“So, Bradley.” Katie announced, sitting down with a rolled-up script in the empty chair next to him.
“So, Katie.” Bradley answered with finality, nodding gravely.
She ignored his jibe, looking at him with a searching expression. Bradley was curious now, but he was determined not to give in so he gave her his best poker face. She apparently came to a decision about something, because she flicked the lollipop in her mouth to the other side. She only ever did that when she was reaching for a solution or had a Plan. Bradley generally loved Katie’s plans, except when they were against him. She could be delightfully wicked.
“What would you say,” Katie said slowly at last, “if someone you considered a good colleague and possibly even a great friend offered to help you eat some cheesecake with him? Say, by leaning over you and all that.”
“Cheesecake?” Bradley parroted, confused.
Katie drummed her script on her armchair impatiently. “Yes. What would you say? As a guy.”
“As a guy?” Bradley repeated again, then avoided her playful swat at him. “Hey, careful, don’t be jealous of my new glasses now.” Katie snorted an “as if”, adjusting her own fabulous glasses. Bradley had to concede that they looked great.
“Point. I’m sorry though, Katie, I don’t understand what you are asking for. Wait.” Bradley looked at Katie suspiciously. “Are you warning me you are going to try to steal my cake slice? I thought it was carrot or pumpkin or something.” There had been talks of a cake to celebrate this block’s producer’s birthday, though it wasn’t due before the end of the day. Still, lunch had been a while ago and Bradley was famished. He’d defend his piece of cake to the last crumb.
Katie’s mouth twitched upward, but she was shook her head. “No, your cake is safe from me.” Bradley gave her his best dubious face. Katie grinned, then sobered. She leaned in closer to him as if to tell a secret. Bradley leaned in too, warily.
“Back to the Cheesecake Case,” Katie said, capital letters clear. “Would you interpret that as him wanting to buy a house and a puppy with you, or as him wanting to steal your pants and bend you over the table?”
Bradley mock-gasped. “Katie!”
Katie’s look was not impressed. “Oh, please. This is nowhere near the most outrageous thing we’ve talked about yet. Now, which is it, pants or puppy?”
It was true, but Bradley still knew Katie took delight in dumping inappropriate topics over him. He scrambled for something to answer. “Can’t the guys simply be friends and share some cake?”
She stared at him with something uncomfortably close to pity. “No, they can’t. But good try, there.” She got up, smoothing Morgana’s dress with a casual gesture that Bradley had no doubt was actually extremely complicated. “Thank you anyway, I’ve got an idea now.”
Bradley blinked at her departing figure. By the time he asked: “an idea for what?”, Katie was already gone.
There was cake that evening along with the meal for everyone who had stayed late, but it was carrot cake. Bradley was eating his serving with Santiago while the others were still in queue. While they both had barely sat down with their lunches, Bradley had skipped over the meal and gone directly for the cake. Katie’s odd question had left him thinking about it all afternoon, where his hunger had turned into craving. He was opening his mouth to savour a mouthful when his spoon suddenly flew to the right. Bradley automatically turned to follow it and caught a glimpse of short dark hair dipping in beside him. He turned his head back just in time to see Colin wolfing down a piece of Bradley’s cake, then lick Bradley’s spoon clean with a glint in his eyes.
Bradley squawked in surprise and indignation.
A small round of spluttering (Bradley) and laughing (Colin and Santiago) later, Bradley nodded his thanks to Santiago who was merrily thumping him on the back. He glared at Colin, who smiled sheepishly. Considering what a fantastic actor Colin was, Bradley knew this to mean that Colin wasn’t even trying to look innocent. He was still holding unto Bradley’s spoon, but handed it back when Bradley had his breathing under control.
“Thanks, mate, really. What did my cake do to you, Colin?” He tried not to sound too curious, or embarrassed, or, worst of all, hopeful.
“Pecans,” was all Colin said, shrugging. “Couldn’t resist them. I’ll share mine with you after supper, proper-like.”
Bradley laughed along with Santiago, despite not completely understanding the joke, and huffed another “thanks”, this one heartfelt. Double the cake, just his luck!
As the rest of the main cast joined them at the long table, the subject swiftly change to how good the cake tasted, which dissolved into an argument of vanilla versus chocolate that Richard won by providing a recipe folded into his wallet, after which he was unanimously declared the king of the world.
