Some Days Are too Full
Lindsey was looking at all the shops in the mall that were new since she was there last, and she felt a gentle tug on her hand. She looked at Damon. He tucked her hand inside the crook of his elbow. "I feel better if I've got a hold on you," he said. "Makes you much tougher to snatch, if anyone is inclined."
She knew she shouldn't, but she allowed her heart to yearn toward that small gesture.
"Thanks," she said with a smile.
They walked through the mall and Lindsey could see nearly every female turn her head to look at Damon. And with her hand tucked into his arm, it was obvious they were together. Even if they weren't actually a couple, the idea that they were pleased Lindsey no end. He was more or less oblivious, she thought, but Lindsey wasn't above flashing a few feline grins at the women who stared more openly. Those grins said, "He's mine and don't you wish you had him?"
What Damon noticed was Lindsey's whole demeanor changed. She stood taller, walked proudly, chin lifted. He didn't miss those smiles, either. For maybe the first time since they had been together, he saw her whole, vivid, lively personality. She had removed the veil completely and life infused every inch of her. When she turned to him and grinned, her brown eyes snapped and twinkled with mischief.
They passed a jewelry store and Lindsey looked in the windows, then at Damon. "This business is the oldest jewelry store in the state. It predates the Civil War."
"Is that so?" Damon looked at the window display. "They have some nice things. Let's go inside."
"For what? That was just an editorial comment – a history lesson. I can't afford to walk in the door."
"I can," Damon smirked.
"Well, I know you can. Never was a question about that."
"C'mon. Let's see what they've got." Damon slipped his arm around Lindsey's waist and ushered her into the store. She didn't really want to go, but could tell he was going to be difficult if she didn't. So, she acquiesced and they went to look at the gemstones. "Your birthday is in September, right?" he asked.
"O.K." He spotted a sapphire and diamond tennis bracelet in the case. "That's nice. Do you like it?"
"It's pretty," Lindsey answered.
He picked up her right hand. "I think it would look nice on your wrist."
About that time, the sales associate came to the case. "Can I help you?"
"We'd like to see that tennis bracelet, please," Damon answered.
The man took it out of the case. "This is set in 14 karat white gold and has two full carats of diamonds and two carats of sapphires."
"Try it on, sweetheart," Damon whispered in her ear.
Lindsey shot him a look, but his face was all innocence. She was going to beat the tar out of him for this. She allowed the sales person to slip the bracelet on her wrist and thanked God, not for the first time, that her wrists were average-sized. Damon took her hand and turned it this way and that, watching the light play on the bracelet. Lindsey caught sight of the price tag and nearly fainted when Damon said, "We'll take it."
"Excellent. I'll just get the box for it. Would you like to wear it out?"
Before Lindsey could open her mouth, Damon said, "Of course. Just take the price tag off."
"Certainly. I'll be right back." He walked away.
"Daaaamonn," Lindsey began.
"What? I have too much money anyway. Might as well spend it on someone who'll actually appreciate it. Didn't you say your nice watch disappeared when they got you in Nashville?"
"I'm replacing it. I feel responsible for that. Go find one you like."
Knowing debate was useless, Lindsey sighed and went to look at the ladies' watches. She found several she liked, when Damon sidled up to her.
"Which ones are you looking at?"
She pointed to a gold and stainless model that had a round face and a gold milgrain bezel. Nice, but understated. "I like that one."
"It's nice. I like that one better, though," he said, indicating a very dressy watch.
"It's pretty, but I need an everyday watch that can dress up or down." He knit his brows and she said, low, "Look here. I let you buffalo me into getting that bracelet, but I'm picky about my watches. I'm going to be downright mulish about this, so you might as well let me get what I want, not what you want me to have."
It obviously didn't bother this woman to lay down the law to him, and Damon found it a turn-on. "All right. I'll compromise on the watch."
"But you still need a necklace and earrings, and I'm picking those out myself."
"What?" Lindsey said in a loud whisper. "Please don't do that."
"Why not? I want you to have some nice things."
