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A Third Voice

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John had always seen Julian as more child than a man. Seeing he had romantic interests felt alien , to say the least. Of course, it would’ve probably been more strange if he ever saw Julien attempt to court a woman but, the fairer sex never much held his interest outside of the hope of friendship. No, John didn’t really pay attention to the looks he’d give particular stagehands or certain street musicians until he felt the lightest, butterfly of a kiss on his cheek. 

It was extremely late and Cameron had fallen asleep in his dressing room, despite the clutter and soft, musical snores of the Orchestral ringing through the Eiffel Tower. He had been the host of the Orbiting Human Circus for two years running but he was so racked for performers and new audio tapes that he could barely keep up with his work. He hadn’t slept for nearly five days and resting his eyes had felt nice.

When he heard the door open in his half-conscious state he had half a mind to at least tell them to get out but they only dropped something off. They were trying to stay quiet, gently lowering the gift to his table, being extremely soft to keep it from making any sound. He heard the quick scratch of a pen but was too lost to make meaning of it. His eyes only threatened to open when he felt someone standing over him. Clumsily a blanket was thrown over him and cautious hands pulled it to wrap around Cameron like a tarp. Cameron let out a grunt just to toy with the visitor but when the intruder realized he was sound asleep he earned an off-tune hum. Instantly he knew who the intruder was.

Julian. Julian never stopped making sounds to himself. And that hum, that was almost a universal sound, for when he was unsure or certain or reassured or confused. Just a little G sharp hum. Cameron let a smile pass over his face in his drowsiness and curled into the plush blanket bunched around his shoulders. Leticia had done something like this but she always muttered to herself and tried to strike a comfortable conversation with herself. Of course Julian was silent, he was the quietest person he'd ever known.

Well, silent of words. It was maybe a moment of wondering why he was standing there when Cameron felt a cold, chapped pair of lips on his temple. It was as soft as a whisper, quick as a spark and it left John very close to breaking his trance. For some reason, he thought if he opened his eyes he would scare Julian off. Like a baby rabbit. He didn’t move a muscle as he heard Julian breathe heavy and suddenly scurry out the room. He heard the feet slip back as the lantern at the doorway was dimmed before Julian scurried off again. John bit back a laugh as he opened his eyes and there on his desk sat a box with a little card. As he had found so often after exerting himself for the circus. Julian had been his secret admirer all along.

He tells Archibald almost instantly, taking out a sizable amount of time on his home landline to call Archy from a set in America, and he’s met with great fanfare at the discovery. Out of all the stagehands, Archy always liked talking to Julian most. John thought he was enamored with his skill but the two had agreed at one point it was more Archy’s film persona and prowess that flustered the boy. They both found it strange how they never truly entertained the thought of Julian being Cameron’s admirer, even when admitting they had thought of him so many times before dismissing him.

John knew the man was childish but he couldn’t say that knowing he used ‘secret admirer’ letters to help the show in an exceedingly roundabout way didn’t help him see him as a boy. He didn’t tell Julian about that night, but he started to notice him after. Noticed the looks he’d get from men and the ones he’d send them back to. They were always heavy, heartfelt looks. Like he was singing sonnets to them in his head. He supposed he got some of them too, but he was already attuned to block them out.

One night, when he was packing up late, he heard Julian laugh from the ballroom. It wasn’t nervous or unsure, no it was solid and warm. He crept to the balcony overhead and saw Julian carrying some pillows and mats from the last act that night with Jacques at his arm. The taller man was making broad gestures as he held a crate to his chest but the two of them had affection warming their face. They vanished under Cameron but he could hear them better. They were going on and on about how excited they were for the Playtupus day special, Julian more than Jacques. Of course, the gruff man would give a hum or a laugh every now and again but it was undoubtedly Julian who was breathing life into the conversation.

 

 

 

 

“I mean, can you really believe he takes time to visit Paris for a whole day? I mean, how many sick kids do you think he visits to make up for it? I still remember seeing him, how composed and happy he was. Do you think he’ll visit for the show?”

“Aw,” Jacques had been smoking outside before they came in. Cameron could tell from the slight edge to his laughs and voice. “I think he’ll come but he’ll probably hide out somewhere. You know, Pierre said he saw some big shape in the vents once.”

“OH… Oh. Well, I know what that is but, I doubt it’s the playtupus.”

Jacques chuckled again. “Yeah. You know we can hear you walking in the ducts right? You’re always talking to yourself.”

 

Cameron went rigid. Julian in the vents? He thought that was a bit the staff made up because he fell from the ceiling once. He didn’t think the janitor was literally crawling around the vents. How could he breathe in there?

   

“Wh-what?! No, I don’t! I just talk to myself when I’m tired.” A beat of silence rang with only the smallest of laughs coming from Jacques. “Am I really that loud?”

 

The stagehand bellowed as the two left earshot, but Cameron could hear the tiniest interjection from Julian. A garble that likely decoded to ‘it’s not that funny’ or ‘it’s just because of the echo.’ When he calls Archibald, Cameron smiles as the actor jokes about Julian hovering over him like an angel.

Then, there was the guitarist. Cameron was all for the nice foreigner, especially since he entertained the audience as they filtered into the tower. The man spoke more Spanish than anything else but he was always polite and listened to what people told him as best he could. Cameron had seen Julian talk to him on his short walks out from his closet at night, he never paid it mind, especially since Julian was only being polite in his mind before.

But he took note of the two of them slipping into the narrow alcoves of the tower. He had been meant to go perform with his saws but, his show had been canceled at the last minute. Julian had likely seen him coming up and worried he’d be blamed, given he was normally up in the rafters or cleaning at that time. He watched as Julien lead the guitarist by the wrist, a small mutt following after them. They were talking softly, the guitarist musing until Julian showed him a spot dead center of the rings of floors that made up the tower. He sat himself down and the musician followed. Julian pulled his blue knit cap down tight and the musician whistled over to his dog, who took to Julian rather than the caller.

