by J. Ferguson a.k.a. Timeless A-Peel
Disclaimer: I don't own The New Avengers, nor the characters of Steed, Gambit, and Purdey. They belong to The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises. This story is written for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.
Author's Note: This one's sort of a strange bird. Like "Good Value," I got the idea while studying for exams. Amazingly, coming up with New Avengers stories is more interesting than sweating your way through a 300-page textbook. Inevitably, these tend to be influenced by whatever I was studying at the time, this one in particular focussing on a philosophy logic class. I don't know if I've explained the concepts particularly well, but then I wouldn't recommend anyone use this to help them study! Just enjoy it for the bit of strangeness it is.
Gambit and Steed rounded opposite corners simultaneously, meeting in the middle and nearly colliding for their efforts. Gambit clicked the hammer on his revolver back to the safety position as soon as he determined that the senior agent wasn't one of them. "All clear?" he asked Steed, eyes still darting about, searching for further enemies.
Steed nodded. "The cavalry arrived—McKay's men have rounded up the last of those fellows that you, ah, sedated."
Gambit grinned a little at that. "'S why you employ me."
Steed couldn't argue with that. "But try to be a little more moderate next time," he chastised gently. Gambit shrugged a little. "We needed at least one awake to answer the most pressing question—where's Purdey, and did she manage to get Venn to safety?"
"That's two questions," Gambit pointed out helpfully, and got a glare for his efforts. They didn't have much time to discuss it further, though, because it was at that point that a soft thud came from down the hall. Gambit and Steed exchanged glances, and headed toward the source.
The rather large sliding door they found took up one whole wall, not surprising considering the old building had been a warehouse in its more prosperous days. Beyond the peeling paint, the muffled sounds of a person, or persons, moving about were audible. Gambit tapped gently on the door, and they stopped almost immediately. "Purdey?" he asked carefully.
"Gambit," came the relieved reply. "I was starting to worry."
"About me?" he asked hopefully.
"About us," she snapped back, squelching him before he got too optimistic. Then she seemed to regret the short fuse. "And you two a bit, I suppose. It's not exactly the Ritz in here."
"You can come out now," Gambit told her. "McKay's cleaned things up."
There was a pause, while a second, male, voice emanated from beyond the door, but he was farther away and words couldn't be discerned. Purdey replied, also inaudibly, and then spoke to them once again.
"Venn wants proof that you're not being used to flush him out. He thinks you might be held at gunpoint as we speak, and we can't see you." There was a pause. "To tell you the truth, I'd like a little reassurance that everything's all right myself."
"Such as?" Steed queried, brow furrowed.
There was another silence, then she spoke up again, saying the words slowly, as though she wasn't sure they'd understand. "Gambit, if everything's all right, name all four of our children, in the order they wreaked havoc with my figure, starting with the first."
Steed frowned. "Purdey, are you running low on air in there?"
There was a snort. "Certainly not. Gambit?"
Gambit was pondering this, seemingly unconcerned by Purdey's strange request. Names. First. Figure. He grinned.
"There's Barbara, of course," he began, watching Steed's face contort in bemusement. "And Celarent. Ferio. And Darii, our favourite."
There was a pause, then the sound of bolts being drawn back, and Purdey and Venn were revealed as the door slid aside. She exchanged a smile with Gambit. "You remembered."
"How could I forget?" Gambit replied, before turning to the short, mousy man that peered over Purdey's shoulder. "Come on, Mr. Venn. We've some people who will be glad to look after you. "
It wasn't until they were in Steed's Jag, Purdey in the back, that the senior agent could no longer keep his silence. Purdey and Gambit were discussing the merits of Roger Moore, and whether the titular "Saint" was doing Bond any justice. Steed wasn't exactly sure how they'd arrived there, but he was fairly certain it had started when Purdey had asked the time…
"Out of curiosity," Steed broke in as Gambit tried to articulate his thoughts on "Live and Let Die," "those 'children' of yours..." He let the sentence hang.
Purdey and Gambit exchanged a knowing look. "Do you think we should tell him?" Purdey asked, biting her lip.
