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Arctic Conditions

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Noel was at Julian’s house. They were supposed to be writing for The Boosh, but, as usual, when Noel went round to Julian’s and the two were left alone, they merely sat in companionable silence, with the TV or radio playing out in a soft murmur in the background. And after one too many beers, they would give up the pretence of actually writing anything and just sit there, side by side drinking, until they fell asleep together on the sofa. That is exactly what was happening. Except, there was nothing usual about the situation they were in. And the house was deathly silent. Apart from the noise of the traffic outside, the buzz of the fridge next door in the kitchen, and the breathing of the two men, unspeaking, yet sat together.

Of course, it was never together together they fell asleep. Only next to each other. With enough clothes for an expedition to the arctic, Noel thought bitterly as he looked over at the other end of the sofa that contained Julian. Noel had removed his jacket as soon as he’d entered the house, and had since then shed his boots. Sitting curled up at one end of the sofa, with his odd-socked feet up on the cushions, Noel was wearing his usual mix of skinny jeans and an old band t-shirt that was wearing thin, offering him no protection against the biting cold of the air. Julian on the other hand, had remained fully wrapped up, in his own house, with his trainers, jeans, jumper, and even a bloody scarf on.

He doesn’t trust me. Noel was really beginning to hate his mind for being so damned irritating all of the bloody time. Somewhere, in the more rational part of his mind, he recalled Julian saying something about the broken heating and it being November, but he decided to ignore it and remained focusing his attention on Julian. Sending him dirty glances, and radiating aggression towards the older man. Partly for being a twat these past couple of years, and partly because he had now started shivering in the cold air of the house. He hated it when Julian was right.

“Something wrong?” Julian sounds so smug up from the other end of the sofa. He doesn’t even have his eyes open. Just lying there, dozing slightly whilst Noel has an internal conflict and shivers at the opposite end of the sofa. Yes he was angry, and wanted to shout and scream at Julian for being such a smug bastard, but laying there all still and perfect, he just looked so… beautiful.

Stop! He has to remind himself. He doesn’t feel that way about you, you know that. Don’t let it get in the way of your friendship. But it had already. And Noel knew that it had. Telling him had been a big mistake.

Nothing was the same. Noel had known that from the second he had walked in the door. There was a reason they had stopped the writing this time. And it was because Noel had ruined it with a few simple words. I’m in love with you. Because he was. Noel didn’t just love Julian, like you’d love your parents or friends. But Noel was in love with Julian, and had been for years. The only difference with this time, was that Noel had blurted it out backstage during their last tour.

The reason Noel had split with Dee. The reason why The Boosh had stopped after the tour. The reason why they only ever saw each other for a Boosh show to keep on repeating the same sketch, because they couldn’t bear to be around him any longer than he had to be, meaning they couldn’t stay and write stuff. The reason why they were no longer friends. Because Noel had told Julian those exact words, and received nothing but a cold shoulder in return. He couldn’t even bear to be in the same room as you, Noel’s mind provided as he recalled the way Julian had run out of the dressing room in a blind panic. He had hardly seen him for the rest of the tour. The only times being when they actually had to go on stage or sit in front of a camera for interviews. Continuing the charade for the public eye, whilst behind closed doors there was a war of emotion between the two.

That’s why it had been so hard for Noel to come here tonight, whilst Julia had taken the kids away, as she always did when he and Julian were spending time writing together. It had been difficult, because Noel knew how much Julian despised him for how he felt. That was the real reason why nothing was being written. Because by telling Julian how he felt, Noel had created this unnameable tension which was all to alien and familiar to be able to pinpoint its origin. The tension had stopped their usual flow and banter, instead replacing it with awkward silences and a heavy uncomfortable atmosphere. Noel had broken them.

“Noel?” Noel snapped out of his internal thoughts by the slightly irked voice of Julian, who he now realised had turned to look at him when he didn’t offer any sort of reply.

“What?” he snaps at Julian, not wanting him to realise he’d been thinking about him, even if it wasn’t anything dirty. Julian however, seems to have powers of the mind. Well… Noel’s mind. He has the ability to be able to read every single one of Noel’s thoughts, which is not very convenient, considering that the majority of them consist of Julian. He smirks at Noel. This is going to be an enjoyable night. We can’t even sit together without a conversation turning into a battle of who’s going to win.

“Why should write something?” It’s a safe suggestion. One that will ease the tension a little bit… possibly. Or it could just make it worse.

“Fine.” Julian sits up and reaches for the laptop on the table, before pulling it towards himself and pressing the power button. Five minutes later finds them looking at a blank document, with the cursor flashing at them tauntingly, almost daring them to write something. Anything. Noel suffers a particularly violent shudder from the cold and is instantly met with Julian’s cold stare. Everything about this place is cold for Noel at the minute.

“Are you cold?” His tone is hard. Giving away none of the emotion behind. Julian’s good at that. Shutting off all of his emotions.

“Well done Holmes you’ve solved the case! Call the police, we have our new detective. Why don’t you start solving murders with that big brain of yours? Who needs fucking Columbo? Don’t worry everyone, Julian Barratt will solve our crimes!” The sarcasm wasn’t so much dripping off Noel’s voice, as opposed to gushing out to create a river of unease. Noel’s patience was started to wear thin in places, and the cold air of the flat was doing nothing to improve his festering mood.

Julian holds back a smirk, his eyes softening as he takes in Noel’s inappropriate attire for October weather and cold house, and he seemed to be debating something with himself before he sits up straight, and starts tugging the bottom of his jumper up.

“Ain’t it a bit soon to be getting to the bummin’?” Noel asks. He doesn’t know why. Too ease the tension? Yeah. Cause that was always going to work. Idiot. Julian’s eyes flick over to Noel, telepathically sending the exact same thing through his eyes – idiot – before he continues to pull of his jumper over his head.

“What are you doing?” Noel tries again, a bit more effectively this time.

“You’re cold.” He replies, holding the jumper out. Noel looks at it. It’s corduroy. Noel nearly laughs on the spot, but manages to restrain himself from doing so. It’s not so bad, he thinks. It could’ve been brown. It makes Noel chuckle how much like Howard Julian is sometimes. Just a light exhalation of air through the nose, so that Julian can’t mistake it as Noel laughing at him. But then again, maybe he isn’t so much like Howard. Because Howard, when Vince kissed him, had turned gay. Not run away like Julian did, but instead had responded to the affection given by Vince. It didn’t take a genius to figure out who had written that kiss into the show.

Noel still hasn’t taken the jumper out of Julian’s hand, just looking at it as though it will sprout some awful disease on him if he so much as touches it. Julian’s looking uncertain now, as though Noel will take the jumper to mean some declaration of undying love. For fuck sake.

“Don’t worry, if you get a rash I’ll just play some Numan till you’re feeling better.” It’s a weak attempt at their old banter, but it’s something. At least he’s trying, his brain tells him off unhelpfully. Noel smiles.

“Cheers mate.” He says, taking the jumper out of Julian’s hand, before cringing internally at his choice of words. Mate? Julian hasn’t socially been in a room with him since Noel’s confession, unless, like now, he has been forced to. How is that a matey thing to do?

Julian however, seems to relax at the words. Prick. Noel isn’t that bad. Being gay doesn’t change anything. He’s always been gay, so why is it so different now with Julian knowing? Is it all the fleeting looks and touches in the back of clubs? The ones that seemed so innocent to Julian, but to Noel made his head spin and his cock hard. Has he now realised that they weren’t just playing games, and were actually committing to something that had, god forbid, feelings involved?

Yes. Noel realises with a jolt. That’s exactly what it is.

“Well put it on then, or else we’ll both be freezing for no reason.”

Noel sits up and pulls the jumper on over his head. It’s about two sizes too big, but Noel just rolls up the sleeves and sits back. Wrapping his arms around his knees, and hiding his face behind his legs, leaving him free to inhale Julian’s scent from the jumper, as he closes his eyes, trying to re-learn his incredible smell. After quietly breathing in all of the scent, he opens his eyes to see Julian staring at him, a conflict written on his face, as though debating whether or not he should say something.

“Suits you."

“Thanks.” Is Noel's muffled response.

When did their conversation become this stilted? Thought out. Cautious, like treading round broken glass. Treading lightly as though frightened of setting off a bomb.

“Right then." Noel exclaims sitting forward and dropping his legs so that they're hanging over the edge of the sofa. The way they're supposed to, Julian's voice is now in his mind too. Great. Just bloody great. As if he didn’t think about him enough. "We need to actually do some work, or else Julia will probably shout at us both for fooling around when we should’ve been working.” Noel doesn’t miss the way Julian flinches at the term ‘fooling around’, and his anger finally bubbles up to the surface, his shitty mood finally breaking free.

“For fuck sake, what is your deal?” Julian looks up guiltily with a start at the harshness and aggression in Noel’s voice. “Jesus Christ, I can just about you deal with you not wanting to spend more than five seconds around me alone socially, but when we’re working and you get all jumpy like this? That’s when I can’t deal with it anymore. God, you had to be fucking forced into a room with me so that we can get some work done. Nothing’s changed Julian. Nothing has changed between us.” Except that so much has. “I was gay before you knew, and I’ll continue to be the same level of gay now that you do know. I’m sorry if I disgust you, but for fuck sake, stop acting like I’m going to fucking jump you all the time. I’ve managed to control myself around you so far, I think I can handle your rejection for the next few fucking years. But if it’s just you feeling homophobic? Then tell me now so that I can just fuck off.” It’s probably the longest either one of them has spoken to the other in about four years, and Julian looks more upset and torn by this speech than Noel thought he would’ve.

“Noel…” He reaches out as though to touch his arm, before looking at his hand, and dropping it heavily back into his own lap.

“Oh Jesus Christ. Just forget it. Okay?” He swings the laptop violently round to face him so that he’s got something to do. He starts typing aggressively, the first signs of any work for the past few years. And it’s something new. Something Noel has come up with just to see the look on Julian’s face, to try and get back the old double act magic. To try and make him laugh. To get his friend back. When Julian doesn’t speak or move after a couple of minutes, Noel looks up so that he can see what he’s doing.

Julian’s looking at him like nothing has ever been okay, and that he doesn’t want to drop it, before he quickly drops his gaze, and all thoughts of the conversation. When he lifts his eyes again, it’s to look back at the computer screen expectantly, as though he’s waiting for the words to magically make sense to him. Noel goes back to typing, a little less aggressively this time.

Julian stays silent for a while, contrasting emotions playing about his face, as though he’s once again trying to decide whether or not speaking will disrupt the peace, or bring it. Noel watches him out of the corner of his eye for a few moments, before turning to speak to him.

“What is it?” There’s no malice in Noel’s voice, just a question. He doesn’t want to start any more wars. Julian waits a few moments before answering.

“Never thought I’d see the day you voluntarily wore cord.” He says with the hints of a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth.

“I know. I think I may be coming out in that rash, I’m telling you. It’s set off me allergies!” Noel’s laughing now, freely and openly. It feels so good to finally be able to laugh around Julian again. And nobody’s fighting. “I think the only thing that’s stopping me from having a full out panic attack is the fact that you’ve decided to wear a different colour from your usual wardrobe. What happened to aggressive nutmeg?”

“I felt as though it were time for a change. Move on, you know. Work the other colours in the spectrum.”

“Sorry, are we Vince and Howard now?” Noel’s smiling again now too, and Julian laughs, actually fucking laughs, and to Noel it feels like Christmas already.

“What are you writing?” Julian’s looking at the screen of the laptop now, to see the vaguely pieced together ideas of a character Noel’s been coming up with. He’s had the idea for a couple of months, thinking up a new character who wouldn’t fit in his own show, and would be absolutely perfect for Julian to play. Noel pushes the laptop over to Julian’s side of the coffee table to take a look whilst he puts his boots back on, his feet being victims of the cold air.

“I thought I was the one who was meant to talk all the time?” he looks over to Julian, only to see that he’s already looking at Noel, and just like that it’s almost as if the past few years had never happened. The double act magic has finally reappeared, after four long years without any proper social contact. And it feels fucking marvellous.

Julian smiles at him again, and if Noel’s grin gets any wider, his face might just split in two. All this time he’s been worried about the magic being gone, but it was there all along. It just needed time to come back to them. It always had done. Even when they weren’t stuck in a shitty argument, they always needed time to get over being all shy to one another. This time, Noel wasn’t sure it would come back due to circumstance, but all of that washes away now with the realisation it just needed an extended period of time for the two boys to be together to get it up and running again. Something they haven’t been getting a lot of recently.

“Just an idea I had for this character. I thought you could play him. Honestly, he’s wicked. Really different to the other characters you usually do in the Boosh. I’ve done some drawings, but they’re back at my flat. Don’t really matter though, I can show you them later yeah? Anyway, I have a few plot line that could work, you can check ‘em though yeah? I’m not very good with plots. I’m the visuals man. So, I thought we could have him wearing – “

“Why don’t we just use Rudi and Spider again?” Noel feels as though he’s been kicked in the stomach. “Instead of coming up with another idea I mean. It’ll be quicker if we just use whatever plotline you had planned out for this character using characters we already have, won’t it?”

"Revisit?" Noel doesn't know why that upsets him as much as it does. He was expecting it earlier, but since then he had thought that him and Julian had worked things out, and that they would be able to create something for their world again. Apparently not. It still shocks him the force at which the words leave his mouth however. He should be used to Julian acting like this towards them spending any more time together than is strictly necessary. But after behaving like they used to, even though it was for a tiny sliver of time, had given Noel more hope than ever that things were going to be okay.

Julian seems as taken aback by Noel’s reaction as Noel himself. “Well… yeah, why not use them again?”

“I don’t just want to ‘revisit’ the old characters.” Noel sneers the word as though it’s dirty to even suggest it, “For fuck sake it’s getting boring. Some of those characters are about 15 fucking years old. We need new material, people aren’t stupid. They have realised that we do the same old shit again and again. We need something else.” It wasn’t an untrue statement. Even in their recent escapade to Festival Supreme, they had just played out old sketches and characters, twisting and bending them to seem different, the entire time just playing out the same tricks they had been pulling for years. Apart from Julian’s little wander into his solo shitty ‘Jon Breeze’ material. Stuff he didn’t want to try out on his own because he was too much of a coward.

Noel had never had a problem with diving into audiences with new material. He was well received, and always had been. Especially since The Boosh. He had also collected a mass following by doing other publicity and shows. Something he had done in order to get Julian’s attention. To be noticed by him. The thing that Noel had done to get Julian to notice him, had only served in making his fame stronger, whilst Julian lagged behind; carrying The Boosh, and doing the hard work to keep it afloat. All the while, Noel was swanning about, trying to get Julian to turn his head in his direction. The thing that Julian had clung onto like a life raft, was the thing that was now apparently the thing that he thought was dragging him down, the irony completely lost on him in his attempt to try and escape to his own world. And Noel took some twisted pleasure in that fact.

Or maybe Julian just wanted to rub Noel’s face in no longer needing him.

“Shit? You think our stuff’s shit? Fucking hell, sorry. I was only trying to save us fucking time.” Julian’s voice is annoyingly level and calm, and it only served in further destroying Noel’s mood, which wasn’t in the best of places to begin with.

“I don’t want us to save fucking time Julian. I want us to be able to be like we used to be. It never used to be about what was ‘quicker’. It was always about what was best for The Boosh. What was best for us!” He’s standing up now. The argument is making him twitchy. He’s always had problems dealing with stressful situations, and so tries not to get himself into them too often. Yeah, that’s been going great recently.

“People love the old characters, which is why we revisit them. Come on I’m only thinking practically here.” Julian’s stood up as well now. Never been able to be on the lower hand, Julian’s used to be the tall one, and so can’t stand it when he’s in an argument and there’s someone above him.

“No it isn’t. The reason we don’t write new characters is because you can’t stand to be in the same room as me long enough to write any new stuff. We never do new stuff anymore!”

“We do do new stuff! What about that show we did at the Barbican?”

“Beck wrote the fucking music for that!”

“So?”

“What d’ya mean ‘So?’ We didn’t bloody write it.”

“What about Santa Monica?”

“What about Santa Monica?”

“There was new stuff in that show”

“Yeah. Your fucking solo stuff. Hardly Boosh, considering we are The Mighty Boosh. Yeah? Us. Together. We. And considering that that was your character, your bloody writing, and I had no fucking input on it, I wouldn’t say that that was us writing new material.”

“Oh, so it’s okay for you to do solo stuff now, but I’m not allowed. Is that what you’re saying?”

“Of course that’s not what I’m fucking saying! But I don’t use Boosh as a tool to test out my new stuff. I don’t call out of the blue, after near enough four fucking years, suggesting we do some gigs to ‘ease off the fans, as they’re getting a bit psycho’, despite the fact our fans have always been fucking psycho, just so that I can test out new material for my fucking solo show.”

The situation is vastly getting out of hand again, and Noel’s eyes are starting to prick. For a moment, he actually fucking believed that they could have been what they were. That they could’ve been the double act extraordinaire. Now, in a matter of seconds, it’s all fucked.

“You know what, fuck this. I don’t need this shit. You’re making stuff up again.” Julian heads for the kitchen.

“Again?”

“Yeah. Again. Every time you realise you’re losing an argument, or that something isn’t going your way, you panic and go into meltdown. Start making stuff up.”

“Like when?”

“Like now!”

“How am I making this up?” Noel is on the verge of tears now. He only has one last throw of the dice to win this round, and it needed to be doubles. “We haven’t written anything new together since the bloody tour and you damn well know it.”

Bingo.

Julian’s stopped walking. He’s stopped moving altogether. After a few moments he turns round to face Noel, who’s still by the sofa. He advances forward into the living space again, speaking slowly in a low voice that leave vibrations hanging in the air.

“Don’t you dare. Don’t you bloody dare, bring up that tour. Don’t you dare, d’you hear me? I don’t want to hear a single word of it. You cannot, just come back into my house and bring this up again. I won’t have it, y’hear?”

“Julian please.”

“Stop it.”

“Julian please, just talk to me about it!” Noel’s crying now, the tears spilling over. He lunges forward to latch onto Julian before he can make a run out of the door, just like Noel know he will.

“Get off me.” Julian shakes Noel off so hard that he stumbles backwards. Julian continues through the living room heading towards the door. The backs of Noel’s legs connect with the coffee table behind him, and he falls backwards over the table, throwing out his right arm to stop himself from hitting the edge of the table and knocking himself unconscious. Noel feels a sharp shooting pain travel up his arm, as his wrist crunches upon hitting the ground underneath all of the weight put on one arm. He manages to stop his scream of pain though, as he hears something worse than the grinding bones of his wrist – the opening of the front door.

Noel’s head snaps up just as Julian puts one foot through the threshold.

“Ju!” Julian stops with the front door open, one foot on either side of the doorframe. Coat in one hand, door in the other, getting ready to slam shut behind him. But it doesn’t. Because Julian’s stopped moving. “Ju. Please.” His voice is softer now. Tantalising. He’s momentarily stopped Julian from running, but it’s not enough. He needs to be sure. Because if he lets Julian walk back out through that door, there is no way on Earth that they will be able to be fixed. They’ll be broken. Forever.

Something in the old nickname has Julian pinned to the spot like superglue though, and he isn’t moving. Just staring at a point outside the front door, with the arm holding his jacket hanging limply at his side, the other hand holding the door like a lifeline, his knuckles turned white. Noel grasps onto the tiny glimmer of hope, and decides to push his luck before Julian walks out of his life for good.

“Jude? Please. We have to talk about this, you know we do. Please. Just… come back inside, yeah? Just close the door and we can have a cup of tea. Please just don’t walk away again because I cannot live without you anymore. I’ve tried that, and it doesn’t work. Please. Let’s just…. Look, I’ll just go to the kitchen and – Ah!” At his cry of pain, Julian snaps his heads round to look at him, lying a crumpled mess on the floor, with his legs all twisted beneath him, and tears streaming down his face.

His head swings back round to face out of the door as he opens his mouth as though struggling to say something, before giving up on the words that have failed him, and closing his mouth again.
“Please” his voice is breaking as the tears flow fast and free, streaking his pale face with diluted black lines. This broken plea is a last ditch attempt to get him to come back inside. It works. But only just. Julian takes a deep breath as though preparing himself for a major task, before stepping back into the house and shutting the door. His fingers loosen the grip on the coat and it drops to the floor. Julian’s still tense and ready to leave at any given moment. Even so Noel breathes a sigh of relief for the momentary win.

Now that he’s sure Julian isn’t going to take flight straight away, he can focus on his wrist. Trying to rub some feeling back into it from where it went numb when he tried to get back up off the floor. Julian moves towards Noel cautiously, as though afraid if he were to make any sudden movements, Noel will attack.

“I hurt you.” It’s not a question. Julian and Noel have never seemingly needed questions to be able to communicate. The blandness of the tone in which Julian speaks is new though, and it makes Noel flinch. This is uncharted territory in their relationship, and Noel isn’t quite sure how to deal with it, and so just shrugs.

Julian’s crouched beside him then, reaching out to Noel’s arm. The moment Julian’s fingers make contact with his skin, his entire body is alight with electricity. The deprivation that’s been building up for the past few years finally making itself known with the touch. Noel closes his eyes to savour the moment of pure bliss.

“Did I break anything?” Still with that chilling toneless voice.

“No, you’re alright.” Still holding onto his wrist. Noel opens his eyes to look at Julian.

Julian’s looking mildly relieved, before he’s wrapping an arm around Noel’s waist to help him stand up. So that you don’t hurt yourself again you idiot, his brain tells him. I know, he replies tetchily.

“I’ll get you a bandage for your wrist.” He still hasn’t let go.

“Thanks.” Julian leads him to the kitchen by his waist, as though he had injured his ankle and not his wrist; allowing Noel to lean into him as they hobble slowly to the kitchen area where the first aid box is kept under the sink.

Upon entering the kitchen, Julian leans Noel up against a counter so that he doesn’t overbalance, before rushing over to the sink to retrieve the first aid box. He places the box on the side next to the sink, before returning over to Noel to wrap his arm around his waist again, and take his wrist into hand. Noel and Julian hobble once again over to the sink, where Julian starts the cold tap running and places Noel’s hand under it.

After a couple of minutes Julian turns the faucet off, and gives Noel a tea towel to dry his hand on, not wanting to do it himself for fear of hurting the other man. Whilst Noel dries his hand, Julian unwraps the bandage for Noel’s wrist. Noel holds out his arm when he’s finished, and Julian gingerly takes his wrist, before he starts bandaging it up.

