Disclaimer: I don't own The New Avengers, nor the characters of Mike Gambit, Purdey, and John Steed. Sadly. They're the property of The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises. This story is for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended
Timeline: Eighth in a series. Takes place in September, 1977, shortly after the conclusion of the series in the Canadian episodes. It is strongly recommended, but not essential, that you go back and read the previous stories in the arc, Lost Boys, Anew, Aftermath, Dance With Me, The Anniversary, Merry Christmas, Mr. Gambit, Brazil, and Life on Mars.
For more information about the series, please see my profile.
Author's Note: If you've been visiting the Avengers section of this site for awhile now, you might recall that, up until a few years back, I posted fics as part of my "arc" series, that was meant to flesh out the events of the series within the confines of the canon. Then life took a couple of unexpected turns, and writing went on the back burner, including the "arc" series. The gap stretched out longer than I intended, but I always meant to come back to it, at the very least to do the last two stories I had planned in the series. This is the first of those last two hold-outs.
This fic has proven particularly tough to write, for whatever reason, and has existed in a couple of different versions. The first one was written early on in my discovery of the show, and will never see the light of day (for everyone's sake). The second I got quite far into before I realised it just wasn't working, and threw it out. This time I think I've finally gotten it to work the way I wanted it to, especially in terms of pace.
This will be another long one, and I shall do my level best to get updates out in a timely fashion following this "teaser".
John Steed negotiated the corner of the country lane carefully, lest the inordinately large wheel arches of the Jaguar catch on the hedgerows in the process. He still hadn't managed to replace his Range Rover after the last one met its end blocking Larry Doomer's rocket, and he was in desperate need of a more practical car to negotiate the less-than-forgiving terrain of the country. Still, that could wait. The telephone call that the Ministry had alerted him to not more than an hour earlier was monopolising his attention. Every neuron not required to navigate the Big Cat on the windy country road was engaged in directing his eyes to scan the roadway for any sign of his missing colleagues.
The Jaguar made the corner, but clunked alarmingly in the process. Steed winced noticeably, but then quickly forgot about the damage to his undercarriage when he caught sight of the figure perched on top of a low stone wall beside the road. Nearby on the small shoulder was the call box she'd undoubtedly used to make contact. Steed steered the car over to the shoulder and parked it as far as he could off the road, praying that no one would be negotiating the corner before he left. He alighted nimbly from the vehicle, bringing both bowler and brolly along, donning the former, and letting the latter swing naturally from his right hand. He slammed the car door loud enough that his colleague should have started in surprise, or at the very least looked his way, but she was staring resolutely at the ground. Steed frowned at the uncharacteristic lack of awareness of her surroundings, knew instinctively that something was wrong. He approached her hurriedly, every sense alive to the possibility of an ambush. The assignment had gone wrong, after all—someone, somehow, had managed to breach their cover. His colleagues been kidnapped-Steed had no doubt about that. The question was, had they managed to escape, or was this to be the site of the latest in the long line of hostage situations that dotted Steed's career? But there was no glint of a sniper's rifle in among the trees or hedgerows, and no hint that the figure still perched resolutely on the wall was restrained in any way. Which made her behaviour all the more puzzling. She was close enough to touch before he finally decided it was safe to speak.
She looked up then, turned unseeing blue eyes up to meet his. There was a large smudge of dirt across her left cheek, with lines of clean skin cut through it in the shape of tear tracks, as though she'd been crying. She wasn't crying now, but her eyes bore the shocking clarity that came in the aftermath. Steed cast his gaze downwards, did a quick check for injuries. There were similar smudges on her hands and upper arms, and reddened marks around her wrists that spoke of restraint. Her arms and legs bore an impressive collection of small cuts and bruises, though the most serious was a gash on her forehead that had bled impressively, if the dried clumps in her fringe were any indication. Her stockings were a complete loss, full of nicks and runs, and there was mud on the heels of her impractical stilettos, but nothing to suggest serious injury or great pain. All the same, his next words automatically were, "Are you all right?"
She opened her mouth to reply, but no sound came out, and she hesitated as if she didn't know the answer herself. "I..." she began, and her voice was hoarse and rough, scratching up through her throat as though it had been out of use for some time. "I'm...I'm not hurt," she told him, carefully, and with great effort, and Steed felt a deep frown crease his features.
"Pardon me for saying so, but you don't look all right. We'll have Kendrick check you over when we get back."
"I didn't say I was all right," Purdey protested, voice still hoarse. Now that he thought about it, she sounded as though she'd been shouting, as though she were losing her voice from overuse, not lack of it. "Because I'm not. It's not...I..." Her lips started to tremble, and fresh tears welled up from some reserve deep inside. Steed immediately put an arm around her shoulders, let her drop her head to chest before the first sobs came.
"There, now. I'll get you out of here, and you can tell me everything when we get back to London and you've had a drink, some food, and medical attention," he reassured, glancing around for any sign of his other colleague. "That is, as soon as we've picked up Gambit."
She looked up at that, quickly, head snapping up with such force that he looked down out of surprise as much as anything else. The look on her face tied his stomach in knots. "You do know where Gambit is?" he inquired, frown deepening.
But Purdey shook her head. "Gone," she managed around another sob. "He's gone."
"Gone?" Steed repeated, bending so he could look at her at eye level. "Purdey, if they still have him, we need to move quickly. Did they take you both to the same location? Did you escape?"
Purdey nodded. "Y-yes."
"Could you find your way back?"
She shook her head, buried her face in her hands. "There's no point."
"No point? Of course there's a point. If we hurry, we might be able to assemble a team before they move him."
Purdey was still shaking her head, over and over, and a muffled, "No, no," came out from behind her hands.
"Purdey!" Steed said with feeling, grabbing her wrists and pulling them away from her face. "This is not the time to go to pieces. If you know where Gambit is, we owe it to him to do our best to try and get him out. So pull yourself together and tell me, where—"
"Gambit's dead, Steed!"
She screamed it, raw and ugly, and with all the force of someone full of grief, and anger, and frustration, and desolation. And with the sort of conviction born of absolute certainty.
Steed froze, felt his heart stop, felt the world fall away, felt the shock creep in at the edges of his senses, until there was nothing left but himself, and Purdey's mask of sorrow.
"Dead?" he repeated, so quietly he thought she may not have heard, but her face told him she had. "Are you certain?"
"I wish I wasn't," she choked. "I saw it happen. He's dead, Steed. And it's all my fault."