Title: What We Do Instead
Pairing: Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert
Rating: R
Word Count: 2800
Warnings: implied violence
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: Thanks to [personal profile] w_thit who has graciously beta'ed this. Any remaining mistakes are my own, probably resulting from poking at it after she'd been over it. I have no idea what Mitch McConnell's actual views, if any, are on the subjects mentioned are.
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.



Jon might have been lying when he said he had never been on the run before. Or maybe he's being melodramatic in thinking that. Certainly he's never been stalked in the night by men in black or shadowed to the grocery by bulletproof SUVs – at least, as far as he knows he's never been shadowed by bulletproof SUVs. And, paranoid as he is, he thinks he would have noticed.

But he can't shake the feeling his whole life has been spent on the run – from failure, from fear, from himself – and he thinks it's kind of ironic that the one time he goes literally on the run it's the safest he's felt in years.

According to Stephen, the place you start running is Waffle House. Jon suggests that this means actually going to Waffle House might be over-predictable. Also, gross. But Stephen really wants a waffle so they compromise on IHOP which has better coffee anyway.

On the way they throw around ideas for who could be after them: CIA, FBI, foreign secret police, the Mafia, the Jewish Mafia (“why would they be after us?” “you're fornicating with a Gentile!” “well in that case – ”), the Catholic Mafia (“isn't that just the regular Mafia?” “I imagine there would be some overlap, yes.”) and, finally, the circus. (“the circus?” “sure. Your parents sold you to them in a desperate bid for money to feed your nine brothers and sisters – ” “which one of us is Catholic again?” “okay, my parents sold me. Your father can be the evil ring master and we have grown up together under his abusive power.” “and we ran away?” “under cover of night. It was very romantic.”) It's nice and fun and easy and maybe it's because those are things that don't come naturally to Jon that the conversation takes a sudden turn.

Staring out the window, he says, “If it's the Mob after you for fucking me, we should avoid the psychology department.”

“Why's that?” Stephen asks. They stop at a red light and Jon sees him look over in the reflection in the glass. His voice is quiet, cautious, when he adds, “Has it been infiltrated?”

“I'm just saying,” Jon says. “The department head would not take our side.”

He's not sure why he's saying this. He doesn't really talk about, he especially doesn't talk about it sober, and it's not the logical course for this conversation to take. He thinks maybe it's just because he doesn't often feel close to people like he does to Stephen right now and it's making him want to tell him things he can't say from too far away. And he's still so, so angry.

“Who? Professor McConnell?”

“That's the one. Shitstain. I used to be a psych major, you know.”

Stephen, bless him, doesn't seem to mind the sudden change of mood. His expression is all curiosity and growing concern.

“I didn't,” he says. “But I do now. What did he do?”

“Social Psych, fall of last year. I objected to his views on discrimination.”

“Which are?”

“Stupid. He's one of these 'we live in a post racial, post feminist world' assholes who refuse to believe sexism and racism still happen. Yet he manages to act like those are the only kinds of discrimination. He'll only talk about homophobia as an extension of sexism which – there's a point in there that's not totally moronic but talk about missing the point. Oh, and he thinks anti-Semitism ended with World War II.”

Stephen looks over at him, would probably keep looking if he weren't about to turn into the parking lot across three lanes of traffic. “You're fucking with me, right? I mean, no one with a PhD can actually think that.”

“Can and does, baby. He'll never come right out and say it but on the occasion he can't avoid it he'll brush off the whole history of anti-Jewish sentiment or turn it into a race issue. And it turns out he doesn't appreciate alternative viewpoints. Especially when they're forcefully expressed.”

Stephen cuts the engine, unbuckles his seat belt, and turns to look at Jon, who takes time with his own before meeting his eyes.

“And that's why I'm no longer a psychology major,” he says, punctuating with an approximation of jazz hands.

Stephen smiles but it's fleeting and Jon wishes he'd never opened his mouth. Then Stephen is reaching out and twining his fingers through Jon's.

He says, “I really want to hug you right now. But getting that close to you would probably require making out with you. At least a little. And that wouldn't be good for our cover.”

His deadpan is complete and startles Jon into a giggle before he falls into mock consideration of the problem.

“You may be right,” he says. Stephen's eyes are soft and bright in the dimness of the car, his expression grave, and the light from the nearest street lamp cuts in through the window and casts his pale throat into sharp relief. Jon wants to lick the line between light and shadow.

He meets Stephen's eyes, again, finds him containing a smile and he suspects the flush would be back in his face if only he could see it more clearly.

Jon says, “But I'm willing to risk it if you are.”

“Good man,” Stephen says and, to Jon's delight, immediately climbs over the divider between the seats and deposits himself in Jon's lap, straddling his thighs and generally engulfing him in one of the most full-bodied embraces he can recall.

