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Baker, Baker

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if you see him, say hi

It's not about God. Colin left all that behind years ago, and hasn't looked back, furtively or otherwise.

There's just… place. A sense of place. When one is feeling none, otherwise.

But Colin's habit of finding open churches, Catholic mostly, or Anglican if he's in a pinch, and sitting very still until he feels somehow whole again? It's not about God.

Until, one day, when he's been scattered tiredly into Cape Town like a seed on a wind, and something--the weather, the moon, the absurdity of his life--has caused it to rise to the surface. Like oil in water, the tightness in his chest that is only associated with one person in his life--his past--has come floating back up. To make everything taste bitter.

 

and i wonder: what's in a day

Colin can pinpoint, now that's it's all done and dusted, the moment it started: With a bow tie and a flirtatious interviewer. Colin, in a moment of weakness, happy and relaxed and very nearly basking, had let a little out, sent a volley back to an unsubtle gentleman.

And it had given Bradley a tic. Right there in his jaw, in his alarmingly perfect jaw, there started a tic. Colin tried not to watch for it, but then it happened again. With a grip, a grip that Colin honestly hadn't even thought twice about, with the gent at the shops, and Colin was so unsuspecting, so sure in what was right and wrong and true and false about the world that he let it sneak up on him.

He'd let Bradley sneak up on him. When Bradley was generally about as subtle as a golden retriever puppy.

 

make me a day; make me whole again

Tom texts him after an hour and seven minutes, and Colin glances at it a second time, considering. He finally touches his location into the screen, into the little green bubble, then shuts it off and goes back to staring at the crucifix. At the solid old wood of the lectern. They're not close enough friends, he thinks, that Tom will come running after him. Tom is far more Norwegian Forest Cat than Labrador retriever.

So the voice surprises him. "Mate, come home."

Colin opens one eye--his arse is asleep, he notices--and gives Tom a small wry smile. Tom amends: "Come back to our place. We'll watch old RSC videos and marvel at Patrick Stewart once having brown hair."

Colin lobs one more glance at the altar, considering. Then he feels Tom's hand on his shoulder, and stands. 'Yeah, all right.'

Later, when he's curled up sleepily on the sofa, he's for once not set on edge by the lack of space between himself and the people on either side. He wonders if it's the day, or the people in question, or the fact that he'd spent so long in that pew.

He decides, eventually, not to question it.

 

and I wonder: how mine could taste

The thing he most remembers about the first time was toothpaste. They went for so many years smelling of makeup and horses that when he finally got inside Bradley's mouth he was surprised. Surprised by the minty freshness.

He'd been expecting lager and sweat, he supposes. Lad taste. Straight lad taste.

But life continues to surprise, doesn't it, because Bradley had kissed him, first of all, and then tasted of anything but what Colin had expected.

And he'd asked permission. That's the rub. Colin had only been half-listening, mentally lolling about in their usual pattern of untranslatable banter, assuming Bradley was about to make kissing into a metaphor for sushi menus, because that's what they'd been perusing at the time.

Colin's flat was his one safe space, the only one. He'd let Bradley in because, well, if he hadn't, Bradley just would've just butted his head against the door until granted entry. There's no use postponing the inevitable, Colin had reasoned at the time.

Which means he'd had no excuse for being so surprised when Bradley, a determined look on his face, replied to Colin's 'Sure, kissing's on the table' by planting his hands on the sides of Colin's face and truly breaking their one last boundary.

Colin had pulled back, fingers up on his lips without permission. 'Bradley?' he'd questioned, because fuck if he could think anything else.

Then at Bradley's look, at Bradley's earnest fucking expression, he'd stopped questioning. And just let Bradley the rest of the way in.

 

there must be something here

After a week of filming, Colin is exhausted. And he's got a couple weeks to go, provided they stay on schedule.

He'd taken the project because he thought the character interesting, of course he had. He hadn't expected his whole life to be tipped up, practically tupped, for fuck's sake, by the culture and the weather and the hemisphere and the character and Tom.

Tom and Laura both, really. They're like bookends. Really comfortable, safe bookends, and he's somehow slipped into their life without too much chafing, without too many moments of hiding, of being overly polite. Just polite enough that the laughter feels real. That evenings spent on the sofa, with or without the television on, feel like actual evenings in, not exhausting exercises in pretending to feel at home.

