Carlos really likes Cecil. He's just- he's great. Carlos isn't as good at giving praise as Cecil is, but he does recognize that being around Cecil makes him feel jittery and excited and happy and that they should be around each other more often. And make out more often. As much as possible - or convenient, to be precise, because they could possibly be making out all the time and that would be good, but they're adults with jobs and they can't actually make out in the lab in front of Carlos' colleagues, or in the radio station in front of Cecil's co-workers and interns, or in the middle of the street while cars honk at them and swerve around.
Although Carlos does spend a lot of time day-dreaming about that. He should maybe mention his PDA kink to Cecil, before it turns into a whole big thing.
Anyway, the point is, Carlos likes Cecil. What Carlos does not like is sleeping with Cecil.
This isn't a euphemism, okay, Cecil is probably perfectly adequate at sex. If they ever get there. It's not like they're in a hurry. It's complicated – Carlos has a lot of self-esteem issues and some treacherous body dysphoria, and meanwhile Cecil's dropping hints that he's asexual, and Carlos isn't sure if Cecil means that he's not interested in sexual activity or if he means that he reproduces asexually because Night Vale. Carlos thinks it might be insensitive to ask for clarification on that point, at least until Cecil is ready to have a real conversation about it. It's not like Cecil has been asking Carlos about the scars on his chest or his citizenship status or his exact ethnic background. Unlike some people Carlos could mention. But maybe sometime they should have a full and frank discussion about themselves, because Carlos doesn't like assumptions. He likes facts, true and tested information that you can rely on. That's why he went into science, and-
He keeps getting distracted. It's late or maybe early and Carlos is exhausted and his mind is wandering. Because he can't sleep, because Cecil is terrible at sharing a bed. That's the point.
Right now Cecil is glowing, light seeping out from under his eyelids. It's bright and penetrating, and Carlos never managed to sleep with a light on before, not once. Even that would be fine except occasionally Cecil's eyes burst open and static pulses across his normally pure white eyes. It doesn't mean Cecil is awake – it actually seems to happen more as Cecil drifts deeper into sleep. The static flickers brightly across the room, and Cecil mumbles headlines and makes jerky hand gestures in his sleep, accidentally slapping Carlos just as Carlos was about to doze off. Carlos stifles yelps and stops himself from slapping back, because Cecil obviously doesn't mean it and Carlos remembers something about how you shouldn't interrupt REM sleep or force a sleepwalker to wake. He needs to look that up. Half-remembered facts are less useful than ignorance. Either way, Cecil definitely needs his sleep.
Which he gets. Cecil always sleeps his full eight hours. Carlos, on the other hand, does not.
Cecil already woke Carlos up twice tonight with breaking somnolent news, so Carlos is glaring blearily at Cecil's face in anticipation, trying to decide whether it's safe to try and fall asleep again.
He should have told Cecil that he couldn't sleep over tonight. But they'd had dinner at Cecil's apartment, and then watched a movie, then made out on the couch, Cecil in Carlos' lap, bending almost double to kiss Carlos because Cecil loves sitting in Carlos' lap but the respective heights involved aren't exactly practical for that position. So they moved to the bedroom to make things easier on Cecil's back, and then it was midnight and curfew was long past and they were already in Cecil's bed. And Cecil asked Carlos to stay in such a quiet voice, like he was already expecting to be told no, and- And Carlos really likes Cecil.
But he's beginning to remember how much he likes sleep. Also. God, he's tired.
Cecil's glow seems to be getting brighter. Carlos experiments with putting a pillow over Cecil's face. It muffles the light, but also makes Cecil snore, with a grinding noise that recalls a chainsaw blunting on granite. Carlos takes the pillow off Cecil's face, and tries turning his back on Cecil instead.
From here Carlos can see the clock on Cecil's bedside table, showing blurry red numbers that suddenly seem vitally important. Putting on his glasses means admitting that he's awake, so Carlos leans in close instead, nose almost brushing the display. Five minutes after three. He has to be awake in four hours, which is too little time to sleep and too much time to lie in bed not sleeping.
