Falling
All the King's Horses
Part I: Chapter 7

Her mouth was set in concentration, as she measured out the chocolate chips. After she had decided they were perfect she poured them into the bowl filled with batter in front of him, then threw in another half of a cup just for good measure. “Stir,” she ordered playfully, turning on her heel to check the oven. “How about sugar cookies next. Do you like those?”

“Doesn’t everyone?” he replied smoothly. Picking up the spoon with great trepidation. “Alison?”

She was laughing before she even turned back around. “Rafe, honey, it’s easy. You just mix the chips in the batter. Fold it, don’t stir.”

“But you told me to stir.”

“Well folding and stirring are pretty much the same thing,” she laughed.

“Now who is the amusing one,” he grumbled. Staring down at the bowl as if it was going to snap and bite him at any moment. Twice already he’d been told the difference between mixing, stirring, and folding, but some people just weren’t meant to do any of the three very well at all. “You know, I thought the deal was you bake, I watch.”

“I’m sure that helping was involved somewhere in the deal. All you have to do is fold in the chocolate chips, it’s not hard.”

“That’s what you think,” he muttered. “Alison, have I mentioned that I am really, really bad at this entire cooking thing? It doesn’t work. Not at all. I assure you, I can mess this up more than you could have ever imagined.”

“Want me to show you?”

His look said it all. “You’re enjoying this.”

She bit down on her bottom lip, trying to stifle a laugh as she shook her head to tell him no. “No! No…” Alison gave into her laughter when she saw his face. “I like to bake,” she managed to say. “So yes, I am enjoying it.”

He stared at her dully, fighting a smile of his own. “You know, I don't know why, but I’m not completely sure that's your reasoning.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No you aren’t!”

Laughing, she nodded in agreement. “You’re right. I’m not.”

A chocolate chip went flying over her head. “As beautiful as you are when you laugh, mind not directing it at me? Thanks.”

“Don’t pout! I’ll help you.”

“I’m not pouting,” he replied, quickly pulling in his bottom lip slightly. “I don’t pout. I think that’s a rule. Angels don’t pout.”

She ducked under his arm, stepping in front of him and leaving them a lot closer together than either thought was a good idea. Neither moved. She placed her hand over his on the spoon and held the bowl, folding the batter with his help. “Are you paying attention.”

“Yeah.” Ok, so his attention may have been on the fact that she was once again in his arms without a whisper of space between them, but she didn’t need to know that.

“Rafe. The stirring.”

“Oh, right.” He sighed and took over when she removed her hand from his but stayed in place. “Like this?”

“Like that! Very good. See? You’re learning.”

“Whoopee!”

She turned and cocked an eyebrow. “I wasn’t aware that angels could be smart asses.”

“You learn something new every day don’t you?” he responded, leaning his head down ever so slightly. Her head tilted back, her mouth slightly open. Yup, they were entirely too close. Rafe released the spoon and took a step back. “So, do I fail Cooking 101?”

Alison blinked, then shook her head. “Not yet. So far you’ve mastered the art of folding in chocolate chips. That’s good.”

“If you say so.”

She laughed again lightly, slipping to the other side of the counter to grab her cookie sheet. “Now, the fun part.”

“There’s a fun part here?”

That remark was properly ignored. “Watch closely.” Taking out a spoonful of batter she dropped it on the cookie sheet, pushing it off the spoon with her index finger. Her finger was then placed in her mouth where she licked off the batter. “It’s always better before you cook it,” she informed him.

“It also has raw eggs in it,” Rafe replied.

“Sometimes you just have to live dangerously.”

He gave into the smile. “Cute.”

“I know.” She put another spoonful on the pan, then another before she realized he was showing no signs of helping. “Rafe, you have to try it. It’s a rule. You can’t make cookies without trying to batter.”

His eyes narrowed in suspicion. “I don’t remember reading that rule.”

Alison met his eyes then blinked. “Come on, try it…”

She was taunting him. That much was made very, very clear. Or maybe, just maybe she knew that he couldn’t say no to her. “I’ll pass, thanks.”

She continued placing the cookies on the sheet. “You sure? Cause it’s really good. I bet you’d like it.”

He took a seat on one of the stools at the counter. “I’m sure. I don’t want to try it. I won’t like it.”

“But you can’t be really, really sure about that ‘til you do try it.” Alison licked her finger clean, wiping it on the dishtowel nearby before holding the spoon up and motioning him closer.

He leaned forward only slightly. Apparently he had no control whatsoever over his actions when she was around. “I don’t want to try it.”

Alison put her hand under his chin, pulling him closer. “Open.”

He had no choice but to comply. Well, he could have argued, but acting like a five year old probably would have just encouraged her. The spoon was placed in his mouth, and he took a bite hesitantly. Chewing slowly, he finally nodded. “Alright, it’s not bad.”

His words snapped her out of her trace, her eyes moved away from his lips, and only then did she release him. “I told you so.”

“Yes you did.” Rafe tilted his head, smiling at her. “Maybe I should listen to you more often.”

