unbelievable2: (Default)

 

Title: URBAN WILDLIFE BLUES

Or, maybe not the tail you thought it was.

Part 8 of 9

 

Pairing: Howard/Vince

Author: Unbelievable2

Rating: PG13, probably

 

Word Count: 4,741

 

Summary: What starts as a new departure for Howard and a surprise for Vince swiftly turns into a [nail-bitingly terrifying/ridiculously overblown*] race against time to thwart an old enemy.
*delete as applicable 

Warnings: For story as a whole, some nastiness, violence, drug refs and swears, talking animals, (oh, and some s/ash ;) here and there)

Disclaimer: Sadly I own neither the creators nor their characters, and I will not, nor would I ever wish to, profit from either.

Note: Sorry for the long wait, but it’s  definitely nine chapters now, 8 needing to be split in two - and Chapter 9, which will be posted as soon as the dust of this one settles, is definitely the finale!

Acknowledgment: Once again, the wonderful Themogwai has been a wise counsellor, and has pulled me back from excess. Thank you, kind and skilful beta, for your patience with my wittering!

 

Part 1 Here:

Part 2 Here:

Part 3 Here:

Part 4 Here:

Part 5 Here:

Part 6 Here:

Part 7 Here:

 

 

 

 

PART 8

 

For a long moment, nobody moved. The only sound in the cavern was the harsh, rapid breathing of the Fox. Two men lay crumpled on the ground, the skin of one gleaming in the moonlight. Vince was frozen to the spot, mesmerized by the slow drip of blood to the ground.

 

Once upon a time there were two boys called Howard and Vince. And they were always together. They were the best of best friends. And even when they became men, they were never apart for more than a week their entire lives. Until one day…

 

No! Not like this! Never like this!

 

Vince suddenly snapped back into life, his body lunging towards Howard in a reflex action, only to flinch back from the array of needles rattled in his face.

 

“You step back now, kind sir, pretty ladyman…

 

Still with his deadly arm outstretched, the Fox slid off the huddle of bodies and gave the topmost a nudge with his crutch. The golden dealer rolled limply off Howard to lie stretched out, as if in sleep, one arm slumping backwards to rest above his head. And as it did so, an amber ring slipped from the hand and rolled across the ground, finishing up within inches of Howard’s blank face. The dealer’s eyes, wide and staring, had a lifeless sheen in the moonlight. A long needle protruded from his jugular.

 

“Got me a dead one,” mused the Fox, his eyes still flicking between the dealer and Vince.

“Got me a good and dead one. Maybe two…”

He reached out and, with his gaze locked on Vince, dragged his claws lightly down Howard’s chest, leaving a thin, raw trail.

 

Vince made a sound, an involuntary whimper.

 

“Get off him,” he hissed. The Fox giggled.

“You wan’ him fo’ you, pretty ladyboy?”

“Get… off… him…” Vince could feel himself begin to shake with pent-up rage.

“Why, what you gonna do?

“Know what ah’m gonna do?

“Gonna put him in a li’l dress and hurt him…”

 

The words shook Vince out of his stupor. He brushed them aside and squared his shoulders.

 

“And you know what I’m gonna do?

“Gonna do this…”

 

He uncorked the flask of shaman juice, letting the stopper fall to the side on its cord, and held it out. And started to tip it slowly, the liquid creeping up the sides to cling tantalizingly to the lip of the flask.

 

The Fox froze, his paw now motionless on Howard’s body. Then the needle hand reached out in entreaty, the voice wheedling.

“No! No, kind sir, no! Foxy want that shaman juice. You give Cracky Fox that juice, all yo’ dreams…”

He stopped suddenly, staring at Vince.

“You?

“You!

“You’s dead!”

