AUTHOR: Nikki Harrington
PAIRINGS: Arthur 'A. J.' Raffles/Harry 'Bunny' Manders; Arthur 'A. J.' Raffles/Edward 'Charlie' Charleston
SUB-GENRE: Pre-Slash (Raffles/Bunny); Established Relationship (Raffles/Charleston)
SUMMARY: Set during their time at school. It's the first day of term and Raffles is looking forward to seeing Charlie again and continuing their relationship. However, he meets Bunny and something he could never have foreseen or expected happens, which leaves Raffles no longer certain what his future will entail.
WORD COUNT: 7,785
AUTHOR'S NOTE: If the idea of sex between two school boys, for whom it is legal as far as their age to have sex, even though given the era it is illegal, bothers you please do not read this story.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the characters created by E. W. Hornung, nor am I making any money from them; I merely borrow them from time to time. I do, however, own the original characters.
Hands in my pockets, I made my way across the quad heading towards the main gate to wait for Charlie to arrive. It had been a long eight weeks and I was looking forward to seeing him again and -
"What's going on here?" I demanded, as I saw a group of fourth year boys gathered together in a rough circle; they were all facing inwards and looking down at the ground. A quick glance downwards showed me a foot sticking out between two of the boys - clearly the boy attached to the foot was on the ground.
As one they turned to look at me and stared in clear horror at me. "Raff . . . Raffles," Lynch stammered, as he turned very pale. He was not only a boy from the same house as I, he was also on the second eleven and I had envisaged he would be on the eleven before the end of the year. "We were . . ." He trailed off and just stared at me.
I was known to be a kind boy; a boy who never raised a hand to a boy younger than he; a boy who never touched a boy younger than he in a sexual way; a boy who rarely raised his voice to a boy younger than he. However, I was also known as a boy who did not tolerate bullying and did not condone boys hurting boys younger than they. It was fairly clear by the way the small group of boys were shuffling their feet and looking at me whilst trying not to look at me, that they knew I would not approve of what they were doing.
"Stand aside," I said crisply. After a moment or two during which they glanced at one another, they reluctantly parted thus allowing me to see a boy dressed in the uniform of the school, curled up, with his hands over his head.
"He tripped," Rowe, a known bully from another house, declared. "We were about to help him up, weren't we?" He glanced around at the other boys and after a moment one or two of them nodded slowly.
I hesitated; I could give them detention; I could even beat them (not that I would, but I could). However, it was the first day of term, I had something else to do and somewhere else to be (well I would have soon) and from what I could ascertain from looking down at the boy, it appeared that I had arrived before anything too untoward had been done. I guessed the worst the boy had suffered was a kick or two.
I looked at each of them in turn, holding their gazes and letting them know quite clearly that I knew they were lying. Then I said firmly, "Well, I'm here now, I shall help him up. And you can all go and find something else to do." For a moment they just stood there and stared at me; more than one of them had an open mouth. "Well?" I demanded. "For what are you waiting? Go quickly before I change my mind."
"Yes, Raffles," Lynch murmured. "Thank you, Raffles," he added, grabbing Hyem's arm and hurrying away, the others began to follow them.
I stood and watched. "Devitt," I said quietly. He stopped and turned around and looked at me, I could see his cheeks were reddening under my stare. "I'm surprised at you," I said, letting him know quite clearly that even if he had forgotten, I had not. This time last year he was the boy being bullied; the boy no one seemed to like.
He opened his mouth, closed it again before opening it again and stammering, "Yes, Raffles, I'm sorry, Raffles, I - I'm sorry," he muttered. "It won't happen again."
I gave him a curt nod. "Make quite certain it doesn't."
"It won't." I continued to stare at him until he dared to ask, "May I go now?"
"Yes, you may." He turned. "Devitt," I said, once again stopping him, "find some other friends."
"Yes, Raffles," he said softly, before he hurried off.
I turned back to the boy on the ground. He hadn't moved and for a moment I felt a flash of concern pass through me and then I saw that whilst he hadn't moved, he was trembling. I sighed softly and dropped down onto my heels and put a gentle hand on his shoulder. "It's all right," I said softly, "they've gone; you can get up now." However, he didn't move, he just trembled more. "Come along," I said, making my tone even softer and encouraging, "sit up. I'm not going to hurt you, I promise."
