A/N: More Vince angst, I'm afraid. I just can't seem to be able to leave the poor guy alone! This first chapter is a bit short, but I felt it was a good place to stop it. I'm going to get a bit of 'Hero Howard' into this at some point as well, because I know you all love him!
Disclaimer: The Mighty Boosh is the genius of Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding.
Vince had never run so fast in his life. His feet hit the ground hard as he simultaneously tried not to throw up and faint at the same time. He fell sideways into a wall as he retched, but he bounced off of it and kept going, faster and faster until the gentle breeze sounded like a storm ringing through his ears, heart thumping wildly, breaths gasped harshly. He nearly sent a woman flying, the bottle of wine she was carrying getting knocked out of her hands and smashing on the ground, red liquid spraying everywhere, but he didn't even stop to apologise, couldn't stop even if he wanted to, just in case. Vince rounded a corner, nearly tripping on a loose paving stone and careening into a parked car. He forced himself onward, faster, faster, push, push, push, push, until his legs threatened to give way. Then he saw it, and if he'd had the energy he would have cried with relief. Instead, he flew at the door, fumbling for his keys and the dropping them on the floor. He bent down, hands trembling as he tried to grip them, nearly screaming in frustration as they slipped again, the skin on his fingers getting grazed and torn against the concrete as he took hold of them firmly, ignoring the pain searing through his hand as he thrust the key at the lock, head turning quickly to look down the street to make sure he was alone. It took several attempts to get the key in the door, but when he did Vince threw himself inside and slammed the door behind him, frantically turning the locks and stumbling up the stairs, finally collapsing into a heap at the top of them, shoulders heaving as he tried to draw air into his lungs, his chest painfully protesting at the sharp movements, the side of his face pressed into the carpet. A light snapped on.
"Vince, what the hell -"
Howard had appeared in the living room, tying his dressing gown and rubbing at his eyes, but he soon forgot what he was saying when he spotted Vince on the floor, shaking violently and hyperventilating. Howard swore and dropped to his knees next to him, wasting no time in hauling him upright. The smaller man looked terrified – his blue eyes were wide with fear, his face bloodless and coated in a sheen of perspiration. His chin fell into his chest and Howard had to grab it and hold his head up.
"Are you hurt?" he asked, trying his best not to panic as he checked Vince over, wincing at the grazes on his fingers and knuckles, and it was then that Vince registered that he was there and burst into tears, head buried against Howard's shoulder as his sobs half came out as screams. Howard held him tight and tried to calm him, desperate to get him breathing properly before he passed out. Something had obviously frightened the life out of him, but that could wait for a bit. "Vince – Vince, calm down, you're hyperventilating; look at me." Howard took hold of Vince's face and lifted his head, looking at him with nothing less than frantic worry as tears spilled down Vince's cheeks. "Come on, now - slow it down."
Vince held Howard's gaze, the comforting familiarity of his friend's eyes helping to calm him.
"That's it," Howard soothed, stroking Vince's hair and running a thumb over his cheek. He helped Vince to stand so he could take him over to the sofa, and his friend fell against him, legs too weak to hold him up. Howard was scared to think about what had happened, but he knew that Vince needed him to be strong and take charge, so he put an arm around Vince's waist and half carried him across the room, settling the crying man down and rushing to the kitchen to get him a glass of water, grabbing the kitchen roll instead of wasting time walking to the bathroom. He pulled part of the roll off and handed it to Vince so he could wipe his nose and face and then gave him the water as he sat down next to him. Vince gulped at it, but ended up choking and spilling it down his front. Howard took it from him and placed the glass on the floor.
"All right, it's all right," he said, as Vince flung himself at him again, clutching the front of Howard's robe, his small body convulsing as he wailed.
"I – I didn't -" Vince coughed as he tried to speak, his words getting tied up in his throat.
Howard rested his chin on Vince's head and rubbed his back. "Didn't what, little man?"
Vince hiccupped and held Howard even tighter. "I – I didn't mean t-to see. Didn't m-mean to let him s-see me."
