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What Binds the Soul

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Sam keeping her distance is a little painful but what she’s going through I can understand. Having one’s family ripped away unexpectedly is hard, especially when you’re just beginning to rebuild burned bridges. When I lost my parents I was inconsolable. It hadn’t helped that no one knew for sure if they were alive or dead. I’m glad Sam know me then, we might never have become friends. I pushed everyone away.

What I can do is be silent support when she needs it. Handle travel arrangements. Our pending expeditions go on hold, and I hate to do it but I have to ask Soraya to do some of the work without me. I don’t think she minds, but I want to be out there too. Sam’s still in danger, we’re all still in danger. I find myself trying to walk a tightrope and I can only pray I don’t fall off.

My wife keeps going from angry to sad. She’s pissed at her father. She’s always been angry at him but now she’s lost one of the things she could focus her negative emotions on. I’ve pushed her time and again to talk to her parents. To let them into her heart, to give them more chances. And there’ve been plenty of times where I regret it. Her parent aren’t the easiest people to talk to, or open yourself up to. But one day they could be gone and then she’d never know how they felt. She’d have regrets. I’m witnessing that right now. She has regrets and her anger is as much at herself as at her father and eventually she’ll realize this.

The day of the funeral is stressful. I don’t think Sam slept. She was up before I was, which is rare. Her eyes are red and she’s used makeup to reduce the puffiness, but I find her talking to her mother and leave them be. That’s a relationship she can save and one that both parties seem to be willing to try for. It’s just such a pity it took her father’s death to do that. I think they were headed in this direction already, thanks to the wedding.

The service itself is long and a little dry. It doesn’t tell me much about either Mr. or Mrs. Nishimura’s religious beliefs and I’ve always been too polite to ask. Sam might tell me, but my curiosity will have to wait. It’s the first funeral I’ve been to since the memorial for Roth and the rest of the Endurance crew and that wound reopens, just a little.

Death happens, whether it’s at the hand of a killer or nature or illness. It’s inevitable and I muse on that on the way back to the Nishimura household. One day, everything I do will catch up to me. I take Sam’s hand and squeeze it. Not today, and not anytime soon. So many people gave us this chance that I must fight for it.

Neither Sam nor myself expected the chance that her father gives her. Our now combined fortune is staggering and something that’s going to need to be discussed. I’ve finally claimed my own and it’s useful in dealing with our artifacts. The rest of the money I have a plan for. But I can’t ask Sam not to take hers, in fact I’ll urge her to do so.

It’s not just the money. He left her the company. Something that will make a huge impact, something that will change our lives. It’s suddenly a very real possibility that our careers will take us in opposite directions. All I can really do is keep my feelings to myself for now and let Sam figure out what she wants for herself.

Once the will is finished being read and the three of us are left to our own devices, I turn and put my arms around Sam. She sags against me. “Don’t make any decisions just yet. Give it all some time to sink in and then you can figure out what you want to do.”

Sam nods her head, and murmurs, “We. We’ll figure out what to do.”

I don’t argue, nodding against her hair, and hold her a moment longer before letting go. Getting to my feet, I’m suddenly swept into my mother-in-laws arms. She’s a tall woman and my face is throat level. “Thank you. This would be a lot harder without you.”

“You’re welcome, Mrs. Nishimura.”

“Call me Liliana,” She says. It could be worse, she could ask me to call her mother and I don’t know how I’d politely get out of that. Sam is looking at us with a conflicted expression on her face, until Liliana gestures for her to join us. I can’t say I’ve ever been part of a family hug before, but it’s kind of nice.

Her mother ‘retires’ a few minutes later, and I walk slowly with Sam back towards her room.

“Fuck.” I almost don’t hear it, but when I look at Sam she’s crying. “Just fuck I can’t believe he did that. What the fuck?! I don’t know how to run a company! I just want to film things, make documentaries and movies!”

“You still can. Your mother said your Uncle can handle the day to day,” I point out. Stopping us, I pull her against me. “It’s not the end of the world, Sam. He obviously trusted you enough to do the right thing by the company.”

