Smells Like Teen Spirit

by H.P. Lovecock
illustrated by melanofly

Why am I so nervous?


This is where I’m supposed to be. I got here with hard work, dedication, skill and sure, maybe a little bit of bizarre luck and timing. But I’m going to show everyone who helped me get here–my trainers, my F3 team, the team I just signed with, my manager–all the effort they invested into me is worth it.

Of course Ben Robinson is here with me, inevitably about to steal the spotlight. It doesn’t help my nerves that he’s on the other side of the media centre’s stage making obscene gestures, trying to get a rise out of me, no doubt. The ecstatic buzz of the crowd gathered in the auditorium doesn’t help either. Or all the TV cameras pointed at the stage, livestreaming to the entire motorsport world.

“Now, we’re doing a rookie roundup, because the 2025 Formula One World Championship has not one, but two new drivers on the grid,” says Laurie Hamilton, F1 Net’s commentator, as the program moves into the next segment. She beams at the crowd of fans, mirroring their excitement. “Up first, he was meant to be Duvalier’s reserve driver, but after Luc Fournier suffered a knee injury this week, this driver got upgraded for his first season. Our French team’s first French driver in over a decade. He took P4 overall in last year’s Formula Three season. Please help me welcome… Bastien Chevalier!”

“Deep breaths,” my mom murmurs in French, standing behind me beside a stagehand who’s gesturing me on. “And remember to wave.”

I also have to remember how to walk normal as I step out from backstage, turning to wave at the crowd the way I’ve been practising in the mirror–alone, and it makes me want to cringe just thinking about it. A quick faire la bise with Laurie before giving another stiff wave to the crowd, a sea of faces, their clapping and cheering a wave of noise washing over the stage.

“And the second ‘B’ that makes up B&B,” Laurie says, gesturing to the other side of the stage. I glance over and see my counterpart; Ben doesn’t look at all bothered, he’s fist bumping the excited production crew around him. “After a year dominating in Formula Two, taking the Formula Three championship the year before that–”

A twinge of shame in my gut. I’ve been in Formula Three for two years now, and I only managed a modest P4 overall in last year’s season. Of course, by that point Ben had already moved up to Formula Two. No doubt they’ll mention his–

“–meteoric rise,” Laurie continues. There it is. “And now he makes up one half of an all-Australian F1 team… Give it up for Pride F1’s Ben Robinson!”

Ben strides out and waves, looking like he owns the place. There are screams of fans in the audience, as if he’s a Beatle. We’re both in team polos, me in my royal blue Duvalier, Ben in his Pride F1 sky blue with a golden lion head on the breast. But Ben makes his look stylish, the fit is perfect on his lean, muscular frame, the undone buttons, against all odds, giving a polo shirt a touch of sex appeal. In my own team colours I feel like I’m wearing an adult costume and someone’s going to figure it out and send me home.

Ben gives me an affectionate bro hug, clasping my back tight, and Laurie gestures for us to grab a mic and take a seat on the studio couch. I don’t fail to notice that Ben steps around me to sit closer to Laurie, but he makes it look smooth and natural. Laurie, the host, is a commentator and F1 journalist, TV pretty, short brown hair, perfect makeup, a professional but nonetheless flattering blouse-skirt combo, all legs and heels.

But she gets flustered by Ben just smiling at her as they sit. He’s got movie-star good looks, long, loose curls of black hair, flawless light brown skin, a strong brow and jaw that give him an intense, brooding look, which makes his bright, white smile all the more disarming. Maybe it’d get me too if we hadn’t spent our entire lives racing together.

“So,” Laurie says, composing herself as she sorts her question cards. “Did you two think you’d be racing each other in Formula One so soon?”

“Thought I’d be waiting for him,” Ben says in his posh, polished Australian accent, jerking his thumb over his shoulder towards me. I give him a playful, practised eye roll. 

“Not only are you best friends from your karting days,” Laurie says, leaning in towards Ben. “Not only are your birthdays a single day apart, but they fall on your first race weekend in Formula One. How’re you boys feeling about that?”

“Pretty great,” Ben says as my mind races to form some sort of coherent answer. “Pride’s supposed to have a big piss-up for mine on Friday.”

The Australian-ism gets a laugh from Laurie and some hoots from the audience. Ben turns and gives me a “now you talk” look.

“How about you, Bastien?” Laurie asks as my mind goes completely blank. “Any plans for yours?”

Yeah, the thought pushes through. I’m going to put in the best times I can and try to get through into the second qualifying session.

“Probably be pretty low-key,” I manage, which gets a laugh from the wall of audience in front of me. I feel my face flush. I meant my birthday celebration, everyone knows the weekend will be nothing of the sort.

“I guess you didn’t expect you’d be up here this year, Bastien,” Laurie says. “But then Luc’s accident… How’s he doing?”

“He’s doing well,” I say. I practised my interview questions with Duvalier’s communications lead earlier. “It sounds like the surgery is pretty normal for a knee injury, the team just wants to give him lots of time to recover.”

Ben nods, seriously. “What’d he do?”

We didn’t practise that one. I just blurt the first thing that comes to mind, which is the truth. “I think… playing basketball with his family?”

I give an awkward shrug, but at least the ludicrousness of a Formula One driver–who drives cars at 300 km/h–hurting himself shooting hoops in the driveway gets an indulgent laugh from Laurie and the audience.

“Big opportunity for you though,” Laurie says.

“Yes,” I answer and then, again, honestly, “it’s a bit overwhelming.”

Laurie gives me a sympathetic smile, and Ben elbows me playfully. Now I’m getting the full kid treatment. Great.

“Now let’s talk about the teams you’re joining,” Laurie takes a quick glance at her cards. “For those of you at home who might be new to F1, welcome! Each of the ten teams has two drivers, each driver vying for the championship, scoring points if they make the top ten in each race weekend’s grand prix. Ben, you’re joining Pride F1, an Australian-owned team, now with two Australian drivers–”

“Warlpiri, Aboriginal Australian on my dad’s side; Yuwa, yapa! Ngurrju-mayinpa?” Ben says, bumping his chest with his fist at the closest camera. “Respect. British on my mum’s side. So that’s like, two or three whole nationalities right there.”

“Your teammate, Herman Schultz, drove a fantastic season last year. That absolutely legendary drive in Monza, and P10 in the Drivers’ Championship,” Laurie continues, both Ben and I shake our heads in enthusiastic agreement. “That’s the drivers’ battle. Then each of the teams are fighting for the Constructors’ Championship with their drivers’ combined points, and Pride F1 surprised everyone by taking P6 as a team last year. Hoping you’ll keep them in the points?”

“We’ve got to deliver,” Ben says. “Long term Pride’s goal is to keep in the points and fight Power Max for P5 in Constructors’, then move our way up from there. I think Herman and I can take the fight to them.”

“And let’s not forget about Duvalier,” Laurie says, turning her attention to me, and I’m suddenly acutely aware of how much I’m sweating under the studio lights. “You signed on as the team’s reserve driver, but rumour has it that they were planning to give you a seat in the next couple of years, after Luc got settled in.”

“Yes,” I get out, my voice breaking slightly. Horrifying. “Perhaps in a year or two, but they’re taking a chance on me. Duvalier is entering a new strategic phase. Our goal is to be consistently in the points. P5 in the Constructors’.”

Laurie purses her lips in amusement. I rattled off the answer like I was reading a spreadsheet, but I said what I needed to. “B&B fighting one another for points, your teams fighting for P5. I guess it won’t be the first time.”

“P6 in the Constructors’ isn’t so bad,” Ben says, grinning at me, which gets a laugh from the audience.

It takes my entire concentration to get a quip in, and I manage to only stutter a little, “I know, that would be a big achievement in your first season. Almost as good as our P5.”

Ben reaches over to ruffle my hair and I fight him off, lots of laughs from Laurie and the audience.

“Cheeky,” Ben says, affectionate with an edge of disbelief. He’s usually the one dunking on me. “Always so cheeky, this one!”

“Well, we couldn’t be more excited to have you both on the grid, and you both gave great drives in pre-season testing,” Laurie says, radiating excitement at us. “We can’t wait to see what you do with your first grand prix weekend. Let’s give it up, once again, for B&B! Bastien Chevalier and Ben Robinson!”

We both stand up, Ben beaming at the audience and waving like royalty to a roar of approval, my confidence isn’t quite at his level but I do my best. I can drive as fast as a plane goes to take off, but public appearances still absolutely kill me. Ben leans in toward me, still waving and smiling to the audience.

“How’d you even fucking get here, mate?” he asks, the venom of his words cutting through the amusement in his voice. “You kneecap Luc yourself?”

Va te faire enculer…” I mutter back at him, trying not to let my smile falter.

B&B, Bastien and Ben–or Ben & Bastien, in that order, depending on who you ask–best friends since our karting days.

A total lie.

I completely and utterly hate this guy’s guts. Now I have to spend the entire weekend, my first in Formula One, with him.




The Sakhir International Circuit is an expanse of asphalt, sand, stone and sky that stretches as far as the eye can see. The flat horizon is broken up by towering palms and the track’s boxy grandstands and garage complex.

Tucked between two stretches of track, sandwiched by the garages and a section of grandstand is a palm-lined promenade with a row of suites that look like if a motel had a baby with a bunker, painted golden sandy-brown, shaded as best they can with big, wavy awning caps. Bahrain is an “away” race, one outside of Europe, so the iconic, palatial motorhomes are left behind for the track’s permanent facilities.

This is the paddock, where every team has its headquarters and hospitality facilities. This is where the entire team comes to refuel, where celebrities, investors and sponsors are wined and dined; this is home during race weekend. I’ve been in motorsports my entire life, and the F1 paddock is still just infinitely cool to walk no matter how many times I’m here.

People call my name as I step out of the Duvalier headquarters with mom, complete strangers–in royal blue Duvalier fan shirts, or else Bahraini guys in their thobe, ghutra and agal–ask for selfies or autographs. Mom keeps the exchanges brief, we have a meeting with some time padded out for the paddock walk. Anyone in the paddock who is not a F1 team member is probably attendees with top tier passes, or media. I give a shy wave and an awkward grin to the Netflix camera crew as we head for the circuit’s main hospitality suites and offices.

Adra Khalil is a chic late twentysomething brand manager for Zaid Haji, a Bahraini men’s style brand that’s gone international in the last few years. She’s petite, even in heels, but strikes a bold figure with a shimmering purple Shayla and a lavender pantsuit. She stands at the head of the table, a few communications people and assistants from each team. Of course, Ben is leaning backwards in his tall-backed chair, chatting with her like they’ve known each other for years. Adra shakes the hands of me and mom, looking a little starstruck when she gets to the one and only Geneviève Desrosiers, the last of five women to ever drive a F1 season. So clearly she’s a bit of a Formula One fan. Quick introductions, then everyone takes a seat and Adra gets right to business.

“So, here’s the plan,” she says, a posh British accent with a hint of Arabic. “We’ve got the interview tonight after free practice, one hour, then a quick appearance at a sponsor dinner. The obligation won’t be too late, we know you’ve got a lot of prep to do before qualifying tomorrow.”

“Piss-up,” Ben mouths at me from across the conference table. I studiously ignore it.

“And the photoshoot… the time block wasn’t on the last itinerary,” Mom says, except she’s in manager mode now.

Yeah, mom’s my driving manager. It’s a bit of a whole thing.

Adra nods. “We were just confirming final details. We’ve booked a three hour block tomorrow morning, just after training.”

“Three hours?” Ben whistles, impressed. Time is a precious commodity on race weekend, so three hours is a huge deal. “They must be shelling out some serious dosh.”

“The article is Q&A format, your teams will get to vet the final draft, but the less changes that have to be made the better,” she continues. I nod. We’ve already been practicing all of the prepared questions. I’m hoping Ben will pick up any improvised questions, he usually does. Any chance to hear himself talk. “The writer will be at the photoshoot too, just to ask some questions about your outfits, so have some bits prepared. And he’ll ask you about your friendship, things you like to do together, like shopping, so have some bits for that too.”

