All the King's Horses
Part I: Chapter 13

“Anything worth having is worth fighting for?”

“I just want it to be easy for a while, you know? I just want something that’s easy. I’m tired of fighting.”

“Just be happy, Alison… Jamal makes you happy.”

“Not lately… Lately you’re the one making me happy.”

“What’s the matter, Angel Boy? Alison tell you she loves me and that she’ll never, ever feel the same about you?”

Rafe turned his head to the side reluctantly, pulling himself from the memories of the day before. “Hello to you too, Jamal.”

“Not hello, Angel Boy, goodbye. As in I hope you get your wings and fly on outta here.”

“Angel Boy?”

“Yeah, aren’t you trying to pass yourself off as my girl’s angel. Course, you sure as hell don’t act like any angel I’ve ever heard of, trying to steal another guys lady and all.”

Sitting up straight on the bench, Rafe sighed. “First of all, I’m not trying to steal anything. Second of all, Alison is a person, and you cannot own her, she’s not yours. And last but not least, you are an arrogant fool.”

“Oh?” Jamal moved a step closer, standing in front of him, his stance threatening. “Is that so? I’m the arrogant fool? Why’s that? Because I can call it when some wannabe is trying to steal my girl from me?”

He didn’t blink. “Of course not,” the angel muttered, passing himself off as bored. He held his hand up before him, inspecting his fingernails casually. “You’re an arrogant fool because you actually think you’re good enough for her. She’s smart, funny, beautiful, talented, compassionate, and caring. And you’re just a possessive, self obsessed, idiot that doesn’t realize the perfect woman is standing in the wings, waiting to have the perfect life with you.”

“Yeah, that’s right, she wants a life with me! Not you, Angel Boy, so why don’t you pack your bags, hit the road, and leave us the hell alone?”

“Us?” Now he blinked, turning his attention back to the man in front of him. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Why would I be kidding? Me and Ally, we’re a pair, a package. A perfect match. You’re just some player trying to get in the game way too late. She loves me.”

“Of course she loves you. Like an idiot, I spent most of yesterday reminding her of that.” Rafe rolled his eyes. “You are the one that accused her of being in love with me. You’re the one that keeps making her cry, and you are the one that didn’t even bother to try and call her last night.”

“Ally and I have an understanding.”

“Yeah, she understands that you’re a jealous prick who can’t handle that she takes herself out for a walk instead of standing behind you with a leach begging.” His foot tapped impatiently, and he tried to push down the sudden wave of anger and frustration. “You don’t deserve her, she can do so, so much better than you. But for some unknown reason, she loves you.”

Hurt flashed in his eyes, but was quickly pushed aside. “Yeah, that’s right. She loves me. And you’ve just confused her into thinking she may actually be in love with you.”

“Alison does not think that she’s in love with me. I’m not the one confusing her.” Nope, just the one confused about what to do. Hitting him over the head until he became a man that was worthy of Alison sounded like a damn good idea. “You walked out on her. You told her how she felt, then you walked out and made no effort to try and fix the situation.”

“She knew where I was! She could have called me at anytime.”

“And why should she, Jamal? You’re the one that doesn’t trust her.”

“Hey! I trust Ally plenty! The one I don’t trust, Angel Boy, is you.” He inched closer. “You are working the situation to get my girl into your bed.”

A smile formed on Rafe’s face, just a little bitter, and very much against his will. “I am working the situation, Jamal? You made a move on Valerie yesterday. All she wants is her child, and you made a move on her to try and work that. Then you get pissed when she knocks you on your ass, so you run home to take it out on your girlfriend.” Shaking his head sadly, Rafe sighed. “You’re damn lucky, you know.”

Jamal paled more and more as he spoke. “I didn’t-”

“Spare me the denials. I’m not stupid. I know what you did. And if I was working the situation like you think I am, I would have told Alison long ago.” His gaze hardened, and Rafe somehow knew his message was getting across this time. “But what I am doing Jamal, is what is best for her. And unfortunately, most people seem to think that’s you. I don’t like you, you don’t like me, and I don’t really care. Got it? All I care about, is Alison’s happiness. I’m not going to be the one to break her heart by telling her you are a lying piece of scum. If you make her happy, then you better get over your hurt pride, because the only important thing, the only important thing, is that Alison is happy.”

