The Space Between Us

35: As Long As It Is Just That

Sliding the keys out of his car’s ignition, Lionel turned his gaze towards Amelia, watching her as she stared up at her parents’ home, a small concerned crease between her eyebrows. It hadn’t only just appeared. After he’d arrived at her apartment, and they’d greeted one another with a warm hug and a soft kiss, the worry had appeared on her face, and as much as he wanted to ease it, he didn’t quite know what to say.

He had offered to duck out. Almost as soon as Felicity had left Amelia’s office a few days previous, he had turned to her and insisted that, if she wanted him to, he would find a reason not to make brunch at her parents’ place, but Amelia had told him not to. She hadn’t said that she wanted him to come with her, and Lionel hadn’t quite found the words to admit that there was a part of him, a small part, that was pleased by the invitation, but there was a wordless understanding between them. It was a big deal. Although Lionel was already acquainted with Amelia’s family, the idea that he was going to spend time with them now that he and Amelia were seeing each other felt significant, and whilst they were both worried, they each knew that the other was partially excited. It was a big step, the first test of their new relationship, and they were both anxiously looking forwards to seeing how it fared.

Amelia didn’t move immediately, but after a moment of quiet, she turned to meet Lionel’s stare, her lips lifting into a soft smile. “Are you ready?” she asked.

Lionel matched her smile. “Are you?” he replied.

Amelia shrugged, glancing back at the house. “How bad can it be?” she mused “I mean, it’s not like you’re a stranger” she added.

“We’ve yet to determine whether that’s a good thing or not” Lionel chirped, but there must have been something in his voice that Amelia heard because as soon as he said it, she gently took a hold of his hand and squeezed it.

“It’ll be fine” Amelia mused.

Lionel squeezed her hand back. “Yeah” he mused “It will” he added.

Amelia squeezed his hand once more before she moved to climb out of the car. Pushing the car door closed after herself, she paused for a moment to take in a deep breath before slowly made her way towards the front door. Lionel followed her, careful to keep a little distance between them as Amelia slipped her key into the front door and pushed it open, allowing them both to step inside.

“Hello?” Amelia called “Mama? Albert?” she added.

The hallway was silent for a moment before Albert’s head poked around the kitchen doorway, a warm smile brightening his features as his stare tracked between Amelia and Lionel. “Look who’s early for a change” he chirped “Your mother’s not even back with the food yet” he added.

Amelia rolled her eyes, choosing to ignore the little snicker that Lionel let out. “She said to be here for eleven” she said.

“She tells you to be here for eleven every week” Albert retorted impishly.

Amelia sighed, something which made Albert chuckle as he strode down the hall. After he had greeted Amelia with a warm hug, he turned and stuck his hand out towards Lionel, his smile as warm as it had ever been, something which relieved Lionel more than he could say. Without missing a beat, he placed his hand into Albert’s and shook it enthusiastically, earning a warm chuckle. “It’s good to see you, Leo” Albert enthused.

“You, too” Lionel said.

Albert grinned before he gestured down the hall. “Come on through” he mused “Felicity will be back soon, and it probably won’t be long before everyone else gets here. You could probably use a bit of quiet before the party starts” he added.

“Party?” Amelia asked, following her stepfather down the hall.

Albert turned to grin at her over his shoulder. “What?” he chirped “Your mother didn’t tell you that Asier, Charlie, Victor and Antonio are all going to be here too?” he added.

Amelia opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, trying to come up with a reply, but before she could, Albert disappeared into the kitchen again, chuckling to himself.

Amelia stared after him for a moment before she felt Lionel’s hand slip into hers and squeeze gently. “It’ll be fine” he said encouragingly.

