Title: What We Do Instead
Pairing: Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert
Rating: R
Word Count: 3100
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.
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.



There's a creepy spiral staircase out behind the cafeteria. It's rusted and old and creaks under the most careful steps of the lightest student and lends an aura of decay to the otherwise hospitable veranda from which is descends.

On the third Wednesday in March, Jon took it down into a low concrete courtyard. It fairly screeched under his booted feet and groaned with relief when he made it to solid ground. As he stepped through a discrete door and into the basement coffee shop, the feeling was mutual.

It was like four in the afternoon – stupid time of day, and he had the headache from hell and work to do for his formal logic class. That wasn't as bad a combination as it sounded – assuming he could find his zone, he could forget he even had a headache for as long as it took to finish his work and maybe by then the pain would have given up and gone away. He'd been doing this twice a week for three semesters running, up three to two on his headaches. Not bad odds.

Anyway, campus coffee shop. It was shit. The coffee was shit, the furniture was shit (aside from the flatscreen TV in the dark back corner, by the door – Jon could never quite figure that one out), the lighting was shit. But it was still coffee and, depending on who was working, it even had detectable caffeine. Jon was one of about six people on campus who ever got the free tenth drip coffee – most people stuck to the hot chocolate or lattes, which were apparently less terrible.

O'Donnell was another who got the freebie. Jon saw him down there, sometimes. He was also another who, like Olbermann and Jon himself, had a masochistic fascination with Fox News. He was on the hideous floral settee, indulging this dread habit, when Jon wandered in. Some assbag was talking about the free market and Jon tried to ignore it. But, as his thermos was slowly filled, the words 'coal' and 'over-regulation' seeped into his brain and he found himself standing behind O'Donnell, watching with as much resignation as horror as a man who had actually been elected by actual people to represent an actual state explained why the Constitution demanded robber barons be allowed to blow a third of that actual state all to hell with no consideration for the health and well-being of the actual people who'd voted for him.

“You ever been where they do all that blasting?” Jon asked as the slime monster at the anchor desk threw to commercial.

O'Donnell must have had a remote because the TV went mute.

“I have,” he said.

So had Jon. A few times. He'd never stopped but every time he went home or came back he had to drive through. It took a long time – time that would be halved if the whole place were leveled. All those winding roads, all those mountains. Old and tired, rising brown and green on either side, cut open for progress to pass through; broken apart for their guts to be burned.

“Beautiful,” he said.

It really was a nice drive.

O'Donnell made a sound of agreement.

“This is why we can't have nice things,” he said.

In Jon's head, Larry O'Donnell is forever linked in with Rachel and with the night the GSA treasurer proved beyond doubt that some people don't deserve nice things (or nice people or nice lives or nice anything) and with the aftermath, wherein the rest of the officers proved you don't have to throw a punch to be culpable for the pain caused. It makes him uncomfortable which makes him feel guilty because it's not O'Donnell's fault that the first time he and Jon talked it was about something horrific. But he can't really help it and O'Donnell doesn't seem like he takes it personally.

Once he walked away, that day in the basement, a parallel built in Jon's always-tired brain and he decided that this made the treasurer a coal company, out to destroy what's given her everything, and the officers are Congressmen like the tool on TV. Enabling the wrong-doer, indifferent to the fate of the exploited. He supposed that made Rachel the mountains – the mountains and all the terrified people who lived under them. (The latter made his chest ache, harder and sadder, not anything like Stephen's smile, but he kind of liked the idea of Rachel as the mountains. They were hurt but still there, still beautiful.)

In a rare moment of positive self-reflection, Jon thought about what it meant that he had gotten her out – that he had helped her be not-scared. He wondered if maybe that meant he wasn't totally unworthy – that maybe he could have something good and not destroy it. He wondered – and he thought, inevitably, of Stephen.

