Hot and Cold

He couldn’t understand why this kept happening.

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Length: words

Hot and Cold by ailcia

Chapter Notes: tartpants betaed this for me: ie. made sense out of my completely fragmented fic and gave me some excellent advice. She rules. 😀

Noel opened the door to his flat with a clatter and stalked in, pulling off his bright scarf. He took off his coat and threw it over the back of the sofa. The London sky was beginning to darken and purple outside the windows, and usually he would have stopped and had a look, but tonight he just could not bring himself to care.

He walked over to the kitchen table, gaining a bottle of vodka and a class from the cabinet en route, sat down heavily in one of the chairs and poured himself a glass.

It just wasn’t fair.

His blood rose immediately, and Noel took a sip of vodka to try and cool his anger. Settling only slightly, he thought back to the evening two days before. He had been so happy that night. Julian had not gone more than a foot away from him all night, and had laughed and joked and smiled, all at Noel.

Sighing, Noel ran a hand distractedly though his hair, unwittingly checking it was still in the style he wanted. He hated the fact that he needed attention to feel comfortable, and that he was happiest when people were watching or listening to him. He annoyed himself sometimes by his semi-conscious attempts to hog the limelight and draw focus. It was worse whenever he went out anywhere, or if he was meeting new people. Noel seemed to have this compulsion to please… this need to be reassured that he was still ‘it’. He did this with everyone.

But with Julian… Noel couldn’t even describe it. He was never any happier than when Julian was amused by him. Just seeing that rare, broad smile, or hearing the deep chuckle, had the ability to make his day feel worth it. At the party, Julian hadn’t seemed to be able to stop grinning. He’d hugged Noel more in those few hours than he had done in the entirety of the previous two week’s rehearsals, drawing Noel towards his chest many times. He’d ruffled his hair and pulled at his waist and squeezed his chin and stroked his face. Noel had been blazing with all the attention, all the compliments, and Julian seemed the happiest Noel had seen him in a long time. That’s why the other night had been so amazing… well, one of the reasons.

The night had been excellent from start to finish.

They’d spent the entire night just with each other, almost entirely ignoring all the posh ponces, snap-happy photographers and famous wannabes. They’d been sat at a table, just talking, for hours and hours. Well, Noel had been talking mostly. Julian was often silent during their conversations.

“See, I saw it being done somewhere else, can’t remember who it was though… and they made the albatross – who I think we should name Brian after Velvet Goldmine… what was it? Oh yeah, no, they made the abaltross look really shite when it swung about on this visible bit of filthy string and…” Noel was talking about the flight of an albatross, and musing out loud about how to incorporate it in the show, and looking over at where a band he vaguely knew were standing when Julian ran his hand lightly up Noel’s leg.

Noel shivered and looked round, to find Julian’s intense gaze fixed on him, dark hair falling into his face. He had this look on his face, and Noel’s stomach kicked up into his chest as Julian’s hand, which hadn’t left Noel’s knee, began to travel slowly, tantalizingly northward. “Julian…” he whispered, an automatic response as he didn’t give a monkey-shit if anyone at the party saw this. His voice caught in his suddenly-dry mouth.

He knew that look. He’d seen it before.

Julian did not say anything. He pulled his stubbled chin down so it touched his neck, and raised his eyebrows in an unspoken question.

Unable to act at the party, they left.

He was slowly undressed by Julian. The long fingers ran down his back, making him shudder and moan as the skillful hand switched its course down Noel’s front. Julian ran his hand across Noel’s stomach, and played idly with the waistband of his worn, tight jeans as he unbuttoned them. An ache had Then, the hand withdrew. He looked up into Julian’s face almost angrily, annoyed that he was being teased. Julian just grinned at him, and Noel couldn’t do anything but start to slowly unbutton the taller man’s bright white shirt. They were standing so close to one another, but not touching. He could feel the heat radiating from Julian’s chest as he pulled the shirt away from him. Strong arms encircled him, and a soft mouth met his with urgency. He was no longer being teased.

Noel remembered the way Julian had stared down at him, and he had felt a bolt of electricity burn through him. Even now, he could still taste Julian on his lips, feel his grip around his thighs, and hear the shouts of pleasure. He had given himself completely to Julian that night, as he always did.

That night had been fucking amazing, and Noel had hoped, hoped desperately that it would not turn out like all the others before it had. He hoped that just this once, events wouldn’t follow the same miserable path they always did. He had thought that perhaps this time might be different… surely it had to be. The night had been perfect and they had been through so much together. Noel really thought it had meant something more to Julian that night, too.

