It started out as a matter of convenience.
"C'mon," said Bradley, "There isn't anything strange about being roommates. Those Supernatural blokes have a place together, and there isn't anything off about them. It'd be good to have somewhere to stay while we're filming."
"Alright," Colin said. "A flat. In Wales. You want to share a flat in Wales."
Bradley nodded very slowly, as though he thought Colin was being the strange one.
As this was clearly one of those Bradley James arguments that he wasn't destined to win, Colin conceded gracefully. "Have you found a place, yet?"
As it turned out, he had. In fact, Bradley had done rather a lot of research, and had even taken some preliminary walkabouts through flats all over Cardiff.
They had off filming today, which was why Colin had still been lying in bed in his hotel room when Bradley had barged in to have this ridiculous conversation. Bradley had been convinced enough that Colin would agree that he'd already made an appointment to take Colin to see the place. Colin would have argued a bit more heatedly if he hadn't been lying in bed with his hair all stuck up on one side and having to own up to wearing his lucky Boyzone t-shirt. Bradley didn't seem to have noticed that, thank god for small favors.
"All right," Colin said again, resignedly, "I can see this is strangely important to you."
Bradley's face lit up like a tween at his first Boyzone concert (Not that Colin would know or anything).
"But I've got to shower first," Colin added firmly, and leaned forward to push Bradley off his bed. "Out."
After Colin was showered, dressed in something slightly less embarrassing, and had consumed a significant quantity of tea, he met Bradley in the lobby. To his surprise, Bradley didn't set off in the direction of the parking garage, but instead took off on the sidewalk.
"It's close," Bradley said happily. "We can step out the door ten minutes before make-up call and be early."
This was suspiciously close to being a good point, so Colin chose to ignore it.
The flat was on the second story of a lovely, cottage-y looking building. Bradley let them in through the large, wooden front door, and Colin followed him up the stairway that was just beyond the entryway. At the top of the stairs Bradley gestured at another door, this one dark and glossy, and indicated that Colin should enter first.
"Oh go on," he added, when Colin looked skeptically at him.
All right, so occasionally Bradley was right about things. Very occasionally. The flat was airy and spacious, gleaming cherry hardwood flooring and a charming peaked ceiling. The sitting room gave way to a kitchen at the opposite wall, and beyond it, doors that Colin assumed were to the loo and bedrooms. He had to force himself to reattach his jaw to his face. "It's…" Everything he was thinking sounded completely soppy. "This place is nice.
Bradley smirked triumphantly. "I knew you'd like it too."
It was nice. It was large and homey, but it didn't feel like somewhere Colin's parents would live. It felt like somewhere he would live, Colin realized as he poked around in the bathroom and the two bedrooms. He turned to Bradley once he'd prowled around the length of the kitchen, opening cupboards and peering out the windows. "Alright, yes. Let's get a flat."
And that was how, three weeks later, Bradley and Colin were sharing a flat in Cardiff, just a short walk from the BBC. Angel and Katie were still a bit shocked, although they had quickly warmed to visiting on days off, and tinkering with Bradley's cappuccino-maker, just because they knew he hated when other people touched it.
"We're right near the park," Bradley would say smugly, every so often, or "Topshop's just four blocks down."
"I highly doubt you've ever stepped into a Topshop," Katie said archly. "Although it could only help at this point."
She was banned from homemade cappuccinos for a week, for that.
Colin hadn't expected to adjust so easily to living with Bradley. They were vastly different, personality-wise, and he'd expected Bradley to be the sort of flat-mate who'd never change the rubbish-tin liners, or who would drag in loud friends late at night.
But Bradley wasn't like that at all. They cooked together most nights, and though Bradley still liked to complain that Colin would waste away if he didn't have some of Bradley's chicken, Colin caught him more than once sneaking glances at his vegetarian cookbook. Though he didn't say anything, he noticed when the vegetable side-dishes that Bradley liked to cook became more and more expansive.
He was neater than expected, too. Although they both trailed undershirts about the place and occasionally left the dishes for too long in the sink, Bradley was clearly in love with the flat, and he generally kept it quite tidy.
One particularly miserable Wednesday, filming was running incredibly late. Colin was well into his third hour of shouting at the green-screen with no end in sight, while all the other cast members slowly trickled home for the night. It was one of those evenings where every time Julian said "No, turn your head more to the right, the dragon's not over there," he thought he'd burst into tears.
After the third time he'd been instructed to "Turn more, damnit, not there, more," the lighting flickered, and while Julian was seeing to whatever had caused that, Bradley emerged from the background.
"Here for a while, yeah?" he asked sympathetically.
"Yeah," Colin answered sullenly. "Likely to be here for forever."
"Right," Bradley said. "I'm off to the supermarket. Need anything?"
"Buckets of wine," Colin answered, and he grinned and saluted him. "So hard tofu and more of those repulsive crisps, then?"
"Colin sagged into the chair he'd snagged from an errand runner. "Yeah, but I haven't any cash here. I've been in this bloody outfit for ages."