The nervous boy laid out a small tape recorder between them and pulled out a dingy portable microphone. It looked like it was borrowed but it wasn’t anything expensive or worthy of any anger. He talked into the mic, blocking out the guitarist as he tuned with his hands. Cameron almost walked away, assume the mock studio wouldn’t lead to much and then he heard something he never thought of.

Julian started singing. He sang a soft, lullaby and when Cameron looked over, he could tell that Julian was singing the notes he had envisioned the guitarist play. He watched the boy snap an even, swaying rhythm and then it hit. It was a warmth that could heat up bones. The voice wasn’t strong, not at all. And even the dog seemed to struggle to hear it as his ears lifted up to Julian. But his voice made ripples in the air and filled it with warmth. 

Cameron watched as the janitor held the mic away from the dog, a small smile breaking through the nervousness, as he sang. He swayed from his seated position and the guitar made him raise his voice as it echoed. For once, Cameron thought Julian appeared ungodly happy. There was no fear as the boy sang, only a ringing of melancholy peace. Still, all bright things end at some point.

When Julian left the guitarist, the man caught him by the shoulder and handed him something. Cameron couldn’t make it out, but the boy looked close to tears. Julian scurried up the stairs as Cameron stumbled to hide in his dressing room, only half away he was barely out of his clothes. He peeked through the door as the humming janitor scurried down the hall to his closet. He had tucked the recorder into his cap, clutching it to his chest. But, in his hands was the gift from the Romani guitarist. A pendant of a shining bronze platypus. Julian was staring at it with all the joy of a sick man carrying Aqua de Vida. Cameron had to hold back a laugh as the singer closed himself up in his closet, likely tired after such an eventful night.

When he tells Archy almost a week later when he has enough time to actually get home, the actor begs for as much detail as possible. Things hadn’t been going well on set and he desired a sweet distraction evidently. Cameron wasn’t surprised, a lot of times it only took a month or two for movie sets to turn sour. It had been three but, they were used to the distance at this point. He got to see all of Archibald's hard work when they went to first screenings and Archy always tuned in to the broadcast or his saw concerts.

Every time he called the actor after a show, Archy would gush over how wonderful it all was. Although, Cameron expected that. What was so wonderful about Archie was that he even found amazement in the janitor’s sudden escapades. Even just recently, when all the world was coming after Cameron’s throat because the janitor had interrupted the marvel of a cricket telling a story, Archibald was the first to ask if Julian was alright. He questioned Cameron of him often, even before they knew the identity of his admirer but now, Julian was a staple of their conversations.

  

 

“Oh, I couldn’t stand the thought of that poor thing eating himself up with guilt. I know he’d do it, regardless of what you did or didn’t yell at him. But I hate thinking that. He’s a nice boy, you know, even if he interrupts you. I couldn’t bear to see him cry or worse. He’s such a sweetheart.” 

John just sighed warmly, chiding himself for falling with such a forgiving dolt. “Yes, but I have to tell him to end his need for the spotlight. You know how bad this is for the broadcast. It hurts me to be so harsh but, it’s better he detests me than be homeless and lost because the show fell through.”

Archy would scoff in dismay. “Do you really think Julian , the boy who gives you new acts and does his damndest to make you and all of the others happy, do you really think that boy is going to crumble the Circus?”

Cameron shook his head, even with the phone. “No… no, it’s not him. It’s what the audience thinks of him. What they’ll make me do if he keeps prodding them. I don’t want that for him. He truly deserves better but, as it is, he’s the largest problem outside of getting new acts.”

 

He could picture Archy shrugging into a lavish trench coat or shawl as he heard the shuffle of cloth over the receiver. The only thing Archy wasn’t frugal over was his clothing. A film star had to appear as regal as possible after all.

 

  

“Well, maybe you should give the boy a job. A real one. Let him help Melody or give him a title as ‘Show Curator’. Just don’t hurt him, okay?” Cameron felt an ache in his heart as Archibald let out a terribly long sigh. “God, the cab’s outside. I wish I could talk longer, but-”

“The prices are worse at the hotel. I know, love. Don’t forget to eat, Archy. I know it’s only five there.”

Cameron wished he’d get to see Archy’s smooth, black curls bob as he chuckled again soon. “Yes, and it is far too late for you to be calling me from Paris. Go and rest, Johny. It’ll be a long day tomorrow, picking up after the Orchestral and all. I’ll meet you in front of the Eiffel when I get home.”

John smiled at the hidden declaration of love but he took its usage as a sign that someone was close enough to hear Archy’s telephone. “That sounds wonderful, Carey. I hope to see you soon. Good night.”

 

Chapter Text

John wished he could say nothing bad happened after that. That between the phone call about Julian’s cricket escapade to the next call everything had been easy going. But he doesn’t call Archibald after the hypnotism stunt. No, Cameron received a flood of messages from an equally concerned and angry actor calling all the way from America. He had maybe a minute after he was out of his soaked suit before his phone rang so loud that he wondered if Archibald could manifest his rage into the volume of his rotary phone. The actor must’ve locked himself in a vault to feel safe screaming as he did.

 

        “Lederhosen?! You let them put him in lederhosen and cream? John Cameron, if I didn’t love you I’d call you a monster!”

 

        John flinched. “Archy, I-“

 

        “No John! You don’t get to worm your way out. I don’t care what getting hypnotized did to you, imagine how hurt that poor boy must be! Oh god, he’s so delicate, imagine how awful it must’ve been to have heard that horrid laughter. I could barely listen. I was holding back tears for the poor thing! And you watched? You watched and did nothing to help him!”

  

          “Well, what could I do?! I didn’t know they’d humiliate Julian I just- I thought it would be nice. Everyone’s heard about Julian’s great-grandfather, even me. His relative was a stage hypnotist and I thought being a subject would be fun, at worst a bit strange I didn’t… ugh, I didn’t know they’d humiliate him. I wanted him to have a chance to be what he wanted without being an issue.”

  

           “You mocked him, let them laugh at him as you lead him onstage. You let the hypnotist trick him. You didn’t even try to warn him did you?” Archibald's groan was more damaging than a knife. “How could you let it get that awful? Why did you call him a subject? God, why did you let him hurt his hand like that? It was so bad, they stated it one the air!”

