Licking The Smell of Screaming

A series of vignettes, if you will. A snapshot fic, but I wanted to write one too.


Characters: ,





Length: words

Notes: Betaed by waqaychay

Licking The Smell of Screaming by crowson75

Speech: Talk & Talk Alike

Julian doesn’t speak much at all. His worries and his fears often end up being regurgitated down the toilet along with his breakfast. Or they come out in hurtful, dangerous comments. Julian always says the things that hurt the most. Not even Mike knows how to stab Noel where it hurts with such a keen aim.

Noel shouts back and hates it because he knows that something’s wrong. Something he doesn’t know. Something Julian won’t say. It annoys Noel, who comes from a family who talk about everything, that Julian can’t just say something. But he swallows those criticisms back because he knows that they won’t help. It doesn’t stop Noel looking at Julian and wondering if he’s okay. It doesn’t stop him from wondering whether he’s upset him or if he can help. Sometimes, he goes and cuddles up to Julian, when the older man’s face is pinched with worry and white with sadness. He drapes his body all over him, and somehow, hopes that the action will draw Julian’s words. He’d get him pissed, but that doesn’t work. It just makes Julian go quiet and then fall over.

Then, suddenly and normally somewhere grim, Julian will start talking. And Noel will sit and rehash every choked back scream and every interior monologue that has made him question why he spends so much time with Julian. At the end of it, Noel will sit and wonder why he didn’t know. Why he should know. If he should care. And then he will realise that he cares that Julian felt bad and he wants to share his worries. So he will, and he will talk and tell the big, protective, Yorkshire sausage in front of him that it’s okay. He’ll sit and promise that he’ll be there no matter what and he will know that it’s true. He wants to make it better, but both he and Julian know that sometimes he can’t.

Once Julian told him that he would cope with Julia leaving him as long as he had Noel to go to. Then he said that wasn’t sure if Julia would be able to console him if Noel left him instead. Julia once told him that she would hide if Noel stopped talking to Julian. Noel knows that Julian worries that it’s true. Knows that Julian worries that she might have the right idea. Noel doesn’t worry about that. He can’t. If he did, it would be like admitting that one day Julian wouldn’t be there. He doesn’t like to think about that, even if he knows that Julian does. He hates that Julian does. He loves that Julian does. That way, he can be breezy and tell Julian that it’ll all be okay until they both believe it. He wonders, if they do stop talking, whether Julian will share his survival plans with Noel. He doesn’t think Julian would. Noel doesn’t know how to hold grudges and Julian has so many. It scares him that one day he might become one of them. He fears the things that Julian won’t speak about and Noel doesn’t like to think about. Noel wonders who the coward is.

Noel speaks constantly. It’s sometimes so hard for Julian to pick the important bits out of the waterfall of words that hammer down on him on a daily basis. He sits and wonders if Noel knows how to sit still, or be quiet, or even just put his problems in order of importance.

It would be much easier if Julian knew what he had to listen for. Instead, he’s left groping in the dark, picking out one particular thing, only to find out weeks later that it was something else entirely that was driving Noel to distraction. It irritates Julian, who comes from a family who only speak when it’s important, that Noel can’t sometimes just get to the point. If there has to be smoke and mirrors with every single sentence. Why Noel doesn’t understand that saying that he hates Julian smoking just goes onto the list of things Noel said he hates today, along with yellow fruit pastilles, trainer socks and journalists who treat him like an idiot. How is Julian supposed to know which of those things is the most important? He would imagine it’s the last one, then find Noel throwing furniture because he bought a packet of fruit pastilles and it was entirely made up of yellow ones. And then, an hour later, Julian will find out that it was really because he’s been coughing all day and Noel is worried about him, because he hates that Julian smokes.

Then, suddenly and normally in a situation where he would expect Noel to shine, Julian will be greeted by silence. The usually loquacious young man will sit in silence, or pose and be moody. Then, slowly, Noel will take Julian’s hand and squeeze it. That’s all the hint Julian will get. Then, when he needs words to help, all he’ll get is silence. And Julian will do all he can do and wrap his arms around Noel and hold him tight. He’ll tell the skinny, loving Camden pop-tart in front of him that it’s okay. He’ll promise that he’ll smack anyone who hurts his mate and always be around for him, no matter what. He knows that it’s true, even though all he wants is to make everything better, and both he and Noel know that he can’t.

