Summary: (See above.)
Word count: ~ 7,300
Disclaimer: Everything contained herein is purely fictional, and should be taken seriously by absolutely no one.
Notes: A million thanks to jandjsalmon for looking this over for me and putting her stamp of approval on it. Special thanks also to the_muppet, who's been an endless font of patient encouragement, and without whom this fic wouldn't exist.
Colin secretly harbours a deep love of Sunday mornings. Sunday mornings are steeped in the quiet comfort of tradition, of family and mass and fighting over the comics section. He doesn't get that anymore, obviously, since he's grown and moved away from home, and is, more often than not, on set or on location and too busy to even register what day it is, let alone find a spare moment to check on Charlie Brown's athletic progress.
But now that he's got a long break between projects and Bradley's rehearsals only start in the afternoons, they've gradually established their own Sunday morning tradition, which, for all its simple domesticity, makes Colin unabashedly happy. It's something of an adventure, actually, as everything is when Bradley gets involved, because Bradley can't leave well enough alone and keeps adding things to their routine. It had only been a warm, lovely lie-in at first, and then it had turned into a lie-in and cartoons, and then lie-in, cartoons and suspect but moreish pastries from the poky bakery down the road, and then lie-in, lamenting the state of today's children's programming, addictive pastries and Bradley happily butchering Armenian phrases he'd learned from the couple who own the poky bakery down the road.
This Sunday morning, after Bradley claims to have indicated his nationality and asked Colin where the passport and visa office is, it appears that he is also experimenting with something new: telling gigantic lies.
"You see, Daisy," says Bradley, putting on his best sage, old man voice, "it all started, as these things always do, with a decapitated snake head."
Colin snaps his attention up from the newspaper. "What the hell are you telling that dog, Bradley?"
From his end of the sofa, Bradley looks at Colin as though he is surprised Colin even has to ask, and so does the dog, who is their charge for the week. It had been foisted upon them by Mrs. McAnerney from downstairs, on account of having to go away to deal with some kind of emergency. Details aren't clear -- while she'd shoved her dog and a lifetime supply of Arden Grange through the door and babbled her explanations, thank-yous and so-sorries at warp-speed, Bradley had heard her say "crack" and Colin "clap", and neither of them had really been keen on asking for further clarification. So, Daisy, the hypoallergenic designer golden retriever-poodle hybrid, is theirs to keep for the week, and apparently also Bradley's to terrify.
"She looked bored, so I'm telling her a story."
"About headless snakes."
"Well, that's not all of the story. It's just the introduction; you've got to hook them in," Bradley says, making an inverted clawing motion with two fingers. The dog gazes at him dopily. "See? Enrapt. Anyway, someday our future children are going to want to know how we met, so I might as well practise, don't you think?"
Colin gives this statement all of a second's careful consideration. "We met on the set of Merlin. That's pretty much it."
Bradley cocks his head in mock contempt. "No, it isn't. You met loads of people on the set of Merlin and you didn't end up moving in with all of them. Only me. And if our kids are any good at all, they'll want to know how it all happened, the moment when you realised Bradley James was your sole reason for existence."
"Mmhm," Colin says, unimpressed. He folds his newspaper neatly and knots his arms across his chest, interest piqued in spite of Bradley's penchant for ridiculous embellishment. "All right, go on."
"As I was saying, it all began with a decapitated snake head."
"Mm, I'm pretty sure it didn't."
"You're ruining this for Daisy, Colin."
One, or "However Did That Get In There?"
Colin often marvelled at how well everybody on set got on, particularly the four young principals of the cast. Their camaraderie wasn't the sort that suggested they'd known each other all their lives or anything, but it was pretty close, and they were only into filming the second episode. He was still kind of waiting for something to go horribly wrong that would set someone off and make them all loathe each other by the end of the series; it was only inevitable, wasn't it, working in such close quarters and for such long hours, away from home?
Bradley, of course, had the answer to that, and seemed to want to hasten the impending hatred along.
"I have an idea," he said conspiratorially to Colin one day while they were waiting for a scene in the courtyard to be set up.
At that point in their friendship, still early days yet, Colin hadn't quite learned to be properly or vocally sceptical of the insane things Bradley thought up when he was bored. This was why he suddenly found himself inextricably embroiled in a sinister and cunning plan to prank the hell out of Katie, who had, thus far, proven heroically immune to Bradley's clever tricks.
