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A Tale of Two Cities (or, alternatively, how Bradley James got a Clue)

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It's all Angel's fault. Of that Bradley is certain. If she had fallen for his charms the way he had intended when they first met, then he wouldn't be stuck here with Colin's hair tickling his neck and his arm going numb from Colin's body pressing against it. He wouldn't be trying to have his gay-freakout/epiphany-whatever quietly without waking Colin up, because then Colin would blush, perhaps mumble an apology, then leave. And Bradley would miss the little puffs of air against his skin, a constant reminder of the proximity of Colin's mouth.

It is torture – sweet delicious torture – and Bradley suspects it's feelings like this that make him a little gay; just a little, mind, because this so isn't what he had in mind, when telling his mates back home about the months of filming in close proximity to his very hot cast-mates. Which takes us back to it all being Angel's fault.

 

Bradley likes to say in interviews that when he first met Colin, he didn't get what was so special about him, and that is true to an extent. Or at least it is for about a week, which is all it takes for Bradley to find himself just as charmed as everyone else. After that there are numerous moments, which really should have clued him in to the situation at hand. Moments, which retrospectively seem very clear indeed.

 

There is the time Bradley goes to Colin's room with the script and a DVD – in case they get bored from reading lines – and finds him sitting cross-legged on the floor and eating peanuts with one hand, and Nutella with the other. Bradley is totally disgusted.

"You're not pregnant, are you?" Bradley asks, when he can speak again.

Colin 'hmm's around the spoonful of Nutella, evidently licking every last bit of chocolate, before pulling it out – with a plop – but not before Bradley can glimpse Colin's tongue as it follows the spoon out.

"Peanuts and Nutella?" Bradley asks again.

Colin nods distractedly, "Do you want some?"

"You disgust me," Bradley says.

Colin grins at him and shrugs and Bradley rolls his eyes a bit and raises his eyebrows, because Colin is not right in the head.

Bradley can't quite pinpoint the beginning of what he supposes would merit the term infatuation, (if one is inclined to use such words, and Bradley James is most decidedly not) but the Nutella day holds a special place in his heart.

And then there is Paris.

 

They have a weekend off towards the end of filming in France and Colin wants to rent a car and go to Paris, because he hasn't been there properly since he was seven. Only Colin can't drive and the girls want to go to the beach instead, and so, despite the fact that Bradley doesn't actually like Paris all that much, he finds himself getting up at the crack of dawn on his first day off in months.

"Eight thirty isn't the crack of dawn, Bradley," Colin says between spoonfuls of cereal and he is so chipper, Bradley wishes he could muster the energy to throw some toast at his head. As it is, he simply settles for giving the large cup of lukewarm coffee his best death glare. Unsurprisingly, the coffee is unperturbed, but Colin does laugh.

They are sitting in the mostly empty dining room. Colin's side of the table is littered with information for what looks like every attraction in Paris and he is busy scribbling something in a tiny green notebook.

"Close enough," Bradley says. "Besides, it's only an hour's drive. I don't understand why you're so keen on leaving this early."

Colin looks up at him then, and his hair, still wet from his morning shower, is fluffing up in a way that Bradley supposes looks very inviting to the touch. He is grinning broadly and it gives him a slightly manic look. Bradley wonders what it says about him that he finds even that endearing.

"There's no point wasting a good day," Colin says, "And come on, you know that whenever we go somewhere it always takes us at least double the time it should."

That is sadly a true fact. Bradley cannot explain it to himself, and is sure it is somehow Colin's fault, because he navigates, but they are always late. Their lateness has become one of the inevitable facts of life.

And this time is not an exception. His French may be stuck at GCSE level, but he can read road signs, no matter what Colin says. "I am pretty certain Paris is straight on… Colin, where are you taking us?"

