Oookay, here's my first attempt at fluff, a slightly more upbeat oneshot to make up for my rather angsty debut. I would love feedback, as I'm not sure whether I can do fluff or not yet! Fun to write, though. Now, I realise this story (and the other two) are lacking Naboo and Bollo - that's pretty much just because I'm still new at this and I don't trust myself with more than two characters at once yet! Training wheels fanfic, lol. Anyway, this is dedicated to starsofandromeda for demanding fluff and for delivering on her own promises of fluff!
Disclaimer: None of it's mine, all Barratt and Fielding.
"Are you sure you want this, Howard?"
Howard blinked quickly, and then ducked his head into the living room to see Vince holding up a set of headphones and a mess of cables attached to speakers. Equipment they had purchased together for their band – they'd both saved up for months doing odd-jobs for Naboo.
Howard shrugged in response. "Yeah, I suppose. I mean – you can take them if you want, but they'll probably –"
"Probably have stuff for me, yeah, right." Vince turned his back on Howard and continued rifling through the odds and ends strewn around the flat.
Vince had been 'discovered.' Of course he had. It was only ever going to be a matter of time, Howard supposed. A music scout had spotted the two of them performing a small gig in Dalston a few months back, and had later approached Vince backstage. He was looking for a front-man for a band up north in Manchester, a new-wave indie group called Hatchet…or Wretched…or Ratshit…Howard couldn't be bothered remembering. The scout had only, of course, been interested in Vince. As far as that first meeting was concerned, Howard may as well have been a mic stand. Vince didn't seem to notice that – he only seemed to notice the promise of stardom; a stardom he felt was long deserved.
Looking back on the whole process gave Howard a headache. It had blown up into a whirlwind of plans, as these things do (Howard himself was well-versed in the ways of the musical underground, yes sir!), and before either of them had even had time to think things through, Vince had signed a deal, and now here he was, packing up and moving out. And moving on, a particularly loathsome part of Howard's subconscious butted in.
"What about these?" Vince turned to Howard, gesturing towards their collection of Rudi & Spider records.
"Er, I don't know. Just take them, maybe. Or take some, anyway."
"Oh, um… well, which ones do you want?"
Vince paused. "Actually, nah, you keep 'em. I know you like to rock out to jazz fusion in your pants before breakfast, and far be it from me to limit your solo choices." He smirked cheekily, and Howard returned the smile.
"Oi, don't you be spreading that around, you hear?"
Vince resumed packing, and Howard was left to his own devices, which at this stage meant basically wandering around the flat aimlessly, trying to avoid thinking about things. Things like…like not having an excuse to make fairy bread at three o'clock in the morning anymore. Things like not waking up to electro music pounding through the wall. Things like not finding make-up cluttering the sink, even though he didn't have a girlfriend. Things like not being able to taste flirtinis without going through the utter embarrassment of buying them. Things like snuggling up on the couch and watching shit on TV until, sometimes, Vince fell asleep on his shoulder. Things like…like all the things that were Vince.
Would Vince miss those kinds of things? Howard didn't know. He supposed not…Vince was going to be with the 'right' kind of people now; people who all wore makeup and listened to electro music (hell, they played electro music), and as much as it hurt to admit, Howard knew that Vince didn't really need a northern jazz freak tagging along after him, keeping him back. God, was that what he had been doing these past ten years? Keeping Vince back? Howard's stomach lurched for the thousandth time that day. There was a car coming to pick Vince the next morning, and Howard couldn't tell whether time was running super slow or super fast. Or both. Was that possible?
The strange thing was that he and Vince hadn't really talked about the move at all. Especially not in the last couple of weeks. Vince talked about the band, obviously, hell he talked about almost nothing else, but neither of them had really addressed the whole "moving away" thing. For Howard, it was because he didn't have the guts, and he really hoped it was the same for Vince. Because if not that, then maybe the idea of separating for the first time in ten years (apart from that one week) wasn't high on his priority list. Obviously Vince didn't feel the same way about him as he did about Vince…how could he?...but still…Howard felt his palms prick with sweat; in just a few short hours, the two of them would go from seeing each other every morning and every night, to…to what? They hadn't even talked about that. Would Vince come back to London on…what, on weekends? Is that weird? Would Howard go up to Manchester for the holidays? Would they call each other? And if they did, what would they say?
The whole thing made Howard feel ill. It reminded him of the recurring nightmare he had been having for the past few weeks; one where he would call Vince up from a payphone in the rain, and Vince wouldn't remember who he was. And then there were the other dreams, the nicer ones, the ones where Vince would come running back from Manchester to their poky little flat and hurl his arms around Howard, promising never ever to go away again. Sometimes he would lean up and kiss him softly, and those times, Howard would wake up feeling a little happier and a little sadder.
