“Really, would you rather I’d left without my suitcase?” Bradley asks, dragging the offending bag carelessly behind him.
Colin stares at the tiny, red Toyota Aygo – the only rental car Europcar had to offer at this hour – and tries not to think about how far off plan this really is.
“Yes,” he says miserably. “I really would rather have caught the last plane out of Paris. You can afford to replace your entire wardrobe, let alone that suitcase, and we’re supposed to be in Cardiff by tomorrow before noon.”
“One: my Arsenal shirt is pretty much irreplaceable.” Bradley yanks at the door to the driver’s side twice before it pops open. “Second: at least this way we’ll make it out of the country instead of being stuck at Charles De Gaulle without a passport.”
“No, you’d be stuck at Charles De Gaulle. I’d be curled up in my window seat on my way to London.”
Colin climbs into the passenger seat where there’s absolutely no room for his legs and ends up with his knees pressed up at a strange angle.
“You wound me,” Bradley says and looks at him with that puppy dog look that is supposed to be a joke but Colin finds himself inexplicably influenced by. “You’d leave me alone in Paris to be force-fed snails for my crimes?”
“I think they abolished death by snails at least 20 years ago.”
Bradley doesn’t laugh and Colin doesn’t know if it’s because he’s focusing on not driving into the wrong lane as he pulls out from the parking space or if it’s because of the undercurrent of legitimate anger running through their conversation.
Colin’s not used to being angry with Bradley. At worst he’d been mildly annoyed at him when they first met. After the initial awkward dance of figuring each other out, he’d never been more than vaguely exasperated over how Bradley always talks at the wrong moment or how he cares too much about sports.
But now he feels the anger simmering oddly in the pit of his stomach at Bradley’s careless attitude about things like plans and remembering passports.
The radio had turned on when Bradley started the car and there’s an endless string of rapid French that Colin tries to make out for a bit just to have something else to think about, but then it just becomes impossible. He looks out the window at the passing streets, not really taking anything in, as he feels so oddly aware of this new, uncomfortable anger that he doesn’t know how to get rid of.
They don’t even look at each other until the conversation on the radio stops and fades into the opening chords of a song. "The next flight to London will be boarding in five minutes," someone says over the music and Colin whips his head around so fast that his neck complains with a stab of pain. He stares at Bradley with wide eyes as The Rose Garden’s Next Plane to London fills the silence between them. There’s a slight tremor at the corner of Bradley’s lips, his face softening under the harsh, fleeting light from a street lamp.
Colin laughs first, but Bradley laughs the loudest, throwing his head back against the headrest for a moment before he flails one arm wildly right in front of Colin’s face.
“Turn it off, turn it off!” he says, his voice a little strangled. “There’s a clairvoyant demon possessing our radio!”
Snorting, Colin reaches out to fumble with the buttons until the music finally stops. In the process he manages to knee himself in the stomach and he groans, trying to find a better position. And then he laughs again, for no reason whatsoever except the fact that this whole thing is absurd.
“What?” Bradley asks, glancing over at him.
Shaking his head, Colin presses his bent knees up into his chest and wraps his arms around them. “At least sitting here is exactly as uncomfortable as sitting in those bloody plane seats. I can almost pretend we’re there.”
“That’s the spirit!” Bradley says with exaggerated enthusiasm, pumping his fist.
Colin rolls his eyes, but smiles to himself, the anger bleeding out of him as Bradley starts crafting an entire fairytale about how his suitcase and the demon possessed radio had banded together to defeat the valiant prince.
Colin isn’t very keen on sleeping in the car (and as much as Bradley pretends he is, Colin’s pretty sure he’s full of shit) so they find a small hotel where they park their leprechaun car. Bradley had dubbed it that due to its unfortunate size and also probably as some sort of misguided jab at Colin.
Folding the tattered pocket-sized dictionary down the middle, Colin tries to stammer his way through the conversation with the receptionist while Bradley pokes him in the shoulder like a five year old. He tries to shrug him off, listening to the too-fast French monologue. Apparently there’s a lot to say about the rooms they’re asking for.
Colin must’ve looked confused because the receptionist finally sighs and holds up one finger. “Une,” he says and that’s one word Colin definitely understands.
“Une chambre?” he asks tentatively and when the receptionist nods he turns and bats at Bradley’s incessant poking finger.
Bradley doesn’t do well with being locked up in a car for three hours.
“There’s only one room.”
“Oh, god, whatever, I don’t care,” Bradley says. “I’m fucking knackered.”
“Fine, give me your credit card, then.”
“My credit card? Why should I - ?” Bradley stops short under Colin’s glare and hands his card over without any other objections.
Colin lets Bradley carry his suitcase up to their room (305), feeling oddly pleased by the fact that the lift is out of order. It’s not that he’s actually angry with Bradley anymore (that had somehow dissolved during the trip from Paris), but any chance to see Bradley squirm a little is pretty brilliant as far as Colin’s concerned.
When they file into the room and see the state of it he feels like it might be karma for giving Bradley such a hard time. It’s tiny and suddenly Colin understands why the receptionist had seemed like he tried to tell them something: there’s only one bed. Bradley drops both suitcases to the floor with a thud.
“How is your French still this bad?”
“Maybe it would’ve been better if someone hadn’t tried to distract me because they’re an attention-seeking wanker,” Colin says with a pointed stare. “And I didn’t see you trying to help out either.”
Bradley just laughs as he face-plants onto the bed with his arms to either side. “It’s not the end of the world, Cols. Let’s just sleep.”
“Where?” Colin asks and some of the frustration seeps into his voice.
He hates himself for being rattled by this. Usually he doesn’t let things get to him all that much and he finds something to take the piss out of in almost anything, but it’s been the longest day he’s had since that day they had to re-shoot a scene in the mud so many times that Colin lost count. And besides, he’s willing to admit there might also be other things on his mind.
Bradley’s voice is muffled into the covers. “On the bed.”
Colin feels tense. It’s no particular secret that his personal boundaries are way, way further away from his body than Bradley’s are. And even though he feels more comfortable with Bradley than almost anyone else, snuggling on a narrow hotel bed is still pretty far up the list of things that make him feel antsy.
“If it makes you feel better, I’ll sleep over the covers.”
And Colin knows Bradley won’t mind doing that because that’s what Bradley’s like even if he’s also loud and all over the place and a little brash.
Colin swallows his unease and allows himself to feel just how tired he is. He pushes Bradley’s arm away and sags onto the bed, not bothering to get in under the covers, and he feels himself sink into the mattress, almost boneless.
“We’ll be late to Cardiff tomorrow,” he mutters, closing his eyes.
“Yeah, we should probably call in the morning,” Bradley says and when he speaks Colin realises just how close they are on the single bed. “Katie will have the time of her life.”
Colin turns to look at him and they share a slight smile. “She’ll make them rewrite the script. When we come back the show will be about how Morgana wins the throne and keeps a harem of knights.”
“In a land of myth and a time of magic,” Bradley says in a low voice, squeezing one eye shut, “the destiny of a crumbling kingdom rests on the shoulders of an evil witch and her harem of knights. Her name? Morgana.”
“I think Katie would change the theme song. She’d like something snazzier.”
