Fire Light and Gun Fights
Disclaimer: I don't own The New Avengers, nor the characters of Mike Gambit, Purdey, and John Steed. They're the property of The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises. This story is written for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.
Author's Notes: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! This seasonal piece was written a few years back, but I thought I'd post it now to spread some TNA holiday cheer. I hope you're having a lovely holiday season and wish you all the best in the New Year. Enjoy!
Purdey stood in snow up to the ankles of her knee-high boots, into which she had stuffed the legs of her insulated motorcycle jumpsuit. Her helmet was balanced perfectly on her leather-glove-encased fingertips, dangling at her side as she surveyed the snow-covered hills laid out before her.
"I think," she began, stretching an arm to point off in the direction of the horizon, "he went that way."
Mike Gambit shuffled up beside her unenthusiastically, face half-obscured by a scarf as he tucked his head down into his coat. "How do you know?" he inquired, words muffled by the wool.
"Well, it's obvious, isn't it?" Purdey said brightly. "I mean, the last time we saw Landen, he was headed due west, but given the direction of the wind, and the height of the sun in the sky, it's definitely, absolutely, without a doubt, that way."
"Right." Gambit cast his eyes downward. "And the tyre tracks might give us a clue, too." He pointed at a clear set of tracks leading in the same direction Purdey was pointing.
"Well…" Purdey bristled, attempting not to blush under Gambit's sceptical gaze. "If you want to do it the easy way."
"Either way will do," John Steed interjected cheerily, bundled into his heavy topcoat, but, against all odds, still smiling. "So long as we intercept Landen while he's making his pick-up, I'm willing to forgo the niceties of the navigation." He looked to his two younger colleagues. "Shall we go?"
Gambit regarded the snow-covered hills with dwindling enthusiasm. "Go? For all we know, we'll end up stranded out there. Even with the Rover." He removed his head from the scarf long enough to jerk it in the general direction of the white Range Rover sitting patiently behind them.
"We'll just have to trust to your expert driving skills," Steed said cheerily, clapping Gambit on the shoulder, sending up a small cloud of snowflakes in the process.
"Then you're beaten before you start," Purdey quipped, and Gambit glared daggers at her over the top of his scarf. She ignored him and slid her helmet back on. "I'll see you there, if you make it." She strode over to where her bike sat, just to the left of the Rover, straddled it, and kicked it to life, throwing them a cheeky salute in the process. Gambit jumped back to avoid a fine spray of snow over the front of his trousers. Steed watched her rapidly-shrinking figure disappear off into the distance.
"If I didn't know better, I might wonder if Purdey did that on purpose," he mused.
"Right," Gambit muttered knowingly, "but we do know her, so we know she definitely did that on purpose." He turned and started to trudge through the snow back to the vehicle. "Come on. If she gets there too far ahead of us we'll never hear the end of it."
Steed chuckled in agreement.
Purdey, in the end, didn't need the head start. Her bike was lighter and more agile, better able to skirt over the snow on the hills than the Rover, and simpler to manoeuvre around white-blanketed obstacles that she could spot much more easily through her helmet than Gambit could through the windscreen.
The trail took them past a hopelessly stuck vehicle that they identified as Landen's, and on to an abandoned manor house. The structure's gate was disintegrating, and what was visible of the landscaping beneath the snow had completely gone to seed. Gambit slowed the vehicle, keeping a car length between him and Purdey, who led the way up what had once been a spectacular, curving driveway. As they approached the house, Steed leaned forward in his seat, squinting at the house against the glare of the winter horizon. Gambit chanced a sidelong glance at him, conscious of the possibility of running into Purdey if she stopped unexpectedly. "What is it?"
"The balcony," Steed murmured, never taking his eyes off the house. "Three stories up. Left side."
Gambit leaned forward across the wheel, following Steed's directions while still watching out for Purdey. After a moment, he saw it—a figure, moving on the balcony. A man. "Landen?" he hazarded, looking to Steed.