He wonders. He doesn't question it, precisely. But at the end of the second week when he finds himself in yet another church, he wonders.

He gets no answer, just Tom there after an hour or so, to fetch him. Just another day ended on a sofa. Just Laura's hand in his hair, on the back of his neck, murmuring soft comfort, while Tom's solid weight settles next to him, thighs pressed together.

 

he says that behind my eyes I'm hiding

The first thing he remembers about the end is also, regrettably, the taste. Bradley actually had tasted like lager that night, and the sweat on their skin had mingled with it until Colin wanted to patent it, wanted to jar it so he could have it in his pocket and say: This is mine.

Because even then, he'd known it wouldn't be his to hold forever, his to keep secreted away in the place that was his. Their show was over, Bradley had dreams that didn't even match hemispheres with Colin's, and that's the way the wheel was turning.

So, Bradley's come sharp on his tastebuds, Colin had licked into him, pushing in hard with his tongue just to watch Bradley bow off the bed.

'Shit, Cols,' Bradley had breathed, staring down at Colin like the answer to a question he hadn't asked. 'Come here.'

So Colin had. Colin had folded them together, had pushed into him and connected them as if they could never be broken apart.

And when they were spent, Bradley had opened his mouth. 'Come with me.'

Colin had pulled up, as far as he could muster, and studied him. His head felt full of nonsense. 'I just… did?' he'd quipped reflexively.

Bradley's face had softened even as he'd let out a bark of laughter, and he'd pressed their mouths together messily. 'To the States,' he'd said against Colin's lips. The breath behind the words still seared Colin, even though they had both been wrung out. Twas ever thus.

'Bradley…'

'I know, I know.' And he'd gathered Colin to him, heedless of bodily fluids and tangled sheets, locking him in with heels on his calves. 'And I wouldn't ask you to, not really. But…'

He'd looked at Colin with a calculating yet earnest glint to his eyes, and Colin had wondered fleetingly how that was even possible. 'Just… be with me, then.'

Colin searched his face. 'You mean like--' But he couldn't say it.

'Yeah, like,' Bradley finished his half thought in full understanding, per usual. 'There are loads of couples in the business who manage long-distance.'

'Yes, but they're also--'

Bradley just held his gaze. Coldness flooded Colin's gut and before he realized it he'd broken out of Bradley's hold and scrambled back a good three foot on the bed, so quickly only his natural grace kept him from tipping right off. He shook his head so hard it hurt. 'I can't. No. You can't ask that of me.'

Bradley scoffed. 'You can flirt with men on camera in front of God and sundry, but suggest you perhaps try a public relationship with a man who actually loves you--'

And Colin had flinched.

There had been real anger in Bradley's eyes, then, and a drowning of hurt, Colin was drowning in it, but he couldn't change this about himself. Bradley might be able to wear his heart on his fucking sleeve, but Colin had never been that sort of person.

He couldn't be, and at that moment, beyond anything else, they both knew it.

 

thought i'd made friends with time; thought we'd be flying

It takes the fourth church, then, before Colin quietly accepts that for whatever reason, this is well and truly coming back to haunt him now, enough years later that the force of it is darkly amusing. A sick fairy tale, in proper Grimm fashion, where everyone dies in the end.

He stares at the crucifix, his eyes narrow and dry from the lingering candlesmoke.

Everyone dies in the end. And even before. Little deaths. For love.

Colin snorts, which reverberates rudely in the space. Flushing slightly, he wipes his eyes and picks up a pew Bible, just to feel the ancient paper crinkle but not crumble between his fingers. Fragile, yet somehow steadfast.

He slips it back into the pew silently, not quite glaring it it and most definitely not glaring up at the altar.

Chastened by habit, he takes in a deep breath and closes his eyes.

He's unsurprised but still a wee bit startled when he hears Tom's voice. He's much earlier, today.

"Mate," he says, hand heavy on Colin's shoulder, the back of his neck. "Come home." Colin looks at him, but Tom doesn't amend it this time. Tom means it.