 

In all this, Vince wasn’t quite sure how he managed to keep his feet, let alone keep the flask steady. His brain was swirling. It wasn’t just the absolute, god-awful, heart-stopping shock of seeing Howard stretched out like that. It was as if the whole chamber was pulsating with fear and hate. Great black waves seemed to surround him, pressing in on every side. The innocent, nay, completely vacant, charm of the Moon’s light, a blue-white glow surrounding him and Howard, was the only thing that held them back. But even that was now retreating as the Moon passed overhead, completely oblivious to the drama beneath. And it left more room for the black waves to take over.

 

He gazed in pure longing at Howard’s face; the broad brow, the strong nose, the generous mouth. Features as familiar as his own; as beloved, even.

 

Come on, Howard! Come on!

 

The black waves retreated a little, regrouped, hung back. And the Fox’s everyday hysteria appeared to be taking on a new form. His gibbering and giggling was higher pitched, more rapid, nervous. He shrank back, leaving his prey unguarded in his anxiety.

 

“No! You’s dead!”

 

Vince stared back at the Fox, narrowing his eyes and tipping the flask a little further.

“Who you talkin’ to?”

“You!” You’s dead! I killed ya, Vincey Princey, I killed ya…!”

 

“Nah.” Vince swirled the flask a little more and chanced a step closer to Howard. “Nah, you killed no-one, mate. I’m invincible…” He stopped for a moment, and broke into a broad grin.

“In-Vince-ible!” he repeated. Wait till I tell Howard that one!

 

“Yeah, I’m like that other bloke. You know, beard, sandals, funky robe? The one who invented Easter eggs. You can’t kill me.

“So innit time you showed me some respect?”

 

He tipped the flask again and this time deliberately allowed a drop of liquid to make it over the lip and fall. It hit the ground with a fizz and a spark, evaporating immediately on impact. The Fox was in a frenzy of frustration and indecision, shuffling and bouncing, his forepaws still held out longingly.

 

“No, no, kind sir! Kind Princey! Don’t you throw away good juice like that! No ma’am! Let Ol’ Cracky Fox have that juice!”

 

But as he spoke, he swung his arms in an expansive gesture, his eyes casting furtively from one side of the cavern to the other. Vince followed his gaze. At the corners of the room, bin-bags were shifting, as if being summoned. But they weren’t shifting far, dragging themselves a few feet forward and then slumping down again. The Fox was still grinning but his eyes were flicking nervously around. The forepaws gestured again to his minions. But now there was barely a movement from the dark corners.

 

“Heheheheheheheheh…..”

 

The laughter continued, but the desperation in it was easy to hear now. Vince’s shoulders relaxed, he was no longer shaking. He smiled nastily back at the Fox, his own teeth showing bright and feral, and swirled the flask with increasing confidence.

 

“Move away, Foxy!”

 

He took a careful step towards Howard, then another…

 

“Please, pretty Vincey, all-powerful Vincey… give poor ol’ Cracky Fox some of that lovely juice? Ease his achin’ bones…”

 

Another step; his mind, his heart on Howard, his eyes on the Fox.

 

“Naboo was right, wasn’t he? You need this juice. Need it to keep going. Need it to have power over people. Without it, you’re just… ordinary. An ordinary fox with an ordinary drugs problem. Just like anyone in the city…”

 

“Gimme it, kind Vincey, gimme it… Ah can give you all kinds of power when I’s got the juice inside me…”

 

“Piss off, mate. And keep movin’ back, that’s a good Foxy…”

 

One more cautious step. Foot up to take another… What? Oh, fuck….

 

Silver boot collided with heavy obstacle. Vince, his weight already well over his left foot, found his right snagged on the black folds of the dealer’s jacket. It was not going to obey him. He flailed helplessly for a millisecond, leg jerking, and then toppled gracelessly to the floor, his arms instinctively outstretched and hands lifted, protecting the flask as if he were a test cricketer making a vital catch at the boundary. He landed with an “Ooof!” on his stomach, his legs over the dealer’s body, his head butting Howard’s bare chest. And there he lay for what seemed an eternity, tangled in material, the flask uplifted like a sacrament, his face flat against his friend’s damp, soft skin. Damp, soft, warm … warm!

