Carlos thinks he’s been heading for Night Vale his whole life. As a scientist, words like ‘destiny’ and ‘fate’ always meant very little to him, merely vague concepts no one could ever put in any kind of certifiable context, but he’s woken up twice now with those words scribbled across his forehead (and with what he is unable to tell, as pens and markers are still strictly outlawed) so he takes that as a clue and ponders them for a while.
Figuring things out was what he did. As a kid, he’d perform tests on whatever he could find using a chemistry set his parents bought him for his birthday. He was the only one in biology class who did not balk at dissecting a frog. He was always breaking things down, building them back up, and inevitably getting frustrated when he’d explained everything away.
He couldn’t do that to Night Vale. He’d tried. He’d honestly tried, and just when he thought he had a hold on it a massive pyramid appeared in town or zombie children shuffled into his lab to hand him a note requesting if he’d maybe be so kind to stop performing tests on the pink stuff that kept seeping out from under his fridge because he is this close to accidentally ripping the space-time continuum and that always leaves such a mess to clean up afterwards.
While his coworkers all inevitably left, went screaming for the hills, he stayed because he loved it. Even with the danger, and the madness, and having to learn to live without Wheaties, he knew in his heart that this, this inexplicable place, was what he had been yearning for. An unsolvable puzzle. Just when he figured something out something else would explode in a mess of viscera and grape jelly and off he went again – and he wished he was being metaphorical about the viscera and the grape jelly.
So destiny, and fate, and a New Jersey boy winding up in a desert town and wondering why it took him so long to get there. Nothing does continuous and scientifically impossible surprises like Night Vale. Even now, when he doesn’t actually expect his broccoli to explode as he’s cutting it up but it does anyway.
He should probably look into that some time. Exploding vegetables. That’s a new one.
There’s a lot of smoke. More than there should be, actually, and it takes him a moment to realize it’s a bright, pulsating neon green and makes his eyes water and, oh. That’s no good. He runs, holding his breath, down the stairs, bursts out his front door and onto the streets, and stands there coughing loudly for a good ten minutes. Tendrils of green smoke slither out the door before he shuts it, and he watches as it licks against his windows on the second floor like a living thing requesting kindly to be let out.
“Oh, dear. That’ll take a good two or three days of airing out, that’s for sure,” a cheerful voice pipes in from his left, but when he turns all he encounters is a vague sensation of static and some vertigo. He knows what that implies by now, and knows it’s better not to voice it. He sighs, and wonders how lethal the stuff is and how much of it he just inhaled.
The waning moon hangs overhead, like a lopsided toothy grin. He looks up at it, feeling dejected and probably just a touch too sorry for himself, and wonders what he’s going to do now. He’s got nothing on him except the clothes he’s wearing, it’s late, and Night Vale is not the best place to go wandering after dark, especially if you’re a scientist whose best self-defense skill boils down to ‘scream very loudly and hope for the best’. He doesn’t even have his car keys, his car sitting locked and useless by the curb. He has his phone on him, at least, stuffed in the breast pocket of his red flannel shirt.
His contact list is stupidly short and outdated, and has more numbers for take-out places than he cares to admit. There are few numbers on there he might possibly call for help, and only one very obviously jumping out at him. Literally – one of the numbers is highlighted in neon, blinking rapidly, and Carlos didn’t know his phone could even do that and tries not to think about why a mobile telephone is trying to convince him to call Cecil.
He hesitates. It’s not that he doesn’t want to call Cecil. It is, in fact, that he wants to call him very, very much. Carlos isn’t good at this, never has been, and while he knows that even just saying that Cecil is into him is something of an understatement, the whole situation is just so awkward. Cecil thinks he’s perfect. Carlos knows he isn’t, and keeps on waiting for the ball to drop. Carlos also thinks Cecil is, to put it bluntly, the greatest and most unfathomable thing to ever be poured into supposedly human form, and that just adds to his overall feeling of inadequacy.
It’s something he can’t analyze or explain in numbers and graphs, and this time not in Night Vale’s usual exasperating fashion but in an anxiety-inducing anguish entirely Carlos’ own.
His thumb hovers over Cecil’s number and he recites in his head what he would say, feeling himself growing warmer at the thought. A low growl drifts across the pavement and he turns sharply, only to see a friendly-looking little old lady, her hair in rollers, walking a particularly fluffy dachshund.
He doesn’t think the growl came from the dachshund. He wipes an anxious thumb across his phone and waits with bated breath for Cecil to pick up.
“Yeeees?” Cecil picks up and Carlos can hear the smile in his voice. It makes his stomach twist uncomfortably, an explosion of endorphins rocketing through his system in a way he doesn’t think can be healthy.
“Cecil. It’s Carlos. I’m sorry for calling this late, but I’m calling for personal reasons.” Oh, God. He doesn’t know why he says that. He always says that, and could just about hit himself every time he does, but it flops out his mouth before he can stop it. He hops from one foot to the other, side-eying the lady ever-approaching. The dachshund shrugs apologetically.
“I had a little accident. In the lab! I don’t mean… I had an accident in the lab. I’m more or less locked out and can’t get back in. I think what’s in there now is kind of toxic.”
