Destiny, Roses & Romance
Part II: Chapter 44

Thunder rolled, and only dimly did it register. Staring at the alarm clock blinking twelve, a groan filled the air. Twice already the electricity had flashed because of the storm, sending the time back to midnight again and again. Though why that was would probably forever remain a mystery.

What kind of time was midnight anyway? It wasn’t really a time at all. Just a place stuck between one day and another. A second when the world was dark and still. Scary and exciting. The minute between the past and the future, just a fraction in time where you had to wonder if it was today, tomorrow or yesterday. And no matter which one you wanted, you were normally forced into another.

At this rate he’d learn to hate midnight very, very soon.

Rafe groaned again, throwing the blankets off of him as he swung his legs over the side of the bed and tried to resist the urge to pace some more. Sleep was elusive, and just when he’d almost managed to fall he heard her call out his name. And he’d been wide awake ever since. Something was wrong, she was hurt or upset.

He could feel her fear in the pit of his stomach.

It terrified him.

Their connection was strong. And he’d known that from the very beginning. He felt her, more so than anything he’d ever felt before. His feelings around her couldn’t and wouldn’t be tamed, and that was scary enough. But this was something different, something he’d never even known could happen.

He could actually feel her fear, her pain, her anger tearing at his heart, his soul.

God, this hadn’t happened before. Never before. Not with his twin, no matter what people would have liked to think, she was forever a mystery to him. Her feelings threw him for every kind of a loop, and never had he felt her under his skin this way. It had never been this way with Nadia, who was so much like him at times it was a whole other kind of scary. And not with Lucy, his new cousin who could be read like a book. This was new, it was causing his hands to tremble.

Alison was afraid. No, correct that, she was terrified. And he knew that as well as he knew that he was breathing.

But he had absolutely no idea what to do about it.

His forehead rested against the cold glass windowpane before the thought had registered. He shivered at the contact and watched the street below, but for what he didn’t know.

Lightning flashed across the sky, leaving spots dancing in his eyes when darkness once more took over. Rain had started to fall, the streets were slick and he could tell that even from this distance. Thunder once again rumbled, closer this time, louder. And the storm grew nearer. Soon the heavens would seem to open up as rain poured down on this crazy little town, and he’d be even more clueless as to what the hell was going on with her.

But, dammit, he needed to know.

Crossing to the phone was an unconscious movement, one that drew him away from the window almost against his will. The simple black cordless phone was in his hand before the thought of the time had registered to him. And when it did, he paused with just one number left to go. Just then, dear old uncle Ed must have decided to send a sign.

The phone went dead.

The goddamn phone went dead. And it took every ounce of self-restraint that he had ever possessed to keep from hurling the uncooperative object across the room. Instead of pounding it into the wall, in a way that he knew would relieve at least some of his tension, he set it back into his cradle so gently it was almost scary itself.

Another look out the window confirmed his early guess as just then the sky seemed to open the dam. Sheets of rain fell hard and fast, as if it was furiously paying back the frozen city below for some unspeakable sin. Even from this distance he could almost feel the sting of it hitting his skin.

Son of a bitch.

The angel let out a string of curses just under his breath, hoping not to wake his cousin and be forced to endure her endless questions. If the universe hadn’t been playing with him before he had no doubt it was now.

And if he could get his hands on his favorite uncle at the moment he may end up burning in hell with daddy before you could say, the ten commandments.

Rafe glared up at the ceiling, before growling under his breath, “Thank God your wife will get you for that since I’m stuck down here.” His pacing resumed, just a little quicker as the worry grew. What could be wrong? She was sleeping before he’d even left. He’d locked the door behind him, he’d even turned on the radio since noticing the afternoon before that she seemed to enjoy having it play as she slept. Hell, he’d even tucked her in and kissed her goodnight.

She should be alright. She should be perfect, content and sleeping.

Swearing again, he ran his hand over his face. “I… I can’t do this. I’ve got to go over there. I’ve got to see her. She needs me. I know that she needs me. Why am I even still standing in this room.” Nodding, he started toward the door of his room.

Before he could even start to search for his boots, he heard a soft knocking on the door. Even through the thunder and the rain, the light sound rang through out the room. A sigh of relief passed his lips as he knew without a doubt who it was on the other side. And if he did have any doubt it was erased as she hit the door harder and called out for him.

