A sort of companion piece to my other fic 'Second Date', but it is not absolutely necessary you read it before this one. Apologies in advance for my British-isms. This is because I am British. All hail the Glow Cloud...
"Here's your list," said Cecil on their third date at the new 'and improved' Big Rico's. He pushed a piece of paper across the table, absent-mindedly slapping the wood when it tried to absorb the paper back into itself, and went back to creating a makeshift fence out of napkins to stop their dinner crawling away.
Carlos picked up the paper. There was a list of five things written on it.
"What's this?" he asked.
"Your Five Blood Quests," Cecil said. "That you need to do. Before the wedding."
"Oh yeah," Carlos said. "That." He'd kind of forgotten about that. "Um. The term 'Blood Quest'..."
"Oh, it's not how it sounds," Cecil replied airily.
Carlos slumped in relief.
"I mean, it sounds like you'll be shedding blood on each Quest, but actually the purpose is not to do that," said Cecil. "Or you fail."
"You can't marry me."
"Oh." Carlos stared at Cecil. "Uh. Just how often do people fail?"
Cecil's smile wavered. It was all the answer Carlos needed. He looked down at the list.
Get to the top of the Honour Tree in the Whispering Forest.
Shake hands with Steve Carlsburg, with his permission.
Do not hail the Glow Cloud.
Read a Library book.
Knit with Old Woman Josie.
"Um," Carlos said. "Cecil, I think you've given me the wrong list."
"Nope, that's it," Cecil replied cheerfully. He tackled the garlic bread before it could leap off the table.
"But all of this stuff sounds really easy!" Carlos said. "I mean...knit? Read? That's...easy!"
There was a long pause. When Carlos looked back over at Cecil, he was shaking his head sadly.
"What?" he asked.
"You're doomed," said Cecil.
Carlos looked back at the paper, and a thought occurred to him. "Hang on," he said. "I thought all writing utensils were banned."
Cecil winked at Carlos. It was both unnerving and sexy. "Loopholes," he whispered, and went on with trying to pin down his escaping spaghetti.
1. Get to the top of the Honour Tree in the Whispering Forest.
Getting through the Whispering Forest to the heart of it, where the Honour Tree was, was surprisingly easy. At the first sound of a tree saying "Oh Carlos, your hair is looking so good," Carlos swore, clapped his hands over his ears and said "Piss off," as loudly as he could. The trees rustled in annoyance but at least his feet weren't turning into roots, so he saw that as a good sign.
The Honour Tree was a bit of a disappointment, to be honest. He expected it to be huge, bigger than all the trees in the forest, but he had passed bigger ones. And there were plenty of handholds and things, which was lucky because as soon as he'd entered the Forest, his previously inanimate grappling hook had said "Bugger that, mate," in his ear and slithered off into the distance.
He started to climb as carefully as he could, which was difficult when he had his hands over his ears, so he soon had to give up and take his hands away.
The Tree said, in a deep booming voice, "You've angered my people, Carlos."
Carlos froze, hanging tight to a limb in case he was thrown off. He'd been climbing slowly so as not to scratch himself and was barely halfway up.
"Um," he said. "Sorry about that. I just really needed to see you without...you know...turning into a tree."
There was a pause. "You wanted to see me?" the Honour Tree asked. It sounded a little choked up.
"Er," said Carlos. "Yes."
There was another pause. Longer this time. Then the Tree started rustling, so violently that Carlos clung on to the branch until his knuckles went white.
"No one's ever come to see me!" the Honour Tree sobbed. "They never get this far, they all get distracted by those stupid, younger trees – "
"Uh – " said Carlos.
" – With their stupid compliments and lovely smooth bark and willowy trunks – "
"Puh – Please – " Carlos tried.
" – Thinking they're so great, they're so popular! Well other trees have needs as well, you know! All trees get lonely!"
"Please!" Carlos yelled. "You are going to kill me, would you please stop thrashing around!"
The Honour Tree settled down. Carlos pressed his head against the bark and tried to control his breathing.
"I was someone once," the Tree said miserably. "Someone important. That's why I'm called the Honour Tree now, because had an honourable profession. And now look at me. Outstripped by mere saplings."
