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Perhaps We Still Have A Long Way To Go

By:
impactvelocity (impactvelocity)

For:
Zhailei (amidalashari)

Fandom:
Merlin

Pairing:
Bradley James/Katie McGrath

Rating:
PG

Warnings:

Notes:
This sort of took on a life of its own, so I hope that's a good thing. Thanks to my beta, who rocks, and to the mods for running the show. Any remaining errors are are on me

Summary:
Katie has a mission, Bradley doesn't stand a chance.

 
Bradley's hustling in from the car, had pulled down over his ears, and he nearly forgets to grab the mail. He ducks back outside before he can register the warmth and goodness of being inside his apartment building. He flips through it on the way to the lift.

Bill, bill, charity, coupons, postcard from his mum, and...an envelope from Katie?

He dumps the other envelopes on the table inside the door, and keeps Katie's lumpy envelope in his gloved hand. He shimmies out of the coat and pulls off the gloves, and lands on his back on his couch with the practiced ease of someone who knows precisely how long each stride must be to land with his back in just the right spot.

He's grinning like an idiot at the letter, he can tell--it's been a while since he really felt like smiling that this, and it's like his face is out of practice or something.

When the envelope is ripped open, something small and blue falls on his chest, and a slip of paper lands on top. Bradley looks inside the obviously empty envelope for the letter he clearly missed, but there's nothing else there. He looks down at the paper.

Katie's handwriting stares back at him. "Really, Bradley?" is all it says.

His confusion lasts until he realizes his other hand is holding a disposable razor. "Hey!" he shouts at the empty apartment, appalled and vaguely disappointed. He liked his beard, dammit.

On the other hand, the only people he's been seeing this week have been people paid to make sure he keeps his appointments and shows up on time, or people who just adore the show and wouldn't dream of insulting him (to his face). Well, crap.

Without Katie, Colin, and Angel around, no one's going to tell him when he looks like an idiot, and that's just now occurred to him. Hell, even Tony would point out the ridiculous. If it were, in fact, ridiculous. He let the razor and note fall on the table next to him and let his eyes drift closed. Good a time as any for a nap--better than wallowing.

The phone wakes him forty-five minutes later, and he's not exactly sure where he is when he says hello.

"You will not believe what I am looking at right now," Angel announces without any preamble. It's not a new development, and it oddly calms Bradley down as he remembers where he is, when he is.

"Me and you making out on the cover of some trashy magazine," he guesses. It's been endless amusement to Colin and Angel to point out every time his face and hers gets slapped on a gossip rag as evidence of their secret love.

Angel snorts. "Nope." She waits for him to guess again.

"Colin and me having "personal space issues"?" He guesses again--it's almost a more popular story than him and Angel.

Now her laugh is actually wicked, and coming from Angel, that's a Bad Thing.

"I haven't done anything! I'm signing things and waving to people and kissing babies!" he protests. He hasn't done anything even approaching tawdry enough to land him in a magazine in weeks.

"And who were you kissing those babies with?" Angel leads him on, waiting for the penny to drop.

It hits him like a freight train out of nowhere. "KATIE? They've got pictures of me and McGrath doing...what, exactly?!" This is bothering him a great deal, and he can't pin down why.

"Do you want me to read you the article? It’s pretty juicy," she taunts.

Bradley glares down at the phone. "No, thank you, Angel. Your interpretation will be just fine." The one thing they do not do is actually read the articles. That way leads to madness.

Angel sighs. "You’re no fun at all, really. Ok, it's this picture of you holding some adorable baby, standing next to Katie, who's looking up at you." She pauses, judging the silence coming down the line. "It is kind of sweet," she finally adds.

Bradley's quite still, trying to digest. He remembered the day, a little too well. He and Katie had been visiting a children's ward. There'd been press all over the place, but they'd pretty much ignored all the cameras, and had played with the kids for a couple of hours.

Katie'd been wearing this grey sweater that was ridiculously soft, and everyone (including him), had kept feeling the cloth. She'd put up with it gracefully, as always, and told the kids that was why she'd bought it in the first place--she couldn't put it down in the store. She'd been laughing all afternoon, until they'd gotten to the youngest kids. She'd clammed up and stopped joking around with Bradley.

