All the King's Horses
Part I: Chapter 10

“Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh…”

Snow was falling outside. Thick, heavy flakes that clung to anything and everything. Blanketing Port Charles, hiding the bumps and bruises - smoothing the city out into a winter wonderland. Streetlamps and Christmas lights reflected off the white, giving everything a slightly magical glow. The stars were bright in the sky, twinkling, waving, and winking at her as if they shared a secret. The moon was nearly full, giving light to the land. Every look outside the window made her want to reach for her coat and snow boots.

It was going to be a very, very long night.

It was eight o’clock. She’d already showered, finally managing after three washings to get everything out of her hair. The cookies were cooling, the tree was nearly completed, and the gingerbread house was waiting to be decorated. Three dozen tiny little gingerbread men lay before her, getting even more ‘final touches’ while she sipped on cooling hot chocolate.

“Making spirits bright, oh what fun it is…”

Her eyes darted to the radio, shooting it a threatening look from across the room. Despite her best efforts, the Christmas spirit had left almost immediately after her angel had. Her good mood had vanished with one quick thought, and it still sent chills down her spine. Jamal had yet to return.

And she was more upset by the fact that she wasn’t upset.

In all their fights before, very rarely had he walked out on her. And in those rare times, he’d simply ranted to Jack until the other man sent him home a few hours later. By her last count it had been exactly five hours. And he still hadn’t bothered to show up. If nothing else, she should have been sitting by the phone, impatiently waiting for it to ring and him be on the other end. Instead, she was sitting here, fighting dread at the thought of the phone ringing with him on the other end of the line.

Worse yet, she hadn’t noticed until Rafe left. And then the thought had been she was glad he wasn’t back. “Shut up, Alison,” she ordered herself. “You’re not glad Jamal isn’t here. You just think you are. If you were glad you wouldn’t be feeling like this.” Her attention was pulled from the window to the cookies in front of her that were quickly pushed aside with a sigh. The gingerbread house was taunting her, and she resisted the urge to pick up the phone and call him to come and help her decorate it.

“You don’t want to call Rafe,” she muttered under her breath. “You can handle more than two hours without him. You’re not wishing he’d come back and Jamal would stay away, so just stop it already.”

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…”

The press of a button cut off the holiday music. “Give it up. He has to make sure that Lucy is ok and that she is staying in Port Charles. Rafe actually has more important things to do that let you maul him every chance you get.” She huffed unhappily at herself. Taking another sip of hot chocolate only to make a face at the cold mug. “Gross.”

Sighing, she got up from her perch at the counter to dump the remaining liquid in the sink. Running hot water into the cup she sighed again before just leaving it in the sink to soak, not caring at the moment to wash it. Grabbing another chocolate chip cookie, Alison walked to the tree.

Taking a bite, she moved one of the ornaments up a branch, then back down. The process was repeated. “Come on, Alison. That’s the third time you’ve moved that thing and it ended up right back in the same spot you put it in to begin with.” Another sigh, another bite. And another try and moving the ornament up before she ended up, once again, right back where she started.

“This sucks,” she muttered. “No Rafe, no Jamal, no anyone, and it’s quiet here, too quiet. It’s so quiet I’ve spent the past hour talking to myself. What is wrong with me?” Walking over, she turned on the radio once more.

“Silent night…”

“Yeah, just the song I wanted to hear,” Alison muttered sarcastically, rolling her eyes for extra effect.

She brushed the crumbs off the tips of her fingers on her faded blue jeans and moved back toward the kitchen. The gingerbread house was now going to get her full attention. If for no other reason because she was going to go crazy in 2.4 seconds without something to take her mind off of how horrible empty this place was when only hours before she’d had tears in her eyes from laughing so hard.

It should have scared her that she was thinking more about Rafe’s absence than her boyfriends, but she chose not the think about that. No, thinking about that was just an all around bad idea. Of course, she’d had a lot of bad ideas lately.

Like falling for Rafe in the first place. Except of course, that she was already falling, and it wasn’t her idea at all. She honestly had tried to fight it, she was sure she had. Some battles were meant to be lost. Maybe it wasn’t the idea of falling that scared her so much, maybe her fear steamed from not knowing where she’d end up landing.

Then again, she could make a very good guess where she’d end up after this fall. Right smack dab in the middle of in love with her angel. And that would only lead to heartache, heartache, and more heartache. Dammit, there had to be a rule against falling in love with an angel. Not that she was in love… yet.

“Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace…”

The light knocking on the door had her halfway there before the sound had even left the air. Desperate for any sort of distraction, she swung the door open before it even occurred to her to ask who was on the other side. Oh of all the people. “Valerie, why are you knocking?”

“I was just trying to be considerate. I didn’t want to walk in and… interrupt you and Jamal or anything,” she answered simply, walking past the blonde and talking off her gloves. “I know that he told me to… well basically get lost as long as possible, so I was just making sure it was ok to come in before I did.” Her coat was hung in the closet before she stopped to look around. “Wow, Alison. The place looks great. You’ve gotten into the Christmas spirit.”

