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Honest woman

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“Why the fuck am I being asked about your sex life?”

 

Julian took the phone away from his head and checked the caller. “I’m sorry, do I know you?” he said when he brought it back to his ear.

 

“Some journalist just asked me what I thought about you and Noel shaking up together,” Lee sounded outraged. But that was his go-to emotion. Julian had heard him be outraged over countless things. Skimmed milk. Pints being more than £4. Noel’s every haircut. It didn’t really mean anything. But that didn’t stop his stomach from dropping at his words.

 

He and Lee didn’t speak all that often. Not that they didn’t speak. They were just Northern men and so making an effort didn’t really factor into their relationship. He loved Lee. He was one of his oldest friends. But that didn’t mean he saw him very often.

 

“Erm,” he said after much too long a silence. “I’ve moved in with Noel.”

 

“Yes,” Lee replied, like he thought Julian was an idiot. “So I hear.”

 

“You wanna get a drink?” Julian asked, deciding he wasn’t going to get out of this conversation and he was absolutely not having it over the phone.

 

“I’m five minutes’ away from Noel’s - sorry, your’s ,” he said.

 

“Okay,” Julian said. “Looking forward to it.”

 

“Twat,” Lee said and hung up.

 

Julian couldn’t help the little grin at the phone. Tough love was Lee’s speciality. He always enjoyed spending time with him, there was something very simple and open about Lee that he sometimes found lacking in his other interactions. He wasn’t good if you needed reassurance or codling, and Julian was self aware enough to know that he did need that from time to time. But, it was at least always simple with Lee. He said what he meant and Julian could relax and not worry about offending him constantly.

 

There was a loud knock at the door a few minutes later. Noel was out, at the studio probably, which Julian was grateful for. The idea of talking about their relationship was bad enough, but Noel being there to overhear made him feel even more uncomfortable. He supposed he was going to have to get used to it. The film was out and doing well and they were now just waiting for it to clear and the DVD to go on pre-sale. It made Julian’s stomach twist unhappily when he thought about how closely it was entwined. The truth was, he was dreading the next bit. Dreading people knowing his business, thinking they had some right to comment on it. Most of the people he had any intention of telling already knew. If it were anyone else but Lee he’d have probably told them to get lost and hung up the phone. But it was different with Lee. He’d been there at the start.

 

He also, for some reason he couldn’t even understand himself, he wanted Lee’s approval. He’d known them both for so long, that it mattered to Julian what he would think of it.

 

There was a second, louder knock, a few moments after the first. He sighed and went to let Lee in.

 

“Alright?” he said with a smile.

 

“Alright mate,” Lee said, stepping in to give him a hug. “Bloody hell, you’re really here then. Moved in with the little woman finally.”

 

Julian tried not to let himself lockup at the jab. He wondered what Lee knew. What he’d heard and what he’d guessed. “Well, he’s got the means to support my lifestyle.”

 

“Ah,” Lee said, shrugging off his coat and looking around the flat. He’d met Lee first, but it was Noel that was really suited to the fast-paced banter that was Lee’s preferred conversational style. Julian tended to rely on a good old fashioned middle finger and the ability to loom over him if he was being annoying. That was less of an option now Lee had filled out a bit. “It’s a purely financial relationship, is it? Always thought you knew which way your bread was buttered, Barratt.”

 

Julian wagged his eyebrows at him rather than come up with a response. “Drink?” he asked.

 

“Does her highness keep beer on the property or is it all absinthe and champagne?” he answered, handing over his coat.

 

Julian hung it up and walked away down the hall, forcing Lee to follow him. “I think I bought some beer,” he said once they were inside the kitchen and Lee had plonked himself down at the table.

 

“So?” Lee said as Julian peered into the fridge and stared at its contents without really seeing it.

 

He swallowed and wondered why he hadn’t thought to work out what he was going to say before Lee arrived. He felt nervous and edgy. In truth, he wasn’t entirely sure how Lee would react. He’d spent the first couple of weeks after Julian first started working with Noel making slightly uncomfortable jokes about Julian’s new girlfriend, as though not sure what to make of him or the fact that Julian kept taking him home.

