Truly, Madly, Fishy

How Howard Moon and Old Gregg got from ‘you’re moving too fast’ to sucking on each other like underwater hoovers. Howard/Vince as well, and Naboo and Bollo also appear.


Characters: , ,

Pairing: ,

Genre: , ,




Length: words

Truly, Madly, Fishy by accioarse

Chapter 1

Author’s Notes: Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Howard ran around the flat, sticking his head through every door and bellowing like a buffalo in heat. He was desperately hoping that he’d made some sort of mistake.

“Vince,” he shouted. “Where’ve you gone? Naboo? Bollo? Hey guys, I’m ready to play the scat game now. Stop yanking me about! Hey, Vince? VINCE? VINCE!

The longer he looked, the more frantic his shouts became. Over and over again, he searched through the seven empty rooms, refusing to give up. He couldn’t believe it. Not after everything he’d already gone through today. No way.

But it was true. Howard was completely alone.

Okay, so he’d been grateful when his flatmates had turned up earlier on. After all, they’d risked their necks for him, diving deep into a slimy lake in a dodgy second-hand submarine, arriving just in the nick of time to save him from matrimony with an overly amorous, fishy-genitalled sea creature.

Damn right, he was grateful. More than grateful – he was incredibly, astoundingly relieved. In fact, while driving them all back in the van, he thought he even might have overdone the thanks a bit. He probably shouldn’t have slapped Bollo on the back at the same time as trying to take that particularly sharp bend. Luckily, he’d had managed to swerve away from that old lady just in time just in time, although Vince had complained bitterly when he’d had to give her scraggy chihuahua the kiss of life.

When all four of them were safely back in the van again, the tiny dog yapping angrily as they pulled away, Howard found to his horror that something inside him seemed to have switched to ‘collapse’ mode.

A few hours ago he’d been trapped in a dank cave, trapped by an insistent underwater creature who kept inching closer, breathing on him, pathetically begging Howard for his love. Now it finally hit him; it was all over. Here he was, safely back in the normality of his everyday life, where no one wanted to touch him like that, ever again. It was as if an internal cliff had cracked and was slowly toppling into the sea. As he drove along the country road, Howard’s breath began to come in jerks, his eyes suddenly filling up, stinging and hot. He swiped at his face with the back of his sleeve.

“Howard? What’s up?” asked Vince, concerned. “You look a mess.”

Howard felt a pressure on his arm. “Go away,” he hissed, shaking off Vince’s hand. Did Vince think he was going to bloody talk about it, here in front of everybody? No way.

“All right then. No need to get shirty.” Vince sounded hurt. “We did just save you from a massive fishy raping.”

Furrowing his eyebrows with furious concentration, Howard pulled himself together. “Yeah. Thanks for that.” He glared at the road ahead.

“Did you see how we swooped down in our tiny submarine? It was genius.”


“Our submarine’s periscope was entirely made from tiny jellyfish. Can you imagine that? Naboo sang until the jellyfish swam right towards us and formed a long clear tube of poisonous light. The man’s a marvel.” Vince was obviously waiting for a reply.

“Yeah. I bet he is,” managed Howard.

“But then when we got to the underwater cave, we just couldn’t get in. It was all sealed up tight as a gnat’s chuff. Those brave little jellyfish repeatedly stung the entrance with their jabbing tentacles until it was forced to relax its watery sphincter.”

“Very impressive.”

“It was. Those jellyfish saved your life, Howard.”

“Really. I‘ll send them a little present, shall I?”

“I think you should. They’re very fond of Hobnobs.”

“The jellyfish told you that, did they?”

“They’re mad for them. They smear the biscuity crumbs all over their gelatinous bodies. It attracts tasty bits of plankton which they then eat with special ivory spoons. Hobnobs are widely known in jellyfish circles as the best bait there is, but they find it hard to get to the shops because they don’t have any legs.”

“Alright. Hobnobs it is then. I’ll put it on the shopping list.”

After that, Howard had just about managed the rest of the journey home without making a further embarrassment of himself – although it was a close run thing. He could tell there was something still bubbling under his ribcage, lying and lurking, waiting for him to relax his vigilance for even a second. As soon as they got back to the flat Howard found himself nervously running about, uncharacteristically offering to make everyone cups of tea, second cups of tea, sandwiches, anything to keep them from disappearing off to their rooms.

“Howard. There is a trumpet in my tuna baguette,” complained Bollo.

“You’re welcome,” replied Howard, bouncing on his heels. “Right everyone, how about a nice game of guess the scat?”

Naboo and Bollo exchanged glances. Vince found an interesting speck of dust on one of his boots.

“It’s very simple,” he explained, eagerly. “Someone does some scat, then you all have to guess what school of jazz they’re trying to enjoy with their mouth.”


“Right, I’ll just be a minute and when I come back we can start on the first round, okay?”

He hadn’t even been a full minute – thirty seconds at the very most. He’d just gone to the bathroom to check that his moustache hadn’t suffered from its fondling by that seaweedy nightmare, and when he’d returned; no one left. A few frantic moments of room-checking had followed, then he’d heard a dull thump as the front door slammed shut. Howard rushed out onto the street just in time to see their van screech off into the hollow night. Trudging back upstairs, he stood in the middle of the living room. The emptiness rang in his ears like an accusation.

Where did they actually go to when they all disappeared off together like that? That club Bollo DJed at during the weekends? He didn’t really have a clue. All he knew was that they never, ever let him come with them. They’d say, “you have to be on the guest list” or “it’s not really your kind of music” or even “people whose name begins with H aren’t allowed in tonight, really sorry Howard, bye now!” Tonight they hadn’t even waited long enough to make any sorry excuses, just yelled and waved as the van hurtled past, with Bollo driving.

A note was waiting for him on top of the saggy monochrome sofa.


Howard – could you please be a little bit quieter when you’re cleaning the flat tomorrow? We’ll all be pretty hung over and you always swear really loudly when you’re unclogging Bollo’s hair from the plughole.

Cheers, Naboo

Crunching the note into a tight paper ball, Howard swayed back and forward in the middle of the silent room. After a few minutes, he let his legs take him mechanically towards his bedroom. A huge pile of musical instruments was heaped up in one corner against his jazz-patterned wallpaper. Lifting some Malaysian ear-plunking cymbals, he dropped down onto the bed, dazed. Why couldn’t they have stayed in for just one night? A couple of hours ago he’d been held hostage by a scaly merman intent on lustful couplings. You think they’d understand that he might appreciate human company after an experience like that.

After a second Howard lifted the cymbals, staring blankly at their brassy nodules. They were cold and hard in his hands and smelt strongly of uncoated metal. With an icy drop to his stomach, Howard realised that he hadn’t the faintest clue how to play them. He looked at the heap of instruments on the other side of the room. He’d never mastered either his Voodoo-Fingers guitar nor the Javanese nose-twister, and no matter how hard he tried, his Gorilla Bongo solos would never set a room on fire, although even educationally subnormal apes somehow managed it.

For years he’d made fun of Vince for pulling shapes up front instead of bothering to learn the songs, but the truth was that he had trouble with most of their set himself. When it all got too much at a gig, he would cover up his embarrassment by strapping one of his strange instruments to his head and going off into a jazz trance. It had been the incident with the bassoon that had got him into all this mess in the first place. The audience at the ‘Dung and Spoonbrake’ hadn’t been at all happy. Dozens of angry faces rose up again in his memory, booing and jeering. Howard cringed once again at the thought of it.

He jumped to his feet, desperate for something to distract him. The ear-plunking cymbals tumbled off his knees, clattered heavily onto the floor, and came to rest with a slow reverberation. At exactly the same time, a series of harsh wet slaps cut the air, echoing loudly through the empty flat.

Howard froze. Oh God, no.

An image flashed before him – of a pair of wandering webbed hands, fondling him, stroking his hair, pawing between his thighs.

“I could kill you if I wanted to, Howard. No one would ever know. Do you love me? I’m Old Gregg!”

And what could he say to that, except assure the crazed sea beast that yes, Howard did love him, and with those red-rimmed eyes frighteningly close, press a confirmation kiss onto a cold green cheek.

The slapping resounded for a moment, strident and loud. Then, just as suddenly, it died away. Howard’s heart was racing so fast it felt like an explosion. The racket started up again. It was coming from the direction of the front door.


Howard finally realised what the clattering was, and slowly, painfully, released his pent-up breath in a long exhalation. That stupid letterbox. A hinge had recently fallen off and since then it was always catching the wind. The bit of cardboard they’d jammed in the corner to stop the rattling must have fallen out again. Howard began to traipse downstairs, intent on stuffing it back in again. He was only halfway down, when a new noise made him almost jump out of his skin in shock.


By the time Howard reached the bottom of the staircase, the door was shuddering in its frame, the letterbox spasming in twisted, diseased convulsions. There must be a real storm gathering outside tonight.

There. Howard shoved the cardboard back in under the loose corner. The letterbox was now subdued, still jammering away but only releasing a kind of muffled scratching. Howard turned to go back upstairs with a returning sense of gloom. He’d almost been grateful for the interruption, pathetic as it was.

He felt his mind returning to thoughts of his best mate. Vince had just deposited him in the flat like an undelivered package and scarpered off to have fun with the others, the same as any other Saturday night. Couldn’t Vince tell that Howard needed him? What did Vince want, that he should get down on his hands and knees and beg? Promise him glitter? Knit him a hair cosy? It hurt this time, and more than usual.

It had only been ten minutes, but he was missing the little electro tart already. If Vince were in the flat right now, he’d be poncing around, disappearing into his room every couple of seconds and coming back dressed as a Funky Inuit or a Goth Duchess or whatever, demanding to be admired and flattered. Howard would pretend to be exasperated by Vince’s infinite wardrobe and equally inexhaustible attention seeking, but deep down, which just made it all the more exasperating, Howard privately agreed. Vince was gorgeous. He was stylish. He was effortlessly cool. Possibly even the best-looking person in the history of the world, in Howard’s opinion. But of course, he was never going to tell Vince that.

It had been Howard who had persuaded Vince to leave school all those years ago to come to work with him at the zoo. Sure, Vince had done all right out of it – he liked the amphibians and they liked him – but Howard couldn’t fool himself. He knew the real reason he’d done it, and that was simply so that he could be with – and sneakily stare at – Vince for an extra eight hours a day.

So that he could suppress horrible, thumping rushes to his ribcage every time Vince stood near him, or God help him, every time they shared an inadvertent glance. So that he could spend hours, days, months even, thinking of ways he might possibly breach the subject of how he really liked Vince, all the while knowing it wasn’t going to happen. So that he could stare like a camel in a drought at Vince every time he thought he could get away with it. From behind was best, he’d found. That mesmerising, cocky tilt to Vince’s hips, the delicious span of his shoulders slipping down his back, and then, when Vince bent over with a spadeful of dung, and Howard’s eyes were involuntarily drawn arsewards … oh my God. It was completely, utterly hopeless.

Because nothing was ever going to come of it. That was the one thing Howard was sure of. In all the years he’d known him, Vince had only ever gone for girls.

Anyway, Howard had lusted after Vince for so many years now that it almost seemed irrelevant. Well, almost. Only on those days when it wasn’t stabbing him up inside. And Vince kept touching him all the time. Just innocent, friendly little touches. Howard had to constantly remind himself that they didn’t mean anything at all, but it wasn’t easy. Sometimes he would lie awake for hours afterwards, trying to persuade himself of their utter lack of meaning, before giving up, rolling onto his back and just having another wank.

It had always been Vince. Over the years, Howard had desperately thrown himself at a series of women, none of who wanted to have anything to do with him. Perhaps if one of them had, it would have helped. He might have got over Vince, or at the very least had a shag out of it. Some chance.

Once, when out collecting animals in the arctic tundra, they’d both been captured and been strapped together to an icicle by a race of tiny Parka People. Then, Howard had done something really, really stupid. He’d been convinced that he was about to die – and that was some kind of an excuse, he supposed – but it still ranked high as one of the most humiliating experiences of his life.

Only a few more minutes of life – that’s all he thought he had left to him. Howard remembered how incredibly thankful he’d been that Vince had been there with him for those final moments, and then being immediately appalled at himself. He should have been wishing Vince a million miles away, safe and dancing in his happy poncho, not facing down death by Black Frost’s freezing icy crotch. But after all, it hadn’t been Howard’s decision – it had been Vince’s. He couldn’t count the number of times Vince had come back to him, no matter how hard he’d tried to push him away. Somehow, Vince always managed to turn up to his rescue, just in time, every time. Vince had never let him down.

And now this was it. Their very last moments together. How could he let it go without letting Vince know exactly what he meant to him?

“Vince,” Howard had begun. “This is difficult for me.” He paused. “But I feel as though I should say this. I love you, Vince.” Was this what it felt like when you were about to die – floaty light? Like a heavy lead weight had been cut free from around your chest and was flying around in the air?

The tiniest of sniggers sneaked into being, almost muffled by the snowy walls around them. Slowly, it grew to a guffaw.

“Are you laughing?” asked Howard, horribly appalled.

“No!” snorted Vince, clearly trying to choke the laughter down.

“You better not be laughing at me! I’m telling you I love you! How dare you laugh at me!”

That had been a lesson and a half. As soon as they were back in civilisation, Vince had told the rest of them how in times of crisis Howard liked to break down and declare his love like a big soppy marshmallow. When, understandably, Howard had huffed and sulked, Vince came over to him, held Howard’s hand and looked sincerely up at him with his big blue eyes.

“But Howard, I told you that I loved you too. Don’t you remember?”