"Um, well… I was asking around for tips on what to see and one of the stunt guys told me that the best patisserie ever is just off the motorway here... so I thought we might drop by…" Colin says, his accent strangely prominent. If he didn't know any better, Bradley would think that Colin was nervous, but as there is nothing to be nervous about he simply shrugs. They may have had breakfast about thirty minutes ago, but he can never say no to a still warm pain au chocolat.

The patisserie is close to divine and situated in the sort of sleepy village that, proximity to Paris and flashy cars aside, looks like it hasn't changed much in the last few centuries. The girl at the counter speaks rapid-fast and laughs at their attempt at French. Colin's accent is actually better, but little perfectionist that he is, he always makes Bradley speak. Bradley, valiant as he is, proceeds with great gusto, if little skill.

Armed with enough croissants to feed the entire village, they continue on their way. The mood in the car is much improved. Bradley thinks the coffee must have finally kicked in, though the brightness of the May sun and the enthusiasm of Colin's voice as he makes his way through the day's itinerary may have something to do with it.

Bradley has been in Paris many times before – with his parents as a child, a number of school trips, with uni friends and with two of his girlfriends, and though he admits that he can spend hours in the Louvre and there are some spectacular restaurants, he thinks that it smells of piss in the summer and the romanticism left it some time in the nineteenth century.

Colin listens carefully to his little rant, but shrugs it off with a laugh. "Lighten up, Bradley, it'll be fun. I promise."

And it is. Colin has his trusty green notebook – filled with cool places to visit and things to do. They stay in a tiny family-owned hotel in Montmartre and Bradley feels like he is seeing Paris for the first time. Colin acts like a child – wide-eyed and excited and prone to random acts of spontaneity. He has a map and Bradley follows him, even if his shortcuts always do the opposite of what a shortcut is supposed to do, but they do find the most incredible little craft shops and gardens empty of tourists, so Bradley doesn't complain. Much. He does puts up a fight, or tries to, but Colin's enthusiasm is catching and Bradley follows all of his crazy whims with only token resistance.

On the second day, they prepare a picnic for lunch – take it to the little park that they'd accidentally stumbled upon the day before.

It's a little chilly underneath the trees, but the sun is warm and inviting and the air is still. Bradley takes off his shirt, balls it up underneath his head, and lies down. The grass is cool, but not unpleasant against his back.

They've finished their feast and a comfortable silence settles around them. Apart from children's voices in the distance, there are few people around and Bradley feels really pleased all of a sudden – his mouth splits into an enormous grin.

Colin is leaning against a tree trunk, his headphones on and eyes closed, but as Bradley looks at him, Colin's eyes open and he looks startled for a second, before returning the smile. The wave of affection that fills Bradley at the sight of him is overwhelming.

"What are we smiling about?" Colin asks.

"You know, Paris. You were right," Bradley shrugs, feeling self conscious all of a sudden.

"What's that, Bradley? I was right, was I? Care to repeat that again? Possibly record it," Colin says, the delight colouring his words.

Colin is sitting a little too far for Bradley's foot to reach him, but he kicks the air to make a point anyway.

"Yeah, well, enjoy it while you can. It won't happen again," he grumbles, but the effect is lost, because he simply can't stop smiling.

 

So yeah, the signs may have been there from the start, but it isn't until that particular moment in his room that the pieces form a picture which Bradley can recognise. Not that it matters - Colin is his friend and that is all he is ever going to be.

Besides, filming ends four days later and Bradley has the summer to get over his ridiculous crush. The wrap party makes this a little bit harder, because Colin is a lightweight and gets hideously drunk, which greatly exacerbates his natural lack of grace. As a result he falls over a lot – or would do if Bradley wasn't there to catch him. Katie laughs at them and Angel shakes her head and mutters 'boys', which is highly uncalled for, Bradley thinks, because he isn't the crazy drunk one.

"Will you stop laughing for one second and help me get him back to his room?" Bradley asks at last, feeling a little annoyed at himself for enjoying the feel of Colin pressed against his side.

