A/N: Hello! Sorry about the lateness of this and all that. My faithful readers - alas! We have come to the end of our tale. This will be the final chapter. Thank you all so much for reading and reviewing it really means a lot. I hope you've enjoyed the story because I've enjoyed writing it. Much love to you all xxx
They landed with a thud on the moss-covered floor, a whirlwind of leaves flying into the air around them, as if announcing their arrival. There was a cacophony of sound almost immediately; Howard's agonised groans and whimpers almost drowned out by Vince's relentless sobbing. Vince was still clinging to Howard, draped over him as though trying to shield him from the air itself, but being cautious not to press against any raw wounds.
Naboo sat up blearily and looked in the direction of the sudden voice. Teleportation always took it out of him. To his utter relief, he saw that they had landed directly in front of the Shaman Headquarters in the woods.
Seems my internal compass isn't too bad after all, thought Naboo thankfully, (purposefully not thinking about all the times he'd accidentally gone too far to the left during transportation and ended up in a factory Dublin).
Tony Harrison had been the first of the Shamen to verbalise his astonishment, but as soon as the three figures had crash-landed in front of them, several had jumped up from their seats, their mouths wide open in horror and worry – only Kirk seemed nonplussed by the situation, his face was as cold and expressionless as ever.
Dennis seemed at a loss at what to do for several moments, and then cried, "Saboo! Tony! Come!" Before leading the two Shamen (Saboo carrying Tony again) over to where Vince and Howard lay. For once, Tony seemed to have nothing to say, but tensed in Saboo's arms upon seeing Howard's hideously burnt flesh. They stood awkwardly before the two men, gazing down upon them and trying to assess the damage.
Howard was conscious now, and appeared to be gripping Vince's arm. Vince was muttering a soft stream of "no, no, no" under his breath, just holding Howard's face and looking into his eyes.
"Um, young, err, Vincent – I feel it would be best if you stepped aside so we can try to heal-"
"NO," Vince snarled, tearing his gaze from Howard's long enough to glare at Dennis, pure venom in his eyes, "this is all your fault! What if he dies?! I can't be without him!" Vince turned his eyes back to Howard, dripping tears onto his face and neck.
"It's…ok, little man." Howard croaked, wincing with every word. It only made Vince sob harder.
"No, Howard. It's not okay, it's never gonna be okay if you're not here. We're a team, yeah? You and me, forever. You promised me, Howard, you said we'll be together always. If you die, I'll die too, like Bonnie and Clyde."
Howard was crying now, gripping Vince's sleeve tighter. "You can't go, remember? We're gonna have pancakes, e-every day, like you said. Don't leave me, Howard. Please, I love you. I love you so much." His mind was devoid of all thought as he leaned over and pressed his lips firmly against his best friend's. His hands slid up into Howard's hair and he gripped tightly, willing Howard to push back, to feel the heart-wrenching, sickening, purity of the love he was overflowing with. Don't leave me, don't leave me, don't leave me.
He kissed all the way over Howard's face, mapping out every inch of unburnt skin there and whispering confessions of love until Howard's hand stilled him.
"I love you too, little man." Howard whispered, and for a moment split in half, yet frozen in time, Howard looked like the happiest man in the universe.
Then his eyes closed.
"What? No!" Vince yelled, seconds away from shaking Howard by the shoulders. He felt hands grip his arms and yank him backwards, away from Howard, onto the hard, leafy ground beyond, and then Howard was surrounded by Shamen of every shape and size, their enormous hats and cloaks like shields blocking the man from his view. He whirled around and saw Naboo behind him, the one who had torn him away. Vince felt nothing but hatred for him in that moment. He clawed at Naboo's hands restraining him and yelled for Howard, just feet away from him.
"Calm down, Vince- OW!" Naboo cried, as Vince began using his teeth to try and escape. "Vince! They're doing all they can, you've got to let them- OW!" It was clearly no use, Vince was a determined little thing. With red and bleeding hands, Naboo finally loosened his grip enough for Vince to slip away, and he dove into the midst of the Shamen, squeezing through until he saw Howard still laying still on the floor. He threw himself back over his friend, outright clawing and kicking at anyone who tried to stop him.
"Naboo, you eejit! You're supposed to restrain 'im!" Called Tony from the midst of the crowd somewhere.
"Oh yeah, Tony? You wanna have a go then, you legless twat?!" Naboo shot back, in no mood for nonsense, still rubbing his cut up hands.
Saboo turned towards Naboo and gave him a cheeky wink before diving back in to help.
