She traces your scars and rebuilds your world [1/4]

Pairing: Lara/Sam (Tomb Raider 2013)

Rating: T, for this part.

Words: 5649

Summary: You are a crumbling building in desperate need of restoration; and this, for all intents and purposes, makes Sam your architect.

Notes: This was supposed to be a character piece, but then I started thinking about what I thought the next game might entail and some plot snuck in. Whoops! So, spoilers for the game and my own random headcanons and ideas about future plots will be found in here! (I spent too long staring at a screenshot of Lara’s journal, basically). You have been warned!

[AO3 Link]

—-

As it withers,

Brittle it shakes;

Can you whisper

As it crumbles and breaks?

As you shiver

Count up all your mistakes;

Pair of forgivers,

Let go before it’s too late

[Young Blood by Birdy (The Naked and Famous cover)]

—-

At night, Sam likes to trace your scars.

‘Likes’, perhaps, is not the proper word, because it might be more of an unconscious reflex or even an attempt at comfort, but it doesn’t really matter in the end; regardless of the reason, at night Sam traces your scars.

It’s a big ship, so it shouldn’t make much sense, but sharing a room is something that happened without any discussion. You get antsy without having Sam nearby after spending so long searching for her, and Sam—well, she puts on a happy face as she always does (for you)—but you think she feels just as anxious when you’re not around. So it’s almost logical, really, and no one questions it.

Sharing a bed isn’t something that’s quite as easily explained. But in your mind (and Sam’s, probably), it’s a natural extension, so you don’t worry too much about it. Especially when Sam traces your scars at night.

They’re easy to find, even in the dark, because they mar your entire body, so chances are, whenever Sam’s fingers come into contact with the skin exposed by your tank top, she’ll touch upon one. But she has her favorites—the ones her fingers keep coming back to with a frequency that is too high to be the result of chance:

-        the ‘x’ on your right arm (tumbling off a waterfall—shattering through the glass of an old cockpit window),

-        the line on your left collarbone(sliding down a rocky cliff, sharp and metallic chunks of plane raining down around you),

-        the mark over your left eyebrow (fists pounding into the flesh of your face, again and again, screams of ‘Outsider’ ringing in your ears),

-        and (when your shirt slips up enough to allow it) the puckered skin on the left side of your stomach (burning hot metal pressing into your skin, the tears and screams of pain and frustration, knowing you are doing this to yourself).

Sam’s fingers are gentle, and her cool skin feels nice against the red heat of your own, still slightly inflamed in the places her hands roam; it feels like a lifetime ago, but the scars are still new and still red (they may even fade over time, though you have a hard time believing it). You’re pretty sure she’s thinking about the way you got them—not in specifics (like you do) but in that you got them while coming for her. You don’t know if tracing them serves partially as a reminder, a penance, or an apology, but none of the three are required.

You would tell her this if she hadn’t made you promise to stop saying it wasn’t her fault (you made her promise the same, though, so it’s only fair).

So you let her trace your scars and you keep your hand on top of hers, allowing it to be carried about by her movements. And this is how you fall asleep—lulled into it by soothing gestures that do as much (or more) than any possible combination of words.

—-

Waking up is not quite as pleasant.

Mainly because instead of soft hands and the steady beat of a kind heart underneath your ear, it involves screaming and crying and shaking and phantom (and not-so-phantom) pain radiating from all the scars and tears Sam had so carefully soothed just hours before.

But Sam is still there, and her hands are cupping your jaw, and her voice is quiet but firm when she says, “Lara! Look at me, Lara. Just look at me.”

(‘Just look at me,’ you say, though blood is dripping into your eyes and the smell of smoke makes you want to retch and you’ve never been more frightened in your entire life, because you know you’ll never, ever recover if you have to watch this, ‘Look at me, okay?’).  

And you do—even though it takes time for your eyes to adjust enough to see the dark eyes that are wide with sadness and exhaustion—and your breath starts to come easier after only a moment or two. But still, you gasp her name and dig your nails into the hands that press into your cheeks and bring you back to the gentle rocking of the ship and the too soft body underneath yours.