And Colin finds, to his surprise, he means it, too, as he lets them lay him down on the sofa. He's nestled between Laura's legs, can feel her heartbeat through the thin skin of his back, with Tom's arms around them both, a solid weight on Colin's torso.

He'd never thought he'd feel this sense of place again. It's not the same, of course; it's not his space, it's theirs -- but it's safe enough. Wide open yet pulled snug around him.

"Is this…" he starts, when Laura's palm has warmed the skin of his belly under his shirt. He slides his hand to rest on top of hers, poised. "Is this all right?"

He watches Tom and Laura's eyes meet above him, soft smiles all around.

"Yeah, mate," Tom says. He leans down, and his cheek is rough against Colin's, the words sweet in his ear. "It's quite all right."

Then his lips are on Colin's skin and Colin's throat works despite himself. Despite the not-unexpected nature of it.

He feels Laura's words on the other side. "As long as you don't wake the baby," she says, her voice with quiet laughter in it. Her hand moves under his, taking his along for the ride, until the skin of his stomach, his chest, is tingling. 'I know I'm not your type, but…'

He shakes his head, or at least would do if he didn't fear it would cause Tom to stop sucking a path along his neck. 'You're lovely,' he murmurs, reaching up and behind to touch her cheek, the side of her neck. His eyes track Tom, though, as Tom pulls back just enough to look at Colin, a twinkle in his eye.

'And me?' he asks, a smirk tilting up his lips.

Colin purses his mouth against a smile. 'Oh, shut up,' he says roughly, other hand sliding round Tom's head to pull him in.

It's not something he'd considered before, at least not beyond the obvious appreciation of a fit gent, and it's not perfect, but it's nice. It's comforting.

It's enough to push the darkness back, at least for a little while.

 

and I wonder if he's okay

They don't so much as move, after. The sofa is nice and they've a while before sleep.

Laura's hand cards absently through his hair. Her voice is soft, which is how Colin knows he's going to hate the question. 'Have you been seeing anyone?'

Colin shakes his head. 'Been too… busy.'

They're silent for a while, and the lazy afterglow is rather nice. Colin breathes deeply in, lets it out in a steady stream. He knows he's going to say it, knows what these weeks have been hurtling him towards, but he still can't quite believe it. 'Been thinking of going public, though.'

Tom turns from where he's got his head on Colin's stomach, and stares at him, eyebrows raised. Laura makes a small sound of honest shock. 'Oh, Colin.' She gathers him even closer, if that's possible.

Then she says what he's been dreading she'd say. "You should ring him, then."

Colin's tongue feels heavy in his mouth. "I shouldn't."

"You should if you mean it."

"I don't know if I mean it."

The noise Laura makes then reminds Colin of his mother, which should make him distinctly uncomfortable considering what just transpired between them, but for some reason he's not interested in such distinction. They have been good to him. Good for him.

Perhaps not quite as good as they wish, but--

Tom interrupts his train of thought. "He's never got over you, either, you know."

And Colin hadn't known, but he sort of had, and the idea terrifies him, is this gaping maw full of question marks and darkness.

"I don't know if I mean it,' he just says again, his voice not quite sounding like his own.

Tom settles back down and yawns against his belly. His voice is light enough when he says: 'Then fucking figure it out, mate. I like my friends happy.'

Colin smirks, flexing his stomach muscles just enough for Tom to feel it. 'Clearly.'

Laura makes an unladylike noise. 'We only trot this out for truly special guests, I'll have you know.'

Colin shuffles up until he can reach to kiss her on the cheek. Her skin is soft and she smells lovely, and he lingers.' I know,' he says, and he means it: 'Thank you.'

 

i ran from him in all kinds of ways; guess it was his turn this time

The next day, his last day in Cape Town, is not special otherwise. But Colin finds himself stopping the cab at that first cathedral.

He steps out onto the portico and breathes in. He stays there a long time. He's not sure how long. Just looking at the huge wooden doors.

The stones are solid beneath him, the air is thick around him. His gut twists, but he knows, he knows in his head and his heart that it's not from the possibility of action -- it's from the consequences should he choose inaction.

He breathes out, a steady stream, and pulls out his phone. His voice reverberates in the evening air.

"Bradley. Yeah. It's me."

fin