Category: The Mighty Boosh
Pairing: Howard Moon/Vince Noir
Length: 1-5k words
The Method Actor by huntingsnarks
It was half eleven and the shop wasn’t open, and already there was an air of the unusual in the Nabootique. As Naboo had broodingly noted, it wasn’t exactly unusual for there to be an air of the unusual in the shop, but there was no denying that something smelt funny, like an off curry.
“I’ve heard of rice crackers,” Vince had offered when the basics of a curry had been explained to him. “Sounds well awful, anyway – even without the smell.”
“Where Harold?” asked Bollo, peering about the shop, eyes pausing disapprovingly on the closed shutters.
“I dunno,” Vince answered honestly, having passed the morning lost in his habitual hair preparations without a glimpse of the jazz maverick. He grinned slightly, winking at Naboo. “Maybe Old Gregg came back for him.” Frowning slightly, he pulled at the tight material of his leopard print tunic. “Come to think of it, I’d like to ask after that wedding dress-”
“Don’t joke about that fishy bastard, would you?” Naboo cut in darkly. Vince shrugged, flicking at a piece of grime behind a lime green nail. Old Gregg was an unwelcome figure in any conversation in this place. Naboo hadn’t taken kindly to Howard’s imposition of a ban on all things Baileys in the shop.
“All right, Naboo?”
Slowly, three sets of eyes climbed the stairs and came to a landing on the stiletto heels of a pair of glossy red cowboy boots. A terrible nausea gripped into Vince’s stomach as his gaze crept hesitantly higher and found a shining stretch of what was unmistakeably his favourite mirrorball jumpsuit.
“Lance Dior,” he whispered to himself, hand beginning to crawl towards the nearest thing to a weapon in Stationery Village, which may or may not have been the Sellotape tree.
But wait – as both his hand and eyes sneaked on, Vince saw the round protrusion of a paunch that was certainly not owned by his defeated doppelganger. He blinked thrice, his head dropping to one side as his blue eyes stared, but the image refused to change.
The suit clung to the man’s figure like the thinnest stretch of gladwrap across a sandwich bulging with filling. The dim light of the Nabootique caught upon the most unfortunate creases and curves, playing along the suit with a cheeky glitter matched by the familiar face above the collar.
It was like looking into a corner of the Mirror World recently sprayed by Mr Susan.
It was like Vince gone wrong. And yet, as smirking lips gleamed with gloss, and eyeliner gave some depth to familiar squinty eyes –
“Harold gone wrong,” Bollo grunted, his gruff voice slightly lifted as if even he was shocked by this development.
“Worse than the zip-down bathing suit,” agreed Naboo with a shudder. He shook his turbaned head, beckoning his familiar to follow as he made a hasty retreat for a more visually-pleasing location. “Didn’t need to see that.”
As Vince’s huge eyes continued to trawl over the silvery stretches of Howard’s postured figure, he momentarily forgot to breathe. It was difficult to explain why he couldn’t inhale all of a sudden. You’d have thought that his gaping mouth would have made the process a whole lot easier.
His gaze finally snagged on the curls propped smugly atop Howard’s head, and he finally seemed to remember how to speak.
“You been into my box of hair, Howard? That’s precious stuff, you know. Could’ve asked first.”
The indignation in his voice was offset by the permeating note of awe. Vince Noir’s off cuts looked well genius on the seemingly insane jazz maverick. He wished that he’d pressed the point back when he was trying to convince Howard to play keyboard in Johnny Two-Hats’ place.
Howard gave no response, possibly erring on the side of caution. Limits were unknown factors to Vince when it came to matters of his coiffure, past or present. Instead, Howard made forward as if to swan effortlessly down the stairs, tripped on the heels of his gleaming boots, and almost strangled himself with the reel of raspberry bootlaces that he’d been holding in his hands.
“What are you doing, Howard?” Vince demanded, unfastening his eyes from the skin-tight jumpsuit with dogged effort and focussing above the glimmer of lip gloss instead. “You’ve – well, you’ve never expressed an interest in fashion before. You should’ve asked me. I would’ve started you off with something less extreme, worked it gradual, built you up from saucy granny to-”
“Howard Moon is a method actor, sir.”
The fine line of Vince’s brow quirked subtly, but he managed to keep his immediate snarky response within himself. The beehived receptionist tittered, filing her nails and making a note to inform the brain cell after his scheduled nap had ended.
She cradled the phone against her shoulder as Howard continued what looked like the beginnings of a characteristic diatribe. Vince, oblivious to his own inner workings, rolled his eyes out of habit, but a small grin stuck to his lips like a wet jelly baby.
“I’m a genre spanner, I’m a character spanner, I’m a –”
“Spanner,” Vince inserted cheekily, grinning at the old joke. “You are, you know. How did you squeeze yourself into my mirrorball suit? It’s tighter than those trousers you busted for the gothic girls. I’m amazed, really.”
