A/N: A few of you may have read a few chapters into this story before- I stupidly posted some before I'd edited them properly, so apologies if you have. This fic will be regularly updated as I've finished writing it already. The final product will be about 16-17k, and if there is enough demand (reviews etc) I have an idea for a sequel. I'd also love anyone who's willing to do some artwork for it.
Hope you are all well!
The moon smiled stupidly down on Camden, its light faintly illuminating the torrential rain that had been pouring from the sky nearly all day. All of London was soaked, and seen as there weren't many shoppers out; most shopkeepers had taken the rain as an excuse to close for the day. Not this one.
Howard Moon, jazz maverick, was attempting to write some new cream poetry, and was becoming increasingly frustrated. Nothing seemed right. The cream format just wasn't working for him anymore- perhaps he should enter a new poetry period, move on to other dairy products. Milk monologues, were they a possibility?
He sighed, disheartened. It was no use; he had writer's block, or poet's drought, something along those lines. No wonder, seen as his roommate seemed to know instinctively when he was about to have a spate of genius and immediately start caterwauling "The Human League"...
The doorbell tinkled, and in walked his roommate. Vince Noir, charcoal locks fashionably rumpled and dark eyeliner smudged messily around his wide blue eyes. He was wearing what looked like a cape made out of a ripped up bin bag (which was dotted with sequins, Howard noted dazedly) teamed with his Joan Jett jumpsuit, glittery silver platform boots and lots of accessories.
"Alright?" muttered Vince as he came over to the counter and sat next on one of the shop's rickety chairs, putting his feet up onto the shop counter- and right onto Howard's new jazz encyclopedia.
"I would be if you hadn't just got muddy water all over my new book!" Howard cried, frantically snatching it out from under Vince's feet and hugging it to himself like a newborn baby. Vince raised his eyebrows.
"Cool yer boots! Blimey Howard, you'd think I'd killed a kitten by the look on your face!"
Howard frowned. "This was expensive, Vince. Not only that, but it has worth beyond its material value. Not that I'd expect you to understand that, you, with your little trinkets and knickknacks that you replace the minute it ceases to look good!" Howard chuckled to himself, and leant back in his chair. He was shocked when he realised Vince was on his feet, and he looked angry.
"I'm sick of you, Howard! I can never do anything bloody right around here, can I? If it's not my friends, it's my dress sense, and if it's not my dress sense it's my music taste. You make me feel thick whenever you talk to me, like I'm not worth knowing and you don't give a shit about me or how I feel. I do have feelings, you know, although it might surprise you! If you think that you can be awful to me, then you can stuff this "friendship" up your arse!"
Vince was shouting, eyes narrowed and hands on hips. Howard was stunned.
"I'm...Vince...VINCE!" He stuttered, but it was too late, his roommate had already stalked out the door into the night and slammed it behind him with a resounding crash. The "Open" sign fell off the door and fell forlornly to the floor.
Howard felt sick. Why did they keep arguing? It was happening more and more...and now this had happened.
Howard was disgusted with himself. Why, oh why, had he basically implied Vince was shallow and uncaring? He might be a little...misguided about certain things, but he was one of the sweetest and most generous people he'd ever met. Why, last Christmas...
Howard sank into memories.
A few nights before Christmas Eve, Howard had woken gasping from a feverish dream in which he'd chased beetles the size of cats around the Nabootique, and had been about to stumble into the kitchen as he was desperate for a glass of water. Before he entered it, he realized he heard something. Someone was crying. Soft, gasping little sobs that they were obviously attempting to stifle. It didn't sound like Naboo, or Bollo- surely it wasn't-?
He edged into the room, and saw to his great surprise that it was indeed Vince. Usually his flatmate stayed out extremely late over the festive season, partying until the early hours of the morning with people who were far trendier and cooler than Howard could ever hope to be. Howard hadn't even checked to see if he'd come home that evening, as Vince rarely arrived before eight am at Christmas-time.
