Fandom: The New Avengers
Timeline: shortly after the series - the three are back in England after their adventures in France and Canada.
Cast: Purdey, Gambit, Steed
Summary: The times they are a-changing ...
Disclaimer: The only thing here that's mine is the story idea - though it might not be entirely new to some ... Everything else belongs to those wonderful chaps who came up with the Avengers and the New Avengers, Sydney Newman and Brian Clemens.
Purdey only glanced at Gambit when he got back in the car, then returned her attention to the yellow house across the street.
She turned her head to look at him. He was holding a muffin with a tiny burning candle on top of it.
"Happy birthday", he said with a smile.
Purdey laughed. "Thanks."
"Now, make a wish and blow it out."
Purdey closed her eyes for a moment, then blew out the candle. Gambit gave her the muffin. She broke it in half and gave one piece back to him.
"Can't eat my whole birthday cake all on my own, can I?"
Gambit laughed. "Oh, I think you could, even if it were much bigger. - Ouch."
Purdey had punched his arm.
"Really, Mike Gambit, you sure do have a way with women."
"That's why they like to date me."
They kept watching the house while they ate the muffin and then sat in silence.
Suddenly, Purdey sighed.
Gambit frowned. "What is it?"
"Nothing. I was just thinking how much things have changed." She flashed him a smile. "Ten years ago, on my twentieth birthday, I was sitting under a tree in Hyde Park together with Larry, planning our wedding. Today, I'm sitting in a car with you, observing a house where we hope Steed's would-be murderer got his hide-out so that we can catch him as soon as he shows up. Now, if you'd told me that ten years ago ..."
"And still," Purdey went on after a moment, more slowly, as though she were choosing her words carefully, "there's no place I'd rather be." She frowned. "I mean, of course, there's a place I'd rather be and circumstances I'd rather have. But generally speaking, I'm exactly where I want to be." She sighed again. "If only Steed makes it ..."
"I called the hospital when I went for that muffin", Gambit said.
Once more, Purdey turned her head to look at him. It was impossible to guess what was going through her mind but he asumed they were the same things that had been going through his mind when he had made that call half an hour ago. What if they said Steed wasn't going to make it? It had taken him a full five minutes to work up the nerve to dial the number and hear what they had to say.
"He's not awake, yet", he said. "But they say he's stable and chances are good he'll make it."
There was no great show of relief from Purdey but the way her eyes lit up told him more than a hundred words could have done.
"Good. Obviously, he's been taking me by my word. I told him that if he died on my birthday, I'd never speak to him again." Purdey sighed again but this time, it was a content sigh. "One wish down, one to go."
When Gambit frowned, she explained: "I made two wishes when I blew out the candle. The first one was that Steed would come through. And the second - well, I can't tell you or else, it won't come true. But I bet you can guess what else I wished for."
"We'll get him", he said. "He doesn't know that we know about his little hide-out here."
They had to wait for another hour, then a man turned around the corner. Gambit wanted to get out of the car but Purdey held him back.
"No, wait. Let him come closer. I want him to see us, to recognise us - and know we're coming for him."
Gambit nodded. "Your birthday - your operation."
Purdey smiled at him, then concentrated on the man again. He had almost reached the yellow house. Gambit drew his gun. "Just in case."
They got out of the car when the man had reached the door and was fumbling in his pockets for the keys. When he heard the car doors close, he looked up. All the colour drained from his face when he recognised Purdey and Gambit. He reacted fast enough, though. Instead of keys, he pulled a gun from his pocket, ready to shoot. Gambit fired first, though, and shot the gun from his hand. The man let out a cry of pain and clutched his injured hand. Eyeing the pair, he slowly backed away from them, then turned and started to run.
"Get him!" Gambit called.
He didn't have to tell Purdey twice. She went after the man, gaining on him with every step. They had almost reached the corner. Gambit started to move, too. He didn't want to lose sight of them. But he needn't have bothered. Suddenly, Purdey threw herself forward and knocked the man to the ground. There was a short struggle. The man managed to turn so he was looking at Purdey. It didn't do him any good. The last thing he saw before everything went black was Purdey's fist speeding towards his face as she knocked him out with her infamous right hook.
Only a moment later, Gambit reached them. He looked down at the man and held out his hand to help Purdey to her feet.
"I think you broke his nose", he said.
"Oh dear." Purdey dusted off her jeans. "I must have hit him harder than I meant to."
Gambit shrugged. "Never mind. He'll live."
He rolled the man on his belly and secured wrists behind his back with a pair of handcuffs.
"So much for your second wish", he said with a smile.
Purdey nodded. "I wasn't sure if it would work - there was only one candle, after all."
Gambit got up again. "Now we've just got to get him back to the Department and then, we can check on Steed again."
"Yes, and then, I'll have to go home and help with the preparations for that birthday party tonight."
"You're still going through with it?"
