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The Adorability Conundrum

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It’s after yet another borderline flirtatious post-interview chat that Bradley starts thinking about it. 

This time the interviewer had called Colin adorable, expounding on something about his messy hair, Irish brogue, or wandering ways of answering questions. Bradley isn’t sure which, he’d been hung up on the word adorable ever since.

Where did Colin get off being adorable? They’d gotten identical media training before heading off into this season’s slew of promo events and Bradley was damn sure no one said to act adorable .

They finish off the conversation as crew remove microphones and equipment, after which Colin heads back to the studio for more voiceover work, leaving Bradley to navigate back to his Cardiff flat on his own. Bradley starts looping through a personal reel of Colin’s behaviour both in interviews and out during the commute. The only constants he could see--other than Colin--were scores of people calling Colin adorable.

What did adorable even mean? Bradley thought puppies were probably adorable, certainly cute, and wasn’t he always being compared to a puppy? Why wasn’t he adorable?

He poses this same question to Katie the next time he sees her, which, coincidentally, is later that night for their traditional end of the week pub visit.

“Katie, why aren’t I adorable?” 

“Oh, Bradley, has your mirror been yelling at you again? You know I’ve already told you you’re the fairest maiden in the land.” Katie’s had a light schedule this week as well and is in a good mood.

Bradley takes a sip from his pint before responding.

“You know what I mean. People are always saying things like ‘Oh isn’t Colin adorable, look how sweet he is, what a darling,’ etc.” 

“So this is actually about Colin, and not you?”

“No, it’s about the etymology of the word adorable,” Bradley retorts. 

“Ooh, big word. Been studying up?” This jab comes instead from Eoin, who slips into Bradley and Katie’s booth holding his own pint as well as a tray of gin and tonics.

Though Bradley had, in fact, spent a good deal of his afternoon reading various definitions and nuances of adorability, he was hardly going to admit this fact to Katie or Eoin, so he dropped the matter. For the better part of an hour he proceeded to let Eoin boast about his hair and Katie attempt to boost Bradley’s ego while various members of cast and crew trickled into the pub as they got off.

By the time Bradley’s brain had worked itself back to the now-dubbed Adorable Conundrum, he was well sloshed and had accumulated a decent audience to which he could question again.

This time Angel provided the voice of reason:

“People call Colin adorable because he looks all small and unprotected, like he’s capable of being adored because he’s cute, but just needs someone to adore him.”

Bradley scoffed at the idea that Colin was unprotected. He’d learned that the hard way within the first few weeks of knowing him, when attempts at more physical pranks had gone dastardly wrong, one instance in particular leaving the makeup crew distinctly angry at Bradley, even though “It was all Colin, I swear it!”

“You’re like this big, strong brute next to Colin, with your muscles and football and general stereotypical masculinity,” Katie picked up where Angel had left off, but soon both left Bradley to fetch another round at the bar. 

“‘M not a big brute,” mumbled Bradley into his empty glass.

“Something got you down, James?” 

Bradley immediately snapped his head up as Colin slid into the place previously occupied by Katie, seeing the gently teasing smirk on his face.

You , Bradley was tempted to say, although that wasn’t quite true. Just perplexed, rather, and it must’ve shown on his face, as Colin jostled his arm and said, “Don’t think too hard about it; can’t have you hurting yourself, eh?”

“I’ve got a conundrum,” Bradley stated.

Colin raised his eyebrows, encouraging him to go on.

“Are you adored? Coz people are always going on about you being adorable but--wait, that’s not right. I mean, do you need to be adored? D’you feel adored, Colin? You must need to be adored, that’s what everyone keeps saying.”

And right then, as Colin’s eyes widen in surprise and his mouth quirks open, cheeks flushed pink from alcohol and the pub’s warmth, just in that split moment does Bradley start to maybe see what all these other people are on about.

“Oh, Bradley,” was all Colin gave in response, the second time Bradley had heard it that night. Third if you counted the cab driver that dropped Colin and Bradley off at Bradley’s flat, though Bradley couldn’t imagine how the driver would know his name, so maybe he imagined it, and he wasn’t remembering too much at that point anyway.

The only thing Bradley does remember is the plush mattress topper of his bed as he sinks into it and thinking that he should thank whoever convinced him to invest in mattress comfort even for the short time he was in Cardiff.

Bradley awakens the next morning by flinging a hand out to stop his alarm, succeeding instead in turning over the glass of water that had been left on his bedside table. The double agony of the piercing alarm and being wet in bed forced him from underneath his covers and he shuffled into the kitchen to refill his glass.

There, stuck on his fridge, Bradley found a sticky note in Colin’s familiar handwriting.

“Let me know when you solve your Adorability Conundrum, once you remember it.”

Below the words was a cheeky smiley face, if three lines of ink could be called cheeky. 

With that, the events of the previous night regain their clarity, and Bradley groans, only serving to further antagonize his throbbing head.

After guzzling several glasses of water and a hot shower, Bradley picks up his phone to call his sister, ignoring the multiple notifications from Eoin and Tom, thankful that at least he’s never been a drunk texter.

“Nat?” Bradley asks as the line clicked on.

“What’s wrong, Bradley?” questions his sister knowingly.

“Why does something have to be wrong for me to call my sister?”

