I don't own Night Vale of course.
I just tend to write really drabbly cute Cecilos scenes when I'm putting off responsibilities.
Comments welcomed and appreciated!
Carlos's cell phone vibrated in his pocket, startling him and causing the beaker he was so carefully attempting to repair to slip through his fingers and crash to the floor with a tinkling shatter. He sighed in frustration and glanced at the phone display before answering. Whether making or receiving a call, Cecil always began the exact same way.
"Carlos!" the radio host's voice bubbled cheerily.
"Hey, Cecil," Carlos replied with a yawn.
"How in the world are you?" Cecil asked, the smile evident through his voice even though the scientist couldn't see him. Carlos glanced around at the shattered glass and small piles of ashes that littered the floor of his warehouse laboratory. Scorch marks wound their way up the walls to the cracked windows, and a bit of smoke still thickened the air despite the industrial ceiling fan's valiant efforts.
"It's…been a long day." He said resignedly as he removed his glasses and rubbed at his eyes. There was a brief pause before Cecil replied again, smoothing his perpetual effervescence into a relaxing radio calm.
"If you'd like, I can bring some warm food to the lab. I think we still have some lentil soup in the pantry from the fish-borne bomb scare, I can heat it up and be over in ten minutes." Carlos glanced down at his watch, and given the watch still kept time or was even still an actual watch, it was almost 8:20. He was supposed to have been home over two hours ago.
"Oh god, Cecil, I'm sorry, I lost track of time. Just let me lock up and I'll be right home." He said a quick goodbye and slipped the phone back into his pocket as he gave one last resigned look at the glittering, smoking mess that used to be his laboratory. He'd clean it up tomorrow, he decided as he closed and locked the door behind him. The drive to Cecil's townhouse was a short distance in theory, but one-way (and in some cases no-way) streets extended the drive a few extra minutes. Though Carlos technically still owned the apartment above his lab, the drawer of his things at Cecil's place had gradually become well-used enough that they both had begun to use joint pronouns for nearly everything (and only used the lab apartment for spontaneous surprises on nights when Carlos worked exceptionally late.) He let out a long sigh as he stepped through the door, setting his keys on the desk and dropping his armful of only-slightly-singed memo books on the armchair. Without any visible movement, Cecil was immediately at his side. He cupped Carlos's face in his hands and kissed him sweetly, brushing back a damp, straggling curl with a smile.
"My darling Carlos." He glanced momentarily at the scientist's forehead where he had just removed the curl, and then planted an impulsive kiss there as well. He slipped his hand down to clasp Carlos's and led him directly over to the sofa. "I just began dinner, so we have a little bit of time. Tell me all about your day." He said as they sat down. Carlos sighed heavily.
"It was awful." He removed his glasses and rubbed at his eyes again. Cecil began tracing soothing circles in the back of Carlos's lab coat, waiting for him to continue. "That crimson mantis we've been trying to capture for a month now, we finally found it this morning. It was so beautiful," he said, a trace of reverence slipping into his voice. "But it was so destructive. We could tell right away as it left several bite marks in the glass case we trapped it in. We were finally able to sedate it, and I extracted some DNA in a syringe. I put it on a slide into the freezer to cold mount it. I didn't know the mantis reproduces asexually and incredibly quickly, and when I went to retrieve the slide for analysis, there was a whole swarm of them, hundreds loose in the lab." He paused to apply pressure to his left temple where he always got the worst stress headaches. "They destroyed all the new equipment we got in last week and kidnapped Arnst." The swirling patterns Cecil was tracing stopped momentarily. "Don't worry, he's fine, we found him an hour later tied up in one of the basement quarantine rooms." Cecil nodded understandably, resuming the little circles. "But not before we had to use the flamethrowers to kill those beautiful, horrible insects."
"I believe you mean the flood extinguishers." Cecil corrected with a chuckle. Something about his unshakable calm irritated Carlos a little, and the scientist ran a frustrated hand through his tangled hair before replacing his glasses.