Carlos asked the first question that came to mind. "What profession were you in?" he asked.
"Was a scientist," the Tree mumbled.
The sun – figuratively, because this was a very thick and overcrowded forest so it was impossible to tell night from day – came out.
"Oh," said Carlos. "I'm a scientist too."
There was a third long pause. "Can I hug you?" asked the Tree.
"Um," Carlos said. "Okay, but you need to be careful. I'm not allowed to shed blood."
"Oooh!" the Tree said excitedly, successfully distracted from the hug. "Are you on a Blood Quest?"
"Who're you marrying?"
"Uh, Cecil," said Carlos. His arms were starting to get tired from hanging on to the tree limb. "Cecil Baldwin, he works on the radio – "
"Oh yes, I remember him," said the Tree. "He has a lovely voice."
"Yeah," Carlos said. His right arm was beginning to cramp.
"Are you in love with him?" the Tree cooed.
Carlos paused. He'd never said it to Cecil, they'd only been on three dates and he spent the third one trying to stop his meatballs from rolling away. "Yes, I am," he said.
The Tree squealed. Carlos clung to the branch in case it started flailing again. "Um," he said. "Look, is it okay if I carry on climbing you? I'm meant to get to the top."
"Oh, I think we can do better than that," said the Tree. The branch started moving, but slowly. "Hang on," it said.
Carlos did so. The branch smoothly lifted him all the way up to the top of the Tree, to a fork at the top. Carlos stepped inside it and carefully sat down. He could see the whole of the forest laid out from here. He'd missed the sight of green plants.
He inspected his hands. They were blood free. "Thanks," he said.
"Anything for my favourite scientist," said the Tree. "Just tell Cecil Dr Dibinski says hi."
2. Shake hands with Steve Carlsburg, with his permission.
"This has got to be easy," Carlos said. He was waiting outside Steve's house and trying not to shake. "Totally easy. Easiest task on the list."
Nothing convinced him. He stared at the house. It looked so normal from the outside, at least normal for Night Vale. The letterbox kept flapping on its own and chuckling, and he was fairly sure there was a third storey to the building that kept flickering in and out of sight, but otherwise it looked...normal.
He took a deep breath and marched up to the door, ringing the doorbell.
The door opened and Carlos finally came face to face with the infamous Steve. He didn't look at all infamous. He was of average height, build and looks, and he was wearing average clothes. On the surface he looked totally unobjectionable. Maybe he was a real bastard or something.
"Hello," Steve said pleasantly. "Can I help you?"
Or maybe not.
"Uh, hi," Carlos said. "You don't know me, I just, uh. I was wondering if I could shake your hand?"
The reaction was instantaneous. Steve recoiled, his face darkening. "You monster," he hissed.
It said something about how long Carlos had been in Night Vale (read: too long) that he instantly glanced at Steve's hands, in case they weren't there, or they were claws or something and he had committed a massive faux pas. But no, they were there, dangling at the ends of his arms, and they looked like normal hands.
"I would really appreciate it if I could," Carlos persisted, trying to stay polite for as long as possible.
Steve looked like Carlos had just handed him the head of his dear old mother. "You sicken me," he snarled. "Thinking you can just go around shaking people's hands. Do you have no decency?"
Carlos tried to laugh this off. It did not work. Steve withdrew a little. "Even if I'd put several layers of alcohol rub on my hands which I haven't, I would never agree to such a degrading practise."
"Please, if you would just - "
"Get off my step before I call the Secret Police," Steve threatened. "Don't you realise how important my hands are? Do you think I'd let just anyone touch them? Go away!"
"Wait, please wait," Carlos panicked, and put his foot into the doorway to stop Steve slamming the door on him. "I really need you to do this. I'm on a sort of…a sort of Quest."
Steve hesitated. Then his eyes narrowed. "Oh," he said. "A Quest you say?"
"Uh, yeah," Carlos said.
Steve scented prey. He stepped back into the conversation. "Okay," he said. "So say I said you could shake my hand if I could scratch you afterwards, would you agree?"
"Um," Carlos said. "No."
Steve nodded in triumph. "You're on a Blood Quest."
