In my universe, he’s a millionaire,” said Stan, wiping the counter idly. “We’ve been together for two years. Rick’s my best friend.”

“Oh. Weird.” Stan couldn’t picture dating that scrawny nerd, himself. He took a sip of whisky.

“What else?” asked Magician Stan.

“Uh, we robbed a bank, sold drugs, got lost in the multiverse for a little while, got arrested, I’ve met up with Ford again but we’re not on the best terms, and I travelled around with the Flesh Curtains for a few months. That’s most of it.”

“Are you guys dating?” asked Gargoyle Stan.

“Why?” he asked apprehensively.

“Stans have three types of relationships with their Ricks,” said Gargoyle Stan, holding up three fingers. “They either hate each other, are best friends, or are dating. Sometimes, it’s all three. That, or they never met. Which are you?”

“He’s my boyfriend,” said Stan, still unused to how those words sounded.

“Aw,” said Bartender Stan. “Young love!”

Magician Stan grinned. “How long have you been at it?”

“About three months, I guess? A little more? Dunno.” He shrugged. “Got any ideas for nicknames, yet?”

“Young Love Stan?” suggested Bartender Stan cheekily.

“Ew! No, no way,” said Stan. “Not on your life!”

“Flesh Curtains Stan?” suggested Magician Stan.

“Oh, how about Made-Up-With-Ford Stan?” said Gargoyle Stan.

“That’s dumb,” said Magician Stan. “What else you got about you, kid?”

“I have a pet axolotl named Stan Junior,” said Stan proudly. “He’s my son, and I will raise him to be big and strong!”

“I’ll drink to that!” said Gargoyle Stan. “Axolotl Stan it is!”

“Or Car Thief Stan, since that’s how you met your Rick,” said Bartender Stan.

“You’re such a romantic,” said Magician Stan to Bartender Stan. He turned back to Stan. “What’s better, being named after a lizard, or the jerk who ruined your life?”

“He didn’t ruin it,” said Stan haughtily. “He saved it. I was this close to giving up when he found me!”

“Let me guess,” said Gargoyle Stan. “Mullet?”

“Mullet,” he said sadly.

“Mullet Stan can rock the mullet,” said Magician Stan thoughtfully. “For most of us, though, it looks greasy.”

“I thought I looked okay,” said Stan defensively. “Rick didn’t. He cut my hair two days after we met.”

Magician Stan snorted. “I was on the outs when I met my Rick, too. I was doing street tricks, y’know? He helped me with some sci-fi gizmos, we pulled of some good shows, eventually went with a travelling circus. We’re thinking about settling down.” His smile fell and he flicked at a speck of dust on the counter. “I haven’t made up with my Ford yet. Haven’t spoken to him since I left home.”

“Things are on the mend with my Ford,” said Gargoyle Stan. “It’s taken some work and many, many years… but we’re doing okay.”

“I never had a falling out with my Ford,” said Bartender Stan. “Ford was always better with people than me.”

Stan snorted. “My Ford is an idiot when it comes to people. He can’t read a room to save his damn life. We’re still working stuff out. I’ve been staying with him in Gravity Falls.”

“It’s an interesting place,” said Gargoyle Stan. “Spent much time ‘round there?”

“Not really. I found some gnomes, but that’s about it.”

“Axolotl Stan,” said Gargoyle Stan. “You’re in for a world of insanity. I wasn’t born like this. Gravity Falls turned me into this.”

Stan widened his eyes. “ What?

“Yeah. The place is nuts, but I love it. Not everything is all good and fun, though. You ever meet this character called Bill?”

Stan shook his head. “No, but I’ve heard of him.”

“He’s bad news, ” said Portal Stan. The other Stans snapped their gazes over to him and the room went dead quiet, because it wasn’t often that he spoke. He turned to face Stan, and he saw that his face was scarred from burns and blades. “Trust me. Not every Stan has met him, but all the ones who did… it doesn’t end well for us, most of the time.”

“No?” asked Stan.

“No,” he said firmly, toying with a jagged blade on his hip. “We try to warn others, band together, but if Bill is determined to fuck things over for us, he will, one hundred percent.” He looked down at his drink and swirled it in his glass. “I’m no spring chicken, Axolotl. I’ve had a long road to hoe. Bill was a pretty bad pothole.” He took a drink and sighed, wiping his mouth on his dirty wrist.

“How bad?” asked Stan tentatively.

Portal Stan swung a leg over the stool, leaning his prosthetic arm on the bar. “The thing that’s scary about Bill aside from his total insanity and lack of morals and straight-up power is that he’s one of the few beings who’s aware of the multiverse. Not in the way we are, either. He can feel every incarnation of himself on every plane of existence. He knows when a version of him lives and when a version of him dies. In many universes, he’s taken over completely, and with every universe he takes over, he gains a little more power over time and space.”

Stan chewed on his lip. This sounded crazy. No way that anybody can be aware of so many planes of existence. Infinity was too big.

“The short story is, watch out,” said Portal Stan. He slapped a few flurbos on the counter, grabbed his bag, and limped out of the room.

“Is that true?” asked Stan cautiously.

“Yeah,” said Gargoyle Stan. “He knows it better than anybody. He spent thirty years in the dimension that Bill’s from. His home base.”

Stan couldn’t imagine what that would be like, so he didn’t say anything. He took a sip of whisky.

“I’ve never met him,” said Magician Stan. “Maybe you won’t have to.”

“Yeah, maybe,” said Stan, but he really didn’t feel reassured.

The door of the Shack of Stans burst open and a Rick stuck his head in. “I-is there a Stanley G-376 here?”

“That’s me!” said Stan, wobbling to his feet. “Hey, Rick!”

“Lee! Buddy!” Rick jogged over and grabbed him by the shoulder, laughing. “W-wow, a whole room full of Stans! That’s really hot.”

Stan snickered and leaned against him. “If I had sex with myself, would it be masturbation?”

“Any volunteers?” asked Rick to the room.

Test X-945 Stan gurgled, its glassy eyes wide and staring.

“Uh, ew,” said Rick, inching away. “Not you.”

“Be nice to him!” said Bartender Stan.

“Yeah,” said Gargoyle Stan. “He’s had it rough!”

“Here, buddy.” Bartender Stan tossed a toffee peanut at Test X-945 Stan. Rick wrinkled his nose when he saw that it was dissolved in the pink goo.

“Eurgh,” said Rick. “Gross and weird! C-come on, babe! L-let’s blow this joint!”

“Right behind you!” Stan waved behind him as he and Rick dashed out the door. “Catch you guys later!”

“Come back any time!” said Bartender Stan.

Stan jumped through the door after Rick and out into the citadel to head to the portalling station.

“Ricks are trouble,” said Portal Stan as he passed through, limping from the washroom. “They like to play God.”

“How come you’re fucking one, then?” asked Gargoyle Stan.

Portal Stan shrugged. “Honestly? I don’t have a good answer.”

 

“Who’s Bill?”

Stanford tensed, then relaxed, turning to Fiddleford. He was wearing a put-on smile. It was easy to see that he was nervous. “Just an old friend from Jersey. He’s been giving me advice on some of my projects.”

“Isn’t that… my job?” offered Fiddleford, leaning against the cluttered desk in the lab.

“Well,” said Stanford flustered. “Bill’s… different.”

“Oh,” said Fiddleford, his voice feeling hollow. “Different how?”

“You’re more of an engineer, more of a physics guy,” said Stanford, twiddling a pen in his six-fingered hand. “Bill’s a biology guy, good to talk to about the creatures we find around here.”

“I know about biology, Stanford. I minored in it for two years, you know that.” Fiddleford let out a breath, realizing that he was sounding confrontational. “Maybe you could introduce us some time?”

No!

Fiddleford widened his eyes at Stanford’s panicked expression. “Pardon me?”

“It’s just,” said Stanford, trying to collect himself. “Bill’s kind of a private guy, y’know? He doesn’t make friends easily. Yeah.”

Fiddleford was very suspicious at this point and he was determined to get to the bottom of this mess. He let the matter slide and asked Ford a question about Manotaurs, but in the back of his mind he didn’t forget Ford’s tone when he asked to meet Bill.

He decided to look through his journal.

 

“Hey, IQ! I have a really good idea! No surprise, considering that it’s kinda my thing!”

“What’s that?” asked Ford, tilting his head curiously as he thumbed through one of the books in the mindscape.

Bill floated a little closer, adjusting his bowtie. “I just think that it would be FUN if you could let me INHABIT YOUR MORTAL MEATSACK for a short time!”

“What?” asked Ford, eyes wide. “You can do that?”

“Yeah!” said Bill, gesturing widely. “It’s easy! I slip into your noggin, you float around like a ghost! After an hour or two, we switch back! Easy as CRUSHING BABY'S FINGERS!”

“Don’t talk like that, Bill,” said Ford, but the idea intrigued him. He scratched his chin, mulling the idea over. “Sounds interesting! I wonder what kind of research I could get done if my subjects didn’t know I was there?”

“That’s the spirit, Sixer!” said Bill, swinging an arm triumphantly. “This’ll be fun! Wanna try it tomorrow?”

“Sure! Alright!” Ford was excited. This would be fun.

 

Fiddleford tiptoed into Ford’s room late in the night. He tentatively pushed the door open, wincing when it creaked, and stepped over to his nightstand. Ford’s journal sat on his side table, the cover glinting faintly in the moonlight.

Ford snored loudly and rolled over in bed, murmuring in his sleep. Fiddleford stepped over to the side table and tentatively opened the journal.

He flipped through most of the book, finding no mention of Bill. Checking the dates, he realized that most of this was written before this “friend” had ever been mentioned. He flipped to the newer dates.

Bingo.

That same triangle with the bow tie and top hat. It was a small doodle in the corner with a few notes written next to him. Fiddleford felt a little worse with every word he read.

I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have a muse, but Bill has inspired me in many ways.

Bill says that the weirdness doesn’t come from our world. What world, then?

I don’t think F would understand him. Maybe it’s better if I don’t tell him. I don’t want him to worry over nothing.

Fiddleford knew that F was referring to himself. Why did Ford feel the need to keep secrets from him? It hurt a great deal.

There was a crash in the living room, making Fiddleford cringe and stifle a gasp. Ford didn’t wake. He snorted particularly loudly and rolled over again. Fiddleford quickly closed the book and slipped back out into the hallway, feeling worse than ever before.

He tiptoed into the living room, grabbing a baseball bat from the closet and holding it at the ready. He had no idea whether he could overpower the intruders, but he was ready to scratch and claw their eyes out like the hillbilly he was.

“... can’t believe all those Ricks were f-flirting with you! W-why didn’t any of the Stans hit on me?”

“Maybe Stans are more monogamous?”

“W-w-what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Hey, I know you only got eyes for this version o’ me, don’t worry.”

Fiddleford relaxed and padded into the living room, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Stan and Rick were standing in the living room… wearing suits? They were stained with something black and rumpled, so maybe it was better that he didn’t ask.

“Hey’a, Fellers,” said Fiddleford, setting his bat aside. “Could’ja keep it down? It’s past one.”

“Sorry,” said Stan, lowering his voice. He turned to Rick and tugged on his tie. It was clear from how they wobbled and slurred that they were drunk. “Did I ever tell you how good you look in that suit?”

“Nope,” said Rick, leaning in. “L-let’s hear it.”

“Ugh, you two are shameless,” said Fidds, trying to stifle the jealousy that rolled in his stomach when he saw how close they stood. Why couldn’t he have that? Was he not good enough, or something?

Stan shot him a smirk. “Hey, I met an alternate version of me that hooked up with you. Nothing’s impossible! Wanna get in on this?”

“Wait, you and McSuckit?” asked Rick, snickering. “No way!”

Fiddleford huffed and folded his arms. “ Goodnight. Keep your voices down and use condoms.”

Fiddleford walked out of the room, smiling as he heard their laughter. He still felt sick from worry and jealousy. Worry about Bill. Jealousy of Rick and Stan. He wanted a certain Pines twin, too. Maybe he should man up and make the first move, after all.

That night, he dreamt about yellow triangles and floating eyeballs, but didn’t remember the dream afterwards. Only that he woke up covered in cold sweat.

Chapter Text

Ford sat in the circle of candles, trying to relax his breathing. Bill had told him that meditation would allow an easier transition between the mindscape and the physical world. He wanted to make the process as easy for his friend as possible. He wasn’t sure how being in the mindscape would feel, but Bill told him it would be like being a ghost, unseen and unheard, able to float through things and fly. It sounded fascinating.

He was sitting on a rug with a triangle and an eye on it. A gold statue sat before him. It had been hard to procure these items, but Bill said that it would be worth it. It would make his attachment to Ford’s body even stronger, which would benefit both of them greatly.

Suddenly, Ford felt himself being pulled from his body. He opened his eyes and looked down, his stomach dropping when he realized the ground was far below him. He pressed his hand to his chest, surprised to see when it slid right through.

“We did it!” he said.

Underneath him, his body shifted and rose to its feet. When it opened its eyes, its pupils were blown wide, almost eclipsing the sclera, the iris a tiny sliver of brown around the edge.

“This sure is neat, Sixer!” said Bill, wiggling his twelve fingers. “Why don’t you go have fun? I’ll hold down the fort, here!”

Bill was eccentric and could be careless, so Ford hesitated. “Don’t let Fiddleford, Rick or my brother see you, alright? They… wouldn’t understand.”

“Too true, IQ!” said Bill, saluting him with two fingers. “None of them can compete with you and your LITERAL OPEN-MINDEDNESS, haha!”

“I’ll be back in an hour,” said Ford, slowly letting himself drift upwards.

“Time is a MEANINGLESS HUMAN CONCEPT, but okay, if you insist!” He waved as Ford floated away. “Ta-ta!”

Ford slid through the roof and upwards, marvelling at how light he felt and how beautiful it was up high. The house disappeared below him, and he could make it out through his translucent body. He could see over the forest, the trees rustling in the breeze like ocean waves lapping on a sandy beach. He could see the falls, the canyon with the old train tracks bridging the gap, and the town far below. It was gorgeous.

Idly, he remembered that Stan wouldn’t care for this one bit. He’d been afraid of heights ever since The Ferris-Wheel Incident when they were nine.

He shook his head, put his brother out of his mind, and floated down into the forest.

 

Bill was excited. Human sensation was so damn fun! He could feel Sixer’s clothes on his fleshy human skin (which tasted weird, by the way, he probably didn’t shower enough), he could remove and replace his glasses to notice the change in vision (Sixer had terrible short-sight!), and he could move around on his strange, heavy limbs. He pinched his fingers with binder clips, laughing at the throbs of pain that shot through his six fingers, and he slammed his arm in the door at least twenty times, until this tingling numbness spread through the limb.

“This is great! ” he said, rubbing his hands together. He cackled and popped his knuckles. He had stuff to wreck.

Glasses was upstairs making lunch, Whiskey and Wise Guy were in the attic room doing something gross that kept them busy for a long time, so Bill thought that this was the perfect opportunity to cause trouble and blame it on them. Fun!

He ripped out several of Sixer’s drawers and dumped papers everywhere. He took a red marker and doodled stupid faces on some of his notes, found a can of beer, and emptied the contents over his desk. He also took his journal and hid it in Glasses’ desk drawer, leaving it open a few inches. As much as he hated destroying Sixer’s work on their project, it needed to be done.

Bill turned to the mirror and adjusted his tie, slackening it slightly.  He ruffled his hair slightly, the way Sixer always had it, and toned down the too-wide grin. He slouched his shoulders, lowered his arms, and walked up to the kitchen, wobbling only a little. A human form was fun, but hard to maneuver in.

“Hi, Fidds!” he said as he entered the room, then he lowered his voice and feigned a cough. His voice sounded too high, too manic. He had to be careful.

Glasses was standing over the sink, washing dishes. He paused, looked him over, and raised an eyebrow. “You okay, Stanford?”

“Yeah! Why?” he said defensively.

“You look like you haven’t gotten much sleep, that’s all,” he said, turning back to the dishes.

“I’m okay!” he said cheerily. “I get lots of work done at night without you!”

Bill smirked when he saw Fiddleford’s shoulders tense slightly. “Oh?”

“Yeah,” he said, leaning against the table. “I mean really, why did I even invite you along?”

Fiddleford put down the sponge, folded his arms, and leaned against the counter. His eyes were narrowed in suspicion, and his shoulders were tense. “Because you can’t take care of yourself, Stanford. You know that. Plus, I’m a superior engineer and technician, you’ve said it yourself. Oh, I’m also forgetting, you’re my best friend.

Shit, he was catching on. Bill had to hit him hard and where it hurts.

“Oh, really?” he asked, a sly smirk sliding onto his face. “I could get the impression that you wanted a little more than that.”

Fiddleford flushed red and spluttered. He still looked wary. He dropped his gaze to his shoes. “I didn’t… now’s not the time. I’m still… after Delilah…” He sighed and looked up at him. “I care about you, Stanford, I do! I just… y’know.”

Bill frowned a little. This wasn’t exactly what he was hoping for. He always had a little bit tougher of a time understanding the finer nuances of affectionate human interaction. “So you don’t want me?”

Fiddleford waved his gloved hands, flicking soap suds everywhere. “No! I-I do… It’s just… I reckon I need a little more time. Just a tad.”

Bill snorted and turned to walk away. “And here I was hoping you’d be a little more ready to MUSH OUR HUMAN ORGANS TOGETHER TO INCREASE PRODUCTION OF ENDORPHINS! Looks like I was wrong!”

Fiddleford gave him a baffled look. “ What?

“What?” asked Ford. “Isn’t that a thing people do?”

Fiddleford shook his head, took off his gloves, walked over, and gently put his hands on his shoulders. “Get. Some. Sleep. We can talk more when you wake up.”

Bill swatted his hands off and pushed him away roughly. “Don’t touch me!” he snarled, pulling his last desperate trick. “ Obviously I was just pitying you! You’re a dead weight in my investigations! You won’t even go exploring with me anymore, not after your wife left you, though I can’t say I blame her. Why would I ever want to be with you? ” He stomped off, relishing the sound of Fiddleford’s hurt gasp.

He lingered by the door, pressing his ear to it in the hopes of hearing Fiddleford’s tears. He didn’t hear any.

Disappointed, he stomped back down to the lab to guzzle six cans of Pitt Cola, most of it getting in his eyes and hair, and puked them up again in Fiddleford’s boots.

 

When Stanford returned to his body he felt… ill. His mouth tasted sour, his eyes stung, and his body was bruised.

“Eugh,” said Ford, standing shakily. “What happened while I was gone?”

Bill didn’t reply. He couldn’t, as long as Ford was awake. He’d have to ask when he went to sleep, tonight.

Ford’s eyes widened when he looked around his lab. It was trashed! The room was a wreck! Papers were everywhere, the drawers were out and on the floor, Pitt Cola cans were scattered over the floor, and beer was seeping off of his desk.

“My research! ” He pulled his notes out of the beer, quickly pegging them up on the strings where the developed photographs would hang. He scowled when he saw the doodles done on his work. It looked a lot like Stanley’s doing, but why would he be down here? Did Rick dump beer all over his stuff? It didn’t make any sense.

He wondered if Stan and Rick just wanted to wreck his stuff for fun. Why didn’t Bill see them? Or did Bill get caught up in the fun and throw stuff everywhere? Why would he do that?

He picked up the cans, replaced the drawers, and wiped off his desk, then he noticed that his journal was missing. He could have sworn that he left it on the top drawer of his desk, but it wasn’t there anymore.

“Hey, Fidds?” Ford jogged into the main lab, then winced at the smell of vomit. He gagged when he saw the source was coming from Fiddleford’s extra gumboots. Poor guy must be sick. He carefully picked them up and took them over to the emergency shower to rinse them out (used on more than one occasion to wash of dangerous chemicals and fairy dust). He rinsed, gagging from the smell, dried them, and went to replace them by Fiddleford’s desk.

His drawer was open a crack. He couldn’t help glancing inside.

He saw the familiar gold glint of the cover of his journal.

Ford seethed. He dropped the boots, yanked the book out of Fiddleford’s desk, and stomped upstairs.

“Fiddleford,” he said, slamming the door open and brandishing his book. “Why was this in your desk?”

Fiddleford glowered at him. His face was red, and he looked enraged and… hurt? “I don’t rightly know what you’re blatherin’ on about, Stanford! Why would I go anywhere near you? After all, you would never want to be with me, right?”

Ford faltered. “I have no idea what you’re talking about!” he said, stuffing his journal into his coat. “Why were you looking through my stuff? Don’t you trust me enough to ask?”

“I wasn’t! ” Fiddleford protested, clenching his fists. “You aren’t even going to think about apologizing, are you? I really am just dead weight, aren’t I?”

“What? When did I say that?”

When did I say that, ” said Fiddleford mockingly. “You are such a lyin’, uppity piece o’ trash who got hit with the ugly stick, Stanford Pines! G-go jump off a cliff!”

Ford balled his fists. “I never told you that you were dead weight!”

Fiddleford’s face was red with anger. Ford was worried that he’d jump him and try to claw his eyes out, as he’d seen him do once or twice.

“Y-you need to think long and hard before tellin’ me another blatant lie, Stanford!” he shouted. “Why don’t you trust me? We’ve been friends for years! I can help you a hundred times better than that muse of-”

“I never told you about my muse.”

Fiddleford’s eyes widened and he flinched. He knew he got caught.

Ford growled. “You did look through my journal!”

“Only a peek!” he protested. “It was last night! I-I’m worried about you, Ford, and-”

Fuck you! ” he yelled.

Fiddleford raised his voice louder than Ford had ever heard it, before. “ Stanford Pines, you are the most thick-headed varmint I ever met! You ain’t got a lick ‘o sense about you and I reckon that maybe I should quit!

“Maybe you should! ” shouted Ford

“Maybe I will!

“Good!”

“Fine!”

“Fuck you!”

“Fuck you! ” Fiddleford stomped out of the kitchen, grabbed his coat from the back of the chair, and slammed the door on the way out.

Ford was left in the kitchen, feeling winded and hurt. Fiddleford hadn’t taken any of his things, so he’d be back. He was terrified that he’d ruined things beyond repair.

Why would Fiddleford lie like that, especially about something so obviously untrue? Ford would never imply that Fiddleford was dead weight. He was his best friend! He was brilliant, kind, wonderful and… Why didn’t Fiddleford just ask to look through his journal? Why was it in his desk?

He groaned, feeling nauseous, and slumped into a chair.

There were fast footsteps coming down the stairs. Stan and Rick appeared, looking wide-eyed and worried.

“What happened?” asked Stan.

“S-sounds like you and McSuckit were goin’ at it,” said Rick.

You! ” Ford lunged to his feet, pointing at Stan and Rick. “You guys were down in my lab, weren’t you?”

“What lab?” asked Stan, raising an eyebrow.

My lab!” he cried. “All of my papers were soaked in beer and covered in your doodles, Stan?”

“Why would I do that?” asked Stan flatly, folding his arms. “I have no reason to.”

“You love to sabotage me!” he said, pointing a finger at them. “You hate it when I succeed because it shows you how dumb you are!”

Don’t call him that! ” snarled Rick, cuffing up the sleeves of his sweater.

Ford took a few steps back, remembering the black eye from last time he was on the receiving end of Rick’s fists.

“Ford,” said Stan, his rage barely controlled. “I’m gonna be totally honest with you. Okay?”

Ford narrowed his eyes at him. Stanley Pines, conman extraordinaire who tricked teens out of their lunch money and robbed banks? Honesty wasn’t something he heard often from him. Lying was in his blood.

“Okay,” said Ford testily.

“It’s no secret that you’re the smart twin,” said Stan, ignoring Rick’s protests, “and I’m not gonna lie, sometimes it’s hard to take. But I wouldn’t ever wreck your stuff on purpose! I like it when you succeed! I don’t know if you ever considered that.”

“But what about-”

“Your project? All I did was bump the table! It was still working when I left!” Stan rolled his eyes. “I think it’s safe to say that that card’s been played out, Ford. Christ.”

Rick laid a protective hand on Stan’s shoulder, daring Ford with his eyes to bring it up again.

Ford wondered where the mess could have come from, then. He had trusted Bill not to wreck his things, maybe he should watch him, next time. Why would he do that? He had no reason to. He was helping Ford make the notes, for christ sakes! Unless he was just confused by his human form and went on a wrecking spree… that would also explain the Pitt Cola cans and the vomit in Fiddleford’s boots. Eugh. No wonder he felt so gross!

He also wondered how the project broke if Stan said that it was working when he left… it seemed very strange.

“You sure you didn’t go down to my lab?” asked Ford.

“Yeah!” said Stan. “We’ve been busy this whole time, damn.”

“Busy doing what?”

“Um.” Stan flushed pink and chuckled nervously.

“We’ve been fucking,” said Rick in a monotone voice. “Problem?”

Ford realized that he should have noticed their sweaty, dishevelled looks and that distinct smell of sex. He sighed. They had been upstairs all day. Maybe he was too quick to judge. He should have a talk with Bill and figure out what happened.

“So now that that’s settled,” said Stan, “what the hell did you do to Fiddlenerd?”

“We had a fight,” he said curtly. “It’s none of your business.”

“Like hell it’s not!” said Stan. “Fiddleford’s a friend, and you’re my brother! I heard some of that shit you said to him, and it ain’t good! What’s this shit about telling him that he was dead weight? What, is insulting me not good enough for you, you gotta go after your boyfriend, too?”

“He’s not my boyfriend!” he said shrilly.

“R-really?” said Rick. “Outta e-everything Lee just said, th-that’s what you focus on? Dickhead. I-I-I’m too sober for this shit.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his flask, taking a swig before stowing it away again.

Stanley pinched the bridge of his nose. “Sixer, look at yourself. You look like a wreck.”

“That’s a bit rich coming from you!” said Ford crossly, but Stan was right. His hair was mussed, his eyes had bags, and he was bruised and sore. He was reluctant to let Bill inhabit his body, again. Maybe he just didn’t know any better, Bill had mentioned that sensations are the most fun part of having a physical form.

“You need to talk to him,” said Stan. “Not shout or scream, talk. Maybe not now, maybe when you’ve both calmed down a bit.”

“Does that work for you? ” he asked bitterly, gesturing to Rick.

“Y-yeah, actually,” said Rick. “Lee’s g-g-got a good head on his shoulders.” He ruffled his hair affectionately. Ford made a face when he saw the dopey smile Stan had.

“Fiddleford said he was gonna quit,” said Ford, rubbing his eyes under his glasses. “Damn. I fucked up, didn’t I?”

“A bit, yeah,” said Stan, making it obvious that “a bit” was a huge understatement. He took a seat at the kitchen table. “Let’s sit here for a bit while you sort out whatever’s goin’ on in that big head o’ yours.”

“Fiddleford didn’t take any of his stuff,” said Ford, plopping himself down in the other chair. “He’s gonna have to come back.”

Light flashed through the kitchen, followed by a low rumble. Ford winced.

“I hate thunderstorms,” he mumbled.

“I remember,” said Stan, nudging his foot under the table.

Ford looked surprised by that. Maybe he shouldn’t be. He remembered that Stan was afraid of heights, after all.

“Ugh.” Rick looked out the window at the rain that was beginning to drip down. “W-where do you think he went?”

“He probably went into town,” said Ford. “If he’s not building a robot to terrorize innocent civilians, he’s probably drinking.”

“S-sounds like my kinda guy,” said Rick, pulling out his portal gun. “I-I’ll go have a chat with him, see what’s up.”

“Can you get milk?” asked Stan.

“Sure. L-later, losers.” He punched a few numbers in and walked out the front door. There was a spark of green, then the sound of footsteps disappeared.

It was quiet for a minute. Ford drummed his twelve fingers on the table, hoping for Stan to break the silence and hating every creeping second where nobody was talking, and all he had to distract him from his guilt was the feel of wood beneath his hands. He glanced over at Stan. He was sitting with one leg over his knee, waiting for Ford to make the first move.

Stan won.

“We wouldn’t need more milk if you would stop drinking it in the shower,” said Ford quietly.

“Oh, Sixer, that’s never gonna change,” said Stan, folding his hands. “You want some hot chocolate?”

“Yeah. Okay.”

Chapter Text

Rick stepped out of the portal and pulled his hood up over his head. It was raining, and the back alley stank of garbage. He stuffed his portal gun into his pocket and went to head into the bar.

The bouncer stood outside, looking tall and menacing. “You got an ID?”

“N-no. D-d-do I look like a kid to you?” snapped Rick, scratching his stubbly chin.

The bouncer squared his shoulders. “I’m not sure if I like your attitude. ” He took a deep breath. “You’re already drunk.”

“Not d-drunk enough,” he snapped. “M-my friend’s in there, I gotta get him.” Well, he wouldn’t exactly describe Fiddleford as a friend, but anybody who can make a good gumbo and Stan likes is good enough for him. “C’mon, man.”

The bouncer pointed a finger at him. “I’m watching you.”

“Psh, w-w-whatever,” said Rick, shoving past him and into the bar.

He spotted Fiddleford at the end of the bar, hunched over his third glass of whisky. His head lolled, his shoulders were limp, and he wore the most dejected expression Rick had ever seen on a guy. His shirt was stained, his hair was mussed, his tie slack, and his glasses were crooked. He looked like a wreck.

Rick plopped down next to him and took a sip from his flask. “W-w-what’s up, McSuckit?”

“Don’t play dumb,” said Fiddleford, not looking at him. He was drunk, but not that drunk. Guy could hold his liquor. “I bet you heard everything.” He sniffled and rubbed at his puffy eyes.

“Yeah, w-we kinda did.” Rick leaned against the bar. “Fuck, man, I-I ain’t in a position to judge you. I don’t give a fu-fuck.” He took another sip from his flask.

“I don’t understand why Ford was acting so d-doggone strange, ” said Fiddleford. “He didn’t even sound like himself… not with voice or words. I-I dunno. You think you know a guy.” He sighed and propped his chin up in his hand.

“W-whatcha gonna do?” asked Rick, dropping his elbows onto the bar.

“Quit. No. Maybe. I-I dunno.” He put his head in his hands and moaned. “I just… everthin’ was goin’ so well and… I-I’m real confused, Rick.”

“Yeah. P-Poindexter doesn’t seem the type to just whip ‘round and bite ya in the ass.”

“Poindexter?” Fiddleford smiled. “Only Stanley calls him that.”

“Well, i-it suits him.” He took another sip from his flask. Fiddleford noted that he’d never seen him refill it, and he had no idea what was in there. “Th-this was the first time he’s said something like this?”

“Yeah. I-it came outta the blue, I swear! I would never… he’s my friend, I…” He sighed. “When he said those awful things… it was like he wasn’t even himself.”

“Hmm.” Rick had a few theories about that, but he decided to keep them to himself, for now. Maybe he was temporarily taken over by a hive mind? Tasted some chemical that messed with the aggression in his brain? Or maybe he really was a class act douche. If he was gonna treat his assistant-slash-boyfriend this way, Rick really ought to get Stanley out of there before he did something unforgivable.

“I-I’ll help you get your shit outta there. Y’know. I-if you want or whatever.”

“Wait, really?” Fiddleford looked baffled. “Aren’cha here to tell me to come back home and listen to what Ford has to say?”

Rick snorted grossly. “N-no. I-I ain’t your mom. Y-you can do w-w-whatever the hell you want.”

“Um, thanks. I guess.”

“W-whatever. Stan will probably try an’ get you to stay o-or some sappy shit, but if you wanna leave, it might be better for you.” Rick rubbed his thumb over the cap of his flask. “Ford is Stan’s brother, a-and Stan loves him. Y-you don’t have to love him too, if you don’t want to.”

“I care about him,” said Fiddleford weakly. “I just… god, it hurts so much.”

“Look,” said Rick, scratching the back of his neck. “I-I know better than anyone what it’s like to be stuck someplace and not able to leave. Y-you can leave if you want. I-I know that trying to get you to stay when you wanna leave is the sh-sh-shittiest thing you can do to a guy. Stan doesn’t get that, but I do.”

“Oh?” Fiddleford eyed his arm. His sleeve had slipped, exposing his forearm and an old, circular burn that was imprinted onto his skin. A cigarette burn. He looked away.

Rick cleared his throat. “On the other hand, i-if you still w-wanna get in his pants, I-I’ve been told I’m a good wingman. I-I also have these awesome aphrodisiacs that I found on Xarthan Five, and oh man! Th-they’re so- th-they’ll keep you horny for hours! I-I had one taste and Lee and I were at it like hound dogs until-”

Fiddleford’s head was reeling from alcohol, he could barely keep up with what Rick was saying but he could tell that it was too much information. “Uh, no thanks, Rick.”

“I-I’m just sayin’ one thing, Fidds.” Rick held up his hands, eyes wide and dreamy. “ Twins.

“Um, no,” said Fiddleford. “Stan and Ford are nothin’ alike.”

Rick laughed. “Psh, yeah. Lee knows h-how to have fun. I-it’s hard to find somebody cool enough to traverse galaxies with, get drunk with, and do domestic bullshit with, too.”

“Ford’s so damn sweet… when he’s not being a thick-headed pig.

“Lee i-is real protective an’ shit. Plus, he’s like a heater. The best for cold nights, I’ll tell you.”

“Ford is smart and so passionate. Just wish he’d sort out his mind a little more.”

“We got it bad, huh?”

“You said it.” Wow. The first time he realized that he really likes Ford, and it’s when he’s drunk and after they had a fight. Rough. He drank the rest of his whiskey and stood, wobbling slightly. “G-goddamn, I-I can’t drive like this.”

“I could drive.”

“You’re drunk, too!”

“Not as drunk,” he said, pulling himself to his feet. “Or we could p-portal over there.”

“We could what?”

“I-I’ll just show you, i-it’ll be easier than doing drunk science. C’mon.” He grabbed Fiddleford by the shoulder and pulled him out of the bar, and into the rain.

Lightning flashed across the dreary sky and thunder growled. Rick pulled up his hood and Fiddleford pressed himself to his side to hide from the pouring rain. They jogged into the alleyway, and Rick pulled out his portal gun, inputting the coordinates to the house.

Fiddleford widened his eyes when he saw the device. This must be what they used when they arrived earlier and broke their kitchen table. “Where did you get this?”

“M-made it.” He pulled the trigger and shot the portal gun. A flash of green appeared, and a portal swirled before them.

Fiddleford’s eyes bugged out of his head when he saw this and his jaw slackened. “What in all of tarnati-”

“C-c’mon, pipsqueak.” Rick grabbed him by the shoulder and dragged him into the portal.

They did not appear in front of the house. Instead, they were in the middle of a vast desert, the hot sun beating down on the backs of their necks, a dusty, dry breeze billowing around them.

“N-not what we wanted,” said Rick, fiddling with the coordinates. “B-but a nice change of pace from the rain.”

“W-what?” Fiddleford staggered, flabbergasted by the sudden landscape change. “This is… where are we?”

Rick pulled out his flask and raised it to his lips. “D-dunno. Some desert, I guess. Maybe Arizona?”

Rick cringed when he heard a rumbling roar behind him. He slowly turned, flask still at his mouth, acutely aware of Fiddleford digging his fingers into his arms.

The wretched stench of rotting meat washed over them. Enormous canines glistened with ropes of saliva, and hundreds of beady purple eyes focussed on the two of them.

“W-welp,” said Rick. “Not Arizona.”

 

Ford cupped the mug of hot chocolate in his hands. He felt exhausted. His fingers and arm were bruised by Bill’s carelessness, his throat felt hoarse from shouting and vomiting, and he felt hurt. Mostly by Fiddleford, a little by Bill. He’d trusted him with his body and he’d abused it, but he’d kind of suspected he might. A trillion-year-old creature of the mindscape suddenly in human form? He knew that he’d have trouble controlling it, at first.

“So,” said Stan, stirring his own mug of cocoa. “What’s the word, Sixer?”

It had been so long since Ford had heard his brother say those words. A thought hit him so hard it flew out his mouth before he could stop it.

“I really missed you.”

Stan stopped stirring and looked up at him, eyebrows raised.

“Why are you surprised?” he asked, defensive. “Didn’t you miss me?

“Most days,” he said, resuming his stirring. “Usually right before I fell asleep. You used to snore like a truck was comin’. I missed that.”

I didn’t snore. You would snore.”

“You snored a little,” he said, grinning. “You mostly talked in your sleep.”

I did not!

“Oh, yeah. You’d talk about the pythago-whatchit theorem and whether there was an equation that would make girls like you.”

“Pythagorean. And, um, as it turns out… girls aren’t really my area.”

“Um, duh?” Stan rolled his eyes. “I knew that.

Ford couldn’t ever remember telling his brother that he was gay. “Since when?”

Stan gave him a solemn look. “Since always. I felt it in the wind, heard it in the trees…” His eyes had a faraway look. His gaze snapped back and he smirked. “I also saw the love notes you wrote to James. You weren’t subtle, Sixer.”

Hey! Those were my private-

Stan was laughing too hard to listen. He slapped the table and guffawed, his shoulders shaking with laughter, tears of mirth gathering in the corners of his eyes.

Ford felt indignant, but he couldn’t help chuckling. Stan’s laugh was obnoxiously infectious.

“Sorry, Sixer.” Stan wiped the tears away and took a sip of hot chocolate. He set his mug aside with a long sigh. “It’s fine, though. You know about me an’ Rick so… yeah.”

“How’d you two become an item?” he asked delicately.

“Eh, it just kinda happened?” said Stan, shrugging. “When you get drunk, steal shit, and escape death with a guy, you get pretty close. Over time, I just kinda realized that he was hot I guess? He might not seem it, but he’s got a heart buried deep, deep down in him.”

Stanford thought about Rick’s coarse behavior and callous comments and said, “I find that hard to believe.”

Stan shrugged. “Well, I don’t.” He took a sip of hot chocolate.

Ford thought about how quickly Rick had jumped to Stan’s defence. How they flirted gently and easily, insulting each other without malice. They slept together, tangled up in the sheets, Stan’s chest pressed to Rick’s back or vise versa. They had sex, obviously. Ford had spent three nights and counting lying on his back, wide awake and unable to blot out the sounds of his brother getting blown. Eugh.

“Maybe it’s not too hard to believe,” he said slowly. He took a sip of his hot chocolate. It was very sweet, just the way he liked it.

Stan smiled a little. “Well, how ‘bout you and McSuckit?”

“Fiddleford?” He asked, flushing under his collar.

Ooh, ” said Stan teasingly. “Somebody’s got a crush!”

Ford rolled his eyes and huffed. “Honestly, Stan, I’m not twelve!”

“Stanford and Fiddleford sittin’ in a tree,” said Stan in a sing-song voice. “K-I-S-S-I-N-G!”

Ford rolled his eyes, then lowered his gaze. “He said he was gonna quit working with me.”

“He doesn’t mean it,” said Stan, waving him off.

“I-I have no idea what…”

Bill. Did Bill say all those horrible things to Fiddleford? Why would he do that? Just to torment him? Why? Was he jealous? Do muses get jealous? Did he catch Fiddleford snooping through his things and wanted to scare him off? He had no idea, but he knew that he was gonna have a chat with Bill tonight, that’s for sure.

“I wouldn’t ever say those things to him,” he finished lamely.

“Look, Ford. It doesn’t matter whether or not you actually did, what matters is that Fiddlenerd thinks you did. I dunno whether you made a clone or what, but I don’t think you’d have it in you to be such a dick to anyone who isn’t me. You gotta fix that shit, pronto.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” he said flatly. “If I didn’t do it, then I’m innocent!”

“That’s all fun and good on paper, Ford,” said Stanley. “But that’s not how life works. You hurt his feelings, on purpose or not, and you need to make it up to him.”

“I have no idea how,” said Ford weakley. “Will he even wanna talk to me?”

“Dunno.”

“That’s helpful.”

“I don’t pretend to have all the answers, Ford. Unlike some people.”

Ford winced. He looked down at his hot chocolate, unable to look at his brother’s face.

“Your head is pretty far up your own ass, sometimes,” said Stan. “Don’cha get it? It doesn’t matter how you feel. What matters is how he feels. You take care of him, and he’ll take care of you. That’s how any good partnership works, Poindexter.”

“What if he doesn’t reciprocate?” asked Ford, his mouth feeling dry.

“Then he ain’t worth your salt.” Stan took another drink of hot chocolate and relaxed back into the kitchen chair, crossing his legs. “Simple as that.”

It didn't sound simple to Ford. He sipped his hot chocolate to avoid saying anything.

“So, Poindexter,” said Stan. “Got any ideas?”

“I dunno.”

What could he possibly say to explain himself? Maybe it was time to come clean about his muse… No. That would worry Fiddleford even more. He would come up with some other plausible excuse. He hated lying, but he couldn't think of a way out of the situation. What was he supposed to say? “ Hey, Fidds! It wasn't me who insulted you and hurt you so badly, it was my muse from another dimension who was temporarily taking shelter in my corporeal body!

“I was experimenting to recreate the collaxian crystals,” he said tentatively. “I might have ingested it or gotten it in my eyes. Maybe that's why Fidds said that I said those things, but I don't remember.”

“Hm.” Stan was an excellent liar, and he could tell that he wasn't telling the whole truth. “Sure.”

Ford ran a hand through his hair. “Stan?”

“Yeah?”

Ford couldn’t look at his brother. “Why didn't I go after you the night you left?”

Stan looked down at his hands and gave a weak shrug. “Dunno. I'm not you.”

“Why didn't you try and call me before now?”

“Dunno.”

“What made you call me when you were in jail?”

“Dunno.”

For didn’t say anything. He mourned the lost years that he and his brother could have had together. The anger he had towards him for messing up his project… it was gone. Finally. Maybe he should have let it go sooner, but it was finally over and done with.

“I'm pretty messed up.”

Ford looked up and took in the sight of his brother. Stan looked… it was hard to say. His shirt was grimy, but he wore a gold chain around his neck. His knuckles were scabbed over and he had bags under his eyes, but he looked fairly clean and well cared for. He was fit and in better shape athletically than he’d ever been when they were teens. He had strange stains and cuts and burns on his beefy forearms that Ford couldn’t explain. Some of them looked like bullet wounds. The marks on his neck looked like hickeys.

The thing that had changed most about Stan during their years apart was his eyes. They were harder than they were before, and darker. He’d clearly seen and done things, awful things, terrifying things. He wasn’t the chubby kid he grew up with on Glass Shard Beach, anymore. He was a grown man who made his own decisions, as stupid as they might be. However, his eyes still held a lot of love.

“At least we can be freaks together, again,” said Ford, drumming his six fingers on the table.

Stan grinned his salesman grin, making him look just like the kid from New Jersey who wanted to sail the world and find lost treasure. “High six?” He raised his open palm.

Ford smiled. “High six.”

For the first time in years, they clapped their hands together.

Chapter Text

Rick and Fiddleford were sprinting until the muscles in their legs burned, feet skidding on the sand. The hot sun beat down on the backs of their necks as they ran, a massive beast with too many eyes and foul breath hot on their heels. They dodged between strange yellow cacti and clambered over rocky earth.

No, not earth. They were on some other world.

Fiddleford had sobered up pretty damn quick once they'd started running from the beast that was pursuing him. His breath hitched in his chest and his mouth was dry. He chased after Rick, struggling to keep up with his long strides as he ran.

What do we do? ” he shrieked. He could hear the lumbering steps of the beast and smell it's rotten breath, hot on his heels.

Rick pulled out a strange looking gun and whacked his palm against the side. “C-come on!”

Fiddleford squealed as flecks of saliva hit his back and hissed as it began to dissolve his shirt. “ Rick!

“Gotcha!” Rick swivelled on his heel and pointed the gun at the monster. He pulled the trigger, and a bolt of energy shot directly into the beast.

It stopped dead in its tracks.

Its eyes bugged out.

Then, it exploded into a mass of purple viscera and rotten globs of flesh.

Eurgh! ” Fiddleford dodged a chunk of meat, only to be knocked onto his ass when a piece hit him in the chest. “Gah!”

Rick laughed and stowed his gun away. “Th-the look on your face! Hah!” He slapped his knee.

Fiddleford scrambled to his feet and swatted the purple chunks off of him, grimacing. Nausea tickled the back of his throat, but he swallowed and ignored the sensation. He tried counting the numbers in the fibonacci sequence to stifle the urge to vomit. That usually worked in the past.

It didn’t work this time.

The smell was eye-watering. He gagged and heaved, his hands on his knees as he leaned over.

“Yep,” said Rick appraisingly as Fiddleford tried to catch his breath. “P-pretty fuckin’ gross.” He pulled out his portal gun and twiddled with the wires, trying to figure out where he went wrong.

Fiddleford spat and wiped his mouth on the back of his wrist. “Rick Sanchez, tell me where the blazes we are or so help me god!

“I-I’m trying to figure that out, McSuckit! K-k-keep your panties on.” The device beeped. “Okay, the good news is that we’re in our own universe. We’re on Golxa Two.”

“And the bad news?” asked Fiddleford weakly.

“I-I gotta clean some of the gunk out of the portal gun. Shouldn’t take too long.” Rick started walking. “I-if it doesn’t work, w-we could end up walking a while.”

Fiddleford jogged after him, eager to get away from the stench of the dead creature. He grimaced as the stink followed him, carried by his ruined clothes. He didn’t think he’d be able to get the purple blood out of his shirt at the dry cleaners, that’s for sure. It had hardened and become strangely sticky.

Rick plopped himself down on a rock once he deemed them a sufficient distance from the mess. It was a flat desert plane as far as the eye could see, with some pinkish clouds hovering over the green horizon, and large sand dunes rising from the flat ground in the distance. Fiddleford found another rock to sit on, and widened his eyes when he saw a tiny purple two-headed snake slither away from them.