“Cheers for that Ju. My bloody wank hand as well!” Noel jokes feebly. He gets nothing from Julian except his eyes flicking up to meet Noel’s with a cold warning stare, all the while continuing to wrap the bandage round his wrist. His eyes flick back down to concentrate on the bandaging so much, Noel’s pretty sure he can feel a hole being burnt through his hand. Julian continues to bandage the hand, and the two remain in a deathly silence for the duration. Julian feeling guilty and turning it inwards on himself in a silent torture, and Noel not wanting to say anything that would further aggravate the other man.

“You should probably go to see a doctor or someone. Don’t want to take any chances after all.” Julian says as he’s finishing. “And get some ice on that when you get home. Otherwise the swelling will be horrendous.” Julian looks up then, still holding onto Noel’s wrist.

He starts slightly when he notices the intensity of Noel’s stare, and the fact that he’s been staring at him this whole time. Of course, now that Julian’s looked up, he’s looking directly into Noel’s eyes. Neither can help it, and for a short while the two men just stand there, staring into each other’s eyes. Neither saying anything.

After what feels like a lifetime, Noel notices a slight pressure on him arm. He looks down to notice Julian’s hand still encircling his wrist protectively and tentatively. Julian follows Noel’s gaze, and his eyes widen slightly, as though he hadn’t realised he was still holding onto Noel’s wrist. He drops it immediately, and moves around to the other side of the kitchen, so that the island counter is placed in between the two men.

“I…” Noel knows what’s coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier hearing it straight from Julian’s lips. “I… think you should go.”

But Noel isn’t giving up. He came in here to talk to Julian, and so help him god he was going to talk to Julian if it bloody well killed him.

“No.” Noel isn’t about to let this get away from him. He decides to go with his instinct, because this game is quickly slipping through his fingers once again, and if Noel doesn’t take a gamble then he’s going to end up losing everything for good. “No, I’m not going to go. And you know why? Because I love you Julian, and deep down I know that you love me too!” Julian seems to do nothing for a minute. Just stares at Noel blankly. Then he takes a deep breath, and seems to steel himself against whatever he’s planning on saying next. Noel understands why, when Julian opens his mouth and starts speaking.

“I don’t feel that way about you. I’ve never felt that way about you. That’s never what this was for me, it’s what you’ve made it for you. Prancing about like a woman? And a slutty one at that too. Always asking me to come and dance with you, play with you, touch your hair, kiss you. Julia would be right next to me, but you didn’t seem to give a shit what you would be putting on the line for me, so DON’T. YOU. DARE. IT WAS ALL ABOUT TRYING TO SEDUCE ME, SO THAT YOU COULD SATISFY YOUR FEELINGS. Not mine. Never mine. You. Make. Me. Sick.” Julian makes sure to pause after each of the last words, emphasising each one of them. “I hate you.” There’s no inflection to his last words. Merely a statement.

“Fuck.” Noel’s breath hitches on the word, showing just how broken those words have actually made him. His body is numb, and he can’t stand still, twitching as he paces the kitchen, filling it with his nervous energy.

“You need to leave now.” Julian’s cold, hard voice from the other side of the kitchen. Noel looks up to look at him with tearless eyes. He can’t even cry, is body still un-processing of the words delivered to him like a punch. The shock is written all over Noel’s face as he pulls the jumper off slowly, mussing up his hair around his head as he does so, before placing it on the counter. He can’t even bring himself to care about his hair, leaving it as it is. If that doesn't show Julian just how hurt he’s been by his words, then nothing ever will. Julian’s hands are still braced on the side of the kitchen island that’s stopping them from being near each other, and that’s probably for the best as Noel doesn't know what he’d do given half the chance to touch Julian. Punch him? Kiss him? Make love to him? Noel reaches out his hand across the table to try and wrap his fingers around Julian’s in a last ditch attempt to bring them back together. His fingers ghost over Julian’s for mere milliseconds, before Julian’s hand is snatched away like it’s been burnt. Cradling it to his chest like he’s in pain.

“Never touch me” He whispers.

And that’s all he can remember, before he’s running to the front door, wrenching it open, and running out into the freezing cold of the night. Not looking back once.

Chapter Text

Noel's shaking. Not because his flat's cold, which it's not, but because sobs are racking his slight frame. He's glad. Because the pain he's feeling is the only reminder he's got of Julian in his life anymore. However sick and twisted that is, he's still glad.

 

He's also glad Lliana isn't in to see him like this. He wouldn't know how to explain himself. He wouldn't even know where to begin. She wouldn't understand. She never understood when it came to Julian. She wasn't like Dee. Dee. And, even though Noel hadn't thought it possible, the sobs intensified.

 

He'd fucked everything up with Dee. Everything. He knew that she and he were perfect for each other in every way. Apart from one. He didn't love her like he loved Julian. And she knew. He'd told her. And then she'd left him.

 

The oddest part of it was why she'd left him. That conversation was the biggest shock of them all.

 

~~~

 

He'd stormed into their little hotel room in a state. Drunk, crying, and possibly a little bit high. He couldn't remember exactly what it was he had taken, but he knew that it wasn’t legal.

 

Dee had seen him like this on many occasions previously, but it was a couple of years ago now, when he'd go out to parties, getting drunk, high, anything that would be offered just so that he could get away from the pressures of yet another day spent with Julian, unable to touch him.

 

Of course she'd thought he'd been with someone else. In all her time with him, never once had he been this upset.

 

"Noel. It's okay. I mean, if you....slept, with someone else...it's okay."

 

So nice. Always so nice to him. Even when he was a dick and showed her up, she remained loyal and by his side. The best sidekick anyone could ask for. Chi and Recard. The best fucking crooks in all the land. Outcast together. The best of friends. Lovers.

 

You don’t deserve her.

 

"I didn't. I swear I didn't. I wouldn't. I love you Dee. So fucking much. I would never..." The rest of what he's saying is drowned out in a massive sob that is swallowed down by his hands as he covers his face with them. His hands don't cover his entire face. They aren't that big. Julian's would. Julian's are bigger. Julian. He sobs even harder.

 

Dee relaxes, which means that she believes him. Of course she does, she’d know if he were lying. He can sense that she doesn’t know what to do though. She’s totally at a loss. Standing next to the bed, where Noel’s currently sitting on the hard mattress, sobbing his heart out, while she twists her hands not knowing what to do. Noel calms himself down, for her sake. Enough so that he can tell her what's going on. He needs to tell her what's going on.

 

“Come here” Noel doesn’t even recognise his own voice. Cracked and warped with the nights activities, but he wants to help Dee to understand; because right now she hasn’t got a clue, and it is breaking his heart. He knows that what he’s about to say to her will break her heart, but he hasn’t got a choice. It needs to be said.

 

She deserves better.

 

“Dee, you know I love you, right?” Noel’s looking straight into her eyes. She’s blurring in front of him, his eyes are filling up again and there’s nothing that he can do to stop the tears from spilling over down his face. He’s no longer sobbing however. That’s got to be something.

 

She's looking directly back at him, into his eyes as well. He can sense her confusion. Worry. Pity. The one thing he never wants to feel from her. Pity. Because when the beautiful woman that you love begins to feel pity for you, rather than understanding or helping you? You're fucked anyway.

 

You’ve always been fucked.

 

"Of course I do." She replies. "Noel?" She sounds scared. "What is it? What's wrong? Tell me what's going on, please?" He's still looking into her eyes. He can sense her fear, the uncertainty. The uncertainty is what’s scaring her, because she doesn't know what to do. But she wants to. God she wants to. 

 

He does. He knows what he has to do, and it hurts. So fucking much. But it has to be done, for both their sakes. But he can't bring himself to do it just yet. It needs to wait to be said, because when he's looking into her eyes like he is now, everything else just goes away.

 

And so, looking into her eyes, still silently crying, he kisses her. It's not like their normal kisses. It's forceful. All of the anger and energy poured into the kiss. He's still drunk, enough out of it for it to be rough. His hands dominating her as he grips the sides of her head, pulling her mouth to his as though this will make it all go away.

 

She gasps into his mouth. He's twisting his fingers deeply into her hair, knotting the roots around his digits so hard it's painful. She's making pained noises into his mouth, before she starts pulling at his fingers to get away. She doesn’t want him.

 

Nobody wants you.

 

Then he realises what he’s doing, and that he’s doing it to her. The one person who he swore that he would never hurt again, and in a flash he’s backed up against the wall of their hotel room on the opposite side of the room from her, leaving her sat on the bed alone. She’s looking at him now with concern. She knows he’d never hurt her. She knows that.

 

Maybe she doesn’t. Maybe she’s looking at you that way ‘cause she’s frightened that you will.

 

No. Stop it. It’s not that. Still looking at her, more tears start to flow. Good. Let them. He hurt Dee, so now it’s his turn to be hurt. She’s still looking at him, concern turning into horror as he puts his hands into his own hair, twisting it around his fingers just like he had done to Dee. He wants to feel the pain, because it’s yet another pain that he’s put her through, and he wants to make it up to her.

 

“No.” her voice is firm as she starts to make her way across the room towards him.

 

“STOP IT NO.” He’s shouting at her, feeling more lucid, as some of the effects the drink and drugs had taken on him having worn off; enough to know that he doesn’t want her coming anywhere near him in case he hurts her again. He’s holding one of his hands out to stop her from coming any closer, the other one still twisting his hair. He expects her to freeze immediately, but she doesn’t. She’s not that easily deterred; and before he knows it, she in front of him, gently guiding his arms, so that his hand out of his hair. He doesn’t want her to be near him though. He’s disgusting and he doesn’t want her to touch him, because she’s perfect. She’s always been perfect, and he doesn’t want to taint her with his dirty, disgusting touch. He tries to pull away.

 

She’s too good for you.

 

“No.” she says again, and he can’t help but obey her voice. He stops trying to pull away, but he’s still tense; standing there with his arms down by his sides. “What’s going on? Why do you keep trying to pull away?” she’s cradling his face gently in her hands, so gentle in comparison to how rough he was being with her. The way she’s holding his face means that he has no choice but to look her directly in the eyes as he answers.

 

“Because, I’m disgusting. You shouldn’t want to be anywhere near me. God…” His voice is cracking because the tears are welling up again. “I’m so sorry Dee.”

 

With that he slides down the wall so that he’s sitting on the floor, crying softly to himself. Then suddenly, she’s there next to him. Sat beside him, cradling his body as he leans into her open arms to be comforted. Selfish, selfish bastard.

 

“You’re not disgusting. How can you even think that?” her voice is incredulous at even the mere mention of the word. The fact that it’s coming from his own mouth seems to make her spit it out like a bad taste. “Please just tell me what’s wrong?”

 

Noel sits up away from her arms. It’s hard enough without having her comforting him. Selfish. Always selfish. “I love you so much Dee” he whispers, looking at the wall opposite them. He takes a deep breath to steady his nerves. It doesn’t do much good, and threatens to worsen the situation again, as the newly acquired air he’s just taken into his lungs threatens to escape him in more sobs. He needs to say it now before it has a chance to escape him.

 

“I kissed Julian.” He shuts his eyes, awaiting the shouting match to begin. The screams, insults and tears, all directed at him to start flying as soon as the words leave his mouth. But nothing happens. He chances a look to his right, to see what Dee’s doing. What he sees surprises him.

 

Dee is sat there, tears making her eyes shine. But that isn’t what’s surprising him. What’s surprising him is the fact that she is smiling. Not a bitter or twisted smile, but a genuine, heartfelt smile. “About fucking time you pillock” she whispers.

 

“What?” he’s frowning at her, not sure that she’s entirely grasping the concept of what it is he’s saying. But if she hadn’t, wouldn’t she have been relieved? Wondering why I was bothering her with something everyone knew? She must’ve understood…. “Dee, do you realise what I’m saying? I don’t mean in the show. I mean backstage. When no-one else was around. We were alone and I kissed him, not accidentally, but purposely. Not like a friend either. I don’t just love him; I’m in love with him, and I wanna be with him.” He winces at that last one. Tactile Fielding, his inner voice scolds him.

 

“I know. And I’ve been waiting for you to tell me.” Noel’s even more confused now.

 

“I’m confused. Why aren’t you angry?”

 

“Why am I not angry? Jesus Noel. How long have we been going out now? I know you better than you seem to think. I’ve seen the way you look at him. How you brighten the second he walks into a room. I’ve been waiting a fucking age for you to actually tell me, so that I can finally fuck off and you two can get on with it.” She smiling a bit wider now, but the tears have spilled over, taking her eyeliner and mascara with them. Her cheeks have shiny black streaks staining them, but she is still the most beautiful woman Noel thinks he’s ever laid eyes on.

 

“But…” he’s honestly speechless.

 

“I’ve been waiting for you to tell me how you felt about him for ages. Because I knew that once you’d told me, you’d finally have started admitting it to yourself, and that you’d be able to move on from me to get with Julian. Finally. So, are you two….” She doesn’t need to finish the rest of her sentence for Noel to understand, which is good. She may already know how Noel feels, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t hurting her to say it.

 

“No…” She looks at him questioningly as he stands, her left eyebrow raised. “He doesn’t feel the same.”

 

“Yes he does.” She answers so quickly, and with such certainty that his head snaps up as he turns round to face her.

 

“What? Has he told you something? How do you know?” She looks into his eyes, so filled with hope that Julian has in some way confirmed these feelings to her, and her looks soften as she stands up to answer him.

 

“No…” His face falls as he walks around the bed, opting to sit on the seat ledge by the window on the opposite side of the room instead. “But it’s obvious!” Noel just looks at her, smiling sadly. “It is! The way he looks at you, it’s like you’re his whole world. Like if you weren’t there he wouldn’t know what to do. He’d just… crumble.” She says it with such passion that Noel nearly believes her. Until he remembers the way that Julian had run away after his declaration of love.

 

“It’s not true.” he’s stubborn.

 

“It is.” So is she.

 

“How can you be sure?” Noel’s sure he gets her there. Positive when he hears her silence that he has won this discussion. After a few seconds however, she answers. Her voice is so small and timid that Noel almost misses what she says; as though she wasn’t sure she should be saying it, but had to.

 

“Because he looks at you the same way I look at you…”

 

He looks over at her. Seeing her properly for the first time since he’s walked into the room. More preoccupied with thoughts of Julian, and how he was going to tell her, that his mind hasn’t had a chance to properly take in Dee and what she’s doing.

 

She’s all hunched in on herself. Not at all like she usually is – open and outgoing, ready to take what the world throws at her. It hurts him to see that she’s turned into this because of what someone – because of what he – has said to her. It breaks his heart, because he’s broken her heart.

 

Tears are running down her face again, and so Noel gets up off the window seat, and puts his arms around her waist. It’s a futile attempt to get her to stop hurting, as she wraps her arms around his neck and cries away her broken heart into his shoulder.

 

~~~

 

Noel’s sobbing hasn’t stopped. He hadn’t realised that it was possible to have this many tears in his body. He wanted to go back in time. To before he’d told Julian, when everything had been good in his life. Back to when he was with Dee, and The Boosh was still going strong, with no hint of ever slowing down or stopping. Back to when he, Dee, Sue, Chris, Julian, and yeah even Julia, could go for a night out without everything being stilted and awkward.

 

Or even earlier in life! When it had just been The Boosh boys. When there was nobody else to complicate matters, or get in the way of him and Julian. I wish I could go back before Julian had his kids. It was an evil thing to think. Noel knew it was. But after Julian had kids, he’d never looked at Noel in the same way ever again. Watching Julian around his children, Noel knows that he will never again be the most important thing in Julian’s life. And that hurts. That hurts a lot.

 

That’s why he’d run out of Julian’s flat. Julian had given him a look that showed his disgust, and Noel couldn’t bear it. He could only just about bear Julian’s kids coming before him – there was reason to that. It was justifiable. But the hatred and disgust in the look he had given Noel, before he had decided to run out of the flat, had left Noel feeling hollow and empty. That’s why he had run out into the cold night air, running so fast he didn’t even remember his phone, which he had left on the coffee table back at Julian’s flat beside the laptop. He hadn’t even remembered that he’d left his coat hanging by the front door of Julian’s flat.

 

And now Noel was sat on his sofa, sobbing his eyes out in a bid to try and rid himself of four, fucking long, years of heartache. He remembers what his life had been like with Julian before anything else had come along to spoil it. Anyone else rather. He remembers before Dee and Julia. Before he’d known Rich. And hell, even before Mike had met him. Just when he and Dave had gone to see this quirky guy do some stand up, and Noel had thought it to be about the best thing ever.

 

Dave wasn’t interested in meeting him, and so Noel had gone over to the fellow freak show, who had just exited stage, and was currently taking residence in the bar; hiding behind a pint, and looking as if he was uncomfortable just existing. But Noel had ignored all the signs that this guy didn’t do conversation, and wouldn’t take well to a stranger striking one up with him, and bounced keenly over to him. Because the man was a genius.

 

It was around that time that Noel had started using that word to describe everything, and it became his well-known phrase. It was a couple of months into writing it into his character for The Boosh, that Noel had realised he was in love with Julian, and the only reason he had started using the word to describe everything, was to compare everything with how he viewed Julian.

 

He knew it was stupid, and that it wasn’t a proper system, but he viewed Julian as a genius, and so in order to hide how he really felt about Julian, he overcompensated by using the word ‘genius’ to try and distract himself. This only led to everything being referred to as that, so that the word ‘love’ didn’t slip from his mouth. Until later on, when twelve years of hiding and trying not to let it spill catches up with him, and he blurts it out backstage during their tour.

 

And so now, here he was. No Dee, Rich, Mike, Dave or Julia. Just like you wanted. But there’s also no Julian. And there never would be again. Noel decides he doesn’t want to think anymore. Doesn’t want to remember anything else from his past. Because his past, good or bad, hurts. It hurts to think about. Bad, and it just reminds him how much of a failure he is. Good, and it hurts him to know that he doesn’t have it anymore. Because he doesn’t have any of it anymore. Everything from his past was gone. Including Julian.

 

And so Noel, who has left the sofa, rummages around the kitchen cupboards, through the large supply of spirits that he and Lliana have hidden from view of normal guests, reserving the collection for close friends and family. Chancing upon three bottles of whiskey, Noel holds them close to his chest, as though he were cradling children, and stumbles tearfully through the flat, to go to the empty bedroom, to remain there for the rest of the night.