Yes, Howard remembered. But he also knew it wasn’t the same thing at all. Vince was always telling people he loved them, and if they were female, attractive and dressed like a transvestite Christmas tree, it was probably the prelude to a drunken exchange of bodily fluids to boot. He had angrily shaken off Vince’s hand and stormed away, slamming the door behind him.

So here he was, stuck on his own in the flat again, with nothing to do except think about Vince – Vince clambering out of the golden submarine earlier today, a miraculous vision of artful hair and retro styling. Howard’s relief had been almost overwhelming. He’d had the strongest compulsion to run up to Vince and grab him, to make sure it was really him, to hold him tight and to never let him go. All of which he’d firmly repressed, of course. He wouldn’t want to break the habit of a lifetime.

That tiny submarine of theirs had been pretty claustrophobic. At one point Vince had been bent over the navigation controls, wearing those incredibly thin and wispy paisley trousers, and Howard had suddenly been convinced that Vince had no underwear at all on underneath. Perhaps it was a bizarre erotic side effect of being pawed over by a lake monster, but at that moment Howard had found the near presence of Vince’s rear even more of a strain to his system than usual. When he’d finally climbed out of the submarine’s cramped hatch, legs shaking, Howard found that he was counting his blessings for more than one lucky escape that day.

Back on the living room sofa, Howard stretched his legs out until they twinged pleasantly. His right hand subtly sidled towards his trouser zip. Was it the thought of Vince’s pert cheeks bent over, screamingly forbidden and far too close for comfort? An insistent pressure began to build up, sure and steady, somewhere deep below Howard’s groin. He imagined ripping Vince out of that ridiculous paisley outfit until he was standing completely cock naked before him here in the living room, just in front of this sofa. Vince silently kneeling down with wide beautiful eyes, his mouth gently parted. Of Vince’s soft rosy tongue, Vince’s breath ghosting across his balls, Vince opening his mouth wider, slowly, slowly, his lips stretched, Vince taking him in … oh, bloody hell. In the hollow of his palm, Howard’s cock gave a warm, insistent twitch.

Why did the memory of a green webbed hand keep flickering through his fantasy of Vince? A hand that crept up and stroked at the inside of his thigh, pressing slimy rivulets of water against Howard’s skin until the two images were mixed up in the sweaty fumbling of Howard’s hand? In the dankness of the cave, Old Gregg had leant into him from behind and spent his cold misty breath upon his neck. Howard remembered how it had smelt of salty musk and the secret crevices of shells. A series of goose pimples sprung up from his neck all the way right down to his ankles. He released a deep, shaky breath as his hand speeded up with a rough intensity.


All of Howard’s muscles spasmed in alarm and he nearly fell off the sofa in his shock.


That bloody letterbox again. Sighing with irritation and adjusting his trousers, Howard got up. Right. He was going to shove that cardboard so far up that letterbox that it would be spitting corrugations for a week. He’d just reached the head of the stairs when, snaking up through the stairwell twisted a familiar voice, faint and eerie. All the hair on Howard’s body shot cold and rigid. He stopped stone cold dead.

I’m Old Gregg! I’ve come for you, my fuzzy little man-peach! I’m Old Gregg!

Howard’s knuckles clenched white.

“Do you love me?” The tip of one webbed finger was snaking through the letterbox. Howard stared in dumbstruck horror. Old Gregg’s pointy nail raked at the thin air. “I left my dark lake and all my deep sea magic so I could be with you, Howard. You have to love me as I love you. Tell me you love me! I’m Old Gregg!”

The front door began to rattle, the lock twisting ferociously from side to side like a spinning top. Howard ran over and slammed his back firmly against the wooden panels. Two more fingers had made their way out of the flap by now. Angling his body, Howard stretched away from their scaly reach.

“I can’t hurt people no more, Howard. I gave up my magic for you. All I have now is you. Hold me in your strong manly arms. Tell me that you love me.” Old Gregg’s high-pitched wail echoed plaintively around the hall.

“Just leave – me – alone!” gasped Howard, hysterically.

“Howard. You don’t mean that.” Old Gregg’s wail was ineffably sad, even after being squeezed through the narrow gap of a letterbox.

“I fucking do mean it! You crazy bastard!” Howard leaned even harder against the door, which was still bucking and shuddering underneath his back.

Then suddenly, all motion stopped. Howard waited anxiously, wondering what was going to happen next.

“Howard. Is there someone else? Has somebody else been taking secret little bites out of my man-peach?”

“No! Nobody!” The words were out before Howard had time to think about it. Damn. But should he have said he was spoken for or not? What was the right answer to make a madman like Old Gregg disappear? Was there a right answer?

“Then why, Howard? I came all the way just to be with you.” Old Gregg’s voice wobbled with watery wretchedness.

Howard took a deep breath. “It just wouldn’t work.”

“But I brought you a present.”

The shiny cap of a bottle of Baileys Irish Cream poked through the letterbox.

“And what’s that supposed to be?”

“You drank it in my cave. You said you liked it.”

Howard felt desperation gnaw him. “That would have been because I was lying. I wouldn’t use that brown runny lard to clean out the drains.”

There was a long pause. Howard began to hope that Old Gregg might have gone away.

“Let me in,” said Old Gregg again, softly. “Just five minutes, Howard.”


“I need to see you.”


“I won’t go away until you see me, Howard. I don’t mind waiting. It’s nice out here. There’s a pretty lady with tall red hair and a golf club waving at me from next door. She’s coming over. I could give her some Baileys from my shoe.”

Oh God no! Not the next door neighbour, Captain Margaret! Howard began to frantically consider his options. On the one hand, he was seriously considering letting a psychopathic half-man, half-fish into his home, the same scaly freak who’d spent most of the afternoon making bizarre advances and proposals of marriage to him. On the other hand, Naboo’s aunt and the ultimate owner of their flat lived next door, the redoubtable Captain Margaret. She’d already threatened Howard with eviction twice this month, the last time being after a late-night bout of Mnemonic Zither practice.

“You really can’t hurt me? No more threats of fishy juju?” hissed Howard through the letterbox.

“I gave it all up for you, my sweet love. I’m weak as a baby oyster.”

Howard had a very bad feeling about this.

“Alright. Just five minutes, and then straight back to your lake.”

The dark, shiny head of the Bailey’s bottle withdrew from the letterbox, as with a sinking heart, Howard twisted open the lock with a snick and pulled it back. Old Gregg was standing on the doorstep, blindingly white in a full length wedding dress and a beaming smile. A steady stream of dribbles fell from his seaweed hair onto his lace-covered shoulders. Giving a joyful little half-skip, he threw himself at Howard. His cold hands clasped around Howard’s waist; a damp head burrowed into Howard’s shirt.

“Hey now!” Howard pushed Old Gregg brusquely away and stepped back in alarm. He took a peek outside. There didn’t seem to be anybody about; he slammed the door quickly shut just in case.

“Aren’t you pleased to see me, Howard?” Old Gregg was pathetically eager, his wide eyes burning bright.

“I think we’ve already established that I’m not.”

“I love you, Howard. Do you love me as I love you?”

Howard’s shoulders slumped. Just as he’d become reconciled to the idea of another sleepless, Vince-yearning night, enlivened with the odd bout of self-abuse, with perhaps some ‘Bongo Brothers Live at the Jazz Emporium’ on his turntable later on, now this had to happen. What had he done to deserve it? “Okay. Five minutes then. Let’s go sit down.” Howard motioned Old Gregg up the stairs. The vision in white ascended before him. Howard winced as he heard Old Gregg’s soggy squish every step of the way up.

In the living room, Howard sat in the only armchair rather than on his usual place on the sofa. He folded his arms determinedly. Old Gregg roamed about, picking things up and leaving slight glistening trails of water in his wake.

“This is a nice cave, Howard.” Old Gregg fiddled with a small translucent model of a jellyfish. He was still beaming away.

“Thanks. Hmm… how did you get here anyway?”

“I rode on the top of your van. You brought me here, Howard.”

“I see.” A pause. “So how are you planning on getting back to your lake?”

“Don’t know, Howard.”

“And I don’t suppose you have any money…”

“What’s minnie?”

“Yeah, I figured that. I’ll give you your fare so you can get back home.”

Old Gregg came in closer to Howard. “You’re a good man, Howard.”

“No,” squeaked Howard. “No, stop doing that! Stay away!”

But Old Gregg’s slick green face was approaching fast, his membraned hand already on Howard’s knee. Howard found himself thrust back into the armchair with the wriggling weight of a damp, flimsy body pushed down on top of him. Then Old Gregg’s mouth was on his. It wasn’t cold, as he’d expected, but hot and soft and surprisingly pliable. With one almighty shove, Howard pushed Old Gregg off his lap and twisted sideways right out of the armchair all at the same time. They both fell onto the floor with a thump.

“I said no!” shouted Howard.

Old Gregg was on his hands and knees, breathing hard. He slowly turned to look at Howard with inhuman, red-rimmed eyes. “I could make you happy.”

“No you couldn’t!” yelled Howard, getting up. “No! No!”

“Didn’t you like kissing Old Gregg? Old Gregg liked kissing Howard. It made him all excited inside. It made him want to do things with Howard. Things with my vagina. I’ve got a mangina.”

Howard could still feel Old Gregg’s saliva cooling on his mouth as he desperately scrabbled in his pocket for some change. He threw the handful of money down; it landed beside Old Gregg with a clatter. “Take this. Go back to Black Lake. Don’t you understand? I don’t love you and I never will! Find someone else. Somebody who’s not me!”

Old Gregg went strangely quiet. Inside his stiff white dress, he appeared to be crumpling.

“Oh, shit,” muttered Howard.

Streams of silent tears were rolling down Old Gregg’s face. His eyes were now even redder and larger than before and his narrow chest sobbed to a fragmented, uncoordinated rhythm. He took the money offered to him, stared uncomprehendingly at it and then clutched it tightly to his stomach. “You don’t love me?” he croaked.

“That’s right,” said Howard. “I don’t love you.” At long last he’s got it, he thought. The relief he felt was quite considerable.

“I’ll be going home, then. Back to my lake,” whispered Old Gregg.

“I think that’s best.”

“Don’t you want a watercolour? In return for the minnie? I’ve got a nice one of some Baileys.”

“No, that’s alright. You keep it for yourself. I’ll show you out now.”

“You’re such a good man, Howard.”

“Yeah, sure I am.”

Howard followed Old Gregg back down the stairway. Howard watched his wedding dress swayed from side to side with every step. They reached the door.

“Kiss me goodbye, Howard,” begged Old Gregg quietly.

For a moment Howard hesitated. Then he relaxed. Old Gregg seemed hardly even a threat any more. He seemed to have accepted Howard’s decision so completely, to be shrunk to nothing more than a colourful pathetic thing in a dress.

“Alright. Come here. Then you really have to go.”

Old Gregg lowered his eyelashes and tilted his face up towards Howard. The marks of his drying tears were streaked profusely across his skin. Howard bent down towards the dull green cheek. As he approached the waiting face, his lips brushed the mist of droplets hanging over the edge of Old Gregg’s skin. It tasted salty and ticklish. With a blaze, Howard recalled the vivid heat of Old Gregg’s mouth upon his just a few minutes ago, how Old Gregg’s dripping touches had forced their way up through his fantasies of Vince, and the secret iodine scent of them, and at the last second, a strange impulse seized him. He changed direction.

As soon as their lips met, Howard was shocked by how good it felt. Underneath him, Old Gregg immediately responded, dissolving into the kiss and letting out a little moan. Without conscious thought, Howard grabbed a lace-covered shoulder and pulled himself even closer, breathing in the fine breeze all around Old Gregg’s mouth. Old Gregg moaned again, this time even louder. Howard felt the vibrations travel all the way down his body.

Something seemed to fizzle between them, alive even through the barrier of their clothes, dancing hotly at every point where Howard touched Old Gregg’s slight frame. The pressure of an arm encircled Howard’s waist, and then Howard found himself melting right into the body next to him, all the way from chest to thigh. Inside Howard, everything was soaring at the unaccustomed rush of sensation.

Breathing deeply, he opened his mouth. His tongue brushed by Old Gregg’s moist red lips. Immediately, Old Gregg licked him right back. Then their tongues touched and Howard almost fell over. He’d forgotten how incredibly overwhelming this could be. It had been years since he’d managed it, and even then both he and the other party had been so smashed off their faces that it hardly counted. Howard reached around to mash his body even further up against Old Gregg’s, grabbing at a small round arsecheek almost swamped in the long lace dress. By now, his rapidly stiffening cock was rubbing happily against Old Gregg’s hip. It was amazingly, blissfully good. More than that; it felt absolutely right.

All of a sudden, it hit Howard hard – this was how it should be. To be turned on by someone and to have them actually want you back, not just to be continually frustrated from afar. To have someone welcome your mouth against theirs, to have them lean into your touch, and to be wriggling under you, pleading for more. With a head-spinning jolt, Howard realised that he didn’t want to stop.

A key jangled in a lock. The front door scraped abruptly open.

“Howard!” yelled Vince through the rapidly opening gap. “You still up? Sorry we had to leave you like that, but I’d promised to do the set for Pinky Bill And His Amazing Frog Orchestra. I came back as soon as I could. I thought you might want some company after…” He stopped, his keys still stuck mid-air.

Howard spun around, his face pink. His hair was all sticking up on one side and plastered across his face on the other. Quickly, he removed his hands from Old Gregg’s body.

“Am I interrupting something?” asked Vince, tilting his head in disbelief.

“No!” insisted Howard, smoothing his hair and pulling his shirt nervously down in front of him.

