A/N: Hey everyone, this is my first attempt in a VERY long time at FF. After heavy debate I've decided to post this. So let me know what you think and if I should continue. Constructive criticism is welcome :) Enjoy!
My arms shake from exhaustion, my legs tremble with every step I take, and lights dance in front of my eyes from not having rested in… well, a very long time. None of that matters though; Exhilaration smolders under my skin and keeps me moving forward in a state of bliss. I look down at the girl in my arms, she's the best friend anyone could ask for, the girl who motivates you to keep working (while telling you to take a break three breaths later), the girl who will always be there for you no matter how many times you push her away. Sam is one of a kind, and she's alive and out of danger at last.
Making my way down the mountain side I can't help but marvel at how the sun peaks happily through the lush green foliage of the forest around me. Since impaling the Sun Queen with my torch, the island has taken on a whole new aura. Dark clouds don't swirl overhead ominously, animals don't hide at the slightest noise and my favorite part; there are no more storm guard blocking my path to freedom.
I stumble a bit on a loose rock several minutes into the trek down the mountain having been lost in thought. The movement jars Sam awake for a moment and she looks up at me confused. Quickly her eyes fill with admiration before she shuts them again, but not without giving me a gentle smile first. Grumbling something unintelligible she clings weakly with her right hand to the back of my dirty shirt before relaxing and falling back into a light slumber.
If I had the energy to laugh I would, but a light chuckle will have to suffice at her antics. Careful to check for anything else I can trip on in the dirt path I'm following, I allow myself to examine the blue star shaped mark on her arm. I'll have to talk to her about it later when she isn't feeling so drained. I'm not sure how she survived having someone try to rip out her soul and possess her body, but Sam's always been stronger than people give her credit for, and for that I'll be forever grateful.
Continuing down the trail I can't help but be thankful for the sun now shining on my back, I've grown sick of all the rain Himiko had been throwing at us since arriving in this dreadful place.
It didn't take long to get back to Jonah and Reyes where they were waiting on the desolate beach. At first they appear incredulous when I stride around a tree and can be seen further up the hill holding Sam. Their disbelief turns to relief as I approached the duo, handing Sam off to Jonah I make my way onboard the boat. I wait until I've walked several feet over the cool metal surface to collapse in the back with a soft thud. Jonah nods his head with a tight lipped grimace before he sets Sam down next to me; I rest her head in my lap and run fingers through her dark hair. Glancing away from her face I look over to Reyes as a loud popping noise sounds from the boat as she brings it to life.
"Have you checked the radio?" I call out to her as she begins to turn the vessel around till it points out towards the slow rolling sea.
"No not yet, I'm waiting till we get a little further out. Hopefully our signal will reach far enough to flag down other ships nearby" she shouts over her shoulder so she could be heard as the boat accelerates forward. Reyes pulls the radio from her belt with her good arm and sets it on the console above the steering wheel where it will wait until it's needed.
Jonah turns towards me from where he braces himself against the edge of the PT boat only a few feet away from Sam and I. "Are you going to be okay Lara?" he asks with concern written on his tanned face. Body language can tell a lot about a person, and right now I can't help but feel mine is speaking volumes to him. I know he's not just talking about physically alright with the way he's looking at me so intently. When I answer I can't help but ignore the unasked part of his question.
"Yeah I'll be fine Jonah, just tired" I try to shoot him a smile; even to me it seems unnaturally forced. The short lived lighthearted joy Sam brought me after her rescue is quickly disappearing as darker thoughts seep through my mind. As we cruise by the wreckage of the ships that line the bay were in I can't help but think about how a part of me will never really be able to leave Yamatai. This island took something from inside me and replaced it with this ever consuming darkness that hovers at the edges of my mind, just waiting to be released. I'll fight it, with every ounce of my being but I can't guarantee I'll win this battle with what's left of my sanity.
Jonah's still looking at me worriedly as we reach the edge of the bay. He looks as if he wants to say something but stops himself, maybe deciding now wouldn't be the best time to bring up whatever he wanted to speak about. Distractedly his eyes pull over the bow of the ship where it now charges across the vast open ocean as the sun begins to sink behind the horizon. It's truly a beautiful sunset but I find my eyes drifting else ware, down to my lap where Sam still lay quietly. I find some peace in seeing her safe and sound next to me and push any other ugly truths out of my mind for the time being. I can deal with those later, when I'm alone. I owe it to Sam to be there for her when she wakes up. After all, it's my fault we ended up in this poxy adventure in the first place; the least I can do is take care of my best friend.