Noel had arrived at the studio for rehearsals the morning for the first time since the party – they’d had a day off in between, but Noel had spent most of it sleeping and had then gone out with a couple of ‘arty-mates’ that Julian didn’t get on with. He’d wandered into the room they were using, and had been greeted by a cold look and a sigh from Julian, along with a muttered greeting. Julian had refused to look at him in the eyes, had barely acknowledged when Noel had spoken or tried to put forward ideas for improvisation. All day, this went on for, and Noel had become more and more withdrawn as the day had progressed. Even Rich, one of the most oblivious men the Boosh had ever come into contact with, had frowned when Julian had gone for his lunch without asking Noel with him or offering to fetch him something.

“Hey, my Noel.”


“Yeah…. hey, listen… what’s with the vibes?”


“Yeah, you know… the vibes of darkness… why’s Julian in a funk?”

“… I didn’t know Julian was in ‘a funk’.”

“I’m telling you, he’s funky.”

“Pure funk?”

“Yeah, pure, unbridled, play-that-funky-music-white-boy funk. He’s got the funk with something.”

“I dunno, Rich… maybe… he lost his John Coltrane record again? That’ll knock him off-balance for weeks…”

“Aw, hell. Jazz is dangerous.”


Noel had spent most of that day looking at his sparkling silver boots, and hunching down in his chair.

Julian had completely blanked him. And it had killed him.

Noel could not stand anyone being upset with him, but when Julian wouldn’t speak to him, it made him utterly miserable. Julian was everything to him. Noel realised at times like this that he took the man he worked with, his best friend, for granted sometimes. It really shocked him, when things were pulled into sharp focus, how much he relied on Julian. Not just for all the practical stuff that Noel couldn’t do, like drive or use computers or work washing machines… but for all the things Noel just needed. Someone to talk to, someone to muck about with, someone to laugh so much with that he thought he might have to get rib transplants.

And for Julian to just risk it again and again by following the same perverse pattern of friendship followed by seduction followed by coldness, seemed to Noel just to be downright cruel. Noel felt very inadequate, more so than usual, and was struck by the feeling that he meant a lot less to Julian than Julian meant to him: a humiliating and terrifying thought.

Noel sat at the kitchen table as the night deepened, sipping his vodka and thinking about that day, and all the bitterness and anger he had fought to restrain that day slipped slowly away from him. He no longer felt like picking up the nearest chair and throwing it at something hard. He had done this in the past after similar events, and Julian merely withdrew further away from him, and it took an infinitely longer time for things to get back to normal when the issue was confronted. Noel knew now that he just had to wait, and not show Julian how hurt he was.

The anger had gone. But it left in its place a terrible sadness, which tightened Noel’s chest and suddenly made it difficult for him to breathe.

Julian turned his head to look at Noel, resting his left cheek on his own bare upper-arm as they lay in bed together, Julian on his stomach, Noel on his back. All was peaceful and quiet, in the early hours of the morning.

“You’re beautiful, Noel.”

Surprised, Noel began to laugh, and he pushed his sweat-damp hair slowly away from his forehead, keeping his eyes closed, “Whatever… shut up.”

He felt fingertips touch his face and stay there, gently stroking his cheek. He opened his eyes to be met with one of those Business stares. Julian had the oddest look on his face. After a minute like this, Julian murmured quietly.

“I mean it, you’re fucking gorgeous.”

Noel smiled despite himself, incredibly happy and grateful that Julian had said this. He didn’t wonder at the motives, and for a brilliant moment, he felt very wanted. “What? Who are you? Barry the flatterer?”

Julian laughed for him, at him, and Noel felt flushed with success as the brown eyes lit up. “Julian Barratt, we’ve met.” And drew Noel in for another kiss, pulling his body close with ease and keeping him under his arm.

Noel now felt stupid for thinking it would be any different this time, and saddenned that nothing had changed. He was confused as to whether Julian meant to keep doing this, or whether he was just plain cruel. Noel had never thought Julian capable of cruelty, but he was beginning to have doubts in this matter. He hated to think such a thing, an uneasy feeling of betrayal and guilt settled in the pit of his stomach: it made him feel sick at the thought. Or was that the vodka?

He didn’t know why this kept happening. Why did Julian keep doing this to him… why did he let it happen again and again? No, he knew why. He loved Julian, more than anything. He would do anything for him, and this was what kept getting him hurt. He was little fickle Bobby, kept being dazzled by the smile and the bright eyes, and wooed by the charm and the creamy voice…. and being tricked by how safe he felt with Julian. He was the happiest with himself when he was with Julian… he didn’t know why. He was probably more himself with Julian… he didn’t really know anymore. The promise of such acceptance, no matter what he did, how childish he was, how stubborn, was what kept bringing him back whenever Julian pulled at his waist, or held his hand, or rubbed against his leg.

Each time, each rejection, his heart broke a bit more.

Feeling a splash on his hand, Noel looked down vaguely. He was crying. He sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve, realising he must have been crying for some time. He felt so very stupid. Stupid and useless.

