Your Biggest Secret Fan

Christmas fic challenge entry – Through a dramatic mix-up involving the Fountain of Youth and hair products, Howard and Vince become encased in tight youthful faces and are sent off to school. Can Howard endure puberty for the second time? Can Vince beat off all his admirers? (HAHA pun!) And can they stop fighting long enough to enter the school’s Christmas Talent Showcase? You’ll only know if you read, eh?

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Notes: This is all the fault of that lot over at fit_comedians; in particular, those ideas expressed in this thread, where we wondered at the possibilities of 8-yr-old Vince and 12-yr-old Howard. I’ve incorporated some of the ideas from that thread here, and the fic itself is highly derivative, featuring themes and jokes that you run across in almost all Boosh fic, as well as passing references to Lolita and About a Boy. Oh, McFly and their Christmas single also make a cameo appearance. So do David Bowie and Bing Crosby. There is tragic abuse of christmas carols in this.

Thank youuuu to kay_wray for looking this over first. Oh, and if you do read this, please leave me a comment. I really do likes ‘em!

Winner of the Christmas Challenge – Your Biggest Secret Fan by tartpants

Your Biggest Secret Fan by tartpants

Part One: Dreaming of Big Jazz Mountain


The little girl propelled herself at Howard, plaits flying out behind her as she crashed full-on into his midsection and buried her face into the plush, fur-lined opening of his red parka. “I want a barbie doll, please!” she chattered, tugging at one of his hands. “And a pet toucan to sit on my shoulder and a pair of embellished jeans and NARS lipgloss and feathered earrings.” Howard flashed Vince a helpless look, all while trying to shake off the girl’s persistent hold on his fingers.

“Accessorising already!” Vince gave the girl a wide smile and an approving nod.

“Yeah,” Howard grumbled, “and this is exactly why I don’t accessorise… wear this red parka Howard! You’ve got to get seasonal. You’ve got to get jolly. His impersonation of Vince was eerily accurate, if a bit on the high-pitched and fey side. “This is why things like colour and fur are dangerous. They cause children to mistake you for Father Christmas.” He nodded down at the little girl, who was busily going through Howard’s pockets, pulling out old ticket stubs and oddly-shaped lumps of lint. “She’ll wake up on Christmas morning and find there’s no toucan sitting on her shoulder and then who will she blame? Howard Moon, that’s who.”

“Nah, she thinks you’re Father Christmas. She’ll just wait a few years, then find herself a cultish guru to follow in both rejection of the Christmas spirit and in honour of teenage rebellion.” Vince paused long enough to exchange a knowing glance with the little girl. “Ask him for one of those spikey belts,” he advised in a stage whisper. “Comes in handy for the rebellion phase.”

“She thinks I’m Father Christmas thanks to your red, fur-lined parka. If I had worn brown this would never have happened,” Howard said in a world-weary voice. Christmas shoppers bustled by them to and fro, laden with bright packages.

“You always wear neutrals,” Vince said, rolling his eyes mildly. “Neutrals or tropical shirts. And just how do you know it’s the parka that has her thinking you’re Father Christmas?”

“What else could it be?”

Vince gave a pert toss of his head, having anticipated this cue. “Hey, little girl.” The girl had fixed her eyes on the model train going round and round in the nearest shop’s window display, and Vince had to tap her on the shoulder to get her attention. “How do you know that he’s Father Christmas?” Vince asked, pointing at Howard.

The girl grinned confidently, showing pearly teeth. “Because of his snowy white beard!” she chirped, then bounded away in her red rubber boots, soon to be swallowed up by the crowd of shoppers.

“Beard!” Howard clapped his hands against his stubbled cheeks in alarm. “I haven’t got a beard! Not even a snowy white one!”

Vince leaned against a post, doubled over in stifled laughter. “But you’ve got that gray hair in your mustache, don’t you?” he said, pointing helpfully.

“What gray hair?” Howard turned toward the window display, trying to get a clear view of his reflection.

“It’s about forty hairs in from the left end of your mustache,” Vince said, his reflection popping into view behind Howard’s shoulder. “Let’s get home so I can tweeze it,” he added hungrily.

“You’re not tweezing it!” Howard roared, jerking away. “If you tweeze it out six more show up to the funeral.”

“That can’t be true… can it?” Vince’s hand automatically rose to waiver nervously over his own head of black (“obsidian”) hair.

Howard leaned in defiantly. “Well Father Christmas is a bit TOO OLD to be taking such risks, isn’t he?” He turned with a flourish that was hindered somewhat by the red parka’s bulk, not bothering to wait for Vince to follow. “No, I’m not him,” he said irritably, dodging a tiny, hopeful-looking boy on crutches as he went.

“Howard,” Vince said to himself, shaking his head in exasperation.

Snowy white beard, snowy white beard, Howard thought, kicking snow aside. The rhythm of the words matched his furious pace, which he kept up despite the fact that a rheumatism was flaring to life in his hip.

The rest of the evening was less than festive, as Howard worked himself into a jazz trance along the lines of which Vince had never before seen–one that ended with Howard attempting to drink spiked eggnog from his trumpet and passing out dressed in nothing but tinsel and his underpants.

“Howard,” Vince said under his breath, picking up a jazz record by the very tips of his fingers, as if it might be contaminated. He glanced down at the patch of floor where Howard had collapsed, his trumpet oozing eggnog beside him.

“What’s up with him?” Naboo asked, shuffling into the kitchen with a tea cosy on his head.

“He’s having an age crisis,” Vince said. “Again.”

“So I take it that all his hopes and dreams have turned to dust, and the armour of his youth gone to rust?”

“Yeah, how’d you know?” Vince stared at the record, shrugged, then tucked it carefully under Howard’s head like a pillow.

“I’m a shaman,” Naboo said knowingly.

“Right, should have thought of that!” Vince bounded to his feet, brow wrinkled. “Hey, where’s your turban?”