"Yeah, little man?"
Vince laughed casually. "I'll miss hearing that one." Howard felt himself die inside a little. "Yeah anyway, look I'm meetin' up with Leroy soon, last night in town y'know, gotta live it up. So don't mind me if I'm not home til late, yeah? I'll try to keep it down."
Howard blinked. "But…aren't you leaving tomorrow morning?"
"Yeah, like I said, last night in town. Heaps of people are going, pretty much the whole of Camden. It'll be genius. I reckon they'll have a bloody parade in my honour. I've always wanted a parade. Mental. I think I'll wear my cape."
"Oh. I just thought we could maybe…" Howard trailed off. God, Vince looked amazing. He couldn't believe how amazing he looked.
Vince looked back at him. "Yeah?"
Howard stuttered, suddenly embarrassed. "Er, no, nothing."
Vince seemed to let out the tiniest sigh...Howard thought he may have just imagined it, and then his friend just kept gabbling. "I figure it's not really your scene, Howard, but hey I'll see you tomorrow before I leave, yeah? I gotta finish packing then anyway. In the meantime, there's a lot of partying to be done and I definitely don't have any time to waste! Shit, where's that cape?"
Howard remained almost frozen on the couch as Vince whizzed around the flat like a maniac, putting the finishing touches onto his outfit. In what seemed like a matter of seconds, he was heading to leave, and out of stunted desperation Howard followed him, so they were both hovering at the front door. Vince looked flushed – over-excitement probably, thought Howard. His friend was looking at him in a strange way, though. Kind of intensely, as if he was waiting for something. Almost as if…Oh God, thought Howard, I've gone mental.
"Well…have a good time with Leroy."
"I just…just wanted to say that, um, could you leave the light on for me? Or else I'll be knocking shit everywhere when I come back in."
"Oh, right. Sure." There was another strange, awkward pause, before Vince finally made the move to leave.
"Well then, see you. I'll be home pretty late, yeah?"
"Right, yeah. Thas' alright, innit?" Vince asked, eyebrows raised.
"Course. Up to you. Your last night, and all."
"I guess you'll just go round to Lester's then."
"Get some Mingle out, make a night of it."
"Mingus. Charlie Mingus."
"Yeah. Mingus. Whatever."
Howard wasn't quite sure what was going on. He had said goodbye, Vince had said goodbye. Why were they still talking on the doorstep? Not that Howard was disappointed…at this stage he felt like he could give up trumpets forever just to have a few more hours crimping in the kitchen with his best friend. But something was a little off about the way Vince was dragging out their conversation.
As if reading Howard's thoughts, Vince straightened his jacket collar purposefully and made the motion to leave.
"I'm off then."
"Have fun. Give Leroy my regards."
As Vince stepped out into the night, he half turned back to Howard, the cold winter air already blushing his pale cheeks (after only a few seconds? thought Howard). "Howard, you don't…"
At that moment a huge truck on the other side of the road let out a deafening "BEEEEP! BEEEEP!" as a car in front of it made an illegal turn. Both the boys jumped, and Vince looked particularly flustered. The truck continued beeping, and Howard had to crane his head in close to Vince's to hear the rest of the sentence. He could almost feel the warmth of Vince's cheeks. "Sorry, what?"
"You, ah, you don't…have to leave the lights on for me. I mean, if it'll keep you awake."
The truck stopped beeping, and the atmosphere deflated like a balloon. Howard suddenly, unwarrantedly, felt terrified. "Sure, okay. Bye Vince."
The minute Vince shut the door behind him, Howard could feel a part of him leaving too. What the hell was that electro poof thinking, going out with Leroy? It was his last night in town! Did he really think that little of his best friend? The man who had saved him countless times from…from…well if Howard was being honest with himself it was usually Vince who did the saving, but still! Oh God, was that why Vince was being so weird on the doorstep? Had he, Howard, really become that much of an embarrassment? Vince was probably just trying to avoid spending time with him because he thought Howard would say something sappy, something weird, just like that time in the Tundra…oh flipping hell, what if Vince knew? Could he? Maybe he knows everything, thought Howard, about all my feelings for him, and he's trying to get away without ever having to bring it up!! Holy bullshit munchers! …No, wait. Calm down, he thought. Don't jump to extremes. Vince was, after all, pretty thick. And just pretty, too. Howard suddenly wanted to touch his friend so badly, even just to put his arm around his shoulder, anything…
Oh God, Vince was just going out for the night. What was it going to feel like tomorrow morning? He and Vince had been through everything together… how can you stay with someone after almost dying on Xooberon and then split up after some measly little band in bloody Manchester? That wasn't right, surely! Using the term "split up" wasn't exactly right either, Howard reminded himself. In fact it was the opposite of right.
