When the rescue boat found them it was almost like waking from a terrible nightmare. At first it didn’t seem real, a cruel joke their minds were playing on them from their hellish trek through the jungle. But the boat was real and so was the rescue team. Even with fresh water and warm blankets wrapped around them they still couldn’t release a sigh of relief until they were out of the jungle and the sights and sounds of the city filled them. Sam laid her head on Bill’s shoulder, closing her eyes and smiling. It was all finally over. They had survived. Now a new nightmare would begin. How were they supposed to pick up the pieces and head back to the States and explain what happened? With Jack gone what would happen to their careers? There were a lot of unanswered questions, but Sam took a deep breath, steadying herself.
One step at a time.
While the expedition had not gone to plan at all she had come out with something new. She looked up at Bill, whose head was leaning against the back of the boat, eyes closed like he was sleeping. Upon meeting the captain she was less than impressed and hadn’t thought too much about him, as she was busy trying to fend off Jack and Ben’s affections, until he had jumped into the river to save Gale from the crocodile. He was brave and stupid. But he had stepped up the entire journey and despite everything she couldn’t take her eyes off of him or stop the rapid beating of her heart when he smiled at her. What would he do now that his boat, his home, and his partner were gone? Would he come with them? Would he move on?
“I bet we could write our story and sell millions of copies and still become billionaires.” Cole said as he pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulders. “A jungle expedition turned survival journey from giant snakes,” Cole explained, “People eat that shit up. You know how many horror movies they make from things like that.”
Everyone laughed in response before silence fell between them. No matter what they had each other. No one else had been through what they had, and now they were closer because of it.
“You know,” Gail said as she took a drink of water, “that’s not a terrible idea. I know some people who would be interested in the story.”
“If you think anyone would believe it.” Bill said.
“Oh it’ll sell whether they believe it or not, homeboy.” Cole said as he pointed at Bill, causing the latter to smile. “Might as well get something from this fucked up experience.”
“As long as we never have to go back into that jungle.” Sam breathed as she looked back out over the river, the jungle several miles away from them.
“You could not pay me enough money to return to that snake hole.” Cole responded immediately. The other three agreed, falling into halfhearted laughs again.
Their boat docked and they gathered themselves up to head to the hotel in town where they had been staying before the expedition. Sam thanked anyone who was listening that they had some luggage and their important documents at the hotel. It would have been a nightmare trying to get home if they had lost everything.
“Get me to my bath.” Gail said as they walked down the dock, Kong still resting on her shoulder.
“The hotel is just up the road,” Bill said as he pointed towards the center of town, “just take a taxi and you’ll be there in no time.” There was a crack of thunder over them as rain began to start falling lightly.
“You’re not coming with us?” Sam asked, her voice almost in a panic. They hadn’t come this far and gone through all of that for them to part ways now. Sam’s shock and confusion was mirrored in Cole and Gail’s expressions as they all looked at Bill.
Bill’s face broke out into a small smile as he took a step towards Sam, his hands coming up to her arms, giving her a gentle squeeze. “Most of my stuff went down with the Bloody Mary.” He explained. “I have a storage unit in town with some clean clothes. I’ll meet you at the hotel.” When Sam still looked visibly upset he added, “Promise.”
Sam felt her shoulders relax as she nodded her head. Bill hailed a taxi for them and they all quickly piled in. He waved them off and Sam watched as he started off in the opposite direction. She had been so used to seeing him over the past week it was strange to not have him there. The quietness of the taxi finally allowed for Sam to take in everything they had gone through and the people they had lost. She could see it hit Gail and Cole, like a wave crashing down on them, as their exhausted bodies slumped in the seats next to her.
“Fuck that jungle.” Gail whispered as she wiped a fallen tear from her cheek.