Naboo blew on his steaming tea. “Cleaners.”

At that moment Howard began to moan and thrash in his sleep, tinsel rustling as his hands pawed restlessly at the air. Vince and Naboo both stared at this display for several long minutes, their expressions intensely interested as they sipped from their mugs of tea. “What do you think he dreams of?” Vince finally whispered.

“Oh, you think he’s dreaming?” Naboo asked, surprised. “I thought he was just in a jazz trance.”

“Nah, that already happened before,” Vince said. Then, after a moment’s thought: “I bet he’s dreaming of big jazz mountain.” He gestured widely with his hands, and in that single deft gesture an image of the very big and jazzy jazz mountain seemed to hang in the air, carved of black and white film noir and wreathed in blue-tinted cigarette smoke. “Where chaps like him are still hip and everyone’s too busy hallucinating or off their tits to notice a single gray mustache hair.”

“I don’t like that dream,” Naboo said meekly. “It’s sad.”

“Yeah, well it is Howard we’re talking about, innit?” Vince jerked his thumb in Howard’s direction.

“You’ve a point there.” Naboo rinsed out his mug and stifled a yawn. “I’m off for forty winks. Don’t let Howard sleepwalk onto the roof dressed like that.”

“Ah, no way,” Vince said, waving Naboo off. “I’ve not draped him with quite enough tinsel yet.”

It was the pile of tinsel that reminded Vince of what he had stashed beneath his collection of boas many months before. The boas themselves were coiled in a trunk that was kept plainly out in the open, as Vince had no reason to believe that any of his three fashionably-challenged flatmates would go snooping through them. He rooted through the pink and black feathers until his fingers hit the hard lump hidden at the bottom, then he picked up the lump and shook it, smiling at the sound of water sloshing around inside.

Minutes later found Vince in the shower, carefully tipping water out of the canteen and into the bottle of “Naboo’s Magic Shampoo” that all four of the flatmates used. Well, Vince used it sometimes, and only in addition to conditioners, super root booster, and finishing wax. But Naboo’s shampoo was pretty much the only product in Howard’s beauty regimen, and Vince was quite certain that, upon waking up for his morning vitamin and finding himself covered in eggnog, Howard would promptly step into the shower to wash up. Just a little bit, Vince thought, sealing off the canteen’s lid and smiling in satisfaction. Enough to wash those grays right out of his hair. He slung the canteen over his shoulder and, after a moment’s thought, bent over to remove his red cowboy boots. He might as well have a shower since he was already in here.

“Wake up, Howard! Wake up!”

Howard snorted and shook himself awake. The voice was like a swarm of insects zooming round his ear, and about as persistent and friendly as an ice pick. “Who? What? Where?” he asked groggily, reaching up to rub the sleep from his eyes.

“Vince. Wakey time. Home.”

“Whazzat?” Howard blinked rapidly in succession, a face swimming to life before his eyes that was vaguely recognisable but still soft and blurred around the edges, like a pastel drawing on raggedy paper. He blinked again and found that he was staring into the bright blue eyes of a young girl. “Who’re you?” he said, his voice cracking oddly.

“It’s Vince!” the girl said.

“Huh?” Howard sat up and looked around frantically, relieved to see that he was inside the flat and not on the roof in his underpants. Then he turned his attention back to the girl, who looked about 8 years old and was wearing an absurdly over-sized and mirrored jumpsuit; both shoulders and the twin ridges of her fragile collarbones were exposed above the drooping neckline. “Where’s Vince?”

I’m Vince,” the girl said, shaking her head slightly and rolling her eyes back in a show of exasperation that struck Howard as utterly familiar.

“Vince!” Howard bleated in a high squeak. “Good god, what’s been done to you!?”

“I…” Vince faltered, her face falling. “I took a shower.”

“Yeah? So did I at about five o’clock this morning when I got up to take my vitamin. What of it?”

“Howard, just look!” Vince flashed a hand-held mirror in front of his face.

“What’s been done to me!?” Howard shouted. Well, it was really more of a scream, and for the first time Howard noticed that his voice was much higher than usual, much more prone to cracking and squeaking. Just as it had been when he was… “Oh god,” Howard moaned, clutching the mirror in his hands. “I’m twelve years old!” He brought his hand up to his smooth, whisker-free cheek, then flicked his eyes over to Vince. “And you’re a girl! Am I a girl too?” He quickly dropped his hand to the crotch of his now over-sized underpants and let out a sigh of deep relief. “Still equipped, thank god.”

“I’m not a girl!” Vince protested, snatching the mirror from Howard’s grip.

“But you look just like…” Howard trailed off as he studied his friend’s rose-dappled cheeks and glossy lips. “…always. Except younger. Okay, yes, I suppose you’re not a girl then.”

“I’m not,” Vince said, his face relaxing into something like amusement as he looked Howard over. “But I am years younger than you.”

“We’re the same age!”

Vince thrust out the hand mirror again. “Then why are you about two days away from puberty while I’m barely out of nappies?”

“Barely out of nappies? You must’ve been toilet trained at a very late age, Vin…” Howard trailed off as he caught sight of two or three angry looking spots on his forehead and chin. “Fuck, I am in puberty. How did this happen?”

“Oh.” Vince immediately looked sheepish and held a finger to his lips. “I don’t suppose you remember the time we tried to hunt down the Fountain of Youth?”

It was Naboo who finally concluded what had gone wrong, roughly a half-hour later as all four flatmates gathered around the kitchen table for tea–all except Vince, who was instead drinking hot cocoa with mounds of freshly whipped cream.

“You can’t mix water from the Fountain of Youth with Naboo’s Magic Shampoo and expect anything good to come of it,” Naboo said, poking a festive sprig of holly into his tea cosy. “Almost as bad as drinking it.”

