ptahrrific: Jon and Stephen, "Believe in the me who believes in you" (fake news)
Erin Ptah ([personal profile] ptahrrific) wrote2013-02-14 03:15 am

Fake News | Jon/"Stephen", Trevor Potter, others | PG-13 | A River So Long (3/3)

Title: A River So Long: being a multi-season Love Story in three Acts, color-coded for Your Convenience (brought to you by Americans For A Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow) (Act 3)
Characters/Pairings: Jon/"Stephen", "Stephen"/OC, Trevor Potter, family members, special guests
Rating: PG
Contents: Cuddling, pie, Justin Bieber.
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.

8) Prompt: Stephen's tirade on election night. "Then you realise you made a terrible mistake but it will be too late, you had the chance but you rejected him and now [Mitt Romney] will never want your [vote] again." We all know he meant "Jon" instead of "Mitt" and "love" instead of "vote."

The thrilling conclusion. In which our heroes pick up the post-election pieces.

AO3 mirror | Act I | Act II | Act III

Act III. The Red Suit
Holiday season.

Their first real post-breakup fight was on-air.

It was ugly. Stephen ended up stabbing a ham.

The audience thought it was hilarious.

All right, maybe Stephen really had lost Jon completely. So what? He had to look on the bright side, here: what did Jon bring to the table that a younger, hotter, less critical guy couldn't? Stephen could snap his fingers, or at least sign in on, and have a vibrant boyfriend with a six-pack, and also nice abs, who wouldn't make a fuss when Stephen made perfectly logical threats to stop being on TV if his marginal income tax rates went up.

For that matter, who needed boyfriends? Hookup culture was the hip thing these days; all the kids were doing it. At least, they were all doing it as far as Stephen knew. That way you got some variety out of the deal, and didn't have to put up with stupid fights about not saying the word "boyfriend" in front of anybody else.

Stephen tried Barry's number first. Barry had been easygoing, combined a sexy accent with a firm grip, and was very effusive about how much the camera loved Stephen. You couldn't go wrong with that.

"That sounds fantastic," said Barry, once Stephen had made his opening pitch. "Are you sure your Mr. Stewart won't mind? Maybe we'd better meet in the studio. There are some openings next week, and I would love to capture how you look in better light."

"There isn't any 'my Mr. Stewart' any more," said Stephen. "Which is why I was hoping you'd have an opening tonight. And not in your studio, if you get what I mean."

"I'm very sorry, Stephen...but that won't work very well."

"Why not?" demanded Stephen.

"Because I'm in Florida."

"Florida? Great! I love Florida. I can book a flight right now. Where in Florida?"

Barry had to pause, presumably to take in the extent of Stephen's generosity, before answering. "In Florida with my family. Celebrating Thanksgiving."

"Oh," said Stephen. "Right. Thanksgiving's tomorrow. So that's why I had the week off."

"I could stop by next week," said Barry cautiously. "If you like. And if it's really your apartment this time."

"Of course, of course," said Stephen, feeling lightheaded. "We'll see. I'll check my schedule. I'll call you back."

Jon spent the holiday at his brother's house, alternately helping in the kitchen and playing mock baseball with his nephews out in the lightly frosted yard. It was fantastic.

His mother, as usual, asked at dinner whether he'd found a nice girl yet. "Or a nice boy?" she added hopefully. "Either is fine with me, dear, you know that."

Jon tried to brush it off with good humor. He might be a lonely old perpetual uncle, but he didn't have to look miserable about it. Especially in front of the boys. "Mom, I promise, if I were seeing anyone, I would have told you by Thanksgiving."

"Well, I have good news!" said his mother. "My hairdresser's cousin has a son who isn't seeing anyone either. She says he's very handsome, and very interested in politics. And I said, ooh, my Jonny is interested in politics! Wouldn't you like to go out to dinner some time?"

"I think I'll pass," said Jon, while his brother and sister-in-law tried not to crack up. Seriously, how had JDate even gotten off the ground? You'd think the market was saturated. "I'm not really in a dating mood right now. You can thank her for looking out for me, though."

The night found him insomniac; he trudged down the stairs in a bathrobe and slippers, and holed up in the kitchen with a midnight slice of pie. He was halfway through it when his brother came down, and without asking poured them both drinks.

"I'm probably doing better than I look," said Jon. "Honest."

There was one light on in the room, and it was down a ways from the island where both men were sitting, but his brother's expression wasn't hard to guess. "Uh-huh. Is it just hitting the big five-oh that's getting you down? Or is there something else?"

