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Breakdown

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You’re laying there, bleeding out, and it’s all my fault.

What the hell was I thinking? I thought I could keep up. I thought I could do this and for weeks we’ve managed it. You keep pushing me, pushing harder and harder and I don’t know if you’re trying to force me to quit or if you really think I can do it, but the first time I don’t back down. And then the second time. By the third time there’s new respect in your eyes. And a little relief, maybe, cus I know you worry about my safety.

You told me that we might get shot at. I learned to fire a gun, and unlike on Yamatai now I can shoot at a target and hit it on purpose. I’m good with aiming a camera, and I guess a gun isn’t much different. My hands don’t shake any more. I wonder if that makes me more like you.

I remember, while leaning into your arms, asking you if you loved me any less now. And you asked me if I loved you any less for being a killer. I said no, and you smiled at me and it started to sink in. You always have your subtle ways of sharing how you felt.

It’s hot and sticky, and the forest stinks. I pull you back against a tree, and the blood is bubbling up between my fingers. You look at me, glassy-eyed, but your voice is steady. “Sam,” you tell me. “Sam, I need your help.”

In the weeks and months after the island, I’d crawl into bed with you to chase away the nightwares. Your skin is always warmer than mine, and rougher. I’d touch your scars and you’d tell me how you got each one. And as you added more and more scars, there were more and more stories, until I didn’t need to hear them any more, because I was right there, with you. I want this to be a story, I want this to be something we talk about at night, while we lay in a shared sleeping bag beneath the stars and the crickets serenade us.

You grab my wrist, snapping me out of it. I look back into your eyes, and see stubborn purpose. It makes me feel better. “What do you need?”

“Fire. Heat. Hot. Hot as you can get it.”

“I’ll make it hot as I am,” I joke, looking around for something that’s not damp or soaked through. I pack your wound with an extra shirt and manage to scrounge up some pathetic twigs, and some moss.

You make a tired, but joyful sound at the moss. “Squeeze that as dry as you can get it. That’s what’s going to save us.”

You’re the one that needs to be saved this time, Lara, I think. Then it hits me. You think that if something happens to you, I won’t make it back. And maybe that’s true and maybe it’s not and at first I’m offended because I’m not that helpless, but as I work that fire into life, I catch your eyes again.

I’m the reason you need to survive. It was like that on Yamatai, it’s like that now. And if it keeps you going tonight then I’m not going to say no.

We have something better than an arrow. I drop some coins into the fire, then pull one out with some pliers once it’s glowing red.

“Best use the reverse side, Sam.”

I smirk at you. “Don’t want the Queen’s face branded on you?” You dig your fingers into my leg as I pull the makeshift bandages back with one hand. I think I need to brace more than you do, before I press the red-hot coin against your wound.

I’ve never heard you make a sound like that before. It’s agonizing to listen to, and I’m glad I’m paying more attention to what I’m doing than I am to your face. When I finally pull the coin off, the bleeding has stopped. Your face looks so peaceful, and I panic before I can see the mist of your breath.

My shoulders start to shake, and I sink down next to you. Your heart beat is fleeting. I don’t know if you can hear me. “Lara. I swear. I’ll follow you into hell, and I’ll drag you kicking and screaming back. You got that?”

“Lara? Lara!”