"I just don't know some days, Cecil." He sighed finally. "Morale has been at an all-time low ever since they took away our funding and gave it to that Amazonian tree frog sanctuary in Oklahoma." He was quiet for a moment. "I don't think they even have the conditions to sustain Amazonian life forms in Oklahoma." He muttered more to himself. Cecil smiled knowingly. He had spent the last two weeks listening to small jabs at the frog sanctuary, knowing full well that under different circumstances Carlos would have fully supported the preservation of the exotic amphibious species. "We're running out of what little funds we get from City Council, and I don't even know why we're running some of the experiments we are because I already know the results will just be pointless numbers that don't make sense. And even if they did, nobody in this town even cares about scientific hypotheses or logical explanations. I'm just a little sick of feeling useless." He spat, a little rougher than intended. It was a pity party, he knew, but he'd been in Night Vale over a year and a half now and had complained shockingly little in his opinion about its lack of sense and obedience to physical laws.
"You're not useless." Cecil consoled in a tone, Carlos thought, much like comforting a small child afraid of monsters in the closet (except Cecil firmly believed that there indeed were monsters residing in the hall linen closet.) His continued positivity just added to Carlos's growing sense of frustration. "You're…" Cecil searched for the proper word. "Perfect."
Carlos, already pushed beyond the point of patience, decided this was the moment to remedy a habit that had been nagging at him slightly since he moved in. "I wish you wouldn't do that." He spoke the words quietly, but he could hear the edge in his own voice. Cecil leaned away nearly imperceptibly.
"Do what?" he queried cautiously.
"Call me perfect all the time. I'm not perfect." Carlos said plainly.
"Oh, don't be silly, Carlos." Cecil began. "Of course you are." His defusive tone had quite the opposite effect than he desired.
"No, Cecil, I'm not." Carlos retorted, tasting each sharp syllable as it cut through the uncomfortable air that had settled into the living room. "And I wish you wouldn't say it." Cecil flinched at the rise in intensity in Carlos's voice, but said nothing. "It sets unrealistic standards for our relationship that are impossible for me to live up to. And then on days like these" he flung his arms out to the side "when all my work goes to hell, and I come home in a mess, then I feel like a horrible boyfriend because on top of everything else then I'm disappointing you." Carlos hadn't realized he was standing until Cecil stood up to match his gaze.
"Carlos, you aren't disappointing anyone, least of all me." Cecil replied, his voice silky and cool, a striking contrast to the rough, heated words Carlos could still taste on his lips. "You are perfect, you are the standard. Impossibility would be you not living up to perfection when it is simply you, exactly as you are." He reached out a slender finger to trace along Carlos's jawline. Carlos knew it would be as cool and calming as Cecil's voice, but he pulled away, annoyed at his lover's persistence to believe in something he himself knew to be very, very untrue.
"No, Cecil." He said, steadying his tone against the surge of irritation. "You cannot put people on pedestals. You're only begging for them to slip and fall off, and one day –someday- I'm going to say something or do something and-" he realized that his voice was more raised than he intended and his eyes were stinging. He pinched the bridge of his nose, willing back an even more ridiculous emotional display. "And if I'm not perfect to you anymore" he said, measuring his words evenly. "If I'm not your 'perfect Carlos,' then I'll become just Carlos, just a name like everyone else." He finished, feeling deflated and empty.
"Carlos, you're being silly." Cecil replied very softly after he was sure Carlos was done. The words were soft and gentle in their attempt to cross the space between them and erase the tension that was threatening to spark like a wildfire. Carlos couldn't comprehend the fact that Cecil simply couldn't comprehend facts – namely the very true reality that life and nothing in it has the capability of even approaching perfection. He just shook his head and strode heavily to the bedroom. He opened the door, but turned back to Cecil.
