Colin is not quite sure what he expected to happen when they got to France to begin filming at Pierrefonds, but this is distinctly not it. After two and a half hours on the train, all of them bubbling with excitement and talking in crap French accents, everyone seems very ...subdued as they walk from the station into the weak Paris sunshine. Maybe it's because they were all up early, and now they've lost their energy, but even Bradley is quiet as they pile into one of the waiting cars and start the journey towards Pierrefonds. Still, Bradley smiles at him as they get settled and Colin smiles back as he takes out his iPod and puts the earbuds in. He sinks back into the leather seat, rests his forehead against the cool window and shuts his eyes.
At some point he must've fallen asleep, because next thing he knows Bradley is shaking his shoulder.
“Colin," he says in that exasperated way that Colin knows he's just putting on. "Colin, wake up." Colin grunts and moves closer to the window, shrugging Bradley's hand off him, and Bradley sighs. "We're at the hotel, Colin," he says, and Colin sits up, rubbing his eyes with his hands and blinking groggily.
"What?" Colin says, oh-so eloquently. Bradley rolls his eyes.
"The hotel, Morgan. We're here." Colin looks out the window, and sure enough they're pulling into the small car park behind the hotel.
"Oh." Colin unbuckles his seatbelt as the car comes to a stop, and puts his iPod into his pocket. Bradley unbuckles his seatbelt too, and all but tumbles out of the car in his haste to stretch his legs. Colin laughs and steps out of the car, walking round to the back of the car and opening the boot. He retrieves their bags and chucks Bradley's at him. Bradley catches it with a surprised yelp, a reflex more than anything else, and Colin laughs again. Bradley smiles goofily at him, and the two of them watch as the car containing Angel and Katie pulls into the small car park.
They wait outside in the reasonably warm sunshine until everyone has arrived and then they check into the hotel. The group of actors and crew take up the whole hotel, and Bradley is just two doors down from Colin, though Colin isn’t quite sure why he cares.
It's pissing it down when they walk from the hotel, but Colin is undeterred as he puts his hood up and shoves his hands into his pockets whilst Bradley hangs back under the awning and whinges. When Colin realises Bradley's not walking with him he turns back and gestures to Bradley without taking his hands out of his pockets, and Bradley laughs. "You look stupid, Morgan," he calls out. Colin shrugs.
"Come on, James, don't be a wuss. It's just water. Stop worrying about your hair," Colin shouts back, and Bradley sighs before putting his own hood up and venturing - warily - out into the rain.
"I'm not worried about my hair," Bradley mutters when he reaches Colin; Colin snorts, bumps his shoulder against Bradley's, and starts walking again, Bradley following. Colin leads them along the streets and side streets until they get to the small record shop that Colin hasn't stopped talking about since the day after they arrived in Pierrefonds, three weeks ago now. He had seen it when they had gone out to explore the area, but it had been shut, and today is the first chance they got to come see it.
Colin pushes open the door and elbows Bradley in the ribs when he snorts at a bell ringing as they step into the shop. It's small, cramped and musty - everything Colin likes and Bradley doesn't. The records look like they were just chucked at the shelves; Bradley can't make any sense of the way they've been arranged. Colin is instantly enthralled and walks further into the shop, leaving Bradley hanging by the door nervously. So Bradley decides to keep close to Colin and follows him, standing so close he's practically breathing down his neck, but Colin doesn't seem to mind.
He's good; he waits patiently for a good quarter of an hour before he starts getting really impatient. There's no one in the shop but the two of them, and there's not even anyone behind the counter, though Bradley thinks he sees the occasional shadow behind the curtain at the back of the shop.
"Colin," he says, his voice quiet. "Colin, can we go now? I don't like it here. It's cramped and musty and it smells."
"Stop complaining, Bradley," Colin says distractedly, studying the back of a record by some obscure indie band. "It's rude, and they'll hear you."
