A/N: This popped into my head, so I just had to write it down. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Not mine – it belongs to Mr Barratt and Mr Fielding.
"Ob... obtru... obtrusive!" Vince cried out, jubilant, before his face dropped as he realised there was no one there to congratulate him. He looked down at the newspaper in his hands a little sadly – for the first time, he'd completed the crossword all by himself and there was no one to celebrate with. Quite why he'd decided to tackle a newspaper crossword, he couldn't quite remember, but it might have had something to do with the pretty star patterns that were printed around it. He sighed and tossed it to one side, looking at the clock. Surely Howard should be back from his jazzercise class by now? He stood and wandered round the shop, picking things up and putting them back down again, ignoring the fact that the items and the shelves they were standing on needed a good dust as he caught sight of his reflection in an antique mirror. He pulled his fingers through his hair, fluffing it up and pulling bits round his face. So engrossed was he that he hardly noticed when the door opened and Howard stepped in, looking flushed after his workout.
"Hey, Howard," Vince said, still staring into the mirror.
"Hey there, little man." He looked at him looking in the mirror as he dropped his bag to the floor. "Please tell me you haven't been staring at your reflection for the past two hours."
Vince looked incensed. "No!" then he smiled. "Guess what?!" he said, skipping over to the counter like a small child and grabbing the paper. "I did the crossword!"
Howard bit his lip to stop the chuckle that was trying to force its way up his throat at the sight of Vince's child-like glee, and took the paper from his hands, examining it closely. He frowned. "Vince, that's not how you spell..." but, upon seeing the sudden look of woe on his best friend's face, he didn't have the heart to continue, so instead he smiled encouragingly and said, "Ah, sorry, my mistake. Well done, and all by yourself?"
Vince grinned broadly, his teeth gleaming. "Yep!"
"So, what else have you done?"
"What?! I did think about dusting."
Howard looked at him incredulously. "You thought about it?"
"Yeah... I sort of got distracted," he said, at least having the good grace to look sheepish, even if it was only briefly.
"By the mirror, by any chance?" Howard snorted and walked round the counter, picking up a duster and the footstool and going back over to the shelves.
"Aw, come on Howard. Look, I'll do it - give it here." Vince made to grab the cloth, but Howard moved it out of his reach.
"No, no, I'll do it."
'Howard, don't be like that." He huffed when Howard didn't say anything and walked off in a sulk. "Fine," he mumbled, "I'll go and put the kettle on."
As he waited for the kettle to boil, his sulk having turned into a small pout, he actually found himself feeling slightly guilty. He didn't like it when Howard was mad at him, but he hadn't meant to forget to do it. It was just that it was so boring, and he didn't like the way the dust flew up into the air and tickled his nose. The kettle came to the boil and clicked, but just as Vince reached for it there was an almighty crash and he jumped so hard he nearly hit the ceiling.
Vince rushed back into the shop and found Howard laying on the floor in an uncomfortable position, one leg tucked underneath him and his foot at a funny angle.
"Howard! Are you okay?" he asked, as he knelt down next to him.
Howard scowled at him, clearly in pain. "Do I bloody look okay?!"
"All right! Come on, let me help you up." He grabbed Howard under the arms and tried his best to pull him up without dropping him, which was difficult as Vince was a slight man and Howard was of a more stocky build.
Howard made the mistake of trying to put his injured foot on the ground and he stumbled, yelping and flailing his arms about. Vince tried to keep him upright, but they both ended up back on the floor.
"Vince – I think it's broken."
Vince bent down to look at it, touching the limb gingerly. Howard nearly screamed.
"Okay, okay, I'm sorry!" He sat back on his heels. "I think we need to get you to hospital."
"Howard, shouting isn't going to help you..." he trailed off at the death stare he was getting.
"Not going to help?! If you'd stopped preening yourself for two seconds to do what I'd actually asked, then I wouldn't be in this position now! It's your fault, you stupid electro ponce!"
Vince wanted to argue back, but found that he couldn't. Instead he just glowered and stood up. "I'll get a taxi," he muttered, as he walked away.
Vince sat slumped in one of the orange plastic chairs in the waiting room, wriggling every now and again uncomfortably. He could have chosen one of the comfier seats, but there were quite a lot of undesirables who kept looking at him creepily, and he didn't fancy sitting next to any of them. He started straight ahead, nursing a plastic cup of half drunk tea in his hands. Howard had come out from his x-ray a while ago now, pushed up the corridor in a wheelchair by the nurse. They'd paused by him briefly, long enough to tell him the ankle was well and truly broken, before moving on to get it set in a cast.