Sam.”

Lara. Are—are you here?”

Are you back, she means. Have you left the island that your mind still inhabits at night? And of course the answer is a firm and resounding ‘no’. Because you will never again visit Yamatai in the physical sense, but you will never stop returning to it, nevertheless. You feel irreparably damaged, but how do you tell that to the one person who might be able to keep you from crumbling apart completely?

“Yes,” you gasp instead. “Yes. I’m—yes.”

“Breathe, Lara.”

You comply; pressing your forehead against hers as you close your eyes and breathe in air that is hot with Sam’s own exhalations.

“I won’t leave you,” she whispers, in reply to the question you cannot ask.

And it’s funny, almost, how it was you that saved Sam on the island, but she’s the one saving you now. 

—-

Morning is better.

Maybe it’s the light that brings clarity, but when you wake with your face buried into Sam’s neck, her arms locked around you in an embrace that would have caused a teddy bear to procure some wear and tear (but just dig into your bruises in an almost reassuring way, the pain bringing further lucidity) you can more easily push away the things that haunt you at night.

Sam wakes slowly and with quiet whimpers, and you lay still and try not to think about how this is the last day on the ship and what that might mean for your sanity; try not to think about the words ‘I won’t leave you’ and how far they extend (do they, you wonder despite yourself, encompass to the far-off places in your journal—the places that call to you with their secrets and mysticism and danger?) 

But when she wakes, your name is the first thing from her lips (still slightly cracked and dry—yours are as well) and that washes away your concerns, at least for a moment.

“Hey,” you reply softly, and there’s an apology there that Sam disregards with a sleepy smile.

 “Hey.”

Her hold relaxes, but she does not release you completely; instead, one of her hands drifts up your arm and begins to trace your scars once again. The predictability of the motion makes you smile, just a little.

“You okay?” she asks, after a moment of silence.

“Yeah.” Another pause. “We reach London today.”

Sam watches you carefully, and you don’t think she can tell that you’ve already called Winston via satellite phone—that he’s prepared everything for your next journey—that you’ll be leaving again tomorrow morning. But Sam’s always been able to surprise you.

“And then? Where are you going next?”

“Croatoa.”

“When?”

“Tomorrow.”

Sam nods, and presses a kiss to your forehead before nudging you off her to get ready.

And that’s the end of that.

—-

Except it isn’t, because after the ship has docked and you’ve said your not-so-tearful goodbyes (tears are hard now—practically impossible—as though your ducts are empty) and exchanged hugs and promises and significant looks with the too few surviving members of the S.S. Endurance, Sam is still there, frayed bag slung over her shoulder, looking completely nonchalant.

“You think we can swing by my storage unit first? I should probably get some clothes and stuff. And, more importantly, I need to grab my backup equipment. That stupid island cost me a lot more than bits of my sanity and my seemingly tattoo-free skin. My parents are going to fucking flip when they see this shit,” Sam rambles, itching at the blue specks on her arm.

“Huh?” One would think graduating from Oxford with first-class honors would have instilled in you a fairly decent grasp of the English language, but apparently not.

“You know how paranoid I get when they visit! And that’s because of the tiny little film reel I have on my hip! How do you think they’re gonna react when they find out I practically have sleeves? And ugly monochromatic splatter sleeves, too. Ugh. I really hope this shit fades soon.”

“That’s not—I’m sure they’ll understand, but—Sam! That’s not what I meant! What do you mean ‘stop by your storage unit’?”

I mean, I need to get all my stuff. And if the offer’s still open, I should probably just keep it all at your place from now on; who knows how long we’ll be gone, what with us traveling all over the world.”

Us?”

“Yeah, ‘us’. Duh! Dunno if Dad’s gonna be so free with the funding this time around, but hey, you did bring back some cool ancient stuff that should placate him, so you never know! We should probably ship that off to him before we leave, actually. You probably already thought of that though.”

“Sam, you’re— you’re coming with me?”

