Title: What We Do Instead
Pairing: Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 3000
Warnings: unbetaed; please tell me if I have inadvertently done something terrible and/or grammatically incorrect
Summary: As of his junior year, Jon spends most of his weekends hanging around abandoned classrooms with nothing stronger than the occasional bottle of wine on the table. Stephen gets that, even if he doesn't know why. College AU
Notes: This is the thing I started because I wanted to write something not sad. It didn't really work.
Disclaimer: All television shows, movies, books, and other copyrighted material referred to in this work, and the characters, settings, and events thereof, are the properties of their respective owners. As this work is an interpretation of the original material and not for-profit, it constitutes fair use. Reference to real persons, places, or events are made in a fictional context, and are not intended to be libelous, defamatory, or in any way factual.



Credits roll and Jon's up with the lights, pulling on his sweater and glancing around for his leather jacket. His eyes catch on his baseball bat (safely occupying the seat beside his, now, rather than wrapped in one of his limbs, as it was for the bulk of the movie) and, after a moment's consideration, he grabs that, too. The whim of carrying it with him, tonight, has had the unexpected benefit of giving him something quiet to fidget with that doesn't drive those around him to the brink of homicidal rage. Staying still has never been Jon's strong suit.

He feels his pockets to confirm – yeah, got 'em – and he's halfway to the door before John looks up and says, “Wait, what, are you – ? No.”

Across the table, Rachel doesn't look up from her laptop screen.

“He's not leaving, yet, John,” she says. “His computer's still here.”

“I see that, now,” he replies.

“No, I am,” Jon says. He's only giving the joke in his head half his attention. “Going, I mean. It's a gift.” He glances at his backpack, still hanging off the chair his bat had been in. “I'm giving you my epistemology textbook, too.”

John breaks into enthusiastic thanks and Jon goes, waving him off with the hand not full of bat. He heads downstairs, wondering, not for the first time, how the hell he ended up twenty-one years old, spending his Friday nights watching non-porno movies in abandoned classrooms with nothing on the table stronger than the occasional bottle of wine he doesn't bother with. He figures it has something to do with what happened with Professor McConnell in fall of sophomore year. Or maybe the soccer team drama, the one he still hadn't figured out how to talk about so it comes out remotely funny so he just doesn't talk about it at all. Or think about it. Jesus.

He shakes his head as he emerges out into the chill spring night. There are worse ways he could be spending his time. He slouches into the ledge running around the English building and the thought completes itself: he just never expected his junior year of college to be this tame.

The cigarette he lights agrees with him. If nothing else, he figured he'd have someone to indulge his bad habits with.

Whatever paranoid impulse made him pick his bat up to begin with makes Jon reluctant to put it down. He props it on one shoulder like an indolent guard as he lounges against the wall, feeling guilty for thinking sort-of badly about his friends - who have been beyond awesome, considering – and annoyed with himself for feeling guilty over something he can't help, then back to guilty because he should be able to help it and, hoping to forestall the impending spiral, he starts listing off all the things he has to do this weekend.

Fucking finals.

He's cringing over the term paper draft sitting upstairs in his bag, covered in red ink he's too chickenshit to decode, when he hears footsteps. The security guard was just passing when he came out and Jon is mildly curious to know who's wandered out this way at – his watch says quarter past midnight. At the far end of the walk, the art building is aglow and Jon figures it's someone on their way to do whatever it is art students do in there in the middle of the night. He's wrong. It's Stephen.

Stephen, rounding the corner in the fleece pullover Jon wants to pet every time he wears it to their mythology class. Stephen, looking even more surprised to see Jon than Jon is to see him.

“Hi,” he says.

Jon tries to respond. It comes out as a cough. He clears his throat and tries again.

“Hey. Sorry.”

“You all right there?” Stephen is smiling, now, coming closer, further into the light cast from above the door. “I'd ask what a nice boy like you is doing out on his own at this hour but you look like you can defend yourself.”

“Huh?” He forgot what he was holding for a second. “Oh, yeah. Never leave home without it. I'd ask the same about you except I know you're not a nice boy.”

Stephen's offended face is good enough Jon might have taken him seriously if he hadn't seen it directed at Professor Koppel so many times. Koppel never seemed impressed, either.

“Jon,” he says. “I am a gentleman. How dare you, sir?”

Jon smiles.

“All right, you're a gentleman,” he says, and lazily brandishes the bat. “I'm not. How do you plan to defend yourself?” He drops his arm and the bat connects with the concrete, a sharp clinking sound.

Stephen grins and hoists himself up to sit on the ledge at Jon's right.

“Oh, I'm a ninja,” he says. “My body is my weapon. Didn't you know?”

“Sure you don't mean prostitute?”

Stephen frowns. “You may be right. I always get them confused.”

Jon ducks his head and giggles. When he raises his eyes again, Stephen is smiling down at him, looking insufferably pleased with himself.

“Why are you out here?” he asks.

Stephen shakes his head.

“I asked first.”

“No, you didn't. You said you weren't going to ask.”

“Was still first,” Stephen insists. “So I win.”

