Can’t Look Away

18: I Want To Say I’ll Know Better Next Time

“What did you say to Leila?”

Lionel lifted his head out of the photo album he’d been flicking through, his eyes landing on Sasha who was perched on the couch behind him, looking at him over the top of her tea cup. They had been together for a couple of hours. A little while after they’d made things official between them, Cassie had let them know that she was going to get her brother and the boys out of the house so that they could have it to themselves, and in their absence, they’d had dinner together before they’d settled into the living room. They hadn’t talked too much. For a little while, they just wanted to enjoy the feeling that things had progressed between the two of them, but Lionel had noticed Sasha retreating into herself as time had passed. At first, she had been affectionate. They’d stolen kisses whilst they cooked together, settled into cuddling when they’d first moved into the living room, but gradually, Sasha had put distance between them again, meaning that Lionel wasn’t entirely surprised by her question.

Leaning forwards, he placed the book down onto the coffee table before he shuffled back, his hand settling comfortably on her knee. “I told her that I like you” he replied, gently skimming his thumb back and forth over her knee “And that, whilst I don’t know what this can be, I wanted the chance for it to be something” he added.

“What did she say to that?” Sasha asked, pulling her eyes away from his hand to look up at him timidly.

Lionel was quiet for a moment, so long that Sasha shook her head, smiling sadly down at her lap. He didn’t need to say anything for her to know that whatever Leila had said hadn’t been good. “Sasha” he sighed gently.

“I get it” Sasha mumbled “I mean, I really get it. I barely even kissed Olivier, and it’s still weird, so I understand just how weird it is for her to think of you with me, but I’ve never said anything” she added.

Lionel squeezed her knee softly. “Did you want to?” he asked.

Sasha looked back up at him, surprised by the question. “What?” she asked.

“When Olivier told you that he was interested in your sister” Lionel mused “Did you want to say something?” he asked.

“Sort of” Sasha admitted after a moment of thought “I mean, I think they thought that I was stupid, that I was so oblivious that I hadn’t noticed the lingering looks and the smiles. They weren’t subtle, and maybe nothing physical happened until after Olivier told me, but I lost whatever we were as soon as she walked into a room. I wanted to tell them that, but I decided that there wasn’t any point. It wasn’t going to stop it, and I had never seen her happier. I didn’t want to be the one that ruined that” she explained.

“You’re a good sister, Sasha” Lionel’s voice was soft and reassuring.

Sasha glanced at him, her expression uncertain.

“You are” Lionel insisted warmly.

Sasha turned her stare back towards his hand before she gently twined her fingers through his. “I let her lead me too easily” she said softly “I don’t know why, but I know I do. She says something, and I react exactly like she wants me to” she added.

“Like her voicemail” Lionel noted.

Sasha smiled ruefully. “Exactly like that” she mused “I am not good at trusting my own instincts, and often, probably too often, I look for reassurance. I talk to Cassie a lot, but I also talk to Leila. She’s my big sister. She knows about my insecurities, and normally, that’s a good thing. She knows what to say to make me feel better, but a product of that is that she also knows what to say to play on those insecurities. I want to say that I’ll know better next time, that when she pokes at us again, I’ll be strong enough to not let it get to me, but I can’t” she added.

Lionel, who’d been playing with her fingers whilst she spoke, turned to glance up at her. “What can I do?” he asked.

“Invent a time machine and go back and not sleep with my sister?” Sasha quipped, smiling at him gently.

Lionel smiled lightly at her joke, knotting their fingers together again. “Other than that” he noted “I don’t know why she is so weird about this, but I get the sense she’s not going to stop. So what can I do to reassure you?” he prodded.

“Just be around” Sasha replied, stuck for anything else to say. There wasn’t a quick fix for the fact that her last two relationships had left her wary of trying to start something new.

“Is that it?” Lionel asked.

Sasha shrugged. “I just want to be able to rely on someone” she mused “Leila’s going to be a problem, and I can’t stop that, but if you’re around, and I can be reassured by that, I’ll feel better. I can’t sit here and promise I’ll be the perfect girlfriend...”

“I just want you” Lionel interrupted “I have done since the wedding” he added, offering her a slightly shy smile.

Sasha blinked, but slowly, her face brightened with a bashful smile. “I...uh...I’m glad to hear it” she stumbled out.

Lionel let out a soft laugh, squeezing her hand gently, before he moved towards her, gently weaving his other hand through her hair so that he could draw her into a soft kiss. He hesitated for a second, offering Sasha the chance to pull away like he nearly always did, but when she didn’t move, he closed the gap, kissing her lightly before he drew back, touching their foreheads together. “I’m not going anywhere” he whispered softly.

Sasha smirked to cover up the fact that her eyes had grown a little misty. There had been something in the way that he’d said it that had her convinced to believe him. “That’s not strictly true” she quipped “You’re going to have to get out of here at some point. Cassie coming home will definitely kill the mood” she added impishly.

Lionel stole a quick kiss before he playfully rolled his eyes, affording Sasha the chance to, not so subtly, wipe at her eyes. Lionel didn’t say anything about it, though. “I think you just killed the moment, Sasha” he retorted.

“It’s my speciality” Sasha quipped “I’m not great with the serious, romantic talks. I get awkward, and ruin moments. I’ve done it forever” she added.

Lionel just squeezed her hand. He knew it was a deflection. The moment had been heavy, and Sasha didn’t like being vulnerable, but he hoped that she knew that he had meant it. He was there for as long as she’d let him be.
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Thanks to Jayme112234 and Twisted;;Symphony for the comments :)