It was still early evening and really what Bradley wanted more than anything was to get home and into a hot bath and to catch up with the football. The good thing about Colin was that he'd totally understand that, and let Bradley get on with it without interruption. He'd do his own thing, and if Bradley knocked on Colin's door he'd maybe be there, maybe not.
All of which was right and proper, and it worked perfectly well. They were mates. With benefits, sometimes, since that weird, drunken night in Paris two years ago, but still, first and foremost, mates.
"I think I'll go back and..." Bradley told Colin with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Yeah? I was thinking of going for a drink with Katie. It's still early."
There was an invitation there; Colin taking care to make sure Bradley knew he'd be welcome. Part of Bradley wanted to take him up on it, to get over himself and go and have fun.
And that was the bad thing about Colin. He could be very hard to resist.
Even so, somehow Bradley said, "Okay, I'll see you, then." He nodded at Colin, waved at the others and half-walked, half-jogged to the tube.
A couple of days later in Compiegne, Bradley flung his bag on the bed and headed straight for the shower. He loved the showers in this hotel. The water was always hot, the jets hit his skin at just the right pressure, and within seconds he felt stripped clean of all the grime and tension. He stood under the water for a while, long after the soap was rinsed off and his hair was squeaky-clean; arms braced on the white tile, not-thinking. He only came back to himself when he heard a knock on the door, and cursed himself for the burst of excitement at the thought 'Colin'.
He turned off the shower and wrapped himself in a towel on his way to answer the door.
"Showered already?" said Colin.
"You too." Bradley pointed at Colin's hair, which was damp and sticking up at stupid angles.
"It was too hot on that train," Colin said.
"Next time I'm picking a carriage where the air-con is working. Reservations be damned."
Colin grinned. "You coming down to eat, or....?"
Something in Bradley blanked his mind and made him desperate to simply act. He pulled Colin into the room, slammed the door behind him and kissed him. Colin made a small squeaking sound, surprised, but he kissed back enthusiastically and let Bradley push him back against the closed door, nimbly avoiding both the door handle and the coat hook. Bradley shoved Colin's shirt up his body, desperate to feel the smooth heat of his skin. Goosebumps bloomed along Colin's side; he twitched and squirmed and, when Bradley released his mouth for long enough, giggled.
"On the bed," Bradley murmured. "God, I'm hard. You make me so, fucking...."
"Can't move," Colin pointed out, pushing at Bradley's shoulders. "You got me pinned to the wall."
Such a stupidly hot thought.
Bradley considered doing Colin right there and then, standing up, never mind the bed. The door would bang with every thrust; Colin would get his legs up around Bradley's waist, his arms around Bradley's neck; Bradley would fuck fast and hard, Colin's head would fall back exposing the long, elegant line of his throat. Bradley would splay his fingers there, feel Colin swallow and breathe.
"Come on," Colin said, pushing at Bradley's chest. "You want me on the bed or not?"
On the bed they could take their time. Draw it out. He could let Colin fuck him; Colin always took it slow and God, to be full of cock, full of Colin….
Bradley stepped back and Colin grinned broadly. He grabbed Bradley's arm and tugged him towards the bed, trying to off-balance him, to make him tumble down with him. Bradley stood firm, though, not easily bad-footed, laughing as Colin fell on the bed without him.
"C'mon," Colin said, and then, tilting his head to one side and frowning, "Are you okay?"
"Fine." Bradley squeezed Colin's hand. "Yeah. Fine."
He wasn't, of course, but he knelt on the bed anyway and let Colin's anxious, heated kisses soothe and distract him. He watched Colin strip off his own shirt, and dragged his tongue over Colin's ribs, his nipple, his collarbone. He pinned Colin to the bed with one strong hand on his hip; Colin groaned and bit the back of his own hand, flexed against Bradley's hold, strong and satisfying like a good stretch.
Colin's cock was rock-hard, visible even through his baggy jeans - a clean, long line pointing at the hip where Bradley's fingers pressed into him. Suddenly Bradley had to look, had to see this evidence of Colin's arousal; he popped the buttons of Colin's jeans in one rapid tug, wrangled his underwear out of the way with little finesse and a lot of determination, and knelt, staring at Colin's cock.
