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Aunt Valerie

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Tim's chemicals bubbled gently. Ann's seismograph clicked crazily, but with a rhythm to it that Carlos had long since become accustomed to after more than 365 days here in the Night Vale lab, tucked cozily behind Big Rico's Pizza. Bree's trees, despite coming from the town where she and Carlos had gone to college, were breathing audibly. Carlos was counting the lab mice, suspicious that the bonsai they lived next to may have picked up some carnivorous tendencies. NVCR played quietly in the background. When Carlos realized the Top 100 program was drawing to a close, he turned around to click up the volume a few notches. The corners of his lips turned up as his boyfriend's low, soothing tone filled the room expertly.

Strap your bones right to the seat; come on in - don't be shy. Just don't forget to unstrap them. You wouldn't want to leave your spine behind. Welcome to Night Vale.

Hello, listeners. ((Lots of general Night Vale stuff))

Now that that's over with...our younger listeners are going to get a kick out of this. A letter from my Aunt Valerie. A soft rustle of unfolding paper. "Dear Cecil. How is Children's Fun Fact Science Corner going? Have you been using the tips I've sent you? Here's the tip for today: radio waves are invisible and noisy light. But, my sonorous nephew, I'd like to ask you something less radio, more personal. I'd like to request the use of your apartment. Walkerville has outgrown little old me, I'm afraid, and I need to look for some fresh new minds. The last ((pun? Alliteration?)) passionate class here must've been ten years ago! I'll be there in two weeks. Love, Aunt Valerie" Well, isn't that lovely, listeners! Night Vale's favorite science teacher will be here in our little burg next week! Miss Valerie Frizzle and her vehicle that is most definitely /not/ a yellow school bus, as yellow school buses are illegal in Night Vale.

Carlos lost count of his mice. His hands hovered over the cage, frozen. What had Cecil just said? Miss Frizzle? Aunt Valerie ? It refused to process. Carlos turned away from the cage to grab his phone, missing as the bonsai unfurled a branch and snagged a mouse by its tail and dragged it, shrieking, into its thick leaves. At the last moment, he decided not to call. He did not want whatever stuttering disbelief came out of his mouth broadcast across town.

In a daze, Carlos left the lab. The excited chatter of his team cranked up this odd confused disbelief. He started to jog, and when they noticed and directed questions at him, he started to run. Then he found himself running out of the lab. He ran down the street, and then he ran and ran until he reached the broadcasting building. He slipped inside, walking now. He stopped outside the recording booth.

It had taken Carlos a while to get used to Cecil's changing form, but he'd mostly accepted it now, especially given the constants of his voice and his birthmarks (which Carlos had initially mistaken for tattoos). Cecil was a pale, Northeastern kind of white with frizzy auburn hair today, and Carlos was left with no more doubt. Oh, yeah. Aunt Valerie was definitely the fourth grade "Did we collectively hallucinate that", brilliant, scientific enthusiast Miss Frizzle. Cecil had on some fuzzy crocs, a set of leggings with a cheetah print, and an open Hawaiian shirt over a spiderwolves jersey. His feet were kicked up on the desk while he leaned back in the swivel chair. His mic sat on the desk. They were in the middle of the weather. Excellent.

Carlos knocked softly on the door and Cecil looked over, beaming and waving him in. Carlos entered and shut the door quietly. "It's just starting. We have time to talk. What brought you all the way to the station, perfect Carlos?"

"What you were saying about your Aunt Valerie. Did she teach elementary school? Fourth grade, specifically."

"Uh-huh. Walkerville Elementary. Fifteen years, maybe. But she says that Night Vale's a 'unique time zone', whatever that means." Cecil rolled his eyes. Carlos huffed out a chuckle.

"She means that most other places, the sun comes up every day on a regular schedule, sweetheart." Cecil rolled his eyes again.

"At least fifteen years." Cecil repeated with confidence, nodding decisively.

"Okay. Well. I guess that works. So...your Aunt Valerie Frizzle who has a bus - sorry, vehicle - that can change shape, and a lizard for a TA...is coming to town."

"Liz is a dragon. She just prefers subtlety. She doesn't like the limelight the way Hiram does." Cecil paused, which gave Carlos a moment to absorb that information. "I didn't mention Liz."

"You didn't," Carlos agreed.

"No!" Cecil beamed. Carlos couldn't help but smile back.

" Yes. "

"Neat!" Carlos's smile grew wider at the interjection, enjoying the blush that dusted Cecil's cheeks at the ineloquent word.