I'm an eighteen-wheeler driving down the interstate,
And my brakes are gonna give, and I won't know until it's too late
Tires screaming as I lose control
Try not to hurt too many people when I roll
I am an airplane tumbling wing over wing
Try to listen to my instruments, they don't say anything
People screaming as the engines quit
I hope we're all in crash position as we hit
And you were a presence full of light upon this earth
And I am a witness to your life and to it's worth
It's three days later when I get the call
And there's nobody around to break my fall
It has been two days since we were rescued. And you are just now falling head first into your own Hell.
The bed is thin, but comfortable enough, especially after a week of little sleep, and constant fear, and sleeping in cages and on rocks and shivering until your muscles spasm painfully. I burrow deeper into the thick comforter you had dug out of a random closet on the captain's bridge for me earlier, and breathe in deeply. I find myself wishing the slightly mouldering fabric smelled of you, that scent I had been utterly surrounded with when you carried me gingerly down from the shrine. I quickly shake my head and try to avert my thoughts.
Stop it, Sam. Weird thoughts. Just stop.
The bed, though welcoming, is incredibly, horribly, uncomfortably lonely. I reach out, draping my arm over the pillow I'd been clutching to my chest for some semblance of companionship. After Yamatai, being alone anywhere is anxiety inducing, even in a relatively safe environment, and every time the ship creaks, or someone slams a door elsewhere, I find myself struggling to catch my breath.
And I remember how strong you were in that place. I watched you jump over a lake of fucking fire for me, endured being beaten into a bloody pump for me, killed for me. I heard you screaming my name at the shrine and I couldn't even believe my ears; I thought I had hallucinated it, but then I saw you explode from the underbrush, covered head to toe in blood and wounds and grit, and heard you scream it again. There was such fire in your eyes, such bloodthirsty determination. I felt safe under your gaze. I knew you'd rescue me; even at the edge with my soul fighting to stay inside my flesh I knew.
And when I woke in your arms, it was the only place I wanted to be. Thinking of it creates a warm bubble of clarity in my chest.
Again I flinch into the covers and bury my head, embarrassed in my own company. Stop thinking like that! She's your best friend, and she just happens to be the person who saved your life. Twice. That's it! Of course you're thinking like this, isn't it human nature? Knight in shining armor comes around and rescues the damsel, and she immediately falls in love with him…Wait what?! I make a frustrated, high sound into the pillow as I push my face deeper into it. I'm not 'in love' with her! Jesus Christ, what the fucking hell is wrong with me?!
I don't relax again for a long while, in the meantime taking the pillow in both hands and crushing it into the top of my head. After five or so minutes, I give up on laying down and sit, hugging my legs to my chest. I don't want to be alone. I contemplate going to the bridge; Jonah and Reyes have been up for a while, I could make some coffee and talk with them.
My insides drop at the thought of it, and no comfort came from the thought of enduring under Josilin's scrutinizing gaze; and although Jonah was good company, he wasn't the person I wanted to see.
Lara. I think. I want to see Lara. Your calm, gentle face passes behind my eyes and I smile subconsciously. Before I can think about it anymore, I'm on my feet and headed for the locked door, stumbling slightly in the dark. I've got one foot in the hallway when I realize I don't have pants on.
Whatever. No one's gonna be in this section of the boat at this hour anyway. The only rooms back here are hers and mine.
The waves rock the vessel, though my sea legs have improved since you taught me how to move with the boat rather than against it. A smile twitches at the corners of my lips again; it disappears when I realize how terrifyingly dark the length of the hall is. I press a hand into the wall and walk along with it, keeping my eyes on the floor. Anything could be in that darkness. Wolves, bears, a clan of crazy cultists with machine guns and fire arrows.
My breath is becoming ragged seconds later, my legs shaking, and I'm desperately clawing at the cold steel as if I could scale the side if something suddenly lunched from the black abyss.
"It's just the fucking dark. Nothing is there, just walk forward," I grit through my teeth, pounding heart echoing through my entire trembling body. It seems like hours when I finally get to your room, and I'm so relieved I nearly fall into the open door.
