Title: Rumbles of a Far Off Storm
A/N: This is un-beta'd so any mistakes are all on me and any constructive criticism is welcomed.
The soft strands of jazz filtered through the speakers as Lara typed up the notes she had made that day. She had spent a majority of the morning in Mr. Nishimura's vault that was currently housing the artifacts she had recovered from Yamatai. Their rescue had been three months prior and nearly a month since she had been let go from hospital. It had been a painful two months; perforated bowls, broken or fractured bones, concussion, internal bleeding, not to mention the burns and bullet wounds. How the hell had she survived? She kept asking that question to herself, ever since the first cave in at Yamatai. She should have died a hundred times over, but she was still alive.
She sat back, rubbing her eyes as she felt her attention waver. She had to get this done. Mr. Nishimura had planned to set up a showing of the artifacts. He said they would discuss the exact details when she was feeling better, but Lara knew he wanted it done soon, while the story was still fresh in everyone's minds. It was difficult to an extent to go through and catalog each item, but it did help to push other memories that she did not yet want to deal with from the forefront of her mind.
Her eyes returned to the silver flask she had found in the mountain village. The flash washed out some of the detail of the embossment, but she had the image etched in her mind. Especially the tally marks scratched onto the back. She still wondered if it was a tally of friendly or enemy lives lost. When she had found it, she had wondered what the man had felt as he fought; the desperation to survive and the need for the numb solace the alcohol would survive.
After the rescue, she no longer wondered. She knew what it was like and she hated it. She didn't want to think about the soldier's tally marks because they matched the mental one she had in her mind.
She tipped her head back, taking a break from cataloging. Her thoughts turned to her friends, as they often did when she was unable to throw herself into work. She still felt the loss of Roth and Grim as keenly as when she stood on that accursed island. She still felt fury at Whitman and his blind arrogance that got him killed and nearly did the same to the rest of them. She thought of Alex, poor sweet Alex. She never fancied him as he did her, but she did care for him a great deal. There could have been something, but that was no longer a possibility. Now she was left with their ghosts. Every time she spoke with Jonah and Reyes…
The woman had apologized for the words she'd spoken on that mountain top, but Lara couldn't blame her. They were the same words she berated herself with every moment. She had been the one to push to go into the Dragon's Triangle. She had been the one to shipwreck them there. The one that got Sam captured and nearly killed.
Her head dropped forward into her hands and she felt the anger and heartbreak drop on her shoulders like a weighted blanket. So much blood on her hands…
Sam watched Lara from the doorway, dark eyes taking in the slumped form and shivering shoulders. She didn't need to ask what thoughts were going through her head, she knew all ready. She instead stayed quiet, allowing the storm of Lara's emotions to pass. They came frequently, these quiet moments of self-flagellation. Never would Lara say a word, she would simply become quiet and get away for a time. Sam had walked in on her a few times, tears streaming and face red with anger. Her friend had changed so dramatically by the island that Sam sometimes wondered if any part of the old her remained.
"Lara," She spoke softly, having learned that sneaking up on Lara unawares was not a good thing. The woman was still paranoid and high strung something the doctors said was going to take time to work through. Lara was going to have to find safety again before she could let go of the hyperaware state she had had to be in on Yamatai.
Lara tensed and looked over her shoulder, unsurprised but glad all the same to see Sam. "You should be sleeping," She replied, her voice hoarse. She paused to clear it. "It's almost two in the morning."
Sam walked over and stood by Lara's chair, reaching out to take Lara's hand. "I couldn't sleep."
"Nightmares?" Lara asked, turning and moving so Sam's knees were between her own. She took Sam's other hand, needing the familiar warmth. This was something else that had changed. Some part of their relationship had shifted, morphed into something more. They were both still too emotionally raw to analyze and define whatever that 'something' was, but it brought them comfort so they simply let things be. They would take whatever comfort they could find in these turbulent hours.
"It's storming," Sam said and reached over to turn the volume down on the speakers. Lara perked her ears and sure enough was able to hear the deep rumble of thunder beginning. Her body tensed as her treacherous mind went back to Yamatai and their violent storms. The voice of Himiko whispered through her mind over the roar of a destroyed engine-
Jazz started playing again and Lara blinked as the present flashed back. Embarrassment flushed her cheeks when she realized the flashback had almost taken her unawares. She glanced up at Sam, smiling in thanks before turning back to the screen.
"Well I'm just trying to finish cataloguing. Not really that exciting," Lara replied.
Sam brightened. "What if I video tape you? You can explain each one and any thoughts you have about them. It'll go great on the video." Lara rolled her eyes, but smiled at her friend's enthusiasm.
"Only if you fetch me a shirt. I don't want to be on camera looking like a mummy," She replied, glancing down at her still bandaged arms and torso.
"Please, you look beautiful. I'll be right back," Sam dashed off towards her room, leaving Lara fighting off a soft blush. Sam came back soon, thankfully with a khaki button down shirt. She slipped it on, rolling the sleeves up to her elbows. Sam pulled a chair over so she sat next to the desk, angling the camera to try to get Lara's face and the screen.