“Pretty little girl,” Bollo said, adding sprinkles to Vince’s whipped cream. “Bollo will be nanny.”

“What about me?” Howard asked, picking at a spot on his chin.

“You not so pretty.”

Howard scowled. “Enough!” he squeaked, pounding his fist on the table and then wincing visibly. He blushed and massaged the pain out of his hand while Naboo and Bollo looked as if they were not trying very hard not to laugh.

“Want a sprinkle?” Vince offered, stretching out his tiny hand. The little fleck of chocolate candy was embedded in his fingertip, which was smeared with smudgets of whipped cream.

“Yes,” Howard said automatically, reaching out. Then he stopped suddenly and withdrew, frowning. “Stop stuffing yourself with sweets and help us figure this out!” he bleated. “You do know that you’re not really eight years old inside there, don’t you?”

“I’ve always loved sprinkles,” Vince said, smiling happily. “They’re genius. Like glitter for food.”

Howard looked to Naboo for support. “See that? He’s off like a puff of perfume on the wind.”

Naboo shrugged, then sighed. “He might as well be. There’s not really anything for us to figure out. It’s up to me to return to the Desert of Nightmares, find the Fountain of Old, and return both of you to your proper physical states.” And with that he held up his amulet, pushed the button, and vanished.

“Wait!” Howard cried out. “What about us?”

“School,” Bollo grunted.

“What do you mean?” Vince asked, frowning for the first time since he’d been given the sprinkles.

“Bollo good nanny, send his boys to school.”

There was a sound of spoons clattering to the table just before Howard and Vince exchanged looks of deep and profound alarm.

Part Two: I Love a Boy in Uniform, School Uniform

“Howard, check out my pop star uniform!” Vince announced as he burst from the Headmaster’s office, twirling around on coltish, knee-socked legs so that his maroon tartan skirt flared out. His white oxford blouse was knotted off to show his midriff, and his hair was done up in plaits that ended in fuzzy pink bows.

Howard lunged for Vince and stopped him in mid-spin. “Enough of that, now! Did you explain to the Headmaster that we have old brains encased in tight, youthful faces?”

“I tried,” Vince said, rolling back his eyes in anticipation of Howard’s disappointment. “He just said I was absolutely adorable and gave me this uniform to wear. What do you think?” He grinned and tried to twirl around again, but could really only pivot from back to forth since Howard still had a grip on his shoulders.

“I think you’ve gone wrong,” Howard snapped, jerking away in disgust. Vince seemed unperturbed as he did a lithe little sashay across the floor, swinging his head from side to side so that his plaits bounced merrily against his shoulders.

“Check this out,” Vince said, forming his fingers into the shape of a camera lens. “We get some of those metal lockers in here, fill the hallway with dancing extras, and make ourselves a hit pop video. It’ll be just like Britney! Imagine that, heh.”

“Britney who?” Howard sputtered. His own uniform (the male version, thank goodness) was too tight for his frame–which was tall and ungainly even at twelve years old–and made him feel impossibly awkward. Vince, however, had settled into his surroundings with the usual grace and ease. Howard didn’t know if it was reassuring or depressing that their roles had changed so little despite the aforementioned advantage of tight, youthful faces.

“Britney! She’s a terrible role model to young girls like me everywhere… or was, until she got sprogged up and married to a man in corn-rows.” Vince shuddered visibly, his china-white complexion going even more pale. “Oh god, white men in corn-rows.”

“Vince!” Howard demanded, slapping a hand against his thigh. “You’re not a girl! And stop thinking about pop stars and uniforms! We’re in school now, you realise. You’ll have to do year four maths and read up on the chief exports and imports of Brazil. Think about that, yeah?”

“Ah, there’s where you’re wrong.” Vince tipped back his head and smiled broadly. “They’ve put me in year eight with you.”

“Year eight! You must be joking!” Howard gestured broadly to indicate his gangly body. “I’m in puberty and have the mind of a man of letters! You’re an infant and have a mind made of meringue!”

Vince giggled in a fashion that Howard found alarmingly youthful and charming, and covered his smile with a hand that had pink-varnished fingernails. “You’re not the only one in puberty,” he said in a sly tone. “I just look young for my age, you know.”

“What, are you saying you’re in puberty?” Howard pointed at the puffy spot on his forehead that had sprouted up at some point in the last half-hour. “Yeah? Prove it.”

“You might not want me to do that,” Vince demurred, glancing down at his skirt in a pointed way.

“Oh.” Howard swallowed thickly and took a step backwards. “Look, Vince,” he began after a moment, holding up his hands peaceably. “I don’t want to argue. Why don’t we just skiv off this whole school business and go back to the flat, right? Lay low until Naboo comes back from the Fountain of Old, drink cocoa with sprinkles, that sort of thing.”

“Alright,” Vince said, agreeably enough. “But I’m keeping the uni… Howard, look!” Vince suddenly broke off in mid-word and flitted down the hall, pointing at a large, hand-painted poster. “The school’s having a Christmas Talent Showcase next week! We have to perform, it’ll be genius!”

Howard let out a deep sigh of frustration. “Vince,” he began, forcing his voice into a calm tone that didn’t match his mental state one little bit. “You just agreed to skiv school off. We’re already musicians back in the real world, we don’t need some amateur talent showcase for school-brats.”

But Vince already had that eager, “I’m-too-gone-to-go-back” look on his face. “I think we ought to do ‘Little Drummer Boy,’ David Bowie and Bing Crosby style, with me singing “Peace on Earth” while you go wild on the “rum pum pum pums”. You can be a grumpy Bing in his old-man cardigan, and I’ll be a fantastic, superstar Bowie.” Vince sucked in his cheeks and gazed off into the distance, already imagining a Bowie-fied version of himself strutting onstage in a spangled jumpsuit while hundreds of weeping adolescents clutched at one another and fainted in the glow of the footlights.

