Disclaimer: This is a derivative work using characters and intellectual property belonging to
Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Fox Television, and Eidos and probably others.
When/Spoilers: Post BtVS Season 7 / Tomb Raider (post AoD and CoL)
Rating: PG-13 for Action Violence
Distribution: TtH, atbvs.creative, ff.net, my blog fanfic pages. Otherwise-ask.
AN: See end of chapter for any notes

Part I - Vampires

The low growl behind her didn't give Lara enough warning to do more than duck. And that wasn't good enough as a massive blow to her back sent her flying into one of the terra cotta statues lining the immense burial chamber. Scrambling to keep her balance among the falling clay warriors as her torch flew out of her hand, she felt something tearing at her back, grabbing for her pack. Turning and kicking behind her in a fluid motion, graceful even on the rapidly shifting floor, the sound of crunching bone echoed in the room as Lara's foot connected with something large and solid that howled in surprise.

Instinctively turning her kick into a sideways roll away from the growling creature, Lara found herself in a small, dark, enclosed space that even the non-claustrophobic would have found daunting. In a well practiced move, Lara reached behind her back and grabbed a flare from her pack with one hand while pulling a pistol out of its holster with the other. Striking it on the wall to light it and throwing it in front of her, she waited, the sharp white light from the flare driving her assailants back into the dark.

Surrounding her was a small group of growling creatures, with their ridged foreheads, yellow eyes glinting in the low light, and fangs setting them apart from normal humans. Cursing under her breath Lara looked for a way out. Her pistol wasn't going to do her much good, As satisfying as it would be to use it, with the memory of the vibration and smell of her favorite weapon in action bringing her comfort, and she thought about how it had extracted her from numerous past impossible situations, it would only make them angry if she missed. And even if she didn't miss only a lucky hit would slow a vampire down. Other things would actually be more effective but she would have to get a lot closer to the vampires than she liked for her flares to be useful. She swore again, this time in frustration.

Reviewing in her head the path she'd taken to get into this part of the tomb, she prepared for her next move. She had to get out into the open where she had a better chance. Out of the tomb before her flares ran out.

Tensing slightly, she picked out the vampires she would have to get through if she expected to have any hope of surviving the next few minutes. Grabbing another flare out of her pack, Lara lit it and started shooting and running towards her targets.

Things were going in her favor as she jumped over the two surprised vampires she'd crippled with her first shots, lying there howling and clutching the remains of their knees. She swung the flare in her other hand, connecting with another vampire as it made a grab for her, setting it on fire. She couldn't run for long but for now she had a good lead on the creatures chasing her. And some times that was all she needed.

Her lead was gone faster than she expected. Fifty meters down the passageway to the surface and they were already breathing down her neck. There was no time to think. She needed breathing room. Instinctively she headed down a side tunnel towards one of the traps she'd successfully navigated earlier in the day while exploring the caverns in search of the main chamber of the emperor's tomb. If she could draw her pursuers into a trap and further reduce their numbers it would improve her chances of surviving.

Without pausing, Lara launched herself across a break in the passageway floor. On the other side of the gap she stomped on the floor trigger and dove to her right, out of the way of the large stone balls that came rushing down the tunnel, crushing everything in their path. Grabbing a low hanging vine, Lara pulled herself up through a hole in the ceiling into the next tomb level, hopefully unobserved by her pursuers.

It wasn't fear that kept her moving as she reached the limits of her endurance. She was no longer breathing easily. Her legs ached and her throat was raw. Her few friends would have said she was too stubborn to give in. Her many enemies would say she was too mean. If asked she would have told all of them that they were wrong. From the moment she began her mad dash to the surface, Lara focused all of her attention on surviving, with no room left over for fear or doubt. She'd faced worse odds in her long career.

Reaching the end of the current tunnel, Lara cautiously inched her head out into a small chamber with two other exits. It was deceptively quiet. Just as she was about to move forward something slammed into her from behind, knocking her to the ground in an agonizing heap.

Hanging desperately onto her flare, Lara rolled to her feet with her back to the chamber. Standing in the small tunnel she'd just been propelled from was a small vampire in a ragged People's Army uniform. It smiled, baring its fangs, as several larger vampires joined it in blocking Lara's escape route. Surrounding her, they stood just out of reach of her now sputtering flare.

Reacting quickly, before it went out, Lara swung the flare at the closest vampire. Turning her forward motion into a spinning side kick, she knocked over the vampire next to the one that had dodged out of her way giving herself a little more room to maneuver in the center of the chamber.

