AUTHOR: Nikki Harrington
FANDOM: Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman
PAIRING: A. J. Raffles/Harry 'Bunny' Manders
SUB-GENRE: First Time
SUMMARY: Set during their school days. Bunny gets his first kiss.
WORD COUNT: 5,120
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
It was the middle of the second week of the summer term and Raffles and I were lying on the grass watching a third year cricket match. Well, Raffles was watching the match; I'd turned over onto my back and was watching Raffles, which was as good as watching the match as I knew what was going on simply by watching his handsome face.
Raffles liked to watch as many matches as he could, even if our house wasn't involved, although it was today, as he liked to keep an eye out for up and coming talent. And I just liked being with Raffles; whatever he wanted to do was quite good enough for me.
Just occasionally I wondered if I spent too much time with Raffles. I had overheard one of the boys in my dorm saying if anyone wanted me they only had to look for Raffles and they'd find me. Not that anyone, other than Raffles, ever wanted me, but it had, when I heard it, made me stop and think for a moment. However, he didn't seem to mind, in fact he encouraged it; it had been he who'd told me I was welcome in his study at any time, even if he hadn't got any fagging duties for me. And on more than one occasion it was he who sought me out, rather than me going to him. Which implied he didn't think I spent too much time with him; so why should I be at all concerned about what anyone else might think?
We were apart from the rest of the spectators, something I liked even more as it meant I had Raffles to myself, which didn't often happen during the cricket season. But today as I was about to sit down with the rest of our house, he'd taken my arm and led me away to a more secluded spot which was sheltered from the beating sun by the branches of several of the many large trees that encircled the grounds.
Being away from the rest of our house suited me quite well as I had something I wished to ask Raffles and it wasn't the sort of thing I wanted anyone else overhearing. However, we'd been here for over an hour and I still hadn't found a way to ask him.
As I stared at his tanned face, which was barely hidden by the straw hat he'd pushed to the back of his head, I saw his eyes gleam for a moment before a frown creased his brow and he sighed. As I watched him, my mind went back several days to the first day of term.
My train had arrived at the station somewhat ahead of time and I was debating whether to walk up to school on my own or join one of the small groups of boys already at the station, when I heard my name called. I didn't need to recognise the voice, although of course I did, given the name that was called. I was surprised to hear it, as I knew Raffles's train gets in a couple of hours or so before mine does.
I, along with a dozen boys whose name was not 'Bunny', looked up and I saw him striding down the platform towards me. As he neared them the boys parted to allow him through. He had his case and overcoat in one hand, a straw hat on his head and was wearing one of his cricket blazers instead of his suit coat.
I just stood where I was and let him come to me. I was aware I was smiling like an idiot and that my heart had begun to race, as it always did when I saw him for the first time after we'd been apart for any length of time. He reached me, put his case and overcoat down and for a moment I thought he was going to embrace me, there on the platform under the full gaze of boys from the school as well as a handful of other passengers.
However, at the last second he offered me a hand to shake and the other one went to my shoulder before sliding around to the back of my neck. "Hello, Bunny," he said and smiled down at me. "I see you didn't get that haircut after all."
"I didn't have time," said I, gazing up at him, watching the wind play with the ribbon on his straw hat. It was a lie and the twinkle in his eyes told me he knew I had spoken an untruth. I didn't get my hair cut because I knew Raffles liked it as it was, or at least he seemed to given the number of times he'd ruffle it, or we would sit in his study and his hand would slide under my hair and he'd run his fingers through it. I'm not even certain it was a conscious action most of the time as he was often reading a book or studying cricket lists. Whether it was conscious or not, I liked it, thus despite Father muttering to Mother about 'getting Harry's hair cut' I hadn't.
He smiled and for a moment his fingers touched the back of my scalp, I leant back into the touch a little before he seemed to remember where we were and he took his hand away, letting it come to rest once again on my shoulder instead as he bent to pick up his case and overcoat; and with his arm partly around my shoulders we began to walk up to school.
I said I was surprised to see him and he'd simply shrugged and said his train had been late and so he'd decided to wait for mine to get in, which he'd been told was running somewhat early. I had no reason to doubt his words, why would I? At least I didn't until we reached the school and ran into Johnson, a lower sixth like Raffles, who always caught the same train as Raffles did.
"There you are, A. J.," he said. "I wondered where you'd got to." He completely ignored me, as he always did. I no longer took it as a slight, unlike Raffles whose eyes narrowed as he looked at Johnson.
