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June 1984

   The first thing Vyvyan was properly made aware of were the flames licking at the backs of his legs, chewing through denim and skin at an alarming rate. It didn’t hurt - not exactly. No more than losing his head had hurt his neck, or eating the telly had hurt his bottom when it came out the other side. But he was smart enough to know that it could hurt if he kept lying in the thick of it, and that there was a chance it could hurt him much more deeply and permanently than anything he’d ever experienced, including a pickaxe through the head.
He got to his feet a bit more shakily than he would have liked, swatting at the backs of his legs with one hand and steadying himself on a bit of rubble with the other. A few feet to his left, he could make out the frayed bottoms of Neil’s flared jeans, sticking straight out of the dirt like a bloody flagpole. Vyvyan took a hesitant step towards the hippie, but was immediately placated when Neil started speaking through mouthfuls if charred soil.
   “Oh wow. My entire life like, flashed before my eyes, man. This is really very heavy.”
   Vyvyan didn’t bother validating Neil with a response, but even he had to admit that the stupid hippie was onto something. This was indeed, really very heavy. He grabbed Neil by the ankles and yanked him out of the dirt, mostly to stop his bloody whining, then kicked at a bit of shrapnel with the toe of his boot and tried to get his bearings.
   “Mike?” He called. And then, when he got no response, he yelled as loud as his smoke-filled lungs would allow.
   “MICHAEL?”
   From the very top of the cliff, a small figure emerged, loaded down with several enormous sacks of money.
   “Alright Vyv? Things are starting to get a bit heated down there, and I don’t just mean my jockeys!”
   Vyvyan breathed a small sigh of relief, still struggling to stand upright, and wiped a layer of soot from the studs on his forehead.
   “Is Rick up there with you?” He yelled. If he was, Vyv could start to relax. There was a prickly little chill forming at the back of his neck - a persistent feeling of dread. He’d have died before he admitted it, and if either Mike or Neil had so much as suggested it, he would have gladly kicked their teeth in, (Yes, even Mike - although he might’ve been a bit gentler about it) but if anything had happened to the spotty little poof, he wasn’t quite sure how he’d cope.
   “Who?” Mike asked. His voice was a little hard to make out from such a distance, especially over the persistent sounds of the bus going up in flames, but Vyvyan managed to make it out.
   “Rick!” Vyv cupped his hands around his mouth to try and make his voice carry that little bit further, then turned his head to one side and hacked up another bit of shrapnel.
   “Can’t say that he is, Vyv.” Mike replied, “Why? Does it matter?”
   “Of course it bloody matters!” Vyv snapped, forgetting - just for a moment - that he was supposed to want the spotty prick dead.
   “Hey um, Vyv?” Neil said. Vyvyan dismissed him - not entirely on purpose, but mostly because dismissing Neil had become has natural and as normal as breathing.
   “Well if he’s not up there with you, and he’s not down here with us, then where the bloody hell is he?! Rick! Speak up, you bloody poof!”
   “Vyv, look.” Neil put his hand on Vyvyan’s shoulder (an act that would have earned him a boot in the head at any other time) and gently turned him towards the burning remains of the bus. It was a little difficult to make out from this distance, but...yes. If he squinted, tilted his head to one side, he could just see a figure lying in a heap, buried almost entirely under soot and rubble and smoke.
   The thought that entered Vyvyan’s mind at that moment was neither rational or particularly logical (nor, for that matter, were the reckless actions that followed it) but instead fuelled by all the other bizarre and nonsensical thoughts about Rick he’d been trying to beat out of his head for over part of a year.


‘Not him. Please, not him. Take anybody else. Bloody hell, take me for all I care. But please, please, not him.'


   He took off towards the bus like a shot, heart pounding so hard and so fast he thought it might just smash through his ribcage entirely (and that was something he’d liked to have seen, even despite the pressing circumstances) and tried maintain some glimmer of sanity by telling himself that there was a chance it was maybe, possibly, not Rick at all trapped inside the bloody bus. Perhaps they’d taken out a pedestrian on the way through, or perhaps someone had been in the bus the whole time - some unfortunate stowaway that Rick had neglected when he stole their new getaway vehicle in the first place.
   But by the time he’d sprinted through the shrapnel, smoke, sacks of burning money, and vaulted through one of the broken windows onto the bus’s hot, melting floor, there wasn’t any room for doubt. Yes, it was Rick. He could tell by the horrifically charred blazer, the bagged pigtails (now singed) and the stupid bloody hat. He was breathing - just - but one of the bus seats had crushed both his legs, and the flames had done a number on his entire left side. Vyv lifted the seat and tossed it to one side without any real awareness of how badly the hot metal had burned the palms of his hands, then grabbed Rick under the right arm and hauled him back open through the broken window.

'Yes, as a matter of fact I do Rick. I really, really fancy you. And I want to give you a big girly kiss on the bottom. So wake up and say something, or I’ll bloody kill you.'

   But Rick was a stubborn bastard at the best of times. He didn’t so much as open an eye as Vyvyan dragged him a good distance away from the sight of the explosion, and then rolled him onto his side. Neil shuffled over, looking equal parts conflicted and terrified, and Mike seemed to have buggered off somewhere else, because he was no longer loitering at the top of the cliff. Vyv was surprised to discover that he didn’t really care. That he didn’t particularly care about anything, apart from the charred and mutilated body sprawled out in front of him. He didn’t even care when he heard the distant sound of sirens, and when he realised there was every chance it was the pigs and not the paramedics, he found he didn’t much care about that, either.

Chapter Text

Vyvyan actually quite liked hospitals. He supposed he should’ve hated them, given how much time he spent in them during his tumultuous and frankly death defying childhood, but something about them seemed to appeal to him on a fundamental level. In fact, was this appeal that had made him want to be a doctor in the first place. He suspected it might have had something to do with the chaos, or maybe just the gore. Maybe it was something deeply psychological - something to do with the way the smell of antiseptic and cleaning products reminded him of the bed he’d had as a child; the cupboard under his mum’s kitchen sink, lined with second hand blankets and newspaper scraps. He was never entirely sure; he just knew that he liked it. That it made him feel calm. A little bit safe.

But whatever it was that usually soothed him about the white walls and clean tiles, it certainly wasn’t working then. Not when Rick was lying on the cot in front of him, hooked up to a million different pieces of complex machinery, a breathing tube shoved halfway down his throat and bits of plaster snaking up and down his left side. All he felt was the same prickly sense of dread he’d had after the crash, and a tight knot in his stomach that made him feel queasy. It had been three days, and Rick still hadn’t woken up. He’d barely even stirred. Hardly even breathed. The only real indication that there was any life left in the self proclaimed wide eyed, big-bottomed-anarchist was the heart rate monitor on the other side of the cot, which beeped continuously and reassuringly at a constant, monotonous tone. Vyv watched it almost obsessively. In the time since Rick had been admitted, Vyvyan had only left his side on three occasions; once to vomit a bit more blood and shrapnel into the bog, once because he’d passed out due to smoke inhalation - and that was a bit bloody embarrassing, to say the least - and once on the very first night for a total of fifteen minutes, before the nurses realised that for Vyvyan Basterd, visiting hours did not apply. It was a lesson learned the hard way - he’d had to headbutt his way through the hospital wall to teach it to them. 

Bloody hell. He wasn’t even sure why he cared so much. It wasn’t as if…

Well, it wasn’t as if Rick fancied him back, was it? Rick liked girls. He’d made that blatantly obvious on numerous occasions - had both literally and figuratively fought to prove he wasn’t a poof. And Vyvyan’s little line about wanting to give him a big girly kiss on the bottom hadn’t got him anywhere at all. Quite the opposite, in fact; Rick had looked absolutely traumatised by the idea. And usually, if Vyv fancied someone he didn’t have a chance with, he got over it easily enough. A few glasses of babycham and a stick of dynamite strapped to his head, and he was past it. But again, Rick was a stubborn bastard. He supposed it only made sense that once the snotty little poet had wormed his way into Vyvyan’s head (heart? No. Too girly. Head was bad enough) that it would be impossible to get him back out again. It was almost as if Vyvyan didn’t just want to get a quick shag and then move on. It was as if...oh, bollocks. It wasn’t as if he cared - he absolutely did care. Quite possibly more than he’d ever cared about anyone, including poor old SPG. He...no. No. Love was too far. Too strong a word. Vyvyan Basterd did not love anyone, not even his hag of a mum. Never had. Never would.

He pulled his chair a little closer to Rick’s bedside, hesitantly put their hands next to each other… and then one on top of the other, and was genuinely delighted when Rick shifted a little bit. Not much - so minute, that anyone less attentive would have missed it - but more than he had before. Vyv grinned. 

Don’t love anyone, eh? Sounds like a load of bollocks to me, mate. 

“Shut up.” He muttered. But the voice of his subconscious echoed persistently around the dark and vacuous recesses of Vyvyan’s mind, and it was impossible to dismiss it once it had started. 

*

 

If Vyv had to guess, (He didn’t particularly want to, but if he had to) he reckoned he’d first realised he was gay sometime in 1975. He guessed that would’ve put him at about twelve years old or so. This was mostly accurate - it certainly had been 1975, and although he’d yet to actually turn twelve, he wasn’t very far off. He supposed the exact time period didn’t really matter; not when he could almost pin down the realisation to the very millisecond it had occurred. 

Sitting in the squalor of their god awful one room flat, mere inches away from the television with his eyes as big as saucers, Vyv’d had the volume turned down as low as it would go so as not to wake his mum. He shouldn’t have worried - drunk cow was so far gone a bloody earthquake wouldn’t have woken her. He was dressed in the smelly second hand clothes his mother had nicked from the charity shop - awful t shirts and jeans two sizes too big, held up with an old bit of extension cord -  trying not shiver despite the cold. It had just gone six o’clock in the evening and he was bloody starving for his tea, but he’d given up on the idea of getting anything to eat that day much earlier on, when his mother hadn’t woken up for breakfast or lunch. Besides, Today was on at 6, and that was just about the only decent bit of television he ever got to watch. They usually had musicians on, and even though Vyv had read something in the papers about the music act being Queen, he thought he might watch a bit anyways. It’d pass the time, at least. Take his mind off the empty feeling in his stomach.

If Queen had been on Today that evening, he might not have realised he was a poof until high school, or even until university, when he started boarding with an infuriatingly attractive sociology major. But it hadn’t been Queen. Queen had bloody cancelled. Their replacement was a little known group called the Sex Pistols.

It was Johnny Rotten that started it. With his orange hair and baggy jumper, and the safety pins threaded through his earlobes. That stupid, smart mouth sneer. Vyvyan had never seen anything like it. He was almost positive he never would again. He closed the distance between his eyes and the TV, leaning in until his nose was pressed against the glass - pressed right up against Johnny bloody Rotten. It began as a warm, faintly tingly feeling in his chest, then gradually spread as Bill Grundy’s disastrous interview reached his peak. 

By the time Johnny got around to saying shit ( Shit! Live on the bloody television!) it had blossomed into some kind of ferocious form of excitement and adoration that radiated from head to foot, and made him feel so nauseously giddy he nearly woke up his mum by excitedly jumping up and down on the bed. This was why he wasn’t bothered with any of the pretty girls in his class. This was why none of the actresses in his mother’s soaps or the movies he sometimes caught on the weekends had ever held any appeal for him. And it wasn’t just that he liked blokes (he wasn’t entirely sure he’d ever felt anything for any of the boys in his class, either) it was that he liked a very specific kind of bloke. Blokes like Johnny Rotten and Glen Matlock, and later on Sid Vicious and Steve Jones. Anarchists. Roughians. Punks. He liked punks. 

And for the first time in his twelve years on the planet, it occurred to him that he wanted to be one. And that unlike all the other trends, fashion statements and movements his classmates were so enamored with, he could be a punk if he wanted. Punk was working class. Doable. Trashy. Cheap. It was his if he wanted it, and by christ, looking at the filthy bastards having a go at Bill Grundy, he knew he did. He really bloody did. 

Two weeks after the broadcast aired, he dyed his strawberry blond hair a deep black with cheap box dye nicked from the nearby chemist. Another two years and it was orange like Johnny Rotten’s. The clothes from the charity shop were traded in for jeans and denim vests, stolen military boots and black tee shirts. The nose ring went in when he was fifteen - a home job, he learned how to do it from a book - and the studs on his forehead followed soon after. The tri-hawk was a gradual, but entirely natural progression. Blond curls started to straighten and snap due to years of abuse with dye and gel. 

And with all of this came the blokes. Punks mostly, but not always - Vyv learned he couldn’t necessarily be picky. Never went further than a bit of a feel up behind whatever club or pub he was frequenting, but he supposed that was alright. He wasn’t sure he was the type of person for anything really serious, anyway. Until he started at scumbag and began living with Rick, he wasn’t entirely sure anybody could hold a candle to Johnny bloody Rotten. 

To be fair, he still wasn’t. But Rick, he supposed, came fairly close. Rick was a stupid little git at the best of times, but he was...different. Somehow. He wasn’t afraid of Vyv, for a start. Wasn’t afraid of anything as far as Vyv was aware. He was always up for a good fight, and hardly ever backed down, even when Vyvyan clearly had the upper hand. Which was always, come to think of it. And that seemed to suit them both just fine. Vyv supposed his attraction had been there from the off, right back when they lived in the old share house. But the...the affection he had for him (the very well hidden affection, mind you) had started comparatively recently. Again, thinking about things in depth was never Vyvyan’s strong suit, but any feelings he had towards Rick that weren’t lust or hated had, he suspected, started to form when Helen Mucus woke up in Rick’s bed. 

The idea of someone other than him doing disgusting things to the people’s poet was enough to make him physically ill. Even worse was the realisation that Rick had wanted to do disgusting things with her, even if he hadn’t got the chance. Bloody hell, if Rick wanted to do disgustingly horrid naughty things with someone, why couldn’t it be with someone else? Someone more...well. Someone more like Vyvyan? 

Vyvyan scoffed at the very idea. He shifted slightly in his bloody uncomfortable hospital chair and readjusted his grip on Rick’s hand. Rick was a poofy girl most of the time, sure, but he was straight. Straight as a bloody arrow. Again, the mere suggestion of Vyvyan fancying him was enough to make Rick run for the hills. Then there was all the time he spent thumbing through crusty back issues of Cosmopolitan magazines, and the lengths he went to to impress girls at parties. Rick loved women. All women, any woman. He was a self proclaimed feminist after all. He loved them so bloody much, he even liked wearing their clothes, for Christ’s sake! It didn’t bear thinking about, really. 

Especially not when Rick was halfway done up in plaster. Not when he needed a machine to breathe. Not when he was fighting for his bloody life.

Chapter Text

When Rick did wake up - about five or six days after his initial admission - it was because Vyv’s heavy boots were resting on the bed, tugging at the stitches in his side. His head felt heavy, and he was a little bit nauseous, but given the severe extent of his injuries, it was a bit of a blimmin’ miracle that he didn’t have any real pain. They had him on some bloody good drugs; Vyv had seen to that. He winced a little at the stiffness in his joints and gagged once he became aware of the breathing tube stuck in his throat, which Vyvyan quickly (and surprisingly carefully) helped him remove. 

“Alright, Poof?” He grinned. Rick looked him up and down with a grimace.

“Oh, it’s you .” He croaked “What are you doing here?”

Vyvyan shrugged, “Thought you were gonna snuff it. Wanted to be there when it happened.”

Rick offered up his trademark sneer of disdain, but it was a weak effort. A shadow of his former self. He hesitated.

“Am...Am I still going to… snuff it?” Rick asked. He didn’t think he was, but something about the way is left side felt all rigid and numb made him think that something had to be wrong. When he chanced a glance at the plaster, he nearly bloody well fainted.

“I dunno.” Vyv replied. He leaned over Rick until their noses were practically touching, then tilted his head to one side, “Doesn’t look like it.”

“Yes, well. I think I’m actually quite alright now, thanks . So why don’t you bugger off and annoy somebody else, hmm?”

“...Nah.” Vyv said. His grin widened as he spoke, “Bastard Squad’s on in a bit. Think I’ll stay here and watch it.”

He flopped back down on the plastic hospital chair he’d been occupying for nearly a week, and immediately put his feet back up on the cot. 

“Now you wait just a minute young man! You just wait a ruddy minute! This is my hospital room, and this is my bed, and this is my bloody television! You can’t just come in here and put your filthy boots all over the place and force me to watch your horrible violent programs, you absolute fascist ! I’ve got rights, you know! I’ll call the pigs, Vyvyan. I mean it! And then you’ll really be sorry.” 

“I’m already sorry, bogeybum. I’m bloody sorry you woke up at all! I - “

He paused. Rick hadn’t felt anything apart from a persistent tugging, but a considerable amount of blood had started to dribble out of the gash on his left side - the one they’d had to operate on to remove all the little bits of shrapnel - and made a dark red patch on the hospital blanket. In an instant Vyvyan was on his feet again, stripping back the covers to assess the damage. 

“What are you doing? Get off me, you pervy!”

“Shut up.” Vyvyan said, but his voice was softer - kinder - than Rick had ever heard it before. His fingers brushed against the inflamed skin by Rick’s hipbone, and Rick’s breath hitched at the contact. Despite the numbness and the medication, he felt something start to twitch...down there, and he hoped to Cliff that Vyv didn’t notice how much he was blushing. Hoped he didn’t notice anything poofy at all, for that matter. He shot a glance at the patch of skin Vyvyan was so fascinated with and let out a shriek when he saw just how much blood was coming out of him.

“Stitches’ve pulled.” Vyvyan muttered, “I’ll get the nurse.”

Rick had half expected Vyvyan to try and stitch him up himself just to see him squirm, or even leave him to bleed out and laugh at his misfortune. He was so shocked by Vyvyan’s decision to seek actual medical advice from a licensed professional, (coupled with the added distraction of an excellent view of his bum as he walked out of the room) left Rick visibly shocked, and the blood pouring out of his side was quickly forgotten in favour of Vyvyan’s uncharacteristic burst of kindness. For the first time in his life, the People’s Poet was rendered entirely speechless. And when Vyvyan returned with a small army of nurses and doctors to assess the damage, he was as quiet as a mouse, and unusually well behaved. He barely even squeaked when they stitched him back up again - didn’t make a sound when a new round of painkillers went into the cannula that had been inserted into the back of his hand (even though he swore he could feel the stupid blimmin’ cannula wiggling around in the vein) and was barely able to manage a “thank you” when that small army of doctors and nurses disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. In fact, Vyvyan handled all the thank yous for him, and Rick wasn’t entirely sure he’d ever heard the punk utter any form of gratitude in all the time they’d known each other. And through it all Rick’s eyes never left Vyvyan’s. He didn’t seem to be capable of looking away. And although he tried to tell himself that the expression on his face probably resembled a hateful glare, he knew deep down that it was really more of a look of adoration and gratitude. Maybe even affection.

If he was being honest with himself (and Rick didn’t usually like being honest with himself, because it was usually rather painful) he wouldn’t have expected any of his flat mates to come see him in the hospital. Maybe Neil, if the hippie was in pursuit of some good karma. But certainly not Vyv or Mike. And he never would have imagined any of them sitting by his bedside for a great length of time. But here was Vyvyan. Yes, he had his muddy boots all over Rick’s nice clean sheets (a little more cautiously than before, to avoid pulling anymore stitches) and a hateful sneer on his lips, but he was here . And if his dishevelled appearance and the dark circles under his eyes were anything to go by, he’d been here for quite some time. There wasn’t even any gel left in his hair. It drooped and stuck to the sides of his head to form some kind of bizarre bowl cut. Rick wasn’t even sure if he noticed. If he did, he certainly didn’t care. 

“What are you staring at, poof?” Vyv snapped. Rick shrugged, smiled, went back to watching Bastard Squad on the tiny, pixelated telly. He wanted to ask Vyvyan what had happened after the crash - wanted to ask if the others had made it, for a start - and why the punk was so insistent on looking out for him. But he had a feeling that if he asked any further questions while Bastard Squad was on, he might end up with a concussion and some more pulled stitches, so he decided he’d better just leave it. He settled back against a mountain of pillows, shut his eyes, and wondered if Vyvyan would still be there when he woke up.  

 

Chapter Text

September 1984

 

“...I’m...I’m gay.”  Rick said. He looked at his reflection in the mirror, readjusted the shoulder straps of his dress, and tried again, “Hi, I’m Rick, and I’m a homosexual. Hi, I’m Rick, and I’m a poof. Hi...No. Vyvyan, I’m gay. Vyvyan, I like boys. Vyvyan...I like you. Oh, ruddy heck! This is ridiculous!” 

It had been a good few months since the crash. Well, perhaps good wasn’t the right word. It had been a painful few months since the crash, with Rick slowly and steadily rehabilitating first in the hospital, and then in his newly re-acquired bedroom in the share house on Codrington. A painful few months with Vyvyan constantly glued to his side, rubbing cream on his burns, fetching him things (on occasion) and driving him to doctor’s appointments with an alarming agree of enthusiasm. And Vyvyan hovering over you like some kind of bizarre private nurse for weeks on end was surely enough to drive anyone potty. Well, anyone except Rick, apparently. Because instead of growing frustrated, angry, or even frightened by the extra attention, Rick found himself getting quite...well. Quite smitten, really. More than he had been to start with, if that were even possible. More than he could quietly cope with on his own. Which was why he was stood in front of the bathroom mirror (admittedly still a little unsteady on his feet, but certainly better than before) talking to himself about being a great girly poof. 

Rick was quite sure that standing in front of the bathroom mirror - in a dress, and girly sneakers, and uncomfortable lacey underwear - talking about being a great girly poof was an excellent way to get his head kicked in, especially if one of his flatmates walked in and caught him. Well, maybe not if Neil came in to take a bath. Or if Mike broke down the door to get ready for his party. But definitely if Vyv came in to have a shave or reapply some hair gel, no matter how devoted and caring he’d been for the past few months. 

And even though he knew this, and even though he definitely didn’t want to get his head kicked in, he couldn’t seem to take off the bloody dress or tear himself away from the mirror. Because as much as he didn’t really want Vyvyan to find out he was a great bleedin’ homosexual, he also did want him to find out just as much. Something about Vyvyan knowing (and maybe even accepting) made him feel all funny. In a good way. In a very horribly terribly good way. In a perfect world, he would march downstairs dress and all, tell Vyv he was a homosexual (and he would do it proudly and without fear, in the true spirit of a brave, Thatcher hating anarchist) and Vyv would simply say ‘Great, me too. ’ And pull him in for a snog. And then maybe they’d go back upstairs for a shag, and Rick could refer to Vyv as his boyfriend, and they could go to Cliff Richard concerts and Marxist conventions together. 

And once the working class rose up to overthrow Thatcher once and for all, perhaps they could even get married. Vyvyan could get a job as a doctor and Rick would make a living as a famous poet, and they’d have enough money to buy their own house - a nice house, completely free of soggy hippies and ridiculous landlords - and never eat another lentil dish again. They could get Vyvyan another hamster, maybe even get a dog. And hey, maybe they could even have a baby! Rick was mostly sure that two men weren’t actually capable of conceiving a child, but one could never really be sure about these things. Especially not where Vyvyan was concerned, since the punk seemed to go against every biological law known to man. 

But even if they couldn’t have a baby of their own, they could always adopt one, couldn’t they? That’d be pretty anarchic, wouldn’t it? Two men raising a baby. An upbringing like that was bound to result in the poster child for the revolution. He (or she - Rick was not a sexist, after all, and was perfectly alright with a daughter or a son) would probably take down the government singlehandedly, completely dismantling the conservative party before going on to free the oppressed people of the working class. And Rick would be proud, and Vyvyan would be proud, and they’d probably go on to have hundreds more children, since they did such an excellent job with the first one. 

But Rick suspected he was probably getting ahead of himself. He looked at his burnt, swollen face in the bathroom mirror and sighed. This entire plan depended on his ability to inform Vyvyan that be was a homosexual, which Rick just wasn’t sure he could do. And even if he could, he highly doubted that Vyvyan was also a homosexual, because the odds of two homosexuals just happening to wind up sharing a house together seemed, at least to Rick, very slim indeed. And even if Vyvyan did like boys, there was no real guarantee that he liked this particular boy. Probably had the hots for Mike, or someone equally ridiculous. Some punk from his course, perhaps. 

Rick took another deep breath and went back to his little monologue. He didn’t expect he’d have to say anything at all once he walked into Mike’s house re-warming party in a dress, but it paid to be prepared, he supposed. And he had to wear the blimmin’ dress, because the whole of the Scumbag Anarchist’s Society was going to be there, and agreeing to wear a dress was the only way he could convince them to come. At first he was worried it might aggravate his stitches, or put too much pressure on his bruised ribs, but it seemed to be sitting alright. It nipped in nicely at the waist without being too tight, puffed out at the bottom and sat snug against his chest. He looked bloody brilliant in it, he knew that. He might’ve worn them more often if they weren’t oppressed under the rule of a conservative Thatcherite society. But that knowledge didn’t necessarily do anything to calm his nerves. It showed off a lot more scarred, burned flesh than he might’ve liked, but he supposed that only added to the anarchy of it all, didn’t it? It made him look tough. He wasn’t going to let his nerves or his skin stop him from wearing the bloody dress, not when he ran the risk of everyone he knew mocking him for chickening out. 

And he couldn’t not show up. It was his first party since the crash, for goodness sake! The first time he’d be interacting with anybody in person, apart from his doctors, his three flatmates and the bloody Balowskis. He wanted everyone to see how much better he was doing. How tough and rebellious he was. And after all the time he’d spent on the phone with everyone from his sociology classes and all the students who went to poetry readings at the Kebab and Calculator and every single member of the sodding bloody buggering anarchist’s society, he wanted to make a lasting blimmin’ impression. On everyone. Including Vyvyan, who hadn’t wanted him to go to the party at all. Something about needing more time to heal. 

But Mike had fought tooth and nail to get the bloody house back, putting forth almost all the money he’d managed to salvage from the crash, spending hours and hours camped outside the Balowski house, threatening to call lawyers he probably didn’t have to fight a case that definitely wasn’t worth winning. It was a good job Mike had fearlessly leapt out of the bus at the first sign of trouble, or they’d all have been stuck in the hospital and there wouldn’t have been anybody to sort out the house. Well, except Neil, of course. Neil, who had selfishly been mostly unharmed by the crash, and was released from hospital a day after admission with nothing but a flimsy neck brace, while Rick fought for his life. But that stupid bloody hippie wasn’t going to get the house back, was he? No, of course not. Apart from organising a peaceful protest, cooking a large lentil casserole, calling his parents and getting them to give the Balowskis a firm talking to, and then encouraging them to threaten legal action, Neil hadn’t done a bloody thing! Selfish bastard.

But that was entirely beside the point. The point was that this was Mike’s house re-warming party, and Rick was going to be there whether he needed more bed rest or not. And he was going to wear a dress as a right proper middle finger to Thatcher’s oppressive agenda, and maybe - just maybe - he might get a snog off Vyvyan, after all. If he could only work up the courage and tell him how he bloody felt.   

Chapter Text

Vyvyan had had a good feeling about the party until that bastard showed up. As far as he was concerned, everything seemed to be going in his favour. Rick was doing a lot better for a start, and that alone would’ve been enough to raise the punk’s spirits (it had got to a point where he didn’t have to feel guilty about cuffing him across the back of the head or mocking him for being a whiny little poof, which always put him in a good mood) but there was also the promise of copious amounts of alcohol, a chance to see friends he hadn’t caught up with since the crash, and plenty of opportunities for mindless mayhem and destruction. Mike said he’d even got Madness to play in the drawing room. 

And Vyvyan supposed it had started out alright. Neil had done an impressive lentil buffet, which meant that all of his ridiculous hippie friends had congregated in one place, and were therefore easy targets. Games of ten-pin hippie bowling abounded. Mike had invited enough girls to satisfy a small army, and for once they all seemed genuinely interested in what he had to say. Mike was in a good mood at the best of times, but having an endless supply of girly attention seemed to put him over the bloody moon, and he quickly established himself as the life and soul of the party. Cracking jokes, dancing on tables. It was bloody brilliant! Vyvyan suspected Mike’s newfound popularity might have had something to do with the vast sums of money exchanging hands under the kitchen table, but who was he to judge? If Mike was happy, so was he. And Mike was incredibly, deliriously, sickeningly happy. 

So Vyv took a leaf out of Mike’s book and decided to enjoy himself, spending a good couple of hours merrily lobbing empty bottles of babycham at various peace-loving-party-patrons, picking fights with numerous punks and drinking his weight in spirits. A brilliant good time that was only cut short once he realised it was nine o’clock and Rick still hadn’t come downstairs. He could be dead. He could be lying on the floor of his room, struggling to breathe while his lungs collapsed and his stitches ripped open. 

Nah. Would’ve heard him screaming. Prick’s not gonna keep quiet about something like that, is he?

Unless he was unconscious, of course. Or, as previously mentioned, dead as a bloody doornail. Vyv was up the stairs like a shot. He thought about breaking the door down; about smashing through the wall with one swift kick and rescuing Rick from whatever bizarre situation he’d got himself into. Oh, that’d be good. He’d enjoy that. He was mere inches away from the plaster, caught up in the idea of carrying Rick over the threshold bridal style, when he realised he couldn’t possibly. Not this time. Not tonight. 

Well, he could . He definitely could , and it’d be a bloody brilliant good time, too. But if Rick was alright, then kicking down the door was probably a bloody good way to piss him off. And although that normally wasn’t an issue, pissing Rick off wasn’t particularly high on his agenda that night. Not when he wanted to be on Rick’s good side. Not when he was only just beginning to work up the courage to tell the whiny git how he felt. Certainly not when he’d spent countless weeks sat in plastic hospital chairs willing Rick to pull through, and another good few weeks perched on the floor of Rick’s bedroom, watching the People’s Poet sleep, silently swearing to himself that he would not let the opportunity pass by a second time. 

 

Because Rick had almost died, and Vyvyan couldn’t live without him, and he’d never bloody forgive himself if he didn’t tell Rick the truth. 

So he knocked. Hesitantly, with the back of his hand. He’d never knocked on a door in his life, and truthfully he wasn’t entirely sure he’d done it correctly. He was just about to try it again - perhaps a little louder, maybe with the palm of his hand this time - when Rick called out from behind the bathroom door. 

“I’m in here, Vyvyan! Bugger off, I’m busy!”

Vyv grinned and stamped across the landing a little too enthusiastically, forgetting that for all intents and purposes, Rick was still just his flatmate. 

“How’d you know it was me, poof?”

“It’s always you.” Rick sneered - Vyv could hear it in his voice - “Now piss off! I’ll be out in a minute.”

“What’re you doing in there? Something girly?”

Rick sighed, “ Yes Vyvyan . I’m doing something horribly girly and disgusting, you absolute sexist , so why don’t you just piss off and leave me to it, hmm?”

Vyvyan grinned stupidly, his mind already racing with all the disgustingly girly things Rick might’ve been up to in the bathroom, and the temptation to burst in and help him with whatever he was up to was almost too much to bear.

Oh, Christ. If he’s having a wank I’ll give him a hand - or a mouth - and if he’s wearing a dress I’ll help him take it off and if he’s having a bath I’ll join him -

But he couldn’t do that, could he? If he was trying to butter Rick up (Oh, bloody hell, wrong analogy. Rick covered in butter!) then bursting into the bathroom and scaring him half to death probably wasn’t the best way to go about it.  

So he kept his dirty thoughts to himself and retreated back downstairs, still grinning like a moron because for once in his life he had a bloody plan , and he felt quite optimistic about it. 

If anyone had accused Vyv of being a sappy, hopeless bloody romantic, he would’ve called them a filthy liar and threatened to beat the living daylights out of them, but...well. It sort of was, a bit. Rick seemed to drag it out of him. It had come as quite a surprise, really, when he’d started to get all of these bizarre, mushy, romantic thoughts. But in a way he supposed he sort of liked it. It was quite a nice idea, being romantic for Rick. Especially since Rick liked all that poofy, girly stuff. 

Not that he had anything ridiculously sappy planned, mind you. All he was going to do was drag Rick out into the garden where they’d have a bit of privacy, and tell him in no uncertain terms that he really rather fancied him, and that if Rick wanted to start some sort of...relationship, then that was fine by Vyv. And if Rick chucked a spazzy and got his knickers in a twist about it, he could easily call it a big joke and take the piss out of him for the rest of their lives. 

...But if Rick didn’t throw a spazzy - if Rick was even remotely interested in Vyv, well. Well, it wasn’t a big thing, right? But...well. Vyv did sort of have this...thing planned. It was silly, really. A bit sappy and sentimental, but that was exactly why Rick was gonna love it. So…

So he had a key, on a chain. Well, he supposed it sounded a bit stupid when you actually spelled it out. 

But it was the key to the padlock Vyv wore around his neck, and...Christ it was embarrassing! But some of his mates had made a kind of tradition of giving padlock keys to the birds they were seeing. A bit like a friendship ring, he supposed. Yin and Yang. And, well. If Rick wanted to wear it, Vyv was hardly going to object. And if he didn’t, that was alright too. But Vyv hoped he would. He really, really did. He had it hidden away in the back pocket of his jeans, and it did make him feel a little bit stupid, but he was too lovesick and too bloody optimistic to change his mind. So he waited in the kitchen and poured himself another babycham, and bloody hell, Rick was taking his time wasn’t he? 

Vyv was just about to go back upstairs and check on him again - and maybe make good on all those thoughts about breaking down the door and giving him a hand - when he walked right through the front door. Happy as you please, as if he owned the bloody place. Vyv’s heart went to his throat and started to pound right through his ribcage. His blood turned cold in his veins, skin prickling up the back of his neck. No, Christ. Not here. Not tonight. Not anywhere near Rick. 

Gary caught sight of him instantly - he supposed he was hard to miss - and closed the distance between them in easy, laid back strides. When he grinned, he showed a mouthful of mercury crowns and yellow nicotine stained teeth. He did it on purpose - his teeth were his least attractive feature. Without them he’d be like any other punk at the party that night. But prettier, too pretty. He had no edge without the teeth. Gary’s hair was a bright, fluorescent pink skunk stripe across his head, littered with the odd streak of black, purple, blue and red. He wore tight leather pants, scuffed doc martens and a tatty Sex Pistols T-shirt. Vyv had a horrible feeling he’d worn that t-shirt, a long time ago. When he was smaller, more vulnerable. The thought made him sick. Gary didn’t look any different, either. He was still a cocky bastard, and he had the kind of bizarre scruffy-pretty face that made the girls flock to him in droves. You could almost overlook the fact that he was 40 odd. No, bloody hell. Older than that now. Too old to have any business at a student house party, anyway. 

“Alright Vyv?” He said. He had to yell over the music, which made Vyvyan flinch in spite of himself, and his teeth glinted so painfully under the artificial lights that Vyv reckoned he really would be sick. Violently. Ideally all over the smug bastard’s docs. His eyes scanned the entranceway madly for any sign of Rick while his mouth desperately tried to form a half decent sentence.

“What are you doing here?” He finally snapped. Gary shrugged.

“It’s a party, innit?”

“You weren’t invited.” Vyv said, relieved to have found a slightly menacing tone. 

“Oh, sure I was. Just not by you.” Gary sniffed, wiped his nose with the back of his hand, “Yer mum said I’d find you here.”

“Oh right. Back with her, are you?”

“No, god no.” He reached out and tugged lightly on Vyv’s nose ring, “This is new. Does it come off? Can you do anything dirty with it?”

“Piss off!” He ducked out of Gary’s grasp and put some distance between them, which Gary immediately closed by putting his hand on Vyv’s shoulder; a gesture that would have looked perfectly innocent but felt dirty as hell, and Vyv could feel the bile creeping up the back of his throat.

“How are you, Vyv?”

“Fine.”

“Yeah? How long has it been?”

“Years.” He looked up at the entranceway again, praying that Rick would have the good sense to stay where he was and not come downstairs. Gary caught his gaze, still grinning.

“Waiting for someone?”

“Yes.”

“Boyfriend?”

“Yes.”

Shit

“Oh? Well, well, well. Vyvyan Basterd, out of the closet at last. Never thought I’d see the day. Who’s the lucky bloke?”

“None of your business.”

“Alright, alright. Fair enough.” Gary’s grin only got wider, “Is he here tonight? Why don’t you introduce me?”

“No!”

“Oh, go on. Be a bit of fun. New boyfriend meeting the ex. We could compare notes. Techniques.”

Vyv grabbed Gary by the front of his shirt and slammed him against the drawing room wall, rattling the shelves and sending a particularly stoned Neil flying across the room.

“Oh wow, Vyv! Uncool!”

“You stay away from us.” Vyv snapped. Gary, entirely unphased, turned his attention to Neil.

“Bloody hell, Vyv. That’s not him, is it?”

“Shut up! Look, if you’ve come here for a shag, you’re out of luck, alright? I’m not interested.”

