It's way past three in the morning already, but no benevolent Sandman passes through your room tonight.
There's no fun to be had in the constant twisting and turning in your bed this time, and soon frustration comes over you, as your companion mumbles progressively louder to himself, before finally sighing and flipping himself belly-up next to you.
Your name is John Egbert, and sometimes, for no particular whim or reason, sleep eludes you for hours on end. The young man beside you, just as disarrayed as you beneath crumbling layers of indifference, partakes in this sleepless curse as well every time, but for once you wish you wouldn't be in such synch. Dave Strider turns his face to you, all droopy crimson eyes and subtle grimaces, and the recognition that passes through his expression - a mirror of yours - is enough to have you nod and groan softly.
He smoothly reaches closer to you, wrinkling the fabric of the bed covers as he moves, and he nudges you out of bed, his hands still warm on your chest. In the dim glow of moonlight, you could count every single freckle on his skin, if you weren't this sleepy, and if you were wearing your glasses. By the time you're up, he has already gathered your scattered clothing from the floor and he's idly tossing yours to you, and you get dressed in silence, stealing glances at him, at how stoic he still forces himself to look, at how tired he really is.
This has become some sort of ritual of yours, getting up and out while the whole world is sleeping, trailing the dark, silent streets with grumpy faces and in a fuzzy state of awareness. You know this is something he did before with his brother, and you still joke about how dumb things were in the Strider residence, but you can tell that there is nothing ironic or indifferent about this, and even if his eyes are guarded and his expression trained to complete nullity, you know him well enough to see he misses his brother, and feels somewhat awkward that he has to bring you along, as if you were some sort of replacement.
You know this and you know it's your job to snap him out of it, so you jab at him, your grin wide and toothy, through the whole walk to the familiar diner, and while he still mumbles in his characteristic monotone in reply, the small smirks you catch are more than enough to reassure you. For now.
The diner is old and shady, and it seems to take pride on both things. It's too late and too early for it to harbor many people right now, and the neon lights of the sign flicker on and off from the lack of maintenance, the front door opens with a loud, painful creak from the rust gathering around the edges. You sit on your usual spot: a table right next to the window, and he's slouching on the cushion, next to you, as the familiar waitress comes and takes your usual order.
You wait, and you're quietly observing him, and he seems to be in a much better mood now, twirling the tiny bottles of ketchup and mustard in his left hand, making some snarky remarks about how the waitress always likes you better, and always brings you - and not him - the best this shitty place has to offer. You giggle, the sound stifled by a yawn, and you're about to go on a beautiful tangent on all your hidden charms and cutesy factors when the waitress returns, and you hear Dave snort, because your plate is so clearly better than his.
You stuff your faces in silence, hamburgers and sausages and fried eggs - shiny and slippery and revolting from the oil they've been drowned in - falling one after the other into your mouths, but he is soon distracted by the oncoming huge plate of chips, and you giggle as you wipe your mouth and rub your full stomach.
Dave's left hand is back at the bottles, and he picks up the red one, pushing the chips closer to himself. They are round and flat and perfect, and despite his legendary prowess at making SBaHJ the shittiest comic ever conceived, you know there's always truth to all highest tiers of ironies, and the scribbles he draws in moist, shiny red on the chips are actually pretty amazing. He draws Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff first, and then it's bunnies and their carrots, pianos and turntables, glasses and shades, memoirs of him and you. He draws and he places these tiny canvases on your open hands, and you know he'll take offense if you don't eat them. He keeps the charred and the smaller ones to himself, and he chews obnoxiously loudly at them as he carries on.
And then, right at the bottom of the plate, he finds the most perfect and biggest chip ever.
You hear him ramble about how he can't waste this opportunity, this most beautiful of blank canvases, and you see yourself ushered across him, as he crouches over his own work, because this will be a masterpiece and you can't see it till it's over.
You pout as you watch him work, but flawless Egbert puppy eyes don't do the trick when the victim isn't paying attention. You sigh, because he is so focused on this stupid thing right now, and a part of you feels guilty, because you fear he feels the need to compensate for dragging you along to these things. But another part of you knows that he's just so utterly silly sometimes, and you just have to indulge his dorkiness, and you sigh yet again, because your order of pancakes is here, and you eat them slowly and in silence, frowning a little as he moves and squeezes the ketchup bottle carefully over the surface of titan-chip.
You try and offer him a few forkfuls of your pancakes, making sure to get a lot of the strawberries and whipped cream you know he likes, but he still refuses them, focus locked on his work.
It's only a while later, after you're done with your dessert and have eaten the rest of the chips, that he's finally finished, and you giddily return to your spot next to him, and yes, this was very much worth the wait.
On the greasy surface of titan-chip, drawn in a greasy red, is a tiny portrait of you.
Now, you know you were never really attractive, or particularly beautiful, or looked all that special. As far as the ideal beauty thing went, you know Dave fits the standards a lot better, with his blonde hair and delicate, almost androgynous features, the wiry frame of his body, the broad constellation of freckles splattered across his skin. You look at him, and his head is rested sleepily on your shoulder now, and he's perfect in ways you know you could never achieve.
You are perfectly boring and banal, and the portrait of you on this huge-ass chip is a very loyal representation of this. But the way Dave worked on these accurate traits of you, touching every line of your face and of you with something that was so very his and even more special than any physical beauty that he might possess, makes you feel like the most special person in the whole paradox space, and you're grinning like an idiot at a chip.
And you're grinning because Dave is so dumb and silly, but also incredible and your most favorite person in the world. He is the best artist you know, because he puts so much of himself in these utterly non-ironic things he does, and it can be a pain to decipher coolkid sometimes, but then he goes and does something like this, and you can't help but feel your heart weighing pleasantly down on you, filling with warmth and tenderness and all other ridiculously fuzzy feelings. You turn your head slightly, your eyes relishing on the sight of him snoozing against you, and you sometimes don't know what to do to just show him how much you love him.
Hopefully he knows. Hopefully he'll never doubt it.
You know you have to eat this chip, otherwise he'll throw a fit and you'll never hear the end of it, but you pick up your cell phone and take a snapshot of it first, saving it forever in these wires, in your memory.
The waitress comes round again, clearing your table off the ridiculous amount of plates it has gathered, and she comments on Dave's cuteness factor, and you gladly agree with everything she says.
Waking him up again is something you don't look forward to, especially when he is this peaceful, but you do so anyway, and he doesn't say a word as you hold his hand in yours and you walk back home. He notices your grin though - how couldn't he?? - and he surely knows of the reason behind it.
At home, you climb back to bed as the night is just threatening to end. You have undressed him as he has undressed you, and you move on top of him, beneath the covers, kissing the beautiful skin sprawled just for you, holding tightly onto the person who has you completely wrapped around his heartstrings. And you know he's as sleepy as you and this won't go much further than the lips you now slide and melt slowly with his, but you smile at him and kiss him and love him all the same, pulling back when his breath grows slower and you feel his body relax beneath you. Five whole minutes of sleepy sloppy makeouts, this has to be a record.
You smile, and you kiss his face tenderly as you curl up on his side, running long fingers through his hair and dropping the same three words over and over on his ear until the first rays of sunshine slide into the room and you're asleep too.