Fandom: Merlin RPS
Pairing: Bradley/Colin (Mostly)
Word Count: 8,475.
Summary: ~ If the Mountain will not go to the sea then the river must bring them together.~
Thanks to tl__dr & arboretum, who rescued this fic from its author, and the fabulous loftily, who rescued Bradley from himself. ♥
P.S. cave scene stolen from Avatar. *waves teensy Zuko/Aang flag*
P.P.S. This fic has not been britpicked or idiot-proofed, so feel free to point out any errors.
(However, I did put in a million space breaks and thus feel karma is on my side.)
P.P.P.S. get your own love banner here.
ON THE BEANSTALK
You just couldn't help but go off
exploring, could you. You had to climb
the bloody beanstalk.
MERLIN has his arms wrapped around ARTHUR's waist as they
climb down - he slips and nearly falls but Arthur catches
him. They wind up clinging to the beanstalk and each other.
Your father was going to wipe out
all of Mercia if we didn't do some-
thing to stop the giant!
That's the part that seems to have
eluded you, the part with the GIANT!
Oh, as if you wouldn't have gone
And climb a sodding beanpole, are
you out of your stupid head? What
do you think I am, some kind of
reckless, thrill-seeking - look,
Fee Fi Fo Fum.
Did you... hear that?
Did I just hear a bloodthirsty
ravenous man-eating magical creature
say "Fee Fi Fo Fum?" Don't think
I smell human blood.
They exchange a meaningful look.
The thing with Bradley starts (more or less) in broad daylight one afternoon three hours into filming a scene where they have to climb a giant beanstalk.
No, seriously. It's not even CG'd because their location scout Andrea found this, uh, sterile vine, as she called it, and then the set designers cut it down, moved it to a better spot for filming, and kind of hoisted it up on a dolly. Now they're about thirty feet off the ground in a meadow a mile or so from the castle, and Bradley's supposed to be arguing with Colin, only his feet are about an inch away from Colin's face (Colin's following him up the beanpole, see, because that's what Merlin does), and Bradley keeps trying to look at Colin over his shoulder, which doesn't work because every time he looks down he starts laughing. Which is a fantastic look for Bradley but not so much for Arthur, Prince of Camelot - especially as they're supposed to be escaping from a giant.
No one seems to be noticing that Bradley can't keep a straight face today to save his life, probably because they keep having to adjust the camera every five seconds, which is what happens when you try to film a giant beanstalk from the ground up.
Halfway into the second hour the ridiculousness of it all starts to get to Colin, and he gets the giggles too. Then Bradley tries to muss Colin's hair using his boot, then Colin tries to knock Bradley off the dolly, then Dave calls for a break and Bradley scoots down to Colin's level and tries to tickle him, and then they both lose their balance and nearly fall off, and Bradley catches Colin and clutches him and buries his face against Colin's collar, giggling so hard Colin can feel his shoulders shaking.
"Why are we even on a beanstalk anyway?" Bradley asks Colin. "How can that possibly be a meaningful contribution to the plot?"
Colin covers his mouth with his sleeve, manages, "I don't know, maybe - " Bradley chokes a little like he's trying to recover but can't - "maybe it's Giant Phallic Symbol Day and they forgot to remind us."
Bradley looks up, masks his expression, and says with a passably straight face, "Oh, no, no, no, Colin. I'd never forget Giant Phallic Symbol Day."
Colin tries to make a reply, tries to match Bradley's deadpanning, opens his mouth, and absolutely can't. So much for witty banter, he thinks amid a new stream of laughter.
Bradley claps him on the shoulder. "IT'S OKAY, MERLIN," he says in Stentorian Arthur-Voice. "I UNDERSTAND YOU WANT ME TO CLIMB YOUR BEANPOLE. YOU ARE A DEMANDING MANSERVANT, BUT JUST THIS ONCE I'LL ALLOW IT."
Colin shakes his head and escapes down the ladder. Bradley grins down at him and then turns to face the cameras. He pounds his chest once and then raises his arm.
