|Erin Ptah (ptahrrific) wrote,|
@ 2010-11-07 03:20 pm UTC
|Entry tags:||story: state of grace|
Fandom: The Colbert Report
Disclaimer/Warnings: See the table of contents.
Clips referenced: these people are our friends.
September 16, 2007
Steve answered the door of the suite in a bathrobe and fuzzy pink slippers, making Jon's rumpled suit feel all the more awkward. On the other hand, at least men's dresswear could moonlight as practical in a pinch: he could tell Tracey wanted to be tapping her foot, but her shoes hadn't been designed to make more than a runway's worth of steps in a row.
"Jon," said Steve with mock stiffness, before smiling roguishly at his companions. "Ladies. I didn't realize this delivery required an entourage."
"It's a long story," said Jon. "Hate to do this to you, Steve, but we really do need to see Stephen."
"Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!" warned Steve, raising a warning finger as Jon tried to step forward. "Didn't I say something about that? Occupado. So if you could just hand me those pills and take your gorgeous trophies, and also your Emmies, and head right back the other direction? That would be great."
Before Jon could respond, a door behind Steve creaked open and out stumbled Stephen: hair disheveled, feet bare, and in between clad in a long T-shirt that brushed his upper thighs and, evidently, no boxers. Nancy had his back, one hand on his shoulder, the other holding her own robe closed.
He balked when he spotted the visitors, features snapping (switching?) through several different expressions of shock before settling on something helpless and horrified, face gone roughly the color of a dead clam. "Jon," he gasped, draggig at the T-shirt as if trying to stretch it down to a more respectable length. "Jon, this isn't—I didn't—we didn't—"
"Is that why you're doing this?" demanded Tracey, breaking from the pack to stalk forward, a jaguar in a little black dress. "You think if you convince Jon you have multiple personalities, you can screw anybody you run into—sorry, Nancy—and dodge the blame? I'm not going to let you treat him like this!"
Stephen's expression twisted into a snarl.
In the next second Tracey let out a yelp as the man leaped forward, teeth bared, hissing: "Stop it. You'll make him cry. You horrible, horrible woman, stop making him cry."
Steve barked a warning shout as he and Nancy jumped to grab Stephen's arms; Tracey stumbled backwards into the waiting arms of Jon and Charlene; and all of them gaped as Stephen's body writhed frantically in the Carells' grip.
Jon wrapped his arms firmly around his wife's trembling shoulders. "I know you're scared," he said, locking gazes with whoever was glaring out of Stephen's coal-black eyes. "And I know you just want to keep Stephen safe. But you may not talk to my wife like that."
With infinite slowness the other man's violent panting began to ease....
"...Oh, for god's sake, relax," he snapped, tossing his head dismissively. "Her bark's worse than her bite."
The Carells released him onto his own two feet. Well, Stephen's two feet.
"Shut the door, already," he huffed. "Not that I mind, but Stephen will throw a fit if someone walks by and sees the body in...." He surveyed his pelvis, shifting his hips experimentally. "Nancy, these are your panties I'm wearing, right?"
"Your clothes are on the chair next to the bed," said Nancy. "You can just throw anything you're done with in the green suitcase."
"Oh, I wasn't complaining. Just checking."
Steve clapped him on the shoulder. "Go put some pants on, Ty," he said briskly.
"You folks want to come in?" added Nancy, smoothing down her flyaway hair and nodding to the interior of the suite. "We have drinks."
With her head in Charlene's lap, her bare feet getting worked over by Jon's hands, and a half-finished glass of wine at her elbow, Tracey conceded that her night had gotten marginally better.
She wasn't as optimistic about Jon, who not only hadn't touched his drink, but had lapsed into the kind of credulity normally reserved for three-year-olds hearing about Santa. "Just tell me," he stammered to the couple across from them, "did he...any of him...with either of you...?"
Steve made a couple of spluttering noises. "What? Us? No!"
"Of course not!" added Nancy, waving a hand.
"Not at all!"
"Well, maybe a little." Steve looked to his wife for confirmation.
"Just a smidge," agreed Nancy with a nod.
"Hardly anything, really."
"Believe me, Jon, if we had known you two had dibs...."
"...we wouldn't have even touched the twins."
"Hang on," interrupted Tracey. "What do you mean, 'us two'?"
"Twins?" echoed Jon.
"How many of him are there?" fretted Charlene.
Tracey looked up at her. "Don't tell me you buy into this."
"How can I not?" protested Charlene. "Someone's been writing me notes that he doesn't remember. And then there's the way he changes...the way he's always changed...and besides, it sounds as if these two have known about it for years."
"We never met a note-writer," admitted Steve. "Or, ah, the hisser. That one's new."
"But it's not like we couldn't figure it out." Nancy smiled with the self-conscious cheer of someone who is almost embarrassed to say something this obvious. "I mean, how could you sleep with the man and not notice how he changes? Come on."