"I can't cancel. It is my thirtieth birthday, after all. Mum invited all the relatives both sides of the family - no way to come up with an excuse and contact them all on such short notice." Purdey frowned. "But if you don't want to come -"
"No, I'll come."
"Good." Purdey smiled. "That means I'll have four sensible people to talk to. You, Mum, my stepfather and Uncle Elly."
"The party starts at eight, right?" Gambit asked.
"Yes, but it would be better if you could come at seven. I'd like to celebrate a little with you and Uncle Elly and my parents before all hell breaks loose."
Gambit nodded. "I'll be there."
Purdey looked up as Gambit sat down on the stone step beside her.
"What are you doing out here?" he asked. "There's a party going on inside."
"Yes, that's why I'm out here. I've been so busy all day long I've barely had a moment to think. They'll just have to do without me for a while."
Gambit wasn't sure whether this was his cue to make his excuses and leave. Purdey certainly had a lot to think about, even if Steed hadn't narrowly escaped death. He understood why she wanted to be alone for a while. But when he was about to get up and leave, she looked at him.
"You know - this is so completely different from what I thought my life would be like ten years ago. Not that I'd mind. When I said, this morning, that I'm exactly where I want to be, I really meant it. But -" She sighed and looked at the garden again. "I was so sure I'd be married to Larry and have a bunch of kids. Two, maybe three."
"It's a shame it didn't work out", Gambit said. To him, it sounded pretty lame - all too obvious he didn't really mean it. He never would have met Purdey if she had married Larry. Alright, so he wouldn't have known what he was missing, but still - Maybe it was odd to feel that way but he had always felt that the team had only been complete when she had joined him and Steed. Ever since then, they'd been a team of three instead of two instead of the usual Department-sanctioned two. But since it worked so well, nobody ever argued.
"Not really, actually. I mean - it wasn't exactly the happiest time of my life when I first broke it off with Larry and then, got kicked out of the Royal Ballet. But looking back from where I'm now, it probably was the best thing that ever happened to me." Purdey smiled. "After all, if they hadn't kicked me out and if I'd married Larry, I never would have met you and Steed."
"No regrets?" Gambit asked.
She frowned. "Well - I wish I'd been with the Royal Ballet long enough to dance Odette. The female lead in Swan Lake. That used to be my big dream. But except for that -" She shook her head. "If I had done things differently, I wouldn't be here now. Well - I would but you probably wouldn't so - no, I don't think there's anything I really regret doing or not doing."
They sat in silence, listening to the sounds of the night around them and the noise of the party burbling away in the background. And as they sat there, in the moonlit spring night, Gambit realised he would remember this. Years from now, he'd remember this moment and know it had been perfect. Well - almost perfect. Someone was missing.
"I wonder where we'll be ten years from now", he mused.
"Oh, I know." Purdey patted the step next to her. "Right here. We'll be sitting on this very step, you, Steed and I, with a bottle of very expensive champagne and three glasses, drinking to the future."
Gambit smiled. "I like that." He looked at Purdey and his smile turned into a grin. "We could add five scruffy children to the picture, you know?"
Purdey laughed. "Five kids in ten years? No way, Mike Gambit! Three's the absolute limit." She, too, grinned. "Though you might want to ask Sharona Bishop. I've heard she wants to be the new Purdey - trying to break all my old records from when I was still in training."
Gambit raised his eyebrows. "Yes, I've heard of her. She's good, they say."
"I suppose Steed's going to bring her into the team." Purdey took in a deep breath. "You need someone to replace me while I'm gone and she's almost through with her training."
"So you decided to go", Gambit said.
"It's only for a year. And it is Quantico. Special training. A once in a lifetime opportunity. McKay did promise - no, I actually made him swear - I can join Steed and you again when I return." Purdey sighed. "Mind you, if Sharona's as good in the field as she's in training -" She grinned again. "Keep your fingers crossed she won't cause any trouble regarding my getting back on the team or else, you'll discover a whole new meaning of the word 'catfight'."
Gambit laughed. "Purdey and Sharona. A vintage rifle versus a fast car - that would get interesting." He grew serious again. "I'm gonna miss you."
"And I you. - Oh Gambit, I'm going to be so homesick. I just know it. When we moved to England and I started going to school, the first few months were terrible. It's going to be just the same with the States."
"I don't think so. You'll be too busy fending off all those handsome young FBI agents in training who'll be falling over each other asking you out on dates. You won't have time to feel homesick."
"Yes, I will. It would be odd not to." Purdey frowned. "It would be only half as bad if I knew Steed was going to be alright. As long as I can look forward to coming back to you two ..."
"I called the hospital again before I came here. I'm afraid I'm starting to get on their nerves. They said he woke up briefly this afternoon." Gambit put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her against him. "You really don't have to worry about him. Don't you remember how you once said that he wasn't born but found under a four-leaf clover?"
