Disclaimer: I don't own PC, any of its characters, dialogue or storylines. Come to think of it some of the storylines were so horrific I wonder if ABC/Disney will still admit they own them. :) However, the idea for this story and any characters in it that never appeared on PC are mine. ALL MINE.
A/N: This story is I guess - sixth in a series. Yeah. I know – I know. I said I was done, or that I'd be gone until October but here's the thing. Number one – Superstition is killing me already and number two - I created a group of characters and gosh darn it - lol! - I want to see where they go. So, here you are. I'm writing. I hope there are still people who want to read. There'll be lots of Rali (because I love them and frankly they are the reason I began writing all this in the first place.) And Caleb and that psycho he calls his wife shall make an appearance too. :) - Can you tell I'm a little bitter about what's currently airing on SoapNet??? Just so you're aware where I'm coming from – anyone who happens to like Abby, Cameron, Kate, Colin, Grant, Chloe, Lia, Lynnie, or Becky – today's your lucky day. ;)
I also just wanted to take a second and say thank you to those of you who took the time to send me reviews for my last story – as always there's my girls – the Awians (PCGirl, Melody, Nat and Bethany) and to Kathy, Terri and Livvie712, who have also pushed me along throughout my little journey here. And finally to Ali and susiej whose reviews – honestly - moved me to tears. You asked me to write so I am. I hope you like what you read.
Until 2 – grab some tissues. :'( xox-G
"Angel?" Rafe called out as he walked into the house.
"UP HERE!" Alison yelled down to him.
As he climbed the stairs to the attic he caught sight of her. She looked adorable, with a scarf tied over her hair and dust clinging to her jeans. She was wearing one of his shirts, the sleeves rolled up to her elbows. There was a smudge of dirt across her forehead.
"Spring cleaning?" He asked with a chuckle.
"Something like that. I forgot you were coming home for lunch." She replied with a smile, walking over towards him. She rose on her toes and gave him a smacking kiss on the lips. "How was work?"
"Fine." He said as he smiled back at her and looked around. "Seriously. What are you up to?"
"I was thinking, it's been ages since I cleaned this place out. I just got inspired today. I've been going down Memory Lane all morning. Look at all this." She eased away and walked over to a box rummaging through it. "I found Katie's first report card, and Grant's first track trophy and Becky's old ballet slippers, and ewww..." She made a horrible face as she picked up an old coffee can and shook it at him "...Ella's bug collection."
"Eww. How lovely." He laughed as he took the can from her and put it aside.
"I also found boxes and boxes of your old journals." She said idly, as if an afterthought.
"Really?" Rafe said with a grin. She sounded disinterested but he was sure she had been up here all morning snooping. It actually was fine with him. There was barely a thing in the books that he hadn't already told her himself. He pulled one out at random and blew the dust off the cover. "2005." Rafe smiled as he sat down on the ground and began to read. "The year Grant was born."
"How is he today?" Alison sighed as she moved to kneel next to him, her voice full of worry.
"Fine – well – more accurately - pretending he's fine." Rafe said as he sighed himself.
"I just wish..." Alison blinked back tears.
"I know. Me too. I still have faith it'll work out." Rafe said as he set the book aside and took her in his arms. "They'll be together again."
"I know they will. Someday." She said softly, wiping a hand across her cheek, smudging more dust on her face. She pushed the unpleasant thoughts from her mind. It still killed her to think of any of her children unhappy, but Grant was an adult now. She couldn't try and protect him forever.
She tried to change the subject to something much happier. "So. Do you think we have time for lunch?" Alison whispered with a smile as she inched closer to Rafe.
"I hope so." He replied, moving frame her face in his hands. He kissed her deeply and she melted against him. Rafe's hands moved to the buttons on the shirt she wore, slipping open one, then the next. He was starting on the third when suddenly there was the pitter patter of little feet below.
"Ella." He said with a sigh and a smile as he pulled away.
"I forgot she had a half day today." Alison smiled back.
"Raincheck?" Rafe asked, his voice full of hope.
"Of course." She replied as she kissed him quickly, moving to fasten the buttons on her shirt before Ella appeared.
Their little girl always looked like she'd just rolled out of bed, no matter what time of day it was. As hard as Alison tried, Ella's hair was always in tangles, her clothes perpetually wrinkled. Alison decided long ago that it didn't matter. Ella was just Ella - so much like her father but completely unique. There was no changing her and Alison wouldn't want to try.
"Hi!" Ella said with a giggle as she reached the top of the stairs. "I'm home."
"Hey sweetheart." Alison said as her youngest child skipped over to give her a kiss. "How was school?"
"School was cool." Ella giggled louder. She loved rhyming. She tried to do it as often as she could. "Hi Daddy." She leaned over to give Rafe a kiss on the cheek.
