Helena's nails wear painted clear with a high gloss so they looked like glass. Each nail had tiny, delicate snowflakes drawn on them and when she tapped them impatiently, it's was like a mini-snow flurry.
"Why do I even need to be involved in this 'holiday party'? It's Jean Claude's tradition, not mine. You know I've no use for holidays," Helena sighed as she sipped her mistletoe martini.
"You're in a relationship now, and relationships require compromise," Vince sagely explained, "Like I'm in a relationship with Howard so he has to brush his hair once in a while and sometimes I have to listen to jazz while we're having sex even though it puts me off. Sometimes I have to imagine I'm a prossie in old timey New Orleans and some famous jazzer is playing in the reception room."
Helena smiled at her twin and thought about how well Vince and Howard balanced one another. Vince was learning to tolerate jazz and Howard was learning to tolerate happiness. Over the past year, Howard had tried to end their relationship repeatedly but Vince had taken Helena's advice; every time Howard suggested they return to being 'just friends', Vince agreed. Then Vince would go to the club, get pissed, and climb into Howard's bed for a snuggle - the way he had done before he and Howard started having sex. If Howard then felt the need to make the situation a sexual one, that was his own lookout. Howard never had a chance against Helena's cynical brain mixed with Vince's wide-eyed innocence. Vince wasn't even trying to be manipulative, he just loved to snuggle his Howard.
Helena also thought she was going to use the New Orleans prostitute fantasy, nothing wrong with a little Lady Marmalade.
"Besides," Vince continued, "Parties are genius! You get to make a big entrance with an outfit you designed..."
"I also need to feed these people and give them enough booze that they don't write about me being cheap in all the the paps. I don't need this kind of stress."
"How 'bout fancy dress? I love fancy dress parties!"
Helena sighed, "Very helpful, Vince."
"You said you wanted it to be a 'holiday party' and not a Christmas party. You wouldn't even get a holiday tree."
"Holiday tree. As though it could be a Hanukkah tree or a Kwanzaa tree. It's a goddamn Christmas tree and everybody knows it."
"So do a fancy dress party with a theme so it ain't about Christmas. Everyone can come as their favorite rock star, I'll be Joan Jett! Get my jumpsuits back out of the closet."
Helena sipped her martini and eyed her brother thoughtfully. He was wearing a suit from her Moon collection. The suit was navy blue with elbow patches in a loud paisley to match his shirt. His hair was only a little past chin length and artfully mussed but not overly styled and his make-up consisted of a little bit of smudgy eye-liner. He looked trendy and beautiful but not especially androgynous. She'd been noticing a change in his style (and approving) but it suddenly struck her as odd. Vince had always loved being 'the confuser'.
"Isn't about Christmas and since when are your jumpsuits only for fancy dress parties?"
Vince shrugged, "Dunno. Just going with a different look these days."
It wasn't a lie, Vince was a terrible liar, but he was the king of omission. He could look into Helena's eyes and say (with all sincerity), "I think you and Howard would be great together. You marrying Howard would be genius! You could have a bunch of little nippers and I'll be Uncle Vince, teach 'em 'bout real music and how to back comb," but leave out the tiny fact he was desperately in love with Howard himself. That was the price of being made of sunshine, no one expects there to be anything hidden in all that light.
She was distracted from her concern for Vince by the familiar sound of an iPhone taking a picture.
She looked up in dismay to see a young girl frantically putting the phone away.
"Oi! Did you just take a picture of us? While we was eating?" Helena bellowed.
"Were eating," Vince corrected, utterly failing to keep a straight face.
The girl nodded silently and handed over her phone without a fuss. Helena deleted the unflattering pic and handed the phone back.
"Now, don't take another until I give the word."
Helena made sure her dress and Vince's suit were well displayed as they pretended to eat for the picture. One had to be careful of one's image when one was in the public eye.
"I'm coming around to the fancy dress idea," Helena admitted over dessert, "It could be a literary theme. I could be Scarlett O'Hara, use real curtains and everything."
Vince looked concerned, "I don't really read books. Other than the Charlie books."
"Don't start with that Charlie business," Helena snapped, instinctively.
"Why are you so afraid of Charlie? He likes you."
Helena covered her ears, just as she'd done when they were children and Vince brought up his bizarre imaginary friend.
She heard another camera snap.
It was a compromise. Vince thought it was genius that someone had written a book based on Kate Bush's song "Wuthering Heights". Helena didn't bother to correct him, she'd leave that to Howard. She was too busy watching the Kate Bush video and designing Vince's replica red dress.