And possibly alive. The green smoke waves cheerfully at him from behind the window.
“Oh, dear! Are you alright?” Cecil asks.
“Oh, I’m fine.” ’For now’, he thinks, but the lady with the dog shuffles past and he watches them go. “I was just wondering. Um. If I could. Well. I can’t go back inside and I have pretty much nothing on me.” He can’t get it out his mouth. ’Can I please come over’, he thinks loudly, wondering if somehow Night Vale will ensure Cecil understands.
Cecil does understand, though to be fair, that may not be Night Vale as much as just Cecil having a brain and understanding what it means when someone calls you late at night to tell you they can’t get into their house.
“You’re more than welcome here! Do you want me to come pick you up? I’ll just go put my shoes on and –“
“No no, that’s fine, I’ll walk,” Carlos interrupts him.
“Are you sure? It’d be no problem at all.”
Carlos knows that. He simply doesn’t want to, already feeling like a big dweeb for having to call Cecil to ask him if he can maybe crash on his couch. Or somewhere else. The somewhere else just makes him nervous all over again, and he hangs up his phone with sweaty hands before the conversation is actually over. Cecil was saying something, and he stares at his phone and wonders why there’s not an asteroid plummeting from the sky right now to just put him out of his awkward misery.
The green smoke dances behind his window. It looks worryingly like it’s attempting to Gangnam Style. Carlos shudders, and sets off towards Cecil’s at a brisk pace.
Cecil’s apartment building is gray and square and sits near the dog park looking ominously normal. He’s never actually been there before. He can’t even exactly recall how it is he knows where Cecil lives at all, but he walked straight to it like he’s been going there every day of his life. He even knows which door is Cecil’s, his feet carrying him effortlessly down the hall.
It’s a normal door. It’s a grayish brown door, in a grayish brown hallway, with grayish brown light casting friendly shadows. He raises his hand to knock and his heart flies up his throat and stops him. They’ve been on one date. It had been nice, he had been nervous, and he had kissed Cecil goodbye in an unbelievable surge of courage and confidence and hadn’t actually seen him since. They’d spoken over the phone, they’d texted, Cecil had put some random video of kittens climbing up a guy’s legs on his Facebook wall, but he hadn’t actually seen him. He doesn’t know why it makes him nervous, but then again this is Night Vale, and the possibility that Cecil randomly grew a second head or aged about thirty years in a week is, actually, fairly reasonable.
The door opens, his fist still hovering over the wood, and Cecil stands in the doorway looking equal parts excited and worried, still the same age, still sporting just the one – albeit very lovely - head. He’s wearing pink flannel pajama pants and a gray t-shirt and looks so cuddly Carlos almost wants to cry because of it. Almost, because he gets immediately distracted by the tattoos swirling down Cecil’s arms. He’s surely seen Cecil’s bare arms before – Night Vale is, after all, a desert town, and Cecil does wear short-sleeved shirts – but can’t recall ever seeing tattoos.
“Carlos! I thought I heard something. Are you alright?” Cecil flutters out the door, all hands, then stops himself and shrinks back in. He does that sometimes. It’s as if his enthusiasm, the unbridled affection with which he speaks about Carlos on the radio, takes him over but he realizes at the very last second it might be unwanted.
It’s not unwanted, but Carlos doesn’t have the words to let him know that.
Cecil beckons him in. Carlos feels a bit funny stepping over the threshold, like he’s crossing some barrier into a different dimension. Metaphorically funny this time, not Night Vale funny. The first impression he gets from Cecil’s small, lived in apartment is nest. It’s very full. It’s very colorful. It’s all done up in reds and purples and oranges, there’s a couch the size of a small boat nearly hidden under an avalanche of soft pillows, and Carlos would have expected a lot of things but not this.
The television is on, showing a game show that looks so dated Carlos can’t even begin to imagine what channel would be showing it, and there’s a large, framed picture on the wall. It’s a black and white aerial shot of what is clearly Night Vale, although the picture has to be old. The dog park is missing, for one, and there is a large temple of sorts right in the middle that Carlos knows for sure isn’t there anymore.
“Isn’t it lovely,” Cecil coos, following his line of sight. “It used to be at the station, but we redecorated and station management wanted to get rid of it. I took it home. My Night Vale, I just love it. I like to look at it and pretend I’m floating above the town, keeping an eye on it like some malevolent deity. But oh, I’m being a horrible host! Would you like something to drink?”
Carlos would very much, and Cecil hurries into a small, crowded kitchen that is so normal-looking Carlos finds it oddly suspicious. “What would you like? I have this nice chamomile tea but that isn’t everybody’s cup of… well. Or I have juice. Or milk. Or a brandy maybe, would you like that? I think I’ll have one.”
Carlos doesn’t have to answer. Cecil comes back with two brandies, and he accepts it gratefully before sinking deeply into the entirely too fluffy couch.
“Now, what happened at your lab, exactly?”
Carlos makes a face he knows Cecil probably won’t be able to read. “My broccoli exploded.”
“Well of course it did, silly. What were you doing handling broccoli in the first place?”
