Disclaimer: I own none of the characters or anything else associated with Tomb Raider. No copyright infringement intended. No profit being made. Don't sue - I am a poor, lowly student.
I yelled as I flung open the main doors to Croft Manor and strode confidently in to the entrance hall, Kurtis hobbling in behind me on crutches. Bryce bounded into view at the top of the lower staircase from the walkway above our heads, a look of happiness on his face that was quickly replaced with wariness. I smiled warmly.
A look of confusion now flitted across Bryce's features and he took a step forward.
His look was questioning yet hopeful. He was, of course, referring to the fact that after I had arrived home from Egypt, grimy, clad in my old tomb raiding clothes full of holes and tears, still healing physically yet not even begun mentally, I was, to put it bluntly, a bitch. I had spent a few weeks regaining my strength with a nomadic tribe who had taken me in before facing the inevitable and returning home, bartering passage and stowing away on various trade vessels to find my way back home to England, my old conveniences such as money and credit cards all whisked away by Bryce and Hillary in the practical affairs of dealing with a death.
I could see the memories of the last time I'd appeared in the doorway push to the forefront of Bryce's mind.
The rain hammered on the skylights of the mansion as Bryce sat curled up in a chair wallowing in misery and grief over Lara's death. Needing to be nearer to her somehow, he had finally moved into one of the 87 rooms of the mansion from his small battered trailer in the grounds, taking the bedroom down the hall from Lara's. A weary knocking interrupted his thoughts and he raised his head slowly, a symptom of his reduced reaction to anything in the outside environment since Werner had brought the news that had left a permanent crushing numbness over him. The knocking took up again, and he tiredly started towards the door, noticing Hillary also approaching from the lounge, but making no acknowledgement. Reaching it first, he opened it, and then staggered back at the sight that greeted him. Standing in the doorway, dripping blood and raindrops, dressed in her tomb raiding clothes that were now marred by rips and dirt, was Lara. He breathed her name almost in unison with Hillary, and then lunged forward to take her in a hug, to feel her and make sure she was still alive, to make sure she could never be put in danger again. Her hand connected solidly with his chest and he staggered again, falling against the door. Now out of her way, Lara stalked in past him, causing Hillary to step back and stare after her in shock as she thumped up the stairs to her room. No word, no smile, nothing but barked orders and fiery glares for the next 5 months as Hillary and Bryce witnessed Lara retreating further and further into her own world, pushing away all outside contact. The loss of her soul had been even more painful than the loss of her life, and when the two employees awoke one morning to an atmosphere free of the usual oppression it had gained since Lara's return, and confirmed their suspicions with evidence of her departure from the house, they had only begun to hope that she would return, and when she did, she would be healed, the old Lara, full of life and passion and a love for adventure.
I remembered the way I had treated them, and cringed, knowing that Bryce fully deserved an apology, as did Hillary, but, understanding that such things did not come easily to me, they would probably not even want one. I felt even guiltier at that thought, and stepped forward towards Bryce, holding out my arms in greeting. Bryce flew down the remaining stairs and grabbed me, lifting me and swinging me round with a look of pure joy in his eyes before setting me down and hugging me so tightly I could barely breathe. I returned the sentiment wholeheartedly, crushing my loyal friend to me and revelling in the return of friendship.
"I missed you," I whispered, referring to more than just my time away dealing with the Cabal.
"I missed you, too," he returned, "We were so worried."
We pulled apart and I smiled weakly, my hands still on his shoulders whilst his rested on my waist.
"I'm sorry," I said, as clearly and loudly as I could, keeping eye contact as I did so. It wasn't an easy thing for me to do, but Bryce deserved it.
"It's ok," he breathed, pulling me into another hug, looser this time. Swaying me slightly and patting my back, I lost myself in his comfort, closing my eyes and resting my head on his shoulder.
This time it was he who pulled back, though only enough to look at me. He pushed a stray strand of hair behind my ear before landing a quick kiss on my forehead.
"Hillary's gone to see his mum, she's not too well. I'll phone him, let him know you're ok. That is," he continued, "after..." His voice trailed off and his eyes rested on Kurtis, standing to one side waiting patiently for the reunion to be over. I hadn't even realised that Bryce had noticed him, and I leapt to the formalities.
"Oh, Bryce, this is Kurtis Trent. Kurtis, this is Bryce. I met Kurtis in Paris, he was caught up in the same business as I. We worked together."
The two men shook hands, and I motioned to the main lounge, giving Bryce a questioning look as I did, silently asking him to attend to Kurtis as I started off towards the phone to ring Hillary. Bryce obliged, and I took a breath, steeling myself for what I hoped would be as easy an apology as Bryce's had been.