They had been working on this project for eight hours already and Jackson was ready to throw in the fucking towel. Yes, it was the deciding factor for whether they passed the class or not, but it was past midnight and this was just ridiculous. His head hurt from the eye strain of too much reading, he was well on his way to starving to death, and the paper cut he’d gotten making up the visual aid for their presentation was still stinging like a bitch.
And then there was Stiles, who was his own special form of torture.
It wasn’t that Stiles was a bad project partner. Surprisingly enough, he wasn’t. If asked a few weeks ago, Jackson would’ve predicted that Stiles would be flaky and lazy and indecisive and an all-around nightmare to work with. The truth was that Stiles probably would’ve just done the entire project himself if Jackson hadn’t insisted he actually be involved.
No, the torture part was in the fact that, when Stiles wasn’t making wholly ridiculous faces and running his mouth ten miles a minute, he was actually sort of attractive. Jackson cursed the day that realization had come to him because it would probably end up ruining his history grade and also his life.
It was in the way Stiles frowned just a little bit when he was reading, eyes flicking back and forth faster than should’ve been possible. It was in the way his nose turned up at the end. It was in the way his lips looked when he chewed on his pens, all pink and wet and puckered. It was in the way he literally never stopped moving, even when he was wholly absorbed in what he was doing. It was in the way his eyes lit up when he stumbled upon something really interesting and turned to Jackson because he just needed to share it with someone right away.
It was in the way Jackson was fucking gone on the little nerd and he didn’t even know when that had happened. All he knew was that it made working with Stiles—going over to Stiles’ house three times a week, getting random texts from Stiles throughout the day (only half the time about the actual project), having Stiles plop down next to him during lunch like he belonged there—a much more stressful experience than it should’ve been.
Okay, so maybe Jackson’s frustrating crush wasn’t the only source of stress. He had been right about Stiles’ indecisiveness, if nothing else. Stiles had a maddening tendency to get halfway through something and then change his mind, scrap it, and start all over. Which was why they were here, the night before it was due, long past any reasonable bedtime and still not done.
They were so close though. The essay was finished, all works cited. The talking points for the presentation had been written and divvied up between them. The timeline of historically relevant events was laid out in order. The little pieces of paper just needed to be glued down to the poster board and made aesthetically pleasing because Mrs. Mahoney was just that heinous to take 10% off because their board wasn’t pretty enough.
It was almost one in the morning and Jackson was moving purely on autopilot by now. He’d even run out of energy to be distracted by Stiles, which was impressive because being distracted by Stiles had become his most persistent pastime lately. Now the glue stick and the poster board were the only things in his world.
Those and the possibility of actually going home soon, hopefully before he passed out on Stiles’ bed. He wasn’t quite sure how Stiles would react to that.
Honestly, he wasn't sure how Stiles would react to anything regarding him. He used to be pretty secure in the knowledge that Stiles couldn’t stand him, just like he hadn’t been able to stand Stiles. They’d been firmly in the “enemies” category for years, and Jackson couldn’t pinpoint when they’d shifted to something else.
Maybe they’d migrated to “reluctant teammates” when Stiles finally made first line. Maybe they’d graduated to “frenemies” when their friend groups had meshed without consulting either of them about it. Maybe they’d even made it to “friendly acquaintances” when they’d started sharing exasperated looks over Scott and Danny making goo-goo eyes at each other at lunch.
Now though. Jackson knew that he was firmly into “pining loser” territory, but he had no idea where Stiles was and that was more frustrating than anything else, even all the flip-flopping they’d done on topics for this stupid project. So Stiles had texted him yesterday to complain about his dad’s cooking, and the day before just because he was bored. Did that mean he thought they were friends? Did that mean Stiles actually wanted to talk to him, not just because they were project partners or Scott-and-Danny-adjacent but because he just wanted to talk to Jackson?
Would he be annoyed if Jackson fell asleep in his bed? Or would it make his heart race like the thought of it made Jackson’s?
God, Jackson clearly needed to sleep if he was starting to think shit like that. He was almost done with his end of the timeline. Just one more decorative border to glue down and his half would be done.
As soon as the last piece was smoothed down and secure, Jackson threw the poster board off the side of the bed and onto the floor with a flourish that made the whole bed bounce because he was done! Now if Stiles was finished with his half, then they could—
Stiles was asleep. His poster board was two borders away from being finished, but Stiles was leaned back against the wall with his face slack and his mouth wide open, glue stick still in hand, very much fast asleep. It was a miracle he wasn’t snoring.
Part of Jackson wanted to be annoyed. Part of him was annoyed, really, but the rest of him was caught by the dark circles under Stiles’ eyes and the long curve of his neck. His initial impulse to knock Stiles over faded pretty quickly and he tugged the glue stick from Stiles’ limp hand instead.
