The first time it happened Carlos didn’t pay any attention. Admittedly, the restroom in the radio station wasn't his best idea but he figured that a year in Night Vale was fair enough reason for a poor decision.
Of course, having Cecil grinning down at him (cheeks rosy and eyes shining) was more than enough compensation. Carlos had a niggling suspicion that, since sometime before choosing to settle in this damn town, Cecil was the most sensible decision he'd made. He kissed him again just to hear the breathless, pleased sigh Cecil let out in the space between them.
Carlos gripped Cecil's shirt and pushed him back against the sinks. Definitely the best decision he'd made since moving to Night Vale. Cecil hoisted himself back onto the counter, catching Carlos' bottom lip between his teeth with the movement.
He offered no apology - Carlos didn't expect one, to be fair - but he pulled back and ran his thumb over the reddening dents he left. Carlos let his hands drift to Cecil's hips, fingers digging in at the flicker of tongue across Cecil's lips as the other man stared.
He could feel the rise and fall of Cecil's chest against his. He shut his eyes and focussed on those warm movements, found himself matching his breathing. The fleshy pad of Cecil's thumb was making a warm trail across his cheek, then his jaw, and damnit, he was a grown-ass man of science not an undergrad having his first flush of freedom.
Cecil hooked his long legs around his waist and Carlos let out a shaky breath before that mouth (that stupid, pretty mouth) was back on his.
Fuck it, Carlos figured, if you couldn't dry hump in a bathroom whose mirrors stop working every fifth Monday, where could you?
Then something licked his hand.
He tensed and pulled back slowly.
"Yes, Carlos?" Cecil was staring at Carlos' mouth, eyes dark and heavy-lidded.
"Cecil. Something just licked me."
Cecil looked up from his mouth and frowned.
"Hmm? Oh," he looked down at Carlos' hands, "Carlos, meet Khoshek."
Carlos followed his gaze down to the furry thing that was now sniffing at his hand and making a noise not unlike a broken tractor.
It looked reassuringly like a cat. If you ignored it standing on what appeared to be thin air and being roughly the size of a small child.
Khoshek mewed and licked him again.
"Oh, he likes you! That's a relief."
Carlos had a momentary vision of ear-piercing shrieks and a spray of viscera across the bathroom wall. He carefully moved his hand away from the cat's curious nosing, landing somewhere on Cecil's thigh.
"Is it...is it bad if he doesn't like you?"
Cecil considered it, eyes now fixed on Carlos' hand. Carlos politely ignored the twitch underneath his palm.
"Well. I mean. It's not bad. Not if you don't want to be liked by such an adorable little kitty."
He looked a little crestfallen at the idea that anyone wouldn't want Khoshek nibbling at their fingertips. Carlos couldn't stop the reassurance slipping out.
"Uh, that's great then. Great. Who doesn't like cats?"
Cecil's smile was blinding.
"I know, right? I mean, I never used to be that into them, but then this little guy materialised here and you know, it just seemed silly not to like them all of sudden."
Khoshek stretched his leg and began cleaning himself noisily.
Carlos cleared his throat. His pants felt a lot more roomy than they had a few minutes ago, and Cecil's breathing had settled down. He gently removed Cecil's legs from his thighs. Cecil reached over and petted the cat, smiling absently.
"Want to meet his kittens? They don't belong to us, but they live here for...reasons. Adorable inter-dimensional entity problems, am I right?"
Carlos leaned forwards to press his face into Cecil's neck and swore silently. He murmured into his shoulder, "Sure, Cecil, I'm sure they're great."
They ended up missing their date, Cecil cooing over the furballs. He took Carlos' hand, shooting him a shy look, and guiding his fingers through Khoshek's fur.
It felt like silk, and Carlos' heart skipped a beat.
They don’t talk about That Time.
They do not even think about That Time.
That Time Carlos had Cecil shirtless and underneath him, beautifully flushed. Hands gripping warm skin, mouths biting and wet. Carlos rocking them together and Cecil making obscene noises in that stupid, perfect voice.
The prickling sensation on Carlos’ back that he’d thought was arousal, until it had grown to a tremor. He’d pulled away and they’d both stared at one another, slow realisation dawning as the sound of harsh static rang out from the alarm clock on Cecil’s bedside table.
Cecil and Carlos do not ever talk about looking up and finding a shapeless void of black standing over them, radiating disapproval.
Though Cecil does apologise for Carlos having to sleep on the sofa.
Cecil was leaning against his workbench and looking at the glass vials curiously. He didn’t reach out to poke, thank god. Carlos had felt like he’d kicked a puppy when he’d had to stop Cecil from sticking his fingers into a particularly nasty specimen scraped off the Ralph’s parking lot after the incident with the tentacles.
“Are you still looking at that fungus?”
“Hmm,” Carlos replied. He was poring over a slide of murky green sludge, occasionally making notes.
Cecil leant over his shoulder – careful not to jostle him, warmth radiating through his jacket.
“I imagine we’ve got some of the most scientifically interesting fungus in Night Vale. Not that I understand why fungus would be interesting. I suppose that’s why you’re the scientist.”
Carlos hmmed again, and swapped the slide for a new one, purple sludge this time.
Cecil touched his shoulder gently.
“Would you like a coffee, Carlos? You’ve been at this a while.”
Carlos grunted. There was the sound of Cecil’s loping walk, then the distant clinks of him puttering around in the kitchen.
The purple sludge appeared to hum as he tilted it to the left. Tilting it to the right gave Carlos the creeping sensation that someone was stood behind him, tapping their foot and tutting.
