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Face for Radio

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Carlos's mark is, he thinks, impressively large. It runs along the inside of his left forearm, from his elbow to his wrist. The design is abstract, mostly, curls and shapes that somehow mean something that Carlos can't describe. It looks like Cecil, like how Carlos thinks of Cecil, obvious yet inscrutable but ultimately gorgeous, this beautiful mess of things that somehow make perfect sense.

The runes written in the center sometimes glow faintly. This is not a side effect that he was warned of.

It took several months before they decided to take the step and get marked; it is not in any way surprising that Night Vale's equivalent of wedding rings requires seeing a wise woman to have a magical tattoo planned from a prophetic dream. It is also unsurprising that both Cecil and Carlos were somewhat reluctant to take the final step. Wedding rings can be melted down. Carlos is not sure if the stories he's heard about having to confront of a six-faced beast in order to get the damn thing taken off are literally true, but that is not precisely something he cares to test.

But the two of them are sequestered from each other, and dreams are had, and markings are planned, and the process is only excruciatingly painful for about a day. A few more days, and he's all ready to see Cecil's, ready to show his; they've got their little ceremony set up, all good to go.

Cecil and Carlos are bad at ceremonies. Carlos should have kept this in mind.

Of course, right when they're ready, right before it starts, a sandstorm threatens. Cecil isn't technically breaking any rules by going to the studio immediately and settling in for a long, municipally-mandated session of reporting, though it is a little tacky, and Carlos is more than little annoyed.

The sandstorm rages on; thankfully it doesn't bring doppelgangers this time, just a whole damn lot of sand. Carlos finally makes his way through the aftermath, arriving at the studio just in time for Cecil to finish his broadcast for the night. Intern Madelyn grins widely when she sees him, ushering him into the control room. There's a plate window that separates it from Cecil's recording booth, and he can see Cecil in profile, still engrossed in reading the news.

Of all the things that Carlos expected to see, a huge blue and white mark coming up from the collar of his shirt was not one of them. This is not a subtle thing, not at all; the mark takes up most of the left side of his neck, ending somewhere behind his ear.

From here, Carlos already knows that it's beautiful.

Cecil catches Carlos's eye, and he smiles. The runes on his neck flash. On the radio he's giving his sign-off, saying something bizarre yet weirdly comforting, and wishing Night Vale a good night. He takes his headphones off, and the hourly station ID starts playing, followed by the bumper music for the next show, which is something about organ meats that Carlos doesn't care to listen to. Cecil leaves the booth, replaced by the next DJ, and joins Carlos. They walk together to Cecil's office, and Carlos closes the door behind them.

"This is unconventional," Cecil tells him, frowning. "We should wait until we can have a real ceremony to show each other."

"The damage is done," Carlos points out. "Yours is kind of." Carlos looks for a tactful word. "Eye-catching."

"Why wouldn't I want it to be?" Cecil asks, and Carlos gets that uncomfortable feeling Cecil gives him sometimes, like he's the one under a microscope.

"It's a big commitment, getting a huge neck tattoo," Carlos points out. "I mean, if you wanted to get another job, or if Station Management found out-"

"I work in radio," Cecil says patiently. "My predecessor was mint green and slightly fuzzy at times. I think we'll be fine." He smiles fondly. "Even if it wasn't fine, I'd still do it for you."

Carlos wants to protest; he wants to say that it's too obvious, he wants to say that it's too much, he wants to say- He realizes that what he really wants to say that he doesn't deserve it, but that's not new. Cecil makes him feel like that all the time.

He takes a closer look at it. It splashes up Cecil's neck, looking more like a river than anything else, like waves; the runes are intertwined in it so naturally that it's almost like they aren't there, like there's no reason they shouldn't be, like they always were and always will be.

A river in the desert. That's a pretty big compliment.

"It's beautiful," Carlos says, before he can say anything else that's stupid, because that's what he really thinks, no matter his reservations. Cecil's face lights up, and Carlos knows that he just saved himself a lot of undeserved pain on everybody's part.

"There's more of it," Cecil says, which Carlos somehow guessed. He'll call it a win if the thing's not a full back piece. "But let's save that for the ceremony. We'll have to find a new venue, of course."

"I don't care if we have it at Big Rico's," Carlos says, kissing him lightly. "I just want you there."

"We're not having it at Big Rico's," Cecil says, frowning. "They don't even have a bloodstone circle." Carlos rolls his eyes. "It is a lovely sentiment, though. I agree wholeheartedly."

"Good," Carlos says. "Then let's get out of here."

"Alright," Cecil says, smiling, and puts his hand in Carlos's. Outside the sand gets in their shoes, but neither of them seem to notice.