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You Talk Way Too Much

Chapter Text

January 2004

”In many ways, they’ll miss the good ol’ days…” Came blaring from the closest speaker. It was the first thing Julian noticed as he walked in to the near empty bar. Though it was close to midnight on a Tuesday night, and this was more than he’d been able to expect of the Sheffield nightlife at such an hour. He couldn’t settle on just one feeling regarding the matter of the song. On the one hand, he was a little embarrassed, but there was also a sense of pride. Their music, which despite being coated in a generous layer of distorting drumbeats, distressed guitars and a snarling sarcastic vocal performance, was something that showed a profound display of his innermost thought and feelings. It was something that he had created. And being faced with the fact that it had made it all the way to this arbitrary pub in England was equal parts overwhelming and flattering. Neither of which directly combated the grumpy mood he was in, but oh well.

While the cocktail of emotions that hearing Someday had stirred up settled, Julian ordered another one. Although of the alcoholic nature this time around.

”Can I get a double Jack Daniels, neat” He instructed the bartender, who gave a curt nod as confirmation that he’d received the request. The person sitting on the stool next to Julian gently announced

”I’ll have the same”

Julian subtly, and more out of curiosity than anything else, turned his head to inspect whoever was sitting beside him. It was a young guy, late teens to early twenties he’d estimate, and also it seemed utterly uninterested. He hadn’t been doing that thing where you tried to break the ice via beverage bonding (a technique that resulted in an excessive consumption Vodka Cranberries and Cosmopolitans, in his personal experience). It was a shame too, because the bar was practically empty and he was by far the prettiest thing available to observe. When their drinks arrived Julian raised his glass in the other boy’s direction before taking a big sip. He didn’t seem to take notice of it though and Julian supposed that suited him fine. Once having reconsidered, he reached the conclusion that he was too tired to turn on ye old charm, and even if he were to do so and they miraculously hit it off, still if Julian wanted to take him home he’d have to go back to the hotel. The same hotel that contained Albert, whom he’d come to this very pub in order to escape. And that was one too many hoops to jump through for it to be worth his time.

Julian didn’t bother savouring the taste and barely registered the burning sensation when the whiskey poured down his throat, those aspects were secondary in his mission to get wasted. Despite all the valid points he’d made earlier to himself he played around with the thought of striking up a conversation with the guy next to him. He could deny it all he wanted, but he was already starting to feel lonely. Not just tonight or in this very moment, but in general with the band and this tour. He could sense that he was starting to alienate himself from his declared brothers, or them alienating themselves from him. He honestly couldn’t tell anymore, and in either case he didn’t know what to do in order to change it. Well, he knew what to change but just not in what way.

In his private bubble of speculation he’d probably go with something along the lines of ”so you’re a local?” for his opener (which of course he already knew, the accent had been unmistakable earlier) just to get the ball to roll. Based off the glances he caught out the corner of his eyes, he decided he liked the way he looked, those doe eyes, the unruly mop of hair, the soft lips… one could do a lot worse. That being said he was never going to do it, nor was the other guy. He’d sit there, contemplating a conversation he didn’t have the motivation needed to instigate, getting progressively more inebriated as the night went on, before staggering back to the hotel and forgetting all about the cute guy at the bar. He knew himself well enough by now.

Or so he’d thought. Julian was genuinely shocked when the lad next to him spoke up.

”Hi, I’m Alex” He said, hesitantly, but still.

Julian looked up and met his gaze for the first time. Unthinkingly a smile came to his face and he introduced himself.

”Julian” he stated.

”You don’t sound like you’re from around here” Alex observed, and although no actual question had been posed Julian caught the askance.

”No I suppose not,” he laughed dryly. ”New York actually”

”Well you’re a far way from home” Alex once again remarked with a soft smile playing on his lips. It was beautiful, Julian instantly determined. That, in combination with Alex’s oddly comforting and inexplicably familiar voice made Julian talkative in a way that was highly unlike him, especially considering what a shit night he’d had.

”Yeah, I’m actually here visiting family, my sister’s getting married so I wanted to be there for that.” The lie came so suddenly and unexpectedly he was a little amazed. He hadn’t really intended to lie, and one could argue why he had, but it wasn’t completely unprecedented. Sometimes it was just nice to not introduce himself as the rockstar, particularly when he wanted to distance himself with the troubles that came with it, and Cecile getting married simply came with less strings attached.

”Oh that’s great! I hope she’s happy” Alex exclaimed. Julian couldn’t help but to internally laugh at that.

”Yes, she is,” he assured. ”But anyway, tell me about yourself Alex, how come you’re here drinking alone?”

”I’m not anymore though, am I?” Alex replied, tongue in cheek.

”Touche” Julian admitted and again raised his now half empty glass at Alex. This time he mirrored the gesture.

”No but in all seriousness,” a heavy sigh accompanied Alex’s statement, Julian listened intently. ”I came back home because of the holidays, and now my parents want me to start looking at university applications but I don’t know, I’m not keen for it. I just needed to get out of the house and clear my head a bit”

”Why don’t you want to go to school?” Julian asked, riding his voice of any judgement.

”Ah, I’m not sure, I suppose I should, I just don’t feel compelled to do it. I’d also like to give this music thing a real chance. Can’t do that from a dorm room.”

”Oh I see, well, I didn’t go to university either, I’m in no position to preach on it” Alex’s apparent passion for music caught Julian’s attention, and he decided to ask further questions on the subject.

”So are you playing in a band? What sort of music do you play?”

Alex’s face lit up as he started telling him about it.

”As a matter of fact I do, we’re called Arctic Monkeys, we play, I don’t know, indie rock? Just started up with a couple of my mates, I’m really excited to get some more songs down and maybe try to do some recordings and stuff.”

”That’s really great man! Good luck with everything,” Julian said, really meaning it. He saw a lot of himself in Alex and he still remembered how thrilling those early days could be. "I love the name by the way" he added.

A comfortable silence settled briefly. Julian steadily kept his eyes on Alex. He wouldn’t normally be so forward, but he had very little interference, due to the fact that Alex kept looking away, with his eyes fixated on the rows of liquor bottles that decorated the shelves in front of them. However it was also to be noted that Julian was a little tipsy. Sporadically Alex’s gaze would flicker back to Julian’s face and connect their eyes, and once he realized Julian had been starring at him he’d quickly look away again and blush. Around the fifth time this pattern had repeated itself Julian raised a suggestive eyebrow at the other boy.

”What’s on your mind Al?” he enquired. Alex didn’t answer immediately.

”Nothing really” he said finally. ”Hey what about you?”

”What about me what?” Julian asked, both confused by what Alex was getting at and amused by the odd sentence structure, he exhaled a soft chuckle.

”You never told me why you were drinking alone?” Alex asked. The playful smile that had adorned Julians face before slowly got reduced to something a lot more lugubrious. He understood that Alex was just playing off what he’d previously said to him, but it painfully brought back the things Alex’s presence had helped him suppress. And suddenly the mood, which had been pleasant, and Julian’s hand, which had been creeping closer to Alex’s on the bar disk, went down again.

”I just needed some time to myself” Julian mumbled and tried as hard as he could to downplay it. ”Also Cecile can get pretty intense, what with the wedding so close, thought I’d get out of her hair” Julian recalled the lie he’d told from earlier. Alex simply nodded.

”Hey would you excuse me just one second” Julian announced before getting up and pulling out his phone. He had to call Albert, it’d been such a stupid thing to fight over anyway. He opened his contacts and was about to dial when he noticed Albert had already left a voicemail, he must’ve missed his call or something.

”Hey Jules I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to attack you or anything, if you say you’ve got it under control then I believe you. You know I just care about you, that’s all. Now come home, please, don’t get yourself into any trouble.”

Julian felt a surge of relief just hearing his voice, he also couldn’t help but to notice how Albert referred to some random hotel as ”home” based on the fact that him and the other guys happened to inhabit it for the night. The tangible concern in his voice also warmed his heart a little bit. He felt compelled to leave, but he couldn’t go without saying goodbye to Alex first, he looked back at the boy sitting at the bar, who raised his hand in an awkward wave at him. Julian made his way over.

”Do you have to go?” Alex asked.

”Yeah, I’m sorry. But hey, hang on just one second,” Julian hauled out a small and worn notebook from the front pocket in his leather jacket, alongside a ballpoint pen. He started jotting down a few numbers before handing the piece of paper to Alex.

”That’s my number, you can call whenever you feel like it, tell me how things are going with your band, or if you’re having a bad day, or a good one, or you just don’t feel like drinking alone in future.” He didn’t really know where that had come from, he didn’t usually hand out his personal information to strangers in pubs, and he and Alex hadn’t exchanged more than a hand full of words if he really thought about it. It was hard to explain. But something about Alex intrigued him, sparked his interest, and oddly told him they weren’t done with each other quite yet. Alex eagerly accepted the note.