 

~~~

 

It has been three days. Three, god awful, fucking days. How can everything go to such shit in that space of time? This wasn't like an episode of The Boosh, where everything could change within their half hour time slot. This was real life. Things like this weren't supposed to happen this fast in real life.

 

Except that they had. And Noel now felt as if he was playing out a part in a particularly bad rom-com. What would that make him? The lovesick protagonist, pining after the handsome, rugged hunk? Hunk? Really? Not that he doesn't think Julian’s fit. Just the word hunk.... Urgh. His mind is clearly also slowly going to shit.

 

But now Julian’s on his mind again, and Noel can't do anything as the tears roll over. Noel tries to come up with a time in the last three days that he hasn't been either drinking or crying, but finds that he can’t find any. He looks at the bottle in his hand.

 

Nobody’s been round, and he has no way of knowing if people have tried ringing him on his mobile, as he has, very helpfully, left it at Julian’s. So when there’s a jittery knock at the door, Noel briefly contemplates not answering it. His flat is a mess after all. And that’s not the only thing.

 

When the knocking on the door doesn’t cease however, Noel becomes angry.

 

“FUCKING ALRIGHT” he isn’t in the mood for any of his mate’s shit. Unless it’s Dave or Mike, which he highly doubts, as they’re in LA, helping Rich tour, he’d probably end up slamming the door in their faces anyway. He didn’t really count anyone else as a mate. They were all too shallow, and used him for his status, so that they could get on the front cover of magazines. If they weren’t shallow, then he didn’t want to see them anyway, as none of them really knew Julian, and so wouldn’t think twice about slagging him off after they saw the state Noel was in, and who was the reason behind it.

 

The state he’s in, and the mess around the flat would probably also make them think he’d turned back to drugs. As if you hadn’t considered it.

 

He wrenches open the door, fully prepared to slam it shut again straight away. He couldn’t even deal with himself right now, why would he want company? Then the man in the doorway turned around, and Noel halted his original plans, and settled for standing there mutely, shocked.

 

The past three days had been spent in isolation. He hadn't washed, eaten or slept. But he had drunk. Drunk a fucking lot. He had drunk, smoked and cried till his heart had snapped in two.

But none of that matters to Noel anymore. He can't bring himself to care.

Because there is Julian. Stood right there in front of him on his doorstep. He looks about just as bad as Noel feels. Unshaven, red ringed eyes, smoke fumes pouring off his very being. He's probably been drinking just as much as Noel has as well. And he hasn't showered either.

Noel knows his behaviour patterns well enough, to know that when Julian’s like this, he doesn't take care of himself properly. Doesn't eat properly, sleep properly or wash properly. Nothing. Noel knows. Noel knows, because he is the exact same.

“Don’t ask questions. Don’t stop me.” Julian all but growls, before he pushes Noel into the flat and slams the door shut behind him. These tiny details don’t matter to Noel though, because he’s been pushed up against the wall by Julian’s mouth upon his own.

Chapter Text

Yeah. As if Noel would ever even consider pushing him away. As for questions? He hadn't even had the chance to form any in his head before Julian had him pushed him up in his hallway. He was kissing him with such a ferocity that it stole all the breath from him to be able to ask questions with, and stopped all thoughts from forming in his head to even begin forming any.

Even if he had any questions, he wouldn't do anything to stop this. Questions would definitely mean stopping this.

No way.

For once, Noel and his mind were in complete agreement. There was no way Noel would be interrupting this. How could he miss this? There would be time for questions later on, when they were both satisfied.

Noel hadn't even had the chance to fully comprehend Julian on his doorstep, before Julian had him pinned up against the wall, slamming the door shut behind himself. Noel goes completely slack under Julian’s controlling, if it weren’t for being pressed between Julian and the wall, he would’ve no doubt slumped to the floor.

There is a dull thud as the bottle which Noel had long since forgotten about drops onto the floor by the two men’s feet. Noel was silently glad that he had run out of whiskey on the second day, as it meant that he’d moved onto vodka – something which wouldn’t stain or smell, where the fallen bottle’s contents had sloshed out over the rim of the bottle, and onto the carpet.

To be honest? It isn’t that important anyway.

Julian’s hands are in his hair, crushing his face into Noel’s. Julian makes an annoyed noise into his mouth, and Noel belatedly realises that he isn’t responding the way Julian wants him to; if the way Julian is knotting the hair round his fingers is anything to go by. His hair is shorter than it once had been, but it is long enough for Julian to get enough purchase to yank on, silently telling Noel to respond the way he wants.

The sharp hair pull finally drives Noel’s senses into action. His now vacant hands sliding up Julian’s back as he moans into the older man’s mouth. Years of pent up lust and upset pouring themselves into that kiss. Julian groans deeply, the noise reverberating through Noel as he gets more confident with what he’s doing, sliding his alcohol-soaked tongue alongside Julian’s.

Years of doing this onstage and onscreen for The Boosh mean that both men are comfortable with each other’s mouths. The lack of awkward teeth clashes and nose bumps show just how well they know each other; inside and out. They could know each other better, Noel thinks.

Noel gets properly involved then, twisting one of his hands into Julian’s hair, whilst his other arms goes around his neck, to ensure that he stays within kissing height.

Julian is everywhere. Noel can smell his scent and those of the cigarettes and booze that he’s been taking for the past few days; hear his laboured breathing; feel his body pressing right up against his in the hallway. Taste him…

Everything cliché that could have happened for Noel did. There were fireworks, butterflies, somersaults, backflips the sea crashing; the whole shebang as their mouths worked together furiously.

After a couple of minutes just aggressively going at each other, when Noel was able to untangle the mix of thoughts scrambling round in his head, questions rose to the surface, making themselves known. His mind just couldn’t help wandering off to question this change that had come over his Julian. Why now? Why did he change his mind? He knew that if he were to actually voice these queries out loud then there would be problems, and Julian would probably leave again. So instead of settling these questions that were burning a hole in his head, Noel submitted to Julian’s will completely and utterly.

Though he couldn’t help but wish that he could just, for once, see into Julian’s head to know what he was thinking.

***

Why have I wasted all this time?

All those nights spent home alone, whilst Julia was away and I was bored out of my mind. Reduced to having a wank over some nameless girl pictured in my mind. Or the nights where Julia was home, but had a migraine, headache, was sick, didn’t feel up to it, her nipples hurting from the hard gums of twins. Once again resulted in me knocking one out over some nameless tart in my mind.

Or even the sleepless nights! The one’s where Julia and I tried to make a night of the evening. Got as far as rolling on a condom, before screaming children wondering when their next meal would be, interrupted. Or later on when they were older, and would come knocking at the door because of a bad dream.

Every time he had felt unwanted and lonely. All those times his mind had wandered back to Noel and what it was he was doing. Whether or not he was thinking of him too. What would happen if he went round and kissed him? How would he react? But of course, Noel had Lliana now. They were probably having sex as Julian lay in bed at half mast, peeling off the condom that had been destined to never be used.

Yet all it would’ve taken, was for him to knock on the door, and claim what was rightfully his. Because Noel was his. Completely and utterly. The noises that Noel was making proved this hypothesis, and so Julian forgot. Forgot about those seven long years of being denied sex that wasn’t just a quick fumble of hands under the duvet before the kids would wake up. Four of those years, where he hadn’t even had the presence of his best mate to be able to cheer him up. To offer a comforting hug, or hand on the shoulder. To say “It’s alright Ju! It isn’t just about sex you know!” with a serious expression that suggested he too was having trouble.

But he had lost his best friend.

He knew that this wasn’t strictly true, but to him – it was.

It’s your own fault.

No. It’s Noel’s. His brain was sneering Noel’s name as though a foul word or insult. When had he stopped even praising Noel for just existing? When everything had turned to shit between you. The inseparable duo, ruined forever by just a few little words. It was you who made that decision….

Not the point, Julian argued back against his treacherous thoughts.

But maybe it was the point. After all, Julian was here now; and what had changed? Nothing. They were still the same two guys they had been when they met. Their foundations were still the same, except for that one tiny detail. But that one tiny detail had been there before, his mind protested, and you were never like this.

That was different, Julian fought back, determined to win.

What? It was different because you didn’t know? Shallow. But it can’t have been that, otherwise what the hell was Julian doing here at half past eleven at night, three days after an argument with his best friend who had told him he loved him four years previous, only to have it thrown back in his face? Christ you’re a fuck up.

Julian, deciding upon stopping brain activity, picks up Noel in the hallway, grabbing onto his arse whilst Noel’s legs wrap themselves around Julian’s waist. Julian’s thoughts do stop, as well as his breathing – both stolen away with just how easy it is to make this beautiful creature make those noises of love and adoration.

Noel breaks away from this kiss, trying to say something, but Julian isn’t having any of it. If he stops to let Noel talk he’ll have time to think, and thinking will lead to this stopping, which right now he is definitely not in favour of. So he does what he thinks is best, he carries Noel through the flat, and into the bedroom.

Julian’s knees hit the bed and he stumbles and falls, Noel hitting the bed, with Julian landing on top of him. The drop however, causes the two men’s crotches to rub together, creating a glorious rubbing that relieves them both momentarily. The two men pull away simultaneously, moaning and panting into each other’s mouths, both gyrating their hips into each other to keep the insistence of their hard-ons at ease.

After pulling away from Noel, Julian is suddenly aware of the lack of Lliana. His eyes alertly start scanning the room for her, cursing his own stupidity for not looking for her sooner. She could also be back at any minute. How stupid could he be? He tries to separate himself from Noel to look even further around the room, as though she could be hiding secretly in a corner of the room, but Noel insistently wraps his legs around Julian’s waist again, pulling him back down so that their crotches create delicious friction. Noel isn’t pulling away, but that only panics him further – she could walk in at any second.

He scans the room alertly, trying to detach himself from Noel, but he’s insistent on not letting go, instead choosing to kiss his way up and down Julian’s neck.

“Away.” He mumbles into the skin of Julian’s throat, where Noel’s decided to latch himself onto to give Julian a love-bite, or some other mark that will require a lie to cover it up later. That explanation is enough for Julian at this moment in time though, as he roughly pulls Noel’s head back up so that their lips are met once again in fierce embrace; Julian’s dominating tongue easily conquering Noel’s submissive.

Julian tears at the buttons on Noel’s three day old shirt, as Noel drags his jackets down his arms, before starting the same with his. Their fumbling hands finally manage to shed themselves of the clothes that haven’t been changed for days, and then, finally, they have skin to skin contact. Their chests are touching and rubbing together, their nipples becoming hard due to the exposed air they’re in, as well as the contact they’re currently receiving.

And then Julian’s undoing Noel’s jeans and trying his best to peel Noel out of them – virtually an impossible task – until Noel makes an irritated noise in the back of his throat and pushes Julian away, pulling up his legs to try and pull his jeans and socks down. Julian, taking the opportunity to undo his trainers, and remove the rest of his clothes. He turns back round to the bed to see Noel taking off the last of his mismatched socks, and his breath hitches with just how gorgeous he looks.

He remembers a time when he used to look at Julia that way… No. And before he knows it, he’s back on top of Noel to stop any thoughts of his life. Because any thought now will send him away from this, and he needs this. Oh, how he needs this.

“Top drawer” Noel breathes as Julian savagely attacks his neck with his mouth, payback for the marks that Noel left on Julian earlier. Julian breaks away to get a condom and lube, before returning back to Noel, pressing kisses below the base of his ear.

“On your knees” He whispers, and Noel groans as though that’s the sexiest thing that Julian could ever have said. Noel scrambles onto all fours as Julian flips the cap on the tube of lube that he has in his hand, before squeezing the gel from the half-empty bottle onto his fingers. He then goes about preparing Noel with his fingers, thrusting first one in, before quickly adding a second and third, scissoring and stretching Noel; leaving him a writhing, sweaty mess on the bed.

“Please. Need you, waited too long” Noel’s whimpering and begging, and that just makes Julian harder. He pulls out his fingers quickly, telling Noel to roll over onto his back whilst rolling on the condom. Noel watches Julian as he pours the lube onto his rock-hard cock, stroking himself gently. Not hard enough to get off, but enough to keep his eyes half lidded in arousal and pleasure.

Julian spreads the gel, ensuring his length is covered, before shuffling forward on his knees to meet Noel’s opening with the tip of his dick. He bats Noels hands away as he lunges forward to close the gap between them, their tongues once again dancing, as Noel brings his hands to curl around Julian’s arms to give him some grip.

He thrusts into Noel, with minimal warning. The shout that Noel gives out is not far off a scream after the little preparation he received, and makes Julian raise up onto his elbows, looking down at Noel with genuine concern. Noel’s nails are digging into his bicep with the intensity of what he’s feeling right now; his eyes shut and his mouth open where he’s thrown his head back in both pleasure and pain – the line between the two blurring to the point where Noel can’t tell them apart anymore.

“Noel?” Julian asks, wanting so desperately to move, but he doesn’t want to hurt Noel. As if you haven’t already. Noel opens his eyes to look at Julian so that he can answer his silent query without him having to ask. He smiles dreamily up at Julian, as though in a daze.

“Just… a minute” He rests his forehead so that it’s in the crook of Julian’s neck breathing deeply so as to steady his nerves. Julian’s breathing deeply as well. This stop in their otherwise fast moving evening however, is leaving Julian time to think, which is allowing his mind to wander back to other things again. Such as Lliana, and his kids, and Julia –

Julian’s startled from his thoughts by Noel nuzzling into his neck, in a clear sign for Julian to start moving. Apparently Noel’s mind has come to the conclusion that Julian will be freaking out in their little breather time, and so has decided to move their pace along again – regardless of if he’s really ready or not. Julian’s not concerned about that though, as he begins to thrust into Noel’s clinging channel.

Noel’s moaning into Julian’s neck as he pulls out to the tip of his achingly hard cock, before thrusting once again into the tight heat that is Noel. Julian starts up a rhythm, his thrusts becoming easier with every thrust, as the passage becomes slicker and slicker.

Noel’s moans are increasing, although they no longer sound positive. Julian misses the obvious signs though, as his orgasm builds up, getting closer and closer.

Julian pumps harder out of his… what? Friend? Boyfriend?

Boyfriend? Where the hell had that come from? Julian wasn’t in a relationship with Noel. Was he? No. Well what did that make him then? A fuck buddy? A friend with benefits? Lover?

He faltered in pace. Lover? As in love? As in him being ‘in love’ with Noel? Was he in love with Noel? Surely not. He loved Julia. Julia. Oh god.

He stopped. The situation had finally dawned on him, and the guilt that hits him like a smack in the face sobers him up faster than ever. He can’t do this. He’s with Julia for Christ sake! He loves her! He has children with her. For the love of god, what was he doing?

“Ju?” The tiny plea breaks him out of his internal hellfire. His head snaps down to look at Noel, and he comes face to face with two enormous black orbs, ringed with a blue so bright it pierces glass. Those orbs, which he had become so used to seeing beam confidence, cockiness and general happiness, were swimming with uncertainty. Looking into those eyes, Julian nearly gets sucked back into a world where problems don’t exist. Where nothing else except those orbs were central for gravity and survival.

Nearly.

“What am I doing?” Noel, oddly enough, seems to relax at his words. Having the opposite effect to the one intended, where Noel freaked out just as much as he did for this disgusting act of ‘whatever you wanted to call it’. Noel’s eyes slide shut, a blissful smile appearing on his face.

“Ha, you had me worried there. Thought you’d gone all shaky on me. I dunno what you’re doing. Why don’t you just start up again, hm?” Noel’s flirting with him. His sultry voice paired with him opening his eyes so that he’s able to peer up at Julian through thick black eyelashes, naked of any makeup, apart from a ring of black around the base of each eye, which might as well be tattooed on. Biting his lip and winking at Julian, intending to get him to start his rhythm up again.

“No.”

“Wh-what?” Noel blinks as though looking at Julian properly for the first time without the aid of tinted love eyes that throw everything into perfection, and he looks at Julian now. Really just looks deep into his eyes. Julian can see the moment that it dawns on Noel, as his pupils, so large it looked like he was on drugs, shrink back down to normal size. The thrill of the moment being torn away from him, being replaced with a stark fear that shows through the hurt being projected from his eyes.

“No!” Julian is up across the room, and pulling on his jeans before Noel’s even blinked. His senses are returning, and he feels like shit. He feels disgusting. How could he. He’s ruined everything, destroyed his life. What about Noel’s?

Fuck Noel’s!

You already did.

That does it. That really does it. He can’t stay. He feels sick. Absolutely sick. Sick to the pit of his stomach – to his very core.

Noel’s sat at the edge of the bed, still half-hard and looking as though his world has just come crashing down around him. Which it probably has. And just as Julian thought he couldn’t feel more like a dick, Noel speaks.

“What are you doing? I thought you… I thought we…”

“We? What are you? Deluded? There is no we. There never has been a we, and there never will be a we. Not the way you seem to think of we anyway.” Julian’s harsh. He’s harsh, because it isn’t right. It isn’t natural what they just did. It’s all kinds of wrong. Julian’s not homophobic, he’s not. But being okay with other people being gay, and actually involving yourself in the practice of gay sex are two completely different things.

And Noel is crying now, there is no denying it. There are smudges under his eyes where his tears have dragged his eyeliner down so that it’s lower than usual. Crying doesn’t suit him. It’s never suited him. And it always used to scare Julian whenever he cried. Always made him want to find the fucker that made him cry and break them. Break them for breaking him.

It was you that’s done it this time.

Julian cannot even think about what he’s just done though, because he hasn’t just brought this on himself, he’s brought Julia and his kids into this now. They cannot find out about this. He has to be harsh. Because if he isn’t, he might come back into his life, and he would tell Julia. If Julian is harsh, then he won’t want to come back and see him again. He will want to stay as far away from Julian and Julia as possible to avoid the pain.

He. Julian had even stopped naming him. Someone who had once been the single most important aspect of his life. He was even blocking out his sight, so that he wasn’t looking directly at him, just trying to make him a generic face so that he didn’t have to deal with the man who was hurt through words Julian had himself inflicted upon him.

Or maybe it’s one of your pathetic attempts to try and make it hurt less. Block it out for yourself. Because you’re selfish. You’ve always been selfish. Imagining he isn’t important so that it hurts you less, even though he’s probably dying inside.

The problem was, Noel was not generic. He never had been. That’s what had made him so special in Julian’s life, because Noel wasn’t like Julian. He meant something. He had purpose in life. That’s what had dawn the two together Julian reckons. The fact that they are polar opposites, with Noel as the show off frontman, and Julian’s generic face providing a backdrop for the marvellous creature in front of him. The marvellous creature, who now had tears uncontrollably streaming down his face as the true impact of Julian’s words were sinking in, burning and tearing at his heart.

“But…” Comes Noel’s tiny voice whilst Julian finishes getting dressed, staring at the wall, the window, his shoes, anything! Anything that is, apart from Noel. “But I love you!”

Julian freezes.

“I really do Julian. And I know you might not realise it right now, but I know you love me back. I know you love with me. Just like I love you. But you refuse to see it. Refuse to see what’s right in front of you. Me. Why can’t you just allow yourself this one thing? Just this once, open your eyes and see. Look at what you have. Because I know you can be happy with me. You know you can be happy with me. But you refuse to admit to yourself that you have feelings for me the same way I have feelings for you. I know you think that you don’t. But seriously? What the hell do you think we just did? That’s got to mean something right? You coming round here to have sex whilst your partner’s away with your children? And don’t tell me you weren’t enjoying it. I know you. I know you better than anyone else. Better than your kids, Julia – heck, even your mum. So I know that you were enjoying it. The same way that I know you have feelings for me, and that we belong together, but you won’t admit to yourself about how you feel. That’s one thing I can’t understand though Julian. Why won’t you admit it to yourself? Why won’t you let us be together? I know we would be amazing for each other. We already are! But let us be more. Why won’t you just let us be more? Just give us a chance. Because…” No. Don’t say it. “…I’m in love with you Julian. Please, let’s just give us a go, yeah? Please… Please?”

Noel’s moved over to the other side of the bed, the side Julian’s closer to, with his arm outstretched and suspended mid-air. He’s got his hand out, palm up, ready for Julian’s hand to slip into so that he can be led back to the bed with Noel. Led back to a relationship with Noel. Led back to a life with Noel. But it will be different to the one that they had before. And Julian knows, looking at Noel, on his knees at the edge of the bed, naked, and with his arm extended out towards Julian, that he cannot go back with Noel. He can never go back with Noel again, and he can never, ever, see Noel again. This leaves Julian one option. And it kills him inside, it really does. But then again – he’s not admitting that to himself is he?

“You think I’m in love with you?” he sneers. His face twisted into a feature that would put a gargoyle to shame, in his attempt to show his disgust at the mere thought of feeling anything of the kind towards Noel.

“Ha! How pathetic can you get? You wanna know the reason I’m round here tonight? Because you’re an easy shag. You were mine for the taking, and I just wanted to prove that I could have you. Easily. And you know what? You helped me to prove a point. You were there as a convenience. Because no-one else was around. That’s all you are to people Noel. A Convenience. I mean, everyone leaves you after a while don’t they. Even Dee. The one person who you said actually meant something to you. Well then where is she? And Lliana? Where’s she, come to think of it? She’s not around either. What’s the matter? Did she get bored as well? I’m not surprised. Who doesn’t get bored of you? I mean, what are you really good for? All people want to do is fuck you and suck up some limelight. I’ve never needed you for limelight though have I? I could have easily made it without you. I probably would’ve done better without you. I just came round here tonight to prove that I can fuck you just like everybody else has. And I have now. So I won’t want to be seeing you ever again. Because why would I want to be seen with anybody like you? I despise you. You disgust me. You are everything I hate, and what’s more, you mean nothing to me. You are just a thirsty bitch.”

Noel gasps, and there it is. The end for them. Because Noel had put his heart out in the open and on the line, and Julian had not merely stepped on it, but run through it with a blade, over and over again; not stopping until there was nothing but a mauled and bloodied lump.

Noel’s clutching at his chest and gasping for air as though in psychical pain. As though something inside of him has broken and as a result – has left him unable to breathe properly. Shattering everything else around it until Noel was completely broken inside. And so Julian does what he had tried to do the evening three nights previous – he grabs his coat and runs out towards the door to leave.

Except this time, nobody calls out his name to try and stop him.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Of all the things that Julian hates most it’s the silence. Not literal of course. His kids fighting, Julia shouting at them to pack it in, calling upon Julian for help. But it’s the lack of laughter. Sure people do laugh around him, with him and Julia being comedians it’s pretty fucking hard not to. It’s more the laughter from one person he misses. The way that laugh could make anything seem okay again, because it wouldn’t matter if nobody else laughed, just so long as he could make that one person who mattered most to him crack a smile.

 

“Hey daydreamer.” Julia nuzzles his ear from behind where he’s sat on the sofa. “Whatcha thinking about?” He turns his head round so that he can see her, and puts everything else out of his mind. He has what he wants. A beautiful woman and two lovely children. This is his life. Is it? Yes.

 

“Oh nothing really. Just stuff.”

 

“Alright Mr. Vague, as you were.” They grin at each other before Julian pulls her down to share a slow kiss.

 

“Errrrrggghhh. Mum! Dad!” They both pull away to grin at each other, before turning to their children – mock innocence and annoyance written on their faces.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Can we help you at all?” Julian’s biting back a laugh at the disgusted look on their faces. Julia moves round from the back of the sofa to grab the kids.

 

“If I were you two I’d of kept quiet. C’mon. Bedtime.” Julia goes about settling the kids down for bed whilst Julian sits on the sofa, head lolling against the back of the sofa, with his eyes shut and a smile playing about his face at his perfect life.

 

“Could’ve helped instead of sitting there like a smug bastard you know.” There’s a dip in the sofa as Julia sits down next to him, curled into his side. Julian wraps an arm around her, not moving his position otherwise. His smirk gets even bigger.

 

“It was my turn last time. Fair’s fair Jules.” He can feel her teeth scraping gently at his neck before a sharp pain at his pulse point where she digs her teeth in. Julian hisses in through his teeth.

 

“You know, we could always…” Julia doesn’t have time to even finish her ellipses though, as Julian has crushed his mouth to hers as he pushes her back into the sofa so that he is half lying on top of her.

 

It’s too good to be true of course.

 

As soon as Julian has undone the button on Julia’s jeans, and has started to worm his hand into the confines of her trousers there is someone at the door – pounding at it as though they were trying to break it. Julian groans and curses his and Julia’s bad luck. He can’t remember the last time he had proper sex. Oh really? Julian shuts his mind up.

 

Julia pushes Julian away as the insistent knocking continues, standing to do up her trousers. The knocking at the door is loud enough that the kids are almost certainly now awake if they hadn’t been previously.

 

“Julian, fucking get rid of them. Jesus, don’t they know we have kids?” the irritation in her voice is clear, “It’s bloody nine o’clock. Who the hell comes over at nine to pummel to door down? Jesus.” She gets up to storm back into the kids’ bedroom to check they’re still in bed whilst Julian goes to get the door.

 

“Alright, I’m coming.” Julian shouts to the door as he goes to answer it. The hammering doesn’t stop though, just continues as Julian gets ever closer.

 

“I said alright!” he wrenches open the door, fully prepared to give whoever the fuck feels it’s appropriate to break down his door with their fists whilst his kids live here a piece of his mind. He stops in his tracks as soon as he sees Dave stood on his doorstep. But this is different to all other times that Dave has visited.

 

Dave’s eyes are rimmed with red, and that in itself is shocking. Dave never cries. Ever. The one time that Julian had actually seen him cry had been at his daughter’s birth. But they had been different tears. They had been because of happiness. These tears were not the tears of joy; in fact they were the complete opposite. These tears were angry, heartbroken and disbelieving.

 

These were tears of betrayal.

 

Dave storms past Julian straight into the front room. He skips the small talk and gets straight down to business.

 

“How could you be such a cold-hearted bastard?” his voice breaks on the last word, as though he doesn’t want to believe it. You don’t want to believe what you said either…

 

“I mean, are you sure you covered everything whilst you were tearing him to shit? Are you sure there wasn’t anything that you missed out in his life that you could’ve thrown straight back into his face? His drug problem perhaps? I think you missed that one out whilst you were shattering everything that he has worked so hard to put together, whilst digging up shit that he had put behind him and buried. But no. You come back into his life, give him a glimmer of hope, and then pull the rug out from under his feet, before throwing every mistake he has ever made back at him”.

 

Julian had never seen Dave look so angry. He didn’t think Dave could ever be this angry. Then again, he’d never had just cause to be this angry. Until now.

 

"Just how many people’s lives are you willing to fuck with to ensure that you remain fucking untouchable?” He spits the last word at Julian, the tears that he had successfully held back threatening to spill over now.

 

Julia comes out of the kids’ bedroom then, anger on her face at the level of which Dave’s talking at, and the amount of swearing going on. Her face is pure rage until she catches sight of Dave, and it at once turns to one of concern. How many more people can you hurt you selfish prick?

 

“Dave?” Dave’s head snaps round to meet the voice, and at once the mask that has been on his face since he entered melts into a polite smile that isn’t entirely convincing, due to the hard line of his jaw where he’s gritting his teeth. “My god. What’s happened? Are you –” She looks at Julian then, who’s pretty sure he is also on the verge of tears, and her face immediately changes to one of understanding and even more concern. “Noel? Is it Noel? What’s happened? Julian, do you need to go and stay with him, I can look after the kids while you do? Or I can take them away again and he can come here? Whatever you –“

 

“No.” Julian’s voice is firm and delivers a note of finality. The razor sharp edge to it makes Dave flinch, a movement that doesn’t go unnoticed by Julia’s perceptive eyes. Her gaze flicks back to Julian and her eyes narrow at the tone in which he’s spoken.

 

Dave’s phone is piercing in the silence. He immediately has it out of his pocket and has hit the answer button before Julian even has a chance to blink.

 

“Hello? No darling its fine I – No I’m not.” His eyes flicker briefly to Julian, as though a warning to keep it shut. “Honestly, I’m – Yeah. No sweetheart don’t worry yourself about it! No! Don’t try that yourself, I’ll do it. I’m on my way now. See you soon yeah? Okay. Love you too.” He hangs up the phone, and glares at Julian, before plastering on that not quite convincing smile before turning to Julia.

 

“Sorry I’ve caused such a fuss. I should go. I’m sorry if I woke the kids up or anything, I wasn’t thinking. Sorry.” His voice breaks on the last word giving his façade away completely, he keeps it in place anyway in the vain hope that Julia hasn’t noticed. She has.

 

“Dave, if there’s anything I can do…” The sincerity in her voice and her genuine concern makes bile rise in Julian’s throat. He swallows it back down.

 

“I’ll walk you to the door.” Julian turns on his heel without waiting for a reply, knowing Dave will be hot on his heels to continue his rant. As soon as he reaches the door he opens it, and turns round to face Dave in what is very clearly an order to leave the house. Immediately.

 

Dave ignores this though and stares at Julian impassively. For a minute it’s just Dave and himself, staring each other out, until Julian gives in and looks at his shoes to start speaking. You can’t even look at him whilst you talk? You’re ashamed of yourself – and so you should be.

 

“I don’t want to hurt her.” Dave’s laugh at that is bitter. Can you blame him?

 

“Yeah? What about Noel, Julian? All you do is hurt him. Doesn’t that even matter to you? And I’m not just talking emotionally here. I’m referring to the rough treatment you gave him two nights ago when you decided to fuck him so hard he bled.” Julian’s head snaps up, concerned immediately. He knew he’d been rough. He’d had blood on him when he’d returned to the flat. He’d blocked it out though, forgetting about it till now, and so now he needs to know. He couldn’t bear it if he’d really done Noel damage. Dave seems to sense this though as he reassures him.

 

“Don’t worry. You didn’t do any real harm. It’s more that you care more about someone you’ve known, what, five minutes in comparison? That’s what’s eating him up. You’re seriously telling me you love her more? No. Don’t you dare give me that shit! I’m sorry, I really am, but you’ve brought this on yourself. Because this isn’t to do with her is it?” Dave’s voice has been rising slowly throughout, so he lowers his voice – remembering that Julia is merely in the other room.

 

“I know you love her. But you cannot deny your feelings for Noel. Don’t get me wrong, I like Julia – I mean we all do! But seeing what you’ve done to Noel because of her?” He gives a small humourless laugh. “What are you so afraid of? You know how you feel deep down, I know you do. I’ve seen the way you look at him, even if you don’t notice. Just admit it to yourself and maybe you’ll find you can be a little bit happier in life than you have been recently.”

 

Dave steps over to the coat hooks, and grabs the jacket that Noel had left on that night, before stepping outside and facing Julian with a wan smile. “Vintage. Cost him a fortune. He’d be really mad if I hadn’t brought it back for him.” And with that Dave walks away, leaving Julian alone with what he’s said as he slowly closes the door – dreading the argument that will no doubt now break out with Julia.

 

He walks slowly into the room to find Julia exactly as he expected – arms crossed stood with a blank expression on her face to give away nothing about how she’s feeling. He knows that she’ll say something in a minute, demanding an explanation, something which he knows will piss him off even more than he already is. You’ve brought it on yourself.

 

“Well?” And there it is. Julian immediately feels a flash of anger, even though he knows he has absolutely no right to do so. This beautiful woman has done nothing to him, and yet the anger he feels as she asks is so strong, it’s almost hate.

 

“Well what?”

 

“What the hell was all that about” Still with her voice so level and smooth.

 

“Nothing.” His voice tremors.

 

“Julian I’m not an idiot, so stop fucking treating me like one. You and Dave are in the living room, Dave’s shouting for all it’s worth at you, crying; you’re on the verge of tears about whatever it was, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what it is about.”

 

“You have no idea what you’re talking about” Julian’s voice is bland and emotionless.

 

“Yes I do. You got all weird as soon as I mentioned Noel.” Damn her persistence. “Not to mention Dave’s call – there’s only one person he could’ve been speaking to like that, and the only other time I remember Dave using a tone like that around him was during his drug problem, so I know this is big; don’t even bother trying to lie to me.” Julian says absolutely nothing. “And considering you seem to care so little despite the fact that you two are supposedly best mates, I’m guessing Dave was round here shouting at you because of something that’s happened between you and Noel.”

 

Julian’s eyes are vast filling with tears again. The situation is slipping from his fingers, and soon he will have no control over the situation whatsoever.

 

“It wasn’t about anything. Really. It doesn’t matter.”

 

“Don’t lie to me Julian for fuck sake!” She’s shouting now and it’s so abrupt that Julian has to take a step back. She seems to take a breath before continuing in a steadier but equally unmeasured voice. “I heard you. At the door. I heard what you said to Dave. You said ‘I don’t want to hurt her’. And I’m assuming you were referring to me, unless you’re having an affair” She spits the last word at Julian, and before he can inform his body that reacting to that word would be a real problem, and probably won’t go unnoticed, he’s flinched and tightly shut his eyes as soon as the word has fully left her mouth.

 

It doesn’t go unnoticed.

 

“Oh my God.” The exhalation of air is enough to show how winded she is. She knows. “Oh. My god.” Her voice is louder now and steadier, and Julian opens his eyes to look at her. Might as well try to convince her otherwise.

 

“I’m not having an affair.” The statement is blunt and sounds dull as it falls from his lips and he inwardly curses himself for sounding so unconvincing. It’s not entirely untrue…

 

“Then why did you flinch.” She fires straight back at him, the venom in her voice almost causes him to flinch again, but he holds back.

 

“I flinched because of the ludicrous insinuation that I was having an affair.” It was just that one time. You know the one Julia? The one when you were away and I was fucking Noel?

 

“Then who were you fucking talking about at the door?”

 

“For fuck sake it was you!” He isn’t sure why he shouts. It isn’t like a big revelation or secret. Not like if she found out…

 

“Me? Why were you talking about me then?”

 

“It doesn’t matter.”

 

“I think it does.”

 

“It isn’t important.”

 

“Well then what the hell is it that I don’t know?”

 

“What?”

 

“Well obviously I don’t know something that I should do, as it would ‘hurt me’.”

 

“Don’t do this”

 

“What is it?”

 

“Please”

 

“What aren’t you telling me Julian?”

 

“I can’t. Just let me –“

 

“For fuck sake Julian stop pissing about, and fucking tell me whatever it is that I need to know.” This is the loudest that either of them shouts. It’s so loud that everything seems to freeze.

 

The silence in the air is loud. The clock ticking is the only indication that time is actually passing, because nothing else in the room is moving. Only the hand of the clock as the steady tick goes round.

 

“Mum?”

 

Both adults turn to look at the child in the doorway, a look of confusion and worry etched upon his young features. He’s too young to have that look upon his face. Too young to understand what proper troubles the world can inflict. He used to say that to Noel. That he was too young to fully understand the world he lived in. That he wasn’t a fully grown man, he was just a tiny version of a proper grown up. A Little Man. His Little Man.

 

You old fool.

 

“Hey sweetheart. What’re you doing up?” Julian’s snapped out of his epiphany by Julia’s soothing voice from where she’s gone to kneel down next to their son in the bedroom doorway.

 

“Can’t sleep. I heard shouting.” Julia looks around him.

 

“Where’s your brother?”

 

“He’s still asleep.” He looks up to Julian then and frowns even more. “Dad, why are you crying?”

 

Julian’s hands make their way up to his face to indeed find that his cheeks are damp. He pulls his hands away and looks at them in front of his face. There’s a perfect tear balanced on the index finger of his right hand.

 

“Julian?” He shuts his eyes tightly against the light of the room which is suddenly too much for him to bear. He listens to the world. The house deathly silent. Apart from the noise of the traffic outside, the buzz of the fridge next door in the kitchen, and the breathing of one man. Just one.

 

One man in the room where there should have been two. Where there had been two just under a week previously. The loud ticking of a clock suddenly makes him open his eyes to look at it. A Boosh clock. He looks back at his hands to see the tear rolling down the length of his index finger, before it drops.

 

Julian watches it as it falls, splashing onto the screen of a mobile. Noel’s mobile. And suddenly – it’s all clear.

 

“Julian!” His head snaps up to see identical frowns facing him. He turns to Julia, who’s eyebrows relax as she figures out what he’s about to do, just through one look.

 

“I’m not sorry.”

 

And with that, Julian picks up the phone and, for the third time this week, grabs his coat on the way to the front door.

Chapter Text

They're curled up together on the sofa. Noel with his head buried into the crook of his neck, breathing in the heady scent of stale cigarettes. They’re watching a film, or rather, he’s watching a film, whilst Noel just enjoys his presence with his eyes shut.

Noel nuzzles his ear, sighing contentedly as he wakes up from his short nap. God you make yourself sound old. Noel laughs softly, hearing the credits roll he sits up and stretches. He still feels bleary as he opens his eyes to look at the screen. The end credits are indeed rolling across the screen, and Noel realises that he must’ve fallen asleep more or less five minutes after the film started, as that’s all he can remember of it.

He feels the arm that’s wrapped around his middle give a gentle squeeze, and Noel smiles slightly at the loving gesture.

“You should’ve woken me up, you’ve had to watch the whole film –“ He breaks off as he looks over to where he’s sat, and he can’t help his face but fall slightly.

"You alright mate?" Dave’s voice, Dave’s face, Dave’s smell.

Noel gathers himself and nods sleepily, rubbing at his eyes and yawning. "Since when do you smoke?"

"Since you turned suicidal."

"Fuck off I ain't -" he once again breaks off midway through his sentence when he sees Dave smiling at him, and he punches him in the arm, hard.

“Fielding you fucker that hurt!” Dave’s laugh…

“So, are you okay? How’s your…” He trails off, before gesturing to his arse with the remote which he’s just used to mute the sound so that they can have this talk, and it makes Noel give small smile at the awkwardness of his mate. Everything they’ve shared, and he’s still an awkward fucker at times. Just like Julian used to be…

Noel nods, but Dave isn’t convinced. Of course he isn’t, he’s the closest friend you’ve got. Dave’s smile turns sad and Noel feels like a dick almost immediately. All you do is bring people down.

“Sorry.” Noel says softly, hanging his head down in shame, playing with Dave’s hand on the arm that’s still wrapped around him protectively.

“Sorry?” Noel looks up at the alarm in Dave’s voice. “What the hell are you sorry for?”

“Well because of all this stuff with Julian, and I know that I called you away from your daughter because Lil’s not here, and that ain’t fair –“. Noel doesn’t get to finish he list of stuff he’s sorry for however, as Dave interrupts him forcefully.

“Not fair? Not fair?” Dave’s face is one of pure rage at the insinuation behind Noel’s words, moving his arm from around Noel and bodily facing the other man. He takes Noel’s face gently between his hands, holding firmly enough though so that Noel can’t move his gaze away from the other man.

“Now you listen here. What isn’t fair, is the way that that pillock has treated you.” Dave’s holding back, and Noel can only imagine what a state he must look for Dave to use such mild language concerning Julian after what’s happened. He’s trying not to hurt his feelings by being too harsh on Julian, although his face suggests that Julian deserves a lot harsher.

“You have got absolutely nothing to be sorry about. Even if Lliana were here I would’ve come over to see how you were doing. I love you so much you donut. Never forget that. Never, ever, feel like you owe me anything, or that I won’t come over. And as for that stuff with Julian,” Dave spits out his name as though a particularly bad taste. “None of that is your fault. You just fell the wrong way.” He smiles then at the cheesy line he’s just let leave his lips, and Noel hits Dave’s hands away from his face, grinning at him. A proper, genuine smile, one that he feels hasn’t graced his face in a while.

Just as soon as Noel’s smile has appeared though, there’s a desperate knock at the door. Three raps in quick succession, followed by shuffling coming from outside.

Noel’s head turns to face the wall, behind which all the nervous movement is coming from, before he’s turning his head back round to Dave. Smile gone, eyes wider than normal and uncertainty written on his face. Ever since that night Noel had been afraid to answer the door, in case it was one of his dickhead mates who just wanted to go out partying or talk about ‘this fit bird I pulled last night. Mate, you should’ve been there’.

“Who the hell is that? It’s past 10!” Dave smiles thinly at Noel, before getting up and walking to the door; clearly annoyed at whoever it is that have made Noel nervous once again.

Noel pulls his feet up under his chin, the soles resting on the edge of the sofa cushions, staring blankly ahead at the DVD menu which has been left on the TV. No sound is coming from the machine though and so Noel can hear Dave’s hushed tones, angry and agitated at whoever’s on the doorstep. Noel frowns, Dave hardly ever gets agitated at anyone he’s so laid back. The only person Dave’s likely to get agitated or angry with at the moment is… Julian.

Noel jumps up from the sofa, standing and facing the general direction of the doorway. He can hear another voice, deeper, louder and – Northern.

He can hear scuffling at the door before there’s a bang as the door swings fully open, hitting the wall. Then there are heavy footsteps, fast pace, and then Julian’s there in his front room, staring straight into his eyes manically. Julian is looking straight into his eyes, and Noel finds he can’t look away.

After a couple of minutes just staring at each other, faces blank, Noel realises that Dave is standing next to Julian, shouting at him. The fact that Julian is completely ignoring him is angering Dave even further, Noel can see it by the tenseness in the other man’s shoulders – he looks like he’s going to hit Julian if he continues to just stand there, silently staring at Noel. After noticing all of this, Noel tunes in to what it is Dave’s actually saying.

“ – and so what? You think you can just waltz back in here? I meant call Julian, not come round and barge in. What on Earth gives you the right? You think that he’s gonna forgive you? After what you’ve done? Hey, are you listening to me?” As much as Noel loves Dave, and appreciates him standing up for him, he does need to talk to Julian. Clearly he’s come over here for a reason, and judging by how eagerly he left the last time, it must be pretty big.

“Dave.” He turns to look at Noel, searching his eyes for what it is that he wants him to do. His nods his head mutely once, very slightly, understanding Noel’s silent command. He then hardens his eyes, and sets his mouth in a grim line as he turns back to Julian.

“Ten minutes.” And that’s all he offers as he grabs his wallet from the pocket of his jacket that’s been thrown haphazardly on the arm of the sofa, before he’s stalking out of the flat.

“Looks like you’ve got your own bodyguard there, ready to dive into the bullet for you.” Julian laughs a little uncertainly. Now that Dave’s out of the flat he’s become more awkward, even though he’s standing a little straighter without the weight of Dave’s gaze bearing down on him.

“Yeah.” Noel doesn’t want to talk about Dave with Julian. He wants to know why he’s come round now.

“Oh! I have your phone. Dave forgot it when he was round earlier…” Oh. Noel feels a flash of anger towards Dave for lying to him about going to Julian’s, but he leaves it. He knows Dave is only looking out for him. Dave’s a proper mate. The only one you’ve got.

“Cheers.” It’s all he offers as way of a response.

“I’m glad he’s here for you.” It’s so quiet that Noel almost misses it, but he doesn’t. He isn’t sure where Julian’s going with that train of thought, but he answers it anyway. Showing Julian that he doesn’t need him at all. That he has other close friends that are ready to be there for him at the drop of a hat just like he used to. But he wants to keep up his mask, so he keeps it short and simple.

“Same.”

“Hang on – how did you ring Dave?” Confusion is written all over Julian’s face, and Noel is also confused for a moment – carefully keeping his mask up – before he realises he’s referring to his mobile.

“Landline.”

“You just gonna speak to me in one word answers?” He exhales lightly, inflecting the last word as though it’s a joke, although it’s not even an attempt at humour – not really. There’s an underlying tone of annoyance in there somewhere though, and that gives Noel a sense of satisfaction.

“Maybe.” He knows he’ll have to give more than one word answers soon, but he wants to do it for as long as possible, not to keep up his mask, but just to piss off Julian. Child.

“Okay… So, what? You know everybody’s numbers then?”

Noel narrows his eyes at the biting sarcasm in Julian’s voice. It’s only a matter of time before the argument starts… “I know the numbers of the people that matter.”

“You never rung me?” The desperation and hurt in his voice is almost pitiful. But Noel doesn’t show him sympathy. Just like he never showed you any sympathy when he fucked you so hard that -

“Yeah, well.” Noel cuts off his mind. “You made it quite clear that you don’t matter to me.” He knows that he sounds like an annoyed wife who won’t tell a husband what’s wrong, but at this moment? He doesn’t give a shit.

“Where the fuck did you get that from?!” That does it for Noel. The shocked tone. Because Julian is sounding like Noel has plucked this out of thin air. He snaps.

“Where did I get it from? Where did I get it from? Oh, I dunno Julian. Perhaps it’s from the magical voices that apparently live in my head. You know them! The ones that tell me you love me although you claim you don’t. And the ones that tell me that you are miserable in your life, but won’t even admit it to yourself.”

Julian’s eyes have filled up, Noel can see them. His face is blank and grim, his mouth pressed into a hard line. Although it doesn’t quite stop the wobble in his bottom lip from being visible. But Noel is in full diva meltdown mode, and he can’t stop.

“You told me that no-one else was around. You said that that was why you wanted me. Well you know what Julian? You’re a liar. Because that isn’t the reason is it. It’s because you’re pathetic. Yeah? Not me. You. Fucking me so hard that I bled?” Julian flinches and a guilty look immediately settles upon his face. It’s enough for Noel to know that Julian knew about it. He’d probably seen the blood on him once he’d got home, leaving Noel’s in too much of a rush to notice it then. Yet he hasn’t apologised.

This riles Noel up even more. He continues.

“Was it because your girlfriend was away? You were frustrated? Haven’t had any in a while? Telling me I didn’t matter? God. And you’re kids. I wonder what they would think if they knew about daddy. Knew how much of a lying, cheating, manipulative, selfish, queer – “

Noel’s head snaps back with the force of the punch that Julian delivers, although the pain doesn’t quite register in the aftershock. After that has passed though, the pain comes… and so do the words.