“Really. Not interested. You sure about that pretty boy?” Gary’s hands went to Vyvyan’s bum and squeezed, his fingernails brushing against the patches of scorched skin on the backs of Vyv’s legs. He leapt backwards on instinct - involuntary tears gathering at the corners of his eyes - and failed to notice Gary’s fingers deftly locating and then removing the chain from his back pocket. It wasn’t planned, not really. Gary’s habits as a pickpocket were too deeply ingrained. 

“Bloody tease.” He said, “Never could get a proper shag out of you, could I? Hope the new boy has better luck.”

“You fucking bastard!” Vyv threw a punch, Gary doged, and his fist went right through the wall. 

“Settle down, Vyv! Settle down. I’m not here for you, not this time. I’m just here for what’s mine. Have you got what’s mine, Vyv? I hope so. Because I know where you live now, pretty boy. I know where to find you. And I’ll find a way to repay the debt. You know all about that, don’t you? You remember?” Gary’s hands made their way back to Vyvyan, brushing against his thighs and making his skin crawl. He wrenched his hand out of the wall, fists clenched, and took as many steps backward as he could manage without running into anybody.

“Get off me!” 

“Okay, alright. I think I’ve made my point. Reckon I’ll come back in a week or so, yeah? When things are a bit quieter? We’ll have a talk about it then, settle the score.”

Vyv was about to tell Gary exactly where he could stick his bloody score - and maybe follow it up with a good punch in the face - when Rick came out of the bathroom and started down the stairs.

Chapter Text

Rick could feel everybody’s eyes on him from the second he opened the bathroom door. There was a queue for the toilet that spanned halfway down the hall, and at least twenty hard looking punks raised their eyebrows and sneered as Rick walked past. He began to regret his anarchic statement almost immediately. Underneath the lace and the ruffles his knees were shaking violently. He felt a bit ill, and thought he might just wet his pants once the whispering started up, which’d be a bit of a bloody pain because they happened to be a very expensive pair of lace ones, and he imagined getting them wet would be horribly uncomfortable. 

He knew there was a very good chance he was going to get the snot kicked out of him, perhaps even by the very person he was trying to impress. That thought alone was enough to make him dizzy. He had to grip onto the bannister extra tight just to keep himself from falling flat on his face. Someone wolf-whistled as he came into the entranceway, one of the girls from the anarchist’s society cheered. Another one clapped. Someone tugged on his dress when he walked past. 

This is alright, isn’t it? Pretty anarchic. They’ll be talking about this one for years!

He took the last few steps with a bit more enthusiasm, stopping to sneer and throw the V’s at anyone who gave him too much of a hard time. The little audience he'd captivated only encouraged him further, and then…

And then he caught a flash of bright orange hair poking out from the archway. So Vyv was in the drawing room. Bloody hell, he wasn’t ready for this. He hesitated, then forced himself onwards. What choice did he have?

Well, at least I’ll die a martyr. I might even get sainted. Saint Rick. It’s got quite a lovely ring to it, actually. Patron saint of the working class. Brilliant. Thatcher’ll have a fit!

So he stepped round the corner and into the drawing room, fists clenched, head held high.

“Vyvyan,” He said, perhaps a little too loudly, “Vyvyan, I’m - oh. Hello.”

Vyvyan was far too love struck to say anything. Bloody hell. Rick? In a dress? In a criminally short, scandalously tight dress? He wanted to forget about Gary, forget about Mike’s party, grab Rick and take off upstairs. He had a million dirty ideas racing through his mind and no proper way to vent them, or come to terms with the horrendous situation unfolding in front of him. Gary saw his opportunity and seized it.

“Alright mate? I’m Gary.” He stuck out his hand and Rick shook it more than a little hesitantly, since he was in a dress and Gary was clearly a punk, and Vyvyan had him pinned against the wall, which seemed to have a new hole in it. A hole which correlated with the plaster covered cuts on Vyv’s knuckles. Rick might not have been the smartest student at Scumbag, but he wasn’t an idiot. He’d obviously walked in on some kind of conflict. 

“Im...Rick.” He said. 

“Wick.” Gary mimicked, “That’s cute. That’s very cute. Wick. This is him, isn’t it Vyv?”

Vyv was only just starting to come to his senses. Rick. Rick and Gary. Rick and Gary talking, Rick and Gary touching each other. 

“No.” He said, “No, it isn’t. Rick? Come outside with me for a minute, yeah? Gotta talk to you.”

“In a minute, Vyv. In a minute. Wick and I are having a little chat.” Gary tugged at the hemline of Rick’s dress, “This is a nice little get up, Wick . For Vyvyan’s benefit, I assume.”

Rick blushed, “No! I -”

“You two been together long then?” He asked. Vyvyan’s blush was quickly catching up to Rick’s.

“No,” He said, “I told you, we’re not -”

“But Vyv, I thought you said -”

“I said it wasn’t bloody him! Rick, come outside.”

“Just who are you, exactly?” Rick asked. He stuck his hands on his hips, making Vyv’s heart melt, and curled his lips in a trademark Rick-sneer, “I don’t remember inviting you.”

“Oh, god. That lisp. Bloody adorable. Is that all the time, Vyv? Even in bed?”

Vyvyan let go of Gary and grabbed Rick’s arm instead, hell-bent on dragging him outside if he had to.

“And just what are you insinuating? You just watch your mouth, young man. This is my house, you know, and I can kick you out if I want to!”

“You’re completely right, Rick.” Vyvyan said. He was still inching towards the back door, “You heard him Gary, bugger off. I’m sick of your ugly mug.”

Gary still didn’t move. That grin was gonna split his face in half if he wasn’t careful, “Easy, Vyv. You’re alright. I wasn’t about to give up any of your dirty little secrets.”

He leaned in uncomfortably close and put his hand on Rick’s other arm, ignoring the burned skin, or the way Rick winced when he made contact, “You see, Wick. The reason why Vyv’s being so bloody cagey, is because he doesn’t want his ex-boyfriend bad-mouthing him all over the shop. Not when he’s trying so desperately for a shag.”

That was it. Vyvyan snaked his arm around Rick’s waist and pulled him back, completely forgetting about the burned skin, cracked ribs, and fresh stitches. 

“You keep your bloody hands to yourself!” He snapped.

“Ow! Vyvyan! Get off me! You utter -”

But Vyv was already carrying Rick out into the garden to the tune of Gary’s vicious laughter, sick to his stomach and shaking uncontrollably.

Chapter Text

 

“...I don’t understand!” Rick said, once Vyvyan had dragged him into the most secluded corner of the garden. Rick sat with his back against the garden wall, mostly hidden behind a thicket of bushes, while Vyv crouched down next to him and quickly checked him over for any lasting injuries.

“It shouldn’t be a difficult thing for a big girly poof like you to get your head around.” Vyv replied. He took a cigarette out of his front pocket with shaky fingers and searched himself for a lighter. It didn’t occur to him to offer Rick one. 

“You and...him? You and him? Vyvyan, he’s twice your age!”

“More than that.” 

“I don’t understand.” Rick said again, only this time he sounded almost depressed, and Vyv was forced to push the subject further.

“...What do you think about...about the other bit? About me...being with a bloke?”

“He had pink hair, Vyvyan. Pink! And his teeth! For Cliff’s sake, Vyvyan, did you see his teeth? I mean -”

“Rick! Are you listening to me, you twat? Did you hear what I said?”

“What? About what?”

Vyvyan groaned and put his hands on Rick’s shoulders in a feeble attempt to get his attention. But it felt too much like a Gary gesture. Vyv didn’t want to be Rick’s Gary. He thought he’d rather die. In an extraordinary burst of courage, he moved to cup Rick’s cheeks instead. He could barely see him, the only light source being the dull glow from the kitchen window, which was a bloody long way from the bush they’d found themselves crouched behind. Vyv wouldn’t be able to gauge his reactions. Couldn’t guess what Rick was thinking based on facial expressions alone. He was putting his neck on the line, and he knew it, and it was too bloody late to change his mind.

“...I was with a bloke, Rick. You understand that , don’t you?”

“...Oh. Oh, well. Yes. Yes, I realise that, Vyvyan . What I meant, was that I didn’t understand how you could be with someone so...old! And, and pink. And -”

“But you understand that I’m a...erm. I’m a...um. I’m -”

“Yes? You’re what?” Rick had never seen the punk so nervous. He only hoped Vyvyan couldn’t feel how hot his cheeks were, or how badly his heart was pounding, “Well? Come on, come on! Spit it out! I haven’t got all blimmin’ night, you know!”

“A poof. Alright? I’m a poof.”

Time seemed to stand still. Rick, for once, was entirely speechless.

You stole my bloody line, you bastard.

Well, Rick would just have to steal his then, wouldn’t he?

“Great.” He said, “Erm...me too.”

“Yeah, well. I know that! It’s a bit bleedin’ obvious isn’t it? You walking around dressed like - mph!”

Vyvyan tensed, just for a second - but once he realised Rick was going in for a kiss instead of a punchup he relaxed almost immediately. Bloody hell, this was going better than expected! He thought about taking the lead and showing Rick how it was done (he was a bit rubbish, the poor sod) but then decided against it. This was obviously a new experience; he’d go at Rick’s pace. Any sort of snog with Rick was better than none at all, anyway. 

Rick had to admit that he wasn’t exactly the most experienced when it came to things like this. He was a little more reluctant to admit that he’d never bloody kissed anyone before, not even a girl. Not even his mother. Not even on her birthday. But given the circumstances, he thought he was doing alright. Well, actually, he thought he was doing pretty bloody brilliantly. It wasn’t quite as wet as he thought it’d be. Not nearly as cold as he’d imagined. In fact, Vyvyan’s lips were surprisingly warm. Even the nose ring, which dug into Rick’s top lip in a way that he never would have imagined could have been sexy, wasn’t very cold. It certainly wasn’t unpleasant. Vyv’s hands were still on Rick’s face, and after Rick took a moment to get his bearings, his hands went to Vyvyan’s hair. He’d always wondered what it would feel like. He never imagined he’d like it so much. Vyv made another, softer noise of surprise as Rick experimentally swiped his tongue over Vyv’s bottom lip. He was a bit worried he was doing it all wrong, probably making a right bloody mess of things, but at least Vyvyan didn’t seem to mind. Quite the opposite, in fact. One hand left Rick’s cheek and went to the small of his back, and then the other hesitantly made its way to Rick’s thigh, gently pushing back the lace to brush against the hem of his underwear. There was a hum of approval from both sides as Vyv realised that Rick was wearing something a bit more exciting than a plain old pair of Y fronts, and his hand went up a little higher. Rick squirmed a bit, desperate for more contact, which Vyv obliged by leaning backwards and pulling the scrawny poet on top of him, at which point he took the opportunity to stick both hands up the back of Rick’s dress. Rick was a bit of a clumsy twat - all fumbling fingers and uncertain, jerky movements. His arms and legs were constantly in the way, making the wrong moves at the wrong time, and they were so painfully out of sync Vyvyan should have been infuriated. Under different circumstances, say, a drunken fumble behind the Kebab & Calculator with some bloke he barely knew, he might’ve been a bit stroppy. But it was Rick, and Rick was nervous, and Vyv knew how it felt to be with someone far more experienced. He knew it felt to be eager to please, how easy it was to get carried away and go beyond what felt comfortable and right. So every time Rick did something a little hesitantly, Vyv couldn’t seem to stop himself from bombarding him with questions.

“This alright?”

“Y-yeah. It’s good.”

“And this?”

“Hngh - yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“Argh! Christ Vyv! Yes, it's good! Don’t you dare bloody well stop.” 

Vyvyan grinned and pushed his hands up higher, wondering if he could tear Rick out of his dress from the inside out. He only stopped when his fingers brushed over the metal stitches in Rick’s side, and the poet hissed in pain. 

“Sorry! Sorry. Bloody hell, Rick. We can’t.”

“What? Why not?”

“You’re not up to it.”

“How do you mean?”

“You need more bloody time to heal, is what I mean. Look at you! You’re a mess.”

“What does it matter? You’ve hurt me loads of times before.” Rick stuck his hands down the front of Vyv’s trousers, and it took all the strength and willpower Vyvyan possessed to get him to stop.

“That’s - ah! Steady on! That’s different. You’re not - you need more time, alright? Trust me, poof. It’s not that I don’t want to. I really, really bloody want to. And as soon as you’re better, we will. Really, we will. Lots. All the time. In fact, we’ll do so much shagging that everyone else in the house will have no choice but to be constantly, violently ill.”

Rick frowned, “...Really?” 

“Course! Unless you don’t want to.” 

“Well of course I want to.” Rick snorted, “I just… wasn’t sure if you’d want to. That’s all.” 

Vyv sighed. Bloody hell. 

“Rick, I’m only gonna say this once.”

“...Okay.”

“I really, really fancy you. More than I’ve ever fancied anyone, alright? And I’m gonna keep fancying you for a bloody long time.” 

“...R-Really?”

“I told you I wasn’t gonna say it again you twat!” He gently pushed Rick off his lap and got to his feet, not bothering to brush the dirt off his trousers, “Right, come on then.”

Rick got up with a wince - he hadn’t realised how much damage their little snogging session may actually have caused - and grabbed Vyvyan’s arm to steady himself. 

“Where are we going?”

“Bed. Just because I can’t shag you senseless doesn’t mean I’m gonna let you do a runner. You can sleep in my room - give me a chance to keep an eye on you.”

“Take advantage of me, you mean!”

“Well, yeah. That too.” He reached under Rick’s dress one last time and gave his bottom an experimental squeeze, which had the added bonus of making Rick squeal like a girl.

“Argh! Stop it, you pervert!”

“Watch who you’re calling a pervert, poof. I’m not the one skipping around in a dress!”

He was quite surprised by how perfectly his arm fitted around Rick’s shoulders, and how easy it was for them to walk side by side. It was as if they’d been doing it all their lives.  

Back inside the house, Gary had migrated from the wall to the kitchen table, and was picking at Neil’s lentil buffet. He wasn’t sure what he was waiting for, really. He knew where Vyvyan lived now, after all, and he’d made his point perfectly clear. They had a debt that needed settling, and he’d be back to collect whether Vyv liked it or not. To be perfectly frank, he wasn’t entirely focused on Vyv at all at the moment. He was too busy thinking about the twit in the dress. Wick. Just how important was he to Vyvyan, anyway? Important enough to use as leverage? Blackmail? Maybe a bit of a hostage situation? 

As if answering his question, Vyv and Wick came in from the garden without an inch of space between them. Vyv had his arm around Rick’s waist and glared at Gary triumphantly, in an ‘ I’ve got somebody else now so why don’t you piss off ’ sort of way, which Gary didn’t particularly care for. Rick - sorry, Wick - looked a bit less sure of himself, ( virgin , Gary thought) but after a brief moment of hesitation, he stuck his hand in the back pocket of Vyv’s jeans. And, even more disturbingly, when they passed Gary by Wick shot him a revolting glare and flicked him the V’s. Gary thought he might’ve mumbled something about him being a Tory Fascist (which was entirely uncalled for) but he didn’t really mind. He let them go with a grin on his face, thinking that things might work out better than he’d planned. They still had a score to settle - Gary wasn’t about to let that drop - but he was starting to think that maybe, just maybe, not all debts needed to be repaid with money.

Chapter Text

Rick looked bloody incredible when he was sleeping. It wasn’t something that had ever occurred to Vyvyan before, since any thoughts he’d had about sharing a bed with the People’s Poet generally involved other, far more energetic activities. But in the months since the crash, and the weeks spent watching Rick sleep through the most painful parts of the healing process, he’d started to think that it was maybe the best thing he’d ever seen. When he slept, Rick had a calm, peaceful expression. Free of the sneers and snorts and raised eyebrows that dominated his features during the day. He breathed out of slightly parted lips and occasionally smiled, if he was dreaming. He was warm and soft, and nowhere near as whiny or abrasive. And now, things were even better. Because this wasn’t Vyvyan standing guard over Rick until morning, monitoring his biological processes for any sign of relapse. This was Rick, here, in his bloody bed! If he wanted to (he did) he could reach out and run his fingers up and down Rick’s arm, or ruffle his hair or cup his cheek. He could fall asleep with Rick’s head on his chest, an arm draped across his waist, and it was alright. It was allowed. It was bloody brilliant, was what it was. Like nothing Vyv’d ever experienced before. 

The party was still raging on downstairs; Madness was starting in on Baggy Trousers, and Vyv suspected that Gary was still down there somewhere. He couldn’t believe how little he cared. A year ago - even a few months ago - the thought of Gary on the same street as him, let alone in the same house, would have been enough to send him into a fit of rage. But it was hard to be angry when Rick’s breath was warm against his neck. 

“...Vyv?” Rick asked. It was so unusually bloody quiet that Vyvyan didn’t quite catch it at first - he was tuned into loud, whiny yelling, not soft whispers against his skin.

“What? Go to sleep, poof. It’s late.”

“Right, yes. Sorry. It’s just...What are we doing , Vyvyan?”

“I dunno.” He shifted a bit so his arm was more secure around Rick’s shoulders. “What do you think we’re doing?”

“Well I don’t know!” Rick paused, “I suppose Neil would call it cuddling .”

“How would you know what Neil’d call it?” Vyv snapped, his grip around Rick tightening ever so slightly.

“What? Oh, for Cliff’s sake! I didn’t mean that, Vyvyan. I just meant that someone as soppy and ridiculous as Neil would have a horrible, revolting name for what we’re doing!”

“Yeah? You better be telling me the truth, face-ache, because if I ever find out you’ve been cuddling with Neil, I’ll bloody kill you!”

“You’ll probably kill me anyway.” Rick yawned, “Fascist.”

Vyv grinned. He grabbed Rick under the arms and rolled him over until he was lying on top, then wrapped his arm around Rick’s bare chest (ever mindful of all those scars and scrapes) with one hand daring to slip down the back of his pants.

“...I thought you said we couldn’t do things like that yet.” Rick mumbled. He was disgustingly clammy from all the heat, but he still shuddered at the touch.

“I’m not doing anything.” Vyv replied, “I’m just cuddling .”

Rick giggled, then slipped his arms around Vyv’s neck and kissed him on the chin. They fell into silence again, which was perfectly fine by Vyvyan, but Rick clearly wasn’t finished. Bastard still wouldn’t bloody shut up, not even when they were in bed! Well, at least now Vyv could kiss him to get him to be quiet.

“Did you used to do this with Gary?” He asked.

“Bloody hell. What do you want to talk about him for?”

“I’m just curious, Vyvyan! Haven’t you read those pamphlets they hand out at doctor’s offices? I’m well within my right to ask my current partner about their sexual history!”

“I don’t - ugh. No, alright? I never did this with Gary.”

“Right. But you did...do things with him, didn’t you?”

Things .” Vyv mimicked, “God, you’re such a girl.”

“Look, did you have sex with him or not?”

Vyv paused. That was certainly an interesting question. 

“...That depends. What are we counting as sex?”

Rick grimaced. He hadn’t realised it was such a grey area. He knew hardly anything about sex, after all. He was sort of hoping that Vyvyan would know more. The only sexual experience he’d ever really had was with Mr Morrison at the end of term and that...well. That hadn’t been as enjoyable as Rick had hoped it would be. Mr Morrison seemed to have appreciated it, but truth be told Rick had been rather bored by the whole thing. And what was the blimmin’ point, anyway? It certainly hadn’t done anything to improve his final grade.

“Erm...Well. Um...ah… Well! Why don’t you tell me what you did, and I’ll tell you if it counts as sex. Ha!” Rick was really quite proud of himself for thinking so quickly - he’d have died of embarrassment if Vyv found out he had no bloody idea what sex between two men entailed. 

“Alright. Once or twice, I gave him head.” 

“Ah.” Rick said, nodding wisely.

“...You do know what that is, don’t you?”

Rick scoffed, “Do I know what head is? Of course I know what head is, Vyvyan! I’m not a complete moron, you know.”

“Uh huh. What is head, Rick?”

“Oh. Erm. It’s when...it’s when you sort of, you know. You put your head, sort of, oh, you know!”

“My god! You really are a sissy virgin, aren’t you? Christ, Rick, what do they teach you at university?”

“Well why don’t you tell me what it is, if you’re so bloody clever!” Vyvyan had broken up into a fit of laughter, still clutching Rick’s side with one hand while the other went to wipe his eyes. Rick had gone bright red, cringing with embarrassment, and he’d had quite enough humiliation for one night as far as he was concerned, thank you very much.  

“Or maybe I’ll just go back to my own bed, hmm? Since you’re so intent on making fun of me!” He pushed himself up - even though he had absolutely no intention of going anywhere - and Vyv immediately grabbed him by the arms to keep him in place.

“Just lie down, would you? I wasn’t having a go. Come on, come back. I’m not finished cuddling .” Rick snickered at what was quickly becoming a well established private joke, and came back to rest his head on Vyvyan’s shoulder.

“Are you going to tell me what it is or not?”

“I could show you.” Vyv said as his hand went back to plucking at the hem of Rick’s underpants.

“I think you’d better tell me first. I don’t want to do it if it’s something disgusting, like...sticking your head up my bottom or something.”

Vyv laughed, and the thought occurred to him that he could have quite a bit of fun with this if he wanted. Perhaps another time, when he was a bit less tired and could think of a really disgusting thing to tell him.

“Alright. Giving head is when the other bloke sticks his knob in your mouth, and -”

“He does what ?!”

“Puts his knob in your mouth. What?”

“Why would he do that?”

“Because it feels good, you git! Anyway, he sticks his knob in your mouth, and you lick it and suck on it and bob your head around a bit until he comes.”

“But what about all the...you know.”

“The what?”

“You know! All the...stuff that comes out.”

“What? Semen?”

“Augh! Yes. What about all the...sea-men?”

“Well, you can either spit it out or swallow it. I usually swallowed.”

“Doesn’t that make you ill? What does it taste like?”

No , it doesn’t make you ill. And it’s alright, I spose. It’s not my favourite taste in the world.”

Although he suspected it might be, if Rick’s was involved.

“So you’ve had Gary’s knob? In your mouth?”

“Yes. Thank you for bloody reminding me.”

“Eugh.” Rick said, but there was no real malice or disgust in it. It sounded more like fascination, and maybe a bit of awe. 

“Does that count as sex?” Vyv asked.

“Erm...no.” He said, although he really had no idea. He thought about his run-in with Mr Morrison again. Did that count as sex? Should he ask? He supposed he might as well; it was only fair, after all.

“Vyv?”

“What now ? Aren’t you tired yet?”

“What’s it called when you...wank somebody else off? With your hand?”

“I think it’s called wanking somebody else off with your hand. Why?”

“Does that count as sex?”

“No, poof.” He was about to tell Rick to shut up and go to sleep, but something made him pause, “...Why do you ask?”

“Um...No reason!” Rick said, “Well, goodnight Vyvyan! Sweet dreams!” He shut his eyes and rolled over so Vyvyan wouldn’t see how red his face was.

“Oi! Get your boney bum back over here. Fair’s fair, Rick. Why do you want to know about wanking other people off?”

“Oh...um. Well. Do you remember that party we had, ages and ages ago? And you drank antifreeze and all your hair fell out, and a giant sandwich came through the ceiling?”

“...Yes.”

“Do you remember my sociology lecturer? Mr. Morrison? He came to the party?”

“...Yes.”

“Well, erm. Right before the crash, you see. Ah, I went back to his office after class. Because I was a bit worried I might fail the course, since I didn’t actually do any of the coursework. And I thought he might be able to pass me anyway, since I’m an anarchist and can hardly be expected to do oppressive things like hand in assignments or study for tests.”

“Rick, if you tell me you tossed off Mr. Morrison, I’m going to be sick all over you.”

“Oh, well that’s hardly very fair is it? You put Gary’s knob in your mouth, for Cliff’s sake! That’s far worse than letting Mr. Morrison toss himself off with my hand!”

“What do you mean, let him ?”

“Well I didn’t know what he was going to do! I was hoping he'd do something, I just wasn't sure what! And it seemed a bit rude to stop him once he’d started! Honestly, I don’t know what all the fuss was about. It’s a good job he had a book on Trotsky on his desk for me to skim through, or I’d have died of boredom!” Rick paused, “He got my shirt sleeve all sticky.”

“...Well. I spose I’ll have to kill him, then.”

“What? Why?”

“Oh, don’t know, Rick. Because classes start back up soon! Because I don’t like the idea of you sitting in Mr bloody Morrison’s class thinking about how you wanked him off in his office! Because...because you might decide you want to do it again.”

“Do you want to put Gary’s knob in your mouth again?”

“Course not! Don’t be disgusting.”

“Then why do you think I want to wank off Mr. Morrison?”

“That’s different!”

“No it isn’t!”

“Is.”

“Isn’t!”

“Is.” Vyv replied, grinning when he could feel Rick getting aggressive. 

“ISN’T, ISN’T, ISN’T!”

“Stop yelling in my ear!” Vyv said, and then bit Rick’s ear for emphasis. Bloody hell - he wasn’t sure he’d be able to wait until Rick was feeling better. 

“Well I don’t want to wank off Mr. Morrison, alright? It was the most boring, uneventful three minutes of my life , and it wasn't anywhere near as anarchic as I thought it'd be, and I have absolutely no desire to do it again!”

“Good!”

“...Unless you asked me to.”

“Why would I ask you to wank off Mr. Morrison?”

“No! Unless you asked me to...wank you off. Then I would.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes.” Rick replied.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Vyv said. And he did, vividly. In a wide variety of positions, locations and scenarios. 

“...What are we doing, Vyv?” Rick asked, “If you don’t want me to wank off Mr. Morrison, and I don’t want you to put Gary’s knob in your mouth?”

“We’re doing whatever you want us to be doing.” Vyv sighed. 

“What the blimmin’ hell’s that supposed to mean!” 

“I told you to stop yelling! Bloody hell, are you always this chatty at night? I do need to sleep sometimes, you know! No matter what Neil thinks about it giving you cancer.”

“Just tell me what you mean.”

“I mean it’s up to you. If you just wanna shag for a bit - once you’re better - then that’s what we’ll do. If you want to turn it into something completely poofy and girly, if you want us to be boyfriends , then I spose that’s what we are. Alright?”

“...Boyfriends?”

“If you want. I don’t really care either way.” Vyv lied.  

“Hm. Boyfriends…” Rick grinned, “Hello, I’m Rick. Vyvyan’s boyfriend. Everyone, this is Vyvyan. My boyfriend. Sorry I’m late, I was busy shagging my boyfriend. Mum, Dad, I’d like you to meet -“ He trailed off. Vyv grimaced.

“...Well. I probably wouldn’t have wanted to meet your Tory parents anyway.” 

Rick snorted into Vyvyan’s shoulder, “Yeah. Fascists… I do sort of miss them though.”

“I know.” Vyv said. Silence reigned again. 

“...I’ve got an uncle in Hammersmith. Richard. And I’ve got a cousin in London. Have you heard of Gertrude Rich?”

“That poofy actor?”

“Yes. That’s him.” 

“Hmph.”

“...Would you meet them?”

“If I say yes will you shut up and go to sleep?”

“Yes.”

“Then fine! I’ll meet your stupid uncle and your poofy girly cousin. Alright? Now for the last time, go to sleep!” 

Rick nodded, yawned, then buried his face in Vyvyan’s chest.

“Night Vyv.”

“Night poof.”

Once again, silence dominated the bedroom. Only this time, it wasn’t interrupted.

Chapter Text

 

 “Has anybody got any threes?” Neil asked as Rick carefully reorganised his hand of cards, and Vyvyan poured himself another cup of tea.

“What?” Rick said. 

“Any threes. For my hand. Of cards.” Neil held up his hand and looked at Rick warily, half anticipating some kind of beating.

“Oh for Cliff’s sake Neil! We’re not playing go fish! We’re playing old maid!”

“I thought we were playing Texas Hold Em’.” Mike said, speaking through the cigar clenched between his teeth. 

You can play whatever you like, Mike. But Vyvyan and I are playing old maid! Aren’t we Vyvyan! ...Vyvyan?”

Vyvyan squinted at the two cards in his hand, as if he was having some grand revelation.

“Ah-ha-ha!” He grinned and threw his cards onto the table, “Twenty-one exactly! I win!” 

“Hey Vyv, that’s a great hand. Unfortunately, it’s got the wrong number of fingers.”

“How do you mean, Michael?” 

“We’re not playing Blackjack. We’re playing Texas Hold Em’.”

“Oh, sorry Mike - I didn’t realise. Let me just -“

“No no no! We’re not playing Texas Hold Em!” Rick snapped.

“I am,” Mike replied.

“And me,” Vyv added.

“...has anyone got any fours?” 

“Shut up Neil! Nobody’s got any fours, and even if we did we wouldn’t give any to you, hippie .”

“Hey Neil, I’ve got a four. You want it?”

“Oh yeah, thanks Mike!” Neil reached for the card and Mike let it linger, only snatching it back at the very last minute.

“Twenty quid.” He said. 

“...I haven’t got twenty quid, Mike.”

“What have you got?”

“Five, I think.”

“Alright, five quid for one-fourth of a four.” Mike tore the card into four pieces and handed Neil one in exchange for a fiver. 

“Thanks.” Neil paused, “...has anyone got any fours?”

“Oh yeah, I have as it happens,” Mike said. Rick stood up, nearing the end of his tether.

“For Cliff’s sake! We’re not playing go fish! And Mike, that’s the wrong number of cards for Texas Hold Em! And Vyvyan, for the last bloody time, a two of diamonds and an ace of spades doesn’t make twenty-one!” 

“It does if I say it does, girly.” Vyvyan shot him a warning glance, which Rick missed entirely because he’d started pacing across the kitchen.

“No it doesn’t! Why does this happen every time we play cards!”

“Don’t blame me, bogey-bum. I wanted to stay in bed!”

“We can’t stay in bed all the time Vyvyan! We’ll get bed sores! Just because you’re a massive pervy!” 

“Oh no.” Neil groaned, “They’ve started again.”

“Shut up Neil!” Vyvyan and Rick said, turning at the same moment, entirely unaware that they were perfectly in sync. Vyvyan got up and went over to where Rick was pacing, grabbing him by the shoulders so that he was forced to stay in one place. 

“Stop that! You’re driving me mental!” 

Mike quietly abandoned the card game - there wasn’t much point once Rick and Vyv got into it - and got dressed for his date with the bird from the chemist’s. Neil, who would have liked to keep playing cards if the situation allowed, mumbled something incoherent and went back to making dinner. Rick was undeterred by Vyvyan’s admonishments (he was certainly used to them by now) and deliberately stomped his feet on the lino to elicit a reaction. It worked. 

“Do you want a bloody smack?” Vyvyan threatened. He was all talk, Rick knew that - he had been since they got together - but the thought still gave him pause. Although, perhaps, it was not for the reason Vyvyan had intended.

“Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Rick asked, “Any excuse to touch my bottom!”

“I don’t need an excuse to touch your bottom!” Vyvyan replied, and then reached around the back of Rick’s jeans for emphasis. 

“I’m off lads.” Mike said, hastily grabbing his coat from the hall and making a dash for the front door. If he’d had more time, he might’ve managed one of his incredibly clever remarks, but by then Vyvyan had his hand all the way down the back of Rick’s trousers, and Mike knew from experience that no matter what was about to happen next, it wouldn’t be very pretty.  He was barely out the door before Vyv had popped the buttons on Rick’s pants and yanked them down around his ankles.

“Vyvyan you bastard!” Rick screamed. Neil politely turned away from the sight of Rick’s yellow-white Y fronts and abandoned the lentil casserole in favour of a trip outside. He thought he might crash at a friends house, if needed. Like Mike, Neil had enough experience to know that it was better to let the two burn out. They always did eventually. For a little while, anyway. 

Rick managed to get his pants back up around his hips, but achieved little else before Neil made his escape and Vyvyan (gently) picked Rick up and tossed him onto the couch. 

They’d been seeing each other (if seeing was the right term) for about three weeks by then, and as far as either of them were concerned it was all going surprisingly well. If Rick kept healing at his current rate, Vyv hoped to have him face down, bum up in Vyvyan’s bed by the end of the month. Although Vyvyan hadn’t exactly put it like that, per se . He bloody loved provoking Rick, but even he wasn’t stupid enough to use such crass terminology… at least, not until after he’d got a shag. For the minute though, kissing was nice, and cuddling was nice, and sleeping in the same bed every night was nicer still. Rick couldn’t remember the last time either of them had set foot in Vyvyan’s old bedroom; it had been downgraded to a cramped, dusty storage facility. If Vyvyan had his way, they would soon be able to convince Neil to move in there, and then they could knock down the walls between his and Rick’s rooms to make one massive bedroom. It seemed only fair, Vyv said, that the only couple in the house should get the biggest room. Mike had his own opinions on that, since he was apparently prone to bringing two, even three girls back to his room during the night, and would have appreciated the extra space. It was perhaps the only house decision he and Vyvyan had ever disagreed on. Rick, surprisingly, didn’t really mind which room they had. Big room, small room, as long as his room and Vyv’s room amounted to the same room, he was perfectly happy. More than happy. Ecstatic. Delirious. Absolutely hideously, sloppily lovesick. Not that he’d ever admit that, of course. Not unless Vyv said it first. 

Vyvyan flopped down on top of Rick and straddled him, effectively pinning him to the couch. It was bloody torture , not being able to shag him. Vyv was well aware there were plenty of other things they could have been doing, but he was also well aware that there was absolutely no way either of them would be able to stop once they’d started. They had enough trouble pulling the reins in at kissing. One wrong move and Rick’s entire recovery would be jeopardised, and Vyv just wasn’t willing to bloody risk it. As if to prove his point, he left a trail of sloppy kisses across Rick’s jaw, never daring to go any further...or lower. Rick made one of those horrendously girly whining noises that drove Vyv insane, his hands drifting to the punk’s tri-hawk for better leverage. Vyv grinned against his cheek, tempted to continue, but pulled back while he could still stop himself. As much as he liked snogging Rick senseless, this wasn’t what he’d had planned for the remainder of the night.  

With the housemates out of the way, Vyv’s master plan was slowly falling into place. All he had to do was get Rick out of the house, and things would be well underway. 

“Why’d you stop?” Rick groaned. He tugged at the back of Vyv’s neck to try and regain some contact, but Vyv wasn’t having it. 

“M’hungry.” He replied, “You hungry?”

“Not really.” Rick was tugging at Vyv with both hands by then, but he was pathetically weak and easily ignored.

“Tell you what,” Vyv said, reaching into his back pocket for his wallet, “Why don’t you take the car, go down the shop, bring us back a chippy tea?”

He held out a fiver expectantly, and Rick stared at it with uncertain eyes.

“...You want me to take your car?”

“Yeah.”

“...You want me to drive your car?”

“That’s what I said, isn’t it?”

“You’re...you’re giving me money?”

“Yes! Are you deaf or something?”

“Why are you being all nice to me?” Rick moved to sit up and Vyv backed off to give him the leeway he needed, “Are you trying to get rid of me or something?”

“Oh, look. If you don’t wanna go, forget it! I’ll -”

“No, no!” Rick snatched the fiver and got to his feet. He wasn’t sure what Vyv was playing at, but he knew perfectly well that the punk didn’t give money - or the use of his car - to just anyone. Rick decided it was better to see this optimistically, as an important milestone in their relationship, rather than an attempt to get him out of his boyfriend’s hair. 

“You’re going then?” Vyv asked. Rick nodded.

“Yes, yes. Chippy tea. Anything else?”

“Nah.” Vyv replied, “Listen, chips cost three pounds fifty, alright? Keep the change, if you want. Stop at the corner store on the way home, buy yourself a comic or something.”

“...Why?” Rick asked.

“Because I bloody well said so, that’s why!” Vyv said, “Now piss off! I’m starving.”

“Erm, alright. See you in a bit then.” 

Vyv made a non-commital grunt in response, and waited patiently for Rick to get his coat and bugger off before he even thought about getting up from the couch. He waited another few seconds for the roar of his newly repaired Anglia (and tried to ignore the way his stomach went over at the thought of someone else behind the wheel) then took off towards the bedrooms. He’d been searching for the key to his padlock ever since the party - he could have sworn he’d stuck it in the back pocket of his jeans - but thanks to him and Rick being joined at the bloody hip since then, he hadn’t had the chance to have a really good, proper look. With everybody out of the house, he finally had a chance. 

Honestly, he wasn’t even sure why he cared. Was it because giving Rick the key would somehow be easier than saying ‘I love you’ ? Probably not. They both sounded equally difficult to Vyv, but he had every intention of doing both eventually. Maybe it had something to do with Mr Morrison, or the pretty girl from Rick’s sociology class who sometimes smiled at him at the Kebab and Calculator. Perhaps it came from some primal desire to claim Rick, to mark him as is. Although Vyv suspected (quietly, reluctantly, and very very privately) that it came from something a bit less primal, and a lot more soppy. A desire to let Rick know, in some kind of way, that what they were doing was important. That it was serious. That it mattered , and that it always bloody would. Was it too early in the relationship for this sort of gesture? Probably. But Vyv had nearly lost him once, had wasted years pretending there was nothing going on between them, and he reckoned they’d both done enough waiting to last a bloody lifetime. 