After a moment or two he finally obeyed me and still trembling sat up and stared at me. I bit back a cry of surprise at quite how young he looked. Let us say, were it not for the fact he was dressed in the uniform of the school, I would have thought he was someone's younger brother - he couldn't be thirteen, could he? Except if he wasn't he wouldn't be here.
I stared at his pale, tear streaked face, at the graze on his cheek, at the lighter than my own blue eyes that were full of tears and fear, and finally at his absurdly long blond hair (what on earth had his father been thinking of to allow him to join the school without having had a haircut?). And as I stared at him I knew his time at the school was not going to be an easy one.
He sniffed and dragged the back of his shaking hand over his cheek, I sighed softly and pulled out my handkerchief and handed it to him. "Dry your eyes," I said softly but firmly.
He hesitated for a moment before taking the handkerchief and doing as I bid him. "Thank you," he said softly.
"Are you hurt?" I asked.
Slowly he shook his head. "Not really."
"Good boy," I murmured and without consciously thinking about it, I brushed his hair back from his forehead and let my hand linger for a second or two. "Did you trip?" I asked, not because I didn't know the answer, but because I was curious as to what he would say.
He hesitated for a moment or two and bit his lip as he wiped more tears from his eyes and finally blew his nose. Then he swallowed and slowly nodded, "Yes," he whispered.
"Good boy," I repeated, as I put my hand on his shoulder, then I stood up and held out my hand to him. "Come along, get up."
Again he hesitated; again he looked more than a little afeared. However, finally he accepted my hand and let me pull him to his feet - something, which given how slight he was, I did with ease. He staggered just a little and I kept his hand in mine and put my other hand on his shoulder.
"Do you feel sick or dizzy?" I asked, knowing that if he said yes I would take him to the San.
Slowly he shook his head. "No."
I smiled at him. "Good." We stood there in the middle of the quad with boys milling around us, passing us, some of whom greeted me, others who just hurried by, and I found myself almost reluctant to end the contact with him.
At least I did until I heard my name being called. "A. J.!" I didn't need to look across the quad; I knew the voice so very well. However, I did look up and indeed standing, smiling at me, looking tanned and well, and looking quite a bit taller than when we had parted some eight weeks earlier, was Charlie.
I raised my hand to him and turned back to the young boy whose hand I still had in mine. "Look," I said, "I know it's not exactly the way you wished to begin your time here, but if you want my advice I'd go to the lavatories wash my hands and face and go back to your dorm and try to ignore what happened. Bullies tire far more quickly if they are ignored. Do you want to do that?"
He stared up at me and nodded. "Yes," he said softly.
"That's a good boy," I said, as once more my hand moved to his head and I brushed his hair back. "It'll be time for tea soon and one thing I can promise you is that you'll enjoy it - tea is always very good on the first day of term."
"Thank you," he said, and gave me a small smile.
I ruffled his hair again. "You are very welcome. Now you'll find the lavatories over there," and I pointed them out to him. "And the dining hall is over there," again I pointed, this time in the opposite direction.
"Thank you," he repeated.
I pushed my hands back into my pockets, glanced over his shoulder to where Charlie stood waiting for me - even from across the quad I could see he was less patient than he normally was. I smiled at him and looked back at the boy once again, "Oh and you can keep the handkerchief," I said, "I've got plenty." And before he could reply, I took one of my hands out of my pocket, squeezed his shoulder, forced myself not to ruffle his hair again and turned and strode across the quad.
As I reached Charlie and saw the way he was looking at me, the incident, indeed the boy himself had vanished from my mind. "Hello, Charlie," I said, taking his arm.
"Hello, A. J. Did you miss me?" And he smiled.
I didn't answer him, I simply turned and with my hand holding his arm tightly, I began to stride off in the direction of the sixth form studies, hoping desperately that no one would stop us. They didn't and in a matter of less than a minute we were inside my study, my back was pressed against the door, one of his hands were tangled in my hair, his mouth was on mine, my lip was bleeding, and his tongue was demanding entrance to my mouth.
As I parted my lips for him, his hand moved down my body and talented, experienced fingers swiftly unbuttoned my trousers and seconds later his hand was inside my drawers and had closed around me. And then he was stroking me with quick, hard strokes, until within mere seconds my body tensed and I cried his name into his mouth as my body got the release it hadn't had at anyone's hands but my own since the last day of the summer term.