"BE IT HITHERTO KNOWN THAT PRINCE ARTHUR OF CAMELOT HAS BEEN CLIMBING HIS MANSERVANT'S BEANSTALK FOR GOING ON, LIKE, THREE HOURS, AND HAST FOUND IT TO BE NOT ALL THAT UNPLEASANT, MAYBE EVEN SOMETHING TO TRY AGAIN LATER WHEN HIS HANDS AREN'T QUITE SO CHAFED FROM ALL THE GRIPPING."
(Years from now Colin will tell people that he fell in love with Bradley the first time they kissed - a kiss which technically doesn't even count because it was Bradley's arselike way of ending an argument - not because it isn't kind of true in a way, but because he'll frankly die before he admits that possibly it was standing there watching Bradley make phallic motions with his vambraced fist that did it. )
Colin definitely does not fall in love with Bradley James while standing on the balcony of a castle.
They're trying to finish shooting before nightfall, and it's not looking likely so everyone's a bit on edge. But Colin thinks it's really quite pleasant out here this time of day - spring finally arrived, all the tops of the trees budding, and the sun setting behind them turning everything a daisy turquoise pinkish.
Bradley scratches his head and looks bored, and Colin says, "So, what'll you do after? For summer?"
Bradley laughs and bumps Colin's shoulder. "Sleep in for once."
Colin laughs and says, "Yeah."
Bradley grins. "Plus I plan to go on lots and lots of talk shows with my good friend Colin Morgan!" He ruffles Colin's hair, which earns him a shout from Vicky not to go mussing Merlin before they wrap. He lets go and Colin ducks away.
"Yeah, sure, alright," Colin says, "we can do the whole junket."
"YEAH!" says Bradley, catching Colin's arm and raising it in the air. "JUNKET!"
Colin laughs out loud. Bradley chucks him on the chin when he lets go Colin's hand.
It happens just like that, that fast, the urge Colin has to lean over and kiss Bradley's jaw line up to the swatch of blond hair at his temple.
It startles him. He shifts and leans out again, over the balcony. Bradley turns and gives him an appraising look.
"You'll do fine," Bradley says, apropos of nothing. "I know you'll be lost without me, Morgan, but you'll survive. Your kind always does."
Colin isn't going to laugh, not in the middle of his great gay epiphany. He manages: "What's my kind like, then."
Bradley snorts. "Ridiculously popular with the ladies for no discernible reason whatsoever."
Colin nearly chokes. "Yeah, I wondered why Katie's been bursting into tears whenever she sees me this week."
Bradley laughs. "The real question is, how will any of us survive the long summer without having to protect you from getting sunburnt."
Colin looks back at Bradley. His stupid hair clips the setting sun, gets nicked on the edge of it, and catches alight. Colin smiles.
"I don't know," he says, "but you can't slack off just yet. I feel warmer already."
Hello? I went to Arthur. He wouldn't
listen to me. He never listens to me.
You were wrong again - I don't know why
I'm even still talking to you.
The DRAGON appears and settles on a rock.
This man stands between Arthur and Destiny.
You must act quickly.
But how is Arthur supposed to become a
great king if he doesn't know who to trust?
You cannot make those decisions for him,
young warlock. Do not let your jealousy
of this newcomer override your reason.
Then how - wait - I'm not jealous! Arthur
needs all the counsel he can get. I mean,
he is a complete idiot.
The DRAGON snorts at him and gives him a meaningful look.
It's just - this Balric chap, he's good at
everything - like Lancelot, only with Lancelot
you always knew where you stood. With Balric
around, I don't know where I fit in. But if
Arthur won't listen to me - what am I to do?
If the Mountain will not go to the sea then the
river must bring them together.
The DRAGON begins to fly away.
Trust in Arthur, young Warlock. Without
his other half, Camelot cannot be whole.