“Whatever,” said Howard, and Vince was momentarily taken aback by the truly awful accent applied to this dismissive comment. Maybe the northerner should stick to scat, after all.
Vince shook himself. Physically.
“I’m trying to get into your character, Vince, I’m going for the electro groove,” Howard said vibrantly, hands flying about in a series of jerky movements. “I’m throwing some shapes, I’m fighting back a good taste in music, I’m blazing, sir.”
Averting his eyes momentarily for the sake of retaining some semblance of dignity in this scenario, Vince threw a hand to his forehead and asked the only question that his mind seemed able to produce.
“Have you completely lost it?”
“I don’t know, Vince. I don’t think I’ve had ‘it’ for a while, you know.”
Vince wasn’t particularly surprised by this confession, but felt that perhaps there was more to Howard’s words than he could immediately understand. He got this feeling a lot. Right now, however, he actually found himself eager to discover the deeper meaning.
It may have been the fact that Howard was, at this very moment, still unravelling himself from a spool of sweets while dressed in drag.
“You see,” Howard continued, bravely stepping down the stairs once more, “I don’t feel like we’ve really got along too well lately. Quite frankly, I don’t think I understand you these days. You’re always out, Vince, with your fancy new punk friends, eating my records, or waddling away with your too-tight drainpipes. And when you’re in, you’re advertising me for prostitution, or showing me up at my own birthday party.”
Howard paused for a moment in his atypically cutting criticism, leaving Vince positively stunned. He felt frozen in place as if caught in the path of an unexpected spray of Goth Juice. His eyes were still fixed on Howard, having glimpsed a snatch of profound pain on the made-up face before it had hardened.
Thing was, Vince knew that everything Howard had said was true, and then some. And it hurt to have his face rubbed up against the effect of his actions. Guilt burned at him like his straighteners had that time when he’d fallen asleep on them. Absently, he rubbed at the scar along his lower belly, wrapping his other arm around himself.
“I-” he started, unsure from the outset as to where his mouth was taking him. It was like taking a trip up Raspberry Avenue, but in his head.
The receptionist ignored the brain cell’s perpetual request, and phoned in during designated naptime. Enough was enough. Vince obviously needed a snap of activity up there. Vince’s solitary brain cell woke with a start, but Howard interrupted before it could be of any use.
“So then, this morning, I woke up late, tripped over these god-awful boots, and thought, well, what better way at getting in your head?” He paused again. “Metaphorically. I’ve spent too much time in there as it is.”
“Howard,” Vince said softly, deflating like a beach ball, or like his hair in extreme humidity. “Howard, I-”
“And now I’m all dressed up, Vince, like a right prostitute – erm, berk – though, er, it looks good on you, of course. I’ve eaten too much sugar, inhaled too much hairspray, and although I’m rather light-headed, I still don’t think I understand.” A shadow of despair pierced only by the sparkle of his jumpsuit fell upon Howard as he finally reached the bottom of the stairs, and he hung his head as if unsure of how to continue.
“I think the suit’s cutting off your circulation,” Vince murmured to his shoes. They were from Topshop, of course, and were well genius, but they seemed to have lost their ability to make their wearer feel as happily fizzy as a bath bomb.
“Whatever,” Howard repeated, obviously pleased despite himself for his apt use of the ‘hip’ expression, and Vince had had enough.
“You’d better demand an apology right this minute or I’ll be comin’ at ya like a mink glove, yes sir!”
Howard stared. Vince had hunched his shoulders, squinted up his big blue eyes, and generally engaged his body in a bit of a twitch. The northern accent really wasn’t too bad, when it came down to it.
“What, are you being me now?” asked Howard doubtfully.
Vince inhaled deeply. “Skittle dee dup boo dup, ba da da da skip-ah skip-ah,” he chanted, waving his wrists limply through the air. Almost immediately, he moaned slightly and clutched at his head.
“Terrible mimicry,” Howard sniffed, hastily shoving his hands, which had twitched anxiously forward, into his pockets. Once he’d realised that his jumpsuit contained no such storage facilities, he patted at his sides instead in a useless effort to disguise the movement.
“Don’t you go questioning Howard Moon’s acting capacity, sir,” Vince huffed, slamming his hands to his hips and attempting to paste a scowl above the smirk dancing at the edges of his mouth. This was a fine effort indeed. The word ‘capacity’ didn’t largely play a part in Vince Noir’s regular vocabulary, no sir.
The scowl came more naturally then. It wouldn’t do to start thinking like Howard, now would it?
“I killed a Furby this morning,” he pouted to his stacked heels, refusing to give up even now. Vince Noir never lost a verbal exchange. Not to Howard. He would go where nobody should have the option of going. “I did a shit on it.”