Colin was put in charge of convincing Dennis the prop master to let them borrow the polymer snake head that Merlin chops off Valiant's shield to film a short for the DVD extras (lie), that they'd have it back to the art department before wrapping for the day (lie), and that they would use it only for informational purposes (half-truth; they'd never seen Katie lose her composure and were very interested in learning what a Katie McGrath Freak-Out Extravaganza involved, if indeed such a thing existed). And because everybody loved Colin more than they loved their own children, he had the snake head in hand and into Bradley's satchel within fifteen minutes.
Three scenes, one splendid sunset and countless takes later, with everyone exhausted and bundled in the van to return to their hotel, the snake head mysteriously burrowed its way from Bradley's bag into the colossal leather tote Katie carried around with her everywhere.
Three hours, one pack of cards and several First Annual James-Morgan Poker Showdowns after that, Colin began to wonder a) how Bradley kept winning despite neither of them knowing exactly how to play poker correctly, and b) if there was going to be any pay-off at all to their prank on Katie. Maybe she'd just gone straight to bed. Maybe she'd known about their plan all along. This was Katie they were talking about, after all; she and omniscience were best friends. Or maybe her giant bag was actually a gaping black hole masquerading as a fashionable accessory; he'd seen lots of things go in but never re-emerge, come to think of it.
Or maybe Colin was just getting very tired and punchy. His call times this whole week were significantly earlier than everybody else's and sometimes he wrapped much later, too, and short of injecting caffeine directly into his veins, it looked like his inevitable crash was choosing this very moment to lay its grubby hands on him.
"I give up," Colin moaned through a yawn, and flopped backwards onto his pillow, rubbing at his face like a child. "Katie wins everything forever."
Bradley gathered up the cards scattered across the bedspread, shuffled them neatly into a stack and slotted them back into their paper box. "Your lack of dedication is distressing, Morgan."
Colin mumbled something unintelligible even to himself and flattened his face against the pillow, feeling the pull of sleep snatching away at his consciousness wisp by wisp, until a faint shriek rang out from Katie's room next door. His head jerked up. "What was that?" he slurred.
"Yes!" Bradley crowed, leaping off the bed, and then checked himself suddenly. "At least, I hope that scream means what we think it means, and it's not an axe murderer come to get Katie or anything. That would be unfortunate." He tugged at Colin's wrists until Colin slid off the bed in a grumbly heap. "Come on, let's go and gloat."
From the floor, Colin blinked up at him dolefully. "Can we gloat tomorrow? I have call at five."
Bradley checked the bedside clock -- nearly midnight -- and swore. "For chrissakes, Colin, why didn't you say anything? I know I like getting attention, but you honestly don't have to humour me all the time. Come on, up," he said, angling one arm underneath Colin and picking him up off the floor. He pulled the bedcovers back and carefully deposited Colin on the bed.
Colin would have resented being treated like a toddler, except he hadn't the energy to work himself into a snit, especially not when Bradley was being so nice and thoughtful, arranging his pillows and tucking the duvet tightly around him.
"Goodnight, Colin," Bradley sing-songed softly, and flipped the lights off before slipping out of the room.
Discounting fuzzy, Bradley-centred dreams that left a sweet taste in his mouth for much of the next morning, Colin didn't see Bradley again until early afternoon when they both broke for lunch around the same time. He found Bradley standing about in front of the catering trailer, and Katie blatantly glaring in his direction, looking as though she was expecting smoke to appear from the holes she was boring in his back any second now. She gave Colin a sweet smile as he approached, though, and Colin could guess very well what had happened.
"You didn't have to take all the blame for the snake, you know," Colin said, when he collected his lunch and sat down next to Bradley.
"Well, after you proved incapable of taking proper care of yourself last night, I thought I had better protect you from Katie's apocalyptic wrath," Bradley said. "She's terrifying, really, you know, shoots laser beams out of her eyes and spits fireballs and flattens Tokyo -- the usual. Just best that you weren't there."
The words were casually spouted, but the intent behind them stirred something in his heart all the same, and Colin felt his cheeks go warm. "Chivalrous of you," he said, rather inanely, but it was the best he could come up with at the moment.
Bradley smirked. "You're lucky I'm around to look after you, Morgan."
Colin grinned, and stuffed a piece of fruit into his mouth to stop the smile from getting any wider. Lucky didn't even begin to cover it.
"That is very much not what happened," Colin says to the dog. He feels it is important that somebody understand this, since Bradley obviously isn't going to be the one.
"What? Of course it was," Bradley protests, and hugs Daisy towards him, like this will tip the balance in his favour.
"None of those things ever actually happened in succession. Or at all, really. And Katie doesn't have wrath; she's a sweetheart. I always thought she handled our pranks really well, considering how many of them we pulled."
