Chapter 1: The Machine
Livid he was livid, the weekend had been good yet busy. The BBC producers had set up an impromptu meet and greet. The event went well and it got James out and he genuinely liked meeting and talking with the British Public. Nonetheless, the weekends were generally when he did his laundry. Saturday night had morphed into Sunday morning when he had collapsed on his couch. He had been that tired that he had left his keys in the lock on the front of the door. His neighbour had removed them had placed them through the mail slot. His last set of clean clothes were slapped on before he swept out of the house. Late Sunday night he bundled his dirty clothes into the washer. It was mid-cycle when a cacophony of sound roused him. The washer was obviously broken since the kitchen was flooded. “Cock!” was the shout that reverberated off the walls. He pulled the washer out of its alcove and unplugged it. More pressing was the flooding; it was past one in the morning when the water had finally been removed with his Shop-Vac. His mind then turned to the washer; he grabbed a piece of paper and began trouble shooting. Around three in the morning he decided to go to bed. His clothes were sopping wet. It would take forever to dry them and they hadn’t even been cleaned. He thought of moving the wet pile to the bathtub but he would need a wash in the morning. The soft patter on his windows let him know that the clothesline was out since it was raining. He resolved himself to leaving the mess in the remnants of the washer and vowed to sanitize it in the morning when he could obtain the necessary parts.
The morning did not offer much reprieve, he had run out of his shower gel and the only thing he could find was an old box of green bar soap he didn’t remember buying after his shower he rummaged through his wardrobe in the back behind a suitcase was pair of jeans. He had no clue how long the faded blue denim had been crumpled on the floor of the wardrobe nevertheless he grabbed them. Sighing heavily he proceeded to put them on sans boxers. He had no clean T-shirts so his slightly stained rugby shirt went over his head. He was already running late and he left the house with a slice of toast clenched between his teeth. The drive to the BBC main offices was uneventful. As he parked he noticed that Jeremy and Richard had already arrived. Besides the diesel Land Rover was the BBC company car making James smile, this car was Ben’s. Whenever the Stig needed to attend meetings this car was used to maintain anonymity. James had five minutes to check messages before a page announced that it was time for a meeting. The three presenters along with the Stig and Andy Wilman sat in respective chairs. During a meeting a yellow legal pad nudged his shoulder on it was Jeremy’s handwriting.
James hastily scrawled Equipment breakdown
Jeremy was confused and wanted more information yet a stern look from Richard had him placing his attention back onto Andy. In his haste to look involved Jeremy snatched a pile of papers on which a Styrofoam cup had been placed on the corner. The cup spilled and Richard Hammond pushed back in his chair to avoid the fluid rolling quickly towards him. The sudden jolt of his body had his tea flying out of his own cup onto James. The man let out an exclamation as the hot liquid soaked through the cotton. The others seemed glued to their seats as James rose quickly. Ben reacted and quickly came to James’ side and the two disappeared out of the conference room to the lavatories.
“Take that off” Ben said softly and James complied.
“Did it burn?” Ben demanded.
“No, not that hot” James replied as he stuffed his shirt into the sink. Ben swallowed, James’ arms flexed as he washed his shirt. The jeans he wore were slung low on his hips, No belt Ben’s mind supplied. With James oblivious Ben let his eyes wander. It was apparent that James was not wearing any underwear causing his thoughts to steer into the lewd. When the whirring of the hand dryer started up Ben came back to himself.
“What are you doing?” Ben asked.
James sighed, “I have no clean clothes, my washer packed up last night and this” motioning to his shirt, “is all I have. Need to dry it and put it back on.”
“Wait a tic.” Ben said and swept out the lavatory. James was sill trying unsuccessfully to dry his rugby shirt when Ben reappeared with something black in his hands. James watched as Ben presented him a T-shirt.
“I bought it in the gift shop downstairs.” Ben explained and then James laughed. On the black T-shirt in bold white print was I am the Stig. Happily he put it on and they went back to the meeting. Richard was apologetic and James just waved him off. The meeting began again
Ben was enjoying the meeting it was rare that he was able to go out let alone to his job in plain clothes. Other racing drivers were at the BBC for a sports interview and his presence was written off by the press. So far no one had any inkling that he was The Stig. Andy had chosen him carefully; he was bachelor and liked staying under the radar. What wasn’t generally known was he kept a low profile due to his sexual orientation. While Britain was progressive the sporting world was not that accepting of homosexuals.