Vince had finally realised who was in the hall with them. “Is this…? Bloody hell! Howard! What the fuck are you playing at! What’s that doing in our flat?”

“I’m Old Gregg!” confirmed the green sea creature, with a blissful grin.

Vince took a step backwards with a sour look on his face. “Well, I see you don’t need me after all. I’ll just get back to the gig, then.” He turned around and marched outside in a clatter of heels.

“Stay there!” shouted Howard in the direction of Old Gregg, and pursued Vince out into the cold night air. A storm was definitely brewing, whistling loud and angry through the deserted streets. Both of them had to shout to make themselves heard. Howard pulled Vince back by the arm, his words whipping away in the wind.

“…left me all alone while you fucked off to your stupid electro ponce club or wherever!”

“Yeah, and I come home early to find you playing suck face with fish features! What was the point of rescuing you in the first place? You should have said if you wanted to be left alone to make babies together!”

“I don’t want his babies, you string-brained papoose! I was just…”

“Just what? Suddenly got the horn so bad that you just had to get your rocks off with a psychopathic sea monster?”

“Arrrrgh!” Howard gripped the hair on either side of his head, as if he were trying to pull out his brains by the roots. “No, you bloody idiot! How could you not have noticed? For years and years… are you blind as well as composed mainly of hairspray? It’s always been you.” As soon as the words had been said he wished a million times that he hadn’t.

Vince looked bewildered.

“Just forget it,” said Howard, through gritted teeth, looking down at his duffed-up trainers.

“You and me?” replied Vince, slowly.

“Can we forget it? It was just a joke.”

“You mean you fancy me? Really? Like a girl?”

“Forget it. Please.”

“Howard?” said Vince, staring up at him with big blue eyes. The wind caught his feathered hair, flicking it back from his face. Howard could hardly bear to look at him. He seemed too beautiful to exist. Vince tilted his head to one side, considering. “Alright then. You can kiss me if you like.”

The thought of kissing Vince for real caused sharp prickles of sweat to spring up in the crease of Howard’s palms, even out here in the chilly darkness of a Dalston squall. He didn’t dare to breathe in case it all was a dream.

“Don’t you want to?” asked Vince, stepping closer and angling one hip at him.

“God, yes.”

Howard reached out and placed a careful hand on Vince’s waist, as if to check that this was really the same person he’d known for twenty years, suddenly saying these unbelievable things. Oh my God, it was, and Vince felt so warm and alive. Howard could even feel the sinuous movement of his breathing, in and out.

Vince stretched up high on the tippy-toes of his sparkly platform boots until their mouths were hovering hardly a breath away from each other. Inside Howard’s head, all kinds of little noises were busy exploding away. He couldn’t believe this was finally happening. Why wasn’t there some way of preserving this moment forever?

He pulled Vince closer until he was right up against him. He’d spent years memorising every inch of that incredible, slender-hipped body; now he wanted to feel it so badly it hurt. That pathetic, hopeless, ridiculous fantasy of his was finally coming true. At last he was going to be able to show Vince exactly how much he really loved him. They were both going to be so happy. As he moved his lips against Vince’s, the intimate aroma of late night sweat, cigarettes and hairspray sent sparks all the way to his groin via his nipples and back again. Oh yes. This was perfect. He’d always known it would be. And the way Vince tasted was even better than he’d imagined. Vince’s long eyelashes were so intimately close. The back of Vince’s neck was so soft under his fingers. Exhaling all the way to his insteps, Howard opened his mouth and stuck his tongue…

“Urrgh! Gerroff!” shouted Vince, pushing Howard away.

Howard stumbled backwards, confused and panting wildly. His maroon cord trousers were tented around the signs of his arousal.

“Sorry, Howard,” said Vince, smearing at his mouth with the back of his hand. “Thought it might be a worth a try. Guess that settles it, though.” He giggled a little. “I just don’t get off on you. And especially not on your spit.” He wiped his mouth again, coquettishly pointed his boots inwards and made a small circle with his toe on the pavement. “Were you really planning on giving me a bumming, then? A big northern style bumming? Coming at me like a northern bullet?” He gave another giggle. “Or was I going to bum you? Perhaps we were going to take it in turns…?” The end of his sentence was cut off as Vince creased over. The wind tossed his laughter in gusts about the street.

Howard looked on in growing horror. Apparently, Vince had felt nothing but disgust, whereas Howard had been slobbering over Vince like a shiny new trumpet straight from the Jazz Fancier’s Gazette. Please let him not start thinking about how cringe-suckingly embarrassing that was. He didn’t think he could take it tonight. Not after everything else.

But he could have sworn that Vince had been kissing him back, if only for a second. Hadn’t he? Or was it just another of his Vince-fantasies? Please God, let Vince have been kissing him back. Or else, what was the point in anything, ever again?

Hold on there… wasn’t Vince supposed to be his best friend, if nothing else? What had he just come out with? Northern-style bumming? What the fuck? Where in hell’s name did he get off?

Vince was straightening up. “Okay, so that was a bit of a disaster.”

Howard glared silently.

A few last traces of giggles resurfaced, shaking through Vince’s paisley clad shoulders. Eventually they were all gone. “But you’re still getting rid of fishy features in there, aren’t you?” He looked up at Howard with big entreating eyes. “Yeah? I mean, just because I can’t bring myself to get off with you doesn’t mean you have to do it with creepy Nessie in there.”

Just like every time Vince looked deep into him, Howard’s heart gave an extra hard thump and his legs seemed to have developed a sudden watery core. However right at this moment, his body’s treacherous responses were leaving him not so much swooning and lovestruck as blood-curdlingly furious.

They stood, facing each other in the oncoming gale. The wind tossed Howard’s fine hair into a series of dark candyfloss shapes. When the gust fell, Howard’s hair was deposited in one messy lump right across his eyes. With a determined glare, he reached up and pushed it far back.

He leaned down until he was moustache to nose with Vince. “You, my friend, can take a hike. In a northern style, in a southern style, in the style of a well-greased Cockney bullet right up your ringpiece since you’re so keen on the idea. Any damn way you want. Just so long as it’s far away from me.”

And with that, Howard stomped back into the house, grabbed Old Gregg, and almost dragged the willing green body up the stairs towards his bedroom.


Chapter 2/6 – Sexual Behaviour of the Lesser Spurting Crab

Author’s Notes: DISCLAIMER: The Boosh is not mine. I just worship at its webbed feet.

Beta thanks: to glynnis, planetbanjo and taeli.

Seriously, they did so much work, you wouldn’t believe.

Howard slammed his bedroom door shut, his arms and legs shaking with fury. Grabbing a chair, he shoved its wooden back underneath his door handle.

A satisfactory thunk – the door was jammed, and the outside world was safely blocked away.

A flash of images erupted, bubbling at the surface of Howard’s mind. Panic thumping hard, he leant against the door, trying to bite back them back.

God – downstairs, just there – had he really done that? Confessed to Vince how he’d been yearning after him for years, and then jumped right on top of him, drooling all over like a Lesser Spurting Crab during the annual rut?

Howard clenched his hands tight, reliving the humiliation.

Was that it, then? Was it really over?

So he’d spent decades of dreaming about Vince, about how some day they’d finally be together, that it had to work out between them, one day, eventually, because Howard needed it too much for it not to, and now – was that it? All he got was, “Were you really planning on giving me a bumming? Coming at me like a northern bullet?” and a shedload of giggling?

But hold on – Vince had asked him first. He had! Howard remembered it clearly – “You can kiss me if you like.”

Then Vince had lifted his face up, his eyes half closed and his dark lashes laying across his cheeks. Just waiting expectantly, with his lips slightly parted. Howard thought he’d remember that moment forever.

What was Howard going to do when confronted with that? What could he do? It was like one of those fleeting, off-your-head moments of drunken epiphany – but better, because real – and for the first time ever, the world made complete sense.

So he’d grabbed, pulling their bodies together to a solid point in the thrash of the howling storm, and blissfully, gratefully taken what was offered. Oh God – after so many years of everything being off limits – the taste, and smell, and unrestricted access of Vince – he could still feel the memory of Vince’s mouth where it had pressed up against his own, the moist touch of Vince’s lips, the tingle on his thigh where Vince had rubbed in close, the pushing bulge of Vince’s…

No! Arrgh! Stop it!

Howard grabbed two handfuls of his hair and tried to stifle his raging brain. Vince had laughed – remember? So when was he going to stop torturing himself like this?

Pulling in a deep, calming breath, Howard drew himself up straight. He forced his head into a dignified tilt.

Of course, there was another, more logical explanation. In fact – the more Howard thought about it, the more sense it made – that most people just couldn’t handle the raw sexual power that was Howard TJ Moon.

Hah! Yes! In fact, it made Howard laugh just to think about it. The Monsoon Moon was obviously far too much for a pointy-faced little whippersnapper like Vince. How much he would be cursing himself when he came to his senses. But no – he’d missed his chance. Vince could beg all he wanted, but all Howard would do was lift his nose and pass on by.

Howard tried out a disdainful laugh, just to be properly prepared.

Well. He probably needed to practice the laugh a bit more before unleashing its full deadliness onto Vince.

And, Howard reasoned further, weren’t there scores of people out there, simply pleading for him to stick his incredibly attractive body parts in their direction? It was almost embarrassing how many there were. The only reason he didn’t oblige on a daily basis was because of his innate dignity, and that he had better things to do with his time. Like alphabeticising his collection of broken guitar strings, or composing a tribute song for the five Euro note, using mainly bongos.

Yes. Vital tasks like that.

Nothing at all to do with him being a boring, pathetic waste of humanity, someone whose advances were to be spurned by all, forever, like some kind of perpetual spurn-inducing machine.

No. Never.

In fact, wasn’t there was someone willing and eager – no, begging to have Howard’s body parts very close indeed? Someone who was in the room with him – here, even now?

Very slowly, Howard brought his gaze back towards the creature upon his tweedy bedspread. As soon as Howard caught Old Gregg’s eye, the green creature started to bounce up and down on the mattress, his wedding dress fluffing out, his seaweed hair flailing, and grinning like a maniac.

A few of his salty splashes reached as far as Howard’s forehead. He smeared them off with the back of his hand, then looked regretfully at the back of his closed bedroom door.

Vince had been knocking at that door only minutes ago – with Howard leaning on the other side, his face pressed against the wood grain, feeling every move of Vince’s even through the two solid inches of pine. Wincing, unable to respond, despising himself for his own patheticness.

There’d been pleading as well – Vince promising not to laugh, or at least to try not to, if only Howard would stop sulking and come out.

At last, there’d been a muffled jangle; Vince’s bangled arm slamming against the door in exasperation. Then the low clack of heels as he strode away down the corridor. Then nothing.

Where was Vince now? Still in the flat? In the kitchen – with a long, cool, welcome bottle of beer? Vince’s neck would be tilted up, his mouth sucking, the tip of his tongue stealing out, catching stray drops… A shiver of sweat sprang up, tickling behind Howard’s knees at the very thought.

No. There was no way on earth that Howard was going back out there. Not tonight. Not if he had to pretend that all of this meant nothing, the same as he had every night for about a hundred years.

Bracing his shoulders with determination, Howard started to move towards the bed, and met a shiny green face, eager with expectation. Oh, God. Was he actually going to… was he? With this… thing? Why did all the alcohol have to be in the kitchen, on the other side of his bedroom door? Hadn’t Gregg been waving about a bottle of something…

“Still got that Baileys?” Howard asked.

Old Gregg sidled off the bed. The swollen brown bottle appeared close between their bodies. “We can drink it from my shoe.”

“Yeah, I’d rather not.” Howard unscrewed the top and glugged from the bottle. God, awful stuff – like sweetened, spunk-thickened mud. How was he supposed to get shit faced on this? Howard paced round the small room, swigging as much as he could stomach and desperately hoping for some sort of hit.

“I knew you loved me, Howard,” sighed Old Gregg, following him around like a damp green puppy. He stroked Howard’s arm. “Just as I love you.”

“Please don’t.”

“Don’t what, Howard?”

Howard knocked back some more of the Baileys. It stuck like glue every inch of the way down his gullet. Wearily, he closed his eyes. “Stop saying you love me.”

“Old Gregg don’t understand. Downstairs you were holding me in your strong manly arms. You put your tongue in my mouth, and you were licking fast and loose. Old Gregg says that means love.”

At last – the Baileys was starting to kick in. Not much, but better than nothing. Howard gave a snort. “Yeah. I love you. I don’t. Whatever you want. Who cares. Does it matter?”

“You don’t love Old Gregg?” The small voice wavered with emotion.

Howard waved brusquely. “Just get back on the bed.”

Head bowed, Old Gregg shuffled towards the bed, scuffing his silver platforms as he went. As he sat down, the stiff lace on his wedding dress zagged into three sharp creases.

Howard took another slug. By now his stomach was rebelling – but in his limited experience, for this kind of thing to work, one or both parties should be well off their tits. He dropped with a bounce onto the narrow single bed next to Old Gregg and shoved the bottle back.

For a second, their thighs nudged, and Howard remembered how it had been in the downstairs hallway, when they’d rutted against each other like it was coyote mating season and they were the last ones left on the prairie. Something sparked inside him; a glimmer of optimism. Perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad after all. After all, he was finally about to get some greasy trumpet-fumbling, some jizz-jazz time, a bit of trouser fun. God knows, that didn’t happen very often. He supposed he should at least try to enjoy it. Despite all that had happened, Howard felt some excitement stir in his belly. A small pulse jumped between his legs.

