Category: Real Person Fic
Pairing: Julian Barratt/Other
Length: 1-5k words
Out of the Blue by beedekka
Julian watched as members of the production team moved around in the corner of the car park, rigging all manner of lights and camera equipment up. He scratched the back of his hand awkwardly and tried to think where he recognised the bloke standing by the stairwell door from. He felt like he knew him, but there was something odd about him that he couldn’t put his finger on. It didn’t help that the man was angled so Julian couldn’t see his face properly. He wondered if he just knew him as a member of the crew on a previous job… To his embarrassment, the mysterious stranger suddenly looked up, catching Julian staring right at him. Julian looked away quickly, but he’d already seen that the man had clearly recognised him and was on his way over.
Bollocks, Julian thought. He hoped that the bloke would give away how they knew each other straight away, or he was going to have to appear like an arrogant idiot and ask. Trust Noel to have wandered off somewhere just at the very moment when he could have done with his input!
“Hiya, I’m Michael. It’s nice to meet you,” the man said warmly as he arrived in front of Julian, holding his hand out to shake.
Michael, Northern Irish, we haven’t met before…
Mercifully Julian realised who he was speaking to. It was Michael Smiley. Of course. Thinking he was a member of the crew had been the mistake that had prevented him from recognising the other comic. That, and the fact that his hair was a different colour to the one Julian seemed to remember seeing him have before.
“Hello,” Julian replied, “I’m pleased to meet you, too.” As they shook hands, he could feel the heat coming off Michael’s palm, warming up his own cold fingers. He felt his thumb brush over a big metal ring, as well, as hot as the hand it was attached to. Unusual. He couldn’t feel if it was stoned or not. Then he realised they’d been shaking hands for ages. Julian let go, embarrassed again, but Michael’s expression was living up to his name and he didn’t appear to have thought that anything strange had happened.
“Michael!” Noel’s exclamation heralded his reappearance, and Julian stepped out of the way as he rushed over, latte in hand, and gave Michael a friendly hug.
“Hiya, you – I haven’t seen you in fucking ages!” Michael said, narrowly dodging the slop of coffee which spilled over the side of Noel’s takeaway cup.
“Ooops, sorry. You can’t take me anywhere,” Noel apologised. “What’s going on with those glasses? You look like Dr Mengele.”
“Ah, they’re not mine. Do they make me look like an intellectual psychopath? I think that’s supposed to be the plan.”
“Well, Mengele was certainly a psychopath,” Noel answered.
“I don’t think he did have glasses, though, did he? Some of the others did, but not him,” said Michael, frowning.
“Does the psycho-style also explain the hair?”
“A bit. I’ve gone natural anyway for another straight role.”
“Straight,” Noel smirked, “that’ll be convincing!”
“Oh, you’re so clever and funny – why am I not in love with you already?” Michael joked back in a faux-camp voice. “No, people see the bleach now and they think of ‘Tyres’, so I don’t tend to have it like that unless I’m doing stand up and I want people to think of me being funny.”
“You, funny? That’s not very convincing, either,” Noel replied gleefully.
“Will you shut up suggesting that I’m shit in front of everybody,” Michael grinned. “How do you put up with this all the time?”
There was a small pause before Julian twigged that Michael was speaking to him.
“Oh, er – I take drugs,” he replied, hoping that the gag would cover up for his dullard behaviour. He’d stopped paying attention to the content of the conversation a few sentences previously when he’d realised, to his surprise, that he felt a twinge of envy at Noel for knowing Michael well enough to banter with him, and to embrace him…
“Julian, how is it we’ve never spoken before now?” Michael asked suddenly. “It feels like I spent months following you around the circuit a year or so back, but we were never on at the same place on the same night!”
“There must have been a policy about never having two tall comics on the bill at the same time,” Julian responded, “I’ve never met Paul Tonkinson either.”
“Ha, substitute Paul for Scott Capurro and ‘tall’ for ‘gay’ and I’ll believe it!” said Michael.
Julian grimaced, that was the probable reason.
“Do you want to get some coffee?” Michael enquired, gesturing at Noel’s cup. “There’s a food trailer parked up somewhere at the other end of this place…”
“Er, yeah, that would be nice. It’s a lot colder down here than I thought it was going to be,” Julian replied.
“It’s a great place to film; a basement car park. Usually people are only there long enough to arrive, leave, or be mugged – but now we get to spend the whole day in this damp, disused one!”
“Is Nick here yet?” Noel asked.
“He’s in wardrobe.”
“I’m going to go and say hello. Has he got evil glasses too?”
“Evil glasses and an evil mind,” Michael laughed. “He was trying to get me to put on one of the balaclavas and do ‘my terrorist voice’ earlier. So, I told him to put it on instead and do his ‘gimp voice’. He was worryingly believable!”
Noel’s eyes widened. “I don’t think I want to find him now; gimps freak me out a little bit.”
Julian smiled. “Nick’s like a British Rich Fulcher, isn’t he?”
“I’d never thought of that. Now you say it…” Michael agreed, catching Julian’s gaze as he did so. “You’re a perceptive guy, Julian.”
Julian felt himself colour slightly. That wasn’t a compliment he often received.
“Come on then,” Michael continued, patting down all three pockets of the coat he was wearing before producing a battered tin of tobacco from one of them and holding it up in front of him. “Caffeine and nicotine beckon.”