It was a short step then to take it into his mouth, to run his lips up and down the length of it. To lick it, God, lick it. Colin made appreciative noises, his eyes shut, head thrown back, fingers stroking through Bradley's hair.
Bradley still couldn't quite believe he did this, never mind enjoyed it. He couldn't get it down his throat without gagging, but Colin never seemed to mind; a few more minutes of this and he'd probably come. But Bradley didn't want that. Bradley wanted the thing he'd never known he could want until Colin had persuaded him to try it.
Bradley let go of Colin's cock, drinking in the sight of it, wet and red-tipped. He crawled up the bed and kissed Colin's jaw and whispered, hating the whiny sound of his own voice, "Col, could you fuck me? I want you to fuck me."
Colin didn't say anything, just hitched in breath and kissed Bradley on the mouth, stroked his back. He understood, Bradley could tell; he was gentle and careful as he pushed the towel off Bradley's thighs and stroked his cock. His fingers wandered into the crack of Bradley's arse and teased his hole, and fuck, Bradley loved that more than he should. Colin licked his middle finger and wetted him, slid the spit around, over his skin; pushed experimentally, slipping a little way inside because Bradley was ready for it, wanted it so badly his body welcomed the intrusion.
Bradley's eyes were closed, but he felt the shift of the bed as Colin moved down. Bradley lay on his stomach, hips raised just enough, and with Colin a little to his side. Colin's hands settled, one on each buttock, spreading Bradley open so he could get his tongue to his hole. Bradley cried out, then, desperate with pleasure. Colin licked in circles, lapped at him, tongue lax and thick and wet.
"D'you do this to girls?" Bradley said. "'Cos if you do I'm amazed they ever let you out of bed."
Colin chuckled, and shifted to lie over Bradley's back. Nibbled at his ear. "I've never had any complaints. You?"
Bradley was suddenly struck with the image of Colin in Katie's bed, kneeling between her thighs, tongue slithering over her clit while he slid two fingers inside of her. It would make wet little sounds as he finger-fucked her, and Colin's other hand would reach up to touch her breasts. Then he'd straighten up, take his cock in his fist and line it up, dabble the head in her juices, wet and sticky….
"Fuck me, Col," Bradley said. "Please."
There was a brief pause as Colin dug the lube out of the drawer. He worked generous gobs of it into Bradley's arse, long fingers reaching deep inside him. Bradley rocked back, whimpering; it wasn't enough, nothing would be enough today until he was stuffed full of Colin's cock. Colin murmured a gentle chastisement for being so impatient but he was slicking his cock as he did it, and a moment later he was pushing into Bradley's body.
Bradley licked his lips. He was breathing hard. Colin gave a little grunt of satisfaction as he sank into Bradley, thick and long and satisfying. Colin shifted position a little, tilting Bradley's hips so he caught the sweet spot and Bradley cried out.
"Good," Colin murmured. "That's good."
"It's way beyond good," said Bradley.
"Hmmmm," purred Colin, and he drew back in one long, smooth movement, and began to thrust.
Did he fuck Katie this way? Spread out on all fours on the bed, long hair spilling over the pillows? Did he cup her breasts as he pounded into her? Did he reach around and….
"You're so hard," Colin murmured, wrapping his fingers around Bradley's cock.
"You must be doing something right, then," said Bradley, slamming his hips back against Colin's, making him grunt.
Colin tightened his hold around Bradley's middle, stilling him so he could do the work, keeping up his steady, maddeningly slow pace. Bradley loved it even as he whined for Colin to go harder, faster; they'd done this enough times that Bradley knew it would end well if he trusted Colin and just went along for the ride. Sure enough, when he came it was like being wrung inside out and squeezed dry and wrapped in silk all at once. He was still gasping for breath when Colin jerked out of his arse and spurted long streams of come over Bradley's naked back, then the last few over his hole, spreading it around there wet and sticky, working it a little way inside, and Bradley felt fucked open and stupid and scared and out of control. Colin's fingers were taking over now, spreading his come over Bradley's skin, down his spine and around his hole and Bradley was whimpering into the pillow because it felt better than it had any right to.
He must have blanked out for a moment. The next thing he knew he'd collapsed face-down on the bed and Colin was wiping him with a towel. Probably a hotel towel, fuck. Bradley'd have to rinse that out in the bath so none of the hotel staff would guess. Because, yes, he was that pathetic.