”Thanks, I’ll, uhm, make sure to give you a call.”

”Do that” Julian answered. He was just about to leave when he remembered the inaccurate information he’d given to Alex.

”Hey, this is a little awkward but there’s something I have to tell you.”

”You have a girlfriend?” Alex guessed immediately and out of the blue, with a discernible hint of disappointment in his voice.

”Uhm, no. Not that” laughed Julian, while a small voice in his head started a monologue as to why Alex might care about that...

”My sister’s not getting married, also she doesn’t live in England. Actually, and this might sound a little crazy, but I’m here on tour with my band. The Strokes. I don’t know if you might have heard about us…”

Alex tried really hard not to, out of the sheer desire to be polite, but in the end it would prove an exercise in futility. He soon broke down helplessly laughing. A sort of air light giggle, that Julian couldn’t help but to adore, despite being aware he was the one being laughed at. Alex managed to collect himself before responding.

”Yes, I’ve heard of you. I recognized you the second you sat down beside me” Alex admitted. Julian bit his bottom lip and looked away shyly. He insecurely scratched his nose and with the gesture the cocky frontman persona had effectively been washed away.

”Well this is awkward…”

”Not necessarily” said Alex, ”I think it’s quite amusing really” he added, with an encouraging tone.

”Well I’m glad one of us do” Julian said, but he wasn’t really embarrassed anymore. He shared one last smile with Alex before spontaneously pulling him into a short but sweet hug.

”Call me ok?” Julian murmured in his ear, mid-embrace.

Once he pulled away he was pleased to see a wide eyed and somewhat flustered Alex, who was very quick to assure him that he would indeed get in touch with him. Julian grinned at the sight, before giving him a wink and departing. Pleased in having regained some control over the situation.

Albert was worried. He’d left a voicemail but he had no idea whether Jules had heard it, or if he’d listened to it but it hadn’t persuaded him to change his mind, and he’d decided to get shit-faced regardless. Eerily he recalled those poignant lines from Alone, Together... His fear for his beloved band mate had caused him to on and off go by the window and check if Julian was walking by, or clumsily tripping over his own feet, or if he was passed out cold on the pavement… in any case he thought it best to be prepared to run down and greet him. As the night went on and the clock kept ticking, Albert unwillingly started losing hope. He had begun mentally preparing to hunt Julian down in the morning when he surprisingly saw him walking down the street approaching the lobby. To Albert’s bewilderment and relief he didn’t appear to be stumbling or out of balance, by the looks of it there was even a spring to his step. Albert ran down the stairs and caught Julian just as he stepped through the hotel doors.

”Hey man, everything ok?” Albert asked as he hurried to Julian’s side.

Without a word Julian pulled him in for a brotherly hug to settle all previous quarrels. ”Yeah yeah, everything’s great” Julian said, for once being able to say so sincerely. Albert was perplexed, his speech wasn’t slurred, he looked alert and well, dare he say happy? That was not the usual state he was in when he came home after a night out, something exceptional must’ve happened.

”Jules did anything happen while you were out? Did you meet someone or what?” Julian looked at him with a cryptic smile.

”Something like that Albert, something like that” and that was all he said, before throwing his arm around him and going up to their room.

Chapter Text

At this point the note was truly obsolete. All of the information it once provided had long since been absorbed by Alex, through relentless studying of it's content. He'd learned the number by heart, memorized the slightly slanted and messy way Julian had scrawled his name at the top (which was an absurd notion to begin with, as if he'd ever forget whom it was from) and the smiley face that accompanied the the text and the figures.

But despite his aforementioned fascination with it, and his promise to call, and his own desire to get in touch, no such thing had occurred yet. Alex wasn't precisely sure why. The more he thought about it, and the more he thought about him, he'd managed to convince himself he really liked Julian. The slow, mumbling fashion of which he spoke, with that fatally sexy low rasp no less. How he didn't take himself too seriously, he was easy to talk to, his smile, his eyes, the delicate yet plump lips... the list went on and on of attributes that Alex found attractive in him. But despite all of that, fear got the best of him. Alex felt an enormous worry about the simple task of picking up the phone and punching in those well rehearsed numbers. Not necessarily of that particular aspect, but of the myriad of unforeseeable possibilities that opened up immediately after. What if he didn't answer? Should he leave a message? What should the message entail? To none of those questions had Alex come up with a satisfying answer. Or even worse, what if he did pick up? What the hell should he say then?

"Hello, you're a personal hero of mine and I also find you extremely attractive and I would like to get to know you and I can't actually believe that you appear to show interest in me but if that's in fact what's going on right now then I'd be indescribably happy"

It was the truth, but Alex had a strong suspicion that was not the way to go. Was he meant to ask him out? Was that was what expected of him? If so... he had painfully sparse knowledge on how to go about such things, and even the idea of it made him laugh. He couldn't imagine himself, an shy, teen-aged, Sheffield nobody, requesting a date with renowned rock star Julian Casablancas. It just didn't add up. Yet Alex was uncomfortably aware that the ball was entirely in his corner, Julian had given him his number, not the other way around, so if he wanted anything to happen he would have to be the one to make the next move.

The biggest obstacle for Alex was that he had no clue what Julian was looking for. Romance? A quick fling to pass the time while he happened to be in the country? Alex wouldn't really be opposed to either, but the other man's intentions would vastly influence Alex's method of seduction.

But then he considered how nice Julian had seemed. How much it truly had appeared he wanted to hear from him again. He also spent a fair amount of time contemplating the faint scent of cologne, sweat, and whiskey Alex had detected when Julian out of the blue had hugged him. That didn't actually matter in strategizing for what so say in the event he ever worked up the nerve, but annoyingly enough he just couldn't get the thought out of his head.

This ping pong style back and forth of arguments within Alex's brain continued on for two days, until it finally came to an end during a practice session he and Matt had planned.But which up until said point had gone quite terribly, most likely because Alex kept zoning out and couldn't stretch his attention span any wider than 5 minutes.

"Alex come on! That's the third time in a row you've messed up at the same place! Mate! What's going on?"

Alex looked at him intently but didn't reply.

"Fuck it" he said finally, with lots of pent up emotions being released within the two word sentence.

"Fuck what?" Matt asked in frustration, well aware of the fact that Alex hadn't actually given an answer to his question yet.

"Matthew can I borrow your phone? I'm calling him, I don't care, I'll just try to act casual and hope for the best"

Matt handed him his phone and only afterwards asked

"Who do you need to call?"

Alex, who had been typing in the number stopped abruptly.

"This is gonna sound a bit mad"

"Who, Alex??"

"Julian," Alex began, but before he could continue Matt let out a relived sigh. It was just some boy Alex had a crush on he assumed, and while he was happy for his friend he deemed it wasn't necessary to make a big commotion over.

"Casablancas" Alex concluded with his next breathe. For a moment Matt was completely silent. He then hastily rose from the bed and hurried over to the shelf that housed his ever growing record and CD collection. After a moments search Matt pulled out a worn and well-loved CD case with a rather sexually suggestive artwork. The title naturally read Is This It.

"This Julian Casablancas?" He asked, bewildered. Alex quietly rolled his eyes before replying.

"No, there's a severe abundance of people named Julian Fernando Casablancas in this world, I ran into three of them walking home from Sainsbury's yesterday"

"Very funny." Matt said, though seeing the slight idiocy of his question.

"Alright but how did you meet? What happened? Are you like an item?" Matt asked, ashamed somewhat over his own level of enthusiasm, but settled on the fact that certain situations simply required it.

"Item?" Alex raised a suspicious eyebrow.

"Oh you know what I mean! Now come on, spill the beans." Matt couldn't stop a grin from forming on his face. No matter the outcome, he was in for a good story. As Alex had a recounted the tale, Matt's jaw had progressively been nearing the floor, and by the time it was done it could be considered nothing but dropped.

"Oh my god" was his initial response

"I know" Alex said solemnly.

"With the hug? And the note?"

"I'm aware" Alex stated again

"The thing i can't get over is the wink though"

"Oh I know right!"

"I mean you don't wink at someone after handing them your number unless you want to fuck them"

Alex couldn't formulate an answer to that. However, his anatomy did it for him, as a deep shade of pink blossomed on his cheeks.

"You don't know that" he said lamely after a while.

"True, I don't, that's why I think you should call him and find out" Matt said convincingly.

Alex paid him a long piercing stare which Matt countered with nothing but defiance before Alex broke, and agreed to it.

"You're right, I should."

