He'd been ready to go through with it; ready to proceed with what he knew was a facade - the marriage. The marriage to a girl who was lovely and perfect and probably part sunshine, but who failed to make his heart beat faster or his palms sweat or incur any sort of reaction that one was supposed to have in this situation. The situation he'd forced himself into after he'd laid his heart out to Colin.
Filming had wrapped up for the fourth season and he'd dragged Colin back to his hotel room; anxious as he worked up the nerve to tell Colin how he felt. It had taken a few pints to get him there, but he'd done it. He'd told him. And Colin's face had gone blank and he'd stood and said that they couldn't be having this conversation, that Bradley didn't know what he was talking about and that he was leaving and not to ever mention this again.
Colin had left and Bradley had curled up on the bed and broken a little. When he woke the next morning, he vowed to take Colin's advice and wiped the whole incident from his mind; at least he tried to. He crammed it into the little box in his mind where all things unpleasant and impossible went before pasting a smile on his face and entering the day like nothing had happened.
Colin and Bradley had purposefully drifted apart after that. He'd pretended to move on. He pretended to love a girl who deserved better. He had to fill the hole in his chest with something and a pretend relationship was better than nothing. So Bradley let it move on in the course that most relationships do. After an appropriate amount of time had passed, he asked her to marry him; feeling both happy that he now had someone who wouldn't leave him or hurt him and agony that it wasn't the someone he wanted most of all.
The day had come and his wife-to-be had shown up with her gaggle of females, all clucking and dragging her away to perform whatever strange ceremonies and sacrifices women did at these things. Bradley had taken the groom's room and had herded his mates out; pleading a headache and nausea. The leers and catcalls to wear thicker socks were met with a watery smile.
Alone, he'd sat himself down and tried not to think; tried not to let the fact that he was essentially walling his heart up forever sink into his whirling mind. Then the door was suddenly slammed open, rebounding off the wall and being met by a hand already placed to stop it from hitting the person who stormed in.
Dark brows were furrowed on an angular face, blue eyes dark and angry. “What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?” Colin’s voice was rough, the accent thicker and barely legible as he seemed to be forcing the words out.
Bradley’s legs refused to work, leaving him sitting on the bench and staring up open-mouthed at Colin. “What?”
Colin walked over to him, sitting himself on the ‘L’ of the bench that faced Bradley. “I said, ‘what the bloody hell do you think you’re doing’, you enormous git.”
Bradley’s mouth closed and it was his turn to glower at Colin. “Getting married, Morgan. What does it look like?”
Colin’s hands fisted on his lap as he stared at Bradley. The anger fell from his eyes and was replaced with something else, something equally frightening. “Why?”
“Because that’s what you do when you lo-,” the word stuck in Bradley’s throat.
“You don’t love her.” Colin sounded so sure of that fact.
“I don’t see what business it is of yours.” Bradley felt something rumble in his chest; a crack in the wall he’d so meticulously built.
Colin lifted a hand, stopping himself and letting it fall back onto his leg. “It shouldn’t be.” His voice was barely audible over the rushing of the blood in Bradley’s ears. “I tried not to let it be.”
Bradley’s breath hitched on that last admission. He forced the hope down, tried to crush it before it bubbled up and broke down the barrier. “It’s not. You left me, Colin.”
An expression of pain crossed Colin’s face. “I know,” he said, head dropping, “I thought it was for the best.”
“For who?” Bradley didn’t realise how desperately he wanted to know the answer to that question.
“For us both, Bradley. Our families, everyone we know... I didn’t want-,” Colin spoke to his lap, fingers twisting uselessly together.
Bradley felt the first sting of tears. “Me,” he finished for Colin. “You didn’t want me.”
Colin’s head snapped up. “No, not that.” A hand reached up and gently touched the side of Bradley’s face. “I was afraid of what everyone would do.”
“I wasn’t.” Bradley’s voice was a harsh whisper. “I was willing to do anything – face anything – for you. With you.” The first tear fell and Bradley hated himself for it; hated Colin for seeing it.
A soft stroke of the thumb on his cheek erased it. “I know. It scared me. You scared me – the intensity of you and the way you do everything. I couldn’t let myself believe you because I thought if I did, everything would come crashing down and I wouldn’t be able to carry on without you.”
The tightness in Bradley’s chest made it hard to breathe and he felt the warmth of the tears as they tracked down his face. “What changed?” Why now? Why are you ruining the lie I’ve built? wanted to tumble off his lips, but he bit them back.
“I didn’t think you’d go through with it. I’ve seen you with her. It didn’t seem real. You weren’t real... Not with her. I didn’t think you could go along with it this far. Then I got the invite in the mail. Everything hit me all at once and after I’d finished being sick, I knew that I just – I couldn’t let you do it. I won’t let you do it.” Colin brought his other hand up to cradle Bradley’s face, both thumbs brushing the wetness away from his cheeks.
