Richard was standing in the middle of nowhere. The wind was freezing as it blew through his hair, messing it up. It moved through the layers of his clothes, making him shiver. The gloves they’ve gotten just a couple of minutes before couldn’t warm his hands and the scenery around him did close to nothing to take his mind off of what was happening in front of him.
Three horses were standing in the middle of the field, looking as lost as he felt. None of them really wanted to be there. He craved a break, a hot cup of tea and just some time alone with James, the two of them wrapped up in a blanket and admiring the view in this amazing country. But that wouldn’t happen until the late evening.
Another gust of cold wind hit them and he shivered. He felt James’ worried look on him. Turning his head to smile at him he could see something else in these blue eyes. Worry and fear but not because of the cold. His mind drifted away and a memory flashed before his inner eye.
They were in Burma, riding to the next village, just like they were planning on doing right now. His horse had thrown him off and the only thing he could remember was hitting the hard pavement underneath. He was dragged off the ground by some locals and immediately tried to get away on shaking feet. At the side of the road, he slumped down, trying to breathe steadily and get some control over his racing heartbeat. That was when he first noticed the pain in his wrist. The first thing he saw, as he looked up again, was James running to him, face full of worry and fear.
It was the same face James pulled right now. He was afraid something else would happen to him. And to be honest, so was he.
He tried to smile at the man next to him, to reassure him that everything would be all right. But he knew it hadn’t worked as James turned his head towards Jeremy, glaring at him.
Bastard, he thought as he forced his feet to walk him to one of the animals. It was huge. Bigger than the ones in Burma, making it hard to show the horse that everything was all right. He softly padded its neck, talking calm, almost whispered words. The owner stood next to him and gave him a quick nod, his signal. He set his foot into the stirrup and heaved himself up.
He was too concentrated on not falling off that at first he didn’t hear anything else, except for his heavy breathing and the movements of the animal, as it tried to get away from him. He stumbled backwards, unable to hold on.
“That’s not gone well!” He muttered to himself as his feet met the ground again. “That’s not gone well.”
A slightly panicked neighing caught his attention and just as he turned his head around he saw James falling off the horse next to him, hitting the ground full force. His eyes widened in panic and fear and his heart skipped a few beats as he almost stumbled across the brown grass to get to James. “You all right, mate?” He called out, his voice slightly shaking with nerves. His only response was a pained groan from where James lay on the hard ground. “You all right?” He asked again as he finally could see James’ face. His eyes were squeezed shut, his mouth closed in a thin line. Talk to me, please! Richard begged inside his head. James, please, be all right! “Stay, still.” He heard himself talking. “Stay still.” It was the only right thing to do but he had no idea where that clear thought came from. His mind was clouded with worry and his heart felt like it was about to break. Seeing James in pain did things to him, he didn’t want to name. “You all right?” He asked again. His heart was racing and he absolutely needed James to answer. He had to hear his voice. “You all right?”
His hands were shaking as he kneeled next to him. “Just stay still. Stay still, stay still.” He repeated again if only to reassure himself. He felt James’ glove-covered hand on top of his and looked up into James’ face. Heavy breaths were leaving his mouth as glassy blue eyes searched for his own.
For a second he felt thrown back in time to the last time James looked as helpless and hurt, lying on the ground with his lips shaking. It had been a hot day in Syria at the time but he hadn’t noticed anything besides James. Richard’s whole attention had narrowed to only one person in the entire universe and now he felt the same happening again. He didn’t feel the cold wind, the spikey grass under his knees, the owner of the horse kneeling next to him, the crew coming closer. The only thing in his world now was James, groaning in pain and with a shaking hand reaching for his. He couldn’t care less for any camera or person watching. So he took James’ hand in his, squeezing slightly to tell him that he was there.