Cecil looks horrified. “Did you at least hum the appropriate hymn to it as you prepared it?”
Carlos has to admit that no, he didn’t, and Cecil looks both exasperated and endeared. “Oh, Carlos. You can’t just go and eat broccoli from the Green Market. If you don’t observe the proper rituals... well, I suppose you’ve figured out what happens. It’ll be fine, though, the spirits usually evaporate in a day or two.”
Spirits. Sentient neon green smoke invoked by cutting broccoli you haven’t sung to. Carlos doesn’t even know where to begin scientifically explaining it, and downs his brandy in one go.
“So I… suppose you’ll need… a place to stay?” The question comes out well-measured, careful, with a dash of hope near the end. Carlos stares at the bottom of his empty glass and wonders why the universe hates him.
“I don’t want to be presumptuous,” he says, sounding more apologetic than he likes. “But if I could maybe crash on your couch...” And hope it doesn’t swallow him alive in his sleep. The thing sure is big enough to.
“As I said, you’re more than welcome in my home. Or – anywhere. Really. More than welcome.” Cecil goes a touch pink and Carlos wonders if he does that on purpose. Throw in an innuendo, then make it look accidental and almost innocent. Blushing on purpose would be a pretty neat trick, though, but he notices the tattoos on Cecil’s arms have definitely started to inch upwards into his sleeves and nothing would surprise Carlos at this point.
“Wait,” Cecil says, shooting up with sudden concern. “If you were preparing dinner, does that mean you haven’t eaten yet? Carlos! You must be starving!”
Not really, actually. Broccoli exploding under your nose really cinches one’s appetite, as it turns out. “I’m fine. I wasn’t – my dinner blew up, really, I’m good.”
But Cecil is already up again, flurrying into his kitchen on gray-socked feet. “I don’t have much in the house but I can make you a sandwich? Peanut butter jelly? Gluten free bread, of course... I have grape jelly, that’s okay, isn’t it?”
Carlos winces. “Fine.”
There’s still something to eating a sandwich Cecil prepared especially for him, though. Even if it’s just peanut butter jelly, with the jelly being as always a touch questionable. Cecil watches him as he eats, which also qualifies as a touch questionable, and Carlos nearly inhales the sandwich trying to get it over with and smiles and thinks he can pretty much taste that secret ingredient of love he’s fairly certain Cecil put in there.
He licks some remaining crumbs off his thumb, and smiles at Cecil who’s looking at him as if Carlos were a Youtube puppy eating a bowl of ice cream. “Thank you,” he says.
“No problem. Absolutely none at all.” Cecil tucks a strand of hair the color of the sky on a rainy fall day behind his ear and has the audacity to look bashful. Carlos has marveled at the color of Cecil’s hair before. Gray, light gray, almost silvery in certain light, but Cecil really is genuinely too young to be all-out gray yet so he must dye it. Still, there’s no roots showing, no traces of this being anything other than natural, and Carlos is reminded of old campfire stories about people going gray after seeing horrible things and wonders just what growing up in a place like Night Vale does to a person.
“I was really happy when you called me tonight. I was just thinking of you when my phone rang,” Cecil confesses and Carlos wonders. His phone basically ordered him to call Cecil. He wouldn’t really put it above this place to simultaneously cause Cecil to think of him, and wonders if whatever is powering this town is somehow rooting for the two of them. It’s about as romantic as he’d ever allow himself to get.
Carlos puts down the plate, holds out his arm, and as his heart pounds so loudly he fears it might do permanent damage to his sternum, he beckons. “Come here.”
Cecil’s face goes slack, then lights up, and he sidles neatly into Carlos’ side. He’s all limbs ,legs folded up, elbows tucked in, and he presses his face into Carlos’ collarbone and Carlos knows that means he can now probably feel Carlos’ heart still thumping a loud, nervous rhythm. To his credit he says nothing, not even when his hand wanders right up to Carlos’ chest and lingers there, carefully, as if Carlos might shoo him off at any point.
“I hope you don’t think I made up the broccoli thing as an excuse,” Carlos says. “To come here. To… well. To come here.”
Cecil puffs out a voiceless laugh across the flannel of his shirt. “I don’t think that. You don’t need an excuse, anyway.”
Cecil is nuzzling his shirt, and Carlos can’t decide whether he’s comfortable or not. He thinks he might be, even if he’s kind of warm and twitchy and his heart is still beating too fast. He wonders what the hell was in that grape jelly. Cecil looks up at him, cheek still very much pressed against Carlos’ shoulder, and smiles.
“You kissed me, last time. Should I take the initiative now?” He smirks at him and Carlos briefly ponders the nature of interpersonal chemistry and whether scientists are usually prone to weaknesses concerning flirty radio hosts.
“Yes, please,” he says.
Cecil doesn’t seem to care that that came out oddly polite, because he simply sits up, sets his glasses neatly on the coffee table, leans back in and manages to fit their faces together perfectly on the first try. No wobbly lips, no teeth clashing, just a perfect meeting of closed mouths and one of Cecil’s long-fingered hands stretching out on the side of Carlos’ face. He smells of brandy and, for some reason, vanilla, and Carlos slides a hand onto Cecil’s waist and Cecil makes the sweetest, deepest sound Carlos ever heard a human being make.