"Lara?" I murmur quietly, making my way to your low bed. You aren't there, but the sheets are tangled up on the floor, and there is a dark, shadowy shape spread on the off white sheets. Curious, and a bit worried, I tug the cord for the lamp bolted to the wall near the head of the cot. Light floods in, and I inhale sharply when the shadow turns out to be a large blood stain, still damp.
"Lara?" I can hear panic enter my voice, hot adrenaline shocking my nervous system. You're hurt. Of course you're hurt. But you're bleeding. Still bleeding. That can't possibly be a good thing. I throw my focus over the entirety of the small room, and notice a thin light coming from the cramped bathroom in the corner. My worry was crippling, and normally I wouldn't just barge in, but goddamm it I'd be relieved if you were just peeing and not collapsed on the floor in a puddle of your own blood.
The smell of acid and antibacterial solution hit me at once, and I winged back before catching sight of you. You're curled up on the floor, arms reaching up to clutch the rim of the toilet and shirt pulled off, discarded in the metal sink. I can't see your face, it's pressed between your folded knees, and I wish I could, because my heart is in my throat.
"Lara, sweetie? Are you okay? What's the matter?" I dive to your side, planting a flat palm against the small of your back and pushing the fringe of your bangs behind your ear. You moan in a way that makes my blood run cold.
"S…Sam…?" you slur, lifting your head out of your legs it meet my gaze for just a moment. I gasp; your eyes are badly bloodshot and your soft face is pale, far too pale for the sun you'd gotten on Yamatai. "I…I don't feel…"
"Shh, don't talk, sweetie. It's okay," I coo quietly, casting what I intended to be a cursory glance over your exposed back. My breath caught instantaneously; what had once been a smooth expanse of planed flesh was now a labyrinth of slices and hematomas. Puckering, obviously painful openings cross hatched with hundreds if smaller, shallower scrapes and skins, and every single one of them looked like they were on fire. But they weren't what worried me the most.
To the right of my fanned fingers a wide, gaping hole the size of a half-dollar raged, mouth enflamed with angry reds and a dust of infected purple flesh. It was weeping a clear, foul smelling fluid that made my nose curl.
"Ho, Jesus, sweetie. Your back is…I think your back is really infected." I make a real effort not to look in the toilet, as I'm already sure you've exhausted yourself emptying your stomach into it. "How long have you been like this?"
"Ah…I…Hours?" You so weak, and I feel my heart crack. Hours? I look to the digital alarm clock in the other room; it reads 2:30 am. Guilt pools up the back of my throat indiscriminately.
Another pained moan interrupts my moment of self-loathing, and I take you into my arms affectionately, gently. Your tight, knotted muscles seem to relax under my touch, and I enjoy the notion of it a bit too much. Your right hand laced under your right to clutch my arm tightly, the way a woman giving birth clutches her husband.
"It's alright, just get it out of your system. I'll go and get Jonah, he'll know more about what to do about this." I move to stand, but your iron grip keeps me from rising.
"N-No…Please don't…leave me alone…" And my heart breaks a little more as you lift yourself just enough to vomit again. I take your hair into my hands and hold it back, massaging the line of your spine. I push the clasp of your bra down slightly, pulling it from a particularly painful looking gash, and my insides flutter a bit.
Oh my god, Lara's violently throwing up and I'm busy thinking about taking her clothes off. I'm glad your eyes are closed or you might see how red my face felt. I flash back to all of those times you comforted me in our dorm after I partied a little too hard. You'd always tease me later, and I'd stick my tongue out at you and tackle you in the middle of the campus. You always blushed like mad, and people would stare at us and whisper but neither of us paid them any mind.
After another ten minutes of horrid gagging and dry heaves, you slump over on the floor, about to turn over on your side. With eyes already falling closed, the exhaustion begins to settle over your features.
"Hey, hey, hey. You can't sleep in here, sweetheart. Come on, I'll help you into bed."
"No…" You flinch away when I try to pull you upwards. Your throat sounds dry and cracked, and I can already tell the purging has left you severely dehydrated. "It hurts…don't make me stand…" You sound like you're on the verge of tears. I can't stand it. So instead, I smile at you as warmly as I can, though I'm almost sure you can see the water gathering in my eyes, and rise.