 

He snapped his head back. Two small brown eyes were gazing at him in a kindly, if vacant, manner.

 

“Well hello, Vince. Nice to see you…”

 

“Howard? Howard! ” Absolute delight, absolute joy. Fuck the flask, fuck the Fox… Howard!

The moustache on the face beneath him lifted in a carefree smile. He grinned back, gob-smacked.

 

And then it all kicked off again.

 

What temporary advantage, physical and psychological, he’d had over the Fox disappeared the moment he tripped. In the few seconds of confusion and distraction, albeit joyous, the Fox regained his lost ground. With a strangled cry he launched himself at the two men in their involuntary clinch.

 

Vince sensed rather than saw him coming. And with a natural talent for self-preservation which the few hours in the garbage cavern had honed to a high degree, and which at that moment overwhelmed even his concern for Howard, he jackknifed his body away from his friend and, still with the flask upright, rolled over and over out of the Fox’s reach.

 

But the Fox wasn’t to be deprived.

 

Vince leapt up again, flask intact, only to be confronted by what now seemed a recurring nightmare. The Fox was back, crouched over Howard, whom he now cradled against his chest. One foreleg was across Howard’s torso, the other was brushing against Howard’s neck. The needles dragged on his throat. Howard was half sitting, half lying, against his captor, a slightly bemused look on his bloody face, but by no means discontent, it appeared.

 

“Hey, Vince! You’re over there now! How did you do that?”

“Howard… Howard, don’t move! Whatever you do, don’t move…”

 

Vince’s brain cell was crying out in an agony of confusion and nothing was getting through. Only a buzzing in his ears like radio static, which was now being drowned out by the jubilant cackle of the Fox.

 

“Well now, Princey Vincey, see what I got here? I got what you want, Princey… What we gonna do about that?”

 

He stroked the needles across Howard’s windpipe, round to his jugular. Howard’s eyes rolled, attempting to focus on what was happening. The carefree expression on his face barely altered, however.

 

The Fox grinned again, saliva glinting on his canines. Then he shifted slightly, moving his rump around to the side. Vince saw the ratty brush start to rise. He flung out his arm again and tipped the flask recklessly. There was a glittering splash on the floor of the cavern.

 

“None of that arsey stuff, Fox! The moment I get one whiff, this bottle’s hitting the floor, all right? What good would that do ya, eh?”

 

The Fox’s grin subsided with his tail. His eyes were red slits now, glowing with hate.

 

“No arse, no needles!” continued Vince. “You make one false move and the juice is gone, you mangey ball-bag!”

 

“Hey, Vince...”

 

Vince was startled out of his concentration again by the familiar voice, with its unfamiliarly happy inflection.

 

“Hey, Vince, how’re you doing up there? Coming back here?” Howard’s eyes shifted confusedly again. “Only I seem to be a bit stuck. Could do with some help, little man...”

 

Vince didn’t dare break his stare with the Fox.

 

“Howard, just relax. You’ve had a knock on the head. You’ve got percussion. Don’t move, all right? I’ll be there in a mo…”

 

The Fox was giggling again, and underneath the giggling, a growl was building, too.

 

“Yeah, ladyman? Yo’ coming here? Got a needle for you, too…

“Gonna hurt you real bad…”

 

Vince stood stock still, breathing heavily, thoughts racing. He willed his voice to be calm.

“You want to trade?”

The Fox tipped his head, still stroking the needles back and forth.

“Could do, ladyman. Could do… What you got for me?”

 A leer.

“You give me Howard. Alive, okay? Unhurt, okay? You give me him, I’ll give you the juice.”

 

The Fox shuffled excitedly, his giggles now interspersed equally with growls.

 

“Yeah, maybe we can…”

Vince froze.

“Why ‘maybe’?”