“Rafe? Please, please, please… Rafe?”

The sound of her open palm slapping against the wood was almost in harmony with her sobs hit him hard. It snapped him from his mini trance as he raced across the room, desperate to see her, to sooth her, to hold her and be held. He swung the door open, and before he had a chance to even think, she had her arms wrapped around his waist.

“Thank God, thank God… Rafe…” her sobs racked her slender body, and she tried desperately to pull him closer. Her arms tightened around him as she continued to cry, her words growing louder but more incoherent by the second.

He was lost on what to do but hold her as tight as he could. “Alison… Honey, come on, I’m right here… It’s alright, I promise. What’s wrong, honey? Tell me what happened?”

But she simply shook her head against his chest and continued to cry, continued to attempt to draw him nearer to her still. As if all it would take to stop her crying would be to have him close enough, to feel his arms holding her tight enough. “Don’t… Rafe, please, don’t… I love you. I love you so much…”

Turning on the lights as she walked through, Lucy was wide awake by the time her eyes found them still standing in the front door. “What’s going on in here? What’s wrong?”

Rafe swung his eyes to his cousin and offered only a helpless look. “It’s ok, Alison. I’m here, I’m right here. Just tell me what’s wrong, honey.” He brought his eyes back to the top of Alison’s head, and lowered his voice until it was barely even a whisper. “I love you too, honey. You know that I love you too. But I can’t make this better unless you tell me what’s wrong. I need to know why you’re crying, honey so I can try and fix it.”

“Alison?” Lucy asked, trying to get some answers from her since it was clear Rafe had no idea what was happening, and even if it did with Alison in that state he wouldn’t answer. “Alison, you’re soaking wet. What happened? Come on, just let us know what happened. I think my cousin is itching to play white knight anyway. So… you know, spill it.”

Once more Alison shook her head. Burying her face in the white t-shirt Rafe was wearing. Both she and her angel were completely unaware of the fact that she was actually dripping onto the welcome mat, and he was quickly becoming doused himself. All she knew as that he was here, and she couldn’t get him close enough.

“Well, just so you know, at this rate you’re both going to have the worst colds ever.”

A moment later, after more than one baffled look from Lucy, Rafe shook his head. In one swift movement, he had Alison in his arms. He shut the front door with his foot, leaving it to his cousin to lock it. “Can you get a few towels, please, Lucy?” he asked over his shoulder as he carried across the room to sit her in front of the dying fire in the fire place.

When Rafe released Alison, her cries grew just a little more desperate as she reached for him again. He muttered a curse under his breath for what could possibly be the millionth time that night, and laid his hand down on the wet cotton that covered her knee. “It’s alright,” he murmured, trying to sooth her but still lost as to how. “I’m right here, honey, I promise you. I’m right here.”

Even as he continued to talk to her, saying things that he could only hope were comforting, he slipped off her unlaced tennis shoes one at a time. Then he slid her coat from her shoulders, hoping not to startle her and trying his best not to let go of her for more than a second. Her pajama top was as wet as her coat, the rain, ice and snow outside had obviously shown no mercy. “Did you drive over here?”

“Y-Yeah… I-I just… I needed to see you. I’m sorry, Rafe. I just needed you.”

“Hey, hey, hey… No… Alison, no apologies. If you need me then I want you to find me.” He tore his eyes away from the woman in front of him only long enough to offer his cousin a slight smile as she handed him two oversized towels.

Lucy watched in odd fascination as he carefully wrapped one towel around the shoulders of his now shivering love. “Yeah,” she added after a moment of silence. “If you need him then you find him! Don’t worry about bothering anyone here. And don’t apologize. You just… You know, you gotta tell us why in the world you’re crying like there is no tomorrow. Did… Did someone hurt you? What happened?”

“I-I don’t… It’s stupid,” Alison sniffled, trying to force a smile only to have it wobble as tears continued to fall. With the towel pulled around her shoulders, she wrapped her arms around her legs, laying her head on her knees to study her angel at a different angle as he stoked the fire. “I just needed to see you. I- I needed to know that you were still here.”

Swearing again, Rafe’s gaze flew to her as the realization hit. “I’m sorry, honey. I’m so, so sorry.” He closed his eyes against the site of her crying because of him. Trying to block the image that he knew would stay with him forever. Shaking his head, he sighed. “I never wanted you hurting, Alison. I never wanted to make you cry.”