“It’s the Saturday morning after your weekly pub night. I’m honestly surprised I haven’t gotten this call in a while.” 

“I asked Colin if he needed to be adored,” Bradley admits, wincing again as he does so before launching into the entire tale.

“Bradley. Colin’s adorable, you think he’s adorable, figure it out, I’m going for a run,” states Natalie with only a hint of exasperation.

“But I don’t!” protests Bradley, but the line has already gone dead.

And that’s the whole thing. Bradley genuinely doesn’t think Colin’s adorable. Sure the accent’s charming, and the way his hair looks all soft and rumpled first thing in the morning does something funny to Bradley’s stomach, and grandmothers would probably slip an extra butterscotch in his pocket before he left, but that’s not adorable.

Bradley tries putting Colin through the same puppy logic as earlier. Probably adorable, and cute? He guesses so. Though the word isn’t a perfect fit, it’s certainly better than adorable, and doesn’t that say something?

Angel’s words from the last night float back to him along with numerous other drunken attempts to break down the word adorable into something that would make sense of its complete nonsensicality. Adorable means able to be adored, but Bradley realizes all these people calling Colin adorable think that he isn’t already adored, which is just wrong because if they heard any of the fans, or Colin’s mum, or even Bradley’s mum and-- oh .

Bradley sends a text quickly before he can lose his nerve.

Take away and reruns at mine? 

- Only if it’s Thai .

Fine, but you’re bringing, you picky git.

Bradley’s insult is only in jest, as both he and Colin well know, but he agonizes over his word choice for a bit too long after pressing send. If he’s been misreading the meaning of adorable for this long, who knows what other linguistic cues he’s been missing.

Colin shows up at Bradley’s door at half six, the promised take away in hand, and they tuck in at opposite ends on Bradley’s couch.

Suddenly, Bradley states, “You’re not adorable.”

And there it is again, the wide-eyed stare that’s only slightly less wide now, because of course Colin had heard this intro last night. If only Bradley could find a way to keep surprising Colin, keep that expression on his face at all times.

“Did I bring you food just so you could pay me in insults? The delivery boy finally stop putting up with you?”

“I mean, you don’t need to be adored.”

“Not getting any better, mate,” said Colin, though his smile betrayed his disinterested tone.

“The conundrum, you idiot, I’ve figured it out. The fans, your mum, they all adore you. Verb, not adjective. That’s the difference!” At this point Bradley had started gesticulating wildly as if he could point out the specific difference better with his sauce-coated chopsticks.

“I’m pretty sure they all find me rather adorable too, Bradley.” Colin was now plainly amused.

“No!” Bradley was properly on the road to being upset now. He’d been trying to make people understand for two days now. “Adorable means you don’t have anyone to adore you, but you do. You have people.”

“Bradley,” Colin coaxed. “Who do I have?”

Bradley’s chopsticks were now firmly buried in his noodles, with his eyes boring similarly into the take away container, pretending to hunt for the last bit of chicken.

“I don’t think you’re adorable because I already adore you,” Bradley mumbled into the container.

He didn’t want to look up, but at the same time couldn’t help but see if he’d made Colin make that face again, just in case he never got to see it again.

As he slowly raised his eyes, he was met by a face that was much closer than it had been before. Colin wasn’t making the surprised face, but before Bradley recognized that he was in fact grinning, his own face dropped into a pout.

Colin sighs.

 “Insult after insult. Would you stop pouting so I can kiss you?”

It’s Bradley’s turn to be surprised. He dropped the take away container and indeed stopped pouting, just as Colin’s lips met his own. Bradley’s first thought is salty , then warm , and finally, Colin’s lips , before said lips are pulling away and their owner is looking at Bradley quizzically.

There’s hardly a moment’s hesitation before Bradley reaches a hand out to Colin’s jaw and pulls it back towards his own face, this time meeting Colin’s fervor with his own. Colin’s lips are soft as they move under Bradley’s, and he takes a moment to memorize their feel before reaching out with his tongue, wanting more. More of Colin’s soft keening and wandering fingers in Bradley’s hair, more of the heady taste of Colin’s mouth that could be nothing but Colin , despite its absolute newness to Bradley.

He can feel Colin’s lips curve under his own and adores it, wants to savor it and capture it and something instinctual makes Bradley grasp the back of Colin’s neck with one hand and his hip with the other to pull Colin ever closer to him. As they recline back into the couch and Colin’s weight presses into him, Bradley decides he adores that too. And when Colin starts moving against his body, fingernails scraping against his scalp? Bradley definitely adores that.

Suddenly there’s a hand on his shoulder and Bradley opens his eyes to see Colin’s smirking face hovering right above his.

“How’s that for adorable?” Even out of breath, Colin’s still able to tease Bradley, of course, and Bradley realises that Colin’s surprised face is nothing compared to the red, kiss-bruised lips that quirk into an exclusively-for-Bradley smile and a flush to the cheeks that has nothing to do with alcohol or temperature, pupils now clearly dilated with arousal.

“Absolutely devoid of adorability, 0% adorable, so horrendous we should abolish the word completely,” Bradley avows, bestowing kisses every time he should have stopped for breath.

“Bradley James,” says Colin as he lowers himself once more onto Bradley’s prone figure, “I adore you very, very much.”