ptahrrific: Jon and Stephen, "Believe in the me who believes in you" (fake news)
Erin Ptah ([personal profile] ptahrrific) wrote2013-01-26 11:58 am

Fake News | Jon/"Stephen", others | G | Silent (3/4)

Title: Silent (3/4)
Rating: G
Cast: Jon/"Stephen" (eventually), John Oliver, Wyatt, OCs
Disclaimer: #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement. 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.

Stephen's Daily Show goes through growing pains. Also, some literal pains, in the form of broken wrists and striking writers. At least it keeps picking up awards (for achievements in English and ASL both) along the way.

AO3 mirror | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Embarrassing Noises


The Daily Show did another hour-long live broadcast for the midterms, on a fully decked-out set. The C-shaped desk was briefly carted away and replaced with a longer one that could seat Stephen, a correspondent, and any of the various guest commentators they would be bringing on throughout the evening.

It was not, this time, long enough for Jon. His stuff was neatly arranged on the poll-analysis desk, no less shiny but a whole lot smaller, off to one side.

The layout made sense. They were doing interviews, for which Jon would be little more than a silent greying decoration; his assistant's contract didn't include on-screen appearances. And John Oliver, though still new, was a solid choice for the night's alpha correspondent: funny, sharp, with a killer deadpan and what Jon was informed was an accent that American audiences naturally wanted to listen to.

If Jon had been thinking of getting jealous — which he wasn't, not at all, no sir — then Oliver was about the least likely target for it. He had been a huge fan of the show before he was hired, taught himself passable ASL with its help, nearly fainted when offered the correspondent role. The first time they had met, Oliver had grabbed Jon in a fervent hug and sobbed all over his shoulder. Any kind of desire to upstage Jon would be the furthest thing from his mind.

Besides, hadn't Jon only ever signed on to this job to be a writer? Anything he got to do on-set at all was icing on the cake.

He was going to be fine. He had a very adequate desk, complete with a beautiful blinking light that could be activated by the remote sitting over with Stephen. Mister Jowly was tucked in next to his legs for emotional support purposes. The Democrats were poised to sweep the results, which was not only a relief after the policies of the last six years, it meant Stephen would be devastated, and need some understanding friendly comfort....

...the hell? thought Jon, burying his head in his hands. Am I actually hoping for Stephen to be upset so he'll need me more? Some kind of friend I am.

He had to focus. Shake it off, as Stephen would say. The overhead camera was swooping across the stage, the poll numbers were pouring in, and they weren't going to get any retakes.


When the email from the network appeared in his inbox, Stephen did a giddy dance in his chair, considered replying instantly with "yes! a thousand times, yes!", then decided maybe he should call Jon first.

An hour? signed Jon, as if trying to confirm that he'd read it right. Permanently?

Isn't it perfect? enthused Stephen, sitting behind the laptop and trying to sign around the beautiful, beautiful screen. They've never found anything worthy to follow me in the 11:30 slot, so they finally realized the solution: fill it with more me!

You know that's basically what we have now, right? asked Jon. Except that while we do get royalties from the 11:30 reruns, we don't have to produce an extra half-hour of content every night for it.

We can do it! said Stephen confidently. Papa Bear does it! On top of a radio show and three books a year!

(He couldn't remember whether his adoring nickname for Bill O'Reilly had inspired the sign they used for him, or the other way around.)

Jon ran his hands through his hair and started typing.

The man had nice hands, Stephen thought idly as he waited for Jon to finish. Could do with less hair from the knuckles on back, but the fingers were way longer and more elegant than you expected from such a short guy. Obviously they moved fast, with perfect control — Stephen didn't spot him hitting the backspace key once. No decoration, no adornment, just bare skin all the way up the lengths of his fingers....

Stephen was semiconsciously rubbing his pseudo-wedding ring with his thumb when Jon handed him back the computer.

I can understand why you're enthusiastic about this, Stephen, but think about what you'd be asking of people. I know you could handle up to an hour of being in the spotlight. Think about the rest of us.

Jimmy's been amazing at keeping up with the amount of cues you want sometimes. That doesn't mean he could sustain that level of attention for twice as long every day, sit in the same spot for a solid hour. Remember that it would be a lot harder than your sitting, because he doesn't get to stretch or play with props or run around the set like you do. And if you screw something up, half the time you can make cute faces to bring the audience through it. He screws up, the whole thing has to be done over.

