The Space Between Us

28: You Were Right About One Thing

Sinking back against her pillow with a soft groan, Amelia draped her arm over her face, reacting to the too bright sunlight that had hit her eyes when she had opened them, causing a twinge of pain to radiate through her head. She had been expecting the hangover. Despite her insistence that she was only going out with Alexa because it was what her sister wanted to do, it hadn’t taken her long to relax, and it had resulted in one or two too many drinks being knocked back, meaning the headache had been inevitable, even before her slightly clumsy attempt at making a move on Lionel.

She knew where it had come from. Alexa’s encouragement, added to the encouragement that Nora had already given her, and the little flip her stomach had done when he’d told her that he thought that she looked beautiful had all culminated in her trying to kiss him, but she knew that she had made a mistake, even if Lionel hadn’t jumped away from her. The hug he had given her had felt like an apology. It had felt like he was trying to let her down gently, and she knew that it was likely to be the start of him putting space between them again.

It couldn’t keep happening. Amelia knew that she couldn’t keep kissing him and then pulling away all over again, and she knew that the only certain way to prevent it from happening again was for the two of them to take a step back. She liked him, but her fear of getting hurt all over again wasn’t going anywhere any time soon, and she knew that she couldn’t lead him on. The last thing she wanted to do was hurt him.

Exhaling a quiet sigh, she stayed still for a few minutes until she heard a small crash from somewhere else in the apartment, causing her to sit up with a start. Grimacing at the pain in her head, she swung her feet out of bed and tiptoed towards the bedroom door, inching it open slightly so that she could look around it. Holding her breath, she watched the empty living room for a few seconds before a figure appeared in the opposite doorway, a bowl balanced haphazardly on his arm as he leant down to pick something up off of the coffee table. “Leo?” she squeaked.

Lionel looked up with a start. “I thought you were still asleep” he said “I was just going to leave these next to your bed and get out of here” he added.

“Did you stay here last night?” Amelia asked with a frown.

Lionel nodded. “You told me it was too late for me to drive home” he quipped “You were pretty insistent about it, actually” he added, offering her a small smile.

Amelia nodded her head slowly. She didn’t remember much of what had happened after she had tried to kiss him.

Lionel watched her for a moment, waiting to see if she said anything, before he tipped his head towards the bowl in his arms. “I made breakfast” he quipped “Or, more accurately, I cut up some of the fruit you had in your fridge. I figured you’d want something light after last night” he added, offering the bowl out towards her.

Amelia took it from him, determinedly avoiding his eyes. “Thank you” she said gently.

Lionel stared at her for another long moment, but when she didn’t say anything else, he offered her a half-hearted smile and moved to collect his jacket from its spot on the sofa.

Amelia watched him wrap his jacket around his shoulders and take a step towards the front door before she finally found her voice. “I’m sorry” she spluttered “For last night. I drank a little too much, and it went to my head. I am pretty sure that I have made things weird between us again, and I am sorry for that” she added.

“It’s not weird” Lionel quipped “No weirder than normal, at least” he added.

Amelia rolled her eyes, letting out a sad laugh. “Nice try” she quipped.

“It was just a moment, Amelia” Lionel pointed out.

“Another moment” Amelia quipped “Another example of me doing something that’s put you in an awkward position. I keep doing things without thinking, and then, when my head catches up to my actions, I pull away, and I...I can’t keep doing it to you. It isn’t fair. So I am sorry about last night, Leo. I let some stuff that Lexi and Nora had said get into my head, and I just...I said something I shouldn’t have done” she added.

“Did you mean it?” Lionel asked, taking a couple of paces towards her.

Amelia blinked owlishly at the question. She had expected him to say a lot of things, but that wasn’t one of them. “What?” she spluttered.

“What you said last night” Lionel clarified “Did you mean that? Or is that what you’re trying to tell me? Because if it is, you can just say it, but if it isn’t, and you meant what you said, then I’d want to tell you that I know that you’re not ready for some big relationship, and I wouldn’t ask you for it. I like you, Amelia. I like spending time with you, and I want to keep doing that. If something happens, then it happens, but I am not here just because it might. I just like being around you, and I want to keep doing that, regardless of what it looks like. I just...I need you to be honest, because you were right about one thing. We can’t keep doing this” he added, vaguely gesturing around the room.

“You really like being around me right now?” Amelia asked.

The smallest of smiles pulled at the corner of Lionel’s lips. “I’ve always liked being around you” he answered.

Amelia offered him a slightly dubious look, taking a moment to think over what he had said, before she nodded her head slowly. “I meant it” she admitted carefully “I just...I can’t make big promises about what’s going to happen next. I like you, but I know that I am not ready for anything real or serious yet. I know it’s stupid, everything with Nando was so long ago, but I just...” she trailed off when Lionel stepped towards her, wrapping her in a soft hug that, after a moment, she melted into.

Lionel dropped a kiss onto the top of her head. “We’ll figure something out” he promised quietly.