A/N: Firstly, I must apologise for the amount of angst in this chapter, and for how harsh Howard is, although I think he does have valid reasons (please don't throw things at me!). I was watching the series 3 DVD yesterday, looking at how Vince was compared with what he was like in series 1, and that, and something Noel said in the extras (the publicity tour bit) about the fact that Vince was more of a tit (I think that's what he called him!) in series 3, prompted me to write this, because I wondered why Vince was the way he was, and so I thought out something that might explain it. Well, in my head it did anyway. It could also be completely wrong, or just not the way others see it! And I still love Vince, so don't worry! Just wanted to work him out, 'cause if I was Howard, I'd be pretty pissed too.

Anyway, enough rambling... I hope you like it! My other two stories will be updated this week – I promise! I had loads of coursework, and then this popped into my head...

Disclaimer: Belongs to two geniuses, Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, beautifully strange people that they are.

xxxx

A tall, broad man with brown wavy hair and a mocha stained moustache made his way through Central Park in the early morning sunshine, coffee in one hand and newspaper in the other. A comforting breeze wafted round him, and he decided that April in New York was definitely beautiful. In fact, the last time he'd seen something this beautiful wasn't since...

He shook his head and took a seat on a nearby bench, the smell of his coffee floating up his nostrils and perking up his senses. He brought the cup up to his lips and sipped carefully. A woman cycled past clutching a lead, which was attached to a little dog running behind her. He smiled and opened up his paper, scanning the reviews section until he found what he was looking for. His eyes flickered over the page for a moment before they rested over a small paragraph. Small as it was, however, it didn't stop his previous smile from spreading into a grin.

Where would he be, Howard Moon thought, if it weren't for that fateful night?

xxxx

One year earlier..

Howard's eyes scanned the club miserably. The bright lights and noise were getting to him, and for what seemed like the thousandth time that night, he had been left standing alone by the bar. He caught sight of Vince, who was dancing on top of a huge speaker in-between two girls, and for some, inexplicable reason, his blood began to boil, and before he know what he was doing, before he realised he'd even moved, he was storming over to said speaker and pulling the electro ponce off of it, practically dragging him over to a relatively private corner of the club.

"Ow, Howard! Get off my arm! What's the matter with you, you lunatic!"

"What's the matter with me?! What's the matter with you?! You completely oblivious idiot!"

Vince glared at him. "What's your problem?!" he shouted over the music, voice straining to be heard. He yanked his arm out of Howard's grip and started to walk off, but Howard grabbed him and pulled him back.

"You're completely clueless, aren't you?! What... argh!" Howard let out a frustrated sigh and dragged Vince out of the club, the smaller man protesting indignantly all the way.

"Howard! You're showing me up! What you doing?!"

Howard pushed him out into the street, pulling him round a corner until they were at the back of the club and fairly secluded. Then, he wasted no time in launching into a scathing, verbal attack.

"Showing you up?! What about what you were doing to me?!" He laughed rather viciously then, making Vince regard him with wide eyes. "Do you even... No! No, of course you don't. You're just a jumped up, self involved little princess who doesn't care about anyone else's feelings. As long as everything's okay in the little world of Vince Noir, then nothing else matters, DOES IT?!" Howard screamed the last part at him, his blood boiling with the intensity of the anger he felt. This had been building up within him for ages.

Vince was silent, but his face betrayed the hurt and sudden fright he was feeling. He'd normally be arguing back at this point, giving just as good as he got – but something in Howard's eyes left him stunned and speechless.

Howard either didn't notice or just didn't care, because he carried on with his rant. "You're so blind! Do you care about me at all? Have you ever? Do you care that you continuously hurt my feelings time and time again, never realising that you actually have? That you think I automatically forget about what you do to me just because you give me a smile and apology that you shouldn't even have to give in the first place, because for some stupid reason, I thought you were my friend – my bestfriend! But you leave me out of things – you leave me off guest lists, you tell me a certain club has run out of tickets and you swan off with Naboo and Bollo, even Fossil, just so you won't have me cramping your style! Yougo flitting from one group of people to the next, conforming to what you think they want you to be, doing what you can to fit in with what you think will be the next big thing, even if it's at my expense. You humiliate me time and time again, treating me like shit, just to impress your so-called, shallow mates – do you knowhow I felt when you ruined my record? The one I'd been saving up for years for? Do you care? Because that was low, even for you. And these people,they never stick around, do they? No. You just come running back to me when it all goes wrong, expecting me to welcome you back with open arms! What is wrong with you?! I mean, do you actually think that I should bethankfulto have you as a friend? That I'll stick around because I have no one else? Is that it? Well, let me tell you something, Vince. Grow up and get your egotistical, shallow head out the clouds, because I don't need you. I don't need you to survive and I refuse to live the rest of my life waiting for you to notice me, I mean reallynotice me, not just treat me like an old, faithful dog that'll be there no matter what. What about my hopes? My dreams? What about what I want? Why is it always about you? Perfect, pretty little Vince, constantly, sickeningly happy as long as he gets what he wants. I do everythingfor you! I always give in, and I'm sick of it and I'm sick of you! Fuck you! I HATE YOU!" Howard wanted to storm off, and usually he would have, but he was so, infuriatingly angry that he stayed rooted to the spot, his face red, his whole body shaking. His face was mere inches from Vince's, who was now in tears and trembling, and when Howard finally noticed, barely a second after he'd stopped shouting, Vince choked back a heart-wrenching sob and ran off down a side alley. Howard watched him go, still unable to move.

xxxx

Present day

Vince tossed and turned in his sleep, finally giving in and sitting up, his fringe sticking to his head. He pushed back his covers to let some air into the abnormally hot room. He'd been dreaming, dreaming about that night exactly a year ago to the day when his whole world had fallen apart. He wiped viciously at the tears running down his cheeks, furiously trying to control his breathing as he gripped the sheets.

