The Unicorn of First Gay Love
Category: The Mighty Boosh
Characters: Bob Fossil, Howard Moon, Naboo, Vince Noir
Pairing: Howard Moon/Vince Noir
Genre: Action/Adventure, Romance
Warning: Smut (graphic sex scenes)
Length: 10-20k words
The Unicorn of First Gay Love by Culumacilinte
The door to the zookeepers’ hut at the Zooniverse complained creakily as Howard Moon entered, scatting quietly to himself. Vince Noir, standing in front of the mirror on the near wall, jumped slightly and his reflection grimaced at Howard.
‘What d’you think you’re doing, bringing your jazzy nonsense in here, Howard? I’m trying to do me makeup!’
‘Yeah, me makeup. I’m going for a subtle look, see- hint of rose about the cheekbones, bit of lipgloss, the artfully smudged remnants of last night’s eyeliner.’
He grinned dazzlingly at his reflection, which was so overcome by Vince’s sheer beauty that it fainted straight away. Howard, however, was less impressed.
‘It’s a good look, little man, I won’t deny it, but do you not think there are more important things to do? You should be more like me, Vince; I’ve been hard at work ever since I arrived at the zoo this morn.’
Vince scoffed. ‘Oh yeah? What’ve you been doing, then?’
‘Haircuts, sir! I have been attending to haircare for the anemones.’
‘What!? Who’d send you to do anemone haircare? Your hair’s rubbish!’
‘Hey now; this is my look, Vince, a strong-’
‘Bollocks it’s a strong look!’ Vince cut him off. ‘Anyway, what were you doing in the Anemone Foyer? You’re aviary; you’ve no business mucking about in reptiles and aquatic animals; that’s my area.’
Howard shrugged. ‘It needed to be done, Vince, and when something needs doing, Howard Moon, Man of Action, is there.’
He struck a brief, heroic pose, and a fanfare of trumpet music swelled surreptitiously in the background. Until, that is, Vince leaned over and turned off the cassette player responsible for said music with a click and a quick, disgusted glance. Howard looked momentarily crestfallen, before seeming to shrug it off and pulling a pair of strange, wiggly scissors from his belt and tossing them to the table. There they gleamed brightly, the word branded on them in loud turquoise and magenta clearly visible: AquaBarber.
‘The AquaBarber? That’s my invention and all!’
A worldly sigh from Howard, and he patted the edge of the table ruefully. ‘I know that, Vince, and you know that, but Fossil stole ‘em from you; got ‘em patented.’
‘Bob Fossil.’ Vince groused, and Howard nodded as a fellow in oppression will do, conspiring against the tyrant behind his back.
Right as if on cue, the intercom blared into life and Bob Fossil’s grating American voice crackled out over the Zooniverse.
‘Hey, Howard Moon! Get your fat, homunculus ass down to my office right now! Or, or… I’ll set the guinea pigs on you- yeah!’ His voice softened markedly. ‘And if the senselessly gorgeous Vince Noir could accompany him to make sure he doesn’t set fire to himself, that’d be great. Over and out, commander!’
The two of them shared a brief look of exasperation, and Howard cast a spiteful glance at the intercom. “‘Over and out”?’ He echoed. ‘Where does he think he is?’
Vince shrugged laconically. ‘Dunno. Could be Vietnam, I reckon.’
‘Mmm.’ Howard agreed pensively, running his fingers along the sparse stubble that decorated his jawline. ‘That does seem to be a theme with him.’ He looked up at Vince suddenly, his expression intense. ‘You’re not going, are you?’
‘Me?’ Vince laughed. ‘Nah, I’m staying right here.’
Howard nodded decisively. ‘Good.’
‘What d’you mean, “good”? You’re going.’
‘Me, sir?’ Howard laid a hand over the breast of his Zooniverse jacket and bowed slightly at the waist, an expression of polite incredulity on his face. ‘And what, praytell, gives you that impression?’
Vince gave a little chuckle, eyeing the camera as though the answer ought to have been obvious. Which, of course, it was. At least to him, and everybody watching the camera. ‘Come on, Howard.’
Howard ‘Man of Action’ Moon was about to answer back with a retort both stinging, witty, and clever when the speaker crackled into wakefulness once more.
‘That means pronto, youse two! Remember, Moon, I’ve got those photos of you!’
In a twinkling, Howard was out of the hut and off toward Fossil’s office. Vince shook his head in amusement, laughing to himself.
‘Told you.’ He addressed the camera once again, shamelessly breaking the fourth wall, before turning back to the mirror and carefully fiddling with his hair. That finished, he hooked his thumbs through his belt loops and sauntered out after Howard, whistling ‘Dominion Day,’ by a certain Gary Numan.
Howard was already standing before Fossil’s desk, looking aggrieved, when Vince casually strolled in and nodded a greeting to both of them.
‘Hey Howard, hey Mr. Fossil!’
‘What took you so long?’ Howard hissed at Vince out of the corner of his mouth. ‘I’ve had to stand here-’
But he never got to say what precisely he had been forced to stand there doing, for Fossil suddenly realised that Vince had entered. ‘Vince!’ He cried, ‘Vince, my baby blue blanket boy, blue boo blanket baby, blanket boo, blue boy-’
He cut himself off with a jolt, and looked guardedly around at the room in general, before focussing his gaze on the two men before him, who looked back with practised innocence. Fossil glowered.
‘Youse two heard nothing, you understand?’
‘Nothing, of course. Definitely.’ They chorused together.
A suspicious nod from Fossil, and after a moment’s silence, Howard stepped forward slightly, his expression diplomatic. ‘Um, Mr. Fossil, could you tell us why exactly you sent for us? I’m sure both Vince and I have all manner of things we could be doing…’
‘Shut up, Moon!’ Fossil snapped, ‘When I want you to talk, I’ll shoot myself, okay? Now, Vincey-baby, listen good. The zoo’s doing crap, right? The way I see it, we got two options. Either you two go and find us some real good animals-’
‘What about Tony the Prawn?’ Vince cut in, looking hopeful, but Fossil dismissed him with a wave of one pudgy hand.
‘Yeah, yeah, Tony’s good, but he’s too small! He’s like half a freaking inch long! Anyway, he’s too intense for most of the public; stares right into their goddamn souls and they leave the place needing a shrink!’ He subsided with a few mutters of little blue boy, shaking his head. ‘Anyway, you two need to find us some real good animals, like a unicorn, or, like, a pickle with knees or something. Or else, if you can’t find anything, I need you to pose as the zoo’s adorable gay couple.’
Vince’s mouth fell open, and he looked so shocked that for a moment he was almost unattractive. Howard startled out of the torpor he had begun to fall into, and stared incredulously at Fossil. ‘What?!’
‘Yeah, I know a pickle with knees might be kinda hard to find, but-’
‘Actually, Mr. Fossil,’ Vince put in hastily, exchanging a quick look with his fellow zookeeper, ‘I think Howard meant the second bit.’
