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.
Mike Gambit sat ramrod straight on his couch, quietly berating himself. It wasn't the most enjoyable pastime, but it was better than the alternative, which was being completely bored. Off to his left, just visible out of the corner of his eye, was a magazine, sitting on the side table, taunting him. If he could reach it, his imposed poker-straight posture would be made more bearable, or, at least, less boring. But every time he tried to lean ever-so-slightly over to snag it, his spine protested violently. So there he was, condemned to a life of boredom as his back seized up further.
There was a knock on the door.
Gambit briefly considered trying to answer it, quickly surmised that it wasn't worth the agony, and stayed put. "It's not locked," he told his visitor.
The door swung open, and Purdey poked her head in. "That's a very silly thing to tell someone waiting outside your door without looking first," she scolded, opening the door the rest of the way to allow Steed entry. He was carrying a rather large, covered cooking pot. "Suppose I'd been an enemy agent," Purdey went on, as Steed trundled toward the kitchen with his cargo. "I could have come in here and shot you before you'd known what happened."
"At least it would have put me out of my misery," Gambit grumbled irritably, wincing as his back twinged without notice.
"Negative thinking, Gambit," Purdey chastised, closing the door behind her.
"Then give me something positive to hold onto," Gambit shot back. "Like that magazine over there, so at least I don't have to be bored and in pain."
"This one?" Purdey wandered over and picked up an issue devoted to weapon collection, gave it a cursory perusal. "Why didn't you get it yourself, if you were so deprived of stimulation?"
"Something started spasming," Gambit grunted, lifting a hand just high enough to take the magazine from her, with no small amount of effort. "I sat down for a minute to let it calm down, and then I couldn't get back up again." He regarded Purdey towering over him with a modicum of curiosity. "Why are you here, anyway?"
Purdey flashed him a brilliant smile. "To cheer you up, of course." Gambit made an unenthusiastic noise suggesting that her efforts thus far had shot wide of the mark.
"And I come bearing sustenance," Steed volunteered, cranking one of the knobs on Gambit's stove and setting the pot to boil. "I thought you might have a few problems getting around the kitchen."
Purdey snorted. "He doesn't have to be hurt for that to be the case."
"So I took it upon myself to whip up a batch of my Auntie Ermintrude's patented healing broth," Steed continued, ignoring Purdey's interjection. "It'll cure anything that ails you, short of broken bones."
"Thanks, Steed," Gambit said gratefully, then his face clouded over as a thought occurred to him. "Isn't Ermintrude the one who caught a cold and ended up dying of pneumonia?"
"Gambit, don't be ungrateful," Purdey scolded, then turned worriedly to Steed. "Is that true?"
"Yes, but she was eating her cold-fighting chicken soup at the time," Steed explained unconcernedly. "If she'd elected to have her pneumonia-fighting beef broth instead, she would have been right as rain."
"That's very encouraging," Gambit said dryly, as Purdey crossed to peer into the depths of the pot. She noticed a pill bottle on the counter top and rattled it experimentally.
"You do realise that there is a third option, other than suffering in silence or being poisoned?" she said dryly. "Have you taken any of these?"
Gambit shook his head, then immediately regretted it. "They make me feel funny."
"Not being in pain is how most people live their lives," Purdey said in mild exasperation. "They'd hardly describe it as 'funny'."
"I mean, they make it so I can't think straight," Gambit clarified.
"You're not capable of rational thought on an ordinary day," Purdey countered, then frowned as Steed plucked the bottle from her grasp.
"We'll see if we can't cure Gambit of his stubbornness," Steed murmured conspiratorially to Purdey. "But they'll go better with food." He turned to Gambit. "You really ought to be more careful. When you came tumbling off that pier, I thought you were done for. Kendrick said you were lucky not to wind up in a body cast."
"You're right," Gambit grunted, shifting gingerly on the couch. "Next time I'll aim for the boat and land on you."
