ptahrrific: Jon and Stephen, "Believe in the me who believes in you" (fake news)
Erin Ptah ([personal profile] ptahrrific) wrote2011-06-11 01:16 pm

Fake News/His Dark Materials: All Her Original Brightness

Title: All Her Original Brightness
Fandom: The Colbert Report/His Dark Materials
Rating: R (vague sex, light D/s, references to PTSD, masochism)
Pairings/Characters: Jon/"Stephen", dæmons
Disclaimer: Characters belong to the Report. Names of real people are used in a fictitious context, and all dialogue, actions, and content are products of the author's imagination only.

Daemon AU. Mirror on the AO3.

Fill for a [ profile] newskink_meme prompt involving the touching of dæmons. Readers who aren't familiar with His Dark Materials, check out this basic How Dæmons Work primer. As before, Stephen's Honeypie is a kinkajou (awwww), and Jon's Avivah is a lynx (lol). Clips referenced will be linked as they come up.

The title is from a line in Paradise Lost: "His form had yet not lost / All her original brightness." Which makes an interesting counterpart to that first poem Stephen memorized: "So Eden sank to grief / So dawn goes down to day / Nothing gold can stay."

There's an AU follow-up scene to this in Ten Roads Converged.


Stephen doesn't like the new guy.

He hasn't actually met the new guy, but Stephen never lets little things like facts get in the way of his gut convictions. So when Stewart finally arrives, Stephen makes sure to corner him in the office as soon as possible, and explain exactly what the pecking order here is. Loudly.

Stewart listens to the whole thing without saying a word, which Stephen figures is a sign of intimidation until he looks calmly down at Honeypie, who has clambered up on his desk (it's a mess; one more strike against him, Stephen thinks) and started fiddling with a Rubik's cube. "So, ah, I'm usually pretty good with species, but I've never seen a dæmon like yours before. What's hers? It's cute."

"She is not cute!" sputters Stephen, appalled. "It's called a honey bear. See, right off the bat you know she's dangerous, because it's got 'bear' right in the name. They're like the tiny grizzlies of the jungle."

Still clutching the Rubik's cube, Honeypie flops over on her back to get a better angle. As soon as they're in private, Stephen's going to have to chew her out for being adorable.

"Don't be lulled into her false sense of security," he says instead. "When the chips are down, she's absolutely terrifying. Certainly scarier than your...your, uh...."

Stewart nods to somewhere behind Stephen's left shoulder. "Lynx."

Stephen had missed Avivah on his way in, and assumed she was hidden behind the desk. He looks anyway. Stewart's dæmon is sitting on the couch, calm and perfectly still, golden eyes fixed on him. It's about two meters away from the desk, which has got to be pushing their limit, and for a few wild seconds he wonders if she's stuffed before she breaks into a yawn.

Her teeth look awfully sharp.

Honeypie tumbles down from the desk, lopes across the floor with the awkward waddle of a tree-creature making do on flat ground, and puts her paws up on the sofa cushion to sniff.

"All right, that's enough," snaps Stephen, grabbing her as quickly as he can out of the range of Avivah's jaws. "Just wanted it to be clear where we stood. Are we good? Good."

—((2003 | Full Metal Junket ))

It's good television, it's even passable journalism, at least once Jon cuts it down to something more reasonable than eight minutes, which isn't hard: there's a lot of fluff, mostly in the form of Stephen's extended love letters to himself.

"Not that that'll stop Stephen from fighting for every single one of them," he sighs, safely ensconced in his office with his dæmon draped across his lap. "No wonder I'm going grey."

"Oh, like you haven't seen that coming since you were thirteen," says Avi. "Just like Rob's known his destiny from the day Usamaunte settled as a bald ibis."

Jon scratches under her chin; she tips her head to guide his touch, and he buries his hand in the thick ruff at her neck. "You really think I'd be aging this fast if I'd never had to deal with Colbert? Come on, you must have some idea what it's like, what with that dæmon of his using you as a jungle gym half the time."

Avi shrugs. "Maybe if she were a porcupine. You think I couldn't push her away if I wanted? She's playing, that's all. It's kind of fun."