“Maybe I can bring it kicking and screaming into this millenium,” she murmurs. I can’t help my grin. That sounds more like her. “More online media, maybe even work towards competing with Youtube.”

“What about setting up a division to handle things like documentaries,” I suggest. “Your baby project while your uncle handles the rest of it.”

“He’s adventurous. He’d be willing to bring in new ideas and run with them...”

“He did help fund Yamatai.”

Sam laughs. It’s a tired laugh, but it’s something. “I still can’t believe he turned a profit. But I guess since he didn’t own the Endurance and insurance covered most of that anyway…And then there’s your book.”

I nod. It hadn’t been part of the deal but half the profits went towards her Uncle’s investment. The rest went to Alisha’s college fund. Reyes had argued about it, but only half-heartedly. What she doesn’t know is I transferred all of Roth’s pension and insurance into a trust fund for when Alisha turns eighteen. I’ll get an earful then, but it’ll be worth it. “So what now?”

“Well we have more money than god. And since it’s mine we’re gonna spend it however I want.” Sam puts her hand over my mouth before I can protest. “And I’ll be reasonably responsible, okay? I have some...ideas. Like how we talked about turning the manor into some kind of home for kids. I think we should just build a place specifically for that.”

“Okay.” I kiss her. I love that idea, it thrills me and I can help fund that as well. We just need to find a place most in need. I think about that girl in Tibet, Dolma. Maybe one there, and one in England.

“Also,” she adds, and I pull my head back to look at her. The way she said that word makes me think what she’s going to add is going to be something I’m not going to like. “I’m buying you a ship.”

I’m right. I don’t like that. “Sam! I don’t need a ship! We can hire one when we need one. Do you have any idea how expensive they are to buy, let alone maintain?”

“I do, actually.” She looks at me stubbornly, so I stare back at her just as stubbornly.

Lara. Think about it. You spent half your childhood on the Endurance. All those places you’ve been. There’s so many sites we can get to and have everything we need right on board!” The new head of Nishimura Media Group reaches over to finger my pendant. “It’s not just for you, either. I can have an entire studio on board.”

“You’ve been thinking about this for awhile, haven’t you.”

“A little.” Smiling sheepishly, Sam threads her arms around my neck. “It’s just that something like this is so big I never really thought I’d have a chance to consider it. But your idea. A documentary and film division, dedicated to making new content… it would be a business expense. We could even put a helicopter on board. No more worrying about trying to charter boats or planes, the world will be yours for the taking.”

It’s tempting. I’d be a fool not to to be tempted. Every point she makes is a valid one. A ship built to my very exacting specifications, a portable lab, a moving home. “Sam…”

“Call it a wedding present for the both of us.” She gives me smile while I stand there dumbstruck, trying to find a reason, any reason to say no.

“The Endurance cost millions, Sam. And she was twenty years old. A new ship, custom built with all the bells and whistles we’d both want…” Just guessing at the math in my head is making my stomach twist. That doesn’t even include upkeep.

“Business expense,” She repeats. “Lara, let me at least look into this? Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s too expensive, but…” She gestures around, though I don’t know what exactly she’s trying to emphasize. “Maybe it can be Dad’s way of making up for everything. Shit, this probably is. And the more I think about it the more I like the idea of heading a smaller division and letting someone else steer the big ship.”

“That’s probably wise, you can barely drive a car,” I reply. Our arms wrap around each other and Sam rolls her eyes at me.

“I didn’t mean a literal ship, Lara.”

“No matter, no one should ever let you drive anything,” I reply, grinning at her. She shakes her head, giving me this look, before she sags into my arms. We stand there for a long time, my face in her hair. She’s exhausted, even I’m exhausted, but I pick her up suddenly and carry her into her room. Kicking the door closed behind us, I set her on the bed and start to undress her.

“Lara, I got this,” she protests, but I don’t pay attention. Sam gets stripped and tucked in, and a few moments later I’ve joined her. Neither of us are in the mindset for anything but holding each other, but I nuzzle Sam’s shoulder and kiss it lightly.

“Get some rest. We’ll talk about this more in the morning.” I don’t want to let her sell me on this idea without some sleep and some space. Today was emotional, and emotional days are never a good time to be making important decisions.

