The boys are on tour... but not everything goes according to plan.


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Notes: My first Howard/Vince fic! Hurrah! Be gentle… also my first fic with a (vague, I grant you) plot! Double hurrah!

Unexpected by ailcia

Howard blinked wearily and stretched as much as he could in the cramped driver’s seat. Yawning, he tried not to focus on how late it was, tried not to focus on the soft, contented little snores coming from his left-hand side. Bloody Vince, he thought… couldn’t even be bothered to stay awake to keep me company.

This upset him more than he thought: he was far more hurt that Vince seemed to prefer sleeping to his company – and far more angry at this idea – than he expected to be. Confused, but too tired to muse further on it, Howard brushed his feelings aside, dismissed them as being over-wrought from too many rubbish, time-consuming gigs. He thought about what they had planned for their next show… if they ever got to it!

As if the car had heard his thoughts, and the entire world was against him, Howard suddenly heard an ominous rattle come from the front of the car… followed by a ping and a choke.

“Oh, no. No, no, no! Don’t you dare…. don’t you even-” Howard’s mumbled pleas and threats towards the dying motor were cut short as the engine of the van finally came to a spluttering, shuddering halt with an audible groan.

He was calm for a moment or so.

Howard just stared out the windscreen, hands gripping the steering wheel. The night was pitch-black, and there were no points of light, no hint of civilisation anywhere close by. Howard calmly unfastened his seatbelt, clambered out and shut the door quietly so as not to wake up Vince, who was still asleep in the passenger seat. They had been driving all day, and he knew they were miles from anywhere.

He walked stiffly away from the van…. and when he was far enough away… he gave a barking scream.


The horrific, trumpet-like screams of the angered jazz-lover jolted Vince into awareness.

“Howard?” he called, instinctively, eyes still closed. Opening them, he sat up properly, having been slumped against the window. He gazed blearily around the messy van, as if the lanky Northerner might somehow appear out of the glovebox. Deciding that this was probably unlikely, Vince put on his cowboy hat – always handy in the presence of danger – and climbed out the van, wandering around the painted front of the vehical and peering into the gloom ahead. “Oi! Howard! You there? Hey, come on, Howard!”

Walking into the darkness, pushing branches out of his way as he went deeper into what appeared to be a wood, Vince finally found the enraged musician… Howard was in the process of trying to tear all the branches from one particularly old-looking tree and, once thrown to the floor, stomp on them repeatedly. Vince grinned at the sight of Howard in a rage… he knew it wasn’t funny, but it sort of was… like that time when he smashed the broom handle over his head… He’s really just a woman with a moustache.

“Alright?” he asked cheerily, knowing this would annoy Howard.

Howard froze, back to Vince and branch in hand… then seemed to just sag like a flan on a summer day, and sat down on a nearby log heavily. Vince stifled his smile, and went to sit by his friend.

Howard was positively fuming, Vince could almost smell the burning fire. He put a calming hand on Howard’s shoulder, only to have it knocked away, “Don’t touch me.”

Somewhere, deep within his chest, Vince felt a little twinge of something… but then it was gone… evidently not worth bothering about, then. Instead, he sighed, “Come on, Howard… tell your boy Vince, what’s wrong?”

Howard waved a hand moodily towards the direction of the van, “Engine’s gone. Told you we needed a new carboretta.” At this, Howard’s dark eyes fixed Vince with a sharp, accusing look.

“Hey, hey! Don’t blame me, you bumba-clart! You don’t even know what a carboretta is, Howard!”

“At least I don’t think it’s an ice-cream, Vince!”

“No, just an Italian make of suits!”

Vince had him there, and Howard knew it. Predictably, he changed track, “Come on, now… let’s stop this bickering: we need to figure out how we’re going to get to the next gig, minus the van, but with more than a few miles ahead of us. We need to do it fast, before tomorrow afternoon – that’s when they expect us at the old-peoples’ home. Now, any ideas?”

“Yeah, I’m thinking about maybe trying out a ‘glam guildsmen’ look for the tour… you know, a glitterati-weaver, a made-up miller… the beau-monde blacksmith? I’m going to make hats for each character, about a foot or two wide… imagine that!”

Howard looked at him, “I meant about getting to the gig.”

“Oh, right, yeah… no.” Vince shook his head.

Vince thought he might have heard Howard growl… but the taller man had stood up before he could be sure and had stalked off into the forest without another look.

Sighing, Vince pushed himself up off the log and followed Howard, as fast as his knee-high boots would allow. Finally, Vince caught up with him, and fell into step beside him, “Hey, hey, Howard! Howard? Howard? Howard…. Howard… Howard. Howard, Howard, Howard, How-”

“WHAT?!” Howard snarled, and Vince had a sudden impression that he’d perhaps been more annoying than he realised. Whoops…

“I’m sorry, Howard… I was trying to pay attention, really. Sorry…” Vince looked down as they walked, embarrassed at having to apologise, something he rarely did. He only did it when his best friend was upset with him.