“Ha!” Alison snorted. “The Christmas spirit is highly overrated, in fact, you know what? It sucks. All that happy, bubbly, joyfulness and stuff… Ugh!” The door nearly slammed shut, and the surprised expression worn by the other woman was completely ignored. “You know what else sucks? Love! And men! Men suck!”

“Well… I’ll just take a wild guess here and assume you and Jamal had a fight?”

“That’s ridiculous!” Alison huffed at the remark and plopped down on the sofa, grabbing a pillow and hugging it to her. “Jamal and I didn’t have a fight. Just me fighting for him and him being a stuck up, ignorant, stubborn bastard and blowing me off and saying I’m in love with Rafe! Rafe!”

Valerie snagged a sugar cookie from the cooling rack and held it up. “Can-”

“Yeah, yeah, help yourself. I think I sort of over did it with the baking anyway. I need to decorate the gingerbread house, but that requires a little bit of Christmas spirit and well… Listen to me!”

“So did he walk in to find you smooching Rafe again?”

“No!” she pouted. “He didn’t walk in on anything except me putting away the stuff I got at the store and Rafe managing to catch a jar of syrup I ended up breaking anyway. He doesn’t trust me! How messed up is that?”

“Totally messed up. He slept with me.”

“Exactly! I’ve never slept with Rafe! I have no intention of sleeping with Rafe! I’ve never even thought about… I’m not in love with Rafe! I can’t be in love with Rafe! But he doesn’t trust me enough to know that! Can you believe the nerve! Like I’ve ever given him a reason not to trust me.”

“Um, except of course the time we walked in to find you kissing another guy.” Valerie took a seat beside her. “Still, he has no right! You trust him after he slept with me, you can forgive and forget. Why do we have to be perfect all the time, and he’s allowed to screw up right and left?”

“I don’t know! What makes his opinion so important anyway, I mean, except of course that I love him. Jamal is a prick. You know that? He told Rafe to stay away from me because I was his. I half expected him to get out a pen and write ‘property of’ on my forehead!”

The radio was once more clicked off with the remote and the TV turned on as they dissolved into laughter. “Men suck.”

Alison nodded in agreement. “Yup. Most men just suck.”

“Most?” Valerie cocked an eyebrow in her direction while flipping channels. “If you’ve found one that doesn't, mind pointing him out to me since you have Jamal?”

“He’s… unavailable…”

Both women put their feet up on the coffee table. “Figures. Why can’t men be the ones that have to be perfect?”

“Why can I finally meet the perfect one only to have him turn out to be so… different.”

She pushed her dark hair over her shoulder, and bit into her cookie before replying. “Jamal still thinks you’re perfect as of six hours ago,” Valerie stated as-a-matter-of-factly.

Yeah, she’d been talking about Jamal. Right? Alison glanced at her watch. “That was about fifteen minutes before he came in here and told me I was a fool and in love with another man.”


“Don’t I know it.”

“Who’d have thought we’d end up bonding over the man we started out fighting over?”

“You know what, Valerie? You aren’t so bad when you aren’t being an obsessive bitch that’s after my boyfriend.”

“And you aren’t so bad when you’re not the perfect, lily white blond dating the man I’m in love with and fighting me for him.”

“Rafe says anything worth having is worth fighting for.”

Shrugging, Valerie finally landed on a channel. “Rafe is a smart guy.” She watched the black and white figures on screen dance. “But what if he just ain’t worth having? I think Jamal gets a kick out of being fought over.”

“That sooo wouldn’t surprise me anymore.” She paused. “I love this movie.”

“So do I.” Valerie shrugged her shoulders again. “At least we can agree on some things.”

“Yeah. Wanna help me make a popcorn chain for the Christmas tree?”

“Sure… Think we should save some of the fun for Jamal?”

“I don’t want to talk about Jamal anymore! I’m sick of talking about Jamal! Even Rafe wanted to talk about Jamal!” Alison stood quickly, rushing around, suddenly filled with nervous energy, to gather together everything needed to make a popcorn chain. “He kept going on and on about how I need to give him another chance. That he’s confused and hurt because of one innocent little kiss that meant…”

“A lot from the sounds of it. Alison, are you in love with Rafe?”

Alison shook her head, sending blond hair flying out behind her. “No. No, no, no, no. I’m not in love with Rafe. I’m not! Why does everyone think that? And he’s not in love with me, or after me, or out to get me into his bed like Jamal thinks.”

“He actually said that?” the other woman asked, her eyes widening. “That jerk! He doesn’t even have the respect for you to know you would never cheat on him?”

“Apparently not, Valerie, considering the fact that he said that, meant it, and hasn’t come back or called yet.”

“Why did we ever want him?”

