All This Time

21: It’ll Still Be Strange

“The food isn’t going to be ready for a while, but feel free to come through the kitchen. I’ve got wine”

Amelia, who was slipping her feet out of her shoes, lifted her head to flash Lionel a small grateful smile before she ducked it again, trying, and failing, to dislodge the lump in her throat that had been there since she had agreed to see him that night. She knew that they had to talk. She wasn’t ready to lose him again, and she knew that, in order not to, they had to discuss what had almost happened between them the previous night, but she didn’t feel ready.

She was embarrassed. She had gotten carried away in a moment, and Lionel had been the one to catch her, but it was more than just that moment that worried her. She was worried that she couldn’t quite trust her own feelings, and that, eventually, she was going to do something that ended up hurting Lionel again. She knew that she felt something. She had had feelings for him before, and she felt as though she had them again, but she was wary to trust it. After the way things between her and Fernando had ended, she wasn’t entirely sure that she wasn’t still reeling.

Neatly placing her shoes beside the door, Amelia took a second to compose herself before she stood up, offering Lionel another small smile. “I should probably stick to water or something” she quipped “I’ve got to drive home, and I’ve got work in the morning” she added.

Lionel nodded his head slowly, a slight crease between his eyebrows, before he turned towards the kitchen. “Water, it is” he said “Who’s got Una?” he asked, peeking back over his shoulder to make sure that Amelia was following after him.

“Molly’s mother” Amelia replied, moving to take a seat beside the kitchen island “Molly’s got to stay overnight because there were a few minor complications with the birth, so she called her mother and she picked Una from the hospital” she added.

“You didn’t want to babysit again?” Lionel quipped.

Amelia let out a slightly huffed laugh, tapping her fingers against the glass of water that Lionel had placed in front of her. “I think one night was probably enough for me” she said “Most of it was fine, but when Una woke up and didn’t know where her parents were, she was pretty hard to comfort. I don’t think she really stopped crying until she saw Stefan and Molly. I also know how hard she can be to settle. I can’t say I wasn’t relieved when Molly told me that she’d called her mother” she added.

Lionel laughed warmly, but the sound faded away quickly, leaving behind a slightly uncomfortable silence. Lionel watched Amelia's fingers tap against the glass in front of her before he closed his eyes, exhaling a quiet sigh. “It wasn’t that I didn’t want to kiss you” he said quietly.

Amelia, who’d been determinedly staring at the kitchen counter, grimaced. “Leo” she protested softly.

“We can’t not talk about it” Lionel countered “It’s making things strange. If we just get it over with...”

“It’ll still be strange” Amelia finished for him, finally looking up at him.

Lionel’s eyes surveyed her face, a confused frown on his lips.

Amelia drew in a deep breath before she ducked her head, fiddling with the bottom of her shirt. “You were right” she admitted quietly “When you said that I wasn’t sure about my feelings. I know I fought you on it, but the more I think about it, the more right I realise you were. I...I don’t know how I feel about you. I know I felt something before. I don’t really know what, but I did, and I...I think I feel something for you now. I just...I don’t know, and I hate that” she added, shaking her head ruefully.

For a moment, Lionel just stared at her, not quiet sure what to do or say.

Amelia toyed with her shirt for a second longer before she glanced back up at him, quirking a sad smile when she saw the conflicted expression on his face. “I’m scared that I am going to do something stupid and end up hurting you” she admitted “I’m scared that I am going to think that I feel one way, and then, a few months later, realise that I was actually still reeling from everything with Fernando and that my feelings weren’t quite as real or as strong as I thought they were, and I don’t want to do that to you because you don’t deserve that” she added.

Lionel opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, still struggling to find the words, before he padded around the counter, slipping into the seat beside her so that he could gather her hands in his. “There is no hurry to figure everything out” he said “I’m not just here because of the feelings I had for you. I’m here because I just care about you and I want to help you. If something is going to happen, and I am not saying it is, I am saying if, then we’ll figure it out, and it will move as slowly as it needs to, but it isn’t something you need to be worried about now. I know that now isn’t the right time. I know that last night was an error. I know that you’re still trying to get your head around everything. I am not going to let you do something that either of us regret, Amelia. I don’t want you to regret us, if ‘us’ is something that’s going to happen” he explained, flashing her a small comforting smile.

He knew that the previous night didn’t mean anything. Amelia had been overwhelmed by the change in her feelings for Fernando, and she had gotten carried away in a moment, and he wanted her to know that understood it. He wanted her to know that he knew she was trying to look after him, and that he was doing the same thing for her. He didn’t want to hurt her, and he knew she didn’t want to hurt him.

Amelia's eyes searched his face before she ducked her head, letting out a nervous laugh. “I’m sorry about last night” she murmured.

Lionel leant forwards, pressing a kiss against the top of her head. “Don’t be” he mumbled into her hair “We’re fine. I promise” he insisted.

Amelia pushed out of her chair, wrapping her arms around him.

Lionel wrapped his arms around her, feeling Amelia relax into the hug. “You’ll stay for dinner?” he asked.

Amelia nodded against his shoulder, smiling to herself in relief. “I’d love to” she murmured.