Steed nodded. "I can't imagine who else it would be, especially out here."
"He's persistent, I'll give him that," Gambit said with grudging admiration. "His car's completely stuck, and he still walked all this way to pick up his package."
"I'm sure his rendezvous will lay on a car," Steed opined.
"If he gets to his rendezvous," Gambit pointed out with a smile. "What are the odds he makes it?"
"Less than favourable, given this new development," Steed estimated, returning Gambit's smile. "Although I sincerely doubt he'll give up easily."
They were getting close now. Gambit could see Purdey's helmeted head canting upward periodically, and knew she must have seen Landen, too. He was about to roll down the window and call to her, when a bang tore through the muffled winter silence. Both bike and rider went down, Purdey herself tossed clear, sending up a fine cloud of snow as she hit the ground.
"Purdey!" Gambit cried, then heard the second shot ring out, and suddenly the Rover was listing alarmingly. A third shot took out what could only be the other front tyre, and it took all of Gambit's concentration to bring the vehicle to a stop rather than a crash. The second it was stationary, Steed was out, dropping to the ground and seeking shelter behind the Rover's door. Gambit threw himself sideways as another shot rang out and his windscreen shattered, covering his head as broken glass rained down from above, then kept low as he inched from his seat to Steed's, joining Steed behind the shelter of the door. He risked a glance around it, looking to where he'd last seen Purdey. The bike was still there, lying on its side, its front wheel twisted, but its owner was nowhere to be seen. Gambit wasn't sure whether that made him feel better or worse, but took comfort from the fact that there was no blood in the snow.
"Where the hell did he get a gun?" he demanded, ducking back behind the door even as he pulled his Smith and Wesson from his holster.
Steed was peering through the window, bowler on the ground beside him in order to present less of a target. "He must have stored it with the package," he said calmly, grey eyes examining the house in detail, seeking possible entry points.
"Surprised it didn't freeze up," Gambit muttered, scanning their surroundings even as he checked to make sure his own gun was still working in the cold. "Have you seen Purdey?" he asked Steed, trying hard to keep the worry out of his voice, and not really succeeding.
"No," Steed said tersely, eyes flicking ever-so-briefly back to Gambit. "I thought you might have noticed where she'd gone."
"I wish I had." Gambit's voice was laced with self-rebuke. "I was too busy wrestling with the Rover. The last thing I wanted was to drive over her because I lost control." He bit his lip, hard, looked worriedly to Steed. "You don't think Landen got her, do you?"
"If he had, we'd see some evidence of it," Steed opined, although Gambit knew Steed well enough to notice that the senior agent's answer wasn't a categorical "no." "And you know as well as I do that she's more than capable of taking care of herself."
Gambit sighed. "Yeah," he agreed. "And I'm being an old mother hen."
"I beg your pardon?"
"It's something Purdey would say. If she was here." Gambit shifted position so he was closer to Steed, peering over the window ledge to survey the terrain. "Right," he began, pushing Purdey from his mind as best he could given the circumstances. Landen was still crouched on the balcony, presenting as small a target as possible while still training a gun on their position. Gambit could tell from his body language that he was uncertain of his next move, and knew they had to move fast before Landen made a decision that would complicate things even more. "How do you want to play this?'
Steed looked over his shoulder. "There's a small wood just there," he told Gambit, and the younger man tore his eyes off Landen for long enough to confirm the existence of the small clutch of trees. "If I were duck in there while you laid down some covering fire, I should be able to take the long way round to the back of the house. There must be some way to gain entrance from there."
Gambit nodded, eyes still on the balcony. "And you want me to keep him busy until you can sneak up behind him."
"Yes," Steed confirmed. "Preferably when he stops to reload. If he can reload." He pondered that possibility for a moment. "If you could encourage him to waste as many shots as possible, that would be extremely helpful."
"He'll probably spot a distraction," Gambit pointed out. "He might make a run for it before you can get there."
