With half a concert's worth of dance routines under their belts and hair still wet from their post-practice showers, the guys (minus Tucker, as tended to be the case these days) hung out in the instrument room for their break.
Jimmy noodled around on the piano, waiting for Tina to show up. Jon browsed his Twitter feed, debating whether it would be worth getting into considerable trouble to retweet the link to a Buzzfeed article titled "21 Reasons Tucker Carlson Is The Worst Shout*For Member." (It seemed to be mostly gifs of Tucker looking like a killjoy compared to the rest of the band, which didn't nearly scratch the surface of his true dickishness, but you took what you could get.)
And Stephen...he was lying on the bench with his head pillowed on Jon's thigh, uncharacteristically quiet. He must have been more tired than usual.
At last Tina breezed in. "Hi, guys! Do me a favor and make sure you have me Facebook friended?"
"Sure," said Jon, finally breaking away from the temptation of staring at the Buzzfeed link. He didn't use Facebook much, since he was paranoid about weird family drama being screencapped and shared around the Internet, even with his profile locked down by as many privacy controls as he could figure out.
In his lap, Stephen didn't move, but grunted in assent.
"I know I already do," said Jimmy with a grin as Tina took a seat next to him on the piano bench. "Why? Something you're planning to share?"
"Um, not exactly," said Tina. "I'm just trying to lock out everyone who isn't a trusted friend. Y'know, as you do."
Jimmy's face fell. "Did something happen?"
"What? Hahaha, no, of course not. Why would you think that?" For all that Tina was a great actor on-set, her too-wide fake smile was convincing absolutely nobody right now.
"People being jerks on the Internet?" said Jon sympathetically. "I've blocked like ten people this week for tweeting at me about how I need to take an acting class. Also, one person for tweeting me fifty marriage proposals in less than an hour."
"Gosh," deadpanned Jimmy, "it must be so hard to be you."
"Hey, I would have been flattered if it was just one!" protested Jon. "But after the first half a dozen it just turns into spam, you know?"
Tina sighed. "Man, I wish my thing had been proposal spam."
"So there was a thing," said Jimmy, all worried attention back on her.
"Yeah, there was a thing," said Tina. "It just wasn't a big-deal thing, okay? Nothing to worry about! In fact, it was actually pretty funny. Hilarious, even."
For the first time, Stephen spoke up. "If it was so funny, how come you can't tell us?"
"You don't have to," said Jon, stroking Stephen's hair. Even if he could mostly shrug off the stuff he got online, he wouldn't want to stand up in front of a bunch of people and recite it.
Tina grimaced. "It wasn't even about me. All it is, is...I got a couple messages from people who are really overinvested in the idea that my boyfriend's secretly dating Stephen."
Jimmy's hands came down hard on the piano, playing a thundering chord that reverberated around the room.
Confidential to #ShoutFor fans: Please leave my girlfriend alone.
If you already are, thank you! Now take a minute to talk to your friends, and make sure they're not bothering her either.
yes, this! RT @Shout4JimmyFals Confidential to #ShoutFor fans: Please leave my girlfriend alone.
^ by which I mean leave Jimmy's girlfriend alone.
But leave @LisaMunnOfficial alone too!
Confidential to #Munnsters: Loving the new #Sephora lip balm. It's pretty, keeps your skin healthy, and it's a total bargain :)
Direct messages > with Jimmy
is LisaMunnOfficial a robot?
so pm'ing her for tips on how to smack down people making fun of your gf would not be helpful
btw what's Tina's real twitter?
she doesn't have one
for which I am v v glad right now
"...and that's why Tina is joining us today," finished Jon, ushering Steve into his room.
Jimmy was already walking Tina through the process of how to roll a joint. She was having an awkward time of it, but Stephen couldn't tell if it was genuine, or just a cute ploy to keep Jimmy's hands on hers for as long as possible. Stephen himself was busy picking out the scented candles for the night. He settled on a pair that were champagne-scented, and came in actual champagne flutes for bonus classiness.
