mizface: (bunny)
mizface ([personal profile] mizface) wrote in [community profile] intoabar2016-05-07 05:01 pm

Fic: Lost and Found at the Same Time

Title: Lost and Found at the Same Time
Author: mizface
Prompt:Blair Sandburg walks into a bar and meets... Carlos the Scientist
Fandoms: The Sentinel, Welcome to Night Vale
Word count: 2362
Rating/Content: G rating. No warnings apply.
Author's Note: Takes place right at the end of the series for Sentinel, and probably a bit after Condos for WtNV.
Summary: Time doesn't work right in Night Vale. Sometimes, that's a good thing.

Blair sighed in relief at the sight of lights in the distance. He'd been driving so long that he supposed they could be some kind of night-time desert mirage, but at this point, he didn't care. He needed to stop, at least for a few minutes.

As he got closer, he saw that luck was definitely on his side for once, and he pulled off of Route 800 and into the parking lot of the Moonlight All-Nite Diner with a weary, but satisfied sigh. Diners meant food (which he wasn't really hungry enough to want, but knew he should eat) and coffee (which he'd had too much of in the last 48 hours, but was getting more anyway).

The lot was fairly empty, not a surprise given the lateness of the hour, and Blair just sat there for a short while, eyes closed, trying to muster up the energy required to get out of his car. It was the lure of caffeine that finally did it; he stepped out and stretched, his entire body stiff from the hours spent driving.

Blair tiredly registered the “Seat Yourself” sign and made his way to the booth farthest from the door, slumping back in it with a thud and turning over the coffee cup to signal the waitperson. The smell of something cooking made his stomach give a half-hearted growl, but he couldn't bring himself to pick up the menu. Instead, he closed his eyes and let the familiarity of being in an anonymous diner wash over him: coffee brewing, food sizzling, the occasional sound of a voice, the quiet hum of music crackling through an old speaker system. It was oddly comforting, and considering how lost and alone Blair felt at the moment, it was no surprise that he clung to it.

He opened his eyes when he heard someone approaching, hopefully with the coffee he craved. He gave the waitress a small smile as she approached, looking about as exhausted as he felt. Blair was glad that she filled his cup without asking if he wanted anything else. He wasn't ready to talk to anyone, not even for something as simple as a food order.

The song on the radio ended, and Blair heard a low, mellifluous voice start talking about local news. He wasn't really listening until the word scientist caught his attention. But by the time he'd focused, he'd missed whatever the story was, the announcer already moving on to upcoming community events. It had been something about a new scientist in town, maybe, and despite the ridiculousness of the notion, for a moment Blair was one hundred percent certain they were talking about him. He felt a moment of panic, then calmed himself, shaking his head. No one knew where he was, and even if they did, it wouldn't matter. Not here. Not without Jim.

Thoughts of the Sentinel, the friend he'd abandoned left behind for his own good wiped away the tiny bit of comfort Blair had found; the crushing sense of loss he'd been running from returned full force, almost a physical weight, making it hard to breathe. To think. To be. Blair forced himself to take another sip of coffee, hoping its warmth would drive out some of the cold he couldn't shake from his bones. He stared into the cup, wishing it could give him the answers he desperately needed.

He registered that someone was approaching, and looked up to tell the waitress he still wasn't ready, but it wasn't her. The man walking toward him looked vaguely familiar somehow, but Blair had no idea how he knew him. Or why he'd be wearing a pristine white lab coat at a diner in the middle of the night. The feeling of panic returned; it must have shown on his face, as the man stopped a few steps away and gave Blair was he was certain was supposed to be a reassuring smile. He definitely had the teeth for it.

“Blair? Blair Sandburg?” the man asked, smile widening, open and friendly as he rolled his eyes.“Oh, honestly, if Cecil had said it was you I would have just invited you to the lab. He can be so dramatic sometimes.”