Yeah, well, right now his other half has to go
mend his shirts. Just in case you were wondering
how that whole intertwining destiny thing's
Bradley's got Colin backed up against the wall - no, no, Arthur has Merlin backed up against the wall, and this is Merlin's heart beating too fast, not Colin's - it's Merlin who can't think what he wants right now, Merlin who's reacting to Arthur's anger, not Bradley's delivery, not Bradley standing too close, leaning right up in Colin's face, almost like - almost as if they could -
Bradley stops short, livid and breathless, and there's a moment when Colin forgets where he is, who he is supposed to be, what he is supposed to want -
- what his next line is -
"Cut!" Stuart yells, and Colin expels a breath of pure relief, laughing a bit sheepishly. He expects Bradley to laugh with him, but Bradley is still into the scene, still looking at him with too-sharp eyes. Colin is held in place by his stare, the same even look that could pin a planet into place, ground an eagle in mid-flight. The focused authority that won him the role of the kingliest of kings.
Colin determines he can spare a moment before he pushes Bradley away. He lets himself take one long look, raking in the shape of Bradley's jaw when it's clenched shut, his shoulder blades tensed and rigid, muscled enough to bear chain mail like gauze. He always looks amazing, Colin thinks, but there's no word for what he becomes like this, as Arthur; himself but so much more, outfitted as a king, so that even the tilt of his chin is stronger, so that even the purse of his lips carries a touch more disdain or gentleness or weariness - sometimes all at once.
He was chosen for his beauty, and there are moments, like this one, when it’s all Colin can see. It's so easy to play a star-struck, love-blinded servant, he thinks a bit ruefully. It doesn't take much acting at all.
"Do we need to run lines?" Bradley says - murmurs, more like. He's still got his arm propped against the wall next to Colin's head, and Colin could push him away, but the wall's quite comfortable, really.
"Nah, just got distracted," Colin says, and tries again for a laugh. It's not quite as nervous as the first round, at least. "It's just so mesmerizing watching you try to act."
Bradley breaks into a grin, and all Arthurian traces scatter just like that. "I get that a lot, you're right. I must be starting to get the hang of it."
"S'very entertaining, I'll give you that much."
He'd thought Bradley was leaning in close, but that's just because Bradley hadn't leaned in closer.
"Oh, Morgan," he says, with a wink. "I can be very entertaining."
"Can you, now."
"Yes, yes, I can."
"And yet you do realize that was the worst fake come-on ever."
Bradley tries to look hurt, and Colin elbows his arm to nudge him away. "God, no wonder they cast you in the part where all you have to do is stand there and look manly."
"I can do seductive!" Bradley protests, following him out of the set. "No, really, I can! Watch!"
Colin turns around and quirks an eyebrow, waiting. Bradley manages a straight face for all of half an instant, and then they're both laughing too hard to do anything else but clutch each other stupidly and laugh harder.
Then it's action, and it's another three takes before the laughter stops.
At one point during the final take, Arthur leans into Merlin even closer than before, Bradley's fingers almost brushing Colin's cheek.
This time Colin doesn't let it distract him.
IN ARTHUR'S CHAMBERS
Oh, Come on, Merlin! You know why I
have to go.
MERLIN has been helping ARTHUR into his armor but he
No. I can't. I can't be a part of this.
You would disobey a direct order? From
I would do anything you asked me to - you
know I would. But I won't - I can't - let
you ride off to certain death.
I have to go. My people -
Your people need you to live! I... need
you to live.
You... need me?
Don't let it go to your head. I'll never be
able to get your stupid helmet off.
He finishes fastening Arthur's armor, then hesitates.
Arthur. Please don't go.
They exchange a meaningful look.
Make sure to have the armory completely
re-outfitted by the time I'm back. Even
someone with your incompetence ought to be
able to manage that much.
"Oy," Bradley asks Colin, after barging into Colin's hotel room, during the third week of Colin's Definitely Not Being in Love. "What are you looking so happy about?"
Colin's stretched out reading the latest shooting script. He doesn't bother to look up. "I don't know what you're talking about," he says with a light smile.
Bradley's eyes narrow, and he hops onto the bed next to Colin. "Come on, tell me. Is this about Angel and the pole dancer?"
