THIS IS BUSINESS by Chirugal

Rating: M

Disclaimer: Lara, Kurtis and Tomb Raider are all copyright of Eidos Interactive and Core Design. Well, Crystal Dynamics now, I guess.

Chapter revised 19/09/05. A couple of minor word changes 15/06/08 – still needs work, but hey! Can't be bothered to edit out crying-Lara.


Kurtis' strange weapon in hand, Lara Croft turned her back on the arena where he had met his match in Boaz and walked away. A sad, bittersweet smile touched her lips – the bloodied floor could only mean that he had gone down fighting. Where was his body? She would have liked to pay her respects to someone so similar to herself.

Never mind. He was probably half-digested in Boaz's death throes. She could at least do him the service of taking his beloved weapon from hostile territory. As she walked down the corridor that led – she hoped – to an exit, she felt an unexpected sting of tears. She hadn't cried since before she could remember, not even when Werner had died, but oddly her vision now blurred at the death of an almost-stranger she had known for less than a week.

Perhaps it was because they seemed so alike – battle-scarred, hardened and suspicious. They had disarmed each other, traded insults and information, and both trained their guns on the same enemy before exchanging surprised, almost embarrassed glances.

No doubt the sizzling attraction between them was a major factor, too. From the moment he had outwitted her in the besieged Louvre, Lara had been unable to get him out of her mind. That fact had frightened her almost as much as it intrigued her – never had she felt so out of control of her own emotions.

And now he was dead, she was striding down a potentially hostile corridor with vision impaired by tears that ran in silent streams down her cheeks, biting her lip in a stubborn attempt to suppress the sobs that rose painfully in her throat. This would not do at all. Get a grip on yourself, Croft. She halted for a second, squaring her shoulders and taking deep breaths to calm herself. When she felt she was sufficiently composed, she moved on. Grief could come later.

There was someone in the distance. Great. Still a while to go before she could get a decent rest, then. Tucking Kurtis' weapon into her backpack, she drew out her 9mm and continued towards them. The time for stealth was over; Lara wanted the Cabal's entire workforce exterminated. Now.

The figure looked male, and injured. He leaned against the wall, his back to her and blood dripping to the floor from several places. Maybe she'd been wrong about Boaz being detained in the afterlife, then. Perhaps she'd have to finish off Kurtis' work. If that was so, Lara wasn't leaving the building until it was taken care of.

"What got you?" she called sharply, still advancing, 9mm aimed in his direction. The man whirled, and Lara found herself looking down the barrel of a familiar Boran X. He's alive. Convinced that if Karel had survived he would be too busy healing himself to deal with her, and filled with dizzy relief, she holstered her weapon and ran to his side. Recognition filled deep blue eyes clouded with pain, and Kurtis lowered his last defence, sagging back against the wall.

"Thank god. I'm out of bullets."

"Are you alright?" It was a stupid question.

"Left my Chirugai," he answered with an effort. "Just resting. Need to go back for it."

"Chirugai?" As she surveyed his wounds – the most major of which looked as though a skewer had been driven all the way through his abdomen and then removed – she rolled the unknown word around her head. Suddenly, realisation dawned. "You mean this?" She held up the circular disc with retractable blades she'd picked up from Boaz's arena, and he sighed with relief.

"Thanks." He coughed painfully, and when he withdrew his hand it was spotted with blood. "Eckhardt?"

"Dead." And so will you be, if I can't get you to a hospital in time. "We'll talk later. Can you walk?"

He pushed off the wall and almost fell. Her heart wrenching with sympathy and fear, Lara caught his arm to steady him. "Lean on me," she commanded. He looked as though he would protest, and Lara narrowed her eyes in irritation. "Do it, Kurtis. I promise I won't tell anyone you had to let a woman help you."

He put an arm around her shoulders, and Lara slipped hers around his waist, supporting his weight. Despite the gravity of the situation, she felt a thrill at his close proximity. "Let's go," she told him, urging him forward with both words and body language. Face creased with agony, Kurtis took the first few faltering steps slowly before getting into stride. They were able to make surprisingly good time to the first obstacle: the door at the end of the hall.

"Kurtis, listen." Receiving no response, Lara turned her head to look at his face, only inches away. His skin was ashen, his eyes closed and his breathing irregular. He was conscious, but barely. "If you pass out on me, you won't live to regret it," Lara told him, fear injecting urgency into her tone. When there was still no response, she knelt, depositing him carefully on the ground before turning to open the door. The corridor beyond seemed clear, but if they were taken by surprise there was a high risk that she would be badly injured too. Moving fast, she kicked open doors, and found no one. As an afterthought she opened the door that stood in the way of the stairwell, and then headed back to where she'd left Kurtis.

He opened his eyes slowly as she felt for his pulse, which was shaky and erratic. "Thought you'd left me to die. Was cooking up revenge," he joked weakly, and that half-smile of his was back.

Lara smiled, pulling him to his feet. "You pass out on me, I will leave you," she answered, supporting him once more. "Come on. I've found the stairs."

It was half way down the second flight of steps that Kurtis sagged in her arms. Lara eased him to the ground, despair beginning to take root in her mind. "Kurtis, don't you dare do this to me," she ordered. No response. "For god's sake," Lara muttered, and tugged at his hair hard in the vain hope of shocking him awake. A cluster of dark hairs came away in her palm, and his scalp began to bleed superficially. Lara winced in remorse, but could have danced for joy as he raised a hand to his head to check the damage.

"Bitch," he murmured under his breath.

Lara grinned; now that he was conscious again, all things were possible. "If I had a coconut for every time I heard that one…" she began, encouraging him to his feet again.

Kurtis leaned against her again, and they began to descend the stairs once more. "I mean it, you know."

"Always nice to know where one stands," Lara panted as they reached the bottom. "Door." Kurtis transferred his weight from her to a pillar, and Lara opened it, only to slam it shut again. "Oh, shit," she sighed resignedly.

"What?" Even in his injured state and without ammunition, one hand was at his holster.

Lara bit her lip, torn by indecision. "Police. I'm a wanted woman, Kurtis; I have to get out of here. They're coming in. Don't tell them which way I go."

Kurtis put out a hand to stop her as she moved past him. Even if a wave of molten lava had been crashing toward her at that moment, Lara would have stopped at his touch. "Don't," he rasped. "Tell them about the Cabal; about Eckhardt. If they still lock you up, when I heal from this I'll get you out." Lara hesitated. "Trust me." She did, she realised in that moment. And if he died from his wounds… she'd have to break out on her own. She'd done harder things.

The door crashed inwards.