Our talent coordinator is sleep-deprived as it is. If she has to wrangle twice as many calls from dickish celebrities making stupid demands, she's going to implode.

The writers...maybe we could do it, especially with a budget for hiring a few more into the ranks. We suggest and produce and go through and throw out a lot of material. But the stuff that gets thrown out is because it's not as good. Could you look the viewers in the eye if you were knowingly serving them substandard material?

(Stephen was pretty sure he could. But Jon would be the one who felt most responsible for said material, and "not making Jon sad" was still pretty high up on Stephen's list.)

The other correspondents don't have time to do twice as many field pieces. Not unless we forbid them from working on any other projects. And the whole reason we're not going through them so quickly any more (besides your charming personality, and the dogs in the office) is that we finally got that us/everything-else balance right.

Stephen, you know I love you, and I'm very proud of what we've built together. I don't want to put that in danger. Not for the sake of a Viacom ratings grab, and especially not when it would risk burning out so many good people in the process.

He was right. He was so right. Why did Jon have to be so good at thinking about other people? Why did he have to have priorities other than putting Stephen on TV? Stephen desperately wanted more time on TV.

You're really proud of this? he asked, trying to draw something good out of this crushing pile of reason.

I'm very proud, Jon assured him, drawing out the sign longer than almost any Stephen had ever seen from him. And I really love you, buddy.

That only made things worse, sending a sudden rush of blood to Stephen's face. He slumped in his chair, furious with himself. It was times like this he wished Jon was blind instead. Or had any other disability that didn't keep Jon looking at him all the time.

Jon tapped the desktop. Stephen. Tell them to table it.

Stephen frowned up at him. Say that again?

Table it. Don't reject it. Maybe we can use it later to negotiate some other kind of expansion. I don't know, pitch a spinoff or something. How many people have left this show to do something related? Lizz has a fake morning talk show. Steve did a movie about fake newspeople. Corddry the younger is in a fake comedy/variety show. We've got a bunch of talented people stewing over ideas for their own projects. Maybe we can give one of them a platform that keeps them in-house.

Oh. Jon, there is a key omission in your plan, and that is that it doesn't involve more of me on TV.

Jon shrugged. Maybe we'll find a way to do both? You never know. Just keep the option open.



unicornprincess76: okay I will grant you that it may not be "true" in the old-fashioned plebian literal sense
unicornprincess76: but think about it from a postmodern perspective
unicornprincess76: you must grant that it is an accurate summation of what he *wishes* to be true
unicornprincess76: and isn't that, in a way, its own kind of truth?
shamsky62: ...No.
unicornprincess76: this strict authoritarian notion of what is "true" and what is "false" is antithetical to the American dream anyway.
unicornprincess76: if I want to believe that energy-efficient light bulbs give kittens cancer, isn't that my right as an American?
shamsky62: (a) No, and (b) what?
unicornprincess76: you have to stop clinging to this rigid antiquated idea of "truth"
unicornprincess76: be more open to things that are merely truth-ish
unicornprincess76: truthlike
unicornprincess76: truthy
unicornprincess76: you have to stop being so dismissive of other people's truthiness
shamsky62: That's called lying, Stephen.
unicornprincess76: what is with all the snark today?
unicornprincess76: can I do this bit, or are you going to follow me onto the set and make sarcastic comments there too?
shamsky62: ...
shamsky62: Would you let me?
unicornprincess76: oh, sure, that sounds like a real recipe for success
unicornprincess76: Stephen Colbert Delivers Finely Crafted Speeches On The State Of America while Jon Stewart Sits Behind Him And Generates Sarcastic Comments In The Subtitles
unicornprincess76: it will be our greatest hit
unicornprincess76: audiences will learn to go wild the moment the title appears on screen
shamsky62: You know, that could be an interesting gimmick.
shamsky62: Like O'Reilly's Talking Points segments, only instead of an ugly graphic on half the screen there's another person, and the text is arguing with your points instead of regurgitating them.
unicornprincess76: what?
shamsky62: I'll send it to a couple of the writers, have them spitball some topics.
unicornprincess76: wait
unicornprincess76: wait Jon that was sarcasm
unicornprincess76: Jon??


