Richard listened again to the sound of Oliver's engine; he'd have to stop and take another look at it, but hopefully not until after he'd caught up the others at the campsite for the night. Oliver was doing fine -- at least what still worked was doing fine. But he knew the engine ought to have a bit more power than he was getting and he was determined to tweak out what he could.
He'd stopped twice already, once with James and Jeremy, taking advantage of their car troubles to take a quick peak under Oliver's bonnet. He hadn't seen anything he could fix quickly, so he'd left it. The second time he'd realised he was losing his brakes and he'd pulled over to see what, if anything, could be done.
James and Jeremy had helpfully left him there, cackling and waving as they drove off into the distance. Richard hadn't been able to actually repair the brakes, but he'd contented himself with being able to use the gears to bring Oliver to a halt when needed -- and if that failed, there would always be another vehicle, or a handy tree, to coast into.
He'd been stopped the second time long enough that James and Jeremy now had rather a good lead on him. He didn't mind -- despite everything, Oliver was running much better than either of their vehicles and Richard expected that he would be the only one to bring his vehicle to the finish line in anything resembling one piece.
As he drove, Richard looked out over the surrounding vista. He'd seen photos and videos of the African savannah and he had to admit it looked exactly, and nothing at all, like what the cameras had shown. The heat and the smells of dirt and animals and grass seemed to burrow down inside him in a way he couldn't exactly describe. Like some part of him knew this place, as if his cells recognised their ancestral home.
He made a quick note not to say anything of the sort out loud, especially while the camera was running. Bad enough James, Jeremy, and the entire crew were still laughing at him for naming Oliver. He hadn't bothered trying to explain that Oliver was his name and that he couldn't very well just call him 'car.' They would, rightfully, remind him that Top Gear didn't name cars, and continue to mock him for his moment of sentimentality.
Or moment of being a six year old girl, which was still the only thing Jeremy could get out before falling to the ground laughing again.
Richard sighed and ran his fingers across Oliver's dash, glad that he'd been able to leave the in-car camera off for awhile. "They're just jealous," he said, grinning slightly. "None of them have as brilliant a car as you." He smiled again, glancing guiltily over at the in-car camera, and relieved to see its power light still off. The camera crew filming him wouldn't have caught him at it either, as they'd gone ahead to set up for a long shot of him and Oliver driving alone across the savannah.
He looked around again, taking in the sights, feeling a sudden pang as he realised he was the only bit of civilised life within sight. He fingered the radio on the seat beside him, but left it alone. Nothing wrong with it, driving Oliver alone across the African continent. He could even imagine that that was all it was, he and his intrepid Oliver, exploring the continent and--
Richard looked out of the driver's window, and realised that the movement he'd seen was exactly what it had looked like. Lions.
Three lionesses, to be exact, moving slowly through the grass towards him. They were hunched down, clearly stalking him -- Richard found himself pressing down on the accelerator, reflexively. Oliver barely sped up, and Richard looked back again, then down at the dash before rememebring that none of the dials really worked. How fast did lions run, anyway? They'd been told, he thought, in one of their pre-race briefings. The guides had gone on about all the dangers of the African wild, all the things which could kill them. But they'd been reassured it was merely precautionary. The guides would accompany them with guns, which would more than cope with the dangers.
The men with guns who were, at the moment, several miles ahead of him.
Richard gripped Oliver's steering wheel. "Oh God, come on," he whispered, and pressed down further on the pedal. "Come on, Oliver." He turned to look back over his shoulder and saw one lioness, then the other two, spring out of the grass and sprint towards him. Amazing, and powerful -- and headed directly for him.
"Oh my God!" Richard slammed his foot down, knowing that it wouldn't make any difference, that Oliver had been going as fast as he could go -- Richard wished he'd spent more time that morning, working on his engine and figuring out what, exactly, had been robbing Oliver of his power. His heart was pounding and he searched the horizon ahead of him for any sight of the chase car.
He didn't see it. He looked back again -- and the lioness was closer and dear God, surely it wouldn't be able to claw its way through the metal doors and glass windows? "I'm not food!" he shouted, and shoved away the voice in his head which pointed out that yes, indeed, he was. "I'm scrawny and small and no meat at all!"
He didn't think he was convincing them. He started to let go of the steering wheel to scramble for the radio, hearing the thunk of it sliding off the seat and landing on the floor.
Richard let fly with a string of words that wouldn't even begin to be broadcast on BBC-- though if the in-car camera had been on, then perhaps at least someone might have realised he was in trouble. "Please, Oliver, they're gaining! You've got to--"
And suddenly the engine roared, and Oliver surged ahead.