I swear, Carlos thought, I'm the only person not to have heard about bloody Blood Quests.
"Okay, yes I am," he said.
Steve smirked. "Who're you marrying?"
Shit. "Uh. Cecil."
Steve stared at Carlos as if he had just said a dirty word. "Cecil?" he said. "Cecil Baldwin?"
"Yeah," Carlos said.
Steve spat on the ground. "Goodbye," he said, and started to close the door.
"No, wait, wait!" Carlos moved to block the door with his shoulder, but Steve had already opened it again, curiosity taking him over once more.
"So who are you then?" he asked. "What's the name of the idiot marrying that twat?"
Carlos pushed down his irritation. He'd always been very good at seeing the bigger picture. Punching Steve wouldn't get him his handshake. "I'm Carlos," he said.
Steve laughed aloud. "Of course. Carlos the scientist. His gushing finally get to you then?"
Carlos snapped. "Look," he said. "Just what is your problem with Cecil?"
"My problem?" Steve shouted. "My problem? I don't have a problem! It's him who has the problem! Once upon a time I had a perfectly normal life, then suddenly Cecil's insulting my scones on the radio and the next thing I know I've got shady figures flying out of my fireplace and lizards in my letterbox! Half the neighbourhood won't talk to me and the other half just emits guttural screams! He's turned the whole of Night Vale against me for no reason. Trust me, Carlos the scientist, you're better off without."
He moved to close the door for the last time. Carlos played his last card.
"I'll get Cecil to say something nice about you on the radio," he said.
The door stopped. It didn't open any more but it didn't close either.
"Seriously," Carlos said. "If you shake my hand, he'll say it. Something nice. No sarcasm. Promise."
The door opened an inch. Steve's face peeked over at Carlos. "Any promises made during a Blood Quest have to be honoured. Unless you like your skin being removed by ferrets."
"Not so much," Carlos replied. "I'll honour it."
The door opened. Steve beamed at him. "Let's shake on it," he said.
It was the briefest shake in the universe. Steve's hand was cold and clammy and he dropped Carlos's as soon as possible, but it was still a handshake. Carlos couldn't help but smile. Two down!
It was only when he got back in the car that he realised it wasn't two down at all…not until he convinced Cecil.
The smile dropped right off his face.
"You what?" shouted Cecil.
Carlos stepped behind a table for a bit of protection. Cecil was sweet as a lamb, but he also had a temper like a dragon. The other day Carlos had mentioned he needed a haircut and the next thing he knew Cecil was hurling beakers at him and poisonous chemicals were flying everywhere.
"It's one sentence," he wheedled. "Just one. It won't hurt, Cecil."
"It will!" Cecil fumed. "And I am not doing it."
"Right, so you don't want to get married to me then," Carlos said casually. "Fine, that's fine."
"I never really liked my skin anyway," Carlos continued.
Cecil's expression darkened. "Damn you," he hissed.
Carlos stood outside the radio booth, smiling encouragingly. Cecil sat inside. If looks could kill, Carlos would be a chalk outline on the ground.
"Blood cannot wash out ink," Cecil started, switching to his radio voice and speaking into the microphone. "Ink cannot wash out the empty hole inside your heart. Welcome to Night Vale." He paused, seeming to steel himself, then continued. "Before we start with our daily news, listeners, there is something I promised to say. Steve Carlsburg…"
He halted. Carlos crossed his fingers behind his back. Cecil grit his teeth. "Steve Carlsburg," he said. "Is…he is…Steve is…"
He sighed. Carlos momentarily wondered what being eaten by ferrets felt like. How many ferrets were they even talking about here?
"Steve Carlsburg," Cecil snapped. "Is…not an absolutely awful person all of the time."
He glanced at Carlos triumphantly. Carlos rolled his eyes and waved his hand in the universal symbol that meant 'continue'. Cecil's face darkened.
"I say this, listeners," he said, jaw so tight he could barely open his mouth to speak, "Because yesterday, Steve…let Carlos shake his hand. Which," he continued, rallying slightly, "I believe should be seen as an honour frankly, to touch Carlos's smooth, perfect, caramel skin - but," he said, quailing a little under Carlos's glare, "I understand touching isn't…for everyone. So…" He twitched. "Thanks, Steve."