"Gambit!" Purdey chastised, but Steed was laughing.
"It'd be a shock, but I'm sure my bones have been broken and knitted enough times over the years that they could stand the strain."
"I still don't know what was worse," Purdey opined, crossing the room to settle down next to the stock still Gambit. "Seeing you fall, or not being able to find you in the aftermath. I thought you'd drowned!"
"Sorry," Gambit apologised, fumbling for Purdey's hand without turning his head, a difficult task made more difficult by him accidentally grabbing her thigh in the process. Fortunately for him, Purdey seemed to realise that this was due to him working blind, rather than other, less-honourable motivations. She had mercy and grabbed his hand herself, rather than gifting him with a punch to the arm. "I was too busy clinging to the dock and trying not to pass out. I had all the wind knocked out of me."
"Or the sense out of your head. But apology accepted," Purdey sighed, "even if it would have been more effective made eye to eye."
"I can't turn my head!" Gambit protested, registering Purdey's hand sliding from his, followed by a certain amount of rustling. He looked down to see Purdey smiling up at him.
"Is this better?" Purdey queried, and Gambit realised Purdey had rearranged herself so that she was upside down, upper body on the cushions, her legs draped over the back of the couch.
"Well, I can definitely see your eyes," Gambit confirmed, corners of his mouth turning up as he glimpsed a flash of thigh out of the corner of his eye. "Amongst other things. Although it'd be even easier if you laid on my lap."
"In your dreams, Mike Gambit."
"Why are you smiling like that?" Her face clouded over in a scowl as she caught the flick of his eyes toward her legs. "I thought you couldn't turn your head?"
"I can't," Gambit confirmed, unrepentant, "but my peripheral vision is very good when I'm motivated."
"Oh, honestly," Purdey tsked, looking up just in time to see Steed looming over her.
"I can't speak to what it'll do for your vision," Steed began, hooking a hand under Gambit's arm, "but Auntie Ermintrude's soup will help your back heal."
"How depressing," Purdey opined, as she watched Steed pull Gambit to his feet with a groan. "I've just had a vision of the future, with the pair of you helping one another around the care home."
"Steed'll never go in a care home," Gambit predicted, hobbling over to the bar with Steed's assistance. "He'll stay at home and hire himself a gaggle of pretty nurses to cater to his every need."
Steed chuckled at the idea. "I'll tell you what," he told Gambit as he helped the younger man slide onto one of the bar stools, in front of which a steaming bowl of soup was waiting. He knew the piece of furniture would be easier for Gambit to get up from again than a proper chair. "For a nominal fee, you can join me in my well-staffed end-of-life paradise."
"Done," Gambit pronounced, tentatively picking up a spoon and dipping it into the liquid.
"Thank heavens," Purdey grumbled, righting herself and stalking over to join them. "It'll save me having to look after you two in your dotage."
"Nice to know you care, Purdey," Gambit said mildly, trying some of Steed's soup while the man himself looked on expectantly. "This is good," he told Steed, not bothering to conceal his surprise. Some of Steed's home remedies were rather…unpalatable. Gambit was still having nightmares about the time he'd tried his boss' 'National Anthem' hangover cure. On balance, he'd preferred the hangover.
"It is?" Purdey's disbelief was palpable, having partaken of National Anthem herself one desperate Monday morning. She snagged Gambit's spoon, and took a sip of the broth herself. "It is," she agreed, handing the spoon back to Gambit, who shot her a slightly annoyed glance at the liberty. "What's in it?"
"Ah." Steed raised an index finger and tapped the side of his nose. "That would be telling. Old family recipe. Top secret."
"Or you knew I wouldn't eat it if you told me what was in it," Gambit said dryly. "But nothing's moved in it yet, so it can't be too bad."
"Yet," Purdey echoed, turning on her heel to leisurely pace the length of the flat.
"As it has yet to offend your palate," Steed began, opening the pill bottle and shaking out two pills, "perhaps you can use it to wash down these."