"I'm going to clean that huge wound on your back. It's okay, I'm not going anywhere." I swipe a small hand towel from the dole and soak it, forgetting to move your shirt and not particularly caring much. Being even a foot from you at this moment is extremely disagreeable, and when I return to you I'm soothed inwardly a great deal.
"Come here, put your head on my lap." You oblige, slowly and shakily resting your temple perpendicular to my folded thighs with your back towards me. I place my free hand against your burning forehead and stroke your hair back tenderly, attempting to relax you a bit more. The wound is still oozing, the clear fluid now more clearly a disturbing brown and red tinge. Holding my breath in anticipation for your pain, I press the cloth to the wound firmly.
Your cry is full of gut wrenching agony. Fingernails clutch into my thigh sharply, though I hardly notice it.
"I know, sweetie. I know. Just a little bit more, okay?" I grab my bottom lip between my teeth, holding in selfish tears, and press harder, forcing the infect fluid to pour from the mouth of it. I feel wetness falling from your eyes onto my chilled skin.
When I lift the towel, its face is coated in a film of blood and ooze. I toss it up into the sink and very gingerly lay a finger a half-inch away from the infected flesh. It ignites beneath my touch, far too hot. Your entire body is curled up around my legs, twisted in the form of an injured cat searching desperately for warmth. You whimper into my thighs quietly.
Taking care to avoid your injuries (an endeavor that turns out to be heart breakingly impossible, since every square inch of you is covered in them), I turn you over, take your shoulders and wrap my arms around them, pressing you into my chest. My fingers find themselves curling into your chocolate hair, my nose burying into the top of your head.
My breath trips in my throat when your hands crawl over my waist, wrapping around and coming up to clutch the cloth between my shoulder blades.
"I'm…I'm sorry, Lara…" I choke on the tears that refuse to stay in my eyes. This is because of me. You're like this, hurt and bleeding and breaking because I was too goddamn stupid to see the madness in Mathias' eyes, to hear the conniving inflection in Whitman's voice, to keep myself hidden and out of the way. I want to say more, I want to tell you how important you are to me, how much I loved the time we spent together in University, how my chest had bloomed with pride and shock and relief when you came to save me, over and again.
How you always meant more to me than the guys I dated. I did tell you that, once. It was a statement filled with emotional laughter at the time, and you just gaped at me before erupting into a giggling fit. I couldn't help but follow suit. It wasn't meant to be a confession, and it wasn't, but it was one of the biggest truths I had ever told you.
You totally mean more to me than some boyfriend, Lara!
Wha- Oh god, you're so weird. Don't let Jake hear you say that, Sam.
To hell with him, I'd rather grow old and die in this dorm with my best friend than move in with him!
But all my stuttering tongue will croak is that flat, wholly meaningless phrase. I'm sorry. Oh god, I'm so sorry.
You go still in my arms. Too still, considering just a moment ago you were shaking so hard it vibrated us both. I loosen my grip, only slightly, and I realize your form is completely limp in my grasp.
Panic like I have never experienced invades all of my senses, filling me with searing lava. A hundred thousand butterflies flap violently in my gut, swimming into my throat, into my blood.
"Lara?" I lift your chin up to get a look at your face. Eyes closed, lips parted barely. Your chest isn't rising and falling to way it should be. "Oh shit- Lara!" I shake you, probably harder than I should, and start to sob when you don't respond.
"Lara! Lara, wake up!" I lay you on your back on the bathroom floor and loom over you, an ear pressed to your chest. I can't hear anything; that heartbeat I had fallen asleep listening to those times something had compelled us to share a bed, it wasn't there.
I'm paralyzed. My legs are going numb with the blunt pain of anxiety. My head is light, and I don't waste effort trying to steep my now hysterical tears. Help. I need to get help.
I take off into the hallway and start screaming, hoping someone, anyone will hear.
"Jonah! Reyes! Please, I need help!" I continue as I run down the steel corridors, stumbling, falling once, rising. "Please, anyone!" I reach the stairs leading to the bridge, nearly out of breath but pushed forward by pure adrenaline. The lights are still on when I ascend the last flight, nearly breaking the door down with my momentum. Reyes and Jonah are sitting at the dining area, speaking in hushed tones about something I frankly don't give a shit about.