You can see it in Sam’s face; she’s purposefully trying not to make a big deal of it, but it obviously is a big deal and you both know it, especially when you stutter over your words in a way you never do and gape at her like someone with an IQ that is half of your own.

“If you want me,” Sam says with a wink, still keeping things light.

It’s not so much wanting as it is needing and you’re sure some pompous psychologist might put a label on that and call it unhealthy, but you don’t much care.

So you nod, and say, “I do.”

It comes out so much more serious than anything Sam’s ever said, and it makes both of you flush a little in a way that might be for different reasons (but then again, might not).

—-

When you return to the manor, Winston looks at you as though you’re an entirely different person (and perhaps you are), but still gives you one of those rare smiles and helps you gather your random assortment of bags, like you haven’t just gotten back from a horrific experience on a mythical island.

You’ve always liked Winston.

 Sam actually gives the poor butler a hug, and it’s a sign of how fond he is of her that he doesn’t immediately remove her arms from his person (and when he does, it’s done gently).

“Winnie! I’ve missed you, bud! Guess you heard all about how I was taken prisoner for the Sun Queen and how Lara went into total Rambo mode and saved my ass… or are those not specifics they’re releasing yet?”

Winston winces at the nickname, the insane selection of details, and the bit of profanity, but the whole thing is so ridiculous that you actually laugh, and then Sam’s laughing too, and the wince turns into a repressed smile, because maybe both you and Sam look a little more like yourselves in that moment.

“Miss Nishimura,” Winston nods, the accents of her name flowing naturally from his mouth (but not without effort, you know; you’d caught him practicing the pronunciation in the hallway mirror after you’d brought Sam over for the first time, your freshman year). “Lady Croft. I am glad to see you both well.”

“Not well enough to be able to go another second without going out for a seriously overdue drink, Winnie.” Sam says, and you groan.

It’s a moment of severe weakness that has you turning to Winston with a pleading face for a way out. You should have known the blank-faced bastard would have nothing for you. You can’t help but feel a little betrayed, but it’s overridden by a wave of affection for one of the few people you have let on in the world.

Maybe you really do need that drink.

“Very well, Miss Nishimura. I shall have your things delivered to one of the spare rooms, if that is acceptable?”

“Absolutely! Thanks! Now, let’s go, Lara.”

Sam, I really hope you’re joking.”

“Not even a little bit. C’mon, it’s not like I’m taking you clubbing or anything. Just one drink. At the pub of your choice, even.”

You sigh. “Fine. But we need to call your father first.”

“…Better make it two drinks, then.”

—-

It turns out to be closer to five drinks, you think, but you lose track after a short while, so you can’t say for sure.

Still, the way you and Sam stumble back into the manor, giggling like obnoxious pre-teens at a One Direction concert, implies a five drink minimum. So does the way you collapse into your bed (expertly made with perfectly pressed sheets that you hardly notice), all tangled together in a way you should find undignified, but don’t.

“I can’t believe you told that guy you’d been involved in an incident with a wood chipper,” Sam laughs.

“I didn’t want to get into it!”

“You also didn’t have to threaten to use said wood chipper on him.”

“He wouldn’t leave us alone!”

“Some people would be flattered, you know. I swear, wherever we go, you’re more interested in your books and ruins than the guys. Even when we’re in London! I mean, jeez, how’d you even sneak that journal into your pocket?”

“People in pubs are boring, Sam. I always bring reading material, just in case.”

“Hey! I frequent pubs all the time! Does that mean I’m boring too, Lara?”

“You know you aren’t.” 

Sam looks smug for a moment but then kicks off her shoes and begins to make herself comfortable, sprawled out on top of you as she is. You follow suit and poke at Sam’s side until she moves into a position that’s a little more comfortable for you as well, tucked into your side with an arm thrown around your waist (one hand sneaking under the edge of your shirt to rest on your hip bone, thumb running over the raised scar as it was wont to do).

Sam’s breathing steadies and slows after a while, and it starts to lull you to sleep as well, until she once again speaks (this time breathy and tired).

