AUTHOR: Nikki Harrington
FANDOM: Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman
PAIRING: A. J. Raffles/Harry 'Bunny' Manders
SUB-GENRE: First Time
SUMMARY: By chance Raffles has to face the truth about how Bunny feels about him. However, he is not prepared to risk their friendship for a few hours of physical pleasure.
WORD COUNT: 3,658
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
I had gone to Raffles's rooms to drag him out for lunch, but he had insisted on finishing reading the paper before we went out; and apart from offering me a drink and a cigarette, he ignored me.
I wandered around his sitting room for a bit, straightening the odd picture, touching things I remember dusting in his study more than ten years ago and glancing at him every half minute or so - not once did he look up from the paper. Finally, I threw myself down at the opposite end of the sofa from where he sat one leg across the other, apparently deeply engrossed in the news of the day. I wondered what could be so important for him to insist on reading it and to ignore me. I tried staring at him for quite some time, hoping he would feel the intensity and look up; he didn't. So I gave up, sighed and studied the ceiling for a while as I waited for him to pay me some attention until I got bored of waiting.
I don't quite know what came over me, but one minute I was sitting staring up at the ceiling; the next I had pulled the paper from his hands and threw it across the room; the next we were grappling; and the next I was flat on my back on his sofa with him straddling me and smiling down at me. And that would have been that; I had achieved my aim, I had his attention and he didn't seem perturbed by being forced to give up the paper; in fact he seemed quite happy. However, the next second my body started to react to his closeness and began to betray me.
Scared as well as about to be humiliated if he moved another inch, I pushed his off, ignored the noise he made as he hit the floor, stood up and turned my back on him. I was breathing hard and desperately trying to pull my coat around me when his hand fell on my shoulder and he gently turned me around. At the touch, one I knew well, one I experienced several times a day, my body reacted again.
I wouldn't meet his eyes as he turned me to face him, which was probably the worst thing I could have done. Because I saw him through my lowered lids glance down at me, his gaze coming to rest just below my waist. I forced myself to stand my ground; and I even dared to raise my eyes and look at him.
He was smiling his lazy, almost condescending smile, the one I have never liked, and he patted my shoulder. "Don't worry, Bunny," he said, lighting a Sullivan and holding his cigarette case out to me; I shook my head. "It happens. Just forget about it." And he turned away to drop the match into the fireplace.
I knew he was trying to be kind; I knew he meant well; I knew he was trying to put me at my ease; I knew all of that. However, to my ears his words sounded like a dismissal; they were like something he might have said to me a school; and the fact he dared to turn his back on me enraged me.
I had no idea from where my sudden burst of strength came - remember Raffles is several inches taller than me, capable of picking me off my feet and bodily moving me from one place to another and once, in the early days of our partnership, carried me in his arms across a driveway. But from somewhere it came and using it I pulled his arm and dragged him around to face me. "I don't want to forget it," I said as I put my hands on either side of his face and kissed him and went on kissing him until I was forced to stop in order to breathe.
My anger, embarrassment, fear and a sudden flash of irrational hatred of him increased as he just gave me a casual shrug, took a drag from the cigarette he still held and said, "So that is what you want is it, Bunny? Well you only had say." His tone was casual and dismissive, as was the look he gave me and the condescending smile was back.
I just stared at him. I could hardly believe I had heard him correctly. But as I looked into his face and saw the way he was looking at me, I knew my ears had not played me false. My fury at him increased, racing through me so rapidly, I could taste it. "You . . . You . . ." But I was unable to find a suitable word, so instead I turned on my heel and hurried away from him. So great was my desire to escape from him and his dismissive look, I turned not for the door leading out into the hall and thus freedom, but the door that led further into his rooms. I kept walking until I ran out of rooms and went into his bathroom and shut the door behind me (there was no lock) sat down on the edge of the bath and sighed, berating myself for what I had done, berating my body for humiliating and betraying me, wondering how I was going to get out of my current predicament.
I don't know how long I sat there before there was a gentle knock on the door. "Go away, Raffles," I said. "Leave me alone."
"Well, the thing is, old chap, you are in my bathroom and I fancy I have a need off the facilities."
I cursed him. I was sure he was trying to call my bluff. Raffles is uncaring about such things, but he knows I am very reticent about my body. Indeed when we go to the Turkish baths, whereas he strips off with no concern, I end up trying to remove all my clothes and keep a towel around me. And certain things that most men do not trouble about, I do.
However, I wasn't going to let him get to me. "I'm not stopping you."
I stood waiting for him to retreat, but after a moment he opened the door and came in. He looked at me and I just met his gaze, locking my knees together and refusing to move. He stared at me in silence for at least a minute and I stared back. I was not going to let him win.
Finally, he sighed softly and put a friendly hand on my shoulder and said in his familiar, gentle, conciliatory tone, "Come on, Bunny, come and have a drink and a Sullivan."
I looked at him. "I thought you needed the facilities."
He shrugged. "I lied," he said quietly, and gave me a gentle, honest half-smile as he went on looking at me; his steady gaze was quite tender.
