"Would you even resuscitate me if I was drowning?"
Vince paused mid-daisy-twirl. He rolled over slightly, crushing the trailing ends of his lengthy flower chain. His eyes strained up at Howard, whose face was blocking out a good part of the sun. Undoubtedly, the jazzy freak had manufactured this poetic positioning.
"Drowning," Howard confirmed with a sigh, ripping at small tufts of grass and sprinkling the verdant tips back amongst their colleagues. "At the pool. During a porpoise race. At the beach. On a boat."
"But you won't go on boats anymore," said Vince, and allowed himself to tumble back down into the grassy indent that he'd recently occupied. He felt a nice, breezy sense of finality to the conversation. Dangling the daisy inches from his nose, enormous eyes going cross-eyed, and looking generally quite mad, he added, as an afterthought: "Anyway, you know that Old Gregg would be on you like a seaweed salad if you ever let your toe dangle into the water. You wouldn't have time to drown, would you?"
"That's not the point, is it?" Howard mumbled, hunching lower still, the brim of his straw hat casting a deep shadow over everything but the tip of his nose.
Straining out across the grass, Vince grappled for a brilliantly purple cluster of petals and came back triumphant. Poking his tongue out in concentration, he quickly weaved the flower into its proper colour coordinate.
"Do you even know what 'resuscitate' means?" asked Howard, and Vince had to blink his way back into a recollection of their conversation.
"It's something about jazz, yeah?"
"Why would I need jazz if I was drowning, you little twit?"
"It could shock you back into life," Vince grinned, swinging the floral chain about like a lasso and almost knocking Howard's hat clear off. "Or I could chuck you a record like a Frisbee, and you could float your way to safety."
Howard's hat twitched upwards momentarily to better allow its owner to shoot a withering glare at the electro fairy.
Vince's eyes glanced up at the movement, and held there for more than a glance-space. Howard looked upset, didn't he? He looked like he'd just found pencil sharpenings in his cereal – 2B, not the appropriate HB. And those beady little eyes didn't need to be cast in shadow to capture a darkness. Maybe this was a 4B-level upset.
He decided to try. Least he could do. Here they were, lazing about in a park on a sunny afternoon for the first time in a million years, ripping the natural landscape to pieces in their fingers. It shouldn't be too hard to try, should it?
"What's 'resuscitate', then?" he asked, trying to sound interested – or, at the very least, not bored.
Howard coughed. "You know – bringing someone back to life."
Vince shrugged, his shoulders sliding against the dampish grass. He could feel individual blades of grass tickling at his back through the thin cotton of his t-shirt. "I've already done that, remember? Hopped through a mirror and brought the hair wax into play." He frowned. "You weren't exactly drowning, but you were a good way dead anyway."
Howard hmphed and finally un-hunched himself, straightening for a moment before plopping backwards onto the grass. Though his feet were close to Vince's heeled boots, his head was cast far off in another direction. They were angled away from each other like two prodding fingers of a compass.
Howard's absolute lack of levity stained the landscape like the sticky sap stained Vince's fingers, and he twisted his neck about in an effort to see his friend's face.
"I don't mean it like that," Howard said finally, and Vince stopped straining. A voice was as good as a face – particularly when the sun was blazing right into your eyes.
"What are you on about, then?"
Howard sighed, a long, dreary gust of some spiritual malaise that completely escaped his shallow mate. "Never mind, little man."
Vince wriggled slightly as he heard the affectionate name.
Howard continued: "And I'm going to give you a talk about life-saving techniques when we get back to the flat. We can't have you flinging records towards drowning sailors, can we?"
"Sailors tend to like what I fling," Vince said, smirking to himself. Then he hooked his mind back to the immediate topic. "But I do know how to DR SVP people, Howard. I'm a Hasselhoffian legend!"
"You can't swim, Vince," said Howard, clearly unimpressed. "And it's DR ABC, not RSVP, you muppet."
"Why are you so obsessed with drowning, Howard?" Vince demanded, unfazed. "You told me you were an Olympic swimmer, back at the zoo."
"Yes, well, that's hardly the point –"
"So what do you want me to do?" Vince rolled up onto his elbows, and looked across at Howard's face. His straw hat had tumbled off to the side, leaving his entire expression open to scrutiny. Scrutiny revealed a look of gloomy frustration.
Well, that wouldn't do, not for an afternoon in the sun on the grass with a five-foot daisy chain wreathed about the place. Vince kicked his way closer to Howard, almost as if swimming through the five-centimetre carpet of grass. He pulled himself up on his forearms, and wiggled forward, planting one palm flat on either side of Howard's shoulders.
As feathered black hair cast a jaunty shadow over Howard's face, brown eyes twitched up to grinning blue.
"What are you doing?"
"We'll skip Danger and Response," Vince said, a glint of amusement in his eyes, "coz they were always the boring ones, weren't they?"
"Actually, Sonny Jim, you shouldn't discount the utility of the Danger manoeuvre –"
"So, next is Airways, right?" Before Howard could squeak a horrified protest, Vince's fingers had leapt their way forward and brushed over the bristly line of moustache above Howard's lips, pausing for a moment above the open mouth.
Howard didn't move his lips to speak. Clearly, he was afraid to risk bringing his mouth into contact with Vince's hand. The darting of his eyes was doing enough talking as it was. Vince ignored this.
"Let's pretend I can't feel you huffing your way all over my fingers," he said, ducking his head and beaming at Howard through his fringe. His eyes were alive, almost mocking, almost dancing, almost something else. "So next would be – Breathing!"
Howard remained deathly still even as Vince began to undo the first few buttons on his bran-coloured shirt.
"It that really necessary?" he finally demanded through gritted teeth, though he looked more deathly fearful than angry. Vince only beamed more widely, lowered his head, and pressed his ear against Howard's chest. Howard's heart pounded away in his chest cavity, bouncing off the walls like the ball in a game of squash. After a long moment, Vince raised his head, frowning theatrically.
"I dunno, Howard. I think that you might be breathing, but I should check your Circulation anyway, right? You've always told me to do a proper job of it and all."
In response, Howard just shook his head mutely. Vince took this as encouragement. He trailed his left hand forward, sweeping up and across the deep triangle of skin that had been exposed on Howard's chest, crawling along the stubbly jaw line, coming to rest at the side of his neck, just below his ear. The pulse reverberated through Vince's fingers. He wasn't sure, but he thought that his own heart was racing just a little bit faster than Howard's, always slightly more upbeat than the northerner.
"Pulse?" Howard croaked, brown eyes locked on the blue above, like a parched man fixing on a desert oasis.
"Could be," Vince shrugged. He watched as Howard's mouth split into a reluctant smile.
"I'm not sure that you should ever offer your lifesaving skills to the general public, Vince," Howard said dryly, reaching up and stiffly placing his hand on Vince's side. Evidently, this was supposed to be a cursory pat, a bit of consolation for the younger man's failure to prove his Hasselhoffian skills, but the hand didn't drop away immediately. Indeed, it seemed to linger, and Vince again felt encouraged to continue.
"I haven't resuscitated you yet," he said throatily, dipping a little closer to Howard's face, still right down planted in the grass.
"I thought you didn't know what that meant."
"I'm a fast learner, aren't I?"
"Shut up, I'm drowning."
And those were the last words that Howard managed to say before Vince resuscitated him right there on the green grass.