He glared at Carlos. Carlos nodded at him to continue.
"It was very…" Cecil said, looking like he was being forced to eat beetles, "Charitable."
He collapsed back into his seat. Carlos beamed at him and blew him a kiss. Cecil's glare - though it wasn't physically possible - worsened.
Carlos made his escape…while the going was still good.
3. Do not hail the Glow Cloud
Cecil drove Carlos to the Glow Cloud on his way to the station. It was currently on the edge of town, spitting frogs into a cactus bush. They sat in the car and watched it for a while.
"I wonder what the biggest animal that thing's dropped on someone is," Carlos said, as casually as he could.
"Blue whale," Cecil replied cheerfully. "On a bus of orphans."
Carlos shot him a horrified look.
"What?" Cecil said. "They're fine."
Carlos's horrified expression melted into one of bemusement.
"You're so sweet," Cecil smiled. "Everyone knows what happens to whales in Night Vale."
"Right," Carlos said blankly.
"Of course, we had butterflies all over the place for a while, which was annoying," Cecil continued.
Carlos opened the car door. Maybe it was less insane outside. "Okay," he said. "Just off to get killed by a blue whale."
"I already told you, a whale won't - " Cecil started, but Carlos shut the door on him.
Cecil roared away, with a cheery smile and a wave. Carlos was left to face the Glow Cloud alone.
"Right," he said. "Okay. Right. Um. Hello. I'm not hailing you."
The Glow Cloud stopped spitting frogs. It turned, as much as a cloud can, to face Carlos.
"Yep," Carlos said, starting to shake. "Definitely not hailing you."
The Cloud pulsated.
"So not hailing you," Carlos continued, wondering if he could run for it. Why did Cecil drive off? He could use a car right now.
The Glow Cloud moved over him. Carlos felt like burrowing in the sand and digging his way back to Night Vale. "Doesn't matter how much you try to persuade me," he said, feeling like the most idiotic man in the world, "I'm not going to hail you." He paused for dramatic effect. "Ever."
Something dropped out of the Cloud. Carlos automatically lunged forward and caught it. It was an animal, and it was warm and fluffy, and about the size of a basketball. It wriggled and Carlos caught sight of a stripy nose. It was a badger.
"Oh, okay," he said. "No, that's all right. Quite cute really. Definitely better than a whale."
The badger shifted in his arms. He caught a glimpse of red eyes and gnashing jaws and, with skills honed by surviving in Night Vale for over a year, dropped the thing immediately. The badger bounced, a bit too bouncily for a badger. It twisted in the air and landed on its feet, then ran, mouth frothing, for Carlos's legs.
Carlos remembered all his past training at football and kicked it as hard as he could. The thing flew backwards over a sand dune.
"Buggering fucking hell," said Carlos. He never used to swear before he came to Night Vale. Now he couldn't stop.
There was a sound over the sand dune, the sound of something righting itself and preparing to charge.
Carlos ran for it.
Eight hours and several probably-hundreds of miles later, Carlos knocked on Cecil's apartment door. Cecil opened the door. He was wearing a bright purple apron.
"Carlos!" he said cheerily. "You're looking..." He trailed off. "Dusty," he managed at last.
Carlos really had to be looking shit if not even Cecil could find something nice to say about him.
"I've had enough," he said.
Cecil frowned. "You didn't draw blood, did you?"
Carlos lost his temper. "No, Cecil, I did not draw blood," he snapped. "I have, however, spent the entire day running through the desert with a rabid badger running after me, but no, I did not draw fucking blood." Once he started, he couldn't stop. "I ended up having to lock it in an outhouse before the stupid Cloud would come and suck it back up again. It's mental! This is mental, this situation is mental, this entire town is mental and I have had enough. Do you know I can't even use my shower? Yeah, because crickets are coming out of it!"
Cecil looked nonplussed. "Well, it's Cricket Week," he said, as if this should be obvious.
"I'm done with this," Carlos snarled. "I'm leaving this town. It's absolutely ridiculous. I don't even know why I've stayed so long in the first pl – "
And then Cecil kissed him.