 

Although Noel soon wormed his way firmly into Lee’s affections, as he always seemed to do. After that he’d had no problem flirting right back with Noel whenever they were together. Now he thought about it, he remembered a drunken snog or two between them, which wasn’t all that unusual. A lot guys seemed to think snogging Noel was a great laugh, like he wasn’t really a bloke anyway, so it all just a bit of fun. He remembered a few parties where Noel had sat on happily Lee’s knee and smiled prettily at him before Lee had dipped him to give him a kiss. Julian let it go the first couple of times, but eventually made enough thinly veiled jabs about it and they’d stopped. At least, he thought they’d stopped. But, maybe they’d done more than snog for a laugh at a house party. How would he even know? He wasn’t sure at the time what had bothered him so much about it. Perhaps that people were starting to talk about Noel and Lee like they were the double act.

 

“You found the meaning of life in there or are you just planning on never coming out again?” Lee’s voice held enough humour that Julian could pluck a couple of bottles out of the fridge and turn around and give him the finger. But enough edge to suggest that Julian should stop thinking he was going to get out of talking about it.

 

“I was hoping you might have left by the time I found it,” he said, handing over the bottle before fetching the opener from a draw.

 

“Like a bad rash, me,” Lee said with a raise of an eyebrow.

 

Julian frowned at him and then shook his head. “I don’t want to know what the punchline of that is.”

 

Lee smirked and took a big swig. “So? Moved in then?”

 

As openers went it wasn’t exactly subtle. But then, neither was Lee. He supposed he should be grateful that the other man was bringing it up and he didn’t have to. He nodded and looked fixedly at the bottle. “Yeah,” he said, shrugging, “we, ah, I guess we’re… We’re giving it a go.” He felt stupid as soon as the words were out and looked up across the table. Unable to read the other man’s expression he hurried on. “I can’t even tell you how little I want you answering questions about my sex life. Or thinking about it. Or picturing anything to do with it. Or me.”

 

Lee rolled his eyes at him before shaking his head. He grinned down at his beer. “You’ve really gone the whole fucking hog on the midlife crisis, haven’t you?”

 

“That’s not a nice way to talk about your very dear friend, and national treasure, Noel Fielding,” Julian said with a raised eyebrow. He kept his tone light, matching Lee’s pisstaking vibe but the hurt lingered just under the surface. This was nothing to do with getting older. At least, it wasn’t about recapturing any lost youth. He didn’t know what it was about. Why now. Finally being the right time and right place perhaps. Like the film finally happening.

 

“It’s not like I’m exactly surprised,” Lee said after a moment where Julian tried his best to hold eye contact and not look guilty or embarrassed. “I had eyes when we were living together, mate. I’m just surprised you finally got your act together, thought you were determined to just leave it at simmering sexual tension and snogging at every opportunity while pretending it was all just a joke. ”

 

Julian swallowed and nodded, there was something a bit off in Lee’s tone. Slightly mocking or smug, which wasn’t so different from Lee’s normal tone but that didn't stop it stinging. “Yeah, he had that effect on the men he lived with apparently.” He hadn’t expected his own slightly barbed tone and immediately felt stupid. It wasn’t even that he was feeling a bit jealous at the memory of Noel wrapped in Lee’s arm. Not entirely, at least. He just felt under attack, like Lee could see straight through him to all the nonsense between him and Noel. The years and years of it. All the wasted time and pointless fights. It made him feel small and silly.

 

“Barratt feeling a little jealous is he?” Thankfully for both of them Lee looked faintly amused rather than angry. “I’m not exactly here to steal him away and start my own fairytale romance.”

 

Julian rubbed his hand over his face and forced out an only slightly hollow sounding laugh. What the hell was wrong with him? Was he always this much an idiot when it came to Noel? Lee probably had a good insight into that. He’d had front row seats to it often enough, at the start, back when neither of them really knew that the thing between them was - either professionally or otherwise. “Thank fuck for that,” Julian said, forcing a grin onto his face, “we both know I couldn’t compete with your sharp wit and snappy sense of style.”

 

Lee laughed. “You’re a smooth talker, ain’t ya? No wonder he’s been smitten with you for twenty years.”

 

Julian shifted, starting to feel agitated. Even said in jest, he didn’t like the thought that anyone might think Noel had been waiting around for him. That wasn’t what it was but it made him feel guilty and anxious anyway. “Not much to live up to then,” he said and took a swig of beer to hide his frown.

