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The Simplest Way

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Bradley stared at the sleek, metallic gray refrigerator door and he searched and searched but his mind was as blank as that wide, expansive door. None of his synapses seemed to be firing at all. What a time to have writer’s block!

With trembling fingers, Bradley reached for his beer and took a swig as he looked down at the rainbow colored magnetic letters that popped out even brighter up against the black marble counter. He’d bought them, especially for this week. It had never taken him this long to come up with a message to write.

Sighing, Bradley tugged at his short blonde locks. When he realized what he was doing his sigh grew louder and he furiously combed back the hair he had highly stylized for this night. As he leaned over the counter and played with the green letter “M” he wondered if he should scrap this whole idea in the first place. He couldn’t even remember how the whole idea of exchanging messages with Colin back on forth through refrigerator magnets had even begun.

Chuckling, Bradley soon recalled that, like a lot of brilliant ideas, it had begun while drunk and with a little nudge from his sister.

Bradley and Colin had just started sharing a kitchen and things had not started off smoothly. Bradley had been on edge all day - really all week. He had tried to chalk it up to the effects of a combination of really shitty weather and a long, tedious day of shooting, but in his flickering moments of self-realization, Bradley had known it was more his nerves at constantly being in such close proximity to Colin and being too scared and confused to figure out the uneasy tangled mess of emotions being around Colin brought out in him. To add sharing a kitchen on top of him pushed Bradley too far.

So, he tried to push Colin back except Colin knew him too well and wouldn’t let him get away with it. It was something that unnerved Bradley and excited him at the same time - how connected the two of them had become over the years. They had their own special wavelength that was unlike anything he had with anyone else.

Colin had blown him off without even saying goodnight and Bradley stood in the kitchen feeling annoyed and confused and, most of all, felt incredibly guilty. While they had seemingly buried the hatchet the next morning, with Colin, as usual, being far too nice and trying to share equal blame, it had stayed with Bradley.

He was supposed to be having fun in London with his mates, but his thoughts far too often strayed to Colin, which was becoming par for the course lately. Despite his pre-occupied mind he’d managed to have a good time, perhaps too good, and was sauced to the gills when he’d texted his sister Stephanie and explained the whole situation - well not the whole situation since he couldn’t stand the psychoanalyzing she would do if he brought up his complicated feelings for Colin. Bradley told her about the argument and the worrying about their new close quarters.

In her extremely mature and tactful way she had told him how to handle it - “If I didn’t know any better I would think the two of you were in primary school. Stop pulling his proverbial pigtails and talk to each other like adults.”

As always she was annoying, but also very, very right. He was too drunk though to really think of how to approach Colin for their much-needed talk and decided to go to bed.

At around 2 AM, Bradley had lurched up from his friend Dave’s horrible futon and stumbled toward the kitchen looking for some water. For some odd reason, after he had closed the refrigerator door he had become almost hypnotized by the magnetic letters on the fridge. As he clutched the cold, wet water bottle in his hand an idea suddenly formed. And that was where his magnetic poetry to Colin was born.

He’s not sure Stephanie would approve - communicating through refrigerator magnets wasn’t exactly the definition of being adult and mature - but the more he thought about it the more he loved the idea.

Honestly, Bradley could kiss his sister and Dave’s tacky yellow fridge. Magnetic poetry had been one of the most brilliant ideas of his life. What had at first started at with the most bizarre and random statements -

Bradley: identify with your lunch
Colin: ask for monkey technology
Bradley: into the wild wild web
Colin: slather me with sanguine zeal

-turned into a way for Bradley to finally open up to Colin in a way he knew he couldn’t face-to-face with Colin.

One night they went out to a pub and got drunk together. They found their way home together with Bradley wrapping his arm around Colin for support. The way they moved together - somehow stumbling and yet gracefully moving as one - it made Bradley’s mind swirl more than any trace of alcohol.

He didn’t want to lose that and kept Colin as close to him as possible. Colin felt so warm against him and it took everything Bradley had not to wrap Colin fully in his arms and burrow his face in his neck. But, Bradley only had so much self-control and something had to give. Without thinking, he took a swig of his beer for courage and turned to the refrigerator. It took him far too long to spell out two simple words - explore me.

After Colin looked at his message, the tension hung heavy in the air. Bradley used up all of his bravery writing that message and can’t look Colin in the eye. At first, Colin tried to joke his way out of the situation and Bradley almost let him, but he couldn’t do it. This moment was too important to him.