~#~
Sipping on her glass of orange juice, Amelia felt herself smile, her gaze drawn across the garden towards Lionel who was sat next to Charlie, watching happily as the little boy showed him another one of his toys. Charlie had been insistent. He had already shown the new toys off to everyone else, and whilst Lionel had expected to be the exception, he hadn’t been able to resist when the little boy had toddled up to him. It was a big deal to him. He wanted to fit in with all of Amelia’s family, and Charlie’s approval meant a lot to him.

Placing her glass down onto the patio, she felt someone slip into the space next to her, causing her to glance up at Nora who greeted her with a wide, teasing smile. At the sight of it, Amelia rolled her eyes, returning her stare to Lionel and Charlie. “Shut up” she muttered.

Nora squeaked indignantly. “I didn’t even say anything” she protested.

“You didn’t need to” Amelia quipped “The smirk on your face said it all. You came over here to tease me” she pointed out.

“I wouldn’t say ‘tease’” Nora mused “Though, I was going to point out how well today’s gone. It’s almost like there wasn’t anything to be scared of” she added impishly.

Amelia scoffed playfully, but the smile on her face dimmed a little when she turned to look at Nora. “I was terrified that you would all spend the day comparing him to Nando” she admitted “When I introduced you all to Nando, it was just...it went so well. It helped that you and Victor knew him already, so you could vouch for him with my mother and Albert. I just...I wanted them to like Leo just as much. I like him as much” she added.

Nora blinked a couple of times, surprised by the revelation, before she gently twined her fingers through Amelia’s. “You can’t compare them, Lia” she said.

“I...”

“You won’t be happy if you keep thinking of Leo as just Fernando’s replacement” Nora interjected, cutting off what she was sure would be Amelia insisting that she wasn’t “I know it’s not easy, but you have to put Fernando out of your mind. You’re not just trying to replace him. You’re with Leo because he makes you happy, right?” she prodded.

Amelia didn’t hesitate to nod. “Of course” she mused.

“Then focus on that” Nora mused “If you keep comparing them...It’s not fair, Lia” she added before someone called out to her, causing her to walk away.

Amelia watched her go, a small frown on her face. It wasn’t something she did consciously, but she knew that she did, sometimes, think of Lionel in terms of comparing him to Fernando, and she knew that Nora was right. It wasn’t fair. Lionel and Fernando were two different people, two different relationships, and they weren’t comparable. Lionel wasn’t just the guy that had replaced Fernando in her life. He was someone she cared about, someone she had increasing affection for. He was someone she could see building a future with.

“Lia?”

Amelia blinked a couple of times before she looked up, her face brightening when she found Lionel smiling down at her shyly. “Hey” she mused “Charlie finally let you go?” she asked.

“Lexi promised him something sweet if he let her take him inside to wash his hands” Lionel mused.

Amelia smiled up at him as he sat down next to her. “You two looked like you were getting on well” she said.

“He was the easiest person here to impress” Lionel played along.

Amelia laughed, gently pushed her hair behind her ear. “Has it been that bad?” she asked.

Lionel shook his head. “It’s been fine” he mused “Good, actually. Aside from Victor’s glaring, I think it’s gone well” he added.

“I’m sorry about Victor” Amelia said.

“It’s fine” Lionel replied with a shrug “He’s Fernando’s friend. It is probably going to take some time for him to get used to seeing you with someone else. As long as it’s just a few glares, I can handle it” he added.

Amelia looked up at him for a moment before she leant towards him, gently brushing her lips against his.

Lionel was smiling gently when Amelia pulled away. “What was that for?” he asked.

“For being you” Amelia answered “You’re pretty wonderful” she added.

Lionel’s cheeks flushed pink. “Yeah?” he prodded.

Amelia smiled at him. “Yeah” she confirmed.

Lionel leant towards her again, kissing her, before Albert called out to him, causing him to pull away so that he could reply.

Amelia just watched him as he and Albert exchanged jokes, a soft smile on her face. She knew that Nora was right, that she needed to stop thinking of Lionel in comparison to Fernando, and she was confident that when she did, she would find that she liked him more than she already did.