Cecil opens his mouth, Carlos slips the tip of his tongue between his lips, encounters a row of very sharp teeth ,and it hits him instantly that, nope, he’s actually not heard a human being make that noise at all. He shudders and deepens the kiss and is stunned by how very little he cares, what with Cecil smelling so nice and curling into him like it’s the only thing he was ever put on this Earth to do.
They kiss for a long time. Carlos is intrigued by how very real Cecil is, like he’s the only thing he’s ever really been sure of, warm and pliant under his hands and mouth. Cecil is so willing, too. He’s giving off more signals than Carlos knows how to process, so he just keeps kissing him, and Cecil keeps kissing him back, and he thinks that at some point one of them should get tired or thirsty or something but he feels they might just keep on going until the end of days and be fine with that.
One of Cecil’s legs winds up across his lap, one of Carlos’ hands up Cecil’s t-shirt. The skin of his back is smooth, soft, and Carlos feels the nubs of his spine and the way it twists and moves as Cecil continuously shifts his hips, shuffling closer. The hand previously alongside Carlos’ face moves into his hair, his thumb on the outer shell of his ear, and the entirely-too-sharp teeth catch on Carlos’ lips.
“Tell me you’re sleeping in my bed with me. Please.” The words are barely a whisper but are so hopeful they make Carlos dizzy.
“I can’t get enough of you,” Carlos says, and thinks that wasn’t quite what he was going for. Okay. Trying again. “I don’t want to move things too fast.”
“Now there’s a contradiction,” Cecil says, and he pulls back. Carlos regrets everything he’s ever done in his life. “You’ve known me for over a year. We’re not exactly rushing, are we? Not that I expect... oh God, what a horrible thing to say. Forget that. I mean – I mean. Like. I am not expecting sexual favors from you in return for me opening up my home to you!”
Right. Only Cecil’s train of thought would wind up at that station. Carlos thinks this ought to be easier, at their ages, with their history, with this burgeoning romance of theirs being the only shockingly normal thing in a world of explosive vegetables and pterodactyls.
He smiles, puts his thumb on Cecil's upper lip and gently pushes it upwards. Nothing unusual, normal white teeth in a normal pink mouth. Carlos knows what he felt earlier and doesn't know how to explain it. Cecil looks confused but smiles, worries his lips against Carlos' thumb, and Carlos pulls him close again and presses his face into Cecil's neck.
"You don’t need to put a disclaimer after everything you say to me. I know how you feel about me. I do listen to your radio show, you know."
As if Carlos could not listen, not since his team subtly pointed out to him one day that that sinister yet peppy radio host kept gushing about him on air. He wouldn't believe them at first, especially because during the first few broadcasts he listened to Cecil kept neatly to the news, but inevitably Cecil yielded to his emotions and off he went. Once the mortifying embarrassment faded Carlos figured it was quite flattering and more than a little intriguing, and little by little he found himself listening to the show plainly hoping Cecil would mention him because, oh, his voice sounds so lovely wrapped around Carlos' name.
He hadn’t expected to end up here though, with Cecil half across his lap on a stupidly fluffy couch surrounded by pillows and doilies. He hadn’t expected this to ever be more than just another Night Valean quirk.
“I don’t know how you feel about me, though. Well. Maybe a little bit. But I don’t know if you really do or if I just hope so much I’ve made myself believe,” Cecil says. He’s talking into Carlos’ hair, which tells Carlos he doesn’t want to look at him as he says this. He gets that. He’s quite grateful to not have to look at Cecil’s face when he answers, either.
“I feel a lot of things about you, all at once. A part of me wants to run with it and curl up inside your shirt and stay there and another part of me just gets really nervous.” His palms are sweating. One hand is resting on Cecil’s knee and he wonders if he can feel it, the heat radiating through the soft, worn cotton of his pajama pants.
“That’s. That’s really cute.” One of his hands convulsively clutches the back of Carlos’ shirt. “Carlos! That’s the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me!” And he’s hugging him, tightly, pressing his mouth against Carlos’ ear. “I wouldn’t mind you curled up inside my shirt, though,” he adds, a purr of an afterthought that makes Carlos shiver in a way he can’t decide is pleasant or not.
“Good,” he says, his voice a dry burble in the back of his throat.
“We live on a fragile glass marble hurtling through the black void of time and space at hundreds of miles per hour. Such a miracle that in that frail, meaningless existence we still find moments as beautiful as these for ourselves,” Cecil reflects, and Carlos finds himself filled with existential angst he’d rather have avoided for the evening but which he thinks he best get used to, if he’s looking for a life with Cecil in it. He wraps an arm around Cecil’s shoulder and squeezes him, lightly, just once.
Cecil remains where he is, warm, solid, and it takes Carlos a little while to notice he is, actually, watching whatever is on television. That’s okay. Watching TV, curled up on a couch together – Carlos can handle that. Even if he still has no idea what it is Cecil is watching, and why it looks like it was filmed in 1986.