Jon stabbed an apple slice out of his pie. "I was...with someone," he admitted. "Earlier this year. Most of the year, actually. And, well, now I'm not."

"Whoa. Sorry to hear it. Or maybe I'm not sorry, I don't know — were they a huge dick?"

"Careful there. For all you know, he was the love of my life, and I'm heartbroken about the loss but still won't stand to hear anything bad said against him."

"But you're smirking, which means he was a huge dick."

"Yeah, pretty much."

"In that case, not sorry at all. Good riddance. My favorite brother deserves better."

"He didn't start out as one, though," said Jon. "I mean, he was dickish, but in manageable quantities. I thought it was something we could live with...maybe for a long time, if you know what I mean. And then it...escalated."

"I see," said his brother. "Sorry about the escalation, then."

Jon forked apart a flaky section of crust. "Me too."


Stephen had a new crystal chandelier hanging from his bedroom ceiling, a new flatscreen on the wall framed by new high-def speakers, and a new disc-changing blu-ray player now holding all three of his new blu-ray extended cuts of the Lord of the Rings movies. As long as he didn't pause them to eat, have sex, or go to the bathroom too many times, he could finish the epic rewatch in time to camp out for An Unexpected Journey's midnight release.

(And if he had to skip out early from the 12/12/12 Sandy relief benefit to get a good spot in line, well, clearly the people advocating on behalf of hurricane victims should have planned that better.)

Barry had not appreciated the "no pausing for sex" part.

He had also been dismayed enough to stop taking photos once he realized Stephen wasn't going to try any pose that involved looking away from the screen. "The uneven light is awful anyway," he complained. "Plus something in here is making your eyes look bright green."

And now Barry was asleep. The Nine Walkers were being chased through the Mines of Moria, and he couldn't even fake enough interest to stay awake for it. Who was Stephen supposed to cling to when the Balrog showed up, huh? The bootleg plush Thorin he had had shipped in from New Zealand (generously funded by Mike Litoris of Huntersville, North Carolina) was nice, but just not warm enough.

Clearly, Stephen needed to buy some kind of stuffed-toy-warming machine. Or go back to Rentboy and do some pre-screening, so he could be sure to hook up with a proper Tolkien aficionado next time. Or....


Stephen's head hurt. He dialed down the volume on Moria; it didn't help. There was something he wanted to think of, and it wasn't coming together.

"Sorry, Gandalf," he said under his breath...and paused the movie.

His phone was so new that it chimed with its factory-default noises as it tried to reach Trevor Potter. After a longer wait than usual, the lawyer extraordinaire picked up. "Hi, Stephen. Remember, this is overtime. Also, if this is another sex question, I'm charging extra."

"It's not a sex question." Well, not in any direct sense at least. Stephen licked his lips. "Trevor, I...I need to get rid of some money."

"It's all taken care of, remember?" said Trevor. "The SuperPAC has been shuttered, all the money sent to a secret untraceable fund which no one can trace. Considering your clever and subtle choice of a name, I'm sure nobody will even guess it was you."

"No, that's what I mean." Stephen swallowed. Was he sweating? Wow, this was harder than he'd thought. "I need to get ridder of that money than I already am."

Trevor considered it. "So...buying more expensive things for yourself wouldn't do the trick?"

"I've been buying a lot of expensive things," Stephen reminded him. "It hasn't worked yet."

"I do have one idea," said Trevor slowly. "Something I couldn't bring up before. But now that you're safely out of the SuperPAC game, I suppose it couldn't hurt."

"What? What couldn't hurt? Tell me!"

"There's this nonprofit I work with. They can always use more funding to keep the advocacy up. If you wouldn't have any objections to supporting more transparency in government...."

And so the brief life of the Ham Rove Memorial Fund was over as quickly as it began.

One moment it was flush with a vast donation from a source that never needed to be disclosed. The next it was being disbursed, partly to Trevor Potter's favorite nonprofit, mostly to hurricane relief serving Jon's favorite coastline.

Stephen sent Barry off in the morning with a handshake. "Have a good Christmas," he said, then considered. "Do you celebrate Christmas?"

"I don't," admitted Barry. "But don't worry. I practice a great and true religion."

"Oh." Stephen mentally reviewed all the War On Christmas rhetoric he'd so carefully memorized, then set it aside. "Well. Happy holidays, anyway. And good luck with the photography...thing."

