The ride to Cecil's apartment from the lab was a quick one. Janice seemed unsurprised that Carlos had a key. At the sound of the door, there was an echoing rumble from the bedroom that somehow managed to sound plaintive - Khoshekh had heard them enter and didn't want to be alone anymore. Without stopping to ask, Janice ran into the bedroom and came back holding Khoshekh, carefully avoiding the impressive spine ridges poking up through his ginger coat. A bandage still covered the empty place where one eye had been, but apart from that he was healing well. The rumble that passed for his purr filled the apartment.
"You love cats too?" Carlos asked, although it was obvious.
"I love most animals," Janice said, delicately scratching under Khoshekh's chin. His remaining eye closed and he tilted his head back in bliss.
It was an admirable trait, Carlos supposed, even if he could feel his eyes itching already. "I was thinking we'd save most of the ice cream for you and Cecil to have after dinner, but would you like to have a little bit now and watch some of the old version of Cosmos you've heard of?"
"The old Cosmos that Steve never saw?" Janice's eyes sparkled. "Yeah! And I can see the brand new one on Sunday!"
Since Janice had an armful of rumbling cat, Carlos scooped her a small bowl of ice cream before tracking down the thick DVD boxset. He'd been watching it with Cecil so it was easy to locate. He slipped the first disc into the player and sat down on the couch in time to see Khoshekh sniff the ice cream dubiously, steal a lick before Janice could stop him, and scrunch up his face with feline disdain.
Janice, however, was delighted with her treat. "It's so creamy and smooth! Thank you, Carlos. This is really good. I missed my favorite flavor so much. I still miss White Sand but this helps me remember it like it used to be."
Ouch. Carlos wasn't sure what to say to that. He patted her shoulder gently as he sat down on the couch. "You're welcome, Janice. I'm pretty sure everyone misses White Sand. Are you ready for Cosmos?"
"Oh, yes please!"
The tension evaporated as the show started. Carlos had been too young to really absorb the series when it first aired, but had checked out VHS copies from the library over and over again when he was a little older and bought it on DVD as soon as he could despite the price tag. It would be interesting to see what Janice thought of it. He was afraid she would find it a bit slow compared to the new series, but she was watching it with fascination, making brief comments ("Oooh, I like his voice", "His ship is so neat!") and then falling silent again.
Until they reached the bit about Eratosthenes.
"He was a librarian?" she shrieked in alarm.
Carlos paused the video. "I know how scary librarians are here," he said, trying to be reassuring. He'd had the same conversation with Cecil when they watched this together, but Cecil was older and a little more aware that not every place was the same as his hometown. "But in every other place I've been or even heard of, librarians are just people. They can be stern and if you make too much noise they will tell you to be quiet, but I've never heard of a librarian from anywhere but Night Vale hurting anyone. My word as a scientist. But he's going to talk about a whole library later. Do you want to watch something else instead? This isn't supposed to be scary and I don't want you to be upset."
Janice looked uncertain for a moment, then set her chin firmly. "I trust you. As a scientist. And librarians on TV can't hurt me. Especially ones that lived a long time ago."
"All right," he said, "I'm going to start it again, just let me know if you want me to pause it or stop it, okay?"
"Okay!" She seemed to have relaxed again. Khoshekh's thunderous rumble of a purr was a bit comforting, and he filled her lap, a good first line of defense against surprise librarians. She nodded firmly, and they continued watching the episode, occasionally pausing when Janice had a question. She gaped in astonishment at the animated mock-up of the Library of Alexandria. "That makes Marcus Vansten's fancy library look like a little shack!"
Carlos chuckled. "It does, doesn't it? And it was a lot more useful!"
There was the sound of a key in the lock as the credits were rolling and Cecil came in carrying a pizza. Carlos noticed the weariness and frustration in his eyes before his expression warmed and softened at the sight of Janice, Khoshekh, and Carlos waiting to welcome him home. Janice nudged Khoshekh off her lap and ran to hug him, barely giving him a chance to cross the threshold.
