See You Fall
by J. Ferguson a.k.a. Timeless A-Peel
Beta by rabidsamfan
Disclaimer: I don't own The New Avengers, nor the characters of Steed, Gambit, Purdey, and Dr. Kendrick. They belong to The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises, and are used without permission fotr entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended
Gambit drove, as fast and as far as he could. Anything to put as much distance between himself and his point of origin as was humanly possible. It wasn't terribly difficult. These country backroads were all but deserted on a Sunday afternoon. No one, not even the odd policeman to rein him in. His emotions channeled themselves through his driving, to the point that he was barely in control. That fit. At least it acted as a distraction, no matter how slight.
Just another afternoon/And I'm choking down tea for two
That's what it had been: a quiet afternoon tea, immediately following the service, during which the mourners could commune to share their grief. But Gambit had never been one to openly discuss his heartfelt feelings at the drop of a hat with a group of total strangers. But he'd put in an appearance, even if his heart wasn't in it. Even if all he wanted was to be alone.
When you've flown so far away/And you know I'm waiting
It was hard to believe it had been only a week.
An eternity since he had seen her face, heard her voice, felt her presence brighten even the darkest depths of his soul.
Well, I thought I'd found a life/Seems I've been mistaken/So I take the paid holiday
The Ministry had tried to be so very understanding. They'd given him two weeks paid compassionate leave, offered him grief counseling, a prescription for some sort of sedative that dulled his emotions. It helped a little, but not enough. They'd offered him more help, more time, but he had turned it down. He didn't want to be left alone with his thoughts and musings longer than necessary. One week gone, one to go. He didn't know what to do with it. He could hardly cope with the idea of reassembling the shattered fragments of his life.
If there even was anything left worth reconstructing.
He still didn't know what compelled him to make that detour on the way to her flat. It was a nice idea to pick her up the flowers, but unnecessary. It was only going to be lunch, not even a romantic dinner with whole evening ahead of them. But he had. And he was late. Two minutes. Hardly life-changing. But the instant he pulled the Jaguar up to the curb, he knew something was wrong. Very wrong. Deep in his gut. Instinct, Steed would've called it.
The sound of the gunshot just confirmed it.
I see you fall
He had never run so fast when it had been himself he was trying to save. But when it was her, it was different. He leapt over half of the 21 steps, gun in hand, hoping, praying, all the way down that it would be fine, that he'd find a dead assailant, or a discharged cartridge on the floor with a bullet harmlessly embedded in the ceiling. She would give him a look, and say his name and something along the lines of "Late again," and they'd clean up the mess and call Steed.
With the bullets falling all around
He remembered kicking the door open without pause, not even acknowledging the resistance of the wood. He was just in time to see the man line up a second shot, turning slightly at the sound of the door. He didn't have a chance to retaliate. Gambit's gun coughed once, twice, thrice. He was dead before he hit the ground.
When the consequence of rage/Comes crashing through the living room floor
It was only then that he took in the room. And there, in front of the mirror, clutching the barre for dear life, was her.
I see you fall
Her eyes were wide with shock and overwhelming pain, brighter than the spreading crimson stain on her blouse. Somehow, she managed to make those large blue pools meet his, right before she collapsed.
I see you fall/I've never seen you look so beautiful
It took forever to cross the room, to reach her. But when he finally knelt to cradle her in his arms, the logical part of his brain told him it was hopeless. The wound was serious. Close to the heart. He did his best to staunch the flow, his own heart breaking all the while.
"Hold on, Purdey," he had said, voice quavering. "I'll call an ambulance. Just hold on."
She managed a weak smile. "I can't, Mike," she said simply. "I just can't. Not even for you. I'm sorry." She took a shaky breath. "I heard him at the door, thought it was you, told him to come in. I was in the bedroom. Walked straight into the line of fire."
"I should have come sooner," he whispered. "I was late, I—I'm so sorry."
"Nothing to forgive. How could you have known?"
"I promised myself I wouldn't let this happen."
"Shhh," she managed, putting a finger to his lips. "But Mike, I have something I want to tell you. All the teasing, the flirting, was just a cover. I-I always," she paused to take a deep breath, "always loved you, Mike Gambit, and I'm sorry I've waited 'til now to admit it."
Gambit felt tears spring to his eyes. "I love you too, Purdey, so please, for my sake, hang on,"
"Hopeless, I'm afraid," she said sadly. "Take my hand—say good-bye." He took her left hand in his, and looked into the clear blue eyes for the last time.
