A/N: Oh wow, here it is! The last chapter! I tried to wrap everything up, I did everything I'd originally intended and I'm very happy. Reviews are wonderful as ever. I've loved writing this. Thank you for reading/enjoying. Love you all.
Btw I've slipped so many Boosh related references in all the way through :L Par Example, in a sec The Hellfire Club was where Noely first met Julian. Just thought I'd add that in there ;) x
Oh last thing! IMPORTANT INFO: This entire chapter is from HOWARD'S POV. The other chapters have all been Vince and I always wanted this to be t'other way around.
"Wow, I love your shirt!"
The insipid, blonde, shrieking girl clung to Howard's arm, yelling into his ear so she could be heard over the loud thrumming bass undulating through The Hellfire Club. Howard looked down at her, seeing her sweat-smudged eye makeup and the lipstick staining her wide, toothy smile.
Ugh. I've gotta get out of here, Howard thought.
Sneering at the girl, Howard wrenched his arm out of her clammy grasp and pushed himself off the bar, plunging into the crowd before him.
"Hey, Howie! Where're you goin?"
Howard ignored her, whatever her name was.
Candy, Cotton, Crystal, something equally ridiculous.
Pushing his way through the heaving bodies on the dancefloor, Howard peered over the bobbing heads to look for Leroy. He was suddenly yanked sideways by the arm, and came face to face with the man himself, grinning madly and urging Howard to dance.
"No, NO, Leroy I'm going!"
"I SAID I'M GOING!"
The music was louder in the centre of the crowd and Howard felt like his whole body was surging with the beat.
They probably have speakers under the floors… well cool.
Howard shook the thought off, annoyed, and surveyed Leroy's reaction.
"NO! WHY? WE'RE MOVING ON SOON! STAY FOR ONE MORE CLUB!"
"NO WAY, I'M NOT FEELING IT TONIGHT. I'LL CATCH YOU LATER."
Before Leroy could respond, Howard turned and shoved back through the crowd, much to the annoyed shouts of colourful dancers. Pushing through the doors onto the street, Howard stood bent over with his hands on his knees, taking deep lungfuls of cool night air after being in the oxygen-starved club for so long.
God. What's the matter with me?
A group of young teenagers walked past, laughing and screeching at each other. Upon seeing Howard, bent double outside the club, they began laughing and jeering.
He started walking. He was clumsy on his feet due to all the beers but he was able to walk.
Stupid Vince. Stupid, ignorant, selfish Vince and his stupid plan. God, I didn't need this! It's so obvious this is all his fault. I don't even wanna know what he did but it's bound to have been for his own benefit. Best friend my arse. And now look at me! Thanks to that utter BERK I'm left with no memories. Except one. And not just any one either! The most bloody confusing memory of all probably! Why did the rest of his plan utterly fail but that one memory managed to break through the nothingness? It's so damn CONFUSING.
Howard replayed the image over and over in his mind, trying desperately to make sense of it. Earlier, on the rooftop, Vince had seemed like he was trying to censor the memory he was attempting to recreate. Howard had mistakenly pushed him to find out what he was hiding but having Vince so close, holding his hands, in that almost ridiculously romantic setting, something had begun to fizzle in Howard's addled brain. When Vince met his eyes, an image flashed across his mind, like a blank television receiving a flicker of signal.
Vince kissed me.
How am I supposed to deal with that? What does that MEAN? Why did he kiss me? Did I want him to? Did I kiss him back?
"FUCK!" Howard shouted into the dark, empty street.
The image had fled Howard's mind as quickly as it had come and Howard was left terrified, confused and strangely curious. He'd fled the rooftop immediately.
And then he has the nerve to get upset about me leaving. Here I am – lost, confused, lonely and fucking frightened of what my life once was because I don't UNDERSTAND it and it's all his fault. All of it!
Howard stood outside the Nabootique, breathing heavily. He raised his head to look up at the flat window above – the one that he knew was in Vince's room. The light was off, but he hadn't expected the younger man to be awake at this hour.
Especially after all that crying I pretended not to hear before I left.
Images of Vince in his near-transparent blue top, curled up in his bed, crying over the person that once was his best friend leaving for good flew into Howard's mind. He felt all the anger seeping out of him, leaking into the night air, and unbeknownst to Howard, to slide away and infect the drunk, pink tentacle alien down the road. To the sound of a loud, "This is a fucking outraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaage!", Howard opened the door and went inside.