“I’m on another planet,” he said in awe. His head swam with alcohol. “Ford’s not gonna believe this.”

“A-ain’t that just the way?” said Rick, picking the gunk out of the portal gun. “Ol’ Fox Mulder over there is the last out of the four of us to leave Earth. H-hilarious.”

“Fox Mulder? Who’s that?”

Rick scratched his head. “Oh yeah, th-that show hasn’t been invented in this dimension, yet. Spoiler: i-it goes downhill after the first few seasons.”

“Oh. So… you’ve been to other dimensions?”

“Y-yep.”

“Parallel universes?”

“B-basically.”

Fiddleford let out a huffing laugh and ran a sticky hand through his messy hair. “Seems like Stanford was right, after all. All that hocus-pocus about multiple realities…” He laughed again. “He was right! And you! You have the technology to explore the universe! Right under our noses this whole time!”

“M-m-multiverse,” corrected Rick, snapping a panel out of place on the portal gun. “B-before you ask, I-I don’t sell my inventions. I-I don’t give a shit about the betterment of mankind. M-m-mankind ain’t done a fuckin’ thing for me.”

“No! Of course not, I-” Fiddleford laughed. “You built that, didn’t you? You are a genius! I thought Ford had up an’ gone batty when he said you’d corrected his math .”

Rick snorted and loosened the screws on the portal gun. “W-well, I am. Y-you’re looking at the first human in this dimension to play punk rock on another planet!”

“Wow,” said Fiddleford. He looked around the desert. “My first time on another planet! This is incredible! I-I reckon I could jig!” He put his hands on his hips and looked down at the dirt. “Pity it’s such a dump, though.”

“True. I-I could have more fun in cat litter.” He hit a few buttons on the device. “F-fuck!”

“What?”

“Ugh, I don’t have my tools. A-all I got is this screwdriver and a pair of pliers, th-they’re no good for this. M-my screwdriver’s too big.” He slammed his hand into the rock. “Fuck!”

“I might have somethin’.” Fiddleford rummaged through his pockets and found a pencil, a notepad, half a granola bar, pliers, tweezers, and an eyeglasses screwdriver, far smaller and more delicate than the one Rick had. “Will this work?”

“L-let’s see!” Rick snatched the screwdriver and inspected it, biting his tongue as he looked at it closely. “Yep! Sh-should do the trick!” He took a swig from his flask and set to work on the portal gun.

Fiddleford breathed a sigh of relief. He was feeling a little buzzed and a lot confused, and still kind of hurt. He sighed and wished he had his own flask to drink from.

“Y-you made up your mind, yet?” asked Rick, twiddling with the portal gun.

“Sorta. I wanna give Ford a chance.”

He did. Ford was a good guy. He was passionate, gentle, enthusiastic, sweet, and awkward. He was so charming when they first met, and he didn’t even try to be. It was hard to coax him out of his shell, but once Fiddleford got to know him, it was hard not to be caught up in his love of knowledge and trying new things. Fiddleford, who’d always skated by easily in his studies, actually put in some real effort, partly to laugh when he got better marks than Ford, partly because his friend encouraged him to try his best. Some of his favourite memories were of working on projects with Ford into the early hours of the morning. He wanted to get back to that so bad.

“Yeah,” he said thoughtfully. “I wanna try and figure it out. I don’t wanna throw our entire friendship away over one fight.”

“Sure. W-whatever you say, pipsqueak.” Rick pushed some wires around. “I-I don’t give a fuck.”

“I mean, that’s not fair, is it? Maybe he has an explanation, right?”

“I-I just said I don’t give a fuck.”

Fiddleford huffed and folded his arms. “Screw you, Rick! I-I don’t have to justify myself to you or anyone else! I care about Ford. I wanna try and make our friendship work.”

“A-a wonderful, l-long lasting, heartfelt friendship where you just might suck his dick?”

“Yea- Hey!”

Rick snorted and tossed the screwdriver back to Fiddleford. “Th-there! Should be in working order!” He twirled some dials. “W-works like a charm?”

Fiddleford relaxed his shoulders as he stared at the strange portal gun that Rick held. “So, is this what you and Stanley have been up to this whole time?” he asked in awe. “Visitin’ other worlds? Exploring strange plants in faraway galaxies?”

“Y-yep. Except w-with more drinking, more fucking, and better music. I-I love goin’ to exotic worlds and getting hammered.” He punched in the coordinates for their house in Gravity Falls.

“How many planets have you been to?” asked Fiddleford excitably. “Galaxies? Universes?”

“T-take it easy, I-I lost track ages ago!” Rick shot a portal. “After you!”

Fiddleford stepped through the portal, into the kitchen of the house. Rick stepped in after him.

Ford shot up out of his seat when the two of them entered the room. He seemed equally startled by their entrance as well as their appearance.

Stan didn’t seem surprised at all. He raised two fingers in greeting. “Hey, Rick.”

“Hey,” said Rick, stowing his portal gun away.

Ford flushed red. “Fiddleford! I-I didn’t think you’d be back. What did you just-” He paused, head tilted inquisitively. “What happened to you?”

“Long story,” he said tersely. He was acutely aware that he smelled like rotting flesh and alcohol. He planted his hands on his hips and while the last bit of alcohol he had in his system bolstered his courage, he decided to take a stand. “Alright, Stanford Pines. I’ve decided to stay.”

Ford looked so relieved it made Fiddleford’s heart swell. “Oh, thank god! I’m so sorry, I just-”

Shut yer trap! ” he snapped.

Ford widened his eyes and quickly closed his mouth. Stanley snickered behind him.

“I have some conditions,” he said, holding up a finger. “First off, I will promise not to go pokin’ ‘round in your things no more if you simply show ‘em to me when I ask.”

“Okay,” said Ford, but he clearly sounded uncomfortable with this.

“Secondly,” said Fiddleford, counting on his fingers. “I want a new couch in the living room. That piece of garbage we have has got to go!

“But it’s so comfortable! ” protested Ford.

“Then put it out on the porch, for all I care! It ain’t stayin’ in the house! Third, I want a raise. A big one.”

Stanford winced. His grant money was stretched tight enough as it was building the house, getting equipment, paying bills, and paying living wages for both of them, and now supporting Rick and Stanley as they mooched off of them. He could do it, though. “Alright. I accept your conditions.”

“Also, I want to make one of the rooms a playroom for Tate. He’s gonna come up and visit this month.”

Ford offered a smile. “Which room do you have in mind?”

“My room,” he said. “I can bunk with you, can’t I? Like old times?”

Stan made a wolf whistle and Ford craned his neck back and shouted, “ Can it, Stanley!

Fiddleford chuckled, then looked down at himself. “I reckon I ought’a go change. And shower forever.”

“You smell like a horse died in a liquor store,” said Stanford. He didn’t sound mean, simply baffled.

“Yep, I suppose I do.” He grimaced. “We’ll negotiate my new salary later.” He walked briskly out of the room, feeling rather proud of himself.

Rick laughed. “H-he’s a keeper.”

Stan stood and walked over to Rick, placing a large hand on his lower back. “Why is Fidds covered in guts?”

“A-accidentally portaled off planet, met a monster. D-damn gun had gunk in it.”

Stan leaned up and pressed a kiss to Rick’s jaw. He snickered when he heard Stanford’s disgusted groan as he left the room.

Stan pulled away and left his hands on Rick’s hips. “Now that Poindexter’s gone, what happened between you and Fiddlenerd?”

“N-nothin’,” he said.

Stan raised an eyebrow.

Rick huffed. “Nothin’ much.

“Oh?”

“W-well, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to leave or not. I-I told him he could if he wanted, i-it was his choice.”

What? ” Stan pulled away. “C’mon, we can’t let him do that. Sixer’ll be heartbroken!”

Rick rolled his eyes. “Lee, I-I don’t expect you to get it. I-if someone wants to leave, y-you shouldn’t stop him.”

“Oh.” Stan didn’t sound convinced. He sounded worried. He took Rick’s hands and entwined their fingers together. “I guess I’ll take your word for it.”

Rick leaned down and kissed him. Stan’s stubble scratched his cheek as he deepened the kiss. Rick’s hand tangled in Stan’s curly brown hair as he leaned in, pressing their bodies together. Stan tasted like hot chocolate and smelled like sweat and something that was just Stan and it was wonderful. Rick drank it in, pushing Stan against the table.

Stan pulled away just enough to mumble against Rick’s lips, “ I wanna fuck you.

Rick grinned and leaned back. “Really? W-we’ve moved past sucking cock and handjobs?”

Stan’s ears were red. “If you don’t wanna, then just-”

“Y-y-you kidding? I-I’ve been dying for this, Lee.” Rick pressed his hips against Stan’s.

“Let’s go upstairs,” said Stan, his hand snaking down to grab at the bulge in his partner’s jeans.

“O-or you could fuck me over the table?” suggested Rick cheekily.

Stan pinched his butt and laughed when he let out a less-than-manly squeak. His fingers slipped into the back pocket of his jeans as they walked up the creaky stairs, past the bathroom where they could hear Fiddleford singing (badly. He wasn’t vocally talented) in the shower. Stan could hear the clicking of Ford’s pen as he sat at his desk in his closed bedroom, probably pouring over some mystery novel about capers or something.

Rick locked the attic door behind them and leaned against it, smirking coyly. He unzipped his sweater and dropped it, then peeled off his t-shirt.

Stan quickly stripped off his shirt and socks before pouncing on Rick. He pressed his mouth to his neck, his teeth gently grazing over old hickies, his hands going to Rick’s belt. With some tugging, his skinny jeans fell to the floor and were kicked away with his socks and shoes.

“S-someone’s eager,” said Rick as Stan’s mouth went to his ear, his tongue playing with his safety pin earring.

“As if you’re not,” said Stan, his palm rubbing roughly against Rick’s crotch.

Rick laughed and nudged Stan towards the bed. He pushed him down until he was flat on his back, and straddled his waist, his hands planted firmly on his chest.

“H-how do you wanna do this, Lee?” asked Rick, tracing his fingers down his chest. God, he loved his chest hair.

“I like it when you lead,” said Stan with a goofy grin. His face was still red, and Rick found that fucking adorable.

“I-if you insist.” Rick leaned down and kissed him. Stan’s hands rested on his hips, steadying him there. The kiss was heated and Rick took control, sucking and nipping at Stan’s lips while his hands moved slowly down to his jeans. He undid the button and tugged them off, and Stan kicked them to the floor, his knee accidentally catching Rick in the diaphragm.

Oof! ” he grunted, holding his ribs. “W-watch your knees!”

“Sorry,” said Stan, but he was still smiling. “If you come over here, I’ll kiss it better?”

Rick chuckled and slid closer, straddling Stan’s stomach. Stan propped himself up on his elbow and put his other hand on Rick’s lower back, pressing his stomach to the new bruise on his abdomen.

“Y-you’re such a sap,” said Rick, grinning toothily.

“As if you’re not,” said Stan, his mouth still touching Rick’s skin.

He kissed up his chest then dug his teeth gently into his collarbone. Rick buried his long fingers in Stan’s curls and ground his hips down. Stan moaned against his neck and slipped his fingers into Rick’s briefs. He pulled his cock free and stroked it loosely, his thumb tracing over the head.

Rick’s hips jutted into Stan’s hand. He pulled him into another bruising, biting kiss as he wriggled out of his underwear. He shoved his hand into Stan’s boxers and fondled him roughly, pulling a throaty moan from the man below him. Stan grabbed a fistful of Rick’s hair as he kissed him, two of his fingers sliding down his backside to press against an intimate place.

Rick pulled away and mumbled, “R-right to the point, Lee.”

Stan laughed and leaned over to the side table, rummaging around in the drawer for lube and a condom. “Aren’t I always?”

“W-we don’t need a condom,” said Rick as Stan pulled off his boxers.

Stan raised an eyebrow. “Is that your way of saying that you’d rather I care more about my pleasure than your safety?”

Rick was taken aback by that. He faltered for a moment. “Uh…”

Stan pressed a kiss to his jaw and gave himself a few quick pumps before rolling the condom on.

“Um,” said Rick. “W-we’ve given each other blowjobs, Lee. A-aren’t we kinda past that point?”

Stan’s ears were red. “Well, I heard you can get sick from butt stuff ‘cause it’s more sensitive? It can get damaged more easily, so it’s easier to pass stuff or something?”

“Lee, I-I’m clean, and so’re you.”

Stan looked down at his dick. “It’s already on.”

“Well, w-we can get checked before we fuck again,” said Rick, climbing onto him.

“Sure, that’d be great,” said Stan, lips touching his neck.

Rick slid closer as Stan kissed down his neck and shoulder. He faintly heard the pop of the lube cap, and he hissed as Stan’s cold fingers slid down the crack of his ass.

“Don’t be a baby,” mumbled Stan, massaging his entrance teasingly with two thick fingers.

Rick pushed back into his hand just a bit, groaning at the sensation. He held the back of Stan’s neck as he sucked yet another mark onto Rick’s shoulder. Stan gently pushed a finger into him and began to slowly pump it in and out.

“H-have you done this before?” asked Rick teasingly.

Stan chuckled nervously. “I’ve been around.”

Rick snorted, but he moaned when Stan added another finger. He squirmed slightly at the sensation of being stretched, and let out a loud groan when Stan’s fingers pressed against his g-spot.

“Good?” asked Stan huskily, and god, his voice send a shiver down his spine and straight to his dick.

“Y-yeah,” stuttered Rick, rocking back into Stan’s hand. Fuck, this was nice. Stan was rough around the edges, but at times like this, he was so damn gentle. He could be rough, Rick had a sore throat and aching jaw for a few days to prove it, but his huge hands could do amazing and delicate work, and could take him apart in a thousand ways.

A strange thought hit Rick as Stan added another finger and scissored them inside him.

This isn’t just fucking.

This isn’t just sex.

This is making love.

When had they reached that point? He wasn’t really sure. The thought sorta scared the shit out of him. Sex, he could handle. Fucking was great, too. Making love? That held a ton of emotional baggage. He knew that he cared about Stan, he’d even whipped out the “L” word once or twice. It just felt weird to be confronted with such solid evidence of their genuine and deep affection for one another.

It didn’t suit him, not really. Rick was almost thirty, and he’d never dated anyone for more than a month, before. He didn’t think he had it in him to fall so hard for a guy. But, here he was, with Stanley Pines, his fingers up his ass.

“You good?” asked Stan.

“Mm, y-yeah.”

Stan’s fingers retreated and Rick almost whined in protest but managed to stop himself by biting his tongue. He watched Stan add more lube to his cock, then he raised his hips and aligned himself, sinking down onto his lap.

Fu-fu-fuck, ” cursed Rick.

“Alright?” asked Stan, pulling away to look up at him. Stan looked blissed-out, and it was fucking great.

“Y-yeah. I’m good.” Rick stooped slightly to kiss him, rocking their hips together.

Part of him wanted to set the pace for a hard, fast fuck. The other part of him wanted to keep it at this pace. It was kind of… romantic? Christ, he was sappy.

Stan’s hands settled on his hips and helped him along, his own hips thrusting up just a tiny bit. He kissed him sweetly, tongue flicking against his lips and teeth.

Rick thrust his hips down onto him with more fervor as Stan started panting, his fingers digging into his hips. The mattress creaked as he picked up the pace.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, ” cursed Stan under his breath, sweat beading on his brow. Rick twisted his hips just so and Stan threw his head back and moaned.

Rick took the opportunity to lower his head and kiss his neck, groaning against his skin. “G-god, you look so good.”

“So do you,” said Stan. One of his hands left Rick’s hip and wrapped around his aching dick. He stroked his dick, the movement slick with sweat and lube and precum, and Rick rolled his hips into his capable hand.

G-goddamn, Lee, ” groaned Rick. He didn’t think he was gonna last long. Stan was thick and his hands were amazing , and everything was just… just…

Perfect.

S-S-Stanley! ” Rick’s hips stuttered as he came, his mouth pressed to Stan’s neck, gasping breathlessly against his skin. Stan fucked him through it, taking a little more initiative, thrusting up into him, his hands grabbing his hips hard enough to leave fingerprint bruises. Rick wriggled against him, feeling overstimulated, but it was worth it when Stan huffed a groan in his ear as he came. Rick lived for that sound, and he always loved the way Stan looked after they had sex. Mussed hair, foggy eyes, sweaty skin, the works. It was gorgeous.

Rick rolled off of Stan and flopped onto the bed with an exhausted sigh. He closed his eyes, and he could hear Stan fiddling with the condom and throwing it away before he laid down next to him, one muscular arm draped over his torso.

Rick glanced over at him with a sheepish grin. “Th-that was great.”

“You got pretty quiet there for a bit,” said Stan, lips brushing Rick’s shoulder. “You alright?”

“Y-y-yeah. I was just thinkin’.”

“Thinking? During sex? Babe, the blood ain’t in your head when you’re fucking, you could hurt yourself!”

Rick chuckled and locked his fingers with Stan’s. “Pssh, probably.”

“What were you thinking about?”

“I-it’s dumb.”

“You’re a genius. I bet it’s not.”

Rick laughed again, then he sighed. “I-I guess I was just sorta wondering h-how a fucked up guy like me could get so lucky.”

Stan kissed his shoulder. “I’m fucked up, too, barf-breath.”

“Loser.”

“Chump.”

“Kiss-ass.”

They chuckled. They both let out contented sighs. It was quiet for a few long moments. They could hear crickets chirping outside and a summer breeze blowing against the house.

“Hey,” said Stan.

“What?” said Rick.

“When we were at the citadel, I met a ton of other Stans.”

“W-what, does that make you feel less unique?”

“No,” he said thoughtfully. “I just think it’s sorta neat that our relationship spans so many other dimensions. That’s all.”

“Oh.” Rick smiled. “Yeah. Th-that is sorta neat.”

Stan kissed his cheek. “What do you want for dinner?”

“I-I’ll order pizza. Anchovies?”

“You know it.”

 

Ford’s eye twitched as Fiddleford walked into the room, wearing fresh clothes, his hair damp from his shower. He could hear the bedsprings creaking upstairs and loud moans.

Fiddleford leaned against the doorframe. “Hi.”

“Hello.” Ford swivelled his chair around to look at his friend. He heard a particularly loud moan and his eye twitched again.

Fiddleford was either oblivious or decidedly ignoring the noise. “I jus’ wanted to apologize for runnin’ off like that.”

“I… I’m sorry for yelling.” Ford didn’t like apologizing and he didn’t like being wrong, but he didn’t want his friend to feel bad, anymore. “I… I swear I don’t remember saying any of those things to you. I was experimenting with some chemical substances and-”

He didn’t have to finish the lie. Fiddleford wagged a finger at him and said, “For the last time, Stanford, you have to practice proper lab safety!

Ford let out a nervous laugh, then cringed when there was another moan from upstairs.

Fiddleford laughed at his expression. “Alright there, Stanford?”

“Fine,” he said, scratching behind his ear. He decided to take Stan’s advice and do his best to make it up to him. He probably had pretty good relationship advice. After all, he was upstairs right now, getting laid.

“Fidds… I really am sorry for blowing up at you,” said Ford, praying that he was saying the right thing. “I didn’t… It was… stupid of me. You know that you’re my dearest friend, right? I care about you a lot, I don’t want to hurt you.”

Fiddleford shuffled his feet. “I care ‘bout you, too.” He took a tentative step closer. His hand lifted slightly, as if he was considering touching Ford’s cheek. “I’m sorry that I been actin’ all squirrelly, lately.”

“No, Fidds, you’ve been dealing with a lot.” Ford absently scooted his wheely chair a little closer. “I haven’t been a very good friend. Tomorrow, let’s do something you wanna do! Like, build a robot, or-” The wheel of the chair caught on the rug and he pitched forward, landing face-first on the floor.

Ford huffed and rubbed his sore temple. Upstairs, he could hear Stanley’s name being shouted by Rick.

He froze when he felt a hand touch his hair. Fiddleford was bent over him, wearing an amused grin.

“I’d like that,” he said, ruffling his hair.

Ford’s ears burned. He pushed himself up into a sitting position, his glasses crooked on his nose.

Fiddleford’s forefinger touched the bridge of his glasses and gently nudged them into place. “Ooh, you got a real goose-egg.”

Ford felt the lump on his temple where he’d hit the floor. “Ow. Yeah.”

Fiddleford chuckled and left his bedroom. Ford wasn’t sure if he imagined it, but it looked like Fiddleford shot him a wink as he left. He definitely didn’t imagine the fact that his heart was pounding.

He heard laughter from upstairs. A strange feeling burned in his chest, and he realized that for the first time since they were kids, Ford was jealous of his brother.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Bill?”

“Yeah, IQ?” Bill turned upside down and floated towards him. “What’s eatin’ ya?”

Stanford gave a small sigh. “Fiddleford and I had this fight, and-”

Bill righted himself and scratched at one of his sides with tiny black fingers. “Oh, it’s your PESKY HUMAN EMOTIONS again? Which of the SEVEN DEADLY SINS did you invoke?”

Stanford scrawled a few equations on the bluish blackboard that they used. “Wrath. He went through my things, and apparently I said some things that I don’t remember saying. Some… very cruel things.”

“Oh?”

Ford folded his arms. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”

“Aw, jeez, you got me!” Bill laughed. “I was just trying to have a normal human conversation! I think I messed it up, haha!”

“You said some pretty horrible things, and now I have to pay for it! I was lucky to get him to forgive me, but I had to invent some lie about chemicals and bad lab procedure.” Ford scratched the back of his neck. “I need to make it up to him. We’ve been working on some of his projects for a change, and that’s been helping.”

“Well, apologize to your friend on my behalf! I don’t have much practice at NORMAL HUMAN INTERACTIONS, you know that!”

Ford squared up his shoulder a bit. “Bill, I dunno how much I want you to possess me if you can’t be careful. My arms are still bruised from what you did a few days ago, and I can’t stand the smell of Pitt Cola anymore.”

“Aw, come on, Fordsy!” Bill floated a little closer and added a few numbers onto his blackboard. “I’m helping you become the next Einstein, over here! It’s no small gift I’m giving you! All I want is to EXPERIENCE EARTHLY SENSATIONS once in awhile!”

“Alright, alright,” said Ford, “but please be more careful. I don’t know what I’d do with myself if I lost Fiddleford.”

That definitely caught Bill’s attention. He paused, thinking for a moment, then he suddenly snapped his fingers. “Hey! I’ve got just the project that you two BRAINIACS can put your heads together on!”

Ford fidgeted. “Well, we’re kind of doing what Fiddleford wants to at the moment…”

“You remember our THEORY OF UNIFYING WEIRDNESS?” asked Bill, pulling up some of the notes they’d created together.

Stanford glanced over them, then back to Bill. “About how the weirdness in Gravity Falls comes from someplace other than our world?”

“Yeah! That!” Bill drew a triangle with a circle in the middle. “I have an IDEA! It’s like a gateway between this world and the source of the weirdness!”

Ford widened his eyes. “What do you have in mind?”

 

Fiddleford was a whiz at blueprints. Ford loved watching him draw them up, even though he wasn’t certain he even needed blueprints to build half the things he did. With Fiddleford’s machines, half the time it seemed as if he was making the plans up as he went along.

When he was drawing, Fiddleford would have a pencil behind each ear and one in his hand as he used the protractor, ruler, and compass to draw neat lines across the pages. His drawings were clean and precise, but his handwriting was practically indecipherable. His half of the lab was a mess of overflowing papers and machine parts, and there was one corner reserved for all the coffee mugs that he brought down to the lab and forgot to bring back up to the kitchen.

Currently, Fiddleford was hunched over a complex blueprint, tapping a pencil against his lower lip. Ford was at his elbow, adjusting his tool belt. He was slightly mesmerized by the tapping of Fiddleford’s pencil to his lip. He had nice lips. He’d noticed this casually some years ago. His lower lip was pink from being bitten as he worked.

Fiddleford stuck a pencil behind his ear and smoothed out his blueprints. “There! I reckon that ought’a do the trick! What’cha think, buddy?” He pushed the blueprints towards Ford.

Ford looked them over, double-checking his math and dimensions. “Perfect, like always.”

“You reckon?” Fiddleford grinned. Ford’s ears turned pink.

“I reckon,” said Ford with a teasing smile, putting a hand on his forearm.

Fiddleford glanced down at his hand.

Ford quickly pulled away, feeling as if he’d overstepped some kind of boundary that he was oblivious to. “Sorry!”

“No need to be so jumpy,” said Fiddleford with a smile. He looked back down at his blueprint and clicked his tongue. “Y’know, I think we need to add another transistor.” He rifled through the stacks of papers on his desk. “Gosh darnit, where’s my pencil?”

Ford chuckled and plucked it from behind his ear. “Where it always is.”

“Ah, thank you.” Fiddleford took it from him, pink dusting his cheeks. He scribbled down a few numbers in his messy scrawl and stood back to admire his work. “There. I reckon’ that ought’a do the trick.”

“Looks good,” said Ford with a nod. “Shall we go to the ship to get more parts?”

“I think we’ve got some in the other lab,” said Fiddleford, rolling up his blueprint. “Wanna build it over here or over there?”

“How about over there? That way, we don’t have to drag the parts over.” He remembered what Bill had told him about the gateway. He had the notes about it in his journal. “I have an idea for a project, too.”

“Sounds alright to me. Let’s go pack some sandwiches.” He tucked his blueprints under his arm and trotted off towards the stairs. Ford hated those stairs, they were slippery and he’d fallen down them at least twice. Maybe he and Fidds should build an elevator.

By the time he gathered his tools and got upstairs, Fiddleford was already making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Stan and Rick were sitting at the table, each hunched over their own cups of coffee, cards in their hands, cigarettes dangling from their lips, and coins on the table.

“Good morning,” said Stanford.

Stanley glanced up at him. “Mornin’ Poindexter.”

Rick gave him a two-fingered salute without looking up. He pushed his coins towards the table. “A-all in.”

“I call your bluff!” Stan pushed his coins to the middle. “Read ‘em and weep! Straight flush!” He held up his cards.

Rick’s expression fell. “ Fuck! I-I had four of a kind!” He shoved his coins towards Stan. “I hate you.”

Stan snickered and counted his coins. “That was your mistake!” He scraped the coins into his bag.

Hey! ” Rick reached over and plucked a card from the sleeve of his jacket, wagging it in his face. “You cheated!

“So did you!”

“No, I-I didn’t!”

Stan turned the cards over and pointed out the tiny dots scribbled on the corners of all the high cards. “Yeah, you did!”

Rick growled, frustrated that he’d been found out. “So y-you double cheated!”

Stan rolled his eyes. “You can’t double cheat!”

“Y-yes, you can!”

“It’s still just cheating!

“I want my money back!”

“Not a chance! I out-cheated you!”

Rick lunged across the table, upsetting their coffee mugs. Cards flew everywhere and Stan’s money bag spilled all over the floor.

Stan was on his feet in a second and had Rick pinned to the table, his arms crossed behind his back.

“Say uncle!” said Stan, using his weight to push him into the spilled coffee.

“S-suck my dick, Lee!”

“Maybe after you say uncle!”

Uncle! Uncle!

Fiddleford snorted as he dropped the sandwiches into his backpack. “See you fellers, later!”

Stan let Rick up and looked around at them. “Where’s the nerd squad going?”

“To the other lab,” said Ford as he pulled on his jacket. It was autumn, and it was starting to get chilly. “Don’t break anything while we’re gone, don’t go in my room, don’t go downstairs.”

“Sure, whatever you say, bro!” said Stan, giving him a thumbs up.

Rick grabbed a towel and tried to absorb the coffee from his t-shirt. “S-sure, I-I got my own shit to do.”

“Scams to run,” said Stan, pinching his butt.

“Quit that!” Rick slapped his hand away, but he was laughing.

Fiddleford laughed as he headed out the door, Ford hot on his heels. “We’ll be back before sundown! Help yourselves to leftovers!”

The door closed behind them. Stan peeked through the curtain in the kitchen, watching them as they walked off into the woods.

“They’re gone,” he said, pulling away from the window.

Rick grinned. “W-we’re totally gonna go through their stuff, right?”

“Absolutely, one hundred percent.”

 

Fiddleford took a breath of fresh air. It was nice to get out of the house.

Except for that stint in the desert. That wasn’t the nicest, and his clothes had to be burned.

“It sure is a lovely day,” said Fiddleford, looking up at the trees whose leaves were turning red, yellow, and orange in the fall.

“Yeah, it’s nice,” said Ford. “I prefer summer, though.”

“Me too. All of my best memories are from summer on the farm.”

“Any specifics?”

“Oh,” said Fiddleford. His eyes had a faraway look and he had a smile on his face as they hiked through the well-worn path to their other lab. “Just of runnin’ ‘round with all my siblings an’ cousins, barefoot and chasin’ after sheep, ducks and chickens. My baby sister Sue tried to make her pet chicken run through an obstacle course.”

Ford laughed. “You never told me that!”

“It didn’t end well,” said Fiddleford. “Sue tried to get the hen to do a ring of fire act. Poor Henrietta had half her feathers burned off, and Sue lost her bonfire privileges.”

Ford let out a snort. “Sounds like she takes after you!”

“Don’t remind me,” said Fiddleford. “Sue’s startin’ her first year of university this year. Chemical engineering.”

“That’s nice,” said Ford. Shermy was probably starting kindergarten this year. It had been a while since he’d called home, and longer since he’d last visited. He should fix that.

Fiddleford let out a nostalgic sigh. “I remember when me, Sue, Becky, Jamie, Phil, and Valkyrie were out fishin’ in the creek out back the farm…”

“Valkyrie?” asked Ford, puzzled by the strange name.

“D’you really think I was the only kid in my family who wound up with a weird name?” asked Fiddleford. “Ma picked all the normal ones, like Phil and Sue, Pa picked the weird ones. I was named after his Pa.”

“How many siblings do you have, again?”

“Seven.”

“Holy. Cousins?”

Fiddleford gave him a blank look, then he started to laugh.

“Sorry, dumb question,” said Ford quickly.

“I was gonna take Tate to visit my family this Christmas,” said Fiddleford. “I’ll have to talk to Delilah about it.”

“This is his first Christmas?”

“Second. He was born in November.” Fiddleford kicked at the fallen leaves while they walked. “I wanna be there for his birthday, this year. I ain’t certain I’ll be able to.”

Ford wanted to comfort his friend, but he wasn’t sure how. He was never very good at sorting out the best things to say to someone. Stan was always better at that.

Stanford tentatively reached out and took Fiddleford’s hand, praying that this was the right decision.

Fiddleford looked surprised at the contact, eyes as wide as saucers. Blush spread across his cheeks, to his ears.

Ford started to pull away. “Sorry! I-I should have-”

Fiddleford locked their fingers together, grinning. “I’ve always liked how our hands fit together. All o’ your fingers can wrap ‘round mine. It’s nice. I like it.”

Ford smiled. “Me too.”

 

They were downstairs in the laboratory. Stan rooted through his drawer, looking for embarrassing things that he could taunt Stanford with, later. So far, all he’d found was a photo of him with purple hair, with a messy scrawl written on the back that said “April Fools!”

Rick was looking through his notes, brow pinched as he picked out some equations that struck him as… odd. He was positive that this dimension didn’t have some of the symbols that were in Ford’s notes. This was really advanced stuff, there were some equations here that even Rick had trouble wrapping his head around. Rick Sanchez, the guy who cracked interdimensional travel, was having trouble with Ford’s calculations. Weird.

He squinted at it. Something wasn’t right. It was almost like Ford was scribing for somebody, not coming up with this on his own. There were no errors, nothing crossed out, no mistakes, no notes on the side. It was… strange.

“Hey, check this out!” Stan picked up some papers that had strange Latin incantations and some scratchy illustrations. “Zombies!”

Rick abandoned the notes to walk over to Stan. He peered over his shoulder. “Pssh, i-is your brother seriously studying th-that crap?”

“I guess so.” Stan turned the page over. “Ooh, an incantation for raising the dead! Spooky!” He wiggled his fingers. “ Wooooo!

Rick snorted. “D-dare you to read it.”

“Dare accepted!” Stanley cleared his throat. He paused. “I don’t have my glasses.”

Rick pulled the case out of his pocket. “H-here.”

“Why do you have these?” asked Stan, opening the case and putting the glasses on his nose.

“I-I still want you to blow me while you’re wearing them,” said Rick with a sly grin.

“We can do that later.” He adjusted his glasses and read the incantation aloud. “ Corpus levitas, Diablo Dominium Mondo vicium!

They paused. They waited. Nothing happened.

“Pfft. Dumb. ” Rick pulled his flask out and took a swig.

Stan tossed the paper down onto the table. He eyed the flask with a look in his eye that Rick really didn’t like.

“W-what?” he asked, his lip still touching his flask.

Stan shuffled his feet and sighed. “Rick, I know this is a loaded question, but have you ever thought about quitting?”

“Qu-quitting what?” he said, tucking the flask back in his pocket.

“Drinking. I know we go out and get wrecked sometimes, and that’s fucking great, no harm, no foul… but you’ve always got that flask. What’s up with that?”

“I-I like drinking,” said Rick testily. This was the first time Stan had asked him about it. “W-why are you asking?”

Stan gave a small shrug. “I dunno about you, but this is the safest I’ve been in a long while. We’ve got a roof over our heads, food to eat, nobody’s chasin’ us or yellin’ at us. This is nice. We don’t need to be drowning in booze and drugs all the time, anymore. We can be a little more stable.”

“S-so y-you want me to qu-quit drinking because you’ve fallen head over heels for th-th-this domestic bullshit?” asked Rick. Neither of them noticed the rumbling beneath their feet or the sounds coming from outside.

Stan held his hands up in a gesture of peace. “I hate fighting with you, Rick. I’m just worried.”

“W-worried about what? Lee, I-I-I haven’t been sober in years! I-I like being drunk.”

Stan tucked his hands into his pockets and shrugged. “I was just wondering if you would… maybe… consider taking a break? You never know, if you can be this smart while you’re drunk all the time, think about what you could do sober . Just a thought.”

Something flashed in Rick’s eyes that scared Stan. “F-fuck off, Lee!” said Rick, storming towards the stairs. “Y-you don’t know shit!”

Stan was taken aback. After a brief moment of shock, rage coursed through him. He clenched his fists and followed after Rick, not one hundred percent sure what he wanted to say or do, but he knew it would definitely involve yelling.

“What the hell do you mean “you don’t know shit”?!” roared Stanley as he chased after Rick. They ran up the stairs and into the house, stopping by the front door. “I know plenty! I know you, Rick! What the fuck?

Rick rounded on him and jabbed a finger into his chest. “No! Y-you don’t! You don’t know what it’s like to be me, Stanley! Y-you never could! S-so stay in your fucking lane!

Stan slapped his hand away. “Don’t tell me what to do, Rick! I just asked a simple question, what the fuck’s your problem?

“W-w-what’s my problem?” shouted Rick, drowning out the noises that were coming from outside. “ I don’t have a problem! Y-you need to mind your own business, Lee! I-I can fuckin’ take care of myself!”

Can you?” challenged Stan. “Maybe if you could, you wouldn’t need to nurse yourself on your flask like a fuckin’ baby!”

Fuck you, Stanley! Rick’s hands were shaking. The noises from outside were getting louder, something was rattling against the door. “Y-you don’t know what it’s like to be in my head!”

Stan balled up his fists. “Maybe I would if you would fuckin’ talk to me like an adult instead of throwing a tantrum!

“Oh, that’s rich coming from y-y-you!” yelled Rick. “Coming from Mister “Punch First, Chat About It Later”! R-r-real fuckin’ rich!

Stan shoved him and sent him staggering backwards. “ Fuck you, Rick!

Fuck you, Stanley! ” Rick pushed him back, but Stan was ready for it and he didn’t budge.

Stan growled and shoved him again, slamming him against the door.

“Fuck, I-I don’t have to take this shit!” Rick grabbed the doorknob and ripped the door open.

He stopped dead. Zombies were crawling towards the house, up through jagged cracks in the earth, moaning and groaning as they clawed their way towards them. They were ancient and grotesque, with empty eye sockets, rotten flesh hanging from their bones, and tongues that lolled from gaping jaws.

Rick slammed the door shut. Stan grabbed the chair from the living room and shoved it up against it. The door shook and clattered and rattled in its hinges as the zombies tried to push past it.

“We can finish fighting, later,” said Stan, grabbing the pistol he kept in his jacket.

Rick cocked his gun. It hummed as electricity sparked through it. “Agreed.”

Chapter Text

“Quick! Press that one!”

Fiddleford leapt across the moving tiles and slammed his hand on the final glowing square. “Gotcha!”

“Come on!” Stanford grabbed his friend by the upper arm and dragged him through the door that opened on the other side of the room, into the lower part of the laboratory. The doors closed behind them, almost catching the tail of Fiddleford’s labcoat.

“Remind me why we made that confounded contraption,” said Fiddleford, holding his chest as he gasped for breath.

“It was your idea, if I recall.”

“Remind me why you let me make it?”

“Well, when you’re on an inventing roll, I hate to stop you.”

Fiddleford huffed, pulled out his crumpled blueprints and tugged the paper taut. “Here we are.”

“Right!” Ford grabbed the paper from him and smoothed it out over one of the cluttered tables they had in their workshop.

Fiddleford walked over to stand next to him, their elbows barely brushing. He opened his mouth to tell Ford about some more of the parts that they’d need, but a scrabbling sound came from beside him and he let out a high shriek.

“Easy, Fidds!” Ford stepped past him and put his hand on a glass box. “It’s just Shifty!”

Fiddleford gaped. In the box, there was… a coffee mug?

“Ford,” he said slowly, putting his hands in his pockets. “I-I know that you’ve been workin’ real hard, lately, but when’s the last time that you’ve-” Before he could finish his sentence, the coffee mug twisted, and it became a pickle jar.

Fiddleford’s eyes widened. He glanced between the pickle jar and Ford’s cartoonishly huge grin. “Ford. What on earth is that thing?”

“Shifty!” he said again, like that explained everything.

Fiddleford pursed his lips slightly, folded his arms, and waited.

Ford noticed the pointed silence and shook himself. “I found him! I don’t know what he is, exactly, but he seems to have the ability to transform! I think he’s an alien.”

“Oh. When did you find him?”

“A few days ago.” He opened a slot on the box and dropped a few scraps of food into it before locking it, again.

Fiddleford watched with eyebrows raised as the pickle jar shifted into a strange worm-like creature with teeth, pincers, pale skin, and huge eyes. The creature devoured the scraps of crackers with a fearsome slurping sound, then transformed into a red flashlight. Fiddleford let out a squeak and shuffled off to the side.

Ford opened a few drawers overflowing with junk and tucked some wire bits into his pockets. “Any old projects you want to work on while we’re down here?”

“Um, not really.” Fiddleford subtly adjusted the sheet over a machine that sat in the corner. It was an old one from his college days, and every day of his life he questioned why he didn’t dismantle it.

“I always wondered what that one was,” said Ford, stepping over to him to peer at the covered machine.

“You really, really shouldn’t,” said Fiddleford, his voice cracking awkwardly.

Ford blinked. “Why?”

“Um.” Fiddleford really had no good answer for that question. He offered a meek shrug.

Before Fiddleford could intercept him, Ford whipped the cover off the machine. It was simple and rudimentary, and all it seemed designed to do was thrust the main rod forward in a repetitive motion. All in all, not something worth being embarrassed over.

Fiddleford was flushed from his chin to the roots of his hair.

“What’s it’s function?” asked Ford, scratching his chin.

“I… um… do you really want to know?”

“Sure! Why wouldn’t I?”

Fiddleford twiddled his fingers nervously. “It… um… it’s s-s-supposed to have another part that’s not on it at the moment…”

“What’s that?”

“A… a… a dildo.”

Ford’s jaw slackened. He looked at the machine, then at Fiddleford, then the machine again. The pieces fell into place in his head, his ears turned red, and he dropped the sheet back over the machine.

“Oh,” he said, his voice sounding hollow. “I see.”

“I-i-it was just an experiment!” protested Fiddleford hastily. “I-I just… it w-was only one time… augh, forget it!” He gathered up his blueprints and hurried over to his desk, blushing madly.

Ford stared at the covered machine for a few extra seconds, shook his head, and followed after his friend.

“Um… sorry?” he offered, resting his hand on Fiddleford’s shoulder.

Fiddleford giggled. “I guess it is kinda funny.”

The ground above them rumbled, and a few pebbles from the ceiling shook loose and bounced off of Ford’s head.

“Ow!” He rubbed the sore spot.

“What do you reckon that was?” asked Fiddleford, making a mental note to make a proper ceiling for their lab.

“Earthquake?”

“No, can’t be.” Fiddleford frowned and adjusted his glasses. “Anything in that journal o’ yours?”

Ford opened up his journal and flipped through it. “Don’t think so. There could be something in my notes back at the house.”

The ground rumbled again. Ford and Fidds could faintly hear… scratching, moans, and the sound of something dragging above them.

THe moans clued him in immediately, especially when he remembered that his house had essentially been built on a lumberjack graveyard. Ford closed his journal with a snap. “We’ve got a problem.”

“What?”

“Can you shoot a gun?”

Fiddleford gave him a look, opened his desk drawer, pulled out a shotgun and cocked it. “I grew up on a hog farm. Why?”

Ford raised his eyebrows. “Um… we’re gonna need that.”

 

“Great! Th-th-this is just great!

Stan scowled at him. “That’s the fourth time you’ve said that.” They were on the roof of the house, the windows nailed shut behind them, undead fingers clawing at the glass fruitlessly. Zombies were dangerous, but stupid. Stan was sitting with his feet dangling over the undead horde below, an empty pistol hanging limply from his hand. Rick was pacing back and forth, puffing angrily on his third cigarette.

“W-w-well, I’m gonna say it again! ” he yelled. “The portal gun is outta juice, w-we’re out of bullets, and w-w-we’re gonna die on some fu-fucking rooftop in Oregon!”

“Oh my god, shut the fuck up!” Stan got to his feet and stomped past him, the roof shaking dangerously under his heavy footsteps. “We’ve been up here for a fucking hour! Are we just gonna give up and await death like a pair of quivering pussies?”

Rick scowled at him, cocked his laser weapon, and fired two shots at the ground below, vaporizing two zombies. “Fuck you, Lee! R-remind me whose fault this is in the first place?”

Stan growled and searched his pockets once again for more bullets, coming up empty for the tenth time. “Fuck you, Rick! You dared me in the first place!”

“Y-you didn’t have to do it! It was your idea! Fu-fuck you, Lee!”

“Suck a cock, Rick!”

“E-eat my ass!”

Stan lunged at Rick, swinging wildly with one huge fist. Rick quickly sidestepped him, catching him in the ribs with a swift jab while Stan was off balance. Stan wobbled dangerously towards the edge of the roof before regaining his footing and sending another punch at Rick, this time striking him across the jaw. Rick landed on his ass but was back on his feet again in a second. He threw himself bodily at Stan, grappling with one long, thin arm around his thick neck. The two of them landed hard on the roof and rolled off towards the edge.

Shit! ” Stan scrambled at the roof and stopped himself before falling off the edge.

Rick wasn’t so lucky. He slipped over the edge and grabbed onto the gutter, bending it under his weight. His feet kicked in the open air, and he could hear the zombies below them. He thought he felt long, withered fingers brushing his ankles, so he yanked them quickly out of reach.

Rick tried to pull himself up, but his elbows buckled under his weight. “Uh, Lee, I-I hate to be the “ a little help ” guy, but… a little help?”

There was a pause for a few seconds, like Stan was considering the matter or catching his breath. Before Rick could muster the breath for an insult, a large hand wrapped around his wrist and pulled him to safety.

Rick grunted and sat next to Stan on the roof.

“What do we do?” asked Stan.

“F-fuck if I know,” said Rick. He sorta wanted to beat Stan’s ass into the ground, god knows he deserved it for his shitty attitude, but now wasn’t the time or place.

Stan glared at Rick. Part of him wanted to pick another fight, part of him knew that picking a fight was possibly the worst thing he could do at this moment, and part of him wanted to apologize for being an asshole.

Stan wasn’t sure why this was important to him, but he wanted Rick to quit drinking. Maybe he wanted to know another side of him, maybe he was worried about his health, maybe a bit of column A and a bit of column B. Either way, he wasn’t done with this subject.

But right now wasn’t the best time.

The two of them winced when they heard a few loud bangs, then a strange twanging sound like a stringed instrument whacking into a hard surface. They turned and shouted in surprise when they saw a ladder clatter against the side of the roof. They could hear panting and swearing, and Fiddleford’s head popped up over the side of the roof.

“Hello, fellas!” Fiddleford scrambled up, his banjo slung over his shoulder, followed by Stanford who had a gun in his hand.

“Stanley, what did you do?” cried Ford. “You raised the undead!”

Stan curled his hands into fists. “ Me? Why do you assume it was my fault?”

“T-to be fair, it w-was your fault,” said Rick unhelpfully.

“Shut the fuck up, Rick!”

Stanford groaned and dragged a hand down his face. “This is a disaster!”

Bang! Fiddleford blasted the head off a zombie that was coming up the ladder, then kicked the ladder down. “Y’all know I hate to interrupt, but maybe we should save the petty bickering for after we’re no longer in danger of gettin’ our brains eaten!”

“Of course, Fidds!” said Ford hastily. “We need a plan!”

“We can’t rightly take ‘em all out one at a time,” said Fiddleford, counting his bullets.

We tried, and we’re out of ammo,” said Stan, folding his arms.

“I-I could rig a machine that could shatter their skulls at a certain r-radio frequency,” said Rick, pulling wires and circuit boards out of his pockets.