A witch with straight black hair and a green face was leaning over Howard's form, her emerald hands swirling in the air above him as she muttered a soft incantation under her breath. Vince could feel a wave of tenderness emanating from her as she worked, but he didn't let it soothe him too much. How could he be sure what was truth and what was trickery with these Shamen? She could be using Witchcraft to calm him. Nevertheless, he couldn't help sensing her intentions were almost... motherly.
"W-what're you doing?" Snivelled Vince, wary of her strange movements. She didn't reply, never breaking the steady flow of words emanating from her lips.
"Kirk! Have you readied the potion?!" Dennis boomed from behind Vince, making him start.
"Almost!" Came a lisping reply from a place Vince couldn't see. Not that he was trying to see – his gaze was fixed on Howard's closed eyelids, occasionally glancing up to watch the green woman's fingers as they moved over Howard's body.
"Hurry, Kirk! Kendra cannot hold this charm forever." Dennis called, making Vince whimper at his words. Is this weird green lady keeping Howard alive?
A sound of pattering footsteps could be heard suddenly, running towards the crowd of Shamen surrounding Howard. Vince glanced up in time to see the small, vacant-looking blonde boy hand Dennis a vial of green, bubbling liquid.
"Ah! Thankyou, Kirk. I trust you did not… tamper with this in any way, after our discussion last week?" Kirk looked at the ground sulkily and shook his head. This seemed enough to satisfy Dennis, who strode forwards and knocked the green witch-woman out of the way with an impatient wave of his hand. She sprawled on the floor a few paces away, looking mildly irritated, but quickly got up and joined the rest of the crowd. Dennis knelt down on the other side of Howard to Vince, and held up the vial for inspection in the moonlight. "Possibly a touch too much rat blood… should be fine, however." Dennis mumbled, presumably to himself.
He started to slide a hand under Howard's head, but Vince immediately stopped him, grabbing hold of his wrist and fixing him with a deadly glare. If anyone who knew Vince better had seen it, they would have found it deeply unsettling. The normal, happy, carefree Vince seemed incapable of malice. Dennis placed the hand holding the vial on Vince's shoulder, creating a little arch over Howard's unconscious form.
"Vincent, I understand now. I had my doubts about the two of you, you are such different people." Vince's glare was still ice cold, but he didn't attempt to remove Dennis' hand from his shoulder. "Even seeing the way you acted upon the Fire Planet initially only led me to believe you were, in fact, lying to me. The constant bickering, the teasing, the jokes at each other's expense! ...But in the fleeting moments when you allowed yourselves to be fully exposed, you showed your true selves. Perhaps because I am a Shaman it is hard for me to understand your unique brand of affection for each other, but I see it so clearly now, that it is this blinding, brilliantly intense love between you that binds you to one another in spite of everything. You are two jigsaw pieces, a yin and yang. Your love is as clear to me as Saboo's concealed affection for Tony." Vince vaguely thought he heard twin splutters emanating from a couple of Shamen behind him at that. Dennis leaned in a little closer to Vince, who was once again struck by the strange similarity of his and Howard's eyes. "Now, you have to trust me, Vincent. I will try to bring him back to you."
Vince stared for a long moment, lost in the rich deep brown so reminiscent of eyes he thought he might never see again. Then he gave a small, almost imperceptible nod, loosening his grip on Dennis' arm.
Dennis wasted no time, sliding his arm under Howard's head and pulling him forwards slightly. He removed his hand from Vince's shoulder and brought the glass vial to Howard's parted lips. With a flashing glance at Vince, he tipped the contents into Howard's mouth and lay him carefully back on the mossy ground.
At first, nothing seemed to happen. Howard looked exactly the same, and Vince had to force down cries and wails that threatened to burst forth when he thought that it may not have worked.
Then, he started to see it. Something was happening, agonisingly slowly. The raw, shiny wounds covering Howard's arms and chest started to blur and ripple. The bright, angry reds and pinks began to fade to corals and pastels and the shine slowly began to dull, until all that was left were healing patches of pinkish scarring. Vince could have leapt with joy. He'd never thought Howard looked more beautiful than with the marks of his bravery imprinted onto him forever.
It took a long time for all the wounds to heal to this extent. Several minutes passed and, overjoyed as he was about the miraculous healing, Vince couldn't help noticing that Howard's eyes remained firmly closed. Several minutes more, and all the burns were now years-old scars.
Two more minutes.
Nothing. Vince wiped the tears from his eyes. Saboo looked down at Tony in his arms and shrugged. Naboo rubbed his hands anxiously, unable to see, but waiting for a sign. Dennis sat back, his expression grim as he studied Howard's face.