"Okay," concedes Jon. "Maybe, just maybe, I don't always shut Stephen down as firmly as I could. But there's no way he's just being playful. Not when I can practically see the veins throbbing."

"Didn't say that. Weren't you watching as you edited? That last shot said it all."

Jon tries to replay the scene in his mind. All he gets is Stephen's slow-motion look of horror as the contents of the juice box squirt across his parka. "Where he freaked out when Honeypie accidentally sprayed him? If that was a gag, he might have had the decency to let it drop before demanding I get Comedy Central to cover the dry-cleaning bill."

Avi laughs. "It wasn't a gag for him. But it wasn't an accident, either. He's seriously angry, and she's always trying to get him to lighten up."

—((2004 | Indecision 2004 ))

It's the third all-nighter they've pulled in the election run-up, and Stephen is the only one still awake, his script a mess of red ink. Or maybe that's pizza sauce. It's getting hard to tell.

"Our identities have become wholly dependent on rejecting each other!" he reads from the latest printout. "For who am I, if not 'not you'?"

"Sounds good to me," opines Honeypie, liberating a piece of pepperoni from his latest slice.

"No, it definitely needs something more. And cut that out! It's not like you need it!"

"Oh, so you do?" his dæmon shoots back, swinging down from his special Election Center sub-desk to land on his stomach. "Look at these hips. I bet this is 85% pizza, right here."

"That's it!" exclaims Stephen in triumph, and inserts '...fatty!' at the end of the line.

Over on the Election Center couch, Jon stirs but doesn't wake. The Election Center pillows are strewn on the floor; he's using Avi in their place, though it leaves his feet hanging over one end and the lynx somewhat smushed against the other.

"Good job." Honeypie swallows the last of the pepperoni and licks the grease daintily from her paw. "Can we be done? I'm tired."

"What, stop now? I'm on a roll!"

The kinkajou wipes her paw on his shirttail, then leaps to the ground and scampers away.

The tug is almost immediate. On a better day Stephen would have had an iron will, but it's late and he's tired and his gut is clogged with mozzarella. He lurches out of his chair and stumbles after her.

He's not expecting her to stuff herself between Avi's body and the arm of the sofa.

"Get out of there," Stephen hisses, hands poised to receive her. He'd just grab her, but in that position he's liable to get a handful of grey fur in the process.

"No," whispers Honeypie, and buries her face in said fur.

Stephen looks longingly back at the pile of work on his Election Center sub-desk. (It'll vanish Wednesday morning, but for now it's there, and all his own.) If only he were a little more heartless....

Sighing, he stretches out on the floor beside the couch, retrieves one of the discarded pillows to place under his head, and closes his eyes.

—((2006 | Emmy Awards ))

"Good evening, godless sodomites."

Stephen stands away from the mic quickly, before it can pick up on Honeypie's giggling. She's riding on his shoulder, resplendent with her lustrously combed fur and a miniature bow tie (a doll's, but nobody needs to know that) fastened at her neck.

Jon tries to tell him off, but he will not be deterred. When Jon switches tactics, making a transparent attempt to distract from his righteous anger by "honoring the winner," Stephen cuts in, "By giving you a golden idol to worship! No wonder that statue's dæmon is a bird. She's a witch!"

"This is about the Manilow thing, isn't it."

"I lost to Barry Manilow!" cries Stephen. So violent is his distress that he nearly dislodges his dæmon.

The next thing he knows, Jon's hand is waiting underneath her.

Honeypie catches herself in time, and the gesture has already turned into a halfhearted pat/push on Stephen's chest, so smoothly that it could have been the plan all along. It's a good thing the cameras aren't on Avi; no one else has to see her suddenly pricked ears, her wide golden eyes, and wonder.

Stephen wonders, and he doesn't like that kind of uncertainty, so he grabs on to the nearest stable thing (which happens to be Jon) and holds on.

—((2007 | Jane Fonda ))

The studio they've inherited was arranged to accommodate a big cat, if not one quite this big, and because Jon still visits whenever Stephen can drag him over, they've left it that way.

Stephen stammers his way through the interview. The guest in his lap is bad enough, but her dæmon spends the whole time licking Honeypie, first against the fur and then with it, all in slow, rough strokes.