A lady on the screen, wearing a blue sweater with a cat on it and glasses so large they threaten to eat her whole face, has apparently won a microwave and is having the time of her life with it. Carlos doesn’t think he’s seen anyone that happy with a microwave. He also notes Cecil doesn’t appear to own one, as confirmed by a quick glance over Cecil’s head into his kitchen.
He doesn’t know why all this matters, but it does. It matters that Cecil likes good brandy. It matters that he watches old game shows on a small television set, in an apartment decorated with more colors than Carlos can name. It matters he’s wearing gray socks on narrow feet, that one of those feet is resting casually against the side of Carlos’ thigh, his knee across Carlos’ lap and his heart beating solidly against the side of Carlos’ ribcage. He wonders briefly if Cecil can see the TV alright with his glasses not on his face, but he seems to do fine and Carlos doesn’t want to spoil the moment by asking.
He takes Cecil’s hand, resting on his shoulder, curls his fingers around the base of Cecil’s thumb. Cecil’s skin is an indeterminate shade of desert-tan, his fingernails neat and short. Carlos is met with the need to kiss his knuckles, all of them, one by one, but he doesn’t do it.
“You don’t mind, do you?” Cecil asks softly, and Carlos hums a soft no. He’s not quite sure what Cecil is referring to but he’s sure he does the exact opposite of mind, whatever the word for that is. He’s also sure Cecil would know the word, but doesn’t want to ask.
The game show lasts entirely too long. Carlos isn’t sure, but at least three of the contestants appear to die slow agonizing deaths halfway through, and there’s a weird interval where the host stares into the camera for fifteen minutes with his one functioning eye and hums ominously.
“What channel is this?” he asks after a while.
He can’t keep track of it and just gives up after a while, allowing himself to be fully distracted by the living, breathing man now drawing lines on his shirt with a distracted index finger. The broccoli long forgotten, the reason for him showing up here just a vague, unimportant detail, he wonders about the passing of time in Night Vale and whether he could slow it if he just wished really hard.
He probably could. He doesn’t think he should chance it.
The show ends with a blood-curdling scream and the screen going black. Cecil gives a content, bone-melting sigh, pressing his face into the fabric of Carlos’ shirt before pushing himself up and offering Carlos a bleary smile.
“We should probably go to sleep,” he says.
“I mean, it’s late. Dark. You know what the city council says about staying up late!”
He doesn’t, and he usually does stay up late and would rather not know why that’s considered a bad idea by the city council.
“Should I… I’ll make up a bed for you. On the couch.” Cecil is already standing up and Carlos feels cold and alone so quickly it’s ridiculous. The couch is still warm from where Cecil had been sitting, for crying out loud, and it can’t possibly be healthy to grow this attached to a person this quickly.
“You don’t want me…? I mean. You said earlier I could sleep in your bed.” Actually he practically begged him, pretty-please and all, but Carlos can hardly get this much out and it’s close enough.
Cecil flushes so sharply Carlos wonders how he keeps from keeling over.
“Really? Because you could. Because that’d be nice. I mean.” He squeezes his eyes shut and sighs loudly. “God, Cecil, talk like a normal person. Okay. Starting over. That would be nice, please come into my bed. No, wait, that doesn’t sound right either.”
Carlos laughs, struggles up from the couch and puts his hands on Cecil’s shoulders. “Breathe, before you hurt yourself.” Good advice for the both of them, actually.
Cecil smiles, nods, and shrugs. Carlos’ hands move up and down along with Cecil’s shoulders. “You want to borrow a t-shirt or something, to sleep in?”
“You have anything that would fit?”
Cecil is taller, but Carlos is wider, stockier, more of him in the shoulder and chest. Cecil nods, though, disappears into what Carlos supposes is his bedroom, and comes back out with an honest-to-God Night Vale Community Radio t-shirt. “I have like a box of these. One size fits all, except one size didn’t really fit anyone but for this one intern named Gareth. Poor Gareth, may he rest in peace.”
Carlos knows better than to ask. He’s heard Cecil’s recount the demise of far too many promising young interns in the time he’s spent in Night Vale. Cecil shows him into a tiny bathroom, tells him to ignore the scorpions nesting in the corner, and even supplies him with a new toothbrush still in its cardboard-and-plastic packaging.
Carlos eyes the scorpions as Cecil turns out of the bathroom. One of them waves at him. He hesitates, waves back, and warily starts to undress himself.
The shirt doesn’t actually fit him. It’s too large, hanging off his shoulders, long enough to nearly be a dress. Carlos wonders at the giant these were made for, and finds himself wondering in horror about how big intern Gareth must have been to fit into these. Best not to ask, best just not to ask
He washes his face, brushes his teeth. Cecil uses that weird pink salty toothpaste and it takes Carlos a moment to adjust, and that just leads to a whole other kind of self awareness where, apparently, the scorpions doing what appears to be a modern dance routine to try and ask him if they could borrow fifty bucks is a-okay but non-minty toothpaste choices are just too much.
He apologetically informs the scorpions he doesn’t have any money on him, and slinks out of the bathroom again. Cecil turned off all the lights in the living room, now just a light shining through the open door of the bedroom, and Carlos needs a moment. He’s not sure what he needs it for, just that he needs it, so he takes it and takes a few deep breaths.