“Wouldn’t that shatter our skulls, too?” asked Stan.

Rick curled his fist like he was thinking of hitting him, then he thought better of it. “Fuck you, Stanley.”

“Fuck you, Rick.”

Fiddleford and Stanford shared a worried glance, then Ford had an idea.

“Maybe that’s not a bad idea,” he said thoughtfully. “Zombie skulls are all but unbreakable when it comes to physical means, maybe something non physical is needed to defeat them! We’d just have to figure out what!”

“Great, science stuff,” said Stan flatly. “Nice to know I won’t be any help.”

“L-like usual,” snapped Rick.

“Enough of this!” said Fiddleford shrilly. “We can't waste time squabbling like schoolboys! We gotta put our heads together and think!

Rick lit himself another cigarette.

Stan pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

“You’re wearing your glasses,” said Ford.

Stan shot him a glare. “So?”

Ford shrugged. “You don’t, usually.”

“Whatever.” Stan folded his arms and pulled his knees up to his chest. He realized that he looked like a petulant child, but he didn’t give a fuck. He refused to look at Rick as he picked up his latest gizmo and stomped over to another part of the roof to work on it.

Ford wasn’t the best at reading a situation, but even he could tell that tensions were thick. He decided to let the whole “Stan raising the dead” thing slide, for the moment, and work on fixing this mess that his brother had caused.

Stanford looked over at Fiddleford, who had set himself up at the edge of the roof to keep watch. His shotgun sat beside him and he plucked tunes on his banjo while he looked out over the sea of the undead.

Ford looked back to his brother, who was refusing to make eye contact. “Um.”

Stan gave him the strongest “ leave me alone ” glare that he’d ever gotten from him. Ford would normally turn and smartly make for the opposite direction, but Fiddleford had kicked down the ladder and the window out to the roof was boarded up, so there he stayed. He pulled out a notepad and started doing calculations.

Stan flicked a piece of moss off the roof. “I fuck everything up.”

Ford looked over at him, eyebrows raised. “No?”

Stan huffed and rolled his eyes. “Great answer, Sixer. Real reassuring.”

Ford suddenly felt out of his depth. He clicked his pen nervously. “I meant… hell, I don’t know what to tell you, Stan. You don’t fuck everything up.”

“Oh, let’s see,” he said in a mocking tone, counting off on his fingers. “I got kicked out when I was seventeen, I’ve gone bankrupt half a dozen times and stolen the money back, I broke half the shit in your house, we’re always fighting, and Rick hates my guts now. What did I miss?”

“Rick doesn’t hate you.”

“I don’t know when to keep my damn mouth shut.” Stan stretched his legs out in front of him. “You ever think that the two of us would be better as one person?”

“What?”

“I meant you and me.”

“I don’t understand.”

“No offense, Sixer, but you have the social skills of a blind porcupine. I can talk my way around any situation, just about. On the other hand, you’ve got as much smarts in your pinky finger as I’ve got in my entire body.”

Ford was confused about where this was coming from. “Why are you saying this, Stan?”

“I think we just work better as a team,” he said, refusing to make eye contact. “Like, we were meant to be one person and we got split into… I mean… Aw, forget it.” He waved his hand. “Fuck it. I hate feelings.”

Ford scratched the back of his neck and scribbled down a few numbers. He wasn’t sure what just happened, but it felt important.

Fiddleford sat within earshot, plucking out a tune on his banjo. An undead hand came up over the side of the roof and Fiddleford kicked it off, chuckling when he heard the crunch of the creature hitting the ground.

Ford was happy that Fiddleford was handling this zombie thing so well. He could be very anxious about certain things (he remembered how he tore his hair out when Ford told him about the spacecraft).

“Doing alright, old friend?”

“Workin’ through my anxiety,” he said cheerily, strumming on the banjo. “Music helps.”

Stan turned his head. “Hey, I know that tune.”

“Yep, it’s ‘ Folsom Prison Blues ’.” Fiddleford strummed a few more chords. “I sing like a canary with tonsillitis, myself, but I do love to play.”

Stan hummed. “I have a tape of Johnny Cash songs in my glove box.”

Rick frowned even deeper when he heard this, twisting wires together on his amplification device. He’d found that particular tape and had resisted the urge to throw it out the window. He made a note to smash it, later.

He paused when he heard Stan start to sing. He’d never heard him sing, before.

I hear the train a comin’, it’s rollin’ ‘round the bend, ” sang Stan, Fiddleford’s banjo picking along in the background. “ And I ain’t seen the sunshine since, I don’t know when…

I’m stuck in Folsom Prison, ” chimed in Ford, grinning when he saw Stan’s surprised half-smile. “ And time keeps draggin’ on…

But that train keeps a-rollin’, ” the twins chorused. “ On down to San Antone.

Ford noticed a strange change come over the zombies on the ground below them. They pressed their rotten palms over their rotted ears and gurgled hoarsely, agonized by the sound that was being picked up and amplified by Rick’s radio device.

“Look!” he cried. “The music is what’s getting to them! Stan, bust out your big-boy voice! Rick, turn up the frequency! Fiddleford, I never thought I’d say this, but strum harder! We can shatter their skulls if we do this just right!”

Stan nodded, Fiddleford looked nonplussed, and Rick grunted his half-hearted assent.

“On three!” said Ford. “One… two… three!”

Fiddleford struck up the chords for the next verse.

Stan belted out the lyrics, and Ford was forced to admit that his brother had grown a decent set of vocal chords. “ When I was just a baby, my Mama told me, son… Always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns…

Rick listened but didn’t say a word. He should have gotten Stan to do more than just dance during “ Flesh Curtain ” performances, he realized. He hated how that, even when he was furious with the man, Stan still made something pleasant twist in his gut.

I want him to eat shit and die, he forced himself to think.

But I shot a man in Reno, ” sang Ford, “ Just to watch him die.

So when I hear that whistle blowin’, ” they sang. “ I hang my head and cry.

Ford squinted down at the zombies below. The music was making an impact, yes, but it wasn’t quite enough.

“Louder!” he cried.

I bet there’s rich folks eatin’, in a fancy dining car, ” they sang together. “ They’re probably drinkin’ coffee and smokin’ big cigars…

Well I know I had it comin’, ” sang Stan, eyes closed, brow pinched together. “ I know I can’t be free…

But those people keep a-movin’, ” sang Ford.

And that’s what tortures me, ” they sang together.

“It’s not enough!” shouted Fiddleford over the amplified banjo music. “We need one more voice!”

“What about you?” asked Stan.

“I can’t sing,” said Fiddleford.

“He can’t,” said Ford. “Trust me, let’s leave it at that. Rick!”

Rick turned and glared. “ What?

“We need one more voice!” said Ford, beckoning him over. “Lend us a hand!”

Rick didn’t move. He shifted his gaze to Stanley, whose mouth was set in a grim line, but his eyes held something between remorse and embarrassment.

“I-I want an apology.”

Now’s not the time! ” yelled Fiddleford, stomping on a zombie hand that grabbed onto the gutter.

Stanley, apologize to him! ” shouted Ford.

Stan got to his feet and folded his arms. “What? No way! I didn’t do a damn thing!”

“Like hell y-you didn’t!” Rick got to his feet, stepped over, and jabbed his finger into Stan’s chest. “Y-y-you don’t know what it’s like to be in my head, Lee! G-get the fuck out of my face if you could ever think you could put yourself in my shoes!”

“Maybe I could if you’d let me, Rick!” he snapped, pushing him off.

Rick gave him a shove. “W-well I ain’t gonna let you, s-so fucking forget about it! Th-the only way you’re gonna pry this flask away from me is outta my c-cold, dead hands!”

“They’re gonna be cold and dead if you don’t put it down!” he yelled over the groaning zombies that were starting to climb the roof.

“I-i-is that a threat? ” snarled Rick.

Stan realized that his phrasing was terrible. “Rick, I didn’t mean- I meant that if you don’t, you could-”

“Are you th-threatening me, Lee?” he shouted, balling his hands into fists. “Y-you gonna beat me up if I don’t quit?”

“Rick, we’re not-”

Fuck you, Stanley!

Stan growled. “ Fuck you, Rick! I’m just trying to help!

I-I don’t want your help!

Stan was hurt by that. He widened his eyes. “What?”

I didn’t ask for it! ” yelled Rick, advancing on him.

This only strengthened his resolve. “ You’re getting it, anyway! I care about you!

I-if you cared, you’d shut the fuck up about it!

I’m not gonna let you kill yourself!

I-I’m not killing m-myself! ” he shouted, his hand in his pocket. Stan knew he was holding his flask in a white-knuckled grip.

Stan clenched his fists. “Like hell you’re not! How’s your liver doing, dumbass?”

Fuck you, Lee! I-it’s my goddamn liver, I’ll do what I please with it!”

I don’t want you to die!

Bang!

The two of them froze. Fiddleford’s shotgun had blasted the head off another zombie.

“Fight zombies now, fight each other later!” yelled Fiddleford, tossing his gun to Ford and picking up his banjo. “Last chorus, fellas!”

Well if they freed me from this prison, ” sang Ford, holding the shotgun in sweaty hands. “ If that railroad train was mine…

I bet I’d move it on a little farther down the line, ” added Stan, not taking his eyes off of Rick.

Rick heaved a weary sigh and continued, “ Far from Folsom prison, that’s where I want to stay…

The three of them joined in on the last verse. “ And I’d let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away.

The effect was immediate. The zombies trembled and shook, the low singing voices and the banjo strings thrumming through the air with the help of Rick’s amplification device, and with a mess of goop, rotted flesh, and viscera, the skulls of the zombies shattered and splattered over their front lawn.

“Ew,” said Fiddleford.

“Fascinating,” said Ford.

“Wish we got that on film,” said Stan, looking over to Rick, half hoping for a laugh at least.

Rick shrugged and took a swig from his flask.

Fiddleford laughed and strummed his banjo lightly. “Not the first time my banjo’s gotten me out of a pinch, and I’m sure it won’t be the last!”

“Never thought I’d be glad for that infernal instrument,” said Ford, putting his hand on his friend’s shoulder, making Fiddleford blush.

“Hate to be a spoilsport,” said Stan, “but how are we gonna get down?”

“Oh.” Ford looked down at the zombie-splattered ground. “Good question.”

Stan looked over at Rick. Rick wouldn’t look at him.

Maybe an apology was in order, but Stan was feeling too slighted to offer a sincere one at the moment, so he ignored the gross feeling in his gut that told him that he was in the wrong in this fight. Maybe that wasn’t the best idea in the long run, but it was all he could manage.

Stan kicked their window open and the four of them crawled back inside. Unmoving undead were slumped against the walls and over their bed, brains splattered on every surface.

Stan Junior swam in happy circles in his tank.

Stan rested his hand on the tank and wondered how badly he’d fucked up.

Chapter Text

Rick sat on the porch. It was the middle of the night, and although they’d cleaned up the zombie lumberjack corpses well enough, the smell of rotten flesh still hung in the air. His flask was in his hand, slick with sweat and warm from his palm.

Stan was upstairs in their room, fast asleep. Rick could hear him snoring through the open upstairs window. Even when he was angry at him, the sound was comforting.

Rick felt like shit. His drinking had never been a problem before, why was it a problem now? Hell, hadn’t it been one of his “roguishly charming qualities”? Well, that was sorta pushing it, but still! Rick Sanchez was never without his flask. Never. Not ever. Never.

Rick took a long swig from his flask and wiped his mouth on his wrist. Stanley didn’t fucking get it, and he never could. Rick loved being a genius with every fibre of his being, but… it wasn’t easy.

It was tough to be in his head. It was tough to see the things that he’s seen and not let it affect him. He’d adopted a cavalier attitude towards sentient life, which helped, but it didn’t help the wrongs that had been personally afflicted against him that still haunted him on nights when he drank alone. He hadn’t been fully sober in years, and he didn’t want to think about how horrible detoxing would be. Moreover, he didn’t want to be sober. Sobriety was for losers. He wasn’t even sure how his mind would work without alcohol, or whether it even could, and that’s what scared him the most, not that he would ever say that aloud.

He took another swig. He hated fighting with Stan. It was supposed to be the two of them against the world, not against each other. Fuck.

“You alright, there?”

Rick turned and saw Fiddleford standing in the doorway, holding two mugs of tea.

Rick grunted and made a vague so-so gesture.

Fiddleford gave a little sigh and sat next to him on the steps. “Tea?”

Rick eyed it for a moment, shrugged, and took the mug from him. He took a long sip. It was burning hot. Chamomile.

“I saw that you an’ Stan were outta sorts,” said Fiddleford, cupping his hot mug in two hands. “I won’t ask for details or nothin’, but if you wanna talk I wanna listen.”

“W-what is this, therapy?” snapped Rick.

Fiddleford shrugged and took a sip of tea.

“I-I don’t need fucking therapy! ” said Rick testily.

“You’ll notice that I didn’t say you did.”

Rick huffed and took another drink of his tea. He could hear Fiddleford humming that Johnny Cash song, and he thought of Stan.

Stanley really did want what was best for him. But, as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Just because he meant well didn’t mean that he knew shit. Rick was gonna have to straighten him out.

“I can hear you thinkin’,” said Fiddleford.

“W-whatever.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

He sorta did, but he wanted to talk to Stan about it. Sorta. Not really. Actually, no, he really didn’t want to have this conversation at all. Fuck emotions. Fuck brain chemicals that tricked you into feeling shit.

Rick gave a dramatic sigh. “W-why’s Lee gotta be so goddamn sure he’s right?”

Fiddleford chuckled. “That’s one thing he’s got in common with his twin.”

“Ugh. I-I dunno how you put up with Mister Stick-in-the-Butt over there.”

Fiddleford gave a smile. “Well, you ever meet someone and everything just kinda… clicks? You dunno why or nothin’, but it just makes sense to stick with ‘em?”

“Yeah. I-I know the feeling.”

Fiddleford made a vague gesture with his hand. “Well, Ford and I clicked. We liked the same board games, watched the same shows, both felt like freaks in our own skin, what-have-you.”

Rick realized that he was a lot like Stanley, too. Rebels without a cause, a taste for sleaze, a dislike of rules, rejected by their families, lone free rangers… the list goes on. He took another sip of tea and held the warm mug in his palms.

“I’m sure you two will work it out,” said Fiddleford. He stood and patted Rick’s shoulder. “Time heals all wounds, y’know? I’m off to bed. Lots of science to do, tomorrow.”

“Ah yes, l-l-lady science,” said Rick. “Y-you gotta hold on or she’ll buck you off, amirite?”

“Goodnight, Rick.”

He grunted and waved without looking as Fiddleford went back into the house.

It was a quiet night. Rick finished his tea, took another swig from his flask, and went upstairs to bed.

He didn’t have a problem. However, hypothetically, if he did have a problem, it was his problem and therefore his business, so who gives a fuck?

 

Stan had gone to sleep alone, but he was glad to wake up with Rick curled up against his back. Maybe if he didn’t say anything, they could pretend that yesterday’s argument didn’t happen. That would probably be best.

Stan tried to sit up, but Rick’s thin arm pulled him back down.

“‘M cold,” he mumbled into Stan’s shoulder.

Stan chuckled and settled back down. “It’s ‘cause you’re skin and bone.”

“W-whatever. Y-you’ve got enough fat for the two of us.” He squished Stan’s belly.

“Knock it off!” He swatted his hand, but he was laughing.

Rick felt a little relieved. The tension between them was dispelling nicely, even if he could feel the ache of words unsaid still hanging in the air. He snuggled a little bit closer to Stan.

There was a loud, dull boom from the basement, then sirens as smoke alarms went off.

“Not good,” said Stan. “Wanna check it out?”

“N-not really.”

“Hah, me neither.”

Stan Junior floated in his tank. Stan dropped some fish food that he’d gotten from his brother into the tank and watched the axolotl catch the little flakes with its mouth.

“D-do axolotls eat fish food?” asked Rick.

“This one does.” Stan stood and stretched. “Want coffee?”

“Y-y-you know it, babe.”

Stan grinned, put on a pair of pants, and left their room. He was glad that they weren’t arguing, and he wanted to keep it that way… even if he’d been kinda right, and Rick was in the wrong.

Rick sighed and rolled over. He was glad that Stan wasn’t about to start another argument… particularly because Rick knew that he was right, and that Stan was (for once) wrong.

 

So when can you pick him up?

“Well, whenever!” Fiddleford was ecstatic. He twiddled nervously with the cord on the phone. “I can be there today- or, well, it might take me a few days to drive down to Cali and back, maybe I could catch a flight, b-but the sooner the better!”

Well, whenever is convenient, just give me a shout before you get here so I can have his stuff ready.

“Sure! I-I’ll call ya back, Delilah!” He hung up quickly. “Stanford!”

“What is it?” Ford called from the kitchen. He was burning the remains of their destroyed lab coats in the sink and fanning the smoke out the window. Toxins had gotten all over them, they were no good.

“Tate’s comin’ up to visit!” said Fiddleford cheerily. “We gotta prep the room for him, I gotta crib that I can fix up in a few minutes, and I have to go pick him up from Palo Alto. It’ll take me a day or two to get all the ways down there…”

“I can stay back and set up the room for you,” offered Ford, turning on the sink to douse the ashes, “That way you can leave to pick him up as soon as possible.”

“Would you?” he asked, elated and touched.

“Yeah,” he said with a grin, then his smile faded. “Gravity Falls is kind of a dangerous place, are you sure-”

“I’m sure,” he said, cutting him off. “Positive. I’m gonna go gas up my car and-”

“W-where are you goin’, Fiddlenerd?” Rick was leaning against the doorway, holding a half-empty cup of coffee.

“Down to Palo Alto,” said Fiddleford, “to pick up Tate.”

“That your kid?”

“Yep.” Fiddleford grabbed his jacket from the peg and pulled it on. “Gonna get moving if I wanna get down there.”

Rick scratched his chin. “I-I could get you down there in like two minutes, b-but you gotta owe me a favour.”

Fiddleford narrowed his eyes. “Are you talkin’ ‘bout that wretched portal gun you got in your pocket?”

“Y-yeah, what of it?”

“Well, forget it! Last time I went near that thing, we almost got eaten!”

“A-almost, not entirely. This is a one-time offer, Fiddlestick. I-I got places to be.” Rick downed his coffee and walked into the kitchen.

“What inspired this random act of kindness?” asked Fiddleford, following after him and crossing his arms. His leg bounced slightly, as it tended to do when he was agitated.

Rick shrugged. “I-I might need a favour. You’re a smart guy, make a good choice.”

“My choice is to not let people make open-ended deals with me,” said Fiddleford. “Only dummies do that.”

Stanford flushed a little and coughed, looking away slightly.

“Fine,” said Rick, putting his mug in the sink. “H-how about you help me with a project next time I need it? Sound good? Y-y-you’re good with machines, should be a snap for you.”

“I don’t wanna use that dang gun o’ yours!” said Fiddleford.

“Y-you’re telling me you’d rather drive two days down to Palo Alto and two days back, rather than being there in back in less than ten minutes?”

Fiddleford’s knee bounced. His arms were still crossed. “Ugh, fine. Let me call Delilah.” He stomped off to make another phone call.

Rick snorted and pulled out his portal gun, setting it to Palo Alto.

Fiddleford dragged himself back into the room a few minutes later with a weary sigh. “I can’t believe I agreed to this.”

“Y-you won’t regret it, I swear!”

Fiddleford squinted at him.

Rick did a phoney boy-scout salute. “Scout’s honour!”

He rolled his eyes. “Let’s just get this over with.”

“W-what’s your address?”

“Two-three-nineteen, Lakeford Lane.”

Rick fiddled with the portal gun, pulled the trigger, and shot a portal at the wall. “After you!”

Fiddleford shot him a look, and gave him a firm shove through the portal before following afterwards.

Stanford chuckled as the portal closed behind them. He rolled up his sleeves and went upstairs to make sure the room was ready for Tate.

 

Fiddleford idly wondered how he would explain this situation to Delilah as he stepped into his driveway with Rick. He entertained three possibilities.

Hi, Delilah! I happened to be in town with my friend Rick, and that’s how we got here so fast!

Hello, Delilah. This is my friend Rick, and he invented a trans-dimensional portal device that rips holes in the fabric of the universe for us to step through.

Or, he could say nothing. That might be his best bet.

He smoothed out his hair, straightened his tie, and buttoned his jacket. “Quick, Rick. Do I look okay?”

Rick took a swig from his flask, raked his eyes over his form and said, “Full disclosure, y-you’ve got ink stains on your hands and you’re rockin’ the hog-farm-scientist vibe pretty strong.”

“Thanks,” he said flatly. He squared up his shoulders, took a deep breath, and stepped up to the front door.

It had been months since he’d stood on this doorstep. There were potted plants by the door that hadn’t been there when he left. The lawn was covered in freshly fallen leaves. This wasn’t his house, anymore.

He stood there for a few minutes, his hand poised to knock, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. His wife would think that it’s weird that he got here so fast. Did he look like as much of a wreck as he felt? He had a few more grey hairs on his temples than he did last time, did he look old?

Knock, knock!

Fiddleford glared at Rick and swatted his hand away. “Don’t knock!

“T-too late, Fiddlenerd.” Rick lit a cigarette and leaned against the side of the house. “G-go crazy.”

Fiddleford fixed his tie when he heard approaching footsteps inside. The door swung open inwards, and there stood Delilah.

She looked good. She was wearing a new dress, her long, dark hair was in an updo, and she looked positively radiant. Fiddleford felt a pang in his heart for her, a pang of grief, regret, and some last, lingering affection that he still held for her.

She rested her hand on the doorknob. Her nails were manicured. “Fiddleford.”

“Delilah.” Oh, he looked terrible, bags under his eyes, messy hair, singed and ink-stained fingers.

“How did you get here so fast?” she asked, bewildered.

“Um. I had a little help from a friend.”

Delilah peered past him, looking at Rick. “Who might you be?”

“Rick Sanchez,” he said, not looking at her. “I-I’m his ride.”

“Oh. How do you do?”

“C-can’t complain. W-why don’t we skip the pleasantries and cut to the chase?”

Fiddleford bit his cheek and flushed with embarrassment. “S-sorry ‘bout him, Delilah. I-”

“Is this the sorta company you keep now, Fiddleford?” she asked, folding her arms.

“He’s my partner’s brother’s… um… friend .”

“Friend,” she said flatly, disbelievingly.

“Yeah,” he said, wincing at the voice crack. “Um. Anyway, about-”

“By partner do you mean business partner, or-”

“Business partner!” he said shrilly. “J-just that.”

“Really.”

“Really!”

Just your business partner?”

“Yep.” He was sweating just a bit. He subtly wiped his palms on his trousers. “Um, might I…?”

“Alright, c’mon in.”

Fiddleford followed after Delilah. The house had been redecorated a bit. New carpets, new pictures on the wall of his infant son and other people that he didn’t recognize, a new fridge, a new tablecloth. Otherwise, it was almost identical to the place he’d left behind all those months ago.

In the playpen in the living room, baby Tate sat with a pacifier in his mouth and a rattle in his hand. He was much bigger than when Fiddleford had last seen him. His hair was dark and curly, hanging almost over his eyes. He no longer lay on his back or tummy and wiggled, but instead he crawled about on all fours with determination, over to the edge of the playpen where he used the bars to help himself up onto two feet.

Fiddleford’s heart melted when he saw his son. He couldn’t stop himself from dashing over, hoisting him up into his arms and exclaiming, “Hey there, Tater Tot! You’ve gotten to be a big fella, haven’t ‘cha?”

Tate looked a little puzzled by Fiddleford at first, which hurt. Did his son not remember him? Had he really been away for that long?

Then, Tate made a grab for his glasses and pulled them off his nose.

Fiddleford laughed as Tate giggled. He knew that his eyes looked strange without glasses (they had a tendency to point in opposite directions without corrective lenses), so he stuck out his tongue and made a face before taking his glasses back.

“There’s my giggly Tater,” he said, then he pressed his lips to the baby’s forehead. He smelled like baby powder, and the scent made Fiddleford’s heart pang with memories of holding him as a newborn. He’d been so, so tiny. Now, he was almost a toddler, and Fiddleford felt guilty about how much he’d missed during his time in Gravity Falls.

Delilah cleared her throat.

Fiddleford turned. She had two bags for Tate by her feet and a baby backpack in her hand.

“When do you want him back?” he asked, putting him back into the crib and picking up the baby backpack.

“Two weeks,” she said. “Oh, and… I have these.” She handed him a file folder. “It’s… divorce paperwork. I filed for dual custody.”

Relief washed over him. His palms left sweaty marks on the manila folder. “Thank you, Delilah. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“Was there anything-”

“I’m engaged.”

That felt like a kick to the chest. He stowed the file into his jacket. “You… you what?”

“I told you that I met someone else,” she said, looking at the floor. “I’m sorry, Fidds.”

The nickname stung. Stanford had used it, first. Delilah had adopted it later. “Please don’t call me that,” he said. He hated how pathetic he sounded.

“Fiddleford. I’m sorry.” She gave a small sigh. “It wasn’t s’posed to turn out like this, y’know?”

“I know.”

“I know you can’t help bein’ a queer, but-”

Fiddleford bristled at that, but managed to smooth out his expression. “Oh?”

“Do you fancy your partner?”

Excuse me?”

“Well,” she said, walking over to baby Tate, “you seemed real eager to go to Oregon to help him with his research, an’ I can’t help wonderin’ if-”

“We’re not like that,” he said, red in the face. He was never a good liar, even though he wasn’t precisely sure what the nature of his and Ford’s relationship was at the moment.

She shrugged. She clearly didn’t believe him. “Ain’t none of my business no more.”

Fiddleford helped put baby Tate into the backpack. He wiggled and kicked his feet and gurgled happily as his dad hoisted the backpack onto his front and buckled it into place.

“Take care of him, Fiddleford,” said Delilah.

“I will. He’s my boy. I love ‘im.”

Delilah poked her tongue into her cheek and looked away.

This made Fiddleford’s blood boil. “What’s that look for?”

“I reckon you know.”

“Know what?

“Y’know that if you’d take your mind outta science for a damn minute, you’d actually get to watch your boy grow up.”

Fiddleford was stuck for words, which she loathed. He hated that she was right. She was always right. Instead, he let the anger slip away, picked up the two bags, and said, “Goodbye, Delilah.”

She waved to him as he walked towards the front door. “Bye, Fiddleford. Enjoy your science. Seems like all you got left.”

Fiddleford rounded on her. “ That ain’t true!

Delilah tilted a brow at him and shrugged a shoulder. “Suit yourself.”

Fiddleford slammed the door shut behind him.

Chapter Text

Rick stubbed his cigarette out on the side of the house as Fiddleford stomped down the steps and across the lawn. He took a few long strides to catch up with Fiddleford, who seemed keen on getting as far away from the house as possible as quickly as possible.

“W-who’s the gremlin?”

“Tate,” Fiddleford said tartly. “Tate, this is Rick. Rick, this is my boy.”

Rick wrinkled his nose in distaste at the snotty, gurgly toddler. “Ugh, kids . Y-you know, most species aren’t so g-goddamn useless as humans. Most reach adulthood by the age of two.”

“That ain’t true, Rick, quit exaggeratin’. Get out that portal gun. I wanna get outta here.”

Rick pulled out his portal gun and entered the coordinates for Gravity Falls. “Y-you know I-I ain’t one to care, but… y-you alright?”

“Fine!” he said shrilly. “Fine and dandy!”

“Really.”

“Really! Jus-just get that thing fired up, won’cha?” He cast a reproachful glance back at his old house. “I jus’ wanna go home.”

“W-whatever you say, pal.” Rick pulled the trigger and shot a portal. Fiddleford stepped through it immediately, dragging his bags behind him. Rick followed after him.

It was quiet in the front yard in Palo Alto.

Then, the portal opened up again, and a scruffy arm shot out of it, holding a disintegrating ray, and blasted the crap out of the plants on the front porch.

Delilah never managed to figure out how her plants spontaneously combusted.

 

“Christ, Ford, for a guy who can build a perpetual-motion-gizmo, why can’t you figure out IKEA furniture?”

“The instructions are in Swedish! ” he cried as Stanley twisted the wrench and fit the last part of the crib frame into place, humming the “building things” song as he did so.

“There’s pictures,” said Stan, nudging the paper with his foot. “Not that you need ‘em.”

Ford spluttered, huffed, then sat on the floor with his arms crossed like a petulant child, drumming his six fingers on his upper arm.

Stan smirked and fit one side of the crib into place.

Ford paused, looking up at his twin. “Hey, you remembered the name of the machine you broke.”

Stan laughed nervously. “It haunted my dreams for almost five years. How could I forget it?” He twisted another knut into place. “But, y’know. Whatever.”

Ford bit his lip, hating that he felt guilty. It wasn’t his fault, after all. “Sorry.”

“Whatever. It’s fine.”

It wasn’t fine. Ford just didn’t know how to approach that, so instead he stood, picked up a wrench, and started to help put the crib together while Stan hummed.

“Puttin’ a crib together, doodly-doo,” he sang, “for Fiddlenerd’s kiddo, deedly-dee…”

Ford heard a whooshing sound from downstairs and a whole lot of stomping. “They’re back.” He dropped the wrench and trotted downstairs.

“Sure, just leave me to it!” shouted Stan, tightening screws into place. Once Ford was out of earshot, he grumbled something about “lovesick puppies”.

Ford peeked into the kitchen, slightly anxious. Full disclosure, the last time he’d come into contact with a (human) baby was when Shermy was born, and he’d kinda-sorta- maybe dropped him. On the floor. In private. Nobody found out. Babies are hard to hold, you know?

Fiddleford was sitting at the kitchen table. He looked a little agitated, and on his knee there was a toddler with a blue pacifier in his mouth.

“Stanford,” said Fiddleford, sounded slightly tired, but pleased to see him. “This is my boy, Tate. Tater-Tot, this is Stanfy.”

“Don’t call me that,” he said without thinking.

Fiddleford raised his eyebrows.

Rick coughed as he walked past him into the living room, taking a sip from his flask. The cough sounded vaguely like “ smooth ”.

“I mean,” he amended. “Whatever. I don’t mind.”

Fiddleford still looked a little miffed. “Stanford, I’ve had an exceptionally trying day thus far and I reckon you’re walkin’ a very fine line.” His knee bounced a little, and Tate giggled.

Ford felt vaguely like his mom had been telling him off. “Um. Sorry.”

“It’s fine. Sit down.”

Stanford quickly took a seat, and before he could defend himself, Tate was shoved into his arms.

“Um.” He looked down at the toddler. Tate peered up at him from under curly brown bangs and sucked at his pacifier. He was very small and light. His tiny, pudgy hands gripped Ford’s tie. Stanford was trying not to panic, but he felt like he was gonna make this kid cry somehow.

Tate grabbed Ford’s horn-rimmed glasses and pulled them off, spitting out his pacifier and putting the earpiece of his glasses in his mouth.

“Hey, now, don’t let ‘im do that!” Fiddleford snatched the glasses away from Tate.

“It’s okay,” said Ford, surprised that he wasn’t as irritated as he thought he’d be. “I don’t mind.”

“I don’t rightly care if you mind, Stanford! It’s not safe for babies!” He put Ford’s glasses on the table, out of reach, picked the pacifier up off the floor, wiped it on his shirt, and popped it back into Tate’s mouth.

“... Isn’t that unsanitary?” asked Ford delicately.

“Eh, dirt’s good for ‘im. Toughens him up.” Fidds plopped back down in his chair and propped his chin up in his hand. “He likes you.”

Ford made a face. “I’m not sure…”

“Naw, he does. Lookit ‘im.”

Tate giggled and pulled on Ford’s tie.

Ford chuckled and adjusted his hold on the toddler so it felt more natural. He could get used to this, he supposed.

Fiddleford still looked… upset. Just a little. He looked at the messy table, his fingers drumming against his cheek. The bags under his eyes seemed particularly dark.

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine.”

“Is it… Delilah?”

The fingers stopped drumming.

Ford waited for a few moments. However, he was not a patient man, so he said, “Well?”

“I just…” He sighed. “I’m just grateful she lets me see my boy at all.”

“But…?”

“She said some… harsh things.”

“Like what?”

He shook his head. “You wouldn’t like it.”

“It doesn’t matter if I like it,” he said, bouncing Tate on his knee. “It obviously bothered you, and I, as your friend… strongly dislike it when things of that nature bother you.”

Fiddleford rubbed his eyes under his glasses. “She… um… she blames you.”

Ford blinked. “For what?”

“Stealin’ her man.”

Ford paused. Then he snorted. Then he caught himself and put on a straight face.

“What’s so funny? ” snapped Fiddleford.

“It’s just-” Ford’s voice cracked. He cleared his throat. “I-it’s just the way you said it. That’s all.” He chuckled.

Fiddleford set his jaw as Ford giggled. Then he smirked. Then he chuckled. Then he finally laughed aloud, feeling the aching tension in his chest melt away. Here he was, in the same room with the two people who were most important to him. He ought to relax and feel a little grateful.

“But seriously,” said Ford with a smile. His eyes were squinting because his glasses were sitting on the table. “Why does she think that?

“I don’t rightly know,” he said, taking Tate back and pulling him into his lap. “I s’pose she got the… um… impression that we were involved.”

Ford rested an elbow on the table. He tried not to look too hopeful.  “Oh? What did you say to that?”

“I denied it,” he said, flushing. “I’m sorry.”

Alright, that felt a bit like a kick to the chest, but Ford didn’t want to jump to conclusions too quickly. “Well… was that a lie?”

“Pardon?”

“When you say that we’re… um… not involved, as you would phrase it,” said Ford, “is that a lie?”

Fiddleford sighed. “I don’t rightly know.”

“Do you… I… I’m… Uh… What if...” Ford groaned, loud and long. “Why is talking to you so goddamn hard? ” He punctuated his sentence with a slam of his hand on the table.

Fiddleford pulled baby Tate close to him and inched away. “Stanford! What is the meaning-”

Ford made a frustrated growl. “Gah! Whenever I try to just spit it out , I get all tongue-tied and I don’t know why! My stomach does weird flips, my palms feel clammy, and my heart just won’t slow down! ” He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “How is it that you bring out the best parts of my brain and the worst at the same time?”

Fiddleford tilted his head. “I… um… Stanford, I-I don’t know what to say…” Ford was never good at reading people, he had no idea if Fiddleford was pleased, confused, upset, or a mixture of the above. If he had an inkling of how Stanford felt before, he probably had the full picture by now. Great.

Ford’s face was burning red. He’d always had a very strong fight-or-flight instinct, stemming from grade school and avoiding playground bullies, and his instinct weighed very heavily towards flight.

Stanford bolted from his seat. “I-I have some tests to run and-”

Stanford Filbrick Pines, sit down or so help me God!

Ford plopped back down immediately, mouth closed tightly.

Fiddleford gave a small sigh. “Stanford, you are a wonderfully infuriating man. You scramble my Cubic’s Cube, you chew on your pens, and you always smell like smoke from your bizarre shaving technique. You’re stubborn, passionate, intelligent, and loyal. If you like, we can make what I told my ex-wife a lie.”

“I… R-really?”

“Really.”

“Oh. Well. Um. Heh.” Eloquent, Ford. Very eloquent. “Y-you mean-”

“I’m asking you to go steady,” said Fiddleford evenly.

Ford was bright red and grinning like an idiot. “Sure! I-I’d… I-I mean, I feel the same way and… I’d really like that. Yeah. Sure.”

Fiddleford laughed. So did Stanford.

Baby Tate giggled and gurgled and spat his pacifier on the floor again.

 

Stan and Rick were in the living room with the TV turned down, listening to every word of that conversation. Rick was lying draped across Stan, and Stan had one beefy arm slung around Rick’s shoulders.

“T-ten bucks says that they fuck in ten days,” said Rick.

“A week,” said Stan.

“Done.”

They shook on it, then turned the volume up on the TV.

Chapter Text

Rick was… very, very surprised. He was surprised that Stan happily spent the next few days sitting with Fiddleford and playing with Tate or helping Stanford look after his partner’s son. Ford didn’t take to caretaking very naturally. It seemed like Stan did.

Rick would watch him, completely bewildered, as Stan bounced the toddler on his knee, let him play with his keys, made silly faces at him, and repeated the few nonsense words that he said back and forth. Rick didn’t really understand how (or why) he had such a knack with this kid thing, but he couldn’t help being impressed.

Rick tinkered away on some invention while Stan flipped through channels, lounging in his easy chair with Tate napping on his chest. Fiddleford filled out paperwork beside him, by the coffee table. Stanford was snoring on the couch.

It was so goddamn domestic, Rick felt like if he didn’t blow something up, he was gonna go crazy. What happened to the crazy shenanigans that he and Stan would get themselves into? He had to get out of this domestic shit and fast.

Stanford snored and snorted himself awake. He dragged a hand across his face and mumbled. “What time is it?”

“About three.”

Three? Stanford bolted upright, grabbed his glasses, and pulled on his coat. “C’mon! We have to work on the project, we can’t sleep the day away!”

Fidds grabbed his arm and stopped him. He smoothed Ford’s lapels down over his chest. “Ford, relax! I can’t just leave Tater-tot alone with-”

“Me?” said Stan from the couch. He pointed. “Lil’ tyke’s out like a light. Go do your nerd shit.”

“C’mon, Fidds,” said Ford, grabbing Fiddleford by the wrist. “We need to get a little work done. We’ll still be in the house and everything!”

“Well, alri-”

Ford yanked him out of the room, already babbling about portals and vortexes and some physics bullshit that Stan didn’t really care about.

Stan went back to channel surfing.

Rick was still bored. Tinkering with his Meeseeks box wasn’t really taking his mind off of it. It was pretty much perfectly ready, anyways. Eleven out of twelve times, if Rick was bored, that meant that something bad was gonna happen (the other one time, he usually got stoned).

“Hey, Lee?”

“Mm?”

Rick got to his feet. “I-I have an idea for a scam. L-let’s talk it over upstairs.”

Stan blinked and pointed to Tate. “Can he come?”

Rick made a face. He pressed a button on top of the Meeseeks box.

Stan didn’t move aside from raising an eyebrow when he saw the blue man poof into existence. “ I’m Mister Meeseeks, lookit me! ” it cried in a shrill, grating voice.

“Eugh, what the fuck, Rick?”

“Th-this is a Meeseeks,” said Rick. “They fulfil a command, then when the command is complete, they cease to exist. Mister Meeseeks, l-look after this gremlin until Lee an’ I come back, okay?”

“Can do!” He picked up baby Tate, who seemed very calm about this strange new development. “ Ooh-ee! What a cutie! I’ll keep an eye on him!”

Tate blinked, sucked on his pacifier, and stuck his fingers in the Meeseeks mouth. Mr. Meeseeks didn’t seem to mind.

“Th-there, the kid’s being looked after, now c’mon!” Rick grabbed Stan by the wrist and pulled him upstairs.

“I dunno, Rick,” said Stan as he climbed the stairs. “I feel weird about leaving the lil’ bean with that blue thing.”

“H-h-he’s fine, Lee, he’s fine! B-better than fine, that M-Meeseeks will take real good care of ‘im! This is the Quarxian Nebula.” He pulled out a star map and slapped it onto the table that they’d hauled upstairs.

Stanley was far from an expert, but he’d learned enough to be able to read some basic star charts. Of course, it all depended on where you were situated in the universe and which way you happened to be looking (which is why it was so complicated). “So, what’s this about?”

“I-it’s about the best scheme yet!” said Rick, smoothing out the paper. “I-it’s a multi-stage plan!”

“Okay, what’s the goal?”

“T-to get rich!”

Stanley rolled his eyes. “Elaborate?”

“Okay, our end game is to steal the Nebula’s largest diamond.”

Stan’s jaw dropped. “ Holy shit! Proceed!”

“I-it won’t be easy,” said Rick, “it’s being held at this museum, here in Quadrant 12-X.” He touched the paper. “F-first, we have to get fake IDs so we can pass off as locals. Second, w-we have to stop by this Quadrant to talk to a guy, get the full blueprints of the museum. Then, we have to go to that Quadrant to get Smarxian plants.”

“Why do we need Smarxian plants?” asked Stan.

“So w-we don’t smell human,” said Rick. “We have to smell like aliens from that part of the galaxy.”

“But we’ll look -”

Rick waved him off. “L-looks don’t matter, Stan. There are tons of humanoids wandering around, nobody keeps track of ‘em all, b-but we just can’t smell like ourselves or we’ll end up being kicked out.”

“Why?”

“Racism, pretty much. We smell dirty to them. A-anyway, then we have to sneak past security, get the diamond, and portal outta there! Easy!”

Stan had to clarify. “We’re gonna steal a diamond?”

“Y-yep!” Rick took a swig from his flask.

Stan frowned.

“What?” he asked, shoving it back into his pocket.

Stan looked away. “Nothin’.”

“Don’t look like nothing. W-what is it, Lee?”

Stanley huffed. “I just wish that you’d stop-”

“Stop d-d-drinking?” snapped Rick. “C-c’mon, Lee. It’s f-fine. I’m fine. Just d-drop it, okay?”

Stan stuffed his hands into his pockets. “I’m just worried about you, Rick. I don’t-”

“I-I said drop it! ” he snapped.

Stan growled. “ Don’t tell me what to do! ” he shouted, advancing on him, hands balled into fists.

Rick gave a miniscule flinch. His angry expression didn’t waver.

Stan kept his curled fists at his sides. “Whatever. I’m not gonna change your mind.”

Rick pulled the portal gun out of his pocket and fiddled with the coordinates. “D-damn right. L-let’s just go.”

Rick stepped through the portal. Stan contemplated waiting for it to close, but despite his anger and frustration, he followed Rick. Like usual.

Downstairs, Mr. Meeseeks was playing with Tate on the floor. Tate was less than two, so he wasn’t one for complex thought processes, but he thought that this funny blue man was weird and he wondered where Daddy, Stanfy, and Lee were. The tall guy didn’t really talk to him much, but he wasn’t mean, either. He wanted to play with Daddy or have Stanfy read a story to him or sleep on Lee’s tummy. This blue guy was okay, though.

He was much more interested in the blue box that sat on the coffee table than in his toys. He crawled across the room, pushing aside plush animals and building blocks, and grabbed at the blue cube on the table. He pulled it off the table with his pudgy hands, dropped it on the floor, and slapped the button on the top.

Poof!

Another blue man was there! He talked in the same weird and funny voice. “I’m Mister Meeseeks! What can I do?”

Tate giggled and clapped his hands.

The blue man looked confused. He tilted his head to the side and scratched his chin with a strange mitten-hand. “What’s that mean?”

 

It was official. Fiddleford hated triangles, triangle shapes, anything to do with triangles, and any shape that had three sides.

Ford didn’t think that he would notice, but he’s seeing strange artifacts in his part of the office. Prisms, carpets, wall hangings, and even a golden statue high up on a shelf where he thought he wouldn’t look. It feels strange… cryptic… and he swears that the eyes in the centre of these peculiar symbols seem to follow him.

However, even if it creeped him out, he had more important things to attend to.

Like the portal.

Ford loved this project. He’d thrown his heart and soul into it. He’d dragged Fiddleford through alien spacecrafts for parts, spent entire days and sleepless nights on it when he was able, and yet he never quite told Fiddleford where he got the idea for this thing.

Ford said to Fiddleford that this machine would reveal all the secrets of Gravity Falls and explain the town’s weirdness. It was a gateway between dimensions, similar in some ways to the device that Rick had, but much more complicated in others.

It did bother Fiddleford. Really, just what he needed. Something else to worry about.

He felt a hand on his shoulder. “Hey. Looking for your pencil?”

“I am!” said Fiddleford, searching around his desk. “I can’t find it no-”

Fiddleford twitched a little when he felt fingers touch his ear. Ford held his pencil. He was smiling and blushing.

Fiddleford let out an exasperated sigh and took it from him. “Thank you.”

Ford’s other hand settled on his opposite shoulder. “It’s a pleasure.”

Fiddleford shivered pleasantly. As much as he liked this, there was work to be done, and Ford knew that, too. Fiddleford turned, breaking Ford’s grip, and leaned against his desk, his pencil between his fingers. “How’s the work coming?”

“Good, good.” He turned a tiny gold triangular statue around so it was facing the wall. “You?”

“Very well, very well indeed.”

Ford shifted a little. His face was red. He chewed on his lip, looking a little anxious.

“Something you need?” asked Fiddleford, breaking the silence.

“I-I… Well… uh…” He twiddled his fingers. “You just look nice. That’s all.”

Fiddleford snorted.

Ford folded his arms, defensive. “ What?

“Nothin’, Darlin’. You look nice, too.”

Ford’s ears burned with the nickname, but he grinned like an idiot before turning back to his work.

Fiddleford felt like something was left unsaid, but he wasn’t quite sure what.

He turned back to his blueprints and made a few notes in his book. Then, he grabbed his visor and blowtorch and headed back to work on the experiment.

Over the noise of the machinery, neither of them heard the stomping commotion that went on upstairs.

 

Rick was still in a supremely shitty mood. He snapped at everything that came too close, and took more than the average number of swigs from his flask. Stan waited behind him, arms folded, not looking at him.

Rick counted out flurbos and passed them to the guy who gave them their fake IDs that said they were locals in the Quarxian Nebula. “Th-there. Two hundred, like we agreed.”

The guy behind the counter examined the bills he held in his tentacles. “Hey, man, I said four.”

Four?! W-w-what kinda bullshit is this?”

“It’s what we agreed on!”

“It was two, last time!”