"That," stutters Stephen, finally addressing the kinkajou as he stumbles into his post-taping shower, "was very unprofessional."

Honeypie climbs up the pipes to sit in the sink, leaning dreamily over the edge. "Her dæmon was a cougar. What did you expect?"

"Oh, I don't know—" Stephen lathers furiously. "A little restraint?"

"You didn't complain when it was Anderson Cooper's silver fox."

"Anderson Cooper wasn't sticking his tongue in my mouth!"

"Speaking of tongues," sighs Honeypie. "His tongue was so...broad. And warm. And gentle, did you feel that? Firm, but gentle. And those paws! Ooh, such big paws...."

"All right, that's it." Stephen thrusts aside the curtain, wraps both hands around his dæmon, and drags her under the rushing water. "And we're staying here until you're clean. What would Avi think if she smelled him on you, hm?"

Honeypie squirms frantically, defying Stephen's attempts to shampoo her one-armed. "You think she won't find out? It's going to be on TV!"

"It's not the same!"

"We didn't do anything wrong! Stop acting like we just got back from a bar!"

The squeeze Stephen gives her is sharp enough to leave his own chest aching. "Don't talk about that! Besides, I haven't. Not since...I haven't."

She falls silent, even still, and he allows himself more gentleness as he finishes the scrubbing. They both know he's given it up. Not the alcohol—there's plenty of that still stashed around the office—but the encounters that followed, right up until the moment in a cramped stall when another man's knee bumped into Honeypie (his own robin-dæmon perched on the divider, both voyeur and lookout). The apologies were immediate and profuse; Stephen fled anyway, one hand holding up his pants while the other pressed Honeypie against his chest. She could have held on by herself. He just couldn't bear to let go.

Satisfied at last, he tugs down a towel and spreads it across the floor. Honeypie rolls over and over from one end of the terrycloth to the other.

Fur sticking up every which way, she remarks, "Bet Avi's paws are bigger, anyway."

"You hush. I'm trying to moisturize."

—((2008 | Larry and Wyatt Take Over; Post-Election Fears ))

It's a beautiful world, it's a bright new day—seriously, it's after midnight and they just walked through sunshine, what's up with that?—point is, Jon's riding high on the rush of a packed studio chanting YES WE CAN in time with the rhythm of his heart. Probably reality will start sinking in after the inauguration, but tonight nothing's going to bring him down.

Not even Stephen, aloof and furious by turns, is getting to him.

"You don't have to look so triumphant," points out Stephen, commandeering his couch. "Just because your people finally have that license to destroy the country they've been clamoring for, that doesn't mean you have to gloat about it."

"I'm happy," counters Jon. He makes a show of looking for his coat; they're both back in their street clothing, but since the announcement Honeypie has been clinging to Avi's back, tethering them together, and he's delaying the moment when he'll have to point this out. "You'll survive. Just like I survived when your guy won."

"You had other things to console yourself with! my friendship! What am I gonna have, huh?"

Okay, that takes the shine off the night a little. "What, and my friendship's not good enough?"

"Not if you're running away and leaving your job to Larry, no!"

Jon drops his jacket. "Uh, Stephen? Electing a black president doesn't actually mean Larry and Wyatt get to take over our shows."

"Not for me, obviously. I didn't endorse him! Except that time when I did, but that was only for the attention, so it doesn't count."

Honeypie's paws are still buried in Avi's thick fur; Jon can almost feel the cling. "Is that what this is about? I promise, we're not going anywhere. You can let go. We'll still be here in the morning."

Stephen all but leaps to his feet. "I knew that! And we can go any time we want. Come on, Honeypie." He stalks for the door, lips pressed tightly together.

His dæmon doesn't move. "We're not going."

"Are so," retorts Stephen, though his steps are already slower, staggering and unsure.

"I wasn't trying to kick you out...."

Jon's breath sticks in his throat. Stephen's pace has dropped to molasses, but he's at least a foot farther than Jon's ever gotten from Avivah, still inching forward, groaning all the while.

His own dæmon is bristling, crouched as if to pounce, but rock-still. When Jon tries to urge her forward, she replies with a brief, sharp shake of the head. "We're staying right here."