"Hey Ella Bella Cinderella." He said with a laugh as she climbed into his lap. He placed a kiss on her hair. "How's my girl?"
"Pretty good." She asked as she settled in and picked up one of the books in the box beside her. "What's in the box?"
"My journals." Rafe replied as he watched Alison hide the coffee can. He knew that Ella would want her bugs back if she knew it was there. He was afraid of what they'd find if they opened it up.
He didn't need to worry. Ella was preoccupied. "Journals? Like a diary?" She asked as she turned to face him.
"That's right. Like a diary." He grinned at her.
"Like Becky's diary she keeps hidden in a box in her closet?" Ella asked innocently.
"ELLA!" Alison scolded. "Do not tell me you've read your sister's diary!"
"Why, Alison? Is it because a diary or – oh I don't know – maybe a journal is something private?" Rafe asked with a grin.
"Yes." She said, her voice serious. She caught his eye and realized what he was saying. He was teasing her. "OK. Rafe. I admit it. I should never have peeked. But..."
"Mommy? You read Daddy's diary!?" Ella was shocked.
"I – well..." Alison fought to explain herself. "Yes Ella. I did, and it was wrong, just as it would be wrong if you read Becky's. I don't want to find out you've done that, do you understand me?"
"Don't worry. I only peeked once. It was boring." She said with a yawn. "I promise. I won't do it again."
"Ella, sweetie. Yes. It's true. A long time ago, your mom, well, she was nosy and snooped and read my journal. But you know what? I'm glad she did."
"Why?" His daughter asked completely curious. "You should have been mad at her. She was bad."
Alison blushed crimson. Ella was absolutely right.
Rafe laughed out loud as he looked over at Alison, his eyes spilling with love. He hugged Ella tight and kissed the top of her head. "Because if she hadn't read it and found out how much I loved her, I might never have had you."
She looked at the order slip in her hand and her mouth went dry. It should get easier, Chloe thought. It's not as if it hadn't been over a year since she pushed him away.
She knew without a doubt that it was for him. No matter what it was that he ordered, he always asked for extra mustard and ketchup. She used to tease him about it all the time. She used to tease him a lot. Not anymore.
It seemed like a lifetime ago.
Her hands shook as she took the order from the kitchen. "Don't be a fool, Chloe. He's not coming to pick it up himself. He'll send someone else." She thought as she felt a tightening in her chest. "You've made it very clear that you don't want to see him, and he always does what you ask."
She was roused from her daydream by a sweet little voice. "Clo?"
Chloe took a deep breath and forced a smile as she turned towards the sound. "Hi Becky." She said. "It's almost ready."
"Thanks." Becky replied as she gazed at her. Everyone, especially her family, thought she was too young to understand, but she knew. She'd always known. Chloe still loved Grant, even if they were apart now, even if she had given him the ring back and they didn't speak anymore. Becky knew, and it broke her heart to see them both so sad.
Chloe packed the tin in a brown paper bag, wanting with all her heart to slip something in there, like a note to let him know she still thought about him every second of every day. But it was because of her that they weren't together and she needed to keep it that way. Still, some days were harder than others. Today was a hard day. Seeing Becky standing there had her wanting to at least ask.
"How is he?" Chloe whispered as she handed her the bag and waved away the money she offered. She couldn't fully meet the young girl's eyes.
"He's OK." Becky said softly. "He still misses you." She felt she had to add.
Chloe nodded. She really needn't have asked. She knew that already. "OK. There you go." Chloe said, trying to dismiss her. She blinked back tears and tried to smile again, but her head was swimming with dreams of what might have been.
Becky could see how lost Chloe was. No one ever gave her enough credit. She was sixteen but people still thought of her as a child, even though Ella was eight years younger than her. She knew that Chloe still loved her brother and vice versa and she was unsure of exactly what had happened to screw it up. She knew it happened right after Chloe's mom died but she didn't understand why. She thought – not for the first time, how little sense it all made. She was determined to start to bring them back together. That's why she volunteered to go get Grant's lunch today. She wanted to see exactly what she was up against.
Becky bit her lip and tried to find the right words. She spoke quietly and carefully. "Chloe. I'm not a baby anymore, and I know whatever happened between you and Grant is none of my business. But anyone with eyes can see you're both so unhappy. I know if you didn't care about him you wouldn't ask me how he is all the time."
"Becky, you don't understand." Chloe insisted, wanting to find someplace to hide.
"I know. Chloe, no one does." Becky replied, speaking truthfully. She saw Chloe more than anyone else. Chloe coached cheerleading at the high school and was at practice twice a week. She'd wanted to say something forever and now that she'd finally brought it up and she wasn't about to turn back. She took another deep breath. "I know I've never been in love but I've seen enough people who are and I have a great imagination. And all I can imagine is that it must be torture to live in the same town with someone you love as much as I know you love him and not be with them."