_____

"Hey Jules your phone is buzzing" Nick casually declared. He had assumed that the response would follow on that same theme but he was gravely mistaken. Julian, who had been resting comfortably after their soundcheck, on the sofa opposite Nick's in the arrangement set up backstage, practically flew into the air the way he launched himself off the couch.

"Does it say who it is?"

"Jesus no, it just says unknown number" Nick said, confused what the fuss was over.

Julian's eyes widened and he demandingly extended his arm to accept the phone. Nick handed it over but not without his suspicions.

"You know if you were that excited to talk to me maybe things would have worked out with us" Nick joked.

However Julian didn't seem to take notice of his sarcasm, so while staring at the phone display and taking a few deep breaths he answered distantly

"Nick I love you very much and anyone would be lucky to have you, but right now I have to take this call"

The total lack of trademark Casablancas irony was startling.

"Holy shit dude who's on the other end of that phone?"

Julian's eyes flickred to Nick's for a second.

"This guy I met the other night, he... Uh his name is Alex"

Nick grinned and balled up the sweatshirt that lay next to him and threw it lazily at Julian's head (it missed).

"I'm really happy for you man, but keep that romance shit on your side of the room, some of us don't want to get infected"

He ignored that and finally answered the ringing phone.

"Hey" he said.

"Hey there" Alex replied, although he soon realized that he hadn't introduced himself yet, and that that was both rude and made it impossible for Julian to know who he was. The confirmation that it was necessary came when Julian didn't speak.

"Oh I'm Alex," he hurriedly spat. Though maybe that wouldn't be enough to jog his memory? Surely he met tons of people named Alex, he was nothing more than someone in the crowd. "The guy from the bar the other night? You gave -"

Julian cut him off there.

"I know who you are Alex" he said, not devoid of humor in his voice.

"Oh" was all Alex managed. This could mean nothing, it probably didn't, he just happened to have a good memory.

"Well what have you been up to since?" He said, trying to actually get a conversation going.

Julian began explaining why you should never play strip poker with Nikolai Fraiture after 2am. Alex didn't have a lot to remark on except adding the customary oh's and ah's at the right places, but that didn't matter, he really enjoyed hearing him speak, his deep voice paired with his hesitant way of talking came off very confident and captivating. Maybe it was that Alex had to actively listen to catch every word he said, maybe it was that it simply sounded beautiful, either way something was doing the trick.

"And he wouldn't even give me my socks back!" Julian finished his story.

"Scandalous" Alex commented while grinning at how genuinely upset he sounded.

"Truly. I should plan a coup to retrieve them..." Julian trailed off when he noticed Nick snapping his fingers

"You're talking too much about yourself," he whispered, "ask about him, you tit"

Julian was torn. He wanted to roll his eyes at how Nick, of all people was giving people romantic advice, he wanted to tease him for actually giving a damn about how his telephone conversation went, and he wanted to kiss him for reminding him of his manners (he also had good cheekbones but that was beside the point) he opted for just following his advice.

"Anyway! I'm talking too much about myself, how are you?"

"I don't mind," Alex began ensuring him "and my life must sound pretty bleak in comparison, my friends and I don't usually indulge in strip poker"

"Oh come on! I want to hear about you, tell me something" Julian knew if he were to look over at Nick right now he would be rolling his eyes aggressively. He extended his middle finger at him as a precaution.

"Ha well, basically me and my band are trying to book our first gig, it's hard though, no one wants us to play"

Alex's dry resignation struck a cord with Julian. That had been his life for a good 6 months in the beginning, pleading and begging for a slot on the schedule. He hummed sympathetically in response.

"Tell you what, I'll be right back"

Had Alex known that all Julian was going to do was ask Nick a question he wouldn't have taken it so hard, but without that knowledge his heart sank like a rock at the notion that he was boring him already.

"Sure" he mumbled.

"Psst, Nick" Julian whispered. Nick looked up with an arched eyebrow.

Pressing the phone to his chest Julian continued

"Who's the support band tonight?"

The previously raised brow furrowed as he considered the question.

"Uhm no one, yeah I remember now, Moon Commute cancelled tonight and tomorrow's gig. How so?"

All answer Nick got was a smirk.

"Yo Alex, how about you play as our support act?" Julian asked in a hushed voice so Nick wouldn't hear, hoping the other boy would accept the offer.

There was a moment of silence. Alex did have an excellent vocabulary, but as he was not able to access it in it's entirety due to the shock all he managed to get out was a cross between a mumble and a stutter.

"W-what?"

"Yeah! It'll be great! You can come down and play if you'd like, we're playing in 2 hours, think you can make it?"

Lots of emotions and thoughts were going through Alex's head in that moment. Gratitude, disbelief, combined with a healthy portion of nervousness that had already settled deep in his bones. Despite his loud complaints on the matter the fact remained, they had never stood on a stage before, and suddenly a thousand different scenarios and hypothetical outcomes of Julian's offer shot through his mind. All at once. It made him dizzy.

"But you've never even heard us play" Alex protested weakly. It was the only defense he could muster putting up but it was a hard hitting point that exposed a tremendous flaw in Julian's plan. Or at least in Alex's eyes it did. Julian moved past it with gracious ease.

"I don't care," he said slowly and decisively. "Besides, I trust you"

Alex could practically hear the smirk on his face over the telephone. As if daring him to believe he was telling the truth.

Again there was stunned silence, not for long however. Completely unaware of the thrilling situation unfolding 3 feet away from him, Matthew cleared his throat discretely, as to not disturb. It still caught Alex's attention though, and with the rest of his band members in mind, with all the hard work they'd collectively put in, and the minute detail that they would kill him if they found out he'd passed up such a big opportunity, he decided.

Breathlessly, and with a gigantic smile poorly being kept at bay, Alex answered.

"Two hours you say? We'll be there" then he hung up.

_____

Nick honestly didn't care. He didn't, Julian was free to make all the mistakes he wanted (he had a disturbing habit of sleeping with everything that had a pulse while on tour. Then again he supposed achieving that was pretty easy, being the frontman and all) and so when he looked up from the magazine he'd been flipping through and gave the cluelessly smiling and lip-biting Julian a piercing stare it was not out of concern, he'd just taken note of the silence that had installed itself just long enough to invite suspicion.

"What did you do?" He inquired.

Julian shrugged. "Nothin'"

With an internal sigh Nick carefully closed his copy of Rolling Stone and put it aside. If Julian's musical talent had been equal to his ability to lie they'd be in deep shit.

"Dude. What did you do?" He repeated, with more emphasis.

He gave in almost immediately. Mostly cause he realized there was astoundingly little point in trying to hide it. He had to get them on board anyway.

"I may have asked Alex to come play with his band as our opening act" Julian said.

Nick was actually quite impressed with how casual he managed to come off. It did nothing to fool him though. As soon as the words left his mouth a subtle but albeit very persistent headache started somewhere behind Nick's eyebrows. He pinched the bridge of his nose hard.

"The same Alex you met a few nights back at the bar? That Alex?"

Julian nodded innocently.

"Let me ask you this, have you got any idea whether they're any good or not? How do you know Ryan didn't already set up a new band? And besides!" Nick was really building up speed now "you can't just use the pretense of the band to further your personal mission of getting laid! We should make any decisions regarding it together"

"It's not like that" Julian objected quietly. He averted his eyes though and you could tell he was sorry. Calmly Nick wondered whether he'd been to harsh.

"He's a nice guy, I like him and I just wanted to help him out"

Nick sighed heavily.

"I'm sorry though," Julian quickly added "you're right, it won't happen again"

"Alright, here's what you're gonna do, call him back, ask him what kind of equipment they use and whether they have to borrow anything, they have to be here in half an hour to soundcheck, unless we can hear them play first we can't let them go on. Lastly, I'm happy you have a crush on someone but please don't pull this sort of shit again"

Before Julian could even say thank you Nick continued in a raised voice, now addressing the people in the adjacent room "Guys! Get in here, Julian's sorry ass has fallen in love and he independently booked a new support act"

As the rest of the band started pouring in with blank, uncomprehending faces (which Julian greeted with an apologizing smile, seeming to convey "oops") Nick got up from the chair and started heading for the door, he needed a smoke, and also he didn't want to be there when Jules broke the news. In the doorway on his way out he thought of something that might not have been obvious to Julian and that he feared he needed to clarify.

"Oh and we're not paying them a dime" he spat across his shoulder, while his hands were already working on hauling out a cigarette, "one day that man's going to give me an ulcer" he muttered to himself as he jetted for the fire-escape.

As it turned out, Albert was the one who gave him the most shit. It didn't manifest in anger exactly, (Nick was pissed off enough for the four of them) rather the confident mocking of someone who knew they were in the right. Even so, it never ventured into cruelty. And in any case Julian was a big boy and he could take it.

