Chapter 1: Bigger On The Underside
For espreite, who wanted Jon as a Time Lord. Takes place shortly after this clip.
Jon Stewart strode into the studio, flanked by three men with curly hair, full beards, and long, patterned robes that swished behind them.
"Ah, Jon!" exclaimed Stephen brightly. "You found my Jews!" (He had been planning to send some of his other Jews — a.k.a. "his writers" — out looking for them, but kept forgetting.)
Ignoring him (how dare he? Nobody ignores Sir Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A.!), Jon marched straight up to the C-shaped desk and began running his hands over it in an altogether too possessive manner.
"All this time," he said breathlessly. "I never realized it was right under my nose..."
"Understandable," remarked Stephen. "There's a lot of space under there."
"Is she Vortex-ready?" asked Jon, ignoring Stephen again and turning to his companion with the long silver locks.
"Uh, we don't actually know," said the other man a bit sheepishly. "We've been lost in the wardrobe for the past forty years."
"Well, I guess we'll find out." Circling around behind the desk, Jon swung himself under it and disappeared.
Crouching down in the crook of the C, Stephen leaned forward and yelled after him: "What do you think you're doing in my desk?"
"It's not your desk, Stephen!" came the echoing reply. "It's my TARDIS!"
"It's not your anything!" Stephen shouted. "Is it shaped like a giant J? I don't think so!"
"The shape is just camouflage," Jon called back. "It was trying to blend itself in to an environment full of your name. I'll just turn off the chameleon circuit — here, you'll see—"
Stephen jumped back with a yelp as the desk flickered out of being, replaced by a large block of pink coral roughly the size of a telephone booth.
A door in the side of the coral opened, and Jon stepped out. "Stephen, I have a confession to make."
"What did you do to my desk?" yelped Stephen.
"I'm getting to that. First — my name isn't actually Jon Stewart."
"Yeah, I know. It's something incredibly Jewy. It's okay, Jon, you don't have to hide your heathenness with me."
"No, no, it's not that either. My full name is Jonastisdellashowithastein."
"I'm a Time Lord. An alien. From the planet Gallifrey."
"Is stealing legal on your planet?"
Jon blinked. "What? No!"
"Then give me my desk back!"
"Stephen, it was never a desk at all. It's a very sophisticated ship that travels through time, space, and dimensions. Didn't you ever notice that it was bigger on the underside?"
"Of course I did! How do you think I managed to install two Starbucks in there?"
Jon frowned at him for a second, then leaned back into the big hunk of coral. "Huh. So you did."
"We really should get going, Jonastisdellashowithastein," said one of the other Jews. "President Romanadvoratrelundar will not be pleased with us for having been MIA for so long."
Jon grimaced. "Oh, yeah. She's going to blow a gasket. Come on, guys."
The men in long robes started filing into the coral. Stephen marched promptly after them.
"Stephen," stammered Jon, "you can't come to Gallifrey."
Stephen aimed a pen at him. "Try and stop me, Stewart!"
"I told you, it's not Jon Stewart, it's—"
"Whatever. Look, whoever you are: where my desk goes, I go."
The four Jews (or Time Lords, or whatever) exchanged thoughtful looks. Then one of them asked a question in some kind of alien-sounding gibberish, though it could have been Hindi or Javanese or Mexican for all Stephen knew. Jon answered in the same language.
"Hey!" yelled Stephen. "You're on Earth. Speak English!"
"Sorry about that," said Jon, before turning back to the others and continuing in America's language: "Besides, he's harmless. Mostly."
"If you're sure," said the third Time Jew, the fair-haired one in the yellow. "You're the boss."
"Right," said Jon firmly. "We'll take him." He grabbed Stephen's arm and pulled him across the threshold, then shut the door. "Go tell the baristas to lock everything down. Takeoff is in five minutes. Next stop: Gallifrey!"
Chapter 2: Study Break
For zelkovaserrata, who prompted "boarding school roommates."
"Jonnnnnn," moaned Stephen, flopping dramatically over the edge of the top bunk. "I'm bored. Entertain me."
"Stephen, I'm trying to study."
"At three in the morning?"
"Can't sleep," said Jon. "So I'm trying to at least get some studying done."
"Well, your light is keeping me up. Therefore, it's your fault I'm awake. Therefore, it's your responsibility to entertain me. That's just logic."
Jon sighed, slumping in his chair. "Fine. I'll read you some of this. 'Two conditions have been proposed to be required for fear reduction. First, the fear structure must be activated. Second, new information must be provided that includes elements incompatible with the existing pathological elements—'"
"Good," snapped Jon. "Now you're just as entertained as I am."
This bought him a few seconds of silence. Then the mattress creaked as Stephen swung down from the bunk.
"No wonder you can't sleep," he declared, padding across the cramped dorm room. "You're thinking too hard. You need a little exertion; that'll wear you out properly."
"Stephen, I don't—" began Jon. Then Stephen leaned against the back of his chair, wrapped lithe arms around his torso, and began nibbling on his neck; and his ability to concentrate checked its bags, waved goodbye, and hopped the next plane for Tijuana.
(Stephen T. Colbert was absolutely, positively, 100% straight. Which was why he and Jon had a tacit agreement that what happened in the room stayed in the room.)
"I have a test," stammered Jon faintly. He knew it was useless, but at least he would be able to tell himself tomorrow that he tried.
Sure enough, when Stephen groaned throatily right below his ear, Jon's raging teenage-boy hormones tackled his resolve, clonked it over the head, wrapped it in a tarp, and tossed it into the harbor.
All of which left Jon free to drop the book, jump to his feet, and haul Stephen over to his bunk.
Chapter 3: We'll Be Fright Beck
For biichan, who prompted "The 10/31 project gets put into action and Stephen makes Jon go with him."
Holding out the plastic pumpkin, Stephen launched into his best horrific cackle.
The woman at the door looked dubiously around him. "Where are the kids?"
"No kids!" said Stephen. "Just me and my friend." He jerked his thumb back at Jon, who was shivering back on the sidewalk. "He's shy."
"Honey, either you got kids, or you don't get candy. Now, which is it?"
"No, no, no, this isn't for Halloween!" protested Stephen. "This is about saving America!"
"Uh-huh. Should've dressed as Uncle Sam for that."
"No need." Stephen lifted off his ghoulish mask and flashed his most charming grin. "I'm already America. I'm sure you've heard of the 10-31 project...."
"The what now?"
"You haven't? Here, have a card!" Reaching under the folds of his tattered costume, Stephen pulled one out and offered it to her. "It's organized around ten principles, thirty-one flavors, four seasons--"
"We don't want any."
"I'm not selling something! I'm trying to save democracy! This--"
The door closed in his face.
"Phooey," grumbled Stephen, hopping down the steps. Jon fell in beside him as he trudged across the grass. "I really thought I was getting somewhere with that one, too!"
"You haven't gotten somewhere with anyone. Can't we stop now? I'm getting cold."
"It isn't cold out here."
"You're not the one wearing a skimpy nurse costume," countered Jon.
"But we can't give up now. I still have to spread the ten principles!"
"Which you just made up this morning in a fit of last-minute panic."
"They're still important! Besides, I don't have any candy yet."
Grabbing his ragged lapels, Jon yanked him to a halt. "Stephen, I will buy you candy. I will buy you bags and bags of it. I will shower you in chocolate and lollipops and fun-size Mars Bars. And you can explain those ten principles on Monday to an audience of millions who drink in your every word. Just let me get somewhere I can warm up, already!"
Stephen looked mournfully down at the pumpkin, with its empty plastic belly. Then he began tugging at his shroud.
"What are you...?"
"Giving you my coat. What does it look like?"
"Uh, wow," said Jon, as Stephen draped the fabric over his shoulders. "Thanks."
"No big deal." Wrapping an arm around Jon's waist, Stephen steered him back towards the car. "Although you realize, of course," he added imperiously, "that now we'll both be cold."
"I do. And I appreciate it."
"So we're going to need a way to warm each other up."
Jon smiled, leaning against him. "Do you have something in mind?"
"Well, if you can keep the nurse outfit on for a little longer...."
Chapter 4: Bad Egg
For kick_back_80s, who wanted "Stephen just wants to go on an easter egg hunt. Seriously. That's all he wants."
"I just want to go on an Easter egg hunt, Jon! That's all I want!"
"I believe you, Stephen. And I'm saying no."
"Is this because of my religion? You're oppressing me because I'm a white Christian male, aren't you?"
"No, I'm oppressing you because — uh, I mean, I'm saying no because your holiday events always turn into disasters."
"Christmas. You nearly got the special guest eaten by a bear."
"Okay, name two."
"St. Patrick's Day. Halfway through the proceedings, Dennis Kucinich showed up and informed me that you had snuck off with half of his campaign funds."
"I'm telling you, Jon, he's a leprechaun! Not a very good one, though. All that money, and I still had to dip into my own reserves to buy enough green food coloring for all the punch."
"Which you then spiked, and we all know what that led to. Listen, Stephen, the point is, no egg hunts. I mean it."
"But I already hid the eggs and everything!"
"...Wait. There are eggs hidden around the building?"
"Mostly just your office."
"Oh, no. At least tell me you remembered to hard-boil them."
"Of course, Jon! I'm not stupid! I know the eggs are supposed to be hard-boiled! ...How do you do that, again?"
Chapter 5: These Boots Were Made For Strutting
For punkishgrin, who wanted something with this picture.
Jon caught his breath as the door opened.
Stephen leaned languidly against the frame. His powder-blue collar and cuffs were crisp; his dark suit jacket flowed smoothly across his angles; his tie was knotted with today-we-secure-the-global-market precision. Even his trousers were neatly pleated, in spite of cutting off at mid-thigh.
Which made it all the more striking that the rest of each leg was hugged by skintight red leather, the definition of the muscles drawn out by the three-inch heels.
Jon was vaguely aware that his mouth was hanging open. (And that Stephen was now, like, a foot taller than he was.)
"You like what you see, Mr. Stewart?" purred Stephen.
"Y-yeah," breathed Jon, rough and scratchy. "C'mere."