Rather than be angry at him playing yet another game with me, I was somewhat touched by his honestly and I decided I couldn’t stay in his bathroom for ever. Thus I gave him a curt nod and allowed him to guide me out of the room, through his bedroom, dining room and back into his sitting room. He gently pushed me down into the chair and handed me a glass of whisky and a cigarette, which he lit for me.
Then he took a glass of whisky for himself, bent his head over a match to light his own cigarette before looking at me. "I owe you an apology, Bunny," he said. I stared at him. "What I said and how I said it was insulting. I offer no defence other than you caught me off-guard. I am sorry, Bunny. I should not have spoken to you as I did. I did not mean to belittle you or offend you or hurt you - and I know I did all of those things."
I shrugged and took a sip of my drink; I didn't know what else to say or do. Nor apparently did he for he glanced away, fiddled with the decanter, before sitting on the arm of the sofa and looking at me. Again we sat in silence until he sighed and said, "Bunny, I will not give you what you want, because I cannot." His tone was low and gentle, and I fancied I heard a faint edge of regret, sorrow even, in it.
I looked at him in surprise. "But you've - I know you have. I saw you once, remember?"
"Yes, Bunny, I do remember. And I do not deny I have, both at school and since. However, I cannot give you what you want."
I stared at him. "I don't understand," I said finally.
He stood up, put a kind hand on my shoulder, sighed again and then began to pace around his room. "Bunny, it would be the easiest thing in the world for me to take you to my bed and give you the pleasure both you and I want, and that I can do. I believe I can do it quite well. I doubt you'd be disappointed. But," he went on, holding up his hand as I opened my mouth to object. "I am not prepared to risk our friendship for an hour or two of physical pleasure. Bunny, I do not think you know quite how important, how vital you are to me. I cannot lose your friendship. I cannot lose you. I did once. I will not do it again."
I continued to stare at him, trying to make sense of the words he spoke. "But why would taking me to you bed spoil our friendship?" I finally asked.
He sighed. "Because, my dear Bunny, you would want commitment from me. You would expect me to be loyal to you. And whilst I can and do give you both in all other aspects of our life together, in this I cannot. And taking you to my bed once would not be enough for you, would it?" he asked gently, now leaning forward and putting his hand on my arm.
I looked up into his kind, gentle eyes and sighed. "No," I said, as I shook my head against my own will. "No, Raffles, it wouldn't be. But how do you know . . ."
"Because, my dearest rabbit, I am far from being a saint." He paused for a moment and I could see him considering what to say next. "Bunny, it is not just men with whom I have had relationships. And a man who can take a lady's virtue, kiss her goodbye, send her flowers for a day or two, before forgetting all about her, is not a man who can commit to anyone. Not even the person he cares about most in the world. Not even to the person he loves."
I looked at him, more than a little shocked at his confession. I cannot say it came as a complete surprise. I had suspected it more than once, but to hear him admit to such a thing, stunned me. "Oh," was all I managed to say.
"And, Bunny, it would be even worse as I know you have never lost that innocence you had at school, have you?"
Slowly I shook my head. Again he was right. Of course I had engaged in a little fumbling, always through clothes, some kisses and I had even shared a bed with Ollie, my closest friend, on more than one occasion. However, beyond that, apart from a few kisses with young ladies since school, I was indeed as innocent as the day he had met me.
He squeezed my arm. "I would like nothing more, Bunny, than to be the one who took that innocence from you. At least if I were the one, I would know you would be treated with respect, with love, would be made love to gently, considerately, you would not be hurt. But I care enough about you, not to do so. I say again, my rabbit, I will not risk our friendship just for a few hours of pleasure. No matter how pleasurable it might be. And you see, I know, Bunny, that once you knew you couldn't have from me what you desired and needed, you would walk away from me."
I nodded and drained my glass. "I'm sorry," I heard myself say, not even certain for what I was apologising, but somehow knowing what it had cost for him to admit to the things he'd said and knowing that had it not been for me and how much he cared about me, because I had no doubt at all now the level of his love for me, he never would have spoken about such things to me. He would never have let me know what I had more than once suspected.
"Now," he said, squeezing my shoulder. "Lunch?"
I nodded and stood up. "Lunch," I said, trying to make my tone cheerful.
He kept his arm around my shoulders until we reached the street where he took my arm and together we walked to the club.
And that is how things continued for the next six months. Nothing had changed between us and yet at the same time I believed so much had changed.
Well, at least it did for five of those six months. During the sixth month I began to notice that Raffles's hand would linger just a little longer on my shoulder, his gaze would stay on me for a little longer than it had done in the past, he paid more visits to my flat, asked me to go to even more places with him, generally was even more attentive to me than he always had been.
And then came the night when once again everything in my world changed. We had gone out to supper and all evening his attention had been entirely on my needs, on my wishes. I had never seen him pay as much attention to my welfare; indeed I had never seen him pay as much attention to another's welfare. It was as if he were - but I dismissed the thought.
We arrived back to a fog wrapped Albany. "Good evening to you, Mr. Raffles, Mr. Manders. It's not a nice night to be out in."