Dropping the flare several feet in front of her position, Lara pulled her long knife from its sheath and lit another flare, her last. Growling, the closest of the five creatures in front of her stepped back. She didn't know how long she could hold them off but it was clear that running was not an option unless she could reduce their numbers.

In an unfamiliar dialect, the uniformed vampire, still standing back in the small tunnel facing Lara, encouraged the vampires surrounding her to attack.

Within seconds Lara became the center of a small maelstrom. Kicking and slashing at everything in range. Connecting occasionally. Ducking and weaving between her foes. Getting lucky. Pulling loose from grasping claws. Setting fire to several of them. Grimacing as the rest of the vampires joined the fight.

Concentrating on the feel of her knife as it sliced through the neck of a creature that came too close, she slipped into that mental place where she became the embodiment of her actions. No thought, just emotion guided by instinct. Training driving her to the edge of endurance. Attacking whichever creature was within range. Tasting blood when a fist connected with her face. Being thrown into the rock wall and fighting back with the ingrained fury of desperation.

The fight lasted both an eternity and less than five minutes. When it was over all that remained was dust hanging in the still air of the passageway, illuminated with a redish glow by her flares, still burning, the smell of lingering death, and the scowling, uniformed vampire.

She started as clapping echoed in the chamber. The exhausted tomb raider kept her eyes on the creature in front of her. She tensed when a small arrow sprouted from its chest and it turned to dust in obvious surprise.

"As amazing as that performance was, it would probably be a good idea to leave now." said a light voice behind her.

Lara turned towards the voice. Standing in the tunnel that led towards the surface was the unexpected sight of a small, young blonde woman dressed entirely in dark leather, flanked on both sides by two even younger, similarly dressed women.

Part II - Blondes and Apocalypses

Lara shook her head and closed her eyes. This was not a sight she expected to see deep in an out of the way tomb. A leather clad blonde and two women who would have looked at home in the Imperial City if they weren't also dressed in leather. They were still there when she reopened her eyes, their presence projecting into the chamber like a raw, perfume laden wind. She shook off the weariness in her shoulders and legs but stayed where she was.

"Who are you?" she asked. She'd met the blonde before, somewhere. But she couldn't quite recall where or even her name.

Ignoring her question, the blonde sighed and said something that Lara didn't catch to one of her companions who immediately started walking towards Lara with an almost hypnotic stride.

"We really don't have time for this." She paused and tilted her head as if listening to some distant conversation. "We'll have company in a minute. If you're injured or are too tired to walk Yumiko can help you."

The young woman now standing in front of her inclined her head slightly and smiled at her at the mention of her name.

"No. I can walk." Lara slipped her knife back into its sheath and picked up the flare she'd dropped during the fight.

"Good." And the blonde and the third woman, whom Lara now noticed was brandishing a small crossbow, slipped back into the tunnel, heading towards the surface. Lara followed, with the one called Yumiko bringing up the rear.

- - -

As she silently followed, Lara surreptitiously studied the two women quickly moving up the passageway in front of her and the third following behind her. She still couldn't place the blonde but there was something enticingly familiar about the way they all moved. In the few short minutes she'd been with them she could tell that even though all three of them looked like they should be dancing the night away in some nightclub, they were very dangerous women, moving like natural predators in the dim light.

Lara couldn't quite shake the feeling that she'd fallen in with something a lot more threatening than the vampires she'd fought earlier. If she had to she would fight them but she wasn't sure she could win.

Her thoughts came to a screeching halt when the blonde stopped suddenly.

"We have company." she said. The other two nodded and Lara glanced around not seeing anything.

"We'll do this in pairs." Pointing at Lara the blonde continued. "Xia, stay with her and keep an eye behind us. Yumiko and I will take care of whatever is in front of us. Any questions?"

Lara was grateful for the dim light. As exhausting as her running fight with the earlier vampires had been she wasn't thrilled with being assigned a babysitter and she was sure her face showed it.

"Weapons? I'm all out of flares and ammunition and my knife wasn't doing a whole lot of good against them earlier." she asked.

"We'll take care of the difficult ones. Just stick with Xia until we can get out."

Xia handed her a sharp piece of wood and smiled at her. "Stab them in the heart."

Lara examined the piece of wood. It was smooth and sharp and felt comfortable in her hand, like a well balanced knife.

Continuing down the passage, they came to a door with a faint red light coming out of it. From its appearance Lara assumed they'd arrived at the tomb's anteroom. If she was correct the exit was less than one hundred meters away. The blonde paused for a moment and became infinitely still. She held up a single finger and motioned to door.