Howard looked at Old Gregg – he was drooping his head mournfully, tilting the Baileys bottle first one way and then another. Well, he’d soon liven up. All Howard had to do was to steel himself and get down to business – because that’s what Old Gregg wanted, right? Access to the contents of Howard’s trousers?

Taking a deep breath, Howard reached out, grabbed a lace-covered arm and began to pull Old Gregg round, ready for the attack.

Old Gregg recoiled spectacularly. His face pulled as if in pain and he jerked back, falling across the bed.

Howard’s moustache bristled with annoyance. “Bloody hell! What’s wrong now?”

Old Gregg began jerking out a mess of sobs. “Thought… thought you… loved me!” He curled up into a tight ball, pushing his wet face into the pillow at the head of the bed.

Howard released a sharp, irritated grunt. How did this sort of thing always happen to him? A moment ago – a dead cert for some enjoyable cock twanging, even if it was with something that looked like an extra from ‘Godzilla – The Musical’. Now – stuck with a self-watering sea monster, and his rare ‘John Coltrane – Jazz Maestro’ pillowcase was getting moister by the minute.

For a moment, he looked longingly again at the escape route of his bedroom door – but no, not an option. Not now that even Old Gregg, his last great hope of sex, had rejected him as well. Imagine having to admit to Vince that when it came to the crunch, not even bottom-dwelling pond scum would actually do the deed with him. No way. Howard TJ Moon was definitely getting a shag tonight – even if it had to be a pretend one. That would show the skintight electro ponce exactly what he was missing.

He supposed he should try to keep this green lunatic happy in the meantime, or he might gather up both of his brain cells and run back with them to his miserable muddy lake.

Reluctantly, Howard got up, found a handkerchief, then offered it to the pathetic sobbing lump of wedding dress on the bed.

Old Gregg cautiously uncurled. He reached out towards Howard, but ignored the handkerchief. Instead, he softly placed his webbed hand over Howard’s. The touch sent little shivers all the way up Howard’s arm to the back of his neck, where tiny hairs began to dance and tingle. Howard wasn’t at all sure if this was a good thing or not, and was still trying to make his mind up when Old Gregg closed his hand around Howard’s wrist and pulled, downwards towards the bed. At first, Howard resisted. Then, with a long, doubtful breath, he released and let himself be drawn in.

Again, there was the sense of a mist hovering over Old Gregg’s body. Howard broke into that mist, and it stroked his skin all over, chill and electric. It smelt of the yellow-stained depths of forgotten medicine cabinets; of eruptingly crimson morning sunrises; of the white crusts found on dirty salt cellars. Howard felt himself pulled further. Every time his body touched Old Gregg, jolts shot through his skin, tingling in his follicles and tightening under his balls.

Howard dropped onto the narrow single bed, almost against his will. It was uncomfortably crowded; the two of them wedged here side by side. To stop falling out, Howard squeezed up closer, stretching out with an arm to grab the bedstead. Old Gregg immediately pushed up, whimpering against Howard’s body, snuggling under his arm and rubbing his tear-streaked face against Howard’s shirt.

They stayed like that for a quite while; Old Gregg happily squirming under Howard’s arm, and Howard becoming more and more aware of his own arousal. He just wasn’t used to being this close to anyone – even if in this case it was less of a person and more of a creature. But especially not here, in his own bed, the very place he’d spent so many hours with a hand down his pyjamas, thinking about Vince and trying not to make a sound. It was wrong. This was wrong. Yet at the same time, every wriggle and sigh from Old Gregg seemed to be heading straight for his groin.

Old Gregg turned his face up. “Howard?”

“Hold on there.” Howard fished around for the hanky again, found it and then lobbed it over. Snot was never a good look, and fishy snot was about ten times worse. Luminous and stringy.

Old Gregg blew his nose with a rattle and wiped his face. When he looked back up, it was with a clean face and eyes full of worshipful gratitude. “Howard? Why don’t you love me?”

“I don’t know,” replied Howard, re-adjusting his arm to pull Old Gregg in again. He briefly shut his eyes as the slender body made contact, sending a shiver all the way down his back. Something deep in Howard’s belly was warm and unfurling into to life. “You can’t just love someone. Not just like that. It takes time.”

“P’raps you really do love me.”

Howard breathed in once more, sucking in the smell of Gregg. Why did this have to feel so good? Why did their bodies have to fit so well together? “No, believe me. I don’t.”

“Perhaps you’ll love me later?”

“No.” Howard reached his other arm around Old Gregg’s waist and drew him in even tighter, so that Gregg was pushing up against Howard’s middle. “I’m never going to.”

“Oh.” Old Gregg lifted his head and looked at Howard with big eyes. “But I want you to love me.”

“Yeah, sorry.” Howard shifted his position. Their faces were close now, just a breath away; Old Gregg’s mouth was so near. It was unbelievably red, moist and inviting. The lower lip was trembling ever so slightly. And then somehow, like feathers drifting inexorably down under the force of gravity, their mouths met, and they were kissing.

It was slower than last time, when they’d simply leapt on top of one another in a hot wave of lust. Now they were touching each other, gently with exploratory, open mouths. A webbed hand caressed Howard’s face, barely ghosting the skin. Howard felt the tip of a tongue on his own – cautious, and almost reverent – as if Old Gregg were treating him like a precious object.

A wave of confusion rushed over Howard; with a grunt, and in one swift motion, he rolled over on top of Old Gregg. One of Howard’s legs was left dangling off the edge of the narrow bed, cutting into his circulation. As he pulled his leg in, he found himself sprawling even more heavily on top of the fragile body beneath. Another burst of inexplicable wrongness stabbed through him. Shoving the emotion aside, frowning hard, he began to thrust himself against the body below.

As he ground his hips down, Howard pressed his face into the darkness of Old Gregg’s neck. A livewire of deep sea smells was whirling there; filling Howard’s head, flickering all over his body, and jumping to attention in his thickening cock. With a gasp, Howard’s fingers tightened convulsively, grabbing at rubbery fronds of seaweed hair.

Meanwhile, Old Gregg was eagerly fumbling with Howard’s shirt, making needy little noises as he did so. Howard’s shirt pulled free at the waist; Howard felt chill inhuman hands stroke the bare skin beneath, pressing his back and urging him on. Squeezing his eyes shut, he licked Old Gregg’s neck just underneath the ear, and a strange salty mist played across his tongue. Old Gregg arched up under him in response, mashing their bodies together. Howard stifled a deep groan.

Through the fug of arousal, Old Gregg’s words from before were running circles round Howard’s brain. “I’ve got a vagina – I’ve got a mangina!” What exactly was there? What had he been rubbing his crotch against so far? Not another cock, anyway, unless he was greatly mistaken. What might a half-man, half-fish use for genitals? “I’ve got a mangina!” It could be anything at all.

Howard sucked in another mouthful of essence of Old Gregg. His head spun from need and urgency and the fishy musk of it all.

Now. Time to find out. Now.

Shifting his weight, Howard pulled hard at the heavy lace of Old Gregg’s wedding dress. The thick fabric swept up – first past two garish, shell-encrusted, court shoes, then higher, to a pair of green skinny legs. Howard reached one hand down between the bony green knees; Old Gregg writhed into his touch. The scales between Old Gregg’s thighs were glowing translucent in the low light of the bedroom. Panting, Gregg curled himself up, straining towards Howard’s fingers.

Suddenly – clunk! The sound of metal jolting against metal.

Using both of his slippery claws, Old Gregg was attacking Howard’s belt buckle, sending vibrations straight to the painfully responsive area below. Click! Now Old Gregg was yanking at the strap. It was hanging halfway free, flapping obscenely out across Howard’s stomach. A final snick cut the air. The belt had been successfully worked loose, and Old Gregg’s fingers flew to Howard’s trousers.

Oh fuck…what had Howard been doing? Something to do with Old Gregg’s skinny legs and knees, his lean, squirming thighs and… no, Howard couldn’t remember anything, nothing at all…. definitely not the last time anyone had touched him there. Nobody – ever. Nothing apart from his own right hand. Nobody, apart from in his fantasies, tore like that at his clothes, desperate to get him naked and…

Oh Christ, yes! More, yes!

Now Howard’s lucky beige Y-fronts with the tiny yellow trumpets were open to the air, exposed for all to see. Quickly, a webbed hand moved beneath the waistband.

“Arghhhh!” screeched Howard. Old Gregg was brushing the sensitive skin over his hipbone. It was far too much physical contact, too much at once after so many years in the wilderness. In quick succession, Howard twisted away from Old Gregg’s touch, back into it, and away again. “No! No!

Old Gregg stopped.

“I didn’t mean it! I meant yes!” cried Howard, frustrated. “Yes!

For a brief second, Old Gregg’s big, water-rimmed eyes held Howard in their bright, trusting gleam. Another inexplicable emotion twisted through Howard’s stomach.

He wasn’t doing anything wrong – was he? So why did it feel like he’d tied a whole drum kit around his guts and was just about to hurl it out a seven storey window? Probably should avoid thinking about it too much. Better to just shut his eyes and plunge right in, even harder, even faster.

Old Gregg lifted his green face again, and Howard found himself feverishly returning the sloppy-mouthed, enthusiastic kisses, all the while trying to blank out Vince’s words from earlier that night – ”Kiss me if you like, Howard – Don’t you want to?”

Vince’s kiss. So different from this one. Not just tongue-filled exchanges of saliva, crotch humping and guilty surges of arousal. When he’d kissed Vince, it had been years of dreaming finally come to life – a ridiculously blissful moment, aching with a hundred stupid, impossible hopes for the future. Well, for about five seconds, anyway. Until –

”Urrgh! No! GET OFF ME! Not your spit!”

“Were you really planning on giving me a bumming? A big northern bumming?”

Then – everything gone to shit. Vince laughing. Vince wiping off every last trace of Howard that he could find on his mouth. ”And get rid of Nessie in there, won’t you?”

Yeah – where did Vince get off, telling Howard who he should be with? Arrogant little twat.

So what if it wasn’t Vince underneath him? So what if it never would be? Howard forced his eyes even more painfully closed and rammed his tongue in even deeper, telling himself he didn’t care.

A tongue was stroking alongside his, jumpy as an eel, sending the blood shuddering hotly to Howard’s groin. In Old Gregg’s mouth, Howard tasted salty sweat, a thousand forbidden memories, and all the secretive wanks he’d ever had. Old Gregg thrust his hand back towards Howard’s underpants; without thinking, Howard tilted up his hips to give easier access – and after that, it was far too late for any more thinking at all.

Something was stroking – oh fuck! Along the length. Touching… rubbing… through his underwear, but… Bloody hell! Why was it so much more intense when somebody else… Oh fuck! What was that? Was that underneath his balls? Yes…more… just take them off, take the bloody Y-fronts off, please… Heady fuck, please yes…


Whatever happened just there – that was good. Do it again. Please. Want more contact… need to get naked. Please. Bare skin. Please.

Howard opened his eyes. He found that his mouth was gaping wide open, and he was breathing in short, exaggerated bursts.

“Old Gregg’s watching you, Howard. He likes it.”

“Yes,” gasped Howard. “More.”

“What’s that you’re saying, my little man-peach?”

Howard grabbed Old Gregg’s hand and stuck it towards his Y-fronts, hoping he’d get the idea.

“I knew it,” cooed Old Gregg, pressing his moist cheek against Howard’s and whispering into his ear. “Knew you loved me, knew you did!”

He rubbed again through the fabric. Howard bucked up into his touch, groaning deeply.

“We’re gonna be so happy. We’re gonna get married. You and me, Howard. An’ later on, just a couple-a hundred funky little fishlets.”

Howard froze mid-thrust.

“You don’t care that Old Gregg can’t make the eggs himself?”

“Wha-?“ Howard asked, startled at this sudden change in subject.

“We can adopt us a whole brood of wrigglin’ little larvae.”

Howard, appalled, tried to draw back, but Gregg’s webbed claw was continuing relentlessly into his Y-fronts, perilously close to the contents.

“Gonna have us a heapa funky little babies. They can grow themselves some mouths, and gonna call us daddy. Daddy Gregg and Daddy Howie.”

With the strange, dripping hand of a sea creature still shoved half-way down his underpants, Howard had a sudden, nightmare vision of his future – with himself in the middle of a spawn of maggoty larvae, nursing several dozen at a time on his knee.

The webbed hand pushed even further down into Howard’s underwear. “You’s gonna be the best daddy there is. Daddy Howie and his big pink sea-cucumber.”

Howard’s shocked muscles finally kicked into gear. Wedging one knee between Old Gregg’s splayed thighs, he shoved himself forcefully up. Gregg’s hand remained trapped inside Howard’s Y-fronts like a telltale trail of toilet paper after a visit to the gents. “Eeeeeeee!” he wailed in alarm, his clammy fingers scrabbling in panic inside Howard’s pants.

As Howard retreated across the bed, Old Gregg was dragged along with him, screeching and kicking in protest. At last, Howard reached into his underwear with a finger and a thumb and hooked out Old Gregg’s hand. With a thump, it fell with to the bed below.

Old Gregg looked concerned. “What’s wrong? I hurt you, my sweet lil’ man-peach?”

Howard made a mental note that the next time he turned down a proposal of marriage, he should be wearing something more than just his lucky trumpet underpants and a waning erection. As it was, he felt at a bit of a disadvantage. His hands clenched and unclenched and he glanced yet again at the escape route of his bedroom door.

“I never said it!” protested Howard, by now backed up to the far corner of the room. “I never said I’d marry you! I think I’d remember if I have, don’t you think? So why do you keep going on about it? Just stop! And stop it with the…all those… “ Howard tailed off. It was bad enough having the image of a litter of squirming larvae, without actually having to say it out loud.