It had been just under two weeks since John and the Plexiglass. Thirteen days. Seven class days. Three ninety-minute blocks with Dr. Koppel and the ancients and a fourth to look forward to in the morning. Ninety-minute blocks of sitting next to Stephen; of Stephen's eyes, avoiding Jon's as the corners of his mouth twitch upward; of Stephen's hands, tapping out silent rhythms on the table top when there were no notes to take; of Stephen's body, it's tempting warmth; and of six inches between their chairs that has narrowed to four and of four inches as an impossible distance when Jon could swear, sometimes, he can still feel Stephen's arm around his shoulders or those hands at his waist and ninety minutes in which Jon can't stop thinking about how Stephen's smile might taste when Dr. Koppel tells Jon to put his hand down, he doesn't let Jon hang around his office all day so he can show off in class.

Jon thought about that and about ninety minute blocks and thirteen days and he thought maybe – maybe he wasn't worthy of Stephen. Worthy of Stephen seemed an unlikely goal for anyone. But maybe – maybe even if he wasn't – even if he never could be worthy – he thought that, if he ever had the chance, he would do just about anything to prove he was not, at least, unworthy. And for the first time he thought maybe he could do that.



Back in the present, it's been six or seven weeks since Jon last talked to O'Donnell and Glenn Beck wants pancakes.

At least, Jon supposes he does. There's no other way to account for his presence save the obvious – a malevolent, or perhaps merely whimsical, God. Beck is over by the hostess stand with a look of pinched impatience on his face. He hasn't seen them.

“Red alert,” Jon says, softly. Stephen, cutting his waffle into careful cubes, looks up. “Twelve o'clock.”

Stephen's eyebrows creep up and he turns to see. In an instant he's facing Jon, again, and Jon has to bite down on his lip to keep from giggling at the unholy glee alight in his face.

“A spy!” he hisses, flinging up his hands. The cutlery he's still wielding leeches some of the drama from the gesture, which may have been the point.

Jon ducks his head and gives up his lip to bite down on his fist, shivering with contained laughter.

“Since when do they let him out alone?” Stephen asks in an undertone.

Jon shakes his head.

“Dunno. O'Reilly lied to me, dude. He said they kept him in a sealed room.”

Stephen is still for a moment, eyes going wide and bright and strangely focused. It's a beautiful look, one Jon never tires of, and it means Stephen is about ten seconds from breaking down entirely.

“Bill O'Reilly? Crazy grad student O'Reilly?” he asks, voice aquiver.

“He TA'd the freshman seminar I did student leader for, last year. In private, he's not totally dreadful. Whoa, incoming!”

“What? Fuck, it's an invasion!”

Question answered – the Moral Action Society didn't let their tame madman out alone. He had Hannity and Bachmann with him. The ghost of rage rose up in Jon when he saw her and he shook his head to banish it. There were sides of him Stephen didn't need to see.

In the same instant, he felt his cell phone buzz. Grateful, he pulled it from his pocket and checked it under the table. Text from Rachel.

What work do you do w/ light off? Sleep well.

He feels himself blushing in some combination of guilt and shame. Quickly, he replies, Lied again. Out w/ Stephen

He looks up, ashamed but slightly calmer. Rachel is back in her room, looking out across the quad at his darkened window. She's fine.

The MAS crowd is seated at another booth, in a row at right angles to theirs. Bachmann, at least, is aware of their presence though Hannity and Beck have their backs to them. Stephen is watching them out of the corner of his eye, smiling faintly.

When Jon looks up, he refocuses immediately, expression warming in an instant, and says, “Okay?”

Jon nods.

They're both speaking quietly, almost whispering, as if the three at the other table really are spies. Jon wonders if the warmth in Stephen's voice, familiar from the last time they were here together, is for him or if it's a normal feature of lowered volume.

“Rachel,” he says.

Buzz

She's responded.

Well done. How is it?

Tactful of her.

He replies, Happening

Waiting for the response, he doesn't look away from the screen. A feeling of irrational foreboding is on the rise in his stomach, like she's about to condemn him or swear eternal enmity if he doesn't chose between them now.

After much less time than it feels like, she says, Talk tomorrow?

He breathes out.