The majority of Raffles's friends and fellow sixth formers, and certainly most of the eleven, at least acknowledged me even if only with a nod. They had got used to finding me in Raffles's study, sometimes tripping over me, or sitting with him as he watched cricket or being at his practises or matches.
But Johnson and a handful of others treated me as if I were invisible. I once heard Johnson ask Raffles why I was always hanging around in his study. Raffles had told him it was his study and it was up to him whom he invited - adding that at least he had invited me. Things had become cool between Raffles and Johnson after that and I believe it was only because Johnson was a fair cricketer and on the eleven that Raffles was still civil to him.
"I had something to do, Johnson," Raffles replied, his tone was cool. "Were you looking for me for a specific reason?"
Now Johnson did glance down at me and he sneered. "House matters," he said before adding, "Sixth form House matters." I felt my cheeks and ears start to burn.
"Already? We've only been back five minutes, how can there be matters to be sorted out?" He looked steadily at Johnson who just met the look. Finally it was Raffles who gave in; he shrugged. "Oh, very well, Johnson, I'll come with you. Bunny," he looked down at me and smiled, his tone was completely different as to spoke to me to how it had been when he'd spoken to Johnson. "Be a good chap and take my things to my study, will you? And then come and see me after supper."
I took his case and overcoat. "Of course, Raffles," I said.
Raffles ruffled my hair. "That's my good Bunny." He smiled at me and then turned to Johnson. "Well, Johnson, lead the way."
As they walked away I heard Johnson say, his tone heavy with contempt. "You know, A. J., you don't ask your fag to do something for you. You tell them, that's what they're here for."
I didn't catch Raffles's reply as they'd moved too far away. But I did see him stop, turn Johnson around to face him before saying something Johnson clearly did not like as he curled his lip, shook his head and strode off. Raffles hesitated for a moment and I thought he might return to me, but Charleston, Raffles's closest friend, came across the quad and called out to Raffles and I watched them go off together.
I took Raffles's things to his study and went into his bedroom and unpacked for him, putting underclothes, shirts, pyjamas and handkerchiefs into drawers and hanging up his trousers, coats and a cricket blazer. His shoes I put neatly together and then I put his case under his bed before gathering my own things together and heading for the third form dorm.
After supper I headed to his study, pausing outside to ensure no one was inside with him before knocking lightly on the door and going in. He was sprawled in the arm chair reading a book and as I closed the door behind me he looked up, smiled, stood up in the same elegant way he does everything, left his book discarded on the chair, came to me and put his arms around me and embraced me.
"Hello, Bunny," he said.
"Hello, Raffles," I replied my head resting against his breast, my arms around his waist.
We stood in an embrace for a minute or two longer, before he gently broke it, threw himself down onto the sofa, waited for me to settle down as I often did when we were alone, stretched out the length of the sofa with my head on his lap looking up at him whilst his hand played with my hair. "So, my dear Bunny, tell me all the things you were doing that kept you so busy you didn't have time to have your hair cut."
We had been close, a few said too close (even I had heard the odd bit of speculative talk and I suspect Raffles had heard a lot more) since the day we had met, but somehow I felt that something had changed subtly on that first day of term. And it had been that change which had emboldened me and made me decide to ask him something. However, if I was going to ask him it had to be soon, as in half an hour we would be going into tea.
"Oh," I heard him groan as he shook his head. The next moment he rolled over onto his side and looked at me. "I thought you were watching the match?"
I shrugged. "I was." He raised an eyebrow. "I watched some and then I watched you watching it."
He laughed and said, "I thought you enjoyed watching cricket?"
"When you're playing," I said honestly.
He laughed again. "Ah, Bunny," he said, touching my arm before rolling back onto his front.
It had to be now. "Raffles?"
"May I ask you something?"
He glanced sideways at me. "Since when did you need to ask if you could ask something?" I gave him a half-smile, enough to reassure him as he turned back to the match.
This was it. I opened my mouth to ask him, but instead I found myself saying, "Raffles, how old were you when you had your first kiss?"
I kept my gaze affixed firmly on his face as he turned slowly onto his side again and looked at me; a slight frown marred his forehead. He stared at me in silence and I felt perspiration begin to prickle along my spine. Then he shrugged and said his tone nonchalant, "About your age." To my irritation he turned back to the match.
"What does 'about my age' mean?" I asked, somewhat forcefully for me. "Were you older? Younger? Or . . ." I trailed off as blue eyes once again appraised me.