Maybe ‘cos I want a li’l bit mo’ now, pretty ladyboy, pretty Vincey...”

“Wot?”

They stared at each other defiantly.

 

“Ah, Vince…”

“Shaddup, Howard! I’m busy!”

“Ah, Vince… I think you should know. I think the Crack Fox….

“Yeah, Howard, I know that…”

“I think the Crack Fox is here somewhere….”

Vince sighed in exasperation.

“You reckon…?”

Howard shifted a little. And looked upwards to see the Fox’s teeth grinning down at him.

 

“Ah. Oh. Vince….!”

“Howard! Just be quiet! Don’t panic!”

“Vince! I think he’s here with me!”

Yes, Howard!  I know that! Now let me think!”

 

Vince’s exasperated confusion, endlessly entertaining for the Fox, started to register in Howard’s consciousness.

 

“Vince, are you all right?”

“Howard! Please! You are being held hostage. Again. You move and the Fox will kill you. Just stay still. I’m gonna get you back. Just… just let me think…”

 

A pause. Howard’s eyes, the only part of his body he could safely move, swivelled nervously, trying to get a bead on the Fox.

“Vince…”

Vince looked at him hopelessly. Poor, addled Howard, with his earnest, alarmed face, and his brown eyes unusually large and dark in the weak light.

Suddenly, those eyes held his gaze.

“Vince, there’s something I need to tell you.”

“C’mon, Princey! We makin’ a deal or am I jes’ gonna needle him to death right now?”

“Howard, this has to wait!” He dragged his eyes back to the Fox.

“Whaddaya want, then?”

 

The Fox’s leer was even more repulsive than before. He bundled Howard closer to him, needles ready to strike. Howard looked flustered for a moment, but allowed himself to be manhandled. His awareness of his own peril seemed to be increasing. Vince saw his hand reach out hesitantly for something, and then fall back again.

 

The Fox giggled triumphantly from his new vantage point.

“See that pile in the corner yonder?” He gestured with one paw. “Go get what’s on top.”

 

Vince looked quickly towards the pile, then brought his eyes back to the Fox and without breaking his gaze, walked slowly backwards towards the pile of rubbish, the flask still outstretched before him like a talisman.

 

“Vince, this is difficult for me…” continued Howard, daring to wriggle upright a little more.  Vince wished desperately he would just keep quiet. Did Howard think he was helping calm the situation? It was as distracting as hell….

The Fox, eyes fixed on Vince, didn’t seem to notice.

Vince groped at the top of the rubbish pile, and lifted a piece of fabric.

“Tha’s right, Vincey! Tha’s the one. You bring it back here...”

“…but I feel I need to say it.” Howard was still talking, his voice strained with the effort of keeping calm. He now seemed to be fully focused on the drama playing out in the cavern.

 

Vince walked slowly back towards them. In the patch of moonlight, the swathe of material in his hand showed red, and it sparkled a little.

“Been savin’ this for a real important guest…” The Fox’s voice was breathless with pent-up excitement.

Vince let the fabric slip to the ground.

 

It was a dress. A little red dress.

 

Vince glanced at it, and his breath caught in his throat. He looked up again, direct at Howard.

 

Friend looked at friend. A lifetime flashed between them; a lifetime past, maybe a lifetime to come.

 

Now all Vince wanted was to hear what Howard had been trying to tell him.

“Yeah? So what was it you were going say, y’jazzy freak?” His voice was unnaturally calm.

 

Howard, suddenly put on the spot, found his words elusive. He chased them round his brain. They were the ones he’d first said to Vince in similar peril in the tundra years ago. He’d stored them up for another desperate time when saying them would be excusable, acceptable - not a reason for laughter. Surely this moment fell into that category?

 

But even as he opened his mouth he was filled with the dreadful knowledge that the wrong things were going to come out. The crack on the skull was playing a part, surely, but some other part of Howard’s psyche was going to get in first, and he couldn’t have retracted even if he’d tried.