“It’s all right.” He whispered, eyes only focusing on the person in front of him. “I’m here. I got you.” Only then did he notice that James held his left arm behind his back, shaking with effort. Richard touched his shoulder slightly, worry showing clearly in his eyes. “James…”
But before he could get another word to leave his mouth they were surrounded by the crew. In the distance, he could see a van coming nearer. They must have called their doctor right away. After countless accidents over the years, they had decided that a doctor was necessary.
Richard noticed the man next to him speaking in a language he didn’t understand. He saw the two owners talking and one brought the horses back into their trailer. The crew was restless and at loss for words and somehow unable to move. They held their cameras and microphones as they did before. Only Andy separated from the group and took a few steps towards them. But Richard’s consciousness was narrowed to James' face once more.
“Rich…” James groaned, eyes shutting momentarily with pain.
“I’m here. I’m with you.” Richard answered, holding his hand tighter. He had to fight the urge to rip his gloves off and search for any injuries. He wanted to hold James close, to tell him that everything was all right. He wanted to kiss him better, whatever it was.
Hurried footsteps quickly came closer. James took a deep breath before whispering “Please don’t leave me this time.”
Both their minds raced back to that horrible day in the Middle East. James had to be taken to a hospital and there was nothing in the entire world that Richard wanted to do but to be with him. He couldn’t, then. He and Jeremy had to continue on their own. Leaving James now would feel like someone piercing his heart with a thorn.
“I’ll stay. I promise.” Richard whispered just as the doctor arrived, kneeling next to Richard. Only then was Richard able to tear his eyes away from James for a second to look at his surroundings. The horses were safe in their trailer, the crew had mostly stopped filming and Jeremy was kneeling on James’ other side, looking concerned at both his friends. He nodded at Richard to tell him to move out of the doctor’s way but he just shook his head. He would stay. Jeremy didn’t try to convince him. Another groan let Richard’s head whip back to where James was still lying, trying to answer the doctor’s questions.
Jeremy backed away and caught their producer’s eyes on him. They exchanged one look and nodded. They were the only ones to know about Richard’s and James’ relationship but after that accident, they were sure rumors would spread within the crew and possibly the viewers, depending on how much of the material they’d show in the finished episode. But right now they had more important things on their minds.
James’ breathing was quick. He was on his back, trying to stifle a cry of pain as the doctor moved his hands over his rips. Richard’s alert eyes were following every movement. His colleagues could see him wincing every time James drew a deep breath to stop the pain.
After what seemed like hours the doctor finally leaned back, nodding at James and finally looking up. “Concerning what happened, it could have been worse.” Everyone’s eyes locked onto the man. “He’s cracked three ribs but there is no treatment. You’ll have to move carefully, Mr. May.” The doctor informed him. “Take your time. You’ll be okay.”
A relieved sigh seemed to travel through the whole crew. Richard, still kneeling in the ground, closed his eyes for a short moment, breathing in a lungful of cold air. It seemed to help clear his head from all the worst-case-scenarios his mind had been showing him. James would be all right.
Upon opening his eyes again, he looked right into James’ blue ones. A relieved smile showed on his lips. James’ breathing had almost returned to normal as the doctor started talking again.
“You should try to sit up.” He nodded at their surroundings. “The floor isn’t the best place to lie on right now.”
“I might need some help.” James said and managed a lopsided grin. Richard immediately reached for his hand but figured that their gloves were in the way. He practically ripped his own off his hands and moved to get James’ off much slower.
When their hands finally touched a small shiver traveled through Richard’s body. James’ skin was rough and cold from the day’s adventures but so familiar and soft at the same time. Richard had memorized every small detail. How strong James’ hands actually were, how detailed they could work on his motorcycles and cars, how good they were in holding him. Richard put another hand on James’ shoulder and with the help of the doctor, they managed to get him into a sitting position. The pained gasp didn’t go unnoticed and Richard immediately steadied him. James just fell forward into Richard’s arms, holding onto him and willing the pain to go away.