‘Oh, that?’ Fossil looked genuinely surprised that they might object. ‘Sure, sure; everybody loves a fag, right? It’ll be great publicity. But you don’t have to worry about that unless you fail so utterly that you can’t find a single freaking interesting animal!’
‘But, Mr. Fossil-’
‘Didn’t I tell you never to speak in my presence, Moon! Are you deaf as well as stupid? Jesus Christ!’
Howard bit his lip irritably, holding back the barrage of custom Moon-made insults he so longed to throw in Fossil’s self-satisfied face. Instead, he settled for a meek ‘Of course, Mr. Fossil.’
‘Right,’ Fossil said in the unmistakeable tone of one concluding the conversation. ‘Get back to me, Vince, if you can’t find any good animals, ok? But if you can’t, Moon, I’m demoting you to… Bat Valet!’
‘There’s no such position as Bat Valet, Mr. Fossil.’
‘Well then I’ll freaking invent it just for you! Now get lost before I swallow myself out of sheer disgust!’
Vince and Howard gladly did.
Howard was sulking. He’d pulled out his Author’s Pipe and was puffing dejectedly on it, occasionally letting his index finger fall listlessly to the ‘k’ key on his typewriter. The irregular tap-tap-tap only served to further his general ill humour. Vince, meanwhile, was completely oblivious, pacing the floor of the hut in great excitement.
‘Think of it, Howard! Us two on a quest for fantastical beasts, travelling to far off places… it’ll be ace!’
Howard glared a baleful glare at the Electro Poof. ‘Vince,’ he gritted out, ‘there are no such things as unicorns or… fire-breathing llamas, or pickles with knees!’
Vince shrugged and flopped himself down on the couch, grinning over at Howard. ‘How d’you know? You ever see one?’
‘I-’ Howard halted and stared at Vince. ‘What? No I have not, Vince.’
The younger man nodded with satisfaction. ‘Well there you go, innit?’
‘No!’ Vince, I- no, I’ve not seen them because they don’t exist! There’s no such thing!’
Vince, however, merely exhaled a superior little laugh and plugged in his earphones, turning on his Walkman with a click. In an instant, his eyes were closed and his fashionable, feather-cut head began to bob to the beat of the electro-glam that he so thrived on. Howard sighed and turned back to his typewriter. He took a deep and dramatic drag of pipe smoke and resolutely began to write:
Harold Sun was a great man. A maverick- nay, a Maverick. Casanova, novelist, musician, man of action, skilled rider of the penny farthing and organiser of stationery, he was the sort of man most men only ever dreamed of becoming. However, he now hovered on the brink of despair, faced with a task perhaps too great even for him. Impossible! you might cry, but even men like Harold Sun must someday sing their swan song. Now, trapped deep within his own tormented thoughts, he-
‘What!?’ Howard fairly exploded, rounding impatiently on Vince, who blinked back at him with wide-eyed ingenuousness. ‘Well?’ Howard urged.
‘Well…’ Vince chewed thoughtfully on a fingernail, drawing out the word as long as it could possibly be stretched, ‘We could go to Naboo, couldn’t we? See if he can do anything to sort us out.’
Howard brightened. ‘Naboo! Yeah, Naboo; if anyone’ll be able to help us, it’d be a shaman.’ He grinned at Vince, his foul mood evaporating in an instant. Vince matched his smile and topped it by several thousand watts.
Naboo was not immediately in evidence when Vince and Howard arrived at the shaman’s kiosk, and so it was (as ever) with some hesitance that they pushed their way through the beaded curtain in search of him. Howard coughed at the pungent smell of smoke which assaulted them as they entered, looking around for the tiny shaman. That is to say, Howard was looking for him; Vince was distracted by a large and impressive crystal which had been set on a side shelf, its many facets gleaming in the dim light.
Vince jumped like a startled gazelle and very nearly dropped the crystal as Naboo materialised behind him, looking cross.
‘You can’t just go about touching anything in here, Vince, it’s dangerous. There’s some serious shamanic artefacts in this kiosk, you know.’
A momentary expression of guilt flashed across Vince’s face, but it was soon replaced with a sort of impressed curiosity. ‘Oh yeah?’ He hefted the crystal in his hand, eyeing the minuscule shaman. ‘What’s this, then?’
Naboo regarded the crystal disinterestedly. ‘That? Crystal from the core of the forty-third incarnation of the planet Gallifrey.’ He answered. ‘It’s a spacio-temporal relocation link. Hardcore stuff.’
Howard paused and looked sideways at Naboo, his brow furrowed in confusion, but Vince merely snorted. ‘Bollocks it is!’ He laughed. ‘That’s out Doctor Who, and you know it. What’s it really do?’
‘Dunno.’ Naboo shrugged. ‘Could be anything, I reckon. I haven’t performed any of the necessary tests on it yet.’
Nevertheless, he found it prudent to relieve Vince of the crystal, on the off-chance that it actually was something important. Even a shaman like Naboo, after all, whose great ambition was to work at Dixon’s, occasionally managed to get a hold of serious magical items. On the whole, it was probably a wise decision.
‘So,’ he said, seating himself on the sofa and lighting the hookah with a flick of his fingers, ‘What’ve you two done now?’
Naboo very nearly smirked as Vince and Howard objected in perfect tandem. ‘Fine,’ he conceded, ‘What d’you need, then?’
‘Yeah, that’s what I thought.’
It was a rushed, interrupted, and much-garbled tale, but eventually the two got out the story of Bob Fossil’s ridiculous demand of them. Naboo looked thoughtful, and settled back into the cushions, taking a pensive draw on the hookah and sending unsteady smoke rings up to the silk-draped ceiling. Vince and Howard hovered rather awkwardly. After several long moments, punctuated by the gurglings of the hookah, and stoned coughs from the smoker thereof, Naboo spoke.
‘I got it.’ He sat upright, and wiggled a few bejewelled fingers at Howard. ‘Howard, stand there- no- there. Right.’ He glanced ‘round the kiosk and rolled his neck. The vertebrae popped and snapped.
‘Vince, get out the way.’ He warned. Howard, by this point, was looking distinctly nervous, and eyed Vince in a silent plea for help as he edged over to the wall. ‘I do know what I’m doing, Howard,’ Naboo added, nodding at the Jazz Maverick and looking a bit miffed that Howard should have any doubts about this. ‘It’s just a delicate procedure, is all.’
‘Mmm.’ Howard nodded, forcing a smile onto his face.
‘Right.’ Naboo nodded. ‘Now: let the magic commence!’
He fished a square of paper out of the pocket of his robe and unfolded it to reveal a small pile of glittering pink powder. This he held in front of his face, muttered a few unintelligible syllables, and then blew with all the power of his tiny lungs. The glitter puffed out in a great, shimmering cloud, dancing in the air about Howard until Naboo clicked his fingers. At this point, every speck of dust exploded as though it had been a miniature firework, enveloping Howard’s figure in a brilliant mass of pink sparks and flares, complete with those annoying whistling noises such things make.