"Indeed it is not, Parker," Raffles said, his arm still through mine. "It is definitely an evening to sit by the fire and not to be out wandering the streets."
"It certainly is, sir. And I'd say all the other gentlemen here agree with you. You are the last to return."
"Am I? In that case, Parker, you might as well lock up and go to bed. Mr. Manders here will be staying with me tonight." I would be?
"Oh, yes, sir."
Raffles had no need to respond to the automatic, polite acknowledgement, it was no one's business but his own whom he chose to entertain in his rooms and when. And yet he chose to do so. "Yes. We had a discussion over dinner as to who was the better chess player and as a result I issued a challenge, Mr. Manders here accepted and we shall play several games of chess tonight, the loser will stand the cost of our dinner. Right, Bunny?"
"Yes," I replied; my tone I feared was a triffle too bright.
"In that case I shall bid you good night, gentleman and good luck to both of you," Parker said, already moving to lock the heavy front door.
"Well, here we are again," Raffles said, after he'd taken my hat, overcoat and gloves and hung them up for me before, his hand in the small of my back, guiding me into his sitting room. He rubbed his hands, poked the fire and threw on more coal in order to get it to blaze and poured two glasses of whisky. However, rather than pass one to me, he put them both on the mantelpiece, came towards me, cupped my face between his hands and kissed me.
The kiss was fairly brief, but the intensity of it, the beauty of it and he gentleness of it had my body tingling within seconds. He took his hands from my face, smiled at me, pulled me into his arms, lowered his head and kissed me again.
I am a writer of verses, but I cannot begin to put into words what the kiss was like, how it moved me, how it made me feel. I just know it was nothing like I had imagined it might be and yet at the same time exactly how I had dreamt it would be.
Again he took his mouth from mine, again he smiled, again he bent his head and again he kissed me. This time when he lifted his head he brushed my fringe back from my forehead and took my hand in him. "I believe I could go on kissing you, my dearest Bunny, for the rest of my life, nay, even until the end of time itself. And if it is your wish that I do so, I shall. However," he held up the hand that had been stroking my hair, "before you speak, you must hear me out. Come, let us sit down, drink your whisky and have a Sullivan."
I did as he bid and after lighting my cigarette for me, he too sat down on the sofa, not too near me, but near enough for him to touch should be wish to. "Bunny," he said.
"I know I can now give you what you want."
I stared at him as hope, happiness and anticipation raced through my body. I thought about asking him what had changed in the six months, but decided not to. What did it matter? All that mattered was that he had changed his mind and I knew he wouldn't have spoken had he not been completely certain. Thus I just smiled. "Raffles, I -"
"But," he said, again holding up his hand. "It will come with a price."
He smiled. "Ah, Bunny, my very own Bunny. You think you know me and you do, you know me better than anyone ever has and anyone ever will. But you do not know the true A. J. Raffles; I have never allowed you to see a certain side of me. A side you will see if we do the thing we both desire. I am a demanding lover, Bunny, and with you I would be a jealous one. If I take you to my bed tonight, I will be yours and only yours for as long as you want me. That I promise you."
"What if I said for eternity?" I asked.
He smiled and nodded. "Yes, even that. However, I must have the same promise from you. Wait, I haven't finished. There will be times, Bunny, when I shall not wish to see you, when I shall not tell you the entire story about the job we will be undertaking. In that respect nothing will change. But there will also be times when I shall insist you not dance with a young lady, not even speak to her for more than a moment or two, just enough to be polite. You will be mine, Bunny, I will possess you."
It was I who touched him first. "I always have been yours, Raffles," I said softly and seriously, "and you always have owned me. You know you have. From the day we met, you took me as yours."
He touched my face and looked a little wistful. "That is true, Bunny. But that was a boyhood thing, this is quite different. Be certain, Bunny, be truly certain that you want to give all of you to me, that you want to commit yourself to the level I will insist upon. Now, I shall leave you for a moment or two. No, don't answer instantly. I shall be but a moment." And he leant near to me and kissed my lips lightly.
When he returned he had removed his coat and waistcoat and had turned his cuffs back. He looked at me and offered me his hand. I took it and allowed him to pull me up. But it was I who, once on my feet, closed the gap between us, I who put my arms around him, I who kissed his lips with a fervour I did not know I possessed and I who, after kissing him until I saw lights behind my eyes, put my head on his shoulder, sighed with happiness and simply said, "Yes, Raffles. Yes, I am and always shall be yours and only yours."
And it was I who let him lead me into his bedroom and I who let him strip first me and then himself and I who felt no shame when he slowly looked me up and down, his eyes lingering below my waist for longer than anywhere else. It was I who echoed his appraisal and truly looked at a naked Raffles for the first time ever. And it was I who gave myself utterly and totally into his care and safe keeping. I who was pleasured for longer than I can count before he finally guided my only slightly shaking hand to the part of his body that clearly wanted it most, only for his body to release into my hand mere moments afterwards.
And it was he who, the next afternoon when we left his rooms so I could return home to change in time for dinner in the private room at our club, with a laugh informed Parker that it had been Mr. Manders who had emerged the victor.