VERILY I LOVE YOU
It's close to being thirty years since Raffles and Bunny first met.
An established relationship story.
Written: August 2012. Word count: 6,193.
With a final flourish I wrote the words 'THE END', put the cap back on my pen, stood up and stretched in an attempt to work the kinks out of my back - I swear it gets harder every day to loosen up.
Maybe I should take Raffles up on his repeated offer to teach me how to play golf. Yes Raffles plays golf and of course he is extremely good at it; Raffles is still extremely good at anything to which he turns his hand, unlike me. If I did allow him to try to teach me to play, with the emphasis on try it would be like any other sporting endeavour I attempted; I would be a blundering fool. If I could barely hit a cricket ball with a cricket bat, what on earth makes Raffles think I could hit a tiny white golf ball with a thin stick that has a piece of metal attached to the end?
And yet it certainly keeps him fit; at forty-eight he is much fitter than I am, even though I am five years his junior; he's a fit now as he was in his thirties and as trim and as handsome and - Whereas I am not only nowhere near as fit as he is, I am somewhat less trim than I was in my thirties. Raffles assures me repeatedly it does not trouble him, but it does me.
My life is far more sedentary than his is given the vast proportion of my days are spent writing, whereas a considerable amount of a fair number his days are spent outside teaching people how to hit small white balls with sticks. I do go for walks with him, my whole life isn't spent sitting down, but it doesnít seem to be enough to counteract the results of wine, whisky, good luncheons and dinners. Maybe I really will reconsider and allow him to teach me the game that is the national sport of the place which has been home to us for the past fifteen years.
I rubbed my eyes and squeezed the bridge of my nose; that's another thing I am going to have to give serious consideration to: getting a pair of spectacles. I find my eyes tire much more easily these days and hour upon hour spent staring at a piece of paper as my thoughts tumble from my pen gives me a headache, the kind that will not go away without me resorting to taking a powder, which Raffles doesn't like me to take in the frequency I have recently been taking them.
Of course a far better cure for an aching head and back is his hands on my shoulders and back massaging the pain away as I lay flat on the bed, enjoying the feel of his long fingertips caressing my naked skin. And most times what begins as a simple, medicinal massage turns into considerably more and -
I sighed and forced the thoughts of him and me naked in bed away; he wasn't here and wouldn't be home for another hour or so. I decided to try to do without resorting to taking a powder to stop my head from throbbing, at least for now; Raffles is correct, I have been taking too many of them recently.
Maybe some fresh air would help; maybe I should take a walk and meet Raffles, then we could return home together. The mere thought of seeing him makes me smile and I swear my head begins to ache a little more. It's foolish given how long we have been together that the mere thought of seeing him, or hearing his voice saying my name, of seeing his sparkling blue eyes gaze at me, of feeling his arm though mine or his hand on my shoulder, can make me smile - but it does.
My mind made up, I hurried towards the door of the room I use to write in and catch sight of the diary lying on the bookcase. As I glanced down at the open page I realised that it was almost thirty years since the day Raffles and I first met at school when he was the dashingly, tall, dark and handsome, possessively protective almost eighteen year old captain of the eleven and I was the small, naÔve, innocent thirteen year old boy who was homesick, useless at any sport and would be easy prey to older boys who liked a 'pretty young boy'.
Thirty years less a few days have gone by since he put his hand on my shoulder said 'hello' to me and gave me his handkerchief - the first of many he would give me.
Thirty years less a few days have gone by since I looked up into the face of the most handsome boy I had ever seen, no one should be that handsome, a mere mortal should not look like a Classical god. But that was what Raffles had been like when I first set eyes on him - and in many ways, even though his hair is now no longer black, but black and grey and he has lines around his eyes and mouth, he still is to me the Classical god I saw him as when I was that small, crying, innocent boy.
Thirty years less a few days have gone by since he took me as his, since he took possession of me, since he began to take care of me, since he first started to protect me and keep me safe from harm.
Thirty years less a few days have gone by since I first fell in love with him; since I started to love him.
Thirty years less a few days have gone by since we became inseparable. Yes, inseparable, well, apart from school holidays and the three years he was at Cambridge and I was still at school and even during those weeks, months and years we were still in touch with one another on a very regular basis.