"Perfection doesn't exist." He spat. "It's a scientific impossibility. And even if it did exist, I would be nowhere near it." He slammed the door (or rather, tried to slam the door – it was not appreciative of being slammed and chose to close itself quite gently) before slumping down on the bed feeling, on top of everything else, horrible for yelling at Cecil. The entire situation wasn't Cecil's fault at all, but rather the sum of day after unproductive, sticky, long day in the lab. It just happened that after the mantis infestation was reduced to ashy piles, Cecil was the only surface left on to which Carlos could now release his pent-up venom. The worst of it all was that he knew Cecil would take every drop of that venom to heart, absorb it into his bloodstream as a fault and an apology that needed saying, all because of his stupid mindset that everything Carlos did was flawless and perfect.
He wasn't sure if he slept or not. He heard the soft squeak of the front door as Cecil headed down to the station, and the same soft squeak precisely fifty-two minutes later (if clocks were to be believed) as he returned. Carlos didn't listen to the broadcast, too afraid to hear the hurt and heartbreak that would inevitably creep into Cecil's voice despite his best attempts to maintain a professional composure. Carlos simply lay there, motionless, clutching Cecil's pillow and wishing he could swallow the bitter words he had spoken and just let Cecil believe he was some perfect, wonderful thing that could never really exist. Could never exist like Cecil and his eyes that faintly shifted between colors depending on his mood and seemed almost luminescent in the dark, like strange lights in the sky above fast-food businesses, and like the rest of this town of anomalies. Maybe he could be his own contradiction of nature, something flawless, something perfect, something that belonged here in Night Vale, spending his days defying every natural law just like everything and everyone else in town.
Just as he began to wonder if Cecil had given up for the night and chosen to sleep on the sofa (which would be difficult since the sofa sometimes forgot to exist when not being directly looked at), a folded slip of paper inched beneath the bedroom door. Paper was, of course, a precious and highly-valued commodity, which meant whatever Cecil had written, it was equally valuable. Carlos climbed out of the bed and reached down to gingerly lift the contraband. Before he could unfold it, there was a soft knock on the door.
"I made you dinner." Cecil's muffled voice offered. "If you'd like I can slip it through the wall." The edge of the bowl was already peeking through their inexplicably permeable bedroom wall when Carlos opened the door. Cecil straightened awkwardly and handed the dish to Carlos. The scientist accepted it without removing his gaze from Cecil's eyes, blue as deep oceans as they locked themselves on a knick in the wood floor.
"You don't have to knock, you know." Carlos said quietly. "It's your bedroom after all."
"Our bedroom." Cecil corrected softly, still refusing to meet his gaze.
"Would you like to come in?" Carlos said, ambling back to the bed and motioning for Cecil to sit beside him. The door closed itself quietly as Cecil obeyed, glancing nervously at the bowl of rice on the dresser. It was Carlos's very favorite dish, reserved for birthdays and sick days and very extraordinarily rainy days when Cecil would make breakfast in bed and they would allow themselves long mornings of listening to whatever was raining hit the roof in rhythmic patterns and exchange quiet stories of memories or far away places. They were Carlos's favorite moments, the ones in which they would simply exist together.
"Arroz con leche." Cecil said finally after a long silence. Carlos smiled. Cecil was always so proud to use the few words of Spanish Carlos had taught him in conversation.
"Thank you." Carlos replied, reaching over to take Cecil's hand. He always liked when they held hands; it granted him permission to use that different set of pronouns that still felt faintly sweet and strange and new when he spoke them, and it made him feel steady and certain, which was a precious luxury here in Night Vale. "I'm sorry I yelled at you."
"Don't be." Cecil finally met Carlos's gaze, his curious eyes shifting now between a turquoise and a pale green. "I didn't realize how I was hurting you. It's-" he took a shaky breath, confirming Carlos's suspicion that the smudges near the corners of Cecil's eyes weren't a trick of the pale moonlight flittering in through the window. "Hurting you is the last thing I ever wanted." He smiled, a sad sort of smile that was all lips and no eyes.