  

“I… I don’t know. I don’t know why I didn’t do anything. I wanted to, so badly but I-“

 

          John knew how weak he sounded. It was all he could do. He was holding back frustrated tears. He didn’t understand why he was even crying. He should be mad. Julian hypnotized him. He used the shower while they were on the air! Hell, the Janitor hypnotized the whole audience! But, Julian meant nothing by it. Cameron didn’t know the janitor's arm would hypnotize him, much less Julian himself. And honestly, hearing the song and losing all of his stress didn’t hurt his feelings of inadequacy much. He hadn't done anything on stage because he wasn't himself on stage, he was the Host. He didn't really know how else to explain himself, he didn't really have a right to explain himself. 

 

            “I didn’t want things to go so wrong, Archibald. It was my fault. All of it was my fault. Of course Julian was foolish enough to accidentally hypnotize the show, especially as flustered and scared as he was. I don’t… I don’t want him to do anything but hate me. It’s all I deserve.”

 

       Archibald hummed darkly. There wasn’t even a trace of a smile in that sound. “Oh god, he does. He deserves to hate you. But I’m certain he never would. Do you know what he did when you all were entranced? He apologized. He sang to the hypnotist, had everyone’s eyes on him. That’s how he did it if you weren’t sure. He begged the Orchestral to sing. He was so worried, so afraid you’d be mad, after all, you’ve done. Don’t you think you should make sure he forgives you? That he knows you don’t blame him? Please, John. I love you but you have to show that you care about him too. That you understand. I’m not mad I’m just worried. Worried that he’ll lose trust in you. Don’t let me down okay, someone’s coming in and I can’t talk anymore. I love you,  Johny. Tell Julian I miss him too. Make things right.”

 

Hearing dead air over the line made John want to curl up and cry. It hurt to not even being able to say goodbye. He deserved it he supposed but it stung more than he could bear. He looked down at his nightwear, one of the few outfits beside his suits in the dressing room. His baggy shirt was speckled with tears and he wondered if he’d cried when Archy talked or while he left the man in silence. He wiped at his wet cheeks and looked at the open doorway, tensing as he saw a box with a small note.

 

When he picked it up he hoped to god it wasn’t an act. He hoped Julian would give him something to scold him, maybe something to show his bitterness to the host, something he deserved. All he found as he ripped off the top was a small toy holding a tape. The note didn’t read ‘love,’ or ‘secret admirer’, it didn’t even have a signature. The toy looked crudely made, likely cheap or hand down. Still, the button eyes of the white bear were polished and the stitched smile seemed warm. All the note said was ‘Sorry.’ in a bold scrawl that took up the note.

 

    Cameron didn’t listen to the tape. He felt a need to, but Julian was likely hoping to distract him. Instead, he covered the box and marched into the hallway. In only his shirt and lose pants. No jacket, no hat, and nothing between him and the awful man he was offstage. When he rapped his knuckles on the door, he hoped that he didn’t startle the boy.

 

            “Um… I’m not really up to talk right now.”

           

    All John needed to hear was the soft sniffling to know he had to solve this now, without hesitation. He opened the door and saw the janitor curled in the fetus position under a heating duct. He looked like a frail doe and was as jittery as one as he almost knocked over his small table made out of an overturn maintenance cart.

        

        “M-Mr. Cameron, I promise I didn’t mean any of that! I’m so sorry, I never should’ve done that. I know I was wrong but can I please stay, I promise I won’t ever go on stage again, I won’t even think of it, I swear-!”

 

Julian was a writhing ball of nerves and tears as he struggled out of his cocoon to face the man, almost falling over himself as he stood, knees shaking underneath him.

 

            “Julian.” The man froze. Cameron sighed, and for a second Julian look confused. “It isn’t your fault. Yes, you hypnotized the audience and me and yes, you were the one who hurt your hand and showered during the show. But, you did that because of me. I didn’t listen to your tape, I didn’t feel like that was right. You’re not a bad person, Julian. You never are. I’m sorry that all of this happened but, none of it’s your fault. Try and get some rest, Julian. And thank you for the bear.”

 

    On any other day, Julian’s tears would concern him. In that dim lamplight, as Julian swayed on his feet, Julian truly smiled as tears fell. John couldn’t even bid him goodnight as he was clutched to the janitor’s chest. He stroked the soft curls of his unkempt hair, he didn’t even cringe at the feeling of warm tears against his sternum. For once Julian seemed at peace, for once he looked at home in his body. John closed his eyes as he gave the janitor the softest brush of lips against the wispy peaks of his curls. By the time the janitor pulled back, cheeks reddened and eyes just a bit brighter, John felt weak at the knees from the sudden loss of weight on his shoulders. Julian bid him goodnight and Cameron didn't move for his rooted spot behind the closed door to the janitor's closet until the light under the door finally dimmed. 

The second Cameron got home, he called Archibald. Even though he’s in the midst of a shoot, hearing John is on the horn breaks Archy from any focus on his work. He almost tore down the door to his dressing room he was so frazzled. Before he can even say pleasantries, John whispers that he kissed Julian on the head. Archy shook the set with a howel of laughter.

 

 

 “Oh god, Johny! I knew it, I knew you liked him! Ah, this is so perfect, this is just so-uh!- it’s precious. Was it only on the head?”

 

 

  John groaned, smile bleeding through the reciever. “Yes. My body just lead me to it. I don’t know why I did it. I just apologized and he hugged me and I just leaned down and kissed his hair. I feel scandalized by myself.”

 

 

 Archy had to fight back peels of laughter. “John, this is absolutly wonderful! You know how much I care about that kid. Maybe we can adopt him or take him in. He’s such a sweet thing, don’t you think he’ll be wonderful?”

 “You aren’t worried about him stealing my heart?”

 

 

Archy almost feel over he was so pleased. “John, if he stole it, you wouldn’t be telling me a thing. I know how good you are, you play king. You don’t love him like me, do you?”

