The Space Between Us

51: Above Everything Else

Rubbing the back of his head sleepily, Lionel frowned at the closed bedroom door, trying to figure out if the muffled sounds that he could hear from somewhere else in the house were voices or not. He had tried to get out of it. After he and Amelia had returned downstairs, they had enjoyed a couple more drinks with Nora and Victor, trying their hardest to put Fernando’s visit behind them, but when he had stood up and announced that he was going to call a taxi, Nora had insisted that it wasn’t necessary and offered them the spare bedroom instead, something which meant that he found himself stood in an unfamiliar bedroom, trying to figure out whether or not to step out into the hall.

He had tried to dissuade Amelia from accepting. As well as he knew Victor and Nora, he didn’t feel like it was well enough to spend the night in their home, but the look on Amelia’s face when she had asked if it was alright with him had convinced him. She had still been upset. Despite the best efforts of him, Nora and Victor to lighten the mood, the spectre of Fernando had still lingered, and the look on her face made it obvious that she wanted to stay, that she wanted to be surrounded by people who loved her and could help to keep her mind off of her ex.

Letting out a yawn, he spared a look over his shoulder at Amelia who was still sound asleep before he exhaled a quiet sigh, his hand landing on the door handle. After another moment of hesitation, he pulled the door open and stepped out into the hall. Shuffling a few paces down it, he stopped at the top of the stairs, listening again for voices, before he felt a tap on his shoulder, causing him to let out a sound in surprise as he turned around.

Nora grinned up at him sheepishly. “Sorry” she said “I didn’t mean to make you jump. I was just going to drop these off for you and Lia. Yours might be a little big on you, they’re Victor’s, but I figured you’d probably want to get changed before you guys left” she added, offering out a pile of clothes to him.

Lionel hesitated before he took it. “Thanks” he said.

“Is Lia still asleep?” Nora asked.

“She is” Lionel confirmed “Victor?” he added.

“He’s just gone back to bed” Nora mused “Antonio had him up at three” she added.

Lionel nodded his head slowly, not quite sure of what to say next, but he was saved from having to come up with anything when Nora smiled up at him gently. “Are you hungry?” she asked.

Lionel nodded, a sheepish laugh falling out of his mouth. “I am” he confirmed “You don’t mind me hanging around for breakfast?” he asked.

“Not at all” Nora mused “Besides, Amelia’s not going to wake up any time soon. It’ll give us a chance to get to know each other again” she added, her smile growing more playful when Lionel blinked in surprise. Shaking her head, she squeezed his arm gently before she padded down the stairs, coaxing him to follow along behind her.

“So, how awkward do you feel right now?”

Lionel, who was sipping on a glass of orange juice, grinned bashfully around the top of it, watching as Nora settled into the seat opposite his own, an impish grin on her face. He knew how obvious it was. Without Amelia around to break the ice between him and her friend, he had resorted to sitting awkwardly at the kitchen table, and only speaking when Nora spoke to him, but he was relieved that Nora had opted to tease him instead of just asking. It was a small sign that the awkward tension that had existed between them when he had visited her office all those months ago had thawed, leaving behind only their slightly awkward friendship.

“Pretty awkward” Lionel replied “But Amelia wanted to stay, so we stayed” he added.

Nora’s smile softened a little, growing a little sad around the edges. “Fernando doesn’t like to make things easy on her” she mused “It’s been pretty much the same since she left. I don’t think he’s ever really taken a step back and realised just what he did. I don’t think he realises that he’s still hurting her” she added.

“That’s why we stayed” Lionel mused “I mean, I knew how awkward this morning would be, but seeing Fernando knocked her, and she wanted to be around people who love her” he added.

“Did she say that?” Nora prodded.

Lionel shook his head. “She didn’t need to” he replied.

Nora’s eyes searched his face for a long moment before she looked down at her lap, a soft smile dancing on her lips. “You know” she said “I was pretty wary of you when you showed up again. You and Amelia had something complicated of your own, and she was still reeling from everything that had happened with Fernando, and I was so sure you were going to be another complication, but I...I think I was wrong” she added.

“Wrong?” Lionel asked.

“You’re good for her” Nora mused “You’re supportive, and patient, and you just...You really seem to get her, and I don’t think I can overstate how much she needed someone like that, not even as a boyfriend, but just as a friend. You just...You seem to want her to be happy, above everything else, and I love you for that” she added warmly.

She had thought it for a while. Whenever she had seen Lionel and Amelia together, they had seemed well suited, but the way that he had known what she needed, even without Amelia saying a word, had cemented for Nora what a good person he was to have in Amelia’s life. He just wanted to be there for her. He wanted to do things to make her happy, or to support her, and Nora wanted him to know how much she appreciated him for it. Amelia had needed another supportive influence in her life.

Lionel’s eyes widened a little before he ducked his head, trying, and failing, to hide the blush that had started to work its way up his cheeks and the proud smile that itched to light up his features. “I didn’t know that you thought that” he said.

Nora smiled as she reached across the table, squeezing his arm gently. “Well, you do now” she mused “And I hope that you’re around for a long time. I know Lia’s not the best at showing it, but she’s crazy about you” she added.

Lionel huffed out a bashful laugh. “I’m crazy about her, too” he mused “I know she worries about me, but I am not going anywhere, Nora” he added.

Nora smiled at him before she caught sight of Amelia over his shoulder.

Amelia shook her head, wordlessly telling her not to alert Lionel to her presence. She didn’t want him to temper what he was saying or to try and back track on what he had already said, something she knew he would do if he knew she was there. He was very cautious, not wanting to say too much in fear of scaring her off.

Nora’s smile softened again. “I truly believe that” she mused “And I am sure that Lia knows it, too” she mused.

“I hope so” Lionel said.