Adra’s in on it, that makes things easier. Ben and I both relax a little, we don’t have to do the act.

No one quite remembers where B&B started. We used to be friends, in that we used to show up to the same karting practices, training camps and race weekends, and he wasn’t a total ass. I liked Ben, he was confident and fun on track days, but didn’t take himself too seriously. When we were younger, he and I even organised a charity drive together… or, rather, we came up with the idea and our teams organized it. Then he got a racing manager and started a campaign for the top. He became polished, stylish, assertive. But we still showed up to the same practices and races, and people started expecting that B&B would be up to something. Then we both got to Formula Three and it was clear that B&B was a useful brand tool, as gross as that is. We had more of a presence, more people on higher teams knew our names, we got asked to observe races in the team garages on Grand Prix weekends that overlapped with F3 races, which meant they were watching for future Formula One drivers.

The good news is that B&B is going to be “strategically phased out.” F1’s a busy season and our teams have high demands on us, so we’ve got less time to hang out but hey, that’s the business. Graceful exit for B&B, minimal future time spent with Ben Robinson.

The schedule is already punishing enough without a fake friendship on top of it. I thought I was ready for the F1 weekend. I’ve always gone with mom to any of the races I could, everyone knows it’s intense. Only I wasn’t waking up to train at dawn. Then straight to the track for endless technical briefings, media or fan events and, of course, more pre-session warmup and training. That’s before I even get in the garage, in the car, which are the only things I want to do.

We head back out from the Zaid Haiji meeting into the blazing Bahraini sun, heading to the garages together. Mom and Ben’s manager chat amicably, and Ben and I are back in character, walking side-by-side, chatting about nothing, stopping to take selfies and give out autographs. Ben does it with style, talking to complete strangers is a struggle to me even without language barriers between my native French or decent English and the cosmopolitan F1 crowd.

Ben and I part ways without a word when we reach the pit lane.

There’s an explosion of activity in the Duvalier garages, the whole team doing final checks and diagnostics on the cars systems, the hundreds of sensors all over the chassis and parts, checking the car’s setup. I get fist bumps and encouragement from dozens of engineers in polo shirts, or the cadre of mechanics in their blue team racing suits, full body coveralls. It’s dizzying, I’m still trying to learn everyone’s names.

Mom gives my shoulder a squeeze as she accepts a headset and a tablet from one of the engineers, she’ll observe free practice from inside the garage. She’ll have notes on my drive after. “Bon courage, chouchou.”

Merci maman.”

Standard Friday format has two Free Practice sessions, which gets the drivers out onto the track for an hour at a time. It gives teams the chance to adjust the car’s setup based on data and driver feedback. Laps are timed, but it’s more a data gathering exercise and a chance for drivers to get a feel for the car, the track, than proper racing. Sakhir is one of the most abrasive tracks on the calendar so we need all the data we can get about tyre degradation for our strategy.

FP1 isn’t anything spectacular. I get a little panicky after putting a time on the board…


DUVALIER RADIO (Chevalier): I smelled something burning at the end of the main straight. 

DUVALIER RADIO (Masson): Checking. Standby.


My race engineer Ed Masson, the person sitting on the Duvalier pit wall who feeds me information and strategy while I’m in the car, sounds calm enough. I slow and pull my car to the left to let one of the indigo Power Max cars zip by on their own hot lap.


DUVALIER RADIO (Masson): We are pretty sure it is burning plank resin you are smelling. Safe to continue.

DUVALIER RADIO (Chevalier): … Copy. Thank you.


I resist the urge to slap my helmet’s forehead. There’s a narrow wooden plank on the underside of every car that keeps them from running too low to the ground based on car design guidelines–wood can’t really lie, if it’s worn too much cars can be excluded from the race. When sparks fly off the backs of cars, that’s usually the plank as it’s scraped against the track. All I was smelling was a completely normal amount of wear. 

I barely have time after FP1 to drink some water and catch my breath before being whisked away to a team press conference with our principal and my teammate… Ken De Jong.

F1’s increasingly skewing younger in terms of drivers as teams nurture talent earlier and earlier. This season, Duvalier boasts both the youngest driver (me) and the oldest (Ken). All the other drivers on the grid told me to watch out for the cantankerous, grizzled, leathery 43-year-old South Afrikaner. His nickname is literally “The Robot,” and he has a reputation for crashing other drivers out, even his own teammates, when they try for overtakes during races. With all this in mind, the first time I ever met him I blurted out how much I loved his famous last lap overtake on Cesare Lecce at Imola during the 2006 season, De Jong’s sole drivers’ championship win.

He looked me up and down, patted me on the shoulder, and he hasn’t said a word to me since. He just occasionally gives me a firm clap on the shoulder when I’ve put in a good lap. The team says that means he likes me.

Like the race itself, Free Practice Two takes place after sundown, which gives us more accurate data and projections based on temperature and track conditions. In F1, a few degrees of tyre temperature can make or break a lap time. A lap time, even a hundredth, a thousandth of a second, could make or break a championship title. Every lap, every second, every single point counts. Still, we’ve made some aerodynamic adjustments on downforce and the rear wing especially. The car feels good, really good. Working with the engineers, technicians and mechanics on adjustments is maybe one of my favourite things to do aside from driving. The expertise, the mechanical precision… it’s beautiful, it takes my breath away.

The biggest surprise of the first two sessions is that the front pack teams–Horus, Holt, Altomare–they’re struggling. They’ve still got better cars, they’re mostly putting in better times than the midpack like Power Max, Pride F1 and Duvalier. But Holt’s aerodynamic design doesn’t seem to be working the way they want, Altomare’s cars keep having reliability issues… Horus just seems to have a difficult car. From the way the journalists clamber to ask us questions in the paddock afterward you’d think we were already beating the front pack teams in the world drivers’ championship. F1’s very much like that: extremes.

Mom yanks me out of the garage into the team debriefing after, and everyone seems really happy with my performance. I’m a few tenths of a second off our goal, mom points out. I nod in agreement, feeling like I’ve completely and utterly failed, but when we’re alone in our hotel room she pulls me into a tight hug and tells me I’m doing a great job, which leaves me speechless.

Then it’s time for the interview.

Ben beats me to the media centre conference room, because of course he does. He pulls me into a tight, affectionate bro hug, and I’m amazed at how easy he makes it look… liking me. It takes a lot of my energy to do the same for him. I shake the journalist’s hand, a British guy. I’m horrified when I forget his name immediately. But we launch into things. He’s got us for an hour.

We start with the usual stuff, how our friendship got started in karting, what it’s like moving up to F1, and a few questions about our style. I’ve practiced all of them tirelessly with the comms team, and I do okay, although I mix a couple of brand names up. Ben corrects me, but makes it seem like I mix them up all the time, which is a clever touch. Then, as we near the end of the hour, we get into uncharted waters…

“So,” the British journalist says, checking his recorder and then looking at Ben. “I always love to ask friends this question: What’s your favourite thing about Bastien that not many people know?”

Oh great, I think. Can’t wait to hear him make up something completely embarrassing, like I grow my own closet mushrooms or I’m an anime nerd or something.

“He plays guitar,” Ben says, and I turn to him and my jaw drops open in disbelief. How the hell does he know that?

“Really?” the journalist asks, suddenly a lot more interested in me than he’s seemed throughout the interview.

“He has a whole secret Instagram account, doesn’t show his face, very mysterious,” Ben continues, smirking at me, “he has a band he jams with.”

“They’re just some friends…” I mutter. My brain is racing, trying to figure out what he’s playing at. How does he know about my band’s Insta account, I never post my face!

“He’s a total dork about it, too,” Ben says. “He likes old school rock and roll. Like Queen and Jimi Hendrix and… what’s that band you like called? Jefferson… Airship?”

“Starship!” I cry out.

“It’s pretty adorable. He doesn’t listen to anything made after, like, 1989.”

“What?!” I give him an annoyed glare. “Nirvana’s my favourite band. Though technically their debut studio album was released in 1989, but they had already–”

“See?” Ben says, gesturing at me. “Total music nerd.”

“Yeah?!” I snap. Ben Robinson is the only person in the world who could find a way to annoy me about music. “Well, Ben plays piano. He’s really good. He did conservatory and everything. He could have gone professional.”

“Backup career,” Ben says with a dismissive shrug, but he shoots me a “lay off” glare. He must think I don’t remember going over to his house when we were kids, sneaking into the music room to see all his piano notebooks. I found a bunch of his recitals on YouTube, before they got taken down. He was really good. I thought it was cool, it’s actually a big reason why I started playing the guitar… I wonder if he still plays…

“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that B&B are both musically talented,” the journalist says with a grin as he turns his equipment off. I look at Ben, I can see that under his smile he’s frustrated I outed him; probably as frustrated as I am with him for the same reason. “I guess that’s it, I’ll see you lads tomorrow.”

“Feel free to stop by the party later,” Ben says as I stand up and shake the journalist’s hand.

“Oh, that’s right! Don’t think I’ll be able to, alas,” the journalist looks genuinely disappointed. I’m not into parties, but even I know that Pride F1 parties are legendary. They’ve become especially big in the last few years, always lots of celebrities and motorsport bigshots. Everyone wants an invitation. “You two enjoy yourselves, okay?”

I’m about to make my excuses; I’ll be too busy resting before tomorrow, packed schedule, FP3, my first F1 qualis. Then Ben throws his arm around my shoulder and claps his hand over my chest affectionately.

“There’s another little known fact about Bastien Chevalier,” he says. “This guy’s a huge party animal. Never misses the chance to tear it up on the dance floor. There’s no way you’d miss your best mate’s birthday party, right?”

I open my mouth and my brain goes completely and utterly blank. “Of course.”

I swear out loud in English, mostly, but inside my head it’s always a steady stream of francophone invectives: Pourquoi au putain de nom sacré de Dieu ai-je dit ça avec ma putain de bordel de merde de bouche de connard?!

The journalist laughs. “Well, I look forward to seeing the pictures tomorrow!”

Ben’s smirking at me once again. He’s gotten me back for the piano thing.





I’ve been eighteen for four minutes. Of course, Ben Robinson beat me to eighteen by a little less than a day, and going to his birthday party is probably the most I’ll do to celebrate mine.

The Pride F1 “piss-up” is at a high-end resort overlooking the Gulf, a pleasant, cool, briny breeze coming off the water. All ages, technically, since Ben isn’t old enough to drink in Bahrain. The VIP section where I’ve been hiding is up a flight of stairs from the “cabana lounge”, and partially indoors, although the booths have a fantastic view of the water.

I’ve been lucky so far, hanging out with a few honest to goodness F1 drivers in the VIP section–I guess I am too, which still hasn’t really sunk in. One of them, Kazuki Honma, is actually partly why I’m here. The young Japanese driver moved from Duvalier to Union-Fountaine this season, and then I got his seat in Luc’s place. He seems like an actual party animal, he just keeps screaming “SHOTS! LET’S DO SHOTS!” Izzy Gauthier’s not even a year older than Ben and I, and he seems annoyed that Ben’s managed to sneak a couple of drinks and that he hasn’t got in on the action. I get a little starstruck talking to the short, frizzy haired fellow teenager; how could I not with who his dad is, and after watching his rookie season last year? He’s French-Canadian, too, so it’s a lot easier to chat, and we end up talking about music. I’m gobsmacked that he’s never really tried Nirvana, he “only knows the really popular ones,” so I give him some recommendations, and feel extremely cool doing so. There’s Ben’s teammate, Herman Schultz, fellow Australian, who is in his mid-twenties but acts like a teenager and loses his shirt pretty early on in the party. Ricky Brathwaite, the Barbadian-British driver from Power Max, our rival team, should be the one doing the photoshoot with Ben. He’s (objectively) extremely handsome, and has actually done some modelling. He and Ben seem like actual besties, too…

Eventually they all filter out into the actual party, and I’m left sipping slowly on a glass of water in the corner of one of the booths, fiddling on my phone and hoping no one can see me from below. Someone does, of course.

