A/N: This popped into my head late last night after thinking about that kiss in the 'Party' episode, and it didn't let go until I had finished it at 4am! (I've tried to rectify any spelling and grammar mistakes, but it is reeeaaaalllly late). It's my first attempt at mild slash, so apologies in advance if it's... well, rubbish. To be honest, I never really liked slashy stories before, but after reading some quite frankly outstanding stories on this site, I've been converted! And Vince and Howard are very cute together.
Disclaimer: If it was mine, do you really think I'd be on here?
As the rain beat at the windows of the cosy Dalston flat, a lone figure could be seen, completely absorbed as he stood in front of an easel. There was also a certain melancholic look about the young man, which was more than just a bit rare. The man in question, Vince Noir, rock and roll star (although, to be honest, he didn't really feel all that rock and roll at the present time), was unusually still and quiet, a pallet resting in his left hand. He stuck his tongue out slightly between his lips as he concentrated on the painting in front of him. Expertly twirling the brush as he added the finishing touches, he was just about to stand back and admire his work when Howard thumped rather loudly up the stairs, disturbing the peace and quiet of the dreary Saturday afternoon.
Howard shook off his wet jacket and chucked it over the back of a kitchen chair. "Damn weather – when's it gonna end?" he grumbled as he walked into the bathroom and promptly back out again, now rubbing a towel over his hair. It was then that he realised that Vince had not as yet acknowledged him.
"Vince?" he said, looking at him through narrowed eyes. He normally wouldn't be concerned if someone had ignored him – he was kind of used to it. But this was Vince, and he was never quiet.
"Hmm?" Vince replied, looking up from his work, eyes unnaturally wide, if that were possible for a man who already had eyes the size of saucers (the sherbet ones). He looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
Howard shook his head. "What you painting, little man?" He came forward, but Vince put a hand up to stop him. "What?"
"I'm just checking it's okay."
"You always let me see your paintings before you've finished them," Howard said, frowning slightly. "What is it?"
Howard studied Vince's face and swore he was blushing as he kept his eyes firmly cast downwards.
"I was just finishing something I started a long time ago. Thought it was time to get it back out again and – Howard, stay there!" he finished with a cry.
Howard froze. "Woah there, twinkle. Why so touchy? It's just a painting."
Vince sighed and tapped the wooden end of the brush to his lips. "Remember that painting I did of you back at the Zooniverse?"
"And you know you complained because of how I represented your face?"
"Mmmm," he said, chewing slightly on his bottom lip, his arms folded over his chest. How could he forget that great big pink blob of... blobbiness.
"Well, I decided to add to it."
Howard eyebrows raised so much they nearly disappeared into his hair. "Is that so? Then how come you didn't ask me to come sit for you?"
"I didn't need too," Vince shrugged. "I know what you look like."
Howard made to move forward again, but again stopped when Vince threw him another warning look. He tried hard not to smile as he said, "I thought you said my face was too 'generic' looking?"
Vince peered at him over the top of the canvas, a smile twitching at the corner of his mouth at the memory that was stirred.
"And, even though you know what I look like, what about the tiny details? Like, I dunno, the size of my moustache?"
Vince tapped the brush to his head and winked, before applying a final stroke of paint. "All right, it's done, I guess you can look now." Vince wasn't sure why he felt nervous, or why he'd had the compulsion to dig the painting out and finish it off in the first place, but he was pretty sure it wasn't because he was suddenly so worried about impressing his best friend – was it?
Howard, meanwhile, had positioned himself in front of the canvas and was studying it intently, a look in his eyes that Vince couldn't quite make out, and for a moment he was worried that he'd got it horribly wrong and that all Howard was thinking was what a terrible mess it looked. He couldn't have been more wrong.
"Vince... it's amazing," Howard said, looking touched. And it really was – Vince had captured him perfectly. "What made you decide to imprint my generic face onto your masterpiece then?" he continued, gently teasing him.
Vince put his paint brush and pallet down and wiped his hands on a piece of cloth. "I was bored," he shrugged, trying to act nonchalant.
Usually, at this point, Howard would probably look rather hurt. After all, it's not nice to find out that your best friend only decided to finish your long forgotten portrait properly because he was bored. A portrait that, according to him whilst they were still holed up in that hut, already was finished. But, there was something about Vince at that very moment which instead caused Howard to smile, something in his eyes that he couldn't quite make out. Howard liked those moments, as rare as they were, because he was able to see just how much his friend actually did care. Even so, this look in particular was slightly different to the others, and he looked away when he realised that Vince's cheeks were flushing slightly again. He didn't know why – doing something nice for his friend was hardly something to be embarrassed about.
