The Painting

Noel is painting something which he doesn't want Julian to see... meanwhile he tries not to let his feelings for his best friend take over...


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The Painting by noirislove

It was when Noel heard the keys in the lock and the familiar crunch of the front door opening as Julian let himself in that he jumped out of his trance and into action. In an instancy of panic and adrenaline he quickly grabbed the canvas and shoved it under the bed. It was becoming a popular place for the painting to be hidden. He’d have to move it sooner or later whether he liked it or not. What if Julian put his foot under there? And Noel had stupidly forgotten to add Turps to the oils, meaning that the paint would stay wet for a lot longer than wanted. The thought of how long it would take to dry made him annoyed and regretful. It had been a heat-of-the-moment thing – he’d splashed a load of oil paint onto a blank canvas in an outburst of irritation for not being able to produce creative ideas as rapidly as he was used to doing – and had, much to his surprise, found that the angry mess of colours conveniently triggered he idea for the shape which his next painting was going to form.

Noel quickly managed to replace the space on his empty easel with another unfinished piece in time for Julian’s abrupt but expected entrance.

‘Hey,’ Noel grinned, pretending to dab at his ‘fake’ piece of artwork.

‘Oh – you’re painting again,’ Julian smiled, putting the keys down on the bed and throwing himself down next to them. The hinges of the bed creaked and Noel feared silently for the secrecy of his wet oil painting and Julian’s new shoes.

‘Yeah,’ Noel said, casually disguising how uptight he felt at this precise moment.

‘Well, it’s good to see you doing it again. You hit a bad patch, didn’t you?’

Noel shrugged. ‘S’pose.’ He rested the paintbrush he was holding in the pot of cloudy warm water next to the easel and went over to join Julian. ‘How was Julia?’

‘Oh, you know. Happy to see me, as always.’ He looked down almost sadly. ‘She’s going down to mother’s with the kids. She says she needs a bit of country air and an extra hand.’

‘What about you?’ asked Noel, scratching the side of his nose absent-mindedly.

Julian shrugged. ‘I said I needed a bit of a break as well. Besides, Dee’s up in Berlin anyway, isn’t she?’

Noel nodded. ‘Yeah.’ He sniffed. ‘So I take it you’ll be staying round here for a while, then.’

‘If you don’t mind…’

‘Course not!’ In fact Noel felt quite the opposite. The idea of having Julian all to himself for the next fortnight caused a warmth to spread throughout him. He nudged Julian’s shoulder playfully. ‘We’ll have a laugh.’

‘Yeah.’ Julian relaxed, smiling into his lap.

‘Tea?’ Noel offered, springing up energetically. ‘I was going to make some anyway.’

‘Thanks. I’ll come out too.’ Julian followed Noel out of the room and into the kitchen. As Noel’s skinny little figure darted around the room with the speed of a cat, switching on the kettle and gathering mugs, spoons and tea bags, Julian pulled out a chair and slumped lazily over the table, resting his chin in his hands. In a few minutes he was being passed a steaming-hot mug of tea by Noel, who also sat down at the table.

‘Cheers,’ Julian said, sipping gratefully at the hot drink.

‘Welcome.’ Noel opened a packet of chocolate biscuits and dug out three, two of which he pushed into his mouth. ‘Wan’ one?’ he offered, crumbs around his lips, holding the packet out to Julian.

‘I’m fine,’ Julian smiled. Noel seemed like a child sometimes.

‘Sui’ ‘ourself,’ Noel shrugged, with a mouth full of biscuit.

Ever since the excitement of Series Three had wound down and Julia had given birth to twins, the two had begun writing the live show. But recently Noel had been doing little to participate in the organization of the show’s script, especially when Julian wasn’t around. This was partly due to the fact that he’d recently found himself somewhat artistically blocked in terms of producing fresh material, and, undoubtedly, partly due to missing Julian. He found it hard to admit to himself, but it was true that the recent withdrawal and frequent absence of his best friend had had some major effect on the way his brain seemed to work. He thought it was probably to do with the attention he was giving Julia that Noel felt should be given to him. It was only natural, after all, for need and breathe Ju’s friendship as if it were oxygen. Julian was his life, he’d come to realize. His other half. Somehow he was incomplete without him; there was an empty space in Noel’s heart where Julian belonged.