It was only after this all that Katie’s words came back to Bradley, and he promptly choked on a mouthful of milk. Everyone laughed and Bradley wiped his chin, knowing his face must be hopelessly flushed.
Bradley did his best to eat the rest of his meal cleanly but knew this would be behind the scenes teases for the rest of the week. At least, he reflected, once both he and Colin were done with their main meals, Colin stayed true to his word and did share his slice of cake with Bradley, probably to make up for what he had stolen. Bradley avoided eye contact with Colin as much as he could and tried not to think of puppies and houses or Colin and tables, or anything of the sort, lest he choked on something again. By the end, Colin was looking at him with a questioning air and kept bumping his knee into Bradley’s to get his attention, but Bradley held strong against his adorableness. He also left quickly shortly later, after realizing he had spent over a minute nibbling his spoon while staring at Colin’s long and talented fingers and that he was getting quite an embarrassing hard-on for his imagination.
At least he had an excuse for the blood having rushed to his face early into the supper, so he only had to mask the rest of his true discomfort by laughing loudly and exiting gracelessly, but still. That one had been too close.
The thing was, not thinking about Colin and tables and a house of their own didn’t work so well for Bradley for the next few nights. It also turned out to be the key to the impossible dreams cupboard Bradley kept at the back of his mind. Every other perverse thought Bradley ever had about Colin from their years of acquaintance he had stuffed in there. They were rooming with his other impossible dreams of owning a plane, singing in a boy band and making out with Buffy after saving his hometown from an army of undead vampire pirates. His fantasies about Colin had a separate shelf from those, of course, but they also piled up progressively faster, higher and higher until the door barely closed anymore.
Bradley’s thoughts weren’t all about making out on tables and snuggling on couches with a puppy, either.
When Colin tried to impress yet another guest actor with the disappearing coin prestidigitation trick he’s been practicing since the first season, Bradley pulled back thoughts about Colin’s fingers doing things to himself. Colin’s fingers stroking his stomach, to be precise. Them pinching his nipples, caressing the arch of his own neck; brushing his engorged cock, circling it loosely and pulling the foreskin back every down stroke; shining with spit as they explored every inch of Bradley’s body; shining with something else as they plunged in and out of Colin’s own body, everything looking impossibly stretched around them -- and surely it would hurt, but Colin would only be looking at Bradley and saying please, please. Pulling these back didn’t work very well.
Neither did it work when Colin joked about a visitor’s child tugging on his neckerchief. Then, Bradley instead had to concentrate on not blurting out, ”if you wanted, we could go to to the last toilet stall right now. I could tie it around your wrists and the handrail there, and use it to hold you in place with one hand while I fucked you with the other. I’d suck your brains out right there where your moans would echo, so that everyone would know you are mine, even if you didn’t. Thank goodness that, while not thinking about these things proved impossible, not saying them out loud worked well enough once Bradley took to chewing on the ends of his sunglasses.
Then Rupert, Richard, Katie and Anthony were gathering their cloaks, robes and skirts and trying to see who could make them swirl the most dramatically while Colin and Angel called out terribly biased ratings. Bradley tried not to think of Colin wearing only a bed cover and waiting for Bradley to come out of the shower or of Colin wearing only a cloak, or him wearing one of those dresses they keep making Merlin get caught with and nothing underneath. Of course, this failed, and only led to Bradley jerking off for a week to thoughts of Colin in various state of undressed and not wearing underwear, or wearing female ones, or only wearing stockings and a black silk corset.
And if Bradley hadn’t had a wank in days, the only thing that kept him from coming in his pants whenever Colin simply looked at him (or if he joked, or smiled, or kept accidentally touching Bradley throughout the day, or pretty much whenever Colin did anything at all) was immersing himself into his favourite fantasy of Colin’s long fingers holding tightly on the base of Bradley’s cock and looking Bradley in the eyes through those miles-long eyelashes of his and ordering, “Not yet, Bradley.”
Of course, Colin didn’t know any of this. Because – well, quite simply because Bradley didn’t believe in good things happening to him; Colin was one of the best things to happen to him in his life and he didn’t want to jinx his luck. Maybe Bradley was also a bit of a coward, but he didn’t want to risk losing Colin in any way.