Pushing himself away from the door one-handed, Stephen strutted across the bedroom.
Or at least, most of the bedroom. When he was three steps from Jon, he landed wrong on one of the heels, wobbled like a jello mold, and toppled in an awkward pile of suit and leather into Jon's arms. Jon let out a yelp as one of Stephen's feet (not the heel, mercifully) landed on his bare toes as they fell back onto the mattress.
"Okay," stammered Stephen at last, his voice back in its normal register and just a little shaky, "a rare correction: I do not, in fact, walk in these boots like I was born in them."
"Duly noted," said Jon, rubbing his foot. Nothing broken, no pain that wasn't already fading. He'd be all right. "What say we get you out of them, then?"
Chapter 6: Satellite Test
For stellar_dust, who wanted an angst-free story about baby carrots.
(This was when we had learned that TCR would be going to Iraq, but didn't know anything about what the broadcast would look like.)
"And three...two...we're on," said Jimmy's voice from the speakers. "Satellite test is go. Start talking, Stephen."
"You never have to tell me twice." Stephen grinned at the camera, tilting his head and preening. "How do I look, Jon?"
There was a half-second delay before Jon's voice, a bit crackly and distorted but as warm as ever, echoed in the small studio deep in an undisclosed location. "Made for television."
"Everything coming through all right? My voice is coming through clearly, and so on?"
"It's downright melodious, Stephen."
"Well, now we know he can hear me," said Stephen decidedly. "And you can see fine? Not too much distortion? How many fingers am I holding up?"
Again that half-second delay before the reply: "Two."
"How about now?"
"Now describe what I'm doing."
"You're...reaching under the desk," said Jon, the play-by-play just slightly behind Stephen's actions, "and pulling out something. A bag. Something orange...Stephen, are those baby carrots?"
"Get me a close-up, Jim," ordered Stephen. The camera cut to a close shot of Stephen's head and shoulders; he held up the bag to be in the frame. "Keep talking, Jon."
"Are you sure?" stammered Jon. "I mean, uh — Jimmy, have you got enough yet?"
"This is great, actually," replied the director. "Gives us a sense of the timing. Keep up the narration while I run a few more tests."
"Okay," said Jon's voice. "You're...holding up the bag — ah! You tossed it from one hand to the other. Now you're opening it, and pulling out a baby carrot. And...."
He trailed off again as Stephen tilted the carrot up towards his mouth, hovering over it for a moment before flicking his tongue across the tip.
"Don't stop, Jon," he implored, looking up at the camera from under his long lashes (still there, if not entirely visible at this resolution). "Please don't stop."
"You're...tonguing the end of the carrot." Jon's voice seemed oddly jumpy now. Maybe there was interference with the satellite. "Now you're r-running your tongue along the underside...you've got the end in your mouth...ohgod. You're moving it up...and d-down again...up and down, slowly, very slowly, you...okay, now you've got almost the whole thing in your mouth. I can...I can see your lips working, your cheeks, your eyes closing as you concentrate...god, Stephen, you're really going to swallow it all, aren't you? You're...okay, now you're turning purple. Ooh. That can't be good. Hey! Someone help him, he's choking!"
Killer jogged over to the desk, and a few thrusts later Stephen had coughed up the baby carrot, which bounced off the desktop and landed, still whole, on the floor. Moments later he was surrounded by other staff, rubbing his back and wiping his brow and offering him water.
"I'm okay, I'm okay!" he insisted, waving them aside so he could see the camera.
"Oh, thank goodness," came Jon's relieved voice a half second later. "Stephen, listen, promise me you won't do anything like that again, okay?"
"Sure," said Stephen shakily. "Who wants his gravestone to say 'Died in faraway country during wartime from baby carrot'? Not me."
"I'll just have to save the moves until I get home."
Chapter 7: Teddy Bears' Tea Party
'Would you rather sit with Mr Bartholomew, or Mr Snuggles?'
John looked from the tan, black-eared teddy bear to the cream-colored, palm-sized, not-a-panda teddy beside it. 'I don't know,' he said glumly. 'Whichever you prefer, I guess.'
'What's that, Mr Bartholomew?' asked Jon, holding the larger bear up to his ear. 'You say you want to sit with Mr Oliver? Well, I think we can certainly arrange that.'
He handed Mr Bartholomew across the break room table. John had only meant to take the bear and hold it, but he found himself cuddling it instead.
'Now, would you rather have tea or hot cocoa?'
'Jon,' said John in gentle reprimand. 'I'm British.'
'Right, sorry.' Jon poured four cups of tea, sliding one over to Mr Snuggles. It looked as big as a barrel between his tiny paws. 'Cucumber sandwich?'
John took the little triangle of white bread and tapped it against Mr Bartholemew's fuzzy mouth before taking a nibble himself.
'Now, remember, John, you're safe here,' said Jon gently. 'You can tell Mr Snuggles exactly how you feel.'
'Well, Mr Snuggles,' began John, 'I guess I'm sad. And maybe a bit lonely.'
The bear (with a little help from Jon's finger) nodded thoughtfully.
'It just seems so...quiet around here, with Rob gone. I thought Mr Stewart would probably understand that better than anyone.'
'Why's that?' asked Mr Snuggles, in a voice that sounded remarkably like Jon's falsetto.
'Well, he probably felt the same way after Colbert left, didn't he? I mean, they had a similar sort of relationship. Disagreeing about everything but having fun with it...spending most of their free time with each other...watching porn together in the office...'
'Um,' said Jon.
Mr Snuggles looked up at him. 'Don't deny it, Stewart. Everybody knew.'
'He's right,' added Mr Bartholomew (in a gruff voice that sounded suspiciously like John's miserable attempt at a Brooklyn accent). 'And don't think we miss that spring in your step after he visits, either.'
'So I think you have your answer right there,' put in Mr Snuggles. 'I know it's a change, not working in the same building with him, but that doesn't mean you'll never get to see each other again. You can keep in touch in other ways, for one thing.'
'I guess that's true,' admitted John, taking a sip of his tea.
'And I'm sure Jon here won't object to having him over for a visit and some porn every once in a while.'
They all turned expectantly to Jon, who still looked a bit startled.
'Everybody knows?' he asked plaintively.
John and the bears nodded.
'Right, then. Listen, any time Rob is in town, he's welcome. And so long as you get your job done, what you get up to in between is nothing I need to know about. You can tell him I said that.'
'You're a good man, Mr Stewart,' declared Mr Bartholomew.
'Listen to the bear.' Breaking into a lopsided smile, John rubbed the furry ears. 'He knows of what he speaks.'
Chapter 8: The Lake
For hiddenxplaces, who wanted "Jon & Stephen ice-skating, bonus point if it's Stephen who saves Jon."
A crescent moon hung in the clear night sky, casting the whole forest in silver. Frost glittered on the pine needles and encased the tiny red berries of the holly bushes like precious jewels; a mantle of snow lay over the ground like a thick white blanket, almost glowing in the moonlight. All the animals were curled up snugly in their dens and burrows; it was as if the tableau had been created just as it was, new and pristine, never touched by any living hand.
"Best of all," added Stephen as he tramped through the snow, "all the bears are hibernating!"
"The bears are smart," muttered Jon from behind him. "You sure you don't want to emulate them? Get back to the nice warm cabin, make some hot chocolate, snuggle up under the covers?"
It was definitely tempting. Especially when Stephen started to think of all the other ways they could generate heat while they were at it. (Of course, they had done several of them last night, and a few more this morning, but when you were as virile and manly as Stephen was, that was an awfully long time to wait.)
Shake it off, Col-bert! he chastised himself. "Not a chance, Jon. We'll be turning the corner in a few minutes. Stay the course."
"Haven't heard that one before," grumbled Jon.
A minute later, the trees parted, and Jon gasped.
They were standing on a bank which sloped down maybe twenty feet before giving way to a vast lake. The icy surface, smooth as glass, lay unmoving and unbroken except by a small island towards the far side, topped by a lone tuft of firs.
"You will note," said Stephen proudly, after letting Jon stare openmouthed for a minute or two, "that I have yet to say 'I told you so'."
"Kudos," breathed Jon. His voice was barely above a whisper, as if he were afraid that speaking too loudly would shatter the picture. "Is it really safe for us to skate here?"
"Of course. I do it all the time." Stephen slung his ice skates over his other shoulder, so that he could take Jon's arm as they began to make their way down the cliff. Having a hypochondriac liberal boyfriend had its perks sometimes. "Don't worry. I won't let you fall."
Chapter 9: How To Do A Suit
For aybara_max, who wanted some pure fluff about Stephen's happy childhood.
"OK I'm ready!" announced Stephen through the door.
He had insisted on dressing himself for church. It was turning into an anxious ten minutes for Lulu, the sibling in charge of getting her littlest brother out the door in time; but Stephen had declared that he Could Do It Himself Okay, and had put up such a fuss that Lulu had figured it would be quickest just to let him have his way.
She opened the door of the four-year-old's room to find Stephen standing in the middle of the floor, wearing an untucked shirt, his pants on backwards, and one of Jimmy's ties knotted like a loose bow around his neck. The end hung almost down to his feet.
"See?" he demanded. "I know how to do a suit!"
Lulu was still staring when there was a honking from outside.
"Right. You're very handsome," she agreed, scooping Stephen up. "Come on, Cary Grant. On the way up, I'll show you how to do a tie."
Chapter 10: Measure In Love
"There you are, girlfriend!" exclaimed Stephen, as Lorraine threaded her way through the food court to the smoothie stand. "I'm so glad you could make it. I'm just at my wits' end!"
"Another anniversary?" asked Lorraine , taking the smoothie that Stephen held out to her. Blueberry: her favorite. It was the kind of thoughtfulness that seemed to come naturally to him — which made his perennial trouble with gifts all the more surprising.
Stephen nodded. "A whole year, this time. And I have absolutely no idea what to get him."
"You got him such a nice gift for your six-month anniversary," pointed out Lorraine, "and your three-month anniversary, and your one-month anniversary, and your two-week anniversary, and your one-week anniversary...I'm sure Jon won't mind if the one-year present isn't too extravagant."