Relief washed over Richard. It felt like sunlight after days of rain, the first warmth after a long winter. James was all right and they would be fine. He looked down at James’ face. It wasn’t often that he’d find himself in that position but now it just strengthened his feeling of protectiveness over the man he loved with all of his heart. He slowly wound his fingers into James’ hair and drew him close. His thumbs caressed his cold cheeks and he moved his lips to James’ forehead to leave a light but lingering kiss. Both closed their eyes and relaxed into the moment. “You’re all right.” Richard finally whispered.
“Now look at these two” Jeremy mumbled to himself as his eyes moved across the scene. Richard and James were surrounded by most of the crew, by the horse trainers but they didn’t care at all. Thinking back to what he felt for his wife a tiny smile crossed his lips. His friends were in love, maybe even more than he could ever be - with anyone. Andy then joined him.
“They do realize…I hope” He said with a casual nod towards the couple, still hugging each other close. Jeremy’s smile got a little bigger. “They do. It’s like they crossed a line. Their love is nothing to be kept hidden anymore.” He looked at the producer, letting his eyes speak instead of his words. Nothing which happened very often. “I see.” Andy only answered. He understood.
Sometime later they had managed to get James off of the cold ground and into one of the vehicles. They still needed to solve their problem with the gate so Jeremy and Richard were sent off to walk to the nearest village, while James should try to recover a bit in the comfort of the car. Just before the filming started again Richard joined him. Reaching for his hand once more, he got his attention.
“Are you sure, you’re all right with me leaving?” He whispered.
“I’m all right. My ribs will heal on their own and it’s nice to get some rest for once” James answered with a smile. “These seats actually are quite comfortable.”
“We should steal these and put them in our cars.” Richard grinned back.
“They won’t notice at all.”
“Are you really…”
“Rich, I am fine” James assured him. He entwined their fingers and brought Richard’s hand to his mouth to leave a peck. Heat rushed through Richard’s body and his cheeks turned slightly pink. “You’ve kept your promise. I am fine and we’ll be back together in a few hours. Now go, Jeremy’s waiting.” James grinned as he saw their colleague outside of the car, waiting impatiently.
“You’re amazing.” Richard said and leaned forward. They shared a quick kiss, just feeling the other close before he moved back and left the car to continue his work. Jeremy only greeted him with a shake of his head and a knowing grin. Together they set off on their long walk, talking about everything and anything.
Later that day they finally got back to where most of the crew had waited for them. Equipped with some bolt cutters they cleared their way and were off, out of the dried out lake and on their way to their hotel. James had already been waiting inside his own car as they arrived and let them do the work. Concerning what had happened, they didn’t argue.
James drove his Lotus down the bumpy track and hissed with every stone he hit. Complaining about how stupid they’ve been to listen to Clarkson he let his anger off at the cameras. He was still ranting as he finally reached an actual road, only having left mere miles to cover.
As the other two finally reached their hotel – in a beautiful tiny village made out of colorful little houses – Jeremy and Richard discovered James’ car next to the entrance.
“I don’t believe it” Jeremy muttered. “That Lotus is unbelievable!” He got his bag and entered their overnight stay with his head shaking.
A knock on James’ door made him look up from the book in his lap. “Come in. It’s open.” He called out and a second later Richard, already dressed in his sleeping clothes, entered his room. It was bathed in soft orange light, coming from the lamp on the bedside table. The curtains were still open and showed him one of the most beautiful landscapes he’s ever seen in his entire life. Tearing his eyes away he met James’, a smile spreading across his lips. He was leaning against some pillows, his feet stretched out over the blankets and a book right next to him.
“Why didn’t you lock the door?” Richard asked as he did it himself.
“I forgot. And then I couldn’t get up again.” James explained as he tried to shift to a more comfortable spot on the mountain of pillows, winching from the pain. Alerted, Richard was at his side quickly, steadying him.
“You all right?” He asked as he sat down on the side of the bed. And this time he did get an answer.
“Yeah, I am. You’re here.”