The chuckle warms Archibald’s bones. “No. No, it’s such a strange difference.”

 

      “Strange but miraculous. Like everything else in Paris. I know what you’re feeling. I rather enjoy it too. Let him settle into you, he can be an extention. A branch on the tree of our lives. We feel love but, it’s special. Like Julien is. Let’s just say, I think he’ll be good with us. When I get home what do you think that we talk about that?”

 

 

    John laughs at him, something that Archy had missed more than hands even. “I would like that. Finish up your filming first, you’re carrer’s much more important to me then you.”

 

Chapter Text

    When Archibald did come back to Paris, though, Archy had a hard time thinking of anything but their shared Janitor issue. For one thing, the poor thing was in the hospital. Neither of them had expected Archibald to be gone for almost six months, but during that stretch, Julian single-handedly got himself mauled by a bear, saved John’s life, and saved the Circus by proving the resuscitating platypus was real on the air. Archy couldn’t believe even an eighth of the insane things that he’d heard over the last two days, much less the fact that someone as heartfelt and loving as Julian had been hurt so badly he was still in the hospital. Archy couldn’t wrap his head around it, he didn’t think he wanted to.

    His mind was utterly empty as he ran from the train station to the Eiffel tower. There was bustle all around the tower, crowds calling for Julian to come out, not aware of his escape to the hospital and stagehands trying to keep them from self-harm. Archibald was too frantic to notice that the crowd was parting for him, he couldn’t feel the eyes that normally burned him in public. All he knew was his need to see John, to know that he was standing and breathing and that Julian was alright. He couldn't even care about the gasps or the fact that his jacket- especially his hood- was slipping off. Archy felt tears running down his cheeks as he saw John standing before him, frazzeled and distant as he stared into him, likely assuming he was stuck in a dream. Archibald couldn't even process that Jacques was calling out his stage name, his  focus was entirely focused on John's frozen figure. When he finally caught John in his arms, the host remained a statue under him. Regardless, he latched upon him to John like a viper.  

 

“Oh, god, are you okay? The second I heard that bear, oh god when I heard you talking to it, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stay there. I had to beg my agent, but I got here before it was too late. Are you alright? Is Julian okay? Dear, please, are you okay?”

     John’s eyes were empty, red rimmed and tired. Archy never thought he’d see that dead look when he came home. 

“I’m… I’m fine, Carey, but don’t you think we should be somewhere more personal?”

 

    Archibald tensed as the gravity of his havoc pushed down on him. He could feel every eye on him, but for once, it didn’t frighten him. Not with all of the chaos he had heard. He’d seen Paris in absolute calamity over the knowledge that the resuscitating platypus was real. And that the once mythical creature could summon an entire audience into existence. And that the Janitor that they had tried to rip the throat from had sacrificed himself and subsequently willed a new audience into existence. It was absolutely, undoubtedly insane. But Paris was overjoyed. It was astounding. And Archibald wasn’t going to let the stress of a private relationship hold back his genuine fear over both his lover and his lover’s possible crush. And his own if he was brutally honest with himself. So, Archy sighed, irritation apparent to the point that John snapped out from his revine of self pity.

 

“No, John, we are not going upstairs. We are going to see the janitor who saved your goddamn life. And you are going to talk to him. We both are going to talk to him. Because we have a lot to talk about. Now, let’s go.”

 

    He dragged Cameron along with no care to the protests or the calls from the crowds. He didn’t even focus as a mass swelled around him, begging to get a signature or gift from him. He was so fed up he threw his silky coat of the one shoulder it dangled from. It wasn’t one he ever liked, it wasn’t even worth a glance as he stormed the Parisian hospital.

    The only thing that stopped him was facing the door Julien was behind. He could just make out the janitor’s arm in the hospital bed, all alone. Clinical white hospital lights and a frail boy isolated and still. That’s all he needed to ensure his heart on this decision. The one he’d been worrying about for the past week was what he felt for Julian. Sure, he had only met him a couple times face to face, with shy handshakes and stuttering praises, but Julian was an open book. John had told him so much daily and Archy had always gotten so excited everytime he was on the air. Even if John complained for hours on end.

    It made his heart twist to hear about Julian getting ostrasized. He even chewed out actors who joked about Julian or called him ‘inane’. He was protective and undoubtedly enamoured with the poor thing but, in light of very light contact, he was undoubtedly loving towards him. He wasn’t falling out of John, rather he was opening himself to let Julian in with him. And now, right when he had finally gotten himself to admit to such feelings, the janitor went and got mauled by a bear. He squeezed John’s hand as he stared down the door.

 

“John, he doesn’t look that bad does he?”

John sighed, taking Archibald’s shoulders as the both of them stared down the hospital room. “He’s okay. He was worse a couple days ago. He’ll be happy to see you.”

Archy just shook his head. “You open the door. I can’t. I just- Please, open it for me. Please.”

    He only needed to hear the creak of the door to know John had done it for him. He couldn’t help screwing his eyes shut but they jolted open at the sound of a soft groan. Julian had bandages over his bare chest, a long diagonal strip of white. The knit cap was placed on the bed post behind him and his dark eyes were so wide they were the only thing Archibald could look at. Julian was trying to sit up, grimicing through the pain.

 

“No, no Julian it’s okay. Stay on your back.” Archy had to struggle not to run up to him but he calmly put his arm on Julian’s unwrapped shoulder. “I’m here to see you get better, not to help you get worse. How are you feeling?”

“W-well I- I guess I’m a little confused? When did you get back to Paris?”

Archie shrugged, smiling softly. “Two hours ago. That doesn’t matter right now, Julian, I want to know if you’re okay. You sounded lovely during the last two shows. Are you doing alright?”

“Yeah, I guess. The bear didn’t mean to hurt me, in fact he barely got me. He was just angry you know? If he meant to hurt me or John he would’ve done much worse to me-”

     John was laughing behind Archibald and the actor was quick to softly squeeze his hand.

