The Importance of Brand
Category: Real Person Fic
Characters: Julian Barratt, Mike Fielding, Noel Fielding, Russell Brand
Pairing: Noel Fielding/Julian Barratt
Length: 1-5k words
The Importance of Brand by elfin
He’s all angles—straight lines and sharp points. An oblong torso. Set squares for arms—hands on his hips, acute angles at his shoulders, elbows obtuse. Rulers for legs. Hair like a child scribbled a thousand lines in black ink on his head. His face is made up of triangles and diamond shapes, with dull eyes and thick lips that look as if they’d wobble if they were flapped.
Julian stares at Russell Brand from across the club, through the bouncing crowd and heaving thong, wondering obscurely if he really hates the man, or if it’s just jealousy. He decides, after a few long minutes, that it’s jealousy, based on how intense the feeling suddenly becomes when his partner emerges from the wave of dancers to stand at the other man’s shoulder and lean in close to shout into his oblong ear.
In stark contrast to the man in black, Noel’s all curves and bends, long round face framed by perfect arcs of hair, arms that curl around you, the semi-circles of his hips, orbs of his bum, curvy legs ending in feet that point inwards as if trying to form a circle. There’s a bend to his presence too—like reality is always slightly skewed whenever he’s around, the rules being arched to their limit, the world stretching to accommodate him.
He’s in full Vince Noir mode tonight—black velvet jacket with silver moons over a silver T and skin-tight black jeans, raven hair brushing his cheeks in feathery crooks under a white cowboy hat. There’s an empty bottle hanging from his fingers as his face opens in a wide, genuine smile at Brand’s response to whatever his opening gambit was.
Julian hesitates just for a moment before going to the bar, instantly getting the attention of the girl serving at his end by shouting over that ‘Noel Fielding’s a very thirsty boy tonight’, not feeling at all perverse about doing it, and buying a bottle of Noel’s favourite lager. When he turns around again, Brand’s got a wiry arm around Noel’s neck and as Julian watches, he knocks the cowboy hat to the floor and presses a hard kiss to his hair. Noel’s laughing a little uncomfortably, which is slightly odd, looking like he doesn’t want to be that close to Set Square Man, and a rush of triumph bounds through Julian as he just stops short of punching a fist into the air and crying out, ‘YES’ at the top of his voice.
Sliding through the crowd with practiced ease, Julian stops behind Noel, bends to pick up his hat, and with a single smooth movement he drops it back onto his head, swapping out the empty bottle with the fresh one, brushing his cool fingers against Noel’s warm ones, and getting an arm of his own around those narrow shoulders, forcing Brand to relinquish Noel to Julian’s oh-so-casual possession.
Noel sits the hat back on his head, turns his face to send a blinding smile Julian’s way and tips the bottle to his lips as he settles the fingers of his other hand on the bare arm resting across the top of his chest, teasing the dark hairs with a light, ghosting touch. Leaning forward, Julian puts his mouth close to Noel’s ear and whispers,
“Ask him how long the crows have been nesting for.’ Noel takes a moment to understand then his eyes lift and he swallows a mouth full of fizzy lager before he chokes on it, a childish giggle rising from his throat. Julian smiles, lifting his head, ready to meet whatever challenge Angle Boy sees fit to issue.
There’s a smile too touching the sharp edges of Brand’s diamond mouth and an unusually soft glint in his eyes. ‘He’s all yours, Julian.’ The words drip like syrup from his lips. ‘No need to get all possessive.”
Julian searches for the right comeback as someone takes the empty from his fingers and he turns briefly to thank them, but Noel’s way ahead of him, enjoying the attention. ‘Oh, this isn’t possessive,’ he points out, a little cheekily, ‘when Julian gets possessive, noses get broken.’ He’s saying it in jest, but there’s an underlying element of truth in the words that most people in their extensive circle of friends and acquaintances already know about. The comedian who took the piss out of Noel for not drinking got off lightly. An Irish actor who’d tried it on late one night in the Gents in a club in Dublin ended up at A&E with blood all over his face and shirt, and mouth clamped tight, telling everyone who asked that he’d hit his head on the urinal. That was more about protectiveness rather than possessiveness, but the point still stood firm.
Someone puts a can into Julian’s hand and he glances around to see Mike smiling at him just for a moment until he’s swallowed up by the crowd and the heavy bass. Mike’s like his brother in as many ways as he isn’t, and tonight Julian’s feeling a deep love for both Fieldings. It’s the drink, he tells himself, and the euphoria of the upcoming tour, the festivals, the film, another TV series… their joint futures stretching off into the distance, plans that mean sharing yet more of his life with Noel. And that’s just fine by him. Finer than fine.
He takes a long glug from the can, lets the gassy beer bubble its way down his throat, and returns his attention to the pointy man in black who’s once again leaning close to Noel, saying something into the space between his hat and his ear, being careful not to knock the accessory from his head again. He waits until Brand straightens, but before he has to ask, Noel’s turning, leaning back into him, stretching up to tell him something below the roar of the music. He drops his arm to Noel’s middle, pulling the shorter man against him just long enough for him to impart, ‘…reckons he could support us on the tour, be our MC.”