Old Gregg sat for a while in puzzled silence. After a minute, he twiddled some tiny circles on the bedsheet using the lacy hem of his wedding dress.

“You understand?” asked Howard.

Still only silence in reply.

“Weren’t you listening? That bit where you said, ‘Do you love me?’ and I said, ‘No, I don’t! I don’t love you!’ That was the clue! The clue to the fact that I don’t bloody love you! And I’m not going to marry you!” Howard screwed his face up. “I told you! When you grabbed me… and we started to… you know? I thought you understood!”

Old Gregg got off the bed and crawled over the floor. Kneeling down in front of Howard, he laid a hopeful hand on Howard’s knee. “Didn’t you like what Old Gregg was doing? You want I should do something else? I know something with my mouth, Howard. I think you’d like it.”

Oh God, with his mouth? Did that mean… he’d imagined Vince doing that to him, so many times, but no one had ever… no one had put their warm, wet mouth on his… no, he couldn’t get distracted. Howard shuffled backwards, away from Old Gregg’s grasp. He had to get this sorted out first. “But you understand, right? I don’t love you, okay?”

No response.

“And we’re definitely not going to get married? Or going to adopt anything? Especially not… things that fishermen use for bait?”

“Howard…” Old Gregg halted. He gave a confused little smile.

Howard waited, hoping.

Old Gregg replied slowly. “But Howard went and brought Old Gregg to his love cave. Why’d you do that and then say you don’t love me? It don’t make no sense.” Old Gregg was crawling nearer again, his white dress dragging across the floor. “I took you to my love cave. Means I loved you.

Howard had retreated from Old Gregg so far that he’d come full circle round the small room. The backs of his legs were hitting up against the bed.

Old Gregg turned up his smile to full beam. “Gonna show you how much I love you, Howard. Gonna show you that thing with my mouth. I know you’re gonna like it.”

“No, I don…”

But Howard’s words were cut abruptly off. Old Gregg had launched himself, throwing them both across the bed, his parted mouth shockingly scarlet and glistening in the dim light. Before Howard knew it, webbed fingers had hooked into his Y-fronts, tugging the waistband smartly down and over. Howard gasped. Cold air was playing across his cock and balls. Shivers sped down his back, clenching deep into the muscles of his buttocks.

Old Gregg’s glossy red lips were now hovering only inches away. Oh God, this was really going to happen. Howard’s cock started to rise again, wobbling obscenely above the fabric of his bunched-up underpants. Trembling, Howard forced his eyes wide open. He wanted to see every moment of this; when that mouth opened up; when lips touched him for the very first time; when he was finally enveloped in a warm, wet pressure…

No! Howard twisted his head away. What was he doing? Letting a nutjob like this anywhere near his equipment! A sea creature who believed he only had to suck Howard to force him into some kind of bizarre marriage?

But still, Howard didn’t move away, even as he felt Old Gregg’s cool hand splay across his hip, steadying him and drawing him even closer.

Perhaps if he shut his eyes and imagined it was Vince… would that really be so bad? After all, he’d told Old Gregg this wasn’t going anywhere. There would be no wedding; this was all about the sex. What was so wrong with having a good time, then slinging Gregg out in the morning?

Clammy breath was tickling across Howard’s cock now, warmer every second that it drew closer. Old Gregg’s tongue flickered out, inches away; the hairs on Howard’s balls jumped up in anticipation. Howard braced himself, waiting for contact… waiting….

After a second, Howard peeked down, fearful of what he would find.

Old Gregg was hovering over his cock with a glazed expression. His tongue flicked out, almost grazing it, but not quite touching.

“Every mornin’, suck them clean – that’s what Old Gregg is gettin’ practice for. Gonna suck our li’l babies clean. Funky little fishboy babies.”

Howard was trying even harder to stop his imagination – because the image he had now was of his cock wriggling, changing, still in Old Gregg’s mouth, but becoming a dozen little creatures, each with a tiny mouth that gaped and gave a high-pitched wail, “Daddy! Daddy Howie! Suck us Daddy!”

Scrambling backwards across the bed, Howard tried to push Old Gregg off, escape, and tuck himself back in all at the same time. His left arm lost contact with the bed; with a painful thud, he plunged to the floor. For a second Howard just lay there. Then he felt his right shoulder and winced with the pain.

Old Gregg’s head appeared over the side of the bed. “Howard? Don’t you want I should suck you no more?”

Howard didn’t reply. He was too busy pulling his maroon corduroys back up and zipping them firmly in place. Then, making as much noise as he could, he stomped across the small room, slammed a wardrobe door open and wrenched a few random cupboard drawers.

Old Gregg sat on the bed, sticking his legs out in front and twiddling his feet. He watched Howard thump around. “What ya looking for, Howard? I’m right here!” Gregg laughed; a strangely dry hacking sound. “I ain’t in no cupboard!”

Far too quickly for his liking, Howard discovered a couple of blankets and a musty old pillow. He made a nest for himself on the floor and threw himself down, covering himself and turning his back on the bed.

“Howard?” asked Old Gregg, cautiously.

“No!” replied Howard.

“But… You want I should…”

“Yes! Do that! Do anything you want, as long as it doesn’t involve me! Okay?”

“If Howard wants…”

“Yes, I do! Now, go away! Go to sleep or something!”

Pulling the blankets tighter, Howard furrowed his brow and nestled into his makeshift bed, fully determined to not actually sleep himself. All he wanted was to retreat into a bit of prolonged sulking – at the world in general, and how tonight things had gone even more wrong than usual, which was saying something for him.

Later on, as a treat, he’d might move onto brooding about Vince.

But he’d had a pretty overwhelming day of it – what with the bassoon madness gig, the angry, throwing-things crowd, and then being kidnapped at Black Lake. That had been the start of it, really. The moment things had seriously started to go wrong.

Or perhaps it had been later, when Vince had come to the rescue, appearing from that submarine like a welcome vision.

Of course, earlier at the gig, there’d also been that time – when Vince had turned to Howard, after they’d finished ‘Carnival for Bollo’ and before the crowd had turned nasty. Vince had been beaming, sweat flying from his still miraculously perfect hair, and suddenly he’d put a hand on Howard’s shoulder. Howard’s heart had filled, full of pain and joy, all together – because it was just one more moment like all the rest, doomed to come to nothing.

That is, until tonight. Whatever happened after tonight, at least there’d always be that kiss.

Howard sighed deeply, relaxing into the memory – the way Vince had felt tonight during their storm-drenched embrace, his skinny little self pushed up against Howard, his body finally close and real…

Whatever happened for the rest of his life, Howard would never lose that.

And just like every night, as sleep drew near and his defences fell, Howard imagined Vince was there, lying beside him. Now Howard was drawing Vince closer and stroking his head – and Vince was actually letting him touch his hair, a thing he’d never do in real life. Now Vince was snuggling against Howard’s chest, warm and snug. Now Howard was giving Vince a kiss, just a gentle kiss goodnight to show Vince how much he loved him. Oh God, Vince, he thought. Vince…

He didn’t want to go to sleep. Never, ever again… If Howard fell asleep he might forget that kiss, he might forget how it felt to hold and touch and taste Vince.

He wanted to stay awake forever.

On the bed above, there was a distant creaking and fidgeting, but it was far away, and receding even faster into blurry distance. Because all was warm and all was good and Howard was speeding towards the happy land of slumber, a tiny smile upon his face.

Then suddenly, all had changed.

Groggy-headed, stiff-necked, and puzzled, Howard was coming to, wondering – Why was he on the floor? Who was up there, in his bed, where he should be? And why did the heavy blanket pressing on his morning stiffy bring up memories of a thunderstorm, half-interrupted fumbling, and the strong smell of seaweed?

Oh, shit.

Now he remembered.

A familiar thump kicked into Howard’s stomach – his hopeless yearning for Vince settling into place for the day – quickly followed by a second, more immediate panic. Oh hell – last night. It was all starting to come back now. How he’d dragged Old Gregg up to his room. Old Gregg’s red, moist mouth hovering. Old Gregg’s webbed fingers fumbling…

From the corner of the room, a thin voice drifted over. “I’m Old Gregg!”

With a groan, Howard pulled the covers back over his head, using his blanket to screen out the last remaining chinks of light. Unfortunately, sound could still penetrate, and did so, in the form of a pathetic wail.

“Help, Howard! Help!”

Reluctantly, Howard poked his head out.


With a sigh, Howard got up and went over.

What he saw made his stomach heave. Old Gregg was on lying top of the bed, stretched painfully stiff, his dark green legs covered with a fungal whitish bloom. Fine veins, like a network of tiny red spiders, skittered just beneath the surface.

“Help! Water!”

Howard shuffled uncomfortably.

“I’m-a dryin’ out! I’m in arid torment!”

“Glass of water?” offered Howard, even now reluctant to leave the room. Vince might still be out there.

“No! No! More water! Lots-a water! Old Gregg needs to feel water a-seepin’ through his pores!”

Howard came closer. It wasn’t any prettier a picture from here. Not only that, something was now squishing up through Howard’s bare toes, like a green puddle of runny sick. Howard’s mouth twisted sideways in disgust.

“Hurry, Howard! Or I’m gonna stop dribbling and start oozing!”

Howard looked at the green between his toes, indecisive.

“Old Gregg is gonna ooze! A powerful creamy funk – superbad! ’ll strip ya right down! De-rodded thirteen sailors, all at once!”

A de-rodding ooze? That sounded like something best avoided. Well, they didn’t call him ‘Howard Moon – Man of Action’ for nothing. Preventing fatal dribbling in mermen? All in a day’s work for Monsoon Moon. “Okay. What d’you want? A jug? A bath?”

“Yes sir, a bath sir! Old Gregg needs it bad!”

Howard unwedged the chair from behind his door handle and peered out into the flat. No sound or movement, unless – yes – over there, on the sofa. Naboo and Bollo, propped up against each other on the sofa, emitting soft little whistling noises, completely passed out.

The shaman’s hookah was stuck out of one corner of his mouth, the tube waltzing up and down in time to his tiny snores. Beside him, the gorilla’s wide chest also rose and fell in sleep, a bright yellow can from the night before held in one paw. With every breath he took, the can of Banana Brew creaked and flexed in Bollo’s powerful grip.

There was absolutely no sign of Vince.

Scuttling quietly, Howard dragged Old Gregg across the floor, the dried-out body stiff and unyielding. At the first bend, Howard hit Old Gregg’s webbed feet against the skirting board; at the next corner, he gave a sharp knock to Gregg’s crispy seaweed head.

Old Gregg screeched out in surprise and pain.

“Shut it!” hissed Howard.

“But you hit me, Howard sir!”

“I know! Now hush your lips up! We’ve sneaking around to do!”

At last they reached the bathroom at the end of the corridor. Howard propped his cargo against the wall, engaged the lock and leaned back with a sigh of relief. Turning on both bath taps, he shunted them round to full speed.

“No sir! Ice cold! Like Baileys in a cave cold!”

Okay – so just the cold tap, then.

As soon as the bath was halfway full, Howard grabbed Old Gregg by the shoulders, dragged him up and pushed him right over into the water, wedding dress and all.

The merman sunk like a stone right to the bottom of the bath. The cold tap was still splashing, battering onto his forehead, while his ropes of his seaweed hair were already starting to plump up. His crinkled lips returned to red and shiny and finally, his scales started to lose their sickly white coating, he untensed like a spring, and his skin began to re-gloss, oily and dark.

After a while, Howard looked into the bath. Old Gregg had been underwater for a good time now; just lying, unbreathing, his eyes wide and manic.

“Hey – you alright?”

Juicy lumps of seaweed broke through the water surface first, then a large-toothed grin. “Water! Old Gregg likes water!” Silvery droplets ran down his happy round cheeks.

“Ah. Okay, then.”

The green, shiny face became serious. “But Old Gregg’s wedding dress is soggy-ass wet. That’s bad.” Gregg reached back behind his neck, and the sound of a downwards zip echoed round the bathroom. As Old Gregg stripped the heavy fabric down, a delicate collarbone and shoulder began to emerge.

Howard stared at the bare skin. It was dew-dropped and sparkling, the muscles underneath long and lithe. Was the air suddenly hotter? Clammier? Howard couldn’t understand – he’d run a bath full of cold water into a cold room, yet now sweat was prickling up and down his body.

Old Gregg’s fingers worked further, deftly rolling at the sodden lace, working the dress down his torso. Howard whirled around to face the door, but not before a flash of nipple had burnt into his vision; shockingly pink and erect in a field of dark green skin.

“Yeah – well, I’ll head along now.”

“Why yous going, sir? Howard gets in the bath too.”

Howard shivered, trying to ignore the wide-eyed, innocent invitation. Unable to resist, he flicked over another look. Old Gregg’s dress was peeling down easily now, under the nipples, past the lean, shining muscles of the abdomen, down further, further… what exactly was it that, lying beneath the wet, sodden skirt? He still hadn’t discovered.

Howard began to imagine what would happen if he did get in. The both of them would be wet; clothed and wet, pushing up tight against each other in that small bathtub. No, there wasn’t enough room – they’d have to strip off to make more space. Perhaps they’d take off each other’s clothes, at first slowly, then more urgently. Then they’d be rubbing up against each other… oh, God. With every breath, the air became danker and saltier on the roof of Howard’s mouth. His heart was thumping faster. His thighs seemed to have turned to cold jelly. He had to get out. Now.

“No!” he whispered, mostly to himself. He set his head against the bathroom door. It was reassuringly firm against his overheated head. He set his hand on the bathroom door handle and took a deep breath, “Okay. See you later. After your bath. Alright?”

