All the King's Horses
Part I: Chapter 15

Alison unzipped her coat, sliding it off and throwing it over the arm of the sofa in own fluid motion. She stepped over an open duffle bag on the floor, and seemingly ignored the suitcases and boxes that covered most of the floor.

“Well,” Rafe muttered, following her pattern. “Someone doesn’t waste any time.”

Valerie stepped out of one bedroom, clothes thrown over her arm. “Hi, Rafe. Alison.”

“What are you doing?” Alison asked, stopping in mid step at the site of the other woman. Her trek to the kitchen was abandoned as she walked over toward her. “Valerie, why are you packing?”

“Because I told her to,” Jamal answered, coming out of the other bedroom “I’m moving out. I’ll be staying at Jack’s old place. I figured since I forced you into letting her stay she needed to get out too. Give you and Angel Boy some privacy.”

“I’m not…” Rafe sighed, breaking off before he could start when he caught site of Alison. “answering that. I’m not answering that.”

She smiled gratefully in his direction before turning back to the other woman. “Valerie, you don’t have to leave.” A heavy sigh escaped her when she found the reality of the situation sinking in. “Really, you’re fine here. You have no other place to go, so just go unpack again and tell Jamal to-”

“Alison,” Rafe said, cutting her off. They both tried to hide smiles.

“Right, sorry. Anyway, just because Jamal is out doesn’t mean you have to be. You are welcome to stay until you can find another place to go. Ok?”

Jamal shook his head, glaring at the scene before him. “She has another place. With me.”

The other three occupants of the room glared right back. “It’s up to you, Valerie,” Alison said after a moment, continuing on her way to the kitchen. “Stay here or go with him. Whatever you want. You want him, more power to you. Move in with him, sleep with him, hell, have another child with him! Just give me the address to send my sympathy cards to.”

“Jealous, Ally?” Jamal asked, a smirk crossing his features.

“Jealous?” Alison snorted. “Not hardly. I told her last night if she wanted you she could have you.” Her head tilted, and she smirked right back. “Of course, we both decided that you weren’t worth it.”

Valerie took the opportunity to jump in. “That’s right, we did say that. She quoted something about ‘anything worth having is worth fighting for’ then we decided you weren’t worth having or fighting for. We spent a good chunk of time trying to remember why we wanted you in the first place.”

A flash of hurt crossed Jamal’s eyes, and Rafe almost felt for him. Almost. But he did have a job to do, no matter how much he may hate the job. “Maybe you should talk about this some more…”

“Rafe,” Alison sighed, her hands planted on her hips. “We went over this before. I meant it. Just stop.”

“I was just-”

“I know,” she whined. “I know what you were just doing, and I don’t want you to do it anymore. Please, just stop trying to fix it. It’s nothing you did, and nothing you can fix, so please, please just like… stop!”

“Damn, Ally, he really is an angel.” Shaking her head, Valerie smiled sadly. “Pushing you back to Jamal when he has the chance to jump in and whisk you away. Putting you and your feelings first, but he obviously has no idea how you really feel… You had a point last night, girl. Unavailable, right?”

“Totally.” Sighing again, Alison put her elbows on the counter, and leaning on it. “Unfair isn’t it?”

“Excuse me?” Rafe asked. “What are you talking about?”

Alison felt a blush start to grow and tried to shrug it off. “Um… Nothing, Rafe. Just… It’s really nothing at all. It requires a back story, you know, and we just don’t have the time!”

A giggle passed Valerie’s lips as she handed a flat box to Alison. “Here, they’ll be easier to carry in this.” She helped her put the smaller boxes, filled with cookies, into the larger one for a moment. Both women tried to ignore the stares they were receiving. “So, you really wouldn’t mind me staying just a little longer?”

“Not at all,” Alison said with a smile. “Stay as long as you need. I’m not going to kick you out in the middle of the holidays.”

“Oh,” Jamal said. “But you’ll kick me out?”

She didn’t spare him a glance. “Rafe, did you hear me tell Jamal he had to move out?”

“No? But you did break up with him. Not many exes live together.”

Valerie tossed him a look over her shoulder. “Was that supposed to be an insult to me?”

“No, just a fact,” Alison answered for him. “Rafe doesn’t do insults.”

“He was calling me an arrogant fool in the park, Ally,” Jamal stated quickly. “But you missed that. By the time you showed up he was back to being your perfect little angel.”

“He was just stating the fact,” Valerie shot back. “I’d be willing to bet everything he said was true.” She shook her head and continued helping to put the containers of cookies into the box. “How long has he been calling Rafe yours?”

“Since yesterday,” Rafe answered. “At least, that was the first time I heard him call me her angel.” His eyes landed on the smile Alison was sporting, and a smile of his own formed. “I can think of far worse things to be called, though.” Their eyes locked, and suddenly it was as if they were the only two in the room.

A dreamy sigh escaped the woman not lost in his eyes. “You don’t stand a chance, Jamal.”

“Why,” he demanded, breaking the spell Alison and her angel seemed to be lost in. “Why don’t I stand a chance? Because her angel is much more perfect and so much better for her? He’ll never be as good to her as I was.”

Valerie snorted. “You slept with me while you were dating her, kissed me, said you’d think about keep Hope later, then accuse her of sleeping with someone else everytime she turns around. At least Rafe is good to her! He’s sweet! He listens to her and doesn’t make her seem less important than him.”

“Exactly,” Alison said, nodding in agreement. “But nothing is going on between me and Rafe and you both need to get with Livvie and get over the idea.”

“Can I sign Lucy up for that group?” Rafe asked.

She cringed. “Oh… I got you into trouble didn’t I?”

“Yes!” He chuckled lightly. “But I can handle Lucy.”

“Ally,” Jamal ground out through clenched teeth. “Can we talk about this, please? You don’t really want us to be over…”

“Yes,” Alison said, tilting her head slightly as the realization came full force. “Yes, I do want us to be over, Jamal. What we had… You shattered it yesterday. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men aren’t going to put Alison and Jamal back together again. We’re through, Jamal. For real.”

“Because of him?”

“No,” she replied, shaking her head slightly. “Not because of him at all. Because of you. And! And because… because of me, Jamal. Because I deserve to have a relationship that I’m not alone in.” Alison picked up the box and crossed the room, sitting it down to pull on her coat and hand Rafe his. “Valerie, I meant it, you can feel free to stay here, alright?”

“Yeah. I think I will. Thanks.” Her eyes gave them both a quick once over. Rafe was standing beside Alison, holding the box in one arm, and he pulled her hair out from under her collar with the other hand. “I’ll see you when you get back.”

They waved before walking out.

Jamal stared at the door they had just departed through. “Don’t say it, Valerie, don’t you dare say it.”

“Say what, Jamal?” she asked, placing a hand on her hip. “Say that they make a great couple, even if they aren’t a couple? Or say that you brought this all on yourself?”

“I’ll get her back,” he vowed.

“No,” Valerie said firmly, shaking her head. “No, Jamal. You won’t get her back. Even after Rafe leaves, they way you treated her isn’t going to.” She grabbed her own coat and slipped it on. “Just give it up, Jamal. Let her be happy.”

“I make her happy!”

“Jamal, did you see the way they looked at each other? Give it up. You used to make her happy, but you changed. She may not know it yet, but she is in love with him, and if you ever cared about her at all you’d let her be happy while she can.”

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