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One Year Chip

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There was something about Night Vale.

That was a stupid thing to think. There were a lot of things about Night Vale, too many things, malevolent creeping horrors to government conspiracies to the pothole on Ouroboros really needed fixing before somebody popped a tire. There was just something about it, a gestalt of Night Vale that made it impossible to leave, impossible for anything outside to matter.

Carlos had almost fled more than once. He'd even gotten as far as packing up his gear, writing a note to his landlord saying he was never coming back, but something had made him stop. Something about the little town was too fascinating, like a flower that never stopped unfolding. The people were so endlessly strange, so bizarrely okay with everything that happened, and Carlos couldn't find it in him to leave. It was like living in a petri dish, and even though he was terrified a good bit of the time, he couldn't tear himself away.

And then he was dying, and all he could think about was Cecil, kind Cecil, Cecil who looked at him with stars in his eyes, Cecil who would never take him for granted or do him any harm. Carlos had gone and done a stupid thing, something he thought at the time was right and wasn't at all. He'd thought he was acting in the name of science, but what was science in Night Vale? Night Vale blissfully disregarded it at every turn- not the citizens, who were as fascinated as small-town people ever were, but the town itself, the bizarre singularity it was enveloped by.

But in those moments all he could think about is how it wasn't fair, how it was so unfair to both of them. Cecil had never done anything but fall in love with him, and Carlos had let him down so spectacularly, badly enough that he was never going to get the chance to apologize. He was never going to get the chance to do a thousand things, things he didn't even realize he wanted until it was too late, until he was bleeding out in the tiny city.

And then he didn't die.

The clock on the wall ticked regularly, and even though Carlos knew that the ticking held no meaning, there was something soothing about it. The room wasn't as dark as it could have been, a full moon invading all the windows in the way that full moons did here. The moonlight glinted off the trophy on the dresser; Cecil had given it to him in celebration of the first anniversary of his arrival in Night Vale, and by the time he'd gotten it, he understood just what an accomplishment living through a year here was. It felt like an AA chip, like he'd sworn off the real world for that long, ignored life outside and started to let the tide of Night Vale suck him in.

Cecil shifted next to him. He had this weird way of snoring that sounded oddly polite, like he was trying not to cause inconvenience, don't mind him, necessary evil and everything. His skin was warm against Carlos's through his thin pajamas; the bed was almost too hot, but Carlos wouldn't dream of going anywhere.

Carlos didn't know how many more trophies he'd get. He wanted them to line the dresser and the bookshelf and the mantel, the baseboards and the lintels, anywhere they'd stand up. He never wanted to leave Cecil alone here; he was ready to give up his useless science and the whole vast expanse of the world outside Night Vale if he could have this, Cecil sleeping beside him.

"Carlos," Cecil said; in his reverie, Carlos hadn't noticed when he'd stopped snoring. Even thick with sleep, his voice was calm and deep and soothing. "You should really be sleeping."

"I thought that no one in Night Vale sleeps," Carlos said, putting an arm around Cecil's waist and drawing him closer.

"If you learn to pretend hard enough, it can be very restful," Cecil said.

Carlos kissed him. "I don't care about resting," he said, his hand sliding up Cecil's stomach under his pajamas.

"Oh," Cecil said, in the same startled tone that he always had when Carlos propositioned him, like he was shocked that Carlos wanted him, no matter how much time passed. "Well, when you put it that way-"

Carlos swallowed his words up in a kiss, pulling Cecil on top of him. There was time to worry later, time to worry about hooded figures and false clocks and how soon he was going to die. There was always time to worry in Night Vale. There wasn't always time for love.