That evening, Noel sat with Julian on the steps leading down to the back garden of the house. It was small, but far from lifeless: Noel and Dee had decorated it together with lights and strange crafty tree-hangings, purely of Noel’s own creation. During the day it was a sunny, colourful place to escape to: at night, it became just a small area of patio with a few small objects littered here and there: plain, but relaxing, somewhere in which you could remove yourself from a day’s stress and to clear your mind.

A lot of these nights had been spent with Dee in the past, and increasingly less with Julian. Noel regretted this; but Julian had been so wrapped up in the business of giving birth to kids and everything else that when he thought about it, it could never have been any different.

Now Julian sat next to him in the crisp November air, breathing in and out smoke, while Noel drained his bottle of Perrier. He knocked back the last mouthful and chucked it lazily to the bottom of the back yard underneath the rose.

Seeing Julian’s expression, he patted his friend’s knee and promised, ‘I’ll pick it up tomorrow.’

It wasn’t a habit he particularly wanted to get into, but the packet of cigarettes next to Julian were calling to him. The odd one didn’t hurt, anyway. He took one from the packet and returned to his perch on the stone step by Julian.

‘Lighter?’ he asked.

Julian pressed it into Noel’s palm, exhaling slowly and watching the thin line of smoke trickle slyly into the air. Noel lit up beside him and he too inhaled and breathed out a trail of smoke into the cold night air.

‘Cheers.’ Noel gave a deep sigh – not a melancholy one, far from it, but it was deep all the same – and passed Ju back his lighter. They both watched the sky mixing with the smoke for a while, and then Julian spoke gently.



‘I know it’s been hard for us to see each other recently. No doubt you’re pissed off with me.’

Noel caught Julian’s eye. ‘Not really,’ he said, trying to be as honest as possible without tipping over the edge of rational behaviour.

‘I don’t blame you, silly bitch,’ Julian said jokingly, nudging him gently in the ribcage. Noel grinned.

‘Well, if you want to know the truth, then yeah, I have missed you,’ Noel told Julian openly, with a little shrug.

‘Missed me?’ Julian sounded surprised.

‘Just a bit, yeah,’ Noel said sheepishly.

Julian looked at his friend. Even in the dark his clear blue eyes twinkled with that familiar, cheeky innocence that Julian saw approximately 100 times a day. His face warmed Julian greatly. To be missed by Noel… Noel had wanted his attention, needed his attention, longed for his presence all the time that Ju hadn’t been there.

‘Ju,’ Noel breathed, consciously aware that their bodies and faces were closer now: this was what he wanted. Julian turned to look into those sparkly blue eyes once again and was met by Noel’s intimate smell of hairspray, alcohol and cigarette smoke. ‘Don’t switch off.’

Julian was hardly switched off – in fact, he was more switched on than he’d been in weeks. He was becoming consciously aware of Noel’s closeness, the delicious smell of his hair, his bodyheat, and his hip just a few centimeters away from Julian’s.

‘I’m not,’ he murmured in response.

Noel grinned. ‘Good,’ he said cheekily. Julian could taste his breath against his cheek. He wanted to touch Noel… only he didn’t know how. He wondered – he hoped – if Noel felt the same way…

He knew it was hardly the right thing to do but almost instinctively, paternally, Julian reached out to tuck a loose strand of hair behind Noel’s ear. As soon as he’d done it he felt stupid and embarrassed. He took away his hand.

‘Sorry,’ he mumbled, blushing and looking at his feet.

‘Why sorry?’ Noel asked softly. He touched Julian’s hand. ‘Ju? I thought it was nice.’

Julian’s hands wanted to be back on Noel’s face. But Julian himself wasn’t sure whether or not it was a good idea.

‘Look, like this…’

Without his consent Noel took Julian’s left hand and placed it on the back of his neck. Julian, startled, felt his hand underneath Noel’s long dark hair grow warm very quickly.

