Destiny, Roses & Romance
Part II: Chapter 29

Rafe sighed and shifted uncomfortably in the hard white chair he was sitting in. His fingertips were drumming an annoying, impatient rhythm on his upper arm. So annoying in fact that he only reason he hadn’t stopped hours ago was that he didn’t know if it was driving him crazy or keeping him sane. Had it really been hours? It felt like hours. He stared straight ahead, not really seeing anything except for her and the look on her face as when walked out the door.

In his attempts to keep from hurting her, he’d ripped both their hearts out. It really was almost ironic how things kept turning out lately. Why had he been stupid enough to fall in love with her in the first place was something he’d never understand. Really, he’d managed this long without doing something completely idiotic, like falling, so why’d that all have to change now? It wasn’t like he didn’t know that nothing could happen. He knew perfectly well what he was getting into, and he’d gone and done it anyway.

Of course, she said the same thing. She’d flat out told him that she knew he had to leave. Then she told him she loved him anyway. That she fell in love with him knowing that it couldn’t happen between them. Why did things have to be so damn complicated? It would have been much simpler if she’d just… not felt the same. That was probably the worst thing she could have done. He could take leaving her, it wasn’t going to be easy and he was going to hate every second of it, but he could take it. What he couldn’t handle was hurting her. And now, he was doomed to do just that. No matter what he did. There just wasn’t a right way to deal with this.

There wasn’t an easy way out that would keep her from getting hurt.

He could still be there. He could have just let go, and then he’d still be there all wrapped up in her. They could have at the very least talked it out a little longer. Made it a little clearer. Damn it, he could have at least stayed until she stopped crying. He could have held her, let her know it would all be ok. Yeah, so he was getting stuck on the idea of just being there. Instead he was here. Waiting.

Patients had never been his strong suit. In fact, he’d never really mastered the art of how to wait at all without pacing until he couldn’t stand at all. Granted, he’d gotten slightly better over the years, but not much. Ela had always rolled her eyes and told him he had the patients of a four-year-old. His heart hadn’t been in that battle because she was right and they both knew it. But that doesn’t change the fact that he hated waiting, always had, more than likely always would. But yet here he was stuck doing just that. Waiting.

And the worst part was he didn’t even know why he was waiting. It wasn’t like Ed was going to tell him anything he didn’t already know. The man would do anything but tell him what the hell was going on. And yet he’d insisted on meeting him anyway. He’d insisted on it when he knew that he could just turn around and scoop Alison back into his arms. He was an idiot. Truly, the definition of the word. He could still be there holding her, and instead he was here. Rafe shook his head and muttered a curse. This was turning into a very, very long day. And an even longer wait.

Waiting was horrible. It had to be, without a doubt, one of the worst forms of punishment he could think of off the top of his head. If it weren’t for the fact the he called the meeting he might think it was punishment. Of course, if he didn’t know any better he’d think that Ed was making him wait to get on his nerves. Not that it was working. Rafe shifted again in the chair and starting tapping his foot.

Nope, this wasn’t getting on his nerves at all. He was the picture of calm. Everything that cool and collected and indifferent should be. That was him. Absolutely indifferent to this damn never ending wait. This wait that was keeping him from being back there with Alison. It wasn’t getting to him. Didn’t matter at all. He was far too calm to care.

“Would you stop that?”

Rafe jumped as the voice boomed behind him and pulled him from his thoughts. He stilled his fingers and turned to see his boss leaning against the door. “Stop what?”

“Don’t play dumb with me, kid. You know I can’t stand that.”

“What can’t you stand?”

Walking behind his desk, Ed glared down at him. “Stop with the tapping or I’m going to kick you out. Oh, you know, better yet, I’ll keep you and I won’t let you get back to your girl anytime soon.” A smile crossed his features when the office became silent. “Thank you. You know that I hate that.”

I hate waiting. And I’m not very good at it.”

“You can say that again,” he grumbled under his breath. “So, what brings you here, kid?”

Rafe didn’t bother fighting against the smile. “You know exactly why I’m here, and I know that you know why I’m here. So just answer my question and send me back.”

Shaking his head, Ed couldn’t help but laugh. “Look, I didn’t do anything wrong. And as far as I know, you haven’t screwed up beyond repair.”

“But you do tend to turn the other way from time to time, don’t you?”

The older angel took his seat behind the desk, still chuckling lightly. “Good point, my boy. I do look the other way occasionally. Like when your girl found out that you were sent from up here?”

“I didn’t tell her,” he muttered somewhat defensively.

“You didn’t try to hard to convince her otherwise either, did you, kid?”

Rafe shifted again in his seat and shrugged. “She’s not an easy person to lie to. Well… Not when she’s giving you that look, you just can’t lie to her. Or I can’t, anyway. I’m in so much trouble.”

“Yeah,” Ed laughed. “You’re in deep, my boy.”

Raising an eyebrow, Rafe cocked his head to the side. “But you haven’t pulled me. And you won’t either, will you? You’re going to send me back, and you’re not going to pull me until midnight Christmas Eve no matter what. Mind telling me why that is, boss?”

“You should have paid closer attention before. How many times must I stress that you need to read your handbook?” Ed asked instead. His laughter died down and it was his turn to shrug. When it became clear Rafe wouldn’t accept anything but an answer, he continued, “You don’t just have a crush on her, kid. You’re in love with her, and she’s in love with you. I think this qualifies as getting too close.”