Noel jumped as he heard the rattle of keys and his front door flew open, revealing Mike looking about as excited as he ever looked. He ambled into the flat, preoccupied with putting his keys back in his jeans pocket and talking. “Noel? Can I borrow your big blue sleeping bag? Me and Pete are going camping tomorrow and I left mine in Egham the last time I went-”

Looking up, Mike suddenly caught sight Noel hastily trying to wipe the tears away from his cheeks. He stopped dead, shocked. Then he moved forwards at once towards his brother. “Noel? You alright? Noel, what’s wrong?” Obviously alarmed by the fact that tears were still streaking down Noel’s face, Mike’s startled expression betrayed concern.

But the closer Mike came to him, the less able Noel seemed to be able to stop crying. All the upset and sadness he felt came bubbling up through his chest, and he cried harder. Frustrated and helpless, he tried to smother these feelings, but they refused to be beaten this time. He tried to tell Mike he was fine, tried to retain some semblance of dignity, but he couldn’t choke the words out through his tears. Noel was absolutely mortified that he couldn’t stop crying, couldn’t even quiet his sobs… all he could do was sit there and wait for the weakness to pass, feeling Mike’s comforting hand gripping his arm. He covered his face with his hands, and attempted to breathe deeply, feeling his cheeks flushing red with embarrassment as he began to regain control of himself.

When he calmed down somewhat, he withdrew his hands and leaned his elbows on the table, trying to keep his breathing steady: he couldn’t look at Mike. “I’m fine.”

Mike, bless him, was completely confused, not being used to seeing his big brother cry, and did not remove his hand. “What happened? Did you and Dee have a fight?”

Noel looked up at him blankly. He tried to say no. He wanted so badly to tell Mike everything, about Julian, about what they did, about how shitty it was to be fucked around, about how much his chest ached when he thought about it… about how much he loved his best friend. He wanted to tell Mike, because he knew Mike would understand. Noel opened his mouth, but his throat was suddenly too tight to tell him: it was all he could do to swallow. So, instead, he sighed. It was so much easier this way.

“Yes,” he whispered, looking down at the table and thinking about Dee being in Belgium for the month. He was alone.

“Do you want me to get Julian?” Mike made a move towards the door, knowing from experience that if Noel was upset, Julian needed to be the first to hear about it. Mike might have been his brother, but the small-eyed Northerner was the one who knew Noel the best and would sort him out.

Noel panicked and nearly knocked over his glass as he flung his hands out. “No!”

Mike looked even more confused now, as he took in Noel’s rapid breathing and the tears standing out in his big blue eyes. He watched as Noel seemed to crumble once more, and slumped, defeated, in his chair. “I’m fine, Mike. Plus, Julian hasn’t slept much the past week, he’s knackered… and I really am fine: a cockney bitch-diamond, me. Hard as a bag of spanners.”

Mike had never been less convinced of anything in his life… not even Rich once claiming he had ruled a large portion of Nebraska before joining the Boosh, and that’s why they should show him respect.

Noel could feel Mike’s eyes on him, seeing straight through him. The boy had eyes like a jack of clubs, punching through his face. Just like Julian. He shifted uncomfortably, and played with his customized wrist-band nervously. Then suddenly, without a word, Mike turned and disappeared into Noel’s bedroom. A moment later, he had returned and shoved a large, brightly coloured poncho over Noel’s head before Noel could protest.

Noel laughed wetly, amused for a second. He looked up at his brother fondly, appreciating the useless gesture.

“Cheers, Mike,” he said quietly, wrapping an arm around Mike’s waist and squeezing him for a second. “I will be fine. You know what me and Dee are like.” He was lying through his teeth, and the words tasted foul on his tongue. “Now, fuck off so I don’t have to look at your ugly mush anymore.”

“Alright,” Mike shrugged. If he was anymore laid-back he’d be walking backwards. He wandered back into the bedroom again, and returned holding the sleeping bag he’d come round for.

“Where is it you’re camping at?” Noel was curious despite himself.

“Lake District. Home of Peter Rabbit.”

“He real?”

“Yeah, of course. Ask his mate, the Easter Bunny.”

Noel smiled weakly, but his eyes did twinkle a bit. “Bring me back a load of the hotel toiletries, won’t you?”

“Fuck off,” Mike called over his shoulder good-naturedly as he left the flat.

The smile slowly fell away from his face. Noel sat perfectly still, alone in the flat once again. He waited. Three minutes passed, then another four.

Nothing happened.

He pulled the poncho down over himself properly, as if that would have an effect. Secretly, innocently, he hoped it might. Nothing happened.

He waited all night, sitting in the dark and cold kitchen, the bottle of vodka his only friend (though he didn’t have the energy to drink any more of it). Noel thought about Julian, and how he would never be able to say no to him, and would never be satisfied by one night-stands with him. He knew that this was how it would be, until the end of their friendship or, probably sooner, their lives. He would always be tricked by Julian, and he would always come back for more.

He watched the sun rise to another day of loneliness. As it turns out, it was possible to be unhappy in a poncho.