AUTHOR: Nikki Harrington
FANDOM: Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman
PAIRING: A. J. Raffles/Harry 'Bunny' Manders
SUB-GENRE: First Time
SUMMARY: Bunny overhears an angry exchange between Raffles and the captain of Middlesex. He can't hear what is said, but Raffles leaves, cricket bag in hand taking Bunny with him. On the train back to London he questions Bunny about 'the worst crime' and then reminds him of the evening Bunny vowed if Raffles named his crime, Bunny was his man and asks if that is still true. But he won't say anything more until they get back to the Albany.
WORD COUNT: 3,793.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
I was about to go into the pavilion when I heard muffled but raised voices. I could not hear what was being said, but it took me no longer than a second to recognise one of the voices as being Raffles's. I hovered outside the door, wondering what was amiss, what Raffles was rowing about and with whom when the door was flung open and Raffles, in his cricket whites and blazer, but with his cricket bag in his hand strode out. Behind him came Michaels the Middlesex captain.
"Ah, there you are, Bunny," Raffles said, his tone clipped as he caught my arm. "Come along, we are leaving. I have no desire to remain any longer in a place where our company is clearly not welcomed." I let him manhandle me and hurry me along.
"A. J.," Michaels called. I could hear him following us. "A. J., don't be so foolish. Look come on, A. J., you can't just walk off."
Raffles stopped and turned around. As he was still holding my arm I was pulled around with him. "So I am not only a -" He broke off abruptly. "But I am also a fool. And you wish me to remain? I think not, Michaels. Come on, Bunny," he said again; his tone was different from the angry, cold tone he'd directed at Michaels. Once more I let him lead me away.
"A. J.," Michaels called again, but this time Raffles didn't stop.
He hailed a cab to take us back to our hotel, stayed in his room long enough to allow me to repack the case I'd unpacked only hours before whilst he changed from his whites into his day attire before he paced around my room as I threw my kit into my own case. Apart from a few, 'Do hurry up, Bunny's, he did not speak to me. Yet I knew whatever was angering him had nothing to do with me.
He paid the hotel bill, apologised for putting them out by leaving so soon and bundled me and our bags into another cab. At the station he paid for tickets we already had, but could not use due to the date and we waited in silence for the train to London to arrive. In our carriage he threw himself down into the corner pulled out his cigarette case, lit a Sullivan, offered me one, then leant back, closed his eyes and began to smoke. For half an hour he sat in silence, lighting one Sullivan the instant he had extinguished another. And I too sat in silence just watching him and wondering what was amiss.
I have known Raffles for long enough to know when I can press him and when I cannot; today was a time I knew I must sit in silence and just wait for him to speak. He would tell me what had happened, why we had walked away from the county match a short half an hour before he was due to take to the field, when he wished me to know. And if he did not tell me everything, he would at least give me some kind of explanation.
Eventually he lit another Sullivan, opened his eyes and looked at me. "Bunny," he asked his tone flat. "What would you say was the worst crime? No, don't answer instantly, think for a moment. And remember, Bunny, the worst crime, the one that is far graver, far more despicable and far more unforgivable than any other."
I stared at him and did as he bid. However, my answer was as it would have been had I answered him instantly. "Murder," I said.
He nodded as he continued to stare at me. His expression neither confirmed nor denied that he agreed with me. I thought that was the end of the conversation, thus when he spoke again after another minute of silence, both his voice and his words startled me. "Do you remember the first night you were in my rooms, Bunny?"
I nodded. Of course I did. In fact I probably remembered every night or morning or afternoon I had spent in his rooms. But that night I remember particularly. "Yes."
"Do you remember what you said to me about 'being my man if I named my crime'?"
Again I nodded, although my surprise was considerable. "Of course I do, Raffles, and I meant it, as I hope I've proven to you on more than one occasion."
Again he nodded; again I neither knew whether he was agreeing with me or disagreeing with me. "Do you still mean it?" he asked, after another minute spent in silence as he smoked and stared at me.
"Yes," said I raising my voice a little. "Of course I do, Raffles. How can you ask me that? Don't I prove it to you every time we are engaged in our illegal night-time activities?" I had lowered my voice before saying the final few words.
