A/N: Well, I got there in the end. The final chapter of this story. Thanks so much for all the reviews, they really mean a lot, it's great to know that people are reading and (it seems) enjoying what I've written.
I've got an idea for a new story, so that'll hopefully be appearing sometime next week.
Also, did you see the Mighty Boosh night last night? The part where they had a go at the Honey Monster had me in stitches! Just needed to mention it!
So, on with the story...
The shop was still there. That was Naboo's first thought as he disembarked his flying carpet and unlocked the door leading directly to the flat. He always had that same panic-inducing thought every time he had to leave for any length of time. As flatmates, Howard and Vince were tolerable – well, Vince was – but they weren't the kind of people you left in charge of something important. Like, say, your livelihood.
"See, no need to panic. Shop's fine." Bollo said as they made their way up the stairs.
Naboo nodded, "Yeah, well if I understood Vince properly, they've probably been too busy freaking out to destroy anything," he smirked.
"You left pendant deliberately, then?"
"Nah, would've been a good idea though. Something to bear in mind for the future," Naboo hadn't even known it was there, he'd never owned something like that. Someone had left it there, and he had a good idea who. But it was a good joke. Not one that was going to work again though, unfortunately. Vince and Howard weren't that bright, but they wouldn't fall for the same trick twice. Maybe something similar would work though.
Bollo folded his arms, "Don't like idea of hurting Vince."
"I wouldn't hurt either of them, I'm just thinking of few harmless little curses to keep them out of trouble when I'm went away. Just leave something lying around, they get nosy and poof, sleeping spell. Or they turn into cheese plants. Or get permanent erections. Just something to keep them occupied. It's for their own good, really."
Bollo nodded, "But maybe just use it on Howard?"
"Maybe. Come on, lets see what kind of mess they've got themselves into," Naboo unlocked the upstairs door to the flat and they walked inside. As they did, Howard practically flew up from the sofa and charged towards them. "Naboo! You're back!"
Howard was smiling in a distinctly un-Howardlike way, and Naboo already knew what had happened, but it still took him a few moments to get his head around the fact that this wasn't Howard at all. "Alright, Vince? What you been up to then?"
Howard, in Vince's body, appeared from the door of their bedroom. He stood half leaning on the door frame with his fingers gripping the edge of the wood, looking slightly awkward and self conscious, and just watched.
"Ah, you know..." Vince picked up Naboo's bag and moved it into the room. A sure sign that he needed help, doing something for another person without being asked. "Can you fix this? Like, now?"
Naboo sighed, "I'll see what I can do." Then he walked into his bedroom. Bollo picked up the bag and followed him, closing the door behind them.
Howard crossed the room and sat on the sofa, "Well, that doesn't sound too encouraging."
Vince grinned and collapsed next to him, half leaning against Howard's shoulder, "It's fine, he just wants to watch us squirm. I think. I hope."
Howard sighed, stood up again, rubbed his hands together and nodded, "Cup of tea?"
"Yeah, alright. And can I have some of those biscuits too?"
Time was passing agonisingly slowly. Vince lounged around reading a magazine while Howard busied himself tidying up the mess in the kitchen, and resisted the urge to bang on Naboo's door. He carefully washed up the pans, the plates, the knives and forks, dried them thoroughly, put everything away in its proper place, and then set to work clearing the rubbish up. The scattered wrappers and tins were placed in the bin, the spillages around the oven top wiped away, and the many, many cookbooks placed on the shelf in alphabetical order.
He looked around the tidy room, pleased with his work. Then he looked at the clock. Just fifteen minutes had passed. Howard resisted the urge to scream, walked back into the sitting room and offered Vince more tea.
"He's doing it on purpose, you know," was Vince's reply. "Might as well just chill out and wait. Pretend they're not back yet or whatever."
"Yes, well that's easier said than done, isn't it?" Howard flopped onto the sofa next to Vince and glanced at his magazine. It was all pictures of good looking people in ridiculously expensive clothes.
"Don't see why. Just do what you'd be doing anyway."
Howard shook his head, "I don't know what I'd be doing anyway. Probably pacing up and down waiting for them to come back."
"You need to learn to relax, Howard." He placed the magazine on the table and turned to face him. "Take a deep breath, close your eyes, lose the tension. You're going to give me wrinkles."