“I’m glad I met you, Lara.”

It’s a statement that probably wouldn’t bring about more than the usual warm and fuzzy feelings if you and Sam had been the typical post-university friends and your biggest concerns had been finding a job and repaying loans. But you’re not, so it means so much more; it’s a reassurance and a vow and a declaration, and when Sam’s lips graze against a thin scar along your neck, it feels like validation.  

—-

You remember it all the next morning, and it’s this reason alone that keeps you from hating the world and everything in it when the sunlight pours through the blinds you hadn’t thought to close last night. Your headache is massive and you should have started getting ready thirty minutes ago (thank God for Winston otherwise that time would have been thirty days ago), but you can’t bring yourself to feel too upset about anything when Sam is lightly snoring beside you, a leg haphazardly thrown over your lower body.

You almost feel bad about having to wake her, because she looks just about as peaceful as you can remember seeing her in what seems like a long while. Still, you don’t have much of a choice, and if she wants to come with you (and she says she does—a fact that still is nearly inconceivable to you) then she’s going to get used to such wake-up calls. Even if you are going to make it as gentle as possible.

“Sam,” you murmur, brushing a few strands of black off of her forehead. “Sam, you have to get up.”

“Ugh, what?” Another soft nudge. “No. That’s not—Lara, that’s not happening. Oh my God, why did you make me drink so much?”

That comment earns Sam a much harder shove, and you think it’s well deserved. “You know very well you brought this on yourself Samantha Nishimura!”

“Urgh. Not the full name, Lara. I beg of you.”

“Then get up! You can sleep on the plane, okay?”

Sam opens one eye, considering. “Can I use your shoulder as a pillow rest?”

“Yes, Sam.”

“Okay, okay.” Sam rolls over, nearly falling off the bed, and your smile creeps up on you without you noticing. It feels good.

“Wait,” Sam says pausing in the removal of her shirt. “A plane? How the hell are we paying for all this, Lara? I know my dad was all stoked about the cool shit you found on Yamatai, but I doubt he was up for this quick of a turn around.”

You busy yourself with the last of your packing, stuffing every tank top you can find in a shoulder bag before starting to look for some cargo pants. “My inheritance,” you say simply. “I accepted it.”

Sam goes silent behind you, and you try not to turn and look at her expression (you don’t need to; really—you can picture the shock).

“Oh. That’s—oh. Lara, that’s a big deal. Are you—?”

“We can talk about it later, Sam.”

There’s another pause, and this time you do turn to look at her (because you can’t quite help yourself); Sam’s face is full of understanding and patience and she’s looking at you like you’re her best friend in the world and like she doesn’t care that you have weird issues about your father’s money that have somehow begun to be sorted by all the insanity that occurred on Yamatai. She looks at you like she maybe understands, but that’s impossible, so maybe it’s more that she’s willing to try.

“Okay, sweetie. Now, tell me what I should pack.”

It’s only later, when you’ve made a mad dash to the airport and are sitting on the plane, Sam’s head resting on your shoulder (as promised), that you realize you didn’t have any nightmares.

You’re not sure whether to thank the alcohol or Sam, so you settle with thanking both.  

—-

You’ve been flying for about four hours or so when Sam finally stirs. You’re reading (re-reading, actually) a copy of John White’s journal that your father had owned. It’s not exactly helpful in describing anything other than the well-known details of his failure of an expedition, so Sam’s return to consciousness is a welcome distraction. Not that it ever would not be, you have to admit to yourself.

“So, I thought we were going to Croatia,” Sam mumbles, as though this is the first time she’s actually thought about it (and honestly, it probably is). 

“Croatoa,” you correct, your lips twitching. “Or Croatoan Island; the modern day Hatteras Island.”

Sam blinks at you, managing to look unimpressed even with the remnants of sleep in her eyes.

“Roanoke? The Lost Colony?”

“Gotcha,” Sam yawns. “I thought that was all discovered and whatnot; the settler’s all went native or something, right? And anyways, isn’t it a huge tourist trap?”