Blair just stared, having no idea what was going on. Well other than obviously being recognized, which meant the press conference had even made it to whatever tiny town this was. He thought about pretending he was someone else, but dropped the idea as too much trouble. What did it matter if one more person knew who he was?

Blair realized that he'd been silent too long when the man's smile faltered. He moved a step closer, concern replacing the friendly look. “Blair? Not to be rude or anything, but you look terrible, and not just scientifically speaking. What's wrong?” He looked around. “And where's Jim? Did something happen to your Sentinel?”

“Sentinels aren't real. I just made that up,” Blair replied almost automatically, tensing as the words left his mouth. They still hadn't gotten any easier to say.

“Ri-ght,” the mad drawled, chuckling. “Sentinels are fake. Just like mountains.” When Blair didn't respond, the man's eyes widened . “Oh dear. You were trying to be serious, weren't you? Do you,” he hesitated, “do you even know who I am?”

Blair frowned as he tried to remember. “Should I?”

The man glanced at his watch, then let out a low curse in Spanish. “Sorry, I really should have checked the time before coming over here. No wonder Cecil was going on like that.” He leaned in to look at Blair. “Oh, and you're much younger than the last time I saw you, so no, you don't know me yet. Let's just fix that right now.” He held out a hand. “I'm Carlos the Scientist.”

Blair just stared for a moment, then took Carlos's hand and shook it briefly. “Well, that does explain the lab coat,” he said, humoring him.

“Wouldn't want to be out of uniform,” Carlos said with a small smile. “I never know when I might be called on to do some science, after all.”

“Sure, man, makes total sense.” Which it totally did not, but hey, that seemed to be the norm for this guy.

“So what brings you to Night Vale?” Carlos asked, sitting across from Blair and signaling the waitress. “I mean, it you aren't here for a visit, because obviously we just met, so how could you be?”

“I'm just passing through,” Blair answered noncommittally.

For some reason that seemed to surprise Carlos. “Well, that is an interesting reason.”

“Seriously?” Blair couldn't help but say.

“Of course! Night Vale isn't the easiest place to find, which makes it even harder to just pass through. So yes, I think it's very interesting.”

Blair tried, but his brain was just too fried to really think through the weirdness that was this conversation. But he wasn't so tired that his curiosity (or suspicion) was entirely gone. “So how should I know you, again?”

“Oh, you shouldn't,” Carlos said, waving a hand dismissively, nearly knocking over the coffee and... empty plate? that had just been set in front of him. “That was my fault entirely, sorry. Like I said, I should have realized when Cecil reported that there was a new scientist in town, that it meant you were new to Night Vale entirely.”

And there was that anxious feeling again. “And Cecil is?”

Carlos used his fork to point toward a nearby speaker before cutting into the nothingness on the plate. “The Voice of Night Vale. He knows about everything that goes on here” He pretended to take a bite of whatever was supposed to be there, chewing and swallowing before going on. “Well, everything he's allowed to know. And some things he isn't, but he's a reporter, so he has to report what he knows. It isn't like things are labeled 'don't report.' Well except for the things that are, and he's usually really good about avoiding those things unless he's super-excited about them.”

Blair let himself tune back in to the voice on the radio for a moment as Carlos took another bite, washing it down with (thankfully real) coffee. Cecil was, astonishingly, thanking his boyfriend for talking him up while simultaneously apologizing for misleading him about... when Blair was from? And asking for Carlos to pick up some pie and coffee for him, which, how did he even know where Carlos was right now? Blair looked at his coffee, wondering if someone had drugged him, because there was no way any of this was real.

“You can pretend this is all just a dream if it makes it easier for you,” Carlos said as he readied another bite. “Just don't tell anyone if you decide to go that route. I mean, normally it wouldn't be a big deal, but with the dream re-education that's been going on all week... okay, maybe forget I suggested it at all. Probably safer.”

“O-kay.” Blair had no idea what to say, if anything. This Carlos was a real piece of work.