Vince dropped the cloth and walked over to the kitchen. "Tea?"
"Please," Howard said, still staring at the painting. He wondered why Vince didn't take it up professionally, and he told him so.
Again he shrugged, not looking up from his tea making task. "I'm not that good," he said.
Okay, now Howard definitely knew something was wrong. Vince would never deny his talents.
"Vince," Howard started carefully, walking up behind him and resting a hand on the kitchen work-top. "Is something wrong?" If he'd been looking hard enough, he would have seen Vince flinch slightly.
"I'm fine," he said, turning and giving him a smile. "I'm always fine."
Howard scoffed, not really meaning to but it just came out. "You look like you've been taken over by one of those dark clouds outside. Where's the sunshine and lollipops?"
"Where d'ya go, anyway?" Vince said, changing the subject.
Howard eyed him dubiously before opening his mouth. "I went down to the record store for a browse."
The kettle clicked, and Vince poured the boiling water over the tea bags. "Did you get anything?"
Howard reached into his pocket. "Only this," he said, handing Vince a bag of Saturn Zingers. For the first time since Howard had come in, Vince gave him a genuine smile, a genuine smile that was also rather... shy?
"Thank you," he said, taking the bag and placing it down on the counter.
Howard was surprised he didn't rip straight into it. What was up with him? He tried again.
"Hey, come on, what's up? Has someone upset you?" he suddenly felt quite angry at the thought that someone had managed to upset him – it took a lot for Vince to get so upset that it bothered him for more than five minutes. He could worry easily, mostly about trivial things unless his friends were in danger, but he was rarely upset in the way where it looked like he was going to cry at the drop of a hat, and to Howard's surprise, that was exactly how he looked right now. He put a hand on Vince's shoulder but he moved back and released himself from the comforting gesture.
"I've got a bit of a headache, think I'm going to go and sleep for a bit." With that, he turned on his heel and walked off, leaving Howard alone with just the frown on his face for company. He decided he'd leave it for now and check on him in a bit.
Vince curled up on his bed and pulled up his blanket. He couldn't quite remember when this had all began – the shift was so slight that it had creeped up and consumed him before he even realised what was going on, and by the time he had, it was too late to do anything about it. He knew, in reality, that it was nothing to be ashamed of, but when the shift involved someone who already meant an awful lot to him, then it threw his cosy world up in the air and left it hanging precariously. His stomach churned, and he brought his knees up, hugging them as his eyes watered. He remembered waking up that morning with the same images in his head that had been there the night before, and as soon as Howard had gone out, he'd automatically walked over to his wardrobe, reached right into the back and pulled out the painting, carefully wiping the dust off before setting it up on his easel.
He sniffed, noticing too late that tears had started to leak from his eyes and were running down toward the pillow where his head lay. Stop it, stop it, stop it, he thought to himself, willing them to stop for fear of Howard walking in and seeing him in this state. It was no good though – as soon as that thought hit him he let out a sob and buried his face to block the sound from the outside world. He couldn't stay like that forever though, as he soon found that laying face down into your pillow seriously hampered your breathing. He felt retched and guilty and when he realised that the tears weren't going to stop he began to think that he should get up and lock the bedroom door, just in case. Luck wasn't on his side however, and before he could move, the door was gently pushed open. He quickly turned his face away so that Howard wouldn't see him crying, pushing himself as close to his headboard as he could get without hitting his head on the wall. He felt the bed dip as Howard sat down next to him and he bit down hard on his bottom lip to stop another sob escaping from his throat.
Howard was completely confused, and quite distressed by the fact that Vince was so upset. He could honestly not remember a time when he had ever since Vince cry, and the fact that he was now was scaring him. He hesitantly reached out to touch his hand to his arm, to try to offer some comfort, but as soon as Vince felt the tips of his fingers on his skin he jumped as if he'd just been given an electric shock. Howard gaped at him, and asked him something that he'd spent the last few minutes chewing over, not entirely wanting to know the answer.
"Is it me?" he asked, his voice barely audible. "Have I upset you?" Howard didn't honestly know what he could have done; he knew Vince had been a bit peeved at him yesterday when he'd insulted his new pink and purple glitter jump-suit, but barely two minutes later he was happily digging into a jar of Nutella with a spoon in front on the telly with Bollo. He was horrified to think that he could have unknowingly upset him so badly. To his relief though, Vince shook his head, all the while still facing the wall. That had surely been the longest second of his life.
Vince shivered and clutched the bedpost.