"Relax?" Howard frowned and glowered at the still closed door of Naboo's room, "Look who's talking, you were practically having a panic attack last night."
Vince shrugged and glanced at Naboo's closed door, "Well, I was drunk,wasn't I? I got through a lot of that vodka while you were having your little nana-nap. Or maybe it residual whatever from your body. Leftover stress. Naboo's back now, he'll sort this. I bet you."
Vince looked critically at Howard, he didn't look any less worried. His face seemed to be frozen in a frown, brow crinkled, eyes almost squinting. He really didn't want his face stuck like that. Vince considered for a minute, then reached out and grabbed Howard's crotch through his trousers and squeezed gently.
Howard flinched back not quite out of reach and looked at Vince in shocked questioning. Vince simple shrugged in response and started to unzip Howard's fly.
"Woah there. What are you doing?"
"I'm helping you relax. Just close your eyes and enjoy it, yeah?"
"Um..." Howard's eyes closed, then immediately opened again. "Vince, I don't think this is a good idea."
His hand reached inside the trousers, "Why not?"
"Well," Howard took hold of Vince's wrist and moved his hand away, "for one thing Naboo and Bollo could walk in on us at any minute. For another didn't you say last night that it was too weird? And for another, I'm saying, right now, in no uncertain terms, that you were right. It is too weird. Far, far too weird."
Vince shrugged, "If you say so. But I know that body pretty well, I know exactly what it likes. You might not get another chance like this." He paused, thinking, "But then, you might. I've gotten to now this one pretty well too over the last couple of days."
Howard's eyes opened wide, "I knew it! I knew you were... messing with me... in the bathroom yesterday."
Vince's eyes looked downwards, whether out of embarrassment or to cover up a horrible, terrible lie, Howard didn't know, "Not just then," he said, "later that day too, and this morning."
"You... you..." Howard didn't know what to say, he didn't know what to think, "How could you?"
"It wasn't difficult."
Howard rubbed at his eyes with one hand and stared at Vince in disbelief. Vince grinned widely and laughed, "There, see! You just needed something to distract you. Passes the time way quicker."
Relief washed over Howard, "So you were joking?"
"But..." before he had chance to say anything, Naboo's door opened and the Shaman emerged. Vince immediately redirected his attention. Howard stared for a few moments at Vince, before also looking to Naboo for answers.
"Well, you two've got yourselves in a real mess this time," Naboo told them, standing, hands on hips, in front of the sofa where they both sat. "What did I tell you about touching my stuff? You're lucky I had the right herbs in to make the cure, or you'd have had to wait 'til they were back in season. I had to use the last of some very expensive ingredients though, and I wasn't planning on going shopping 'til next month."
Vince and Howard glanced at one another and then simultaneously back to Naboo, "But you can fix it, right," asked Howard.
Naboo nodded, "Yeah. You've just got to drink this,"
Bollo handed each of them a cup of foul smelling liquid, Vince winced as the steam rising from the cup hit him in the face. "Vince should take better care," Bollo said.
Bollo's hand gestured towards Howard, "Howard forgot to fasten your fly. Could be embarrassing."
Howard blushed pink and made a move to refasten the zip.
"I wouldn't bother," Naboo told him, "You're only going to need to open it again when you have sex with Vince."
"What!?" Howard's eyes flicked, panic stricken from Naboo to Vince and back again.
"You need to drink the potion, then have sex, that'll reverse the spell and put you back in your own bodies. Hopefully."
"But..." Howard looked to Vince for support, but the other man seemed to be lost in thought, a half smile playing on his lips and his hands already moving to take a sip from the cup. "You can't be serious! I... No. No way."
"Suit yourself, but you'll be stuck like that forever if you don't."
"Howard..." Vince was looking at him pleadingly.
Howard bit his lip, "You want to do this?"
Vince shrugged, "It's not the ideal way for it to happen, but yeah. I want to be me again, and I know you do as well."
"Yeah. I suppose if it's the only way..." Howard glared at Naboo, "but I'm not happy about this."