Once Noel told Julian that, if he lost his hair and Dee didn’t love him anymore, he’d be alright as long as he could come and tell his mate Ju all his nonsense. He told Julian that he didn’t like to think about what he’d do if he didn’t have Julian to talk to about evil foxes and how much he loved soup. Dee once said that she’d shave Noel’s eyebrows off if he tried telling her that shite. Julian suspects it’s true and that Noel won’t think about it. Noel will always say that things will turn out okay, somehow. Julian hates that he does. Julian loves that he does. That way, Julian won’t have to try and convince himself by saying it. He sometimes wonders whether, if something happened to them, Noel would share his secrets of positivism with Julian. He knows that Noel probably would, just like he knows that he’d never ask. Noel has no idea how to hold a grudge and Julian holds too many. It scares him that one day, Noel might become one of them. He fears the things that Noel will say in an avalanche of words and that Julian never will. Julian wonders who the coward is.

Smell: Catch The Breeze

Noel can remember the first time he kissed Julian. They’d been talking about it. Decided about it. They needed the moment of shock in the show, the shock of the kiss, the comedy of the kiss. Julian had stood to make an emergency cup of tea when Noel grabbed him. Julian looked at him with a worried expression, a hunted look. Noel didn’t want to think about whether Julian thought, just like lots of people did, that Noel fancied him. He just shut his eyes, opened his mouth, just a little, and leaned in. He didn’t even realise he’d stopped breathing until their lips touched. He breathed in through his nose as Julian’s tongue slipped between his lips. And there it was, the full-on Barrett olfactory experience. He’d thought it at the time and almost wanted to push Julian away, just to tell him that he was capable of thinking of words like olfactory.

There were cigarettes first. The tang that was impossible to ignore. Noel has been known to have a ciggy when someone’s there and offering. Kissing Julian was like that; something that embraced you, warmed you from the inside out, calmed you and then left you feeling a little bit dirty. He could taste as well as smell the cigarettes. The rough and smoky thickness over Julian’s tongue. It made his tongue a bit dry, like strong tea.

“That was fine,” Noel said, breaking the kiss, his arms still looped around Julian’s shoulders. “I wasn’t expecting you to slip me the tongue, though.” The last few words were said in a breathless rush and he looked at Julian, watched him blushing and leaned in to kiss him again. Then he inhaled. There was the faint scent of cucumber from somewhere. Noel had never thought of Julian as a cucumber man. Another smell and there was soap and, perhaps, talcum powder. He giggled against Julian’s lips as he thought of the older man appearing from a talc haze.

“What?” Julian said, licking his lips as he looked at Noel’s.

“Sorry,” Noel said, smiling with guilt. “I was having an embarrassed moment. Let’s go again.”

“Do we have to?” Julian blushed a bit and shuffled his feet.

“If we can’t do it here and now without giggling, how are we going to manage onstage?” Noel worried that he might be being a bit gay.

“Since when has that ever bothered us?” Julian asked, even though it was he who was the master of the controlled cock-up.

“Bothers me, Ju.” Noel dropped his head and looked up at Julian through his fringe. He counted down from ten silently in his head. He’d reach about seven, he reckoned. Ten…. Nine…. Eight…. Seven…. Minus seven-ish….

“Alright.” Julian huffed, then grasped Noel’s face between his hands and kissed him properly. Really, truly, properly. Noel wasn’t aware of breathing, but he had a sense of sandalwood and fresh coffee. It was strong, intoxicating, and he wasn’t sure how much of it was in his head. He had a caffeine buzz. Julian’s tongue was scouring his mouth, warm and light against his lips. It felt like he was being scorched in a really nice way. He sighed and breathed in. Perhaps a hint of perspiration and the coffee again. Sandalwood, then, as Julian’s arms moved and he pulled Noel’s backside inwards, pulling him flush against Julian’s groin. Noel began counting in his head again. He reckoned he could make it to five without getting a stiffy.

Ten…. Nine…. Eight…. Six.… Oh, fuck, seven.… Si… Fi….

“How was that?”

Noel tried very hard not to sag against Julian’s body with relief. He nodded.

“Fine,” he said in a voice that belonged to someone who spoke quietly and a bit croakily. “Good.”

Julian smiled at him. “Want to try again?” He licked a section of his top lip and then left his tongue there. The voice in Noel’s head shaved off its hair and got all shouty to stop him from staring at it.

