Falling
All the King's Horses
Part I: Chapter 24

“I don’t think that’s true,” Rafe murmured to her gently after a moment. “I think that you can have anything that you want. You… Alison, you deserve to be happy. And you should have anything that you want. You can have anything that you want. You just need to admit that you want it and go after it.”

Her eyes met his for just the briefest of a moment then darted away. God, he didn’t know. How could he not know? She tried to search for something safe to land her frantic eyes on, but that didn’t seem to be in the cards. Looking at him, especially now - seated on her bed and filled with… concern and caring and honesty - it just wasn’t a good idea.

Alison finally settled her gaze on their still clasped hands. It was amazing how… right it felt holing onto him someway. And it was just breathtaking that it never failed that they’d end up touching in some way when they were near each other. Why was it that when they weren’t touching she felt empty? Or was that just another question she didn’t want to answer. Dammit, and why did she want to cry at how damn caring this man was? “I don’t think-”

Sighing, Rafe shifted his weight to sit closer to her. When her barely whispered words broke off, the hand that wasn’t holding hers tucked a lock of hair that had escaped her messy ponytail away from her face. Cupping her chin, he brought her eyes to meet his once more, and he searched them, but for what he didn’t know. “Believe me here, Alison. Every once in a while I actually know what I’m talking about,” he smiled. “If you want it, then fight for it, and I would almost be willing to bet that it was yours in the end.”

His hand moved from her chin to her cheek, and Alison wrapped her fingers around his wrist. He thought at first it was to pull his hand away, but she seemed rather content to have it stay just right there. In fact, she leaned into his touch just slightly. His thumb unconsciously swept across her cheek as if wiping away tears before they could consider falling with a small, gentle caress. “What’s wrong?”

Her tongue darted out to wet her lips. “W-What makes you think anything is wrong?” she asked, her tone overly happy and false even to her ears. The smile that followed didn’t convince either of them that it really was ok. It was far too weak and wobbly. “Really, why would you think that something is wrong?”

“Oh, Alison, because I know you just a little bit by now, honey.” He shifted again, somehow drawing her closer to him. Swearing silently when her eyes filled with tears. “You can’t pretend with me, Alison. And I don’t want you to think that you ever have to.”

“I don’t,” she whispered, surprising herself with the honesty that small statement held. “I don’t think that I have to pretend, or be something that I’m not around you. I never have. I don’t think I ever will… It’s just… scary sometimes.”

“What is?”

“Just… everything! The way I’m feeling, these thoughts that suddenly keep popping into my head, the fact that I’m not even sure what I’m thinking or feeling. It’s scary, Rafe. And you… You’re the only one lately that gets that, that actually understands everything there is to understand about me. And you know just the thing to do or say or-” breaking off, she took a deep breath. “I don’t know what I’m going to do without you. I just… The idea that I’m going to wake up eleven days from now to find that you’re gone…”

“Actually,” he confessed with a smile. “I’m pretty clueless here, Alison. I don’t know what to say, or do, or anything. But, growing up with the girls did teach me a thing or two. I can actually listen really well-”

“And you’re a great crying shoulder.”

“Well, you know, I’m here. If you need me, or a shoulder to cry on, or… anything, Alison. If you need anything…” Rafe sighed. “I wish you would just tell me what to do to make it better.”

“It doesn’t work that way.”

“I know.”

“I don’t even know what’s really wrong. Or that anything even is wrong. I’m just… I’m scared, Rafe.”

“Honey, you don’t have anything to be scared of. No demons hiding in the closet, no monsters under the bed… You ended a huge part of your life yesterday, right? I mean, you didn’t end your life exactly…” Rafe shook his head, and took a breath. “When you broke up with Jamal yesterday, it was something huge. And you’re trying to push it down and bottle it up until it’s not huge anymore. You want to be able to brush it off, but you can’t. You have to go through it all, Alison. The feelings don’t get tired and go away if you put them off long enough.”

“This isn’t about Jamal. This is about the fact that I’m in l…” Alison bit her tongue quickly, moving to cover her tracks before he realized what she was about to say. “I’m not broken into pieces over what happened yesterday. I mean, yeah, it hurts, you know? But I’m going to keep on breathing and living. Just like you said! I’m not… My life didn’t end just because my relationship with Jamal did. I mean, at one time, you know, I thought it would have. But it didn’t. The feelings weren’t there with me and Jamal, not anymore. He changed, and I changed, and I’m sick of talking about this.”