He stared hard at me for a moment. "An interesting choice of words," is all he would say.
"Well, I know not all of them occur at night. But most of them do."
Again he nodded; again he extinguished his cigarette only to light a fresh one. "I name my crime and you are my man? No matter what that crime is? Is that correct, Bunny? Will you be my man no matter what crime I name?"
I nodded. "Yes, of course, Raffles. Of course I'm your man. Name your crime and I'm your man."
"Even murder?" he asked softly, as he continued to stare at me through the slight haze of smoke. I felt my mouth fall open and my eyes became painfully wide as I stared at him. I couldn't speak; my spine tingled and my back felt damp as I just sat there looking at him. He couldn't mean it, could he? He wouldn't, would he?
And then my answer came to my mind and I glanced away, shocked and horrified at what it would have been had I voiced it. I felt his hand on my knee for a moment and he patted it. "Don't worry, my rabbit, I haven't sunk to such depths." I knew then he had read my answer in my eyes, my face as well as in the in fact that I looked away from him and in the way I still could not meet his eyes.
He kept his hand on my knee for several more seconds, before leaning back in his seat and continuing to smoke in silence whilst still staring at me. "Bunny," he said after another protracted silence had gone by. "Do you enjoy watching me play cricket? Do you enjoy me dragging you along to county matches, test matches and country house matches?"
What? Did I enjoy them? That was rather like asking me if I enjoyed breathing. It didn't matter to me to where Raffles dragged me, as long as he did. And 'dragging' me wasn't a correct term; I went along more than willingly. As long as I was by his side, I didn't particularly care what we did. "Yes, of course I do, Raffles," I exclaimed. "I don't just enjoy them, I love being with you, no matter what we do. I've always enjoyed watching you play cricket. Just become I'm not a cricketer, it doesn't mean I can't appreciate the talents of someone who is." I had spoken with a passion I rarely allow myself to openly show. And then suddenly something hit me. "Do you no longer wish me to come with you?" I asked.
My tone must have conveyed the fear, the desperation I felt as again he leant forward this time taking my hand and squeezing it. "Ah, my dear Bunny, you really are a rabbit sometimes. No, of course I no longer wish that. Why would I? Who else would I want by my side other than my dear, faithful Bunny?" I just beamed at him. Again he kept my hand in his for a fraction of a second longer than he usually did. "It is just that I may not be playing cricket so often, if at all, in the near future."
I stared at him. I desperately wanted to ask why and to ask what had happened between Michaels and he, but I wouldn't. Instead I went back to the question of crime. "Well, if it isn't murder you wish me to commit with you, what crime is it, Raffles?"
He leant back in his seat, lit yet another Sullivan and said, "Not here. When we get back to my rooms, I shall tell you then." And with that I had to be content.
He was silent for the rest of the journey and divided his time between looking out of the window and studying me. More than once I thought he was going to say something to me, but he evidently changed his mind each time. He no longer lit another cigarette the moment he had finished one, but he still smoked more than I had ever seen him smoke in a single occasion.
Parker greeted us when we arrived back at the Albany, expressing surprise to see us so soon. Ever polite, even when he didn't need to be, Raffles replied to Parker, saying something about sustaining a slight wrist injury to his bowling arm and not wishing to remain merely to watch the match; he then led me up to his rooms.
Once there he took the bags into his bedroom and returned to the sitting room where he poured whisky into two glasses and handed one to me.
"Would you like me to unpack for you?" I asked.
He shook his head, took a swallow of whisky and put his glass on the mantelpiece. "It will keep," he said, turning to look at me.
I raised my glass and swallowed some of the fine whisky. "To crime," I said. He gave me a fleeting smile. "Well," I demanded when we fell into another long silence during which he simply stared at me. As much as I liked his attention to be on me, I was beginning to feel a little unnerved by quite how intent and how continuous his attention was. "Are you going to tell me what the crime is you wish me to commit with you?"
He moved towards me and to my surprise took my glass from my hand and put it down next to his. My surprise tripled when he took my face between his hands, lowered his head, put his lips on mine and kissed me and went on kissing me until I kissed him back.