Howard's blood ran cold, and he pulled away from Vince, holding him gently by the shoulders. "What did you see?" he asked, almost whispering.
Vince took a deep, shaky breath. "I decided to walk h-home from the club and t-took a shortcut th-through the park. This man was... he was... he had..." he retched, hands going to his stomach as he bent forward and threw up.
"Jesus!" Howard held onto him as he continued to heave.
Vince spluttered, tears pouring down his face and dripping on the floor. His throat burned and his head was spinning and he was only vaguely aware of Howard helping him up and walking him to the bathroom. Helping him to sit on the toilet seat. Helping him to wipe his mouth. Helping him out of his shirt. Cleaning up the cuts on his hand. A cold flannel went to his head and he sighed gratefully, but his embarrassment soon took over. "I'm sorry," he whimpered, lower lip wobbling as he sniffed and wiped his nose on a piece of toilet roll.
Howard placed a comforting hand on Vince's neck and smiled sadly. "Don't be. Vince – what happened?"
Vince looked at him through bleary, unfocussed eyes. "Can I have some more water?" he asked hoarsely, and Howard wasn't even really sure if Vince had heard what he'd said.
A few minutes later they were back in the living room, Vince in an almost zombie-like state and wrapped in one of Howard's cardigans, for once not caring what he looked like – he barely noticed. Howard cleaned up the carpet and then joined him on the sofa, his arm going round his shoulder, and pulling his still shaking body close. Then Vince started to talk, his voice barely audible as he stared pointedly at nothing. The sight of him sent a chill down Howard's spine.
"This man in the park – he was burying something, in that little woodland area by the pond. I should've just turned around and walked away but I – it was like I was frozen. I couldn't move, and I didn't want to look but I couldn't help it. And then he looked up and he dropped... I saw..." Vince's breathing started to quicken again and Howard grabbed his hands. "An arm. I saw an arm just flop away from... and blood and... and he saw me and I ran. I ran and I ran all the way back and I didn't mean to look and I didn't mean for him to see me!" He started sobbing again and rocked back and forth as he buried his face in his hands.
Howard grabbed him tight. He felt sick. "Vince – Vince, we have to call the police."
Vince shook his head against Howard's neck. "No, no! He'll come for me! He saw me – he looked right at me!"
"Vince, no one is coming for you."
"No one is coming for you. You ran away – it's not like he would have followed you. Let me call the police."
Vince looked up at Howard pleadingly, his face tearstained and streaked with eyeliner. "Howard, please don't -"
"Vince, I know you're scared, but someone's been murdered and you have to tell the police what you saw. You can't keep it to yourself. What if he kills someone else? And that body you saw – they've got family and friends who are probably worried sick and they need to know."
Vince hiccupped and nodded his head. "Okay," he whispered. "But, please don't leave me alone."
"I won't, I promise."
Howard went over to the phone, not taking his eyes off of his frightened friend. Apart from ringing the police and giving Vince hugs, he wasn't sure what else to do. Vince was in shock, but he really had no idea what to say, because what Vince had seen - images like that couldn't just be erased with a cuddle, a cup of tea and a good night's sleep. He calmly told the operator what his friend had seen and was told an officer would be with them shortly. As he hung up the receiver a bang from downstairs made them both jump and Vince started panicking, especially when Howard went towards the stairs in order to go down and investigate.
"Vince, it'll just be that display board. It's been falling down all day, remember?"
Vince did remember, but he wasn't willing to take any chances and he leapt up from his position on the sofa and ran over to Howard, grabbing his arm and pulling him back into the living room.
"Please, don't go. Please, Howard. I don't want anything to happen to you!"
Howard sighed sadly at Vince's desperation and put his arms around the smaller man. "Shhh, it's all right. I'm not going anywhere."
So they sat and waited, Vince trembling with his eyes and ears trained on the stairs, terrified that someone was about to walk up them, and Howard holding him and stroking his hair.
Then the doorbell rang.