She sighed. "I know if I don't give in now, I lose my leverage later on. But keep in mind, mister, that I don't like ostentatious, showy jewelry. I won't wear it. Period. Got it?"
Damon gave her that lopsided grin. "O.K." Even he knew when he was outmatched.
The pendant he chose was a sapphire with diamonds around it and it had matching drop earrings. Lindsey had to admit they were gorgeous. "Can we leave now before you spend everything in your bank account?"
"Not even close, hon," he answered. "Wait until I pick out your clothes."
She whirled on him, eyes blazing, but held her peace until they were out into the mall proper. She dragged him into a hallway where the bathrooms were. "Now let's get one thing straight. I pick my own clothes. You don't. Ever."
He glared at her. "I'm paying for them. I should have some input."
"Input, you can have. But I'm buying what I like. You don't own me," she hissed.
He had seen flashes of this version of Lindsey in Nashville, but now, freed from that crippling fear, her natural assertiveness came roaring back. She was a fireball and she was looking at him like she'd stake him in a heartbeat. Her eyes were narrowed at him, as she locked gazes with him, unafraid and unflinching. Just to push her buttons, he bared his fangs, just a little.
"Do that again, and you're going home with a set of sore balls like you've never had before. Assuming I don't cut them off, first."
Damon had the grace to look a tad shamefaced, at least, but then he grinned at her. "Where was this woman in Nashville?"
"Tired and scared to death. Now I'm tired and pissed off, and on my home turf, so be warned." She turned to walk back out into the mall.
"Yes, Ma'am," he said, grinning wickedly. The fact that Lindsey was a human, talking to him like that, not fearing him, should have enraged him, but his respect for her was heightened, instead. That's how friends talked to each other when necessary, and the fact that she trusted him enough to be a friend still humbled him a little, as well as gratified him. She talked a lot about grace and here she was, extending it to him. Wow.
"Believe it or not, I'm actually hungry for the first time in weeks. Let's hit the food court," Lindsey said.
Damon was surprised, but amenable. "Sure," he replied.
They made their way to the food court and Lindsey looked at all the choices, and finally settled on a salad.
"That's it?" Damon asked.
"I've been surviving on toast, coffee and the occasional bowl of cereal for weeks. If I ate what sounded good, I'd probably get sick."
"True," he admitted.
"So what happens if you don't get blood?" Lindsey asked, when she had her salad.
Damon shrugged. "We dry up. Desiccate. Not fun."
"But you're still alive?"
"In a manner of speaking."
She made a face. "Doesn't sound fun, either. So, even if you're completely dried up, if you got blood, you'd revive?"
"That's how it works."
"Do most people like you eat regular food?" He was munching on an order of fries.
He shrugged. "Depends. I do. I like it. But we don't have to. It just depends on the individual."
"I've lived with you for weeks. I know your body operates well, pretty much like anyone else's."
"Yep. What's your point?"
"So how can you keep saying you're not human?"
Damon paused in mid-chew to look at Lindsey. Then he swallowed. "You know I'm not."
She shook her head. "No, you say you're not, but you are. You're just a different kind of human."
"No, not true." He narrowed his eyes at her.
"Yes. Hear me out. Your instincts may have changed, but you're human at the core."
"How do you figure that one?" Now, he was interested.
"Because even though you have very strong instincts to do what would disgust most regular humans, you retain the one thing that sets humans apart from animals." She pointed her fork at him for emphasis.
"Free will. You have freedom of choice. You chose to transition, even though I know Stefan kind of forced your hand in that. But, you still chose. You choose every day how to be about this. That's as human as it gets." She continued eating.
Damon stared at her. Her logic was not easy to refute. In fact, he wasn't sure there was a comeback for it. "I'll have to think about that."
"You do that." She finished her lunch and took her tray to the garbage can, leaving a completely bumfuzzled Damon Salvatore sitting, watching her. It was safe to say he'd never met anyone like her. Most women got tired of his one-liners and snarky comebacks, but Lindsey loved lobbing the volleys right back at him.