The events of that awful night played themselves out again, even though he tried with all his might to block them out...

Vince ran blindly down the alley, bent over double as he fought the urge to be sick, his stomach twisting in the most unpleasant way and his heart aching, hurting more than he ever thought possible. And the worst thing was, it was all true. Well, mostly, except that he did genuinely care about Howard – he always had. How he behaved... he always hid how he really felt about, and now, acting like he did was routine, a horrible routine, but one he didn't want to break in case Howard noticed. He was just doing what he thought Howard expected, but, as luck would have it, he didn't realise that it was tearing them apart. But it was true - even though he had never meant to hurt Howard, he had, more than he ever thought possible. He did take him for granted, and he did treat him awfully sometimes – well, a lot of the time. All to stop him from looking stupid in front of his so-called friends. He mentally smacked himself, and fell into a wall, putting an arm out to steady himself as he slid down it, drawing his knees up to his chin and wrapping his arms round his legs as he buried his head between them, tears leaking uncontrollably. He had never meant for this to happen – never thought it would. But it had, and now he'd lost his friend, a friend he held dear, who he loved... a friend who now hated him. Really hated him. Vince had made Howard hate him. He had made him feel sick - had distressed him. He was disgusted with himself, and his sobbing became all the more gut-wrenching. But he couldn't just leave it like that, because it was Howard and he couldn't bare to not have him around. Not because he'd miss having someone run about after him, but because he simply wanted him. That terrified him – not because he was ashamed of feeling that way, but because he thought Howard was so straight he didn't even bend at the knees. So treating him the way he did was like some kind of twisted punishment Howard didn't even deserve, to try and make him feel better. Thinking back, that kiss at Howard's birthday party should have been his golden opportunity, but he backed off because he thought Howard was just caught up in the moment because he'd never been kissed before – turned out he had been right, and his inexperienced friend had gone off with that girl.

Maybe he should really explain all this to him – he'd rather have Howard hate him because he was in love with him rather that because he thought he was a twat. At least then, in the future, there might be a chance to salvage their friendship. But what was it Howard had said to him? '... I refuse to live the rest of my life waiting for you to notice me, I mean really notice me...' What did that mean?

Vince pulled himself unsteadily to his feet and made his way back towards where he had left Howard, praying he was still there.

xxxx

New York

Howard stood up from the bench and continued his walk through the park, trying to shake off the memory. He knew exactly what today was, but he wasn't going to dwell on it – he couldn't afford too. If he did, everything he had been working so hard on would just crumble. He couldn't help letting his mind wander briefly though, blaming it on the fact that he'd just walked a past an arguing couple...

Howard leant against the wall outside the back of the club with his hands over his face. The music pounded through the walls, sounding muffled, like it was under water. He had a headache now. He was still arguing inside his head, although it was with himself now. Even after everything he had said, he still felt responsible for Vince, because even though he'd finally told him how he'd been made to feel, his heart had still twinged horribly when he'd watched him run off in a state, down a dark alley on his own.

"Not your problem," his brain said. "He brought it on himself."

He doubted Vince could do anything to genuinely make it up to him. He was even sure that the reason Vince had been crying was because he'd insulted him, not because he'd made him realise how much pain he'd caused him.

Howard sighed and pushed himself away from the wall. Better go back and pack up his stuff while the flat was empty – then he could be gone by the time they all came home. As he turned on his heel, the sight of Vince appearing in his line of vision made him jump. He was standing a few metres away, his body half illuminated in the orange glow from the lamplight. Nothing was said, and Howard just stared at him. Unless it something worthy of it, like being completely pissed, Vince would never dare to be seen the way he was now. It was like his mask had suddenly, finally slipped. The exposure of it almost made Howard look away. Vince might as well have been standing naked in front of him. His hair was stuck up at funny angles where he'd been running his hands though it. Eyeliner was smeared around his red, puffy eyes and down his cheeks - the hint of blush that had been delicately applied there was strewn with tear-tracks. He was a mess, and for the first time ever, he really didn't seem to care.

Howard wasn't sure whether to ignore him and carry on with what he'd planned, or wait around to see if he was going to say something – although, he really didn't want to stand there and listen to him defend himself. If he even dared try, Howard thought he might smack him one.

Vince opened his mouth, and then promptly closed it again.

Howard pressed his lips into a thin line, shook his head, and left. The crying hadn't been for him after all.

xxxx

Dalston

"Vince!"

The sound of Naboo's voice startled him out of his reverie.

"What?" he called out, hoping his weak voice was loud enough to travel through the closed bedroom door.

"The shop needs opening!"

Vince sighed. He didn't want to work today, but he had too. The false front he had been putting on for the last year had convinced everyone (or, so he thought) that he was okay. So it would seem strange if he didn't.

As he moved to get up, his mind switched back to playing out a million times over what he would have said and done if he hadn't suddenly had an attack of... what had Howard once called it? The chokes?

He shook his head violently. He couldn't do this now. He had a bright, shiny face to paint on and a false smile to glue to his lips.

It would take him a while.