"Didn't know you could fly to hell," I mused. "That'd be awesome. My parents are going to Santa Fe to visit relatives anyway. Emily's gonna be a bit bummed I'm not staying with her though. That was the plan." I frowned, wondering how best to break it to her.
"What kind of stuff does she like?"
"She likes a lot of random stuff… weird things that are hard to find, colorful stuff, candy, the Smashing Pumpkins, a lot of spotted stuff. Not cheetah-y, just polka-dotted. She really likes cooking. Why?" Liam grinned.
"I know of a few places not too far from here that sell a variety of random things, and we can pick up stuff for her in the mall. She'll work with bribes, right?" I half smiled, still finding a large flaw in the plan.
"You're a genius," I told him, "but I'm pretty much broke. Give me a few weeks. I'll do some babysitting and buy her something with the money." Liam swatted me upside the head playfully.
"As if I'd let you buy any of it anyway." My stomach sank a few inches and I tried to protest, but his hand clamped gently over my mouth. "You don't know my background," he told me with a grin. "You think Hel worked for that Tesla?" I stared at him, confused. "We've been around long enough to amass some dough," he explained. My expression seemed to amuse him. "Believe me," he encouraged, his face a few inches from mine. He removed his hand from my lips slowly, tracing them. "I've got enough to give you a life of luxury off junk change." His tone was making my legs turn to water and I couldn't think properly.
"No," I protested, but the word didn't make it to my mouth before Liam's lips.
"Say yes," he murmured.
"Yes," I said thoughtlessly after a few seconds, my mind nearly blank. He kissed me then, and my brain might as well have fallen out the back of my skull for all the thinking it was doing.
"You're so cute when you're dazed," he told me triumphantly.
"You're manipulative when I'm dazed," I grumbled, unsure whether or not I was making any sense. "Am I speaking right?" I asked.
"Any reason you shouldn't be?" Liam looked at me enquiringly.
"I can't tell if I'm even saying anything coherently when you do that." I leaned my head against his shoulder. He hugged me tightly for a minute and I noticed my tent had disappeared. I looked into his face, noting that he'd returned to human form.
"Ready to go?" I nodded.
The drive to the mall was silent for the most part. Jad was lounging on the couch with a liter of Coke when we got back inside and Hel had apparently gotten bored of watching us through the window and had gone upstairs in search of movies. He came back down with a large blue sleeping bag and insisted that Liam wrap me in it like a cocoon if he was going to shield me from view all the time. Liam humored him with vague amusement and carried me hammock-like to the car. It was surprisingly comfortable. In the car I leaned my seat back as far as it would go.
Liam set his iPod on shuffle and headed toward the mall. It was a little more than forty minutes away and I fell asleep somewhere in the first twelve miles, my hand snugly encased in his. My dreams consisted of a medley of warmly flashing lights, most likely a by-product of the sun shining through the trees at the side of the road.
My hand slid into the cup holder as I awoke. We were at a stop light near the mall and my stomach knotted temporarily with the familiar discomfort of mild motion sickness. I hated waking up in cars, especially if the sun was shining in my eyes. I groaned and pulled a corner of the sleeping bag over my face. Liam's hand found mine again.
"Sleep okay?" His voice was slightly muffled by my makeshift sun shade. I nodded, rustling the material.
"I think I'm in hibernation mode," I told him with a yawn, looking out the window at the purple sign for Kimberley Richton Shopping Center. Liam pulled into the parking lot and cruised around for a bit to find a convenient parking spot.
For once the mall didn't seem overly air-conditioned, hand-in-hand with Liam. I'd always seen couples shopping together, but I'd only ever gone with my mom or Emily. Every step seemed ten times better, with Liam pointing out various places I'd never thought to look at. We stopped by a few small stores on the first floor to window-shop, but eventually gave in and found ourselves browsing the Food Court. I went off to find moderately filling drinks while Liam waited in line at a Tex-Mex restaurant, and we met back up at a table in the middle.
"So where d'you wanna go?" he asked, finishing off the first of six chicken wraps in a matter of seconds. I shrugged, fishing a nacho out of its puddle of cheese.
"I don't really mind. You said jacket shopping…" I trailed off, wondering once again how cold it would get.
"Well we're going to Hot Topic," he began, and I looked up in confusion. "You need new headphones, and I'm not letting you stick with the ones you have; they're falling apart and the sound sucks." I shrugged again in agreement as he scolded the quality of my beaten up earbuds. Once upon a time they'd been acceptable, although there was no way to block the external noise out other than turning the volume up as high as it would go. Somehow, while he was talking, he decided I wouldn't notice if half my blueberry slushie disappeared into his mouth, and I couldn't keep a smirk from my face as I remembered how he'd stolen my bagel on the bus.
The visit to Hot Topic annoyed me a bit. A purple-haired assistant with a name tag reading "Sasha" made eyes at Liam from behind the counter and offered to help him try on a pair of chained jeans, claiming they were difficult to do up without help. He did end up trying them on, leading me into the dressing room with a smirk and shutting the door in her face.
"You know," I told him, "you're kind of making me hate other girls." My confession was met with a dark chuckle as he began undoing his pants. The sight erased all thoughts of competition from my mind.
The jeans didn't turn out to be very difficult to put on, but Liam played around for my benefit anyway, tangling the metal on purpose and pulling me close to ask for help with puppy dog eyes.
Somehow we found ourselves on the floor a few minutes later, the jeans forgotten in a corner of the small room. Liam bit down on my shoulder, pulling at the skin gently and I tangled my fingers in his hair.
"You gonna buy them?" I asked breathlessly.
