When We Were

Forty Five: It Doesn’t Have To Be

“Are you sure that you don’t want any help?”

Lionel, who was neatly folding a shirt which he held in his hands, glanced towards the bedroom doorway, a smile lighting up his features as he took in Emilia’s appearance, particularly the smudge of blue paint which had been smeared over her forehead. It hadn’t been long, after their ill-fated double date with Isaac and Naomi, only a couple of days had passed, but with him due back in training imminently, he had a flight back to Barcelona booked for that afternoon, something that both he and Emilia were dreading, even if they had tried to pretend otherwise. The knowledge that it would probably be months before they were back together again had hung between them since they’d woken up that morning.

Emilia watched his expression brighten before she tilted her head, a slightly confused smile on her lips. “Is packing with me so exciting?” she prodded.

Lionel shrugged, grinning impishly. “We do tend to have fun together” he chirped.

“Seriously” Emilia prodded “What was with the smile? You lit up like someone had just given you the best news” she added.

Lionel briefly thought about making another joke, but opted against it, instead stepping towards her before he swiped his thumb over her forehead, showing off the blue paint to her as he lowered his hand. “Does Luca like to paint?” he asked, his smile softening a little as Emilia’s cheeks tinged pink.

“He loves it” Emilia confirmed with a little nod, her shy smile directed down at her feet “He was just painting a picture for my mother. Her birthday is in a few days and she loves it when he makes pictures for her. I honestly think it is her favourite part of being a grandma” she rambled quietly.

Lionel watched her before he swiped his thumb over her forehead again, getting rid of any trace of paint. “When is it?” he asked.

“My mama’s birthday?” Emilia asked, a little crease in her forehead.

Lionel nodded.

“Why do you want to know?” Emilia prodded.

“I’ll send some flowers” Lionel replied “I mean, it’s a nice thing to do, isn’t it?” he added.

“You don’t have to do that” Emilia noted.

“I know” Lionel mused “But I want to. She’s my girlfriend’s mother and it’s her birthday. I should get her something, shouldn’t I? I mean, I really kind of want her to like me” he quipped, offering her a small playful smile.

It wasn’t in doubt, Marcella and David had always liked him and his being with Emilia hadn’t changed it, but still he wanted to make the effort with Emilia’s family, even if he had won them over when he was younger. He didn’t want them to think he wasn’t prepared to make an effort just because he had been Jordi’s friend before being Emilia’s boyfriend.

Emilia shook her head, trying, and failing, to hide the smitten smile which had been quick to light up her features. “My mother already adores you” she pointed out.

“It never hurts to be sure” Lionel quipped.

Emilia grinned up at him before she gently slid her arms around his neck, coaxing him into a soft kiss which lasted for a few seconds before Luca’s voice calling out for his mother reached them, causing her to reluctantly pull away before she turned around, watching as the little boy padded into the room. “What’s up, baby?” she asked gently.

Luca looked up, his eyes flitting between his mother and her boyfriend, before he waved a hand to call Emilia a little closer to him. “Come here, please” he noted.

Emilia offered him a curious look but complied, crouching down to his height so that he could whisper into her ear.

Lionel, who’d turned back to packing his bag, watched the two of them out of the corner of his eye before he saw Emilia’s face light up. Tilting his head, he watched her nod before she stood up, gently nudging Luca ahead of her. “Go on, baby” she cooed.

Luca seemed to hesitate for a second before he shuffled forwards towards Lionel, gently thrusting a piece of paper out ahead of himself.

Lionel blinked a couple of times before he placed his hand out, allowing Luca to slide the paper into his grasp.

“I made it for you” Luca whispered shyly.

Lionel, who’d been looking at the picture, lifted his eyes to Luca. “Me?” he asked.

Luca nodded his head, his cheeks a little pink. “It’s a dinosaur” he noted.

Lionel was a little dumbstruck, but he managed a small, ever-so-slightly shaky smile.

“You can take it home with you” Luca mumbled shyly “If you want to” he added.

Lionel blinked a couple of times, sparing a glance towards Emilia who was watching the two of them with the widest smile on her face, before he looked back at Luca, smiling at him warmly. “I would love to take it home” he mused.

Luca’s face lit up. “Really?” he squeaked.

Lionel nodded eagerly. “It’s lovely, Luca” he mused “I love it. Thank you” he added.

Luca grinned before he turned towards Emilia. “You were right, mama” he announced.

Emilia nodded before she stepped towards him, pushing his hair back off of his forehead before she kissed it gently. “Did you tidy up your paints?” she asked quietly.

Luca shook his head.

“You ought to go and do that” Emilia mumbled into his hair “Then we’ll get your shoes on. We’ve got to get Leo to the airport soon” she added.

Luca nodded his head before he padded back out of the room, allowing Emilia to turn her attention towards Lionel, smiling as she admired the expression which filled his face as he stared down at the picture in his hand. Stepping closer, she gently brushed her fingers over the back of his hand, causing him to glance up at her, the goofy smile he wore remaining unmoved on his face.

Emilia marveled at him, her own smile warm and wide, before she leant in, pressing a soft kiss against his cheek. “I wish I had a camera” she mused “The two of you together...I don’t think I was quite ready for how adorable that was” she added, shaking her head amusedly.

“Did you have anything to do with this?” Lionel prodded, waving the painting slightly.

Emilia shook her head without hesitation, holding her hands up innocently. “I thought he was just making one for my mama” she replied.

Lionel threw her a playfully dubious look, but it melted quickly, replaced with a soft smile as he glanced down at Luca’s picture. “This is a big thing, isn’t it?” he asked.

Emilia shook her head. “It doesn’t have to be” she noted “Luca loves to paint. It’s up to you how you want to take it. If you want to see it as just a picture, that’s fine. I mean, I think it’s more than that, but if you don’t, then that’s OK too. This is...this is a lot more than I was expecting when we met up at Jordi’s wedding, you know” she added, letting out a nervous laugh.

It had grown quickly, almost so quickly that it felt overwhelming at times, but it was a good kind of overwhelming, even if Emilia did have her worries and concerns. She was a little amazed and dazed by how quickly and how hard it seemed that they’d fallen for one another.

Lionel lifted an eyebrow. “What were you expecting?” he asked.

“When I realized you had no idea who I was, not much” Emilia replied impishly.

Lionel offered her a look.

Emilia laughed. “I don’t know” she noted “But this...this terrifying and messy thing which is equal parts overwhelming and wonderful was not it” she added.

“No?” Lionel quipped, his voice caught between amused and curious.

Emilia shook her head. “Is it what you expected?” she prodded.

“I didn’t know what to expect” Lionel admitted “I still don’t, but I am looking forwards to finding out what’s going to happen next” he added, offering her a smile that Emilia couldn’t help but return before she shook her head, mumbling something about needing to get Luca ready to leave.

Lionel watched her pad out of the room before he turned back to Luca’s painting, letting out a gentle sigh as he felt the familiar stab of the knowledge that there was little he could go to bring the two of them closer to him, something which was always going to put the brakes on how quickly things between him and Emilia continued to move forwards.
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Thanks to FootieJo for the comment :)