Can’t Look Away

20: The Only Person You Have To Answer To Is Her

“So, how long has this been going on?” James prodded as he settled his glass back onto the table, his eyes focussing on his younger sister. He had put it off for a little while. With Lionel and Sasha having allowed him to intrude on their date, he hadn’t wanted to push too hard too soon, but with them having exhausted all of the topics for small talk that they could whilst they ate, he wanted to move onto the questions he had been itching to ask since he’d spotted Lionel over Sasha’s shoulder. It wasn’t a complete surprise that she had a boyfriend. The last time that James had seen her, at their father’s birthday party, she had been preoccupied with her phone, and it hadn’t been much of a leap to guess that there was a man on the end of her texts, but he couldn’t help but be curious. It had been a long time since Sasha had had a boyfriend or anything close to it.

Sasha, who’d been pouring herself another glass of wine, quirked a slightly bashful smile. “Are you done beating around the bush now?” she prodded.

James let out a soft laugh. “I was just trying to be polite” he quipped “You and Leo were too polite, you let me crash your date, and I didn’t want to repay you for that by being annoying straight away” he added, rolling his eyes playfully.

Sasha nodded, swallowing a mouthful of her drink, before she shrugged her shoulders. “We’ve been seeing each other for a little while now” she replied “Dinners when we can mostly, but we...we’ve only been a couple properly for a week or so” she added, glancing back at Lionel for confirmation.

Lionel smiled back at her, gently weaving their fingers together.

James couldn’t help but smile as Sasha’s slightly anxious expression softened. Picking up his glass, he watched the two of them quietly before a phone rang, causing Sasha to jump before she shuffled up to her feet. Collecting her phone from its place on the kitchen counter, she studied the screen before she glanced back over at the table. “I have to take this” she said apologetically “It’s a work call” she added.

“Take it, then” Lionel quipped impishly. He knew that she was worried about leaving him alone with her brother, and he wanted to assure her that there was no need for her to be.

“I promise, I won’t try and scare him off” James contributed, grinning.

Sasha’s eyes narrowed slightly on her brother, causing James to soften his smile slightly, wordlessly assuring her that he’d be on his best behaviour. He liked to tease her, it was the main dynamic of their relationship, but he had little intention of making things difficult for her. She did it enough for herself. Sasha smiled back at him briefly before she padded out of the room, talking quietly into the phone.

Lionel watched her out of the room before he turned back towards James who’d been watching him quietly. “You’re not going to try and scare me off, are you?” he asked, trying to keep his voice light.

James smirked, but shook his head. “How’d you guys meet?” he prodded.

“We met at Leila’s wedding” Lionel admitted.

James nodded his head slowly. “I did think that I remembered seeing you there” he noted “A friend of Leila’s or Olivier’s?” he asked.

“Leila’s” Lionel replied “But I wouldn’t necessarily call us friends. We have a few friends in common” he added.

James stared at him for a moment, sensing that there was something more, and it didn’t take Lionel long to given in, letting out a soft sigh. “We had...something in the past, a long time in the past” he said.

James’s lips quirked up slightly. “I assume Sasha knows” he quipped “Her face fell quick enough earlier” he added.

Lionel nodded. “I’ve always been upfront with her” he insisted “James, I...”

“Don’t” James interrupted “The only person you’ve got to answer to is Sasha. If she’s happy, then everyone else will be” he added.

Lionel shook his head. “Maybe not everyone” he said.

“Leila?” James asked without missing a beat.

Lionel met his stare, hesitating for a moment, before he nodded his head once. “She’s thrown Sasha off balance a couple of times” he admitted “I tried to talk to her, but I think I just made it worse” he added.

James fiddled with his glass for a few moments before he let out a soft sigh. “They used to be inseparable” he said gently “Leila and Sasha, but then this thing with Olivier happened, and it’s never been the same. They handle things very differently. Sasha...I don’t think I’ve seen her really let go of something she’s been bottling up. She’s more introverted than me or Leila, always has been, but I sometimes think that if she just let go, then this weird thing between them could be put behind us” he added.

“You’re OK with Olivier?” Lionel asked.

James’s shoulders lifted and fell in a shrug. “It’s a little complicated” he noted “He and Leila didn’t technically do anything wrong, but I don’t think they necessarily thought about what it would do to Sasha to watch them fall all over each other like they did. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t in love with him. I am not even convinced that she really liked him that much, not romantically at least, but it still stung her, maybe more because Leila didn’t talk to her. Olivier did, he apologised and tried to clear the air, but Leila just...I don’t know. Olivier’s a nice guy, and he makes Leila happy, and Sasha’s as OK with that as she can be” he explained.

Lionel nodded. “Me and Leila, it wasn’t anything” he noted after a moment of quiet “We both knew what we were doing. There weren’t feelings involved. I know you said that I didn’t have to explain, but I just...I want you to know that I am not trying to cause problems between them” he added.

James smiled over the top of his glass before he put it back down onto the table. “I don’t doubt that” he mused.

Lionel opened his mouth to say something more, but stopped himself as Sasha padded back into the room, falling back into the seat next to him. “Sorry about that” she mused.

“It’s alright” Lionel replied, allowing her fingers to slip back through his “A patient?” he asked.

“A new mum” Sasha confirmed “She just had a couple of questions. You two didn’t get into any trouble, did you?” she asked.

“We talked about Leila” James mused.

Sasha’s body seemed to tense, but it relaxed again when Lionel squeezed her hand and offered her a small, reassuring smile, something which made James smile fondly. “He was honest with me” he said.

“About…?” Sasha trailed off, hoping that James would get the hint without her having to say it.

James nodded. “Their past” he mused.

“And?” Sasha prodded.

“And what?” James replied.

“And you don’t think it’s too weird?” Sasha asked.

James reached over the table, placing his hand on top of the hand that wasn’t being gently stroked by Lionel’s thumb. “I believe what he told me” he noted “Yeah, Leila’s probably going to be weird about it, but I like him. You do, too. I can tell” he added, smiling at her warmly.

Sasha smiled down at the table shyly.

“Come over when Ellie gets home” James noted “She’s going to love him. Leo, when are you free next?” he prodded.

“I can do most evenings” Lionel replied “I mean, maybe not the night before a match, but most other evenings” he added.

“Sasha?” James asked “Your next night off is when?” he added.

“Thursday’s probably the best” Sasha replied.

“Thursday it is, then” James mused.

Sasha just smiled at him as she nodded. She knew it was on her face, how much it meant to her that James hadn’t reacted badly like she had assumed he would, and the way that Lionel’s hand held hers a little tighter told him that he knew it too.
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Thanks to Jayme112234 and Twisted;;Symphony for the comments :)