From anyone else, this level of fretting would have been annoying. Not Stephen. After all, he had done so much for Lorraine.
It had been Stephen who, back at their small, liberal-arts college, got her to realize that all the guys she dated were angry, controlling jerks. "Girl, you deserve better," Stephen had insisted, until at last she had believed it. Now she had a happy, loving marriage with three bright, well-adjusted children, and she probably owed it all to him.
"It doesn't have to be expensive," admitted Stephen now, looking from storefront to storefront as they strolled through the mall. "But no matter how much it costs, I'm not sure anything can convey just how deliriously happy a whole year with my little fluff muffin has made me!"
"Don't worry," said Lorraine soothingly, while Stephen sipped his own banana smoothie. "We'll find something. And, even if we don't, I'm sure he already knows."
Chapter 11: Blame The Floppy Ear
For zelkovaserrata, who prompted "...I didn't say that out loud, did I?"
"Jon, Jon — talk to me."
With the way Stephen's hips were grinding against him as they stumbled towards the bedroom, it was a wonder Jon could string words together at all. "Stephen," he panted, tugging the back of the other man's shirt out of his waistband. "My Stephen."
"Yours," echoed Stephen, breath hot against Jon's neck as he dispensed with their belts one-handed. "All yours."
"My wonderful Stephen," continued Jon, as his own shirt was wrenched up over his head and he toppled onto the mattress, landing on his back with Stephen in his arms. "Handsome — charming — talented Stephen."
"You know it," murmured Stephen. "These talents — just for you."
"My clever Stephen. My beloved Stephen."
"Your beloved Stephen," came the echo.
"My own—" Jon groaned as Stephen arched in his embrace, leading to all kinds of achingly lovely friction. "My very own Stephen, my dear one, my cuddly — mmm — my adorable bunny rabbit, my—"
Stephen's hands left Jon's waistband to push himself upwards. "Your what?"
Jon caught his breath. "...I didn't say that out loud, did I?"
"Yes. Yes, you did."
"Um," stammered Jon. "I didn't mean—"
"Too late, Jon. Cat's out of the bag. Well, not 'cat', but you know what I mean." Stephen wrinkled his nose. "Why couldn't you think of me as one of the cool animals? Like a tiger, or an eagle?"
Lowering his voice to a suggestive purr, he added, "Wouldn't you rather have a tiger in the sack anyway?"
He shifted position ever so slightly, so that now he seemed to be towering over Jon, not so much cuddly as predatory. A bit of moonlight from the window glinted dangerously in his eyes.
"I could get used to this," panted Jon, the sight leaving him slightly breathless.
"Good," growled Stephen, and pounced.
Chapter 12: Cutting It Fine
For culf, who wanted "something about "Stephen" acquiring a replica samurai sword, just to spite John Oliver because they're illegal in the UK. (And because John claims to be of Samurai descent.)"
"Oh, wow," said Jon appreciatively. "It's so long!"
John stopped outside the door, suddenly not sure this was a conversation he wanted to walk in on.
"Twenty-four and a half inches," said Stephen proudly. John immediately felt better. If Stephen was talking about something completely innocent, it was safe to go in. And if he wasn't, well, John kind of wanted to see.
He pushed open the door. "Excuse me, Jon, could I borrow you for a minute? I want to ask--"
Stephen swiveled in his chair, and John stopped cold. Lying across Stephen's lap was a beautiful katana: the handle dark and carved, the blade polished and elegant and deadly.
"You like it?" asked Stephen, raising the sword proudly. "I heard you were looking for one of these, so I went out and got one."
John was overwhelmed by a warm rush of gratitude. "F-for me?"
"Of course not. For me! I figured if someone else wanted it so much, it must be awesome. Which means I obviously need to have one."
(In retrospect, John should have been suspicious sooner. The last time he had thought Stephen was doing him a favor, he had spent the day stuffed in a suitcase.)
"Isn't it great?" continued Stephen, holding the katana out. "Hand-made with traditional methods by experts. You can tell the experts because they're the ones who still have their hands."
"Look on the bright side, John," said Jon. "It means you're a trendsetter. Even if you haven't found one yet, you still gave Stephen the idea."
"He can't get one at all," announced Stephen smugly. "They're illegal in his country. Just like carrying a gun, and not wearing a funny hat."
John resisted the urge to challenge him to a duel. Instead, he turned to his boss, ignoring Stephen entirely (the one thing he knew was guaranteed to ruffle the man's feathers). "Jon, I wanted to ask you if I could do a segment about teabagging."
Stephen froze; Jon nodded thoughtfully. "Sounds like a good idea."
"I just wanted to make sure," said John. "I mean, do you trust my skills vis-a-vis teabagging?"
"You think I have enough experience?"
"I know you do, John," said Jon, oblivious to Stephen's increasing horror. "I've seen you in action."
"Because I know this is the sort of thing you would have had Stephen do, back when he was on the show; but now he isn't, so..."
"That's it!" interrupted Stephen, throwing down the katana and standing up. The ancient blade clattered painfully on the modern tiles of the floor. "Enjoy your little den of tea and sodomy. I'm getting out of here."
"Stephen, wait!" called Jon after him. "Aren't you going to take your sword?"
"I don't want that stupid old sword anyway!" yelled Stephen over his shoulder, shoving past John and slamming the door behind him.
"Er, sorry about that," said John awkwardly. "I didn't realize it would set him off quite that much...."
"Nah, don't worry about it," said Jon. "That's how he usually leaves. So, uh, these are illegal in the UK?"
"Sometimes," clarified John. "Not if they have a legitimate purpose. Or if they're hand-made with traditional methods."
Jon perked up. "Great! Want a free katana?"
Chapter 13: The Tour
For canadian_plant, who wanted: "A story about the space under Stephen's desk! He's had two Starbucks, a gitmo-esque prison, Jews apparently building a pyramid, and 'his Asians'. There's definitey something fishy going on."
"Here you go, sir," said the barista as she set the finished strawberry smoothie down on the counter.
"Thanks," said Jon, reaching into his pocket for his wallet. "Uh, how much?"
Stephen slung an arm over his shoulders. "He's with me."
"In that case — free," the barista replied brightly. "Enjoy your tour!"
"This is really amazing, Stephen," remarked Jon around the smoothie straw as his friend led him away from the smoothie stand and down a corridor. "It's like you've got the whole Bottle City of Kandor down here."
"Nah, just the Desk Mall of Colbert," said Stephen. "Well, kind of a mall/convention center/hotel/extravaganza. Hi, Linda!" he added, waving to a woman pushing a trolley of flower arrangements. She waved back.
"What are those for?" wondered Jon as she disappeared through a doorway.
"Probably the chapel. We do a good wedding business. The pyramid's over that way, but it still isn't finished, so let's go this way."
He dragged Jon down a new hall, this one with softer lighting and plush carpets. "Classy," said Jon admiringly. "What's down here?"
"Honeymoon suite." Stephen opened a door, unmuffling a noise that Jon recognized as creaking bedsprings. "Everything all right in there?"
There was a screech and a scuffle, and a heart-shaped tin of chocolates went flying at Stephen's head. He ducked just in time. Jon had to lunge out of the way, nearly spilling his smoothie.
"They'll be fine," declared Stephen as he pulled the door closed.
"You really shouldn't have—" began Jon.
His reprimand was cut off by a wailing siren. A series of lights that Jon hadn't even noticed flashed in tiny violet dots on the walls; the next thing he knew, Stephen had grabbed his hand and was dragging him at a run, the smoothie dropped and splattered behind them.
"What's going on?" Jon shouted over the racket. "Stephen, talk to me! Is there a fire, or something?"
"No, no, this is routine!" yelled Stephen, hauling him through another door and into a small room that looked like some kind of futuristic cockpit, the walls and desktop lined with screens and flashy controls. There were a couple of bucket seats along the back wall, by the door; Stephen shoved Jon into one of these, then plopped down next to him and pulled a harness down over his chest. "It means Japan is in trouble!"
"The desk turns into a giant robot, Jon! What do you think the Asians are here for?"
The sirens stopped blaring as a teenage Japanese girl, wearing a skintight white suit with blue trim, dropped from the ceiling and landed in the pilot's seat. Four small screens at the top of the display lit up, displaying four matching cockpits with people in color-coordinated suits settling into the corresponding chairs. As Jon watched in openmouthed disbelief, they began flipping switches and giving each other cues in rapid Japanese. The girl in blue ignored her extra guests entirely.
"Stop gaping and buckle up, already!" ordered Stephen. "You don't want to be loose when we start moving. Tried that once, broke my wrist."
Realizing that his questions could probably wait until after the epic battle with whatever it was you needed a giant robot to defeat, Jon shut his mouth and started fumbling with the harness.
"Jonnnnnn. Jon, Jon, Jon. Have I told you what a kind and wonderful person you are lately?"
"Whatever it is, you're not getting it."
"But you are a wonderful person. A sweet, good, generous person, with a giving spirit, and—"
"What do you want, Stephen?"
"...Why is there no honey in the kitchen?"
"Because the last time I let you have honey, you spent twenty minutes arguing with a birch."
"It could have been an Ent! You don't know!"
"Mmhmm. You're still not getting honey."
"You do realize that, if I don't get my fix, I'm going to need to find something else sweet and delectable to satisfy my tongue. If you know what I mean."
"...Stephen, are you trying to threaten me by offering me sex?"
"Oh. I guess that isn't the greatest plan, is it."
"No, no, it's a fantastic plan. Now get over here."
Chapter 15: Third Time's The Charm
For zelkovaserrata, who prompted "second time." (In which Stephen's seduction!fail continues unabated.)
"So we're definitely not going to run out of lube this time?"
Jon reached into the nightstand and pulled out two bottles of Astroglide. "Both new and unopened. There's no way we're going through it all in one night."
"And I'm not going to get jabbed in the back by another fork that got lost in the couch cushions? Because that hurt, Jon."
"I don't think that's going to be a problem on a bed. Plus, I just changed the sheets, so I promise you there's nothing weird lurking under the covers. So, uh, can we start now?"