He left a question mark on the paper and moved to his microscope.
Cecil’s chatter from the next room was a pleasant undertone to his work, and Carlos found an easy rhythm with his observations. The smell of coffee eventually found its way to him.
“I know you don’t take sugar – as if you’d need it – and I used the last of your milk, I hope you don’t mind.”
The cup clunked down somewhere to Carlos’ left. Carlos mumbled something that may have been thanks, not moving from the microscope.
Cecil seemed to pause. He cleared his throat.
“...I could get you some more milk if you like.”
There was a soft sigh, then Cecil was leaning over, touching his shoulder and pressing a soft kiss to the top of Carlos’ head. Carlos squeezed Cecil’s hand once, noted the sludge appeared to now be growing as well as humming.
Cecil whispered “good night” and then he was alone.
It was around midnight that Carlos paused - he was attempting to wrestle the purple sludge (now more of a purple thing) back into a specimen case at the time.
He dropped it and slumped onto the table, smacking his forehead against his notebooks with some force. He then repeated the motion, groaning.
A purple feeler patted his shoulder and trilled sympathetically.
“I don’t know why I’m surprised,” Carlos slurred, “I really don’t know why I let anything in this town surprise me anymore.”
“I’m very impressed with how you only yelped a little bit.”
Cecil’s hands were wrapped around his thigh, tight around the throbbing pain caused by the rather large arrow lodged in Carlos’ flesh.
He continued calmly, even as he ripped Carlos’ shirt to tie around the wound.
“And the way you let it hit you! It was very romantic,” he smiled at Carlos, “I don’t think I’ve ever had a Valentine take an arrow for me before.”
Cecil had a very nice smile. And nice hands. Cecil had really, really nice hands, especially when they were on Carlos’ body.
Carlos smiled weakly.
“I ruined your dinner.”
“Well. I shouldn’t have let you open the window, today of all days.”
“This happens every Valentine’s?”
Cecil gave him that look, the one that Carlos hated (hated more when his bafflement at the town’s weirdness didn’t make it appear), and reached round him to pull a small black bag from under the cabinet.
“It wouldn’t be Valentine’s if it didn’t. It’d just be February the fourteenth, another dull day in the year.”
Carlos nodded, “Right, stupid question”.
It was getting really very fuzzy in Cecil’s bathroom. Carlos wanted to pet Cecil’s hair, but he restrained himself, focussing instead on the rather perturbing growls and smashes that suggested Cecil’s living room was being torn apart.
Cecil spread the contents of the black bag between Carlos’ knees, and traced his fingers through a mess of glittering dust, before pressing his shimmering fingertips to Carlos’ jeans and drawing shapes there.
He wanted to kiss him, hold him, shake with him. But his skin prickled around the arrow, and a guttural roar preceded the ominous crunch of what sounded like Cecil’s table meeting the wall.
“Cecil, you ever get the feeling this town doesn’t want us to get past second base?”
Cecil gave him a dark look. Carlos wondered if Cecil would fix that look on him when he was in Carlos’ bed, and let the warm black of unconsciousness take him.
The night before Cecil’s birthday a fog rolled in, and the dead rose from their graves.
They were quite polite about it, and there were only a few reported incidents of cannibalism. Mostly they just seemed to go about their business, arranging pleasant picnics with their families and catching up on the goings on in town. Carlos even encountered a couple of corpses mowing lawns and delivering newspapers.
As far as Night Vale hazards went, it was a fairly tame one so long as you remembered to take cover when the alarms sounded and didn’t let them catch your scent.
Carlos had got as far as saying “do you think maybe” before Cecil cut him off and explained that sometimes the dead just sort of...forgot they were dead, and really, if you were going to rearrange a date because of a few zombies in the post office, then you were probably not cut out for the dangers of romance in the first place. No offence.
So they went on their date anyway.
The food was...corporeal, and their waitress had a distinctly blue tinge to her skin. Cecil let Carlos talk about his latest findings, and Carlos asked Cecil about the radio show (he was proud of how he managed to flinch only once during a tale of how the vending machines had started bleeding during the morning show) and it was just...nice.
Cecil took his hand over the table sometime during dessert. Carlos relaxed at his touch and smiled at him over his pie.
Naturally, this was the moment the waitress decided to tear the chef’s throat out with her teeth.
“You realise this is the closest we’ve been to each other in a month?”
Cecil’s breath whispered across Carlos’ ear. He shushed him and tried to ignore his weight at his back.
Something crackled outside. There was a low groan.
“I mean, we’ve been close, but not this close,” Cecil continued, “who knew it was so roomy in this cupboard?”
“Mind the shelf.”
There was a thump and a quiet whimper, and he let Cecil curl around him to conserve space. Carlos leant back into him. Just a little bit.
There was a snap like lightning outside the door.
He could feel Cecil’s cheek pressed against his neck.
He turned in Cecil’s grip (thudded his head painfully against the edge of the shelf) and pushed him against the wall.
“Oh, Carlos –“ Cecil sounded breathless, and Carlos could make out the shine of his wide eyes before he kissed him.
He pressed against Cecil, mouthed his lips open and swallowed the quiet sounds falling out. Cecil tasted of that terrible canteen coffee, and Carlos chased it across his lips. Hands carded through Carlos’ hair; Cecil was always gentle with his hair, always.
He could hear the grin in Cecil’s voice when they pulled apart for breath.
“I always thought the romantic potential of closets was greatly underrated.”
The door shook and as Carlos slid his hand into Cecil’s pants, he was inclined to agree.