"Ah!" Lara Croft flinched under the gentle, administrative hand of her best and closest friend, Samantha Nishimura.

The other woman pressed the antiseptic salve tenderly to her side. "Does that hurt?"

"Yeah, it stings." Lara winced again with another press, and Samantha's eyes lit up in smiling. Lara frowned, brows drawing together at first, but stopped when that hurt her head. "I'm in pain, and you smile about it? Thanks."

Samantha offered her the effort of a smile, at least, even if her lips couldn't fully form one. Lara understood her hesitation, but she wished the distance wasn't there. Ever since kissing her, Samantha had been more tentative around her. They still hadn't talked about it yet. Lara wanted to, but she didn't want Samantha to shy away any further. It was best to wait for her to bring it up… if she would.

"After all you went through, it's silly." Samantha explained quietly, dabbing gently. "That healing makes you complain the most."

"Yeah, well," Lara put a hand to the back of her injured neck, which ached. She cringed. "Maybe it's a good thing you talked me out of Australia."

"We'll go eventually," Samantha soothed, finally putting down the salve in favor of a replacement bandage patch. "You were a bit too hasty for it, is all. Deep breath, Lara." Lara closed her eyes at the warning, teeth gritted with the press of a square-cut bandage Samantha had to press on to keep air bubbles out as she taped around the edges. Lara's tender skin around the injury on the back of her shoulder screamed in protest to the touch of tape. Tape that would have to be ripped off and replaced in just a few hours and would sting so bad all over again…!

"Turn towards me," Samantha asked when it was done and put on alright. Lara obeyed, naked from the waist up with only her injuries to cover her. Samantha's pretty, chocolate eyes darted over her body again to take in the injuries once more for patching. She stared a moment, but Lara knew it wasn't for the same reasons she stared at Samantha sometimes. Samantha's interest in surveying her was clinical only. "I can't believe you carried me with two broken ribs."

The reminding fire in Lara's ribs at the mention was nothing close to the surge through her body when Samantha's lips had touched her own, fueling her for that whole journey to carry Samantha effortlessly back. Lara could barely remember the pain at all after she'd done that.

…If only Sam would bring it up. Lara didn't even know if she should be apologizing for it or what. Samantha had initiated, but Lara had probably, admittedly, enjoyed it more. Samantha's continued silence only spoke to her fears of that. She could be trying to pretend it hadn't happened at all.

"I had to," Lara answered simply enough. "I had to get you out of there. I promised."

"Yeah…" Samantha reached up a hand and pushed back a few, short strands from her face. It reminded Lara of when Samantha had reached up to her, brushing back her hair, and held her cheek in that kiss… Christ! This wasn't good. Samantha's tentative existed only after their kiss, marking it the source of it. Lara had to forget it before that hesitation in Samantha's eye grew all-encompassing. "We… we need to check your burn wound," Samantha finally said, meaning her stomach one. "You really screwed that one up."

Lara frowned again as she touched at the bandage edge to unwind it from around her stomach. Samantha took the edge from her at Lara's first wince and did the chore for her. "Sorry, I didn't mean it like that," Samantha added, "I know you had to stop the bleeding. It… must've really hurt." Samantha's eyes roved over all the injuries then, "They all had to kill." Her eyes roved up to Lara's, "How did you do it, Lara? How'd you keep going… with all of this?"

"I couldn't let you die."

When Samantha's eyes lifted to her again, Lara could feel them piercing. She'd never taken the time to notice what beautiful eyes Sam had before. "Thanks for it," Samantha breathed on the exhale, "I mean, really, Lara. Not just saving me… for all of it."

"Sam…" Lara started, aching to tell those pretty eyes that there couldn't have been another way. To tell her how horrified she'd been when Samantha had been taken and that it wouldn't leave her mind for anything else but to get her back and safe. Samantha knew her as her close friend, and that was fine as long as she knew how much Lara cared about her. Even if their kiss had been Samantha's fluke, Lara just wanted her to know.

The door opened abruptly. "Lara?" Lara and Samantha broke of the trance like they were guilty of something and scattered apart in the small, box-like cabin room. "Oh," Reyes noted Lara's half-naked state, "You should lock the door. I could've been Jonah. Anyway, how are the injuries, Lara? Any better today?"

"Yeah," Lara mumbled as Samantha gathered up some burn cream like they hadn't just startled apart. "Getting there."

Reyes nodded. "We'll get you to a hospital soon. Three days out, the captain said. Lunch is ready in any case when you two are done."

"Thanks, Reyes." Samantha affirmed. "I'll be down in a few minutes to pick it up."

Lara started to stand anxiously. "Should we— "

"Hey," Samantha grabbed her arm to keep her from getting up. She gently pressed Lara back down, "Lara, stop that. We have to take care of your burn wound first." Lara cringed, but sat back down to Samantha's command. "It's extremely red around the edges again," Samantha noted, then touched at the spot, which stung almost enough to make Lara scream.

"Sam," Lara gasped, grabbing her hand to keep from further probing. Samantha looked at her with pleading eyes.