When the fireworks died away into dying embers and trails of grey against the retinas of those watching, Vince gaped. Where Howard had been there now stood an attractive, alternative-looking young man with wide brown eyes, a slope of a nose, and a pleasing, pouty mouth. His short hair was spiked and dyed crimson, and rings and studs of every description decorated his ears; across the front of his very tight t-shirt was the swipe of an appliqu� rainbow, and under the hems of his flared denim trousers could be seen green vinyl boots with chunky rubber soles.
Naboo gave a little nod, giving every appearance of being entirely satisfied with his work.
Howard, for his part, blinked around himself. He felt… different, somehow, though he couldn’t say why exactly. His vision seemed a little better, and looking around him it seemed for a moment as though he was unfamiliar with the interior of Naboo’s kiosk. Hmph. Stuff and nonsense, that was all it was, and he wasn’t going to distract himself with it. What was different, however, was the way Vince was looking at him; it was a look Howard had seen many times turned on this girl or that, but which was utterly unnerving when aimed at himself. It was an interested, almost predatory look; one eyebrow arched, the lips slightly parted, tongue visible running over the tip of one canine. Howard swallowed.
‘Wow, Howard,’ Vince said eventually, looking a bit dumbstruck, ‘You are well fit!’
He bounded about Howard like an excited puppy (or perhaps a ravenous wolf, Howard couldn’t quite decide which) as if he wanted to get a glimpse of him from all sides. He seemed curiously fixated on Howard’s arse, even giving it a firm little caress on his way back ‘round to the front. Howard jumped, nervier than ever when his first impulse was to grab Vince, pull his body flush against Howard’s, and whisper something filthy into his ear. Shoving that admittedly enticing image out of his brain, he turned on Naboo.
‘What’ve you done to me?’
He fairly leapt when his voice came out as a light tenor with a Welsh accent, and Naboo smirked. ‘Only solved your problem is all. I’ve switched your body for a Camden boy named Neil. His boyfriend’s probably well freaked out right now.’
In a panic, Howard rushed to the first mirror he could find, uttering a little shriek and clutching his mouth in utter horror at the sight that met him there.
‘I look like an Electro Ponce,’ he muttered, staring, transfixed, at his reflection, ‘I look like one of Vince’s groupies. Oh god, no, Vince, I look like someone you’d have it off with!’
Unseen behind him, Vince’s eyebrow elevated itself further into his fringe, and he continued eyeing Howard appreciatively. ‘Tell me about it.’ He muttered.
Howard tugged frantically on his spiked vermillion hair, as if he could pull this new body off if only he tried hard enough. ‘Naboo,’ he said, and to his consternation it came out as a whine, ‘Naboo, you have to get me out of this body! You have to get me out now! We meant… help finding fantastic beasts, not help with us becoming the gay figureheads for the zoo. We can figure it out ourselves, just- please- return me to… me.’
Naboo sighed and propped his hands on his hips, looking put upon. ‘That was valuable stuff I used on you and all. You sure you don’t want to keep it? Neil’s loads better looking than you.’
‘My look, Naboo, is a strong and individual look; I will not suffer myself to look like every other resident of Camden Town.’
The words, however, didn’t quite have the same ring when spoken by a flamboyant young Welshman, and Vince and Naboo had to struggle to disguise their giggles. Naboo succeeded; Vince didn’t, and Howard glowered at him.
‘Sure, Howard,’ said Naboo, unimpressed, ‘Just stand there a moment more, yeah, so I can undo the spell.’
He shook out his sleeves and intoned a few more suitably mystical-sounding words, there was a pregnant pause and the air seemed to fairly hum with magic… and absolutely nothing happened. The silence turned from pregnant to distinctly awkward.
The petite shaman’s brow creased in confusion, and he heaved a heavy tome up from a nearby table and began flicking through it while Howard wrung Neil-from-Camden’s beautiful young hands in anxiety.
‘Hurry up!’ He cried after a moment. ‘I can’t spend the rest of my life like this!’
‘Cool it, Howard.’ Vince put a hand on Howard’s shoulder. ‘Naboo’s got it down, yeah? Just give him a moment.’
And indeed it did take but a moment before Naboo clapped a hand to his forehead, clicking his tongue against the back of his teeth. It was clear he’d found the answer to Howard’s predicament. The shaman nodded once again to Vince.
‘Oi, Vince, give Howard a bit of a snog, will you?’
For the second time that afternoon, Howard’s voice reached pitches usually reserved for members of the Vienna Boys’ Choir or castrati, and he stared at Naboo, who rolled his eyes.
‘A lot of spells have a kiss as their trigger.’ He explained, with the air of someone having to be extremely patient with a particularly dull toddler. ‘Doesn’t have to be with tongues or anything- just a kiss.’
Howard crossed his arms across his chest, pouting attractively, but Vince gave him a matey sort of clap on the shoulder. ‘Just a tiny kiss, Howard, come on. It’s no big deal, right? We’re mates; a kiss between mates is nothing. Anyway,’ he grinned wickedly, ‘You’ve done worse when you’re off your tits. “Get in me wheelbarra, ya cheeky vixen! I’m comin’ atcha like a Northern bullet, and ya love it!”’
He affected an exaggerated Northern accent, letting his arms hang down and leering at Howard, who flushed. Vince marvelled; this Neil fellow whose body Howard was currently inhabiting even blushed prettily. Much like himself, really.
‘Shut it, little man.’ Howard warned, but Vince just grinned.
‘You ready for this, Howard? Think you can take it? My kisses are full of electro-pop and sunshine, you know. Might be allergic.’
Howard looked down at himself with a slight grimace. ‘Not in this body, I don’t think.’ He muttered glumly, fluttering hesitant fingertips over his new, flat stomach. Vince, in stark contrast, looked thrilled.
And before Howard could say anything else, Vince kissed him. It was surprisingly gentle, Vince’s hands on either side of Howard’s face, leaning up into his body, the kiss soft and lingering. In this body, Howard’s first impulse was to open his mouth under Vince’s, feel the slide of his tongue against Howard’s, perhaps to skate a hand down to the waistband of Vince’s ridiculously tight trousers, pull the slighter man snug against him and show him what a real man was like. Before he could act on the urge, however, there was a dry, spluttering sound like a firework dying, and in an instant, Howard was Howard again. He blinked at Vince, who was still kissing him, his eyes shut, lashes just brushing the angle of his sharp cheekbones. It occurred to Howard that he looked almost angelic.
A moment later, it occurred to him that he was kissing Vince Noir. He jumped back as though he’d been scorched, and Vince’s eyes flew open. For the briefest of moments, there was something like hurt shining in them, but the something was soon buried under the smile which crinkled his whole face.
‘Howard!’ He cried gleefully, ‘You’re back!’
Meanwhile, in a flat near Camden…
A twenty four year old artist-cum-musician-cum-male escort named Neil frantically patted his hands all over his body to make sure that it had returned to its ordinary state. For no apparent reason, for several terrifying minutes he had turned into a paunchy, middle-aged man in some kind of uniform jacket and tweed trousers, with a moustache and uncombed hair. He breathed a deep sigh of relief, allowing himself to fall backwards onto his sofa, which was upholstered luxuriantly in lime green shag.
