The Things That You Do

13: You Can’t Have It Both Ways

“Are you with us, Leo?”

Lionel, who was quietly pushing his food around his plate, blinked a couple of times at the sound of Luis’s voice before he lifted his head, offering the forward a tired shake of his head. It had been a few days, after Alexa had told him about her feelings, he hadn’t been able to get it off of his mind, but still he didn’t quite know what to make of it, something which had led to him being more than slightly distracted. He knew that he had to say something, after the way that they’d left things, it wasn’t fair to simply leave her hanging, but he couldn’t quite wrap his head around it, even if he had replayed her words in his mind countless times. He couldn’t quite believe that he’d missed it.

“Sorry” Lionel mumbled “I’m in my own world. What are we talking about?” he posed flatly.

Luis frowned, not missing the flat tone of his voice. “Are you alright?” he asked.

Lionel nodded a little too quickly. “Fine” he noted.

Gerard, who was sat beside the argentine, snorted. “Sure you are” he quipped sarcastically.

Lionel shook his head, preparing to quip something back, but Luis was quicker, cutting him off. “We all know that you’re lying, Leo” he mused “I mean, you’ve barely said two words since we sat down and you’ve hardly touched your food, and this isn’t the first time. You’ve been off for days. So, why don’t you just tell us what’s going on?” he pressed. He knew that there was something on his mind, for a few days, he had been quieter and more distant that normal, and Luis wanted to encourage him to talk about it, wanting him to be focused in the final few weeks of the season which stood ahead of them.

Lionel was quiet for a few seconds, his dark eyes passing between Luis and Gerard, before he let out a small sigh, dropping his stare down towards his plate. “Alexa talked to me” he revealed tentatively.

Luis frowned. “I thought that that was what you wanted?” he asked “Isn’t it a good thing?” he added.

Lionel nodded quietly, something which made Gerard frown. “Then what is the problem?” he posed.

Lionel shifted a little in his seat before he shook his head. “She told me that what had changed between us was the fact that I had gotten a girlfriend” he explained “I had come back from Argentina and told her that I was seeing someone just as she was getting ready to tell me that...that she had feelings for me, and so she pulled away from me. She liked me” he stumbled out.

Gerard glanced at Lionel for a moment, briefly mulling over his words, before he tilted his head. “You don’t have a girlfriend, do you?” he asked confusedly. It wasn’t something Lionel tended to talk about, when it came to his relationships, he tended to prefer to keep things to himself, but still Gerard was sure he would have remembered him having a girlfriend, especially if they’d been dating for a while. He was pretty sure that it would have come up at some point.

Lionel, who’d rested back in his seat slightly, grimaced slightly before he shook his head. “I did” he noted “When I was in Argentina over the summer, I met a girl and we dated for a couple of months, but the distance proved a sticking point and it fizzled out pretty quickly” he mumbled.

Luis watched the argentine for a second before he leant forwards in his seat. “What did you say to her?” he asked.

“I didn’t really say anything” Lionel replied “I mean, what are you supposed to say to that?” he added.

Luis rolled his eyes, holding in a comment about how stupid he’d been, before he shook his head. “It was a big thing for her” he noted “For her to tell you how she felt...that was a big step, and you not saying anything might have been worse than you telling her that you just don’t feel the same way. It’s still hanging over both of you, an uncertainty about where you stand, and it’s not fair of you to drag it out. You need to figure this out, Leo, and quickly. It’s not fair on Alexa” he mused.

He knew that Lionel was surprised, the tone of his voice when he had explained that Alexa had admitted her feelings towards him confided it, but Luis wanted to encourage him to figure things out quickly, even if it did mean hurting Alexa’s feelings. To him, it seemed like a kinder option than leaving her hanging for a while only to figure out that he didn’t quite feel the same way about her.

Lionel was quiet for a few seconds, mulling over Luis’s words, before he let out a quiet sigh. “I don’t know how I feel” he mumbled.

“How could you not know?” Gerard asked, his voice slightly incredulous.

“She’s my friend” Lionel mused “She’s been my friend for a long time, and a part of me struggles to see her as anything more than that, but then there is another part of me that gets jealous and protective of her. She went out with a guy recently and she really seemed to like him, she smiled whenever she talked about him, and all I could think about was how much I hated that. I hated that this guy made her smile, that this guy had kissed her and that she talked about him so excitedly. A small part of me hated that it wasn’t me that she was talking about like that, but I don’t know that that is enough. I don’t want to hurt her, but at the same time, I don’t want to watch her be happy with someone that isn’t me” he explained haphazardly.

Gerard and Luis, who’d been listening to him, shared a brief look before the Uruguayan lifted his hand, patting Lionel’s shoulder gently. “You need to decide whether or not to take the risk” he noted “I mean, now that she’s told you, your friendship is never quite going to be the same, but you need to work things out quickly, Leo. She’s a wonderful woman, she deserves something good, and if you want that to be with you, then great, but if you don’t, you need to tell her so that she can move on. You can’t have it both ways” he explained thoughtfully before he pushed himself up, mumbling something about getting ready for their afternoon training session.

Gerard, who’d stood up too, patted Lionel’s shoulder gently before he followed after Luis, leaving Lionel alone. Lionel watched the two of them across the cafeteria before he let out a quiet groan to himself, hating how complicated things seemed. He knew that Luis was right, whatever he said to Alexa, their friendship wasn’t going to be the same, and he hated it, even if things had been strained between them. He hated the idea of her slipping out of his life again.
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