Twenty minutes back into the meeting he noticed that James was fidgeting. He kept rolling his left shoulder and his hand would come up to rub it. He also noted that the man was leaning forward in his chair not letting his back touch it. Not caring if Andy got annoyed he asked, “you all right?”
He was quite surprised when James turned to him and whispered, “no.”
Ben stood so quickly that his wheeled chair shot behind him. He pulled back the collar of James’ shirt and sucked in a breath. The whole of James’ back was breaking out in angry red welts.
“What’s going on?” Jeremy demanded.
“I don’t know” Ben stammered.
The clumsiness of Ben’s speech had the others worried. Andy pulled up the hem of James’ shirt and the others were able to see the rash. Richard then pointed to James’ forearms, “It’s here too, just less.”
”I’m calling the nurse” Andy proclaimed as he grabbed the phone.
James’ fidgeting was getting worse, his left hand went to scratch his neck and was quickly encased in Ben’s hand, “Don’t touch it might make it worse.”
The nurse came in and checked James’ vitals before asking, “Are you allergic to any soaps?”
James groaned, “I used a bar of soap I’ve never used before and that T-shirt is brand new, hasn’t been washed.”
The nurse nodded, “this looks like Dermatitis and the fact that it’s worse where the T-shirt was shows that your skin didn’t like the soap and the chemicals on the T-shirt. She rose and grabbed the telephone and called a hospital, “Yes I have a male patient, contact dermatitis, permission to give Diphenhydramine…thank you.”
She opened up a bag and withdrew a blister-packet of pink pills and a small packet; “Take two every six hours, they should calm your symptoms be warned it will make you drowsy.”
James happily swallowed the pills as the nurse wrapped him a foil emergency blanket.
Before leaving the nurse said, “Always wash your clothes before you wear them!”
Richard was pointing a finger at Jeremy, “If you hadn’t spilled that cup I wouldn’t have splashed him!”
The exchange between Clarkson and Hammond loosened something inside Ben, he had thought this was all his fault for buying the T-shirt yet it was a comedy of errors that had resulted in James’ condition.
The pills were indeed having an affect, that combined with late nights had James’ eyes closing in the chair. Ben grabbed his sunglasses and put on a hat and palmed the packet the nurse had left, “I’ll take him home.”
Andy shot him a look to which Ben quickly replied, “I’ll drive his car I’m relatively covered up it should be fine.”
The producer let them go, the streets weren’t that occupied and the trip was completed without incident. James stumbled and was supported by Ben. James lumbered upstairs threw off his emergency blanket and fell into bed. Once again Ben had an unobstructed view of James’ back. The irritation had gone down some but that was not what was drawing his attention. The indentation of the small of his back had Ben itching to touch it. He was about to reach out when James moved pulling his pillow further down. Ben left the bedroom and went downstairs. In the kitchen he found the washing machine. On the counter was a hand drawn schematic, James had written out the instructions on fixing it. Removing his jacket Ben set to work on the washer.
James woke a few hours later and heard a rhythmic pattern. Padding downstairs he saw that it was his washing machine swishing in time. His eyes sought out Ben who was at his kitchen table reading a newspaper. James alerted him to his presence by saying, “you didn’t have to do that.”
“Consider it an apology for everything” Ben said softly.
James smiled softly, the two of them had been dancing around one another since they had first met. Both had felt attraction to one another but they had no clue as to how to transmute it into a relationship. James didn’t want to jeopardize Ben’s career as the Stig so he was always on his best behaviour when they happened to appear together at events. James would bring him a cup of tea when Ben ate his lunch in the back of the ambulance to avoid reporters and Ben would tell James of the trouble spots on the cars he found to annoy Jeremy.
“You don’t have to apologize” James said as he absently went to scratch.
“Stop!” Ben shouted then instantly winced, “You shouldn’t scratch”
James spoke through clenched teeth, “you have no idea how bad this itches!”
Ben suddenly remembered the packet the nurse had left, he hastily went through the pocket of his jacket to retrieve it. Upon examining it he found it was an oatmeal powder meant for the bathtub.