  

“Julian, no one blames the bear. Half of Paris is out front of the Tower trying to see you and the other half is going after the Perpetual Broadcasting Corporation for sending a polar bear to keep you from the stage. He’ll be okay, so will you. I missed you an awful lot, Julian.”

“You… You did?”

Archibald let himself laugh at that. “Yes, Julian, I did. I loved your song. I think that was my favorite special presentation on the show. I could get you a studio if you’d like.”

“Oh, that, that isn’t needed. I’m glad you liked it. Um, why are there so many people looking for me?”

John took Julian’s hand, drawing wide eyes away from Archibald. “Julien, do you remember the resuscitating platypus?” The boy nodded, rubbing his shoulders softly. “Well, your wish came true. People want to know how you brought him forward, why he came to you or showed himself. They want to know what you did.”

“So do I.”

That got Archibald laughing. He was quick to hug the man as gently as possible. “I needed a good laugh. When you get out of here, I’ll need to get a song from you too.”

    Julian just chuckled to himself, patting the actor’s shoulder as he met John Cameron’s eyes. He hadn’t felt as what he saw in Cameron’s eyes since he was dillusional enough to still think he had a boyfriend. But, maybe he wasn’t dillusional. He couldn’t see the cruel lit that the polar bear would give him. It was just warm. And slightly wet, Julian hadn’t noticed Carey was crying on him until he heard soft sobs from above him. He hadn’t noticed himself crying at all. He lightly patted the crying actor’s shoulder and wondered softly what kind of wonderful dream he had pondered up before falling back into a binding sleep.   

Chapter Text

       Julian spent another full month in the hospital. It was more to wait for publicity to quell and to make sure that no one would be hounding Julian when he walked out the door. But Julian didn’t really talk with Carey and Cameron for most of his stay. Whenever Carey came into the hospital he would tense up and either fall on top of Julian, leaving him to just hold in his overwhelmed feelings, or clutched John Cameron until he could calm down. Even when the bandages came off. Most of the time though, the two just told him vague statements about being excited to see him and that the platypus was doing well. Actually, Julian talked with the platypus in the hospital. He was really nice about the whole being summoned on a serial podcast and revealing himself to the world to help a sick man. In general, Julian just assumed the platypus knew what had happened to him and felt like he deserved his audience. Julian wasn't sure why but he couldn't forget it, no matter how much the creation of an audience for his own benefit started to weigh on him. 

      Entering Cameron’s home was something Julian never thought he would do. He always assumed that if he were to step on the Host’s doorstep, he would be met with a pitchfork or a legal order even after Cameron had visited his bedside religiously. Yet, here he was, shell-shocked as the host who had so often chased him out of his quarters now held open his door for him. Carey slipped in with a quick thanks and seemed to sprint down the warm, cherry hallway, while Cameron rolled his eyes and nudged Julian inside as he remained bolted to the porch. Cameron grunted from the strain of disbelief Julian was under, only breaking his looped thought with the clasp of the giant door.

       At first, the janitor froze himself in the center of the room, eyes darting from bright paintings of trampeze artists smiling as their hands hovered apart to a wall coated in tall movie posters and banners. He noticed that none of the posters had even a picture of Carey despite the size of his name on them. As he looked down from the small vase of flowers right in front of him on an antique desk held by carved bears. He’d never seen flowers so orange, in fact they almost looked like tight circles of flames. Julian was overwhelmed by how warm everything was in the house. He hadn’t spent his entire adult life in the cold, but he couldn’t remember being anywhere as warm as Cameron and Carey's shared home since he had those brief years with his great grandfather. Sure, the tower was warm in the winter, and the company galas or events he would slip into were bright and merry, but he could never get into an actual house. It seemed too rude to actually sneak inside someone’s sanctuary, even for something like a party. Still, he couldn’t feel anything but the heat of the room mixed with embarrassment over focusing on said heat. He was just frozen in front of a fireplace after all. Of course his narrator had to say that just to make him red.

      He didn’t move until Carey came back into the lounge with three flute glasses of a pink, sparkling drink. He was balancing two in one hand between two pairs of fingers and walking on an invisible tightrope to keep from spilling. Julian was suprised how quickly Carey had slid out of his suit. His sleeping clothes weren’t as impressive as he’d assume, just thin pants and a black shirt from a bar in Nantasket. Julian wasn’t sure where, or possibly what, that was. Actually, he didn’t know where most of the places people like Carey or Cameron went to even were. Sometimes he even forgot how some people said that they never thought they’d see the Eifeel Tower or Paris. It was always magicial, but Julian thought every place must have that spark. He almost jolted when Carey called out to him, pushing him head first into the moment.

“Oh, Julian, what are you doing standing in the middle of the room? It’s alright, sweetie, please have a seat, we’ve been dying to talk with you. Properly talk with you. Now that you’re out of the ward, we can finally have a proper talk about this.”

“This? What exactly do you mean by that?”

      Carey smiled, holding out one of the flutes of the rose-colored drink.

“I mean we need to talk about a  relationship. Or more accurately, what you would be interested in having with us. That and living arrangements, because that is on the table first and foremost, an over for you to live with us.”

     Cameron caught Julian’s eye as he plucked one of the glasses from Carey, gaining a laugh from the grinning actor. Carey had a light blush warming his one dimple on his left cheek. Julian remembered when he noticed that dimple during a film where Carey was a singer working to get to Broadway, he always focused on it ever since. Especially when he’d accidentally seen Cameron cover it with his thumb while he was up in the vents. He blinked as he realized Cameron had asked him something. He opted to just mumble to himself, given how lost he was. He could already hear his narrator calling him careless.

“Julian, do you know what I just asked you?”

“Uh… no, sorry, Mister-”

“Ugh, you don’t need the title, Johnny doesn’t mind being called John, Julian, you’re fine. Johnny was just asking if living arrangements are new to you, have you ever had a roommate?”

      Julian shrugged, instantly thinking about working at the circus and weither sleeping in the same tent as the bears and savaannah mamels meant being a roommate.

“Sorta, but I wouldn’t be able to help pay for a full house. It’s not really something a janitor can keep up with, you know with food and everything.”