The last two borders only took a few minutes to put in place and then everything was officially ready to present. By tomorrow afternoon, it would be over and they wouldn’t be project partners anymore. They’d have no more school-sanctioned reasons to spend time together.
Jackson swallowed down the little bubble of something he didn’t want to name that wondered if Stiles would want to keep hanging out anyway or if Stiles would be relieved to be rid of him. He gave himself a mental shake; that was a question for tomorrow when he wasn’t exhausted and unreasonably emotional. Now was the time to go home and sleep.
He shifted to the edge of the bed, ready to get up, and reached back to give Stiles a nudge because there was no way spending the whole night like that wouldn’t make him miserable in the morning. Stiles didn’t wake up though. He made a sleepy noise and smacked his lips a few times, mumbling something. Jackson bit down on a smile.
“Come on, Stiles, wake up,” he said. “Bedtime.”
Stiles mumbled again, shaking his head because he was stubborn even in his sleep. Jackson rolled his eyes. He reached out again, giving Stiles’ shoulder a firmer shake.
Apparently it was too firm because Stiles tipped over entirely. His limp form flopped across his bed, and his head landed firmly in Jackson’s lap.
Jackson froze, waiting for Stiles to wake up and flail and shout and knock himself off the bed in his haste to get away. But that didn’t happen. Stiles clearly slept like the dead because he didn’t even move from the twisted position he’d fallen into. He just wrapped his arm around Jackson’s knee and nuzzled his cheek against Jackson’s thigh like he was perfectly content to sleep right there.
It made Jackson go hot all over and he really wasn’t sure if it was embarrassment or arousal. His hands hovered over Stiles’ shoulder, torn between pushing him off or just holding on.
“Uh, Stiles,” he said, then had to stop and clear his throat. “Stiles, you probably want to wake up.”
Stiles just nuzzled his leg again. “Mm, five more minutes.”
Five more minutes of Stiles being that close to his crotch was probably going to lead to a very uncomfortable situation. Jackson finally made himself take hold of Stiles’ shoulder and squeeze.
“This is gonna get really awkward really fast if you don’t move,” he said with a huff. “You don’t even know what you’re doing, do you?”
Currently he was petting Jackson’s inner thigh like it was his favorite teddy bear, and it was doing things to Jackson. But Stiles also had a little smile on his face that was unbearably cute and that was doing things to Jackson too, less sexual things that just made his heart clench and his thoughts turn to mush.
The mushy thoughts only got worse when Stiles sniffled and murmured Jackson’s name on a sigh, still with that smile. Suddenly getting home to bed didn’t seem like such an important goal. Besides, he was already on a bed, wasn’t he? And if Stiles was saying his name like that, holding onto him so tightly, then he could make a pretty reasonable argument that Stiles wouldn’t mind him staying right where he was. Right?
It took some doing to get himself back onto the bed properly without dislodging Stiles, but not as much as he would’ve expected. Stiles was clinging to him pretty firmly and he made dissatisfied noises whenever he was jostled too much that had Jackson grinning.
Jackson ended up with his head on Stiles’ pillow and Stiles’ head on his thigh. Only as soon as he was settled, Stiles stirred. He blinked around blearily for a second while Jackson’s fight or flight response revved up, but there was no explosion. Instead Stiles wormed his way up the bed to lay himself fully on top of Jackson and bury his nose in Jackson’s neck.
Jackson stayed very still. If Stiles was actually still sleeping, then waking him up might be disastrous. If he wasn’t, then Jackson had no idea what level they had just graduated to.
Stiles shifted, his breath suddenly hot on Jackson’s ear.
“Stop thinking so loud,” he said, his voice low and scratchy and perfect. “Too tired and comfy for thinking.”
“You think I’m comfy?” Jackson asked once he managed to get his tongue to cooperate with him.
“I think you’re a lot of things.” Stiles lips pressed against Jackson’s neck, warm and damp. “We can talk about how great you are in the morning. As long as we talk about how great I am too.”
Jackson had to laugh, the sudden absence of anxiety making him a little lightheaded. “I think I can manage that.”
“Good, now shut up so I can sleep on you.”
There was no reason not to comply. It was late at night, the lamp wasn’t too bright, their project was complete, and Jackson had pretty strong evidence that Stiles would want to keep seeing him after this. And Stiles was right about being very comfortable like this, even if Stiles was heavy and his chin was digging into Jackson’s shoulder a little bit.
Jackson just wrapped his arms around Stiles’ waist and held on. He wasn’t inclined toward letting go anytime soon.