Vince looked up to see the nurse walking towards him. "Go on through," she indicated to the door half way up the corridor. "I'm just getting him some stronger painkillers."
Vince wandered up to the door and hovered there nervously. Howard was lying flat on the bed, his foot elevated and covered in white plaster. He looked deeply unhappy and Vince winced guiltily.
"Are you coming in or are you just going to stand there?" Howard suddenly said, eyes directed at the ceiling.
Vince entered the room, not quite knowing what to do with himself. Swallowing deeply, he walked over to the chair by the bed and sat down, too scared to talk. He looked down at his shoes; crossed and uncrossed his ankles nervously.
Howard turned his head to look at him. "Hey."
"Hey," Vince replied quietly, not meeting his gaze.
Howard reached a hand out and gently poked his arm, earning him the smallest of smiles from his friend, who then sighed and turned to him. "I'm sorry," he said, his eyes so sad and full of regret that Howard had the sudden urge to pull him into a hug, but as it was, he couldn't really move, so he settled for words instead.
Vince scuffed his feet under his chair. "Does it hurt really bad?"
Howard sighed. "It kills." When he saw that Vince looked like he was about to cry, he quickly added "but the nurse will be back in a minute with more tablets, and then it won't be so bad."
"I'm sorry I blamed you, little man."
"It's all right – you were right, it was my fault."
"I'm gonna take really good care of you, Howard – I'll do everything, I promise."
Howard smiled. "Thanks."
"Ow, ow, ow, OW!"
The boys, having arrived home reasonably unscathed, had forgotten the slight complication the stairs up to the flat would cause, and were now struggling up them. Vince had suggested that Howard sit down and bump up them backwards, which was now what he was attempting, with Vince doing his best to keep his ankle from banging the offending steps. When they eventually made it to the top, Vince helped him back onto his crutches and guided him over to the sofa, helping him to lie down. Howard watched him intently as he grabbed the cushions and propped his ankle up on them before going over to the kitchen to make some tea.
"Do you need anymore painkillers? Or I could make you something to eat?" he gabbled, opening and closing cupboard doors without really looking as to what was behind them.
"No, tea is fine – perhaps with some biscuits," Howard replied, watching as Vince continued to bang about.
He finally finished making the tea and brought it over, dragging the coffee table as close to Howard as he could and putting his mug down on it.
"Can I get you anything else? Are you cold? -"
"- I'll get you a blanket."
Howard reached out and grabbed his wrist before he could walk away. " Vince, I'm fine. Sit down."
Vince immediately plonked himself down on the floor in front of the sofa.
"There is another chair, you know."
Howard decided to drop it and instead brought his hand down to ruffle Vince's hair affectionately, waiting for him to bat it away and complain about him messing it up. But he didn't, and Howard raised his eyebrows slightly in surprise, a small smile gracing his lips.
They sat there in silence for a while, quietly sipping their tea and occasionally nibbling on a biscuit.
When Vince next looked up at Howard, he saw that he had fallen fast asleep.
Howard awoke during the early hours of the morning, his ankle itching uncomfortably, pain shooting up and down it. Vince had fallen asleep on the floor, and Howard tried his best not to disturb him as he reached over to the table to grab his tablets. His fingers brushed the bottle, and as he made a grab for them, they fell off of the table and onto Vince's head, who promptly jumped up in fright.
"What was that?!" he cried, hand rubbing where he'd been hit.
"Sorry, I'm sorry," Howard said. "I was just reaching for my tablets."
Vince looked down and picked them up. "Here – I'll get you some water." He stood unsteadily, still half asleep, and made his way to the kitchen sink to fill a glass before stumbling back.
"There you go."
Howard swallowed the pills and lay back down, handing the glass back to Vince. "You should go to bed."
Vince shook his head. "Don't be a muppet – you need me here to look after you. Someone's got too, otherwise you'll get yourself into all sorts of trouble."
"I know, you're a man of action – but that's not gonna help you now, is it?"
Howard smirked and propped his head up, elbow sinking in the sofa cushions. "Do you remember when we used to have nights where we'd just sit up talking?"
Vince gave a chuckle. "Yeah – haven't done that for a long time." He pushed himself round so he was leaning on the edge of the sofa, chin resting on his arms. "I am sorry, you know. Really, really sorry."
"Yeah, just you wait till it's healed – I will be kicking your arse." But he smiled at the same time, showing Vince he didn't really mean it, before adding "I'll come at you like a northern bullet."
He grinned back. "Whatever. But, seriously..."
"I know, Vince. Apology accepted – although you really don't need too."
Something unexpected passed between them then, and they averted their gaze from each other, both blushing slightly.
"Those pills working yet?"
"They're starting too, yeah."