Stephen held him off. "Not until you absolutely promise that Jason Jones isn't going to walk in on us during the naked after-cuddling this time."
Jon let out an awkward laugh. "Stephen, we're at my apartment. What, you think somebody's going to cross the city, break into the building, creep up the stairs, and look in on us?"
"Promise!" repeated Stephen, his expression stony.
"All right, all right. I promise. I absolutely promise," he added for good measure.
"Good," declared Stephen, and, without warning, tackled him.
There was a resounding crack as the back of Jon's head slammed into the headboard.
For a moment there was nothing but stars and throbbing pain, only exacerbated by the fact that Stephen kept shouting. "Jon. Jon! Speak to me, Jon!"
Eyes still closed, Jon found his hand and squeezed it. "Think I'm gonna be okay," he murmured. "But I guess we won't get this perfect until the third time."
Chapter 16: Anchor's Pet
For stellar_dus, who prompted: "A kitten adopts the TDS studio. Stephen must, of course, do them one better." Prequel to Peachy Keen.
There were very few ways to get Stephen Colbert to stop talking. Of course, most of them were unethical, if not downright illegal. But you could also just tell him that everyone else was getting to see something special, and the only way he could get in on the action was to keep very, very quiet.
(Jon had to resist the urge to add "We're hunting wabbits.")
Once Stephen's mouth was firmly clamped shut, Jon slid open the window (so well-oiled these days that it didn't even creak) and motioned for him to lean out.
The half-grown kitten on the windowsill eyed her new admirers warily, the tip of her tail flicking back and forth.
"She just showed up one day," Jon had explained earlier. "One of the writers started leaving scraps out for her, and she kind of stuck around. We've been calling her Margaret, after DJ's great-aunt - apparently the woman was a notorious cat lady in her day."
Now, as Stephen stared wide-eyed at the little cat (calico, with a fluffy white front, white paws, and ears much too big for its head), Jon leaned close to him and whispered in his good ear, "Do you want to feed her?"
"No, Jon, I do not want to feed her," hissed Stephen derisively out of the corner of his mouth. "She's a stray, not a tourist attraction."
"Suit yourself." Stepping back into the office, Jon grabbed the plastic container he had been saving for just such an occasion. He peeled off the lid, set a pinch of the salmon on it, returned to the window, and held it along the sill.
Margaret leaned forward, nose twitching as she investigated.
Jon set the makeshift platter down on the brick and withdrew his hand. A few moments later, the cat trotted forward, settled herself down, and began to nibble daintily at the offering.
Stephen, his eyes fixed firmly on her, didn't move through the whole thing.
When Margaret had licked the makeshift platter to her satisfaction, she turned around and strolled away. Once she was out of view, Stephen harrumphed and went right back to his usual volume. "She's not so great," he declared. "So your building got itself a pet. Big deal! It's just a cat. It's nothing special."
"He just slithered in one day!" declared Stephen with affected nonchalance. "And then we started feeding him, and, well..."
"Stephen, it's a twenty-foot python."
"Isn't he awesome?" agreed Stephen proudly. "I'm thinking of naming him Tatsu, after the camera guy who made his first meal."
"So it wasn't you who decided to start feeding that thing," breathed Jon, feeling relieved in spite of the massive snake curled up on Stephen's couch.
"No, Jon," sighed Stephen, with the air of one who wants you to know just how lucky you are that he's being so patient with you. "Tatsu was the first one he ate. Try to keep up."
Chapter 17: Convenient Fictions
For zelkovaserrata, who wanted Stephen/Jon/"Stephen". Stealth Thursday Next crossover.
"He's rearranging my DVDs."
"It stopped him from sorting your bookshelf into 'censor' and 'burn' piles, didn't it? Count your blessings."
"I still don't understand what he's doing here in the first place."
"Neither do I. It's all top-secret and classified and what have you. All I know is, Jurisfiction said they needed a safe place to stow him. And, well, I do feel kind of responsible for him. Given that I created him and all."
"I guess that's fair."
"Look, if you've got any other ways of distracting him in mind, I'm open to suggestions."
"I'm a red-blooded American male who has just met his boyfriend's identical twin. What do you think I have in mind?"
It had taken some fast talking (literally — after explaining that it wasn't gay if you did it with yourself, Stephen had demonstrated his moral credentials by speed-reciting a couple of Catholic creeds), but as Jon had expected, Stephen's character had been quick to fall into bed.
He was a bit surprised, though, when in spite of his obnoxiousness "Stephen" cuddled up to Stephen, one arm draped across him, head resting on his chest.
(Not that Jon was complaining. Besides, he was far too sated to be unhappy about anything at the moment.)
"You know, you're all right," laughed Stephen. "What do you think, Jon? Can we keep him?"
"Oh, no you don't," murmured Jon, leaning against Stephen's other side. "Besides, he is only fictional."
"Elitist," protested "Stephen" sleepily. "Besides, you're not exactly real yourself, you know."
Jon was suddenly wide awake. Judging by the look they exchanged, so was Stephen.
"Stephen" ignored them both. Before either one got up the nerve to ask what he had meant, he was lightly snoring, dead to the (real?) world.
Chapter 18: Shock And Awe
"Did you see the Huffington Post yesterday?"
Stephen rolled his eyes. "As if I would read that liberal rag, Jon."
"Well, there was a poll about you."
Stephen froze with a forkful of caviar halfway to his mouth, then dropped it on the tablecloth and whipped out his BlackBerry. "Why didn't you tell me earlier? I need to Twitter my constituents to vote for me, stat! ...Wait. This isn't one of those 'which Congressman is least deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize' type polls, is it? Because I'm not falling for that again. Fool me twelve times, shame on you; fool me thirteen times, shame on...you can't get fooled again, is what I'm saying."
"No, it's a poll for Hottest Freshman Congressman—"
Stephen's thumbs began flying over the keys again.
"—but it's closed. That's what I'm trying to tell you. They already posted the results."
"Well, it's a bit late to tell me about it now, isn't it?" demanded Stephen. "Let me guess: they gave it to some pretty-boy liberal who's never done a day of honest work in his life."
"According to the post, they gave it to a pretty-boy conservative whose had earned enough from teenage jobs in a gravel pit to buy real estate as soon as he turned eighteen."
Stephen had surfed to the blog by this time, and was scrolling pensively down the post. "Oh, Aaron Shock," he said. "Yeah, he's handsome."
"I kinda thought so," agreed Jon.
"Still not as striking as me, though," declared Stephen with finality.
Jon rolled his eyes, but smiled. "Few people are."
Chapter 19: Score
For anais_rhys, who prompted "Jon takes Stephen to a baseball game."
"Can't I yell at the pitcher a little?"
"Stephen, he's eight."
"No shouting, no doping scandals, no minibar. What kind of boring game is this?"
"Cooler's under your legs. Get yourself a soda."
"I don't want a—"
"Don't care. Now shh!"
Stephen slumped down on the bleachers and sulked while Jon's son came up to bat.
Why was he doing this again? He didn't have time to sit through this kind of fluffy, touchy-feely game, where everyone got a trophy just for showing up and there was almost no chance of a 'roid-rage-induced brawl on the field...
A gasp went up from the crowd as the ball went soaring.
The kid was off like a shot, leaving a trail of dust along the line to first base while the outfielders fumbled in the grass. Someone on the next set of bleachers yelled for them to hurry up; someone on the row below Stephen hollered encouragement at the runner; and by the time the boy had rounded second, people all over the stands had joined in.
Jon was no exception. "You got it!" he shouted, leaning forward, clenched fists bouncing against his thighs. "Go, go, go — no, stop, stay there, stay!"
Skidding to a halt a few steps from third, the kid scrambled backwards and slammed his foot against the base just as the ball arced over his head and into the waiting glove of a boy standing on home.
"Safe!" roared the umpire.
Jon let out a whoop of delight.
It was completely drowned out by Stephen's.
"And you thought you wouldn't have fun," said Jon with a grin, putting an arm around Stephen's shoulder, as the next kid came up to the plate.
"Yeah, sure, rub it in," grumbled Stephen, reaching under his seat for the cooler.
Chapter 20: The Drapes
For "bobdafrogg, who prompted "Stephen is blond."
Jon had done away with Stephen's jacket, tie, and most of his buttons, when he looked up from kissing Stephen's collarbone and discovered that his friend (and, as of two weeks, one day, and eight hours ago, not that Jon was counting, secret boyfriend) had started to withdraw.
"You all right?" he asked, hoping it would be something simple. It had taken some legwork to find a time when they could both fit a quiet evening at Jon's place into both of their schedules, and he was going to be very cross indeed if he didn't get laid tonight.
Stephen turned his head aside. "Jon," he announced, in a voice of direst gravitas, "if we go any farther, you will discover my most shameful secret."
Thus far, Jon had already survived the discovery of Stephen's secret Barbara Streisand collection, his secret weakness for fuzzy polar bear cubs, and, oh yeah, his secret attraction to the male form in general and Jon's in particular. "It's safe with me," he said. "You know that."
Out of the corners of his eyes, Stephen eyed him cautiously. "You promise to still respect me in the morning?"
"Oh, good." Stephen arched rather delightfully against him. "Continue."
With a low growl deep in his throat, Jon pressed Stephen against the mattress and redoubled his efforts. Within moments he had made short work of the rest of the buttons, along with Stephen's belt and zipper.
Looking more and more anxious, Stephen lifted his hips. Jon, not sure what to expect (though he had a vague idea that the bulge might have been enhanced with a spare pair of socks or something, given Stephen's constant subtle and not-so-subtle boasting about its size), hooked his fingers under the waistband and hauled the whole shebang down.
Then he laughed.
"Hey!" yelped Stephen indignantly. "You promised!"
"Sorry, sorry!" exclaimed Jon, hiding his smile behind his fist. "It's just — I never would have guessed you weren't a natural brunette."
"Blonds get no respect, Jon," said Stephen firmly. "Just like people with Southern accents, and people who let other people speak in complete sentences without interrupting."