 

“So,” Lee said said when it became clear Julian had no idea what else to say, “you planning on making an honest woman of him?”

 

Julian paused. It wasn’t the first time someone had asked. Not even the first time Lee had asked. People had been joking about it for years. Since pretty much they started working together. There was something about it that had slowly started to piss Julian off. It wasn't just the assumption of Noel being the women, desperate for her man to pop the question, although that was certainly part of it. He always found it annoying when other people commented on Noel’s feminine side like that when he wasn’t there, he always sensed a slight in their words, but too subtle a one for him to do anything about. But, apart from his instinctual need to protect Noel, it was also the idea that it had to be going somewhere. Why did marriage have to be the end goal? Why did people always, always assume that?

 

It wasn’t even that people assumed it about him and Noel specifically, it was wider than that. It shouldn’t mean something if people didn’t choose to spend a ridiculous amount of money to have a load of people stare at them while they admitted incredibly personal things. Out loud.

 

He didn’t even care that people had always talked about him and Noel as a couple, though. It never had. Despite Lee’s attempts to find ways to annoy or embarrass him. Everyone that knew them seemed to have sensed there was something off about him and Noel immediately and started talking about them as a pair right away. He supposed they were right too. His and Noel’s friendship had never been entirely normal.   

 

^^^^^

 

It had started conventionally enough. Noel was little more than a guy that Julian saw around sometimes. Even after he’d seen Noel perform and they agreed to work together, it was a normal friendship. They spent a lot of time trying to figure out what they wanted it to be. The idea at the start was just share a bill and do half and hour each, save costs and perhaps bounce a few things off each other in the change over. They were both protective of the names they’d worked hard to create on the circuit and didn’t want to get rid of that entirely, when they weren’t even sure it would work out sharing a bill. There was also a vague idea that they’d work on a script for TV at the same time.

 

It was Noel, of course, who suggested they think of something else. “Julian,” he said from where he’d been lounging at the bottom on Julian’s bed, “you think it might be better if we just did the show together? We can test out some material for the TV show and see if we actually work as a double act before we try selling the script.”

 

And so they had. Just like that. It never really occurred to him to disagree. He liked Noel, his humour complimented his own without cancelling it out. Or, at least, he’d hoped it would.

 

The ease of the decision still surprised him. He’d never made a decision that quickly before. Not about something that he was essentially committing to for a year or more. Not that it didn’t make sense; he’d started to hate being on stage alone. He felt too exposed and Noel would certainly draw attention.

 

And that’s how they’d found themselves doing an Edinburgh show together. They’d rented the smallest flat imaginable and asked Simon and Lee to share it with them. It was too small, but that mostly seemed to make it feel more artistic. Everyone together, creating things and buzzing about. He liked it. Most of the time. Lee and Noel had become a sort of double act all on their own which made Julian want to invest in some ear plugs or another couple of rooms.

 

But it was good to be together. It meant they could write more easily for one thing. Which is what they spent most of their time doing, lounging around the tiny front room, making jokes while Julian took notes.

 

“Hey Julian,” Noel said suddenly, making Julian look up.

 

“You want to put Terry in his own show?” he guessed. Noel was draped over the sofa, his legs hanging off the arm rest. He never seemed able to just sit normally on any surface, like he was just too out there and cool to use a sofa correctly. He was playing with the end of the shower, making it talk like a puppet. They’d been crying with laughter only a few minutes before and Julian felt light and happy. He couldn’t remember when he’d last laughed so hard with someone.

 

Noel giggled and pointed the shower head at him again. “I think he’s got what it takes to go all the way. He could lead a dance troupe with all the other stuff in the bathroom.”

 

Julian grinned. “Like a strip club for bathroom products?”

 

Noel shrugged and grinned into his hand, something he did when he was particularly amused by an idea. “Yeah, why not?”

 

“Well,” Julian said, standing and stretching, “for one thing, the others are probably going to want to use the shower at some point.”

 

Noel pulled an exaggerated frown. “You can’t just put Terry back now,” he said. “This is his big break. He’ll be all forlorn if you take it away from him now.”

