Fandom: The New Avengers
Timeline: Set about a week after "Obsession"
Cast: Purdey, Gambit
Summary: Gambit's worried sick - Purdey's in no mood to talk.
Disclaimer: The only thing here that's mine is the story idea. Everything else belongs to those wonderful chaps who came up with the Avengers and the New Avengers, Sydney Newman and Brian Clemens.
"Purdey?" Gambit thumped his fist against the door to Purdey's flat. She had removed the spare key he usually used to let himself in in a case of emergency. And this, he figured, was an emergency.
"Purdey, open that door or I swear I'll kick it in!"
He took a step back and listened. Nothing. Not a single sound. He hoped the silence only meant that she was trying to figure out whether he was really serious. Because if it meant something else ... Suddenly, he felt like someone had punched him in the stomach. Of course it didn't. Purdey was somewhere in there, pondering whether she should open or risk having her door kicked in. He really had to stop thinking such nonsense. There - wasn't that someone moving? He heard soft footsteps, then saw Purdey's silhouette through the curtain. The door swung open.
Gambit stepped through and closed it behind him. He noticed at once Purdey had drawn the blinds on the windows in the bedroom and living room. He took a quick look around and spotted some dirty dishes in the sink. Well, at least, she seemed to be eating. A good sign, he hoped. He turned his attention to Purdey. He couldn't see her face - she'd turned to walk away from him before he'd even got inside. But the clothes she was wearing looked like she had been sleeping in them. It was the first time since she had joined him and Steed that she didn't seem to take care of her appearance.
"I just wanted to see whether you were still around."
When he spoke, she stopped but didn't turn back to face him.
"As you can see, I am." Her voice sounded cold, almost hostile. Well, and why not? She had every reason to hate him. "Could you please go now? I'd like to be alone."
"No." Gambit took a step closer to her. "You've been alone long enough."
He'd told himself that he'd be patient, but the frustration was too much.
"Dammit, Purdey!" he burst out, and then took hold of himself to go on in a more controlled voice. "Steed and I have been worried sick about you! You don't answer the phone, you don't open the door ..."
Purdey finally did turn at him. She wasn't wearing any make-up, Gambit noticed. The way she looked at him made him think of a statue. Only her eyes seemed alive. They were a dark, cloudy grey – a sure sign she was angry. "I told you both that I'd like to be alone for a while."
The look would have made him back off on another occasion but Gambit stood his ground. He was determined not to leave until he had talked to her.
Purdey must have seen the determination in his eyes. She retreated to the sofa and sat down. Suddenly, she looked very small and very tired. "Just - go away."
"I can't." He moved closer to her, stepping over a silver frame on the floor, the glass broken, the photo gone. It probably was, he guessed, the one he now spotted on the coffee-table, torn into pieces. He looked at Purdey. She had her chin propped up in her left hand and with her right index finger, was rearranging the pieces of the photo into the picture they had once been. Larry - a somewhat younger Larry - dressed in his Air Force uniform.
"Purdey, we need to talk."
"I don't want to talk." She didn't look at him as she spoke. "I want to be left alone. Please go."
Gambit shook his head. "I can't Purdey. I can't just leave you here like this."
He waited for her to say something, to point out in acerbic tones that all he had to do was turn round about 180 degrees, open the door, step out and close it behind him, the way she usually would have done. But she kept her attention fixed on the torn-up photo.
Gambit took in a deep breath - and hesitated. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to - Oh, to hell with it. They had always been able to talk openly. Sure, there were things in his past he had never told her and the same was true for her, too, or else he would have known about Larry much sooner than he did. But they had always been able to talk and look at each other and know they had spoken their minds. He just hoped he wouldn't be putting the idea into her head.
"If it weren't for Dan, I probably would leave you alone", he said softly.
Purdey finally did look up at him. She frowned. "Dan Saunders from the Department? What's he got to do with this?"
"Not Saunders. Dan Farrell. An old friend." Gambit took in another deep breath. Come on, out with it. The worst that could happen was that Purdey would get so mad at him that she simply would grab him by the collar and throw him out. "He died quite some years ago. He told me to leave him alone and I did. His mum found him three days later. He'd shot himself, not long after I'D left. But if I'd stayed -"
If he had stayed, Dan might still be alive. He hadn't thought about it for years. Well, not much, at least. But during the last few days, when he had been unable to reach Purdey, that image had kept coming back to haunt him. Dan lying on the floor, gun still in his hand, blood pooling around his head.