"Mmhmm." Jon leaned down to kiss him. "Wait. Do you dye your eyebrows?"
Chapter 21: Conventional Wisdom
For seagullsong, who wanted Stephen to drag Jon to a sci-fi convention. (Contains a reference to The Most Popular Book In The Whole Wide World.)
By the time the eighth person clutching a camera approached them, Jon had figured out the drill. He stepped graciously aside and let Stephen strike a heroic pose.
As usual, once Stephen had stopped, more people started to filter out of the crowd and whip out their own cameras. There were cheers and congratulations — "I don't think I've ever seen such an accurate Alpha Squad costume!" enthused a guy with a Klingon forehead — and Stephen had to fight not to smile. (Tek Jansen never smiled. Stephen was very insistent about that.)
Two young women took up a vantage point next to Jon. One was in full-blown Lord of the Rings-type elf princess costume; the other, in spite of her T-shirt with a couple of twenty-sided dice on the front (caption: "Yes, They're Natural"), also wore the same "reluctant partner dragged along for the ride" expression Jon knew was on his own face.
"And who's this?" asked Dice, with a fair attempt at enthusiasm.
"This is Tek Jansen," explained Elf Princess. "You'd like him, he's hysterical. He thinks he's the greatest hero the galaxy has ever known, but he's actually an idiot who gets things blown up on a regular basis."
Stephen whipped his head around so quickly that his carefully sculpted forelock (not so much a hairstyle as an architectural feat, held up with enough gel to choke a moose) made a dangerous cracking sound. "Excuse me? I am the greatest hero the galaxy has ever known!"
Elf Princess let out a squeal of delight. "You even do the voice! That's amazing! You sound totally ready to accidentally crash Zmeephish-Q into the sun and complain that it wasn't your fault!"
"Well, it wasn't my fault! I would have had plenty of time to sober up beforehand if C.A.S.E.Y. hadn't taken so long to mix my hypertequila!"
While Stephen got more and more indignant, and Elf Princess seemed on the verge of dissolving with geeky bliss, Jon leaned over to Dice. "You're a brave woman, putting up with this."
Dice smiled ruefully. "The things we do for love."
"Yeah," agreed Jon.
Then, as an afterthought, he added, "Well, love and the promise of costume sex afterwards."
Chapter 22: What's Up, Doc?
For doctorv, who wanted "the one where they're cartoons." Which turned into a thoroughly bizarre crossover.
"What's wrong with me, Doc?" pleaded Stephen. "I gotta know!"
Bugs tapped his pen against his furry chin. "Hmm. Dizziness, you say? And what do you see when you experience this dizziness? Stars and planets, or little singing birds?"
"Neither. Just these weird little red things."
"Curious." The doctor began to pace. "Any blunt traumas to the head recently?"
"Two anvils in the past month, and last week we bought an ACME camera that went haywire and blew up the studio. I don't know why we keep buying from them. But nothing out of the ordinary."
"Curiouser." Bugs swapped the pen for a carrot, which he began nibbling on as he walked. "Do you have any other symptoms? Even mild ones?"
"Well, I do have this chest pain..."
"Magnificent! We'll take an X-ray." Grabbing a black screen on wheels from the side of the room, Bugs rolled it across the floor and stopped in front of the man sitting on the edge of the table, where he flipped a switch to turn it on. "Eureka!"
"What is it, Doc?" pleaded Stephen, craning his neck to see.
On the screen was displayed a rib cage, a spine, lungs, and a large red ♥. With the stub of his carrot, Bugs indicated the arrow piercing the ♥. "You've been hit by Cupid. Let me just read the name here...." He sounded it out: "Jann Stee-wort."
"That's impossible," snapped Stephen. "I want a second opinion."
"Okay. You use too much hair gel."
"I mean from another doctor!"
Daffy stuck his head in the door. "I agree," he declared. "Far too much hair gel."
"One who's not a quack!" added Stephen.
With a huff, Daffy flapped away, muttering darkly about "dithcrimination."
"I'm afraid them's the breaks, pal," said Bugs. "Take it or leave it."
"Leaving it," snapped Stephen, jumping off of the seat.
"Wait!" exclaimed the doctor. "I haven't turned off the--"
It was too late. Stephen had stormed out of the office, with his bones, organs, and the arrow through the ♥ still clearly visible.
"Oh, well," sighed Bugs, finishing off his carrot. "He'll find out."
Chapter 23: Truth Springs Eternal
For biichan, who wanted "Stephen gets back from his vacation...at Juusenkyo."
It started with a harmless joke about needing a cold shower.
At least, Jon thought it was a harmless joke. Then Stephen shouted "Oh, sure, Jon! Rub it in my face, why don't you? You are a heartless man, you know that?" and stormed out of the office.
With a shrug, Jon grabbed a plastic container and packed up the unfinished BLT. Stephen stormed out like this at least twice a month; he had gotten used to needing to save leftovers.
Still, it seemed like Stephen had been even touchier than usual since getting back from China.
The new electronic kettle in Stephen's office bubbled happily away. It must have been too hot to touch, but Stephen's hands kept hovering by its sides, like it was a comforting stuffed animal he wanted to hug.
"While I was in China, I visited these springs..."
The building manager listened to the whole story with only mild surprise. Plenty of weirder things had happened to Stephen, and in the presence of reliable witnesses, no less. This was hardly more bizarre than the battle with the living mutant coffee cup.
"So which creature did you get cursed with?" he asked at last.
"A...an eagle!" stammered Stephen. "I fell into Spring of Drowned Very Fierce And Dangerous Bald Eagle. So if you ever see one of those around, you know what to do."
Tad leaned into the office. "Still no sign of Stephen, Mr. Stewart — whoa!"
Jon was curled up in one of Stephen's armchairs, skritching the fuzzy ears of the wriggling Yorkie puppy in his lap. "Thanks for looking, Tad. Say, whose dog is this? Because he's been walking around like he owns the place."
"Um," said Tad.
"And what's his name? I've just been calling him 'little guy' so far."
"S-Stephen?" stammered Tad.
The puppy growled warningly at him.
"Be nice, you," chided Jon, flicking it on its button nose. To Tad, he added, "Don't worry about Stephen. Ten to one he's suddenly decided that he desperately needs to have something, and couldn't wait any longer to go out and buy it. Probably doesn't even remember I was supposed to come over. So, about the dog...?"
"The dog! Yes!" exclaimed Tad. "He's sort of the studio dog. He, uh, doesn't have a name yet — Stephen said you should pick one, because you're good with dog names."
"Wow, really?" Jon ducked his head to look fondly down at the dog, the action not quite hiding his blush. "I'll have to thank him for that. As for names...how about 'Muffins'?"
The puppy let out an indignant yelp.
"Muffins," echoed Tad, really starting to get into this. "I like it. It fits. And right now, it happens to be time for Muffins to be fed. So I think I'd better take him now."
"Oh, okay. Can I help?"
"No, no, it's all right. I've got it."
When Jon attempted to hand the puppy over, it started writhing in earnest. It was small enough that Jon could have held it one-handed, but he needed both hands to keep it from getting away, and it snapped furiously when Tad reached out for it.
"Can you tell him to calm down?" pleaded Tad. "He seems to like you, and I'm sure he wouldn't want to be in hot water with you."
The little Yorkie stopped wriggling immediately, and let out a pleading whine.
"It's all right, Muffins," Jon soothed. "Tad will take good care of you. And I'll come and see you again, okay?"
He placed the puppy in Tad's hands and gave it one last scratch. It licked his hand appreciatively, and watched him with large black eyes as Tad carried it out.
"I have the soul of an eagle," said Stephen grouchily, pulling on the spare clothes Tad had handed to him. "But if you must be all fact-y about it, the spring I actually fell into was Spring of Drowned Adorable Fuzzy Yorkshire Terrier Puppy."
"Are you going to tell Mr. Stewart the truth?"
"Hey!" yelped Stephen. "None of that. As far as Jon is concerned, the studio has a new puppy that likes to have him skritch its ears. And you are not going to so much as hint otherwise."
"Yes, sir," said Tad briskly. "Whatever you say, Mr. Muffins, sir."
Chapter 24: Cozy
For violent_rabbit, who wanted "The reason Stephen has a secret panel in his desk."
"Wow," said Jon out loud.
It came out hoarse and raspy, and he unwound an arm from Stephen's shoulders to cough into his fist.
"Don't worry," murmured Stephen, sliding out of the post-coital embrace and leaning towards the secret panel. "I got cough drops."
Jon mentally added this to the list of increasingly improbable things he had seen come out of that panel in the last twenty minutes. Astroglide and a condom (for obvious purposes); a flag-patterned blindfold (turned out Stephen didn't mind it so much when he had someone to hold on to); a spare glasses case (for safe storage); moist towelettes (so the staff wouldn't have to deal with the cleanup); something shaped like an eagle with folded wings, which vibrated when you pushed its remote control (Jon had decided to pass, at least this time); and now a selection of flavored drops for scratchy throats.
Okay, so the last one made sense for a television personality to keep on-set. The rest of it, not so much. Unless you believed (as Stephen had vehemently insisted) that "Gay sex can strike at any time, Jon. You need to be prepared!"
Not that Jon was complaining.
He rolled a lime-flavored cough drop around the back of his mouth as Stephen snuggled up to him again, and they leaned in a half-clothed heap against the inner curve of the giant C.
It really was cozy under here. The warm lights of the set cast a series of soft hues around them, and the desk itself put them in a comforting shadow. In spite of the cameras around them (all powered down for the day, of course; Stephen had made sure of that), it felt like they were in their own little world.
"I love you," remarked Jon around the cough drop.
Stephen tucked his head under Jon's chin. "Of course you do," he said, with perfect confidence. "Who doesn't?"
Chapter 25: Long Time No See
For seagullsong, who wanted something on "that moment when you lose your glasses and can't find them because you CAN'T SEE."
"Stephen? Have you seen my glasses?"
Jon couldn't see his husband's face, but he knew Stephen was smirking. When Jon had turned fifty, his eyes had apparently decided to throw in the towel from both ends, leaving him in need of thick bifocals. After a few months of sulking about how Jon was stealing his trademark accessory, Stephen had started to get unreasonably smug that he was so much more experienced at handling them.