"Colin," Bradley gasps, like he's stung, "we both know Katie's pure, unadulterated evil."
"Yeah? Is that why she's got a standing invitation to come and stay with us every Christmas and major bank holiday? Or why she's the one you always call first whenever we have a fight?"
"Well, you know the old saying: keep your friends close, enemies closer, and Katie McGrath on speed-dial."
Colin only snickers.
"Oh, fine," says Bradley. "This, then: Colin grinned, and stuffed his face with fruit to stop from smiling any harder, because he knew that Bradley --"
"Why do you keep talking about yourself in the third person like that?"
"For more effective storytelling, Colin. And since it's the story of how Daddy Colin fell in love with Daddy Bradley, it only makes sense that it's Colin's point of view, and Colin wouldn't refer to Bradley as 'I', would he?"
Colin shakes his head. "This is so weird."
"You're weird," Bradley accuses mildly, giving up on his story, which had been patched erroneously together from odds and ends of memories anyway. He launches himself off the sofa and pulls a box of tea out of a crowded kitchen cupboard. "Tea?" he asks, filling a kettle with water.
"Yeah," says Colin, and politely pats the thankfully hypoallergenic dog when it pushes its nose at his knee and snuffles wetly all over his jeans. He's not very comfortable around it; Colin's allergic to everything, so he's not had much experience with pets, and most of those experiences had largely been consumed with breaking out in violent hives anyway, so any significant bonding time he might have had with any animal had usually been spent cramming antihistamines down his gullet and bathing in calomine lotion instead.
Bradley, on the other hand, who hasn't had a pet to call his own ever since going full-time on this whole acting lark, has fallen so rapidly in love with Daisy that Colin is afraid Mrs. McAnerney might have some trouble wresting ownership back. The embarrassing attention he showers on the dog is probably due to some kind of suppressed yearning for animal companionship catching up with Bradley, who'd been the kind of boy who persisted in bundling strays home so many times his parents finally gave up and let him keep them, and had grown up with a zoo.
His absolute favourite of the bunch had been a rambunctious yellow lab, from which, if Bradley's stories are true, Colin thinks Bradley might have learned all his social skills. The other Jameses are lovely, sensible people, so the dog is the best explanation Colin can come up with for the way Bradley tears through life and leaves a cloud of destruction in his wake, and then comes back with happy eyes and a shiny smile, like he's done you a favour and isn't he just the cutest thing in the world and how could you possibly stay angry at this face?
"Oh, shit," says Bradley as a mug shatters upon collision with the kitchen floor.
It's very lucky for Bradley that he's pretty.
Two, or "This Is Why Bradley Can't Have Nice Things"
When Bradley had mentioned that he was going to do something very special for their five-month anniversary of Secretly Doing It Everywhere On Set And Off, Colin, in his innocent and unimaginative naivete, had assumed that they'd maybe share a bottle of slightly less cheap wine, or go an extra round in bed, or possibly track down that elusive cinema that apparently screened undubbed films but that none of them had been able to find yet. What Colin had not expected, and still couldn't quite believe, was that Bradley would barge into his hotel room at an ungodly hour and serenade him with Westlife.
"Bradley. Bradley. Bradley," Colin tried to say over Bradley's valiant, inexplicable attempt at one-man boybandery and determined plucking at what appeared to be -- "Did you steal that from props? Didn't they already put you on notice?"
Bradley gave up on manhandling his lute. "I'm only just borrowing it for a while. Angel won't let me touch her guitar."
"Well, considering that just in the past month, you lost her sunglasses and broke her mobile, I can't say this is a surprising development."
"Those sunglasses weren't doing her any favours; she really ought to thank me. And her phone was one of those -- clam things. They're widely known to be very fragile."
"You dropped it off a battlement."
Bradley frowned at him. "You're not Geoffrey of Monmouth, Colin. You don't need to record these things in minute detail."
Sighing, Colin packed his wallet and key into his pockets, and gently removed the lute from Bradley's grip before he managed to accidentally destroy it with the sheer force of his boundless enthusiasm. "We're taking this back to props now," said Colin, because he secretly enjoyed being the sane and responsible one between the two of them.
"But I hadn't even got to the good part yet."
Bradley held his hands out, fingers wiggling expectantly. "Give me the thing back."
"These aren't even real strings, Bradley. It's a decorative prop."
Bradley groaned like a dying beast. "You are just the worst, Colin. How do you expect me to tell you that I love you if you won't let me do it properly through song?"
Colin fiddles with the label on his teabag and eyes Bradley warily. "You're not seriously going to tell the children we were doing it everywhere? That's like a cardinal sin of parenting. They'll disown us. We'll get written up in the papers."
