Set after “Hitcher”. On the way back to the zoo, Vince develops a fever.


Characters: ,


Genre: ,



Length: words

Truthtops by changeling

Howard drummed his fingertips on the steering wheel contentedly. They had switched back after Vince’s love of swerving had caused them to almost crash into a tree. Twice. He didn’t mind, though. Well, he did mind that, obviously, but he didn’t mind being back in the driver’s seat. It was where he always was, metaphorically. Vince was his friend but, sometimes he was little more than the shiny mascot dangling from the mirror. Also metaphorically.

He decided to share this impressive bout of wisdom with Vince, who had been rather quiet for the past fifteen minutes or so. Howard wondered if he’d fell asleep. He glanced over at him and could just make him out in the dark. He was grimacing.

“Vince? Are you alright?”

“I feel sick, Howard.”

Howard groaned.”Oh no. Not in here, Vince. Not in here, whatever you do, Fossil’ll kill me. I’ll pull over if you really have to. Here, wind down the window or something.” He shook his head and continued to berate him. “You never get travel sick, and you were fine just before. It’s probably all those bloody sweets you ate.”

He waited for a haughty response. When he didn’t get one, haughty or otherwise, he glanced over at Vince and felt a small twinge of guilt. He looked terrible. Howard regarded him a little more kindly. “Let’s try and take your mind off it. Why don’t you finish that story from before? Or tell me about some new electro groups you’re into? A good old bit o’ bickering should make you feel better.”

Vince still couldn’t quite manage a response.

Howard sighed. This obviously called for extremes. “Go on, then.”

Vince parted his eyes a fraction.”Go on, what?”

Howard gestured to the cassette player. “Put Gary on.”

Vince shook his head and closed his eyes again. “Headache.”

Howard swerved slightly. Vince had turned down Numan. Things were bad.

Vince frowned slightly at the motion of the car.

“Well, sit tight, we’re coming up to Taisyll now, so we should be there in abouuut..” he lowered his voice a little. “erm, three hours.”

Vince didn’t reply, and they said nothing for a few minutes. Howard concentrated on the road, on driving as smoothly as possible, and Vince concentrated on holding on to the contents of his stomach. Soon he couldn’t quite manage it. He snatched at Howard’s arm.

“Howard, stop the van.”


“Howard- ”

Oh. Right. Understanding his urgency, Howard screeched to a halt at the side of the road. Vince got out and ran, and Howard winced at the noise that followed. He hunted around for their bottle of water, the only item of use Vince had thought of, and climbed out of the van and waited for him.

Vince stumbled out from behind a tree.”Oh god, my hair. Howard, is there any of it in my hair??”

“No,” Howard assured quickly. He came forward and examined it in the moonlight. “No, none at all.”

Vince sighed in relief. Howard offered him the water. “Let’s sit here for a bit,” he suggested, gesturing to the grass. “The fresh air’ll do you good.”

Vince nodded weakly, and dropped to a sitting position beside the road. Howard joined him and took in the spectacular landscape. He stared at the calm collisions of clouds and the textures of the treetops, the layers of hills and the moonlit horizon. You didn’t see something like this very often. “Beautiful night,” he commented to Vince. “This is a nice place, innit? Y’know the word Taisyll actually means ‘truth’ in about four different languages. In latin though it kind of splits up, ‘tai’ meaning truth and ‘syll’ meaning top. Something like that, anyway. Funny that, isn’t it? Truthtop. Truthtop Hill. The Hill of Truth.”

A “Mm” was all he got in response.

He patted Vince’s shoulder sympathetically. “They say you usually feel better once you’ve thrown up.”

“They’re liars,” he replied morosely. He drew his knees up to his chest and held them there.

Howard looked back at the hills and thought about his life. Sometimes you saw things that made you do that. He thought about his childhood, his ambitions, the zoo and finally, about the events of the night, about his encounter with The Hitcher, about Vince. They escaped with their lives and their friendship intact. Howard wished he could remember this view forever.

Suddenly, spoiling the moment just a bit, Vince jumped up and ran back to the trees.


Howard shuddered as he heard him retch, accompanied by what sounded like sobbing. He grabbed the water and hurried to Vince’s side. He deposited the bottle at their feet and held Vince’s forehead, murmuring to him soothingly.

Vince groaned and shuddered a final time, then sank to his knees wearily, trembling slightly.

Howard swept a hand through his hair comfortingly and handed him the water. Without a word they both returned to the hillside.

After a minute, Vince began to talk. “Howard,” he said hesitatingly, his voice still dry and strained. “Where are we again? Truthtop Hill? I have a truthtop for you.”

“What?” He wondered if Vince was feverish.

Vince ignored him. “Y’know when we were in the tundra, and you said you loved me and I laughed? I didn’t mean it, Howard. I love you too.”

Howard stared at him. A truthtop? Why did he think now was a good time to randomly announce something like that? And how could he bring that up so casually, and with such frankness?

“Yeah, well,” was all he could think of in response.

Vince seemed to understand though. He smiled, satisfied, and looked as though a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He adopted his original position and closed his eyes. Howard watched him for a minute. A truthtop indeed. Ridiculous. Vince was obviously more poorly than he thought. He felt Vince’s forehead, and the suspicion was confirmed; he was burning up. Howard sighed and, despite his previous cynicism, put his arm around him.

Vince leaned against him weakly. For the first time, he noticed what a beautiful night it was. Howard rested his head against Vince’s and, feeling his shivers begin to cease, looked out into the starlight and experienced a few moments of sheer happiness.

Eventually, a slight panic struck Howard as he realised that to anyone who came by, they wouldn’t look like best buddies. They’d look like-

He took his arm and himself away from Vince. “Better get a move on, eh? You’ll feel better once you get some sleep.” Howard thought he saw a flash of reproach in Vince’s eyes, or disappointment, he couldn’t quite tell which, but if he did it was gone in a second. Vince complied amiably enough though, and they got back in the van.

“I like it here, Howard,” Vince said faintly, closing his eyes. “Can we come again? I want to come to Truthtops again and see the statues..”

Howard looked at him uncertainly. “Vince? What are you..?”

He waited.

Then he drove them home.

End Notes: As far as I know, “Taisyll” is not a word. In this fic it is pronounced “tay-zill,”. I don’t know any latin either, and also I haven’t watched The Hitcher episode for a while, so I may have missed a detail or two. Oh well. Thanks for reading!

+ posts