“I think we’ve got the hang of it,” Noel replied, feeling a bit shell-shocked. He tried to stick the hair back on the voice in his head. That was.… “The voice in my head has hair.”

“Of course it does,” Julian said laconically, turning ‘round to put the kettle on again. “It’s yours.”

“Oh, yeah,” Noel said vaguely. “I think it smells of sandalwood, too.” He watched Julian’s shoulders hunch then relax. When Julian turned, he was smiling.

“He’s got good taste.” Julian turned back and carried on making the tea.

Touch: When I think about you….

The first time a man kissed him, Julian was in Glasgow. The man came over and called him Joolzy, even though they’d never met before that precise moment. Then, the man had proceeded to talk about the fairly average stand-up routine Julian had just done as if he’d just re-invented the bread slicer. Whilst he did so, the man kept up a fairly constant stream of seemingly lazy, accidental touches. By the time the Scotsman’s hand had brushed his crotch accidentally for the third time, Julian had decided that he was okay with it. In fact, he was thinking that if the guy would like to touch it a bit more, Julian was willing to unzip his trousers in order to help. He thought it was the accent that did it.

Afterwards, lying alone in a hotel bed after wanking himself almost into fitful sleep, Julian realised that he wasn’t panicking about the right things. Or maybe he was. It had concerned him that the man would know that he was the first. The realisation that his sexuality had suddenly become quite a bit fuzzier round the edges than he was expecting… well, he couldn’t be arsed to worry about that. He was concerned that he couldn’t remember changing his underwear that morning. The fact that he had been given a handjob by a merry Scotsman in the grubby alley behind a comedy club wasn’t so worrying to him. Though he was worried that the club might have CCTV and not hire him again for having sex outside. Also, there was a certain way of sleeping with girls, determining if they were a girlfriend or a casual shag. There was an agreement that he would have a say in what the result was. That was gone; the Scotsman had taken the choice from him and now, Julian couldn’t help but wonder why. What had he done wrong?

Julian had bought the bloke a drink after the handjob, just to say thank you. He’d tried to avoid looking at the bulge in the man’s trousers. In the end, Julian had nodded, walked to the gents, and willingly partaken in a clinch that ended with the man coming up the sleeve of his jumper. Julian wouldn’t have liked the sensation of spunk up his armhole at any point, really. He couldn’t say that was sexy. The fact that the man had collapsed onto him and, finally, whispering against Julian’s neck with his breath smelling of lager and rough cigarettes, had introduced himself as Jim… that was sexy. Julian had looked into Jim’s vulnerable-looking blue eyes and kissed him with a passion that surprised them both. Them and the man who had walked into the gents at that moment. Only for a split second, though. Then the shouting had starting. Julian had pushed Jim behind him and waved his arms around, backing out of the gents and the pub, apologising loudly for being English. It was a diversionary tactic that he had hoped would stop anyone noticing the spunk on his sleeve and fresh, still-damp love-bite on his neck. When he had got outside the pub, he had noticed Jim’s swollen, kiss-flushed lips and his open trousers and blushed.

“Come back to the hotel for a drink?” Julian had taken Jim’s hand and started walking, so sure he was of Jim’s answer.

“No, thank you,” Jim had replied, slipping his hand from Julian’s fingers. “Let’s go get a cab; we’ll drop you off at your hotel first.”

They had sat in silence as the taxi drove Julian back to his travel inn. He’d tried to take Jim’s hand when he said goodbye. Jim had just patted Julian on the knee and told him to let him know next time he was in town. Julian had agreed and watched the taxi drive away, realising he hadn’t got Jim’s number or anything. It had suddenly felt a bit sordid. He had to run back to his hotel room with a rapidly stiffening dick as the thought took hold, spread, and then had babies.

Julian told Noel about it one day after a daft bickery conversation about the Noel and Russell show. He got more and more nervous as Noel got quieter and quieter as the conversation progressed. Noel looked at him with those blue eyes, and Julian inwardly swore at himself.

“Weird.” Noel offered as a starter. He scootched up the seat a bit until his thigh touched Julian’s. “But… I never realised that, well. Everyone would think it was me who… It doesn’t matter, you know that, right?”

“What doesn’t?” Julian asked with a grin that suggested he was enjoying watching Noel dig a large hole.

“Fucker,” Noel grinned. “I still love you, even though you give random blokes handjobs for taxi fare.”