“What did you do to make her cry, Rafe Kovich?” his cousin demanded. A minute ticked by on the clock on the wall, then another. And it became more than clear that neither of them were ever planning on answering her. When the lights flashed again, she groaned. “Fine, fine, fine, fine.” Lucy pouted, then laid a nightgown across the arm of the sofa just a few feet away from them. “Alison, you should probably get out of those clothes. Just stay here for tonight. You don’t need to be driving, and I’m guessing you want to cuddle up with my cousin for a while, so I’m going to go back to bed.” Shaking her head, she muttered a goodnight and turned off the lights as she went.

Rafe sighed as he threw another log onto the fire. When it actually started to generate some warmth again, he turned his eyes back to Alison, unhappy to see that she was still crying, though not nearly as much as before. She was still crying because he had to leave, and that was so clear now that he wondered why he hadn’t seen it before. This was going to be so much harder a fall than either of them were prepared for. And he was beginning to wonder if it wasn’t a bigger fall than either of them could handle.

“I didn’t… I knew it would hurt, Rafe, and I knew that I had to lose you. But I never… I just need some more time. Just a little more time before you have to leave. It’s… Not yet, alright? Please, just at least promise that you won’t leave before you’re supposed to?”

“I promise. And I promise that I’ll say goodbye to you.” Groaning, he shook his head. “And I promise you that if I could change things, I would give anything, anything, to do that.” Before he knew what the hell he was doing, he was wiping away her tears, shifting closer to her to place a soft kiss on her lips. “You gonna stay the rest of the night?”

Alison nodded, almost as if she was unsure. “I… Y-yes. If you don’t mind I mean. I-I’d like to.” She was still shivering, and there was little doubt she was freezing.

Swallowing hard, he pressed his lips to hers again. “I couldn’t mind if I wanted to.” Sitting back again, he looked down unhappily to find his t-shirt wet, clinging to him. Grasping the hem, he pulled the white material over his head and let it fall next to where he had laid her coat. Grabbing the other towel, he moved again. Both shifted until they decided they were settled, comfortable, and almost close enough.

As she leaned back against his chest, she sighed almost contently. One of her hands coming to rest on his knee beside her. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“No need to thank me,” her angel replied. Pushing her hair back with the towel, he kissed her temple before continuing to attempt to dry her blond locks. “Just don’t scare me like that again.” He paused for a moment, as if thinking of what he wanted to say. “But always, always come to find me if you need me, Alison. I can’t promise I’ll always be here, and I can’t promise I’ll always be able to hold you and let you cry. But I can promise to love you and listen to you. No matter what, honey, I’ll hear you.”

Her eyes drifted shut as she nodded against his chest, still letting him try and dry her hair with that towel enough so that they could go to bed. “But while you are here, can you promise to hold me?”

“Right now, I don’t think I’d even be willing to let you out of my site.”

They sat in silence for a moment just enjoying the fact that they were finally able to just hold on for dear life without interruption. For a few hours anyway. And they were both trying their best not to get lost in their thoughts of each other. With a sigh, he sat the towel down in defeat, then shifted them both a little closer to the fire. His hands ran up and down her arms, trying to warm her enough to stop her shivering.

“You know, you’d get a lot warmer a lot faster if you weren’t in wet clothes.”

“I know. But I really don’t want to move.”

“Do you know your way around this place? There’s a bathroom a few doors down, you can change. I bet you can even find a hairdryer that will actually do some good.”

“Did I mention that I don’t want to move?” she sighed.

“I just don’t think it’s a good thing if you’re shivering this hard this long.”

Shifting so she could look up at him without having to move out of his arms, Alison cocked an eyebrow and let her tone slide into something less tired and more teasing. “I thought you said you didn’t want to let me out of your site.”

“I don’t,” he answered, smiling just slightly. “But I also don’t want you getting hypothermia. I don’t like hospitals that much, and unless there is someone under the age of ten to coach me through it, I don’t stay for long amounts of time.”

“You’re telling me I’d have to have Miss Becki Faye in my hospital room with me to get you to come visit?” Alison asked him, biting down on her bottom lip to keep from smiling and to keep her teeth from chattering. He really did have a point…

“No. In fact, it would be hard to get me out of there. Doesn’t mean I’d like being there.” Dropping a kiss on the tip of her nose, he couldn’t help but grin. “Except for you company of course, that I’ll always love and cherish.”