Sighing, Rafe moved his hand from her cheek only to end up holding both her hands in his. “I’m here when you want to talk about it. That’s all I’m saying.”

“Well I don’t. Not now.” Alison wet her lips, then shifted slightly in the bed to lean back against the headboard. “So, can we talk about something else?”

“Sure.”

“Anything else? I mean… Can I ask you something without feeling like I’m prying into something I shouldn’t?”

The angel laughed lightly. “Ask me anything you want to know.”

“You said girls.”

“What?”

Alison bit down on her lip and giggled at his confused expression. “You said ‘growing up with the girls.’”

“Oh, the ever boring topic of me! Got ya.” Rafe shrugged his shoulders. “The girls would be Ela, actually her name is Rafaela, my sister. And our baby cousin. Of course, she’s always hated being called that, and she’s really not a baby.”

“Wow, so you really did used to have a life, huh?” she teased lightly.

“Not really. I had family. Those two were probably the most import things to me. But Ela wrote the book self-destruction, I was just the one that was there to fix it.”

“Was she that bad?”

Again, Rafe shrugged. “It really depends who you ask.”

“I’m asking you.”

“She’s… She was my sister, Alison,” he sighed. “My twin sister. The one person that got me when even I didn’t. I think I got her the same way, you know? But it’s like I said last night, there has always been this big part of us that can’t be in the same room together without it turning into a fight. By the time I actually understood what the hell her problem was it was too late to fix it.”

“What happened?”

“She was jealous. Always. I mean, yes, our father did pay more attention to me, but only because he spent every moment pushing me - training me. She was his little girl though, his pride and joy, and he didn’t want her to have anything to do with… us. All the bad things in the world, he tried to protect her from, and she ended up feeling left out a lot of the time because of that.”

“Well that only makes sense. Not to mention that you probably had the same attitude as your father did. Actually, I know that you still have that. You see a girl as helpless and think you have to defend and protect.”

“It’s not like that!”

Alison squeezed his hands lightly. “Then how is it?”

“When our cousin was three, she practically moved in with us. Her parents had decided that she’d held back their careers long enough, right? So they left her with strangers at least six days a week. She didn’t know any of us at first, they’d just moved down from New York. She latched on to me-”

“You’re an easy person to latch onto.”

Chuckling, Rafe shook his head. “Ela was upset about the entire thing, because she thought she was going to be hers. Our mother set it up in her mind that when our cousin came to stay with us she would be the one person that adored Ela to no end. Of course, she always made it sound like the rest of us didn’t.”

“So she was only made more jealous by the fact that this new girl took up even more of your time and didn’t pay attention to her.”

“Basically. Only the thing is, our cousin isn’t like that. She’d open up to anyone and everyone that opened up to her. She spent lots of time with Ela, but she spent lots of time with everyone else as well.”

“I don’t get it. So why was she jealous? If she spent time with her too…”

“Everyone spent time with her too. That’s the thing, see? Ela didn’t see it that way. She wanted everyone paying attention to her and only her all the time. Ela always felt like I was stealing something from her. In fact, she always felt like everyone was stealing something from her. So, it’s like I said, she wrote the book on self-destruction. When we got older she’d party, end up drunk or high and call me. She saw that it got my attention, so she did it again. Then it got our parents attention. Then it got everyone’s attention. So she kept it up. Then it just got to a point where she dug herself into a hole too deep for me to get her out of.”

“Is she…”

“No. She’s living in Mexico now, actually. Has a husband and two little girls, but that I won’t talk about.”

Alison’s eyes widened suddenly. “Rafe, I didn’t mean to-”

He squeezed her hands reassuringly, cutting off her words. “You didn’t. Sometimes, it’s nice to remember.”

“Right,” she smiled. “It’s like I said before, you know, this friendship thing works two ways.”

“I know.”

“I’m here when you want to talk about it,” Alison grinned. “That’s all I’m saying.”

“I’ll try to keep that in mind,” Rafe teased.

“You better!” Alison shifted, and her mood shifted as well when her knee hit his. “You just… You should know that… If you want me, I’m here.”

Leaning forward slightly, Rafe offered her a smile. “I think that’s supposed to be my line.”

“Yeah, well, I already know that though. Because you’re here. And I want you.” Oh, God… He knew. He had to know now. She told him. Oh, God. “To be… here, I mean,” Alison rushed on.

She cringed when he laughed, and then fell in the hug he pulled her into.


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