Gasping, Stephen half-collapses against the wall, unable to go farther. Honeypie's keens fill the room, only half-muffled by Avi's coat.


Of course it's a standoff. Each of them just as stubborn as the other. Someone has to break it, and neither one of them is up to the task.

Well, Jon is up for anything tonight.

Yes, we can.

"Stay here, then," he says, giving Avi a quick scratch behind her ears.

He's only halfway there when the pain starts, a restless clawing at his insides. Stephen doesn't look up until Avi lets out a yowl like a scared housecat; then his red and misty eyes fix on Jon in unfiltered shock.

"Don't do this to yourself," urges Jon. He's down to shuffling half-steps, but a handful more and he'll be there. It's not like he won't go back after. And the pain could be worse. "Come back. Stay a little longer. I want you to stay."

"You don't want me," croaks Stephen.

Jon waits for him to finish the thought. It doesn't happen.

If it didn't hurt so much right now, he would burst out laughing.

"You could have said something," he says weakly. And, because it's three more steps and he has just enough willpower left for one, Jon takes it, trips, and aims his fall to land in Stephen's arms.

They break apart only at the rush of life and wholeness that means their dæmons have run to their sides, perilously close to colliding with the wrong partner in their frenzy. Jon drops to wrap his arms around Avi's neck; Stephen clamps Honeypie against his chest, then pulls on Jon's arm until Jon cranes his neck to press their no-longer-dry mouths together.

—((2008 | A long-term, intimate relationship ))

Stephen's made his decision, and he stands by it. Even when Jon uses the Droopy Eyes of Personal Disappointment, his most effective and therefore most unfair tactic, Stephen will not break.

If anyone outside the four of them finds out about this, it's over.

As far as Stephen's concerned, it's an easy ultimatum to set. It's not like this is going to last very long no matter what, and even the best-case scenario isn't worth losing his reputation, leaving his church, never again being able to look his parents or siblings in the eye.

"Maybe it will last," whispers Honeypie in his good ear as he buzzes Jon into the building. "We've sort of had an intimate relationship with them for years already, if you think about it...."

"I don't," snaps Stephen. "Now hush. You're starting to sound like one of those hopey-changey people."

He made snacks, consisting of toothpicks with seven different types of meat speared on each. Honeypie picks one of them up and pulls the meats off one by one, tossing them into the air for Avivah to catch. Jon brings a bottle of wine; Stephen drinks more than half of it, and spends most of The Empire Strikes Back slurrily pointing out which set pieces Peter Mayhew's dæmon is hidden behind. The exception is Luke's training montage, which he spends on his knees between Jon's legs, mouth otherwise occupied.

Jon pushes him down against the cushions shortly after, which shows promise, then squanders it all by lingering on the buttons. (Really, if Jon doesn't tear off Stephen's shirt in one fell swoop that sends buttons pinging across the room, how is Stephen supposed to know he means it?) "Hurry up," orders Stephen, rocking his hips.

"Patience, padawan." Jon giggles. "Great, now I'm going to have dirty thoughts every time I hear Yoda-speak. If I rush this, you'll probably end up with a fetish for carbonite."

"What kind of lousy fetish would that be?" huffs Stephen. "You wouldn't be aware while it was happening, much less be able to get off on it. That's just logic. It would only work if you could still feel everything that was happening, all the while you were helpless to move, or struggle, or do anything about it...."

He breaks off, cheeks burning. Must be the wine.

Honeypie has been cradled between Avi's paws this whole time, cheeks rubbing against each other in a mismatched display of scent-marking. Now the kinkajou stretches upward to whisper in one of Avi's tufted ears. Avi flexes as she gets up, tongue lolling out as a yawn stretches her jaws; Jon groans softly with the pleasure

(and for a moment Stephen's jealous, which is insane. He just proved—again!—that he can take Jon apart as handily as any human, and if Jon gets extra good feelings from his dæmon, so what? It's not like Stephen can stand between Jon and his own soul)

and then Stephen can't move.

Oh, he can lift his neck, swivel his wrists, and get in a bit of kicking, but most of his body simply won't bend. He twists his head in panic to get a glimpse of his dæmon, pinned to the rug with broad grey paws pressing down on her chest and belly.

