"Here's the thing," Cecil says to the draped mirror. He's fresh out of the shower, hair spiky from being towelled dry, and he's buttoning a short-sleeved white linen shirt over a pair of dark grey boxer briefs.
He's also rehearsing the speech he tried out in the shower.
"I love the way you've embraced Night Vale. All of our quirks. The things that seem perfectly ordinary to me but apparently they're scientific oddities."
Apparently? He grimaces even though he can't see his reflection. That makes it sound as though he doesn't believe Carlos, and he does; of course he does. He's traveled outside of Night Vale. He knows that not every municipality uses bloodstone circles, or makes executive decision based on the patterns in bird entrails.
"I love your enthusiasm for everything weird and unusual in Night Vale," he tries, and that sounds better.
Jeans. Is it cool enough for jeans? Fuck it; even if it's hot out, he looks better in jeans than in shorts. Jeans it is. He reaches into the closet for a clean pair of black jeans, washed enough times that they're greying a bit where they're frayed at the cuffs.
"I'm just worried --" Does worried sound too strong? "Concerned," he amends, "that maybe you're expecting me to be unusual, too." He checks his watch; it's ten 'til eight, he has time. Straightens his shoulders and stands up tall, the way his mother always bugged him to do.
"I'm not unusual," Cecil says to the piece of black cloth covering the mirror. "I don't have magical powers, or a third eye, or any esoteric secrets. I'm just a gay radio host in a small community -- which believe me, makes me unusual enough around here; when you came to town it was like a revelation, I've either dated, or can't stand, every other queer man in town -- which is not to say," he adds hastily, "that that's why I'm interested in you -- "
His words are galloping like a runaway horse. He reins them in. "I just --"
He runs out of words.
No. He has to have the words for this. He always has the words; why is this so difficult? He closes his eyes and imagines that he's in the comfortable safety of the studio, headphones blanketing his ears, the microphone inviting his confidence.
"I'm falling in love with you and I don't think I could bear it if you wanted me to be something different than what I am."
Great; now he's said it to his mirror with his eyes closed. The odds of him being able to say any of this to Carlos tonight are seeming perilously slim.
And then he hears the knock. His heart skips a beat. "Coming," he calls, and can't help running to the door. Carlos is standing right outside with a bundle of black tulips in a mason jar. "Oh, they're beautiful!" Cecil exclaims, and takes them out of Carlos' hands. "Here, let me--"
When he turns around after placing the jar in the center of his breakfast table, Carlos is looking at him with such fond tenderness that his heart brims over.
It's now or never. "Carlos," he begins. "There's something I--"
"I don't want you to be anything other than who you are," Carlos blurts out. "I promise."
Realization crashes over him and he sits down on the couch, his knees suddenly wobbly. "You heard me," Cecil confirms.
"I got here early," Carlos admits, sitting down next to him. "But I didn't want to seem that overeager. I mean, five minutes early is one thing, but I was here by 7:40, which is dorky in the extreme, right?" He offers a chagrined smile. "I just couldn't wait to leave the lab and come pick you up. So I sat down in the hallway and borrowed your wifi to check email on my cellphone."
"How much did you hear?" Relief wars with embarassment.
"Enough that I had to come in and --" Carlos clears his throat. "I mean. You know I'm. I'm falling for you too." The words pour out so quickly that they almost run together into one, but it doesn't matter; Cecil understands perfectly.
Their knees are touching. Cecil leans in just a little bit and Carlos, ever-observant, picks up his cue and closes the gap between them. They've kissed at least a hundred times. It makes Cecil feel giddy every time.
"Lucky me," Cecil murmurs when they break.
"Lucky both of us," Carlos corrects him, smiling the cat-got-the-cream smile which Cecil's pretty sure no one else ever gets to see.