"There's no one here but us. And anyway, they speak French. They won't understand." Bradley crosses his arms and shifts his weight to one foot.
"They might," Colin says, still not paying full attention.
Bradley pulls a face. "Please, Colin. I'm bored, and have I mentioned that it smells?"
"Go stand outside then."
Colin sighs and returns the record back to the shelf and picks up another. "Five more minutes, Bradley."
Bradley nods and puts his hands in his pockets. "Do they actually sell CDs here, or is it just vinyl?"
"Sometimes you can't beat the sound of a record," Colin says, and Bradley frowns, shifting his weight to his other foot. He sighs and watches the curve of Colin's neck as he waits.
Bradley’s smiling as he follows Colin to the top of the castle tower, Colin's fingers curled around Bradley's, and Bradley's heart is racing when they get to the top, partly due to the climb and partly due to Colin. The walk over to the edge and look out, and if Bradley had any breath left the view would take it away, all over again. He stands behind Colin as they take in the view of the surrounding countryside, his arms loosely braced on the wall in front of him. Then Colin turns around and Bradley reaches up to cup his face and kisses him, soft and tender, Colin's hands resting on Bradley's waist, the sun warm on Bradley's neck.
There are fingers walking up and down his spine, Colin realises as he drifts into consciousness. He rolls onto his side to face Bradley, who lets his hand drop to the mattress between them and smiles at Colin. Colin smiles back sleepily, entwining his fingers with Bradley's. Bradley squeezes his hand, and Colin drops it to run his hand over Bradley's bare chest as if he's never seen it before, taking time to follow each line and contour before reaching up to trace the strong line of Bradley's jaw. He presses his fingers to Bradley's red lips and Bradley kisses them, his own free hand snaking out to curl at the nape of Colin's neck, pulling Colin towards him and into a kiss, morning breath and all. Colin lets his fingers tangle in Bradley's golden hair, sighing happily into Bradley’s mouth.
They've been filming for god knows how many hours straight, and Bradley is exhausted and completely fed up of doing take after take of sword scenes. Colin is watching from the side, which doesn't help, as he's trying to distract Bradley by pulling faces and mouthing insults.
"You're so childish," Bradley snaps good-naturedly at Colin afterwards, and Colin sticks his tongue out at him. Bradley reaches up to ruffle Colin's hair, laughing as Colin yelps and ducks away.
"Don't," he says, smiling. "Make-up will kill me." Bradley shrugs and watches as Colin smiles at him. He hooks an arm around Colin's shoulders and pulls him towards him until Colin's bony shoulder knocks against his chest. Then he lets go, slaps his hand against Colin's arm, and walks away.
Bradley changes back into his normal clothes and goes back to the hotel. Colin still has a couple of things to finish up on set, but when he gets back he turns up at Bradley's door with a film and a weird French pizza, a wide smile on his face. Bradley's hair is still wet from the shower and he can feel it sticking to the back of his neck. He steps to the side and Colin walks into the room, settling himself on the bed and holding out the DVD for Bradley to put into the DVD player. He does, and then joins Colin on the bed, crossing his legs and opening the pizza.
"Where's the meat?" he says, laughing. Colin chucks a pillow at him, and stuffs a slice of the pizza into his mouth.
They have the evening off, and the day after, so they go to a local restaurant with Angel and Katie, their thighs bumping against each other as they eat. Bradley talks to Angel about Arthur and Gwen's relationship; Katie rolls her eyes and Colin's fingers brush against Bradley's leg, smiling innocently at him. Bradley, still talking to Angel, reaches under the table and runs his fingers up Colin's leg from knee to the top of his inner thigh, smothering a smile as Colin tenses. And that's how they spend the rest of the evening, teasing each other until Bradley is hard as hell and pretty sure that Colin is too. Angel and Katie don't seem to notice. At least, they don't say anything.
Colin practically drags Bradley back to his hotel room, and they fuck hard against a wall, Bradley biting and sucking at Colin's neck, crying out Colin's name as he comes.