“Well, times change! Rick, if you just-”

Stan got bored by watching them argue. He turned towards the back of the shop and started poking around through the aisles.

It wasn’t really his kind of place. The lighting was strangely green, the shelves were practically a labyrinth of wood and metal, and the items for sale were… strange. Shrunken heads of all species, specimens in jars, taxidermied creatures from all around the quadrant, books that screamed when you opened them, lengths of rusty chains, and weapons that looked like they were designed to torture rather than kill. Altogether, this shop gave him the heebie-jeebies.

Heya, pal! Looking for something?”

A shudder went up Stan’s spine and he whirled around to see a somewhat humanoid creature standing before him. He had teal skin, four arms, one eye, and was wearing the store uniform. His eye looked strangely yellow in this weird light.

Stanley recognized the voice.

“Who the fuck are you?” snapped Stan.

The stranger laughed, high, loud, and too long. “It doesn’t matter! Besides, I think part of you already knows!”

Stan growled and clenched his fists. He had to find Rick. No way was this a coincidence. “What the hell do you want?”

“Just checking out the competition, Wise Guy! No need to get your INTESTINAL TRACT in a twist!” he shrieked. Before Stan had time to process that, he plunged his hand into a jar of beetles, pulled out a fistful, and shoved them into his mouth.

Eugh! ” Stan had eaten just about all there is to eat in the galaxy at this point, but he knew for a fact that those beetles were poisonous unless cooked. “What the fuck, man? What do you want from me?”

The man chewed the beetles, and Stan almost threw up from watching them squirm around in his stuffed cheeks. He swallowed and cackled. “Oh, I don’t want anything from you. I just want you OUT OF THE WAY!”

“What?”

“I’m giving you a warning, Wise Guy!” The stranger threw two of his four arms around Stan’s shoulder and pulled him close. “You’re a fair adversary, and I can respect that, but I’ve seen too many parallel universes where I ignored you and it was my biggest mistake, so I ain’t gonna do that!”

Stan tried to shove him off, but he dug his fingers into his shoulder with an iron grip. “Gah! Let go!”

Listen ,” said the stranger, his eye inches away from Stan’s. His voice dropped an octave. The room seemed to get darker, until all he could see was the yellow glow of his eye. “You’ve got a choice, Stanley Pines. It’s comin’ up fast. You can choose to THROW YOUR LIFE AWAY for the sake of somebody you care about, losing the other person you care about in the process… or, you can quit while you’re ahead and LEAVE GRAVITY FALLS.”

“I don’t trust you!” said Stan, spittle hitting the stranger on the cheek.

“As you shouldn’t!” said the stranger with a laugh. “Boy, and your parents thought you were the dumb one!”

“Wait… how… you know… Ford?”

He laughed again. “That’s not important,” he said, waving his other hands carelessly. “What’s important is your choice!

“Why do you give a fuck about my choices?” snapped Stan.

“I have a LOT invested in that little town!” said the stranger, jabbing a finger into Stan’s chest. “And neither you, Time Baby, or the big frilly know-it-all are gonna stop me!”

Stan slapped his hand away. “The fuck away from me!”

“Make the right choice, Wise Guy,” said the stranger, finally pulling away. “After all, your whole UNIVERSE IS AT STAKE with this one! Make the right choice, and I’ll be on your side!”

“Why would I want that?” shouted Stan, backing away.

The stranger laughed again. “Let’s just say I have INFINITE FINGERS IN INFINITE PIES! SOON, I WILL HAVE THIS WHOLE PATHETIC UNIVERSE AT MY MERCY, and if you play your cards right, YOU MIGHT JUST GET A SLICE!”

The stranger started to laugh. He was starting to turn green, and Stan could see beetle wings and legs stuck in his teeth. The poison was kicking in. As the stranger laughed, the shelves started to jump and clatter. The jars and bottles of strange liquids, the preserved specimens, the books, everything on them started to shake and tremble from the stranger’s laughter. Jars smashed on the floor, splattering brains, bugs, and broken glass everywhere.

The lights flickered.

The room went dark.

The laughter stopped.

The lights came back on.

The man was lying on the floor, glassy-eyed and foaming at the mouth.

Stan stared at the spectacle in horror. He had no idea what to do. He hated that he was trembling.

The same voice pierced the silence.

SEE YOU REAL SOON, WISE GUY!

The laughter was back. It was all around him, from every crevice, every nook and cranny. It seemed to bounce off the shelves, and vibrate in his chest.

Stan gave a yell. He slipped on some slime that had splattered on the floor and tripped over the body. He shouted again in horror, disgust, and fear, scrambled to his feet, and sprinted towards the front desk.

The shelves seemed to close in on him. They twisted and warped, the jars and cages rattling and clattering together as he ran through the aisles. One by one, the books and boxes began to fall on him, striking him in the head and on his shoulders as he ran, cluttering up the aisles and blocking his exit.

A huge mirror that didn’t show his reflection teetered and tried to tip over. Stan barely slid out of the way in time before it shattered on the floor and he found himself by the front desk.

Rick gave him a look. “W-what the fuck, man? Where were you?”

“I-I…” He tried to think of the words to describe what he had just seen. He ran a hand through his hair. He was sweating, but he felt chilled.

“Ew, y-you’ve got bugs on you.” Rick flicked a millipede off of his shoulder. “Jesus, y-you look like shit. W-what the hell happened?”

“Th-there was a guy,” he panted out, “the same guy… who smashed himself in the face with a brick… except… not him…”

Rick narrowed his eyes. “Really?”

“Really! I…” Stan managed to calm his racing heart. He felt stupid for looking so scared, and he was still angry at Rick. Too angry to tell him that this guy scared the shit out of him. “It’s… it’s… ugh… weird. I think we need to watch out for him.”

“W-whatever,” said Rick, rolling his eyes. “I-I’ll have tissues the next time you need to be a crybaby.”

Stan’s blood boiled. Before he could open his mouth, Rick had fired a portal and walked through it.

“Hey! Don’t just-” He sprinted after him and stopped short.

The entire house was filled with Meeseeks.

Chapter Text

Fiddleford had lost track of time, somewhat. He usually did when he got involved in an invention. He checked his wristwatch and discovered that several hours had passed since he’d started welding and fitting machine parts together.

“Well, I should prob’ly check on Tater-Tot.” He put his blowtorch aside and snapped off his gloves. He much preferred his half of the lab. It had far fewer… triangles.

He had half a mind to ask Ford about that. It was… worrisome.

Fiddleford would have put the matter out of his mind if not for the paper that he found covered in ciphered writing. It was on the floor in his office, half hidden under a stack of books on his desk, like he was intended to find it. He certainly didn’t write it, and it didn’t look like any of Ford’s ciphers, even though it was in his handwriting.

Fiddleford hated cracking codes, but he slipped the paper into his pocket for later.

“Fidds!”

Fiddleford started just a bit before turning to see Ford standing in the doorway of his office, leaning against the frame.

“Oh! Heya, Stanford.”

“We made some good progress, today.” He kicked his foot on the concrete floor, not making eye contact. “Um, can I come in?”

“Sure, sure.”

Ford cautiously stepped in and tentatively nudged the door shut with his heel.

Fiddleford raised an eyebrow.

“I-I want to thank you for coming up to Gravity Falls to help me with all of this,” said Ford, inching closer. He held his hands behind his back. “I mean… it didn’t take much convincing, but it must not have been an easy choice.”

“Wasn’t nothin’,” said Fiddleford bashfully, leaning against his desk.

“No, it was something,” said Ford, taking another miniscule step closer. He was bright red. “I need to thank you for it.”

Fidds waved him off. “You don’t need to do any o’ that, Ford. It’s fine. I came because I wanted to.”

Ford gave him a slightly nervous smile. “I, um… I’m really glad you did.” He scratched the back of his neck, looking at his feet. “I’ve liked you ever since sophomore year at Backupsmore.”

Fiddleford widened his eyes. “Really?”

“Really, hah.”

“That long?”

“That long. Kinda embarrassing, huh?”

“What? No, darlin’, not at all.” Fiddleford closed the distance between them and took one of Ford’s hands in two of his own. “Kinda flattering, really.”

Ford chuckled. He looked relieved. “I just… thought you were straight.”

“I thought I was, too,” he said, linking their fingers together. “I thought you were cute, though.”

Ford blushed.

“I still think you’re cute.”

Ford blushed even darker. “Stop.”

“Or what?” asked Fiddleford playfully.

“Or I’ll make you.”

“Ooh, I’m so scared!” he said mockingly. “The nerd with noodle arms is gonna take me on!”

“I told you I have a vigorous training schedule!” he said, smiling.

Fiddleford couldn’t help snorting. Ford huffed and put on a show of looking insulted.

“Aw, don’t be like that, darlin’,” said Fiddleford, laying a hand on Ford’s bicep. “It’s paying off, really.” He gave a little squeeze. His cheeks were flushed.

Ford impulsively slung an arm around Fiddleford’s waist and pulled him close. Fidds was maybe an inch or two taller than him. His body fit nicely against him. Ford let his hand stay on Fiddleford’s lower back, pressing them together.

Fidds smiled coyly. “Well!”

“Um… too forward?” asked Ford weakly, slackening his grip.

Fiddleford rested one hand on Ford’s shoulder, the other coming to cup his jaw. “Naw. Just perfect.” He pressed a sweet kiss to his lips.

Ford kissed him back, digging his fingers into his hip just a bit. Fiddleford’s lips were soft. Ford’s were slightly chapped.

It was over too soon. Ford’s eyes were still closed when Fiddleford pulled away. He opened them.

Fiddleford looked flushed. His face was slightly blotchy. His lips were pink. It was a tantalizing sight.

Ford pulled him back into the kiss. This one was harder, more passionate, with more grabbing hands, more tongue, and more moans.

They didn’t hear the ruckus going on upstairs.

 

What the hell happened? ” shouted Stan, elbowing his way through the blue freaks that were overrunning the house. “Where’s Tate?”

“Y-you find the gremlin,” said Rick. “I-I’ll figure out how to deal with this!”

“Right!” Stan lunged through the Meeseeks, clambering back to the sitting room where he last left Tate. “Lil’ bean! Where you at?”

Oo-ee! Stanley’s back!” called one of the Meeseeks. He was holding Tate in his arms, bouncing him up and down.

Just as Stan stepped into the room, he poofed out of existence.

Augh! ” Stan lunged and crashed to the floor, catching Tate in his hands. He probably almost cracked a rib doing that.

Tate looked perfectly content, not at all bothered by being tossed around or surrounded by Meeseeks. He sucked on his pacifier and patted at Stan’s face. It was about time that Lee showed up! He was way better than those blue guys.

Stan grumbled as he got to his feet, holding Tate close. “You alright there, lil’ bean?”

Tate giggled and squirmed in his arms.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

“Lee!” Rick pushed his way through the Meeseeks, who cursed and complained when Rick’s bony elbows shoved into their sides. “W-we’ve got a problem! Apparently, it was Tate who was summoning the Meeseeks, then he w-would gurgle at ‘em or something, and since the Meeseeks can’t understand the command, they can’t leave!”

“Great. I told you this was a bad idea!”

Rick rolled his eyes and waved him off. “Y-yeah, yeah, whatever. Blow me.”

“Later, if you play your cards right. Meanwhile, how do we get rid of ‘em?”

Rick opened his mouth to answer that, then after a few moments, he closed it again.

“... Okay. Can we kill ‘em?”

Theoretically ,” said Rick slowly, “b-but they’re surprisingly durable. Takes more than one bullet.”

“Yikes. I don’t want to expose Tate to that.” He jostled the toddler in his arms.

Tate reached out and yanked on one of the buckles on Rick’s leather jacket.

“Oo-kay, d-don’t touch me, squirt.” Rick gingerly prodded Tate’s hand away. Tate grabbed onto Rick’s finger and squeezed. “Uh. Lee? W-what’s it doing?”

He’s just holding your finger, Rick. It ain’t rocket science.”

“I-I know! I understand rocket science! Leggo!” He pulled his finger out of Tate’s grip.

Tate sniffled. His face scrunched up and he kicked his feet. He took a deep breath, like he was preparing to scream.

Stan gave Rick a kick in the shin. “For fuck’s sake, let him hold your damn finger!”

Ugh! Fine.” Rick held up his hand.

Baby Tate gurgled and grabbed his finger again.

Rick paused. Tate squeezed his finger.

“N-now what?” he asked, disliking this more by the second.

“Just let him hold your finger! Jeez! It ain’t complicated! How do we get rid of the Meeseeks?”

“Fuck if I know!” snapped Rick. “Tate gave them nonsense directions that they’ll never be able to fulfill. Look, some of ‘em are already going nuts.” He gestured to the other room with his free hand, where Meeseeks were smashing plates over their heads.

I’m Mister Meeseeks, look at me! ” shouted one of them as he smashed a plate over his head. “ Existence is pain! I wanna die!

“Wha- HEY! STOP THAT!” Stan shoved Tate into Rick’s arms, grabbed two Meeseeks by the scruffs of their necks, and kicked them outside. When he slammed the door, he saw two more banging their heads into the walls.

When will this end?! ” screamed one of them.

I’m Mister Meeseeks! Look at me! ” screeched another. “ Death can’t come swiftly enough!

Tate giggled and clapped his hands. “Mee!”

“Knock it off!” Stan tossed two more outside.

Rick held Tate at arm’s length. “Lee! T-take this cretin!”

“Ugh! Fine!” Stan took Tate back into his arms and bounced him a little. “You figure out how to get rid of these Meeseeks, I’ll look after this lil’ bean.”

Rick pulled out his disintegration gun, aimed it at a Meeseeks, and fired. It screeched horribly as it slowly turned to dust.

“Ew,” said Stan, shielding Tate’s eyes from the sight. “Isn’t that supposed to be… quicker?”

“Y-yeah, it is!” Rick smacked it. “Stupid Meeseeks, stupid antimatter they’re made of! Fuck it, I-I have a better idea!” He pulled out his portal gun, shot a portal into the wall, and kicked one of the Meeseeks into it. With a squeal, it fell through, and Stan swore that he heard a splash on the other side.

Rick grinned and cracked his knuckles. “I-I think this is gonna work out fine!”

Tate blew a raspberry. “Mee!”

 

Ford was pushed onto the desk, Fiddleford standing between his legs, a firm grip on his tie, his other hand on his hip. He let out a grunt as his back slammed into the desk, then he grabbed Fiddleford’s shoulders.

“Wait… your notes…”

“Right, right.”

Ford stood up long enough for Fiddleford to tidy his blueprints and notes into a nice pile and tuck them into a drawer. He removed his glasses, then Ford’s and put them up on the shelf where they wouldn’t get broken. Ford opened his mouth to ask if they could continue, but Fiddleford had grabbed him by the lapels and shoved him back onto the desk again, kissing him hard.

Ford moaned into the kiss. He grabbed onto Fiddleford’s blonde hair and pulled him even closer, locking his legs around his hips. The edge of the desk cut into his lower back, but he really didn’t have the mind to care.

He was so focussed on Fiddleford. God, he could smell his cologne, taste him fully, feel his body pressed against him. The only downsides to this position was the desk digging into his back and that Fiddleford tasted faintly of molasses. Ford decided that maybe if he associated the taste with situations like this, he could come to love the flavour.

Fiddleford moved from his mouth to the corner of his jaw, then down to his neck, leaving love bites as he travelled downward. He ground his hips into Ford’s, groaning softly.

Ford scrabbled at Fiddleford’s back, then he slipped his hands under his lab coat and pulled it down his shoulders. Fiddleford shrugged it off, then he set to work unbuttoning Ford’s shirt.

“Um,” said Ford with a nervous twang in his voice.

“Too much?” asked Fiddleford, pausing with his hands on Ford’s chest.

“N-no. I just… kinda wanna take things a bit slower?”

“Do you want to stop?”

“No! God, no!” He laughed slightly, his heart still pounding in his chest. “Just… no sex.”

“No sex. Gotcha.” He paused. “Can I feel ya up?”

Ford chuckled. “Sure.”

He unbuttoned the rest of Ford’s shirt and pushed it open. Ford grinned as Fiddleford took in the sight.

“Lord give me strength,” said Fiddleford under his breath. He’d seen Ford’s chest before, and he’d known that he was gorgeous, but boy did he deliver.

He was hairy, first of all, which Fiddleford adored. He was muscular from running around in the woods outside of Gravity Falls and lifting heavy machinery, but he also had a little bit of chub around his stomach and a pair of love handles that Fiddleford rested his hands on.

Ford gave him a sheepish smile. “You’re staring.”

“I am,” he said, dropping a kiss on his chest. “I could just eat you up, darlin’.”

Ford grinned as Fiddleford ran his hands over his chest and stomach, caressing his muscles, thumbing his nipples, and started to leave a dark hickey on his neck.

Nng… F-Fidds, you’re gonna bruise me!”

“Want me to stop?”

Pause.

“Nah.”

Fiddleford snorted with laughter and moved to the other side of his neck, grinding against Stanford as he kissed him.

He moved up to his mouth again, and Ford gripped Fiddleford’s tie to pull him even closer. His hips rose to meet Fiddleford’s as he ground against him, groaning deep in his throat. He swallowed Fiddleford’s gasps as they kissed, and Ford discovered that Fidds nipped. He decided quickly that he really liked that.

Fiddleford pulled away for air, his lips pink from kissing. Ford’s were slightly bitten and bruised, and Fiddleford thought that he looked so good like that, with his shirt open and his hair ruffled. He ground his erection against Ford’s, his hands planted on the desk on either side of him.

“You look so good,” gasped out Ford. He propped himself up on his elbows and kissed Fiddleford’s neck delicately.

“So do you,” said Fidds, grinding their hips together, savouring Ford’s throaty moans. “One o’ these days, Stanford Pines, I’m gonna fuck you so hard that you’ll see stars.”

Ford couldn’t help his silly grin. “I already see one!”

Fidds blushed. “That was terrible.” He loved it.

“I know.” Ford pulled him into another kiss, one hand threading through his hair, the other one on his ass, helping him grind against him.

There was a loud bang from upstairs, and plenty of cursing.

The two of them broke apart.

“Should we… check on them?” asked Ford, not really wanting to stop.

Fiddleford sighed. “Yeah, we should.” He grabbed their glasses from the shelf, handed Ford his, and put his on his nose.

Ford adjusted his glasses, sat up properly, and buttoned his shirt. Fiddleford grabbed his lab coat off the ground, shook it out, and pulled it on. He tucked his shirt in while Ford tried to adjust his tie.

There was another bang from upstairs, then some cheering.

The two of them shared a look.

“Oo-kay, up we go.” Fiddleford dashed over to stairs and bolted up, Stanford on his heels, and burst into the upstairs.

“What’s going on, up here?” demanded Ford, doing his best to look imposing and prayed that his pink cheeks would go back to their normal colour.

Instead of a disaster, they found… nothing? Well, not quite nothing. Rick was sweeping up broken plate shards while Stan sat on the kitchen chair with Tate in his lap. Tate looked perfectly content, almost sleepy.

“What do you mean?” asked Stan.

“W-we just dropped a plate, that’s all.” said Rick, discreetly tucking the portal gun away into his jacket and kicking a blue Meeseeks finger under the stove without either of them noticing.

“We thought we heard a commotion,” said Fiddleford, folding his arms.

“Nope, no commotion up here!” said Stan cheerily. He bounced Tate on his knee. “Lil’ bean and I were just having fun, that’s all. Right, Rick?”

“Sure, w-whatever.”

Stan held in a snicker as he took in their debauched appearance. Stanford’s shirt was buttoned wrong, and Fiddleford’s hair was fluffed up like someone was grabbing it. “What’re you guys doing down there?”

“Um,” said Stanford, “ science. Duh.”

Lots of science,” added Fiddleford unconvincingly.

Tate spat out his pacifier. Stan caught it in his left hand. “ Meee!

“Hey there, lil’ man!” Fiddleford picked Tate up from Stan. “Got somethin’ to say?”

“Mee! Mee!” He squeaked, grabbing for Fiddleford’s glasses.

“Gettin’ close, Tater-tot,” said Fiddleford, bouncing him in his arms. “But not quite-”

Meeseeks! ” he said with a giggle.

Fiddleford stopped. “What in all of tarnation…?”

“Meeseeks! Mee! Mee!” Tate giggled again, squirming in his father’s arms.

Ford looked confused. “What’s a “Meeseeks”?”

“Hell if I know,” said Stan.

“B-beats me,” said Rick, a little too quickly.

Fiddleford shrugged. Ford wiggled his six fingers to entertain Tate, a little trick that always worked.

Stan tilted his head towards the happy couple with their messy hair and rucked up clothes, coughed in his fist, and held open his empty palm.

Rick rolled his eyes, and silently passed Stan a ten dollar bill.

Chapter Text

Fiddleford squinted at the cipher that he was working over. He was never much good at this sort of thing, really. He had a hard time deciphering his own handwriting, sometimes. It was seemingly gibberish, written in Ford’s tidy script.

Gl Tozhhvh,

Ru blf dviv mlxb vmlfts gl urtfiv gsrh lfg, blf wlfyob wvxviev gsrh nvxxztv. Xgzb zdzb uiln Hrcvi. Dv'iv wlrmt rnkligzmg dlip, zmw sv wlvxm'g mvvw blfi xfkvixgrgrlm xolfwrmt srh qfwtvnvmg. Ru blf xl nfxs zh xfttvxg xglkkrmt gsv kilqvxg, R droo fmovzhs z gslfxzmw mrtsgnzivx fklm blfi dvzp sfnzm xizmrfn! Blf droo ivtivg vevi xlnrmt gl Tizergb Uzooh. R droo nzpv blfi oruv z orermt svoo uli blf zmw blfi olevw lmvx. R pmld zoo lu blfi uvzix, zoo lu blfi dvzpmvxxvxx. R slkv blf vmqlb yollw wirkkrmt uiln blfi vbvx zmw xkrwvix xizdormt uiln blfi vzix, yvxzfxv gszg'x dszg blf'iv tlmmz tvg ru blf tvg rm nb dzb, Qzxp.

Gszg xzrw, ru blf gvoo srn zylfg gsrx, sv dlm'g yvorvev blf. R zoivzwb nzwv xfiv lu gszg.

Tl yfrow z ilylg li xlnvgsrmt, blf ivw-mvxpvw blpvo.

Xrtmvw,

Yroo Xrksvi

Underneath the message, there were a few numbers.

1-20-2-1-19-8

Honestly, Fiddleford wasn’t quite sure what to make of this. He got an eerie feeling from holding the piece of paper, like something dark had touched it before him.

He was about to pick up his pencil when he heard Tate wailing from the next room. He was due to be back home, tomorrow. Fiddleford didn’t care for the occasional sleepless night, but he was gonna miss his son, greatly.

Fiddleford sighed, pushed back from the kitchen table, and walked into Tate’s room.

“Shh,” he said, picking the toddler up from the crib. “It’s okay, Tater-tot. I gotcha.”

The baby gurgled. His eyes were fixed on the wall behind Fiddleford’s shoulder.

Fidds turned and frowned. There was another blasted triangle, this time on the cover of a book on a high shelf.

Fiddleford grumbled and reached up to grab the book. Tate wailed as soon as he touched it, and squirmed away from him.

“Alright, alright,” he said, putting the toddler back in his crib before taking the book down from the shelf. As soon as he stepped out of the room with it, Tate quieted back down.

Fiddleford sat at the book as he sat down at the table. It was quite old, leather-bound, and had yellowed pages, which were all fairly common characteristics of many of the books in the house.

The eye in the centre of the triangle followed him.

He swallowed and opened it to the first page. There were detailed drawings of cave paintings featuring the triangle on the cover.

Bill.

He thumbed through the pages, coming across more illustrations. Pyramids, the all-seeing eye, the Masons, the Illuminati, and more. He came across a map of the world, with red spots scattered across the globe. Most of them seemed to be concentrated around the middle of Oregon… Gravity Falls.

Anxiety coiled in his stomach. He swallowed and turned the page with clammy palms.

“Fidds?”

Fiddleford slammed the book shut and shoved it in his bag. “Yes?”

Stanford came down the steps. “I’m going to get some work done!”

“Stanford, it’s almost eleven. You should head to bed.”

“I could say the same to you,” he retorted.

“I’m just finishing up,” he said, hastily shoving the papers into his bag. “I’m off to bed, you should come, too.”

“I’m not tired!” he said, then he yawned. “If I get tired, I’ll sleep on the cot down there!”

“Stanford, you look exhausted. Let me just-”

“It’s fine Fidds! See you in the morning!” He trotted past and down the stairs before Fiddleford could reply.

Fiddleford sighed when the door closed behind him. He sat back down at the table, pulled out the cipher, and began to translate it.

 

Stanford visited the mindscape while Bill took over his body to do some work at night. Since the first incident, Bill had proven himself to be very helpful when it came to getting work done while Stanford had to rest. Ford spent a few hours pondering philosophical things and playing with numbers before Bill came to visit him in his dream to discuss more elements of the portal. He… wasn’t in a great mood.

“Something wrong, my friend?” asked Ford as he scribbled down some numbers.

“No! Nothing at all, IQ!” said Bill in a petulant tone that said that everything was wrong.

“Are you sure?” he asked, concerned.

Bill hummed. “Well… now that you mention it, you haven’t been exactly… focussed lately, if you catch my drift.”

“Pardon?”

“Between your brother and your assistant, your work has been slowing down! You need to stop paying attention to your PATHETIC HUMAN LIBIDO and TUG OF FIGURATIVE HEARTSTRINGS and start PUTTING YOUR NOSE TO THE FIGURATIVE GRINDSTONE OF LABOUR!”

Ford winced. “You’re right. I’ve been… getting off track.”

“Atta boy, Sixer!” he said cheerily, pointing to his notes. “Don’t forget to carry the seven! Also, your brother and your assistant might try to hog your time to themselves!”

Ford looked at him, goggle-eyed. “What? Why?”

Bill let out a long-winded sigh, like he felt sorry for the “little people”. “INSIGNIFICANT CHEMICALS THAT EQUATE HUMAN EMOTIONS, of course! They don’t know what’s good for them, IQ!” He patted his shoulder. His hand was small and cold. “They don’t know that you’re changing the world with every equation you write down!”

“But Fiddleford-”

“-Is a superstitious man,” interrupted Bill. “He’d probably try to EXORCISE ME BACK TO HELL or some rigamarole if he knew that I was visiting your dreams! You’d better watch out, Sixer! He might try and make you carry holy water around with you!”

“Are you from-”

“I am not from Hell,” he said tersely.

“Of course,” he said, “I apologize. You’re from a higher dimension, of course.”

“Ding ding! Correct!” Bill laughed. “You know how paranoid your friends and family can be! They might try to stop the project! Just ignore them! They’re trying to interfere with your greatness!”

“They wouldn’t do that,” he said, trying to sound more sure than he felt.

Bill shrugged, palms up. “Whatever you say, IQ! I trust ya!” He pointed to his work. “Carry the seven, Jack!”

 

Fiddleford tried to make headway with the cipher the night before, but he ended up falling asleep over the kitchen table. He woke when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Hey, nerd. You alright?”

“M’ fine.” Fidds sat up and yawned, rubbing his eyes. “What time is it?”

“Seven.” Stan sat down across from him. “How long have you been there? You look like shit.”

“Thanks,” he said dryly. He yawned. His hair was sticking up on one side. “I’ve been here since last night.”

“Yikes.” Stan scratched the back of his neck. “Hey… there’s been something that’s kinda bothering me and I wondered if you knew anything about it.”

“Yeah?”

“Well,” he said, mentally bracing himself for ridicule. “I met… this guy. Well, more than one. It was very weird. They all had the same yellow eyes and the same high voice, but they all had different bodies? I’ve seen this… them… three times. Last time I saw it, he… it…? They told me to leave Gravity Falls.”

“That’s… very strange,” said Fiddleford. “Are you going to?”

Stan shook his head firmly. “No! I’m not gonna be swayed by some weird alien! I’d never abandon my brother, and I’m really worried about him! This guy knew him. He made some joke about “and your parents thought you were the dumb one” or something.” He shook his head. “I think this guy is bad news.”

“Sounds like it,” said Fiddleford.

“Hey… what’s that?” Stan grabbed the leather book that was peeking out of Fiddleford’s bag. “Triangle… wait…” Stan flipped through it, eyes wide and frantic.

“You recognize that?” asked Fiddleford anxiously.

“Not exactly, ” said Stan slowly, fiddling with the corner of one of the pages. “When I was in an alternate dimension, the other Ford told me that if I ran into a yellow triangle guy that called himself Bill Cipher-” He paused when he saw Fiddleford’s paled expression. “Do you know about Bill?”

“I-I dunno,” said Fiddleford. “I just… I found somethin’ in your brother’s journal about Bill, and I dunno if you’ve seen all the triangle stuff he has down in the basement-”

“This is bad,” said Stan, pushing the book away. “This is real bad. The other Stanford seemed terrified of Bill, and I’ve talked to other Stans who said he was nothin’ but bad news. He’s some kinda super entity in the multiverse, has almost as much power as a god or some bullshit. He can feel the other incarnations of himself.”

Fiddleford bounced his leg. “Do you think that guy you saw… those guys… were Bill?

“I-I don’t know!” he said, throwing his hands up. “I’m no good with this magic-sci-fi-mumbo-jumbo! All I know is, I heard that Bill was bad, and I met this guy who knows Ford who also gives me wicked heebie-jeebies!”

“I reckon it has to be connected,” he said, scratching behind his ear. “Things like this always are. Does Rick know about this?”

“He knows about the first two, but he thinks that the universe is just… strange and scary, and that’s just how it is.”

“He’s right,” said Fiddleford thoughtfully. “But that don’t mean we can’t try to make this place a little more habitable.” He looked towards the door. “I’m gonna go check on Stanford, I need-”

Fiddleford winced when he heard crying coming from the next room.

“You go check on Tate,” said Stan. “I’ll talk to my brother.”

Fiddleford looked relieved. “Alright. Thanks, Stan.”

“No problemo, nerdo.” Stan pushed away from the table and cricked his back before heading down to the basement.

It was cool and dark down there. The lights flickered slightly and moths hovered around them, almost glowing in the white light. Stan trailed his fingers along the cracked stone wall as he walked down the steps.

“Sixer? You up?” His voice echoed. Damn, this place was spooky. His brother and gay nerd friend sure had boners for this “mad scientists in the woods” vibe.

He pushed open the door to Ford’s study and cringed.

Ford was hunched over his desk, his hand flying over the papers as he wrote equations and blueprints. Pages littered the desk and the floor around him. Books were scattered on chairs, tables, and shelves. Above him, on the wall, hung a tapestry.

Bill Cipher looked down over the room.

“Um… bro?” Stan stepped into the office. “Are you okay?”

Ford whipped around. For a split second, Stan thought that he caught a glimpse of yellow in his eyes before they closed.

“Ugh…” Ford swayed dangerously, put a hand over his eye, and leaned against the desk. “Hey, Stan.”

“Ford, Jesus, you look a wreck!” Stan walked over to him and tentatively put a hand on his forearm.

Ford slapped his hand off. “I’m fine! I’m fine, Stanley, keep your big nose out of my business!”

“We have the same nose.”

“You know what I mean!” Ford heaved a heavy sigh and lowered his hand.

“Whoa! Ford, you’re bleeding!”

Ford looked at his hand. Tiny flecks of blood were dripped onto his palm. “Oh,” he said flatly. Blood ran down his cheek from his eye.

“Jesus, Ford, what the fuck?” Stan grabbed a tissue from his desk and pressed it to his brother’s cheek. “Does it hurt?”

“No, stop babying me!” He dabbed away the rest of the blood and tossed the tissue onto the table. “Why’d you come down here?”

“I wanted to make sure my brother wasn’t, y’know, dead or nothin’,” said Stan testily. “Fidds was worried about you, now I see why. You’re eye’s bleedin’ for god’s sake! Did you sleep at all?”

Yes.

No, he hadn’t. Ford was never a good liar.

Stan rolled his eyes. “... Right. Do you want coffee?”

Ford pointed to the half empty cup that was sitting on his desk. “Got some.”

Stan looked at it and wrinkled his nose. “Jesus, Ford. You still don’t know how to make a good cuppa joe, do you?”

Ford glowered at him. “Stanley, I have work to do!” He gathered up the papers that were scattered all over the floor and stacked them in a neat pile on his desk. “I don’t have time for this! I don’t feel tired at all!”

“Uh-huh. And I’m a scientific genius with all twelve fingers up my own ass.”

Hey!

Stan took the papers from him, set them on the desk and steered him out of the room with a firm grip on his shoulders.

Ford struggled a bit, but Stan was the bigger twin. “ Stan! I’ve got work-

“Shut the hell up, Sixer. Swear to god, you don’t know what’s good for you!”

Ford glowered at him and gnashed his teeth as he was steered up the stairs.

Bill was right, he thought. He was right, they’re trying to sabotage me.

Fiddleford waved to him from the kitchen chair. Tate was curled up in his arms, nursing a bottle. “Heya, Stanford. Get any sleep?”

“Some,” he said, swatting Stan’s hands away.

Rick burst into the room, brandishing his portal gun. “Lee! W-we gotta get those  Smarxian plants!”

“I’m making Ford eat, right now,” said Stan as he put bread in the toaster. “Can it wait a few minutes?”

“No! W-w-we gotta go, and-”

“Hang on just a minute!” Fiddleford stood up, glaring at Rick. “You promised me that you’d help me take Tater-tot home!”

“I-I did?” Rick looked at the toddler and blinked. His eyes were red and he smelled like alcohol, which made Stan glower a bit. “Oh. Oh yeah! Sure, b-but we gotta make a pit-stop along the way.”

“Rick, I’m not takin’ my boy on one of your high-tempo sci-fi misadventures, let’s just-”

“G-g-grab your shit, McSuckit, or you’re missing your ride!”

Fiddleford grumbled, grabbed his bag of notes and stowed them in the baby’s room. He had Tate in the front-pack and a bag of baby stuff in each hand when he returned.

“I ain’t gonna enjoy this one bit,” he said bitterly.

“G-good thing I don’t give a shit.” Rick shot a portal and lit a cigarette in one gesture. “L-let’s go.”

Fiddleford muttered to himself under his breath as he stomped into the portal.

When it closed behind them, it was quiet in the kitchen. Stan was making coffee.

Ford sat at the table, drumming his six fingers on the greasy surface, his other hand supporting his jaw. He wore a petulant expression.

“So,” said Stan as he buttered the toast, “whatcha workin’ on down there?”

“Science. Duh.”

Stan dropped the plate in front of Ford. “... Right. I was kinda hoping for specifics. Y’know, because that’s how normal conversations work. I ask a question, you answer it, you ask a question. You get the picture.”

“It’s secret, ” said Stanford flatly. He ate a piece of toast in a few quick bites and started on the other one.

“Fine, whatever.” Stan took two cups of coffee over to the table and passed one to Ford. “Listen, I was talking to Fiddlenerd this morning, and… we’re both kinda worried about you.”

“Why?” he asked, wiping the crumbs from his mouth. “I’m doing perfectly fine. My productivity hasn’t…”

“I’m not talking about that,” said Stan. He took a sip of coffee and let out a hum. He cupped the mug in his hands. “I… I met a guy, recently. Well, I think it’s a guy. Fiddlesticks has heard about him, too. We think he’s bad news.”

Ford’s eyebrows pinched together, concerned. He put his hand around the mug of coffee. “Really? Who?”

“Do you know the name Bill Cipher?”

The emotion drained from Ford’s face, leaving him flat and expressionless. He stood abruptly, upsetting the cup of coffee, and stepped away from the table.

“Whoa! What the fuck, Ford?” Stan grabbed a dishtowel and tossed it onto the coffee spill before it could dribble onto the floor.

Bill Cipher is none of your business,” said Ford tersely. “Forget you heard the name!”

“Bro, I’m not gonna just forget, that’s not how the brain works. I thought you were the smart one.”

“You know what I mean!”

Stan balled his hands into fists. “Ford, he threatened me! I’m not just gonna put that shit outta my mind!”

Ford rolled his eyes. “Stan, don’t get involved in matters that you don’t understand! Just… go fuck your boyfriend or something, let me do my work!”

Stan growled, then he forced himself to uncurl his fists and take a deep breath. He folded his arms. “Ford, you’re my brother and I love you, but you’re a goddamn dipshit sometimes. I don’t want to lose you.”

Ford’s shoulders were still tense. He took a shuddering breath. “Stan, just… don’t think about Bill Cipher. It’s not important. Stay out of it.”

“But-”

“I said stay out of it! ” he snapped. He stormed down to the basement, his lab coat flaring out behind him.

Stan huffed and mopped up the coffee. “Dramatic bastard.”

He sure as fuck wasn’t gonna forget about Bill, now.

 

Fiddleford didn’t do very well with strange environments. He’d torn his hair out when Ford had told him about the spaceship that had crash-landed in Gravity Falls, he’d had a bit of an episode when he met the Gremloblin (sometimes, those eyes still haunted him. He wished that he could forget about them), and dealing with gnomes stealing his snacks was one of his least favourite parts of living in the woods.

Now, he was standing outdoors on some alien planet where the grass was pink and the air smelled like fruity champagne, doing his best to maintain his composure while Tate tried to grab at strange butterflies that flew by. One landed on his head, and Fiddleford noticed that it had twelve legs and the patterns on its wings were shifting and swirling. He quickly swatted it away. Might be venemous.

Rick was bargaining with a strange creature with five eyes and no solid shape. Its body was gelatinous, and Fiddleford could see some small bones floating around in the gloop, like it had eaten a small animal and was still digesting the tough bits. There were also some plant bits submerged in the gloop.

“L-look, uh…” Rick flipped frantically through a tiny translation book. He cleared his throat and made some gurgling sounds and vague gestures.

The gelatin creature quivered and gurgled back.

“Aw, fuck you! J-just…” He gurgled again.

Fiddleford was concerned about how Tate would react to such a strange place, but he seemed rather at home. He kicked his legs and giggled every time a butterfly flew by.

The creature gurgled and spurted obscenely.

“Y-you wanna run that by me again, you Jell-O cocksucker?” Rick pulled out his vaporizing gun and loaded it.

Fiddleford was a millisecond too late. “Wait, Rick, don’t!”

With a splat , the creature was nothing but a puddle. Rick plunged his hand into the goop and pulled out a fistful of strange leaves. “Hah! Score!” He jammed them into his pocket.

Rick! ” Fiddleford smeared some of the gloop off of his face. “Fuckin’ cow-snortin’ hog-jerkin’ motherfucker! Why is it that every time I go with you, I get smeared with somethin’ nasty?”

“J-j-just luck, amigo!” Rick stuffed the gun in his pocket.

A glob of purple slime was lobbed at Rick and struck him right in the chest, sending him tumbling backwards. Fiddleford stumbled out of the way, shielding Tate from the incoming fire. More of those creatures were sliding towards them, garbling angrily at Rick in their strange language.

“L-let’s get the fuck outta here!” Rick staggered to his feet and started to run, pulling his portal gun from his pocket.

“Wait! Rick!” Fiddleford jogged after him, burdened down by the baby and his bags. Slime splattered against his shoulder, and one of the bags caught on a root as they ran past a lime green tree. “Fuck it!” He dropped the bags and sprinted after Rick as the portal opened, diving through it at the last second, his arms wrapped around Tate.

He slammed into the side of his house, bounced back and landed on his ass in the petunias.

Ow, ” he groaned.

“Y-you’re welcome,” said Rick, pocketing the portal gun. He was leaning against the side of the house, where he stubbed his cigarette out on the siding.

Fiddleford looked down at his son. Tate was giggling and kicking his feet.

He looked up at Rick. Delilah was gonna wonder where the bags were. He could never tell her.

“I hate you,” he said.

Rick winked and clicked his tongue.

 

Stan had in his hand the leather book with the triangle on the cover. Something about it didn’t feel quite right.

He thumbed through the pages. Oddly, all of the depictions of this Bill Cipher guy seemed to be positive in this book. How he helped with this, added inspiration with that. It was… strange, considering what a bad vibe he got off of him.

Then, he realized that half of the pages were torn out.

They were done so very carefully, so no scrap of paper was left behind, no sentence was left incomplete, but if you looked at the binding, it was easy to see that more pages were meant to be there.

Stan didn’t trust a book with pages missing, so he quickly discounted it as a reliable resource. He figured that the pages missing must be important, but he didn’t think it would be likely that he’d find them.

He had to figure out what was with this Bill guy. He’d threatened him and his family, as strange and cobbled-together as it was, and nothing was gonna hurt them as long as he had a say in it.

He heard Rick talking in the kitchen, and he knew that they were back. He put the book away and went to go talk to him.

“I-I got the plants!” said Rick. “W-where’s the brainiac?”

“Downstairs,” said Stan bitterly.

“Is he, now?” Fiddleford looked nonplussed. He was covered in slime. Stan decided not to ask.

“I-I did some numbers, Lee,” said Rick. “Lots of science, and I decided that w-we need an extra pair of hands or two! W-we’re gonna need some idiots to make a distraction while we d-do our thing.”

Fiddleford widened his eyes. “Oh, no-”

“Oh yes, ” said Rick with a wicked grin. “Go call your brainiac boyfriend! W-w-we’re going to get r-r-riggity wrecked!

Ford stomped upstairs. “What’s this racket?” He stopped when he saw the slime on his friend. “Fiddleford, why are you-”

Never you mind! ” he snapped. He pointed accusingly at Rick. “We’re about to get dragged into some criminal shenanigans!

“Sh-shenanigans, shmenanigans,” said Rick. “W-we need someone to come with us off-planet to a party so that we can-”

“Off-planet?” echoed Ford, eyes widening, anger at Stan slipping away. “ Party?

“Yeah!” said Rick. “A-all you two gotta do is make a distraction! Fight, fuck, throw stuff, w-we don’t care!”

Stan huffed and folded his arms. “They’re not gonna-”

“We’re in!” said Ford quickly. “I am so in! Where are we going? When? What should I bring? What should I wear?”

Rick counted the questions off on his fingers. “Quarxian Nebula, ten minutes, d-do you have any formal dresswear?”

“Yes! I was saving it for when I accept my award for-”

“G-go get ready!” said Rick, grabbing Stan by his belt buckle. “M-meet you in the kitchen in ten minutes! Oh, rub your faces with this.” He tossed some limp plants at Ford and Fiddleford. “Have fun!”

“I never agreed to this!” protested Fiddleford shrilly. “I never want to leave Earth again!”

“Come on, Fidds,” said Ford with a goofy grin. “Think about the research opportunities! It’ll give us a whole other perspective on our project!”

“Well, I-”

“Excellent! I’m glad you agree!”

 

Rick adjusted the cuffs on his suit. “R-remember last time we wore these, Lee?”

“Vaguely. I was super drunk.” Stan adjusted his glasses and straightened his lapels. “How do I look?”

“L-like a fuckin’ model, babe.”

“A chubby model,” he said, buttoning up his jacket to hide his stomach.

“I-if I could build the perfect boyfriend, and I totally could,” said Rick, tying up his tie, “I-I’d be wasting my goddamn time because he’s standing right in front of me.”

Stan grinned like a goof. “That’s fuckin’ romantic, you sap.” He pulled him into a kiss. He snaked a hand into Rick’s unbuttoned trousers. “Time for a quickie?”

“F-fuckin’ always!” said Rick. “Hey, r-remember what you promised?”

“Promised what?” asked Stan, slowly stroking Rick’s cock into hardness.

Nng, ” he grunted, digging his fingers into Stan’s beefy bicep. “I-I wanted you to blow me while you were wearing those glasses. Y-you look so fuckin’ hot!”

Stan snorted and sank to his knees. “You know I’m a sucker for compliments.”

Rick threaded his fingers through Stan’s hair. It was slightly sticky with product, since he had it slicked back like he used to do when he was younger. He tilted his head back as Stan took his length into his mouth, swirling his tongue over the tip.

Fuck, Lee!” groaned Rick, his hips twitching. “Y-you don’t fuck around!”

Stan chuckled, his hands grabbing Rick’s ass and pulling him closer, encouraging him to buck his hips while he sucked. Rick willingly took the initiative, gripping Stan’s hair and fucking roughly into his mouth, panting and spluttering out curses.

Stan’s jaw ached and drool dripped down his lip and chin. He was painfully hard in his own slacks, and couldn’t resist pulling out his own cock and stroking himself in time to Rick’s thrusts.

“Fu-fuck, yeah!” Rick grinned. “P-play with yourself, Lee. I-I can’t believe you’re getting off on me fucking your face, you g-goddamn whore.”

Stan groaned, trying to relax his throat so he wouldn’t choke. Rick’s thrusts grew more frantic, and Stan’s hand sped up on his cock. Stan whimpered as Rick gripped his hair tightly, tight enough to make his eyes water. The pain turned him on a little too much for his liking, and he moaned around Rick’s cock as he came into his hand. Rick grunted out Stan’s name in a hoarse voice as he orgasmed.

Stan spat onto the floor when Rick pulled his cock out.

“S-still not gonna swallow?” he asked.

“Nope.” His voice sounded hoarse, like he had a frog in his throat. He wiped his hand on a tissue and chucked it in the trash before tucking himself back into his pants. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. “Fuck, you messed up my hair.”

“Y-you look good like this, Lee,” said Rick, wrapping his lanky arms around Stan’s broad shoulders. “I-I think the right word is debauched.

He wiped the drool from his chin on the back of his wrist. “ You’d think so.”

He squeezed his ass. “Yep. I sure do.” He kissed his neck. “W-wanna go fuck some dipshits over?”

“Only always,” he said with a grin, flattening his hair down again. He tucked his gun into his inside holster, pressed to his ribcage. He was ready.