Bradley waved a dismissive hand at him. "Don't worry, I'm sure I'll need repulsive crisps someday."
Colin dragged himself home several hours later. After the green-room bit had finally been finished, he'd had to go to a last minute fitting, and then he'd had to glower through an eternity of rehearsal notes and receive some script changes, and he was tired.
Inside, the flat was warm and comfortable, and Colin was already striding toward the soft, squashy couch to pass out upon it, when he took the time to inhale and became aware that Bradley had cooked.
"Sit," Bradley called cheerfully from the kitchen side of the flat. "I'll bring it over there and we can watch the telly."
Colin moaned delightedly and stretched out onto the couch. "I think I owe you my life. Or my first born. Or the life of my firstborn."
"I don't want any of those," Bradley said, and though he sounded affronted, he was grinning as he set out a plate of pasta with some sort of heavenly smelling tomato sauce.
"Move your feet, heathen," he said, as he put down his own on the coffee table.
"Piss off," Colin said, and made room for Bradley.
Things went smoothly and uneventfully for the next few months. Colin fell slowly more and more in love with the flat, which was now frequently full of good cooking smells or Dr. Who marathons (Bradley liked to watch the episode Colin had been in so he could come up with more and more creative ways to insult him). Colin loved having this place that he could retire to after his early mornings and long days on set. Though they were frequently in France, Colin had begun to feel inordinately excited for all the scenes that involved their shooting in Wales, as it meant he'd get to stay at home.
The most surprising part of the whole thing was that Bradley had become oddly inseparable from Colin's new ideas about home. There was something so lovely about him, when he was alone with Colin at the flat, or even when Katie and Angel were over. It was nothing like the Bradley who joked and flirted with everyone who crossed his path on set or at events. This Bradley, the one that Colin only ever saw at home, was no less funny, and no less a flirt, but there was something quiet and sweet about him that Colin had never seen before. This Bradley always made enough tea for two, and sometimes put an extra blanket over him while he was sleeping, and if he forgot to get groceries, always made sure there was enough protein but also plenty of the sorts of sweets that Colin liked. This Bradley fought with him about what music they ought to listen to while doing the dishes together, and he also blew soap-suds at Colin's face and laughed without any reservation when Colin splashed water in his ear.
This Bradley wandered around in obscenely closefitting undershirts, too, and sometimes nothing else but his pants, if he was groggy and uncaffienated, and all right, maybe Colin was falling a little bit in love with Bradley. Bradley was clearly oblivious.
The weeks passed like this, a mixture of contentment and sweet, quiet longing. Colin was happier than he thought perhaps he'd ever been, but at the same time, it was always torturous sitting so close to Bradley when all he wanted to do was shift even closer and draw Bradley's arm around his waist. When he was tired, he found himself envisioning pillowing his head on Bradley's lap, or against his shoulder or in the crook of his neck. As they watched a lot of movies (and soap operas, though they roundly denied it when Angel saw Footballers' Wives on the DVR), and Colin was often tired, these thoughts were rather trying.
Still, things were all right, even good, and things were uneventful, too, until Bradley started talking about puppies.
It started out oddly subtle, at least for Bradley.
Bradley never hesitated to point out things he liked, and if maybe he was pointing out all the dogs in the adverts (and there were a lot, as the holidays were approaching, and nothing's cuter and more inspiring of shopping than dogs), that wasn't in itself unusual.
Then, Colin started receiving emails from Bradley, bearing ominous subject lines like "look @ this," or sometimes just "look."
These were generally without any other text, which was a blessing due to Bradley's minimal typing skills. However, they were all loaded with attachments of pictures of puppies. The type of puppy varied widely, but they were all baby dogs, and they were all painfully adorable.
After this went on for a week, Colin approached Bradley about it. They'd just eaten a delicious vegetable lasagna, and Colin was drying mugs as Bradley enthusiastically dunked the lasagna pan in the soapy water. They had all their best talks while doing the dishes.
"Look," Colin began. "You've been behaving more strangely than usual."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Bradley replied. "Pass the scrubbing brush."
"It's by your other hand," Colin said. "And look, yes you have. You've been sending me rather a lot of pictures of puppies."
"Oh," Bradley said innocently. "That."
"Yes, oh that," Colin said tartly. "Don't oh that me, I know it was pointed. Look, are you just feeling weirdly emotional or something, or do you want a dog?"
Bradley suddenly looked very interested in the scrubbing brush. "Well," he said slowly, "We'll be in Wales until filming's done, and then we've got off for ages. And even if we were in France, I don't see why a dog couldn't go with us. And I know you're allergic to cats, but you've never said anything about dogs."
"And also, they're insufferably cute," Colin finished for him. "Alright, I suppose you've got a dog all picked out, too."
He did, and it was a tiny bulldog, snowy white, and really insufferably cute.
"Come along, Cyril," Bradley said magnanimously, after they picked him up from the family whose older bulldogs had sired him. "We've got to buy you loads of toys and treats and little sweaters and things."
