Bunny is unconscious and Raffles is remembering.
A first time story.
Written: October 2012. Word count: 4,871.
I sit as I have sat for the best part of a month holding his hand, staring down at him, watching and waiting for a sign that he will open his eyes and look up at me; waiting for the moment he returns to me; waiting for the moment I can tell him and show him quite what he means to me. However, I fear I have left it too late; far, far, far too late; I fear I will never get the chance to tell him and show him quite how important he is to me, quite how vital he is to me. I fear I shall never get the chance to tell him how much I care for him, how imperative he is to me, how my life is incomplete without him in it, how I do not know if I care to go on living if he does not return to me. I fear I will never get the chance to tell him quite how much I love him.
I have told him; for the past two days I have talked to him constantly, telling him how much he means to me, how much I care, how vital he is to my existence, how much I love him. But he won't have heard me; how can he have heard me? He is, as he has been for twenty-seven days, twenty-seven endless days, the longest twenty-seven days of my life: unconscious; close to death.
I sigh and for a moment look away from his still form and turn my attention instead to the walls of the room. The room in which I have spent the best part of twenty-seven days and nights, going home only when I am forced, by the medical staff, to do so. I feel I know this room, these walls, as well as I know my own rooms at the Albany. As I stare around I wonder not for the first time why they have been painted such a garish shade of yellow. I think if I were sick and staring at these walls, I'd very quickly become a lot sicker - or maybe in fact I'd get well quicker in a desperate attempt to escape the cloying colour. Yellow, who would paint such a room yellow?
But as I wonder that I thing, I remember another set of yellow walls and begin to wonder if all medical institutions are painted that colour and if so for what reason? Is it to make patients hurry up and get well again? The San at school had yellow walls; a very similar yellow to the ones that now surround me.
I look away from them and back down at Bunny; maybe it is just because I thought of the San at school but as I gaze down at him the man of twenty-six vanishes and I see again the boy of thirteen; the boy I first met some thirteen years ago. The innocent, small, pretty, naÔve, young boy I saw standing in the quad looking quite lost; and in the instance I saw him I resolved he would become mine. And mine is indeed what he became.
I am not particularly proud of the thoughts that went through my head as my gaze came to rest on him. I would turn eighteen in two months, I was the captain of the eleven, even though I was only a lower sixth former, I was well liked, well respected, held in awe by many younger boys, I was intelligent, tall, handsome, self assured, beloved of many, the masters liked me, my own year liked me, the younger boys liked me, the older boys liked me; I could do no wrong and everyone knew the public schools cup and the school house cup (for the house in which I had been placed) lay in my hands. If I played, if I led the team onto the cricket field, both cups would end the day in my hands.
I had pretty much everything I wanted and if I didn't have it, I found a way to get it. And as I stood there just staring at the small blond boy who looked as if he was about to burst into tears I knew he was what I wanted. And I would get him; I would own him; he would become mine in everyway possible. Even as I thought that I knew I was breaking my own rule: never to kiss, touch or share a bed with a boy younger than I - but all rules are made to be broken.
After all my sensibilities in that respect were somewhat unusual, indeed I had lost my innocence to the boy for whom I fagged at the age of fourteen. It hadn't been a pleasant experience, not at all; in fact it had been a very unpleasant one. I had never known pain like it and he had not been a particularly cruel boy, he had made some attempts to lessen the pain, but even today all those years later I can still remember it. I had vowed then I would never treat a younger boy in the way I had been treated; I would never raise my hand to a younger boy and I would never engage in sexual activities with one. I did not regard it as being right and besides I had no need to. I could have any boy of my own age and even older, such was my standing at the school.
However when I set eyes on Bunny, although when I first saw him I did not know his name and even had I known it, it wouldn't have been 'Bunny' as that was the name I bestowed on him, my self-made vow vanished and I was determined he would become mine. Of course I would not bugger him, he was far too small and too frail looking; I could still remember my experiences and I had been much taller and much stronger, but the thought of his mouth on me . . . I was certain I could teach him how to use his mouth.
It was the simplest thing in the world to persuade Dobson to let me take him as my fag; take him as mine. And mine he became from the first moment in my study when without really giving it any conscious thought I named him 'Bunny'. He once asked me why I had given him the name and I confessed that when he'd crept into my study by my side, barely looking at anything other than the ground, not speaking he reminded me of a frightened rabbit. I took possession of him on that day and somehow, without meaning to, I made a pet of him, which led to him being known as 'A. J.'s pet rabbit' a term I did not care for; a term that annoyed me - even though it was my own fault he was known thus.
I set out to win his trust and his affection. I was in no rush to take him to my bed, no rush to put my mouth on his, no rush to touch him or have him touch me - he looked incredibly young, indeed had I not known it was impossible I would have thought he was a year or two younger than he was. He was the youngest boy in the school, he was barely thirteen, as well as the smallest, the prettiest, the most naÔve and innocent - and he was all mine.