They passed around the weed, the rolling paper, and Jon's super-classy R2D2 lighter. Steve and Jon broke out the Nintendo controllers and started a round of one of the Call of Duty games. Tina cuddled with Jimmy. Stephen sat on the bed and responsibly kept watch over the bowl of Doritos.
He had gotten up a light buzz by the time Steve said, "So, these Stimmy people. Have you thought about just trolling them? Because apparently nothing is going to make them see reason, so you might as well go for broke. Plus it sounds like it would be hilarious."
"No," said Stephen firmly. "No trolling. They already do things like bother my sister! Imagine how they'd be if we encouraged them!"
"Wait, slow down a second," said Tina. "I thought you were trolling them already. Pass me the chips?"
Stephen handed the bowl down to her, and licked orange dust off his own fingers. "Dunno why you'd think that," he said, over the sound of Jon grousing as one of his in-game drones got shot out of the sky.
Tina scrambled to manage her joint and the Doritos without spilling anything or setting Jimmy on fire. "The way you talk about each other? Saying things like how you sleep in the same bed when you're on tour...?"
"Nah, that's legit," said Jon, trying to mash buttons on his controller, though he was too mellow to do it properly.
For the first time, Jimmy seemed less than nonchalant about the idea. "We would stay up late talking. The beds were big," he hissed. "I'm secure in my heterosexuality, and, shockingly, I trust my best friend not to molest me! Why is that so hard for people to understand?"
"Sorry!" squeaked Tina, cringing a little under the arm around her shoulders.
Jimmy gave her a reassuring half-hug. "It's not you. It's just. People," he said bitterly.
Stephen stubbed out his joint and lay down. Instead of making him relaxed and dreamy like usual, it was leaving him with a vague, free-floating sense of guilt. He wanted a hug, but Jon was busy taking down a fictional digital Nicaraguan narco-terrorist, so he settled for wrapping his arms around the nearest pillow.
"I didn't think there was anything wrong with it," added Tina. "I think it's cute. I guess I just figured you guys were hamming it up on purpose to distract people from Stephen and Jon."
For someone who had not been drinking anything at the moment, Steve did a remarkable imitation of a spit-take.
Tina winced again. In a stage-whisper, she said, "Did he not know?"
"We were planning to tell him at some point," sighed Jon.
Steve's voice careened up the scale in shock. "Seriously? Seriously? How many secret gay relationships is this company sitting on?"
"As far as I know? Just the two," said Jon. "One with boys, one with girls. Isn't that neat? Nice and symmetrical." The speakers let out a loud, unfortunate noise as whatever he was currently controlling died. "Okay, I can't play this game right now. Reaction time is shot all to hell. You wanna put some TV on?"
"TV sounds good," said Steve, dropping his controller onto the carpet.
"Obviously you need to keep this a hundred percent secret," put in Stephen from the bed. It seemed like someone should mention that at some point.
"Chill out, Col-bert, I can handle it," Steve told him. "Unlike some people." (Tina groaned and hid her face in her hands.) "And hey, this saves me the bother of trying to figure out a way to help get you laid on the down-low."
The thought of secret sex made Stephen's stomach churn. "I don't want to get laid on the down-low," he said faintly.
"It's okay, babe, he's not gonna push anything on you," said Jon. "Anthony was trying to do the same thing for me before I told him."
"'Babe'?" echoed Steve. "Oh my god, you guys are disgustingly cute. How did I not see this?"
Jon got his Netflix selection up on the flatscreen, and there was a brief debate over what to watch. His own vote was for something from his ongoing Get Stephen To Watch Adult TV initiative, which he'd taken up when Stephen started to run out of Disney movies to show him. (It was having mixed success. Stephen still couldn't stand South Park, but he had bought all the box sets of House, M.D. after three episodes.) Tina suggested 30 Rock, which was voted down on the grounds that Taylor Swift's brilliant comedy was too smart for them to fully appreciate while stoned.
Stoner flicks it was, then. They found a list of stupid pot comedies, and picked one called Half Baked mostly at random. Stephen thought the cover image was pretty.
While the movie was loading, Steve said, "But seriously, though. How much have I been missing? Are you doing the whole, sexy-bandmates, getting-it-on-in-the-back-of-the-tour-bus deal?"