"Oh, well, I suppose I'll leave that part out. But the bit where you fell madly in love with me after my heartwrenching rendition of a classic pop song and my eloquent confession? Yeah, that's a keeper."
"Right, yeah. Except that also didn't quite happen that way."
Bradley gapes. "What?"
"It was Boyzone. You sang Boyzone at me, Bradley. Boyzone wins no one over," says Colin, patting him on the shoulder sympathetically. "And you didn't confess anything; you just said 'shut up, Colin,' and then we had sex."
"This story is completely inappropriate for young, impressionable minds," Bradley says forlornly, cupping his hands over Daisy's ears.
They sit quietly for a while, drinking their tea and listening to the faint twittering of the birds outside, while Daisy rests her head contentedly on the narrow strip of sofa between their legs. It won't last long; Bradley's only regrouping. Colin gently smoothes his fingertips over Bradley's hair just because he can.
"Okay," says Bradley suddenly, jolting upright and startling the dog into a tiny yelp. "This is how it really went. It all started with a vicious, rabid beast of a dog."
"Did it? Really?" Colin prods. "Or is this just another one of your faulty memories?"
"Shut up, or I'll serenade you again," Bradley threatens, grinning widely. "Ronan Keating's entire body of work. I'll do it, Morgan, don't think I won't."
Colin laughs and curls himself into Bradley's side. "Oh, god, you would. Shutting up now."
Three, or "Colin Probably Tastes Like The Potato Famine"
It was an old and familiar saying that actors ought never work with children or animals, though Colin had never quite appreciated the wisdom of that adage until now, missing a chunk out of his arm thanks to the awful rottweiler the producers might as well have brought in off the streets for all its glaring lack of proper dog training. It had barked and growled and ruined take after take, despite its handlers trying all means of coaxing it down -- hand signals, dog biscuits, sharp reprimands, a cocktail sausage hastily appropriated from the catering crew. And then because god knew what went in those sausages, the dog had apparently gone on to develop a taste for questionable meats and had then lunged at Colin.
Colin didn't quite remember what had happened immediately after that -- it was all a flurry of shouts and blood and everybody cursing and the dog looking inordinately pleased with itself until someone leashed it and tugged it away from its prey.
While a crew member cleaned the wound and wrapped about fifteen first aid kits' worth of bandages around his arm until she was satisfied he wouldn't bleed to death on her watch, Colin could hear a production assistant calling for an ambulance and Julian losing his head over the phone with Health and Safety.
Then he forgot about all of that because Bradley suddenly popped up out of nowhere -- face flushed from running, presumably, since he'd been filming on an entirely different set across the studio lot -- and looked horrified at, or possibly for, him. "What the hell happened? Somebody said you'd been injured."
Colin waved a hand at his heavily bandaged arm. "The dog bit me."
"Christ, Colin. Are you okay?"
"Mm, no, not really. A dog bit me," he said irritably, and then felt bad about it immediately after, since it really wasn't Bradley's fault he'd had a deranged animal sicced on him.
Bradley slumped into the chair next to Colin while the rest of the crew hovered around, trying not to get in Julian's way as he paced up and down the set, shouting into his mobile. They remained in a bit of a brooding silence for a moment, Bradley frowning at everything and Colin wondering which part of sitting quietly and minding his own business had tripped the wiring in the dog's brain to propel it into Attack The Nice Man mode.
"Not a very discerning dog, is it?" Bradley mused after some time.
"I mean, of all the people on set it could have eaten, it went for you. You barely have any meat on your bones at all. I can't imagine you'd taste very nice, either, what with your spectacularly uninspired diet of vegetables and ...more vegetables," Bradley said, and scrutinised Colin closely. "Maybe it's what saved you from the dog chewing off your face next, tasting like cabbages or, you know. Green."
"Bradley," said Colin, which was all he had in his arsenal at the moment against Bradley's mad ramblings.
"Or," said Bradley, punctuating the sentiment with a determined forefinger, "this is God's way of telling you to eat meat."
"Oh, it's perfectly simple," he went on, warming to his subject with no small amount of relish. "Since the dawn of time, Colin, human people have subsisted on wonderful, delicious meat --"
"Has the Meat Training Council got to you? Is this some kind of side job you have, converting veggies while they're down?"
Bradley clicked his tongue reprovingly at the tangential interruption. "All I'm saying is that you're unbalancing nature. You either eat nature, or nature dispatches a dog to eat you."
Colin threw up his hands. "You've officially gone mad," he announced. "You're clinically insane. I'm going to have to get you sectioned, Bradley. It's for your own good, really."