"No, it's not about - what?"
Bradley waggles his eyebrows.
"You're joking," Colin says.
"Am not," Bradley says smartly. "Word is she was very bendy."
"Who, Angel or the dancer?"
"Take your pick."
"Right," Colin mumbles.
"So? Something's put a smile on your face, must be good." Bradley lies back and tucks his hands behind his head. Colin notices the spread of his stomach muscles beneath his shirt and looks away immediately. He's not looking, he's not noticing. Really.
Bradley pokes him in the leg with his foot.
"It's really nothing," Colin says, "just a good mood. Did you bring your script or do you want to look off my copy?"
"Don't change the subject, Morgan," and Bradley pulls his own script out of his pocket and uses it to thwap Colin lightly on the head. "You're all, I dunno - strange and aloof lately, and then I come in here and find you grinning like an idiot for no reason." He pauses. "Unless the script really is that good."
"Right," says Bradley. He rolls over to face Colin and switches into his 'I-secretly-have-a-hidden-mature-side-th
He can't find a reason to put a moratorium on smiles. He's already put a moratorium on private moments alone on the balcony, standing too close to Bradley during filming, and giving Bradley excuses to touch him, tickle him, or follow him around bopping him on the head with his scabbard. They've all been tricky enough to manage without looking aloof; the last thing Colin's going to do is shut Bradley out just because they happen to wind up alone together.
In a hotel room. Lying down together on a bed.
He swallows. Okay, right, so maybe the avoidance plan hasn't been working out so well.
He pulls away and sits up. Next to him, Bradley goes still for a moment, so slightly, and for no reason at all a shot of hope spirals weirdly through Colin.
He comes to a sudden decision. "It's just," he says.
"Go on," Bradley says lightly, but his eyes hold Colin's in earnest. Colin opens his mouth, hears himself speaking.
"Right. And - and it's okay if it makes things awkward, because what's a little awkwardness among friends, right? Right."
Bradley sits up immediately. "Who said anything about friends?"
Colin draws a blank at that, managing a feeble, "Um," before Bradley snickers and waves the joke away. He really, really should not get to be so charming without even trying. It should at least be something one has to work at, like body-building or swordplay.
"Just one thing," Bradley says. God, his eyes go all crinkly round the edges, it's not fair, Colin thinks miserably, before Bradley leans over and takes his hand in mock seriousness. "If you're going to tell me about your passionate love for me, it's all right. I already know."
Colin stares at him. Bradley continues, oblivious, "I mean, I knew it from the moment we first read together. You were destined to find me irresistible. I understand, it happens. The important thing is not to be ashamed of your love for me."
It must hit Bradley all at once that there's no answering laughter from Colin, who's still just staring at him, because he finally looks up, sees Colin's face, and hesitates. "And not to... not to pay any attention to what I just said," he finishes weakly, dropping Colin's hand and resting his own on Colin's knee instead. "I - do you - oh my god, you do, don't you."
Colin had rather thought that you grew out of mortification like this, that presumably by the time one was a successful tv star with a title role in a network series, one developed a certain natural suavity, a je ne sais quois that helped one avoid such disastrous moments of ineptitude as confessing to your co-star that you're not really in love with them, really, just sort of fancy them a bit, honestly.
As it is, he can't even confess properly. Leave it to Bradley to ensure that this is all as awkward as humanly possible.
Colin pushes himself off the bed, somewhat jerkily because his legs have gone all wobbly. Stupid, he thinks, and forces out a laugh he doesn't feel. "Look," he says. "It's just - I thought maybe if you knew, it'd be easier... you know, reading lines and hanging out together." Bradley's face hasn't lost its shell-shocked look, so Colin adds desperately, "I just wanted to be honest with you."
Bradley lets out a deep breath and says, "Colin," in a voice loaded with confusion and pity and a number of other very unfortunate things, none of which Colin particularly wants to hear. He starts to back out of the room but Bradley flounders to his feet and follows.