When she returned, he said, "I think it's time we get your wardrobe squared away."
She shot him a look, and with the change in hand from her meal, went over to the coffee shop and got a cappuccino.
"What was that look about?" he asked when she came back.
"Why are you so interested in what I wear? Don't you think I know how to find clothes?"
"You do, I'm sure. You said I could have some say though, since I'm paying for them."
"I'm starting to think I'd rather wash what I've got on out in the sink every night," she growled.
The lights suddenly came on for Damon and he nearly smacked himself for not picking up on it sooner. "You don't want to be obligated to me for anything."
"That, and I don't want you getting the idea that because you bought me some clothes, that you now get to run my life."
Now, he was irritated. "So what would you do if I just left you here to your own devices?"
She put her hands on her hips. "Call a friend and get a ride to my parents' place. I'm home now, Damon, and I know how to disappear around here. Those nut jobs won't find me in Alabama if I don't want to be found."
He reluctantly had to assume she was right. This was her home territory, and if she wanted to go under the radar, she could do it here. Only he didn't want to leave her here. He wanted to take her to the beach, and to wherever she felt like going. He enjoyed having her in his life.
He sighed. "I'm being an ass. Again. Sorry about that. You pick out clothes and I promise to keep my mouth shut unless you find something just awful. Then, I'll have to say something."
"O.K. Most of these stores have somewhere you can sit. You park and if I want your opinion on something, I'll find you. Deal?"
Damon spent the next hour or so mostly watching Lindsey search through racks, wrinkling her nose at bad fashion choices and trying a few things on. Her running, muttered commentary was hilarious, though and he was hard put not to laugh at her critiques. "Oh, for heaven's sake," his ears picked up. "Where did they find this top? At Joanne Worley's garage sale? Why would anyone in their right minds even think about wearing this? Looks like a circus tent."
He chuckled again as the sales associate tried to talk Lindsey into trying on a top that was in a horrible, but "fashionable" chartreuse. "Nope. That color makes me look green, too," she said, and went to another rack and chose a crimson blouse. "This is much more my thing," she said, and Damon had to agree. The red brought out the highlights in her hair and eyes, and complimented her complexion. He had to admit, she knew what looked good on her, and except for choosing between two things, didn't need his input. At all.
They left the store with two large shopping bags.
"How'd I do?" she asked him.
He snorted. "Just fine, and you know it. I can't believe you got through it so quickly, though."
"Practice. Now, I really, really need some make-up. Tell you what, I'll check all this stuff at the customer service kiosk and you can go get your own clothes while I look at lipstick."
Damon looked curiously at her. "I'll go with you," he said.
"You sure? You don't mind being the pack mule?"
He grinned. "No. I'll put it all in one bag. No problem."
"O.K." They went into the cosmetics store, and Damon was honestly a little overwhelmed. There were women trying on make-up all over the store, the music was loud, colorful displays were everywhere, and sales associates with cosmetic brushes and other tools in belts were walking all over the store. If he were in the mood to hunt, this would be the perfect place. Something to file away for future reference, he thought very privately.
It took a few seconds, but not long after they walked in, Damon suddenly felt like a mouse with entirely too many cats looking him over. He wasn't used to that feeling. All the women in the place, and two or three of the male associates, were staring at him. He glanced at Lindsey, who was trying not to grin wickedly, and failing. "You still want to come with me?" she said.
"I said I would," he rumbled, much to her amusement.
One of the male sales clerks approached them as Lindsey was looking at eyeliner. "Can I help you, and your friend?" he said.
"Just looking around. Getting some basics," she answered. "Thanks."
"Oh, you're welcome, hon. Let me know if there's anything I can do."
"I will," Lindsey said. She glanced at Damon, who looked like a thundercloud. "If you want to go sit on a bench outside, I can do this. I don't mind."
"Let's just get this done," he said.
"All right, but if somebody pinches you on the rear end, don't tear their heads off, O.K.? That'd make a big mess."
Even Damon had to chuckle at that. "All right. Nobody in the make-up store dies today."