Bradley ignored this and slid incrementally closer, voice pitched low and swathed in the silk of melted butter. "Come to the dark side, Colin. We have pigs. In blankets."
"Oi," someone called out. "Paramedics are here!"
"Oh," said Colin, blinking, eyebrows arced. He'd momentarily forgotten that he'd been dog-bit to begin with.
"Listen, um," said Bradley, after the paramedics had checked Colin over and everyone important decided it would be best and most prudent if he went to hospital right away. "Do you want me to go with you?"
Colin would have liked that very much, actually, as he was not a great fan of hospitals, which were cold and unfriendly and smelled depressing. But he was also a consummate professional, and he'd noticed that some of the crew had gone back to manning their stations once it had become clear Colin wasn't going to drop dead on set, so he said, "Thanks, but don't you have a scene to finish?"
"Oh, yeah. Right," said Bradley, like it had slipped his mind why he was in the Cardiff studios in the first place. "Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow, then, mate."
Colin's handler went with him instead and made a massive fuss over him all the way there until he had to tell her to please calm down. And then, as it turned out, all he ended up needing was a few stitches and a short course of antibiotics, which his handler made more fuss over for a while before running outside to find good enough reception to update the producers on Colin's condition.
He'd just come away from the doctor's care, thinking this would make a really good story, when he noticed Bradley lounging in the waiting area and mulling over a rather battered copy of Aquila.
Colin stopped short and squinted. "Bradley?"
"Oh, hey. All right?" Bradley asked, standing and tossing the magazine away.
"Yeah." He flexed his arm. "Nothing too bad. The doctor said I probably won't even get a manly scar out of it or anything."
"Mm, another bid at being the ladies' man thwarted again," Bradley commiserated.
Colin smiled warmly at him, suddenly hit square in the face with the thought that getting bit by a stupid dog maybe had its upsides after all. "Bradley. Thanks for coming."
"Yeah. Well." Bradley shifted his feet uncomfortably and cleared his throat. "You missed dinner, obviously, so I brought you a Mars bar, in case you're hungry."
"Oh, excellent," Colin said, happily unwrapping it.
"Hey, I'm glad you're okay," said Bradley quietly, and bumped him lightly on the shoulder.
"Ow," he whined.
"Oh, god, Colin," said Bradley, slipping easily into his Arthur voice. "Stop being such a girl."
"You punched me in the arm," Colin protests. "My injured arm."
"It's a perfectly reasonable response to situations that are spiralling emotionally out of control," Bradley clips. "Besides, it couldn't have bloody hurt that much; the dog barely even nipped you."
"Oh, that's the story now?"
"Well, yes, that's what happened," Bradley concedes, "but it's a lot more interesting to tell it if you're gushing blood all over the place, isn't it? I think the children will appreciate these little details that inform our storybook romance."
"Yeah, of course," Colin says dryly. "Dog attacks and crippling wounds are ever so romantic."
"Arthur and Merlin were constantly beset by gryphons and bandits and -- and zombies, but I didn't see anyone complaining about how that dampened their love story."
"Arthur married Gwen, Bradley. I swear, you have the worst memory in the history of everybody."
"The producers chose to stop the show there, but we all know she ends up sneaking off into the sunset with Lancelot anyway, and Arthur and Merlin go on forever. You can't argue with that sort of dedicated reincarnation, you know."
Colin casts him a sly look. "Dedicated reincarnation? Have you been reading?"
"Only on Wikipedia," Bradley promises, raising one hand facetiously in disgrace of Scout's honour, because of all the ridiculous late night conversations they've had, the one that's stuck is this: in order to ensure their future children thoroughly kicking all the other children's arses in well-roundedness, Colin's in charge of things like culture and libraries and museums, while Bradley will make football stars of each and every one of them and coach them in the finer points of the Die Hard tetralogy.
"It wasn't the dog bite, you know, that was the tipping point," Colin says, mysterious.
Bradley pulls a miffed face at him. "You really need to work on lowering your resistance to grand gestures, Colin. Stop being so high maintenance."
Colin laughs. "I don't want grand gestures; I just need you."
"Hmph," says Bradley, but he leans over to kiss Colin anyway.
They ignore the dog for a while.
Four, or "Nobody Likes Aquaman"
If there was one thing Bradley James was convinced of, it was his own invincibility, ingenuity and immunity to reason. Which was actually three things, but Bradley had a way of making Colin forget his own name sometimes, so malfunctioning mathematical skills were kind of par for the course.