"Come on, little man, you can tell me, eh? Who's done this to you? 'Cause I swear to God, I'll -"
"No one," Vince said quietly, hiding a small smile at Howard's sudden overprotectiveness. You could say a lot of things about Howard Moon, but you couldn't fault his loyalty to his friends, no matter if he was a bit of a spanner sometimes. He might run away at the smallest of things, but if someone hurt his friends, really hurt his friends, he'd risk his neck for them. Okay, it rarely happened... okay, never happened, but Vince knew that he would. He turned to him then, the light shining on his wet face. He knew it was risky, but in that moment he couldn't help but look at him.
Howard's breath caught in his throat. Vince was paler than usual and his eyes were drawn and red-rimmed. He watched as he screwed up the sheets in his hands and, needing to calm him, he put his own hand up to Vince's face and cupped his cheek, wiping away the tears there before pulling him into a hug.
Vince didn't have the strength to pull away from it, so for now he let him comfort him. He breathed in his scent and buried his head in the crook of his neck. The action made him shake though, more than he already was, and he felt his head being lifted as Howard moved into a position where he could see his face.
"What's so bad that you can't tell me? I thought you could tell me anything," Howard said, sadly. "I've never seen you like this Vince – you're scaring me."
"I'm sorry, Howard," he said, regretfully.
But Vince had clammed shut again. "I'm tired," was the last thing he said before turning away and curling back up under his duvet.
Howard sighed and placed a hand on Vince's shoulder. "You know where I am if you need me," he said, before getting up and walking slowly out of the room.
As soon as he heard the door click shut, Vince rolled over onto his back and stared up at the ceiling, wondering what on earth he was going to do.
Howard moaned in his sleep and tried to roll over, but something was stopping him and he opened his bleary eyes, Vince's face swimming into view.
"Sorry," he said, removing the hand that had stopped Howard from rolling over. "You were about to fall off the sofa."
Howard pushed himself up and rubbed his hands over his face. Vince sat down next to him, no longer crying but still looking rather forlorn.
"Hey," Howard said. "How you doing?"
"Okay," he replied, obviously lying but too tired to even try to cover it up.
"How long was I out for?"
"Not sure, I fell asleep too."
Howard gave him a small smile. "Tea?"
Vince shook his head.
"Something to eat?"
Another shake of the head. "Where's Naboo and Bollo?"
Howard shrugged. "Not a clue. Probably off getting high somewhere."
"Was that a smile?"
"No," Vince said, wiping it off his face.
"I think it was."
"Don't do that, Howard."
Howard looked at him quizzically. "Don't do what?"
"Don't sigh at me." He turned to face him, his eyes pleading. "I know I should be able to tell you, but I can't and I'm really, really sorry. It's not just you – I can't tell anyone."
"But why? Whatever's happened, you shouldn't have to go through it on you own. Whatever it is, I'm not going to judge you for it or be angry with you or laugh at you. I would never, I mean, you're my best friend."
"I know. I just... you'll hate me for it," he admitted.
Howard looked exasperated. "Did you not hear a word I just said?"
Vince put his head in his hands and squeezed his eyes shut. "You'll hate me," he whispered, painfully, his fingers pulling at his hair slightly.
"Vince, I could never hate you. Where on earth would you get an idea like that?"
"I..." he was trembling now, and this time when Howard went to put an arm round him, he jumped up, grabbed his jacket and headed towards the stairs.
"Vince!" Howard cried, flying out of the seat and grabbing his arm before he could make the descent downwards.
Vince angrily shook him off, but Howard reached for him again, this time getting a better grip on him.
"Howard! Let go of me!" he cried out, struggling to get free. Howard, however, was a lot stronger than he looked, especially in such a highly charged, emotional state.
"I'm not going to let you run away while you're like this."
"Why not?" he demanded, whilst trying to prise Howard's fingers from his wrist.
"Because you'll just go out, get wrecked and make things ten times worse! Are you that stupid?" he said, instantly regretting those last words even before he saw the look on Vince's face.
"Obviously!" Vince yelled at him.
Howard immediately backed off, shocked at Vince's outburst. He'd never heard him yell like that before.
Red-faced, Vince glared at him before finally admitting his big secret. "You want to know why I'm upset? You really want to know? 'Cause it won't be the same, and could potentially ruin our friendship, so are you sure?"
Howard stared at him, his face betraying his nerves, and he nodded.
Vince took a deep breath, his eyes welling up and spilling over. As hot tears dripped down his flushed cheeks, his trembling voice only just held itself together as he whispered, "I love you." Then he fled down the stairs, and didn't dare look back.
