Summary: Howard discovers that what Vince says to his face and what he tells his other friends are two very different things.
Disclaimer: These aren't my characters; I just like to play with them.
Note: A few of us on Tumblr got to talking about how exactly Lance Dior knows that Howard straightens Vince's hair, bakes him little cakes, etc., and the conversation marinated in my brain for a while and then this happened. Tip of the hat to bluestocking79 and doctorpancakes for inspiration and for just generally being awesome.
Howard hates when Vince invites all his stupid friends into the shop after hours. They always stay there half the night, talking and laughing and playing their god-awful music far beyond a reasonable volume. Howard usually steers clear of the whole mess. He would do tonight, if not for the fact that he'd realized, just when he was ready to hole up in his room for the night, that he'd left his book downstairs. Now he was forced to wade into the crowd of brightly-coloured idiots to retrieve it.
As he's getting the book from behind the counter, one of the throng breaks away from the rest and comes over to speak to him. "Hi there. Don't believe we've met. Steve Blakely."
Howard shakes the young man's hand and tersely replies, "Howard Moon."
"No way. The Howard Moon?"
"You're famous, didn't you know that? There's not a single person here who doesn't know your name."
"Why's that, sir?"
"Vince never shuts up about you, does he? Howard this, Howard that. Makes me want to thump him sometimes, to be honest."
Ah. Of course. It's just like Vince, telling stories about him for all his mates to laugh at. Howard makes a mental note to have a stern word with him later.
"You should consider yourself lucky," this Steve bloke continues.
"I'm just saying, I wish I had a mate who worshiped the ground I walked on."
Howard blinks. "This is still Vince we're talking about, right?"
"Who else? You're all he talks about. According to him, you're some kind of bloody Renaissance man. Musical genius, poet laureate, pastry chef...."
"You should've seen him at the club Saturday night, showing us all these crap pictures on his mobile of the cakes you made. 'See this one? Dark chocolate with mint frosting. Looks good, doesn't it? Want some? Well, you can't have any, right, 'cos he made it for me." Steve chuckles and shakes his head, and Howard notices out of the corner of his eye that Vince is coming over to them with his eyes all wide and panicked.
"All right, Steve, that's enough. Howard's a busy man, yeah?" Steve obediently shuffles away, and Vince turns to Howard with an unconvincing laugh. "That Steve. What a joker."
"Can we please just pretend that didn't happen?" Vince grabs his arm and tries to steer him towards the stairs. "Just...go up to your room and I'll stay down here and we can go back to normal in the morning."
"Vince, talk to me."
"I don't want to." Vince's cheeks are flushed and he's trembling slightly. "Howard, please."
They're starting to attract some attention from the crowd. Vince takes a deep breath, closes his eyes, and shouts, "Everybody get the fuck out of our shop."
The faces of his friends range from shocked to hurt to mutinous, but they gather their belongings and file out nonetheless. Vince heaves a deep sigh and rubs at his temples.
"Look, just tell me one thing and then I promise I'll leave it." Vince doesn't answer. "How come you can tell those people all that stuff about me and not let me hear a word of it? How come you just...let me think you're barely putting up with me half the time?"
"I said I don't want to talk about it, okay?" There's an almost tearful quaver in Vince's voice.
"Why is this so embarassing to you?"
"You'd be embarassed too, wouldn't you?" Vince scrubs at his eyes and ducks his head, trying to hide behind his fringe. "If you fancied someone and didn't want them to know about it and some stupid friend of yours went and told them."
Howard tries and fails to speak for a few seconds. "Oh," he finally manages. "I...didn't realize that was what he was saying."
"Really?" Vince blushes a deep crimson. "Fuck."
"Vince, I...." Howard reaches out to touch him, but Vince shrinks back. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"What good would it have done?" Vince is fully crying now. "Best case scenario, you'd have just said you were flattered but you didn't like me that way, and we'd try to keep being friends but it'd be all weird, and eventually you'd get a girlfriend and leave me all alone."
"I might not've done," Howard says weakly. "You don't know that."
"What, then?" Vince replies sullenly. "You'd have pretended, just to keep from hurting me? Let me suck your cock and pretended I was a girl? Strung me along until you were too sick to keep going?"
"Will you shut up and listen to me for a minute?" It comes out far angrier than Howard intended. He forces himself to calm down before he continues. "I love you, you idiot. I've loved you for ages. You should've said something."
"I--" Vince opens and shuts his mouth a few times, rendered speechless for the first time in his life. "Why didn't you?"
"Because I'm a coward, Vince. You should know that by now. You're--" Howard wills his voice to stop shaking. "You're supposed to be the brave one."
"Yeah." Vince steps closer, places his palms against Howard's chest. "Turns out I'm a bit chickenshit myself."
"So?" Howard wraps an arm around Vince's waist and reaches the other hand up to cradle his face. "What are you waiting for?"
And then Vince is kissing him, and it's new and strange yet warm and familiar at the same time. Howard thinks, fleetingly, of their first kiss, the one on the roof, when he was too shocked to do much but let Vince go at him, and he resolves to do better this time and licks into Vince's open mouth.
Vince makes a small, startled noise, almost a whimper, and clutches at the front of Howard's shirt. Howard pulls away, ignoring Vince's protests. "Upstairs?"
Vince doesn't need to be asked twice; he darts up the stairs, grasping Howard's hand. Before they've made it to the bedroom, he's kissing him again, fumbling madly with his shirt buttons. Howard gently prises Vince's hands off him. "Easy."
Vince whines in frustration. "We've wasted enough time already."