Howard wandered into Vince's now almost empty room. It was strange now – Howard was so used to seeing the walls plastered in posters and glitter and glow in the dark stars. It didn't really feel like Vince's room anymore; white walls and boxes everywhere…by this time tomorrow it wouldn't be Vince's room at all. One thing though, for now, remained the same. Vince's bed. Howard loved Vince's bed – it was ridiculous, of course, but then so was Vince. The bed was covered with an enormous silver blanket, and the pillows were basically fluorescent, so the whole thing looked like some kind of futuristic spaceship. The weary maverick laid down heavily on the bed, staring up at the ceiling and taking in the faint smell of Vince (hair product, fruit, sugar) which still clung to the sheets in his absence. Oh my god, thought Howard, I'm smelling his bed. This is just so wrong. I bet this'll turn up in the Guardian next week. But the longer he lay there, the less promising anywhere else in the flat seemed. The longer he lay there, the more and more it began to feel like nowhere else in the world could feel like home.
Howard suddenly became aware of a rustling noise underneath the pillow when he shifted his head around. Reaching beneath the fluorescence, to his surprise he pulled out a piece of paper covered with hand-written scrawl. Vince's handwriting. Almost dismissing it for a shopping list, his eyes caught one word near the start of the page: Howard. His name. Something in his stomach did a cartwheel and he began to read on greedily.
What to do about Howard, it began.
#1: Don't be too much of an idiot.
#2: Do the dishes more.
#3: Learn to cook so I can make dinner sometimes when he's tired.
#4: Look up "stock-take" in the dictionary.
#5: Get a dictionary (should be #4).
#6: Don't touch him too much, cuz he'll get annoyed.
#7: Don't push him too hard or he might run away. Leave him to make the decision.
#8: Definitely don't do something stupid like try to kiss him.
#9: Get driver's license so if it works out, I can drive him around and he can have turns at having a sleepie in the car sometimes, and if it doesn't, then at least I can drive to visit him if he can't be bothered driving up to see me.
#10: Try to stop loving him so much, maybe.
Howard felt his eyes prick with tears. Was this real? Was he having another of those wonderful awful dreams? It certainly didn't feel that way. Something stirred inside of him and he felt his hands tremble, the list rustling in his fingers. It was covered in scribbles and smudges – eyeliner smudges, a few glitter smudges, and something that Howard thought was probably raspberry bootlace smudges. Oh, Vince… and it was at that exact moment that he heard the front door slam shut.
Howard panicked momentarily. What was Vince doing home so early? Here he was, in Vince's room, on Vince's bed, reading Vince's secret notes. How on earth would he explain that one away? Jazz trance? A small and usually ignored part of Howard's brain was yelling insistently that obviously Vince felt the same way, and so there was nothing to worry about, but Howard was a worrier by nature. Vince's footsteps ascended the stairs, and Howard made a mad dash for the door, hoping he could escape Vince's room before the electro boy ever noticed he had been inside. Unfortunately, the man of action caught his foot on one of the packing boxes and stumbled ungallantly into the hall, managing to clash spectacularly into Vince, knocking the both of them onto the floor.
The boys both shook their heads and shifted a little, legs still entangled, Vince's hair poking in the wrong direction, and Howard still…oh god, still holding the list! It was crumpled in his hand, out of sight, but what if Vince noticed!
"Howard…what were you doin'?"
God dammit, thought Howard "Er, nothing."
"Did you hurt yourself?"
"I'm fine. Honestly. What are you doing home so early? What happened to your parade?"
"Oh, I…yeah, it all wrapped up a little early…listen are you sure you're alright?"
"M'fine, Vince! Just tired, you know, lots to do…"
"Busy busy, yeah"
"Yeah, you're pretty busy too, eh…"
"Really busy, mm…"
They were still on the floor. They were still, Howard noted, crumpled and squished together on the floor. The ignored part of Howard's brain was now screaming abuse at him and banging on a tin drum. But Howard felt like he had come down with the worst case of the chokes in history.
Vince was staring at Howard hypnotically. His voice seemed to have dropped half an octave. "It's tough, you know, when you've got so much to do…and so much you want to do…"
The ignored part of Howard's brain had now roused an entire orchestra of cells performing drum solos which threatened to burst their owner's eardrums.
"I know what you mean…" Howard mumbled. He couldn't stop staring at Vince's lower lip…juicy and sweet-looking…
"There's all this pressure, y'know, and you've gotta be able to handle it…"
"Yeah…" The ignored part of Howard's brain gave up and decided to commit suicide.