Giving in to temptation finally, Bradley buried his face in Colin’s shoulder and touched his neck, stroking his thumb along his soft skin. Just that small amount of contact ignited something inside of Bradley. In that moment, he realized that they could finally do what they’ve wanted to for ages - at least what Bradley knows he’s want to. They could have a quick fuck and God it would be so good but it’s not what he wanted. What he wanted was so much more and the thought excited but also frightened him.

It was also not lost on him that Colin isn’t responding. He’s standing stiffly in Bradley’s arm. The thought finally hits Bradley that maybe this attraction isn’t mutual after all. Could he really have gotten this so completely wrong?

Before Colin could verbally reject him, Bradley straightened and tried to put on a brave face. He didn’t want Colin to know how much this had affected him. Muttering a quick goodnight, he dashed off to his room.

After closing the door, he just stood in his room and stared at the wall. He felt like an absolute fool. Aimlessly trudging toward his bed, he sat down on the edge of the bed and shook his head, which was not a good move with a headache that was already quickly forming. He felt embarrassed and frustrated and annoyed. When he finally fell backward and crashed against his bed, he decided that perhaps this was for the best. He made his play for Colin, and in Colin’s very polite way, he let him know where he stood. Bradley could just blame everything on the alcohol. This didn’t have to change anything.

He fitfully slept trying to convince himself of that delusion.

 

~*~

The next morning Bradley stayed in bed for an ungodly amount of time. Even when he finally remembered that Colin was off in London and he didn’t have to worry about any awkward run-ins, Bradley stayed immobilized. He just kept replaying the previous night over and over again in his head. The embarrassment was almost enough to make him want to swear off alcohol forevermore, but he knew that was a laughable idea.

In fact, he knew he could probably use a drink right then. He tottered toward the fridge and opened the door as he rubbed at his eyes. After exploring the refrigerator’s contents more than two times, he realized they were out of beer. With a groan, he slammed the door shut and leaned his head against the cool exterior.

Pulling back, he was about to turn so he could go and get dressed and go on a trip to any store that held mind altering substances when he noticed the message on the fridge. He blinked three times as he was sure he had to be mistaken at what he was seeing. But, no, he was seeing things right and Colin’s message was pretty clear - want to touch.

Bradley could feel his mouth slowly stretch and soon enough his cheeks started to hurt from how much he was smiling. He broke speed records to get to his phone, but then his finger hesitated as it hovered above Colin’s name. He knew what he wanted to say - “get home now” - but he should probably get some clarification before he landed himself in another embarrassing situation.

So Bradley simply texted, “really.”

The response is fast and equally simple - “yes.”

He literally whooped in response. How such a simple message had him bursting with giddiness he almost couldn’t understand. How Colin Morgan had turned him into such a school boy he couldn’t understand, but he didn’t care. This was something he had been waiting on for years and he wasn’t about to overanalyze it now.

A part of Bradley wanted to get on the next train and see Colin as soon as possible, but he decided that he would try and be patient. And somehow he managed it. By the morning an eerie sense of calm had come over him. He was still just as euphoric as the previous night, but he wasn’t bouncing off the walls like he thought he would be.

When Colin came back, he was singing and he didn’t stop singing. When he finally had Colin in his arms he sang into a grinning Colin’s ear as he danced them around the kitchen. He wanted to savor this moment.

As he backed Colin against the kitchen wall, he knew that this was it and he would finally get to touch Colin and taste him and hold him and get lost in him. His stomach was doing somersaults and his chest began to tighten. He wanted Colin so badly, but for a second, he worried about how this would change everything and what if it wasn’t for the better and what if they couldn’t go back and what if - and then Colin is cradling his face in his hands and looking at him with such warmth that Bradley’s thoughts flew out the window and when Colin licks his bottom lip Bradley knew this would change everything and is glad of it.

Soon they’re kissing and Bradley already can’t get enough of him. He grinds against Colin to let him know just how much he wants this and how much Colin turned him on. He wanted to feel all of Colin and was just about to stripping Colin’s clothes off when they’re rudely interrupted.

It’s Katie.

Bradley loves Katie.

Bradley adores Katie.

Right then, Bradley would gladly strangle her with his bare hands.

He tamped down that urge and hoped that Katie just needed something simple and would be on her way.

Without even waiting for Colin to open the door fully, Katie barged her way inside. Apparently, she had a friend visiting from out of town and she wanted all of them to go out that night.

And even though, Colin and Bradley both begged off, Katie apparently could take the hint.

“Fiona is just the loveliest girl and I don’t want to let her down.” Katie persisted.