~~~

All you do is hurt him.

“I’m so sorry.”

“No, it’s fine.”

“No it isn’t. Oh my god, Noel. I’m so, so sorry, I should never have hit you. I mean… that’s not what I came round here to do! I came round to apologise about the other night, about hurting you! But here I am, hurting you!”

“Julian, it’s fine!”

“No it isn’t, oh my god Noel I –“

“Jesus fucking Christ, Julian will you just shut up and lemme talk for two seconds?” Noel raises his voice to cut off Julian’s panic. “It’s fine. You had every right to.” Julian’s frowning confusedly at Noel so he elaborates. “I shouldn’t have brought your kids into the argument. That was low. Uncalled for… Sorry.”

There’s an awkward silence, as neither men know what to say next. There are a million and one fucking ways that Julian can tell Noel how he feels, all of which seem inadequate for the man in front of him.

“So.” Noel decides to start the conversation, he’s probably realised that Julian clearly has no intention to, despite the fact that it was him who came round to Noel’s flat. Julian looks at him questioningly when he doesn’t continue however, so Noel helps him out a bit more.

“You’re here because…?” Noel prompts him. Julian still can’t find a way to tell him, and so continues to stare mutely at his shoes. He still can’t bear to look at Noel’s face where he’s hit him. Coward.

“I don’t know why you’re here if you –“

“I’ve left Julia.” Well that worked.

“You what?” Noel’s voice is disbelieving, and Julian really cannot blame him for that the way he’s been treated. By Julian.

“Yes.” His voice is soft now that his confession is out of the way. Now he just needs to tell Noel the reason he came over…. Good luck with that one mate.

Noel’s short laugh is devoid of all humour. It couldn’t be more humourless. It’s full of bitterness and lack of trust. He doesn’t believe you.

“Yeah. Right. Sure, course you have.” Julian frowns before continuing.

“I have! Honestly. You’re right It’s not fair me lying to her about how I feel. ‘Cause you’re right. I don’t love her.” Julian finishes, feeling so much better for getting his little confession off his chest. When he looks at Noel however, the scepticism hasn’t moved an inch. It’s only intensified. He thinks you’re just trying to get him into bed again.

“What did you exactly say to her then Julian?” Julian has no answer to that one. Because he realises that he didn’t really say anything that actually involved him telling Julia. More sort of running away to Noel’s and hiding.

His silence however, tells Noel all he needs to know.

“Oh.” Noel’s voice is full of mock surprise. He knew this was coming. “Really? Girlfriend know you’re here then does she?”

“She has a name Noel.” Although he knows his feelings for her have changed, he still loves her, but now he knows the difference. He’s not in love with her.”