I sagged against him slightly, breathing hard, my heart racing as I gulped in some air. "Well," he said, pushing me upright to lean against the door once more, "I see you did miss me," and again he smiled.
With a half growl I grabbed his head, pulled it towards me and plundered his mouth with mine. My teeth grazed his lower lip and for a moment I tasted our mingled blood as my tongue became the one to demand access to his mouth, and my hand moved down his body to unbutton his drawers.
Once I had unbuttoned them and had pulled his hard flesh from inside his drawers, I stroked him swiftly for a second or two before breaking the kiss and pressing back against the door as I stared at him. "Here?" he asked with a hint of surprise as he read my look.
I nodded. "Yes," and I pushed my trousers and drawers down, turned around, braced myself with my hands against the door and waited. I didn't have to wait long before I got exactly what I wanted - what we both wanted. His slightly shaky fingers brushed around me and slipped inside me for a second or two before they were replaced with what I wanted inside me. I bit my lip at the sharp pain, the almost insidious pain and forced myself to relax around him. As always he felt far too large to be where he was, but I knew from experience the pain would pass, or at least decrease and the sheer pleasure of feeling him moving inside me, of feeling a level of intimacy that went beyond anything else, would take over.
His hands were holding my waist, pulling me back against him and helping to support me as he started to move inside me. I was already hard again, but could do nothing about it as I needed the support the door was giving me so I bit my lip again, this time biting down so hard I once more tasted blood and tried to ignore what the hardening part of my body so desperately wanted.
Suddenly Charlie changed his grip on me, sliding his arm around my waist to hold me tightly, securely, firmly against him, whilst with his other hand he fumbled a little until he found my hardness which he enclosed in his hand and stroked me with the same rhythm as he was moving inside me.
"Charlie!" I cried, as my second release made his hand wet and sticky; seconds later I felt his release inside me as he cried my name.
We stood there, breathing hard, gasping for breath, our bodies both trembling, my head was pounding, my body felt damp with perspiration and my arms ached from supporting me. Slowly I began to straighten up and felt Charlie slip from inside of me as he let go of me and fumbled in his pocket for his handkerchief, he handed it to me and then pulled his second handkerchief (Charlie always carried two handkerchiefs and they were always clean) from his other pocket.
I pulled my trousers and drawers back up and balled his used handkerchief up and dropped it onto the floor and turned around to stare at him. He looked flushed, perspiration covered his face and the look he was giving me told me quite clearly that he hadn't had enough - which suited me perfectly because neither had I.
I locked the door I suddenly realised I hadn't locked, grabbed his hand, threw the handkerchief he still held onto the floor along with the one I had dropped and dragged him through into my bedroom. I closed the door and we both stripped and fell together onto my bed hands and mouths already reconnecting.
Our kisses had gentled, as had the way we touched one another and the intense passion we had shared, a passion that had been almost brutal in the way we had been so desperate for one another, had faded into the deep love I knew we had for one another.
"I did miss you, Charlie," I murmured as I touched his cheek.
He smiled and kissed me. "I missed you too, A. J. I swear the weeks went more slowly this year than ever before."
I stared up at him and wondered not for the first time if what we had was too intense. We would both turn eighteen before Christmas and had been doing things with one another since we were barely thirteen and although, naturally, both of us had done things with other boys, at least to begin with, it had never matched up to what we had together.
We already had out lives planned; lives that would be spent together. We would both go to Cambridge in two years, Charlie to study medicine, I to study the classics, with a view to going into law, and then to London where we would - be together. At times I thought we were foolish and that what we had wasn't the love I - we - believed it to be. How could it be? We were both still boys, how could we know what we would wish from life? Surely it was just a school boy thing - a very intense school boy thing, one that was far more intense and far closer than any other of which I knew, but still a school boy things. Wouldn't we grow up and move apart? Wouldn't we want more from life than one another? Would we not want a wife and a family?
These things did pass through my mind from time to time. However, every time they did I only had to think of Charlie and his mouth on mine and his hands on my body, and the hesitation faded and I knew what I had with him could not be bettered. I didn't want anything or anyone else in my life - I had what I wanted.
The tea bell rang and I stared at Charlie. "Hungry?"
"What do you think?" he murmured, and the next second his mouth was back on mine and his hand was once again around me.