Colin nodded. “I’m sure she’s wonderful and I’d love to meet her - tomorrow. I had a long train ride this morning and we have a big week ahead of us.”

Bradley smiled and tried to subtly nod his head toward the door.

“But she’s leaving tomorrow and I really don’t want her to miss seeing you. I told her all about how funny and sweet and cute you are, Colin.”

“Nothing about me.” Bradley couldn’t help adding.

“Well, you know what they say if you don’t have anything nice to say…” Katie laughed.

Bradley faked a laugh and stepped forward and put his arm around Katie and walked her closer to the door. “I’m sure your friend is missing that laser sharp wit of yours. We don’t want to take up all of your time…”

Katie easily backed out of Bradley’s embrace with a chuckle. “I’m just teasing. Since when can’t you take a joke.”

“I can take a joke. I laughed. I’m just really tired,” Bradley explained. He tried to keep the annoyance out of his voice even though he was steadily losing patience with her.

“You’re both too tired? I would have thought you would both jump at the chance to do something fun. You hardly ever go out anymore.”

“I go out,” Colin added. “I just went out with my friends yesterday.”

“Have you been on any dates recently?” Katie asked.

Finally realizing what Katie was up to, Bradley got jealous even though he knew it was ridiculous. Colin hadn’t even met this girl and, really, Bradley had no real claims to Colin...yet. “So, you’re trying to set Colin up. He didn’t ask you to.”

“He is too cute to not be spreading that lovely Irish charm all around.”

“He is standing right here and can speak for himself.”

Bradley and Katie both ignored him.

“He doesn’t need your help in this department. He’s doing just fine.”

Katie crossed her arms in front of her chest. “Really? It must have escaped my attention that he was seeing anyone. And who is this mystery person?”

Bradley pinched the bridge of his nose. “That’s none of your business. Why do you have to be so bloody nosy?”

Right away, Bradley could see that was not the right way to go. Katie’s green eyes looked like they would literally turn red and she squared her shoulders to let Bradley have it. Before she could do that, Colin interrupted.

“It’s Bradley. Before you barged in here we were about to shag like bunnies. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get that started. Please give your apologies to your friend. I’m sure you’ll find her another lucky man, but I am currently not on the market.”

Both Katie and Bradley looked at him with wide eyes.

Suddenly, Katie threw back her head and roared with laughter. “Well, it’s about time! Why didn’t you just say that instead of having me drag it out of you? Both of you make things way too complicated.”

Even though they shouldn’t have been, both Bradley and Colin looked shocked.

Katie went to the door and turned with her hand on the doorknob. “Congratulations.” She beamed at them. She pointed at the both of them. “I want every detail later.”

“Perhaps you’d like to stay and watch.” Bradley offered.

Katie opened her mouth.

“Nevermind!” Bradley and Colin said almost in unison.

Katie shook her head and laughed as she walked out the door.

Bradley put his arms around Colin’s neck and molded their bodies together before the door had closed fully. “I can’t believe you told her that.”

Colin wrapped his arms around Bradley’s waist and grinned at him. “Well, my mum always said the simple truth always works.”

Bradley leaned in close to Colin’s mouth. “I’m starting to figure that out.” He closed the distance between them before Colin could respond.

 

~*~

 

What started out as unbelievable, but ultimately no strings attached sex, soon turned into much, much more. A feeling of euphoria engulfed Bradley and every waking moment he was consumed with thoughts of Colin - wanting him, craving him, loving him. He never wanted it to stop.

Unfortunately, that feeling of euphoria did dissipate and reality muscled its way in once their Merlin bubble was gone. Soon, they went off in different direction - different career paths which led to time in different continents. His love for Colin never wavered but Bradley put his career ahead of it and their relationship wasn’t able to survive it.

They broke up and Bradley thought he wouldn’t survive it. Every day, the pain lessened, but Colin was never far from his thoughts. Bradley had resigned himself to living with that pit of loneliness. He figured it would get easier, but it just never did.

Two years crawled by and suddenly they were face to face at the NTA Awards. Running into each other backstage, Bradley felt like time had stopped still at the exact moment someone punched a hole in his chest. Two years without seeing those blue eyes. Two years without feeling Colin’s strong hands burying themselves in his hair. Two years without those plump lips trailing kisses along the back of his spine. Two years without hearing the most perfect voice he would ever hear telling Bradley he loved him.

It was too much and not enough. Bradley realized in an instant what a colossal wanker he had been but it was too late. Colin was gone in a flash. Bradley couldn’t find him after the awards were over. He couldn’t find him at the after party. All of his calls to Colin went straight to voicemail.

