A/N: Is it wrong to cry at your own story? The ending of this made me well up considerably! I must apologise to Hattie, because I told her I was writing a fluffy fic, and I am, but this angsty little piece pushed into my head and wouldn't go away until I wrote it down. I'm really sorry at how sad this is, and I hope you'll all forgive me for what I've done!
Disclaimer: The Mighty Boosh belongs to the gorgeous Julian Barratt and the beautiful Noel Fielding.
Vince was panicking again.
He trembled as he sat on his bed, hands unconsciously digging into the tops of his thighs. His lungs were burning, his head spinning his mind yelling out in confusion. A sheen of perspiration formed across his brow, making his limp, raven hair stick to his forehead. His red-rimmed, dark-circled eyes stood out sharply against unhealthily pale skin. He looked almost dead.
He may as well have been.
A few more seconds and he was hyperventilating, now on his feet and pacing frantically around the room, a hand on his chest as he desperately tried to suck in air. But he couldn't stop now – couldn't stand still. It was as if flapping about wildly made everything seem less frightening. But it didn't, and Vince knew this, which is why he eventually fell to his knees, hands clawing at the carpet, lungs about to explode and he wheezed and coughed, choked sobs racking his body, the grief too much to bear as hot tears flowed in a torrent down his sallow face, some rolling over his lips and bleeding salt into his mouth, his tongue feebly protesting against the bitterness of it. Vince rolled onto his side, bring his knees up to his chest and hugging them. He cut a pathetic sight on the floor in the middle of the room – heartbreaking and desperate and unreachable.
It was now three months since his world had ended. Three months since everything had been tipped onto its side and ripped open, leaving nothing but gaping wounds and unbearable pain. Pain that stabbed away at the young man with every waking second. Pain which pierced his skin and made his soul bleed, the sunshine and rainbows, everything that made Vince who he was, seeping away to be consumed by the darkness, its inky claws reaching out and swallowing up all the colours and the light.
It wasn't constant anymore, not like it had been in the first few weeks, when he'd seemed to be continually hysterical, screaming and crying and cursing God and the universe and anything and everyone else he could think of. He'd shouted up at the stars and yelled at the moon, glared at happy people who'd dared to come his way. He'd drunk until he passed out and then done it all over again. But nothing numbed the hurt and nothing filled the aching gap where his heart should have been, because he really didn't think it was there anymore, the thumping echo just a ghost of happier times. And then, as time struggled forwards, he started to quieten. He wasn't constantly turning to his side to talk to his friend, only to find he wasn't there and start crying all over again. The initial shock to his system settled down, even though it was far from accepted. That made Vince feel guilty though, terrified and ashamed in case it meant that he was getting over it. Of course, he wasn't – he was just dealing with it. Sort of (although not really). Living with it, but never, ever over it. Because you don't get over something like that – no one does. But Vince hadn't realised that at first, until he plucked up the courage to talk to Naboo, who gently assured him that he wasn't doing anything wrong. Even so, when Vince did cry again, it came as some sort of twisted relief; it made him feel less guilty.
Now, even though Vince no longer cried for what had seemed like every minute of every day, it didn't take much to tip him over the edge. He'd numbly gone back to working in the shop and tried to ignore all the familiar things that served as a painful reminder to what he'd lost. He'd thought briefly about removing them, and then he'd cried again at how heartless he thought that made him sound. So, he'd left them there, exactly where he had left them – untouched, and gathering dust. But now, Vince expected these things to be there, and it was no longer a shock to see them every day. What set him off now were things like someone mentioning his name in conversation, or if Vince accidentally knocked over something that belonged to him. Like the other day, when he'd moved to pick up the phone and his elbow had rammed into the sellotape tree, sending it crashing down into Stationery Village, pens and pencils scattering and paperclips flying over the edge of the counter and onto the floor. Vince had just stood there for a second, feeling sick as he surveyed the destruction, before turning on his heel and fleeing up the stairs to the flat in tears. Naboo had later tried to fix it, but Vince had insisted that it was now ruined, because it wouldn't be the way that he had left it. In the end, Naboo had had to remove the whole lot, Bollo holding Vince back as he shouted at the tiny shaman not to touch it, before finally succumbing to the fact that it couldn't stay as it was. Naboo had carefully placed the items in a box and handed it to Vince, who'd taken it from him mournfully, all the while cursing himself at his own clumsiness and stupidity.
Today, it had been the postman's fault. A letter had arrived, which needed signing for, and when the Royal Mail worker had walked up to Vince and asked for him, his face had splintered and his eyes had welled up, leaving the postman bewildered when he'd turned and run away. Luckily, Naboo had also been in the shop at the time, and had ended up having to explain the situation whilst Vince screamed into his pillow.
As he finally began to calm, Vince seemed to reach a decision on something and slowly hauled himself up onto his feet. He wiped his eyes on the back of his sleeve, blew his nose into an old tissue on his bedside table, and walked out of the room in a scarily zombie-like state. He vaguely heard Naboo calling to him as he went out the front door, but he didn't acknowledge him, eyes staring straight ahead as he walked out into the street, barely blinking as the blazing sun assaulted his eyes. Everything seemed unnatural outside. The hot summer's day had brought the people of London crowding out into the streets, all smiles and laughter as ice-creams dripped over cones and children chased each other down the street with super-soakers and water bombs. People strolled around in t-shirts and sunglasses, happy at being able to enjoy this most glorious of days. But it didn't seem right, not to Vince. It was all wrong. How could everything seem so bright and alive and warm when he felt so black and rotten and cold? He shoved his hands in his pockets, still staring ahead as he concentrated purely on his destination, only stopping once, quickly, along the way. His hair swung around his face, falling into his eyes, but he didn't once raise a hand to push it away, instead letting the strands prick at his sore, dull orbs, making them water.