Again he seemed puzzled as he looked at me. Then he shrugged again and said, "A little younger, I think. Yes, it was just before I turned thirteen. Why do you want to know, Bunny?"
"Well," I said carefully. "I haven't had a kiss yet and I'll be fourteen in three months time." He still stared at me in silence. "And you see the boys in my dorm have been talking about nothing else but kisses - both before and after half term. They talk about it, they laugh about and they ask one another how many people they've kissed."
He tilted his head to one side slightly and asked, "And what, Bunny, do you say when they ask you?"
"They don't ask me," I said, looking away from him and staring at the grass. "I heard one of them say 'there's no point asking Manders, he probably doesn't even know what a kiss is; he certainly won't have had one'." Even though I wasn't looking at him, I knew I now had Raffles's full attention. And that was when I blurted the thing I really wanted to ask him out. "Raffles, will you kiss me?"
I carried on staring at the ground as I heard him move and sit up, his hand came to rest on my shoulder and he said in his gentle tone, "Sit up, Bunny. Sit up and look at me." I obeyed. "Why do you want me to kiss you?"
I swallowed; I'd thought this through because I knew he'd ask me. In fact this whole conversation had taken up pretty much all of my time during half time. "Because I like you," I said. "I like you a lot," I added unnecessarily, and 'like' didn't begin to sum up my convoluted feelings for Raffles. "And I thought about it and decided that I want my first kiss to be with someone I like. I want it to mean something. I want it to be with someone special. Not just anyone. And I know, before you say anything that that's a girl thing to say and I know you'll probably laugh at me and think I'm even more a rabbit than you already do, but that's what I want." I'd tilted my head back some way during my little speech and my straw hat had fallen off.
Raffles leant over, picked it up and put it back on my head, pushing it back just far enough so he could look into my eyes. "Do you now, Bunny?" His tone was gentle, as it always was when he spoke to me, but it gave nothing away.
I nodded. "Yes," I said firmly. Then I asked, my voice small, "Are you going to laugh at me?"
"Am I Johnson?" I shook my head. "Am I Phillips?"
Again I shook my head. "No," I mumbled.
"Well then, my silly rabbit," Raffles said, as his hand cupped my neck, "you should know that I'm not going to laugh at you. I'd never laugh at you, Bunny. Well," he added, "at least I would never laugh at you over something that matters to you."
To my embarrassment his kind words affected me so much that I sniffed as I felt tears prick the back of my eyes. He gave a fond sigh, dug into his pocket and handed me a handkerchief - I had quite the supply of them already. I wiped my eyes and looked at him. "Was your first kiss with anyone special?" I asked.
Now he did laugh. "No, Bunny, it wasn't. Do you want to know about it?" I shook my head. I didn't want to know about anyone Raffles had kissed or did kiss. "So you really want me to kiss you?" I nodded. "Bunny, I'm honoured you would trust me with something that's clearly so important to you. But - Oh, don't cry, Bunny," he said, taking the handkerchief from me and wiping my eyes. "Please don’t cry."
But I couldn't stop. "I thought you liked me," I managed. "I thought - I know I'm still only thirteen and you're already eighteen. I know I'm just a child, I know I've never kissed anyone before and I won't be any good. I know all that, but I thought - Oh, forget it." I turned away from him and dragged my sleeve over my eyes and sniffed.
The next moment he pushed the handkerchief back into my hand. "Blow your nose, Bunny," he said his tone firm but gentle. "And look at me." Of course I obeyed him. His gaze wasn't the one he usually cast on me; it was, however, enough to stop me crying. I blew my nose, wiped my eyes one last time and pushed his handkerchief into my pocket. "You thought I liked you?" he asked.
Puzzled by his look, tone and the emphasis on the word, I nodded. "Yes."
His face softened as he looked at me and he shook his head as his eyes held mine. "Oh, Bunny, my very own little rabbit. I don't merely like you. I adore you. Now," he said, standing up, his movement effortless, offering me his hand and pulling me to my feet. "Let us go to tea."
As we strolled towards the hall, his arm around my shoulders as usual, my mind was a whirl. He adored me? Raffles adored me? Raffles the boy who was my hero, my world, my sun, my moon, the boy I loved so much it hurt me to be apart from him, adored me? Me? Me little insignificant Harry Manders who couldn't throw a ball to save his life, who dropped his cricket bat once when being bowled at, who another time knocked his own stumps off - he adored me? Off all the boys in the school, many of whom loved him, he could have chosen to adore, he'd chosen me?
