They don't get picked up for a second season and so it's time to go back to London and spending all his time at auditions and making nice with writers and show runners and casting agents. When he gets back to his flat, everything is covered in a layer of dust and that's what makes Colin really angry about the whole thing. He was looking forward to having another year mapped out without the all the shit that acting is about – competing with your friends for the same roles, being expected to enjoy every demeaning audition for a guest role in one bloody episode of some show that probably won't even air for it's full season. He knows that he has it better than pretty much everyone else because even though they've axed his show, people are going to know who he is. He still wants to yell and scream and hit things and it is all because of that stupid layer of dust.
* * *
He tells Lucy he's only interested in stage work at the moment and she laughs and tells him that he's going to go to every bloody audition she can find him, stage or not, because this is his chance to bank on the show and that makes Colin unspeakably sad because he doesn't want to use the show like that. Which, in turn, makes him feel unspeakably stupid because that's what the show was for.
* * *
It's the start of December and Colin's trying to decide if he should back to Ireland to see his family or if he can convince them he has to stay in the city. He doesn't really want to go home – there're friends who he doesn't really think of as friends anymore and family and, more than anywhere else, people calling him Merlin because it seems that everyone in Armagh has nothing better to do with their time than comment on his career. He wants to stay in London where people don't notice him and he can drink at the pub and see a couple of mates and come home and watch Doctor Who. All in all, a proper Christmas.
* * *
He catches up with Angel at a pub near her place and they share audition stories and make fun of each other and it feels a little bit like being in Cardiff. She looks at him and her smile is sad.
"You know it wasn't your fault, right?"
He feels sick and can't answer, just takes a sip of his beer and shrugs.
They finish their drinks and she tells him to stay in touch and asks where he's going to be for New Year.
"Ireland." He's not quite sure why he's lying to her.
"Too bad. I'm inviting everyone to mine."
"Yeah, too bad."
* * *
Suddenly, it is New Year. His parents aren't happy but understand why he's stayed in London and he's not spoken to any of his friends for the past two weeks because he's told them he's in Ireland. He's done nothing but read and watch DVDs and ignore his phone ringing. He's just finished re-watching the last episode of the Gilmore Girls when someone buzzes up from the street. He walks over to the intercom to see who it is on the tiny screen. Whoever it is has their back to the door now and is pulling their phone out of the pocket of their enormous coat. Colin isn't certain but has his suspicions which are fulfilled when his mobile starts jangling away in his hand and looks down to see the terrible picture Bradley took of himself come up on the display. Colin quickly puts the phone down on the bench and panics. If he doesn't let Bradley in, Bradley will do his most terrible Marlon Brando impersonation that got them all in a lot of trouble in France and Colin likes this apartment, he doesn't want to be forced to leave because his friends are loud and stupid. If he does let Bradley in, Colin will most likely be miserable and Bradley will be infuriating and chances are everything will end badly. Bradley is holding down the buzzer now and keeps redialing Colin's number. It's only a matter of time before he starts ripping his t-shirt up.
Colin takes a deep breath and buzzes Bradley in.
* * *
He opens the door and Bradley is standing there looking at Colin like he's got some sort of disease.
"And where the fuck have you been?"
"Happy New Year to you too."
"No, fuck you. You don't get anything until you explain why you're locked in the dark like some fucking emo kid and why you told everyone you were in Ireland when we all knew you weren't. You're not as clever as you think. I mean, I'd be better at hiding than you and that's saying something. And not coming to Angel's, that's a low blow man. Fucking not on."
"I just wanted some time to myself."
"Well, boo fucking hoo. You're shit and you have to drink this bottle of what the fuck ever I picked up on my way out the door and then you have to come back with me and you'll be paying for a cab because it is fucking cold out there, man and I'm not getting chilblains because I had to come and drag your skinny arse to a fucking party."
He hands Colin a bottle and starts rummaging through Colin's fridge. Colin looks down and blinks.
"Bradley, I'm not drinking a bottle of cooking sherry."
"You weak bastard. Or is it because you're such a sad fucker, that you've already drunk three bottles today. Isn't that what you depressive types do?"
Colin can feel any goodwill he was building towards this plan scatter and he sits back down on his couch. Colin listens as Bradley makes himself something in the kitchen and he wishes he hadn't let him in.