They walked down to the kitchen, where Fiddleford and Ford were waiting. Fiddleford was wearing a green suit with a ruffled shirt, and Ford was wearing a classy grey suit and blue tie.

“Ready, you guys?” asked Stan as Rick pulled out the portal gun.

“I still don’t wanna go,” said Fiddleford, “but I don’t s’pose y’all are gonna listen to me, are you?”

“C’mon, Fidds!” said Ford, putting an arm around his waist and hugging him close. “It’ll be fun!”

Fiddleford huffed and folded his arms. “I won’t enjoy myself.”

Rick fired the portal gun. He took Stan’s hand. “After you!”

Stan chuckled and hopped through the portal, followed by Ford, Fiddleford, and finally Rick.

The house was quiet when they left, except for some gnomes scrabbling at the front door and the hum of machinery from the basement.

 

In the nightmare realm, Bill Cipher sighed and folded his arms.

“I should’a known that IQ wouldn’t be able to resist the allure of the first party he was ever invited to,” he said exasperatedly, “stupid nerd and his stupid alien obsession.”

Well, now Bill officially had a bone to pick with every single person that Ford was close to. Rick Sanchez has got to go.

Chapter Text

Ford and Fiddleford clung each other as they walked through the crowd of tentacled creatures, beings with three heads, and superintelligent shades of the colour blue, following closely behind Rick and Stan. Their hearts were pounding for vastly different reasons.

Fiddleford was terrified. So far, his track record for going somewhere with Rick and ending up covered in slime was a solid ⅔. He fully expected to be eaten or slurped on or imprisoned by some inter-galactic government. It took every ounce of willpower to stop himself from tearing his hair out.

Ford was excited. He was finally, finally, on another planet! The sights and sounds and smells were overwhelming. It was dark on the street, only lit by lamps that hovered high above their heads, suspended by some invisible force. Ford could smell meat cooking, but it didn’t smell like any kind of meat he’d ever encountered, before. When he walked past it, he saw that it was purple! Buildings arched high above them, built with impossible geometry that possibly stretched into multiple dimensions. Aliens from all kinds of worlds talked together, some in a language similar to English, many in strange languages that the human mouth is incapable of speaking.

Rick and Stan were passing back a cigar as they walked together, laughing comfortably together. They reeked of sex when they finally came downstairs, so it was no secret why they were in such a good mood. Stan had his arm around Rick’s back.

Fiddleford clutched at Ford’s arm as they walked. Ford didn’t try to free himself, but he put a hand over Fiddleford’s.

“You alright?” he asked.

“You ain’t never been through the portal with Rick, before,” said Fiddleford in an undertone. “You ain’t never been covered in alien slime!

“Oh, Fidds! This is a party , not some desert otherworld! We should be fine.” He patted his hand to try and reassure him.

“I don’t know how well you remember our college days,” said Fiddleford, “but we never did that well at parties , neither.”

A huge square building with delicate arches loomed before them. The four of them climbed the steps to the entrance. There were a few insect creatures in the line before them, talking to the bouncer. They slipped into the building, clicking their thanks with their pincers.

Rick and Stan pulled out their fake IDs with a flourish, ushering Ford and Fidds behind them.

“Are you on the list?”

Ford gaped at the alien that stood before them, while Fiddleford quaked in fear. He was nine feet tall with pitch black skin, twelve eyes, and claws for hands. Ford resisted the urge to break out his notebook and draw him. Fiddleford resisted the urge to run, faint, or vomit. His body was still deciding the best course of action.

“Y-yeah,” said Rick, flashing him his ID with a flourish. “R-read it an’ weep.”

The alien squinted with four of his twelve eyes at the ID, while the other eight pointed up at the sky or at the lights. “Dr. Salvador?”

Si, ” said Rick, putting his ID away.

The alien looked at Stan’s. He blinked with all twelve eyes, then looked up at Stan. “Are you… McLovin’?”

Stan winked and clicked his tongue. “That’s me!”

Ford suppressed a heavy sigh. They’d never get in with a dumb name like that.

“Welp, that checks out. Go on in, have a nice night.”

Stan shot the bouncer another wink and clicked his tongue again. The bouncer rolled one of his eyes and turned to face the next group coming up the steps.

“W-well,” said Rick, “th-that’s the easy part done.” They walked easily through the metal detector.

“Um,” said Ford as they followed them easily. “Didn’t you guys bring… stuff?”

Stan grimaced. “These machines don’t detect stuff if it’s under a layer of flesh. Humans have more water in their bodies than a lot other creatures, the water messes with the tech.”

“You mean…?”

Rick spat into his hand. He had a tiny bomb stuffed into his cheek, about the size of a match.

Stan reached into his mouth and pulled out a little tube. He wiped off the spit, extended the tube, and it was revealed to be a tiny collapsible lockpick.

“Th-that’s not all we got, either,” said Rick. “W-we have other orifices!”

Fiddleford made a face as they walked into the main ballroom. “Y’all are disgusting.

“What tipped you off?” asked Stan, pulling a communicator out of his ear and fitting it in properly. “You two go enjoy yourselves. In exactly thirty minutes, I’m gonna need you to make a distraction.”

“What sort of distraction?” asked Ford warily.

“A-anything you can think of!” said Rick. He gave them a little shove. “Go have fun!”

Fiddleford opened his mouth to protest, but when he turned the two of them were gone. He and Ford were left alone on a strange planet in a strange galaxy, surrounded by strange creatures drinking strange drinks at a strange party. Great.

Ford set a timer on his watch. When he looked up, he couldn’t help gasping.

The ballroom was packed. First of all, the room itself was far more elegant than anything he’d ever seen in his life. The chandelier was massive , and the crystals spun in a dazzling way in the soft lighting. The food table stretched from one end of the room to the other and was covered in all kinds of food and drink from every corner of the galaxy. There was a live band playing creaking, ominous music that resembled the sound track of a tacky haunted house, but the music fit the mood surprisingly well.

Fiddleford hadn’t released his death grip on Ford’s arm. “I-I feel so outta place, Stanford! L-let’s just go stand in the corner and not talk to anyone, like old times!”

“Nonsense!” said Ford, waving his hand. “Let’s go explore! ” He pulled him into the crowd of tentacled monsters and thousand-eyed aliens.

Fiddleford let out a helpless little squeak but didn’t dare let go.

 

Nnf! G-got it!” Rick kicked the bathroom stall door open and zipped up his pants. “Go time!”

“Could you sound less joyful about shoving things up your ass?” said Stan, still in the process of rinsing off the tiny burglary gear they brought. It didn’t matter how much he scrubbed, it was forever tainted.

“Y-you don’t seem to mind when it’s your cock, babe,” said Rick, rinsing the recently-extracted machine part under the tap.

“Psh, well, that’s different.” Stan stuck the metal ball in his pocket. “Where to?”

Rick pointed to a tiny vent up near the ceiling, covered with a grate. “Give me a boost.”

“Fuck, Rick, I can’t fit in there! Neither can you!”

“I-I never said we would! J-jeez!” Rick pressed a button on top of the device in his hand and a pair of tiny, spindly legs popped out. “Th-this is gonna deactivate the lasers! B-boost me up!”

Stan sighed, grabbed Rick under the armpits, and heaved him up with little effort on his part. Somehow, and even Stan wasn’t sure exactly how, Rick was on his shoulders, taking the screws out of the grate.

“Your dick is poking me in the back of the head,” said Stan flatly.

“I-it’ll be poking you in other places when all is said and done!” Rick got the grate off, dropped the little bot inside, and watched it skitter into the darkness on its spindly spider legs. “Haha! Ciao, my devious l-little friend!”

“I can’t believe that I live with three mad scientists,” said Stan as Rick climbed down off of his shoulders.

Rick grabbed his lapels and pulled him into a kiss.

Stan’s eyes were wide behind his slightly crooked glasses when he pulled away. “Um. Not that I mind. What next?”

Rick laughed and grabbed his hand. “O-onto stage two, querido*!

 

“Fascinating!” said Ford as he frantically scribbled notes in his little pocketbook. “And where are your houses?”

“In the tidal flats,” said the creature with suckers on their hands like a starfish. It tilted its scaly head and looked at Ford’s notes. “Your scripture is so interesting.”

“Thank you!” said Ford with a grin. “I’ve been told I have good handwriting.”

Fiddleford still had Ford’s arm in a death grip. His lips were pressed together so hard that they were a white line.

“I have a question,” said the starfish alien. “Why do you and your partner have different numbers of fingers? Is this common in your species?”

“Well-” started Ford, but he was cut off.

“In our species, the dominant sex has extra appendages,” said the starfish. “The dominant sex protects their partners and fertilizes their eggs. Is the same true for you?”

“Not at all,” said Ford, trying to wrap his head around what the creature said.

“It certainly seems like your partner relies on you,” said the starfish.

“Are you insinuating that I fertilize Fiddleford’s eggs because I have six fingers?”

“Is that not how it works?”

Ford didn’t think it possible, but Fiddleford squeezed his arm even tighter and made a strange gurgling noise in the back of his throat.

Ford couldn’t help it. He laughed aloud. “I’m sorry, that’s now how our species works at all. It is generally believed that there are two sexes, although of course there are exceptions and in reality gender is much more complex than that, and Fiddleford and I are both male. We cannot reproduce together.”

“Then why does he hold you so tightly?” asked the starfish creature.

“Does your planet have affection?” asked Ford, putting his hand over Fiddleford’s.

“Yes, but it rarely manifests physically. We are intimate in psychic ways.”

Fascinating! ” Ford was once again scribbling in his notebook.

“Well, I must be going,” said the starfish creature. “Perhaps I’ll ask you for a dance, later?”

“Perhaps,” said Ford distractedly as the starfish wandered off and into the crowd.

Fiddleford huffed a little sigh. “How much longer?”

Ford checked his watch. “Twenty minutes. Hungry?”

Fiddleford took one look at the table of food that was laid out. Some of it wriggled. He wrinkled his nose. “I dunno, Ford…”

“It won’t kill us!” said Ford, grabbing a plate and loading it up with something that looked like barbecue wings.

“It might!” he squeaked.

Ford shoved one into Fiddleford’s mouth before taking a bite of one himself.

Fiddleford choked for half a second, swallowed, then licked his lips. “Hmm! It’s good!”

“Alien food isn’t so bad!” said Ford with an air of smugness.

That’s when he saw the chocolate bugs squirming around inside.

Fiddleford shrieked and Ford dropped the plate, screaming, “ EUGH!

It shattered on the ground and they found themselves being stared at by everyone except that one creature with no eyes.

“Um…” said Ford.

“Sorry?” said Fiddleford.

A tiny, round, blue alien rolled past them on the floor, the plate and food sticking to its strange flesh as it went by.

“What an interesting way to clean up messes,” said Ford. He pulled out his notebook again.

 

This hallway was empty. Stan stood guard with a guard’s sci-fi space gun that he’d swiped without anyone noticing while Rick fiddled with the keypad.

“F-fuck,” said Rick, almost breaking the tiny screwdriver.

Stan snorted. “ Still can’t pick a lock?”

“I-it’s electronic! I-I can work with anything electronic!” The lock buzzed again with the incorrect symbol on the screen. “ Meirda**!

“Let me,” said Stan, nudging him out of the way.

Rick snorted. “You can’t pick an electronic lock!”

Stan regarded the thing for a second, scratching his chin, his gun hanging at his hip. He glanced sidelong at Rick, who was giving him a smug “ I told you so ” look.

Stan reached into his pocket, clasping his hand around his brass knuckles, then he slammed his fist into the lock.

Beep! Access granted!

“Ta-da!” said Stan as the door slid open. “After you!”

Rick stared at him, then the destroyed keypad, then he looked back to him.

“I-I’ve never been so horny in my entire life,” said Rick.

Stan gave him a little shove and they were inside.

The light was dim. It was almost completely dark when the doors closed behind them. They were in a large gallery full of fossils and exotic artifacts from across the galaxy. This part of the gallery was often closed off to the public. Neither of them were interested in the fossils.

Stan turned on his tiny flashlight and checked his watch. “Ten more minutes until we get our distraction.”

Rick switched on his flashlight and cast the beam over the glass cases. “N-not much time. We gotta find it. Turn your c-communicator on.”

Stan pressed a button with his thick finger and Rick’s voice buzzed in his ear. “Alright.”

“Y-you go left, I go right. Let’s find this thing.”

 

“Care to dance?”

Ford looked up, surprised. Another alien had come up to him. She had pink skin, two large black eyes, and a sweet, slightly sharp smile.

“Oh,” he said, surprised. “I, um…”

“Sorry,” said Fiddleford, who still hadn’t let go of his arm. His voice hardly wavered as he said, “He already has a partner for this dance.”

“Oh!” said the pink alien. “I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude.”

Ford smiled a little at Fiddleford. “Do I really have a dance partner or are you just tired of talking to people?”

“Both,” said Fiddleford. “ Can you dance?”

“No,” said Ford sheepishly. “Can you?”

“I can jig,” said Fiddleford, “but that’s the extent of my abilities.”

“We’ve watched TV, we can figure this out.” Ford looked at the other couples that were around them. It was impossible to mimic their movements exactly, being short a few limbs and all. Ford put his hand on Fiddleford’s waist, Fidds put his hand on Ford’s shoulder, and they clasped their hands together.

“Like in the movies,” said Fiddleford as they spun and tried to match the pace of the other dancers around them. He snorted as they stumbled sideways. “We can’t dance.”

“We must look like awkward idiots,” said Ford.

Fiddleford sighed and draped his arms around Ford’s broad shoulders. Ford pulled him close, his hand resting on his lower back.

“At least we get to be awkward idiots… together?” said Fiddleford tentatively.

Ford smiled, his cheek pressed to his hair. “Yeah. Together.”

 

Rick! I found it! Get over here, I’m in the south wing!

Stan’s voice echoed in his earpiece. Rick began to make his way to the south wing, treading carefully so as to keep his footsteps quiet. “I-I’m on my way, querido! Are the lasers deactivated?”

Yep, but I think some kind of alarm is gonna be triggered when we touch the glass box. We’re gonna have to rely on our distraction.

“When’s our distraction due?”

Five minutes.

“Shit!” Rick began to run, damned be the consequences! He veered around a corner and sprinted down to the south wing. Fuck this place was huge! “I-I’m almost there!”

He burst into a room and found Stan crouched next to a hovering glass box, analysing it carefully. In it was a diamond the size of two fists put together, perfectly cut, perfectly clear.

“It’s gorgeous, ain’t it?” said Stan in a soft, reverent voice. He didn’t dare touch the case. Not until their distraction was implemented.

Rick’s mind was reeling and he quickly began calculating what he could buy with the money pawned. Machine parts for inventions, drugs, booze, stuff for Stan, so many possibilities!

“The glass is thick,” said Rick, searching his pockets for his tools. “I think we’re gonna need to bust out the big guns for this.” He pulled out the tiny bomb he’d hidden in his cheek, no bigger than a bottlecap.

“Cue distraction in four minutes,” said Stan, looking at his watch. “Ready?”

“R-ready.”

 

Ford’s watch counted down from four minutes. He wasn’t paying attention. He was too busy enjoying Fiddleford’s breath tickling his throat, and the warmth he felt pressed against him.

“Hey, there!”

Ford widened his eyes when he heard the voice and turned to look. A yellow eye and a wide grin met him when he turned. He had borrowed the body of a blue alien with one eye and sharp teeth.

“Oh!” said Ford. He was a bit surprised, but not overly. Bill had mentioned that he often traversed the galaxy. “Hello.”

Fiddleford stiffened in his arms.

“Mind if I steal your date?” said Bill, sliding between Ford and Fiddleford. “I’ll return him in a moment!”

With a strong hand on his hip, Bill whisked Ford into the crowd.

“What’re you doing here?” said Ford. His watch ticked down. Three minutes thirty seconds.

“Oh, I happened to be in the NEBULA,” said Bill, his grin never leaving his face. It was interesting to hear his voice coming from a different form. “I just wondering what you were doing here, partaking in UNEARTHLY PLEASURES.”

“I got dragged into this mess,” said Ford. “It wasn’t my idea. They made me come.”

“Methinks thou doth protest too much,” said Bill in a sing-song voice.

Ford cringed. “I just wanted to see some aliens, you know?” Three minutes left on the watch.

“You could have asked me if you wanted to see aliens, ” said Bill. He waved a hand. “You wouldn’t have had to put up with all of this PARTY NONSENSE AND CRIMINAL INTENTIONS! We could have studied aliens in a PURELY SCIENTIFIC SETTING! Just the two of us!

Ford looked away guiltily. “I didn’t think of it.”

“Let bygones be bygones!” said Bill in a cavalier tone. “That’s not what I’m here to warn you about. I’m here to warn you about Rick.

“What?” Two minutes fifteen seconds.

“He’s a scientist,” said Bill, “he’s a crook with no moral code, and he seemed eager to get you out of the house. What does that tell you?”

“Uh…” One minute fifty five seconds.

“Isn’t it obvious , IQ?” said Bill. “He wants to steal your work!”

That felt like a punch to the gut. He didn’t like the guy all that much, and he knew that he was sleazy, but it just didn’t make sense. “C’mon, why would Rick want to do that? If he wanted to, he could sell any of his crap and be a millionaire, but he’d prefer to steal shit and fuck my brother.”

“Yeah! He steals shit! He might steal your shit! As much of an INTERFERENCE IN YOUR CONCENTRATION as Stanley is, have you considered that Rick is using him to get to you?

Ford shook his head. “Impossible! Bill, I know you want to help but have you met-”

“Check under his bed,” said Ford. “I saw him sneak something under there.” He pulled away. “Your boytoy is waiting for you.”

The watch ticked. One minute. “Fidds isn’t-”

“Bye, Sixer!” Bill quickly stepped away and vanished into the crowd.

“See you?” said Ford quietly.

In your dreams! ” said Bill from across the ballroom. Ford couldn’t see him, but he heard his cackle.

Stanford!

Ford turned. Fidds had finally pushed his way to him. “What in all of tarnation was that about?”

“Sorry,” said Ford, “pushy dancer. He yanked me away before I could stop him.”

“Don’t fib to me, Stanford Pines!” Fiddleford jabbed a finger into his chest. “There was somethin’ fishy about that man and you’re gonna tell me what! You knew him! Don’t try and lie, you’re a terrible liar! How could you know an alien?

Forty five seconds. “Fidds, don’t be ridiculous, we’ve never-”

Don’t fib! ” he shouted. A few heads turned to them. “I know about Bill! I know what he is! I know that he can possess people! I know that’s why you acted so damn mean before! I know that’s what all those blasted triangles are about!”

Ford’s heart froze. Thirty seconds. “It’s not… I can’t… It isn’t…”

Fiddleford looked angry, more angry than Ford had ever seen him. “I hate that you lie to me, Stanford! Why don't you trust me?”

“You wouldn't understand!” he protested. Twenty seconds.

“Understand what?

“Bill has been nothing but helpful! He’s provided me with necessary insight that-”

“That I couldn't have provided?” cut in Fiddleford.

“Yea- No! Of course not!” Ten seconds.

Fiddleford's expression flicked to hurt before flipping back to angry. “Is that how it is?”

“No!” said Ford, horrified. Eight seconds. “Fiddleford, I respect you more than you’ll ever know!”

“More than him?

“I…”

Five seconds.

Fiddleford clenched his teeth. He clenched his fists. Ford realized what a horrible mistake he made. He should have been kinder, more careful, maybe more wary.

Bill was right. Fiddleford didn't understand.

One second.

Fiddleford’s fist connected with Ford’s jaw.

Chapter Text

Ford staggered, and he fell, his hand pressed to his cheek. He was hurt , Fiddleford punched him!

He stuffed down the hurt feelings and drew upon his anger. He got to one knee. “Fidds, what the fu-”

Fiddleford threw himself at him, and oh shit, Ford really should have thought twice.

Sure Ford grew up in New Jersey, but Fidds grew up on a hogfarm. It was easy to forget that he was rooted deep in hillbilly culture, even with his tendency to chew tobacco and his thick accent.

He fought like a hillbilly.

He was vicious. After that first punch, Ford found himself crashing into the food table, plates flying everywhere, while Fiddleford went for his eyes. He tried to scratch out his eyes. Fiddleford’s fingernails clawed at his cheeks, one nail slicing a cut down his eyelid as he squeezed his eyes shut.

Get offa me! ” shouted Ford, his Jersey accent coming out strong. He threw out a right hook, catching Fiddleford in the jaw and sending him sprawling.

Fiddleford was still for a moment, and panic closed on Ford’s heart. Then, Fiddleford’s hand came up and wiped away the blood from his split lip.

Half of Ford wanted to go to him, apologize to his partner, but the rest of him was furious. His anger burned in him, consuming him, and he launched himself back at Fiddleford.

The crowd of aliens shrieked and scrambled away as they tumbled to the floor. Ford delivered another punch, Fiddleford’s head snapped to the side with the force of the blow, his glasses skittering away and into the crowd of feet and tentacles.

Fiddleford was practically blind without his glasses. Without the corrective lenses, his eyes pointed in slightly different directions. In this case, it didn’t matter. He was already blind with rage. His fist jabbed up, catching Ford in a swift uppercut, then his bony knee caught him in the diaphragm.

Ford wheezed. Nausea washed over him. Fiddleford punched him in the throat. Stanford grasped his neck and fell to the side.

Fiddleford wasn’t done yet. He straddled him and grabbed his lapels. “ You pompous ass! ” he screamed. “Why did you lie to me? I thought you cared about me!”

“I do!” he said. Blood from a split lip flecked onto Fiddleford’s white shirt when he spoke, his voice was hoarse from his throat being punched. “I just-”

“Then why are you doin’ this?” he said. Tears were forming in his eyes, and seeing that hurt more than the punch to the diaphragm. “Why didn’t ya just tell me? Why’d you have to lie?”

“Because I knew you’d react like this!” said Ford, shoving him off. He got to his feet and staggered, his arm wrapped around his stomach. “I knew you wouldn’t understand! Bill was right! I should have trusted him all along!”

Fiddleford scrambled to his feet and threw himself at Stanford with a scream, his hands latching around his neck.

Ford choked. They flew back into the buffet, this time breaking the long table in half. Ford’s eyes bugged out behind his glasses. He grabbed Fiddleford’s tie and yanked him close, smashing his forehead against his nose.

Gah! ” Fiddleford reeled back, blood splattering over his white shirt, pouring down his hand as he clasped it to his face. With his free hand, he punched again. With a crunch, Ford’s glasses cracked down one side.

ENOUGH! ” Guards surrounded them. Two grabbed Fiddleford by the upper arms, hauling him off of Stanford.

Lemme go, you twelve-eyed cretins! ” shrieked Fiddleford, kicking out at them futilely.

“Easy, there,” said one of the guards. “You two have to leave.”

Ford wordlessly complied as he was hauled to his feet and dragged out of the party. The table was broken, plates were shattered, food was everywhere, and there were spots of blood on the marble floor.

His watch had been beeping for the last few minutes.

I guess they got their distraction, after all, he thought as he was pushed out the door with Fiddleford.

He switched his watch off.

In the party, an alien with one eye tapped a guard on the shoulder.

“Heya!” he said, waving.

“Something you need?” asked the security guard.

“I overheard from those jackasses you kicked out that there’s a heist going on right this second!” he said. His grin was huge and alarming. “Maybe you should go check on that diamond of yours?”

The guard put a finger to his earpiece and said into the mic, “Hey, send somebody up to Exhibit Twelve-Zeta.”

Bill Cipher grinned maniacally.

 

“Let’s hope our distraction is distracting enough,” said Stan as he put another tiny bomb onto the glass case with the diamond in it.

“M-maybe I should’a called Squanchy and Bird Person to help out,” said Rick as he secured the last bomb. “Th-they would’a been more reliable when it comes to shit like this. I just have no idea where the fuck they are. S-step back.”

Stan put his fingers in his ears and closed his eyes as Rick detonated the bomb. As soon as it went off, three things happened. The glass shattered, the red alarms all went off at once, and the door was kicked open.

Freeze! ” Two guards pointed their guns at the two of them. “Hands in the air!”

Fuck! ” Seemed like their distraction failed them, after all. Rick snatched the diamond up from the floor. Stan had already fired two bullets at the guards. One caught a guard in the shoulder, the other one struck the other in the head.

They bolted for the door, leaping over the guard’s bodies. The one who’d been shot in the shoulder phoned in for backup.

Shit, shit, shit! ” panted Stan as they sprinted through the gallery. Five more guards burst through the main doors, and with a yelp the two of them changed directions and bolted through another wing.

You’re under arrest in the name of the Galactic Federation! ” shouted one of the guards.

“N-not today, motherfucker!” Rick pulled out his portal gun and tried to shoot it. It fizzled out. “ What? Come on!” He slapped the side of it. “A portal proof room? Fuck!”

Stan shot two more bullets at the guards, taking two of them out. “We gotta get outta this section!”

“I’m workin’ on it, I’m workin on it!” hissed Rick through his teeth. He grabbed Stan’s wrist and sprinted towards the front-facing wall. There was a large window that opened up to the outside, but they were on the third floor.

“Oh, no,” said Stan.

“Oh, yes!” said Rick.

Stan fired a bullet and the glass shattered. They threw themselves out the window, Rick shooting a portal at the ground below them, right below Ford and Fiddleford, who were sitting on the steps below.

Luck. Pure and simple.

The guards open fired. A bullet whizzed past Rick’s thigh, taking a little bit of skin with it, and one plunged into Stan’s back. Pain ripped through his body, and he fell through the portal.

 

Ford and Fiddleford sat on the steps of the museum, not speaking to each other. Ford had a hand protectively over his throat. Fiddleford had his eyes closed. The lights of the alien city made his head hurt.

Ford wanted to say a hundred things. He wanted to apologize, he wanted to explain his behavior, he wanted to make an excuse for the way he had acted. He couldn’t articulate his thoughts if he’d tried, and he didn’t try because it hurt to use his voice.

He glanced at Fiddleford. Even through the cracked lens of his glasses, he could see every scrape and bruise that he’d put there himself.

He felt sick with himself when he realized that he’d hit his boyfriend. That wasn’t right. People shouldn’t do stuff like that. He’d had a kicking, biting, punching fistfight with the man who was supposed to be his boyfriend. Would their relationship survive this? How could Fidds forgive him for this?

How could he forgive Fiddleford? Hell, Fiddleford had been the one to throw the first punch, Fiddleford had started the confrontation in the first place! Why couldn’t he just trust his judgement? Why did he have to throw everything into question?

Ford realized that things were hanging precariously, dangling by a thread, and he had a choice. He could throw down a rope… or he could snip the string.

The project was almost done. Only one or two more calculations had to be made.

Bill told him that Fiddleford couldn’t be trusted. Maybe he was right.

A portal suddenly appeared below them, and they shrieked as they fell into the house. Rick and Stan followed immediately after them, skidding on the wooden floor.

“W-we did it!” said Rick, holding up the bag with his prize inside. He leapt to his feet and did a spin. “W-we fucking got away with it!”

“R-Rick...” said Stan, trying to get to his feet, his hand clutching at the kitchen table. He collapsed back onto the floor.

Lee! ” Rick dropped to the ground, tossing the bag with the diamond at Ford to catch. He put his hand on Stan’s shoulder, and let out a gasp when it came away bloody. “ Shit! Shit, fuck! C-clear off the table!”

Dishes and papers were shoved unceremoniously to the floor as the three of them hauled Stan up onto the table. Rick took a switchblade and sliced his jacket and shirt off of him, tossing the bloodied and tattered garments to the floor.

“Fuck,” he said under his breath. He put his hand on either side of the seeping wound. Blood ran down his shoulders and pooled in the divot of his spine. “Th-this doesn’t look good, Lee.”

“Doesn’t feel too good, neither,” said Stan, his face pressed into the table, his face scrunched up in pain.

“I-I can whip up somethin’ that’ll heal this more quickly,” said Rick, heading for the stairs, “but it’s gonna hurt like a bitch.”

“It already hurts like a bitch, asshole,” said Stan. Tears were running down his face. “If I don’t make it, tell Stan Junior I love ‘im.”

“Shut the hell up, Stanley!” snapped Rick. “It ain’t gonna be like that!” He sprinted up the stairs.

Stan looked up at Ford and Fiddleford, who had momentarily put aside their fight for the crisis at hand. “Jesus, what the hell happened to you two?”

“The distraction,” said Ford.

“Fuck. The guards rough you up?”

“No,” snapped Fiddleford, distancing himself from Stanford.

“Jeez, did you guys fake fight?” Stan shifted and he cringed. “Looks a lil’ real if you ask me.”

“Stan, don’t worry about us,” said Ford firmly.

Fiddleford didn’t say anything. He bounced his leg.

Rick burst back into the room with an armful of test tubes and vials, a huge pair of tweezers in his hand.

“Oh my god,” said Stan when he saw it. “This ain’t lookin’ too good.”

Rick offered him a rag. “Bite.”

“Oh sweet sarsaparilla,” said Fiddleford, looking sick to his stomach. His eyes were narrowed as he tried to see what was happening, then he realized partway through that maybe he wouldn’t want to see what’s happening.

“If you’re gonna puke, look away!” said Stan before stuffing the cloth in his mouth and giving a thumbs up.

Rick delicately inserted the tweezers into the bullet wound and extracted the bullet from the muscle of Stan’s back. It was a nasty process, and Fiddleford faced the wall, his hands over his eyes, even though he couldn’t see without his glasses. Ford gawked, unable to tear his gaze away from what was unfolding.

Stan screamed into the rag as the bullet was pulled out, then again as the solution was poured onto the wound. Rick wiped away the blood, and as he did so, he could see the skin knitting itself back together.

Fuck yeah! Lee, you’re gonna be okay!”

Stan spat out the rag. “Oh my god.”

Rick gingerly traced his finger over the gradually healing wound. “Y-yeah, this ain’t gonna feel too good for a few days, but you won’t bleed to death.” He wiped away the still oozing blood. It had slowed to a trickle.

“Thank god,” said Stan, letting his head thud against the table. “Let’s see the prize.”

Rick snatched his bag back from Ford. As he did so, the bag ripped at the seams and the diamond fell to the floor.

It smashed.

The room went dead silent. Every single jaw was dropped.

“You’re fucking kidding me!” yelled Rick, slapping a palm to his forehead. “ Glass?! Y-you almost died- W-we put all this fucking effort in for glass?

“Shit,” said Stan. His voice had no emotion aside from defeat. “Just our fucking luck.”

“I’ll get the broom,” said Fiddleford, gingerly stepping over the larger shards.

Rick slumped down into a chair. Stan sat up on the table.

Ford quietly went down to the workshop. The portal was almost complete.

 

The glass was swept up. Ford was downstairs. Rick and Stan were back upstairs, mourning their loss. Fiddleford had found his spare pair of glasses (by himself, thank you, it had taken half an hour) and had finally translated the note that he had found in the basement.

It was from Bill Cipher.

To Glasses,

If you were nocy enough to figure this out, you doubly decerve this meccage. Ctay away from Sixer. We're doing important work, and he doecn't need your cuperctition clouding his judgement. If you co much as cuggect ctopping the project, I will unleash a thoucand nightmarec upon your weak human cranium! You will regret ever coming to Gravity Falls. I will make your life a living hell for you and your loved onec. I know all of your fearc, all of your weakneccecc. I hope you enjoy blood dripping from your eyec and cpiderc crawling from your earc, becauce that'c what you're gonna get if you get in my way, Jack.

That caid, if you tell him about thic, he won't believe you. I already made cure of that.

Go build a robot or comething, you red-necked yokel.

Cigned,

Bill Cipher

Fiddleford’s hands trembled as he held the decoded message. His tears stung the cuts on his cheeks that Stanford had placed there himself.

He had planned on leaving. His suitcase was half packed. If Stanford was gonna treat him like shit, then he wasn’t gonna put up with it.

But… now he was worried. He was downright terrified. These threats had him shaking in his boots, but he knew that he had to stop the portal from being finished.

Nothing good was going to come of it. Ford said that the project would change their lives, change the world… but if Bill was so present in so much of this process, then there must be forces at play that he couldn’t understand. If a creature like Bill wanted Ford to build a portal, there must be more to it than meets the eye. What could he want with it? Why does he need it? What would happen if it was completed?

Judging by the threats in this letter and what he had discovered about Bill, if the portal was completed, he would be living in eternal nightmares. If he prevented it, he would be living in eternal nightmares.

There was no good outcome for this.

He feared for Ford. He feared for himself. This note made it that much worse.

His leg bounced as he started to sift through Ford’s notes and get to work. He had to stop this portal from being turned on. No matter what Stanford did, no matter how much of a pompous ass he was, no matter how much he pushed him away, Fiddleford would never forgive himself if something terrible happened to him.

He knew that if the portal was turned on, something terrible would happen to him. He had to stop that from happening, even if it would mean spiders in his ears.

 

Rick traced the wound on Stan’s back. “H-how do you think they found out we were there?”

“We must have been sloppy,” said Stan, his face pressed to the pillow. “Missed a security camera, fucked somethin’ up…”

Rick drummed his fingers on his shoulder. “You don’t think… Poindexter…?”

“No. Don’t say that.” Stan sighed. “Doesn’t matter. It was a waste of fucking time.”

“I-I’m glad you’re not dead,” said Rick, his mouth touching Stan’s shoulder.

“I’m glad you’re not dead, too.” Stan shifted closer to him. “I don’t think that Fidds and Ford were fake fighting.”

“Mm.”

“Fiddleford’s glasses were missing. Ford had bruises on his throat. D’you think they were fighting for real?”

“H-hell if I know,” said Rick. He draped an arm around Stan’s body. “Does it hurt?”

“Fuck yeah, it does.”

“W-want me to blow you?”

“No. I’m okay.”

“Okay.” Rick sighed and pressed his cheek to Stan.

His heart was still pounding. He didn’t tell this to Stan, but if that bullet had been one inch to the left, it would have gone right through his spine. There would have been no walking away from that.

He tightened his grip on him, pressed his face into his neck, and fell asleep.

 

Ford worked through the night. He was on his third cup of coffee when he realized that one of the essential blueprints was missing,along with a few unique machine parts that he’d salvaged from the spacecraft. He spent at least an hour looking for them. He checked every inch of his workspace, all around where the portal was, every conceivable location, and he came up with nothing.

Finally, he ran out of coffee. He went back upstairs to make another pot, and when he walked by the living room, he saw it.

Rick’s backpack, leaning against the armchair that Stan usually sat in.

There was some paper sticking out of the top. Blueprints.

Rick never drew blueprints.

Ford ripped the paper out of his backpack and his gut twisted. It was his blueprint. His machine parts were in there, too.

His hands shook as he gripped the page. Bill was right, Bill was always right.

It was him against the world. Everyone in this house had turned against him. Fiddleford believed Bill was evil, Stan was constantly distracting him, and now Rick was stealing his inventions?

Ford stormed back downstairs with another cup of coffee. He was so close. He was going to finish the portal tonight.

It would be active tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Fiddleford woke with a start. He’d fallen asleep over his desk, and a piece of paper stuck to his sweaty cheek when he sat up. He pulled the page from his cheek and moaned. There was a bad crick in his neck. He rubbed his eyes and checked his watch.

It was late, about nine in the morning. He could hear noises coming from the kitchen. Shuffling, grumbling, the sound of the sink being turned on. With bleary eyes and shaking hands, Fiddleford gathered up the papers he’d been working on, stapled them together as neatly as he could, and slid them into an envelope. He stumbled out of his room and into the kitchen.

It was raining outside. Drops pattered against the windows, blurring the view of the forest.

“Morning,” said Stan. He was still in his tank top and boxer shorts, and he didn’t look like he was planning on changing out of them.

“Y-you look like hell.” Rick, on the opposite end of the spectrum, was wearing boots, jeans, and his jacket. He poured whisky into his coffee before taking a sip.

“I feel like hell. Any more coffee?”

“Yep,” said Stan, jerking a thumb towards the coffee pot. “Help yourself.”

“Thanks.” Fiddleford set his envelope down on the table, poured himself a cup of coffee and drank the whole thing, his hands still trembling. It burned going down, but the heat woke him up a little more.

“Did you get any sleep?” asked Stan.

“Um… I think I fell asleep around seven?”

“AM or PM?”

“AM,” he admitted. He poured himself some more coffee.

Rick let out a low whistle. “Jesus. Tryin’ to kill yourself?”

Fiddleford shot him a warning look.

The door to the basement burst open. Ford stood there, his chest heaving, glasses crooked. His hair was greasy, his regular tanned coat was missing, his white shirt was stained and cuffed up to the elbows, and his tie was slack. He looked a mess, like he hadn’t slept all night.

“Christ, y-you’re a sight,” said Rick with a grimace.

“Hello to you, too,” said Ford. “You guys should get out of the house.” Below their feet, Fiddleford could hear a soft thrumming sound coming from the basement.

“Why?” said Stan, dropping his empty coffee mug in the sink. “I’m a wounded man, Stanford! I need rest!”

“You need to get out of here,” insisted Ford.

“Why?” said Fiddleford.

Ford turned to him, looking guilty. “Well, uh…”

The thrumming was getting louder.

“Ford,” said Fiddleford, pushing the envelope into his hands. “We don’t have to do the experiment.”

“What?” he said, gaping. “Why?”

“I just… somethin’s tellin’ me that nothing good’s gonna come from it,” said Fiddleford. “I’m sorry I didn’t articulate that more calmly before, but… um…” He sighed. “In that envelope is all of your notes from the past months, assembled into a comprehensive essay about your theory of weirdness.” He yawned. “I-I stayed up all night. Please, Ford. Send this to the university. It’ll get you more grant money, more respect, anything you could need!” He took his hand and held it in both of his. “I know we’ve put a lot of effort into the project, but we don’t need to complete it! This is enough!”

Ford looked skeptical. Fiddleford could see something cold in his tired eyes, something that didn’t belong there. He set the envelope down onto the table.

The thrumming grew louder.

“I’m sorry you feel that way, Fiddleford,” he said, pulling his hand away. He locked his fingers behind his back. “But I feel that I ought to proceed with this experiment. You are under no obligation to join me.”

Stan and Rick were leaning against the counter. They glanced at each other, worried. The tension was palpable.

“Of course I’ll join you, Ford!” said Fiddleford. He adjusted his tie. “I’d never abandon you like that! When are you planning on beginning the experiment?”

Ford looked tense.

There was a long, heavy pause. The thrumming was shaking the kitchen, now. The glasses were jingling together in the cupboard, the plant in the windowsill bounced, the fridge door swung open slowly to reveal the jam jars inside shaking and banging together.

“It’s already on,” said Ford.

What? ” said Fiddleford, shocked. “You... didn’t wait for me?”

“I was about to go test it,” said Ford reluctantly, stepping towards the basement door. “You don’t have to come.”

“Like hell I won’t!” said Fiddleford, buttoning up his lab coat crookedly.

Ford didn’t reply. He just turned and went downstairs.

Fiddleford cast a hopeful glance at Stan and Rick. “Are you, um…?”

“You nerds are gonna get yourselves killed,” said Stan. “Yeah, we’ll come.”

Rick didn’t say anything. He just downed the rest of his whisky-infused coffee, pulled out a gun, and cocked it.

Fiddleford nodded, and the three of them went down the creaky wooden steps into the damp and cool basement.

 

The portal crackled with energy. Colours swirled inside it, casting bright light onto the objects in the room and deep shadows into the corners. The pebbles on the floor of the laboratory jumped and clattered, papers slid from the desks, and the air felt dry and staticky. The hair stood up on the forearms of the men who stood before this wonderful and monstrous machine.

“I-I hate to be a negative Nelly,” said Rick, scratching the back of his neck, “b-but isn’t this… inefficient?”

Ford blinked. “Excuse me?”

“I-I mean,” said Rick, pulling out his portal gun. “I-it’s very big . Y-you can achieve the same effect by taking-”

“There are certain dimensions that need more power to access,” muttered Ford through his teeth. He tied the final knots in the rope around the waist of the crash test dummy that Stan had “liberated” for him. “This isn’t any old dimension. It’s… somewhere more.

Rick narrowed his eyes at him and put his portal gun away. He was never one to preach “safe science” or any of that weak-willed bullshit, but something told him that maybe Fiddleford was right. Maybe this thing wasn’t meant to exist.

Stan was in awe of what was before him. He had no idea how to wrap his head around it except for the words “sci-fi flick to the max ”.

Fiddleford stood beside Ford at the ready, as he planned to, and as he always hoped to.

Ford’s jaw was set. “Ready?”

Fiddleford took the other arm of the crash test dummy. “Ready!”

The yellow and black safety line was before them, but the portal still tugged at their hair and at Fiddleford’s long coat. They released the dummy, and it was drawn towards the portal.

The rope uncoiled as the dummy rose. The pull became stronger, and his ascent grew faster, and Fiddleford was standing on the rope.

His ankle got caught. “ Augh! ” He slipped, stumbled, and suddenly his feet left the ground.

Fidds! ” said Ford, eyes wide.

“Grab him!” said Stan.

G-gotcha! ” Rick stepped forward and jumped, grabbing onto Fiddleford’s ankle. He held on tight, but instead of pulling him back down with his weight, Fiddleford pulled him up. “W-what the- Oh shit!

You idiot! ” yelled Ford, grabbing onto the rope.

Help! ” Fiddleford clung to Rick. Rick grabbed onto his lab coat with two hands, eyes wide and tongue between his teeth. The two of them rose upwards, towards the swirling and crackling portal.

Fiddleford went through first. Rick followed close behind. Only their feet were visible, the rope wrapped around Fiddleford’s ankle, Rick’s kicking frantically for some kind of hold.

Ford finally managed to pull the rope taut. Stan grabbed onto it right behind him and heaved with all he had.

The two of them fell out of the portal and crashed into Stan and Ford, sending them sprawling back onto the concrete floor. The test dummy clattered when it landed, its limbs at awkward angles. Rick’s portal gun smashed and the pieces skittered away into the corners of the lab

Stan gasped in pain and held onto his shoulder. He felt blood dripping down his back. His wound had reopened. “Rick!” said Stan, dropping to the floor hard. He bruised his knees. “Are you okay?”

“What happened?” cried Ford, kneeling next to Fiddleford. “What did you see?”

At first, neither of them replied. Fiddleford’s glasses were gone. Their hair was mussed and wild, maybe a little bit singed. Their eyes were wide, unfocused, and staring. The only sounds in the room were the whirring of the portal, the pebbles and shaking with the trembling of the machine, and the sound of heavy breathing.

“Rick, please say something!” Stan moved to touch his shoulder.

Rick slapped his hand away and shot backwards, bumping into Fiddleford. Fiddleford let out a small shriek and whipped around, wild-eyed.

Ford was undeterred. He grabbed Fiddleford by the shoulders. “ What was in there?

Fiddleford shuddered, his eyes staring through Ford. “Yroo xrksvi! Girzmtov!”

Rick gave a violent tremor. “Rg'h xlnrmt! Gsv zclolgo xzm hglk rg!”

“Rick, what’re you saying? Y-you’re talking nonsense” asked Stan, unable to keep the crack of fear from his voice. He gingerly tried to get closer, moving slowly and carefully, like he was approaching a wounded animal. “Rick, it’s okay… j-just relax…”

This time, Rick didn’t react when he touched him on the shoulder. His breathing was shallow, and his pupils clouded out his irises. He was shivering, and his teeth were chattering so hard it seemed like they’d shake right out of his gums.

Fiddleford looked up at the ceiling, eyes unseeing. “ When Gravity Falls and earth becomes sky, fear the beast with just one eye!

Rick made a retching sound. “ A simple man with eager ears may trust the whispers that he hears!

Fiddleford twitched. His voice didn’t seem like his own. “ No puppet strings can hold me down, so patiently I’ll watch this town!

Rick’s neck bent at a strange angle that made Stan gasp. His eyes rolled upwards unnaturally as he said in a strange voice, “ Abnormal will soon be the norm, enjoy the calm before the storm!

Rick snap out of it! ” cried Stan desperately, pulling him into an embrace. Rick struggled weakly against his thick arms.

Ford dug his fingers into Fiddleford’s shoulders. “Fiddleford, get ahold of yourself, you’re not making any sense!”

“I told you!” cried Fiddleford. His voice seemed to be his again. “Leggo of me! I told you! Th-this machine is evil!” He scrambled away from it.

“I-if I never see that fucking thing again, it’ll be too soon!” said Rick, scrambling to his feet and stumbling away from it. His eyes were normal, again… albeit his pupils were huge, they consumed his eyes.

“This machine has to be destroyed!” cried Fiddleford.

“I can’t destroy it!” said Ford defensively. “It’s my life’s work!”

Fiddleford looked broken-hearted. His words choked in his throat before he forced himself to say, “Y-you’re choosing the machine over me?”

Ford’s got to his feet. “Fiddleford, it’s not that simple!”

Fiddleford’s expression hardened. “If you’re gonna choose this over me, w-well I… Fuck! Fuck it, I quit! I-I just wanna forget this whole thing!” He turned and sprinted up the steps. “ I quit!

Ford’s expression of terror was soon masked with put-on anger. “Oh, oh yeah? Well good riddance you hillbilly hick!

The kitchen door slammed upstairs.

“I-I’m gone,” said Rick, taking the flask from his jacket pocket and draining the whole thing in a few quick glugs. “N-no way am I sticking around here with this doomsday device on the loose! I-I mean, I’m all for a planetary makeover b-but this…” He pointed a shaky finger at the humming portal. “ This is fucked up! Lee, let’s go!”

“Go where?” asked Stan, still kneeling on the floor.

