Title: Stop In The Name Of Love
Word count: 1999
Summary: They’ve been through plenty of near-death experiences and always escaped before now. But Vince’s good luck is beginning to fail. He’s beginning to think he’s been cursed. Can he and Howard figure out how to break the curse before it’s too late?
This situation was uncomfortable in so many ways. The tight rope was chafing Howard’s wrists, doubled by the weight of his body dragging down against the bonds. It didn’t help that every time he tried to shift position, his body swung like a pendulum, the rope creaking perilously. Below their swinging feet, the vat of boiling liquid bubbled and spat, steam rising from its surface and making the view of the room below swim in front of his watering eyes. His patterned shirt stuck to his chest from the heat rising from the ceramic container below, too hot to struggle any more. To his left, Vince hung limply from his own bonds, looking completely perfect despite the heat that was making Howard sweat like a sprinter. Perfect hair, perfect composure, but looking distinctly forlorn, like a sad little puppet on a string. Even though he didn’t exactly feel his best himself, Howard felt the urge to comfort Vince, to make him feel better about all of this; he rarely saw him looking so miserable, even when they were dangling an inch from death. Vince was the Sunshine Kid. Vince was the one who made Howard feel better in these situations.
“You okay there, little man?”
“We’re going to die, Howard.” Vince said quietly, looking down at the pointy toes of his cowboy boots “We’re going to get made into tea.”
Howard looked down at the giant cup underneath them and swallowed, his mind flash forwarding to the inevitable moment when they would be lowered into the boiling water. A lump rose in his throat, and he blinked rapidly, glancing away from Vince in case he started sobbing. Meanwhile, Vince was actually thinking, his mind working like it hadn’t since Lance Dior had waltzed in and nicked his look. For once in his life, he thought that they might not get out of it. It was just a feeling that he had, and it was a little scary. He was usually so optimistic that they would always be okay, but that unfailing optimism seemed to have faded.
“Maybe,” Howard agreed, but forced a smile despite his leaking eyes “But we had some good times, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Vince said in a small, half hearted voice, glancing at Howard from under his styled fringe.
“Like the time we put up wallpaper,” Howard prompted softly, encouragingly, twisting to keep Vince in his eye line “Rolling out the paper on the wobbly table… paste the wall, paste the paper, paste the wall, paste the paper…”
“Sticky fingers, sticky fingers, sticking to the wall like Spiderman,” Vince chimed in with a watery smile, wiggling his fingers above the tight knot of the rope.
“Maybe we’ll get out of it still,” Howard suggested, unusually hopeful “We have done before, all the time,”
“I dunno, Howard. I’m not feeling it this time. I reckon my luck might be running out. Yesterday I got a new hat and nobody noticed it.”
“What hat?” Howard said without thinking, before staring at him “Oh dear.”
“This is serious. When did it all start?”
Howard might resent Vince being the centre of attention some of the time, but in those rare moments when Vince’s light faded, he found himself far more anxious on Vince’s behalf than he’d ever felt indignance at being overlooked. For one thing, it was in situations like these that Vince’s sheer luck got them out of trouble. That didn’t happen when he was on his own; he had to wait for Vince to come and help him out. The thing was, Howard just couldn’t be like Vince if he tried. And it was the near death moments when he realised that he’d rather live in Vince’s shadow than them both be in the dark.
“Remember your party? Y’know, your birthday party.” Vince said, as though Howard had parties all the time “With the… bouncy castle, and the hash brownies, and the---” he tailed off, a little awkwardly.
“Yeah, I remember.” Howard cut in, hoping that he hadn’t gone red, and that if he had gone red, Vince would assume it was from the boiling water and not from that… particular memory, of roofs, and moons, and Shamans and… gayness.
“Ever since then, it’s all been going a bit downhill. Like that band who took that stupid crab instead of me. That would never have happened in the old days. I’ve got well more skill than that maniac crustacean.”
“Vince, your head swelled up bigger than a hot air balloon. You looked like a Chupa Chup.”
“Those drainpipes should have shimmied right on. I’m a hipster, Howard, I’m a fashion designer’s dream. Everything I wear turns to gold. It’s proof, proof that I’ve been cursed.”
“I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t around that much, was I? I was doing my acting class.”
He still liked to mention that whenever possible, that he had been a professional actor, skirting over the part where his main role was an advert for relieving trapped wind. The ladies loved an actor. He’d thought of becoming an alcoholic, too, brooding in the bars of Camden, like Withnail. It sounded bohemian, and deadly attractive. He would have done, too, if Vince hadn’t hidden his beret, and if Naboo hadn’t given him extra shop duty to make up for the hours he’d missed.
“Yeah, and that’s another thing. I was feeling a bit sidetracked, if I’m honest. That whole episode was all about you, and your acting montage. That‘s well not normal.”
“Maybe my potential was finally recognised.” Howard said, but he had to admit, deep down, that maybe Vince had a point there “D’you think the Head Shaman cursed you?”
Vince paused, wrinkling his nose in thought, turning to look at Howard, but then shook his head decisively: “No. He believed us, for definite. I reckon the rock solid hotness of that kiss knocked him for six.”
