Lara Croft in the Saunabyjusttheone©
>> The following tale was inspired by the art of DeTomasso ... This is a tribute.
>> Revised 12-13 ... No major changes, just fixed some errors I'd missed, & added a few touches.
Javier was not fond of surprises. In his line of work, surprises didn't happen unless he made a mistake in his preparations, which wasn't something he allowed himself to do—or someone betrayed him. At the same time, he would not have survived as a killer-for-hire as many years as he had, if he were the kind of individual that let a shock or an upset unman him.
He knew how to roll with shit. He knew how to take a hit. The most important aspect of it was knowing when to hit back, and when it was better you didn't. Knowing when the smarter choice was to retreat and regroup, instead, pride be damned.
But this time, his instincts let him down. He didn't know what to do. He just stood there, frozen. Staring.
He wasn't frightened. Only baffled—but completely baffled. He couldn't process what he was seeing—what it meant.
No doubt that was the entire point.
He was at his club in London. Bodkin's, it was called, although it wasn't the sort of place that put a nameplate by the door. Too private for that, too exclusive—as private and select as they come. Because it was a club for men like him, founded by men like him. Assassins. The best in the world. There were only four other members, at present. They did not much interact. Bodkin's operated quite a bit like the Diogenes, in the Sherlock Holmes stories—all the members ignored each other. At this hour, he had the whole house to himself, besides the staff. But the help would stay out of sight, unless he summoned someone directly.
He had gone up to the pool on the roof. Swimming hundreds of laps was the core of his daily conditioning. But before the swim, he intended to sit in the sauna a good long while, for a good long sweat. He liked to meditate in there, in that fashion, after the completion of a job. He would carefully work through the experience in his mind, from start to finish. Mostly he did this for no other reason than pleasure. Javier was a man who enjoyed his work.
But on that particular night, he knew reliving his last job would afford him little satisfaction. It had not been a failure. He had accomplished what he was paid to do. But only by the proverbial skin of his teeth. He would meditate on every detail, same as always—but in this case, doing that would be an act of self-inflicted punishment.
Then he went into the sauna, and somehow, unbelievably, Lara goddamn fucking Croft was sitting in there on the bench in the corner, waiting on him. Smiling.
And stranger still—she didn't have any clothes on. No bathing suit, no nothing. Not a goddamn stitch. She didn't even have a towel. The crazy bitch was sitting there bare-arsed on the slatted wood.
"Good evening, Javier," she said, in that sultry, teasing voice of hers, with its absurd aristocratic accent. "I do hope you don't mind me dropping in on you like this. We need to have a conversation. Wouldn't you agree?"
Earlier this very same day, on the other side of the ocean in Buenos Aires, he had done his best to kill this woman. He had thought he had succeeded, when her bike went off that bridge and exploded ... Clearly he had been incorrect. Somehow she had fooled him.
Lara Croft actually had not been his target. He was hired to take out another fellow, when the man met with her to give her some valuable information. Javier didn't know what exactly that information had been—that was irrelevant to his task. He would have preferred to intercept his target before the guy's meeting with Lara, but Javier's employer insisted he wait and make the kill it in front of her, instead. They wanted to make a dramatic gesture. It had nearly cost Javier his life. Lara had eyeballed him, when he took his shot, or else someone had tipped her off where he was positioned. She then chased him across the entire city. He only got away from her in the end by leading her across a bridge that was still under construction. He got across the thing all right, but weakened it in the process—so it had collapsed beneath her and her motorcycle, while she was still in the middle of it.
How the fuck had she lived through that? Or was this actually her fucking ghost, visiting him?
She didn't look like a ghost. She looked very alive and earthy, indeed. The picture of health.
And she'd made herself comfortable. Sitting wasn't the right word for what she was doing—she was lounging. Almost sprawled. She wasn't just undressed—she was deliberately displaying everything she'd uncovered. She had her arms draped up behind her, on the ledges that ran there along the wall at shoulder level. The tops of the bench backrests. And since she'd planted herself in the far corner, she'd kicked up one of her legs, to that other bench on her right. Not stretched out flat but bent up at the knee. Her left leg she kept extended straight in front of her, to the tile floor.