We spend a solid week in Japan. Sam has too much to do and I find myself preoccupied when Soraya rings me up. The mercenary has picked up the trail on another artifact and while Sam deals with her business matters Soraya and I make our own plans. She’s positive that we’ll find something in Iraq. The number of archaeological wonders there is already pretty impressive, but she thinks we’ll find the Hanging Gardens.

I’ve learned to damper my internal skeptic, and the chance to find an ancient wonder of world is something I’m going to jump at. It’s exciting. I tell her that I’ll book a flight for early next week, and she agrees to meet us in Baghdad. I just need to tell Sam and see how she reacts. I’m praying she wants the distraction as much as I think she needs it.

I catch her in the garden, threading my arms around her waist as she leans back into my embrace. She used a new shampoo this morning and it smells really nice. “I thought you’d be busy.”

“Taking a break. Not much left to do. Everything is kinda in limbo right now.” Sam fits into me so well. Like our bodies were made for each other. It’s not the first time I’ve had the observation, but it’s suddenly very obvious.

“Well, I was thinking it’s time for the inaugural expedition for your new learning division.”

Sam turns in my arms and fixes me with a suspicious look. “What did you do?”

“Soraya thinks we’ll find an artifact in Iraq. We’re going looking for the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Sam!” My excitement starts to infect her and she rubs her hands up and down my arms.

“Oh god, I think that’s exactly what I need.”

“What, no shopping expedition? Are you turning into me?” My cheekiness gets the smack it deserves, which only makes my smile larger.

Sam slips out of my grasp. “No, but film therapy is exactly what this girl needs. With how much money I’ve spent lately I’m a bit shopped out.”

My jaw hangs open a little bit, and I chase after her as she runs through the garden. “Sam, what did you buy? Tell me you didn’t order the ship already!”

“I plead the fifth,” She calls out, somewhere ahead of me. I follow the sound of her feet, then cut across another path and pounce on her. She squeals as we go down into a flower bed. I straddle her, pinning her by the shoulders and staring down at her.

She’s gorgeous, her mouth open as she catches her breath, a spark in her eyes for the first time since before the funeral. I lean in, and whisper against her lips. “I can’t believe you. I thought we were going to discuss that!”

“Are you complaining?” She sounds almost scared. I smile reassuringly at her and shake my head. “Good, because I knew it might piss you off but it just kept gnawing at my head and all this other stuff was going on and I wanted to just get the ball rolling.”

I’m not really that upset. I’ve had a week to think on it. And in all honesty, if it really does get built to my specifications, I’m really excited about the idea. “What are we naming her?”

“That’s a surprise.” She grins at me, and something tells me I’m not going to get it out of her. Not yet, anyway. “You’ll find out when we christen her.”

It takes a long time to build a ship, if you count the drafting and designing phases. Years, really. My excitement dwindles a bit. “So in two or three years, then.”

“Thirteen months.”

I sit bolt upright. “Thirteen months?

“Yep!” Sam props herself up, then slides her arms around me. “See, it’s mostly the interior that we need designed right? And our specialized equipment. The US Navy has this whole new fleet of research ships already designed and why spend extra money and time designing a whole new hull. As long as we can make the inside work we’re golden. And it’s big enough for the helipad to not be in the way.”

Once again I’m taken aback by the thought she’s put into this. “You should be grieving, Sam, not putting serious thought into ship design.”

She brings her hand to my cheek, stroking lightly. “Shopping therapy, it’s my thing remember?”

There’s that spark again, for the second time tonight and it makes me ecstatic. I’ll never rush her grieving process (and I don’t think she’d ever thought she’d grieve at all) but it’s wonderful to see her mood improving.

“Besides,” She says, and presses her face against mine. “I kind of grieved for him a long time ago, you know what I mean? This is just me...finally losing him. I think we should start looking forward.”

There are still things behind me that I’ve yet to deal with, and most of them have my father’s face all over them. I stroke at her back, then turn my head to kiss her. Maybe Sam is ready to move forward, or maybe she’s doing everything in her power to forget, but I don’t allow myself that same luxury.