"Good-bye," he breathed, and kissed her as tenderly as he could. Then they shared one last look, and her tear-filled eyes slid closed, the hand went limp, and she was gone.
And Mike Gambit, having lived through and seen so much, held her crumpled form close and cried.
He didn't really remember calling Steed, or the Ministry's clean-up crew. He didn't remember where he got the sheet, or actually xovering her body with it. He didn't know how he ended up on the couch staring into nothingness. All he knew is that Steed was suddenly beside him, speaking as quietly and calmly as he could with a tremor in his voice while people took her away and loaded up her murderer.
Kendrick came and gave him something that he took without protest, and another nameless Ministry man took Gambit's statement, which he gave without emotion once the drugs kicked in. The man also confirmed what both Gambit and Steed had known when they had looked at the body of her killer—the victim of the haymaker, the man Turner had left to guard her, the one she had distracted. Somehow, he had gotten out, with revenge on his mind. Steed had received the warning mere seconds before Gambit's near unintelligible call. Too little, too late.
Steed had insisted that Gambit come to spend the night at the stud farm, a long trip taken in silence. The older agent had somehow arranged for clean clothes to be collected from Gambit's flat, had taken away the things that were soaked in her blood while Gambit stood in the shower and let the tears fall.
Then there was a long night, during which he and Steed sat up, painfully aware of the gaping void between them where a person should have been to lighten their mood, and brighten their spirits.
Back at her flat, the flowers lay, wilted and forgotten on the passenger seat of the Jag.
They went to her mother's the next day. The poor woman had collapsed the night before upon hearing that the fate that befell her husband had taken her daughter as well. By the time Steed and Gambit saw her, she was drawn and pale, dressed in mourning black, but composed. The pair explained it all, even the fact that the killer had met his end at Gambit's hands, but that was scant consolation. Steed did most of the talking. Gambit looked on and added his comments when pertinent. But mostly he watched this remarkable woman, so brave under such trying circumstances, just like her daughter. The resemblance was striking. He remembered the beautiful young woman telling him about that fateful day more than a decade ago, when the two men had come and told her mother that she was a widow. History had repeated itself with tragic consistency. Gambit had always wanted to meet her mother, but in happier circumstances. She felt an instant affinity for him, though, which somehow made it harder.
Well my suit's been pressed and cleaned/And I've never seen these people before
He'd gone to the funeral fully aware that he was going to be gawked at, being the only person present in her last moments. He knew few of them, these people from her past who had known her, cared for her, loved her, but never as he had in those final moments. Only Steed and her mother knew exactly how much she had professed at the end. Gambit had no intention of sharing it beyond that tight circle. He had told the Ministry man to stuff it, in so many words. Somehow he managed to take in the service dry-eyed. He sat next to her mother, her smaller hand enveloped in his. She gleaned at least some solace from being near the person who said goodbye to her daughter.
As they lower you into the ground/And you've never seen these people before
Many Ministry people attended, some of whom Gambit was certain she never met. But someone had to be sent, for appearances. And when it was all over, he took his leave from the tea as quickly as possible, and now he was driving, still in his black mourning suit, with the armband around his right arm. Steed had tried to persuade him to stay, but in the end had let him go. The older man had been hit just as hard, and Gambit felt guilty that he was so little support. In all his years, John Steed had never lost a partner, especially a woman. All those old friends had taken their toll, but she was the last straw. The game had turned sour. He would retire. The John Steed era had ended. Gambit was going to be on his own.
And I/Think I'm falling/Just keep driving
He didn't know if he'd stay with the Ministry now, if he could without seeing her in every corridor, around every corner. He was to go to his aunt's tomorrow. Perhaps she could sort it out. Tonight would be filled with dreams of her. If only he hadn't had to say goodbye. If only he'd been there sooner. If only, if only, if only.
But she was right.
There is nothing to forgive now
Author's Notes: Not the feel good piece of the year, but it got stuck in my head after hear the song--David Usher's "See You Fall"--which I cite in italics throughout the piece, and I finally gave in and wrote it all out in one sitting one evening in an hour or so, with the lyrics in front of me. "What if," I thought, "Gambit hadn't gotten there in time?" This one's obviously AU, as I'd never want to see it played out onscreen.
This one's also a few years old now. I don't know that I'd ever use a song quite this directly again, if you catch my meaning, but it's a bit of musing.