Ben Robinson, the actual birthday boy.

“Fuck me, mate!” he says, tumbling into the booth beside me, a drink sloshing around in his hand. He’s lost his blazer, I saw him whipping it around over his head on the dance floor earlier. His dark, tailored, faintly royal blue dress shirt has a few buttons undone, the sleeves rolled up. A little sweat’s dewed on his forehead, but he seems exhilarated, smiling down at the party, barely giving me a glance. “You look like you’re having fun.”

“I’m not really into parties,” I mumble, feeling embarrassed about it. I’m not like Ben, I can’t just walk into a room and make a friend. I find it hard talking to people, things that should be easy like small talk absolutely terrify me. I always end up feeling awkward, which makes people trying to talk with me feel awkward, which makes me feel even more awkward, etcetera.

“I know,” he says, turning and giving me an incredulous look. “That’s why I invited you!”

“Because of the piano thing…”

“No,” he says, scoffing. “I thought we could–okay, actually, now that you mention it, it’s kinda funny getting back at you for the piano thing–but I thought we could change your mind. You’re young, you’re a Formula One driver, mate! You should enjoy it! Who knows how long we’ll be here?”

I give a weak shrug. He doesn’t really mean… dying, but we drive cars at 300 kmh, so that’s certainly not off the table. I know he’s talking about how long we’re here at the top. There have been F1 rookies, even veteran drivers pulled out of a seat half-way through the season because they weren’t delivering.

Ben reaches over and pokes me in the ribs. “You’re actually going to just sit and pout?”

I turn and glare at him. “What do you want me to do? Go down on the dance floor and wiggle around and throw my arms up in the air and go ‘WHOO’?”

I mime the gesture, like I’ve been watching him do all night, only bigger, and dumber. “Do that again,” Ben says, a big, stupid grin on his face.

“What? This? WHOO!” I do it again, then glance over shyly and see Ben had his phone out. He’s giggling as he presses some buttons.

“And… uploading. See, now everyone will know you’re the real deal.”

I reach over for his phone and he fights me off with his drink hand, laughing, but by the time I grab it he’s already got the video uploaded on his Insta story.

“You’re such an asshole,” I say, pushing him off me and sliding sideways in the booth, feeling my face flush.

“Mate,” Ben says, actually sounding a little apologetic. Doesn’t make him delete it, though. “You do realize it’s okay to… like, have fun?”

“Not everyone can be Ben Robinson,” I say, almost switching into French, I’m so angry and embarrassed. “I have to get up and train–”

“Uh, so do I, dude.”

“Come on, Ben,” I mutter, the words just spilling out. “I watched you move up from karting through Formula Three, Formula Two, now here. You’re talented. It comes easy to you. There are kids who work twice as hard as both of us combined and they could never make it here.”

“Is that what you’re so butthurt about?” Ben asks, tossing an angry “ha” my way. “That it comes ‘easy’ to me? Try being a person of colour, mate. Try being mixed-race. Try being indigenous. Try getting every fucking stupid racist question you could ever possibly imagine every day of your fucking life. See how fucking easy that is while trying to be in motorsports.”

“Sorry…” I say, trying to shrink back into the seat.

“I’m playing the hand I was dealt, mate,” Ben mutters, staring at his drink. “Two famous parents… What was I supposed to do? What else could I have been? This…” Ben gestures at himself, “This is my armour. I’ll have you know I get scared too. I get freaked out… I think about it all the time, like someone’s going to figure it out and send me packing.”

I can’t even look at him. I don’t really even know what to think, except that I feel the same way, only I don’t have his confidence, even if it is an act. He turns and sees me looking pathetic.

“Come on, Bee,” Ben groans in frustration, using our old childhood nickname for each other–is that how B&B started? “I didn’t come up here for us to yell at each other, I came up here to try and see if I could… I don’t know, get you to come down and loosen up for once. Have some fun.”

“I don’t need you to have fun,” I say quietly, I can barely hear myself over the din of the partying crowd below us. “I can have fun on my own.”

“Are you really just going to sit up here alone and look miserable all evening?”

“Mom said I should stay for two hours to ‘put in an appearance’,” I admit. He groans again, shaking his drink to make the ice clink, and then taking a sip. We sit in silence for a minute, Ben staring out at his party, me staring at my glass of water, waiting for him to get tired of me and get up and leave.

“Oi, mate. What do you think of her?”

I crane my neck and follow the direction he juts the glass in. Down near the bar a tall, dark haired young woman in a very small dress stands with a group of other young women in very small dresses, all of them on their phones but glancing in our direction. She gives a shy wave at Ben, and he waves back.

“Um, she’s… fine?” I say. I hadn’t even noticed. “Who is she?

“Some influencer,” Ben says, dismissive. “Or a model. Or a fuckin’ F1 groupie. I don’t know.”


“She fancies you.”

“Really?” I ask, mystified. “Why?”

Ben looks at me incredulously. “Mate, you’re a F1 driver. You better get used to everyone wanting to fuck your brains out.”

I get a weird twisting feeling in my gut from the way Ben says: “fuck your brains out.”

“Oh,” I say, feeling my face flush again. “I guess I’d just never really thought about it.”

“Thought about what?” Ben asks.

“Um, you know,” I lower my voice. “Sex.”

Ben blinks, opens his mouth, closes it, then opens it again.

“Wait a minute… wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute… Are you telling me you’re a–” he drops his voice this time “–virgin?”

I blink at him. “I guess. Why?”

“Mate…” he puts his face in his hands and massages his forehead, then repeats, “Mate… We’re in a sport quite literally driven by machismo. You’re a fuckin’ Frenchman. You don’t know how much I could drag you right now.”

He glances up when I go quiet. I think my face must be scrunched up in genuine, crippling shame, because he looks dismayed.

“No! Dude! It’s chill!” he says quietly. “You know… that’s… chill. That’s very, uh, powerful. Like, no distractions, saving up your… energy? Or saving yourself for… marriage? Is this, like, a Catholic thing?”

“No…” I admit, picking nervously at my cuticles. “I’ve just been so focused on training and driving I never really thought about it.”

“You astound me, bro,” Ben says, looking at me like I’m an alien. I don’t think he means it as a compliment. “But you must have tried, I dunno, kissing? Making out?”

I can feel his eyes burning into my skull as I hang my head, not able to meet his gaze. I know people do that kind of stuff, I’ve heard guys talking about it, but I just honestly hadn’t really ever thought about it, and when I do it’s distracting and makes a mess and I have to delete my search history.

“Come here,” Ben says, slipping out of the booth.

“What? Where?”

“Just come with me, loser.”

I’m terrified Ben’s going to drag me down to the group of young women, but I follow him around the corner of the VIP section to a couple of private washrooms. He opens one of the doors and does a flourishing gesture. I give him a perplexed look.

“Don’t worry about it, dude,” he says, anticipating my hesitation. Even I know people don’t typically sneak off into single stall washrooms together. “People will just think we’re doing cocaine or some shit.”

He laughs as he sees the stricken look on my face and pulls me in, locking the door behind him. I hiss,“Those are illegal drugs.”

“We’re not actually going to do cocaine, dickhead.”

The bathroom is modern and minimalist, all brass fixtures and subtle browns and blacks, with a partition between the toilet and a big open area in front of the sink. A well-lit vanity mirror sits over the expansive black marble counter. Ben gestures at it. “One sec, I gotta take a piss.”

I tell myself I shouldn’t feel mortified listening to the tinkle and whistling of Ben–“Eine kleine Nachtmusik”, Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major, Mozart–on the other side of the partition. I’ve been in the bathroom with other guys peeing before. Maybe because it’s just the two of us in a private bathroom.

He comes out, still whistling, and washes his hands, wipes them off on the sides of his pants, then turns to me, crossing his arms.


“So…” I respond cautiously.

“Never been kissed?”

I shake my head. He pats the counter for me to sit and I hop up, waiting for whatever, I don’t know, condescending lecture or advice he’s about to give.

Ben surprises me, not with a lecture or advice, but by turning toward me and sidling over to stand between my legs. A panic rises in my chest, I freeze up as he throws his arms over my shoulders.

“Want to try?” Ben asks, a shit-eating grin on his face.

I give him a dubious glare. “Are you drunk?”

He snorts. “Only a little. You?”

I almost tell him that the most alcohol I’ve ever had is the occasional glass of wine on a special occasion. I just shake my head. He’s pranking me. I know it. He wants me to say yes to the kiss so he can burst out laughing and tease me until the end of time; fake kiss at me backstage at the next press event. But I’m frozen there at the suggestion with the feel of his bare arm against my neck, surprisingly warm. I have to stifle a shiver. I force myself to look up and meet his eyes, expecting to see the same mocking expression. But he surprises me again, the look on his face is tender, maybe even a little shy as he leans in towards my face, closing his eyes. Even though I’ve never kissed anyone before, I react automatically. I’ve seen movies. I close my eyes and lean in towards him.

I still know he’s going to break it off at the last second and laugh his ass off. I’m waiting for it.

Then I feel his lips meet mine, soft and gentle. I gasp into his mouth, and he uses that as an invitation to press his tongue against my bottom teeth. There’s a sweet kind of nothing taste to it with a hint of what I assume he was drinking, a slight citrus with a subtle suggestion of juniper, a gin and tonic? Then I push back with mine and press into it.

“Woah, woah, woah, ease up on the throttle there, ace,” he says, pulling back just slightly, laughing to himself. “Less mouth, like this.”

He leans in again and I surprise myself by bringing my lips back to his. I focus on the feeling of Ben’s lips against mine. It’s surprisingly soft and slow, but there’s this distracting static buzz in my head, like everything’s gone a bit fuzzy, I can’t figure out what it is. All the other thoughts that are normally buzzing around my head just kind of fall away. It feels good, that’s the kind of distressing part.

The way his bare arm keeps brushing my neck, too. That’s having a certain effect on me, like a full body shiver even though we’re in a perfectly climate controlled venue. Then he reaches up and runs his hand through the back of my short brown hair, and I feel myself melt into him, hear myself sigh in pleasure, as if I was climbing into a hot tub.

Suddenly my head falls forward with a start when Ben pulls his lips away from mine. I open my eyes and he’s giving me a devilish smirk. Here it comes. I don’t know what, but something dickish and unpleasant.

“Want me to stop?” he asks.

“Um… no.”

A grin spreads across his face. “You like it?”

I bite my bottom lip in consternation. “Um, yes.”

He grins at me, and for a minute it’s like the Ben Robinson I used to know. Not the asshole he’s become. “You think you liked that, this is going to blow your fuckin’ mind.”

He brings his lips back to mine, but it’s only a quick peck, which leaves me almost gasping for more. But he kisses across my cheek down to my jawline as his right arm reaches up to hold the back of my head. He pulls me in and kisses down my neck, which upgrades the shivers to mild bodily convulsions. Then he nibbles my neck… and bites it gently and I’m suddenly collapsing against him, barely able to think.

“Mm,” Ben hums into my ear, “you like that, Chevalier?”

“Uh-huh,” I sigh back.

He bites my neck again, and it’s only then that I realize I’ve got an erection, and it’s pressed between Ben Robinson and me.

There’s no way he doesn’t feel it. He doesn’t seem to mind, he’s tall enough that his upper hip is pressed against me, and as he continues to bite and nip at the tender skin down the side of my neck, his front grinds against me. The way my erection is trapped between us, trying to jut up between my belt and my stomach, it’s a kind of slightly uncomfortable excruciating pleasure and I hear myself moaning and saying “mon dieu” over and over, even though I don’t remember starting. It’s not like I’m particularly religious.

“Quiet down, Bee,” Ben murmurs into my ear; everyone always says Australian accents are… sexy… and I get it now. I can hear the smile in his voice. “People doing cocaine don’t sound like that.”

Ferme ta guele.”

Ben laughs quietly as he leans in, bites my earlobe and grinds against me, and I have to reach my arms around the back of his neck to clasp my hands over my mouth.