"Avi, what are you doing?" demands Jon, halfway between angry and incredulous. "Let her go! Stephen can't breathe!"

"Stephen can breathe fine if he takes it slow. I'm holding her, not suffocating her."

"Big paws," adds Honeypie with a happy sigh.

Stephen will not be so easily mollified. "You're devious," he hisses, as Jon, in clear defiance of all natural laws, looms over him. "I didn't know I was agreeing to date a sadist."

"Are we 'dating' now? I thought we were just messing around."

"Potato, potato-with-an-e."

Jon hmms in thought, and Stephen's glad when he doesn't press the point. Less glad when Jon palms his erection, which leaves him all the more desperate when he can't even lift his hips in answer. "Listen, if I had known you wanted me to be a sadist...."

Stephen bites the inside of his cheek to stifle a squeak.

"Stephen...?" Jon touches his jaw (it's the same hand; Stephen's sure he can feel the heat). "Stephen, we don't have to."

"Do so!" chimes in Honeypie. Avivah nuzzles her cheek, thrumming like a furnace.

Every shiver and shock that runs through his dæmon is going through Stephen just as true. "Well, if she says it—"

"She's part of you," says Jon. "I'm only doing this if it's okay with all of you."

It's not going to last, Stephen reminds himself. It'll never be deep enough for this to mean something. People like you can't love each other the way normal people do.

On-screen, Leia confesses to Han. The light from their faces, and of course the anbaric reindeer in his window, reflects in Jon's eyes.

I'll take it anyway, thinks Stephen, and nods.

—((2009 | Cut That Man's Hair ))

A week before the Report leaves for Iraq, Avi remarks, "You know, it's the eight-month anniversary of the relationship Stephen's pretending we're not in."

They all go out to dinner. Jon pretends it's to celebrate the trip; Stephen pretends not to notice the way Avi and Honeypie are cuddling under the table.

The week of, Jon hisses, "What are you, a dog? Stop howling. They're going to be fine. And if we don't calm down, somebody's going to get suspicious."

He sleeps, when he sleeps at all, with his hands deep in Avi's fur and her whiskers brushing his cheeks.

The first time they see each other after, Honeypie looks twice her normal size with face barely visible in the thicket of fluff, and Stephen's glare dares them to laugh. "I had to blow-dry something."

Avi gets to work licking the kinkajou's fur back to rights, while Jon gets to work on frying bacon. They're having BLTs; Stephen can't manage silverware right now, because, as he explains at length, he shook so many hands last week that it left him with a wicked case of tendinitis. (It's also why he refuses to lift a finger to help with the cooking.)

"It's almost like a war injury," he says theatrically, then ruins the effect by perking up. "Hey, technically, it is! I'm basically a wounded veteran now!"

"You're not."

"It's just logic, Jon! I was in a war, and I got injured. Therefore, it's a—"

He chokes to a stop.

Because Jon visits hospitals; Jon talks to veterans. He's met humans missing limbs and hooked up to machines, bird-dæmons forever grounded and mammal-dæmons with their teeth constantly bared, people who can't relax even when they're constantly scanning one half of the room and the dæmon facing the other way to cover the rest. Once he spent half an hour with a worn colorless man who never spoke and a worn colorless badger-dæmon that never looked up; the nurse said afterward that it was the most responsive they'd been in months, and called him a hero. Jon knows better. There are words for the people who brave the war, and those words don't belong to the schmucks who come in and listen to them on their downtime.

Which is why Avi's teeth are currently bared against the back of Honeypie's neck.

"You're not a wounded vet," repeats Jon.

"I'm not a wounded vet!" Stephen's voice is tremulous, his eyes brimming. "I'm whatever you want, just let her go!"

Honeypie flings herself at him the instant she's free, clinging to his polo shirt as he slumps against the counter and clamps both arms around her golden-brown form. His left hand soothes her neck; he knows full well that Avi didn't break the skin, but it's as if he needs to check again, to make sure with all his senses that his dæmon is intact.

Jon's torn between comforting and holding his ground. " you understand why I...?"