Carlos considers easing his way out of bed, finding his pants and his shoes, and just going home for the night. But Cecil would be hurt, even if he claimed it was okay. And Carlos would almost definitely be arrested. Poor relationship manners are a criminal offense in Night Vale, according to the packet the sheriff's secret police put in Carlos' fridge when he started dating Cecil. It had to be in the fridge because it contained a complimentary starter sacrifice for a happy partnership. Carlos put the unidentifiable meat in Cecil's bloodstone circle, and read as much of the packet as he could despite the glistening-green bloodstains that covered the pages. It was very informative. That's how Carlos knew that their thirteen-week anniversary had to be celebrated in a bunker in order to prevent radiation leaks.
Carlos looks over his shoulder at Cecil. The light is softer now, more like a glow stick or that luminescent slime they found in the gas station pumps last week. It plays across Cecil's cheekbones and the bridge of his nose, and Carlos remembers that this is his boyfriend and not some obstacle that he must defeat in order to earn his rest. This is Cecil, who sleeps with one leg locked straight because it cramps when he bends it, with his long black hair spread across the pillow because it tangles underneath his body, with the glow of incoming information behind his eyes. Cecil is fascinating, and Carlos is so glad that they are comfortable enough with each other that they can sleep, here in this bed, Cecil's bed, together.
Carlos leans in to kiss Cecil's forehead, floating on the knowledge that he can accept each and every one of Cecil's quirks. He might be tired, but this really isn't so bad-
Cecil's eyes fly open, flashing color test patterns. One of his hands reaches out to point a finger at his imaginary audience, coincidentally poking Carlos sharply in the nose. "Crickets," he mumbles. "The crickets are coming, dear listeners. They demand a tribute of maple syrup, and I have been advised that they will not accept corn-syrup-based substitutes. Bring donations to-"
"Cecil!" shouts Carlos, holding his nose. "Cecil, wake up!"
Cecil wakes slowly, aided by Carlos shaking his shoulder. The test patterns clear from his eyes, and he yawns as he sits up.
"Is, um." Cecil rubs at his face. "Is something wrong?"
"Cecil, I can't do this," says Carlos. "I like you very much, but I can't sleep with you. You keep talking and glowing, and I could probably get some ear plugs and a sleeping mask or something but actually I would just like to go home and get some actual sleep in the less than four hours I have left! I'm sorry!"
"Oh." For a moment Cecil's gaze looks even blanker than normal, until he lights with understanding. "I must have forgotten to turn my receiver off. Let me just-" He raises a hand up to the back of his neck. "There."
"What? You can fix it?" Carlos tries to peer at Cecil's neck, and Cecil turns obligingly. There's a tattoo of an on/off switch at his nape, done in glowing ink. Or- Carlos thought it was a tattoo, but he runs his fingers over it, gently, and realizes that it's raised and plasticky, a functional switch presumably connected to a radio inside Cecil's body, the ultimate union of media and man. "How does it work?" asks Carlos. "Do you normally leave it on during the night? Why don't you have reception episodes during the day? Can you-"
Cecil yawns again, his eyes slipping closed and staying closed. "Ask me in the morning? I'm sorry it disturbed you, Carlos, you need your sleep and I should have remembered, but I can't-" Cecil falls back onto the pillows, mumbles "please stay?"
Carlos settles back down. "Of course I will."
There's no light behind Cecil's eyelids now, and when Carlos turns onto his side to face him Cecil turns toward him as well. Cecil's tall enough, or Carlos is short enough, that Cecil can curl around Carlos until Carlos' face is pressed into Cecil's chest and his knees are cushioned by Cecil's one bent knee. Cecil rubs his chin against Carlos' hair and tightens his arm around Carlos' back. It's warm and secure, in this cool and probably dangerous Night Vale night. Carlos is briefly angry when he realizes that he could have had this on each of the five previous sleep-overs, but it's hard to stay angry when he can hear Cecil's heart beat, slowing as Cecil falls asleep.
"We need to talk tomorrow," says Carlos, softly. "I have questions to ask, and things to tell you."
Cecil makes a noise, and Carlos knows that he didn't really hear. That's fine. He can bring it up again after they've had some rest.
"Good night, Cecil." Carlos hums the words into Cecil's collarbone. "Good night."
"Good night," says Cecil, in his sinister radio voice, and then he's completely asleep. Carlos follows, lulled by the warmth of Cecil's skin and the rhythm of his breathing.