The first time Bradley kisses Colin they're in the middle of nowhere, having rented a car and driven until Bradley got bored. Then they lie on a blanket on the grass with too much food spread out between them and eat until they’re full. Bradley shoves the remaining food away and moves closer to Colin, both of them lying on their stomachs, Colin's cheek pressed to the blanket. He watches lazily through heavy-lidded eyes as Bradley shifts around, trying to get comfortable, and he has to rest a hand on the small of Bradley's back to get him to stop moving, as it's driving him crazy. Bradley stills, watching Colin with an unreadable expression on his face, and when Colin frowns at him Bradley closes the gap between them and presses his lips to Colin's.
And finally, Colin thinks. Finally.
"It's not working," Colin says one day when they're back in London and it's raining outside.
"We'll make it work," Bradley replies.
Colin's laughter rings in Bradley's ears as they run through the woods that surround the castle, Bradley's heart pounding, and he reaches out and grabs Colin's sleeve but it slips from his grasp as Colin continues to run. Bradley speeds up, stumbling over a protruding root, and he manages to wrap his fingers around Colin's skinny wrist. He pulls Colin to his chest, grinning and backing them up against a nearby tree. Colin smiles breathlessly at him, his cheeks flushed and his eyes sparkling.
"Got you," Bradley says, leaning in to kiss Colin.
The honeymoon period is great while it lasts - and it lasts a long time. It's fucking every night and sneaking kisses in-between takes and brushing hands against thighs and finding ways to touch each other without anybody noticing. Then the excitement of being in a new relationship wears off, and there's slightly less fucking and less kissing and all that, but in some ways, it's even better. It's spending the evenings curled up together watching films or when they have Sundays off spending them reading in companionable silence. It's nice, and it's safe, and yes, sometimes it's teeth rottingly sweet, but Colin likes it. There's still plenty of fucking, though, and the excitement is still there, it's just punctuated with time spent being a grown-up couple, and that's great. Really. Colin's never had anything like that before, and he's pretty sure that Bradley hasn't either.
Bradley is on his back with his head in Colin’s lap, and Colin’s long, slender fingers are running through his hair as they half-heartedly read through their lines for the following day. Bradley’s arms are aching with the strain of holding his script in the air in front of his face, but he’s too comfortable to move, so he drops his arms to rest on his stomach and turns his head to the side, his nose brushing Colin’s jean-clad leg. Colin sighs and puts his script down also, running his now free hand along Bradley’s cheekbones and jaw line. Bradley lifts one of his hands and reaches behind him to cup the back of Colin’s neck, his fingers idly stroking at the soft skin. He plants a kiss to Colin’s leg, and he can almost hear Colin’s smile.
“How do we make it work then, Bradley?” Colin says.
Bradley shrugs. “I don’t know,” he says, and Colin doesn’t think Bradley cares anymore.
They’re nearly at the end of their time in France, and everyone is sad. It’s been the best few months Colin has had in a long time; he doesn’t want them to end. But he supposes it’s about time to leave – he can’t live in Merlin and Arthur’s fantasy land forever – and hopefully, if the show is a success, they’ll get to return next year, or the year after, whenever, and film series two, and maybe more, if they’re lucky.
Colin is standing on one of the turrets of the castle, his fingers resting on the cool stone and the wind whipping his hair. He hears soft footfalls behind him and turns to see Bradley entering from the stairs, slightly breathless and pink-cheeked. He watches as Bradley makes his way over to him, smiles at Bradley, then turns back out to look over the surrounding countryside. Bradley wraps his arms around Colin’s waist and presses their heads together, temple to temple.
“I’m going to miss it here,” Colin says.
Bradley kisses his cheek lightly. “I’m sure we’ll be back,” he says.
It’s a beautiful sunny afternoon outside, but Bradley and Colin are in bed, limbs tangled together under the thin sheets. Bradley is tracing the sharp angles and flat plains of Colin’s body with his fingertips, and Colin watches through half-open eyes.