He was hopeless at sport, but soon learnt how to care for my cricket bats and kit and I had never had my shoes as well polished as he managed to shine them. It took some weeks but gradually be began to smile at me, to look at me, to even speak to me without me speaking to him first. He began to relax in my company and stopped trembling and jumping every time I put my hand on his shoulder or my arm around him or brushed his dreadfully long hair back from his forehead, for whilst I kept my vow of not touching him in any sexual way, I found I was almost incapable of keeping my hands off him in other ways.
He wasn't the most academic boy at the school; for the most part his grades were only slightly better than average with the exception of English Literature at which he excelled and his verses were of a standard far higher than any I had seen, certainly higher than any thirteen year olds. So another of his fagging duties quickly became to write my verses for me, as it was something I hated doing and was not at all able at.
I wasn't the only boy who had desires on him and I soon not only possessed him I protected him. I made it clear to my fellow lower sixth, the upper sixth and those of the fifth form who were foolish enough to risk my wrath quite how much he belonged to me. More than once strong words and even fists were exchanged because of him.
And as he began to trust me, to relax around me, to let me see how deep his affection for me was becoming, I realised that I didn't just have designs on him, I actually liked him, I cared about him; I enjoyed having him around me and not just to look at or to possess or to put my hands on; I actually liked his company.
But even I hadn't realised quite how important he'd become to me, quite how little I liked seeing him hurt or laughed at until a cricket match that took place at the end of September; a cricket match that showed quite how inept he was. I stood with Charlie watching as he first dropped his bat when being bowled at, next managed to trip and knock his own stumps over and finally miss a catch that my sister, who is ten years younger than I, could have caught. And as I watched him and listened to the laughter and teasing, I realised all I wanted to do was to take him into my arms and comfort him.
And I did later that day in my study when even though I was not expecting him, even though I had told him earlier in the day I had to study thus for once he was not welcome, he dared to defy me and crept into my study, sinking to the floor by my feet and leaning against me. At first my hand simply found his head and I stroked it and ran my fingers through his soft hair as I carried on studying. But then I heard a bitten off sob and I couldnít just sit there any longer, so I pulled him from the floor onto the sofa next to me where I put my arm around him, gathered him as close to me as I could get him and let him cry against my shoulder as I carried on trying to study. I managed to study for a few more minutes until his tears touched me so much I put my book down and gathered him onto my lap, putting both arms around him, pushing his head down onto my shoulder and soothing him, telling him it would all be all right.
And that evening, I realised just before we parted for the Christmas hols, had been the beginning of the end of my plans for him. At the time I hadn't consciously realised it, but as the weeks went on and I grew fonder and fonder of him and found myself becoming even more protective of him and worrying about him and his trust in me became absolute and his devotion to me clear for the entire school to see, I discovered no matter how much I might want to, I no longer intended to take him to my bed. I no longer intended to carry thought my plans to kiss him, to touch him intimately, to make him touch me, to teach him how to give me pleasure.
Even when towards the end of his first year at the school he began to make it clear he wanted me to kiss me and that he loved me, I wouldn't kiss him. Not even when we returned in the September for what was my final year and he threw himself into my arms as soon as he appeared in my study, pressing against me in a way he'd never done before, before looking up at me and letting me know quite clearly what he wanted, I didn't kiss him. Not even when he, a few months later, furtively and very naively touched me did I do more than take his hand from my body, kiss it and his forehead before I pulled him into a loose embrace and gently told him he mustn't touch me like that.
I knew long before I left the school that he not only loved me, he was in love me in the way only a young fourteen year old could be in love. I didn't think, I refused to think, I would not allow myself to think too much about my feelings for him - but suffice to say they went far deeper than merely liking or caring for him. And if I had believed I'd wanted to kiss him, touch him and take him to my bed upon setting eyes on him for the first time, those feelings were nothing compared to how desperately I wanted him in my arms with my mouth on his then. But I wouldn't; I couldn't; no matter how much I wanted it, how much he believed he wanted it, I would not do that to him - I loved him too much.
And it was my depth of love for him that allowed me to walk away from him after brushing my lips over his, ruffling his hair, pulling him into the tightest, closest embrace we'd ever shared, giving him a handkerchief for the final time and a gift of a book of poetry I had bought for him. I was going up to Cambridge and he would remain a school boy for another three years. It would have been unfair of me not to walk away from him; unfair of me to keep in touch with him. I had kept him away from most of the boys of his age for two years, he only had one close friend, I had to let him go - and so I did. Even though I knew he believed his heart was breaking, even though his tears hurt me so much, even though I fought the hardest battle I'd ever fought to stop from crying myself, I let him go - I walked out of his life. I walked out of his life for what I truly believed would be forever.