"Soon, little man. Just wait until we can get in bed, okay?"
Vince softens, the corners of his lips curling upwards. "Yeah, all right."
As soon as the bedroom door clicks shut behind them, Vince is all over Howard, sloppily kissing his neck and trying to tear off all of their clothes at once. Howard bats Vince's hands away and undoes the rest of his shirt buttons himself while Vince peels off his T-shirt and goes to work on his painted-on trousers. When he's finally naked, Howard can't help but stare in open admiration at his smooth chest and slim hips and red, jutting cock.
Vince taps his foot impatiently. "Come on, you're still wearing trousers. Less staring, more stripping." Howard swallows around the lump in his throat and obeys.
Howard begins to feel slightly self-conscious as he sheds his corduroys. Vince has seen him naked, or at least nearly naked, more than once before, but this feels different somehow. Howard is painfully aware of how physically inferior he is to the man in front of him, and he's seized with a sudden urge to hide from Vince's wide, staring eyes.
Vince moves up close again and puts his arms around Howard's waist. "Don't freak out, okay?" he whispers, and kisses him again.
It's better with his eyes closed. Howard is able to relax and lose himself in the sensation of Vince's lips against his, Vince's skin under his hands, the sweet smell of his hair and the soft noises emanating from his throat. Vince takes hold of his wrists and leads him towards the bed. Howard feels his earlier panic threatening to return as they lie down facing each other.
"I have no idea what I'm doing," he admits quietly.
Vince smiles and kisses him on the forehead. "Relax. I'll make it good for you." He snuggles closer until they're pressed up against each other, chest to chest, their cocks touching.
A warm ache begins to spread upward through Howard's stomach as Vince begins to move against him, rubbing their cocks against one another. It's too much and not enough at once, and Howard reaches down to grab Vince's arse, urging him closer. Vince kisses him, hot and wet and desperate, then breaks away, panting. "Hang on a second, I don't--I don't want to come yet."
Vince's hair is all ruffled and his eyes are almost all pupil and there's a thin sheen of sweat over his face and neck. Howard remembers all the times he secretly stared at Vince when he was all dressed up for a gig or a night of clubbing and reflects that he didn't know the half of it then. Vince is more beautiful now than he's ever been.
As soon as Vince gets his breath back, he declares, "I want you to fuck me."
The bottom drops out of Howard's stomach. "Really? Now?"
"Yeah, why not? I mean...." Vince bites his lip, almost shyly. "You don't have to, if you're not ready. I just...." He stares helplessly at Howard's erect cock, then back up at his face. "I want you. I've wanted you for so long."
The look of pure need and desperation in his eyes finally makes up Howard's mind. "Okay."
"Really? Brilliant. Okay, hang on a sec." He rifles through the drawer of the bedside table and pulls out a condom and a bottle of lube. "Give me your hand."
Vince pours a generous amount of lube onto Howard's fingers. "You have to get me ready first." He leans back and spreads his legs. "Go on then."
Howard presses a fingertip against Vince's entrance. Vince shivers and closes his eyes. "Come on, please. I want you inside me."
Howard slowly inches his finger inside, his mouth going dry as he imagines how this tight, wet heat is going to feel around his cock. Vince is making small, high-pitched noises, and Howard stills, wondering if he's hurting him, until Vince squirms impatiently and begs him not to stop. He crooks his finger experimentally, and Vince throws his head back with an obscene moan. "God, yeah, do that again--more, please, I need you." Howard adds a second finger, and Vince bucks and whines, his hands clutching at the bedsheets.
Howard's cock is achingly hard and dripping precome. Vince breathlessly says that he's ready, and Howard withdraws his hand and fumbles shakily with the condom wrapper.
Vince gasps as the tip of Howard's dick pushes into him. Howard has to bite down hard on his lip to keep from coming then and there; Vince feels impossibly tight around him, and it's almost more than he can take. Slowly, he presses forward, until his entire length is inside. Vince grasps at his upper arms. "Move," he whispers, "come on, please, I need--oh. Yeah, just like that." Howard thrusts into him again, building up a steady rhythm. Vince wraps his legs around Howard's waist and moves his hips in tandem. His fringe is plastered to his forehead and sweat is pooling above his collarbones and he's crying out loud with each thrust.
"I'm--oh, fuck." Howard slows down for a moment, breathless and shaking. "I don't know how much longer I can last."
Vince grabs Howard's hand and wraps it around his cock. "Go on, touch me. I wanna come with you."
All it takes is a few strokes, and Vince is coming all over his chest and stomach. The ensuing clench of his muscles sends Howard over the edge, quivering and gasping and moaning out Vince's name.
They stay wrapped around each other for a few minutes, their skin stuck together with sweat and come, until Vince complains that he can't breathe. Howard rolls off him and gets up to dispose of the condom.
When he comes back, Vince immediately drapes himself over him and clings like a limpet. Howard idly plays with his hair, close to falling asleep. He thinks Vince is already there, until he hears him speak.
"What was that?"
"I'm sorry." Vince sounds a bit sad, almost. "For not telling you all that stuff."
"You mean the stuff you've apparently been telling your friends for God knows how long?"
"Yeah. That." Vince is blushing a little. "I wanted to tell you, I just...."
"You were scared."
Vince sighs and buries his face in Howard's chest. "Thanks. For that and...you know, everything else."
"Pleasure's all mine," Howard murmurs, slightly muffled by Vince's hair.
The last thing Howard hears before he drifts off is Vince saying he loves him. He makes a mental note to say it back the instant he wakes up.