‘Oh, thank the goddess,’ he muttered, closing his eyes. This had better not give him stress lines, that was all.
His boyfriend Lucien crept over from the corner he had leapt to when the sudden transformation had taken place. ‘Are you… normal?’ He asked hesitantly.
‘Oh, good. That was well bizarre, Neil; don’t make a habit of it, yeah?’
Neil scowled. ‘I didn’t bloody do it on purpose, you know.’
But Back With the Heroes of Our Story…
‘Howard!’ Vince cried gleefully, ‘You’re back!’
‘I am! I’m back!’
Howard’s laugh was more than a little exultant as he looked down at himself, returned to his ordinary tiny shrew eyes and cappuccino stain moustache, broad frame, worn-in workboots, and dirt under the fingernails. He looked around the kiosk elatedly. ‘That’s right! I’m Howard Moon, ladies and gents, comin’ atcha like a beam, like a ray, like a buzzard! Check me out; chicka chickow!’
It must be said that at this point, Vince’s grin did waver slightly, but he was genuinely glad to see Howard returned to his normal self, so really it was nothing more than an uncontrollable muscle spasm.
Howard rejoiced for a few more moments, even letting himself bust a few of his scat singing chops on the unsuspecting kiosk, before he exchanged a look with Vince and they both turned back to Naboo. The shaman, who had since returned to his hookah, gave them a look of deepest indifference.
‘You want help finding a unicorn, then?’ He asked, ‘You do know they don’t exist.’
‘They-’ But Howard placed a strategic hand over Vince’s mouth before he could say anything rash.
‘Yes.’ He put in hastily, shooting a quelling glance at his companion. ‘We do. D’you have anything? Any… lotions or potions? Mystical amulets? A map?’
Naboo shrugged. ‘Dunno. You could try that crystal Vince was mucking about with earlier. I gotta go, though; I got loads of stuff to do, and the Board of Shaman’re all being ballbags about me taking advantage of my shamanic licence.’
Vince flashed the shaman a dazzling smile, having not heard any of the second part of what he’d said. ‘Genius, Naboo. See?’ He turned to Howard, tripping backwards towards the shelf where the crystal had been stowed. ‘I knew I was on to something. You ought to listen to me more, Howard; I’m a gifted child.’
‘Course you are, Vince.’
‘Bloody right. I’m a shiny boy. Now,’ he peered at the crystal short-sightedly, ‘How d’we get this thing to work, then?’
Howard shrugged. ‘Give it a kiss? Worked last time.’
Vince looked from Howard back to the crystal before seeming to decide that it was at least worth a go. He could even see his reflection in the thing, so it couldn’t be as bad as all that. A moment later, he’d launched himself at the crystal in a full blown snog, eyes shut and tongue gliding over the smooth surface. Howard’s face twisted in a grimace, and he was about to tell Vince to get a room, that that wasn’t exactly what he meant, when there was a ping and the two of them disappeared, leaving nothing more than the distinct smell of burnt toast.
Vince was still kissing the crystal with a disturbing amount of passion when the two of them reappeared. Howard prodded him hard in the shoulder, looking around himself with his tiny eyes so wide they almost might have belonged to an ordinary person. Vince wiped the saliva from the crystal, looking around himself with interest. It seemed to be daylight, but the sky was a curious violet colour, and there were two distinct suns in the sky, each with a bluish cast to them. Vince and Howard were themselves standing on a vast, grassy sward, overshadowed by massive standing stones which loomed ominously overhead.
‘Where d’you reckon we are, then?’
Howard sighed and stuck his hands in his pockets. ‘Dunno, little man. Only one way to find out, though, yeah?’
He grinned at Vince, who smiled back and stuck the crystal in the pocket of his jacket, looking about the strange landscape around them in anticipation. ‘Genius. We’ll be explorers- just like that time in the Arctic, Howard!’
The Jazz Maverick’s gaze was nothing short of chilling. ‘If you remember, Vince, that ended with me almost freezing to death while you got chummy with a polar bear, and then being publicly shamed when the Egg of Mantumbi turned out to be a fake.’
‘But, you know, the exploring bit was well cool. You got to be all sort of rugged and manly and whatever, didn’t you? Man of Action Moon! And I got to break out the glam rock ski suit.’
‘I burned that, Vince.’
‘You what!?’ Vince squawked.
‘Mmm, yeah. Burned it. It was offending me tastes, little man; I was in a jazz trance, I was deep in the juju, and when I came to…’ He shook his head, indicating the fate of the unfortunate ski suit. ‘The jazz spoke, Vince; there was nothing I could do.’
Vince was not appeased. He was, in fact, about to make that abundantly clear, when suddenly a voice spoke from behind them.
‘Hello. You’re late, you know.’
It was a female voice, light and dreamy, and it sounded absent and somehow whimsical, as though the speaker was lost deep in her own thoughts. The two men leapt about with a great start, staring around themselves for the source of the voice.
‘Over here, boys.’
By the foot of one of the great standing stones stood a girl, maybe nineteen years of age, with a pale, pointed face, straight red hair that fell to her waist, and wide grey eyes; her posture was curiously straight, and her hands hung loose at her side. Vince grimaced when he saw what she was wearing; loose, dark blue cotton trousers and a voluminous, long-sleeved shirt of the same material. They looked like pyjamas or hospital scrubs and, Vince couldn’t help thinking, they did absolutely nothing for her figure.
However, he abstained from saying this, and instead gave the girl a cheery smile. ‘Alright? Who’re you, then?’
She smiled a shy smile at the ground, as young girls tended to do around Vince. ‘I’m called Victoria. I know who you are, of course, and your partner.’
If either of them thought her choice of word to describe Howard a bit odd, they didn’t comment on it. Howard himself was too caught up in his momentary, hasty grooming of his hair and moustache, and Vince, well- he wasn’t too good with words, after all.
‘Victoria?’ Howard cut in, stepping forward with a final, discreet smoothing of his moustache. ‘What a charming name. For, I’m sure, a charming young lady. Are you interested in, ah, bookmarks at all? Trumpets, perhaps?’
Vince gave him a quick shoulder. ‘Shove off, you batty crease.’ He muttered, ‘Last thing she needs is your twisted attempts at smooth talking. Hey, Vicky,’ he focussed his attention on the girl, felicitously drawing her attention away from Howard. ‘Where are we, exactly?’
She gave a tinkling little laugh. ‘Where else could be you, silly?’
‘Um, no really; where are we?’
‘Surrey, of course.’
There was a pause, and Vince and Howard looked at Victoria with mouths hanging open ever so slightly, before turning as one to look around themselves, brows furrowed.
‘Does this look like Surrey to you, Howard?’
‘Never been to Surrey.’
Vince rolled his eyes. ‘Does it look like England, you muppet?’
‘What d’you reckon, then? Parallel universe? Wouldn’t be the first time for that.’