"I knew you'd be an awful parent," Colin said. "He'll be all fat and spoiled."
Still, he held Cyril on the drive to the fancy pet store where you could take the dog in with you, and stroked his tiny, silky ears. Inside, they took turns holding him as they strolled about, filling up a shopping cart with chew-toys, squeaky toys, toys made of coils of rope, toys that looked like tennis balls but were apparently dog mouth fresheners, and every possible variety of food.
"Cyril's very particular," Bradley said, when Colin squawked at the three argyle puppy sweaters.
At home, they took Cyril through the flat, introducing him to the various rooms and laying out his new food and water dishes.
They took turns reading aloud from the Puppy Parenting Handbook and coaxing Cyril with various extravagant toys.
"Whuffle," Cyril said earnestly, and Bradley dove for the camera.
"Making him a baby book?" Colin asked dryly, and Bradley turned suspiciously red.
They had to sleep in the living room that night, after Colin pointed out that their lengthy and heated squabble over whose room Cyril would get to sleep in was probably upsetting the dog.
"Eep," said Cyril, with a tiny puppy yawn, and Bradley went to fetch their comforters.
Cyril wanted all the blankets, and he also wanted to sleep simultaneously atop Bradley and Colin.
"He's so bossy," Colin slurred drowsily at some time in the middle of the night, when Cyril had whined insistently for what felt like at least ten minutes, until they'd each put an arm around him. "He's rather like you, Bradley, no wonder you wanted a dog."
"Shut up," Bradley said sleepily, and clumsily brushed his free hand over Colin's hair.
After that, things were busy for a few weeks, mostly due to the wrapping up of filming, and first potty-training and then general doting over Cyril. Colin had actually forgotten what it felt like to sleep in his bed. They'd become so accustomed to sharing the sitting room floor, and they'd spoiled Cyril so terribly that he doubted the puppy would fall asleep, now, unless he and Bradley were both beside him.
Then, the final scene was shot, the last wrap party attended, and they had glorious weeks to themselves before they had to do any traveling or visiting or work.
It was the holiday season, and Colin loved every moment of it. He was wrapped into his coziest hoodie (and alright, the Boyzone shirt underneath), and he'd just come home from buying supplies for gingerbread.
Inside, he chucked Cyril under the chin, then rolled up his sleeves and set to work on the dough. Bradley emerged from the shower a while later, casually glorious in his damp, glistening state.
"Mm," he said, and sauntered over to the table. "Here, while you're waiting for the dough to set."
Colin brushed off his hands on his jeans, caught up Cyril in his arms, and joined Bradley at the table. Bradley had a mass of pictures spread out before them.
"Christmas cards," he said, as though this was a very reasonable thing to say.
"I'm sorry, what?" Colin said. "Cyril, tell Bradley he's being strange."
"Mmmph," Cyril said, and licked Bradley's nose.
"Traitor," Colin muttered, and patted his head. Bradley reached out to stroke Cyril's back.
"Come on, what better way to make Katie furious than to show off how glorious our canine is?"
"Yes but-" Colin spluttered, "this? He pointed at a picture of the two of them cradling Cyril in his baby blue argyle sweater. Angel had taken it several weeks ago, in a fit of wine-induced hilarity.
"I think that one's charming," Bradley said in his most affronted voice.
"Bradley," Colin said slowly. "Here, take Cyril for a moment, he weakens my resolve."
Bradley took Cyril.
"Alright," Colin said. "Listen. This is all very lovely, and I don't mind a bit of it, but are you aware of how very familial you're being? I mean, you're acting like Cyril's our child, and I think people are going to talk."
"Colin," Bradley said in his irritating way, "I do feel like this is my family."
"That's really gay, Bradley," Colin said, and he felt a little faint.
"Oh for Christ's sake," Bradley cut in impatiently. "That's exactly what I'm trying to say, and show and all, but you're being so thick."
"I'm thick?" Colin said, outraged. "You've been lounging, and glistening, and cooking things. You've been cooking vegetarian things in an undershirt.
"Yes," Bradley said, drawn out and slow. He looked down at Cyril, slowly. "I'll just have to show him, won't I, boy?" He turned to Colin. "Come here. I don't want to dislodge Cyril."
Colin slid closer, nervously.
"Oh, just come here," Bradley said, and his hand shot out to close over Colin's jaw and drag him near, and then he kissed Colin, slow and sweet and warm, and-
"-Oy!" Colin said, rather breathlessly. "When'd you have time to sneak into the gingerbread?"
"Shut up," Bradley said thickly, and kissed him again and again until Colin was completely breathless.
"Cyril told me to," he added smugly, then, and before Colin could come up with a retort, he drew him even closer.
That night, Colin and Cyril joined Bradley in his bed.
"You know," Bradley said, as he reached to turn off the lamp, "I'm starting to wonder about those Supernatural blokes."
"Yawn," said Cyril, and they both concluded that he was quite right.