AUTHOR: Nikki Harrington
FANDOM: Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman
PAIRING: A. J. Raffles/Harry 'Bunny' Manders
SUB-GENRE: First Time. AU
SUMMARY: Bunny needs money badly and there's only one way he can get the amount he needs. However, before he can completely sell his body and soul to the devil he is rescued.
WORD COUNT: 11.255
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
I needed money; I needed a reasonable amount of money; I needed it quickly. Which is why I was standing in a place I never thought or imagined I would ever frequent, waiting to see the owner who would one way or another seal my fate. An acquaintance of mine had 'recommended' this place to me, assuring me it was safe and clean and had an extremely high quality, carefully vetted clientele; he had assured me I would find none better in London. I myself had no idea places like this even existed in London, certainly not ones that were considered high class.
I was appalled and repelled by what I was considering doing, but I truly did not have any other options. I had tried to earn money by writing, but the papers that were prepared to take the kind of things I wrote, seemed to believe that a gentleman did not expect to be paid. I was not entirely certain 'gentleman' is a term that could be applied to me any longer, especially not given where I was. However, if I did not find a way to pay at least some of my debts within a few days then I would find myself imprisoned. And that I told myself was a worst fate than could befall me, even worse than what I was now about to do.
"I'm sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. . . . ?"
"Manders." I gave the man my name without thought, only to instantly regret my inherent honesty. "Mr. - " and I gave the name of my acquaintance, "told me you may be able to help me. You see," I swallowed hard, stared across the left shoulder of the man who was regarding me with a blank expression. "I need money and I need it quickly."
He continued to stare at me, his gaze now travelling up and down my body. I forced myself not to fidget and tried to keep the flush from my cheeks. I had never been stared at in the way he was staring at me and I found the scrutiny rather uncomfortable. Of course if he was willing and able to assist me, I would have to get used to far more intimate examinations. "Sit down," he said after several long and painful moments of silence.
"Thank you, Mr. . . . ?" As I sat on the upright chair, I offered him the chance to give me his name as I had given him mine.
He gave a half shrug. "Renton," he said, leaving me in no doubt that was not his actual name. Again he appraised me in silence, leaning back in his chair with his fingers steepled in front of him. "Public school?" I nodded. He asked me which one; I told him. I wasn't surprised by the obvious but swift raising of his eyebrows; who would ever have thought an old boy of such a prodigious public school would be offering his services as a -
He stared at me for another moment or two before asking, his tone casual, almost dismissive. "Are you an innocent?" I felt my cheeks begin to burn and nodded quickly. His lips twitched in a partial smile and he asked quietly, "In all respects?"
"What . . ."I stammered, before I realised what he was asking. "Yes!"
He smiled, this time a full smile and I felt my cheeks burn even more. "I don't suppose there's any chance, given you're an ex-public school boy, that you are completely . . . inexperienced, shall we say, is there?"
I stared at him, not entirely certain to what he was referring. My doubt must have been clear because he told me exactly, in some detail at times, to what he was referring. By the time he fell silent I could feel the perspiration beginning to prickle over my back, forehead and upper lip and I couldn't recall a time when my cheeks had burnt quite so much. "Yes. I mean no. I mean, I have never . . ." I came to a stuttering halt, wondering how long it would be before he showed me the door.
However, to my surprise his smile increased and he leant forward and put his hands on his desk. "Well, Mr. Manders," he said, "you are quite a find. Some of my gentlemen have a penchant for the innocent and naïve. Oh, yes, I can find a place for you here quite easily. Indeed, I have one particular gentleman in mind - you'll like him." That I doubted. "He is a gentleman in all sense of the word; he would treat you well. Yes, the more I think about it the more certain I am that you would suit him very well indeed. What is your age?" I told him. "Really? I would have guessed at least two years younger - not that that will be a factor to the gentleman I have in mind. He does like young men, but not too young. He really will like you."
I closed my eyes and asked though gritted teeth. "How much?" He named an amount and my eyes flew open. "And how much of that do you take?"
He frowned. "That is what you would get." His tone was clipped. "This is a respectable place. I make certain my employees as well as my clients are well looked after. I do not allow just anyone through the doors. There is a monthly membership fee as well as individual fees. Of course I take a percentage, but the figure I gave you is what you would receive."
I swallowed hard. It was far more than I had expected; it wouldn't clear my debts, but it would deal with the ones that were the most pressing and damaging.
I was just about to agree when he spoke again. "Of course if you gave me a longer commitment than one night, the rewards for you would be even better." He knew; of course he knew; why else would I, a gentleman, be there if I didn't have a desperate need to be. Again he named an amount for three months and another for six months.
Again I swallowed hard. Six months and I would not only be free from debt, I would also have a little left over. But six months of . . . I wasn't certain I could go through it once let alone multiple times - but what choice did I have? And then something occurred to me; forcing myself to speak I said, "But surely one can only be an innocent on one occasion?"
He shrugged. "A true innocent, yes, but I know people, especially gentlemen very well indeed. You are not going to lose your naivety quickly."
I felt my cheeks flame again, but I forced myself to think of being debt free and maybe even being able to restart my life. I nodded. "Six months."
He smiled. "You won't regret it." I already did. A moment or two later I regretted it even more when he handed me a piece of paper to sign. I hesitated. "You get to keep a copy," he said his tone gentle. "I am as much at risk as you believe you could be; maybe even more."
I wasn't certain about his 'maybe even more' but I doubted he would want to risk what was clearly a very lucrative business by passing on details of the men who worked for him to the authorities. Thus, with a hand that I tried to ignore was shaking, I signed my name beneath his, hesitated for another second or two and then pushed the paper back across the desk.
He picked it up. "Thank you," he said. "And rest assured, I really do take care of my employees and I speak only the truth about the gentleman I have in mind. You will not be . . . harmed."
I gave a curt nod; now I was desperate to get out of the room that suddenly seemed to have grown very oppressive. "When?"
"Tomorrow night. I don't want to give you too long to change your mind," he said, clearly reading the look of horror or fear or whatever else my face had betrayed.
