Not So Very Different

Julian confesses his love after the most extreme act of desperation and it turns out the two of them aren't so different after all.


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Genre: , ,


Warning: ,


Length: words

Notes: *triggering* Countains themes of suicide and self injury

Not So Very Different by TheCatInTheTree

He tried to lie still. This wasn’t his style; he had always been the calm one, the sensible one, always the same, always dependable. And now here he was. He thought that there were people sitting at the edge of the bed, but he didn’t open his eyes, didn’t even move. His arms hurt. His stomach and chest hurt. Even breathing hurt, the very air seeming to rasp against his throat. He could still taste vomit, alcohol and tobacco, but it didn’t seem to matter. Everything blurred so he let his mind drift. Rosey and Bauer, that had been fun.

The two of them sat perched uncomfortably on a sofa, hands holding, and yet tweaked up to a strangely formal, comical position. But it was fun, finishing each other’s sentences, synchronised movements. Surreal, and yet so strangely appealing. Noel perched up on the table, close to him, another occasion, the two standing side by side. Most men would have called it too close for comfort, but for them it was barely close enough.

The memory of slicked back hair and beige suits faded, the room flickered back into perspective, and Noels face filled the corner of his vision, drawn and pale. Paler than usual. It almost seemed as though the effeminate man had gone translucent and quiet overnight. He seemed to have dressed relatively simply, dark jeans and a loose grey cardi. He could almost have passed for normal, at a stretch. A very extreme stretch. But it didn’t matter, because now he had a hold on me, hands careful not to touch my wrists, or to interfere with the drip and the bandages. My bandages, a concept i was almost entirely unable to grasp. This was Noel’s thing; it should be Julian instead, sat at the side of the bed, translucent and tired. And yet it wasn’t. He couldn’t bear to lock gazes with his friends just yet, so he looked down at his hands, and instantly regretted it. The white bandages tightly woven about his wrists, almost as though they were holding his hands on, and scarlet flashes, reminding him why. Why he was there at all. The questions would come soon enough and he would have to answer them.

Curled up in the sheets alone, both arms aching and stinging, wrapped tightly in gauze, bandages, savlon and butterfly strips. He was wearing an old tee shirt and his underwear, allowing him more than enough of a view of himself if he wanted it. That was why he had hidden himself beneath the covers. He couldn’t pretend nothing had happened, pretend his muscles ached after a long run or a hard day’s work. But he couldn’t fool himself for ever. Noel bought his legs up and wrapped his arms around his knees. Turning he sat himself up in bed, rainbow sheets pooled in his lap. And almost comically, the scene from “Sweet” crossed his mind.

He and Julian, sat side by side in bed, jeans on, legs hidden. Noel in the vespa helmet and Julian with the mostly empty bottle of “jack daniels”. They had debated between scenes what had happened between the punch in the pub and the final scene with the helmet and the nipple clamps to connect the too. It had been a fun time, neither of them moving much, just slumping on each other during takes. Talking, comfortable.

Noel pushed it from his mind, it was in the past, they had both been young, prepared to do just about anything for a laugh, including pretending to shag thin air. And now he wouldn’t, because that involved exposing the body he had created for himself, overly thing and matted with cuts and scars, a self made tapestry of pain.

Noel looked down on his friend; he seemed to be paler than normal, weak and fragile. His hair lay in a lank spray on the pillow and even the act of opening his eyes seemed to be an almost impossible task. He suddenly half wondered, somewhat guiltily, if he had ever looked that way. Pale and lost and hurting. The sheets seemed to have been rent open in places, splashed as they were with bright scarlet blood. The question on his lips was the biggest cliché he could have thought of, he knew it was a hateful thing to be asked. But waiting for it was worse, it was something which had to be asked. Especially since this was Julian, solid, brave dependable Julian. Always there to get him out of a scrape. But the words half jammed in his throat and came our as more of a strangled sob than he had intended. “Why Ju? Why did you do it?”

He had always know that question was coming, he had asked it of Noel himself so many times, and most of the time it was accidental, it was Noel. It had never been like this. This was something new. Are you sure you want to know? The unspoken question hung between them, and ever the double act Noel nodded, Julian’s gaze had said it all. Julian coughed to clear his sandpaper throat and Noel was there instantly, holding a cup of water to his lips so as he could drink from it. And for this Julian was immensely grateful, his throat less sandpaper, the blackness from the edges of his vision gone. Carefully, choosing his words before he communicated them he started to speak. “Do you remember that first night i found you?”…

It had been a night like any other for Julian Barret. Noel had declined to come out, claiming he felt unwell, and although Julian partially suspected it was a comedown he didn’t push the matter. He just rang up Dave, Rich and Mike instead. Mike had declined, he was having an evening in, but Dave and Rich, bored and single had nothing better to do, and so the three of them had gone to the local, slumping themselves on barstools with their drinks, and as the evening quietened down, chatting to Doug and Dee-day, pub landlords and a nice pair of blokes. Noel often talked about how he wanted to get them in the show, but nothing had come of it yet. Something would though, because however briefly Noel might mention something Julian committed it to heart and saved it away. He hadn’t expected anything to happen, but then his phone had buzzed across the bar, the vibrations horrifically loud in the relatively quiet room, and so he had snatched it up, if only so his palm would smother the vibration noise. But then he had realised the display read “Michael” he hadn’t changed it from when they first met and he was just: Noel’s little brother. So without thinking he had hit answer and his evening had gone downhill from there.

