Disclaimer: I do not own any characters in this story save for Mira. I do own the story though.
Author's Note: I wrote this for a TR fic writing competition- Village of Tokakeriby 7- where it was published under the screen name I use here. It was, originally, going to be a Kurtis/Lara fic, but I quickly found myself writing Alex/Lara and I just threw in the towel and wrote what my heart wanted. I've got a Kurtis/Lara oneshot I'm working on, just so you know, with ideas for a Terry/Lara and Larson/Lara percolating.
For those of you wondering: No, I didn't win, but I loved being a part of it. ^_^
On a dark and stormy night, as many stories start, Lara Croft slept soundly. Having spent many years sleeping in rainy jungles, boats out at sea, and even cargo airplanes in midair, Lara had become accustomed to noisy sleeping environments.
It was the faint, familiar roar of a certain car's engine, though, that awoke her from a fitful sleep.
Lara sat up with a sharp breath, a Browning 9mm pistol clutched firmly in her right hand. Even though she had just awoken, her mind was as sharp as ever. Though one could not tell, she was relieved to be free from a dream showing her just how she might lose the love of her life one day.
Dreams like those had been haunting her for her entire life, so under most circumstances she would ignore them and go on, but… Lara had changed.
Her life had changed.
She held her breath for a moment, thinking about what could have possibly awoken her, only to come to the annoyed conclusion that it had to be an unexpected guest. She had always had a sixth sense for them.
Or, rather, him.
Love is stupid that way, she thought. I wish I knew why the hell it's like that, but I am not in the mood to go searching for those answers.
Like clockwork, a gentle knock sounded on her bedroom door.
"Come in, Hillary." Lara said, kicking back the sheet and quilt she had been under, her eyes scanning the floor for the slippers she had kicked off before climbing into bed.
The door opened and her trusted butler and friend stuck his head in just far enough to be able to see her. "You have a visitor. They are most definitely armed, but not of the hostile kind." He informed her.
"Of course they are," Lara said as she pulled a silk robe on over her pajama set. "I take it they are still in the garage?" She asked, much to Hillary's surprise.
"Why, yes, but how did you know that?" Hillary asked her, shirking back out into the hallway when Lara checked that her Browning's safety was truly on before carrying it into her closet.
"Those ridiculous cars he chooses to drive; they're so loud, they wake the dead." She said with a smug lilt to her voice as she locked the Browning away in the safe hidden in the wall behind several dusty evening gowns.
Hillary moved even further away as Lara left her room, running a hand through her hair in order to detangle it as best she could on such short notice.
She was barely five steps out of her room, though, when she stopped.
Hillary reached into the pocket of his flannel robe and wrapped his fingers around the item he knew she needed as she turned to look at him.
He removed his hand from his pocket and held it out to her, a simple hair clip lying in his palm.
She smiled at him. "Thank you, Hillary." She said as she accepted the clip.
Hillary smiled. "Should I make some tea?" He asked Lara as she pinned her hair back with the brown clip.
Lara paused for a moment, gnawing on her bottom lip in thought. "No," she finally said, their eyes meeting. "Our visitor won't be staying long enough to enjoy it."
Hillary's mouth was moving, but no words were coming from it as Lara strode away, an amused grin flitting across her lips.
"How do you know that?" He finally called, feeling a little stupid for having to ask the question when it was probably as clear as day to Lara.
"He's driving the Jeep, not his beloved Cadillac SUV." Lara called over her shoulder nonchalantly.
Hillary had to think about her words for several moments before his tired mind finally caught up with her line of thought.
"Oh. Oh!" He hurried after her, tightening the belt of his robe. "Of all the outrageous times," he muttered. "That man better be grateful that she still loves him, or else I would send SIMON after him."
Lara found her guest in the garage, parked between her Aston Martin and Jaguar, struggling to remove a suitcase from under several of his bags in the back of his Jeep.
She took one look at the sleeping figure in the backseat of the Jeep, their disheveled curly blonde hair almost glowing in the fluorescent light of the garage, and nearly threw a nearby screwdriver at her guest.
"Damn you, Alexander West!" Lara hissed, stalking forward to clutch one of his muscular biceps, her short nails digging into his flannel shirt. "It's 3 o'clock in the morning. Tell me you didn't drive all night to get here."
Alex looked first at her hand, then at her face. His lazy, easy-grin was nowhere in sight. Instead, he had the grin of a tired man who just wanted to collapse.