“Yes, that’s the running theory. And Roanoke Island is a popular destination for tourists.”

“But…?”

“But I think all previous archeological excavations may have been… looking in the wrong place.”

“You’re not being cryptic at all, Lara.”

“I don’t know a lot, Sam. Just what I—my father used to tell me this story. He grew up in North Carolina, you know? And there was this story about Roanoke that… well, that I’d always dismissed as fantasy, but now…”

Sam’s look is knowing. “Now it’s not so easy to dismiss that stuff.”

Your eyes drift down to Sam’s hand, covering yours, where the specks of blue are clearly visible in the dim lighting. “No. Not anymore.”

You feel Sam shift against you, sitting up a little more fully. “So your dad…?”

“I still—I don’t think he should have always left like that—always going on those ridiculous journeys and taking me with him, even when he knew he would be too busy to really take care of me. And then when he took my mom with him on that goddamn last minute trip and they—”

It’s difficult to get the words out; you’ve never much liked talking about your father at all, let alone in this way. But Sam’s staring at you in that soft way of hers—the way she always stares at you when she thinks you ought to be talking about feelings.

“But now, at least, I—” You sigh.

“Understand the pull.”

“Yes.”

“Does that worry you?”

You hadn’t really thought about the question (tried not to, at least), but it’s a valid one, and you feel a spike of appreciation for Sam, because even if it’s a question no one (let alone you) wants to ask, it’s one that should be asked, and Sam’s brave enough to do it.

“Yes.”

Sam squeezes your hand and smiles.

“It shouldn’t. You’ve got me to keep you in line, after all.”

It’s a joke (punctuated with Sam’s customary wink) but it makes a weight lift from your chest, nevertheless.

—-

Raleigh-Durham International isn’t exactly the Dragon’s Triangle, and that’s kind of a (huge) relief.

It’s not as interesting, of course, but it’s quite a bit more convenient, and Sam drags you over to a Five Guys  right in the middle of the terminal, as soon as your plane lands.

“Do you know how badly I need a burger, Lara? Because I don’t think you do. I mean, jeez, did we really have to leave the day after we got back? Have you not heard of a rest period? Oh my god, look, Lara; bacon cheeseburgers. Oh, god, I’m drooling.”

Sam’s halfway through absolutely devouring her burger (loaded with ‘every single goddamn topping you’ve got’, which had gotten Sam some strange looks, and a glare from the woman with the three small children standing at her side, but Sam, typically, apparently could not have cared less) when you think to answer her question, because you feel like it deserves an honest answer.

“I didn’t want to stick around there, Sam. I didn’t want to deal with…”

“I know, sweetie.” The words should be less sincere, delivered in between large bites of burger, but Sam manages to make it work, somehow.  

“Besides,” you add, suddenly feeling guilty, “We’re just going to be doing research for a little while. Nothing adventurous.”

“Yet,” Sam says, but then frowns down at the salad you’re picking at with a fork. “I didn’t even know they sold salads here. Why would you ever get that?”

“I haven’t much felt like meat; the memories of slaughtering and gutting your meal are rather unappetizing.”

Sam makes a face, but takes an especially large bite of her burger, nevertheless. “You are such a downer sometimes, Lara.”

It’s a joke, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Sometimes.

—-

Sometimes, like that very night, when you wake up screaming (again), remembering the way it had felt when you’d pulled the trigger and blood had slushed down from the exposed skull and onto your hands and it had been easy (so, so easy). It had been a fight for survival—a fight for your life—but it shouldn’t have been so very easy.

But Sam’s there—as she always is—even though you had gotten a hotel room with two queens, and foolishly started out the night in two separate beds. Because you’d thought—for some reason you’d thought—that continuing on with the dependency was setting yourself up for an even bigger fall, eventually, but now, once again in Sam’s arms, you don’t really care.

“He would have shot me—if I—if I hadn’t.”

It’s illogical—almost ridiculous—that you keep going back to that moment (that your mind keeps dragging you there) even after all the men you subsequently killed. But logic doesn’t have any place in dreams. Or maybe the only logic it makes is of the psychological sort, which is maybe worse, as you’ve never been a fan of the softest of sciences.