I stood up. "Very well," I said and automatically held out my hand to him.
He raised an eyebrow but took my hand and shook it. "One thing, Mr. Manders," he said as I picked up my hat and prepared to leave. "Do make sure you bathe before you come here."
"I am a gentleman!" I said hotly and tried hard to ignore the look that flashed through his eyes, which told me quite clearly what he thought of some gentleman. I nodded, turned and left the oppressive room.
I walked to the corner of the street and hailed a hansom cab I really could not afford. However, I knew I could not walk the remainder of the distance to my flat in Mount Street; I was quite certain my legs would not support me.
THE FOLLOWING EVENING
I dressed automatically as I would for an evening out, and after a small brandy purely to help settle my stomach, I put on my overcoat and hat, left my flat and headed out to effectively seal my fate.
Renton, or whatever his name was, greeted me like an old friend, certainly not a man he had met only the day previously, and led me along a dimly lit hallway. We walked past three doors before he stopped and opened one and ushered me inside. I swallowed hard as the first thing I saw was a bed. "The sheets are clean," he said. I didn't have an answer; I truly believed that if I opened my mouth it would be to tell him I had changed my mind. A second later it was too late for that as he held out his hand. "Here you are," he said. Automatically I held out my hand and the next moment he had put several coins into it. "You'll get the other half afterwards," he said. "Now undress, put on the dressing gown - again it's clean, everything is here - and wait. Your gentleman won't be long; he's a very punctual man." And with that he nodded at me, turned and left.
I groaned softly and sank down on the bed and tried hard to quell the trembling that seemed to have taken a firm hold of my body. What had I done? What was I about to do? Maybe I should follow Renton, give him the money back and leave - but I couldn't. I had to have the money and surely gaol would be far worse than allowing the man Renton thought highly of, this apparent paragon of virtue do whatever it was he wanted to do to me.
I sighed, pushed the money into my pocket, stood up and removed my overcoat, putting it and the hat I'd taken off as soon as I'd entered the building onto a chair that stood against the wall on the far side of the room. I then began to undress, folding each item of clothing far more carefully than I tended to do when undressing in my own bedroom and placing them on the chair. I pulled on the, what felt like heavy silk, dressing gown and sat back down on the bed.
About ten minutes later - but it felt like ten seconds as well as ten hours - I heard Renton's voice in the hallway and then my stomach turned over as I heard another voice. I stood up and took a few steps across the room and stood facing the wall with my back to the door. For a moment I thought I recognised the voice of the other man, but I instantly dismissed the thought; one set of public school vowels sound very much like another. It really was going to happen; I really was gong to let a perfect stranger do things to me no one had ever done before, things I never dreamt a man would do to me. At least -
The sound of the door opening pulled my mind from the past and I forced myself to stand still as I heard the door close again and then the clear sounds of someone taking off an overcoat; my hearing seemed to have become extremely acute, as I was sure I heard him place the coat and no doubt his hat and quite possibly a stick on the other chair I had seen when I'd come into the room.
And then I heard his soft footsteps as he came towards me. I found myself counting them until I heard them stop and I knew he was right behind me. I tried hard, but I couldn't stop myself from trembling. The trembling increased considerably when I felt his hands on my shoulders and it was all I could do to stop myself from gasping aloud and pulling away. "It's all right," he said, his tone low and soothing. "I'm not a monster, I won't - I'll be kind to you. It's all right."
Again I believed I recognised the voice especially when he had said 'it's all right' and the touch also seemed familiar. But again I told myself it could not be the person of whom I was thinking; it simply couldn't be he. He would not have to come to such a place; he would not have to pay to - No, it was only the public school vowels that made me think it was he, the vowels and the words he had said to me so often during the two years we spent together at school. I didn't answer the man who stood behind me; I couldn't; what could I say? He probably didn't expect me to answer him.
And yet despite everything for some reason his tone, his words and his touch calmed me somewhat and the desperate trembling began to cease. I was still quivering slightly as his hands moved from my shoulders, slid down my arms before he slowly and gently reached around my waist, untied the tie of the dressing gown I wore, carefully removed it and let it fall to the ground. Once the cool air hit my completely unclothed body all of my fears returned and I again began to tremble; I bit my lip so hard I tasted blood as he put his hands back on my shoulders. "Turn around," he said, his voice was soft and low. "Turn around and let me look at you."
I stood frozen to the spot, unable to move. "Please," he said quietly after several seconds had gone by. "Look I can make you turn around, but I'd rather not. Come on, there's a good boy, turn around."
His voice was hypnotising as it coaxed me into moving; gathering all the courage I possessed, slowly under his hands I turned around. I couldn't look at him; instead I lowered my head letting my far too long hair fall around my face and shield it. I sensed rather than heard him take a step back, his hands still rested lightly on my shoulders and I knew he was looking at me. Despite having attended a public school I had never been comfortable being unclothed in front of others, unlike most of my dorm mates who never seemed to be the slightest bit inhibited. Thus the idea that a perfect stranger was staring at me made my mouth turn dry and again I had to fight to prevent myself from pulling away and turning back around.
"Look at me," he said, his voice still soft and coaxing. "Raise your head and look at me." But I couldn't; again I was simply unable to comply with the gentle order. I heard him sigh softly and then I felt one hand leave my shoulder, I was surprised at how bereft almost I felt now the touch had gone and how cold my shoulder was. The next second two fingers were under my chin and my head was being gently pushed up. I gasped loudly and for a second he stilled his hand; it was yet another thing he had done to me so often at school. It was such a familiar gesture, so familiar it was painful and for a moment I feared I might begin to cry.
Then he moved his hand again and my head rose, but still I kept my gaze on the floor for as long as I could. I kept it affixed to the floor until I heard him gasp, "Bunny?"
My eyes shot up and I stared into two deep sapphire blue eyes that were wide with shock; eyes I never thought I would see again; eyes I still dreamt about from to time. "Raff-" I began, but instantly his hand flew to my mouth and covered it, effectively silencing me. His other hand gripped my arm, steadying me as once more the trembling increased.