“Sappy git.” Richard grinned as he let his hand slide down James’ arm to entwine their fingers again.
“You love it.”
“I’m just glad you’re okay.” Richard closed his eyes again as his voice dared to break and willed the memories to go away. Seeing James fall off that horse over and over again made his head spin and heart race. He could never bear seeing him in pain.
“It’s okay. I’m right here now.” James said and put his free hand on Richard’s cheek to make him look up.
“I know.” His eyes glistened with tears as he locked them with James’. Every time James was hurt in any kind of way, his life seemed to flash before Richard’s eyes. He’d see him as he was on the day they met, on their shared adventures, on every laugh, on the day they confessed their feeling for each other, their first kiss, every lingering touch and look. “Just…never – ever – leave me.”
These words struck like lightning through James. “I didn’t know. I’m so sorry!” He said as he pulled Richard slightly on top of him, letting his head rest against his chest. “I didn’t know it affected you that much. It’s just a few cracked ribs.”
“It looked worse.” Richard hid his face in the crook of James’ neck, slowly inhaling his scent. He smelled like fresh clothes and cheap hotel shampoo. But underneath there was still only James. He was warm and Richard closed his eyes, letting his other senses tell him that everything was all right.
“You don’t have to fight alone, you know?” James’ voice filtered into his thoughts and made him look up again. “I know what you feel.” James’ hand brushed Richard’s cheek. “I know how your heart seems to be ripped out of your chest, how the air is sucked from your lungs and you feel like you’re slowly dying without the one you love dearly. I’m not the only one having accidents, Rich. You had your fair share as well and believe me when I say that sometimes I didn’t think I’d survive a heartbreak this bad. But we’re together now and that’s all that’s important right now.”
“God, I love you so much” Richard breathed out. James’ words were a cure, warm and sweet running through his thoughts and making him feel at ease. He leaned forward, covering James’ mouth with his own. Closing his eyes, James kissed back. It was not more than a touch of lips, a breath ghosting over their skin. But it held so much meaning. It told the feelings no words could ever describe. Richard steadied himself on the bed with a hand on either side of James’ hips, deepening their kiss. Electricity crackled through their bodies, connecting them as one.
Richard put one hand behind James’ head, slowly easing him back to lie more comfortably against the pillows and pressed himself closer. James wrapped his arms around his hips, feeling him warm and solid underneath his fingertips. It grounded him while at the same time Richard’s lips made his head spin and thoughts fly away.
Richard lifted himself off the bed without breaking their kiss and sat down on James’ lap with his thighs on either side of James’ waist. He entwined his fingers in James’ hair, feeling some strands still wet from his shower and how soft it actually was.
There were these little things, tiny details that he never noticed during the day, during work but in the quiet nights when everything had calmed down and they had only eyes for each other the world seemed to be at peace. And Richard noticed all these things that made him fall in love all over again. James’ hair, his soft skin, his incredible blue eyes, his warm hands as they mapped his body for the thousandth time, the soft breaths leaving James’ mouth as he tried to keep control over himself.
Richard smiled then. He couldn’t contain his feelings, his pure happiness anymore and broke the kiss.
“What is it?” James asked. His own smile could easily be heard in his voice as it reached Richard’s ears. He had his eyes still closed, just feeling. Hearing.
“I just noticed…” Richard started, opening his eyes to look down at James. He looked so young when he was happy. His eyes shone even brighter and every crease seemed to soften. “…how amazing you are, how lucky I am to be with you and how bloody much I love you!”
James laughed quietly, his eyes never leaving Richard’s. “Who’s the sappy git now?” He grinned.
“Shut up.” Richard grinned and kissed him again.
“But for the record…” James mumbled against his lips. “I love you, too. More than anything.”
Later that night, as they lay in bed together, Richard wrapped cautiously around James’ middle, they looked outside the window, letting the distant sound of the howling wind slowly lull them into sleep. The light of the moon illuminated their skin, keeping them safe, as the wind whispered its secrets into the night.