"I don't think this is a good idea," said Colin, as he followed Bradley down the hotel corridor towards the lift.
"Of course you don't; that's why you're the sidekick," Bradley threw over his shoulder, punching the down button several times in succession because he was one of those people for whom insistent pushing made things go faster.
Colin rolled his eyes as they stepped into the lift, but cleverly kept his mouth shut, as the last time they'd had this conversation, Bradley had pointed out all the myriad ways in which Colin wasn't suited for superheroing -- musculature (lack thereof), recognisability ("Let's face it, Colin, those ears could direct air traffic"), and the fact that Bradley was just more awesome in every way ("I'm sheer delight, Colin. Were you aware?"). He'd then graciously allowed Colin to be Aquaman if he wanted, but Colin did not want.
The lift doors opened with a polite 'ding!' upon arrival at the lobby, where Bradley made a beeline for the front desk, while Colin lagged behind and stood guard. He didn't really have to; everyone else was working while he and Bradley had a rare afternoon off and were using it for completely educational and constructive activities, like breaking and entering, with a side of fraud.
"Je suis on the third floor," Bradley said, sprawling over the counter, and Colin tried to blend in with the wallpaper while Bradley did his best to convince the receptionist that he'd lost his keycard, and no, clearly their records were wrong, because there was no Angel Coulby in room 310, that was Bradley's room and he needed a new key to it right away, s'il vous plait.
There was a lot of gesturing going on and irreparable damage done to the French language, but eventually Bradley returned, flush with success but trying to keep it on the down low until they got back upstairs, at which point Bradley burst into a loud giggle.
"God, I didn't think that would work," he said, admiring the keycard. "Admit it, Morgan, I'm brilliant."
Colin looked at Bradley, colour high on his cheeks and the golden fringe dusting across his forehead, framing the sparkle of joy and bright mischief in his clear, blue eyes. Colin smiled. "Yeah," he said softly. "You're brilliant."
"How many of these stories do you have?" Colin asks, incredulous.
"As many as it takes," Bradley replies, matching pitch-perfectly Colin's aghast tone. "Anyway, I reckon that since grand gestures are obviously wasted on you, it would've had to have been something trifling, right? You know, like a tiny moment that I wouldn't realise had significance until much later?"
"Mm, tiny and trifling... like criminal activity?"
"All right, maybe not trifling, per se. I was pretty impressive that time, though, you have to admit."
Colin smiles, laugh lines crinkling with affection. "Be that as it may," he grants, "let's try not to be the kind of role models that turn our children on to a life of crime."
"Fair enough. But it's not like we actually ever did end up breaking into Angel's room. We do have some morals to speak of, after all."
"You were just afraid she'd rope Katie into her revenge plan, and they'd come and murder you in your sleep."
"Me? Why's it just me? You were in on it, too."
"I'm Colin," says Colin in a remarkable attempt to explain everything. "Everybody loves me more than they love their own children."
"You're disgusting." Bradley flashes him an unimpressed look, which he easily deflects with an angelic, honeyed grin until Bradley's forced to poke him in the ribs. "You know, come to think of it," he says, when he's got Colin's squirming under control, "we probably should've been a bit more concerned that security was such a low priority at that hotel. Then again, I suppose no one was stalking us at that point yet."
"I don't know," says Colin, delicately extracting himself from his prison in the crook of Bradley's arm. "I think we have video footage that says otherwise."
"What are you talking about?" Bradley asks, and draws in a sharp breath almost before he can finish his question. "Oh, me. Well. That's different. And it's not like you had... a problem... with it," he says, gradually losing the connectivity of his sentence as he narrows an assessing gaze on Colin. His eyes widen a split second later, bright. "New and improved story, now ninety-five percent crime-free."
"You are unbelievable."
"I know," says Bradley, smug.
Five, or "Bradley May Have Seen One Too Many Hugh Grant Movies"
They swapped camcorders all the time; the footage was all going to the same end result anyway for the DVD extras, so Colin usually wasn't too fussed about Bradley appropriating his camera whenever there was a lull in shooting or when they were left to their own devices to film themselves doing incredibly stupid things that seemed gut-bustingly hilarious in the wee hours.
Lately, however, Bradley seemed to have taken exclusive ownership over Colin's camera, and Colin was missing it. There was a truly amazing prosthetics job going on in one of the make-up trailers, and Colin wanted to get it on film, but Bradley's shooting schedule today meant that they wouldn't see each other for at least the next two hours.
Colin consulted someone's watch. He still had several hours before his next call, a night shoot that would involve a lot of running and pointing his hand at nothing, so he had plenty of time to swing back to the hotel and grab Bradley's camera, which hopefully would be easy to locate, and not languishing sadly somewhere underneath mountains of dirty laundry.