He also had no idea of how things would work, or how he’d be able to keep any of this secret if he let his affections be known. He wanted to sing love songs to Colin instead of telling him goodnight in their hotel’s corridors, for pity’s sake. Bradley wanted to have him on his lap when they were learning lines together, and to share all his cakes with him, just as much as he wanted to ride his cock languorously on Sunday mornings.
Bradley didn’t think Colin would like any of that, at least not coming from Bradley, and even less so if it became common knowledge since Colin was a very private person. While it was one thing to keep dreams in a dusty cupboard next to the half-remembered piano lessons he’ll never use, it was quite another to air them out and see them perish in a public train-wreck. So Bradley never told him, and didn’t particularly ever think Colin could find out.
Sometimes, Colin did catch Bradley staring at him, but Colin always only wriggled his eyebrows in a terrible imitation of Richard that never failed to make Bradley laugh, or he stared back with an adorable confused expression and something else that Bradley had no idea how to interpret yet probably didn’t mean “meet me in five minutes in the costume trailer”.
After all, Bradley knew he had an open face, but no way could “I want to use your hand to jerk off then clean off your fingers while they’re wrapped around your cock” or anything of the sort translate all that well on anyone’s face, now, could it?
He was thus reasonably certain that Colin didn’t know about any of these things Bradley thought about sometimes (or those he thought about all the time). His secrets were safe.
Yet, in that case, why in the world had he shared his cake with Bradley?
Bradley really needed to find a way to get his revenge on Katie for giving Bradley more opportunities to question his relationship with Colin and a harder time to get through his days without constantly seeking Colin’s brilliance.
Bradley had barely gotten The Thoughts Katie had put in his head under control when, one morning a few days later, Angel did a similar thing as she and Bradley were on their way to the set. Bradley closed the car door behind her and shouldered his bag while Angel waited for him.
“Bradley,” she said. “you’ve spent some time with athletes, and you’re not half bad at sword-fighting.” Bradley glanced at her warily. "So what would it mean if someone took time to practice a special …sword… choreography with you? One that’s not in the script?”
Bradley was taken aback. Her emphasis on the word sword felt worrisome yet at the same time he knew for certain that he Didn’t Want To Know, so he let it go. “I. What? It doesn’t mean anything.”
“No.” Angel said slowly, squinting up at him like she could pluck the answer out of his neck with her little finger (which, scarily, she might). “I mean, what does it mean.”
Bradley blinked at her.
“Never mind.” Angel said with a fondly exasperated smile, and moved along. Watching her leave, it struck Bradley then that this was the second time this happened to him in less than a week.
“What is wrong with them?” he asked the driver who had gotten them there. The driver shrugged and gave him a compassionate pat on the shoulder.
Bradley mostly forgot about it right up until he was in the middle of practicing a sword move with Colin later that day. Merlin only very rarely had any scenes with swords, and Colin had worn that look he had when he was worrying he might only be great at something instead of mind-blowing. Bradley had felt it natural to step in and propose his help to practice sparring, to get him used to it once more as it’s been a while since Colin last handled sharp pointy objects. They had been doing the swings at half time speed for about 30 minutes and had started going faster when Angel’s words came back to Bradley.
“Er,” he said, halting in the middle of a move. Colin’s sword continued in its faux-awkward arc and clattered against Bradley’s blade.
“What?” Colin asked, the last letter left unpronounced as Colin blew a breath. Fake or not, the practice swords were pretty heavy, and the both of them had worked up a good sweat. Some of Colin’s hair was stuck to his temple and ears, accentuating his cheekbones, while the rest was mussed and sticking out oddly. He looked incredibly sexy, and exactly like he did in Bradley’s dream with the leather and lace corset. Bradley gulped.
“Col. Did the girls- have they been asking you odd questions lately?”
Colin straightened his pose, taking his cue about taking a break, and ran a hand through his hair, messing it up further. “How do you mean, odd? Odder than usual?”
Bradley couldn’t look directly at him anymore. Instead, he concentrated on making sure his face didn’t say anything about wanting to run his own hands into Colin’s hair just to see how it looked with Colin completely fucked-out, with Bradley then gripping it to force Colin down the inch Bradley would need to kiss him senseless.
“Hm. Nope, can’t say they have.”
Bradley took a breath. “And you haven’t told them anything either? About, well, us? Or something.”
Colin looked at him quizzically. “Hum. Nope. Has something-“
“No,” Bradley cut him short, feeling embarrassed he had even brought it up already. “No, it’s nothing.”