It really had been a long eight weeks and whilst I had of course touched myself (what boy doesn't?) it wasn't the same. I know other boys boasted about what they had done with local girls during the holidays, but I did not.
When I had returned home for the Christmas hols after turning twelve in the November, Father had given me a lecture. In it he had made it quite clear that what I did at school was one thing - although he had pointed out that he expected me to be respectful of younger boys in the way I had been brought up to be - and he understood that boys will be boys. However, whilst I was under his roof, he told me, I would conduct myself in the way Mother and he expected me to behave. Thus, even if there had been a local girl in whom I had the slightest bit of interest, I would have obeyed Father and acted in accordance with his wishes.
Some time later tThe supper bell sounded and we were still in my bed, still catching up on eight weeks of not being able to see one another, kiss one another and touch one another. Suddenly Charlie swore softly.
"We have to go and bathe, A. J.," he said, kissing me quickly before sitting up and pushing the covers back.
"Char-" I stared to say and then I remembered. I sighed and got out of bed and grabbed my dressing gown. "Do you think Dobson would miss us?" I asked.
"Yes, A. J., I know he would. Now come on, let's go and bathe and join the others and then . . ." The way he looked at me made me give serious consideration to pushing him back onto my bed and facing Dobson in the morning.
He must have read my mind as he moved away from me. "Bathroom," he said firmly, grabbing my hand.
I sighed and let him lead me out of my bedroom. On the first evening of the new school year the sixth formers were assigned fags. Well they were in the other houses; however, old Dobson preferred to let his sixth form boys choose their fags, or at least have some say in the matter.
Neither Charlie nor I had particularly wanted a fag, but Dobson had made it clear refusing was not an option. Thus after bathing and dressing we headed towards the house hall where the new boys and our fellow lower sixth formers were gathered - at least the younger boys were, only one of two of our year were there.
I was a little surprised to discover that in spite of how we had spent the afternoon and the early part of the evening, we appeared to be early - or maybe it was that all the other boys were late. However, given Dobson regarded tardiness as the eleventh deadly sin, I decided it was Charlie and I who were early.
We stopped just inside the room and glanced at the younger boys who seemed for the most part to be doing everything they could to avoid looking at us. Of course some of them seemed confident and almost bored - and I instantly ruled those out, they were not the kind of boy I wished to have as my fag. Charlie and I had agreed that we would take boys who were not likely to be wanted by anyone else, boys who seemed nervous, afeared even; boys who might well be the kind of boy who would be bullied and if at all possible boys who at least liked one another.
Suddenly my gaze came to rest on a head of blond hair that topped a small figure - it was the boy I had rescued earlier. Standing next to him, looking almost as nervous as the blond haired boy was another boy; he was a few inches taller (which wouldn't be difficult) had light brown hair and kept swallowing hard as he glanced around him.
I touched Charlie's hand and nodded towards them; Charlie raised an eyebrow and shrugged; hands in our pockets we walked across the room. "Hello again," I said, putting my hand on the boy's shoulder. As we stopped in front of the two boys, the entire room fell silent as both sixth form (by now they were all in the room) and third form boys all turned to look at me.
For a moment I thought he wasn't going to answer me. But then slowly he lifted his head a little and glanced up at me through his heavy fringe. "Hel . . . Hello, sir," he whispered.
I frowned; that was something else neither Charlie nor I liked: the younger boys calling us 'sir'. "I'm not a master," I said firmly, "you don't call me sir. It's Raffles."
I heard he gulp and he nodded. "I know," he whispered as he twisted his hands in front of him.
"Look at me," I said firmly, "properly," I added. "Lift your head and look at me."
After a second or two he did and I frowned as I saw that along with the graze I had seen on his cheek earlier, his left eye was slightly swollen. "I walked into a door," he said quickly, as he lowered his gaze.
I sighed softly and once more without intending to do so, I brushed his fringe from his face. "What's your name?"
"And your Christian name?"
"Well, Harry Manders, how would you like to be my fag?" I heard the collective gasp of boys around me and then heard some start to mutter something. Charlie just stood by my side, his hands still in his pockets, watching me.
"Me?" I nodded. "But I can't play cricket." The room erupted into laughter, which stopped when as one Charlie and I turned around and stared at the other boys.
After just staring at them all in silence, we turned back. "You don't need to be able to play cricket," I said.
