Richard thinks it’s best if they all get together and talk about things. He’s thought it for some time actually, but James has that typically British attitude that if you just brush things under the test track, they might go away. And Jeremy…well, Jeremy is more of an action man (not that kind of Action Man - Richard hopes he’s not just smooth plastic down there) and suspecting that at some point Jeremy will just give up the pretence and pounce, Richard knows their conversation should be sooner, rather than later.
Because if Jeremy pounces without some kind of pre-flight safety check, James might run for the hills.
And Richard doesn’t want that because while he would be happy enough with just Jeremy (God knows he’d be happy with anything right about now) things would be so much better with all three of them.
Oh yes, they’d be better…
But Richard isn’t thinking about that now, because while he is a legendary daydreamer, he sees the need for action here. And he’s good at action - he’s been told.
So he decides to approach James first, catch him on his own and preferably off guard. He drives around London and the surrounding area for the best part of a morning before eventually plucking up the courage to take the Hammersmith turn-off.
James answers the door in a simple t-shirt and a pair of jeans. He has a harassed look and his hair is a mess. Richard tries to ignore the fact that James padding around his house without shoes and socks on is sexy.
“Don’t be so cheerful, Hammond.”
James leaves him at the door and Richard takes this as a sign to go in. The place is even tidier than usual, and getting within a few steps of him, Richard finds that James smells like Windolene.
“Been up to much?”
Richard almost winces at his poor attempt at conversation. He wishes things weren’t so strained these days, wishes that James wasn’t such bloody hard work when he bottles things up like this. It briefly crosses Richard’s mind to get him drunk (they haven’t been drunk together in months, not since this new, unfamiliar tension crept into their relationship - its as though they’ve all made an unspoken vow not to let too much guard down because now it might just get dangerous) - he misses the way they used to all get drunk and messy; the feel of James’ touches, which happen so much easier when he’s had a few.
“Cleaning, cooking, living in general.”
There is a bottle of wine on the table, some great long French name he can’t read. “This sounds like right poncey stuff, mate.”
James is dishing out food for Fusker and has his back to Richard, which just throws yet another odd kind of barrier between them. “Yeah, Oz left it here a few nights ago.”
An unusual urge to punch Oz Clarke in the face wells deep inside Richard’s chest and he has to fight it down. He hadn’t realised their friendship was of the ‘wine at each other’s houses’ kind. Perhaps Oz could give him some tips on getting close to the new, tightly wound James.
“Brilliant.” It was anything but. “Listen, you up for a drink tomorrow night? We haven’t been out in ages and…well, I reckon we could do with a chat. What d’you think?”
There is a muscle in James’ neck that jumps when he is feeling cornered. Although he hates to put it there, Richard can’t help watching with a little satisfaction this time. Yes, you bastard, he thinks, We’re going to talk about this before you can bury your head any further in other men’s fancy wine taste.
“Tomorrow isn’t so good, actually.”
Richard puts the bottle down on the table with a little more force than would be polite in someone else’s house and Fusker runs out of the cat flap. “Well cancel whatever you’ve got planned. We’ll see you in that shitty hole you call a local at half eight.”
Without waiting for an answer, he takes it upon himself to storm out. Apart from the fact it always makes a good impression, he thinks that if he’d have stayed, he may have actually told James just what a complete and utter prick he was being.
And then the chances of them sleeping together would be very slim.
On the way back to the car he calls Jeremy.
“What are you doing tomorrow night, Jez?”
“I’ve just been to see James. We all need to talk - the three of us - and I’ve ordered him to meet us at his local about half eight.”
“That shite hole? Couldn’t it have been somewhere more my end? I hate driving into London.”
“Don’t be such a grumpy old man. And it has to be here, it’ll be a miracle if he turns up in the first place, never mind accounting for his sense of direction.”
Richard hears Jeremy sigh down the end of the phone. “Look, why do we need to talk about it? Can’t we just - “
“No, Jeremy, we can’t. We need to do this in the right way - for James.”
“Jesus, Hammond, who knew sex with you would be like a military operation?”
Climbing into the 911 and slamming the door, Richard finds himself grinning at that. It’s the first time any of them have ever said it out loud. So he’s not just going insane then - this odd tension between them is sexual, and that’s where it’s going to lead. Hopefully.
“Oh, you have no idea, Jeremy.”
Clarkson laughs down the phone, husky and genial. Richard can almost see that grin lighting up the tired face.
He coughs, shaking himself out of it but by now grinning too. He knows Jeremy will be able to hear it in his voice.
“Right then, tomorrow - half eight.”
“Half eight,” Jeremy repeats, then signs off without saying goodbye. As he closes the phone, Richard wonders how the insufferable git made two such simple words sound like the promise of a lifetime.