Bradley widens his eyes. “She’d make them set the show in space. You know how she feels about space.”
When Colin begins humming A Space Odyssey quietly under his breath, Bradley laughs and grabs the pillow under his head to slam it across Colin’s face. As Colin starts laughing he loses the melody and attempts to bat the pillow away.
Something about the atmosphere reminds him of the party they’d had two days ago after they wrapped up their last period of shooting in France for the season. There’s still tons more to do in Cardiff and on location, but this may have been their very last trip to France. Maybe there’ll be a sixth season but none of them really know for sure.
Colin looks up at the ceiling and allows himself to dwell on that uneasy feeling he’s had since they wrapped things up at Pierrefonds.
“Do you think we’ll be back?” he asks.
“Don’t know.” Bradley pauses. “Better enjoy your last night in France, Cols.”
“Don’t say that.”
Bradley nudges his shoulder. “You’re a nostalgic sap.”
He doesn’t answer, but closes his eyes and hopes Bradley might think it’s the end of their conversation.
“We’ll come back on holiday,” Bradley says, sounding half asleep.
Colin can’t help it: he snorts, the corner of his lip pulling up into a smile. “Yeah?”
“France won’t be rid of us that easily, but you might want to practise your French a little or we’ll spend our holiday sleeping in single beds.”
Colin thinks he laughs in response before he falls asleep, but he’s not quite sure.
Colin would like to say it’s not happening, but there’s really no denying it: they’re cuddling.
He feels trapped under Bradley who’s lying half on top of him and he tries to angle his head out of the suffocating heat of Bradley’s neck. His heart races oddly as he tries to assess the whole situation. There’s no way he’ll manage to disentangle himself without Bradley waking up. Maybe he can turn the whole thing into a stupid joke and it’ll be fine.
Bradley stirs next to him and when Bradley’s hard on pokes him in the thigh it’s definitely not a joke. Gasping for breath, Colin feels the panic building as if it’s in a pressure cooker, becoming big and out of hand. He shuffles out from under Bradley’s grip and jumps away, looking down on the bed to see Bradley looking at him with bleary eyes.
“Uhm, we might be late. Forgot to set the alarm and if we lose this train as well, they might actually kill us and give Katie her own show,” Colin says, stopping himself when he realises that he’s rambling.
It’s technically true that they forgot to set the alarm, but they’ve got at least an hour until the train for London leaves.
Bradley doesn’t quite meet his eyes as he rolls out of bed, hurrying into their tiny bathroom and Colin sinks back down onto the mattress, running a hand through his hair.
He can’t help but wonder now, though, if Bradley is ignoring him. And worst of all: he thinks it might be better that way, even if the thought feels weird and unfamiliar.
His fingers curl over his well-loved copy of The Bell Jar. It hasn’t slipped his notice that Bradley has failed to comment on how depressing his taste in books is and somehow that sets him even more on edge.
He sneaks glances at Bradley more often than he feels comfortable with. It feels a bit like he’s staring a hole in his head. But Bradley’s eyes remain closed and the only sign there is that he’s not asleep is that he’s mouthing along with the lyrics now and again.
Colin wonders if he’s the only one whose head is about to burst.
They’re half an hour from London when there’s a poke to his shoulder and he looks up to find Bradley looking at him intently as he holds out one ear bud. The buzzing in Colin’s head calms a little as he takes it and fumbles slightly as he puts it in. When he recognises the opening notes to OK Go’s Here It Goes Again he can’t help but smile a little, glancing at Bradley.
“Thought you could use some cheer to go with your depressing book,” Bradley says and presses his cheek into the seat, his eyes closing again.
Colin smiles down into his book at the familiar quip. He likes routine.
“Always looking out for my good mood.”
“Well, a pouting Colin Morgan is a bit like watching kittens cry.”
“Do kittens actually cry?” Colin asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Don’t be pedantic, Morgan, it doesn’t suit you.”
“My poor boys,” she said, looking incredibly gleeful about it all. “Lost in France. You must’ve been so scared.”
“We weren’t lost,” Bradley had objected and that was all any of them had been allowed to say before they’d been manhandled into makeup.
It took three days of intensive filming before they’d caught up to the schedule. Colin barely had time to think and sometimes he liked it that way. There was something comforting about skipping from scene to scene, never really stepping away for long enough to break out of character. And sometimes it was nice to just be Merlin for a while, as strange as that sounded.
Now that he has his first quiet moment on set since they got back he finds it more difficult to not think. Colin knows he thinks a lot – sometimes too much. He’s always been oddly self-conscious, in a way, and if he thinks too much he worries. He bites at his lip, leaning back in the chair, rolling a bottle of water between his hands as he watches Bradley swinging his sword, both hands clasping the hilt. Apparently he’s not doing it right since they ask him to do it over and over.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Angel says and he looks up questioningly, fighting back a laugh as she bunches her dress up. “Will you hold the chair down? The bloody dress keeps pushing it away.”
He steadies it as she flops down into it, sighing as the heavy velvet pools around her legs.
“These monstrosities are ridiculous,” she says with a huff. “I can’t even imagine Gwen would want to wear these things. The servant’s dress was way more comfortable than this.”
“I can’t believe they have you wearing velvet dresses and tiaras. You’re a brave, sacrificing soul, Angel.”
“I know, right?” She tips her head back dramatically. “The things I do for this role.”
They share a smile just as Bradley’s laugh rings out through the room. His stunt coordinator tries to keep him steady in some kind of ridiculous position that Colin’s pretty sure isn’t even physically possible.
“You alright, Colin?” Angel asks after a moment’s silence and he can feel her looking at him.
His eyes drop to the bottle in his hands and he runs his thumb across the plastic. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
She hums a little before she says, “You’ve been quiet since you guys got back is all.”
“Yeah, Christ, I’m just tired,” he says quickly and it’s not even a lie. “It’s been crazy since we got back. And it’s all because that sodding idiot over there can’t keep tabs on his luggage.”
Shaking her head as she laughs, Angel looks over at Bradley who slashes through thin air with his sword. “You know what he’s like; you can hardly be angry with him for that.”
“’m not,” Colin mutters, pursing his lips. “That’s the stupidest thing. I have enough reasons to be angry with him for the rest of my life, probably, but somehow it never fucking sticks.”
Angel smiles and shrugs. “What’s the good in walking around being angry at people anyway? Sounds exhausting to me. And it’s not like you.”
“You should write greeting cards.”
“Shut up,” she says, swatting at his arm as she laughs, settling back into the chair. “We’ll be caught up today, anyway, so no need to murder him for his sins.”
“I guess I can forgive him in light of some actual free time.”
“Want to hang out at Katie’s tomorrow?” Angel asks. “I think Eoin and the lads are going out to the pubs but Katie and I are knackered and just want to watch a film.”
“Oh thank god.” Colin breathes a sigh of relief. “If someone tried to take me to the pub tomorrow I’d probably drink myself into a coma.”
Looking at him with pursed lips, she waves her hand at him. “Right there with you, mate.”
When she drags him into the kitchen and shakes a bottle of wine at him he has a feeling today’s cheerfulness might be at least a little attributed to that.
“I thought you said no drinking, Angel!” he says loudly, hearing an answering laugh from the living room.