"And don't say they're on my head," added Jon. "I already checked. I'm not yet senile enough to fall for the oldest cliché in the book. And don't ask me where I had them last, because I've been on the couch all afternoon, and I would have left them on the table or the arm, and they're not there. I've checked in the cushions, too, because that's the second oldest cliche in the book. So unless they fell underneath...."
He stopped, leaned over the side of the couch, and cast his hand around. A moment later his fingers closed on the familiar frames.
"Got them!" he exclaimed, sitting up again and sliding them onto his nose. "And a lot of help you—"
He stopped. The room was empty.
In fact, as Jon looked out the front window, he saw Stephen coming up the walk with Dubya (he had insisted on the name) trotting along on the leash in front of him.
Perhaps Jon would just be keeping this little anecdote to himself.
Chapter 26: Peachy Keen
"Ohthey'resocute," gushed Stephen, hovering over the box.
In spite of their best efforts, no one at the studio had ever managed to catch Margaret. Her kittens were a different story.
"Look at his widdle ears!" cooed Stephen, running a finger along the fuzzy orange back. He could have covered the whole kitten (flopped as it was along the curve of a soft pink blanket) with the palm of his hand. "Can I have one, Jon? Please?"
Jon still wasn't sure how he had gotten in charge of adopting out the litter, but he was doing his best to do it right. "We're keeping them together for now," he replied. "Besides, we want to hang on to them until we can ensure that they get spayed and neutered."
"You know, you're contributing to the deballsification of America," said Stephen sternly.
Jon hid a smile behind his fist. "You'll just have to work extra hard to counter it."
"What's the camera for?"
"Taking over the world, Jon."
Jon blinked. "I'm sorry, I don't..."
"It's simple, Jon," said Stephen firmly. "I will take videos of the kittens being adorable, and use them to draw traffic to the Colbert Nation website. Once we have enough cute cat footage, we will crush YouTube, which will in turn destroy Google, which will then surrender its position as ruler of the world to the Nation."
Jon shushed him. "I think it's going to have to wait until another day. They're asleep right now."
"That's perfect!" declared Stephen in a whisper, planting himself by the box. "There is nothing more watchable than a sleeping kitten!"
"Jon! The little monster bit me!"
"Let me see." Jon took Stephen's outstretched hand and examined the fingertips. "It's barely a scratch! You're not even bleeding."
"It's vicious," declared Stephen, glowering down at the orange kitten, which was now peering up over the edge of the (new, bigger) box while its littermates frolicked inside.
"She's playing," Jon corrected him. "You don't like cat rules, don't play cat games."
Stephen pouted. "I don't think I want one any more."
The kittens were taking over the studio.
They scurried down the halls and played in the break rooms. After one got accidentally shut in a bathroom overnight, everyone started pitching in to round them up when necessary. None had wandered onto the set in the middle of a taping, but Jon was sure it was only a matter of time.
Stephen left his glasses on the arm of the office couch for a moment during lunch, then discovered the orange kitten, now big enough to make two overflowing handfuls, chewing on the earpiece.
"You've got balls," he admitted grudgingly, as the kitten gave him a good round of tug-of-war. "Lady-balls. Lady-cat-balls. Meowgaret Thatchers."
"She's the only one who hasn't been claimed," remarked Jon.
At last Stephen got his glasses free of the little paws. Deprived of its toy, the kitten began clambering with determined curiosity over his legs.
"I'm working on names, Jon. How about Colb-cat? Colbitten?"
"Taken, awkward, and probably a bad omen."
Stephen held the newly fixed orange kitten to his chest. She purred like an engine and rubbed her head against his tie.
"You could always call her Peach, or something," remarked Jon. "She's about the right color."
Stephen lit up like the sun breaking through the clouds. "It's perfect!" he exclaimed. "I know there was a reason I kept you around."
Chapter 27: Services Rendered
For punkishgrin, who wanted something with Jon and Computer, suggesting that "perhaps 'she's' helping Jon live out his fantasies about Stephen virtually, and Stephen finds out."
"Are you sitting comfortably, Jonathan?" asked the computer's gentle voice. Jon knew the gentleness was simulated, but it was soothing nonetheless. "Then I'll begin."
The blackness of the headset was replaced by a lavish CG suite. No sensation was neglected: the richness of the leather couch on which Jon found himself sitting, the tinkle of a small fountain in the corner, the cool breeze blowing in at the window.
"Would you like something to drink?" asked the soft, disembodied voice.
"Champagne, please," said Jon. "Two glasses."
"Here you go. Good luck, Jonathan."
For a second Jon saw the wireframe rendering on the table in front of him. He got to his feet, flexing his virtual muscles to shake off that slight feeling of unfamiliarity that always dogged him at the beginning of a simulation. Then he took the fully realized glasses and carried them into the bedroom.
"Hey, babe," he said with a smile.
"There you are," purred the virtual Stephen, stretched out on the rippling silk sheets in a pair of loose slacks and a half-unbuttoned shirt. "I've been waiting for you."
"Mmm..." muttered Stephen into his hair. "Jon, Jon — I wish you were my Jon."
That wasn't supposed to be in the sim. Jon would have to speak to the computer later about throwing in these extra touches. He knew she was only trying to make him happy, but her understanding of human nature sometimes fell short.
"Phew!" sighed Stephen. "Feels good to get that off my chest. I would never say it in real life, of course."
Okay, that kind of hurt. What had led the computer to calculate that Jon would want to hear this?
"But you're just virtual, so it's okay."
Jon's eyes flew open.
I'll Tell You When You're Older, printed Stephen's computer in reply. In The Meantime, You Owe Me Ten Gigs.
Chapter 28: Women Know What Women Like
For biichan, who wanted "genderswap! Girl!Jon/Girl!"Stephen" of course." All kinds of sexy.
Stephanie has a thing for breasts.
She doesn't describe it in those terms, of course. "I am completely, totally, 100% heterosexual, Joan," she will say, "and I don't know how you could possibly think otherwise. Just because I have a totally chaste appreciation for the beauty of the female form, specifically the bits of the female form that jiggle every time you do that adorable little bounce in your chair, which at a rough estimate account for at least forty percent of your 18-to-24-year-old male audience, doesn't mean there has to be anything gay about it!"
(To which Joan will reply, "All I said was 'pass the rice.'")
But whenever they end up on the couch, Stephanie goes straight for the buttons of Joan's shirt so vigorously that Joan has taken to keeping a box of needles and thread in her desk drawer. Sometimes she makes the extra effort to properly unhook Joan's bra, but generally she just pushes the cups upward until their contents are free to be lavished with (totally heterosexual!) attention from Stephanie's fingertips and palms and lips and tongue.
Joan doesn't usually get off in these encounters. (She needs more intense stimulation than Stephanie can provide alone, and if she doesn't manage to retrieve the vibrator from its spot next to the thread before they get started, Stephanie never lets her up.) But she spends the whole time so ridiculously turned on that it's hardly wasted.
Besides, she does love to see Stephanie undone like this, only the faintest pretenses of self-control still clinging to her like the last bits of shell being peeled from a hard-boiled egg (firm and smooth and tasty underneath).
Joan is in control here, in spite of the not-being-let-up and the popped buttons, in spite of the fact that Stephanie is larger and on top of her and pressing her down against the cushions (though Stephanie's breasts, for the record, are smaller, just the right size to be covered and cupped by Joan's petite hands). Because no matter how much Stephanie swears that she can quit any time, Joan knows any number of teasing touches that will melt her into incoherence.
When at last Joan decides she has tormented Stephanie enough, she slips her nimble fingers between the other woman's legs. (Her whole hand always ends up soaked, and for this she kind of envies men, how they can whip out a condom or a strategically placed tissue and not have to worry any further about cleanup, much less keeping extra underwear handy.)
Stephanie lets out these soft little whimpers as she rocks against Joan's touch, sporadically at first and then in an increasingly frantic rhythm as her last bit of resistance crumbles. She isn't playing with Joan's breasts now; she's clinging to them, face buried in the hollow between them as her arms clamp around Joan's torso, holding on for dear life.
Joan has toyed with the idea of keeping Stephanie on that plateau (or the next one; her record is three climaxes in a row, Stephanie's mouth pressed against her flesh to muffle each new cry of ecstasy) long enough to raise questions when she gets back to her own office. But that would probably fall under "using her powers for evil", even if she weren't Stephanie's boss in the first place.
So she always makes sure Stephanie has plenty of time to come down, slumped over Joan like a particularly heavy quilt, so close that Joan can feel her heartbeat slowing back to calm. She uses Joan's breasts as a kind of makeshift pillow; Joan always makes sure to keep one hand clean, so that at this stage it can be used to stroke Stephanie's hair.
(The quiet won't hold for long - Stephanie takes about five minutes to go from breathless passion to her normal obnoxious chattiness - but Joan enjoys it while it lasts.)
Chapter 29: Into The Rain
For zelkovaserrata, who wanted "sexy accents. And trenchcoats."
The car was so black that at first it was impossible to distinguish from the darkness around it. It was as if the night itself had simply grown a pair of headlights.
It pulled up short next to a lamppost, the edge of the small pool of light barely glinting off of its hubcaps. When the window rolled down, none of the illumination seemed to reach inside.
The man who had been leaning against the post, wrapped in a trenchcoat with a hat pulled low over his eyes, strolled over to the window.
"You lost?" he asked, in a slow, sweet drawl like fried chicken and biscuits with honey.
"No, I think this is where I want to be," said the driver mildly. "You need a ride anywhere?"
"Oh, I surely wouldn't want to impose," purred the man in the trenchcoat.
"Well, maybe you could find some way of returning the favor."
"Did you have anything in mi—"
The man on the corner broke off with a gasp. Sticking his arm through the window, he unlocked the door and yanked it open, gathering himself and his long coat hastily into the passenger seat before slamming it behind him.
"Felt a raindrop," he muttered by way of explanation, as the window rolled up.