"We understand fine!" cries Honeypie. Stephen isn't even looking up, has eyes only for her. "We're not special or brave or impressive like they are, we know! You don't have to rub it in!"

Avi traces the kinkajou-dæmon's path across the tile, big paws eating up the distance in only a few steps. She rears up on her hind legs and back, long body stretching to more than half Stephen's height, and braces herself

with her paws on Stephen's waist

which would have been terrifying from an actual lynx, but Jon can't appreciate the pageantry, can't do anything but feel breathlessly exposed.

Stephen's gawking, and Avi holds forth as if she hasn't noticed. "Of course you're special," she growls. "Stop trying to co-opt other people's bravery! What you did was brave and impressive all on its own, you stupid, stupid man."

Her tongue sweeps along Stephen's fingers to lick Honeypie's neck, dragging against the fur and leaving half of it sticking up the wrong way.

That done, she drops back to the floor and pads to Jon's side. He's aware on some level that she's trembling, but still too stunned to react.

"Jon?" says Stephen, barely above a whisper.

Jon wets his bottom lip with his tongue. "Yes?...Stephen?"

Stephen nods to the stove. "Bacon's burning."

With a yelp Jon snaps back to attention, yanking the pan from the burner just as the fire detector starts beeping. He waves away the smoke and tramps off to pull out the battery, staying in the quiet hall just long enough to kiss Avi's nose before they venture back in.

The cutting board and a knife are laid out on the counter, and Stephen stands at the sink, washing tomatoes.

"What?" he demands, when he notices Jon staring. "I still can't cut them, obviously. Doesn't mean I can't help with something."

—((2009 | And the Emmy goes to... ))

As always, Jon calls a limo. Stephen used to mock his limousine liberalism until Jon pointed out that he was recovering from a lifetime of cramped cabs where there was always someone else's knee a hair's breadth from knocking into his dæmon, and, really, what was Stephen's excuse?

Tonight is the first time they've been riding back to the same hotel room. Or would have been, if Stephen hadn't been adamant about ordering one on each of their credit cards, and wasn't now seriously considering going back to his own, locking the door, and never coming out again.

Now if only Jon and Avi had done the normal thing and gone off to wallow in the adulation of the industry, they'd be all set.

"We don't feel like it," says Jon flatly. The statuette sits between his feet; it glimmers in the lights from the minibar that stretches along one side of the car, while Avi lounges on the upholstery with her head pillowed on his thigh. "They're just parties. You must have noticed that they're the same every year."

"No, Jon! No, I haven't!" cries Stephen. "Because I don't win every year. And that makes a difference! Not that you'd know!"

"Stephen, please, stop yelling at me! I know you're upset, and I know your people worked hard, but so did mine, and I'm really proud of what we pulled off this year. If you wish we hadn't won, that's fine, but I'm not the guy to bitch to about it, all right?"

Stephen's about to snap a reply when Honeypie, buttoned snugly inside his tuxedo jacket, bites him. All his manifold potential clever retorts collapse into a single dignified sob.

"We can go," says Avi softly, after giving Stephen a few long moments to sniffle into his dæmon's fur. "Jon never canceled the order for the separate room. If you'd rather not be with us tonight, we've got somewhere to crash."

The lapel of Stephen's jacket twitches, baring Honeypie's nose. "Don't want you to go."


"I never want you to go," adds Stephen thickly, rubbing the kinkajou-dæmon's chin with his thumb. It seems to soothe her, though it isn't enough to sink back through to him. "Even when I've been shouting at you, I don't want you to leave. I hate it when we're apart. Sometimes I—I wish it never happened."

"Don't," says Jon. "It's late, you're upset, you're not thinking straight. Give it a few days back on set, and you'll remember that what the Report's doing is tremendous. Not worth giving up for all the Daily Show Emmys in the world."

"Wasn't talking about the shows."

Honeypie butts her head against his chest. Stephen wraps his hands around her back and shoulders, cradling, warm.

"Sometimes I wish I was your dæmon," he says.

Avi sits bolt upright, lip curling just enough to bare a flash of curved and gleaming teeth. Jon hides the shock better, skritching Avi's flank to calm her down, but the shadows on his face are suddenly deep as caverns.