They called it "Wørd of the Day."

It was billed as part vocabulary lesson, part Special Comment, part "Jon making adorable faces and being devastatingly witty." They always started with a single word, Jon on a split-screen providing the corresponding sign; they leaned more than ever on their full-time on-call consultant from Gallaudet, to keep them in touch with the norms being developed by ASL-using serious political thinkers as new topics and ideas came on the scene. The first time she wrote "I can't find an individual sign in use for this one — go ahead and make something up," Jon nearly had a heart attack.

We'll just have to spell it out, he told Stephen. What if we toss off some stupid random gesture and it becomes the national standard? I can't take that kind of responsibility!

The esteemed Professor Rosen clearly thinks you can, Stephen replied. What's the big deal? It worked out great with "truthiness." (The signed version was like "truth", but instead of drawing a decisive line, your finger wandered off to the side at the end.)

That was not a serious word! lamented Jon.

(When the beginning of 2008 rolled around, the American Dialect Society was going to make him take that back.)

He was even more horrified when the National Association for the Deaf (to which Jon sent his dues every year, even though the acronym always made him snicker) tried to give him an excellence-in-education award. A couple of panicky emails got them to foist it off on Dr. Rosen instead, though Stephen was once again baffled. Why would you not accept it, Jon? It's an award!

Jon rolled his eyes. Somehow I think I'll survive with only our joint Meritorious Service Excellence Award, the show's third Television Broadcast Excellence Award, and our fourth straight set of Emmy nominations.

At least Stephen had a thing for English plays on words, which they didn't even try to adapt. "No, Jon," he would say/sign, turning to Jon's desk after he had signed the word arrogance, "it's a pun! Get it right."

Sorry, replied Jon, looking appropriately admonished, and spelled out A-I-R-O-G-A-N-C-E.

A minute later in the segment, Stephen intoned "How can we possibly know which countries are against global warming?" Jon's hand shot into the air to start a reply. Then he paused, sighed, and said instead, Jimmy? Roll the list of Kyoto Protocol signatories.

He rested his chin in his hands and relaxed with an angelic smile while nearly 200 country names scrolled across his face.


Stephen made it through the first act with one hand under his desk, a bag of ice numbing the shooting pains in his wrist.

What had he been thinking? Why did he have to run so fast in greeting the audience, why had he let himself slip? What if it was broken? What if he'd torn all his tendons? What if he lost the ability to move it? He wouldn't be able to write. Or talk to his siblings. Or talk to Jon.

He kept up a mask of alternating cheer and anger as he delivered his lines, then, as soon as the cameras had panned out, went back to hunching over his injured limb and letting his face react to the pain and fear however it wanted.

As always, a handful of people swarmed around the desk in the few minutes they could leave the audience hanging. Someone from makeup, to touch up his face and dab away any sweat from the overhead lights. An intern with a fresh bag of ice. A writer or two, to confer over the acts remaining.

Tonight, since Jon wasn't scheduled to be on-air, he was in his grey T-shirt and khakis and at Stephen's side in an instant. His assistant, who favored nicer shirts but had gotten in the habit of also wearing khakis, kept pace with him before circling the desk. Don't try to sign. I'm putting Kallie behind you, he ordered. Are you okay to finish the show? I had wardrobe grab a wig and a copy of this suit in Oliver's size — he's ready to step in. And we can swap in Sam's latest BKAD for the second act.

Stephen winced. Maybe he could have admitted defeat under other circumstances, but if it meant abandoning his beautiful, perfect, all-American show to be saved by a crumpet-munching ex-chimney-sweep and a syrup-sucking icehole? (No offense to his foreign-born correspondents. They did great work.) His pride wouldn't stand for it. "I'm fine! Probably just a sprain. I can push through it. Shake it off. See?"

He tried to flap his hand around to demonstrate, only to let out a very manly shriek of agony and shove it back against the ice, sweating and gritting his teeth.

In an instant Jon's hand was cupped against the side of his head, soft and steadying.

"Okay, addendum," panted Stephen, leaning ever so slightly into Jon's touch. Jon wasn't looking at his assistant now, he was fixated on Stephen's eyes and mouth. "I will be fine as long as I don't do that again."

