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The Fairy of Shalott - Part 4/4

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Part 2
Part 3

By Saturday evening, Colin finds that he has already established a routine. Work, shopping, Bradley, housework duties, Bradley, some film, Bradley again, sleep on the couch in the living-room. He’s practically abandoned his own flat, which honestly doesn’t need much maintaining, and only visits it once a day or two to check his e-mail and grab some fresh clothes. Slowly but surely, all of his stuff moves to Bradley’s, and sometimes Colin checks his e-mail using Bradley’s laptop because it’s easier and it’s no trouble for anyone.

It happens fast, and Colin likes it the way it is, breathtaking and unstoppable like a ride on a rollercoaster.

You can’t very well jump out of a rollercoaster while it’s moving, right? Even if you are scared out of your mind, secretly you’re loving every second of it.

Unless you are prone to sea-sickness, that is. Colin, however, has always been proud of his iron stomach, so it’s the least of his worries.

The most significant of those is that any rollercoaster stops sooner or later, and Colin doesn’t know what will happen when this one stops and he has to go back to the ground and dive deep into the life he has left behind for the sake of the brief overwhelming joy of riding.

He tries not to think of it.

This evening they spend together as usual. They lie on Bradley’s bed and watch random episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because Bradley loves this show and Colin is content enough with his giant bowl of salad for dinner and the action on the screen not to feel the need to understand who is who and what it is that connects all these strange people.

“What would you like to do if you weren’t a footballer?” Colin asks.

They haven’t discussed that after the bathroom incident, but Colin feels free enough with Bradley to ask personal questions. He wouldn’t mind even if Bradley asked him one, he’s so pleased with life at this very moment.

“Dunno,” Bradley says, as if it’s the most natural thing for Colin to ask – and maybe it is, who’s to be the judge of that apart from Bradley himself, after all. “I thought of acting once but I’d be a rubbish actor, I think. I never actually thought further than that. Well, I can always sell coffee or deliver post, something like that.”

“I think you could do better than that,” Colin says.

He touches Bradley’s arm, waiting for rejection of the gesture, but it never comes, and he wraps his fingers tightly around Bradley’s shoulder. His pinky finger is on bare skin, while all the others are on the t-shirt sleeve. He relishes in the distinct difference of the skin and the cloth texture, the warmth, the steady, real presence of Bradley so close to him.

“I always wanted to study something, you know,” Bradley says thoughtfully. “I like reading. Maybe I could do history at some uni and work part-time to make ends meet. And dig out something sensational and get the Nobel Prize, that sort of thing.”

Colin laughs softly – not because this sounds ridiculous, but because it sounds frighteningly close to reality, closer than Bradley himself may think.

“Do they give the Nobel Prize for history? I never knew.”

“You think it’s the only thing that stops me from getting it – that they might not be giving it on general principle?” Bradley laughs too.

“Yeah, I think so,” says Colin sincerely. “Which period do you like best, then? You gotta concentrate on something in particular, there’s a lot of history over the years.”

“The beginning of the twentieth century, I guess.” Bradley bites his lips, all serious as if he’s talking not to Colin but to his hypothetical future uni tutor. “I loved that Isherwood, you know. I love Wodehouse, and lots of others who wrote about that crazy time between the wars. You know, the old life falling apart, the new life not having come yet, and everyone lives like they are having a feast in the middle of a plague pandemia, and everything looks like a patchwork quilt where all patches are from different items, from a dirty diaper to an embroidered napkin.”

He stops talking and looks up, sheepish and clearly embarrassed.

“I’m talking rubbish here, am I not? I didn’t even have all As in History at school, what am I going to do at uni? I can’t even tell when exactly Napoleon left Moscow and if he left it because he was bored or maybe the Russians kicked him out.”

“Lucky for you then,” Colin says, “that you’re not going to sink your teeth into Napoleon, eh?”

Bradley laughs loudly, throwing his head back, and Colin laughs too, something tight and warm curling inside his chest.

“I’d love to be the first to read your final thesis,” he says without thinking all that much about his words. “I bet you’ll need someone to salvage your punctuation and cross out words like ‘rubbish’ and ‘kick out’.”