“Anywhere!” cried Rick, waving his arms. “Off planet! Somewhere! J-just not here!”

“I can’t leave!” said Stan, staggering to his feet. “I just… Ford and I just… He needs…”

“Needs what? ” he demanded harshly.

Ford glared at Stan, who cringed under his gaze.

“I can’t leave him!” he protested. “Rick, I’m sorry, I just-”

Rick scowled. “ Fine. I-I get it. I see how it is. I should’a… I-I should’a seen this coming a mile away! Fuck, I did see it coming!”

“Rick, you don’t have to-”

“Lee, I-I always knew,” he said. His shoulders shook, and Stan had never seen Rick look so vulnerable, so hurt, so scared. “I-I always knew that you’d choose him over me.”

Stan was on the verge of tears. His throat was tight. He took a step towards him. “I don’t want… I can’t… D-don’t make me…”

“Bye, Stanley.” He turned and bolted upstairs.

Rick! ” Stan followed after him, but he wasn’t able to catch up. He burst into the kitchen in time to see Rick running out the door after Fiddleford, both of them holding bags with their hastily-packed belongings.

Fiddleford ran out to his car and threw his bags in before driving off erratically into the rain.

Rick ran up to El Diablo, smashed the window with his elbow, and opened the car door.

NO! ” Stan sprinted outside, still in his socks. The rain poured down, and the mud squelched under his feet as he ran. He slipped and fell in the mud, quickly scrambling to his feet as Rick put the car in reverse to turn around. “ GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY CAR!

Rick didn’t say a damn thing. He stuck his hand out the broken window, and he flipped Stanley off as he drove away down the dirt road.

Stan was at a loss. Rain drizzled down his back, making him shiver violently. He hugged himself and slowly sloshed back into the house.

He left a trail of muddy footprints behind him. Water dripped from his hair and ran down his face as he went down to the basement. As his hair stopped dripping and his face still felt wet, he realized that he was crying. His back felt wet, and he realized that he was bleeding.

“Fuck…” He entered the basement to see Ford hunched over a table. “Ford… th-they’re gone…” He sobbed. The last time he’d cried like this, he and Rick were sitting on the hood of El Diablo on some strange world, and he’d just finished puking his guts out.

“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” he said bitterly. He scribbled in his journal feverishly. “Why did you stay? You should have gone with your boyfriend.”

Stan was hurt, but at this point he had no other choice. “You’re my brother, Ford.”

“So?” he said sharply, not looking at him.

Stan heaved a sigh. “Rick stole my car. I’m bleeding. Can you patch me up?”

“You’re what?” Ford finally looked over at him.

Stan turned and pointed to his injured shoulder. “I’m muddy. Don’t want an infection. Help?”

Ford looked at his work, looked at Stan in his sopping wet underwear and socks, and he sighed. “Okay.” He pulled out the emergency first aid kit. “Let’s go up to the kitchen.”

Stan sniffled and went back up the stairs, leaving muddy puddles behind him as he went. Ford closed the door behind them and Stan sat on the table. He yanked off his shirt, wincing as he did so, and closed his eyes as Ford cleaned and patched up his wound.

The rain poured down outside.

Stan wiped his tears away with his wrist.

Ford’s eyes were dry.

Chapter Text

Rick drove. Tears and snot ran down his face, try as he might to deny it. The sweat from his palms made the wheel slick, and rain poured in through the broken window. He shivered from the cold. His bruises ached.

He drove, and he didn’t look back.

He drove until the car ran out of gas, eight hours later. It was evening, by this point. He wasn’t sure where he was, but there were mountains all around him and a sign up ahead that said a town was nearby. Two miles. He could walk it.

As the car sputtered and died, he cranked the wheel and plunged it into a ditch. It was anticlimactic, he didn’t crash into a tree or anything. A part of him wished that he did. He got caught on the drift, in the bushes, just out of sight of the main highway.

With shaking hands, he pulled his bag of clothes and tools from the back of the car.

The car. It was a reminder. He didn’t want it. He didn’t need it… just like he didn’t need him. He didn’t need a damn person in this whole wide multiverse, and it was stupid of him to forget that. He didn’t need people. People meant feelings, and feelings meant hurt feelings. Fuck, when he said it like that it made him sound like he was six.

No, he didn’t need anybody. Fuck ‘em. He was Rick Fucking Sanchez, inventor and explorer extraordinaire, and he didn’t need a damn thing except for his booze and his tools.

He didn’t need anybody.

Fuck! ” he swore, wiping the tears from his cheeks. He sniffed grossly, picked up a rock, and hurled it at El Diablo.

The windshield cracked, but it wasn’t enough. He picked up more rocks, dirt, handfuls of gravel, and pummeled the car with it. The windows cracked and chipped, the paint was scratched, the side mirror was knocked clean off. The white hood was smeared with mud, the metal was dinged, and the inside now had dirt and gravel covering the seats.

Rick stopped, panting. He wished that he had gas to light the car on fire with, but he had nothing. He wiped his nose, threw one last handful of dirt on the car, and left.

He trudged down the road towards the town.

El Diablo sat in the ditch. Nobody noticed the red car there. In two weeks time, it was covered in dead leaves and branches from the winter storms.

 

Fiddleford’s hands were steady as he put the finishing touches onto his latest masterpiece, even though he was fighting back tears. The bulb was delicate, and he had to be careful with this invention. It was his greatest work, yet.

He’d been pondering the blueprints of it for a little while, but he hadn’t had time to complete it until now. Until… he needed it.

He’d tested it on mice who’d memorized mazes, but this was his first human trial.

He set up the video camera. He had to have physical proof that this event happened, because if it worked, he might not remember the test results.

The device sat before him. The camera was rolling.

He cleared his throat and took a deep breath. “My name if Fiddleford Hadron McGucket, and I wish to unsee what I have seen.”

He looked down at the device. His palms felt clammy.

“For the past year, I’ve been working as an assistant for a visiting researcher. He had been cataloguing his findings about Gravity Falls in a series of journals.” He took another breath. He couldn’t control his trembling shoulders. “I helped him build a machine that he would believed had the potential to benefit all mankind, but… something went wrong.”

Fiddleford looked at the camera and laced his fingers together. “I-I decided to quit the project, but I lie awake at night, haunted by the thoughts of what I’ve done. I believe that I have invented a machine that can permanently erase these memories from my mind.”

He picked up the device. He twiddled the dial on the side. The digital screen read “ Stanford Pines ”.

“Test subject one.” He held the device to his temple. “ Fiddleford.

There was a sharp zap and a bright light, and suddenly… a weight was lifted from his chest.

What was he so upset about? What was he holding?

He set the device down, turned off the camera, and went to go make himself a cup of tea in a dazed stupor.

 

Ford was as angry as he was anxious. He scribbled calculations in his journal, what was wrong? What had Fiddleford and Rick seen that had upset them like this? He had to find out what it was, preferably without going insane himself, thank you.

How would he find out? Turn on the portal? No, not a good idea, it hadn’t ended well last time.

Ask Bill? Maybe.

He hated that he was beginning to doubt his friend. Perhaps the portal wasn’t ready, and that’s why Rick and Fiddleford saw something they weren’t meant to see? Maybe when it’s done charging up, it’ll function perfectly. Maybe it was just an accident.

Stanford was perfectly stable, perfectly fine. He’d misplaced his necktie and he’d been wearing the same shirt for the past week, but he was fine. He hadn’t slept in a couple days and hadn’t showered in even longer, but he was fine. His last three meals had consisted of coffee and soda crackers, but he was fine.

He was fine.

Fine.

Was.

Then, he finally fell asleep. He had crashed out over his desk, still holding his pencil.

When he found himself in the mindscape, he realized that something was very wrong. Blackness seeped into the normally cool blue setting. He saw something red on the horizon, and he heard Bill’s laughs.

No. No, no, no!

It couldn’t be true.

Horror and rage gripped his heart. He tried to run, but his feet felt sluggish and slow. He jumped from the massive textbooks, towards the red light.

It couldn’t be true! Bill surely wasn’t playing him a fool this whole time!

Was he?

“Oh, there you are, smart guy!” Bill turned to him. Behind him, there was a reddish, ragged tear in his mindscape, through which he could see dark figures with bulbous, glowing eyes. “You caught on, yet?”

“Bill?” Ford said, his voice sounding strange to him. “No… it… I…”

Bill laughed madly, and his cackle echoed around his mindscape, echoed inside his head. Ford pressed his palms over his ears and squeezed his eyes shut, to no avail. He was in Bill’s domain.

“IQ, you really are an idiot! ” Bill laughed and snapped his fingers. The books around them caught fire, all the equations and calculations written on the walls distorted and twisted, changing and warping the world around them. “You and your DUMB HICK FRIEND did me a huge favour!”

You lied to me! ” Ford cried, clenching his fists. “Where does your portal lead?”

“To my home, of course!” Bill rolled his eye. “ Duh!

“But… why?!

Bill laughed again. “Let’s just say that when your portal gets switched on again, and it will, this dimension’s gonna learn how to party! ” He turned to the rip in the mindscape. “Ain’t that right, boys?”

Demonic cackles and howls filled Ford’s mindscape. Horror clawed in his chest.

No! ” he said frantically. “I won’t let that happen! I’ll shut it down!”

Bill waggled a finger at him. “A deal’s a deal, Sixer! You can’t stop the bridge between our worlds from coming, BUT IT WOULD BE FUN TO WATCH YOU TRY! Cute, even!”

Bill’s cackles and the howls from his army in his world drowned out the world. Anger, terror, and hurt mixed into a nasty mess in Ford’s head, and it was reflected in his thoughts. A million eyes surrounded him on all sides, watching his every move. The walls began to melt and bleed away like thick tar, his work erased permanently.

Bill laughed as the chaos burbled and twisted around them. “ See you real soon!

Ford screamed.

He gasped awake, clambering at his desk. He mopped the sweat from his forehead with a tissue and scrambled to his feet.

In a fervor, he tore down the tapestries of Bill from his walls, shoved the statues into the cupboards, took a knife and stabbed it into the eye of the large painting overlooking his room.

The eyes seemed to follow him, to watch him.

He’d been betrayed.

He couldn’t let it end like this.

 

Stan sat in front of the TV. His shoulder ached from the bullet wound. The picture on the TV was fuzzy from the bad weather. The sound clicked and popped, and the rain still dribbled down the windows.

He’d been sitting on his ass for two weeks, now. Two weeks. He… he thought that Rick would be back by now.

But he wasn’t.

His chest felt empty. He was as bored as he was emotionally weak. He had bedsores on his butt. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d sat on his ass so damn long. Maybe never?

This had to end. He hadn’t seen Ford in a couple days, he figured it was time to go check on him. He had meant to go to the store, since they were close to running out of food, but he had no car to get into town. He should get a job, since money from Ford’s grant was starting to run out but… no car.

Fuck.

Stan sighed and heaved himself up from the easy chair. There was a permanent imprint of his butt on the cushion. Seemed like it was his chair, now. He dragged himself over to the door to the basement, pushing the questions of “ why? ” and “ what’s the point? ” and “ what am I even doing? ” from his mind.

He slouched his way down the steps, then he cringed when he heard crashing and crunching. When he entered Ford’s workshop, his brother looked wild-eyed and manic. The place was in ruins. Machine parts were everywhere, the walls were wrecked, and his notes were ripped to shreds. Ford never destroyed his notes. Never. Something must be very, very wrong.

Aside from the obvious, in any case.

Stan stopped dead in his tracks, shocked by the sight. “Whoa! Sixer, you okay?”

“Fine!” he said breathlessly. He picked up a rainbow prism and smashed it on the floor. “I-I made a mistake! A big mistake!” He shuddered. “Oh, Stan… it’s… it’s all my fault!” He sank to the floor, seemingly unaware of the broken glass that was scattered around him.

“Ford, watch it!” Stan grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed him into a chair. “What’s…”

“The portal! Bill! Fidds! Rick!” Tears ran down Ford’s face. “I messed up! I made a horrible mistake, and it cost us so much!”

Stan’s throat was tight. “What do you-”

Ford pushed Stan away. “You need to leave! You need to get out of Gravity Falls! Th-this place isn’t safe! I-I have to fix this!”

“Ford, I ain’t goin’ nowhere. ” Ford tried to push him away, but Stan still had size as an advantage. “ You’re going to go upstairs. I’m gonna sweep up this glass, then I’m gonna make you a decent meal. You’re gonna shower, eat, and sleep. Get it?”

Ford tried to protest, but he hung his head. He didn’t have the energy to argue. He looked barely strong enough to stand. “... Alright.” He sniffled, then he shuffled up the steps miserably.

Stan grabbed a broom to sweep up the glass shards, then he made the mistake of looking out the observation window at the portal.

It was dark, but the safety lights still cast it in an eerie glow. Stan used to think it looked promising, like one of Rick’s cool sci-fi inventions that made life fun or easy, but now it looked… creepy. Dark. Upsetting.

Stan’s throat felt tight. He never wanted to look at the thing again, he should-

Wait. What was that?

There was a little sparkle of green on the floor. Stan finished sweeping up the shards, left the observation room, and walked down the steps, towards the portal. His footsteps echoed in the strangely quiet basement. With no machines running, no nerds talking, and no noise from upstairs, he could hear the scratches of the rats and the flutter of moth’s wings near the bright white lights. Their shadows danced on the walls.

The portal gun lay on the floor, scattered into pieces. Stan gingerly picked up the parts and held them in his large hands. A tiny spark of electricity zapped his finger when he touched the parts.

Maybe… it could still work?

Stan found a cardboard box, then he scoured the room for every tiny bit he could find, every piece of wire, every fragment of glass. He gingerly placed them all in the box, then he hid it under his bed upstairs.

Maybe he could fix this.

He went back to the kitchen and made Ford eat a whole bowl of soup.

Chapter Text

Smoke hung lazily over the bar. It was fairly quiet, only a few life forms were in there playing pool or drinking booze. It was a nice decompression from the last whole week, which had just been partying, music, and sex nonstop. Every bone in Rick’s body was sore, and even though his mind was still fuzzy from drugs, he was intent on playing a game of chicken with his liver. Birdperson and Squanchy sat on either side of him.

“Hey, Rick,” said Squanchy, holding a glass of whisky in his paw. “You don’t look that squanched to be here, if you know what I mean.”

W-what? You kidding?” Rick forced a big laugh. “I’m always squanched to roll with you guys!”

“Squanchy is right,” said Birdperson. “You appear to be unwell.”

“Pfft, I-I dunno what you’re talking about!” he said, waving them off.

“You’re full’a shit,” said Squanchy.

Birdperson eyed him inquisitively. “Does your state of mind have anything to do with the fact that Stanley isn’t here?”

Stanley? ” Rick spat. “No! Fuck him!” He slammed back the rest of his whisky. “I-I never wanna see his face again! L-let’s go get riggity wrecked, motherfuckers!” He jumped up from the bar stool. “I’m ready to roll!

“Rick,” said Birdperson firmly. “You haven’t slept in three days. It is my understanding that your species cannot function without sleep.”

“Fu-fuck sleep! Sleep is for the weak!” He yawned. “Let’s go par- tay!

Squanchy hopped off of the bar stool. “Rick, as much as I love squanchin’ with ya, you look like shit .”

“An astute observation,” said Birdperson, “albeit metaphorical.”

Rick staggered away. “C’mon, guys, I don’t gotta-”

With a hawk like screech, Birdperson seized Rick by the shoulders and flew out the door and off into the night with Squanchy on his back.

AUGH! ” Rick flailed, kicking wildly. “Let go! B-B-Birdperson, th-this ain’t cool!”

“I do not care if it’s cool, Rick,” said Birdperson, “your species needs rest, or else you will perish.”

“W-w-well maybe that’s what I want, huh?!” shouted Rick. “Ever thunk of that?

Neither Birdperson nor Squanchy replied to that.

 

The motel room had three twin beds, a shower, a toilet, and a TV. There was some unidentifiable viscous leaking from the ceiling. Ugh. Neighbours.

Despite his protests, Rick had crashed out on one of the beds as soon as he hit the blankets. Squanchy wasn’t far behind, he fell asleep on his stomach with the TV on.

Birdperson’s species didn’t require as much sleep. After he got his usual four hours, he sat up and kept careful watch over the quiet room.

Something was wrong with Rick. As much as he hated invading his friend’s privacy, he had to know what happened between him and Stanley.

Rick had been so goddamn happy when Stan was around, Birdperson hardly knew what to think of it. Yeah, he was still the same guy, but it seemed like the good parts of his personality were illuminated, while the bad parts all but disappeared. He loved Stanley, and Stanley loved him back.

What the hell had happened?

 

Rick woke the next morning with a sour taste in his mouth. He groaned as he sat up and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his palm. Sunlight shone in through the window, and he had a wicked headache.

“Good morning, Rick.”

Rick squinted over at the other bed. Birdperson was roosting comfortably on the pillows. “Oh. Hey B-Birdperson. W-what time is it?”

“Past two o’clock,” he said. He picked up an orange from the side table and tossed it to him.

Rick caught it with one hand and dug his thumbnail into the centre to peel it. “Jeez. H-haven’t slept like that in ages .”

“I have a few questions,” said Birdperson.

“I-I can probably answer them.” Rick shucked the peel from the orange, broke it in half, and popped a slice into his mouth. “I-I am a genius.”

“Where’s Stanley?”

Rick stopped chewing. He swallowed hard, coughed, and wiped his mouth on the back of his wrist. “I-I don’t give a fuck . Th-that asshole is dead to me. Dead.

Birdperson tilted his head. “That is not what I asked.”

“Yeah? Well, tough.” He ate two more slices of orange and swallowed.

“Is he alright?” asked Birdperson. “Squanchy and I would both be upset if he perished. It would be nice if you could put those worries to rest.”

“He ain’t dead, ” snapped Rick. “He just made a fucking stupid decision!”

“I was under the impression that making stupid decisions together was more your specialty.”

“Not anymore.” Man, being sober sucked. He reached into his jacket pocket and drained his flask into his mouth before finishing his orange.

“You should drink water,” said Birdperson. “What stupid decision did Stanley make?”

Rick gripped the flask with sticky fingers. “H-his crazy brother made a machine… Y-you know how much I love playing God but this… this is… s-s-something really fucked up.” He shuddered. “I-I’ll spare you the details, b-but Lee… he chose death over me.”

“Death?”

“Th-th-the idiot is staying with his brother! ” roared Rick, hurling his flask at the wall. It smashed into a crappy motel painting and broke the glass. Squanchy woke with a start.

“What the squanch is going on in here?” he moaned as he sat up, his fur sticking up at awkward angles.

Nothing! ” Rick jumped from the bed and started pacing angrily, his fists jammed into his pockets. “Fucking nothing!

“I’m sure Stanley had his reasons for staying behind,” said Birdperson.

“Y-yeah, but… fuck! ” Rick kicked the bed. Pain spiked up his foot but he didn’t care. “I-I always knew this would happen! I-I always knew that he would choose him over me! I fucking knew it and I stayed and I lov-” He cut himself off sharply. He shook his head. “ Fuck him! Fu-fuck him and all his bullshit! Fuck Stanley Pines, fuck his fucking brother Stanford Pines for ruining everything, and fuck me for letting myself get even a tiny bit invested! ” He reared back and punched the wall. His knuckles bled, and he was reminded of Stanley. Fuck, every goddamn thing reminded him of Stanley!

He was crying. He wiped his tears away quickly. People from the next room were banging on the wall for him to shut up.

Rick was shaking. He retrieved his flask from the floor, ignoring the stunned silence of Birdperson and Squanchy.

“I-I’m gonna go blow up a planet or something.” Rick saluted as he shut the door behind him. “ Ciao.

 

More parties, more booze, more drugs. Days blurred into weeks which blurred into a month and a half. He made inventions, got in fights, sold guns for cash that he blew on booze and drugs. It was cyclical.

Then he met her.

He’d always had a bit of a thing for redheads.

“Come here often?” she asked, twirling a long lock of hair around a carefully manicured finger. She leaned against the bar her pleated skirt showing just enough leg to be enticing, bordering on slutty. Her hair was pulled back with a headband, her lipstick was a neutral shade, but her foundation was just slightly off-tone with her skin. She was a lower-middle class lady trying to pass for upper-middle class.

“J-just passin’ through,” he said. Fuck, she was hot. Her tits strained at her shirt, making the buttons on her blouse pucker.

Rick had no idea what the hell he was doing in an upscale place like this flirting with girls who were obviously the church-going type, trying to pickpocket rich assholes like Sta- some asshole had taught him.

“Is that so?” she said coyly. She eyed up his piercings, his leather jacket, his skull belt buckle. Yep, she was after a bad boy. Not looking for anything serious, just a good time.

Well, Rick was more than happy to oblige. With a cocky smirk, he bought her a drink.

A drink turned into making out in the bathroom, which turned into a weekend hookup at her apartment, which was just as well since Rick had been sleeping in a rather artful construction of boxes and bathmats behind the Walmart.

It was fun. He was distracted. Whatever. It was fine.

One weekend bled into more, and it became a thing where they’d meet every Friday night. Turned out, Becky was an alright gal.. He didn’t talk to her much aside from dirty talk. Her eyes always glazed over anytime the words “quantum”, “physics”, or even “science” were involved. She was happy to suck his dick, he was happy to get his dick sucked, he bummed food off of her while he tinkered with inventions and made cash on the side, everybody wins.

But something had to throw a wrench into the mix, didn’t it?

 

“W-what the fuck am I looking at, here?” Rick held a little plastic stick in his hand and squinted at it. “S-some kind of thermometer?”

Becky rolled her eyes and folded her arms. “For a genius, you sure can be an idiot. It’s a pregnancy test .”

Rick’s heart damn near stopped. He held the stick gingerly with the tips of his fingers, like it was a dead thing. “Oh?

“I’m pregnant, Rick.” She snatched it back. “It’s yours.”

Rick squirmed. This was not in his plans, oh god it was not . Fuck, this could not be happening. “ Fuck .”

“Is that all you have to say?” she demanded, fists clenched. “I tell you some huge news and all you have to say is fuck?

Rick had a sick feeling. This wasn’t going to end well for him. “Uh… w-well, I know a guy who can get us an appointment at the clinic to… take care of it?”

“Oh, no!” She put her hands on her hips. “I’m not getting rid of it! It’s our baby, and I’m going to keep it.”

“B-but Beck-”

Rick, ” she snapped. “I can’t have a child out of wedlock.”

Rick jumped to his feet. “I-I never agreed to this! I-I ain’t exactly fatherly material!” He had a brief thought of the stupid axolotl that some asshole had insisted was their son, but he shook that thought out of his head. “Look, Becky, I ain’t-”

Rick, sit down! ” she screeched.

Rick’s knees wobbled. He slowly sat on the couch. His throat felt tight.

“I’m not getting rid of it!” she said, wrapping her arms around her stomach. Tears were in her eyes. “I don’t want to! You can’t make me kill my baby!”

He tried to reason with her. They couldn’t go through with this. “B-Becky, it’s not a baby, it’s a-”

“I can’t be a single mom!” she cried, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Rick, you have to take responsibility for the life you helped create! It’s just as much your baby as it is mine! You can’t do this to me! I love you!”

Rick was feeling sick to his stomach. It was hard to breathe. “Becky, l-listen, I…”

“Come on, Rick. I want to do this with you.” Becky took Rick’s hand and held it to her belly. “I’ll take care of the wedding and everything. You’ve gotta find a job.

“A… job?” Ew , he hadn’t had a job since… ever?

“So you can take care of your family, dummy!” she said, patting his hand. Her tears were completely gone, her eyes hardly even red. “You can’t just sell your weird gizmos, anymore. We’re a family now, which means you have to take care of us.” She sighed. “This is going to be so wonderful! Oh, my parents will be so thrilled that we’re starting our own family , I can’t wait to tell them!”

Family.

Rick sighed and pulled his hand away. Just three months ago, his family had been a ramshackle mix of like minds, unlike minds, weirdness, adventures, and genuine love.

This, what was standing before him right now… this wasn’t the kind of family he wanted. Nevertheless, it’s the kind he’d earned.

“I-I’ll marry you,” he said at last.

Becky wasn’t the person that he wanted to say those words to.

Chapter Text

Fiddleford was doing pretty great, if he did say so himself. He’d started a little get-together therapy group that met on Thursday afternoons at lunchtime, he’d taken to hanging around the Gravity Falls museum, and things were going just swell. Super. Fantastic.

It was… weird, though. His life now revolved around the memory gun and the Thursday club, but there were... gaps. How had he ended up in Gravity Falls? Last he could recall, he was down in Palo Alto. Somehow, he’d wound up in Oregon and hey, he supposed that was okay.

These red robes were super comfortable. It was way easier to help the vulnerable citizens of this town forget the strange things they’ve seen under the cover of cloak and hood, faces hidden from prying eyes that watched from the trees.

They were doing good work. They were doing the right thing. There were terrible things that happened around this sleepy town in Oregon, things that people wanted to forget. He had a good routine, and he was sticking to it. Things were great. Just. Great.

Then, something happened.

He was living in a motel room. Not ideal, but he was still trying to sell his evil-psycho-dinosaur-dragon-dragonfly-monster-robot invention. Full disclosure, it was a pretty hard pitch to sell.

There was a knock on the door of his motel room.

Fiddleford stood from his desk, hid the memory gun in the drawer without closing it all the way, and answered the door.

The man standing there in the rain looked… familiar. Rain dripped down his face, his coat was soaking wet, and he looked like he was barely able to stand.

“Fiddleford,” said the man. His glasses were speckled with water droplets. “I… is everything okay?”

Fiddleford furrowed his brow. “I’m sorry, have we met before?”

The man’s eyes went wide. “Um… yes?” He pulled back his hood and tried to step inside.

“Oh, no you don’t!” Fiddleford braced himself against the doorway. The man before him was big, and he could theoretically shove past him if he wanted to, Fiddleford just hoped that he wouldn’t. “I-I demand that you tell me who you are!”

The man’s eyes were wide with horror. “F-Fidds? I-it’s me!”

“Stranger, if you don’t tell me who the hell you are, I’m gonna call-”

“Okay, okay!” The man held up his hands, a gesture of peace. “I’m Stan! Stan Pines! Can you let me in? It’s pouring.”

Fiddleford narrowed his eyes. He slowly let the door open, and this Stan guy stepped inside. He shut the door behind him, shook the rain off and pulled his hood down. His hair was sort of greasy, and it was getting long in the back.

“So, um…” Stan kicked his feet. “What have you been up to, Fiddlenerd? How’re things?”

“Don’t call me that,” said Fiddleford sharply. “How do you know my name?”

“C’mon, Fidds-”

Who are you and how do you know my name? ” he demanded.

Stan held up his hands again, trying to calm him. “I lived with you for three months! People tend to figure shit like that out after a certain amount of time!”

The gaps. Why would he have erased this man from his memory? Well, he must have had a good reason. Better act like he didn’t know him.

“I’m very sorry,” said Fiddleford, “but I believe you have me mistaken with someone else.” He opened the door. “Please excuse me, I have work to do.”

Stan folded his arms. “Enough clowning around, Fidds. I come by to check up on you and you gimmie this shit? What gives?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Stan narrowed his eyes at him. He looked him over, taking in his slightly disheveled appearance. He glanced over at his desk, at the drawer that he hadn’t closed quite right. He walked over to the desk and opened the drawer fully.

Hey! Get away from there! ” Fiddleford threw himself at the stranger, but the man held him back easily with one hand.

“Easy, there, pal.” Stan rummaged through the drawer and produced the memory gun. He examined it, tongue between his teeth, turned his back to Fiddleford and pressed a few dials experimentally.

“Stop touching that!” Fiddleford tried to reach around him, but Stan was too broad-shouldered for that.

Stan examined the side of the device. Inlaid into the metal were the words, Fiddleford Computermajigs - Memory-Altering Device.

Stan stood stock still, jaw slack with shock. Fiddleford finally managed to snatch the gun back, and he brandished it at Stan.

“B-back away!” he said, his voice trembling.

Fiddleford was surprised to look into Stan’s eyes and see… hurt. Stan was hurt. Why? Fiddleford believed that if he’d erased him from his memory, he must be a bad person, but… he really didn’t know why he erased him… Oh, why did he do it?

“Fiddleford,” said Stan, his voice low and reassuring. “I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t plan on it. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.” He swallowed. “I’m worried about you. I’ve seen neither hide nor hair of you since… that day.”

That day? What day? What was he talking about? Why did he erase it? It must have been bad, he doesn’t want to remember…

“Stanford is-”

… him.

Choppy pictures flashed back into Fiddleford’s mind. Stanford Pines. Stanford Pines, Stanley Pines, the portal, falling into the portal with Rick Sanchez, that thing behind the portal, oh god! Oh god, oh no!

“No, no, no!

Fiddleford dropped to his knees, crushed under the weight of the memories and emotions that flooded back. His chest constricted, he could barely breathe. He was hardly aware of Stan coming up to him, gently prying the memory gun from his hand, and wrapping an arm around his shoulders.

Tears ran down Fiddleford’s cheeks. He didn’t have the strength to wipe them away. The shock was still crushing him. Stan mumbled soothing words to him.

“Shh, it’s okay,” he murmured, rubbing his back. “Just let it all out. Ain’t doin’ yourself any favours keeping that all bottled up in there.”

Fiddleford sniffled, wiped his nose on his wrist, and pushed Stan away. “I-I don’t want nothin’ to do with you, Stan. J-just leave me alone.”

“So you can do this to yourself?” he asked, waving the memory gun. “I don’t think so, buddy!”

Fiddleford panicked when he saw him carelessly wave the memory gun around. “Stan, don’t-”

“You made yourself forget!” he cried. “You forgot Rick and me! You forgot Ford! How could you? You can’t just opt out of a memory, that’s not how memories work!” His voice cracked. “How… how could you do this?”

There was a pause. Fiddleford tried to find the words for this man he barely knew.

“Isn’t there some stuff you’d like to forget?” asked Fiddleford weakly.

Stan stopped. He looked down at the memory gun. It was clear that he was thinking hard.

Fiddleford’s memories of Stan were all but nonexistent. He knew that he was rough around the edges, he was close with a guy named Rick, and that he was Stanf- His old colleague's brother... but that was about it. He had no idea what he would do, how he would react.

Stan looked up at Fiddleford. “Yeah, there’s some stuff I wouldn’t mind forgetting.”

Fiddleford brightened up. He reached for the memory gun. “Well, you’re in luck! I can fix that up for you in a jiffy! Just tell me what you don’t wanna remember, and poof! It’ll be gone!”

Stan didn’t hand him the gun immediately. “How can you remember us if you erased us?”

Fiddleford shook his head irritably. “You triggered the memories. This gun doesn’t really erase memories, it more-or-less breaks pathways between the memories and your frontal cortex.” He tapped his temple with a forefinger. “They’re still in there, but you just… can’t recall. I’m still working out the kinks, seeing if I can’t get rid of ‘em entirely. Just… h-hand me the gun, please.”

Stan didn’t move. He was still staring at the memory gun in his hand, partially outstretched as if to hand it to him.

“Yeah, there’s some stuff in my head I don’t like. Getting kicked out, sleeping in my car in the winter, being in jail…” He swallowed again, his mouth dry. “... s-selling myself…” His eyes were still glued to the memory gun. “Rick leaving…”

“Yes, exactly,” said Fiddleford. Stan had sold himself? Had he known that? He knew who Rick was, but he couldn’t picture his face… well, if he’d erased it, it was for good reason, so he should stop thinking about it. The less he considered it, the less would reemerge. “I can erase those memories for you, if you just-”

“But those memories,” he said slowly, “they… Even if they hurt, and they’re terrible, and they fucking suck, they still make me who I am. If I didn’t have those memories in my head, I’d be someone different.” He finally looked at Fiddleford. “What have you done to yourself, Fidds?”

Don’t call me that,” he said tartly. “I’ve made myself better, Stan. I… I couldn’t sleep at night! Those memories haunted me! You never saw what was in the portal! You’d want to erase your memories, too!”

Stan heaved a sigh. “Fidds, look at yourself. You haven’t shaved or showered in days. How long have you been wearing those clothes?”

Fiddleford scratched at his stubble. “That’s irrelevant.”

“It’s really not,” said Stan carefully. “Fiddleford, you’ve mutilated your brain. You’re not the man I knew. We should just-”

“I’d like you to leave. Now.”

“No, I-”

“Stan. Leave.

Stanley stopped. He let out a heavy breath, and he relented. “Alright, alright. I’ll go. Can’t promise I won’t be back.” He tossed Fiddleford the memory gun.

“Wait, no!” Fiddleford was sleep deprived. His clumsy hands missed the gun, and it smashed onto the floor of the motel room.

“Aw, shit!” said Stan, but he didn’t look too guilty.

Get out! ” shouted Fiddleford. “Get out, get out, get out!

Stan realized that he’d fucked up. He quickly stumbled towards the door. “Fidds, I’m sorry! But you really shouldn’t-”

Fiddleford slammed the door in Stan’s face, bolted it behind him, and leaned against the wood with a weary sigh. He slowly sank down onto the floor and rested his forehead on his knees.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat there. He tried to avoid thinking about Stan, his brother, the portal, or any of it, but it was kind of like trying not to think about pink elephants. The details were foggy, there were massive gaps. He still wasn’t sure of the exact nature of his relationship with Stan’s brother, but he knew that it hurt. Dear lord, he knew that he was hurt in more ways than one.

The hurt was crushing. It was smothering. He could barely breathe.

The smashed memory gun wasn’t the only one he had, but it was the only one he had on him. The other one was back at the meeting place of the Thursday club, locked up in a safety box.

He slowly got to his feet and started to pick up the broken pieces.

 

Time was weird. It blurred and fogged together strangely. Time passed, and he wasn’t sure how long it had been since he’d seen Stan. The weeks rolled by, the meetings of the Thursday club increased to every day, and his last way of keeping track of the days slipped away. He barely even noticed when day turned into night, anymore.

The Thursday club had adopted a better name: the Society of the Blind Eye. Stan’s brother’s obsession with the occult must have rubbed off on him for him to come up with a name like that.

Things were going well. Just great. Super.

“How’s everyone doin’ today?” he said in his typical chipper voice as he started up the meeting. They were sitting around a round table, wearing their cloaks and hoods, eating lunch. Fiddleford had a peanut butter sandwich and a thermos of black coffee.

There were a few murmurs of assent and “doing okay” before he continued. “Excellent! Well, I propose that we start off by goin’ over last week’s minutes, then we-”

“Sir, if I have permission to speak,” interrupted the fellow next to him. He had tattoos on his hands, and Fiddleford had glimpsed tattoos on his head as well. His skin was very pale. “I have a message for you from the rest of the Society of the Blind Eye.”

Fiddleford was taken aback. He put down his coffee. “Proceed.”

“After witnessing your… decline since the beginning of this organization,” said the man, “we’ve opted to vote for a new leader.”

What? ” Fiddleford said. “Y-you can’t do this! I created this society! I built it! Without my technology, you’re nothing!

“You started it, that we cannot deny,” said the man, “but your time is up. Please step down before we have to use force.”

“This is mutiny!” he cried.

“It’s progress,” he replied.

“Fine! Well, you can’t fire me! I quit!

“Fiddleford, we never said you’d have to leave the Society!” said another member from across the table.

“Well, it’s an ultimatum!” he said, jumping to his feet. “Good luck running this society without me! Goodbye! ” He grabbed his sandwich and his thermos and he stormed out of the meeting place.

“I vote myself as the next leader,” said the tattooed man.

The group immediately agreed.

“Yeah, sure.”

“Sounds alright.”

“Anybody’s better than that lunatic.”

 

Fiddleford armed himself. He knew that they would try and erase his memories of the Society, he knew they would. He would have to defend himself. His evil-psycho-dinosaur-dragon-dragonfly-monster-robot was coming along nicely, even if nobody would buy it. He’d use it as a weapon, as it was intended.

As he was scouring through his blueprints he came across a letter that he’d forgotten that he’d had. He felt his chest tighten with anxiety when he realized that he had no idea if he’d genuinely forgotten about it or made himself forget.

Maybe this memory gun wasn’t such a good idea, after all.

The letter was short.

Fiddleford,

Tate and I have changed addresses. We’ve not moved far, just across town. New address is on the envelope. It’s a bit closer to an elementary school, and right across the street from his future preschool. He’s two, now. You forgot to call for his birthday.

Things are alright, I guess. I’m sorry that I was so… well, I’m sorry for how I behaved last time you came to visit. I was just hurt and angry. You know how I get.

You broke my heart, Fiddleford. It was stupid of me to marry you. I knew that I was never yours. We both should have known better. I hope that someday we can forgive each other.

Our new number is written at the bottom. I haven’t heard from you for a while. Call when you can, I’m a little worried. Tate would like to see his daddy.

From,

Delilah

He remembered Delilah vaguely. He couldn’t recall her face.

Who was Tate? Was that… his son? Oh god, had he forgotten that he’d had a son?

In a flurry, he dug through his drawers and file folders and papers until he came up with a tiny photo album. It only had about five pictures in it, all featuring a chubby baby. One was a family portrait of the three of them. One was of the baby and himself. One was another family portrait, of him, the baby, and three men.

He recognized Stan.

He knew that the man with his arm around him must be Rick.

The man who looked like Stan… was Stanford.

“Stanford Pines.”

He hadn’t said that name aloud in what must have been months, but for him it felt like the first time.

Oh god, so many memories. The pathways in his brain were reforming, he could practically feel them buzzing in his skull. He remembered taking that photo. Stan had set up the camera and had raced back to stand with them before the flash went off. He’d broken a kitchen chair in the process.

He remembered holding Tate as he read bedtime stories to him.

He remembered watching TV with Stan and discussing a mutual taste in country music.

He remembered sitting across the table from Rick, each of them tinkering with their own inventions.

He remembered… Stanford. He remembered studying with him, spending nights talking with him, eating breakfast with him, working on projects with him, walking through the forest with him… kissing him deeply…

Oh god, this was hurting way more than he could have imagined.

He remembered killing zombies with the three of them, he remembered the alien party where Stan and Rick had stolen the glass “diamond”...

He remembered everything about the portal.

He sank to the floor, face in his hands. He couldn’t do this, he couldn’t face them. Oh god, what had he become? Stan looked awful now that he thought about it. He had no idea where Rick was, no idea if he was even on this planet anymore.

Stanford. He must be doing terribly, too. Fiddleford would never be able to face him like this, the way he was now, with a scruffy beard and a spotty memory. He wasn’t sure if he ever wanted to face him ever again. Not after what he did, what side he’d chosen.

He’d chosen Bill over him.

Fiddleford sniffled. He forced himself to stand, and he dragged himself over to the phone using all his strength. He spread the letter out on the table and dialled the number into the rotary phone. The sounds of the clicks and whirrs were soothing.

He waited as it rang.

Hello?

“Delilah, it’s me.” His voice sounded terrible. How long had it sounded that way?

Fiddleford! Oh my word, it’s been months since we’ve heard from you! I’ve been worried sick!

“I’m sorry, Delilah.”

What on Earth happened to you? I’d tried to report you missing, but the police wouldn’t take it seriously because we’re divorced and… Fidds, what happened?

“Something real bad, Delilah.” He dragged a hand down his face. “Fuck, I-I don’t even know where to begin.”

Where are you?

“I’m in a motel room. Been livin’ here for a few months, now.”

What? What about Stanford? I thought you were with him?

“He… we were working on a project. It went nuts, it was too big for us… Delilah, I-I’ve done some real bad stuff.” He wiped his tears away. His voice sounded choked. “I-I don’t know what to do, I-I’ve made so many mistakes… I can’t d-do this on my own…”

Fidds, you don’t have to. Come down to Palo Alto. You can stay with us while you get back on your feet.

“R-really?”

Really. Um, I’m livin’ with this fella Jacob, now. I hope you don’t mind.

“I don’t mind, it’s none of my business.” He paused. “Is he good to Tate?”

Yes, he’s real good to him. Reads him stories every night. Please won’t you come? You sound like you haven’t slept in a week.

Fiddleford’s head was still foggy. He had a picture of Delilah in his head from the photograph, but he had no idea how she dressed, he only had a few memories with her. Marrying her, the day Tate was born, and when she called to say that she’d be divorcing him.

The broken memory gun was sitting on his desk. He loved his son, that much he knew and he wouldn’t be able to love him properly if he couldn’t remember him.

It took every ounce of courage he had in his body to sweep the shattered parts into the trash bin.

“When can I come?”

Chapter Text

Ford had fallen asleep.

He hadn’t meant to, but he did.

His dreams were fitful, full of blood and screaming. He was drowning in numbers and equations. Maniacal laughter echoed in his head. He was sobbing, and his tears stained his clothes and hands red. He looked down at his hands, and they were mutilated. Instead of six fingers, he had five fingers on each hand plus a mangled stump where his sixth should be.

He screamed.

He woke up when he stubbed his toe on the table.

Yow! ” he hissed, dropping what he was holding to grab his foot.

The knife stuck into the hardwood floor.

Stan was in the armchair, and he was snoring. The TV illuminated the room with a blueish light.

Stanford gaped. His hands trembled. He touched his face and realized that blood was trickling from his eye.

Bill. He was still in his body, still able to control him. He had to break the deal, but he didn’t know how to do it.

All he knew was that he couldn’t go to sleep. Not now, not until he finally fixed this.

He pulled the knife from the floor, put it away, and went back down to the basement.

 

Stan was worried, and he had every right to be.

He was standing in the shower. It was the first shower he’d taken in days. When he was staring at his feet in contemplation, he’d realized that he’d lost weight. A rare occurrence.

Ford barely spoke to him. He’d barely surfaced for the last few months, and Stan had no idea what to do. It was hard enough to keep himself functioning, forget another person. It took every ounce of effort to cook supper and make his brother come upstairs to eat. All he did these days was shop for food, cook, eat, sleep, and watch TV.

He stopped telling himself that Rick would be back.

It took two months for them to run out of money. It was a few days before Christmas, and Stan had finally used up the last can of soup on lunch.

Ford was sitting at the table, staring at his hands. He had bags under his eyes, his hair was a mess. His shirt had sweat stains.

“Ford, how long has it been since you’ve slept?”

Ford yawned in reply.

Stan put the dishes in the sink. “Ford, we have no money. We have no food. What’re we gonna do?”

Ford shrugged. It didn’t seem like he was really listening.  “Doesn’t matter.”

Stan bristled with the frustration that’s been pent up for the last few months. “Doesn’t matter? Ford, we have no food! Without food, we will starve.

Ford pushed himself away from the table and mumbled something about combating dream demons, then he stumbled downstairs.

Stan sighed. He put on his coat for the first time in two weeks.

Time to go shoplifting.

 

It was a long walk into town. He missed El Diablo dearly.

The snow crunched under his feet. He pulled the hood of his coat over his head and jammed his hands into his pockets. The convenience store’s sign was a bright neon that hurt his tired eyes.

The warmth of the store was a relief compared to chill of winter outside. Stan was a little bit nervous. It had been way too long since he’d tried to pull off a crime by himself, even a small one.

He put a few candy bars in his pockets, and two cans of soup. He knew that he looked like a shifty character, but if it came to it he could run. Well, theoretically he could run. He hadn’t done much more than sit around on his ass for two months.

Hey!

Stan froze. He slowly turned to see the little old lady who ran the store standing by the counter, her arms folded.

“Hey,” he said gruffly. “Something the matter?”

She paused then she squinted at him. “I think I recognize you.”

“Um, maybe, I dunno.” He could have kicked himself for that terrible answer.

“Hey, yeah!” A woman with an updo and bright blue eyeshadow grinned at him. “You’re that mysterious science guy who lives out in that spooky cabin in the woods!”

“Uh, no, sorry, that’s my brother,” he said, pulling the strings on his hood to cinch it around his face. “I-I don’t know nothin’ about science, heh.”

“You look so alike, you must be twins!” she said with a laugh.

“Y-yeah, we sure are. Good guess.”

“What kind of shenanigans do you get up to, there?” she asked with a wide grin. She had lipstick on her teeth.

“Well, um-”

“You know, I’d pay top dollar to have a look at that place,” she said.

“Oh yeah,” agreed a nearby teenager with dark skin and freckles. “I’d love to see what creepy things go on up there!”

“No kidding!” added his tall, thin friend. “I heard it’s haunted!

“It could be,” said the old woman behind the register. “Lord knows enough strange things happen ‘round these parts!”

“Do you give tours?” asked the woman with the updo.

Stan got an idea.

“Well, as a matter of fact, I do!” he said, pulling down his hood and beaming a smile at the patrons of the store. “Today’s your lucky day! Drop by the spooky old cabin in the woods and I’ll show you what’s inside on our new… uh… spooky old cabin tour!  Ten bucks a pop! Wait, did I say ten? I meant twenty!”

His eyes lit up when he saw the people reaching for their wallets.

 

Ford was downstairs, and Stan prayed that it was going to stay that way.

“Welcome to the spooky cabin in the woods or whatever!” he said with a grand flourish of his arm. He had nothing prepared, nothing he could easily produce, but he had a hundred and sixty bucks, three chocolate bars, and two cans of soup in his pockets so there was that. “Take a look around!”

There were small murmurs in the tour group as they looked around the room. Blueprints were piled up on the kitchen table, there were some little gizmos still left out by Rick and Fiddleford that he hadn’t dared to touch. Tanks of strange liquids burbled on the counters way too close to his coffee pot. The notes were pinned to the walls that were covered in everything from shopping lists to the spell that was use to summon the zombies. A skeleton that he was pretty sure was fake stood in the corner with its jaw slack and gaping. There were dirty dishes in the sink.