"Then you'll have to be very distracting," Steed said simply. "Convince him you're going for a frontal offence and are trying to enter the house that way. His first instinct will be to drive you back."
Gambit flashed him a wry smile. "If I didn't know you better, I'd think you were asking me to run into the open and get shot at."
Steed smile back. "But you do know me better. And that's exactly what I'm asking."
Gambit shook his head in amusement. "You always give me the plum jobs."
"It's a measure of my respect for you."
"One of these days, I might actually believe that," Gambit quipped. "What about—Purdey!"
"Purdey will keep until we have Landen," Steed said seriously.
"No, I mean Purdey!" Gambit hissed, pointing at the balcony. Steed squinted against the glare and saw what Gambit meant. Just visible through the open door behind the balcony was Purdey, helmet off and snow clinging to her jumpsuit as she crept slowly and silently up behind Landen. Steed looked to Gambit, meaning to tell him to be ready to intervene if necessary, but Mike was already primed, gun in hand, breathing shallow, ready to shoot. He was always ready where Purdey was concerned.
The tension was unbearable as they watched Purdey close the gap between her and her quarry. She was nearly there when a lump of snow, dislodged from the flurry of activity on the balcony, slid off the roof and splatted onto the balcony floor. Steed saw Landen start to turn, gun in hand, but Gambit was faster, bolting upright and loosing off a shot that bit into the wood near Landen's head. The other man moved to return fire at the now-cover-free Gambit, but Purdey was faster, booted foot making contact with the centre of the man's back. He staggered forward, shooting automatically but wildly off-target, before the force of hitting the balcony wall shook the gun from his hand. He turned to grapple with Purdey, and Steed and Gambit left their cover, hurrying toward the house, sounds of blows landing on flesh reaching their ears through the crisp winter air. Gambit stopped short, torn between going inside and trying to reach the balcony, or staying here, where he could see Purdey. In the end, the choice was made for him. Purdey backed off, out of reach of Landen's fist, then unleashed a spectacular high kick that caught him just under the chin. Landen's head snapped back, and he staggered backwards, completely off-balance. This time, instead of stopping him, the balcony wall gave way, and Landen screamed as he toppled to the ground, sending up a large cloud of snow as he made impact.
Gambit and Steed ran to where he fell, Gambit dropping into a crouch beside the prone body and pressing two fingers to the man's neck. He looked to Steed, shook his head, then up to Purdey, who was looking down at them through the hole in the wall. "Purdey," he called, "we wanted him alive."
She smiled cheekily. "Difficult decision," she shot back, following a script they'd written long ago. "Him or you?"
"It wouldn't have been him or me if you hadn't tried to sneak up behind him," Gambit pointed out, straightening up.
"No, it would have been him and the three of us hiding behind a car door," Purdey retorted.
Gambit pulled a face. "We had a plan."
"Of course you did."
"Much as I hate to interrupt." Steed's voice cut through Gambit's next rejoinder. "Purdey, do you see the package?"
Purdey disappeared from view for a moment, then reappeared with a brown-wrapped parcel in hand. She waggled it cheerfully. "Do you mean this?"
Steed smiled. "Excellent work. Would you care to join us? Preferably before the rest of that balcony gives way."
"Don't worry. I'd catch her." Gambit aimed a saucy wink up at the balcony.
Purdey wrinkled her nose at him. "You'd catch something," she quipped, then nodded to Steed. "I'll be down in a moment," she promised, before disappearing from sight.
Steed turned to Gambit. "Is your radio still working?"
Gambit sucked his teeth. "Might be the only thing that is. I only have one spare tyre, and Landen took out two. And Purdey's bike isn't in good shape either." He nodded at the twisted front wheel, then looked up at the sky. "This time of year it'll be dark soon, and it wasn't the best conditions driving in, so walking to the nearest town isn't the best idea. And there's nowhere to land a helicopter properly. I don't know if we can reasonably expect the Ministry to send someone in until tomorrow morning."