It went on for a while.
"Oh," Carlos said, when they resurfaced.
"I made dinner," Cecil said. "Want some?"
"Okay," said Carlos.
4. Read a Library Book
"Now," Cecil said, as they stood outside the library and listened to the screams inside. "The important thing to remember is that – "
" – Run if I see a librarian?" Carlos offered.
Cecil stalled. "Okay, so there's two important things to remember," he said.
"What was the first important thing?" Carlos asked.
"Don't look in any of the books."
"Cecil, I have to read one of the books."
"Oh." Cecil thought about this for a moment. "Okay, then don't pick a biography."
"Right." Carlos looked back at the library. The screams had stopped, but that wasn't necessarily a good sign. "Um," he said, "If I don't come back – "
"Don't be silly, darling," Cecil said and pushed him towards the door.
The library itself looked perfectly normal considering the circumstances. There were a few books on the ground and a weird blue and purple blob slowly sliding across the ceiling, but otherwise it seemed fine. Neat, even. And it was terribly quiet.
Carlos glanced around for a decent book. If he was going to read something, he at least wanted it to be informative. He drifted over to the Science section almost automatically, and picked a book at random. It had a suspiciously bright red cover but it didn't appear to be leaking or anything, so he opened it.
Words flew out of the pages. He ducked just in time to see the word 'Diazepam' float past his eyes, and hear an entire phrase whiz past his ear. The words sounded...sharp. And they glinted at the edges very unsettlingly.
He closed the book. The words stopped escaping. Something rustled behind him. He turned. There was nothing there.
He'd read plenty of books in his lifetime. He liked books, and he loved the really difficult ones, which was probably why he'd ended up being a scientist. He was damned if he was going to let this one beat him.
He opened the book again. The words attempted another escape. Carlos ducked the first barrage and tutted.
"Stop it," he ordered in his strictest voice. "I'm going to read you whether you like it or not. So stay put."
The words flickered a bit, and some of them swapped positions, but mostly they stayed where they were.
About a couple of hours later, Carlos finished and closed the book, giving it a final thank you pat. He was just replacing it on the shelf and congratulating himself on a task well completed when he heard a noise behind him.
It had been a rustle before. It was not a rustle now. It was more a sort of victory screech.
He froze and fought the urge to turn around. Maybe if he didn't move it would go away. It did not. In fact, it got closer. So close he could feel its breath on his neck.
He put his hand in his lab coat pocket to grab his phone and call Cecil, but instead of his phone, his hand closed around a biscuit. He must have put on the wrong lab coat this morning. This was his Teatime Lab Coat.
Oh well, he thought, I've got nothing to lose.
He pulled out the biscuit and held it up, still keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the bookshelf in front of him.
"Biscuit?" he offered.
Shapes fluttered in the corner of Carlos's vision. He waited for his death. Instead, something reached around the side of his head and hovered over the biscuit. He would have called it a claw, but he was fairly sure claws weren't meant to glisten.
He waited for the 'claw' to descend, either into the biscuit or into his neck, but it didn't.
"It's a custard cream," he tried.
The 'claw' snatched the biscuit away so quickly Carlos didn't see it. One moment he'd been standing there with a slightly squashed biscuit in his hand and something breathing down his neck, the next he was standing biscuitless and alone.
He gathered all his courage and turned around. There was nothing there. And he could see his exit before him, the door wide open. He was fairly sure it had been closed before.
When he came outside, Cecil was sitting on a bench and texting furiously on his phone. He didn't look up.
"Did you have a nice time, dear?" he asked, as if Carlos had simply been at a book club or something.
Carlos thought about it. "Well," he said, "I know a lot about Valium now."
Cecil smiled and looked up from his phone. He probably hadn't heard a word. "Fantastic," he said. "You're doing really well." He stood up. "Come on, we need to go to the station. Intern Tracy has been eaten by an escaped Librarian."
Carlos thought about the open door with a pang of guilt. "She should have tried custard creams," he said.
Cecil frowned. "What?"
Carlos linked his arm in Cecil's. "Never mind," he said. "Let's go."
