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Six dirty words

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Carlos listened to the radio show mostly out of anthropological curiosity at first. The town was still overwhelmingly strange to him, and anything that could give him insight into it was welcome. Through mysterious coincidence the show always happened to come on when he was in a lull at work, and he filled pages with observations and phenomena to investigate further. The Apache Tracker, however, he intended to stay away from entirely, because, just, really?

“Can you believe this guy said he used “Indian magicks”? What an asshole.”

The impossibly smooth voice of the announcer (Cecil, maybe? He met a lot of people that day.) curled around the word with such absolute disdain Carlos laughed. If there were people like that in Night Vale, maybe it wasn’t completely terrible after all.

 

He gasped as Cecil jostled the bandages, the pain flaring bright against his ribs.

"Shit, shit, shit, I am so sorry." He dropped his hands away, fluttering uncertainly. Against all understanding, Carlos felt like he should have been the one apologizing.

"No, it's ok. Really. Just a little more carefully?" Cecil's fingers were gentle and slow, as if he was afraid Carlos would break at a stronger touch.

 

Cecil was leaning next to the snack table when he went to pick him up after the PTA meeting. Looking past the detritus of the crudite platter and potato chips, Carlos could swear he was sulking. Arms crossed, he glowered at a plate of scones that was nearly gone. Carlos nudged him, and he scowled even deeper.

“I just don’t understand! They’re terrible! Why do people keep eating them?” He picked one up and broke it apart. “You can hardly call it edible, much less a scone.” The venom with which he spit the word would have been frightening if he hadn’t immediately handed half of it to Carlos. Obediently he took a bite. It was profoundly mediocre, but nowhere as bad as he’d been lead to believe. He tossed the rest of it in the trash and took Cecil’s hand.

“It was pretty awful. Come on, let’s go home. I’ll make you some muffins.” Cecil sniffed disdainfully, but he smiled, a little bit.

“I’d like that.”

 

It was an awful month, to be quite frank. First there was the whole business with the trans-dimensional attack slimes (which Carlos and the rest of the team had to invent entire scientific sub- and inter-disciplines to banish), and then it was street cleaning day again. Cooped up in the apartment for hours, they bickered and sniped at each other, until he grabbed his pillow and slept on the couch. He woke up with a headache to find Cecil already gone.

Later that night he heard Cecil’s keys in the door. He came in and threw his jacket on the floor viciously, eyes red. Carlos found himself enfolding the other man in a hug, and Cecil clung to him tightly.

“Another one?” He felt Cecil nod into his shoulder.

“I’m sorry.”

“That was the third intern this month. Just--fuck.” Cecil sounded so tiny and broken, and all Carlos could do was hold him as his body shook. They stood like that for a long time.

 

They pressed against each other, moving together and apart, all heat and desire and friction.

“Your cock,” Cecil gasped, and coming from his mouth, it was as much canticle as compliment.

 

Once he figured out how to make Amazon play nice with non-integer zip codes, Carlos ordered the telescope. They went out to the Sand Wastes and looked at the surface of the moon and the polar caps of Mars. He showed Cecil how to spot binary stars and the ghostly outlines of nebulas until he could make out details he couldn’t. One night there was a particularly active storm on Jupiter, and they took turns watching the swirls and festoons. After they packed up, Cecil leaned against the car and stared out at the Milky Way for a long time. Carlos touched his cheek and found it was cold from the desert night. Cecil smiled wistfully and came back from wherever he went in his head.

“Holy shit.” By now Carlos knew that was the you expecting something wise and profound from the voice of Night Vale weren’t you tone, and he smiled. He took Cecil’s hand and laced their fingers together.

“Yeah, I know.”