Cecil’s bedroom is ridiculously calm, especially when compared to the explosion of stuff and color that is his living area. The walls are a pale blue. His bed is simple, decked out in equally pale blue sheets, and on it is Cecil now in just the gray t-shirt and a stripy pair of boxers, reading a book with a big, cheerful ‘municipally approved!!’ sticker on the front. Carlos isn’t sure what warranted the second exclamation mark, but he appreciates the sentiment.
A tattoo perched prettily on Cecil’s calf slithers out of sight as Carlos steps in. Nice legs, Carlos thinks, nice everything, actually, and Cecil sits up and smiles at him.
“I’ll just go brush my teeth, be right back,” he says, putting the book on his nightstand and slipping out the room. There are more books on his nightstand, next to an alarm clock and a scattered set of bloodstones, and Carlos itches for a notepad and a pen – no matter how illicit – so he might write these things down. They feel important and major, and he wants to take notes and pictures and fill book after book.
He has no notepad, he certainly has no pen, and he’s just an overly awkward guy standing in Cecil’s bedroom unsure what side of the bed to take. Cecil was on the right just now, so he hopes it’s okay for him to take the left, and he has honestly been in bed with someone before this and oh God why is he making such a big deal out of nothing. He stubbornly pulls back the sheets, get into bed, lies down.
The entire bed smells like Cecil and whatever he was trying to resolve to do just now melts away in a flurry of endorphins and other assorted little happy things. Cecil’s bed. Cecil in his stripy boxers. The tattoo on Cecil’s calf, the pile of what appear to be literary thrillers on his nightstand, even the aftertaste of his hideous toothpaste, and Carlos half wonders if his broccoli exploded on purpose just to get him here and he’s now accusing broccoli of having long-term goals involving his love life and that’s just no good.
Cecil comes back, grinning in a way Carlos can only describe as deranged. He hovers by his nightstand, making a few complicated hand movements over the bloodstones, soundlessly mouthing a few words Carlos doesn’t catch, checks under the bed, takes his glasses off and sets them on the nightstand with the arms neatly folded, then gets into bed with a contented sigh.
And there it is. The brand new reality of their bodies being in the same space of a bed, close but not touching, and Carlos does nothing for what feels like about three years. That is when Cecil actually honest-to-God giggles, the tension breaks, and Carlos stops thinking and scoots closer.
“Hi,” Cecil murmurs, turning into him, and Carlos presses a kiss to his forehead.
They lay quietly for a while, in the cold light of Cecil’s bedside lamp. Carlos feels silly in his oversized black t-shirt, out of tune with the rest of the room, but Cecil is relaxed and warm and has the sweetest little private smile on his face.
"Your tattoos are moving,” Carlos points out, his voice soft and a touch lazy.
"Yes. They do like you, I promise, but they're usually kind of shy."
Sentient tattoos. Sentient, shy tattoos, even, Carlos doesn't know why he's still surprised. He watches as a blue-black tendril curls gracefully up Cecil’s arm, disappearing into his sleeve, only to peek out again on the other side of his arm.
"Can you feel them do that?"
"They're on me, Carlos, of course I can feel them."
"What does it feel like?"
"Oh, I don't know. Like something brushing very lightly over my skin."
Carlos places two fingers on Cecil's upper arm. The dark swirls skitter away, then slowly, slowly inch back, curiously, like a skittish kitten, reaching out to his fingers.
"How many of them have you got?"
Cecil leans closer and smiles, a sly, seductive curve of his mouth. There are definitely sharp teeth in that smile this time, bright white, and more than there ought to be. "Oh, lots. Want to see?"
Carlos can’t think anything at all for a few seconds, too transfixed by the notion that he’s genuinely in bed with a man with teeth like a shark and tattoos that flow across his skin like oil spills. He wants all of that. He wants to kiss those teeth, he wants to try and catch those tattoos on his tongue like snowflakes, he wants to take all of Cecil’s idiosyncrasies and make love to them.
“Can I?” he says, and Cecil hooks a finger under the hem of his t-shirt and slowly, teasingly, drags it up over his torso. Carlos follows the movement with his eyes, takes in the expanse of skin, the shape of his stomach, his chest, the hair concentrated on his chest and trailing down to his belly button so light it’s nearly see-through. There are, indeed, lots of tattoos. Tribal-like swirls and stripes, figures that might be flowers or spiders, and they shudder and scatter across his skin as they’re exposed to the air.
Cecil wriggles out his shirt, tosses it aside, and Carlos puts both hands flat on his chest and watches in utter awe as not only the tattoos react to his touch but Cecil does too, shivering and breaking out in perfect gooseflesh.
“You’re amazing,” Carlos says before he can catch himself. “Just amazing.”
“Carlos!” Cecil breathes, and only Cecil could make a sound like that and still have the exclamation mark still very much present.
“Would you turn over for me?” It’s an innocent question, honestly fuelled by nothing but Carlos’ desire to see the tattoos he’s sure to find on Cecil’s back, but Cecil throws him the most lovely mock-scandalized look and smiles brilliantly at him.