"That was good, yeah?" Colin said, tossing the towel on the floor. He flopped down at Bradley's side, and Bradley peeked through one half-closed eye to observe that Colin was grinning.
"Yeah," said Bradley.
Bradley turned over onto his side. Colin was frowning at him, not desperately worried or anything, just concerned. In that way he was, sometimes, because he was a bloody decent human being. One of the most decent human beings Bradley had ever met.
"Have you ever-" Bradley cleared his throat, "-been with Katie?"
"Been where with Katie?"
"Oh." Then Colin's voice dropped down deep when he said, "Maybe." He looked down at the duvet, then up at Bradley with that flirty, coy-filthy glance through his lashes.
Bradley didn't know whether to smack him or fuck him.
It must have shown on his face because Colin switched off the flirting instantly. "Sorry, yes," he said, earnestly. "Is it a problem?"
Jealousy writhed in Bradley's stomach. "Of course not, no. I just wondered. Mmmm." He rolled onto his back and stretched. "I'm starving. Shall we go find some food?"
They ate in the hotel restaurant; Colin had some kind of mushroom stroganoff and Bradley had steak, and they shared a bottle of wine. It was late and quiet and they talked nonsense.
It was a pretty good night, all things considered.
A few days later, Colin asked Bradley to go to the cinema with him. Bradley went. It was some arty French film and although Bradley could appreciate the craft of the thing, it was intended to be thought-provoking, and he really wasn't in the mood for thinking; he would have preferred something with lots of explosions and maybe a few car chases. But it was good, in a technical sense, and he got a great deal of amusement from watching Colin watch the film: eager and intent, soaking up everything he could from it. Filing away little ideas and tips and things for future use. A bit like Rogue from X-Men; one day Colin would be some kind of super-actor, able to draw on the powers of any actor he'd ever seen or worked with.
"What?" said Colin, grinning at him.
"Nothing," Bradley said, and grinned back.
"I've been thinking," said Colin later, in the bar.
"Dangerous habit." Bradley licked his fingers; the barmaid had overfilled his pint and foam was seeping down the glass.
"Moonlight. It's usually kind of blue, don't you think?"
Bradley stared at him.
"What?" said Colin.
"You're so weird."
"Why? Don't you think it's blue?"
Bradley gave a little laugh, riding a sudden surge of affection. "I haven't thought about it at all, that's the point. Normal people don't, you know."
"I never claimed to be normal," Colin replied. "You'd get bored if I was."
"More bored, you mean?"
"Okay, then. Just to humour you, you understand - Moonlight's blue?"
"I was just wondering why."
"Colin, you should have worked out by now I am not the guy to go to with science questions."
"Well, that and there's the song."
"I think it's called 'Blue Moon'?"
"Yes, well, thank you, that's so helpful."
And then Colin sang, just about softly enough so as not to draw attention, his voice clear and surprisingly sweet: Blue moon, you saw me standing alone… Without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own…
"Okay, okay. So the moon's blue."
"But it turns gold half way through the song. Hang on, I can't remember it exactly, it goes something like… And then there suddenly appeared… dedumdedum… the only one my arms will ever hold…. dumdumde… whisper 'please adore me' …And when I looked, the moon had turned to gold. Yeah?"
"Yeah?" Bradley frowned, confused. "Col, I have no idea what you're on about."
"It happened like that in the film," said Colin. "Only I don't see how it could really, because it was realistic and for the moon really to be yellow you'd need more light of a different, I don't know, frequency or something."
"The moon changed colour in the film?"
"Yeah, you know, near the end. When the woman who was descaling the fish at the start, the one with the long hair…"
"No, she was the garlic-seller's daughter…. Marie! That's it. When she gave the jar of garlic to Jean-Paul on the beach-"
"And the waves crashed on the beach to symbolise them having sex? See, I was paying attention."
"Trust you to notice the sex scene."
"Well, they were actually having actual sex as well."
"No, I think they were rolling around naked on the sand to symbolise the unity of spiritual and material identities in modern youth culture."
Bradley leaned back and gave Colin a long look. He was almost convinced Colin was serious until Colin finally cracked up laughing, unable to keep his face straight a moment longer.