“You’re too skinny, Morgan,” Bradley says, reaching up to circle one of Colin’s wrists as if to prove this. “You’re not eating enough protein.”
“I eat plenty of protein,” Colin protests.
Bradley snorts. “There’s no protein in vegetables, Colin.”
“Just ‘cause you eat like a pig doesn’t mean the rest of us have to.”
“I don’t eat like a pig,” Bradley says, sitting up and pouting at Colin, just a little bit. “I eat pigs. Bacon especially.” He laughs as Colin pulls a face at him.
“Murderer,” Colin says, and Bradley shrugs, laughing louder. He pulls Colin into a kiss, smiling against Colin’s mouth as Colin makes a small cry of surprise.
“Vegetables are alive too,” Bradley says, breaking the kiss. Colin hits him on the shoulder. “It’s true,” he insists, and Colin hits him on the side of the head, smiling.
Colin has his nose stuck in a book, curled up in a chair to the side of the set, his earbuds in, completely unaware of the world around him. Bradley sneaks up behind him and puts his palms over Colin’s eyes. Colin jumps slightly at the touch, dropping his book, and pulling his earbuds out of his ears. Bradley snickers, takes his hands away from Colin’s eyes and ruffles Colin’s hair before walking away, laughing to himself.
“You don’t know? You could at least put some effort in, Bradley. Maybe that’s why it’s not working. It’s like you don’t even care.”
When they get back from France, Colin disappears off to Ireland at the first chance he gets, and Bradley is left alone in London. He spends a lot of time with his before-Merlin/Colin friends, playing football and going to the pub, but it’s not the same as being with Colin. He guesses he’s just spent so much time with Colin that he’s forgotten how to be without him, and he’s not sure what to think about that.
Bradley can hear the patter of rain against the window; he groans and burrows further under the covers, pulling them up and tucking them under his chin. He shuts his eyes and evens out his breathing, trying to fall back asleep but then Colin walks into the room, fresh from the shower wearing nothing but a towel – he always was a morning person – and all hopes Bradley had for more sleep go right out the window as Colin walks towards him, dropping his towel. Bradley sits up and Colin leans down to kiss him, slipping his tongue into Bradley’s mouth, and Colin tastes like peppermint. Bradley loves peppermint.
“Could you be anymore indie?” Bradley says to Colin when he sees Colin’s new headphones, ones that cover all of his ears. They’re huge, and Bradley pulls them away from Colin’s ears and lets them snap back. Colin jumps and curses.
“That hurt, Bradley,” he says, and Bradley kisses Colin to apologize.
The water is freezing, and Colin is not sure why he let Bradley talk him into this, but then he watches as Bradley walks out of the lake and walks, water dripping from his naked body, to a rock ledge that over hangs the lake and dives in. It’s not a perfect dive, but Colin’s not a diving judge, so he doesn’t care.
He swims over to where Bradley is treading water and pulls their bodies flush up against each other, pushing away the hair that is plastered to Bradley’s forehead. Bradley wraps an arm around Colin’s waist, and god, he’s so warm.
“Of course I care, Colin. How could you think that I don’t?”
“Pretty easily,” Colin says. “You just sat there and said, ‘I don’t know.’”
“What, did you expect me to just come up with a magical solution?”
Colin’s face softens and he slumps onto the sofa next to Bradley, looking defeated. “I was hoping you could,” he says, and Bradley pulls him into his arms.
After two months in London, they decide to move in together. They’re practically living together anyway, always either at Colin’s flat or at Bradley’s, so it only makes sense that they make it official. They also tell their close friends and family about their relationship – “Please, we knew from the start,” Angel and Katie say – but they still keep their relationship away from the public. Things are busy enough, what with the popularity of Merlin and all, and they really don’t need people prying into their personal life.