“Well, I didn’t mean it to…” Julian found his lips being squished together by flat fingers with painted black nails.

“He was a twat.”

Sight: Seeing is Believing

One of the unwritten rules of the comedy circuit was that if someone came to see you, you went to see them. Especially if they came back to see you after the show and offered you a drink. In retrospect, perhaps refusing it was a breach of etiquette. Noel had spent the best part of the year going to and from doctors and specialists, in and out of hospital. One thing still lingered; he was told not to drink. Etiquette was the last thing on his mind.

“It’s funny the people you meet when you’re touring,” the comedian said, grinning. He’d been to see the Boosh at this very theatre the day before. He’d been nice to their faces and teased Noel good-naturedly for not drinking. “Went to see the Boosh the other day. Funny name that, the Boooosh. Don’t know if you’ve seen them? The big Northern bloke and his little girlfriend—I mean his sidekick—the transsexual. Doesn’t drink, that one. Won’t touch a drop. Probably can’t handle it, more like. ‘Ew, it’s alcohol.’“ The comedian fell on the floor.

Someone in the crowd shouted “poof”. The comedian laughed and got up.

“Tosser, more like. Perhaps I’m not metrosexual enough. I need more manscara and yoga, clearly. What happened to men being men..?” The comedian carried on to a diatribe on the evils of the new man.

Silently, somewhere near the back of the room, Julian Barratt thumped the arm of his seat. Noel turned to him sharply. He could see Julian’s short fingernails digging into his palms. Noel reached out to his friend and put a hand on his arm. He’d been pretending to find the whole thing funny, smiling and blushing, tracing the seams of his jeans with his thumbnail. He didn’t know if anyone was convinced, but he was suddenly very aware that Julian wasn’t.

“Fucking wanker,” Julian muttered, beginning to stand up. Noel almost leapt on top of him to keep him seated.

“It’s alright, Ju, leave it,” Noel whispered urgently. The comedian on stage was probably drawing to the end of his set, judging from the time.

“Leave it?” Julian hissed, sitting down and turning to face Noel. “Leave it? Who does that bastard think he is? You don’t deserve that, Noel. There were reasons why you turned him down. You even fucking told him, though fuck knows why you should have to explain yourself to that useless shithead. It’s not your fault he’s a classic fucking knob end who thinks manliness evolves from beer consumption. He deserves a smack in the fucking teeth.” Julian was spitting with fury by the end of his diatribe, his teeth clamped shut with the barest gap through which to talk.

For a few seconds, Noel was silenced by Julian’s vehemence. Then he realised that Julian had got up and legged it towards the exit. If they hadn’t played here the day before, Julian wouldn’t have known how to get backstage and that was, most definitely, where he was headed. In order to get there, Julian, and Noel who was running after, had to approach the stage. The comedian must of caught sight of them as he said goodnight to the crowd. It might have been Noel’s imagination, but he swore that the comedian paled slightly. He ran from the stage and Julian, faster, caught him as he reached the wings. By the time that Noel had caught up with Julian, the comedian was pushed up against the wall, his feet dangling.

“Ju, put the nice man down,” Noel said softly, pulling at Julian’s shoulder. He could feel the muscles beneath his hands straining and tensing. For a moment, the thirteen year old girl in Noel thought ooh, strong, before he dismissed it in a manly fashion.

“Why?” Julian asked, rocking slightly as the comedian’s manager ran over and began to pull at his arm.

“It was a joke?” the comedian suggested.

“Not a very fucking good one.” Julian pulled the comedian away from the wall a little and then slammed him back against it.

“Okay, that’s fair enough,” the comedian offered.

“And I don’t want you to waste your energy smacking him,” Noel said, stroking Julian’s shoulders. “Please, Ju. Him having a go at me just made him sound like a wanker. Everyone who isn’t a fucking beered-up moron out there thinks so, you know that. And if they are beered-up morons, they probably hate me anyway. So let ‘em.”

“Fucking exactly.” Julian dropped the comedian, who was so surprised that he landed on his arse. Hard. Without wishing to, Noel smiled a bit. Then Julian was grabbing his shoulders and pushing him backwards. This was wrong, wasn’t it? It wasn’t Noel who had… whatever. “Noel, you were fucking ill. That doesn’t mean that wankers like him get to have a go at you for it.”