So he went up to his old room - the storage room, which contained everything he hadn’t been able to fit into Rick’s room and gradually seemed to accumulate extra bits and pieces every time he went in - and started to search. He dug through seventeen piles of Cosmopolitan magazines, ten individual medical textbooks, about six piles of dirty laundry, the wardrobe that held all Mike’s summer clothes, and a hundred other piles of random shite that Vyvyan could neither explain or understand. He found, among other things, SPG’s old cage (which made him pause, briefly, and shed a bit of a tear) his set of surgical forceps, a hand, one of Rick’s old poetry journals (pocketed for later) two boxes of matches, half a bacon sandwich, the remains of what looked to be the pig formerly known as bacon sandwich, the kitty (empty) and thirty seven pounds in small change. That last part was quite a find, and at least made the trip into the storage space worthwhile. But still no luck on the key. Shit. 

The front door opened and then promptly slammed shut, and Vyv could hear the sound of Rick’s footsteps as he made his way to the kitchen table.

“I’m back!” He yelled, “Vyvyan? Where are you?”

“Up here, poof!” Vyv called. Might as well put off the search - no point now that nosy-pants was back. 

“What are you doing up there? I’ve got tea on the table you know!”

“I’ll be down in a minute! Keep your knickers on, girly.” 

Rick had made good time on the chips, and from the front window it looked as if the Anglia was still in one piece. Well, well, well, would wonders never cease? 

As for comics, Rick had brought back two; both fascist war manifestos with burly men and scantily clad ladies on the cover. He’d got them for Vyvyan, so he said, but they both knew he’d be reading them over the punk’s shoulder in the early hours of the morning. Still, Vyv appreciated the sentiment, and it pissed him off even more that his grand gesture would have to be postponed. 

They sat across from each other at the kitchen table and ate on plates like grown-ups , which was Rick’s favourite thing to do when everyone else was out. Vyv usually kicked up a big stink about it, even though he rather enjoyed the illusion of a regular domestic dinner - something he’d lacked growing up. That night there were no complaints; Vyv was too caught up in his own thoughts to do anything other than set the table, the third act of unexpected kindness he’d carried out that night. Rick was beginning to get frightened. 

“Are you sure you’re alright, Vyvyan?”

“Fine.” Vyv replied, even though he was starting to feel bitterly disappointed. He’d had his heart set on that bloody key, and his stubbornness was really starting to kick in. Anything else just wouldn’t do. Rick shrugged and reached for the ketchup, which Vyv normally found nauseating but still didn’t comment on, and tried to keep up a normal conversation as best he could.

“It’s blimmin’ cold out there, you know. Do you think it’ll snow soon?”

“I dunno.” Vyv said. 

“Well, it better bloody not. I won’t have you using my new record player as kindling, young man! And if you so much as think about it, you can just go right back to sleeping in your old room!”

“Okay.” Vyv muttered. Rick frowned. He’d at least thought that would get a rise, maybe start a bit of a fight that would eventually lead to a snog. But no reaction? This was starting to get really bloody weird. 

“...Well. You probably wouldn’t have to sleep in your old room. I suppose you could stay in mine, since it’d be so cold, and there’s no sense in either of us freezing.”

“Uh huh.” Vyv poked at the chips on his plate with a fork (A fork! Not with his fingers but a ruddy fork !) and Rick couldn’t stand it any longer.

“Oh for Cliff’s sake, Vyvyan! What on earth is the matter with you?”

“Nothing! I just -”

But at that moment, two unexpected things happened simultaneously; someone knocked at the front door, and the telephone started to ring.

“Bloody hell!” Rick groaned, “Can’t get a minute’s peace in this house!”

“Neil’ll get it.” Vyvyan muttered.

“Neil’s not here Vyvyan. Oh, do pay attention! Look, I’ll get the telephone, you get the door, alright?”

“Fine.” At least it seemed to have distracted Rick from his current mood, anyway. He’d have to pull himself together if he didn’t want to arouse any further suspicion. Rick made a dash for the telephone while Vyvyan took his time in a leisurely amble towards the door. The sound of Rick’s conversation made for a mildly comforting backdrop while Vyvyan tried to come to terms with the intense feelings of fear and disgust that ran through him upon opening the door.

“Uncle Richard? Yes, it’s me. Oh, yes. Yes, it is terrible about mummy and daddy-”

It was just an envelope. A plain white envelope, sat in the middle of the doorstep. Nothing strange or unusual about it, Vyvyan supposed, except for his name scrawled across it in red biro. Vyvyan never got mail. 

“No, there hasn’t been a funeral yet. Yes - no, Nanny organised it. No, she wanted to wait till I’m a bit better first. Yes...yes I’ve had a bit of an accident, you see. No, no. Nothing fatal… well why is that a shame?!”

Vyv picked it up and turned it over in his hands, suspicious of the complete lack of stamp or postal address. It was a bit bulky, like it had more in it than just paper. Well, it couldn’t possibly be anything good, could it? 

“Next week. Yes. Yes, I’ll be there...well I don’t know if you can bring a plus one, do I! Who? Oh, him. Yes, I suppose he can come. No, they haven’t read the will…why the bloody hell would they have left you anything?”

He tore the envelope open and fished out a handful of polaroids, some of them still in the final stages of developing. His heart stopped beating and lodged itself firmly in his throat. He was surprised it didn’t leap right out of his throat and make a bloody run for it.

“No, no I don’t...I don’t quite think it works like that uncle Richard. Well I don’t really need a legal guardian, you see, because I’m an adult. Yes. No, I don’t need anyone to manage the estate either. Well I’m certainly not moving in with you in Hammersmith!”

It was pictures of Rick. Rick, not half an hour before. Rick walking to the fish and chip shop, Rick stopping at the corner store, Rick coming back to Codrington Road with a packet of chips. Someone had followed him. Followed, taken pictures, and left them for Vyvyan to find. The only other thing in the envelope was the key to his bloody padlock ( Christ! ) and a scratchy little note in the same red biro; I haven’t forgotten. It said. 

And then Vyvyan threw up all over the doormat.

Chapter Text

 

“Bloody hell Vyvyan! Look, Uncle Richard, I’ve got to go. My flatmate’s just had an accident. Yes, yes. Yes, goodbye.” Rick slammed the phone back onto the receiver and grabbed Vyv by the arm. Vyv had just enough time to shove the envelope into his pocket before he was hauled back inside. He put his arm around Rick’s shoulders and allowed himself to be helped over to the couch, where he sat down to catch his breath. 

“You’re alright? Are you sure? You’re white as a bloody sheet!” 

“I’m alright.” Vyv said, “Just, give us a minute yeah?” 

“...Alright.” Rick paused, “Vyvyan, you’re shaking!”

“I know.” He grabbed Rick by the hand and pulled the poet into his lap. He couldn’t help the shaking, or the queasy feeling that was still spinning around in his gut, but holding Rick close to his chest seemed to help. It was alright - Rick wasn’t out on the streets being stalked by some bloody mad man. He was here, with him, and Vyv wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. 

“What can I do?” Rick asked. His voice had taken on a serious, mature tone that Vyv might’ve found a bit sexy in less pressing circumstances. 

“Talk.” He said. He wasn’t sure he’d ever willingly asked Rick to speak before. He wasn’t sure he ever would again. But Rick complied anyway, because Vyvyan was in a right blimmin’ state, and he would’ve done anything to pull the punk out of it.

“Erm...that was my uncle Richard on the phone. He’s a ruddy piece of work. You know he actually had the nerve to ask if he stood to inherit anything from my parents? Wanted me to move in with him and his weird friend Eddie in Hammersmith, just so he’d get some money! Fascist. I can’t bloody believe I’m named after him, you know!” 

Vyvyan nodded, only half-listening. Rick’s voice was at least helping to ground him, getting his head sorted out while he regulated his breathing. 

“The funeral for my parents is next week. Did I tell you that?” He almost added that they’d be reading out the will as well, but decided not to at the last minute. He’d wanted to keep that a surprise, just in case he did stand to inherit quite a bit of money. He thought he probably did, but it’d be just like those ridiculous Tory fascists to donate it all to the church, or leave it to the conservative party. He’d already decided he wanted to buy him and Vyvyan a house with it. Or maybe a flat - some really posh London flat in both their names, where they could walk around completely naked and there wouldn’t be anyone to complain. He’d give some to the anarchist’s society, of course. A bit more would go to helping The Kids . Maybe he’d even give a bit to Mike and Neil, or buy the sharehouse and let Mike live in it rent-free, and Neil at a generously reduced rate. Maybe -

“No, you didn’t.” Vyv said, snapping Rick back from his dreams of wealth and extravagance. 

“Hmm? Oh, yes! The funeral. Erm...would you come with me? You don’t...you don’t have to, but -”

“Yes.” Rick had been fully expecting at least some resistance, if not an outright refusal. Blimey, Vyvyan really was full of surprises tonight! He’d gone completely potty!

“Really?”

“I’ll go.” Vyv said. He could hardly bloody believe what he was saying. But the thought of Rick going anywhere alone made his stomach churn, and his grip around the Poet’s middle tightened considerably. 

“Ow! Vyv, let me up. You’re squeezing too tight!”

Vyvyan obeyed, reluctantly. Potentially aggravating Rick’s injuries was probably the only thing that could convince him to loosen his hold. But he made up for it by burying his face in Rick’s shoulder and inhaling a sharp, disjointed breath that sounded alarmingly close to a sob.  

“Look, this is getting ridiculous! You tell me what’s wrong right this minute, young man. You’re scaring me half to death!”

“You should be scared.” Vyv muttered.

“What?”

Vyv sighed. There wasn’t any point, really. Any attempts to try and keep Rick out of harm’s way would be completely useless, unless the spotty prick knew how much danger he was in. 

“Okay. I’m gonna tell you something, poof. And it’s really bloody important, so listen carefully.”

“...Alright.” Rick wriggled out of Vyvyan’s lap so they were sitting face-to-face on the couch. Vyvyan took a minute to bring up his legs and rest his arms on his knees, but he still kept a tight hold on Rick’s hand. He had to, otherwise he’d lose the plot altogether.  Vyv hesitated, then pulled the envelope out of his pocket. Not the key, he wasn’t going to let Gary ruin that one, no matter what, but he turned over everything else for Rick’s inspection. The polaroids, the note, the envelope itself. Rick looked at each of them in turn, taking his time. After what felt like an eternity, he looked up at Vyvyan and shrugged.

“I don’t understand.” He said. It brought back vivid memories of their first night in the garden, but Vyv didn’t have the time to get distracted by things like that. 

“These were on the doorstep, Rick. Someone left them there. That’s... Gary’s handwriting.”

“...Did he follow me?” 

“I don’t know.” Vyvyan took Rick’s other hand and tried to keep his voice even, “I’m gonna fix this, Rick. I’m gonna sort it out, I promise.”

“I know,” Rick whispered. He looked awfully pale.

“But until I do, you don’t leave the house without me. Do you understand that, poof? Not for any reason.”

“Okay.” Rick reached for the note again - he’d dropped it on the couch after reading it the first time - and looked at it more closely, “This is Gary?”

“Yeah.” 

“What does he mean? What hasn’t he forgotten?”

“That’s not important, what matters is-”

“What do you mean not important?” Rick snapped. Some of the colour had come back into his cheeks, a bit of fire returned to his eyes, and Vyv was glad to see it, even if he didn’t appreciate this particular line of questioning. 

“It doesn’t matter! Look -”

“It ruddy well does matter! If this bastard’s going after me, I deserve to know why, don’t I?”

“Rick, listen -”

“No you listen! I’m your boyfriend, Vyv. Even if this didn’t involve me, which it obviously bloody does, we’re still in this together, alright? So you tell me what’s going on this instant, or I’ll march right out that front door and ask Gary myself!”

“Don’t even joke about that!” Vyv yelled. He grabbed Rick firmly by the arms and shook him, desperate to make him understand, “Don’t even joke, do you hear me?”

“I’m not bloody joking!” Rick said, and Vyvyan could see that he meant it, “So talk!”

Vyvyan groaned and raked his hands down his face in frustration. Could he tell him? Could he really? He swore he’d never tell anyone. But Rick was already starting to stand, his confidence had returned in its entirety, and he absolutely meant to track Gary down and give him a stern talking to - Vyv could see that. In his mind’s eye he saw Rick lying in a ditch somewhere, cut to ribbons after trying to face Gary head-on, and it was enough to make Vyvyan gag again. 

“Come to bed.” He said, his voice barely above a whisper.

“Oh for Cliff’s sake! Is that all you ever think about?”

“If I’m going to tell you, then I want a smoke and a drink and a lie-down. And I want to be somewhere private, where we won’t get barged in on at any bloody moment.”

And I want to be somewhere safe and somewhere dark, so you won’t have to see how bloody terrified I am . Vyv thought, but he didn’t say that part. 

Rick got up without another word, helped Vyv to his feet and lead him upstairs. In the safety of the bedroom, Vyvyan felt himself relax a little bit. He didn’t go in for the energy and auras that Neil was always banging on about, but he couldn’t deny that Rick’s room had a surprisingly calming effect on him. His chest felt a bit looser and his stomach quietened down, and once he’d fished a bottle of vodka out from under the bed, he felt even better. Rick locked the door behind them, drew the curtains, and fetched Vyv his cigarettes from the dresser. Vyvyan took one, lit it, and collapsed onto the bed with a relieved sigh, bottle of vodka still clutched in his free hand. Rick gently tugged the covers out from under him and then went to lie down beside him, pulling the blankets over them both. Vyvyan took three deep breaths, put one arm around Rick’s shoulders, and started to talk around the cigarette clenched between his teeth.

Chapter Text

“I used to...work for Gary,” Vyv said. The words sounded strange in his throat - a not quite accurate reflection of the truth. Rick, for once, was mercifully quiet. He rested his head on Vyvyan’s shoulder, an arm and a leg thrown across his middle, and waited patiently for him to continue.

“You remember I told you about, giving head? When some bloke sticks his knob in your mouth?”

Rick nodded, trying not to grimace at the thought of Vyvyan having some other bloke’s knob anywhere near him, let alone in his mouth.

“Well some blokes pay for the privilege.” 

“What? You mean like...like a destitute?”

Prostitute . Yeah. Like a prostitute.” Vyvyan replied, although whore was the more commonly used terminology during his miserable youth. 

“Gary and I started seein’ each other when I was seventeen. He was with mum first, and I reckon there was an overlap, but in the end him n’ me went off together and lived in his flat in Bristol. I was eighteen then. Gary had...a lot of friends. Threw a lot of parties. And since I was livin’ with him rent free, it seemed only fair that at these...parties, I would earn my keep.” 

Rick whimpered, but said nothing else. He buried his face in Vyv’s shoulder and waited for him to continue. 

“A blowjob - that’s giving head - usually goes for about twenty quid. I made about two hundred quid at least, every time Gary threw a party.”

 “...But Vyvyan, that means you -”

“I know what it bloody means, Poof! I’m the one who was on their knees for most of the bloody night!”  

Rick recoiled when Vyv raised his voice; it cut through the silence of the room unexpectedly, and made quite a harsh juxtaposition to the hushed whispers they’d been speaking in beforehand. 

“Sorry.” Vyv muttered. The word was as unexpected as his outburst, and Rick was incredibly grateful.

“It’s alright.” Rick whispered as his hand found Vyvyan’s under the covers.

“...I spose it must’ve carried on like that for a year or so. Gary wanted to take things further. Wanted me to...you know.”

Rick nodded, even though he had absolutely no idea. 

“And I just, couldn’t. I knew it’d only be a matter of time before he made me, and I didn’t exactly have anywhere else to go, so.” He paused, “I stole five thousand pounds and took off.”

Rick waited for Vyvyan to continue. Vyv, meanwhile, waited for Rick to react. They stared at each other for what felt like an eternity before Vyvyan got up the courage to speak.

“Well?” 

“Well what?” 

“Rick, I just told you I spent a year of my life blowing a minimum of ten blokes a night, and then stole five grand from my pimp. Don’t you have anything to say?”

“You didn’t steal it.”

“What?”

“You didn’t steal anything, Vyvyan! It was your money! You earned it.” 

“Sticking knobs in my mouth!”

“Well, that’s hardly the point. You were the one doing all the work. If anything it sounds like Gary stole the money from you. All you did was take it back.”

Vyvyan didn’t have a response for that. He was just glad that the room was dark, and that Rick wouldn’t be able to see the tears of gratitude trickling down his cheeks. 

“What did you spend the money on?” Rick asked. Vyv shrugged. 

“This n’ that. Bus fair out to London, student loans, rent. Anything left went towards my car.” 

Rick nodded. It all sounded perfectly reasonable to him. He wasn’t entirely sure why Vyv had got himself in such a state over telling him the truth.

“So Gary wants the money back,” Rick said.

“Yes.”

“If we paid him, do you think he’d go away?”

“Have you got five thousand quid lying around?”

“Well...well no.” 

“I don’t think it’d make any difference. Bastard’ll probably charge interest.” 

“Hmm,” Rick said. He could feel Vyvyan’s tears as they trickled down his jawline, and it was making him want to cry too. There had to be something he could do to fix all this, surely. 

“...did Gary ever give you one?”

“What?”

“A, erm. A blowjob.”

“Oh. No. He said he never quite fancied it.” 

“So you’ve never had one?” Rick asked. His free hand - the one that wasn’t stuck to the side of Vyvyan’s face - made its way under the blankets and down to Vyvyan’s jeans. The punk didn’t even notice at first.

“No I - argh!” Vyvyan hissed as Rick palmed the front of his trousers, then undid his fly and reached under the hem of his underwear. 

“Is this alright?” Rick whispered as his hand closed around Vyvyan’s length. It was a bit odd, doing this to somebody else. He ran his thumb over the head to test the reaction and tried not to grin when Vyv simultaneously hardened and moaned under his touch.

“Alright? Rick, it’s bloody fantastic! But you don’t - ah, jesus! - you don’t have to.”

“I know I don’t have to.” Rick said. He rolled on top of Vyvyan and started making his way downwards, kissing the punk through his t-shirt at every step. “I want to.” He finally added, just as he tugged Vyv’s jeans down around his ankles, paused, then pulled his underwear down with them. Bloody hell. He’d never seen anyone else’s knob before. He was quite surprised by how...nice it looked. Perhaps it had something to do with the knowledge that this was Vyvyan’s he was looking at, not just anyone’s. Still, how the blimmin’ heck was he going to get all that into his mouth? Well, he supposed there was only one way to find out. 

Vyvyan nearly howled when Rick experimentally kissed the shaft, then gently swiped his tongue across the head. It was quite possibly the sexiest sound Rick had ever heard, and he could feel himself getting hard based almost exclusively on noise alone. Well, this was already far more pleasant than he thought it was going to be. Vyv’s hands went to Rick’s hair, and tugged a little bit harder than he’d intended, which elicited an unexpected moan from the poet. He retaliated by taking Vyv into his mouth entirely. For the most part, he decided to treat it like snogging, moving his tongue across the head and shaft, paying special attention to any area that made Vyv moan especially loudly. Then it suddenly occurred to him that when he was having a wank, most of the enjoyment came from moving his hand up and down. Could he do the same with his mouth? He bobbed his head to gauge Vyvyan’s reaction, and grinned around the punk’s erection when he let out another desperate, raspy moan, and his legs began to shake. Oh, this was lovely. It had never occurred to Rick that he’d get so much pleasure, so much enjoyment, from getting somebody else off. He wasn’t sure he’d ever get sick of this. He certainly hoped Vyv wouldn’t either, because Rick intended to give head , as Vyv had put it, a lot more frequently from now on. 

Vyv’s breathing started to get irregular, raspy, frantic. His grip on Rick’s hair tightened. Rick responded in kind by picking up the pace, and started making little humming, moaning noises, since Vyv seemed to like it when he did that. 

“Rick,” Vyv groaned, “Oh god, Rick, stop.”

Rick pulled his head up immediately, lips shiny with spit and precum, eyes full of worry.

“What? What is it?” 

“I was going to, come.” Vyv panted. Rick raised an eyebrow.

“Right. Yes...and?” 

“You don’t have to let me come in your mouth.” Vyv explained, “I can finish myself off.” 

Rick snorted, “Don’t be ridiculous.” 

And before Vyvyan had any time to protest, Rick’s lips were back around his cock, fingernails digging into his hips. Vyv relented - it was too much hassle to argue. He took a shaky breath and tried to keep his balance, determined not to miss even one of Rick's facial expressions. So this was what all the fuss was about. This was what ten men a night were willing to fork over twenty quid for. Well, Vyv could understand that. He had a feeling that this moment, right here with Rick’s mouth on him, was perhaps the highlight of his life. Eventually, his strength gave out and he let his head fall back onto the pillow, hands still wound tightly around Rick’s hair, and tried not to sound too pathetically girly when he moaned his boyfriend’s name. But any attempts to sound tough were thrown right out the window when he came, violently and unexpectedly, screaming Rick’s name and rocking his hips back and forth. He hadn’t known it could be that good. 

“Oh, fuck.” He groaned, “Oh, Jesus bloody Christ, Rick.” 

Rick chuckled and licked the last of Vyv’s climax off his bottom lip. Swallowing hadn’t been that difficult, really. It hadn’t tasted bad at all. It was warm and a bit tangy, but uniquely and unmistakably Vyvyan. The whole experience had been really quite wonderful, as far as Rick was concerned. Leaning on his elbows had aggravated his burns a little bit, and being all hunched over hurt his bruises and stitches. It was worth it, though. He’d have quite happily gone through far worse to see Vyvyan like that again. 

He shuffled back up Vyvyan’s body and rested his head on the punk’s chest, mindful (and a bit embarrassed) of the obvious erection he was sporting. 

“Thank you.” Vyvyan said. It was the most heartfelt "thank-you" he’d ever given to anyone, accompanied by a lot more tears (bloody humiliating) and followed by an intensely passionate snog. Halfway through the kiss he quickly (gently) rolled Rick onto his back and started to fumble with the buttons on his trousers. 

“Your turn.” He whispered. Rick laughed, shook his head, and gently swatted Vyv’s hands away from his pants. 

“I think you’ve done enough of that to last a lifetime.” He said, but the look on Vyv’s face was enough to diminish his lazy smile.

“No, poof. Here, let me.”

“Vyv-“

“Don’t turn me into Gary.”

“I’m not! You’re nothing like him Vyvyan! You’re the furthest thing from him!”

“Then let me-“

“I don’t want you to feel like you have to, Vyv. You don’t have to do anything. I didn’t do it just to get something in return!” 

“I know you didn’t. Which is exactly why I want to do it! So shut up and hold still!”

“Oh, that’s romantic.” Rick giggled, and Vyv joined in until a thought occurred - violent and sudden and entirely unwanted. 

“Unless you don’t want me to.” He said, “Unless, I mean, because I’ve done it so much before and…” He trailed off, embarrassed. 

“Oh for Cliff’s sake, Vyvyan! What do you think you are? Damaged goods ?” 

“Well-"

“Now you really are being ridiculous.” He shifted a little bit so that both of his hands were firmly planted on Vyv’s cheeks, his thumbs wiping away any stray tears. “Now you listen to me, young man. I don’t care if you’ve had a thousand knobs in your mouth. I don’t care if you’ve had a million! A trillion! A billion even! I’d still want to be with you. Because you’re you. And...and I love you.” 

Silence. Rick grimaced; he should have expected as much. 

“...You don’t have to say it back. I know it’s sudden. I-“

“I love you too.” Vyv replied, and Rick suddenly realised why he hadn’t said anything at first. Vyvyan’s response came out as more of a guttural, heart wrenching sob. It was just as bad, if not worse, as when Vyv had accidentally crashed his car and killed SPG in the process. It was brutal and ugly and raw and so unlike the punk that had once bashed him over the head with a cricket bat that Rick was completely and utterly taken aback. Terrified, even. 

He was even more terrified when Vyv grabbed the sides of his face and kissed him, still sobbing, and held him so tightly that Rick could hardly get a breath. So this was what Vyvyan’s emotional side really looked like, once the studs and spikes and rough exterior had all been chipped away. Here were the punk’s insecurities - not unlike Rick’s, really - laid bare for him to see. And as terrifying as that was, Rick supposed it was also quite a privilege. He doubted anyone else had ever seen Vyv liked this. So he kissed Vyvyan back with all the love and enthusiasm he could muster, hands tangling in his tri-hawk, nose ring pushed firmly against his upper lip, metal stars digging into his brow bone. 

“I love you.” He said again. He’d say it as many times as Vyvyan needed him to, and then probably a hundred times more for good measure. And when Vyvyan finally calmed down, limp and fast asleep with his head in the crook of Rick’s shoulder, the people’s poet pulled the quilt up over both of them, settled deeper into the pillows, and began to think.

Chapter Text

Vyvyan Basterd was the textbook definition of Slept Like the Dead at the best of times, but that night he was a heavy, immovable lump. He snored so loudly the room shook, and there was a stream of saliva connecting his lip to Rick’s chest. Rick didn’t mind - the only thing that bothered him was that neither one of them had changed into their pajamas, and he thought Vyv might be more comfortable in them than in his jeans, vest and boots. He had one hand in Vyvyan’s hair and the other on his back, and even though the added weight had created a dull ache in his side and Vyv’s padlock was bruising his chest, he didn’t dare move. Vyv needed sleep, needed warmth. It was nice to be the one looking after him for a change, when lately it always seemed to be the other way around. 

Five thousand pounds was a lot of money. More money than either of them had to their name. But...not necessarily unattainable. 

The reading of his parent’s will was coming up soon - the day after the funeral. Surely his parents would leave him at least that much. He supposed a bit would go to his half-brothers (brothers he didn’t dare tell his flatmates about - he could meet his cousins and his uncle, but absolutely not his brothers. Bloody embarrassing twats.) but most of it would be his, surely. And if Gary wanted interest? Well, fine. Rick would make it ten thousand, just to be safe. It would be worth it, he thought, for Vyvyan to be able to feel secure again. And then they could run off somewhere with the rest of the money, far away from Gary and Vyvyan’s god awful mother and Rick’s money-grubbing extended family. Well, Rick supposed they could do that anyway, but he wanted to pay Gary off all the same. He didn’t want Vyvyan to have a life spent looking over his shoulder - a life of wondering whether or not they were safe. All he had to do was find a way to get down to the will reading without Vyv knowing (he said himself that he didn’t want Rick going anywhere without him) and then somehow meet up with Gary to pay the money. It wouldn’t be easy, but it could be done. It’d make a lovely surprise for Vyvyan when it all got sorted. 

But even though Rick was supposed to be a pacifist, and he still longed for a peaceful world where one man could love his brother, the thought of beating the shit out of Gary had done more than cross his mind. You could be a pacifist and still want to defend your boyfriend’s honour, couldn’t you? Because the fact remained, whether Vyvyan wanted to put it in those exact terms or not, that the punk had been abused. Gary had abused him, hurt him, and somehow made him feel that nobody else would want him. This, as far as Rick was concerned, was blimmin’ inexcusable. 

So he fell asleep to the sound of Vyvyan’s snoring, and to violent thoughts of taking Gary apart with a pickaxe or a chainsaw; thoughts that were awfully Vyvyan-like in nature, really. Had Vyvyan been able to see the images rattling around in Rick’s sleepy, anarchist’s brain, he would have felt more than a little pride. And more than a little fear. Vyvyan, after all, knew all too well how Gary worked. Rick hadn’t the foggiest.

Chapter Text

 

Rick hadn’t expected Vyvyan to actually go to the funeral. He’d said he would, of course, but that had been at a time of absolute crisis, and Rick probably would have forgiven him if he’d gone back on his word. In fact, Rick would have preferred it. When it occurred to him that he’d actually asked the punk to attend - in the heat of the moment, mind you, when Vyv was in a great deal of distress - he started to back peddle almost immediately. In the early hours of that first morning, once Vyv had got a decent amount of sleep, Rick had nudged him awake and told him, in a hushed whisper, that he didn’t have to go.

“I won’t force you to come.” Rick said, his chin resting on Vyvyan’s head, which was still on his chest.

“Poof, you can’t force me to do anything.”

“Yes, well. You still don’t have to go.”

“Are you going?” Vyv asked. 

“Of course! It’s my parents funeral , Vyvyan. I have to go!”

“Then I’m going too.” He replied, “Rick, until I sort this Gary situation out, I’m wherever you are, alright?”

Rick groaned and made some half-hearted complaint about it all being very oppressive and humiliating. Vyv snorted.

“It’s no fun for me either, you know. You think I’m looking forward to staring at your ugly mug twenty-four seven?” He asked.

Yes .” Rick sneered.

“You’re right.” Vyv planted a sloppy kiss on Rick’s chin, “But don’t tell anyone, or I’ll kill you.”

But even then, Rick hadn’t really taken it seriously. Perhaps it was just denial talking, or maybe wishful thinking, but try as he might he just couldn’t picture Vyv in a formal environment. Maybe he’d make Mike or Neil go with him, but to attend himself? Unfathomable. It wasn’t Vyvyan’s scene at all.

Which was why - despite all the punk’s insisting - it was so surprising to be woken up on the morning of the funeral to the sounds of Vyvyan getting ready, his hair still damp from the early morning bath he’d taken. His jeans and vest had been replaced by some kind of suit - and it must have been Vyvyan’s, because it was far too small to be Mike’s and far too cool to be Neil’s - and his hair, Cliff, his hair had been taken out of its usual tri-hawk and left to its own devices. It was drying curly and fluffy, sticking up in all the right places, and had been subject to such vigorous washing that there were patches that were more blond than orange. Rick bit his lip - couldn’t help it. He couldn’t help it anymore than he could help the giddy feeling starting to form at the mere thought of grabbing Vyvyan by the collar, pulling him over to the bed and having his wicked way with him. Vyvyan turned away from the wall, allowing Rick to get a decent view of the front of the suit - dark navy with a white shirt (unbuttoned) and no tie. Oh, Cliff. 

“Morning face-ache. You getting up today?” 

“...Vyv you...you look-“ Rick trailed off, very aware of the blush covering his face and neck. Vyvyan’s cocky smile faded, replaced with a look of concern and insecurity.

“Is this alright?” He asked. Rick swallowed. He’d forgotten how to speak. 

“V-Vyv, you’re...you’re blond!” 

“Oh, erm. Yeah…well.” He paused, “...Do you like it?”

“Come back to bed.” Rick said, surprised by how authoritative he sounded. Obviously, it came as a surprise to Vyvyan as well. He took a few tentative steps towards the bed, so different from his usual cocky stomp that it tugged at Rick’s heart strings, and sat down on the edge of the mattress. When Rick kissed him, his hands immediately went to the punk’s not-so-punkish hair, marvelling at how soft and clean it felt between his fingers. Rick was just about to move one hand to Vyvyan’s fly when something occurred to him - something was missing. Where was the persistent pressure of Vyvyan’s nose ring against his upper lip? The pointy sensation of stars digging into his skin? He pulled back and was horrified to see that Vyvyan had painstakingly removed everything metal from his face. It was such a dramatic change that Rick couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed it sooner.

“Vyvyan! What have you done to your face?!” 

“I took my studs out.” Vyv said simply, and then leaned in for another kiss.

“Well you can blimmin’ well put them back!” 

“I will later.” Vyv shrugged, “It was enough hassle getting them out in the first place - I’m not about to spend another bloody hour and a half putting them back in!” 

 “Why on earth would you take them out at all!” Rick asked.

“I thought you’d be pleased! I scrub up alright, don’t I? I’ll make a good impression on your fascist, Tory loving family.” 

“...Since when do you care about that?” Rick was trying his damndest to sound distraught, but his hands kept wandering back up to Vyvyan’s hair, or down to the buttons and creases of his suit.

“I figured you’d want me on my best behaviour.” Vyv said. 

“Well, yes. But that doesn’t mean I want you to look like somebody else! Look, put the nose ring back in at the very least, alright? And you can wear your padlock, and your cuffs. Your belt. Doc martens are fine for a funeral - nobody’ll notice. You don’t...you don’t have to wear a suit if you don’t want to. I’m dating Vyvyan Basterd, for Cliff’s sake, not Lord Snot!” 

Vyvyan wasn’t sure it was possible to love Rick any more than he already did, but the relief he felt was palpable. 

“If you’re sure.” Vyv said. Rick nodded and stole another kiss.

“Positive. But Vyv? Erm...leave your hair the way it is, alright?”

Vyv grinned, “Like this, do you?” 

“Erm...yeah.” He ran his fingers through the soft wet curls while Vyvyan’s hands went to rest on Rick’s thighs. 

“We’re gonna be late if you don’t get up.” Vyv said as Rick started to tug at the collar of his jacket. Rick shrugged.

“So we’ll be late.” 

Vyv was just about to concede that being a bit late probably wouldn’t be the end of the world when they were interrupted by Mike knocking loudly and persistently on their bedroom door.

“Come on lads! Mike the Cool Person doesn’t let anything go to waste, and that includes the ticking of the clock!”

“What?” Rick replied. He was only half listening, far more interested in the warmth that was radiating off Vyvyan as he started to unbutton his shirt.

“Get out of bed! We’re late!” 

“Is Mike coming?” Rick asked. Vyv nodded.

“And Neil. It’s not as if they’ve got anything better to do.” 

That, and Vyvvyan had paid off Mike and beaten Neil over the head with a frying pan to convince them to come, but he decided he’d better not mention that part. He was glad he didn’t when he saw how genuinely touched Rick looked. 

“Well. Well that’s...that’s very nice of them, I suppose. But how’s Neil going to get there? He’s not allowed in your car except in extremely drastic bank robbing emergencies!”

“Ah ha ha! You’re absolutely right Rick, which is why I have taken the precaution of strapping him to the roof rack. So go and have a wash and get your kit on - we’re leaving in ten, whether you’re in the car or not!” 

When Rick stepped out of the share flat, he was relieved to see that Vyvyan’s piercing was back in his nose, and his cuffs were back on his wrists. He couldn’t help but feel a little underdressed in just a black blazer and some nice pants, accompanied by one of his usual grey button ups. Especially when he saw Mike looking even more suave and dignified than usual, and even when he caught sight of Neil strapped to the roof in one of Mike’s old suits. They’d all put in a surprising amount of effort.

“Erm...thank you for coming with me.” Rick said. He couldn’t look any of them in the eye. Mike shrugged and lit a cigar. He’d only agreed to this funeral business on the off chance that Rick happened to have some attractive relatives. He’d heard something about a cousin named Gertrude, and that sounded good enough to him. He climbed into the passenger seat as Neil smiled pleasantly from his spot on the roof. Unlike Mike, his decision to come to the funeral was driven in part by wanting to be there for Rick, partly to obtain some good karma, and partly because he didn’t particularly want the beating that awaited him if he didn’t go.

“Erm…” Vyvyan hesitated, then forced himself to continue, “Mike?”

“Yeah Vyv?”

“Could you erm...sit in the back? Rick...gets car sick. And I don’t particularly want him to...get, erm...sick. In my car. I’d never get the bloody smell out.”

He shrugged apologetically. Mike frowned, and was just about to point out that Rick had never shown any signs of car sickness in all the time he’d known him, when it clicked. 

“Oh.” He said, “Right you are, Vyv.” 

Rick spent the half hour car ride to the church staring solemnly out the window, nose pressed up against the glass. When Vyv wasn’t changing gears his free hand rested on Rick’s thigh. Mike was relatively quiet, sprawled out on the back seat flicking through the Sunday paper, and although everyone was vaguely aware of Neil complaining from the roof rack, it wasn’t loud enough to pose any real annoyance. 

Rick hadn’t really had a proper chance to process his parents’ deaths. He thought he had, but the tight knot of anxiety in the pit of his stomach seemed to think otherwise. And really, he supposed he had been focused on other things. First his final grades, then the bank robbery, and then his recovery from the bus crash and his relationship with Vyvyan. And now, of course, there was Gary to think about, too. So on some level it was difficult to believe they were dead, and not just back at the estate waiting for him to come home. He wondered if the funeral would finally get him to come to terms with it, or if it would be just as easy to keep up the pretense once he and his flatmates were back on Codrington road. 