Yes

Have fun both of you.

His gaze flickers up at Stephen, who's watching with carefully contained curiosity, dividing his attention between Jon and his waffle. When their eyes meet, Jon smiles and looks down, again. He can hear Stephen's soft laugh.

We will. Good night

As an afterthought, he adds an emoticon, solely because they freak her out. Less from him than from, say, Olbermann, but apparently she finds them generally unsettlng.

She texts back, asshole and then, an instant later, good night

His giggles burst, uncontrollable. He hears Stephen snort and looks up to see his containment face melding with that warm look that makes Jon's heart ache.

“Apparently, I'm an asshole,” he says.

Stephen quivers but holds back.

“You don't say.”

“Rachel does.”

Stephen considers this. “I see.” A pause. “Must be true, then.”

“Guess so,” Jon says, sadly. “Rachel wouldn't lie to us. Sorry to waste your time, man.”

“Waste my time?” One of Stephen's eyebrows goes up. It's kind of mesmerizing. “I don't follow.”

“Well,” Jon says. “This evening is clearly time and personal space you could have spent with someone who's not an asshole. Sorry I took it up.”

Stephen makes a face and opens his mouth to respond. Some move from the other booth – Beck, gesticulating violently, what the hell are they even talking about – catches his eye and he looks away for a moment. Then he turns back and smiles. Suspicion rises in Jon like a particularly violent tide.

“Stephen,” he says.

“Personal space,” Stephen says – purrs. “I've got personal space.” He begins to rise. “Wanna see?”

“Stephen. I thought we were keeping a low profile.”

“We're already compromised,” he says as he slides in on Jon's side of the booth, an almost hopeful smile on his face. “This can be a strategic maneuver! If we can provoke them into some unplanned action, we may learn something useful.”

“Seriously?” Jon says. Stephen is moving towards him and he's gone from suspicious to incredulous. “Stephen – ah!”

He's cut off by Stephen's hands, soft against his jaw, and he's drawn in. For all the posturing, the kiss is soft and sweet, almost shy, Stephen's lips brushing his then moving back to smile before pressing a little closer. His eyes are closed and Jon has, in those first seconds, the almost surreal impression of watching himself being kissed. He can see Stephen's eyelashes, every line-that-will-be, blood running blue under his skin, before he's too close to focus. His mouth is warm and wet, the touch of fingers and lips less invitation than entreaty.

Play with me?

And Jon – Jon can play. He might be a little out of practice, but he'll play. And he'll win.

Irresistible.

It's slow, too slow for Jon's taste and he doesn't take control so much as enact it, on hand for the moment he agrees. He pushes a hand into Stephen's hair and pulls him closer, kisses him deeper; Stephen's hands slide down and clench in his shirtfront, mouth opening around and in anticipation of Jon's tongue.

When Jon breaks away, a sigh of satisfaction on his lips, Stephen remains still. His mouth is half-open, eyes closed, and Jon is still cradling his head in his hands between the moment the kiss ends and his next slow breath in. It's released in a brief rush, silent contentment. His eyelashes lift and he gazes up at Jon through them with a slight, silly smile, pupils blown huge and black.

Jon smiles back and tugs him closer by the hair, his other hand settling firm at the base of his neck. He puts his mouth to Stephen's good ear and says, “I can't believe you just made me do that.”

His response is a soft huff of laughter. Stephen's hands smooth over his chest, pressing his nipples through t-shirt and sweater, and Jon is relieved they aren't sensitive enough to go hard from that alone.

“I win,” Stephen murmurs, lips brushing Jon's jaw.

Jon tugs him back into place when he shifts and presses his thumb down behind his earlobe.

“Maybe,” he breathes and adds, “I want to fuck you, tonight.”

“Mm.”

Stephen drops his head to Jon's shoulder and sighs, again. It sounds like agreement. With a little thrill of satisfaction, Jon settles back against the window, holding Stephen against him, and begins to rub his back. With conscious effort, he looks first to the clock over the bathroom doors, conveniently in his near-direct line of sight. One-thirty-five in the morning.