"Oh God, oh God," Richard breathed, and drove as fast as he could away from the lions and towards the guides who had guns, massive lion-killing guns. "That's it, Oliver," he said, not daring to look back. "Come on, you can do it."
He drove for what seemed like minutes -- probably seconds -- before he risked a glance backwards. The lionesses were still there, but they were quite noticeably being left behind. Richard found himself relaxing, but kept his foot mashed down on the accelerator. He focused on the drive ahead, not wanting to risk driving into a hole or a ditch and letting the lions have a free meal.
"That's it, Oliver, we're losing them!" Richard looked back again, and saw that they were definitely getting away. One of the lionesses had already given up the chase, walking slowly after her sisters and glaring, no doubt balefully, after him.
He laughed. "That's right, lions! You're no match for Oliver!" He gripped the steering wheel tightly, rubbing his fingers into the leather. Grinning with glee, and adrenaline, Richard aimed the car away from the lionesses and towards the horizon where the camera crew was waiting.
The crew had teased him for his 'Oliver out of Hell' sprint, saying they'd caught the whole thing -- minus the lions -- on film. Jeremy had doubted very loudly that there had been any lions at all, but Richard hadn't minded the teasing. He'd sat in his camp-chair by the fire, listening to the others talk, offering up the tale of his great escape only the one time before letting the others fill the night air with stories.
He managed not to keep glancing out into the night, if only because he knew his eyesight would be ruined by staring into the fire. Besides, the guides with their guns were all there, each with his gun close at hand. Any lion venturing nearby would have absolutely no chance of getting itself a Hamster-snack.
Which was why he told himself over again, that he was being absurd. Oliver was parked out past the ring of tents, well into the darkness. Farther away from safety that the campfire or any of the tents. But as the others began to excuse themselves to head to their tents and sleeping bags, Richard found himself on his feet and heading over to Oliver.
He told himself he'd just meant to check on Oliver's engine -- make sure that whatever had finally begun to work properly would continue to do so. But instead he simply ran his hand up Oliver's bonnet, then along his roof as Richard walked towards the rear door. He knew he was being stupid. Told himself he wasn't a child, didn't need to hide under the covers and call for his mum.
But he opened the rear door anyhow and crawled inside. He pulled the door closed, softly but firmly, and lay down on the backseat. It wasn't the most comfortable; softer than the sleeping bag but even at his lack-of-height he couldn't stretch out.
Richard didn't care. He laid his head down on his arm, curled underneath him, and closed his eyes.
"Thank you," he whispered again and he fell asleep.
He dreamed. Walking across a hot, dusty landscape, he came upon a grass hut in the middle of nowhere. His dream-self walked inside, not caring where it had appeared from. He found a simple room with a bed of cloth blankets and animal skins. A hand touched his and led him over to it.
Richard looked, but the shadows in the hut obscured the man's face. All he could see was the darkness of his skin, and a hint of the white of his eyes. Richard let himself be led over, and the man drew him down onto the bed. It was softer than it looked, but Richard found his attention quickly drawn to the touch of rough, calloused hands on his face and soft lips pressing against his own.
Richard moaned and let himself fall backwards, the other man following him easily, pressing him down against the bed. With sudden dream-awareness Richard realised he was naked, feeling the touch of skin on his thigh and a brush of a hand along his stomach. He shivered, and pushed his mouth towards the other man's once more.
There was a gentle laugh; a rich, deep sound that made Richard want to hear the other man sing. Not at the moment -- even the bizarreness of dream-logic would say that other things were more important right then. Richard pushed his groin upwards, felt his erection touch flesh. Then a hand closed around it, and Richard fumbled in the darkness for his dream-lover's own cock. Together they moved, hands in rhythm and the noises of their lovemaking muted by their kisses.
Richard felt his orgasm building and pressed his body more closely against his lover's; he felt a hand underneath the small of his back, pressing their bodies tight together. He came suddenly, without warning -- head falling back and landing in a pillow of leather. He felt lips press against his throat and turned to capture his lover's mouth, opening his eyes to find himself lying in the backseat of Oliver, clothing sticky from his dream and no lover's mouth near his.
The backseat was warm underneath him, and, somehow, he could swear he felt the distant vibration of Oliver's engine, despite it sitting quiet and cold in the night.
Richard smiled and ran his hand along the edge of Oliver's backseat. Then he turned onto his side and closed his eyes, slipping back into a contented sleep.