“How messed up are you?” Stepping back, Jamal shook his head as a bitter laugh escaped him. “You’re so in love with her you can’t see straight!”

He simply stared, looking at him, or through him rather, in a way that left no room for question. “How I feel about her doesn’t matter. What matters is how she feels.”

“She’ll never have with you what she had with me!” he cried desperately, and even to his own ears the sound was far too searching. Jamal lowered his voice. “She’s said it before, she… She told me that she had never even thought of you that way.”

“Good. She shouldn’t.” Rafe tilted his head, smiling once again. “Alison and I are friends. Nothing more. But we aren’t anything less either. You can’t tell her who to see, who to spend time with, what to think, or how to feel. If you do? Then you’re an even bigger fool than I thought. And I already know that you deserve to lose her.”

Anger was renewed, brought forward in waves to keep the edge off the hurt. “Everybody makes mistakes,” he sneered.

“Once is a mistake, Jamal,” he answered almost tiredly. “Twice is a pattern, something she shouldn’t have to put up with.”

“I didn’t sleep with her!”

“But not for lack of trying on your part.”

“So you’d lie to Ally? You actually think she’d like that?”

“I’m not the one lying. I’m just not sharing all the details, something she knows I do anyway,” Rafe sighed. “I know she wouldn’t like it. She’ll find out on her own though. If you were any sort of a man at all you’d just admit it before she finds out from Valerie.”

“I can’t believe that Valerie ran her mouth off to you of all people!”

“She didn’t.”

“Yeah, well then how the hell did you know, Angel Boy? Magic powers?”

“Something like that,” Rafe muttered. “Call your girlfriend and stop trying to bed your ex before you lose the best thing that ever happened to you for good.”

Crossing his arms over his chest, Jamal glared down at him. “You think you can actually get Ally away from me? You’re wrong fool.” He paused for effect, not knowing it left him looking like he was searching for words rather than threatening. “And you need to just back on off of my girl.”

“Oh, you know what?” Rafe said, his voice a little louder than he intended. “For the last time, I’ll use little words so you understand this time, I – am – not – after – Alison. Did you get it that time? Do you understand now? I’m not after her. I’m not on some mission to try and take what the two of you have. Can you get that through your thick head?”

“Don’t play games with me, Rafe,” the other man growled in response. “You’re in love with my girl, and she’s got it bad for you. I may be a fool, but I’m not fool enough to miss out on that. I knew when she was spending all that time with you that you were working her, trying to get her away from me, then you go and kiss her? You want her. Admit it!”

“Yeah, I want her,” Rafe grinned. “I want her, I admit it.” His head tilted. “But nothing is going to happen between us. I’m not after her. I don’t work the situation, Jamal. I love her, care about her, and respect her far too much to ever try and play games with her. I want her to be happy. Can you get that? Alison is what’s important. So if she’s happy with you, then congratulations and good luck. I hope you have a long and happy life together.”

“But what? You think she’s happier with you than she is with me?”

He shook his head sadly and stood finally. “I think you make her cry, and I can make her smile.” Rafe’s jaw tightened, and he glanced over the other man’s shoulder. “Talk to her. Apologize. Prove me wrong.”

“I don’t have a damn thing to prove to you fool. You’re the one all in love with my girl!”

Rafe closed his eyes in frustration. “You know what? I was right. You don’t deserve her. She’s way too good for you.”

“Oh? And you think you’re so much better than I am?”

“Better than you in general? Or better than you on some jealous rage because Alison has a life that isn’t completely about waiting on the sidelines for you to let her in?” The angel sidestepped him, then turned to face him again. “Or do you mean better for Alison than you are? No, not really. I think the two of you make a great couple when you aren’t being a complete idiot.”

Jamal straightened his stance slightly. “You actually think I don’t have a right to be jealous?”

