Helping You

Vince x Howard slash. Vince discovers Leroy has headlice. Terrified he may have caught them, he runs to Howard for help.


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Length: words

Helping You by changeling

Howard sipped his tea happily and leaned back. It had been a quiet day. What few customers had came in hadn’t bought much, and for some reason beyond him weren’t at all interested in his elbow patches. What was wrong with everybody? Even when he turned on the charm they didn’t react, except a few who became slightly alarmed.

Ah well. He was Howard Moon. He was too much for some people. He came at them, yes sir, and they didn’t know what hit ‘em.

No, he didn’t mind. They were closing in half an hour anyway. Vince was meant to be back by now. He had gone to Leroy’s on his lunch break and hadn’t bothered coming back. He was a little miffed, but then, that was Vince. Irresponsible. Irrepressible. Irresistable.


He sat up in his chair. He had not just thought that. No way. Not Howard Moon. So he did something outrageous on the roof. So sometimes he still thought about it. That was him though. He was animal. He had edge, knife edge.

He settled back in his seat and flipped open the paper. He liked having the place to himself. Sometimes a man needed to be alone with his thoughts. It was what gave him, depth, character. Naboo and Bollo were out on “Shaman Business” apparantly, which probably meant they were taking pot or buying a rug. Long story short though, they wouldn’t be back til around ten.

He was just sending up a quiet prayer of thanks for the peace when he heard footsteps. Someone running? A customer? A terrified customer, petrified that the shop had already shut and they had missed their opportunity of being in Howard Moons’s prescence? An attractive customer?

The door slammed open and Vince ran through it, letting it fall shut behind him. “Howard! Howard!”

Howard blinked at him, startled. Vince didn’t run. He just wasn’t the running kind. He was usually too fussed about keeping his shoes and hair tidy, but now he was standing there panting, his eyes wide, his hair dishelved.

“Vince? What’s wrong? What’s happened?”

“Leroy’s got nits!”

Howard skipped a beat, then threw up his hands in exasperation. “Is that it? I was expecting something involving being chased by a lion at the very least.”

“But Howard, don’t you see, I might have caught them!”

Starting to notice just how upset he really was, Howard put down his paper. “Vince, you—”

“I’ve been hanging round with Leroy for ages, and they jump on your head and suck your blood and lay eggs—”


“-and make you scratch all the time and—”


Howard came forward from round the counter and took Vince’s arm. He was seriously contemplating getting a plastic bag and telling him to breathe into it. Or maybe shoving it over his head for making a fuss about something so ridiculous.

He looked at Vince then and took in his pale face and frightened eyes, and instantly felt ashamed. After all, everyone had their little peeves, and this was a man who had screamed when someone put his hair in bunches.

“Howard, I can’t have things living in my hair!”

“Alright, alright, easy, little man. It’s okay. Look, has your head been itchy?”

“Um… no.”

“Did you get one of them combs from the chemist so you can check yourself?”

Vince stared at him as though he’d gone mad. “I can’t buy nit stuff! What would people say?!”

“Vince, there is nothing to be ashamed about catching headlice. Remember that time in primary school when you were off for almost a month? Well practically the whole class had it. You lucked out, sir.”

“What do you mean, ‘lucked out’? Why do you think I was off in the first place? I had to make fake sick and everything to convince my parents, and they really did think something was wrong with me, cos I was having all these nightmares about them, and my parents thought they were fever dreams, and—”

“Vince, it’s not that bad, really. Even if you have got them, and you probably haven’t, you can get rid of them in no time. I bet Naboo’ll have a lotion or something that’ll get rid of them instantly.”

Vince perked up a little at that. “Oh great, Howard, you’re a genius! Let’s go and look now!”

“Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. Not after last time. It’s not fair on Naboo. He’s been out all day and he’s not in til late, he’ll be tired.”

“He won’t even know!”

“No, Vince. What if we make a mistake, and something really goes wrong with your hair?”

“We can test it on yours first.”

“Oh, thanks!”

“Oh, please, Howard!”

“No! Look, one of us has to be sensible here. Besides, you don’t even know you’ve got them!”

“That’s why I came, Howard! You have to close up the shop and check my hair for me!”

“What? No, no Vince, I’m sorry, I’m not doing that. I’m your friend, but, I’m Howard Moon, and I will not be subjected to—”

“Please, Howard!”

“-and surely you’re mature enough and man enough to—”

“Please, Howard!”