Then he strode off, leaving Julian standing there looking after him, still slightly too slow in comparison to the speed of the conversation. Julian had started to wonder whether it really was him being backwards or if Michael was just one of those people who lived life a touch faster than everybody else.
“…really nice guy. Hey, cloth-ears!” Noel’s voice cut into the thought.
“What?” Julian turned to him.
“I think you need that coffee, Ju. You’re a bit all over the place today. I said you should get to know Mike a bit, he’s one of life’s nice guys…” Noel paused before adding, “and he’s single.”
“Oh, er, I’m not really looking, Noel – you know that,” Julian replied.
“‘Not looking’ like you ‘weren’t looking’ at his arse just then when he walked away?” Noel asked, arching an eyebrow teasingly.
“No I wasn’t… was I?” Julian scrunched up his brow in response.
Noel laughed and nodded his head. “Well follow him, then. Or he’ll get the wrong idea.”
Julian pushed his hair back self-consciously, then did as he was told.
Over by the refreshment trailer, Michael was already getting a drink when Julian caught up.
“Sorry, Noel asked me something,” Julian apologised, helping himself to a polystyrene cup from the counter.
“Ah, I thought you might have been hanging back to check out my rear view.”
Julian was glad Michael wasn’t looking at him when he said that, because he was sure his reaction was an absolute picture. He went for the joke response, “Actually we both were, and a crowd of other onlookers. You should’ve turned round, it was quite a moment.”
“You flatter me – I’d have been happy with just your attention,” Michael countered.
Julian couldn’t help colouring-up again. “You do everything quite fast, don’t you?”
“Not everything…” Michael answered pointedly. “But, yes, mainly. Life’s too short to shilly around, Julian. I like to go on first impressions. You’re not just a name on last night’s poster now; you’re the attractive guy I’ve just met. Sit down?” he asked, indicating a sorry-looking plastic patio table and chairs set up by the side of the trailer.
“Um, yeah,” said Julian, grabbing a plastic spoon to go with the ensemble.
“You probably think I’m being too forward, don’t you?” Michael asked, dropping his tobacco on the table and settling down into one of the chairs.
“Maybe,” Julian said, sitting down more gingerly in the other chair, not quite trusting it to bear human weight. “You’re the opposite of me in that respect.”
“Are you like that in your act, too?” Michael suddenly enquired, “…reserved?”
Julian was surprised at how personal their conversation had become, so quickly. He also knew that by now he’d usually be backing right away from situations like this. God, I really must fancy him. Julian realised he wasn’t feeling inclined to back off now, at all. Instead, he stirred his coffee and answered the question.
“Understated might be the better word.”
“Understated. I’ve never quite mastered the art of that one,” Michael smiled. He’d rolled a cigarette in the thirty seconds since they’d sat down, and Julian hadn’t really seen how he’d managed it. Michael tapped the roach end on the table and looked straight at Julian.
“What we said earlier on, about why we hadn’t met before. That just makes me want to get up there and make it that little bit more obvious to everyone: ‘Yeah, that’s right, I’m the gay one tonight.’ Then watch the audience split into an unequal two – the people who like that, and the wankers.” Michael punctuated his sentence by lighting the cigarette with a flourish.
“I’ve always thought of it as three,” Julian replied carefully. “They split into three: the people who like that; the wankers; and the people who don’t care either way. And they’re the ones you want to concentrate on. The first group are predisposed to like you anyway, the second aren’t worth your breath, but that last group is where your marker level is – if you sell your act to them you’ll ace the gig. If you don’t, you’re dying on your arse. Whether you like fucking men or women becomes largely irrelevant.”
Michael exhaled a long stream of smoke into the air above their heads, before speaking again. “For the second time this morning: you’re a perceptive guy, Julian.”
This time, Julian didn’t blush at the comment, but he did clarify himself. “I don’t know that I am right. It’s just how I think of it – ‘Be funny first.’ A funny man… a funny gay man, a funny woman, whatever. Without that first bit you just don’t matter to your audience at all.”
Julian took a sip of coffee and watched Michael smoke for a minute, his thoughts falling into an odd mixture of memories of past gigs and past lovers. It was the first time he’d ever shared his idea about sex and stand up with someone, and he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was about Michael in particular that had elicited it from him so casually. It did occur to him that he was already thinking of them as being lovers, though; talking like this, laughing together… kissing.
Michael appeared to be happy just to watch him back, pursuing his own thought patterns until he’d finished the cigarette. Having done so, he flicked it away from him onto the dirty car park floor, before fixing his eyes on Julian’s and flashing him a crooked smile.
“Were you just thinking about what it would be like to kiss me?” he asked.
Julian smiled back, resisting the urge to look away guiltily. “Actually, yes I was,” he admitted.
“Ah, you see…” Michael grinned even more broadly, “I can be pretty perceptive too. And I have to say that everything we’ve said to, and seen of, each other so far today is telling me that we definitely need to pay each other some more attention.”
“Are you going to make me a proposal?” Julian asked.
“Yeah, after we’re done with this shoot today, do you want to come out with me and share more of your philosophies on life, maybe hear some of mine?”
“And then find out what it is like to kiss you?”
Michael inhaled sharply, “Hell, you can find that out right now if you want to…”
“Then yes,” Julian answered, “yes to both parts.”