All the King's Horses
Part I: Chapter 16

They came out of the hospital laughing, very much the same way they had gone in. “Did you see their faces, Rafe? They were all so happy!” Alison clutched a piece of blue construction paper to her chest. “And this picture! I can’t believe that little girl gave it to me, and the way she smiled even though it’s almost Christmas and she’s stuck in the hospital…”

“Well, you can’t be surprised,” He said. “You just… lifted their spirits.”

“All I did was pawn off the four dozen extra cookies I made though! But they were all smiling so big and bright and…” Alison twirled around in a circle, her arms outstretched and her face toward the cloudless sky. Again she started laughing. “They were all so amazing, Rafe. I’d forgotten how much I love doing things like that!”

“You did a good thing, even if it was a lot of work.” The angel shrugged his shoulders, watching her with a smile of his own. “It doesn’t surprise me that you love to do things like that. I mean, you have such a big heart. It’s pretty amazing… You’re… You should do that more often if you always leave this happy. And, you know, if you don’t mind the extra work.”

“What work? I was baking anyway, and I needed something to distract me. It wasn’t a lot of work… Well, it was some work, but it was totally worth it to see them all smiling and happy. I think anything is worth it to see all those smiles, you know?”

“Yeah,” Rafe muttered, nodding. “I know exactly what you mean.”

Something in his voice stopped her, left her frozen in place when her eyes found his. A deeper meaning was hidden there, but she couldn’t seem to find anything that it could really be. Oh, she had a few things in her mind that she was hoping, but she seriously doubted he’d be thinking anything along those lines. Slowly, Alison’s smile faded into a look at couldn’t be described, more than content, but not quite happy. Not sad, but not joyous. Just the shadows of a hundred different conflicting emotions that wanted to take life but wouldn’t be allowed the chance until she picked one.

“I think you do,” she said after a moment, trying unsuccessfully to pull herself out of the depths of his eyes. “I think you always know what I mean. I think you always know what I’m thinking, or how I’m feeling… You know me, Rafe, and sometimes… Sometimes that can get a little scary. How well you know me, I mean. Because…”

“I know,” he whispered. Rafe put a hand on her cheek for just a second, and the thought of kissing her entered his mind, before pulling away. His eyes finally broke from hers and went straight up to the sky with a nervous laugh. “Lucy keeps saying I need to just blow you off or avoid you. Being friends is apparently a crime in this town.”

“Why does she want you to do that?”

“Something about my heart being broken and you being in love with Jamal.” He shrugged his shoulders again. “I wasn’t really paying attention. I did get that she thinks you’re playing me,” he laughed. “And Jamal thinks I’m playing you.”

Alison parked herself down on the bench outside the ER doors. “You just want a friend, Rafe, and so do I. There’s nothing really wrong with that is there? I just like so don’t understand why it is that all these people are after us to stay away from each other. I mean, I know why Jamal says stuff like that, he’s really jealous, but everyone else… I don’t get it.”

“I don’t either,” he smiled weakly. “I know that I’m leaving soon…”

Her smile seemed to drop even more as she smoothed the edges of the construction paper in her hand. “Yeah… I know. Like, really, really soon.” She bit down on her lip for a moment in thought. “I just… I don’t know what I’m going to do without you, Rafe.”

“You’ll do just fine without me,” Rafe promised, his head tilting to get a better look at her. “Alison, if you ever need me… You’ve got me, alright? I may not be here, but…”

With a hand over her heart, Alison looked up at him again, a sad smile playing on her lips. “But you’ll be here. Right here with me always.”

There it was again, that deeper meaning that was hidden. Only this time, it came from her, and she still wasn’t sure what that meaning was. Learning from before, Alison cast her eyes downward before she could get stuck in the trap of his eyes again. But her heart continued to beat, only a little more wildly than before. She could feel the hard, quick rhythm against her palm.

And he laughed lightly. It held little humor, more embarrassment at his obviousness. “Well,” Rafe said shyly, smiling. “I don’t know about that… Always is a very long time.”

