Entry in the 2007 Eidos fanfic competition. Entrants were asked to write a piece on the theme of Lara's birthday.

The Gift

The murmur of delighted chatter, chinking glasses and punctuating laughter, all overseen by the string quartet playing a medley of her theme tunes, filled the ballroom. It wrapped around Lara like a comforting cocoon as she stood, watching her party guests mingle.

There was Jonell Elliot perusing the hors d'oeuvres, delicately filling her plate as she chatted to Adrian Smith alongside her. His brother was somewhere in the middle of the throngs, engaged in intense conversation with a sales team member from Eidos. Just behind them she could see Morgan Gray from Crystal Dynamics joking with two of the concept artists from her second adventure and Lara, satisfied that everyone was getting along, turned away and began to pour herself a drink.

Loud laughter from several people at once attracted her attention, and, drink in hand, she followed it out into the crowded hall to find a group of programmers loudly appreciating an amusing anecdote from Rhona Mitra, one of her official models.

Threading her way past them and on through the crowd, Lara returned Toby Gard's nod with a polite smile across the room, and carried on her way, stopping to clasp Murti Schofield's hand warmly in greeting as he called to her.

Reaching the top of the stairs, she turned and once more gazed out across her party guests. Everyone was here. From writers to publicists, everyone who ever had a hand in making Lara the success that she was, was here for her birthday party. It was astounding that they'd all managed to fit in the mansion, she mused.

As Lara closed her bedroom door behind her, the noise from below dimmed considerably, but remained audible. She placed her half-drunk wine on her dresser and moved to the bed, opening the smart black case that lay there. Inside lay her birthday present – two shiny, new, fully loaded pistols. She lifted them out, hefting them in her hands, feeling their satisfying weight and shape. They were perfect.

Minutes later the guns were being slid into her holsters over her tattered but much loved brown shorts twinned with her turquoise top. Giving one last look back towards her door, the sounds of the party filtering through, she grinned and hopped out onto her balcony and over to a nearby drainpipe.

Climbing down, she stopped by the window and peered in, unnoticed, at her busy guests. Everyone was there. For better or worse, they had all had a hand in making Lara who she was – a character with a life all of her own, with history, personality, true fame…as much as she was grateful to them, Lara didn't need them to create her adventures for her anymore. No matter what, life would happen to her without their help now. She could safely leave them to celebrate without her as, on the dawn of another year in her life, she went off to find adventure…unscripted.