While Albert and Fab loudly mused about whether this mystery band who'd been promised to open for them specified in religious country folk or perhaps gangster rap, Julian's phone rang. Gratefully he pulled it out and felt a surge of relief at seeing who was calling. He'd been just about to dial him anyway so this worked out brilliantly. As soon as he answered a shaky voice hurriedly spilled out of the speaker.

"Hey! We're on our way now," Alex began. "I just realized that we're bringing all our own equipment, is it alright if we set everything up when we get there or...?" The rest of his line of questioning slowly trailed off on some obscure footpath covered by bushes and branches and shit, never to be seen again. Speaking to just how little thought or preparation had gone into this arrangement.

Julian could cry with happiness that Alex had thought ahead enough to take that course of action. Even if they were the greatest band on the planet Nick would be cross with anyone who fiddled with his guitars or amps.

"Yeah that'll be just fine. You sure you have everything you need? Nothing you'd like to borrow or anything?"

"No that's alright," Alex reassured. "Okay I have to go now, we'll be there in 10 minutes" he said before hanging up. Al's almost giddy voice only raised the already high moods of the rest of the passengers in the van.

"We're playing in support of The Strokes" Matt stated in a daze. None of them could discern if it was actually meant as a question or just him uttering a fact he hadn't quite wrapped his head around. In any case Alex answered energetically from behind the wheel.

"Yes, yes we are!"

Matt nodded solemnly and attempted to swallow, despite his mouth having gone dry.

In the backseat of the van Nick and Cookie conducted their own discussion as to what the Strokes might actually be like. The conversation touched on everything from what sort of guitars they played to what the standard pre-gig booze was. Jamie got the sense that they were beer kind of guys, while Nick insisted that they drank heavier stuff. When one of them brought up an interview where they claimed Julian had come off as an asshole, Alex, who'd quietly listened in amusement up until that point had to object.

"He's not an asshole" he said with conviction. Maybe he'd said that with a pinch too much aggression in his voice, as he was met with startled silence after that. "Also he likes whiskey" Alex added to soften the unintentional blow "neat."

Slowly a smile appeared on Jamie's face.

"What is he then, if not an asshole?" he teased.

Alex chewed on his cheek for a moment, considering what of his limited knowledge on the enigma that was Julian Casablancas would work as evidence of his claim.

"His eyes" he said at last, to himself mostly at this point "they're soft and warm and there's a kindness to them" the volume had steadily dropped while Alex was speaking, and the last statement was barely above a whisper, "he has kind eyes" Alex repeated. Again a stunned stillness settled, but for an entirely different reason this time around. It didn't last very long though, since Nick promptly came with a tension-defusing, cheeky whistle. The teasing that followed effectively pulled Alex away from the looping daydreams in his mind (were Julian's eyes more like molten chocolate or warm fudge would you say?) and though they didn't let him off easy, seeing how overly sappy he'd been, there was nothing truly menacing about it. It was understood that a) somehow, as if Julian had strolled down to the lake with a fishing rod and Alex was a fish cluelessly swimming, he was hooked. It was also unlikely that he'd untangle himself, especially since he had no desire of pining after anybody else. And that b) however this may unfold, they would always support him no matter what.

A sudden hit of the breaks and the subsequent flailing and jolting alerted them to the fact that they had reached their destination.

"Here we go" Matt muttered as they climbed out of the van and began unpacking their instruments.

Chapter Text

It had been while the security staff had helped them carry in their equipment, that Julian had seen it fit to burst out of the back entrance, and promptly embrace Alex in a dangerously tight hug. It caught Alex by surprise to say the least. He hadn't precisely been able to identify who it was, nor whether the person had a friendly agenda or if he was in fact being attacked. Either case he'd instinctively wrapped his arms around whatever the cuddly blob clinging to him was, and once he later realized it was Julian he was glad he'd done so. It wasn't a long affair, just a quick burst of unintentional affection that dwindled too down fast for anyone's liking. One second Julian had his arms slung around his neck possessively, with his face sort of nuzzled against Alex's neck, and just as the smaller boy began to truly appreciate the gravity of what was happening, time being the cruel bitch it was got in the way and in the next he was gone.

"You made it" Julian said, sounding as if miracles had aligned to get him there and grinning from ear to ear. In a low voice though, meant only for their ears. This lead Alex to hope, if not quite believing that the statement had been directed at him more than the band as a whole.

"Wouldn't miss it for the world" Alex said, continuing in same half-whispering manner. Though there hadn't been a need for it, since they soon noticed that everybody had gone inside and they were utterly alone in the seedy back alley.

"Oh no" Julian muttered as he began to make his way back into the venue, with Alex in close pursuit.

"What's wrong?" Alex asked.

"Eh, I didn't say hi to your bandmates, that's the impolite hallmark of an asshole" he answered.

Alex found Julian's worries endearing, still he wanted to rid him off them.

"Frontman's all anybody's got eyes for anyway" he cheekily remarked as he slumped down in one of the inviting sofas the cozy room contained, causing Julian to slap his shoulder in joking disapproval before seating himself next to him.

"That's a very self-centered and inconsiderate point of view, Alex -" abruptly Julian's sentence came to a stop and a frown appeared on his face. "Hey what's your last name?" he asked, not pleased with himself for forgetting it or not knowing in the first place.

"Turner" Alex said, amused.

"Turner," Julian repeated. "I like it"

No basis could be found in logic or common sense for the thought that next popped up in Alex's brain. He'd never cared about what anybody had thought of his name before. There was no reason to begin now, but somehow, for whatever reason, this relative stranger approving of his name meant the world to him.

"Casablancas has a nice ring to it too" Alex quipped and was rewarded with a blossoming grin from Julian.

"Well that's still a very self-centered and inconsiderate point of view, Alex Turner" Julian completed the original sentence he'd intended to say.

The banter continued on for another couple of minutes, during which, incredibly, Alex forgot all the things that had been weighing on him recently. It didn't occur to him to be nervous that he was about to stand on a stage and perform in front of people, it slipped his mind to worry about the fact that if anyone was deservant of the attention and affections of Julian Casablancas is sure as hell wasn't him.

All the fun was cut short by a frustrated Nick Valensi charging into the room.

"Where have you been? We've been looking everywhere for you! They have to soundcheck, come on" he said, before heading back the way he'd come, not bothering to check if they were following. Julian got to his feet right away, dragging Alex with him and hurrying after Nick. A couple of rushed paces was all it took to catch up with him.

"Hey man I'm sorry, we just lost track of time, I didn't mean to cause trouble"

"Yeah yeah it's fine," Nick cut him off, he was tired of playing the bad cop, and demonstrated this by giving Julian's shoulder a quick squeeze. Despite Julian being somewhat forgiven and Nick appearing to have other settings besides "tyrant", Alex wasn't met with the same warmth. With a tone devoid of any emotion, least of all encouragement, Nick dryly said

"Show us what you've got."

______

The stage was a lot bigger than Matt's garage, that was for sure. That didn't actually say much though, to put it kindly Matt's garage was very "cozy" and this was still a fairly intimate venue. Even so, with the unfamiliar new space the opportunity arose for Alex to move around in a way he'd never done before. Engaging the audience and that whole schtick. Something he suspected if he were to try he would miserably fail at, and the thought of in all honest made him feel a bit ill. He just wasn't one for dancing.

It was odd too, not having Jamie, Nick and Matt within an arm's reach of him and not being able to look at them as easily for a supportive smile or a silly face. He felt exposed, vulnerable, and that was when the room wasn't even filled to the brim with eager fans focusing all their attention to the spot where he happened to stand.

Suddenly the lights were switched on, both blinding and illuminating all at once. Alex cleared his dry throat to no avail and so he turned around to Matt. Grabbing one of the drinks that were lined up on his drum kit to settle his nerves and combat the rapid drying of his mouth. While he was there he also quickly confirmed the setlist with him, of course he knew it already, but hearing Matt say it with his calm and collected voice made him feel better all the same.

"Whenever you're ready" sounded loudly over the speakers, the source of which was Julian, standing at the back with the rest of the band holding a microphone and waving. Alex took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a second, attempting to temporarily clear his mind of everything but the chords he had to play and the lyrics he was about to sing. He tried to channel the spirit of someone with way more confidence than himself, and as he walked up to the mic stand, he actually thought it might have worked.

"We're Arctic Monkeys, and don't believe the hype" he snarled, extending his showmanship abilities as far as they would reach. He didn't waste any time after that, instead aggressively charging into the opening lines of "Dancin' Shoes"

"Get on your dancing shoes, there's one thing on your mind..."

_____

"I'm not sure about this" Nick muttered under his breath as he and the rest of the band critically observed the quartette currently inhabiting the stage. Niko, Fab and Albert hummed vaguely in agreement. Nick's deliberately shitty attitude was starting to annoy Julian.