“But you never answered my question.” Blair shook his head, confused, and Carlos went on. “What's wrong? I mean, I know you have no reason to believe me, but I want to help.”

“Why?” Blair spat out, bitterness of the last few days welling up. “Why would you want to help a fraud like me?”

Carlos stilled. “Oh,” he breathed out, then repeated it a bit louder, voice full of sympathy. “That explains everything. Oh Blair,” he said, reaching out to put his hand over Blair's before he could blink. “You've just had the press conference, haven't you?”

Blair pulled his hand back, wrapping it around his coffee mug. “Like that isn't how you knew who I am.”

“This isn't going to make much sense, but I only know about the press conference because you told me.”

“I just met you!”

“Like I said, it doesn't make sense. Just... time doesn't work the same in Night Vale as everywhere else. And tonight, it's really, really off. But maybe that isn't a bad thing.” He looked like he wanted to reach out again, but held back. “Maybe you're here because you need to be.”

“Why? To meet you and hear whatever crazy stuff you want to say?”

“Actually, yes. That exactly. Well, except it isn't crazy so much as scientifically hard to explain anywhere but in Night Vale. So since as far as you know we just met, I really shouldn't tell you much of anything. I mean, I wouldn't want to influence your timeline like that. But as your friend, and I promise you that I am, I will tell you this – it will all work out.”

Blair rolled his eyes. “That's some pretty vague fortune telling.”

“Do you really want anything specific?” Carlos asked, eyebrow raised. When Blair didn't answer, he smiled. “Didn't think so. You don't have to believe me, of course. In fact, you really shouldn't think about any of this too hard. I know this will sound strange, coming from a man of science and all, but around here, blind faith and going with the flow are your best survival tools.”


“It's Night Vale,” Carlos replied with a shrug. “You get used to it.” He gave Blair a considering look as he sipped his coffee. “Also, again as your friend, I really don't think you should be driving any more. You definitely need to get some sleep before you start back toward Cascade. Cecil's spare room is available. At least I think it is. I'm pretty sure the Spider Convocation ended last night. There were definitely enough fireworks.”

Despite the bizarreness of that last statement, Blair found himself actually giving the offer serious consideration. Carlos seemed sincere, and kind. Blair didn't think he deserved it, but at the same time, it felt so nice to believe someone cared, and something told him that whoever this Carlos was, he could be trusted. Plus, he was pretty much tired past the point of caring. Sleeping in a bed instead of his car sounded very, very nice. Well, as long as the spiders were really gone. It was a bitch to get webbing out of his hair. The ridiculousness of the thought startled a chuckle out of him. Carlos cocked his eyebrow, but Blair just shook his head.

“I think...” he started, then went on before he could change his mind. “I think that actually sounds like a plan. Maybe not a good one, but you don't seem like a serial killer. Or a government spook sent to find me.”

“Nope. Not a killer. Not an agent. Not even vaguely menacing.” He signaled the waitress, who had a to go bag with her, despite the fact that Carlos had never ordered anything for Cecil. Blair started to reach for the bill, but Carlos snatched it from him.

“Don't worry about it,” he said. “Besides, they've changed the currency again. Honestly, I don't know how they City Council expects to increase tourism when no one who isn't a resident can pay for anything.” He pulled something purple and – wait, was it squirming? - out of his wallet and slipped both it and the bill under the napkin dispenser, whispering as he did so. That done, Carlos took one last sip of his coffee, then gathered his things and stood, waiting by the table for Blair to do the same.

Blair shrugged, downed the last of his drink, and got up. Carlos gave him another wide smile and the two left the diner to go out into the cool night air. Just as he was walking out the door, Blair heard Cecil telling Carlos he'd see them at home, and wish his listeners a good night.

A small part of him actually believed it would be. Or at least, better than it had before he'd stopped in this strange little town.

And hopefully, tomorrow would be even better.

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