"Ha!" said Bradley.
"Yeah, yeah, they were having the sex, symbolically and actually. And the moon changed colour."
"Did it, though? I thought the sun came up."
"Really? It looked like the moon to me. It was sort of… moon-shaped. With craters."
"Nah, the moon was setting when they started snogging and then the sun came up after they'd done all the crashing wavy stuff all over the sand. Hence change in light. Maybe they cheated and used a filter, and that's why the sun was moon-shaped."
"Hmm." Colin frowned. "I'm not sure. Maybe we should see it again."
"Or you could just take my word for it."
"I think we need the evidence."
"I'll write to the director and ask."
Colin laughed. "You think he'll write back?"
Bradley shrugged. "He might. Some kind of karma for all those fan letters I replied to last winter."
They looked it up on the Internet later, when they were naked in Bradley's bed, tousled and flushed after sex that Bradley hadn't intended to have.
Turned out Colin was right. But it still made no sense to Bradley.
Deep in a forest, under a tree that dappled everything with fragments of golden sunshine, Bradley kissed a girl for the first time in almost a year without being under the influence of alcohol.
It felt good. It felt surprisingly good. And of course, Colin wouldn't mind, because that's how things were with Colin. They were mates. First and foremost, mates.
That night Bradley called by Colin's room, not really to say anything in particular, just because it seemed strange not to, somehow.
"Bradley," Colin said. He looked perfectly cheerful, grinning his usual Colin-Morgan grin, fingers twisting around the hoodie he was holding. "What're you doing here?"
"Nothing! I mean, I'm not staying. I just thought I'd, um…."
Words deserted Bradley; suddenly everything he'd planned to say sounded foolish. Because Colin wasn't the kind of mate you bragged about your conquests to, and it's not like Bradley owed him any explanations, so…
"Aren't you meeting someone for dinner?" Colin asked him with a wink and a grin that was just a little dirty. Bradley grinned back, more from relief than anything.
"Yeah," he said. "I couldn't remember, did you and I have plans? I'm sorry, I-"
"Nope," said Colin. "No plans. Go on, you don't want to be late."
"Right," said Bradley, brightly.
He thought maybe he could see Katie in the background, sitting on Colin's bed and fiddling with her phone.
Which was fine.
This is nice, Bradley thought. Because it was nice to wake up most mornings with a soft, feminine body in his arms; to feel full, plump breasts nuzzling into his chest again; to run his hands over curves. Nice that everything was uncomplicated and straightforward and easy, and exactly what everyone expected to happen.
He still saw Colin every day, like always. They still laughed and told stupid jokes and worked as hard as ever. Bradley felt like he had the best of both worlds: he had a girlfriend and a brilliant mate and the best job in the world.
He'd often see Colin and Katie sitting side by side, heads bent close as they talked or ran lines. Laughing, often.
"You look tense, Bradley," Anthony said one day, as they waited for a re-set.
"Late night," said Bradley, and Anthony raised an eyebrow.
Then they both grinned, and Bradley thought how nice it was to not have to hide things any more.
And then there was a day in London, when Bradley was more nerve-deep exhausted than he ever remembered being in his entire life, and everything fell apart.
It had started out like most days recently: morning sex, coffee and chocolate muffins (she had a thing about muffins). He got up, showered, made his way to work. Sword work, signings, smiling.
It was such a tiny thing, really. And there was no reason for it, no rational explanation whatsoever.
It was one fleeting moment during which Katie and Colin reached for the same bottle of water at the same time, and their hands touched. Ever the gentleman, Colin apologised, pushing the bottle towards Katie with a blinding smile. Then Katie said - Bradley could hear it clear as day because he was sitting right next to her, trying to sign his name, head down - "You didn't poison it, did you?" And the fans laughed, and Katie laughed, and Colin laughed.
And under the table, Bradley noticed out of the corner of his eye, Colin and Katie bumped knees.
The world lurched and shifted, and Bradley swallowed hard. Kept signing, and smiling, and was ridiculously grateful when it was done with and he could go and get some air.
"So," said Katie, much later. "Anyone fancy a drink?"
There were murmurs of approval. Bradley was preparing his excuses when he noticed Colin, grinning at Katie and asking where she thought they should go.