"Thanks." Barry tipped his head forward a bit, not (thankfully) to go for one last kiss, but to study Stephen's eyes in the daylight. "Now, see, this is much better lighting for you. Stay in places like this as often as you can, okay?"

A sharp knock startled Jon out of sleep.

That wasn't supposed to happen. Cozy island beach resorts were supposed to gently lull you to sleep with the lapping of the waves, and not force you up until it was practically afternoon, just about time to go get a tropical drink mixed by an athletic tanned twentysomething in a form-fitting swimsuit. Jon squinted at the clock...yeah, it was three in the morning. Him and the concierge were going to have Words about this.

Muttering unkind things under his breath, Jon pulled on a plaid bathrobe over his undershirt and boxers and shuffled to the front of his gorgeous rental beach house. Whoever it was, they had better have a great reason for....

Then he saw who it was, and stopped cold. That was not a uniform you yelled at.

"Uh, hi," he said instead, blinking, "Aren't you hot in that?"

"Of course not! It's magic, ho ho ho," laughed the heavy old man in the thick, fur-lined coat and pants. "You, though, you'll need something heavier once we get up north! Don't worry, there are coats your size in the sleigh."

Jon looked over the visitor's shoulder. The sledge on his lawn was as big as a bus, painted a rich scarlet with gold trim, piled with sacks all frosted with snow that hadn't had time to melt in the tropical heat. Harnessed to it stood a team of nine huge, shaggy mooselike creatures: real reindeer, not the dainty temperate creatures shown in holiday specials. The one in front tossed its head, setting off a cascade of bells, and flashed its bright red nose. Like a light bulb, Jon thought automatically.

"So if you're real," he said, "what does that mean for, uh, the other Christmas guy?"

"Now, now, young man, I don't handle theology! I'm just a deliveryman, ho ho ho." He gave Jon a conspiratorial wink. "You don't have to come along, of course, but you were someone's only wish this year. Normally we don't try to fill that sort of request, but in certain, oh ho ho, special circumstances, exceptions can be made. Unless you'd rather not?"

"No, it's cool," said Jon. "Let me just grab a pair of shoes."

"So what kind of person rates a personal delivery of a human being on Christmas?" asked Jon, clambering over a sack of what felt like Legos to a waiting fur-lined blanket. "Child cancer patients, something like that?"

A lump next to the blanket shifted, and Jon realized it wasn't a sack of toys but another blanket, wrapped elf? Nah, that was a human being, and a familiar one. "Could be. I know it's usually sick twelve-year-old girls who ask to see me. Don't know how many people in that age range watch The Daily Show, though."

"Justin!" exclaimed Jon, offering his hand and getting a mittened handshake from the floppy-haired heartthrob. "Haven't seen you since that crystal skull accidentally switched our bodies. How's life treating you?"

"Oh, you know, can't complain. Finally finished recording on the new album, dropped it earlier this year. And I've got a fragrance in stores now, so every girl can make her boyfriend smell like what she imagines I smell like."

"Sounds like solid marketing," said Jon approvingly. "I've always wondered...what's it like to have people actively want to smell like you?"

Their driver was fully occupied with the reindeer, but the pleasant conversation with Justin kept Jon from paying too much attention to the dark sea below them. It was only when presents started dropping out of the sacks around him (guided to the right chimney by more magic, probably) that he realized they had overtaken the coastline, and were now swooping low over a town with only streetlights still aglow. Soon afterward a torrent of wide, fluffy snowflakes started swirling around them, and Jon huddled into his complimentary down-lined coat.

The madcap flight slowed over a sparkling city, and stopped altogether on the roof of a tall, boxy building with a helicopter landing pad handily in place. "So nice of hospitals to give us an easy landing, ho ho ho! If only they had chimneys, we'd be all set."

Now mostly alone in the back of the sleigh, Jon made the mistake of looking over the piles of sacks to see what they were passing by. Apparently, it was mountains.

He didn't want to distract Santa (and wow, talk about a phrase he'd never expected to think), but he was going to make himself sick if he didn't get his mind off the height, so he leaned over the headrest of the front of the sleigh. "Hey, uh, can I ask where we're landing to deliver me, exactly?"

"Don't worry, ho ho ho, we're not landing!"

"...come again?"

"This house has a chimney! You can be delivered straight by drop, no stopping necessary."

"Whoa, okay, hold on," stammered Jon, grabbing on to the polished wood. "This was not disclosed upfront. I would not have agreed to this if I had realized it didn't involve a Bieber-style dropoff."

