Can’t Look Away

06: It Doesn’t Have To Be More Than This

Fighting the urge to pull her phone out of her handbag, Sasha busied her hands with twisting her napkin, trying to ignore the nagging voice at the back of her head which told her that Lionel wasn’t coming. She knew that he was. A quick exchange of texts when she had been climbing into a taxi told her not only that he was on his way too, but that he was looking forwards to it, but with little sign of him as yet, she could feel her nerves climbing. She had been surprised that he had agreed to go out with her again. With the way their first night out together had ended, she had been convinced that he wouldn’t want much more to do with her, but whilst she had been pleasantly surprised that he’d agreed to a second dinner, she was nervous, not entirely sure what she should expect when he got there.

Twisting the napkin around itself, she closed her eyes and took in a breath, only to jump when she felt a light touch against her shoulder.

Lionel retracted his hand quickly, feeling her flinch, before he quirked a small smile.

Sasha blinked up at him, admiring his smile, before she slowly stood from her seat. “Hi” she squeaked.

“Hi” Lionel replied “I’m sorry I’m a little late” he added.

Sasha shook her head. “It doesn’t matter” she mused.

Lionel’s smile grew a little shier before he stepped slightly closer. Tilting his head, he hesitated for a second before he leant over, touching his lips against her cheek. Sasha breathed out as his touch lingered before she gingerly stepped back, offering him a bashful smile. “Just for clarification” she said “This is a date, right? I mean, we didn’t talk about it last time, and I think it led, in part, to us misunderstanding one another. I just want to make sure that we both know what’s going on” she added.

Lionel laughed gently before he nodded his head. “It is if you want it to be” he replied “I want it to be” he added.

Sasha tried, but failed, to stop her smile growing. Pushing her hair behind her ear, she shifted her feet slightly before she nodded. “I’d like that” she confirmed.

“Good” Lionel mused “Are we going to sit down now?” he prodded, tilting his head towards the table with a grin.

Sasha laughed and nodded, retreating to her seat.

Lionel watched her sit down and fiddle with her napkin before he followed suit, hoping that, as the night progressed, the tension that Sasha seemed to be feeling dissipated. It was obvious that she was nervous, but he was hopeful that as time passed, she would see that he didn’t hold their last dinner against her. She had gotten scared, of what he wasn’t entirely sure, but he didn’t intend to hold it against her. He just hoped that things ended better for them second time around.

Pressing the button on his keys, Lionel locked the car before he jogged along the pavement, catching up to Sasha who’d started to walk away from him, laughing playfully. She had brightened. After an initially tense start to the night, she had slowly started to warm up and once the conversation had started to flow, she had seemingly shrugged the weight off of her shoulders, something which Lionel was more than happy to see. “Why are you running off?” he called.

Sasha shrugged, flashing him an impish smile. “I always figured you’d catch me up” she retorted “You are an athlete, after all” she added.

Lionel feigned a glare, something which made Sasha laugh gently before she fell into step beside him. They walked for a couple of moments in silence before Lionel's hand slipped out of his pocket, gently wrapping itself around Sasha’s. “Is this OK?” he asked quietly.

Sasha, who’d turned to look at their hands, quirked a small smirk as she looked up at him. “Why wouldn’t it be?” she prodded.

Lionel's smile was soft, but it was enough to cause Sasha to try and pull her hand out of his. He kept it in his grasp, though. “I just don’t want to scare you off, OK?” he asked.

“I said that I was sorry for the other day” Sasha mused.

“I am not trying to make you feel bad” Lionel said.

Sasha glanced down at their hands again, taking a moment to think, before she shook her head. “I’m sorry” she said gently “I am not very good at this” she added.

“Holding hands?” Lionel prodded, offering her a small smile.

Sasha smiled despite herself. “I’m going to admit something” she mused “I think it might give you some insight” she added.

Lionel just squeezed her hand.

“Olivier chose Leila over me” Sasha said softly “My previous boyfriend before I went out with Olivier chose someone else over me too. I was more to him than I was to Olivier, but he still thought I’d just get over him deciding to up and leave me for someone else. I want to have a relationship, but it isn’t easy for me to trust my own instincts. I like you, I knew that at the wedding, I knew it better the other night, but I have liked people before” she added, shrugging her shoulders in an attempt to appear nonchalant.

Lionel's thumb ran over the back of her hand in place of him saying anything. He didn’t know what to say.

“Should I just delete your number now?” Sasha tried to smile as they stopped in front of her house, but it failed.

“I’d just call you instead” Lionel replied, grinning.

Sasha shook her head, smiling softly. “You’re cute” she mused.

Lionel stepped a little closer, but still kept a gap between them. “I like you, too” he said gently “But it doesn’t have to be more than this if you don’t want it to be. I am not here to make you do things that you’re uncomfortable with, Sasha. I’m sorry that other people haven’t treated you well, and if, as a result of that, you don’t want this to become more than it is now, that’s OK. I’d like to stick around, though, if you’ll let me” he added.

Sasha kept her stare on her feet for a moment before she lifted her head, her eyes looking into his. Staying quiet, she leant a fraction closer to him before she moved her head slightly, bypassing his lips so that she could press a soft kiss against his cheek. Lionel didn’t move, even despite the urge he had to turn his head so slightly that the contact met his lips instead, before Sasha pulled back, smiling at him softly. “You’re getting closer” she teased shyly.

Lionel breathed out a laugh.

“I’m going to head in” Sasha mused.

“Before you do, what are you doing on Saturday?” Lionel prodded, keeping her hand in his to keep her from getting too far away.

“It’s my day off” Sasha replied “But I am pretty sure it’s not yours” she added.

“It isn’t” Lionel mused “But you should come to the game. Bring Cassie, that’s your room-mate isn’t it?” he prodded.

Sasha liked that he had remembered that. “She’d love that” she said “I would too, if I am honest” she added.

“Great!” Lionel's voice was too enthusiastic, causing him to blush and Sasha to smother a laugh “I’ll drop the tickets around one day this week” he added.

Sasha nodded before she progressed up the path, offering Lionel a wave over her shoulder. “Goodnight, Leo” she called.

Lionel watched her into the house, waiting until the door closed, before he grinned to himself.
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Thanks to Twisted;;Symphony for the comment :)