"So we're spending the night here," Steed surmised, just as Purdey emerged. "What's the state of the house?"
Purdey looked surprised at the question. "Well, it's not exactly the Ritz, but structurally it seems all right. Or better than the balcony, at least." She looked from one to the other questioningly. "Why?"
"Winter camping," Gambit told her, unenthusiastically. "We're not going anywhere tonight."
"Oh. Well, there are a few sticks of furniture inside. There's a couch that should be able to take our weight. And I think the fireplace is clear. And Gambit should have a blanket in the Rover."
"Has all the hallmarks of a Dickensian Christmas," Steed said cheerily. He reached out for the package she held in her hands. "Do you mind?" She handed it over without protest. "Thank you. Now, I'll see if I can make contact with the Ministry. Meanwhile, I think the pair of you ought to take poor Landen inside for the night. Then you can see about finding us some firewood. As you said, Gambit, we don't have much light left." With that he made for the Rover, umbrella swinging cheerily.
"A night in a cold, dark old house with a dead body. Terrific." Gambit was testy, and not bothering to hide it.
"Negative thinking, Gambit," Purdey chastised. "It could be nice and cozy."
"I think he'll ruin the mood," Gambit said wryly, nodding at Landen, then softened. "Are you okay? Gave me the fright of my life when your bike went down. Even worse, I didn't know where you'd gone."
Purdey smiled away his fears. "Bit bruised, that's all. At least I didn't smash my head against a tree this time." She looked him up and down quickly. "Are you all right?"
It was Gambit's turn to smile. "I am now."
She nodded, ever-so-slightly. "Good," she pronounced. "Now, heads or tails?"
Gambit smirked. "Depends on whose tails."
She tsked and rolled her eyes. "Landen's."
Gambit pulled a face. "Head, then, if you don't mind." He looked down at the corpse. "And I thought he was a pain when he stole the codes. Come on, give me a hand."
They installed Landen in what had probably been the dining room in the house's heyday, and covered him with the dropcloth off the couch. They pushed that piece of furniture up near the fire they'd managed to start with the driest wood they could find in the forest, and Gambit's lighter to help it along. Steed returned after a rather longer interval than radioing the Ministry should have taken, with the blanket from the Rover in one hand, and the package nowhere to be seen. As he didn't mention it, Purdey and Gambit chose not to ask where it was. If Steed wanted them to know, he'd tell them soon enough.
"I think we ought to keep our wits about us tonight," Steed opined when he joined them. "Just in case Landen's contacts pay us a visit."
"Something else to look forward to," Gambit said tiredly. "Along with another night spent stuck in a strange house with a dead body. I thought we'd had enough of that this year after that business with the Unicorn."
"Negative thinking again, Gambit," Purdey gently chastised, taking the blanket from Steed and moving to the couch. "We're reflecting on the year gone by."
"Why can't we relive some of the better parts?" Gambit muttered, pulling his coat a little tighter against the chill.
"We can do that as well," Steed said brightly. "We've all night to do it." He joined Purdey on the couch. "Unless you were planning on sleeping straight through."
"No fear of that," Gambit opined, looking out at the white-blanketed landscape. It had just started to snow. "It's so cold, you'd have to lapse into a hypothermia-induced coma to sleep at all."
"And that's exactly what will happen if you don't quit complaining and come over here," Purdey pointed out, patting the seat beside her.
Gambit sighed, and made his way over to join them. As he settled into the corner of the couch, he was surprised to hear a crackling noise. He turned just in time to see Purdey open a packet of marshmallows. She felt his eyes on her and looked up, proffered the packet. "Do you want one?"
Gambit shook his head in a combination of disbelief and refusal. "Where did you get those?"
"The storage compartment in my bike, of course," Purdey said, as it if it were the most natural thing in the world. "It's my emergency supply. And this is definitely an emergency."
"And you didn't think to put something a little more…substantial in there instead?"
Purdey blinked at him. "Such as?"