Howard stopped, and Vince heard him laugh… suddenly all seemed bright and happy in the world once again. “S’alright, little man,” Howard clapped Vince on the back. “Now, the only way we can get out of this pickle is by walking our way out.” Vince must have looked absolutely disgusted, because Howard smiled, “I know, I know… but think of it this way, it’ll be like an adventure. You and me, walking into the sunset-”

“It’s night, you fool.”

“Sunrise, then! We can do this! We will have achieved something great if we get to the ‘Prune Tree Nursing Home‘ before they’re given their afternoon hot-chocolate! Come on, Vince! They’ll write books about our dedication to old peoples’ after-lunch enjoyment!”

For once, Howard’s care-worn face was bright and happy, his little eyes were dancing and his grin was wide. Vince loved that smile… that sounded odd, but he knew he did. It was just one of those things you love… some people loved animals dressed up in hats, some people loved finding a shiny new penny in their pocket, some people loved the smell of new catalogues…

He loved it when Howard was in one of his rare good moods, because Howard’s smile made him smile, and Vince loved to smile. He couldn’t refuse the older man anything when that peg-toothed beamer was on the loose.

So, he didn’t really mind when he heard himself say, “Alright, let’s get this show on the road.”

All he was paying attention to was the fact that Howard had grabbed his hand as they began there walk in the darkness together, and continued to hold it. Unexpected, to say the least.

“… Come on, Howard! We’re still ages away, I reckon! We have to keep going…”

Howard panted as he looked up. Vince was way ahead of him, looking back expectantly.

He can call me Rita if he thinks I’m walking anymore just yet, Howard thought bitterly, rubbing idly at the stitch in his side and at his sore feet. Vince eventually got the hint and carefully sat down where he’d been standing, pulling his leather-clad knees to his chest and looking around at the midnight forest.

Howard couldn’t help noticing, even in his exhausted state, the way the moon seemed to beam down on Vince, setting his pale skin and raven hair ablaze with a silvery light. Perhaps his experience as a master-poet during the 70s made him notice it… as a spanner of the genres, he could appreciate beauty more than conventional males. If there’s one thing Howard Moon was not, that was a conventional male. No, sir… that must be it.

Still, he found he couldn’t stop looking at Vince… watching the way he moved, the way his dark hair fell across his thin, t-shirted shoulder as he looked around him, the way his hands played with each other in his lap…

His ‘observation session’ – as he liked to call the frequent instances in which he found himself staring at Vince – was cruelly cut short as Vince leapt up from where he sat, and shot towards Howard with a yelp. Howard immediately jumped up, alarm clamouring in his chest as he saw the panic in Vince’s pointy features as the smaller man grabbed him. “What?! Vince, what is it?”

“Bloody bats! Thousands of the fuckers!” he heard Vince blurt out hysterically from somewhere near his back, arms clamped firmly around Howard’s waist as he used the cream-poet as a shield.

Howard looked up… there were indeed hundreds of bats flying about all over the place, screeching and flapping, pinwheeling and diving in the air before coming to land in perfectly straight lines behind a much bigger bat-leader, who wore a small cape and sunglasses.

Now Howard understood, and he gave Vince a quick hug to try and stop him whimpering, a horrible sound for anyone to hear, but one that especially upset Howard. Vince should never have anything intruding on his natural, consistently-happy nature, and he would do everything he could to try and stop anything trying to bring the innocent ex-zookeeper into the real world. Vince had once had a very bad experience with a bat in the Zooniverse, and had developed something of an aversion to them since.

The caped leader stepped forward, and spoke with a thick Transylvanian accent – rather predictably, Howard thought.

As he spoke, he revealed two sharp, pointy fangs, “Velcom, strangers, to our voods… I am Egorr, King of ze Bats… ve hav been expecting you and your vife. Ve hav been expecting you for ze longest time!” Then Egorr grinned evily, leering at them, and Howard saw many of the others licking their little bat lips.

“Ohhhhh, dear….” Howard started backing away slowly feeling Vince, still attatched to his waist, do the same. “Errrr, thanks for everything, sir, Egorr-sir…. but we’ll just be going now… then…” He began stumbling backwards at a quicker rate now, as the battalion of bats began to march slowly towards them. “Vince, get off! Vince!” But Vince wouldn’t release him – Howard suspected he was probably paralysed with fright… that and busy trying to hide his hair.

Suddenly the bats started screeching and taking to the air, with Egorr shouting, “DINNER!”

RUN!” Howard bellowed and ran as fast as his hose-pipe legs – and added electro-ponce weight – would allow. He and Vince hurtled through the woods, looking like some odd, lop-sided animal as they crashed through the undergrowth in order to escape the wrath of the bats. They swooped and soared, and bit and scratched… all flesh wounds though, and not that serious.

Soon, they came to a small cave, half-hidden under tree-roots… it looked fairly small, but Howard knew it was there only chance of escape. Tearing Vince off him, he shoved the smaller man into the cave first, chucking rocks at the bats in order to fend them off. Then he hurled himself into the cave after Vince.

For a minute or so, all they could do was sit there and pant in the pitch-black cave. Howard was unsurprised when, after another minute, Vince moved to sit next to Howard, and wrapped his arms around him again. Howard could feel him shivering.