“Didn't realize it was a contest.” Jon is aware that he's trying to draw this conversation out. He would be uncomfortable with that idea if Stephen weren't so obviously settling in.

“Of course it is,” he says. “And I win. So tell me. What're you doing lurking outside the English hall in the dead of night? And why do you have a bat?”

“Watching movies upstairs.” Jon drops his cigarette butt into the sand-filled urn by the door. “We just finished Blazing Saddles.”

“Wondered why the lights were on,” Stephen says. “That still doesn't explain why you have a bat.”

Jon looks down at it, hefts it up into the light with one hand.

“No reason,” he says. “I've had the urge to grab it every time I leave my room all week. Figured I might as well.”

He looks back at Stephen who's nodding as though this is perfectly reasonable. Which, hell. There are plenty of weirder things he could have done for stupider reasons. Taking a baseball bat to movie night is fairly unremarkable in the grand scheme of things.

Jon turns to face him more completely, leans his hip into the wall.

“What about you?” he says. “I told you. It's your turn.”

“I was at Pride,” Stephen says.

Pride? Oh, right.

“That was tonight, wasn't it?” Jon says. “Did it suck?”

“Yeah.” Stephen is staring somewhere past his left ear. “It pretty much sucked.”

Jon is unsurprised. The Gay-Straight Alliance vanished into a whirlpool of crazy mid-fall and finally pulled their shit together enough for the requisite yearly fund-raiser two weeks before spring term ended. Given what a success last year had been, on one level it was a fucking tragedy what they had been reduced to. On another –

“Good,” Jon says. He doesn't elaborate further. Stephen's a smart guy. He knows Jon and Rachel hang out and if he knows anything about what happened in the fall – yeah, he knows.

Stephen smiles, a little sharper than Jon's ever seen on him. Stephen is entirely too good-natured for 'mean' to apply him, but this look might have grown up on the same street.

“Thought you might say that,” he says and offers up the details Jon is petty enough to want but not quite petty enough to ask for. “There's no DJ, only three of the drag acts showed up, one was drunk and another announce beforehand they chose their song last night.”

Jon cringes.

“Did it show?”

“Oh, it showed.”

“What about the third one?”

“Don't know. That's when I left.”

“Ouch.”

“That sympathy better be for me. I'm the one who sat through it.”

Stephen's smiling again and Jon is aware his jitters have come back. He reaches into his pockets again.

“You mind?” he asks, waving the cigarette pack.

Stephen shakes his head.

“Have at it. They're your lungs.”

“Yours, too.” Jon realizes what he's said when he looks up from his lighter and see the eyebrow Stephen has raised. “I mean - ” He gestures with the cigarette. It illustrates nothing. “You're sitting there.”

“The price I'll pay,” Stephen says, “for the pleasure of your company.”

The bat is leaning in the groove between the wall and Jon's hip so he has a hand free to clasp to his heart.

“You touch me,” he says. “Deeply. Right here.”

And then he flips him off. Stephen laughs and Jon is surprised to discover that he is now insufferably pleased with himself.

He coughs, glances around for something to say. Someone that isn't him but inhabits the same body says, “Hey, uh. Walk with me?” He gestures back the way Stephen came, towards the quad.

“Huh?” Stephen doesn't seem confused, exactly – just curious. Jon's surge of anxiety abates.

“Can't stay still,” he explains. “That's why I came out here.”

“You mean it wasn't just to feed your disgusting addictions?”

But Stephen is sliding off the wall and falls into step beside him when Jon starts walking so that's okay.

“Just the one disgusting addiction, thanks.”

“You don't include enticing strange men off into the night?”

“Of course not.” When he's sure Stephen is looking, he gives him an exaggerated once over. “That addiction promises to be delicious.”

Stephen breaks out laughing, again. It's loud in the relative quiet of the quad. Jon's glad they're already moving because the warm rush of contentment would have set him twitching, otherwise. He always likes making people laugh and Stephen – Stephen has a good laugh.

Something strikes Jon; he's not sure where it falls from and it's out of his mouth before he can wonder.

“Where's your entourage?” he says. “I mean – uh – ?” What does he mean?

Stephen knows.

“Amy and Paul,” he says. “They're still at Pride. My bullshit capacity isn't operating at peak, right now, but they could stand it.”

“Ah.” Well. “I hope they enjoy it.”

He finds he doesn't need to look but does anyway. Yeah, there's the eyebrow.

“Okay, you're right. I hope they hate every minute of it and complain loudly.”

Stephen beams.

“That's better,” he says.

Jon feels like an elementary schooler being praised for his penmanship. It's weird.

They turn where the sidewalk ends to leave the quad. Jon realizes they're circling to reach the other side of the English building. All right. His stuff is there. And his friends.

He's saved the trouble of answering by the sudden wail of sirens in the distance.

“Huh,” Stephen says. “I think something bad is happening.”

“Really?” Jon turns wide eyes on him. “Whatever can you mean?”

“Just a feeling,” Stephen says and grins. “A premonition!”

Jon giggles. It's the jazz hands.

They come up to the back of the English building as the sirens hit their crescendo. With one thought, they bypass the ground level door and hurry up the stairs to the porch. From there they can see the main drive onto campus and if there's anything to see, they'll see it. But the sirens pass. It's morbidly disappointing.

