All the King's Horses
Part I: Chapter 3

It was impossible to describe the feeling of dread that settled in the bottom on his stomach as she led him up the stairs. This was anything but a good idea. “How about if I just wait down here…”

“No. Come on. We’re not doing anything wrong, Rafe.”

“Well… That’s a matter of opinion. I’m sure Jamal would think you being anywhere near me was pretty much wrong, and you know, I’m not entirely sure that I disagree with him…”

She turned on the top step to glare at him. “Stop being such a baby. All I’m going to do is drop off these things, then we can go do… whatever. Alright?”

“I’m not being a baby,” Rafe mumbled in reply, he sighed before taking the next step with her tugging at his arm. “I still don’t see why you can’t drop off these things just fine without me.”

“Because you’re helping me carry them.” Alison let go of his hand to unlock the door. “If it makes you feel any better, Jamal isn’t even here.”

“No. No, that doesn’t make me feel better at all.”

She glared at him again, opening the door and making a motion for him to pass. He didn’t move. “Rafe, it will just take five minutes. If that! Would you just go, please?”

“Well…” He shifted uncomfortably. “I guess since you said please…” It was fairly easy for him to decide he had a serious problem not being able to say no to her. “But I am so not staying here long.”

Alison rolled her eyes. “The apartment doesn’t bite.”

“Yeah, well,” he muttered, walking past her and inside, staring at the air in front of the sofa. The memories rushed him. Her lips, her hair, the way she tasted, he cursed himself silently. He was going straight to hell. And something kept telling him it was a very, very bad idea to return to the scene of the crime.


He turned to look at her, found that she had taken off her coat and thrown it over the back of the sofa, and tried his best to ignore her smirk. “Alison?”

“You can put the bags down over here if you want,” she said slowly, as if speaking to a child that wasn’t listening.

“Right. Bags. I’m sorry.”

“What is it with you always apologizing to me when you’re in here?”

“Do you really want me to answer that question?”

“The quicker you sit those down over here the quicker we can go.”

“Right,” he repeated, cautiously stepping over to drop the bags on the counter before backing up again and putting distance between them. “There. They’re here. Can I go now?”

“Why are you so nervous?”

“Do you really need to ask?” he countered, slipping out of his coat and throwing it over the counter beside the bags.

“Would you like stop answering my questions with questions?”

Rafe crossed his arms over his chest. He leaned back against the opposite counter almost causally. “Would you stop asking so many questions?” he couldn’t help but tease her. Catching the dishtowel she threw at him easily, he smiled and sat it down beside him. “I really don’t think I should be here, or that no matter where I am you should be with me.”

“Don’t tell me what I should and shouldn’t do!” She opened one bag, putting things away in a flurry of motion, making sure for the time being to keep the space between them. “I hate it when people tell me what I should and shouldn’t do and stuff like that! My grandmother tried it-”

“And you moved out, let her disown you, and committed to a perfect, happy life with Jamal.”

“Only it’s not perfect! And it’s not even all that happy either! And lately, it’s not just me and Jamal, it’s Valerie and Jamal and me. I’m on the outside. He’s like all wrapped up in helping her, and he’s doing this good deed, and all that, but he like totally doesn’t care about my feelings! Instead, he invited that woman to live in my home! This was supposed to be our place to get away from our problems, you know? Only it’s not anymore! Now it’s like, ‘the scene of the crime’ because he caught us here, and he invited Valerie to live here, and you know, I’m not even all that comfortable in my own home anymore because it’s all so different! Nothing is the same! The feelings aren’t the same anymore, and I want them to be, but I don’t! We’ve been through like, so much together, and it’s like none of that matters at all to him anymore.”

“But you love him, and he loves you. You have a life together, and a home. You’ve been through all of that together, and you can’t just throw it away because his ex shows up trying to steal him away from you.”

Alison sighed heavily. Holding a jar of syrup in one hand at a dangerous angle, while the other rested on her hip. “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” She pointed at him with the jar for emphasize with each word. “Jamal is different now! I mean, I’ve been totally supportive about all of it. I let her live here, I urged him to do whatever he felt was right with Hope. I promised to support him either way-” Her words cut off when the heavy jar slipped from her hand.

Rafe caught the jar just before it hit the floor and moved back, sitting it down on the counter beside the dishtowel. “Jamal is still upset, Alison, and so are you. You have to understand that and have faith that it will all work out between you. You obviously love him, and it’s obviously hurting you not to have everything ok between the two of you, you know? So just… Just trust that everything will be ok in the end, and it will.”

“Why should I trust him?” she demanded, going back to her task of putting away things. “I mean, it’s not like he trusts me!”

“Well… That’s my fault.”

“We are not talking about that again, Rafe! I kissed you back. Got it? It wasn’t some silly little one way peck on the cheek. Stop pretending that it was all you or something!”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She turned to arrange the candy on the counter, refusing to meet his eyes. “Jamal has given me just as many, if not more reasons not to trust him, you know. He has a child with a woman that I can’t stand to be around but have bent over backwards to be nice to for him. I’ve supported him through everything, and no matter what I do, he still lies to me! He was supposed to be going out of town to get a part to fix one of the bikes in the shop, and instead he was going to the Hartman’s with Valerie.”

“Caleb was playing with everyone back then, Alison.”

Alison spun around again, her back pressed to the counter directly across from him. Her fingers clutched the edge as if it was the only thing that could keep her from sinking to the floor. She couldn’t meet his eyes. “You said you can’t make anyone do anything. Caleb didn’t make Jamal lie to me. He may have set the whole thing in motion with Livvie ‘helping’ but he didn’t make Jamal lie to me. He did that on his own. Everytime.”

“Yeah, but Caleb set up the circumstances that made him think he had to lie to you.”

“If it was all Caleb, why isn’t everything back to the way it was before any of this happened?”

Rafe decided she wasn’t going to look at him anytime soon and absently started spinning the jar of syrup. “Alison, if there was anyway to make everything Caleb ever did to someone go away, I’d have done it a long time ago. But there isn’t. And you know, there is always a chance that you two will come out of this even better and stronger than before. You can’t just discount everything that you are to each other because you hit a rough patch.”

She watched the jar spinning, the light catching on the glass every now and then causing it to sparkle. “I can’t believe you managed to catch that.”

“One of my many hidden talents, I guess,” he shrugged.

Nodding, Alison crossed to him in two small steps, snatching the jar with a smile. “Think you could do it again?”

He saw the look in her eyes and reached for the syrup before the thought not to had processed completely. “Yes. But let’s not try our luck. Did you ever get the last batch out of the carpet?”

“Yes!” Her hand stayed on the jar, but she let him pull it back and sit it on the counter beside him once more. Looking up, she noticed for the first time just how close they really were.

“Well,” a voice said from the doorway. An all too familiar voice. “Isn’t this just cozy.”

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