Rating: 15/R (for later smut!)
Pairing: Lara/Hillary
Summary and disclaimer: 8/4/04 I've spent some time putting into place some changes that my wonderful beta reader Evelyn has suggested-and I think it makes the whole thing a lot tighter and more refined. Thanks for taking on such a monster fic, Evelyn!

I don't own either of them or anything to do with Tomb Raider but I do covet Hillary's sleeves! Chesney Hawkes owns the lyrics to the wonderful "Seven of Sundays". Thanks for such a beautiful song!
Before both of the movies, twenty two year old Lara takes dancing lessons with our favourite butler. No plot, just fluff, and Hillary being a little emotional-possibly OOC? Let me know if I've overdone it and I'll rewrite-I aim to please! :)

"Bloody hell, Hilly, this is ridiculous!" Lara grumbled, her bare feet once again colliding with those of her butler. They had abandoned their shoes two hours ago, after it became perfectly obvious that Lara's high-heeled dance shoes were going to do more damage to Hillary's ankles and shins than a peckish Yorkshire terrier.

"Patience, my Lady," Hillary soothed, not for the first time. "It just takes a little practise to get these formal dances right." He readjusted his hand, delicately placed on Lara's waist, as she prepared to begin the waltz once more. It was known well to them both that Lara had very little patience with skills she could not master immediately-and so every ounce of Hillary's diplomatic skills had been called into play to encourage her to continue.

"I don't see why I have to learn all this rubbish," Lara complained again. "It's not as if the Ambassador will pay any attention to me anyway-there are going to be far more interesting people at the ball than me, and more people who are closer in line to the British throne!"

She looked down at her feet, wondering why the theoretical skills of dancing seemed to be lost in translation every time she tried to put them into practise. "I can ride horses, swing from any manner of chandeliers, do three kinds of martial art and tie a sheet bend in a thunderstorm-why the hell do I have to learn to waltz as well?" Clearly not amused by her own feet, she looked back up at her butler. Even in socks he was at least four inches taller than she, something she hadn't noticed until now, when he was so close to her. Although they frequently trained and sparred together, it wasn't often that she was so close to him physically, and she couldn't help noticing how broad he was in the shoulder, and how the five o'clock shadow on his jaw line made his face seem more rugged. Blushing slightly, she was glad that Hillary seemed momentarily oblivious to her scrutiny.

In fact, Hillary merely smiled wryly at her comments. "I hardly think a judo display in the middle of the Great Hall will impress the Ambassador," his eyes twinkled momentarily at her peeved expression. "Besides, waltzing is a skill you should have learned in childhood-I'm sure your father would have been ecstatic if tonight proves to be the night when you are swept off your feet by Prince Charming!"

Lara smiled sadly. "I know," she sighed. "Daddy was always telling me to get some dancing practise in when I was a child-I was always more interested in climbing trees and helping out with the horses!" Her smile broadened a little. "He's probably having a real laugh now, wherever he is, if he's watching me."

Sir Richard Croft had been missing for over a decade, and Lara still felt his absence keenly. At the age of twenty-two, when she was starting to consider her future, and the prospect of a career, and posisbly marriage and children had beckoned somewhere on the horizon, she needed her parents' guidance more than ever. The ambassador's ball was just one in a series of many formal occasions where she'd had to acquire or relearn a particular skill or custom, and instead of being partnered by her father in the practise, she was being coached by her long-time butler, and close friend, James Hillary.

Hillary, or Hilly as Lara liked to call him, was the most constant person in her life. Much as she had loved her father, he was, more often than not, engaged in some business venture or global adventure, which might take him away from home for months at a time. The time she spent with her father had been precious in its rarity. Hillary, on the other hand, had always been at home, with a bandage and a cross word when she had hurt herself, or a cup of herbal tea and a willing ear when someone had hurt her.

She had often tried to categorise her relationship with Hillary, to put it into some convenient pigeonhole, but their connection defied conventional explanation. Her love for her father meant that she never quite saw Hillary as a replacement father figure; he was too old to be her older brother, and too…Hillary to be an object of desire (although she would admit, but only to herself, that the sight of his near naked body as he was dressing one morning, many years ago, did fuel her fantasies for a little while. She was fourteen, he was twenty-six and she'd tizzily burst in on him in because she couldn't find her favourite black jodhpurs for an early morning ride. He had been dressing for work and, undeterred by her sudden entrance, had thrown on his dressing gown and dug the jodhpurs out from the clean washing pile. She had to admit, then, that a man who could find her clean clothes within ten seconds and be able to disguise such a hard, long limbed body under his uniform, was worth having a private fantasy or two about). So Hillary was an enigma to Lara. He was just there.

"Bugger it!" Lara huffed as she stepped, yet again on Hillary's foot. "This is bloody ridiculous. We need to stop this. Now." As if on cue, the classical CD that had been chosen by Lara's previous dance teacher (who'd lasted all of fifteen minutes before he, but thankfully not the CD, had been thrown out of Croft Manor), flipped over and the gentle strains of one of Lara's current favourite songs floated through the room.

"It's alright, gotta tell myself it's alright/Everything that I envy; I have become…" As the singer's gentle, mellow tone floated through the drawing room, Lara paused for a moment. Then, feeling somewhat soothed by the change in music, she readjusted her hand on Hillary's shoulder. "You see," she said quietly, "if the Ambassador was playing something like this at the party, this whole dancing thing wouldn't be an issue."

"Be that as it may, Lady Croft, I really think that…"

"Sssh for a moment, Hilly," Lara coaxed, drawing closer to her butler. "We need a rest." Just as she had when she was a young girl, she snuggled closer to Hillary, her arms wrapping protectively around his waist. "I remember when you used to stand in for Daddy during those enforced dance practises when I was a child." She paused, and looked up at Hillary. "You were about a foot and a half taller than me and you had so much patience." She smiled up at her butler, but Hillary didn't smile back.

"Lady Croft," Hillary replied, his voice careful, measured. "This is most improper. My remit was only to refresh your memory about dance steps. I have work to attend to." He pulled away from her, disentangling himself from her long, graceful arms.

"What's the matter, Hilly?" Lara said, embarrassed and concerned. "Have I done some thing to offend you?" She tried to reach for his arm, but he pulled away. Lara turned hurt eyes towards her butler and friend. "Please, tell me what's wrong."

Hillary looked uncomfortable for a moment; it was a look that Lara caught flickering across his face before he disguised his emotions with the amiable mask he always wore. "Nothing wrong, my Lady," he said quickly. "I'll be attending to the preparations for dinner if you need me." He turned on his heel and strode hurriedly from the room.

Chapter 2 Return to Fayza's fanfic page.