It is not the first time he has kissed me. He kissed me once and only once at school. It was his final day at the school and I had been inconsolable from the moment I had arrived in his study some two hours before breakfast. I lost track of the number of handkerchiefs he kept handing me, I just know there were quite a few.
Then finally, twenty minutes before he had to leave to catch his train (he had forbid me from accompanying him to the station to see him off) he took yet another handkerchief from his pocket, wiped my eyes, made me blow my nose, pushed the handkerchief back into his pocket, cupped my face between his hands, lowered his head, put his lips on mine and kissed me and went on kissing me until I kissed him back. I know it was an attempt if not cheer me up, then at least stop me from crying, but all I remember is clinging to him frantically, letting the kiss go on and on, until I felt something I'm sure he hadn't intended to happen and he gently broke the kiss and just pulled me into his arms and held me, keeping me slightly away from his lower body.
As memorable, as wonderful at the time as that kiss had been, it had nonetheless been the kiss of boy; the kiss he was giving me now was the kiss of a man. He deepened the kiss, moving his hands from my face and instead putting his arms around me and pulling me into a fierce embrace, pulling me against his body so tightly that I no longer knew where my own body ended and his began.
"And that, my dear Bunny," he said, when he finally lifted his head from mine and took a deep gulp of air, "is the crime I wish you to commit with me. So what say you, Bunny, are you my man?"
I stared at him; my lips were tingling and swollen, my body afire and aching with a desire I had never known, had never thought it possible to know. "Do you have to ask?" I whispered.
He smiled at me and brushed a lock of my fringe from my forehead, causing me to quiver with pleasure as his long, cool fingers touched my skin. "As a matter of fact, my rabbit, I do. I need to hear you say 'aye'. I have to know it is not just another occasion of you following me into something because I desire it and your love for me is too deep just to say 'nay'."
I grabbed his hand and squeezed it. "Then, yes, Raffles," I cried. "Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. If this is the crime I most assuredly am your man." The tender smile that lit up his face was one even I had never seen before; indeed I doubted anyone had seen such a smile on the face of A. J. Raffles.
The next moment he'd pulled me back into his arms and was kissing me again. This time he did not release me; this time did not break the kiss when his body responded to what we were doing; this time he pressed himself even nearer to me, moaning softly into my mouth when he felt my body echoing his.
After such an intense kiss I had expected him to lead me into his bedroom, but instead, without letting go off my hand that he'd captured at some point, he led me to the armchair, threw himself down into it and tugged me down onto his lap. It was yet another echo of our school days as it had been something he'd done from time to time when I had been particularly upset over something. Given upset was the last thing I was, I wasn't certain why he'd done it, but I had no objections.
I let my head rest on his shoulder as he held me loosely with one arm and ran his fingers through my hair with his other hand. "Raffles," I asked, after we'd sat in silence for a few minutes.
"Bunny?" His tone was soft, gentle even and mellow, he seemed far more relaxed and at peace than he had been since he'd stridden out of the pavilion several hours ago.
"Why now?" I asked.
He pushed me away a little and gazed at me, before sighing softly and letting my head return to his shoulder. "Let me just say that if I am going to be accused of a crime, I decided I might as well actually commit it. That way I shall object less to the accusation. It's rather like Mackenzie accusing us of burglary. Yes, I make a show of being offended, of course I do. But I'd be a lot more offended if I wasn't actually guilty of the crime of which he is accusing me; which, if he were a more intelligent man, he would realise. The fact he doesn't, the fact I have not once sought to issue a complaint to his superiors about his harassment of me, of us, shows he is not as intelligent a man as he no doubt believes himself to be. My silence, my lack of complaint, should tell him more than the objections I make to him."
Well he had no doubt in his mind at least answered my question, but I wasn't certain I understood exactly what he was saying. And then suddenly, when I ignored the bit about Mackenzie and returned to his first words I realised just what he was saying. I sat up quickly, knocking my head against his chin, causing him to wince, and looked at him in amazement. "You mean Michaels accused you of . . ."