Jon returns it eagerly, winding an arm around his waist and reaching up to slide his fingers through Stephen's hair, again.

“That can't be comfortable,” he says, observing how his back and neck are curled.

“Mm,” Stephen replies from somewhere around the back of his neck. “Don't care. Here.”

One of his hands fumbles down the side of the seat and before Jon can properly process what's happening his seat back is falling nearly flat under their weight and Stephen is pressing down into his entire body which – is not a problem. At all. His touch is too affectionate, too attentive to feel like a constraint; it's somehow more like being inside him than being under him and that – is a hell of a thought. Jon's not sure how far Stephen is willing to go in the middle of a reasonably well-lit IHOP parking lot and twelve hours ago he would have had to give the same question some serious thought for himself. But right now – right now, pretty damn far.

He hauls Stephen's face up to kiss him and shoves his tongue into his mouth, suddenly determined to fully demonstrate his appreciation for this show of support. He caresses down his back and feels hands cupping his face an instant before Stephen begins sucking on his tongue in earnest. A shudder runs through him and his hands land on Stephen's ass, dragging him into even closer contact.

The sound of a car door slamming has them suddenly and simultaneously disengaged. Jon's hands drop and Stephen releases his tongue, hovering over him with eyes black behind his glasses, soft hair falling over his forehead and Jon – Jon must be losing control of his vocal chords because if he were able to stop himself he would not have chosen this moment to announce, “I think I'd rather tie you up.”



Another time Jon went to IHOP, it hurt and it went like this:

Him and Olbermann, across from each other in a booth by the window. Same city, different franchise; longer drive, less patrons; worse lighting, better view of the highway, down the dark side of a mountain, this lone restaurant set back in the trees. It wasn't entirely intentional but the menace of the place fit the tone of the conversation. Anderson wasn't with them.

“It's okay, man,” Jon said for the fortieth time that evening, fingers caught in the handle of his seventh cup of coffee. Olbermann gave him the look that had been making underclassman shit themselves when they saw it on the other side of a class debate since he was an underclassman.

“You don't believe that,” he said. It sounded like a threat. Jon rolled his eyes.

“Not like that, asshole,” he said. “That will be okay when I'm putting out cigarettes in the palm of Queen Shitstain Turdfucker's cold, dead hand. What I mean - ”

“Turdfucker?” Olbermann said. He looked almost amused, the menace in his face receding just slightly.

“Bareback,” Jon confirms. “What I mean is Rachel.”

Back again, the last star blotted out by some sinister, if righteous, mothership.

“Rachel,” he said.

“We've got her,” Jon replies. “I've got her, dude. She's going to be okay.”

“She's with Sam?” Olbermann guesses. He knows Jon's friends.

“And Jason and Oliver. Should I tell you where?”

Olbermann shook his head.

“Don't. I'm no use to her right now.”

Jon wasn't entirely sure he agreed but you can't argue with melodrama like that. He said, “You're not on campus, are you?”

“God, no. Larry has graciously opened his couch for me.”

“Less for you than her,” Jon said. He was being an asshole for the sake of it but Olbermann agreed.

“Probably,” he said. “Do you have his number?”

Jon didn't know what he'd need it for but pulled out his phone anyway. No harm in being thorough.

“No,” he said. “Hit me.”



That night they watched Harry Potter, back in March, they went to Rachel's room – a closet-sized single in the freshman dorm on the outer reaches of campus – and sat side-by-side on the bed, Jon dragged down between the other two on his return from the bathroom. They watched the third one because it wasn't terrible and the fourth because it was and, on being informed of their plans, John sent a string of irate text messages they all crushed in close to see. They never moved back apart.

Jon's pretty sure he fell asleep during the Yule Ball – at least, he missed the thing with the birds – and came to leaning on Rachel as Stephen was lifting his legs to sit back down under them.

“Sorry,” Jon mumbled and began to shift to give him space. Stephen stopped him.

“You're okay,” he said.

Rachel was holding Jon firmly and he was too tired to resist. The last thing he remembers feeling before he dropped off, again, is the warmth of her arms around him and one of Stephen's hands slipping up his pantleg and wrapping around his ankle.

He and Stephen left after that, shuffling out and in the direction of civilization. Stephen's arm was back around Jon as they walked and he kept up a stream of soft, idle reflections on how the book series has progressed thematically from end to end. Jon bumped his jaw with his temple and he broke off to laugh.

“Are you head-butting me?” he asked.

“Mating ritual,” Jon said. His voice was thick and full of gravel.

Stephen laughed, again.

“This you?” he asked.