He checked his watch, “Why don’t you have another dose of those pills and while they kick in take a bath in this stuff.”
James shrugged, “Can’t get any worse can it?”
Chapter 2: Music Track
James swallowed his next dose before walking up the stairs with Ben following, James began drawing the bath before asking, “Do I add that now or when it’s full?”
Ben scanned the back of the packet, “When the tub is full.”
James was balanced on the edge of the tub and blindly reached for the packet. Ben gave it to him before retreating he was still able to hear James’ shout, “You’re welcome to anything I have in the fridge which is not a lot so you’re more than welcome to go through my wallet and have a curry delivered…I’ll take a korma.
Ben laughed, trust James to get dinner. He found the menu of an Indian restaurant and dialed the number and placed an order. The washer signaled the end of its cycle. James’ washer was relatively new and had a menacing spin cycle. As Ben was taking out the clothes he noted that they were only slightly damp. The sun was out and in the back garden there was a clothesline. He went out and hung the clothes out to dry. With it being midday and the fact that James’ had high hedges he was sure no cameramen were lurking. He came back inside just as the doorbell rang food was here.
”James! Dinner.” Ben bellowed.
When there was no answer Ben felt something he rarely felt—anxiety. He took the stairs two at a time occasionally stating, “James?” He pushed open the bathroom door and stared. James had fallen asleep in the tub, for once Ben was thankful of the other mans height. His long legs had stopped his head from dropping below the waterline. Ben’s eyes raked over James’ nude form to make sure the man was breathing and not injured. He used the ABC’s of first aid his airway seemed clear, he was obviously breathing and his colour indicated good circulation. He knelt down and took his pulse just make sure. James’ body floated lightly in the bath and Ben couldn’t help but stare. His chest was covered sparsely with hair Ben allowed his eyes to wander south past his chest noting that his belly was stark white. Moving further down he took note of his pelvis, while his belly did stick out a bit his hipbones were defined. Ben’s eyes finally came to a stop at James’ groin, his length was resting against his thigh. Realizing that he was staring at a helpless man he forced his eyes and brain back into the present and gently woke him. James swiped at his eyes with a wet hand. The clumsy gesture drove home the seriousness of the situation. Ben grabbed a towel and had James sit up. “Come on out the bath.” Ben commanded softly.
James complied and got out the tub. Another towel was found and James dried himself off. When Ben was certain that his help was no longer needed he went back downstairs where he fiddled with the plastic forks in the delivery bag. Minutes later James descended wearing towel around his shoulders and his jeans.
Ben waved his hand over the food and the two sat. James was eating heartily while Ben speared the same piece of chicken over and over with his fork. “What’s the matter?” James asked.
Ben was still toying with the piece of chicken, “I saw you in the bath.”
James laughed, “makes us even.”
Ben was puzzled and racked his brain. months ago they had been filming in Wales. It was Richard Hammond’s piece but James had gone along as well. Ben remembered he had driven a Mistsubish Evo 7 against a skateboarder on slippy as fuck hill. Afterwards Tom, the skateboarder had given him a lesson, he had ended up covered in mud. He had stripped down behind the camper van the production team had brought.
”Wales?” Ben asked with a knowing smirk.
James ducked his head while his hair hid his face it didn’t hide his voice, “you have a lovely body Ben.”
So James May the epitome of chivalry and gentlemen-ness had stolen a glance at him. This surprised him and he liked surprises. With his appetite back Ben happily ate his chicken.
Clearing his throat James spoke, “I want you to stay but I can’t—“
Ben cut him off, “I know our time together is monitored and I would love to take advantage of now but not when you’re drugged to your gills, not like this you deserve better.”
James blushed again and Ben desperately wanted to see him not shy, not embarrassed. But at the moment he simply focused on his curry.
After the meal some of James’ clothes had dried out enough so he could actually wear something clean. Ben left after he had seen James take the last of his antihistamines and made sure he was tucked away in bed. A quick phone call to the BBC and a car came and picked him up.
The sun was shining it was a stark contrast to last week. Seven days ago Ben had watched as the Japanese drivers power-slid into infinity a Monaro. Today was his turn at posting a fast time. The morning offered the best chance and after thirty minutes a time was procured. Ben had nothing scheduled for the rest of the day and was going to go home but something caught his eye—a chalkboard. Instead of the board being plain black or having a grid overlaid on it, it simply had rows of lines. He gestured to the board and cameraman informed him, “we’re setting up for a music piece.”
