Since I Last Saw You

08: We’re Not Friends

“What exactly is it that you need my opinion on?” Ava asked as she sat down, her eyes glancing towards the bathroom that Lionel had disappeared into moments previous, a garment bag draped over his arm. He had caught her off guard, with two weeks having passed since they’d headed out on their lunch date, she hadn’t quite been expecting the text that he had sent to her that morning, asking for her help with something, and she had been more surprised when he’d shown up with a garment bag, insisting that he needed her opinion on something. It wasn’t like they hadn’t tried, after they’d parted ways in front of her apartment building, they’d spent a while trying to find space in both of their schedules to get together, but it had been difficult, something which had made his sudden arrival all the more surprising to Ava, even if she was glad to see him.

“It’s a suit” Lionel’s voice called from the other side of the bathroom door “I’m going to some award ceremony at the end of the week, and I wanted a second opinion” he added.

Ava, who’d moved to sit down on her bed, shook her head, smiling to herself. “And you thought you’d come and ask me?” she called back “I mean, you do know how fashionable I am, don’t you? Wouldn’t you have been better off asking one of your friends? They tend to wear suits well” she added, her voice warm and playful.

Lionel scoffed. “You still have that crush on Gerard?” he retorted.

Ava laughed. “It’s not a crush” she called back “I just think he’s handsome” she added.

Lionel made a grumbling sound through the door, something which made Ava laugh a little more before the bathroom door swung open, causing her to glance up at him, her expression softening a little as he took a couple of tentative steps, his hand tugging the sleeve of his jacket down his arm. Tilting her head, she allowed her eyes to wander up and down his frame for a moment before she glanced back up at his face, watching as his cheeks flushed a soft shade of pink.

Lionel watched her eyes before he let out a bashful laugh, tugging the other sleeve down his arm as he dropped his eyes away from hers. “You practically swooned when I introduced you” he continued teasing “I really thought you were going to faint” he added.

Ava, who’d been staring at him, blinked a couple of times at the sound of his voice before she scoffed. “It was not that bad” she countered playfully.

Lionel just offered her a dubious look, causing Ava to shake her head, trying, and failing, to hide her blush. “So maybe I was a little awkward” she noted “But that’s not what you showed up at my door to talk about, is it?” she pressed.

Lionel shook his head, straightening his jacket a little. “I wanted to make sure that this looked alright” he noted “I mean, I know it’s just a jacket and some trousers, but I...I wanted a second opinion. If I look like an idiot, I’d rather you were the one to tell me” he added, his voice softening a little.

“You don’t look like an idiot” Ava replied, looking at him thoughtfully “Though, if I were you, I’d try a plain black tie. I think it’d work a little better than the one you’re wearing” she added.

Lionel grinned, padding back into the bathroom briefly before he stepped out again, showing off a tie in his hands. “I had a feeling you’d say that” he quipped.

Ava laughed, shaking her head. “What did you need me for then?” she pressed “You seem to have it under control” she added.

“A second opinion never hurts” Lionel replied “And, you know, maybe I just...just wanted to see you” he added, his voice caught between teasing and shy.

Ava couldn’t have stopped her goofy smile even if she had wanted to. “You don’t need to make excuses for that” she replied gently “I mean, I know that we’ve kept missing one another, but you don’t need to...I’m happy to see you, Leo” she stumbled out gently.

“I know” Lionel replied “I just...I thought maybe you’d not love me showing up without a reason and I thought if I had one, no matter how flimsy, it’d make things a little easier. At least, if nothing else, we can talk about my choice of tie” he added, tugging the other tie loose before he placed the new one around his neck, fixing it before he pulled it up to his collar.

He knew it wasn’t the best reason he could have thought of, needing a second opinion on a suit that he had already been assured fitted him perfectly was flimsy at best, but he had wanted something, anything he could use to ensure that no long silences settled between the two of them. He hated them, the silences which were full of shy looks and uncomfortable shifting, and he would have done anything to avoid them, even if it did mean discussing his choice of tie. Anything was better than nothing.

Ava watched him before she pushed herself up to her feet, stepping close to him so that she could take the tie in her hands. Staring at it, she gently moved the knot across slightly before she moved her hands, smoothing out his collar over it. “There” she said quietly.

Lionel’s breath caught as her fingertips brushed against his neck before he cleared his throat, trying his hardest to look anywhere but at her. “I look Ok?” he breathed.

Ava nodded, her lips quirking upwards ever so slightly as she noticed his stare avoiding hers. “You look very handsome” she confirmed.

Lionel nodded his head, taking a little step backwards. “Good” he quipped.

Ava took a step backwards, falling into a seat at the foot of the bed.

Lionel glanced at her, allowing a moment of silence to pass between the two of them, before he shook his head. “Would you like to come with me?” he asked “To the awards thing?” he clarified.

Ava’s eyes widened a little in surprise. “As friends?” she asked.

“We’re not friends, Ava” Lionel replied without a beat of hesitation “I mean, I don’t know what we are, but friends...it’s not that. I want you to come with me as my date” he added, his voice more confident that even he had been anticipating that it would be.

“We’re not friends?” Ava asked “You can’t be friends with the girl you want to date?” she pressed.

Lionel shook his head. “You know that that isn’t what I meant” he replied “I just...it’s more than that, that’s what I meant. We’re not just friends” he clarified.

Ava opened her mouth to speak, but Lionel shook his head again, cutting her off. “Don’t do that thing you do” he noted “The thing where you try to subtly change the subject without me noticing and hope I don’t catch on. I’m asking you to go with me, Ava. What do you say to that?” he asked. He knew the expression on her face, when Ava got uncomfortable, she tended to try and shuffle the conversation away from the topic, hoping that he’d not catch on, and he didn’t want to give her the chance. He’d asked her a question, and regardless of what her answer was, he wanted to hear it.

Ava blinked a couple of times before she shook her head, smiling bashfully to herself. “You remember me doing that?” she asked.

“It’s how you got out of answering me when I asked you out for the first time” Lionel countered “You changed the subject without me catching on and by the time I’d realized, you had to go. You texted me like three hours later to tell me it was a yes...you’re trying to do it again, aren’t you?” he added, shaking his head amusedly.

Ava laughed, shrugging her shoulders innocently. “Maybe” she quipped.

“Ava...”

“You really want me there?” Ava asked, cutting off his complaints.

Lionel nodded. “I do” he confirmed.

Ava searched his face for a moment before she gently tipped her head forwards, nodding it slightly. “Ok” she agreed.
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Thanks to FootieJo for the comment :)