But deep down Rick knew that it wasn’t his parents deaths that were the true source of his anxiety; it was the concept of being reunited with his extended family that really had him feeling ill. His Grandmother wouldn’t be too bad, once the initial cooings and cheek pinchings and hysterical sobbings were out of the way, but Uncle Richard? Cousin Gertrude? What if Colin tried to pull any of that “We’re hardly half brothers, we’re dead close I taught him everything he knows, ha ha ha” bollocks? Or if Alan decided to give his speech about being the only son daddy was ever really proud of, even though Rick was the only one of the Pratt boys to actually be a Pratt, born safely in the sanctity of marriage. Oh god, he hadn’t even thought about what would happen if he got cornered by Kevin, that gormless twit, or if… oh Cliff! If anything was going to put Vyv off him for good it was Rick’s loud, obnoxious, largely fascist extended family. Well, there was still time. Maybe he didn’t have to go to the funeral after all, maybe he could mourn his family in some other way, one that wasn’t so terrifying. Had he really asked Vyv to meet his family not so long ago? Caught up in some ridiculous fantasy about having a boyfriend, he supposed. He obviously hadn’t thought it through. Oh, this was going to be a disaster. A nightmare! An absolute - 

“Rick? We’re here.” Vyv said. His hand was still on Rick’s thigh. Rick jumped, forced a smile, and then grabbed Vyvyan’s hand when he went to step out of the car.

“Do you want to wait here? I won’t be very long, I shouldn’t think. And it’ll be terribly boring for you in there, Vyvyan. Really. You don’t have to come in.”

“What’re you on about? I said I would, didn’t I? I spent all bloody morning trying to look all poofy and respectable , and now you don’t want me to come in?”

Rick opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by someone banging loudly and obnoxiously on the window. Oh, Cliff . He knew who it was before he even turned around. 

Yes, there he was. Colin bloody Grigson, wig, makeup and all, grinning like a lunatic. Rick wanted to say something - he wasn’t sure what, exactly, but something appropriately witty and clever, he was sure - but never got the chance. Colin yanked open the door to Vyv’s car and pulled his little brother out of it, where he was promptly accosted by the remaining three members of Colin’s ridiculous metal band. 

“Hey, Wicky!” Someone sneered - could have been Vim or Colin, but it sounded more like Spider -  as four pairs of hands began to tousle his hair and wrinkle his jacket. 

“Piss off you fascists!” Rick whined. Not that it would do any good, of course. He’d been taking this sort of abuse from his bastard half-brother since his early teens, when all he’d wanted to do was hide in his room and work on his poems, but was instead captured and forced to act as a roadie . He didn’t want to think about how many nights he’d spent trapped in the basement, fiddling with the dodgy P.A. system their brother Alan had bought purely so that he could rent it out at obscene prices - a pathetic Tory con-man, even then. So yes, he was used to the choke holds, the indian burns and the insufferable teasing that came with being Bad News’s perpetual sidekick, but that certainly didn’t make it any less humiliating. And when Vyvyan climbed out of the car and came round to the other side, surprised (and more than a little amused) by the ridiculous display taking place on the street corner, Rick wished the ground would open up and swallow him whole. In the meantime, Bad News had broken into a customary chant of “Wick, Wick, Wick, Wicky, Wick, Wick, Wick” to the tune of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow , and were lifting Rick over their heads like some kind of bizarre living trophy. From his heightened vantage point he could see the rest of his family congregating at the mouth of the church, and his stomach started doing somersaults. Cliff, what a turnout. There were people here that Rick hadn’t seen since he was a child. And if this was the reception he was getting from Colin, someone he saw (reluctantly) every christmas when he came home from college, he dreaded to think what kind of a reunion awaited him once he got over there. 

“Now careful, lads, careful!” Colin sneered as Vim, Den and Spider lowered Rick to the ground again, “Wicky’s been in the wars, you know! Had a bit of an accident!”

“Yeah,” Vim said, “Drove a bus off a cliff! What were you protesting this time , Wicky? Public transportation?!” 

More rowdy laughter from the crowd of long-haired hoodlums; passers by were starting to stare. Rick inched back towards Vyvyan, dreading making any sort of introductions, but Colin and his friends were far from finished with their tirade of humiliation. Vim grabbed Rick by the sleeve of his jacket and threw his arm around him affectionately, while Rick tried to ignore the butterflies that gathered in his stomach upon being reunited with his childhood crush. 

“Whose this, then?” Colin asked as he came to stand on Rick’s other side, resting his arm on top of his little brother’s head. 

“I should ask the same.” Vyv said. He had his hands in his pockets and what looked almost like...was that jealousy in his eyes? Oh, this wasn’t going to go over well at all. Rick sighed.

“Vyvyan, this is my brother, Colin. And this is erm, my…” What? Lover? Boyfriend? Flatmate? Colin, Vim and Spider looked at him expectantly. Den was too occupied with the hippie strapped to Vyvyan’s roof. Colin frowned, deep in thought, and then grinned when Rick couldn’t find the words.

“...Are you shagging him?” He asked. Rick couldn’t quite meet his brother’s eyes. He waited for the slurs, the disgust, the horror at the thought of him having... relations with another man. Instead, Bad News broke out into another idiotic chant, whooping, screaming, slapping Rick on the back. 

“Bout bloody time!” Vim yelled, “We’ve been trying to get this bastard laid for years!”

Colin stepped forward and shook Vyvyan’s hand, ready to do his brotherly duty and welcome this newcomer into the family. Rick wanted to die.

“How are you, mate? Vyvyan, was it? Rick never said he had a bloke.”

“He never said he had a brother, either.” Vyv replied.

“Didn’t he?” Colin asked, “Well, he does. Two, actually.”

Half- brothers!” Rick spat, “And no, I didn’t ruddy well tell him about you. Why on earth would I tell him about you? You’d only try and embarrass me!”   

Colin blinked, “Well...yeah.” He said, as if that much should have been obvious, “Did you really not mention me at all? Not even once?” 

“Nope.” Vyv replied, “He said he had an uncle in Hammersmith and a cousin in London. Asked me if I wanted to meet them, as it happened.”

“What? You were gonna introduce your boyfriend to Richard and Gertie before me ?”

Yes, Colin, I was. Because unlike you, uncle Richard and cousin Gertrude weren’t very well going to embarrass me with a pack of humiliating, slanderous half-truths!”

Just with their appalling behaviour . Rick thought, but he didn’t mention that part. 

“Only because they don’t know you like I do!” Colin said, his train of thought only interrupted when Vim roughly elbowed him in the ribs. Ordinarily Colin would have retaliated by initiating a fight, but for once they were on the same wavelength, and Colin understood what Vim was getting at almost immediately. Besides, he’d made the lads promise they wouldn’t start any trouble at his dad’s wake. 

“Oh, right. Vyv, these are my band-mates. That’s Ala-Vim, sorry. That’s Vim, our singer. Spider, our drummer. And that’s Den. He’s not very important, really. We only let him in because we feel a bit sorry for him.”

“I’m the guitarist.” Den muttered. He was still craning his neck to get a better look at Neil, who looked oddly familiar. 

“Shut up, Den!” Colin snapped, “What do you do then, Vyv? Sociology with Ricky, here?”

“He’s a med student.” Rick cut in, “He’s going to be a doctor.”

And even though he was horribly embarrassed and wanted this whole situation to be over as quickly as possible, he couldn’t help but feel a bit proud every time he mentioned what his boyfriend was studying. 

“That right?” Colin asked. Vyv nodded. 

“You, uh, you in a band then?” He said. Colin nodded, but Vim got in first.

“Yeah, Bad News. We’re doing pretty well, as it happens. Going on tour soon. You’ve probably heard us on the radio.”

“I haven’t.” Vyv said with a shrug. There was something about Vim he didn’t quite like, but he couldn’t quite work out what it was. Colin took the opportunity to get his arms around Rick’s shoulders again, and then gently pulled him to one side, away from the others. His face unusually solemn. 

“Really though, mate. Are you going alright? Handling everything okay? I wanted to call you when I heard you were in hospital, but I wasn’t sure if you’d wanna hear from me.”

“I wouldn’t have.” Rick sneered.

“Did you get the card I sent?”

Yes . You needn’t have bothered. Do you know how many trees are destroyed each year to make get well cards, Colin? Well, do you? Because it’s probably a lot!”

Colin went on, unphased, “Look, I know I haven’t always been there, right? I mean, you haven’t exactly made it easy, but...well. I’m here now, yeah? And if you need anything, you know, anything at all-”

“Yes, yes. I’m alright.”

“Are you sure? Cause you know, he was my dad n’ all but, I’ve still got me mum and...you were sort of, closer with the old man than I was anyway, so-”

“Oh, piss off, would you? I’m alright, really. Stop embarrassing me for Cliff’s sake!” 

By this time Mike had stepped out of the car and made introductions with the other members of the band, who regarded him with the kind of hushed awe that only Mike’s suave patriarchal demeanor could generate, and Vyvyan had (reluctantly) unstrapped Neil from the roof. Den raised his eyebrows.

“Oh, alright Neil?”

“Oh, hi Den. Wow, fancy running into you here.” 

Den nodded. Neil nodded. Then they both said “Heavy” in perfect unison. With some prompting, Rick was able to ascertain that the two were cousins. Small world, he supposed.

“We going in then?” Colin asked. Rick nodded.

“I suppose.” Part of him wanted to check in with Vyvyan, ask him how he was coping, and whether Rick’s family was already too much. He supposed the latter question was a ridiculous thing to ask a punk, but he happened to know that any experience Vyvyan might’ve had with family dynamics came from the telly, and this...well. This was an entirely different kettle of fish. His fears were, of course, ungrounded. They walked into the church foyer together, with Vyv’s arm around Rick’s shoulders, and he answered every question Colin and his ridiculous ‘band-mates’ threw at him. Even the embarrassing ones. Especially the embarrassing ones. Rick’s face had never been so red. 

The rest of the funeral commenced as disastrously and humiliatingly as Rick had feared, with Vyvyan being embraced and welcomed by almost every member of the extended Pratt dynasty. Nobody seemed to mind that Rick was a great blimmin’ homosexual. In fact, no one seemed particularly surprised. Neil spent the majority of his time with Den, and sat with the remainder of the Bad News entourage, while Mike made fast friends with both Vim Fuego and Uncle Richard’s weird friend Eddie who - incidentally - also took to Vyvyan like a moth to a flame. Everyone had an embarrassing Rick story to tell, or an old photograph or poem to share. Vyvyan took it all in appreciatively, gathering an impressive collection of blackmail material. This lot were alright, really. Vyv could hardly believe Rick had such an enormous family, let alone two half brothers. He’d certainly been keeping that one awfully quiet. 

Vyvyan particularly fell into favour with Rick’s nan, who had been stressing about Rick almost non-stop since the accident. His maternal grandmother was exactly the right amount of nurturing and feisty, fiercely protective of her only grandon - perhaps even more so now that her daughter was gone. Rick hadn’t cared to mention it to the rest of the household, but she’d been ringing non-stop since he got home from the hospital, and Rick had spent a good deal of time either hanging up on her or placating her in angry whispers after everybody else had gone to bed. Vyv was surprised he hadn’t noticed - he’d just assumed Rick was having toilet troubles again. It seemed the poet always had a runny bottom.

But Rick still had to admit he’d been a little bit apprehensive about Nanny meeting Vyvyan. She was certainly more...free-spirited than the other members of his mother’s family, but...well. It was still a lot for an elderly woman to take in, really, wasn’t it? It’s not every day you find out your only grandson is a homosexual. His fears were, as it happened, entirely ungrounded. He brought Vyvyan over to her hesitantly, the way a child might cautiously show their favourite possession to a trusted relative. Nanny looked him up and down, her weathered, rounded face showing no emotion.

“This is him, is it?” She said. Rick nodded. Obviously word had travelled fast. “Hmm. And you like my grandson, do you?”

“Ah, well. Yes. But don’t tell him that. Bastard’s got a big enough head as it is.”

There was a brief moment of silence. Rick groaned inwardly, certain that Vyvyan had blown it once and for all. And then Nanny let out one of her big, booming laughs - the soundtrack to the happier parts of Rick’s childhood - and put her hand on Vyvyan’s arm.

“You’ll do.” She said. High praise. “Have you eaten anything?”

“Yeah.” Vyv nodded, “I could eat again though.”

“I should bloody well hope so. Skin and bone, you are. Come on! I’ll get you some finger sandwiches.”

From then on it seemed an unlikely friendship had blossomed. Nanny obviously saw something good in Vyv, something most adults and authority figures seemed to dismiss, because when she wasn’t feeding him sandwiches and cake she spent a good deal of the wake on his arm, introducing him to various relatives, asking him questions about his and Rick’s life at Scumbag. Rick trailed behind them miserably, squirming with embarrassment at every turn. And when he saw Nanny slowly but surely leading Vyv over to Rick’s twatty half-brother Alan B’stard, he nearly had a nervous breakdown.

Oh, Cliff. He thought, I can’t handle this.

 But with some coaxing from Nanny (and a rather overenthusiastic Vyvyan) he came over by the windows to get his first look at Alan in nearly six years. 

“Richard.” He sniffed. 

“Alan.” Rick echoed, trying to emulate the same stuffy, snot nosed tone as his brother. 

“Still at University?”

“No thanks to you , fascist.” Rick spat. Alan offered up a wry smile. 

“Shame about...well.”

“Yes.” Rick agreed. Was it over? Could they leave now? 

Alan hesitated, grimaced, and then (slowly and very, very reluctantly) stuck out his hand. Rick shook it with a degree of caution - he’d never made any physical contact with his older brother before. 

“This is Vyvyan.” Nanny spoke up, “Richard’s boyfriend.” 

“Oh right.” Alan said, barely feigning interest. He hadn’t quite retracted his hand, and so Vyvyan took it immediately. 

“How’d you do!” Vyv said. With Mike’s help, he’d been brushing up on polite conversational phrases and topics, but even pleasantries sounded vaguely threatening when they came out of the punk’s mouth, “You got any girly stories about Rick?”

Oh no. 

Alan smiled, “I do, actually.”

“Alan, don’t-“ 

“When I was sixteen I came to stay at my father’s estate for break. Rick was four, then, and spent the summer running around in his mother’s pants.” 

“Alan you BASTARD!” 

“It’s B’stard!” Alan snapped, mostly out of habit. It was the first and only time Vyvyan ever saw Rick successfully swing a punch. Alan might have been a bastard, but he went down surprisingly easily. From across the room Colin cheered and ran over, eager to turn a two man brawl into a dog pile. Vim and Spider were already hot on his heels, Den not too far behind. 

“Mind his stitches!” Nanny said. She turned to Vyv, smiled, and rolled her eyes, “This happens every time those boys get together, you know. My daughter - my daughter always knew how best to break them up.” 

Vyv nodded uncomfortably. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to comfort Rick’s grandmother if she started to cry. Fortunately, Nanny subscribed to a British, stiff upper lip mentality, and no such outburst occurred. What did happen, however, was that every relative within a five mile radius first gravitated towards, and then joined the Pratt/B’stard/ Bad News dogpile, and Vyv suddenly had an answer to the question that had been nagging at him since he first met Rick; why on earth a girly, spotty, “anarchistic” pacifist was the only halfway-worthy adversary Vyv had ever had. The answer was obvious: it was in his blood.

Aside from all the drinks, snacks and family introductions, the actual funeral part of the funeral wasn’t anywhere near as boring as Vyvyan had expected it to be. Rick’s Uncle Richard made a speech about how much his brother had adored him, and had always wanted him to have several very expensive items of jewellery, should anything happen to him. While this sorry excuse for a memorial went on, Eddie went around and collected the wallets, watches and rings of the remainder of the guests, omitting only Mike, Vyvyan and (reluctantly) Rick. Alan delivered a kind of eulogy, which quickly deteriorated into a shameless political campaign (that being said, Vyv thought he might just vote B’stard - if only to piss Rick off). And Bad News delivered a musical tribute via a song from their latest album, which was bloody awful but far more interesting than a run of the mill church hymn. Rick was the last one to take the stage - something Vyv hadn’t realised he was going to do - and produced two crumpled, stained pieces of paper upon which he’d written his speech. He looked nervous, though Vyvyan didn’t know why. There wasn’t anything Rick could do that would be worse than a daylight robbery, a political rally, or the world’s worst hair metal band. But Rick’s hands trembled anyway, and when he blew into the microphone, the feedback made him jump. 

“Erm...hello. I’m...Rick. And erm...I’ve written a speech. Um.”  He cleared his throat, then looked at Vyvyan. Vyv shrugged. “...Right. My parents, were oppressive, conservative, upper class Tory loving fascists .”

The silence was deafening. Hmm. Perhaps Rick could do something worse than rob the guests of their valuables. 

“...And I loved them.” Rick continued, “I really, blimmin’ well loved them. They were ruddy good parents, and I had a good childhood, and I never...I never wanted for anything. And I haven’t stopped thinking about them since they died, and I wish they were still here. And...I miss them. A lot.”

Well, that wasn’t so bad. Next to Vyvyan, Rick’s grandmother was starting to sniffle. But Rick wasn’t done - not quite. 

“And erm...I wrote them this poem.”

Oh God. Vyv braced himself for the worst possible scenario - a lengthy experimental piece comparing Rick’s parents to the leaves of a willow tree, perhaps, or something even more girly and awful - but his fears were unfounded. 

“But I’m not going to read it out, because it’s personal. It’s...it’s just for them, really. So, I’m just going to leave it here, with all the flowers and things. And they can read it when they’re ready.”

He placed the crumpled paper on his parent’s caskets - one piece each - and then stepped back into the audience to a polite smattering of applause. Back in his seat, his head went to rest on Vyvyan’s shoulder while his Nanny held his hands and beamed at him. He’d done alright, all things considered. Better than alright. Vyv was almost proud of him. 

It was another two hours before Rick, Mike, Vyv and Neil left the wake. Vyv was more than a little tipsy, Mike had quite possibly had a few too many, and whatever sort of cigarette Neil and Den had shared in the car park had more or less put Neil out for the count. Rick agreed to drive Vyvyan’s car home while Mike went home with Rick’s Nanny, much to the horror of the people’s poet. Neil caught a lift with Bad News, eager to spend more time with his cousin. On the way out Rick let Vyv say goodbye to Eddie and Richard, while he took Colin to one side for a chat. 

“You leaving now, Ricky?” Colin asked. His wig had started to fall off to one side, makeup smeared across his face. Rick corrected it without thinking, easily falling back into the role he’d held as a child. The bossy little mummy’s boy that was always nagging his older brothers, of course. If Vyvyan had known, he wouldn’t have been surprised.

“Yes. Erm...can I ask a favour?”

“Well, depends what it is.” Colin replied, and then grinned, “Only joking. What do you need?”

“The reading of the will is tomorrow. Can you come pick me up? I don’t want Vyv to know about it.”

“Why’s that then?”

Rick shrugged, “I want to surprise him.”

“Impress him, more like. I take it he doesn’t know what an upper class twat you are. Trying to win him over by flashing your cash about the place?”

“Of course not!” 

Another grin, “Easy, Ricky. I’ll come pick you up. Give us your number and I’ll call you tonight, alright?”

“...Thank you.” Rick muttered. Colin only shrugged.

“Any time. See you tomorrow, then. Oh, and try not to crash anymore buses, okay? No matter how many Cliff Richard billboards you come across.”

Rick wanted to argue, but he didn’t have it in him. It had been an exhausting day, and Colin was (surprisingly) only trying to help. Besides, he needed to get Vyvyan in the car before anyone else went off with him. From the looks of things, Uncle Richard and Edward Hitler were just about ready to take the punk home. 

 

 

Rick collapsed on top of his bed, still fully dressed but completely exhausted, and shut his eyes. He took a moment to get his breath, then kicked off his shoes and started to wriggle out of his jacket, shirt and trousers. Over by the door Vyv was already stripping down to his pants, leaning against the wall so he didn’t go arse over face. 

“That wasn’t half bad.” Vyv said, voice slightly slurred from all the drinks he’d had at the wake. 

“Speak for yourself.” Rick yawned, “I’ve never been so blimmin’ humiliated.” 

“I still can’t believe you’ve got two brothers. Two! You told us you didn’t have any siblings.”

“I don’t, technically. Colin’s ten years older than me, after all, and Alan was fourteen when came along.”

“How’d that happen?” Vyv asked. Rick shrugged.

“Daddy’s first marriage ended in a scandal when he ran off with his secretary and had Colin. He didn’t marry mummy until a year before I was born.”

Vyv grunted and crawled into bed next to Rick, who immediately rolled over to be the little spoon. 

“How long have you known that Vim bloke, then?” Vyv asked. 

“Hmm? Oh, years. His real name’s Alan, but he got sick of being confused with my brother Alan. He changes his name every other year or so.” Rick yawned again. He could barely keep his blimmin’ eyes open, and Vyv was incredibly snuggly. “When I was younger I quite fancied him.”

“Yeah?” Vyv replied, his tone icy. 

“Mm-hmm. But now I have you, and you’re much better. So go to sleep and stop pouting. I’m too tired to fight about it now.”

Vyv grinned against Rick’s neck and closed his eyes. He was still coming to terms with the days events, from the discovery of Rick’s brothers to meeting the rest of his family. Vyv had never even had a family, apart from his mum of course, but that hardly counted. And now here he was, being accepted - even welcomed - into Rick’s family like it was nothing. He’d barely been at the wake for two minutes before everyone was chatting to him as if they’d known him for years, from Colin talking to him about Rick’s childhood to Richard and Eddie inviting him out for a drink at the Lamb and Flag. Even Alan, who was clearly a stuck up twat, had been polite enough to tell him that little anecdote about Rick prancing around in his mother’s pants (an anecdote he was very much looking forward to tormenting his boyfriend with). And then there was Rick’s Nanny. Vyv had never known his grandparents, and had very little time for family in general, but he had to admit (privately, strictly within the realms of his own mind) that he couldn’t help but adore Rick’s grandmother. She’d already invited them both to christmas dinner up in Brighton, and Vyv, against his better judgement, had eagerly accepted. Now he just had to get Rick to agree to it. 

For the first time in a while, Vyv’s worries about Gary dissipated almost entirely, in favour of pleasant thoughts about extended families and christmases spent up the beach. It helped that Rick’s bed was so warm and cosy. Peaceful, even. And with Mike and Neil still out, the sharehouse was blissfully quiet. It was enough to make Vyvyan cautiously optimistic, and he started to think that perhaps things really would sort themselves out, and that him and Rick would be alright. After all, everyone had to get lucky sometimes, didn’t they? Even good-for-nothing, working class punks with girly poets for boyfriends.

Chapter Text

Leaving the house without Vyvyan was no easy task. Not that Rick had expected it to be, of course. In the week and a half since Gary had stalked Rick to the chip shop and back, Vyvyan had taken to watching his boyfriend like a hawk, and his behaviour was - at times - bordering on severely paranoid. Vyv now slept with his entire body wrapped around Rick, essentially pinning him to the bed wherever possible. Most mornings, the People’s Poet woke up with Vyv’s arms and legs wrapped around his middle, drool on his neck and the punk’s loud, irregular (but oddly soothing) snores in his ear. If Rick went to the bathroom without announcing it, or out to the garden for some fresh air, or even up to his room to write out a new poem, it was not uncommon for Vyvyan to tear the house apart looking for him, screaming the Poet’s name at the top of his lungs, and pausing to rest only once Rick had been located and examined for any signs of injury. Rick couldn’t count the number of times he’d been interrupted while having a bath (or, worse still, while going to the lavvy). Honestly, it was all getting rather ridiculous. It was one thing to keep tabs on him when they were out of the house, but Vyvyan’s fears about Gary somehow sneaking into the house and taking Rick out of it seemed entirely irrational. Frankly, Rick was getting a bit fed up with it, even if he did enjoy the extra attention. 

So when Colin pulled up outside the share house, yelling and carrying on from the passenger seat of Bad News’s “tour van”, Rick was entirely prepared for a fight. His preparations weren’t in vain - Vyv kicked up a stink before Rick even had a chance to open the door. 

“Where are you off to?” Vyv asked as Rick hastily put on his coat. The punk’s arms were folded across his chest, his gaze mildly threatening.

“Nanny wants me to sort some things out at the estate.” Rick said, “Colin’s come to pick me up. I won’t be long, I-“

“Right. I’ll come with you then.”

Rick took a step back on instinct - years of beatings from Vyvyan had created a series of muscle memories in a feeble attempt at self-preservation - and tried to remain firm.

“No, Vyvyan. It's family only. Just me, Colin, and Alan.”

“Vim’s in the car.”

“Vim’s giving us a lift.”

“I’ll give you a lift!” 

“No, Vyvyan!” Rick wasn’t sure why he felt so horrible about raising his voice - he yelled at Vyvyan all the time, for Cliff’s sake! Perhaps it had something to do with the look of genuine hurt Vyv took on when Rick took yet another step backwards. A look of rejection. Rick tried not to cry. 

“I’ll be back before four, alright? I promise. If I’m not, then you can get all worried.”

“Rick-“ Vyvyan was interrupted by Vim honking the horn far too aggressively, which soon gave way to Colin yelling.

“Ricky! Get your arse out here or we’ll leave without you, you girly twat!”

Even in such dire circumstances, Vyv couldn’t help but like Colin. 

“I’ve got to go.” Rick said, smiling apologetically, “Before four. I promise!” 

And with that, he was gone. Out the front door and into the back of the Bad News van. Vyvyan stood by the front door, not quite sure what had just happened, and even less sure about what to do for the rest of the day.

Not much, as it happened. He spent most of it sulking around the sharehouse, watching the clock, and beating Neil over the head with every available heavy object. He watched a number of Bastard Squad reruns, two episodes of Nosin’ Aroun’ and even sat through half an episode of the Good Life. By then it was 3:30. Still no sign of Rick. Was it too early to kick up a fuss? Maybe. Another twenty minutes, and then he’d go out looking. 

The phone rang at 3:45, just as Vyv was getting his car keys and preparing to walk out the door. He smacked Neil out the way to reach for it - which came as one hell of a surprise to the hippie - and was screaming down the phone for Rick before anyone on the other line had a chance to say anything.

“Jesus Christ! Is that Vyvyan? Should’ve known you’d be the possessive type.”

“Where’s Rick?”

“Easy, easy. He’s with me, we’re at the pub. Uncle Eddie wanted to get a round in with his two favourite nephews.” Even over the phone, Vyv could hear the smugness in Colin's voice. Eddie certainly knew how to butter up his "nephews", that was for sure. 

“He said he’d be home by four!”

“Yeah, he mentioned that. Figured I’d better give you a call. He’s gonna be back late.”

“How bloody late?!”

“I dunno!” Colin paused, and Vyv could’ve sworn he could hear Rick yelling in the background, “He’s a bit drunk, Vyv.”

“...Rick doesn’t drink.”

“Hah! Tell that to the table he’s dancing on.” Colin replied.

“Right, where are you? I’ll come get him.”

“Nah, you’re alright. He’s no trouble...well. He is, but you’re alright.”

“Colin-“

“He’s with family Vyv. He’s fine! I’ll have him back in time for tea, alright? Let him have a drink to his dead parents. Bloody hell.” 

“Look, you don’t understand-“

But Colin had already hung up. Oh, bloody brilliant! Now to top it all off, he’d probably lost all his good standing with Rick’s family. 

…not that he cared, of course.

Chapter Text

Unbeknownst to Vyvyan, Rick wasn’t too far from the house on Codrington Road. He was, in fact, only up the street at the Kebab and Calculator. Uncle Eddie , as Colin had called him, was slightly more tolerable than Uncle Richard - at least as far as the Pratt/Grigson/B’stard tribe was concerned - and was smart enough (well, cunning enough) to know that a little bit of flattery would get him a round or two, courtesy of his so-called favourite nephews. Not that he needed them to shout him of course. Richie had come into a bit of money; not much, but a bit. And the good news had been enough to send him running out into the garden in celebration, where he was promptly run over by a tractor. He was stable enough, but Eddie was up 500 pounds; the cheque for Richard Richard tucked neatly in his jacket pocket. 

Obviously, it was Rick who had suggested going to the Kebab. Partly because he felt like celebrating (one third of the Pratt estate had been left to him, one blimmin’ third! ) but partly because if Gary could track him to the chip shop and back, he could certainly track him to the local pub. And Rick had access to his parents accounts, now. He had a whopping fifteen thousand quid in cash from his father’s safe, stored in the messenger bag he’d used at boarding school. It was just a matter of waiting now. Gary would be here soon, surely.

It was supposed to be just one drink; a bit of Dutch courage, because he’d heard it helped. One had somehow turned into three, and Rick never was very good at holding his liquor. Colin was keeping a close eye on him (he might've been a selfish prick, but his love for his baby brother knew no bounds) but Colin, of course, had no knowledge of the Gary situation. It might’ve been a very different evening if he had.

Alan stayed for only one drink, a total of half an hour, and spent the whole time either complaining about the sorry state of the pub or loudly plotting to kill Rick and Colin to regain what was rightfully his. When he wasn’t tackling his brothers to the ground and trying to make good on his plot, that is. He left in typical raging Alan fashion, and the evening was all the better for it. Vim and Spider joined them for a drink at around three - and by then Rick was not only truly pissed, but absolutely barmy with excitement - and Colin suspected this impromptu family get together could stretch well into the night, whether Vyvyan liked it or not. 

“What’re you gonna do with the money, Ricky?” Vim asked after Rick’s fifth drink, when he could barely hold his head up.

“Gonna buy Vyv a house.” He slurred. 

“Gonna marry him, Rick?” Colin nudged him, egging him on, because he knew from experience that Rick was a bloody laugh and a half once he was pissed. He reverted back to the snivelly child that used to trail after Bad News requesting Cliff Richard tracks. Never stopped being hilarious. 

“Yeah.” Rick nodded.

“Yeah? Gonna get him a ring?”

“Yeah...yeah...Yeah!” He paused, “S’there a jewellery shop near here?”

A ring! A bloody ring! Why hadn't he thought of that? That was blimmin' perfect! Just because him and Vyv couldn't get married for real, that didn't mean they couldn't wear rings, did it? Make vows? All of that girly stuff? And that did it matter that they'd only been together for three months or so? What did it matter that they hadn't properly shagged yet? Well, at least, Vyv said they hadn't. Headjobs and handjobs abounded, and truthfully Rick still didn't have any idea what proper sex entailed. But he loved Vyvyan. He suspected he always had loved Vyvyan, and he knew for a fact he always would. And all Vyvyan ever seemed to do lately was look after him. It'd be nice to show him a bit of gratitude, make a romantic gesture. And if Vyvyan was mad about Rick paying Gary off (which Rick suspected he probably would be) then a couple of rings would fix it up, wouldn't it? Or Vyvyan would think it was stupid, girly and sappy, and he'd beat Rick to a pulp for even suggesting the idea. But it was a risk that Rick, drunk and giddy as he was, was willing to take.  

“There’s a pawn shop a street over.” Vim said. Rick scoffed, wrinkling his nose in disgust.  

Porn shop. A bloody porn shop! What do you think I am? A pervy?”

“A pawnbrokers, Rick. Second-hand jewellery.” Colin grinned. 

“Oh...OH! I wanna go there. Right now! Come, come with me n’, help me pick a ring.” He grabbed Colin’s arm and hauled him to his feet while Eddie went up to the bar for another round. His beloved nephews were running low on cash, so Eddie had agreed to shout the next one. He had absolutely no intention of sharing the next one, however. Especially when he was brought face to face with an old flame he really would have preferred to forget… but who’d have thought he’d run into the woman who took his virginity in a bloody student bar! Barmaid. Ha! She was a bloody shoplifter when he knew her. 

He turned back to the boys for an escape route only to see them walking out the bloody door, arm in arm with all of the cash Eddie had been planning to put into the next round. 

“Oi! Where are you bastards off to?”

“Porn shop!” Rick giggled.

“Ricky’s getting married!” Colin cheered. 

And as Rick, Colin and Vim left the pub - Rick in the middle while the two long-haired metalheads on either side - Mike walked in with his latest conquest; the girl from the sandwich shop down the road. He was a bit taken aback by the sight of a drunken Rick, especially when there was no drunken Vyvyan in tow, but had no real suspicions. He didn’t really care what Rick did with his time; never had, never would. And besides, he was with his brother. What was the worst that could happen?

As they made their way down to the pawnbrokers in the next street, tripping over each other’s feet and singing Cliff Richard’s Living Doll (a toast to Vyvyan, though the punk surely would not have approved) not one of them suspected they were being followed. Not even when Gary cut the subtleties and walked directly behind them. Not even when he stopped and watched them enter the shop, peering through the window as Rick drunkenly chose two gold wedding bands, using Vim’s hands to guess the sizing. 

"What you think of this one?" Rick asked. Vim shrugged.

"I think it's the same as the last one."

"...No. Nuuu, this is completely different. Look, bands a bit wider. Thicker. S'that more manly than this one, do you think?"

"Does it matter?" Colin asked, "You're both a couple of girly poofs."

"...That's very sexist of you, Colin." Rick deadpanned. 

"Just bloody pick one!" Vim snapped, "My hands are getting tired!"

Rick picked two, and stuck them into his inside pocket to give to Vyvyan later. Later that night, he decided. He'd be too scared to do it sober. By then, despite the messenger back of cash balanced on one shoulder, Gary was the furthest thing from Rick's mind. So when the trio came out of the store and walked right into Gary, not only did Rick treat it as a marvelous bit of good fortune, still no suspicions arose in the minds of Vim and Colin. Rick greeted him like an old friend, after all. 

“Gary!” He grinned, “Gary, you’re just the person I wanted to see.”

“Alright, Wick ? How’s Vyv?”

“Oh, good! Good. Gary, this is m’brother Colin. And, and m’other brother, Alan.”

“Vim.” Vim corrected. The brother comment he could let slide - somewhere underneath the hair, leather and developing beer gut, he was ever so slightly touched by the sentiment.

“Vim.” Rick nodded, and leaned in, unintentionally wiping his hands on Gary's shirt. “This is Vyv’s friend Gary. Gary, listen, I needa...needa talk to you.”

“He’s had a bit to drink.” Colin said apologetically. Gary nodded.

“Yeah, I see that. Bet Vyv’s out lookin’ for you, Wick. Bet he’s worried sick.”

“Needa talk to you.” Rick said again. Gary put his arm around the poet, deftly separating him from the safety of the group.

“So let’s go have a chat.” Gary said, “You’re alright, lads. I’ll give him a lift home. I was headin’ over that way anyway.”

“That alright, Rick?” Colin asked. 

“Yeah, s’fine, s’fine. Gary’s a friend of Vyv’s.” 

If anything felt off about the situation to either Vim or Colin, it was quickly put to rest by Gary’s easy smile. He might’ve been a punk, sure, but so was Vyv. And if Gary was a friend of Vyv’s, then…

Vim and Colin headed back to the Kebab and Calculator to catch up with Eddie, and perhaps have a drink with Mike. In contrast, Rick and Gary headed in the other direction. Gary’s arm around Rick had turned into an ironclad grip on the poet’s shoulder, and the laid back grin on his face had morphed into a sadistic, unpleasant sneer. Drunk as he was, Rick still had the good sense to be a little afraid. Especially when a handful of punks and skinheads began to fall into line behind them as they walked down the street, and Gary led him out of sight into a dimly lit alley.

Chapter Text

Ten o’clock came and went. Still no sign of Rick. Vyvyan bloody hated this. He hated being the nagging, girly swot left to fret at the front window while his boyfriend was out god knows where. He hated the thought of Rick dead in a ditch somewhere. Hated the thought of Gary so much as looking at him. 

And he couldn’t go out and search. Where would he go? What if Rick came home while he was gone? Someone would call. Someone had to bloody call. Either Vim or Colin or maybe even Eddie. Or, in a perfect world, Rick himself would pick up the phone, and Vyvyan could give him hell for being such an irresponsible little twerp. Rick shouldn’t have been drinking, anyway. Not in his condition. What happened to that ridiculous anti-alcohol stance, anyway? 

 

I don't think it's really smart or clever to drink, actually! I want to stay in control!”  

 

What absolute bollocks. But that was hardly surprising coming from Rick, was it? Almost everything that dribbled out of his mouth was certified shite. Sweat trickled down Vyvyan’s back and aggravated the burns on the backs of his legs. He wasn’t hot - far from it, if anything he had a bit of a chill - but he was bloody nervous. More nervous than he’d ever been before. His heart leapt when he saw someone walk down the driveway, but hopes were quickly dashed when he realised it was just Mike. 

“Alright Vyv?” Mike said as he hung his coat up by the door, “I tell you what. That Eddie bloke can’t half drink .”

Eddie? Rick’s Uncle Eddie? 

“Was Rick there?” Vyv closed the distance between them in four easy strides, forcing Mike to back up against the wall. 

“Yeah, for a bit. Left with his brother and that Vim bloke around seven. They came back without him at about eight.” 

“What do you mean? Where the bloody hell is he?!” In his rage he forgot his place, disregarded the house hierarchy and grabbed Mike by the collar in order to slam him against the wall. 

“Easy Vyv! Easy! I appreciate you’re in a jam, but there’s no need to squash my berries!” 

“Where were you tonight? Where did you see him?” 