She broke the eye contact to turn around and put the pan into the oven and busied herself with setting the timer. “Well, you know, there’s an idea.” She shook her head, as she went to stand in front of him again, taking the spoon from where she had placed it in the almost empty bowl she took another bite before putting both in the sink and running water into them. “Sugar cookies next?”

“You’re the cook.” He shrugged. “Whatever you want, Alison.”

“You know, I could get used to that kind of an attitude.” She bit her bottom lip again. “We could make sugar cookies, or fudge, or the gingerbread cookies, or really just about anything you want, I’m pretty much stocked as far as baking goods go. Plus I have tons of candies to decorate things, it should be fun! I bet even you could put the eyes on a gingerbread man.”

“You’re too funny,” he mumbled, once again fighting the urge to smile. He eyed her suspiciously. “Let’s do sugar cookies. Those can’t be too difficult, right?”

“No, they’re pretty simple.” She pulled out another bowl and placed it in front of him. Gathering almost everything she would need fairly quickly she dumped them into the mixing bowl as she went along. Dry things first, then the liquids. Finally she handed him the mixer. “Think you can handle this?”

“Uh…” He didn’t have a choice. She shoved it in his hand, then into the bowl. “Alison…”

“Just make sure that you mix it up really well.” She handing him another spoon just in case. “Scrape the sides, make sure there aren’t any clumps. Those are the only rules.” Alison turned on the mixer, not letting go of it until she was sure he had it down. “Like that. I’ll tell you went to stop.”

“Ok, this is pretty easy.”

“I told you, you can do it!” She smiled brightly before opening another cabinet. “What color? Red, green, blue, yellow or another color that you only get by mixing them? Or we could leave them that color then just put different sprinkles on top. OH! Or we can just color the sugar and put that on top! What do you think?”

“Leave them like this then put red and green sprinkles on the top?”

She nodded, pretending that it wasn’t every bit as much of a question as an answer. “Alright. Then they’ll be more Christmas-y!” She sat the food coloring on the counter with the other candies then opened another cabinet to get her rolling pin. Sitting it on the counter as well, she took a peek in the bowl and flipped off the mixer. “See, Rafe? You’re doing very good!”

“If you say so…” He watched as she sprinkled flour on a sheet of wax paper then pulled out a section of dough.

Alison tipped her head to the side. “You get to pick out the cookie cutter. They’re in the second drawer right over here.”

Finally he moved around the counter to stand behind her. His hand landed on the second knob. “This one?”

“Uh huh.” She rolled the pin over the dough, flattening it until it was just the right height for her. “I think there is a Christmas tree in there if you want to do that, or just a round one… You know what, would you just get them all out please? I’ll need more later, and we can always use different ones.”

He pulled out the bag of odd shaped cookie cutters and sat them down beside her on the counter. “Now what?”

“Now pick at least one.”

“I don’t wanna. You pick. I’m easy to please.”

She couldn’t help but giggle. “I know you are, but you still have to pick one. My hands are covered in flour.” She held up her hands as proof.

He opened the Ziploc bag to get a better look. “You really do like to bake don’t you?”

“Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. Plus, it’s actually kind of relaxing sometimes, you know? Like therapy or something. It’s just better when you can play in the dough and create something with all that extra energy, especially when I’m upset about something. It’s just good for the soul I guess.” Alison shifted uncomfortably when she realized he was watching her, taking in every word she spoke. “Kind of strange, huh?” she asked nervously, reaching up to push her hair from her face when he caught her wrist in his hand.

Rafe push her hair back for her. “Flour,” he stated in response to the confused look she was giving him. He sat her hand back down and cleared his throat. “You have… everything.” He pulled out a circle, spinning it on his finger. “This one?”

“Ok,” she smiled, snatching his wrist.

“Hey, hey, hey!” He started to pull back then gave in. “I should have known that was coming.”

“You can’t make cookies without getting a little dirty,” Alison said with a smile. She turned the cookie cutter in his hand so that he was holding it correctly, then covered it with hers as they both pushed it into the dough. “See how it’s done?”

“Isn’t this like, your job or something?”

She smiled brighter when she looked over at him. Alison placed the circle on the pan to her right. “You said you’d help.”

“No, you said you’d help. I said I’d watch you.”

“Well,” she sighed, putting the cookie cutter to the dough again, this time he put his hand over hers. “I’m sure that watching me make cookies would have to be like majorly boring or something. This way you get in on the fun, you know?”

“Trust me, watching you do anything is just as fun.”

She frozen in the middle of cutting out a third cookie to look over at him. Why did she feel like she could just sink to the floor under those eyes? Did he realize that just the way he looked at her was making her weak in the knees?

Rafe smiled shyly, realizing what he’d just said, and backed up a step. “Not that I spend like an obscene amount of time watching you or anything like that.”

Alison nodded. “Right. Of course not. I-I knew that.” But a girl could hope. She shrugged, turning her attention back to cutting out circles in the dough. “You’re not like a stalker or anything Rafe, you’re not nearly creepy enough for that. We’re friends. We hang out. We help each other. That’s all.”