This hadn’t been mentioned in the last meeting so Ben decided to stick around. He saw a grip drag out two tyres and other runners were lining up cars. With Ben being dressed as the Stig he literally had Carte Blanche to go anywhere he wanted at Dunsfold. He watched as James moved towards the tyres placed them upright and sat down. A runner was approaching him with something that Ben couldn’t identify. James crossed one leg over the other and placed the item in the table created by his limbs. Ben then saw what he had was a keyboard. James began playing and the cameramen began filming. James played the TopGear theme tune for what seemed like an eternity as the cameras flitted around finding new angles to make interesting shots. After this was done the cameramen dispersed shouting that they would fix up the cars. During this time James approached the chalkboard and began filling it with notes.
Generally when someone besides himself took a car around a track Ben would mentally critique them. However as the Ferrari went round he wasn’t watching, his eyes were glued to the monitors capturing the footage from inside the car. “I Think somewhere in this V-12 we will find the High D we need for the tune…lets just have a go hang on.” Ben watched in awe as James made certain tones, as his left hand seemed to be conducting. The sound he emitted seemed to match the engine and he watched as James stuck a finger in his ear before elation spread over his face.
This was the James that Ben had always wanted to see, a man glowing with confidence. He wished he could actually be in the car to watch somehow the monitors seemed to diminish the effect. Ben got his wish when James decided to use the dumper truck, the film crew loaded onto a flat bed trailer and so did Ben. He watched as James held up the keyboard listened to a note and then tried to copy it with his voice. Ben had no clue as to how James was doing what he was doing. To him the engines made noise to James they made notes.
At the end of the day the audio men ran off a copy of what James had recorded and gave it to him. In the interim Ben had changed his clothing seemed to be the antithesis of the Stig; he was clad in black jeans and dark shirt. James noticed him and walked over clutching the tape. Ben saw that James still had the aura of confidence around him and he found it a huge turn on. “I want the man I saw with the piano.” Ben announced.
James’ eyes darkened, “I want the man who watched.”
Chapter 3: Considerations
“Will you come to my place?” Ben asked hesitantly suddenly shy.
“Yes…can I have the address again?”
Ben scoffed, how was it that a man who could play a piece of music he heard by ear and meticulously take apart something and put it back together always get lost? He didn’t mull over it as he took a pen and wrote the address on James’ palm.
Ben had left but James had stayed behind to take care of some office work before he set off. The office work was actually scouting out the address; he wanted to have the map in mind. He also printed it out since his mind was notorious for forgetting directions.
In his car Ben thought about was about to happen or what he hoped would happen. It had been such a long time since he had been with anyone. His position at the BBC was a great opportunity but he missed actually being with people.
When his doorbell rang he felt anxious. Where was the cool-suave racing driver? He opened his door and there stood James, still clad in his jeans and brown zippered jumper.
Ben held his arm out in welcome and James came inside. The anxiousness Ben felt was ratcheting up. The two had spent time together but they hadn’t dated, they had seen each other without clothes on but not in a testament to passion. Thinking about it Ben thought this was one of the strangest ways to begin a sexual relationship ever. His thoughts went out the window when James’ lips pressed against his. The anxiousness fled, and his arms rose to pull the taller man to him. Chests bumped and Ben’s hand closed over the zip on James’ jumper to pull it down. He broke away quickly to pull the jumper up and over James’ head letting it land wherever it pleased. They came back together eagerly; Ben’s hands were pulling the white undershirt out from James’ jeans and finally gave into his impulse to touch the small of James’ back. So far the other man wasn’t really touching him. His lips were active but his hands were merely glued to his waist. It finally dawned on Ben that James’ didn’t have his permission.
“It’s ok to touch me, I want you to touch me” he rasped.
That was all that was needed for James’ hands to glide over the protrusions of spine and shoulder blades. James’ touch was purposeful. Soon his dexterous hands had found the hem of Ben’s T-shirt and off it went. James took a step backward so he could look at the man in his arms. “Perfect” was James’ whisper and Ben could feel his ears turning pink, something that had not happened since he was a child.