Jon looked. They'd climbed the stairs to the back deck of his dorm and he wasn't sure how he missed that.

“Yeah,” he said. He looked around at Stephen, slightly further away than he had been, his hand splayed between Jon's shoulder blades. “Thanks.”

“For walking you home?” Stephen's voice was warm and amused, his eyes well of invitation at this distance – or maybe that was just Jon, projecting.

“And letting me sleep on you,” he said. “Can't believe I did that.”

“Three times,” Stephen said. “Counting just now. You can't tell me you were really awake all the way here.”

“I was moving,” he said. Functionality was the only relevant factor.

“There's more to consciousness than mobility.”

Stephen was disagreeing with his thoughts. Fairly directly. Weird.

Stephen smiled, briefly, and then it was like the lights went down his face, tension rising in his jaw. He ran a hand through his hair. “You going to be able to sleep?” he asked. “When you get up there?”

Jon shrugged. His body ached, protesting a week of misuse and too many thwarted promises of extended rest. He felt too open to lie.

“God knows,” he said.

The look on Stephen's face made his heart ache.

“Jon,” he began.

“Stephen. It's fine, dude. I'll go to bed. I might fall asleep. I might lay there for a couple of hours pretending to be asleep. Either way, don't worry about it. I've been dealing with this for a lot of years. It doesn't suddenly become your responsibility because I pass out on you.”

Stephen's eyes narrowed. Jon thought he might be about to see Stephen Colbert angry for the first time. Which was – His head hurt too bad to come up with a word. A tide of fatigue rose over him and he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“It's okay, Stephen,” he said.

Jon looked up when he felt a tentative touch over his hair. Stephen was reaching out, expression both embarrassed and unapologetic.

“Headache?” he asked.

Jon nodded slowly.

“Happens,” he said. “When I fuck with my schedule like this.”

And then, without knowing why, he told Stephen the precise extent of his deprivation. It wasn't information he handed out, usually – it always sounded so much worse out loud than it did in his head. Stephen made a noise of sympathy and his fingers threaded through Jon's hair. It felt nice.

“Okay,” Stephen said, after a moment.

Jon opened his eyes in time to see him step closer and felt the brief brush of lips against his forehead. He shuddered, had the unsettling dual sensation of adrenal spike and sudden and complete relaxation.

“Mm,” he said.

It sounded almost needy but Stephen, speaking softly into his hairline, didn't seem to notice.

“Go to bed,” he said. “You're going to get some more sleep, tonight. I decree it.”

Jon giggled weakly. Stephen stepped back, grinning, and clasped his hands behind his back.

“And if you ever need to fall asleep in public again,” he said, “let me know. Always glad to help.”

Again Jon laughed and shook his head, resisting the urge to put his arms around him and suggest he get started helping right now.

“Keep that in mind,” he said. “G'night, Stephen.”

Stephen's grin faded into something smaller and more private, almost tender, something that made Jon's heart trip over it's own beat. He looked away and was surprised by another soft kiss laid on his head.

“Night, Jon,” Stephen said and slipped away. Before Jon could get his eyes to reopen and focus, he was around the corner. Gone.

Jon slept another six hours, that night.

He calls it a miracle.



Two months after Rachel does the same, Stephen is the one holding his hand in IHOP and Jon doesn't notice until the hostess does, in the middle of asking booth or table. That's weird – a level of comfort with somebody else's skin he's not familiar with – and when he does notice, when he becomes consciously aware of the thing that's been registering as one nice feeling among many, when he looks down to see how neatly their fingers lock together, how the mounds and dips of his palms fit in with Stephen's, when he sees that, it looks good and he doesn't mind and that's not just weird, it's unprecedented. Jon doesn't really do PDA. Especially not this casual, instinctive, PDA, holding hands from the car to the restaurant for no particular reason. He's always found it uncomfortable, unnecessary and it's still unnecessary. But it's good. This is good. He likes this. Maybe it's the sex they've already had or maybe he just likes Stephen that much but not even getting cockblocked in the parking lot can shake his feeling of overall contentment. It's almost – nice. The promise of later.

He squeezes Stephen's fingers and gives him a self-conscious smile as she's getting their menus. Stephen beams.

“I'm not sure I've ever seen you this happy,” he remarks once they're seated, propping his head on one loosely-curled fist.

Jon flips open his menu and smirks at him through his eyelashes.

“Me neither,” he says. “I'm enjoying the novelty of the experience.”

Stephen cringes but still laughs. His gaze flickers back over his shoulder. Their waitress is coming. Just before she arrives, he meets Jon's eyes and mouths, “Magic cock.”

It's a good thing Stephen knows to order him coffee because Jon doesn't stop laughing until she's long gone.

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