Jon studied him for a moment, then nodded and let him go. (The makeup tech swooped in right away to smooth down his hair and powder away whatever smudges Jon had left on his cheek.) You're going to the doctor once this is over, got it?

"Uh-huh," said Stephen miserably. Being stoic hadn't worked; time to go for adorably pitiable. "Jon? Will you come with me, in case they have to drug me or something? And if I die, you promise to look after the show, right?"

You're not going to die, you big baby. (Behind him, Kallie discreetly choked. Nobody but Jon could have gotten away with talking to Stephen like that, not even a hypothetical person interpreting on Jon's behalf.) But yes, I'll come with you. If you feel worse after the second act, let me know and we can have Oliver play you for the interview.

The staff was dispersing; the Springsteen tune on the speakers was coming to its final chords. Stephen moved the ice with his numbed wrist back under the desktop and looked for his camera.

As Jon and Kallie moved off-set, he glanced in their direction, and caught her signing, What about his wife?

Let it be, replied Jon, as the stage manager signaled the audience to start their back-from-break applause.


Stephen spent most of the first day post-surgery in his favorite armchair, taking the heavy-duty painkillers every couple of hours and zoning in and out of consciousness in between. Jon stayed over to make him sandwiches, note down the times of his medication on a neat little chart, and play with the dog.

Mid-afternoon, while Jon was relaxing with a book on Stephen's second-favorite armchair, Stephen yawned, extracted himself from the light blanket Jon had laid over him, and shuffled off to the kitchen.

A minute later, Gipper hopped up from where he had been chewing on his squeaky duck and trotted in the same direction. The dog wasn't nearly bright enough to learn to nudge Jon on Stephen's behalf, but he knew how to come when called, and Jon just had to recognize that as his cue. He left a postcard in the book to mark his place and followed.

Stephen was crouching on the tile ruffling Gipper's fur when Jon arrived. He fed the dog a rewarding biscuit and looked up.

What do you need? asked Jon.

Stephen moved to answer, caught himself, and shot a despairing look at his sling. ("At least a week," the doctor had said.) At last he got to his feet and fingerspelled C-O-F-F-E-E. With his dominant hand it would have taken about a second; as it was, he needed two or three.

I put it in one of the cupboards. You're not supposed to have caffeine right now, Jon admonished him. And you need to let yourself rest.

Stephen answered that one with a mournful pout.

Can I get you something else? Hot chocolate? Non-caffeinated soda?

Stephen made another reflexive move to start a two-handed sign, or maybe just a right-handed one. Stymied once again, he spelled B-E-E-R?

No alcohol either. It'll interact badly with your medication.

At least this time Stephen went straight to fingerspelling. M-E-A-N-I-E.

Sorry. Jon punctuated it with his best look of genuine sympathy. Orange juice? Water?

Stephen slumped in defeat. Orange juice, he replied, and shuffled back toward his chair.

Gipper was left with a dilemma: follow the person who gave him treats, or stay with the other person in the room where the treats were? He turned in a circle trying to look at both of them, got overwhelmed by the whole thing, and collapsed in the doorway in a sad-eyed heap. Jon had to step over him to carry the orange juice out.

He found Stephen kneeling at the coffee table, feeding a DVD from a House, M.D. boxset into his laptop. You gonna watch?

No thanks. Jon found a coaster and set the orange juice down. My book is just getting to the good part. Did you know that when the Secretary of the Treasury first commissioned a report on—

Stephen rolled his eyes and looked away, cutting him off.

After a moment's thought, Jon put a hand on his shoulder. Are you sure you don't want one of your hearing friends to be here for you? he asked, once he had Stephen watching again. It's not exactly advanced medicine; anyone could do it. You wouldn't have to keep confusing Gipper, you wouldn't have this communication handicap to work around....

An emphatic shake of the head. I don't want another friend, he signed ferociously. Some of the words came out garbled, but the context made it clear enough. I want you.

Okay, replied Jon, and pulled him into a hug.