"Okay, first of all, we haven't done any touring since the start of the year," said Jimmy. "They didn't get together until spring."
"And second of all," added Jon, climbing up onto the navy-blue sheets to join Stephen, "unlike some of us idiots, Stephen is a good Catholic boy who takes his purity ring very seriously." He stretched out behind Stephen so they were both facing the TV, propped up on one elbow so he could see, his free arm resting gently over Stephen's torso.
"And third of all," finished Stephen, clasping Jon's hand, "didn't we tell you not to believe everything you read in fanfiction?"
"Whoa," said Tina. "I don't even know if I'm high yet, but the fact that you guys can go all hivemind like that is seriously tripping me out."
There was the usual throng of fans outside the studio of Professional Important News with Demetri Martin when the band's limo showed up. The guys stopped to sign autographs and toss some merchandise into the crowd, flanked by Brian and the usual security detail.
So far, so normal...until they got inside, and Jon realized with a start that Stephen was pale and sweating. When he tugged at his collar, it looked like his hands were shaking too.
"Stephen? You okay?"
"Fine!" said Stephen breathlessly. "Fine. Just a little hot. They'll have cold drinks in the green room, right?"
As usual, Jon waited for Jimmy to touch Stephen — in a supportive way, a bracing hand on the arm or something — before seconding the gesture. He was cautious about looking too touchy-feely with his boyfriend in public. When Jimmy went first, that established it as a friendship thing, which made it okay to join in.
But Jimmy, though he was keeping a close eye on Stephen, kept his hands by his sides.
It was Brian who stepped in. "Come here for a minute, Stephen. Let's duck into the bathroom and splash some cold water on your face," he said, squeezing Stephen's shoulder. "The rest of you go on ahead."
The band was reunited in makeup, where someone thoughtfully provided Stephen with a soda. Even taking the bracing effect of a little foundation and powder into account, he looked much better by the time they settled into the green room.
"Here, have first dibs," said Jon, pushing the fruit platter in his direction. "Did you skip breakfast or something?"
"No, I ate." Stephen picked a couple of grapes. "It's not a side effect!"
"A what?" asked Jimmy.
"Vaxasopor withdrawal doesn't have side effects," said Stephen firmly. "Anyway, Brian gave me a Vaxachillpill, so I'll definitely be fine for the show."
"What's the point of coming off one drug if you're just going to jump onto another?" said Tucker.
"Some drugs have better side effects than others," snapped Jon. He couldn't go into detail; he wasn't sure if Stephen had even told Jimmy the full extent of the Vaxasopor-induced sleepwalking, let alone Tucker. "And who says Vaxasopor withdrawal doesn't have side effects?" Did Stephen think the way he kept having night sweats, hot and cold flushes, and periodic anxiety attacks was just a coincidence?
"My doctor," said Stephen. He was still twiddling the grapes in his fingers, not eating them. Was loss of appetite one of the side effects Vaxasopor purported not to have? "I think he would know."
"Maybe," said Jon. He didn't have as much confidence in Stephen's doctor as he'd used to. "But I'm thinking you should get a second opinion."
Hey, when you get back from the doctor, wanna go somewhere?
depends. where is it?
It's a surprise :)
you know I can never resist a surprise
The hills rose up around them as the daylight faded, the shadows making it effectively twilight for the two of them even as it was still not-quite-sunset in the city. And, oh, that city. Stephen started catching glimpses of the L.A. skyscrapers out past his side of the car, between the high slopes, standing out against the dimming sky.
In fact, this particular view of the skyscrapers was getting awfully close to one of the ones on all the postcards.
"Are we going to the sign?" he asked over the wind.
"The what?...Oh, that sign," said Jon. Like there was more than one giant iconic sign people might drive to see in Hollywood. "Do you want to go there? The view's probably great and all, but I was hoping to strike a balance between a nice view and, you know, not so many tourists."
Stephen caught his breath as he figured it out. "You're driving me to Makeout Point."