"I got to look in a microscope and Carlos made durian ice cream and we watched the old Cosmos that even Steve hasn't seen and Khoshekh sat in my lap and purred and purred!"
Cecil returned the hug one-handed. "You didn't see the one with that, um, place in Alexandria, did you?"
"I did, I did! Carlos explained to me that most librarians in other places are like ordinary people and I had an idea - a theory," she said with pride. "I think the librarians in Night Vale remember what happened to the Library of Alexandria and that's what makes them so dangerous."
Carlos was impressed - for all he knew she could be right. Possibilities were broader in Night Vale.
"It sounds like you're really picking up a lot of science! Do you want to watch another episode all together while we eat? I got half with grated carrots and walnuts, just for you."
"Thank you, Uncle Cecil!" She ran back to the couch, sitting firmly in the center of the couch. "Khoshekh too?"
"Khoshekh too," Cecil said fondly, "As long as Carlos doesn't mind."
Itchy eyes notwithstanding, Carlos couldn't bring himself to say no; he felt sorry for the injured animal and knew he enjoyed human company, and seemed to be enjoying Janice's adoring attention. He was pleased (and a bit relieved) that the other half of the pizza was eggplant and garlic, one of the few combinations on Big Rico's regular menu he really liked.
After setting the pizza on the coffee table, Cecil fetched plates, cups, and soda from the kitchen before Carlos could get up to help. "Is that a new outfit?" he called as he headed back into the living room. "It's cute."
"I needed new school clothes," Janice said in agreement. "It's kind of boring but at least the shirt is pink."
"It's a good thing you're with Uncle Cecil for the weekend then," Cecil said, passing out plates and cups and sitting on Janice's other side. He scratched the top of Khoshekh's head, eliciting another loud rumble. "We'll snazz those right up."
"Can we use the bedazzler? And the puffy paint?" She bounced in her seat excitedly.
"I wouldn't have it any other way!"
Pizza and Cosmos crowded together on the sofa was surprisingly comfortable and familial, and Carlos found himself enjoying it far more than he expected to. He tried a bite of carrot-and-walnut pizza at Janice's insistence (not as bad as durian, but nothing he wanted to eat again) and gave her a bite of eggplant-and-garlic in return. Khoshekh begged persistently for morsels and was given tiny morsels of cheese and crust to mollify him. Janice continued to be fascinated by Cosmos, although she frowned a little at Carl Sagan's mundane explanation of the Japanese samurai-faced crabs ("Couldn't they be guardian spirits too?"). Cecil agreed, and Carlos declined to argue. He was a lot more accepting these days. Carlos served up dessert. The delight on Cecil and Janice's faces was well worth the smell.
"I helped Carlos make this! He used science to make it and it was so cool!"
Cecil looked down at his bowl, impressed, and let the next bite melt in his mouth slowly. "It's really delicious! You must have been an awfully good helper."
"She was," Carlos agreed. And she had, stirring nice and evenly. She deserved credit for her part in the process.
By the time the ice cream was finished, Janice was glassy-eyed and yawning. Cecil sent her to change into her nightgown and Carlos helped him to put sheets and blankets on the couch so she'd have a place to sleep. While she was out of the room, Cecil stopped fighting as hard to keep the weariness out of his eyes. "Stay?" he asked quietly. "I'll make breakfast."
Carlos nodded, squeezing Cecil's hand.
Despite protests that she wasn't sleepy, not really, Janice was asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow. Khoshekh settled on her chest, his small nose touching her chin. Carlos and Cecil retired to the bedroom in unspoken agreement and lay in Cecil's comfortable bed, chastely spooning. Cecil pressed his face against Carlos' back, arms tight around his waist.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Carlos asked softly.
Cecil shook his head. "I'm just enjoying now," he murmured. "Thank you, for being kind to Janice. I can tell she likes you."
"I like her. I wouldn't mind watching her again. In fact..."
"When we get our new place. We should get a new couch, one that folds out into a bed. Or even a guest room. So she'll be more comfortable when she comes to stay."
Cecil kissed the back of Carlos' neck. "You have such good ideas."
And then all was quiet, the apartment a small oasis of peace.