“Damn you, Colin. I can’t do this again. You broke my heart, you bastard.” Bradley let the heat of Colin’s hands sink into his skin, savouring the moment that he knew had to end.
Colin’s lower lip trembled as he took in a breath. “I know, Bradley. I broke my own that day – and every day after that I’ve seen you and wouldn’t admit it.”
“Colin...” Bradley tried to say stop, don’t, you’re killing me all over again, but the tightness in his chest wouldn’t let him take in enough air.
“I love you, Bradley. Please... let me love you.” Colin’s eyes began to glisten with tears of their own.
Bradley stared for all of half a heartbeat before leaning in and crushing his mouth to Colin's. One hand fisted in the material of his shirt, the other sliding up a thigh to rest on his hip. His head tilted and he opened his mouth to dart his tongue out, groaning as Colin’s tongue was there to meet his. Colin’s hands still framed his face as their mouths melded together as though they were made to do so.
Pulling back, Bradley rested his head against Colin’s. “I hate you,” he whispered, another tear falling.
“I know, love. I hate me too.” Colin’s voice was thick as he tipped his head down and kissed the path of Bradley’s tear, his own trickling unheeded down his face.
The wall broke and Bradley felt all the bruising feelings he’d fought so hard to deny. He lowered his head to Colin’s shoulder, breath shuddering as he sobbed. Colin murmured nonsense as he soothed Bradley with slow caresses. Bradley felt Colin shift and he tightened his grip on the material in his hands. “Don’t go.”
Colin kissed the top of Bradley’s head. “I’m not going anywhere, love. I just wanted to-,” he moved out of Bradley’s arms and slid off the bench to one knee between Bradley’s legs. Sliding a hand into his pocket, he pulled out a blue velvet box. Opening it, he locked his eyes on Bradley’s. “Marry me.”
His first instinct was to move back, say no, stop the hurt before it happened again. Staring into Colin’s eyes, he couldn’t make the words come. Bradley saw the tremble in the hand holding the box; making the silver ring shimmer as the light caught it. A choked laugh burst out of Bradley’s mouth at the absurdity of the situation. “You’re proposing to me at my wedding. Perfect timing, Col.”
Colin’s eyes never wavered from Bradley’s as he replied, “It will be if you say yes.”
The bubbles that Bradley had been trying to quell earlier came bursting out of him in the form of another laugh, lighter this time. “What am I going to do with you?”
The first sign of a smile quirked at the edges of Colin’s mouth. “Marry me?”
“Only if I can spend the rest of my days making you utterly miserable.” Bradley dipped his head down and let his lips brush Colin’s.
“I’d expect nothing less.” Colin’s mouth brushed back over Bradley’s, tongue licking along Bradley’s lower lip and suckling it.
Bradley sighed into his mouth as he said, “God help me, but I love you, Colin.”
“Don’t ever stop.” Colin took the ring from the box and held it out to Bradley’s left hand.
The slide of silver over his skin sent a shiver down his spine before he slid to his knees beside Colin, one hand wrapping around the back of Colin’s neck while the other pulled at Colin’s waist to tug him closer. Colin complied, kissing Bradley hungrily as he wrapped his arms around him, trying to crawl into him through his mouth.
A knock on the door brought then both back to the present. “Shit,” Bradley said, trying to pull himself up from the floor. “Just a minute,” he called to the intruder; mind reeling as he tried to figure out what the hell he was going to do now.
Colin walked over to the window and opened it, leaning out and seeing that someone with poor judgement had placed the groom’s quarters on the ground floor – clearly aiding in any escape plans a frantic husband-to-be might have. Such as the ones currently racing through Bradley as Colin threw a leg over the sill and held a hand out to him. “What do you say, James?”
Bradley warred with his conscience briefly before committing himself fully to his heart. “I say you have some serious time to make up for, Morgan.” He snagged one of the ubiquitous bottles of champagne that seemed to exist at every wedding as he headed over to join Colin at the window.
Colin’s lips twisted into a smile that never failed to make Bradley’s heart stutter. “I’ll do that and more, Bradley.” He tilted his head back to catch Bradley’s descending mouth with his own.
Passing the bottle out to Colin after he’d slid the rest of the way out the window, Bradley threw his leg over the sill, stopping for a moment to take a deep breath. He was doing it. He was finally going to be able to live again; love again. He turned his head at the sound of the door opening. The surprised look on his mate’s face as he saw Bradley half out the window brought a smile to his face.
“What... Bradley? What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?” The repetition of the question that had started this all made Bradley giddy with unrepressed glee.
Throwing his other leg out the window and sliding down, he kept his head in and replied, “Finally living, mate. Give everyone my best.” He ducked his head out as he felt the tug on his hand. He looked down to see Colin’s fingers laced with his own, the silver ring glinting in the light of day. Bradley felt drunk already as he let out another laugh. Leaning in, he kissed Colin’s smile. “Finally living,” he repeated against warm lips.