5. Knit with Old Woman Josie.
This time, Carlos was prepared. He'd not come this far to fall at the last hurdle now. He'd practised all sorts of knitting techniques, casting on, casting off, purl, ribbing, and he could now complete a pair of gloves in under two hours. He even had his own needles with him.
He knocked at Old Woman Josie's door. Josie opened it. They'd met often in the street, and once he'd helped her carry seven shopping bags full of Reese's Pieces to her house (apparently that was all the Angels ate...if you could call what they did with them 'eating'). So they were already on good terms.
"Hello, dear," she said. "Come here for your Blood Quest?"
"Yes," Carlos said, not bothering to ask how she knew about it. Cecil had probably been gushing about it excitedly on the radio for the last week.
"Come in," she said. "I've got needles and wool for you."
"I've already got my own needles," Carlos said, following her through the house. It looked like a typical old woman's house, with lots of pastel colours and flowery prints and pictures of cats, but it didn't feel like one. Carlos would have said it felt draughty, but it was the kind of draught that came from another world, or another universe maybe. It certainly didn't feel comfortable.
"Oh no," Josie said, bringing him to a room that was stuffed full of different balls of wool and unfinished knitting projects. "These are special Blood Quest needles. You have to use them."
She brought out a box from somewhere on her person – Carlos didn't dare think where. He opened it. Inside lay two metal needles, and they both had the sharpest points he had ever seen on something that wasn't a knife.
"Fantastic," he grumbled. A particularly cold and strange draught slipped down his spine. He shivered.
"Sorry, that was just Erika," Josie said.
"What, an Angel?" Carlos asked.
"Yes, you can't see them unless they let you," Josie replied. "Come on. I was thinking we could knit a cardigan."
They settled down amongst the wool. After a while Josie's radio let out a high pitched scream. Carlos, who had luckily been only sorting through balls of wool, almost fell over.
Josie smiled sweetly. "Don't let that bother you, dear," she said. "It's always been like that. Technical fault."
Carlos wondered what sort of technical fault made radios scream, but he knew better than to ask. He tried to get on with his knitting.
It was the most intense knitting he'd ever done. He was battling to concentrate on his rows whilst being barraged by Josie's nattering, the unexpected draughts of the Angels and the even more unexpected radio screaming, all whilst trying not to stab himself with his own needles. He was used to working in high pressured situations but this was something else entirely.
"Would you like some tea, dear?" Josie asked, just as he got to a really difficult bit.
"What?" he said distractedly. And then "Oooh!" because a draught stronger than all the rest hit him in the face. The radio screamed suddenly. His needle slipped.
It slipped right into his thumb.
"Ow!" he yelped, and looked down. A drop of blood welled up on his skin.
"Oh," he said.
"Oh dear," said Old Woman Josie.
"Oh no," Carlos whimpered.
Everything stopped for a moment. And then that everything got a bit blurry at the edges. He stared at his bleeding thumb. The blood trickled down to his wrist. "But I tried so hard," he said, and then suddenly there wasn't just blood welling up on his thumb but also tears welling up in his eyes. He tried to push them down but the disappointment was too much. It was all coming out whether he liked it or not.
"I talked to trees," he babbled. "I f-fought rabid badgers, I ran ac-across the desert for miles, I g-gave biscuits to a Librarian, I even – I even shook hands with Steve Carlsburg and – and I g-got st-stabbed b-by a knitting needle."
He thought about Cecil's miserable face when he heard the news and then the tears really started flowing. "I d-didn't even tell him I loved him!" he heard himself wail. "We ha-had three p-proper dates and I – and I was s-so distracted on e- on each one and I d-didn't tell him. And now – " He gave a great sob. "I'll never be able to!"
He started weeping into his knitting.
"Aw, shit," said Old Woman Josie. "Erika!"
There was a flash of light, so bright that it made Carlos drop his knitting altogether. He glanced up. An enormous creature with three eyes stared down at him. He momentarily forgot to cry.
"No, not Erika!" Josie yelled at the creature. "Erika!"
The creature rolled all three eyes and vanished again. Carlos sniffled. There was another flash, purple this time, and a similar looking creature appeared. Except this one had five eyes.
It stared at Carlos.