Carlos wakes up two hours later because the fucking sunrise is in his eyes, but this is still progress. They can buy curtains. He puts a pillow over his head and sleeps through the alarm, sleeps through Cecil getting up and getting dressed, doesn't wake until Cecil is hovering over him and making noises about going out for breakfast.
“Yes,” groans Carlos, and forces himself out of bed. He shoves his glasses on, almost stabbing himself in the eye with an earpiece before he gets it right. “Coffee.”
“We can go to the new Tim Hortons.” Cecil offers Carlos his pants. “It doesn't even have any scorch marks yet!”
“Mhm.” Carlos puts his pants on one leg at a time, with great effort. He has tests to do today, and it's already, ugh, eight. Maybe he doesn't have time for breakfast, he can get coffee at work, and-
“You wanted to talk about something?” Cecil looks at him uncertainly. “I had a dream that I woke up in the middle of the night and you wanted to talk.”
“That wasn't a dream.” Carlos locates his shirt, pulls it over his head, shrugs on his lab coat. “That was real, Cecil.”
“Well.” Cecil shrugs. “What is real, and what is fiction? You could say that good fiction is more real, more meaningful than anything that happens in our daily lives. When people first heard War of the Worlds, they thought aliens were invading and that was their reality. When people-”
Carlos pats Cecil's cheek, which makes Cecil stop talking and hunch down so that Carlos doesn't have to reach up as far to touch him. A warm flush spreads across Cecil's brown skin, and Carlos rubs at it with his thumb, just to watch Cecil smile and squirm.
“Let's go get donut holes,” says Carlos.
“Doughnut,” corrects Cecil, leaning further into Carlos' hand. “You can only get donuts at Dunkin' Donuts, and this is a Tim Hortons.”
“I'm pretty sure that's not true,” says Carlos. “Also, you shouldn't be able to hear how I mentally spell words. I'm adding that to the list of discussion topics.”
“There's a list?” asks Cecil, and he actually sounds excited. Carlos hastily fishes his phone out of his lab coat pocket and starts tapping out a physical list that Cecil can look at and add to and rearrange, so that it won't all be in Carlos' head. So that it'll be something for both of them.
They get coffee and hot chocolate and doughnut holes, hash out sexual preferences and gender identities, discuss the ethereal crystal radio that apparently sits inside Cecil's ribs, its wires winding along his spine. A gift from Station Management to mark the end of his internship, years and years ago. They keep talking after that, every question they can think of. Cecil asks about Carlos' family, about his childhood, about grad school. Carlos asks about Cecil's issue with Steve Carlsberg, about the woman who hosted the radio show before Cecil, about Cecil's invisible dog that only seems to exist on Saturdays. Then they make out in the back corner of the Tim Hortons, because Carlos managed to mention the PDAs thing and Cecil didn't like the idea of making other people uncomfortable, but they're the only customers at the moment and the woman at the counter can't actually see them from this angle. It's a good compromise.
“I really like you,” says Carlos, when they break for more doughnut holes. “You know that, right? You're great.”
Cecil grins around chewed-up doughnut hole, and Carlos isn't grossed out at all. He tallies that up with the rest of the available evidence, and mentally upgrades his feelings from 'like' to 'love.'
“I love you,” he says, experimentally, and Cecil chokes.
“Because I won't keep you awake anymore?” asks Cecil, when he's recovered.
“No, just- you. All of you.” Carlos beams at Cecil, feels like the day is brighter for saying that. He might be getting a late start today, but he's happy and motivated and he's going to get so much done.
“Oh!” Cecil blinks, and tears a doughnut hole into tiny pieces. “I, I love you too? Yes! I do! I mean, obviously”
Cecil sleeps over at Carlos' place that night, and lets Carlos flick his receiver off. They sleep curled up in each other, just like before, in the way that Carlos is pretty sure is bad for Cecil's back but feels so good that he's going to get at least a couple more nights of it before he brings that up. They both get eight hours of sleep, and Carlos wakes up rested and skin-warmed and not in any way resentful of Cecil's static-filled eyes.
So, yeah, he loves all of Cecil. But maybe the off-switch helps, just a little bit.