      Carey pushed at Julian’s shoulder, slipping the fizzing pink drink into his hand with a soft smile. “Don’t even worry about the cost. You give us a sliver of what you have, you spend the rest on food we can all share and the like. Even if you have no need for a relationship, what we’re looking for is a shared home with you. To keep you out of trouble.”

“Trouble?”

“The kind that leads to polar bear claws, yes.”

       Carey gave Cameron a steely gaze while still wearing a smile that broke any form of intimidation.

“What Johnny means, is that we want you to be comfortable living with us. You don’t have to be entangled in a relationship if it’s frightening, but I don’t want to think about you working and sleeping and cramping yourself up inside the Eiffel Tower for the rest of your life. It’s too horrid to think about, Julian. At the very least, please, stay with John and me. I know there’ve been times where you had every right to be angry or upset at John but, I think sharing this place could help you two to both move past that and maybe become a little more understanding of each other. Besides, he’s much more open after the incident compared to the past.”

“Open? What do you mean?”

       Cameron sighed, glass emptied. Julian realized he hadn’t tried it still, and gave it a small sip, hoping that maybe it could quell his embarrasment. It had that small sting of alcohol he still had trouble getting used to, but it was overwhelmingly sweet. Overwhelming in a way he found cloying and warming at the same time. Julian didn’t really know how to phrase it but, he liked the drink enough to keep sipping on it. Even though Cameron seemed to be expectant of something Julian didn’t know as he spoke. He couldn’t focus at this point, there was just a bit too much for him.

“He means I’m not worried about the show any more. The show was what kept me afloat before, well, I lost any faith in it. I didn’t think of things like a human should, just as a host. I’m sorry that it took, well, a polar bear to get me to this point but, I’m ready to listen now. Actually listen.”

       Julian hummed in response, both lost and very, very far behind. Slowly his hand was taken by Carey. They shared a soft smile as he turned to see Cameron leaning against his fist.

“Well then, uh, I guess I should just say that I feel relieved. I wasn’t sure where to stay cause of the platypus and everything but, uh, I’m not sure how I feel… being here. With the both of you. Not because you’re bad or anything but… Well, you’re both, um…”

      Cameron could almost hear the chiding voice Julian would argue with. For a second, he could see him both freeze up as he heard the voice and speak to it in his head as he pulled himself close. Carey was quick to turn to Cameron, checking if he’d be alright being touched. Cameron could only shrug but luckily the soft hand on Julian’s hand didn’t frighten him too bad. Just a jolt.

“It’s okay. We’re letting you in remember? We don’t mind. Trust me, I chipped away at him for you to make sure you’re okay to stay.”

        Before Julian could interject, Cameron took his waving hand. Julian hadn’t even noticed he was fidgeting, and only then saw the edge of his hat slipping off his shoulder and the small splash on hardwood from his flute, which he sharply righted from its lightly slanted form. Carey chuckled and just as Julian’s head jerked up to met his kind smile was a dry pair of lips meeting his cheek. His narrator was sputtering more than himself. Julian quickly covered his mouth, slightly increasing the amount of spilled raspberry wine, but somehow, neither of the men were mocking him. Instead, John deftly pulled the flute from his jittery fingers and Carey went to the kitchen to grab a hand towel.

“Wh- Why did you… Wh-”

        John gave him a soft smile, taking the man’s jittering hand as Julian leaned into the couch. All of his words were soft and slow, even though Julian had troble focusing on it. Carey had walked back in and feeling a moviestar give you a forehead kiss was extremely distracting when it came to trying to understand what the two men were asking him to do. It took Julian a while to process that they had both moved to the other couch and his glass was right in front of him on a table. For a moment he didn’t feel conflicted and just closed his eyes to focus.

       He sighed softly and stared at Carey's bright eyes as he swallowed down his fear, meeting Cameron’s worried eyesight. It always dug at his heart when Cameron looked worried.

“I would love to live with you but… I don’t know, what if I intrude or if I strain your relationship? I don’t want to be a burden and this is all so nice for me but I don’t think I’ve done anything to deserve this kind of, well, care from either of you. Especially you two. If anything, I should be apologizing to you and hoping to gain your support.”

“Well… How about me and Cameron just let you stay here. If you want something from us, we’ll be happy to give. Because you do deserve it. But I’d rather you see that then we force it on you. Besides, if there’s someone else-”

“Then they deserve to have you. We shouldn’t keep you from someone else.”

“Or vice versa.”

       Julian whipped back and forth between the nodding heads as they framed out the logistics, how he could stay in the guestroom and they’d make a chore chart and maybe Cameron could start up a new show, even if it was just Parisian, for some cash. Julian was quick to interject that he would get a job as well, and Carey already had a long list for him to puruse, mostly working as either a cleaner, cook, and a handful of theatre work, specifically the kind that hands out playbills and cheap cocktails. Julian’s narrator berated him for getting excited about using a popcorn machine but in all honest, it was much more endering than he was used to.

     By the time he was set on working at the small theater less than a mile away, Julian had launched himself at James Cameron. For a long moment, the feeling of warm arms and a reasuring stroke on his back made this moment feel more real than actually seeing the recitating platypus. Having Carey hum his song just drove the moment home. This was home. He’d finally found it.



Chapter Text

Carey taking an undisclosed break from filming while in the middle of one of the most anticipated films of the year caused major waves in the world of cinema. Mostly because Carey was renowned for how thoughtful he was while handling the pressures such a title entailed quite effectively. He wasn't seen as the kind of person to crack, despite the apperance of his sudden disapperance. Still, Carey absconding to Paris was nothing less than a cataclysmic shake to both his agent and his career. Yet, as he woke wrapped in John’s arms to a soft hum coming from the kitchen, he couldn’t bring himself to focus on the horrid thoughts of career repercussions that should've followed him to his shared home. All he felt was fully content. 