“Always,” she argued, her eyes meeting his only long enough for him to know it was the truth. The construction paper finger painting was placed in her lap, and she tried to pretend she was studying the lines of green and red that a five-year-old had meant to look like flowers. A question suddenly occurred to her. “You… When you told me I was going to make a great mother someday, did you know for sure?”

“Yes,” he admitted. “It’s in your destiny.”

Alison shook her head. “But you think my destiny is with Jamal, and it isn’t.”

Taking her hand in his, Rafe sighed. “You think that right now, Alison, because you’re upset. Jamal made some bad judgment calls because he’s jealous. That doesn’t mean that it is over forever between the two of you. You still have so much love for him, and that’s not ever going to change.”

“Jamal is acting this way because he’s jealous of you, right?”

“Y-Yes?” His other hand slid under her chin, tilting her head up. “And I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I am for that, Alison. I hate the idea of you hurting because of me.”

Finally, she had no choice but to meet his eyes again. Wetting her lips nervously, Alison forced the words to rush past her. “I thought you said that you couldn’t change our destinies, Rafe. So either you were wrong about that, or you’re wrong about who my destiny is. Because I know,” she paused for a second, making sure he was as caught in her gaze as she was in his. “I know that I can’t be meant to spend the rest of my life with Jamal. If I was… I… I wouldn’t feel like this.”

He released her chin, and tried to step back only to have her keep a firm grip on his hand. Giving in, he took another tiny step closer. “How wouldn’t you be feeling if you were meant to be with Jamal?”

“It’s not your fault, Rafe,” she said instead of answering. Rationalizing that telling him the truth wouldn’t do either of them any favors. “What happened between me and Jamal, was between me and Jamal. And yeah, he’s jealous of you and I’m not willing to give up our friendship, but the choices made were ours. He decided to sleep with Valerie. He decided to hit on her and basically tell her that if she slept with him he’d consider getting her daughter back for her. Jamal decided to leave me out. And… And I decided to do what made me happy instead of just waiting for him to remember he’s supposed to be in love with me.”

“And why are you telling me all of this?”

“So that you know…” She broke off with a sigh. “So that you know that I don’t hurt because of you, I don’t think that I ever could. I could hurt for you, or because I’m missing you like crazy when you… go back, you know? But… I- I don’t hurt when I’m with you, Rafe. It only hurts when I’m not.”

His hand returned to her face, stroking her cheek softly with his thumb. “I think,” her angel murmured in response, “that we are both getting far too attached to each other. Because I really don’t like the idea of ever letting you go.”

“So don’t.”

“Alison,” he sighed. “I don’t get a choice in the matter.” His eyes lowered to her lips briefly before returning to her gaze. “I wish I did, Alison. You have no idea how much.”

“I wish you’d stop trying to push me to be with Jamal. I’ve tried, Rafe. But I… I’m not in love with him anymore. Sometimes, I can’t even stand the site of him.” She bit down on her lip hopefully. “If it’s really meant to be, it would happen no matter what, right?”


“Ok.” Sitting the picture down beside her, Alison stood, not letting him move away from her. Still holding his hand, she hugged him. “Then please just let go of what you’re supposed to be doing for me and Jamal. Please? Just let things happen the way they’re going to happen. Let fate decide.”

Pulling out of the embrace slightly, Rafe smiled down on her. “I’ll try.”

Her fingers tangled in the back of his hair. “I guess that’s the best that I can hope for,” Alison said, smiling triumphantly. She tilted her head up, her lips slightly parted, and trying to pull his mouth to hers before she could talk herself out of it.

But Rafe resisted, pausing just before he ended up kissing her again. “Alison,” he whispered against her lips.

“Am I going to get you in trouble?”

“Oh yeah.” Laughing, he nodded once. “But I think you’re worth it,” he decided, closing the final breath of space between their lips.

The wind blew suddenly, sending the finger painting into the air. Rafe wrapped his arm around her waist and grabbed it before pulling her closer, never letting his lips leave hers.

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