“I don’t want to sing ‘Little Drummer Boy’!” Howard shouted, his voice cracking pathetically. “I want to be a man again!”

Vince quirked an eyebrow. “We could do White Christmas,’ but that one doesn’t have Bowie.”

“This is all your fault, Vince,” Howard said, planting a finger in the middle of Vince’s chest. “You’ve gotten us into trouble yet again, and as usual, you’re just bopping around thinking of yourself.”

Again?” Vince exclaimed, widening his eyes in disbelief. “Whatever! Who’s the one who got trapped in Monkey Hell? Who’s the one who got trapped in an underwater cave with an amourous gill-man?”

“Who’s the one who summoned Nanatoo? Who’s the one who lost a hat-wearing contest to Johnny Two-Hats?”

“That one wasn’t my fault, Johnny Two-Hats has far less hair and therefore loads more room for additional hats!”

Howard glared at Vince for several long seconds, trying to think up a proper retort while keenly aware of the distraction that was the pout of his little friend’s mouth, and the long black eyelashes framing his luminous eyes that resembled… blueberries dropped in cream. And then there was the way the fuzzy ends of his plaits accentuated his sculpted cheekbones. The cheekbones of a child anywhere from age eight to twelve, true, but they were stunning just the same: unblemished and…like cream. Howard felt something twist in his gut. He took in a sharp breath, then leaned forward…

…and yanked furiously on one of Vince’s plaits.

“Owww,” Vince cried out, tears welling up in his eyes. “Why Howard, why?” He implored, frantically nursing life back into the wounded plait by massaging it between the palms of his hands.

“Be…. because! You said I’m a grumpy Bing Crosby!” Howard spat out, then gave Vince a rough shove and took off running down the hall, his feet clomping and echoing all the way.

Vince nimbly regained his balance, sniffed, and watched his friend’s swift but clumsy retreat. It seemed that Howard was running away from him a lot these days. But Howard, Vince thought to himself. Bowie was Bing’s biggest secret fan.

The next few days were a torture for Howard. Having unsuccessfully skivved off his lessons (Bollo had dragged him back to school by the ear, and the right one was now a little oddly bent, adding to his freakish appearance), Howard was now forced to consume the unidentifiable gray matter that was served at lunch, sit through Dr. Fossil’s tedious human biology lessons, and wear an ill-fitting uniform that made it impossible to conceal the rampant and raging bursts of pubescent side-effects that he experienced off and on throughout the day (indeed, the ill-fitting quality of the trousers only seemed to exacerbate the problem). Worse yet was the fact that Howard had to stand by while Vince took to school life in much the same way he took to sprinkles and glitter: with unrivaled enthusiasm.

It didn’t help that Vince still wore his tartan school uniform everyday, or that he was already popular with boys and girls alike, or that the perfect porcelain cups of his knees cosied up to the small of Howard’s back during those lessons when Vince sat at the desk behind him, just tauntingly out of reach. Howard didn’t know why Vince had come to both deeply fascinate and deeply irritate him all at the same time–or how it was even possible for him to be experiencing such warring feelings at once. Hormones, he thought with confidence. Shifting testosterone levels will give a young man the mind of a nutbox. Howard Moon is a liberal guy, but Vince is and never will be more than…

Vince suddenly laughed breathily at something written in one of the several notes that had been passed to him, his bare knees bumping against Howard’s spine.

O’, fire of my loins, Howard thought.

He shook his head faintly, biting down on his lower lip and concentrating very hard on his scared and chipped desktop. I did not just think that. Those were nothing but the inane inner-ramblings of my loins. Shut up, loins!

But we’re on fiiiire! they whispered.

You are not! Howard thought fiercely, balling his hands into two tight fists. Icicles… Dixton Bainbridge… Old Gregg… The music of Gary Numan…

Stop that, his loins whimpered. You’re killllllllig us!

“Good!” Howard squeaked aloud.

“Are you alright, Howard?” came an imploring voice in his ear, and along with it the intoxicating scent of Vince’s strawberry-banana bubblegum. “Do you know that you’re sweating all over my desk?”

Howard winced and vigorously wiped his forehead–which was indeed very damp–with the cuff of his sleeve.

“You, Moon!” Dr. Fossil’s voice boomed from the front of the room. “I can see that your hand is up in the air, which I presume means that you know which of the human… human…” Dr Fossil began rifling through the notes that littered his podium. “Human bag-things. You know, the shriveled baked beans that push the red stuff through your pipes! The packets of goo that filter out the poison from your teethed-up tasties!”

“Organs?” Howard supplied.

“Yes, organs! Very good, Miss Noir. Top marks!”

“But I was the one who said ‘organs,’” Howard said, crinkling his brow and blinking at Dr. Fossil in disbelief.

“Perhaps you did, Moon,” Dr. Fossil said, moving toward the back of the classroom. The other students craned their necks to watch as their teacher slowly advanced in Howard’s direction. “But did you open up your raw poet’s heart to me?” Fossil walked straight past Howard but paused next to Vince’s desk, reaching out to place his fingertips beneath Vince’s chin and then tilting it upward slightly so that their eyes met. “Did the loose strut of your hips suggest a pair of plump little kidneys?” he continued, his voice shaking with barely tempered passion. “Did your pale, dewy skin speak of extraordinarily tight…tight…”–Fossil swallowed–”…blood vessels?”

Howard watched this display with growing horror. Vince looked equally disturbed, his eyes wide and frightened as he tried to shrink further into his desk, his lip curling slightly when Fossil’s fingers caressed his cheek.

“Get off,” Howard said, yanking Fossil’s hand away from Vince.

Fossil shook his head vigourously, looking as if he’d just snapped out of a deep trance. “Mind your gaping face-hole, Moon!” he said. “You won’t be allowed to sit next to lovely little Vincita if you’re going to grope her like that!”