‘Mmm,’ Howard nodded absently. ‘Or just coincidence. Doesn’t really look very parallel to me.’ He waved a vague hand, encompassing the weirdly-coloured sky and the two blue suns, and really everything else about the place which looked decidedly not like England.
Vince had to concede he had a fair point there.
Victoria, meanwhile, looked at them, unimpressed, arms akimbo. ‘Are you nearly done?’
‘Oh, yeah I s’pose-’
Before Vince could finish, however, Howard clapped a broad hand over his smile and looked down at Victoria with what he imagined to be magisterial import. ‘We are not, young lady. I for one would like to ask you a few questions before we go anywhere.’
She looked unimpressed. ‘Oh?’
‘Yes, “oh.” What are we late for, first of all, and second, how do you know who we are?’
She gave a shrug, and then a sudden bright grin, almost disarming in its abruptness. ‘Not late for anything in particular,’ she said with a tilt of the head. ‘Just late. But you!’ And here her face seemed to glow, in what was frankly a rather alarming manner. ‘You’ve been fated to come here! There was a prophesy made, in the dark times, centuries and centuries ago, that the beautiful one- the Electro Poof- should come, and with his lover, the Maverick, they should bring this world to rights!’
Vince and Howard exchanged a glance. Vince looked down and began worrying at his lower lip. Victoria continued, now quite jubilant.
‘And I saw you! I knew you’d be coming, for I saw that you were on your way; I’m a seer, you see, I have the Sight, and I knew-’
‘Um, Vicky…’ Vince held up a hand to stop her, the other fidgeting awkwardly with a beltloop. ‘You’ve got us wrong, yeah? Me and Howard, we’re zookeepers. And we just got here by accident, really. We’re on a quest for fantastic beasts, you know- gryphons and pickles with knees- mental stuff like that; it’s well exciting. So… we’ve not really got time to go setting the world to rights.
‘And also, we’re not lovers.’ Howard put in hastily, with what he imagined to be a debonair little smile and a nod at Victoria. ‘Howard T.J. Moon is most definitely of the heterosexual persuasion.’
Far from seeming pleased or reassured, however, her head snapped up suddenly and she stared at Vince and Howard with an expression bordering on horror written on her face. ‘You’re… straight?’ She whispered, as if afraid to say the word out loud. The two men blinked at her, nonplussed.
‘But you’re the Chosen Ones!’ She sounded genuinely distraught. ‘I Saw you! You’re the Chosen Ones, you can’t be straight!’
‘Well,’ Vince gave a nervous little chuckle, ‘I swing both ways, y’know, but me and Howard, we’re not together or anything.’
‘Oh,’ she breathed, her face carefully blank, ‘Oh dear… Oh, this is not good. This is very, very not good.’
Vince and Howard exchanged a quick look of confusion, and after a moment of silent conversation, involving bizarre eyebrow wiggles from Howard and confused looks from Vince, Vince bent in to speak. ‘How d’you mean? I mean… we’re just normal, yeah? Nothing wrong with us.’
Victoria shook her head vehemently. ‘You must go! As quickly as ever you can. If the elders knew that you were breeders…’
‘Breeders?’ Howard’s voice was an indignant yelp, and Vince clapped a hand over his mouth, shooting him a glare.
‘So,’ he said pointedly, trying to cover Howard’s shout, ‘Um, what’s wrong with being straight? ‘Cos like, where we’re from, it’s definitely what’s normal. I mean, bisexual chic is well in, but really you just have to be gorgeous to work that look, it doesn’t actually require, y’know, being bi.’
The girl was backing away from the two of them though, shaking her head, and adamantly refused to say anything.
Howard shouted after her. ‘Oh, come on! At least tell us what’s wrong with it! What kind of a place is this?’ He added in an undertone to Vince. ‘Being straight’s a bad thing?’
Vince, however, did not hear Howard. He was instead pointing towards the standing stones all around them, his mouth hanging open and his blue eyes wide. Howard’s brow furrowed, and he turned to look towards where Vince was pointing. When he did so, he leapt backwards practically into Vince, who stumbled. From behind every stone there had emerged a figure clad in long purple robes, all of whom were currently advancing towards Vince and Howard in a decidedly menacing fashion.
‘Oh god, I can’t die! I’ve got so much to give! Don’t kill me, don’t kill me, don’t-’
Vince elbowed him in the ribs, and Howard fell silent, his face uncrinkling somewhat. ‘What can we do?’ Vince hissed. Howard was too overtaken by despair to give him an answer.
A voice rang out then, deep and arresting, and both men swivelled ‘round, staring. The voice had come from what was apparently the leader of the group. He was a chubby, bearded man, who- after a moment of inspection- actually looked bizarrely like Bob Fossil. Bob Fossil, however, had never commanded that much power and terror.
‘It is a bad thing, Howard Moon,’ he boomed, ‘because it is against all the laws of our people! It is unholy- a perversion of nature! The last of the breeders were driven from our land decades ago, and none dare trespass here again for fear of conversion!’
‘Conversion?’ Howard gulped.
‘Conversion,’ the leader agreed darkly. ‘A simple scientific process; an injection to rewrite the human genetic code. After two hours, the person in question is fully homosexual, just as they ought to be.’
Howard’s legs had begun to carry him backwards, entirely without his say-so, simply out of sheer terror. He was caught by the shoulders as he backed up, however, by two other purple-robed figures who had crept up behind them. He looked over and saw that Vince was in a similar position, looking with some concern between his two captors.
‘Hey now, Mr…’ Vince shouted to the leader, halting when he realised that he didn’t know what to call him.
‘Bartholomew.’ The man said.
‘Right. Bartholomew! You don’t have to do that, really, ‘cos I fancy blokes already, and Howard never pulls anyway, so it don’t matter!’
‘Vince!’ Howard hissed, looking insulted, but Vince cast him a scornful look.
‘I just say it like it is, small eyes.’
The leader glowered at him. ‘It is a matter of principle, Electro Poof! You will both be converted before the moon sets! Men!’
And indeed, it was not more than a few minutes before Vince and Howard were trussed up at the base of one of the standing stones, proper captives before the purple-clad men who loomed above them. The red haired girl, Howard noticed, was standing towards the back, looking rather sad.
‘We will return when we have fetched the serum.’ The leader intoned, staring down at the two of them gravely. ‘Then we’ll see how you feel about things in the morning. Hah!’
The crowd of men around him laughed sycophantically, and then with a final jeer at Vince and Howard, they left. Victoria hovered for a moment more, not looking at the two captives, and then fled, looking positively tragic. Vince let his head fall back against the rock, grimacing at the thunk that resulted when he did.
‘Genius.’ He muttered. ‘Just brilliant.’
Overhead, in the velvet-dark sky, the moon swivelled around with a sound like stone on stone to reveal a grinning face. ‘When you are the moon,’ it began, ‘When you are the moon- you’s all sorts of sizes! There’s… the full moon, and then sometimes there’s a little sliver of moon, and then there’s all sorts of sizes in- in between! I’s talking to Venus the other day, and he was all in me face about how I can’t buy clothes or nothing since I’m always all changing. ‘Cos I got a great fashion sense, but you wouldn’t ever know, ‘cos I’ve got to go about starkers all the time. Maybe- maybe I’ll start a fashion line. I could call it…. The Moon.’