Finally, she sat on a little girl's bed with her and just talked quietly. When Bradley wandered over, the little girl's eyes had gotten huge and she whispered to Katie "That's Prince Arthur!" So Bradley had swept in, bowed over her hand and grinned, playing up the charm. He asked Katie if she would mind taking a picture of them, and Katie had silently complied. Then the girl had held out her arm and demanded Katie join in the picture. Bradley shifted the girl in his arms, and someone snapped a picture. That'd been the last kid they'd visited, and he'd taken Katie out to dinner to try to get her mind off the visit and the girl's terminal diagnosis. It'd been twenty minutes of mocking sushi before she'd really laughed again.

"Bradley!" Angel was yelling through the phone now. He had a feeling he'd missed something.

"Yes, yes, sorry, Angel, I'm here." He waits for her to get on with the mocking, but she doesn't say anything.

"Well, I'd just wondered if you'd seen the picture. I've gotta get into the shower, dinner to get to. We'll talk later?" she asks.

"You got it, Angel. Cheers." He clicks off the phone and sitt somewhat heavily onto the couch. He wants to talk to Katie, but didn't know what he wanted to say.

Instead he picks up the razor still sitting on the table and goes into the bathroom.

###

"Colin!" Katie yelps, a little surprised to find her costar standing on her doorstep. "Come in, come in!" She ushers him in and takes his coat, and he wraps her in a warm hug she can't help but return. The break from filming has been great, but she's missed the cast and crew terribly. It feels good to have Colin so close, where she can feel skin and bone and muscle, and watch his cheeks flush when she asks him about any on-set hook-ups he might have had the chance to engage in.

"We only went out a couple of times, it wasn't really serious," he covers. He's crap at talking about his dating life. "What about you? Cute blond three doors down?" He teases.

She tenses at the words "cute blond," then realizes he's talking about someone else. Not Bradley. "Jamie? He is pretty cute, isn't he?" She grins up at him, then shakes her head. "I haven't been on a date in ages," she answers his question for real. "Not even anything "not really serious,"" she quotes back to him. He has the grace to shift uncomfortably as he has a chance to hear how lame that sounded.

She lets him off the hook for the moment, and heads to the kitchen to make tea. Once they're sitting, she gives him a long look. She finally settles on the most immediate concern. "What's going on with the beard?" she asks.

Colin rubs his chin and looks down shyly. "It's supposed to make me look older. I think it just makes me look homeless. We start ADR next week, I'll be able to shave on Tuesday," he says.

"Thank heaven for small mercies," she replies. "Now if only someone would give Bradley a deadline."

Colin starts laughing, and Katie can't help but join in. "His looks even worse than mine!" Colin finally says.

"I mailed him a razor, even,” Katie says.

"If I know Bradley, it's probably six inches from where he opened it, and he's still got a beard."

Katie rolls her eyes. "Angel sent me a picture of them at some Italian place last night, and he still had it when he saw her, so I'm betting you're right."

"Maybe we can have a shaving party," Colin offers. "You girls can cook while we manly men..."

"Groom yourselves?" Katie supplies, smirking.

"Well...alright, then, while we groom ourselves," Colin agrees.

They chat for a while longer, until Katie realizes she's supposed to be at her mother's in twenty minutes. "Tuesday night. I'll call Angel, you wrangle Bradley over here, all right?"

Colin grins at her like he knows something she doesn't, and nods. He leans in and kisses her on the cheek. "Say hi to your mum for me," he says as he heads out the door.

Katie rubs her cheek where Colin's stubble brushed against. Ugh. She can't help it, beards annoy her. She has very sensitive skin. And Colin's right, he does look like a homeless. She phones Angel on the drive to her mum's, filling her in on the shaving plan. Angel laughs and promises to make sure Bradley shows up.

###

Bradley was standing in front of his bathroom mirror again, razor in hand, trying to find the will to shave. But every time his hand got close to his face, he stopped. The beard made him look older. It kept so many people from recognizing him. Without it, he'd just look like Prince Arthur in jeans. And really, it was nice to be nobody sometimes. He set the razor back on the edge of the sink where it'd been living since he got it. Maybe he'd shave tomorrow.

It wasn't even like he got to see Katie, so why would she care if he grew a beard? Or a mustache? Or sideburns for that matter? Except obviously she did care, and knowing that made him smile without meaning to.

The knock at the door jars him into motion. He glances at his watch, slightly puzzled. Angel said she'd be 'round at one, it was now twelve thirty. Well, he'd answer the door and she could wait while he changed.

Katie was waiting impatiently in the hall for Bradley to make his way to the door. Honestly, it was like he wasn't expecting anyone at all. She knew very well Angel had planned to pick him up, but Katie had volunteered instead.