Sam leaned back in one of the hotel chairs, her head thumping slightly as she waited for Gail to finish her shower. They had been lucky to get two hotel rooms for the evening. She wanted, more than anything, to lie on the bed, but she didn’t want to ruin it with the layers of dirt, mud, and grime covering her skin. Cole had claimed the shower in the other room so she sat and waited for her turn. She didn’t mind too much. She was just happy to be somewhere safe. Her eyes felt heavy and she couldn’t remember the last time she had a good nights sleep. She felt herself slip into unconsciousness.
The rain came down in sheets as she swung over the mating ball, her screams piercing through the surrounding jungle. Even in the dark she could clearly see a pair of eyes moving closer to her, coming for her. The log snapped, cracking like thunder and she fell through the air and into the watery snake pit. When she emerged for air she could see Jack’s unmoving body, snakes coiled around it, prepared to strike.
Sam shot up from the chair, a terrified scream escaping her lips. It only took her a moment to remember where she was, as her fingers griped the chair tightly, her chest heaving.
“Sam,” Gail said with concern as she rushed over to the blond girl, “are you okay?”
Sam ran her fingers through her tangled hair, catching her breath. “Yeah,” she said with a nod of her head, “I must have fallen asleep.”
“I don’t think we’ll have a peaceful sleep for the next few months.” Gail said matter-of-factly. “Every time I close my eyes all I can see is Gordon getting-“ She broke off, not able to finish her sentence.
Sam leaned forward, placing a comforting hand over Gail’s. “I’m sorry about Gordon, maybe if I had been faster I could have saved him.”
Gail shook her head. “Jack killed Mitchell and the asshole got what he deserved. All we can do now is move on.”
There was a knock on the door and Gail moved to open it, letting a freshly showered Cole inside. “Well, I’m ready to head down to the bar and drink until I forget the last week.” He said, hands on his hips. “Bill just got here and he’s showering, said he would meet us down there.”
Sam could feel a small smile form over her lips. Bill had come back. “I’ll be down.” She said as Gail grabbed a jacket, heading to the door with Cole.
“We’ll save you a seat, girl.” Cole said with a smile as he waved at her before disappearing back into the hallway.
Gail followed him and as soon as she was gone Sam moved to shower. She peeled off her dirty clothes, throwing them straight into the trash. There was no salvaging them. The hot water soothed her aching body, but Gail had been right. Every time she closed her eyes all she could see where the horrors of the past few days. She braced herself against the shower, taking in deep breaths. She had to remind herself that she had made it. She survived. She was stronger than whatever hell they had gone through. She found a pair of boyfriend jeans and a black t-shirt in her bag, quickly throwing it on. She caught her reflection in the mirror, catching patches of fresh bruises covering her arms. A soft knock at the door distracted her and she moved to open it. Her heart skipped a beat when she realized Bill was standing on the other side. He was freshly showered, wearing jeans and a long sleeved white shirt. Almost the same thing he had been wearing the past week or so.
“Told you I’d come back.” He said, casually leaning against the door.
“Do you only have one outfit?” She teased as she looked him up and down, arms crossed over her chest.
Bill merely shrugged his shoulders, laughing. “I’m a simple man.” He said. “Cole said something about the hotel bar and drinks on the company.”
“Of course.” Sam said with a nod of her head. “I’m almost ready, come in.” She said as she moved to let him inside. She went back to the bathroom to brush her teeth and apply just the smallest amount of makeup. Bill followed her, resting against the bathroom doorframe.
“So,” he said, “what happens now?”
The question was innocent enough, but Sam knew the answer was complicated. “Well,” she began as she looked at him, “we go back and explain what happened. Cole and I will have to find new jobs since we were Jack’s assistants.” She could feel her lip quiver when she said his name. He was the reason they had continued down the river even when it wasn’t safe. He had stolen their raft and led them to the mating ball. He was the reason that Gordon and Tran died when they all could have escaped safely together. He had forced her, at gunpoint, to cross the log to retrieve the flower.
“I tried to save Jack,” Bill said, his eyes on the ground, “but the spider’s venom had already done its worse.”
“Don’t apologize for not saving Jack.” Sam responded quickly, shaking her head. “He left us for his career and his paycheck. He didn’t really care about us at all.”
