About Old Gregg

"Old Gregg was about Julian and Noel: about how he desperately wanted Julian, so badly he could hardly draw breath sometimes, the delicious void in his lungs and heart whenever Julian was around." Noel's secret gets out, with some help from a treacherous wardrobe lady.


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About Old Gregg by spiderweb_kiss

Noel is sitting in a meeting. It is, predictably, not an ordinary meeting: he is drowning in fabric swatches, swathes of green-blue tissue paper and sequins. So. Many. Sequins. What a way to go, he muses to himself, sequin inhalation. Genius.

“So,” says Natasha, the artistic director, “we need to order more of the paper, we ran out last time, definitely a few more metres of the purple silk… And…” She consults her list.

“Netting,” Noel prompts, trying to sound nonchalant.

The art department double-check their clipboards and look up at him one by one. None of their costume notes say anything about netting. “You know,” Noel begins, fiddling with the gold beads around his neck, “that pink stuff we had for—”

“Oh!” Natasha scrambles around the scrap material box. She produces a scraggly shock of neon netting. “This stuff? We used it for Old Gregg. I didn’t realise he was coming back this series.”

He isn’t, Noel thinks, well, not unless I pluck up the courage to mention it to Ju. “Just in case,” he clarifies, and Natasha writes it down on the order form. Noel shifts uncomfortably, restless from all the Coke he’s drunk. Some of the artistic crew are still looking at him oddly, he theorises, and when the meeting is declared over Noel practically sprints to the door.

He runs down the studio corridors, he runs to Waterloo, he runs for his train. On the way home, he stares at the houses flying past and thinks about Old Gregg.

He hadn’t meant for it to end up in the show. Not really. It had been a hot summer day almost three years ago and the heat had stirred something sensual up inside him. Julian had been there all afternoon, writing for series two. Sunset was not far away and the sultry evening air was setting Noel on fire. “This has been a bloody useless afternoon,” Julian said. Noel assented jumpily, adrenaline bursting inside him. He wanted to tell Julian. It was a good moment.

“What if it’s not a lake monster?” Noel asked, wondering where he was going with this. Julian looked at him but didn’t interrupt. “Or, like, it is a lake monster, but a person. And he wants Howard to stay with him in the lake. Like, passive aggressive kidnapping. Howardnapping…” Noel was getting into it now. Images were dancing in his head and they were too exotic to voice; he was seeing a lake and seaweed and light shimmering on salty puddles. He was seeing green glass glinting in a purple-shadowed cave. “A lake monster with a big, luscious pink mouth and—” Noel stopped. He saw mouths pressed together. He felt hot.

Julian was reclined on the sofa, letting him work through his ideas, occasionally scribbling on the notepad. He knew how Noel got when he was on a roll, caught up in the idea, but now he had uncharacteristically stopped. “So where’s the plot?” he asked, and Noel took a deep breath.

“Say the lake monster is in love with Howard, all desperate for his attention.”

Julian grinned, the framework of a plot forming in his spidery handwriting. “Rich’ll do this so fucking well,” he added in, and Noel went quiet. “What?”

Fidgety again, Noel realised that Julian had once again missed the point. “I was thinking I’d sort of do this one,” he said quietly, wondering if Julian got it at all, even the slightest bit.

“Yeah,” Julian said without missing a beat, and started formulating the plot.

A few weeks after Noel’s arty farty meeting, Julian stumbles into the studio with a hangover. He’s just been on the phone to Mike about the impracticality of his new turban, and now he needs to find Natasha. He eventually comes to rest in the dressing room, where she is sewing a maroon cape and watching Deal or No Deal.

“Hi,” Julian croaks apologetically. “I just wanted to say about Mike’s turban…” he drifts off, seeing a rainbow of cloth on a distant rail. Natasha looks up from her sewing and follows his gaze. “Series two costumes? Where did you find those?” Julian asks, thinking he recognises a few pieces. He thought they’d cut up all of that for scraps.

“No,” Natasha says, getting up and rolling the rail to the centre of the room to show him. “This is what we have for series three so far. We’ll do the rest once you’ve finished writing.”

Julian picks out the neon pink tutu. “This is definitely series two.” He hates these kind of conversations, especially when he’s hungover, but he is sensing a monumental cock-up has happened, such as the wardrobe department losing track of all the costumes except defunct series two rags.

Then she tells him. “Noel got us to do another Old Gregg tutu. I assumed you’d written Gregg back in—” Natasha’s brow furrows and so does Julian’s. Now he’s confused. All this time they’ve been writing, nobody said anything about Old Gregg coming back. He wonders what’s going on in Noel’s mind.

Once he has sorted out the issue of the turban, Julian swings by Noel’s flat in Chalk Farm. His mind is overflowing with noise, colour, sound and confusion. When Noel opens the door, looking kitsch and beautiful as ever, the first words Julian manages are “OLD GREGG.”

Noel’s eyes become impossibly wide and his cheeks flush. He knows he has been sold down the river about the tutu, and his betrayer was probably Nat. He invites Julian in, feeling shaky and nervous. It’s like a purple-feeling nicotine rush and makes his chest ache. “I um,” says Noel. The room is quiet as Julian settles himself on the sofa. “Tea?”

He doesn’t wait for an answer; he goes to the kitchen and puts the kettle on. He hides there for as long as he plausibly can, panicking about his excuse, fiddling with his plastic rings and wondering whether he has any arsenic handy to lace his own tea with.

By the time he comes back, Julian is flicking through Noel’s notebook, no doubt looking for those two horribly incriminating words: Old. Gregg.

OLD GREGG, Noel’s mind yells, bombarding him with green and blue and Bailey’s Irish Cream. He draws a blank on excuses as to why he won’t let go of the fishy fiend.

“Because he’s me!” Noel bursts out.



Neither one of them speaks. They just look, and breathe (they breathe hard) and try to think.

Noel repeats it, calmer this time. “He’s me.” There. He feels a flush of shame, and it’s crippling. He never meant for the sketch to be in the show, and he certainly never meant to reveal what Old Gregg really was. Old Gregg was about Julian and Noel: about how he desperately wants Julian, so badly he can hardly draw breath sometimes, the delicious void in his lungs and heart when Julian is around. How he used all those rehearsals to let it out. How he hoped he would exhaust himself of the feelings. How it didn’t work.

Julian is looking at Noel; Noel is looking at the floor. “Well,” Julian says, at last. “Old Gregg got Howard in the end, didn’t he?”

“Don’t,” Noel says bitterly.

Julian ignores him and gets up off the sofa, crossing the room to stand in front of him. Close. So close he can almost touch Noel’s ashy eyelashes and rose-petal mouth. Julian raises his fingers to gently brush Noel’s neck. “Don’t. It’s not funny,” Noel says dully, trying to push away.

“Yes it is. C’mere, you slag.”