For some reason, this makes Katie laugh even harder. She looks at Bradley with a raised eyebrow and then at Colin. "We're sure you can manage," is all she says, but something about the way she says it pings Bradley the wrong way. Still, he doesn't dwell on it further, because Colin is all but a deadweight on his shoulder and has started mumbling something about a bed.

"Don't worry Colin, I'll take you to bed," Bradley says briskly, as they make their way – more or less steadily – out of the room.

Colin is bright red and doesn't look very well. Bradley hopes he doesn't throw up before they get to the bathroom.

"Are you all right? You're not going to be sick, are you?"

Colin opens his mouth to speak, apparently thinks better of it and shakes his head. Bradley puts a hand to Colin's forehead – he is warm, sure, but not enough to explain the ruddiness of his cheeks.

"'m fine," Colin finally speaks and they make it to his room without further incidents.

Once there, he deposits Colin on the bed, gets him a glass of water and stands awkwardly in the middle of the room – unsure of what to do - he doesn't want to leave him, but he can't stay. Colin is propped up against his pillows, and the drunkenness gives him a debauched look which sends confused signals to Bradley's head and other parts too.

"You don't need help, do you…?" Bradley trails off, because he isn't actually going to ask Colin Morgan if he needs help taking his clothes off.

Colin blinks at him and his skin is even more unusually red, but his voice is fairly steady when he speaks. "No! I'm fine, Bradley, truly, I just need to sleep this off," he says and shifts on the bed; the small movement lifts his shirt a bit, exposing a thin rectangle of skin.

Bradley nods. "Right, uh, yeah. Don't forget to drink your water," he says, looking everywhere but at Colin.

The next morning is a blur of goodbyes and then Bradley heads home.

 

His holiday is fine for the first few weeks – life is almost back to normal; there is regular sleep and regular food and Bradley is content, he really is. He knows he should be ecstatic, to have lie-ins and privacy and finally catch up with family and friends, only, well – he is bored. He wants to call one of them, but he thinks Angel's going to laugh at him and he hates speaking to Colin on the phone because it is almost impossible to understand him and Katie is away so he doesn't. He decides to email tomorrow instead.

He spends entirely too long drafting the email.

Hey man, how's it going? If you're in town soon, we should catch a beer or something? Otherwise I hear we'll be on GMTV in a few weeks.

Bradley x

The reply comes within the hour. Not that Bradley is checking, he just happens to be online at the time.

Hello! I was planning to go to Spain for a week, now that I'm no longer contractually obliged to avoid the sun, but that fell through in the last moment, so am not up to much. A little bored, actually. Will take your offer of a beer, as long as you also have a spare couch? I can come down next week?

cm

Bradley doesn't reply straight away – no need for the git to feel extra special.

 

In the hours before Colin is due to arrive, Bradley tidies his flat, goes food shopping and feels unaccountably nervous. Which is ridiculous, because he has seen Colin's hotel room and the place was an absolute tip ('I have a system,' Colin would say, but Bradley doesn't think much of a system that keeps dirty socks on top of clean shirts) Besides, his flat is pretty nice, a stone's throw from Waterloo, and yet in a slightly dodgy area, so as to be fairly cheap. It's a one bedroom, but the living room is big, the kitchen almost new, (admittedly, largely because he never goes in there) and best of all it has a large balcony, the view from which is mostly why he rented the place.

He has finished the cleaning and is sitting on the sofa pretending to watch the telly when his doorbell finally rings and Colin is there.

Bradley is momentarily struck at the sight of him, because he is not used to this new Colin with stubble and a tan, but the grin is still the same, impossibly goofy and endearing at the same time, and before he can even think of offering a manly handshake he is being pulled into a tight hug.

He wants to say many things, but the first that comes out is, "Colin, my man, I think you need a haircut." Because he does. "Come on in," he adds after a beat, but Colin is already in and he is smiling, so Bradley figures things are going to be all right.