Stephen said something out loud, then. With his throat against Jon's shoulder, Jon's skin could feel the vibrations. But he didn't repeat it after they separated, so Jon decided not to push, and let him drink his juice in peace.


unicornprincess76: so apparently there is going to be some kind of strike??
unicornprincess76: nobody warned me about this
unicornprincess76: stupid union thugs and their stranglehold on the industry
shamsky62: The WGA has been in negotiations for weeks. Our writers have pitched three separate pieces on it. Didn't you wonder what that was about?
unicornprincess76: no Jon, at this point I make enough money to pay other people to wonder things for me
unicornprincess76: hey can I borrow your assistant for a minute?
shamsky62: Kallie? Sure. She's taking a call, but I'll send her up as soon as she finishes.
unicornprincess76: fantastic
unicornprincess76: also we got an email from the network
unicornprincess76: they say the TDS website is up and running and it looks beautiful
unicornprincess76: my face is on every page!!
unicornprincess76: and they want us to pitch ideas for exclusive content to draw in more of the kids, get those sweet eyeballs to tempt the advertising dollars
unicornprincess76: something to think about
shamsky62: You know that's what the possibly-strike-inducing negotiations are about, right?
unicornprincess76: what?
shamsky62: Writers don't get any royalties from the network putting our content online.
shamsky62: Doesn't matter how many advertising dollars it makes. We won't see a penny.
unicornprincess76: WHAT
shamsky62: Yep.
unicornprincess76: JON THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS
shamsky62: Not that you and I are anywhere near "working class" at this point....
unicornprincess76: NOT RELEVANT JON
shamsky62: Probably early November. Assuming we haven't negotiated a reasonable compromise with the Man beforehand.
shamsky62: OK, Kallie's on her way up.

Grumbling to himself, Stephen closed the window displaying the (beautiful! shiny!) Daily Show website and tried one more time to read the terms his legal counsel had advised for his latest brilliant plan. They were still impenetrable. All he knew was that the general thrust of it was "yes."

"Mr. Colbert? You wanted to see me?"

"Please. Call me Stephen," said Stephen. "Come have a seat. I have an awesome offer to suggest to you, although at this point I have no idea when it can feasibly take effect or whether Jon will give his final approval at all."

"Um." Kallie took the seat across from him. "What kind of offer-suggestion-thing are we talking about, exactly?"

"Well, you know how Jon always cares way more about most of the guests than I do? Not the actor guests, he really doesn't care about most of those, but the politicians and people who write books and stuff?"

" this a trick question?"

Stephen sighed. Why did his employees always have to assume he was leading them into rhetorical traps, just because of all the times he had led them into rhetorical traps before? "You know how Jon actually reads the books, and I don't?"

This was evidently non-opinion-dependent enough for her to feel safe answering. "Yes."

"And you know how he comes up with all these great thought-provoking questions, and sometimes we only get through five or six of them? We'd get through even less if I let the authors finish all their answers."


"And you know how Jon is sometimes visibly dying for a chance to talk to these people himself, only he doesn't have an interpreter whose contract includes appearing on-screen?"

Kallie was starting to look worried. "Am I being fired?"

"If by 'fired' you mean 'asked whether you would be open to negotiating a new contract that includes on-set work,' then yes," said Stephen. "Yes, you are definitely being fired."

"Stephen...could you ask that in a way that makes sense?"

"It makes perfect sense!" cried Stephen. "Sure, we could hire a part-timer to come in and interpret just for the interviews, but you already have years of experience with how Jon uses English when he's writing, and you'd be able to bring that to your translations better than just about anyone. Except me, obviously. So, do you want me to forward the tentative updated contract, or do you want me to plan to maybe have to scout around for someone else?"

"I...would like you to forward the contract?"

"Will do!" said Stephen. "And, Kallie? Don't raise your inflection at the end of sentences. It makes you sound indecisive."



The return to the office — of what had been rebranded A Daily Show With Stephen Colbert until the strike was properly over — was bittersweet. For Jimmy, Bobby, Kallie, the other managers and administrative assistants, the camera techs, the wardrobe and makeup people, and much of the other staff, it meant a return to getting their well-deserved regular paychecks. For Jon, Stephen, Wyatt, and John — the only writers with other roles in the show's production — it meant a lot of sitting around in the too-empty writers' room, talking about what general topics they could cover that night and throwing the occasional blank-paper plane.