The door opens, and there he is, Bradley James, in sweatpants older than Oxford and a white t-shirt that had a hole in the arm. She grins hello while he tries to pull himself together.

"Katie!" He finally says. "I wasn't expecting...come in!" He reaches into the hall and pulls her into an awkward embrace. She tucks her head next to his chest and ignores the fact that she's clinging just as hard to him as he is to her. Finally she steps back and looks him up and down once more. She lays a hand on his cheek and shakes her head.

"Honestly, Bradley," she says, smiling a little.

He crosses his arms and waits for the barrage of insults. They never come.

"Are you going like this? The t-shirt might be a little cold, my place will either be freezing or absolutely boiling, it changes every day. It's a very exciting game I get to play each morning." She knows she's babbling, something she just doesn't do, but there is something about the sleepy-looking Bradley looking at her like the day just went from terrible to the Best Day Ever that was making it hard for her to concentrate.

"So, layers, then?" He asks.

Katie mentally shakes herself. "Might be best, yeah," she replies.

Bradley nods, then motions to his apartment at large. "Make yourself at home, I'll be right out," he says before ducking into his bedroom to change.

Katie looks around. It's pretty much what she expected--the place is cluttered but clean, more disorganized than his trailer, but there's something homey and relaxing about the mess. She wanders over to his couch and sits down, pleasantly surprised when it proves to be an exceptionally comfortable place to sit. Her eyes fall on a familiar sheet of paper, stationary she loves and therefore uses sparingly. It looks a little worse for the wear, with crinkles and smudges on it she knows are recent additions. She looks around for the razor, but can't find it. Strange. She lays her head back and lets her eyes close. Bradley could be such a girl about getting ready to go out, and even though it's just a trip to her place, he's taking forever to change.

It's the hand on her knee that wakes her. Bradley's kneeling in front of her, looking slightly concerned. She tries to pretend she doesn't know what on earth he could possibly be worried about, but she knows from glancing at the clock that she'd fallen asleep mere minutes after he left the room. She didn't usually fall asleep that easily, but lately she hasn't been sleeping at night, so she wasn't exactly surprised she'd drifted off in the comfy couch.

"Ready to go?" she asks, looking him up and down. A pullover on top of a t-shirt over a long-sleeve thermal--a guy who knows how to layer.

Bradley nods, offering her a hand to help her rise. "Mind if I drive?" he asks. Katie still looked like she might just close her eyes and sleep standing up. She shakes her head and fetches her keys from her pocket.

"Just as long as we get there. I'm on a quest, Bradley James, to get that beard off of you tonight, and I won't have you messing with it by getting us lost," she says.

Bradley nods solemnly. "Well, if it's a quest, then by all means, we shall arrive at your place without lollygagging." He offers her his arm, which she threads her own through. "My lady," he says, smirking.

She raised an eyebrow. "Lollygagging?" Bradley just pretends he doesn't hear her.

###

Angel and Colin are waiting in Colin's Volvo when Bradley and Katie pull up. The music, some distraught Americans, was loud enough to be heard from outside the Volvo, as were Angel and Colin. Before Katie could even knock on the window to let them know she'd arrived, she and Bradley had dissolved in laughter. The pair of them were so intent in their singing, they really were absorbed in the fact that love really was being given a bad name.

Suddenly the music stops short, and Angel climbs out of the car, followed shortly by Colin. Katie and Bradley are still laughing. Angel holds up an almost-empty bottle of wine. "You're late! We were forced to break into emergency provisions!"

Colin holds up his. "I was just keeping her company. You can't let a girl get pissed on her own, it's ungentlemanly."

"Really, Colin? Suddenly you're worried about being ungentlemanly?" Bradley asks with a smile.

Angel loops her arm around Colin's waist. "Colin's always a gentleman," she replies, looking pointedly at Bradley.

Bradley looks at Katie for some backup. She smirks back at him. "Bradley's got his moments," she says before turning up the walk to her door.

Colin and Angel follow, leaving Bradley staring after them. He has a lot of moments, dammit! He turns back to Katie's car, remembering the bag he'd brought with him.

Katie had cruised through the door and down the hallway, turning on lights on her way to the kitchen, and she still heard Bradley's yelp and the ensuing cussing. She stops in the kitchen entrance and turned back to see what the hell had happened.