 

“Nah,” he said with a shake of his head. “The thing about Terry that you have to remember is that he’s also a massive perv. He gets off on watching people in the shower. He’s filming it all. Selling it for a tidy profit.”

 

“No way!” Noel said, looking scandalised. “I’ve used that shower!’

 

Julian grinned. “Yours sold for a record amount.”

 

Noel looked a bit too pleased with that. “Course it did.” Julian reached out and took hold of the shower head, but Noel didn’t release it. He grinned up at him through his fringe. “Come on, Julian, give Terry a chance.”

 

Julian made a thoughtful face. “I’ll think about it, but he’s going to have to do a better job of being an actual shower in the meantime.”

 

Noel laughed and looked delightedly at the shower head. “Terry, you’re going to be a star!” He laughed again and leapt to his feet. “Thanks Julian, we won’t let you down!” He leapt forward and threw his arms around Julian’s waist.

 

“Don’t touch me,” he snapped. It was just for effect really. He didn’t mind the physical contact, although it did still sometimes surprise him. Julian wasn’t much of a hugger unless he was pissed, but Noel was like a limpet. It suited Noel, it was part of his easy charm, it was just sometimes sudden and almost violent in its execution.

 

Noel leapt back and hung his head before staring up at Julian, his eyes comically big and hurt. Julian stared back as impassively as he could.

 

Noel was odd looking. Julian kept coming back to the thought over and over. He wasn’t sure why. He didn’t look at his other friends and think about how they looked at all. They just were - that was Lee or that was Simon. What they looked like didn’t even cross his mind. But with Noel it seemed to occur to him whenever they were together. He’d look over at the younger man and suddenly be caught off-guard by the way he looked.

 

His eyes were bright, always surprisingly blue and massive when they made eye contact. His face was made up of strange, sharp angles and a nose that he insisted wasn’t broken but Julian wasn't sure if that was just to cover some embarrassing accident he didn’t want anyone to know about. Julian sometimes got a bit caught up looking at it, how all the features were a bit too distinct to really work together. But they did. They definitely did, combined with Noel’s strange way of carrying himself and dressing, it all just sort of came together into something… attractive. There was no way around it. Noel was pretty in sort of very male way. It was confusing, which is why it kept occurring to him over and over when they were together.

 

He was suddenly aware that Noel was still staring at him, pretending to look hurt. Julian slowly let a smile creep over his face. “Ahhh!” he said with a grin and a little ‘got ya’ point of his fingers.

 

Noel immediately grinned with apparent delight and copied both the action and sound before going in for another hug.

 

“No, seriously,” Julian said immediately, stepping back. “Don’t ever touch me. Not now, not ever. Not even when we’re out shopping for shampoo.”

 

Noel cackled. “You ballbag,” he huffed and punched him on the arm.

 

“Ow!” Julian said, rubbing his bicep. “You little berk! I bruise like a peach.”

 

He wasn’t sure why he did it really. Perhaps he was just buoyed by Noel’s apparent delight at his joke or maybe it was just because he looked a bit too good, hair just so and clothes carefully chosen. But he couldn’t resist the urge to reach out and mess up Noel’s hair, using one hand to tangle the strands, bringing them up over Noel’s head.

 

Noel gasped loudly. “No way!” he cried. “You brute, no one messes with my hair.”

 

Noel flung his arms out to try for apparent retaliation, but Julian was not only taller but also ready for him. He grabbed both of his hands, trying to still him. But, Noel apparently was not to be outdone. He kicked out, landing a surprisingly forceful blow to the side of his leg. Julian stumbled even as he laughed, his hands still gripping Noel’s tightly. “You brat,” he gasped. Amused at the look of outraged determination on Noel’s face, he tried to swipe Noel’s legs out from under him.

 

Noel stumbled but didn't fall. He let out a breathy little laugh,. “You’re a bully,” he huffed, his face flushed and eyes bright.

 

There was a scuffle where Noel continued to attempt to trip Julian over and Julian tried to do the same in return. Noel was definitely smaller and lighter, but he was also fitter and much more determined than Julian, who hadn’t grown up with siblings or friends that went in for a lot of wrestling.