Howard opened his mouth to protest, but Vince stilled him by placing a hand on his shoulder. “It’s alright, Dr. Fossil,” he said. “Howard and I go way back, and as long as I’m shrunk down to pint-size I’d like to use him as my beefy, bumbling bodyguard.”

Dr. Fossil’s eyes brightened. “What a precocious notion!” he crowed. “While you’re on a roll, Vincita, can you tell the class what the purpose of mitochondria are?”

“Nah,” Vince said, chuckling a little and twirling a strand of hair around his finger. “Except that they’re mighty, right? That’s how they got their name, in fact. Wee mighty buggers battling it out in each and every one of the human cells, lighting one another’s hair on fire to give the body a much-needed energy boost just when you think you can’t take another dee-jay or another go on the merry-go-round. Yeah, I know the mighty mitochondria. They’re pretty good!”

Dr. Fossil stared at Vince for several long moments, his eyes shining wetly. “Excuse me,” he said, his voice thick with emotion. “I must go resign from my teaching position at once. Vincita has shown me that I have nothing left to teach you. Nothing at all.” He began to strip out of his professorial robes, tassels rustling just under the din of the students’ collective groan of disgust.

After their lessons Howard tried to catch up with Vince in the hallway, but this was made difficult by the throngs of young students–girls and boys alike–that had gathered around him. Howard was taller than all of them, but no matter how much he bounced up and down on his toes, Vince didn’t seem to see him. He was too busy talking to his fans. “I think we’ll go for an electro-hymnal hybrid,” he said, gesturing grandly with his hands. “I’ll be pulling some shapes, wearing a truly genius ensemble…”

“You should wear angel wings!”

“No, she should wear a wreath of mistletoe!”

“Ohhh she should stuff her pockets with mistletoe.”

“Front pockets or back?”

It was no use. Howard shuffled off and soon found himself in a deserted and conveniently located classroom, where he pressed his forehead against a cold windowpane and stared out at the grounds. A light dusting of snow was wafting through the air and had settled artfully over the tree branches. The snow’s upon the ground just like a beard, he sang to himself in a high, warbling voice. I’m too young to shave but too old to be here.

I’m a dog of action in a little puppy’s shoes

Too young to bite, but not too young to lose…

He stopped singing and watched his breath fog up the glass. “Rubbish,” he muttered.

“I thought it was pretty good,” Vince said, having entered the room unseen. “Sort of a downer, though. Maybe inject it with a fierce synth beat and no one will notice?”

Howard continued to face the window, not wanting to look at Vince just then. “You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you? Your whole life is turned inside-out but all’s good so long as you have ruffled kneesocks and fuzzy bobbins for your hair.”

“Well…” Vince began, rather carefully. “You could have fuzzy bobbins for your hair as well. It’s not as long as mine but I could sort it out for you.”

“You’re missing the point,” Howard said, turning around. “I always thought that if I could be young and do everything all over again, it’d be different! I thought I would be different. But I’m not, I’m just the same. And you! You’re…” he trailed off, stumped.

“The same?” Vince suggested, raising an eyebrow.

“The same and then some,” Howard emphasised. “You’re even more popular and fetching than usual, and it’s just as difficult to capture even a moment of your attention.”

“Whatever,” Vince said, shaking his head and sighing. “You’ve always got my attention if you want it.”

“Yeah?” Howard’s tone was edged with anger. “Prove it!”

Yet again, Vince had to watch Howard make a stomping retreat. Well I followed you in here, didn’t I? he thought, thoroughly exasperated.

Part Three: Me and My Drum

The day of the Christmas Talent Showcase dawned quickly–so quickly that Howard was surprised to arrive at school one day and see the hallways decked out with boughs of holly, and students who were warming up their vocal chords and plucking clumsily at guitars rather than cramming for exams. Howard had been a bit too busy sulking to take note of the preparations leading up to the Talent Showcase. He’d also been a bit too busy locked inside toilet stalls and cupboards, answering the call of his adolescent loins.

“Have you seen Vince?” Howard asked a gawky boy with a visible goiter. The boy gave him a blank look, fingering the keys of his flute. “Vincita?” Howard amended.

“Ah, yeah,” the boy said. “She’s got the backstage dressing room to herself.”

It figured. Howard found the concert hall’s backstage dressing room with no trouble at all, given that it featured a large glittery star with the word “VINCE” printed in the middle. “Featuring special guest,” read tiny letters below.

That must mean me, Howard thought hopefully, pushing the dressing room door open. “VINCE and special guest” was how they’d always billed themselves on the Pieface Showcase.

“Hi Vince!” he began, then stopped abruptly when he saw that Vince wasn’t alone. There were four youngish men, in fact, surrounding him. One was busy brushing Vince’s hair into bunches, while another was buffing his fingernails. The other two simply kneeled on the floor and gazed up at Vince–who looked like a tiny princess surrounded by a harem of slave boys. “Who’re they?” Howard asked bluntly.

“McFly,” Vince said, tipping his head back and grinning.

“Oh.” The word meant nothing to Howard, so he tried to pretend that McFly wasn’t there. “Look Vince, I know we’ve not really got on lately, but I was thinking… maybe we could do that duet after all? I’ve… I’ve been practising and I think it might be good and…” Howard saw the mournful expression on Vince’s face and stopped talking. “What? What is it?”

“It’s just that Harry, Dougie, Danny, and Tom offered to be my back-up band for the Talent Showcase,” Vince said, looking sheepish and apologetic. “It’d be rude to make a change of plans now–and it’d do no favours for my career, either. McFly are real pop superstars!”

“That’s right,” said Harry. “And we’re here to judge the Christmas Talent Showcase and promote our hit single “Ultraviolet,” he said, tying off Vince’s bunches with a length of glittery red ribbon.

“And to be Vince’s back-up band,” Dougie added, his lips kissing the top of Vince’s patent leather boots.