“You slept with Valerie. Alison wouldn’t repeat your mistake. In fact, she forgave you for it. And she still trusts you. She has faith in you, in your love, and in your life together. You repay her for that, for giving you her heart, by sneaking around and treating her like she doesn’t matter at all? You order her around, tell her what she thinks, and take every innocent moment and turn it into her doing something wrong.”

“She was all over you yesterday! You call that innocent?”

“It was innocent. I almost dropped the jar of syrup, he caught it, and I was playing around threatening to do it again.” Alison stepped between them, facing Jamal. “Why are you picking fights all over the place these days, Jamal?”

“How long have you been… I’m not picking any fights, Ally. Just because you are diluted enough to think he is really your guardian angel, doesn’t mean he’s nearly as angelic as he would lead you to believe.”

“You know what, Jamal?” Rafe asked, placing his hands on Alison’s shoulders. “I’m right here. I’m not pretending to be anything. And you are the one that came up and started talking to me.”

Alison shifted her weight from one foot to the other, glaring at her boyfriend and leaning ever so slightly into the man behind her. “You don’t want to try and talk to me, Jamal. You don’t want to come home, you don’t want to have a life with me when Valerie is in the ring, and you didn’t even bother to call me. You just walked out, and that was it! You were gone!”

“Yeah. I was gone.” Jamal raised his eyes to look over her head. “And just how long until your good buddy Rafe showed up?”

“I don’t know…” She glanced up at Rafe. “How long was it? Twenty minutes?”

“I think it may have been more like fifteen.”

Alison nodded, pulling her eyes from his and back to Jamal. “He was pretty quick to get there after I called him and said I needed a friend.”

He squeezed her shoulders gently before pulling his hands away. “You two need to-”

“Rafe,” she hissed, grabbing his hand before he could step away. “Don’t. Please don’t. Just stop it now.”

Jamal grinned cockily. “That’s right, Angel Boy. Just stop trying to act like some goody-good so you’ll get into my girl’s pants.”

“Rafe isn’t like that, Jamal!” Alison insisted. “And you lost the right to claim me when you didn’t come home last night. Thank goodness Livvie told me you were with Jack.”

“Or what? You wouldn’t have known? Did you’re angel stay the night instead, Ally? Did you need someone to keep your bed warm while I was away?”

“No, Jamal, I’m not like you.” She turned around, looking up at Rafe hopefully. “You promised. I’m not letting you back out on that! So just… Don’t rush off on me, please?”

“Alright.” Dammit. If only he could say no to her. “But, you know… You two need to talk this out, and-”

“And we can’t seem to talk about anything since you came into town.”

“Jamal!” Alison turned again.

“What? It’s true.”

“No! What’s true is that you cheated on me, and yesterday hit on Valerie while you were accusing me of being in love with someone else!”

Jamal locked eyes with Rafe once more. “You did tell her! I’ll-”

“You’ll what, Jamal?” Alison interrupted. “You’ll what? And Rafe didn’t tell me anything, Valerie told me last night. And I didn’t care! At all! Go off with Valerie, have all the fun you want to! But you know what? Even she’s too good for you. You used your child to get what you want. And you have the nerve to try and lay the blame for all of our problems at his feet? I don’t think so, Jamal. You know what? We’re through. We’re over. We are done!”

Rafe returned his free hand to her shoulder. “Alison! You don’t-”

“Fine. That’s just fine. You want to throw away everything we had? More power to you. But don’t think that Angel Boy is going to be nearly as good to you as I was,” he said. Jamal turned around and stalked off quickly.

“Alison!” Rafe said again, turning her. “You don’t… You don’t mean that! You love him.”

“I- Rafe, I care about you, like… A lot, you know? But I’m not going to stick around with a guy that treats me like a second choice just so you can get a pat on the back and a job well done.” Her arms wrapped around his waist, and she hugged him. Alison felt a small smile form on her lips when he returned the embrace. “I just… I can’t be with Jamal anymore, Rafe. I can’t.”

He nodded. And held her tightly. Both waited for her tears to come.

But they didn’t.

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