Feeling a sting in the hand not making its way through Sam's soft hair, I bring it away from my side where it was resting on the ships railing and into my line of sight. Through the dirty brown straps I have wrapped around it I can see fresh blood seeping through the cloth. I had forgotten about Mathias shooting the bow out of my hands, the bullet had grazed it hard enough to cause me to drop the weapon. Just one more injury to add to the list Lara, no big deal I sigh to myself. The aches and pains are starting to catch up to me with a vengeance, but I can't let them slow me down, not yet when were still within eyesight of that bloody island. Hoping to distract myself from my other injuries I can feel more and more with each passing breath I gently place Sam's head off my lap as I stand. With a few steps forward I take the radio off the console and fiddle with the channel dial, trying to find a signal already transmitting.
"Try channel 9, it's the emergency channel for CB radios in the states. Maybe that will help" Reyes explains to me. I nod my head and do as she says. With any luck someone nearby will be monitoring this frequency.
"Hello? Is anyone out there? My name is Lara Croft. My companions and I were on the S.S. Endurance and are in need of assistance" I release the talk button and wait a moment. All of us, except for the unconscious Sam, wait anxiously for the static on the device to break. Within a few heartbeats it's replaced by a voice and we survivors let out a collective sigh of relief.
The crew that rescues us belongs to the Margane, a ridiculously large blue cargo ship. As we climb aboard the vessel and onto the concrete deck it seems as if most of the seamen have gathered in anticipation of our arrival. Seeing so many men in one place makes me feel uneasy, the events on Yamatai plague my thoughts as I subconsciously mark the ones closest to me for death. With a hand hovering above the gun still strapped to my thigh I forcefully clench my fist and snap my eyes closed for a moment to gather my composure. I'm safe; these men won't hurt me or the others, this isn't Yamatai Lara so get a hold of yourself! I snap at my conscience, defusing the thought to shed blood.
Blinking my eyes open as twilight changes to night I turn to the first man that approaches us. I notice his height first; he's quite tall compared to the others he's walking past. A graying beard and shocking blue eyes distinguish his face while his body wears brown fisherman's suspenders over a gray and blue sweater. Normally I wouldn't find him so intimidating, but after my encounters with the cultists on the island I'm not so trusting of men in general; Jonah perhaps being the only exception.
"Welcome aboard the Margane. I'm the captain of this ship, you can call me Carter. We spoke on the radio" the man says in a gruff voice, his blue eyes studying my face before reaching his hand out for me to shake. Hovering at the front of our small group I hesitate a moment before taking his clean palm in my scared, dirtied one. He pumps my arm once in a firm but friendly shake before releasing my digits and turning to look at my friends.
"I'm Lara-"I use the hand he just shook to gesture to myself as I step aside to show my companions flanking me"-that's Reyes, Jonah, and Sam" I point to each as I say their name, my voice sounds firm and confident. Thank god, I was afraid I would squeak out something unintelligible.
"Pleasure to meet you all; are there any other survivors from your ship? We saw your distress signal and feared the worst" Carter says sympathetically.
"No we… There are no others" Jonah says sadly while shaking his head. The captain nods at him in acknowledgement before turning back to me.
"We'll I suppose a tour of the ship is in order then. Just let me tell the men to get back on course to Japan, you all look like you could use a good round of medical treatment. Something we don't have standard on my ship I'm afraid" sounding remorseful he turns and waves his hand for us to follow him. "However, some of the cabins below deck have first aid packs if you need them" he says over his shoulder before having a few quick words with one of his crewmen that he had stopped in front of. Resuming his pace he leads us across the weathered decking that's covered in multicolored containers and over to a large white steel doorway.
"I don't mean to sound rude, but do you think there is somewhere we could have a rest first Mr. Carter?" I ask while stepping through the door into a long hallway, away from the fast approaching night outside.
He seems surprised at first before quickly apologizing. "I'm sorry I didn't think of that first! You all must be exhausted and ready for nice hot shower. Here, I'll lead you down to some empty rooms we have. It's no Hilton on here but we manage" he quickly adjusts his path to a stairwell to our left but pauses at the set leading down.