The place they ended up designating that night's Makeout Point was far up enough that nothing stood between them and the city, but far back enough that the skyscrapers were barely a row of matchsticks in the distance. Jon pulled onto an empty stretch of grass on the side of the road, broken only by power lines and the occasional halfhearted attempt at a fence. Their wheels were on a level with the tops of the next row down of trees; past them Stephen could see the nearest road, maybe a hundred feet below, lined with doll-sized houses.
Jon switched off the ignition and leaned over to nuzzle Stephen's neck. "Help me get the top up?"
Between the fading light and the tinted windows, it was dark and cozy in the back seat. "It's like being in a blanket fort," said Stephen, sliding across the fake leather to lean against Jon. "Only with horsepower."
"And here I was trying to do something special," said Jon dryly. His fingers lifted Stephen's glasses out of the way.
"It's totally special," said Stephen, and let Jon cup the base of his skull to draw him into a kiss.
They sat side-by-side like that for a while, mouths locked together, hands all over each other. Stephen moved to plant a string of kisses down Jon's neck, and got a rush of pride at the way Jon groaned and shivered in his arms. As for Jon, he murmured "Can I...?" with his hands on the hem of Stephen's shirt.
The next thing Stephen knew, they were both bare-chested: his BFF pendant on the floor, Jon's heart beating hard against his hand.
"You're really pretty," said Jon softly, with that ragged edge to his breath that made him sound as turned-on as Stephen felt.
Loath as Stephen was to argue with that, he couldn't help pointing out, "You can't even see me right now."
The vaguely Jon-shaped collection of shadows beside him laughed. "Yeah, well, I have a memory that goes back more than fifteen minutes, you know? Don't think you've changed that much since this afternoon."
Seemed over-confident to Stephen. "Maybe I have. You don't know!"
"Hmmm...." Jon kissed the corner of Stephen's mouth, the curve of his cheek, his forehead, one eyelid, the tip of his nose. "Feels the same to me."
He caressed the line of Stephen's neck, then traced one hand down the center of Stephen's chest, soft touch dividing Stephen neatly in two. Leisurely to start with, the motion slowed even further as Jon's fingers brushed his navel, because Stephen was more than half-hard and Jon's wrist was resting lightly against him.
"Mostly the same," amended Jon, breath hot on Stephen's ear.
Stephen fumbled for Jon's hand and pulled it away, but painted a couple of messy kisses around Jon's chin and jawline to demonstrate that Jon's enthusiasm was appreciated.
There was some jockeying for position as they found their way to horizontal across the seats. Usually this was the point when Stephen climbed on top of Jon, which tended to work out well for all involved. As it was, though, it was easy for Jon to push Stephen over and there was no space for them to roll without somebody falling off the side, so it was Stephen who ended up flat on his back on the fake leather. His legs were twisted, hanging off the edges; Jon only had one knee up on the seats.
"Gotta say, I did not expect this to be so inconvenient," muttered Jon, when he was more-or-less on hands and knees above Stephen. "The media lied to me."
"The media is usually targeted at non-filthy-rich people," Stephen reminded him. "This kind of setup probably seems like heaven when you're not used to having a big bed, in a big house, with frequently-inattentive guardians."
"Mmm," said Jon. "I love it when you're suddenly insightful."
He lowered his hips to grind against Stephen's, the sensation leaving Stephen dizzy. Even through the layers of fabric, his cock was firm and heated and insistent.
Stephen had never let Jon hold him down like this before.
It was good. It was so good. It was —
— well, it was being pinned in a car while someone rutted against him, but this time it was because he'd invited it. Jon wasn't strong enough to trap Stephen if he wanted to get away. Not that Jon would try in the first place. He wouldn't ignore Stephen's begging and —
Stephen twisted underneath Jon, suddenly frantic. "Jon, get off!"
"Oh, I will," purred Jon, nuzzling under his good ear. "I — wait, did you mean get off get off, or —"
A choked noise of despair was all Stephen could manage.
Jon sat up so fast he bumped his head on the roof with a thump. "Sorry! Was I crushing you? Are you lying on a seatbelt or something?"
No, but that would be a much more logical complaint. "Crushing me," said Stephen meekly.