“You would?” Bradley asks, his eyes wide open.

It was a joke, Colin thinks, almost panicking. Wasn’t it?

“I would,” he nods and hides his goddamn blush, turning his full attention to the salad in his bowl.

His phone rings, ruining the silence. He fishes it out of his pocket, almost dropping it into the salad, and hurries to pick up before the person on the other end – whoever it is – is tired of waiting.


“Hi, Colin.” It’s his agent. Colin feels his guts tightening in a nervous knot. “How are you? Even if you’re miserable out there, I’ve got something to cheer you up.”

“Which is?” Colin prompts.

“You got it,” she says. “Congratulations, darling; you’re one of the leads of Misfits now. Check your e-mail, there should be a copy of the script waiting for you. Make sure you know which lines are yours and all that.”

“Thank you, Ruth.” Colin wants to sound bright and polite, but his voice is caught somewhere in the middle of his throat and he can only whisper.

“You’ve got yourself to thank for that, no one else, to be honest. Congratulations, again. E-mail me about the details on Monday, will you?”

Colin promises he’ll do that and hangs up.

“Who was it?” Bradley asks.

Colin smiles so widely his face might crack into two halves.

“You landed that role, didn’t you?” Bradley guesses. “The one earlier this week, something about an antisocial lovely nutcase with superpowers? Right?”

“I did!” Colin pumps the air, he’s so happy, happiness fills him from the inside like a big rainbow bubble. “I fucking got it, I did it, God, they picked me!”

“Congratulations, mate!” Bradley smiles. “You’re so unbelievably awesome, you know that?”

Bradley is still smiling, softly and admiringly, so truly, really glad for Colin. His own mother would probably be less glad for him, because she doesn’t like him landing roles so rarely and hints at some other possible career choices. Bradley has no such doubts, it seems; he smiles like Colin’s success is one of the most important and wonderful things in the world, and he is so perfectly, flawlessly, painfully beautiful at this moment, even more so than when he stepped into Shalott for the first time, curious, confused, enthusiastic, open.

He is happy because Colin is happy, and Colin is even happier seeing Bradley happy, and it feels like some kind of vicious circle, but it also feels right, like puzzles clicking into the right places with each other.

That’s probably the most amazing thing about Bradley, Colin thinks and understands all of a sudden: he wants to kiss Bradley. In celebration, in gratitude, in admiration, in sheer joy of having him here all to himself with the rest of the world shut out by the locked door of the flat.

He wants to kiss Bradley like he’s never wanted to kiss anybody else. Well, there has never been a Bradley in his life before.

Maybe it’s not all as sudden as it seemed a moment ago.

Oh shit.

Shit shit shit, Colin thinks, and jumps off the bed hurriedly to collect the dirty dishes and take them to the kitchen.

There are three main things for Colin to do this Sunday afternoon: print out the script for the first episode – he can’t wait until they send a paper copy, he absolutely can’t, ¬– pick up crutches for Bradley from a firm that rents them out, along with other medical things, and do some grocery shopping. It doesn’t look like a great list of things to do, but it takes time and Colin comes back around four.

“Hey, I’m back,” he calls out closing the door after himself. “Got you the crutches. You’ll be able to defend yourself now every time I try to beat you up with a pillow!”

With these words, he enters the bedroom and his smile is frozen on his face, because there is someone else with Bradley, sitting on the edge of his bed and drinking tea.

It’s a guy. A really fit one, and good-looking. And he smiles at Colin slyly, like they share some kind of secret.

His teeth are not pearly-white but they look well-cared for, and he’s blond and shiny, like a doll or a Hollywood star. Colin lets his smile transform into a kittenwatt-less one.

“Sorry, I didn’t know Bradley had a guest. Hello?”

“Cols, that’s Ben, my teammate. Hoping to get a place on the team too, like all of us newbies are.” Bradley looks like there’s nothing wrong about the situation, and then again, there isn’t. “Ben, this is Colin.”

“Nice to meet you,” they say simultaneously.

