XII YEARS TO THE DAY
Bunny is wondering why Raffles is quite so attentive. He learns the day has some significance, but what is it?
A first time story.
Written: September 2012. Word count: 4,242.
It was mid-September, some six months since I had first stepped into Raffles's room and become reacquainted with him for the first time in some ten years. For six months we had been virtually inseparable, spending time as gentlemen about town, dining and lunching together, spending evenings at the theatre, the opera or the music hall, spending afternoons on the river, evenings at balls or formal dinners, attending house parties, hour upon hour in his rooms, and of course Raffles's county and country cricket matches.
I had never in my life been happier; well apart from the two years I'd spent at school with Raffles and that had been a different kind of happiness, because that was the happiness of a young boy, now my happiness was that of a grown man. Just being in Raffles's company, no matter what we did, even when he was forced from my side for various reasons such as dancing with a young lady or even an older lady, I was happy. I was happy just to stand or sit and watch him, knowing that no matter what, he would eventually return to my side and together we would leave whatever event we were in attendance at.
My happiness was not even diminished, at least not significantly, by the felonious side of our lives. Not that I enjoyed taking part in the crimes we committed, not that I got the same amount of pleasure out of 'the game' as Raffles did. I certainly did not see it as a challenge, a sporting venture, as he did and for the most part I was afeared that we would be caught and gaoled and thus separated. And yes, I confess there were times when I was more than a little aggrieved with Raffles when he did not tell me the details of the burglaries we were going to commit or even that he was expecting Inspector Mackenzie.
It was all very well him telling me how innocent I looked and thus if I were innocent as my friend he would be too or telling me I'd be far happier not knowing things because then I didn't have to lie, I just had to tell the truth. Maybe he was correct, but it did still irritate me somewhat, it sometimes made me think he didn't quite trust me - although deep down I knew he did. I was the only person he trusted completely - which was how it had been whilst we had been at school. Thus, despite my irritation, my fears of being caught, of being separated from Raffles, I was still happy, because once again it was something I did at his side.
Today had been no different as, apart from going home to bathe and change into my evening attire, after we had lunched together and spent the afternoon on the river, before meeting Raffles are out club where we dined together, I had spent every moment of it in his company. We were now back in the Albany sitting on his sofa, glasses of whisky on the table behind the sofa, Sullivans in our hands talking.
And yet as I sat and just stared into Raffles's handsome face, watching the way the lamp light caught his eyes and ebony curls, making both shine, I realised that something had been a little different. Not only had we dined in a private room, but I realised that Raffles's attention had been on me even more than it usually was. And it still was; after he had poured whisky and soda for us and lit the cigarette he had offered me, his gaze had never once left my face.
Suddenly he stood up. "Where are you going?" I asked, before I thought about it. The bemused look on his face and the way he raised one eyebrow slightly as he gazed down at me, caused me to blush and I glanced away from him, grabbing my glass from the table and taking a large swallow.
I felt his hand on my head, felt it slip down a little to brush my hair back from my forehead - something he used to do on a daily basis when we were at school together - before his fingers tangled for a moment in my hair. "Dear Bunny," he said softly, "my very own dear Bunny," and before I could speak, he let his hand fall from my head and I saw him turn on his heel and walk out of the room.
He was back fairly quickly and as he walked by me before he sat down his hand once more lingered on my head for a moment or two. When he sat back down on the sofa, he sat a little closer to me than he'd been before he'd stood up. He took a sip from his own glass and returned to staring at me. "Do you know what today is, Bunny?" he said softly, his tone more than a little serious and intense.
I stared back at him as I hastily ran through several possibilities in my head. It wasn't his birthday nor was it mine; his was in November, mine in August. I couldn't instantly think of any Saint's day it might be - not that Raffles was a religious man. As I sat there just gazing into his deep blue eyes I found myself close to enquiring in a joking way as to whether there was a patron saint of burglars and if so was today his day. However, the look on his face as well as the intensity and seriousness of his tone stopped me. Whatever it was, whatever occasion today was, was not a joking matter.
I thought again. It was September; the cricket season was all but over, those who were in a position to leave London for the summer would be back or at least would soon be back, the ball season would be starting up again before long, but otherwise it was rather a non-month. Nothing really began or ended - at least . . .
One thing in particular did begin in September: the school year. I didn't recall the exact date in September when I had first gone to our school, why on earth would I remember such a thing? But twelve years ago on a day in September my parents had left me at the place I would spend five years, holidays aside, and I had met Arthur 'A. J.' Raffles, the dashingly handsome, extremely kind, caring, protective and possessive captain of the eleven.