"Thank you." She went on to pick out a few very basic items.
"C'mon. You're buying budget stuff. Splurge on one thing," Damon said.
"Have I not splurged enough of your money for one day?" Lindsey asked him.
He shook his head. "Nope. One thing. For me."
"All right. If you insist." She went straight to the designer brands and looked for a good red lipstick. She found it -- the cool red she loved. And she didn't even look at the price tag. It was Dolce and Gabbana so she knew it was expensive, though.
"What did you get?" he asked.
She held up the lipstick box. "This."
"That? I was thinking perfume or something."
"I don't wear perfume very often. Most of it turns icky on me. But this? This is a great red lipstick, and I've wanted it for a long time. No woman's make-up box is complete without one good, red lipstick."
Damon grinned. "O.K. I'll take your word for it." He leaned closer to her. "As long as you wear it for me."
She rolled her eyes. "I'll take it under advisement."
In the men's store, Lindsey grinned as Damon picked out jeans, slacks and shirts, mostly in gray and black. She did some poking around and found a soft Henley shirt in a mallard teal. She found him going through a rack of clothes, and handed him the shirt. "Would you consider this?"
He looked at it. "O.K. I'll try it." When he came out of the dressing room, Lindsey could only shake her head in admiration. "What?" he said.
"Like you needed any help looking any better than you already do," she said. "That color makes your eyes pop. It's lethal on you."
Damon grinned at her as he looked in the mirror. "It does look nice. Good choice."
Once Damon had enough clothes, which Lindsey privately doubted was even possible, he said, "Look. I'm thinking the crazies aren't going to look for us in a big hotel like this one. Want to stay here for a couple of days before we go on to the beach?"
Lindsey thought about it. "Yeah, that makes some kind of sense. Gives us a chance to look and see where we might like to stay down there."
He nodded. "You know, we have a crapload of stuff. We need luggage. If we're staying at the hotel, can we get a store to deliver the luggage to the room?"
"Probably. I guess you just have to ask."
"Oh, I'm betting I can make that happen," he said with a wicked grin.
"No doubt, but how about you try asking like a normal person, first? Or would that just be too much trouble?" she said, raising her eyebrows at him.
"But you said I wasn't normal." His look was triumphant.
"Boy, is that ever the truth!" she shot back, and got an outraged look from Damon. "Hey, you walked right into that one. Don't open the door and then not expect me to walk on in."
He glowered at her and then said, "C'mon. Let's go get a room and I'll come back and get the luggage while you get some of that sleep you were talking about."
As they walked toward the hotel entrance, they passed a group of mouthy teens. One of the girls said, "Why'd you come here to shop? Why not go back to Wal-Mart? Bet they carry your size!" and they all laughed nastily.
Lindsey just ignored them and kept walking. Then, she felt Damon go still. She glanced at him and his eyes were blazing with anger. She could see him about to move and she hung on to his arm for dear life. "No, no, no, NO!" she hissed. "They're just stupid kids. And I don't want you starting a blood bath here in the mall! Or getting arrested and then I'll have to drive to the police station and bail your butt out of jail! Assuming they set bail for you."
"They need to learn a lesson. Their parents obviously fell down on the job," he snapped.
"Sounds like it, but let's just go on, O.K.? Not like they hurt me or anything."
He turned to glare at the group, but they were bold and laughed about it. He moved again, and once again, Lindsey clutched his arm, and twined her ankle around his for good measure. "If you do something, you can't hide it here, and then what will I do? They might arrest me as an accomplice!"
He took a deep breath and exhaled. "I give you my word I won't lay a fingernail on them."
"Or use compulsion."
"Or use compulsion," he sulked.
"If you have to, but I'd rather we just walked away," she answered, letting go of him.
"No, I have to," he said. He put his bags down and strolled over to the group. "You, Barbie," he said, gesturing to the one who yelled. "Come here."
She and her friends elbowed each other and she approached him. "What can I do for you, gorgeous?"
"Nothing, believe me. I just wanted to say how sad I am for you."
She looked puzzled. "For me? Why?"