As I stared at the man I had been in love with from the moment I had met him; the man I still, after saying goodbye to him ten years ago, loved; the man who occupied far more of my waking thoughts than he should; the man I dared to dream about, I realised several things. The most damning was that my body was beginning to react to his closeness and being completely unclothed there was nothing to prevent him from seeing the reaction. Indeed, I saw his gaze flicker from my face to the area of my body that was hardening rapidly before he tore his gaze away and looked at my face once more.
Now I knew why I had thought I'd recognised his voice, how could I have doubted it? How could I have doubted even for a second that it had really been he saying 'it's all right'? How could I have failed to recognise his touch when for two years he'd barely kept his hands off me in some way or other? And how could I have failed to recognise the gesture of putting his fingers beneath my chin in order to make me look at him? How could I?
There was only one reason: even though he stood in front of me, even though I could see it was he still staring in shocked amazement at me, I still could not believe that he would be here; that he would visit such a place and pay to -
Again his gaze flickered away from my face and looked down at me; this time it didn't return to my face immediately. This time he stared at me for several seconds before he slowly looked back at me. He suddenly seemed to realise he still had his hand over my mouth because he took it away and instantly gripped my other arm, holding me firmly. "Bunny," he said his voice once again low, "what on earth are you doing here?"
I swallowed hard, moistened my lips and said in a low, somewhat croaky voice, "I could ask you the same, but I fear we both know what the other is doing here, do we not?" I was amazed at my courage.
The corners of his lips twitched slightly. "Yes, I imagine we do. But why, Bunny? Why are you here? I mean . . ."
I do not believe I had ever seen him so discomforted, so out of his depth, so uncertain what to do or say next. Strangely enough rather than make me uneasy, after all I was so used to he being the one in charge, the one who knew what was doing, it reassured me. "I need money, Raffles," I said his name softly, delighted to be able to speak it aloud again. "I need money very badly and -
"This was the only way you could get it?" His voice was slightly louder and his tone harsh and his eyes became cold as they stared at me.
"Yes," I said softly. "Yes, Raffles, it was."
"But, Bunny, how could you . . . I mean . . . What did you think was going to . . . Why didn't you . . ." He shook his head as he continued to stare at me. Finally he said so quietly I barely heard him, "Could you have?" I said nothing; I still didn't know. Then he sighed and shook his head. "Oh, Bunny. Oh, my dear, sweet, innocent, Bunny. I can only thank God that I . . . Oh, Bunny." And to my surprise I felt myself gathered into his arms and pulled against him. I bit back a gasp of pain as my hardness made contact with the thick material of his trousers and forced myself to relax against him, to simply enjoy what I had not had in ten years - not that we'd ever embraced like this; both of us had always been fully clothed.
Just as I was enjoying being back in his arms for the first time in ten years, he gently pushed me away and just stared at me. "Oh, Bunny," he said again his tone so very soft.
I smiled and put my hand on his face. "It's all right, Raffles," I said, using his own words on him. "Well, it is now."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I have to tell you I wasn't certain I could - you know. I knew I had to, you see, Raffles, I really did need the money, things were so bad my next address would likely have been Wormwood Scrubs. But even knowing that, even though I'd taken money from Renton I still wasn't certain I could have let . . . But now - Oh, Raffles." I leant towards him, suddenly desperate for him to kiss me or touch me to do whatever it was he had intended to do to me when he'd come into the room.
However, he held me firmly away from him. "Bunny," he said in a soft, shocked tone. "Bunny, do you really think that I am going to . . ." He, he who had never been reserved, trailed off and he just stared at me.
I felt my cheeks begin to burn. Of course I did. "You have to," I said. "You have to, Raffles. You don't want me to go to gaol, do you?"
"Of course I don't, you silly rabbit, and you won't. I promise you that. But, Bunny, I am not going to -"
I pulled myself from his grip and turned my back on him; quite from where I got the strength to get away from him I knew not - but I did. "I might have known," I said, swallowing hard and forcing away tears that were beginning to burn and threaten the backs of my eyes.
"Known what?" he said softly.
I turned around and glared at him. "You never wanted me at school," I hissed. "Despite all of the school thinking you did, you didn't. I should have known that wouldn't have changed, even though I'm not the small, naïve, prone to tears boy you used to cuddle, make a pet of and comfort. I should have known you, the great A. J. Raffles, would never want someone as insignificant and inexperienced as I. I should have -" Once again he silenced me, but this time it wasn't his hand that covered my mouth; this time it was his mouth. Strong arms went around my body, pulling me into a tight, fierce embrace, pulling me hard against his body, allowing me to discover my hardness wasn't the only one.
As his mouth plundered mine and his tongue touched my bottom lip, forcing me to open my lips and let him penetrate my mouth with a demanding tongue, he pulled me nearer and nearer to him, making me cry into his mouth in pain as my tender, heated, sensitive hardness again brushed against the thick material of his trousers. The long fingers of one hand were tangled in my hair, holding my head in place, allowing him to go on kissing me as I had always wanted him to do.
Just as I believed, feared even, he was going to regret pulling me so closely against him, just as I thought my body was going to do what it so clearly wanted, needed to do and disobey my silent orders not to, he took his mouth from mine, pushed me away and stared at me. He was breathing hard and his face was flushed and I could see perspiration on his forehead and upper lip. "What," he said, lightly licking his swollen lips, "made you think I never wanted you?"
Ignoring the way my body was screaming its disapproval at being deprived of what it wanted, I stared back at him. "But you never . . . Not once, Raffles, not once did you kiss me or touch me in a way that said you wanted what you knew I wanted. Not once."
"Oh, Bunny, Bunny, Bunny, my beloved, innocent rabbit, I couldn't."