They didn't split up, even for routine's sake. Nobody was quite sure whether "IMed words as part of a long-established substitute for spoken conversation" would be strike-breaking writing or not, so Jon had decided to play it safe and keep them in the same room as much as possible.

His assistant was drinking a lot of extra coffee. At least there were enough open chairs that she didn't have to do these marathon interpretation sessions standing up.

"Okay," said Wyatt one morning, "let's think seriously about this: What time-sucking props haven't we used?"

"We could have Stephen dance again," suggested John. "The crowd loves it when he dances."

"I can't dance any more," said/signed Stephen imploringly. His glasses sat on the table; there seemed to be new lines around his eyes. "I am danced out. I am like the evil queen in her red-hot shoes. Any longer and you're going to dance me to death." He buried his head in folded arms.

We could pick a fight with another writerless host? suggested Jon. Conan would probably be up for some meaningless sniping to fill up his show.

But that required something to pick a fight over, and the only idea they came up with was Stephen's "his stupid hair."

"Oh! I've got it! We need to get talkier guests," exclaimed Wyatt. "Then, if Stephen can control himself a little, he can ask his questions and let their answers run long enough to fill the second and third acts."

"Crazy idea," said John.

"Crazy awesome!"

"I still say musical performances are the way to go," declared John. Sorry, Jon, he added.

Hey, some of those things are plenty interesting to look at, replied Jon with a shrug. And, come on, look at the bright side.

Wyatt raised his eyebrows. "Bright side?"

Stephen knows it....

Hearing his name repeated by Kallie, Stephen raised his head. "Wha?" he asked through the tousled mess of his hair.

Yes, you. Cheer up, Jon urged him. Aren't you glad we don't have to fill a whole hour?
politicette: (Default)

[personal profile] politicette 2013-01-26 05:56 pm (UTC)(link)
1) Jealous!Jon is adorable fdjkfkl. He should not worry, though. Stephen loves him the best.

2) I LOVE Stephen's IM voice during this part, and I love the sign for truthiness, and I love the way the Word segment turns out! And awww, Jon being unable to take the pressure of inventing a new sign. :') Precious babby.

3) Injured!Stephen is also adorable. He just needs his Jon and his dog and some juice, poor baby. :( And kldjflkj HE LOOOOOOOVES Jon :33 He wants to maaaaaaaaarry Jon. :33

4) "I can't dance any more," said/signed Stephen imploringly. His glasses sat on the table; there seemed to be new lines around his eyes. "I am danced out. I am like the evil queen in her red-hot shoes. Any longer and you're going to dance me to death." He buried his head in folded arms.

Poor put-upon Stephen :( Jon should get him more juice.

Edited 2013-01-26 17:57 (UTC)

(Anonymous) 2013-01-26 09:15 pm (UTC)(link)
I forget who/what Mr. Jowly is...

I lol'd heartily at the Papa Bear sign.

I love how Jon is The Word.

And how adorable is injured "Stephen" being taken care of by Jon?! Are we to conclude that in this continuity "Stephen" never developed his hilarious-on-the-show-but-would-actually-be-devastating-and-tragic-in-real-life drug addiction because Jon was there to take care of him?

~A. Fann
kribban: (Default)

[personal profile] kribban 2013-01-26 09:49 pm (UTC)(link)
Am I actually hoping for Stephen to be upset so he'll need me more? Some kind of friend I am.

Jon is a h/c fan!

I'm very proud, Jon assured him, drawing out the sign longer than almost any Stephen had ever seen from him. And I really love you, buddy.


Awww, I love Jon taking care of Stephen after his surgery. (Real Stephen didn't need surgery, did he?) And the added angst by his injury making communications difficult for him is interesting.

And Stephen doesn't want any other friend. ;_;
sunsetstrip: (up shit creek without a paddle)

[personal profile] sunsetstrip 2013-01-30 06:59 am (UTC)(link)
I totally whooped when I saw the new chapter. This story gives me life~

Eeee I had hoped Jon would end up being behind the Word! Yes! I wasn't sure how it would be pulled off, but your solution is perfect. I love that he freaked out over having to invent new signs.

However, I am a little saddened that this world is deprived of the glory that was the Jon/Conan/Stephen Huckabee feud. Alas~

I can't believe there's only one more part to this 'verse, aaaaah I want to stay in this world FOREVER AND EVER.