Purdey rested her head against his shoulder. "Yes, but that was so long ago, Gambit. A million years or so. Now I know that there's one bullet out there with your name on it and when you meet with it, not even all the four-leaf clovers in the world can save you."
Gambit shrugged. "True, but that's something you have to live with, in this job. When you're afraid of that -"
"Oh, I'm not afraid for my sake. But for yours. And Steed's."
Gambit frowned. "You know - I think that's just the way Steed wants to go. Out in the field, cut down by a bullet. He doesn't have to stay on active duty. He could have retired - or got a desk-job in the Department. Teach the trainees." He laughed. "Hell, I bet if he asked for it, they'd even make him prime Minister, somehow. But that's not what he wants."
"I don't know if I can do that."
"Live for the job the way Steed does."
"You don't have to. You can always -"
"Quit?" Purdey shook her head and smiled. "Not anymore. Oh, they would let me go if I really wanted to quit. But you don't really think the other side would leave me alone, do you? And as long as you and Steed are still on the job - all they'd have to do would be to kidnap me and threaten to kill me to make you do whatever they say."
Gambit didn't argue. It was true, after all. As soon as you joined the ranks of top agents, it was almost a one-way street. Not impossible to get out and live the rest of your life in peace but very, very hard to do. To the world in general, you might be a nobody - but to the other side, to your own side, too, you rose to a certain fame. Or even became a living legend, like John Steed.
"Do you think he wants out?" Gambit asked.
"No. If there's one man in the whole wide world I'd think capable of disappearing completely and building a new life somewhere, it's John Steed. If he wanted out, he wouldn't still be here."
Behind them, they heard footsteps approach.
"There you are."
Purdey turned and looked up. "Uncle Elly."
"There's someone on the phone for you", the colonel said. "Wants to congratulate you."
Purdey frowned. "Really? I thought all my friends called this afternoon. And the others are here."
Suddenly, she stiffened, exchanged a hopeful look with Gambit. Then, she jumped up and darted back into the house.
"Excuse me." Gambit scrambled to his feet and followed her.
Elroyd Foster looked after them, putting his hands on his back. He frowned. He had first been introduced to Mike Gambit when they had finished that business with "Mad Jack" Miller and Purdey had introduced her colleagues to him. So far, it had been quite enough that Mike Gambit was a nice young man who took good care of his favourite niece. Not that she needed it. She knew how to take care of herself. But still, it was nice to know someone was keeping an eye on her. Now, however, Elroyd Foster wondered whether it might not be better to get to know that nice young man a little better. Just in case.
Purdey picked up the receiver her mother had put down next to the phone.
"Steed?" she asked, trying to catch her breath.
Gambit arrived in time to see a smile spread over her face. She nodded at him. It was Steed.
"Thanks for calling. Gambit and I were a bit worried."
She listened and laughed. Then listened some more.
"Oh, never mind the party. We'll have a special celebration next year, when I'm back from the States." She nodded. "Yes, I decided to go." And with a grin in Gambit's direction added: "If you need someone to replace me while I'm gone, I'd recommend Sharona Bishop. She's almost through with her training and if what they say is true, she might be so perfect you'll never know I'm gone."
Gambit looked her over with a frown, then shook his head and mouthed "irreplaceable" at her. She smiled at him and gave him the "one of these days"-look.
"Yes, I suppose it's going to be very interesting in Quantico. But I'm going to miss you and Gambit. You'll have to come visit me."
She listened again.
"As soon as you've recovered? I'll count on it!" Another nod. "I'll tell him. Good night, Steed."
she hung up and turned to Gambit.
"Steed says he's going to be alright. The doctors say it'll take him a while to get back on his feet but he plans to surprise them all by making it faster than they expect."
Gambit laughed. "Sounds just like Steed."
"He sounded tired. But I don't think we have to worry about him."
The door to the living room opened and Purdey's mother came out.
"Good news?" she asked.
Purdey nodded. "Steed called."
"That's wonderful!" Purdey's mother looked genuinely pleased. Her and Purdey's stepfather were among the very few "normal world people" as Purdey called them, who knew the truth about their daughter's occupation and who also knew her partners.
She frowned. "I'm sorry, dear, but Edina's been asking for you for at least half an hour. If you don't go and talk to her, she'll start making a sweep of the whole house."
Purdey made a face and sighed. "I guess in that case, I'll have to face her and get over with it."
She followed her mother into the living room.
Gambit stood there for another moment, watching her retreating form. Suddenly, someone patted him on the shoulder. He turned. Elroyd Foster.
"Young man," he said, "why don't you join me for a drink? I think I'd like to get to know you better."
Gambit shrugged. "Sure, why not?" He smiled. "To be honest, I wouldn't mind getting to know you better, either. Purdey's been telling me so much about her Uncle Elly."
The colonel laughed. "Yes, she likes me very much. And I her. Splendid girl. But let's get that drink before we start talking, eh?" He winked. "I know where the bishop's hiding the good stuff."
-- End --