‘Go ahead.’ Noel closed his eyes, his mouth opening instinctively. Julian stroked his thumb along Noel’s chin and touched the side of his face a little shakily but gently. Noel had shaved and his skin felt amazingly smooth under Julian’s fingers. Julian leaned in, and, despite himself, lost all efforts to resist and pressed his mouth softly against Noel’s. Noel welcomed him, his hands immediately in Julian’s hair and Julian’s in his own, and pressed his tongue into the corner of his mouth. Julian wrapped his arms around Noel and pulled him even closer, their hipbones pressing comfortably together. Noel let out an involuntary moan; it rolled, candy-round and warm, into Julian’s mouth as their lips moved together. As the kiss intensified Noel began to feel the answering hardness to his own. Julian, too, was turned on – and that thought comforted him greatly.

When they came up for air simultaneously, Noel was groaning, and Julian was breathing hard against his mouth.

‘Noel…’ Julian protested, but was immediately met by two fingers clamped over his mouth.

‘Shut up. Fuck everything else. Does it actually matter?’ Noel leaned in to be rejoined with Ju, but Julian pushed him away.

‘What’s wrong?’ Noel frowned.

‘I just…’ Julian sighed. How could be put it? ‘I just…’

‘Just what?’ Noel demanded. He sounded hurt.

‘I just feel like we should take it a little slower, you know… let’s sleep on it, and if you still feel the same way about it then we’ll work this out, we’ll take it slowly…’

‘But I know how I feel,’ Noel said impatiently. ‘I’ve felt this way for a long time now. Not that you’ve noticed…’ He trailed off miserably.

There was a silence between them. Then Noel crumpled into Julian’s arms. He rested his head on Julian’s shoulder and sighed.

‘This is bullshit,’ he said, partly to make himself feel better and partly because there was nothing else to say.

‘Yeah. It is.’ Julian sighed.


‘Yeah, what?’

‘You know when you said about us working something out between us?’ Noel whispered against Julian’s neck.


‘Did you mean it?’

There was another silence.

‘Course I did. We’ll work it out, little man.’

Noel smiled, and closed his eyes. ‘Thank God.’

‘Do you not think it’s time for bed now?’ Julian said kindly, shrugging a delicate Noel off his shoulder.

‘I s’pose.’ Noel ran a hand through his tousled hair. They both stood up. Julian pushed the French doors inwards and he and Noel stepped through.

‘I’ll sleep down here,’ Julian said, touching Noel on the shoulder.

‘’Kay.’ Noel smiled sleepily. Julian didn’t understand him sometimes. One minute he was full of energy, the next filled with sexual desire, then he was ready to fall asleep…

Anyway, it was late and Julian and Noel said their goodnights in no unusual way. Noel traipsed upstairs to the bathroom to brush his teeth before he wandered into his own bedroom. As soon as he hit the pillow he slipped into a dreamless sleep, with no time to think about what had happened that evening.


Julian, however, dreamed. He dreamed about Noel’s naked body, and how much he wanted to touch it. Of course he’d seen Noel naked plenty of times before – or at least in boxers. He was always wondering around the house topless (or bottomless, for that matter) when Dee was there, and when Julian called round for a catch-up over some tea. It was a sort of given that neither of them should have much to hide from one another.

Was it wrong that he wanted to touch Noel? Julian had thought they’d known each other far too long for anything like this to happen. Of course he’d thought about it. But this wasn’t just a fling. This was something different… something much deeper, stronger, more desperate than that, an almost non-homosexual love between them. They both knew each other inside out – pretty much. Noel knew what got to Julian, what he liked, what he disliked, what made him tick, what made him laugh – and vice versa. You could say that everything between them was completely mutual. As it usually is with best friends.

But Julian had limits, boundaries – and he had to remind himself of both them and the fact that they were just friends. With these too thoughts, which somehow depressed him, he discarded the fantasies and tried to put his mind to something else.


A week went by and the painting progressed – another day or two and it would be finished. Of course, it remained hidden during Julian’s presence in the flat, and was only taken out and worked on when he was out. He often thought about what Julian’s reaction would be when he showed it to him. He hoped for the best.