It had ended with the group of them sat in a hospital corridor, taking it in turns to sit in with Noel, watching, or holding his hand carefully around the bandages and the drip. Julian’s world had been shattered, and at the first opportunity he had hit Google to see what it was, why he did it. And more importantly what he, Julian could do to help. But it wasn’t meant to be, stood in front of the mirror he tried to shave as his hand shook; Noel was asleep in the other room, Julian having offered to keep an eye on him. A particularly violent tremor caused him to nick the skin on the underside of his chin, and for a moment he just stood there, the rush of endorphins and pain went straight to his head as he watched the tiny ruby swell and then burst. Almost without thinking he angled the razor, holding it above his arm. The pain had been amazing, the endorphin rush lost, and he had covered it quickly with a plaster and paid no further thought to it. It wasn’t something he could understand, but he could try to help.

Noel seemed to him to be sat almost unnaturally rigid in a chair. No one was speaking, so to fill the silence Julian reached a shaking hand up, and although he slopped more of it down himself he managed to bring the cup to his lips and drink a little. Without words Noel removed the cup from his grasp, helping him to drink more carefully, less water slopped over the side this time although Noel appeared to be shaking slightly too. “I just wanted to know.” He admitted, “Wanted to know what it did for you, because i couldn’t understand, didn’t realise.”

And he hadn’t. Hadn’t had any idea that one scratch would lead to another, experimental, a bad day leading to maybe two or three in one go, until there was no skin left, and the slightest touch drove him to shrink back and swallow the pain. And yet that was part of the appeal, because every brush of cloth pained, and helped. It was too fucked for words, and yet somehow it worked. He knew Noel would understand would help. But he had stopped, hadn’t he?

Almost shaking Noel carefully shrugged the cardi off, not so stopped after all then it seemed, just more subtle than ever before. Julian half supposed he should have noticed. But somehow you become wrapped in yourself, your problems. No-one else really exists. “Don’t touch me…” Noel quipped sadly, “Don’t ever touch me.” Julian completed. But it was more than all that. Wanting to know what made Noel tick hadn’t driven him to take to the bath with his vodka and his pills. Wanting Noel had made that happen.

He knew the routine off by heart, Julian thought morosely, sinking into the bath. The phone call, or the discovery, the ambulance, flashing lights and panic. And always the same result. Accidental overdose. Well there would be nothing accidental about this. He grabbed the bottle, swigging from it and wincing as it hit his throat like a hobnailed boot. Painful, sickening, burning a fiery trail from his mouth to his stomach. Perhaps he could ring Noel before he went, tell him the truth. Tell him that he loved him and he couldn’t live with that, because there was no real reciprocation. They were only friends after all. That was all they ever would be, each white pill made his stomach heave, the taste on his tongue residing, long after the last one was gone. He rang Noel and it went to answer phone, but he was secretly glad. “I love you, I’m sorry.” Then he put the phone down, dropped it into the bath, and drew the blade across his veins for good measure. As the water clouded red and his consciousness slipped away he heard a loud banging on his door. “Not now…” he murmured to the empty room, “I’m in the bath.” He had woken up again in hospital, dreaming of Rosey and Bauer.

Noel sat perfectly still, barely aware that he was still holding Julian’s hand for support. He had loved him all along? He supposed it made some kind of sense, they were more similar than they seemed after all. “Rosey?” He began, using the character name of the only two who had ever openly seemed to be a couple. “Yes Bauer?” Came the answer, Julian was playing along. Noel cleared his throat nervously; he didn’t know what to say. “You didn’t really believe i could make the same mistake that many times did you?” Finally he met Julian’s gaze, or maybe Julian met his, it didn’t much matter. “Not really Bauer, no.” Came the reply. As gently as he could, Noel rose without letting go of Julian’s hand, and he leant forwards, using his other hand to steady himself until they were practically nose to nose. The unspoken dialogue flowered between them.

Are you sure?


And then Noel leant forwards and their lips touched, they kissed gently, almost chastely. The lingering softness of a mother for a child, and the lost intensity of lovers separated for too long.

The kiss broke and each looked carefully into the others eyes, then Julian moved across slightly and Noel slid his thin frame onto the hospital bed, lying on top of the covers he rested his head on Julian’s shoulder. The other man carefully put an arm round him, holding him tight, “Bauer?” he said, unwilling to accept reality. Noel didn’t mind, their own surreal world would suit him just fine. “Yes Rosey?” It seemed almost like acting, separated them from the issues at hand.

“If I try to help you get better, will you try to help me?” It was a foolish question really, but Noel made sure he could see Julian’s face when he spoke. “Of course i will Rosey.” And the older man smiled, exhausted. At last he let his eyes flicker closed, and Noel felt safe to do so too. There would be time for love, and kisses, long conversations and above all else recovery, but now was not the time, now was the waiting time. “Julian?” He said softly, receiving a murmur of ascent, “I love you too.”

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