Falling
All the King's Horses
Part I: Chapter 20

Her eyelids fluttered while she dreamt. Her lips had formed into a smile, so it had to be a good dream. But of what he didn’t know. Alison was anything from restless as she slept, maybe he’d expected tossing and turning, but she didn’t. And she’d probably feel it when she woke up.

Actually, it was almost scary to see how still she was. Alison was bubbly, full of life and energy, and very rarely did she spend long periods of time without moving. It occurred to him, she must really need this rest. The quick comment she’d made about boxing cookies around dawn hadn’t slipped by him, though he did let it slide at the time. She’d told him that she hasn’t been able to sleep lately. Something was obviously bothering her, otherwise she should have been able to sleep. It was really very simple logic. What wasn’t simple was figuring out what exactly it was that was bothering her.

Jamal was his first guess, but she seemed so sure that it wasn’t upsetting her enough. Alison – for all she knew – had just lost the most important person in the world to her this afternoon. She’d shoved him out of her life, called it quits, and said with such conviction that she was through with Jamal that he almost believed it. If only he didn’t see a tiny flicker of something in her eyes when she thought he wasn’t looking, he may actually buy into the act that she wasn’t hurting.

Maybe she really bought into the act. Maybe Alison had somehow convinced herself that she didn’t feel anything about dumping Jamal. It wasn’t completely unheard of. You tell a lie enough times, you start to believe it’s real yourself. You call yourself something else for so long, it becomes your name. But – he’d never heard of being able to focus on one emotion so long that you didn’t feel any other way.

In fact it worked just the opposite from what he’d learned. You don’t pretend to be happy them wake up one day and realize your really are. You pretend to be happy, you fake a smile all the time, you force your voice to stay light, you even laugh at all the right times – it still doesn’t make you happy. Years could pass, and until you made an effort to change, you were still just miserable and playing the part.

Rafe shook his head and smiled bitterly. Apparently he’d learned a thing or two before he was old enough to block them all out. When had he forgotten to forget all of that?

Ignoring the thought, he turned his attention back to her. The smile still played on her lips, but her eyelids had stopped their fluttering. Her breathing was deep and even. What little makeup she had been wearing had faded away long ago, leaving only tiny traces behind. And he’d never seen her look more beautiful than she did at this moment. Completely relaxed, and free of anything that made him think she was wearing a mask to hide from the world.

It was one of those amazing little things he thought he’d never have the privilege of seeing for himself.

His hand had long ago moved from her hair, first to her shoulder, then to her hip. It wasn’t a conscious movement, just a little something that seemed to happen when he wasn’t paying attention. Having no control over his actions was something he’d have to get used to, because she wasn’t giving up any of the power she held over him, even in sleep. The only thing worse than the fact that she could get him to do just about anything had to be that she didn’t even realize it.

Of course, how she didn’t see was an all out mystery to him. He was sure it was written in everything he did. Screamed in every look, whispered through every touch, repeated again and again whenever he spoke. It underlined his every thought and movement, searching for a way out despite his best efforts to bury it. He loved her. More than she could ever understand. He loved her. And it was getting harder and harder by the minute not to let her know.

Rafe sighed and raised his eyes toward the doorway when he heard the jingle of keys. He moved his hand, away from her hip and back to her shoulder, before it started anything else. All she needed was someone else ragging on her about their friendship. Besides, he wouldn’t want to screw things up further between her and Jamal, or give anyone else the ammunition to kill whatever was left between Alison and her love.

Valerie was quiet as she entered, obviously trying to keep from waking Alison just in case she happened to be asleep, she waved at him from across the room and closed the door again. She sat her purse down and removed her coat silently. “I see you finally got her to sleep,” she whispered, pausing as she walked by.

“Finally?”

“I could hear her up most of last night. And before that too, really. I can’t remember the last time I woke up and she was actually sleeping.”

He nodded, knowing it only confirmed what he already knew. “She needed sleep.”

“Badly,” Valerie informed him. “Jamal is a pretty deep sleeper, I don’t think he so much as blinked when she was moving around at all night long. He probably didn’t even notice. I don’t know what it is, but Jamal has just been so wrapped up in everything else, he didn’t pay attention to what she needed. I mean, I’m a pretty deep sleeper too, but even I can hear her up sometimes. It’s probably been weeks since she actually stayed still for more than an hour.”

No, she was still yesterday. But that was none of her business. “I could tell.”