"I want to be the other half of your soul," he continues, because Stephen Colbert does not do things by halves, even things so patently stupid that the most Democratic Congress would vote them down. "I don't want you able to go twenty feet from me without running back to apologize for ripping out my heart. I want the world to look at us and know, down to their bones, that no one but you is ever allowed to touch me. I'd rather die and blink out of existence completely than die and go to Heaven without you."

The way Jon rubs his neck is almost normal enough to give Stephen hope. "Uh, wow," he says at last, when the silence grows too big not to be filled. "That's...well...."

"...the craziest fucking thing you've ever heard?" suggests Stephen.

Jon ducks his head. "I was going to say 'the weirdest declaration of love'."

They undress each other slowly. Stephen insists on hanging up his tuxedo with Jon's arms wrapped around him from behind; Honeypie could have helped, but she's been hanging kitten-style from Avivah's jaws since they left the limo. Jon leaves his suit in a pile on the floor.

They're down to boxers (Jon's are black; he doesn't know where Stephen found a set in pinstripes) when they cleave together on the double bed, kissing not as a prelude to sex but as a supplement to the conversation. So when Avi says "But he does know it's weird, right?", Jon's lips are there to show that the judgment doesn't mean he loves Stephen any less.

"He knows." Honeypie's curled up between Avi's paws on the floor by the window, her own almost-human hands buried in Avi's fur, strong tail curled around the lynx-dæmon's foreleg. "We know."

"Because Jon and I are already complete. There's no room for...I mean, there's room, but not like that. How can Stephen not feel the same? What happens to you and me, in his fantasies?" A thought strikes Avi. "You don't imagine being my human, do you?"

"Not that weird," sulks Honeypie. "We're still there. Just not split up between bodies, that's all. So the you-in-one-body is everything that you and Jon are now, smart and strong and balanced and pretty, except that you need the us-in-one-body or you don't feel whole."

Stephen bows his head. Jon kneads the muscles of his shoulders and brushes kisses across his hairline.

"If we were better actors...." says Avi.

Honeypie snorts with laughter. It's a sniffly sound, but not a broken one. "That's a big 'if'."

"It's a big act! We love you, so much," and Jon underlines the point by claiming Stephen's mouth again, "and if you had a simpler fantasy we could try to play it out. But faking something that intense...I don't even know where we'd start."

The kinkajou-dæmon's voice drops to a whisper. "You could always do something that wasn't fake."

Jon's at a loss, even more so when Avi seems to know exactly what she meas. "You can't want that."

"Why can't we?"

"It'll hurt!"

"We love it when you bite me. When you pin me down and treat me like I'm about to be dinner. You think that doesn't hurt?"

"This is different and you know it!"

"You let it happen yourself that one time!"

"Only for a moment! Would that be enough for you?"

Jon rests his hand on the small of Stephen's back and rubs gentle circles with his thumb. "Stephen, babe, do you know what they're talking about?"

Stephen can't muster an answer. Honeypie saves him the trouble. The blanket under their legs tugs as she hand-over-hands up onto the mattress; big brown eyes appear over Stephen's shoulder, then both front paws land on Jon's bare arm.

Instinct yanks Jon back so fast he breaks out of Stephen's grip.

"You don't mean that," he stammers, sitting up.

Stephen shivers with a chill far beyond the sudden lack of contact. "Don't tell me what I mean," he hisses.

His heart is in Jon's teeth and it isn't true enough, he could take Jon inside him and it wouldn't be deep enough. He craves more, in the way normal people crave sunlight and oxygen. Selfishly, desperately, he needs Jon's everything.

"You've had a rough night," protests Jon. "I'd be taking advantage. You'd hate me in the morning."

"Could never hate you," says Stephen. He knows. He's tried.

"I don't want to hurt you!"

"I know our limits!" snaps Honeypie, tumbling over Stephen's torso and planting herself in front of his chest to stare Jon down. "If it gets to be too much, I'll be back in Stephen's arms before you can say President Bush have a hotdog with me. I will!"

"She will," agrees Stephen, rubbing his dæmon's ears in gratitude. It's thrilling and terrifying to be this certain, to know he's found something he wants too much to self-sabotage over.