It grinned broadly. ‘I’m the moon.’
‘How long’s it been?’ Howard asked, turning lethargically to look at Vince, who shrugged, not tearing his gaze away from the full moon.
‘Since they stuck us with their gay-making stuff? Dunno. Hour, hour and a half.’
‘Mmm.’ Howard murmured absently.
He’d put up quite a fight when the purple-clad men had returned, the weird Bob Fossil lookalike at their head, bearing with them an inlaid wooden case which they’d then opened to reveal a set of formidable looking syringes filled with green liquid. The liquid had bubbled and fizzed in the moonlight, and looking at it, Howard had suddenly been taken with that fear that lies within all straight men, that need to protect his manhood, and had gone absolutely mental. Vince had stared as Howard bucked and yelled and flailed wildly about, genuinely impressed. Before long, though, they’d managed to pin him back down and a needle had been plunged into the vein in the crook of his elbow and the contents of the syringe emptied into his bloodstream. Vince had gone more quietly, with a naughty little grin at the man who’d stuck him, as though he knew something they didn’t.
After they’d been injected, the men had removed their bonds. After all, as the leader had remarked sneeringly, there was nothing they could do about it now, and running certainly wouldn’t change things.
Howard now was filled with despair, in the true fashion of jazz poets everywhere. In anywhere between thirty minutes and an hour, he would no longer be Howard Moon as the world had known him. No longer would he spend hours carefully plotting his path to intersect with Mrs. Gideon’s, no longer would he charm girls watching at the porpoise derbies or ensnare passing females with his moustache and jazz stylings. He would be a gay. Not, of course, that there was anything wrong with being gay, Howard reflected, his eyes still absently on Vince. He recalled how Vince had looked at him earlier, when he had been in the body of that tart from Camden; the arch of one eyebrow, those slightly parted lips, showing sharp incisors and the barest glimpse of pink tongue… He remembered how it had felt to have Vince’s lips on his, his hands soft against Howard’s cheeks, and later, the obscene slide of his tongue over the crystal as he kissed it, all wet and enthusiastic-
Howard startled hugely, snapping out of his reverie. Vince was gazing intently at him, and Howard felt himself flush hotly under his scrutiny. Vince blinked a little, looking momentarily confused, before laying his head on Howard’s shoulder.
‘You think we’re gonna be ok, Howard?’ He asked, sounding suddenly incredibly young. Howard felt abruptly ashamed for what he’d been thinking about. He looked down at Vince and tried to smile for him.
‘I dunno, little man. We’ll come out, I reckon. We usually do.’
Vince grinned hesitantly, looking a little brighter. ‘We’ll be, y’know, gay, though. You okay with that? You’re lookin’ pretty chill about all this.’
Howard looked up at the moon, grimacing a little. ‘Not like we have any choice about it, is it? I might be upset, Vince, but a man of my calibre and strength learns not to show these things; he learns to be stoic and firm.’
‘You remember when we were in the Arctic, Howard?’
A mirthless snort from Howard. ‘I’d have a hard job forgetting, wouldn’t I?’
‘But… when we were all tied up like this,’ Vince pressed, ‘waiting for the Black Frost in that cave, yeah? You remember that?’
Howard had a nasty feeling that he knew exactly what was coming, and something twisted uncomfortably in his stomach. Clearly, the bubbling green concoction had got to Vince more quickly than Howard. Not surprising, really, given how small Vince was, how quick to sway with the tides of whim and fashion. He was just a silly little slip of a thing, when it came down to it. A sudden swelling feeling blossomed in Howard’s chest- the desire to hold Vince close to him, to protect him from the world; after all, he was Vince’s mentor; Vince needed him, needed strong, Northern Howard to look after him. He smiled a quiet smile and looked down at Vince’s head on his shoulder.
‘Yep. I remember the moment well.’
‘Well, we got out then, even when we thought we were due for an early end by way of the Black Frost’s horrible icy crotch, yeah? He was all wuahhh, whatever, but we got out anyway. We’ll do it now; I know we will.’
‘You think so, little man?’
And indeed Vince was smiling at the very thought, his head up off Howard’s shoulder, lost in silent thought. His eyes glowed in the moonlight, and Howard imagined he could feel emerald liquid seeping through his veins, messing with his genetics. It was because of that, that was all. He couldn’t control it, couldn’t help but notice how the light brought out highlights in Vince’s impeccable hair, the delectable curvature of his lips…
Howard hesitated for a moment, weighing things in his head. ‘Hey Vince?’
‘That time in the Arctic?’
‘The one I was just talking about.’
‘The one you were just talking about, yeah.’
Vince cocked his head to one side, looking like nothing so much as a budgerigar. ‘What of it?’
Howard swallowed heavily, his Adam’s apple bobbing conspicuously. ‘D’you remember what I said?’
Somehow, they were now so close that their foreheads bumped, and while Vince’s beautiful blue eyes strained up to meet Howard’s gaze, Howard stared resolutely at the ground. Vince’s voice was a hoarse murmur when he answered. ‘Yeah.’
But he couldn’t find anything to say, and he fell silent. One of his hands found its way up to cup Vince’s face, and they stayed that way for a long moment. Eventually, Vince spoke, and his voice crackled a little from the silence.
‘You’re a berk.’
And with that, he launched himself at Howard, kissing him for all he was worth. Howard let out a strangled sound which might have been ‘Meep!’ had it not been muffled by Vince’s tongue in his mouth, but Vince had already clambered up into his lap, holding him fast against the rough, dry surface of the standing stone. Vince was kissing him, his hands on either side of his face, just as they had been before, fingers oh-so-light slipping into his hairline, mouth hot and open and wet against Howard’s, and suddenly nothing in the world was as important as kissing him back.
He really didn’t know how, was the only problem, but he matched Vince’s motions as best he could, slipping out his tongue to brush, hesitant, against Vince’s, and letting out a choked, surprised moan when Vince sucked lightly at it. Vince grinned into the kiss and did it again, and the moan this time was a little breathier, and it buzzed between their lips. Vince tasted of alcopops and sunshine and sugar, and all Howard’s worries about not knowing how to do this were lost in wet heat and the sensation of flesh sliding smoothly along flesh.
His hands found themselves halfway down Vince’s back, pulling him closer, and Vince arched against the touch, his hips rocking against Howard’s. Ah. Hips rocking. Yes. That was going to be something Howard was going to need to see to soon, because he’d gotten hard so quickly it was almost frightening, and every moment of contact with Vince’s own tightly-clad crotch caused little explosions of pleasure to go off behind Howard’s eyes. But for now he had Vince Noir in his lap, snogging him, writhing against him like a teenager and making the most adorable mewling sounds in the back of his throat that just made Howard melt.
