Disclaimer: I do not own Gravity Falls or any of its characters. Just FYI.

Watch Your Back

"Watch your back!"

The warning still echoed in Stan's ears. He should have known that leaving Volkov's place had been too easy. The Russian mob was not so forgiving and he really should have known better. This wasn't the first time he'd crossed the wrong people.

Stan crouched down lower where he hid, pressing his hand harder into his side. Luckily, the bullet had just grazed him, but that didn't stop the bleeding. And he was bleeding. A lot. He really couldn't afford to be leaving a blood trail right now.

He sucked in a sharp breath as he heard a crate shift in the room. Shouts filtered in from outside the warehouse he was hiding in, but he'd been hoping that no one would check inside yet. After all, he'd spread some blood to make it look like he'd gone past the door rather than picking the lock and slipping inside.

Footsteps sounded through the air, heavy upon the ground. Stan tensed, adrenaline pumping anew. He could only hear one, so he might have a chance. If he timed things right, he should be able to get one good right hook in and knock the sucker out. That way he could buy himself just a bit more time so he could slip away to the Stanmobile and hightail it out of this city like he should have done the moment Volkov let him go.

The footsteps came closer and closer until they stopped right on the other side of Stan's crate. He stilled and prepared to pounce. The moment that guy looked over and saw him, he'd -


Everything froze. Stan gazed up in horror. The voice was a bit more gravelly than the last time he'd heard it, but he'd still recognize it anywhere. But when his eyes fell upon the speaker, he couldn't help but squint in confusion.

"Ford?" He asked.

Because it certainly looked like his brother. But the last time he'd seen his brother on that fateful night, Ford had been the same skinny nerd he'd always been.

The person before him was an old man. Graying locks adorned his head with a lighter stripe extending its way around past his ear. He was muscular too, obviously used to more physical activity than the person he remembered from before. He was also dressed in the type of clothes a sailor perhaps would, which made no sense if this was really his brother.

The person frowned and adjusted his glasses. "Yes…" His eyes flicked up and down him, taking in every detail. "Stanley, are you alright?" He looked more and more worried.

Ha! As if Ford would be worried about him after what he'd done!

But Stan remembered the situation he was in, and even if this wasn't his brother, because his brother couldn't possibly be that old not to mention he wouldn't be here, he did not want to drag anyone else into this.

"I'm - I'm fine." Stan cracked a grin, surprised that this guy hadn't noticed the sheer amount of blood dripping over his fingers and staining his side and the ground. "But, uh, you may want to get out of here. Some not so friendly people prowling around. Wouldn't want you to get hurt now." He waved them off with his other hand. "So, uh, scram, y'know?"

"Stanley, what are you talking about - " The man reached out his hand to Stan, and then stopped as comprehension dawned in his eyes. They softened as they looked at him. "Oh, Stanley…"

But Stan wasn't paying attention, because he was staring at the hand that had stretched out to him.

One, two, three, four, five, six.

Six fingers.

Stan only knew one person with six fingers.

"Ford?!" Stan yelled, eyes darting from the hand to the man and back. "Why are - how - what - ?!" He spluttered, not able to fully ask any the question filling his mind.

What was Ford doing here? How did he get here? Why was he so old? How did he find him? Why -

Stan's thoughts whirled to a stop at how worse things had gotten with Ford here. What if they mistook Ford for him?

He couldn't let them hurt his brother.

"F-Ford." He stammered, and it was like the crate between them had vanished at some point as he turned and clutched Ford's arm with his unoccupied hand. "You - you got to get out of here. I, uh, I may have pissed off the wrong people, and you cannot get involved. So you gotta - "

"Stanley." Ford's voice was as steady as his gaze as he crouched down next to him to look him in the eye. "Stanley, when are you?"

Stan's brow furrowed. "What the hell are you talking about, Sixer? Why does it matter? Listen, you have to - "

Ford cut him off again. "Stanley, how old are you?"

"I'm - " The answer was on the top of his tongue, but alarm bells were ringing in his head. That… what he wanted to say wasn't quite right. "I…" His voice trailed off in confusion. "I don't…"

Ford's arm slid through his hand until he tangled his fingers with Stan's. He squeezed them in comfort, and the reassuring pressure made Stan look down at their joined hands and -

His hand looked just as old as Ford's.

It took a long few seconds, Ford still squeezing his hand, for the realization to set in and for Stan to orient himself.

Stan closed his eyes and let out his breath in a huge whoosh. He lifted his other hand, brushing aside his glasses, in order to scrub at his eyes, and as he drew it away he saw that there was no blood on it. Of course, there wasn't. As much as his side twinged with old, remembered pain, that wound had healed long ago.

"Are you back?" Ford asked softly, like he always did whenever Stan tripped into a memory and got caught in its current.

"Yeah," Stan said a bit shakily, trying to sound like his usual gruff self. He opened his eyes to see that the warehouse had faded away, replaced with the small cargo hold of the Stan O' War II. Ford's eyes bore into him, carefully calculating his state of mind.

"I'm fine." He tried to tell him, but the snort he received let him know that Ford wasn't buying it. "Really." And he was. Sorta. If only his still rapidly beating heart would get the memo.

He wasn't in danger. He'd gotten out of there, treated his gunshot wound, and eventually managed to send the funds to make up for him ditching the fighting ring. He hadn't even heard from the Russian mob in ages, even before Gravity Falls. He was fine.

Ford squeezed his hand again, his expression shifting. He had the same look on his face as when he caught wind of the latest legends of a port they visited. "Stanley," he paused and bit his lip as he glanced away, "what - "

"Don't want to talk about it." Stan knew what he was asking. But he couldn't - he didn't -

He had left that life behind him long ago when he came to Gravity Falls. Sure, Ford might want to find out what had happened to him in those ten years previous, but Stan didn't see the point in talking about it. There was nothing they could do about it; it was long over and done with. Heck, for the most part, he didn't even remember it.

Well, until memories decided to blindside him and tossed him into a flashback like it did today.

Paul Bunyan, he hated his mind sometimes.

"Okay." Ford dropped it. This was something he wouldn't have done before, but Stan was grateful for it now and every other time something like this happened. "But," he squeezed harder to make his point, "no matter what you saw or what happened: you're safe now. I'm here."

A wry smile crossed Stan's face. That was certainly true. It was something he would have given anything for back then.

"I know." He responded, letting himself lean on his brother. As his heartbeat settled, he almost laughed from those words back then. Stan didn't have to necessarily watch his back anymore, because Ford was here and he would watch it for him, just like he would do it for him.

They were safe.

AN: So here's the final story for Stanuary this year. I wanted to get some stuff of Stan and Ford before it was over. I debated having Ford saving Stan after people from his past managed to find him or this, but I like how this turned out. Thanks so much for reading and I hope you at least appreciated the the way, the backstory for this is that Stan became involved in a fighting ring that was run by the Russian mob. They told him to throw a match but he ended up winning by accident. They were very displeased and he decided to get out of there.