"But I shouldn't have been angry with you. I shouldn't have said things how I did. And I definitely shouldn't have raised my voice." Carlos traded hands so he could trace his own patterns across Cecil's shoulders. He could feel the ripple of the swirling ink just beneath Cecil's skin that always accompanied his touch. "It was irrational of me."
"It's alright." Cecil murmured, closing his eyes contentedly and reveling in the tingling sensation.
"I do stand by what I said though." Carlos continued after a moment. "I have flaws, Cecil. Quite a few actually." He thought for a long moment to produce factual proof. "Remember all those months ago when you took me to the imaginary zone just off the highway to convince me to stop analyzing Night Vale so much?"
"Of course I do." Cecil smiled. "We imagined it into a carnival on the boardwalk. It was the first time I ever persuaded you to spend time with me outside of strictly business." Carlos smiled now too.
"Remember how we played the ring toss? I missed the bottles with all six rings." It was a silly example, but it seemed the simplest for his purposes. "Scientific perfection would mean that I would have landed all six rings perfectly on the first try."
"I stand by what I said too." Cecil replied, finally opening his eyes, now a soft jade. "You absolutely are indeed perfect." Carlos stopped tracing shapes, disbelieving that they were back to square one again, but Cecil caught his hand and brought it to his lips. He brushed his thumb across the smooth caramel skin, gazing at it with a perplexed smile. "I'm not sure how I can make you understand, my darling Carlos. Perfection is not a title or a goal to achieve. Perfection is a part of who you are. You are the sum of all I have ever believed to be wonderful and beautiful in this world. Mistakes and bad days and all – you are the very definition of the word. It isn't something you can reach." He paused to press his lips to the tip of Carlos's nose. "It's something inside you. Something you are." Carlos could feel the crimson flushing to his face.
"So what is this then?" He reached over to retrieve the letter Cecil had slid under the door. He carefully unfolded it to find a seemingly endless list of words written in careful, swooping penmanship with an indigo crayon.
"This," Cecil beamed. "Is a list of words I have come up with to describe you, should you ever cease to be perfect – which I must remind you, is in fact impossible. You may choose any number of these replacements for they are all the things I think of when I look at you." Some of the words near the beginning of the list were fairly commonplace in Cecil's vocabulary – beautiful, swell, splendid, neat. The further Carlos read, the more complex and unexpected the adjectives grew – effervescent, intoxicating, wondrous, breathtaking. Some he wasn't sure were even real words – perlerous and silvitive - others were repeated from the beginning of the list with words like exceptionally and absolutely before them, but Carlos didn't mind. All he cared about was the wonderful man beside him who had spent an afternoon and his favorite color of illegal writing utensil to create such a beautiful list. At the very bottom of the paper, in the most intricately rehearsed calligraphy of all were two very large words.
"I don't even know what to say." Carlos replied as he neatly re-folded the paper for safekeeping and turned to Cecil. "Thank you." He whispered, pulling him close. After several kisses, Cecil leaned back thoughtfully.
"I have to admit I am going to miss calling you perfect on air, though. It has such a lovely ring, wouldn't you agree?" he asked with mock disappointment.
"How about we settle for a compromise?" Carlos purred as he straddled Cecil's hips and leaned in for another kiss. Cecil wrapped his arms around him, tracing a line up the base of Carlos's spine.
"What did you have in mind?"
"You can call me perfect all you like," Carlos planted a kiss on Cecil's forehead. "As long as you promise to tell me one thing" -another kiss on his cheekbone- "that makes me incredibly imperfect by scientific standards." a twin kiss on the opposite cheekbone, for symmetry. "Deal?" he asked, pulling back to look into Cecil's eyes of liquid amber, warm and smooth.
Cecil shook his head with a grin. "Oh my dear and perfect Carlos," he whispered, pulling him close for another taste of his lips. "I fear you are simply no good at ring toss."