Hi guys, I've decided to write a sequel/conclusion to my first story, "Phone Call", because I felt a little sad leaving Howard and Vince behind when there was so much more to be said! You really need to read "Phone Call" first, or this probably wont make a huge amount of sense. And thankyou so much for all the gorgeous reviews for "Phone Call" - they really encouraged me to keep going at this fanfic thing! This story is dedicated to Beechwood0708 and violence4, for suggesting a sequel. Hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Obviously.
Howard sighed inwardly as Vince emerged from his bedroom and paused tentatively in the hallway, wearing a long blue jacket with a patterned shirt, his hair combed back and around the side. This was the sixth outfit that Vince had shown him in the last half hour, and they were due to leave for the funeral in a matter of minutes. Catching sight of himself in a mirror, Vince suddenly looked horrified.
"I am definitely not wearing this."
"C'mon Vince" Howard urged gently. "What's the problem this time?"
"I told you! We're going to a… you know where we're going. Not out for drinks with Jacques Le Cube! I have to make a good impression – they're not going to take me seriously if I show up dressed like a… like a… what did you used to say?"
"A futuristic prostitute?"
Howard took a seat next to his friend and squeezed his hand. "Bollocks. I've been telling you, you look fine. This is a…" Howard bit the bullet. "A funeral. And it's all about being there for the people you love. And honouring your parents."
Vince bit his lip as Howard continued. "It's about being yourself – that's who they loved so much. They were so proud of you. And believe me, I know why."
"Do you?" Vince dared a glance in the mirror again. "What's that on my jacket…is it…fuck, diamante trimming? Who do I think I am, Micky Sequin?"
Howard sighed, ruffled his hair and checked his watch for the millionth time that morning. "Vince… we have to be out of this flat in minus five minutes. And I'm telling you – you look fine. Absolutely."
Vince still looked unconvinced. "How is it that I don't own a suit? How is that even possible? God, I've gotta change."
As Vince made the move to get up again, Howard seized his shoulders forcefully and held his friend into place. "Vince. Listen to me. You are your parents' son. You shouldn't have to compromise who you are today just because some measly old men from the Middle Ages dictated that you should be wearing black. Y'hear? You be yourself. You – look – fine. And it's time…it's time to go."
Vince looked at the ground, and then back at Howard, before nodding slowly. The two friends gathered their things and made for the front door. Edging through the hallway, Howard gestured for Vince to step ahead of him, and found him hesitating at the front step, like a child faced for the first time with the ocean. Though he couldn't see his face, Howard could feel Vince's fear wash over him like a tide, and he knew it was up to him to be the strong one. He stepped forward and quietly wrapped his arms around Vince's waist, nestling his head into Vince's neck, and whispered.
"You can do this, Vince. I'm right behind you."
Without turning back to his friend, Vince walked forward with an air of determination, leaving Howard to lock the flat behind them.
Howard detested the drive to the funeral, because having to concentrate on the road meant that he was forced to pry his attention away from Vince, if only partially. Vince was looking nervously out the passenger window, breathing deeply (Howard had been teaching him that technique so Vince could calm himself down), darting glances at Howard every now and again. Mostly they drove in silence.
As they approached the turn-in for the service, Vince finally spoke. "Howard, what happens with the seats?"
"Er, sorry, what?"
"What happens…with…well, everyone sits down, yeah?"
"Yeah, that's right. We're just going to go inside, and everyone will take a seat, and then the service begins."
"But…where does everyone sit?"
Howard blinked. "I'm sorry, little man, you've lost me there."
Vince's voice began to sound strangled. "Is it like…like a wedding…you know, where you have sections and that?"
"Oh, well, not really. But the family sits in the front. That's usually how these things work out."
Vince's face fell, and Howard's heart sunk into his stomach again, as if the two men were programmed together. "Vince, what is it?"
After a long pause, Vince spoke in a very small voice. "Are you family, Howard? Because…I don't want to sit up there all on my own. I don't really know my uncles and aunts, and I need…I think I need…" His voice trembled. "I need you to hold my hand."
Keeping his eyes on the road, Howard wound his fingers around Vince's tightly, feeling how damp the younger man's palms were. "Oh, Vince. You know I'll be beside you. I'm not going anywhere. Alright?"
The funeral went by in a blur for Howard. He was so focused on Vince that he could hardly take in anything else around him. He kept his hand intertwined with Vince's for the entire service (despite the disapproving glares they were both receiving from some of the older members of the family), anchoring Vince to reality. It was as if Vince was in danger of slipping away if Howard's energy was directed anywhere else.