You see the stories I wrote about Raffles and myself are not entirely accurate - at least not in all respects.
Yes, we met at school; yes I was his fag; yes, he played cricket for Middlesex and England; yes, we lived in London once we had completed our education; yes. we attended balls and country house parties; yes, on more than one occasion Raffles was invited for his cricket, which he never liked; yes, we dined together, had luncheon together, went to the Turkish baths together; yes, I attended his cricket matches; yes, it was I who persuaded him to get a telephone and have the electric light installed; yes he was always more intelligent, more knowledgeable than I; yes, he called me 'my dear Bunny' and 'my own rabbit'; yes at times he seemed a little exasperated by me; yes, I adored him, loved him, waxed lyrical about him and his attributes.
However, beyond those things there is little complete accuracy in the tales I told. It is true he had room at the Albany, but even that is not the whole truth. It is also true I came into money, but again the events I chronicled in The Ides Of March are not accurate.
I was not quite eighteen when my parents died in an accident and my entire world was turned upside down. Even though I was an upper sixth form boy and editor of the school mag, I was still fairly young for my age and when I was given the news I was devastated and completely uncertain what to do. I do not know who took it upon themselves to send a telegram to Raffles telling him about my parents or what reason he gave for leaving Cambridge as he did, but within hours of learning of my parents' deaths Raffles was by my side and had taken charge. I clung to him literally and figuratively; he became my lifeline, the only certain thing in my world, the only constant I had left - and that has never changed since that fateful day.
During the two years we were at school together he was my world, my moon, my sun, my stars, he was everything to me; he was the one person I knew would never fail me, never let me down; I loved him then and that love never passed, it merely grew. I knew I could rely on him for anything and everything, but I had never believed I would need him, need his support, quite as much as I did after my parents had died. I am quite certain without him and his support The Ides Of March might well have been accurate after all.
Occasionally I allow myself to wonder quite whether we would be where we are today, whether we would still be together, whether indeed we would have crossed the line from friends to so much more, had my parents not died, had I not needed him and his support quite as much as I did.
The death of my parents left me a very wealthy young man and it all became mine upon my eighteenth birthday. In turn Raffles received an inheritance upon completing his years at Cambridge, and so with me still subdued following the deaths of the only other people I had ever loved and Raffles as protective as he had been when we'd been at school together we set off for London where we took rooms at the Albany and a new era of our lives together began.
It was in those rooms that Raffles did what I believe I had wanted almost from the moment I had met him; he did what most of the school thought he'd been doing for the two years I'd been his fag - he took me to bed and began to teach me things I had only ever heard whispered or laughed about. As with everything he'd taught me during the years we shared together at school he was an excellent teacher, kind, caring, gentle, protective, possessive and loving. He made me his in the most final way possible.
He'd kissed me within weeks of taking me as his fag; I still remember that evening, it was after all my very first kiss. It was just as I was about to leave to go back to the third form dorm; as I said 'goodnight' and was about to open the door, he caught me and pulled me back, cupped my face between his hands, lowered his head and brushed his lips over mine.
Then to my amazement he'd asked me if I minded him kissing me - of course I didn't; I'd certainly wanted him to kiss me from the very first evening I'd spent in his study, but surely even if I had have objected, I had no right, given I was his fag, given he was a lower sixth form boy and I a mere third former to object. But according to him I did have that right; he assured me he'd only kiss me again if I wanted him to. Which of course I did.
So whilst we kissed often during those two years, whilst he barely kept his hands off me, whilst he'd take me onto his lap, whilst he'd let me lie on his sofa with my head in his lap, whilst he'd embrace me, whilst his kisses became more and more intense and intimate, whilst my body and even his on a few occasions, reacted to the kisses he bestowed on me, he would do nothing more to me - not even on the occasions I garnered enough courage to ask him to take me to his bed.
But once we moved into the Albany everything changed and yet in some ways nothing changed. Even though until that first night with the gas light turned down low when he undressed me and let his hands and mouth move over my body at will we had not made love before, in many ways it was as if we had been lovers since the day we had met. The physical intimacy we added whilst intense, beautiful, moving, tender and beyond anything I had ever imagined it could be, was just that an addition to what we'd had since the day we met.