“-check your own bloody hair!”

“I can’t get at the back or the underneath though, and I’m too ashamed to go to anyone else. Oh come on, Howard, I’d do it for you.”

“No, you wouldn’t! If I got headlice you’d barricade yourself in a room, and when you’d eventually come out you’d spray me with something whenever I’d go near you. I wondered what that stuff was when you finally came back to school.”

“I was just trying to save myself!”

“Yeah, well, forget it. Wait til Bollo gets in, he’ll do it for you.”

“I need it now, Howard,” He whined. Howard shook his head at Vince’s tone of voice, and the way he was dancing from foot to foot and clawing at his hair helplessly. Honestly. You’d never catch Howard Moon making such a spectacle of himself, no sir.

“Look, I’ve got responsibilities, Vince. I’ve got to mind the shop for Naboo.”

“We’re closing in half an hour, and Naboo won’t mind if it’s an emergency.”

“It isn’t, though!”

“It is!”

“It isn’t!”

“It is!”

Howard gave up.

Vince grabbed his hands and appealed to him plaintively, “Howard, I’ll beg on my knees if I have to, I’ll never be late for work again, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll go to a Jazz Night with you! I’ll—”

“OK!” Howard yanked his hands free, with a little more force than necessary. “Okay, okay.” He must have been desperate if he was offering to listen to Jazz for hours. “Just settle down, little man. Tell you what, I’ll shut up here and you go through to the back and wait for me.”

Vince practically passed out in relief. “Cheers, Howard. Thank you so, so much-“

“Yeah, well, you owe me for this, Mowgli.” He left Vince and went outside to the shutters. He made sure the shop was secure, but remembered to leave the door unlocked for Naboo, as they only had one key, which was now on his person.

He went through the back and found Vince in front of the mirror, tweaking at his hair miserably. “Come on, little man, you probably haven’t got them.”

“I might, though.” He said morosely.

“Keep your head up, though, eh? This isn’t like you, Vince, you’re always happy. Nothing ever bothers you.” He sighed and shook his head. “Nothing except your bloody hair.”

Vince, who wasn’t listening, continued to fiddle with his hair. Howard went to the sink and washed his hands, just because he knew Vince would order him to if he was thinking straight. Oh well. He couldn’t complain too much. Vince had helped him out of trouble hundreds of times. It didn’t really matter that this wasn’t really trouble. It was good to have the roles reversed. For once, he could be the hero. He pulled up a stool to Vince and pushed him in it gently.

“Right, then.” He said professionally, and tentatively parted Vince’s hair. If he was honest, he was a little awed by the novelty of being allowed to touch Vince’s hair, let alone being allowed to handle it like this. How many girls in Dalston would kill to be in this position?

“Apes do this,” Howard said cheerfully, after a few minutes. “Remember, at the zoo, they’d pick them out of eachother’s fur and…” He trailed off as he saw Vince’s face. “Sorry.” He cleared his throat. “That was a bit tasteless.”

“Bollo’d clobber you for that.” He agreed.

Howard laughed a little. “He certainly would.”

He went on in silence for a bit. “Nothing yet.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive. See, I’d be able to see eggs easily cos your hair’s black.”

Vince gave a little moan of horror.

“I hate them.” He said morosely, after a bit. “I want them all to die. If I could make any species in the world extinct, it’d be them. They’re the insect version of Nazis. I don’t believe in God cos no God would create something as horrible, disgusting, scary-“

“Still nothing.” Howard interrupted cheerfully. “Not even dandruff.”

Vince swallowed suddenly. “They like clean hair, don’t they?”

“No, that’s a complete myth. They don’t have a preferance.”


Howard kept looking. “I think you’re all clear, Vince.” He said eventually, sweeping his fingers through several more times.

“Really? Thanks, Howard. Thanks, so much.” He sighed and closed his eyes, leaning his head back into Howard’s fingers. “I love the feeling of someone playing with my hair.” He smiled contentedly, nuzzling into Howard’s fingers slightly.

Howard glanced at him uncertainly, and ran his fingers over his hair, practically stroking it, experimentally. “I thought you hated people touching your hair?”

“I do, cos they usually mess it up. I haven’t let anyone in ages. I forgot how nice it feels.”

Encouraged, Howard’s combing motions gradually became softer, slower, more intimate. Vince melted down until he was leaning back against Howard properly, keeping his eyes closed.