Lara leaned her cheek on her hand, waiting with a patient smile as her friend fiddled and messed with the settings on the camera. "You finished?" Sam stuck out her tongue in response before giving Lara a 'hurry up' motion.
Lara laughed before turning back to her notes. They spent the next couple of hours like this, Lara describing each item, where she found them and her thoughts on them, while Sam recorded her. Lara felt herself calming down as she slipped into the familiar role of archeologist.
"And this piece was found in an old shanty town. It's a decorative Inro, or an ancient form of a wallet. In Edo Japan the traditional men's garments didn't come with pockets, so these were used to hold personal items," Lara pointed to the lacquered wood piece she had found in the damnedable shantytown. For a moment, she swore she could almost smell the putrid water and hot muggy air. She paused to swallow against the bile rising in her throat, as she had often had to do when she was making her way through that part of Yamatai.
"If you look at these others examples of Inro, no two are alike. This one here," She turned all her attention to the artifacts and explaining them, allowing the negative to slip away and the thrill of discussing a find take over.
They did this for a few hours; Sam filming and asking the occasional question and Lara explaining each piece along with what she knew from research and her own thoughts. It was nearly five in the morning when Sam finally shut off the camera while Lara moved to write a few more notes before saving her document and closing it down. The quiet descended, broken only by the soft jazz still playing. Lara watched Sam as she fiddled with the camera, though this seemed more to do with needing something to do with her hands then to actually change anything. She reached out and caught a fiddling hand.
"We should probably head to bed," Lara said, feeling the exhaustion settling on her. She could see Sam drooping, but there was still a restlessness to her. Worry furrowed her eyebrows as she reached out to take Sam's other hand. "Sam. What is it?"
"It's nothing, it's stupid," Sam gave an unconvincing smile as she moved to stand, but Lara pulled her back. She bracketed Sam's legs between her own, resting her hands on Sam's hips.
"Talk to me, Samantha."
Sam smiled softly. "Uh oh, you're serious. You only use my full name when you are." She rested her hands on Lara's shoulders, greedily sucking in the warmth that radiated from her friend. She had always joked that Lara was like a heating blanket and right now she needed that. Ever since she had heard the first rumble of thunder a cloying cold had settled low in her belly. Being with Lara and filming her had helped to push the cold away, but now it was slowly trickling back into her bones. The mere thought of going back to her room was terrifying.
Lara smirked at her friend's attempt at humor, but did not back down. "Sam, talk to me."
"It's stupid," She mumbled.
"Not if it's bothering you. Come on," Lara smiled, hoping to settle her friend enough to talk.
"I just…not real sure I can sleep right now," Sam hedged.
Lara felt her heart clench at her friend's vulnerability. "Well…why don't you keep me company for a bit? It'll be like back at uni. We can talk a bit about the movie, if you want." She saw relief flood dark eyes and knew she had said the right thing. "Come on," She turned off her computer and tugged on Sam's hands, leading her out of the study and down the hall. Now with only the quiet surrounding them the rumble of thunder was much clearer and both women tensed. When they got into Lara's room Sam made herself comfortable on the bed as Lara turned on her stereo, hoping to drown out the thunder that was growing steadily.
"So," Lara started as she stretched out on her bed, conscious of Sam's knee pressing into her side. "What is this grand idea that you have for the documentary?"
"I thought we should get a combo of the archeology and the shots I took at Yamatai," Sam replied, instantly warming to the topic.
"Shots you took?" Lara cocked her head, unaware that Sam had really taken any footage.
"Here," Sam stretched out on her stomach, half laying on top of Lara as she rewound the tape. Her body was still slightly sore from the trauma it had gone through, but Lara relished the feel of Sam against her. She brought a hand out from behind her head and rested it on Sam's shoulder, caressing the soft skin with her thumb. They shared a soft smile as Sam pressed play. They watched the footage that Sam took while they were still on the Endurance. She, Grimm, Roth, Lara and Alex were laughing about something, it looked to be at Whitman's expense as the man was scowling in the background. Lara's heart clenched as she watched Roth laugh, something she knew she was never going to see again. She wrapped her arm around Sam and pulled her closer. Sam looked up at Lara, understanding crossing her face as she scooted up the bed and rested crossed arms on Lara's upper chest.
"I've also got some really great shots of you in a bikini. I'm sure that will interest a lot of people." Sam's grin was lecherous and Lara could not help but laugh.
"I didn't wear a bikini at all then."
"No, but I've got some footage I can cut in. Remember that trip we took to Italy in uni?"
"Oh god, Sam no. You will not put video of me wearing…that. This is supposed to be about my findings, not my boobs."
"It could be both, would definitely get people's attention."
"Brat," Lara poked Sam in the stomach, earning a squirm and a giggle. They almost fell into a tickling war, but the loud rapport of a gunshot had both tensing. Lara reached for her waist for her handgun, but of course came up empty. Her heart was pounding and her eyes glancing around for enemies.