Lara could sense a calmness radiating from her as she nodded to the others and entered the room stepping quickly to her left. There was a dull thump and a brief shower of dust in the dim light. The others slipped into the room behind her.

- - -

The anteroom wasn't very large. The room was bathed in a red glow from several torches along the left wall. Looking around, Lara quickly counted nine vampires facing them.

As soon as the vampires spotted the women the room erupted in violence. Almost too quickly for Lara to follow, the three women were engaging the vampires in battle. The vampires seemed to be focusing on the two women in front but they were clearly outmatched.

There wasn't much time to watch the others as Lara quickly found herself once more fighting for her life. There wasn't much room to maneuver as she ducked the punches from the vampire attacking her. She hadn't completely recovered from her earlier fight and knew she couldn't keep this up for long. The vampires she'd fought before must have been young or weak she thought. She couldn't seem to get past this one's defences and she knew it was only moments before it had her.

Lara put everything she had into one last desperate attempt to stop it. Following a flurry of punching and kicking she dropped down and rolled to one side as she kicked upward, knocking the vampire off of its feet. Before it could react she drove the stake into its heart.

Sitting back on her heels and shaking from the burst of adrenalin, Lara looked around in an attempt to assess the situation. The other women were just finishing subduing the remaining vampires. And just like that, when it looked like they had survived the onslaught two things happened.

The large creature blocking the tomb exit lumbered over to the blonde just as she drove her stake into a large vampire, swinging a very large axe at her head from behind with no visible warning. Somehow, in a fantastic maneuver Lara knew must have really hurt, the blonde was able to duck under the swing, dive between the creature's legs and kick up at it, knocking it over onto her.

As it fell, a dozen more vampires charged into the anteroom engaging Lara and the other two women before they had a chance to rescue her from the creature. The three women found themselves effectively surrounded, leaving the fourth to fight the large creature by herself.

Lara was too busy trying to stay alive to have much time to wonder about the fate of the blonde. If she had been alone it would have been long over. She was aware of the other two desperately fighting by her side, protecting her from the more aggressive vampires. Lara's entire world became a deadly dance where she was one of the minor players. So it was a complete shock to see her framed in the cloud of dust that had been the vampire Lara was fighting.

The remaining vampires seemed to suddenly lose any desire to stay and fight with the appearance of the blonde and faded back into the tunnels. Looking around, Lara saw the creature that had been fighting the blonde slumped, headless, in a far corner.

"That was enough exercise for now." The blonde shrugged her shoulders and stretched as she spoke. "Let's get out of here."

All four women scrambled through the rubble filled entrance out into the morning sun.

Part III - Dragon Hunt

The glare from the rising sun was blinding as Lara climbed out of the narrow tomb entrance. The smell of burning rubber and plastic hit her in the slight breeze. Looking towards the ridge where she'd parked her jeep, Lara could see dark smoke rising from a mass of charred metal.

Noticing the direction of her gaze, the now recognizable blonde gave her a sympathetic look and said "That's what brought us here. We were headed up the valley when we saw it burning and stopped to check it out. None of your things survived. Sorry."

Groaning in dismay, Lara pulled her cell phone out of a pocket to give Bryce a call, only to find it hadn't survived the trip into the tomb. She couldn't remember anything getting that close but it must have been destroyed by a glancing blow at some point in the long fighting.

"So... Miss Summers, do you have a phone I could borrow?" Lara asked her, making it clear she recognized the blonde.

"Buffy, please." she said after acknowledging Lara's request. "Lady Croft, just a second." She pressed several buttons on the phone before handing it to Lara. "That'll give you a secure line to our Tokyo office. Just enter your number and the switchboard will forward your call from there."

Lara raised an eyebrow at that and she shrugged before explaining.

"The Chinese government has this annoying habit of monitoring our calls when we're here. Not a big deal for us. It's to their benefit to not interfere with us but you probably don't want to draw their attention if you were doing what I think you were doing."

"Thanks." Lara looked at the unfamiliar phone for a moment, noting the only identifying mark on the nondescript device was a small embossed number and a familiar symbol that looked like an hourglass. She filed this information away for later consideration.

After telling Lara they would be leaving in a couple minutes, Buffy and the other two women moved further down the hill to give her some privacy for her call.

"Bryce? This is Lara. No, this isn't my phone. It and the rest of my equipment seem to have suffered from a major malfunction."