But none of that really matters now because you’re trembling in a way you find pathetic.

“It wasn’t even—I had to—he would have…”

Sam always seems to know the right thing to say, and in that moment, she says it without any words at all, pulling you closer and letting the shakes fade.

You’re falling apart, but Sam keeps patching the holes in your mortar.

—-

You’re not the only one with nightmares, of course.

Of this you’re approximately 94% sure. You’ve never actually seen Sam have one, but she always has been quite skilled at hiding her unease, discomfort, and any other unpleasant emotions from you, and you don’t exactly know how to feel about that (guilty, grateful, or just sad).

“You can talk to me, you know,” you say, eyes firmly fixed on the road as you head into Durham, the designated driver as always (because Sam has a hard time with the whole driving-on-the-right-side-of-the-road thing). “If you want.”

Sam shifts (you hear it in the way her jeans slide against the leather). “I know I can. But it’s—I mean, it’s not like I went through anything like you did, L.C.”

The nickname is said without thought, but Sam almost chokes on it, halfway through, because that’s what Alex had always called you and Alex was…

You risk taking your eyes off the road to find Sam’s hand, balled into a tight fist that negates her words with the utmost effectiveness, and place yours over it. “You went through a lot.”

 The hand relaxes and flips, so that you are palm to palm. The rough burn on your skin rubs against the smoothness of Sam’s, and you wonder if that’s always how it’s going to be—your scars wearing away the softness of others  (and of one in particular, whose own scars—hidden below the surface—you fear will be exposed by the abrasive association).

“I sleep better when we’re together,” Sam says finally, after a long, long moment.

You nod. “Okay.”

—-

Which means it’s a good thing the apartment Winston (somehow) leased for six months (just off of Duke’s campus) is a single.

It’s decently sized, despite this; the type of place a couple might live comfortably, with a shower/bath, kitchen(ette), laundry room, living room with a fireplace (that you’ll resist using to the bitter end), and even a small study (which your books will surely fill to the point of clutter). Winston’s shipped all your stuff here (old books and new furniture) and it’s all set up, so basically, the place is practically perfect for you and Sam.

‘Practically’, because after you’ve picked up the key and start lugging Sam’s personal belongings upstairs, you run into Chad and Derek, two first year med students who make Sam giggle (and you frown) with their antics. The boys turn out to be your neighbors and you don’t relish the idea of spending any more time with them (and yes, perhaps you fear that Sam might, and that bothers you for reasons you don’t immediately understand and do not care to contemplate).

But despite that (minor) distraction, it doesn’t take long for you to settle in. Since the hard work is mostly already done, Sam throws her things on the floor of your closet (your ‘shared’ closet, which you foresee being overtaken by overpriced leather jackets and skinny jeans), and you both head to the nearby Whole Foods, where you and Sam stock up on the necessities (and Sam nearly sheds a tear at the sight of so much packaged and processed food).

Neither you or Sam are particularly gifted culinarily; this you’d learned during your first meeting at the beginning of your freshman year at Oxford in the dorm’s community kitchen (a meeting involving Pot Noodles—Southern Fried Chicken for her, Chinese Chow Mein for you—a single microwave, and a level of exhaustion that only 3 AM can bring).  

But over time, Sam had learned how to make a pretty stellar Mac n’ Cheese, and it’s an act of mercy when she offers to make it that first night in your new apartment. And when she places a bowl of it on the coffee table in front of you, sans bacon (Sam’s very favorite part), you feel warmth spread in your chest in a way nearly overpowers you. You think she understands that the way you shift into her side as you both sit on the leather couch, watching mindless TV, is your way of saying thank you (because you can’t quite manage anything else without feeling overwhelmed).

Afterwards, you wash the dishes while she falls asleep on the couch and it feels rather perfect in every way.

In fact, it feels a lot like contentment, which you had not thought you would ever again feel.

—-

“So what’s the plan, chief?”