“Little virgin Bastien Chevalier,” he purrs into my ear as my body trembles against him. How can someone feel so humiliated and so aroused at the same time? “Surprised… mm, you can enjoy this so much with that stick up your ass.”

I moan and use the entirety of my focus to string something coherent together: “Are you watching yourself… in the mirror while you do this?”

Ben laughs and starts half-humping, half-grinding against me, over and over again, stroking my dick with the friction and confinement of where it’s wedged in my pants. He grabs the back of my head and pulls me in for a hard, sloppy kiss. Our teeth grind against each other and then suddenly his tongue is pressing against mine, so I push back with mine. I thought he said less mouth…

Then he runs his hand up through the back of my hair and grabs a handful of it. He pulls my head back and plants his lips on my neck, biting, hard. Something happens, my whole body spasms, I hear myself gasping and saying “oh fuck” over and over again until I slump against him, my vision spinning. I almost think he spilled something down my front as my shirt clings against my stomach with something warm and sticky. I suppose he did, in a way. I ejaculated… quite a lot.

He extricates himself from my arms, and I’m sitting there on the counter, panting, trembling, my head and shoulders slump back against the mirror. Ben stands between my legs. The shit eating grin is back, he looks me up and down, proud of what he’s done. He leans in, takes my chin gently in his hand and pulls my lips to his. We kiss, slow and tender, it feels different than before though I can’t say how. I gasp when he pulls his lips away from mine.

“I’ll let you get cleaned up,” he says, whipping one of the bathroom hand towels at my face as he heads for the door. He waves over his shoulder without looking back as he reaches for the doorknob. “Happy birthday by the way, virgin!”

He’s right, I’m still a virgin. There’s more, that wasn’t even sex. And I liked it. A lot.





My electric guitar riffs the main melody of the song, a playful, almost folksy new wave quick rise then fall in the key of C. “Come on!” I cry into the mic. Drums and bass join in as the melody repeats, then I step up to the microphone as the stadium crowd screams, a glorious, constant wave of buzzing noise. It’s like swimming in it.

Does she walk?” I sing, “Does she talk? Does she come complete? My homeroom, homeroom angel always pulled me from my seat!

I don’t even feel the tips of my fingers as they strum the strings and press against the fret with practiced precision. I don’t even have to think about singing; it’s not like speaking, it just happens–it’s just like driving, there’s no end of my fingers or toes, no start to the car.

She was pure like snowflakes no one could ever stain. The memory of my angel could never cause me pain!

I’m completely lost in it, and it’s the best fucking feeling in the world. Music is the only other thing that compares to driving. Both are like sound waves, nothing but glorious, mind bending vibrations that pass through me. When I’m playing, when I’m driving… that’s when I’m free.

Years go by I’m lookin’ through a girly magazine, and there’s my homeroom angel on the pages in-between…

Life can feel so flat, so monotonous, an endless cycle of waking, training, meetings, events, briefings, more training, more meetings, more events, more briefings. Sleep. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Music, playing, singing is the only thing in my life that reaches the same heights of feeling, of meaning, that driving does. I’m practically levitating, bouncing along to the music. I can feel the surge in the crowd’s energy in the milliseconds of musical time count as the verse ramps up to the chorus. The entire stadium is screaming along with me as I belt:

My blood runs cold! My memory has just been sold… My angel is the–

My attention snaps back to my hotel room, to where I’m bouncing on my bed and playing air guitar, to a pounding on my door. I’m so caught off guard I lose my footing and fall sideways off my bed onto the carpeted ground with an almighty thump. I scramble over to my smartphone and slap pause before hauling myself to my feet and running over to the door.

My driving manager, my hero, my mother is standing there in a hotel robe, long hair up in a messy bun, glaring at me in bleary disbelief.

“My God, Bastien! It’s two in the morning!” she snaps at me in a hissed French, hustling me into my room. “I could hear you through the wall! What’s gotten into you? What are you doing, still awake?”

I’m mortified; I have no idea what’s gotten into me. I try to explain that I was so keyed up after getting in from Ben’s party, there was no way I was going to sleep. I put on some shorts and a tee, thought I’d do some crunches and squats until I tired myself out. I put on some music… I tell her I was visualizing.

I don’t tell her what I was visualizing.

“That’s no excuse,” she says, rubbing her forehead in frustration as she sits down beside me on the edge of my bed, messed up by jumping around doing the concert thing in my head. “You’ve got such a full day tomorrow. Your first qualis. You’ll need every ounce of concentration. You need to have more discipline than this. You’re not a kid anymore.”

“Yes, mom. Sorry.”

“You’re going to be the death of me, chouchou,” She throws her hands up in an exaggerated exasperation and playfully pushes me sideways. “Get in bed, crazy boy!”

I pull the covers up, face still flushed with embarrassment. Mom makes a big show of jokingly tucking me in like she used to when I was an anxious little kid. There’s a little frown on her face. “What’s that on your neck?”

I reach for my phone and turn the camera around facing me. There’s a purplish, angry looking mark where my neck meets my shoulder. “I dunno. Maybe it happened when I was driving today. I had that hard spin at turn four.”

She glances over at the bathroom, but the door’s standing wide open, we can see right through to the shower. I give her a confused look. She shrugs and turns back to brush my fringe to the side. “Your hair’s getting long…”

I know, I think, but could never say. I want to grow it out.

I try not to think about how Ben’s hand felt grabbing it.

“Love you, chouchou, happy birthday,” she says, leaning down and kissing me on the forehead. As she heads toward the door and turns the lights off she glances back. “Make me proud tomorrow.”

The door closes and locks behind her. I lay there for a few seconds until I hear a gentle thud of her door closing.

Angel is the centrefold,” I sing quietly into the darkness.




The next morning after training I show up to the photoshoot angry. It’s not something I ever had to worry about: kissing or sucking on the skin can burst blood vessels and leave a purplish mark.

“You gave me a hickey from showing me how to kiss,” I hiss at Ben from my side of the divider. We’re at a luxury hotel sponsor to shoot the fashion spread. The bedroom we’re using to change is like the rest of the large suite, somehow simultaneously simple and opulent, modern and minimalist with subtle nods to Arabic design. The sleek lines are broken by lighting cables and boxy photography tech, racks of clothing for the shoot.

The photographer is brutally efficient. He poses us in broken English, makes slight adjustments to our positions, or the clothing on us, then snaps a bunch and has what he needs. It takes more time to get changed than anything. Adra and his assistants apologize for his “brusqueness,” he just doesn’t like to waste time–it’s a point in my favour for him, I hate photoshoots! We’ve already done some street clothes, now we’re moving on to “cabana” looks, whatever that means. I’m pulling on an untucked short sleeve button-up with a pair of shorts, quietly tropical patterned. Ben is in a pair of “budgie smugglers”–a tasteful pair of speedo trunks–and a loud colourful, pool robe draped over his shoulders, wearing a pair of “thongs,” also known as flip-flops.

“Well, I didn’t do it on purpose, now did I?” he says in his posh accent from his side of the divider. Less Australian than when he’s partying, I guess.

“Yeah, right,” I say, truthfully disbelieving him. It’s just the kind of thing Ben Robinson would do, sneak a hickey and tease along with everyone.

“Well, what have people said?” Ben asks.

“I think mom thought I had a… F1 groupie or something in the bathroom when she saw it–”

“Aww, does that make me your F1 groupie?” Ben says, and then quietly moans the way I was saying “mon dieu” over and over again.

“Shut up! Everyone else… kinda looked a little impressed,” I admit. “But the makeup person had to use a bunch of concealer.”

I hear Ben giggling maniacally from the other side of the divider.

We’re barely getting to the hour mark when we switch to the first suit look, “party attire,” both of us in dark custom blazers with a complementary hue nodding to our team colours. No ties, and of course Ben has a couple of his buttons undone, with his long hair pushed back all dashingly. So I reach up and undo a couple of mine, only for the photographer to yell and gesture at me to button them back up. Embarrassing. Ben snorts, but he gives me an impressed jut of his chin.

The next couple of outfits fly by, mostly Zaid Haiji suits and “evening wear.” At just under the hour and a half mark, the photographer hands off his camera, waves to us and walks out. His assistants gush about how much he loved working with us.

Adra, the journalist, the Duvalier and Pride F1 marketing folks all tell us we were great, as the photography people finish packing up their things. They’re leaving most of the larger equipment for a crew to come and collect later.

“Wait a second,” Ben says as he loosens his tie. “You’re saying this camera shit is just going to sit here for an hour and a half.”

“The room’s booked until tomorrow,” says the Pride rep, a pretty, white, blonde Australian woman, I think her name is Deb.

“And we don’t have anything scheduled for another hour and a half,” Ben says with a grin. “Hey Deb, do me a favour…”

That’s how Ben Robinson and I end up alone in a hotel room together.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s not the person I’d choose to spend even a minute and a half with. But it’s an hour and a half in a quiet, air conditioned hotel room. No team, no press, no mom.

Ben takes the bedroom, I let him have it. I toss on a tee and some shorts, toss a pod in the sleek, spacious kitchen’s machine for a cup of coffee, and toss myself onto the couch, which I sink into, sighing in pleasure. Airpods in and the Allman Brothers Band’s “Little Martha” strumming in my ears.

Then I hear a woman moan.

I take one of my airpods out, the music pauses. Silence, I shrug and pop the airpod back in. Duane Allman is gently strumming a guitar, a quiet, intimate little tune.

Then I hear it again. I pop my airpod out and listen to Ben Robinson snickering through the open bedroom door.

“Bro, have you heard of this thing called knocking?” Ben asks as I step into the doorframe.

“Are you watching pornography?!” I ask, incensed, crossing my arms.

“I’ll have you know,” Ben says, sitting up in the bed. He’s stripped down to his boxer briefs “for comfort” and sunken down into the deep plush bed, covering himself with a pillow. “I am watching some particularly spicy Snapchat vids from a young woman who I am at least moderately smitten with.”

“Well, close the door!”

“You close the door!”

I stand there fuming at him and watch a sly grin creep across his face.

“Got something to say, Chevalier?” he asks.

“I’m still angry about the hickey,” I say. “And how you… you know, seduced me.”

“Seduced you?!” Ben throws his head back and cackles. “Mate, we were making out and you popped a boner!”

“Yeah… well…”

Ben holds his hands up in surrender. “Fine, you tell me you didn’t like it, I promise I’ll never dry hump you ever again.”

I glare at him, squeezing my arms to my chest. Ben wiggles his eyebrows at me and I roll my eyes, scoffing. Then he picks the pillow off of his lap and I see the erection tenting in his tight, black boxer briefs.

“Wanna come watch some porn with me?”

Suddenly I’m walking over and sliding across the bed to sit beside him.

Putain de bâtard!

Ben wastes no time whatsoever. He raises his butt and pushes his boxer briefs down his thighs, then kicks them off. They go flying across the room.

“What if someone–”

“I deadbolted the door, dude. They’d have to bring a battering ram…” Ben says, more quiet and gentle than I expected. “Bastien, it’s okay. You can look.”

I glance over. Motorsport training focuses a lot on cardio, core and upper body strength without the bulking up of weightlifters. He’s tall, lanky, lean and muscular, a bit thicker in the traps, chest and neck–neck strength is a must with all the g-force exerted on the body at high speeds or deceleration. He’s got sun-kissed brown skin and a decent patch of dark chest hair between his pecs, and a bit of fuzz on his abs that leads down to his… erection.

He reaches down and strokes himself idly a few times, but he’s fiddling with his phone, not doing it for me. He hums in pleasure. I start shivering and he looks over, concerned. “Hey… you okay?”

“Um… yes,” I say, my mind rapidly running diagnostics, trying to figure out what’s going on. I’m not cold, I’m not sick. I’m nervous, excited, exhilarated just by the sight of him, and I’m shivering so hard my hands tremble. “Are we going to have… you know… sex?”