“Carlos! So forward!”
“Oh, just roll over already,” Carlos mutters, grinning, and Cecil obliges with a laugh and something of a wink. His back is strong, the back of a man in his very prime, and his tattoos stretch and compliment him perfectly. There’s an eye, tattooed right between his shoulder blades atop a simple pyramid design, and it blinks at him.
Well, okay. Carlos leans in and kisses it and Cecil gasps into his pillow. Oh, just much too much to handle. In a surge of what Carlos supposes is pure lust and possibly, probably love, he sits up and straddles him, Cecil’s firm buttocks under his thighs, and runs his hands down Cecil’s back.
“Yes,” Cecil whispers, arching prettily, and Carlos isn’t entirely sure what he’s doing but it seems to be working for him. He feels the muscles in Cecil’s back, his ribs, his spine, touches lightly, then firmly, then lightly, and watches the tattoos undulate and pulse. Cecil clings to his pillow and pushes his buttocks up in a way he’s sure Cecil thinks is subtle but which really isn’t.
Carlos hesitates, then yanks his tent of a t-shirt over his head and tosses it aside. He feels awkward, lumpy, entirely too aware of the dark hair covering his chest, sprinkled down the back of his neck and his shoulders, but when he leans close and presses his naked chest to Cecil’s naked back Cecil genuinely moans and that, as it turns out, it something the Voice of Night Vale is very, very good at.
“Please,” Cecil groans into his pillow.
Carlos licks at his shoulder blade, trailing a tattoo that slips away, comes back, slips away again. “Please, what?”
“Let me turn over? Please? I really need to kiss you.” The words are said with a gorgeous urgency, and Carlos feels them in every bone in his body.
He rolls his hips, letting Cecil feel how hard he is, and Cecil squeals and pushes back into him and mumbles something about unfairness that Carlos only half catches. “I don’t know what I want to do with you exactly, but I know I want to do it a lot. Amazing, Cecil, just… amazing,” Carlos says softly, his lips just behind Cecil’s right ear, and Cecil writhes and appears to be giggling and Carlos nearly tells him he loves him.
Nearly. He catches the words before they tumble tenderly but entirely too eager from between his teeth, pulls them back, swallows them to keep them safely inside for the time being. He needs to adjust to the reality of them and knows he’ll hate himself for letting them out before he’s sure he really means them, but he still feels them with an intensity he thinks should perhaps be frightening but which just makes him feel giddy.
Cecil is apparently done waiting for permission and turns, nearly throwing Carlos off him as he does. Carlos maintains his balance, is now very much straddling Cecil’s lap, and Cecil sits up and pulls him in and kisses him deeply. Sharp teeth, a lot of tongue, Cecil’s hands in his hair and Carlos rolls his hips and grinds their cocks together through the cotton of their boxers and Cecil sobs into his mouth.
“Perfect. Perfect Carlos,” Cecil mutters, his lips catching and dragging across Carlos’ jaw. His hands drag down Carlos’ back, cup his ass, pushes them together again and Carlos laughs soundlessly.
“I want you so much. All of you. I want you to fuck me, you don’t even know, I want you to just hold me down and grind into me. I bet you’re so good at it,” Cecil continues, his voice a low murmur across Carlos’ skin, and the last thing he’d have expected Cecil to be is a dirty talker and it takes him aback for a moment. “I want to suck your dick, taste you… can I do that, Carlos, please?”
It takes him another moment to mutter a stunned ‘okay?’, and at least he’s happy he didn’t go with an overly polite ‘yes please, thank you’ because that would have been weird.
Cecil grins, all but lifts him off his lap and rolls him onto the mattress. His teeth are sharp, so sharp, and Carlos wonders what it says about him that he really does want those near his genitals. He thinks it might be the same sort of urge that drives people to jump out of airplanes or eat Japanese pufferfish. What if something bad comes of it. What if it doesn’t.
Cecil reaches and flicks the light on his nightstand off. Carlos is grateful for it – he was feeling exposed and awkward, Cecil staring at him with that hunger in his eyes, and the darkness provides him with a kind of cover he feels safer in. Cecil hooks his fingers under the waistband of his boxers and swiftly yet gently pulls them down and now Carlos is naked and hard, his skin warm and tingling.
Cecil looks up at him and then, for a moment, Carlos can’t breathe. “Oh my God.”
His eyes are glowing. At first Carlos thinks it’s a reflection, the light from the waning moon reflecting a perfect crescent shape in Cecil’s dark eyes, as if they were still ponds in some magical forest. But human eyes can’t do that, and the curtains are shut, and the shining slivers in Cecil’s eyes are no reflection and the only conclusion Carlos can draw is that, yes, the moon is genuinely in his boyfriend’s eyes. He wonders how he never noticed it. He wonders if they’ll change along with the moon up in the sky. He wonders if he’ll be able to chart lunar cycles in Cecil’s eyes and oh my God he doesn’t think anyone on the planet has ever been this deeply in love with anyone ever.
