Can’t Look Away

29: This Is A Big Deal For Me

Turning the bathroom tap on, Sasha moved to lock the door before she sunk down onto the closed toilet lid, allowing her head to fall into her hands. She had been looking for a way out for a while. After the words had fallen out of her mouth, she had been waiting for an opening, an excuse to duck away for a little while so that she could gather her thoughts, and when her father had excused himself to take a business call, she had followed him out of the room, making a beeline for the upstairs bathroom.

She hadn’t meant to say it when she had. She knew that she felt it, but she had spent weeks trying to put off saying it, but the moment had gotten to her. He had been so warm, so reassuring and comforting, and before she had really known what she was doing, the words had fallen out of her mouth with no way of retracting them and no way of pretending that she had said something else. Lionel had heard it. She had seen it in his face in the brief moment that they had had before her mother had appeared, but she couldn’t figure out what he was thinking, something which had only increased her anxiety and made her more desperate to slip out of the room.

Taking in a couple of deep breaths, she squeezed her eyes closed, trying to loosen the knots in her stomach, before someone knocked against the closed door. Whipping her head up, she stared at the closed door for a moment before she shook her head. “Who is it?” she asked.

“Me” Lionel’s voice was soft as it came through the door “Your mother sent me up. Can I come in?” he asked.

Sasha hesitated for long enough that Lionel sighed gently on the other side of the door. “What was I supposed to do, Sasha?” he asked “I couldn’t exactly shoo your mother back into the living room so that we could finish talking. I was trying to make a good impression” he added, a slightly nervous laugh falling out of his mouth.

Sasha tentatively pushed herself up to her feet before she crossed to the door, pulling it open.

Lionel, who’d been leaning against it, stepped back, watching her cautiously.

“They were always going to like you” Sasha said quietly.

Lionel quirked a bashful smile, allowing a moment of silence to pass between them, before he looked down at his feet, his expression growing nervous. “Sasha, what you said...”

“We don’t have to mention it” Sasha cut in, shaking her head “It’s fine. I said it, and I can’t take it back, but we don’t have to talk about it” she added.

Lionel shook his head. “Sasha” he protested gently.

Sasha offered him a brief sad smile before she stepped past him, progressing towards her bedroom which was a little way along the hall.

Lionel didn’t hesitate, following after her. “I love you, too” he announced.

Sasha stopped on the threshold of her bedroom.

“I love you, Sasha” Lionel repeated slowly “I’d have said that earlier, but it seemed kind of weird to say it for the first time in front of your mother” he added, a grin kicking up the corner of his mouth as he took her hand, slowly turning her to look up at him.

Sasha just stared up at him, her eyes scanning over his features in awe. “Leo...”

Lionel closed the gap between them, kissing her softly. He knew what was coming. They had had enough conversations like that one for him to be sure that the next words out of her mouth would be about how he couldn’t possibly mean what he was saying, and he wanted to stop her before she had the chance to get them out. He meant it. He would have said it sooner if he hadn’t thought that he’d scare her off, and he wanted to try and communicate that to her before she had the chance to try and put distance between them again.

Sasha let out a soft sigh, melting into the kiss until Lionel pulled back, his forehead coming to rest against hers. “I know that you think I am just saying it to calm you down” he said, his eyes still closed.

“Are you?” Sasha asked, her lips brushing against his again.

“No” Lionel’s reply was firm and immediate “I love you, Sasha” he added.

Sasha smiled when he leant in again, stealing another soft kiss. “This is a big deal to me” she murmured between little kisses “It’s more than just a relationship milestone. I’ve not said...I’ve not told someone I loved them since Alex. I know it’s just words, but...” she trailed off, her cheeks flushing a soft shade of pink.

Lionel’s thumb brushed the reddened skin tenderly.

“I don’t mean to worry” Sasha said, putting a little space between them “And I know it is frustrating. It frustrates me. I just...I thought the world of him. Alex. I thought he thought the world of me, too, and then it was all pulled out from under my feet and it’s left me like this. You’re not him. You’ve given me no reason to think you might be like him, but I...I second guess everything. It’s probably not going to stop for a while” she added, her eyes flashing up to meet his.

Lionel quirked a soft smile. “I know” he said “Cassie’s warned me more than once to be patient” he added.

“You talk to Cassie?” Sasha asked.

“We’ve had a few conversations” Lionel confirmed with a slightly nonchalant shrug “Nothing major, don’t worry. She hasn’t told me all of your deep dark secrets, but she has told me that, if I am patient, I will get to know the woman that she adores. I mean, I already adore you, but I am looking forwards to seeing you relax into us. I don’t mind that you worry, Sasha, I just...I wish you’d not try and push me away when you do. I’ve got a bit of a knack for making you feel better, no?” he prodded impishly.

Sasha smiled despite herself, a shy laugh falling out of her mouth.

Lionel stepped close again, placing a gentle kiss on her temple. “I love you” he whispered.

The words fell out of Sasha’s mouth easily, accompanied by a warm smile instead of twisting knots in her stomach. “I love you, too” she murmured.