 

Noel managed to land a particularly hard blow to the back of Julian’s knees and he went down. But he managed to bring Noel with him and they ended up in a heap on the carpet. Julian wasn’t sure what either of them were trying to achieve. He would have settled for Noel admitting defeat. That seemed important for some reason, that Noel admit Julian had won. It turned out to be easier said than done. Noel wriggled and twisted in Julian’s grip, trying to manoeuvre himself so he was pinning Julian under him. But he couldn’t get purchase to do it. He also kept true to his inability to be quiet even for a moment, issuing a stream of curses and giggles as they struggled on the floor. Julian could hear his own harsh breathing and laughter, but chose to ignore it.

 

The front door opened behind them, but there was no way Julian was going to let that distract him. He was the boss here and it was very important that Noel realise that. Someone sighed dramatically and stepped over them on their way to the kitchen.

 

Noel giggled madly at the near interruption and Julian used that to his advantage, finally managing to grab both Noel’s hands and pin them to his sides. With that done, he swung his leg over both Noel’s and used his weight to pin him in place. Noel wriggled and squirmed under him trying to buck him off, but Julian held firm, increasing the pressure on Noel’s wrists.

 

“Let it go, little man,” he breathed, staring down at him, trying to suppress another laugh. “I’ve got you beat.”

 

Their eyes met and Noel suddenly went still under him, breathing hard. He blinked up at Julian, his eyes bright and a bit wet with laughter and his cheeks flushed. He was hard. Julian could feel his cock pressing against his arse.

 

He was so surprised that he stilled instantly, letting go of Noel's wrists. He wasn’t hard, but his dick was definitely starting to get interested in the proceedings. He wasn’t sure how it had turned. Noel was just his sort of mate. He’d never considered whether he might fancy him; Julian tended to go for more blokeish men. And he didn’t even know Noel fancied men. He stared down at the other man, now pliant and silent under him, considering for the first time. His eyes tracked over his delicate features and flushed skin. Beautiful his mind supplied automatically. He blinked, surprised at the thought and not sure what to do with it.

 

A few half formed thoughts flitted through his head. All confusing and mostly terrifying.

 

Then Noel reached up and pinched his nipple hard. “Get off me you lump.”

 

“Ow!” he cried and immediately began to mess up Noel’s hair in retaliation. They traded a few blows back and forth before Julian held up his hands and rolled off him. “Fine, fine,” he sighed. “Whatever. Let’s stop this before it ends in mutual destruction.”

 

They lay on the floor panting for a few moments. “I think Terry could be a part of the show,” Noel said into the silence, like that was the condition of their truce.

 

“Okay,” Julian said, easily. If Noel cared that much he could probably find a decent joke in it.

 

Noel turned his head to look at him, his smile huge. “Genius.”

 

They grinned at each other for a long moment before Noel sat up abruptly. “I gotta get going,” he said. “Call me later, yeah?”

 

He always ended their time together like that, with an abrupt announcement that he needed to leave and a demand that Julian call him. “I’ll see if I can find the time,” Julian said and pulled himself to his feet, not mentioning that they lived together and would certainly be seeing each other later that day. The moment from earlier was gone so completely, it was like it was never there at all. Perhaps Julian had imagined the entire thing. It wasn’t like he was particularly good at reading the signs.

 

“Good one,” Noel said, tugging on his coat and walking to the door. “See you, Ju.”

 

Julian blinked at the closed door for a few minutes, feeling a bit like he’d just been caught up in a hurricane and dumped in a foreign land. He sighed at himself for not being able to stop grinning before heading to the kitchen for some food.

 

Lee looked up at him as he entered, his eyebrows raising slowly. “Having fun there, Barratt?”

 

Julian met his gaze firmly. You didn’t show weakness with Mack, it was a death kiss. He’d never let a joke drop if he thought you cared about it. “Just all in a day's work,” he said with a shrug.

 

“I’ll bet it is,” he said, shovelling cereal into his mouth. “You making an honest woman of him or what?”

 

Julian paused where he was reaching for the kettle. It wasn’t the first time Lee had made a jab about them being a couple. It wasn’t even the twentieth, but coming so close to the moment on the floor it caught him off guard. “Yeah,” he said, slowly. “He’s got the dress all picked out. I was hoping you’d be best man.”

Lee laughed. “Bet you’d love that, wouldn’t you? Showing the world he’s all yours.”