"Oh, Alex." Lara sighed, her anger subsiding. He worried her some days. "What's the job this time?" She asked, letting go of his arm and crossing hers instead.
The American man studied her for a moment, one hand still on the handle of the suitcase he was struggling to free. Then, with one final tug, he pulled the tiny, pink suitcase free and handed it to Lara.
"A tomb was unearthed in Albania. It doesn't look like anything anyone's discovered before in that area. And," Lara rolled her eyes as she accepted the suitcase, "my employer is paying me up front. Cash. A lot of it too."
Lara shook her head, her lips pulled taut in an annoyed grimace. "And here I was worried that you had angered someone yet again and had decided to hide out here for a few days with Mira and I."
Alex looked at the blonde darling asleep in the Jeep and shook his head. "No," he met Lara's eyes once more. "I changed my ways, Lara, the day Mira was born. I no longer take the same risks I took when I was a bachelor." He said as he pulled Mira's backpack out from under his things.
"Right," Lara said, handing Mira's suitcase and backpack off to Hillary, who barely held onto them. The butler needed desperately to head back to bed for a few more hours. "So you're just now Mr. Responsible, a contender for Dad of the Year." She said sarcastically while Alex opened one of the Jeep's doors.
In perfect harmony with her ex-husband's actions, Lara leaned into the Jeep, unbuckled Mira from her car seat, and lifted her out of the Jeep, cradling her daughter's head against her shoulder like she had done a thousand times before.
Lara turned around and Alex had to fight down the urge to hold her in his arms.
Mira Elizabeth West looked like an angel sleeping against her mother's shoulder. The toddler was the perfect mix of Lara and Alex, with Alex's hair color and her mother's pout. She had, of course, also inherited her grandmother Croft's dark gray eyes and her grandfather West's "cute" nose, so Lara and Alex were never without the reminder that Mira came from a long line of warriors.
Though, her gentle nature, love of animals, and constant smile could overwrite that reminder in a heartbeat and added to her cuteness factor.
Alex in that moment made a silent promise to Lara and Mira that this was the last job; when it was over he would return to England.
He would be returning to the only two people who mattered to him.
Of course, that promise was identical to the 457 others he had made since the divorce.
For both he, and Lara, there would never be, "one last job". It was their life, not a job, and they could never stop.
They loved it too much to do so.
Hillary watched the former couple squabble quietly as they climbed the staircase, Mira's tiny bags in Alex's arms while the girl herself was safely in Lara's.
Lara's trusted butler shook his head as he tugged on his robe's belt, a nervous habit. He had been there for nearly all of the critical moments in their relationship. From the first meeting and first kiss, to Lara's proposal to Alex and Mira's birth, and everything in between.
Including the fight that set their divorce in motion.
Neither of the adults could handle the fact that the other one was always going to be in danger, yet neither of them would give up their risky lifestyles.
Still, they both wanted Mira to have two parents who loved her and were there for every moment in her life.
They finally came to an agreement after the fights drove their marriage into the ground, an agreement suggested by Bryce: Whoever had Mira at the moment had to stop everything and take care of the precious child, no complaints.
Amazingly enough, the former couple thought it was a grand idea and ran with it.
Ever since then, that was their life.
Hillary sighed at the memories and turned away from them, deciding that a warm glass of milk would solve all of his problems for the night.
Too bad it can't solve all problems in the world. Hillary thought wryly.
Alex left not too long later, and Lara watched over Mira for a time before retreating to bed.
She didn't sleep, though. Instead, she pondered her and Alex's complex relationship.
Their love was a complicated one, but no one ever said that complicated love wasn't worth the effort.
When you had loved someone once as much as she had loved him, you could never take the part of your heart you had given them back.
That was what Lara and Alex had: A complicated love that kept them together.
Between little Mira, the light of both of their lives, and the intricate history they shared, it was a wonder that they hadn't been able to make their brief marriage work.
As many divorced couples who still love each other, though, would tell you: "Love takes many forms. You can start with one, and end with another."
Even though it wasn't what they had planned on having, it was what they did have, and that was enough for them.
Lara smiled and rolled onto her side, looking at the windows of her bedroom as the first rays of the dawn after a stormy night shown through.
It's enough for us. She thought warmly. And I will cherish it forever.
So, comments would be nice, but they aren't necessary. Flamers will have to direct all nasty comments at my secretary, the proto. He/They/She/? will be hard to locate, and might be wearing a hideous wig when found. I suggest offering them butterscotch candy since it calms them down.