“He seemed pretty interested in you before I interrupted the night before we fell over the waterfall.” Bill said with a raised eyebrow as he looked at her.
Sam moved past him, her arms crossed over her chest. “I never wanted to just be the pretty face in the lab.” She explained. “I made that clear and I thought he understood.”
“Believe me,” Bill said, causing her to turn and face him, “after what I saw out there, you’re more than just the pretty face.” While it was true, she was beautiful at first glance; he had tried to pay no mind to her. He had watched both Ben and, more subtly, Jack try to win her attention, but for some reason she had always seemed to seek him out. As they moved through the jungle he tried to push her away, focusing on getting everyone out alive, but somehow always came back to her. She had been strong, taking charge, and he had been impressed. He could remember their conversation in the village right before the rain hit. New beginnings. Maybe she could be his.
A smile curled over Sam’s lips as she stepped towards him. “I did feel pretty bad ass slicing that snakes head off with your machete.” She said in a sultry voice.
“It was pretty hot and a little terrifying, not gonna to lie.” He said, his eyes falling over her face, down to her lips.
Sam noticed her was closer and smiling. She loved his smile. “So, what are you going to do now?” Her voice barely above a whisper. She needed to know before they took this any further.
Bill rubbed the back of his neck, thinking about her question. They had barely processed what happened to them. His mind had been almost a blank slate as he went to his storage unit. Everything that he had keeping him there was now gone. “I’m not quite sure.” He answered honestly.
“You could come back with us.” Sam said. “With me.” She wasn’t one to be bold about things, but after what she had been through she didn’t want to let something she wanted go so easily.
“I could do that.” He answered immediately, because he had already decided that if she asked he would say yes. He wanted to know her. Wanted to see where this could go without the threat of death hovering over them every minute.
“Good.” She said, biting her lip. “Kind of nice having you around.”
He laughed, remembering the line from when they were still on that small raft and she was patching him up. “I think Cole and Gail are waiting for us downstairs.” He said, but he hadn’t moved away from her.
Sam inched closer, her lips a breath away from his. “I think they can wait a little bit longer.”
Bill placed a calloused hand on her cheek and Sam was surprised at how gentle he was. “I think you’re right.” He said before he pulled her into a kiss.
Sam’s hands immediately went to his shirt, pulling it over his head, hungrily pulling him back before he quickly pulled off her own shirt. He easily picked her up, pinning her against the wall as her fingers moved through his hair. They broke a part for a moment, laughing, foreheads leaning against each other and eyes closed. The ridiculousness of their entire situation was really hitting them and despite the terrible nightmare they had lived through, it had brought them together in this moment.
“Don’t stop now.” Sam breathed, her skin warm against his.
He moved them to the bed, making quick work of her jeans, while she did the same to him. They moved together, hoping to find some sort of healing in each other. Sam’s nails dug into Bill’s skin, his back already covered in purple bruises from the abuse he took from the trip. She didn’t know where this could go, but she savored the feeling of being with him as his lips moved across the crook of her neck. Her lips found his again as he moved inside her. Despite everything that had happened, they had each other at the end of it all.
Afterward they lay under the sheets, foreheads pressed together and arms wrapped around each other tightly. Sam knew they should go downstairs and join their friends, but wanted to live in this peaceful moment for a few minutes more. She closed her eyes for a moment. Her vision filled with Jack’s paralyzed face before he reached out for her, the anaconda’s striking in her direction. She bolted into a sitting position, a terrified gasp escaping her lips.
“Hey,” Bill said as he reached out for her, “it’s okay, you’re safe.”
She couldn’t help the tears spilling from her eyes as she tried to shake the terrible vision. She didn’t want to ruin this moment between them. “I know.” She finally managed to say as she allowed herself to be wrapped up in his strong arms. “Gail and Cole are waiting for us.” She said as she looked over at him with a slight smirk.
“Yeah,” he said with a nod of his head, “we should probably get down there.” He said before he pulled her in for another kiss, deciding their friends could wait just a little bit longer.