"Are you sure?" He sounded surprised.
I smiled. "Yes," I said, putting my hand back onto his shoulder and squeezing it as I stared down at him. As he gazed back up at me, I suddenly knew I couldn't call him 'Manders', it just wouldn't feel right and naturally I didn't wish to use his Christian name. I would just have to think of something else to call him.
Suddenly Charlie spoke for the first time. "And who are you?"
The other boy spoke. "Oliver Urquhart, si-"
"Charleston," Charlie said firmly. "Edward Charleston. Are you and Manders here friends?" Both boys nodded and Charlie glanced at me and raised an eyebrow; I gave him a half nod. "Well, then Urquhart I do believe you'd make a fine fag for me, if you'd like to, of course."
I watched Urquhart's eyes become painfully wide and heard mutters coming from the rest of the sixth form. After standing in silence for a moment or two, Urquhart swallowed. "Thank you, si- Charleston, I'd like that."
Charlie smiled for the first time and briefly squeezed Urquhart's shoulder, before returning his hand to his pocket. "Good," he said.
THE FIRST DAY AFTER THE AUTUMN HALF TERM
My train had been severely delayed and by the time I got to the school it was mid-afternoon. Due to circumstances beyond our control, Charlie and I had barely had time to say hello to one another, let alone connect in the way we always did upon returning to the school after the holidays.
However, he had promised that once the third formers had gone to bed, he would join me in my study. It was after supper and I was waiting for Bunny to arrive. I had given him the name 'Bunny' within a few minutes of taking him back to my study with me, due to the fact that as he stood and stared at me, almost trembling when I spoke to him, he reminded me of a rabbit.
I am not certain it was the kindest name I could have given him. Indeed with the benefit of hindsight, I rather feared it was something of an insulting name - and yet I cannot deny it fitted him and he didn't seem to mind me calling him 'Bunny' or 'my rabbit'. What neither he nor I liked were my fellow sixth formers calling him 'A. J.'s pet rabbit'. However, I had to admit that the fact that they did was entirely my own fault, as in fact Charlie had told me quite calmly after listening to me complain about Bunny being called 'A. J.'s pet rabbit'.
As I had no duties for Bunny to perform and I knew that Charlie had none for Urquhart, I was considering after saying hello to him and asking him if he'd had a good half term and letting him spend a few minutes with me telling him to return to the dorm - then I could spend more time with Charlie.
A light knock on my door, followed by it being quietly opened made me turn around and there stood Bunny smiling at me. The first thing I noticed was that his father's will had prevailed during the hols as Bunny's hair was now considerably shorter than it had been upon him joining the school. To my surprise I felt a pang of regret race through me; it was a far more suitable length, but I knew I would miss being able to tangle it around my fingers and push it back from his face. - something I suddenly realised I did far more often than I should.
"Hello, Raffles," he murmured as he just gazed at me in the way he always did.
I had to swallow hard before I said softly, "Hello, Bunny," and I held out my arms to him. He hesitated for a second or two as a look of faint surprise appeared on his face before he hurried across the room and into my arms, sliding his carefully around my waist.
I made the embrace a little tighter, gathering him a little more closely against me and I heard him sigh softly with what was obviously pleasure as he rested his head against my shoulder. I had put my arm around his shoulders on many occasions, but it was the first time I had embraced him, and as we stood there, as I smelt the scent of his freshly washed hair and felt him rest against me, I realised quite how right it felt. Even though it really wasn't right at all; I shouldn't be holding a third former in quite such an intimate manner.
"Good hols?" I asked after a moment or two during which we just stood in silence.
I felt him shrug and then he put his head back a little and gazed up at me. "They were all right," he said and then added, "but I missed you."
To my surprise I heard myself say, "I missed you too, my rabbit."
His eyes widened and his mouth fell open just a little as he stared in surprise at me. "Did you?" he finally whispered. "Did you, really?"
"Yes, Bunny, yes, my dear rabbit, I did. I really did." Even as I said the words I knew they were true; I wasn't just telling him what he wanted to hear.
He swallowed and I saw a faint flush touch his cheeks before he gave me a soft smile and once more rested his head against my shoulder and pressed himself just a little more against me. As I stood there holding him, enjoying the feel of him in my arms, I realised that something had changed subtly. I wasn't entirely certain what the something was and what if anything it meant. I just knew something had changed and I wasn't certain I liked it.