Ben looks at Colin hesitantly, evidently trying to figure out who Colin is. Bradley hasn’t said anything to clarify his status, so Colin may be a friend – or even something more, may be a relative, a hired help, anyone.

Colin lets himself think for a moment if this lack of definition for him means that Bradley isn’t sure about it himself.

“So, who are you, Colin?” Ben asks, unable to hold off his curiosity. “Bradley never mentioned you, if I recall correctly…”

“He could hardly do that.” Colin gives Bradley credit for that. “We met pretty recently. As for me, well, I am many things, really. Here in this flat, I’m a fairy who waves his magic wand and makes Bradley happy. That sort of thing. Want some biscuits with your tea? I’ve just bought a pack with orange marmalade.”

This is a stupid reply. A rude, ambiguous, and highly unnecessary one as well.

Well, at least he had the decency to offer the biscuits.

Ben leaves soon, without ever finding out who Colin actually is. Colin would like to know that himself, and he’s determined to let Bradley take the lead for a change and make that decision.

Maybe Bradley would like to kiss him too. Maybe not. Who knows what’s going on in his head? Colin certainly doesn’t.

“Is anything wrong?”

“Try these.” Colin hands the crutches over to Bradley. “I’ll go change them if they are uncomfortable or something.”

“Fairy,” says Bradley, reproachful.

An actor shouldn’t be so easy to read, Colin thinks. What a pile of soppy shit I am, he thinks.

“Everything’s fine. It’s just, Ben’s visit caught me off guard. I thought it was only you here. Try them, really, that firm works only until five on Sundays.”

It’s a cold sunny day, and Colin wouldn’t actually mind an extra walk with an armful of crutches. It would clear his head.

He helps Bradley up – touching his warm smooth skin is like a drug, and he squeezes a bit too strongly, just for the sake of touching – and watches him take his first true steps in days.

“These things are cool,” Bradley declares, once he learns how to coordinate his legs and the crutches and not to fall on his arse in the process. “You think I could learn to juggle them or throw like darts?”

“Don’t throw them at the window.” Colin warns. “You’ll freeze your overactive ideas-seething arse off without that glass. Otherwise, why not?”

No one Colin knows thinks crutches can replace darts or special juggling thingies (whatever those are called). This is not a problem for Bradley, though, and Colin has no logical reason to deny him this little joy.

He probably wouldn’t deny Bradley anything.

This is a scary thought, and Colin stops thinking it and busies himself with putting all he bought onto the appropriate shelves.

The producers of Misfits are energetic people whose motto seems to be “no rest for the wicked”, or something else conveying a similar message. The first read-through is on Thursday, and while Colin knows he doesn’t actually have to know all his lines by heart for a read-through – that’s why it includes the word “read”, after all – he can’t help but practise during every spare minute he gets, until the words root into his brain and become a part of him.

Colin doesn’t know what to expect at work, now that the twins know and have told everyone (there’s no way they wouldn’t do that), but nothing happens. Like, nothing at all, and it’s so disappointingly anticlimactic. The only thing that changes is that Helen is trying to trick him into telling her everything about his mysterious friend with a broken leg, but Colin gives her nothing more than a blush and a firm “do you think we need to restock The Hunger Games or can it wait till next month?” She tells him, looking vengeful, that he can bring his boyfriend over to the shop when his leg is healed, and no, she reckons they don’t need to restock it this month. Also, Richard winks at Colin once and wishes him luck, and Colin doesn’t want to know if it’s about his hypothetical boyfriend or his hypothetical acting career.

He’s completely fascinated with Nathan, his cute bastard of a character. Bradley is fascinated too, and he helps Colin practise, feeding him all the other lines. They do it all the time when Colin isn’t doing the housework and they are not watching Buffy. They have watched a lot of the show so far, and by Wednesday Colin can sincerely agree with Bradley that Buffy has the legs of a goddess and haircut like that of Sarah Jane Smith’s when she’s with the Fourth Doctor (there’s never been a nerdier nerd than Bradley, Colin decides after that, but says nothing because in the matter of loving crappy, crazy old sci-fi, he really can’t be the one with the right to throw a stone), Giles is the coolest and the most awesome guy this Earth has ever seen, and should never take off his glasses because they are damn smoking hot on him, Willow is a total badass in a shy girl disguise, and Xander is so not getting any with Buffy because she thinks he’s a buddy and a darling, not a potential boyfriend. Though half-way through the last statement Bradley starts explaining to Colin the storylines of all seven seasons, trying to avoid major spoilers and failing at that, and it all gets hopelessly tangled in Colin’s head.