Bradley was standing in the front door, backpack over one shoulder, right hand cradled to his chest. "Could I get some ice, please?" He calmly asks Katie. Angel's eyes were wide looking at him, and Colin was doing his best not to hover as Katie immediately got into motion. Bradley's face had lost all color, and his voice only sounded that tight when he was in pain. She'd heard it enough after stunts gone slightly wrong, but not so wrong that he'd admit it.

She returns with the ice wrapped in a towel, and she takes his hand gently in her own, turning it to see where the damage is. Nothing isbleeding, which is good, but all four fingers are starting to swell. She looks up at him, concerned. "What happened?" She asks quietly.

Bradley sighs. God, how embarrassing. "I slammed my hand in the car door," was all he was willing to say. He was not going to admit he'd been watching Katie's silhouette in the window and had been too distracted to pay attention to his hand on the door, he'd sound like an idiot. A sort of pervy idiot, staring at his friend through her windows. He winces at the thought. Katie misreads the expression, though, and asks Colin to grab the whiskey from the kitchen as she wraps Bradley's hand with the ice.

"So much for shaving tonight," Colin says when he hands the bottle to Katie.

Bradley's eyes perked up so much she almost went along with Colin, but another look at Bradley's chin had her standing her ground, even as she made him drink the alcohol. "Oh, no. There's no backing out of anything, now. Angel's still ordering Chinese, and you two are losing the scruff and looking like respectable blokes again, understand?"

Katie, Bradley and Colin had discovered a long time ago, could be really scary when she wanted to be. They shared a look over her head and muttered agreement with her plans without even bothering with a token protest. Angel, for her part, was already looking at the take-away menu.

###

"Just hold still," Katie murmurs. Bradley isn't really in a position to do anything else, but he decides not to speak while there was a razor so close to his throat.

Even after eating, the whiskey he'd had to dull the pain in his hand--and what kind of remedy was that, anyway, he'd have to remember to ask her tomorrow--left him in a less than ideal state to shave. Despite his arguments, Katie is undeterred, and says she'll do it herself.

Which is how he finds himself seated on her toilet in just his undershirt, chin lathered with shaving cream and Katie's face inches from his. She smels good, and was surprisingly good at shaving someone else's face. He'd have to ask her about that, too.

It was strangely intimate even while it felt comfortable and familiar, and Bradley sat there trying to figure out how to prolong the experience. But she was already wiping away the little smudges of foam that had been left behind, and was tossing the razor into the trash bin. She turns back to him with a warm washcloth and smiles as she wipes his chin a final time.

"There you are," she says, almost to herself. She pushes his hair back from his forehead a bit and let her fingers trail down to his jaw. A soft smile tugs at her mouth, and Bradley reaches up to hold her hand still.

"I never left," he says, a little confused.

Part of Katie's brain is screaming that things are getting weird and she should head back into the living room with Angel and Colin and the mocking of Love, Actually, but the other part of her brain is busy melting. His eyes are so sincere, and he's looking at her like he's crushed she thought he'd gone anywhere at all. He reaches up and tucks his hand under her hair on the side of her neck, thumb brushing over her cheekbone.

"We left France and you went back to your flat and grew a ridiculous beard and--” She stops talking when he pulls her down and kisses her softly. She pulls back for a breath, and he murmures "It was never ridiculous," in the space between them before kissing her again, this time more firmly until her hands ere in his hair and his are moving on her waist.

Out on the couch, Colin turns to Angel. "Think we should leave?" he asks. "It just doesn't take that much time to shave."

Angel looks up at him from where her head is resting on his lap. "I'm comfortable," she argues. When he doesn't seem swayed by her argument, she sighs. "We're watching the end of the movie," she decides.

Colin laughs but nods. "You know," he says. "You've seen it before, you know how it ends." Angel looks scandalized. "Which is why we should keep watching, to see everyone get their happy endings," he amends. Angel just smiles up at him like he finally got the point.

 Comments

 Left By:
Zhailei (amidalashari)

At:
2009-12-27 01:28:36

 
OH GOD OH GOD, THIS. IS JUST. THIS IS EVERYTHING I COULD HAVE EVER WANTED, IT'S JUST - PERFECT. With Bradley's indignation and smitten-ness and Katie being awesome and Colin looking homeless and Angel being ~totally right~ about the importance of making sure people get their happy endings, and the four of them, being altogether lovely. And no lollygagging! And Katie shaving Bradley, which hits my kinks SO HARD, and seriously, HOW DID YOU EVEN. I LOVE THIS, THANK YOU SO, SO MUCH!