Vince's mouth was hanging open as the closing credits rolled.
"Wot? They don't even end up together? What is that about? I expect this from you and Helena but I thought I could trust Kate Bush. How is that supposed to be romantic?"
"They couldn't be together, there were too many things in the way..."
"Stupid things! Nothing as important as being in love with someone. Sod the estate. They could have set up camp on the moor and been happy together. That's what me and you would do. We'd just go find a place to be happy and..."
Howard would have liked to have heard the rest of Vince's thoughts but he couldn't be held accountable for his actions when Vince talked like that and he was forced to pin the smaller man down on the couch and kiss him senseless.
When his mouth was free again, Vince continued in the same vein.
"No way would I let you get away, even if you are grumpy. You're mine and ... oh..."
"Keep talking," Howard encouraged as he freed Vince from his tight trousers, "I'm listening."
"I... wow. Um. Yeah, even when I thought you didn't want me - I didn't go finding someone else. I stayed with you, where I belonged and... Oh, Howard."
Howard took Vince as deep down his throat as possible and was rewarded with complete incoherence from his partner. Vince ran his fingers through Howard's hair, playing with his curls. Howard held Vince's twitchy hips still as the fingers tightened in his hair, a sure sign Vince was almost there. Howard sped his pace until Vince whimpered a handful of obscenities and spilled into Howard's mouth. Howard had grown almost fond of the bitter taste and completely infatuated with the way Vince collapsed into a boneless puddle after being brought off in this way. Vince grabbed Howard by the collar of his Hawaiian shirt and dragged him in for a kiss.
As Vince's hands moved towards Howard's belt buckle, the Northerner decided he could be happy living on a moor with Vince. They could be happy anywhere.
Helena carefully lined Vince's eyes in kohl. With the auburn wig and make-up, her brother looked less like Kate Bush than Florence Welch but he was undeniably beautiful. It was torture for Vince to go so long without looking in a mirror but Helena held fast, he couldn't see himself until she was done.
She dusted his face with a light powder to set the make-up and finally allowed him to see his reflection.
"Flippin' hell, Howard is going to go mental when he sees me," Vince observed in an awe-struck voice.
What the statement lacked in eloquence, it made up for in veracity.
Howard was already in costume, he just needed side burns and a little artful hair mussing.
The Northerner suited his Heathcliff costume. Helena could easy imagine his stomping about the moor, mooning over his Catherine and being irritable. He went red when Helena told him he looked handsome. Apparently, his embarrassment was contagious because Helena suddenly felt self-conscious as she applied spirit gum to his face. He really was quite handsome.
A very handsome - sort of - brother-in-law.
She wondered how Jean Claude looked in his Rhett Butler costume. There had been no plan to avoid seeing one another's costumes, there was just too much to do for the party to allow for anything but exchanging brief texts about last minutes details and disasters. He was currently 'working the floor' while Helena had yet to put on her costume much less make her entrance.
Properly Heathcliffified, Howard helped Helena wrangle her dress. He laughed heartily at the gown made of curtains.
"Isn't this going to be incredibly heavy and uncomfortable?" Howard asked, his eyes squeezed shut though Helena's underwear were period and therefore less revealing than any of Vince's jumpsuits.
"God yes," Helena laughed as she was engulfed in curtains, then she remembered Howard's fashion affliction, "but it's a fancy dress party full of famous people so I would wear a dress made of broken glass if it gave me a what appears to be an 18 inch waistline."
Howard shook his head in confusion and disbelief. Helena wondered what Vince and Howard talked about when they were alone. No wonder they made up songs about soup. What else was left when you took shared musical interests, fashion and celebs off the table?
Howard moved through the party cautiously. Most of the guests had gone for rather elaborate costumes, and everywhere he looked, he saw towering wigs and elaborate hats that seemed all too precarious on their owners' skulls. Since his first growth spurt at twelve, Howard had always felt a bit oversized and clumsy. It took him a while to find Vince in the crowd. Ever the sociable one, Vince's newfound celebrity as the face of whatever Helena had him being the face of at the moment had doubled his exposure. There was always someone clamoring for his attention.
He well remembered the Kate Bush video so he had an idea of what to look for. Vince had hoped to marry Kate Bush before realizing that by the time he was old enough for their nuptials, she'd already be in her thirties. It had been a hard lesson for Vince to learn at a tender age - people, even cool people, get older with time.
Howard smiled when he saw a flash of red and heard Vince's laugh. Even a party full of beautiful and trendy people could be made tolerable with Vince at his side.