“Right,” he said, nodding in agreement. “Now you just have to convince your boyfriend of that.”

Turning around quickly, Alison glared at him. “I do not want to talk about Jamal!”

“Ok! Ok!” He held his hands up in surrender. “We won’t talk about… you know who. Not tonight anyway.”

She pouted. “I guess that’s all I can hope for.” Alison turned around, once more cutting out circles and placing them on the baking sheet. “I don’t get why you can’t just let it drop, you know? I don’t want to talk about Jamal. I don’t even want to think about Jamal, and the easiest way to do that is with you here,” she muttered under her breath. “But then you have to go and ruin that by being all… angelic and trying to do the right thing by pushing me toward him. You don’t consider that he’s acting like a four year old who didn’t get what he wanted at the candy store but someone else did. I mean, heaven forbid he actually remember that I used to be his friend… Of course maybe he does remember and that’s his problem. He actually thinks that I would cheat on him! With you of all people! An angel! Who would never, ever, ever be interested in me that way. He’s like so majorly insecure!”

“Alison?”

“What!”

“You… um… You’re timer just went off.”

“Alright.” She placed the final cookie on the pan and washed her hands. Alison smiled when she opened the oven to look at the cookies. “Perfect,” she mumbled under her breath, grabbing a pot holder to pull out the pan and sit the cookies on a cooling rack. The other pan was placed in the oven and the timer once again set. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Like what?” he asked, trying to appear as if he had no idea what she was talking about while changing the look on his face at the same time. It wasn’t an easy task.

“You’re looking at me like I’m going to jump you or something.”

Well now that was something he certainly wouldn't mind. “No,” Rafe said, probably more to himself than to her. “I’m not looking at you like that.”

Alison walked toward him cautiously. “You’re looking at me funny! Stop it!”

The back of his hand brushed her cheek. “No.” He smirked.

“You…” She put her hand to her cheek and pulled it away with flour on her finger tips. “You did that on purpose!”

“Yes,” Rafe admitted. “But you started it.”

“I did not!”

“You grabbed me and got flour on me!”

“You have to get flour on you to make sugar cookie,” she tried to say with a straight face, only to end up giggling. Reaching behind her she grabbed a handful of flour and threw it in his direction. “There. Now you look like you can make cookies.”

He looked down at his shirt that was now sprinkled in white. “Now you asked for it.”

“Did not,” she said quickly, trying to move away before he had a chance to get her back.

Rafe caught her around the waist easily and pulled her against his chest with one arm and somehow managed to grab a scoop of flour. She squealed when he dumped it on her, somehow managing to break away while he was laughing at her.

Alison was laughing as well. “You are sooo gonna regret that…”

“You…” he tried to speak while laughing. “You look… so… so.. threatening like that…”

A handful of chocolate chips were hurled in his direction. She searched the counter while keeping an eye on him. “How in the world did you end up an angel?” she chuckled. Finally finding a better weapon. She held up the bowl with the cookie dough in it. “You asked for it…”

Rafe narrowed his eyes. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“Oh?” She grinned triumphantly. “I wouldn’t?”

“No. You wouldn’t.” He took a step forward and it was matched by her taking one back.

“Yes I would.” Another step forward, another step back.

“Not a chance…” Two more steps forward.

And one step back. The counter hit her back. Trapped. “Don’t come any closer!” she threatened.

He did. And in one quick motion the bowl was out of her hands and a carton of milk was being poured on the top of her head.

She laughed loudly, trying to get away only to find he had her effectively blocked. “Ok! Ok! I surrender! You win this time!”

“That’s what I thought!” Rafe put the milk back down, unable to keep from laughing again at the site of her. “You’re just beautiful, Alison.”

Huffing playfully, she pushed a clump of wet hair out of her face. “You’re so mean to me,” she laughed, leaning forward and finding her head on his shoulder. “I can’t believe you did that!”

“Payback’s a bitch.”

That only made her laugh harder. Alison clutched her stomach painfully when she stood up straight again, brushing tears of laughter away from her eyes. “I lo- love spending time with you.”

His still flour covered finger touched down on the tip of her nose. “Same here.” He pushed her hair from her face, and reached behind her to grab the dishtowel. Wiping the flour smudge off her cheek, he couldn’t help but chuckle again. “It was nice to hear you laugh like that.”

“I can’t remember the last time I laughed like that,” she replied honestly, lifting her chin slightly. “Thank you.”

“For dumping flour and milk on you?”

“No, no you’re gonna get it for that later-”

“Oh… I’ll have to remember to watch my back.”

“Thanks for like, you know, being my friend and everything. I needed to laugh.”

He bent down slightly. “It was my pleasure. I meant it when I said you have a beautiful smile.”

“I know,” she whispered. “You don’t say things you don’t mean.” Without thought, her hand captured his wrist as he started to pull his hand from her face.

It was an eerily familiar scene, with one huge difference. This time, she pressed her lips to his.


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