*~* *~* *~*
The next evening Richard finds himself picking out a shirt to match the occasion. He has plenty of ‘dinner party’ ones and ‘daytime TV’ ones, but none for that crucial moment when you try to turn a friendship into a threesome.
He sets off in time to be early but ends up so late that he is the last one to arrive. As he approaches the quiet table, he catches an eye roll thrown in his direction from Jeremy. In an odd fit of showing some thought put into something, he actually has a fancy shirt on too.
“You’re late, Hammond,” James says.
“And this coming from the King of all things late.”
“Yeah, sod off. What are we drinking?”
“Something strong,” Jeremy says, sliding a shot glass over to him. “And one for May.”
“I’m not - “
“Yes you are.”
Richard hides his disappointment that Jeremy hasn’t magically diffused the situation while he was sitting in London rush hour traffic and takes the glasses to the bar. He orders their usual and three shots of tequila, just for good measure.
When he returns to the table, his choice of drink gets the desired reaction.
“Richard, is this tequila?”
He nods at James then downs his in a gulp. “Go on, you’re next.”
“Next? I’m not drinking that, it’s uncouth.”
“He has a point there, Hamster.”
“Just because we’re not chavs on a Spanish package holiday, doesn’t mean we can’t partake of their drinking habits. Go on.”
As stupid as the situation is, he can’t help grinning. This might still be tense but it’s so much better than the way things have been. James is regarding his glass as though it has flakes of skin floating in it.
“It’s not very manly.”
“Manly isn’t exactly the point of tonight’s exercise, May,” Jeremy says and nods to Richard before downing his own. Now James is the only one left not drinking, and forgetting for a moment their new, unwritten rule about not making any physical contact with one another, Richard leans over and pokes James in the arm.
He stops staring at the drink to look at Richard and then flushes bright red, but it seems that whatever line he was considering crossing has been decided for him, because he tips the drink down his throat like the rest of them.
“Finally,” Jeremy says, and flicks James on the arm nearest to him.
“What is this, ‘Touch James Day’?” he sounds uncomfortable about it.
“Can be if you’ll let it.”
Richard coughs quickly, hoping that might obscure Jeremy’s last comment and distract from the look being exchanged across the table in front of him. “Right,” he says, “Talking.”
“Over-rated, if you ask me,” Jeremy sighs, leaning back in his chair and fingering the beer mat from the table. “James?”
“What?” he looks like a child that has been caught kicking the cat.
“I think Jeremy means, ‘Do you want to talk about anything?’” Richard explains, “And I think the answer to that will be yes.”
“I’m not having this conversation.”
And then James leans back in his chair too, as though defying Jeremy to challenge him. Of course, Jeremy being Jeremy, the challenge is quickly taken up.
“Listen, May, forgetting you and your endless circus of emotional problems, this is an issue that’s started affecting our working relationship. Andy has noticed.”
“Shit,” Richard hears himself say quietly.
“Exactly. So I think maybe we need to address this.”
“Address what?” James asks, and Richard sees something in him that’s new - something he’s never seen before - defiance. He’s burying himself so deep he’s not even acknowledging the problem.
Richard waits in the silence for Jeremy to speak, but the two children appear to be busy having a face off, so he huffs and steps in.
“This odd little…sexual thing.”
James looks at Richard as though he’s forgotten he was there. He looks strangely guilty, and that’s good on him. Even though by now he should be used to the fact that he is dying to kiss James, sometimes it still takes Richard by surprise.
“Sexual,” James repeats, but it isn’t a question, its more of a statement, as though he’s just weighing up the word in his mind.
“When was it?” Jeremy barrels in, breaking the moment. “That trip to Scotland to drive the convertibles? You got drunk and propositioned me, Hammond.”
“I did not!” Richard says, astounded. Then he notices that Jeremy is grinning at him, and a foot tickles his leg under the table.
Trust Jeremy to choose now to start flirting.
“Anyway,” he goes on (because someone has to keep this conversation on track), “I think we should do something about it. Get it out of our systems, so to speak.”
“I second that motion,” Jeremy nods, raising his hand. All eyes turn to James.
“Maybe we should think this through a little bit more; imagine the consequences if - “
“By using the phrase ‘imagine the consequences’ James has just made it embarrassingly clear how long it’s been since he had reckless sex, thus I vote we should do it just for his own good.”
“Now look here, Clarkson, - ” James starts, going bright red again. Richard watches the way those long fingers of his twitch together on the top of the table and decides that apart from anything else, denying this any longer is becoming seriously bad for his mental health.
“I’m with Jeremy,” Richard butts in. “Obviously you need a pressure release more than any of us. So, where do we start?”
At this, even Jeremy goes silent. Maybe James is right - maybe this is too big a thing to just head on into. The atmosphere in the studio would be worse than these past few weeks if things went wrong. Can you continue working with your two male co-presenters if you’ve been in a failed threesome with them?
