Annnd my fear to fic lasted exactly two days. AWESOME! A new record ...
TITLE: Everything I've Wanted
Fandom: Raffles bookverse by E.W. Hornung
Pairing: Bunny Manders/AJ Raffles
Contains: Schmoop, Misunderstandings, Confessions
Summary: After "A Trap to Catch A Cracksman", Raffles isn't quite himself.
It was shortly after our adventure at Maguire's that I noticed the change in Raffle's general mood. I dare say that no one but myself would notice such a change, subtle as it was and Raffles as obtuse as he was wont to be.
But it was there. A newly diffident attitude that ebbed and flowed throughout much of the time we spent together, especially when alone in Albany. More than once I caught him examining me when he thought me unawares and I was perturbed by his sudden flush of color, as well as the flustered turning of his head away from me.
He was uncharacteristically restless, picking up and putting down the evening papers which normally absorbed him completely. His razor-sharp mind turned frighteningly forgetful and it was more than once I had to remind him where he laid his drink or to stub out a Sullivan that was threatening to burn to ash between his very fingers.
These oddities of habit embarrassed him and more than once he asked me to leave rather early, claiming tiredness, but I could see the nervous energy in his bright eyes turned to exhaustion when I came 'round to ask him to breakfast.
"You haven't slept, have you?" I commented when he finally dressed for coffee. He looked haggard, as if there was some terrible weight on his soul and I couldn't help but ache with worry for him. Obviously, there was something bothering him, some important bit of information he once again refused to share, but I couldn't find it in my heart to be cross with him about it. I worried instead, as Raffles was my dear friend as well as partner in crime and I had no wish but for his happiness, often at the expense of my own.
"I slept well enough, Bunny." He didn't even look up from his coffee to meet my eyes when telling me this obvious falsehood, which wasn't like him at all, as Raffles had a certain honor about the art of deceit, second only to his strictures regarding the art of theft.
"Can't even bother to lie properly. It must be something dreadful." I kept my tone mild. An argument wouldn't suit us now, it would only lead to rebellion and estrangement -- I knew Raffles well enough by this time to know that his breaking point was rather close at hand. "Why not ease your mind and share it with me?"
"That too? Don't I share enough with you?" Petulantly, but the sorrow in his handsome face was palpable as he put down his coffee. He lit a cigarette and sighed through the smoke. "If you must. I am suffering at the moment, but it is nothing you need be afraid of. It's a personal matter ..."
"Of the heart?" I gasped, unable to stop my mind from leaping to a thousand conclusions, all of them unpleasant as I was possessive and jealous of anyone who twigged Raffles' attention away from me. It was one of my least attractive traits, among a host of positively despicable ones and perhaps I should have hid it a bit better for Raffles grinned at my outburst, amused for the first time in some days.
"Why, yes, as a matter of fact. But again, it is of no consequence. I'm in the process of forcing it from my mind and will be back in the game of cold calculation in no time at all."
"But it's not in your mind, it's in your heart," I rejoined, my spirits sinking, wondering who this pretty thief might be, she who stole my hopes without even me noticing. Of all the rum things, that I'd be robbed of something as priceless as Raffles' affections without a clue that the atrocity had even taken place!
Raffles peered at me thoughtfully, before stubbing out the Sullivan. "Yes, I suppose you're right. Perhaps that's why I've been so far unsuccessful at the cut-off. Heartfelt hope is so incredibly difficult to squash."
I couldn't help but sigh aloud. This was a disaster like no other I'd faced before and I was not in the least sanguine about my ultimate fate. "Is she beautiful?"
"Beyond all imagination."
"Yes. As well as courageous, loyal and full of pluck."
I nearly groaned, but forced myself to quietly mourn, for Raffles' mood had brightened by merely speaking about her, his usual radiance returning, becoming even brighter as he spoke of her charm, traits that sounded unusual for any lady we knew, but then again, Raffles never would have fallen for any ordinary person, certainly.
"Why don't you go for it then?" I said finally, rising to pour myself a whiskey, as early in the day as it was. To hell with all propriety, to hell with everything, I thought bitterly as I tossed down the burning liquid. My vision of a comfortable life was quickly fading, along with all my admittedly slim chances at happiness ... what was a bit of inappropriate drinking compared to that?
If Raffles was concerned with my behavior, he didn't show it. His distraction was telling as he addressed the subject of his love with distressing warmth. "I'm very much afraid that I'll be rejected. In truth, I'm too fearful to attempt anything, lest I turn away their friendly regard. I have no idea how a confession will be taken and if I lose their friendship ..." Here, he paused and once again, the dread and sorrow I'd seen in his face returned, turning him into a remnant of his usual carefree self. "I would consider cracking the Tower of London itself before attempting to breach that particular wall, I'm afraid."
"I can't see how being a suffering layabout is any better." The two drinks I'd had by now had made me braver in showing my distress, as well as aggravation over this unexpected and loathsome situation. "How long do you expect to pine and have your skills waste away so? You aren't sleeping, you aren't eating properly and you can't even remember where you've put your whiskey half the time. How long will you wait or will you let it ruin you entirely, Raffles?"