And with a great effort, Howard was out. No matter if Vince was on the other side of this door or not, this time he had to escape.

End Notes: Part Three is at the betas already. Thanks for your patience!

Chapter 3 – “How to Choke on a Whelk”

Author’s Notes: Betas this chapter: Lizard Butt, glynnis, taeli and thymeth – yes, four of them!

One … two… three hours… four…

Four sodding hours.

Howard set his teeth, rounded his shoulders, swivelled and turned. One step, another step… weave round to dodge Naboo’s hookah, past the sofa… third step, stop, turn…

And then again, in the other direction, back and forward across the living room of the flat, like a trapped wolf wading through eternally thick, clingy custard.

A happy little splishy-splash noise tinkled through the flat; Howard shuddered. Over there, a mere few feet away, Old Gregg was still waiting, ensconced in the wetness of their bathroom – and Howard had absolutely no idea what to do about it.

Every time he got near Old Gregg, he couldn’t explain it. Something just happened. An inexplicable urge began building, thumping through his blood. Even in the cold light of day, there, in the bathroom – another few seconds and it’d have been too late. He’d have been pulled under all over again, stripped naked and enticed into unknown sexual practices – and that would probably have been just for starters.

It was only now, with the safety of a solid door between them, that the salty spice was finally dissolving from his lungs, the pressure on his crotch subsiding and his head beginning to clear. Finally, Howard had space to think – and as soon as that happened, in rushed memories of last night, on the doorstep with Vince. How he’d been laughed at. Humiliated. How pathetic he’d been. Ridiculous, stupid – dreaming that Vince would ever be attracted to someone like him

Yeah. So this wasn’t exactly an improvement, was it?

Naboo and Bollo were long gone. They’d woken up, demolished a mountain of eggs and bacon in front of the Saturday morning cartoons, and then headed off for the weekly run to Shamansburys. There’d been a few heated moments when Bollo had discovered his ‘Gorilla Alpha Beaut-ee’ hair pomade was being held hostage in the big bathroom by a strange sea creature, but Naboo had unearthed an old tub of Miracle Wax and offered it as a substitute. Ten minutes with the wax, some eyeliner and a mirror, and Bollo had grudgingly acknowledged himself fit to be seen.

On their way out, the shaman had pulled Howard to one side. He lifted one eyebrow meaningfully. “Your… guest.”

“Um… Yes?” asked Howard. Naboo’s shaman stare often gave him the creeps, though he’d be the last one to admit it.

“Your guest. Your responsibility. Understand?”

And that was it. Howard was left alone in the flat – or almost. There were still those ominously wet, slappy noises echoing inside the bathroom; a constant reminder of Howard’s unfinished business.

Vince was nowhere to be seen.

Howard kept finding himself in the living room, over by one of the windows. He knew that if he pushed his nose up – over there, right against the cold corner of the glass, and raised himself on the tips of his toes, way up high – he could just about get a cramped view of the street. It was pouring – cold, grey, smothering sheets of rain, but he was pretty sure he’d be able to make out the figure of one bedraggled, flamboyant man tottering his way home.

A circle of misty breath began to appear all around his face. Only a solitary clear patch remained in the centre; the space made by Howard’s moustache hairs moving round and round, wiping the glass clean as he chewed on his bottom lip.

By now it was well past midday. Normally, Howard wouldn’t worry. Vince was the kind of guy who’d pop out for a packet of Polo mints, then swing home a few days later with stories about his amazing new best friends – how he’d met them at the corner shop, got on really well, and went round to their place to drink Flirtinis and play Twister, or jumped in a van to some cool little place they’d promised had wicked people and banging music.

But Vince was usually surrounded by a whole gaggle of friends – Bollo and Naboo included – and who was going to make trouble when faced with a gorilla? Who was going to even remember what they’d tried after tangling with a shaman?

This time it was just Vince, out there all on his own. Howard chewed some more on his lip. Sure, Vince might act cool, the Duke of Topshop, cruising along on a wave of accessories and charm, but underneath it all, Howard knew another Vince – one that was sweet, childlike – almost worryingly na�ve.

Howard remembered back to when they’d worked at the zoo. He’d had walked into the Keeper’s Hut, ready for his mid-morning break, only to be confronted with a large, shaven-headed customer in a black coat, invading the zookeepers’ private sanctum. More than that: the customer had been attacking one of the other keepers, pushing him up against the far wall. And even worse: the keeper being attacked appeared to be Vince, and there’d been fear in his eyes as they peeped out from underneath the shadow of the attacker’s wide shoulders.

For once, fury had overcome Howard’s highly developed sense of self-preservation. Red had pulsed in front of his vision, he’d let out a mighty roar, and in a rush, he’d run in and pushed the man off Vince.

Almost immediately, he regretted his rashness – after all, the stranger was huge, aggressive and obviously inclined to violence – but luckily for Howard, fighting back seemed to be the last thing on the stranger’s mind. He’d just lain there on the floor, sprawling, blinking like a large, bald, startled woodland creature. Finally, with a frightened, puzzled look at Howard and Vince, the man had scrambled to his feet, and immediately ran out of the door and into the labyrinthine ways of the zoo.

Howard let out a long, relieved breath, strutted to the door, stuck out his chest and cocked his elbows wide. “Hah! Did you see him go? How I saw him off? He didn’t stand a chance. No way! They call me Crouching Tiger! They call me Hidden Mongoose! Coming at cha- oh yeah!”

Meanwhile, Vince was dusting off his jacket and feeling his limbs carefully, one by one.

Suddenly, remembering to be concerned, Howard looked over. “You alright there, little man?”

“Yeah. Think I’m okay.” By now, Vince was onto his badge collection, and was checking it for signs of damage.

“What the hell was that about, anyway?”

“I dunno!” Vince pointed at the low-slung belt of his skinny jeans. His usual uniform was at home that day, in the middle of another radical, Vince-style makeover. “All I was doing was showing him the new badge on my belt – the Jagger one, you know? That guy seemed to be dead interested in it – who wouldn’t be? I mean, Jagger! So I told him to lean right in, have a closer look – come into the hut if he wanted, I’d got loads more in there – and then, suddenly he’s jostling me up against the wall!”

Howard scratched under his jaw thoughtfully. Ah. It all began to make a certain kind of sense. So Vince had been flashing himself about, pointing at his tightly-clad groin, then invited a total stranger into the hut, asking him if he liked what he saw – if he wanted any more.

“There’s a whole lot of little kids visit this zoo, you know!” Vince was up and looking for his red brimmed hat, getting ready to spring into properly-dressed vigilante action. “What if the guy who tried to mug me goes after them as well? We should get a crowd together – make sure he’s properly gone!”

Howard cleared his throat. “I don’t think…”

“What don’t you think?”

Howard was thinking that the man hadn’t actually been hitting Vince, or threatening him, or asking for money – all things you might expect during a normal mugging. In fact, now Howard came to think about it – that man had been breathing quite hard, and sort of pushing against Vince, all the while making a kind of grunting groan…

Howard winced. Why did these kind of things always have to be his job?

So in the end, Howard explained to Vince that the man had probably been indulging in an unusual form of Jagger worship – as in trying to buff the badges with his entire body. A little extreme, if you will, but quite harmless. Vince listened with wide-eyed, serious attention, nodding all the while, and then with a little smile bounced off to the iguana gymnasium, full of the renewed joys of Jagger, perfectly content to be worshipping a rock idol so potent that even random strangers hurled themselves at his merchandise.

Howard was left in the Keepers Hut, completely alone, and brooding on the certainty that one day all of his lies would come back to haunt him.

So now, as Howard pressed his nose against the windowpane, staring through the downpour, a dread knot was tightening inside his stomach. Who knew where had Vince had ended up, just to shelter from this rain? Or even worse – which stranger Vince had met on the way? Who knew which house or car Vince had stepped blithely into, lured by the promise of sweeties and pop stars?

Oh God – why had he shouted at Vince last night? Why had he yelled at him to fuck off, anywhere he liked, as long as it was far away from him? Why had he done that to Vince in the cold, in the dark, at the head of an oncoming storm?

If anything happened… Howard dropped his head… it would be his fault. Forever, his fault.

He’d already tried Vince’s mobile number about twenty times; never any answer. And the others hadn’t seen Vince either, not since he’d left that Pinky Bill gig early last night, leaving early to go check on Howard.

So Vince had thought Howard might need some company after what had happened with Old Gregg, and he’d cut short his night to come back to him.

Howard pushed one hand flat against the windowpane, feeling the cold moisture trickle into his palm. Wasn’t that just like Vince? He couldn’t count the number of times Vince done that – turned up, right when Howard needed him, in the nick of time, every time… sure, he’d make Howard sweat a little first, and might take the piss for weeks afterwards – but in the end, it didn’t matter. Vince always came through.

It’d been Vince who’d rescued Howard when he’d been trapped in that laboratory, strapped to an operating table, about to have his head transplanted onto the body of a snake. The others hadn’t even noticed Howard was gone, never mind bother to, diligently search for, find and untie him. Of course, Vince had laughed at him a bit first. But he’d been the one to come.

And those ten foot Yetis, the ones who’d bewitched Howard to use in their deadly mating ceremony? Vince again – he’d rounded up the others and headed off towards Howard in a flash. The Ape of Death, Black Frost, the coconut flying squad… so many times Howard had owed Vince everything – his life, his sanity, the remaining chastity of his various body parts.

Like that killer kangaroo, just about to smash Howard to a bloody pulp with its smasher punch. Again, Vince had jumped in to save him. He’d reached out in the middle of the raging fight, right into the boxing ring, and reduced that kangaroo to a helpless puddle, just by squashing its big dangling bollocks with one hand. Nobody else would have done it. Just Vince.

Howard closed his eyes, pushing his palms into his face and squishing up his forehead.

Vince. A man who would grab a pair of giant hairy kanga-balls, or worse – and all for him.

Why had he never told Vince how grateful he was? Why had he only ever sniped, backstabbed and lied? What if now it was all too late? Why was it so easy to imagine Vince, in a deserted alley, broken, crushed and torn?

This was Howard’s chance to come to the rescue. This time for a change, Vince needed him – yet instead of looking after Vince, what had he been doing, all night long? Howard’s skin crawled with self-disgust at the thought – up in his bedroom with Old Gregg, playing at grab the gherkin.

Frantically, Howard began to pace up and down, dodging between sofas and tables, barking his shins on shelves, knocking over cans and scale models of submarines. He forced himself to stop. No – this wasn’t helping. He had to calm down. Think logically.

Perhaps Vince was still at a club – Yes! Vince would be safe there! But what kind of clubs would stay open all night and through to noon the next day? Desperately, Howard tried to wrack his brain.

When the band played nights, the others always sent him back to the flat straight afterwards, telling him that he wouldn’t like it, that it would be too noisy – that modern nightclubs very rarely had poetry readings, serious Russian theatre or freeform scat competitions. Howard found such assertions very hard to believe. Sometimes he even had the sneaking suspicion that they might be trying to get rid of him.

Before the band? Howard’s forehead crinkled up as he tried to recall. Hadn’t there been that happening at ‘Jazzy Monkz’ back in Leeds, when he was nineteen? The Scunthorpe Saxophone Trio had played the back room of the local church hall – selections from the phone directory rendered into atonal rhythms. Howard remembered it well. It had been the latest he’d ever stayed out – until nearly ten thirty pm, and he’d only managed to stay awake that long by surfing the E-number rush from the free orange squash.

Well. That hadn’t helped much.

Another five minutes, that’s all – then he’d start trawling the streets for sure. He’d start off at Pinky Bill’s – wherever the hell that was. He’d ask people on the street, anyone, someone had to know where that club was. Old Gregg? He’d park him in a river, a duck pond, anything to keep Naboo off his back.

Howard took up his place by the window once more, straining high until his footwear creaked. Two droplets of condensation had formed in the window by his face. With a poignant twitch, they sprang together, began to wobble down the glass, trembling, and were just about to burst against the window frame when Howard’s heart leapt into his throat.

There! There! Vince! It was him!

Still in the same flimsy paisley outfit from yesterday, pale and glowing in the grainy daylight. But how had he appeared so quickly? Nowhere in sight – then suddenly right at the front door?

The door scraped open with a jangle of keys, then Vince’s distinctive tread bounced up the stairs. Howard remembered once telling Vince that he walked like a pregnant, knock-kneed flamingo in the wrong sized trousers. Now he knew that he’d been crazy. Vince’s footsteps might just be one of the most beautiful sounds of all time. Howard wanted to sample those footsteps, to moisturise them and feed them through a jazz loop till they screamed their inner poetry.

The top of Vince’s hair appeared, followed by the rest of his head. Too late, Howard saw Vince jump back in alarm, as he caught sight of Howard leaning over the stairwell, his face an ecstatic grimace of unrestrained relief.

Too late, Howard realised he should act cool, pretend to be a bit more relaxed about the whole thing. Now was the worst time ever to shout in delight, bounce up and down, and throw himself on Vince, no matter how much his body was telling him to. Howard peeled his hands’ tight grip off the banister rail, moved away… yes, casually does it. Craftily turn that action into an overhead stretch. Ah yes – you’ve got all the smooth moves, Moon.

Acting as if he’d nothing else on his mind, Howard strolled around the lounge, dallying here and there and ending up beside the bookcase. There was a CD sitting on top of a speaker. Striking a nonchalant pose, he picked it up and flicked his eyes across the cover:

“Suck On My Hot Titties! Squeeze My Tepid Elbows! Vibrate My Freezing Uterus! and 101 other Amazing Hits!”