They go out drinking – there is a good Cuban bar that serves food nearby and they plan to go to a club afterwards but never get that far, mostly because Colin can't handle his alcohol.

"Shut it Morgan, a Mojito is not a girly drink at all!" Bradley tells him, because it isn't.

Colin snorts before downing his (seventh?) tequila shot. "It so is. Just because you can't handle a real drink." He replies with a smirk, but the effect is ruined because someone on their way to the bar pushes him just then and they are both covered in the spilled cocktail.

"Fuck," Bradley swears. "Now I'll be sticky all night." he most certainly does not pout, and Colin laughs at him, not all that bothered by the spillage.

"I thought you never swear! And it wasn't my fault," Colin protests, but he does drag them to the toilet to clean up. It is a single unisex cubicle and they both go in it and Bradley notices the look some girl is giving them and his face heats up, because he wants nothing more than to be doing something scandalous in the bathroom.

Instead, he inspects the damage in the mirror, whilst Colin is using the hand dryer and he is so focused on that, he is even biting his lip, and Bradley only realises he's been staring through the mirror when Colin looks up and holds his gaze.

"You are gonna be all right, yeah?" Colin asks and he does look slightly concerned now, and Bradley feels a bit ridiculous for making such a fuss about the spillage of a practically colourless drink and so he nods. They share the hand drier for a bit and they need to stand very close in order to do so, their sides firmly pressed together and it is one of those really loud ones, so they can't speak and Bradley feels more light-headed than the alcohol he has consumed can account for.

The rest of the night passes in a blur – he has a tequila shot to show Colin that he can handle manly drinks, thank you very much, only he hates aniseed and it makes him cough and splutter a bit and Colin laughs so hard, he needs to sit down on the floor and the bouncer doesn't like that one bit.

They are not thrown out, only politely escorted out of the premises and it is his turn to cling to Colin's arm in order to walk properly and thank god he lives less than five minutes away. They stumble to the front door of his building and whilst he is fumbling for the key, some drunk guy yells "Fags!" and Colin freezes against him and Bradley thinks maybe he needs to move to a less dodgy area after all.

He is still not quite sure how they get up the five flights of stairs, but somehow they manage it and he goes to get blankets for the sofa. That takes him a while, because he can't quite remember where he keeps the spare blankets and then there is the problem with the clean sheets. By the time he has found them, however, there is the even bigger problem of Colin Morgan having fallen asleep all curled up on himself on the edge of Bradley's bed. He looks so exhausted that Bradley doesn't have the heart to wake him up. He also doesn't have the back to sleep on the sofa, not when there is a good two thirds spare bed, the way Colin's curled up.

Bradley brushes his teeth, drinks a gallon of water and gently lowers himself to the bed – facing the wall, as far away from Colin as he can. He is tired, and he can hear Colin breathing and he tries not to shift, but Colin Morgan is in his bed and yeah, Bradley might have wanted that to happen for a while now, but there isn't much sleeping in his fantasies.

 

When he wakes up in the morning, he is once again the sole occupant of his bed but much to his delight it smells like someone is actually making use of his kitchen.

"Morning, I hope you don't mind, but I feel like shit, so thought breakfast would be nice, and by the way, you should have woken me up, I hope I didn't snore, eggs?" Colin is speaking too fast for so early in the morning and so Bradley merely nods, taking the offered plate.

"No bacon?" He asks, but tucks in, because there is toast and baked beans and the eggs are made just how he likes them.

Colin only rolls his eyes in return, which is odd because he always gets hilariously indignant in response to the incessant ribs about his vegetarianism, which is mostly why everyone continues to say things about it.

For a while they eat in silence, both feeling overly awkward, until Bradley burps loudly and Colin looks at him and they both laugh and things are almost okay again. They make plans for the day, and Colin suggests they call Angel and Bradley agrees straight away.