"Yes, everything except for my clothes back at the hotel. If you could let Hillary know that I'll need another vehicle sent over to my hotel? Yes, that also. I can pick everything else up at the usual place tomorrow." Suddenly it occurred to her where she'd seen that symbol on the phone before. "And could you tell Hillary that I seem to have run into several women from that research company from last spring? Yes. When I was in the States investigating that ghost. And one of them is the short blonde from Sunnydale. He'll know whom I mean."

Lara noticed her companions starting to get restless.

"It looks like I have to go now if I don't want to walk back to the hotel. Yes. It looks like we're finally getting enough information to start connecting the dots. I'll tell you both about it tonight."

- - -

Closing the phone, Lara followed the other women down the hill, catching up with them as they reached a dirt road and started to get into a rugged looking all terrain vehicle she didn't recognize.

"We can give you a ride if you don't mind waiting while we make several stops. You probably don't want to walk from here." Buffy commented as she climbed into the front passenger seat.

"Okay." Lara said, following the young woman, referred to earlier as Yumiko, into the back seat. She wasn't about to pass up an opportunity to learn more about these women.

Buffy turned and watched her expectantly from the front while the third young woman started the vehicle and headed them further up the valley.

Lara raised an eyebrow at this attention.

"Lady Croft, I'm sure you have questions for us." she smiled encouragingly at Lara.

"While we've met, I don't believe you've really introduced your companions." Lara asked in an attempt to confirm names she'd heard earlier when they were in the tomb.

"This is Xia." Buffy gestured at the woman driving. "And that's Yumiko in the back with you."

"Oh." Lara wasn't sure what to make of the lack of surnames for the other women. "Do you have a younger sister? Dawn?"

Buffy raised an eyebrow herself at the obviously unexpected question. "Yes."

"I believe I met her last spring." Lara frowned. "She was travelling with someone else from your organization. I believe her name was Faith. An unusual woman."

"Yes. Faith does work with us. One of our senior people." Buffy frowned. "That must have been right after she helped you with that ghost problem."

"Yes. She seems to be very enthusiastic about some things." Lara frowned as she thought about her own reaction to Faith. "She's very overwhelming when she's in the middle of something. You can't help letting her take charge."

Buffy grinned and leaned over and said something to Xia, too low for Lara to catch, causing her to giggle. "That's one way to describe the Faith experience. She has that kind of effect even on those of us who have known her for years."

"Do you all work together?" she asked curiously.

"I drop in occasionally. Xia grew up near here and works with Yumiko in our Tokyo office."

When she stopped, Lara noticed that Buffy hadn't said anything that really explained her own presence. "What brings you here?"

"Just the usual. Things were a bit slow in Tokyo this week and the local government requested help with a small problem so we thought we would check it out." She shrugged. "They can be a bit prickly but they're good people once you get past the whole 'my culture is older than your culture' thing some of them have going. And they normally only ask for our assistance when it is something they really can't handle."

- - -

An hour north of the tomb they'd rescued Lara from, Xia pulled onto a narrow, stone paved road. Barely a kilometer later the road terminated in front of a pair of large stone doors.

"This is our first stop." Buffy told Lara. "They'll tell us what we need to know for our next stop. If you don't mind waiting here? They are expecting only the three of us."

"Okay." Lara tried not to sound too disappointed as she watched the other women remove several weapons from the back.

They'd been gone almost an hour and Lara was starting to consider going in after them when the stone gate opened and the three women reappeared. Returning their weapons to the back they climbed back in without saying anything to Lara.

They'd been travelling for ten minutes before Buffy broke the silence.

"That was a bit disappointing." she said with an exasperated sigh. "A little better communication could have saved us a trip. Not that I'm not glad we helped you with your small vampire problem, Lady Croft, but it looks like there was no real reason for all three of us to be here. From the description, Xia could have handled things all by herself."

"I won't complain about your assistance," Lara said, "but I was wondering why you were here."

"Well... that..." She pointed back the way they'd come, "is a temple dedicated to the Yangtzee River spirit. Someone seems to have kidnapped their sacred mascott and they can't bless the dam for the coming year without it. Someone in Bejing misunderstood the request for help. They thought it was the end of the world and asked for our help in stopping it."

"You do that often? Stop the world from ending?"

"Only the mystical, apocalyptic kinds of world endings. We don't usually get involved in apocalyptic pet-nappings." Buffy rolled her eyes at Yumiko's giggle.

"What kind of pet?" Lara asked curiously.

"Some kind of large lizard. What did they call it?"

"Gong Fu" Xia answered.

