"Goodnight, Night Vale, Goodnight."
With those words Cecil turned off the microphone, the switch flipping by itself and the "on air" light going dark. He grabbed his messenger bag off the floor and headed out the door. Tonight was special.
Tonight he was meeting with Carlos.
The perfect scientist had been in the little town for nearly ten months. It was just in the past two months, though, that Carlos had seemed to warm up to Cecil. It had started with Carlos no longer avoided Cecil when he saw him around town, and then slowly returning a smile or a greeting when he saw him, and then into small talk that had led to Carlos asking to meet with him to discuss some of the things in the town.
Cecil walked out into the dusk. The sun was almost all the way down, and a little less noisy than usual. He hummed part of of an old tune as he walked down the sidewalk to Big Rico's. He had learned through the small talk over the last month that Carlos was here as part of his college education. He wasn't too clear on all the details, but he did know that Carlos was only a couple years younger than himself.
Carlos was already inside of the pizza restaurant, sitting in on of the booths. He smiled and gave a little wave when he saw Cecil open the door. Cecil made his way over and sat down as Carlos pushed a menu over to him. Cecil glanced at it but didn't open it.
"How was your day?" he asked, shoving his bag into the booth and smiling warmly. It was just like he had always hoped for so long - sitting across from the handsome scientist after a long day of work, looking forward to spending the evening talking with him. Admittedly, it wasn't actually a date, but it was still time he got to spend with him, and that was more than enough for now.
"Busy." Carlos replied. "I've been typing up my research to send back to my professors, but now that I'm actually going through everything, I realize just how many questions were left unanswered. It's amazing, with so much that I've learned, seeing just how much there is left to learn, it's just…" he trailed off, realizing he was starting to ramble. But Cecil had his face resting in his hands and his elbows on the table, and he was looking at Carlos like he was the best thing in the world.
Carlos blushed. "So anyway, I was hoping you could help fill me in on some of the things around here."
"Of course!" he nodded eagerly. "Anything for science."
The waitress came up to the table, interrupting this conversation. "Hello, Cecil." she nodded towards him. "Are you ready to order?" she asked, looking at Carlos.
Carlos ordered the weekly special and small root beer, information Cecil filed away in his mind for later. Root beer - Carlos had very good taste. Cecil used to love root beer.
The waitress wrote down his order and left without glancing in Cecil's direction.
"That was rude." Carlos frowned. "Cecil, didn't you want to order something? She didn't even ask." he turned to call her back.
"Oh, no, no!" Cecil almost panicked. "I'm not hungry, Carlos, really, it's fine. I didn't want anything."
Carlos sat back in his booth seat. "Are you sure?"
"I'm certain. What are your questions?" he hoped the subject would change without too much suspicion.
"Here, I have a list." he reached into his briefcase and pulled out a list that appeared to be at least ten pages long. "Uh, we might not get to them all tonight."
"That's okay! We can always do this again to go over the rest of them!" Cecil saw the chance and jumped at it.
"Yeah, that works." Carlos chuckled. He put a notepad and a crayon on the table next to the list. "I, uh, that crayon was in the lab, and I couldn't find a pen…"
"Pens are still outlawed at the moment." Cecil supplied sagely. "Crayons are for coloring, not for writing."
"That - makes sense, I guess."
They were able to get through two questions by the time Carlos' pizza was delivered to the table, and as he ate Cecil continued to describe why the rabbits in Night Vale looked the way they did. The extra eyes seemed unsettling, but when Cecil explained it like that, it only made sense. If anything, it made Carlos question why more rabbits in other places didn't have an extra set or two of eyes.
They stayed for a hour or so longer after he was finished eating. Carlos was surprised at just how much Cecil knew of the town's history.
"Did you learn all this at the community college? Some kind of special history class for radio hosts?" he joked.
"No, not exactly…"
"The way you tell some of these stories is almost like you were there!"
A funny look passed over Cecil's face, but Carlos didn't notice.
"That's what I like about hearing you on the radio, you always tell things in the most interesting way." he glanced down, suddenly a little embarrassed. He hadn't meant to say that part out loud. "Oh, it's getting late. I should probably be going soon. You probably have things you need to get to, too."
Cecil stifled a sigh. "Yeah, I guess so." he didn't want to keep Carlos from his important work. As much he enjoyed this evening, it was over, and that was that. It would be selfish to keep a scientist from his science.
The night air was chilly as they stepped outside. Carlos paused before saying what was on his mind.
"I really enjoyed tonight."
"Oh! I did too." he smiled.
"You know, I was thinking maybe we do this again?"
"Sure! We do still have more things on your list to go over."
Carlos chuckled nervously. "Yeah, we do, but I thought, you know, maybe..."
Cecil waited patiently as Carlos scratched his head and searched for the right words.
"Maybe we could get together, for non-science related reasons. For- for personal reasons."
For a moment, Cecil was utterly silent. Then he realized Carlos might be mistaking his silence as a rejection. Then, there was suddenly a string of words and possibly sentence fragments that all tried to tumble out of his mouth at once. Cecil was not sure exactly what all he ended up saying, but he was pretty sure there was a "neat" in there somewhere, and when he got to his home later that night, he would hold his face and groan as he thought about it. But at the moment that it happened, Carlos had just laughed in a relieved manner and asked if the weekend was a good time for Cecil. Cecil agreed to it, that was Carlos said those three perfect words with his perfect mouth - "It's a date!" - words that Cecil would replay in his mind at least a dozen times before the sun came up.
Cecil was so happy he nearly skipped all the way back to his house. Carlos drove back to his apartment feeling happier than he had in a long time, music turned up a little louder than he normally would have had it, but not so loud as to draw the attention of the Sheriff's Secret Police. In four day's time, he would be meeting the cute boy from behind the radio in the park, where it would officially be the first date Carlos had been on in almost four years. A slight nagging worry tugged at the back of his mind, but he pushed that thought down and focused instead on how happy he was at the moment.