 

“Just that… I mean… what I wanted to say, to tell you, is … well…. er….”

Come on, Howard, concentrate! Deep breath…

 

“You have a really gorgeous arse.”

 

Oh no. Those were definitely not the words he’d intended to say. Where the hell did they come from?

 

It was difficult to tell who out of the three looked the most surprised by that statement. Vince’s eyes widened to maximum aperture. Knock on the head or no, this was an unexpected, if in truth completely welcome, departure for Howard. The man himself looked shocked to the core. The Fox just looked bemused.

 

Then Vince’s mouth began to twitch. And Howard’s eyes started to crinkle.

 

“Actually, er, your arse is … ah… not the only gorgeous thing about you, you know.” He hesitated, perhaps losing the confidence to continue, now this strangely liberating banter was underway, but Vince’s broadening smile pulled him through.

“There’s quite a lot of you that’s … er… exceptionally nice, Vince Noir.” He looked sheepish again. “I just thought that, in the circumstances, I’d better say it. Just in case. You know…” He tailed off.

 

Vince shook his head slowly, still grinning, “Howard Moon, you pick your times, you really do. But yeah, thanks.”

A pause. A flirty wink.

“And you’re not bad yourself, y’know.”

Now Howard was smiling, too.

 

The Fox raised his needle paw and slammed it down hard on Howard’s chest. Both men jumped and yelped, though Howard with probably more justification.

 

“Yo’ listenin’ to me, ladyboy? That dress is fo’ you. You put on that dress…”

 

What!”

The same word, the same appalled voice, from both Howard and Vince.

 

“Or Ah’m a’keepin’ your binman…

Gonna keep him here for me!”

 

Whatever debonair bravado their little private fantasy had lent Howard in the past moments, it crumpled in an instant. Clear panic was in his face as he looked from Vince to the dress and then squinted at the Fox, and then back to Vince again.

 

In contrast, his friend coolly picked up the dress and held it aloft, appraising it with exaggerated care.

“Not really my style. Colour’s not me, neither…”

 

“Yo’ put it on or I’ll… I’ll…”

His breathing erratic, the Fox was having difficulty with his words.

 

“And then what?”

Saliva was starting to drip from the Fox’s muzzle onto Howard’s chest, this clearly not improving the latter’s state of mind.

 

“Cracky Fox’ll do what he promise. Give him back if you give me juice.

“But you gotta please me first.”

 

’Please you’?” The cool demeanour faltered. Vince’s eyes flashed nervously to Howard, silently begging for a plan. Howard’s aghast expression did not fill him with confidence that any kind of plan was likely to be brewing soon.

 

“Yo’ put on that dress, ah’ll tell you how t’please me…”

 

But then the knots in Howard’s tongue unravelled. Past experience told him that it was time to beg for his life, whilst weeping pathetically. But once again, on that same night, he found himself saying clearly what was in his heart.

 

“Vince. Go. Now. Put that thing down. Take the juice and go…”

The Fox jabbed at him with the needles, threatening. Vince held up his hand in entreaty.

“No! Don’t hurt him! Howard, you don’t know what you’re saying… you know I got to rescue you. You got to panic, I got to rescue you. That’s way it works…”

 

Howard cut across him. His own words still surprised him, but he wasn’t going to stop.

“Take the juice and go! Find Naboo. Find the Board. Just get out of here!”

He was clearly struggling to keep his voice even.

“You can get away... Please! Go!”

 

It’s that percussion again, thought Vince. This isn’t normal Howard. He peered at his friend. He could see sheer self-interested terror, predictably, if fleetingly, in Howard’s face. But there was something else, too. And it wasn’t that stubborn, slightly constipated look he’d usually get when giving reign to his Spartacus complex. No, this was different, this was something akin to nobility, and the unusual conviction in his friend’s voice was shaking Vince’s resolve. He braced himself.