I know Raffles talked on the way to tea, but what he said I cannot say and I know I didn't answer him. We walked into the hall, his hand still on my shoulder and I blinked at how dark it appeared to be after the brilliant sunshine we'd just left.
"Ah, A. J.," Charleston said hurrying up to us. "Manders," he nodded at me and gave me a quick smile. "I've got you a cup of tea for you, A. J."
"Thank you, Charlie, but I need to talk to Bunny about something," Raffles said. "I'll see you later at supper." And leaving Charleston just staring after us in amazement (I'm not surprised Charleston was astonished by Raffles's words, as he must have known Raffles had spent the best part of two hours with me already, so why hadn't he talked to me then?) he turned and guided me to our third year house table. "You don't mind, do you?" he said to Jumbo Phipps, as he swung his leg over the bench and prepared to sit down on the opposite side to where I always sat.
Jumbo stared up at him, mouth open for several seconds before Raffles's words seemed to make sense. "Of course not, sir," he babbled, moving along the bench so quickly and so far he knocked Carter Minor's arm and tea slopped all over the table. "Oh," Jumbo cried, about to leap to his feet. But Raffles's hand came down on his shoulder and pushed him back down. "Stay there, I'll get a cloth," he said. "Bunny, make sure he stays where he is." And with his elegant way, he swung his leg back over the bench and strode across the room.
He was back swiftly, a cloth in one hand and a plate of cakes, the kind we third formers never had the chance to eat, in the other. "I thought these looked jolly," he said handing the plate to me as he mopped up the tea with the air of someone used to doing it several times a day. He dropped the cloth on the floor under the bench, looked carefully at Jumbo who was still seemed to be frozen, mouth partly open, before climbing over the bench and sitting down.
He smiled at me as I poured tea for him and smiled at Carter Minor who, with a shaking hand, handed him the plate of sandwiches. He took several before passing the plate to me, I took one - and I knew I wouldn't be eating it. "So are you enjoying the match?" he asked the boys who were all now just staring in open and clear adoration, as well as shock, at him.
For a moment no one spoke, they just looked at one another as if to say 'you answer'. Finally, it was Carter Minor who spoke up, his voice was hesitant and he spoke carefully, "I thought Tucker was rather good, sir," he said. "I mean," he added hastily, his face suddenly red.
"I know who you mean," Raffles said. "And it's Raffles. I'm not a master; you don't have to call me 'sir'." The boys just gapped at one another and looked at me. I managed a half-smile and nod, which I hoped was enough to confirm what Raffles had said. He'd told me on the day we met if I ever wanted to stop being his fag, I only had to call him 'sir' and he'd banish me. I had always taken great care never to let the word 'sir' slip from my lips. I took a small bite of my sandwich, before abandoning it and sipping my tea instead. "You know, he was rather good. He shows a bit too much wicket for my liking, but he's got a good grip. I think we've got a good player there."
I tried another small bite of my sandwich, but like the first it was too dry, so I sat sipping my tea and watching Raffles win over every boy at the table as he talked to them, rather than down to them, as he asked questions and seemed genuinely interested in the answers. I watched as one sixth former after another and a few fifth formers walked by and gaped at the captain of the eleven sitting fairly scrunched up it has to be said, at the third formers table talking to them.
Yet in spite of his words to Charleston about needing to talk to me about something, apart from a couple of 'thank you, Bunny's when I topped his tea up, not one word did he say to me. However, I did notice that despite the way he seemed to be interacting fully with my fellow third years and how he seemed to be concentrating on them, his gaze rarely left my face for more than a few seconds at a time.
Finally the bell went signalling the end of tea and the recommencement of the cricket match. Raffles called goodbye to all the boys, telling them they would be more than welcome to come and watch an eleven practise session at any time, adding that I could tell them when they were being held and where.
Eventually just he and I were left at the table. "Right," he said standing up suddenly; I got to my feet more slowly. "I'll just take this back," he picked up the cloth I'd all but forgotten about, "and then I think I'll go for a stroll."
I just stood, once again fighting tears as I watched him pause to say something to one of the eleven from one of the other houses before putting the cloth back from where he'd got it and headed towards the door. I bit my lip and told myself I could not cry as I watched him walk away. He reached the door, stopped and turned around. "Bunny!" he called across the hall, "aren't you coming with me?"