Howard watched their reflections in a stupor, and watched his arms trail down of their own accord and wrap around Vince’s waist. They remained perfectly still for a split second, until Vince nestled into him comfortably and Howard snapped out of it. Startled, he leapt backwards and Vince, having lost what he was leaning on, crashed to the floor.

“OW. What did you do that for, you berk?”

“Well, you shouldn’t have… leaned back.”

Howard wandered a few steps away aimlessly, not looking at him.

Vince stood up and brushed himself down. “Why’d you stop? I was enjoying that.”

Howard didn’t answer. Just then, he didn’t trust himself to speak.

“Howard.” Vince’s voice changed. He was clearly struggling with something. “Howard, you know at the party, on the roof-“

“Woah there, Vince!” Howard whipped around to face him, but quickly turned his attention to some stains on the counter and the act of destroying them. “Never mind all that. What goes on on the roof stays on the roof, okay?”

Vince didn’t reply for a moment, only to look at Howard with his head cocked to one side and watch him scrub vigourously at stains that were practically non-existant. Just as Howard had begun to think he had got the message, Vince said, “Let’s go on the roof, then.”

Howard abandoned the cloth then, and turned to Vince with what he hoped looked like exasperation or poorly disguised impatience. “No, that’s not what I meant.” He said, though is heart pounded at the thought. “Look, Vince, I… what I said at the party, it was a mistake. All of it was a mistake. I’m not gay.”

“I know!” said Vince eagerly. “Neither am I! I just swing both ways.”

“Yeah, but, I don’t.”

Vince stopped then and blinked a little. He smile wavered and then fell completely. “Oh.” He said quietly.

Howard saw the little duck of his head and noted his small voice and felt sorry for him. He had had a bad day. It was for the best though. It would just result in a damaged friendship, and god knew they let eachother down and bickered enough as it was. At least they knew, as they knew grass was green and soup, soup, a tasty soup, soup was hot, that they would stick to eachother’s sides forever. Howard didn’t want their relationship to change, because it would risk losing everything. What if they had a massive fight and never spoke again? What if everyone laughed at them? What if it just fizzled out and they were left feeling awkward and uncomfortable with eachother?

“It’s probably for the best, eh?” Howard tried a smile. He tried to get Vince to see it from his point of view. “I mean, we’ve been together a lo-I mean, we’ve been friends a long time now. We wouldn’t want anything to jeapordise that, eh?”

“No, but…” Vince sounded odd, like something thick was caught round his throat. “But, don’t you ever, don’t you ever feel like it’s… it’s not…”

Enough, Howard finished mentally. He could feel a lump rising in his own throat. “Vince, I-“

“No, s’ok.” He turned round hurriedly, just as tears spurted out and down his cheeks, and walked out quickly.

Howard turned and scrubbed at his own eyes, sniffing loudly. His hand clenched the side of the counter til his knuckles went white, and he remained like that for several moments, torn. What the hell was he supposed to do?


Howard turned, surprised. He hadn’t heard Vince come back in. Thank god he’d wiped his eyes.

Vince had clearly had a brief mopping session too. Howard’s heart wrenched at the sight of it.

“Howard?” He said again, tentatively, then without giving him time to answer stepped up to him and pressed their lips together. He kissed him sweetly for a few moments, without tongues, and then pulled back, looking startled. “Oh, um, I’m sorry, I-“

Howard grabbed at him wildly and pulled them back together, and Vince allowed himself to be shoved against the counter, his fingers grabbing Howard’s shirt and hanging on. He moaned into Howard’s mouth and felt his hand clutch at his hair.

They parted only when they were out of breath, still clinging to eachother, panting. Howard moved his hand from Vince’s hair to his cheek, caressing it gently. Vince clung to him tighter. “Naboo and Bollo won’t be back for ages,” He murmured. “We could go upstairs…”

“Okay.” Howard allowed Vince to lead him up by his hand.

“Are we going on the roof?” Vince asked seriously.

“We could. Or we could just go in there.” Howard nodded at their bedroom.

“No bouncycastle to save us this time.” He said agreeably.


Vince pulled him through the door, shut it, and then kissed Howard against it.

“Which bed?” He asked dumbly, when they paused for breath.

“Whichever.” Vince sighed carelessly. He pulled Howard away from the door and sank back on whatever bed he hit first, which happened to be Howard’s. He took Howard’s hands and pulled him on top of him and lay underneath him docilely.

“I’ve wanted this for so long now, Howard.” He murmured, unbuttoning his shirt for him.