"No," he cupped my cheek and I let a soft moan escape from me as I leant into the caress. "I couldn't, Bunny. I loved you; I adored you, too much to risk frightening you or hurting you. I couldn't take the innocence away from you. I just couldn't. Of course after I'd left the school and was at Cambridge there were times, many times, I regretted it. I knew someone would kiss you and touch you and I feared it might be someone who would hurt you, who wouldn't care about you, who wouldn't love you like I did. But then no one could have loved you as I did, Bunny. As I still do." I just went on staring at him in surprise as he murmured things I never dreamt I'd hear from anyone, let alone he. He spoke again, "I finally convinced myself that it would be all right, because it would be Urquhart you'd have your first experience with. But unless you are a far better liar than I know you to be, a devious person who can fool Renton, then I was wrong. You and Urquhart never . . ."
I shook my head and then shrugged, my cheeks were once again warm and I said, "Well, we kind of kissed a few times and touched a little, but it was always when fully clothed and we never . . . You know. I never have, not with anyone else," I added, least he think me a complete fool.
"But why?" he said gently. "You and Urquhart were such good friends and you were both caring, gentle boys. Why didn't you?"
I swallowed and looked him straight in the eyes. "He wasn't you," I said softly. "He knew I was still in love with you and I knew it wouldn't be fair to him to . . . To do any more than we did, because it wasn't he I wanted, Raffles, it was you. It's always been you and it always will be you." I added the final words without even thinking about what I was saying; I only knew they were the complete truth. Even had we not met again, I never would have married or taken any kind of lover; I couldn't because I was his; I'd been his from the second we had met and I'd be his until the second I died. I didn't want anyone else; it was he or no one.
His eyes were wide as he stared at me. "I . . . I knew you loved me; I knew you believed you were in love with me - I think the entire school knew, Bunny, you certainly did not make a secret of quite how deep your feelings for me went." I shrugged; he spoke nothing but the truth. "However, I believed it was nothing more than a school boy pash. I never thought you'd . . . I never dared to hope you'd still care." Now he spoke softly. "Had I known I -" He fell silent and shook his head. "But the past is the past; we cannot undo it. We have to deal with the now and the now is getting you out of here and away from Renton. So put the dressing gown back on, Bunny, take a stiff drink from my flask, have a cigarette, make yourself comfortable on the bed and let me think." He turned from me, no doubt to get his flask and cigarette case, but I caught his arm.
"Raffles," I said and smiled, "there's nothing for you to think about. All you have to do is to . . . Is to do what you came here to do," I managed.
He stared at me as if I'd suddenly grown a second head and then he smiled his fond smile, the one he used to bestow on me oft-times at school when I'd said or done something particularly foolish. He put his hands on my shoulders. "Were you not listening to me, my rabbit? Did you fail to hear me tell you I love you?"
"Yes . . . No . . . No . . . That is . . . Dash it all, Raffles, if you love me it makes it easier. Doesn't it?" I added as he just continued to look at me in 'that' way.
"Bunny, when we get out of here, I shall take you back to my rooms at the Albany and there I shall do whatever you wish me to do to and with you and I shall do it with pleasure. However, I have no intention of doing anything else to you here - Bunny, this is a place where men, gentlemen it must be said, go to -"
"Yes, Raffles," I said. "I am aware of that."
"Good," he said before he briefly cupped my face between his hands, put his lips on mine for a few wonderful seconds and then moved past me to pick up the long since discarded dressing gown which he held for me as I put it on.
He then completed his journey to the chair where he'd disposed of his overcoat, hat and stick (I had been correct) took his flask from his inner breast pocket and handed it to me. I took a deep swallow of the exquisitely fine cognac before I handed it back to him. I felt a quiver race though my body as he locked gazes with me and put his lips where mine had rested scant seconds before and took a drink himself. He then pulled out his silver cigarette case, offered me a cigarette and lit it for me before he took my arm and guided me towards the bed and gently pushed me down on it.
With his hand still on my arm he paused and looked down at me. "Bunny, did you agree to just tonight with Renton? Or . . ."
I swallowed. "Or," I said, looking at away from the steady blue gaze.
"For how long?"
"Six months," I murmured, suddenly deeply ashamed of myself. Ashamed or not I forced myself to look up at him. "I told you I needed money and I needed it badly, Raffles. I -"
"Hush, my dear rabbit," he said softly, putting his finger to my lips. "It's all right." His hand then moved and for a second his fingers lingered in my fringe pushing it, as he did often during those two years we'd spent together at school, back from my forehead. He then joined me on the bed, swinging his feet up, leaning back against the pillows, crossing his ankles and lay staring up at the ceiling smoking.
"Raffles," I said after a moment or two. He turned his head and raised an eyebrow. "Why don't we just leave now?"
He smiled his lazy smile. "Because, my dearest rabbit, I have a reputation to maintain." And he silenced my reply by once more putting his mouth on mine for a few seconds before patting my thigh and returning to staring at the ceiling through the perfect smoke rings he produced.
I wasn't certain how long passed before he sat up and crushed his third cigarette out. It may sound like a poorly written verse, but I was wrapped up in the knowledge that he was here with me, that he'd told me he loved me, that he was going to help me, to notice how much time had gone by. "Well," he said, turning to me and smiling, "the easiest way is often the best. Come along, Bunny, do hurry up and get dressed."
I stared at him. "You know what you're going to do?" He frowned. "To get me out of the contract I have with Renton?" I said as fear that he had changed his mind began to creep into my veins.
"Oh, that. I decided that in the first minute or so." He patted my shoulder.
"What have you spent the rest of time thinking about?"
He leant forward, crushed my mouth with his again, before moving his lips to my ear and whispering, "Exactly what I'm going to do to you first." I felt the colour rush to my cheeks and the part of my body that had softened began to harden again. "Now do hurry up, my dear boy." And he gently but firmly pushed me off the bed.
I hurried to the chair where my clothes were. "No," he said softly as I was about to undo the tie on my dressing gown, "turn around. I want to watch you." I swallowed hard and to my chagrin began to tremble slightly as my fingers fumbled with the tie. Finally I managed to undo it and let the dressing gown fall to the floor before I grabbed my drawers and began to dress; I was all too aware that his steady gaze never once strayed away from me.