"Chocolate!" I declared suddenly, pushing him away from me a little and holding him in a much looser embrace. "Chocolate and cocoa, would you like that, Bunny?"
He looked at me and smiled. "Yes, please, Raffles," he said eagerly, "I'll go and make the cocoa, shall I?"
I smiled and let my arms fall to my sides. "That's my good boy," I said, as he turned and hurried towards the door. As he left my study I realised somewhat worryingly that had I suggested - well pretty much anything, he would have greeted my words as eagerly. He was that in awe of me; that fond of me; that - I pushed the thought from my mind and instead went into my bedroom to fetch the chocolate from my case.
We sat on the sofa, just as we always did. We sat close enough to touch, closer than boys usually sat next to one another under usual circumstances, eating chocolate and drinking cocoa as he told me about his half term and how his father had indeed insisted upon him having such a short haircut.
He clearly didn't like it as short as it was as from time to time I saw him pulling on a strand or two. "It'll grow, Bunny," I said softly, sliding my hand under it. I couldn't wrap it around my fingers as I usually did, but I could still enjoy the soft feel of it as I stroked his scalp for a moment or two.
I gave him another bar of chocolate to take back to the dorm to share with Urquhart and then after a moment's thought gave him a second one so that he could share it with the other boys in the dorm. It wasn't that he was particularly friendly with the other boys, indeed he was the victim of their rags far more often than any other boy, but chocolate always made boys look more kindly on you - even if only for the time it took to eat the chocolate.
"Thank you, Raffles," he said, as he clutched the chocolate and gazed up at me.
"You're welcome, my rabbit." My hand moved to his hair and even though his hair had no need to be pushed back, I did so anyway and I heard him make a soft noise. "Sleep well, Bunny," I said, squeezing his shoulder.
He smiled at me. "Thank you and I hope you sleep well too."
"I'm sure I shall, Bunny." I let my hand linger on his shoulder for a moment, before I put both hands in my pockets and watched as he opened the door and hurried off along the hallway. I stood for a moment staring after him wondering if -
The next moment all thoughts of Bunny vanished as Charlie appeared from his study. He closed the door behind him, strode towards me and backed me into mine where he paused for long enough to lock my study door before pulling me into my bedroom. Again it was he who closed the door a mere second before his mouth met mine and his fingers began to unbutton my trousers as he pulled me towards him.
I did sleep well; I slept very well - as did Charlie. In fact we both slept so well, it wasn't until we were both awoken by the sound of someone knocking on my study door and thus realised we had both fallen asleep in my bed.
THE EVENING BEFORE TERM ENDED FOR THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS
"Happy Christmas, Bunny," I said holding out a wrapped book.
He stared at me and then at the present I was holding and then back at me. "But . . . but . . . but, Raffles. It's . . ."
"A gift, Bunny," I said firmly. "For you," I added.
Slowly he took it and looked at it as he turned it over in his hands; I smiled down at him. "Thank you," he whispered, as he looked back at me. "Thank you, Raffles."
"You, my rabbit," I said, taking it from him and putting it down on the table before I put my arms around him and gathered him near to me, "are very welcome."
"But why?" he asked a moment or two later.
"Because I wished to, Bunny." He moved back a little and looked up at me. "You're very - I just wished to give you a small gift, my rabbit," I said, brushing his hair back for him. It hadn't grown very much, but it was now easier to tangle around my fingers and brush back from his forehead. I just hoped his father wouldn't insist on him having another haircut during the Christmas hols. And then I had a thought, "Will your parents object?"
He thought for a moment and then shook his head. "No."
"Are you quite certain?" I hadn't thought about it when I'd bought the book for him, but now I did wonder if it might seem a little strange for a boy to give a gift to a much younger one. It was possible his parents (well his father, given he too had attended a public school) might wonder if my reasons for doing so were not honourable ones.
"I'm certain, Raffles. I've told them everything about you."
I raised an eyebrow. "I rather hope not quite everything, my rabbit," I said and smiled down at him to ensure my words didn't upset him.
He shook his head quickly. "Oh, no, of course I haven't told them about - that," he whispered. "I'd never tell anyone about that - you know that, don't you, Raffles?"