Vince tried to look well deep and thoughtful as someone took a picture of him to send to Florence Welch. Kate Bush has already officially approved of his look. It gave Vince pause to realize that being with Howard had given him the emotional maturity to realize that he'd be lucky to get a chance to hook up with Kate, no matter how old she was, because she was still amazing. Ironically, he now could not hook up with Kate because he was in a relationship with Howard. Being deep was very confusing, it was no wonder Howard had crow's feet.
He was eagerly awaiting Howard's arrival. Russell Brand (a fetching Mad Hatter) had said lots of very nice sounding things to Vince but he didn't understand all the words the gangly man used. Katy Perry (a nearly obscene Alice) has translated Russell's words as, "He thinks you're fun to be around," but he felt Howard might have picked up on some more of the nuances. Howard was genius when it came to nuances, it was obvious things that vexed Howard.
"Cathy, I think you've found your Heathcliff."
Vince wasn't sure who had spoken and when his eyes found Howard, he forgot all about his gaggle of friends. Howard was trying to look serious but his eyes were dancing. Vince ran and jumped into Howard's arms, fully expecting them both to end up on the ground and possibly injured.
Howard not only caught Vince, he held him with confidence as they kissed. Vince heard the clicks and imagined their images being tweeted across the world with the words, "Florence from Florence and the Machine Snogs Liam Neeson at party."
As if by magic (but actually by the very careful design of Helena's elite party planning team) Chris de Burgh sat down at a piano and began to sing "Lady in Red".
As Vince snuggled himself into Howard's arms, he wondered if the performance was a gift for him or for Chris.
It was Vince's idea to sneak off to a bathroom to finish ruining his makeup with some messy snogging but, for once, Howard needed no convincing to misbehave. Vince lead Howard through a series of hallways that he thought looked familiar before accepting the fact he was already pissed on wine spritzers and totally lost. Jean Claude's house was huge.
"Look at the size of this bathroom! It's bigger than our bedroom!" Vince exclaimed, but Howard had already attached himself to Vince's neck, his hand cupping a faux breast through the red material of his dress.
Vince giggled at their reflection in the enormous vanity mirror. He'd had fantasies like this as a youth; elaborate tales in which - through the use of a magic potion or some other unnatural intervention - Vince appeared to be a beautiful girl and Howard fancied him and they made love. Of course, Howard somehow would know deep down it was Vince because it didn't really work if Howard only fancied girl-Vince. Howard had to ultimately want the real Vince or it all got a bit sad for a fantasy, especially if he was trying to have a wank.
Vince watched Howard's thumb run over the nipple of his silicon falsies. They were top of the line fake breasts; Helena only dealt in top of the line.
"You like that?" Vince asked, his voice a little breathier than he'd intended. Howard growled and pressed himself into Vince, leaving no doubt that he did 'like that' very much indeed.
"You make a good Healthcliff. The sideburns, the moping..."
"I don't mope," Howard corrected as he moved to the other side of Vince's neck, caressing both of his 'breasts' as he did so, "I'm a deep thinker. Dark. Philosophical."
"Stroppy," Vince added, earning a playful bite from his philosophical Heathcliff. Vince had several times suggested a mirror (well, mirrors) for their bedroom but Howard had stood firm. He didn't want to know what he looked like during sex. He was afraid he'd look like a 'rutting pig' or worse, like his father. Howard had once witnessed his father having sex with a woman who wasn't his mother and was equally traumatized by the loss of innocence and the 'acres of pasty white, flabby flesh'. Vince's reassurances never had an effect on Howard. When Howard was determined to feel bad about himself, there was nothing and no one who could change his mind.
As Howard began pulling up Vince's dress, he wondered if this experience might help Howard. Maybe he'd see what Vince saw in the enormous mirror with its flattering lighting.
He waited to be turned around when Howard dropped to his knees behind him. He looked at his oddly lovely and feminine face in the mirror as Howard kissed the back of his thighs and buttocks. When Howard thought he had a girl-Vince on his hands (the surprisingly real Helena), he'd been chuffed and made good use of her. The unwitting Helena had shared their exploits in detail as Vince kept a smile on his face and reminded himself that he was supposed to be happy for Howard for finally losing his virginity and maybe finally feeling better about himself. All Howard's pomp and arrogance was just a thin veil to hide his deep-rooted insecurities.
Vince could understand that. He'd had a few insecurities in his life. Not many, he was generally happy with himself, but he worried about things like getting older and that maybe Howard only settled for Vince because he didn't think he could have Helena - who was smart, sophisticated and a proper woman. Little things like that.