She scolds them for not telling her more in advance, but sounds happy to talk to them anyway and then somehow convinces them to go shopping with her. - "That was my plan for the day, it's too late to change it and so now you are both coming with me." - They have tea in a little bakery off Covent Garden and Bradley gives his opinion on shoes – which is promptly ignored – and then dinner in a very loud Lebanese restaurant and it is easy and sort of fantastic. And if he speaks a little louder than usual or laughs a little longer and if both he and Colin tend to talk to Angel more than directly to each other – he doesn't notice and no one says anything, though Angel does give them an odd look or two. She has drinks planned with her new beau and so Bradley suggests that since they are in the area they should go get a drink (or two, but no more) in a bar in Soho which serves great cocktails.

So Bradley finds himself waiting for drinks, ("Surprise me, you are the cocktail expert!") while Colin goes off in a search of a table, only apparently he doesn't get very far.

Bradley can see him talking and smiling to a complete stranger, who has the audacity to be clasping Colin's upper arm, while standing inappropriately close. And that certainly isn't right, maybe someone's recognised him, he thinks, though it doesn't happen all that often yet, or maybe it is an old friend, but as he gets the drinks and heads towards them it becomes obvious that he is wrong. The blond stranger is not a fan or a friend – he is smiling back at Colin like he wants to eat him up and Bradley doesn't like that one bit.

He interrupts them immediately by handing Colin his drink (a dry martini) and then puts a proprietary arm over his shoulders before giving the guy a very broad, very fake smile.

"Hi there, can I help you?" He asks and the guy looks annoyed and is about to say something before his eyes dart between the two of them, and with a shrug and a final glance towards Colin he walks away.

Bradley has the time to smile triumphantly before his arm is shoved away and Colin is glaring at him.

"What the hell was that, Bradley?"

"What the hell was what? I rescued you!" He snaps back, feeling at the same time foolish and annoyed.

"Rescued me? Um, did I say I wanted to be rescued?"

"Oh, come on! It's not like you were going to take that guy back to my sofa and shag him!" Bradley snaps, not thinking about how Colin hasn't actually slept on the sofa.

Colin stares at him like he has grown a second head or something, and Bradley feels like maybe he is missing something major, but he is not sure what. "Sorry," he says, and Colin looks at him for a little longer, before his gaze softens and he shrugs.

They drink their drinks, and even attempt to dance – if the uncoordinated movements Colin makes can be called dancing – but Bradley feels like he wants to punch something and he thinks that Colin is disappointed in him, though he can't figure out why.

Afterwards they go home. It isn't even that late so Colin throws himself on the sofa and switches the TV on and Bradley sits next to him, but doesn't even know what he is watching because Colin is so near and it makes him feel all woozy again. And this time he can't blame it on the alcohol, because he hardly drank at all.

And when Colin asks him a question and he has no idea what the question is because he has been staring at Colin's mouth, Bradley realises that he is in trouble. But Colin is still staring at him as if expecting an answer and so he needs to say something.

"What?" is all he can think of.

"Never mind, what's with you?" Colin asks.

"Nothing… I am a just little distracted, sorry!" Bradley says and it is true – he is distracted – distracted by Colin's ridiculous cheekbones and his slender fingers, which are currently wrapped tightly around the neck of a bottle, and he is not a girl, damn it.

"Okay," Colin says slowly and licks his lips in a nervous gesture, "Anything I can do?"

"Yes, one thing…you can let me kick your arse at Pro Evo!" Bradley says and elbows him, while trying to ignore the effect the lip licking is having on his groin.

"Yeah right, no chance!" Colin laughs and they play for a while and Colin ends up winning and he is so happy about it – actually punches the air.

Bradley wants to just kiss him right there – to taste the joy right off his mouth – but he doesn't. He doesn't and that night he finds blankets and makes the couch for Colin and sleeps alone in his bed.