“Katie had other ideas.”
“Come on. You need to relax a bit. It’s been a rough week. I mean, stuck with Bradley in France?” She gives an exaggerated shudder. “Anyone’s worst nightmare.”
“Yeah, it was dreadful,” Colin says in a low voice, widening his eyes for effect. “He tortured me with his rendition of all the current pop hits.”
She gives a quick snort of laughter as she reaches up to grab another wine glass from her cupboard. “Time to drink away that particular memory.”
He doesn’t say much, seated between Katie and Angel as they talk animatedly, but it lulls him into a sense of comfort that’s been missing from his life recently. The wine makes him even drowsier as he half-listens to the conversation, laughing whenever the girls laugh. Angel swings her feet up in his lap at some point as she talks about the audition she went to for a theatre production in Liverpool that went straight to hell.
“I’m not sure if theatre is really for me,” she says, grimacing a little. “I know you guys really love it, but I think TV’s my thing, which makes it really difficult, you know? Cause how often do you really land something like Merlin? It’s a once in a lifetime thing.”
“It doesn’t have to be, though.” Katie shrugs a little. “Merlin opens doors. Who knows what you might end up doing?”
“You should have seen me at that audition. I did everything short tripping over air and falling flat on my face.”
Katie laughs despite herself, covering her mouth with her hand. “No, it’s fine! You just need... a specific role. Someone who’s really clumsy?”
“Great, I’ll be typecast as a complete idiot for the rest of my working career.”
“You two should write your own show,” Colin suggests, trying to stop Katie from pouring him more wine. “Just write what you want to play and everyone gets what they want.”
Angel tips back the last of her wine and rolls her eyes. “Excellent idea, Colin, I’ll just ring up BBC and tell them I’m writing a show about a gothic princess with a pet pony travelling the high seas, then.”
“Best show ever,” Katie exclaims, throwing her arms out. “I’ll be your sidekick.”
When Angel and Katie start plotting their show, he zones out, the alcohol making him a little fuzzy. He rests a hand on Angel’s leg, letting the two of them talk excitedly as he desperately tries to not think of what Bradley’s doing. But as soon as the thought is there it won’t leave.
Excusing himself to go to the bathroom, he pushes Angel’s legs from his lap and they barely notice him as they scoot closer on the sofa, snickering into their wine.
Locking himself in the bathroom, he takes out his phone. He can feel the alcohol buzzing slightly under his skin and it’s probably a bad idea, but he finds Bradley in his recently used contacts and presses the screen. As it rings, he looks at himself in the mirror.
Angel’s right: he’s been unlike himself. It’s weird how on edge he’s felt since they got back from France and it’s not just because it’s been busy.
“Hey,” Colin says and he suddenly wonders why he called in the first place. “You drunk?”
“Nah, too tired. You?”
“A little,” he admits, turning around to lean his hip against the counter.
Bradley gives a snort of laughter and there’s a shout in the background that can only be Eoin’s.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have called,” Colin says, looking down at the way his feet nearly disappear into the fuzzy bathroom rug. “You’re busy.”
“Shut up, you know it’s fine.”
He doesn’t know what to say and the silence over the phone feels heavy. This is what’s been bothering him ever since they left France – this weird, unsettling awkwardness that there’s never been between them before. It’s always been so easy and Colin doesn’t want to sacrifice that for anything – whatever it is.
“Look, I –” He pauses, rubbing a clammy hand against his forehead. “I don’t want us to be all weird, okay, I just... Can’t we just forget France ever happened? Just. All of it.”
“Yeah, of course we can,” Bradley says and it sounds quieter around him now. “If you want.”
“I do. It’s just... I don’t want us to be awkward. I’d rather just forget it.”
When Bradley doesn’t speak for a bit, Colin bites his lip. It feels a bit like he’s lying. He would rather forget, in a way, but that’s not the whole truth. It was such a stupid, innocent thing – just cuddling on a bed, for fuck’s sake, but the truth is that it seems more monumental than that. It has felt suffocating because Colin knows it’s not just simply cuddling on a bed – not for him. But he can’t really dwell on that or he might just fuck up completely.
“Because it’s awkward?” Bradley asks, sounding almost distracted.
“Do you know how weird it is for you to be awkward? You’re not supposed to be awkward, you’re always charming and all over the place like a really excitable puppy. And you make up for my awkwardness, so what am I supposed to do when we’re both awkward? It’s like awkwardness squared and that doesn’t fucking work.”
“Jesus, okay, calm down, Cols,” Bradley says, giving a breathless laugh. “No need to get a heart attack over awkwardness squared. If it causes you that much distress, just forget it.”
“Looks like I have to go save Eoin. Bye, Cols.”
Good. It’s good, right? Everything’s good. They’re going to ignore everything and then it’s totally fine – like nothing’s ever happened, like there weren’t a million tiny moments leading up to that one cuddle. Good.
Colin looks at his phone as if it holds all the answers.
“But that’s what I did!”
“You did not. You did more like this.”
“That looks exactly the same,” Colin says, looking at him from under raised eyebrows.
Bradley shakes his head sadly. “You’re depressingly uncultured in the tradition of air-bagpipe.”
“Oh, I’m so very sorry that I haven’t gone to a fancy public school.”
“What?” Bradley laughs, loud and unhinged.
Keeping his face completely serious with a practised ease, Colin shrugs and says, “I mean, clearly they give you air-bagpipe instructions at fancy public schools, right?”
Bradley laughs again, sinking even further down in the chair as he angles his head against the brief moment of sunlight filtering through the clouds.
“Yeah, and our classrooms were actually bouncy castles!”
“No wonder you’ve got your head in the clouds, then.”
Bradley groans and swats at him. “Oh god, that is a terriblejoke, Colin, you should actually be ashamed of even saying those words out loud. In fact, I’m completely ashamed of knowing you.”
Ducking his head, Colin gives a short breath of laughter, shaking his head. “Can’t win them every time, yeah.”
The only answer he gets is a hum from Bradley who’s closed his eyes and tipped his head slightly. The silence settles over them as they stretch their feet out. Colin’s head feels comfortably blank for once, just listening to the wind rustling slightly mixing with Bradley’s even breathing.
At the first drop of rain, Colin cracks an eye open and looks up at the sky, bewildered. For a moment he’s not even sure he felt it but then there’s another and another until it’s pouring. He yelps and bursts from the chair, grabbing Bradley’s hand to pull him up.
“Fuck! The costumes. They’re going to kill us,” Colin says, the rain cold on his face as he looks up again.
“Stop talking and start running.” Bradley yanks him along by the hand and they stumble towards the entrance to the studios.
Despite the fact that the rain is currently soaking his tunic and ruining his makeup, Colin can’t help but laugh, nearly tripping over his feet as he’s pulled along. Raindrops slip below his tunic and trickle down his back, making him give a high-pitched yelp. Bradley turns – his mouth spread wide in a grin and Colin very nearly smacks into him.
There’s a moment where they both just laugh and Colin notices how Bradley’s hair sticks slightly to his forehead.
The laughter dies when Nina from makeup is standing right inside the door when they rush in. She looks extremely bemused, the corners of her mouth pulled down in disapproval. Colin realises he’s still holding Bradley’s hand and swiftly pulls it back, wrapping both arms around his stomach as he smiles a little sheepishly at Nina.