Vince thought for a second. "Maybe when Naboo comes back he can give you something to help you heal faster."
"Maybe," Howard agreed.
They were silent for a while, both looking contemplative.
Vince shook his head. "Doesn't matter."
Howard frowned. "No – what is it?"
"I... Why is the sky blue?"
"What?!" Howard laughed. "That's not what you were going to say."
"It was!" Vince replied, indignantly.
"No, I can tell by your face – I know when you're lying to me."
He tutted. "No, you don't"
"I do," Howard said, still chuckling.
"You don't." He pouted, trying to look angry, but for some reason he couldn't decipher, at that moment, in the half-light, with the moon shining through the window, highlighting half of his face, Howard thought he looked completely adorable. Before his brain could engage with his mouth, the words he hadn't even realised he'd been thinking tumbled out in a gigantic wave, crashing through the room loudly.
"I love you."
Vince blinked at him, his mouth hanging slightly open. "You... what?"
Howard quickly shook himself back to reality. "What?"
"You love me?"
Howard scoffed. "Yeah, you're my best mate, aren't you."
Vince leaned in closer to him and Howard felt himself burning up. "You didn't say it in a 'best mate' way."
Oh dear, Howard thought, struggling to think of a way to get out of it before Vince started to yell at him. Say something – anything. Come on, something's better than nothing. Anything? Anything? Nope. Oh, God. Oh, someone help me. I'm staring at him, and my mouth is open, and I... Just say something!
"I really like your hair today."
Fortunately, however, Vince hadn't heard him – he was just staring at him with wide eyes, blue orbs shining in anticipation.
Howard sat up slightly, pushing himself up against the arm of the chair, desperate to get away from the scrutiny of Vince's gaze. He looked terrified when Vince got up and sat on the sofa, balancing on the edge.
Oh, God – this is it. He's going to kill me. And I can't run, I can't bloody run! I'm going to die – I don't want to die, I've got so much to give!
He had to admit, he didn't sound angry. He opened an eye, briefly wondering when he'd closed them, and peered at him anxiously.
"Is there anything else?"
Now Howard was confused. "What?"
"Is there anything else," Vince repeated, running the tip of his tongue along his bottom lip as he started at him intensely.
Was he flirting with him? The tongue had stopped moving, coming to rest at the corner of his mouth, peeping out irresistibly. So irresistibly, in fact, that Howard wanted too... Woah! stop, right there.
"You're blushing, Howard," Vince said, sounding unbelievably seductive. It was as if he was trying to push him in to taking the big leap – to cross the line between friendship and... Howard leant forward slightly, his face mere millimetres from Vince's.
"I don't blush," he whispered, huskily, although he hadn't intended it to sound like that.
"Oh, you are." Vince licked his lips again, biting on them slightly so they reddened. He pouted, lips swollen from the delicate nibbling and before he knew what was happening, Howard had closed the gap, placing a clumsy kiss on that naughty pout in the hope that it would break the spell and that would be the end of it – or so he thought, before realising that his hand was skimming delicately over Vince's face, tracing his cheekbone, and he felt him shudder under his touch, a shaky smile against his mouth. That's all he felt though, and he panicked when he realised that Vince wasn't kissing him back. Had he just been teasing him? He pulled away, about to berate him for being so spiteful, when, to his pleasant surprise, Vince pushed himself onto him, kissing him fiercely. It took Howard a moment to get himself together before he followed Vince's lead, closing his eyes and mimicking his actions so that he could get it right – after all, he was hardly experienced in the kissing department, and he didn't want to give Vince an unpleasant experience, although, from the way he was trembling, that seemed unlikely, and he sighed with relief, making Vince moan slightly and he opened his mouth, letting his tongue run along Howard's lips. He parted them, feeling the hot wetness of his mouth, and he wanted to melt. He groaned when Vince suddenly removed his mouth, and he opened his eyes to find Vince staring at him lustfully – he wanted him all the more.
The way he said his name made his breath catch in his throat.
"I love you too."
And then their mouths crushed together again, Vince's hands grabbing gently at his hair, and Howard thought he could see fireworks going off behind his eyes. Actually, he could hear them.
Vince removed his mouth once again, trailing kisses down Howard's chin and neck, nibbling at his collarbone, his hands roaming over his waist. Howard arched into him, grabbing at his hips, and Vince gasped as he felt him.
"You're injured," he whispered, breathlessly.
Howard ran his hands through Vince's hair and pulled his head back up, kissing him again.
"I don't care," he growled, a predatory look in his eyes that made Vince's heart skip a beat – or several. "Besides, you want me to feel better, right?"
And before long, they were both seeing stars.
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