 

“I’m not gonna go and leave you, Howard. No way. Don’t be an idiot.”

 

“We got a deal, ladyboy?”

Vince bit his lip and turned his gaze from Howard to the Fox.

“Yeah, we got a deal.”

 

Howard gave a small, smothered cry of pain and frustration.

 

Vince placed the flask carefully on the ground, to one side but close enough for him to kick at with his boot should the situation change. He could see the Fox register that point. He stood in the centre of the cavern, facing his adversary. But his eyes were on Howard now.

Slowly, slowly, he began to undo the buttons on the black shirt.

 

The moon was close to disappearing from view, but beams were still striking the floor obliquely. Vince stood as if on a floodlit stage, disrobing for his audience of two, both of whom were trembling; Howard with anxiety, the Fox for a different reason.

 

The moonlight caught Vince’s face in an eerie glow, the shadows on his face dark and defining, his pale skin all the more ethereal as he peeled the shirt off his shoulders and dropped it to the ground. He could see the Fox shaking and drooling now, and he raised an eyebrow sardonically (a trick, and a word, he’d learned from Howard).

 

“That pleasing you, Foxy?”

 

“Vince, please… don’t do this…” Howard’s voice sounded faint and far away.

The Fox just growled.

 

“Crack Fox wan’ more!”

 

How he removed the black skinnies with such elegance was to remain one of the mysteries of that night and one of the legends that might well have arisen in time. He crouched to unzip his boots, and then straightened up again, teasing his fly button. The Fox’s panting was hoarse and uncontrolled. Vince’s gaze never left Howard, who stared back transfixed, the Fox’s embrace forgotten.

 

Vince slid the jeans down his legs, long white thighs glowing in the moonlight. First one well-shaped leg, then the other emerged from the denim. He tossed the garment aside and deliberately slipped on the boots again. His wardrobe had come full circle; he stood before Howard once again in blue Y-fronts and silver stack heels, and smiled at him. The old smile - warm, genuine - for the friend who now stared back in bewildered fascination.

 

And then Howard spoke again. It would have been unthinkable only a day before, but so many fears and cautions seemed to have been left behind in his plastic cocoon. He breathed the words, really. They were the same words that had filled his head the previous night.

 

“You’re beautiful…”

 

Vince looked at him for a long moment, breathing deeply, but he didn’t reply. He just bent to retrieve the dress and slipped it quickly on over his head. It was a filthy travesty of a garment. Vince’s skin was as evident through its gauzy fabric as it was through the many rents and tears. It hung loose from his shoulders down across his chest and barely reached mid-thigh. A long stripe of dirty tinsel ran diagonally from one shoulder towards the hem.

 

Vince, like this, stirred Howard in ways he couldn’t, didn’t dare contemplate. His heart bled for the vulnerability of his friend, in this perverted freak-show, playing out whatever god-awful, useless plan his untried brain-cell had provided him, all because Howard Moon had failed him, yet again. And it swelled with pride at the strength and resolve he saw in Vince at that same moment; at the defiance that now took the place of the habitual flippancy on that crazily-angled, uniquely engaging face.

 

And that heart of his was filled with wonder at the beauty, undoubtedly masculine despite the attire, that stood before him – undeniably disturbing; undeniably desirable.

 

But most of all it stirred him to make his last attempt at self-sacrifice.

“Vince, please, stop this! Please! Just go… Go now while you can…”

 

The man in the dress simply smiled; a gentle, knowing smile.

“Nah, Howard. Don’t you worry. He’s nothing to be afraid of, that Fox.”

The Fox hissed in reply, jerked out of his burlesque-induced trance. Vince carried on speaking, calmly, patiently, as if to a child.

 

“You gotta realise, Howard. He’s nothing. He’s just something that gets in the way. Always gets in the way and stops you doing what’s right, doing what you really want. He’s got in the way of us. Time for that to change, for things to be fixed.”

 

Howard just looked perplexed.

