Carlos wipes his palms on his trousers again. He's too early, and now he's sweating. He came down to the former Night Vale Harbor and Waterfront Recreation Area -- now several artful piles of rubble dotted with informational signs ("Nothing is here, nothing was ever here") -- well before sundown, even though Cecil told him to show up once the bats were flying, which means twilight for sure.
It's a dry heat, but it's still heat. He's beginning to regret his choice to wear khakis and a button-down shirt. But he wanted to make a good impression. When in doubt, khakis and a button-down are never wrong. Or maybe that's just something his mother used to say. Or something that isn't as true in Night Vale as it is everywhere else.
He sits on a rock and waits. His stillness is rewarded by the sight of a purple lizard who scampers out from under a crumpled paper cup and looks around, bright tongue darting out to taste the air.
Presently Cecil pulls up and parks beside a big rock. When Cecil gets out of the car, Carlos feels even more like a fool. Cecil had said something about a beach outing, but everyone knows there isn't a beach in Night Vale -- there isn't even an imaginary marina anymore! -- and it's nighttime, besides. But Cecil is wearing swim trunks and flip-flops and a loose guayabera-style shirt.
"You're here!" Cecil calls to him, beaming. There is genuine delight in his voice, and Carlos feels his anxiety unclenching just a little bit. "Come give me a hand."
Carlos does. Cecil has brought a beach umbrella, two rolled-up towels, and a large insulated ice chest. Together they drag all of these supplies to the far side of one of the larger boulders, one which isn't marred with protruding rebar. Carlos sets up the umbrella; Cecil spreads out the towels, kicks off his sandals, and settles on a towel with a happy sigh.
Then he immediately leaps up again. "I almost forgot! Hang on, be right back."
Carlos sits on his towel, looking at the patterned terrycloth pale beneath his bare feet, and waits. When Cecil returns, he's holding a luminescent tube of...something. Even though Carlos knows this isn't a seduction per se, he can't help the butterflies thrashing excitedly inside his ribcage.
"Starscreen," Cecil says, as though that were an explanation. He sits down and unbuttons his shirt, sliding it unselfconsciously off of his shoulders.
Carlos bites back whatever appreciative sounds lurk behind his closed teeth. Cecil is muscular and pale and his torso is amply decorated with tattoos. Is that Sanskrit? Carlos could spend hours decoding their intricate meanings. Or perhaps tracing them with his tongue. Damn it, he's not supposed to be thinking like that yet. He's getting ahead of himself. Second date; maybe a kiss, tonight.
Cecil, meanwhile -- apparently entirely unaware of Carlos' train of thought -- has squirted some starscreen into his hands and is rubbing it along his own chest and shoulders. It glistens lightly in the evening light. It smells of pomegranate and cinnamon. It is making Carlos' mouth water. Then he proffers the tube to Carlos. "Do my back?" he asks, turning.
The cream is cool in Carlos' hands but Cecil's back is warm. Removing his hands once the starscreen is amply applied takes an effort of will.
"Your turn," Cecil says, when he turns around.
"I'm wearing a shirt," Carlos objects.
"No one wears a shirt to the beach at nighttime," Cecil points out, quite reasonably. Well. Inasmuch as anything about Night Vale is ever reasonable.
"I don't usually need sunscreen." Carlos isn't sure why he's arguing, but he can't seem to help it.
"It's not the sun I'm worried about," Cecil murmurs. It's his tone more than his logic which gets to Carlos. With fingers which manage somehow not to tremble, Carlos unfastens his shirt and shrugs out of it.
"Not a scrap of ink," Cecil marvels.
"I never found anything I wanted on my skin for the rest of my life." Though as he says it, Carlos' mouth is dry with longing -- not for ink, but for Cecil's hands, the rough press of his not-recently-shaven chin.
There's a pause, then Cecil clears his throat. His voice is more tentative than usual. "May I?" he asks, gesturing with the tube toward Carlos' chest.
God yes, Carlos thinks. Please. Anything. He swallows hard and manages to say "Sure" in what he hopes is an ordinary tone of voice.
Cecil squirts lotion out of the tube and rubs his hands together like a masseur. When he places his palms on Carlos' pectoral muscles Carlos can't help but close his eyes. His hands skate over Carlos' shoulders, down his arms and back up again, and then run lightly past his rock-hard nipples. Carlos can't help his strangled moan, though he tries to disguise it as a cough.
Maybe the fact that Night Vale has an official town moan makes Cecil an expert on deciphering unintelligible sounds. His fingers still, splayed along Carlos' ribcage, and his thumbs probe Carlos' nipples again. This time it's intentional.
This time Carlos' moan is surely audible to anyone within twenty yards. Heat unspools through his body, connecting his chest directly to his groin. He feels like a rappeller gone into freefall.
"Secret police," Cecil says, loudly. He's using his radio voice, his public voice.
"Yes, Mr. Baldwin?" It's a woman's voice somewhere to their left. Carlos can feel the blush blooming in his cheeks. They really are everywhere.
"My taxes are paid in full," Cecil informs her. "And I think you'll find that Carlos doesn't owe so much as a drop of blood or bile."
Carlos doesn't have time to ponder what exactly that implies, because the woman replies almost instantly. "Indeed."
"We're entitled to a cone of invisibility," Cecil says, briskly. "One hour, if I'm not mistaken."
"One hour," the woman confirms. "Your hour starts now."
There's a faint crackle, as though a wave of static electricity had just passed them by. Carlos becomes aware that he is holding perfectly still, his chest pressed into Cecil's warm and unsurprisingly talented hands.
"Carlos," Cecil murmurs, and now his voice is as low and rich as the bottom of a cup of espresso. It's meant just for him. He opens his eyes, helpless, and the yearning he sees in Cecil's face undoes him. "Tell me I didn't just spend that coin for nothing."
"You can have anything you want," Carlos blurts, before he has the chance to second-guess.
Cecil's smile is joyful, appreciative, appraising -- and darkly promisory, too. "So can you, Carlos," he promises, reaching to cup Carlos' face with his big cinnamon-scented palm. Carlos shivers, presses a kiss to that palm, and lies back on the blanket, feeling like a virgin who can't wait to be deflowered. "So can you."