Julian laughed, even though the comment instantly made him feel off. He tried to shake it as he went through the motions of making dinner, but he felt weird and confused for the rest of the night. Because, the problem was, the idea didn’t actually feel all that weird. People knowing that he and Noel were tied together was actually really appealing.

 

That thought made him feel anxious. Maybe he ought to follow up with Stuart and see if he’d be interested in doing something after Edinburgh was done. Julian didn’t like the idea of relying on anyone else for his career. Or anything, come to that. Especially someone like Noel, who would no doubt be bored of him by the end of the festival anyway and looking for new things. He made a mental note to mention to Noel that he was considering auditioning for films. Just so they both knew where they stood.

 

^^^^^

 

Julian continued his stance that they ought to pursue things outside of the Boosh throughout their careers. It somehow made him feel both more and less secure as time went on. Noel would always laugh at him and agree that it was good to do other things, that it would keep the Boosh fresh. But he wondered sometimes what he actually thought of it.

Their working with other people didn’t stop Lee from making couple jokes about them. Even after they stopped working together completely and people started to get the message that Julian didn’t want to talk about it, Lee still would. He’d listen happily to whatever Julian was working on and then grin and ask, “But, seriously, when are you getting back with the missus to do some proper comedy?” It was mostly designed to annoy him, of course. Calculated to be the most infuriating thing someone could ask. But, the persistence of the joke always gave Julian pause, like Lee might have tapped into some universal truth. He and Noel were going to get back together and it was only a matter of time. And it turned out that he was right. Which was both annoying and a bit worrying.

Lee always seemed to have a way of doing that, of cutting right to the heart of the matter, like he was far too busy to bother with the niceties. Julian mostly appreciated that about him. It was also annoying because they were so different. Lee wasn’t by and large a conflicted person, he was built entirely out of sarcasm and strong opinions. He found Julian frustrating because he wasn’t usually sure what he wanted for dinner, let alone who he was going to spend the rest of his life with. Lee had met his wife young and had seemingly never considered anything other than that he would marry and have kids with her.

The truth was, Julian had only been entirely sure of two things. That he loved Julia and wanted her to be the mother of his children and that he loved Noel and wanted to write comedy with him. What those two things meant had never been entirely clear to him, and certainly not what he ought to do to act on them. Thankfully both Julia and Noel seemed to know enough for him. But, there was a lingering sense of doubt, like he ought to somehow take hold of the situation. Be the man of action that his characters were constantly claiming he was. “Oh yeah,” he said, finally answering Lee’s question. “I’ve got my dress all picked out. Noel’s hoping you’ll be his best man.”

 

Lee laughed. “Imagine how much those photos would sell for. I’m bringing my camera!” He chuckled to himself and took another swig of beer.

 

Julian felt alarmed. Lee surely couldn’t think he was being serious. “So,” he said, “you don’t… It’s not a surprise?” He wasn’t even sure what he was asking any more. For approval perhaps. For affirmation that it was inevitable and not going to end in disaster. That he wasn’t imagining Noel’s feelings for him. He had no idea.

 

“Mate,” Lee said, almost serious for a fraction of a second, “from the moment I first saw you humping on the carpet of our flat, I knew you were going to end up here.”

 

Julian laughed. He couldn’t help it. “We weren’t humping, you massive wanker.” He tried to stop laughing by taking another drink. “That was just a very platonic, manly wrestling match. Which I won by the way.”

 

“Yes,” Lee said, “I could tell that by the shrieking and giggling. Just like a bare knuckle fight, really.”

 

Julian nodded. “So, the press are sniffing around?” It made him feel queasy, the thought of how close they were to being under such scrutiny.

 

Lee shrugged. “I guess. I don’t get asked about you much anymore, but seems someone actually did their research and remembered we all used to live together. I don’t think they were getting at the two of you wrestling, though, if that’s what you mean.”

 

Julian relaxed slightly. “Okay. Only we’re ah…” He rubbed the back of his head and wondered how to phrase it. “We’re going to keep it quiet for a bit longer, I think. Just until… We’re waiting-”

 

“Course you are,” Lee interrupted. “It’s been a million years, you wouldn’t want to rush into anything.”