“I wish I could fire you two and still have a job,” she says, looking a bit forlorn at the smudged makeup on Bradley’s cheek.
Bradley and Colin share an amused smile behind her back, but somehow the good mood seems to dissolve bit by bit as they get into backup costumes and continue the shoot. Even though it’s a light-hearted scene they’re doing and they laugh so hard that Colin’s stomach hurts when he manages to trip over a chair, he can feel the familiar ease slipping through his fingers.
When they wrap it up for the day, Colin wants to hold onto it, to force the day to continue. He smiles at Bradley, almost hurting a little with the force of it.
“Hey, wanna catch a film?” Colin says, trying to sound flippant – as if he’d just thought of this and hadn’t practised the question in his head for hours. “Or something?”
Bradley looks down at his phone, pulling the corner of his mouth in a slight, apologetic grimace. “Ah, sorry, I think I’ve got to pass. I think I’m just going to head back and call Mum.”
“Yeah, sure. Alright.”
He stumbles over the words a little, cringing at the awkwardness of the moment when Bradley hovers for a few seconds and then gives a hasty goodbye. Bradley jogs down the stairs from the main entrance and out into the rain, putting his earphones in, and Colin thinks he can see Bradley’s steps falling into the rhythm of the song.
Maybe it’s always been there, really, somewhere beneath all the easy friendship and all the teasing. Or maybe it sprung up underneath and quietly blossomed until it was ready to be noticed. Maybe there was a moment when the familiar set of Bradley’s shoulders started feeling comforting even from a distance. Colin honestly doesn’t know when it started or if there’s even a place to pinpoint.
In the end it doesn’t actually matter. When it started or if it started or if it’s always been there – none of it really matters at all because, really, Colin shouldn’t have needed a cuddle in a French hotel room to realise that Bradley always feels like coming home even if his smile is sometimes the most dangerous thing in the world.
Behind Colin, Tom and Bradley are talking football with Ade again and Colin honestly wonders if it ever stops, but then Eoin is talking Colin’s ear off about something and that never seems to stop either.
“Jesus, are you drunk tweeting again?” Colin asks, leaning over to stare at Eoin’s phone. “And how do you even talk and type at the same time? I bet you’ve practised.”
Eoin smirks down at his phone. “My drunk tweets are fucking gold, Colin. You can’t deny perfection. And you don’t need to call me Jesus.”
“Much better. There, now Twitter knows that you call me Jesus.”
“Fantastic. I’m sure they’re pleased,” Colin says dryly, bumping into Eoin’s shoulder as he misjudges the distance between them.
Eoin laughs. “Oh, they are. Already retweeting.”
“That honestly means nothing to me. I think you’re just making up words right now.”
“Oh, come on,” Eoin says, shaking his head. “Hey, Tom! Tell Colin about retweeting.”
It’s too late, though, as Tom’s already sidled up between them and slung one arm around each of them, his face startlingly close. The explanation that follows is a mess of words that Colin honestly doesn’t even care enough about to try to decipher and he uses an animated discussion between Tom and Eoin as a chance to disentangle himself and drop back until he falls into step with Bradley.
At some point, Ade has moved forwards to join the girls and the three of them are now singing at the top of their lungs. It’s so out of tune that Colin can’t actually figure out what it is they’re singing, but laughter follows just about every other word.
Colin sneaks a glance at Bradley out of the corner of his eyes, trying to focus on keeping his walk steady and not bump into him accidentally. Bradley’s hair always turns oddly messy when he’s been drinking, as if it just gives up on behaving in any sense after there’s been even an ounce of alcohol consumed. Colin smiles and turns his head away.
“What have you been up to lately?” he asks lightly, keeping a wide smile on his face as he feels Bradley’s eyes on him. “Haven’t seen you that much.”
There’s a strange expression on Bradley’s face for a moment, his mouth slightly downturned, and then he shrugs, looking down at their feet. “Nothing much, really, I guess I’m just tired.”
“You used to... hang with me,” Colin blurts and then wants to ram his face against a streetlamp because who says ‘hang’, really? “I mean, even when we were tired we used to sit around and watch stupid TV shows dubbed in French and try to dub them back into English.”
The corner of Bradley’s lips quirks a little, but he doesn’t answer and it’s not the first time Colin has felt desperation to just fix everything well up in him, but this time it feels unmanageable.
“Fuck, Bradley. Honestly, I don’t understand,” he says, reaching out to stop him in place.
He watches the others continue ahead without noticing them and looks back only to see Bradley looking so oddly vulnerable that something twists uncomfortably.
His mouth feels suddenly dry. “We’re friends, right? I mean, you’re my best mate. I know I’ve never really said it out loud because I didn’t think I needed to, but you are.”
Not looking at him at all, Bradley runs a hand through his already wild hair and the lines of his shoulders tense. There’s something in his face that feels so unfamiliar, but at the same time Colin thinks he may have seen that fleeting look before, hidden away somewhere under everything. And he feels like he should’ve noticed.
“You asked me to forget France ever happened,” Bradley mutters, still looking at a spot somewhere to the right of Colin. “I can’t. Fuck, I’ve tried, but it’s not just France.”
“It’s not...” Colin panics, gripping Bradley’s arm harder. “It’s not that important, we don’t have to forget France. I just didn’t want things to be awkward because I just need us to be us.”
Turning his head sharply, Bradley meets his eyes.
“That’s exactly it, Cols,” he says and then stops, his jaw working, before he seems to steel himself. “You keep saying it’s not important, but it is. And you just keep brushing everything off and I can’t deal with it. I’ve been trying to distance myself because I thought that’s what we both needed, but you... Fuck it, Cols, what do you actually want?”
Colin’s heart pounds so hard that it feels like it’s slamming against his ribs and he can’t breathe. He can’t handle not understanding where they stand and he definitely can’t handle all this talk about distance.
“You really haven’t figured it out yet,” Bradley says, more of an incredulous statement than a question. “Jesus Christ, Colin, where have you been?”
“Will you just tell me already instead of talking in riddles?” Colin yells in frustration, immediately embarrassed by the sharpness in his voice.
Bradley’s lips are turned into such a frown that it almost looks comical.
“I fucking fancy you so much I can’t even think anymore. And no, I can’t pretend France never happened and frankly, you shouldn’t ask that of me.”
There’s a loud high-pitched squeaking sound in Colin’s head and at this point he’s not entirely sure if it comes from somewhere outside or if his brain is actually in the process of shutting down. He stares at the determined jut of Bradley’s chin and the eyes that refuse to meet his. He’s overcome with an overwhelming sense of guilt for never putting the pieces together and more than that he feels downright ashamed about pushing Bradley into saying this in a dark, wet street in the middle of Cardiff while they’re both drunk.
And then there’s that explosion of raw, unbridled joy that tugs at his lips and his heart at the same time.
“Sod it,” Bradley says, his eyes dropping to Colin’s mouth.
