Vince is too playful.


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Length: words

Tender by afterism

Vince was sprawled out on the sofa, one leg trailing on the floor while the other hung over the furthest armrest. His hands were fidgeting idly across his stomach where his arms lay—well, it was unheard of to ever see the guy completely still—while his head was propped up slightly on a cushion, facing the small portable television where something bright and sparkly had caught his attention.

Howard was hovering by the Zookeepers hut door, unsure of whether he was willing to disturb him by trying to get a place on the comfiest seat—he knew Vince had been complaining all morning about a headache or something similar (although the truthfulness of this was debatable). A moment’s more consideration later and he was crossing the room, side-stepping the sofa with quiet ease and slumping down into the chair near Vince’s feet, pretending to ignore the way he had suddenly caught the younger’s attention.

‘Hey, what you doing down there? Come up here.’ Howard turned slowly and stared at him for a moment, looking like he was going to protest. Vince, pre-empting this, lifted his head and gazed at him unwaveringly until,

‘Stop that.’

‘Stop what?’

‘Looking at me like that!’

‘Like what!’

‘Like you’re after something. I know what you’re like, little man, and I’m not falling for it, no sir.’

‘I only want you to come sit over here!’

‘Fine!’ He stood up quickly and walked over to Vince’s end of the sofa, ignoring the satisfied grin that the younger now wore. Vince raised his head so Howard could slip down onto the cushions, lowering it again so it was pressed down on his thigh, then after letting out one small, contented sigh, he fell silent and went back to watching the telly.

Howard felt rather unsettled by the anti-climax of it all.

There was, however, definitely something to be said for having a warm head in your lap (attached to a body, obviously. Just a head on its own would be frankly quite disturbing). Almost unconsciously, his hands found their way into Vince’s hair and soon he was carefully, delicately, playing with those oh-so soft strands while his gaze never left the television set.

‘Howard, what are you doing?’

‘Nothing.’ He replied quickly, dropping the strands he had been twirling idly. He expected a sudden outburst from Vince, the usual defence for his precious hairdo, and so held himself ready to take it. But, this time, all he heard was a quiet,

‘Don’t stop.’

He paused from a long instant, wondering if he trespassing on a sacred rule of Vince Noir. Slowly, cautiously, he let his fingers creep up into the backcombed mane and began tracing the same patterns as before, twist-twirl-flick and repeat. And so on. They stayed like that, silent, eyes on the screen but neither were paying much attention, constantly in check of their own breathing in case they made too much noise.

For a brief blissful moment, Howard thought Vince had begun purring. Instead however, glancing down towards his lap he found Vince fast asleep, gentle snores vibrating across his legs and one hand, almost seeming deliberately positioned, curled lightly over his knee. His head was to one side, facing the general direction of the opposite wall, but Howard could still see the barely-fluttering eyelids and the slightly parted lips—oh.

He sighed. With a brief shift to check—yep, no chance of getting out of this one—he resigned himself to a night of cramped legs and taunting sleep as he reached for the remote and flicked off the TV. Shifting again, a little less this time, he leaned heavily against the back of the sofa and let his head tilt back, his hair barely brushing the top of it, and closed his eyes.

Howard awoke slowly, a small pull that began tugging at his subconscious that grew and took over until he was opening his eyes with a quiet groan—then stopped sharply when he realised something was up. Warm breath was ghosting over his thighs, licking up over his crotch in a manner that simply could not be mistaken. He chanced a look down.

Oh. Christ.

‘Vince?’ He croaked, his voice several notches higher than usual.


‘What are you doing?’ Vince’s hand went up to begin undoing the fastening on Howard’s trousers, that teasing air still penetrating through the thin material while he fumbled with the button.

‘Nothing.’ He replied innocently, completely ignoring the sharp intake of breath from above as the button came loose and he tugged down the zip, his fingers nudging the fastenings apart with an almost careless ease, cool air rushing in as Vince lifted his head and moved away slightly so he could pull them down further.