James didn’t know the correct way if any to bring up the topic that was on his mind so he simply blurted, “I’m free of any diseases.”
Ben wanted to laugh but something allowed him not to, “I’m clean as well, just had my racing physical.”
James had actually helped him clear a hurdle, after the incident with the soap and T-shirt Ben had wondered if the man was allergic to anything else. Latex and sheepskin condoms were in his bedside drawer as a precaution. Bed, he wondered if they would get there. When James’ knuckles ran over a nipple his brain went offline. He couldn’t command his hands to remove James’ undershirt and the man was no attacking his throat. Instead of going for the shirt Ben’s hands went towards James’ jeans.
While Ben’s hands were not as dexterous as James’ they still made quick work of the denim. When his fingers registered cotton Ben looked down and saw a pair of dark coloured boxers. “now I know”
“Hmm?” James murmured.
“Which one you were, a boxer or brief man” Ben said before diving back for a kiss.
Hands roamed, tongues plundered and more clothes littered the floor. Finally they were skin against skin. Arms held one another close, chests and bellies touched and it made James’ dizzy with all the points of contact but at the same time he wanted more. He nuzzled against Ben, his forehead making contact with the juncture of his neck and shoulder to gain yet another point of contact. Ben had never had a partner that seemed to revel in just touching. Most of his encounters had been quick fumbles designed to get the culmination as quickly as possible. This was so different! Ben found himself tumbling backward and he didn’t care. Instead of the hard floor which he was expecting they fell across the long sectional sofa which Ben had forgotten was there.
With both of them horizontal their legs twined together. More skin met and James groaned in appreciation. Ben would have been smiling if his lips hadn’t been occupied with kissing. James’ arms pulled Ben further to him and suddenly everything lined up. Ben found himself thrusting against the crease of groin and thigh and it was perfect. By the noises James was making he seemed to be enjoying it as well.
Ben then felt himself being pushed away, his panic disappeared when he realized that James had pushed him only to create space for his arm to come between them. He felt the warmth of fingers around him and copied the motion on James’ body. The sofa thudded against the wall with their movements. After a particularly loud thud Ben emitted a shout and then it was quiet.
When the blood pounding in his ears no longer deafened him Ben opened his eyes to find James staring intently at him. “All right?”
”Yeah” Ben whispered. “are you? Did you?”
“yes, not long after you but I think you were to caught up to notice.” James said with a hint of joviality.
Feeling his ears turn pink once again Ben ducked his head and was rewarded with James pulling him close and kissing his neck. The two traded languid kisses on the couch before the un-ergonomic-ness forced them to move.
That night after a shower James dressed to leave. He wanted to stay but he truly did not wish to jeopardize Ben’s career. The other man understood, as James picked up his keys he asked, “I didn’t know you used Radox shower gel.”
Ben smirked, “I saw the empty bottle in your rubbish bin and bought some. Didn’t want you breaking out in a rash while you were here.”
James ran a hand through Ben’s hair to cup the back of his neck and pull him closer before kissing him, “Smart man” James delivered and Ben knew he meant it.
Chapter 4: quarrel
Their night together was wonderful and both were desperate to be together again yet road blocks real and metaphorical were stopping them. James had had an offer from the BBC, all of the presenters had done other work however, it seemed with James there was more demand for him and there was some bitterness. This quickly disappeared when everyone saw that James was not out for glory he simply wished to learn new things.
The two stole moments where and when they could. However, they hadn’t yet spent the entire night together. Ben wanted that intimacy, he wanted to pass out from a night making love, fall asleep and then wake up to the person who you shared that with. To Ben, James seemed more concerned with appearances than the relationship. James seemed to shy away from him in the green room or on the track. Years of being virtually mute had rendered Ben unable to put into words what he wanted and James’ inability to read social cues didn’t alert him that something was wrong.
“Come by later?” James had asked him
Ben had just nodded.
James was expecting Ben for dinner. James had recorded a number of cookery programs during the week and was hoping his concoction would be pleasing. Everything was set he had even lit candles. The appointed hour came and went. His dinner table seemed to be mocking him. Eventually he extinguished the candles and ambled upstairs to bed.
