Yeesh. It's a good thing I started this fic. Hardly any updates concerning Carlos from the actual podcast. Hmph... Hopefully we'll get more plot from that department in the near future. Well, here's another chapter. Enjoy!
"So, you'll be coming home?" Cecil's voice cracked with excitement. "When? Are you almost at the doors? Is Kevin still with you?"
"Yes, in a few days, no, and yes." Carlos replied patiently. "Now, calm down. I can feel you hyperventilating over the phone."
Obligingly, Cecil took an exaggerated breath before continuing. "Has he tried to pull anything, yet? Why haven't you ditched him?"
"He briefly squeezed my neck when I said something to tick him off, but that's it." Talking over Cecil's sputtering, rage-filled response, he continued. "And he's staying with me. I- Cecil, just- Listen! If these doors are anything like the old oak doors, the only way to close them is to have everyone where they belong. That means that Kevin has to return to Desert Bluffs. Otherwise, the smiling god will try to pour through again. Trust me, it's waiting for a chance."
Cecil growled in agitation. "If I see that thing at any point, I'm going to repay him for hurting you. As for the doors, make sure you go through before he does! We don't need you getting trapped again."
"Believe me, I know." Carlos sighed. "I'll bolt through those doors as soon as I see them."
"Good, now-" There was a pause. "Um, Carlos? I just got a text from Dana. She says something weird is going on."
Carlos raised an eyebrow. "Night Vale weird, Desert Bluffs weird, new weird, or the world is doomed weird?"
"She says it has to do with Desert Bluffs and the Erikas... I'd better see what's up. I'll call you right after, so keep your phone handy. I love you!"
"I love you too." Carlos replied, smiling softly.
"Be safe!" Cecil said before a click ended the call.
Closing his phone, Carlos turned around and nearly had a heart attack. Kevin was standing less than a yard away from him. "Kevin, please don't do that!" He groaned, rubbing his eyes irritably.
"You're not leaving me here?" Kevin asked, tilting his head. His scary, black eyes were searching Carlos carefully, causing an uncomfortable tingle to go down his spine.
How much did he hear? Carlos wondered. Oh no... That means he probably heard me say why the doors are open. "No." He replied aloud. "I won't leave you here."
"Why do you want to go back so badly?" The blood-coated man's voice seemed oddly low without the cheerful undertone it had always held when projected over the radio. "What's so wonderful about a town filled with hooded figures, vague yet menacing government agencies, and a glow cloud that drops dead animals? And, don't say it's because of Cecil. He alone can't be keeping you there."
For a moment, Carlos felt his mind go blank. He heard the words: "Alllll haaaaiiilll." leave his mouth before he snapped back to reality. "Night Vale is definitely...unique." He admitted, immediately forgetting his brief mental lapse. "It's a horrifying place at times, and a dangerous one. Here's the thing, though: The danger in Night Vale is something I can combat. It's something so strange, I can detach myself from it enough to figure out how to fight it."
"Why not go where there's no danger? Like Desert Bluffs?"
"There's danger everywhere." Carlos explained, his eyes darkening. "In Desert Bluffs, the danger is losing your mind to an entity that only wants to enslave you." When Kevin opened his mouth to protest, Carlos held up a hand. "Cecil told me about the talk you two had before you were thrown through the doors. You said that you were the last person to fight back against the smiling god. Then, what happened?"
Kevin drew himself up proudly. "I came to understand the beauty that the Smiling God offered us. He offered us work, productivity, and happiness. Nothing was ever hidden, because nothing ever needed to be. He made life good for Desert Bluffs." He suddenly scrunched up his face, as if he was trying to keep a smile from appearing, his eye trained nervously on the consistently-glowing horizon.
"Look at you!" Carlos said, pointing at the light. "You're cowering from that thing. You can't even smile or think certain thoughts right now, because it's hurting you. Don't you realize that it took your mind?"
"I gave it to Him." Kevin corrected, staring toward the smiling god with a distant expression. "He accepted it from me."
He's hopeless... Carlos shook his head. "The point is that losing my mind is something I'm more afraid of than hooded figures. Even in the outside world, there's danger. People murder people in the streets. Women can't walk outside at night because someone may jump out of a shadowy corner and rape them. Criminals are given lenient sentences in court and are allowed to walk the streets to kill and hurt again." He gritted his teeth, shaking his head. "And the news reports and reports while people become more and more desensitized, until no one knows how to help. Why? Because they stopped seeing the danger. In Night Vale, I see the danger because of how weird and twisted it is compared to the danger I used to know."
Kevin's brows furrowed, as if he was pondering something strongly. "Doesn't that happen everywhere? Isn't Night Vale desensitized to the horrors there? What makes them different? What makes any of us different?"
Carlos opened his mouth to reply, but found himself coming up with nothing. He blinked a few times before folding his arms. When he puts it that way... After a moment, he shrugged. "I guess we aren't so different. It's just personal preference. I know that I prefer the dangers of Night Vale over the dangers anywhere else. Also, there are enough good things to enjoy that keep me there."
"Cecil, for one thing." The scientist grinned. "But, it's more than just him: It's all of the people in Night Vale. They are some of the most amazing, strange, kind, dangerous people I have ever known. I could fill a book with the interesting and amazing qualities of just one citizen. Also, there's the reason I first came to Night Vale: It really is the most scientifically interesting place I've ever seen. As a scientist, I always have something new to discover and study."