"What's your problem Nicky?" he inquired with little patience.

"He doesn't look up for it," he muttered, talking of Alex. "his nerves are getting to him"

"Well so were mine the first time we did that! What if no one had given us a shot despite that?" Julian countered.

"They seemed like pretty cool dudes" Fabrizio offered in an effort of diplomacy. The two bands, sans Alex and Julian, had actually gotten a little aquatinted before they'd manage to track down their respective singers and commence with the soundcheck.

"Yeah? What were they like?" Jules asked, interested in their take on them since he hadn't been able to meet with them yet.

"The drummer was the chattiest one" Albert recalled, "funny guy"

"He talked to me about the advantages of drumming in sweatpants" Fabrizo commented, his tone indicating he'd found this strange but didn't particularly mind.

"The guitarist, Cookie I think he's called, has the thickest Sheffield accent I've ever heard, it was crazy" Nikolai chimed in. No reply could be made to this however since that was the moment Alex picked to kick off the show.

The first words out of his mouth, that caused eye's to roll and snorts to be made, was "Don't believe the hype". Now, had the music following the statement been horrendous it would've been a dickhead thing to say, but since it wasn't... it sort of just added on to the mythology. From the very first line to the final ringing note of the first song they were all transfixed. From the unapologetic, abrasive guitars, the story told in the lyrics, to the kick-ass drum beat, everything just screamed of quality song-writing and innovation. All Julian had to do was glance over at Nick to get him to abandon his previous position and slump his head in defeat.

"They're really good, I was wrong. Sorry I was being such a bitch before" he said.

Julian couldn't help but smile at the "hurt puppy" act he was putting on.

"There there" he comforted while instinctively snaking an arm around Nick's waist and leaning his head on his shoulder like he'd done so many times before.

As soon as the last quivering chord of the closer died down it was as if the clock finally turned midnight and the spell broke. Alex turned back into himself again with all his seemingly inescapable shortcomings and his shell closed around him once more.

"Uhm was that alright?" he asked uncertainly. The Strokes collectively flashed them thumbs up and Alex and the band began descending the stage to join them. As soon as they were within hearing distance Julian excitedly shouted at them.

"Guys you were amazing! I had no idea you were that good, seriously, look at that, goosebumps" he joked holding out his forearm. When they actually reached them Julian proceeded to distribute fistbumps amongst all the monkeys (very much personifying a proud coach building his team's spirit) and elaborated on his already far too kind words. The remaining Strokes hummed in agreement that they'd done a great job and would be happy to have them as their supporting act. That in itself was a huge moment for each and every one of them. To have a band that had influenced them immensely and whom they had grown up to love, praising their music was on the verge of being unfathomable. And that was the only reason they managed to pull off the cool swagger persona even in the slightest, the utter state of shock.

The hour or so before the actual gig was spent like any good backstage hangout session with The Strokes was spent. Drinks were being made, records were played, impromptu play-wrestling matches materialized and subsided, and the Arctic Monkeys became a natural part of the pre-gig rituals.

However, despite the festive atmosphere, as the concert grew closer and closer Alex's nerves started to act up again. He just didn't know how to keep them in check. Any sort of internal reflection on his part would forever yield nothing but self doubt and invite concern. Therefore he couldn't have been more grateful when you Julian casually grabbed his hand. It was a very subtle, intimate ordeal. His and Alex's hands were almost touching anyway since they sat next to each other on the crowded settee. The gesture made it impossible for Alex to consider anything but the warm pressure Julian's soft (albeit calloused around the fingertips due to many hours spent honing his guitar skills) hand introduced, it was the perfect distraction. Julian must've noticed that the already shy to begin with Alex, had grown even quieter than before, but since they were in the middle of a room filled with people he hadn't really seen any way to communicate with him personally. At least not verbally. He'd settled for the silent conveying of encouragement that the physical touch represented, and could only hope that it made Alex feel somewhat better. If he only knew...

Just as Alex was beginning to relax again (Jules' hand never leaving his of course) Ryan entered the room.

"Alright guys, you're on" he said with a quick smile at he newcomers. In a haze Alex, Nick, Jamie and Matt got up from where they were seated and walked out on stage.

_____

Standing and watching from the sidelines as the Monkeys took the stage, Julian's heart swelled with pride. He was so happy for Alex that he could do this for him, though really if he hadn't someone else would've. He strongly got the impression they were going to be huge, or at least had the potential to be, the world needed more band like Arctic Monkeys.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we're the Arctic Monkeys" Alex began, polite as ever, Julian couldn't help but crack a smile. "But we're not who you're here to see, you're here to see The Strokes"

The crowd let out a massive cheer of approval at this and Alex decided to play into it.

"Yeah! Let's have it for the Strokes!" he said laughing. Not that it was important, and not that it was exclusive this specific situation, but for the record Julian found this adorable.

"Well we're just gonna play a couple of songs then we'll be out of your hair, promise"

And that was all the warning the unsuspecting audience got before the blistering set began. It wasn't long, but that was about all it had going against it. A few minor voice cracks, a beat or two where they were out of synch, but in Julian's opinion they played even better than they had before. There was a sputtering urgency to Alex's vocals, as if he couldn't get the words out fast enough. The other thing that was remarkable was how well they worked as a unit. A messy, unpolished unit sure, but still a cohesive team that played off each other masterfully.

Though it was over too fast it was devastatingly memorable, and going on after that would be challenging Julian thought fondly. The polar gorillas left the stage with awkward waves and huge roars from the spectators, if they wanted more of them or if they were just really amped up for The Strokes was hard to tell, perhaps an ambivalent mixture in both. As the bands exchanged positions and Alex and Julian passed each other, Alex whom was possibly still coming off the high reached out playfully and tousled the adored rock stars' hair. Julian flashed one of his million dollar smiles that lit up his entire face and blew a kiss towards Alex before jogging up to the microphone and kicking off their set.

______

Alex's post-concert cigarette did not quite serve it's desired purpose. He was aiming to have some sort of composure once the guys wrapped up playing and he'd have to face Julian again, to his knowledge this was their only gig in Sheffield, and so presumably this would the his last time seeing him in the foreseeable future. If that turned out to be true he'd like to handle it gracefully. Tough that was made difficult by the huge impact standing on that stage and Julian himself had had on him. He realized now, that despite the tolls it took on him personally there was nothing he'd rather devote his life to. And while it brought him happiness to truly have found his calling, the realization was dangerous too. He couldn't go back now, and if he were to end up with a pedestrian desk job now it would break his heart in a way it wouldn't have before. Basically the act of smoking did nothing to wind him down nor process the many thoughts coursing like a river through his mind. He closed his eyes for a minute, letting the cigarette hang limply at his side. Forcefully he pushed away any worries about how they would get the band off the ground for real, what would happen if they were to fail in that, whether he would ever see Julian again. He chose to focus on two things. The amazing high he'd experienced seeing the crowd respond with cheers and raised arms and movement to their music. Even though he'd barely moved a centimeter he'd still let himself go tremendously, singing and playing his heart out. It had been a party on the inside. He thought about that, and he thought about Julian. Even if nothing would ever actually happen between them he would never forget Julian Casablancas. Nor the way he'd smiled at him when coming off the stage, or the feeling of his hand gently entwined with his own, or any of the thousand other details about him that hadn't even occurred yet but surely would with time and with enough pondering.

It was in this state Julian found him, eyes blissfully closed and with the teensiest of smiles playing carefully on those lips. He took a moment just to observe, take in the sight. He looked so at peace with everything, he didn't want to disturb the imagine. He went for what he'd thought to be the gentle approach, and snatched the close to burned out cigarette from his delicate grasp. Startled, Alex opened his eyes, plausibly alerted to his presence by how Julian's fingers had lightly brushed against his in the process of retrieving the cigarette. (that hadn't been purposefull at all) What he saw when he looked up was Julian casually leaning on the wall while taking the last drags of the cigarette that previously had belonged to him. Much to Alex's vexation though not really surprise Julian made it look effortless and sexy. Something Alex couldn't say he'd ever thought about anybody else when observing them smoke.

"Hey" Al greeted in a hoarse voice, both from singing and from not having spoken in a while.

"Hey there" Julian said. "What are ya doing out here all by yourself?" he asked.

"Just clearing my head a bit tha knows" Alex answered. Julian nodded slowly at that, not feeling the need to add anything.

The silence that followed stretched on for a little while, both of them drifting every so slightly into their own little worlds. Alex, picked up where he'd left off earlier and firmly placed his enormously heavy ship back on his shoulders, while Julian struggled with a much smaller albeit pressing matter. He weighed the pros and cons, considered the outcomes, laid out a strategy of approach. Once those hurdles where all behind him, he could really only think of 2 remaining issues, so he went about sorting them out. He began by dropping the cigarette, that had now burned down to the filter on the ground. Stepping on it with his worn chuck, to make sure it was sufficiently put out.