He looked taken aback at me, but eventually, he merely shrugged. "It's only been a fortnight. All right, let me amend that it's been longer than that, but unrecognized for what it really is, which is love. I didn't understand it at the time, I excused many of my actions and feelings as mere friendship, but I have other friends and do not feel so for them, thus ..."
"Right. As you feel for me, of course." My god, if jealousy were fire, I'd be blackened and smoking by that point, but of what use was it? I could only silently despair, lost soul that I was and do my best by my friend who was confiding his deepest feeling to me. It would have been churlish for me not to stand by him in this, as in everything else and so my sad fate was sealed. I took a deep breath and gave him my best look of approval. "That's very nice, I suppose."
"You're not really listening, are you?" Raffles said, with surprising indulgence. "Let me tell you what happened two weeks ago, my dear Bunny."
I steeled myself to hear the tale that would break my heart with a nod and a grin, sitting across as he leaned toward me, his face bright and beautiful enough to tear down any resistance, though God knows I'd never had any when it came to him. "Go on, please."
He took a deep breath before starting. "For my entire life, I've counted solely on myself and my wits to see me through, to not only live upon but to live well. Well enough to obtain the most frivolous desires, to get me through danger easily enough to enjoy the thrill without paying any hard price and to keep myself intact, body and liberty both. But a fortnight ago, I failed at this, putting myself in terrible jeopardy and was laid out, helpless, ready to pay for my deeds, perhaps with my life."
I blinked at him. Why was he speaking of Maguire's again? It made no sense ... there was no available lady involved. This was not what I was expecting, but then again, A.J. Raffles didn't deal in the expected.
Not heeding my confused looks, Raffles continued. "I always thought that I'd be prepared to face that eventuality alone ... rarely a moment goes by when a criminal does not imagine his capture ... but instinctively, my spirit rebelled against the notion, not only of capture but of the conviction that I was by myself in all this. Half out of my mind, I cried out for a certain someone, instinctively, with all my soul and spirit and indeed, my heart and ... oh dear, Bunny. Like an arrow they came! Without thought for themselves, risking their very life without hesitation or reproach. Indeed, they were indignant at my well-deserved state, threatening to take on frightful giants for me and it was at that moment that I realized ..." He looked at me so sweetly, as flummoxed and breathless as I was, his entire soul shining from his perfect face. "That I could never be alone, that my deliverer owned my heart, had always owned it and I would be lost without them. What could this be but love and the purest, best love at that? And yet, I would not disgust them with my affections, being as it were ... not the usual object of a gentleman's attention. I'm in a bit of a predicament, my best rabbit, and I'm not sure how to proceed."
With such nervous intent, Raffles looked upon me, as slack-jawed and gaping as I was. "Will you help me, Bunny? Or, at the very least, not destroy me, which you have all rights and means to do? I do not deserve such consideration, but if you'd show me the least kindness in this matter ..."
"The least kindness ..." I breathed, dizzy with realization and lightheaded with joy. "All my kindness ... and love ... is yours in all things, Raffles. Did you not know that?"
"I hadn't dared to hope," he whispered in reply, somehow gotten close enough to frame my face with his warm, soft hands. How his eyes gleamed with happiness, as well as relief and when our lips met, it was no great revelation, merely an action as natural and welcome as breathing. That wasn't to say I took no pleasure in it, as did my dear Raffles, who had skills aplenty besides the ones he was famous ... and infamous ... for.
I have no idea how long we spent together, entwined, skin-to-skin, but never had I known such peace, forgetting for those few hours all my doubts and sins, lying without guilt in the arms of the one I loved. There was no better feeling than this and even Raffles admitted as much, kissing his way down my throat, telling me everything I wanted to know ... at least in this he didn't hold back!
Later, when the smoke of our Sullivans mingled above the bed, Raffles whispered to me, in that elegant voice of his, telling me of his plans for the 'morrow and how he would amaze the victims of his next haul, deserving as they were, mean louts of lower government, of the coming shock.
He kissed my ear between the description of every item he was intent on snatching. "Shall I tell you the whole plan?"
"You're going to start that now?" I replied with a laugh.
"I only ever kept things from you to amaze you in the end. You must believe that."
"You only succeeded in infuriating me."
"Not even a little amazed?"
I turned toward him, sighing when our noses touched. "Perhaps a little amazed. You may keep me always in suspense if it pleases you, dear A.J. I shouldn't be your astonished rabbit otherwise and then what use would I be?" I was only joking, but a look at Raffles face told me that his response was in deadly earnest.
"You are all things to me. Everything," he murmured against my throat, intent on taking me again and I trembled at the passion in his voice, there for me and me alone.
Which, in the end, turned out to be everything I ever wanted.
Who can I blackmail into writing in this universe? HUH? WHO? :D :D