“Look,” Bradley says, his eyes shining maniacally, his hands gesturing wildly, “you don’t get it, Angel, he…”

“He died and was resurrected five times, you’ve said that,” Colin nods.

“Five? God, where did you get that from? No, not five, a lot less, actually…”

“Less? So, it means you’ve told me about it five times, and I’ve counted each one as a separate resurrection.” Colin pokes Bradley on the ribs none-too-gently, and falls flat onto his back, impersonating exhaustion itself. Bradley doesn’t seem to mind.

“You’re hopeless,” he says affectionately, as Colin curls against his side, feeling the heat of his body through all the layers of clothing. “We’re watching more tomorrow.”

“Have the read-through tomorrow,” Colin mutters. He’s warm, and cosy, and hazy hyphen lazy, and he lets himself just lie there; in a couple of minutes he has to get up, clean up the bed, which is littered with dirty dishes once again, and make the couch for the night. He feels ten times more tired than he is just thinking of it, and he lets the unpleasant thought drift away, and lets Bradley’s voice wash over him.

“I know, but you’ll come home eventually,” Bradley says. “They can’t have you read day and night, can they? You’ll lose your voice because of all the overexertion and they’ll have to make your character mute, and that really won’t do.”

Colin snorts into the crook of his elbow and feels Bradley ruffle his hair affectionately. He’d protest, but it’s nice, it’s all too nice to move, and he only makes a grumpy grumbling sort of noise, and doesn’t try to avoid the touch when Bradley traces the shell of his ear with his fingertip.

Well, he would try to avoid that if he knew that this tiny touch would make at least half of the blood he has rush south.

He isn’t sure what he’ll do if Bradley goes on touching his ear or, maybe – and that will be even worse – his neck, or any other part of Colin, if it comes to that. He also isn’t sure why Bradley’s doing that, but he isn’t going to ask.

“By the way,” Bradley says, sounding really natural. “I thought you worked both shifts on Thursdays?”

“Yeah, I do.” Colin’s voice is hoarse and croaky, but it could be blamed on the sleepiness. “Swapped shifts with Helen. Got her Saturday night one.”

“You already have to make efforts to keep both of your jobs,” Bradley observes, like the adorably annoying Captain Obvious that he is. “What will you do when the actual filming starts? There’s no way you can pull off both, unless all the filming is going to take place at night, which is not the case, I think.”

“Smartass,” Colin mumbles, turning away from the TV, which is too bright for his drooping eyes. “’ll take a vacation. M’be.”

Bradley smells like clean cloth and Chinese spices, and a bit like something earthly and musky that Colin can’t quite place in his mind.

Perhaps it’s Bradley himself. He’s bound to smell somehow, everyone has their unique smell, or dogs would never be able to follow a particular person’s scent.

“Wake me up?” Colin asks, because he’s falling asleep.

“At seven a.m.? You have your alarm set; you don’t need me for that.”

“No, in a couple of minutes,” he explains, and half of the phrase disappears in a yawn. He feels really tired, very content, and rather enjoyably aroused. He likes the cocktail of the feelings, and likes lying beside Bradley and not on the couch, which is alright but a bit too short for Colin’s six feet (and not an inch less). “The dishes.”

“Ah, that,” Bradley says. “Sleep, sleep, beauty bright,” he says, and Colin thinks, what the hell is he on about, and then recognizes William Blake.

The recognition helps him relax and doze off – just a little, little bit – while Bradley recites the rest of the poem:

“Dreaming o'er the joys of night;
Sleep! sleep! In thy sleep
Little sorrows sit and weep.