Kevin nodded thoughtfully. "I suppose that makes sense, though Desert Bluffs is pretty unusual as well. You might be interested in studying there. We had a visitor at one point who said that it was strange compared to other places." His brows furrowed. "Actually, she's still there. Who was-?" He let out a sudden shriek and clapped his hands to his head. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" He chanted desperately. "I don't remember anything, I promise! Stop, stop, stop!"
A hot flash of rage shot through Carlos' mind and he pulled out his umbrella, unfolding it and moving to stand between Kevin and the cruel god on the horizon. "Back off!" He growled, squinting as he tried to shadow both himself and Kevin. "Just back off, okay?"
Kevin's screams dulled to a series of pathetic whimpers. Finally, he grew silent. "My ears are ringing..." He muttered.
"Still think your god is so great?" Carlos asked, panting as the assault faded.
"Of course!" The Voice of Desert Bluffs was immediately indignant. "I'm being rightfully punished for failing Him."
"What does he give you? What makes Desert Bluffs the ideal?" Carlos shot back.
"Well," Kevin began, folding his arms. "We have great businesses, everyone's happy and smiling. And we have...hard workers. And people always appear happy. And..." He trailed off, a puzzled expression coming to his face. "And..." He gripped his head again, groaning weakly as the light grew strong again. Before Carlos could intervene, the scarred, black-eyed man collapsed in the sand.
Carlos kept half an eye on Kevin's unconscious form as he answered Cecil's call. It had been an hour since the other man had fainted, and he showed no sign of waking up. The warriors had propped him up against some supplies, and refused to touch him afterward.
"Carlos!" Cecil gasped after less than one ring. "Be careful when you get close to the new maple doors! There are Desert Bluffs citizens trying to get through."
"They must know that the doors will stay open if just one of them is over here." Carlos murmured. "Well, great. I get to meet a horde when I go through."
"You may be safe, though." Cecil quickly added. "I haven't gotten to the weird thing that Dana was checking out."
"Okaaaay." Carlos replied in his "please explain" voice.
"Well, you know how the Erikas bought Strex Corp?"
You mean the angels. "Yeah."
"Well, they've started taking the citizens of Desert Bluffs and...curing them."
Carlos raised an eyebrow, finding himself looking at Kevin again. "What do you mean, 'curing'?"
"I guess they can use their dark light to get the smiling god out of people." Cecil explained. "I saw them do it to a worker. He was filled with darkness. He shuddered violently before a ray of light shot out of his mouth and vanished. When he opened his eyes, they were normal! They weren't black and soulless. He wasn't grinning like an evil raccoon! He looked...right again."
"I see." Carlos felt a smile coming to his face as he looked at his unfortunate companion.
Seeming to read Carlos' mind, Cecil quickly added: "But, they need to be willing. Tamika's been monitoring the situation and she says that there have been people who have rejected the Erikas' attempts to cure them. Also, Lauren Mallard has started a rebellion to try and get the smiling god back. Her people are the ones trying to take control of the new maple doors."
"Ah..." Carlos' face fell. "That complicates things." He continued to watch Kevin, who was twitching fitfully, as if the bright entity on the horizon was still tormenting him, even in dreams. He scooted closer and opened his umbrella, shading the radio host's face, which immediately became more relaxed. "Maybe, it's possible to convince people to be cured."
An exasperated sigh from his boyfriend made a static-like noise that reminded Carlos of the hooded figures. "You're not going to give up on him, are you?"
"I can't, Cecil!" Carlos insisted. "You haven't seen him like this. He's being tortured by the smiling god. It's probably the same for everyone in Desert Bluffs. It's not their fault. That thing forced its way into their minds and refuses to leave."
There was another sigh, this one more resigned than angry. "I'd be more sympathetic if I wasn't so worried about you. I'm not perfect, Carlos. If I had to choose between saving a hundred strangers and saving one person I love, I'd do the latter every time. Right now, I couldn't care less about the suffering of my murderous double. That may change when I see him again, if I see him again. Right now, though, all I care about is you coming home safely."
Carlos nodded in understanding. "I'm not completely selfless, either. I know that, if it comes down to it, I will fight Kevin if he gets in the way of me coming home. I just hope that I don't have to."
"Whatever you need to do, just try to come home as soon as possible." Cecil urged. "Just the other day, I was trying to get a reservation at Tourniquet and almost reserved two spots before realizing I'd be dining alone. How depressing is that?"
"Did you get the reservation?"
"No... I ended up on the Applebee's website. I really need to work on my typing."
Carlos chuckled. "Only you, Cecil. Only you."
"The point is that I need you to come home, okay?" Cecil continued. "Then, we'll go eat at Tourniquet together. Or Applebee's... I'm not sure."
Deciding to use an old favorite method of teasing his boyfriend, Carlos replied: "Neat!" He was still snickering a few minutes later, when he finally said goodbye to his indignantly-sputtering boyfriend.
Next to him, Kevin shifted in his sleep. Carlos watched for a moment, his thoughts filled with conflicting images of angelic miracles and the simple security that would come with just killing the strange man while he slept. Once again, personal reasons and the fact that taking the latter action might close the new maple doors caused the scientist to turn away and go to sleep, leaving his umbrella open over Kevin's troubled face.
It's a headcanon of mine that Carlos will randomly say "Neat" just to see Cecil get all embarrassed. It's right up there with Carlos being heavily turned-on whenever Cecil uses science jargon to try and seduce him. Heck, I could write a whole fanfic filled with my headcanons. Maybe I will... Every time a reader reviews, an angel gets its wings! Just don't look when they get them, or you will be blinded by order of the City Council.