He had just turned off the lights to his bedroom when he heard a knock. He came downstairs and opened it. Ben was on the doorstep, the breeze from outside carried the scent of alcohol and smoke. Logic told James that his lover had been out but his mind couldn’t honestly tell him why. Why wasn’t he here for dinner?
When Ben saw the table part of him felt a tad guilty but his anger quickly replaced it. “I thought we were going to have dinner” James said questioningly.
”What’s the point?” Ben spat bitterly. “We’ll eat, fuck and then I’ll leave. I’ve already eaten at the Pub, lets get on with the fuck and then I can go.”
James was not good with social situations especially confrontations. When he had driven the drunk couple home from the dinner party and the ‘marital’ had broke out the cameras captured James’ trying desperately to master his technique of invisibility.
“Where will you go?” James said softly
”Does it really matter? All I know is that it won’t be with you.” Ben answered.
“Am I not allowed?” James asked
Ben was starting to get angry that James didn’t get it then took the time to actually look at James was genuinely surprised to see confusion, “You really don’t understand do you?”
James shook his head in the negative. Ben moved closer to him but didn’t touch him. “What I want is for us to spend time together, real time. I want us to have dinner and then go to bed and sleep all night. I’m tired of you leaving or me having to go. I’m tired of the BBC dictating what we can do. Don’t you want those things?”
“I’ve never had those things” James said and before Ben could react he added, “I want to make sure you’re protected. I don’t care what is said about me…I’m used to it. You’re perfect, you’re the Stig!”
“Yes all right then. The Stig would like to go to bed and stay in it for the duration of the night with the man he loves.”
James’ eyes registered shock and Ben thought Dear God has no one ever told him.
They climbed the stairs and got ready for bed. Ben shed his clothes and placed them on a chair while James stripped down to his boxers and got into bed. Ben scooted over to rest his head on James’ chest. The two began to talk. James began, “I maybe smart when it comes to music and maths but I’m thick when it comes to people. I thought that was common knowledge.
Ben rubbed his cheek against James’ chest and shrugged, “To be honest I really thought it was just a ploy by the BBC but I truly see it now, you have trouble reading people. You seem to mesh well with Jeremy and Richard.”
”Most of the time. I still get hung up with some of the sarcastic remarks that Jeremy makes. He’s learned to change the inflection of his tone so I can catch on but there are times I have no clue as to what he is saying.”
Ben apologized for the abandoned dinner to which he was thoroughly kissed by James, “Forgiven” and it was.
Ben felt even more stupid when one weekend James took him along to meet his family. Jane and her husband were back in the country so Ben met James’ niece and nephew. Sarah was there as well along with James’ Mum and Dad. By the picnic table was another tall man. Ben watched as James’ face lit up, “Jonathan!”
The blue eyes, that distinctive nose…this man was a May! James noted that Jonathan held out his hand to shake. He thought it odd for brothers to shake hands and not hug. When Jonathan began to speak he suddenly understood everything.
Ben was feeling like ten kinds of idiot, he lumbered over to a cooler in the pretense of getting a soda. Sarah was there, “met the lot have you?” she asked cheerily.
“Yeah! I didn’t really want to intrude with James and Jonathan seems like they haven’t spoke in ages.”
Sarah laughed, “Jonathan loves to talk, mainly about music—he’s a teacher. Jane and I don’t play as well as Jonathan or James so whenever James is around Jonathan loves to talk.”
Ben was turning the can of soda in his hands he hadn’t opened it yet. Sarah saw his movements, “You didn’t know did you?”
“I knew James had a brother and that he was a music instructor…James think highly of him. But no I didn’t know he was different.”
Sarah shrugged, “That’s James, he’s not one for labels. He’ll say, ‘This is my younger brother Jonathan the brilliant Music teacher.’ Not, ‘this my younger bother Jonathan the one with Aspergers.”
Ben finally opened his cola, “Is James…I mean does James have this too?”
“No clue, probably, but it could also be something different. Jonathan only got an official diagnosis a few years ago. Back when we were growing up people like Jonathan were just social misfits. He was also the youngest and Jane and James were out of the house when he was growing up. James just has his quirks he gets on well in the world. He had the option of being tested but to him it doesn’t matter.” One of the newer generations of May’s was getting into fight and Auntie Sarah took over, “Oi, stop that!”