 

Julian rolled his eyes. “Exactly, but if you could keep that massive trap shut for a couple of months we’d appreciate it.”

 

“I’m sure I can contain my delight and giddy need to discuss your love life for another few months. Just as a personal favour to you, of course.” Lee grinned happily. “But, I’m doing a speech at the reception.”

 

“You’re not doing a set,” Julian said immediately. “I don’t care how badly your career’s going, you’ll have to find your own gigs.”

 

Lee was still laughing when Noel appeared in the kitchen, looking surprised and pleased to see them both sitting at the table. “Lee!” he said with a grin. They hugged and Noel looked at Julian and nodded. “Alright?” They were still at the silently awkward phase of not knowing how to greet each other when someone else was there. Julian nodded in response before Noel went to the fridge. “What I miss?”

 

“Julian was just filling me in on the news,” Lee said, with the glee of a small child on Christmas Eve.

 

Julian watched as Noel froze for a moment before recovering and pulling out a beer of his own and straightening so he could turn to face them. “Oh yeah?”

 

“Yeah,” Lee said, giving Julian a sly look, “he was just talking about your big day.”  

 

Noel grinned happily. “It’s in a few weeks. You coming?”

 

There was a strange moment where they all looked at each other in utter confusion.

 

“To the DVD launch party,” Noel said slowly, looking between them.

 

Lee cackled. “Ah, no mate,” he said, “don’t break Julian’s heart. He’s talking about the wedding.”

 

If Julian could have thrown his bottle at him, he would have. Instead he stretched, hoping to seem nonchalant. “Yeah, Lee reckons we like him enough to let him do a speech.”

 

Noel giggled. “Get in line, mate,” he said. “The day someone manages to get me down the isle there’s going to be about a million people wanting to mark the occasion.”

 

Julian let out a slow breath. It wasn’t like he thought Noel was going to burst into tears and rush out to book a venue, but they’d never even ventured near it as a topic. Moving in together was a huge step for them both. Besides, neither of them had ever shown any interest in it before, so there was no reason to suspect Noel would want it now.

 

Lee stayed for another couple of drinks before heading off. Noel saw him out and they paused by the door chatting and laughing for a few minutes before Noel reappeared in the kitchen. He came up behind Julian where he was sat at the table, nursing the last of his drink, and wrapped his arms around his neck and kissed the side of his head.

 

“Alright Barratt?” he asked softly.

 

“Yeah,” Julian said softly. “He seemed on good form.”

 

“Lee’s always on good form,” Noel said, snagging Julian’s bottle and finishing it before placing it back down. “I don’t think he’s had a day off in his life.”

 

There was a pause where Julian wondered how to phrase what he wanted to say. “He seemed okay,” he said eventually, still not really sure what he wanted Noel to confirm or deny.

 

“You mean he didn’t freak out because we’re bumming now?” He could hear the laughter in Noel’s voice. He grinned down at the table and reached up to grab one of Noel’s hands where they were draped around his neck.

 

“Be a bit hypocritical of him to care,” Julian said. “Didn’t seem to mind you sitting in his lap back in the day.”

 

Noel giggled. “Oh God, I’d forgotten about that!”

 

“Hmmm,” Julian said noncommittally. “Weird he didn’t include that part in his book.”

 

“I know!” Noel said, dropping another kiss on his head before standing up.  “I hardly got a mention at all. Bloody rude if you ask me.”

 

“Maybe in the next one,” Julian said.

 

Noel was rifling through the cupboards, presumably looking for food. “You’ll have to actually let him do a speech at our wedding if you want that. And then it would probably just be a blow by blow of the jokes he told.”

 

Julian chuckled. “Right,” he said. “Probably not worth it then.” He pointedly didn’t look over at Noel. He kept his eyes firmly on the bottle in front of him.

 

“Julian Barratt,” Noel said firmly. “If you’re going to propose to me, you sure as hell better do a better job of it than saying Lee fucking Mack wants to do a speech.”

 

Julian laughed, he couldn’t help. Noel sounded so outraged, but amused under it, that the surprised sound just bubbled right out of him. “Duly noted, Fielding.” He said. “So, what’s for tea?”

 

Noel threw a tea towel at his head. That probably meant a takeaway.

 

THE END