"We have to. The infection's already getting worse." She reached up a hand and touched Lara's head before Lara could grab the other hand as well. "You feel warmer, Lara. Are you getting sick?"

"I feel fine," Lara protested, hating this chore worse than any.

"Lie down, Lara." Samantha ordered, not taking any of it. She touched her mostly-uninjured shoulder gently. Lara gritted her teeth. "I'll get the towel you can bite."

Worse than the pain, Lara knew how bad Samantha felt about this. She couldn't control how much it hurt when this happened, but Samantha insisted on being the one to care for her. Mostly, Lara liked that best too, the most comfortable with her anyway, but guilting Samantha wasn't something she liked to do. She couldn't control the pain of this cleaning like the others, and seeing Samantha's face after…ugh.

Samantha returned only a moment later from the small, cubby bathroom with two hand towels, a bottle and soap, and rubbing alcohol to cleanse it. Lara sat in her almost-lateral position, not wanting to aggravate the similar wound she had on her back. She lay braced on her arms. "I'll try to be gentler this time."

"You do fine," Lara assured, taking one of the handtowels from Samantha. She reclined her head so she couldn't see. "I got this one when I first came to the island, you know. It wasn't later." She hoped Samantha understood that it wasn't when she'd been trying to save her.

"Bite down," Samantha coached quietly. Lara bunched the handtowel in her mouth. As soon as the cool, soapy cloth touched her skin, she clenched at the rushing pain that returned, as bad as it first had been. Lara went taut, eyes closed as Samantha gently rubbed in the soap as cleaning protocol suggested. Lara bit harder into the towel and struggled to hold back the tears.

"Don't be stupid. Cry, Lara." Samantha insisted softly, but firmly when she realized what she was trying to hide. Lara bit back a silent curse. She felt fingers on her cheek and almost gagged with the tender touch, tears forming at the edges of her eyes. "You were already strong once. The though part's over now." It took another moment, but the cloth at her burn spot finally lifted. Fat, wet drops trickled back into her hairline. Samantha cradled her cheek.

"Alcohol's coming," Samantha warned. "It'll feel better in a moment." A high, toxic sting followed the burning. Samantha held the cloth there and, after a moment, a slight cool over the pain. Lara finally breathed easy again and pulled the towel from her mouth.

"Sam," She laid her fingers over Samantha's hand and opened her eyes to the pretty, half-Asian curve of her features, so smooth and rounded, unblemished, and framed with short, straight-laced, dark brown hair, only a tint lighter than Lara's. She was beautiful. "…Thanks."

Samantha smiled at her, unrestrained, but still a little sad. "I'm going to get you better, Lara." Samantha vowed in that quiet voice she almost never used until just recently. "That's my promise."

XXX

Samantha woke hours later to stare up at the stark ceiling above. In the top bunk of their small cubby room, she rolled to her side and glanced down to the bunk below. "Lara?" Her friend didn't answer. Eyes closed, breathing a little labored for the bottom broken ribs she had, she otherwise seemed more peaceful than usual. Between changing her bandages, keeping down the infection, and getting Lara to keep still without a book to hold her down, Samantha had a full time job in caring for her broken friend. She knew how taxing the rudimentary treatments were on Lara and more, how much Lara needed hospital care more than she could give. It'd be better when they reached shore, but till then, Samantha had to be careful in monitoring her condition.

Rolling up in the bed, Samantha grabbed her white, dirtied jeans and started to pull them on again. She ached for a real shower, but that'd just have to wait a few more days yet. Samantha flinched as the bottom of her right foot nicked her jeans. She stopped, readjusted the leg carefully, then curled her toes to push it through the rest of the way. Samantha suckled in a breath and turned up the bottom of her foot to check. A big, ugly blister had started to form on the rightmost pad under her little toe. Samantha cursed the freaking thing.

Leaning over the far side of her bed, she hung over and grabbed the towel and alcohol she'd used for Lara in addition to a knife. Using the other end of it, she doused the cloth with alcohol and wiped the blade with it. Taking a deep breath, Samantha firmly gripped her foot in a hand, and with careful precision, she prodded into the blister with the tip of the knife. Samantha winced at the flare of pain, hand wavering just a fraction, but she didn't quit. A horrible squeak of pain escaped as she carved the loose skin off. Samantha kept her mouth shut to control her whimpers. She re-doused the cloth and pressed it to the bottom of her foot where the blister had been, skin ripped, red, and swollen from where her melted shoe sole had painfully been removed from her foot.

Samantha bit back a silent curse and swallowed down her pain. The injured sole stung something terrible. When the stinging finally cooled a meager bit, Samantha leaned over for the bandages and started to wrap her foot again for the day. At least she had slippers from that nice ship worker to step in. Being just the one foot that'd gotten too hot near the fire, her minor injuries were nothing compared to Lara's. She hadn't told her because she didn't want Lara fretting over it. They'd both get treatment when they made it to the hospital at home and that'd be that.

