THIS COULD BE THE START…

A/N: This is another early plot bunny that had started in my mind last year. It's based on a hand written story I had done in the mid Nineties about Steed and Mrs. Peel's first meeting. I know it has been done to death but here is my take on it.

As always, I don't own any recognizable characters. I am just borrowing them for awhile.

CHAPTER ONE

John Steed got out of his Bentley and calmly walked to the Ministry offices. His steps had been a lot less lively since the departure of Cathy Gale, his partner and friend. Her new job had taken her out of Steed's life, and to Whiteside, where she had met and married her second husband, the archaeologist, Dr. Ronald Lansing. For the past month and a half, Steed had found himself quite alone. He had told his superior One Ten, (who ironically had also transferred to another department recently), that he could handle the separation.

He had turned into a great actor. Steed sighed, wondering what the Ministry wanted him for this time. He entered the building, tipping his hat to the female security guard on duty. She huffed, not in the least charmed by Steed. He rounded the corner of the massive hallway and entered One Ten's former office. At least, he noted, they had not removed the plaque yet.

"Steed…so delighted to finally meet you," a tall, non-descript man greeted sarcastically. He held out a bony hand to the chief secret agent. Steed shook it briefly, taking a seat. "I am Twenty One."

"Taking over for One Ten, I heard," Steed said.

"Yes…he wanted to transfer out of the espionage game and do all those things us poor working blokes in this department can't do yet," Twenty One said, adjusting a pair of glasses (which in Steed's opinion did nothing for his face—they were too large) so they fit properly on his nose.

He went to a file cabinet behind him, grabbing some papers from it. "Let's see…John Steed…" Twenty One mused. "Says here you worked with a civilian, Cathy Gale."

"So I did," Steed confirmed. "I also worked with Venus Smith, and Doctor David Keel, both civilians."

Twenty One peered at the Edwardian dressed agent. "You seem to get your jollies from working with those who haven't been trained in the proper agency procedures," Twenty One observed with censure in his voice.

"They are better trained than many of our own personnel," Steed defended. "And unlike many of our own agents, they have no rules and regulations to bind them."

"Which in my opinion makes them dangerous," Twenty One rejoined. "Suppose they had just defected to the other side?"

"Because our own agents would never do a thing like that," Steed bit back sarcastically, a cold smile fixed on his face. Twenty One rose from his seat, crossing to a small table which had various types of liquor. He selected a Brandy bottle and produced a snifter.

"You surprise me, Twenty," Steed teased. "I would have thought drinking in these hallowed halls was against the rules."

"It actually is, but when I heard I was going to have to deal with you, I made an exception," Twenty One responded. He poured himself a glass of the amber liquid and tossed one back. Opening the drawer beside him, he pulled out another glass, filled it halfway, and offered it to Steed.

"Thank you," Steed said, accepting the glass. He equally drank his amount of alcohol quickly, and then relaxed in the chair, waiting for Twenty One to speak. Steed put the glass back on Twenty One's desk table.

"Let's cut to the chase, Steed," Twenty One began. He took Steed's glass and his to the small table and set them on it for housekeeping to remove. Sitting back in his chair, Steed's new superior fixed the older agent with an icy stare. Steed was not intimidated.

"I think I don't have to tell you that I don't like you as an agent, and I don't like your methods of procuring information for us," Twenty One continued. Steed raised a brow, also staring at Twenty One with his dark eyes. "However, in this business, results are what are the driving force," Steed's superior said. "You have achieved outstanding results, despite your, shall we say…shortcomings when utilizing non-authorized personnel. That is something that should not be discounted."

Twenty One withdrew a file from another drawer on his desk on the opposite side from his liquor glasses. He tossed the file to Steed. Steed waited a beat before picking it up.

He opened the file, glancing at the contents. "'John Peel, Pilot…Adventurer: Missing in Action…'" Steed read aloud. "And this concerns us because…?" He asked.

"It concerns us because we think he might have been selling some of our secrets to the other side," Twenty One said. "You see, we employed his services as a pilot some time ago. He had experience navigating through the Amazon both in the air, and on land. As you know, we have had several top secret operations there, but we couldn't just send in any agent who did not know the terrain, or the natives."

"Yes, I know," Steed responded. "John Peel is one of the few countrymen who is rumored to know how to speak to the Amazon tribes there."

"Exactly," Twenty One confirmed, "and that is why he is so valuable…"

"Even though he is a civilian?" Steed punctuated.

"All right, Steed, I admit, we do use people from the outside from time to time…" Twenty One reluctantly told the agent.

"But now, it has come back to bite you," Steed said, enjoying Twenty One's discomfiture.

"Look, Steed, I'm in enough trouble as it is, or I soon will be when my superiors get hold of this piece of information," Twenty One said, his voice starting to rise. "You are very good at keeping secrets, even from us! That's why I am assigning you to this case."

Steed glanced at the portfolio of John Peel, noting, "There isn't a photo in here! How am I to locate him, if that is, in fact, what you want?"

"He has a wife," Twenty One said. "Perhaps she may be of assistance as to his whereabouts, or what he was actually working on. Do whatever it takes to find out his part in this…turn on your considerable charm. Use whatever means are necessary to retrieve him, or the information, or both."

"It may take some time if this is all you have on him, and his wife," Steed mused. "By the way…what does she look like?"

"Young, reddish brown hair, or so I'm told," Twenty One answered.

"Oh, that narrows it down to thirty percent of the female population of Great Britain at the very outside," Steed ground out.

"Look, Steed, I know there isn't much, but here is his last known address," Twenty One said, handing Steed a small piece of paper from the file. "Take as much time as you need, but don't tell anyone about this." Steed took the paper, nodding.

"I don't have to tell you that this conversation never took place," Twenty One said.

Steed had an innocent expression on his face. "What conversation?" he asked, leaving the office.