He grins at me, but it’s amused and delighted, not his signature Ben Robinson smirk. He pushes himself sideways and climbs up to straddle my lap. His erection is… very much pressed up against mine, still in my shorts but… very evident. Ben leans in, takes my face in his hands and pulls me in for a soft, slow, gentle kiss. One of his hands runs up through my hair at the back of my neck, and I moan and the weird fuzzy thing with my brain happens again. But I’m not shivering anymore.

Ben pulls away from my lips a little and practically whispers, “You should probably save your first time for someone special.”

“Right…” Seconds of silence hang in the air, and I lean in to kiss him some more but he stops me with his other hand on my chest.

“Although if you’re curious,” Ben says, smiling. There’s the Ben Robinson smirk. Let’s hear this. “Just having a think. I have a proposition for you… a little wager.”

“… Okay?”

“You outqualify me today, I’ll let you fuck me,” he says, smiling but serious. My mouth falls open and I try to look for his angle, how he’s going to turn that around so it’s somehow making fun of me or making me miserable. But then I realize that he’s sitting in my lap, naked, and we might be a little beyond that. “I’ll make it special.”

“What happens if you outqualify me? Are you going to…”

He shrugs, grinning like a stupid, sexy, naked idiot. “Only if you want to try that but I had something a little more… humiliating and sexy in mind.”

The way he says that sends a shiver up my spine, and I nod. “Deal.”

Ben leans in and kisses me, grinding against me and eliciting a few more moans. The phrase “seal it with a kiss” comes to mind and my erection is straining to escape my shorts. He slides off me but is lying so close our arms are pressing against one another. One of his bare legs is draped over mine. “So, what are you in the mood for?”

He shakes his phone at me, and I realize what he’s talking about. “Oh! I usually just google ‘porn’.”

“Mate…” Ben says, free hand coming up to pinch the bridge of his nose. He continues, repeating, “Mate, I don’t even know where to… Okay. Any fantasies? What gets you excited? Other than motorsports, please.”

I answer completely honestly, the first thing that comes to mind, even though it sounds so stupid as soon as I say it: “Music.”

Ben surprises me with a hungry smile. “Alright. Let’s start there. What happens?”

What does he mean, “What happens?” Oh, fantasies?

“Okay. So we’re doing the final number for the encore,” I say. “Big stadium. Packed. Throwback stadium rock band.”

“What’s the band’s name?”

“The Young Knights,” I say without even thinking about it. Ben nods. “The first couple of encore numbers were original stuff, the real crowd pleasers, but we always do a cover to finish. Usually Guns N’ Roses or Nirvana, we switch it up.”

“What song tonight?”

“‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’,” I say, closing my eyes, my hand snaking down under the waistband of my shorts. I can see it, feel it all as I describe it, like I’m standing there on stage. I actually sing. “Sweet child o’ mine. The audience goes nuts, the stadium is shaking.”

Ben interrupts me. “You glance over at your pianist–”


“–keyboardist, and you can tell he thinks you’re the hottest fucking thing he’s ever seen.”

Ben’s leaning into me as he says it, his chin resting on my shoulder, his mouth no more than an inch from my ear. I can feel the jerking motion of his arm. I moan. I push my shorts down around my knees. He gasps a little in surprise. We’re about the same size, Ben might have a half inch or on my six, and is a little thicker, because of course he is, but he doesn’t seem to mind the view.

“The crowd is still roaring as we head backstage, down to our own dressing rooms. We’re all exhausted, sweaty…”

“But your keyboardist ducks into your dressing room and has you pinned against the wall, grinding into you,” I groan quietly as he says that. “He turns you around, unzips those tight rocker jeans, and pulls this out.”

Ben reaches over and wraps his fingers around the base of my dick. I gasp and practically… ejaculate just from the feeling of his grasp. I reach my hand over, hesitate, but he nods his head as he slowly starts to stroke me. I wrap my hand around his dick and start to stroke him as if I was doing it to myself. It’s a little awkward, it’s my off hand, but Ben doesn’t seem to mind. He groans into my ear, which sends another shiver up my spine. I’m glad he’s going slow, or I might…

“I pull my keyboardist into the shower… I strip him naked and… and get my hands all over him.”

“Oh yeah,” Ben moans. That accent…

“I grind… mmm, into him from behind! He can feel my dick on his… uh…”

“Ass,” Ben groans, picking up the pace of his strokes. I’m glad he cut in, “ass” sounds a lot sexier than “butt.” My t-shirt’s a little big and the cloth keeps pooling in my lap and getting in the way, so I pull it off in one quick motion and toss it away, then my hand’s right back on Ben’s dick. He reaches across with his other hand and runs it across my bare chest, which feels extremely good, especially when he runs it over my left nipple. I may have… previously experimented with that, and I really, really like it. He can definitely hear that’s the case. “You gonna fuck your keyboardist?”

“No,” I say, surprising myself. “I might want him to… mmph, pin me against the wall… and do that to me…”

“You want your keyboardist to fuck you?” Ben asks in a low growl.

“Yeah…” I gasp. “I want my keyboardist to pin me against the wall and fuck me.”

“Good to know,” Ben says in that same low growl. Oh my God, that accent…

“I might… I’m gonna…”

“Yeah,” Ben says, agreeing. I can hear the smile in his voice. “Your keyboardist pins you against the wall and slides his thick cock into you…”

Mon dieu…”

“It drives you absolutely wild, especially because he’s… uhn, got you up against the wall facing him, he wants to… mm, drive you crazy. He wants to kiss you,” Ben leans in and presses his lips to mine, and I moan into his mouth. He pulls away. “He wants to overwhelm every sensation you can possibly feel… He never, ever stops stroking you as he takes you from behind.”

“Oh… mon dieu…”


“… And?”

“Mmm, fuck… The stadium is still shaking. The crowd is still above, screaming for more.”

I gasp, open my eyes and Ben’s staring right into mine. My body sort of thrashes and writhes as I finish, feeling explosively sensitive as Ben continues to stroke me. I coat his hand, and still hit my chest and stomach. This time I’m glad we’re in a hotel and not a bathroom. I make a lot of noise.

Ben’s not any quieter than me, but he’s had enough of me stroking weakly as every ounce of strength leaves my body. He takes matters into his own hands, pushing my hand out of the way and frantically stroking himself.

Even through the fuzzy haze, I feel a little awkward just sitting there watching “Can I…”

“Fucking kiss me, you idiot.”

I turn my head to meet his and our tongues dance together. This time Ben sighs and moans into my mouth as I feel his body spasm beside me. He shoots even further than me, up on his chest and collarbone, even his chin. Some of it hits my lip and lands into my mouth.

I jump up from the bed, my entire body shaking, I’m still barely able to catch my breath. I have to steady myself. “Oh, I just swallowed some… is it safe to…” I look down and Ben is weakly rolling on the bed, clutching his sides, shaking with laughter and post-orgasm tremors. I smile and fall down on the bed beside him, shoving him hard as I fall, laughing. “Connard! I don’t know these things!”

I don’ know dees tings!” Ben imitates me as we both collapse onto the bed together. “That accent’s so cute.”

We lay beside each other, our chests heaving as we catch our breaths. I climb up the bed a little further and kiss Ben like he did after I… finished last night. A slow, gentle, warm and content kiss, matching how I feel. After a moment I lay back and sigh. Ben reaches over and checks his phone.

“Well,” he says, drawing it out. “We’ve still got fifty minutes… How about a shower and round two?”

“… Yeah, okay.”





I can’t do this.

What am I doing here? Why did I ever think I belong here? Who convinced me to do this?

There’s a gentle knock on the door of my prep room just off the garage. Mom slips through the door and closes it behind her. I’m perched on the corner of a sleeper couch, hunched over, head between my legs, royal blue race suit half peeled off, hyperventilating, doomspiraling.

Mom comes over and crouches down beside me, gently placing a hand on my knee.

“Fear and uncertainty is completely normal,” she says in a calm, measured, whispered French.

“Fear and uncertainty… is completely normal,” I repeat, choking back tears.

“I am not afraid,” she says. “Fear doesn’t rule me.”

“I am not afraid, fear doesn’t rule me,” I repeat, not at all believing it, but saying it helps.

“I am a person with fears, everyone has fears.”

I take a big, difficult, heaving breath. “I’m a person with fears, everyone has fears.”

“I will feel the fear and do it anyway.”

I finally manage to look up and meet her eyes. She’s smiling gently at me. “I’ll feel the fear and do it anyway.”

“I am meant to be here,” she gives my hand a squeeze.

“I am meant to be here.”

“A little better?”

I take another slow, deep, deliberate breath. “A little better.”

She kisses me on the forehead and hands me my phone and headphones. “Bonne courage, chouchou.

I pop my airpods in, queue up some Hendrix and start doing my final pre-race stretches. I get like this before races… and qualis, which is what’s happening tonight. It’s a cognitive tailspin, I psych myself out. Training, testing, free practices? No problem, they’re practice, exploration laps, data gathering exercises, fun. Qualifying is the real deal, and this is my first quali in F1.

There’s a third free practice earlier on Saturday, a final chance to make adjustments, then qualifying, which determines starting position in the grand prix on Sunday. Quali takes place over an hour in three knockout rounds. Q1 lasts eighteen minutes where the five drivers with the slowest times get eliminated, Q2 is fifteen and then five more drivers go, Q3 is twelve minutes determining the top ten positions, and where pole, the coveted first place starting position, is won. Starting at the front of the grid can mean controlling the race from lights out. The single goal of quali is to get the best time on the board.

I’m just about to head out into the garage when I see an Instagram notification… from Ben. I know I shouldn’t open it, but my curiosity gets the better of me. I wrinkle my nose in confusion, it’s a picture of some lacey pink lingerie. Then a message comes through: Bought this for someone else, but thought it might be fun as my… prize tonight, with a little winky, kissy face emoji.

He… wants me to dress up in girl’s underwear! That’s what he’s going to get me to do if he places higher in quali?! I feel my face flush red and my breath goes fluttery with nervousness. I know what this is, it’s psychological warfare! Not only that, it’s perverse! What a pervert!

“Everything okay?” Mom asks, and I slap the smartphone to my chest, realizing I was staring at how small the panties are.

“Yeah,” I say, my voice cracking. I clear my throat. “Just… visualizing.”

My race engineer, Ed, a soft-spoken, short, pale, bespectacled Frenchman, and one of our lead strategists Roxane, a young woman with dark skin, big hair and an even bigger, bright smile, meet mom and I in the garage as I finish getting suited up.

Roxane beams at me, brimming with excitement. My stomach does nervous flip-flops; the entire team, hundreds of people, the entire world is watching me today to see how I do… I stop myself. I acknowledge the thought and let it go. I’ll feel the fear and do it anyway. I’m meant to be here.

“I’ve got the final adjustments for you to review, and the car is fueled for a single hot lap,” Roxane says, going through my car’s diagnostics on her tablet with me. “And we’re going to start with soft compound tyres, like you asked.”

“Thank you,” I say, feeling a fluttering of elation in my chest. The team listened to me!

Teams get a limited number of tyres over the weekend, soft, medium and hard compound sets based on the course–for regular dry races, wet race tyres are their own beast. A soft compound tyre is light and warms up easier, gets grippier fast, but degrades quicker because of it. Hard compound tyres are more heavy duty and take longer to warm up, so they drag a car back at first, but they’re longevity tyres. Regulations require a car to run two different compounds during a dry race, and teams have gambled and won on a longer race stint because the hard tyres could get them past the chequered flag without extra stops. Then medium tyres, somewhere between the two extremes.

Tyre strategy is delicious.

Most teams will hold back sets of soft tyres to gain a maximum advantage in Q3 and for the race, but a big part of F1 is knowing what your team is fighting for. Duvalier had a dismal qualifying progression rate in 2024. The drivers were good, the car was okay, the strategies… not the greatest. Their P7 win in the Constructors’ Championship was actually a pretty decent success. We’re fighting with the mid-field packs, like Union-Fountaine, Power Max… or Pride F1. It’s ambitious, but we want to consistently reach P5 in the Constructors’ over the next few years, which means consistently getting in the points, which is improved by track position at the start of the race. Any advantage we can take to punch up, we take it.