“Does he now?’ Julian loosens his hold but keeps his arm where it is, hand resting lightly on Noel’s hip, looks up to meet Brand’s mischievous gaze and knows instantly that he’s playing a game. He just isn’t sure if Noel realises it. ‘And what would this gracious offer cost us?”
“Cheap at the price,’ he starts, his curvy voice at odds with his physical appearance, but he doesn’t have to finish because Noel’s already shaking his head and this is, apparently, something he’s heard before.
“As if,’ is all he has to say, and Brand drops his head back and laughs. Maybe it’s their own version of an indecent proposal, or maybe it’s closer to the original than Julian wants to contemplate. Whatever, Noel’s adamant and that’s a good sign; even in the midst of a game things could get very complicated very quickly.
Julian rests his chin lightly on the brim of Noel’s hat and eyes Brand through the dip in the top of it. He wants to tell him if he puts his mouth anywhere near Noel again, he’ll break his nose. But he doesn’t because Noel starts to run the ridged corner of the bottle’s cold base along his arm, following the condensation with his fingertips, leaving a trail of fire in his wake, and the whole thing is monumentally distracting.
For a second or two he blanks Brand completely, attention solely focused on the contrasting sensations on his skin. He can’t help it; he curves his right arm just below his left, dropping his face to Noel’s shoulder for a moment, taking a deep breath, trying to mute his body’s sudden and intense response to such simple contact.
When he looks up again there’s an expression on the angular face opposite them that’s utterly obscene and he reacts by loosening his arms, meaning to take a step back. But Noel turns in the circle, tips his head back and tilts his face, and Julian knows what’s coming because they’ve done this so many times before. Sometimes it’s just a peck, sometimes it’s closed lips against closed lips, but often it’s like this; Noel’s mouth opening, tongue peeking out to meet his own before they’ve even connected, his tongue snaking between Noel’s lips. This is something he’s never done with any other man, ever, in his whole life. A ‘full on snog’ he’s heard so many people refer to it with varying levels of awe, arousal and vague discomfort. It’s just him and Noel.
The first time, they were drunk, the first time—when he woke up the next morning and remembered what they’d done—he panicked for twenty-four hours until he next saw Noel and realised, thank God, that it hadn’t meant anything at all. He hadn’t really thought anything more of it, of any of the times they shared a kiss, a snog—whatever people wanted to call it—but one night on tour Rich asked him randomly if he still thought it didn’t mean anything when two straight guys loved to play tonsil hockey with one another. Nothing Rich ever said ever sounded serious enough to warrant serious thought, so he dismissed it. But still, sometimes, that question sneaks to the forefront of his mind to pounce on his consciousness when he isn’t expecting it.
As he spreads his hand—the one not holding a can of Carlsberg—along Noel’s skinny side, he wonders if it must mean something and if they’re blind to whatever it is. And hot on the heels of that question are several hundred other questions that have been waiting in the wings for the chance to get themselves asked; questions like why is he so happy at the prospect of night after night sleeping in anonymous hotel rooms and day after day travelling in a cramped tour bus, temporary toilets stinking of shit and muddy fields that suck off shoes, long hours in a tiny studio going over and over music solely dependent on spontaneity and even longer days—weeks—looping through the monotony of filming in a hot warehouse in London.
One man’s nightmare….
One of Noel’s hands is in his hair, the other balled against the small of his back, the base of his beer bottle tapping his tailbone. He can feel his partner pressed up against his legs and chest, in his arms, stubble against his face, tongue like a rough eel in his mouth. God, what would it be like….
Hacking that thought off at its roots, Julian breaks off gently, licking Noel’s top lip as he lifts his head, a chastised expression on his face. ‘Sorry, Ju, got carried away….’ Julian shakes his head, telling him it’s okay, he doesn’t mind. And something in Noel’s eyes is adding to what he’s already said, only without words.
Brand has vanished, gone off no doubt to relay the sordid details to anyone who’ll listen and chances are they’ll make some cheap tabloid newspaper tomorrow. Julian dismisses it, telling himself he doesn’t care. He looks back at Noel and decides he really doesn’t. If he wasn’t drunk, wasn’t high on everything happening for them—to them—he probably wouldn’t suggest what he’s about to, but he is, so he does. ‘Want to get carried away somewhere else?”
Surprise registers on Noel’s face, which soon breaks into a grin as he nods. Julian isn’t certain he’s understood completely, and maybe he’s hoping he hasn’t, that they’ll leave here, find a quiet bar and just talk, laugh, share one of those nights he cherishes not because they’re so rare, but because they’re the times that remind him why he and Noel paired up in the first place.
As they leave the club and start walking, Noel slides his arm through Julian’s, lets it slide down until their wrists stroke across one another and his narrow hand drops into Julian’s larger one. He takes it, curling his fingers around Noel’s, their arms swinging slightly between them as they walk.
“You’re not really jealous of Russ, are you?”
Julian doesn’t answer quickly enough, the response getting stuck in his throat. Yes. Yes he is and he hates that he is, but whenever he sees them together on the TV he wonders if he and Noel’s time is borrowed, and if one day Noel will decide he’s better off with someone else.