"Hey!," I yelled angrily, desperately. They both look to me in a startled manner, jumping out of their seats when they see the state I'm in.
"Sammie! What is the matter?" Jonah moves quickly to me, Reyes trailing behind. I grab his arm, tugging him quickly into the stairway.
"It's Lara, something's wrong. She…" I feel my throat constrict around the words, "She's sick, and she's not breathing, and her heart-" I stop myself, opting rather to continue dragging him in her direction. "Come on! We have to hurry!"
"Wait, Sam! What the hell is going on?" Reyes questions, grabbing me by the shoulder. Anger bubbles inside me.
"We're wasting time!" I snap, taking off down the flights. The hallway is just as dark as before, but I charge blindly forward into the pitch. The light of your room is still there, sending a beacon into the corridor. I look over my shoulder to make sure they're still behind me. They are, and I'm satisfied to see them both running to keep up.
I trip into the room, catching myself deftly and scittering into the bathroom. "In here!"
You're laying just as I left you. I pull you into my lap and place a hand over your mouth, searching for the warmth of breath. Jonah enters and dives down next to me, shock and worry flooding his soft features. "I…I just came to check on her…" I hold your face protectively to my chest.
Reyes stands at the doorway, apparently observing the scene. But even she inhales sharply at the wrecked state of you.
"Little Bird, can you hear me?" he murmurs, touching a palm to your forehead. You don't make a sound, but he flinches at how hot you are.
"I-I think the wound in her back got infected…it looks really bad…"
"We need to cool her down," he says firmly. "Josilin, fill the tub with cold water, please."
She nods immediately, stepping in the cramped room and pushing the rubber curtain back on the shower. The dials are nearly rusted still, but she manages to force the cold-water knob free. It takes six agonizing minutes to fill it, and when Jonah lowers your shockingly lax body into the water, a cloud of grit surrounds you almost immediately.
"I don't think she s-showered yet…S-said it hurt too bad…" I wipe my cheeks for the first time and feel perfectly useless.
"She'll be okay, Sammie. She's got a heartbeat."
I perk up. "She does? Are you sure?"
"It's slow, but strong. I believe her body is using all of her available energy to attack this infection."
"Oh god," I breath, putting my forehead down on the floor. It's a small mercy. "I…I thought she was already…" I bite my lips together. Don't say it. Don't jinx it. With uncalculated effort, I drag myself to the edge of the tub and shut off the water before it crawls over your face. Carefully, I remove your right hand from the freezing water and hold it tightly in my own, pressing my lips and chin to your knuckles.
"She's a strong girl," Reyes says unexpectedly as she plants a hand on my shoulder, softer this time. "She'll make it through this. I don't think anything could keep her down for long."
"It must be Yamatai, finally catching up with her," Jonah breaths quietly. Reyes seems to nod in agreement, somewhat solemn. "Listen closely, Sammie. Josilin and I will be right out in the hallway, okay? Leave her in the water for another five minutes, then take her out and change her clothes." He gestures at Reyes to retrieve fresh clothing from the bridge, who obliges. "Her worst wounds need to be covered. We don't have a lot of first aid on this ship, but I think you can improvise. Call for us if you need us, okay?" He pulls me in a tight hug, and I can't help but cling to him. "She needs you, not us, you understand?"
"But I…Christ, I practically did this to her!"
He pulls away then, face very serious. "Sammie, I know you feel that your being kidnapped is some cause for her injuries, but please don't think in that way, and don't say that to her when she wakes up. Just…comfort her. She's no doubt in tremendous pain."
"Okay," I murmur, looking to the ground and feeling more selfish than ever. He smiles sympathetically and stands, taking one long, last glance at you.
"You mean so much to her, Sammie. I promise, she's so glad she was able to save you. I suspect…If she hadn't, she wouldn't have made it back to us."
My eyes widen into his back as he walks out. My hands return to you after a quick moment of contemplation, lacing our fingers together and bringing your head closer, wrapping an arm around your shoulders.