"I'll land to pick you up before sunrise," Santa assured him. "If you want to be picked up, that is! Ho ho ho."

Jon threw a suspicious glance at the horizon off to their side. Forest. Vaguely familiar forest, but then lots of forests looked vaguely familiar, especially from this angle. "And you're gonna know that by...more magic?"

"What else? One last thing: this young man always leaves out milk and cookies for me, which you are welcome to have, if you like."

"Who is it?" blurted Jon. The snow was getting thicker, swirling, making it hard to see. "Will you at least tell me whose house—?"

And then he was dizzy, spinning, falling...

...tumbling out of the fireplace, coughing with the ashes as he rolled onto Stephen's bearskin rug. Judging by the faint jingle of bells above, the sleigh was already taking gone.

"This is not fair," muttered Jon to nobody in particular.

Even if Stephen had done enough good to be thrown safely back into the "nice" column, Jon wanted to find that out for himself. He didn't want to be pressured to accept it just because Santa said so. And he definitely didn't want his personhood treated as some kind of prize for his ex, with no regard for his own feelings or desires or...ooh, were those cinnamon sugar cookies?

Jon crept over to the table. The room was pretty well lit by the colorful bulbs on the tree and a row of fake candles in each window. Yeah, that was a whole assortment of cookies, including cinnamon sugar, and chocolate chip, and oatmeal scotchies, and...

...and something went click below his feet, where a sturdy rope tightened around his feet and yanked him into the air.

Stephen took the stairs two at a time, pajamas flapping as the air blew past, and flipped on the cabin's first-floor lights...then skidded to a stop on the floorboards, befuddled. "Jon? What are you doing in my Santa trap?"

"Getting dizzy," said Jon, squinting against the sudden brightness. He was wearing a thick padded coat and boots over a flimsy robe and what looked like even flimsier underwear, not that Stephen was looking. "Will you let me down now?"

Stephen approached, too wary to let him down just yet. "You are Jon, aren't you? I mean, you're not Santa in a Jon disguise? What about Black Peter in a Jon disguise? Will you stuff me in a sack and carry me away if I let you free?"

Even upside-down and red in the face, it was obvious that Jon was struggling not to say something bitterly sarcastic. "Yes, I'm really me. Stephen, please, I'm losing feeling in my feet."

Stephen went to the winch he'd rigged up and started easing Jon down.

After a bit of flailing, Jon's palms were safely splayed on the carpet. Then he was braced on his elbows, holding up his head, gasping for breath. The torso was a balancing act, but once that was steady Stephen let his legs down quickly, then ran to his side to undo the knot. (If anyone asked, he'd learned that in the Boy Scouts.)

"Sorry if I'm intruding," said Jon, on his back and not even trying to sit up, while Stephen worked on the rope. "I didn't mean to come here. Just sort of, uh, fell into it. I'm supposed to be getting a ride back to Bermuda tomorrow...but I could probably make it back to my cabin for tonight, if you still have the spare key."

Stephen cringed. Did Jon hate him that much, that he couldn't stand to be in the same building with him even if it meant shivering through a winter wonderland to get away?

"Jon, I...I screwed up. I know." He was on his knees, one hand resting on Jon's ankle. "I made some terrible, terrible mistakes, and I realize you will probably never like me again, but can't you stay? Please? I have a guest bed. It's very comfortable, and you don't have to walk through any snow. Please stay."

Jon hoisted himself off the floor. Still in the coat, he was puffy and adorable, and Stephen ached for the days when he could have pounced on the man and hugged him for it. There was snow melting in his hair. "Yeah, okay, I could do that. Thanks."

"I didn't get you a present!" blurted Stephen. Had to keep Jon talking, keep him interested, cling to his presence just a little longer. "I'm sorry. Did you want a present? I know you didn't want one with the SuperPAC money, but I couldn't do that anyway, because I gave it all away — did you notice? I don't know if you would have noticed. I didn't make a big deal about it, or anything."

Was that a smile? Stephen wasn't sure. It had been so long since Jon had given him one. "I did notice that, Stephen. And I'm glad you did it. It was nice of you."

Stephen practically swooned with relief. He was doing great so far. In the sense of "great" that meant "not making Jon cry again." "I could still get you something, though," he added. "Even if it'll be too late to be a Hanukkah present. Or too early. I don't know when Hanukkah is, Jon."