She nudged her husband with her elbow, and he joined in the grinning until Jon cleared his throat. "Uh, actually...."
Both grins faded. "Oh," said Nancy.
"We really didn't do much," added Steve, more subdued now. "The four of us—or three, depending on how you count it—fooled around on the couch a little. Before we could get any farther, the twins turned into the girl, and she just wanted Nancy to do her nails. That was when you called."
"There's a girl?" repeated Jon.
"Yes, Stewart, there's a girl."
Everyone's gaze snapped to the hall; Tracey had to sit up on her elbows for a better view. Stephen, or at least Stephen's body, was leaning against the molding that framed the entrance to the sitting room. The tailored trousers looked curiously out-of-place; you got the sense that he belonged in something skintight and leather outside a biker bar.
"She doesn't like being out in the body much," continued whoever-this-was-supposed-to-be. "Can't say I blame her. Nancy's the only one who ever got her to feel comfortable in it."
"Tyrone?" ventured Jon.
"Still me," agreed Stephen. "Sorry to disappoint."
"And you're, what, Stephen's evil twin?" said Tracey bitterly.
"Oh, hell no. Stephen's parents aren't my parents—and thank fuck for that, who'd want 'em? The twins are me and Caesar." In the kind of tone normally used for identifying members of boy bands, he added, "He's the straight one."
"Have I met...Caesar...before?" asked Jon.
"Nah." Stephen sauntered over to a lone armchair in the semicircle of couches and flopped down across the arms, Pietà in a Boston College T-shirt. "He only comes out when we're duty-bound to get it on with a lady. Or Nancy."
Steve chucked him fondly on the head. "You're an ass."
"Dirty old man," countered Stephen.
"Aren't they sweet?" put in Nancy.
"And, for the record?" added Stephen. "None of us is tapping Jon's wife. Or, apparently, anyone else."
"Because this, uh, girl pushed you out?" guessed Jon. "Or...did you decide, on your own...?"
"You and your questions!" exclaimed Stephen, massaging his temples with the ferociousness of a sculptor attacking a lump of clay. "You're like a jackal picking at my brain! We didn't fuck them, all right? You won! Isn't that enough?"
Tracey swung her feet out of her husband's lap and sat up, tucking her dress into place along the way before putting a cautionary hand on Jon's leg. He covered it with his own and squeezed, but kept his eyes on Stephen.
"Okay," he said. "I'm not angry, you know, just curious. If you don't want to talk about it, it's okay."
Stephen fixed him with a suspicious glare. "What's your angle, Stewart?" he muttered under his breath.
"There's no angle!" burst out Charlene. "Ste—T-Tyrone—this is Jon. You—Stephen—he—why is it so hard to believe that he cares about you? Are you going to start getting suspicious of me next?"
"Of course not! That's different! Come on, Charlie, you know what grown-ups are like."
Jon, who had yet to touch his wine, nearly managed to do a spit-take anyway.
"Is that why you didn't tell me any of this?" stammered Charlene. "I grew up, now you don't trust me?"
"No!" cried Stephen. "It's because I'm not your Steve! Don't you get that yet? I'm not even really your cousin—I wanted to keep you from figuring that out—I didn't want—I just—!"
Charlene's purse slid from her lap as she jumped from the couch and ran to Stephen's side. He twisted away from her, pressing his face to the back of his chair; her hand hovered at his elbow with all the steadiness of a nervous hummingbird.
"There's a lot I don't get about this," she admitted hoarsely. "But you're still family. No matter what."
Eyes clamped tightly shut, Stephen fought for a couple of shaky breaths.
Jon's own breath had stopped. Something told Tracey to let him be.
Then, voice slightly muffled against the fabric of the chair, Stephen whispered, "Charlene?"
"S-Stephen? Is that you?"
"Mmhmm," confirmed Stephen. "Charlene, if I open my eyes right now, will I regret it?"
"Thank you," said Stephen gruffly, trying to remember not to snap at Steve (he hadn't taken advantage of Stephen, not really, had maybe even protected him from the worst of what Tyrone could have done). "For taking care of...you know."
Steve kept his face deadpan as only he could, but there was a twinkle in his eye as he pressed Stephen's hand. "What are frenemies for?"
Nancy kissed Jon's cheek, then Tracey's. "It was lovely seeing you again. If you ever want to come by...catch up, have dinner, maybe have breakfast...give us a call."
The smile on Tracey's face didn't falter, but Jon couldn't miss the sudden tension in her shoulders, and put an arm around her waist. "I think this relationship has about as many people as it can handle," he said gently. "But we appreciate the support."
Stephen followed the others down the hall, the flashback-images fading to reveal a world that looked more or less real, leaving nothing but a buzzing in his head and a lingering sense of crawling skin in their wake.
"The pills can probably wait until we get back," Charlene was saying. "It's not too late. Although it's not supposed to be a big deal if you skip one dose, either."