When I had pulled my overcoat on and picked up my hat, he put his own overcoat on and picked up his hat and stick. "Now, Bunny, all you have to do is to stand by my side and say nothing, unless I specifically ask you to. And whatever else you do, do not give any indication that we knew one another before tonight."
"Yes, Raffles," I said intently, as intently as I'd done all those years ago when he gave me something specific to do at school. "But what if Renton speaks to me?"
"Well you'll have to answer him, won't you?" He shook his head and looked at me with his fond, slightly exasperated look; I felt my cheeks flush again. Then to my surprise he pulled me towards him and once again kissed me." I heard his hat and stick fall to the floor as one hand went into my hair and ruffled it. "That's better," he said once he'd taken his mouth from mine. "Now you look as thought you've been -"
"Maturin," Raffles said. "That is name by which I am known to Renton - make sure you remember that."
I nodded and vowed if I had to speak at all (I prayed I wouldn't) I would not use any name, least I forget and call him by his actual name.
He smiled at me and put his hand on my arm. "That's my good boy," he said in a tone that was so like the one he used at school when he used to say the same words to me, that for a moment I was transported back to those days in his study; those innocent days. He took my arm and led me towards the door. "Come along then and remember, say nothing unless you have to."
With his hand still on my arm he led me down the dimly lit hallway and around a corner into another hallway coming to a halt outside one of the doors. He knocked with his stick and upon receiving the instruction to 'come in' did that thing.
Renton was sitting at his desk but instantly came to his feet as Raffles led me into the room. "Mr. Maturin," he said, glancing at me. "Is everything all right, sir?" Again he looked at me.
"Everything is perfectly all right, thank you, Renton. Better than all right, actually."
Renton again looked from Raffles to me; I forced myself not to fidget under his appraisal. Finally he looked back at Raffles. "And Mr. Manders was . . ." he trailed off.
"Everything you promised and more," Raffles said his tone bright and knowing.
"Really?" Once more Renton turned his attention on me and this time his gaze flickered down and up my body and I felt my cheeks begin to grow warm. For a moment I almost wanted to curse Raffles; I knew why he was behaving as he was, saying the things he was saying, but it discomforted me somewhat.
"Yes. And that is why I have come to see you. You see, Renton, it's like this: I want Manders here to myself."
Renton raised his eyebrows. "Well, Mr. Maturin, I'm quite certain we can accommodate you. Mr. Manders did agree to a six month contract. So all you -"
"No, that is not what I meant." Now Raffles's tone became less bright and more intense.
"Is it not? Well what exactly did you mean, Mr. Maturin?"
"I wish to take him with me."
"To dine with you?"
Raffles shrugged. "Well, yes, I'm sure that will happen. But what I mean is I do not wish him to return here."
"Now look here, Mr. Maturin. You cannot -" Renton fell silent and cleared his throat. "I apologise, sir. I spoke out of turn." Raffles stared at him. "You have to appreciate it from my point of view, Mr. Maturin, sir. I can promise you that I will not let any other gentleman -"
"But can you, Renton? Well you can, but would you keep your promise? No, hear me out. Let us say I have to go out of town on - business. Another gentleman sees Manders here and offers you more than the usual payment. Can you honestly say you would decline the offer?" He stared hard at Renton who after a moment had the good grace to glance away. "I thought as much."
"You have to understand. Mr. Maturin, I am running a business."
"Oh, I do understand, Renton. I understand fully. That is why I am offering to purchase Manders's contract."
"You want to buy him?"
Raffles's eyes hardened as he glared at Renton who flushed and looked down at his desk. I understood Raffles's annoyance, but surely he knew when it came down to it that is exactly what he was proposing to do. I wondered why the idea didn't make me feel ill at ease or even sicken me; the answer was simple: it was Raffles. "Name you price," Raffles said his tone like his eyes had hardened.
Renton locked gazes with Raffles and they stood in silence for a minute or two before Renton named a price. It took me all my time not to cry aloud at the sum; it was considerably higher than the amount Renton had offered me to commit to him for six months - did Raffles realise that? I 'accidently' brushed against him in an attempt to get his attention, but he pointedly ignored me as he continued to stare at Renton.
Finally as I was sure I was either going to pass out or break my promise and speak before I was asked to do so, I saw Raffles's eyes change, now they glinted with a mixture of amusement and respect at Renton's daring - he did know - and his lips twitched into a cynical smile that nonetheless contained the same hint of amusement and respect. "Very well, Renton," he said, holding out his hand, "I accept." Renton took his hand and they shook briefly. "However," Raffles said, putting his hand into his inner breast pocket, "even I do not carry that amount of money about with me. So I will give you half now and half the day after tomorrow." I held my breath and wondered what Renton's reaction would be.
With a careless shrug he took the money Raffles held out to him and pushed it into the top drawer of his desk. "Why the day after tomorrow?" he asked, holding his cigarette case out to Raffles who shook his head. "Why not tomorrow?"
"Thank you, but no, I won't take a cigarette. As for why not tomorrow," he turned his attention away from Renton and looked at me in a way that made me turn simultaneously hot and cold, made perspiration begin to prickle my back and made a certain part of my body start to react. His gaze travelled slowly from my face down my body as he said, his tone sultry, "Because, Renton, I have plans for tomorrow and they do not involve leaving my rooms." I swallowed hard and adjusted my stance slightly. I knew my cheeks were aflame, but decided for once it was probably a helpful thing.
I heard Renton give a soft laugh and my cheeks burnt even more. However, I forced myself to ignore Renton and just look at Raffles who now his back was to Renton smiled gently, fondly, reassuringly at me before he looked back at Renton. "I assume that will be acceptable to you?"
Renton stared at Raffles. "How do I know I can -"
"Trust me?" Again Raffles's tone hardened. "Come along, Renton, let's not pretend. We both know exactly why you can trust me, do we not?" Renton didn't say anything; instead he gave a faint shrug. "Good. That's settled then. Now as for Manders's contract."
