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After Sunrise

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When the sun rises, whenever Night Vale chooses for it to rise, Carlos wakes up.

He is or was a scientist, whatever that's supposed to mean; he thought he knew, he thought he knew exactly, he thought it could only mean one thing. And then he came to the most fascinating town he'd ever been to in his entire life, a place that shouldn't and maybe doesn't even exist at all, and he realized that the whole enterprise had no meaning, maybe never did.

Old habits die hard though, so when the sun comes up, Carlos gets out of bed, goes and takes measurements that probably don't mean anything anymore. It's just that he's been doing it for over a year, and something about breaking the streak seems wrong.

When Carlos gets up, Cecil doesn't budge, because Cecil is the kind of heavy sleeper that you just have to be if you're going to get any sleep in a place like Night Vale. Sometimes when he's feeling sentimental he brushes Cecil's hair back, sometimes puts a kiss on his forehead, but otherwise, Carlos just lets him sleep.

Cecil's day starts surprisingly late, at least by Carlos's standards. The morning show doesn't even end until eleven- Carlos doesn't listen to the morning show, their musical choices are a little funereal for that early in the morning- and there's the inexplicable hour of numbers being read from eleven to twelve, so Cecil doesn't usually go in until ten at the earliest.

So in the morning, after Carlos takes his measurements, he's alone in the house with nothing to do.

Instead of sitting around being bored, he does things. He waters Cecil's plant with the mixture of blood of indeterminate origin and Miracle-Gro that Cecil keeps in the fridge for it and tries not to notice that it's peering at him. He shakes his head at it and hopes the plant believes in not biting the hand that feeds it. He runs the dryer to fluff the clean laundry that he forgot was in there before he folds it. He runs a wet rag over the bloodstone circle to get the night's dust off of it, trying not to stare too long at the sigils on the rocks; they'll move if he watches them long enough.

He checks the mail, now that they sort of have a post office again. He folds the laundry and stacks the clean towels in the linen closet and doesn't think about the faceless old woman, whether or not she exists and whether or not she's watching. He thinks about Cecil instead, always about Cecil, because that's what Carlos wants, more than anything.

He thought at first that he knew why he did all these things, all alone in the morning, while he waited for Cecil to wake up. He thought he was trying to find a way to compensate Cecil for everything he does, everything he is, the unexpected bright spark in the strange world of Night Vale. Cecil loves him more than he's ever been loved by anyone in his life, in a way no one else has ever loved him before. You can practically see the little hearts circling Cecil's head when he looks at Carlos- you literally could for a while in the fall after that accident- and of course Carlos sees it too. Carlos knows he can never repay that much love, that much devotion.

It took him a while to realize that this wasn't that, that he wasn't really trying. He does it for Cecil, yes, but he does it because it feels good. It feels so good every day for Carlos to know that Cecil is waking up to a clean house, that Carlos made it that way for him. It feels good to feel useful, to feel like he has a purpose. He doesn't know that anything else in his life makes sense, that anything is purposeful at all, but there's a purpose in watering the plant, a purpose in folding the towels. If he can make every morning a little better for Cecil, then he's actually done something, something concrete, something that means something. Even Night Vale can't take that away from him.

At eight-thirty, when Cecil stumbles into the kitchen, there's hot coffee waiting for him. He drinks green tea with honey while he's at the station, but first thing in the morning he needs a good old-fashioned kick in the ass. There are eggs and sausage, too; when they have the stuff, Carlos makes migas, Cecil's favorite. Cecil sits down, putting his napkin in his lap, giving Carlos a smile that, while slightly bleary, is just as radiant as usual.

"You're far too good to me," Cecil says, as Carlos sets a plate and a mug down in front of him. Carlos wants to say that he's not, not at all, but he just kisses Cecil on the top of the head.