"But sometimes you can't handle it…"
"It just gets so hard…"
Oh, fuck it, thought Howard, and leaned in to close the gap between the two of them, meeting Vince's lips and gently pressing against them. Vince uttered a squeak of surprise and pulled back. "Howard?"
"Oh bugger it all. Don't go tomorrow. I love you."
"You…you love…me? Really?"
"Yeah. God, yeah, I really do Vince. I think I'd die if you went away tomorrow."
"I don't want to go! I was so scared! I haven't slept in nights! Why didn't you…why didn't you say anything, Howard?"
"I didn't think…" Howard looked away, embarrassed. "I didn't think you felt the same way. But I found this…" he held out the note.
Now it was Vince's turn to be embarrassed. "God, Howard, you didn't read it did you?" The look on Howard's face was enough to answer his question. "Oh, fuck, that's really…you weren't meant to see that! It was just me crapping on."
"Shut up. If not for this note, I'd probably still be waltzing around, pretending I was alright saying goodbye to the most important person in the world to me."
Vince reached for Howard's hand hesitantly. "I…I came home tonight to try for one last shot…you know, to see if you might…well, I wasn't being all that subtle about it."
"No." Howard grinned. "But you'll never be subtle. And I'll always love you."
Somehow that was enough said, and they both moved towards each other, hungrily this time, lips clashing, tongues deliciously intertwining. Howard ran his fingers through Vince's hair, down his neck, curling his nails into Vince's shoulders through his jacket. Vince's hands were everywhere, on Howard's face, his arms, his chest, unbuttoning his shirt…
Seized by a new wave of passion, Howard gripped Vince by the shoulders and hoisted him around, pinning him to the hard ground. Vince closed his eyes and let out something between a gasp and a moan, all the while unbuttoning Howard's shirt…he looked so stunning that Howard felt he could die then and there. Beige and nutmeg number cast aside, Vince shifted out of his own jacket and shirt in a hurry, interspersing each movement with peppered kisses down Howard's chest, stopping to run his tongue down the flesh. "Ffffuck, Vince…"
Both men now shirtless, Howard leaned over Vince and re-pinned him roughly to the ground, his newfound confidence spurring him on to run his tongue down Vince's neck and collarbone, biting at his skin gently and then more viciously, swirling his tongue around mercilessly, working his way slowly down past Vince's stomach, forcing sounds out of the electro boy that Howard could never have imagined… "H-Howard…Howardddd…Jesus…fuck, God…" …sounds which made him delirious, more delirious still…
A few hours later…hours? Days? Years? Howard didn't even know what planet he was on, let alone what time it was. Somehow during the evening the boys had made their way into Vince's bedroom, which is where they lay now, Howard sprawled on his back, eyelids weighing heavily down, Vince curled up next to him, head on Howard's chest. If I could stay like this forever…just like this…
Howard felt a snuffling sound coming from Vince. Had he fallen asleep? No, it sounded more like…
"Vince? Little man?"
"Are you…are you crying?"
"You are! God, Vince, what's wrong? Was it…did I…because I thought…"
Vince propped himself up on one elbow. "You're a right dunce sometimes, Howard." He wiped away a few stray tears with the back of his hand. "M'just happy. A little…over…over…what's the word? You say it about Mingle all the time."
"Yeah, that's it. I feel a bit like that. Good tears, yeah? They're like, Mingle tears."
"Maybe you should get that dictionary after all." Howard smiled playfully, tucking Vince's fringe back and still inwardly marveling at its softness.
Vince smirked, tears fading away. He stared at Howard intently. "Are you sure you want this, Howard?"
Howard leaned forward and kissed Vince slowly, cupping his smooth face in his hands. "You know I am. And…"
"Me? Fuck, I've wanted this since…too long. You read the sodding note, didn't you? I can't believe you thought I'd chuck you for some crappy garage band."
"Talking of which, what're you going to say to them this morning? They'll be showing up with your lift in a few hours."
"Oh, anything, I don't care. They're all rubbish, those people. I mean, it's fun to begin with, sure, but they don't mean nothing to me. They don't know how to cook pancakes Howard! I'm serious – last time I went up there, they made some, and they just squeeze it out of a bottle! I told them, I kept telling them, you need eggs milk and flour, but they told me to sod off out of the kitchen! Howard, they don't even know what satsumas are! I was peeling one and the bassist thought it was a mandarin!"
Howard smiled. "I adore you. I'm just sorry it took me so long to say anything."
"Hey, it worked out in the end. And I didn't even have to do the dishes!"
"Still wouldn't hurt, though."
Hope you enjoyed! My first proper happy ending. I know, I know, I copped out on the smut, but I really don't know how to write it! Either way it was nice to do some kissies instead of tears, lol. - northernbullet.