"You coming, Bradley?" Angel asked. "Or have you got other plans?" She didn't wink, exactly, but she smiled a lopsided sort of smile that spoke volumes.
"No," Bradley said. "No plans."
It took one forty character text message to make that true.
Bradley regretted his decision almost immediately. The pub was crowded and noisy, although they did manage to get a couple of tables in a corner by the toilets. He had the start of a headache and the beer tasted flat. Yet everyone else seemed ridiculously happy and excited and full of energy, as if they hadn't been doing night shoots half the week before. Colin was positively glowing with health and happiness.
But then, why shouldn't Colin be happy? Katie was beautiful. They'd look great together at the premieres of Colin's films and they'd have ridiculously pretty children together. And Colin deserved no less; he was the nicest bloke Bradley had ever met.
Which was probably why, out of all of them, it was Colin who said, softly, "Are you okay, man? You look done in."
"Yeah, yeah, fine," said Bradley. But because it was Colin, his lie fell completely flat.
"You've been working so hard lately."
"Yeah, but." Colin slipped onto the bench seat next to Bradley, forcing him to shove up and make room. "I just stand there and imagine things."
"You run a lot."
"That's true. But I don't have to wear armour very often."
"Colin, you're a workaholic. There's no way you'll convince me you don't work harder than me."
Colin raised his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay. D'you want another beer?"
Bradley peered at his half-drunk, too-flat pint, and shook his head.
"Bradley," Colin said. "What is it? You can tell me."
Bradley gave a humourless laugh. "No. Actually, I can't, mate. I really can't."
Colin frowned, and looked as though he might say something more, but in the end he snapped his mouth shut and looked down at the table. He would never pry. Bradley doubted he was even capable of it. But he didn't leave, either. He settled into his seat, his thigh unapologetically touching Bradley's through layers of denim, and took a long pull on his bottle of lager. And suddenly, Bradley didn't want to leave any more. It screwed him up inside and he longed briefly for his friends at home, who would have simply got him so drunk he didn't remember what he was upset about. But he couldn't leave.
"Shouldn't you be getting back to Katie?" Bradley said.
They both looked towards the other end of the table, where Katie was talking animatedly to Angel. He couldn't hear what she was saying, but judging by the direction she kept pointing in and the girls' shared excitement, it probably had something to do with the fuck-me boots the girl standing by the bar was wearing.
They had a lot of buckles on them, the boots, and Bradley was suddenly and unnervingly reminded of Merlin's.
"You don't have to hang around trying to cheer me up," Bradley said. "It's good of you, but I'll be alright."
Colin shrugged. "Nah, that's okay. I was wondering if you wanted to go and see a film some time?"
"We have no time, Colin. We're going to France tomorrow."
"I've heard they have cinemas in France these days. Freaky, I know."
"Yeah. In case you haven't noticed my French is completely crap."
"There's an original language version of Inception on next Saturday."
Try as he might, Bradley could think of absolutely no reason why that might not be a good idea. Apart from the one thing he couldn't, wouldn't in a million years tell Colin.
"Alright, mate," he said.
"Cool," said Colin.
"Just a movie, though," Bradley said, unable to stop himself. "Y'know, I've got the girlfriend and all these days."
Colin laughed. "Yeah, I know. You're a man of honour."
"Pride myself on it. Make a living at it, in fact. You're safe with me."
Then the smile left Colin's face, and he gave Bradley a look, blue eyes disarming in their intensity.
But Bradley never got to find out how that sentence might have finished, because Rupert interrupted, waving an empty glass at them. "More beer?"
Bradley contemplated his half-empty glass and made a snap decision. "Vodka, thanks. Let's make a night of it, eh?"
"No pun intended, I hope," said Rupert with a grin.
"Absolutely not," said Bradley. And grinned right back.
Later, much later, three-in-the-morning later, Bradley did something very dishonourable indeed.
There had been a lot of vodka after that first one in the pub. Somewhere along the line Colin and Angel had made their excuses and gone home, while Bradley, Rupert and Katie went on to a club. Bradley got hazy on the details, but he remembered being chivalrous and insisting on getting Katie home safely. Only neither of them noticed that Bradley had given the taxi driver his address until they'd paid and got out and the taxi had gone. Fortunately Katie saw the funny side and they decided to have a coffee and ring for another taxi from the comfort of Bradley's flat.