"You'll get that when you pay me the other half." Renton's tone became hard and again I saw Raffles's lips twitch in his half smile.
"In that case, I shall bid you goodnight and goodbye for now." He nodded at Renton, put his arm thought mine and turned. Then he stopped and turned back. "I nearly forgot. You owe Manders the other half of his fee for tonight." He stared at Renton, who after staring back for a few seconds opened the other top drawer of his desk, pulled out some coins and handed them to me.
"Thank you," I said automatically.
He nodded once and once again looked at Raffles. "It's been a pleasure, Mr. Maturin," he said.
Raffles gave a dismissive shrug. "Come along, Manders," he said again taking my arm.
"Oh, Mr. Manders," Renton's voice stopped me and I glanced over my shoulder. "You'll be welcome here again any time. Under any circumstances," he added.
I felt my eyes widen, but my well honed training in manners clicked in and stammering only slightly I said, "Thank you." And as Raffles tightened his grip on my arm I let him lead me not only from the room but also from the building.
Once we were outside Raffles let go of my arm and I felt myself sway slightly.
The next second he'd once more caught my arm and I could see him staring at me, concern clear in his steady gaze. "Are you all right, Bunny?" he asked. I nodded, but even as I did I grabbed his arm as a wave of unsteadiness past over me. "When did you last have anything to eat?" he asked, holding me with both arms and pressing my back against the wall.
"I had a slice of toast this morning."
"I didn't dare have anything else, Raffles," I spoke his name softly, least anyone hear me. "I feared I might be sick or . . ."
"My poor, dear rabbit. Well, the first thing we shall do is to get you a good dinner at my club." He took one hand from me and waved his stick; the next moment a hansom cab pulled up by the curb and with his arm through mine and ignoring my soft protests he led me to the cab and helped me climb in. He called out the name of his club as he joined me inside. "Here," he said, taking out his flask again and offering it to me. "Take a good swallow; it'll help."
As I'd been doing from the moment I met him some twelve years ago, I obeyed him and once again enjoyed the warmth of the fine cognac; he was correct the cognac combined I'm sure with the fact I was sitting down, did indeed help and I no longer felt light-headed. I handed the flask back to him and settled back in my seat, he took it and returned it to his pocket, never once did his eyes leave my face and the look in them made me suggest, as much as I wanted something to eat, we forgo dinner and go straight to his rooms; but he refused with a comment that made me blush.
"Ah, Bunny," he said, brushing his fingertips over my cheek. "You still blush as prettily as you did when you were thirteen."
"Raffles!" I exclaimed, but I was smiling and as he began to laugh I joined in.
When we reached his club, one of the best in London, he led me first into the bar where he ordered sherry for both of us and took me to a quiet table in the far corner where he offered me a cigarette which he lit for me before he lit his own. I watched him as he put his cigarette case back into his pocket, before taking a sip from his sherry glass and placing the glass carefully back on the table; he moved the ashtray slightly and then aligned his glass with it. His movements were very deliberate and precise, and for the first time he seemed to be avoiding looking at me. I tried not to fidget and tried not to worry that he may have changed his mind and didn't know how to tell me. I tried to enjoy the fine sherry and cigarette but until he spoke to me, reassured me, I knew I couldn't.
Finally, after he had nothing else to rearrange he sat back in his chair and looked at me. "Bunny."
"I do not wish to spoil our dinner by talking about certain things, so let us get them out of the way now." I took a mouthful of sherry and tried to remain calm. I'm not sure what my face showed, but he leant forward and patted my thigh. "Don't look so afeared, my dear Bunny. I haven't changed my mind about keeping you out of goal and out of Renton's clutches. I just do not wish to offend you."
I laughed softly and spoke even more softly. "My dear Raffles, given where you found me earlier this evening, believe me when I say I do not believe you could ever offend me."
"Upset you then," he said quietly, this time touching my wrist with his fingertips. "You really are very important to me, Bunny," he said softly. "So very, very important; you always have been. And, my dear Bunny, you always will be." I swallowed hard as to my embarrassment I felt tears begin to prickle the back of my eyes; I blinked quickly several times and took another long swallow of sherry. The fact that he was saying such things in a public setting, even though we were in a very quiet corner touched me even more. I knew I couldn't reply, because I knew my voice would shake too much. So I just smiled at him and blinked ever more quickly; the fond look in his eyes as he looked back at me, told me he understood; he touched my wrist again.
"Very well," he said, taking another sip of his own sherry. "Let us be forthright. Bunny, the money you received tonight, how far will that go to clearing your debts?"
"It'll cover the ones from the most demanding creditors; the ones that would almost certainly have seen me gaoled," I said quietly.
"Excellent. And how much more do you owe and to whom?" I felt my cheeks warm slightly as I told him. But he merely nodded. "We can deal with those when I pay Renton. Will they take a cheque or will they prefer cash?"
"They won't take one from me, but I imagine they will take one from you. Raffles -"
"Look, it's very good of you to help me, but how am I going to pay you back?"
"What makes you think I'm looking to be paid back? My dear Bunny, you are my friend and," he bent his head closer to mine, "will shortly become so much more. You did me a good turn at school more than once -"
"Not as many as you did me!" I exclaimed, remembering all the times he had rescued me, comforted me whilst I cried, even held my hair back and supported me whilst I vomited, looked after me, never once raised his voice let alone his hand to me, cared for me. How could the small things I did for him compare to everything he did for me?
He shook his head and gazed at me in his fondly exasperated way, the way he looked at me many times during our two years together. "Ah, Bunny, my beloved rabbit, in so many ways you have not changed a bit in the ten years since I said goodbye to you. You are still so -" He shook his head again. "I wasn't aware we were ever keeping score," he said. "Bunny, I care about you, I want to help you. And the thing is, my boy, I really am embarrassingly well off." I raised an eyebrow. "Inheritance," he said softly and I saw a flash of pain cross his face. This time it was I who put my hand on his arm. I didn't ask who he had lost; he'd tell me if he wished to do so.