"If you go up one flight from here the Mess Hall will be on your left if you get hungry" Carter says jerking up with his thumb. After making sure we acknowledged what he said he proceeds down the stairs at a slow pace. Our small group follows him silently. I look back at Jonah to reassure myself Sam is still doing okay as she floats in his big arms. He beams an infectious smile at me that I can't help but return. It's the first one that doesn't feel so painful since the Endurance sank.
After almost stumbling down the stairs, my legs having wanted to seize up about halfway down, we make it to another hallway. This one lined with small cabins for crew members. Carter leads us to the end of the dimly lit corridor where he stops and points out two rooms that are adjacent from each other.
"Sorry about the bunk beds in there, but at least both rooms have their own private bathroom. Blankets and towels should be in the cupboards next to the desk across from the bunks. If you need me for anything just ask one of my men in the Mess Hall to radio me". He leaves us to our own devices walking back the way we had just came. I turn to my three remaining friends, well two; Reyes disappeared into one of the rooms already.
"I'll room with Sam, if you could just give me a minute to make the bed so you can set her down Jonah that would be great" I sigh at him.
"Whatever you need little bird" he smiles at me again.
I'm glad Jonah escaped the island; the world needs more people like him I think to myself. He just makes things seem easier.
Flipping the light switch on as I enter the small room I stop to take in the distinctly metallic feel of it. It's disturbingly similar the room on the Endurance that Sam and I had shared previously, minus the colorful personalization Sam had felt the need to decorate it before we had left port. With a few steps to my left I begin pulling blankets out from the cupboard Carter mentioned and place them on the bed. After folding in the corners of the white sheets and placing a pillow down I back away and let Jonah set Sam on the soft mattress. I watch her intently as she mumbles something in her sleep as she's laid on top of the sheets. Glancing at Jonah as he steps back I take his place and put the blue comforter around her. Tucking Sam in I can't help but pause and watch her face. It seems peaceful but every few minutes she frowns and mumbles at something briefly before calmness settles onto her delicate features.
"Oh Sam, what am I going to do with you?" I whisper out while pushing a loose hair behind her ear and letting my fingers trail along her jawline as she turns her face towards me. I feel a pressure on my shoulder and look back to Jonah who's standing behind me. With a brief squeeze of his hand he pulls away and leaves the room, closing the door behind him with a quiet clang of the metal. Gazing back down towards Sam I lean over and place a light kiss on her forehead. It's not something I've done before, but it felt like the right thing to do at this particular moment.
Leaning back against the railing on the bed I allow myself to sit. I have to use both my hands to slowly lower myself to the cold floor as a deep set exhaustion sets in. Pulling my bow over my head I reach out and prop the weapon and it's arrows by the door to our cabin. I know I should grab the other set of blankets and make the top bunk, but I can't bring myself to stand back up quite yet. Brushing my fringe out of my eyes I look towards the ceiling. With a sigh I close my eyes as the florescent light quickly irritates them. The light switch is in my reach but as my hand stretches out to flip it off I stop my movements. While the light is annoying to my tired eyes, I can't help but think how I'd feel in the dark. It's never been a fear of mine before but now the very thought of not being able to see what's happening around me is petrifying.
Opting to leave the light on for the night I push myself back and up onto the bed so I'm laying parallel to Sam, sandwiching her between the wall and my battered form. I'm unable to come up with the energy to make the bed above us, let alone having to climb up into it after it's made. Closing my eyes I can feel her breath on my ear each time she exhales, but that doesn't stop the panic that strikes me every time I begin to drift off. I know it's my sleep deprived mind playing tricks on me but I keep thinking someone is going to steal her away the moment I'm unconscious. Just like the first time with Mathias, if I didn't fall asleep she wouldn't have been taken in the first place. I let out a hateful hiss at myself for the stupidity of it all.
Brooding over this right now isn't going to help me sleep, and at this point it's something I desperately need before I start hallucinating. With a new desire to keep protecting Sam I fight off any more unwanted thoughts I turn over to face her, placing a hand underneath my head in an effort to get more comfortable.
I was never one to cuddle, that was always Sam's domain, but I can't stop the arm that snakes out protectively around her waist over the blankets. At last I let Morpheus take me, the panic having subsided when I knew no one could take her away without my knowledge this time.