His grin was evil. "Because, princess, it's a shame that a girl who looks like you should be so shallow, stupid and useless."
Her face went white with shock, and Lindsey couldn't have kept from smiling to save her life.
"You're an ass!"
He nodded. "Yep. And you're still stupid. But here's a tip for later: don't be stupid enough to walk around alone after sunset. You never know what's waiting for you in the dark." And he allowed his eyes to change just enough, and briefly enough, for it to register in her mind, but make the girl doubt what she saw. The fear on her face was satisfying, she ran back to her friends, and they left the vicinity.
He got back to Lindsey and she said, "Thank you for defending me. It wasn't necessary, though. But mostly, thank you for controlling yourself."
"I felt like snapping her stupid little neck. What a waste of space. I hate teenagers."
"I'm not overly fond of some of them. Some are O.K., though."
"Not many," he said, clipping his words.
She tucked her hand back into his arm. "Come on, my knight errant. Let's go get that room."
He grinned at her and they went to the hotel. They checked in and, not surprisingly, Damon booked a room on the concierge floor, where only guests and hotel staff could access. It was a fantastic room and Lindsey looked out the window. "At least you can see Red Mountain from here."
"Do you like it?" he asked.
"Of course! I'd be an ingrate if I didn't. But I'd be happy with a Motel 6 right now, as long as the sheets were clean."
He smiled sweetly at her. "I'm going to get some luggage. You get some rest."
"I will. But listen, now."
"What?" He lowered his brows at her.
"Behave yourself. No killing, maiming, draining or otherwise compelling, harassing or messing with the humans in the mall, no matter how annoyed you might be. O.K.?"
"Even the obnoxious ones?"
"Especially not them."
Damon shook his head and smiled. "I can't even get pissed at you." He kissed her on the forehead. "I'll leave the humans alone. Scout's honor."
"O.K. You probably need to bring your blood in from the car, too."
"I will. See you later."
"See you." He left and she closed the door, completely alone for the first time in weeks. She didn't mind. Damon probably needed a little while away from her, too. She just had to be sure he wasn't going to hunt those idiot teenagers down and start snapping necks. It was not out of the realm of possibility, for certain.
Damon stopped by the hotel and "talked" to the desk clerk, making sure he wouldn't give out their room number to anyone. He also "talked" to the manager in the same way. He didn't want to have to worry about the crazies finding them there.
Once Damon left, Lindsey unpacked her purchases and took a shower. Then, it all hit her. She started shaking uncontrollably and then started sobbing. Suddenly, the stress of the past four days all came crashing down on her. But she had always been the type to hold it together during a crisis, and then fall apart after it was all over. She was a complete wreck, and Damon wasn't back, yet. She wasn't going to call his cell to make him come back, either. She wasn't that much of a wimp. She grabbed the hotel guest services book and started looking through it. There. They did have room service. And at breakfast, served juices by the glass or carafe, including pineapple. Well, that settled it. It was officially cocktail hour.
Lindsey called room service. "Yes. I'd like a bottle of Maker's Mark bourbon, a bottle of Malibu rum, and the large carafe of pineapple juice. And ice."
"Would you like the miniatures, Ma'am?"
Oh, hell no. No miniatures. "No. I'd like the closest you've got to a pint bottle for both."
"The 750 milliliter?"
"That will do it. Thank you. Charge it to my room, please."
When the server arrived with the liquor, Lindsey found a $20 in one of the bags and tipped him. She set aside the bourbon for Damon, and proceeded to mix the only cocktail she really liked: Malibu rum and pineapple juice. She didn't even care that drinking any amount of alcohol made her face and ears flame painfully. She might end up drunk as a skunk, but she was definitely going to get happy.
When Damon returned, he could smell the booze the minute he opened the door. Lindsey lounged on the sofa in a T-shirt and shorts, looking very intoxicated. His mouth fell open. He saw the nearly empty carafe and the bottle of Malibu on the table in the dining area. At least she had thought to get him some bourbon.
"You've been drinking. A lot," he observed.
