Hello!

I'm so sorry about slow updates, but my internet situation is a bit wobbly, to say the least. I have to lug my laptop to my dad's every time I want to go online, but when I'm there ninety percent of my time is being taken up by college work (urgh) or my siblings (damn them!). Still, I have loads of this story written out in full now so when I can, I'll update, I promise :D.

So I want to say that the whole Vince-not-eating-but-somehow-still-being-basically-fine thing is getting to me. It's kind of unrealistic I suppose, but I've taken some liberties to make it work with the story.

I also want to say that this story is going to move quite slowly, as there isn't a whole load of plot involved. I might have said that before, but I can't remember, so I've said it again xD. But I'm really enjoying writing this and experimenting with character development as I've not really thought much about that kind of thing before. I'm hoping to move on to writing a book soon, something I gave up on 'cause I was too inexperienced, so this is turning into my practise piece I think.

Well... yeah... just enjoy, eh? :D.


At half-past three, Naboo returned from his meeting of the Shaman Council, Bollo trailing behind him. After muttering a quick hello, he disappeared into his room. Vince immediately bounced up, having been waiting for him, and followed him down the hallway, knocking at his door.

"Oi, Naboo? Can I have a word?" he asked. Immediately, the door swung inward. Vince entered, to find that neither the shaman or his familiar had opened it. "Nice trick," he complimented.

"Cheers. I got it from Saboo- had to trade my hair-colouring powers for it, but it was worth it. So what do you want?"

"I've got a problem."

"For the last time- men don't ovulate. You're not on your period."

Vince almost laughed, but he couldn't quite muster it up. Naboo was referring to an incident a couple of months before, in which Vince had become convinced he might be 'coming on' due to stomach cramps, mood swings and an intense craving for chocolate. All the memory served to do, however, was remind him of how happily naïve he had been.

"Naboo, I'm serious. I need your help."

The shaman eyed him, then nodded. "Alright, sit down."

Vince took a seat on the edge of the bed, not a moment too soon as his head began to swim from the surge of energy it took to make it from the front room.

"So what's the problem?"

"Uh, well, it's about me and Howard..."

"As usual."

"Yeah. Well, it's more about me, really, but he's a part of it, so..."

"Am I supposed to guess what the problem is or are you going to tell me?"

"Right, sorry." Vince paused, deliberating over his approach. "Since Howard's come back, things haven't been right," he said slowly. "It's like there's this big barrier between us. We used to be able to talk about anything. Now, it's really hard just to hold a normal conversation."

"That's normal, Vince. You've both been through a lot."

"No, it's not. It's not right! It's me, I'm the problem. I'm all messed up, but I can't tell him about it. I can't talk to him like I used to. I'm the one who put the barrier up, and I'm... I'm scared that I'm going to lose him, one way or another!" He paused, taking a deep breath, then continued in a calmer tone. "I'm stuck- I can't just open up to him, because I might drive him away. You know how he is. And ever since I learned what his mental state's really like... I don't want to tip the balance any more. But if I don't open up... Things are tense between us already. Eventually I'm going to drive him away anyway."

His last words were dejected, helpless. A furry hand gripped his shoulder and Vince glanced up to give Bollo a small half-smile in acknowledgement.

"First of all, you need to relax, Vince," Naboo advised. "Getting all worked up won't help anything. You'll just make yourself ill."

"More ill."

"Stop being ridiculous. You're not ill. You just need some time to sort your head out." He looked thoughtful. "I'd suggest you talk your issues out with Howard, but you two are hopeless, so that's not an option."

"But we did. The morning after he came back, we talked over everything- all the problems we had. We told each other exactly how we felt."

"What I'm saying is that there must be something at the root of the shift in your friendship. You need to get to the bottom of it before you can even think about trying to fix it."

"It's me. I'm the problem. I told you."

"Don't be so self-absorbed," Naboo scolded. "Howard's attitude towards you has changed, hasn't it?"

"Yeah, so?"

"So there must be something on both sides. Something that's stopping you two going back to normal."

"How am I meant to work out what it is?"

"Well it's obviously something that surfaced after he died. Just have a think about it."

Vince nodded. "Alright, I will. Cheers, Naboolio." He stood up to go. When he was half way to the door, Naboo spoke again.

"Oh, Vince?"

Vince turned.

"Yeah?"

"Stop wasting food and just try and eat, for God's sake."

"How'd you know?"

"Sink's clogged, you ball-bag."

Vince forced a smile and left, moving through the flat to reclaim his place on the sofa. He ran Naboo's advice through his mind again and again, but after a while his head went all fuzzy and he couldn't think straight so he leaned back against the couch cushions and closed his eyes.

He must have dozed off, because the next thing he knew there was a weight next to him on the sofa. He jerked upright, finding Howard seated next to him.

"Howard? What time is it?"

"Seven o'clock. I've just shut the shop."

"Urgh."

Vince raised a tired arm to rub his bleary eyes. When he lowered it, he found Howard staring at him, scrutinising him intently.

"I'm sorry I snapped before, Vince," he apologised. "I'm... I'm adjusting, for want of a better word. To the new you."

Vince nodded. "Yeah, I'm adjusting too, I suppose." He sighed, cocking his head as he looked at the older man. "I suppose I feel like there's all this pressure on me to get better so we can be like we used to."

