Bryce had expected it to be a laugh, but so far, being Lara's technical consultant was rather dull. He was not expected to do anything, and spent his days working on projects he had always intended to finish, given the time - robots and varied communication devices, for the most part. He got up when he pleased - sometimes before noon - and stayed up as late as he liked. The only rule seemed to be that he was expected to return to his trailer if he wanted to listen to his music after Lara turned in for the night. He preferred it there, anyway; the mansion was far too stuffy and formal for him to feel entirely comfortable.
Lara was always up before him; she spent her days reading and taking exercise. Ludicrous exercise, in Bryce's opinion; horseback riding, running, target-shooting with any number of fearsome guns, acrobatics, knife throwing, hand-to-hand fighting; it exhausted him just to watch her. Hillary would spend at least one morning a week cleaning, which invariably involved a terse altercation over Bryce's workspace. The man simply did not understand Bryce's mode of organization, and was always trying to upset his delicately arranged system of parts and projects. Why the butler couldn't leave Bryce's study free from buttling escaped him. Hillary would often spar with Lara in the afternoons, a position he had obviously been coerced into against his better judgment. The lighter, lither, more flexible Lara usually got the best of him, and Bryce would often take a break to watch.
All in all, it was a satisfying enough arrangement, but Bryce had to admit to himself that it wasn't proving as thrilling as he had hoped.
"Oi, mate," he asked one afternoon as a sweating and disheveled Hillary took a shortcut through his study, "don't Miss Croft do any..." he flailed his hands helplessly, "adventuring?"
Hillary sighed and sat on the edge of the desk. "Far too much of it. If you're hoping to accompany her, don't get too excited; she likes to go alone." He quirked an eyebrow at what Bryce was working on. "What is that?"
"Simon," Bryce replied proudly. "Lovely, innit?"
"Hardly." The butler did not seem to see the beauty of his creation. True, the body panels had been taken from an old vacuum cleaner, but the design! This would be a self-contained andriod, capable of independent decision-making and action. He explained as much.
"I should be so lucky, most days," Hillary muttered, and walked off to the shower.
It must have been about two weeks later when Lara gave Bryce his first actual assignment. A copy of an old parchment, the original blurred by time and the copy blurred by too many reproductions. The language could have been one of a number of European dialects, and he was to reconstruct it and make sense of it. He dusted off an old OCR program, and wrote a fuzzy translator. All of the translations were equally Greek to him, but Lara was pleased with the results. She ran off to her room - to emerge minutes later dressed in a black shirt and a shockingly brief pair of shorts with a shockingly large pair of guns strapped just below. Hillary trotted behind, stuffing a few last items into a black backpack. Bryce jumped up and followed them to the door, where Lara grabbed a helmet from an entryway stand and the bag from Hillary, pecked him on the cheek, and ran out the door. Moments later, the sound of a bike firing to life gave way to the sound of it rushing down the driveway. Bryce trotted up to stand next to Hillary. "Bloody hell, mate, what was that?"
"Language," Hillary chided.
Bryce rolled his eyes. "Where's she off to?"
"Northern Germany. She was pleased with your work, it seems. There's an old suit of armor or some such that she's craving," Hillary replied, dismissively.
"So - what do we do now?"
Hillary turned towards him with an eloquent shrug. "We wait. We give her information or send her more ammunition or run out to pick her up if she calls. We look after the house if some of her more unscrupulous competitors decide to take a shortcut to success."
"Are you havin' me on?"
"Welcome to the team."
The mansion was oddly quiet with Lara gone. Bryce hadn't realized how much her voice and activities had filled it, and he found it hard to concentrate on his work. He played helicopter flight simulations. He dyed his hair back to black. He stole the keys to the 340R while Hillary was out on errands and took it for a spin. He knew something was wrong when he voluntarily took a walk around the grounds.
He played his techno music as loudly as he wanted in his trailer, but by the third night, he was fed up. He wanted talk to another human - and Hillary would do in a pinch. Bryce trotted into the mansion and negotiated the labyrinthine way to the butler's room. Never one for ceremony, he flung the door open and was two steps into the room before he was stopped cold by something at his throat that glinted, in the dim light, like a very large and sharp hunting knife with a very sleep-bleary Hillary on the other end. "Bugger!" Bryce squeaked.
Hillary sighed, sat back on the bed, flicked on the bedside lamp, and put the knife under his pillow. "Don't you ever knock?"
"I will now. Do you always sleep with a knife?"
"Only since Lara acquired unscrupulous competitors."
Bryce sat down next to him on the bed. "Quiet with her gone. I never thought a bird that small would make that much noise."
"It's presence, and she's not a bird." Hillary shifted. "You get used to it. The waiting, helplessly, knowing that she might be in danger. Knowing she might never return. But she wouldn't have it any other way. To try to hold her back would be like caging some wild and beautiful..." he frowned at Bryce, "...bird."
Bryce laughed, ran his hands through his hair, and flopped back on the foot of the bed. "So what do you do?"
Hillary waved at the magazine on the bedside table. "I read. I tend the place. I go for runs."
Bryce groaned. "I think I'm going to go mad."
Unexpectedly, Hillary laid his hand on Bryce's arm. "Don't worry." The edge of his mouth quirked upwards. "She'll take you along sometime. Then you'll be glad to stay here again."