Shrugging, Valerie peeked over the back of the couch to get a better look. “How did you actually manage to get her to sleep? Did you have to tie her down or something, cause she was not sitting still last night.”

“Pretty much,” the angel murmured. “Do you know what it is that’s been wrong? She swears it’s not everything with Jamal and…”

“If you don’t know, I’m not going to be the one to tell you, Rafe. It’s not my place, and she’s been nice to me lately, I won’t return the favor by spilling what I know. I don’t think she meant to ‘fess up about it in the first place anyway. Especially since I was here.” She shrugged her shoulders again and let out an exaggerated sigh as she made her way into the kitchen. “Of course, it’s not like Alison has even admitted it to herself yet, so she really wouldn’t want you to know.”

“If she hasn’t admitted it to herself, how could she tell you?” he asked dryly.

“She didn’t tell me, she slipped in front of me and Livvie.” Opening the fridge, she pulled out the milk, pouring it into a glass before she spoke again. “We wore her down, I think. She was really just getting sick of dodging the question we weren’t asking, so she answered it. Just not with her words.” She returned the milk to its proper place, then paused when something caught her eye. A finger painting?

“Ok, so you just… guessed, basically?”

A quiet laugh escaped her. “Alison is amazingly easy to read when she’s talking about you. I don’t know her very well, and I could see it. So how neither of you know I don’t get. Sorry, pal.”

“Me?”

Again she laughed. “You’re really clueless, Rafe. Just watch her. It’s there, it’s obvious. Everyone else sees it, so I don’t know why the two of you don’t.” Valerie tilted her head. “I think she’s starting to figure it out, though. I think she’s starting to see how she feels. Livvie had something to that whole denial theory…”

Rafe shook his head in confusion. “What are you talking about?”

“If you don’t know I’m not going to tell you,” Valerie teased. He could hear her moving around, walking toward the bed as she spoke. “There, I pulled the blankets back in there, so if you want to just put her in bed you can.”

“Yeah,” Rafe nodded. “I will… In a minute.”

Valerie walked in front of him, smiling. “Whatever,” she muttered rolling her eyes. “Just don’t stay like that all night, neither one of you will be able to move in the morning.” Pausing, she took a sip of her milk. “I’m going to bed. Do yourself a favor and think about what I said.”

“Oh, I’m sure I will,” he smiled sarcastically. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” Valerie muttered in reply, walking off.

Right, so she answered nothing. In fact, she gave him more questions. Like what the hell that entire conversation was about to begin with. Since when did Alison not know how she felt? How could she answer a question that wasn’t being asked? What kind of slip could lead to that weird encounter? And what were they doing talking about him?

Rafe sighed. “Alison,” he whispered before he could back out, the hand that had somehow returned to her hip without his permission, shook her slightly. “Alison,” Rafe repeated.

“Rafe,” she murmured sleepily. “What?”

“You need to go to get into bed-”

“No,” Alison groaned, her hand moving to wrap around his knee when she sensed him starting to move. “I’m comfortable.”

He had to laugh at her stubbornness, she still hadn’t opened her eyes. “Well you’ll be more comfortable in bed. I promise.”

“But I don’t wanna,” she pouted, still probably more than a little asleep.

Lifting the pillow her head was rested on, he gently slid out from under her, bringing another groan and a deeper pout. Again, he had to laugh. Gently, he took her hands and laced them together behind his neck. “Just hold on to me, ok?” he asked, slipping one arm under her knees and the other around her back. “I won’t drop you,” Rafe promised.

“I know,” Alison sighed tiredly, her head resting on his shoulder as he lifted her. “You won’t drop me. I trust you.”

“Well that’s good.” Walking carefully so as not to jostle her too much, Rafe tried not to admit he was savoring the feeling of her in his arms.

“But,” she yawned, burying her face more into the crook of his neck. “I don’t know if you’re going to catch me.”

Laying her on the bed, he pulled the blankets up around her, tucking them in loosely. “I don’t need to catch you. You didn’t fall. You’re never going to fall.”

“Nope.” Alison yawned again, her eyes still not opening to meet his, and rolled over onto her side. “I’m already falling, Rafe.”

“Yeah,” he muttered, smiling. “falling asleep.” Before he could stop himself, his lips brushed her forehead. “Goodnight, Alison. Sweet dreams.”

“They have been so far,” she replied.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” Rafe laughed. “Go back to sleep.”

“I am asleep. Me, my sweet dreams… and my angel.”


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