Can’t Look Away

04: You Must Know What It’s Like

“Do you want another drink or anything?”

Sasha, who’d been finishing up the last of her after dinner coffee, grinned over the rim of the cup, something which made Lionel roll his eyes playfully, already anticipating some playful quip. It had been the same all night. They had talked, Sasha had made him laugh, and they’d gotten to know one another better, and aside from the occasional smile that hadn’t quite seemed like all of the others, it had gone better than Lionel had thought it would.

Settling her cup onto the table, Sasha offered him a playful smirk. “Anyone would think you enjoy spending time with me, Leo” she quipped.

“If they thought that, they’d not be far off the truth” Lionel replied “I’m having fun, Sasha” he added.

Sasha blinked a him a couple of times before she ducked her head, trying, and failing, to hide the fact that her cheeks had turned a light shade of red.

Lionel smiled to himself as he moved to pull his wallet out of his pocket. “You’re rethinking your decision not to kiss me, aren’t you?” he joked.

To his surprise, the laugh that fell out of Sasha’s mouth was different. It was usually a bright sound, warm and contagious, but that one seemed different and not in a good way. It was hollow and sad, and it had Lionel panicking that he had managed to say the wrong thing. “Sasha?” he prodded.

Sasha shook her head, pushing another plastic smile on her features “I’m not going to change my mind about that” she replied.

“Am I really that bad an option?” Lionel tried to keep his voice bright and playful, but it faltered.

“Leo” Sasha sighed softly.

Lionel shook his head. “It’s OK” he said.

“No, it isn’t” Sasha argued “I just...I don’t want to spoil tonight. You barely know me, I highly doubt you want me to unload all of my baggage onto you. I’ve had fun too, and I don’t want to spoil it by making this really serious and weird. Can we just keep having fun, please?” she prodded.

She knew that she had been off. She hadn’t reacted like he’d been expecting to a couple of his quips, and she didn’t blame him for having questions, but she didn’t want to bring the mood down. She liked him. She found him easy to talk to and she liked making him laugh, but she knew it couldn’t be more. She knew that getting involved with a guy who still carried a torch for her sister would only end with her getting hurt again. She hadn’t lied to him when she had told him about Olivier. They had only been out a couple of times before she had introduced him to Leila, but that didn’t mean it hadn’t hurt when she’d sat in front of him, listening to him tell her that whilst he liked her, he liked Leila more.

Lionel searched her face before slowly, he cracked a reluctant smile. “Alright” he mused.

Sasha grinned more out of relief than anything else. “Thank you” she breathed out.

“You’re going to have to stop here. There’s no way you’re going to find a spot any closer to my place this late” Sasha pointed out, turning to glance at Lionel who was steering his car towards her house. There was no denying that there was a little more awkwardness between them. After she had asked him to ignore the way she had reacted to his joke, the conversation had felt more superficial than it had before, and it upset Sasha, even if she knew that it was her own doing. They had been getting along well and Sasha was pretty convinced that she had ruined it.

Lionel nodded before he turned the car, pulling it over into a parking bay. “How far is it from here?” he asked.

“A little over five minutes on foot” Sasha replied “It’s just that everyone will be home, and there won’t be a place to...” she trailed off as Lionel pushed the door open and got out.

Hoisting her bag up from its place by her feet, she followed him, pushing the door closed with a thump after her. “Where are you going?” she asked.

Lionel pressed a button on his keys, locking the car, before he turned to her, a smile flitting around his lips. “Which way?” he prodded.

Sasha tried to stifle her smile as she tilted her head, gesturing down the street. “That way” she mused “But you don’t have to walk me back. I’ve done it a million times before” she added.

Lionel just shrugged before he started to walk in the direction she had indicated. Sasha let out a soft laugh before she jogged to catch up with him, falling into step beside him easily. Adjusting her bag on her shoulder, she allowed the comfortable silence to linger before she glanced over at him. Watching his profile, she opened and closed her mouth a couple of times before she shook her head, refocusing on the pavement ahead of her.

“Is it about Leila?”

Lionel's voice surprised Sasha, pulling her eyes back over to him. “Is what about Leila?” she asked.

“The not wanting to kiss me thing” Lionel clarified “Is it because of her?” he asked.

Sasha let out a sigh before she shrugged her shoulders. “My sister is lovely” she mused “We’ve always been close. We’re not competitive or antagonistic, we’re actually really good friends, but that doesn’t mean I don’t notice that people are drawn to her in a way they aren’t drawn to me. Take Olivier, for example. We got on well, there was a little chemistry, but then he meets Leila and boom, he can’t keep away from her. You must know what it is like, being in her orbit” she added, glancing over at him shyly.

Lionel buried his hands in his pockets, taking a moment before he replied. “It was never more than a couple of nights” he noted.

“You still got swept away by her” Sasha replied, looking through her bag in search of her keys “And I would be stupid to let myself get involved with someone who got swept away by her. I am a lot of things, Leo, but I am not stupid” she added, pulling the keys out.

“Sasha” Lionel protested softly.

Sasha turned her sad smile on him as they came to a stop outside of her house. “Let’s not pretend that this is something else” she mused.

Lionel stepped closer to her, one hand twining with hers to keep her from pulling back.

Sasha didn’t move back. She watched his feet until they were only inches from hers before she raised her eyes to his face.

Lionel's other hand grazed the back of her neck, urging her towards him, but Sasha simply quirked a rueful smile before she backed away, shaking her head slightly. “I am not kissing you, Leo” she whispered, tugging her hand out of his “I...I can’t” she added.

Lionel made a move to catch her hand again, but Sasha was quicker, backing up onto the stoop before she slipped the key into the front door. Turning to look at him, she offered him one more smile and a wave before she disappeared inside, leaving him staring after her.
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Thanks to Jayme112234 and Twisted;;Symphony for the comments :)