After the first coffee no taxi had appeared, so they had another coffee, and Katie found a bottle of Baileys in the cupboard. Soon they were sitting amiably side by side on Bradley's sofa, some stand-up comedy on TV with the sound on low. Katie kicked off her shoes and had her feet up on Bradley's coffee table, wiggling her toes. Bradley was sober enough to remember a time a few months ago when Colin had done much the same thing, except that his feet were clad in soft, fluffy socks.
"Do all Irish people do that toe-wiggling thing?" Bradley said, drunkenly.
"What?" said Katie, eyes sparkling, all ready to tease him.
Then he kissed her.
She laughed. Not some girlish giggle but a full-on Katie-belly-laugh. But she didn't move away, and when the laugh faded she grabbed him around the back of his neck and kissed him back.
"Well, well," she murmured against his lips. "Bradley fucking James."
"If you want," he murmured back.
Again she laughed, and Bradley waited, and again her laughter faded into a kiss. Raunchy and full-on. Bradley's fingers tangled in her hair - soft, God, her hair was so soft - and he pulled her into his lap. She was already undoing his shirt.
They made it to the bedroom just barely, leaving a trail of clothes behind them. Bradley sucked messily on her tongue and ran his hands over her beautiful, pale skin. She closed her hand around his cock and tugged, her eyes flaring wide as he made a helpless whimpering sort of noise in response. The alcohol made everything numb and dream-like, everything possible, everything right just so long as they didn't stop.
She was wet between the legs; so, so wet and hot and tight. She rubbed herself against the back of his hand, working the hard little nub of her clit in circles over his knuckles, jerking him off in the same rhythm, sort of, circles and squares but the same, God, so good. So good. Not enough. Not enough.
"Can I?" he asked, slipping two fingers inside of her easy as anything.
"You better fucking had," she said. He slid an arm underneath her shoulders and lifted her up, dark hair flowing down and over the pillow like a river. He kissed her, still clumsy with drink, and finger-fucked her slowly, her body moving in slow, sensuous waves. He flicked at her clit with his thumb; it made her stomach muscles tighten, her hips flex.
"Go on then, Bradley James." Her eyes were narrowed, her expression completely wicked. "Fuck me."
Bradley moaned; managed to let go of her somehow for long enough to fumble on a condom.
He didn't last long, but then neither did she. She tensed all over when she came, digging her nails into his shoulders, and he shuddered his own orgasm deep inside her, a stuttering, half-felt, almost disappointing thing. Then the after-shock hit and he was lost.
The next morning when he woke, the first thing he saw was a glimpse of dark hair and pale shoulder, blurry in the scant light from a crack in the curtain. For a moment he thought it was Colin, but no, too much hair.
Bradley's guts clenched and he was out of bed in a second.
He just made it to the bathroom before he threw up.
"Here. Drink this."
Bradley sat down gingerly at the kitchen table. "What is it?"
"Water. Coffee's on its way."
"Oh. I thought it might be some secret Irish hangover remedy or something."
Katie looked at him as though he were mad.
"You never know," said Bradley.
Katie popped a couple of Nurofen into her palm and offered them to him. "Think you can keep them down?"
"Yes. Of course." Bradley took the tablets, gulped them down with a mouthful of water and hoped he was right.
"We need to talk," Katie said.
"Yeah." Bradley stared at the tabletop. The black-granite-style finish gleamed at him, marred only by the single ring where his water glass had stood.
"We both behaved like total arses."
"It was my fault," said Bradley.
"Takes two. What will you say to her?"
Bradley blinked at her for a moment, and then a new layer of disgust and guilt settled in his stomach. He'd forgotten. He'd actually forgotten he had a girlfriend.
"I don't know. I'll have to break up with her."
"Oh shit, Bradley, I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault."
"Couldn't you talk to her first? Everyone makes mistakes, we'd had a lot to drink…"
"No, it's not just that. We weren't, we hadn't said we'd stop seeing other people. It's more me. I don't think there's enough there to… yeah."
"Oh." Katie traced invisible patterns on the tabletop for a few moments and then said, "You know nothing's going to happen between us, don't you? You and I. I mean, nothing else."