We sat in silence for another moment or two before he smiled and said his tone once again lighter, "So you see, I get to play cricket when I wish to or when the county or country pick me and the rest of the time I am a gentleman of leisure. I have to say there are times I wish it wasn't quite so easy for me. But tonight I am jolly pleased it is. So we'll hear no more about 'replaying' me, will we?"
"No, Raffles," I said dutifully. "But -"
"No, buts, Bunny. Now, finish your sherry and we can go into dinner.
"Raffles," I said, emptying my glass. "May I ask you something?" He looked at me and raised an eyebrow. "Why did you tell Renton you both knew exactly why he could trust you?"
He smiled at me. "Because, my dear Bunny, although he is astute enough to call me Mr. Maturin, he knows my true identity."
Raffles nodded. "Yes, my rabbit. It is one of the down-sides of playing cricket for England. He knows who I really am, and he knows that I know that he knows. And now let us put such things behind us and go and enjoy a good dinner." And with that he stood up in a fluid movement, waited for me to join him before taking my arm and leading me across the room and into the dining room.
The dinner his club provided us with was not only good, it was excellent; as was the wine he ordered to accompany it and the cigars, cognac and coffee that followed it.
Despite the fact we were in the club's dining room his steady gaze rarely left my face for more than a moment or two and I lost count of the number of times his fingers touched my hand - all of them quite deliberate. And the look in his eyes as he stared at me made me almost tremble at times at the intensity of the desire, but even more of the love. Even though he'd told me and was now showing me quite clearly, part of me still couldn't quite believe that he did love me; how could he? What was I compared to he? I was nothing and he was the most marvellous man in England if not in the world. What on earth could he see in me? A rabbit that needed rescuing once again by the cricketing hero.
"What are you thinking?" he asked softly, letting his fingertips trail over the back of my hand.
"That you've rescued me again," I said.
He laughed softly. "So I have; I do seem to make a habit out of it, do I not? But I doubt I shall have to do it again."
I frowned. "How so?"
"Well, my dear Bunny," he said, leaning forward and putting his hand over mine, "you see I rather intend to keep you by my side from now on; that is, of course, if you haven't any objections." He stared at me and smiled as I just stared back in silence suddenly wondering if I had over-imbibed with the wine and cognac. Surely I had misheard him? Surely he hadn't said what I thought he'd said, had he? "Well, now did you enjoy your dinner?"
"What? Oh, yes, thank you, Raffles. It was wonderful, splendid, probably the best meal I've ever eaten."
He frowned slightly. "Bunny, please do not be offended, but when did you last have a decent meal?" I felt my cheeks become warm and I had to glance away from the caring, concerned gaze. "Oh, Bunny," he said softly and squeezed my hand for a moment. "Shall we go home?" he asked a moment later. I looked up again and nodded. He smiled and in the elegant way he has of moving he pushed his chair back, stood up and was by my side all in a fluid way I could only admire.
We took another hansom cab back to his rooms at the Albany and just as I had been during dinner I was aware that I was under his constant scrutiny. Again in many ways it was reminiscent of our school days because he no matter what else he might be doing, if I were in his presence I always felt part of his attention was on me.
At the Albany he paused to introduce me to Parker the porter, informing him that I would an extremely regular visitor before saying goodnight to Parker and leading me up to his rooms. Once inside he pulled off his overcoat and hung it up along with his hat, helped me out of my own overcoat and took my hat from me, then he put his arm around me and guided me into his sitting room where the faint glow from the remaining embers of the fire partially lit up the room. He turned up the gas before poking the fire and throwing some more coal onto it.
I stood watching him, waiting for him to let me know what he expected from me; I just hoped I wouldn't be a disappointment to him. He turned back to me and smiled; the next moment I was in his arms, being held securely, protectively, possessively and lovingly as he kissed me and went on kissing me until I feared I might pass out.
Just as I knew I'd have to be the one to stop the kiss he lifted his mouth from mine and gazed down at me. "Well," he said, running his tongue over his lips, the gesture caused me to moan softly and without conscious intent I moved my body forward a little until I brushed against him.
Gently he pushed me away from him a little and with his gaze firmly locked on mine, he let one of his hands move down my body and his fingertips began to lightly caress the hardness that was pushed against my trousers. This time I whimpered as the light caress sent sensations racing through my body, making me quiver with a need I did not know I was capable of experiencing.
"Raffles," I murmured. "Please."
"Please what, my rabbit?" His tone was low and sensual and he let his fingertips flirt with my hardness once more before taking his hand away. I whimpered again, desperate to have his touch back.
"Touch me," I managed. "Please, Raffles. Please."
He smiled and leant towards me to brush his lips over mine. "Oh, I shall, my beloved Bunny," he said, taking my hand in his. "Rest assured I shall, you do not have to beg me. Now come along," and with my hand still in his he led me through two more rooms into his bedroom.
As I stared at the bed something hit me and again without conscious thought I blurted out. "Raffles, does it hurt?"
He'd let go of my hand and was turning the covers on the bed down to reveal snow white, pristine sheets. I had no need to ask if they were clean; I knew him well enough to know that were they not he would have left me in the sitting room in order to change them.
He paused and turned around. "Does what hurt, my rabbit?" To my annoyance I again felt my cheeks begin to flush and I couldn't speak. "Oh," he said quietly, leaving the bed and coming back to where I stood. He put a hand on each of my shoulders, stared at me and then said, "Yes, yes, Bunny, it does. And if anyone tells you differently they are either a liar, a fool, have never experienced the act or enjoy pain." I widened my eyes. "Oh, yes, my rabbit, there are those who actually enjoy pain and actively seek it out. Rest assured, I am not one of those people. However, if you take the time and have someone who knows what he is doing and is prepared to be gentle the pain can be reduced, but I will not lie to you and tell you it doesn't hurt at all. But do not worry, I do not intend on doing that to you tonight."
