The wind bites at his cheeks. He's got his hands shoved into his pockets, but he should have worn gloves. It wasn't so cold earlier, when the sun was still out. He could have done with a scarf as well.
Instead he's just wearing jeans and the shirt he was going to sleep on under his normal daytime coat, the first pair of shoes he saw by the door on his feet.
He looks like a fucking mess, but that's alright. If there's ever the right time to be a mess, it's three in the morning.
He stands in front of the refrigerated display case staring at the eggs. He's got his phone in one hand, squinting down at it.
Can't fuck this up. Gotta get it right, the voice in his head says.
He just needs a win today. Just one little win.
He should go to bed, he thinks, standing in their kitchen with one single light on and a cloth bag of his purchases sitting on the counter top in front of him.
He should leave it til morning.
That's what a sane person would do.
He pulls up his phone, looks to the recipe still up in the most recent window.
But what if he tries in the morning and he doesn't get it right?
Just one practice round.
The first one comes out perfectly, but he's afraid it might be a fluke.
The second one comes out strangely wrinkled at the bottom.
The third and fourth are consistently average. Passable, except how did the first one end up so perfect, and can he settle for average when he's already surpassed it once?
Or was that luck and circumstance, not skill? Is it futile to spend your whole life remembering that one good thing you did and wondering how to do it again? Are you just supposed to accept that sometimes greatness is a fluid state of being and average is not only more attainable but probably offers stability that true success cannot? No one's ever terrified of not being seen as average anymore. Average just - is.
He burns the fifth one.
"James? Are you up there?" Evan’s sleepy voice drifts up from the bottom of the stairs.
"Fuck," James whispers under his breath.
It's almost five in the morning. He has a wild thought that if he moves fast he can hide the evidence, but there's batter speckled all over the countertop and his shirt, broken egg shells in the sink, the baking powder and the flour are still sat out, and the air smells thick with something delicious.
There's really no hiding it.
"What is this?" Evan asks. He's shirtless, wearing only underwear, and rubbing his eyes sleepily. "What did you do?"
"I." James puts his hands down on the counter top, fingers curling around the ledge. "I couldn't sleep."
He sees Evan look from the mess James 's making, to the mess James is, to the plates piled high with fluffy golden American pancakes.
"I'm sorry," James adds.
Evan understands that sometimes James can't sleep. He just gets cross when James doesn't even try.
The idea of Evan being cross with him right now makes James feel almost sick with dread. He gives a third attempt at speaking. "I wanted to make you breakfast in bed tomorrow."
When he finally looks at Evan, Evan doesn't seem cross at all. He just looks soft and sleepy and warm. He reaches past James to turn the stovetop off, then right around to the other side of James to open the cutlery drawer.
He pulls out a fork and a knife and looks at James . "I hope you got maple syrup as well."
They watch the sun rise from their balcony, sticky fingers and full stomachs and almost empty plates.
"Was it good?" James can't help but ask. He just needs a win. Just one.
"They're perfect." Evan smiles at him and drags the last bite through the puddle of syrup.
James lets out a noisy breath. That just - it feels good. Hearing it feels good. "Let's go to bed."