"Vince?" he'd whispered. The latter had looked up; his usually perfectly made up face a teary mess of eyeliner and mascara. He'd emitted a gulping, pathetic sob which made something twist deep inside Howard, and it was all he could do not to rush over to him and envelop Vince in a hug there and then. However, Howard knew Vince well enough not to- when Vince was upset you didn't crowd him unless he asked you to.
"Howard?" Vince had sniffed. "'M alright, you can go back to bed, 'm fine-"
Howard didn't take Vince's direction and instead turned his back on the young man, busying himself with putting the kettle on. The gently hissing steam broke the silence and covering the sound of Vince's crying.
"Want to talk about it?" Howard had asked softly, knowing not to pressure him. Sometimes a hug and a cup of tea would do, but occasionally Vince told him what was wrong in full detail. Although it meant that he was properly upset, Howard secretly enjoyed those occasions. It seemed to him that he was the only person who could see the heart that beat under Vince's colourful, shiny exterior, the only one who Vince could turn to on the rare occasions when there was a crack in his armour.
"Yeah, a bit. If you don't mind, that is...if you're too tired, it's alright," babbled Vince, attempting to wipe the makeup off his cheeks and instead smudging it even more.
"It's fine, Vince." Howard said, adding "It's always fine," in his head. He quickly made two cups of tea, black no sugar for him and five sugars with lots of milk for Vince. Carefully, he carried them from the counter and set them down on the coffee table, making sure he didn't slop the tea out of the mugs. Even their tea mugs were drastically different to each other- Vince's was emblazoned with the Rolling Stones' logo and a glitter-glue smiley face, Howard's mug had a picture of a trumpet on the outside and a Charlie Mingus lyric around the rim.
Howard settled himself next to Vince, and took a gulp of his tea. He looked round at Vince, who was cradling his mug against his chest and was sitting with his legs tucked protectively under him. Howard stared at his mug as he said:
"Tell us what's wrong then. Must be something serious, you've ruined your eyeliner." Vince gave a half-laughing, half-crying sound at that.
"'Suppose so, yeah. My-my girlfriend and me, we broke up, a few days ago. I don't even know why, she didn't say. I was really upset, you know, I liked her a lot. She was funny and had this amazing hair, dark, with red streaks. But we had this massive argument, it was really stupid," Vince gasped loudly and tried to swallow a sob again. He edging closer to Howard without looking at him "And we broke up. I've been calling her for ages but she won't text me or anything, so I sent her this for a Christmas present."
He put something into Howard's hand, still warm from his clenched fist. Howard slowly opened his hand, to find a pendant necklace, broken up into pieces. He fitted the pieces back together, to find they made a small v-shaped silver guitar. It was a sweet gift, he thought, exactly the sort of thing Vince's crowd would like, pretty and ornamental. He handed it carefully back to Vince.
"She smashed it up?" Vince nodded. He looking exhausted from days of partying and the traumas of that evening. "Oh Vince..."
"I really liked her." Vince's voice cracked slightly.
"I know." Howard replied, one arm around Vince's shoulders.
"And then she saw me in a club this evening and said that I was trying to buy her off so that we'd get back together, and I didn't mean it to be like that, Howard! I just wanted to be friends again, and get her a nice Christmas present, that's all. Now everyone just thinks I'm a weirdo who tries to bribe girls to go out with him. I'm useless." There was a deeply sad look in Vince's eyes as he pronounced this damning judgement of himself which Howard hated.
"Vince, you're not useless. You're Mowgli, remember!" Howard tried in vain to make Vince laugh, but it wasn't working.
"Not even the animals will talk to me anymore, Howard. I tried chatting to a pigeon the other day and it told me to piss off." Vince sighed deeply, head leaning against Howard's shoulder. Howard noted vaguely that his hair smelled nice- like strawberries.
"Well, who speaks to pigeons, eh? Vince, you're tired. Go to bed, little man, everything'll be better in the morning."
And Vince had gone to bed, still teary. It had taken Howard a long time to follow him, though. He worried about Vince sometimes. His emotions were so easily disrupted that one day someone would come along and do real damage. Something that Howard might not be able to fix.