I gathered him back into a closer embrace. "Of course I do, Bunny. Do you think I would have asked you to help me, if for a moment I had believed you would tell anyone? I trust you, Bunny, I trust you completely."
I heard him sigh a little, a soft sound, low and melodious; it was a sigh I knew well - it meant he was happy. "Even Charleston doesn't know, does he?"
I shook my head even though he wouldn't be able to see it as he still had his head against my shoulder. "No, Bunny, even Charlie doesn't know; he wouldn't approve." And he wouldn't; he most certainly wouldn't.
Charlie and I may be close, too close some boys said; we may be open and honest with one another - but one thing I would never tell him was about my ventures into town on some evenings. No, the only boy who knew about those was my beloved rabbit, who despite being afeard of being caught willingly helped me.
THE FIRST DAY OF TERM AFTER THE EASTER HOLIDAYS
"A. J.?" Charlie said, lifting his head from the pillow and looking at me.
"There is something I need to tell you."
I didn't know why but Charlie's words made me feel quite chilled, and the sense of pleasure and heaviness which had been moving though my body after the time we had spent in his bed began to fade. I realised suddenly it was the use of the word 'need' that troubled me, as well as the fact that he had let his gaze flicker away from me for a second or two after he had said the words.
I swallowed. "Go ahead." I hoped my tone was more nonchalant than I felt.
"It's just that - Oh, it can wait." And before I could say anything, his mouth was back on mine, his tongue was demanding I part my lips for him and his hand was around me as he began to stroke me hard and fast in the way he knew I liked best of all. It didn't take long before I was crying his name softly and the hand that still held me was wet and sticky.
It was only after I had said goodnight to Bunny and watched as he trotted down the hallway on his way back to the third form dorm, carrying the bars of chocolate I had given him, that I remembered Charlie's words.
I hesitated for no more than a second or two before I pulled my study door shut, knocked on Charlie's door and called out, "It's me, Charlie." No one but I called him Charlie - it was my name for him - thus even had he not recognised my voice (which I was quite certain he would) he would have known who was outside.
"Come in, A. J." The reply came just a second later than it normally took him to reply.
I swallowed, pushed open the door and went inside. I closed the door and leant against it. "What do you need to tell me, Charlie?" I said softly, but in a firm tone.
He sighed, put the book down he had been holding and stood up. He came across the room to me, reached around me to lock his door before he put his arms around me and kissed me. As I returned the kiss, I realised he had never kissed me as gently, as lovingly, as - I didn't know what word to use to describe the kiss, I just knew he had never kissed me as he was kissing me now.
"I love you, A. J.," he said softly, when he finally broke the kiss. "You do know that, do you not?"
I nodded. Of course I did; it wasn't something we said often, in fact I wasn't certain we had ever actually said it as such, but I knew it. "I love you too, Charlie."
"I know," he said quietly. "I know you do, A. J., and that's what makes this so hard to say."
I frowned. "Charlie? What is it?" And then I had an awful, a terrible thought. "You're not ill, are you?" I found I was holding onto him more tightly than I had been.
Quickly he shook his head and cupped my cheek. "No, A. J., I'm perfectly well. It's just -" He closed his eyes for a moment as he reached for my hand. "I'm not coming to Cambridge with you, A. J." He opened his eyes and stared at me.
"Why not, Charlie? We agreed, we'd -"
"I know, A. J., I know what we agreed: Cambridge; London; you'd go into law; I'd become a doctor and we'd have rooms together and be together for -"
"Always," I whispered, as I gripped his shoulder and stared at him. "We agreed. It's what we both wanted, isn't it?"
"Yes, A. J. Yes. But things change; people change; feelings change."
I shook my head. "No. No, Charlie. Not you and I. Other people change, but we - What did you say?"
"You heard me, A. J."
"What do you mean? What has Bunny to do with it?"
He stared at me. "I'm going to Oxford, A. J. It's the right thing for both of us - and we'll still see one another, cricket matches and maybe . . . When you're away from the school then . . . I'm sorry, A. J.," he whispered, and before I could say or do anything he was kissing me again, so gently, so sweetly, so perfectly as he pulled me tightly against him.
THE FINAL DAY OF TERM
I sat in the dining hall with Bunny next to me and Charlie on the opposite side of the table as I thought about the two boys I loved - because I had finally admitted that I did love Bunny - and would miss so very much. The two boys I wanted to remain in my life and not just as friends; the two boys who were quite different from one another.