"Oi, motherfucker. We're not doing any more of this moping shite. It's done. And no amount of self-inflicted penance you do is going to change that."
Colin looks up and Bradley is just there, in front of him, eating some horrific looking sandwich that looks like it has banana and cheddar and pickled onions in it and Colin isn't sure where Bradley found pickled onions in his fridge because he can't stand them.
"This isn't a bad place, you know. Too much of your pretentious shit, though." Bradley is looking around and Colin realises that Bradley's never been here before.
"Who gave you my address?" Colin asks, even though he's got a fairly good idea of who it might have been.
"The lovely Mariah. She's been worried about you and you've been fobbing her off and, man, is she pissed at you." Bradley laughs at him and Colin's fairly certain at he just got sprayed with bits of banana. Bradley pops the last bit of sandwich in his mouth and rubs his hands together.
"Ok, Mopey. Let's get this show on the road." Bradley pulls his mobile out of this pocket and starts ringing cab companies trying to get them a car. "Drink your sherry," he tells at Colin and starts charming some poor sod at the other end of the phone line.
* * *
Apparently there are no cabs. No cabs ever. Colin isn't really surprised as it is New Year but Bradley is strangely angry about it and is desperate to get back to Angel's before midnight.
"We could take the bus."
"Fuck that. The buses will be full of drunks who will vomit on us."
"What a charming picture you paint." Colin goes and gets them beers out of the fridge. "We could walk."
Bradley just looks at him and Colin shrugs. Bradley calls Angel and tells her that whilst he has saved Colin from his own stupid, they can't get back to her place. He gets off the phone and takes a sip of his drink.
"I honestly don't think she cared. She says that we should have a good night and can I please return her cooking sherry later in the week." Bradley shakes his head. "Apparently, she cooks with it." He looks absolutely puzzled.
"I've got beer and gin before you ask."
"Good man. Let us begin then."
* * *
It's nearly midnight and they've somehow finished the beer. Bradley is in charge of concocting something out of whatever there is in the flat and the gin.
"You've got champagne here, you fucking liar."
Colin stands up and feels his head spin.
"Oh, it's got a dinky little card and everything. 'To Colin, Congratulations. -'"
"We can't drink that!" Colin can't really believe he's getting worked up over a bottle of champagne.
Bradley looks at him with concern which is a first because Bradley never looks concerned about anything.
"Was this for the second season?"
Colin nods and feels like shit.
"They believed the press. Last time any of us do that."
Colin looks at Bradley and he has the same look that Angel had when they met in the pub. Bradley picks up the bottle from the bench and leads Colin back to the sofa. Colin has never seen Bradley look so serious out of character and Colin's starting to feel like an idiot for not having faith that his friends would still be his friends after he lost them all their jobs. He puts his head back and looks at his ceiling.
"Colin. You've got to let it go. We're all good."
Colin looks at Bradley who is right up in his personal space and, all of a sudden, it feels like they are having a very different conversation.
"We're all still mates, aren't we? You don't just abandon your mates."
Bradley is staring at him with drunken intensity and Colin is staring back at this different Bradley who is concerned with Colin's well-being and suddenly it hits him that this isn't really new, this Bradley, and Colin starts to think that maybe he's an idiot. He watches as Bradley realises that Colin realises that Bradley is maybe a little bit in love with Colin and has been for a long time and then he leans across and kisses Bradley but pulls away almost immediately. Bradley is holding very still and looks a little bit terrified.
"Um . . . " Colin's scared that maybe seven straight seasons of Lorelai and Luke has fucked up his ability to tell the difference between friendship and, well, whatever this might be. He's started to convince himself that he's just fucked everything up even more when he's suddenly on his back on the couch with Bradley on top of him and everything is Bradley who is actually much better at this whole kissing thing than Colin would have thought even if he does taste like pickled onions. Bradley's working his hand up under Colin's shirt and Colin hears himself make an embarrassing little whimpering sound.
"You fucking little tart. I should have known you were easy."
Colin laughs, stands up and grabs Bradley's wrist.
"Let's drink that fucking champagne and, if you're lucky, I'll let you suck my cock. That might cheer me up."