“Don’t worry, I’ll explain it all later. The main thing is, don’t be frightened of him. He doesn’t matter to us.” The smile broadened again. “Not anymore. ‘Cos we’re a team, you an’ me.”

 

Howard opened his mouth and shut it again. By rights, he should have been feeling way out of his depth, abject terror running a close second. But when Vince talked to him like that, it felt like things could never go wrong ever again.

 

“So, Foxy,” said the man in the dress. “Am I pleasing you? Whaddaya want now?” And before the Fox could answer, he was speaking again.

“How about I dance for you?”

 

And he looked straight at Howard.

 

Oh. Yes. Right.

                

The Fox didn’t appear to notice the glance. He barely seemed to register the flask of shaman juice anymore. Though the needle hand kept a decided focus on his captive.

 

“Oh yeah, you can dance fo’ ol’ Cracky Fox…” The eyes were glazed, the words sibilant, the tongue emerging and lapping at foul lips.

“You can dance. Nice and slow. Slow an’…”

 

And Vince started to dance. He started to make Jazz Moves.

 

The graceful steps, the fluid gestures, the lovely shapes that Vince drew in the fetid air of the cavern - they captivated Howard once again, despite his predicament. The Fox was captivated in an entirely different way. Tongue now lolling, he made no effort to control his drooling as he watched Vince approach sinuously across the cavern floor. Howard squirmed in disgust as the Fox pressed and rubbed against him in his growing excitement. And his heart faltered as he dared to think what the Fox’s own plans might be.

 

But one thought began to overwhelm even that horror.

It’s like my dream, my hallucination. He danced for me in my dream…

 

Night Heron, Sunray, Trumpet Solo…..

 

Vince, his face a picture of fierce concentration, locked eyes with Howard and danced on through the familiar moves, his gaze never leaving his friend.

 

Savage Meerkat, Augmented Fourth, Artistic Squid……

 

Closer and closer. He could hear the rasp of the gauzy fabric against Vince’s skin, despite the hideous panting of the Fox. He could see Vince’s body moving within the red tatters; the rise of his chest, the pattern of his ribcage, the curve of his arse and the sudden sharpness that was his pelvis. The sight filled him with an unbearable longing to reach out and touch, and hold, and feel. And Vince looked at him as if he understood every single one of Howard’s thoughts; understood and reciprocated.

 

Formative Trombone, Oblivious Duck, Northern Kestrel…..

 

Vince was running out of space and the Moves were almost over. The Fox was pulling himself upright against Howard, the needles still a first line of both defence and attack.

 

“You never seen Vince Noir dance, Foxy… You don’t know how lucky you are…”

Vince shimmied, and let the scrap of material at his neck slip off one shoulder. He breathed deliberately at the Fox, a long, sultry sigh.

 

“This is my special dance…”

 

The Fox was now growling and whimpering at the same time, completely distracted. Vince batted his eyelashes at him, his eyes flicking quickly towards Howard. And then he was curling, down, down towards the floor, curving his spine. It was Throbbing Satsuma. Howard braced himself.

 

The force and dexterity of Vince’s very own version of Electro Explosion astounded Howard, let alone the Fox. It was a moonlit blur of legs and arms. Howard could hardly begrudge the fact that one of those legs caught him painfully on the hip when he saw the obvious backhand that smacked the Fox hard across the muzzle and, in the next instant, the silver boot that skillfully (or maybe luckily, he wasn’t going to over-analyse) caught the needle hand and knocked it wide, away from Howard’s neck. The next boot caught the stunned Fox in the midriff, and sent him flying through the air, his screams and curses cut short as he hit the bin-bag wall of the cavern and slithered to the floor.

 

“C’mon, Howard! Let’s go!”

Vince grabbed Howard’s upper arm with both hands and hauled him bodily to his feet. Then seized his hand, a look of complete delight in his eyes.

“C’mon! Run!”

 

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

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