It is torture. Chloe thought as her heart continued to ache. But it's better this way. She thought if she kept saying that she'd keep believing it. Lately, if she had to be honest, she'd begun to doubt it herself.
She continued to look down, unable to speak.
Becky pressed on. "I just thought you should know, Chloe. If you say the word, if you even hinted, I know he'd be back with you in a second. If someone asked him he'd say no, but I know him better than anyone." Her voice shook a bit as she finished. "He'd be lying."
Chloe's head shot up and a tear slipped from her eye.
Becky gripped the bag tightly, thinking she'd said enough for one day. She walked towards the door with tears forming in her own eyes. She paused before she walked outside and turned to face Chloe again. "I promise you, Clo." Becky said softly. "The only thing keeping him away is you."
"Thanks Squirt." He said with a smile that didn't quite meet his eyes as she approached the small office he kept at the gym. "How much do I owe you?"
"Nothing." Becky replied, trying to compose herself as she walked inside and closed the door. She'd worked on Chloe, now it was time to nudge her brother. "Chloe wouldn't take any money."
He thought it might get easier, but hearing her name made his heart fall to his stomach.
"She was working today?" He asked, trying to sound nonchalant as he sat down at the desk and pulled his sandwich out of the bag. "Do you want to split my fries?"
Becky decided it was time to get tough. She glared at him as she spoke. "Don't try and be all casual with me Grant Kovich. Tell me what you want to know. Did she ask about you? The answer is yes. She almost always does. Nearly every time I see her she wants to know how you are."
His head snapped up at her tone of voice. "Easy there, killer. Calm yourself. I asked a simple question."
"It should be simple. Chloe loves you – you love her – yet you both go around miserable 24/7. I don't get it. And people think I'm still a child."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
She shook back her hair, her eyes lit with annoyance. "It means that when I fall in love I wouldn't let anything keep me from being with the guy I'm in love with. Haven't Mom and Dad taught you anything?"
Grant sighed and lost his appetite. He pushed his lunch away. "It's not that simple, Becks."
"It's exactly that simple. I know why you're staying away. She asked you to."
"Exactly." He agreed.
"Since when are you such a wimp?" Becky asked him then.
"OK - Rebecca. You know what? Stop. Let me tell you something." Grant's voice shook with emotion as he stood and backed her into a corner. "Leaving Chloe? Doing what she asked took more strength than anything I've ever done." His face fell in defeat just remembering. He turned and walked to the other side of the room. "I kept trying to reach her but nothing worked. In the end, she made me promise to leave her alone. So that's what I'm doing. I'm keeping my promise."
"Grant..." Becky said softly, tears falling down her cheeks. This didn't go at all like she'd planned.
"I see what you're trying to do – but don't. OK? I tried, Becky. Believe me I did. Nothing I said or did convinced her. This is what she said she wants. I don't understand it – I don't like it, but this is what she wanted. So you can stop playing matchmaker. If Chloe wants me back, she needs to tell me herself."
Becky understood. His point was clear. She'd back off a bit, but still she couldn't help adding. "I think she does, Grant. I think it's just...I think that she's scared of something, that's all."
He stared at his sister in disbelief. She had always been perceptive, even when she was a kid. He nodded, "She's scared she'll leave me alone."
Becky thought she had it all figured out, but now she was completely confused. "I don't understand. You're alone now."
"It's more than that, Becky." He took a deep breath, their last conversation running through his mind, the pain in his heart as real as the day she told him it was over. He could almost feel the ring he'd given her digging into his palm as she desperately pressed it in his hand. Saying the words aloud made it all the more real, but he had to make her understand that her idea was sweet, but pointless. "It's because – she - she thinks she's going to die, just like her mom did. She wants to spare me having to watch her suffer. She doesn't get that whether or not she's with me I'll still..." He couldn't go on. Thinking of a world without Chloe just about did him in. He moved to sit down, suddenly exhausted. The day had been so normal up to this point, how did he get wrapped up in this?
You ordered lunch from the restaurant her father owns. He said to himself. You wanted to know how she was, so you sent Becky. You knew she'd talk to her. Admit it. You can't help yourself. You're your own worst enemy.
Becky knew her meddling was what had brought this on. She was desperate to make him feel better. She went over and tried to give him a hug. "Grant. I'm so sorry I brought this up. I was just trying to help. But I'll stay out of it from now on. It's none of my business."
"I know. Becky please. Just leave it alone." He said as he held her close.
"OK. I just want you to be happy, Grant." Becky said softly as she pulled away.
"I know." Grant replied. Though he knew there was only one thing that would make that possible he tried to force a smile as he added. "Me too."