"Thanks," muttered Stephen. "For being on top of that. Tyrone doesn't bother with them. He says I'm the one that needs them, not him."
They stepped outside into the cool open air. Jon had called two cars; Stephen hoped they would show up soon. The night felt far too big, dark and open, with a disquieting lack of red-and-blue columns or copies of his name carved in gold.
"And do you?" asked Tracey. "I mean, are they helping?"
"Dunno." Stephen swallowed. He should have been able to properly fume at the Academy's snub, should have soldered closed the gaping cracks of despair in a single blast of white-hot rage. Had the meds cut him off from that? If so, how was that helping? Winning things and getting angry—it was what he did. Instead he had lost the time to Tyrone (and Caesar, now that was a trip, standing outside his own body and suddenly getting what felt like a sharply targeted case of double vision), followed by someone he couldn't even see, followed by....
"Because if there's any chance you'll start hissing at my kids," continued Tracey, "I want you on the best drugs money can buy."
Stephen's heart skipped a beat. "She's not supposed to do that. She's just excitable, that's all."
"Who is she, Stephen?" asked Jon softly.
"I don't know," stammered Stephen. "She's always in the shadows, it's hard to see...." He closed his eyes for a few seconds, listening, until the word flew into his mouth. "Sweetness. Her name's Sweetness."
Tracey and Jon both flinched. "The gun," gasped Tracey. "Honey, if he snaps like this when he has access to the gun—"
"He won't," said Charlene.
When every head, including Stephen's (now suppressing a shriek of indignation from within: settle down, it'll be fine, these people are our friends), turned to her, she blushed and looked at her hands. "Whoever's been writing me notes...they gave me the combination to the safe, asking me to change it. So I did."
Jon breathed a sigh of relief. "Stevie."
"Sounds right," grumbled Stephen. "Little tattletale."
Before he could say any more, a taxi swung into the narrow arc of pavement that curved up to meet the hotel entrance. Jon patted Stephen's shoulder, in a way that was both encouraging and final, and Stephen felt a flash of panic: his own, for once. "Jon, can't I—stay with you?"
"We're still on for next weekend," said Jon gently. "And we can have lunch during the week, too. I'll see you then."
He pulled Stephen into a hug—a proper, manly hug, all in the shoulders, with a bit of back-slapping thrown in—but into Stephen's good ear he added, in a whisper, "Love you. Don't forget."
He's dreaming again. He knows it this time because he is standing in the middle of his studio, and he is surrounded by busy staffers, and the audience box is full, and nobody's looking at him.
"What are you waiting for?" he demands. "Is a camera not ready? Is a light broken? What's going on?"
"Are you listening to me?"
What if it isn't a dream?
"You can't ignore me!" he shouts, voice ringing off the walls. "I'm—I'm—!"
Bobby looks around the studio. "Do any of you know this guy?"
And he looks from face to face and nobody recognizes him and nobody knows who he is and when he wakes up he himself has forgotten, even the clamor in his head has gone cold and empty, there's nothing left of him but a man-shaped hole in the world—
—until he pawed through his things, digging on instinct like a burrowing animal, and tugged out a wallet. The streetlamp outside shone down on the faces of little Jon with his sweet boy-smile and Charlene who was safe in the next room and George William Colbert who had no idea the show existed but still giggled when its host was near.
On the sofa by the window, the photos at his fingertips, Stephen slept until morning.
September 19, 2007
"Bartender! Another round for the table, on me."
"You really don't have to do that, Stephen," protested Bobby.
Meg kicked him under the table. If she had to put up with the boss's company on what was supposed to be their regular Alcohol-Fueled Complaints About The Boss Night, she at least wanted him paying for the beer. (Even if he hadn't gotten around to the spectacular post-Emmy-losing meltdown they had all been bracing for.)
"No, no, I insisht," slurred Stephen.
"See, Bobby? He insists," said Meg sternly. "Now stop complaining and pass the pretzels."
"That's the spirit," declared Stephen, popping the last pretzel into his mouth. "Could learn a thing from her, Bobby. Thish is a lady who knows how to please her boss."
"Hey, Stephen, the dance floor is awfully empty," said Allison in her matter-of-fact way, saving Meg from having to kick Bobby again, or possibly whatever poor soul had the misfortune to be in range of her Doc Martens. "Why don't you show off some moves?"
Stephen made a stern face. "Allison. I'm an adult male heterosex'shal, and they're playing Madonna."
"You're tapping your feet," pointed out Meg.
Meg was thinking about kicking Bobby again, just on general principle, when Stephen glanced at the floor and jumped like a small dog meeting a spider. "Hey, you're right!"
Just how drunk was he, anyway?
"Oh, fine," snapped Stephen, so testily that if Meg hadn't known better she would think someone else had tried to not-so-subtly boot him from the table. "One dance. But only one." He paused, as the opening bars of some synth-pop one-hit wonder released the year Meg was born reverberated over the omnipresent clinking of ice on glass. "Well, maybe two."