“Where do you think? At the local, Vyv! He was down at the kebab!”

“Why is everybody yelling ?” Neil groaned from his spot on the drawing-room floor - the spot he’d been ordered to take up in case Vyvyan once again got the urge to use him as a punching bag. But Vyv was already out the door, car keys in hand, stomach doing such violent somersaults that it was a miracle he didn’t vomit all over his car. 

Chapter Text

 

Rick had heard that in traumatic circumstances, it was not uncommon for people to have bizarre hallucinogenic experiences. Life flashing before your eyes, and all that. He’d never given the theory much weight - Vyvyan had beaten him to a pulp more times than he could count, after all. Putting that aside, he’d lived through enough explosions, crucifixions, and run ins with South African vampires than anybody else he knew. If he was going to have a traditional near death experience, he surely would’ve had one already. 

Or so he thought. Evidently, the situation with Gary was an entirely different kettle of fish. It was all so violent, so ruthless and bloody and raw, and Rick couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed by how much he’d complained and carried on whenever he and Vyvyan got into it. That was nothing. Child’s play. Even the bloody bus crash couldn’t hold a candle to the visceral brutality that Gary and his thugs unleashed upon him, and that was certainly saying something since the bus crash had nearly bloody killed him. 

This would kill him. There were no doubts about that in Rick’s mind. He was going to die on his knees in a horrible back alley, mouth full of - but that didn’t bear thinking about, really, did it? It wouldn’t help things. Besides, Rick didn’t need to think about it to get it done; his tongue moved instinctively, on instinct. Thank Cliff for small favours. 

What did seem to help things was retreating further into his mind, reliving past experiences with startling clarity. Obviously, his brain had also given up any hope of survival and prioritised making things as pleasant as possible. It would have been quite an upsetting thought if Rick devoted any time to it. He didn’t. 

He was far too busy experiencing the childhood holidays spent at his father’s estate. Home from boarding school, Rick would run off onto the grounds, hiding in orchards and under blackberry thickets, writing poems in his notebook whenever the urge grabbed him. When he was very young, he used to play hide and seek with Colin, and they could spend hours occupying some far away corner of the nearby forest, sometimes even daring to stay out after the sun went down. Rick always lost - his hiding places were predictable at best - and Colin used to tease him about it relentlessly, sometimes driving his little brother to tears. And then it was a mad backpedal to get him to stop before mummy heard, promising trips to the pictures and bags of sweets until Rick would finally, reluctantly, curb his sobs to mere sniffles, and Colin would tousle his hair and say he was sorry in typical Colin fashion (it was only a joke , Rick. Just a little joke!) and all would be well again. Rick had meant what he said at the funeral; it really had been a good childhood. He was home from boarding school every weekend, and Colin came to stay every holiday - Alan every summer. He’d had all the toys and games he ever asked for, a party every year for his birthday, a mountain of presents each christmas. His mother had always showered him with affection, and although his father was far more reserved, the love was there. Rick knew it was. Going through his old memories helped to give it clarity, but it had always been present. He saw it in his father’s eyes when he was a very young child, making up stories and building stick forts on the lawn. He saw it when he graduated from the academy and his father shook his hand, clapped him on the shoulder, congratulated him on a job well done. It was even there when Rick had a complete personality overhaul, transforming himself from an empty headed upper class swot to a rebellious, forward thinking anarchist. His father had regarded him with resigned bemusement, a patronising look and a knowing smile. Teenagers , his face had said, and Rick had resented the sentiment. But his father had still humoured him, asking questions about his newfound politics and pretending not to notice when he tied himself up in knots. Yes, it had been a blessed childhood, a million miles away from the filthy council flat where Vyv had spent the majority of his formative years. Perhaps this was penance, this Gary situation, the universe’s way of evening the score. Rick had, after all, fallen into his privileged life for no real reason at all, and lord knew he didn’t really deserve it; he was selfish, arrogant, sometimes downright cruel. What made him more worthy than Vyvyan? Nothing. Rick would have swapped places if he could. 

A million miles away, Gary made some faint, strangled noise and shoved Rick off him. Someone else took hold of Rick’s shoulders, and he was passed roughly around the makeshift circle they’d formed. 

Is this a circle jerk? He thought, his self awareness returning at the same time as his naivety. He had no real grasp of the terminology - it was just another phrase he’d absorbed from Vyvyan, stored away for later use. Maybe it was a circle jerk. Did it matter? No, he supposed it didn’t. Not really. Rick kept his eyes firmly shut and grappled for more pleasant memories. His mother’s treacle pudding, for example, served with ice cream and hot chocolate. Rainy saturdays at boarding school, spent playing Monopoly by the big window in the boys dormitory. Ruddy heck, even the beatings he’d taken in the shower block were more preferable than his current circumstance. But those were nothing like the scraps he’d had with his brothers, or his later fights with Vyvyan. They were more of a minor inconvenience rather than a genuine, pressing concern. It certainly hadn’t traumatised him in any way - he never did learn to keep his mouth shut. Clearly, he still hadn’t.

Oh, Cliff, Vyvyan! I’m so blimmin’ sorry. 

He knew on some level that this wasn’t his fault, but that didn’t do much to ease the guilt. This was wrong . All wrong. He was doing things (or, at least, having things done to him) that completely and undoubtedly counted as being unfaithful. Vyvyan would never forgive him for this. Never ever. Rick was sure of it. But he supposed that didn’t really matter either, since he was still entirely sure that he would not make it out of this situation alive. At least he wouldn’t ever have to come to terms with Vyv’s disappointment or disgust. He wouldn’t have to beg for forgiveness. Wouldn’t have to endure a messy breakup. Wouldn’t have to gather his things and find somewhere else to live. He could slip away quietly like the coward he knew he was, free of the consequences that normally came from adultery. Once again, he thanked Cliff for small favours. 

He rocked backwards as someone smacked him across the side of the head. Things were starting to get nasty. He was aware of a pain in his side, or maybe it was his chest. It wasn’t good, either way. It was cold, sharp, and followed by several kicks to the ribs in rough, merciless succession. God, and it hurt . It really bloody hurt, all of it. He could feel tears on his cheeks and hear whimpers that couldn’t possibly have been coming from anyone else.  Rick blocked it out as best he could. 

If he tried very hard, he could pretend it was Vyvyan. He wasn’t sure Vyvyan had ever been quite so rough, not even during the now infamous virgin fight, but it was certainly better than accepting reality. He imagined Vyvyan’s hands on his shoulders, Vyvyan’s fists against the side of his face, Vyvyan’s boot in his abdomen. Vyvyan had once smacked him in the knackers with a cricket bat. That had hurt. But that had been in the safety of the share house, where ridiculous things always happened and no one was ever seriously injured for very long. Rick could have got up and made a run for it, if he’d wanted, and Vyvyan would have let him. Well, maybe the punk would have given chase, but there was always a line. An unspoken understanding. There had been times when Rick had run off, hidden in his bedroom, and Vyvyan had given up and left him alone. He kept going when Rick did, escalating things only until one of them backed down. And Rick had always been free to back down.

There wouldn’t be any more fights like that. No more running around the house red faced and screaming while Vyvyan gave chase with a pickaxe or a bat or a great blimmin’ cannon. No more beds coming through the ceiling. No more buzzsaws in his bed. And what about all the other things? Lentil suppers? Drinks at the Kebab? Saturday morning marathons of Bastard Squad? Late afternoon lectures that concluded with chip dinners? Lazy Sundays in bed with Vyvyan. Sleepy cornflake breakfasts with Vyvyan. Watching the Good Life with Vyvyan and arguing about Felicity Kendal. Going for drives with Vyvyan. Being kissed by Vyvyan. Vyvyan, Vyvyan, Vyvyan. That was the worst part of all of this. There was so much he’d wanted to do, say, experience, and now he’d never get the chance.   

Rick’s last thought was of his boyfriend, which seemed only right. He saw them lying on his bed, Vyv holding his hand and running a hand through Rick’s hair. He wasn’t entirely sure that this had ever happened between them - it seemed awfully soppy, even for Vyv - but it was a nice enough idea. A nice note to end things on. He felt another cold, sharp pain somewhere below his ribcage. Another in the gut. Rick didn’t mind - he was already slipping. It already felt much further away than it had a moment before, and he was grateful. Not just because the pain was starting to lessen, and not just because it was almost over. But because against all odds and assumptions, Rick had experienced love at least once in his life. He had loved someone, selflessly and with his whole heart, and he had been loved. And that made everything worth the trouble.

Chapter Text

By the time Vyv got to the pub, Colin, Vim and Eddie were well and truly sloshed. Eddie was asleep under the table, Vim was dosing on top of it, and Colin could barely stay upright. Needless to say, Vyvyan’s violent outburst did very little to improve anyone’s condition. As soon as he stepped inside the Kebab and Calculator, he made a beeline for Colin and damn near beat the bloody snot out of him. With one violent shove he sent Vim flying across the bar, one kick and Eddie’s condition rapidly transitioned from sleeping to unconscious. He meant to pull Colin up by the hair, but only succeeded in ripping the wig from his head. 

“Jesus Christ Vyv! What the bloody hell’s got into you?”

“Where is he?”

“Who? Rick?”

“Yes Rick! Bloody Rick! Where the bloody hell is he, you bastards!” He grabbed the front of Colin’s shirt and shook him. Colin’s head bounced back and forth so rapidly he’d be complaining of whiplash for days afterwards, and he was forced to grab onto his attacker in a futile attempt to keep his balance.

“He ran into a friend and they left together, alright? Put me down!”

“What friend?”

“I dunno! Gary, or something. Said he was gonna give Rick a lift home. Get off me you twat! I could have you done for assault!”

Gary. Rick had left with Gary. Rick had probably been with Gary all night . Gary had Rick all to himself, could do whatever he liked, as many times as he wanted. And in all likeliness, Richard Pratt was probably dead. Had probably been dead for several hours now. Worse still, the concept of Rick having been dead for several hours was somehow the best possible option. Because if Rick wasn’t dead, and Gary still had him...then Rick would probably be begging for someone to put him out of his misery by now. 

“Where did you see them?” Vyv asked. Colin looked as if he didn’t quite understand the question, “Show me!”

His voice still had an aggressive bite to it, a bit of intimidation, and that was good because Vyv certainly didn’t feel very intimidating. Everything looked, sounded, and felt very far away. It all had a lucid quality about it, like it wasn’t really real. It almost felt as if he was watching himself, spectating rather than actively participating. The seldom-used logical part of Vyvyan’s brain, which at that particular moment felt even further away than usual, quietly reminded him that he was having a panic attack. Yes, he knew that. He knew it from how tired he felt, and how badly he wanted to crawl into some dark, quiet place and never think about anything ever again. He went through the motions anyway, running off adrenaline and autopilot and love for Rick - and a desperate need to see him alive again. 

It was this desperate need that forced him to drag Colin out of the Kebab and down the street towards the pawnbrokers. That made him ask all the right questions and shake Colin awake at all the right moments. The same desperate need that sent him further down the street and to the alley where Rick had been taken. It forced him to dig through his back catalog of traumatic Gary-related memories, and reflect on the cold Saturday nights he’d spent on his knees in similar alleys - perhaps even the same alley; it was too long ago to remember now - keeping his head down and his mouth full for money he’d never see. And it was this knowledge, mixed with a little bit of instinct, that allowed him to locate Rick at all - crumpled, bloodied and torn at the very back of the narrow passageway, hidden behind somebody’s rubbish bins. 

Was he breathing? No. Wait, yes . Not much, not enough - not nearly enough - but it was something, by Christ . He heard himself yell for Colin to go fetch an ambulance, heard the footsteps as Colin obediently took off the way they’d come. But it was muffled and off-kilter, like he had his head underwater. Vyvyan kneeled down next to his boyfriend and was promptly split in two; one half of him, the physical half, worked on Rick with the detached expertise of a trained medic - applying pressure to the many stab wounds, keeping him breathing, keeping his heart beating. The other half, confined safely to the strange in-between-dream-place Vyvyan always went when he was having a breakdown, kicked and screamed and fought. Howled, cried, sobbed. He saw every wound, every bruise, every tear in Rick’s blazer or odd stain on his shirt and took it on as a personal assault. He felt every punch, kick and stab with the same level of agony that Rick had felt only minutes before. There was only one brief moment when the two halves of Vyvyan Basterd reunited, seconds before the ambulance came to take Rick away. It was when Vyv’s skilled hands - doctor’s hands , of that there could be no doubt - reached into Rick’s jacket to undo his shirt and start chest compressions, and came across a crumpled ball of paper. Vyv knew what it was but opened it anyway, operating on the same automatic instinct that had controlled his every move thus far. What he hadn’t expected where the two gold rings, immaculate, untouched, wrapped neatly in the center of the paper. The rest was run of the mill. Gary’s cruel handwriting, slightly smeared with blood - Rick’s blood.

 

Receipt. Debt paid. Left the rings - best of luck.  

 

In the distance, Vyv heard sirens. The paper and the rings went into his pocket, his hands went back to Rick. The two halves separated again - Vyv retreated mentally, further into the dream place where he could at least attempt to go into denial. In physical form he remained where he was, keeping Rick going until the paramedics came down the backstreet and took over, and the punk was forcibly held back by a drunken Vim and a borderline hysterical Colin. The emotional side made an attempt at taking over once the physical side was restrained - holding onto his hand in the ambulance, answering technical questions in automatic, monotonous responses while tears rolled down his cheeks.

"Do you know his blood type?"

"A-Positive."

"Does he have any allergies?"

"No. Wait - yes, actually. Strawberries."

"And does he have any family members we can contact? Parents?"

"...He has a grandmother and two brothers."

"We'll need their contact details."

"Okay."

The line of questioning halted, then. As if something in Vyvyan's face or demeanor gave them pause. He felt a hand on his shoulder, some brief gesture of concern or sympathy that he normally would have regarded with disgust. He was too tired to pay it any attention, then. Just as well - breaking the arm of the paramedic trying to save Rick's life was probably not in anyone's best interest. 

"Is there anyone we can call for you, sir? Someone to give you some support?"

"...No." Vyv hesitated, "I don't have anybody. Just him." 

They rode the rest of the way in silence.   



Chapter Text

Suddenly, Vyvyan bloody hated hospitals.

Chapter Text

Rick’s second stay in the intensive care ward of Our Lady of the Worthless Miracle was in direct contrast to his first. This was due in part to the severity of his injuries; Vyv hadn’t thought it was possible for Rick to be in a worse state than he was after the bus crash, but somehow the prick had managed it. They’d lost him three times in surgery - legally dead for four minutes, total - and even after he was all stitched up, his chances of survival were slim at best. He had something like ten stab wounds in his chest and abdomen, an alarming number of broken bones, ruptured organs and an unspecified amount of bruises, cuts and scrapes. He was on life support, stuck in an induced coma, subject to countless transfusions, injections, examinations, the lot. It seemed that any piece of equipment belonging to the hospital had found a home - and a purpose - in Rick’s room. 

But aside from the equipment, the noise, his borderline terminal injuries and the ever-looming threat of death, the atmosphere on the ward was entirely different. This time he had his grandmother by his bedside, sitting at all hours of the day or night, knitting blankets and ensuring that Vyvyan was being looked after. He also had his brothers (both real and metaphorical) popping in and out, taking turns reading magazines and watching the telly, chatting to Vyvyan and fetching him bits and pieces to eat. Colin, mostly, sometimes Vim. Occasionally Den and Spider stuck their heads in the door, too, mostly to see where their other two bandmates had disappeared to. Even Alan spent an afternoon on the ward, trailed by a string of journalists, of course, (Someone had suggested that a caring family-man angle might help his campaign) and good old Uncle Richie poked his head in every so often - though Vyvyan suspected this had a monetary angle, judging by how often Richard asked about the nature of his nephew’s condition, and the disappointed looks Vyv received every time Rick showed any signs of improvement. 

When Vyv wasn’t chatting with various family members, receiving a string of heartfelt apologies from Colin, or being forced to eat something , he was usually over by the window, which Nanny quickly dubbed his ‘thinking place’ . It was apt enough. He was still running on the same automatic processes that had kept him functioning during the aftermath of the attack - forever teetering on the edge of a meltdown. He hid his inner turmoil well (God knows he had years of practice in that regard) and the only time anyone might have suspected there was anything wrong at all was when Vyv sat by the window, metal stars scraping against the reinforced glass. It was in these moments that the punk seemed to take on an entirely different personality. Uncharacteristically silent, calm, and thoughtful, Vyv would react only when Rick’s condition changed, or when a medical professional came in to update him. For the most part he would stare up at the sky or down at his hands, forever twisting the newly acquired ring around his finger. When he first saw the bands, he thought Gary must’ve left them as some kind of sick joke, and had every intention of throwing them out. It was Colin that stopped him, explaining through tears and snot that it was Rick who had drunkenly purchased them, chosen them with the utmost consideration and care. Vyv had been wearing his ever since. Hmph - and the key to his bloody padlock was still hidden in his room! Bastard always had to outdo him. 

Once Colin had recovered from his initial bout of guilt and humiliation, he started up on Vyv. Who was Gary? What did he want from Rick? Was he coming back to finish the job? Was Rick still in danger? Was Vyvyan?

The punk wasn’t overly surprised - he’d already received the same line of questioning from the pigs, and a far more strenuous grilling from Rick’s Nan - but he was more liberal with the information than he had been with previous interrogators. He told Colin what he knew in the courtyard outside Rick’s room over a pack of cigarettes, long after the sun had set and the day staff had ended their shifts. 

“...So you had it off with this Gary bloke? Colin asked.

“Spose you could call it that,” Vyv replied. He had bags under his eyes that were so purple they were almost black , and his face was long and gaunt. He was eating - Nanny had seen to that - but not nearly enough. Colin suspected it wouldn’t be long before they were forcibly admitting Vyv and sticking him in the bed next to Rick to try and get some bloody nutrition into him.

“And he got Rick for that ? What was he? Jealous?”

“No. It’s...I can’t tell you, alright? It’s complicated.”

“Complicated.” Colin snorted, “My little brother’s as good as dead, and you say it’s complicated.”

“He’s gonna pull through,” Vyv muttered.

“You reckon?” Colin replied, his voice shaky, “I’m not too bloody convinced.” 

“He’ll pull through,” Vyv said again. Colin shrugged.

“Pigs wanna talk to me about that night. Nan says you didn’t tell em anything, that you don’t know who did it.”

“Yeah.” Vyv replied, “And you’re not gonna grass on Gary either, alright?”

“The hell I’m not! Vyv, have you seen Rick up there? Have you seen what that fucking bastard did to him? They ought to lock him up and throw away the key!”

“No. Too good for him.” Vyv said, “Too fucking good for him. So you just keep your bloody mouth shut, you understand? I’m gonna get the bastard. I’m gonna sort him out. And when I get a hold of him, you lot’ll be the first to hear about it. You’ve got my word on that. I’m gonna put him through hell for what he did to Rick. Gonna tear him limb from fucking limb.”

Colin’s eyes widened - for a minute, Vyv had forgotten he was talking to a bank manager steadily approaching middle-age - and then his face promptly morphed into a look of grim acceptance.

“...And I’ve got your word on that?”

“I said you did, didn’t I? I’ve got connections, mate. Friends in low places. Mike’s got the Balowskis well in his pocket - they’re all out looking for Gary as we speak. Alan’s said he’ll pull some strings on his end - for the right price o’course, the greedy bastard - and Hitler n’ Catflap have formed a bloody two-man firing squad. It’s all in the works, alright? Sorted.”

Vyv stamped out his cigarette and lit another. Colin mimicked him, mostly out of nerves. He was entirely out of his depth on this one, and both of them knew it.

“...What do I tell the pigs?” 

“I don’t bloody care what you tell them, so long as you keep Gary out of it! He’s not gonna sit around in some poncy jail cell while -” While the love of my life, the most important person who ever lived, my only bloody reason for getting out of bed in the morning - “...While Rick fights for his fucking life!”

“Alright.” Colin sighed, “Alright. I’ll...I’ll think of something.” 

Vyv grunted, but said nothing. Colin went to head back inside, then paused. There was something he’d been meaning to ask, something...but he couldn’t do it in front of Rick’s Nan.

“Vyv? Those, erm...those tests? Did they all come back clear?”

Vyv stiffened, “Yes. He’s clean.” 

“...They’re sure?”

“Sure as they can be.”

“He hasn’t got-”

“Argh! No, Colin! He hasn’t got any poofy diseases, alright? I said he’s clean! Ask a real bloody doctor, if you don’t believe me.”

“Alright!” Colin paused, struggling to find the words, “...What exactly did they do to him, Vyv?”

“You don’t want to know.” Vyv spoke through gritted teeth. Colin nodded. 

“...No. I spose I don’t.”  

Chapter Text

“To the left a bit, Neil. Yeah - no, back to the right. There!” 

The Christmas tree lights sprung to life and reflected around the room, bathing everything - including Rick - in a frantic, rainbow coloured glow. The tree itself teetered on the very edge of Rick’s bedside table, only managing to stay upright due to the incredibly heavy load of ornaments it bore. The cord for the lights was only just long enough - Vyv should have brought an extension. 

“What d’ya reckon?” Vyv asked. He surveyed the tree almost obsessively, scrutinising every branch for mistakes or flaws. There were plenty. 

“Looks good, Vyv.” Neil replied, even though it didn’t. Mike looked up from his chair by Rick’s bedside and nodded.

“Excellent job, Vyv. The elves themselves couldn’t have done better.” 

The tree in question was really rather small. A big one wouldn’t have fitted in the room. Vyvyan considered this to be the first glaring error; Rick would have wanted a big tree - a  real tree. An enormous one, like the one from the year before that had dominated the entirety of the drawing-room. It was bad enough that he’d insisted on a tree at all, since both he and Neil always went home a week before Christmas, but Rick’s insistence that “it just wasn’t Christmas without the smell of pine needles” drove everybody absolutely bonkers. Vyvyan, who had never actually had a Christmas tree prior to starting at Scumbag, had no real frame of reference. He’d enjoyed setting the pine needles on fire and lobbing them at Rick and Neil, but otherwise wasn’t bothered either way. But this wasn’t about him, it was about Rick, and he knew that if his boyfriend had been awake and capable of complaining, he’d be yelling the bloody ward down. 

How am I supposed to have a real ruddy Christmas without a real ruddy tree! This is just typical, Vyvyan! I nearly bloody died because of you, and you can’t even go out and get me a proper tree? Fascist!

Vyvyan smiled a little. It was a nice thought, all things considered. He would have preferred Rick yelling and carrying on then lying still and silent. 

But even if the tree hadn't been small, and plastic, and sparse, wirey and all flat on one side, it wouldn’t have been good enough. The lights were cheap and blinked so violently it was bound to cause a seizure, and there was an awful lot of heat coming off them, which Vyvyan didn’t particularly care for. They didn’t have any tinsel or popcorn, so Neil had strung some lentils together, which looked predictably sad and pathetic. Hardly any ornaments. A few baubles had survived the previous Christmas, somehow managing to escape Vyvyan’s warpath and avoid being smashed against the back of Rick’s head, or shoved down his pants. But it wasn’t enough, not really. Wasn’t even a real star on top - just a sad old bit of tin. 

“Do you think he’ll like it?” Neil asked. Vyvyan shook his head.

“He’ll hate it.”

“Then it’s perfect.” Mike replied, “Anyone fancy a trip to the caf?” 

Neil nodded - he hadn’t eaten all day. Vyvyan took the chair by the bed once Mike had vacated it, his hand easily slipping into Rick’s. Nobody bothered to ask if he was coming with them - they knew he wasn’t. He hadn’t left the hospital in weeks. 

“I’ll bring you back a sandwich,” Neil said.

“Cheers,” Vyv muttered, but it was obvious he was only half-listening.

Three days till Christmas, and Rick was still unconscious. Doctors said they still didn’t feel comfortable bringing him round. Vyvyan hadn’t even attempted to hide his disappointment. It should have been their first Christmas as a couple. Should have meant something important. Vyv sighed and rubbed his face with his free hand.

“Dear oh dear. This is a bit shit, isn’t it poof?” 

Rick’s heart monitor beeped amiably. 

“Not much of a Christmas. Still, at least I don’t have to listen to your bloody Cliff Richard singles at all hours.” 

He leaned over and brushed a strand of hair off Rick’s forehead, letting his fingers brush over bruised and bloodied skin. 

“I spose I’d prefer that, though. This...this is bloody awful .” He paused, “I read in one of my medical books that sometimes, people in comas can still hear. I dunno if that counts for medically-induced ones, but I know you’ll be right pissy if when you wake up if you think I’ve been ignoring you.” 

That had been playing on his mind for a while, truth be told. He could practically hear Rick’s girly screams of indignance already.

Two months! Two whole blimmin’ months I was stuck here, bored out of my mind, and you didn’t even take the time to chat to me! Well, that’s a fine way to treat your dying boyfriend on Christmas, isn’t it Vyvyan?! 

“But I don’t really get much of a chance you see, cause there’s always someone else here. I tell you Rick, they never bloody leave you alone! If you were awake, you’d love all the attention, poncy martyr that you are... We were sposed to spend Christmas at your nan’s, too. That’s off the table now, and I was looking forward to a hot Christmas dinner. Leave it to you to spoil everybody else’s fun.” He smiled, “...but you don’t, really. Spoil everybody else’s fun, I mean. You and me always have a good time, don’t we? It's boring without you. Always is. But I spose you must be bored as well, eh? Sick of hospitals yet? I swear, you’ve spent more than half the bloody year on a ward! But as soon as you get better, they can wake you up, and we can go home. So feel better, you bastard! I’m tired of waiting by your bedside all the bloody time!”

For a minute, Vyvyan felt like his old self; full of fire and rage. Then his expression softened again, his voice reduced to a whisper, “...Nearly lost you again last night. Stubborn bastard, aren’t you? Just won’t bloody stablise…”

It almost didn’t bear thinking about. Vyv hadn’t slept since. He’d cried a lot more than he was willing to admit, too. Sometimes over by the window where nobody could see, and sometimes (more embarrassingly) into Nanny’s shoulder while she knitted in silence and politely ignored the tears and snot on her cardigan. Vyvyan let out a shaky breath that he hadn’t realised he’d been holding. 

“You can’t...you can’t go , poof. I dunno what I’d do without you. I need you. Haven’t got anybody else. Don’t want anybody else… I - I don’t want to be on my own, Rick. I never used to mind, but…I can’t face all that again. Not without you. I love you, you know. Too bloody much. And if you...if you don’t...you have to come out the other side of this, alright? You have to. If you die on me, prick, I’ll...I’ll bloody kill you!”

He pressed his lips to the back of Rick’s hand and shut his eyes before they got too teary. 

Merry Christmas my arse. He thought. If Rick had been awake, he would have agreed.  

 

Chapter Text

New year’s eve, 1984. That was when Rick finally came to. 

They’d taken him out of his coma about twelve hours earlier, offering nothing but a pessimistic shrug. There really wasn’t anything else they could do - he would either come out the other side of it, or…

Vyvyan couldn’t think about “or”. All he could think about was the prospect of talking to Rick again. Of holding his hands and hearing his shrill, whiny voice. Over a month without a word passed between them - a whole bloody month! Vyv was definitely at the end of his tether, that was for sure. The horrors of the past few weeks were only just starting to catch up to him now that his automatic pilot was starting to burn out, and he was less talkative than ever. He dosed more often than he thought he would. Ate even less than before. Nanny stayed with him during the days, knitting or reading to him from horrible magazines, but at night it was just him and Rick, and occasionally the nurse who came in to check his vitals. He talked then, but in fits and bursts. Halted, sometimes unintelligible sentences that sounded much better in his own head. Part of him hoped Rick couldn’t hear him - it’d be a lot of embarrassing gibberish to have to try and explain - but part of him still hoped he could. He hoped Rick wasn’t trapped in some horrible, silent void. He’d hate that. 

Vyv still couldn’t decide if it was better or worse that Rick hadn’t been awake for Christmas. On the one hand, he would have despised being in hospital on Christmas - he would have complained about it to no end, and probably ruined the day with a constant sulk. But then again, it would have been far more enjoyable than the Christmas he actually had . It was bloody depressing, sitting alone in a dimly lit room with an unconscious anarchist. Neil had gone home for Christmas, like always, and Bad News had families to see (though Colin had stopped in, briefly). Nanny spent the morning there but Vyv made her go home - she was exhausted, and her next-door neighbour had invited her round for tea. For the most part, it was just Vyv and Mike, who clearly hadn’t wanted to come but didn’t exactly have anywhere else to go. He and Vyv always spent Christmas together at the share house, which Vyv found nicer than Christmases at his mother's, but it was still largely uneventful. Clearly, all four of them needed to be in the house for chaos to reign supreme.

But New Year’s Eve was a different kettle of fish. The ward had life in it again, thanks to thousands of drunken pillocks backflipping off balconies and jumping in front of cars. It didn’t feel quite so sleepy and depressing. Vyv couldn’t remember the last time he’d spent New Year's somewhere other than a pub, but the hustle and bustle of the nearby ER at least gave it a sort of pub atmosphere, which helped raise his spirits. Although, to be fair, the possibility of Rick waking up had already raised his spirits plenty . He was practically shaking with anticipation.  

At exactly fifteen minutes to midnight, December 31st 1984 - just when Vyv had started to give up hope -  Rick opened his eyes. Slow at first. Groggy. He closed them again almost immediately in a feeble attempt to block out the light. 

“Hi, poof.” Vyv grabbed on to Rick’s hand and held it to the side of his face - which was far too pale and awfully scratchy. His hand was one of the few pieces of Rick that wasn’t covered in bandages and plaster. 

“...Vyv?” Rick croaked, “What...Oh, no. Don’t tell me it was all a bloody dream! If I’ve only just got out of that bus crash Vyvyan, I swear, I’ll be really blimmin’ upset!” 

Vyv laughed in spite of himself. Rick’s voice lacked its usual sting, but the words were all him. All entirely blessedly him, and god, Vyv had missed him. He could feel his eyes starting to water. Let them. He could live with a little humiliation, could live with his boyfriend thinking of him as a sappy, girly swot. He couldn’t live without Rick, however. Not again. 

Rick struggled to sit up, still all out of sorts. His memory came back painfully slowly, only in bits and pieces. He knew something had happened, something with Gary, but...oh. Oh, Cliff . He suddenly wished it had all been a dream. 

“...You must be awfully disappointed in me.” Rick said. Of all the things Vyv had expected his boyfriend to come out with, this wasn’t one of them. 

“What’re you on about?”

Rick hesitated. Maybe Vyv didn’t know. Could he get away with it? Argh, no. No, he needed to be honest. He owed that to Vyvyan, at least. 

“Gary… he...I cheated, Vyv. I let him...let all of them...well, I didn’t let them but...I couldn’t stop it. I’m so sorry, Vyv. I didn’t want...couldn’t -”

Vyv put a hand over Rick’s mouth as gently as he could, too heartbroken to let the poet say anymore. 

“You think I’m mad at you for that? Christ, Rick! You didn’t bloody cheat. You were -” Vyv hesitated, decided to rephrase. “...He took advantage of you. He attacked you. He nearly fucking killed you!”

“Well, yes, but-”

“But nothing. Don’t you dare apologise, poof. Do you understand? You haven’t done anything wrong. Nothing. This was not your fault, alright? Absolutely not your fault.”

“...Are you sure?”

“Course I’m bloody sure!” Vyv snapped.

“I shouldn’t have gone with him.” Rick muttered, “It was stupid.”

“...Yeah, alright, that part was stupid. But that doesn’t mean you deserved what you got. Doesn’t mean it was your fault.” His hand went to Rick’s hairline, barely accessible under all the bandages, and stroked it lovingly. Rick was starting to sniffle. 

“Am I going to die, Vyv?” Rick asked. The parallels to his first hospital stay were startling. Vyv tilted his head to one side and looked the poet up and down. 

“Dunno. Doesn’t look like it.” He paused, “Shame.” 

“Bastard.” Rick smiled, “...Is it very bad?”

“Yeah, you look awful.” Vyv replied, “But you’re alright, really. You’ll be alright.”

“...Hurts a bit.”

“You want more morphine? I can get the nurse-”

“No,” Rick knew from previous medical experience that morphine made him sleepy, “I’m alright. I want to stay awake for a bit longer. I want to talk.”

“...Alright.” Vyv hesitated. He wasn’t sure he should bring it up, but Rick had said he wanted to talk, and...well. Vyv needed to know, “What were you playin’ at, poof?” 

Rick tried to shrug, but it was too blimmin’ painful. He settled for an apologetic, sleepy smile instead. 

“Don’t know. Wanted to surprise you. Did it work?”

“Did what work?”

“Giving Gary the money? Did he leave you alone afterwards?”

“...You gave him money?”

“Well yeah! Just under fifteen thousand pounds! Minus the money I spent on drinks and the...Vyvyan, I don’t remember giving you that ring.”

“Ah. Erm...well. I sort of...sort of found it.”

“...Do you like it? It was silly, really. Bit of a drunken impulse.”

“Course I like it! I’m wearing it, aren’t I? Just like you to bloody outdo me, you bastard.”

“What?”

“Nothing!” Vyvyan sighed. There were so many questions he wanted to ask in so many different areas. He wanted to ask what happened with Gary, wanted to ask what Rick had meant by giving him a wedding ring . Wanted to know all sorts of things, really. But instead he started with a question that had only just sprung up to the front of his mind;

“Rick, where the bloody hell did you get 15 thousand quid?”

Ah. So even after everything, Alan and Colin hadn’t spilled the beans. God bless them.

“It was my inheritance.”

“What, all of it?”

“No! Don’t be stupid, Vyvyan. It wasn’t even a third! Wasn’t even a third of a third! Or even a third of a third of-“

“Oh, shut up. God, you’ve been awake for five minutes and you’re already running your girly mouth!” 

“Oh, well that’s charming , isn’t it? Bloody hell, after all I’ve-“

Vyv cut him off with his specialty - a disgustingly sloppy kiss. God, he’d missed this. 

“Why fifteen thousand?” Vyv asked, once they were both entirely breathless, “I only stole five.”

“You said he’d want interest. I thought if I paid triple-“ 

“Jesus Christ, Rick. I wouldn’t have said that if I’d known you were gonna be so stupid!” 

“Oh, so it’s stupid to care about my boyfriend’s safety is it? Well, next time I won’t be so considerate! You know -“ Rick cut himself off with a whimper - too much exertion too soon. 

“Calm down you bastard! I’ve only just got you back. Yell at me later, for christ’s sake. It can wait.”

Rick rolled his eyes, but didn’t object. Everything bloody ached.

“I wanna...I wanna ask you about it, but...you don’t have to tell me.” Vyv said, “If you don’t want to I, you know. I understand.”

“You told me.”

“Yeah, years after it bloody happened! I dunno if I’d be able to talk to you about it if it only happened a month or so ago.” 

“What do you mean by that?”

“By what?”

A month or so . It’s only been a few hours Vyvyan - we don’t know how I’ll feel in a month.”

Oh. 

“Erm...Rick. You do know what day it is today, don’t you?”

Yes , I know what day it is. I’m not a spazzy Vyvyan.” 

“Alright bogey bum, what day is it then?”

“...Um. Well, yesterday was the twentieth, so-“

“Nope!”

“What? Yesterday wasn’t the twentieth of November?”

“No, Rick. Yesterday was the 30th.”

“Of November?”

“Ah, no.” Vyv checked his watch, “Actually, yesterday was the 31st. Happy New Year, poof.” 

Rick stared at him incredulously.

“That’s… two months. I’ve been unconscious...for a month?”

“...A bit over, technically.”

“A bit ?! Vyv, did I miss Christmas?”

“Well, yes. Do ya like your tree though?” Vyvyan pointed to the sad-looking Christmas tree, which he’d forgotten to take down. Most of the lights had died off, but some were still blinking frantically. Rick grimaced.

“No, I don’t. It’s bloody awful.”

“Yeah. Decorated it m’self. Thought it’d piss you off.”

“...Did you spend Christmas here? With me?”

“Course! Where else would I have gone?” 

“Well, I don’t know!” He paused, “...I’m sorry I ruined your Christmas.”

Vyv shrugged, “No worse than any other Christmas.”

“I’ll make it up to you next year.” Rick yawned. 

“If you’re still with me next year,” Vyv muttered.

“...Why wouldn’t I be with you next year? Oh, no, Vyvyan! I am dying, aren’t I! You lied to me!”

“What? No! No, just… I nearly got you killed, poof. Gary went after you because he wanted to get to me. If you...didn’t want to be with me anymore. I’d understand.”

“...You’re serious?”

“...Well, yeah.”

“Vyvyan, do you really think I went through all of this, went to all the trouble giving Gary fifteen thousand blimmin’ pounds, just to break up with you at the end of it?”

“...I think you got more than you bargained for.”