Even though he knew he couldn’t give up, Bradley started to wonder if he should just leave the decision up to Colin. If he wanted to contact him, he knew his number. But, destiny in the form of a happy and pissed Eoin Macken stepped in. Bradley ran into him at the after party and without much questioning at all, Eoin provided him with the name of Colin’s hotel and his room number. Planting a sloppy kiss on Eoin’s cheek Bradley had been off like a flash.

Standing in front of Colin’s door that night, Arthur couldn’t think of another time he had been quite as nervous (somehow that nervousness had nothing on what he was feeling now). He was shaking so hard he wondered if Colin would be happy or scared at Bradley’s jittery appearance. When Colin opened the door, he seemed more concerned than anything. Ushering Bradley inside and offering Bradley tea, Bradley was struck dumb again over what a kind and generous person Colin was. Before Colin could get up to leave, Bradley had latched onto his wrist and found the strength to stand. He had poured out his heart to Colin and apologized profusely for all the time that had been wasted. As he was about to get on his knees to beg Colin to take him back, he found himself crushed to Colin’s chest with his arms practically squeezing the life out of Bradley. Despite the lack of air, Bradley had never felt happier or more content.

It didn’t take long for Bradley to realize he didn’t ever want to let Colin go again. He wanted to spend the rest of their lives annoying the piss out of each other, laughing together at the most inane jokes, making love - sometimes all three at the same time.

Because of how he had screwed things up in the past, Bradley knew this proposal had to be epic. He decided to take it back to the beginning, which is where the idea of returning to the magnetic poetry came from. He had been leading up to the proposal by coming up with some of the cheesiest, soppiest lines he could think of.

I want you to keep exploring me

Smiling with thoughts of you

I could wait a thousand years for you

Colin had been loving them, even though he had expressed suspicion over them. Sometimes, Colin knew him a little too well.

Now, tonight was the night and Bradley’s mind was still frustratingly blank.

Shaking his head, Bradley pushed off the counter and turned to the refrigerator. Colin would be home any minute. He had to get this done. With trembling fingers, he started placing letters on the fridge.

If you could see inside my heart, you would know there is no one else in this world for me. I want you -

Bradley groaned. No. No. Absolutely not.

Plucking the letters off the door a few slipped from his hand and Bradley crouched down to pick them up. He took a moment to try and get his bearings. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and did what he had found himself doing often when he was feeling overwhelmed and confused - he thought about what Colin would do. He flashed back to a conversation with Colin from years ago.

“Well, my mum always said the simple truth always works.”

Bradley chuckled. Standing up, he turned to the refrigerator and with steady hands spelled out three words. After he was done, he went to their bedroom and waited.

Thankfully, Colin was home in less than five minutes. Bradley heard his keys plunk down on the glass table by the front door.

“Bradley?” He called out.

Bradley decided not to answer. He wasn’t afraid that Colin would bypass going to their kitchen. After a long day, Colin usually headed straight for the kitchen to get some water. Which is what he did this time. Bradley saw the faint glow of the kitchen light. Five seconds later he heard a soft gasp from Colin. Bradley smiled.

Seconds later, Colin slowly walked into their room. His face was a mixture of apprehension, confusion, but most of all, anticipation. “‘I love you. Be mine forever?’” Colin finally whispered.

Bradley stood up from the bed and walked closer, stopping halfway from Colin. “I thought simple and direct was the best way to go.” He cocked his head to the side and grinned. “Though I suppose there is a simpler way to ask.” Bradley reached into his pocket and withdrew a black velvet box.

Colin’s hands flew to his face.

Closing the distance between them, Bradley got down on one knee. “Will you?”

Colin opened and closed his mouth several times, but the words seemed to stick in his throat. Finally, with watery eyes, Colin gave a jerky nod before pulling Bradley up and peppering his face with kisses.

Pulling apart, Bradley held onto a trembling Colin while he extracted the simple white gold band. Instead of slipping it on Colin’s finger, he placed it in his palm and closed his fingers around it. He leaned close and whispered in Colin’s ear. “Read the inscription.”

Sniffling, Colin opened his hand and picked up the ring. As he read, fresh new tears sprang to his eyes. “You’ll always have my heart.” He sucked in a breath and pulled Bradley to him.

Clutching Colin to him, Bradley thought for the thousandth time how astoundingly lucky he was to have found Colin.

His final thought before Colin started kissing him senselessly was thank God for refrigerator magnets.

Bradley didn't know why he was making this so complicated. Then again, his and Colin's relationship seemed to face one complication after another, so why should this night be any different?