The first time Howard panicked and told Vince they should go back to being, "just friends," Vince had been too gob smacked to argue. He called Helena who suggested he hit the clubs and then demand a drunken snuggle from Howard.
"He broke your heart, the least he can do is comfort you!"
Howard had tried to keep Vince from climbing into his bed but Vince held firm.
"Some big Northern brute broke my heart and as my friend, it's your job to tell me he's an idiot and that there's nothing wrong with me! You need to tell me it's not because I'm stupid or cause my nose is too flat to be properly handsome or because I gag too easily to give a good blowie..."
Howard had ended up fucking him senseless while telling him he was perfect and too good for a miserable git who didn't know how to be happy. Vince had been too drunk and emotional to do much more than hang on to Howard's shoulders and cry but in the morning, he could see why Helena was so successful in her career. Howard and Vince had been like puppets on a string for her, acting out the scenario just as she envisioned.
After giving Howard one of his mediocre blowjobs, he'd confessed seeking Helena's advice. He didn't want Howard to take him back just because Helena tricked him. Howard had held Vince tight to his chest, the way he did when he didn't want to make eye contact, and explained he only chucked Vince before Vince had a chance to chuck him and that Vince gave amazing blow jobs.
Vince gripped the marble and shuddered as Howard's tongue took a surprisingly intimate turn. He'd done it to Howard but he'd never expected Howard to reciprocate. The guy maintained a dust-free Stationery Village. One expected a certain level of vanilla.
Vince whimpered as Howard's tongue moved deeper. He saw his contorted face in the mirror and tried to find a more flattering way of showing his ecstasy. He didn't want to be pulling weird faces during sex and putting Howard off. His efforts were in vain as Howard continued to explore, becoming more and more aggressive until Vince's legs began to feel a bit wobbly.
"Okay, Howard. I need you. Now," Vince pleaded. Ever the gentleman, Howard was on his feet in an instant and searching through the drawers for a suitable lubricant.
Vince tried to fix his hair while Howard found a small jar of Vaseline.
"You look beautiful, stop being so vain," Howard teased as he moved his slippery finger between Vince's cheeks.
"You look well handsome, you suit sideburns... oh, Christy."
Vince lost his train of thought as Howard slipped two fingers inside of him. When he opened his eyes, he saw Howard staring at him intently in the glass.
"See, we should get a big mirror for over our bed..."
Howard stroked the side of Vince's face as he worked in a third finger, "You're so beautiful."
"Think of how easy life would've been if me and Helena was both born girls."
Howard looked thoughtful as he moved his hand from Vince's face to his chest, stroking his silicon breasts as his other hand stretched and prepared Vince. It was a losing battle to try and look cool and sexy, Vince was moaning and grinding himself into Howard's hand.
"You're almost as beautiful as a woman as you are as a man," Howard said softly as he unfastened his trousers.
"Do you ever wish..." Vince lost his ability to speak as Howard's cock slipped inside him. It was a feeling he never got used to. It was the most intense sensation he'd ever felt and he'd had Naboo's hashcakes.
Each time he opened his eyes, he saw himself grimacing and red-faced but Howard looked beautiful and composed as he thrust himself into Vince's body. His thoughtful eyes reflected in the glass as he studied Vince's reflection.
Howard tugged at the dress until Vince's black bra was exposed. He ran his fingers over the lace and thrust harder until the silicone filled bra bounced like real breasts.
Vince had never denied being vain but even he thought it was a bit much that he was getting turned on looking at himself. Helena was a fucking genius.
Howard leaned Vince forward and found the angle where he was hitting Vince's prostrate and making him cry out with each thrust while his bra jiggled enticingly. Howard was a fucking genius.
Vince whimpered as big Northern hands explored his 'chest' and then moved under his bra to his actual chest. Howard rubbed and tweaked his nipples until Vince's body began to tense up.
"I'm almost there," Vince whimpered and was rewarded with a big, solid hand clasped over the front of his lace panties. He came immediately without so much as a stroke from Howard. Howard kept a grip on his panties as he fucked Vince harder and faster until he came with a feral growl, the way Heathcliff would have come in Cathy - all manly and passionate.
Vince clutched the marble counter and felt a bit weak as Howard cleaned them both up to the best of his abilities in a guest bathroom.
"That was well kinky, Howard. I am countin' that as my Christmas gift," Vince announced as he tried to make himself presentable.
Howard blushed and gave Vince a chaste kiss on the cheek, "We should probably get back to the party."