Howard didn't know how long he'd been standing in the doorway when Vince moved slightly, dislodging several scraps of paper covering him and jerking Howard back into reality.
Most people are peaceful when they sleep. Vince looks like he's fighting a war behind his lids. God knows what's going on in his mind. Maybe it's better to be lost in a void of nothingness than be drowning in the vivid craziness of Vince's brain.
Vince's eyelids were flickering wildly and he shifted again, turning onto his back. In the process, a heavy looking book slid off onto the floor. Howard jumped at the sudden sound in the silent room and Vince sat up, gasping loudly. Howard opened his mouth, ready to ramble off an excuse about why he'd been standing in the doorway watching his flatmate sleeping, but remained silent – partly because he couldn't think of a believable reason and partly because it seemed that Vince was oblivious to his presence anyway.
Indeed, the smaller man was running his hands through his ruffled hair, gazing at the items strewn across his bed in a disheartened way.
Hold on, isn't that my old bed?
Vince's breathing was softer now, Howard would have said he sounded almost sad if it were possible to determine that through someone's breathing pattern. Vince reached down and grasped the heavy book that had fallen to the floor, pulling it up onto his lap in one fluid motion.
What is that…
Howard leaned forwards slightly, craning his neck to read the title of the book. Suddenly, Vince's head snapped up and saw Howard standing there, and for a few seconds both of them were frozen in shock, unable to speak. Vince seemed to recover first, and hastily began gathering up all the papers and trinkets around him, placing them on the floor and in little piles by his sides. He switched on the bedside light to help him as he worked.
"Howard…I…I didn't know you were b-back, I'm sorry-"
Shit, look at his face. How long has he been crying?
"N-no, I'm fine, really, god what time is it? I'll make us some tea or something, yeah? Or was there something you wanted, or…?"
"No. Look Vince... I'm sorry, maybe I was a bit harsh earlier, I didn't mean to upset you so much-"
"Upset? I'm fine! I'm okay honestly, it's just like you to overreact. I mean… not anymore of course… maybe… How bout that tea then yeah?"
Pointedly not looking at Howard it seemed, Vince got up from the bed and pushed past the man in the doorway to escape the situation.
After taking a moment to rub his tired eyes, Howard surveyed the room with mild curiosity. He couldn't pretend he wasn't dying to know what Vince was looking at. Besides, all this stuff everywhere looked too earthy-coloured and dusty for it to belong to Vince.
So maybe it belonged to me.
Taking a glance behind him into the flat, he could vaguely make out the shape of Vince in the kitchen, clattering about with the kettle in his shaking hands. He sat down on the bed eagerly, surprised at how comfortable it was.
Not too soft, springs just taut enough to give proper back support…
He grabbed the first thing within arms reach – an A5 maroon notebook with the words 'Property of Howard T.J Moon and nobody else" printed carefully on the front.
Well… I guess that's me? It's more me than Vince is anyway and he's obviously had a peek.
He opened it to a random page in the middle and narrowed his eyes to read the pretentious, joined-up handwriting.
'…met this guy while out doing my wildlife photography, his name's Tommy Nooka, he's a zookeeper. He says the most profound things sometimes. Why do the bees fly when they could simply run? When I'm a man like Tommy I want to be remembered for my wise words. I don't want to be simply "Howard Moon: Explorer, Jazz Maverick, Novelist, Stamp Collector, Cream Poet" no sir! I want to be the man people will consult and seek advice from, on matters of the mind and the heart.
VINCE NOIR IS THE COOLEST GLAM ROCK FASHUN ICON I'VE EVER SEEN AND I LOVE HIM.
For god's sake. I can't leave him alone for five minutes without him vandalising my personal property! He's come round for a sleepover, or a 'slumber party' as he calls it but that's the American word for it. I tried telling him we're too old to do this now but he looked like he was about to cry, so I told him I was joking. Looks like I've got a roommate for life. Can't decide whether I mind… I don't think I do. He's quite cute when he's sleeping. He sucks his thumb. Shit, better hide this diary now. If he finds out I wrote that down he'll curl my eyelashes or something while I'm asleep.'
Howard smiled to himself, picturing the scene.
We knew each other when we were teenagers? Vince would probably be wearing some ridiculous onesie. He sucks his thumb? Wow. I wonder if anyone else knows that?
