Jack walked onto the back porch of his parents’ home, shrugging off his work vest and running his hand through his short brown hair. He swung open the door and was surprised to see light flowing from the kitchen doorway. “Will?” he called. It wasn’t rare for Will to be up this late, but he was usually out at his lab. If he was home, he usually didn’t bother to turn on the lights. Jack stepped through the doorway and walked into the hall, rounding the corner to look into the kitchen. Will wasn’t the one sitting at the table. “Paul, what are you still doing here? I thought you went home hours ago.”
Paul lifted his head from where it had been resting on papers on the table. A lot of papers, scattered all over the surface, nearly hiding a textbook that presently had a small drool stain on the page. Paul’s jaw was slack and his hair curled wildly around his ears. “It’s… I gotta finish my statistics homework. Didn’t wanna stop working.”
Jack let out a small huff of a laugh and walked over to Paul, putting a hand on his shoulder. “It’s two in the morning, man. Community college can’t take over your health. You’ve gotta sleep.”
Paul leaned into the touch for a moment before bringing his hand to his face and rubbing at his eyes. “No. Due tomorrow. I gotta finish it.” He leaned forward and reached for a mug resting on the table. “There’s a test next week.”
Jack recognized the mug - one of the gag gifts he’d given Will at one point, a novelty mug that said “sleep is for the weak” - and gently took it from Paul. “No more coffee,” he said, squeezing Paul’s shoulder. “Time for bed. You okay to drive home, or do you just want to stay over?”
Paul shook his head. “I’m awake. I’m fine. I’ll finish it and then I’ll go to bed.” He reached for the mug again, but Jack held it out of his reach.
“Paul, no. I’m fucking serious, you have to go to bed.” Jack moved away from Paul and dumped the coffee down the sink, hearing Paul groan. “You were already asleep on the table. That’s not gonna help any.”
“I wasn’t asleep, I…”
“What, you were resting your eyes?” Jack asked, turning around to face Paul. “C’mon, dude. Go to bed already.”
Paul sat back in his chair, folding his arms and twisting his mouth into a pout. “What if I say no?”
“Stare me down for thirty seconds without nodding off and I’ll leave you alone.” Jack met Paul’s gaze and watched his friend’s glaring eyes glaze over. His head was nodding within ten seconds. Jack walked back over and put his hands on both of Paul’s shoulders, stooping slightly in front of him. “I win. Let’s go.”
Paul mumbled something indecipherable as Jack took him by the wrist and pulled him to his feet, but didn’t fight as he was walked away from the kitchen and toward the stairs. When Jack paused to turn off the lights, Paul’s wrist slipped from his hand, and Jack felt Paul’s fingers intertwine loosely with his own. With the lights off, the Joyce house - a few miles out of Riverport - was only lit by the moonlight that fell in through the windows, and Jack couldn’t make out Paul’s expression as their hands hung together. Jack tightened his grip on Paul’s hand and smiled softly, then walked toward the stairs, Paul in tow.
When they reached Jack’s room at the top of the stairs, Jack discarded his work vest over the chair by his desk and turned to face Paul. They were still holding hands, and Paul’s eyes were almost entirely closed as he swayed slightly on his feet. “Paul,” Jack said, snapping his fingers in front of his friend’s face. “You need to take off your binder. Can’t sleep in it.”
Paul blinked at the sudden noise, and after a second he nodded and released Jack’s hand, turning away before pulling off his shirt. Jack turned and removed his own shirt and chest binder, kicking off his shoes and jeans as well. When he pulled his shirt on and turned back around, Paul was standing in only his T-shirt and boxers, rubbing his eyes.
“Over here.” Jack took Paul by the hand again and pushed him in the direction of the bed. Paul laid down obediently, eyes closing immediately. Jack sighed and ran his hand through his hair again. He’d ended up surrounded by nocturnal dweebs.
Jack smiled down at Paul, then turned toward the bedroom door. He could take the couch instead. But when he took a step, he felt a tug on his arm: Paul was still holding onto his hand, and when Jack looked back, Paul was sitting up. “I don’t want to take your bed,” he said, voice quiet and slurred. “You need - it’s your bed.”
Jack’s smile widened fondly. “Yeah, alright,” he said, feeling the exhaustion of his day catching up with him. “As long as we’re both up here already. Scoot over.”
The two of them fell asleep quickly, fingers still tangled and Jack’s arm looped over Paul’s stomach. Jack woke to the sound of Paul’s phone, alarm ringing from Paul’s neatly folded clothes pile on the floor by the bed. He sat up and looked down at Paul’s face. There was no motion beyond his breathing; Paul was out cold. Jack reached over and disabled Paul’s alarm, then pulled himself close to Paul again and closed his eyes with a contented smile.