Can’t Look Away

21: I’m Sure You’ll Make A Good Impression

“Is there anything I need to know about Ellie before we get there?” Lionel asked, glancing at Sasha out of the corner of his eye. He was surprised by how calm she was at the thought of introducing him to someone else close to her. When James had opened her front door, Sasha had looked like a deer caught in headlights, and whilst their first meeting had gone well, he had been expecting a similar expression to be on her face when she’d opened the door to him that evening. It meant a lot to her. Things with Leila were complicated and showed no signs of becoming less so, so it meant a lot to her that James and Ellie were happy for them, but Sasha hadn’t shown any signs of stress like Lionel had been expecting to see. If anything, she seemed excited by the opportunity to spend time with her brother and his girlfriend.

Sasha looked up away from her phone. “Huh?” she asked.

Lionel’s lips quirked upwards slightly. “I asked if there was anything I ought to know about Ellie” he repeated.

Sasha slipped the phone back into her bag, offering him a slightly sheepish smile. “Sorry” she mused “Cassie was just making sure I wasn’t home. Her date tonight’s gone pretty well, and it’d be a pretty big mood killer if they stumbled in and I was sat on the couch” she added.

Lionel laughed. “What are you supposed to do later?” he asked.

Sasha shrugged. “I’ll figure it out later” she mused “Anyway, you asked about Ellie. She and James are really well matched. They’ve been together for almost nine years, but don’t mention the fact that they aren’t married. They get enough of that from my mother. She works in graphic design and that’s how she met my brother. Honestly, I don’t quite know what else to tell you. She’s lovely and I am sure that you’ll see that” she added.

“You’re not worried about me meeting her?” Lionel asked, half teasing, and half curious.

Sasha shrugged, her eyes watching her hands as they smoothed out the sweater she was wearing. “A little” she admitted “I mean, I know James said that she’d love you, and he’s probably right, but until I see it with my own eyes I am going to be worried about it. I want her to like you, of course I do, but after seeing how well you dealt with James, I am more confident that you’ll make a good impression” she added, turning to offer him a slightly shy smile.

He had surprised her. When she had left him and James alone, she had assumed that they’d keep the conversation light as they got to know one another, but instead, Lionel had simply been open and honest with her brother, something she knew would have won James over instantly. He hadn’t tried to underplay things to keep James on side. He had admitted that there were likely to be bumps along the road, and Sasha knew that James liked him more for that. Lying would have only served to make things worse in the long run.

Lionel couldn’t have stopped the slightly proud grin that lit up his face even if had wanted to. “Yeah?” he prodded.

Sasha admired his smile before she nodded, turning to look out of the window. “The next right” she noted.

Lionel followed the direction, turning up the street, before he glanced at Sasha out of the corner of his eye again, marvelling at how at ease she looked.

“Cassie, aren’t you supposed to give me some kind of warning?” Sasha complained down the phone, trying to keep her voice low as to not alert anyone in the next room to the problem. The night had gone well. As James had predicted, Ellie had warmed to Lionel instantly, and the four of them had had a good night together, but with it slowly starting to wind down, Sasha had sent a text to Cassie, wanting to ensure that when she arrived home, she wouldn’t be intruding.

“It wasn’t exactly planned” Cassie replied “We had to come back here because he’s got a room-mate too and you were out anyway. It’s just one night” she added.

Sasha rubbed her forehead frustratedly. “Where am I supposed to go?” she asked “James and Ellie don’t have a spare bedroom” she added.

“I do”

Sasha, who’d been staring down at the floor, jerked her head up in surprise, something which made Lionel, who’d stopped in the doorway, smile a little. “Sorry” he said quietly “I was just coming to see what was keeping you. Cassie?” he asked, pointing to her phone.

Sasha nodded at him. “I’ll figure it out” she said into the phone “But you owe me, Cassie. I don’t even have a change of clothes” she added.

“Thank you” Cassie said before the line went quiet, allowing Sasha to pull the phone away from her ear.

Lionel watched her fiddle with the phone for a moment before she looked back over at him, her expression slightly uncertain. “Normally I would call Leila” she said softly “She and Olivier have a bigger place, but that’s not exactly an option right now. Would you mind if I slept at your place?” she asked.

She knew that it wasn’t the biggest deal. Lionel had plenty of spare room at his place and she doubted that he’d try and push her into something more than she was comfortable with, but still she felt a little awkward about asking. The idea that she had been backed into spending the night at his place rather than having reached the point naturally had a knot in the pit of her stomach.

Lionel’s lips quirked up into a slight smirk, but he didn’t make the joke that he wanted to about the time she had fallen asleep on his sofa. He could see the nervousness on her face and knew that if he tried to tease her, she’d likely retreat from him. “Of course not” he noted “What are you going to do about clothes?” he asked.

“I’ll ask Ellie” Sasha replied “She’ll have something I can borrow for tonight and for tomorrow morning” she added.

Lionel nodded, allowing a moment of quiet to stretch between them before he stepped towards her. Sasha watched him move closer before she quirked a bashful smile, ducking her head slightly. “I know it’s silly” she murmured.

Lionel tucked her hair behind her ear. “I didn’t say anything” he said.

“You don’t have to” Sasha replied “I know it. I get weird about the littlest things and I know it’s frustrating” she added.

Lionel’s thumb traced her cheekbone. “I’m not frustrated” he said “I’ve told you before, I’m not here to make you feel uncomfortable. You can have a spare bedroom, you can sleep on the sofa if you want to. Whatever makes you comfortable” he added.

Sasha blinked up at him, something which caused Lionel to duck his head bashfully. “What?” he prodded.

Sasha rocked forwards, pressing her lips to his softly. Lionel allowed the contact to linger, not pushing it into something more than a soft, simple kiss, until James let out a playful groan as he shuffled past, causing the two of them to pull apart, grinning at each other shyly. “I’m going to go and talk to Ellie quickly” Sasha announced “I won’t be long, and then we can go, OK?” she asked.

Lionel nodded.

Sasha skittered away from him, entering the living room to find Ellie sat on the couch, already smirking up at her knowingly. “I like him” she announced.

Sasha smiled. “Yeah?” she asked.

Ellie didn’t hesitate in nodding. “He seems to get you” she mused “That’s more than can be said for either Olivier or Alex” she added.

Sasha flinched. She knew it was true, but it didn’t mean it didn’t sting to hear it allowed. Everyone else had been able to see how mismatched she and Alex were, but she hadn’t seen it, not until it was too late and she’d been left nursing a broken heart.

Ellie saw the way Sasha’s expression changed before she stood up, wrapping her in a soft hug that Sasha returned gently. “You really like him?” she mumbled into the other woman’s shoulder “You’re not just saying that?” she added.

Ellie tightened the hug slightly. “I wouldn’t lie to spare your feelings, Sasha” she replied “I like him” she repeated.

Sasha smiled gently and nodded her head. “I really like him, Ellie” she whispered. She knew that she was in danger for falling for him, but she didn't quite know how to slow it down. She didn't want to get in too deep, too quickly, but she could feel her feelings for him growing and didn't know how to stop them from getting too strong. She wasn't entirely sure that she wanted to stop it.