For a moment, he thought he saw something like understanding in Purdey's eyes. Then, she looked away again.
"If that's what you're worried about, my gun's over there." She pointed her chin at the small table with the phone. "And the carving knives are in the top left drawer." Her voice sounded cool and distant.
Gambit sighed. No use trying. Purdey didn't want to talk - there was no way to make her. But there was something he could do. He picked up the gun and put it in his pocket. Then, after a moment's hesitation, he opened the drawer Purdey had indicated and bundled up the knives to take them with him. Purdey gave him a sideways glance and made an exasperated sound.
"I'll go", he told her, "but I'll be back. Every day. Count on it."
He turned started for the door, had his hand on the knob when she finally did speak.
"I dream of him." She spoke so softly he almost thought he'd imagined it.
He turned and came back over to her. She was leaning back on the sofa, hugging a cushion to her chest and staring at the photo on the table.
"Of Larry?" Gambit asked, standing at her shoulder, wishing he dared touch her.
Purdey nodded. "I dream that we're back at the site of our dream-house. And he's pointing his gun at me, just as he really did. Only this time, he shoots me because you're not there to stop him. And that's when I wake up and can't go back to sleep."
Gambit sat down on the sofa. When there was no protest from Purdey, he inched closer till he was sitting right beside her. On another occasion, he would have put his arm around her shoulder. But not now.
"He wouldn't have hurt you", he said.
Purdey gave a short bitter laugh. "Oh yes, he would. If it hadn't been for you, I 'd be dead now."
"But you said -"
"I know what I said." Purdey put her chin on the cushion. "And MY Larry never would have hurt me. But that wasn't my Larry anymore. Not the one I used to know. He had changed so much -"
Gambit kept silent. Everything he could think of saying sounded pretty lame to him.
"I thought you were angry with me", he finally said, "for shooting Larry."
"Oh, I was, at first. Well -" Purdey frowned. "Not really angry. I WANTED to be mad at you just as much as I wanted to believe he wouldn't have hurt me." She straightened one of the fragments of photograph. "But it didn't last very long. I'm not stopping at home because I'm mat at you. Nor Steed. I just need time to think and maybe pick up the pieces of my life." She sighed. "Again. I really hate it when it happens but it seems to become quite the habit."
She tried to keep her tone light but Gambit knew her too well to fall for it. She really meant it. Something had been shattered when Larry had died. Gambit said nothing but he felt more miserable by the second. But soon, the silence started to feel oppressive - at least, to him it did - and he had to say something.
"I shouldn't have shot him."
Purdey frowned at him. "Nonsense. If you hadn't, HE would have shot ME."
"You could have talked him out of it."
"No, I couldn't. He was well beyond being talked out of anything. I had my chance and chose not to take it."
It was Gambit's turn to frown now. "What do you mean?"
"When I drove to his house to ask about the general, he told me that if I came back to him, he'd leave it all behind and we'd make a brand-new start. I didn't know, then, but I'm sure now that he meant that mad scheme of his. That he was ready to abandon it."
Gambit nodded. "I see. And now, of course, you're wondering what would have happened if you'd taken up the offer. If he really would have given up his plan." He sighed and shook his head, remembering Dan and all the nights of "could have done" dreams he'd had afterwards. "I'm sorry but I don't think I can help you there, Purdeygirl. You'll have to figure that out for yourself."
Purdey sighed. "Well, you're here and you're listening. It helps a lot, really, to say all those things out loud instead of only thinking them. Somehow, that makes it all - I don't know. More real, perhaps."
There was another silence, longer this time. Gambit tried to make up his mind whether to stay or to leave. He didn't want to intrude - which was actually quite ridiculous since he had already done so - but on the other hand, he didn't want to leave her alone just yet, either. Suddenly, Purdey startled him by resting her head against his shoulder.
"Thank God for you and Steed", she said, "especially you. I - it sounds odd but I can tell you things I could never tell Steed."
Gambit put his arm around her shoulders, feeling the knot in his stomach begin to unwind. "I'll remind you of that next time you start pushing me around because you're angry at me."
"Me? Push you around?" Purdey settled herself more comfortably in his arm. "You must have been dreaming that."
"I didn't dream that bruise I got from the door knobs when you found out I wasn't Terry Walton."
"What did you expect? I was upset. You'd made me think you were dead!"
"And when you found out I wasn't, you were so relieved you almost pushed me through the door." Gambit shook his head. "How on earth could I have thought you were angry with me!"