It was a couple of seconds before my feet moved, and I nearly tripped over twice as I hurried across to where he waited in the doorway. As soon as I reached his side, his hand came to rest on my shoulder.
We walked in silence, this time he was a quiet as I was, him leading the way, me just happy to be by his side, his hand and forearm comfortably warm on my shoulders. He led me across the quad, down the walkway, we circled the cricket pitch and walked up the low hill from where we'd watched the match. However, rather than stop, he led me down the other side and into the small wood, taking me further and further into the pleasant coolness.
Finally we stopped and he turned me and put his hands on both of my shoulders and looked down at me. "Do you really want me to kiss you, Bunny?" he asked quietly.
I swallowed and nodded. "Yes, Raffles. But only if you want to," I added swiftly.
He sighed and glanced away from me for a moment. "I shouldn't," he said, his tone low.
"Shouldn't want to or shouldn't kiss me?" I asked bravely.
He looked back at me and smiled. "Either. Both," he said, taking one hand from my shoulder and putting it on my cheek. It wasn't the first time he'd touched my cheek, but it was the first time his fingers had stroked my cheek, outlined my lips, moved down my nose and finally stroked my lower lip.
I trembled under his touch as I did under his gaze. "I really shouldn't," he murmured, as the hand he still had on my shoulder slid around my back and he gathered me towards him, pulling me so close, I really had to strain my neck to look at him. "But I cannot deny you your wish, my dearest Bunny. Nor my own," he added. Or at least I thought that's what he said; I may have misheard because his mouth was already on mine as he spoke.
His lips were soft, yet also firm as they pressed down on mine, he'd taken his hand from my cheek and instead held me against him with both hands. I managed to put my hands around his waist as I pressed my mouth up against his. I felt his lips part slightly, felt his tongue begin to tease my lips until they parted and his tongue slipped inside my mouth, meeting my own. I pressed my body against his, pressing as close as I could.
Just as I thought I would have to break the kiss but knowing I'd die before I did, he took his mouth away and took a deep breath as he gazed down at me. The blue in his eyes had all but gone, stolen by his black pupils, his lips were slightly swollen and the way he looked at me made me feel simultaneously hot and cold. "Did it live up to your imagination?" he murmured.
"I . . ." Was all I could manage.
"Come on, Bunny. You may not be a cricketer, but you have a first class imagination. You can't tell me you never imagined this moment.
"I . . ." He was correct, I had, but despite what he said about me having a fine imagination, it had fallen woefully short. Still I managed to pull myself together and murmur. "Just about."
He laughed and his eyes shone. "Well, let's see if we can get it nearer, shall we? He asked and before I could think or even speak, he pulled me back into a tight embrace and kissed me again. There was something subtly different about the second kiss, but I was far too inexperienced, too naïve, too unknowing, to know what it was. I just knew that was the moment things changed between us; that that was the moment when Raffles no longer just protected me from the other boys; he also protected me from him.
In that moment nothing and everything changed.
Nothing because he still put his hand on my shoulder as often as he always had done; when we walked together, his arm rested lightly around my shoulders; when we parted for half or end of term and met again we'd embrace; he still slid his hand into my hair, he still ruffled my hair, he still let me lie on his sofa with my head on his lap; he still let me sit in the same chair as he, part on his lap, part on the chair; he still looked at me as he'd always done; still spoke to me in his fond tone; still let me be with him whenever I wanted; still sought me out; still looked after me; still dried my tears; still protected me; still possessed me. He was still the same A. J. Raffles I had met the September before. He was still my Raffles.
And everything because with that second kiss he allowed himself to cross a line I'm not even sure he was aware existed, a line I'm not certain he had consciously created, and allowed himself to want me in the way I'd always known I wanted him - even if I hadn't more than the vaguest idea what 'wanting' meant.
Looking back, a very small part of me wished I'd never pushed him into the kiss; had never put him in the situation of wanting what he wouldn't allow himself to have. I know with complete certainty that no matter how much he may have wished to kiss me, he would never have taken that kind of advantage of me. Had I not asked him, had not pushed him into kissing me, he would never have been the one to suggest it, the one to make the first move. The fact he kissed me was all down to me.
For my part I would have willingly gone to his bed and allowed him to do whatever he wanted. I'd heard enough and saw enough to have an idea of what went on between the boys, between boys of all ages, between boys of the same age and between boys of different ages. But that never happened. We kissed a great deal during the remainder of his time at the school but not one non-platonic touch did he bestow on me.