Can’t Look Away

32: You Knew What We Were

Slipping his keys out of the ignition, Lionel leant back in his seat, watching Sasha wordlessly. He knew that she was still unsure about him being there. After she had asked him to go with her, she had thought about changing her mind a few times in the days that had passed, and whilst he wasn’t afraid of going inside with her, he wanted to give her a final chance to back out. It wasn’t going to get easier. The first time he, Leila and Olivier were all in the same room with Sasha was always going to be awkward, and no amount of waiting was going to change it, but Lionel didn’t want to push her into it. He knew that, if he did, he’d probably only make things worse.

“I just want a minute” Sasha said softly.

Lionel just offered her a small, reassuring smile and a nod.

Sasha stared out of the window for a moment before she leant over, unbuckling her seatbelt. “Are you coming or what?” she asked, glancing up at him with a look that was somewhere between terrified and playful.

“You’re sure that you want me to?” Lionel quipped.

Sasha’s answering nod was firm and decisive. “Yeah, I am” she confirmed.

Lionel unbuckled his own seatbelt and followed after her as she made her way towards the door. Quirking a grin, he watched her anxiously smooth out her clothes before he leant close. “You know that your family are the ones who’ve seen you at your worst, don’t you?” he chirped impishly.

He could see that she was nervous. Whenever she was, she fidgeted with the closest thing to hand, letting the nervous energy out with little movements, and he wanted to try and make her focus on something else. Whatever was going to happen with Leila was going to happen. There was nothing that he, or Sasha, could do about it, and Lionel didn’t want Sasha to work herself up over it. She knew where he stood, where he had always stood, and he didn’t want to see the doubt about it creep into her eyes again.

Sasha’s eyes snapped up to his, narrowing slightly. “Are you saying I look my worst?” she quipped, the smallest of smiles tickling the corner of her lips.

“No” Lionel replied “You look beautiful. I’m just saying, if, hypothetically, you didn’t look wonderful, they’d be the last people to care” he added.

Sasha let out a laugh, something which made Lionel smile before pressed a kiss against her cheek. “I love that laugh” he mumbled.

Sasha smiled down at her feet softly, encouraging Lionel to kiss her cheek again before the front door swung open. The two of them sheepishly stepped apart, causing James, who’d opened the door, to grin before he tilted his head back towards the house. “Nice of you to finally arrive” he quipped “We’re on the patio out back. Can I get either of you anything to drink?” he asked as he stepped out of the doorway.

Sasha followed him back into the house, Lionel followed after her. “What’s on offer?” she asked “Champagne?” she added, offering her brother a teasing smirk.

James laughed sheepishly. “Yeah” he quipped “You can wait for that. Just come on through. Ellie’s going to explode if I make her wait any longer” he added.

Sasha’s hand found Lionel’s without a thought as she tried to keep pace with her brother. Lionel happily knotted their fingers together as he followed her onto the patio. Smiling, he greeted Eddie and Carina without letting go of it, but he could feel Leila’s gaze on them, and he knew Sasha could too. Subtly, she tried to slide her hand out of his, but he responded by squeezing it gently, wordlessly telling her that there was no reason to let go. Their relationship wasn’t a secret.

“Good, you’re finally here” Ellie said, hugging both Lionel and Sasha “Can we tell them now, James?” she prodded.

James smiled dotingly before he nodded. “Go for it” he quipped.

Ellie grinned, practically bouncing on the spot. “I’m pregnant!” she announced.

Placing the empty glasses that he had collected down onto the kitchen counter, Lionel quirked a soft smile, his ears plied with the sound of Sasha’s voice as she gushed over the sonogram that Ellie had started to show off. Everyone was excited. After the words had fallen out of Ellie’s mouth, she and James had been surrounded by James’s cooing family, and it didn’t show any signs of slowing down, something Lionel was grateful for. The news that James and Ellie were expecting was undoubtedly wonderful, but it had also provided a good distraction before any kind of awkwardness had had the chance to settle in, and Lionel was hopeful that he and Sasha could still escape the night unscathed.

There had been looks. Lionel and Sasha had a habit of intertwining their hands, even when they weren’t talking to one another, their fingers still weaved together, and Lionel had caught Leila staring at them a few times, but she had yet to say anything, something Lionel hoped stayed the same.

Collecting the bottle of champagne from the fridge, he refilled a glass for Sasha and her mother.

“Can I get a refill too?”

Leila’s voice surprised him, causing his grasp on the bottle to slip slightly and spill some onto the counter. Shaking his head, he settled the bottle down before he moved to collect a paper towel.

Leila watched him wordlessly for a few moments before she shuffled forwards, placing her own glass onto the counter.

Lionel stared at the glass briefly before he turned around, his eyes searching Leila’s face as hers searched his.

Leila looked away first, glancing down at her feet “You and Sasha are good together” she said “She looks...well, she looks happier than she has looked in a very long time and I assume that’s your doing” she added.

Lionel’s stare moved towards Sasha who was stood on the patio, grinning with James and Ellie. “Why did you lie to her?” he said after a few moments.

“Lie to her?” Leila prodded.

“You either lied to her, or to me” Lionel replied “You told her that you were in love with me, Leila. So either that’s true, and you lied to me every time I asked if you were interested in more than a fling, or you made it up to undermine my relationship with your sister. Which is it?” he asked.

Leila’s feet shifted awkwardly before she shook her head. “You never wanted more” she said “You never looked at me like you looked at me the first night before or after it happened. I knew it was wasted. Admitting it wouldn’t have changed it, but Sasha needs to know what she is walking into. She needs to know it’s hard for me to see you with her” she explained.

Lionel shook his head, a disbelieving smile on his face. “You married her ex-boyfriend” he countered “Don’t you see the irony in that?” he asked.

“It was different” Leila countered.

“You’re right, it was” Lionel replied “Because you knew what we were. I was so clear with you, so honest, and I never gave you the impression that there was going to be more, and you never gave me that impression either. I don’t know the timeline of what happened with you and Olivier, but I know there was overlap, and that the only reason Sasha doesn’t talk about how hurt she is, is because you’re happy, Leila. She keeps up appearances because you’re being happy means more to her than her own discomfort. Maybe you ought to think about that the next time you try to get into her head” he added

Leila opened her mouth to say something, but Lionel moved faster. He picked up the glasses he’d left on the counter and proceeded out to the patio. Taking a breath to compose himself, he stepped over towards Carina, placing her glass in her hand, before he moved towards Sasha. Placing her drink in her hand, he wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed the top of her head, earning a soft smile as she continued to talk to her brother. Resting his head against hers, he closed his eyes, hoping that he had said enough to encourage Leila to back off.
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Thanks to Jayme112234 for the comment :)