“Um, Vince?” He allowed his shirt to be pushed off his shoulders.


“I—well, I…” He shut up as Vince removed his own shirt.

He took one of Howard’s hands and pushed it into his hair. “Are you still a virgin?”

Howard blinked a little, and said, with as much dignity as he could muster considering he was so hard it hurt, “Yes. Yes, I am.”

“That’s okay.”

“It is? I mean, er, it is. Yeah, I know.”

“I mean, you know me better than anyone, so you don’t have to be nervous or worry about showing off or anything. It’s perfect.” He sighed contentedly. “You hate people touching you, yet look at you now.” He brushed his knuckles across Howard’s cheekbone to prove his point, and then slid his fingertips down to his jawline, his chest, his stomach…

He took his hand away and grinned. “See?”

Howard was suddenly reminded of little-boy Vince, always bright blue eyes and big smiles. Always taking his hand away at the crucial moment. And grinning about it. He hadn’t changed a bit, and Howard loved him for it.

He bent down and kissed Vince, his hand moving through his hair again. “You’re right.” He panted. “I mean I have to lose my virginity sooner or later.”


“You’re doing me a favour really.”

“Yeah, cos I’m your friend.”

He brushed his fingers over Vince’s crotch. “I’ve helped you, so you’re helping me.”

“Uh huh”

He carefully undid Vince’s fly and slid his fingers through the zip.

Vince swallowed. “Yeah, you can’t not sleep with anyone, ever. That’d be awful.”

“And this is my only chance of escaping that fate.” He slipped his fingers into Vince’s underwear.

“… yeah.”

“So there’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t do this.”


“None at all.”

Unable to stand it anymore, Vince grabbed Howard’s hair and smashed their lips together.

“Have you put it all away, Bollo?” Naboo called.

“Uh, yes.” Bollo frowned. He knew he was forgetting something.

“D’you lock up?”

“Oh!” Bollo hit his forehead. Naboo had seemed tired all day. Bollo didn’t want to aggravate him. “Er, no, sorry. Where are keys?”

“Are they not on the hook?”

“Uhh…” Bollo peered around til he located the hook. “No.”

“Well, go on up to Vince and Howard’s room and see what they’ve done with them. It’s only half ten, they should still be up.”

Bollo turned dutifully and made his way up the stairs. “Hey, uh, Howard?” He called, before opening the door.

He stood still and stared. He waited stupidly for them to jump up and scream, HA, fooled you! When that didn’t happen, he backed out.

He stepped out into the landing and almost walked right into the tiny shaman.

“Naboo!” He whispered, amazed.


“Look in Vince and Howard’s room!”


“Just look!”

Naboo looked at him oddly, then stepped round him and opened the door. He too stared at them curled up with eachother, and then shook his head in wonder and left them, closing the door quietly.

Bollo, who had been waiting for him, looked at him expectantly.

“Just leave ‘em.” Naboo said in a completely offhand manner, as it he had expected it to start raining and it had. He walked past him to the room they shared, and began sorting out his bed.

Bollo followed and stood in the doorway. “I can’t believe it.” He said, shaking his head. “Vince and Howard… they know each other so long… always bickering… they like brothers.”

“Or soulmates.” Naboo remarked shrewdly.

“Yes. But it a bit strange… why now? They know each other so long, and if they soulmates they like each other for so long, so why not sooner?”

“I don’t know,” Naboo murmured distantly. It’s different for everyone. Maybe only one of them was aware of how he felt. Maybe they felt guilty. Maybe they were afraid of what people might say. Even you said it was a bit strange.”

“I didn’t mean because they both men, I—”

“And sometimes when things are good the way they are you should just leave them.” Naboo seemed to have forgotten Bollo’s prescence.

Bollo stayed quiet for a little while, and then spoke up when he sensed the moment had passed. “Bollo not homophobic.”

“No, I know.”

“I meant it strange because of way they are with eachother. They just like you and me, Naboo.”

Naboo jumped slightly, and then said coldly, “Sleep on the couch tonight, Bollo.”

“Uh? Why? What did I-?”

The door shut in his face.

Bollo stood still, confused, and then trudged across the landing unhappily. Naboo called out to him, “Forget the keys, just… put something against the door or put a potion on it or something.”

“Um, okay. Goodnight, Naboo.”

No answer. Bollo sighed and walked on. He paused outside Vince and Howard’s room on the way past. At least some people were happy.

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