Carefully, I take another hand towel from the floor and dip it into the tub. Your face is still decorated with dried blood and dirt, as is the rest of you. My striations are gentle and soft, tracing the lines of your beautiful features, your small nose, your full lips, your closed eyes, until all that's left is the hardened scabs and straight cuts I can't erase.
"Oh Lara, your complexion…" I called it perfect once, another feature of yours I was a bit jealous of. And despite the various scrapes decorating it now, you're still breathtakingly beautiful.
After the five minutes pass, in which time you begin breathing much more steadily, Reyes re-enters with a bundle of clean clothes as I'm about to struggle to get your body from the high tub.
"You need help with that?" she calls in. I nod, aware of my lack of upper body strength, and to my surprise she steps into the ice water and lifts you at the waist. "Hold her head, I'll hoist her out."
Once we get you back on the floor, she shakes the cold water from herself and kneels beside you. She feels the area just below your ears on both sides, her brow knotting slightly as she went.
"What is it?"
"Her lymph nodes are swollen. Means her immune system's getting kicked into overdrive."
"That sounds bad," I wince.
"Well, it means she's fighting it, whatever it is. Which is a good thing." She looks you over with a hard sigh. "Shit, I didn't realize she was this banged up." We're quiet for a moment as I watch your chest rise and fall, relieved by the movement. Without thinking, or rather ignoring the opportunity to become self-conscious, I caress the back of your hand and bring it to my mouth again, smiling silently into the cooled, smooth skin. I feel Reyes' curious glance, but I'm hardly bothered by it.
She clears her throat somewhat awkwardly and gestures at the door. "I'll be outside with Jonah if you need anymore help, alright?"
"Yeah, thanks. I really appreciate it."
It's a struggle getting your wet clothes off you, the fabric sticking rebelliously in every way it could. I strip you down to your bra and underwear, and beat into my subconscious when I hit a mental block continuing.
You've seen her naked before, sharing a dorm and a bathroom. This isn't any different. Except it is different, really different, and I'm scared of why that is. Pacing myself, I reach behind you to pull at the clasp of you bra, snapping it open easily. Okay. I unfold the clean, plain t-shirt from the pile, preparing it, and pull the soaked fabric from your chest with averted eyes. Okay okay okay. Okay.
With clumsy fingers, I pull your head through the top of the shirt and, one by one, pull your arms through. Somehow, I managed to keep my eyes to myself. I double check the pile to make sure Reyes hadn't found a bra, and I breath a sigh of relief when I don't find one. That would've been a struggle.
You mutter through your sleep, and my head shoots up at the sound.
"Lara? You there, sweetie?" The pet name tastes different on my tongue than usual. Sweetie. Your eyes flutter a bit and my chest bursts with thanks.
"Sam…" you whisper, voice hoarse. I cradle your face in my hands with a smile, lifting your head back into my lap. Your hair is damp, but I don't care much.
"Hey, sleeping beauty," I joke, stroking your cheek with my thumb. "I thought I was gonna have to kiss you to wake you up." A grin pulls at the corner of your lips, and I bask in it gratefully.
"How are you feeling?"
"Uhn…Empty…" It was a bit cryptic, but I assume you were referring to your nearly barfing out all of your innards earlier. "Tired…" You bury your head in my abdomen, using an arm behind my back to pull me closer. I can feel your breath through my shirt, graciously, wonderfully warm, and I can't help but pull you closer. Earlier I had been so scared I'd lost you, not even the fear I'd experienced in Yamatai could compare to it.
"Looks like the cold bath did the trick," I muse. "I'm so glad you're awake. You scared the shit out of me, you know."
You moan quietly onto my muscles in response and I can barely repress the shudder it invokes. "You're soft," you murmur faintly.
"And you're delusional," I chuckle quietly, bending my back over you and, without thinking, placing a soft kiss between your shoulder blades. It takes a second for me to realize what I just did.
Thankfully your eyes are closed when I pick my head up with a hand over my mouth, ready to let loose a string of apologies. Your chest rises and falls against my thighs in a steady rhythm. Asleep, already? You look so much more peaceful than you did earlier, and watching you, with your nose buried in my stomach, sends an enormous surge of affection into my chest.