"You do remember," he said quietly as to my surprise he captured my hand and held it in his.
I swallowed hard as I looked at him; something was somewhat different in the way he was looking at me, he had always, even when he was exasperated with me, looked at me with a deep fondness and affection, looked at me in a way that differed somewhat from the way he had ever looked at anyone else. However, now the look was even more affectionate and the intensity that had been present in his voice when he had asked me if I knew what today was, was now in his unblinking gaze. And he was holding my hand, something he hadn't done, no matter how often he'd touched me in other ways, since our school days.
I swallowed again; I couldn't lie to him. "I didn't remember the exact date, Raffles, but it's been twelve years since the day we met, has it not?"
He smiled and tightened the grip he had on my hand. "Yes, my dear rabbit," he said softly. "It has been twelve years to the very day that we met. Twelve years since I first took you as mine." I swallowed hard again at his choice of words, his tone and the look on his face. "Tell me, Bunny," he said, loosening his grip on my hand a little, "is there anything you regret not happening whilst we were at school together? Anything at all?"
I stared at him. Yes, there was - but it wasn't something I could tell him. Not even with the way he was looking at me, the intimacy of his tone and the fact he was holding my hand, could I tell him. Thus, I smiled, gave a small shrug and said, "I'd liked to have been able to play cricket better."
He frowned a little. "That is not quite the kind of thing I meant, Bunny," he said. "I meant something more," he hesitated for a moment before saying softly, "personal, shall we say?" Again there was a deep intensity in his gaze and once more his grip on my hand became a little tighter. I still couldn't tell him; I simply couldn't. "There are two things I regret not happening," he said suddenly.
"There are?" I was surprise; I didn't think Raffles believed in such things as regrets. In fact I was sure I recalled a time when he told me thus. He saw point in such a thing so why was he - I was pulled out of my reverie by his voice.
"Yes. Well, strictly speaking one of them didn't occur whilst we were both at the school, nonetheless I believe it counts. I regret deeply, very deeply, Bunny, not writing to you once I had gone up to Cambridge. I regret that I let you drift apart from me; I regret losing touch with you."
"Do you?" Again I was surprised. I know we had been close at school; many had said too close; I had heard whispers and rumours about what we really got up to in his study of an evening; what things he did to me. And I knew that if I'd head them, he most certainly had. And yet I had been a young boy, some five years younger than he, immature, small, hopeless at cricket, I cried quite a lot, where as he - he had been everything I wasn't and then a lot more. Why would such a grown-up, mature boy as he want to keep in touch with the young boy I had been?
He nodded and said quietly, sincerity clear in his tone, "Yes, my beloved rabbit - I always did. Indeed I began more than one letter to you, but I never finished them."
He shrugged and for a moment glanced away from me. "Oh, for
various reasons. I think the main one was that I had no idea whether a letter
from me would be welcomed -"
"Raffles!" I exclaimed, actually interrupting him. "How could you have thought that after . . . after . . . Well after the two years we spent together? You always knew how much I - how important you were to me. You did know, did you not?"
He smiled and squeezed the hand he still held. "Yes, Bunny, I knew - as did the entire school." He spoke gently and I knew he didn't mean to cause me any embarrassment, but I have always blushed easily and did so again. "I'm sorry, my dearest rabbit," he said, squeezing my hand again, "I did not mean to cause you any discomfort. I never minded; it never for a moment bothered or annoyed me - if that is what you are thinking. Indeed I was more than a little touched by quite how much, quite how openly, you cared for and about me."
I managed a half-shrug, half-nod in answer to his comment; yes that was part of the reason, but not the only one. "You were telling me why you thought a letter from you wouldn't be welcomed by me," I said.
"I was. I don't know, Bunny, I believe I wondered if you may have suddenly grown up during the summer holiday and as such had no need of . . ." For the first time ever in our acquaintance he seemed a little discomforted. I sought for something to say, but it was he who spoke again. "I never forget you, Bunny. Not for a moment. Not during my years at Cambridge or the years I spent alone in London before you returned to me."
"Didn't you?" I heard the depth of surprise in my voice.
He smiled a little sadly and shook his head. "Oh, Bunny, my
dear, dear Bunny." He was silent for a moment and then asked softly, " Did you
ever forget me?"
"No!" I cried. "Of course I didn't! Raffles, how can you -"
"Why then, my beloved rabbit, do you think I may have forgotten you?"