The driver looked at him bemusedly. "Is it really going to ruin the whole fantasy if you get a little wet?"
"Yes," huffed the passenger. His warm accent had fled, replaced by the sharp precision of a newsman. "Just drive, you."
In one smooth motion the car pulled away from the corner, leaving the lamppost behind.
"We still doing the bit with the motel?" asked the driver as the car hummed almost silently along, its noise completely muffled by a low rumble of thunder.
"Actually..." Stephen had pulled off the hat and was turning it around in his hands. "I sort of have this other fantasy for stormy nights. But we'd need to be at home."
A few drops of water splashed against the windshield.
"Home it is," said Jon with a smile, and the car sped off into the rain.
Chapter 30: With The Stars In His Eye
For stellar_dust, who prompted "Stephen scores the last ever tourist trip to the International Space Station." Title is from Alan Parsons Project's Day After Day.
"For more on this story, we turn to our Senior Space Correspondent...uh, just a moment, ladies and gentlemen, the satellite isn't quite...there it goes! And, oh my gosh, it's Stephen Colbert!"
The audience erupted. Floating on the blurry screen, Stephen basked in the attention, nodding importantly and waving to the crowd.
"Stephen, Stephen, what are you doing on this show?" exclaimed Jon as the noise died down. "You've got your own now, remember?"
"The Report is unforgettable, Jon," declared Stephen. "No, this is a favor to you. Because this story is huge, but apparently none of your current wishy-washy crop of correspondents had the balls to go where the action was."
"Uh, Stephen, the action is at the International Space Station."
"Hello!" exclaimed Stephen, waving his arms around. "Do you see how I'm floating, here?"
"So, let me get this straight. You, Stephen Colbert, are actually in space?"
That set the crowd off again. Stephen tried to keep his face stern, but it collapsed into a helpless grin.
"Go on," he prompted, as the excitement died down. "I've been studying up on this stuff. Ask me anything. The composition of the station, the assignments of the crew, the projected timetable for completion, anything at all."
Pursing his lips, Jon tapped his script on the desk, arranging the edges into a straight line.
Then he said, "What's it, ah, like? Being up there, I mean."
This was Stephen's cue to gush about how awesome it was. To start into an enthusiastic rant about the amazing research being done into the effects of microgravity, about the changes it made in everything from bones to plants to fire.
"You know, I always liked looking at the stars," he said instead.
He was looking at the floor now. (Or possibly the ceiling. Jon wasn't sure.) And his voice had dropped into a different register. Less presentational.
"They were so small," he continued. "I could cover dozens of them with just the palm of my hand. Reminded me how important I was, you know?"
This was completely off-script, so all Jon could think of to do was agree. "Yeah, I hear you."
"But now I'm up here," continued Stephen. "And I look out the window, and the stars all look the same, but the Earth...I can't see my house from here, Jon. I can't see my church. I can't see the studio. I can't even tell where the state is, and I can cover the whole country with the palm of my hand. If we got a little farther back, I could probably block out the planet...."
"So," suggested Jon lightly, as his correspondent seemed lost for words, "now you know what it's like to feel small, eh?"
That elicited a bit of the old spark. "Stop gloating, Stewart. I'm trying to share an epiphany, here."
Stephen took a deep breath. "The thing is...up here, all the stuff I used to think was really important doesn't seem like that big a deal any more."
"What I'm trying to say, Jon, is — will you marry me?"
Jon sat bolt upright.
The audience caught its collective breath.
"S-Stephen," stammered Jon, the script rustling in his shaking hands, "last week you didn't even want us to be out...."
"Unless you plan to stick the audience in cryogenic chambers right after the show, we're going to be out in about ten minutes," retorted Stephen. The strength was back in his voice now. "Maybe earlier, if any of them are sneaking out their cell phones and releasing the news to the Twittersphere. So, how about it?"
Now it was Jon's turn to lose his entertainer's tone. "Are you really sure about this?"
Stephen shrugged with forced nonchalance. "It's the only thing that still seemed important."
When still Jon hesitated, he added, "Oh, come on. Do you really want to go down in history as the first person to turn down a proposal from space?"
"I guess not," admitted Jon, with a wry grin. "You know what? Okay."
Stephen's reply was lost entirely in the roar of the crowd.
Chapter 31: Grey, And Oh So Large
Jon was starting to feel nervous about this whole idea. Stephen, as usual, was oblivious.
"This thing is huge!" he observed with a certain manic glee as he clambered onto the broad grey back. "You could probably spread a blanket here and have a picnic."
"You could try it," the attendant advised him. "But she would probably steal your food."
"The nerve!" huffed Stephen. "And after all I've done for their population growth, too!"
Jon thanked the attendant but declined when she offered him a helping hand. Then, as he tried to ease himself from the platform to the actual elephant, he started to wish he had some help. There were no saddles or reins or supports of any kind, and the creature was awfully big.
"Hey, I think I can see my house from here," he joked nervously, splaying his palms out on the leathery shoulders before him.
A second attendant on the far side of the elephant made a motion, and with a slow, rolling gait, the animal started to move.
"Don't fall off, Stewart," warned Stephen, hooking his arms protectively around Jon's waist and clasping his hands against Jon's stomach. "She might step on you, and then we'd never find you again."
"Well, we wouldn't want that," laughed Jon.
The nervousness was almost gone now, leaving him to enjoy the feeling of Stephen's chin tucked against his shoulder, not to mention an ear the size of a bath towel flapping languidly back and forth against his foot.
There were definitely less cool ways to spend an afternoon.
Chapter 32: Nice Red Uniforms
For seagullsong, who prompted "NOBODY EXPECTS THE COLBERT INQUISITION!" (Depends on you having seen the original sketch.)
"Yes, they do."
"Everybody. Angry, loud, unreasonable interrogation based on unflinchingly dogmatic beliefs is your whole schtick. It's not like people don't see it coming."
"Well...maybe some of them don't. You know, Jon, there are some poor deprived souls out there who have never even seen the show! I'm not sure where they are, exactly - probably holed up in remote monasteries in Tibet, or something - but they do exist."
"I know, Stephen. I've even met some of them. But no matter who they are, they sign a waiver before interviews explaining that they know what they're getting into."
"And it says how I'm going to interrogate them?"
"Could we maybe take that bit out?"
"Nope. Legal insisted."
"Does that waiver have to say what I'll be wearing during the interviews?"
"Uh, I don't think so."
"Hang on! What did I just agree to? Stephen? Stephen!"
"Can't talk now, Jon. I need to make another call. Bye!"
Chapter 33: Campaign Strategy
For zelkovaserrata, who wanted more of the Senateverse, and prompted "flirting lessons."
"I saw your new ads," said Stephen over pizza.
Jon sighed. "Come on, Stephen, don't do this. You're endorsing my opponent. I know."
They were confined to the Hill for lunch these days — when Jon's schedule had a spare moment in the first place. Socialize with Stephen too much in public, and the media would start to speculate about what it meant for his campaign.
(Rahm Emanuel had dropped in unannounced on Jon's office once already, urging him not to talk to Stephen at all. Jon had talked him down, but barely.)
"I'm not talking about the positions, Jon. I already know you disagree with everything right-thinking Americans hold to be true. I'm talking about the style."
"I don't think the style is that important. It's the issues that matter."
"Of course it matters!" exclaimed Stephen. "Nobody's going to sit through the substance if you don't get their attention with a little charm first. America's a beautiful lady, Jon, and she deserves to be wooed."
"It's an election, not a seduction!"
"Elections are seductions," insisted Stephen. "You sidle up to the state, and tell her she looks lovely. Flirt a little. Ask her how she's doing. Pretend to listen. Then lean in closer."
He reached across the desk and clasped one of Jon's hands between his own, fixing Jon with a knowing smile: the kind that spoke of shared secrets, of sweet nothings whispered in the dark.
"Say how much you appreciate seeing her," he murmured, "how you feel a strange connection with her, and how, if she'll forgive you for being presumptuous, you think you might want to spend the next six years with her."
Jon was starting to feel strangely light.
"And then, Jon, only then do you hint that you have the kind of sack normally swung by a cartoon bandit on his way out of a bank."
Rolling his eyes, Jon retrieved his hand and shook it off, the spell broken.
"I think I'll stick with what my PR people recommend," he said. "But I appreciate the thought."
Chapter 34: Karaøke Night
For stellar_dust, who prompted: "The Wørd moonlights at a karaoke bar (as, of course, the bouncy ball that follows along with the words). Stephen has no idea. And then the whole TDS gang shows up for Rob Riggle's farewell bash..."
Which led to a ficmix, using songs from the TDS gang's playlists.
Elvis Presley, "Burning Love"
Your kisses lift me higher
Like the sweet song of a choir
And you light my morning sky
With burning love
With burning love (a hunk, a hunk of burning love)
They commandeer a karaoke bar for Rob's farewell bash. The room is packed with people from the show, plus a few of the folks from the Report who accepted the invitation.
No sooner have the tech guys stepped back than there's a rush on the mic.
Aasif gets there first, and promptly sets the tone for the rest of the night.
Sir Mix-A-Lot, "Baby Got Back"
You can have them bimbos
I'll keep my women like Flo Jo
A word to the thick soul sistas
I wanna get wit'cha
By the second verse, the whole crowd is clapping along.
There isn't a single person in this crowd that John hasn't already embarrassed himself in front of, so it's not like the stakes are high. Still, it took him a couple of drinks to get up the nerve.
As Wyatt and Demetri (the cool kids, even!) storm the stage to join in, he wonders what he was worried about.
Jason looks like he wants to go with them, but Sam holds him back by unsubtly stomping on his foot. The mournful look on the poor man's face is so hilarious that John nearly loses his place.
As if predicting his distress, the bouncing ball that follows the words on the screen gets larger and more emphatic, forcing him to pay attention.
The Cars, "Let's Go"
She's laughing inside 'cause they can't refuse
She's so beautiful now, she doesn't wear her shoes
She never likes to choose
After dropping by the bar for his third round, Jon totters back to the booth and flops into his seat, then jumps up again with a yelp as something jabs him in the rear.