Howard looked back and forth, utterly confounded. “You can’t sing a duet with four other people, you know,” he finally said.

“We’ll be singing a new song I wrote,” Vince said, his bouncing in his seat with excitement. “Rudolph the Neon-Nosed Electro Reindeer.”

“Rudolph the who? The electro nightmare?” Howard slapped a hand against his forehead. “I’m being gracious enough to mend fences with you here but you’re making it very difficult.”

“But I didn’t break any fences,” Vince said placidly, adjusting one of his ribbons. “Listen, why don’t you join my McFly back-up band?” Vince ran his fingers through Danny’s windswept hair, appraising it with a keen eye. “I know he doesn’t look it, but Howard here is a musical genius,” he added, smiling.

The boys of McFly looked very doubtful indeed, which only rankled Howard further. “No thank you,” he said in a frosty tone. “I’ve been practising up for a duet,” he turned to leave the dressing room, pausing only once to look back. “And you never used to wear bunches,” he said quietly, slipping out the door.

Harry, who had just finished freshening up the ribbon on Vince’s bunches, looked near tears. “Don’t worry about it,” Vince said, putting his childish hand on Harry’s arm. “I’ve learned to embraced bunches.”

“Is my hair okay?” Danny asked shyly from where he was crouched by Vince’s feet.

“It’s pretty good,” Vince said in approval. “But I think you could all use a bit of Naboo’s Magic Root-booster.” He unsnapped his make-up case and started rummaging through it. “Clips… combs… an important, urgent note from Naboo… nail varnish… ah, here we are!” He removed the jar of root-booster triumphantly. “Everyone get in line so I can sort you out.”

It was pandemonium out in the hallways. Children and teachers alike were clotted around the entrance to the concert hall, many of them wearing tee-shirts and badges that spelled out Vince’s name, and a paltry handful of others who wore McFly gear.

“Pardon me,” Howard said irritably, trying to push past them. “Pardon me, I said.”

“Nice costume, Moon!” Dr. Fossil’s voice bellowed in his ear, blowing his hair back. “Though it’s not so dashing as my own take on Father Christmas.” Dr. Fossil was in fact outfitted in very rich looking red robes, and though they did not fit well around his middle, his meandering false beard helped to disguise this fact.

Howard looked Dr. Fossil over, then glanced down at his own “costume”–the standard boy’s uniform without a hint of red anywhere, save the piping on his tie. “I’m not dressed as Father Christmas, Dr. Fossil.”

“That’s exactly what everyone will say if you don’t try to look a little more jolly!” Dr. Fossil pounded him heartily on the back. “Now, I had something for you here… where is it?” Fossil began rifling through his large sack of gifts. “Let’s see… this one’s for Vincita… this one’s for Vince…” It was several minutes before Dr. Fossil presented Howard with a small, gift-wrapped box. “Here it is, your secret elf gift.”

“What do you mean?” Howard took the box gingerly. “I’m not secretly an elf. I’m not secretly anything!”

“No, you idiot!” Fossil pounded Howard on the back again, making him wince. “All students are supposed to buy a gift for someone they secretly admire and want to make happy at Christmastime. Most students bought secret elf gifts for either Vincita or myself, but that one’s for you. But don’t get too excited, it’s probably nothing more than a lump of coal!” He laughed rather nastily and slung his sack over his shoulder before walking away.

The box rattled when Howard shook it. Who in this whole school would want to make me happy at Christmastime? he wondered. At this point most of the students and teachers had found seats in the concert hall, which left Howard more or less alone in the deserted hallway. He could hear the faint sounds of someone playing a weak rendition of “Good King Wenceslas” on flute.

After looking quickly from left to right, Howard ripped off the homemade wrapping paper with no regard for the artistic work that had gone into it. He opened the tiny box and found a shiny pair of tweezers, nestled smugly on a bed of cotton. “Huh?” He shook the box a little, as if expecting an explosion of some kind, and a card fell out of the lid of the box. The handwriting on it was familiar.

Dear Howard,

Happy Christmas! Next time I’ll just tweeze you in your sleep, and we won’t end up in a mess like this.



But Howard didn’t feel happy, he felt sad. From the very beginning, Vince had only been trying to help him. Vince only ever tried to help him, really, and it wasn’t as if he didn’t have hundreds of other better offers, either.

“What have I become?” Howard wondered aloud, letting the card drop from his fingers.

Randy, his loins whispered. Now get to a cupboard, and quick.

Vince thought the debut of “Vincent Noir and the McFlys” was going pretty good until his back-up band went senile.

It all started when he started in on the chorus. I’m a reindeer tonight. I’m a reindeer tonight. I’ve got a neon nose and I’m gonna take flight. I’m a reindeer tonight. I’m a reindeer tonight.

I’m a reindeer tonight.

I’m a reindeer tonight.

It was sort of a monotonous song, actually. That was the downside of electro-pop. Not that he’d ever admit that any such downside existed–not in a million years. Not under torture. Not even if someone came at him with a Pope’s Pear.

The crowd was loving it, tweaking their noses in agreeably mimicry of Vince’s shape-pulling, but that all came to an end when there was a sudden crash left-stage, followed by a dissonant synthesiser and enough mic feedback to make Vince cover his ears and cringe.

The audience followed suit, covering their ears and cringing. But it’s hard to say whether this was a natural response or just more mimicry.

“Tom! Step away from the mic,” Vince hissed, turning around to deliver a glare at the McFlys. He almost dropped his microphone when he saw that all of the McFlys–Dougie, Danny, Harry, Tom, all of them–had sprouted snowy white beards, mass quantities of wrinkles, and visibly stooped posture. They were also staggering around the stage like drunken sailors, reminding Vince of the homeless old wankers who fed the pigeons in the park. What the?! he thought. They’ve gone old on me! And old they were. All of the McFlys had transformed–seemingly by magic–into ancient, bumbling nutters.