Public school life and university life is quite different from life beyond those institutions; both shelter a boy, it is in many ways a secluded life, so very different from the world outside. Things that are accepted, understood, permitted (if not officially) when one is in those places are of course unacceptable, not understood and not permitted once one is out in the world.
I believe that even Raffles who was, who still is, so much more worldly than I, found the first few months of life outside of the security of the world he'd inhabited for well over a decade (Raffles's prep school had also been a boarding school, unlike mine) harder than he had imagined. As such we barely ventured outside of our rooms for the first few months and the fact that I had only just turned eighteen meant there were places we would not permitted to go, well places I would not be permitted to go and Raffles went nowhere without me.
But in time we did start to venture outside to lunch or dine and then Raffles at the age of twenty-four was invited to play in the second test match and with me by his side he arrived in Manchester and made a very good showing with both bat and ball, easily proving the some might say risky selection. And that match began his involvement in test and county cricket and began my experience of watching men rather than boys play the game.
No one questioned my presence at his side, just as no one questioned the fact he shared rooms together and no one questioned his hand on my shoulder or knee or the way he looked at me or the amount of time we spent together. It was the time; men did share rooms, men did spend far more time with other men than with a lady - even married men with families spent more time with their male friends than with their wife and family. It was accepted; it was expected and if anyone did suspect there was maybe something more than just a long-standing friendship between Raffles and me, no one said anything.
Mainly because of his cricket, although also because he was a very eligible bachelor, Raffles began to receive invitations to balls, diners, house parties involving cricket matches and without exception he expected to take me with him; indeed hostesses soon began to realise if they wanted the great and highly suitable A. J. Raffles at their ball or table, they had to accept that his somewhat younger, insignificant little friend would also be present.
Sometimes as I stood and watched him dance with and talk nonsense to whichever young lady was being dangled in front of him for the evening in the hope that she would be the one to capture not just his eyes but his heart, I almost wished I wasn't with him. Even though I knew his dancing and complimentary words were just for show, were due to expectation and not out of any desire to be with the young lady, I did not enjoy watching him interact with them. Raffles is not the only possessive one.
Somehow three years went by and I was twenty-one; Raffles treated me to a very lavish evening out and a very lavish evening in once we returned to the Albany. But as I lay in his arms, tired, happier than I could ever remember being, at peace, very well loved and perfectly content I realised something: I had not life beyond Raffles, he was still my lifeline; he was still the one constant in my life, the one person in my life; he was my everything, without him I was nothing, I had nothing. And whilst I knew he loved me, cared for me deeply, whilst I knew I was more important to him than anyone or anything, even his cricket, whilst I knew that I was important to him, I mattered to him, he did have something beyond me. He could, I was sure, survive without me; I was not certain the reverse was true - or rather I would not wish to survive without him.
And that was when I decided: I would add something to my life; I would have something outside of him, but something that would be entirely about him. And that was when I decided to turn my hand to writing the Raffles books.
I told him my idea in the morning and partly to my surprise he approved whole-heartedly of it, even when I told him the details: that I wanted to write about him being an amateur cracksman as well as a cricketer and my involvement in that side of his life and how I came back into his life after ten years. I hadn't been certain he would approve, not of my wanting to write, but of the subject I wished to write about - but he did.
Indeed he suggested that if hosts and hostesses thought he might be planning on stealing their jewels, if they had that to focus on, they wouldn't look too deeply into the true nature of our relationship and start to wonder that whilst he in particular danced with and spent time talking to the young ladies, outside of balls, country house parties and dinners he was never seen with a young lady.
So I started to write my stories, found a very enthusiastic publisher and the first Raffles book saw the light of day. The reaction amongst our acquaintances was very favourable, at least once they'd got over the initial shock it was; they rather liked the idea they might be entertaining someone who was intent of relieving them of their jewels. I found they also looked at me in a new light and I was no longer 'Mr. Raffles's insignificant friend', indeed there were one or two occasions when I was the one invited to a dinner or a party and Raffles was my guest.
Raffles seemed somewhat bemused by the whole thing and had endless patience when he explained to first one doting young lady and then another that no, he really wasn't intent on stealing her necklace and that the stories were merely fiction. He was also quite content to be my guest on the few occasions it was I who was invited; I believe he liked the fact I was getting a little more attention in my own right and not just as his friend.