Sweet Babe, in thy face
Soft desires I can trace,
Secret joys and secret smiles,
Little pretty infant wiles…”

Colin is sure there’s more to the poem than that, but he can’t hear it, as he falls asleep. He doesn’t doubt, however, that Bradley recites the thing to the very end dutifully, whether or not he has an audience that is awake enough to listen.

He wakes up, and it’s still dark, though there is some dull sunlight coming over the roofs of the houses opposite the window. He’s baffled by it for a moment, because he sleeps on his couch with his head to the window, and usually sees the living-room door when he wakes up, but then the realisation sinks in. He fell asleep on Bradley’s bed. With Bradley equally asleep beside him.

He sits up abruptly, causing Bradley to stir.

Bradley’s still wearing his worn shorts and T-shirt, and his plastered foot lies in the middle of the box with the Chinese takeaway leftovers. Oh nice, Colin thinks. The plaster is greasy now and it will stain the bed all over, and Colin is the one who’ll have to change the sheets, because there’s no one else in this flat who’d be able to bend and tug, without risking damage to the already broken leg.

Not that it’s the most significant of his worries.

He has to crawl or step over Bradley to get out of the bed, because he’s trapped between his sleeping… well, say friend, and the wall. He tries to do it stealthily, but Bradley inevitably wakes up.

“Is it seven yet?” he asks, blinking the sleep off of his eyes.

“Not quite.” Colin gives up on the stealthy part and jumps to the floor with an audible thud, almost slipping and falling. His mouth tastes foul because he hadn’t brushed his teeth before going to bed, and his shirt is crumpled irrevocably. “Go back to sleep.”

“Good morning to you too.” Bradley props himself up on his elbows, watching Colin. It makes Colin fidget nervously. “I bet it’s at least two hours before you have to get up. Why don’t you come back to bed? You’ve got a long day ahead.”

“You have the bed all to yourself,” Colin suggests. “Two hours don’t matter anyway, I’ve got things to do.”

“You’re freaking out again,” Bradley says. It’s not a question. “Do I kick in my sleep? It must be painful, with the plaster and all. I promise to behave, if that’s the case, and not break your anything.”

“No,” Colin confesses. “You don’t kick at all.”

“So it’s just because you slept with me in my bed, then,” says Bradley flatly, and if that doesn’t sound dirty and ambiguous, then Colin doesn’t know what the words mean.

His mouth feels very dry when he repeats Bradley’s words in his mind. They roll over his whole body in ticklish hot waves, and make his lower belly clench slowly and shamefully sweetly.

“I… didn’t mean to break into your private space or anything…”

“Is this your discreet and polite way of saying that it was actually me breaking into your private space and making you feel uncomfortable as I fell asleep next to you?”

What’s not to be doubted is that Bradley is not the one for discreet and polite ways. Though, if he can make a guess about such an elegant roundabout scheme, he’s not a lost cause in this respect yet.

“You stupid nut job,” Colin says, his throat tight with bittersweet tenderness, and climbs back to bed, careful not to disturb Bradley’s plastered leg.

They both don’t sleep after that, however. They lie side by side, the backs of their hands touching just barely, and listen to each other breathing as the morning dawns.

The routine becomes something more like a second skin for Colin. He calls Bradley’s flat “home”, he thinks: “we are running out of butter and apples”, he learns that Bradley isn’t allergic to anything, but hates not only porridge but tomatoes as well (which is good, because Colin is allergic to them, and it looks like they fit in more ways than one, and it’s thrilling if not to say more), he knows every little corner of the flat, as he cleans it thoroughly like he’s never cleaned his own, he wins a couple of times when he and Bradley start talking in movie quotes to amuse each other and the first to fail to recall something cool and suitable loses. They also watch a lot of Buffy, in some twisted order unforeseen by the scriptwriters and producers (does this show have an end somewhere, or does it just go on and on until the end of the world?), and Colin decorates Bradley’s plaster with quotes in green: “Don’t be sorry, be smart” and “Wasn't here, didn't see it, couldn't have stopped you”.

He hasn’t been to his own flat for two weeks, to think of it. He never has either time or a pressing need to go there.