"Vince," Howard sighed. He sounded exasperated, but his expression conveyed sympathy. Awkwardly, he stretched an arm over the back of the sofa. "Come here."

Vince scooted along the sofa gratefully, curling into Howard's side. Somehow, the jazz maverick always knew when he needed comfort. It was an instinct, a sixth sense he seemed to possess. He felt Howard's muscles tense as he leant his head against his shoulder, but after a moment he relaxed as he adjusted to the contact.

"We don't need to go back to how we were," Howard said wisely. "Look where that got us, eh? It's all about finding balance. We need to meet somewhere in the middle."

"You were unhappy," Vince agreed. "But I was happy. And now I'm unhappy." He looked up at his friend. "Are you happy now, Howard?"

Howard shifted slightly, looking uncomfortable. For a moment, Vince thought he wouldn't answer. Then, at last, he spoke.

"I don't know, Vince," he said evenly. "I'm better than I was, which is a start. But I'm not there yet."

Vince looked away.

"Is it me?" he asked quietly. "I'm dragging you down, aren't I?"

Howard gave Vince's hair a soothing stroke as he shushed him.

"Don't be daft."

There was silence. All Vince could hear was Howard's steady breathing as his own words stuck in his throat. A few short months ago, this would be the perfect moment- the ideal scenario in Vince's small world. But now it was marred by a deep sense of dissatisfaction that Vince could feel tearing at his insides. His throat felt thick and tight as he searched for something- anything- to say, but instead he found himself shying away from the intimacy. Before he could think, before he could stop himself, his hand came up to meet with Howard's and he moved the arm that now encased him, wriggling away and coming to rest on the opposite end of the sofa.

Their hands lay between them, fingers entwined, and Vince rubbed his thumb against Howard's, gaining some kind of strange comfort from this simple action. Howard barely moved during this, allowing Vince to manipulate him but not responding, a sort of compromise being formed between the two men.

Finally, Vince knew. He understood the force that set so much distance between them and yet bound them so completely to each other. He realised what made up so much of their codependency. It had always been there, lurking beneath the surface. He had never dismissed it, never suppressed it, but never quite acknowledged it. Perhaps it was because their time apart had strengthened it or maybe it was because he had been on the lookout for it, but now Vince saw it so fully he knew he could never forget it.

His hand tightened in Howard's as a wave of intense, inexpressible emotion engulfed him. Half-formed words died in his throat, unshed tears welled in his eyes and all of a sudden his friend seemed a million miles away, lost all over again, cold and unreachable. There was a ringing in his ears, a relentless pressure at the back of his head. The room seemed too bright, yet too blurred. His breathing quickened, his pulse raced, thoughts whizzed through his mind at a million miles an hour.

Vince found his feet, standing on legs that didn't want to support him. He didn't know where he was going- just that he had to get away, to think. The room was suddenly stifling, far too small, too enclosed. He needed to get out.

His grip slackened and as Howard's hand fell away, so did his anchor. He heard the Northerner speak his name, but the darkness was already closing in and suddenly he was hollow, weightless, falling through nothingness.

He was unconscious before he hit the floor.


The ending was rushed. It just was. I'm sorry.

It just looked really short so I added in the whole conversation with Howard to flesh it out some more. But I wanted to finish it tonight so I did it really quickly. But then I spent all evening editing it so it would fit in with the next chapter anyway, so... Freaking useless. Might as well have spent more time writing it really. But never mind, it is what it is.

POLL TIME.

I've reached a point in writing where I can leave things as I planned them or veer off onto a completely different course. So:

Do you want things to get worse for Vince in an unrealistic display of how unfair life could be? Or

Do you want him to remain on a level course, maybe even get better?

Now, I know you're all angst monsters, so I think I can guess which one you'd go for. But I thought I'd ask, because I don't want to start writing even more unlikely events- that obviously lead to new levels of angst- without first consulting my dear readers :D.

On a personal note ('cause we all know I treat my author's notes like a blog), I now officially want to be a comedian/comedy actress/Miranda Hart Jr. (I bloody love her!). I've started composing some material for stand up, although I'm finding it quite tricky to settle on a style, and I desperately want to write a sitcom, but no ideas are forthcoming (sad face :(). It's not really just a case of 'oh, that job would be cool' though. It's more a case of 'no, this has to be my future otherwise what's the point of anything?' which is kind of scary :L.

Does anybody else have a thing like that? Something they feel like they absolutely HAVE to do with their life? 'Cause I think it's kind of weird, personally. You know- a crazy person thing xD.

This would be the point when I would reply to reviews. And yet... I CAN'T VIEW THE PAGE. I don't know why. It's not fair. It's simply NOT FAIR. I can't apologise enough. Please, please know that I do appreciate any and all feedback so much I can't even describe. It makes me grin like a fool just knowing people are reading this bollocks! I bleeding love it! :D.

I'm going to wrap this up now, but I'd love to hear from you. Please drop me a review and next time I SWEAR I'll reply, absolutely, hand on heart, I'm so sorry that my dad's internet is so terrible, please don't be upset, I honestly love chatting to my readers and I so would if I could.

I'm a talkative brat, so I'm going to go now before you get too bored of me- don't hesitate to REVIEW :D.