For myself I found I enjoyed the extra attention less than I thought I would and whilst it was pleasant to receive such praise from people when it came down to it, the only person's praise, the only person's attention I wanted was Raffles's; his was the only opinion that truly mattered to me. His is the only opinion that has ever truly mattered to me.
Initially I had only ever intended to write one book of stories, I truly hadn't believed they would received as well as they were or become as popular, but when I in effect killed Raffles off in The Gift of the Emperor I found myself implored both in writing and in person to write more stories, to bring him back to life. So with Raffles adding his encouragement I did, only to kill him off a second time - only this time there was no bringing him back to life. Instead I wrote another book of short stories that filled in some gaps and finally a novel.
The novel shows Raffles as somewhat jaded and tired of London society and it has more truth in it than the other books. By the time I put pen to paper to write that tale, my Raffles was indeed tiring of our life in London, of the constant calls on his time to attend parties, balls, to play cricket, to pay attention to young ladies and to devote time and energy to finding reasons not to pay attention to them beyond the ball or house party.
There was one time when even his great skill at finding reasons failed and we spent the entire day with two young ladies, both of whom were interested in Raffles and only in Raffles; my presence was seen as a necessity to be borne by both of them, nothing more. We finally escorted them home where Raffles, a gentleman to the last, kissed both their hands (which was clearly not the kiss either of them wanted) and managed to escape without agreeing to a further outing.
The moment we reached our rooms in the Albany, I found myself in his arms, his mouth on mine, his body pressed against mine and he kissed me deeply and went on kissing me until I truly believe I would pass out from a lack of oxygen. "I am tired of it, Bunny," he said, when he'd finally ceased to kiss me and we were on the sofa, he sitting and me lying with my head in his lap whilst his long fingers tangled in my hair and caressed my scalp.
"Of what?" I asked, tilting my head back to look up at him; the movement was quite a deliberate one on my part and he moaned softly as my head brushed against him; his moan deepened when again quite deliberately I moved my head a little as I felt him begin to harden. "Of this?" I dared to tease him a little and moved my head again.
He next moment my head was no longer on his lap but on the sofa and he was kneeling over me, bending down so his mouth could once again plunder mine as his lower body brushed against mine which instantly began to react to his kiss and his touch. A minute of two later he was lying by my side, his fingers unbuttoning my trousers and slipping inside my drawers and I was crying his name as my body found its release in his hand.
To my surprise when I reached for him once my breathing had begun to return to normal, intent on giving him the same pleasure he had given me, he caught my hand and entwined his fingers with mine. "I mean it, Bunny," he said softly. "I am tired of it all. I am tired of being invited to places for my cricket, of being expected to pay compliments to young ladies in whom I have no interest; I am tired of the glitter of society and the expectations of what I should be. I am tired of having to pretend you are nothing more to me than an intimate friend."
I felt my eyes widen. "Raffles, but we couldn't . . . There's nowhere we could be anything other than intimate friends, is there?"
He shrugged. "There are places it matters considerably less. England is very backward in that respect; it is not a crime in many other places. I love you, Bunny, and whilst I cannot tell the entire world you are mine and mine alone, I am weary of the expectation that one day you will stand by my side as I promise to love another until death parts us."
I stared up at him, more than a little taken aback at the vehemence and the sincerity of his words. I'd always known he'd loved me, I'd know that when we'd been boys at school together, but I believe a small part of me, a part I never openly acknowledged did fear that one day he would, if only for appearance's sake, take one of the painted, powdered, perfumed young ladies as his wife.
He sat up and pulled me up with him, tightening the grip he had on my hand and facing me as he cupped my cheeks with his other hand. "You are all I want, Bunny; you are all I have ever wanted. You are my life; you are the foundation that makes me who I am. I cannot imagine life without you by my side. You are, you always have been, my constant. You mean more to me than I believe I have ever told you or indeed shown you."
To my embarrassment I felt my throat become tight and tears of complete joy prickled and burnt the back of my eyes. "Raffles," I managed to whisper, around the huge lump that had now formed in my throat. I blinked hard, but I couldnít prevent a tear from escaping. I hoped he wouldn't see it. But of course he did and with a touch so gentle, he wiped it away, smiled his ever-loving smile and pulled me into his arms, manoeuvring me gently until I was not only in his arms, I was on his lap.