“Boring,” Stephen says.

Jon makes a stab at reason.

“It's not like we would have been able to see anything other than flashing lights.”

“Sure we would,” Stephen says. “We'd know if it was an ambulance or just the police or if something's on fire.”

That's not a bad point.

Jon says, “We'd probably smell the smoke. If it were a fire.”

Stephen makes a face at him.

“Crush all my dreams,” he says.

Jon nods. “Santa Clause doesn't exist,” he says, and continues before Stephen can answer. “That was Doctor Cheney in a fake beard.”

He gets a full body shudder for his trouble and it's so cute he persists.

“Coming into your house. In the night. Creeping through darkened rooms. Leaving no trace save -”

Stephen started laughing halfway through.

“Okay!” he says. “I surrender! Consider me crushed!”

“What are you surrendering exactly?”

“Uh – my body? That's how this whole 'enticing men off into the night' thing works, isn't it?”

Stephen is wearing a look of exaggerated concentration. Jon opens his eyes wide, affects concern to match.

“Not sure,” he says. “I – uh – I was actually hoping you knew. I've never done this before.”

“Never?” Both eyebrows, this time. Jon feels accomplished. “So what am I, your test case? I think I'm offended.”

“Of course not!” Jon says. “You're just – um – special?”

“Special?” Stephen is holding back laughter. Jon guesses flustered is working for him. Okay. He can do flustered.

“Yeah! You're – making me want to – uh – try new things? How's that?” He clasps his hands and gives him a hopeful smile.

Stephen leans back on the deck railing.

“It just keeps getting better,” he says.

“Are you still offended?”

“If I say yes will you keep wheedling for forgiveness?”

“No,” Jon says. “Yes. I might. Only – I think I'm running low on wheedle.”

Very suddenly, Stephen is grinning. Jon's not sure he's ever actually witnessed an idea being born.

“Guess you'll have to think of something else, then,” Stephen says.

For show, Jon hesitates. “To – earn your forgiveness?”

“If you want my forgiveness,” Stephen says. “It might be possible.”

Jon looks around then ducks his head and gazes at Stephen through his eyelashes, the image of embarrassed contrition. He's put a lot of work into cultivating that look.

“And what – what did you have in mind?” he asks.

Stephen takes a step forward so suddenly Jon almost jumps for real. But it folds into his role easily enough to save face.

Stephen takes hold of his arm and says, “You should come on an adventure with me.”

Okay, that surprise is real. Between the words and all the space no longer between them, it's inevitable.

“An adventure?” he says.

“Yeah.” Stephen's smiling, but he's serious. Jon's not sure how he can tell but he's definitely serious. Okay. “Right now. Let's go on an adventure.”

“Okay,” Jon says. He's looking into Stephen's eyes from less than a foot away. “Sure. But – where are we going to find one of those?”

Beaming, Stephen pats his arm and steps back.

“No idea,” he says. “Leave that to me. You go get your stuff. If – uh – ”

This is the first time Jon has ever seen Stephen Colbert uncertain about something. It's adorable. He wants to hug him.

“I mean,” Stephen says, “your friends are waiting.” Jon follows his line of sight to the brightly-lit third floor windows. He's suddenly conscious of the vague feeling of guilt he's been carrying since he put out his first cigarette and didn't immediately go back inside. It grumbles rather than roars, less potent than he's come to expect. “If you want to go back in we can – ”

“No,” Jon says. He doesn't sound as abrupt as he feared. “That's okay. I think John was going to make us watch something British that wasn't Monty Python.” He smiles. “I'll take my chances with you.”

Stephen is still strangely, irresistibly, off-balance but he smiles back, looks pleased.

“Okay,” he says. His voice is warm and quiet. “I'll wait here?”

“Okay.” Jon's not sure he's ever wanted to kiss someone this badly. He looks down then around for the door. Tries it. Unlocked. He looks back at Stephen, hoping he's not as red as he feels. “Uh – just be a minute.”



“I lied,” Jon announces, reentering the classroom. “I'm taking them with me.”

Conscious of eyes on him – only vaguely interested, but still on him – he begins to repack his bag.

“You going?” Rachel looks at him over her glasses. He doesn't meet her eyes.

“Yeah,” he says. “Shit to do.”

“Fucking finals,” Jason says.

Jon glances over. Jason had been quiet all night. Probably worried about Sam, who got called home in a hurry on Thursday. Everything is allegedly fine, now, but seeing as they still didn't know what the hell happened that doesn't stop Jason worrying. (Or Jon. But, not being romantically involved with Sam near to the point of losing independent identity, he isn't brooding in corners over it.)

“Fucking finals,” he agrees and hoists his backpack onto one shoulder. “Night, guys.” He waves his bat to acknowledge the dull chorus of farewells. The guilt is a little worse, now, leaving John with Jason's worry about Sam, and Rachel's still-tender wounds, reopening with Pride. But John can handle it. And staying now would just make him cranky and everyone would be the worse off for it and – and –

Nicely rationalized. You jerk.
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