He cautiously pulled himself out of the still slumber-ladened arms of John, smiling as he heard him grumble something deep in his dreams before he slid into the hallway. The dim electric lamp in the living room was lit, casting long orange-tinged shadows in the pre-dawn light. The winter had brought short days and long early mornings that Archibald was having a frightful time adapting to, giving how California seemed spared the spiteful nights he so despised in winter. Still, seeing Julian scurrying in the kitchen in search of something was slightly surreal in the early morning haze he'd normal be long past in the Golden state. He supposed it wouldn’t become habit until at least a solid month of cohabitation with the former janitor, but if Archie was remembering his dates properly, this was one of four days where he slipped out to the theatre early, to set up the popcorn machines and the posters allegedly. Normal he would wake to Julian thanking him for the breakfast or left overs packaged up for him to eat or take out the door but, today he seemed focused on something different.

“Um, Julian? Are you looking for something?”

The man froze suddenly. For a moment, the absurdity hit Archibald like a gut punch, as he saw the short hunched man shrinking on himself, reminding him of a picture of a bear trying to hide from a park ranger as it stole food from an ancient advertisment. Even his long knitted cap- half on his head, half wrapped around his neck- made his silhouette look hunched and bestial. He let his chuckle fill the still air and loosen the poor boy’s tension.

“W-well, yes but really I just don’t remember where you moved it. Or maybe you didn’t move the sweets and I’m just forgetful. Or maybe I’m losing my short term memory but, I could’ve sworn the bar I bought was in the bottom cabinet on the right but now that I need it, I can’t find it, or any of the gifts that just seem to pop up and get stored away. I don’t know where it could be Carey.”

Archibald had to suppress his near spontaneous interjection at his false name. It wasn’t that he hated his stage name, it was just something he never really associated with his house, or being in the same building as John. It just didn’t really process to him fully when he heard it and it either hit or flew over his head. He glided on the cold cement floor into the roomie kitchen, peering over Julian’s shoulder to see the small box where they pulled sugar gifts, either given by the secondary audience or supports of the show, spare the four that were given by hand by the stage crew to Julian and John, were kept was in fact missing from it’s spot in the back of the cabinet.

“Huh. I bet John thought it was odd to keep it with the china. Maybe it’s with the baking supplies across?”

“I guessed but I don’t think I saw it. Do you think he threw them out?!”

Archibald was taken aback by the legitimate worry in Julian’s voice. It also piqued his interest in why the boy wanted a candy bar so much when he had stated a handful of times that he found most chocolates and confections too sweet when they were packaged. He buried the teasing joke in his throat and instead opened the dry pantry next to the cabinets. It only took him a second to find the box in John’s usual hiding spot, underneath the large collection of toilette refills and tissues. He held the box out triumphantly much to Julian’s delight and thanks. He quickly buried out a thick, black and silver bar and ran over to the back door to tuck it into his coat pocket before throwing it on. Like a blur the small man ran back to Archibald and crushed his sternum against his face with another string of thank yous.

“You have no clue how important this is for me, Mister Carey, thank you so much. I promise to get you a great gift by the end of the week. I know just the place to look. You aren’t scared of rodents are you?”

Archibald let himself laugh as the man scurried back to the door. “No, never been scared of those. Just make sure you wash it.”

“Oh, of course, they love baths actually! Have a nice day, Sir, I’ll be back before the afternoon shows. Have a good day!”

The actor let out a small huff. How he could see the man as anything but a boy when he got so excited and adamant, he’d never know. Still, he was drained from the whirlwind that was Julian and allowed himself the short walk and subsequent shorter drift back to sleep in the snug arms of John Cameron.

Chapter Text

Archie had been laying low in Paris for the past month. He wore hand me down clothes and hooded sweaters, finally feeling comfortable in what should be his most stressful month of the year. He couldn’t be more relieved. And as he boiled milk for his hot chocolate, he had a sudden want to pay the janitor a visit at work. He should probably fight the urge to call Julian a janitor when he was now serving people concessions, but alliteration was a tricky thing for the brain to slight. He bit his lip as he laddled choclate into two mugs, just in case John woke up with a sweet tooth, as he was common to do. John had bought so many teas, sweet flavored coffees, and hot chocolate mixes, there was barely a day when John didn’t boil something early in the morning. Archibald should feel guilty for talking him into trying coffee for the first time during their second date, but he couldn’t blame the section of their spending devoted to drinks on John fully, given how indulgent they’d grown.

Still as he bundled up and walked out to his porch, he let his mind drift to who Julian had stolen the chocolate for. What kind of boys did Julian gravitate towards, it was clear that the polar bear sounded like an awful person and John hadn’t been much better when he was angry. It frightened him to think that someone like that would sweep him into a terrible position of blind infatuation. He remembered the man before John, the one he had to wear makeup for, the one he thought he had to please to the point that he stopped eating just because he said he looked rounder. He couldn’t bear to think of something that terrible for Julian. At some point he should probably compartmentalize the fact that Julian was nearly fifty but that didn’t stop him from seeing him as someone to be protected. His mind was blank as he drunk down the chocolate in one swift gulp and ran back inside to change into a heavy sweater and his warm knitted cap before taking the long stoll to midtown he had helped Julian map out himself.

Standing in front of the old fashioned movie theater made him pause. He could hear an old timey folk song playing over the speakers, the voice warm and welcoming as the gold and orange lighting that glowed in the cold winter. Carey smiled to himself as he saw Charlie Chaplain’s name in the bold black lettering of the weathered sign but the only show he could see was a Christmas film John had always bemoaned, mostly because he had a long standing annoyance towards Santa films. He never dug into that but, he had to say it had been a long time since he sat down and watched a Christmas movie.

He walked in and his eyes instantly locked on Julian in his bright red custodian vest. His bright white shirt and corduroy bow tie made Archie hold back a chuckle. He was talking to a woman in a heavy coat as he scooped sugar covered pecans into a bag for her. Archibald could pick out that he was talking up the Chaplin movie he’d slipped a view of.

“He has such a powerful voice, you know, even when he’s just dancing around.”

“Indeed, have you seen the film where he was inside a clock?”