"Yes! God, yes," said Bradley, with feeling. Too much feeling, apparently, because there was a spark of something in Katie's eyes that might have been amusement, but might have carried just a tiny bit of hurt.
"I'm a horrible person," said Bradley. "I'm sorry. Shit. I'm so sorry. It's not that I wouldn't, you're a great girl, um, woman, and incredibly beautiful, it's just…."
"Look." Katie put her hand on top of Bradley's and squeezed. "It was an accident. Let's face it, if you and I were to try and form any kind of meaningful relationship we'd be at each others' throats in days."
Bradley breathed a merciful sigh of relief. "Yes. God, yes, we would."
"Which makes me feel all the more terrible about what happened."
Bradley took a gulp of coffee, held it in his mouth for a moment before he swallowed. "Let's recap. We're agreed that we made a mistake and I'm a bastard. All we can do is move on, right?"
"Well, yes, but-"
"So. It never happened."
Katy gave him a long look, as if she was trying to figure him out, and then said, "Okay. Never happened."
Bradley's uneasiness settled into a small but heavy ball somewhere around his navel, and he managed to smile.
"If it had happened, though," he said, somehow unable to resist at least trying to be a gentleman. "It would have been pretty awesome."
And then Katie smiled at him with the smile that made mens' knees go weak, and said, "Yeah. It would, Bradley James. It would."
Once Katie had gone Bradley went for a long walk, broke up with a girl who actually didn't seem to mind that much, and then ran most of the way back to his flat, just in time to fling things in a bag and get himself to St Pancras, where Colin told him he looked like death.
Bradley said he felt like it, too. He couldn't even manage to laugh about it.
Bradley bagged a double seat to himself on the train, pulled his jacket up to his chin and closed his eyes, feigning the kind of sleep he'd actually welcome but knew was impossible.
He spent the whole journey listening to Colin and Katie running lines. Colin decided to use a weird pseudo-Australian accent for the spells and had Katie in fits of giggles.
Just before they arrived in Paris, Bradley's phone beeped. The text said, quite simply, 'Thanks for good times BJ. Be happy.'
Bradley watched the lean stretch of Colin's body as he pulled his bag down from the overhead luggage rack, and ached inside.
Happy. Yeah, right.
Another morning at Pierrefonds, and Bradley was losing concentration. Everyone was being bloody nice as usual but that didn't change the fact that you couldn't afford to cock up with swords around, not even blunt ones.
Colin found him being cleaned and bandaged while someone filled in the usual stack of Health and Safety forms. He'd brought Bradley a cup of tea and a Mars bar.
"Special edition?" Bradley asked automatically, because he and Col had been saving up the wrappers to send off and get a commemorative Mars 'Work, Rest and Play' Travel Mug. They were planning to draw knights and dragons on it when it arrived and use it on set.
"'Course. Only another four to go."
Colin gave him an odd sort of look, and Bradley couldn't quite meet his eye.
"Gotta go," said Colin, hesitantly. "Try not to get hurt any more, 'kay? We've got a ton of pages to film."
"Dangerous business," Bradley said. "Can't promise anything."
Bradley could feel Colin's eyes on him, could well imagine the concern in them, the little wrinkle to Colin's brow. It made Bradley want to squirm. To slither away under a rock somewhere.
"We'll talk later, okay?" Bradley said, softly.
"Okay," said Colin, and gently squeezed his shoulder.
"This is crazy," Bradley said. "All the way to London for one interview."
"Yeah," said Colin. "I'm going to be shattered tomorrow."
"I'm already shattered. I'll be… I don't know. Mega-shattered. Sharded. Is that a word?"
Bradley stared out of the window as northern France whizzed by. He could see Colin's reflection in the glass.
"If you want to talk about anything," said Colin, quietly.
Bradley closed his eyes.
"Break-ups are hard, especially when your life's all mad and you can't really process it properly."
"It's okay, man. Thanks, but it's okay."
Colin cleared his throat and shifted a little in his seat. He stroked the neck of the water bottle in his hand, caressing the plastic, running over every ridge and dimple.
"I did something really bad," Bradley said, horrified at the sound of his own voice, broken and pathetic, fuck. "I didn't mean to hurt anyone but I was drunk and I made a really bad mistake."