"Alex how old are you?" he then asked out of the blue.

"18" Alex replied in confusion, curious why he'd asked about that right now.

"Well then this is barely legal" Julian muttered before closing the distance between them and pulling Alex in for a kiss.

Chapter Text

Momentarily after Julian had made his move a surge of regret shot through him. Maybe this was all too soon, what if he was making a huge mistake? Regardless of whether the answer to those questions were yes, it was too late to turn back now, and in the end lust got the upper hand over logic.

He softly pushed Alex up against the brick wall, while placing tentative hands on his cheek and the nape of his neck. He connected their lips, gently at first, testing the waters. Initially Alex didn't seem very responsive, though it didn't take long for him to come around. As Alex gave up on having any control over how this played out he shoved a hand into Julian's messy hair like he'd wanted to from the very beginning, and pressed himself closer to him. Julian welcomed the advances and teasingly ran his tongue across Alex's delicate lower lip. Alex grasped the front of Julian's shirt and inadvertently released a soft moan, the combination of which caused Julian to smile against Alex's lips as he kissed him. After another minute or two Julian pulled out of the embrace, though he remained close by resting his forehead against Alex's. Post make-out there was a distinct discrepancy between the two, that Jules naturally was too daft to notice at first. While Julian was grinning from ear to ear and felt as if though the very air around them tasted sweeter, the same could not be said of Alex. The moment Julian pulled away could be likened to that of when a balloon is popped, and metaphorically speaking, Alex deflated. He let the hand that had been clinging to Julian limply fall to his side, and ominously broke the silence.

"Why did you do that?" he asked, the distress in his tone just now alerting Julian that perhaps something wasn't right.

"Because I wanted to" Julian said simply, putting a hand on Alex's hip, where his t-shirt had ridden up just enough above his jeans to expose a sliver of smooth skin. Any other day Alex would have melted under his touch, but he wasn't having it right now. He shook him off and Julian's concerns only grew.

"Alex, what's wrong?"

"You're leaving soon" he stated bluntly. "Why would you lead me on like that if you're going anyway?"

Julian awkwardly cleared his throat. In all honesty he hadn't thought about that before he'd just went ahead and did as he pleased. His thought process had gone as far as thinking Alex was attractive, realizing he ought to let him know he thought so, and that he'd try his luck and see what happened from there.

"I don't know, I suppose thought we could just have some fun" Julian answered, trying on an apprehensive smile to go along with it.

It was the response Alex had feared but expected. There wasn't anything wrong with just having a bit of fun, and he'd be lying if he said he didn't consider it in that moment. But ultimately he decided he didn't want to shag someone who would leave the next morning, and especially not Julian. Somebody he'd come to like, and would've loved to actually get know better. The right way or no way, he thought sadly.

"Uhm, I'm sorry, but I've never even been with a guy before, and the first time it happens I'd like for it to be with somebody who cares about me and who's not gonna up and leave the next day."

Julian's eyes widened as it dawned on him what a complete idiot he'd been. He felt dumb for not taking something like that into consideration, and in truth hearing the sincerity in Alex's voice only sparked his fondness of him. He wasn't going to try and change his mind, of course, he respected Alex too much for that. However he'd like to change his perception that he didn't care about him, which he did as much as anybody could care about someone they met three days ago.

Excruciatingly slow Julian leaned closer until his lips were right next to Alex's ear and his breath hot on his neck (something Alex despite himself couldn't help but find sexy).

"You know I'd at least cook you breakfast" Julian whispered before leaving a quick kiss on Alex's jaw and pulling away again.

"Please don't make this harder" Alex said jokingly.

"Now look who's flirting" Julian shot back. Alex scoffed and reached out to ruffle his hair, which once sufficiently messed up made him look a little ridiculous. Pleased with his work Alex grabbed his hand and lead him back inside, citing such tantalizing offers of having "one last piss up with the guys", that Julian agreed would be an excellent course of action.

_____

Why were the lights so goddamn bright... through his not yet fully cognizant state they still bothered him. He didn't know what he'd done to deserve the sensation of the searingly painful light, but in his weakened state all he could do about it was to voice his irritation in the form of a mutter. If there actually was a god, and Julian wasn't too sure of it, in this moment he answered his prayers. Because the next thing he knew the light cascading from the ceiling ceased to cause him discomfort and was somehow squandered. (In truth it was a lot less dramatic than that, it was just Fab closing the blinds after tracing Jules' complaints to the fact that the sun was right in his eyes).

Julian woke up with a splitting headache. He just like everybody else didn't particularly enjoy them, but to his own surprise he'd found there was a twisted sense of familiarity being derived from arising with a hangover, something he was very experienced at. It also served as a fabulous distraction from thinking about any of the things that had transpired last night before the copious amounts of liquor causing him the hangover had been consumed.

He hadn't expected it, the pang in his chest upon waking up. A symptom of something that definitely wasn't the booze. He'd been alright with it, or at least so he'd thought, so having the first thing to pop into his head be Alex was a bit of a shock. What was even worse was that he couldn't convince himself that it had just been a meaningless attempt to find a bed-warmer. He knew it could've been a start of something, and having that realization come from him was pretty big, considering Julian was excellent at lying to himself.

Still entwined in the sheets of the king seized bed he and Fab had shared the night before, Julian stretched out his limbs and soon heard a satisfactory cracking noise. He proceeded to get up, put on the jeans and t-shirt he'd disregarded at the foot of the bed, and groggily orient himself to where he had a vague memory of breakfast being served.

It took him a while, during which he miraculously managed to stub his toe twice on various furniture, but finally he found the dining hall. He was greeted with obnoxiously loud cheers as he joined his comrades. Which at first might seem as just festive way to say hello, though he was well aware they were only doing it to add insult to injury and make his hangover worse than it already was.

"Hey guys" Julian mumbled as he took a seat next to Fab. Realizing the lights were somehow more unforgiving now than before he buried his face in his hands. Fabrizio fondly reached out and patted the top of his head.

"How's that hangover treating you, buddy?" he asked, they were all sporting mild ones as well, but it didn't even come close to what Jules was dealing with. Julian's only answer was a disgruntled sound of discomfort and Fab felt it fitting to put an arm around his friend.

"There there" he comforted as Jules snuggled up to him like a frightened animal. Without having to ask a big glass of water was handed to him and Julian began sipping eagerly, they'd been through this plenty of times before and had gotten pretty used to caring for their Julian. It would occasionally be a source of laughter, recounting stories of his grumpy morning mood and all the crazy places they'd found him passed out. Though generally they steered clear of thinking about it seriously and truly asking why Julian always seemed to indulge more often and more heavily than they did. Albert had tried most recently , and it hadn't gone over well. Someone had gotten up to grab the paracetamol from the bathroom and after that conversation started flowing more freely again.

"Don't sleep on the blueberry flapjacks, they're great" Niko remarked. The following line of lazy, Saturday-morning conversation surrounded the fact that Sheffield was an unexpected place to find great pancakes, baked beans and sausage sure, but pancakes? Hmm. The only thing Julian extracted from it was an unspecified feeling of hunger, and thus he began looking around the room in an effort to locate the food.

"Hey where is everybody?" he asked when he registered that they were utterly alone in the large dining area, "and where's the food?" he added when he couldn't find any of that either.

"It's like noon" Albert reminded him, "Ryan got them to stay open just for us."

"Also we saved you some food, don't worry bro" Fab said and handed him a plate filled with an assortment of breakfast foods. Julian hummed contently and went back to shutting out the rest of the world as he dug into his eggs.

 

Nick was watching him from where he was sitting across the table. There was something off with him, besides the fact that he could probably use some more sleep and a hot shower (both of which would be accommodated shortly). Just the way his face fell, and how the smile disappeared worryingly quick from his face whenever someone would crack a joke. Nick made a mental note to talk to him later, and he hoped that his concerns turned out to be unfounded.

"Hey Jules" Nick attempted to get his attention, "is everything alright?"

Julian met his eyes for a mere second before stubbornly looking down at the table.

"Yeah I'm fine" he replied, with the conviction of a tortoise about to cross a busy road.

Nick chewed on the inside of his cheek in contemplation. It was blatantly obvious Julian wasn't telling the truth, though pressing him on it now wouldn't be an effective strategy. He'd just close up even more and they wouldn't get a word out of him for the rest of the day. He could try pulling him aside later, that had a potential of working. Nick had a nagging idea of what was behind his friend's bad mood. If he was right that just so happened to be something Nick had no desire to discuss with Julian. He tried to stay out of his love life as much as possible, simply because it wasn't his business and also since he didn't actually like inflicting pain upon himself. Usually it wasn't very hard, just turn a blind eye to the people sneaking out of his room in the mornings and you were set. The last time he'd actually been visually upset over somebody though, it'd been a while. The tension Nick had built up in his own head that no one else was privy to was broken by Ryan entering the room. The traditional cheers were omitted and to everybody's satisfaction Ryan winced ever so slightly and rubbed his temple.