As she finished up wrapping, a small moan echoed from below her bunk. Samantha checked beneath her again at Lara as she moaned again. "Lara?" Samantha gingerly stepped down, landing on her good foot, and quickly slipped into the borrowed slippers she'd been given. "Sweetie, are you okay?"

Lara rolled flat to her back as Samantha stepped over and winced when her tender spot hit the sheets. "Sammie?" Lara croaked in a scratchy voice. Samantha touched her forehead, full weight on the uninjured foot to alleviate the pressure. Lara warmed her fingers instantly.

"Lara, you're hot!"

"I don't… feel so good." Lara admitted, and now that she was this close, Samantha could see the beads of sweat on her forehead. Flushed and feverish, her friend wasn't looking any better. Samantha's heart started to race.

"Are you gonna be sick?"

Lara looked at her bleakly, sickly, and breathed heavy. "…Maybe."

"Stay right there," Samantha ordered, though she couldn't move much anyway. "I'm getting you a bucket and water. You have to stay hydrated." Lara bit back another moan as Samantha hurried into the bathroom where their cooler of fresh water bottles was. She searched for some kind of bucket and didn't find one, so she dumped out the small cooler instead. Samantha started to take it back to her, but a sudden, rough jolt had her screaming as she accidentally put pressure on her injured foot and jerked back into the sink. Samantha moaned, but the pained cry of her friend brought her attention back to Lara, who'd fallen off the bed with a thumb at the unexpected jerk. She rolled on the floor and groaned, in massive pain so much worse than Samantha's.

Cursing, Samantha hurried back to her friend. "Lara!"

Her best friend threw up all over the floor.

"Oh, Lara. Yuck." Samantha grimaced, rushing back to kneel beside her where Lara struggled to support herself against the wall. Her foot ached, but she paid it little heed as she held the small cooler before her. Lara looked at her for half a second, dizzy, disoriented, then promptly proceeded to empty the rest of her stomach into the cooler. Samantha winced again as Lara reached for the container. Samantha reached around her shoulders to support her and took up her hair in the other hand. "Get it out, Sweetie."

Another jolt almost tipped her, but Samantha kept a firm grip on her shoulders. Samantha kept an eye out on that vomit still on the floor. Lara moaned and started lowering the bucket. "Hey, hey," Samantha started to reach for it, but Lara shook her head. "No?" Samantha asked as she put it down and capped it. "You done?"

"Yes," Lara breathed raggedly.

"You sure?" Samantha checked, not all that certain with her estimate.

Lara took a moment to respond, eyes closed. Samantha eyed that slowly sliding vomit their way. Finally, Lara confirmed, "Yes," Lara breathed, "I'm done."

"Let's get you up," Samantha urged, dragging Lara up quickly before it could reach them. She pulled her friend back into the bottom bunk as another rough jolt thrust them both back, Samantha cushioning her from the wall. "Ugh."

"Ineed… water."

"There's some on the floor your puke may not have touched yet." Lara leaned over the edge without hesitation and grabbed up a thankfully-clean bottle. Another jerk rocked the boat and Samantha extended a fast arm around her to keep her from falling again.

Lara unscrewed it and drank deeply. "Hey," Samantha grabbed the bottle from her lips and pulled it back, "Go slow," she coached gently, "Or you'll get sick again."

"I'm sorry," Lara apologized meekly.

"You don't have to be sorry, Lara." Samantha chastised. She pressed the bottle back into her fingers, but kept a hand on it in case she was too shaken. "This isn't your fault."

"You hate vomit."

"Well, I don't know anyone who likes vomit…" Samantha admitted cautiously. "But I'm willing to forgive you if you don't kick me out of the bed." Lara made another little moany noise that only worried Samantha.

"But— "

"Hey, Lara, shh. It's my turn to take care of you, okay?" Samantha checked her arm around Lara. "Am I making you too hot?" Samantha started to loosen her arm, but Lara mewled and reached for it.

"No. I'm… it's cold." The boat rocked again, tilting the bed down Lara's way. Samantha strengthened her hold around her friend and Lara winced.

"I'm sorry," Samantha raised her arm higher above the wound, both arms secure just under Lara's breasts. "Keep sipping slowly," Samantha instructed. The closeness, pressed to Lara's back like this to keep her warm inappropriately reminded her of their kiss. Or supposed kiss, anyway. Samantha still couldn't be sure it'd actually happened or… or if she dreamed it. Lara hadn't said anything about it since, which leaned Samantha towards the latter explanation. Whatever had happened or hadn't happened, it wasn't something she ought to be…relishing while Lara was sick like this.

"I'm going to bring you through this, okay?" Samantha told her firmly, distracting her mind away from that warm brush of their lips after Lara had saved her. "We'll be home soon, Lara. But you gotta hang on for me. A few more days. Just a few more. Lara? You hear me?"

"Don't go," Lara asked meekly, eyelids fluttering. "The storm… don't leave me, Sam."

"I'm not going anywhere," Samantha promised. Lara's fingers over hers on the bottle went a little limper. "Go to sleep, Lara." Samantha instructed. "I'll be here when you wake."

Lara curled on her good side and passed out.

XXX