Vince hadn’t spoken since they’d first seen the bats… and for the motor-mouthed music-lover, that meant something was wrong. Howard became worried, and pulled Vince a little closer, pressing his face into the soft hair, devoid of it’s familiar cowboy hat, “You alright?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine!”

He would almost have believed Vince, had his voice not been that bit higher than usual.

Howard smiled fondly into Vince’s mullet, he felt ever so protective over his best friend all of a sudden. “Good,” he said, and before he knew it, he had pressed a kiss into the shining locks.

Then he froze. He felt Vince stiffen, then draw back. The cold air rushed to meet his chest where the warm weight of Vince had been. Suddenly, a lighter flame was ignited, and Howard found Vince’s face not inches from his own, the flickering flame reflecting in those huge, expressive eyes. Though he hated himself for observing it, Howard couldn’t help but think Vince looked more than a little freaked out. But, that was to be expected.

He watched as Vince swallowed, and then said, voice shaking slightly, “Howard, why did you do that?”

Howard felt himself wince. “Um, not sure…. I-I think it’s all the excitement, you know… the joo-joo of the forest, the thrill of the chase… it’s messing with my mind-box.” He wasn’t even convincing himself… this was pathetic.

But Vince seemed to have believed him… and, if Howard thought about it, even looked a little crest-fallen… but surely not.

Vince sat in the cave thinking, as he and Howard waited for the bats to stop flying around outside.

They’d managed to get a very small fire going by snatching dried leaves from the mouth of the cave… Vince was now in constant danger of his hairsprayed hair catching fire. But he was cold in his short-sleeved t-shirt, and the fire at least gave them some light. He was lucky Howard knew how to start fires from scratch… he was lucky Howard had been here in the first place.

He might have died a bat-ridden death, were it not for Howard. Howard had pretty much carried him in here, because he’d been too scared and girlish and useless to do anything for himself. Howard was always bailing him out of things… always looking after him…

Vince automatically glanced at his friend, who was sitting with his back against the side of the cave, head tilted upwards with his eyes closed. His hair was mussed, and his strong throat was exposed. Vince felt a large portion of the blood in his head suddenly travel to some other significant portion of his body. Unable to keep his legs crossed any longer, Vince shifted to a more comfortable position.

Something weird had gone on earlier… he wasn’t sure, but he thought Howard might fancy him. Now, Vince had expected himself to freak out at such a thing… not because Howard was a man, but because Howard was… well, Howard. He’d just assumed his moustachioed mentor was like those frogs that are neither male nor female… they just keep spawning legions of themselves, by themselves.

It was the same with all jazz fans: they were asexual and self-reproducing.

The world just had to face the hideous truth.. how else was it possible that Jamie Cullum was so popular?

Vince’s was the only explanation, clearly.

Nevertheless, that did not help Vince’s current situation any. Howard had not looked or spoken to him since ‘the incident’… and Vince had an inkling this might prove that Howard had kissed his hair as something other than appreciation of the style.

But what was really confusing… and what was currently making Vince go a little cross-eyed as he tried to work it out…. was that he had liked it. Not only had he liked it, he had been very displeased to find it stopping – and he had been unable to stop thinking about it since.

Suddenly, he couldn’t bear it any longer, he had to find out.

Carefully avoiding the fire, he crawled over to where Howard still sat… was he asleep?

He got a little bit closer, and prodded the musician gently in the ribs. Howard’s eyes jerked open… he hadn’t been asleep, “What? Vince…”

Vince placed a finger on Howard’s soft lips, and then let his hand explore the curves and dips of Howard’s face. Vince had never felt like this before, so fascinated and appreciative of something… especially something he saw, without fail, every single day. He could see Howard was confused… and the face he pulled – with the dint between his eyesbrows, and his mouth slightly open – suddenly seemed the most attractive thing in the world to Vince.

More attractive even than Gary Numan, and that was saying something.

He leant in, and pressed his lips to Howard’s in a rather quick, frantic way. It was bungled, ungraceful, and as close to fumbling as Vince got. He accidentally banged his nose into Howard’s cheekbone in the process, and his hair got all over the place.

Vince hadn’t known what he’d expected when he’d drawn back… probably a short, sharp visit from the smack-fairy for kissing in such an appalling manner.

He’d had been pleasantly surprised, then, when Howard’s eyes had lit up, and one of those grins had played about his lips. Howard had pulled him back close again, and everything seemed to fit this time.

Howard’s hands ran up his back, and Vince realised this was it, this was why he felt so happy when he was with Howard. One hand cupped Howard’s stubbled jaw, and the other ran through the fine curls of his hair. They just smiled and watched each other. He bet Howard thought he was an innocent… flirtatious, sure, but sexy? Well, he would soon change all of that. He fixed Howard with a stare and licked his lips.

Then Howard drew Vince smoothly down into his lap with a filthy grin on his face. Vince laughed loudly, and thrust his mouth against Howard’s, loving the way their tongues collided with one another, and the way Howard’s hips bucked up beneath him.

Their second kiss was perfect.

Sheer, liquid wonderment.

So was the third, the fourth and the fifth… and everything unexpected that followed.