Jon swallows. "H-how much is too much?"

Nothing, thinks Stephen. Then, This is really happening.

"Jon," he breathes. "Treat her like she's yours."

For a couple of seconds everything stands on a knife-edge. Stephen's heart hammers; he can feel Avi's worried gaze on his back, mirroring the courage that flickers and sways in Jon's blues.

Then he picks Honeypie up two-handed.

The shock leaves Stephen too breathless to cry out. Jon cradles the kinkajou to his chest the way he's seen Stephen do a hundred times, with a wholly foreign grip that makes every caress raw and painful and impossible to escape. Stephen's bricked off his heart as far as he dares, built up scar tissue on the parts of his soul that feel, but a lifetime's worth of defenses couldn't wall off the conduit between him and his dæmon, and it's straight into this golden channel that Jon has plunged his bare hands.

"Too rough?" whispers Jon. Stupid question. If he had been rough, Stephen would have passed out within seconds.

It's nothing at all like when Avi touches her; that's only touching his dæmon, the same way Jon might touch his arm or his chest or his junk. What Jon is touching—as he's never been so keenly, piercingly aware—is him.

It hurts like hell, and he never wants it to stop.

Honeypie's heavier than Jon realized, and softer than Avi, though her fur isn't as thick. Brown touched with gold all over, except on her stomach, where her coat is whitish and fluffier still. He rubs her belly absently, the way Stephen does sometimes—and Stephen lets out a weak sob, one hand fisting in the blankets.

He shouldn't be doing this. There are lines you don't cross, no matter how prettily your boyfriend begs. If Stephen had begged Jon to put a knife to his throat, would he have...?

Stephen's eyes catch his for an instant.

Oh, god, he's holding Stephen's dæmon and he would do it again, at the drop of a hat, any time Stephen asked. Anything to make Stephen look at him that way again.

Avi appears at his elbow, and Jon scoots over to free up the mattress. Stephen's twitching unpredictably, feet kicking waves into the blanket, but there's a safe space for the lynx when she leans heavily against Jon's back. "Tell them why we're doing this."

"Because you trust us," says Jon, skritching Honeypie's flanks. "Because we love you, and Stephen, you're ours, mine and Avi's. In every way you can be. In every way that matters. Even when we're apart, if you start to lose sight of that, all you'll have to do is remember how this feels." He laughs, unsteady. "Don't know how the hell you could forget."

Stephen's eyes are closed, jaw twisted tight with pain, but he nods. Or is that another twitch?

While he's distracted with the man's face, Avi, blessed Avi, spots the hand that flutters weakly upward. "Jon—they're at their limit," she says, and Jon almost falls over himself in the lunge to grab Stephen's arm and tuck Honeypie's body underneath.

He lets her go too soon.

Stephen's whole body goes limp, breathing shallow and uneven, while his soul lies doll-like on the bedspread at his fingertips. In one way it's a relief that the taboo snaps right back into place—that Jon can do this on request without his moral compass going up in smoke—but he doesn't have the strength to violate Stephen and his dæmon twice in a row, any more than either of them has the strength to move.

His own dæmon pads delicately over his knees, bows low, and noses Honeypie against her human's chest. She can't avoid bumping Stephen's bare skin along the way; Jon shudders and presses his cheek to her flank, and they bear it together.

After a long minute with Stephen's arm wrapped around the dæmon, she stirs and snuggles closer, and his breath settles into a normal sleeping rhythm. Jon's about to start whispering negotiations with Avi for where they're going to sleep when her ears stand straight up: Stephen's eyes have opened. The shell-shock and pain has receded, leaving a portrait of exhaustion, relief, and...


Somehow, on the point of unconsciousness from being wrung out to the bone and deeper, Stephen manages to look thoroughly pleased with himself.

"Mine," he whispers. His fingers curl weakly around Honeypie's shoulders, but his gaze is fixed firmly, unshakably, on Jon.
phantomcranefly: The Tenth Doctor, with text:  "Why, oh why do I never learn to ascertain my time-space location on arrival?" (Default)

[personal profile] phantomcranefly 2011-07-09 08:37 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, wow. That is amazing. <3