‘Vince!’ He muttered into the kiss, and Vince pulled back, looking at Howard with dark eyes.
‘What?’ He breathed.
Howard rocked his hips impatiently upwards, and Vince let out a little groan, a low, lip-bitten noise, his head tipping forward, forehead knocking against Howard’s.
‘That’s what.’ Howard murmured frantically. ‘If you don’t-’
But Vince didn’t need to be told. In an instant, his fingers were at the catch of Howard’s trousers, pulling the zip down eagerly and freeing Howard’s painfully hard prick, shoving his pants and trousers down ‘round his ankles where Howard hastily kicked them away. He leaned in again for another hungry kiss and then, lithe as an otter, slid down until he was on a level with Howard’s arousal. Howard’s breath caught in his throat at the sight of it; Vince’s fashionable, feather-cut head hovering between his thighs, his breath hot and unbearably teasing against his erection.
His head was spinning with arousal, but he stuttered down at Vince, ‘You don’t- god- I mean, you don’t have to if you don’t-’ His protestations were weak, but somewhere in back of his head, Howard felt that it was the gentlemanly thing to do.
But Vince just smirked up at him. ‘But I do want, Howard,’ he murmured lowly, and flicked his flat, pink tongue over the tip of Howard’s prick. Howard groaned loudly.
‘Please, Vince! You trying to drive me mad?’
The little bastard grinned again in a way that said- Only a little. Thankfully, however, he decided to take mercy on Howard, and after a moment to take a breath, he slid down over Howard’s cock, down as far as he could take it. Which, as far as Howard could tell, was really surprisingly far. He let out a yowl of pleasure, his toes curling inside his boots, and Vince had to take a hold of his hips to keep Howard from thrusting into his mouth with complete abandon.
The sheer pleasure of this was fantastic- transcendent. No wank in the world could ever measure up to how this felt, the wet heat of Vince’s mouth, the pleased little humming sounds he was making around Howard’s cock. Howard wondered briefly, with what mental capacities he had left, why on earth he’d stayed a virgin for so long, when there were things like this he could have been doing.
‘Shit!’ He hissed, ‘Oh, fuck, Vince! God-’
Vince was really far, far too good at this; Howard’s cock halfway down his throat, he swallowed around it, sucking up and down, deep and wet and oh holy fuck, before pulling back to lick around and around the oversensitive head. By this point, Howard had been effectively reduced to a cursing, moaning mass of nerve endings, and when one of Vince’s hands slid down to cup at his bollocks, gently nudging and massaging the skin just behind them, it was just too much. The heat in his balls imploded and he came with fantastic force, his head thrown back and hands tugging heedlessly on Vince’s carefully-styled coiffure.
Vince swallowed around Howard, then leaned back on his heels and spat the rest out onto the ground. Howard thought he had never looked quite so fantastic in his life, with his lips red and wet, and his hair dishevelled and reaching incredible heights. �ber-Mod would have been proud.
However, Vince had not been taken care of yet, and he bounced back into Howard’s lap with another lengthy kiss; so deep it seemed like he was trying to lick his way right into Howard’s body and mind. ‘Come on!’ He whined, rocking his arousal into Howard’s thigh, ‘I’m gonna die if I don’t get off, Howard!’
Howard might have made some comment about how he hardly thought Vince was going to die, but it seemed that the least he could do was pay Vince back in kind, so he set about trying to tug off Vince’s jeans. They seemed to be practically welded to Vince’s legs, however, so he settled for just getting the zip down. While Howard was doing this, Vince tugged off his own t-shirt, baring his chest for Howard to lean in and pepper a trail of awkward, open-mouthed kisses over his shoulder as he took Vince’s cock in his hand. The angle was weird, and once again, Howard had very little idea what he was doing, but he concentrated on the motion- it was sort of like the backwards cousin of a wank- and focussed his attentions instead on biting his way along Vince’s collarbone.
His moustache tickled over the sensitive skin, and Vince’s gasps and moans were interspersed with giggles and wide, blissed-out smiles. This only made Howard work him harder, his other hand slipping down Vince’s back to clutch at the smooth skin of his arse, caressing and kneading at it.
It wasn’t long before Vince reached his own peak, though it was at least longer than Howard had taken. Vince, after all, was no virgin. Howard laid a final, sucking kiss to the base of Vince’s neck before running a finger up the underside of his prick, something Howard himself liked. At that, Vince let out an unashamed moan, and his hips bowed up into Howard’s touch as he spilled himself over his hand before his whole body went loose and relaxed.
After a moment clinging to each other, Vince smiled hugely and flung himself to the ground, sprawled out and looking utterly comfortable, even with his flies still undone and his cheeks flushed with exertion. Really, he took up an inordinate amount of space for someone so small. His skinny chest was naked and white in the moonlight as it rose and fell with his shallow, shaking breaths.
‘God!’ He laughed, ‘Finally, Howard!’
Howard blinked at him whilst simultaneously trying to scramble to get his pants and trousers back up. Unlike Vince, he was incredibly awkward in any amount of nakedness. Once he’d got dressed, he settled next to Vince, even daring to run a finger along the feathered edge of his hair. ‘What d’you mean, finally?’
Vince just laughed again, shaking his head. ‘Took you long enough, you bumberclarke.’
Howard shook his head; surely that wasn’t right. But it was, and he could hardly believe what he was hearing. Had Vince… wanted him? Had he pined the same way Howard had pined so long after Mrs. Gideon? Could this be more than just a chemically induced accident of genetics? He looked at Vince wonderingly. ‘How long have you… you know, wanted that?’
‘God, since like, this morning!’
Howard’s wonder ceased immediately, and he dealt Vince a little swot to the side of the head. Vince grimaced up at him. ‘What was that for?’
‘Since this morning…’ Howard muttered irritably.
‘And why not?’
‘Why this morning?’ Howard queried, looking curiously at Vince. Uncharacteristically, he blushed and glanced down, looking almost shy.
‘Dunno,’ he muttered noncommittally. ‘‘Cos we kissed, I suppose.’
Howard was unconvinced. ‘Yeah, but at the time, I was in the body of some electro strumpet from Camden.’
‘Well yeah,’ Vince agreed awkwardly, ‘But it was you and all, wasn’t it? He would’ve been able to tell when I was flirting!’ He added sharply, pointing an accusatory finger at Howard, who laid a hand on his chest, looking offended.
‘Flirting?’ He echoed. ‘Howard Moon knows when someone’s a-courting, Vince, and you most certainly were not.’
Vince propped himself up on his elbows, looking at Howard fondly. ‘Oh, come on. I was being bloody obvious about it and all.’
‘Obvious?’ Howard arched a disbelieving eyebrow, and Vince spread his hands, looking down at himself like it ought to have been clear what he was talking about.
‘I’m wearing fuchsia, you sexy git! Look at me shirt! Everyone knows fuchsia’s well flirty. It’s a total message whenever anyone wears fuchsia. Magenta too, but not quite as much. And it took you a good day to figure that out.’ He shook his head. ‘Don’t think I’ve ever had to wait that long for anyone before.’