“So that’s a no then.” Noel points out smugly. He thinks he knows. Julian needs to tell him now, because it’s eating him up inside. He just has to get the words out… find the right time…

“That’s not the point!” Julian’s voice is getting increasingly louder again, as he tries to find a way to get the words out

“All you’ve been doing to me recently is fuck me around. I’m sick of it Julian!” Noel’s face is set into a grim line. Determination written across all of his features.

TELL HIM YOU FOOL. “But I don’t want to be with Julia any more, I want you!”

Silence.

“What?” Noel’s voice is tiny, as though he isn’t sure that what he’s heard Julian say is correct.

“I want you.” He states it clearly. So that Noel has no room for doubts. His voice is factual and clear, and Julian can practically hear it ringing in the empty silence of the room they’re stood in. Noel’s silence.

And his silence speaks more than words ever could.

Stance awkward from the pain in his arse, cheek cut and bloodied, the beginnings of a black eye beginning to form over the bruise that’s slowly consuming his face from his punch. And yet Julian has never seen anything more beautiful.

But you’ve lost him.

It’s then that Dave chooses to step back through the door carrying shopping which he leaves by the door, and Julian curses all the gods above for his bad fortune with timing. Julian looks back to Noel, who’s stood pigeon toed and slightly wonky, looking down at his oddly socked feet. When he raises his head, his eyes are shining, and Julian knows just by looking into those sapphires, that what he thought the silence meant is true. And then Noel opens his mouth…

~~~

“You need to leave.” Julian nods as he looks at his feet. He was expecting it.

Noel looks at Dave, whose eyes show concern for him at his decision. Noel knows they’ll have a long talk about his argument with Julian. But not tonight. It’ll be in the morning, when everything has calmed down a bit. Because there’s no doubt that Noel will cry himself silly tonight.

Dave’s looking at Julian with aggression, and so Noel turns back to Julian, who he sees is shuffling uncomfortably under Dave’s scrutinising gaze. Julian nervously starts to shuffle towards Noel’s front door, trying to edge his way round Dave.

“I’ll call you.” Julian’s head whips round to see Noel, and the tears that had been running down his face shine, even in the dim light of Noel’s sitting room. Noel can see Dave glaring at him from his periphery vision, angrily confused, but he decides to ignore him.

“I just need some time to get my head round everything. After everything that’s happened… I need to think about this. I can’t just dive into this anymore. God knows I would’ve done four years ago but… I need time and space to think. One of us has to.” Noel gives a small smile, and Julian’s smiling at him, and nothing has felt so good in four years, because Noel can feel the love in that smile. Not like that night. Where it was all rushed and nothing was clear about feelings.

He smiles a brilliant smile back, his cheeks hurting from the exertion, and his bruised cheek protesting against the movement, ignoring the voice in the back of his mind telling him not to so as not to get Julian’s hopes up too high - he does genuinely need to think this through before anything happens.

Julian runs forward then and grabs Noel’s face in his hands before proceeding to delve into the back of Noel’s throat tongue first. The kiss is passionate and absolutely full of love, tongues dancing together, neither fighting for dominance. Julian handles Noel’s face carefully, careful of his newest injury. At the sound of Dave awkwardly clearing his throat, they reluctantly pull away from each other

“Thank you.” The tears in Julian’s eyes this time are completely different, and they reflect the happiness of both men.

“That wasn’t a definite yes, you berk.” Noel admonishes him. “That was an ‘I’ll think about it’.”

“I know. But even that’s more then I deserve.” Noel’s heart fills with so much love at that moment that it feels as though it’ll burst. He touches Julian’s cheek with the palm of one hand, cradling his face gently as Julian closes his eyes and nuzzles into his palm. Julian inhales deeply, still with his eyes closed, as though he’s trying to imprint Noel’s smell on his memory.

Julian’s eyes open and meet Noel’s, and in that moment Noel knows what his answer to Julian’s unasked question will be. But he feels a little payback is in order. Make him wait.

“I’ve got big eyes?” Noel singsongs softly, grinning nervously at Julian, unsure of whether or not he remembers.

Julian remembers. Of course he does; grinning like a maniac at their Flanagan and Tucker routine from what seems like a lifetime ago. In a way, he supposes, it is. Their musical double act before the creation of Vince and Howard – before their life in those characters. Before the partying all got too much and they lost themselves – Noel becoming obsessed with his image, and Julian with trying his hardest to back himself into a corner.

“And I’ve got small eyes.” Julian says, louder than Noel had done. Showing Noel not only that he remembers, but that he wants to be a double act again. That this is what he wants – what he needs.

“Here comes Mrs Bool, look at the size of her legs.” They both break off into quiet, reminiscent laughter. Both of them welcoming the rush from the combination of their old banter, and the newness of the situation they currently find themselves in.

Noel slowly leans in to plant a gentle kiss on Julian’s lips, his eyes fluttering closed at the electricity that jolts through him, Julian doing the same. Noel cannot believe that kissing Julian can feel like this. After all the years of onstage kissing, and kissing him friend in clubs, he cannot believe that this sensation is new to him. Perhaps it’s because this is the first time he’s done this since their last show? Since after he admitted his feelings? Is that why? Because he’s admitted to himself that he loves Julian?

Maybe it’s because Julian now loves you back you moron?

Oh. Yeah. That’ll be it. They pull apart once more, Noel gazing up at the man who’s staring down at him softly – the lack of heeled boots heightening how short Noel is next to Julian. Noel always preferred being shorter than Julian, it made him feel like Julian was his protector, even though he could stand up for himself.

The reason Noel wore his trusty Cuban heeled boots was a front, showing the world that he could stand just as tall. He wanted to keep moments of height difference between him and Julian, so that they could keep something to themselves, considering everything else they had had been thrown in to the world for everyone to judge and criticise.

Julian breaks away then, muttering something about outstaying his welcome. Noel figures it’s to do with Dave’s glare boring into the back of Julian’s skull. Well no shit Sherlock.

“See you around, Ju.” Noel says as Julian opens the door. And just like that night where it all started, the nickname stops Julian from walking straight out of the door.

He turns back to give one last longing smile to Noel, before he steps out of the door, closing it behind him. He turns back around to see Dave, expression softened into one of love and sympathy, standing with his arms out to Noel, open for an embrace.

He crumples in Dave’s arms then and there. Although what he’s crying over isn’t exactly clear anymore.

Chapter Text

Julian slows down as he approaches his front door, only just realising as he walks up his drive that he didn’t exactly leave Julia at the best moment earlier.

 

“Shit.” Why did he not think of this earlier? Maybe because you were too busy trying to get a leg over Noel. Oh. I forgot about you. Reminding me of everything wrong that I do. Yep.

 

Still cursing himself for his own stupidity, he slowly gets out his keys. Just as he’s about to unlock the door, it’s open, and Julia is stood there. For a moment it’s just that. Julia stood there with a blank expression on her face, and Julian with his arm raised, keys in hand, to open the door. Then she walks into the house, and so Julian lowers his arm and slowly enters the house, closing it as quietly as possible; aware of the kids who are probably asleep again next door.

 

He rests his head on the back of the front door, still not fully prepared to have this conversation yet even though he knows it needs to happen. As his eyes are shut and his deep, calming breaths subside however, he hears two voices talking. Two female voices. Oh shit.

 

Pulling himself away from the door slowly, he begins to walk into the living room to face the music that he’s sure is coming. What he sees when he walks in is pretty much what he expected after hearing two women when he was stood in the hallway. What he sees, is Jessica standing talking to Julia quietly off to one side whilst the boys are sat on the sofa in their coats, doing up their shoelaces.

 

Of course she was going to fucking phone someone to get the kids out. They don’t need to hear their mum and dad breaking up.

 

“Daddy!” There is hardly time for him to react before he’s being mauled by two lots of six year old jumping all over him.

 

Jessica turns to look at Julian as the boys are jumping on him, before turning back to Julia; giving her a sad smile, kiss on the cheek and then walking to the doorway.

 

“Come on then boys! Let’s be off.” The boys have other things on their minds however, as they’re suddenly bombarding Julian with words that have clearly been burning in their minds about this whole event occurring. Poor sods don’t know what’s going on. My little nippers.

 

“What’s going on?

 

“Why do we have to go?

 

“What’s happening?”

 

“I’m cold.”

 

“Why were you crying?”

 

“Do we have to go to school tomorrow?”

 

“Why’s Auntie Jessica here?”

 

“I feel sick.”

 

“Mummy’s sad.”

 

“Are we getting a day off?”

 

And then one of them asks a question that burns itself through all of the rest.

 

“Dad, are you and mummy splitting up?” Julian doesn’t really know what to say to that, and so he looks up at Julia for some clue as what to say. She seemingly doesn’t know either, as she looks to Jess in a panic for some aid. Jess has already picked up on Julia’s distress though as she’s moving further into the room whilst opening her purse.

 

“Oi. You two. Did I mention that if you get to the car now, you can each have a fiver when we stop off to get sweets?” she stands there holding the money in her hand as the boys comically look at each other before each bolting to get to the door quicker than the other. She turns to follow them to the door, pausing and hugging Julia on her way out before glaring at Julian, still on the floor, as she turns on her heel to go after the boys.

 

The second the door closes behind her, it’s like somebody has sucked all of the energy out of the room. Julian feels cold, tired and just drained. He’s knows that he’s not alone in this, because the way Julia looks just about says it all.

 

He doesn’t know what to say, and that’s a first, because he knows her too well to not know what to be able to say. But that just sums it all up really doesn’t it. This entire situation. Summed up in the fact that Julian can’t even say anything to the woman he shared his life with. But then again – neither can she.

 

Selfish bastard, even now you’re trying to make this into a competition. So fucking petty. You haven’t even offered her an explanation. She’s clearly waiting for one, so go ahead. Tell her. If you don’t tell her now, then when? She deserves to know, she needs to know. Just tell her you prick, and stop stringing her along.

 

Julia looks up through her blond hair, and prepares herself to speak. Looks like she beat you to it, old boy.

 

“I’ll put the kettle on.” That’s all she offers before she’s walking into the kitchen, to make tea that probably won’t even be drunk, and now Julian feels like a dick just sitting on the floor. So he gets up and follows her into the kitchen, his creaking knees serving as a reminder of his age, and the fact that he has wasted so many of his years.

 

The atmosphere in the kitchen is tense. And that’s good. Julian can work with this, unlike the cold and untameable atmosphere of the front room.

 

Looking over the kitchen island, Julian can see Julia next to the kettle. Her shoulders are moving in silent shudders as she cries about whatever conclusion her mind has come to about these events (which, to be honest, probably won’t be that far off). He can clearly see that in her mind, Julian has been having it on with somebody else, running out of the front room after Dave came round to go and meet up with a woman to confess his undying love to her, and forgetting about Julia and the kids.

 

More or less right. Apart from the tiny detail that includes the fact you’ve suddenly discovered you’re gay.

 

He knows that she won’t want him to be there, yet his body betrays him as he moves around the edge of the kitchen until he is stood next to Julia. She’s so involved in crying that she doesn’t even notice he’s there until he wraps a trying-to-be-comforting-but-failing-massively-arm around her shoulders.

 

The second his arm is fully around her, she whips around with her hand raised before stepping backwards, cradling her now stinging palm to her chest as her sobs continue. The slap that was delivered is now making itself known to Julian, whose head has been knocked to the side with the force behind it. Its pins and needles like sting a prickling reminder of how many betrayals he has been a part of. You were bound to get slapped sooner or later.

 

“Why?” The word is whispered from her lips as Julian’s brain still processes how quickly the situation has turned, and he faces back to meet her eyes. Her mascara is down her cheeks, her eyes are bloodshot and red rimmed, and her breath is gasping because of the sobs that are stuck in her chest.

 

“Why what?” The second the words leave his mouth, Julian knows they were the wrong words to say, as Julia’s eyes fill with fire and rage. Well shit.

 

“Why what? Why what?” Her voice has risen by about an octave and Julian braces himself from the verbal abuse he is most likely going to receive from this. Well it was a pretty stupid thing to say.

 

Really not being in the mood for this after Noel’s rejection earlier in the evening, he decides to cut her off and set her straight. Gently does it, don’t want to upset her further. Makes a change doesn’t it? You being on my side? Be fair! If you get knocked out, so do I. Selfish prick. That makes you one too.

 

“No,” Julian starts, holding his hands out with his palms out surrendering to her anger. After all, she has every right to be angry with him. “No. That’s not what I meant.” She looks at him sceptically, but doesn’t say anything, allowing him to continue.

 

“What I meant, was…” It was only then that Julian realised that he didn’t even know what he meant. “I dunno.”

 

Wrong thing to say.

 

He rests his head against the frame of the doorway as Julia launches verbal insults at him, attacking him with everything in her power. He knows he’s being a dick about everything, but his face hurts and he just doesn’t have the energy to focus on the argument. He has much bigger issues brewing in his head. His mind filled with Noel, hoping he’ll take him back for good. Wondering what their life together will be like. Him, Noel, and a flat filled with their beautiful creations…

 

“Are you even listening to me?” Julia’s shrill voice cuts through his thoughts, shattering the images that his mind had brought to him. “You dare stand there looking bored, whilst you go off gallivanting with some other woman?”

 

“There’s not another woman.” He mumbles it into the wood, but Julia can’t hear him; caught up in her own rage.

 

“What is it? Is she younger? Prettier? More fun to be around? What is it? And I know when you are lying to me, so don’t even think about trying. I know you went somewhere, so whose house did you go to? What was her name? I bet it’s something pretty and alternative, because you didn’t want to be stuck with boring old me. You’d rather be out with another woman and –“

 

“There isn’t another woman.” Julian says it louder so that Julia can hear him, cutting her off mid-flow, and, although he thought it impossible, she loses it even more.

 

“Well then who did you go to see when you left?” She practically screams the words at him, and he snaps.

 

“Noel!” He shouts it loudly as he turns round to face her, with his arms out in front of him exasperatedly. And that’s it. He can’t believe what he’s just said. Because there’s no going back now. That’s it. Over. Julia will kick him out and he has put seeing his kids in jeopardy. All because you couldn’t keep it in your trousers.

 

“It was Noel. I went to go and see Noel –“ But Julian’s interrupted by Julia’s arms flung around his neck, the breath knocked out of him as she does the last thing he expected of her to do in such a situation. She hugs him.

 

He stands there taking it in for a second, before belatedly returning the hug, feeling Julia melt into it as he does so. She’s trembling, the shock of the revelation probably. It’s probably the reason she’s hugging him as well, as he’s the only one in the flat to be able to do so.

 

“I’m so sorry, I never meant to hurt you.” He whispers the words into her hair as he strokes the back of her head in an attempt to try and soothe her.

 

“I can’t believe I’ve been so stupid.” She’s still crying, although it’s a lot calmer now than it was, Julian’s actions proving to be useful. “After all this time…” She pulls back as she continues, “Julian, you have absolutely nothing to be sorry for,” Julian blinks as that sets in. Wait, what?

 

“I’m the one that should be apologising to you!”

 

None of this sounds right to Julian, at all. Why should she apologise? Did she know about his feelings for Noel before he did? She wouldn’t have been this understanding, surely! Why would she even be with him?

 

“Here I am accusing you of cheating on me, and all you’ve been doing is going to visit Noel to check he’s okay!”

 

 

She misunderstood.

 

 

“I should’ve known I guess, but the way you got so jumpy when we were talking about him before… that’s no excuse though. I’m sorry Julian, I trust you completely. How could I not? I’m so sorry. I didn’t believe you when you said it, and I stand here saying that I know when you’re lying to me, yet here I am not believing you when you’re telling me the truth. I’m so, so sorry…”

 

“No –“ but he’s cut off, as all of a sudden, the look of guilt on her face has turned into something hungry, and before he do anything about it, she’s pressing kisses into his chest and palming him through his trousers. Julian feels his eyes widening in alarm, as he tries to move her hand from where it’s stimulating his rapidly growing erection.

 

“Julia...” His self-control is waning under her ministrations, but he knows that this can’t happen. He loves Noel. And if this goes any further, he will have lost him forever.

 

But she’s shushing him with a finger against his lips, as she starts to unbutton his shirt with one hand.

 

“Julian, I need to make it up to you. Please, let me make it up to you.” And her finger is gone, using both hands to speedily slip the buttons through the holes on his shirt. And then it’s gone. Pushed off his shoulders by her speedy handiwork.

 

He isn’t responding to her, his mind filled with thoughts of Noel and how what he’s doing is letting him down. He needs to correct Julia. Tell her what he really meant. What if she stops you seeing the kids? And Julian really doesn’t have a clue what to do now, because what if she does?

 

Her arm wraps itself around his neck kissing and nibbling across his jaw, biting down on his pulse point when he doesn’t immediately respond the way she clearly wants him to. Julian’s legs hit something, and it’s only then that Julian realises that she’s been pushing him into the bedroom, and what his legs have hit is the edge of their bed.

 

They tumble gracelessly onto the bed, Julia angling her head so that her lips are pressed against his jaw, clearly hinting yet again at what she wants. Julian decides that he can’t avoid it much longer, and so, grimacing as he focuses on the pain in his cheek, he screws his eyes shut before pressing his mouth against hers.

 

The second her lips connect with his there are warning bells and sirens screaming for him to stop, telling him that this is wrong. He knows it’s wrong! It’s not fair. It’s not fair to anyone. Not to Julia, not to his kids, not to Noel. It’s not fair that Julia will have to be told that he’s in love with Noel after all of this. It’s not fair that his kids will have to live without their daddy constantly in their lives, if at all! Julia could probably push for full time custody with this one! And Noel. From Julian’s view, it’s the least fair on him. After all of the shit he has put Noel through recently, this is just another one to add to a long list of disappointments that Noel has been getting from Julian. If he ever found out after Julian’s little confession earlier in the night, then that will be it. Because Noel’s already given him another go at a second chance. He won’t be getting any more.

 

Julian is wrenched from his thoughts by Julia’s actions, as apparently what he’s currently doing is not enough for her. She’s started to unclothe him again; desperate for more physical contact as soon as possible, as though she senses his reluctance and is trying to move quickly so he can’t act upon it. She’s a woman. Of course she does. Not forgetting, of course, that this is Julia. She can read you like a book.

 

Eventually his trousers are off and she wastes absolutely no time in ridding herself of her own clothing, ripping it from her flesh as though it was burning her. All too soon for Julian’s liking, they’re naked, and he doesn’t have the time to even take a breath to suggest they don’t do this before Julia is guiding him where it is she wants him with a breathless whisper on her lips.

 

“Please.” And really, how can he say no. After all that he has done, how can he say no to this woman, who has stood by him through everything, who has carried his children, and who has loved him unconditionally. If only you loved her back in the same way.

 

He hesitates at that thought, knowing that this is wrong. That he loves Noel. But then that one thought that chills him to his very core enters his mind. What about the kids? Because if he leaves Julia, she may not let him see his kids. And so he has to choose between the certainty of losing Noel, or the possibility of losing his kids.

 

Gritting his teeth, and swallowing the bile that has risen in his throat, he sheathes himself in her – her tight heat pulling him in, as he remembers a different heat doing the same not so long ago.

 

The air around him that is now filled with gasps and moans he replaces with the gasps and moans of another. The blonde hair that is interwoven between his fingers, where he has tangled his hand, is somebody else’s mane. Every available memory he can conjure up from that night he does so. He replaces the image of Julia beneath him with that of a more masculine beauty; replacing reality with a dream world. Because that’s the only thing you’ve ever been good at; and you even need him to be good at that!

 

Even your job! Acting. Yeah right, gimme a break. Pretending. That’s all it is. You stand there pretending to be someone you aren’t. No. Not pretending. Lying. You’re a liar. The biggest type of liar that there is – a cheat. And you don’t care who you hurt in the process. Like you are now. To Julia. Because that’s who it is that you’re fucking. Julia. Not Noel. No. It can’t be Noel because that was so different to how it is now. Because when you fucked Noel he bled and you didn’t stop. He moaned and tried to tell you, but you blocked it out. Blocked it out because you didn’t want to hear what he had to say because you’re too much of a coward. Blocked it out because you didn’t want to stop.

 

Julian stops mid-thrust; fully buried into Julia. It doesn’t matter though. Doesn’t matter that he’s stopped what he’s doing so that he can tell Julia that this is wrong. That this isn’t what he wants because he’s thinking of Noel as they have sex. It doesn’t matter because he’s stopped right up against that spot, and it has Julia coming.

 

Her orgasm hits her fast and furious as she throws her head back on impact, gasping out his name as she does so in a strangled sob. And before Julian can even blink, he’s there too. Coming with a shout as one name flashes across his mind.

 

 

It’s only when he drops when he, boneless, flops down to one side that he fully comprehends the reality of what has just happened. Lying on his back he turns his head to the side, facing away from Julia. It’s then that the tears start to fall. He knows why he did it, the fear of losing his kids if he leaves Julia overwhelming, but knowing he’s certainly lost Noel is a stronger pain. One that is burning through his heart, and that no amount of tears can even begin to comprehend to compensate.

 

Julia remains oblivious as she nuzzles into the crook of his neck, resting her head on his chest, her arm over his waist holding him to the bed – her legs wrapped around his. Everything about her body language is commanding him to stay, leaving him without a choice. As he stares up at the ceiling, he begins to wonder when it was he started thinking of her as oppressive. He soon forgets all of that, pinned down by Julia’s sleep-heavy limbs, he is led into a deep, yet fitful, sleep, by her rhythmic breathing.

 

Outside in the living room, a phone on the coffee table rings. However, there is nobody there to pick it up.

Chapter Text

There’s a long drawn out ringing sound drilling into Julian’s head when he first wakes up. He groans into the pillow, his head pounding, despite the fact he knows he didn’t drink anything last night. He feels rough, and in his half-awake state, he can’t remember anything, or even have the energy to question why he feels as though someone has dropped a half tonne of guilt onto him.

 

With the annoying ringing sound continuing, he buries his head back into his pillow, and promptly falls back asleep.

 

***

 

Noel’s finger has turned white with the amount of pressure he’s putting on the doorbell as he leans against it.

 

He’s glancing around outside of the door as he does it. It’s probably a bit early in the morning for this to be honest, but Julian not answering or even returning his calls is frightening him even more than he’d thought possible. He just has a niggling feeling that something’s wrong, and when it comes to Julian – he’s never wrong.

 

He takes his finger off the doorbell, and is just contemplating going round to the back door, or lobbing a brick through the window, when the door opens. It’s Julia.

 

“Oh, Noel hi!” she’s combing her fingers through her hair in an attempt to try and get it looking halfway decent. Well she must’ve slept rough last night after her and Julian –

 

Ah. Shit.

 

He’s probably the last person she wants to see considering what Julian told her yesterday. If he told her yesterday. Which he did. Only have his word for it. Yeah, and I trust him. Now back off. Hmmm.

 

“Hey Julia, I’m really sorry – I know you probably don’t wanna see me right now. I mean, given everything that’s gone on…” That statement hangs in the air and makes Julia frown in an emotion that, surprisingly, isn’t anger. It’s almost confusion? “Anyway, I was just wondering if you knew where Julian was? Only, I know you had a bit of a row last night…” Bit of an understatement. She blushes prettily and looks at the floor, pretty much confirming his suspicions that they’ve pretty much had a row to end all rows.

 

Noel feels a pang of sympathy for her. He does like Julia. They get on really well together, even when Julian isn’t forcing them into social situations together. She’s also pretty much the only woman that Noel could possibly bear to lose Julian to. However, that boat has long since sailed, as Julian and Noel love each other, and she isn’t even in the competition anymore. Temper temper.

 

“I’ve tried ringing his phone, but I’m getting no answer. I’m a bit worried about him actually, it’s not at all like him to ignore my calls or texts. You don’t happen to know if he’s gone to stay at a mates house or s-“

 

As if on cue, Julian’s in the corridor, clothed in nothing but boxers and an old t-shirt that Noel bought for him, way back when they both lived with Lee. Having knocked into the table and knocking the landline flying cracking into the floorboards, and alerting both him and Julia of his presence in the house. Noel looks between them, Julian in his clearly just got out of bed clothes, and Julia in her silk kimono which cuts off just above the knee, hastily wrapped over her frame to cover herself with what little else she's wearing underneath. Noel can tell straight away, and his world has come crashing down around him.

 

Julian’s standing awkwardly, with one leg back out behind the other whilst he’s on tiptoe, as though… He was trying to sneak away unheard so you wouldn’t find out.

 

Julia shoots him an annoyed glance, one that says ‘be more careful’, before turning smiling back to Noel and rolling her eyes good-naturedly; but neither man see any of this. Because Julian’s too busy looking at Noel, and Noel can’t seem to tear his eyes away from the man. Stood on tiptoe, with his hands splayed out and hovering in the air as though they were placed on top of a desk; and he’s stood there staring at Noel wide eyed. Quite the achievement for him really! Shut up, shut up, shut up, no, no, no, no, NO.

 

It’s what his eyes are showing that kill Noel inside. His thoughts being projected through one look:

 

“It’s not what it looks like.”

 

Noel feels sick.

 

Julia's looking at him expectantly, as though waiting for him to come in now he's seen Julian; standing sideways with a slight smile on her face. That's the last thing Noel wants to do now he's seen Julian. He feels physically sick. He looks back at Julia, directly into her eyes so that he doesn't have to see Julian. He's looking directly at her, his eyes locked with hers as he feels the prickling sensation behind his eyes that signals the arrival of tears.

 

"Sorry, Julia." Noel doesn't even recognise the sound of his own voice. It's usual upbeat and cheeky streak replaced by something cold and lifeless, stranding him with something monotone and flat. "Clearly I've caught you at a busy time." He's making a point to direct all of this at Julia, completely ignoring the frozen, distraught Yorkshireman at her side. He's maintained eye contact this entire time, until his vision starts to cloud, and her beautiful face starts to morph into something else entirely. "I'll see ya around."

 

That's all he offers before he's marching off down the short pathway leading to the front door, his cuban boots crunching the asphalt beneath them.

 

***

 

He knows it's Noel the second he hears the male voice at the door. He's already far too close to the door for his own liking, having tried to investigate the cause of his early morning disturbance. Of course it's all backfired as soon as he's far enough down the corridor to be seen from the doorway.

 

He needs to move back and away from the corridor; just enough so that if Noel were to switch his gaze even slightly, he won't be seen. Just move around the corner and-

 

There is a loud clatter and he looks down to see what the cause of the disturbance is. That fucking landline. He curses his own stupidity in his head. How could he forget the massive fucking table in the hallway? 

 

And then he remembers why it was he was trying to keep quiet. His head snaps up to look at the doorway. Noel.

 

As his head snaps up, those blue eyes lock on to his, and that's it. He's frozen. He can't move - he can't even blink. He tries to send a message through his eyes - desperate for Noel to understand.

 

"It's not what it looks like."

 

Except... Well, it is what it looks like. It's exactly what it looks like. And Noel's flinching away from his message. Flinching away from Julian, and he knows that this is it. There really is no going back from this, and looking at Noel now, he knows he'll never forgive him.

 

His suspicions are confirmed when Noel opens his mouth and starts talking to Julia. "Sorry, Julia." The voice that speaks a million different emotions flatlining into a dull and desolate drone.

 

That's not right. Nothing about Noel has ever been dull. He can only think of one other time that Noel has used this tone of voice - when he broke up with Dee. It didn't suit him then either.

 

"Clearly I've caught you at a busy time." He's making a point of avoiding Julian's eye, speaking directly to Julia and ignoring him completely. Can you blame him you prick?

 

“I’ll see you around.” He can hear the hitch in Noel’s voice, the only sign of emotion he’s shown since he saw Julian standing in the hallway; that’s all it takes for Julian to unfreeze.

 

Julia turns back to look at him with a confused look in her eye about Noel’s less than normal behaviour – even for him. Julian is already pushing past her though, following the crunch of heels on asphalt. In his barefoot state, the gravel cuts into his bare feet, however, he can hardly feel it. Too caught up in his heart crumbling away at every step of those heeled boots.

 

***

 

"Noel!" He can hear the sound of Julian's voice getting louder as he continues calling his name, but he stays true to his emotions, which are bubbling just under the surface. Just one little push though..."Noel".

 

And there it is. He snaps.

 

"What." Noel's taken aback by his own ferocity in which he spins around to face the older man with. Julian's recoil at the emotion he faces is almost comical. Almost. He’s not that funny. Sure.

 

Julian looks lost and more than a little cold, the wind has picked up, and Noel makes a mental catalogue of the little that Julian is wearing: Boxers, t-shirt, no shoes. Noel can’t help but feel more than a little satisfaction at this, hoping the cold is biting into him, along with the gravel on his bare feet.

 

Julian slowly raises his hands up in a surrender, as though to defend himself, or calm a wild animal.

 

“Noel, please.” His voice is annoyingly calm and measured, obviously trying to keep Noel calm as well. It fails miserably, as the younger man becomes more wound up; the soothing voice grating on his nerves.

 

“No. Don’t you fucking ‘please’ me. You came round to mine last night, making a big song and dance that–“ He’s cut off.

 

“Noel.” There’s warning in Julian’s tone that he shouldn’t say anything else.

 

“What? You haven’t told her and so you want me to not say anything?” Julian looks at him with pleading in his eyes. Out of the corner of his eye, Noel can see Julia standing in the doorway watching the exchange between the two men. “Why shouldn’t I say anything then Julian? Give me one good reason not to.”

 

Julian looks at Noel momentarily. His shoulders slump at the realisation that he has no argument. Noel has the power. The power to destroy the relationship, the way that Julian has destroyed him.

 

“Why don’t you tell her then Julian? Tell her about how you came round, before declaring your fucking undying love for me.” He hisses it quietly, and a look of gratitude is plastered onto Julian’s face. Even when he’s taken everything from you, you still can’t bear to hurt him.

 

Julian hangs his head shamefully, bringing his hands up to cover his face to completely cover himself. There is still a tension in Julian’s body, as though he isn’t sure Noel still won’t tell Julia everything.

 

The wind has picked up, and the chill is bringing up goosebumps on Julian’s arms. Noel laughs once, humourlessly, shaking his head the sorry spectacle of Julian stood in front of him.

 

“You’re a joke.” he cannot help his voice breaking halfway through the last word. And with that statement in the air, Noel turns on his heel and walks away.

 

***

 

Julian listens to the sounds of Noel walking. He remains on the path outside with his head in his hands until he can no longer hear the sounds of boots hitting the tarmac of the street. He pulls his head up and brings his hands to rest in front of his face, clasped together.

 

“Julian?” He closes his eyes at her voice. This needs to be explained to Julia. Now.

 

***

 

Noel sobs into the pillow. How could he be so stupid? Of course everything that Julian said was a lie, but… why?

 

You weren’t to know. You’ve changed your tune. It’s not your fault this time.

 

This time. Noel laughs bitterly at the voice of his subconscious.

 

He’s curled up in a ball on the bed, clutching a pillow and sobbing into it – marking the white cotton with running eyeliner. There’s no drink left in any of the cupboards strong enough to make this go away. Secretly, Noel’s glad. The last thing he wants is to fall back into the trap of comfort drinking. That’s what happened with Dee.

 

Looking onto his nightstand, he sees his phone, where he left it after Julian dropped it off. He unlocks his phone, ignoring all of the messages various people have left for him, and goes into his contact list.

 

He flicks through until he finds the name he is looking for. His thumb hovers over the name, unsure whether or not to ring it. There is a chance that the number may not even work, but he dismisses that though. He knows it works. His mind is trying to think of reasons not to ring, but he wants to. He needs to.

 

With his mind still weighing up pros and cons, he hits the call button. He needs advice.

 

***

 

Not wanting to spend the night in the hotel room he’s booked, Julian goes to the nearest pub. Which happens to be about a mile away. You could do with a walk to clear your head. Maybe then you’d stop fucking other people around.

 

After arriving in the pub, he sits down and orders himself a double whisky chaser. It’s one of those nights. He’d explained everything to Julia. Everything that had happened between him and Noel, ever since that fateful night. She had remained strangely calm; impassively telling him he needed to leave and not come back for a few days.

 

Julian downs his first drink in one and orders another. She had told him that he could only come and see the kids after she phoned him – when she felt able to be around him – but that, of course, the kids needed their father, and so she wouldn’t stop him from seeing them. It would however, be on her terms when he would next see them, and that he had to stay somewhere else, because it was too painful to look at him, let alone be in the same room as him, and that she, in no way, would ever be able to move past such horrendous thoughtlessness.

 

She had started crying then. Silent tears making their way down her cheeks where she sat. He had had nothing to say, and so, after kissing her forehead by way of an apology – an apology nowhere near big enough – he went to pack a bag and put some clothes on to leave the house.

 

After spending the whole day effectively moving out, he booked into the nearest hotel. He then spent three hours sat in a hotel room, before looking at his watch and concluding that, at ten thirty, he could still get some really get some good drinking time in. After raiding his mini bar, and checking the prices of the stupidly small bottles, he decided to check his phone for local pubs, in order for him to have a proper drink.

 

That’s how he wound up in here. Downing his drinks and thinking about all of the stupid things that he has done in less than a month, to a woman more amazing than he ever deserved. Then he thinks about Noel. The look of betrayal and hurt as he saw Julian in his boxers, clearly having had it off with Julia last night. It must’ve broken his heart. Again.

 