It was a mildly obscene way to sit. She wasn't exactly spreading her cunt wide at him like a magazine centerfold. But it was by no means a modest pose, either. It drew the gaze down there ... And she'd done a similar trick with her hair, that distinctive, signature single braid of hers. She had pulled it around over her right shoulder, to dangle the long, thick dark rope straight down her front, right dead center between her breasts all the way down to her belly-button. Jesus. It was like an arrow, pointing your eyes exactly where to go—where to start and where to finish. Not that her torso or her tummy or any other part of her required any such signifier or highlight. This woman's breasts and so on, they captivated any man's attention just dandy, all by themselves. Those TaTa's were nuclear weapons. And everything else she had to go with them was every bit as reactive.
Her skin was shiny, glistening with thick perspiration. Her bangs had flattened to her forehead, from the moisture soaked in them. He wondered how long she'd been waiting in here. She had the heat cranked up very high—much hotter than he ever set it himself. Felt like you could bake bread in the room. He'd only stepped inside two seconds ago, and already he felt sweat dribbling off the tip of his nose, and starting to run into the corners of his eyes and his mouth, stinging a little in his eyes and salty on his lips.
Everybody knows Lara Croft is the most gorgeous woman in the world, and the sexiest. Her body was so perfect it was sublime, in the fullest, original sense of the world. Meaning it gave you as much a feeling of terror as of wonder. She was so attractive it was unjust—you couldn't help but almost resent it. No human being should be that flawless. It made you hate yourself. She seemed to have no blemishes of any kind. Glancing down at her left foot on the floor right in front of him, he saw that even every one of her goddamn toes was perfectly proportioned, and every single toenail ideally shaped. In contrast, his own splayed feet, with their coarse hair and bulging veins and yellow calluses, made him feel like a deformed ape. It was like she'd been genetically engineered. Or she was a fantasy character from some cartoon or fucking computer game.
She didn't paint her nails, he noticed. Neither her fingers nor her toes. She didn't seem to wear any makeup at all—perhaps a little eyeliner, perhaps not. She didn't need it. But all women look better without any of that bullshit, if only they'd realize it. That was his opinion, anyhow. The natural look was best. Natural colors.
And of course she was only doing this nonsense to mess with his head. The bitch wasn't flirting with him. Her nakedness was a gesture of contempt. To mock him and throw him off balance. And it was working! It was doing exactly what she planned. She was taunting him. Showing him she didn't fear him, despite the fact he'd nearly got her killed. He was a professional assassin, a stone cold killer for hire, and she was just lounging in front of him like a cat in a sunbeam. Grinning at him like this was the greatest joke in the world.
He wanted to strangle her. He was going to grab her by the throat and choke the living shit right out of that smug fucking face.
But that wasn't all he wanted to do. That wasn't the first thing. Before he did that, he would want to do a few other things to her.
There was a stirring in his groin. Well, of course there was. But he didn't get an erection. Or not much of one. He just felt his nuts jump and clench, inside his sac. They kept doing it. Churning themselves up, in there.
Javier himself was also nude. He didn't like to wear his trunks in the sauna—the heat made them chafe, after a few minutes. He had a towel, but it wasn't wrapped around him. He was carrying it in one hand. It was a rather small towel. He was only going to use it to sit on. A sauna's slatted benches are never very comfortable, obviously, and he also didn't like how they printed lines across his buttocks. And sitting on hard surfaces for any significant length of time often had an irritating tendency to give him painful pimples back there.
Some men perhaps would not have been fazed by this situation. They might have only smiled at the woman, or made a joke. Javier wished he was such a man. He did his best to live his life as a stone cold bastard. Unflappable, was the word. That was essential to his profession. But in fact he felt more than a little mortified. This was too sudden and too bizarre. Like he was dreaming or drugged. He was physically flooded and overwhelmed from head to toe with sensations of childish stage fright—hot flashes and chill shivers. He told himself it was ridiculous for a man like himself to be affected this way. He was not a weak man. He was not fat or ugly, either, though he had a crooked broken nose and his cheeks were pockmarked. He was tall and muscular, and he knew women found him desirable and compelling. They told him the scarring on his face, and his damaged nose, made him interesting—gave him character. Having the beautiful Lara Croft see him naked like this, especially when she herself was naked, was no reason for a man like himself to feel so shaken, so vulnerable and, above all, frankly embarrassed. But he couldn't help it. He did feel all of those things. And a terrible sense of unfairness and violation. This was his club, and his hideout—this place was supposed to be secret and safe. That was the whole point of it. That was why he came here, after every job. To know he could relax, because here he was hidden and safe. And now this dreadful, surreal, unbearably perfect super-woman had ruined that. She'd somehow just waltzed right in and made herself at home—mocking him. It should not have been possible. His whole world was teetering! It made him queasy ... Now he felt like he might have to be sick.