"I don't know. Something with protein? Or fat? Or anything not made of half a teaspoon of sugar wrapped around some air?"
"Just because I'm the only one with enough foresight to pack something doesn't give you the right to get snippy," Purdey chastised. "And anyway, you're one to talk about practicalities. If you don't have a flask of Scotch on you, I'll walk home." Gambit shifted uncomfortably. "Ah, I thought so," she said with satisfaction, then twisted round to look at Steed. "And unless something's very, very wrong, you should have some very old brandy."
Steed smiled and shrugged, the picture of amiable defeat. "My dear, I cannot tell a lie."
"That's a first," Gambit muttered.
Purdey ignored him. "You're both becoming terribly predictable," she commented, then added, "luckily for me." She smiled broadly at Steed. "Steed, would you be so kind as to share your brandy with a lady?"
"Of course." Steed reached into his inner pocket, ignoring Gambit's snort. He extracted a silver flask, handed it to Purdey, who took it graciously.
"Thank you, Steed." She balanced the flask on her knee, then picked up a long stick from the floor. She removed three marshmallows from the bag, skewering them one by one on the end of the stick. Gambit watched her from within the recesses of his scarf.
"Don't tell me you had the stick in your storage compartment, too?" he asked wryly.
"Don't be ridiculous," Purdey scoffed. "I found it in the woods behind the house. Now then. The piece de resistance." She unscrewed the cap from the flask, then started to pour the liquid over the marshmallows. Gambit watched her with a growing sense of anxiety, caught Steed's eye and noted a measure of concern was visible there as well.
"Uh, Purdey," he began, as she replaced the cap, "you're not planning on putting those in the fire are YOU?" The last word came out as a yelp as Purdey did, indeed, thrust the alcohol-soaked marshmallows into the fire. Steed and Gambit leapt back as the three blobs of gelatine were engulfed in a raging inferno. Purdey, for her part, stayed put, eyeing the blaze with an expert eye. After a moment, she withdrew her stick, turned it this way and that to ensure the marshmallows, still alight, had been cooked on all sides, then puffed her cheeks and blew them out. She regarded Gambit and Steed's alarmed expressions with mild annoyance.
"Oh, don't look so shocked. I have done this before," she said tartly, biting one of the charred marshmallows with a slight crunch.
"How do you know I'm shocked? I haven't got any eyebrows left," Gambit shot back.
"Oh, you're fine," Purdey said unconcernedly. "If anything, it made us warmer. The fire's burning very well now."
"Yes, but if it's all the same to you," Steed said, reaching for the flask, "I'll take this back, if you don't mind. I'd rather my brandy warmed me from the inside."
Purdey sighed and shook her head in mild annoyance. "Oh, come now. You two must have toasted marshmallows before?"
"Not quite so spectacularly," Steed allowed.
"The last time I saw flames that high I was kicked out of chemistry class," Gambit muttered, finally feeling safe enough to scoot closer to the fire again.
"But that's half the fun!" Purdey protested. "Uncle Elly used to do it all the time at Christmas, until that one year when we had the incident with my aunt's tablecloth. Then mum put a stop to it." She paused, eyes distant as she reminisced. "That was still a very good Christmas. Not the best one, but a very good one."
"Which one was the best?" Steed inquired, by way of conversation, unscrewing the cap of his flask.
"Oh, there are so many. It's hard to say," Purdey admitted, eyes shining. "My parents always tried to make them special. Invited all the family. Everything decorated. Too many good things to eat. It was a dream, really."
"That does sound nice," Gambit murmured.
"Of course, then dad died," Purdey added, looking down at her boots. "I came home from the Sorbonne that year, but that Christmas wasn't very good at all." She stared into the fire. "I sometimes wonder if I should have stayed in France. It was so hard to celebrate without dad, and no one had the heart for it. But it would have hurt no matter where I was, I suppose."
Gambit extracted his right hand from where it was stuffed deep into his pocket, and took one of Purdey's hands in his, gave it a warm squeeze. "I'm sorry," he said softly.