I couldn't have them both, not in the way I wanted them - even I have some morals, and if I didn't Charlie had enough for both of us. Life with Charlie would be much simpler and the sex would be - well quite different from what sex with Bunny would be like. Not that I would contemplate sex with Bunny until he had left the school, but I would never be able to enjoy the kind of sex Charlie and I had always enjoyed. Bunny was . . . Well smaller, innocent - quite, quite different. Charlie and I were of an age whereas Bunny was so young - how could I love him? How could I be contemplating him being in my life in the future?
But I did and I was.
A FEW HOURS LATER
Charlie and I had said a very lengthy and intimate goodbye a short while ago one which had left my body tingling and my mouth feeling somewhat bruised. I didn't need to look in a mirror to know that my eyes would be as red as Charlie's had been when he had pulled me back into his arms and had kissed me for the final time before he had turned and left my study.
To my surprise, despite his announcement that he was going to Oxford, the relationship Charlie and I had shared for some years didn't change. We still went to bed together, we still kissed, we still touched; we still did everything we had done. Nothing had changed - and yet everything had.
I stood in my study, which given no longer had my pictures on the wall or anything else of mine visible no longer seemed to belong to me, and knew I would miss the school very much And in particular I would miss two boys.
Bunny's eyes were red as he opened the door and came slowly into my study. I stared at him and had to blink back tears of my own. "Come here, Bunny," I said softly, and held out my arms to him. He hurried across the room and flung himself into my arms and began to sob as he clung to me. "Don't cry, my rabbit," I murmured softly, "please, my dear Bunny, don't cry."
"I'll miss you, Raffles. I'll miss you so much. I'll - Oh, Raffles, don't leave me."
"I have to, Bunny, you know I have to. And I will miss you too."
"Yes, my rabbit. I will miss you very much. Very much indeed."
He moved back a little and fumbled in his pocket, but I was quicker and I handed him my handkerchief. He dried his eyes and cheeks and blew his nose as he gazed up at me. "Raffles?"
"Will you kiss me?"
I wanted to do nothing more than to do as he desired. As I stood and stared down at him I knew. I knew; I had made my decision. However, as much, as deeply, as I wished to kiss Bunny and as confident as I was that Charlie already knew what my decision would be, I knew that until I made my peace with Charlie, until I actually told him, until we were officially no longer . . . I could not kiss Bunny. It wouldn't be right; it wouldn't be fair; it would be neither right nor fair to Charlie, to Bunny or to me.
Thus, I shook my head and sighed softly as tears began to slip from his eyes. "Don't, my rabbit," I murmured, as I wiped the tears away with my fingers. "Please don't cry." He swallowed hard and bit his lip and finally the tears stopped.
"Come here." And I pulled him back into my arms. "Now listen to me, my dear Bunny. Listen to me carefully."
"Yes, Raffles," he murmured, his head pleasantly warm and heavy against my shoulder.
"I won't kiss you now, Bunny. But I will make you a promise; a promise, my rabbit - and you know how import promises are to me, do you not? How seriously I view them?"
I felt him nod his head and heard his whisper, "Yes."
"That's my good boy. The promise is this, Bunny. I won't, as I said, kiss you now. However, once you leave the school for good, that very summer I shall ask my parents if you might come and visit me and then, if you still wish me too do so, I shall kiss you, my rabbit. Annd then well . . . What do you think about living in London?"
He lifted his head and tilted it back a little as he stared at me. "Raffles? Do you . . . Are you . . . Raffles?" he whispered.
I bent my head and just for a moment put my lips on his forehead - it didn't count as a kiss. "Yes, my rabbit," I said, as I pulled him back into a tight embrace. "I do indeed mean it."
And I did. With a few words I had let go of one life and stared another. I would miss Charlie; I would miss kissing him; I would miss going to bed with him. I would miss touching him; I would miss him very much indeed and I would always love him - but . . .
He had been correct when he had said things change; people change; feelings change. I swallowed hard around the lump that was forming in my throat. I swallowed for the loss of my best friend; the loss of the life I'd had all planned out; the loss of in many ways my innocence. And as I swallowed and thought about what I had lost, I also let myself think about what I had gained - and even more about what in three years I would gain.
Master list of my Raffles/Bunny stories