Bradley’s hands on his cheeks are cold and wet – a stark contrast to the warm pressure of his lips. Colin responds immediately, because whether he’s fully admitted it to himself or not, he’s been ready for this for so long that his lips really need no additional prompting. He kisses greedily, too drunk and too stunned to be reserved about taking what he wants. Kissing Bradley is soft and warm and a little bit like arguing without words – so really it’s just like everything else he does with Bradley, in the best way.
And still it almost feels too surreal to be true, so he holds back a little, thinking he’s just drunk or he’s asleep on set or he fell into an alternate reality where Bradley’s been wanting him. But then he feels the cool touch of Bradley’s thumb ring against his cheekbone and the reality of the moment settles into his blood, rushing and rushing with his racing pulse until his body sings with it.
“If you tell me to forget this I will punch you in the face,” Bradley mutters against his lips and Colin laughs helplessly.
“Have you even read the script?” Angel asks with a quirk of her eyebrow as someone from costume tries to arrange her dress into place.
“No, Angel, I thought I’d ad-lib it. You know, for fun.”
“Well,” she says, giving him a pointed look. “We’re supposed to be arguing, you know, and you’re grinning like a loon.”
Colin tries to get a ahold of his face, turning his head away from the ridiculous hand-gestures that make him smile. He closes his eyes and wills himself to stop being a complete idiot. He tries to think sad thoughts: Puppies whimpering; Dumbledore dying; Katie eating his last scone – those sort of very traumatising things.
“Better,” Angel says and he can hear the smile in her voice.
After that the scene seems to happen of its own accord and Colin feels like it’s almost too easy, like he’s not even trying enough, like his thoughts are elsewhere and he knows they are. He whips around to hiss at Angel being Gwen, but in his head he’s back to running after the others with his hand in Bradley’s and his lips tingling strangely. They do the scene again and the words fall easily from his lips, but in his head he’s trying to figure out a way to bring up what happened.
Because that’s the thing: Drunk Bradley and Drunk Colin (as he’s dubbed them) were stupid idiots who kissed and then didn’t talk about anything so now there’s this weird situation where they’re both hovering mid-leap but no one wants to bring up that they can’t see the other side through the fog.
If Angel knew she’d probably hit him over the head and tell him to get a grip, but instead she talks to him as Gwen and Colin tries to not let his Merlin slip.
“Oh my god, please stop,” he manages to wheeze.
Sitting curled up in the opposite corner, Bradley just grins and continues to read his lines with the most ridiculous impression of the cookie monster that Colin has ever heard. Bradley’s voice sounds beyond recognition and the face he pulls every time his voice goes particularly low is completely absurd.
When Bradley starts exchanging random words with ‘cookie’, Colin buries his face into the back sofa-cushion, his shoulders shaking.
“I hate you,” he says feebly into the scratchy fabric.
“Merlin,” Bradley says, narrowing his eyes at Colin. “Don’t just stand there. Help the cookie!”
Colin fumbles blindly for the pillow behind his back and throws it at Bradley, laughing when it hits him square in the face and falls down onto the open script.
The shocked look on Bradley’s face shifts into teasing smirk. “Do you even realise how angry they’ll be if you ruin the main attraction of the show?”
“My fingers are fine, thanks for your concern.”
He wriggles his fingers as Bradley barks out a laugh as if the surprise forced it from him.
“Are you saying people watch Merlin for your fingers?”
“Why else do you think they have me holding out my hand in every other shot?” Colin asks, smirking. “Honestly, Bradley, have you even been watching the show?”
“My face is in the shot way more often than your fingers, Colin. Your delusions of grandeur are alarming.”
Colin rolls his eyes and tries to find his spot in the script that had fallen shut in his lap.
“Your face is so red right now.” Bradley looks at him, amused, as he keeps one finger between the pages to mark his spot.
“Yes, thanks for that, by the way. God, can’t you just read your lines like a normal person?”
Bradley shakes his head and looks down at the paper. His finger follows the line as his eyes scan the page and for a moment Colin can see the tip of his tongue against the corner of his lips. He’s torn between thinking it might be the cutest thing he’s seen in his entire life – thus wanting to punch Bradley in the face, naturally – and wanting to kiss him, starting at the corner of his mouth and mapping out a trail of little kisses.
When Bradley looks up and meets his eyes, Colin immediately looks away, his cheeks burning and he opens the script at a random page, trying to make sense of what it says. He can feel Bradley’s eyes on him and it makes him want to squirm.
“You’re an idiot, Cols,” Bradley says after a while.
Looking up to protest, the words disappear when he sees Bradley looking at him with an expression that looks both defeated and fond at the same time. It’s becoming easier to see the fondness that had always passed him by before. Now it seems impossible to miss and for a moment Colin tries to figure out when it started, but there’s that thing again: that thing where there is no starting point, no spot to pinpoint.
“Charming. I can see why all the fans like you so much,” Colin says dryly, not liking the way everything turned serious so quickly.
Bradley rolls his eyes demonstratively. “It’s your turn.” He gives Colin a brief look before frowning down at the page.
Colin feels lost as if there’s some part of everything he’s missing. He’s always been so shit at this whole ‘understanding people’ thing. And understanding Bradley is a different thing entirely – sometimes easier, other times completely impossible.
“Right,” he says, finding the right page in the script after giving Bradley a fleeting look.
Slipping into the empty seat next to Colin, Bradley tries to fight a smile, but fails.
“You should be thanking me for that, Cols, it got you a very cheap sightseeing trip of the French countryside.”
“Yeah, my life definitely wouldn’t have been the same without seeing those cows,” Colin remarks, waving at Katie as she comes in from the other end of the train compartment.
Katie gives an enthusiastic wave back before slipping into the seat Angel has saved her five rows down from them. They’re all heading back to England to film on location in the Forest of Dean, and it’s arse o’clock in the morning, giving them a pretty spacious train compartment to spread out in.
Colin reaches for his backpack. “I got you those sandwiches you asked for. Want them now?”
“Nah. Save them for later.”
Settling down into the seat, Bradley rests his cheek against it, his eyes closing for a moment. He looks tired, but Bradley has never been a morning person, much to Colin’s amusement. It has always been way too entertaining to torture him in the morning with unnecessarily loud wake up calls.
“There’s only an hour or so on the train, though,” Colin objects, his voice softer.
“Later,” Bradley mutters. “Tired.”
The last word is said with a slight pout and Colin nearly laughs, but his urge is kind of drowned out by the wave of affection he feels. He turns around carefully to find his coat and spreads it out over them both, spending some time arranging it to his liking. Bradley’s expression betrays nothing, but he’s not asleep even as his eyes remain closed.
Colin snuggles up on his side under the coat, studying the soft curve of Bradley’s mouth, slightly downturned. His thoughts drift, again, to kissing Bradley and how they’ve skirted around it since then. It’s frustrating, because it seemed like they both agreed that it was a good thing to repeat, even if it wasn’t said in so many words. Colin frowns.
It’s your turn, Bradley had said when they ran lines and for some reason it had stuck. That’s not what he’d meant at the time, or at least Colin doesn’t think that’s what he’d meant, but maybe that’s what it is? After all, Bradley’s been the one to admit that he fancies Colin and Colin hadn’t said anything at all back, had he?