He gave his handler a heads-up, sweet-talked a runner into driving him to the hotel and let himself into Bradley's room. The cast all had their own rooms, but since they each got two keycards anyway, he and Bradley had traded one of each of those, too, after a while -- all the better to burst into each other's room to shout, "You have to come and see this!" when something delightful was afoot, which was often.
As he'd suspected, there was crap all over the floor (not that he'd been expecting Bradley to have diligently picked up his room since the last time Colin had visited, which had been the day before), but he found the camcorder easily, sitting on top of a piece of luggage. Cracking it open to check how much battery he had, Colin uttered a small sound of disappointment when the viewscreen flashed a 'Memory Full' warning at him. No wonder Bradley kept nicking his camera all the time now.
Colin pushed a pair of jeans out of the way and perched himself onto an armchair. Bradley filmed a lot of rubbish, sometimes accidentally leaving the camera on while he wandered off somewhere else and clocking hours of footage that featured nothing but the arabesque pattern on the carpet, so Colin decided to go through the stuff Bradley had in there and see if he couldn't clear out some of the less interesting images.
The first video file made Colin burst into laughter as he watched miniature versions of him and Bradley sprint up and down the hotel corridors and stairwells, peer around corners with their hands formed into guns and spout tortured dialogue in low, manly voices, which was clearly the only appropriate response to just having watched a stack of illicitly obtained James Bond videos.
That one was definitely a save.
Colin dug around for the battery charger, plugged it in, and thumbed over to the next file, settling comfortably in his chair. He had the whole afternoon to himself, after all, he thought, promptly forgetting the make-up job in favour of spending the next few hours watching his and Bradley's various escapades.
After their stint at being secret agents, they discovered a tidy little mushroom circle in the woods and went on a fairy hunt; shouted a great many silly things in execrable French accents from the topmost turrets of Pierrefonds; played out their own idea of Merlin's big reveal to Arthur and subsequent execution by a judo chop to the neck; and lumped themselves in with a group of Germans on a walking tour without understanding a single word of the guided commentary and made up their own historical facts instead.
After that, however, there was just a great deal of faraway zooming in on Colin. Colin talking to one of the directors, Colin in the middle of a scene, Colin eating lunch, Colin ambling across the courtyard, Colin studying his script, Colin catching a few winks in the chapel.
Colin was beginning to suspect that a theme was taking shape, and as he sat there, turning each scene over in his head and paging through each memory of Bradley he'd collected with care, he also began to suspect that he didn't mind at all. Colin smiled to himself, unstoppable, and leaned back to watch him and Bradley be debonair spies again.
The door swung open, and Bradley startled at the sight of him. "Hey," he said, eyebrows raised. "I didn't know you'd got back already."
Colin jumped to his feet and clicked the camera shut guiltily. "Yeah, I wanted to, er," he said, holding the camera up.
"Oh," said Bradley, suddenly looking stiff and wary. "It's full."
"Yeah, I know."
Bradley's lips tightened, worry creasing his eyes. "Look, it's nothing, all right? Just -- nothing. I'm -- I don't want things to be weird."
"No, no, it's fine. It's, ehm, I like it," Colin said reassuringly. He took a tentative step forward and tried for a smile. "It's very, mm, Love, Actually."
Bradley stared, horrified. "Oh, god," he moaned. "I'm a movie cliché."
"But I got the girl in the end," Bradley crows at Daisy. "I mean, if Colin were a girl, which I'm not saying he is. Though I'm not saying he isn't, either, mind, because he's a lot prettier than Keira Knightley than anyone has a right to be."
"Should I be flattered? Sometimes I just don't know," says Colin thoughtfully and smacks Bradley's thigh. "Anyway, you're wrong again. If I wasn't already in love with you by that point, I'd just have thought you were a pervy creep, wouldn't I? Which you actually are."
Bradley waggles his eyebrows suggestively. "Well, you're the one who's stuck with me, so I'd say the joke's on you, Morgan."
"Not for the next few hours, at least," Colin says, tipping his head towards the clock on the mantel. "Don't you have somewhere to be?"
"Ooh, right. Stoppard's not going to act itself," says Bradley, hoisting himself off the sofa and padding over to the front door, Colin and the dog at his heels. He scoops up a shoulder bag, making sure his script is where it's supposed to be, and shoves his shoes on. "Right, I'm off. I'll call when I'm done, yeah?" he says, and kisses Colin lightly, sweetly on the lips.