And then ten years later he walked back into my life and once again I rescued him. From the moment I opened my front door to him and invited him into my rooms I saw that the love the innocent, naÔve, pretty, young boy had had for me ten years ago was still present in the still naÔve, still innocent (that was obvious to someone was worldly as I), still pretty and still in many ways so young man who stood before me.
And as I stood gazing down at him, my hand on his shoulder before it moved of its own accord to brush his still overly long hair back from his forehead, I knew I too still felt the same and I wanted to kiss him, to touch him, to take him to my bed - to once more possess him as much as I had done during the years we had spent together at school.
When we returned to my rooms after I had shown him the man I had become, as I had introduced him to my other life, the life of a burglar, I came very close to pulling him into my arms and kissing him before taking him to my bed. I told myself he would let me do whatever I wished to do to him, because he would believe he owed me, that he was in debt to me. Once again he gave me his trust, he gave me his love, he gave me his innocence, and once again as we stood there I knew I couldnít kiss him, I couldnít take him to my bed because I loved him enough. If our relationship was going to develop beyond that of friends then it had to be at a time other than at a time when he felt he owed me.
And so instead I persuaded him, I knew exactly what words to use, to join felonious forces with me and become my partner in crime and our intimate friendship, an intimate friendship that had been between two boys, even if I had been that much older than he, began again as two men. I kept him by my side as much as I could; we dined together, went to the opera, the theatre, the music hall, the Turkish baths, balls, dinners, I took him to all of my cricket matches, county, country and country house matches; whenever my invitation was for 'Arthur Raffles and guest' he was my guest. And in time it became known that the best way to get me to attend a ball or a dinner or a country house cricket match was to also invite Bunny.
We were barely ever apart and he left me in no doubt of how deep his love for me was of how much he wanted me to kiss him, to touch him in an intimate way, to take him to my bed, to make love to him. And I wanted it to; I wanted it as much as he did - if not more, because I knew about physical love and he did not. He really was still almost as innocent as the day we met - no one had had the pleasure of his hands or mouth on their body, nor had he experienced kisses or touches of the nature I wished to share with him.
For a year we continued as merely intimate friends, even if that intimacy was pushed right to the limits of what was considered acceptable and proper. And then I made plans; the night of our anniversary, a year to the night since he had returned to me, since he had once more let me possess him would be the night I did what we both wanted; what we both craved; what we both yearned for, longed for. Finally he would become mine in the most ultimate way possible.
I arranged it all; a private room for our dinner, a gift for him and then after good food, champagne, brandy, Sullivans and cigars we would return to the Albany where I had left a freshly made bed turned back with the gas lamps burning low.
Except that did not happen.
I waited at our club but he did not appear. He is never late - at least not when meeting me - and that in itself made me begin to worry that something had happened. I even rang his flat, but the phone just went on ringing and ringing - and I knew he was not there. My concern was deep; I feared something had happened - he was hurt, I knew it, somehow the connection between us allowed me to know that. Yet I kept telling myself nothing had happened, at least nothing to harm him; something else, someone else was keeping him from my side. I refused to listen to the voice in my head that told me only illness, hurt or death would have kept him from my side.
And then the club secretary appeared and came to where I sat. I heard his words, but I took in very few of them: a child; a runaway horse and hansom cab; a heroic Mr. Manders. A heroic Mr. Manders who now lay close to death in hospital. A heroic Mr. Manders who was not expected to live.
That happened twenty-seven days ago. And for twenty-seven days I have waited and worried and prayed to a God I am not sure I ever believed in. I made promises, deals even, to Him; if He spared Bunny's life I would give up burgling; I would give up cricket; I would give up my illegal desires on Bunny; I would give Bunny up, let him walk away, encourage him even to find a nice, quiet, innocent young lady and settle down with her and turn his back on me - walk away from me as I had walked away from him. I would even give my life if his could be spared.
For twenty-five days the doctors kept telling me there was little hope and that the longer he went without opening his eyes the lower the chances that he ever would became. I grew tired of sitting in the yellow-walled room, tired of listing to doctors and even nurses be so negative, tired of praying and hoping, tired of pretending I was less devastated than I actually was; tired of letting them think he was nothing more than my closest, my best friend.
I did not want to hear another person tell me he would never wake up - at least I did not want to hear it from someone I did not know and thus could not trust. I knew that my best friend at school Charlie was back in England, back in London, following a year spent learning about medicine in different parts of the world. So I contacted him and told him what had happened to Bunny - of course he remembered Bunny from our school days - and I asked him to come and give me his opinion.
If Charlie told me there was no hope, told me that Bunny never would wake up, then I would have to believe him. I trusted Charlie; I trusted him with my life; I even trusted him with Bunny's life.