The weight of the younger man's sadness burned through Howard…he could feel it in his head, his stomach, his blood. Vince remained silent throughout, not even turning to look at Howard for the whole hour, merely clutching at his hand so tightly that Howard's entire arm was tingling with pins and needles. Vince didn't even cry. He looked pained and distressed, but not a single tear reached his pale cheeks.
They arrived home after a silent drive. Vince had seemed lost in his feelings, and Howard thought it was best for his friend to think things through on his own, if only for a little while. The silence stretched out until the two of them were sitting on the couch, side by side, Howard offering Vince a cup of tea.
"Thanks Howard. I – " Vince suddenly grimaced, and looked low at the floor. "Uuurghh…"
Howard patted his back. "Vince? You okay?"
Vince leapt up and made a run for the bathroom, with Howard following closely. The younger man slammed the door behind him, leaving Howard once again to listen and knock worriedly from the hall. "Vince? Let me in."
"Uurghhh…" Then came the unmistaken sounds of Vince being sick. Howard waited no longer, and barged into the bathroom, seeing Vince clutching his stomach, keeled over the toilet.
"Alright, little man?" Howard rubbed Vince's back. Vince's stomach heaved again, violently, and he retched forward again. Howard swept up Vince's hair and held it back, all the while using his other hand to keep patting his friend.
"Do you need some water, Vince?"
"Urrghhh…no…I just…urrghhhh." Vince spluttered. "Just stay…stay here a minute, will ya?"
A couple of minutes later, and Vince felt well enough to abandon his post on the floor, and return to the couch. Sitting together, Vince gave a weak chuckle in Howard's direction. "Sorry about that… pretty disgusting."
"I've seen worse, little man."
"In the mirror doesn't count, you old freak."
Howard cocked his head in mock offense, and punched Vince gently in the arm. "None of that, sir. Or I'll…" Howard mentally checked himself – Vince was as up and down as a yoyo at the moment...maybe it wasn't the right time to try to lift him up with a bit of banter.
The Howard felt Vince's head nudge softly against his cheek. "Come on, you'll what?"
"…I'll come at you fast."
"Yeah, like what?"
"Like a breezeblock of pain, that's what."
The electro boy smiled gratefully at his friend. Howard, stunned by Vince's emotional courage, put his arms around him and held him close. "Watch out, little man" he murmured. "I'm keeping my eye on you."
That night, Howard found himself tossing and turning for hours, wrestling with the emotions of the past few days. Most of what was troubling him was, obviously, what Vince was going through. Howard was so proud of his friend, and every inch of him burned to be there for him, helping him up when he stumbled. God knows, there would be plenty more of those times in the future. His entire being urged him to try and comfort Vince, to talk to him, and joke with him when he could, and hug him, and hold his hand, and kiss him. Oh. That last part. That was the other thing that was troubling Howard.
The maverick cursed himself once again for being so selfish as to even think of his own desires at a time like this. But it was out of his control. As much as the horrific events of the past few days had kept his mind away from those ideas, they insisted on resurfacing every now and again, replaying those words which Vince had uttered so recently…I fuckin love you…I love you so much…How he wished that those words could live outside of the reality which ushered them forth…
Enough! Howard resolved for the thousandth time to rid his mind of such ridiculous thoughts. Now was most definitely not the time. He had to focus on Vince's needs…god…he suddenly had a flashback of Vince's breakdown in the hall…his stuttered words, his steel expression crumbling. Howard thought that memory would be able to punch him in the gut even if he lived to be a hundred.
There was a knock at the door. "Come in."
Vince shuffled in, his blanket draped around his shoulders like a cape. Howard sat up, turned the lamp on (noticing the time was 3:30am), and cocked his head.
"What is it, little man?"
"Can't sleep. I feel…too much, y'know? I just feel too much right now. Fuck, I wish I had better words." Vince sighed. "Is it alright if I sleep in here tonight? Just for a little while? My head's all swimmy."
Howard moved along to make room. "Come on, jump in." Vince shuffled further, but his feet were getting tangled in the blanket, so he took one big jump forward and pounced onto the bed, blanket and all, almost continuing to roll over the side.
"Whoa there, Vince!" Howard chuckled fondly, flicking the lamp off again and smiling as Vince curled himself into a ball next to him.
Having Vince lying peacefully next to him seemed, ironically, to put Howard's thoughts to bed. He could feel a calm washing over the two of them, not needing words, and soon he felt himself drifting into sleep.