~~~

 

He drinks into the early hours of the morning, until the pub closes and he’s forced to go back to the hotel room. He stops off at an 24-hour off license to buy some fags and a bottle of whisky, smoking three fags in a row before he realises that he’s headed in the wrong direction, and that he’s headed towards Julia’s flat. He’s not sure when he started thinking of it as ‘Julia’s flat’ but that’s what he’s doing. He wouldn’t be able to kick her out of the flat – not after everything that he’s done to her. He coukdn’t.

 

Didn’t have a problem doing any of the other stuff to her though did you.Shut up. He then, very drunk and lightheaded, begins to walk back in the direction that he came, towards his current residence – the hotel.

 

In his drunken state, he doesn’t think twice about going down the alleyway that’s likely to take him the quickest way. Not even thinking about how dangerous it could be in his current condition, his mind filled up with images of Noel and how stupid he’s been to let him get away. You didn’t let him ‘get away’, you broke his heart. Four fucking times.

 

Julian lifts the bottle to his mouth to prevent the sob rising in his throat from escaping. He stumbles again, catching himself against the wall as he pauses to rest his head against the arm braced against the wall. He hears it then. Footsteps.

 

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

 

Well it was bound to happen wasn’t it. If it weren’t for you tripping you probably wouldn’t even have noticed until it was too late. If it weren’t for that stop you wouldn’t know that something was about to happen. Mugging, stabbing. You just wouldn’t know. Not that you can do much now even though you know mind you, but still. At least you’re informed that someone will do something. Great. That’ll be a great weapon against them. Knowledge.

 

Julian forces himself to stand upright, to try and turn to face his attacker. But the booze has made him clumsier than he had realised, and he stumbles back into the wall again. The footsteps are close now, and Julian panics. He quickly pushes himself off the wall, spinning round at the same time. This move proves fatal however, as his drink addles brain cannot catch up with the move quick enough, and so the world spins as Julian forces himself to not throw up. Before he can comprehend his positioning there is a dulled spark of pain in his jaw, before his brain registers he is on the floor, the bottle smashing as it also hits the ground where Julian's dropped it.

 

Julian looks up, rapidly blinking away the dark spots that are clouding his already hazy vision to try and see his attacker, to try and counteract this next move. What he sees instead is Dave standing over him, fire in his eyes and his fists clenched down by his sides.

 

There is a tell-tale copper tang on his tongue as he swallows in an attempt to moisten his dry throat. Dave appears to be trembling; whether it's Julian's drunken mind imagining it, the cold, or Dave's pure rage is yet unclear to Julian. He decides to find out.

 

"Dave?"

 

"How fucking could you."

 

Rage it is then.

 

It's more a statement than a question, but Julian's drunk, and so answering seems like the appropriate thing to do. Big mistake.

 

"I don't know."

 

There's a bloom of more muted pain; higher up this time, on his cheek as it spreads out across his face. Julian's head has snapped to the side with the force of the punch, and he can feel the skin tear right over the bone, and all he can think is: “I'm gonna be feeling that tomorrow". Well no fucking shit.

 

"Dave, I'm sorry." Understatement. Dave will never accept that.

 

"You're sorry? YOU'RE SORRY?" Told you. Julian has never heard Dave like this, and he's glad he's still facing away, because he doesn't know if he can handle seeing Dave like this; having lost it completely. He shuts his eyes, screwing them up, as though it's going to make it all go away. Of course it doesn't. Dave's only just beginning.

 

"Sorry does not even begin to cover the shit you have put him through, you scumbag. He is a wreck. I hope you're fucking miserable. You cannot even begin to comprehend what is going on with him at the moment Julian. It would fucking destroy you. On second thoughts, maybe I should tell you! Bring you further down into the gutter than you've already sunk. You can't even look at me can you? You coward! Out drinking away your memories are you? Too painful are they? Well good. I hope they fucking burn you from the inside out, considering the pain you've caused him.  Oh for god’s sake, would you just fucking LOOK AT ME." Dave screams it into the night.

 

Julian opens his eyes and turns his head; but, because he's still on the floor with Dave standing over him, Julian's eyes are on Dave's legs. This only seems to infuriate the other man further, as his tone changes, his insults flying with a more direct hit.

 

"I've heard Julia kicked you out." Oh. And there's his pressure point. He tenses and Dave’s eyes flash. Clearly what he was after. He wants a reaction.

 

"What had she ever done to you, to deserve being treated like that Julian? Hm? What had he done to be treated like that? He gave you another chance! Why throw that back at him? Maybe it was all for the best then as everyone's found out what you're really like now. Spineless. Cowardly. Cheat." Julian flinches. "Oh. What's the matter? Don't like being called a cheat? Well you are one Julian. And you know what? I hope Julia tells your kids so that they can know what a cunt their daddy is. So that they don't want to have anything else to do with you."

 

Julian tilts his head so that he is looking directly into Dave's eyes. They're shining with angry tears, and although that shouldn't surprise him it does. What surprises him even more however, is that he himself bursts into tears, burying his head in his hands as he cries.

 

"I'm sorry Dave, I'm so so sorry. You're right, I can't believe how stupid I've been! My kids deserve to never see me again. I'm so sorry, please believe me!" Julian's sobbing drowns out the rest of whatever it is he's going to say. He sits there with his forehead resting on his knees, and his arms wrapped around his legs, rocking, like a child.

 

There is a palpable switch in the atmosphere as Dave clearly decides what he wants to do. Well… not wants. Clearly what he wants to do is kick seven types of shit out of Julian. What he does instead is crouch down next to Julian to wrap his arms around his shoulders tensely. It’s clear that Dave still doesn’t want to be there, yet Julian is still his friend, and so he stays. Julian couldn’t be more grateful to him for that.

 

“Thank you”, Julian manages to gasp out in between gut wrenching sobs, and Dave seems to relax slightly. Understanding that Julian has realised he doesn’t want to be there, and so knows that he’s in no danger of coming across as forgiving with the hug.

 

“Why’d you do it Julian?” he whispers, tears audible in his voice.

 

“I don’t know.” Julian whispers back. “I don’t–“ he manages to cut himself off as he starts ferociously crying again. Dave starts rubbing soothing circles onto Julian’s back to try and calm him down. It’s more than you deserve.

 

“Okay. Come on now, let’s get you back. Where are you staying?” Dave’s standing and pulling Julian up with him, careful to avoid the broken glass of the bottle. Julia, still crying, points in the vague direction which he was walking, on the other side of the alley.

 

He’s crying too much to be able to create proper sentences – something which isn’t helpful at all to Dave, who frowns as he tries to figure out hotels that they’re near. He comes up blank as he asks:

 

“Do you know which way to go?”

 

Julian nods, gasping air into his lungs as he tries to calm down. Dave’s starts rubbing the soothing circles onto his back again, as Julian nearly goes into meltdown in the alleyway. He can feel the pressure in his chest receding, as Dave’s calming strategy manages to fight away the panic attack that was bubbling its way up in his chest. He takes a couple of deep breathes before turning to Dave.

 

“Alright?” Dave asks, still supporting Julian’s drunken figure with both hands. Julian nods vaguely, his crying reduced to nothing but hitched breaths, and starts stumbling his way out of the alley, Dave holding him upright.

 

~~~

 

As soon as they’re in the hotel room Dave lets go of Julian, who begins swaying on his feet. As Dave disappears into the bathroom, Julian staggers forward towards the bed, which suddenly seems a million miles away from where he’s stood. He falls onto the bed face first, his legs hanging over the edge as his arms are spread out either side of him. There’s running water in the bathroom, which stops after a moment, before Julian can hear the footsteps of the other man.

 

“Julian?” Dave whispers, not sure if Julian is asleep or not. He groans a quiet affirmation that he’s heard his name, before rolling onto his back and looking at Dave, who’s holding a glass of water out towards him. He sits up and takes it, with a small smile and thanks, drinking half the glass in one go. Dave takes the half empty glass from him whilst Julian takes his shoes off. As he starts to pull down his trousers, he sees Dave looking at him like he wants to say something.

 

“Say it.” Dave clearly debates saying whatever it is he wants to say, before deciding that it’s something he wants Julian to hear.

 

“Just because I’m here, doesn’t mean I’m not still angry at you. I’m still so angry. Fucking hell, I mean I could kill you! I want to kill you right now.” Dave huffs a laugh humourlessly. That’s something else that Julian’s managed to destroy. Dave’s constant happy. Because Dave was like Noel – always smiling. Just one of a million things that Julian’s managed to fuck up.

 

“Why are you here?” Julian asks, genuinely curious, as Dave clearly wants to rip off his head right now.

 

“Because you’re still my mate.” Dave answers simply.

 

“You shouldn’t care about me.” Julian mumbles pitifully to himself, his drunken mind not screening thoughts that should probably be kept to himself, to keep him from sounding like a compliment digging drama queen.

 

“At the moment? I don’t. I just… somehow I feel like you’re already doing yourself enough damage without my help.” Dave smiles sadly, he hands the water to Julian again, who finished the remaining gulps of it to help him sober up slightly, and to rehydrate himself from all of the crying he’s been doing. He returns Dave’s smile as he stands to lift the corner of the cover up to climb in, feeling the fatigue wash over him in a wave.

 

Dave looks at the clock next to the bed. “Well, I should be going…” he hovers uncertainly by the side of the bed.

 

“Go.” Julian says simply. He’s too exhausted to be able to keep his eyes open, and they’re closing even as he speaks.

 

Dave turns to go before evidently deciding to say something, stopping and turning once he is near the door. Julian is just about awake, but with his eyes completely shut, drifting off slightly, until Dave says what it is that he needs to.

 

“Oh, just one last thing.” Julian opens one eye. “Stop with the self-destruction please? I know it’ll make you feel better – me as well at this moment in time if I’m honest. But for Noel’s sake, yeah? I personally wouldn’t mind finding you dead, but I don’t think Noel would take it too well.” Julian cracks a lop-sided, tired smile at that; returned by Dave, before he’s opening the door, and leaving Julian to his dreams.

 

***

 

“Noel!” Noel snaps his head up and sees Lliana speed up her walking once she’s caught his eye. He forces a smile as she stops in front of him, letting go of her suitcase handle to jump onto him. Noel stumbles slightly under her weight, her arms round his neck, and his still in the pockets of his jacket. He belatedly put his hands on her hips as she pulls back to smile at him, before leaning in to kiss him.

 

She leans into his body, using the hand behind his head to pull him in closer, by twisting her fingers into his hair. He keeps his hands where he put them, responding to the kiss with minimal enthusiasm, keeping it going so that she doesn’t question him. That way he won’t have to tell her here and risk her causing a scene.

 

You selfish wanker.

 

She pulls back, looking at him with such happiness. Her grin is enormous and so he attempts to match it, coming up with a small upturning at the corners of his mouth that doesn’t reach his eyes. If she notices, she doesn’t say anything. She gives him a quick peck on the lips before grabbing his hand and pulling him towards the taxi rank.

 

~~~

 

The taxi ride home is filled with mindless chatter from Lliana, informing him about her holiday, and how her family are doing blah blah blah. Noel wishes he could focus on one thing she’s saying, so that he can at least feign interest in whatever it is she’s talking about, but instead he sits staring out of the window; his mind wandering to Julian. /he thinks about what happened, and what he’s going to say to Lliana when they get home. His mind is left blank.

 

“Noel?” Lliana’s voice snaps him from his trance.

 

“What?” He replies guiltily, feeling slightly shitty about not listening to her. Considering that he’s gonna break her heart within the next couple of hours, it would only seem fair.

