Howard yawned as he slowly stirred a cup of tea, staring into space. It had been a long night.
Vince had only just fallen asleep. He'd spent most of the night crying, and had eventually cried himself to sleep after hours and hours of hysterical screaming and sobbing.
Howard didn't know he was crying until he felt a few hot tears drip onto his hand. He sniffed them back, trying desperately to forget about what his friend had told him, just for a second, but Vince's heartbreaking words were crystal clear in his mind.
"I don't know what the bloke's name is, but he told me everything. He said he had found Marcy sitting in a tube station near Camden, looking scared. He said he'd asked her what was wrong and when she told him, he invited her back to his flat." Vince had shuddered then. "I don't want to say exactly what he did, but basically he… raped her and killed her. He said she deserved it but she didn't, Howard! She never hurt no-one, I promise. They said that any brother of hers deserves it too and he... I..." Vince had completely broken down then, beating his fists against Howard's frame and screaming.
"I want her back! I want Marcy!"
Howard had firmly held his hysterical friend, trying desperately to calm him down.
"Shh, shhhh, I know you do, I know. I'm so, so sorry. Shh now."
Howard was pulled from his thoughts by a soft, lisping voice behind him.
Howard nodded sadly as he turned to see Naboo looking at him almost sympathetically. "You have no idea."
Naboo nodded slowly, gesturing for Howard to sit down on the sofa. As he sat, the shaman noticed how tired he looked. His eyes were bloodshot and his skin eerily pale. "What happened?"
Howard just shook his head. "I can't tell you. It's not my place. But it's really affected him psychologically; he's not acting like himself at all." He paused, heart beating steadily. "I'm worried about him, Naboo."
"I know. I am too. I could hear him screaming."
"Can't you do anything? Don't you have a spell or a potion? To make him forget it?" Howard looked at Naboo hopefully, suddenly wondering if this nightmare could be over soon.
Naboo shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry, but I can't affect mental issues. I can heal physical scars but emotion ones are much more difficult."
Howard closed his teary eyes, feeling useless. He didn't know what to do. He could feel himself drifting into sleep, but didn't have any energy left to stop it. He'd been awake all night, and couldn't physically stay awake any longer. He sighed, and couldn't help but think of a certain raven-haired electro prince as his eyes fluttered closed and he fell into a deep slumber.
Several hours later, Howard was woken by the feel of someone touching him. He felt arms circle their way around his torso, and he immediately said "Don't touch me!" on instinct as he flinched himself awake.
"Oh. Sorry," a meek little voice mumbled quietly, and Howard felt like a monster as he realised Vince was the one hugging him. Still. He hadn't pulled away yet, as if he didn't want to despite Howard's snapping.
"No, don't worry," Howard said reassuringly as he settled back into the sofa, resuming his lying position. "Sorry. Habit."
Vince nodded slowly, turning over in Howard's arms so that his back was pressed against Howard's frame, pulling the tall man's arms over him like a blanket.
The two just lay in their spooning position for a while, Howard drawing lazy circles on Vince's knuckles with his thumb as he laced their fingers together, gently pressing a small kiss to the back of his friend's hair, breathing in the familiar scent. Fruity shampoo. It was comforting.
He knew Vince, and when Vince got upset – although it rarely happened - he either needed cheering up via jokes or comfort and cuddles. The two were such good friends they hadn't even thought about how cuddles might be weird, and now was no different. Vince wasn't just upset, he was heartbroken.
"I couldn't sleep," Vince whispered after a while, "I needed you. I'm sorry."
"It's okay, little man," Howard soothed gently, wrapping his arms a bit tighter around Vince. "You know I'm always here, right?"
He felt the small man nod slowly. "I know."
"And you know you're allowed to be upset, right?"
Vince let out a soft whimper. "It's stupid."
"It is. It was nearly twenty years ago, Howard, why do I still miss her?"
Howard sighed softly, scrunching up his nose as Vince's soft hair tickled his face. "She's your sister, Vince. No-one should have to lose a sibling; it's not something you ever get over. I can't possibly understand how you feel because I don't have a sister, but I know it must hurt terribly. Don't be afraid to tell me how you're feeling."
Vince said nothing for a few minutes, before "She would've liked you."
Howard couldn't help but smile. "Yeah?"
"Yeah. She hated this teacher I had in Reception cos when she had him he said she was too chatty but he was always really nice to me. I told her that he was nice and always read my stories to the class and made sure I was okay when he saw a bruise my dad gave me and she loved him after that. She liked anyone who made me happy." A pause. "You make me happy, you know?"
"No." Vince shook his head and turned over in Howard's arms so that their noses were barely a centimetre apart. The Northerner could feel his heart beating steadily faster. "You don't know. Cos I'm such a twat to you. I make fun of you and stuff but you know when you were little and when you liked someone you'd tease them silly?"
Howard could feel Vince's blue eyes boring into his brown ones, and nodded slowly, transfixed.
"I was trying to do that. Cos I really like you. But I guess I was a bit too mean. That's my dad's fault. He always said I was a bad person so I just assumed I was. I still am."
Howard blinked slowly. He couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"Vince. You aren't a bad person. You're the kindest person I know. Maybe not always to me, but to others. You have a good heart. Remember that time at the zoo when that little girl was crying and you made sure she was alright and went and found her parents?"
The small man nodded, starting to avoid Howard's gaze. "Yeah but that's different."
"Vince, you're not-"
"It's different because I don't love that little girl!" Vince suddenly shouted, shocking Howard into silence.
Vince loved him?
Before he could collect his thoughts, Vince was wriggling out of Howard's touch and sitting upright, tears stinging his eyes. "I told you before," he mumbled sadly.
"I thought you were... I didn't think you meant it like that." Howard felt sick as he joined Vince in a sitting position, gently taking hold of his hand.
"What did you think I meant? I kissed you."
"I don't know, I wasn't... I didn't..." Howard trailed off, feeling like an idiot. He briefly thought about just shutting up forever but before he could do a single thing or collect a single other thought, Vince had stood up and pushed Howard further back onto the sofa. He gently straddled his lap, pressing their bodies together.
He placed a small kiss to Howard's cheek before looking deep into his dark brown eyes and whispering, with such sincerity Howard thought about fainting, "I love you."
Vince trailed his hands up Howard's body and into his hair, tangling his fingers into the fine curls and pressing their noses together.
"I really, really love you. I always have," he whispered before leaving forward slightly and pressing his lips to Howard's, eyes softly closing and head tilting to the side.
Howard inhaled sharply as he realised what was happening, and it took him a while to register it before his eyes fluttered closed and he moved his own lips against Vince's soft, tear-stained ones.
Vince kissed slowly, removing one hand from Howard's soft hair and wrapping his arm around the Northerner's neck. Howard wrapped his own arms around Vince's waist, stroking lazy circles on the small of his back. He feel like he can't get his hands close enough as he lost himself in the kiss.
Vince opened his mouth a bit more as he kissed, licking along Howard's lips to prise them open. Howard obliged, their tongues mingling together and drawing a soft sigh from the younger man.
They remained there for what could have been hours but was in reality only a few minutes until they broke apart, breathless. Vince leaned down and rested his forehead against Howard's, breathing heavily and smiling.
"I love you."
"You mentioned," Howard grinned, pressing a small kiss to Vince's swollen lips.
"I love you I love you I love you." Vince was dizzy with happiness, the Marcy situation completely at the back of his mind. Howard noticed his bliss and smiled warmly at him, but a feeling in the back of his mind knew that this euphoria wouldn't last.