by J. Ferguson a.k.a. Timeless A-Peel
Disclaimer: As I have yet to master the art of time-travel, I have not been able to acquire the rights to The New Avengers, nor the characters of Steed, Purdey or Gambit. They belong to The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises. This story is written for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.
Author's Note: More AU, this one with a more drawn-out plot. Good practice for figuring out the site's chapter system. As such, I'll be having a little silly fun in places. I only finished this one a little over a month ago, so I'm editing as I go, but I've managed a few twists and turns with this one. Hope you enjoy!
The call came at half past ten, while Purdey was preparing to go out for the day. She hadn't had a proper day off in ages, and when the Ministry had informed Steed that there was nothing pressing to be attended to, the senior agent had told his two young charges to forgo visiting the office and spend the day recharging. Purdey was thinking along the lines of a little shopping, followed by light lunch, and then perhaps a spur-of-the-moment evening at the ballet. She meant to cram as much in as possible. There was no telling when she would have another of such days again.
She didn't know how Gambit planned to spend his reprieve, and she wasn't entirely certain that was a bad thing. Certain possibilities raised her hackles, and she didn't need any hackle-raising today. Instead, she was looking forward to relaxation, rejuvenation. She put the final touches on her make-up and admired the result. Yes, if everything went according to plan, today would be a good day.
The phone rang. Purdey's head whipped toward her bedside table, and she glared at the instrument. She had half a mind not to answer. If it was the Ministry, her plans were scuppered, and she had no excuse for not stepping in to save Queen and Country. But if she pretended she had already left, that she had gone out for the day… Purdey sighed and shook her head, setting down the eyebrow pencil. No, that wouldn't work. Her curiousity and sense of duty would get the best of her throughout the day, and if something really terrible had happened, well, she wanted to know now. She made her way over to the phone, allowed herself one last indulgent sigh before lifting the receiver.
"Mike Gambit's flat."
Purdey blinked at the strange greeting. "I beg your pardon?"
"Go there immediately."
Purdey frowned. "Who is this?" she demanded, but the line had gone dead. She scowled at the receiver in puzzlement, then hung up. The voice had been vaguely familiar, male, but she couldn't come up with any matches at the moment. Then the full implications of the caller's words sunk in. Purdey felt a sinking sensation in her stomach. Gambit's flat. Gambit. Mike…
Purdey started to run, thrusting the beaded curtains aside, plans forgotten as a newfound urgency overtook her. Gambit could be in trouble. Pausing only to scoop up her keys, she dashed for the door, well aware that she was, in all likelihood, racing into a trap. She didn't care. If Gambit needed help, she would give it. Anything else was unthinkable.
She drove like a madwoman to his block, mind turning over the possibilities. Had Gambit been captured? Was that it? A ransom demand? Or was it a joke? Someone playing a prank? Purdey doubted it. People at the Ministry knew better than to joke about life or death situations. She arrived at the building, found it intact, ruling out a major disaster like a fire. As she alighted from her own vehicle, she spotted a familiar bowler-hatted figure across the street, climbing from a green Jaguar.
He turned in surprise at the girl dashing across the street toward him. "Purdey! What are you--?"
"I had a call," Purdey explained, coming to a stop beside him. She met his gaze. "Don't tell me you…?"
"Male. Half an hour ago. Told me to come to Gambit's immediately," Steed confirmed, glancing up toward Mike's row of windows. "I've no idea what it means, either. Other than—"
"Trap," Purdey finished. "I didn't think to bring a gun." She cursed her thoughtlessness.
"Let's hope we don't need one," Steed murmured, striding for the door.
They kept their wits about them as they rode the lift, eyes open for any sign of surveillance or a set-up. They arrived at Gambit's floor without incident, made their way down the hall to his door. A quick inspection revealed that it hadn't been tampered with, no sign of forced entry or a trap. Steed, forgoing the Gambit method of kicking his way in, produced his spare key and unlocked the door, before prodding it open with his brolly. Purdey stood well back, eyes on the ever-growing opening. Her blue eyes widened in alarm at what she saw.
"Mike!" The scream tore her throat.
Gambit was sprawled on the floor, lying on his back with his limbs loosely spread over the carpet. He was dressed in suit and tie, and looked as though he was in the process of going out. He wasn't moving.
Purdey pushed past Steed, not bothering to check for a waiting attacker. Steed, concern etched on his features, did the job for her, scanning the room while Purdey dropped to her knees beside the prone form. "Call an ambulance!" she ordered, even as she bent over her fallen friend. Gambit's eyes were open, staring unseeingly at the ceiling, face expressionless. There was no fear, no surprise, no sign of attack. No bruises, no blood. Just a body. And a deathly stare.
"Mike," Purdey whimpered, pressing a finger to his neck, starting at how cool the skin was. She searched in vain for a pulse, found none, transferred her attention to his wrist. Still nothing. Stretching her hand beneath his nose confirmed he wasn't breathing, either. "I can't find a pulse!" she told Steed, who was on the phone. She turned back to Gambit. "Mike Gambit, don't you dare die on me! Don't you dare!" She put her hands on his chest, one over another, and pressed down, just as she'd been taught in first-aid. She counted carefully, before bending to press her mouth to his, desperately trying to inflate his lungs. Then again, press, count, breathe. Repeat. Over and over. She was vaguely aware of Steed coming to kneel beside her, but she was too busy to pay him any heed. All of her attention was on Mike. Her gestures were frantic, desperate, and, when Steed caught hold of Gambit's wrist himself, he realized they were futile as well. He watched Purdey sadly, still counting faithfully, still pausing to give him the kiss of life, when somewhere deep down, he knew she was well-aware there was nothing to be done. He laid a hand on her shoulder.
"No, I'm not finished! I'm not! He'll come round!" Purdey said desperately. "Won't you, Mike? You're too damn stubborn to die here, like this."
"Purdey," Steed repeated. "There's nothing you can do. He's gone."