Then Howard's eyes began to flutter. Vince sucked in a breath and choked on it.
"H-Howard?" Vince asked tentatively, leaning over him.
His eyes opened and drank in the sight of Vince's tear-stained face. He smiled, weakly.
"Hey, little man." Vince kissed him, hard.
"So, can I get you anythin' else?" Vince asked, trying not to sound over-anxious. Howard laughed from where he was laid on the sofa.
"No. I'm fine, really." Howard replied, looking up at Vince standing over him. "Could get used to this kind of service, though." He added cheekily, smiling. Vince couldn't help smiling back.
"Yeah, right. Don't know how you do this cleanin' and clearin' up all day normally, I'm goin' out my mind!" Vince said, flopping down on the sofa, on top of Howard's blanket-covered feet.
"Ooft." Howard said as he sat.
"Sorry! Did I hurt you?" Cried Vince, jumping up immediately, his hands fluttering again. Howard laughed again.
"No, quit worrying, you're making me nervous." He grabbed Vince's hand, pretending he didn't see the blush that immediately filled his cheeks, and pulled him back onto the sofa. Vince sat awkwardly, trying not to sit on any part of Howard, despite him taking up the whole couch. Howard sighed in mock exasperation and pulled Vince sharply towards him.
Smiling, Vince took the hint and shuffled down until they were both lying together on the narrow sofa, Vince half draped over Howard to compensate for the lack of space. Vince drummed his fingers on Howard's chest in time with his heartbeat.
"Did you know that your heart beats to the tune of 'Eye of the Tiger'?" Vince asked, beginning to hum it as he tapped. Howard laughed, and Vince heard it rumble in his chest.
"I don't think so, sir. More like a bit of Weather Report, or perhaps a Coltrane hit. I suppose yours would be a Gary Numan classic?" Without warning, Howard wiggled his hand down between them and placed it against Vince's chest. It was like a sudden sunbeam radiating through Vince's pajama top.
Ah, not quite 'Cars' then.
"It don't usually go that fast!" Vince cried, suddenly panicking and making his heart thump even faster. "It's just you and… cause we're… I dunno, maybe I had too much sugar in my tea or somethin'." Vince said quickly, unable to help risking a glance at Howard, who was grinning as if he knew. "Shut up." Vince said, slapping him playfully on the chest and burying his face in Howard's shoulder.
"I was wondering when we were going to talk about that." Howard said, a smile still evident in his voice. Vince peeked up at him shyly and then hid his face quickly again.
"Bout what?" Came a muffled reply, Vince feigning ignorance as usual.
"Well…" Howard began, suddenly serious again. He let out a little cough. "All the… kissing and what not." Howard said eventually, his heart starting to beat a little faster, Vince noticed. Vince suddenly seemed very warm and heavy, lying upon Howard. It was a nice feeling, he decided.
"Mmmm?" Was Vince's only response, his face still hidden from view.
"Did you…did you mean what you were… um…" Howard trailed off, his gaze fixed resolutely on the ceiling.
Vince decided now was the time to emerge from his hiding place. "Did I mean that I love you?" Vince asked, in a small, almost scared voice.
Howard nodded, still looking at the ceiling. Vince smiled, and cocked his head to one side, taking in Howard's trying-to-be-nonchalant expression. It was so like him to think it was all in the heat of the moment, all for show. But he seemed to be forgetting that he'd said he loved Vince too, and Vince was not going to let that comment go easily.
Vince army crawled up a bit, making Howard wheeze slightly when Vince dug his elbows into his chest, until their faces were level. Still smiling, Vince leaned downand kissed him softly, on the lips.
Vince Noir was an expert at kissing. He knew of every different position, stance and manoeuvre. He had had plenty of practice to perfect the art, and even if sometimes it wasn't the nicest experience in the world, it didn't matter – he was only practicing. Practicing until one day, he'd pluck up the courage to kiss the person he wanted to kiss most in the world. (With no pressure from sword-wielding Shamans.) A person who's phobia of touch and virginal attitude made it a difficult task indeed to achieve.
Vince knew that if one day, he was ever lucky enough to kiss Howard Moon properly, it would have to be perfect. Gentle, but with enough pressure to let him know how much he was wanted.
A few moments later, he slid his lips over to Howard's ear and whispered, "yes."
When he leaned back and saw Howard smiling up at him, he felt like he'd never be unhappy again. They grinned at each other for a while, each feeling the other's overwhelming elation, like a drug lifting them high into the air.
"Hey, what about you, you bumbaklat?!" Vince suddenly cried in mock-indignation, giving Howard another playful slap.