So I’m going out on a used set of softs from free practice for my first run, to then switch over to a completely new set for my second run. If I get through to Q2, it’ll be a switch to some new mediums. It’s a gamble to use up a set of softs right away, but we have nothing to lose. Mediums are performing well on the car anyways, and my goal this weekend is to get through into Q2. That would be an accomplishment, I know where I’m fighting. This season our drivers are good, our car is good, strategy remains to be seen, but trusting a driver is occasionally helpful.

One small, strange advantage from Duvalier’s P7 last year is in pit lane configuration. The four hundred metres of asphalt is lined by the pit walls–team race control centres, banks of computers and comms where the principal and race engineers sit–on one side of the lane with the garages and each team’s pit box across. The garages are ordered with the Constructors’ previous season winner closest to the pit lane entrance. That means the lower ranking teams are closer to the exit, so minutes before we get the green flag I’m first sitting on the exit line, and I’m first out onto the track.

My heart soars as I ease out onto the circuit and start to take corners. All the anxiety, all the self-doubt falls away. My entire world is bisected by a protective titanium band, the halo, and framed in by the two big bulbous wheels and their fairings in Duvalier’s royal blue livery. I am hyper-aware of every detail ahead of me–the wash of track lights, the graining on the used set of softs, the racing line of the approaching corner–and in my rear views–the other cars following me out of the pit lane, the lights of the grandstands and the starting gate. I’m also nothing but intuition and reflex, no thought to where I end and the car begins.

The out lap is to get the tyres warmed up, I zig zag along the straights, helps with tyre temperature. I start the charge coming down the fourth straight. Ed lets me know that there’s a few other cars on the track, but that it’s a good time to start a hot lap.

Time for my first quali lap in F1 on the Sakhir International Circuit. I upshift into sixth gear, open up the Drive Reduction System, adjustable wings on the back of the car, and fly.

The main straight that runs parallel to the pit lane and grandstands is a wash of blazing white light, a shadowless artificial LED daytime. My wings close and I brake hard into the first right hand turn, taking the tight, zig-zagging second corner as I head onto the second straight. This is the second of three DRS zones, so I open up the wings again, setting up my line for the slightly cambered right hand turn at the end. Sakhir is kind of like a four-sided irregular quadrilateral that dips into the centre at the top. I follow the course, hitting the kerbs on each turn, taking the slow, sharp turn eight and setting up my line for the final DRS zone on the back straight. This straight is a shorter one, also running parallel with the pit lane, and flows into a long, snaking “S” until it’s flat out onto the fourth and final straight. Control and a good exit are necessary heading back onto the main straight and across the finish line. The rest of the features, the other grandstands, the iconic, multi-tiered Bahrain track tower, the ferris wheel, don’t even register. It’s just me, the lights and the circuit.

I cross the finish line and zip by a few other cars on their out lap, the rest of them are slowly trickling out of the pit lane. On my cooldown lap I slow and keep to the left, watching a couple of other cars fly by on their own hot laps, including one of the Pride F1 cars. I can tell it’s Ben just by watching him take the fourth corner, he makes every racing line he sets up look easy, like poetry.

I slip back into the pit lane, first driver with a time on the board and first one back, just as the last car, a Power Max, is heading out onto the track. I spare a glance up at the banner with Ben’s grinning face on it above his garage as I pull into the Duvalier pit box and get pulled back into the garage by the mechanics. There’s an explosion of activity as they get cooling guns on different ports of the car and the brakes, as they refuel, as the used softs get pulled off and the gleaming, speckless new set of soft tyres replace them with a high whir of the wheel guns.

As more times go on the board Ed gives me a couple of updates. I get pushed down to P15, actually a pretty decent result as the first person out on a set of used tyres. My lap wasn’t perfect, I’m still getting a handle on the car in night conditions, I’m still getting a feel for the track. Ed and I talk about a couple of mistakes–a bit of oversteering because of the cambering on turn four, my rears stepping out a little as I took turn fourteen. I won’t make the same mistakes again. I may not be a blazing star like Ben, but what I lack in showmanship and natural talent I make up for in technical analysis and constant improvement. Not only that, but the track evolves as the nighttime cools ambient temperatures, as more rubber gets laid down by car after car taking the same lines, giving the entire course more grip. F1 is a sport of razor thin margins, milliseconds and endless repetition. I’m counting on the rubber laid down by every other car out there, including my own. Every advantage.

I watch the flurry of activity as De Jong’s car slides into the pit box and is pulled into the neighbouring garage. He placed a few spots ahead of me, but on a new set of mediums. Mediums are doing well on the course, they’re warming up well. That’s good. My mouth twists in consternation, fortunately hidden by my helmet. I can’t help myself, I toggle the team radio on my steering wheel, knowing full well the entire world can hear me ask:


DUVALIER RADIO (Chevalier): Where’d Ben end up?

DUVALIER RADIO (Masson): Checking… P12, .15 seconds ahead of you, new set of mediums.

DUVALIER RADIO (Chevalier): Thank you.

DUVALIER RADIO (Masson): Feeling competitive?

DUVALIER RADIO (Chevalier): Friendly wager.


I smirk inside my helmet, at the amusement in Ed’s voice, at the time between us and the giddy feeling it inspires in my stomach. It bodes well that he doesn’t even have half a second on me with slightly better tyres.

The second attempt is when I really come alive. This time I don’t go out first, I let a half dozen cars go ahead of me–they lay down more rubber, put more heat from their tyres into the track, paving the way for me. This time I’m ready for the cambering at turn four, I set up my line, brake and take the corner smoothly going slightly wider on the shallow part of the slope, not even a millimetre of oversteer. I hit the kerb just right on the exit onto the main straight, machine precision. I put in an elegant lap. The chequered flag is waving, the last of the cars are finishing their hot laps… Just as I get pulled into my garage by the mechanics, Ed comes over team radio.


DUVALIER RADIO (Masson): You are P12!

DUVALIER RADIO (Chevalier): Wow! Uh… wow!

DUVALIER RADIO (Masson): See you in Q2, Monsieur Chevalier!


I did it, my goal for the weekend! I made it through to Q2! I’m a rookie driver, a glorified reserve driver, and I made it into Q2 at my first Grand Prix!


DUVALIER RADIO (Masson): Apologies, that is P13. Robinson just over the line, took P12.

DUVALIER RADIO (Chevalier): Okay. Thank you.


I suppress the urge to ring my hands or go over to his garage next door and strangle him. Ben probably told his race engineer he was trying to beat me and found an extra tenth of a second at the last moment just to sully my success a little… Doesn’t matter, we both made it into Q2. This isn’t over.

The garage is a spinning vortex of activity, mechanics, technicians, analysts, checking every part of the car they can, even making small repairs on bodywork that chipped or flaked. I’m in my head, going through the course over and over again, not a simulation but the actual course as I saw it. It’s there in my mind, like I’m driving it… until I think of Ben’s smiling face on the banner, and then I picture those lace panties… No! This is what he wanted, no distractions. I’m going to beat him.

This time I wait until I’m almost the last one out on the track for my first hot lap. I’m trying different things, different combinations, different scenarios. I’ll be able to look at the data afterward, compare it to the data on other courses to plan for the season, we’ll set up simulations, configure strategies for future races… The data… it’s so beautiful…

I’m just about to start my hot lap when a red light flashes on my steering wheel.


DUVALIER RADIO (Masson): Bastien, race is red flagged, incident between Gauthier and Torres behind you, debris at turn fourteen, they will need to clean it up.

DUVALIER RADIO (Chevalier): Copy.


I head back around the track and into the pitlane. I get refuelled and changed for a new set of mediums. Sucks that a perfectly good set got scrubbed, but we accounted for a possible red flag in our tyre strategy. After about ten minutes or so of sitting there and doing my best to keep calm we get the green flag and get back out.

My lap is exquisite, the medium tyres just really come alive, I push them to the limit. They might as well be a new pair of softs, the way that I race them. Somewhere in the back of my mind someone is purring, singing, “You gonna burn, burn, burn, burn, burn to the wick!

Ooh. Barracuda. I cross the line.


DUVALIER RADIO (Chevalier): How’d we do?

DUVALIER RADIO (Masson): Checking… Standby.


I slow and pull around the right hander at the end of the main straight, keeping to the left. Oh crap, I thought I was perfect, I must have just barely exceeded track limits somewhere, effectively going out of bounds. They delete your lap time for that. The track stewards were being extremely strict about track limits in Q1, I thought I was being so careful, so precise. I feel like such an idiot… 


DUVALIER RADIO (Masson): You did very well… Four drivers ahead of you had their lap times deleted. You were P5. You are now P1.


My mind goes completely blank. I cannot comprehend what he just said.


DUVALIER RADIO (Chevalier): Can you repeat that, please?

DUVALIER RADIO (Masson): You are P1. You are top of the board.

DUVALIER RADIO (Chevalier): Me?! Are you sure?!


Ed laughs and confirms that I am, at the moment, P1. I wonder what Ben thinks of that.

I pull back into the pit lane and the mechanics and technicians are whooping and applauding, moving with purpose, energized. I have to keep it together, I can’t get overwhelmed, start crying, even as emotions bubble up inside of me. I still have to put in another banger lap. I see a new set of soft tyres go on, we’re actually going to try for Q3. Me, in a Duvalier car… Even trying is beyond anything I could have imagined.

With soft compound tyres I only manage to improve my time by half a second. Ed rattles off the results. The front pack teams, Altomare, Holt, Horus, especially with Gauthier and Torres back out onto the field, push me down further and further.

I’m heading for the pit lane and Ed is giving me updates as the final drivers pass the chequered flag. Just like in Q1, Ben made sure he was the last one out. It means he can hear what everyone else’s results are and push. I have a feeling there’s only one person’s result he cares about.


DUVALIER RADIO (Masson): Okay, Honma just took P8, so we are now P11.

DUVALIER RADIO (Chevalier): Copy. Thank you! Good job today, everyone!


I’m out of Q3. Maybe a little disappointing, but not surprising. We’ve got a long way to go before we can really take the fight to the front pack. At least for about five minutes I was sitting at the top of the board.


DUVALIER RADIO (Chevalier): How’d Ben do?

DUVALIER RADIO (Masson): He is just coming onto the main straight… stand by.


I realize I’m holding my breath. All I can picture is those tiny, little, pink panties… how see-through they are… I try to tell myself that whatever happens, happens. I put in the best possible laps that I could. This will just be the thing that Ben will hold over my head and tease me about for the rest of our lives.

Then I once again hear the amusement in Ed’s voice as he comes over team radio.


DUVALIER RADIO (Masson): Robinson… P12. One one-hundredth of a second behind you. Looks like you win the wager.

DUVALIER RADIO (Chevalier): … Copy.


My smile only grows as I get pulled into the garage and hand off my steering wheel. It’s like the entire team is there waiting for me. As I hop out of the car people clamber to pat my shoulder or my helmet, hugs all around. De Jong and I are out of Q3, but I might as well have taken P1 in the race the way they’re treating me. I’m an untested rookie driver, just making P11 is a mind blowing result.

Mom is beaming at me and sweeps me up into a tight hug. I sort of pat her hips, she has my arms pinned to my sides.

“I’m so proud of you,” she says in French, barely a whisper, after I get weighed and can finally take my helmet off. “Your dad would be too.”

“Thanks, mom.”

There’s a little frown on her face as she reaches up and pushes a sweaty strand of hair off my eyebrow, “Your hair’s really getting long…”

A hug from Roxane is a convenient excuse to duck away.

The message from Ben is awaiting me when I get my phone: “Congrats. See you at the hotel.”




I feel miserable about sneaking out with race day tomorrow. I think how stupid it is, slipping away the night before a race after an already exhausting day, how I’ll show up exhausted, everyone will know it, and I’ll blow the race, fail the entire team’s trust. That anxiety fades surprisingly fast the further I get away from my hotel and the closer I get to my destination. I’m finally going to get Ben back for all the times he ignored me or teased me or called me a nerd. That, and maybe we’ll get to kiss some more.