Howard kept his hand on Vince's waist as they navigated the maze of corridors, trying to follow the sounds of the party.
"Just to be clear," Howard announced as they approached the sounds of merriment, "There's not a thing that I would change about you."
"What if you could make me like jazz fusion?"
Howard pretended to think.
"No. I wouldn't change a thing."
Helena didn't have much in the way of formal education but she was smart and she knew how to read people. Her rather devastatingly handsome Rhett Butler was going to try and carry her up the staircase. He wouldn't succeed with her help. He was a Frenchman raised in Swiss boarding schools on a diet of soft cheeses. She was a transgender from South London who needed a bit of steak and kidney pie a week or she went all anemic. Jean Claude didn't stand a chance.
The question was: did she want to make a dramatic exit from her own party? What gave her more pause than the possible social taboo was the decidedly ring shaped box she could see in Jean Claude's pocket. They'd discussed marriage and children in the hypothetical. There was nothing hypothetical about an engagement ring. That shit was real.
Parties end, it's not like she could put off the proposal indefinitely.
Well, she could. She was good at distracting people but she loved Jean Claude. She didn't want to leave him hanging.
Jean Claude was approaching her, a mischievous glint in his eyes. She considered running.
Instead, she allowed herself to be swept off her feet as cameras clicked all around.
Vince giggled and squirmed as Howard helped him out of his dress. Once he was in his bra and knickers, Howard began running his hands over Vince's nearly nude body.
"Howard, you can't possibly be horny again!" Vince laughed as Howard cupped his fake breasts.
"I'm a man of great passion, you knew that when you took that leap across the physical boundary..."
"I didn't know you'd be this kinky! I'm not complaining, mind you. I love that you're a freak."
Howard suddenly went still and Vince had the feeling he was about to get chucked again.
"Howard, I'm kidding. You're not a freak, not really..."
Vince twisted around to get a look at Howard's beet red face.
"What is it, Howard?"
Howard never actually verbalized what he wanted but Vince was able to figure it out eventually.
Howard woke up with his arm completely numb under Vince's sleeping body. The beautiful Catherine now looked a bit more like Alice Cooper but, still beautiful. Howard flushed at the memories of last night. The tryst in Jean Claude's bathroom seemed tame compared to getting fucked by Vince, still in his bra and wig. Howard was constantly surprised by his level of perversity and soothed by Vince's cheerful acceptance.
Howard still felt shy asking Vince to top him, even after being together well over a year. There was a part of Howard that felt it wasn't 'manly'. Howard was still struggling to get over his old hang-ups and he worried he was infecting Vince with his self-doubt. If Vince was worried that Howard wanted him to be a woman, he imagined last night would have made it abundantly clear that Howard was very happy that Vince was a man.
Very happy, indeed.
Vince stirred slightly and then leapt up.
"It's Christmas! Let's open presents!"
Howard shook his arm awake, "You can't open presents naked, Vince! Get back here and put some clothes on!"
Howard considered pinching himself. He couldn't possibly be holding an original David Monette. The man who hand crafted trumpets for Wynton Marsalis and Maynard Ferguson could not possibly have created a trumpet for Howard Moon.
"Vince," Howard said, trying to keep his voice steady, "Do you know what this is?"
"Yeah," Vince responded cheerfully, "It's a trumpet! Made just for you! Do you like it? Helena said Dave is well skilled at making trumpets. He's really nice, too."
Howard decided that is wasn't tears blurring his vision, it was simply the visual overload of Vince's red and green sequined jumpsuit.
"Now, where's my present?"
Howard handed Vince his gift. Vince frowned.
"This is definitely too skinny to be clothes or shoes," then his face lit up, "Is it a mirror?"
Howard laughed as Vince tore open the wrapping.
It was rare that Vince appeared to be at a loss for words. He simply covered his mouth with his hands and stared, tears forming in his wide blue eyes.
Howard had taken Vince's only picture of him and Helena, one he had retrieved from the waste basket after their mother had ripped it in half and thrown it away. Vince had sellotaped the picture back together. When he'd first shown the picture to Howard, trying to prove he had a twin, Howard had thought it was an absurd ruse. Now he could look at the twin babies in a shared crib and immediately recognize which was Vince and which was Helena. Even as a baby, Vince had radiated sunshine.
"I still have the original. Helena introduced me to some whiz kid who could edit out the tear and blow it up. I think it came out great," Howard explained, "I figured you could hang it up somewhere..."
Howard was knocked to the floor by sea of red and green sequins. His original David Monette soon became the second best gift Howard Moon received that Christmas.