Still smiling, he pulled a photo album from under one of the pillows. Flipping it open, Howard's smile turned to an expression of awe. At the top, someone (probably Howard) had scrawled 'Our Journeys Through Time and Space'.
The first picture was so white it almost hurt to look at, he and Vince seemed to be in some kind of blizzard. There was so much snow filling the air that it was it was difficult to make out the two figures standing in the midst of it. The longer Howard looked, the more he could see. Vince, wearing some kind of blindingly crimson human coke can, had thrown his arms around Howard, who was standing awkwardly still, facing the camera, shrouded in a huge fur coat. Vince was grinning madly, his teeth and eyes glinting in the dazzling atmosphere.
What the… Where are we? Who took this? Must've been on a timer. I look happy. He looks insane. But I suspect seeing Vince insane means he's happy.
Howard turned the page.
He was confronted by an image of himself in a flowery Hawaiian shirt with an impressive beard. He looked like he was on a Caribbean holiday on the beach, only some things didn't quite add up. For one, Vince was wearing what seemed to be banana leaves to cover his torso (the picture didn't show below the waist), and furthermore, both men had their arms slung around what appeared to be two coconuts on sticks, sitting side by side in between them. The coconuts had actual faces carved out and even hair. Howard even found himself admiring the one with curly hair for her beauty. Then he nearly slapped himself. In the photograph, despite having their arms around separate 'women', Vince and Howard were looking at each other over the top of the coconut heads, smiling with pure mischief in their eyes.
That is a good photo. I can see why I kept that one. It almost looks like we know something we don't want to admit. Or something…
Howard desperately wanted to look at more photos but at the rate he was going, it would take him all night. Deciding to save the rest of the album until later, he pushed it away and grabbed at a mahogany box on the floor by his left foot. Lifting the lid carefully, Howard's bright purple eyes peeked inside. The box was filled with hair. Howard shuddered and held in a surprised yelp, closing the box suddenly. He readied himself, took a breath and looked again. Gingerly, he picked up a bundle of the thick black hair, tied by an elastic band. It was soft and shiny against his trumpet-roughened fingers.
Dear god what the- Is this Vince's hair? Why do I have offcuts of Vince's hair…?
Putting the mini ponytail down on the bed next to him, looking at it like it was going to spring to life any moment, he turned back to the box. Underneath the hair, it seemed, were a variety of fabrics and accessories. Raising his eyebrows in disbelief, Howard plucked a hand-woven bracelet out of the array. He held it up in front of his eyes, studying the many colours and patterns that had been so intricately combined. His breath hitched. There was a message stitched in to the underside. 'BFFs H&V'. It didn't take a genius to work that one out.
Did I actually wear this at some point? Probably. Seemed like I was a pretty devoted friend.
He was just peering back into the box again when he heard a voice from the living area. Slamming the lid closed quickly, Howard stood up, heart racing. After a few moments of panic, Howard started to calm down. The voice was getting no closer to the bedroom. Vince obviously wasn't going to walk in any moment.
He must be talking on the phone.
Howard creeped over to the door which had been left ajar, and listened.
"Naboo, please I didn't mean any harm! It was just …an experiment!"
Vince was pacing the rug in the centre of the floor, his eyes scrunched closed.
"You don't understand, he was bein so horrible to me-"
"…yeah, I know he's my best friend. Of course I know!"
"Yeah, thanks Naboo I'm pretty aware of the fact I fucked up badly this time but you've gotta help me cos I've tried everything I can think of to get him back and…"
"What do you mean too late? There's gotta be a way-"
"About 5 days ago? In his tea."
"No they're not lilac anymore. They've gone kind of a deep purple. And they're all swirly. It's well weird Naboo."
There was a long silence as Naboo seemed to be talking to Vince for a long time. Vince stopped pacing after a while and without warning, sank down to his knees. He opened his eyes once but the sight of reality before him seemed to overwhelm the tiny figure and he quickly closed them again. He hung up the phone.
Howard darted back into the bedroom, hoping he hadn't been seen. It hardly came as a surprise that there was no way back to his memories now. He'd lost hope of that a while ago. But it hurt him to see Vince that distraught.
Why does it hurt me? I've known him five days!
Annoyed at himself, Howard grabbed what looked like another diary that was lying open, face-down on the floor and sat back in position on the bed. Taking a moment to notice the ink smudges and tear stains on the page, Howard started to read.