This was not acceptable. He could not allow the bitch to unman him like this. He had to turn this around, pronto. Get his head together and deal with this bullshit, like the stone cold killer he was supposed to be.
Lara chuckled at him. "Are you only going to stand there, Javier? Cat got your tongue?"
"How the fuck did you get in here? How the fuck do you know my name?"
"Is it truly such a surprise? This is the world we live in. Everything's connected. Don't you recall losing your helmet, during that amusing little motorcycle chase of ours today? A couple of traffic cameras caught your face, after that happened. Not great images, but it was enough to work with. I have a tech man with a particular knack for such things. And you're a fellow with something of a reputation, after all."
"You shouldn't have been able to find this place. Not so quickly. And in any case, you should never have been able to get inside. Not undetected."
She shrugged. "I can't take all the credit there. Friends of friends made the arrangements for me. I'm not at liberty to name any names, you understand—but here's a hint. One of your club members doesn't like you very much. Hasn't forgiven you for some incident with a girl."
"What girl? There have been many girls."
"I wouldn't doubt you. But I didn't press the chap for further details. You'll have to sort that business out between you, in your own time."
"Explain to me what you think you're playing at. It was unwise of you to do this thing, Lara Croft. Especially in the ... fashion you have chosen to present yourself."
"Oh, I just did it this way for a lark. You know how it was. Sometimes a funny whim takes hold of you. The initial look on you face was priceless. Besides, I didn't want to appear too threatening, right off the bat. You don't think I look too threatening, do you? Like I said at the start, all I'm interested in at the moment is a brief conversation. Nothing for you to fret over. Provided you're cooperative."
"You are reckless, Lara Croft. Reckless and indulgent. It will get you killed."
"Not tonight, I assure you."
She had a gun. He hadn't seen it before, because she had kept the thing resting beside her down out of view on the bench behind her upraised thigh. But now, in a flash, she snatched it up to show it to him, pointing it straight at his heart. Only her arm moved, though. The rest of her maintained the languid, carefree pose.
So she had come to kill him, after all. Fair enough. Too much distance between them. No chance getting it off of her.
"Do it then and to hell with you," he said.
"No, no. You mistake me, my dear boy. This weapon is only precautionary. If I wanted to kill you, I'd already have done so, soon as you walked in. I'm not one for stretching out that sort of thing. Look, sit down and listen to me, all right? No, not there. Sit there."
She motioned with the gun to the bench on her right. After he sat (first folding his little towel into a pad, for his bottom) he was amused to see her make use of her uptilted knee as a rest for her gun hand, propping her wrist there to keep the weapon aimed at him. That was why she'd steered him to the bench on this side. Lazy of her.
"I know today was nothing personal," Lara went on, "You were only doing your job. Your career is distasteful, but who am I to judge? I want revenge for the lad you killed, of course, as well as for the trip his death spoiled, since now I don't have the coordinates he was going to provide me. But shooting you in here won't give me that revenge, Javier. You're only a cat's-paw. I need to know who my real enemy is, this time. Give me the name of your employer, and we can part company as friends. Well, perhaps not on as good terms as that. But I give you my word, we'll call matters square and I shan't trouble you further, over this matter. What do you say to that?"
"I am not at liberty to divulge the name of my employer. It is a code."
"No, a matter of honor, I mean. My code. If that means you must shoot me, then so be it."
"Oh, come now. Are you serious? Just give up the damn name."
"If I did that, no one else will hire me ever again."
"Bullshit. No one else will know."
