So here is the epilogue. hope you have enjoyed the story because now it is really finished. I have really enjoyed writing it and can't quite believe I am about to press the 'completed' button.
Mighty Boosh does not belong to me etc.
"VINCE!" yelled Howard up the stairs, "Come on, we're going to be late!"
Vince thundered down the stairs, the sound of his platform heels on the wooden steps resonating through the house.
Howard looked him up and down slowly, biting back the words 'are you really wearing that!' deciding that after years and years of experience of Vince's fashions it would only result in an argument.
"Of course this isn't all I'm wearing, silly," Vince smiled, as if reading Howard's mind. "I've got this genius jacket as well" he explains, slipping a tiny cropped sleeveless gilet that looked very much like it was made of bubble wrap over his electric blue vinyl cat suit,
"Well that certainly makes all the difference, far more respectable now. Nothing like a futuristic prostitute at all," Howard bantered, although with a smile on his face, "And what took you so long anyway?"
"Well," purred Vince, pulling Howard toward him "It was something to do with my gorgeous husband keeping me in bed all morning,"
Howard felt colour stain his cheeks but was determined not to let Vince distract him so easily - that was how he always seemed to win an argument,
"Yes, but I've been ready for over an hour,"
"Well I had to do my hair didn't I, not that you'd understand" Vince countered, fluffing up his jet black layers,
"Are you insinuating that my hair needs work Sir? Hair maintenance is an important part of my schedule, I'll have you know," Howard said indignantly, pulling a laminated copy of his daily itinerary out of his pocket and stabbing at it with his finger. Vince smirked,
"We threw that a bit out of line this morning though didn't we. And besides," Vince exclaimed triumphantly, as though he had just remembered something, "I do your hair,"
"No you don't"
"Yes I do! While you're asleep – the Midnight Barber remember?" Vince reminded, making a scissor motion with his fingers.
Howard ran his hand over the back of his neck and silently conceded that over ten years without a haircut was a bit suspicious even for someone with as slow growing hair as his. Over the past couple of years he had noticed a few grey strands creeping in at the temples, ('You've got a bit of snow on the mountain,' Vince had teased. Howard had got offended and called it 'distinguished,' and the argument was somehow settled by Howard chasing Vince around the house and tickling him until he agreed). Vince, on the other hand, did not look like he had aged a day in the past five years – his hair remained the same glossy black and his pale skin was smooth and free of wrinkles. However, if Howard suspected Vince had indulged in the odd bit of botox, he certainly never mentioned it.
"I suppose the real question is, do I look alright?" Howard asked uncertainly, smoothing down the lapels of his brown velvet blazer. His style had changed little over their five year relationship, despite his initial concerns about Vince wanting to change his look once they were together.
After they had been together a little over a month, he went into the bedroom they still shared in Naboo's flat, to find Vince crying over a shredded pile of beige-ish rags,
"Hey, hey, little man, what's the matter?" he asked, instantly panicking that Vince was feeling ill again. Vince offered the rags up to Howard by way of explanation and Howard noted that they were more of a light faun than beige,
"It's your shirt," he wailed, burying his face in the fabric.
"What happened to it?"
"I cut it up," came Vince's muffled voice from behind the tattered shirt.
"Why, why would you do that?"
Vince's watery blue eyes peeped up at him, "Because it's hideous?"
"So what's the matter then?" Howard asked, curious more than annoyed. Mere material objects like clothes meant much less to him than Vince, they were just a way of keeping warm and preventing indecent exposure, to him. And the fact that Vince hated his clothes was hardly news so to act shocked would be somewhat hypocritical. He just failed to see why it would provoke this reaction from Vince,
"Well," Vince sniffed, "Now it's gone…"
"Yes?" Howard prompted,
"I realised I was quite liked it after all," this set Vince off all over again and somehow Howard found himself agreeing to go on a shopping expedition with him to buy another one.
After that, Vince had left his clothes alone, although during the course of the many hours Howard spent traipsing round the shops carrying Vince's bags, a tiny amount of Vince's fashion sense rubbed off on him. He still favoured the autumnal palette but he went so far as to buy himself a pair of jeans and other items that he didn't have to make a special trip to the Jazz Appreciation' Society's clothing depot to find. He even once a jacket from Top Shop, although he had justified it by pointing out that it was made of quite a tweedy fabric and had several pockets.