"Let us leave London," he said his lips on my ear as I rested my head on his shoulder and let another tear or two escape. "Let us go somewhere where we can live a simpler life; where I am not invited to places because of my cricket or you because of your books, where we are not expected to dance attendance on the hostess's daughter or niece or pay lip service with compliments we do not mean. Let us go somewhere where whilst we cannot exactly proclaim what we are to one another we do not have to fear arrest at any moment or fear someone will see the looks and touches we share and finally realise they are more than those of just close friends."
"You want to leave the country as well as London?" I asked lifting my head from his shoulder and gazing at him.
He stared down at me in silence for a moment or two, then pushed me away from him a little and put his hand on my cheek. "Would you mind leaving London, Bunny?" he asked softly. "I often get the feeling you enjoy the life we have more than I do. Would you miss the balls and parties and dances and country house cricket matches? Would you miss the glitter of society? Because if you would then -"
I tugged his head down and silenced him with a lengthy kiss. When I finally allowed his mouth to part from mine his eyes were more ebony than their usual sapphire blue and he was smiling his lazy smile as he stroked my cheek with his fingertip. I had not doubt that should I wish it, I could dispense with the conversation and persuade him to make love to me where we were. However, the conversation would only arise again and as much as I longed to be in his arms, with his mouth and hands doing the things to me they have always done so very well, I wanted to sort this matter out.
I leant my cheek into hand and sighed softly. "I will miss certain aspects of it, Raffles, that I cannot deny and I am sure you will too, even if you don't think you will. But one thing I shall not miss is watching all the young ladies swarm around you, watch you dance with them, hold them in your arms, watch you give them your attention, listen to you say foolish things to them. I shall not miss the feeling I get every time I see you with a different young lady; I shall not miss the moment, no matter how fleeting it is, when I wonder if she will be the one who will entice you from my side and my arms."
He stared at me in silence and his eyes became troubled. "Bunny," he said quietly. "I had no idea you felt quite so," he paused and I watched him choose his next words with care. "Insecure; uncertain of me and my love for you. Oh, my dearest Bunny, why did you not tell me? Do you really think I want any of those foolish young girls in my life when I have you?"
I shrugged. "I don't really think it, Raffles, at least not intentionally. But it just . . . Raffles, you're my life; you're all I have. You've been my life since I was thirteen, you know that."
He still looked troubled as he gathered me nearer to him. "Oh, Bunny," he said, kissing the top of my head before he brushed my hair from my forehead. "I do sometimes wonder if I was entirely fair to you to take you under my wing, to be quite so . . ."
"Possessive?" I said softly.
He gave me a faint smile that had a hint of grimness about it. "Yes," he said softly. "You were so very young, so very, very young, maybe it was unfair of you to take control of you in the way I did. Maybe I should have allowed you to find your own life."
I shrugged. "I have the life I want, Raffles," I said quietly. "The life I wanted since the moment I met you. I love you," I said softly. They were words neither of us said frequently; I for fear of sounding like a romantic verse, Raffles because that wasn't the man he was.
He stared at me for a long moment or two before he sighed softly and I saw the troubled look begin to fade from his eyes and he smiled. "I love you too, Bunny," he said softly, his tone slightly formal. "I always have." And then he frowned and said quietly, "Will miss? Bunny? Are you . . ."
I smiled and brushed my lips over his. "When do we leave?" I said and then added, "and where are we going?"
The when was a few months later after we had put our affairs in London in order. The where was the place we now live; the place we have lived for fifteen years; the place I cannot ever see us leaving - at least not permanently. We do go down to London from time to time, but the number of occasions have got fewer and fewer over the years and the last time we went, we returned several days earlier than we had planned to do.
We live in Scotland in a quiet community recommended to us by Edward Charleston, Raffles's best friend from school. Charleston had become the doctor he'd always wanted to be and had set up a practice in the area, indeed in the very house in which we now live, before he left Britain to start a new life with the man who finally taught him he could love another apart from Raffles.