Everything made sense now, how James could go on a tear about an engine forever but talking about a social situations you could hear the crickets chirping. How he always started talking to women the same way, “Hello.” It had been right in front of him the entire time yet he hadn’t seen it. Now he understood that he would have to change his behaviour towards James since the other man was simply not wired to do it. Ben made a mental checklist of being careful about using sarcasm, for spelling out deliberately what he wanted and to always confirm James knew the particulars of any situation.
Chapter 5: Ripples
James seemed to be blossoming under the attention of Ben. The producers were no longer giving him the consumer info pieces. He and Ben were also developing a more normal life. They had snuck off to a movie cinema and they frequently stayed over at each other’s houses so much so that clothes and other belongings were mixing in. They were still careful and so far only James’ family knew of their relationship. James had finally told Richard and Jeremy that he was gay but neither seemed fazed by it. James was receiving more offers and more work and it got Ben thinking of what he could do to branch out. He had mentioned writing and was surprised when a large box fell into his lap. James had bought him a laptop.
Ben haphazardly began typing away and one night he told James what he was writing. He had expected laughter or scorn but received none instead James seemed intrigued at the prospect. Others were not so pleased.
Things came to boiling point when Ben published his book. James was on Ben’s side not because he was his lover but because he thought it was right. Why shouldn’t Ben benefit from the goldmine that was TopGear? In the racing circle it was just a well kept secret of what he was. Ben was already on the BBC’s payroll and if someone were to watch the episodes closely they could probably figure it out.
The BBC filed an injunction which was dismissed by the courts as James knew it would be. What was the point? They had revealed Michael Schumacher and they had ‘killed’ the Black Stig. Everyone knew that a new Stig would take the place of Ben. James was still arguing in favor for Ben when it was told that they would be filming in America. The night before James left he and Ben had made love, it had been desperate and primal as if they would never see each other again.
Ben had thought about it on when James had boarded the plane.
A kiss landed on his back and James groaned. Ben smiled into the flesh he was kissing he loved this. Having James under him, lost in the sensations that only he could provide. It was better than the feel of a supercar for James’ reactions were not computer controlled and when James spun out of control there was never any fear for the crash would never cause pain. This night James was clutching at the bedclothes and his body was taut. Ben knew that James was holding back, that he was trying to hold back the inevitable.
”Let go” Ben whispered
“No” James grunted.
Another smile into his flesh and Ben thrust hard, “Let go”
“I want this to last” James whispered.
“We’ll have this again” Another thrust, “Let go!”
With that James threw back his head and howled his completion
Jeremy and Richard seemed to have gotten over their moods. At least that’s what James thought. In the morning they had taunted him with T-shirts and mugs with Ferrari’s on fire. James had to laugh when he saw that neither of them were actually wearing the t-shirt it had simply been worn over clothing. Making James think back to when Ben had bought him T-shirt from the gift shop. When the cameras cut away James uttered, “Wash before wearing chaps.”
Whether it was Karma, fate or pure chance James won the impromptu race at the Virginia Speedway. He had hoped that would put a stop to the meddling but it didn’t. When the targets had been revealed for the drive-by shooting piece James swallowed. He went along with the piece, he didn’t have Richard’s malice or Jeremy’s blatant aggression towards the target. That night he called Ben from the hotel and told him the ongoings.
It is actually funny.
”James ran a hand through his hair, “I don’t think so.”
You’ll be home soon. Look I know you, and I also know if you wear my colours you are going to lose your friends. This will blow over and then we can all laugh about it. Just do me a favour?
”Anything” James rasped harshly.
Never in a million years would James have done yoga but he thought of Ben as he removed his shoes and socks to sit on the mat.
While the whole Stig outing did eventually die down it wasn’t before James launched his own protest. During a radio interview about the media circus surrounding the Stig, James had deflected the comments by simply saying that he was the Stig, the radio personnel had laughed the story went no further. James didn’t like the script for the Christmas special in which the US footage would be shown. So instead of having his grey hair touched up by the BBC hairdressers he went out and had his hair cut instead, the shortness now accented the fact that his hair was silver. The BBC were not pleased.
”It makes you look old James” A director had shouted.