“Hey, what’s this?” The woman in the updo poked at one of the little inventions that Fidds had left behind.

“Uh…” Stan wasn’t about to tell her that it was a device that mimicked raccoon noises, that didn’t sound sciency enough.

Ow! ” A spark from the machine zapped her face. “My eye! ” When she opened her eyes, one of the lids didn’t quite open all the way.

Shit. “I-I can guarantee you that’s in no way permanent!”

“This is a load of bull!” she said, planting her hands on her hips. “I want my money back!”

The murmurs of the tour group grew, sounding disapproving rather than curious. Stan panicked.

“Well, uh, you guys had better be careful in here, or you’ll end up like the last tour group!”

“Oh?” she said, sounding irritated.

“Oh, yeah!” Stan looked around, grabbed the skeleton, one of Fiddleford’s ugly patterned shirts, and Rick’s novelty glasses that he thought were funny. After a quick assembly, he turned and showed off his masterpiece. “They never made it out alive! ” He wiggled his fingers in what he hoped was a spooky way.

The shirt and glasses looked better on the skeleton than they did on his friends.

The lady laughed, despite the twitch in her eye.

Stan grinned.

“What on earth is going on up here?”

Stan turned. Ford was standing by the door to the basement, looking partway between baffled and enraged.

“Oh! Hey, Stanford!” Stan waltzed up to his brother and threw an arm around his shoulders. “Presenting the mysterious science guy in the woods: my brother!”

A few people oohed and clapped. One person snapped a polaroid.

“Stanley, what’s the meaning of this?” he asked. “Why are these people in my house?”

“Hey, I live here, too!” he hissed under his breath. “They’re paying for tours . You know, with money.

Stanford shoved him away. “Money! That’s all you care about, isn’t it?”

Stan was so not having a fight in front of his tour group. “No,” he said through gritted teeth. “But seeing as we have no fucking food, my options were limited.”

Ford stopped. He blinked owlishly. “We have no food? Of course we have food!”

Stan rolled his eyes and jabbed a thumb towards the cupboards. “I tried to tell you, earlier! See for yourself, smartie. Alright, folks! Step right this way and I’ll show you wonders beyond your wildest dreams!”

Stanford waited until Stan had moved on from the kitchen to the living room to show off the taxidermied Jackalope before beginning his search through the cupboards. To his shock and surprise, it seemed like Stan was right. There wasn’t a speck of food in the house. Nothing in the fridge, nothing in any of the cupboards, even Rick’s alien snacks and Fiddleford’s secret stash that he thought Ford didn’t know about of molasses-related food had been nibbled down to nothing.

Stan was just doing what he had to.

He sat at the kitchen table and waited until the tour group had moved on.

“Ford!” Stan ran into the kitchen, waving a wad of cash. “I made a hundred sixty off of those suckers!”

“Don’t do it again,” said Ford.

“Okay,” said Stan. He was definitely going to do it again.

“You’re making a mockery of my work, Stan,” said Ford. “Of Fiddleford’s too. You can’t do this.”

“Uh, do you want money or not?” Stan waved the cash in Ford’s face. “Oh, also I have these.” He pulled the soup cans and chocolate bars from his pockets and dumped them on the table. “Oh, man.” One of the chocolate bars had melted and it was severely misshapen. “Gross. Anyways, giving tours of the house isn’t a bad idea! I need something to do, we need money to stay alive, and it’s dead simple!”

“Absolutely not,” said Ford. “You are not going to let people waltz in and oogle at the “mad scientist” in the woods!”

Stan heaved a dramatic sigh. “Well, sleep on it. You could use some of that stuff. You know. Sleep.

“I don’t wanna sleep.” His hands were shaking badly. “D-do you know what happened last time I slept?”

“Uh, you woke up and you were less of an asshole?”

“Stan.” Ford’s voice was hoarse. “Last time I fell asleep, I woke up standing over you, holding a knife.”

Stan’s heart plummeted into his stomach. “ What?

“Yeah,” he said. “Bill… he’s still in here. ” He tapped his temple. “I made a deal with him, he’s able to move in and out of my mind as he pleases.”

Stan scratched the back of his neck. “Shit. What are the terms of the deal?”

“I agreed that he could move in and out of my mind as he pleased… until the end of time.”

Stan groaned. “ Seriously? Were you born yesterday?

Wrong thing to say. Stanford seethed. He got to his feet. “I’m not an idiot Stanley! Bill was perfectly trustworthy until-”

“Until he duped you into building a doomsday device, helped you burn all the bridges with the people who care about you,” Stan was counting off on his fingers, “made you worship him like a god, and basically fucked us over and made everything terrible. Right?”

Ford clenched his fists. “Fuck off, Stan! You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about!” He stormed off downstairs.

“Oh, I don’t?” Stan followed him down the wooden steps. They creaked under his weight. “Come on, Ford. This fucking sucks. I’m tired of sitting on my ass and doing nothing!”

“Well, that makes one of us!” said Ford, storming past the labs, to the portal room. “I’ve been working my ass off to try and undo this! Do you want to help or not?”

“I do!”

The portal loomed at them. It was dark and foreboding. They were standing far too close to it for Stan’s comfort.

“Alright, then.” Ford opened his labcoat and handed him one of his journals. “Take this. I’ve hid the other two.”

“Your work?” Stan looked at the book he held in his hands. “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?”

“Remember our plans to sail around the world on a boat?”

Stan’s expression softened. “Ford, are you saying we should-”

“Take this book, get on a boat, and sail as far away as you can!” said Ford he turned his back to Stan and walked away. He gazed up at the portal, his hands folded behind his back. “To the edge of the earth! Bury it where no one can find it!”

“What? No way!” Stan clutched the journal until his knuckles went white. “I’m not about to abandon you! Listen, I’m sure we can just-”

“Stan, you’re not listening! ” Ford whipped around. “I’m dangerous! I almost killed you and you never even knew! My mind is coming undone!”

“Ford, I can’t-”

“Stanley, I’m giving you a chance do to the first honest, worthwhile thing in your life and you won’t even listen!”

Stan growled. “Well, listen to this!” He reached for his pocket. “You want me to get rid of this book? Fine! ” He pulled out a lighter and flicked it on. “I’ll get rid of it right now!”

No! ” Ford’s hand shot out to grab it away from Stan. “You can’t do that!”

Stan yanked it away from his grasp. “You said you wanted me to have it, so I’ll do what I want with it!” He held the lighter to the book. The edges of the pages singed black.

My research!

Ford tackled Stan. The lighter and the book flew off towards the corner of the room. Stan grunted when he hit the floor, Ford immediately lunged to get his journal back. Stan caught him by the ankle and he fell to the stone floor with a thud. Stan was on his feet, he grabbed the journal and he started to run for the door.

Ford threw himself against him again, and they slammed into the door for the controls room. Stan tried to throw a punch, but the bullet wound in his back twinged and Ford took the chance to try grab for the book. They lunged into the panels. Buttons and switches were pressed, and the console hummed to life.

“You’re gonna have to try harder than that, twerp!” Stan yanked the book away, and the two of them fell.

Outside the room, the portal sparked and sizzled.

Ford grabbed the book again, and the two of them were on the floor, trying to tug it away from each other.

“This stupid project ruined our lives!” said Stan, grabbing the book and trying to yank it away from his brother.

“You didn’t have to stay!” he shouted.

“Yes I did! You’re my brother! We’re supposed to stick together not push each other away!”

I’m trying to protect you! ” Ford planted his foot into Stan’s chest and kicked. Stan slammed back against the console.

There was a sizzling sound and the sick smell of burning flesh. Stan screamed.

Stan! ” Ford dropped the journal immediately.

Stan was shaking. Burned into his flesh, right on top of his bullet wound, was the sigil that was branded onto the side of the console.

“Stanley, oh my god, I’m so sorry!”

Fuck off! ” Stan punched Ford right in the nose.

Ford stumbled backwards out of the console room, blood pouring from his nose and down his chin. He fell against the lever mounted into the floor.

The portal was humming, now. The tiny pebbles on the floor bounced and shook.

Stan got to his feet. “I can’t believe this… you care more about that stupid machine and your dumb mysteries than your family!”

“I’m trying to make mom and dad proud!” he said. He wiped his nose on his sleeve, staining it red.

I’m not talking about them! I’m talking about you, me, Rick and Fidds!” Stan was crying, his voice was choked but he wasn’t about to stop. “We had something, we really had it! We had a family! Things were good! And you had to go and fuck it up!”

“I didn’t fuck it up!”

“Yeah, you did! Whose idea was it to build this monstrosity? Who ended up pushing everybody away? Who decided to even come to this godforsaken town in the first place?”

Ford took a tiny step backwards. His labcoat was lifted slightly, pulled towards the portal.

“You ruined everything! ” Stan cried.

Ford’s eyes were tearful. He tried to muster some kind of reply, but he forced himself to look angry and clench his fists. “I didn’t ruin everything!

“If you care about this damn portal so much, you can keep it!” Stan pulled his hands back to shove Ford.

He stopped. He looked up, eyes wide. The portal was on, how did that happen?

Oh god. Oh god, he had almost pushed Ford in! What was it that the old geezer version of himself had said? “ Don’t fight with your brother next to the portal ” or something? Holy shit, holy shit! That was so fucking close!

“Ford!” He pointed to the portal. “Get away from that thing!”

“What?” Ford gaped. How had he not noticed? He grabbed the lever and pulled it.

With a low hum, the portal switched off.

“That was… so close…” said Ford. His heart was hammering. “You almost…”

“I almost…” Stan felt sick. How many Stans had pushed their Fords through the portal? Too many, probably. “Ford, I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” He tried to raise his arms to hug him or slap him or something , but pain ripped up his shoulder. “Augh, shit! ” He fell to his knees.

“Stanley, your shoulder!”

“It’s… fine…” he grunted.

Stanford gently slipped his arm under Stan’s, pulling his arm over his shoulder. “Let’s get upstairs so I can patch you up.”

“Okay, okay… Alright.” Stan winced in pain. “Fuck, that stings.”

“I’m sorry, Stanley… I’m so, so sorry…”

“Yeah? Well, me too.”

The journal lay on the floor of the control room.

 

Stan’s shoulder was stitched up and bandaged. Again.

In order to help Ford sleep, Stan had strapped him down to his bed, tied his hands and feet to the bedposts so he was completely immobile. Even if Bill did possess him while he slept, he wouldn’t be able to go anywhere. Theoretically. Stan still locked his bedroom door and the window, just in case.

He sat hunched over the table in his room with a small toolkit and a desk lamp.

The portal gun sat on his table. Stan really and truly had no idea what he was doing, he didn’t have blueprints or anything. He’d seen Rick fix it plenty of times, but that was different.

Rick wasn’t here. He was on his own.

Stan sighed and hung his head. His new burn mark itched like you wouldn’t believe.

He missed Rick so much. He missed Fiddleford. He missed the way things were before.

Stan picked up the screwdriver and tinkered a little more with the portal gun. It sparked. He yelped and stuck his finger in his mouth.

He had to fix this.

Chapter Text

The wedding was in a week. Becky was starting to show a little bit, and between crowing about being a mother, all the new responsibilities, and whining that she was getting fat, Rick barely got a moment’s peace. The sex was still amazing, holy shit! That woman could press all his buttons in just the right ways, and she had a knack for picking out his favourite kinds of whisky.

Things were good.

After months of badgering and arguments that selling experimental inventions wasn’t a viable career, Rick was finally searching for a job.

He sat in the waiting room for his interview. His tie felt like it was choking him. He couldn’t stop bouncing his knee. After a twenty-minute battle with his hair that morning, he’d managed to comb it down somewhat . He’d also noticed that he was starting to go grey in the temples. That was new.

Stanley would have teased him for that and called him an old man.

Becky just gave a derisive sniff and made a comment about him lying about his age.

“Mr. Sanchez?”

Rick stood. His resume was held in his sweaty hands. What the fuck was he doing? He was Rick Fucking Sanchez, he wasn’t the type to go to interviews or apply for a job.

He walked into the office and sat down on the hard plastic chair across the desk from a pudgy man in a business suit. Everything about this felt wrong.

Rick passed the resume across the desk. “Hey.”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Sanchez,” said the man. “My name is Jason Thorne. How are you?”

“Fine, I guess.” He tried to curb the attitude, but his resentment still showed.

Jason looked over the resume, his brow pinched slightly. Rick didn’t exactly have many qualifications under his belt, so he’d lied his ass off on his resume. Maybe putting “certified scuba diver” on it was a bit over the top.

“Can you tell me what drew you to the position?”

“Money,” he said simply, then he immediately kicked himself. Fuck.

Mr. Thorne chuckled a little, but Rick knew that he didn’t find it funny. “I can see from your resume that you have past experience in sales. Care to elaborate?”

“Uh…” Drug sales? For sure. He couldn’t think up a quick enough lie on the spot. That was more Stanley’s department. “I-I’ve dabbled in a lot of stuff. I worked in retail.”

“Which franchise?”

“Uh… Walmart.”

Mr. Thorne hummed.

Rick was sweating bullets. He was taking too long with his replies, he knew that he looked like he was lying. This was a mistake, this was a horrible mistake.

“Can you tell me what strengths you have as a team player?”

He scratched his chin. “Uh… I-I’m usually a type who comes up with plans of action, b-but sometimes I can be cooperative with another person. B-but it’s hard for me to find a person I can stand being around for more than five minutes, forget work with ‘em.”

Mr. Thorne raised an eyebrow.

“I-I hate almost everybody I meet.”

Both eyebrows up, now.

Aw, shit.

Rick was sweating. “Uh, I mean, um-”

“What leads you to believe you’re qualified for this position?” asked Mr. Thorne.

“Easy,” he said, leaning back to put on the facade of being cool and relaxed. He kicked his feet up onto the desk out of habit. “I’m a genius. I-I can build a neutrino bomb in half a day. I-I once invented a type of lightbulb that runs on boogers.

“... Boogers?”

“Yep.”

“Well.” Mr. Thorne put his resume aside with a wan smile. “I think I have all we need. I’ll call you back in the next week.”

Rick pulled his feet off the desk. “Th-that’s it? But-”

“Thank you for your time, Mr. Sanchez. We’ll be in touch.”

“I-”

“Mr. Sanchez, there are other people waiting.”

“Alright. C-ciao.” Rick got to his feet and slowly walked out of the room.

He walked to the bus stop and pulled a flask out of his shoulder bag. He drained it into his mouth, ignoring the looks he got from other people at the bus stop.

He wasn’t looking forward to telling Becky how bad he’d bombed that interview.

 

He didn’t tell her.

“How’d it go?” she asked over dinner. Mashed potatoes, peas, pork chops.

“Fine,” he said with a shrug. “I-I’ll hear back in a week or two.”

“That’s nice,” she said, not looking at him. “Where do you want to go for our honeymoon?”

“Ho-honeymoon?”

“Uh, yeah!” She flipped her hair. “Babe, I’ve just been thinking about something.”

“W-what?” he asked.

“The way you talk. You seem to, um…”

“I-I seem to w-w-what?” he asked, gripping his fork.

“Stutter,” she said with a sweet smile, tracing her finger along the edge of her water glass. “You ever thought about taking classes so you could speak properly?”

Shame reddened Rick’s cheeks. He dropped the fork and took a drink of water before slamming the glass down. “I-I can’t control it, Becky! I-I-I’ve had to d-d-d-deal w-with this s-since I was a kid! D-do you know what it’s like goin’ to school, b-being someone like me? I-it’s fucking terrible! Th-those little shits will eat you a-a-alive! Ain’t n-n-nothin’ I can do to fix th-this, a-and I-I-I ain’t willin’ to shuck out the dollar to-”

Becky huffed and waved her hand derisively. “Alright, alright, jeez! Keep your stupid impediment, see if I care.”

Rick poked at his potatoes. The wedding was in a week.

 

The wedding was in three days. Rick was finally meeting Becky’s dad, who didn’t know that she was pregnant. Yet.

“So,” said Becky’s father. He had red hair like his daughter, a chubby figure, and a large moustache. “You’re the fella my daughter’s gettin’ hitched to?”

“Um, yep. Th-that’s me.” Rick hated this, he hated all of this, but he didn’t wanna pussy out like some kinda coward. It was too late, now. Not like he had any other options.

“You treat her well?” he asked seriously.

“O-of course.”

Becky gave him a simpering smile. Rick’s resentment towards her grew with every passing day. Sex only alleviated the feeling for a few hours, tops.

“You’re a lucky man, Rick,” said Becky’s father. “My baby girl is a hell of a woman.”

“Heh, sure.”

Under the table, she dug her fingernails into Rick’s thigh.

“Ow! I-I mean, she sure is.

She smiled again, and linked their fingers together.

Rick’s palms were sweaty. He knew he was making a mistake, but he had an even bigger feeling that something was very, very wrong. He could fix this, make it so they didn’t bicker as much. When he’d bickered with certain other individuals, it was fun and it always ended in laughter, play wrestling, or some kind of adventure, sometimes there was sex. With Becky… they would just snip and snipe at each other until somebody was yelling, and it would either end with him sleeping on the couch or fucking her brains out and falling asleep without touching each other.

It didn’t have to be this way. He had time. The wedding was in three days.

 

The wedding was tomorrow. Rick still didn’t have a job. It was the rehearsal.

Well, it was after the rehearsal. Every atom of Rick’s being was screaming at him to stop this, but every time he’d tried to bring up the idea of, say, not getting married to Becky, she’d have none of it.

You want me to raise a child on my own! ” she’d say.

You can’t even take responsibility for your own actions! ” she’d say.

I love you, don’t you love me? ” she’d say.

Rick took a long pull of whisky.

“Heya, Rick! What’s squanchin’ ‘round here?”

Rick whipped around and grinned with relief. Birdperson and Squanchy were standing at the door to their apartment, where the afterparty was being held. Everybody in the wedding party stared at the two strange newcomers in shock. Becky looked more surprised than anybody.

“Squanchy! BP!” Rick jumped to his feet and walked to the door. “How’re you fuckers doing?” He ignored how quiet the room got, aside from the frightened whispers.

“My time in the last few months has been acceptable, but we have been concerned about your wellbeing, Rick,” said Birdperson.

“It’s just not as squanchy without you around,” said Squanchy, offering his paw for a quick shake.

Rick slapped it, grinning. “I-it’s just great to see you guys! Y-you’re gonna be here tomorrow for the wedding, right?”

“I would rather fly an armada into a dying star than miss your union, Rick,” said Birdperson with as close to a smile as he ever got. “However, I would not be able to call myself a true friend if I did not voice my concerns.”

Rick frowned. “W-what’re you talking about, BP?”

“Why are you marrying this female?” asked Birdperson. “What about Stanley?”

“Birdperson’s got a point, Rick!” said Squanchy. “How long has it been since you’ve seen Stan?”

S-Stanley? Fuck him! I-I don’t need that wise-ass! I’ve got all I need right-”

“Honey?” Becky came up behind him and grabbed his arm. “Who’re these… two?”

“Becky,” said Rick. “This is Birdperson and Squanchy. O-old friends, w-we go way back. Th-they’ll be joining us tomorrow!”

“That’s nice. Is it alright if I steal you for a quick sec?” she asked, gripping his arm tightly.

“Uh, yeah, sure. G-guys, j-just hang tight?”

Rick let himself be pulled away from the party and his friends, towards the back corner, almost completely out of sight. They were right by the radiator.

Becky pouted, folding her arms over her chest. Her white rehearsal dress was very low cut. “They can’t come to the ceremony,” she said firmly.

Rick frowned. “W-why not? I-I’m not inviting anyone else, w-what’re two guests gonna-”

Don’t talk back to me.”

He took a deep breath. “Becky, I-I’ve hopped through dimensions, travelled the galaxy, and d-done unspeakable things with those two. They’re the only friends I got! Th-there’s only two of ‘em, we can just-”

“Rick, they simply won’t fit in with the rest of the party,” she said firmly. “They’re… weird . My dad won’t like them, and for god’s sake, they look like some sort of aliens!

“That’s because they are, just-”

“Don’t interrupt me!” she snapped, poking a finger hard into his chest. “They are not coming!”

Rick clenched his fists. “Becky, for fuck’s sake, I-”

Whap!

She’d slapped him, right across the cheek. She looked apologetic immediately afterwards.

“You shouldn’t swear at me, Rick,” she said sweetly, looking very sorry for what she’d done. “I don’t wanna hit you, you just weren’t listening to me!”

Rick touched his sore cheek. He didn’t say anything at first.

“Tell them they can’t come,” she said, reaching up to cup his face. There was gonna be a bruise there. “They can visit some other time, okay?” She gave him a soft kiss, then walked back into the party.

Rick’s hand stayed on his cheek. He walked back to the front door.

Birdperson’s eyes were wide. Squanchy looked horrified.

“Rick,” said Squanchy. “What the hell is-”

Rick laughed. “ Women, a-amirite? S-sorry, guys, there’s no room for you two. Y-you can swing by a week or two after and we can do a guy’s night or something? S-sound alright?”

“She hit you,” said Birdperson quietly. “Stanley never did that.”

Lee ain’t here! ” snapped Rick, his blood boiling. “And sure he did! W-we fuckin’ brawled on the ground, sometimes! Fists, teeth, blood, the works! One little slap ain’t gonna th-throw me off!”

“This is different, and you know it,” said Birdperson.

“I-I’m sorry, but you guys gotta go.” Rick held the door open for them. “I-I’ll see you ‘round, yeah?”

Squanchy gave Birdperson a side glance before they walked out the door.

When he closed it behind them, he cut off a snippet of their conversation.

“I am very concerned about Rick,” said Birdperson.

Squanchy let out a sigh. “Jesus, does Stan know that he’s-”

Click.

The wedding was tomorrow.

 

The wedding was today.

Rick stood at the altar. Becky was all smiles beside him. He remembered his vows, but he noticed how she frowned when he stammered and stuttered.

“You may kiss the bride.”

It was all a blur. Becky still tasted good, still felt good in his arms when they danced. He drank plenty champagne and she drank juice.

At dinner, Becky stood to make an announcement.

“I’m pregnant!” she said with a huge grin.

There was applause and shouts of congratulations from her family. Someone tapped a fork against a glass.

Rick stood and smiled, and he kissed her.

She still tasted good, still felt good in his arms.

The flavour was starting to get a little bit stale.

Chapter Text

Fiddleford carried another box of gadgets and gizmos out to the car. He’d showered and shaved, he wanted to look at least a little presentable for Delilah, but his clothes were still sweaty and wrinkled. He hadn’t eaten in a day and a half, but he’d put on deodorant that morning. Baby steps.

He used a bungee cord to tie the trunk shut. He leaned against the car with a heavy, forlorn sigh. It was a cold day, and he kept his hands jammed deep into the pockets of his slightly too thin jacket.

He was leaving Gravity Falls. He’d grown awfully fond of this little town. The people were kind, the atmosphere suited him quite nicely, and he’d almost come to appreciate the strange little quirks that the town had.

… He could do without the supernatural elements, though. If he never saw a ghost, a gnome, a gremloblin, or a cosmic horror from beyond the stars ever again for the rest of his life, it would be far, far too soon.

Fiddleford’s head was still a little foggy. The memories were muddled and they melded and mushed inside his skull until he couldn’t tell what was real and what he’d fabricated. He knew who Stanford was, he knew the gist about what had happened, but so many memories were missing. Every now and again, he would see something, hear something, or smell something, and it would bring back a specific memory that would make him feel sick with hurt.

He couldn’t handle this pain. He wasn’t handling it. He’d tried to repair the memory gun, but his hands had trembled and shook. He put the broken pieces in a box and shoved it into the back of his car.

He planned to fix it. He wasn’t sure how much more of this he could take.

“Fidds?”

Fiddleford turned at the sound of a familiar voice. Stan Pines was standing before him once again and… oh Christ, he looked way worse. The bags under his eyes had darkened, his hair was greasy and long, and his shoulders were slouched. He had a slight smile painted on, but it didn’t reach his eyes and it was obviously forced.

This wasn’t the man he had known, who was boisterous, loud, rebellious, and full of life. It was a hollow, sadder version. A carbon copy that had been soaked in the rain.

Fiddleford wanted nothing to do with him. Moreover, he wanted nothing to do with his twin brother.

“Hi, Stan.” Fiddleford looked away. “I ain’t really interested in talkin’ to you.”

“Not even for a minute?” he asked, stepping a bit closer. “I… I walked all the way over here and everything, you could at least indulge me for a minute or two.”

“You… walked?” Fiddleford furrowed his brow, trying to think. Last he recalled, Stanley had a car… didn’t he? Yes, he was sure of it, he had a car. “What about your car?”

Stan kicked his foot in the dirt. “Rick stole it when he left.”

“Oh. That’s… unfortunate.”

Stan looked slightly hurt at his disinterest, but he pushed on regardless. “Where are you going?”

“Down south. Back to Palo Alto.” He fished his car keys from his pocket and held them up for him to see. “It’s none of your business.”

“I… okay,” said Stan hesitantly. He scratched the back of his neck. “I just wanted to check up on you. Weird things’ve been happening and-”

“It’s Gravity Falls,” he said tartly. “Weird things are always happening.”

“Not like gnomes n’ shit,” said Stan. “Like… people in hoods. I mean, Gravity Falls has lotsa weird magic, but I ain’t never heard of no cults -”

Fiddleford swallowed. He felt sick. “Stay away from them,” he said shakily. “Lock your doors at night, bar your windows.”

“Wh… why?”

“Just do it, okay?” said Fiddleford. He stepped up to the car door and fit his key into the lock to open it. “I gotta go.”

“Fidds, wait,” said Stan, putting his hand on the door. “Hear me out for a sec.”

Fiddleford paused, keys still in his hand. “Why? Whatcha gotta say?”

“Ford’s not doing great,” said Stan seriously. “Bill’s possessions… they’re hurting him.”

A wave of apprehension and anxiety crashed over him at the name Bill. Memories he didn’t know existed popped up at the name or returned to haunt him with their colour, everything from drawings he’d seen in Stanford’s books, to the horror he’d seen beyond the portal. It took all his willpower to remain standing and not sink into the ground and curl up into himself.

He shook his head and said, “Stanley, I can’t-”

Stan looked desperate. His eyes were wide and wild. “Just a visit before you leave, it would-”

No! ” he said loudly. He wrenched the door open. “For my own sanity, I can’t!

“Ford misses you,” he said plaintively, “he worries about you. He wants you back.”

Fiddleford paused, hand on the door. “He… told you these things?”

Stan couldn’t meet his eyes. “... Not with his words.”

“... Bye, Stanley. Don’t talk to the people with the cloaks and hoods.” Fiddleford climbed into the car, shut the door behind him, and started the engine.

Stanley tapped on the window with a forefinger.

Against his better judgement, Fiddleford rolled down the window. “Yes?”

Stan hung his head, defeated. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his dirty coat. “Good luck, Fidds. It’s not just Ford who misses you being around.”

“... I miss you too, Stan,” said Fiddleford. “But… I-I just can’t.” He put his hands on the steering wheel. “Stay safe, okay?”

“... Okay. Safe travels.” He stepped away from the car. “You have our number.”

“Right. Thanks.”

Fiddleford cranked up the window and drove away. He couldn’t help looking at Stan in the side mirror as he pulled away from the curb.

He looked so… lost.

 

It was a short drive to the edge of Gravity Falls. Frost and snow still covered the trees and the road was slick. Fiddleford couldn’t wait to leave, he never wanted to drive past Greasy’s Diner, the Northwest Manor, or Gopher Road ever again. He wanted to close this chapter of his life and forget about it forever.

Seems like the town had one last trick up its sleeve before he was free of it, however.

There was a police car parked by the edge of the town, next to the billboard that said “ Welcome to Gravity Falls ”. As Fiddleford drove by, well under the speed limit, it switched on its sirens and followed after him.

Fiddleford exhaled hard through his nose in exasperation and reluctantly pulled over.

The police car pulled up behind him, and the officer stepped out. He had his thumbs in his belt.

Fiddleford cranked down the window halfway and put on his best “ I’m just tired, not crazy ” smile. “Mornin’ officer. What can I do ya for?”

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” he asked sternly. His moustache was somewhat intimidating.

“Um, no,” said Fiddleford. “I believe I was drivin’ well under the speed limit.”

“I got a report that a car of this description was stolen,” said the officer. “Would you mind stepping out of the vehicle?”

Fiddleford had a strange feeling about this. He tried to open the door, but it jammed. “Dangummit…”

“Sir, step out of the vehicle,” said the officer with a hint of testiness in his voice.

“I’m tryin’, ” he said, exasperated, jostling the door handle. “Lousy ol’ car…”

He glanced up. It was then that he saw more people in the rearview mirror. Dark shapes approaching him.

Fiddleford snapped his neck around to look out the back window. The figures with red hoods stood by the police car.

He realized that he recognized the officer’s voice from the Blind Eye meetings.

He saw the memory gun in the officer’s hand. He twisted the knob on it, and it clicked as it spelled out the words “ Society of the Blind Eye ”.

“We can’t have you blabbing about us,” said the cop firmly. “That’s not in your right.”

Fiddleford panicked. He slammed his foot on the gas and pulled out as quickly as he could. The tires squealed on the pavement and kicked up dirt behind the vehicle as it tore out of the pullout and back onto the highway. He was driving over the speed limit this time, but he had to get away, and he had to get away fast.

The sirens approached him from behind, and he did something stupid and dangerous. He reached into the toolbox that was sitting on the passenger seat, pulled out a handful of screws and nails that cut into his hand, and tossed them out the open window, onto the road.

There was the loud bang of a ruptured tire, and Fiddleford knew that he was safe.

His palms were slick against the steering wheel as he drove away, and his heart pounded in his throat. He felt like he was going to throw up.

If the door had opened properly… if he hadn’t seen the society members in the mirror… if he hadn’t had those nails beside him…

Well. No point dwelling.

He rolled up the window and turned on the radio. He drove straight through to California without stopping.

 

After some searching and driving in circles, Fiddleford found the right address. The little car rolled up into the driveway of a quaint little house that looked almost like the old one he’d lived in with Delilah, but a little taller and a little narrower. There was a neat little hedge fence, and the grass was still green. When he stepped on it, he realized it was astroturf.

It was late at night, and he knew he looked awful. His clothes were sweat-stained, he was hollow-cheeked, and he had little nicks on his jaw from a shaving mishap. It took every ounce of strength he had to walk up those three steps and knock on the door.

It was a quiet tap, but it opened almost instantly. It was a man he didn’t recognize, tall, tanned, and broad-shouldered.

“Hello,” said Fiddleford miserably. “Is… does Delilah live here?”

“Are you Fiddleford?” The man had a Spanish accent.

“Yes, I am.”

He gave a sympathetic sigh. “You look a mess. Come in, come.” He held the door open for him and motioned for him to come inside.

Fiddleford shuffled past the doorway and found himself being guided into the kitchen. It was quaint and brightly coloured. Delilah sat at the table with a cup of tea. The table had a checkerboard cloth over it and a little vase with a few daisies in it. She didn’t look surprised to see him.

“Hey,” she said gently, as though she was afraid her voice would startle him. She stood and took a mug down from the cupboard, pouring hot water from the kettle into it and dropping a teabag into it. “How’re you doing?”

Fiddleford slumped down into a chair and rested his elbow heavily on the table. “I’ve… been better. Delilah, I’m so sorry, I can’t thank you enough for-”

She put the tea in front of him. “It’s the least I can do. Drink up, but don’t burn yourself. It’s hot.”

“Thanks,” he murmured.

“I’m Jacob,” said the stranger. He sat down at the table. “You’re certainly a sight for sore eyes.”

Fiddleford huffed out a humourless laugh. “You don’t gotta tell me that.”

“Fidds…” said Delilah, sitting down next to him. “What happened between you and Stanford?”

“It’s… complicated,” he said lamely.

“I got time.”

“I don’t know how to explain it for you. There was an experiment, I said we should stop it… he insisted we continue. He started gettin’ distant, then… oh god, I must sound crazy, but I’m pretty sure that man tampered with forces beyond what humans were meant to touch!” He put his face in his hands. His shoulders were shaking.

“I miss him so much,” he mumbled into the heels of his hands.

“Shh,” said Delilah, touching his shoulder gently. “It’s okay. Drink this tea, get some sleep, and we can talk ‘bout what we’re gonna do in the mornin’. Alright?”

“I… okay.” Fiddleford took the mug in his hands and let it warm his palms. He let out a deep sigh, trying to exhale the stale air in his lungs. “I can’t believe I’m back here.”

Delilah sighed. “Tate’s gonna be real happy to see you. He came back from his visit with y’all babblin’ bout the weirdest things I ever heard. Somethin’ ‘bout Meeseeks.”

“I’m baffled ‘bout that, too,” he said. He laughed, unable to help himself.

Delilah tapped a manicured nail against her lip. “Also somethin’ ‘bout… god, it was real weird… “meatsacks” or something? It was very odd, would you know anything ‘bout that?”

Fiddleford felt sickened when he heard that. His head felt dizzy. He fought to keep his expression neutral, but the concern on Delilah’s face told him that he failed.

“Is… everythin’ alright?” she asked tentatively.

“No,” he admitted. He let out a heavy sigh. “I need to sleep.”

“Of course. The couch is made up for you.”

Fiddleford felt overwhelmed with gratitude. He drank another sip of tea.

“I’ll let you alone, Fidds,” said Delilah. She stood and touched his shoulder as she walked past. “Sleep well. We’ll talk ‘bout what’s gonna happen in the morning.”

“Alright. Thank you.”

Jacob stood and waved his way out of the kitchen. “Goodnight, Fiddleford.”

“... Goodnight.”

He heard giggling as they went up the stairs. He sighed and finished his tea. He put the cup in the sink and went to the living room to sleep on the couch. There was a quilt and a pillow on it for him.

He kicked off his shoes and collapsed onto the makeshift bed. He was sound asleep within minutes, despite his aching joints and the anxiety that welled in his chest.

He dreamt about triangles.

Chapter Text

The house hadn’t looked better in weeks. The carpets were vacuumed, the garbage had been taken out, dishes washed, floors swept and mopped. The entryway had been transformed into a wonderland of taxidermied creatures, weird science experiments, and whatever oddities that Stan could build with his own two hands. It wasn’t much, but he could charge a solid twenty bucks a tour, and he had some corny t-shirts for sale that he’d screen-printed himself that said “ What’s the heck’s in Oregon? ”. He’d had to destroy the “Flesh Curtains” print he’d designed months prior. He didn’t regret it.

He’d made pamphlets and stuck ‘em in the stores, the post office, the motel, and the local restaurants and bars. The tours weren’t big, but he gave them once a day at three o’clock. They pulled in money, and they were sitting fairly pretty. Stan actually cooked at least one meal a day, and he forced Stanford to come up and eat with him, whether he liked it or not.

Stanford was… not bad, actually. He stayed up at odd hours, he was jittery from coffee, and and he still thoroughly disapproved of Stan parading people through the shack for money. However, he’d managed to make himself some kinda weird hocus-pocus sleeping draught and he’d been eating and showering regularly, so things were alright.

Ford’s time was almost entirely focussed on defeating Bill, but he had time for other stuff too. He’d discovered two new anomalies in Gravity Falls, and Stan had sworn that if he brought one more weird monster thing into the house, he was cutting off Ford’s coffee intake.

It was evening. Stan sat at his desk, tinkering with the portal gun. He’d replaced the bulb on top, fixed the wiring, and had reassembled the case. It was looking pretty good.

He thought about testing it out, but he wanted to take it outside. Just in case it, y’know, blew up.

Just as he was descending the stairs, there was a knock on the door. Stan was surprised, since it was almost ten o’clock on a Wednesday night. He opened the front door.

“B-Birdperson?” he asked, wide-eyed.

“Stanley.” Birdperson stood there, stoic as ever. His feathers looked ruffled. “I have come to ask you whether you have been in contact with Rick, lately.”

“What…? No, I-I haven’t talked to him since…” He looked away. It had been months, but it was still painful.

“Oh. I see. I suppose you don’t know, then.”

“... Don’t know what?” he asked warily.

“Rick is married.”

Those three words felt like a blow to the chest. It was like a cross between hearing terrible, awful news, and hearing something so impossible it was hysterically funny. He huffed a laugh. “Yeah, right. Nice try, BP, but you can’t get anything past this noggin!” He knocked his knuckles on his head.

Birdperson’s expression remained impassive as always. “I am not lying, Stanley. Rick has been married. His wife is six months pregnant. I am concerned for his welfare.”

Stanley couldn’t believe his ears. “... He’s gonna have a baby?” Rick did not do well with kids, he was so confused, this couldn’t be happening-

“I can see that you are upset,” said Birdperson. “May I come inside?”

“I… of course, come in.” Stan opened the door and stepped aside.

Birdperson wiped his boots on the welcome mat. “Thank you for your hospitality.”

“Anytime, man.” Stan shut the door. “Want… something to drink?”

“It has been a while since we have become inebriated together.”

“Whiskey?”

“Agreed.” Birdperson’s gaze travelled down to Stan’s hand. “Is that Rick’s portal gun?”

“Um. He left it behind.” Stanley walked into the kitchen, Birdperson on his heels. He poured two glasses of whiskey, sat down, and passed one to his guest.

“I see,” said Birdperson. He took the whiskey tumbler, knocked back the drink in one mouthful, and delicately replaced the glass. “I suppose he has not needed it, since he appears to have settled down.”

“Why would you think that Rick’s been in touch with me?” asked Stan, deliberately ignoring the fact that Rick had “settled down”. He couldn’t believe it. “Rick” and “settling down” aren’t two things that appear in the same sentence. He sipped his whiskey.

“I have not been able to contact him for some time now, not since the night before his wedding.”

The reality of this was starting to sink in. It still felt like a dream. “Wedding. Holy shit, you’re not kiddin’?”

“I would not kid about this to you, Stanley. Rick has been married for quite some time, now.”

Stanley shook his head. He was hurt. It felt like somebody had carved a gaping hole in his chest. He wanted to scream until his throat hurt and sob his eyes out at the same time. What he really wanted was to punch a hole in the wall, but he wasn’t about to do that. He didn’t wanna explain the hole to Ford.

He scratched at the burn mark on his shoulder.

“Stanley, are you alone? I thought I heard voices.” Stanford stopped at the top of the stairs down to the basement. “Who’re you?”

“Birdperson,” said Birdperson.

“One of Rick’s old friends,” said Stan.

“Oh. Yes. Rick.” Ford looked better than he had a few months ago. His sleeping had been sporadic at best, but due to Stan’s idea of tying him to the bed, he’d been getting at least six hours a night. “Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” said Birdperson. “I have heard a great deal about you.”

“Oh?”

“Not all of it was good.”

“Oh.”

“Anyway,” said Stanley, avoiding Stanford’s accusatory glare, “what brings you to our neck of the woods? Just here to break the bad news?”

“What bad news?” asked Ford, filling up a whiskey tumbler for himself.

“Rick’s married,” said Stan. It didn’t even sound real to him.

Ford dropped the tumbler. It shattered on the floor.

“Shit! Sorry!” He grabbed a broom to sweep up the shards. “Are you serious?”

“Yes,” said Birdperson. “I was merely stopping by to see whether you two had heard from him.”

“No, nothing,” said Ford. “Why?”

“I have not heard anything from him, either,” said Birdperson. “I am extremely worried about him.”

“I don’t give a shit about him. He can go be domestic with some bitch. I don’t need him.” He slammed back the rest of his whiskey tumbler and stood to refill his glass from the bottle on the counter, leaving the portal gun on the table.

“Stanley? What’s that?” asked Ford, eyes wide.

“It’s Rick’s,” said Stan. “I… I have no idea if I fixed it.”

“You had that this whole time?!” cried Ford. “Why didn’t you tell me?

“You had enough on your plate,” he said gruffly. “Didn’t wanna bother you with it.”

“Does it… work?”

“No clue.” He refilled his glass. “Gonna try it out.”

“But what if it explodes or-”

“I was gonna do it outside! ” he said, exasperated. “Jeez. Don’t worry. I’m not a complete idiot.”

“I am worried about Rick,” said Birdperson again. “I was not permitted to attend his wedding.”

“What?” Stanley stopped, setting the whiskey bottle aside. “But you’re one of his oldest friends. Wouldn’t he want you there?”

“Yes,” he said, “but his wife…” Birdperson trailed off uncharacteristically.

Stan had a sick feeling in his stomach. It mixed with the hurt and anger he felt towards Rick, making him feel like he wanted to throw up. He didn’t dare guess at what Birdperson was going to say.

“Stanley,” said Stanford as though a brilliant idea had come to him, “do you think we could use the portal gun to get rid of Bill?”

“How?” he asked. “It’s just a teleportation device.”

Stanford fixed him with a tired look. “He’s been in my head for months. It’s been all I can do to contain his power, keep him from controlling my body with spells. I want him out . This might be a solution.”

“If this works,” said Stan slowly, “I think I know a place where we can go.”

Birdperson fluffed up his feathers. “What about Rick?”

Stanley hung his head. “Rick doesn’t want a damn thing to do with me, and I don’t want anything to do with him. I can’t go after him right now, BP. I gotta look after what I can, first.”

Birdperson nodded slowly. “I understand. I will attempt to contact Rick again.”

“Tell him that if he doesn’t show up with my car, I don’t wanna see his ugly mug.” Stan had meant it almost jokingly, but he could tell that Birdperson was taking him seriously. Well, it seemed like he was. It was hard to tell with him. “Or. Y’know. Whatever.”

“Whatever,” agreed Birdperson. “I am sorry that you do not wish to speak with him.”

“He broke my heart, man,” said Stan. “It’s been half a year, and I haven’t heard a damn thing from him. He can go fuck himself.”

“You surely do not mean that?”

Stan didn’t. He missed Rick. He missed Rick like he’d missed Ford. He couldn’t bring himself to say anything. He tucked his hands into the pockets of his jeans. They were clean, they’d been washed two days ago.

“I will watch you test the portal gun,” said Birdperson, “and I will call the local hospital if you are injured by an explosion.”

“Thanks, BP. You’re a pal.”

Birdperson picked up a loose piece of paper, scrawled something on it, and left it on the table. Stan ignored it for now.

Stan picked up the portal gun. “Alright, Sixer. Let’s go test this baby out and see if we can’t get Bill outta your brain somewhere out there in the multiverse.” He walked outside of the house at a brisk pace. It was springtime, and the mud sloshed under Stanley’s shoes.

“M-maybe I should look at it before you test it,” said Ford, trotting after him. Birdperson stood next to him on the porch.

Stan glared at him. “I don’t give a shit that you’re a genius, Ford. You only work offa blueprints. Rick doesn’t work like that.”

“But-”

“Look, Sixer. I’ve seen Rick fix this thing a million times before. I’ve spent the last half a year studying it. Trust me.”

Stanford closed his mouth and nodded.

Stan faced the dark forest. Seven months of work had amounted to this moment. He stood in front of The Murder Hut, as he had dubbed it much to Stanford’s distaste, pointed the gun away from the house, and pulled the trigger.

It sparked and popped in his hand, burning him, and he cried out and dropped it. Nevertheless, a green ball of light shot from the end of it, and swirled in an oval before him. It shone a strange green glow on the grass and mud around them, and it illuminated the forest with its ethereal light.

Stanford held his breath. Birdperson looked the same as always, although maybe his eyes were just a bit wider.

Stanley picked up the portal gun with a shaking hand and approached the swirling green vortex. It looked… almost the same as before. The edges were wobbly, and it had a slightly blueish shade. He closed his eyes, braced himself, and stuck a hand through.

His fingers went cold immediately, but they didn’t seem to be damaged. He retrieved his hand. Everything appeared to be fine.

Careful, Stanley! ” called Ford from the porch.

Stan flipped him off, but he didn’t put any feeling in it. He closed his eyes, held his breath, and stuck his head into the portal.

He waited.

Nothing happened.

He opened his eyes.

He’d spun it to a random coordinate, somewhere on Earth. It was shockingly cold, it stole the air from his lungs. There was white snow and ice as far as the eye could see. He laughed when he saw a penguin waddle by.

He’d done it. It worked.

Stan whooped and pulled his head from the portal as it disappeared. “It worked! Holy Moses, it worked!

“It did? ” cried Ford, leaping down from the steps. His feet skidded in the mud. “How?!”

“Easy,” said Stan smugly. “I’m a genius!”

Ford looked baffled. He took the portal gun from Stan’s hand, slid the side panel open, then shook his head.

It’s made from a macaroni box! ” he said, tapping at the cardboard on the inside that concealed the wires. “ How is this thing functional?!

“Hey, Rick liked to use what he could find,” said Stan, taking it back and closing the side up. “Simple tools can make wonderful inventions, no? I think we need to pack some bags. I know where we should go.”

“Where?” he asked, flabbergasted.

“It’s a surprise,” he said with the widest grin he’d worn in months. “We’re gonna fix you up, Sixer. I ain’t gonna let some one-eyed triangle asshole bounce around in your head any longer!”

“I-I need to grab my things!” said Ford. He turned to run back inside, slipped on the mud, and climbed up the steps before bolting through the door.

“I will be back,” said Birdperson. He stretched his wings. “Take care, Stanley.”

“Bye, BP!” Stan was too ecstatic to think about Rick any longer, even though using his portal gun was making it impossible to forget about him. More to the point, where they would be going would make it really impossible to avoid thinking about him.

“I left something for you on the table.” Birdperson stepped off of the porch, wings outstretched. “Please reconsider your position on Rick.”

“Okay, fine.” It had been seven months since he’d seen him, maybe closer to eight. Things had changed. “But if he doesn’t have my car, I’m gonna be pissed .”