Lara blinked in surprise. "They named a lizard after one of the nine Sons of the Dragon?"

"Yes. Xia thinks it might actually be a real dragon." Buffy grinned, seemingly amused at the thought. "This might take a while but you're welcome to come with us and find out if she's right. Or we can take you back to your hotel."

Lara didn't have to think very hard about this. If it really was a dragon it would be worth seeing. If it wasn't she would have longer to observe these young women. "I'll go with you."

"Great! You'll want to wear this. It's from the temple." She handed Lara a small bronze amulet on a silver chain. "The 'dragon' won't go with us, once we find it, unless we're all wearing one."

Lara examined it before putting it on but couldn't see anything special about it.

"Did they say how it works?"

"No. I'm assuming some kind of magic." She shrugged. "And magic types tend to get anxious if you question them about how they did something and things can go a bit wonky. So we didn't bother asking."

"How are we going to find this so-called dragon?"

"They gave Xia a charmed compass that is supposed to point right at it."

As they continued into the hills above the river, Lara hoped the vague feelings of impending disaster she was feeling were wrong.

Part IV - Headed Home

The road they'd been following since lunch came to an abrupt end in a stand of pine trees. The compass had directed them to it in a small village in the hills above the Yangtzee and while at times it had resembled a goat path more than a road they'd still managed to coax their vehicle up it.

"Lady Croft..." Buffy began as she started to climb out of the vehicle while Xia and Yumiko rummaged around in the back.


"Lara. You really don't have to come with us past this point. If this turns out to be dangerous you probably shouldn't get involved."

"I've come this far and I'm really curious about what you'll find." Lara shook her head. "I'm also quite capable of taking care of myself."

"Okay, but I would appreciate it if you stayed back until we've cleared anything we find. Our boss would be upset with us if we let you get killed, even if it was your own idea."

"Not a problem. If I get killed it won't be your fault. I can even call someone and tell them if you would like me to."

Buffy shook her head. "That won't be necessary."

"What do you have for weapons?" Lara continued. "I'm assuming you have something better than that stake I was given earlier. You probably don't have any ammunition that would fit my pistol?" she asked hopefully.

"Sorry, no. No guns or the things used in them. Our operating agreements with the Chinese government don't allow the kind of guns that would be useful against the kinds of things we normally face." Buffy answered in a matter of fact tone, as if reporting the weather. "We do have several kinds of crossbows, knives, and other sharp objects that we've found useful over the years."

- - -

The charmed compass had led them into the center of an ancient stone building. They'd found no sign of any recent occupants and paused for a few moments in the late afternoon sun that flooded the small courtyard they'd found themselves in.

While the compass continued to indicate that their target was still somewhere in the building, while exploring the rest of the single story structure it had soon become clear it was either well hidden or one of the empty rooms really wasn't.

"Lara?" a frustrated Buffy asked the renowned adventurer who had followed them around the structure out of curiosity but who hadn't interfered with their explorations.


"Any ideas would be welcome." she grimaced. "If what we are looking for is still here it obviously is going to require someone with your expertise to find it."

"Well, I don't think you'll find anything in the rooms themselves. Something like this can be a big puzzle. It's the whole building that is the clue to solving it. And if you don't approach it that way it won't make much sense." Lara told them.

"Okay, Oh Puzzle Mistress," Buffy deferred to her with a bow, "what does the whole thing tell you?"

Lara grinned at her. The humour occasionally exhibited by the blonde and her cohorts tended to match her own. "This was obviously built by an astrologer. You'll notice that each room has a painting that depicts a sign from the Chinese zodiac and that all but one faces this courtyard. Which happens to be the center of the building."

"And that one would be?"

"The dragon."

"Of course." she sighed. "So does that mean there's an entrance to some other room there?"

"Possibly. Or there is something else in that room that will tell us what we need to know."

"Shall we check it out?"

"It is also almost a guarantee that whatever we find will be a trap." Lara warned her. "So we'll need to be careful."

Buffy shrugged, "Traps we can deal with." She motioned the other two women to follow Lara. "Let's see what happens."

- - -

Lara hadn't been wrong about a possible trap. When she'd pressed a small depression they'd found in the wall facing the painting, directly opposite the dragon's eyes, the floor had collapsed underneath them, dumping them into a long stone chute that eventually dropped them, covered in dust, in the center of a large, torch lit chamber.

Quickly standing and gathering anything they'd dropped, they surveyed the room to find themselves surrounded by several vampires and other demons.