Howard set the CD down again at once. Ugh – foul, modern stuff. Must be a stray from Bollo’s collection – what was it called – Hop Hop? Something like that. Howard had once given an example of the genre a listen and had been appalled – not a single slap-funk bass solo on the whole album, just some crazed Welshman shouting, “Your Mother’s Got a Penis” over and over.

Meanwhile, Vince had flopped onto the monochrome sofa, lifted a copy of ‘Cheekbones Daily’ from the table and was casually thumbing through, checking out the newest trends in face arrangement. Howard glanced over, trying not to be too obvious. He still felt a bit wobbly. The sheer joy of having Vince home, safe and unhurt, was almost more than he could handle.

Where had Vince been, though? He looked remarkably dry and well groomed, obviously not someone who had spent all night in a rain-soaked alley. Unable to restrain himself, Howard began to move closer, checking Vince on all sides for further evidence – mud splashes, contusions or bruising.

Vince flicked through his magazine irritably, hardly glancing at the pages. Eventually, he stopped. “Right. What d’you think you’re doing?”

“You’re alive!” blurted Howard.

“You got a problem with that?” Vince was still staring angrily at the magazine pages.

“You’re dry!”

“So now you want me to be wet as well as dead?”

“No… “ Howard circled the sofa. The ends of Vince’s dark hair were flicking gently against his dewy skin, there was just a hint of stubble at his jaw, his lips were pink and healthily flushed… how did Vince do it? He looked as good as ever. “But you were out all night….”

“Howard? You got a sudden earwax fetish or something?”

“What? No…” Howard replied, puzzled, moving in even closer to Vince, transfixed by his long eyelashes and perfect skin.

“You sure?”

Howard frowned, trying to figure it out.

“Cos if not,” said Vince, “Get the hell out of my hole!”

Howard stood back. “Oh.”

Crossing his legs, slowly and with deliberate casualness, Vince flung his magazine away. For the first time, he looked straight at Howard. “So you’re talking to me now, are you?”

Howard lowered his gaze, feeling himself colour up at the direct eye contact. He fiddled with a button on his shirt. “Yeah… um… sorry about last night…”

“Don’t worry.” Vince turned his head and looked deliberately into the far corner of the room. “I didn’t fancy hanging around to watch you and seaweed boy doing the horizontal mambo anyway.”


“Yeah,” said Vince, pointedly.

Howard twitched his mouth. It pulled nervously over to one side.

“So you really want to know where I was last night?”

“…Yes?” replied Howard, cautiously.

Vince stretched his arms luxuriously above his head, giving a seductive little smile. “Next door. With Captain Margaret.”

“Captain Margaret?” spluttered Howard. “That crazy golf lady who lives next door? The one who hates me? Who waves her mashie niblicks at me every time I walk past?”

Vince’s eyes smiled. “She does, doesn’t she? But I think she likes me.”

“She looks like the bride of Frankenstein in an argyle sweater! You spent the whole night with her?”

“She wanted to show me her collection.”

“Collection of what? Voodoo golf carts?”

“No – even better!” Vince pulled his knees together. His platform boots splayed out to either side, girlishly. “Submarines! She’s the one who sold Naboo his little sub. She’s flooded out her whole basement for her collection. You should see the ones in dazzle camouflage! They’re wicked!”

“You spent the last fifteen hours looking at submarines?”

“What can I say? We got on really well.” Vince leant forward, stuck his hand behind his waistband and pulled out a roll of biscuits. “She gave me these as well.”

“A present from her – so that’s why they’re wedged down your trousers, obviously.” Grumpily, Howard reached out to pick them up. “Hobnobs?”

“Yeah – for the jellyfish! Naboo has them in a bucket in his room. The little critters that helped rescue you – remember? Naboo’s promised to take them round town a bit to say thanks, show them the sights. A trip along the Thames, feeding time at the London Aquarium, a tour of Dalston Sewage Processing Plant. That kind of thing.”

“Jellyfish can live in buckets?”

“A magical bucket, yeah? Try to keep up.”

“Oh.” Howard slapped down the packet of biscuits. They rocked crunchily few times, then came to rest. He turned his back on Vince, stomped over to the window and stared out onto the sodden rows of houses.

“So, tell me then.” Vince’s voice was carefully offhand. “Is Fish Face still here?”

“Ummm…. yes,” admitted Howard.

“He’s been here all night?”

Howard nodded vaguely.

“And you’ve been…” Vince left his question unfinished. He hooked his boot out to the side, and scuffed the toe into a tight circle on the floor. “With him… all that time?”

Howard winced guiltily, but didn’t reply.

Vince was still making thoughtful little circles with his toe. “You know, I finally figured it out. After I left. I figured out what happened last night. You know?”

Howard turned round to face Vince, surprised.

“Yeah. I’m really sorry.”

Howard waited, wondering where this was about to go.

Vince tilted his head, ruffling his hair up on one side. “I can’t believe I did that! Just ran off – left you! But you didn’t help – shouting and effing and doing all that crazy stuff – and you told me to! You did! Yelled at me to go away!”

Howard rounded his shoulders, hunching into himself and mumbling, “Yeah. I might’ve.”

Vince swung himself up from the sofa. He walked over and rested a gentle hand on Howard’s shoulder. “But I still shouldn’t have left you. I’m sorry.”

Howard found his legs were shaking just from being this close to Vince. Even through the fabric of his shirt, the heat of Vince’s fingers beat like a pulse. “No – it’s okay. Really, it is.”

“No, it’s not! I hate it when it all goes wrong!” Vince threw both his arms around Howard, resting his head on Howard’s shoulder. He pulled him close. “We’re going to make it alright again, aren’t we? Aren’t we?”

Howard could feel Vince’s warm, slim body against him, still in that purple paisley outfit from the day before. It was so wispy and thin – pressing close, moving, rubbing – oh God – Vince might as well be naked.

“Howard?” Vince hugged even tighter. He looked up. “It’s going to be okay, then? You forgive me?”

Inside Howard, something pulled apart and melted. He slung his arms around Vince, fiercely pulling him in. “Don’t talk crap! Nothing to forgive!”

Vince leaned further into Howard’s chest. “No, there is. Sorry I laughed. It wasn’t fair.”

“Doesn’t matter now,” whispered Howard. Tears stung; he blinked them back.

“You okay, Howard?”

Howard cleared his throat, trying to regain self-control. “Well, you know me. Rugged man of action. Stoical is my middle name.”

“Stoical?” Vince wrinkled his nose up. “You mean the same as a ferret? ‘Cos I’ve heard what you dirty Northerners do with ferrets.”

Howard’s head was spinning – only yesterday, he’d nearly been driven mad with longing, shoved up against Vince in that tiny submarine – and now here was Vince, finally beside him, warm and real. This was it. From now on – no misunderstandings, no secrets. Just the two of them, finally together. And any moment now he was going to reach down and grab Vince’s arse – which might possibly be the most wonderfully round, tempting thing ever invented, and –

And ferrets? Had Vince said something about ferrets?

“Don’t act like you don’t know!” Vince grinned. “Leroy told me about you Northern types! You all put ferrets in your trousers!”

“He… what?”

“He said they’re great. They buff up trouser zips from the inside with their special bushy fur – makes them sparkle something wicked! Sounds ace, dunnit?” Vince smiled hopefully. “Howard? Could you get me a ferret? A stoical would do too – anything, just as long it goes for zips. I’ve a feeling zips are going to be very big next season.”

Trying to stifle the sudden rush of happiness inside, Howard pushed his face into Vince’s hair. Vince – a man for whom the sole purpose of small mammals was to buff his fashion items into a high, shiny gloss. There was no logic to it, none at all – how could it possibly make him love Vince all the more?

Vince heard Howard sigh. “Hey, Howard? Sure you’re okay? Was that monster messing with your brainbox really bad?”

“Yeah, he was. You have no idea.” Howard relaxed against Vince, lifting his hand, about to stroke Vince’s head. This was it. After all those years of frustration – finally home.

“That’s what made me figure out that you’d gone wrong. ’Cos all you wanted to do last night was snog me! How freaky was that?”

Howard’s hand dropped like a brick.

“What a nutter, right? Why would he magic you to do something so weird?”

Howard’s arms slackened. “I… I dunno.”

“So what happened just after I left? What’d he do next?”

Howard could remember only too well – a shiny red mouth, breath ghosting across his skin, how they’d pulled at each other’s clothes, the clammy, grabbing hands… “Nothing!” he insisted. “Nothing happened! No – not much, anyway!”

“Come off it, Howard! I could feel you shake just thinking about it!” Vince rubbed Howard’s back reassuringly. “You can tell me. I won’t laugh this time – honest.”

Howard wriggled away, breaking out of Vince’s touch. “No! I told you, nothing!”

“Oh God, Howard! Was it that bad? Did that nutter force you to do things? With his magic? Did he? I’ll shove his tutu right up his seaweed till it comes out pink! See how he likes it!”

But Howard was remembering that he hadn’t exactly been forced. He could probably have said no, any time – if he’d wanted. But somehow, he hadn’t. In fact, a lot of the time, he’d even been the one to start.

“Come on, Howard! Tell me! How can I help if you won’t even tell me what happened?”

Howard turned away, gritting his teeth together. It all seemed so unnatural. Didn’t he tell Vince everything? Always? And didn’t Vince always help? Didn’t Vince make things right?

And if only he could tell, just one other person, it would be such a release – about the smell of Old Gregg, how it jumped in his blood and went straight to his balls. And how he didn’t know what the hell he was doing – it was all such a mess – after all, the one he really wanted was Vince. To be with him, to touch him, to make love to him – but somehow he’d got entangled with a merman who wanted marriage and larvae and constant access to a bath… And oh God, how was he going to get out of it? Please, Vince? Please?

But no. This time Vince would do more than just laugh at him, call him a small-eyed retard and spend the next week telling any random strangers he could find about Howard’s idiocy.

No. This time Vince would be appalled. Horrified. Completely disgusted. He’d never want to talk to Howard again. Never look at him. Probably never be in the same room with him. He’d leave the flat. The band. No – Howard couldn’t lose what little he had.

Warm, gentle fingers were working their way into Howard’s right palm. Vince’s mouth was near Howard’s ear, asking softly, “Why won’t you let me help, Howard? Aren’t we mates?”

Yeah – mates. Howard gave a short laugh. Of course. That’s what they were, and that’s all they’d ever be. He was lucky to have that, after what he’d done last night.

“Howard?” Vince’s fingers were moving towards Howard’s wrist, stroking the sensitive skin inside his arm.

Howard had closed his eyes, letting himself sway into Vince’s touch. Just one more minute – if he kept pretending, fooling himself that Vince’s gentle touch meant more than it really did – where was the harm in it? The only one who was hurt was himself.

And Vince was touching his skin so softly. So lovingly. Making Howard’s hairs stand on end all along the length of his arm. With a tiny shudder, a chill wave broke at Howard’s neck, rushing down his back, tingling across his thighs.

Vince’s hand moved further up, stroking reassuringly. “Howard? C’mon.”

Howard opened his eyes. Vince was so close – there was his mouth, slightly open, the inner edges moist and waiting, his top teeth just visible through the lips’ gap – how could Vince not be wanting this as much as he did? Howard felt himself leaning in, pushing their bodies nearer.

“Howard…?“ whispered Vince.

Howard held his breath, shaking with expectation.

Vince opened his mouth further, his expression worried. “Howard? You sure that juju’s gone? Like, properly? Cos were you about to snog me? There – just like last night?”

For a moment, Howard remained completely still, his eyes closed, breathing hard. Then, with a groan verging on frustration, he shrugged hard, shaking off Vince’s hand. “How can I help it? If you’re going to keep fondling me -“

“What did you say?” Amusement played through Vince’s voice. “Fondle? Howard? Did you just say fondle?”

“No – no! Shut up!” Howard spun around, about to escape in the direction of the door – then stopped, filled with a sickening realisation.

Months from now, he’d still be remembering these last few minutes, wouldn’t he? Treasuring how Vince had been kind to him, had held and touched him – and what’s more, wanking over it – and –

He turned around, his fury pumping so hard he could hardly hear his own shouts. “You! It’s always about you! You think the world revolves around you, do you? And you like rubbing it in, don’t you – that my whole life’s a failure? That I never get what I really want? You enjoy that, don’t you?”

Vince looked completely taken by surprise. “Hey! I was trying to help!”

“Help? Yeah, right! That’s a laugh! You’re too busy rushing off, finding the latest stupid look in bollock tight red lycra.”

Vince jumped back. “Hold on there! Don’t insult the threads!”

Tiny muscles were dancing at the clamp of Howard’s jaw. “Anyway – what if I don’t need you? What if I’ve found someone else?

Vince laughed in disbelief. “Yeah – right!”

But nothing was going to stop Howard now. “Yes! What do you think of that? Not so clever now, are you? Don’t like the thought that there’s somebody out there who might want to…” Howard found himself leaning towards Vince, imagining exactly what somebody might want to do with him, something involving sweat, and saliva, and thrusting… Snarling, breathing hard, he sought a safer distance, desperately pulling back further away from Vince.

An unusual furrow had appeared between Vince’s eyebrows. “What? You can’t be – no! You talking about Fish Features?”

“Yes. We’re…” Howard pushed harder, trying to get the words out, “together. We’re together. Together! Yes!” He wondered how far he could run with it. “I’m – we’re very happy! Happy! Delighted! Ecstatic! Together!”

“Listen to yourself, Howard!” Vince shook his head. “You’re not at all well.”