Gambit pulled a face not unlike that of a small child confronting a spoonful of nasty-tasting medicine. "I thought Auntie Ermintrude's concoction was supposed to have a taken care of all that?"
"Even Auntie needed a little help now and then," Steed pressed, benevolent smile frozen in place. "It was usually from a flask in her purse, I'll admit, but the same principle applies."
Gambit arched a knowing eyebrow. "Do you expect me to believe that that flask was full of nourishing broth?"
"Not at all. It was Scotch, mostly," Steed corrected cheerfully. "If what I detected on her breath was any indication."
"Sounds like a woman after my own heart—gah!" Gambit was cut short by a cry of pain so severe he lost his grip on his spoon, which dropped into his soup with a splash, splattering droplets across the front of his shirt in the process. Steed was instantly on the alert for the source of Gambit's alarm, but had barely begun his search when Purdey's smiling features suddenly popped into view above Gambit's head.
"It occurred to me," she began, as the ashen-faced Gambit remained stock still, clearly in shock, "that I'd suffered more than my fair share of back injuries in the ballet. And we had a trick for taking care of them." Her grin broadened as Steed's expression changed to match her own. "As Gambit would say, it's just a little pressure at the right point." She patted Gambit cheerily on the shoulder. "You're all right now, Mike. No need to thank me."
"Thank you?" Gambit's voice was strangled. "I think you just paralyzed me."
"Oh, don't be ridiculous," Purdey scoffed. "You wouldn't be sitting upright if I had. I do know how to break your back in three places, remember. I'd know if I'd cracked your spine in half."
"Are you sure about that?"
"Oh, don't be difficult." Purdey grabbed Gambit's arm and tugged impatiently on it, until he slid off his chair under the persuasive force of gravity. His feet sought out solid ground and balanced automatically. "There you are," she said triumphantly.
"Okay, so I can stand," Gambit allowed. "Doesn't mean I'm cured."
"You need to test it," Purdey opined.
"A test," Gambit muttered, not sounding too enthusiastic at the prospect. "Brilliant. Any ideas?"
"One or two. Catch!" Before Gambit could say another word, Purdey was falling gracefully backward, right in front of him.
Gambit acted on pure instinct, reaching out to catch her, arms wrapping around her back. They wound up posed as if mid-dip at the disco, Purdey cradled in Gambit's arms, looking up at him as he bent to one side to keep her from landing on the floor. Purdey crossed her arms, despite her near-horizontal pose, and regarded him with a touch of smugness. "See?" she said triumphantly.
Gambit, too caught up in preventing Purdey from becoming an undignified heap on his floor, suddenly remembered his injured spine, and shifted gingerly. Purdey's smugness was not misplaced. He actually felt better. "What did you do to me?" he asked, with just a touch of suspicion.
"Old dancer's secret," Purdey said breezily, as Gambit pulled them both upright. "Gifted from me to you out of the goodness of my own heart."
"And in the hopes that I'd take you dancing tonight," Gambit added knowingly, grinning at Purdey's look of outrage. "Your test had all the subtlety of a large brick through the window. What if I hadn't caught you in time? Or my back wasn't fixed after all?"
"I was relying on your excellent reflexes and self-sacrificing nature," Purdey declared, smartly straightening her clothes. "And my excellent chiropractic abilities."
"Funny how even when you compliment me, there's something in it for you as well," Gambit mused tiredly.
Purdey's hands went to her hips. "I can return your back to its original condition, if you prefer."
Gambit took a step back, hands raised defensively. "No, that's all right. I'm, uh, quite happy as I am, thanks."
Purdey brightened up. "So we are going dancing tonight?"
"Whatever keeps my spine in one piece," Gambit agreed with a sigh. "Pick you up at eight?"
From the kitchen, Steed looked expectantly from one of his colleagues to the other, then brandished the ladle in the soup pot. "Anyone for seconds?" he inquired cheerily.