“It’s not like I set out to fall for her, Ed!” he said a little louder than he should have. But he didn’t blink, just bolted out of his chair and stared pacing. “I didn’t set out to fall for her, it just happened. And! And, you know what? I fought against it. I tried to stay away from her, I tried to avoid her, I even tried telling her that it would be best if we didn’t spend time together anymore, and she didn’t listen, or care. I read the handbook, I know how it goes. I know I have to leave, and I know that it was beyond stupid of me to do this… I don’t know why I started feeling this way, and you know what else, I don’t really care! I mean, I do care. I do. But only because I know that this is hurting her. I know that no matter what I do… There’s no right way to do this. I can’t do anything without hurting her, and that’s the last thing that I ever want to do. You know?”

“I know,” he answered quickly, taking the opportunity to break into the rant when Rafe paused for a breath. “I know exactly what you mean. You don’t want to hurt your girl, but you gotta. Face it, Rafe, you’re darned if you do and you’re darned if you don’t.”

Rafe stopped in front of the desk and crossed his arms in front of him. A half a smile appeared despite his fight against it. “Thank you for not saying ‘damned’. But really, you’re not telling me anything that I don’t already know. I’ve faced that fact already. I can’t do anything to keep from hurting her.”

“Exactly.” Ed smiled himself. Leaning back in his chair, he propped his feet up on his desk with a sigh. “So, why don’t you do yourself a favor and listen to your girl?”

“I listen to Alison! I listen to her more than anyone else does. I think I’m always surprising her with just how closely I listen to her-” Sitting back down, Rafe didn’t bother trying to suppress his smile. “So, why do you keep calling her that?”

“Calling her what?” the older man asked. A moment later he sighed at the looking being shot at him from across the desk. Apparently he wasn’t any better than playing innocent than the kid was. “Doesn’t matter,” Ed muttered, waving off the issue with one hand. “What matters is why you are here instead of there with her. Are you crazy, kid? Soak up what time you have with your… Alison.”

“I plan on it. But I’m still not going back on what I told her. We can’t go anywhere beyond friendship, I can’t… I won’t hurt her like that, Ed.”

“You’re a good kid,” Ed smiled again, shaking his head. “A little mixed up in the head, but a good kid. Just don’t blow it.”

“What’s to blow? We’re friends and we aren’t going to be more than that because I have to go. And won’t it hurt her just a little bit less if we don’t-”

“Like I said,” he interrupted. “You’re mixed up. Don’t tell me you’re so far down that Egyptian river that you can’t see you’re already more than friends.”

Rafe narrowed his eyes. “I’m not in denial.”

“Please,” Ed scoffed. “You’re drowning in it.”

“I know how I feel about her. I’m not trying to hide from that, or even how she feels about me!”

“What do you call pretending that little heart to heart you two had today never happened? You’re sitting here trying to convince yourself that you can just be this girl’s friend after you told her you’re in love with her!”

“That is not denial. It’s the way things have to be.”

Ed shook his head again and he may have actually snorted in disbelief. “You told her that you wanted nothing more than for her to have your children. That you wanted to marry her and live happily ever after. The girl was a puddle at your feet by the time you were through, and there is no taking back all the times you’ve said you love her today.”

“I never said I wanted to take it back,” Rafe grumbled, shifting again in the chair, suddenly even more uncomfortable than before. “You weren’t-”

“No! No, no. You’re time down there is your time. As long as you get the job done, I’m not going to be watching you that closely.” He couldn’t help but grin just a little as he shrugged. “But you know how my wife is. She makes a habit of checking up on you. Not to mention she’s nosey and a sucker for anything that even resembles a sappy romance. You were apparently pretty good entertainment. She was sobbing for hours…”

With a groan, he ran his hand over his face and had to laugh. “As much as I adore your wife, mind asking her to never mention that to me or anyone else again? Thanks.”

“I’ll try, kid,” Ed laughed. “But I make no promises. You know how she gets with you… She’s a regular mother hen. I’ll have you know days after I send you on assignment I’m still hearing about how horribly I overwork you.”

“I don’t complain.”

“That’s what I tell her.” He studied the kid across from him for a minute before he dropped his smile and sighed. “I think you will after this though. It’s going to take some time for you to recover when you’ve got to come back. You might want to prepare yourself for some serious fussing over when you get back.”

“As long as she promises not to burst into tears every five minutes, I really don’t mind.”

“Of course you don’t. What kind of guy minds having my wife fuss over them?” Ed shook his head again. “I’m telling you, kid, you just gotta listen to your girl.”

“I listen to her!”

He paused a moment, his eyes on the wall over Rafe’s head as if it was going to give him the right thing to say. “Look, son, I know that you listen to her. Just… try letting yourself believe what she says once in a while.”

Rafe leaned forward, his elbows on his thighs and a smile gracing his face again. “That shouldn’t be too hard. It’s more of a fight not to believe her.”

“Yeah, I told you she’d be trouble.”

“I really didn’t doubt you.”

With a shrug, Ed felt the corners of his mouth twitch with the urge to grin. “Just… You know, getting her with… what’s his name… Jamal? That wasn’t part of the assignment. So why don’t you stop pushing her and just let destiny take it’s course, huh?”

Finding his opening, Rafe leaned back once more and crossed his arms in front of him. “Glad you mention it, boss,” he smiled. “Because that happens to be why I’m here. Why don’t you just fill me in on Destiny?”

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