“You are!’ Noel sounds incredulous. ‘That’s ridiculous!’ Julian’s suddenly frustrated by his friend, tries to let go of his hand but Noel holds on, obviously determined not to let tonight go that way as he closes the gap between them, still walking side by side, and hooks his other hand around Julian’s upper arm.
Impudent, Julian’s close to sulking, ‘Why is it so ridiculous?”
“Ju… you muppet, you’re… you’re the best thing that ever happened to me! I love you, you great lama! I’m not about to leave you for Russell Brand or anyone else! Professionally or… or personally.”
Julian can’t help but wonder what ‘personally’ means in this context, but Noel’s drunk and probably doesn’t know himself. Besides, Noel’s words made him feel all warm inside and the way he’s wrapped around his left arm like two snakes is almost perfect. ‘I won’t break his nose next time I see him, then,’ he murmurs, almost to himself, and Noel laughs and hugs his arm tighter.
“Thanks.’ Like it’s a favour. Julian breaks into a smile. ‘Where are we going?”
He has to think about that. ‘The Catch is on this road.”
“Not sure I want another drink.’ Julian glances down wide-eyed at those rare words, at the same time as Noel looks up at him. ‘How about your place?”
He shrugs, like that wasn’t his idea in the first place. ‘Sure.”
It’s not the momentous moment it probably should be; no angels singing, no lightening strike from the skies. Just them turning the next corner instead of carrying straight on—literally and figuratively—and literally almost getting run over by a silver Mercedes as they cross the road. By the time they reach Julian’s place they’re laughing like loons and it takes him two attempts to get the key into the lock. The alarm’s set, and it’s Noel who somehow remembers the code fast enough to de-arm it before it wakes half the street again. Patterns. He’s good with patterns.
Once inside, with the door locked and chained, they stand staring at each other in the hall, the lounge to the left, stairs to the right. It’s up to one of them to make a decision, and like all of the important decisions in their partnership, it’s Noel who makes it.
He’s in a red blouse this time—it’s the only way Julian can describe it—over tight black jeans that accentuate the sharp angles of his knees and hips. He remembers seeing Noel in a similar outfit sometime ago and smiles to himself. Tonight, Noel’s in a tight-fitting black velvet shirt over expensive leather trousers with silver boots and the black, silver sequined cowboy hat Julian bought for him last week just because he saw it and knew Noel would love it. He’s barely taken it off since. He even wore it in bed until Julian warned him about the dangers inherent in that—what substances might get onto the raven suede.
He looks gorgeous. Julian can’t take his eyes off him. Or his hands. They’ve been linked at the fingers since getting out of the Limo and walking up the red carpet, smiling and waving at the fans and the press, blinking with the bright flashes and answering the multitude of questions put to them by big microphones with faces attached. The fact that they’re holding hands doesn’t raise any more eyebrows inside than it did outside.
Still, when Noel pulls to the right to speak to someone he’s just recognised without letting his fingers slide from Julian’s, it’s Russell Brand who steps up to point out the obvious.
“Possessive or protective?’ he asks, and Julian’s fist has already curled before he realises he doesn’t actually have any cause to be jealous. He’s won the imaginary battle that was only ever fought in his mind. He lets his hand uncurl and smiles indulgently.
“Possessive. But, wouldn’t you be?”
There’s something in Brand’s eyes that acknowledges the truth even as he’s laughing, nodding, sharing the joke. ‘Don’t think you’re aiming above you, Barratt?”
It’s meant in fun, but in a blink Noel’s there, in Russell’s face, which is impressive as Brand has a five inch height advantage over him at least. ‘Hey! Lay off.”
“Whoa, now who’s being protective?’ He puts out a hand towards Noel’s head in fun and instantly Noel’s hand flies to his hat and he takes two steps back. ‘Watch the threads,’ he complains and Julian thinks Brand’s going to give himself a hernia laughing like that.
He looks from Julian to Noel and back. ‘Aww, you two are seriously sweet. If there’s an award for sugaryest couple, you definitely win it.’ Watching Noel’s petulance fade, Julian expects it to change to embarrassment and waits for his hand to be dropped. But it isn’t, and he realises he should know better. Noel doesn’t do embarrassed. Instead he’s grinning proudly and holding on tighter as he leans up and in to plant a sloppy kiss on Russell’s cheek.
“…and so the award for Sexiest Male goes—again, of course—to Noel Fielding!”
Julian claps, cheers, as Noel leaves his side, bounds up on stage and takes the pointy-finger award from Faris Badwan, hugging him briefly, closing in on the microphone.
“Thanks for this!’ He’s grinning and the audience is encouraging him. ‘This is really great. But you’re all wrong.’ Julian glances at Dave, sitting next to him, and they both shrug. False modesty isn’t one of Noel’s strong points. ‘The world’s sexiest male’s sitting right there,’ from the pedestal he points at Julian and the spotlight follows his finger. Julian covers his face with his hands, moaning softly while to his left Dave, Rich and Mike wet themselves laughing. Noel hasn’t finished. ‘I’m giving this award to him.”