 

The first few days of filming season two are chaotic and exhausting, and Bradley doesn't have that many scenes with Colin, which means that they spend very little time alone together until the first Friday. There is talk of going out for a drink, but Bradley is feeling tired and opts for an early night instead. Maybe watch a movie in bed. He is brushing his teeth when there is a knock on his hotel door.

Colin is standing there – looking bashful and wide eyed and Bradley motions him in, wordlessly, as his throat suddenly feels dry.

"Hey," Colin says, "We haven't had a chance to catch up, it's been a little insane, erm…"

Bradley nods. "I was just going put on a movie, do you want to stay?"

Colin takes a step forward and holds Bradley's gaze for a bit longer before smiling. The atmosphere is charged with something and Bradley's heart is loud in his throat as he sits on the bed and looks through his DVDs. Nothing there he hasn't seen before, so he asks Colin to choose.

Colin sits close to him, though not touching, and as he takes the case of DVDs from Bradley – their fingers brush. It feels like burning. Bradley swallows loudly – is just about to excuse himself for a glass of water – anything to dissipate the tension, when Colin lets go of the case and catches Bradley's wrist.

Bradley turns to look at him – only to be met with huge eyes and a shell-shocked expression.

When Colin moves to kiss him, everything slows down before speeding up and then there are lips and Colin is gripping Bradley's wrist so hard it hurts, but he doesn't care, because Colin's lips are just as soft as they look and Colin is kissing him. He tastes of mint and faintly of coffee and pulls back way too quickly. Even lets go of the wrist.

"Um," Bradley says and licks his lips.

"Well…" Colin starts. "You haven't run away screaming or punched me yet, so this could have gone worse," he adds conversationally, in the same voice he would use to comment on the weather.

Bradley knows he should probably say something about how running away is the last thing on his mind, but what comes out is, "Can we do it again?"

Colin laughs then – a whoosh of relief – and Bradley joins him, feeling lighter.

"You do know I have been wanting to do that for months, right?" he says eventually.

Colin stares at him again, it really is getting disconcerting. "And why didn't you?" Colin asks.

Bradley shrugs, "I didn't know what your thoughts on the matter would be."

Colin rolls his eyes. "Yeah, right," he says, and Bradley says nothing, "Wait, you're serious, aren't you?"

"Yes. Wait… what?" Bradley feels a little lost, because Colin appears truly shocked.

"You are dimmer than Arthur," Colin says which isn't a very nice thing to say at all.

"What are you banging on about, Colin Morgan?"

"I took you on a romantic weekend in Paris, I got drunk and kept falling asleep in your bed, I was flirting with other men to make you jealous…"

"Oh," is all that Bradley can say.

"Yes. Oh," Colin laughs again.

And Bradley's heart is actually swelling with happiness, but all he can do is try to hide it by teasing Colin.

"Don't worry about it, Colin, I've been told I am irresistible, it's only natural you'd fall for me." Bradley says, but his words are cut off as Colin is all of a sudden in his lap and his brain short-circuits.

They have a lot of catching up to do.

 

Bradley wakes up too early the next morning. Colin is sleeping all tangled up in the sheets and even though now Bradley knows from experience that this innocent look is totally a front, it takes all his willpower to go into the bathroom in order to call Angel. It is her day off and he thinks it will be hilarious to wake her up, besides, he has something to tell her.

She picks up on the fourth ring and does not sound at all happy to hear him.

"It's all your fault," Bradley says, though he doesn't elaborate.

There is a lengthy pause, after which she sounds a little less pissed off.

"Did you two idiots finally get your act together?"

"Yes! Wait. You knew?"

Angel laughs for longer than it is strictly necessary. "You never wondered why Katie and I always left you two by yourselves?"

Bradley hasn't, really. "What? You two are also shagging?"

Angel laughs some more and hangs up.

It's a good morning, Bradley thinks, perhaps he will wake Colin up with a blowjob.