Colin really hates how pants he is at this stuff, especially when it’s important. He’s flirted with people before, but mostly when he knew it wouldn’t lead to anything in particular. Whenever the stakes are higher he just pulls back, retreating into himself so he doesn’t have to be disappointed.
Taking a deep breath, Colin keeps his eyes on Bradley and moves his hand slightly, fumbling until his fingertips brush skin and he trails his hand down until he finds Bradley’s open palm. He rests his fingers there, his breath hitching as the corner of Bradley’s lips quirk slightly in response.
It feels stupidly intimate, maybe even more so than kissing. That’s a little strange, but it’s something about feeling the soft, warm skin of Bradley’s palm under the light touches of his fingertips skimming across it in nonsensical patterns. And Bradley’s face is close, but his eyes are still closed and the only sign he’s got that Bradley even knows what he’s doing is the tiny smile.
Colin relaxes against the seat, the fabric of his coat resting against his jaw and he studies the way Bradley’s chest moves steadily with every breath. The light in the compartment is a little harsh and it gives his face stark shadows, his jaw looking even sharper.
“Colin, mate,” he says, smiling. “You need to tell Tom over there to come clubbing with me.”
“It’s a bit much even for you to go clubbing at six in the morning,” Colin mutters and he realises he’d almost been asleep.
“Well, tonight, obviously.” Eoin says, raising his eyebrow towards Bradley. “Am I interrupting naptime?”
Bradley grunts and Colin almost laughs.
“Yeah, kind of. You’re disgustingly awake in the morning.” Colin pushes away the urge to burrow into his coat and fall asleep.
Bradley’s fingers curl slightly against his hand and he realises he hasn’t stopped tracing patterns. He feels Bradley’s fingers run softly over his own and he tries to keep his face neutral as Eoin scoffs.
“You two are ridiculous, and he’s the worst.” Eoin nods against Bradley. “You’d think you’d be used to being up at the crack of dawn by now. Really, do you think Merlin slept the day away?”
“I’m an actor,” Colin says against the fabric of his coat. “I don’t have to actually be Merlin, thank fuck. I’d be really shit at doing Bradley’s laundry.”
Bradley tries to hold back a laugh, but it fails. At first his face cracks into a smile, his shoulders begin to shake and then he lets out a short burst of laughter that makes Eoin smack his shoulder.
“Faking sleep, eh? If that’s how you’re playing it,” he says, pushing his shoulder again and Bradley cracks one eye open, reaching out from under the coat to swat in Eoin’s direction.
“Lazy wanker,” Eoin says as he ducks out of the way. “I should stage a coup and be king. I’d be so much better at it, especially in the morning.”
Bradley yanks the coat to the side and launches after Eoin, grabbing him from behind. Colin rolls his eyes as the two of them wrestle in the aisle and he tries not to be annoyed with Eoin for ruining a moment he was kind of enjoying. He bunches up the coat and pushes it to the side, watching Eoin and Bradley tumble around like school children while the few poor souls trying to sleep glare daggers at them.
“Not the hair!” Eoin yelps. “Not my goddamn hair, James!”
“Not his precious hair!” Katie yells, reaching out a hand dramatically. “Have mercy on all of our needs for fluffy locks.”
Bradley rubs at Eoin’s head with his knuckles until Eoin twists out of his grip and sprints down the aisle.
“I’ve officially been granted amnesty with the girls,” Eoin says, arranging his hair back into place. “Begone.”
Laughing, Bradley flops back into the seat, his cheeks flushed. Colin holds out the sandwich he’d picked up on his way to the station and when Bradley takes it, he reaches out and brushes Bradley’s hair into place.
As he fusses with Bradley’s hair, a little unable to let it go, Bradley looks at him with raised eyebrows and Colin scowls.
“Shut up and eat your fucking sandwich.”
Lifting his mug up to his lips, he tries to hide behind it, sipping slowly at his tea without tasting it.
“But you went home with her, right?” Eoin asks, his grin wide. “She was all over you, mate.”
“She really was,” Ade says. “Plus she seemed pretty cool, compared to a lot of the people who hang all over you.”
Colin rubs his thumb over his mug, the porcelain warm under his skin.
“Shut up, you know how they are,” Bradley says and Colin can’t get himself to look in his direction.
The jealousy is ugly and big and dark in his chest, like a black hole that sucks his good mood into it until it all disappears. And he knows it’s kind of ridiculous because he doesn’t own Bradley. Bradley doesn’t even know anything about what Colin’s been thinking for days – weeks, no, months. No. Indefinitely.
“She seemed kind of different, though,” Ade says, shrugging. “She seemed more into you as a person and not just because you’re you.”
“How do you know that in just an evening, though?” Bradley asks, buttering his toast. “It’s not like we know her.”
“You talked to her all evening, though.”
Bradley pulls a face. “Yeah, well, she was alright? Better than most other people, so she kept the rest of them away.”
“Right,” Eoin says, sounding like he doesn’t believe it for a second.
Colin doesn’t know whether to be angry at himself for not joining the guys at the club or to be relieved that he didn’t have to be there.
And it’s not even that Colin is some pathetic person who can’t figure out how to talk to people. It’s just Bradley. Everything’s different about Bradley. He’s simultaneously the easiest and the most difficult person to talk to, and it’s so very difficult because when it comes to him, Colin’s got everything to lose.
When Angel finally pops over to tell them the car’s there, Colin’s fake smile is painful on his lips and his excitement to finally shoot in the forest again is all but gone. He slips into a window seat on the minibus that’s set to take them to the location and curls up, resting his forehead against the cool glass. He looks up for a moment when Angel sits down next to him, trying not to look at Bradley and Eoin still talking about last night.
“You usually look a bit more presentable than this after having your tea,” Angel says and he forces himself to focus on her, keeping his eyes locked on her mild expression.
“I don’t even know what it is,” he lies. “I just feel a bit out of it.”
“And you weren’t even out drinking,” Eoin interjects and any other day Colin would laugh, but he can’t even force it out.
When they step off the bus, Bradley’s hand is on his shoulder, holding him back.
“Cols, you can stop this now. Come on, mate,” he says, his expression exasperated.
Colin’s defences pull up immediately and he steps back. “Not everything’s about you, Bradley.”
Bradley gives him a long look. “Sometimes you’re honestly the stupidest person I know.”
They don’t talk for the rest of the day unless they have to and it’s the longest day of shooting Colin can remember.
When they get back to the hotel, Colin goes straight to his room and curls up against the headboard, trying to close out everything until his head is blank. He pulls out his book and tosses his bookmark to the bed. Reading the words doesn’t seem to help. They don’t register; they only pass by his eyes like a slideshow.
Closing his eyes, he drops his head back against the headboard over and over until the back of his head hurts.
He’s avoided everything for so long: even when Bradley kissed him, even when he realised what all his feelings meant. Avoiding has always seemed easier. And it’s not that he really thinks Bradley went home with some girl, not really. But the fact that the thought alone made it feel like a giant black hole lodged in his chest is scary.
His thoughts shift suddenly and he wonders what it’s like being Bradley. He wonders how long Bradley’s been thinking about it all, how long he’s waited, how many black holes he’s had to deal with. And Colin hasn’t even told him how much Bradley fits into his life, how everything’s shifted until it all circles around Bradley in frightening, sickening orbits.