"Welcome to my humble abode, ladies. I wasn't expecting such illustrious guests." a harsh voice announced from one side of the chamber. "You're just in time for the final ceremony."

"I hate when that happens." Lara heard Buffy mutter. "I bet he's planning on ending the world."


"Yes, Xia?"

She pointed with the compass towards a small cage next to a small, blood encrusted altar, across the chamber from the large shrouded figure that had spoken to them. "Our dragon seems to be over there."

"Okay, why don't you help Lady Croft get it out of that cage and then find us a way out of here while Yumiko and I distract them." And with a sureness that spoke of greater planning than Lara was sure had occurred, Buffy and Yumiko charged towards the large creature. Lara simultaneously found herself being pulled towards the cage by Xia.

The fight didn't last very long. Xia was able to quickly eliminate the vampires and demon guarding the cage before Lara had a chance to open it.

As soon as the cage door was open a long flowing creature had poured out and wrapped itself sari-like around Lara. "Xia, it looks like you were correct." she said as she found herself looking into the eyes of a small Imperial Chinese dragon.

- - -

Lara found the rest of the dragon retrieval to be anticlimactic. Buffy and Yumiko seemed almost disappointed at the quickness with which they had dealt with the demon that had been holding the dragon captive. Lara only wondered briefly about that, the dragon seemed to occupy most of her thoughts.

Leaving the underground chamber carrying the dragon and the scraps of ancient documents they found scattered near the remains of the demon after the fight proved to be the most challenging part of the rescue.

The trip back to the temple with the dragon, while not stressful, provided its own amusements. Although the dragon clung to Lara during the trip, it spent the entire time staring at Buffy and ignoring the fascinated Xia and Yumiko.

The monks who'd met them at the temple gate were able to coax the dragon loose from Lara, leaving her shivering in the damp early evening air.

"I think that does it for this trip." Buffy announced as they all climbed back into their vehicle. "Lara, let's get you back to your hotel and then we need to head back to Tokyo."

- - -

Several days later, headed home in disappointment at a trip that following the dragon rescue had become suddenly bogged down in unavoidable red tape, Lara had plenty to think about. It had taken a long conversation with Hillary and Bryce the previous night for all of the information to sink in but she was starting to get some idea of who these women were and what they did. The why still seemed shrouded from her but she knew she would find that out eventually.

She wondered how often she'd just missed running into them in the past. This was the second time she'd encountered them when her path collided with creatures she'd once thought were mythical like demons, vampires, and now dragons. Sure, she'd fought the occasional minor deity or magic user in her long career as a tomb raider but this was different. They seemed to do it as if it weren't anything extraordinary.

And they weren't ordinary. She'd seen them fighting against creatures even she wouldn't willing face, expecting to win. Their fighting skills outmatched anything she'd seen before. The few glimpses she'd had of them while she was fighting had been amazing. She'd dealt with commandos and other hand-to-hand combat specialists with decades of experience who would have been hard put to match them.

But they couldn't be doing it alone. Somewhere in the background was some shadowy organization that kept them going. And she wasn't sure she approved. The secret organizations she'd had experience with usually didn't work for the best interest of others.

She shook her head at the image of a girl powered society of monster hunters. While close encounters with death did bring out her inner philosopher, she was probably reading too much into her brief encounters with these young women. The few she'd seen in action didn't seem to be the kind of people who would tolerate being manipulated for long.

Author's Notes:
AN-1: This is a short experiment in writing Lara Croft in several action scenes. This one came together very slowly. Action really isn't my thing. The fact that it works at all is due to action-writing advice I received over at alt.fan.lara-croft from several excellent 'Croftian Chroniclers'
AN-2: Takes place between Part 7 and the Epilogue to my story Girl in a Bar which can be found over at TtH.
AN-3: Although I don't have an official beta, 'thecynic1' kept me on my toes during the gestation of this fic on my blog. Thanks :-).
AN-4: Background on the Chinese Zodiac... I had to look this stuff up... so it might be wrong if my sources are incorrect. But lets pretend for now that it is correct.
- Buffy's Chinese Zodiac element = Metal, sign=monkey, yin = Ka'no-to Saru (She should have an affinity with dragons (or is that people with the dragon sign?) if I understand the stuff I read correctly.)
- Lara's = fire, goat, yin = Hino-to Hitsuji
AN-5:Dragon names - KungFu, Gong Fu, and Baxia seem to be the same Son of the Dragon (there are nine in Chinese myth)(This is the one who liked water)
AN-6: Feedback always welcome.