(Sometimes it’s like Bradley, and life with Bradley, have swallowed him whole and, contrary to the laws of nature, he hasn’t a single way out. He tries not to think of it too often, because he rather likes being swallowed.)

They sleep in the same bed every night without any previous agreement on it, they just do. At first, Colin thinks it’ll be uncomfortable, what with the sexual tension on Colin’s part and all, but it’s good.

It feels safe and right.

The hardest part – which is pretty unexpected – is the cooking. Colin likes it, and he can proudly say that there isn’t a burnt vegetable mix or foul-smelling soup on his record, but he doesn’t know much about meat – without which Bradley can’t seem to be able to survive – and there’s also a question of variety. It’s one thing to make lunches and breakfasts for himself only, maybe the same things day after day, because he doesn’t really care all that much about food, but Bradley likes different things. He likes his life surprising and new every second, and Colin suspects giving him the same stew two days in a row would be like kicking a puppy. It’s stupid, but Colin loves surprising Bradley, so every night that they don’t order a takeaway, Colin takes over the kitchen, being your regular part-time Jamie Oliver.

Ever since Bradley learned to walk around the flat on his crutches, he joins Colin in the kitchen. He always takes over half of the table with his elbows, laptop, and cup of tea, just like he does this time.

“What are you doing there?” Colin asks when he hears unfamiliar sounds coming from the laptop.

“Roaming Youtube. They have BBC’s South Pacific, all parts.”

South Pacific?” Colin echoes, lining the pie tin with neatly cut mushrooms.

“Yeah. Just felt like watching some space. If I’m confined within four walls, I can at least watch some outdoor life.” Bradley flashes Colin a smile containing a comparatively scarce amount of kittenwatts – Colin’d say it’s not more than twenty or fifteen.

“Yeah,” Colin agrees, covering the mushrooms with the dough and adding grated soy cheese generously. “You can.”

During the forty minutes that the pie takes to be ready, Bradley watches some more of South Pacific and squeezes loads of oranges into juice, and Colin chops up fresh vegetables and brings clean plates and glasses. They don’t speak of South Pacific or confinements anymore, but Colin hears Bradley watching it again when he washes the dishes later on.

At night he can’t fall asleep for a long time, while Bradley is out like a light. Colin lies on his side, watching Bradley’s peaceful face. He can barely make the features out in the darkness, but he has them memorized anyway.

He stretches his hand out and touches Bradley’s soft hair, lets his fingers slip along Bradley’s cheekbone to the corner of his lips. Sometimes Bradley drools in his sleep, but Colin doesn’t mind, as long as Bradley doesn’t snore or kick or steal Colin’s blanket.

Colin presses his hand as close to his chest as he can; there’s a strange tingling sensation in his fingertips after touching sleeping Bradley, like after getting a light electric shock or having his circulation cut off and then restored, and it won’t go away.

He isn’t sure he wants it to go away.

It’s a quiet morning in Shalott. Colin alternates spending these blissful silent hours between working on his shamefully abandoned database and choosing something new for Bradley. It’s not that Bradley is dying of boredom without books from Colin – it’s just that Colin likes choosing them, and then watching Bradley read as he sorts out the laundry or dusts the shelves or something. It’s soothing in a stabilising kind of way. Each new rustle of a page overturned proves that Colin shares his life with Bradley now, and Bradley likes it.

Somehow it’s very important, to please Bradley with the right choice of reading.

This time, Colin picks an old collection of Irish poems and fairy-tales. The volume is all worn, with coppery-looking smooth corner pieces, and the paper is yellow and thick and rough to touch. Maybe this one would look better in a museum under bulletproof glass; or it could bring Shalott an obscene amount of money, should some rich book-lover pop in and see it.

It has neither a price tag nor a few numbers of price written in pencil on the first page. Colin wonders if he should ask Richard how much it costs or if he’d better just put whatever reasonable amount of money he can afford into the cash register and not risk it, ‘cause Richard may forbid him to take the book out of the shop.

“Enjoying some light reading while you can?” asks Richard.

Colin jumps from the unexpectedness of this, and almost drops the book.