When he reached the gates, he paused, the rusty cogs in his mind slowly turning, if only enough to make him realise exactly where he was. His hands curled momentarily around the wrought iron as he peered shakily through the bars. Then, taking a deep breath, he pushed one side of the gate open and stepped through onto a winding footpath. He walked nervously through the peaceful grounds, the sounds of the city becoming more muffled the further he went, until, eventually, he stopped by a small silver birch tree. Vince knelt, gaze focused downwards, his hands resting on the ground in front of him. Seeing it, here, now, for the first time since...
Vince felt his throat constrict, a strangled cry finally making its way out as he dug his hands wretchedly into the soil, ripping up the sparse shoots of grass that had begun to gather there. Finally, he lifted his head and forced his red eyes to focus on the engraved words in front of him. He brought up a hand, his fingers trembling as they moved gently over the letters.
Howard TJ Moon
September 24th 1975 – May 17th 2008
Vince let out a loud sob, his face contorting in endless pain.
"I'm s-sorry. I'm so s-sorry, Howard."
And then, as if saying his name out loud confirmed to him everything he desperately wished wasn't true, he moved forward and collapsed against the headstone, shoulders heaving, breath short and sharp.
"'m sorry. I-I know I should 'ave come sooner, b-but I j-just couldn't. It h-hurts. It hurts. It hurts."
Vince leant his head against the cool marble, hands clutching the top of the stone, the tree shielding it from the heat of the sun.
"P-please, come back, Howard. I-I can't live without you. I can't c-cope. I-I wish I could s-see you again – tell you everything I n-never got too. I'd give a-anything for just a few more seconds with y-you, just to hear you call me 'little man' one more time. Or shout at me for leaving the rubbish in the wrong place. Anything."
He choked, a sob getting stuck in his throat, and he coughed harshly, tears running unchecked down his grey face.
"Why did you leave m-me? You t-told me you'd get better – you p-promised. You promised! But you were lying, weren't you? You lied – you lied! You lied! You promised me and you left me and you lied! And I hate you for it! I hate you! I hate you, I hate you, I HATE YOU!"
Vince screamed, his voice disturbing some birds in a nearby oak tree, causing them to squawk indignantly as they took flight.
"I ha – no, I don't," he whispered hoarsely, his wet face flushed with shame. "Oh, God. I-I'm sorry, Howard. I didn't mean it – I didn't. P-please forgive m-me. Please. I don't hate you. I-I don't. I-I love you. I love you. I love you, and I never got to tell you. I w-wanted too, so badly. Howard, I love you. I'll always love you. I-I wish you could know that. Do you know that?"
Not only was it hot, there was also no wind – not even the faintest hint of movement in the air. So when a gentle, cool breeze whipped Vince's hair about his shoulders and round his face as soon as he'd asked his question, the emotionally frail man visibly jumped. The displacement was brief, and it left as quickly as it had come, caressing Vince's cheek and blowing over his lips before vanishing and leaving everything still again. Vince's eyes widened, and, stunned, he brought a hand up to his face, fingers trailing over his cheek and mouth, more tears running from his eyes as his brain worked to piece together what had just happened. He shook - not from fright, but from the first twinge of happiness he'd felt in what seemed forever.
"Y-you're right here," he said, softly, his trembling voice full of awe and amazement. "You've been right here, all along, haven't you? Y-you never left. Even though I can't see you, you never left."
The realisation of this shook Vince from the depths of despair he'd become so used too, and made him focus, the fog in his mind clearing just enough for him to be able to make an important decision. Still crying, he turned his face to the sky and spoke to his friend, his voice full of determination.
"You were – are – the love of my life, Howard. You always will be. I did some stupid, horrible things to you because I never had the courage to tell you, I even ruined the one and only time I ever got to kiss you, and for that I am truly, truly sorry – more than you'll ever know. But, you know what? I'm gonna make it up to you. I'm gonna live for you, Howard. I'm gonna drag myself back up and live for you. I'll make you so proud of me, I really will. I'll do it all for you. It'll be hard, because you were my best friend – my soul-mate – and I'm a bit useless without you, but somehow, I'll do it. I promise."
He picked up the single red rose that had lain beside him since he'd arrived, and placed it in front of the headstone.
"I brought you this. Beautiful, isn't it?" Vince wiped his eyes and sniffed, a small smile gracing his mouth. "See, you can still make me smile, even if I can't see you," he said, and he pressed his lips gently against the marble. "I'll miss you every moment of every day, but I know, when the time is right, you'll come and get me and we'll be together again. Thank you. For everything."
Later that night, as Vince lay curled up in his own bed after months of sleeping in Howard's, he whispered a goodnight to his best friend, and with tears in his eyes, he blew a kiss up to the heavens, and somehow, somewhere, a certain jazz maverick caught it safely in his hand, and he smiled down at the earth below, happy that the beautiful man who had captured his heart so very long ago, was at last able to start living again.
"Goodnight, little man."
In his sleep, Vince smiled.