“I think you got more than you bloody bargained for!” Rick giggled, “Look at me! All you've done for the past few months is sit by my bedside.”

“Yeah, and I don’t even get a shag out of it.” Vyv grinned, but stopped when Rick’s face fell.

“...I don’t know that you’d want one now, Vyv.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, because. Because I’m sort of...well.” Rick trailed off, focusing his attention on the ceiling instead of Vyvyan’s face. It took Vyv a second to catch on, but when he did he felt sick to his stomach.

“...You idiot. It’d be a bit bloody hypocritical of me to see you as damaged goods, wouldn’t it?”

“What happened to you is different.”

“Rick, it’s exactly the same.”

“Yours wasn’t your fault.”

“Neither was yours!” Vyvyan yelled, “Didn’t I bloody tell you that already? How do I get through that thick skull of yours? This wasn’t your fucking fault!”

“Was.” Rick muttered. He was starting to sulk.

“Wasn’t.”

“Was!”

“Bloody wasn’t!” 

“Was, was, was! You don’t know! You weren’t there! You didn’t see what happened, so don’t start telling me it wasn’t my ruddy fault!” 

“So tell me what happened!” Vyv blurted. He shouldn’t have said that - he’d made a point of not wanting to pressure Rick, and now here he was, trying to get him to spill his guts. 

“I can’t...you’ll hate me.”

“I already hate you.” Vyv had hoped it would come across as a joke, but Rick either took it the wrong way or didn’t register it at all; his face was blank. “...Look, there isn’t anything you can say that’ll make me blame you instead of him, alright? You don’t have to tell me, but -”

“Tomorrow.” Rick said, “I’ll tell you tomorrow.”

“You mean today?” Vyv asked.

“I mean in the morning.” Rick replied, “Too tired now. Vyv...if I go to sleep, you won’t go anywhere, will you?”

“No, poof. I’ll be here.”

“Can I have some more morphine, then?” Rick asked. Vyv smiled.

“I’ll go get the nurse.” 

 

Chapter Text

Flashback: November 1984

 

Of course, drunk as he was, Rick knew he was making a terrible mistake. The messenger bag on his shoulder suddenly felt much heavier than it had before, and Gary’s grip on him hurt more than he was willing to admit. He’d dug his fingernails into scarred, tender, silvery flesh. Burns from the bus crash, still not quite healed. Rick had a brief flash of panic - a minute where he wanted to turn around and call out for Vim and Colin to come back. But by then the two had turned a corner, and Rick realised there were about half a dozen punks following him and Gary. He looked for faces he recognised - friends of Vyvyan’s, perhaps - but saw none. By the time they turned into the alley, Rick’s feet were barely on the ground. His stomach went over, but it was too late to try and get out of it. He supposed there was still a chance he could get out of it relatively unscathed (he did have money, after all) but only if he behaved himself. He decided he’d go against every gut instinct, speak only when spoken to, and try not to lose his temper. 

“Sure is good to see you, Wick.” Gary said. He drove his fingernails a little deeper into the skin under Rick’s blazer, just to prove his point. They stopped at the end of the alley, punks still trailing behind them, blocking the exit. Gary let him go, then, dropping him suddenly so that he stumbled and almost fell. He grabbed onto the brick wall for balance and turned quickly. He might not have had the street smarts or world experience Vyvyan held, but he knew enough. Turning his back to Gary for any real length of time would be a very stupid thing to do.

“What can we do for ya, Wick? Here for some pointers?”

“...Erm...No. I’m here because-”

“No? No ?! Oh, Wick. I reckon you’re gonna regret that. What’s Vyv gonna think when he finds out you’re a virgin?”

“I’m not a -” No. No, he couldn’t say that. Lately he’d been feeling a bit proud of being a virgin, especially if it meant Vyv could be his first. He tried again, “Vyv knows I’m a virgin. He doesn’t care.”

“Oh, sure. Doesn’t care yet . At the moment it’s a bit of a novelty, innit? But the novelty’s gonna wear off real fast, Wick. And then Vyv’s gonna get bored.”

“...He won’t.” Why was he arguing? What did it matter what Gary thought? And why were the punks to the right of them starting to move in closer, not only sealing the gap but gradually advancing towards Rick? 

They could kill me. Rick realised. It was the first reasonable thought he’d had since he started drinking at the Kebab. 

“Oh, he will. Do you know the stuff he used to get up to? The things we used to get up to? I don’t know if I can tell you, Wick. Honestly, I think it’d offend your virgin ears.”

“I know what you did to him, fascist .”

Blimey - he’d already lost his temper. Fortunately (or was it unfortunately? Rick really wasn’t sure) Gary didn’t seem particularly threatened.

“Fascist.” He mimicked, “Is that your latest buzzword? Look at you. You’re adorable! Vyv’s gonna have a bloody field day breaking you in...But you know, I expect he’s already been breaking you in. Prob’ly for years. You get into a lot of scraps, you and him? Lot of fights?”

“No.” Rick lied. Gary shrugged.

“Sure. I believe you. But that is the sort of thing he likes to bring to the bedroom. And if memory serves, he’s probably going easy on you. I can’t count the number of times we wound up in the ER after a vigorous sesh. He ever put you in the hospital, Wick? Cause he will, you know. Sooner or later.” 

“You’re lying.”

“Think so? You don’t look too sure. But I spose it doesn’t matter either way, really. Vyv only likes to give as good as he gets. The whole virgin schtick’s gonna wear thin within a month. Maybe a little more, maybe a little less. But he will get bored. I used to mark him up black an’ blue, an’ it still wasn’t enough. Left without so much as a goodbye. Took all me bloody savings, though.” 

“I have the money.” Rick said, eager for a change in topics. He took the bag off his shoulders and handed it over. For once, it looked like Gary had genuinely been taken off guard. 

“Well, isn’t that sweet? You’re buying Vyv off me? He’s lucky to have you under his thumb. For future reference, tell me, how’d he get you so well trained?” Gary flicked through the bag, raised an eyebrow, whistled, “This is three times the asking price, kiddo. You sure he’s worth it?”

Of course he’s worth it!” Rick snapped, “And he didn’t train me to do anything! You haven’t got the foggiest idea how blimmin’ wonderful he is. And I’m not buying him off you. I’m paying you to piss off and leave us alone. Frankly, I don’t think you have any right to be making demands after what you put him through.”

Gary grinned, “...Oh, that’s how he got you wrapped around his little finger. A sob story.”

“What are you on about?”

“What did he tell you Wick? He told you about the blowjobs, I assume. Told you I made him suck off for money? Did he paint a nice little picture of the lonely abuse victim?”

“N-no-“

“You felt sorry for him, though. It broke your little bleeding heart. Oh vyv, you’ve been through so much. No no, don’t worry about me. Let me sort out your needs.”

“It wasn’t like that! He offered-“

“Oh, he offered . Did he ever follow through?”

“No, because -“

“Because you never let him. Bless your little cotton socks. And now you’re risking your life, paying his debts, getting ready to run off into the sunset. But does Vyv really seem like the type? Committed? Loyal? Cuddly ? Look at you! Only reason he hasn’t bent you over a table and got it over with is cause you’re burned to a bloody crisp. I bet he took advantage of that one an’ all. Sat by your bedside, made use of your vulnerability.” 

“Shut up!”

“I’m doing this for your benefit, pretty boy. You’re just a bit of a game to Vyv. Sad, but true. Do you really think you’re the only one? That he hasn’t got someone else on the side? Wake up , kiddo. You’re about as sexually stimulating as an old cardigan.”

It couldn’t be true It couldn’t be true It couldn’t be true It couldn’t! Not Vyvyan. Not his Vyvyan.

“Vyvyan’s my boyfriend.” Rick whimpered. A round of muted laughter rippled through the group.

“Yeah? And who made that call?”

...I did.

Rick didn’t want it to happen, but he was too late to stop it - as he hung his head, a single tear rolled down the end of his nose and spattered on the pavement.

“Oh, Wick. Don’t cry. It’s just how Vyv’s wired! It isn’t your fault.” Gary paused, sick grin widening despite the sympathy dripping from his voice, “...Listen. I’ll tell you what, why don’t I give you some pointers anyway? I know it's not what you came for, but it can only help.”

Rick shook his head. 

“It wouldn’t be cheating, kiddo. Not really. Vyv never has to know. Hell, he’d probably be grateful if he found out. You don’t want him to get bored, do you? I can show you how to win him over, what makes him tick. It won’t keep him hanging around forever, but it’s something, innit? Another few months? And you won’t have any of that awkward humiliation. He won’t be able to take a crack at you for being inexperienced.”

Rick swayed a little. The alleyway was starting to spin, and his judgement was compromised. It all made sense on a purely logical level. He couldn’t deny that, even if it didn’t quite fit the version of Vyvyan he’d come to know in the past few months. But what if that was all an act? It was certainly possible. Vyvyan was different when it was just the two of them - nicer than the violent punk who had tormented him all through college. It could all be a trick. A way to get what he wanted and then toss Rick aside. Cliff, Rick wouldn’t be able to cope with that. He needed Vyvyan. Even if Vyvyan didn’t necessarily need him. A few more months was something. It would give him warning - time to prepare for a life outside Vyv. Rick hesitated. This was bloody mad! 

He opened his mouth to say something - he wasn’t quite sure what - but was interrupted by a hard kick to the stomach that sent him reeling against the brick wall. Gary followed it up immediately with a backhand to the face. He was armed with heavy silver rings, and Rick’s nose spurted blood on impact. Gary chuckled and grabbed Rick with one hand by the front of his blazer.

“Steady, Wick. Yer alright. Christ, yer a bleeder though. That’s good . Vyv likes the bleeders. So do I, come to think of it.” Rick was dimly aware of the sound of a zipper, but couldn’t quite make sense of it. It was forced to compete with the ringing in his ears, his nausea from the alcohol and from the kick in the gut.

“Just hold still, yeah? You clamp your teeth down, I’ll pull em’ out one by one. You understand?”

Oh. 

Rick understood. He kept his mouth open and his teeth well out of the way, just as Gary had instructed. Fortunately, he knew what he was doing. Had experience. Vyv had, after all, trained him well. 



Chapter Text

“...Right. And I’m supposed to hate you for that, am I?”

“Well...yes. Don’t you?”

Vyv shifted a little, forever paranoid that he might accidentally disturb one of the many pieces of equipment keeping Rick alive. He was lying beside him on the hospital bed, which was not technically allowed but had not actively been discouraged. Medical students got special privileges when they came to visit their boyfriends. Well, highly intimidating medical students with chains ‘round their necks and studded cuffs on their wrists did, anyway.

“Course I don’t hate you.” Vyv said, “He got in your head, poof. That’s what he does.”  

“But-“

“Nope. Trust me, Rick. This wasn’t your fault. And for the record, I’m not going to get bored with you. I’m not gonna put you in the hospital, either. I’m bloody sick of hospitals. I don’t ever want to set foot in another hospital for as long as I live.”

“Vyv, you’re training to be a doctor.” Rick giggled.

“...Oh yeah. Well then I don’t want you setting foot in another hospital for as long as you live.” 

“Alright...but what if I’m coming to visit you at work?”

“I don’t bloody want you to visit me at work!”

“Oh well that’s nice isn’t it? What if I’m bringing you something to eat?”

“Did you cook it?”

“Hypothetically, yes.”

“Well hypothetically, is it lentils?”

“No. No hypothetical lentils.”

“Well then hypothetically, you can come in. But only if you’re bringing me something to eat.”

“What if I need to come in for a different reason?”

“Like what?”

“What if we’re having a baby?”

“Who's having a baby?”

“Us!” 

“We can’t have a bloody baby!”

“I know that Vyvyan. Obviously someone else would have the baby for us.” 

“Well then you don’t need to go to hospital, then, do you?”

“...I suppose not.” Rick sighed.

“Well there you go then. Anyway, I don’t want a baby yet. I want another few years of drinking and filthy dirty sex!”

“We haven’t had any years of drinking and filthy dirty sex.”

“Exactly.” 

Rick grinned. There were still bandages on his face and thousands of tubes sticking out of him, but he still managed to lean his head on Vyvyan’s shoulder.

“You do, erm, want a baby then?” Rick asked. Vyv shrugged.

“Yeah, I spose. I dunno that I’d be any good at it. I never had a dad, so I don’t really know what they’re meant to do.” He paused, “Never had much of a mum either.” 

“Would you want a boy or a girl, do you think?” Rick asked.

“I dunno. I spose I don’t really mind. Maybe a girl? I’d be alright with either.” 

“What about names?” Rick asked, “And don’t say piss off, Vyvyan! Our child needs a proper name, for goodness sake!” 

“Hmm.” Vyvyan’s top lip curled when he was deep in thought. It was one of Rick’s most favourite things.

“Fred.” He said finally, “Boy or girl. Fred’s good.” 

Rick frowned, “...I suppose. Fred Basterd or Fred Pratt?”

“Fred Basterd-Pratt.” 

Rick smiled, yawned, closed his eyes. He still didn’t have very much energy, even if he was on the mend. And talking about Gary had drained him even further. 

“You tired poof?”

“Mhm. Think I’ll take a nap.”

“Want me to stay here?”

“Yeah. Can’t sleep without you anymore. Feels odd.” 

Vyvyan’s put his hand over Rick’s and squeezed - a gesture which was sickeningly soppy, and would absolutely be denied by the punk if Rick ever tried to bring it up in the presence of anyone else. Rick only smiled and squeezed back.

“Think about what you want to do with all our millions, Vyv.”

“Your millions.” Vyv corrected.

Our millions.” Rick insisted. He was already half asleep. “Going to buy you a house, with a garden. You can carry me over the threshold.”

“Poof.” Vyv snorted.

“Sap. I won’t tell if you don’t.”

“Everyone knows you’re a poof, Rick.”

“Everyone knows you’re a sap , Vyv.” Rick’s voice was reduced to an almost inaudible mumble as he drifted off, and turned into an immovable deadweight against Vyvyan’s side. The punk smiled, shut his eyes, and pressed his lips against Rick’s forehead.

“Only where you’re concerned.” He whispered. Another few minutes passed before Vyv followed Rick into sleep. He spent them thinking about some hideous house in the suburbs with graffiti on the picket fence and a yellow Ford Anglia parked in the driveway. And maybe a small child dressed in denim and studs wreaking havoc in the living room. It was a disgusting thought - a very horrendously domestic thought - but one Vyv couldn’t quite shake. And even if he could...he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to. 

 

Chapter Text

“Ow! Vyvyan, be careful!”

“I’m trying !” Vyv snapped, “You’re not making this easy!”

“What am I supposed to do? Push it myself?”

“Do you really need the wheelchair? I dunno how I’m supposed to get you up the bloody stairs!”

Vyv gave Rick a hard shove towards the front door while Rick dug his fingernails into the armrests and hung on for dear life. The wheelchair rattled, nearly tipped, then righted itself as it passed under the archway. Rick’s hand went to his side, just under his armpit. He was of the opinion that he’d been discharged from intensive care far too early - everything still bloody hurt - but after being trapped in the same hospital room for nearly four months, he was relieved to be home. Even if home was their terrible share flat on Codrington Road. Rick’s wheels had dragged a great deal of slush and snow onto the front step, and Vyvyan kicked it back outside with the toe of his boot before readjusting the blanket wrapped around Rick’s shoulders.

“You better not have pulled my stitches!” Rick whined, his hand still pressed firmly against his ribcage.

“You haven’t got any bloody stitches! They took them all out, you twat! I oversaw the whole thing!”

“Oh, Oh! And that gives you reason to batter me about the house, does it? I’m still in recovery , Vyvyan! I’m very delicate, you know!”

“Yeah, I know.” Vyv grinned and kissed Rick on the forehead, which was usually the fastest way to calm his borderline hysterical poet. In the meantime Neil emerged from the kitchen, the front of his shirt smeared with cold lentil casserole, and offered Rick a friendly smile.

“Hey, Rick. Like, welcome home, man! I was just getting started on your homecoming dinner.”

“Don’t bother, Neil. I’m going out to get a curry in a bit.” Vyv patted Rick’s shoulder reassuringly. If he wasn’t overprotective of the people’s poet beforehand, the run-in with Gary had turned him into a right sap. He wanted to make sure Rick avoided anything potentially deadly, and that included Neil’s cooking.

“And I suppose I’m paying for that curry, am I Vyvyan?” 

“You were the one who called it our millions, Snotty trousers. But if you’d rather eat soggy lentils-”

“Now, I didn’t say that . I just meant-”

“Does that mean you don’t want the lentil buffet I made?”

“What do you think, hippie ?” Rick sneered. Neil frowned.

“...I don’t know, Rick. That’s why I’m like, asking. Because if you’re not gonna eat it, right, which you probably won’t because nobody ever eats anything I cook, no matter how much work I put into it, I might as well just, you know, give up now. So like, are you gonna eat it? Or should I just go hang myself from the tree in the garden?”

“Ah.” Vyvyan considered this, “Well, that’s a tough one Neil. Course, I can’t speak for Rick on this particular issue, but given the choice, I’d have to go with the second option.”

Rick nodded, “Yeah, piss off Neil! I’ve only been back five minutes, and I’m already bloody sick of you!”

Neil sighed, “I haven’t missed this at all, you know.”

“I have.” Mike replied from his standard position at the kitchen table, commenting on the situation from over the top of his newspaper. Neil shuffled past him, mumbling to himself as he started scraping thick globs of lentil stew into the bin. 

“Well I haven’t . It’s been like, really nice and peaceful without Rick and Vyv around. Nobody to hit me over the head with a cricket bat, nobody telling me to piss off, nobody bringing down my vibes. I mean, I only do everything around here. It’s not as if I deserve any appreciation or anything.”

Mike grabbed Neil’s arm as he went past, looking up at him with a surprising degree of fondness. 

“Cheer up, Neil. Even the most well-oiled machine has a few kinks. Know what I mean?”

Neil brightened up immediately, returning Mike’s look of genuine fondness with one of borderline nauseating admiration. “...Yeah, I think I do actually, Mike. Thanks.” 

“Any time, Neil. We still on for Monopoly tonight?”

“Yeah! Yeah, sure! Oh um...do you think it might be alright if I buy Mayfair this time, Mike? I mean, if I like, land on it?”

“I don’t know about that, Neil. It might be a trademark issue. Mayfair is a Mike the Cool Person institution.” He paused, “But I don’t see why we couldn’t go dutch on the property market.”

“...Huh?”

“You take Park Lane, Neil.”

“Oh, yeah! Thanks, Mike.”

“No problem, Neil. Looking forward to it.”

Rick and Vyvyan looked at each other, then at their two remaining flatmates. It felt as if the entire equilibrium of the house had been shattered. 

“What the ruddy heck’s got into you two?” Rick asked. Neil shrugged.

“Well, since you and Vyv haven’t been around as much, Mike and I have had to find ways to like, pass the time. Spend more time together. I think it's really done a lot to strengthen our bond as flatmates, and kind of bring like...a state of peace to the house.”

“Perfectly correct.” Mike replied, “Now, if these two don’t want supper, that’s their business. But the worm still wants catching, and this bird’s nice and early. Neil, I want that lentil buffet on the table by five.”

“Sure, Mike.”

Rick and Vyvyan exchanged another glance as Mike dropped his hold on Neil’s arm, and Neil responded by reaching up, his fingers gently brushing against the fringes of Mike’s hair before he remembered where he was and brought his hand back down by his side. 

“Erm… No date tonight, then, Michael?” Vyv asked. Mike shook his head.

“Not tonight, Vyv. I always keep my engagements, and tonight, my plans are with Neil.”

“...Right.” Rick said, “We’ll erm...we’ll leave you to it, then.” 

Mike nodded, waved a dismissive hand at them and went back to his paper while Neil turned back to the stove. Vyv shrugged.

“Come on then, poof. Let’s get you upstairs.” He got one arm under Rick’s knees, the other under his arms, and carried him up to bed despite his protests. Later that night they would discuss Mike and Neil over their curry take away, and in between administering Rick’s startling arsenal of pain medications. They would talk about it in hushed whispers, rife with speculation. They knew all the signs well enough, after all. Whatever had happened between Mike and Neil while the punk and the poet were away, it was evident that the house dynamic had changed. Perhaps permanently. 

Chapter Text

Rick had been home for nearly a week, and conscious for quite a few months. Vyv should have been used to the screaming by then. Should have been accustomed to it. Prepared for it. 

 

He wasn’t.

 

Despite his best efforts, his unconscious form had taken to sleeping on his side, half out of bed, coiled like a spring and constantly on edge. Prepped for a fight that he knew wasn’t about to take place. Whenever Rick woke up screaming, Vyv leaped into action. Throwing himself out of bed, he’d grapple for the cricket bat he kept under the mattress, stumble to the window and the door. He knew on some level no one was there, knew Gary wasn’t there, but the instinct was deeply ingrained. When his senses returned and his eyes adjusted to the light, he would crawl back into bed and wrap Rick in blankets to try and soothe his hysterical sobs. He’d hoped the nightmares would eventually ease off or disappear entirely, but if anything they seemed to be worsening. In the beginning, Vyvyan could calm Rick down with warmth and physical contact, maybe a few softly spoken sentences. Rick would cry a bit, talk a bit, and eventually go to sleep with his head on Vyvyan’s chest. It wasn’t ideal, but it was manageable. R ecently, that just didn’t seem to be enough. 

 

Recently, once Vyvyan had done his customary scan of the surrounding area and determined that all was well, Rick was impossible to soothe. Sometimes he was even downright hostile. And sometimes, just sometimes, when things were really very bad...it was obvious that Rick was still dreaming. 

 

Vyv yanked the quilt off the end of the bed and wrapped it around Rick’s shoulders, hoping the weight might trigger something in him and get him to calm down. He was sitting upright and eyes were open, but glassy. He kept screaming and managed to give Vyv a good few punches, but the punk didn’t hold it against him. 

“Sssh, poof. You’re alright. We’re alright, we’re safe here. But you’ve got to be quiet, yeah? You’ll wake up Neil and Mike.” He ran his fingers through Rick’s hair but was immediately rebuked, with the poet slapping his hand away so violently it almost hurt.

“Don’t touch me! Leave me alone, you bastards! You bastards! Leave me alone!”

“Easy, easy. Rick, you’re dreaming. Wake up, come on. Wake up . It’s just me, you poof. Come on, sssh!” He reached out again, certain contact would help, but Rick turned on him both violently and suddenly, and Vyv was entirely unprepared for it. 

“Get off! Where’s Vyvyan?! I want Vyvyan! Vyvyan! What have you done with him, you utter bastards!” Due to the bizarre angle, Rick was able to slap Vyv with one hand and rake his fingernails down the punk’s face with the other. Once his fingers found purchase, they were reluctant to stop, and Vyv was forced to shut his eyes before they were scratched out.

“Rick, Jesus Christ!” Figuring he was already in too deep, Vyv threw himself onto Rick’s sleeping form and pinned him to the bed before he did any further damage. Meanwhile, the poet’s hysterical screaming had woken up the rest of the house. Mike barrelled in first, armed with a crowbar and followed closely by Neil, who was opposed to violent weapons but had nonetheless brought a broom to defend himself. 

“Right, come on then!” Mike yelled, “There’s a two for one deal in this house, and I don’t just mean the biscuits! You want Rick, you go through us!”

“Yeah, leave him alone you fascist pig!” Neil swiped his broom for emphasis, damn near taking Vyv’s head off in the process.

“We’re fine!” The punk yelled, “He’s dreaming!”

Rick’s screams were muffled by the mattress, but had not dropped in either their urgency or their intensity. He was still thrashing about, potentially doing a great deal of damage to not-quite-healed injuries, and Vyv was at a loss.

“What do we do?” Neil asked. He dropped the broom and came over to the bed, where his hand went to the back of Rick’s head to try and transfer some positive energy. 

“How should I know? He should have bloody woken up by now!” 

“Rick? Can you like, hear me? This is a safe space, you’re alright.”

“I’ll handle this.” Mike muttered. His retreat was silent and went unnoticed. Vyv gently hauled Rick upwards, still bundled in the quilt, and wrapped himself around his boyfriend to try and pin his arms. They sat on the bed with Rick’s back against Vyv’s chest, while Neil put his hands on the poet’s cheeks and tried to bring him round. 

“Come on, poof. Snap out of it, for christ’s sake! You’re scaring the bloody hell out of me!” Vyv rocked him back and forth like a child, tears streaming down his cheeks and mingling with the spots of blood from fresh, jagged scratches. He’d caused this. This was his fault. He’d given Rick unnecessary trauma that he’d probably carry with him for years, if not the rest of his life. These were the same kind of nightmares Vyvyan had experienced as a teenager. The ones he still experienced from time to time. The ones he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy, and certainly wouldn’t wish on the love of his life. 

“I’m sorry, Rick. Fucking hell, I’m so sorry. But you have to wake up now, yeah? Please , poof.”

Mike returned to Rick’s room at speed with a bucket of water in hand, and threw it over the bed without pause. Vyv and Neil tensed at the sudden cold as it washed over them, and fortunately, so did Rick. He woke up with a blood-curdling howl, trembling like a cornered animal. Surprisingly, he put up no objections when Neil climbed up onto the bed and hugged him. Pinned between the punk and the hippie, his breathing began to regulate. He couldn’t seem to stop crying, and speaking was an impossibility, but at the very least he was awake. Safe. 

“...Go run a bath, Neil.” Mike said. Rick’s head was resting in the crook of Neil’s shoulder (something neither of them would dare speak about later) and the hippie didn’t see how he could possibly move.

“Mike?”

“He’s shaking like a leaf, Neil. So’s Vyv. So are you. Run a bath, stick him in it. Trade-off. I’ll put the kettle on.”

It was bizarre to hear Mike say something that actually made sense, and absolutely unprecedented for someone other than Neil to make tea. But evidently, the entire night was fairly out of the ordinary, so Neil didn’t really see the point in arguing. He gently passed Rick over to Vyv and went to fill the tub. The punk was in the bathroom before long, gently prying Rick out of his wet pajamas and lowering him into the warm water while Neil stood guard outside. Somewhere downstairs, Mike took great pains to make tea the way everyone liked it. Vyvyan didn’t see the point in waiting - he climbed into the bath with Rick (careful not to touch him too much, in case he broke down again) and checked him for injuries while he poured water over his head, back and shoulders. Rick still didn’t speak, and he never stopped trembling. 

As soon as they had him out of the bath, dressed in Vyv’s clothes to make up for the lack of pajamas and wrapped in a number of dry blankets, Neil took his turn in the bath before joining the others downstairs. 

For once, there was enough room for everyone on the sofa. Rick sat on Vyvyan’s lap, his feet encroaching slightly onto Neil’s, while Mike sat on the other side. Everyone except Rick took turns making the tea. Nobody complained about watching the dot. And Mike and Neil pretended not to hear Vyvyan whispering to Rick, or Rick sobbing quietly into his sleeve. They talked amongst themselves and waited for the sun to come up. Vyvyan kept one hand on the side of Rick’s face while the other held onto his shoulder. The punk’s arm acted as an anchor, keeping Rick secure without restricting him. Unlike his boyfriend, Vyv had mostly stopped crying, with the exception of an occasional stray tear that slid down his cheek and pooled either at the creases of his nose or in the corner of his mouth. Also unlike Rick, couldn’t seem to keep his bloody mouth shut. 

“I’m gonna get him for you, poof. I swear. I’m gonna bloody get him, and I’m gonna fucking kill him, and he won’t ever come near you again. And we’ll be alright, you and me. Soon as we graduate, we’ll run off somewhere, yeah? Somewhere really boring. A really boring, stupid, twatty Tory village in the country where nobody’ll ever come looking for us. And we’ll make it interesting. We’ll make it bloody awful . Mike and Neil can come visit us, and Colin and your Nan, but nobody who - nobody who was there , nobody who did that to you. It won’t happen again. You understand, poof? Never again. I swear, Christ .” 

Rick listened, dosing lightly but too shaken to actually sleep . Sitting there in Vyvyan’s lap, with his feet on Neil’s thigh and Neil’s hand on his shin, it reminded him of when he was younger. When he used to have nightmares as a child, and his screaming would wake Colin up from the room next door. He was bundled into blankets then, too, though he was usually marched down to Alan’s room instead of the drawing-room. And Alan would be furious, and tell them both to piss off , but after the initial kick and shove he wouldn’t do anything to throw them out. Rick supposed Alan must have enjoyed it on some level; that it stroked his ego somehow. Perhaps he enjoyed being the older brother that was trusted to solve a crisis. Either way, he’d let the two younger boys spend the night in his bed (though he would, admittedly, usually charge them ten pounds each for the privilege) and could even be persuaded to read aloud if Rick was quite badly shaken (5p per word was the going rate.) Rick found he slept better in Alan’s bed than he did in his own, and that waking up with Colin’s foot in his face was better than being alone. It was harder when Colin and Alan weren’t there - they lived with their mothers for most of the year, after all - but could be improved by sneaking into Alan’s room and sleeping there if his dreams were particularly vivid. It was much worse at boarding school, where there wasn’t anyone to comfort him. He soon learned he could fake a stomach ache to get sympathy from the nurse. But more importantly, he learned that enough snotty tears could get him a phone call to Alan or Colin. Rick smiled at the memory of calling Alan at three in the morning, and getting him to read James Herriot over the phone until he fell asleep on one of the cots in the infirmary. He’d sent Alan a cheque at the traditional 5p rate, but the money was never taken from his account; his brother must not have cashed it. Or what about the time he called Colin sometime around midnight, and had sounded so distraught that Colin snuck out and took a series of trains and buses, just to appear at his dormitory window and make sure he was alright? Even Vim had his moments, and he wasn’t even a blood relation! Times when he’d stayed the night with Colin and come down for a glass of water at the same time as Rick, and lead him back upstairs so Colin could sort him out. And spending the night with his flatmates had the same kind of feel to it. Really, the parallels were blimmin’ uncanny.

 Whether he liked it or not, Mike and Neil had become his family. They were as much his brothers as Colin, Alan, and even Vim were. Maybe even more so - they’d certainly been through a lot in the past few years. Was it really so surprising that they’d be here now? Dutifully rallying round him, keeping the rest of the world at bay? A bit, he supposed. But it was no more surprising than the fact that Vyvyan was in love with him, really. Vyvyan Basterd had, after all, once tried to cut him in half with a buzz saw, and now he was swaddling Rick in blankets and promising to run away with him. Once he’d taken that into consideration, Mike and Neil looking after him seemed almost normal . Still, he thought he ought to say something. Give them some kind of thank you. He’d hardly been very nice to live with during their time at Scumbag. He’d do it in the morning, he decided. It didn’t seem like the right time at present. 

In the end, all four of them did drift off; Mike with his head on Neil’s shoulder, Neil slumped to one side with his cheek on Rick’s knee, and Rick and Vyv curled up together in between the blankets. It wasn’t exactly comfortable, but it was comforting. And in the days and weeks of vivid nightmares that followed, it became a kind of routine. A routine that not only parallelled Rick’s experiences as a child, but sometimes directly incorporated them. Depending on the severity of Rick’s episodes, Vyv would sometimes bring him to the phone and call up Colin or Alan. Colin would talk to him for hours about his job at the bank or Bad News’s touring schedule, and Alan would still read to him if Rick sounded awful enough, though the charges had increased considerably beyond 5p a word. 

The routine was chopped and changed over time, and it ebbed and flowed as Rick began to settle, but it still marked yet another permanent alteration in the share house’s dynamic - strengthening them into something beyond reluctant flatmates. There was a time when any or all of them could quite happily have moved out, and completely broken ties with one another without a second thought. This was now an impossibility. They were stuck. Bound. Bonded .

...And Rick was vaguely concerned by how little that bothered him.  

Chapter Text

Vyv got the call in early March.

 

It came mid-afternoon, when he was sat on the couch with Rick’s head on his lap. The poet seemed to sleep a bit better during the day, when there was sunlight through the front window and sound from the telly. And on the rare occasions where Vyv was required to make an appearance at college (something the others had long since abandoned) it wasn’t unusual for either Mike or Neil to take his place on the couch, watching Rick dose and administering the proper medications. Or, god forbid, if everyone had something to do, either Colin or Rick’s nan would come and look after him. Rick resented the insinuation that he need some kind of babysitter, but he supposed he did appreciate the company. 

But the phone call well and truly disturbed the peace in the sharehouse, making both Rick and Vyvyan jump as its shrill ring bounced off the walls and echoed through the drawing room. Rick groaned, rubbed his eyes, sunk deeper into the pile of quilts and blankets.

“Neil, telephone!” He whined, and Neil dutifully rose from his meditation spot on the carpet to answer the call. Vyv shook his head.

“Nah, I’ll get it. Come on, poof. Shift off a minute.”

“What are you doing, Vyvyan? You don’t answer the telephone.” He sat up reluctantly so Vyv could get out from under him, and said nothing when Neil lifted up his feet to sit on the sofa. 

“I’m expecting a phone call. That alright with you, ploppy pants? Or do I need your permission ?”

“Who’d want to get stuck on the phone with you ?” Rick asked as he settled back down with the sofa’s armrest as a pillow. 

“I dunno. Lots of sexy birds, I’d expect.” Vyv shrugged and took the phone off the cradle.

“That’s...that’s not funny , Vyvyan!”

“It’s also a copyright violation, Vyv.” Mike called from the kitchen.

“Sorry Michael!” Vyv pressed the phone to his ear and turned his back on the drawing room, so Rick wouldn’t be able to see any changes in his facial expression, “Yeah?”

“Vyvyan B’stard?”

“Basterd.” Vyv corrected, and lowered his voice, “Speaking. You one of Alan’s lot?” 

“Yes, sir.” The voice on the other line crackled, and Vyv stood up a little straighter. He wasn’t sure he’d ever been called sir properly before. 

“And?”

“He’s been sighted.”

“Sighted? Bloody sighted ? That’s what I’m paying Alan for, is it?”

“Vyv, what are you yelling about?” Rick called, “Who is it?”

“No one!” Vyv shouted, then cupped the receiver and dropped to a whisper, “Fine, so you’ve sighted him. What happens now?”

“That’s up to you, sir. We can either bring him to you, or continue to monitor his whereabouts until you arrive.”

Vyv hesitated, “...The second one. I don’t want him anywhere near Rick. So come on then, where is he? Manchester? Hammersmith? Some obscure, far away city in Eastern Europe?”

“Credibility Street, sir.”

“...Credibility street? Credi-fucking-bility street?! I’m paying B’stard thousands of pounds a month to track the arsehole, and you’re telling me he’s round the fucking corner!”

“...Yes sir.”

“And you didn’t notice him before?”

“No sir. He’s only recently resurfaced.” 

“Bloody hell.” Vyv wiped his face and tried to keep a steady grip on the phone, “Right, fine. Is he there now?”

“Yes sir. Loitering on the corner.”

“Alone?” By then Vyv was hunched against the wall, entirely unaware that Rick had not only managed to stand, but to stagger over to the archway and eavesdrop on Vyv’s little phone call.

“Yes sir.”

“Right. I’ll be there in five then, I spose.”

“Do you want us to wait, sir?”

“No, you lot clear off. This is personal. Just me an’ him.”

“As you wish-” But Vyv had already dropped the phone back into its cradle, his mind already racing with all the things he was going to say - and do - to Gary when he got a hold of him.

“...Where will you be in five, Vyvyan?”

Vyv turned, startled, and forced a smile.

“You shouldn’t be up and about, poof. You’re supposed to be resting.”

“Answer the question, please.”

“...Ah. Well. You see, poof, erm...the thing is-”

Neil sighed, looked at Mike, and was soon sauntering out to the garden with the Cool Person in tow. An enormous fight was about to take place, and they certainly didn’t want to be there for the fallout. 

Chapter Text

“You can’t go , Vyvyan! He’ll blimmin’ kill you!” Rick screamed from the bottom of the stairs, grappling with the railing to try and haul himself up to the bedroom.

“Oh, thanks for that!” Vyv yelled, “Honestly, poof. What would I do without you to state the bleedin’ obvious?”

“What would I do without you , Vyvyan? Hmm? I need you! You can’t just leave me!” Rick dropped to his knees and began to crawl up the stairs, wincing with every step. Vyv, meanwhile, was buried deep in the back of his closet, looking for his old duffle bag. He found it under a pile of old Cosmopolitan magazines ( damnit Rick! ) and immediately began stuffing it with anything that could be used as a weapon. And in Vyvyan’s room, that was just about everything in sight. 

“I’ll come back! Have some bloody faith in me, would you? I can hold my own in a fight, you know!”

“I know that! But he won’t be on his own, Vyvyan! He’ll have all those punks and skins and...thugs with him!” 

“I wish! Then I could rip them to shreds for what they did to you!” Vyv replied, “Besides, tip-off said he was on his own!” 

