Carlos is struck by how unused he's become to things that he had always taken for granted before. It's only been a year and a half since he last came out to San Francisco, and he's gone longer than that without visiting before, much longer- but it feels as though he's been away for a decade or more, or maybe that he hasn't ever been at all and that everything is new. Every sensation feels as though it's intensified tenfold from what he remembers, the cool breeze and the brief shower of rain this morning seeming like a comparative gale and rainstorm on his skin.
He wonders if the defining factor might be Cecil's presence. Carlos's life has largely been separated for a while now into pre- and post-Night Vale and seeing Cecil, so strongly a part of the latter, interact with what he thinks of as the former- it's disconcerting. It's almost as though Carlos's own brain is somehow writing Cecil in somehow, slowly trying to convince Carlos that Cecil was always here. The distinction is starting to feel blurred.
They go down to watch the sea together that morning, because Cecil hasn't in some number of years he won't name and Carlos refuses to wait until the afternoon when the area inevitably becomes crowded. Seeing Cecil in the thin, early December sunlight is strange. The light in Night Vale never dips below 'harsh' unless night has fallen or the sky is some unnatural colour, casting unnatural shadows to match. Here, the sea is a soft grey and the sky is pale; Cecil is in bright green and purple and an old, over-large pair of Carlos's jeans because they'd been to hand that morning. It all looks almost too much, too present for this landscape, like he'll start bleeding over at the edges if he stays too long. He keeps laughing as the breeze blows his long hair over his face, loud in the otherwise quiet space.
The near-silence stretches on for a little while as they watch the waves churn back and forth. Carlos feels almost dizzy from the movement. He's used to wide, dark spaces- long nights spent unable to sleep in Night Vale got him very acquainted with the desert- but Carlos can't even focus his thoughts looking at this, too busy trying and failing to follow each swell. Instead, he turns to Cecil and examines him for a long moment before breaking the silence gently.
"She's really looking forward to meeting you," he says, hushed. Cecil smiles, watching the ocean in an unfocused way, his eyes moving this way and that, apparently unconcerned by the paths of waves. His hair is still blowing all over, and Carlos wishes suddenly that he had something to tie it up with, so he could see Cecil's face more clearly, and also simply because he'd like to carefully tie up Cecil's hair.
"I'm looking forward to meeting her," Cecil says after a moment, tapping his cane idly as he watches the waves washing in and out. "She sounded lovely on the phone. Of course, any sister of yours would be, that goes without saying."
Carlos knows that this is just the sort of thing Cecil tends to say, things like any car you own is the best type of car, things like the effusive praise of Carlos's frankly limited wardrobe- but he loves his sister, and so he can't help but grin to hear that. "Yes. Yes, she is."
Lovely is the word, he thinks, for his sister and Cecil both. His sister is open-hearted to a fault, loud and sweet at the same time, unable to hold a grudge and unwilling to let anyone take advantage of her. He thinks, he hopes, that she and Cecil will get along. He can't imagine any way they wouldn't, being the people Carlos knows them as, but a small part of him still worries that Silvia will find Cecil too much, or not enough, or too far removed from her idea of family to find a way to bring him in. It's a part he's trying hard to smother.
Cecil is looking at him sidelong, Carlos realises. He's been staring.
"Thank you," Cecil says, startling Carlos into attention- Cecil isn't prone to non-sequiters, and this seems particularly abrupt, as they go. He sounds a little hesitant; he seems to be choosing his next words carefully. "I know how important your family is to you. I understand this must be... stressful." He clears his throat, brow furrowed slightly. "I just mean- I know it can be hard, sometimes, this sort of thing. I'm glad you wanted me to come."
Carlos really wants to say no, not at all, to refute that unspoken reinforcement of his own worries. He desperately doesn't want Cecil to think that he's somehow an embarrassment or a thing to be hidden away from Carlos's other life, something to change the subject about at Christmas or Easter. But he's a poor liar even to himself and he can't pretend he isn't worried, certainly not to Cecil, who looks at him with such attention sometimes that it's like, paradoxically, Carlos isn't there at all and Cecil is looking straight through him to what's behind his eyes. He can't pretend there isn't a layer of history to his family he hasn't been able to fully explain in all his halting attempts, and he can't pretend that it doesn't matter to him, and most of all he can't pretend he doesn't know how out of control he feels, stepping back and letting these two parts of his life collide while he watches and waits.
Things had, he reflected, seemed simpler back in Night Vale. He wonders for a moment how this would have gone if they'd done this the other way around and let Silvia come to them as she'd originally suggested. He can't help but think of it as the possibility of being on home turf.
In the end, Carlos swallows and croaks out a "yeah", then a "sorry", then "it's fine, I'm sorry". Cecil's free hand finds his, locking in tightly. "It'll be fine," Carlos says, his voice a little clearer this time. "I'm just overreacting. Family, you know?"
Cecil hums his agreement, his hand squeezing Carlos's again. He seems content to leave it at that. When Carlos looks down he can see the linked hands, Cecil's with long, thin fingers, his nails painted a cool blue against his warm brown skin, Carlos's callused and, he privately thinks, too clumsy for this. He feels grounded in the insubstantial light, his nose and mouth full of unfamiliar sea salt and Cecil quietly worming his way into Carlos's memories of the ocean. In a way this was the first test, he thinks, that this thing they have feels as substantial here as it does in a place as manic and hasty as Night Vale.
It does. He grips tighter.