Jon unzipped his coat. "Too late. You were right the first time."

"But it can be a Christmas present, right?" Stephen was trying not to hop with earnestness. "A philosophical Christmas present. Papa Bear swears that's a thing. Only I'm not sure he's right, because do philosophies qualify for tax-exempt status? I'm not sure that they do."

"Stephen..." Jon seemed to be searching for words, which was worrying, since Jon knew a lot of words. "First of all, I really am glad to hear you using some critical thinking on O'Reilly's announcements, okay? But in general, about always knew what I wanted. And, well, we saw how well that turned out. So at this point, just don't worry about it, okay?"

"Okay," said Stephen weakly. "What about cider?"


"You look cold. I have cider. And instant cocoa. Would you be mad if I offered—?"

"No," said Jon, softening. "No, Stephen, I would be okay with accepting cider from you."

"Great!" exclaimed Stephen. "Kettle's on the stove, cider mix is on the microwave, mugs are in the cupboard. Make me one too, okay? There's something really important I just remembered I have to do on the Internet."

Jon made hot cider, two mugs, and sat with Stephen on the couch while Stephen's fingers darted furiously over his tablet's screen-keyboard.

It was comforting, in a way, that Stephen was still Stephen. Made it easier for Jon to accept his flailing attempts at selflessness as genuine. He was settling back into the way he had been before the whole mess started, before Stephen torpedoed their relationship, before Jon gave him the opening to try it in the first place. Maybe they could be friends again soon. Maybe Jon could stop going to work by helicopter.

Stephen's cider sat untouched until at last he finished typing.

"Has anyone ever managed to teach you how to use Twitter?" he asked.

"Haven't even tried for about a year," admitted Jon.

"Well, this is the easy part," said Stephen with forced briskness. He pushed the tablet into Jon's lap; Jon nearly spilled his cider jerking it out of the way. "Reading. You start here, and go this way."

Jon got a grip on the tablet and started reading the way Stephen's finger had directed.

usericon Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome 6m
ATTN: Nation: regret to inform you that I have been misrepresenting self for some time. Will endeavor to correct. In the name of Truth.

usericon Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome 6m
I'm gay.

usericon Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome 6m
oh god

usericon Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome 5m
Not gay like the Flintstones' old time. Gay like rainbow flags, baby carrots, skill at interior design. Probably should have specified.

usericon Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome 4m
Maybe Flintstones are other kind of gay too? Fred and Barney sure snuck away from wives to be together a lot.

usericon Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome 4m
sorry that was getting off topic

usericon Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome 3m
I know this all must seem very sudden but the reason is that I hurt someone I love very much by not admitting it earlier

usericon Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome 2m
for all the salacious detail please refer to this summary of my feelings as sung by Iron Man

usericon Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome 2m
so I wanted to hurry up and get it out of the way before I have a chance to do that to anybody else.

usericon Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome 1m
Also I don't believe we cause hurricanes.

usericon Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome 1m
That's all I had to say. Thanks for reading. Sorry if this has been spamming anybody's tweet inbox (twinbox? (c) Stephen Colbert 2012).

usericon Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome 39s
P.S. International Nation, please RT in case I have a fit of panic and try to delete before American Nation wakes up and sees it. TY.

Jon clicked the link, took a moment to process what song it was, and looked up.

Stephen was tilting forward like a tree in a hurricane, staring at his hands, which were folded in his lap. His face was pale, and, okay, he was shaking. Literally vibrating with every breath.

Shake it off, Col-bert, thought Stephen furiously. Turned out it didn't help when shaking was the problem in the first place.

"This is...really good, Stephen," said Jon. He was doing the soft-voiced and slow-spoken thing again. "I want to say thank you, it's tremendous...but you're the one it's going to do the most for, in the end. You know that, right?"

"Uh-huh," said Stephen.

"It's going to be a big deal for a while," Jon added. "Some people will freak out. But it'll pass, and when the dust is all settled, you're going to feel a lot better. I promise, you are."


"And...if there's anything I can do. In terms of support, or being someone to talk to, or...anything like that, you can ask me, okay? If, if that's something you would want...I'd be here for you."

"Can I have a hug?" croaked Stephen, raising his head.

"Yes. Of course." Jon put aside the tablet — carefully, since Stephen no longer had any unregulated donor money to replace it — and opened his arms to let Stephen settle into a long-awaited embrace. "Of course you can. Come here, Stephen. By this point, yeah, I think you've earned a hug."