“And which part are you finding so sick? That somebody might actually want me? Just because you don’t -“

Vince reached forward to touch Howard’s arm. “What d’you mean! I do want you! I do! We do stuff together all the time! Just ‘cos I’m not going to kidnap and voodoo you so’s you can snog my face off all night… “ Vince’s mouth dropped, understanding finally dawning. “Howard? Really? That’s what you want? To do that?”

Howard stared at Vince’s hand, and where it rested on his arm. Then he looked straight into Vince’s face, his voice low and unsteady, as if every word took effort. “Get your hands off me.”

Hastily, Vince pulled his hand away.

“Don’t touch me, Vince. Understand? Never again.”

Wet hurt sprung up in Vince’s blue eyes. “But…”

“Stay away!”

Then the pair of them stood, just staring, almost willing the other one to speak. Silence hung heavy. Even the air in the room seemed thicker, as if somewhere between the sofa and the bongos an invisible wall had sprung into being, holding them apart.

Eventually, Vince gathered up his keys, quietly turned around and made his way to his bedroom.

And Howard watched him go, every step of the way.

Howard stood in front of the bathroom door. He hunched up his shoulders, took a deep breath, drew back his knuckles in anticipation – and remained like that, motionless, completely failing to knock.

Eventually, frowning hard, he let his hand fall back down by his side.

He’d just told Vince how happy he was to be with Old Gregg. More than happy – delighted – ecstatic! But as Howard’s anger drained away, fast as quicksand, it wasn’t happiness that was taking its place. All he felt was a cold, hollow ache.

Perhaps he just shouldn’t speak, ever again. Then the worst stupidity couldn’t leak out of his brain, gush through his mouth and end up all over Vince. Why did that always seem to happen? All over the one person in the world whom he most wanted to impress?

For a moment, Howard’s eyes narrowed in thought. Yes – he could gag himself. That might work. If he tore up some bedclothes and bound them round his whole head – Howard’s heart gave a leap. Of course! Why had he never thought of it before? No more sleepless nights, all the embarrassing things he’d ever said running round and round in his head until 5 am, when he finally managed to tire himself out with a combination of staring into the dark, panicked breathing and useless sobbing. That might really work!

The light fell from Howard’s eyes. With a despairing grunt, he let his body sag. God – was he completely insane? That wasn’t any kind of solution. How would he be able to breathe, play the trumpet, eat quiche if he went round all day with his head tied up in a sheet?

Gathering himself together, Howard aimed his fist once more at the door, this time banging so hard that his knuckles hurt. “Hey! You in there!”

No response.

“You’ve been ages! Finished yet?”

Still nothing.

Howard cracked the door open and peered in. Over there, in the bath – was that Old Gregg? Those few bladders of brackish hair, sticking out of the rim? Cautiously, he sidled further.

Then, Howard was far forward enough to see over the lip of the bath, and into the water itself – and he recoiled in shock.

Was that the same clean, clear torrents he’d run from the taps a little over four hours ago? Now greener, cloudier, thicker – something like a tin of mushy peas emptied into a big bowl of dirty dishwater, all swirled round until the green had melted into a pool of sludge. Howard wrinkled his nose in disgust.

Suddenly, a disembodied limb loomed, then disappeared again in the murk – a brief glimpse, leaving behind the impression of slick and shining skin.

A long time ago, in a caf�, Howard had seen a plate of oysters. They’d been ready opened – just sitting, waiting to slip raw down the customer’s throat, and Howard’s eyes had been drawn, unable to look away despite himself. A wet quiver; a puddle of flesh in the cold white of the ceramic bowl. Old Gregg’s skin was greener, of course, but…

Then a face bobbed higher in the water, and for an instant Howard caught sight of crimson-rimmed eyes – fixed, staring wide, unseeing. A mouth gaping a silent scream. Then the clouds closed over quickly, a dozen shades of green tendrilling in their wake, leaving Howard unsure he’d seen anything at all.

Condensation hung in every corner. A solitary bead of sweat began to gather, tickling at the nape of Howard’s neck.

“Hello…?” he tried.

With an explosion of spray, Old Gregg’s face broke the surface of the water.

Howard staggered back, hitting a hard, tiled wall. “Jesus!”

“I’m Old Gregg!”

Howard clutched at his chest, trying to catch his breath. “Wha…”

“Old Gregg happy in his water!”

“Wha… the… fuc… !”

Old Gregg looked over at Howard, all shiny eyes and teeth, grinning and dripping as he sat up in the bath. “Old Gregg get a kiss now?”

“God, no!” shouted Howard, in between gasps.

“Oh…” Old Gregg dropped his head, downcast. Then he clapped his hands, and waves splattered around the bath. “Old Gregg’s gonna wait! Old Gregg’s gonna get kissed good on his wedding day!”

Howard’s heartbeat was still trying to race back down to its normal speed, but he had enough energy to wince at that, and think – oh, shit. Leaning against the wall, he let himself collapse, slowly sliding down the cool, slick tiles, coming to rest upon his heels and taking in a deep breath of the clammy bathroom air. He hoped to God it would calm him down, and help him with what was to come.

This had all been a huge mistake. He had to end it, and as soon as possible, before Old Gregg started working his groin-luring juju on him once more, before it spiralled completely out of control. Howard could feel it already, even in his shock, even here, in the furthest corner of the room – the taste of the salt invading his blood and nipping at his veins. A flash of naked green skin caught his eye, glistening and tempting. Howard pushed his head away, firmly averting his gaze.

“Gregg,” he began, talking firmly in the direction of the wall tiles.

“I’m Old Gregg!”

“Yeah, sure you are…” Howard paused. “Look, it’s just not happening. You and me, we’re not getting married.”

A series of sucking splashes emerged from the direction of the bath. Howard looked down to see two bare webbed feet in front of him, surprisingly fine-boned and slender.

“But Howard,” the voice above him pleaded. “If you don’t marry me, I’m gonna just die.”

Howard snorted into the wall. Ridiculous. Everybody knew that was just a figure of speech. How pathetic was this creature going to get? You didn’t really die – it only felt like it.

“Old Gregg’s only speaking the truth. He’s gonna die if we don’t get’n marry. Don’t you believe me, Howard?”

“No, of course I don’t!” Howard spun round, shaking and angry, caught sight of Old Gregg’s nakedness, and slammed angrily back towards the wall. “So what? What if I don’t marry you? What are you going to do about it? Explode? Fall apart limb by limb?”

“Yes, sir. In seven days, sir. The Codfather gave me seven days. Six days now. We used one of them when we made that sweet, sweet love.”

“We did not make sweet, sweet… You salt-toed twat! I slept on the floor! In a blanket! What do you need, a diagram?”

Old Gregg’s reedy voice was desperate. “The Codfather of Sole did me a funky favour. Seven days on land to find my true love. I gotta marry you in seven days, or else he’s gonna hurt me real bad.”

Howard swivelled around, his forehead creased up into a mountain range of disbelief.

Old Gregg was hunched over on the floor, still naked and dripping, his skinny arms shimmering as he pulled them tightly around his thin legs. He spoke down into his bony knees. “He’s gonna rip out my gills. Also my lungs. Then rape my nostrils with a whelk.” Old Gregg gave a frightened whimper. “A whelk! I’m gonna choke on a whelk!” His face lifted up to Howard, beseechingly. “But it don’t matter, does it? We’re gonna get married. Aren’t we? Howard? You’re gonna marry me?”

“Can’t you just go back to this… Codfather? Tell him you’d rather stay single? No skin off his nose, right?”

“Howard? You’re really not gonna marry me?” Old Gregg tightened his claws around his legs. The green scales buckled and rippled under the pressure. “But he said he’s runnin’ short on raped nostrils! He needs mine for his box of juju! I don’ wan’ that, Howard! It’s gonna hurt so bad!”

“I see.” Howard narrowed his eyes. “Just like you were going to hurt me? Don’t think I’ve forgotten. How you kidnapped me. Forcing me to drink that Baileys from a shoe until my taste buds bled.”

“I don’t have my powers no more, Howard! Gave them to the Codfather! Gave them up to come to give you love!”

Howard stared into the corner. “Yeah, well. I didn’t ask you to.”

“But you love me, Howard – you do! Exactly the same way as I love you!” Old Gregg was crawling across the floor, closing in on the distance between him and Howard. The nobbles on his naked spine undulated, a sinuous line curving down to his tailbone. “You put your manly tongue inside my mouth! Old Gregg’s funky mangina went all happy with love! You held me in your big strong arms!”

Howard shifted uncomfortably at the memory.

“You carried me off to your cave! We made sweet fishy love all night long!”

“I just told you – no! All I did was… and then you grabbed my….” Howard shook his head. “Oh, fuck it. Whatever you say. I molested you in every orifice. You happy?”

Howard squashed his cheek against the cold of the bathroom tiles, trying to think of a way out – and how he’d ever got into this mess. He’d hardly sent Old Gregg an invitation, “Dear psychopathic green merman – do feel free to drop by and stalk me any time. Love and kisses, Howard Moon. PS, before you set off, don’t forget to do a deal with the cod Mafiosi. And make sure to offer them both nostrils to rape. See ya soon!”

Old Gregg was smiling, tilting his head to one side as he remembered. “Howard was making happy little noises. And Howard’s sea cucumber grew bigger. I rubbed it and it grew. That means Howard loves Old Gregg.”

Howard shivered, appalled with himself. Was there something wrong with him? There had to be. Why did the thought of Old Gregg’s hand down his trousers even now send tingles to his groin? He should be disgusted. How was he ever going to escape if he only kept wanting more?

“It was so good, Howard! Streams of creamy salt water leaked right out of Old Gregg’s mangina. That only happens when it’s love!”

“No!” Howard was curling desperately into a ball, yelling through the gap of his knees. “No, it doesn’t! Random mouth contact – it doesn’t make a proposal of marriage! Even in a cave! Even if the other person leaks!”

Old Gregg’s hand was climbing Howard’s leg now, starting at the ankle, inching up the maroon corduroy. “But I touched your sea cucumber. Didn’t you like that, Howard?”

Oh, Christ, yes, he had – and all too much. A memory forced itself through again, of rubbing up and down, thrusting his thinly Y-fronted erection into Old Gregg’s webbed palm, the pressure building closer and hotter… Howard scuffled back. Where he touched the bathroom wall, dripping condensation soaked through the back of his shirt.

“Nobody but me’s gonna touch your sea cucumber ever again. It’s all mine. Ain’t that right, Howard?”

As if anyone else had ever touched him there, like that. It’s not like there was a big queue of candidates, all desperate to wank off the great Howard TJ Moon. Not even a queue of one, in fact – especially not the one. Not Vince. Howard breathed hard, trying to banish the sudden, blood-rushing image of Vince’s pale fingers – over his flies, roughly pulling down his trousers, grabbing, his hand a blur as he worked Howard up and down.

A dark, moist meander was trailing up Howard’s maroon cords, mapping where Old Gregg’s claws were progressing – past Howard’s knee, up his thigh, sidling into the creases of Howard’s tightly pulled body, squeezing towards his crotch. Howard’s shoes began to skid pathetically on the floor, squeaking low at first, then higher in pitch. The deep sea musk was wisping through his nostrils, the familiar prelude to overwhelming arousal. Almost too late now – Howard closed his eyes, his toes curling. Shivers ran through his lower back and buttocks.

Suddenly, Old Gregg halted his attack, lifted his eyes and started to howl. “Moon! Mr Moon! Gonna be Mr Moooooon!”

Howard grabbed the last-ditch chance of escape. On hands and knees, he scuttled for the far corner.

Old Gregg beamed as Howard fled. “You’re gonna give me your name, Howard! Then there’ll be no whelky rapings! Gonna be Gregg Moon!”

“Yeah right, my name. Have my name,” gasped Howard. “Just stay over that side!”

“Then the magic breaks. Codfather can’t come near if Old Gregg changes his name!”

Howard paused, a glimmer of hope beginning to flicker. “My… name?”

“Yes, sir. We gets married. The contract’s not with a Mr Moon, and I’s free.”

“Really?” Howard thought about it. “We don’t have to live together afterwards? No larvae kids? That’s it? I only have to marry you – give you my name? And you’ll go back to your swamp?”

“That’s right, my fuzzy little man-peach. I’ll be free! You’re gonna marry me cos you love me!”

Howard collapsed against the wall, sagging in relief. Perfect! He’d marry the green cretin – then, job done, boot him straight back to his fishy kingdom. Right? In a rush, the words burst out of Howard, “Okay! I’ll do it!”

Lifting his chest and sucking in a long, deep breath, Howard finally surrendered himself, drinking in the saturated air all around. Well, in the meantime, if he was really going through with this weird farce – he might as well enjoy some of the benefits….

Old Gregg was crawling again, closer every second, his mouth a thick grin, his thin naked limbs slipping, tumbling over Howard’s. Oh God – that salty, Gregg-ridden tang. The rush had begun again in Howard’s lungs. His brain was thick with lust, his blood pulsing and stiffening. Webbed hands were pawing between his thighs, and without thinking, Howard relaxed his legs, opening up, giving in. This time, yes, he was going to let it all happen. Yes. Go on. Yes.

Just before finally pulling down Howard’s zip, Old Gregg stopped, one hand pressing down over Howard’s ready flesh. He smiled one more time. “I’m gonna pick out a nice outfit for you, Howard. For the wedding – just you wait and see. You’re gonna like this. You’re gonna like this a lot.”

End Notes: Truly, Madly, Fishy Part 4 – Married on the Morn – Written, but not edited, and don’t hold your breath. I’m off to watch the new series now. Yaaaayyyyyyyy! And perhaps have a bath. 🙂 Seriously, does anyone else REALLY want a bath now?

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