"Silly, misguided man."
Gambit just kept sitting there, enjoying the sensation of holding Purdey in his arm. She didn't allow that sort of too often - neither from him nor any of the men from the department who were lucky enough to take her out on a date. At least not as far as he knew. No, she was always laughing and flirting with everyone but at the same time keeping everyone at a distance - outside of an invisible line - and mercy on anyone who dared to step across it. Even Steed and he were no exceptions. Well - they were allowed to get a little closer, maybe, but still -
Suddenly, he became aware of a soft, muffled sound. When he looked down, he saw it was Purdey, crying softly, her face buried against his shoulder.
Purdey tried to pull away from him but he didn't let her and after a moment, she stopped trying. "It's alright", he murmured, hugging her tighter, "it's alright, Purdeygirl."
He didn't know how long they sat like that. He just kept sitting there, holding Purdey and making reassuring noises until she finally stopped crying.
"I'm sorry, Gambit." Purdey did pull away at last, but only just enough so that she could look at him.
"No, not for this here." She wiped the tears off her face with the back of her hand and nodded at the wet patch on his shirt. "I'm sorry for screaming at you the way I did. I shouldn't have. But I couldn't help it. It was Larry, and -"
"You still loved him."
"No. Not anymore. But -" Purdey sighed and let her head fall against Gambit's shoulder again. "You know how it is with first loves. No matter how they end, whether you break them up or simply grow out of it or whatever else, you never quite forget them."
"I know." Gambit smiled. "I sure do remember mine."
Purdey cocked her head up to meet his eyes. "Who was she?"
"Chrissy Norman. Our neighbour's daughter." Gambit chuckled. "It was a hopeless case right from the start. I was thirteen and she was twenty. I doubt she ever even noticed me. But I was really madly in love with her." He sighed. "The prettiest girl in our street."
"You and your pretty girls." Purdey playfully poked him in the side.
"Well, there's one pretty girl I can't seem to get, no matter how hard I try."
Purdey got up from the couch and went over to collect a tissue from the box on the end table. She blew her nose before she turned to face him again. "Not in this life, Mike Gambit."
"Yes. I'm no Buddhist. I don't believe in reincarnation."
Purdey shrugged. "Then you'll just have to try harder, won't you?"
Gambit laughed. "Careful what you're saying. I might actually do it."
"Now as to whether you're gonna have any success -" Purdey didn't finish her sentence but only smiled at him.
Purdey frowned. "What mission?"
"Well, I did make you smile."
"And I thought you came because you were worried about me."
"I was." Gambit grew serious again. "Steed told me to leave you alone and that you'd be alright."
"Then why did you come?" Purdey went to her bedroom and started looking for something in a drawer. "You know he's rarely wrong about such things."
Gambit shrugged. "Guess I just had to see for myself."
Actually, Steed had looked like someone who hoped rather than knew something when he'd said that, and that had set Gambit in motion. He knew that Steed relied on him to find out whether he was right. Steed couldn't come looking for himself - he would never intrude on someone like that. But Gambit could.
"There you are", Purdey muttered under her breath. She turned to Gambit. "Here, catch."
He caught the small object she tossed at him. Her spare key.
"So that you don't have to half smash my door in again next time you're worried about me", she said.
Gambit grinned. "You want me to keep it? Why, Purdey -"
"Keep it? Don't you get any ideas, Mike Gambit. I want you to put it back behind the third brick on the left when you leave."
His cue to get up and make his exit. He thought for a moment, then put Purdey's gun on the coffee-table and the knives back into their drawer. Purdey arched her eyebrows at him. He shrugged and smiled.
"Can't blame me for worrying, can you?"
Purdey shook her head. "No. Tell Steed that I'll be back soon. I just need a little more time."
Gambit nodded. "If there's anything you need -"
"I'll call you."
He went to the door and had his hand on the knob, when -
He looked back over his shoulder. "Yes?"
Purdey smiled. "Thanks for coming. - And now off with you. Go and call Steed."
"Yes. You didn't think I wouldn't figure out he's worried, too, did you?"
Gambit grinned. "Clever girl."
"That's why you two like me so much. All for my brains."
Gambit shook his head and left. He stopped quickly to put the spare key back in its hiding place. Only himself, Purdey and Steed knew about it. Then, he hurried up the twenty-one steps to the street. Purdey was right - Steed would be expecting his call. He didn't want to keep the man waiting.
-- End --