I’m convinced I’ll get mobbed by people as I head into the hotel, but there seems to be a really loud party going on in the patio bar off the lobby. A teenager in a hoodie, a baseball cap and a face mask pretending to be on his phone doesn’t draw any attention.

I’m standing in the hallway trying to summon up the courage to knock when the door swings open, and there stands Ben Robinson in nothing but a towel, his wet, dark curls pushed back.

“About bloody time you got here, you wanker,” he says as I hustle him in and close the door behind me, locking and deadbolting it. “Figured you’d be dithering outside.”

I turn and face him, but realize my eyes are dropped to his feet. I follow them up two lean, muscular, hairy legs, a fluffy towel hanging dangerously low on his bony, muscular hips, with something heavy pressing out, the dark fuzz on his abs, two crossed arms folded over his broad pecs, up to his beautiful collarbone and then the smirk plastered across his face. Bastard, how is he the one enjoying this?!

“So… we’re actually going to do this?” I glance down at his hips, but realize I’m staring and look back up. “I have to do things… in your butt?”

“I’m not going to make you do anything, dude,” Ben holds his hands up. “That being said, I did come early and do a little pre-prep. You’re welcome, by the way.”

“Oh, thank you,” I say, with absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. We stand there staring at each other for a moment. I realize I’m still wearing the face mask and peel it off. “I mean, I guess we could kiss a little bit.”

Ben just laughs and rubs his eyes in exhaustion. “Chevalier… never change…”

He walks over to me and pushes me against the wall, then grabs my wrists and pulls them above my head. I gasp, shiver and try to fight it… although I don’t try very hard at all…

“But let’s get one thing straight,” he leans in and kisses me, and I writhe a little against him, trying to get away from him… but promptly give up and kiss him back, wishing I could wrap my arms around his neck, feeling so frenzied by the thought that I can’t. “You might be fucking me tonight, but don’t think for one second you’re the one in charge here.”

“You can’t do that…” I say, shivering, and I’ve never wanted anyone to do anything more.

In response he gives me a quick peck on the lips and lets go of my wrists, pushing off the wall away from me, walking toward the corner that leads to the bedroom. As he walks, his towel comes undone and slips off his hips, and I watch his fuzzy, muscular ass jiggle back and forward with each step. He stops at the corner, glances back over his shoulder, and then keeps going.

“Bring the towel with you,” he calls from the bedroom, and I swear at myself as I walk over and fumble to pick it up.

He’s completely naked and splayed back on the bed. The way he’s raising his arms to lean back on them just makes his chest look even broader, and I can see the dark hair in his armpits. I feel a little dizzy. He sees me standing in the doorway, clutching the towel to my chest, and sighs.

“Dude, we don’t have to do anything…” he sits up and looks at me.

“No!” I blurt out, taking a couple steps forward, and then immediately take a couple steps to the side, as if he’s some wild animal I’m watching closely. “I just… I watched a couple of… videos, I just don’t really know what to… do.”

Ben smiles at me, warm and affectionate, not the teasing scorn I keep expecting and then not receiving.

“Come here, Bee,” he scooches forward, naked and… clearly aroused, sitting on the edge of the bed. He holds his arms out as if he’s expecting a hug. I shyly walk over, and he pulls me so I’m sitting in his lap, legs straddling his, but facing him, towel pressed between us. He just smiles up at me, one of the few times I’m looking down slightly at him–because of course Ben Robinson is taller than me. I kiss him about that, that’ll show him. “I can walk you through it. Like a training exercise.”

“Yeah… okay.”

“You start by kissing me some more.”

I wrap my arms around Ben’s neck and pull him against me, push my lips against his. We kiss for a bit, slow and gentle; he sighs as my tongue finds his. He falls backwards and sinks down into the comforter. I let myself fall on top of him without our lips even breaking contact for a second. 

Suddenly he throws me to the side and rolls over so he’s on top of me. Before I even realize what’s happening he once again has my hands pinned above my head by the wrists. I gasp and moan, wriggling underneath him, trying not particularly hard to get away. He leans down and nudges my head aside with his forehead as he kisses my jaw, and I start to shiver. He kisses down my neck and I’m thrusting against him as he nibbles. He better not give me another hickey…

My vision starts swimming a little when he nips his way up my neck to bite my earlobe, then he’s whispering in my ear.

“Next, we gotta get those clothes off you,” he says, and I gasp as he reaches down with one hand, holding my wrists with the other, and runs his hand over my crotch, my legs pinned by his. 

He fumbles with the waist of my sweats, swearing, until he grasps the material, and in one motion he pushes my sweatpants and boxers down under my balls. My boner flies up and slaps against the front of my hoodie, splattering a little clear liquid. Ben grabs both our dicks and strokes them together. I glance up and he’s sitting on his haunches as he strokes us, looking down at me with a hungry expression, biting his lip, and I’m writhing under him, practically singing as I moan for him.

Ben lets go of my wrists and my cock, and I wonder if I’m free, but he scoops me up in his arms and uses his entire body weight to half-throw, half-push me up the bed until my head is resting on a pillow. He’s not much bigger than me, but he’s got excellent upper body strength. Why does getting manhandled and thrown around like that… just absolutely do something to me? He kisses me, then climbs back down, standing at the foot of the bed.

“Hands on the headboard, go ahead and grab on,” he purrs, running his hands up the insides of my legs. I do what he says immediately, without thinking. “Don’t even think of taking them off until I say you can.”

I grip the cool metal of the fancy metal headboard with both hands, like I’m holding on for dear life. We’ve barely even started and my breath is already heaving from the overwhelming sensation of his touch, his commands. This isn’t even sex yet! How am I going to survive this?!

“Now we’re going to get these pants off you,” he says as he bends over and grabs the waist of both my sweatpants and underwear, and wrenches them down and off my legs, smirking as he does. Suddenly I’m feeling so vulnerable, as he stares down at me, tossing my pants away, peeling my socks off one foot, then the other. I cross my ankles and curl my legs up to cover myself, since I can’t take my hands off the headboard. He raises one leg up on the edge of the bed, like he’s getting ready to pounce. “You look so goddamn sexy in nothing but that hoodie.”

I moan. “You… look really sexy too.”

“Oh, do I?” Ben grins as he climbs back onto the bed and crawls on top of me, running his hands up my legs as he goes, pushing them apart. I’m whimpering as he climbs, kissing his way up the insides of my thighs. Then he takes me in his mouth and I lose my damn mind.

One second I’m gripping the headboard like I’ll slide off the bed to my death. Then I look down and see Ben’s head bobbing up and down on my dick, the way his lips slip up and down the length, a sort of warm, intensely sensitive excruciating ecstasy, and suddenly my hands are buried in his dark curls and I’m thrusting into him. He gags and lifts his head off. A string of spit hangs off the tip of my dick to his lips for a second. It’s so disgusting… and hot.

Then he hauls himself up so we’re face to face, his body weight laying on top of me, our dicks pressed between us as he grinds against me. I realize immediately that I’ve made a mistake and my hands shoot back up to the headboard. I’m looking at him wide-eyed and terrified.

“Only good boys get head,” he growls. He leans in and presses his mouth to mine, pushes his tongue against mine. I realize I must be tasting myself on him. How does he keep humiliating me like this, and why do I like it so much?

“What… happens to bad boys?” I ask in between kisses.

“You’re about to find out.”

I moan at the promise.

We kiss for a couple of minutes and then he climbs off me, leaving me gasping for air, desperate to reach out and grab him, pull him back on me. His dick waves back and forward as he heads over to a backpack and pulls something out of it. Then he goes back to the foot of the bed, grabs the towel and climbs up beside me.

“Lift that cute little butt up,” Ben commands. I blush and brace myself with my legs as he slips the towel underneath. He arranges it to his satisfaction, really taking his time as I’m stuck watching my dick dance around in the cool air… bastard. “Pro-gamer move: always, always put a towel down.”

I nod and make a mental note of that.

Ben pushes my hips back down and then swings his leg over them. I can feel my dick pressed against his ass. He takes a small bottle of clear, viscous liquid and dumps some into his hand, then holds it out to me.

“Hold onto this for a second.”

I narrow my eyes suspiciously at him. “Am I allowed to take my hands off the headboard?”

He grins and leans down to kiss me, and I let myself fall into the feeling of his lips against mine once again. He breaks the kiss to whisper, “Good boy,” and something about him saying that makes me almost faint.

I feel something cool dripping onto my dick. As Ben breaks the kiss I look down and see he’s rubbing something against himself. Lube! It’s lube! I read about that!

Then he pours some more of it into his hand and reaches back again. I feel his hand cooled with the slick liquid grasp my dick and stroke it, and I squeeze my eyes shut, willing myself to not come all over his hand again.

“Okay… so here’s how this is going to go,” Ben pants. I’m relieved to see that he’s in just as much of a state as me. Take that. “I’m going to sit on your dick really, really, really slowly and breathe a bunch. You are going to be a good boy, and not a little humpy horndog. You’re going to lay there inside of me and take it until I’m ready. Then I’m going to ride you until you blow.”

I moan.

Ben grabs my dick again, and he’s sort of sitting on his shins and lowering himself backwards, biting his lip, a look of intense concentration on his face. I feel the tip of my dick press against something warm and slightly scratchy… his fuzzy butt? I writhe under him from the sensation.

Then I feel a gentle little “pop” sensation, like a seal being burst, and I practically blow as Ben’s hole clenches around the tip of my dick. Ben grunts.

“A-are you… okay?” I gasp, trying to adjust to the overwhelming sensation without coming.

“Yeah… shut up.”

He takes a few slow, deliberate breaths and lowers himself down further on me, and it takes every ounce of willpower I have not to buck wildly into him. I’ve never felt anything like it before, it’s animal, it’s primal. Is this what sex is like? How does anyone ever get anything done?!

Ben’s face scrunches up as he stops again, biting his lip like he’s in deep concentration, eyes closed like he’s in pain.

“Can I–”

“I swear to God, Bee… I’ll take away… your talking privileges…”

He’s breathing like he’s in the middle of weight reps, and I try to close my eyes, not knowing what I’ll do if I keep watching him slide down me. I try to isolate the sensation in the technicolour pandemonium of pleasure. Every time he breathes I can feel him relax around my dick a little more. It’s a muscle, he’s stretching, that makes sense.

“Still… mmph… with me, Chevalier?”

I open my eyes and see a pained smile on his face as he lowers himself.

“It looks like… it’s hurting–”

He grimaces and pushes himself down, hard, until I feel that he can’t go any further. I moan, feeling him clench around my dick.

“Of course it’s fucking hurting!” he growls, then groans, but it doesn’t sound like it’s in pain. “I’ve got… mm, fuck… a fucking dick in my ass!”

“We can–”

“Sweet fucking Christ, Bee,” he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, blowing it out fast. “You won by… a hundredth of a second… Nothing! You keep talking… I’ll flip you over… and do this… to you…”

Why does the suggestion drive me absolutely wild?

Then he’s grinning down at me, I only wonder why for a second. He pulls himself up, I almost wonder if he’s quitting.

Then he pushes down again and I moan so loud there’s no way the neighbours can’t hear. I grip the headboard so hard my knuckles start to hurt.

He breathes some more, deliberate and steady, like he’s actually exercising. But as he starts to bounce up and down on me he moans… definitely in pleasure. I bite my lip and watch, take the entire sight in. His thighs flexing every time he pulls up and pushes down, the small folds of skin on his hairy stomach as he hunches over, the way his hair hangs in his eyes until he brushes it back, only for it to fall down again as he continues to bounce on me, his dick swaying with the movement, dripping precum. I gasp, muttering something, and he looks up, making eye contact. It’s almost too much.

“What… mm… was that?”

“I w– I wan–”


“I want… mon dieu…”

He’s got a devilish smirk on his face and gives a deep guttural groan as he presses himself down on me. I don’t think I can take much more of this… “What do you want, Bee? Tell me.”

“I want to touch you!”