"Very funny" he said with his voice dripping of disapproval. "Oh hey Julian" he added when he noticed he'd joined the group now.

"Right, I just wanted to remind you we're playing a show in London tomorrow night, we're leaving in a couple of hours" everyone nodded affirmatively and Ryan left again, presumably to check up on the rest of the crew.

Slowly the rest of The Strokes began to leave the table to take care of their own business, be it packing or showering or investigating whether they could get a bloody mary in the hotel bar. Soon only Nick and Julian remained, something at least one of them was very aware of. Nick cleared his throat and gently began.

"Are you sure everything's okay Jules?" He tried once again. Julian flinched, and snapped his gaze from the imprecise point on the wall where it'd been fixated to Nick.

"Huh? Oh, yeah no I'm good"

"I don't believe you"

"Tough shit"

Nick sighed heavily and got the feeling this would not be easy.

"Look man you don't seem alright is all I'm saying." He braced himself "does this have anything to do with Alex maybe?"

Julian begrudgingly looked at him and sighed as well.

"Yeah, it does"

"Mhmm" Nick didn't want to hear about why Alex was so amazing that his absence would result in such despair, he really didn't.

"If you don't mind me asking, what was it about him that was so great? You only knew him for like a day?" he said, biting the bullet.

"I know, I know. It's just, he was such a nice guy, and he was so.. normal. He didn't even want to sleep with me since I was leaving so soon" Julian recounted fondly. "I don't, I don't want to wake up in the morning and not know who the person beside me is anymore, I think I'm ready for a real relationship with someone who actually gets me. I can't be sure whether it would have worked out with Alex, but I would have liked to at least give it a shot"

Nick's unease at the subject was rapidly dissipating. He understood how he felt, maintaining any kind of long term relationship was difficult in their position, and hearing the real agony in Jules' wistful voice resonated with him. It also helped a great deal that it wasn't Alex in particular Jules was pining for, just the concept of a relationship in general.

"I get that man, and that's nice, but he does have a point. Maybe you can start looking for somebody when we get back home, give yourself an actual chance of it working out you know?"

"But that's just the thing! Then we're gonna leave for another tour and I'll just fuck up and it won't work. We're never home for long anyway"

Nick refrained from pointing out the many faults in his logic and just nodded sympathetically for a little while.

"Well, you could ask him if he wants to come with us on tour then? As a roadie, or maybe the whole band can be our support act for the rest of the shows in the UK?" Nick suggested, half expecting Julian to reject the idea and mainly just trying to be nice.

"Really? would that work?" for the first time that day Julian looked at him without any trace of sadness in his eyes and Nick almost felt bad for having prematurely caused it.

"Uhm yeah I suppose you could always ask" he said, trying to take down Julian's enthusiasm just a tad. He was entirely unsure if Jules had heard him though, considering he'd already hauled out his phone and begun typing in a number.

Chapter Text

"So basically, nothing really happened" Alex concluded the previous nights' events to Matthew. He was lying on Matt's bed, feet dangling off the side and staring up at the ceiling. This meant Matt wasn't in his field of vision, and when the other boy didn't say anything for a while Alex felt it necessary to find out why. After having gone through the trouble of propping himself up on his elbows all he was rewarded with was a smug grin and Matt shaking his head at him in disbelief.

"So let me get this straight, you had the opportunity to shag Julian Casablancas, and you didn't because what, he didn't say I love you first?"

Alex repressed the brief impulse to throw something at Matt's head, mainly cause that's what he couldn't avoid thinking either. He laid back on the bed with a groan.

"I suppose I did"

"Why d'you do that?"

"Well I don't know!" Alex cried theatrically, "it felt right at the time"

"But I mean, he goddamn held your hand that entire night just cause you were getting your panties all in a bunch, I'm pretty sure he'd make you feel special regardless of how long you've been acquainted" Matt pointed out.

"First off all, the panty-bunching was done collectively by all of us," Alex announced, not being entirely able to say that without cracking up. Matt did have to admit that maybe he'd been a little nervous too. "And secondly, don't you think I know that? Can we please focus on something besides the fact that I'm a moron"

"Hey, that's not true, you're not a moron, you just acted moronic in that one instance, not necessarily character defining though" Matt said, with perfectly balanced sarcasm and comfort.

"Thanks," Alex replied whilst rolling his eyes. "I don't know, I've never been with a guy before. I don't doubt that it'd be special but I just didn't feel fully comfortable. That's just the way it is."

Matt hummed something sympathetically at that, and the conversation lulled.

Alex grunted and rolled over on the bed, pressing his face into the mattress. It wasn't so much that he regretted not sleeping with him, he still stood by his reasoning at the time, but what he hadn't anticipated was missing him so much. He had enough insight to understand that he was probably making more of it than it was. But for whatever reason he ached to be close to Julian again and feel his presence. Maybe, just maybe, had he known he'd be feeling this way, he'd have favoured leaving Julian with the memory of them entwined in bedsheets and arms draped over one another and lazy morning-after kisses. Rather than this. Stuck recalling the frustrating fact that he hadn't even said a proper goodbye, since Julian had scuttled off somewhere in the back before he'd gotten the chance.

As Alex contemplated his own misfortune amid woeful sighs growing ever louder, Matt decided to intervene.

"What about if we watch a movie? Just unwind for a bit? We don't have to talk more about this unless you want to" He suggested. Alex could only nod mercifully at his friend's suggestion.

Right as the painfully tedious process of picking a DVD from Matt's collection came to an end (they'd gone with a Western cause those always seemed to cheer Al up. More specifically Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid) Alex's phone rang. He threw an apologetic glance at Matt before taking the call.

__________

 

"Hi, uhm it's Julian" he began carefully. On the other end of the line came a sharpe inhale, which sounded suspiciously gasp-like.

"Hey there" Alex said in a friendly voice, coming off a lot cooler than Julian presently felt. He played around with the idea of making some smalltalk before arriving at the actual reason for the call, but ultimately decided he couldn't handle the wait (however brief) and just cut to the chase.

"Alex I'd like for you to come on tour with us." Julian said, embarrassingly nervous. Where was his confidence when he really needed it?

"Uhm, what now mate?" Alex said, still sounding very calm and collected, not having in any way processed what he'd just been told.

Quickly Julian repeated himself, making himself more clear. "We'd like for Arctic Monkeys to come on tour with us, for the UK leg. And just so there's no confusion this request is strictly professional, we think you're really talented, and would love to help you get some exposure, in case you're interested."

In most instances when Alex was presented with a statement he couldn't fully comprehend he fell silent. Picking apart the pieces and examining them, making sense of it all before commenting. He did not follow procedure in this case however, due to the sheer insanity of the offer. His reply came instantly and instinctively.

"You can't be serious! We haven't got the experience or the skill necessary, we wouldn't want to let you down like that"

"I'm not kidding" Julian insisted. "the entire purpose of this venture would be for you to get experience, and as for letting us down, you didn't do that last night! You guys were amazing, and that was your first show too, you're only going to get better. Besides," he added in a more playful tone "if you bomb it's only going to make us look better, this is a win-win, Al."

There were many things for Alex to consider with the new arguments Julian brought up. Maybe he was right and it would be good for the band, maybe they weren't ready after all, maybe they were up for the task but other factors would weigh in, and last but not least Julian had casually called him by his nickname. Something Alex hated himself for enjoying so much. Which ever of the possibilities would prove to be the truth, he couldn't determine that on his own, he had consult the rest of the band.

"I have to talk to the rest of the band about this... overwhelming proposal. I'll get back to you soon." Alex said, though feeling it lacked some gratitude. In a softer voice he added "Thank you so much though... it means a lot to us, Jules" He then hung up because if Julian said anything else that remotely resembled flirting (which there was a pretty big risk of, all things considered) Alex knew his judgement would be impaired and thus he'd be unable to make a fair ruling on this.

In rapid succession Nick and Jamie were called and summoned, and within 30 minutes they were all gathered in Matt's room, practically bursting with excitement.

"Alright Al, wanna let us in on the amazin' news?" Jamie asked, using the exact words Alex had to bait them.

"Yes, of course. Well," Alex stopped briefly for dramatic effect and to compose himself. "Julian asked us if we want to be their support band for the rest of their gigs in the UK" he said.

Euphoric outbursts and cheers erupted from Matt, Jamie and Nick as it dawned on them what a tremendous opportunity this was for them. Alex, forever the voice of reason, continued.