"So, yeah, I'll see you tomorrow," Colin tries, but Bradley's already there with his hand against the door, telling Colin to wait. Colin tries to reach around and twist the door knob free, but Bradley leans hard, and Colin only manages to rattle it a little. He sighs.
"Look at me," Bradley says - and now he really is serious, all laughter gone. Colin obeys, feeling a twinge of guilt at how easy it is to do. Seriously, he really doesn't have to act at all to play Merlin, does he? It's kind of revolting. Then he thinks about obeying Bradley in other things, and feels a twinge of something completely different.
"How long?" Bradley asks.
Colin glances up - oh, rotter, his eyes have gone all soft and sincere and dark - and then away again and down at the floor. The carpet makes a much better listener than Bradley James anyway, he's sure of it. "Maybe - maybe a month," he mumbles. Bradley leans in and catches his elbow, pressing it gently.
"Colin." His voice has gone soft to match his eyes. "It's okay."
Oh, god, Colin thinks. He once got a speech like this from the captain of the debate team. It had been awful enough then, and clearly it isn't going to gain any points for eloquence coming out of Bradley's mouth.
"You don't have to- " he begins, but Bradley just shushes him and puts a finger on his lips. Colin goes still and resigns himself.
Bradley looks at him a moment longer and then says, almost sweetly, "You are the nicest guy I've ever known."
Colin looks up at him in utter disbelief. Bradley adds, completely missing the point, "Sickening, I know. But look - " Colin tries to scoot away and Bradley grips his shirt sleeve and tugs him right back. "No, seriously, I don't - " he makes a face. "If I were into guys, you'd be the first person I'd - " he waves a hand vaguely. "That I'd - you know."
Colin always thought jawdrops were a cliché that didn't really happen, but apparently he's been wrong about a lot of things.
And, clearly, he chose "utter disbelief" too soon.
There's humiliation at the hands of normal people, people with brains attached to their bodies, and then there's humiliation at the hands of Bradley James. How he could have forgotten the difference, Colin has no idea, probably something to do with too much beanpole-climbing.
His mouth has gone dry, but he manages to spit out, "You are into guys."
Bradley looks at him blankly. "Sorry?"
Colin grips the doorknob harder, as it's there and handy and more or less beats strangling co-stars. "Everyone knows that," he says.
Bradley lets out a bark of laughter. He looks a little stunned.
"You're always snogging men," Colin says slowly. "We've all seen you." Bradley just stares. This is really, really too much, Colin thinks. "You were just having it on with one of the grips last week! And that boy last year, at the pub we all went to in Wales - "
"Yeah, but - " Bradley looks like Colin's just told him he's quitting the show. "But those were all jokes. You know, like - " intense hand-waving - "like jokes!"
"Oh, right," says Colin a bit coldly. "I must have missed the laughing, what with you having your tongue down their throats and all."
Bradley's mouth twists unhappily at that, and Colin's stomach does a completely treacherous lurch. "Look, it's fine," he says, trying to bury the hardness in his voice and not quite succeeding. He'd never expected anything from Bradley in return, but he definitely hadn't expected to be mocked. "It'll pass, anyway. It needn't affect our working relationship."
His other hand finds the doorknob and he's gotten Bradley so thrown off that this time he actually manages to open the door. He slides out into the hallway, grateful for the air and the light and the not-Bradleyness.
"Wait," Bradley says, a little hollowly. Colin hopes he's not going to say something ridiculous, or remind Colin that he's running away from his own hotel room. But Bradley just says: "And what about our friendship?"
Colin can count the number of times in his life he's said something well and truly nasty, something he couldn't take back without months of groveling and abject apology, and in some cases never could take back at all. It's a thankfully small number, and he's always tried hard to keep it that way.
But just now there's something dark and bitter twisting inside him and waiting to lash out like one of Valiant's snakes - pride or hurt or something worse Colin doesn't really want to think about. Before he can stop himself, he hears his own voice answer, calm and cold, "Who said anything about friends?" and lets the door shut behind him on Bradley's stricken face.