Jon is engaging in what amounts to extended foreplay in a booth at IHOP at one-thirty-five in the morning.

Jesus.

He feels himself smirking, decides he doesn't mind, and leaves off rubbing to hug Stephen closer.

PDA's aren't so bad.

He can hear Stephen taking slow, deep breaths and leaves him to it, feeling strangely calm; aroused, but not over-excited. It's – comfortable. He has this. It's okay. He can say that.

At a corner table, across the room, is a rumpled and exhausted girl he thinks he's seen smoking outside at weird hours, pulling at her hair over a pile of books, looking unaware she's corporeal. A guy in a mesh hat is facing forward with a fixed stare, pointedly and obviously not in their direction. There is a suspicious lack of waitstaff around and Bachmann looks like she's smelled something terrible. Hannity and Beck are still facing away, of course, but they are, respectively, sitting up too straight and hunched too far, so Jon guesses they got an eyeful somewhere along the way. When Bachmann looks their way, again, Jon smiles sweetly. The look she gives him probably should kill him, irrespective of whether looks can actually do that, but it instead gives him a lovely warm feeling.

After all.

Jon is going to fuck Stephen Colbert, tonight. Possibly more than once.

Rachel Maddow is, despite October and everything that happened before and after, doing okay most days. She's okay enough to have given Jon her blessing to get on with whatever it is he plans to do with Stephen.

The GSA continues to crash and burn – not quite so literally as he would like, but pleasantly uncomfortable for all who deserve it.

Michelle Bachmann is a miserable subhuman being who will probably live out a miserable subhuman life involving such miserable subhuman creatures as Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.

And, while she is doing that, assuming he doesn't fuck up too badly, Jon will have Rachel and Stephen and a whole host of other pretty awesome people. The job market may be a level of bad that haunts his nightmares and his degree may seem, at first glance, like the kind of useless English majors look to to make themselves feel better, but less than year ago, even before Rachel, Jon wasn't even sure he knew what joy was. Now he does and, on the better days, the ones that come a lot more often than they used to, he even feels it.

No shit-brained MAS stooge can take that away.

“Mission accomplished,” he says to Stephen's hair.

“Hm?” Slowly, Stephen sits up, facing Jon with a flush yet lingering in his face. He's easily one of the most beautiful things Jon has ever seen, up there with the first time he heard Rachel laugh without sounding like she was about to fall over into tears. “What'd they give up?” he asks and leans into Jon's hand when it brushes his cheek.

Jon says, “They're trying to steal our happiness.”

Stephen gasps softly, eyes sparkling, fingertips curling to his lips as though horrorstruck.

“No!” he says.

“Oh, yes.” Jon nods, solemn as he can manage. “Unmistakably. Saw 'em at it. Plotting.”

“Well.” Stephen draws himself up. “They won't succeed.”

“Of course not,” Jon says. “But we better go. Direct confrontation now would probably be a bad idea. We need reinforcements.”

“Okay,” Stephen says. “What do you suggest?”

What does Jon suggest? He considers. The night is young, relatively speaking. (Relative to neither of them having class again until Monday, he means.) Hmm.

He's got it.

Jon leans in and lays a peck on Stephen's reddened lips. He gets his wallet and presses cash into his hand for his own coffee and toast.

“You pay,” he says. “I'll create a distraction so you can get to the car. Then I'll follow you and we'll head downtown to lose them then double back to campus. Okay?”

Stephen beams at him, eyes wide and warm and bright and if they kiss again, Jon is seventy-eight percent certain he'll have to fuck Stephen right here.

“Okay,” Stephen says and Jon can't not kiss that tone of nigh-reverential affection. As a compromise, he cups the back of his neck and kisses his forehead and temple on the way to his ear.

“Go,” he murmurs. “I'm right behind you.”

With another incandescent smile, Stephen goes. Jon rises as well, at a more sedate pace, and heads for the bathroom. You never when your next chance will be, on the run.

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