“I thought he was on his own when he went after me.” Rick croaked. He was trying very hard not to cry, because he doubted it would help his case, but he wasn’t doing a very good job. Vyv slung the duffle bag over his shoulder and came out onto the landing to watch Rick try and crawl his way to the top. After a minute or two he relented, and gently lifted the poet up the last few steps. 

“It’ll be alright, poof.” He wiped a tear off Rick’s face with his thumb, “I’ll only be gone a few hours.” 

“It won’t be alright! What if he doesn’t kill you, Vyvyan? What if you kill him? You’ll go to jail! You’ll have a record!”

“I’ve already bloody got one!”

“I think this is a bit more serious than stealing crisps from the corner store! They’d never let you become a doctor with a murder conviction you know!”

“That’s if I’m caught.”

“Vyvyan!” 

“What? What do you want me to do here, Rick? What do you want me to say? Ah yes, you’re right, let’s go downstairs, have a cup of tea and forget it ever happened?” 

“Yes!”

“Well I can’t!” Vyv pinched the bridge of his nose, duffle bag still swinging from his shoulder, and tried to find the right words. 

“...Vyv?”

“I’m thinking.” He sighed, “Look. I don’t have a lot in life. I never have. My dad was a no show and my mother was a right slag, and I didn’t have any brothers or grandmothers to pick up the pieces! Never had any friends.” 

“Well I don’t see what that has to do with-“ 

“Let me finish .” He took one of Rick’s hands in both of his, paused, then carried on, “You’re all I’ve got, alright? You’re it. And he...he tried to take you away from me, poof. He nearly bloody did. And I can’t...I can’t let him get away with it. He hurt you.”

“He hurt you too!”

“Yeah, and look what you were willing to do for me. And Rick, for christ’s sake, I’m gonna be fine! I’ve had a pickaxe through my skull! I’ve eaten exploding bricks! I once cut off and reattached my head in the same bloody afternoon!” 

“That’s different!”

“You’re being stupid. I’ll probably be back before tea time. Just take a nap, watch the telly.”

“No! I’m not letting you out that bloody door young man! You’re going to stay here with me, and we’re going to watch Bastard Squad and eat chips and have an early night! And if you don’t stay here willingly, I shall have to use force!”

“Rick, you need my help getting up and down the bloody stairs! What are you gonna do? Nag me into submission?” 

“...walk out that door, and we’re done.” 

“Sorry?” 

“You heard.”

“You don’t mean that.”

“I might if you leave! If you choose Gary over me, then-“

“Don’t you bloody dare. Don’t you even bloody dare ! I’m doing this for you! He’s five minutes down the road, Rick. He knows where we live! So what if he gave us a fucking receipt? He might change his bloody mind if he finds out you survived the attack. You want him to come in here and finish the job?” 

“Then let’s leave. We’ll go right now, Vyv. Get in the car and piss off, and we can go stay at Nanny’s until we work out where to go.”

“...I can’t relax if he’s still out there. He found me once.” 

“Ah-ha! I knew this wasn’t about me! This is just about you wanting revenge!”

“No, it's about me wanting us safe. Get out of the bloody way, would you? I’m already running late.”

He tried to sidestep the poet with little success - Rick grabbed him by the collar of his vest and pushed them both back away from the stairs which, in hindsight, probably wasn’t a bad idea. 

“There were about fifteen other people there that night, Vyv. Are you going to murder all of them too, hmm? Become some kind of vigilante serial killer?” 

“For you? Yeah. I bloody would.” 

“But it isn’t for me! I never asked you to! I don’t ruddy well want you to! And- and I did mean it. If you leave, we’re done. I won’t watch you get murdered, or go to jail, for something I didn’t even want you to do!” 

Vyv grabbed Rick by the back of his neck, pulled him forward, kissed him. Rick - optimistic as ever - mistook the gesture as a surrender. An affirmation that Vyvyan loved him more than any ridiculous desire for revenge. He thought they’d go back downstairs and play monopoly, or maybe spin records or watch a bit of telly. For Cliff’s sake, he thought things were going to be alright!

Vyv, the pessimist, knew better. He savoured the feeling of Rick’s lips against his - memorised it, in case it was the last time. Because he believed him when Rick said they were done. Part of him even believed he might not come home alive, but that was alright. It would be alright if he got Gary first. Killed him, ideally, or at the very least injured him beyond repair. Put him in a coma or something, anything that meant he could no longer hurt Rick. There would be consequences, of course. But Rick had family to look after him, and enough money to get far away from Gary’s...thugs, as the poet had put it. And Vyv could die peacefully if Rick was safe. Could quite possibly live peacefully (if not horribly depressingly) if Rick was safe, even if that meant Rick wasn’t with him. 

...Besides, the stupid prick probably didn’t even mean it. He was probably just being dramatic to prove a point, to try and emphasise that he wasn’t a complete doormat. Either way, it was with great care that he removed Rick’s drunkenly purchased ring from his finger, and slipped it into Rick’s pocket.

“Don’t want to get it all bloody.” He said, once they’d finally pulled apart. Rick was speechless.

“I love you, poof. More than I’ve ever loved anyone, or anything. More than my car, more than I loved SPG, more than I love babycham, alright? Do not ever, even for a single bloody second, think that I didn’t - don’t. Christ, I’m not even bloody dead yet.” 

“...Get out.” 

“Yeah. I’m going, poof. Take care, yeah? Never know - I’ll probably be back later, anyhow. We can have a proper fight then, and you can pull a big girly strop and throw all my stuff out the window.” 

“I said get out, Vyvyan. And I meant it. Don’t bother coming back, not even for all your things. I’ll put them all out on the doorstep for you, you selfish bastard!” 

“Please yourself.” Vyv said, “Back in a bit, poof. Try not to hurt yourself, alright? I really did mean it when I said you weren’t allowed inside another bloody hospital.” 

He gently pushed Rick to one side and stomped down the stairs, perhaps with a little less weight to his footsteps than usual. Back on the landing, Rick had burst into tears. Ugly, snotty, hysterical sobs that were accompanied by a string of vicious insults. 

Timing was against them both - as soon as Vyvyan had stepped out of the sharehouse and slammed the door behind him, Rick tripped, slipped and fell down the stairs. His screams were silenced fairly quickly, but Vyvyan was already long gone. And with Mike and Neil still out in the garden, there wasn’t anybody to find him for hours. 

Chapter Text

Vyv saw Gary first. The pink hair was a dead giveaway - a beacon from a mile off. His hold on the duffle bag tightened while he reached inside it, grappling for something. He wasn’t sure what. He came up with a crowbar and was satisfied. Gary leaned against a wall on the other side of the street, cleaning his fingernails with a pocket knife. He turned after a minute, trademark grin plainly visible in the glare of the late evening sun. 

“Alright Vyv? Your spooks aren’t very subtle.” He nodded towards the unmarked car parked on the far side of the street, “Can I do something for you?”

“Yeah, as it happens.” Vyv came to stand beside him, shifting the crowbar from one hand to the other.

“Ah.” Gary said, “I spose I’m a bit surprised, Vyv. As far as I’m concerned, our score was settled.”

“That why you’re waiting round the corner?”

Gary snickered, “Oh come off it, Vyv. What, did you think you were the only one? Think you were special, did you? You weren’t even the first, mate. You’re not even the only one of my rent boys attending Scumbag! Certainly not the only one who owes me money. Nah, I’m not here for you. Told you - we’re square.”

“Not in my book.” Vyv snapped, “Your score was with me. Not Rick.”

“Well, yeah. But you know, Rick went off with me. I didn’t bundle him into the back of a van.”

“That’s your excuse, is it? He didn’t bloody ask to get raped and stabbed!”

“Well, that really wasn’t my call, Vyv. I mean, the money he fronted was a good start. Doesn’t change the fact that if you were still working for me, I’d be rolling in it. Doesn’t change the fact that you stole from me. Doesn’t change the fact that you broke your contract and buggered off.”

“I didn’t have a bloody contract!”

“We had a verbal agreement. And let’s not forget that you were a growing teenager. Bloody ate me out of house and home, you did. Cost a fortune! Still, I am sorry about poor old Wick. He was a pretty one. There gonna be a funeral? Reckon I might go, pay my respects.”

“He pulled through.” Vyv spat, “He’s fine.”

“That right? Well, then maybe I should stop by some time. Have a cup of tea. Since we’re even now, and all.”

Vyv glanced down at the crowbar in his hands and, for the first time since leaving the house, smiled.

“I don’t know that you’ll get the chance, Gar.”

“Yeah? Well, we’ll have to see about that, won’t we? I’m full of surprises, me.” He craned his neck to look up and down the street, eyebrows slightly raised, “You uh, wanna do this here, then? Or do you wanna go somewhere more...secluded?”

“...Promised Rick I wouldn’t get arrested.” Vyv muttered. 

“Right, right. And we wouldn’t want to upset the missus. Why don’t we hop into an alleyway, hmm? Nice bit of poetic symmetry.”

“Fine.”

“One round the corner. That suit you?”

“Does it matter? Let’s get it over with.” Vyv shrugged. Gary smiled and lit a cigarette. He walked a step in front of Vyv, leading him down the street towards the nearest alley.

“Cig, Vyv?” Gary asked. 

“Piss off.”

“Fair enough. But what do you say we make this equal, hey? Dump your bag of toys. Lose the crowbar.”

“Suits me.” They stopped at the mouth of the alley, and Gary waited politely while Vyv dumped his things. He could feel a knot of anticipation and excitement beginning to form in the center of his chest, so intense it was almost painful. Like an ache. 

“Empty your pockets, Vyv. I wasn’t born yesterday.”

Vyv obliged, grinning. He turned out all his jean pockets for Gary’s inspection, then motioned for him to do the same. Gary shrugged, took off his leather jacket and dumped it by Vyv’s bag.

“Knife’s in the pocket.” He said.

“Show me.”

“There.”

“Right, come on then.”

“Can I finish my cig first?” Gary asked. 

“No. Come on.”

“God, you’re eager, aren’t you?” Gary stubbed his cigarette out against the wall and followed Vyv into the shadows, hands stuffed in his pockets, “You an’ Wick really are a lot alike. Made for each other, really. He was bloody eager, too.”

“Shut up.” Vyv gave him a rough shove and Gary bounced off the brickwork with a chuckle. 

“I spose he told you something different, did he? Said he didn’t like it much, I expect. He was gagging for it, Vyv. Almost pathetic, really.”

“I said shut up .” Another shove. 

“Why? What’re you gonna do, Vyv? Kill me?” This time when Vyv went to shove him, he smacked his hand away, “You were gonna do that anyway. But tell you what; I’ll give you a freebie, since I got off with your boyfriend. First punch is all yours - what you reckon?”

Vyv didn’t hesitate. He went for the stomach, then the face before Gary had a chance to recover. 

“Oof. Good shot mate, good shot. You always were good with your hands. Better with your mouth. But you know, I reckon I prefer Wicky’s. He’s a lot more gentle, you know. Passive.”

Vyv snarled and went to land another punch - a much lower one, this time - but Gary dodged it easily, and the punk’s fist went into the wall. 

“Sorry, Vyv. I let you get the first hit, but now you’re on your own.” Vyv yanked his fist out of the crumbling brickwork and tried again, but Gary was a millisecond too fast, and all Vyv got for his efforts was a punch in the jaw. A hard, metallic, punch in the jaw. He glanced at Gary’s hand and frowned. Knuckle dusters. Hardly fighting fair.

“Where’d you have those stashed?” Vyv asked through a mouthful of spit.

“Boots. Rookie mistake, Vyv. You shoulda known better.”

“Yeah, spose I should’ve.”

“You don’t go down as easy as you did when you were a kid.” Gary smiled, “...Pardon the pun.”

He caught Vyv’s fist and twisted it, his fingernails digging into the skin. Vyv half-stood-half-kneeled, leaning heavily against the wall. 

“You’re holding back, Vyv. Why’s that, then?” He got the punk under the chin and pinned him against the wall, then licked a stripe from his neck to his earlobe. “It could be because you still fancy me.”

Get off !” Vyv snarled, but he couldn’t move for the life of him. He was frozen to the spot. 

“I might.” Gary agreed, “You always were a pretty one. Especially pinned like this. But you know what I think the problem is, Vyv? I think you’re scared. I think you’re bloody traumatised. That happens sometimes, you know. To...victims, of abuse.”

“I’m not your bloody victim.” Vyv said. 

“Really?” Gary’s free hand, the one that wasn’t lodged under Vyv’s chin, ghosted over the fly of Vyv’s jeans absentmindedly, “Cause you know, I read an article the other day that made me think of you. It was about abuse cycles, you see, and how victims have the potential to abuse others in later life.”

“Didn’t know you could read, Gar.” Vyv wheezed. 

“Ha! That was a weak comeback, Vyv, even for you. But let’s be serious for a moment, shall we? I mean, it figures you’d go after a naive little virgin, doesn’t it? And you’ve sure got him wrapped around your little finger. One word from you and he’d be down on your knees. Eager to please, that one. Eager to prove he’s not a kid. Just like you were. You remember, don’t you Vyv? I do. I remember you thanking me after you finished me off. Does Rick thank you afterwards? Cause I heard you haven’t returned the favour yet. Heard he won’t let you. That’s pretty manipulative of you, isn’t it? A leaf out of my book, really.”

Vyv snapped. Violently. He grabbed Gary by the sides of his face and plunged his thumbs into the other man’s eyes until he was forced to let go and back off.

“I am nothing like you! And Rick’s nothing like me.”

Gary reeled against the back wall and took Vyv’s next few punches while he tried to recover his eyesight. The right eye wasn’t so bad - he could still see out of it - but the left was well and truly fucked. Still, he couldn’t resist.

“Nah, you’re right about that, Vyv. Wicky’s nothing like you.” Gary spat out a tooth and a mouthful of blood onto the pavement, then wiped the excess of his chin. “ He always swallows.”

Despite Vyv’s blinding rage, it was Gary that got the next punch in. Hard, fast. Knuckle dusters right in the ear canal. He got the next four punches in as well, the final one so severe it dislocated Vyvyan’s jaw. He grimaced as his knees buckled and his head smacked against the pavement. Ordinarily, he would have got back up. But then again, ordinarily, he wouldn’t have drawn it out so long. He would have run at Gary in the street, and beat him to a pulp until he either fought back or died. He would have done exactly what Gary was expecting, and he would have lost. Because Gary was perhaps the only bastard in the whole entire world who was as mad as Vyvyan Basterd. They would have killed each other in a pile of blood and guts, and Vyv didn’t necessarily want it to come to that. If he could go home to Rick, he would. So he stayed down. Played dead, essentially. He focussed on the throbbing of his jaw and waited patiently for the right moment.

He didn’t have to wait long. 

Gary hauled him up by the front of his vest and held him, looking at him with his one good eye. His free hand went into his other boot, pulled out his knife.

“I’m getting a bit bored with fighting fair, Vyv. Aren’t you? Christ, look at that jaw . Can’t imagine Wicky’ll be kissing that pretty face any time soon. Not that he’ll get much of a chance, o’course.” He dug the point of his knife into the base of Vyvyan’s throat, “I’m a bit disappointed, really. I mean, you didn’t put up much of a fight. I only agreed because I’m meeting the boys in ten. Cause I told em’ you were watching me. Cause they knew I’d bring you here. Dunno that there’ll be much of a fight left for em’. And that’s a shame. For you, mostly. I thought you might like to meet the other blokes who were there that night.”

Vyv wanted to smile, but his mangled jaw refused to cooperate. Instead, he let one arm snake around to the back of his jeans and reached up, under the belt. His index finger snagged in the leather patch on the back of his pants, came across cool metal, and struggled to get purchase.

“Go on then.” He said. His voice was raspy due to the added pressure, and he could feel little droplets of blood starting to form.

“In a rush? Yeah, me too, as it happens. Reckon I might stop off at your boyfriend’s after this. See if he’s up for it. What you reckon?”

“Bastard.” Vyv spat. He got another finger in behind the leather patch and tugged until he felt the weight of the metal in the palm of his hand. Gary was too busy to notice. Bloody moron. 

“What did you expect, Vyv? You thought I was just gonna let this one slide? You’ve wasted my time and fucked up my bloody eyes! Rick’s a dead man, as far as I’m concerned. But don’t worry too much - I won’t let him die a virgin.”

The knife dug in much deeper, but Vyv hardly noticed. He was too busy ramming his switchblade into the side of Gary’s neck. He flicked the catch and heard rather than saw the blade slice through the jugular vein. It was a perfect shot - but that was to be expected from a psychopathic medical student.

“Didn’t see that one coming, didja Gar?” Vyv grunted. It didn’t quite come out right, thanks to his misshapen jaw, but the intention was clear. “I’m full of surprises, me.” 

He lowered Gary to the floor, wiped the blood off the stars on his forehead, and waited for his former abuser to bleed out. It took a surprising amount of time, but it was worth the watch. He looked bloody ridiculous lying on the asphalt, wheezing out the hole in his neck. His pink mohawk and his blood-stained Clash T-shirt. Studded jeans and red docs. It felt a bit odd, really. A relief. Like some fundamental part of himself - all the bits he hated the most - was slowly fading away. Closure, he supposed. A conclusion to one (no, two!) of the darkest periods of his life. He thought he ought to...mark it in some way. Make some attempt at honouring the occasion. Briefly, he thought about cutting off Gary’s knob and bringing it back to Rick as a present, but he didn’t think it would go down very well. He pocketed one of Gary’s teeth instead. It had a solid metal crown in it, and Vyv thought it’d look nice on a chain. He got up, rubbed his jaw, and went back to his bag of weapons. Gary’s friends would be arriving any minute, after all, and he wanted to be ready for them.  

Chapter Text

It was dark when Vyvyan got home. Well after midnight. Sticky with blood and sweat, he opened the front door instead of barging through it, leaving a series of crimson smears on every available surface. He was greeted with silence, darkness and - once his eyes had adjusted - the sight of Vim sitting on the stairs. 

“You’re back then.” He said. By then Vyvyan’s jaw was rather swollen, and speech was nearly impossible.

“Pith oth!” He slurred, “Thoo thired to thalk.”

“What the bloody hell happened to your face?”

“Dithlocathed my ore.”

“What?”

“My ore! Ith’s dithlocated, thwat!”

“...Right.” He shrugged, “You look awful.”

“Oh, Tha.”

“Well you’ve made a real bloody mess of things. Rick’s in a right state. Colin’s upstairs with him.”

“Stho? At d’you cthair?”

What?”

“Oh thuck it! Old’ on-” Vyv turned back to the door frame and slammed his face against it with a satisfying crack. When he turned around to face Vim again, his face was mostly back to rights.

“There.” He said with a wince, “I said , what do you care? You hardly even like Rick! You barely bloody like Colin!”

“So? You can love someone and not like them very much. Christ, you live with Rick - you should know that better than anyone!”

“That’s different.”

“Is it? Look, Colin’s my best mate. And yeah, he drives me mental. Yeah, I think he’s a twat. Yeah, I hate his bloody guts. But I’m stuck with him now, alright? He’s like family, and there isn’t much I can do about it. And that means I’m stuck with Rick. Which means , whether I like it or not, I’m also stuck with you .” He turned up his nose in disgust.

“Didn’t you hear? Prick dumped me. You’re off the hook.”

“Christ, you don’t know him at all. Those two’re peas in a bloody pod. Melodramatic twats, the both of them. He didn’t mean it. Just like Colin never means it when he quits the fucking band.”

“You didn’t see him. He was bloody furious.”

You didn’t see him after you left! He didn’t stop crying all bloody night, and that was after we scooped him up off the bottom of the stairs!”

“...He fell down the stairs?” Course he did. Leave it to Rick to be so pissing clumsy.

“Yeah. The hippie reckons he’s got a concussion, maybe a sprained ankle, but he wasn’t about to go down to A and E for it, because Vyvyan said he’s not allowed in any more hospitals!”

Vyv snorted, “Stupid prick.”

Hysterical prick. And that was all before he tried to hang himself with his tie in the fucking broom closet.”

Vyv didn’t have a comeback. He sat down beside Vim, still covered in blood, and tried to gather his thoughts.

“...Is he-”

“Yeah, he’s fine. No thanks to you.” 

“Christ.”

“Hmph. Yeah. But he’s not done with you, Vyvyan. Not yet. He’s bloody mad about you.” Vim looked him up and down, grimaced, “Personally, I don’t see it. I think you’re about as appealing as Colin’s uncle Eddie. But to each their own, I spose. Just don’t be a wanker, yeah? He went through a lot for you.”

“I know that!” Vyv paused to wipe the blood out of his eyes, “Christ, I know that. I know he’s pissy. He should be pissy. I’m surprised he hasn’t had the bloody locks changed.”

“Yeah, well. I’d talk to him tonight, if I were you. He’s been on the phone to Richie. I’m sposed to be givin’ him a lift up to Hammersmith in the morning.”

“He’s leaving?”

“He says he’s leaving. Told you, dramatic buggers. He’s all talk...unless you push him far enough.” Viv reluctantly clapped his hand Vyv’s shoulder, “Go on. Go tell him what he wants to hear, for Christ’s sake, or I’ll never hear the end of his bloody whining.”

Vyv trod up the stairs with a sigh, standing at Rick’s door for an unnecessarily long stretch of time before he got up the courage to try the handle. Locked. Course.

“Open up, poof. I’m exhausted.”

Silence.

“Come on, we can fight about it in the morning. I just wanna see you’re alright.”

“So you made it home alive.” Rick called through the door.

“Yeah, just. Can you let me in?”

“No. And don’t even think about breaking down the door, or I’ll never speak to you again!”

“Promises, promises.” He wiggled the doorknob a bit to see if it would budge. It didn’t.

“Piss off, Vyvyan! Rick doesn’t want to see you.” Colin shouted. Well, at least Rick wasn’t on his own in there.

“Alright, alright. Fine. I’ll go kip in Mike’s room, how’s that? We’ll talk in the morning.”

“I don’t care where you go, murderer!” Rick yelled, “Just so long as it’s far away from me!”

A low blow, but Vyv figured the prick had earned it. He went up the second flight of stairs and knocked on Mike’s door as gently as possible.

“Erm, Mike? Are you awake? Can I erm...come in?”

When he got no response, he opened the door slowly. He hated bothering Mike, much less invading his privacy, but his old room was full of shit (literally and figuratively) and he wasn’t about to share with Neil. He peaked in, gasped, and stepped back again. He could feel his cheeks turning red against his will, but he couldn’t bloody help it! 

 

There was a girl in Mike’s bed. He looked again, just to make sure he wasn’t mistaken.

 

Yes, there she was. He couldn’t see her face, only the back of her head. But she was tall and thin, and her long brown hair was fanned out across the pillow, and - oh . ...Oh, Christ!

“... Neil? ” Vyv hissed, “Neil!”

“Hmph? What...oh. Oh, Vyv! Hey, man. It’s great to see you like, alive and stuff. Does Rick know you’re back?”

“Never mind that! What the bloody hell are you doing in Mike’s bed!”

“Sssh!” Neil whispered, “You’ll wake him up.”

The hippie sat up and rubbed his eyes, revealing a sleeping Mike lying on the other side of him. 

“Does he know you’re in here?” Vyv asked.

“Yeah, I mean...I think so. He invited me, and like...I’m almost always in here, now. Helps my insomnia. Besides, I told Vim he could have my room.”

“Now Neil, I like pillow talk as much as the next guy, but only when I’m the one having it. Keep it down, would you?” Mike yawned and rolled over, “And you’re not doing a very good job at warming my side of the bed, either.”

“Mike, Vyv’s here.”

“Evening, Vyv. As the coach said to the one-legged soccer player, it’s good to see you’re still kicking.”

“Ah, evening Michael. Erm...why is Neil in your bed?”

“Simple, Vyv. You’re hallucinating.”

“Am I?”

“Oh, no.” Neil groaned, “I hate being a hallucination.”

“Go to sleep, Vyvyan. You’ll feel better in the morning.”

“...Right. Yes. Um...night, Mike. Sorry to bother you.”

“Perfectly alright, Vyv.”

“Night Neil - I mean...not Neil...I mean...argh. Night.”

“Night Vyv!” Neil watched Vyvyan shut the door and then flopped back into bed again. “...Am I a hallucination, Mike?”

“No, Neil.” Mike sighed and slung one arm across the hippie’s chest to try and get some warmth back into the bedroom. Vyvyan had let a draft in. “Just a dream come true. Now shut up and go to sleep.”

Satisfied, Neil shut his eyes and found sleep easily. Maybe he wasn’t an insomniac, after all. Maybe he just hadn’t been sleeping in the right bed.

Meanwhile, Vyvyan traipsed back down to Neil’s room - found it occupied by Vim - and ended up sprawled out on the couch. He was still covered in blood, now dried and crusty, and the cut in his throat was bleeding periodically. Everything ached, and his jaw was almost purple. He was cold and unsettled without Rick next to him, but in the end exhaustion won out. It wasn't so much that he went to sleep , it was more like he fell into a coma. 

 

When he woke up, it was nearly lunchtime. The house - save for Mike and Neil, who were still tucked up in bed - was empty.

 

Rick was gone. 

Chapter Text

So Vyv was at a loss. 

 

He spent about four days curled up in Rick’s bed, buried under the sheets with the few objects the poet had neglected to take with him when he left. A book on Trotsky. A Cliff Richard single. A scrappy bit of paper with a poem about mortgage rates scrawled on the back. A pin from a free Nelson Mandela rally. The scruffy old teddy bear he kept under his bed - the one he frequently insisted didn’t belong to him, but sometimes snuggled up with late at night when he thought Vyv wasn’t paying attention. 

And when the punk wasn’t in bed, he was on the phone. Rick wouldn’t answer, of course, and whenever Richie or Eddie did he either got a string of abuse or an immediate dial tone. But he kept trying anyway, leaving countless pathetic whiny messages about how badly he wanted Rick home, needed him home. Frankly, it was beginning to feel like screaming at a brick wall. Worse, even. At least the walls sometimes screamed back. 

In the end it was Mike who pulled the plug on Vyvyan’s little mope about. Of course it was Mike. It was always Mike. He sat down across from Vyv in the drawing room, cigar in one hand, sunglasses perched on top of his head, and regarded the punk with a patient, but somewhat expectant expression.

“Well?” He said, after a decent span of silence.

“What?” Vyv replied, as Neil came in from the kitchen and sat on the arm of the sofa, besides Mike.

“Vyv, you’ve always been like a son to me.”

“Oh, thanks Mike.”

“Which is why it should be me who gives you a kick up the arse when you’re going about things the wrong way.”

“...I spose.”

“So Neil and I have decided to stage an intervention. Right Neil?”

“Right.” Neil smiled apologetically, “You’re giving off a lot of negative energy.”

“Gee, I wonder why.” Vyv muttered. 

“It doesn’t matter why, Vyvyan. Why is not the issue. We’ve got plenty of why’s. We’ve got why’s coming out of our ears!”

“Have we?” Neil asked, “I’ve only got wax in mine, Mike.”

“Shut up Neil. The question, Vyv, is what.”

“What?”

“Yeah. What are you gonna do about it?” Mike asked, “Because frankly this whole situation is beginning to take on the appearance of Neil’s underpants. Dull, boring, and starting to wear thin.”

“How would you know, Michael?” Vyv quirked an eyebrow. It was the first joke he’d made in days, but it was flat and poorly delivered.

“Mind your beeswax. Now are you gonna make up with Rick on your own, or do Neil and I need to take additional measures?”

“There’s not much I can do if he doesn’t pick up the bloody phone.”

“So go down there!” Mike said, “Christ, Vyv. Hasn’t anything I’ve told you about catching birds sunk in?”

“Rick’s not a bird.” Vyv pointed out, “Well, he acts like one most of the time, but believe me, if you look inside his Y fronts -”

“How’s Rick supposed to know you care about him if you won’t even go and like...see him?” Neil asked. 

“Perfectly correct Neil. Vyv, if you want Rick back, you have to put in the effort.”

“Effort.” Vyv echoed, “What, like a big, stupid girly romantic gesture?”

“Yes! As the bank teller said to the golden goose, you’re on the money.”

“...So...if I go and see him tomorrow…”

“Today.” Neil corrected, “It’s only just gone nine, Vyv. He won’t even be up yet.”

“Today.” Vyv agreed, “Will...will you two clear out of the house tomorrow night, then?”

“Say no more, Vyv. Say no more. We’ll be out of your hair by five.”

“Thanks. Erm...I should...go and get dressed, then. But I dunno what I’m gonna do for a big, stupid, soppy, poofy, romantic gesture. Seems a bit unnecessary, if you ask me.” Vyv got up from his spot on the sofa and started to strip out of his pajamas as he walked up the stairs. Neil and Mike exchanged a look, feeling more than a little relieved. Vyvyan was a terrifying force of nature at the best of times, but when he was subdued and morose it was downright horrific. 

 

*

 

Vyv looked at the address he’d scrawled on the back of his hand and compared it with the number on the door. It checked out. He wasn’t sure why the image of Richie and Eddie living together in a flat came as a surprise, but something about it just seemed...bizarre. He was still reeling at the concept of Eddie not being a blood relation, and that he voluntarily spent time with someone he so obviously detested. Well, he sposed it was none of his business, really. It just seemed...odd.

He sighed, shrugged, hesitated. Then, reluctantly, he knocked on the door. Richie flung it open almost immediately, eyes shut, hands raised in a vaguely theatrical gesture.

“Back so soon, Eddie? Did you forget your keys again? I swear, you’d forget your head if it wasn’t screwed on! I- oh.” The smile faded, and he dropped his hands by his sides.

“Erm...hello.” Vyv muttered. Truthfully, he wasn’t sure where to look. Richie was dressed in some kind of ridiculous, frilly pink apron, with a feather duster in one hand. 

“Well, well, well. This is a surprise.” Richie sniffed and looked down at his fingernails as if they were the most interesting thing he’d ever seen. Vyv forced a smile that came across as a grimace. 

“Ah, hello Richard. Erm...is Rick in?”

Richie sniffed again and moved to lean against the doorframe, still refusing to maintain eye contact, “Well, I don’t know. He might be. I don’t see how it’s any of your business.”

Vyv scratched the back of his neck, smile widening ever so slightly. Mike had advised him to be polite (well actually, Mike had advised him to grovel,) and so polite was what he’d be. No matter how badly he wanted to smash Richie’s face in.

“...Can I...can I see him, then?”

Richie frowned, wiped the hair off the side of his face, “No. No, I don’t think so. He’s rather busy, you know.”

“...I’m sure he is. But I only need a minute.”

“You are capable of picking up a telephone, aren’t you? Or is that too much for a bit of riff-raff like you?”

“He won’t answer my calls.”

“Well then he obviously doesn’t want to talk to you.” Richie’s hands started toying with the lace frill at the bottom of his apron, obviously unsettled by the mad glint in Vyvyan’s eyes, “Y-you’ve got a lot of nerve showing up here, you know. After what you put my nephew through! I think he deserves some financial compensation. I...yes. Yes. Financial compensation! Come on, pay up!”

Vyv looked at Richie’s sweaty, outstretched hand.

“I haven’t got any money.”

“I think we both know that’s not true, young man! Come on! I demand reimbursement for Rick’s emotional distress!” Christ, it was like a window into the future. This was what Rick would look like in a few years, ridiculous outfit and all. The thought was enough to make Vyvyan briefly reconsider the whole plan - to turn on his heel and march back home without a second thought.

“What are you yelling about now, uncle Richard?” Rick peered out the front door, yawning, his face bleary and half asleep. His bed-hair stuck up at bizarre angles, and his pajamas were creased and dishevelled. He was clinging onto his much hated walking frame for dear life, wincing with every movement, and dark circles had built up around his eyes. Even though there was no real fire in him - no bite - he still looked even better than Vyv remembered, and his heart melted on sight. Rick, meanwhile, went from quiet and sleepy to harsh and cold.

“Oh. It’s you.” He deadpanned. Richie broke out into a sweat, his hands on his nephew’s shoulders as he tried to usher him back into the flat.

Ricky-kins! Darling, what are you doing up so early? Go on, go back inside. Nothing to see here!” Richie pinched Rick’s cheeks with one hand and smoothed out his hair with the other while gently nudging him back into the flat, but Rick stood firm.

“You might as well come in, then.” Rick muttered, “Since you’ve come all this way.”

Vyv breathed a sigh of relief and stepped past Rick’s overly affectionate uncle, taking in the disarray of the Hammersmith flat without much surprise. Richie shut the door behind them, obviously irritated by the sudden turn of events.

“I suppose you want something to drink, then?” Richie said.

“Erm…” Vyv glanced at Rick warily, relieved when the poet’s eyes widened and he shook his head as a warning. “...No thank you, Richard. I’m alright.”

“That’s Mr Richard to you, matey.” Richie scowled, then immediately brightened up when he turned his attention to Rick, “Rickle-rabbit, do you want your breakfast now? I’ll do you one of my legendary fry-ups.”

“...I’m a vegetarian, uncle Richie.”

“What? Still?”

“What do you mean still? We only had this ruddy conversation yesterday!”

“Shit.” Richie sighed, hands on his hips, “How about toast, then? Hmm?”

“I’m not hungry.” Rick muttered. He gestured towards the table and Vyv sat. He wasn’t used to doing as Rick asked, but Christ, he was desperate.

“You’ve got to eat something, diddles. You’re a growing boy!” Richie pranced across the kitchen and stood behind Rick’s chair, running his hands down the sides of his nephew’s spotty face in a gesture that was supposed to be affectionate, but came across as aggressive petting. Vyv smirked.

“How’ve you been, diddles?” Vyv asked.

“Fine.” Rick replied as he smacked Richie’s hands away from his face.

“I spose you’re still pissy, then.”

“Excuse me, I think he’s got a right to be pissy, as you so eloquently put it. I ought to turn you into the police right now, you murderer!” Richie waved his finger in front of Vyv’s face, drawing it back only when the punk attempted to snatch it and break it off. A lifetime of living with Eddie Hitler had taught him well.

“...He was protecting me, uncle Richard.” Rick admitted. 

“That’s hardly the point, is it tinky? I won’t have my nephew fraternising with such common filth.”

“Who are you, his mother?” Vyv asked, “He can make his own bloody decisions, you know.”

“And he has!” Richie sneered, “He’s staying here, where he belongs.”

“Oh, piss off uncle Richard! Go tidy my bedroom, why don’t you? Make yourself useful for once!”

Richie turned to snap at Rick, then reconsidered. 

“...Of course, Ricky-boo.” He smiled, hands ghosting back down towards the hem of his apron, “A-hem...before I forget, you are...well. You are a bit late on the rent this week, toodles. Punky. Munch-kin.”

Rick sighed, opened his wallet, and pulled out an alarming sum of cash, which Richie snatched up without hesitation. 

Great.” He snorted, “Well, ah... I’ll just...go and tidy your bedroom, then, Rickles. Give you two some privacy.”

“Right. Off you go then.” Vyv said.

“Yes, ah...just...one last thing; no snogging on the sofa, alright? I don’t know what type of hooliganism you get up to at that college of yours, but we have standards, here. Expectations. Class.” He hoisted up his trousers for emphasis, then skipped out of the room, blissfully unaware that someone had sellotaped a picture of a knob to the back of his shirt.

Rick gave Vyvyan a contemptuous look.

“I hate him.” He admitted. Vyv shrugged.

“I quite like him, really. He sort of...grows on you, doesn’t he? Like a fungus.” He paused, “Reminds me of a ridiculous spotty little twat I used to date.”

“Well, I hate him. And I hate uncle Eddie. And I blimmin’ well hate it here.”

“So come home.”

“Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you Vyvyan?”

“Yeah I would, as it happens.” Vyv replied, “I miss you.”

“Well, you should have thought of that when you went off to murder Gary, after I specifically told you not to.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake, I did it for you!”

“No, we’ve been over this. You did it for you. I told you we were finished if you walked out that bloody door, and then you blimmin’ well did it anyway! Shows how much you care.”

“Course I care! I wouldn’t have bloody done it if I didn’t care! I would’ve let you die in the fucking alley if I didn’t care.” 

Rick’s expression was blank, his eyes bleak.

 “Look, if this is about the money-“

“What money?”

“The inheritance. And you needn’t worry because I said half was yours and I meant it. I just need a bit of time to get it all in order.”

“...you think I came to talk about money.

“Well, didn’t you?”

“NO!” Vyv yelled, “I don’t care about the bloody money! You can keep the bloody money! You can throw all the bloody money down the bloody drain for all I bloody care! I came for you.”

“Oo-er.” Rick rolled his eyes. He’d already been living with Richie and Eddie for too long.

“Shut up! I’m here cause I miss you, and I love you, and I can’t be without you, alright? Bollocks to the inheritance. We could live in a cardboard box on the side of the road and eat crickets for dinner, and I’d still be happy because you’d be there to annoy me.” 

“...you still left.” Rick muttered. His eyes were starting to water.

“Yeah, I know. I...I spose part of me didn’t think you meant it.”

“Well I did, so there.”