Bradley gets to stay in his flat – “It’s much bigger, Colin,” – and he goes over to Colin’s one Sunday afternoon to help him finish packing. It takes them twice as long as it should, as Bradley insists on mucking around every other minute, but eventually all of Colin’s possessions are packed up in cardboard boxes, stacked in the hallway, and Colin insists they have one last shag in his flat before they leave. Bradley laughs at him and says he’s getting over-emotional over a flat, but he agrees to the one last shag thing.
One Friday evening Colin drags Bradley out to a gig, another one of his obscure indie bands, only the band can’t be that obscure as the room is packed, sweaty bodies everywhere, jumping up and down to the beat, and Bradley is pressed right up against Colin’s chest, his fringe already sticking to his forehead. The band’s decent, he’ll give them that, and he likes being so close to Colin in public. He also likes the way Colin’s lips brush against his ear when he asks him if he wants a drink, and he really likes the way Colin dances, not at all self-conscious, his sweat-soaked hair slick on his slender neck. Without thinking, Bradley licks at the skin of Colin’s neck; it’s salty to the taste, and Colin groans, tilts his head back and spins around, kissing Bradley sloppily on the lips before tugging him into the loos and sucking him off in one of the stalls, both of them drunk enough to be buzzed, but not so pissed that they don’t know what they’re doing. Bradley comes with Colin’s hair tangled between his fingers and the sound of guitars in his ears, and when he tosses Colin off, watching as Colin’s eyes roll back into his head as he comes, he thinks he might just love this boy.
Colin’s chest is warm against Bradley’s back and he can feel Colin’s lips on the nape of his neck. The sun streams in through the open curtains – it’s one of those winter days that are bright and sunny but really cold – and Bradley’s legs are tangled together with Colin’s, Colin’s arms around Bradley’s waist.
“Can we stay here forever?” Bradley says.
Colin laughs. “Why not?”
“So this is it?” Colin moves away from Bradley, putting his head in his hands when Bradley doesn’t answer.
Colin dreams that he’s back in France, and he and Bradley are sitting on the steps of the castle, chatting about nothing, sharing an ear bud each, and Bradley laughs when Colin gets shouted at for being sat in the sun.
Then Colin wakes up and Bradley is fast asleep next to him, snoring softly, and Colin curls into Bradley’s chest, shuts his eyes, and tries to dream of France again.
The first argument is just a small one. No one can live with another person 24/7 and not get pissed off at them at times, no matter how much you love them. So, Bradley’s not too worried when Colin flips out over the fact that Bradley left his muddy football kit all over the bathroom floor, and instead he apologizes to Colin and picks it up. Then, next time, he does it again without thinking. Colin gets mad again, and this time he won’t let Bradley kiss him to apologize.
Colin wakes to the feeling of soft kisses on his inner thighs, Bradley smiling up at him when he sees that Colin is awake, his blonde hair messy and sticking up every which way. Colin reaches down to stroke Bradley’s cheek, running his thumb over those pouty red lips. He’s already growing hard, and he takes his hand away from Bradley’s cheek and clutches at the sheets when Bradley takes him into his mouth, his head tipping back and his other hand raking through his hair.
“Fuck, Bradley,” he says. “Fuck.”
The second argument happens at the airport, when they’re on their way to Ireland to see Colin’s parents, and Colin has managed to lose their passports. They’ve been up since half five and Bradley is pissed off – he’s terrified that Colin’s parents won’t like him, and he’s full of a nervous energy that makes him snap at Colin. Then Colin finds the passports; they board the plane, and when Bradley is settled and has nothing more to stress about, he kisses Colin’s cheek to say sorry, and when Colin says it’s all right, he can finally stop feeling like he kicked a puppy, like he felt ever since he snapped at Colin.
It’s two weeks before Christmas so they’re putting the Christmas tree up. It’s an artificial one, not like the big trees that Bradley’s family used to put up when he was a child, trees that would drop the needles all over the place and leave the house smelling of pine, but there’s no way one of those would fit into the flat. Still, a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree and all that.