He came; he took one look at me and pulled me into his arms, holding me tightly, saying nothing, just holding me and I let him, I even clung to him as I remember Bunny clinging to me on more than one occasion when we were at school.
Then Charlie turned his attention to Bunny and the reports from the doctors and nurses. He seemed surprised that Bunny was still not conscious as it appeared his injuries had all healed. Of course with head injuries it is difficult to be certain, but his eyes reacted as they should; his vital signs were as they should be - according to Charlie Bunny should be awake.
"Talk to him," Charlie told me, sitting down next to me as I once more took Bunny's hand between both of mine after I'd again brushed his hair from his forehead.
"What?" I asked, frowning a little as I looked at him. "He can't hear me."
Charlie flushed slightly and began to tell me of an old man he'd come across in Greece. He wasn't a qualified doctor, but he was the man to whom everyone went when they were sick and he always talked to his patients whether they were conscious or not and he swore they could hear him; that they responded; that they recovered and opened their eyes.
I was sceptical and said so. Charlie flushed even more and admitted he was too - but he added that doctors knew so little about the human body and especially the brain no one could be certain. Then he added the convincing argument - after all what had I to lose.
"What should I say to him?" I asked turning to look at him.
He put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it. "Tell him how you feel about him, A. J., tell him how you've always felt about him."
He smiled, a slightly sad smile, I've always known Charlie's true feeling for me. "Yes," he said softly. "I believe I knew quite some time before you did - or rather before you were prepared to admit it. Talk to him; you have nothing to lose, A. J.," he said again. And after squeezing my shoulder again and touching my head he stood up and left us in the yellow-walled room.
I trust Charlie and so I did as he told me. I began to talk to Bunny, to tell him what I felt; what I'd always felt. I told him how much I loved him; how vital he was to me; how I needed him by my side. I told him things I wasn't certain I'd have said to him even had my plans worked out.
Charlie returned the following day and told me Bunny was no longer unconscious; he was merely sleeping.
He left again and I returned to telling Bunny how much I loved him.
Charlie came back this morning and told me Bunny was sleeping shallower than he had been and he truly believed he would open his eyes before the end of the day.
And that is for what I am waiting. I am waiting for him to open his eyes and look up at me. But he hasn't opened his eyes and he is still so still. I want to believe Charlie; I need to believe Charlie, but -
I hear a faint noise, not quite a moan or a whimper but not a voice. I turn my head and look down and him; look down into his blue eyes that gaze up at me with more love and devotion than I have ever seen anyone look at another person - even he looking at me.
"Bunny," I whisper, letting go of his hand to slide my arm under his shoulders and lift him up slightly. "Bunny," I say again not even trying now to keep the tremble from my voice as I blink hard trying to blink away the tears that want to fall. But in the end as he continues to gaze up at me I let one fall from each eye. "Bunny," I say for a third time, "my Bunny; my own Bunny. You are mine, are you not?"
And he smiles as I watch him swallow and watch his eyes fill with tears. "I've always been yours, Raffles," he manages, his voice harsh from a lack of use.
"And you always will be," I whisper, as I bend my head towards his. "I love you, Bunny. I love you so much. I -" And then I silence myself by putting my mouth on his just as I wanted to do from the moment I set eyes on him.
By the time Charlie comes back into the room I'm half sitting, half lying on the bed with Bunny safely held in my arms, his head in on my shoulder and his eyes are half open and half closed. "Hello, Charleston," he says as his gaze drifts towards Charlie. "It's good to see you again," and he holds out his hand.
"It's good to see you again too, Manders," Charlie says softly, taking Bunny's hand and putting his other hand on my shoulder and squeezing it.
"When can I take him home?" I ask, tearing my gaze away from Bunny to look up at Charlie.
"Tomorrow," he says softly. "Assuming, A. J., that you mean to take him home with you and not to his flat to be left alone."
"I doubt I'll ever let him out of my sight again," I say my tone slightly self-mocking as I stare up at Charlie.
He smiles, tightens his grip on my shoulder and on Bunny's hand; for a minute or two we just stay in silence before Charlie gently lets go of Bunny's hand, squeezes my shoulder again before taking his hand away. "I'll leave you alone. But, A. J. -"
"Matron really does not approve of visitors sitting on the patient's bed," he said his tone firm.
I sigh softly, but obey the veiled order and gently lower Bunny back onto the pillows before returning to the chair I have spent twenty-nine days sitting on. A few more hours won't hurt and then I will get to take my Bunny home and take full possession of him - I rather fancy I had meant what I'd said to Charlie about not letting Bunny out of my sight. Maybe it was time I spoke to Parker about the possibility of rooms with two bedrooms being available at the Albany. I had taken possession of Bunny the day I first met him; now I was keeping possession of him. He was mine and I was never going to give him up.
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