"You can't guarantee that. And as I said, it is a matter of honor, in any case. A contract is a contract. I would rather die than break my word, like a coward."
"What if I don't shoot you dead, though? What if instead I put a bullet through your kneecap? A noble death is all very well. But what if instead you've got to keep on living as a cripple?"
"You are evil," he answered.
She flinched when he said that, as if she'd been slapped. And afterward, she started chewing her bottom lip. She couldn't go through with it, could she? She could talk tough, but talk is just talk.
She thought of herself as a heroine. Fighting the good fights. That meant there were lines she couldn't let herself cross.
But he was stupid when he made this realization, allowing his relief to show on his face. It infuriated her.
"You think you've taken my measure, have you? Don't be so sure. I'm capable of worse than you could imagine, when my blood's up. I will shoot you, if you make me."
It was probably foolish to push back at her, but he would not allow this naked woman to browbeat him. She'd wounded his dignity too much already. A man can only stand so much and still remain a man. "There is no other way," he insisted, "and even if you make me a cripple, I'll tell you nothing. This I swear! You can fuck yourself!"
"I honestly don't understand why you're being such a cunt about this. Whoever you're protecting isn't worth it. Are you trying to get me to offer you money? Am I supposed to outbid the other fucker? How much did they pay you? Well, it doesn't matter. You can forget it. You won't get a penny off me, Javier. So put that thought out of your head."
"Jesus. You are astonishing."
"What? Why are you looking at me like that? What that fuck is that look supposed to mean?"
"It means that while you evidently have no sense of honor or of shame, Miss Croft, I happen to be a man that does."
"You arrogant turd! You—a murderer for hire—dare to sneer down your nose at me?"
"You call me arrogant? You brazen hussy! You better use that gun right now, because otherwise I promise I'm going to take it away from you. And after I do, I won't shoot you. Oh no. Instead I'm going to put you across my knee!"
"Only in your wildest dreams!"
"I'll teach that arrogant arse of yours some humility."
"Try it and see what happens. Forget your knee—I'll shoot your bollocks off."
And as she said that, she adjusted her aim—swinging the gun off her knee to point it down at his crotch, instead of straight at his face, like it had been before. But then, when she glanced at what she was now aiming at, she burst out laughing.
"Look at that! Isn't that something? Oh my! Oh dear! Gosh!"
She was practically in hysterics. At first he couldn't understand it.
Then he looked down at himself, and saw his cock sticking straight up at his face, like it was straining to reach his chin. The head of the thing seemed to be glaring at him like an angry accusing red eye.
He hadn't even realized. Hadn't felt it happen. Too busy screaming at Lara.
"Got yourself excited, huh?" she teased, "From imagining spanking my fine derriere, no doubt. Well, it's understandable. Too bad you'll never get to experience that in reality. To be honest, on occasion that sort of thing has a profound effect on me. Bet you feel lightheaded, all the sudden."
He tried to shield it, with his hands. But it was too swollen. He couldn't cover it properly.
"Keep your hands off it," she said, "Are you gonna start playing with yourself in front of me? Jesus. Control yourself, man."
More than anything on Earth, he wanted to take her head in both his hands and smash her face down on to himself. Stuff his cock into the bitch's mouth to shut her up. It wouldn't matter if she tried to bite him—he was so hard, it wouldn't make a difference. She wouldn't be able to hurt him. He'd choke her on the thing until she passed out. If only he could get his hands on her. If only he could move fast enough to knock the fucking gun away from her. Then there'd be a reckoning, oh yes.
But he knew if he tried it, he'd die. She was too far away. He wouldn't be able to move fast enough. Soon as he lunged, she'd blast him. All she had to do was squeeze one finger, after all.
There was nothing he could do. She had him at her mercy. And now he was sitting here with the biggest boner of his entire life, while she held him at gunpoint. It was disgraceful and pathetic. He'd never felt so humiliated. No woman should be able to do this to a man. But Lara could. Lara was.
Jesus. Oh Jesus.
Suddenly Lara moved her leg—the one up on the bench with him. She straightened it out, extending it toward him. He flinched away from her but she barked at him to keep still and keep his hands out of her way. Then she stretched her foot into his lap, pointing her toes, and prodded gently at the side of his erection.