"Rest up, love," I whisper, brushing your fringe back and kissing your temple gingerly, this time with little regret.
"Hm?" You open your eyes and look up at me.
"Wha-" I stutter, a blush ghosting over my cheeks quickly. "You're awake?"
"Love?" you hum absently. "You've never…called me that before…"
"You were supposed to be asleep, dummy." If I weren't afraid it'd hurt you, I'd have punched you right in the shoulder.
"You've called me that before, though…"
Your semi-asleep retorts make me smile quite broadly. "Well, since you're awake, can you put some clean pants on for me?" I wave the pants in front of you for effect.
"But…I'm not wearing pants…" You look yourself over weakly, confirming that you aren't, in fact, wearing pants.
"That's because I already took them off for you, Lara."
"You took off my pants?" The look on your face makes me giggle despite myself.
"Hey, what's that expression?"
"You're trying…to seduce me…aren't you?" I gape at you for a moment. You smile playfully, impossibly, and I laugh.
"Oh, definitely. Has anyone ever told you how sexy you look throwing up? I was like, 'Dayum, I should have infected that wound sooner'." You chuckle endearingly into my abdomen. It's such a sweet sound, after everything that's happened.
"And the whole passing out and nearly dying thing? Huooof, you gotta try that in a club some time. Seriously, the hottest thing I've ever seen." I make myself laugh with that one, the mental image it brings too ridiculous for words. You join me, and my heart sings for it.
"S-Sam, stop it, it hurts," you stutter out between giggles. I calm down and wipe the new tears from my eyes.
"Okay, okay. But if you don't want to put on pants, can you at least change your underwear yourself?" I take a pair of black underwear from the floor and hand them to you.
"It's pronounced 'knickers', Sam."
"Actually it's pronounced, 'Put them on so we can go to sleep'," I retort slyly, grinning down at you.
"Fine," you pout. "Close your eyes."
I slap my hands over my face, covering them. "Yes, mistress."
I feel you struggle with the wet fabric for a moment, and when it ceases the niggling thought of peaking between my fingers nearly takes over.
"If you don't have to wear pants, neither do I," you pout again, poking at my thigh with your index finger. I had forgotten I wasn't wearing pants.
"Of course, sweetie."
"Can we go to bed now?"
"Jonah said I should bandage you up a bit first."
You moan in an exasperatedly cute way. "I'm tired."
"Can we go to bed, now?" The repeated dialogue worries me a bit, so I concede to the demand.
"Yes," I breathe, bringing your face up to burrow into my neck and placing a quick peck on your cheek. I caress the side of your face, trailing fingers from your cheekbone to your clavicle.
"Will you…stay with me…?"
I pause, questioning, wondering, and finally smiling into your hair. Even after all this, you still manage to make me smile and laugh. You're amazing. You're wonderful and beautiful and innocently charming and…and I…
"Of course, sweetie. Of course I will." I feel you smile weakly. Slowly, I help lift you to your feet, your arm slung over my shoulder. You're very unsteady and I'm barely able to stop you from pitching forward.
Before I lay you down I pull the bloody sheets off the thin mattress and adjust the sheet so it functioned like a new one. I sit you down first, then gingerly lean your head back on the pillow. You make a strained expression upon pulling your legs up onto the surface.
"Okay? You comfortable, sweetie?" I coo, brushing your hair from your face.
"Lay down…" you whisper, pushing yourself into the wall to make space. I'm ready to oblige when I remember Reyes and Jonah waiting outside.
After dismissing them thankfully, I lay down next to you. Your arm snakes around my waist, pulling me closer, and I lose myself in your raw scent.
"Sam…I'm so glad…you're alright…"
"Yeah…" I hide my face in the crook of your neck guiltily. "I'm fine, but you're a total mess. I'm afraid of the dark now, by the way."
"I am, too. I…don't feel right…being away from you," your voice is raspy, but somehow soft.
"You get anxious?" You nod. "Yeah, me too." I pause. "I'm gonna clean you up in the morning, okay?"
You nod into the top of my head and sigh.
Sleep comes surprisingly, wonderfully easy in your arms.