Vince smiled reassuringly,
"Howard, I never thought I would have to say these words, but I don't think it matters what we look like. After all, once we tell the adoption agency that our childcare arrangements are likely to include a talking gorilla, I don't think they are going to care what gauge corduroy you're wearing, they will either like us or they won't"
Howard still couldn't quite believe that they were planning on adopting. Even after they were married he was still rather sceptical about the concept that it was him; Howard TJ Moon, that had tamed the wayward Mayor of Camden. But Vince had been the one to bring up the subject that it might be time for the two of them to settle down and start a family, and Howard couldn't be happier about the idea. He longed for the day that he might have a son to teach the history of jazz to, or a daughter to buy things like trumpets and bookmarks for. So, together, they had filled in a lot of complicated forms about themselves, Howard reading the questions out to Vince and filling in his answers to save the younger man any embarrassment.
"How long have we been in a relationship?" Howard mused aloud, tapping the pen against his chin,
"Well our first date was on March the 8th so I'd put that," Vince replied, without appearing to think about it, looking up from the collage of his favourite pictures of David Bowie that he was making. Their eyes met and they shared a smile, each confident that they were also sharing a memory.
Their first date had been an unmitigated disaster. Vince had insisted that Howard go out so he could get ready on his own ("like a proper date," he had whined) and consequently Howard had been sitting in his local for over an hour, nursing the dregs of a warm flat pint as the butterflies steadily multiplied in his stomach. He had just reached the point where he was certain that he had been stood up, that the whole thing had been a rather protracted and elaborate joke on Vince's behalf. Montgomery Phlange's picture stared down dolefully on him as he started folding up his newspaper, getting ready to leave. He heard the door swing open and his head snapped up to see Vince, a vision, in the doorway. Howard swallowed, his Adams apple bobbing up and down nervously as Vince sashayed towards him. He was dressed entirely in black – black glittery boots, black skin-tight vinyl trousers and a black chiffon top that Howard couldn't decide whether it revealed everything or nothing. The only points of colour were a peacock feather inserted into a thin band that ran around his forehead and a slash of scarlet across his lips. That and the bright blue of his eyes.
"Sorry I'm late," Vince smiled ruefully, "I was worried you might have already left. I ran all the way here,"
Howard rose to kiss his cheek, "I wouldn't have dreamed of it," he lied.
Vince went and bought a gin and lemonade for himself from the crazy Irish bar man and another pint for Howard. Howard was just wondering where he kept the money in that outfit. Vince sat down opposite him and there was a moment of silence as they both looked at each shyly, suddenly awkward, before both trying to speak at the same time,
"You go first," Vince deferred.
"I was just going to say how nice you looked,"
"Thanks," Vince's cheeks pinked a little at the unexpected compliment, "I was going to say that I didn't think you'd want to go to a club or anything tonight so I asked Vector to put us on the guest list for her new photography exhibition,"
Howard was so touched he could barely speak.
However, his gratitude lessened after the bouncer pulled back the velvet rope and allowed them to enter the gallery. It was dimly lit and crowded. A DJ was spinning an anonymous dance track in the corner of the warehouse-like space, and strobes flashed intermittently. Only the presence of some black and white photos on the wall, each illuminated from below with a cheap desk lamp, differentiated this place from the clubs that Howard had tried to avoid. Almost immediately, Vince was dragged away by the artist, calling 'sorry 'oward, back in a minute,' over his shoulder as he disappeared into the crowd. Howard grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waiter; it was going to be a long night.
He had been gone about half an hour before Howard thought he may as well look round the pictures. They were all black and white close ups of different body parts. Looking at the third picture – a close up of the muscles on a shoulder blade, Howard gasped. He knew that shoulder blade – he would be able to pick it out of a line up of a thousand others. He had spent many a long hour in the middle of the night watching it rise and fall as his owner slept just a few feet away from him, oblivious. He looked back at the other pictures, and forward to the ones he hadn't looked at yet and they were all pictures of Vince, he was certain of that. 'But why wouldn't he tell me? Howard mused, disappointed that Vine hadn't seen fit to share the news with him.
After a couple of hours he had looked at all the pictures twice. He had caught a glimpse of Vince a while ago, waving his arms flamboyantly as he held court over a gaggle of adoring women, all excited to meet the star of the show, Howard imagined. However, since then he hadn't seen him, despite the fact that his tiny eyes were constantly scanning the crowd for him.