Reliable old gobby Jeremy eventually pipes up and silences Richard’s doubts.
“Well we need to get out of here, that’s for a start.”
They decide to take the cars and head out towards Canary Wharf. Richard doesn’t question this when Jeremy proposes it, simply because he is just noticing that the annoying Clarkson has worn his tightest jeans tonight, as if to tempt even further. The beginnings of a familiar heat pooling in his crotch as he climbs into his car remind him that this must happen, even if its only once. He hasn’t needed to get off this much since high school.
James snags his car from the garage and then the three of them ride out separately, following Jeremy in a line like a bastardised version of one of their challenges.
Except this time there is no film crew and thankfully this won’t be going to air. It’s so familiar he almost gives the spec for his car to an invisible stick-on camera on the window screen.
Maybe this is the porn version, Richard thinks with a smirk. Like those spoofs of movies they do, Good Will Humping and Snow White Does The Seven Dwarfs. This one, he thinks, would be Topless Gear.
The thought is still making him laugh when he realises that up ahead, Jeremy is indicating into a multi-storey car park. He follows and watches in his rear view as James does the same. It would have been so easy for him to keep on driving, so Richard takes comfort in the fact he actually follows them in.
Jeremy stops a few levels up, in a corner completely deserted. When they get out, the bang of three lonely doors echo through the great concrete mass.
“Right,” he says, when they have congregated between cars, Jeremy and James leaning against the (oddly still in fine form) GT and Richard directly opposite, his back against his trusty 911.
If it all goes wrong, at least they still have the cars.
The silence is uncomfortable. Jeremy has his hands flat against the car behind him but James has his arms resolutely folded, eyes down on the floor.
“What should we do?” Richard asks, feeling for all the world like he is fourteen again and he’s trapped behind the bike sheds with Laura Donegal, the school tart.
Jeremy laughs at this, but it’s more a puff of breath in the quiet of the open space.
Then suddenly, and without warning, James starts up.
“If this goes tits up I’m blaming you two. I read in a magazine somewhere that actors have rules about not shagging co-stars on film sets; it ruins the on-screen chemistry and - “
But he never gets any further because during the stupid rambling speech Richard realises this is the reason he wants James - his over cautious, clumsy, full-of-useless-information self, and he remedies this by closing the two steps between them, placing his hands on either side of James’ face and pressing their lips together.
He can feel James breathing unevenly through his nose and they’re just there for a moment, pressed against each other in an almost non-sexual way. Then Richard angles his head slightly and kisses him again, lips opening briefly this time. Surprisingly, James replies quickly, and then their mouths are open, moving against each other with all the built up energy of two months.
Richard slips his tongue gently against James’ lips and is rewarded with a determined hand on the back of his neck, thumb stroking the exposed skin in such a delicate way that it takes him a moment to wonder how James can concentrate so much on the smallest touch at a time like this.
He is losing himself already.
The only sound now amplified in the echoing space is the sound of them kissing; wet mouths sliding together. Richard briefly remembers Jeremy and pulls away, acutely aware of how fast he is breathing.
“You sound like you’re making a dirty phone call, Hammond,” Jeremy smirks before using the recently created gap to move in and draw James to him. Richard watches as they begin to kiss, the way Jeremy is so much more forceful than he would ever be. Jeremy is completely in command of the situation and this makes Richard a little weak in places he’d forgotten he had. The thought that at some point Clarkson will start being that forceful with him makes him tingle.
James appears to be enjoying it though - keeping up with the pace, even. Watching them is hot, Richard decides, and is infinitely glad they are alone; this is turning him on far too much - the way Jeremy’s hand cups the curve of James’ jaw and holds him firmly in place, tipping his head up.
Just like a child waiting for his sweets after school, the moment seems to take an entire age to come around, but eventually Jeremy and James part, and when Jeremy turns to Richard with an unmistakable predatory gleam in his eye, he knows his time is up.
Still leaning back against the car in an almost lazy way, Jeremy teasingly watches Richard with a smirk for a minute before quietly saying, “Come here.”
And of course Richard goes, because by this time he is well and truly Clarkson’s bitch. He manages to stand between Jeremy’s slightly parted legs and then he is being thoroughly kissed again; no waiting for the polite invitation of a tongue, Jeremy deepens the kiss immediately, hands moving to settle firmly on Richard’s arse.
In a shamefully pornographic way, Richard finds himself moaning into the kiss. He thinks about James watching and Jeremy pulling him desperately closer with every movement and he gives up all rational thought.
Fuck, he thinks, if the kissing does this, the sex will kill me.
And it seems as though he is due to find out. Jeremy pulls away from him to say, “Right, all back to yours, James?”