All at once, Vince guessed at what might have happened. He mentally re-traced his steps and saw himself tossing aside a very urgent, important note from Naboo just before styling the McFlys’ hair with Naboo’s Magic Root-booster. Naboo must’ve found the Fountain of Old and mixed its water up with the root-booster, and left me a note with directions on how to use it. Vince sighed heavily and leaned on the microphone stand. I guess I shouldn’t have slathered so much on them… but they were going to be under stage lights!

The McFlys seemed to have forgotten time, space, and their own identities. They stumbled off stage while mumbling about pills and hemorrhoid cream and the nightly newspaper, while the audience was beginning to murmur restlessly amongst themselves, no longer enthralled with what had first appeared to be onstage antics.

Quick, do something! Vince thought. But he couldn’t move. For more or less the first time in his life, he was perfectly still.

Come, they told me, pa rum pum pum pum.

A new born king to see, pa rum pum pum pum.

Vince looked up, startled. There was Howard, standing the middle of the audience and beating a snare drum that he had looped around his neck. He looked frightened out of his mind, but he stared stoicly ahead, beating on the drum as if it were the most normal thing in the world to be doing, and singing in a rich baritone voice that didn’t crack even once. He suddenly looked very tall to Vince. And, oddly, very young despite the fact that he was wearing a grumpy Bing Crosby cardigan.

Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum.

To lay before the king, pa rum pum pum pum…

Vince joined in the duet, his eyes locked on Howard’s as he sang Bowie’s answering part tentatively at first, and then, after a note or two, in a clear, strong voice. Well, as strong as the voice of an eight-to-twelve-year-old’s can get.

Peace on Earth, can it be?

Years from now, perhaps we’ll see

See the day of glory

See the day, when men of good will

Live in peace, live in peace again.

By the time they’d finished the duet, pretty much everyone had left. Most had taken the secret elf gifts meant for Vince with them.

“Howard,” Vince called, jumping off stage and approaching his friend. “That was genius! That drum! Where’d you get it?”

Howard shrugged. “Saw it in Fossil’s sack of gifts earlier. It’s meant for you, by the way.” He began to remove it from his neck.

Vince held up a hand to stop him. “You keep it,” he said, looking Howard over intently.

“What?” Howard brought a hand to his face. “Have I got another spot coming in?”

“No, look…” Vince whipped out a makeup mirror and held it up to Howard’s face. “You’ve become a man.”

Howard started at his own face in wonder. It was true. Puberty had fled from him and, in its wake, gifted him with the beginning of whiskers and a deep, non-cracking voice.

So that’s what I’ve become, he thought. It definitely could have been worse.

Part Four: Completely Unnecessary to the “Plot” in All Ways, but Here for Your Enjoyment Just the Same

It was Christmas Eve, and Vince and Howard were side by side on the sofa, clutching their cups of tea. After administering the Magic Root-booster himself and returning Howard and Vince to their proper ages, Naboo had gone to his home planet for Christmas. Bollo was somewhere in deepest Africa with his family. The tree was decorated with festive fairy-lights, snow was falling gently outside, and a fire crackled and popped behind the fireplace grate.

“So we do a pretty good duet,” Vince remarked casually, warming his hands on his teacup.

“That we do, that we do,” Howard agreed. “Thanks for your present, by the way. You want to tackle that business later?” he asked, pointing to his mustache.

“Maybe,” Vince said, laughing under his breath. “Does that mean you actually trust me to tackle it?”

Howard thought about this for a moment. “I suppose if there’s anything you could be trusted with, it’s hair and grooming.”

“Yeah?” Vince looked enormously pleased. “Because I was thinking you’d look sharp with a mullet. It’d bring out the twinkle in your eyes…”

“NO,” Howard said, bolting to his feet.

“Only joking,” Vince said hastily, tugging on Howard’s sleeve so that he’d sit back down.

Howard gave Vince a wary look, then finally returned to his seat. They then sat in amiable silence for several minutes, listening to the faint sound of carolers outside.

“Hey Vince,” Howard ventured. “Do you miss being at school? Being a young minx and having everyone fall over you like that?”

Vince pretended to think this over. “Not really,” he finally said.

“Why’s that?” Howard asked, sounding just a touch irritable. “Because they fall all over you whether you’re young or old, is that it?”

“You tell me.” Vince supressed a small smile behind his teacup. “Are you still falling over me now that I’m no longer a young minx?”

“What?” Howard slammed his teacup down. “I was never falling all over you!”

Vince laughed. “Yes, you were.”

“I wasn’t!” Howard sputtered, his face going a bright shade of vermillion. “I never did.. I never even once thought…”

“Oh, you did so! I can communicate with loins as well as animals, you know.”

Howard sank back into the couch cushions, dumbfounded. “You… can talk to loins?” he asked, faintly disgusted.

“Sure,” Vince said eagerly, shifting towards him. “And yours were some of the loudest I’ve ever come across. Some of the most filthy minded, as well. Good lord, Howard. Carpentry tools, really?”

Howard’s mouth opened and closed several times, as if strung together with loose fishing wire. “I…” he tried. “I…”

“Hah!” Vince smiled triumphantly and patted Howard’s arm. “Got you again, did I?”

“What, you’re only joking?”

“Sure I am.” Vince studied Howard’s face, which was still faintly tinged pink in embarrassment. “If you want to know the truth, I mixed some water from the Fountain of Youth in with my moisturiser, and that’s what made me so fanciable to people at school. I had a nymphet’s effect on everyone around me because of it! Heh, imagine that.”

“Oh, is that all?” Howard asked, his shoulders sagging in relief. His feelings for Vince had all been in his head, then. Or all in Vince’s moisturiser, as it were. But if that was true, then why did he still… “Are you telling me the truth, Vince?” he asked, his expression very grave and serious.