Howard ordinarily would have said something scathing, perhaps something about the persistence of love, about waiting for years on end even to get a glance, but looking at Vince he could only shake his head and laugh. ‘You,’ he pronounced, leaning in to kiss Vince firmly on the lips, ‘are a complete nutjob.’
Vince gave him a cheeky wink. ‘But you love me anyway.’
‘Yeah, little man. Yeah I do.’
‘You know what the weird thing is, though?’
Howard looked at him expectantly, and Vince grinned conspiratorially, leaning in a bit. ‘That stuff they injected us with last night; that wasn’t real. I sneakily replaced it with Saturn Juice. Imagine that!’
‘Oh- wait, what?!’ Howard bore a striking resemblance to someone who’d been walloped ‘round the face with a cricket bat
‘Saturn Juice,’ Vince continued matter-of-factly, ‘It’s juice made from the many rings of Saturn. Aces.’
‘No, I mean-’ Howard cleared his throat and tugged awkwardly at the hem of his Zooniverse jacket. ‘I mean… how did you even do that? There is no way, sir, you would have had time to switch what they already had for your sugary nonsense.’
‘I’m a gifted child, Howard.’ Vince reminded him, but Howard waved him away. There were, after all, rather more important things to worry about.
‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ He demanded angrily, ‘I just spent a good two hours in a state of deep mental anguish! My soul was playing the blues, Vince. You need to understand these things.’
But Vince eyed Howard dubiously and snorted. ‘Last hour and a half, maybe. Didn’t seem anguished to me just now.’ He muttered, smirking. Howard cast him a glare, but after a moment, drew himself together, his brow creased with thought.
‘So… we’re not converted?’ He asked hesitantly, ‘We weren’t under the influence of anything? Our genetics irreversibly changed by highly advanced science beyond our control?’
Vince shrugged. ‘Nope.’
‘But we just… did that anyway?’
‘And we enjoyed it.’
A wicked smirk from Vince, and he licked his teeth lasciviously. ‘Well I did, anyway.’
Howard looked like he was on the edge of some kind of fantastic personal revelation; he stared out towards the horizon and absently smoothed his moustache. He shook his head. It couldn’t be; he was Howard Moon! And sure, he’d never before tonight done anything other than perhaps hold hands with someone, he had always taken it for granted that had he done things with people, it would be women he’d do them with. But perhaps not. Perhaps it was just Vince. Howard didn’t know; he didn’t have nearly enough experience to even begin to know, but he turned a wondering gaze on Vince nonetheless.
‘And I said I loved you.’ He murmured quietly.
Vince’s grin got a little less evil and turned instead into one of those smiles he occasionally got which positively defied one to imagine that there could possibly be anything wrong with the world, so wide and happy it was. ‘Yeah,’ he said, eyes twinkling up at Howard. ‘Yeah you did, at that.’
And at that moment, there was a sudden burst of glittery electro-pop music, and out of thin air, in an explosion of colour and light, there leapt a unicorn. A unicorn, what was more, wearing mascara and sparkly eyeliner. Howard gawped. Vince, for his part, looked like a small child finding out that Father Christmas actually was real.
‘Genius!’ He exclaimed, ‘That was a brilliant entrance. Who are you?’
‘I,’ said the unicorn, ‘am the Unicorn of First Gay Love. Congrats, pets.’ It sounded rather camp.
Howard stared, feeling rather self-conscious about his obviously debauched appearence. ‘Um, but you- what? I’m sorry…’
The unicorn seemed to roll its eyes. ‘It’s my job to appear in a lovely cloud of sparkling magic and fabulosity whenever two birds such as yourselves find their first True Gay Love. Capitalised, you know.’
‘What about lesbians?’ Vince wanted to know. The unicorn shuddered minutely and gave Vince a pained sort of smile.
‘There’s another unicorn for First Dyke Love, yes, but she’s a bit frightening, you know. Quite butch. Formidable. I don’t get about with her much.’
‘Mmm,’ murmured Vince, nodding as though he’d only expected as much. Howard had taken things somewhat less in his stride, and was still staring at the Unicorn of First Gay Love as though he couldn’t quite believe it was there. After a moment, his tiny shrew-eyes narrowed at it.
‘What exactly do you do, sir?’
‘Hmm?’ It made a little noise of horsey politeness. ‘Ooh, well aren’t you just the clever one? Spot on. It is in my power,’ it said, sounding as though it was reciting from rote, ‘to grant both you fabulous gay boys one wish. A wish for the pair of you, that is to say. Choose wisely and all that.’
Vince and Howard looked at each other, and this time their silent conversation involved neither confusion nor eyebrow waggles, and as one, they grinned.
‘D’you think you could take us back to the zoo?’
Several weeks later…
…the Zooniverse had, in less than three weeks, made more money than it had in the entire ten years preceding those few weeks. The unicorn Vince and Howard had brought back from wherever they had been was drawing in people from all over the world. It had even captured the attention of a few of the scientific community, who had been astounded, after performing a few tests, to find that it wasn’t some kind of hoax, but was in fact an actual, live unicorn. Even Dixon Bainbridge had had to admit they’d done well. Admittedly, he had followed that up with an insult about Howard’s moustache even more scathing than usual, but it was impressive nonetheless.
The one downside to this arrangement, at least as far as Howard was concerned, was that the unicorn turned out to have a massive fondness for glam and electro music, particularly the Human League, Eno, and David Bowie. It had a particular liking for Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust era, which had prompted a week of eighties mullets and facepaint from Vince. Howard, however, found that he was able to manage. Somehow.
All in all, they felt terribly satisfied with themselves. After all, they’d managed to get done both of the impossible tasks Fossil had set to them, and with none of the exhibitionism and public humiliation he had originally intended. It had been beyond gratifying to actually show up with a unicorn to shove in his smug face. And as for them… Naboo knew they were bumming, certainly, and probably most of the animals as well, but Vince and Howard didn’t care about them. Things at the Zooniverse seemed a great deal more tolerable now. Well, in the main. There were, as always, a few exceptions.
Standing by a massive pile of ape dung, shovels in their hands, Vince and Howard watched the crowd thronging around the unicorn’s enclosure with no little satisfaction. Howard grinned down at Vince and playfully ruffled his hair.
‘We’ve done well, hey, little man?’
Vince threw him an irate glance and rearranged his hair with one hand. Once it was back to how it ought to have been, though, he smiled. ‘Yeah, I reckon we have. Still shovelling ape shit, though,’
‘Well, yeah.’ A thought seemed to strike Howard then, and he grinned crookedly down at Vince. ‘You know what, though?’
‘When we’re finished shovelling ape shit, we’re going to take a shower and get nice and clean.’
Vince’s leer gleamed in the light radiating from the Unicorn of First Gay Love, and he ran his tongue over the tip of one incisor in that unconscious gesture Howard so loved. ‘And then what’re you gonna do?’ He teased.
Howard smiled hugely as he answered. ‘Take you like a Northern bullet, sir!’