 

“More away with the fairies than usual are we?” She asks smiling, nothing unkind in it. Not even annoyed. You are such a prick for what you’re about to do.

 

“Mm.” He replies non-committal, returning to staring out of the window, watching the streets of North London rushing past his window. This is gonna be a tough one.

 

~~~

 

The instant they’re in the door, Lliana goes to the kitchen to switch the kettle on, leaving Noel to dump her bags by the front door. He swings it shut, before walking to the living room and dropping into the nearest seat.

 

Lliana comes back out, still full of energy, and Noel wonders when he got so old and boring. When Julian stopped giving a fuck? Shut up.

 

Watching as his energetic girlfriend takes her bags into the bedroom to unload, he realises that his subconscious is right. For his entire life when Julian was present, he had been full of energy and laughter. The light and soul of the party. His idea of a party used to consist of bleach cocktails and magic mushrooms. Now the party was more taken up with peppermint tea and a Jammy Dodger.

 

He gets up to follow her into the bedroom, where she’s walked off whilst still talking at Noel, figuring sooner rather than later would be better for this. He braces himself as he steps through the doorway.

 

This is something that needs to be done before she unpacks.

Chapter Text

This feels like familiar territory.

 

Noel cursed his sarcastic thoughts once again as he continued to openly sob. Huge, wracking sobs that shook his tiny frame.

 

"It's alright sweetie. You're alright." Noel leant into the hand stroking through his matted, greasy hair and choked his way through another cry. This was similar, so so similar to the last time he had told Dee about something happening with Julian.

 

It was similar. Except it was different. This time Noel knew he had been wrong, and that Julian did feel the same. Some fucking way of showing it.

 

Feeling Dee’s soothing hand in his hair, and feeling waves of comfort coming off of her felt as though he had come home. As though he belonged. Except he didn’t. They didn’t fit together anymore. Noel was too much of a fuck up, even if he did still love the woman comforting him, he knew he loved someone else more.

 

“I love you Dee.” He sobbed. He felt her freeze up next to him as he said it, and wasn’t sure whether or not he regretted it. He raised his head from where it was rested on her shoulder as she looked back at him. He decided then. Noel looked into her eyes, sincerity radiating from his very being as he said, "I do love you Dee"

 

She smiled sadly before resting her hand against the back of his head, pulling him into her so that his head was resting on her shoulder; his face buried into the crook of her neck. He felt guilt towards what he was doing to Dee. She was clearly still in love with him, and here he was, sat on her sofa, looking for a pity party.

 

“I’m sorry.” He whispered, pressing his lips to her collarbone.

 

The hand in his hair stopped moving as Dee stopped breathing. Everything seemed to freeze in that moment, and instead of taking that as a bad sign, like any normal person would’ve done, Noel found himself continually pressing little butterfly kisses up and along Dee’s collarbone.

 

"Noel." Dee’s voice was a warning, however, there was an uncertain waver to it that Noel picked up on. She did, after all, still love him; and this would be a very, very, bad idea. He ignored all of that though. Pushing his instincts to one side, he went with what he knew.

 

He pushed her hair back behind her ear, his mouth moving up her throat to her pulse point. As he latched onto the skin there, Noel could hear her breath hitch as he sucked a bruise into her neck, feeling her go completely pliant under her, and that’s when he knew. She’s giving me her permission.

 

Pulling off of her neck, Noel looked directly into her eyes before lunging forward, his lips attached to hers. She gasped into his mouth, her shock showing through her otherwise unresponsive body.

 

He pushed his hands under her thighs where she was sat on the sofa, gripping onto them, before picking her up. Her legs instinctively wrapped around his waist, whilst her hands were placed flat onto his chest. Their lips were still connected as Dee began to slowly wind her fingers into the back of his hair, gripping on tightly as if she was afraid that he’d disappear if she let go.

 

Noel carried her over to where her bedroom was, dropping her to her feet as they continued kissing. Noel started to unbutton her jeans and Dee caught on, pulling his t-shirt up quickly and efficiently, pulling it up over his head whilst he pushed her jeans down. Once his shirt was off, she began to pull off her underwear and her jeans, before pulling off her top and bra. Noel also pulled his jeans and underwear down, leaving them both naked.

 

Noel quickly moved back to Dee, re-connecting their mouths as their hands roamed. Wanting nothing more than to move quickly, Noel decided to skip straight to it.

 

“Jump.” He whispered, as his hands grabbed her behind. She obeyed as he pressed her against the wall. He looked in her eyes, asking for permission; breathing a sigh of relief when she nodded.

 

He pressed against her entrance, waiting before allowing Dee to slowly sink down onto his length. Dee dropped her head back, letting it hit the wall as he became fully sheathed inside of her. She sighed and Noel dropped his head forward onto her shoulder, kissing her collarbones as he began to thrust upwards.

 

His pace was fast as he started pounding into her, breathy little “Uh” sounds leaving Dee’s mouth at the angle he was thrusting at. Her thighs were gripping his waist so tight Noel was wondering how he didn’t already have bruises. As she began to pull his hair, Noel lifted his head up to reconnect their lips.

 

He stopped thrusting momentarily as they licked into each other’s mouths. He then peeled away from the wall, remaining inside Dee as he pushed open the door to her room, shutting it behind him.

 

~~~

 

The door shut behind him, trapping the freezing cold air outside, warming up that which had followed him in. Blowing warm air into his hands and rubbing them together, Noel looked around the tiny café. There. In the corner booth.

 

He ordered a tea at the counter, before moving to the booth to wait for the waitress to bring it over to him. He slid in the booth opposite Dee, startling her from her daydream as she finally noticed his presence in the tea shop.

 

“Hi.” He ventured, smiling as he did so.

 

She replied. A timid sounding “Hi…” accompanied by a small, sad smile. Neither of them seemed to know what to say after that. This seemed to be the way whenever they met up.

 

He and Dee weren't enemies - far from it. He just knew how difficult it was for her to be around him. Her love for him had never faded, and he knew that. He also knew how hard it must be for her to see him with another woman. Walking around day after day with someone on his arm that wasn't Julian. That wasn't her.

 

So they avoided it. Whenever they met up in secret, Noel made sure to keep their conversations away from their personal lives. He knew Dee was having difficulty since Sue had moved to Wales, but when he offered her a place to say, money to pay her way; she flat out refused. Dee was a proud woman, and Noel knew this. It didn't hurt him any less to see someone he cared for so dearly, someone he loved, to be hurting; but he knew he had to respect her decisions. He couldn’t push her out of his life completely. He couldn’t cope with anything

 

He knew that she was working on her own, creating music and making merch for those loyal diehard fans that would cut anyone up if they dare speak badly about her music. He was thankful to those fans. He was glad that there were people there in order to defend her, and help her, and fucking keep her living. After the shitstorm passed with their breakup, Dee had still paid the fucking price. The price for his fame and big headedness and fucking bullshit attitude that he threw around more than his weight. Dee had had her life distorted by tabloid shit, her reputation dragged through piles and piles of Noel's shit and carelessness that he had let the leeches of the press grab hold of.

 

And he, in his heartbroken and selfish state, had done nothing in order to help her.

 

The two were quickly snapped out of their trance by the waitress setting Noel’s tea down. Dee quickly blushed and looked down at her own tea, whilst Noel looked up to thank the waitress. She responded with a giggle and flirtatious smile, asking him if she could get him anything. Noel immediately looked over to Dee, who was now glaring daggers at the waitress.

 

“Do you want anything else Dee?” he asked her, and she snapped her gaze back to him. She shook her head no. Noel turned to the waitress who was looking disgusted that they were even conversing. Nobody judges Dee.

 

“You can go.” He stated, rather abruptly, not liking the way she was looking at Dee. She huffed before stalking off like an upset teenager. Noel turned back to face Dee, who’s still looking at him.

 

“Dee I-“ He started, about to apologise for the waitress.

 

“Have you spoken with Julian?” She asked, cutting him off.

 

Noel froze, he wasn’t sure how to respond. Dee had broken the unspoken rule. Never to talk about anything personal.

 

“Thought not.” She said, when Noel still hadn’t recovered enough to answer her.

 

“Dee.” He said, a warning note in his voice, as he tried to tell her that this was not a conversation that should be happening here, in a café, or at all for that matter.

 

“Don’t you ‘Dee’ me.” She snapped. “You don’t own me, Noel. You can’t tell me what to do. You don’t have the right. You don’t have the right to pity me for choices I’ve made in my life, or make judgement in what I say or do, and you don’t have the right to fucking stand up for me.” Her chest was heaving with anger by the time she had finished her speech, and Noel felt as though he was going to cry. He wanted to cry.

 

“What happened Dee Dee?” He whispered.

 

“Don’t.” She warned. “Don’t you call me that.” Noel was surprised with the vehemence behind her tone. “You lost all rights to call me that when you started dating someone else.”

 

You were the one that broke up with me. Why should it matter?” Dee fish-mouthed for a minute, unable to come up with a suitable response. When she did however, her eyes flashed a dark colour, and Noel knew he’d said the wrong thing.

 

“I broke up with you, because you were in love with somebody else.” She hissed at him. “In fact, you’re still in love with him, and instead of dating him, which is why we broke up, you got with the first woman who would have you.” Noel recoiled as though he had been slapped. “You should be dating him. Not another woman. You’re gay.” Noel had had enough.

 

“Did it never even cross your mind that maybe the reason I’m dating someone else, is because said person isn’t that way inclined and doesn’t want me the same way that I want them?” He hissed back at her.

 

“You’re an idiot.” She stated, before standing up abruptly and throwing down enough money to pay for her drink. She wrapped her scarf round her neck as she moved quickly out of the café, trying to conceal the tears that were pouring down her face. But Noel had already seen them.

 

~~~

 

He was moving quickly inside her, pounding her over and over as her wet warmth welcomed and accepted him. He was pulled inside by her as she lay beneath him on the bed.

 

~~~

 

“Get inside! Christ, you must be freezing.” Noel was pulled inside by a very concerned Dee as she shut the door. Noel let loose a violent shiver as she smacked him on the arm.

 

“OW!” He shrieked in protest. “What the hell was that for?”

 

“For being an idiot and wearing a fucking leather jacket out whilst it’s about 5o, you absolute moron.”

 

“No reason to hit me.” He whined, pouting like a toddler.

 

She laughed at his childishness, before pulling him over to the sofa and pouring a glass of wine. He was surprised however, when she began to pour him a glass as well, to which he raised an eyebrow.

 

“We’re having a sophisticated evening Fielding. None of your trashy beer or fruit cocktails that are sweet enough to give you diabetes. Besides, I got red for you because I know you prefer it.” She smiled at him, which he replied with a soft and tender kiss. As soon as she moved her hands to behind his neck to play with his hair there was a knock at the door. Her eyes widened as she took a shaky breath.

 

“Ready to meet my parents?” She asked, her bottom lip being pulled at by her teeth with nerves.

 

He leant in and kissed her before he replied. “Of course.” And she was gone.

 

~~~

 

She was gone beneath him. So close to orgasm, her mind would only process what she was feeling. His once slow and gentle thrusts had become something rough and fast. He began pounding into her, her breathy gasps filling the air every time his pelvis ground into her.

 

He could feel the familiar approach of his orgasm when heat began pooling at his spine, and so his thrusts became jerky. The imminent approach of orgasm making him lose his rhythm and care. The sound of skin slapping on skin filling the air.

 

~~~

 

The slap of skin hitting skin registered before anything else. He turned his head back to face forwards, looking at the woman who he had hurt. Her hand was cradled against her chest as though it was stinging. Which it probably was. His pain senses had seemed to of kicked in, and all he could feel was fire in his face.

 

“Dee –“ He started.

 

“How the fuck could you?” She near enough screamed. “What? Did you think I wouldn’t notice? Wouldn’t see the articles? Wouldn’t smell her FUCKING PERFUME?” Well shit.

 

“Dee. Nothing happened.” He tried to remain calm and not let his panic show. Because nothing had happened. But if he panicked? The love of his life would think otherwise and leave him.

 

“Nothing happened. NOTHING HAPPENED?” She screamed, making Noel flinch. “How stupid do you think I am Fielding? You go out, get papped with Pixie fucking Geldof, in the same cab, and don’t come back until the night after, and think I don’t know that something happened?”

 

Noel was silent. He knew Dee was mad, she had every right to be with what had happened, and what it looked like from what the papers were saying. He just needed to let her vent her anger before she calmed down.

 

“Is it my fault?” Noel whipped his head up from where he was staring at his boots to look at Dee. She had sounded so small, and looking at her, she looked as though she could shatter at merely a touch. “Was it me? Did I do something wrong? Am I not what you want anymore? Am I not good enough anymore? Do you want someone, younger, prettier, more fun, not as fat an-“

 

“Shut up.” Dee looked taken aback as Noel grabbed her roughly by the shoulders. He blinked before loosening his grip on her and holding her hands instead.

 

“No. That is absolutely not true. I was drunk out of my mind last night. I couldn’t tell up from down. Yes. Okay, I’ll admit that in my drunken state in a sweaty overbearing club, where you can’t even breathe or remember your own name, that someone whispering sexual things in my ear was hard to resist. But the second I got into that cab? No. I realised how stupid I was being. That I instead had a beautiful and wonderful girlfriend at home who I care about so much that it hurts. I went to Mike’s last night, and I was at the studio all day today. I’m wearing the same clothes because… well I can’t really borrow Mike’s stuff can I?” He let out a breathy laugh, trying to relieve the tension.

 

Dee sniffed, trying to look away, but Noel merely moved with her eyes so that he stayed within her vision. She let out a laugh that was choked with emotion at how ridiculous he looked, as he smiled softly at her.

 

“Dee, I promise you.” He said, cradling both of her hands with his. Holding them up between them, whilst looking directly into her glassy eyes. “I promise you that nothing happened.”

 

Something in Dee broke then, as she realised he was telling the truth. She sobbed as she fell forward into his arms, kissing his chest as his arms wrapped around her. He kissed the top of her head from where she was cradled in his arms, murmuring into her hair as he did so.

 

“I love you Dee.”

 

~~~

 

Dee was writhing around on the bed beneath him, her closeness making her restless. Noel grabbed onto both of her hands, pinning them on either side of her head. She looked up at him with wide eyes, before he lowered his mouth to her ear.

 

“I love you Dee.”

 

Dee threw her head back as she came. Her body tightening as her back arched, pushing her chest against Noel’s. His eyes rolled back into his head as she began to clench around him. Everything went white, before Noel was floating in his own head; thoughtless, weightless.

 

“Noel!”

 

~~~

 

“Noel!” Dee shouted, waving her arms over her head. She and Sue had taken on the beer queue early it seemed, and were now content to sit on their jackets on the grass whilst waiting for the warm up band to start.

 

Noel grinned as he made his way over to them, walking straight into Dee’s open arms and kissing her. He could vaguely hear Sue making gagging sounds and pretending to throw up, but he didn’t care. In that moment it was him and Dee, and a simple, loving kiss.

 

"Hi.” He managed when he pulled away, giving her a cheeky grin. It may have been a cliché, and it may have made Dee laugh, smacking him on the chest while calling him a twat, but the sparkle in her eye made everything he did seem worthwhile.

 

“Excuse me, but there are other people present!” Noel laughed at Sue’s indignant tone, with her face pulled into an expression of mock disgust. He flung his arms open before chasing after her to squeeze her into a hug; her protesting and attempting to run away from his ministrations before he could snap her bony frame in two.

 

"Started the party without me then?” The three turn to face the voice amongst the loud crowd, in order to see the equally bony, and almost as feminine – something he couldn't mention to Sue, unless he wanted her to stab him up - Chris Corner.

 

“Chris!” Sue squealed and ran to him, jumping up and wrapping her legs around his thin waist. Dee and Noel made the over-exaggerated gagging noises this time, whilst Sue and Chris practically ate each other’s faces off.

 

~~~

 

Noel frowned as he began regaining his faculties from where he was sprawled on his side of the bed on his back. He could hear that muffled noises were coming from something. He didn’t have quite enough awareness to figure out what the sound was though. The only thing he knew, was that it was coming from Dee.

 

He looked across at her. His heart broke. You heartless piece of shit.

 

Dee was crying. Tear tracks down her face so reminiscent of when he told her about Julian. So, so similar.

 

And so he fell asleep. His ex-girlfriend crying silently next to him, trying to stifle her sobs, as Noel cuddled into her side and promptly passed out.

Chapter Text

He’s pressing into the doorbell, the ringing sound oh so reminiscent of his own that it makes him want to throw up. He doesn’t know how well she’s gonna react to him doing this, but then again...

 

The door opens abruptly, making him jump in surprise.

 

“Julian?” Her broken voice questions. He smiles back at her shyly, not aware of what it is she knows.

 

“Hi.” He takes in her appearance. Unkempt hair, rumpled clothing and red ringed eyes that are free of makeup.

 

Her pink fringe was unruly and curly, let loose without styling, and the rest of her black locks were secured in a hairband in a rough ponytail. Julian felt guilt course through him at how long he had left this woman uncontacted, and how much pain she must have been through.

 

 

“Um…” She shakes her head as though gathering her scattered thoughts, clearly pulling herself together in the face of company. “Come in… I mean, it’s a bit messy but…” she trails off as she stands aside for Julian to walk in.

 

He steps past her into the hallway; going round the corner to face the open plan flat. His shock at facing the, once tidy Dee’s, flat is badly concealed, and he can only sigh in relief that Dee hasn’t made her way past the doorway.

 

He hears the door softly shut, before a shaky sigh is delivered. Julian mentally curses himself out. Clearly a bad time.

 

Well no shit. How would you feel if your ex’s best mate came over, whilst you were clearly busy and going through something personal? Good point. Obviously. Shut up.

 

Padded footsteps make their way round the corner to stand next to Julian where he’s still stood in the doorway surveying the mess. Dee sighs again deeply.

 

“Sorry. If I’d known you were coming I’d have tidied up a bit.” She says scratching the back of her head nervously as she looks shyly to Julian. He gives her a half smile as he waves his hand in dismissal, despite him being used to Dee being the tidy type.

 

Suppose that was before Noel came and trashed her heart. So she trashed her flat too? Exactly.

 

Julian still makes no move in any direction, stood awkwardly shifting from foot to foot, whilst looking at the floorboards. There’s a tension between the old friends, as neither can think of an icebreaker that doesn’t involve the enormous elephant in the room that they’re both trying to avoid.

 

The silence finally seems to be too much for Dee, who breaks it with a cliché yet simple opener.

 

“I’ll put the kettle on then.”

 

~~~

 

Julian had just begun to wonder why he thought this a good idea, when he was currently sat with absolutely no clue on what to say. Why don’t you start with telling her that you dicked her ex? Shut up brain, shut up brain, shut up brain.

 

Julian continued to look directly into the steaming cup that sat in front of him, almost mocking him with how easy its life was. Julian wished he could be a teabag right about now; the self-sacrificial ritual, the boiling hot water, tortur–

 

“Are you planning on drinking the tea, or drowning in it?” Julian jumped slightly, almost forgetting he was with someone else in the room; his self-pity taking over once again on his pathetic life.

 

Glancing up to catch Dee’s eye, he gave a weak smile towards her; almost asking for forgiveness in its fragility. Why the fuck do you deserve to be forgiven? Julian sighed deeply again.

 

“Look, I think it’s kind of obvious why you’re here…” Dee’s soft yet scratchy voice carried over to him, her throat raw from crying. Julian hums his conformation almost silently, but in the quiet flat it’s easy enough to hear.

 

“I just wondered if–“ Julian started to speak before Dee overlapped his words.

 

“You wanted to know what Noel was doing here.” Julian’s slow working mind took a second to digest the information, before his eyes grew wide.

 

“Wait, Noel was here?” Dee looked shocked at Julian’s lack of knowledge on the subject, giving a confused frown as she answered.

 

“Yes… isn’t that why you’re here? To shout and ask me what the hell I was doing…?” she trailed off, realising by the look on Julian’s face that he had no idea what she was talking about. “Well then why the hell are you here?” She asked, confused as hell by Julian’s presence if not for that.

 

Yeah Julian. Why?

 

“I just… I haven’t been closest to Noel for a couple of years and I remember him saying something about you two meeting up, so I was wondering if you knew where he’d go when upset?” He mumbled, ashamed of himself for lacking in the friendship department.

 

“Because you slept with Julia?” She asked. Julian’s head snapped up to look at her with wide eyes, before it clicked.

 

“Noel came round to talk to you about it, of course he did. God, I’m such an idiot.” You’re just realising?

 

“Why did you Julian?” she asked, no judgement or malice in her voice, just curiosity. Never malice with her. Never. She had a heart of gold, and Julian cursed himself for not coming to see how she was doing earlier. Not coming to see her when Noel started dating someone else. Not coming to see her when the band took a break and her best friend moved to Wales.

 

“I didn’t mean to at first.” He muttered. “Honestly, I didn’t. I’m not just making excuses!” He said, holding his hands up in surrender. “I went to go and tell her, but then… I saw her and I just thought that she deserved more than just a quick breakup…” He trailed off, his own reasoning sounding like shit even to himself as he sighed brokenly. He hung his head, too ashamed to carry on talking.

 

Dee sighed sympathetically, looking down at her own lap. “You just felt as if you should give her one last night.”

 

Julian looked up at her, surprised that she wasn’t screaming about what a selfish bastard he had been. She spoke instead as if she understood. Julian fish mouthed for a moment, before speaking. “Yeah I… How did you…?” He trailed off.

 

“Julian… Did you not think that telling that to Noel would’ve been the best course of action?” She said solemnly.

 

“You… You don’t think I’m a heartless bastard?” Dee smiled sadly.

 

“Ju – trust me when I say I know what a heartless bastard looks like.” Something in her bitter tone made Julian scrunch his face up in confusion. Her teary eyes made everything clear to him however.

 

“You mean…” She looked over at him, tears welling up even further in her eyes. “Noel?” She let the tears flow over as she nodded, not having the voice to speak without her held back sobs coming out in full.

 

Julian looked around the room and something hit him suddenly. The clothes strewn on the floor weren’t there because Dee was too depressed to pick them up; they were strewn on the floor too wildly and haphazardly for just laziness.

 

“You thought I came round to shout at you because Noel was here.” He mumbled, almost to himself. “He wasn’t just here, you slept together.” He said as he moved his head to look directly into her eyes.

 

Her eyes widened as she realised that she had been found out, scared for his reaction. She knew about what was going on between them and still, she had gone through with it.