"He'll figure it out sooner or later," Gambit pointed out. "Anyway, we knew we couldn't keep it a secret forever."
"Keep what a secret?" Steed wanted to know, his curiosity well and truly piqued.
"Didn't you know, Steed?" Purdey said matter-of-factly. "Gambit and I met years ago when his boat docked in France and I was at Sorbonne. And well, I was young and impressionable, and…" She looked to Gambit for encouragement, and he nodded reassuringly. "We ran away together to Italy and had four children before the Navy caught up with us and threw Gambit in jail for going AWOL."
"And while I was stuck in there she left me for some vacationing Duke with a fast car," Gambit said mournfully. "I've been trying to win her back ever since."
"We didn't reconnect for years. Now the children live with my mother, and Gambit gets them every third weekend."
"And on holidays," Gambit added with a grin.
Steed raised an alarmed eyebrow. Purdey and Gambit looked at him solemnly for a moment. Then Gambit's mouth twitched and soon they had both dissolved in laughter. Steed shook his head as Purdey buried her face in Gambit's shoulder and tried to stop giggling.
"Steed, your face…for a second, you looked like you believed us," she choked.
"Well, it would explain a great deal about your relationship," Steed pointed out.
That quenched them. "What do you mean?" Gambit wanted to know.
"Never mind," Steed muttered, not wanting to bring up Purdey and Gambit's married couple tendencies. "What's the real story?"
"Oh, it's much less interesting," Purdey demurred. "We were doing surveillance, and after a few hours our minds started to go."
"I still say there was something in that coffee you brought," Gambit commented.
Purdey frowned. "Of course. I thought I told you." She started ticking the ingredients on her fingers. "There was brandy, and rum, and…"
Gambit paled. "That explains it. I'm never letting you near my tea again."
"As I was saying," Purdey went on, "Gambit and I started on philosophy."
"We always do," Gambit pointed out.
"And then we came to syllogisms, and one way to determine if categorical syllogisms are valid is to memorise names that correspond with figures," Purdey went on.
"And the valid first figure syllogisms are Barbara, Celarent, Darii, and Ferio," Gambit put in.
"If you take the vowels, you get types of statements that lead to valid argument. So Barbara's mood and figure is AAA-1."
"And then we got to talking…," Gambit said with a grin.
"We were a little stir-crazy by this point," Purdey added.
"And we said that if we ever had kids, we could name them after the syllogisms," Gambit explained. "And the story just sort of grew."
"So I thought it would make a good password. Now if Gambit had used, say, Baroco,"
"I would've known something was wrong, because those aren't first figure arguments, which was what I asked for."
"The children are valid arguments?" Steed could feel the corners of his mouth tugging up at the absurdity of it all.
"Of course," Purdey bristled. "If they were invalid, what would the neighbors think? Not to mention the blow to their self-esteem."
"I'd no idea you two were logicians."
"Well, it can't hurt in this business," Gambit sighed. "Purdey knows all the rules quite well."
Purdey grinned proudly.
"Her application of them leaves something to be desired, though," Gambit went on. Purdey's grin turned to a frown hurriedly.
"That's only because you can't keep up," she snapped.
"It's hard when you skip whole chunks of the argument," Gambit protested. "Like the time you started on about oranges when we were trying to pick a disco." He shook his head. "I don't even want to know what sort of leaps you made to manage that one. Anyway, I'm not a mind-reader."
"Then I'll make it easy for you. All people identical to Gambit are people who will have bruises after our next karate session."
"Can you back that up with good reasons?"
"Reason one: Mike Gambit deserves it."
"In pq form," Gambit teased, and Purdey made a face. Steed sighed. He was in for a long journey, and he knew it.
Further Author's Notes: If you've never taken a logic class, this won't make a whole load of sense, but you can get the gist of what Purdey's trying to explain by looking up Wikipedia's article on syllogisms. I can see Purdey and Gambit talking about this sort of thing, especially when there's time to kill. Besides, when you're named after a gun, is it such a stretch to name your kid after a logical argument?
Oh, and Mr. Venn is named after British logician John Venn, of the diagram fame, whose invention is infinitely useful for visually plotting arguments. I know. I couldn't help myself.