"Yep, see you later," Colin says with a little smile, shutting the door when Bradley disappears down the stairwell, and goes to clear the mugs from the coffee table.
Daisy stares at the door for a while, and then at Colin.
"I know he's very nice, but he can't be trusted. Not when he's involved in his own stories, anyway," he says cheerfully to Daisy, who's now followed him to the kitchen, sat at his feet and staring at him expectantly while he rinses out the mugs. "What?"
In response, the dog's giant tail thumps like a frantic drumbeat on the kitchen floor.
"Mm, I see," says Colin.
One, or "One Time Colin Fell In Love With Bradley and Never Looked Back (the Colin Morgan version)"
Colin was tired. Ecstatic, still riding the high of being cast as the lead in the BBC's newest Saturday night series, but tired.
After two weeks of numerous reschedulings due to the producers all being incredibly busy and in-demand people, he'd finally got on a train to London early that morning, while it had still been dark out -- and as tradition dictated, the train had of course been late, so he hadn't had any time to grab a coffee as he'd trudged hurriedly across dirty streets crunchy with grit and snow, towards the audition site to do screen tests with all the potential Arthurs who'd made it through to the third round of callbacks.
They were all perfectly capable, of course, each one bringing their own little spin to the scene where Merlin and Arthur meet for the first time, some cajoling, playful; others aggressive, towering. Colin let them take the lead in how the scene would play out -- this was Arthur's impression to make, after all -- and felt a commiserative pang of actor's rejection when the producers, writers and casting people, all down one side of a long table, sent each of them off with polite thank-yous and we'll-let-you-knows and smiles that didn't quite reach the eyes.
The casting director announced that they had one last screen test left to do, rubbing her eyes in slight frustration. Each of the actors they'd seen so far had been more than competent, but Colin hadn't felt any spark, hadn't clicked totally with any of them, and knew that casting had seen that, too. Chemistry couldn't be manufactured, and would come off even worse on screen if they tried to shoehorn it in.
But then Bradley happened and turned everything into a moot point.
He smiled easily upon entering, and the dingy room, with its sad, grey carpet and plastic chairs, seemed to just fill to the brim with sunshine and enthusiasm. Hellos were exchanged all around, and when he approached Colin, the smile grew brighter still, expansive and encompassing, and his handshake warm and firm and anything but perfunctory.
"Hi, I'm Bradley James. Pleased to meet you."
And then sparks didn't matter so much anymore, because they had fireworks.
"You bastard," Bradley laughs, standing in the doorway and clutching the water bottle he'd forgotten to grab on his way out. "All that time, and you never told me."
"Well," says Colin, warmth blooming on his cheeks like he's just walked into a sunbeam, "I figured you have a big enough head as it is; didn't want to exacerbate the problem, you know."
A hand flies to Bradley's chest, wounded. "Words hurt, Morgan," he deadpans. "Just for that, we're going to discuss this revelation in excruciating detail when I come back. I want to know how the lights played in my hair, the exact wattage of my smile and every poetic description you can come up with for my eyes, and how the holy combination of all those things made you fall madly in love with me, and it's going to be delightful. Oh, do tell, Colin." He props his chin on the heel of his hand like he expects Colin to fly into raptures about him right then.
"This is your fault," Colin says to the dog, who's dancing around them, nails clicking an erratic rhythm on the tile floor. "At least you get to go home in a few days; I have to live with him. He's going to be insufferable for at least a week."
Daisy only looks curiously back and forth at them, unremorseful.
Bradley grins, relents. "Okay, okay, fine. I suppose I could pretend I didn't hear anything; it'll set us even for you pretending you didn't see the ring when you were taken with that fit of spring cleaning last week."
"What ring?" Colin's mouth says before Colin's brain can get past the horrors of what passes for organisation in Bradley's esteem. Once it catches up and processes the conversation to its fill, its clever contribution is, "Wait. What ring?"
"Oh," he says, catching on. "I may have said too much."
Colin stares at him reproachfully. "You can't take it back now."
Bradley makes a noise that could be agreement, and he slides his bag off his shoulder, rooting around in one of the inner compartments before producing a little square box. A swipe of his thumb clicks it open, a silver circle embraced in dark velvet. Bradley doesn't get down on one knee because it's not really the sort of thing either of them goes in for, and it's not like they haven't talked about it before, but Colin can still hear the sweeping strains of violins and the starbursts of fireworks and the pounding of his own heart anyway.
"Well?" says Bradley, though he hasn't technically asked anything.
"Well," says Colin. He smiles, and its mirror dawns, shining, on Bradley's face. "Obviously."