Rolling her eyes, she pulled away from him. “Fine, you win. I’m changing.” But just as she stood the lights went out again, allowing her to see his face by just the light of the fire. A sigh passed her lips and she tried to step back only to nearly trip over what she could only assume was one of her shoes. “But now I’ll never make it out of here.”

“I won’t look?”

Again, she rolled her eyes. “I never thought you would.” She began fumbling with the buttons on her top, her fingers trembling from the cold and making the task more difficult. But she froze when his hands landed on her knees. There wasn’t enough light to really see by, but she could see a glow in his eyes as he offered up a small smile. She started to ask what he was doing, but stopped when he applied pressure and it became obvious. He was leading her toward the nightgown. Smart man, he was. Alison stepped where he indicated, never moving from his spot on the floor, and when her hand came in contact with the arm of the couch, and something silky, she offered a muttered thanks and watched as he turned around.

As per her luck, the lights came on again just as her top had been tossed over on top of her coat, but for her angel’s credit, he stayed true to his word and didn’t turn around. Though she couldn’t help but wonder if he wanted to. With a blush forming, she fought just a little with the pants that didn’t want to release her legs. Finally free of her wet clothing, Alison smiled despite the fact that she was nearly naked and very much freezing. “Um, Rafe?” she started.

Before the thought could be completed though, he was handing her one of the towels behind his back. “You know, Alison, you don’t make this easy.”

“Sorry?” Drying off a little better, she picked up the nightgown and slipped it over her head. The thin silk did little to warm her, and she tried not shiver but couldn’t seem to stop. “Alright, I’m covered… Sort of.”

Catching site of her, the question that had been on the tip of his tongue was answered. Lucy never quit. With a smile, he shook his head slightly at his cousin when she shivered again inside of the clingy sleeveless silk nightgown. “You know what she’s up to don’t you?” Rafe asked absently, standing up and taking a step toward her.

“Yeah… But it’s soft. And dry.”

Soft. Ok, he should probably take her word on that, but he really, really didn’t want to. Before he could stop himself though, a smile was on his lips, and his hands were on her hips. He kissed her again softly, almost surprised when she pulled away.

“I-It’s… It’s really beautiful, don’t you think? I mean, it’s totally not my color or anything, but it’s pretty. I used to love nightgowns like this but my Nana would laugh and tell me I wasn’t old enough for them. I-I don’t really know-”

He cut her off with another kiss, then grinned at her silence when he pulled back. “You are beautiful, Alison. No matter what you’re wearing.” Stepping back, he reluctantly dropped his hands from one of their favorite resting spots. Shaking his head slightly, almost as if hoping to clear away the dangerous thoughts of her, he walked over to the closet. He pulled down and extra blanket, very aware of the fact that she was watching him from the place where her feet had rooted themselves to the ground.

Rafe flipped off the light above them, but it was flickering anyway, then unfolded the blanket as he walked back to her. Somehow he managed to wrap it around them both, and by some miracle they’d managed to set back in front of the fire without her having to move from his arms for even a second.

She was leaning against his chest, wrapped in his arms and a blanket in front of the fire. Little flashes of memories came to her then, just tiny drops of feelings that she wanted to be real. The burning, his hands on her, the way his skin felt under her fingertips. But with them came the rest, the dream that she knew would haunt her, the one that felt so real it had taken her nearly fifteen minutes to realize it might have been a dream. The sinking hit her hard, followed by the loss, the emptiness, her heart dropping and then shattering. Again she shivered, but this time it wasn’t from the cold. Her fingers circled his wrists, holding his arms to her lightly. Then she turned her head to capture his lips. “Thank you.”

“Don’t-” His lips pressed against her temple, and she could almost feel his smile. “Let’s get you warmed up, then we’ll go to bed, alright?”

Kissing him again, relief flooded through her. He was here, she was in his arms. Everything was alright. No, it was way better than alright. “Works for me,” Alison sighed when he pulled his lips from hers. “As long as I know that you’re still here, it works for me.” The small hint of a smile graced her lips, and when the electricity went out again, neither of them noticed. They had the fire.

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