“I can’t believe it!” Stan exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear. “After all these years, you’re finally here! Brother!” He took a step forward, arms out wide to embrace his long lost twin. He didn’t expect the reaction he got.
Ford backed away, his hand flying to the blaster in a holster at his hip. He chided himself silently. This was his brother. It was his twin. He couldn’t shoot him, no matter how terrified he was right now. There were two young kids here too, anyway, along with some sort of large hairless hamster-like man. His heart pounded in his throat. Every instinct he’d developed over the last thirty years was telling him to run get away no run away danger danger danger death you could die.
Stan frowned, taking another cautious step forwards. “Ford? You okay bud?”
Ford shook his head quickly, already beginning to hyperventilate. His back pressed up against the cold metal of the now-closed portal and he held his hands out in front of him, a silent gesture for Stanley to stay away no don’t come closer I’m scared no please no-
Stan registered the fear in his brother’s eyes and stepped away, giving Ford his space. His heart sunk. Ford was acting like a terrified, helpless animal, cowering in the corner from a vicious predator or a cruel owner. He swallowed. What had happened to his brother while he was lost? What had been so terrifying that it had rendered him unable to speak?
Stan took a deep breath, his own hands out in front of him. He took a slow, careful step forwards, keeping his voice low. “Ford, listen to me… I am not going to hurt you…”
Ford pressed his back against the portal even harder, his terrified eyes locked onto his brother. He kept his mouth shut, shaking his head frantically. No no no no get away get away from me get away danger danger
Stan stepped forward again. “Please… I want to help you… I am not going to harm you…” He kept his gaze down. He knew damn well not to ever make eye contact with a terrified animal and right now his brother was no different. He kept his head down low. “Just breathe, okay? Breathe for me, you can do that, okay?”
Ford inhaled through his nose slowly before exhaling through slightly parted lips. He repeated the process until he got his breathing under control, yet he still didn’t say a word.
“Grunkle Stan? Is he okay?” A quiet, soft voice from across the room made Ford’s pulse speed up again and he started breathing quickly. Stan took another step forward until he was within arm’s reach of his twin.
“Easy there, Ford… it’s okay… that’s my - our niece. She’s just a child, she means no harm.” Ford slowed his breathing down again. Stan took this as a sign to move forward once more. He put a hand on Ford’s shoulder, recoiling instantly as his brother slapped the hand away.
Ford took a step sideways and tripped, landing on his backside on the ground. He kicked his legs and scrambled away - danger no no no too close too close - until he was pressed up against the stone wall. He brought his legs in close, his hands up to shield him from everything.
Stan slowly walked over, kneeling down to Ford’s level. “Hey, Poindexter,” he murmured quietly, “look at me. Just look at me, okay?”
Ford slowly lifted his head from behind his hands, lowering his arms to his sides. He laid his right hand over the blaster. He raised his head to meet his brother’s gaze.
“I’m not going to hurt you, I want to help you, okay?” Stan asked softly. “Please, just trust me. I know what I did was terrible and I’ve worked for thirty years to bring you home. I want to help you, Stanford.”
A second quiet voice - much like the first, only male - piped up from across the room. “Stanford? But you’re Stanford, Grunkle Stan.”
A sudden flood of anger rushed through Ford and he fixed Stan with a cold glare, getting to his feet and shoving his brother away from him. Stanley stumbled back and was about to retaliate with a punch of his own, but stopped. He couldn’t lash out at Ford, not while his brother was so petrified. He took a deep breath and got up. “I’m sorry, kids, but I’ve been lying to you all summer. This is Stanford Pines,” he gestured to the furious, terrified man in front of him. “My name is Stanley. I had to lie to keep myself safe long enough to bring my brother home.”
“It’s okay, Grunkle Stan… we understand.” The young girl said softly. She took a few steps forward towards the newcomer. “So you’re our great uncle too, huh?”
Ford swallowed, the anger leaving his face. He exchanged a look with Stanley, who nodded. Ford looked back at the little girl and nodded. The girl grinned widely and took a step forward, her arms out to hug Ford. Ford took a step back. His hand drew the gun from the holster, causing the girl’s eyes to widen and step back.
Stanley saw what was happening and moved in front of her, his arms thrown out wide to shield her. Ford had the gun halfway up to aim at the girl until Stanley knocked it out of his hands. It clattered to the floor and slid out of reach. “She’s a child, Ford. She was just going to hug you.”
Ford chewed his lip, guilt seeping into his mind. He’d been about to shoot her. A young girl. She’d done nothing wrong, but because of his own paranoia he’d seen her as a threat. He took a deep breath and knelt down, holding his arms out. He let a small smile creep onto his face. The young girl ran around Stan and embraced Ford in a hug. Ford sat down on the ground, holding the small girl in his arms. It had been decades since he’d had a proper hug from anyone. He’d missed it.
The young boy, presumably the brother of the girl, walked over slowly. Ford looked up as he came over and smiled a little bit. He held one arm out to him, the other still wrapped around the girl. The boy grinned and ran over, wrapping his arms around Ford.
“Mr Pines?” Ford blinked as the new voice filled the room, coming from the person he’d thought was one of the residents from Rodentus 7. “What are we gonna do about those agent guys upstairs?”
Stan noticed Ford cast him a questioning glance and he scratched the back of his neck. “Yeah, well… uh… the entire US Government may or may not have found out about this place.”
Ford’s expression turned cold and hard. Stan sighed. He sat down on the floor beside his brother and gestured for the other man to join him. “I’ve got some explaining to do…”