She had to laugh. “I’m trying to remember,” Alison replied after a moment. “Sometimes it just gets hard to do that, you know?”

Picking up a needle and threading it, Valerie sighed. “I know. You should try having a child with him.”

“Are you kidding me? Right now I don’t even know if I want to be in the same room as him!”

“So don’t be. He can come in, and we can kick him right back out!”

Alison sighed, sitting beside her while the popcorn was popping. “What has you so pissed off at him anyway?”

“He refuses to even try to get visitation of Hope. It’s not like I’m asking him to take her away from the Hartman’s! All I want is a chance to see my child grow up and be happy.”

“Maybe you can’t have it both ways, Valerie. Hope is with the only family she knows, she wouldn’t know Jamal from Adam. You honestly think it would be best for her to be torn from the only people she knows to be her parents even for just a little while to have two more people calling themselves ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’? It’s not fair to Hope. Screw Jamal, just think about your baby.”

“Maybe you’re right.”

A smile formed on her lips. “You know, you just never get sick of hearing those words…”

“Ah,” Valerie said. “I take it we’re back to Rafe?”

“I’m not in love with Rafe.”

She turned, pushing her dark hair back once more. “Ok, you’ve been blunt about my daughter and I didn’t take your head off, now it’s your turn to hear the awful truth.” Valerie paused, waiting to see if the blond was going to go off on her before she continued. “Rafe makes you happy. You smile with Rafe. You smile just thinking about Rafe. You spend a good chuck of your time either with him or thinking about him. He’s got it so bad for you. I mean, the guy obviously digs you, he did kiss you after all. The truth of the matter is, I’m almost surprised you two didn’t set off smoke alarms with that kiss of yours. If all of that honestly means nothing to you? Then you really don’t deserve either of them.”

“Rafe means a lot to me,” Alison confessed softly. “But how am I supposed to just turn my back on everything that I’ve been through with Jamal?”

Both pairs of eyes turned to the door when they heard it slam. A packed duffle bag was thrown down on the floor. “Very carefully, Alison. That’s how you let go of all that crap about staying with Jamal because of your past instead of your future,” Livvie spat out. “He can obviously just make it magically disappear, I don’t know why you are expected to sit at home and hold onto it like some… some well trained lapdog!” Livvie grabbed a plate of cookies and the bowl of popcorn before joining them. “Do you mind if I stay here tonight? As much as I love Jack, I really don’t think it’s a good idea for me to be around him right now. Love totally bites.”

“Don’t we know it,” the other two muttered in unison.

Alison picked up the other end of the strand of thread and worked it through the eye of the needle. “Wouldn’t life just be much easier if we didn’t go around falling in love with people.”

Valerie laughed lightly. “Especially tall, blond, and gorgeous guys that seem to have it bad for you but aren’t your boyfriend.”

The newest arrival cocked an eyebrow. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about your feelings for Rafe, now’s as good a time as any!” Sitting the cookies and popcorn on the table, Livvie took a seat in the floor. “You know that he’s like really…”

“Special?” Alison supplied. “Yeah. I know. The guy is a total angel, you know? Jamal says he’s my angel.”

“I bet he’d like to be,” Valerie chuckled.

“But I’m not in love with him,” the blond insisted again. “I’m not in love with him. And even if I was, even if I wanted to be in love with him, then I couldn’t be, because he’s leaving right after Christmas.”

“Alison,” Livvie sighed. “You don’t always get to pick you who fall in love with.”

“Yeah? Well I’m picking! And I’m picking to be in love with Jamal and not Rafe. So there!”

“It doesn’t work like that,” Valerie said, rolling her eyes. “You’re either in love with him or you aren’t. You don’t really get a say in the matter at all, Alison. If you try to make yourself still feel the same about Jamal, then you’re just going to end up hating yourself and him for it in the end. Don’t deny your heart what it wants.”

“My heart… Jamal is my heart! Even Rafe keeps saying that I love Jamal!”

“It’s called denial, Alison,” Livvie insisted. “You and Rafe are both using it all as an excuse to keep from admitting how you feel to yourselves! Rafe tells himself he can’t be in love with you because you’re in love with Jamal, and you tell yourself that you can’t be falling in love with Rafe because of Jamal.”

“I’m not in love with Rafe. I’m not in love with Rafe! Rafe isn’t in love with me.” Alison glared at her friend. “And you know as well as I do that nothing whatsoever can happen between me and Rafe. Nothing! Ever! He’s going, and he’ll be gone. For good.”

Valerie cocked her head to the side. “Well, now I understand why you aren’t in the Christmas spirit.” Taking a gingerbread cookie from the plate she broke off his head and popped it in her mouth. “The man you’re in love with is leaving.”

“I know. I know…” Alison buried her face in her heads. “I don’t know what’s worse. The fact that I’m falling so hard for him, or the fact that the landing is gonna hurt like hell.”

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