'Oh god. Tell me why this has happened to me? Why does it have to be me of all people? Howard Moon is a renowned ladies-man, man-about-town or whatever. But no, that was never the plan for Mr Moon was it? Instead I'm a sad, useless shopkeeper, refusing to go out into the world and chase my dreams because that would mean losing the only thing I've ever really cared about. Every time I convince myself that this is all absurd, that he's a weird, practically illiterate man-child who dresses like a girl, he'll swan in wearing some glittery flouncy outfit, stare at me with his kohl rimmed eyes and smile that smile that he saves just for me. He's become my whole world without me noticing. Sunk his cat claws into everything that made me up, so it all reminds me of him, it all smells of him, tastes of him. I feel like I'm suffocating, he's a boa constrictor winding around my whole being but I never want to be free. I want to tell him I'm in love with him, shake him by the shoulders and scream it at him so he'll stop coming home with lipstick smeared across his cheek and reeking of cheap perfume. I want to tell him to kill me because he'll never ever love me back and I can't stand it and anyway I wouldn't let anyone else do it but him. Instead I must sit at this counter, day after day, hoping that today he might notice me, might smile or brush his hand against my shoulder. But he won't. Not anymore.'
Howard held the book back away from him like it was poisonous.
This… makes sense. I loved him. I was in love with him. I-
"Enjoying that?" Vince's voice was like a bullet ricocheting around the room, making Howard drop the diary immediately and turn in shock. Vince was standing in the doorway, leaning against the frame. He wasn't smiling. Howard had a fleeting idea that if you moved him away from the doorframe he was going to collapse and fall asleep again.
Instead, sighing, Vince moved forwards and sat next to Howard on the bed. Howard leaned away out of instinct, feeling defensive after being caught reading the diary.
Although technically I was reading my own words. So why does it feel like I was intruding on something incredibly private?
"I know you're not him anymore." Vince spoke quietly, as if he was too fatigued to lift the volume. "I don't think I'll ever quite give up hope that my Howard will come back though. I just want to warn you of that."
Vince was sitting on the bed, back against the wall with his knees up to his chest, his arms wrapped around them. When he'd finished speaking, he looked up at Howard, as if expecting some kind of acknowledgement. Howard nodded warily.
"I don't know how this works at all. Probably should of read the label right?" He chuckled darkly, staring forwards again. "Naboo just told me it was probably too late. I used his 'potion enhancer' see, it's supposed to make potions stronger or sutin. So he said it's unlikely we'd ever get you back, and if we've gone this long without managing to do it… well, these things just get worse over time apparently." Vince looked up sadly, tears shining in his wide, blue eyes. "Sorry your eyes will always be purple mate."
Howard tried and failed not to smile.
"I just wanted to say one thing, in case you ever have a sudden epiphany or anythin." Vince paused for a moment, as if summoning the words from the depths of his soul. "I love you Howard Moon. I think I always have. I know more than anything that I always, always will." The tears spilled over, dribbling over Vince's sharp cheekbones. "I'm so sorry." He whispered. Gently placing his hand on Howard's left cheek, Vince leaned in and pressed his salty lips against Howard's. Pressing closer for a moment that lasted years and ended too quickly, he ripped himself away and moved to get up.
It took a total of five agonising seconds to happen. 1... Howard fell down a deep, dark hole and hit the bottom with a smack. He looked up, dazed, and saw everything begin to fall towards him. 2... In a blitz of colour, pain and achingly loud noise, everything Howard had ever seen or been witness to tumbled down upon him mercilessly, hitting him in the eyes and temples. 3... He couldn't breathe, he couldn't see, he couldn't feel anything but the horrible sensation of his brain being stretched and swelling with the liquid past. 4... He tried to make a sound, to cry out but his mouth was filled with the taste of pancakes with chive and soup with crunchy crouton friends. 5... Suddenly, he felt arms wrap around him protectively and relief flooded through him. He clasped the person to him tightly, ignoring the pain that shot through his heart when he did so – though it was possibly the worst pain yet.
It's all okay. He's here with me, it's all okay now.
And then it was over. Howard blinked. He looked around himself. He was on his bed, Vince was next to him, all his private belongings strewn around them. Vince was looking at him nervously. Howard looked down and realised his hand was clamped tightly around Vince's wrist. He loosened his grip but did not let go.
"Oh. …Really?" Vince asked, biting his lip.
"Yeah. I mean, I think you might be aware of this anyway by now," Howard replied, gesturing to the items around them, "but… I love you too."