”I am old, besides I’m not supposed to have that dye anymore I have reactions to it.” It was a lie but James didn’t care
Jeremy and Richard had seen James’ vindictive side before but it had been in short bursts this was different. Jeremy called an impromptu meeting in an empty conference room. “Are you trying to sabotage your career?” Jeremy asked.
”No” James answered truthfully.
Richard could see that Jeremy was going to use his hammer-fisted approach to this conversation and stepped in. “Why don’t you explain what is going on? We know that you supported Ben on his decision and we’ve let that go. I know not in the most adult way but it’s over.”
James picked up the script and pointed to the lines he felt were too rude.
Richard scrunched up his face, “Just a joke.”
James’ face darkened, “So I could replace his name with Mindy’s or Francie’s and it’s still a joke?”
The penny dropped.
Chapter 6: Reaping
The harvest of what we plant
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Jeremy and Richard found themselves in the conference room not really noticing that James had left.
Jeremy was thinking out loud, “I know he said he was gay but somehow I thought he was celibate.”
Richard made a face but then actually thought of Jeremy’s words and shrugged. “You’re right, we sort of have a blind spot when it comes to James since he’s peculiar but Jeremy we screwed up.”
At this Jeremy was indignant, “How? We had no clue. They kept this well hidden and it’s only now that we know.”
Richard moved closer, “we have to fix this…look the Stig scandal is over. If anything it bolstered ratings and gave us free publicity. What Ben did wasn’t illegal the courts proved that. We didn’t like because we saw it as backstabbing but I have been thinking that Ben didn’t have much of a choice.” At Jeremy’s scowl Richard put his hands up in a hear-me-out motion, “Yes he had the choice of waiting but what if the show had tanked before his book got out?”
Again Jeremy scowled but it was less severe and Richard ploughed on, “We’ve had a laugh that I’ve done Crufts and Total Wipeout but I do have other work. You’ve done other things I think you’re doing “Have I got News for you” on Friday. James has his wine program…what else does Ben have? James pointed it out we’re all aging. Ben is getting old as well he’ll be out of the racing seat soon.”
Jeremy looked up, “I just wished James would have said something sooner.”
James ended up in his driveway not remembering the drive home. He fumbled with his keys before cloistering himself in the bathroom. He felt panicky and he was covered in sweat. He stripped off his clothes and started the shower.
Ben went to open the door to James’ house when he noticed that a set of keys were already in the lock. He pushed the door open and heard the sound of water running. The same anxiety that he had felt before when he had checked on James in the bathtub was rearing its head. He found James in the shower, he seemed fine but Ben knew something had to have gone on.
James told him of the incident in the conference room and what was bothering him. “I think I may have outed you.” James stammered.
Ben couldn’t contain his laughter, “to Jeremy and Richard?”
”yeah” James acknowledged.
Ben just smiled, “It doesn’t matter.”
James shook his head, “I’ve ruined your career.”
“I did that all by myself, you did and have done nothing wrong.” Ben said forcefully.
Ben got James some clothes and the two sat and talked.
Jeremy and Richard made amends in their own way. While the rudeness was toned down there were still some jabs at Ben in the new series. James really didn't want to be a part of it but Ben had told him to go along with it. Ben did find a job however; it was not with the BBC. He had been approached by Fifth Gear to be a commentator. After James cut his hair TopGear began to slow, many joked that James was in fact Samson and the power of the show rested with his hair. The series were becoming shorter and shorter while the budget was massive less was being produced. All seemed to be showing the strain, nonetheless James was happy he had other projects and he enjoyed watching Ben soar in his new career.
Jeremy had reluctantly watched an interview with Craig Doyle and Ben. He had winced when Ben had told the audience of the wig that he would wear to imitate Jeremy. When Craig had asked Ben who he thought was the best driver and Ben answered James he was shocked. Not because Ben hadn’t said him but because of the love that was etched on Ben’s face. He tipped his whisky to the television in a small salute.
So which one is the best out of the three guys?
I suppose that's trying to pick which breed of cats is best at swimming.
The audience laughs
If I had to pick one that was the most…had the most mental approach. Driving is all about finesse and thinking about what you are doing and not rushing it. James May has the most you know competence of that. He’s a sensible chap. He’s got an engineering background. He doesn’t shout all the time. He listens to what you tell him…
The interview transcript is transcribed from the launch of the A6