But there was something else on Noel’s mind. He was aching inside slightly… yearning for something. Yearning for Ju, yearning for his touch. At night he found himself hungry for Julian’s hands and his taste – that intimate moment that had occurred a week ago, although it had not been discussed, had lingered feverishly in his mind. In the space where Dee slept, he wanted Julian to be. He didn’t care how wrong or how selfish it was, he wanted Julian, he needed Julian. He’d often jerk himself off to thoughts of him: he was hardly afraid to let his mind wander. He only wished that fantasies were real… he’d do anything for another kiss, or even more…

Little did he know that Julian felt the same way. It was just that both were at loss with how to take it that one step further.

It was on another one of those nights spent on the back steps of the flat that Noel finally felt that he was comfortably close enough to Julian. After about five minutes of silence on both parts, Noel sighed heavily. Julian looked up.

‘Just do it,’ he said in a gruff, somewhat moody voice.

‘Do what?’ Ju asked, looking surprised. The fag was still in his hand.

‘Fuck’s sake, Julian.’ Noel was hurt by his friend’s ignorance. ‘Just kiss me.’

Julian looked lost for words.

‘Well?’ Noel said expectantly. ‘Don’t you want to?’

Of course Julian wanted to. More than anything. But what was he to say about the matter – and should he say anything at all>

‘Ju…’ Noel drew closer, and once again Julian was acquainted with that scent – Noel’s scent. ‘Fuck. Just do it.’

The cigarette was stubbed out and Julian’s lips were just centimeters away from Noel’s when Noel pulled him a little aggressively into a tight embrace. His tongue was immediately in Julian’s mouth and their lips locked together. Noel’s hands, seeming to have a life of their own, worked their way down Julian’s back and came round to his front, where he could already feel a growing hardness under Ju’s jeans. His hands started on the buckle of his belt, but Julian stopped them in their tracks.

Noel looked up, hurt. ‘What? What is it?’

‘It… doesn’t feel right.’

Noel gave an almighty groan and snatched his hands away harshly. Julian, bewildered, watched as Noel’s face changed and he stood up abruptly.


‘You don’t get it, do you?’ Noel said fiercely, shoving through the French doors into the kitchen. Julian followed, closing the doors behind him not so forcefully.

‘I thought you felt the same way,’ Noel said, stung. The hurt in his voice did something to Julian. ‘Listen to yourself, going on… “I don’t think this is right, we’re going too fast…” Blah, blah, blah! Is this what you want or isn’t it?’

‘I don’t know.’ Julian said quietly.

‘Fine,’ Noel shouted. Julian hadn’t seen him so upset in ages. ‘If that’s how you feel, you can go fuck yourself, Julian. Twice if you like. I’m going to bed.’

Noel stormed upstairs, leaving Julian alone in the kitchen. Why couldn’t he understand? Julian was meant to understand everything. So why did Noel now feel as apart from Julian as ever?


Julian didn’t attempt talking to Noel about the mater again that night. Noel was too angry to comprehend, and to be honest, Julian could do with the sleep himself.

He didn’t see Noel the next morning either. He presumed that he was still in a sulk and had locked himself into his room on purpose. Julian only had the courage to tap on his door at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

Noel opened it. He still had a grumpy expression on his face, not to Julian’s surprise. ‘What d’you want?’ he grumbled.

‘Just let me in. Please?’ Julian sighed, pressing against the door frame. ‘I’m really sorry.’

‘Are you?’ Noel raised his eyebrows.

Julian nodded.

To his relief, a grin spread across Noel’s face. ‘Me too. I’ve got something for you.’

‘For me?’

‘Yeah! Come in.’

Noel opened the door fully and Julian stepped in. He waited patiently whilst Noel rummaged around on his hands and knees, finally ducking his head under the bed and pulling out what he’d been looking for. A canvas. Noel held it up for Julian to see. Julian’s face spread into a wide wide smile, and he laughed gently.

The painting was of him and Noel, their faces together, both grinning widely. Noel had got it just right – the eyes, the hair, the faces – and it was a stunning piece of artwork.

‘Noel…’ he breathed. ‘I don’t know what to say.’

‘Don’t say anything,’ Noel smirked, pleased that Julian was happy with it. ‘It was nothing.’

Julian took the painting. Then he put his hand on Noel’s face and kissed him once, confidently but very softly, on the lips. When he drew away Noel’s eyes were still closed.

‘Thanks, Ju,’ he smiled appreciatively. And he reckoned this was the way he liked it.

– The End ! –

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