Half the drink sloshes across the table, so Jon writes it off as a lost cause and goes after the cause of the spill instead. Sticking a hand under himself, he gropes for the offending object, which turns out to be an atrociously high heel.
Great. Sam's already barefoot, and Stephen still hasn't shown. If he doesn't get here soon, all the pairing-off (and tripling-off) and subsequent sneaking-out-in-taxis will have happened before he turns up, and yet another Rob will get away without a proper goodbye.
Flight of the Conchords, "Business Time"
Then you sort out the recycling. That isn't part of the foreplay process but it is still very important. Next thing you know we're in the bedroom. You're wearing that baggy old ugly t-shirt you got from your work several years ago. Mmm, you know the one, baby...with the curry stain. Oww!
Wyatt is getting a little frustrated.
Sam and Jason have focused their attention on Rob for the night, which, okay, it's Rob's goodbye night, that's cool, he gets it. But Larry and John are going at a round of Wilmore-Oliver Investigates featuring each other's tonsils, and Demetri and Kristen are making gooey eyes at each other over whatever it is they're trying to build out of those napkins and toothpicks and way too many little umbrellas, and everyone else seems to have settled into pairs or groups except Stewart, who's off on his own mooning about Colbert and thinking nobody can tell.
So Wyatt starts into the most seductive song he knows.
He plans to improvise, playing fast and loose with the timing, giving the lyrics his own sexy, sexy rhythm. The little ball on the screen hits every word exactly as he says it. It's like the thing is trying to mock his mad improv skills.
By the end of the song, everyone is still all hot and bothered, and it's still for each other. Wyatt realizes he can't be too mad at the bouncy ball. Maybe it just wanted someone to sing along with.
Dave Matthews Band, "Stay Or Leave"
Stay or leave
I want you not to go, but you should
It was good as good goes
Stay or leave
I want you not to go, but you did
Jason starts the song with a melodramatic warble that doesn't so much hit the high notes as pick them up and swing them enthusiastically around.
But when he gets to the chorus, something changes. He always knew these lyrics were supposed to be meaningful and all, but now they start to really mean something, you know?
He's totally sobbing by the end of the thing, but so is half the bar. Including Rob himself, and that dude is a Marine, so you know he's no pussy.
Oh, man, Jason's gotta come up with something to say now. You can't just get a crowd this mushy and then not do anything with it. But he is way too sad, not to mention way too plastered, to come up with anything good and profound. And the song's about to end...
Words appear on the screen: I Love You, Man.
Jason doesn't remember those ever being in the song before, but they're exactly what he needed.
Journey, "Any Way You Want It"
She loves to laugh
She loves to sing
She does everything
She loves to move
She loves to groove
She loves the lovin' things
Rob drags everyone up on stage to join him on this one, except Jon, who declines on what he feels are the very reasonable grounds that he cannot sing. Also, he's starting to see double.
On what must be the fortieth repetition of "Any way you want it, that's the way you need it!", two men slide into the booth next to Jon.
"Looks like I got here just in time," say both Stephens Colbert. "They're playing my song!"
The Who, "Baba O'Riley"
The exodus is here
The happy ones are near
Let's get together before we get much older
After the traditional round of goodbye backslaps (and, from Stephen, a good-natured threat not to become a bigger star than him, or else, ha ha, no but seriously), Sam and Jason spirit Rob away for a more, ah, intimate farewell.
Kristen and Demetri end up in a cab together. Larry and John only make it as far as the men's room. Everyone else trickles out slowly but surely, except for Wyatt, who hauls a stool onstage and gets into a surprisingly animated conversation with the lyric screen.
That last one has Stephen suspicious, but this is no time to follow it up. After all, Jon is drunk, and getting handsy, and has started dropping hints about a threesome.
Chapter 35: The Rainbow Agenda
For seagullsong, who wanted an AU where Jon and Stephen are on a popular children's show, preferably with ridiculous costumes. The Death To Smoochy crossover was inevitable. (Inspired by this Sesame Street clip.)
"I can't sing this."
"It's a little late to complain now," pointed out Jon. "You're on in five."
"Have you seen the lyrics?!" continued Stephen, while an intern zipped him into his bright orange eagle costume. "'Marriage means having somebody to love, and someone whose face you will not get sick of'? It's a travesty!"
Sheldon chose that moment to lean over their shoulders, his enthusiastic face framed by the giant pink head of Smoochy. "Hey, guys! You ready to deliver another great show?"
"You have to change the song, Sheldon!" wailed Stephen. "You can't teach kids about marriage and not once mention that it's supposed to be between a man and a woman!"
Sheldon's lips pursed into an innocent pout. "That's just the thing, Stephen. I don't think it is."
This was met with a look of absolute horror. "They've gotten to you!" breathed Stephen. "Who was it? It was Randolph, wasn't it? I knew there had to be a reason for all those rainbows!"
"Oh, for crying out loud," interrupted Jon. "Listen, Stephen, are you singing this song or not?"
"No!" snapped Stephen, folding his wings. "Not unless it changes!"
And there was no way the lyrics or Stephen's opinions were going to be revised in the next four minutes ten. "Right," said Jon. "You're out of the scene. Guys! Suit me up!"
A wardrobe technician raced forward with Jon's costume. He had been hired without warning, in spite of the fact that KidNet's lineup was full — something about the network president thinking he "had a good face" — so the outfit had been thrown together out of whatever the prop guys could scrounge up. Jon had never figured out what animal would have green shaggy fur accented with blue poofballs, but by golly he was determined to be the best one he could be.
"Are you sure about this?" asked Sheldon nervously. "I mean, I don't want to be unkind, but, well...."
"You can't sing," filled in Stephen.
Jon shrugged, nearly dislodging a poofball. "Someone's got to. What's it gonna be? Are you going to suck it up and go with the lyrics as they are, or are you going to leave them to me, no matter how much I mangle the tune in the process?"
A stagehand leaned in the door. "Guys, you're on in three. Why are you still down here?"
A few precious seconds were wasted in tense silence.
"Fine!" cried Stephen at last. "Only got one ear left; I can't sit back and let it be tortured. I'll sing your stupid lyrics. Come on, Sheldon."
"And you'll smile while doing it!" called Jon after them, as the eagle dragged the rhino towards the stage.
Chapter 36: The Essentials
For misstewart, who wanted "planning a vacation."
"Oof," grunted Jon as he plunked the massive suitcase down at the base of the stairs. "What's in this thing, Stephen? Rocks?"
"Just the bare essentials, Jon. It's only a weekend at the cabin, after all. We'll be roughing it! Living on the edge!"
Jon, who knew that Stephen's original plan for "roughing it" had involved hauling an entire cabinet of fine china up the side of a mountain, decided not to take any chances. He tipped the suitcase over (he was trying to do it slowly, but in spite of his efforts it landed with the kind of thud that sounded like it wanted to crunch through the floorboards) and unzipped it.
"Stephen!" he yelled up the stairs. "You do not need to bring your Peabodys on a camping trip!"
A moment later Stephen was clomping down the steps two at a time. "Don't be insensitive, Jon!" he ordered, crouching by the suitcase and stroking the burnished discs. "It's okay, babies. He didn't mean to be so nasty," he cooed, before shooting Jon a dirty look.
"I'm sure they'll be fine here on their own," Jon tried to argue. "They can keep your Emmy company. You didn't pack that too, did you?"
"Of course not," snapped Stephen.
Jon sighed with relief.
"She sits up front."
Jon had the uncomfortable feeling that the luggage was in for a better trip than he was.
Chapter 37: The Gravitas Never Fails
For sarcasticsra, who wanted "Jon and Stephen discover they have a mutual crush on Brian."
"I don't believe it. I'm having a slumber party."
"Don't be ridiculous, Jon. This is not a slumber party."
"Sure it is. You're sleeping at my house, we've made popcorn, and we're curled up in front of the TV talking about the boys we like. We might as well just start doing each other's hair and get it over with."
"Fine," huffed Stephen. "Call it what you want. But it's a very manly slumber party. Now shut up, he's back!"
Jon shut up.
On the screen, Brian said various Important Things in a Serious Newsy Voice. Stephen let out a dreamy sigh.
(Jon still felt a little ridiculous for the flutters that voice induced in his chest cavity, but at least he wasn't the only one.)
The next time NBC cut to commercial, Stephen said, "So, as long as this is a manly slumber party, you want to build a pillow fort?"
Jon grinned. "Sure. Why not."
(Besides, judging by the gleam in Stephen's eyes, the couch was already as good as dismantled.)
Chapter 38: Clear Blue Day
For doctorv, who wanted "the one where they get married."
"This doesn't really count yet, you know," says Stephen as they make their way down the front steps of the county clerk's office.
In spite of the words, he's cradling the framed certificate as if it's the Mona Lisa.
"I mean, I know it's legal and all," he continues. "But it doesn't really count until after the ceremony tomorrow."
They've set it all up with what must be the only priest in the state willing to preside over the possibly-unholy union of a conflicted male Catholic to an also-male secular Jew. Jon's still not quite sure how they did it.
"And if the ceremony doesn't go exactly right, it still might not count," adds Stephen. "I mean, what if he says the vows in the wrong order? Or what if we forget to cut the cake? Or what if one of us puts the ring on the wrong finger? That would invalidate the whole thing!"
"I don't think it will, Stephen," says Jon mildly.
The city street gives way to a patch of park; they find themselves strolling through trees. Well, Jon strolls, hands tucked in his jacket pockets. Stephen sort of flutters. He looks like one of the agitated pigeons hopping about on the curbs.
"It's okay if it doesn't work out, you know," he says. "I mean, obviously I want it to, but if it doesn't — if something does go terribly wrong — then I'll survive. I really will. You don't have to worry about me."
"Stephen?" says Jon.
"Hate to break it to you, but...it's too late. You're stuck with me."
The sun filters down through the leaves. Birds call to each other across the branches. In the street, two cars get into a honking match.
"Well," says Stephen, running his fingers over the edge of the frame. "I guess I'll survive that too."
Jon laughs and puts an arm around his husband's waist. "So will I, babe. So will I."