Howard gasped and grabbed hold of the bannister for support. Had Vince really just said that? Had he? Since when was he that way inclined? Since when did he... SHUT UP! A voice in his head suddenly screamed at him. You fool, go after him!
Howard grabbed his boots and shoved them on, flying down the stairs and out into the street. "Vince!" he yelled, looking left and right to see if he could spot him. The rain was still pounding down, and he shivered as it hit his bare arms. At the end of the street he spotted a distinct figure as it turned a corner, and he sprinted after it, narrowly avoiding knocking over an old lady. "Vince!" he called out again as he rounded the corner and splashed through a rather deep puddle.
Vince could hear Howard quite clearly, but didn't stop as he honestly believed that Howard would be angry and disgusted with him, and he didn't need that right now. Water dripped down his face, his hair limp and lifeless, and for once, for the first time ever, he didn't care. His skinny jeans clung uncomfortably to him, water filling his Chelsea boots as he walked carelessly over flooded storm drains.
"Vince! Vince, please stop!"
He had to admit, Howard didn't sound angry, but he was still to scared to stop. The thought of Howard rejecting him was too much, and he didn't want to hear it right now. However, Howard was a lot closer now than Vince thought, and he yelped when a hand reached out and grabbed hold of his arm.
Vince spun out of his grasp and stumbled into the road, desperate to get away from him.
Several things happened at once. Vince walked out blindly, causing a car to blare its horn. It then swerved dangerously, and Vince froze, panicked, his limbs not responding when he tried desperately to move. He heard Howard scream his name and he screwed his eyes shut, waiting for the impact. The cars headlights washed over him, and when he opened his eyes again, it had gone, already at the far end of the street. The life frightened out of him, he dropped to his knees, barely noticing when strong arms pulled him back onto the pavement. He looked up at Howard's face, and then flung his arms around his neck, sobbing.
"Vince," Howard said, his voice cracking.
Vince looked at him. "I'm sorry," he croaked, his voice catching in his throat when he saw that Howard was now crying to, his tears getting mixed in with the rain.
"Don't you ever do that to me again, do you hear me?! You could have died, you could have..." he choked then, and held Vince tightly too him. "I don't want to lose you."
Vince clung to him, his whole body shaking. "I thought you'd hate me for it," he said, trying to catch his breath.
"No, Vince, not when I..." he trailed off, and caught his eyes with his own.
"Not when you what?" Vince whispered, his blue eyes dark and shining.
Howard tenderly pushed his fringe back out of his eyes before he spoke, his voice trembling. "Not when I love you too."
Vince stared at him, his face a mixture of confusion and hurt. "Don't lie to me," he said, trying to pull away.
Howard kept a firm grip on him, and looked at him with all the sincerity he had. "I would never," he said.
The both sat on the edge of the pavement on the now deserted street, staring at each other intently.
"I never knew," Vince breathed.
Howard cracked a small smile at him. "You never asked."
Vince grinned back, his eyes lighting up in a way Howard had almost forgotten.
"There it is," Howard said fondly. "Sunshine and lollipops." With that, he leant forward, cupped Vince's cheek and pressed a gentle kiss to his lips. When he went to pull away, Vince nipped at his bottom lip, and he briefly wondered what people would think if they saw them stood kissing on the pavement in the pouring rain late at night, but that thought was quickly forgotten when he felt Vince's tongue slide longingly into his mouth. He smiled against him, and gave in completely.
In the wee small hours, Naboo and Bollo came back from their trip to find a now dry Howard and Vince snuggled up together on the sofa, fast asleep, the throw pulled haphazardly over them. Howard had his arm around Vince's waist; the man himself was draped across him, his head resting gently on his chest. Their peaceful faces were illuminated by the flickering light from the telly, and Naboo smiled widely and reached for the control, switching it off and plunging the room into near darkness.
That morning, as they sat having breakfast, a sudden thought struck Howard just as he was about to shovel sugar puffs into his mouth.
"What?" Vince said round a mouthful of cereal as he looked up at him.
"I get to wear the trousers, right?"
If Vince wasn't so worried about choking on his food, he would have laughed. He finished chewing and swallowed. "What?"
"In the relationship, I get to wear the trousers?"
"Wear the trousers?"
"Yeah, you know, not in a bossy way, just in a... masculine way."
Vince smiled adorably at him and went and plonked himself down on his lap, his arms snaking round his neck. "Sure," he said, and then he grinned wickedly. "As long as you know that that means I get to spend all your money." He winked at him and Howard laughed.
"You love it."
"Don't I just."
Please don't forget to review and tell me what you think – thanks for reading! xx