"Lara, Lara calm down. Please," Sam's voice broke through the slamming of her heart against her ribs and Lara focused on her as her panic calmed. Both were sitting, Sam's hands over Lara's and stroking the racing pulse at her wrists with her thumbs.
"Bloody hell," Lara growled, feeling suddenly dizzy and weak as the adrenaline flushed from her system. She was angry, at herself and the events of Yamatai that had left her with this lingering sense of panic that would overtake her at the slightest provocation.
Muffled shouting had both turning back to the camera. It showed the moment they had been at the beach camp, struggling with the Solari as they descended on the camp like a swarm of hornets.
Sam shut the camera off quickly and put it to the side. "Okay…maybe that wasn't such a great idea," She mumbled, staring down at it. Her face was turned away, but Lara could hear the guilt. Lara reached out and took the camera, bringing Sam back around to face her. She stared at it for a moment, chewing her lip.
"You know…when I would listen to my father talk about all his digs, I was so excited. I looked forward to the day when I could lead my own digs, find pieces of the past that most thought lost," Lara set down the camera and shook her head. "Now a part of me would rather spend the rest of my days in a dusty library. Yamatai had wonders and horrors that I never expected and I don't think will ever leave. I," She shook her head. "I gained a lot of recognition. I have colleges calling to lead expeditions; museums want me to tour with the artifacts. But all I can think of is that I would give it all back to get Grim, Roth and Alex back. Would give anything to erase the memories of you in danger," She stopped again, sucking in a deep breath to try to steady herself.
Sam scooted closer, her legs bracketing Lara's hips and her arms pulling the trembling woman close. Sam dropped a kiss to the side of her head, taking her own steadying breaths. Upon their release from the hospital, they had been told of the possibilities of PTSD. Sam had brushed it off, just wanting to get back to her life. However, the first night out of hospital had shown how hard that was going to be. She had woken up, covered in sweat with a scream as tangled in her throat as her thrashing limbs had been in her sheets. She had been sure Mathias, the boots of other Solari breaking through the brush on either side as she ran through the Jungles, was chasing her. She had woken up like this every night for almost a week. It was not until Lara had gotten her to open up that Sam found out about Lara's nightmares. After that, they often found themselves in the other's room, huddled close and often silent. Occasionally they would bring up stories of better times, too often shying away from the horrors of Yamatai.
Sam wanted to prolong bringing up that living nightmare again, but deep down she knew they could not push it away for long.
She pulled Lara tighter to her, resting her head on a shoulder and taking a breath, "I always start off running. I can hear the Solari around me; can hear Mathias shouting out orders to bring me to him. Your voice keeps coming over the radio and I yell into it, asking you to save me, but you never respond. I just keep hearing you yelling and yelling, getting more and more desperate for me to respond." Tears burned her eyes and she took a breath to try to quell the ache, but it did little to alleviate the pain. It was only the shivering body in her arms that kept her grounded. "I was pushed around, but I wasn't really touched. Mathias wanted me whole for the stupid ritual. It was the not knowing that was killing me. I didn't know where any of you were or if I was ever going to see my family again or if I was going d…" She stuttered on the word and felt Lara's arms tighten in response. "To die. But I shouldn't have worried right? I knew you were coming for me," She finished, painfully forced cheer edging her voice in a desperate attempt at levity. Tears were now cutting across her cheeks. "You came for me, just like you promised," This was said more to herself but Lara nodded.
"I did, and I always will," Lara said, her voice hoarse with heavy emotion and the desperation that Sam believed that promise. She felt Sam shift and move, swinging her knee over Lara's so she was straddling her. Before she could ask what the smaller brunette was doing, Sam pushed at her shoulders until Lara lay down. Sam lay down almost on top of her, cuddling as close as could be.
"I know the doc said we should talk about this, but can you please just…hold me right now? I can't go through this anymore tonight. I just…" Sam stopped and turned to look at Lara. Their faces were only a few inches apart and even in the dim light of the lamp Lara could make out the tears, fear, and trust that were shining in Sam's eyes. "Hold me, please."
Lara needed no further prompting as she wrapped her arms around Sam, one covering Sam's waist, the other came to rest on the arm slung across her own chest. "Always Sam," She whispered, dropping a kiss to Sam's forehead then cheek. "However long you need."
"Careful," Sam whispered, feeling the tingle of Lara so near chasing away the horrors. "I may just hold you to that."
Lara chuckled softly, her lips still lingering close to Sam's skin. She didn't want to pull away, intoxicated by the familiar and safety. "I wouldn't mind."
Sam took a deep breath at the implication of the words. She looked at Lara from the corner of her eye and turned her face just a fraction of an inch to brush her lips along Lara's. There was no pressure, both of the physical sense or the pressure to take anything further. It was an affirmation and acknowledgement that neither were alone, nor would they be again. More in depth introspection would come much later. For now, they simply lay back, soaking in the feeling of the familiar and slipped off into slumber, hearing neither the far off thunder nor the screams that had been prevalent in their dreams.