Noel blinked, uncomfortable at having his reasons for trying to break up the fight questioned. He looked at Julian, realising suddenly that he was big and tall. And he was willing to smack this bloke just for making a few poor jokes about Noel. He knew his response. He threaded his arms under Julian’s jacket and clasped his hands when his arms had encircled his friend. He laid his head against Julian’s chest and heard the heartbeat thump angrily in his chest.

“Wah?” Julian muttered, before he rested his cheek against Noel’s hair.

“He’s already called me your girlfriend, Ju,” Noel said, snuggling against Julian’s chest firmly. “It’s a get out of jail free card. You could fuck me and he can’t say a thing because he’s exhausted that joke already.” Noel felt rather than heard Julian’s chuckle. “And I wanted to say thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Julian said softly, wrapping his arms around Noel. They sighed and matched their over-dramatic breathing for a few moments. “There’s no way I’m going to scare him again enough to chin him, now, is there?” Julian asked, not waiting for an answer. “You sneaky bugger,” he said, squeezing Noel in his arms.

Best gag of the night, Noel thought, grinning.

Sound: Hear Me

Noel has been known to ring Julian twelve times a day. That’s normally when Julian has dropped off the face of the earth and Noel is looking for him. If Julian just answered, Noel would shut the hell up and stop ringing. It’s because he doesn’t that he won’t.

“It’s twelve ‘o’ clock. I thought we were supposed to be working today. You’ve normally told me to get my bony arse out of bed by now. I take it working’s off. Give me a call, yeah?”

“That call a while ago? That was me, Noel. Just in case you couldn’t tell. Except you’ve got my number in your phone… does that work on voicemail? It doesn’t, does it? Well, whatever. It was me. Just in case you wondered, like.”

“Sorry, mate, I’ve just got to tell you this… I have just seen a bloke wandering around Charing Cross with a ferret on his shoulder. He’s like the pirate of the rodent world. Long John Rodent, with a ferret on his arm and rats in his pockets. If you made him walk the plank, yeah, his little ferrets would probably make themselves into a life raft and swim him to shore. And if he ever loses his trousers, he can have living clothing. Oh! I asked him what it was called, yeah? And he said it was Derek. Derek the Ferret!… Ferrets are rodents, aren’t they?”

“Dee’s just told me that she and Sue are somewhere or fucking other to record next weekend. If you’re up for it, we can work on the script then, yeah? If you’ve turned up by then, of course. Is it nice on your planet?”

“Me again. We’ve been asked to go to the NME awards in a few days. Do you wanna go? I have got to warn you that the Cure are playing. It might be a bit gothy for your tastes. That probably means no, doesn’t it? I’ll call Mike and Dave later.”

“Guess who I’ve just been speaking to? Nah, go on, guess. You’ll never guess.”

“Ju, ‘s me, Noel, again. I hope you realise that, because you haven’t turned up, I’ve got dragged into doing the stuff we’re supposed to do when we have time? I’m going to try and email you some stuff. Might work or not really. Who knows? But, erm… well, when you’re about, I’ll tell you what I sent. If I remember. None of it’s that important but it’s all the decisiony type things. And I want to scare you with fanmail.”

“‘M takin’ Dee to the pictures. If you phone, don’t call for two or three hours.”

“Out of the pictures now. Got your text. Fuck off.”

“Someone’s just given me a cocktail that tastes of sherbet. Really. I feel quite pissed and I’ve only had one.”

“Do you want to do Comic Relief? They’ve asked us to present Top of the Pops. D’you wanna? I sent an email but just in case… I’m on my way home now. I wasn’t in the mood for drinking, really. Bit of a slow night and there was no one interesting there. They told me that the press are waiting for me, too. I don’t care really. I think it might be starting to piss Dee off. She doesn’t say anything; well, not much point is there? And if it’s in the papers, then at least she knows that I’m not cheating or whatever. Not that there’s any likelihood of that happening. You know that. Still, I just… is it bad that the Groucho’s like my local? Fuck, Ju.”

“Home now. Had a glass of wine with Dee. Feel a bit sick now. We working tomorrow? Let me know. Night.”

Julian listens to the messages and grins. He deletes them one by one and makes mental notes of what he might need to ask about. Noel won’t be up for another five or so hours, so he calls, hoping that Noel remembered to turn his phone off before he went to bed.

“I’ll be at the office later on. Come by when you’re awake. If you’re hungover, I will smack you. Bye.”

Taste: Sweet and Sour