I’m surprised by the forcefulness of the way I cry out. Ben looks shocked, but only for a moment. He places his hands on my stomach, pushing them up like he’s moulding me, feeling every inch, up my chest to my arms. He stretches forward until my dick is practically out of him, but he grabs my hands and pulls them to him, to his waist. He’s warm to the touch as he presses himself back down onto me and continues to bounce his hips.

“Then fucking… touch me.”

My hands begin to roam, feeling his tummy, running my fingers through the fuzz. Up to his chest, luxuriating in the elegant musculature. He raises an arm up and I run my right hand fingers up along the underside of his arm, grasping at the tight muscles of his deltoid… his brachialis…

Then I do the only thing I’ve been thinking about since he started riding me. I wrap both of my arms around his neck and pull myself up, or him down to kiss me. When his lips meet mine, I lose all sense of control. Our lips are dancing together, I can’t tell where his tongue starts and mine ends. I don’t even realize I’m bucking upwards into him. I’m completely lost in Ben Robinson and it’s glorious.

For once I’m the one who breaks the kiss. “I think… I think I’m gonna…”

Ben grunts as I thrust up into him. One of his hands reaches around the back of my head to run up through my hair, sending an explosively pleasurable shiver over my entire body as he leans down to my ear and half-moans, half-sings, “Ooh… sweet child o’ mine…

I don’t even know what sounds I make or what I feel as I come inside of him. I know my eyes roll into the back of my head and my back arches as I thrust up into him. My entire body feels like waves of pleasure are washing over me, like I’m laying in the surf warmed by the blazing sun as the water crashes around me. I come to my senses enough just in time to see Ben leaning backwards onto me, rolling his hips, biting his lip, then he throws his head back, gasping and saying “fuck” over and over again as he comes all over my stomach and the front of my hoodie.

Once we’ve caught our breaths, Ben gingerly pulls himself off me, hissing from the sensitivity. I feel something warm ooze down my leg, and realize what it is and where it’s coming from…

I guess I can see why it’s important to always, always have a towel.

I’m overheated and my hoodie’s a mess anyways, so Ben helps me peel it off. I’m glad to see he’s just as sweaty and messy as I am. He gets me to scoot over so he can lie sideways, making sure his butt’s on the towel, then he pulls my arm under his neck to lay his head on my shoulder and curls up against me, laying his right hand on my chest. I lean down and kiss the top of his head, feeling a sort of pleasant, sleepy, humid feeling as I nuzzle my nose in his hair. He cranes his neck up and we kiss, slowly, gently. I don’t even know how long, but eventually our breathing is back to normal and we just lay there with each other.

“There,” Ben sighs. “Happy birthday. You’re not a virgin anymore.”

“Wow. Uh… yeah.” It’s hard to imagine that it’s still my birthday. I feel like several ages of man have passed since midnight last night. “Did that… feel good, I mean for you?”

“Yeah, dude… It did.” Ben cranes his neck up again and smiles as I turn my head to kiss him. “Anyways, last lesson for now: always use protection. Condoms, usually. But I figured since you’re… you were, you know… Didn’t know if you’d actually be down to clown.”

“… Down to… ?”

Ben scoffs. “Fuck. Have sex. You little alien.”

I nod, confused. What do clowns have to do with it?

Ben’s still staring at me, so I shoot him an inquisitive look.

“So,” he drawls. “You… what? Bi? Gay?”

“Oh,” I bite my lip. Right, there’s straight, bi, gay, a few other options. I seem to remember there’s some kind of acronym? It all seems kind of… mystical, mysterious. “I guess I’ve never really thought about it.”

Ben presses his face against my chest, groaning in frustration. “You exhaust me, mate. You do know that identity politics are, like, kind of a thing in F1 now, don’t you?”

“Um, yeah. I think I remember hearing something about that,” We lay quietly for a minute as I nuzzle my nose into his hair again. “Uh, how about you?”

“Ugh, labels,” Ben sighs, turning his head so it’s cradled in the crook between my neck and shoulder. I squeeze him to me. “I don’t know… Heteroflexible? Bi? Pan? I’ve only really dated girls, but a cute person’s a cute person, know what I mean?”

I feel my face flush when he says that. Does Ben think I’m… cute?

We lay like that for a while, no sounds but our breathing and the quiet hum of the bedroom’s air conditioner.



“I was thinking,” I murmur. Ben cranes his neck to look at me, but I’m staring up at the ceiling. “If you… brought those, you know… underwear. I did only win by a… hundredth of a second… And you took Q1. It only seems fair. I mean, if you… made me… wear…”

Where Ben’s pressed up against me I feel something warm and hard nudging at my thigh.




I wake, curled up, laying on my side, with Ben’s arm draped over me. I haven’t shared a bed with anyone since I was a kid. There’s something really… lovely about waking up feeling the body heat of another person, listening to his soft, gentle breathing, even if it is Ben Robinnson.

Then I realize where I am, and that I have no idea what time it is.

Putain de bordel!

I throw Ben’s arm off me and go to push myself off the bed, then immediately misjudge the edge and go crashing to the floor. I realize the pink, lacy panties are wrapped around my ankle. I kick them off as I scramble for my pants, pulling my phone out of the pocket.

“I have training in… thirty-four minutes!”

I pull my boxers out of one of the sweatpant’s legs, leaping to my feet to pull them on. Ben yawns and rubs his bleary eyes. “Calm down, mate. Plenty of time to get back.”

I find one of my socks, but no sight of the other one. Ben’s no use at all, he only pretends to look, but I can tell he likes watching me run around half-naked, panicking.

I roll my eyes as I grab my hoodie and pull it out from underneath him, making him laugh as he rolls across the bed.

“I was thinking…” he says as I pull my t-shirt and hoodie over my head together, “we’re going to be in Melbourne at the end of the month for the race. We could go out for drinks, I could show you around.”

“I don’t drink,” I say, my voice muffled by the fabric.

Ben sighs as my head pops out of the neck hole. I spot my other sock on top of the bedside table lamp. “Grab dinner, then? Or a romantic walk along the beach… fuckin’ hold your head under until you drown, you fucking wanker…”

“Um, yeah,” I say as I sit down on the edge of the bed and pull the other sock on. “And maybe… you know, next time. Maybe you could try… you know… doing that stuff… to me.”

I hear Ben snicker and furiously glance over at him shaking his head, grinning. “Seriously, Chevalier. Never change.”

I nod and run to the door, but stop just outside and pop my head back around the corner. “Um, Bee… We still hate each other, right?”

“Oh yeah,” Ben says, smiling affectionately at me. “You’re absolutely fucking clueless.”

I nod, giving him a shy smile back. “Totally. You’re the worst.”

I run back across the room and give him a quick peck on the lips, then book it out of there.




I practically have a heart attack when I stumble into my hotel room and mom’s sitting on the couch, a laptop open on her lap. She smiles up at me.

“I was wondering where you were,” she looks me up and down, I probably look like a sweaty, dishevelled disaster. “Out for a run?”

“Oh yeah,” I say, nodding vigorously. “Cardio.”

She gestures to join her. She gives me a side hug as I perch on the couch beside her, but sniffs a little as if she smells something. I guess I am pretty sweaty, nerves. She turns the laptop towards me. “The photography people sent over some proofs to look over. The comms team is really happy with them.”

I glance at the screen, a hundred tiny little thumbnails, pictures of Ben and I. She clicks on one and it enlarges. It’s from the “cabana” look, I’m sitting on the floor next to the couch and Ben is laying across it above me, looking like he’s relaxing at the beach. The colourful robe is arrayed underneath him, spilling off the couch, his “budgie smuggler” and torso practically on full display, his “thongs” dangling off his feet. He’s looking over at me and clearly saying something stupid and perverse, because I’m laughing in horror like an idiot. But it’s not a bad picture of either of us, it’s actually kind of fun, and cute. Maybe even a little sexy.

“Say what you want about Ben Robinson,” Mom marvels at the pictures, “he definitely knows how to get you relaxed and loosened up.”

I cough and clear my throat. “Yeah. Can you send those along to me? I’d love to take a look before training.”

“Sure thing, chouchou,” she clicks through a couple more pictures. One of the evening wear looks has Ben with his arm draped around my shoulder, and I’m staring at the camera with a little smile on my face, like I have a secret. “I know you two don’t get along, but you’re doing something really important for the team, it’s very professional of you. You must be looking forward to not being stuck together anymore.”

I give a casual shrug as she flips through a couple more pictures, one of them was taken just after I tried to unbutton my shirt, I’m giving Ben an apologetic look, and he’s smiling at me like he’s proud. “Yeah, we were actually thinking we could keep it going… you know, whenever we have time. It’s good for our image, and the teams.”

Mom gives me a quizzical stare, but nods like she’s impressed. Then that little frown clouds her expression once again. She reaches up and tugs at one of the sweaty locks of hair stuck to my forehead. “Bastien, your hair is getting so long… We could book a stylist to give you a trim this morning, before you’re on camera for the race, maybe?”

“Actually,” I say, staring at a picture from one of the suit looks where Ben is ruffling my slightly shaggy hair, messing up what the stylists had done, and I’m fighting him off. “I was kinda thinking of maybe growing it out.”

I cautiously look up at mom, and she seems to consider this for a moment, like she’s about to argue. But she shrugs and goes back to looking through the pictures. I cover my mouth, hiding my smile.

After a moment of going through the pictures together her nose wrinkles a little again. She sniffs the air and turns towards me. “What is that?”


“I don’t know, something stinks,” she sniffs the air a couple more times, and I realize I’m wearing the hoodie that Ben and I spent the night… laying on. I glance down and notice a telltale stain. “It smells like–”

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3 thoughts on “Smells Like Teen Spirit

  1. Okay. I know functionally nothing about F1, or any racing for that matter. That didn’t keep me from enjoying the absolute hell out of this. You managed to strike a fantastic balance between “enough detail to be engaging and intriguing” and “accessible to a complete F1 newb” and it made the whole thing an absolutely delightful read.

    The “B&B” dynamic is so fun. I always love a good homoerotic rivalry, and the friends-to-rivals-to-lovers pipeline you outlined here is especially sweet. It’s so clear to me that Bastien never really hated Ben as much as he thought he did, and probably resented and envied him more than anything else.

    The character voices are also delightful! I loved the dichotomy between the two boys, and they play off each other excellently. I especially enjoyed getting to see what the photos from the shoot look like from the outside, after getting to hear what Bastien thought of them in the moment. It’s fun that they really do look so friendly with each other, even when they’re not!

    Bastien’s cluelessness and Ben’s willingness to help, ah, clue him in to things made for such a great dynamic during the smutty scenes, too. Great stuff!

    (And the illustrations! I first read this on my phone so in coming back to comment I had to scroll through and properly appreciate the illustrations. I love how much the front cover looks like the cover of a light novel volume! I’d buy that book! Though it might be hard to find, with an ISBN like that…)

  2. As someone with practically no knowledge of F1 racing but a LOT of experience in having to bring a reader up to speed in an unfamiliar context: you did a fantastic job of it here! The voluminous glossary in your author’s notes is a lovely touch, but I honestly read through this entire thing without knowing those definitions were there and I never once felt tripped up. “Ah, yes, this is a Specific Racing Thing, and the character feels this way and that about it, that makes sense!” was the order of the day! I had no trouble believing that these two had known each other for a long time, and their friendship-not-a-friendship felt very genuine to hormonal teens still figuring out if they hate everyone or just want to make out. Bastien even starts showing a little backbone to his manager-mom by the end! Very fun from toe to tip.

    What a set of illustrations, as well! I like that the “back cover” spot illustrations are shown in full later on in the story, and that they allow the characters to exist as unique people outside of the context of one another; it makes that confrontational glare in the title image that much more significant with that context!

  3. Bastien’s focused life felt very real for high achieving youth in other fields that I’ve known or known of, including his relationship with his mum and his just-never-thought-about-it approach to sex. Ben becoming a jerk because that’s how he could figure out to survive also felt very real. I hope they both manage to make each other’s lives better.

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