 

“I know and god Ju – I mean Julian – I am so fucking so–“ She stuttered out.

 

“Dee I’m so sorry.” He interrupted.

 

“You… wait what?” She looked at him as if he lost his mind.

 

“I’m so sorry. If I hadn’t gone back to Julia for that one fucking night, then Noel and I wouldn’t have been fighting, and he wouldn’t have come here to fucking get back at me or make himself feel better or whatever the fuck his excuse is, and he wouldn’t have played the fact that…” He trailed off as he looked directly into her eyes; knowing all too well the look that played in them. “That you’re still in love with him.”

 

Dee gasped out a sob as Julian whispered those last few words that were the cause of seemingly all her problems in life. Silently, Julian stood up with tears in his eyes, and walked over to Dee. She looked up at him, with wide, scared eyes.

 

“I’m sorry Julian, I know I shouldn’t still love him and you have every right to be pissed off at me, okay? I know. I knew what was happening with you two and I still just… God, I’m so sorry.” Julian said nothing to the statement, instead choosing to grab her tiny hand in his and pull her up to stand, before wrapping her in an embrace.

 

She stood in confusion for a moment before clinging desperately to the man she was once close to. All the pent up emotions from the past coming out as she cried. Julian was the only one who could even begin to understand. Plus, without Noel being out, it would make it difficult to talk to other people about it who weren’t Sue; but she was in Wales with her new family.

 

“I just… I wish I was over him.” She sobbed as she clung to the jacket on Julian’s shoulders. “I mean, it’s been years since we were actually together, I shouldn’t be feeling this way. But when he’s with another woman? I just…” She broke off into more sobs and Julian calmly stroked her hair. “If it had been you, I may have been over him by now. That’s why I broke up with him.” Julian tensed up. He had no fucking idea about that.

 

So you’re the reason they broke up are you? Marvellous. You fucking homewrecker. You wreck everybody’s lives don’t you?

 

“He told me what happened that night. He told me he kissed you and that he was in love with you, and I mean I already knew that, but hearing him say it hurt me so bad.” Julian’s tears started flowing more and more frequently the more Dee spoke. “And I fucking told him that you loved him back and when you guys stopped talking I knew he blamed me. I mean… Well, he never said it, but I could see it in his eyes every time he looked at me…” Julian sobbed aloud at the confession, burying his face into the side of her neck.

 

“Then he started dating Lliana…” Julian could almost taste the dislike on his tongue with the venom that Dee spat the statement at. “And I knew it was for me. He never had to say it, but I knew it wasn’t a closet thing, it was more of a ‘fuck you’ gesture to me. And it worked…” She hiccupped, trying to keep herself from falling apart. Julian held her tighter, as if making sure she wouldn’t as he moved his head so that his chin rested on top of her head, as she cried into his neck.

 

“I’m so sorry you had to go through this alone.” He whispered, as he gently stroked her hair, silent tears still tracking down his face. The two stood in silence, the only noise coming through the open window of birds and traffic.

 

Dee’s crying subsided as they both sat down next to each other, Julian with his arm over Dee’s shoulders, and Dee with her arm around his waist, leaning into his side. The two sat in comfort for a while, before Dee spoke up. “I’m sorry if I hurt you.”

 

Julian shook his head in disagreement, “No love, it’s me who hurt you. You’ve been in love with him this entire time and I never realised. I was never there for you throughout the years when I should’ve been. You’re like a sister to me DeeDee.”

 

Dee smiled sadly as she whispered out, “You too JuJu.”

 

He laughed slightly. “What a sister?” Dee giggled, despite his attempt at humour being half-arsed at best.

 

The two continued to sit, both just enjoying the other’s comfort and company, before Dee yawned and sat up away from him, stretching out the ache in her bones from the angle she had been sat.

 

“So, what you gonna do?” She asked, looking genuinely curious at how this awful game would play out next, after she’d been played and tossed aside. Julian looked at her sadly. He loved Dee. She was like a sister to him, he wasn’t lying. He felt awful that she had been hurt during this time.

 

“Guess I’m gonna go to his flat to see him, wait for him if he isn’t there.” He said with a resigned sigh.

 

“Well you’re gonna be waiting for a while then I guess.” She said with a dry humourless laugh; something Julian hated as a comedian. His need to please almost kicking in, until something about Dee’s words sunk in.

 

Julian looked at her, confused. “What do you mean? Is he not at his flat? I thought he wasn’t staying with Dave anymore? I went round and Dave said he had no clue where he went, just took off.” Dee looked shocked, as if she thought Julian would have held this information. She blinked slowly before opening her mouth to say something Julian was going to have a hard time processing.

 

“Julian… Noel’s in America.”

Chapter Text

I'm sorry, but the person you are calling is currently unavailable.

 

Julian growls loudly as he hits the end call button before slamming his phone onto the nightstand.

 

It had been nearly a week. Nearly a week of Noel avoiding his texts and calls, and Julian had had about enough of it. He was seriously thinking about just going to see Noel and shouting in his face how much he loved him.

 

Before he could even contemplate what sort of betrayal his body had in for him, he was already shrugging his jacket on and shutting the door to his hotel room; his key card being slipped into his pocket.

 

~~~

 

As he stood on the outside of the door, holding down the doorbell to Noel's house, he had an odd sense of déjà vu before shrugging it off. Noel always answered so this can't have happened before.

 

He stood outside for another few minutes before hearing a familiar voice.

 

"Julian?"

 

Julian turned around, his stomach dropped as he realised that the voice he had recognised hadn't been the voice he wanted.

 

"Hiya Dave." Julian called out, a thin-lipped smile straining his face.

 

"The hell are you doing here?" Dave asked, although there was no malice in his tone. Julian frowned slightly.

 

"Isn't it obvious?" He asked.

 

"No, I meant what are you doing here?" Dave emphasised. "Noel hasn't been here since last week." He stated, as though it should've been obvious to Julian.

 

Julian groaned, pulling at his hair as he crouched down close to the ground in frustration. How can he still be in America for god sake?

 

“Um…” Julian could’ve laughed with how awkward Dave was obviously feeling s Julian had a mini-meltdown in front of Noel’s house. At least he isn’t trying to break your face this time.

 

“For fuck sake.” His words were muffled by where his face was pressed into his legs, still crouching. Trying to gather his sanity, and gain some fucking dignity, Julian stood up quickly; his knees creaking in protest.

 

Old man.

 

Dave looked at him like he was insane, a small smile dancing around the corner of his mouth. And he supposed he must’ve looked it. Having just run his hands through his hair frustratedly, he couldn’t think what a state he must’ve looked.

 

After making eye contact for merely a second, both men started laughing hysterically. The uncontrollable force of it making both men bend over at the waist with how much it hurt their stomachs.

 

It felt good. Laughing. It really had been a while since he had genuinely laughed at anything. Being this way with Dave, even though he knew the other man was still furious with him over what happened with Noel. They were best mates. Of course they were. He didn’t want that to just vanish.

 

With a break in between gasping for air, the pair seemed to calm down a little. Both standing upright once again, they seemed to be unable to stop smiling at each other. Perhaps you haven’t fucked this up completely with everyone?

 

Julian pointed in the direction of his hair, his smile beginning to hurt his face. Wow, it’s been a while since we smiled for this long. “How bad we talking?” Dave couldn’t contain the giggles that followed Julian’s question, still bemused by how bad the Northerner was looking.

 

“Oh, I dunno Doc.” And Julian snorted. He snorted. The 80’s reference catching him off-guard as he ran his hands through his hair, trying to sort out the wild mop look he apparently had.

 

“Better?” He didn’t know what he was hoping for, he really didn’t. He knew how bad he must’ve looked. His hair, though Julian had tried taming it, still overgrown and in need of cutting. His beard in very much a similar shape. His cheeks were sunken in from lack of food and sleep, which was also the cause for the dark purple bags under his eyes.

 

Dave paused for only a second before blurting out an unfiltered answer. “Nah. You still look like shit.” Julian shrugged. Knowing it was the case. “No, but seriously. You need to sort yourself out.” There was no hesitation in Julian’s answer.

 

“I need to talk to Noel first.” Dave shifted uncomfortably. “I know you aren’t the biggest fan of me right now, and that that is putting it lightly, but he needs to know how sorry I am. Even if it means he never speaks to me again.” Dave looked at him as if shocked by the revelation. Whatever he was expecting Julian to say, that definitely was not it.

 

“I mean, I’d love to help you…” Julian cut him off with a look, but Dave carried on regardless. “I would! You need to make this right.” And yeah, Julian had to give him that. “But I don’t even know where he is.”

 

“I know where he is.” Dave frowned at Julian, not understanding how he could know. Julian pulled the address out of his pocket.

 

~~~

 

“Look, here’s the address he’s staying at, and you can tell him I say to get over himself now. You’re both even.” She smiled sadly, knowing even now that she was just a ticket to get even after Julian slept with Julia.

 

Julian took the scrap of paper, before looking at it. Of course, he was staying there. He looked up to see Dee looking at her feet, before looking up to meet Julian’s eyes. Julian’s breath hitched in emotion as he saw the tears welled in her eyes, before he simply grabbed her into a bone-crushing hug.

 

They held on tightly to one another as they cried; each of them showing their personalities through their sorrow. Dee’s loud and attention grabbing, what made her so outgoing and quirky; Julian’s silent and stoic, the perfect opposite to his Noel.

 

The two both cried for their love. Their love for one man.

 

~~~

 

Julian held out the piece of paper. Dave looked at it for a second before he took the crumpled wreck out of Julian’s hand. His face softened with realisation as he realised that of course that’s where Noel would go to get away.

 

“He’s with Russell. Of course.” Dave laughed mirthlessly, almost offended that Noel would rather spend his time there and not with him. Julian could see the upset pulling down at the corners of his mouth and couldn’t stand it.

 

“Well I guess he knew that I would just come and see him if he was with you…” Dave looked at Julian, almost surprised that he knew what he was thinking, before he gathered his wits and realised that, of course he could. They were great friends. Perhaps Dave had momentarily forgotten that in his siding with Noel. Not that Julian blamed him. He should side with Noel. Not just for the fact that they had known each other longer, but because Julian had been in the wrong.

 

So, so, in the wrong.

 

“Yeah, I guess…” It became awkward for a moment as neither man knew what to say to the other. Julian not wanting Dave to think he was a desperate mess without Noel, even though that is exactly what he was, and Dave not wanting to give Julia any hope, that wasn’t his choice to make now was it.

 

There was a moment where they just stood. Then it was as if they moved together, both men moving in to hug each other at the same moment. The hug was brief, both men pulling themselves together quickly, wiping discreetly at their eyes as they stepped away from each other.

 

“But wait,” Dave frowned once more. He’d been doing that a lot. Frowning. Julian still didn’t think it suited him. “If you knew where Noel was, then what the hell are you doing here?”

 

And Julian looked down at his feet. It was embarrassing, was the truth. He was embarrassing. He was an embarrassment at any rate. He could feel the hot flush of his cheeks under his scruff. He choked down on air as he started speaking.

 

“How could I go there?” he looked at Dave with the tears back and clouding his vision. “He went there to get away. He went to America to run away.” He feels the tears spill as he confesses to Dave. He sees the pity on Dave’s face and he is so done with it. He doesn’t deserve it. He will never deserve it. He is the cause of all this.

 

“He ran away.” Julian doesn’t think he could ever stress that enough. “He ran away from me. There is no way I could chase him down to America, when he went there to avoid all contact with me whatsoever.”

 

There is a pause for a second. A pause where Julian’s self-pity can be heard in the quiet buzz of the street. The only other sounds from the occasional cars, and the far-away and distant sounds of children screaming as they played.

 

“Ju…” Dave took a breath, choosing his next words very carefully. Julian watched as Dave looked down at his boots, before deciding to talk at a thousand miles an hour. “I think you should go and see him in America.”

 

He blinked while he processed what Dave had said. Excuse you? Did you just make that up? That was in your head surely? But the way he was looking at Julian told him everything. Dave wanted them together. To make up. Even though he hated Julian at the minute, he was fed up of seeing Noel living a lie. He wanted Julian to go after him.

 

Julian couldn’t hold in his emotions anymore apparently. He pulled Dave in again, crushing his spine as he gave him a hug so tight, even Bollo would struggle. He could hear Dave’s initial moment of windedness before he laughed at Julian’s apparent inability to control himself.

 

“Get the fuck off.” Julian laughed with him as he let go, before the younger man turned serious, looking Julian dead in the eye. “This doesn’t mean I forgive you. You know that, right?”

 

Oh, I know. He nodded. He knew. Of course, he knew. I doubt he’ll ever let me forget. Quite right too. He shouldn’t forgive Julian. He should always remind him of this. The days where he nearly lost Noel. Assuming you do manage to get him back from America and haven’t completely screwed up all your 1,000 chances that he’s given you that is.

 

And well… yeah… apart from that.

 

As he began to run his way to the tube station to go to the airport, and Jesus today really has taken a turn hasn’t it? Dave called out after him.

 

“Ju!” he turned around. “I would avoid Mike’s for a while…” He tailed off, not finishing his sentence, and not needing to finish. Julian nodded. He knew. The wrath of the younger Fielding brother was not something to be messed with. The smaller man was surprisingly terrifying when pissed off. Julian would hate to see what he’d be like with his brother in pieces.

 

~~~

 

Sat on the plane as when Julian decided he was going to doubt himself. Not there was any room for deliberation. Literally. There was no fucking room on this plane.

 

He had felt numb checking in at the airport. Walking to the gate. Boarding the plane. But now, as he sat in his seat, the too tight buckle digging into his stomach, and dear god when the fuck did that happen, he was starting to freak out.

 

He knew Noel didn’t want him there. So why the fuck was this a good idea again? The more he thought about it, the less sure he was about listening to Dave’s advice. He hadn’t even spoken to Noel, so how could he be so sure that Noel wanted Julian to go and see him? The more that he thought about it the less he was sure about this plan.

 

Deciding he was about to jump up and out of those doors the overhead announcer clicked on. Wanting to smash his head through the tiny porthole window, Julian settled down into his seat as the cabin crew began their demonstration of safety precautions. Looking out the window as the plane began to roll out of the gate, Julian leant his head back onto the headrest, settling in to get some sleep for the duration of the flight. He would just have to get on a plane back once he landed.

 

He slipped deeper into sleep, smiling as his thoughts were taken over into dreams of a pretty man with backcombed hair.

 

~~~

 

The doorbell rang inside as Julian shifted back and forth nervously. He blinked. Still uncertain as to how he actually got here… on the doorstep… ringing the bell.

 

When he had fallen asleep on the plane, he had done so making the decision that he wasn’t going through with this, right? That he was just going to get off a plane and jump back onto the next available flight? Well that obviously never fucking happened.

 

Julian thought back over to his dream. Noel. He’d dreamt of Noel.

Gorgeous, sexy Noel. Surprisingly, it hadn’t been anything sexual though. Nothing with Noel writhing around underneath him, begging for more of his cock as he screamed- And that’s enough of that before you pop a boner right here on Russell’s doorstep.

 

Julian shook his head, bringing himself back to the land of the living. The sleep he’s had on the plane was probably the best sleep he had ever had in his life. Maybe it was because he was on his way to make things right with Noel. Or maybe it was because he dreamt of Noel.

 

Not just Noel. Him and Noel. Together. As in, together, together. Holding hands, walking through the park together, curled up together on the sofa, waking up to those large blue eyes every morning. Being in a relationship. Soft kisses in front of friends as they all sit together, eating takeout and listening to music.

 

That’s what he dreamt of. And it made him realise, that no matter how upset or mad Noel was with him – he would wait. He would wait a thousand years for Noel to forgive him if that’s what it took to show just how sorry he really was. He would let Noel know, that it didn’t matter how long it took them, he would always be ready for him. He would forget sex for the rest of their lives if that is what it took to be in a relationship with Noel.

 

He had hurt his love too much already.

 

That ended.

 

Immediately.

 

The door opened, and Julian wondered just how long he had been stood outside his door, lost in his own thoughts. It occurred to him as Russell opened the door, he hadn’t even prepared for the possibility it wouldn’t be Noel. And now he had to talk to his least favourite person on the planet.

 

Marvellous.

 

Julian was never clear himself on why he hated, yes hated, Russell Brand so much. He never even liked to think about him. Perhaps it was how close he and Noel were. How they flirted both on and off camera and nobody ever seemed to question it. They enjoyed the attention. And the people loved it. Julian guesses his own reluctance to bathe in that glory himself is why he was so jealous; Russell was so willing to give Noel whatever he lacked, and fuck that.

 

Although he may have looked a lifetime better after sleeping on the plane, he knew he still looked terrible. Russell’s face remained impassive on the matter however, opening the door and remaining stony faced at the sight on Julian on his doorstep. He must’ve prepared himself for this eventuality. Before Julian could even open his mouth to get a word out though, Russell took it upon himself to interrupt.

 

“He ain’t here.” The nasal voice greeted him with no hint of friendliness, and Julian began to wonder just how much he actually knew about their situation. His face however, still gave nothing away.

 

“Russell, please. I know he came here.” There was no disguising the pleading in Julian’s voice. Not that he wanted to. But even if he had, the sight in front of Russell was such a desperate man.

 

“He. Ain’t. Here.” Russell was still giving him the same blank, emotionless look. Noel must’ve told him at least some of it. He wouldn’t have been this unwilling to move unless Noel had shared some of what Julian had done. He could feel the frustration rise as the man in front of him had clearly been given more than just orders not to let Julian know where Noel was. The stress of this info, plus a week of pure agony, not knowing how Noel was piled up on him. Leading him to breaking point. Right here. Right now.

 

“Do not lie to me.” Julian shocked himself. The passion that overtook him was something he had never felt in his life. He had never felt so strongly about something that he would start a fight over it. Yet here he was. Having travelled all the way to America for that something. Wanting to beg and weep and serve that something for the rest of eternity just for that something’s happiness.

 

Russell too seemed shocked at his outburst, and so, taking advantage of the other man’s silence, he decided to make the most of it. He hadn’t flown for hours on a plane to not see the love of his life – and really the gravity of his emotions should have shocked him. It should have rocked his world, freaked him out, given him butterflies, fireworks, waves crashing, all the stuff you get with the first kiss and more. This revelation was so un-new to him though, he couldn’t give himself all those emotions. The idea of not seeing Noel now, to tell him all of this cut him. It really cut him. He needed him to know.

 

I will be damned if I let Russell fucking Brand ruin my last chance at this.

 

“I know he’s here. I know he’s staying with you. I know he came all the way here, just to get away from me. I get it, you don’t want to let me in, and that is fine. But you need to let me see him. Even if it’s for 10 seconds, right here in the doorway as he tells me to leave. I know I don’t deserve to see him. Not after every, single, heartless thing I have put him through. I don’t know how much he’s told you, but I can see in your expression that it’s enough to make sure you never forgive me for it or trust me near him again. And that’s fine. If that is how you feel – fine. But you do not get to make that decision for him. He needs to hear what I have to say, and you are not the one who decides whether or not he gets to hear it. If he wants to throw me aside, and who could blame him? Then that is his, decision. Nobody else’s. You…” Julian sighed. Running out of things he could say. “You need to let me see him.”

 

He felt a little winded after his speech, all the words he could think to get the skinny London man to just coerce Noel into seeing him. Russell’s wide eyes showing how surprised he was at Julian’s coherence, clearly not expecting Julian to have changed his mind. He looked over Julian, his rough and ragged appearance must have shown how he was telling the truth, because he let out a sigh. Julian felt hope leap into his mouth as he opened his mouth and –

 

“He ain’t here.” Julian deflated, his eyes filling with tears immediately as he nodded. He got it. Russell reached out a hand to correct himself though. “No! Really! He is staying here but he went for a walk; said something about needing to clear his head.”

 

“Where?” The Yorkshireman nearly didn’t let him finish, desperate to know where his Noel went.

 

“I don’t…” He trailed off as he watched Julian, who looked on the verge of tearing his hair out from desperation, as he looked around him; almost as if hoping to catch a glimpse of him. He couldn’t wait for Noel to return, he needed to speak with him. Now.

 

“Well…” Julian looked back to him, hope carrying in his eyes. “I can’t promise anything. But he’s taken to going to the park to watch the sunsets…” Julian remembered seeing the gate for the park when he had jumped in a cab on the way here. He didn’t even wait before running back up the street, needing to find Noel as quickly as humanly possible.

 

“Julian!” Can people please stop calling me back in the middle of running, this is giving me whiplash. He looked back to the house, seeing Russell leaning there in the doorway, expression the most serious he had ever seen. The frown on his face making him look his actual age, instead of the oversized teenager he tried to look like most of the time. “Don’t mess this up.”

 

Julian froze. How many times had he heard similar variations of the same phrase, or even those exact words, before he had gone against them, each and every time. He squared his shoulders. This time would be different though. He had a glimpse into a life without Noel, and that could not happen.

 

“If he’ll have me, I won’t.”

 

~~~

 

He was out of breath by the time he reached the gate for the park. He had no idea how he could possibly find him. One man in a vast sea of grass and trees. His only advantage was how late it was getting, so there wouldn’t be as many people in the park as there were earlier in the day. Just dog-walkers and such.

 

He looked at the map next to the gate. Looking over it, he hoped to figure out some clue to help him figure out where he would find Noel. The rusty metal frame encased an old image of the park, with just a large expanse of grass to its name. Julian nearly beat his head against the map when he saw it. He instantly knew that’s where Noel would be.

 

He ran. He was doing a lot of that. Running. But he didn’t think there was ever a time more appropriate than now. As he reached the clearing where green met blue, he knew he had made the right choice. He saw a bench sat next to the pond. A man was sat there; watching the sun go down.

 

Julian could feel his heart speed as he cast his eyes over him, even just the back of his figure. Noel certainly knew how to take someone’s breath away. He went to take a step before he froze.

 

He began to doubt himself again. Not knowing if he should’ve come or not. Looking at Noel sat on a bench, he felt that he shouldn’t interfere. This was his private and alone time. His time to relax and not have to think about any of the drama Julian had involved him in.

 

Looking at the space on Noel’s left, Julian made his decision. Loud and clear. There was no going back, for Noel Fielding should never, ever be left to sit on his own.

 

So, taking a deep breath, he began walking over to the raven-haired man, sat alone on the bench, watching the sun go down.