‘Oh god.’ Howard whispered, barely audible, but Vince just smiled and pursed his lips. He looked up once, devilishly, before lowering his head and kissing down the trail of hair above his boxers with a teasingly slow pace, while Howard tilted his head back and bit his lip. His hand clenched the armrest. He felt one finger loop over the elastic waistband, with delectable sensitivity. And then…


Vince had stopped. Howard made a sound that could only be described as an anguished growl and looked down once more, to find those two cheeky blue eyes grinning up at him with sheer self-satisfied smugness.

‘What the hell was that?’ He stammered, his expression caught between disappointment and a sneer.

Vince shrugged, as best he could in his position. ‘Just testing,’ he replied with a smirk, followed by that infuriating tongue tease he insisted on doing.

‘For what, exactly? I’m a highly sensitive man, Vince, you don’t just… just leave me alone, yeah?’

‘But, Howard-!’

‘What?’ He snapped, shifting unsubtly and wishing Vince would get out of his lap so he could either do up his trousers (which were still, embarrassingly enough, hanging open) or finish himself off in the privacy of the bathroom. Vince, however, had other ideas as he lowered his head and chewed lightly on his bottom lip, chancing a look up at Howard through his darkened fringe while the older glowered stubbornly.

‘Howard?’ Nothing. ‘Howard? Howard. Howard. Howard. Howard?’


‘Why are you so pissed off?’

‘Why do you think?’ He exclaimed, jumping up (knocking Vince’s head roughly away from his legs) and hurriedly refastened his trousers as he whipped around, shooting off across the room.

‘Alright! I was just asking!’ He called after him then winced, as the only reply he received was the door slamming.

‘Alright?’ Vince was leaning against the wall, arms folded across his chest. Howard was sitting upright on the bench outside the monkey enclosure, hands in his lap and staring absent mindedly at the opposite cage, mouth twisted in a small grimace that occasionally twitched as though he was struggling to contain something.

‘Yeah.’ He finally replied with a slight sigh, which Vince took as a sign of acceptance and so bounded across with little hesitation, perching on the bench a little way from him. Howard watched him come over, feeling a sense of irrational hate building up inside him for every step he took, despising him for never seeming too bothered about anything, never letting the rest of the world affect the perfect shiny world of Noir, never feeling any pain on this plane of existence where everyone else resided… never ruffled.

Howard took a chance to reach out and tousle the top of Vince’s hair, a small smile creeping in when Vince did not pull away, just watched him with sad eyes beneath the fluffed strands. He pulled his legs up to his chest and curled his arms around them, withdrawing into himself as Howard pulled away his hand reluctantly, feeling awkward.

‘I’m sorry,’ Vince eventually mumbled, his forehead resting on his knees.

‘Hey, chin up, little man. It’s alright.’ He always slipped into this mode, designed purely to comfort Vince, whenever he detected so much as a chink within his mask of sheer happy.

‘It wasn’t a joke or nuffin,’ he carried on regardless, his face still buried in his legs but Howard could hear every word. ‘I didn’t expect it to go like that, yeah?’

‘What was supposed to happen, then?’

‘You were supposed to push me off and yell at me for being perverted and tell me I’d gone wrong.’

‘But I didn’t.’

‘You didn’t.’


‘Yeah… ’ He heaved a sigh and lifted his head, now putting his chin on his arms but refusing to look in Howard’s direction.

‘Did you want that to happen?’

‘Not really. Just thought it would.’

Silence descended over them like a suffocating cloak, both staring off in opposite ways though they were close enough to feel the tingling heat from the other.

‘Now what?’ Vince mused, still facing away from Howard and barely noticing his voice being carried off by the breeze.

‘What did you want to happen?’ Howard muttered, his head in his hands and unaware of the wind snatching away his words.

They both turned around at the same moment, wondering why the other had not said anything. After the shortest instant of just looking at one another, Vince swung his legs down and placed his hands on the space between them. Howard pushed himself forward, fingers clasping the back of the bench while his other hand reached over, lightly touching Vince’s shoulder before moving up, up into his hair and delicately clasping the side of his face. They moved closer, not saying a word though their lips were parted, heads tilting in perfect unison as they came within a whisper of each other…

The intercom crackled into life across the Zooniverse.

‘Moon? Where the hell are you? The baboons are flying all over the place, I need you to get down there now!’

Fossil didn’t get an answer for a long time.