“Oh, Modern Times, yeah, it was really funny, oh, uh here’s you’re food, ma’am.”

“Ah, thank you so much, Julian. Have a nice day.”

“T-to you too, ma’am!”

Julian gave her a small wave, smile warm on his lips. He watched as she quickly scurried into the theatre, the loud booming speech of the general inside filling the lobby for a moment. He was quick to see Archie in his argyle sweater and waved as if he was across the street. Carey couldn’t help laughing softly, as Julian fumbled over to him, tripping on something on the floor behind him.

“Mister Carey! What are you doing out here, it’s dreadful today. I thought you’d stay home and write with your roommate.”

God, Archie couldn’t even help thanking Julian in his head for not saying John’s name. He was so obvious about hiding their names when they talked in public, just adding to that idea of childishness. But, seeing him becoming more normal in these kinds of situations just helped him feel like he’d made the right choice, staying with the two of them when he felt so strained from the thought of losing Julian.

“Yes, well, I wanted to see if I could spot who your little outburst was about. Does she come often?”

Julian looked confused for a second, as if the woman had long left his mind, but quickly he covered his reddened face in his hands as if he was accused of staring at a sweetheart.

“N-no. Well, y-yes, she comes often, but she’s more of a cinephile than an acquaintance. Or is it mediaphile? We talk more about music than film really. I think she composes marching music because sometimes she hums to herself and whispers her footsteps. It’s like she’s thinking of how fast she can get the beat of her own movements to go.”

Archie hummed a soft chuckle, seeing the red retreat as he drifted away from his embarrassment. It was so interesting watching how scattered and winding his mind was. John would get like that some days too, going over and over a handful of thoughts until he was so far from the initial idea or speech, not even he could guide him back. It’s a mess he’s always admired. Maybe he needed to look into that, even though it was one of the nicest comforts he’d ever had. Just listen to them talk and talk until he could never have thought something was saddening the voice guiding him away. And Julian can definitely guide you away. But, right now he had to slip back.

“That’s wonderful, Julian. Have you ever asked her about that?”

The man shook his head, thin curls clinging to his cheek. “No, uh, I thought that’d be embarrassing. Although, I asked her if she like music. She almost missed the opening of her film she was so enveloped. It was really nice.”

“It sounds nice. But, I do want to know who got you so riled this morning. Especially if he needs a nice meal anytime soon, cause I’m dying for guests. You are a wonderful housemate but I miss fresh faces. Can I buy a soda from you too? I’m going to watch something John wouldn’t watch with me.”

Julian nodded along until he heard about Carrey’s plans. “Wait, does John dislike Chaplin?”

Carrey chuckled softly. “No, he adores the Great Dictator. Unfortunately, John strongly dislikes Saint Nicholas’ portrayal on screen. Never know why and I highly doubt he’d diverge such secrets while sober.”

Julian hummed lightly, searching the counter for a cold drink. “I didn’t know that. I wouldn’t have given him that tape if he I knew that.”

It took Archie a moment to remember what Julian ment but he let out a soft hum at the thought of John’s call after the Christmas tape played. He was going to comment on hearing it with the entire crew of his last film, to describe the weeping and the cheers involved on his side of the radio, when a tall man came from a staircase behind Julien, sectioned off with a worn red rope. The man had a massive head of curly hair, bouncing with every shift of his stocky shoulders. All of him was stalks and stretched from his nose to his slick fingers that were wringing a stripped towel in his hands. There were streaks of oil on his cheek, imprinted salt on his hands and his eyes were fixed on Julian’s stiff form.

“Hey, Julie, the popcorn machine in the ballroom’s fixed! You keepin’ up alright up here, bud? Oh, sorry sir, uh, who ya talkin’ to Jules?”

Archibald couldn’t smile wider as he swiftly pulled his black velvet glove off to hold it out to the new man. “Archie! My name’s Archie, I’m a good friend of dear Julian here, he lives with my beaux  and I actually. You must be a dear friend!”

The man shook his hand through the cloth, likely nervous to smear some form of lubricant or condiment on his bare hand. Archie smiled at him as he cleaned away the remains of his work, completely oblivious to Julian’s wide eyes and rapidly shifting face.

“I guess we’re close, not sure ‘bout dear though. My name’s Hercule, sir. I’m real’ happy to meet any of Julian acquaintances.”

“As am I. I’ve been longing to get an excuse to get out of the house and, well, I’m in need of some holiday spirit. Are you a mechanic here?”

The stocky man chuckled, brushing some sparse grains of salt or sugar from his check. “Somewhat. Really I’m the projectionist but I help out all over the place. Julian’s the only guy here all week, but I live upstairs. It’s easy to get to know people and work keeps down the rent.”

“Ah, how invigorating! I’m not surprised Julian has latched on to you, oh, has Julian told you about his music? He’s quite a gifted artist.”

Julian fumbled as he attempted top off the soda by the sound of Hercule’s loud laugh paired with a wide arm against his shoulder. Archibald grinned as he saw a warm blush across Julian, something Hercule grinned at proudly.

“God yes! The amount of times I’ve walked in on this kid humming some tune or singin’ softly. Aw, Jules, do you remember when you brought in that tape deck and recorded the popcorn machines. God, I was so confused but he played it to me and explained the rhythm he was making and it’s amazing. Have you finished it?”

Julian shook his head of curls, face a shade that could only be called fluorescent. Hercule patted his shoulder, smiling as he turned back to Archibald.

“Yeah, his stuff’s really interestin’. But, uh shouldn’t you head to the theater?”

“Oh, of course, I just need my drink and I’ll be on my way. Thank you so much, Julian. I’ll see you at home and I hope you’ll invite Hercule over sometime. I’m desperate for some fresh faces at home, holiday are always lovely but it gets quite boring after a while with no new guest. Have a nice afternoon.”

Hercule chuckled as he gave him a mock salute while Julien dissolved into a puddle behind the counter. Hercule laughed softly as he kneeled down to talk with him. Archibald let out a soft squeal of excitement as the door to his theater shut behind him as he caught a glint of silver and black held out to Hercule.