"Oh, it's all right," Purdey said, cheering up measurably. "It was a long time ago. And I've had lots of good Christmases since then." She smiled, but she didn't let go of Gambit's hand. She looked to Steed. "What was your best Christmas?"
"Oh, dear me, that's a challenge," Steed mused, taking a nip of his brandy and settling back into the dusty folds of the couch. "The Steed family Christmases never disappointed when I was a child. Auntie Penelope baking a rock-hard Christmas pudding in the kitchen. Mrs. Cybil Peabody taking a brandy-fuelled nap beneath the tree mid-way through Christmas morning." He grinned to himself as he relived that particular Christmas image from his past. "It was amazing how she always came round just in time for lunch. Her internal clock must have been incredibly precise."
Purdey and Gambit were looking at him with a mixture of disbelief and fascination. "I think I understand you better now than I ever have," Gambit murmured.
"Do you?" Steed seemed oblivious as to why what he'd said should prove illuminating. "How odd. Of course, over the years, the event matters less than the people you spend it with. I spent a Christmas with Bill Bassett while imprisoned in Nanking. We lost track of time and wound up celebrating it in February. It didn't matter because it got us through a rather bleak period, and we didn't face it alone." He smiled a distant smile. "I still see Bill every February for our own special Christmas. And then there was the Christmas Mrs. Peel and myself spent at the home of Brandon Storey."
"That was the business with the psychics, wasn't it?" Gambit put in. "I read the case file on that. It made it sound like they were legitimate."
"They were," Steed confirmed. "Unlike our poor, dear Victoria Stanton, their powers were certainly not figments of their imaginations. I must say, I much preferred Ms. Stanton."
Purdey shuddered, and not from the cold. "That must have been awful, having someone poking around in your head."
"It's not something I'd recommend," Steed agreed. "But Mrs. Peel managed to salvage the day in the end."
Gambit's face broke out in a wicked grin. "I don't need to be a psychic to know what that means." Purdey tsked.
"I don't know what you're insinuating," Steed said innocently.
"You have a one-track mind," Purdey accused, shooting Gambit a look.
"Doesn't mean I'm wrong," Gambit pointed out, meeting Steed's eyes.
The other man returned the look with carefully calculated impassiveness. "I believe it's your turn to regale us with Christmases of old."
Gambit shrugged. "Nothing much to say."
"Oh, don't try to get out of it," Purdey said, sticking another marshmallow on the end of her stick and poking it into the fire. She met his gaze. "Come on. We have to stay awake somehow."
Gambit smiled sadly, breaking eye contact and hunching back into his coat. "Never really any money for Christmas," he admitted, looking at the fire. "I always liked the idea, what I saw in shop windows and everything. But when you went home, we didn't have any of that. I mean, people tried. My aunt tried. My gran really tried. She used to bake things, knit things. Those were always the best presents, even if they were just socks or something. If gran made them, it mattered." His smile got a little brighter, and Purdey felt her lips stretch to match him. "But generally you could cut the anxiety with a knife. We couldn't afford much, and what we could, you could always tell they were worried they'd live to regret it come February. And it was always cold, and our clothes were never quite warm enough to keep out the chill." Purdey could see him unconsciously huddle deeper into his coat, as though feeling some long ago winter wind, despite their fire. "Then I was in the Navy, and my shipmates' idea of celebrating was getting absolutely plastered, but you can only do that so many times before it wears thin." He heard Steed chuckle, and smirked, knowing the older man was quite familiar with those sorts of Christmases. "Actually, there was one particularly good Christmas I remember from that time. I had shore leave-"
"If it involves a girl, I don't want to hear the rest," Purdey said dryly.
Gambit pulled a face. "Nothing like that. Give me a little credit. I was out and about, and I stumbled on all these kids that were even worse off than I'd been. I didn't have much money on me, but I bought as many toys as I could and dished them out."
Purdey smiled sweetly. "Gambit, that's very touching."