I stared at him. "Well, because you were A. J. Raffles and I was just . . ."
He moved a little nearer to me and now took my other hand as well. "Bunny, listen to me. You are not, nor were you ever 'just' anything - not to me," he added, silencing me as I'd been about to object, about to remind him of quite how insignificant I had been at school - and for the most part still was.
I swallowed. "Maybe I wasn't to you," I said. "But to everyone else I was just your pet rabbit." I winced slightly as his grip on my hands became painfully hard. He had never liked the term - no matter how true it was and given he'd been the one to bestow the name 'Bunny' on me and to openly call me 'my rabbit', not to mention the fact that he had quite blatantly made a pet of me whilst we were at school, what had he expected to happen?
"You, Bunny," he said, letting go of one of my hands and putting his hand on my cheek where he let his fingertips stroke it for a moment before he cupped it, "were the most important person to me whilst we were at school."
I stared. "Raffles? But what about Charleston?"
He gave a slightly saddened smile. "Charlie was very important to me, Bunny, very important indeed. But not even he was as important to me as you were, my dear Bunny. As indeed you still are."
"Raffles?" I whispered his name and found myself leaning my face into his palm; I swear it wasn't a conscious action. We just sat and gazed at one another, the hand he had on my cheek moved very slightly and I felt the calluses from his years spent slow bowling. "What was the second thing?" I asked my voice a little shaky.
He smiled. "I rather think it's your turn, do you not, Bunny? Because there is something you regret not happening, is there not, Bunny?"
I went on staring at him before I nodded slowly. "Yes, Raffles," I whispered, "there is."
"Well, why do you not tell me what it is, my rabbit? You never know it just might be the same thing as I regret."
I stared into his eyes and realised I was trembling just a little and my throat was so dry I could barely swallow. I couldn't believe no matter what the look in his eyes and the way he still cupped my cheek were telling me that what he regretted was the same thing; I simply couldn't. How could I? He was the great Arthur 'A. J.' Raffles and I merely Harry 'Bunny' Manders: Mr. Raffles's insignificant little friend. "I can't," I whispered around the lump in my throat. "Raffles?"
He smiled gently and patted my cheek and hand. "It's all right, my rabbit," he said. "I understand. Well, maybe I should be the one to tell you what I believe it is we both regret not happening. Would you like me to do that, Bunny?" I nodded. "Or rather," he said his voice even lower as he leant towards me and the hand that had been cupping my cheek slid around my head. "Maybe I should just show you." And his lips met mine.
I gasped slightly at the touch I had always longed for, yearned for, dreamt of, even dared to imagine, but never believed I'd get. The kiss was everything I had thought it would be and nothing at all like it. He'd slid his other arm around me and had pulled me closer to him as his mouth caressed mine. I relaxed into his embrace and began to kiss him back, knowing that even if I went on to kiss fifty, a hundred people after he, none of them would come close to matching the beauty of his kiss.
"Well, my rabbit," he said taking his mouth from mine but not letting me go. "Am I correct? Is that what we both regret not happening between us whilst we were at school?"
I smiled at him. "Oh, yes, Raffles," I murmured. "Yes, yes. Yes, it is." And I leant my head towards him and offered him my mouth to once again take possession of - just as he had taken possession of me twelve years ago; just as he would always possess me.
For several minutes we did nothing put sit as we were kissing, breaking apart only for the scant seconds needed to allow us both to breathe. One of his hands was tangled in my hair, the other held me tightly against him, it was as if he never intended to let go of me. But then he began to manoeuvre us both so that we were lying on his sofa, once more pressed right against one another. I could feel his heartbeat as his breast pressed against mine and I felt his hardness press against mine.
Again he kissed me, again he went on kissing me, his mouth opening mine as he began to explore my mouth with his tongue and I made a noise of pleasure in the back of my throat. Once more he moved slightly and I felt one of his hands began to slide down my body towards where my hardness pressed against my trousers. "Raffles," I murmured as he took his mouth from mine for a second.
The next moment I gasped as long, steady fingers began to unbutton my trousers finally slipping inside my trousers and then inside my drawers where he closed his wonderfully cool, still steady hand around my painfully hard, heated hardness and carefully pulled it free from the confines of my clothing. He took his mouth form mine and gazed at me as he began to stroke me, "At last," he murmured before he put his lips back on mine. A moment later he lifted his head again and said softly, "You are all mine, are you not, Bunny?"
I nodded and smiled. "I always have been, Raffles."