"Do I love you, you mean?" Howard asked and pretended to ponder the question for a long while. Instead of an answer however, he proceeded to tickle Vince's sides relentlessly, until the younger man was kicking him violently and screaming for mercy, at which point Howard wrapped his arms around his neck and dragged him down into another kiss. Longer and slower, this time, with significantly more tongue. "I think so." Howard mumbled into Vince's mouth.
"Some day they'll go down together, they'll bury them side by side," Vince looked across at Howard as he chanted along, a sad smile on his face, "to few, it'll be grief, to some a relief, but it's death for Bonnie and Clyde." Howard smiled and held out his arm to allow Vince to snuggle into his side. Vince did so, eagerly, resting his head on Howard's shoulder, and turned back to the film.
"So am I Bonnie or Clyde?" Howard murmured into the soft nest of Vince's hair. He still smelt of the huge reservoir of maple syrup he'd poured over his pancakes.
Vince giggled and reached out a hand to play with Howard's shirt button. "I reckon you're Clyde, definitely. He's the suave, sophisticated one. Plus he's all virginal." Vince said, stifling a giggle.
Howard promptly smacked him on the head. "No he isn't, look." Howard replied, pointing at the screen, where Bonnie and Clyde were clearly going at it on a picnic blanket.
"Yeah, well. She charmed 'im into it eventually. He couldn't resist her." Vince said, slipping Howard's button through its hole. Howard smiled and slid his fingers into Vince's hair, laughing at the happy little noise he made.
"Does that make you Bonnie, then?" Howard asked, quietly, running his fingers through the silky black locks.
"Well, obviously." Vince said scornfully, lifting his head to look at Howard. "S'not like you have the style to pull off her look anyway." He bit his lip. "So whaddya think Clyde?" He cringed a bit internally, his American accent wasn't brilliant at best. "Can you resist me?" He said, leaning forward and sliding his lips over Howard's, gently at first, drawing it out until Howard leaned up for more, making sure he could feel the blood thrumming in Howard's veins.
"Eugh! It was bad enough before, but jesus." Naboo's sudden cry of disgust caused them to break apart, Vince going back to rest his head on Howard's shoulder, giggling. Howard just stayed still and pretended not to be mortified. "And it's 3 o' clock. On a Monday." Naboo continued, walking round to stand in front of the TV, hand on hips, eyebrows raised.
"Naboo, get out the way! It's Bonnie and Clyde!" Vince squeaked indignantly.
"Vince, do you have a job?" Naboo asked. Vince rolled his eyes and groaned.
"Yes, you know I do, obviously. Naboo, in case you don't remember, two days ago Howard got back from a trip that very nearly killed him, so d'you mind shuttin' up and lettin' him recover?" Vince said, sitting forwards slightly as if shielding Howard from Naboo's anger. "I'm gonna stick by him until he's better, no matter what. Get Bollo to run the shop or somethin'." Vince said, laying back and folding his arms as if that settled the matter.
Naboo sighed and moved to the right a bit, revealing the film once more. "Fine, but if he's not 'recovered' by the end of the week you're both fired, cause he looks alright to me." Vince beamed at him as if he'd received the best gift in the world, and blew him a kiss.
Sighing, Naboo shook his head and walked away. Walking a bit further down the hall, he bumped into Bollo coming out of the bedroom. "Alright, Bollo." Naboo said, a rare smile on his lips. He'd missed Bollo while he'd been away, and at one dark point, thought he might never see his furry familiar again. Upon being reunited, Bollo had refused to let go of Naboo, and consequently, Bollo was Naboo's ride home from Shaman HQ.
"Bollo no forget about bet he and Naboo make. Vince and Harold get together before Christmas, Naboo owe Bollo twenty euro." Naboo's smile vanished and he sighed, remembering the bet they had made one smoky, pot-filled night long ago, after having the misfortune to stumble in upon Vince and Howard curled up together in bed, fast asleep (fully clothed, but it was still enough to make Naboo want to chunder). He dug into the deep, deep pocket of his robes and fished out a note. He pressed it into Bollo's palm, who grunted before loping off.
Before ambling away himself, Naboo turned to look back at Howard and Vince one more time. He could only see the back of their heads from here, Vince's resting on Howard's shoulder. He had to admit, they did look happy. As he watched, Howard placed a kiss on top of Vince's head.
"Aw." Naboo said to himself, smiling.
Ugh, I'm going soft. What's wrong with me? I'll be shipping Saboo and Tony next, he thought disgustedly, and swiftly walked away.
Thanks for reading! xxx