I didn't know whether I was relieved or disappointed. "You don't?"
He shook his head and again brushed his lips over mine before gathering me into his arms, pulling me close to him; so close I could feel his heartbeat and his hardness that matched mine. He took his mouth from mine and put his lips on my ear. "Nor any time soon. I want you to be completely comfortable with me before I attempt to do that to you. Now, I trust you'll have no objections to me undressing you?" I shook my head as I stood held captive not so much by his hands that were once again on my shoulders, but by the way he looked at me.
He smiled, took my hand and led me across the room to stand by the bed. However, before he turned his attention to me he took his own dining jacket off, removed his cuff-links and turned back his cuffs. He then stared at me again in silence before sighing and saying with regret in his tone, "No, I do not think so."
"Raffles?" My voice was high.
He patted my hand. "Do not worry, Bunny, I have not changed my mind. I was merely trying to decide if I had the patience to spend time undressing you in a leisurely manner, but I fear this time I do not. I rather fear I want to get my hands on your unclothed body somewhat too badly."
I swallowed hard and trembled with pleasure as hands I knew well, hands that had on more than one occasion removed my blazer, even my tie, hands that had held me, comforted me, stroked my hair back from my forehead, now began to efficiently but with a degree of intimacy they had never betrayed during our school years remove my clothing.
In what seemed like far too short a time all that was left were my drawers and as I glanced down I realised that rather than hide the part of my body that was hard they rather accentuated it. His mouth found mine again and I was pulled against him and seconds later I felt the brush of his trousers against my now completely unclothed lower body. He kissed me for several long seconds as one hand tangled in my hair and the other roamed over my back. He then took a step back and looked directly at me, his gaze never moving from just below my waist. Taking my hand once more in his, he gently manoeuvred me and encouraged me down onto the bed.
He stood staring down at me and under his gaze I felt myself harden even more. No one had ever looked at me in such a way as he was looking at me and I knew my cheeks were flushed. I fully expected him to remove the remainder of his clothing and join me, but to my surprise he knelt on the bed next to me and the fingertips of one hand began to lightly caress me. I moaned softly and tried to push up into his hand, his caresses were wonderful but I wanted, I needed more than his fingertips on me. But as I moved, so did he, until I stopped and rested back on the bed, breathing heavily. "You're mine," he whispered. "You are mine, are you not, Bunny?"
"Bought and paid for," I said lightly without thinking about what I was saying.
The next second I regretted my flippancy as he froze and a look crossed his face that I had seen more than once at school, but never had it been directed at me. "If that is the way you feel," he said his voice like ice, "you can get dressed now and leave my rooms." He started to move from the bed.
"No, Raffles, don't. I didn't . . . Please, listen to me." I grabbed his hand and held it tightly, holding him where he was. He must have been prepared to stay as I did not have the strength to make me stay had he not wished it. "I didn't mean it as it sounded," I said, gazing imploring up at him.
"Did you not?" His tone was still like ice, but I dared to believe it had melted slightly.
"No," I said.
"Then what pray, Bunny, did you mean?"
"Look, Raffles, I'm not like you. I'm not confident and experienced and - all the other things you are and I'm not. You've done this dozens of times, hundreds probably. I've never done anything remotely like it. Raffles, I don't even often . . . I'm . . . Come on, Raffles, remember I was the boy who always tried to put his drawers on before he took his dressing gown off; the boy who'd go the facilities there furthest away so as not to find anyone else there. The boy -"
"Who once stood and stared at me for quite some time," he said softly, the ice had now all but melted and he brushed my fringe back from my forehead. "Do you remember that, Bunny?"
I gulped and nodded. "Yes." I can't remember quite why I'd had occasion to venture into the sixth form bathrooms, but I had and he'd been just getting out of the bath, standing up about to get out and I had stood in the doorway and just stared at him until he'd quietly cleared his throat, wrapped a towel around him and gently assured me he didn't mind me looking at him, but making me promise not to look at any other boy - of any age - as I'd looked at him.
"No one has ever looked at me as you've been looking at me all evening, Raffles, and I never really believed any one would. I certainly never dared to even dream that should any one look at me as you've been looking at me that it would be you. I felt, I feel . . . I didn't mean to upset you. I was just trying to . . ." I fell silent and just gazed up at him willing him to understand me; willing him to read my mind as he so often had seemed to do in the past.
I watched him stare at me; I watched the hardness begin to fade from his face and eyes and I watched his lips turn upwards and he smiled. "Oh, Bunny," he said, bending down and kissing me. "What am I going to do with you?" He let his fingers tangle in my hair and lightly stroked my scalp.
I mentally crossed my fingers and prayed this time I would not get it wrong. "Well," I said, licking my lower lip as I gazed up at him. "And all this time I thought you were the one who did know."
His eyes widened and then he laughed. "Oh, I do, Bunny," he said softly, I certainly do." And his fingertips once more began to lightly caress the part of my body that yearned for his touch. "So," he said, taking his hand from my hair and tracing my lips. "No one other than I has ever touched you like this, is that correct, Bunny?"
I nodded. "Yes," I whispered the word.
"And no one else ever shall." I swallowed hard at the possessive look in his eyes and tone and the way his hand stilled and the way he did not make it a question, but a quiet order.
Nonetheless I wanted to answer him. "No," I said.
We locked gazes and both fell silent as he continued to let his fingertips lightly caress me whilst his other hand began to stroke my cheek. I was so taken up by the duel, light caresses and by the look of complete love in his eyes that the release my body had been craving almost from the moment I'd turned around and raised my eyes to see who stood with his hands on my shoulders, crept up at me unknown. It was only when I felt the tips of his fingers were wet and my body was shuddering slightly that I realised what had happened. "Oh," I gasped. "Raffles." This time I made no attempt to try to stop the colour from racing to my cheeks.
He smiled down and me, "Oh, indeed," he murmured, bending down to once more kiss my lips. After a drawn out kiss, he straightened, stood up and removed the remainder of his clothing before he joined me on the bed and pulled the covers partly over us both.