Some time later, Howard awoke to the sound of sniffling and motion. Taking a minute to remember where he was, he realized blearily that the sounds were coming from Vince, who was shuddering quietly next to him, obviously trying not to make much noise. Howard stretched one arm out to Vince and nudged him on the shoulder.
"Hey, Vince, you alright?"
"Huh? Oh…yeah…sniff…" Vince hiccupped.
"Want to have a chat, little man?"
"Oh, fuck." Vince groaned. "I've w-woken you up again…I'm s-sorry Howard."
"Hey, what did I tell you? No sorries."
Vince turned to face Howard, so close that their noses were almost touching. "I was just havin…h-havin a little cry, thas'all. Fuck."
Howard cupped Vince's face with his hand. "S'alright Vince. Whatever you need to do. It's been a hard day."
Howard's display of tenderness seemed to trigger something in Vince, and he began to sob more intensely. Howard felt his stomach drop once again – it was almost sickening, the sensation that seeing Vince in pain had on him. He inwardly cursed the universe for dealing his friend such a fate…Vince was the sunshine kid! He wasn't meant to be stuck in the cold world of reality, trying to dress down for funerals, crying alone at night. He belonged somewhere else, somewhere with rainbows and glitterballs.
"Breathe now, little man." Howard spoke quietly to Vince, who was having a difficult time controlling his tears.
"It's so…it's so…hard…it's so hard H-Howard…I can't…."
"Come on now, breathe slowly."
"I…fuck…I feel…feel so…god…."
"In – and out – "
"That's it, keep it up."
Soon enough, Vince had calmed down a little. Howard felt an overwhelming sense of pride for his friend, who was so frightened and broken and yet was still brave enough to try. This pride spurring him on, Howard lovingly planted a kiss on Vince's forehead, before inwardly reeling…was that too much?
Vince sprung back from the kiss like he'd been burned, and stared at Howard for a minute with a conflicting expression on his face, before burying his head into the pillow and sobbing again even more loudly.
Howard was mortified – so mortified that for a minute he thought he might pass out from the intensity of it. "Oh God, Vince, I'm sorry, I didn't mean anything, God, please don't cry again, I really didn't – "
"-S'not…not…n-not your f-fault…I just f-feel…awful about…I feel awful feeling g-good…"
Howard frowned in confusion, though somewhere in the recesses of his mind, something was dawning. "What do you mean?"
"I w-want something…I…t-there are some things that I w-want…" Vince struggled with his words. "A-and I'm thinking about…about those things…sometimes…when I should…"
"When you should what?"
"…when I should be…thinking about me mum and dad…I'm disgusting…"
"You are not disgusting. You are never disgusting."
"I feel…disgusting…for th-thinking…thinking those things now…I shouldn't b-be thinking about what I…what I want…"
Howard gulped, and nudged a little closer to Vince. "But what are you thinking about? What do you want?"
Vince looked up at Howard, tears dripping down his face, taking a minute to calm himself. "You know."
Howard could feel electricity exploding everywhere. "Do I?"
"Yeah. I think so."
Even then, Howard couldn't bring himself to say it. What if he was off the mark? What if Vince meant that he wanted ice cream, or a new jacket? True, their minds usually worked as one, but Howard couldn't trust himself to take a leap of faith with such a chasm opening up underneath him.
Then, Vince took his hand. "I t-think I'm…I think I'm in love with…with you. Have b-been...for...ages. It's just too...h-hard...to pretend right now."
Every inch of Howard melted and danced simultaneously. "Vince. God. I love you too, little man." Following his instinct, Howard leant in to kiss Vince, but his friend pulled away gently.
"M'sorry Howard…I…god I never th-thought I'd turn that away…I just need…need a bit of time first…"
Howard ruffled Vince's hair. "Of course. Anything."
"When it happens…I want it…I want it to be just about you and me…y'know?"
"And right now…I just need…I need a friend…I need my best friend."
"I'm always gonna be your best friend."
The two of them curled back into bed, comforted in each others presence. Howard felt giddy, and a little scared, but mostly he just felt love for the man lying next to him – the man who made Howard feel like he could be anything at all. The sun had started to creep in through the windows - it was after 6:00am now, and Howard looked over at Vince's face. Vince looked back and smiled a little. His hair was splayed over the pillow, completely out of sorts after he had tried to tame it that morning. His nose was running, and his eyes were tired and bloodshot from crying.
Still so beautiful though, thought Howard. Even now, he shines.
Thanks for reading! Any reviews would be very much appreciated. Also, I'm still new to this site, and I was wondering if anyone could tell me how to reply to reviews? Because I would have loved to reply to the reviews I got for "Phone Call" but I'm an idiot and don't know how! Lol.