"The jeans," I pointed to the now tangled mass of metal and denim.
"Do I look good in them?" he asked, an eyebrow raised.
"I didn't really see them on you," I pointed out. "You wanted help with them and then suddenly became more interested in taking them off."
"That was you, love." Damn. He had a point.
He bought the jeans anyway, along with a Mudvayne T-shirt, then picked out a pair of new earbuds for me, and we headed over to Victoria's Secret on the pretense that my underwear drawer was boring.
I tried on a few bras and modeled them for an impatient Liam who was stuck outside the dressing rooms, stopped by a maternal-looking manager. Eventually he began to browse the racks and I changed back into my shirt. He was earning several strange glances from the surrounding teenage girls. They couldn't seem to decide whether he was browsing for himself or someone else. He returned to the dressing rooms with a plaid corset in hand and a devilish grin on his face, and slipped through the door while the manager was helping a customer behind the counter.
"Just try it on," he pleaded, pinning me against the mirror with his hips and sliding my shirt up. The corset was soft and surprisingly comfortable, and Liam decided he needed to take a few minutes alone in the dressing room to cool down before we paid and left the store. I opted out of visiting a few other stores on the same floor, noticing the extravagant prices on the items in the windows, and we left the mall in favor of a cheaper spree downtown. On the drive I examined the container for my new earbuds - the logo read, "Small but deadly."
Liam parked near a coffee shop with a bright red sign advertising world-famous chai, and we followed the road to the left. It led off to a much smaller street and there was a stall at the far side where the vendor was selling bumper stickers and hemp necklaces. The whole street smelled like incense. Liam led me through an alley to a smaller road and entered a shop with a faded emu painted on the display window. A man in his early twenties looked up from the counter and grinned.
"Hey, Rick," Liam greeted, clapping his shoulder as the man emerged from behind the cash register. He was tallish with light brown hair, and sported a stud through his eyebrow as well as snakebites.
"Don't see you around here much anymore," the man said, "Finally gotten a life?" His gaze turned to me, and he grinned with a smug "oh."
"You must be Marin," he said, shaking my hand. He looked me over curiously.
"She's not a gremlin, man," Liam spoke up after a minute. "Quit scanning her." There was a small smile on his face though. I did kind of feel like some exotic species of creature under Rick's scrutiny. Liam moved behind me and I backed up against his chest comfortably. If I was to be examined, I wanted to at least be cozy. "We were in the market for some clothes, and since Marin seems to like strange second-hand things, I thought we'd pay you a visit. Rick nodded sagely and stroked his chin.
"Come to the right place, you have," he teased, echoing Yoda with a disturbingly similar voice. He motioned for us to follow him through a doorway. Apparently we'd come in through the back. I'd been curious as to how Rick had managed to keep this place going in such a secluded location, but the front doors opened onto a crowded street and the store was large. Liam guided me toward the counter, where a purple-haired woman was shuffling boxes of clothes around behind the cash register.
"Hey Leela," he greeted. The woman looked up and waved at him, the saw me and broke into a wide smile. She looked like a toddler who'd discovered Christmas had come early. "This is Marin, I'm guessing." She didn't take her eyes off me while she questioned Liam, and then skipped out from behind the counter to give me a hug.
"Don't overdo it," he warned, glancing at Rick with an amused expression. Leela sighed and rolled her eyes.
"I hope I'll see you in here a lot more often," she said to me. "Normally I'm stuck in here with these two," She gestured toward Liam and Rick, "And they do nothing for my sanity." I had to laugh.
"I can assure you, I won't be able to help with your sanity either," I told her. Rick wrapped a hand around Leela's waist and laughed.
"She's lost her mind completely anyway, don't think anything's gonna help her regain it. I mean look who she's with. If she had any sanity she'd go for some sexy bloke with a tie and a decent job." I couldn't picture her at the side of any type of business man in a suit. They almost looked like they'd been made for each other. Leela slapped him upside the head and mumbled something about how stupid but perfect he was. And then they were caught in each other's eyes with a type of mushy look that could have melted titanium. I wasn't sure whether to find it cute or unbearably awkward to witness. I looked at Liam, who winked at me and grabbed my hand. Squeezing it gently, he pulled me over to the racks of clothes.
"While you love birds make out with each other's eyes were gonna shoplift some stuff," he teased and began rummaging through a rack of jeans.
We left the store a few hours later after buying several large bags of clothes, and Rick and Leela closed the store early. We sat around on the floor near the counter for a while just talking. I liked them a lot, and watching the exchanges between the couple was hilarious. My face hurt from laughing so hard by the time we left.
It was fun hanging out with them, but I couldn't resist taking advantage of the seclusion of his car when we headed back toward his house. It was nice just being alone with him again. He seemed to be thinking along the same lines, and he pulled onto a side road in a grove of trees to "make up for too many hours of having to keep his hands off me" as he put it.
We went back and snuggled on the couch at his house, ignoring Hel's protests that we hadn't bought him a jacket with seven porcupines on it. Apparently he was in the market for one. Jad threw a two-liter soda bottle at his head, switched on Gladiator. Liam kissed my shoulder at intervals during the movie and I fell asleep in his arms before the beginning battle was over.
(A/N: Ta da! New chapter up! … finally. Sorry it took so long, but school is insane! I want reviews… and if you give awesome reviews and demand faster chapter updates then maybe it will spur me to new speedy updatingness!
The usual disclaimers go here…..
Well, I hope you enjoy the chapter. I'll be expanding on Rick and Leela very soon, not to worry. Tell me what you think and happy reading!