A/N: the season finale hurt, but it hurt so good.
Stan's voice snaps Ford from that comfortable place between awareness and sleep, mind lost in the soft creaking sound of wood as STAN O' WAR II is rocked by waves. Gentle waves, now, but it was a storm not too long ago, and getting through it - Ford never doubted they would for one moment, will never again doubt that he and Stan can do anything - was tiring.
Still, it seems that sleep will have to wait.
"What is it?" Ford asks, eyes still closed. They have a bunk bed, much like the one they had as children, and just like back then Ford has claimed to top bunk. When Stan remarked on that, Ford felt unbelievably grateful that he'd remember such a detail.
People always take their memories for granted, but they can be taken away, and sometimes there is no need of a memory-erasing gun for that to happen. Old age and disease strike, and a few months - "I'll come over soon, mom, honest, there is only some more work I just can't drop now" - are enough for much of one's past to fade into nothingness, leaving them to stare at the outside word with the wandering gaze of someone seeing it all for the first time through a daze.
Stanford Pines had met that gaze long before seeing it on his brother's face last summer.
"Hi dad. Sorry it took me a while to come over, I-"
"Stanley? Is that you?"
"No, dad, Stanley is… Stanley is not here. It's me, Stanford."
The memory hurts, but Stan speaks again before he can linger on it for too long.
"I can't remember why we fought, all those years ago," Stan says, and Ford is not especially surprised. His brother's mind took a terrible blow, and there were bound to be holes left here and there. His recovery was nothing short of miraculous all things considered: he remembers a lot and, what's important, he remembers what matters.
He remembers the beach, the swing set, their boat, their plans. Details of the years on his own before Gravity Falls seem to be a little hazy, but overall he remembers. Every event of the previous summer is etched into his mind, every little thing about the Mystery Shack, about Dipper and Mabel and even their pig, about the day he faced a demon ancient as time itself and, as he puts it, "socked him in the kisser".
Ford will do his best to fill any gaps that may be left, but perhaps there are some that are best left alone. He opens his eyes, and speaks with his gaze fixed on the ceiling.
"It was over a stupid reason, Stanley. A stupid reason for a stupid kid."
"Hey now, I may not be a genius or something, but-"
"I'm not talking about you."
That shuts Stan up for a bit, which is remarkable in itself. He hardly ever really stops talking, which suits Ford just fine. He's gone over half of his life - far too long - without listening to his twin's voice. He's missed the transition from a teen's voice to that of a man, and from there to the one he hears now. He's missed enough. He's missed too much.
Stan is not the only one with gaps to fill.
"You're not stupid. You're a jerk. We're both jerks."
Ford laughs. All things considered, that is perhaps a more fitting description. He can go with that.
"Two jerks in a boat, though. Right where we should have been all along," he adds.
A sound of creaking wood, then Stan is standing, elbows resting on Ford's own bunk. He's grinning from ear to ear, hair tousled where the pillow touched them. Somehow, he looks younger now than he did when he first showed arrived in Gravity Falls, over thirty years ago.
"You know what else I just remembered, nerd?" he asks. This is something that happens from time to time, too - a random memory coming back, and smile, the desire to share. It's not always nice memories, but Stan welcomes each of them, just as McGucket did. They're all part of who he is, after all.
"What?" Ford asks, sitting up, and Stan lifts a hand.
A lump forms in Ford's throat, and for a moment he fears he just might cry. He doesn't - it was drilled in his head from an early age that crying is not an option, ever - but the lump is still there when he smiles back, raises his own hand and speaks.
"... High six."