"Then I went back to my ship and nicked some food, and handed that out as well."
"Slightly illegal, but still touching."
Gambit grinned at her. "That was a good Christmas," he declared, and then his smile faded. "The next year I got word that my gran had passed away six weeks earlier. Hard to get mail when you're aboardship. I just lay in my bunk all evening. That wasn't a good Christmas."
Purdey's face fell. "Oh, Mike."
"Don't look at me like that," Gambit said quickly. "It's okay."
"It's not," Purdey disagreed.
"It is, and—Purdey, your marshmallow!"
"Stop trying to change the subject," Purdey said indignantly, sympathy momentarily drying up.
"He isn't," Steed cut in, a measure of alarm creeping into his voice. "Purdey, your marshmallow is becoming rather overcooked."
Purdey turned in confusion. "What—oh!" The marshmallow, and the stick upon which it was skewered, were both on fire, and the flames were licking up the length toward her hand. Purdey froze, momentarily transfixed by the blaze. Gambit, acting on instinct, leapt up, yanked it from her hand and cast it to the floor. He stomped out the flames, trampling the charred marshmallow in the process. He lifted his boot to assess whether or not it was still a fire hazard, but was greeted by nothing more than a sticky mess adhered to the sole.
"Ugh," came the eloquent observation.
"Perhaps you ought to eat the marshmallows uncooked from now on," Steed advised Purdey, as Gambit attempted to scrape the worst of the mess off the bottom of his boot with a piece of discarded cardboard he'd found on the floor.
Purdey flushed in embarrassment, skin glowing in the light of the fire. "Sorry," she apologised.
Steed's smile was kind. "You didn't burn down the house, so I think we'll survive."
"At least we would have been warm," Gambit pointed out, discarding the marshmallow-smeared cardboard and stuffing his hands in his pockets. "It's dark. One of us, uh, should probably go and check on Landen's body, have a look outside, just in case his friends have come along."
Purdey was suddenly reminded about what had been said just before the marshmallow-induced blaze. "Gambit, you don't have to," she began, but Gambit cut her off.
"It's okay," he said gruffly. "I'll go."
"Gambit." Purdey tried to reach out and touch his arm, but he stepped out of reach.
"I don't mind," he said quickly. "You two stay warm." He hurried out, wrapping his scarf more tightly around his neck as he went.
Purdey looked to Steed. "I should go after him." It was a statement, not a question.
"I'd be very concerned if you didn't," Steed said seriously.
Gambit pulled back the sheet, but Landen was still just as dead as he had been when Purdey and he had brought him inside. He dropped the sheet back into place, then blew on his hands in an attempt to warm them up.
"I wondered why you were in such a mood."
Gambit whirled round to find Purdey leaning against the doorframe of the dining room. She straightened up and started toward him at a leisurely pace. "I thought it was just the cold getting to you, but I should have known better than that. It's never simple where you're concerned, is it Mike Gambit?"
"I don't know what you mean," Gambit replied, keeping his hands in his pockets lest they betray his discomfort.
"Mike Gambit," Purdey said with a sigh, shaking her head as she stepped in close. "I didn't know you found out about your gran on Christmas," she said softly. "But I do know that she meant a lot to you, by the way you talk of her."
Gambit shrugged, sniffed in a way that he hoped would make Purdey think his nose was running from the cold, but he knew she wasn't fooled. "It is what it is. It wasn't anyone's fault."
"But it must have been hard," Purdey pointed out, laying her hands on his lapels, smoothing them beneath her fingers. "I know how hard it was when dad died, and that didn't happen anywhere near Christmas."
"She didn't die at Christmas," Gambit pointed out.
"Yes, but you found out then, so she may as well have as far as you're concerned." Her hands left his lapels, and moved on to his scarf. "And if she was one of the best parts of Christmas when you were small, that only makes it worse." She smiled lopsidedly. "I sometimes forget that you weren't as lucky as I was growing up. I wouldn't have pushed you about your Christmas memories otherwise. It was thoughtless of me."