“Erm… oh… I… I-I thought maybe I could buy it myself. For a friend, you know. He, well, he likes reading things. So I thought, well.”

He shuts up before he says anything even more stupid.

“The one with the broken leg, huh?” Richard says. He positively smirks, and Colin finds it unnerving as much as calming.

“Yeah, that’s the one,” Colin confirms. “So, do you think I can? Take the book? I mean?”

“Sure, you can. Whyever not?”

“And… how much does it cost?”

Richard looks at the book inquisitively, as if expecting it to feel guilty and spit a price tag out of its depths. The book, however, doesn’t respond to such treatment.

“I have no idea, my boy,” he says eventually. “You know what, why don’t we make it a gift? From Shalott to a charming young man, with the wishes of a quickest recovery. When’s his birthday, anytime soon?”

“It’s the 11th of October… Are you sure?” Colin blinks.

“Yes, I am.” Richard smiles. “Take it. Don’t think of money.”

“Thank you,” Colin whispers. For some reason it’s suddenly hard to speak loudly, his throat doesn’t seem to be working well.

“You’re welcome, my boy. Us, actors and booksellers, should help each other, should we not?”

Colin sighs.

“I’m… not an actor. Not really. I got a role, but it’s not necessarily that I’ll be the least bit famous after that or anything…”

“Nonsense,” Richard interrupts. “I saw you acting. And if you don’t wake up with crowds of adoring fans on your doorstep the morning after the thing with you in it is released, then the world is blind, deaf, and stupid.”

“I didn’t know you watched Doctor Who,” Colin mumbles. He doesn’t like hearing the compliments he doesn’t think he deserves, but he can’t very well tell Richard that he’s talking bullshit. It’d be way too rude.

“Oh, but I don’t. Perhaps, I should buy a DVD? Which series are you in?”

“Wait, you said you’d seen me acting. Where?”

“Vernon God Little.” Richard winks at Colin. “The Young Vic. I recognized you the moment you stepped over the doorstep of Shalott.”

“You did? Why didn’t you ever say anything?”

“You never brought it up, and I thought it would be best for you to decide on your own which parts of your life you’d like to share with us.” Richard shrugs. “But after the twins came to work once with some rather exhilarating news, I considered keeping secrets that are no longer hidden a tad pointless.”

Colin snorts nervously.

“I have this friend,” he says. “She didn’t know. Like, at all. She found out by accident and got really angry at me for lying. Aren’t you angry?”

“Coimhead fearg fhear na foighde,” declaims Richard, very seriously.

Colin giggles, unable to resist this temptation. The mirth in Richard’s eyes and the phrase “Beware the anger of a patient man” in horrible Gaelic are just the right side of mortifyingly hilarious.

“Why would I be angry?” Richard smiles. “You can do whatever you want with your life, I don’t get to decide anything – well, maybe only a little bit, like whether or not your young man will be able to read you something from this book with an even worse accent than mine.”

“Is fearr Gaeilge briste, na Bearla cliste*,” Colin says, still stifling his inappropriate giggles.

“Indeed it is,” agrees Richard.

* Broken Irish is better than clever English (Gaelic).

Colin holds the entrance door open while Bradley is touching the ground tentatively with the tips of his crutches, as if refusing to believe that he’s so damn lucky that he gets to go outside after so many days of confinement.

“Go on,” Colin urges him. “It won’t bite you, I promise.”

“Don’t trust a fairy who makes promises,” Bradley retorts with his poker-face on, and steps over the doorstep, balancing the crutches nimbly. “You are known to charm and deceive, aren’t you?”

“Yep, we’re wily like that, but we’re still totally irresistible, like chocolate muffins, aren’t we?” Colin smiles, walking slowly a little behind Bradley and watching his back, ready to catch him if he slips and falls. It’s likely that a lot of people will slip today in the street; it’s been raining sketchily ever since Colin woke up this morning, and the pavement is wet. The whole world seems wet and pretty miserable, apart from Bradley – he takes it upon himself to maintain the balance between the misery and the joy in the world, making up for the whole of London’s foul mood with his own puppy-like enthusiasm.