"What did you do, man? C'mon, it can't be that bad."
"I got really drunk. The other night, when we went clubbing. Really, really drunk."
"So, Katie came back to mine and…"
Colin waited expectantly. He didn't look upset, not yet. But Colin was very, very good at hiding his emotions when he wanted to.
"And?" said Colin eventually.
There were many ways of summing up what had happened next. 'One thing led to another,' was the one that leapt immediately to Bradley's mind. One of those empty phrases that meant bugger-all when you got down to it. The whole of life could be summed up by 'one thing led to another'.
"We had sex," said Bradley.
Colin's eyes went wide. "Oh," he said.
"I'm sorry," Bradley said. "I'm so, so sorry."
"Right," said Colin, and swallowed, hard.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine."
Colin took the top off his bottle of water and took a long drink. He screwed the top back on.
"It's just a bit of a surprise."
"Of course, it must be. Look, if you want to hit me, that's fine."
"Why would I want to hit you?"
"Or yell at me. Or, I could go find another carriage and-"
"Bradley, what are you talking about?"
"It doesn't have to change anything," said Bradley, desperately. Knowing that it was ridiculous to say such a thing; that everything had changed already, everything, and it was all his fault. "I'm sorry."
Colin was thinking, hard - Bradley knew his thinking face - and at the same time he was, well, if not angry, upset. Definitely upset.
"I won't get in the way," Bradley said.
"In the way of what?"
"Of you and Katie."
"Me and Katie?"
"We were both so drunk."
"You think I want to go out with Katie?"
Bradley's world stopped for a second. He blinked. "You don't?"
"Of course not. She's a friend."
Bradley tried to understand, but his head was foggy and slow. He'd been so sure.
"So you can go ahead, mate." Colin smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. He was looking at his water bottle, peeling the label off.
"You'd be okay with me going out with Katie?"
"Sure! You'd be great together."
"God, no! No, I don't… I mean…."
"Isn't this what all this has been about, these past few months? You wanting Katie?"
"What what's been about? I told you, we got drunk and…. you were the one with the flirting, and you slept with her too! You said so!"
"That was ages ago. Just a bit of a 'why not' kind of situation, really. Didn't lead to anything."
Bradley wasn't sure what Colin meant by that, but he didn't really want details, so he just said, "Right."
"Don't beat yourself up, mate. It's hard. I'm not sure anyone could manage a relationship on our schedule. I mean, look at us. France to England and back in one day just for an interview, and filming on top."
Colin offered him a grin which might have looked resigned on the surface. But his eyes were twinkling and his dimples were showing, and Bradley knew Colin loved this crazy life they'd found themselves in, loved it like breathing.
"I've been behaving like a total moron," Bradley said. Colin didn't argue with him, so Bradley continued. "I think I had a bit of an identity crisis."
"Ah," Colin said. "The gay thing."
"I'm not gay."
Colin raised an eyebrow.
"I'm not entirely straight either," Bradley confessed.
Colin grinned at him, lips pressed firmly together. Trying not to snort or laugh or something.
"Bear with me," Bradley said. "I'm a bit stupid and I get whacked on the head a lot for a living."
Then Colin laughed.
"I thought I could kind of choose," said Bradley. "It's easier to be straight-ish, rather than gay-ish."
"So what happened?"
Bradley went quiet as the truth drifted around in his head. Colin waited patiently and eventually Bradley said, softly, "You. You happened. And it took me completely by surprise."
"Yeah," said Colin, suddenly looking shy. "Me too."
"Only, we said we were just mates, so I didn't expect anything, and then I noticed you and Katie getting on really well, so…"
"So you got jealous."
"Yeah. I suppose, yeah."
"Which is funny, because I kind of thought you fancied her. More than you fancied me."
"I wish I did," said Bradley, and Colin's eyes were on him, piercing and beautiful and vulnerable and taking Bradley's breath away. "It would be so easy. So normal. So… ordinary."
"Right. So you want easy, normal and ordinary?"
"No," said Colin, firmly. "I don't think you do."
Then Colin leaned across and kissed him.
"We're on a train, Col," Bradley murmured, cupping the back of Colin's head in his palm so he couldn't pull away.
Colin just kept kissing.