She snorted. "No shit, Sherlock. What was your first clue?"
"Toasted. Even sitting through 9/11 in the newsroom couldn't drive me to drink. This has. You left, I got in the shower, and it all hit. So, I ordered my very favorite cocktail ingredients: Malibu and pineapple juice. I'm girl-drink-drunk, but I'm also not a twitchy mess anymore. So it worked." She gave him a stoned smile.
He walked to the table and swished the Malibu bottle. It was less than half gone, but Lindsey didn't drink often, so that was still a lot for her. Probably enough to start a crashing hangover. He nodded and went to her and took her hand. "Come here. I ordered our luggage. They'll deliver it tomorrow. You're relaxed now, so go to sleep." He threw the comforter back on the bed and patted the mattress. "Lie down. I'll close the curtains so the light won't be in your face." She lay down and in less than a minute, was sound asleep. Damon could tell by the change in her heartbeat and breathing. He shook his head and laughed. Well, if anyone had a right to get a little drunk, it was Lindsey.
In the night, Lindsey woke. She was sick – so sick. And Damon was out like a light and holding her and she couldn't get away. She squirmed and elbowed him, and finally, he started awake and loosed his grip. She was out of the bed and in the bathroom, door closed, vomiting miserably. Why had drinking all that rum seemed like the thing to do? She knew it was a really, really bad idea, especially since she had only eaten that salad. She collapsed on the bathroom floor, grateful for the cool tiles against her back and her legs.
"Are you all right?" she heard Damon outside the door.
"Sick as a dog, but I'll make it. I did it to myself," she said.
"I'll get you something," he answered. He went to the minibar and found a cold can of soda and some crackers. He brought them to her and grimaced as he saw her, sitting on the floor, looking very pale. He knelt beside her. "Here."
"Thank you, Damon. You're a sweetheart," she answered. "I'm sorry I woke you up."
"It's all right. You look like hell, though."
"Thank you. I feel like hell, as it happens," she said dryly.
"I know one good cure for a hangover."
Lindsey leaned her head back against the wall. "What's that?"
"Vampire blood. Cures what ails you."
"Oh goodness. I don't want to do that to you again," she said.
He shrugged. "What's a couple of ounces? Take my blood, drink your soda, eat the crackers, come back to bed and we both can sleep."
She turned to him. "You sure you don't mind?"
"No. Why would I mind?"
"All right. Do what you have to."
He snickered. "Not like you're about to have surgery." He bit into his palm and offered it to her. She wrinkled her nose. "C'mon. Drink."
Lindsey squeezed her eyes shut, which tickled Damon. She took his hand and lapped the blood up from his palm. Something about the feeling of her tongue on his skin... He shook his head.
"Is that enough?"
"Are you feeling better?" he asked.
"Then it was enough."
She nodded. "Thank you. Your blood doesn't taste like blood. I mean, it does, but it doesn't." She worked her mouth. "It's thick, or something. Weird." She popped open the can of soda and guzzled half of it.
"So now my blood's weird, too," he teased.
"Oh, hush. I'm hungover and worn out. I'm not responsible for anything I say. Open the crackers, would you? I'm not coordinated enough right now."
He laughed at her. "You're the most pathetic drunk I've ever seen."
"Shut up." She took the crackers. "Thank you."
"You can go back to bed. I'm all right," Lindsey said, as she nibbled on the crackers.
"It's O.K.," he replied, and Damon patiently sat on the floor with Lindsey while she finished the soda. He brought her a damp cloth for her face, and found the mouthwash so she could rinse her mouth out. She turned to go back to bed, when he turned the bathroom light out and picked her up.
"I can walk."
"Not well. Come on, you lush. I'm taking you back to bed."
He placed her gently in the bed and lay down beside her.
"Thank you, Damon. For everything," she said wearily.
"You're welcome, Lindsey."
He stroked her upper arm and hummed softly until he could hear her breathing change again. He closed his eyes to drift to sleep, and the last thing he thought he heard, as she sighed into sleep was, "I love you, Damon."