The plan forms after the millionth text message from Colin about how he's freezing his bollocks off up in Mull. Not that the plan has anything to do with Colin's bollocks or that Bradley has ever thought about Colin's bollocks, mind you, he just wants to make sure Colin doesn't get sick. It wouldn't do if the star of the show (of course that is debatable, Bradley is just as much the star. Merlin is nothing without Arthur) froze said bollocks – and he really needed to get that word out of his head – or other extremities off while filming in the off season. And when talking about extremities (other than the word he is not thinking, la-la-la) and Colin, it's his ears that come to mind.
Bradley finds Colin's ears rather fetching. Much like the rest of Colin, those ears snuck up on Bradley when he wasn't looking, because let's face it; Colin Morgan is a sneaky bastard – ears included. So now Bradley's worried about Colin's ears up there in cold, damp, windy Mull. Those ears who don't have proper cover like Bradley's – it's tragic really, how they will turn red from the cold and the wind, and how sore they'll be when the heat returns to them.
The tragedy of Colin's dry and cracked ears is enough to make Bradley pull out his knitting needles. Yes, Bradley knits. Not well, mind you, but his Gran made sure both he and his sister learned the skill and he can make a mean – if slightly meandering -- scarf. But he's never tried his hand at a hat, but really how hard could it be?
So he does some research into the warmest type of wool and sets out to knit Colin and his ears, the most awesome beanie ever. Before he starts though, he contacts Mrs. Morgan – with a cover story about his Gran knitting everyone in the cast scarves for Christmas – to see if Colin has some weird allergy to different kinds of wool. Come on, if anyone could have a strange allergy to certain types of sheep it would be Colin – allergic to everything but peanuts and lettuce – Morgan.
It takes him a while to find the perfect wool. He almost goes with the baby alpaca chunky yarn because it's just so soft. He's sure Colin's ears would love it, but he puts it back when he finds Jamieson's Shetland Heather Aran yarn because the fact that it's made in Scotland and comes in "North Sea"-- which is just a shade or two darker than Colin's eyes -- is too perfect to pass up. (And if later he goes back and picks up a few skeins of the alpaca in Pendragon red, no one but him will ever know.)
It turns out in fact that knitting a hat is bloody hard. Bradley knew his skills were a little rusty, but he didn't think it would be that hard to follow the pattern. The site on the internet has listed the project as easy. Sure, it was easy just like defending the goal against Ian Wright had been in the 90s.
And who knew hats required more than two needles (Well besides his sister who laughed at him when he called her to ask for help after his first – or rather 12th failed attempt.)
After her consultation, he went out and purchased a set of five double-pointed needles; which he knew Colin would make horrible puns about Bradley playing both ends of the field. And Bradley would let him because he's a good mate like that – and not because he finds Colin's puns ridiculously and embarrassingly funny, no matter what Angel and Katie might say. But five needles to make one little hat seemed a bit much.
And don't get him started on knitting in the round. It was hard, even after the video link that his sister sent him. And putting up with her abuse just proved he was a saint. But at the end of the day, there was just something ironically cosmic about the fact that the bloke who plays Prince Arthur is learning to knit in the round for his mate who plays Merlin. He really hopes Colin and his ears appreciate all the effort.
It takes him longer than he expected -- nearly an entire week. A week he could have been spending with his footie mates or his school friends, but instead he holes up in his flat and knits until his fingers ache. There are a lot of starts and stops, and he almost loses it when he cocks it up right near the end. But a call to his Gran, (and why he didn't call her in the first place instead of his harpy of a sister, he'll never know) and just a wee bit of backtracking fixes his error and it's done. (If he sleeps with it under his pillow for the next three days, he'll never tell.)
He pulls Colin aside after the Christmas tree ceremony in Cardiff. He feels shy all of a sudden. The hat -- hidden inside his jacket -- is not perfect by any means, but he made it with his own two hands (and five bloody needles) and he wants Colin to like it, wants Colin to know that he was thinking of him (and his ears) while Colin was away. He wants Colin to know that he missed him and he wants to see a smile bloom across Colin's face for Bradley's effort.
So it's kind of a letdown that when he hands the hat over to Colin with a quiet, "I made this for you, mate," Colin just stands there looking down at the hat, running his fingers over the stitches, but not saying a word. At that moment, he kind of wants to poke Colin with his double-pointed needles.
"You made this? For me?" Colin says finally, looking up at Bradley, his voice kind of rough.
"Yeah Col. Well for your ears. You said it was cold up there in Mull and with you starting that new film in January, I thought you could use some protection. Not that you can't buy a beanie – but this wool, it's from Scotland and the color's called 'North Sea' and it's thick and warm and yeah, I made it for you."
Colin lifts his arms and pulls the beanie down over his head and the smile that Bradley had been waiting for is even more beautiful than he could have imagined. "It's perfect. Thank you."
Bradley has to look down, look away from the bright joy alighting Colin's face. It's like looking directly into the sun. "It's not a big deal."
He doesn't expect the thwack across his own head, but Colin can be stealthy, and is a lot stronger than he looks. "It's a big deal to me."
Bradley's heart stutters a bit in his chest as a smile to match Colin's breaks across his own face. "You really like it, yeah?"
Colin ruffles Bradley's hair. "I love it. It's brilliant." He pulls it down even lower across his ears. "And warm."
Bradley smiles even wider. "It's a good look on you."
"Thanks." Colin walks over to him and wraps Bradley up in a hug. "Seriously, thanks."
Bradley suddenly feels as bold as he felt shy just minutes ago. Something has shifted between them. Something magical and real and he can't help himself. He pulls back and looks into Colin's eyes, and he can tell that Colin feels it too. And then he's leaning in and brushing his lips against Colin's and he swears there are fireworks and not the ones set off over Cardiff Bay.
Colin pulls back and rubs his thumb across Bradley's bottom lip. "My Mum always said that knitting was an expression of love."
Bradley slips his fingers under the back of Colin's beanie and ruffles his hair. "Well I wouldn't learn to knit in the round for just anyone."
Colin raises an eyebrow worthy of Richard, "Knits of the Round Table, eh?"
And Bradley shakes with laughter and Colin joins right in.
"Let's get out of here, yeah?" Colin asks, taking Bradley by his hand.
"Yeah Col. Lets."
And if later that night, Bradley finally admits that maybe he'd been thinking about Colin's bollocks after all, it's all right. Colin certainly doesn't seem to mind. (And if Bradley preens just a little every time Colin wears his beanie, only himself and Colin will ever know why.)