At the moment, there’s not actually much decorating going on. Instead, Bradley drapes the lights over Colin, wrapping them tight around him so that he can’t move, and plugs them in, flicking the switch and laughing when Colin literally lights up.
“I’ll be electrocuted,” Colin complains.
“Bah humbug,” Bradley replies, moving back to Colin and kissing him before he can say anything more.
“We had a good run,” Bradley says. Colin looks up, smiles bitterly.
“Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, we did. We had a good run.”
There are more arguments, of course – no couple is perfect – but they’re always quick to apologize and quick to make up. They always say when something is bothering them, and they make sure they don’t keep any secrets. It’s the most grown up relationship Colin has had, but. It’s lost its spark, recently, and he can’t help but feel like they’re growing apart, and it doesn’t seem like it’s working anymore. And that’s life, he supposes. But fuck, it isn’t fair.
Bradley’s breath fogs in front of him; he rubs his hands together and blows on them, trying to warm them, before sticking them in his pockets.
“It’s fucking freezing,” he says, bumping his shoulder against Colin’s, glaring at him when he smiles.
“Man up, Bradley,” Colin replies. They’re in Cardiff, waiting to film some scenes for season two of Merlin, and it’s the middle of the night, or near enough. He shifts closer to Colin for warmth, ignoring the amused glances they get from nearby bored crewmembers. Colin sneaks his hand into Bradley’s pocket, curling his fingers around Bradley, still smiling, and Bradley feels a little bit warmer.
“It’s not your fault,” Bradley says.
“It’s not yours either,” is Colin’s reply.
They go out to a pub one night, just the two of them, the cold London winds biting at their cheeks as they hurry from the taxi into the warm pub. Bradley gets them a couple of pints while Colin finds a table in the corner, slightly apart from everyone else but close enough so that they don’t feel isolated. Colin sits on his own, idly watching the crowd, until Bradley comes back, the beer sloshing over the sides of the glasses and onto his hands. If Colin were a bit younger, a bit more confident and a whole lot less self-conscious he would lick the beer from Bradley’s hands, but he’s not, so he settles for handing Bradley his jacket to wipe his hands on.
They sit in silence for a moment, happy to watch the other people laughing and drinking, but then Bradley turns to Colin, letting go of his drink to brush his fingers against Colin’s, smiling, and just like that they’re babbling away at each other, talking about nothing like they always do.
“This can’t be the end,” Colin says, his head back in his hands.
“It doesn’t have to be. We can make it work.” Bradley scoots closer to Colin and lays his hand on his back.
Colin looks up. “Yeah?”
They’re up at seven am, Bradley dragging Colin out of bed by his ankles and pushing him into the shower, Colin wondering how Bradley had suddenly become such a morning person. Bradley chucks clothes at him and refuses to answer any questions.
When they’ve eaten breakfast, Bradley gets his black tie from the bedroom and ties it around Colin’s eyes before leading him out to the car and shoving him in it – “You could at least be careful with me, Bradley, seeing as I’m blindfolded.”
Bradley drives for what feels like hours, chattering inanely and singing along to the radio whenever Colin tries to ask where they’re going. Eventually, Bradley stops the car, and when Colin steps out he can hear the sea. Bradley takes his hand and takes him down what feels like a gravel pathway, the sound of the sea getting louder in his ears. Soon he can feel wet sand beneath his feet and Bradley brings them to a stop, dropping Colin’s hand to untie the blindfold. The light is harsh as Colin opens his eyes, and Bradley is stood right in front of him, smiling, the sea over his shoulder. Colin kisses Bradley then.
“I know how much you like the sea,” Bradley says when the kiss ends. He moves to stand behind Colin, his arms round his waist and his chin on his shoulder, planting a kiss on Colin’s neck.
“I love you,” Colin says, watching the waves roll in and out.
Bradley plants another kiss to Colin’s neck. “I love you too,” he says, and Colin smiles into the wind.