Howard blinked a couple of times, himself taken aback. A small, smug smile crept onto his face. Of course, he was Howard Moon, king romancer and kisser extraordinaire. A jazz poet of the heart, sir. Although, thinking back, it had been more of him just sitting there with his mouth agape and Vince doing magical things of the kissing variety. The Vince Noir good luck had definitely still been working at that point; he’d managed to stop from getting beheaded, after all.
“It was after. Y’know, after the bouncy castle. That pretty girl I’d been bouncing with, said she was off to get a drink and then she never came back. That never happens to me.” Vince pouted.
“Neither did mine!” Howard reminded him.
“She left you her number.”
“I called it. She’d written the number of a kebab shop. I mean, it was probably just a mistake…”
“Yeah, course it was.” Vince said, smirking at that, as though Howard’s misfortunes were making him happier already.
But it was true that Howard was used to these things happening. For Vince, they rarely happened at all, and the fact that they were now… was worrying to say the least. Especially since they could be minutes from a horrible, painful death by infusion. If Vince really had been cursed, either they had to think of a way out that didn’t involve waiting for something extraordinary to save them, or they needed to break the curse.
“Can you remember what set it off? C’mon Vince, think!”
“I’m trying to think!” Vince wailed, closing his eyes “I need some thinking music! My iPod’s back at the Nabootique!”
“What do you need?” Howard asked urgently “I can rustle you up some thinking music. No problem at all. I‘m your man.”
Vince opened one eye, suspiciously.
“Don’t try and jazz it up, yeah? You know I’m allergic; that’d just make it worse.”
“I won’t,” Howard said sheepishly, mentally pushing all ideas of bebop from his mind.
“Go on then. I’m thinking a bit of Depeche Mode.” Vince nodded, closing his eyes tight again and frowning in concentration, preparing to force his one remaining brain cell into some pretty hardcore thinking.
Feeling a little self conscious and wishing he had an instrument, or at least his hands free for some percussion style clicking and clapping, Howard began to hum. He must have been at it for some time, because he’d got through three and a bit songs by the time Vince’s eyes snapped open.
“Got it! Remember just after the roof?”
“We went on the bouncy castle.”
“Not that bit.”
“The jazz pencil case girl arrived.”
“Bit closer.” Vince narrowed his eyes accusatively “It was you who cursed me, all along. You chucked me, Howard. You broke my heart. Nobody does that. And since then, everything’s been going wrong. It‘s all your fault.”
“Uh, I’m sorry!”
“It’s not good enough! We have to fix it. You have to tell me you fancy me again. Y’know, that massive speech about love and gay and stuff that you did. So this time I can chuck you, and get things back to normal.”
“Whoah, now. Hold up there, Vince. What happened on the roof was a kind of poetry. It was a sort of magic. Nothing like that can ever be recreated. It was a once in a lifetime thing. My love isn‘t something that can be churned out at will; it comes straight from the heart.”
As Howard spoke, the ropes they were dangling from gave an ominous creak, and they were lowered with a jolt a few inches closer to the torrid, steaming surface. Vince yelped, drawing his feet up closer to his chest, even though they were still a way before hitting the water. It was enough to make Howard panic, and he started speaking before he had time to plan what to say.
“I love you, Vince Noir. Your kisses ignite a fire inside me. You’re the passion of my loins, Vince, and the spark of my heart, that beats with love for you, eternal burning love. I want us to be together, and you can be my sexy glam rock wife. You can have my babies--” Howard paused, trying to work out the odd sound that had been going on for half of his speech, and then frowning “You’re laughing!”
“I’m not, honest!” Vince said, hastily stifling his giggles “Uh, that was dead sweet, Howard. Thanks.”
Howard huffed indignantly, and was about to come back with a biting, powerfully witty retort, when both ropes snapped with a powerful twang and they were both hurtling down towards the cup of water waiting to receive them. Howard clamped his eyes closed, terror filling his veins. He was about to die. This was it, he was going to die, in a cup of boiling water.
“But I’ve got so much left to giiiiiiiive!” he whimpered, seconds before his knees collided with a surface that didn’t feel anything like boiling to death.
He opened his eyes. They were on Naboo’s carpet, sailing up through the air. They were already so high up that the massive cup below them looked more like a… well, a cup. Howard breathed a slow, delighted sigh of relief.
“Cheers, Naboo. Wicked rescue.” Vince beamed “You’re a diamond. That was just in time.”
“Yeah, pretty lucky.” Howard said meaningfully, settling himself on the carpet.
Vince paused in the process of untying his hands to turn, looking at Howard. The serious expression on his face was a little disconcerting.
“Look, Howard. It’s been great, and all, going out with you these past five minutes, but I think we have to break up. It’s not me, it’s you. I need some space.” he murmured, looking into Howard’s eyes with his own big blue ones.
“Oh. Uh, okay then.” Howard said, before pausing hopefully “Uh, do I get a break up kiss?”
Vince grinned, glancing at Naboo who was determined looking forwards instead of anywhere at them, and shuffled a little closer to wind his newly freed arms around Howard’s neck.
“Go on then.”