That was the fourth time since they sat down for a brainstorming and editing session.
"Why do you-why do you keep doing that?" Jon finally blurted out.
Stephen glanced up from a sloppy doodle of Sweetness with his worn out yellow highlighter. "Keep doing what?"
"Touching your lip-like that!" He gestured as Stephen lowered his hand from his mouth. Stephen stared at him blankly.
"What are you talking about?"
"You keep…you keep touching your lip. You've been doing that all morning."
"What, like this?"
"Huh. I didn't notice." Stephen flipped the page on his script and started skimming it-he did it again. Six times now.
Jon didn't know why it bothered him so much, but it did and he wanted to fix it. He shifted in his seat, leaned forward, hands clasped together. "Is something wrong?"
Stephen circled an idea on the brainstorming sheet, then capped the highlighter and cocked an eyebrow at him. "No. What makes you think something's wrong? If something was wrong I wouldn't be sitting here brainstorming and obsessing over my mouth. I'd be running down the hall with my boxers on my head screaming at the top of his lungs."
Jon choked on the laugh bubbling out of his lungs, but Stephen was inhumanely calm as he resumed drawing a neon yellow flowchart on the brainstorming sheet. "…you would do that, wouldn't you?"
"Is that a dare?"
Jon opened his mouth but snapped it shut, deciding it was better not to take the bait. It didn't take much for Stephen to switch on his persona; instead he glanced down at his own notes, including a drawing of a very fluffy sheep donning a baseball cap. Mets or Yankees? He hadn't decided. "Uh, no, maybe another time."
He spotted something he didn't like in Monday's script and circled it vigorously with his pen. Jon glanced at Stephen, who was tapping his highlighter on the table while staring at his brainstorming sheet-he did it again. Jon chewed on his bottom lip as he looked down at the Daily Show script.
"So, about Tuesday's toss…"
A few days later Jon found the explanation for Stephen's sudden oral fixation.
They had finished taping their shows and Stephen had trekked over to Jon's studio to watch the editors splice and piece together the footage with him. It was one of those rare days when Jon actually drove his car, and they jokingly placed bets on how long it would take to get from the parking lot to one of their local hangouts as they walked to the lot.
Stephen hadn't stopped pressing the back of his hand to his mouth, however, but Jon said nothing even as the habit manifested itself on the set. "Stephen" ignored it, but Jon wondered how many viewers noticed the strange new habit.
"-and you know what he did backstage? He hugged me! I had completely dismantled his argument, and he-Stephen? Stephen, what is it?" He stopped two and a half steps after Stephen did, and nearly jumped when a familiar voice said, "Hey, Jon."
What the hell? "Anderson! What are you doing here?"
The CNN anchor stood rather awkwardly in the parking lot, tapping the cement with right foot as he sheepishly said, "I was…" His eyes darted to Jon's left. "I was waiting for Stephen, actually…"
"Oh, uh, okay…" Jon glanced to his left. "Am I…did I miss something?"
Stephen rubbed the back of his head. "No, not really. Actually…I think I'm gonna skip out on tonight. Have some unfinished business to take care of."
Jon wasn't the only one raising an eyebrow. He looked at Anderson, but decided not to poke fun at the sudden red tinge on the man's face. Straightening his shoulders, Jon said, "Guess I'll go home, then. See you tomorrow."
He strode off towards his car - maybe a little too quickly - a bit miffed that Anderson's appearance ended what might have been a rather relaxing, enjoyable evening. The lot suddenly echoed with a stifled but characteristic giggle, and he glanced over his shoulder as he began fishing for his keys.
Then he forgot he was looking for his keys and watched Stephen and Anderson walk towards the street, with Stephen's arm wrapped securely around the anchor's shoulders. Jon ignored the twinge of jealousy in his chest the best he could as his fingers finally closed on the keys and he looked away to unlock his car.
He looked over his shoulder again as he opened the car door, and just as they disappeared from view Stephen leaned in and kissed Anderson; the only word that echoed all the way to Jon over the embarrassed giggles was "payback."
"Well," he finally said. "That explains a lot."