"In a somewhat round about, stammering, convoluted way, yes, Bunny he did. Although to be fair, thinking back, I am not certain 'accusation' is a fair term. It was more of 'it's been hinted at' and 'people are concerned about the reputation of the team', that kind of thing. But at the time it certainly seemed like an accusation. And we might still be there now if I hadn't told him in no uncertain terms to speak plain English. Even then his meaning wasn't completely clear, but it was clear enough. He kept on assuring me it wasn't he who believed it, but one of two of the other players; he was merely the poor sap who got chosen, given he's the captain, to be the spokesman, the person selected to raise the matter with me 'for the good of the team'. What business it is of theirs anyway, I know not."
"Other than it being a crime?"
He shook his head in his fond way. "Yes, well, Bunny, other than that. It wasn't as if they had any intention of 'turning me in'; that was never an issue. Nor would they make life difficult for me and ruin my reputation. So why the blessed matter had to be raised all of a sudden, I do not know. But accused I was. And that, my dear Bunny, is why we left as we did and why I may not be playing cricket again any time soon."
"That must have been very unpleasant," I said, after he fell silent.
He shrugged. "It's one thing as a schoolboy, but quite another in later life. What?" he said looking hard at me. "Did you not know?"
I shook my head slowly. "Not know what?"
He gave a partial laugh and pulled my head down in order to kiss me. "That I was doing all kinds of unspeakable things to you at school." I stared open-mouthed at him and he laughed heartily. "Ah, Bunny, Bunny, maybe I should not take your naivety and innocence from you after all." I believe the way I kissed him and shifted on his lap told him what I thought of that suggestion!
When I took my mouth from his I was quite pleased to see how flushed he was, how the blue sapphires that were his eyes had been all but stolen by the ebonies within them and how red and swollen his lips were. I was also rather pleased by how hard a part of his body was beneath me. I shifted a little more on his lap and smiled to myself when he gripped me tightly and used the strength that has allowed him on more than one occasion to pick me up bodily and move me from one place to another to hold me still.
I settled back down and stopped moving around. "Raffles?"
"Was it a general accusation Michaels made or did he have someone specific in mind? What?" I demanded when I was once again pushed away from him and stared at. "Oh," I said, feeling my cheeks begin to redden as his look answered my question as well as making me feel even more of a rabbit than I often did. "But why?"
Raffles gave me a rueful look. "Let me see. We have your constant presence at my side, the fact I drag you to all my matches and that for the most part whilst you are always watching when I am fielding and bowling, you rarely watch anyone else but I bat. The 'foolish' name I call you. Oh, and the fact I can't keep my hands off you. All of which once again takes us back to our school days." His tone was light with amusement and I saw no hint of the anger he had shown earlier. Either his lengthy silence on the train had allowed him to deal with what Michaels had said or it was as he said he minded less now that it was true, well almost true.
I decided that as enjoyable as sitting on his lap was, it was past time we did something else and made the accusation completely true, and I told him as much. His eyebrows rose at my words and his lips twitched upwards in a smile. The next moment those same lips were on mine and I was manhandled around so that rather than just sitting on his lap I was straddling it.
I shall not go into details of what happened after that, except to say I am glad my packed bags from the aborted trip were piled with Raffles's in his bedroom, even if the contents were more creased than they had been when I'd originally unpacked them at the hotel.
Three days later I was still at the Albany and the crime of which we had been accused had well and truly been committed. Raffles was in the bathroom shaving when there was a respectful tap at the door. "Get that will you please, Bunny," Raffles called. It was Parker with a telegram for Raffles.
I took it into the bathroom and waved it at him. "Open it, Bunny," he said, as he concentrated on shaving his neck. I glanced away; I do not know why he insists on continuing to use a cut throat razor, they scare me.
"Oh!" I exclaimed. "Sorry, Raffles," I added hastily as he glared at me and dabbed his neck with his towel. "It's just you've been picked for the second test next week and they are looking forward to seeing you and your guest both for the test itself and two nights before at some kind of special dinner."
He dabbed his neck again, put down his razor and came over to me, snatching the telegram from my hand and reading it. "Well, that is gratifying. What say you, Bunny? Do you wish to be my guest?" I smiled at him, words were unnecessary. "Of course," he declared returning to the mirror and picking his razor up again. "I don't know if I shall be able to keep my hands off you."
But then he never has.