Before he was due to leave Britain Charleston had contacted Raffles and told him if he and I ever wished for a simpler life in an area where people did not spend their entire lives wondering what everyone else was doing, in a place where people didn't mind what you were, didn't bother what you were, then we should go to where he had spent several years. I hadn't realised Charleston had known about Raffles and myself; but according to Raffles he'd known before we had.
I pinched the bridge of my nose, closed my eyes and sighed as I put my pen down. I really had not intended to write another story, especially one that would never, that could never, see the light of day. Our neighbours may not be interested in what we are to one another, may not be curious as to what brought us from London to Scotland, but even they might be should my latest ramblings be published - not that I imagine any publisher would dare to publish such a thing.
I rubbed my temples, stood up and stretched by back; my plans to walk to meet Raffles were now not possible as it would not be long before he returned home. Indeed a glance at my watch told me he could be home at any time. I debated pouring myself a drink and in the end decided instead to go and rest on the bed for a short time until Raffles came home.
I was having such a lovely dream, Raffles was on the bed with me, his mouth was on mine and his hands were undoing buttons and moving clothing out of the way as he touched, stroked and caressed me. His kisses were becoming more and more demanding and his touches more intimate by the second and I knew it wouldn't be long before my body would have the release it craved. I arched my back slightly and pushed myself up into his hand, enjoying the coolness of it as it surrounded my heated hardness. "Raffles," I moaned as my body reached the point of no return and he let me fall over the edge. "Oh, Raffles."
My eyes flew open and I blinked and saw him lying next to me, his lazy, loving, tender, possessive smile on his lips, his damp hand still holding my lightly as the fingers of his other hand lightly stroked my cheek. "Raffles?" I said blinking again as I stared at him. "You're really here? I'm not just dreaming?"
He laughed lightly and put his mouth on mine for a lingering, loving kiss. "Yes, my dear Bunny, I am indeed here." He pulled out his handkerchief, wiped his hand and my now softened flesh, before decorously tucking me away, rearranging my clothing and rebuttoning my trousers.
The headache I'd had before I had laid down had now completely gone and I was both rested and very well loved. I stretched and blinked again realising how dark it was in the room, dark enough for Raffles to have turned a bedside lamp on. "What time is it?" I asked, capturing his hand and pulling it towards my mouth to kiss it. He told me and I stared at him in surprise. "You are quite late today," I said.
"Ah," he glanced away from me for a moment, before lying down next to me and gathering me into his arms. "I have in fact been home for some time," he said, sliding one hand into my hair and beginning to wind it around his fingers and stroke my scalp; I still wore it far longer than was customary for a man, but I knew how much Raffles liked it the length it was. As at school his hands found their way into it several times a day.
"And you didn't wake me?" I asked, settling happily into his loose embrace; I never tired of being in his arms; I never have tired of being in his arms.
He glanced away from me for a moment and then looked back and smiled. "I found something else to do," he said a little cryptically. I raised an eyebrow and the next moment his mouth was on mine again and it was quite some time before he spoke again. "You realise you can never publish that tale, do you not, Bunny?" he said gently.
"Oh," I said, aware my cheeks had flushed. "You read it?"
He smiled. "Every word, my sweet rabbit; it brought back a number of fond memories. And I have an answer to a question you raised."
I frowned. "A question?"
"Yes," he said, once more kissing me. "And the answer is 'yes'." I stared at him and frowned more deeply as I tried to recall to what he was referring. "We would have become lovers, Bunny, even if you had not lost your parents when you did," he said quietly. "I would never have let you go, Bunny. I will never let you go. I meant it when I told you that you were my life; you are my life, Bunny. You speak of me being your lifeline, well, my darling rabbit, that is true for me too."
I felt my throat tighten. "Oh, Raffles," I whispered.
He kissed me deeply, pulling me closely against him, allowing me to feel the faintest hint of his desire for me. I pushed my lower body against him, but to my surprise and disappointment, he moved back a little, broke the kiss and sat up, pulling me up with him. "Later," he said softly. "After supper when we have time and know we will not be disturbed."
I sighed but allowed him to get off the bed and pull me to my feet and into his arms for a brief kiss. "Oh," he added, smoothing my hair down for me. "And I am going to teach you how to play golf." And with one more brief kiss, he took my hand and led me out of the bedroom.
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