"Now I know this is a huge deal and it would mean a lot for us. But there are some things to take into consideration. Like for instance, you're all supposed to be off for uni soon, what do we do about that?" This line of questioning somewhat stumped the joyful atmosphere that had settled

Nick was the first one to speak up. "This band means a lot to me of course, but so does going to school, I'm not sure what to do here."

"It wouldn't be for all that long" Matt offered, "perhaps we could push back going to uni a couple of months?"

"That's not how it works though, if we miss the first term we have to start next year" said Jamie.

"You all make good points," Alex said "but this would really be good for the band, we may never get a chance like it again"

"You're right, but are we really ready for this? We don't have all that many songs if were being honest" Jamie pointed out.

"That's true, we might be in over our heads" Matt admitted. Alex nodded slightly to this, he'd been thinking along those same lines.

"I think we should take a vote" Alex said, and the others were in agreement.

"Alright, how many for?"

Matthew raised his hand.

"And against?"

Jamie and Nick raised theirs hands.

"Looks like you're the deciding vote Al," Nick said. "What will it be?"

Alex took a deep breath closed his eyes for a minute. He should've been thinking about his bandmates and their further education, or whether they had enough songs to play or if they were well rehearsed enough. But he didn't, instead he thought of Julian, and how much he missed him. It was a lot, and that was precisely why it would be stupid to go. He could already tell he was forming an attachment, that would only be nurtured and grow stronger if he were to spend anymore time with him, and since there wasn't any actual future for a relationship between them that would just be a painful and cruel thing to put himself through. He might as well spare himself the heartache, no matter how much he desired it in that moment.

"I vote against" Alex said at last. Various heads were nodded, but no one quite knew what to say to summarize the whole ordeal. Until Matt got bored that is.

"Well, d'you lads wanna watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid then?" There was no opposition on that matter. They all stared to move downstairs, planning to occupy the settee for the next couple of hours. Expect for Alex, who excused himself to phone up Julian and inform him of their decision.

__________

 

Julian had tried to unwind, he really had. But he quickly found that relaxation eluded him. Therefore he was just sitting in the tourbus, miserable, considering which poison would calm his nerves more efficiently, pot, booze or cigarettes. He never got a chance to self-medicate though, as his phone stared ringing. Franticly he picked up.

"Hey, so are you coming along?" he asked.

"They didn't go for it, I'm sorry. It was such a nice offer though, can't thank you enough really" Alex said.

"You're welcome" Julian replied, sounding pathetically defeated and crestfallen by the news.

Despite his best efforts, he couldn't think of anymore plausible excuses to see Alex again, and the thought of that thoroughly sucked. He didn't know why he was so persistent on this. All he could come up with was that he liked Alex very much, how that had come about so quickly he couldn't explain. As he felt the end of the conversation nearing he knew he had to do something, anything at this point.

"You could always come on as a roadie?" Julian suggested, not having any high hopes. "earn some extra cash, get used to all the equipment, and also free Strokes concert every night" he said, half joking. Alex didn't say anything, which Julian deduced probably wasn't a good thing, but he also hadn't said no so he just pressed on. "Plus we could jam, like all the time. Yeah, it'd be so cool! You could show me your songs and we could record some demos maybe? Or write some new shit? You never know when inspiration hits you when you're on the road" feeling he'd made his pitch as appealing as he could Julian shut up and eagerly awaited a response.

And then finally, Alex caved. "Okay" he said, causing them both to smile like idiots, though neither of them actually knew that over the telephone line.

__________

 

What the hell had gotten in to him? This is was a bad, bad idea, Alex could already tell. His reasons for voting no were still in affect, there still wasn't a future for a relationship and he would still definitely succumb under Julian Casablancas' charm. Sometimes he feared he was incapable of doing the logical, smart, thing. And this situation did nothing to disprove that. In a trance he walked down to the living room where the rest of them were sat.

"Guys" he began slowly

"What is it Al?" Matt asked, engrossed in the film.

"I have to start packing" Alex said cryptically.

"Packing for what?" Jamie asked, half intrigued half annoyed at his coyness.

"Julian asked if I wanted to come along as a roadie... and I accepted."

Matt paused the movie and stood up, approaching his friend with a shocked look on his face.

"Alex are you serious? Do you know what you're doing?" he asked with concern, disbelief, and happiness for his friend.

"Haven't got a clue" Alex said, accompanied with a grin that went from ear to ear.
__________

Julian could not believe what had just happened. Alex had said yes! He was coming on tour with them! Huzzah! This meant he would be in his proximity extensively for the months to come, which also meant he would get a chance to really get to know him - exactly what he'd wanted. He realized he had to tell the others, so he set out to find them. It proved to be easy, since they were all hanging out on the bottom floor of the tourbus, something Julian discovered as he walked downstairs and overheard a heated debate about breakfast cereal.

"Oh my god! Cocoa Puffs are clearly superior! Anybody knows that" Fab argued passionately.

"No fucking way! Lucky Charms man, that's where it's at" Nick retorted.

"You both are children. Cheerios are the best, they're a far more sensible way to start the day" Nikolai said. And while he may have been right about the cereal, he really walked into all the ridicule that came his way after that. Fab, Nick, and Albert started reminiscing about all the times he'd started the day in the utmost insensible manner. Like the times where he'd wake up only to puke his guts out, or he was still buzzed from the night before so he just kept it going, or when they all woke up so late that lunch was more appropriate than breakfast, so they all just went out for burgers and greasy fries as their first meal. It was a deep well of material actually, and exposing his hypocrisy never ceased to entertain.

Julian who'd been standing in the back, following the conversation with a amusement, now stepped forward.

"Oh hey Jules" Albert welcomed him to the casual gathering.

"Hi there" he replied. "Alright so I've got some news. Arctic Monkeys weren't able to be our support band, which sucks. Although, Alex is coming along as a roadie"

"I've got to hand it to you Julian, bringing your little boy toy with you on tour whilst also keeping him on the pay roll, that one's new, and also very classy" Fab joked and wiggled his eyebrows at him, earning some laughs from the room.

"It's not like that at all, Fabrizo. First of all we haven't even done anything yet, it's all totally above board." Julian said, with anger laced in his voice. "Also don't ever call Alex my boy toy again" he added and shuddered.

"Yet?" Albert echoed teasingly.

"Oh shut up, will ya?" Julian said and play smacked him on the head. He sat down next to Albert and made himself comfortable on one of the couches that lined the aisle of the tourbus.

"Time will tell" Albert said with a soft smile in Julian's direction. Managing to be sweet and also sound like an old lady in a single sentence.

"In any case, he should be here soon."

__________

Alex didn't think he'd ever packed so quickly in his life, in fact he knew he hadn't. Thank god that he didn't live far from Matt and that his mum had just done the laundry. He was reminded to give her a call and thank her for that, as well as tell her and dad about all the madness that had gone down, and why they wouldn't see their son again until early summertime.

Once he'd gathered all his possessions he thought himself to need, based on an estimation of not so solid data, (he was still rather fuzzy on the details of how this all would work) he'd headed back to over to Matt's. Now they were all in the van, giving Alex a ride to the hotel they had been staying at and seeing him off.

"I have to say, it feels strange dropping you off into the care of the strokes, for what one can only assume will be a tour filled with sex, drugs, rock'n'roll and all other forms of debauchery" Matt said, obviously trying to be funny.

"That's not how the saying goes though, innit? Nick asked.

"Well no, but I felt debauchery in general needed to be added to cover all our bases" Matt said.

"Oh, well that's fair then" Nick agreed.

"Ah yes, so young and already corrupted" Jamie said.

They kept joking like that for a while, but there was an undertone of worry to it. Alex could be strong, certainly, but he was also gentle, and they didn't want to see him get hurt as a result of this.

They reached their destination and Matt pulled up next to the tourbus that was parked out back.

"Alright, this is it buddy, we're here. Now remember, you can always call if you want to, anytime ok?" Matt said, and everyone agreed that this was true for them as well.

"Thank you, I'm going to miss you all so much" Alex said, before they stepped outside and helped him with his luggage. He hugged them, something that just felt right to do and they wished him well. With that out of the way, Alex apprehensively started walking the short distance up to the bus. He had no idea what to do, say, or how to act. Pitifully he resolved to just keep his cool and go with the flow, finding little to no comfort in the empty words. Halfway there (which could only have taken him 30 seconds or so) Julian emerged, and stared approaching him with what could only be described as restrained skipping. Alex smiled at him warmly, and could've died a happy man right then and there as Julian enveloped him in tight hug. One Alex couldn't return because his hands were full, but he found that letting his warmth and scent and general Julianess wash over him was more than enough.