"Blood Quest," explained Josie. "Sort it out, will you."
The thing blew a gust of air at Carlos, so cold that he shivered. His thumb tingled. The creature said something in a beautiful, garbled language that translated itself in Carlos's ear, quietly, as if someone were whispering into it.
Sodding Blood Quests, it said.
It vanished. Carlos glanced down at his thumb. The blood was trickling back up his wrist and pouring back into the cut, which then healed itself. It looked like nothing had happened.
He looked up at Old Woman Josie. She flashed him a wink. "Our little secret," she said.
Carlos would have run all the red lights to get to the radio station, but it didn't matter because all the traffic lights had vanished from Night Vale that day anyway. He dashed up the station steps two at a time and barrelled through the door.
An unfamiliar intern was sitting outside the booth. He glared at Carlos. "You can't go in," he snapped. "Cecil's recording."
Carlos glanced into the booth. Cecil was sitting with his feet up on the desk, chattering into the microphone with his headphones on and blithely unaware of any disturbance going on outside.
"Oh, go and get eaten by something," Carlos snapped, and opened the booth door.
"And that is why, dear listeners," Cecil was saying, "You should never wear any white on Fridays. Unless you're in PR, in which case, go right ahead! Oh!" Cecil had finally looked up and seen Carlos there. "Oh, dear listeners, what a lovely surprise!" he cheered. "The wonderful Carlos is in my studio now and he's walking up to me – Carlos, you're looking a mite agitated, is everything all – mmph!"
The 'mmph' was because Carlos had just swung Cecil's chair around, knocked his headphones off his ears with one hand and crushed their mouths together. Cecil murmured, then moaned, then slid his arms around Carlos's neck and returned the kiss with equal fervour. At some point they knocked against the microphone, which made Cecil instinctively pull away.
"Um," he said. "Not that I'm complaining, dear Carlos, but what – "
"I did it," Carlos growled, looming over him. "I did your stupid Five Blood Quests and now I am going to marry you, Cecil Baldwin, whether you like it or not, got it?"
Cecil went bright pink. "Got it," he said, sounding dazed. "Can we have sex now?"
Carlos blinked. "I thought that was only allowed after marriage in Night Vale."
Cecil also blinked. "Who told you that?"
"Uh," said Carlos. "Teddy Williams. He talked about 'the happy event after the wedding'."
It had been very embarrassing. Teddy had strode up to him after their first date and gone on in great length about weddings. Carlos, who at that point had been a mess of confused feelings, had just gone along with it.
"Oh," Cecil realised. "No, he was talking about the bloodletting!"
"The – " Carlos stalled. "What?"
"The bloodletting," Cecil said. "It happens after the wedding ceremony. Each person cuts the other. It's traditional. That's why you're not allowed to shed blood during the Blood Quests, it's sort of a symbol to show that you'll only let your other half shed your blood. It's romantic, I think."
"So," Carlos said slowly, sticking with the important topic. "Sex is allowed outside of marriage."
Cecil snorted. "I'll say," he said. "Night Vale folks never stop going at it." He hesitated. "I just thought you wanted to. You know. Take it slow."
"No," Carlos said. His heart was pounding against his ribs. "I donot want to take it slow." He paused. "Unless. I mean, unless you want to take it slow?"
Cecil stared at him. "Are you kidding?" His voice was hoarse. "Have you even seen your hair?"
Carlos grinned. Cecil grinned back. The booth door flew open.
"Do you mind," the nameless intern snapped. "Everything you've just been blathering about has been broadcast all over Night Vale! For the love of God, shut up!"
Carlos and Cecil glanced at each other. "He's really not going to last long," Carlos said.
"Tell me about it," Cecil replied darkly. He turned back to the microphone, but Carlos beat him to it.
"Dear listeners," he drawled into the microphone, holding Cecil off with one hand. "As you may have heard, Cecil is bound to be a little...busy...for the next few hours. I'm sure you understand. I leave you with the soothing sounds of radio static. Come on, Cecil."
He grabbed Cecil's arm and hauled him out of the booth. Cecil was just able to shout "Good night, Night Vale, good night!" and then the door shut behind him.
There was silence at last.