“And you rather liked it, didn’t you, little man?” asked Howard with a straight face, but Vince, peering up through his cheeky fringe, felt a smile curl along his own lips.
“I really think you’ve gone wrong in your mind tank,” he said quietly, shaking his glossy head and smiling sadly up at Howard. “And not just for butchering my style, either.”
“You always think I’m rather lacking in my mental faculties,” Howard sighed, “but you know what?” He gestured rather wildly at his silver-clad body, seemed to fully realise what he was wearing for the first time, and hunched in on himself with a flush of embarrassment.
“Er, this, er, Man of Action, er –”
“-has really hit the nail head-on, right?” Vince interrupted, smiling rather shyly, slipping the Howard Moon persona from his narrow shoulders with a shudder that was, to his credit, barely visible. He sighed, allowing his fringe to fall in a curtain across his eyes once more. “You know I’m sorry, yeah? I’m really, really sorry.”
And he really, really was. He had been for a while now, but patterns were difficult to break, especially in the world of friendship. Vince Noir could skip from Look to Look with the ease of a rock skimming across fashionable waters. When it came to dealing with Howard, however, Vince knew that he’d sunk deep down in the ocean blue. There had just been so much tension between them since the closure of the Zooniverse. Vince didn’t cope with tension well – not where it really counted. It was so easy to choose the smoother course, the shallow waters.
It was obvious that Howard was attempting to step lightly towards him, but the clunking of abused heels betrayed his terrible inability to do so.
“Do you really mean it, Vince?” He shifted noisily, upsetting a carefully alphabetised stack of jazz fusion records. “Only I think this get-up is my last option, really. I don’t know how much longer I can take our constant fighting. My rapier wit is much fatigued, sir.”
“I feel,” Vince began, and felt his throat close up. Ironically, it was difficult to explain this sensation. When he spoke again, his voice had become higher, and slightly scratchy. “All the time, whether I’m in or out, I feel like Topshop’s just closed down. I feel like Lance Dior’s hooked up with Jagger or something. Nothing’s fun anymore, Howard, not really.”
“So what do we do, little man? How can we make this better?”
“Satsuma fight?” suggested Vince hopefully, earning a fleeting grin from Howard. “In our vests and pants, like old times…”
Suddenly, somehow, thinking back to the better times, those late, long nights of crimping and wrestling with fruit and watching Naboo’s old videos of Peacock Dreams, something akin to resolve began to claw its way into Vince’s stomach. It would take more than a Satsuma fight to sort out this tangle of a friendship, anyway. And ultimately, Vince knew what was wrong between them. It had been obvious ever since Howard’s birthday party.
And, as Vince had noticed from the very start of this horrible fashion debacle, Howard’s jumpsuit happened to hide much less than even his vest and pants during those late-night crimping sessions.
“I love you, Howard!”
The words burst out suddenly like a sneaky sneeze, leaving two men stunned into silence. A moment passed, in which Vince became incredibly familiar with the social intricacies of the geopolitical layout of Stationery Village, promptly forgot everything, and studied his nails instead.
Without warning, a muffled snatch of laughter hummed from Howard’s mouth, and Vince’s eyes snapped right back up to his face.
“You laughing at me?” he demanded incredulously, feeling a crimson blush stain his pale cheeks as Howard clapped a hand over his mouth.
“It’s all in the context, Vince,” Howard finally managed, dropping twitching fingers back to his side.
Vince’s eyes flashed, and he acted on impulse, backing far away from rejection and moving very much forward. Kicking Howard in his silvery thigh with one heeled foot, he watched, pleased, as the jazz maverick overbalanced on his boots and dropped heavily into the chair directly behind him. Vince stepped forward with a cocky swagger, leaning his weight onto one foot as he surveyed Howard, whose laughter had died away completely.
“Context this,” he breathed, hair fluttering around to frame his face as he leaned down, achingly slow, and finally caught Howard’s lips with his own.
It was the roof minus the death threat and the exploitation. It had been a confession of love minus a similar scenario of imminent doom, and it had been Vince who had taken the step forward. He loved it immediately, this feeling of control, the swell and the curl of satisfaction that came with placing a puzzle piece irrevocably in place. His tongue swept against Howard’s, and suddenly it was a sale at Topshop, and Jagger shot Lance Dior dead, and the slag went to Monkey Hell and had his hair stolen for the Ape of Death’s latest extensions.
Vince had never truly appreciated his mirrorball suit, not really, and his respect for the garment grew enormously as he slid easily into Howard’s lap, pressing himself against the thin fabric.
“They call me the Confuser. ‘Is he a woman? Is he an electro poof? ‘” Howard murmured smugly against Vince’s lips, provoking a grin that glistened with two delicious flavours of lip gloss and a whole new world of pleasure.
“Just get outta the suit before you bust it, all right?”