“’Right then.” Colin was still looking at him strangely. Bradley did not fidget with his gloves. Colin continued, voice tentative. “Are you sure you’re all right? You’ve been going a bit red sometimes.”
Bradley shook his head, and held back on any invitation for Colin to try to make Bradley blush. It was eerily easy lately, thanks to the girls and their weird ways. Colin still looked puzzled and worried, but mercifully let it go.
“Hm. If you say so.” His cheek puffed as he gave Bradley a small smile. “Doesn’t mean we can’t take our revenge on them anyway, you know.”
Bradley looked at the mischievous spark in Colin’s eyes. He grinned. “Good friend! Tell me what you had in mind.”
As Colin told him, Bradley reflected that even if he and Colin never did end up doing the horizontal tango, Colin was still the most amazing being Bradley had encountered yet. Something inside him sparkled warmth and happiness and Bradley told himself that it was just anticipation for a brilliant prank.
One phone call, one wet and naked Tom Hopper, one confused but amused-looking Santiago, two girls in the middle of changing from their last scene of the day and a locked trailer later, Colin and Bradley were wavering between panting and laughing in Colin’s room, still breathless from their hasty escape. Angel had a great throwing range.
“That,” Bradley said, leaning on his knees, “was terrific. Just what I needed.”
“Anytime,” Colin said to the ceiling, sprawled on his bed and chest heaving, a large smile on his face.
Bradley looked at him, but it was a mistake, because the second he saw Colin, Bradley forgot he was also supposed to catch his breath.
Colin must have heard that suddenly only one of them was breathing. He lifted his head from the bed to look at Bradley from an odd angle, before raising himself up on one elbow. “James?”
Look neutral, and not like you’d like to tug down his pants, pin his wrists down and swallow him to the root right this instant, thought Bradley.
“Yeah.” Bradley coughs. “Huh, I mean, yeah? What is it?”
Colin sat up further, sliding down the bed until he was sitting on its side. “What’s with you? You keep looking at me like-” Colin cut himself off.
Oh shit. “Like what?”
The look Colin gave him was wretched, and something clenched uncomfortably in Bradley’s stomach. “Like you want to throw me down on the bed right now and have your way with me, but can’t bring yourself to do it.” Colin said, voice calm, low and resigned.
Bradley stared at him with what was undoubtedly a fish-like expression. “You... you knew?”
Colin rolled his eyes and got up from the bed, walking into Bradley’s space. Bradley took a reflexive couple of steps back, but it only got him framed into the entryway. “I don’t get half the things that you do when you do them, Bradley James, but of course I knew that, you idiot. You’re not exactly subtle.” His tone was teasing, but not unkind. One of his hands came up and brushed against the side of Bradley’s face. Of all things, Colin looked almost sad. “What I can’t figure out, is why you won’t let yourself do it.”
Bradley was more confused than ever. “Wait. Wait, wait,” he pushed Colin away a little. When he saw what looked like a flash of hurt in Colin’s body language, Bradley tugged him back closer, unbalancing them until Bradley’s back touched the door. “I can’t think when you are too close, is all,” he muttered in apology.
Bradley screwed up his eyes shut and tried not to breath in Colin’s scent. He started again. “Does that mean the girls really were setting us up, asking me all those things about what it meant, those things we did?”
Colin had stepped closer still, his sock-clad toes touching the tip of Bradley’s, their chests bare inches apart and standing right there in the shadows of the entryway. He looked puzzled, but not sad anymore, thank god, Bradley didn’t think he could ever resist Colin looking sad. All those scenes on set were bad enough already. No, instead, a smile seemed to be tugging at the corners of his lips. “The girls? What are you- oh,” Colin snorted. “No. They are into figure skating now. They’re doing some odd anonymous porn writing contest and trying to one-up each other constantly. ”
“What,” Bradley deadpanned. Colin laughed, and brought his hands up to slide under Bradley’s shirts. They felt warm and large and dizzyingly good on Bradley’s waist. Colin rested his forehead against Bradley’s.
“Bradley. All those things we do, they mean I love you. Now, stop thinking.” He said, and kissed Bradley.
Bradley found himself more than happy to obey. There were many things still left to be said, but for now, if his face really was such an open book, he knew Colin would have no trouble picking up that Bradley loved him too. And that was all that mattered for this kiss, and their many more of that night.