"Don't worry about it," Gambit dismissed. "I know you didn't mean any harm."
"All the same, I do feel bad about it," Purdey said softly, laying a hand aside his cheek. "I wish there was some way I could make up for it."
"Purdey, it's really not—" But he was cut off as Purdey's lips met his, and suddenly his body was flooded with warmth that put the fire to shame. When she pulled away, his smile was broad enough to trigger her own.
"You were saying?" she prompted, with an arch of her eyebrow.
Gambit cleared his throat. "I was saying how awful my childhood was."
"Yes. And I need lots of help to make up for it."
"I thought you said not to worry about it," Purdey teased.
"I was putting on a brave front," Gambit said, laying on the mock pathos. "I'm so lucky to have you here to get me through this difficult time of year."
"Yes, aren't you?" Purdey grinned as Gambit's arms slid around her waist, and he pulled her in close so their lips could meet once more.
They were lost in one another for a moment, her gloved hands making their way into his hair, both of them now oblivious to Landen's body and the cold of the house. It took the click of a gun's safety catch to bring them back to reality. Gambit froze, lips still pressed to hers, then slowly disengaged, his eyes holding hers. She looked over his shoulder, still locked in his embrace, at the man with the gun pointed at the base of Gambit's skull.
"Tell me where the package is," came the hissed demand.
Gambit took a steadying breath. "Don't do anything stupid."
"Now," came the reply, and the man dug the gun's barrel harder into Gambit's skull. "I know that's Landen under there, and the package isn't where he left it. He didn't die on his own, so you must have it, and I want it. Now."
"I'll take you to it," Gambit offered, "if you let her go."
Purdey glared at him. "Don't be an idiot, Mike. I'm not going anywhere."
"She's got that right," the man agreed. "Neither of you are, until I get the package. And if you don't hurry up and tell me, one of you is going to end up under that sheet with Landen."
"How cosy," Purdey quipped, meeting Gambit's eyes so they could form a plan without uttering a word.
"Oh, I don't know. I think I'd rather stay by the fire."
It was Steed's voice. The man whirled round to confront the new intruder, giving Gambit the window he needed. He disentangled himself from Purdey to land a blow on the back of the man's neck. He cried out and stumbled forward. Steed followed up Gambit's attack by bringing his bowler down, hard, on the man's gun hand. The weapon clattered to the floor, and Purdey dashed to retrieve it, just before Gambit's fingers found the man's nerve nexus and pressed, sending him sliding into unconsciousness. He collapsed next to Landen. Gambit looked to Steed and breathed a sigh of relief. "Lucky for us you dropped by."
"I did start to wonder what was taking so long," Steed revealed. "I knew it was down to one of two possibilities—either you'd run into trouble, or Purdey was doing a very good job of cheering you up. I must say, I didn't expect to find both at once."
"Steed!" Purdey said indignantly. "I didn't take you for a voyeur."
"You're lucky he did. Otherwise they would have had to bury us in the same grave, because you didn't seem keen on letting go," Gambit pointed out with a waggle of eyebrows.
"Well, I haven't actually said 'til death us do part,'" Purdey observed. She nodded at the unconscious man. "I suppose we have to bring him over to the fire, or he'll freeze to death."
"Once we've restrained him," Steed agreed.
"If he gives us any trouble, we can always threaten him with Purdey's explosive marshmallows," Gambit quipped.
"As you seem to have recovered from the traumas of your childhood," Purdey said wryly, "I'm going back to the fire. You can handle our friend."
"Just as long as you warm me up again when I join you," Gambit said with a wink.
Purdey sighed. "Mike Gambit," she said tiredly, but when she turned to walk away, she couldn't help but smile.
Author's Notes: Gambit's anecdote about buying presents and nicking food for the local kids at Christmas during his Navy days is, in fact, something Gareth actually did during a stop in Spain while he was in the Navy. There's your TNA Christmas trivia for the year!