Carlos still has nightmares about the desert otherworld.
He still wakes up, shaking and terrified, with the images of mangled, giant bodies and bloody, dark walls stained on the back of his eyelids.
It scares him; but it never scares him as much as the afterthoughts.
The desert otherworld. Loneliness. Empty space. Hollow science. Sad nights. Cecil.
He wakes up breathless, sitting upright with urgency, one desperate, shaking cry for his dear, sweet Cecil.
“What?” Cecil always answers, one-half groggy, one-half ready to attack whatever had frightened Carlos. He lwould be sitting up with Carlos immediately, a kitchen knife clutched in his hand – Carlos had told him to put that away before? – aiming it around the room blindly without his glasses.
A bedside lamp would be turned on. Glasses would be retrieved. And once Carlos wipes the sweat from his forehead with a trembling hand, he tucked himself in Cecil’s arms and closes his eyes.
He always knows he’s home. He knows he’s safe. And Cecil would tell him that, over and over until Carlos believed it.
“I’m here,” Cecil always whispers into his hair. Warm words in a hot room, baking in a desert midnight. But Carlos didn’t care. He relaxed at the sound of Cecil’s voice, the smooth sweep of Cecil’s hands through his hair, the scratch of his facial hair against Cecil’s neck, and the lulling, soft emotion of existential comfort that washed over him at that perfectly imperfect moment.
“I’m here,” Cecil says again. Soft, kind, and so very much like Cecil. And Carlos always sighs, relieved. “I’m here.”