Naboo smiled, "Yeah, sure you're not. Relax, Howard, I was joking. All you have to do is drink the potion and maintain physical contact for a couple of seconds, just hold hands or something. I'm sure even you'll be able to handle that." He paused and watched them for a bit, wondering whether he should feel guilty that they both actually looked a little disappointed. Nah, he decided. "Go on then, drink up, it has to be while it's still hot or it's useless. And I was serious about running out of the ingredients."
Vince shared a glance and an almost imperceptible shrug with Howard, and they drained their cups, put them down and gripped hands, Vince squeezing so tightly that Howard was sure he was losing circulation. The room began to swim, and nausea set in. They maintained contact throughout it, neither wanting to let go too soon and ruin the spell. Howard opened his eyes first, and the first thing he saw was Vince's face.
He breathed a sigh of relief, "Vince, it's okay. We're okay."
Vince took a deep breath before slowly opening his eyes and focusing on Howard's. He maintained his grip on Howard's hand and smiled, "Hi, Howard. It's good to see you."
"Likewise, little man."
"There, all done," Naboo told them, and turned away, "Next time, don't touch my stuff."
Bollo picked up the two cups, glared at Howard pointedly and followed Naboo, leaving Howard and Vince on the sofa.
"So," said Howard, glancing down at Vince's hand, still holding his own tightly "do you think maybe I could have my hand back?"
"That depends," Vince told him, "I'm touching you. Is it okay?"
Howard looked at their hands intertwined, half resting on his own knee and realised that actually it was. It was a little strange, but not entirely uncomfortable. Maybe because now he had been in Vince's body it was no longer alien to him, or maybe just the after-effects of the spell. He nodded.
"Then yeah, you can have it back. For now." Vince reluctantly released his grip on Howard's hand and Howard reached for the mirror that Vince had left discarded on the table. He looked into it, and it was almost a shock to see his own face looking back. Tension that he hadn't even been aware of was released and he passed the mirror to Vince, who only glanced at himself quickly then placed it back on the table.
"Vince?" asked Howard.
"Were you serious about, you know, what you said? Or were you just trying to distract me?"
Vince ran the fingers of one of his hands through his hair and flicked a piece of fluff off his jeans "What did I say?"
Howard sighed, "What you said about, you know, knowing my body pretty well..."
Vince shrugged, "Maybe. Maybe not. Why don't we go in the bedroom and you can find out? Quick, before you turn back into Mr 'Don't touch me' and we never get chance."
"Vince, this is very important to me, okay? I need to know."
"Now or never, Howard. Are you coming?" Vince got to his feet and looked pointedly at the bedroom door.
Howard thought about it for a second, then nodded, "Yeah, all right." Blood rushed to his face and the room started to spin slightly once again as he began to panic that maybe he shouldn't have said that, that he was about to do something he would regret.
He stood up slowly, still not sure whether Vince was joking with him, or even whether he wanted him to be. A quick glance at Vince's face revealed that he hadn't yet collapsed with laughter, so maybe he was serious. He took a step forward, but the floor somehow seemed to be in the wrong place, and he tripped.
Narrowly missing hitting his head on the corner of the table, Howard landed with a grunt as the air seemed to be forced out of his body, and lay there on the floor for a second attempting to recover. He rolled over and pushed himself up into a sitting position, "Not this again," he muttered.
Vince giggled and offered a hand to pull him back up. Howard grabbed hold and in one fluid move, deliberately tugged the smaller man onto the floor with him, pulled him closer and kissed him.
Vince, taken completely by surprise didn't respond at first, just lay sprawled on top of Howard, being kissed. As soon as he regained his senses, he joined in enthusiastically, using his position on top of Howard to pin him to the ground. When he finally pulled away, they were both breathless and flushed. Vince climbed to his feet and again offered Howard his hand. He took it this time and stood uncertainly, unsure on his own feet.
"Are you sure about this?" Howard asked uncertainly.
Vince's hand slipped inside his own and Howard held onto it tightly, "Aren't you?"
Howard chewed quickly on the nail of his right thumb and inspected his feet, "No,"he admitted, "but there's one way to find out."
Vince smiled widely and began to move, hand still holding Howard's. Howard felt his heart begin to beat faster in his chest, almost pounding against his ribcage, not through fear or even nerves, but anticipation as he allowed himself to be led across the room and towards the waiting door of their bedroom.