“No,” Vince said quietly, pretending to look shamed even though he wasn’t. “Were you telling me the truth?”

Howard cleared his throat. “No,” he said rustily.

And then all at once they were kissing, their teacups dropped to the floor with no regard for muss nor fuss. Howard pressed Vince into the cushions and crushed his lips against Vince’s, their tongues sliding together gracelessly. Howard wasn’t about to say a word–God no–for fear that words would alert him to the reality of the situation and send him reeling from the flat, never to return. But Vince had other ideas.

“Bite my neck,” he gasped, pulling away from the kiss just long enough to get the words out.

“What?” Howard mumbled, blinking hazily.

“Just fucking do it.” Vince yanked hard on the back of Howard’s hair and Howard quickly obliged, scissoring his incisors into Vince’s neck as hard as he dared. Vince let out a shuddering breath and squirmed beneath him, his fingernails scrabbling for the hem of Howard’s shirt. “Come on,” he urged in a ragged voice. “I tease you all the time, I make your life complicated…”

“Yes, yes you do,” Howard said, planting his hands on Vince’s chest and unbuttoning his shirt. The exposed skin was ice-white and covered with very sparse sprinkles of black hair. Like glitter for food, he thought dimly, then bent over to lick them, his teeth toying at Vince’s left nipple, then his right. Vince had Howard’s own shirt off in a single, effortless manoeuver that amazed him, and his hands traced a path up and down Howard’s bare back, fingernails digging in roughly when Howard nipped at the flat flesh of Vince’s stomach.

“Howard,” Vince said, hauling Howard upwards as best he could and then stretching his slim body beneath Howard’s broader one. He could feel Howard’s cock straining against his own, the front of his tented trousers dotted with a circle of wetness that Vince could feel but longed, more than anything, to taste. “Let me,” he said, rocking his hips into Howard’s and rolling his eyes back into his skull in response to the resulting friction. “Let me…” he repeated, his hand fumbling with Howard’s belt buckle.

“Vince… Vince… I don’t know if you should do that.” Vince could feel Howard’s body go tense, but that didn’t stop him from plunging his hand down the front of Howard’s open trousers. He felt the slick tip of Howard’s cock brush against his knuckles, but before he could wrap his hand around the length, Howard let out a shuddering groan and pumped a wet mess all over Vince’s fingers.

“Sorry!” Howard gulped, collapsing against Vince’s shoulder. “I… I tried to tell you.”

“Tried to tell me what?” Vince said, faintly stunned as he gingerly removed his sticky hand from the damp confines of Howard’s trousers.

“My loins are still twelve years old,” Howard said, his voice squeaking once for good measure.

Author’s note: Ah, it’s Christmas, I can’t be that cruel! Though I do think that this ending is appropriate in its own way, I might as well bend here and splash out, eh? So strike that, reverse it!

“Let me…” he repeated, his hand fumbling with Howard’s belt buckle.

Howard tensed slightly and concentrated on breathing deep against the side of Vince’s neck. Vince’s fingers tangled in the hair on his lower belly, cool and papery and inching lower, almost teasing him with their treacle-slow progression. “Come on man,” Howard groaned. Vince chuckled lightly and thumbed the head of Howard’s erection, circling the length of the shaft and then dipping lower to finger his balls. He kissed Howard fiercely, fumbled with the zip of his own trousers, then replaced the touch of his hand with a gentle nudge from his own cock, the two wet tips touching before sliding together in a rhythm that almost matched the meeting of their frantic tongues.

“Ah,” Vince made a ragged noise and pushed his hips up, his right hand smashed between their bodies and full of slippery dick.

Stop making that noise. Howard thought incoherently. Stop making it or I’ll come right now.

As if he could hear Howard’s thoughts, Vince rolled out from under his warm body and prompted him to turn over onto his back. Then Vince kneeled down on the floor, between Howard’s splayed thighs. With none of his previous teasing or hesitation, he buried his face between them, sucking on the head of Howard’s cock and then taking in the length as far as he could, cork-screwing his tongue round and round the rigid surface, two fingers and thumb wrapped tightly around the base. Vince’s own erection was crying out to be touched, but he ignored it for the time being, save the occasional slow stroking.

He concentrated on Howard instead: on his taste. On the way he tried to stay very quiet, even though he was gripping Vince’s shoulders like he would never let him go, his thumbs drawing circles in the hollow of Vince’s throat. Every now and again he let out a haggard moan that sent a jolt into Vince’s stomach, traveling in a thrumming shiver down to the root of his penis and balls.

“Fuck,” Howard finally uttered, thrusting into the tight, liquid sensation of Vince’s mouth. “Oh god, I’m gonna…” his chest heaved and his muscles drew tight. Vince let go of Howard’s cock with a wet pop, hot come pulsing over his wrist and splashing onto Howard’s lower abdomen. Howard barely noticed, his head lolled back into the cushions and his hands finally slackening their hold on Vince’s shoulders.

Vince didn’t break the ensuing silence. He just stood up and straddled Howard’s hips, quivering deliciously at the sensation of Howard’s spent but still relatively hard cock against his own straining erection. He rocked himself into Howard, the sticky come bathing his balls and the underside of his cock pleasantly. Watching Howard through slitted eyes, Vince noted the expression of bald fascination on his friend’s face. Then he arched his back and let Howard take him in hand. A few firm strokes sent him staggering to the edge, and he made a thick, keening sound in the back of his throat as he finished, pleasure expanding to every nerve of his body as come spurted across Howard’s chest.

Vince collapsed across Howard and breathed a sigh of… relief? Satisfaction? He wasn’t sure.

Several long minutes passed before one of them spoke. “Vince?” Howard finally croaked, and Vince couldn’t help but smile to himself. He had been certain that Howard wouldn’t be the one to speak first.

Then again, he’d also once been certain that what had just happened would never happen.

Vince wasn’t always right. And for that he was glad.

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