"I've had enough of this," he muttered under his breath, and pushed his way out of the door. It had obviously been raining whilst he had been in there and the deserted street shone like silver and gold in the streetlight. A car sped past and splashed Howard thoroughly, drenching him from head to toe. Gritting his teeth, he resisted the urge to shout obscenities after the car and started trudging resignedly down the road.
"Where are you going?" a voice called after him.
It was Vince, tottering down the road after Howard, as fast as his high heels would allow.
"Well there didn't seem much point in hanging around – you had completely forgotten about me,"
Vince finally caught up with him and held on to his elbow to stop him walking off,
"I hadn't forgotten about you, ya bumberclaark. If I had, how'd you think I noticed you were gone so quickly? Vector just kept wanting to introduce me to more and more people. But I was keeping my eye on you the whole time,"
"Oh great, so you saw me just standing around like a tit then,"
"M' sorry Howard,"
The retort Howard was about to make died on his lips like a salted slug. Vince had apologised, straight out. Normally he applied a scattergun approach when apologising, firing so many words and excuses at him, each more ridiculous than the last, that it wasn't until several hours later that Howard realised he had slipped an apology in somewhere between the fact that his hair straighteners had started talking to him and that a heavily bearded goldfish had taken him on an adventure to Venezuela.
After that, they'd agreed to go to a little French restaurant they passed, in an attempt to salvage something from the evening. The waiter's eyebrows had shot up into his hairline as Howard squelched across the room and plonked his soggy pork pie hat on the table, water immediately pooling onto the expensive looking table cloth but just handed them their menus with a haughty sniff.
"Why didn't you tell me that the pictures were all of you?"
Vince grinned bashfully over the top of the menu, his eyes twinkling with pleasure at the fact Howard had noticed,
"It was a surprise. A present….for you,"
For the second time that evening, Howard was at a loss for words. He could safely say, that of the incredibly short list of romantic gestures anyone had ever made for him, this had easily surpassed it. He just smiled at Vince and squeezed his hand tightly across the table.
Vince flipped the menu over to look at the back, then turned it upside down,
"It's all in French," he hissed "And look at the prices. I don't know what a frites is but for eighteen euros, it better be made of solid gold,"
Howard ran his eyes over the menu, his conviction at having a romantic meal wavering as he took in the astronomical prices. Vince looked at him beseechingly,
"Can we just get some chips and go home?"
They had run out of the restaurant, past the open mouthed waiter and laughed the whole way home before going to bed with a large portion of chips to share.
After that, Howard had worried privately that things weren't going to work out between them, that they were just too different but they made an agreement to just keep things as normal as possible, and that seemed to work astonishingly well. Vince still went out, although a lot less often, and Howard still went to Jazzercize and hung out with Lester Corncrake's head. Occasionally he even went out to clubs with Vince. On these occasions, Vince never seemed to leave his side for too long – he would run off for a dance or to speak to someone he knew but even during these intervals, Howard would feel his eyes flashing back to him every now and then and it didn't seem so bad.
After almost a year of hard work, Vince's cabaret evening really took off and Johnny Rhythm offered him a position as Events Organiser at his club, with a considerable pay rise, although he had needed some persuasion to take it as he was loath to leave Naboo in the lurch, and even more reluctant to spend his days without Howard. In the end it was Naboo who made up his mind by announcing he was closing the shop,
'I only opened it in the first place to keep you two out of trouble and make sure you could afford to pay me rent,' he had explained, looking at them like they were a pair of idiots. "Whoever heard of a Shaman with a second hand shop?" he had laughed, almost more to himself than to either of them.
Howard, with the help of a glowing reference from Naboo, got a job monitoring stationery usage levels at the local council. In the first year he had saved them tens of thousands of pounds. His picture was in the paper – the first time it was in there for positive reasons. As a result of his good work, he received a decent bonus and he and Vince were able to put a deposit down on a place of their own.
Vince seemed to notice that Howard had gone off into a dream world and clicked his fingers in front of his face,
"Oi, Dreamweaver, it's you making us late now. Come on!"
They went out the front door hand in hand, slamming it behind them. They went out the front door hand in hand, slamming it behind them. Neither man thought to question, in a world where the moon talked and they encountered magic on an almost daily basis, why the sun was setting at ten in the morning but it was anyway - the sky a spectacular blaze of oranges and pink. Still gripping each other's hand tightly they walked towards the low burning orb, and towards their future.