Sam’s voice is raspy from sleep, because the plan thus far has only involved your bed, which, now that you’re far away from London, you don’t feel the same pull to leave—that pull that had only barely been enough to remove you from Sam’s side the morning before (so now that it’s gone, you’re definitely in trouble).

“I have to make a few calls,” you sigh. “Connect with Dr. Abernatch. He’s—as far as I can tell—going to be my best resource here. He’s renowned for his work on Roanoke—spent decades studying it, but his later work on the subject… well, many people thought he’d simply run out of things to prove empirically, and it did not receive the same attention as his earlier work.”

Sam hums, and you think she might be about to drift back off to sleep, despite it being nearly noon.

“So this guy thinks some weird shit went down on Roanoke? Like, weird, spirit-related, shit?”

“He—I don’t know. In his later work, there were only brief mentions of what I think may be some kind of… mystical explanation. I need to speak with him.”

“How do you even know all this stuff, Lara? We seriously just got back to civilization, and unless you found some wi-fi and an iPhone on that damn island…”

“I read, Sam.”

You can feel Sam roll her eyes, and the way she turns over to butt her head into your shoulder only furthers your suspicion.

“I read it before—before we left. My father… he had a journal. He recorded many things that I’ve always thought nonsensical.”

“Gotcha. So now it all needs to be investigated and whatnot,” Sam says, propping herself up on her elbow. “But we can put it off for one more day, don’t you think?”

Your eyebrows rise. “To do what?”

Sam grins.

—-

“Shit, shit, shit, bugger, shit!”

“Sam…”

“C’mon, you goddamn blue piece of shit!”

“Sam.”

“If you don’t go into the hole this time, I’m going to punt you off of the fuc—”

Sam!”

You’re torn between supreme amusement and absolute mortification, but the way your lip twitches involuntarily makes you think that the former will soon win out, despite the fact that there is a gaggle of impressionable youth not five meters away, gaping at you and Sam (but mostly Sam) as she spews out a flow of profanity that would have made Grim proud.

Sam ignores you, taking a deep breath before gently tapping the blue ball at her feet with her club; it rolls forward with all the speed of B. variegatus, traversing perhaps twenty centimeters in the span of five full seconds before falling into the hole.

“Fuck yeah!” Sam shouts, and you bury your face in one of your hands, a snort of laughter escaping you. But even that poor veil from embarrassment is torn away when Sam throws her putter on the ground and practically tackles you in an overly enthusiastic hug that nearly sends you toppling into the unnaturally blue pool behind you (it actually kind of really hurts, but you’re rather used to that by now).

“I am the Queen of Putt Putt!”

“I believe you scored a twelve on that last hole.”

“Shut up, Lara.”

“It was a par four.”

“Shut up, Lara.”

“Which, honestly, was rather an improvement from your earlier scores, but…”

“Argh! I don’t even know why I put up with you, Lara Croft!” Sam says, pushing you away (but only slightly). “You’re lucky you’re attractive and British. Otherwise this would be the end of our friendship.”

“Are those the two deciding factors?”

“Pretty much. I hope you didn’t think it was all about your personality or something.”

“Oh, how could I ever?”

Sam grins, wide and sure, and pulls you closer again, tugging at the pocket of your jeans, before sliding an arm around your waist. 

“Don’t worry, sweetie. Maybe I’ll let you win the first Go-Kart race, to help you build up your self-confidence back up.”

Building, you think, is a good word for it—what Sam’s doing, slowly but surely. You are being re-built, moment by moment, smile by smile, touch by touch. And you think Sam might even succeed in her attempts at repair.

You wonder though (as Sam drags you through the crowd of children half your age) if she is making herself a part of the foundation. Will she be integrated in your reconstruction? And if she pulls away, will you once again fall apart?

At the Go-Kart course, Sam grabs helmets for you both and fits one onto your head, stepping close to adjust the strap on yours. You breathe her in and feel your tensions leave, and you know you cannot stop her from being your architect, regardless of the risks.

[Part Two]


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