Stumbling out of bed on shaky legs, Colin traps the words on the tip of his tongue, holding them there as he moves out of his room and down the hall. When Bradley opens the door with a brief look of surprise, Colin wants to swallow the words down, but he presses inside and stands in the middle of Bradley’s hotel room with all his pent up feelings burning on his tongue.
“Colin, what...?” Bradley says as he closes the door.
He stops talking when Colin holds up his hand and takes a shaky breath.
“I fancy you,” Colin blurts, tasting the words as he finally lets them go, “a lot. You’re... I really... You mean a lot to me, there’s been so much to lose, but I really, really like you. A lot.”
Well, at least Colin knows he’ll never be one to write romantic sonnets. He makes a face at himself, the embarrassment trickling in as Bradley doesn’t say anything. But then Bradley smiles, blindingly – the kind of smile that’s probably the reason Colin fell for him in the first place and his heart gives a lurch.
“I can’t... I’m really bad at this,” Colin says dejectedly, unable to make sense of anything else.
He opens his mouth to try again, but then he doesn’t have to because Bradley is there, his fingers threading into Colin’s hair and his tongue licking the unsaid words out of Colin’s mouth until he forgets everything he might’ve wanted to say.
Wrapping his arms around Bradley, Colin presses himself as close as he can and breaks the kiss, burying his head into Bradley’s neck. He inhales slowly, his body relaxing as Bradley’s arms circle him and holds him close. It’s such an odd relief – a calm feeling spreading through him as he just settles into the hug.
“It took you fucking long enough,” Bradley says as his arms tighten around his back.
Colin laughs helplessly into Bradley’s neck.
“’m sorry,” he mutters and presses his lips to the warm skin in a kiss. “I’m a little slow sometimes.”
“Yeah, seriously. It’s the fifth season, Colin.”
“Shut up. You’re ruining the moment.”
“Oh, I do apologise,” Bradley says dryly. “Maybe I should leave you alone with your moment.”
Colin rolls his eyes and pulls out of the hug, the familiar mix between annoyance and amusement with Bradley making him feel a little closer to his normal self.
“Ugh, how do I even stand you?”
“Come off it, I’m clearly the best out of the two of us, you can’t even – ” Bradley stops himself and points towards the TV he’s left on. “Oh, reruns of Blackadder!”
“Oh! Which series?” Colin asks, tugging Bradley along as he slips onto the bed.
“The best one.”
“So series three,” Colin says just as Bradley says, “Series two.”
They look at each other and Colin has to bite his lip to stop his laughter from bubbling over.
“How do you even stand to be so wrong all the time?” Bradley asks incredulously as they try to arrange themselves onto the bed.
Instead of telling Bradley to shut up, Colin just kisses him, holding him in place with his hand cupping the back of his head.
Giving Bradley a long-suffering look, Colin burrows his hands into the pockets of the jacket he’s wearing over his costume.
“Colin, what are we doing?” Bradley says from behind the camera he’s holding slightly crookedly.
“No, that’s not what we’re doing.”
“It sounds like you already know what we’re doing.”
Turning the camera towards himself, Bradley grins. “Colin is grumpy face today because we’re waiting for the rain to stop before we can keep shooting. And Colin is such an impatient diva, it’s terrible.”
Colin’s attempt to look stern fails and his expression cracks into a smile. He poses haughtily, turning his nose up.
“Look at that. Actors at work, people at home, actors at work.”
The rain comes down harder outside of the makeshift shelter that’s been made for them. The air is fresh, the smell of earth and forest refreshing and Colin inhales deeply.
“Colin,” Bradley says, leaning back in his chair. “Sing me a song, I’m bored.”
“I don’t sing. Ever.”
“You do. You always sing. Especially in the shower.”
Colin looks away, pushing the thought of showers really, really far away. He shakes his head and eyes Bradley’s camera speculatively.
"The next flight to London will be boarding in five minutes," he says, his voice a notch deeper than usual and Bradley throws his head back, his laughter booming through the woods.
“Aw, Colin,” he says, his voice still thick with laughter, “it’s our song. You’re so romantic. No! No, not the camera. Colin!”
When he had pictured anything at all, Bradley had always been goofy and silly. He’d been like he is with everyone, except naked. And that’s why the reality of the whole thing is almost overwhelming. Bradley’s expression is intense, no trace of silly smiles or teasing glints in his eyes. Instead he’s almost reverent, running his hand down Colin’s ribs.
Bradley touches him as if he matters, as if he’s something to cherish. Colin’s heart feels so large in his chest that he can’t figure out how to breathe properly and the breath is knocked out of him completely when Bradley mouths at his cock through his boxers. Nuzzling against it, Bradley’s eyes flutter closed and he groans deeply.
Colin goes boneless under him, drowning in something he hadn’t realised he needed quite this much. When Bradley closes his mouth around his cock, hollowing his cheeks and humming, he writhes and pushes up against the hold of Bradley’s hands on his hips.
He doesn’t understand how he could ever think that Bradley would be just like on set or out at the pubs, not when Bradley’s looking at him like that. Not when he’s got his lips wrapped around Colin’s cock, taking him down so, so deep as if he can’t get enough of it. Colin has to close his eyes to the sight of it, gripping at the sheets.
When Bradley pushes into him, filling him so much it’s almost too much, Bradley looks at him with an expression Colin’s never seen on him before. It’s almost like awe – as if the sight of Colin is something to drink in and bottle up and keep. And when Bradley fucks him desperately – fast and hard and intense – it really, finally clicks for Colin that Bradley’s looking at him like he’s everything, like he’s wanted this forever.
Running his hand softly over Bradley’s cheek, Colin reaches in and claims his mouth in a kiss, spilling over with unnamed emotion. Clinging to Bradley, he pushes up into the rhythm, losing every last bit of his control as he thinks about the perfect, flawed idiot who wants him so much – and Colin’s never wanted anyone more in his life.
He comes, kissing Bradley’s name into his shoulder and digging his nails into his skin.
He’s almost dead on his feet, but he sticks behind to watch Angel and Katie work. The way they play against each other has fascinated him more than anything. It’s like they have an on-off switch in the way they talk to each other between takes, something he’s never really had with Bradley. The way he is with Bradley has always carried into the scenes, whether he’s wanted it to or not.
Angel goes from laughing at Katie and pushing lightly at her shoulder to cold, hard looks of contempt in a matter of seconds. Drawing herself up to her full height, Katie stares down at her and downright cackles.
Suddenly the tension breaks and Angel doubles over laughing, leaning forwards and resting her head against Katie’s shoulder. Wrapping her arms around Angel, Katie hugs her, rocking back and forth as her laugh fills the set. Colin’s lips pull into a smile as he watches them, feeling almost unbearably fond for a moment.
“Those two.” An arm is slung around Colin’s shoulder, pulling him closer. “Can’t even keep a straight face. Not quite like us, are they, Colin?”
Colin looks at Bradley’s grinning face, wide-eyed, as he keenly feels the way he’s pressed up against Bradley’s side.
“No, definitely not quite like you,” Eoin says dryly from the chair where he’s been waiting his turn. “They’ve yet to trip over each other and crash into the table, ruining their costumes and half the set.”