"And, my beloved rabbit," he said, kissing me lightly as his hand began to move more quickly, "you always will be; that I promise you." With his name on my lips, swallowed by his mouth once again finding mine, my body released into his hand and I just clung onto him as I felt the reaction throughout my entire body. He held me protectively, possessively as I just trembled slightly.
We had been in Raffles's bed for the best part of two hours, two hours during which I had been the complete focus of Raffles's attention. Not a part of my body was untouched by his lips or his fingers as he introduced me to and began to teach me about physical love. As skilled as his touches, kisses and strokes were never once had I thought he was merely using a technique on me, one he had honed over the years on other men. He made me feel special; made me feel as I was the only man he had ever touched and loved in the way he touched and loved me.
I was drowsy but not ready to go to sleep as I lay contentedly in his lose embrace whilst his fingers lightly moved over my body and his mouth bestowed lazy kisses on mine, when suddenly he sat up and glanced at the clock. "Thank goodness it is still before midnight," he said, throwing back the bed covers and getting out bed.
I was now completely uncovered and for a moment I had to fight my natural instinct to cover myself, which was foolish given what he had done to me, what I had let him done to me, what I had loved him doing to me, what I . . .
I forced myself not to cover myself up and instead turned my attention to watching him walk across the room to where he had piled our clothing. I marvelled not for the first time just how like a classical god he was.
When he turned back around and began to return to the bed I let my gaze come to rest below his waist and just stared. I had seen him undressed even before tonight, at school and during visits to the Turkish baths, but one cannot stare then. Even when he undressed me and then himself I hadn't had time to really look at him before he'd encouraged me into his bed and had taken me into his arms and had started to do wondrous things to me.
But now I had time and now I did what I had wanted to do from the first time I had seen him unclothed: I stared at him; my mouth became somewhat dry as I stared and now I was certain no classical god, no other human being could be as beautiful as he.
He stopped by the side of the bed I was lying on and smiled down at me as I forced myself to look away from him and up into his face. His look told me quite clearly he had been aware of where my attention had been and that he minded not in the least.
"I have a gift for you, Bunny," he said softly, sitting down on the edge of the bed. I am not quite sure what my face must have betrayed, but to my surprise his cheeks became slightly flushed and for a second he looked away from me. "Ah, my rabbit," he said, his voice I am sure quivered just a little, bending over me to lightly kiss my cheek. "I do love you so."
"I love you too, Raffles," I said, putting my hand on his thigh. "Why don't you come back to bed and I can show you quite how much I love you?" I had no idea from where my daring came, but the words slipped out before I could stop them.
His smile, the one that touched his eyes as well as his lips, told me he rather approved of my words. "In a moment," he said. "First, the gift; the other gift," he added his tone now serious. I swallowed hard as he put his hand on the cheek he'd kissed. "It is the real reason I left you for a moment in the sitting room some to hours ago. Now do sit up, Bunny." I obeyed him - just as I always obeyed him - and watched as he opened the hand I realised he'd kept closed.
There on the palm sparkling in the lamp light was a pair of sapphire and diamond set in gold cuff-links. They were very elegant and clearly had been very expensive; I just stared at them before I looked at him. "Raffles?"
"They are for you, my dearest Bunny. I believe it is traditional to give anniversary gifts."
I stared at him. "But I -"
He silenced me with a lingering kiss as he tangled the fingers of the hand not holding the cuff-links in my hair. "You my darling rabbit," he said taking his mouth from mine, "have given me the best gift anyone has ever given me."
I swallowed hard again and blinked hard in an effort to force back the tears I could feel building up behind my eyes. "Raffles," I whispered, unable to say anything else as he tipped the cuff-links into my now slightly shaking palm.
"I had intended to put them on for you," he said, "but that pleasure will have to wait for another time." He stared at me and put his head on one side. "Now you really are mine," he murmured softly and somewhat formally as he took the cuff-links back from my palm and put them onto the bedside table and pulled me into his arms.
I went into the embrace willingly and rested my head on his shoulder as our hearts beat together. As he held me tightly against him I thought about his words and suddenly the significance of the gift hit me. I lifted my head and stared at him. "Raffles, are you . . . ? Have you just . . . ?"
He smiled and nodded and kissed me before he joined me once more in his bed, pulled the covers back up over us and again gathered me into his arms and once more began to do wonderful things with his fingers and mouth. Until that moment I had not thought it possible to love him any more deeply than I had done - but as I moaned softly with pleasure I realised I had been incorrect.
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