“If I am able to speak to him, I will inform him of this.”

With a screech, Birdperson flew off into the night.

Stan ran back into the house and scribbled a sign on cardboard that said “ON VACATION” and taped it to the front door of The Murder Hut. Fuck, he needed a new name. At least twice cops have dropped by to see whether he was causing trouble.

He ran up the steps to his room, slipping because of the mud on his shoe and catching his knee painfully on the step, and burst into his room. He shoved clothes and what flurbos he had left into his duffel bag.

Stan Junior swam happily in his tank. He hadn’t been very active in the last few months, and Stan knew for sure that this poor thing should really be dead by now, for how well he took care of him. He kept meaning to upgrade his living quarters to a big tank, there was enough room in the living room for it.

He grabbed the small tank and took it with him. He didn’t know how long they would be gone. Stan Junior seemed to like being carried, judging by how he flared his funny little gills. Or maybe he was mad. Who knows?

Stan went back to the kitchen. He could hear Ford bumping around downstairs, talking animatedly to himself. He loved how excited he seemed to be. He hated that the portal was still in their basement.

A paper on the table caught his eye. It was Birdperson’s note.

7934 Lakeford Road

Muskegon, Michigan .

Michigan? What the hell was Rick doing in Michigan? Why wasn’t he out making chaos in the galaxy’s worst joints? Why wasn’t he out breaking the law and getting high? Why was he raising a family in fucking Michigan?!

Stan felt rage course through his veins. He felt hurt, and he felt betrayed. Had the time they spent together meant so little? Rick had been away from him less than a month and he decided to get married to some floozy?!

He had to confront him. He had to demand an explanation. Maybe he’d get a good punch in. Serves that asshole right for breaking his heart.

“Ready to go?” Stanford had a shoulder bag and a briefcase, both of which were bursting with scientific equipment and other supplies.

“I’m ready.” Stan shoved the paper in his pocket and hefted his bag over his shoulder. “Let’s go.”

They walked out of the house. Stan locked the door behind him. Ford wasn’t to be trusted with sharp objects, lately. Not even keys.

Stan still held the portal gun in thick, sweaty fingers.

Ford took a deep breath. “So… do you know who can help me?”

“I can find someone who can hook us up.” Stan examined the portal gun. “Well, I know somewhere where we can find someone, more like.”

Ford didn’t really understand, but he wasn’t about to argue. He was wearing a huge grin on his face. He looked tired, but oh so relieved.

Stan fiddled with the dial on the portal gun. It wasn’t as smooth as it had been before. The buttons needed to be pressed hard in order to accomplish anything. It clicked and hummed, sticking slightly as he punched in the coordinates.

The portal shot out. Stan took Ford’s arm and pulled him through the portal.

They stepped out into a strange place. The ceiling was high, the floors were tiled, and identical people bustled every which way, each one of them with wild hair that was so familiar it made Stan’s heart ache. In front of them, there was an exact duplicate of the house, but it was a little older, and it had a different sign above the front door.

Welcome to the Shack of Stans! ” the sign read.

Chapter Text

The Shack of Stans looked exactly like the house. It looked a little older, a little more weathered and battered up, and there was a gaudy sign on the roof that read “SHACK OF STANS” in enormous letters, and a few cartoonish arrows pointing towards the front door reading little snippets like “ What wonders are beheld inside?! ” and “ Come on in if you can ‘STAN’d your own company! ”.

“I think this place might help,” said Stan, relishing the flabbergasted look on Ford’s face.

“W-w-what is this place?” he asked, mouth flapping open like a fish out of water.

“Its my little corner of the Citadel of Ricks, where all the Ricks in the multiverse hang out. Well, I guess I could say it’s our little corner.” He chuckled at his own bad joke. “C’mon, let’s see if anybody is in there.”

He walked up to The Shack of Stans, pushed the door open and was greeted by Bartender Stan, who he recognized from before. How was it that he could recognize the guy, even though he was identical to himself and the infinite other Stans that were out there? More importantly, how was it that the guy could recognize him?

“Hey, it’s Axolotl Stan!” said Bartender Stan. “Long time no see, pal! Oh, looks like you got company!”

Stan hefted the little tank in his hand and jabbed a thumb at Ford. “Yep, I got a couple tagalongs, tonight.”

“Nice to see you livin’ up to your namesake, buddy,” said Bartender Stan with a grin when he saw Stan Junior.

The only other person there was Gargoyle Stan, who didn’t look too chuffed to see him. He didn’t look too chuffed about anything, really. He gave a two fingered salute and huffed before turning back to the newspaper he held in his enormous claws. At the top of the paper it was labelled “ BREAKING NEWS IN THE MULTIVERSE! ”. He picked up a pebble from a small bowl, popped it in his mouth, and chewed it into dust.

“Quiet night?” asked Stan, taking a seat at the bar. Stanford stood behind him, eyes flicking back and forth between the three Stans, unsure what to do.

“Yep,” said Bartender Stan. “I’m curious. Why’d you bring a Ford here?”

“It’s an emergency,” said Stan.

“Where’s your Rick?”

“He’s… married.”

Gargoyle Stan hissed through his teeth sympathetically. “Shithead. He knows that we’re better than fucking Becky , but there are so many Beths out there that it seems like he can’t get it through his fucking head.”

“... Beths?” asked Stan, not liking the sound of that in the least.

Bartender Stan poked his tongue into his cheek. “... Rick’s gonna have a daughter.”

Stan couldn’t wrap his head around that. Rick Sanchez, whose daughter was Beth Sanchez. Did he know his baby was gonna be a girl? Does he have a name picked out already? Would she look like him or the mother?

Stan shook his head. He couldn’t think about that, now. He had to help Ford.

“You alright?” asked Bartender Stan.

“I’d like to avoid talking about Rick, for the moment,” said Stan tersely. His hands were shaking, why were his hands shaking? “I need to help my brother.”

“Alright, alright,” said Bartender Stan. “What brings you ‘round these parts?”

Stan jabbed a thumb at his Ford. “ Somebody made a deal with a certain triangle-shaped piece o’ shit. Know anyone who can fix him up?”

“Not really my specialty,” said Bartender Stan regretfully.

“This place is incredible! ” said Ford. “Infinite parallel universes? Stan, why didn’t you tell me that you met your alternate selves?”

“I think I did,” he said. Stan was sure he did. He’d brought it up at least once, hadn’t he?

“Oh,” said Ford, sounding a little upset. He sat down at the bar next to Stan, looking crestfallen as he realized that his mind was coming apart. “Maybe you did.”

“You look rough, pal,” said Bartender Stan sympathetically. “Want a pint?”

“I would,” said Ford wholeheartedly.

“Y’know,” said Bartender Stan as he poured a drink. “I think I know someone who might know someone who could help you guys out, y’know?”

“Who?” asked Stan. His hand rested on the fishtank. Stan Junior floated serenely, blinking slowly in the slightly murky water.

“Portal Stan,” said Bartender Stan. “He’s been halfway through the multiverse n’ back. I reckon he could find someone to help you lot out.”

“Probably,” said Stan, thinking that a guy like that must have connections. “Know where he might be?”

“Last I checked,” said Bartender Stan thoughtfully, “He was here in the citadel. He usually hangs out here when he’s recuperating from tryin’ to find his home dimension. Stick ‘round the bar long enough and he’ll come around eventually.”

“Think we can persuade him to help?”

“It’s probably your best shot, short o’ finding your Rick,” said Bartender Stan with a shrug.

Stan would rather chew his own toenails than go talk to any Rick, so he made himself comfortable on the barstool.

“Is there a version of this… “Shack of Stans”... for other Fords?” asked Stanford. Stanley could see the gears turning in his head as he thought of the possibilities. He decided then and there that a room full of Fords would be a very bad idea.

“Never seen it,” said Bartender Stan. “Only Fords know where the Hall of Fords is located, allegedly. You guys have a thing for secrecy for the fun of it. You’re gonna have to bump into another Ford by chance. On the other hand, the Fiddleford House is much easier to track down, you just gotta ask ‘round.”

Stanford’s face pinched, and Bartender Stan realized that was a sore spot for him.

“Sorry, man. ” He took the beer and refilled it for him. “You guys have had a rough time of it, lately.”

“You could say that,” said Stan.

“Well, get comfy and settle in,” said Bartender Stan. “TV in the next room is showin’ the Pocket Morty’s battles, right now. I don’t condone it, but sometimes it’s fun to watch.”

“Cool, thanks.” Stan vaguely remembered that Morty kid, and that felt like a kick to the chest. He was Rick’s grandson. How’d he get a grandson if he didn’t have a kid in the first place?

Fuck, he was stupid. If he’d been smarter, he could’a seen that coming a mile away.

Stan didn’t drink. He was sick of drinking, even as Ford finished off his second pint. He tried to think of what he was gonna do next, if Portal Stan never showed. He might have to go talk to a Rick, after all. He’d be willing to put up with it for Ford’s sake. He couldn’t live with some nutcase bouncing ‘round in his skull any longer. He let his hand rest on the axolotl tank and he absently drummed his fingers while he turned over different ideas in his head.

Stan Junior stared up at him with wide, doleful eyes. Stan got a slight bittersweet feeling when he looked at the strange little salamander. He poked his finger against the plastic tank.

Stan Junior put his tiny webbed hand over Stan’s finger.

Stan gave a long sigh and let the tension go from his shoulders. He wasn’t as angry with Rick as he was. Maybe he could forgive him.

Y’know. Maybe.

Loud, heavy footsteps echoed through the Shack, and the front door slammed shut. “Any good drinks ‘round these parts?” asked a voice, gruff and familiar.

Stan pivoted on the stool. Portal Stan, prosthetic arm and all, stomped his way into the bar. He looked pretty rough, his beard was growing in grey and he had heavy bags under his tired eyes. Dried blood spattered his clothes.

“Hey!” said Stan, trying to sound more cheerful than he felt.

Portal Stan gave him a cold look. “Am I s’posed to know who you are?”

“I think we’ve met before,” said Stan lamely. “Can I ask you-”

“Jesus, let me get a drink first b’fore you go jumpin’ down my throat.” He hopped up to the bar, ordered a shot of whiskey, and knocked it back with one swallow. He wiped his mouth on his wrist and shot Stan a sidelong glance. “Waddaya want?”

“Help,” said Stan honestly. “Listen, my brother made a deal with-”

“I’m gonna stop you right there.” Portal Stan pointed to Stanford. “Is that a Ford?

“He’s my Ford,” said Stan testily, “And he’s-”

“Fords aren’t welcome here,” said Portal Stan. He slapped the counter in lieu of politely asking for another whiskey. “Go ‘way.”

“Easy,” said Gargoyle Stan warningly.

Portal Stan shot him a glare.

“Hey, man,” said Stan, holding up his hands passively. “We’re all friends here. I just wanna ask if you’d know anyone who could get Bill Cipher out of my brother’s head.”

“He deserves it,” said Portal Stan bitterly.

Excuse me? ” asked Stan. Ford looked insulted, but he managed to keep his mouth shut.

“Fords are all alike,” said Portal Stan, glaring down at Stanford, who clung to his empty beer glass. “Self-centered, don’t give a shit ‘bout family, only put people in danger. They ain’t worth it.”

“That’s enough,” said Stan. He got to his feet and stood toe to toe with Portal Stan. “I wanna help my brother. Bill’s been tormenting him for months, now! Lookit!” He gestured to him.

Ford looked in sorry shape. His hair was greasy, he had bags under his eyes, and his skin looked sallow from lack of sun. He couldn’t keep his hands still.

“You sure you wanna waste your time with this dipshit?” asked Portal Stan skeptically. “Why don’cha go hang out with your Rick?”

“That’s not gonna happen anytime soon,” said Stan firmly.

“Oh. It’s like that , is it?”

“Ford’s all I got, right now. C’mon, be a pal. I’ll owe you one.”

Portal Stan raised an eyebrow as he mulled over the possibilities. Stan really didn’t care for the sly look on his face, but he’d already accepted his fate.

“Fine,” he said. “Just know that if I show up at your place sometime, on the run from some kinda fuckin’ galactic police or whatever, you brought it on yourself.”

“Nothin’ new there, pal,” said Stan. “You gonna give us directions or not?”

“You’re gonna wanna see this person called Jheselbraum,” said Portal Stan, tracing the rim of his whisky tumbler with a finger. “Gotta notepad?”

“Um, yes.” Stanford a pad of paper and a pen from his pocket and tried to hand it to Portal Stan.

Portal Stan eyed it suspiciously. He shot Ford a withering glare. He didn’t take them from his hands.

After letting the silence hang for a few long moments, Stan took them from his brother and clicked the pen. “What’re the coordinates?”

“Dimension Omega-527021, colloquially known as Dimension 52.” Portal Stan snatched the pad and pen and scribbled the information down. “Her name’s Jheselbraum the Unswerving, but from what I know, you’re not gonna find her.”

“Oh,” said Stan, grabbing the pad back. “Then why’d you bother?”

“Would ya let me finish?” snapped Portal Stan. “I was about to say that you won’t find her. She’ll find you.

“Cryptic,” said Ford. “I like it.”

“I didn’t ask you,” he snapped. His red-rimmed eyes flicked back to Stan. “She’s butted heads with Bill before. Most folks have. If anybody can help you get that three-sided jackoff outta your head, it’s Jheselbraum.”

“Can we go right now?” asked Ford quietly.

“Yeah.” Stan pulled a few bucks out of his wallet and paid Bartender Stan. “Thanks, you guys.”

“Whatever,” said Portal Stan. “Get me another whiskey.”

“Come back anytime,” said Bartender Stan as he poured Portal Stan another drink. “Hope you guys are doin’ alright.”

“Can’t complain, I s’pose,” said Stan with a shrug. He picked up the axolotl tank as carefully as he could, trying not to jostle Stan Junior. He had two friends in this world and one of them was a salamander.

Portal Stan’s eyes widened when he noticed the axolotl. “Is that what I think it is?” he asked with slight reverence.

“It’s a salamander,” said Stan.

Portal Stan leaned in, squinting at Stan Junior as he floated in his tank, tail slowly waving back and forth. “Seems like a Snarxian Axolotl. See the little spots behind the gills? The extra toes? These suckers are rare.

“I won him at Blips and Chitz.”

Portal Stan let out an appreciative whistle. “Hang onto this little guy. He might come in handy.”

“His name is Stan Junior.”

Gargoyle Stan let out a bellowing laugh. “ Ha! Best name ever!”

Stan tucked the tank under his arm, chuckling. “I’ll see you guys ‘round, yeah?”

He gave a half-hearted wave as he and Ford stepped outside of the shack. As the door shut behind him, he could hear a few other Stans in the TV room cheering on “Reverse Mermaid Morty”, whatever the heck that was.

“This is bizarre,” said Ford wonderingly. His steps were slightly uneven due to the rapid alcohol consumption, but he seemed much less on edge. “So… Dimension 52?”

“Yep.” Stan pulled out the portal gun. “Hold this.” He handed Stan Junior’s tank to Ford, and he input the coordinates that Portal Stan had given him.

Stan was curious about his pet axolotl, now. It was just a dumb salamander. Well, not a dumb salamander. Out of all the salamanders Stan had ever met (more than just a few), he was definitely the best one. But he wasn’t all that special… was he?

How was an amphibian supposed to come in handy.

“Here we go.” Stan pulled the trigger on the portal gun. The green portal shot out and the disc hovered and swirled in midair, waiting for them to walk through it.

“Ooh, lookee there!”

Stan got a crick in his neck from how fast he whipped his head around. Three Ricks wearing business suits stood off to the side, each one holding a briefcase in their hand.

“Looks like somebody’s Lee got his hands on a portal gun!” said one teasingly.

“You lost, baby?” asked another with a drunken slur.

“We could take real good care o’ you!” said the third.

Stan gnashed his teeth at the biting words. It was a familiar voice, a familiar face, but it wasn’t him. The men who were leering at him weren’t the same man who stole his car, who gave him a blowjob in his car, who looked up at the stars with him and told him what was really on his mind. Seeing his wild hair and crooked teeth and hearing his loud, unapologetic laugh made him feel something like a cross between sad and nostalgic.

Maybe Birdperson was right. Maybe Rick did deserve a visit, at least so they could tie up the loose ends.

“Stan? Are we gonna go through?”

“Yeah, sorry,” he said gruffly, taking the axolotl tank back.

Stan stepped through the green portal, Ford following after him

Chapter Text

Stanley and Stanford stepped out of the portal, into the chilly fog. The green portal tinged the clouds with its colour, but as it swirled out of existence the world faded to pale grey. The air was thin, but felt thick in their lungs due to the heavy moisture.

Stanley shivered and hugged Stan Junior’s tank to his chest. It was cold. He couldn’t see a foot in front of him. Ford’s hand clung to his elbow.

“I guess this is the place,” said Stan, attempting to maintain his cocksure attitude for Ford’s sake as well as his own. “We’ll bump into that Jhesel-whatever person any time, now!”

“Jheselbraum,” corrected Ford.

Stan hated it when he corrected him. “Yeah, right, okay. We gotta find our way outta this fog.”

Stan put one foot in front of the other. The ground was rocky and slightly slippery with moisture. The fog made him shiver, the dampness getting right down into his bones. He felt the ground with his feet before putting his weight on it, just to be sure he wouldn’t trip or step on a loose rock.

Suddenly, when he stepped forward, his foot sank down into open air. He let out a screech as he lost balance and began to fall.

Stanley! ” Ford grabbed his arm and yanked him away from the edge. “Careful!”

“What the…” Stan could barely see the ground. He knelt down and reached his hand over the edge.

He felt nothing but open air and a cool breeze.

The wind became more brisk. He sat on the ledge, Stan Junior’s tank in his lap, his legs dangling freely. Ford plopped down next to him and mimicked his position, his hands folded in his lap.

“... Do you think that your parallel self would trick us?” he asked quietly. Stan hated how his voice cracked.

“Um,” said Stan, knowing that the answer was yes, definitely, absolutely. “Nah, no way. That guy was solid, I’ve talked to him before. If I can’t trust myself, I can’t trust no one, amirite?”

Ford didn’t look comforted by that. He picked at his cuticles. Stan noticed the yellowing bruises on his fingers and looked away.

The breeze grew stronger, rustling their hair and clothes. Stan shivered as the wind gusted up his loose pant legs. Christ, if he’d wanted this wet and damp weather, he could’a just stayed in Oregon.

The fog began to part, and rays of red sunshine began to glow through. A few colourful birds with long tails flew overhead, whistling a tune that sounded familiar, but the twins knew that they’d never heard it before. The fog thinned below their dangling feet to reveal that they were sitting atop a very high cliff overlooking a forest that extended a thousand miles in every direction. In fact, they were sitting on top of a mountain, the peak of which was covered in clouds.

“Yikes.” Stan quickly yanked his feet back from the edge and stood.

He turned, taking in the mountain around them. The ground was grey and rocky, and up atop a small hill stood a temple. It resembled the classical style of Greek temples, with white marble columns, but it was much taller and more complex, and the relief carvings above the entryways didn’t show any sorts of gods. Instead, the designs were intricate, geometric, and yet strangely haunting.

“Well,” he said cheerily. “That sure looks promising. Let’s go check out this Jhesel-person.”

“Jheselbraum,” said Ford again, under his breath. He struggled to his feet with his bags and followed Stan as he trotted up the hill with the axolotl tank in his hands. Their shoes slipped on the wet stone, but they slowly approached the temple.

The temple was massive. It loomed over them, catching the red sun on its bright white stones. A garden containing all kinds of strange fruits and flowers, some of which Stan recognized from his journeys across the galaxy, sprawled out around the temple, the vines crawling up the ancient and storm-weathered columns. Some of the leaves leaned in and reached for the two of them as they walked through. Stan swatted them off without a second thought, and Ford made a distressed noise as he scampered to keep up with him.

“This is neat,” said Stan as he looked down into a crystal clear pond. He saw some creatures that looked like koi fish, except their bodies were longer and slimmer and twisted more like eels than like any sorta fish he’d ever seen.

“Where’s Jheselbraum?” asked Ford. “Maybe we shouldn’t be here, we’re-”

“Hello,” came a low, soothing voice.

Stan and Ford whirled on their heels to encounter a tall figure who towered a foot over them. She appeared to be feminine, had seven eyes on her pale purple face, and a hood pulled up over her head. In her delicate hands she held a bundle of strange and wriggling flowers.

“Lovely to see you, Stanley Pines and Stanford Pines,” said the person.

“Are you…?” asked Ford.

“... Jheselbraum?” asked Stan.

“I am,” she said, curtsying. “My name is Jheselbraum the Unswerving. Come inside the temple, there is much to discuss.” She turned and walked away without looking back.

They stumbled over their own feet to keep up with Jheselbraum’s long, confident strides. The bushes parted for her, and the twins had to hop through the gaps before they closed behind her.

The tiled floor of the temple made their footsteps echo in an otherworldly way. The building arched high above their heads, small windows from above letting the light stream in and pool on the floor. Jheselbraum’s feet made no sound.

“Now, then,” said Jheselbraum as she took a seat on the floor before a small table. “Let’s skip the small talk. Only fools and idle beings have time to exchange words without meaning.”

Stan and Ford plopped down arranged themselves on the red cushions. Ford dropped his bag and rolled his aching shoulders. Stan put his axolotl tank on the table and let his hand rest atop of it while Stan Junior floated with his little feet barely touching the bottom.

Jheselbraum eyed the tank very carefully. Each of her eyes blinked once, one at a time, before she redirected her gaze back to the twins, then she focussed on Ford.

“Tell me,” she said, “What in this great golden galaxy possessed you to make a deal with Bill Cipher?”

Ford’s jaw dropped. “How did you-”

“His type of evil is easy to recognize with enough practice,” said Jheselbraum simply. “I have had a great deal of practice.”

“Oh,” said Ford. He scratched at a Bill-inflicted scab on his hand. “In that case, please… can you help me?”

“That remains to be seen,” she said. Her gaze swivelled over to Stan. “Now, I have a question for you.

“Really?” he said. “Hey, I ain’t the one who got tangled up in all that Bill Cipher business, any two-bit conman can see that he’s a walkin’-”

“Oh, I know you don’t have anything to do with Bill Cipher aside from how he appears to be determined to interfere with your life in almost every dimension,” she replied. “What I’m curious about is this. ” She peered down at Stan Junior.

“Curious about Stan Junior?” he asked.

She hummed. It sounded like two voices chorusing together. “Yes. Not the most regal name for such an elegant creature, but functional just the same. Where did you get him?”

“Won him at Blips and Chitz,” said Stan. “Why?”

“These creatures are very rare and special,” said Jheselbraum. “Quite lucky. I have a rather extensive collection of these axolotls, myself. They represent rebirth in many cultures, due to their ability to regenerate limbs and survive very difficult conditions, even the vacuum of space.”

“I’ve been told,” he said, not really interested in talking any more about his salamander. “Now, how ‘bout we help get some crazy triangle psycho outta my brother’s head?”

Jheselbraum quirked her lips in a slight smile. “Of course. But first, we must talk. I’m sure you have a lot of questions for me.”

“Yes!” said Ford. “What is Bill? Where did he come from? How do we destroy him? How-”

“Be calm,” said Jheselbraum, her voice lowering to a soothing decibel that washed over the two of them. Their muscles relaxed involuntarily. “Bill Cipher would call himself a chaos god, but he’s the time-bending reality-warping equivalent of a petulant teenager. He’s a self-contradictory creature that relishes in destruction. I have seen too far too many planets and dimensions bend to his will and vanish with the dusts of time as he reduces the worlds to fire and barren rock.”

“Where did he come from?” asked Ford.

“Bill’s original dimension is one that overlaps with all of yours,” she said. “He can feel each and every version of himself at all times, stretching out and expanding across the multiverse… as do I. We do not come from the same place, however. Bill destroyed his home in a violent outburst of destruction, slaughtering everybody he ever knew.”

“Christ,” said Stan.

“Wow,” said Ford. “What dimension was that?”

“It didn’t have a name or coordinates, and it was inaccessible to creatures that don’t originate from it,” said Jheselbraum. “If you were to visit it, your human bodies would be stretched out into infinity, rather like entering a black hole.”

“So… not good?” asked Stan.

“Very not good,” agreed Jheselbraum.

“Why did he do this?” asked Ford.

“For fun,” she stated simply and calmly. “He has no sympathy and no empathy. He cares for no creature but himself. His words are honey-wrapped lies designed to trap fools into worshipping him as a god, rather than seeing him as the monster he really is.”

Ford bowed his head with shame.

“Good,” said Jheselbraum when she saw his posture. “Humility is an important virtue. Bill Cipher cannot be defeated unless you possess qualities he doesn’t; humility, kindness, and the will to self-sacrifice.”

“How do we defeat him?” asked Ford brokenly.

“There are a thousand ways,” she said, “Each and every one of them is difficult to accomplish and depends on the exact circumstances of your universe. For you, I cannot say, but I can give you a few tools that will aid you in your quest.”

“Like what?” asked Stan. “A cool, triangular-shaped gun to blast his geometrically-shaped ass outta the sky?”

“I cannot give you weapons,” she said. “There are none in this temple. However, I can give you something just as important; a defense against his powers.”

“Psh,” said Stan, waving a casual hand. “Everybody knows that the best defense is a good offense! Just point us in the direction where we can find a really big gun and-”

“Guns can malfunction,” she said. “They can misfire, or your aim may not be true. Instead, I can offer protection for your mind. If you can keep Bill Cipher from entering your mind, you hold all the cards.”

Ford’s head snapped up immediately. “ Really? Oh my god, that would be incredible! I haven’t slept a solid night in months!

“I can see it written in your skin,” she said serenely. “Understand, this is not a psychic barrier, it is a physical one. You will require surgery.”

“Of course!” said Ford. “I-I want him out of my head this instant!

“A wise choice.” Jheselbraum looked over at Stan. “And you?”

Hell no,” said Stan. “I ain’t dumb ‘nough to make deals with no triangles, and I sure as hell ain’t gonna let you poke ‘round in my head, neither!”

“I cannot force you to make a choice,” said Jheselbraum, “But if you desire more of an incentive, this surgery will implant a metal plate into your skull to protect your brain. Mind readers, creatures with mind reading abilities, and memory erasing devices will be rendered ineffective against you.”

“Wait… nothing will be able to read my mind?” asked Stan.

“Nothing in the multiverse,” said Jheselbraum.

Stan gave a huge grin. “I’ll take five of those surgeries if it means that I can beat those asshole McExlaxes in the Hoag system at Wild Nite Poker! Those shitheads scammed me of all my money before I found out they could look through my own eyes and see my hand! It’s a deal!”

“Then it’s settled,” said Jheselbraum. “I must warn you, this surgery is difficult, but I will do my best to ensure that you don’t lose any of your relevant brain tissue.”

“Sure, whatever,” said Stan. “Not like I’m using this thing for much, anyway!”

Ford looked a little more reluctant, but he was determined to have Bill cipher out of his brain once and for all.

“We’ll begin immediately,” said Jheselbraum. “First, put your stuff away and dress in the gowns that are on your beds. Then, you will both need haircuts. Your rooms are to the left.”

Ford stood and slung his bag over his shoulder. Stan stood and gathered Stan Junior in his hands.

“Take care of that,” said Jheselbraum, pointing to the tank he held. “They’re very lucky.”

“Sure thing,” said Stan.

Stan Junior swam a lap in his tiny tank.

 

Stan wasn’t exactly sure how much time had passed since he’d been sedated by Jheselbraum, but when he woke he had a twinging pain on his head. He forced himself to stand from his cot on the floor, swayed dangerously, and limped over to the mirror on the wall, clinging to nearby chairs and walls for support.

He was still wearing the white gown that came to his knee. He was shaven, and he had an angry red scar looping from one temple, around the back of his head, to the other. He touched a gentle finger to the raised ridge and hissed in pain, wondering what he’d gotten himself into.

“Hi, Stanley.”

Stan looked down. Ford was sitting on a cushion on the floor, a blanket pulled up around his shoulders. He was shaven similarly to him, and he bore a matching scar on his scalp. He held a steaming cup in his hands and was wearing a watery smile.

“Hey,” he said gruffly, plopping down to sit next to him.

Ford pushed another mug across the table to him. Stan grabbed it and took a sip, then almost choked.

“The hell is this?” he asked, spluttering and wiping his mouth on his wrist.

“Something made from the shoots of the Bungbung tree outside,” said Ford with a shrug. “Doesn’t taste like tea or coffee, but it’s supposed to help with the healing process.”

“Mm.” Stan took another sip. It was bitter and sweet.

“I took a nap before you woke up.” Ford wore the most gleeful grin on his face. “I dreamed about when we were kids on the Stan O’ War, except crab people were trying to take over the world.”

“Oh.” It took Stan a second for him to realize the importance of this. “That’s… really good, Ford.”

Ford sniffled and wiped a tear away. “The nightmares are finally gone, Stan. I can sleep again without worrying that he’s gonna take over and try to strangle you to death using my body.” He laughed aloud. “I’m free! ” His laughter turned to sobs, and he put his face in his hands.

Stan slid over to him and draped a beefy arm over his brother’s shaking shoulders. He hummed, but that’s all he did. He couldn’t find any words. He could feel the relief coming off of Ford, and he was glad. His brother had endured enough torture.

All Stan wanted was to be someone for Ford to lean on.

Just like old times.

 

Somewhere, in some distant wormhole, Bill Cipher was in the middle of replacing his exoskeleton from his feeding session. As the golden tiles grew back to cover the black viscera that was his underbelly, he felt a funny little twinge deep down in his core. It took him a few moments to place the feeling, and he realized that his grip had slipped on a certain Stanford Pines.

He tried, briefly, to reach out through the multitudinous layers of existence to touch him. Something blocked his way, hard and cold.

Bill cursed. He crushed the bony remnants of his meal in his hand. “ Jheselbraum! ” It didn’t take a wise guy to know that the meddling oracle was directing mortals to rebel against him again.

“Not like it matters,” he said disdainfully as he flicked a speck of antimatter from his shoulder. “There’s more than one way to enter a dimension, and there’s certainly more than one portal to get through.”

Still, losing his grip on Stanford sure was a shame. In fact, it irritated him that the big dummy had found a way to cheat the deal without fulfilling his end of the bargain. Hopefully he isn’t smart enough to do it again.

He was angry. He wanted to take his rage out on something. He rummaged through the galaxy he hovered in, picking out the asteroids and bits of space rock that he had in his collection, until he came upon something more interesting and more satisfying. He reached through his wormhole and clasped his fingers around a round object. In his hand, he held a tiny brown planet populated with tiny people that screamed as he loomed over their tiny and pathetic world, his massive eye eclipsing their sun. If he lingered there for a few thousand years, he could become a god.

But he was already a god, so where’s the fun in that?

Bill Cipher crushed the planet in his massive fist, relishing the tiny screams that were silenced as the world crumbled into dust.

He felt a little bit better.

Chapter Text

Rick stood by the door, wearing an old pair of sneakers and a button-up shirt. He had his jacket in his hand. The door still had a bit of blue tape on it from when they’d been painting. “Becky, I-I’m goin’ to work.”

“At five?” asked Becky. “That’s early, isn’t it?” She sat on the couch, watching the food network, her hand resting on her stomach. She was seven months pregnant, and she was really showing.

“I-I gotta fill out some forms.” That wasn’t exactly true. He just wanted to get out of the house. He absolutely hated every second that he had to spend in the same room with her.

“Rick, what the fuck is that?” She pointed to the TV. There was a tiny purple crystal on one of the rabbit ears.

“I-it’s an upgrade,” he said, pulling on his jacket. “Infinite channels, infinite TV!”

“That’s weird,” she said, wrinkling her nose. She turned her head to look at him. “Take it off.”

“C-c-come on!” he said, waving his hand. “I-it ain’t hurting you!”

“I said take it off, ” she snapped.

“Fuckin’ hell, woman!” He stomped over and yanked the purple crystal off of the television set.

“Don’t you talk to me that way!” she said, pointing a threatening finger at him. Lucky for him, she was settled onto the couch with a blanket piled over her, and the baby had been kicking particularly hard all day so there was little to no chance that she was gonna get up and smack him.

“W-w-well maybe you shouldn’t treat me like s-some fuckin’ idiot who can’t wipe his own ass!” he yelled. He jammed his hands in his pockets and started towards the door.

“Maybe it’s all the fucking meds you’re taking that’re giving you such a shit attitude!” shouted Becky.

Rick’s hand was on the doorknob. “I-I’m taking sleeping pills, Becky, n-n-not fuckin’ ecstacy! I-if I don’t take ‘em, I-I’m gonna have the worst fuckin’ nightmares you ever saw in your pathetic life!”

“Don’t goddamn lie to me, I know you still drink!”

“Jesus Christ, w-woman, i-i-if I just went cold turkey, the detox would g-g-goddamn kill me!” He’d been playing this fun drinking game, take a shot every time your wife yells at you, take a shot every time you feel miserable, take a shot every time you wanna jump off of a thirty story building. “I-I’m goin’ to work, now! Bye!

He slammed the door shut behind him as she yelled back some retort.

Pebbles bounced down the sidewalk as Rick kicked his feet on the ground. He walked to the road and stood at the bus stop, his hands still in his pockets.

It was a warm afternoon in August. It was probably a little too hot for the leather jacket he was wearing, but he knew it would be chilly by the time he went home. Besides, it looked kinda cool.

He leaned against the bus stop sign as he waited, watching the cars drive by. It usually took him just a bit over an hour to get to work, so he would probably be a few hours early.

It had taken several months of job applications, sucking up, and trying to control his crazy hair, but Rick had miraculously found a job. It wasn’t a great gig, he was making just above minimum wage, but it was the only place that would hire him and didn’t give a crap about his shitty attitude. He worked as a bartender, from eight PM to one AM every day at one of the roughest joints in down. He had to break up a fight at least once a day, and he had to admit that it sure felt good to wrestle some guys again, even if he wasn’t allowed to beat the shit outta them. The hardest part about his job was not telling each and every customer who asked for a drink to fuck off.

The bus rolled up. He hopped on, walked to the back of the bus, and sat right by the window, kicking his feet up on the seat opposite from him. He folded his arms but didn’t close his eyes. He’d accidentally blown past his stop before and had ended up on the opposite side of town. That was a shitty night for him.

Rick stared out the window. The bus pulled up to a stoplight. A red hot rod with the top down stopped next to the bus.

Rick looked away. He couldn’t even fucking look at a red car without thinking about Stan. Every time he had to crawl into bed with his wife, he desperately missed the days when he and Stan would crash in the back of the Stanley-Mobile, his thick arms wrapped around his skinny body.

But Stan was gone. There was no way he’d take him back, not after the shitty way he’d stormed off like that and demanded that he choose between him and his brother. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to go back to Gravity Falls, in case the memories of what he’d seen in the portal would return in his nightmares.

There was nothing left for him in the past, he ought to invest in some kind of a future… right?

The red car revved its engine and pulled away in front of the bus. The bus rumbled as it drove through the intersection.

Rick heaved a long sigh.

 

It was a quiet night. Rick kept his head bowed and wiped suspicious stains off of the counter while a customer ranted about his boss, partly to him and partly to no one in particular. He could hear pool balls clacking together, and low drunken voices. He checked his watch. He had about three hours until he had to go home.

“Hello, Rick.”

Rick’s head snapped up at the sound of a familiar voice. At first, he had to do a double-take. He could hardly believe it. Birdperson sat before him at the bar.

“Birdperson?” asked Rick. He rubbed his eyes, still not convinced that this wasn’t some hangover induced hallucination of sorts. Maybe Becky was right, he might be taking too many pills.

“Yes, it is me,” said Birdperson.

Nope, she was wrong, pills are great, and Rick’s best friend was sitting right here across from him. Fuck Becky.

“Well, uh, how’re you doin’, buddy?” asked Rick. He couldn’t help floundering, it had been so long since he’d seen him.

“I am doing fine,” he replied evenly. “It has been a fruitful mating season for Birdperson.”

“Ah, gettin’ money and gettin’ bitches, eh BP?” asked Rick with a wide, cocky grin. It had been a while since he’d smiled like that. “What can I get you?”

“A scotch, and maybe some honesty.”

“Well, you’ll get one o’ those things for sure, ” said Rick. He quickly poured a tumbler and pushed it over to him. “Here.”

“Thank you.” Birdperson held it in his hand, but did not take a drink. “How are things?”

“Good,” said Rick quickly. “P-pretty good. Not bad.”

“I see that I will only be getting one of the things I requested, after all,” said Birdperson.

Rick winced. “L-look, Birdperson. D-d-don’t worry about me or nothin’, things are goin’ just fine. ” He picked up a bottle and wiped underneath it with the tattered rag.

“I have a message from Stanley,” said Birdperson.

Rick almost dropped the bottle he was holding. He quickly replaced it on the counter. His hands were suddenly shaking. “Oh? W-w-well as long as you’re bein’ his homing pigeon, tell him to go fuck himself.”

“You have not even heard it, yet.” Birdperson fluffed his feathers. “I apologize for taking so long to deliver it. I attempted to contact you with other means, but it seems that none of my signals have reached you. And, as I said, it has been a fruitful mating season. I have been busy.”

“Y-yeah, yeah, whatever, BP. My receiver was broken down and the parts were sold months ago. Sorry.”

“I see,” said Birdperson.

Rick wanted to tell Birdperson to fuck back off to outer space or whatever, but he was one of his last friends. He couldn’t really afford to burn bridges right now. Besides, he was curious. “W-what was the message?”

“Stanley said and I quote, “ Tell him that if he doesn’t show up with my car, I don’t wanna see his ugly mug ”.”

Rick paused. “... Is that it?”

“Yes, that’s all.” Birdperson tilted his head slightly. “He has had his hands full with his brother and Bill Cipher. I went to visit them in Gravity Falls just last week, and they weren’t there.”

“Really?” asked Rick, wide-eyed. Part of him still cringed at the name Bill Cipher. “Well, where did they go?”

“I am not certain,” said Birdperson. “I saw them just as they left. Stanford was fighting with Bill Cipher for control over his own body, and Stanley fixed your portal gun and took him somewhere to see if they could expel him.”

“Lee… f-fixed my portal gun?” asked Rick. He wanted to get angry, feel pissed at himself for leaving the parts behind, and get mad at Lee for fucking with his stuff ... but all he could do was laugh. He laughed loudly, heads turned to stare at him but he didn’t care. Tears formed in his eyes and he leaned against the bar for support.

“H-he really fixed it?” asked Rick again, just to confirm that he wasn’t going bonkers.

“Yes,” said Birdperson, “He did. I saw it with my own two eyes.”

“Of course he did, th-the crazy sonuvabitch!” Rick slapped his hands on the bar. Old fondness curled warmly in his chest as he thought of Stan trumping the odds and fixing a piece of equipment his genius brother would probably never be able to figure out. “St-stubborn ol’ Lee, he ain’t gonna let nothin’ get him down!”

“Stanley is a good man.”

“Yeah,” said Rick. “He… he really is.”

It had been upwards of nine months since he’d seen Stanley last. With time, his nightmares had been blurred with alcohol, and his anger at Stan had slowly begun to ebb and subside. He still got sharp bursts of anger, anger that Stan didn’t come with him, anger that Stan had chosen Ford over him, but lately his memories of him were fond. He remembered long drives, traversing the galaxy, and the way he grinned like a car salesman more than he remembered his anger.

“W-where do you think he went?” asked Rick.

“I have no idea,” said Birdperson. “What coordinates would Stan know off by heart?”

Rick hissed through his teeth. “He didn’t know many, I-I think he knew about Blips and Chitz and maybe the Citadel.” Rick huffed. “B-but that don’t mean anythin’. Crazy bastard might’a spun the dial and popped out in a black hole.”

“I do not think Stanley would have done that,” said Birdperson. “It is true that he has been gone for three earth weeks, but-”

The phone by his elbow rang. Rick rolled his eyes dramatically. “One sec, BP.” He picked it up and put it between his shoulder and his ear as he cleaned glasses. “Dusty’s Bar, w-w-what do you want?”

Does Rick Sanchez work there?

“Speaking.” Great, probably some drug bust or bum he borrowed money from caught up to him. He still kept a gun in his house, he could handle it.

This is Nurse Watson at Saint Mary’s Hospital for Women and Children. Your wife, Becky, has gone into labour.

Rick almost dropped the phone. He set the glasses down in the sink. “H-h-holy shit! Seriously?! I-I thought she had-”

The baby is slightly premature, yes, ” said the nurse. “ How soon can you come?

“F-fuck, the hospital’s an hour away from me by bus,” said Rick. He didn’t know why he was so eager to get there, he wrote it off as curiosity about the baby. Just curiosity. In any case, he would seem like a complete asshole to everyone if he didn’t hurry his ass over there. “I-I’ll be there as soon as I can, I gotta cut outta work early.”

Of course, I will inform your wife immediately.

Rick hung up the phone. “BP, I-I gotta go.” He grabbed his jacket from the stool behind the bar and put his arms through it. “Becky’s gone into labour.”

“Congratulations,” said Birdperson. “May the coming suns bring many blessings to your new child.”

Rick made a face. “I-I dunno about this whole thing, man. I-I’m pretty sure Becky hates my fuckin’ guts, and kids don’t like me.” He leaned towards the back room. “ Charlie! I-I gotta go! My wife’s in labour!

Congrats, man! ” said Charlie from the back.

Rick slid out from behind the bar. “I-I gotta leave right now, BP. Y-you can’t come with me, I’m sorry, B-Becky would fuckin’ flay me. She doesn’t want any o’ “my weird alien shit” around the baby.”

“I understand,” said Birdperson. “Just remember Stanley’s message.”

“W-what?” asked Rick as he buttoned up his coat.

Tell him that if he doesn’t show up with my car, I don’t wanna see his ugly mug, ” recited Birdperson again.

Rick’s heart dropped into his stomach. The car . It was lying in some ditch in southern Oregon with smashed windows and dirt all over it.

“Fuck, BP! I-I-I ain’t gonna be able to do that!” said Rick, his voice cracking. “I trashed Lee’s car! I-I fuckin’ wrecked it! I dumped it on the side ‘o the road, it’s long gone!”

“Oh. That is unfortunate,” said Birdperson.

Rick quickly closed himself off and squared up his shoulders. “N-not that I wanna see that jackass anyway.”

“Rick, you are as bad at lying as I am,” said Birdperson, his face deadpan and expressionless. “You do want to see him again.”

“Fuck you, Birdperson, y-y-you don’t got any o’ that telepathic mind-reading bullshit!” Rick had his hand on the door. “I-I’ll make a new receiver so you can be Lee’s messenger boy some other time! See you later, fuckhead.” He opened the door and slammed it shut behind him.

After taking two steps, he turned back and poked his head back in the door.

“Seriously,” said Rick. “St-st-stop by sometime, buddy. F-for real.”

Birdperson gave him a thumbs up.

He slammed the door shut again.

 

It took Rick three hours to get to the hospital. The busses were running very late, and there was a major traffic accident on a main intersection that slowed the cars down for almost a mile before it. It was after one in the morning by the time he got up to Becky’s room.

Rick stepped into his wife’s room. She lay in her bed, her hair all brushed and braided like nothing had happened. She was watching TV.

“About time you got here!” she snapped. She folded her arms and huffed, not looking at him. “I had to do this without you!”

“I-I-I’m sorry!” he protested. “I came as fast as I could and-”

“I’m fine, thanks for asking,” she said. She gave a yawn. “Her name is Elizabeth Margaret Sanchez.”

“W-w-we have a daughter?” asked Rick. It still didn’t feel real. This couldn’t be real.

“Yeah, keep up,” she said. She yawned again. “Listen, I’ve been up pushing a baby out of me, so I think I want to sleep now, if that’s alright with you.” She reached over and turned out the lamp.

“Yeah, fuck you too,” he mumbled under his breath.

“What did you say?” she snapped.

“I-I said yeah, me too,” he said. “G’night.” He closed the door behind him and leaned against it. “ Bitch.

“Mr. Sanchez?” A nurse came up to him. Her nametag said “Watson”. “Good to see you finally made it. I heard there was an accident on the freeway.”

“Y-yeah, there was,” he said. “C-can you tell me where my daughter is?”

“She’s in prenatal care right now,” said the nurse, “She was born a month premature, so she needs to remain in the care of the hospital for the next few days while we make sure that she’s healthy, but as far was we can tell she’ll be ready to go home with you by the end of the week.”

“Wow… Th-this all happened so fast.”

“Would you like to see her?” asked Ms. Watson.

“I… yes. I-I would.”

“Alright, follow me. You’re gonna have to put on some scrubs, preemie babies are very susceptible to sickness.”

“S-sure, w-w-whatever.”

Rick was given a shirt, pants, gloves, a weird hairnet thing, and a pair of paper boots that were way too small for his feet. He jammed the boots on, the toes of his shoes ripping the ends, and fought to make his wild black hair stay under the hairnet, but it still poked out at the back. He snapped on the gloves, and he faintly realized that it had been a long time since he’d been able to do that. It made him feel like a mad scientist again.

“Alright, Mr. Sanchez, please follow me.”

He walked past the wards, rubbing his fingers together to feel the strange sensation of latex on his hands. It smelled sterile, and even at this time of night there were other people moving through the halls. The entered the prenatal care ward.

He heard a baby crying. He heard a few babies crying as they entered the ward, but there was one little voice in particular that stood out to him. He wasn’t sure how, and he sure as fuck didn’t believe in all that psychic bullshit, but he knew one hundred percent that it was his daughter.

“Just through here.” The nurse showed him into