“Yeah, obviously! And now I know for next time.”

“There isn’t going to be a next time!”

“You’re right.” Vyv nodded, “Cause next time I won’t leave. Next time, when you tell me we’re finished if I do something, I won’t bloody well do it.” 

“...I don’t know.” Rick said, “I...I need...I don’t know.”

“What? What do you need? C’mon. Whatever you want, I’ll do it.”

“…I need stability, Vyvyan. I need…I need you to change.”

“What? That doesn’t make any sense! Do you need me to be stable or do you need me to bloody well change!”

“I can’t…Look. Is this always how it’s going to be? You going out on murder sprees while I sit at home and worry myself sick?”

“I dunno.” Vyv shrugged, “I spose I hadn’t really thought about it.”

“Well I have!” Rick snapped, “And I hate it! It’s bad enough being with someone who enjoys…who sees killing and violence as…necessary, and fun, but…”

“Oh, Christ. Look at you all high and bloody mighty! What are you doing with me, then, hey? Slumming it? Better than me, are you?”

“I never said that! I don’t think I’m better than you. Maybe I did once, but not anymore. I think we’re equal, Vyvyan. But I can’t…I can’t handle worrying about you all the time! Do you have any idea how terrified I was when you went off to kill Gary? For Cliff’s sake, Vyvyan! You could have died, or been arrested, or-”

“Or expelled from university or prevented from completing my course, I know.” He paused, “I was bloody scared when Gary fucking stabbed you, you know.”

“Oh, so that’s what it was about? Pay back? Worry me like I worried you?”

“Course not! I just wanted to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.”

“I think you just saw an opportunity to murder someone!”

“That was an added bonus.”

“…You’d rather be out murdering people than be at home with me.”

“That’s not bloody fair and you know it!” Vyv cut himself off when he realised how loud his voice was getting. This wasn’t right – he hadn’t come here to argue. “Look, you don’t have to decide right now. About…getting back together and everything. Come back to the share house tomorrow night. We’ll talk about it properly. You don’t even have to decide then. We could...we could take things slow for a while. Go on…dates.” He turned up his nose in disgust.

“...dates? You?”

Yes, me. How about it, then?”

Rick sighed, “Tomorrow night? The share flat?”

“Yeah. Six-ish?”

“I’ll come over whenever I want, Vyvyan. It’s my blimmin’ house too you know!” He hesitated, “But...I’ll think about it.”

“Yeah? Promise?”

“No.” Rick said, “I don’t promise…I don’t know that you and I can work, Vyvyan. We’re very different people and…I love you – blimey, I’m absolutely mad about you – but…I need things. I need to feel safe, and secure, and…like I matter.”

“You do matter!”

“I don’t feel like I matter enough!”

“…Well then I’ll have to fix that.” Vyv muttered, “…If you just think about it-”

“Yes, yes.” Rick sighed. He had a splitting headache, and he just knew his uncle was probably hidden behind some corner, listening into their little chat, “Look, you’d better get out of here or I’ll never hear the end of it from Richie.” 

“Yeah, alright. But you'll think about it?” 

“Oh for heaven’s sake Vyvyan!” 

“Sorry. Erm...it's really good seeing you again, poof. I have missed you, you know. Like mad.” 

“...I’ve missed you too.” Rick admitted. It was the first and only time he ever properly saw the punk blush. Vyv stood up and Rick walked him to the door, although it was painfully obvious that neither of them particularly wanted him to leave. In fact, Rick was half tempted to pack up his things and jump into the front seat of the Anglia, but what kind of message would that have sent? Vyv turned to kiss Rick out of habit, but pulled back at the last second.

“Can I...erm...no. I spose that wouldn’t be...um. Sorry.”

Rick hesitated, “A hug would be alright, I think.”

Vyv snorted, “I don’t hug, you girl.” 

“Alright, off you go then, drive safe.” Rick put his hand on Vyv’s back and gave him a firm push towards the door.

“Alright, alright! Bloody hell. You don’t half make it difficult, do you?” He sighed and put his arms around Rick’s waist, pulling him into a proper hug. It was different from all the times they sat on top of each other from the couch. Different from the cuddling and snuggling they did in bed at night. It wasn’t picking Rick up to take somewhere else or putting an arm around him while they were walking. Those could all be deemed either as a necessity (saving space, warmth, Rick’s inability to get up the stairs) or as an act of dominant possession. It was just a hug, because Vyv loved him. Because Vyv had loved him from the moment he first clapped eyes on him, and would continue to love him long after one or both of them were dead. Because Vyv was sorry, and because he wouldn’t do it again. Rick’s arms wrapped around his neck and held him close, and...Christ. Maybe he did like hugging after all. 

Rick pulled back first, because he was still making his stroppy point, and gently removed Vyv’s arms from his waist.

“Drive safely.” He mumbled. 

“No promises.” Vyv grinned, “Tomorrow night, yeah? Around six. Don’t forget!”

“Hang on - I haven’t bloody agreed to anything yet!”

But Vyvyan was already bounding down the stairs and out to the car, the weight of his boots echoing up the hall and making the walls of the flat shake. Rick covered his mouth and tried not to smile. He’d have to go, wouldn’t he? Hear Vyvyan out. Rick supposed he owed him that much. But unless the punk started making some changes, there was no way Rick would be going back to him. Absolutely not. Under no circumstances. No matter how much he really, really wanted to…

“Ahem.” Richie said. Rick flinched - he hadn’t heard him come in.

“U-uncle Richard?” 

“I think you’ve got some explaining to do, young man.”

 

*

That night, neither one of them slept.

 

To be fair, neither of them had been sleeping particularly well anyway. But as Rick stared at the grotty ceiling of Uncle Richie’s bedroom (Richie had taken to the couch for a fee) he didn’t find sleep difficult to come by, the way he usually did. He found it downright blimmin’ impossible. What the bloody hell was he doing? He knew he couldn’t live without Vyvyan. He’d always known that! And did he really want him to change? Into what, exactly? Someone more stable. Someone responsible. Someone...other than Vyvyan? Rick groaned and buried his face in the pillow, hoping the solution to his bizarre problem would become clear overnight.

 

Back at the share house, Vyv was too busy to sleep. He was kneeling over the bath – fully clothed – while Mike stood over him with soap, shampoo, bleach and conditioner.

“Are you sure about this, Vyv?” Mike asked.

“Just get on with it, would you? Before I change my bloody mind!”

“…I don’t know that this is what Rick meant by like, changes, Vyv. I think he meant on a more emotional, maybe even a spiritual level.”

“Shut up Neil!”

Mike shrugged and cracked open the bleach.

“Alright. Let’s get started then.”

 

*

 

Rick sat in the kitchen, drumming his fingers on the table while regarding his “uncles” with moderate disdain. Richie and Eddie sat opposite. Eddie was clearly disinterested in the situation, far more preoccupied with pouring a can of lager into a half empty bottle of vodka, but Richie had one hell of a glare on him. He poured the tea in a manner that could only be described as passive-aggressive. 

It was the fifth family meeting they’d conducted in the past twelve hours. The clock was inching steadily towards five - Rick should have been getting ready - and Rich and Eddie were essentially holding him hostage.

“Your uncle and I are very disappointed in you, Rickles.” Richie sighed. When he received no response, he elbowed Eddie in the ribs, “Aren’t we, Eddie?”

“Ay? Oh. Yes, very disappointed, poppet.” Eddie leered at his nephew somewhat drunkenly.

“We have some concerns.” Richie continued.

“Have we?”

Yes. About the…” Richie rubbed his hands together in a greedy (yet vaguely threatening) gesture. Eddie looked on, entirely lost. “You know.”

“...Masturbation?”

“No! Well, yes, that too. Especially in the drawing room, but-”

“Oh, look, that wasn’t at all what it looked like. See-”

“Well it looked like you were wanking off in the drawing room to a picture of your boyfriend, poppet.”

“He’s not- listen, I-”

“Dear oh dear.” Eddie sighed, “I dunno, Rich. He’s a chip off the old block.”

“I resent that implication, Eddie.” Richie said, “I don’t do that in the drawing room. I’m not an animal, you know!”

“You’re a bloody liar. I only caught you with the morning paper two days ago!”

“This isn’t about me, Eddie.” Richie replied, eager to change the subject as quickly as possible before things got out of hand.

“Well there’s a surprise!” Eddie raised an eyebrow and went back to his bottle of vodka/lager. After a moment’s consideration, he took a flask from his jacket pocket and began to add its contents to the mix.

“This is about our nephew and his...gentleman caller.”

“Oh, oh! That’s what this is about, is it? It’s because I’m gay! Fascists! Sycophants!”

“Don’t you take that tone with me, young man. Eddie and I happen to be tolerant of all people, including the fa-poof-queer-” He paused, “...Homosexuals.”

“Yeah.” Eddie slurred, “We love the poofs. Richie is a poof.”

“We are married, you know.” Richie smiled, looking rather smug. 

“By accident!” Rick replied.

“Still counts.” Eddie shrugged.

“It’s not even legal!”

Anyway,” Richie said, “The fact is, dimples, your uncle Eddie and I were concerned that you were planning on leaving us for that...ruffian.”

“I thought you’d be pleased, uncle Richard.” Rick replied, “One less mouth to feed, and you’d get your bedroom back.”

“You might wanna burn the sheets first.” Eddie remarked. The concoction he was creating in the old vodka bottle had begun to take on an unnatural glow - one that was only exacerbated by the addition of drain-cleaner. 

“What are you insinuating?” Rick tried to stand but wobbled and fell back into his chair.

“I’m not insinuating anything.” Eddie replied, “I’m saying you’ve got friction burns on your hands and a rash on the underside of your knob.”

“You bastard!” Rick screamed. Eddie was unphased.

“Well, it’s not my fault if you scream into your pillow at all hours.” Eddie took a swig from his bizarre answer to hair of the dog and reeled backwards before continuing his verbal assault. “Oh Vyvyan. Yes, Vyv, oooh touch me there, I’m a disgusting pervert with hairy palms and a soft arse.”

“Right, that’s it!” Rick stood up again with far more success, but was immediately rebuked by his uncle. 

“Eddie no! Don’t embarrass the lad!” Richie ran around to Rick’s side of the table and held his nephew’s head against the front of his apron, “Ricky-poo, we love having you here. Why, we’d keep you here forever if we could, wouldn’t we Eddie?”

“Cellar’s not ready yet, Rich. Give it another few days to air out.”

Ssh!” Richie hissed. One hand went over Rick’s ear while the other continued to pat Rick’s hair. Rick didn’t bother struggling - he was used to the violent attacks of affection by then, “Our concern, pumpkin, is that you’ve signed a lease. We have a financial agreement, darling. Kitten, bunny, dumpling, diddle-doo-”

“Pint of lager.”

Cherub.” Richie began to rock Rick back and forth, which was the last straw for the poet.

“Get off, get off!” He smacked Richie’s hands away and straightened up his hair, “God, it’s always about the money with you two, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.” Eddie finished his drink and wiped the blood from his eyeballs off his glasses.

No! Of course not, darling. Of course, we’re also worried about you, aren’t we Eddie? We certainly wouldn’t want anything to happen to our ickle-Rickle-pickle-tickle.” Richie pinched Rick’s cheeks with a mad smile that made the poet’s stomach go over. 

“Oh, for Cliff’s sake! I’ll write you a check for ten thousand pounds if you stop bloody touching me!” Rick snapped. Richie’s hands were off his face in an instant.  

“Well, I think that’ll do nicely, won’t it Eddie?”

“Not really, Rich. S’only a week’s rent.”

“I haven’t got time for this.” Rick sighed, “I’ve got a blimmin’ bus to catch!” 

He straightened his dungarees and smoothed out his hair, absentmindedly readjusting his pigtails. As was often the case with long term relationships, a few items of clothing from Vyv’s wardrobe had found their way into Rick’s, and the poet had forgotten to give them back because they no longer felt like Vyv’s. They felt like a part of him. Consequently, in the same way that Vyvyan had a political rally badge pinned surreptitiously to his vest and a bit of anarchistic poetry verse scrawled on his jeans with biro, Rick had heavy doc marten’s on his feet, and just a little bit of gel in his hair. He thought he’d be alright without that ridiculous walking frame, provided he was careful on the stairs and took things very slow. He didn’t want Vyv to see him as hideously fragile. Not when he was still trying to make a point. Not when he wanted (for once) to hold all the cards and have a bit of power.

“So you’re going, are you? Well that’s just charming. After aaall we’ve done for you.” Richie sniffed, “You’ll break your uncle’s heart, you know!”

“You’re breaking my heart!” Eddie wailed. 

A loud honk from somewhere outside quickly derailed the conversation. Rick knew that honk anywhere - it could only have been Vyv’s Anglia. 

“...I don’t blimmin’ believe it.” He muttered, “He came to pick me up!”

“Now wait just a minute young man! This meeting hasn’t been adjourned, you know! There’s still important issues to discuss! Compromises to be made!”

“Rent to be paid.” Eddie added, although his interest in the conversation was already waning. Rick ignored them both and took off out of the flat and down the stairs as fast as he was physically able - which of course wasn’t very fast at all. 

 

Fortunately, it was faster than Richard Richard. 

“Eddie! Stop him!”

Eddie lurched forward when he should have gone sideways, and crashed into the table instead of Rick. He was too blind drunk and disoriented to make another attempt. For perhaps the first time in recorded history, the universe was working for Rick instead of against him. He barrelled out the door while Richie was still stuck on the stairs, entirely incapable of doing anything other than calling out to his nephew in a feeble attempt to reign him in.

“Rickolas Richard Flashheart Pratt! You get back inside this house this instant!”

“Piss off!” Rick yelled. He crashed into the side of the Anglia and rapped on the window, more than a little disappointed to see that it was Mike in the driver’s seat. He wound down the window a lot more slowly and calmly than Rick would have preferred, glancing briefly at the anarchist over the top of his sunglasses.

“Evening, Rick. Need a lift?”

“We’ve come to get you!” Neil yelled from the passenger seat.

“Then let me in, would you? I’m being pursued by a bloody psychopath!”

As Neil climbed out the passenger side and pulled the seat forward, Richie and Eddie finally made their unsteady descent and tried to avoid tripping each other up as they made a beeline for Vyv’s car. Mike was able to distract Eddie - the more difficult of the two - with his mere presence, but Richie was a persistent little bastard where money was concerned. Rick had barely managed to strap himself in before his uncle had come round to the other side of the car and grabbed Neil in a headlock.

“Right, get out of there right now my lad, or the hippie gets it!”

“Oh wow! This is like, totally uncool man!”

“Ha!” Rick snorted, “Nice try, uncle Richard. I don’t even like him!” 

“Well maybe I’ll just keep him then, hmm?”

“He hasn’t got any money, Rich.” Mike said. 

Shit.” Richie dropped Neil with a sneer of disgust, and the hippie made a quick scramble to get back inside the car before Mike took off. He only just made it. They sped out of Hammersmith without much difficulty - two out of shape middle aged men were hardly going to pursue them, after all - and were back in London in record time. Early, in fact. Though they weren’t quite quick enough to make the silent drive any less uncomfortable. Rick spent most of it curled into a ball in the backseat, picking at the silicone on the windowsill. Why couldn’t Vyvyan have come and got him, anyway? That would have been much more romantic. This was really just proving his theory that Vyvyan didn’t care as much as he said he did. Cliff, what was he doing? Making a big bloody mess and going out of his way for someone who didn’t give a toss? It certainly felt like it. 

“I always knew you’d come around eventually, Rick.” Mike said, mostly to make conversation while they were stuck at the lights.

Why? Coz I’m a big stupid pushover and everyone’s laughing at me behind my back?”

“No, because Lennon and McCartney were on to something when they wrote about the mysteries of the universe.”

What?” Rick said, but Neil nodded in understanding.

“Oh, yeah, yeah, Mike! Like when they wrote about love being all you need, right?”

“No, when they wrote about the Walrus.” Mike nodded reflectively, while Rick stared at him in disbelief and Neil went back to fiddling with the radio. 

“Well, I haven’t decided on anything yet, so there.” Rick grumbled. 

“You will.” Mike shot Neil a knowing glance that only irritated the poet further.

“What are you two smirking about?”

“You’ll see.” Mike replied.

“Yeah, it’s like...a really heavy surprise, Rick. Mike and I have been helping Vyv with it all day!” 

“Oh, brilliant. So it’s guaranteed to be positively awful, then, is it?”

“Wait and see.” Mike turned into the driveway and cut the engine, catching Vyvyan’s attention through the front window. 

 

“Bollocks.” Vyv muttered. He wasn’t bloody ready! He plucked at his t-shirt nervously, smoothed out his hair for the hundredth time and checked on dinner for the millionth. This was stupid. So bloody stupid. Rick was going to take one look at all this and laugh at him, he just knew it. It was too little too late, surely. Had to be. He stomped over to the turntable in the drawing-room and tried to ignore the butterflies in his stomach as he flipped through the albums he’d bought from the shop down the road. Cliff bloody Richard. Christ. If any of his friends caught wind of this, he could kiss his reputation goodbye. 

“I’ll just go in then, shall I?” Rick asked.

“Sure, Rick. Use protection, yeah?”

Rick snorted, “If he thinks he’s getting anything out of me, he’s got another thing coming. Get out of the way, Neil! For goodness sakes, I haven’t missed living with you!”

He pushed Neil out of the way and climbed over the top of him to get out the passenger side, and the hippie made no real protest. He sighed and settled back into the upholstery, well used to the poet’s tirade of abuse by now. 

“Have a nice time, Rick.” He offered.

Piss off!” Rick snapped. 

Inside, Vyv dropped the needle at various points across the album, trying to find a track that wasn’t completely poofy. In the end, he settled on Carrie. It wasn’t particularly romantic, especially not for an album arrogantly entitled Love Songs, but at least it wasn’t too sappy. A knock at the door sent him into a panic, and he had to really concentrate to try and keep his voice calm.

“Erm...s’open!” He yelled, and then ran to the proper spot in between the drawing room and the kitchen, where he and Mike had been rehearsing for most of the morning. 

 

Right. Stand up straight, eyes forward. Maintain eye contact - that’s important. Hands either down by your sides or clasped in front of you. Hands in pockets is bloody intimidating. Was it hello first, or a smile first? Or both at the same time?  

 

Vyv swore. He should have had Mike write it down for him.

 

This is stupid. This is stupid this is bloody stupid, he’s going to bloody hate this.

 

“Vyvyan?” Rick stepped into the hall with caution, still somewhat convinced that this was all a grand plan to keep him locked in the share house for all eternity. The music alone was enough to throw him off guard, but coupled with Vyvyan’s appearance it was like walking into an episode of the bloody twilight zone!

 

Vyv’s hair was entirely blond. Not just a bit blond, like it was on the day of the funeral, but entirely and utterly stripped back to its natural colour. The tri-hawk was gone, hair swept off his face, and for once he wasn’t wearing his vest. Just a motorhead t-shirt and jeans. He was smiling a little too wide and sweating a little too much, but...blimmin’ heck. It was incredibly touching.

“...Vyv?

“Don’t ever tell me I don’t bloody care.” Vyv grinned. 

“...Is that...is that Cliff Richard?”

“Ah...yeah.”

“I thought I took all my records with me.”

“Yeah. Well, all but one of the singles. But...erm...I went out and replaced them anyway.” 

“...You...bought Cliff Richard albums?”

Yes. I bought Cliff Richard albums, alright? And incidentally, it was the single-most humiliating thing I’ve ever done in my whole entire life.” He paused, “But I spose it was worth it.”

“...Y-your hair.”

“Do you like it?” Vyv cleared his throat, “Erm...why don’t you come and sit down? At the um, the table. I’ve...made dinner.”

Rick sat, because he was entirely caught off guard and had no idea what else to do, and Vyv immediately rushed into the kitchen to fish everything out of the oven. 

“Right, so, I called your Nan.”

“You what?”

“And she said that shepherd’s pie was your favourite. But I spose that must’ve been before you became a big poofy vege- erm...before you started devoting your life to the care and welfare of mother earth.” His words sounded parrotted and false, as if someone had been coaching him. Probably Neil. 

“Uh...yes. Shepherd's pie and-”

“Mushy peas! Yeah. So, erm...because you’re a vegetarian I made it with lentils, which...well. It looks alright, I spose.” He took a dish out of the oven without bothering to put on oven mitts and carefully cut Rick a slice before adding a generous dollop of mushy peas to the side of the plate. Both the peas, the mash, and everything else looked thoroughly blackened, but since Vyv had never really eaten a home cooked meal that wasn’t thoroughly blackened, he didn’t have an awful lot to compare it with.

“You...went to a lot of trouble.” Rick said. He took a mouthful of the shepherd’s pie to be polite and tried not to cringe when it cut the roof of his mouth.

“How have you been?” Vyvyan asked as he sat down opposite him.

“Um...well-” 

“Oh, bollocks. Wait. I’ve already ballsed this up. Hold on, I had a speech somewhere.”

He reached into his back pocket and grabbed the poofy little ring-box Mike had lent him, then rummaged around a bit more until he found a crumpled, blood-stained bit of paper.

“Vyvyan-”

“Hold on, hold on. Just let me read this, alright? And then if you want to bugger off back to Hammersmith you can. I spose I won’t stop you.”

“Vyv-”

“Rick.” Vyv cleared his throat again and prayed he wasn’t blushing, “I want to apologise for my behaviour. Not only during the past few months, but during the entirety of the time that we have spent together in this share house. I understand that the things I’ve said and done to you over the years were...very heavy and uncool, but as the butcher said to the piglet, we hurt the things we love the most….what? Erm...sorry. Anyway, in the future I won’t hesitate to show you how important you are to me, and will also take all of your clothes to the laundrette, and do the dishes for the next fortnight. You don’t have to come home, and you don’t have to forgive me, however, I think it would be wise...oh shit. This is bloody awful, isn’t it?”

“The speech or the meal?”

“Both.”

Rick hesitated, then nodded.

“Absolute bollocks?”

“Well, not entirely. It’s just...it’s not you, Vyv. None of this is you.”

“Well, some of it is. Mike and Neil helped with the writing.” Vyv admitted, “But I used the pen.”

“But I don’t love Mike or Neil, do I?”

“I dunno. Do you? Cause if you do, Rick, I swear I’ll bloody kill them!”

“I love you, you daft bastard!” Rick said, “And I want to hear what you think, not what Mike or Neil thinks!”

Vyv frowned, “...You want to know what I think?”

“Yes!”

“...You won’t like it.”

“I might.”

Vyv sighed, “I think I’m a violent bloody psychopath who isn’t ever going to be able to keep out of trouble. And I think all of this - the food, the music, the stupid bloody speech - is a load of shite. I think you want me to be sorry for killing Gary and all those other bastards, and I’m not. I think you want me to promise that I won’t do it again, but I can’t. I know I said I could, poof, and I am sorry about that. Because if somebody ever hurts you again, I am going to have to bloody kill them! You’re upset because you think I chose getting revenge over being with you, and I didn’t. I chose keeping you safe over being with you.”

“I wasn’t in any danger-”

“He was hanging around on the next street corner, poof! And when he found out you were alright the first thing he wanted to do was come here and pay you a visit!” 

“...Really?”

“Yes!” Vyv groaned, “And I don’t know what you want me to do! If you...if you tell me not to do something - if you tell me you’re going to leave if I do something - then of course I’m not gonna bloody do it! But if the thing you’re asking me not to do is keeping you safe, and you make me choose, then… bloody hell. I’m not even making any sense, am I?”

“...I think you are.” Rick offered, “Go on.”

“I...I care more about you than I do about being with you. I’d rather you were...safe. And this probably isn’t the right time to bring this up, poof, but it wasn’t exactly easy finishing Gary off!”

“Vim said you dislocated your jaw.”

Gary dislocated my bloody jaw. Nearly fucking killed me. But I didn’t...I don’t...I don’t care what happens to me as long as you’re alright. Everyone keeps telling me that you need to know you’re my number one priority, and I don’t know how else to show you that! Everything I’ve done in the past few months has been for you!”

“...I know.”

“So I’m not sorry for killing Gary, alright? And I know you don’t want to date a murderer, and I spose I understand. You were dating a murderer before I slit the bastard’s throat, but we won’t get into that. I can’t change who I am, poof. I want to. For you. But I can’t. And no amount of Cliff Richard vinyls or god awful home cooked dinners is going to make a difference. No matter how hard I try – and I do want to try – I’m always going to be a murdering psychopathic bastard who flies off the handle kills the people that hurt you, and don’t start on about me going to jail or not being able to be a doctor, because I don’t bloody care! I don’t care about anything or anyone that isn’t you. That’s half the fucking problem!” He paused to get his breath. His hands had balled into fists, nails digging into the table, and his eyes were wide and deranged. Rick wanted to speak but couldn’t. Perhaps that was for the best - Vyv was far from done.

“Neil and Mike didn’t want me to put any pressure on you, because they said it wouldn’t help things if I acted like you coming home was a given.”

“They’re right.” Rick muttered. His throat was incredibly dry.

“But they didn’t say anything about begging. I spose because they didn’t think I was stupid and poofy enough to actually do it. But I am, as it happens, stupid and poofy enough.” He reached across the table and grabbed one of Rick’s hands, neither of them paying much attention as arms, elbows and sleeves got stuck in the dinner.

 

“You can’t go back to Hammersmith, poof. You can’t leave. I know I’ve just told you I can’t bloody change and that I’m still going to be a horrible violent murdering bastard, and that I’m not even a little bit sorry for anything I’ve done, but Christ. I need you. I don’t...I don’t even know how to try and explain how badly I need you. I don’t want to live without you - I don’t bloody know how! I said I wouldn’t stop you if you wanted to leave, but I’ll fucking well follow you, and we can both live in Hammersmith with your poofy uncles.”

Rick laughed - he couldn’t help it. It was an entirely ridiculous thought.  

“...So, just to clarify. You brought me over here to apologise and make an effort, and show me that you can change and not be such a murdering bastard.”

“Yeah.”

“But you’re not sorry, and you’re not going to change at all?”

“...Well, I spose I could cope with listening to Cliff Richard a bit more often. And I didn’t mind cooking for you, even though it wasn’t very good. I quite like being romantic for you, really.” He paused, “If you tell anyone that I’ll kick your bloody teeth in.”

“I know.” Rick replied, “Alright, so you’re not sorry, you’re not going to change very much, you’re probably going to keep murdering anyone who so much as looks at me funny, but...you want me to forgive you anyways?”

“...Ah. Well. Yes.”

Rick sighed, “You’re trying really blimmin’ hard, aren’t you Vyv?”

“Rick, you have no bloody idea how many vegetarian shepherds pies I’ve made today. Do you know how long it took me to get all the orange out of my hair?”

“Well, I didn’t ask you to do that!”

“Well excuse me for trying to look respectable! I thought you wanted a bloody change!”

“Not that kind of change!” Rick groaned, “For Cliff’s sake, Vyv. I just…want some stability.”

“…Which I can’t give you.” Vyv replied, “Except for the part where I love you and want to stay with you forever and do disgusting pervy things to your bottom every night.”

Rick frowned. Vyv had tried hadn’t he? He was going to keep trying, from the sounds of it. That meant something, surely. That had to mean something.

“...I suppose that’ll have to do then, won’t it?” He said.

“…Really?”

“Yes, providing you try not to kill any more people, alright?”

“...Does that mean you’ll come home?”

“Yes, I’ll come home. But only if you also promise never to cook for me ever again.”

“You’ll be my boyfriend again, then?” Vyv asked.

“Well, I didn’t say that.”

“...Oh.” Vyv shrugged, “That’s alright, I spose. Erm...maybe if I give you a bit of time…?”

Rick took the rings out of the top pocket of his dungarees and slid them across the table.

“We never really discussed these properly, did we? It was only a stupid little thing I did while absolutely pissed, you know. But...boyfriend seems a bit informal, Vyvyan. Very...erm...casual.”

“Are you asking me to marry you? Because firstly, that’s disgustingly girly. And secondly, I don’t know that we’re actually allowed to.”

“You’re the one whose been wearing the bloody thing for months!” Rick snapped, “So I want you to keep wearing it, alright? But I just want to make it clear that if you do wear it, it’s permanent. And the next time you give it back...I won’t...we won’t…”

“Yeah, I sort of got that bit.” Vyv slipped the ring onto his finger and grinned - he’d missed it terribly, “There, happy? I won’t ever take it off, unless I lose a finger in an accident or get it snagged on a patient’s vital organs.”

“...You can take it off when you’re...off being a doctor.” Rick clarified.

“Oh, ta. Very generous of you.” He hesitated, “What am I sposed to call you, then? If boyfriend’s too casual.”

“…Partner?”

“…I spose that could work.” Vyv replied. He paused, then slid the stupid ring box across the table.

“What’s this?” Rick asked.

“It’s yours. If you want it. I meant to give it to you ages ago, but there was never really a right time, and...well.”

Rick opened the box eagerly, picturing some heartwarmingly romantic item of jewellery, or maybe a new badge for his blazer. When he came up with a rusty key on a bit of old chain, his face fell.

“...What the ruddy heck is this?”

“It’s the key to my padlock, stupid.”

“Oh.” Rick frowned, “Don’t you need this to unlock it?”

“That’s the bloody point. Now you’re the only one who can unlock it. Cause, you know. Cause I trust you and everything.”

“...Oh.”

“Look, you don’t have to wear it. But the thing is, stupid poofy wedding rings don’t mean anything to my mates. But the birds they really like - the ones who they move in with and have babies with and promise to spend the rest of their lives with - they get the keys.”

“...And you want me to have it?”

“Course! Who else am I gonna give it to? Neil?”

Rick smiled and slipped the chain around his neck, “...I suppose it does look pretty anarchic, doesn’t it? Very anti-establishment.”

“I spose.” Vyv shrugged, “Suits you.”

“...Thank you.” Rick said. Another shrug from the punk.

“S’alright. Look, can I kiss you now? I’ve been waiting all bloody day!”

Rick grinned, “You can do more than that, Vyv.”

“How’d you mean?”

“…I think you’d better take me upstairs.”

Vyv didn’t need to be told twice. He picked up the anarchist and put him over his shoulder, carrying him up to bed with perhaps a little more enthusiasm he’d intended. Thank Christ it was just him and Rick, and there wasn’t anybody else there to see what a needy bastard he’d become. 

Behind the closed door of their shared bedroom, Vyv lowered Rick onto the bed and crashed their mouths together. Bloody hell, it was even better than he remembered. He ran his tongue across Rick’s lower lip while his nose ring dug into the anarchist’s face and metal studs embedded themselves in Rick’s forehead as well as his own. Rick’s hands went into Vyvyan’s hair and they both whimpered as his fingers closed around soft, gel free waves. Vyv was surprised by how eager Rick was, and how quickly the poet was able to yank Vyv’s motorhead t-shirt over his head and toss it to the other side of the room. The heavy padlock around his neck swung back and hit Rick in the face, who responded with a yelp of surprise.

“Sorry.” Vyv grinned, “I can’t really take it off anymore.”

Rick took of his key, slid it into the lock, and unwrapped the chains from around Vyvyan’s neck before he smothered it in licks, bites and kisses.

Fuck,” Vyv breathed, “How-poof, how far do you want to go?”

“Hmm?”

“We don’t have to do anything you don’t want - after what happened -”

“I want to do everything.” Rick said, “As long as it’s with you.”

“You don’t have to impress me. I’m happy just-”

“Vyvyan?”

“Yeah?”

“Shut up.” Rick cupped the front of Vyv’s boxers with one and pulled him back for a kiss with the other. The punk was successfully silenced. He busied himself with the buttons on Rick’s dungarees, and then with the buttons on his shirt while the poet wriggled out of the bottom half of his yellow overalls. Vyv’s mouth went to Rick’s earlobe, then down to his neck, then his chest to mark up every bit of skin he could conceivably reach. He just couldn’t believe that Rick was here. That he’d forgiven him. That they were going to be alright. Maybe not perfect - Vyv really had meant everything he’d said about being a violent murdering bastard - but they’d be together, at the very least. That alone made Vyvyan the luckiest bloke in England as far as he was concerned, and he had to try really hard to keep himself from doing anything especially soppy, like crying all over his boyfriend and potentially ruining their very first shag.

“We’ll go slow.” He muttered, “You still haven’t properly recovered.”

“Okay.” Rick said, but after a moment he pulled back suddenly, hesitated, then smiled.

“If you’re having second thoughts-” Vyv began.

“Stop that!” Rick said, “Of course I’m not having second thoughts, Vyvyan. I’ve been trying to lose my blimmin’ virginity since I was fifteen! I’m not about to change my mind now that it’s actually going to happen!”

“Then what is it?”

“It’s just...well...I don’t actually…” He paused, “I don’t actually know what to do.”

“...Oh. Because you’re a big girly virgin?”

“So are you!”

“Yeah, but at least I know what to do! Virgin!”

“Well you’ll just have to show me then, won’t you, virgin?”

“You’ll be in for a bloody shock.” Vyv grinned, “...But there’s something I have to do first.”

He yanked Rick’s Y-fronts down and took his length in hand, running his thumb up the underside of the shaft.

Fuck.” Rick said through gritted teeth.

“Did you just swear, poof?” He increased the pace of his strokes slightly, then brought them back down to a crawl just to piss him off.

“Argh, fuck! Vyvyan, you don’t - shit - you don’t have to do anything. Neither of us ever has to do anything in bed. That’s the whole blimmin’ poi-oh God, Vyv.

“You’re right.” Vyv agreed, “Wrong choice of words. I don’t have to do something. I bloody well want to do something.” 

It was quite a freeing thought, really. And it made things that much more enjoyable when he grabbed Rick by the hips and took him into his mouth. Christ, he hadn’t done this in years. He hoped he wasn’t too out of practise.

Bloody hell! Fuck, Jesus CHRIST, Vyv. You’ve got to stop or I’ll come!”

“So come.” Vyv said, in between licks.

“But then we won’t be able to do anything else!”

The punk snickered, “Shows what you know. Virgin.”

 

It was extremely fortunate that Mike and Neil had agreed not to come back to the share house that night, and were tucked away in a hotel on the other side of town. Otherwise, they would no doubt have been permanently deafened, not just by the breathless screams and squeals of the People’s Poet, but by the loud, guttural moans of Vyvyan Basterd. As it was, the sheer magnitude of the noise allowed it to carry across to Mike and Neil’s cosy little hotel room, leaving them both with horrendous headaches the next day. 

 

*

 

“Wow.” Rick said.

“Yep.” Vyv pulled his arm out from under the anarchist so he could light a cigarette. Rick continued to stare at the ceiling in awe.

“Wow.” He said again, “Blimmin’...wow.”

“Rick, you’ve said that eight times already.”

“Wow.”

“Nine.” Vyv sighed.

“You don’t think that was amazing?” Rick asked.

“I think it was the best bloody thing that’s ever happened to me, but that doesn’t mean you need to keep saying wow over and over! You’ll do my fucking head in.”

“...Wow.”

Vyv passed him the cigarette and rolled over, so that his chin was resting on Rick’s shoulder.

“I love you, you know.” He said.

“I should ruddy well hope so after that!” Rick giggled.

“I missed you.”

“Obviously. Lucky for you I’m not going anywhere.”

“Oh, yeah, lucky me.” Vyv yawned, “Now you can annoy me forever.”

“...What do you think about getting a flat together?” Rick asked, “Just the two of us?”

“A flat?”

“Yeah.”

“Why not a house?”

“Alright, a house then.”

“Can we get a dog?”

“I suppose.”

“Another hamster?”

“Alright.”

“A tank of violent, flesh eating piranhas?”

“...We’ll see.”

“Yeah, let’s get a house, if you want one.” Vyv yawned again and closed his eyes, wrapping one arm around Rick’s waist to make sure he wouldn’t disappear. He still couldn’t quite believe Rick was there to begin with. “I don’t mind where we live, really.”

“No?” Rick asked. 

“No. Why would I? It doesn’t really matter as long as I’ve got you.”

“...Vyvyan, that was really incredibly romantic.”

“Bugger off, bogey-bum.” Vyv gave Rick a shove that landed him on the floor, then made a point of stealing all the blankets. Rick squealed as he landed on their pile of discarded clothes and the sudden rush of cold air made his skin prickle. 

“Vyvyan! You utter bastard!” Rick crawled back under the bed and wrestled his way into the blankets. Vyv relented, because of course he did, and pulled Rick into his arms. Everything was alright with the world again, and for once, the boys could rest easy.

 

…Well. Almost.

 

“…Um…Vyvyan?”

“Yeah poof?”

“When you said I was dating a violent murderer before you…killed Gary, what did you mean?”

“Erm…”

“Because I haven’t been with anybody other than you.”

“Ah. Um…”

“And… you hadn’t…murdered anybody before that, had you?”

“…Well. Erm…Ah…you see, poof. It's about Mr Morisson...”

 

THE END