Can’t Look Away

23: That Would Make This Go Better

“What are you and Leo up to tonight?”

Sasha pulled a dress out of her wardrobe before she turned around, showing it off to Cassie who was sat in the middle of her bed. “He wants me to meet his friends” she admitted “Apparently, they’ve been asking to meet me for a couple of weeks” she added, her nose wrinkling slightly as she looked down at the dress.

It had come slightly out of the blue. After a couple of more settled weeks, Lionel had surprised her the previous night when they had been talking on the phone with an invitation to meet his friends, and despite the overwhelming urge she had had to say no, Sasha had agreed to go. She was nervous. A few of Lionel’s friends were Leila’s friends too, and she worried that they wouldn’t react well to the notion of her and Lionel dating in light of his relationship with Leila, but she hadn’t been able to say no when he’d asked. He had spent a lot of time reassuring her, trying to make sure that she felt comfortable in their relationship, and she wanted to do something for him. She wanted him to see that she was willing to make the effort too.

Cassie turned her thumb down, causing Sasha to turn and place the dress back into the cupboard. “Are you nervous?” she asked.

Sasha scoffed out a laugh. “What do you think?” she quipped “You know what I am like with new people” she added.

“I do” Cassie quipped “That’s why I am holding off on introducing you to Nolan. I don’t want you to scare him off” she added impishly.

“You’re supposed to tell me that it’s going to be fine, not make me feel worse” Sasha said, pulling another dress out before she turned around, holding it out in front of her.

Cassie surveyed the dress for a moment before she nodded. “It will be fine” she mused “I know you don’t see it, but you’ve got a lot going for you and Leo’s friends will probably see it. I mean, he did, and you’ve done a lot to try and put him off you” she added, a comforting smile on her lips.

Sasha rolled her eyes playfully, but couldn’t stop the nervous expression spreading across her features. Staring down at the dress, she fiddled with the material between the pads of her fingers before she let out a quiet sigh. “They’re Leila’s friends, too” she said quietly “I’m worried that that will make things weird. What happened between her and Leo, it’s no secret, and I...I worry” she added.

Cassie stood from the bed and stepped towards her, wrapping her in a warm hug. “Leo wouldn’t put you in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, Sasha” she said softly “He’s all smitten and happy, and he just wants to share that with those around him. They’ll know what happened between him and Leila, but they’ll know it for what it was. You’re not intruding on their love story. She’s married to another man, and now he’s got you. It’ll be fine” she insisted as she drew back, offering Sasha another reassuring smile.

She knew that it wasn’t likely to fade any time soon. Leila had thrown Sasha off balance a couple of times, and it meant that the memory that Leila and Lionel had had something before he had even known who Sasha was, wasn’t going to disappear any time soon, but Cassie wanted to remind her that it didn’t matter. It was a long time in the past, and whilst Leila had tried to make it out to be more than it was, Lionel had never wavered from his insistence that it didn’t mean anything.

Sasha studied her friend’s face for a moment before she nodded. “You’re probably right” she mused.

“I normally am” Cassie retorted “Now, get changed. You need to leave soon” she added, padding towards the door.

Sasha rolled her eyes. “I didn’t realise you’d become my mother” she called.

Cassie scoffed playfully. “One of us has to be a grown up” she called back.

“Are you sure that she’s actually coming?”

Lionel glared across the table, irked by the amusement in Luis’s voice. “She’s just running late” he quipped “She’ll be here” he added.

“Is there anything we need to know about her before she gets here?” Sofia asked.

Lionel fiddled with his water glass for a moment, thinking the question over, before he nodded his head gently. “I’ve told you that she’s Leila’s sister?” he asked.

“You have” Luis confirmed.

“She knows what happened between us” Lionel continued “It’s not a secret, but if you could keep mention of her sister to a minimum, that’d probably make this go a lot better” he explained.

He wasn’t asking them to hide anything. Everything there was to know about his relationship with Leila, Sasha knew it, but he wanted to try and steer the conversation away from the topic of Leila. He knew that Sasha was worried. Despite her attempts to force enthusiasm into her words, he’d heard it in her voice, and he wanted to do what he could to make her comfortable. To him, they weren’t comparable. Leila and Sasha were entirely different, and his relationships with the two of them were different too, but he knew that Sasha would worry about people drawing comparisons between them. He knew that Sasha would assume that his friends, Leila's friends, would prefer her sister to her.

Luis and Sofia shared a look, but nodded, something which made Lionel smile gratefully. “Thank you” he mused.

The table fell quiet for a moments before Lionel spotted Sasha moving towards them, causing him to spring up out of his seat. Quirking a slightly goofy smile, he watched her walk towards the table before he moved a couple of paces forwards, greeting her with a light kiss. “You’re late” he teased softly.

Sasha ducked her head, trying, and failing, to hide her pink cheeks. “Sorry” she replied “It took me longer than I thought it would to get ready, and Cassie was no help” she added impishly.

Lionel grinned at her before he stole another, slightly longer kiss, one that was only broken when Luis cleared his throat. Pulling back, Lionel and Sasha shared a slightly bashful grin before they turned towards the table, Lionel’s hand settling comfortably on the small of Sasha’s back. “Luis, Sofia, this is Sasha, my girlfriend” he mused “Luis is my teammate at Barca” he added.

“It’s nice to meet you” Sasha said gently “I’m so sorry that I’m late” she added.

“It’s no problem” Luis mused as he stood up “It’s good to finally meet you” he added, wrapping her in a brief hug.

Sasha leant into it briefly before she pulled away and was tugged into a hug by Sofia. “Leo’s told us a lot about you” she mused.

The laugh that fell out of Sasha’s mouth was shaky at best. “Leo?” she prodded “Leila’s never mentioned me?” she added.

The bad joke pulled in an awkward silence. Sofia and Luis shared a look, not quite sure what to say to her, and Lionel’s hand gently brushed up her back, trying, and failing, to ease the tension that had grown in her shoulders the moment that she had stepped into the restaurant.
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Thanks to Jayme112234 and Twisted;;Symphony for the comments :)