Bradley scowls. “That did not happen.”
The air feels thick and Colin could swear the arm slung across his shoulder is burning into him, the weight heavy and significant.
“Mate, it happened this morning.”
Eoin and Bradley continue to bicker until they’re bluntly told to shut up as Angel and Katie’s take resumes again. No longer paying attention, Colin edges away from Bradley, shaking the arm from his shoulder.
The frown he gets in return makes him feel bad.
“What’s up with you?” Bradley asks when the take’s over and the chatter resumes.
His shoulders tense, Colin buries his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “You couldn’t be any more obvious than this?”
“Wow, are you really freaking out about my arm around your shoulder?” Bradley shakes his head, eyes wide.
“It’s too familiar.”
“Colin, we’ve been too familiar since the day we met. Not a single person in here lifted an eyebrow.”
“Well, it’s different now, isn’t it?” Colin says quietly. “And why shouldn’t they notice that? I notice it.”
“I bloody hope you notice it, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?”
Bradley’s lips pull into a lopsided smile.
“Everything’s always a joke for you, Bradley. You don’t even bother to listen to me half the time before you turn it into another funny thing.”
The shooting starts up again and Colin takes the chance to slip past Bradley, not looking up at him as he escapes towards the door.
He hadn’t expected Bradley to follow him, but he doesn’t get far before he’s being held back by his arm. The grip is strong, forcing him to turn and find Bradley looking at him with a puzzled expression. For some reason the earnest confusion makes guilt well inside him and his shoulders slump.
“I panicked,” he says quickly before Bradley can ask.
“You know they won’t even know the difference, right?”
Colin just blinks at him, unsure of what to say. As the silence stretches, Bradley’s mood seems to get steadily worse.
“You know, maybe I don’t listen as much as I should, but you’ve always been completely blind when it comes to me. You never notice anything. And you still don’t even get it.”
His mouth open in an attempt to reply, Colin looks after Bradley as he disappears.
“Oh, I’ve been up earlier before,” Bradley says, laughing slightly and Colin feels the rumble under his fingers. “So you can ask all your questions and I promise not to fall asleep.”
Catching Colin’s eyes, Bradley raises his eyebrows in question and swallowing back his nervousness, Colin nods in response. It’s not like they can see anything through the phone, right?
Bradley puts the phone on speaker and holds it between them. “Actually, Colin’s here too if you want to talk to him as well.”
“Oh!” the woman at the other end sounds slightly breathless. “That’s absolutely perfect. It’s so great of you guys to do this.”
“Well, we do like talking about ourselves, don’t we, Colin?”
“Speak for yourself,” Colin says and there’s a short burst of tentative laughter from the phone.
Bradley tightens the arm he has around Colin’s back. “Oh, so that’s how it is. I get it.”
“You guys sound like you’re in a great mood. Is filming going well?”
“Yeah, the mood’s great.” Bradley smirks at him and Colin glares back, widening his eyes a little in warning. “And filming is a great experience. It always has been with these guys. And amazingly, even as we’ve added members to the cast, it’s always been a blast with everyone.”
“It really seems like it,” she says. “Would you say that the cast and your dynamic have been important to the show?”
“Definitely. Colin and I got along almost immediately, you know, so it was just easy. It makes it fun to go to work and easy to kind of do your best.”
Bradley laughs, looking at Colin as the corner of his eyes crinkle. “Well, you know. You’ve seen Colin. He’s all weird and Irish and skinny. I had a healthy prejudice.”
Colin shakes his head.
“Ow! Let the record show that he pinched me.”
Rolling his eyes, Colin pinches him in the side again for good measure. “It’s not a court record.”
“It might turn into one if you don’t stop assaulting me.”
Colin is about to reply when the woman he’d nearly forgotten about gives another breathy laugh. “I take it a lot of the dynamic between Arthur and Merlin comes from you two?”
“Probably,” Colin admits, smiling a little.
The interview continues the way most of their interviews go: Bradley rambles, waving his hand around a lot even if he’s holding the phone and Colin interjects whenever Bradley has to breathe. It’s a comforting routine where he really enjoys the familiarity of it all, especially since the answers are so often variations of the same ones. It feels like walking a familiar path through the woods. The weather will change, but the surroundings are still the same.
He runs his fingers idly over Bradley’s stomach as he listens to him talk about how life on the set has changed in five series. His eyes following the tip of his finger as it traces random patterns, he listens to the way Bradley describes them – describes him, the way Bradley laughs about their pranks and talks about how Colin makes him push himself as an actor.
There’s a pretty large possibility that Colin might be the dimmest person in the universe.
Colin bites his lip, losing track of the conversation as his thoughts finally turn to places he’s never dared to seek out. He’s avoided them, maybe out of fear or self-preservation or something else entirely, but it seems stupid to try to ignore them now.
He looks up at Bradley and smiles, catching Bradley slightly off guard and making him stumble over his words a little.
When the interview finally ends, Colin breathes a little sigh of relief, the tension bleeding out of his shoulders as he shifts a little against Bradley, draping his arm across his stomach.
“I get it now,” he says into the warm skin of Bradley’s chest.
Fingers twine into Colin’s hair.
“You told me I didn’t get it, and you were right: I didn’t. But I do now,” he says, closing his eyes and breathing deeply. “And I love you too.”
If he didn’t feel fingers clutching at his back and pressing him closer, he would’ve thought he hadn’t even been heard. He mouths softly at Bradley’s chest, smiling against the skin.
Bradley clears his throat. “You’re the slowest idiot I’ve ever met in my entire life.”
Humming in agreement, Colin looks up at him. “And yet you still love me. I guess that says more about you than me.”
“Ow! Bradley, don’t fucking pinch me.”
Colin looks up from the map he’s got spread out over his lap, eyeing Bradley from the corner of his eyes. He wrestles with the map, bumping it against the windshield.
“Could you really not have rented a larger car?” he complains, muttering as he tries to arrange himself properly.
“It’s nostalgic. And it has meaning. You’re an emotionally stunted person, Colin. Emotionally stunted.”
“Oh, I’m sorry that I wanted room for my blood to flow freely on this road trip around all of France.”
Bradley shakes his head, his expression cracking into a smile as they pull out of the familiar town of Coquelles and out onto the road towards... wherever it is Colin’s map reading skills are leading them.
“Indulge me,” Bradley says, looking out at the landscape rolling past.
“We’re switching out the car when we get to...” Colin squints down at the map. “Wherever we’re going.”
Leaning forwards, Bradley pets the dashboard. “Ssh, mean Colin won’t get rid of you.”
“Hey, I waited for you for five years,” Bradley says as the sun breaks through the clouds overhead and he pulls his sunglasses down.
Pursing his lips, Colin looks at him, bemused. “You’re never letting that go, are you?”
“You can make it up to me later by sucking my cock.”
“Very gracious of you,” Colin says, his finger tracing the road they’re driving on the map. “If that’s what it takes you should’ve forgiven me several hundred times over.”
Bradley throws his head back, laughing, and Colin’s serious expression cracks into a smile. They both fall silent, staring out the window on the familiar scenery.
“Told you we’d be back,” Bradley says, turning to grin at him.
The corners of Colin’s eyes crinkle into a smile.