Vince's mouth dropped open and Howard felt him start to tremble.
"Yeah." Howard interrupted before Vince could finish, and before Vince could crumble like cottage cheese, he slid his hand behind Vince's neck and pulled him forwards, crashing into their lips together.
It felt backwards at first, Vince being motionless and unable to process what was happening. It lasted about ten seconds, then he seemed to catch on and somewhat took over the situation. The smaller man crawled forwards, climbing onto Howard's lap, sliding his slender hands into his best friend's hair and crushing them closer together, to the point where Howard felt like his lips would be bruised. Vince kept laughing and crying as the kissing continued, and Howard felt helpless feeling the tears on Vince's face against his own cheeks.
Finally, Howard touched Vince lightly on the chest and pushed him backwards gently. Vince was panting a bit and his face was tantalisingly close as he looked Howard closely in the eyes. Before Howard was able to say a word, Vince laughed again.
"Your eyes are brown." Vince lifted his head and kissed Howard's eyelids. "I love brown eyes Howard, I love them." It didn't take long for Vince to get from Howard's eyes back to his mouth again and Howard nearly gave in to Vince's delicious kisses. He remembered something suddenly however and murmured against Vince's lips, "I can't believe you burned the fucking zoo down."
Vince sat back suddenly, his eyes wide and his reddened lips open, ready to explain himself. Howard started to laugh and fell back onto the bed, grinning. Vince joined in and crawled up to lie next to Howard, lying on his side so he could just look at him.
"Did you always though?" Asked Vince, trailing his fingers down the contours of Howard's face and then along the buttons of his silky shirt. Howard turned his head to look at Vince, who was smiling. He'd been smiling for two hours straight now.
"Yeah. Pretty much. Not when we were little kids or anything pervy, but as soon as I was old enough to figure out why I liked it when you wore tight band t-shirts and cuddled up to me at night."
Vince was actually blushing now. Howard rolled his eyes and stroked Vince's arm.
"I used to think you were some kind of Bill Gates-superman-guy." Vince said dreamily, snuggling into Howard's chest. "You'd swoop in and save me when those wankers were kicking the shit out of me, but you'd do it by confusing them with long words instead."
Howard looked mildly smug. Now it was Vince's turn to roll his eyes.
"Course, I soon learnt you were just a child-man that carried pipes and 'War and Peace' around with him to look smart."
"You cheeky titbox!" Howard was laughing though as he started tickling Vince, not giving in even when he was squirming and shrieking beneath him. Out of desperation, Vince threw his arms around Howard and kissed him hard. They didn't talk again for a while.
"Right! We're back! Where is he? I've mixed up some stuff but I doubt it'll-"
"Naboo! Shit!" Vince walked hurriedly out of the bedroom wrapping a dressing gown around himself. "I don't think we need it actually, isn't that cool? I managed to bring him back all on my own!"
Naboo looked Vince up and down, taking in his thoroughly messed up hair, his smeared makeup, his apprehensive expression. He turned to Bollo and raised his eyebrows.
"Oi shut it Naboo." Vince said, running a hand through his hair and smiling.
"I didn't say anything."
"Bollo got new gossip to spread. Wait till Camden Elite hear-"
"Not that I give a toss what they think, but seeing as Howard might hesitate before letting the world know every private detail of his life, maybe you should consider that I could ring up Dennis right now and tell him about your 'potion-making' activities? Or is it legal to make vast quantities of dangerous, unstable, instruction-less 'potion enhancer' to sell on the black market?"
Naboo looked wide eyed and beckoned to Bollo to bend down so he could whisper something. Bollo nodded fervently, looking equally scared and they both shuffled off quietly. Vince looked skywards (or ceiling-wards), grinning happily for a moment and closing his eyes as if waiting for this dream to be pulled away from him. Opening his eyes again, he turned and peered around the bedroom door. Pushed up against the window were two single beds, side by side. In the middle sat Howard, reading a 'Global Explorer' with a furrowed brow and the (very) beginnings of a moustache appearing on his lips. He was wrapped in his maroon dressing gown (the one reserved for cuddling) and Vince's pink pom-pom slippers.
Vince thought he'd never seen anything so perfect in his life.
Howard looked up and saw Vince in the doorway. A wide smile spread across his lips, and he threw his magazine across the room. Holding his arms out widely, Howard beckoned Vince with a flick of the head. Vince grinned and ran forwards, right into the arms of everything he'd ever wanted.