"Sorry, sorry." Jon was a shadow with a faint silver outline, hanging on to the headrests so he wasn't putting any weight on Stephen. The seats creaked as he sank back onto his knees and carded his fingers through the nearest lock of Stephen's hair. "Is this better? Or do you just wanna be on top?"
Stephen's wordless attempts to claw his way upward would have to count as an answer. It was awkward and uncoordinated; he actually did jab himself with the buckle of a seatbelt at one point, and he was pretty sure he nearly missed kneeing Jon in the balls. But at last they were sitting side-by-side again, both catching their breaths.
There was a lump in Stephen's throat too heavy to talk around. He sniffled instead.
"Oh my god, Stephen," breathed Jon. "I'm so sorry. What did I do?"
Jon hadn't done anything. Jon had been smart and sexy and perfect and Stephen loved him. He pulled Jon into a fierce hug and tried to convey all of this by sobbing into Jon's chest.
All right, Jon was officially freaking the fuck out.
One minute he had been getting frisky with his boyfriend, in a situation that was theoretically romantic even if the practical elements were taking some work, and the next he had an armful of crying Stephen with no clue where it had come from or what he was supposed to do about it. He held on to Stephen and made some vague shushing noises — although if Jon himself had set Stephen off, that wasn't going to help — but surely the fact that Stephen was clinging to him for comfort meant that he wasn't the problem here — didn't it?
God, at least when Jon had the occasional meltdown, he gave his loved ones some kind of hint about why —
His foot was in one of their T-shirts; in the dark he couldn't tell whose. Snagging it with his toes, Jon managed to maneuver it upward, finally getting it in hand so he could try to dab at Stephen's tears. He had tissues in the car — of course he had tissues — but they were up front, which didn't do a whole lot of good right now.
Stephen's shuddering, gulping breaths were making it sort of hazardous for Jon to poke around at his face, so it was a relief in all sorts of ways when he commandeered the fabric to scrub at his own eyes. Was he coming down? Please, let him be coming down.
At last Stephen burrowed his wet face into Jon's neck and choked out, "The new doctor said...I'm having side effects."
"That's good, right?" said Jon, rubbing Stephen's back. "I mean, that they aren't in denial about it? Now you can get treated." And if withdrawal was behind his tearful breakdown, Jon could stop freaking out. It had an explanation; it could be fixed.
"Uh-huh." Stephen swallowed. "She prescribed me some stuff."
With the way Stephen was on top of it, Jon's leg was falling asleep. He tried to gently rearrange Stephen to make the pressure let up. "Not more Prescott Pharmaceuticals concoctions?"
Clutching the damp shirt against his chest, Stephen backed obligingly away. "Nuh-uh. A different sleep thing — milder — for the...rebound insomnia. Use it so I don't have to relapse with the Vaxasopor. Then I come off that too...has its own side effects, but...not so many."
"That sounds great," said Jon earnestly. "Sounds really promising." He caressed Stephen's arm in the darkness.
Stephen sniffled. "And...and one more thing," he said in a thin voice. "A-antidepressants."
"Yeah, that makes sense," said Jon. "Because of the anxiety attacks, right? And...and the things like this."
"Maybe," whispered Stephen. "Or maybe just 'cause."
Well, wasn't that a kick to the gut.
"She said she wasn't sure," added Stephen. Like he wasn't sure either. Like he didn't realize that he was (normally) one of the most excitable, vibrant, easily-delighted people Jon had ever met.
"She doesn't know you." Jon realized he'd started gripping Stephen's arm much too hard, and forced himself to relax before he left bruises. "She's only ever seen you in the middle of benzo withdrawal, so how would she know? You're going through some stuff, that's all. You're fine. Trust me."
"O-okay." Swallowing hard, Stephen leaned against him, much calmer by now. "Sorry I messed up your romantic evening. And your T-shirt."
Jon kissed his ear. "You didn't mess it up. We can always put the top back down and check out the view. I bet the stars look great from up here. And how do you even know that's my shirt?"
"Because mine was a V-neck," said Stephen, like it was obvious. The confidence that had returned to his voice was the sweetest thing Jon had heard all day. Topped only by the note of cautious hope as Stephen added, "Maybe now we can go to the sign?"