“Amazing,” he breathes, and Cecil looks confused for a moment in the gray darkness, then leans close and kisses him, open-mouthed, wet. Carlos runs his hands through Cecil’s hair, holds him there as he kisses him back. Cecil has a hand on his chest, over his heart, and Carlos knows he’s doing that so he can feel Carlos’ heart beat its crazy love-struck rhythm.
Cecil breaks the kiss, ends it with a peck on the corner of Carlos’ mouth and little noise of desperation and lust, and thrusts himself down Carlos’ body. Carlos is very naked, and very aroused, and Cecil wastes absolutely no time being coy or bashful or remotely as modest as he’s been before and takes a firm hold of Carlos’ penis.
“Oh, you have a nice, thick cock,” he says, and Carlos can see those sharp teeth in that sharp grin. “I’m going to suck it so hard. I want you so much. You’re perfect, so perfect.” That voice, and those words, and Carlos isn’t sure whether he’s going to laugh hysterically or just flat-out ejaculate prematurely. Neither would be very good, really, but he teeters on both for a maddening second. Jesus Christ, Cecil and his wonderful, smooth voice just said cock.
Cecil licks up his erection and starts to give him a messy, eager blowjob. He can’t actually continue the dirty talking, what with Carlos’ dick on his tongue and all, but he moans throughout the whole thing and it’s deep and just so wanton and Carlos can feel it all the way into his testicles.
“You taste so good, Carlos… I can’t believe you’re letting me do this, this is amazing, I’m so happy,” Cecil says, and he slides Carlos back into his mouth and briefly Carlos can feel those teeth scraping against his cock, ever so lightly but unmistakable, and it’s like a short-out in his mind and he can’t think anything for a moment.
He runs a hand through Cecil’s hair, wonders if that might be rude, but Cecil moans loudly and Carlos supposes that means he likes it so he keeps it there, gently, feeling Cecil’s head bob. He looks down and watches him in the shadowy dark and Cecil glances up at him, a smile in his moonlight eyes.
“I’m going to come,” Carlos gasps out in warning, and Cecil slips Carlos’ dick from his mouth and wraps those long fingers around it.
Carlos orgasms, letting out some garbled noise as he does, Cecil’s hand pumping him through. Cecil moves up, kisses him on the temple, breathing heavily across his ear. “Perfect,” he says again. “Carlos. My Carlos.” He lets go of Carlos’ softening prick but stays where he is, hovering over Carlos, and it takes him a few beats to realize he has pulled his own dick out of his boxers and is frantically jerking off.
Carlos reaches in the dark, still reeling from orgasm and from this actually happening, and covers Cecil’s hand with his own. Cecil moves his hand away and it’s Carlos now, fisting Cecil’s dick, and Cecil is gasping into his neck and arching his back.
“Yes, Carlos, touch me… oh, your hand feels so good on my cock, I’m going to come.” And Cecil just said cock again, and Carlos fails to hold back a giggle. It sounds a bit deranged. Very Night Vale of him, now that he thinks about it, and he’s not sure while he’s thinking about that at all because Cecil just let out the most beautiful cry and is ejaculating across Carlos’ belly in hot spurts and oh, oh yes.
Cecil is panting, arms trembling with the effort to keep himself up. It doesn’t take long for him to collapse against Carlos’ side, face still pressed into Carlos’ neck, and they lay and breathe as the universe quietly arranges itself back to relative Night Vale normality around them.
“I made a mess of you,” Cecil mumbles after a while.
“You did. It’s okay though.”
Cecil snorts a laugh into Carlos’ neck and rolls away to rummage in his nightstand, only to return with a package of tissues. He diligently starts to wipe Carlos clean, in the dark, and Carlos wonders if he can see in the dark with those amazing eyes of his. He wonders if Cecil would let him do a study. He thinks he might.
Cecil carelessly tosses the wadded up tissues over his shoulder to the floor, where they can wait until morning. He cuddles back close, pulling the sheets over them, and kisses Carlos in a way that Carlos can only describe as tender.
“Was that good?” he asks, entirely too open, and Carlos laughs.
“Yes. That was very good. That was amazing. I’m saying ‘amazing’ a lot. You have one hell of a dirty mouth on you though, you know that?”
“Oh God. I’m so sorry. I get carried away, I can’t help it.”
Carlos can’t see it in the dark but knows Cecil is blushing. He really does think he loves him, so much he wonders how he ever managed without feeling this. Still, just another thing Carlos isn’t sure how to voice at all, so he holds him close and kisses his hair and thinks the cosmos might rip itself into jagged pieces right now and he would be okay with that, as long as he could have Cecil by his side.
He wants to say that. He should say that, even if it might be hard, because Cecil deserves to hear it. He looks at Cecil, prepares the words in his mind and tells himself to be brave, but realizes he’s already fallen asleep. That certainly didn’t take him long, and Carlos finds it entirely to endearing.
He smiles. “I have so many things I need to figure out how to say to you,” he whispers into Cecil’s hair. “You make me feel things that I’ve never felt for another person before. It’s stunning and scary and really great.” He presses a light kiss onto Cecil’s forehead, closes his eyes, and drifts off to sleep listening to Cecil’s even breathing.