“I think it’s disturbing that you compare yourself to food,” Bradley says, and jumps right into the middle of a puddle. “Ha! Look, it’s splashing all around!”

“I figured that much, thanks,” Colin mutters. A lot of this surprisingly splashing – and also cold and dirty – water ended on his jeans. He can predict a Great Laundry Evening for tonight. Will be worth it, though.

Bradley walks quickly – even if it’s not actually walking in the common sense of the word, it’s more like hopping around and flailing with the crutches dangerously. Colin follows Bradley, watching the tips of the latter’s ears grow red from cold and his hair stick up in complete disarray. When Bradley stops by a bench and turns back to Colin, to say something like “this is so freaking awesome, you know, I actually love this walking thing, do you think we could do it more often when you’re not busy?”, Colin can see his cheeks are flushed in a lighter, more tender shade of red and pink than his ears. Bradley is speaking and smiling at the same time, his joy popping out on the surface like a football in water, and there are kittenwatts, gazillions of them, probably, Colin can’t count them even approximately because they shine from Bradley’s lips and reflect in his eyes, his hair, the incessant, maddening raindrops all around them, and Bradley’s voice is zoned out somehow by the sound of rain hitting Bradley’s and Colin’s jackets softly, and, basically, there’s nothing and no one else in the world but Bradley.

Colin thought before it must feel like a struck of lightning or something equally dramatic. On the contrary, it feels peaceful and happy and very-very right. It’s not shocking, it’s how it should be, and Colin has happened to only just discover that it should. It’s like when you read a detective story without a clue as to who’s the murderer (especially if there’s no gardener or butler in it), and when you learn the name, the little facts and hints that were all over the text get back at you and start making perfect sense together.

Well, it’s not like this is about murder now, not really. This is rather about life, Colin reckons. His and Bradley’s one. Their… one.

“Hey, Cols, are you listening to me?” Bradley clicks his fingers in front of Colin’s face, trying to attract some attention to whatever it is that he’s saying. He’s swaying dangerously on the crutches now that he’s got one hand free, but he doesn’t seem inclined to fall, at least not yet. “I was saying, do you want a coffee? Because if you do, we could totally walk to somewhere a smidge drier than here, and I could buy you a chocolate muffin and watch you do some cannibalism, right there in public, you know…”

“Shut up,” Colin says, rolling his eyes. “First of all, I’m not hungry and I don’t want a muffin. Second…”

“Yeah?” Bradley prompts.

Colin puts his hands on Bradley’s shoulders, holding him steady, not letting him lose his balance and hurt himself. And then he kisses Bradley, slowly, thoroughly, licking the weak taste of maple syrup that went with the pancakes for breakfast today off the corner of his lips, catching small moans that resemble something between “whoa” and “finally”, sharing the heat of Bradley’s breath and the quick, ragged, breathtaking rhythm of his heart beating.

The crutches fall to the ground when Bradley raises both of his hands to tug lightly at Colin’s hair and to lazily circle the prominent vertebrae at the base of Colin’s neck. The rain is still spitting down, and it’s really cold in every part of Colin’s body that doesn’t touch Bradley in some way.

“Second,” Colin says, breaking the kiss and leaning his forehead to Bradley’s. “I think I like this walking thing too. Nothing’s better than a good exercise once in a while, is it?”

“Indeed, fairy,” Bradley says smiling.

Colin smiles in response.

It rains two thirds of all days in London. Colin helps Bradley walk steadily on his crutches through practically every single one of them.

When the crutches are not needed any more, Colin just holds Bradley’s hand in his own.

The End



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 5th, 2012 02:21 pm (UTC)
I love the way you write! Your descriptions are beautiful and this was very cute <3
Nov. 6th, 2012 01:18 am (UTC)
This was adorable. I liked how persistent Bradley was and how Colin slowly got caught up in Bradley's life. Well done.
Nov. 6th, 2012 08:01 am (UTC)
loved this!!!
Nov. 7th, 2012 05:44 am (UTC)
I liked this very much - nice spin on football!Bradley/Arthur. And wonderfully tender without being too sweet. Thanks a lot!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )