by J. Ferguson a.k.a. Timeless A-Peel
Disclaimer: I don't own The New Avengers, nor the characters of Mike Gambit, Purdey, John Steed, and Thomas McKay. Sadly. They're the property of The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises. This story is for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended. Emily Gambit is mine, even if I don't mention her by name, so I'd prefer it if she wasn't used without permission.
Timeline: Post-series. Very post-series. 1998, to be exact. Still part of the arc timeline, but obviously quite a bit farther along. For reference purposes, the reader may like to know that I've fiddled with Purdey and Gambit's birth years to make them slightly younger than their respective actors. For my purposes, Gambit was born in 1943, and Purdey in 1948. (Purdey has always seemed younger to me than Joanna Lumley actually was when she played the part). This might prove useful when reading this and other stories of mine.
Author's Note: Here we are, the second fic in this sort of little mini-series I have going on. Ironically, this one was actually written first, before I'd constructed the arc timeline, but, after a little tweaking, actually comes after "Changing of the Guard." Regardless, it's old, possibly showing it's age a little, but it's here, so there you go.
Oh, and yes, five kids is quite a few, but Purdey made this throwaway comment in "Target!" once about "five scruffy children," and it sort of stuck. I therefore lay some of the blame at the feet of writer Dennis Spooner for planting the seeds of an idea that was just too darn tempting. Purdey and Gambit never seemed the sort to do things by half-measures in any case. I'm sure their home gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "organised chaos."
Mike Gambit's eyes slid open very slowly as he tried to locate the reason for his interrupted slumber. Something had to be wrong, or at least different, for him to wake up at—he checked the clock—3:42 a.m. Ugh. All right, focus.
It didn't take long to locate the missing detail—the right side of the bed was cold and unoccupied. Only a dented pillow and the thrown back covers lay where his wife should have been. Gambit reached a hand out and turned on the light on his side of the bed, and blinked for a moment while his eyes adjusted. The light to the bathroom wasn't on, so that didn't explain the disappearance of Mrs. Gambit. She must be downstairs, he concluded, and decided to go after her. He had a feeling he knew the reason she'd gotten up for a midnight stroll. He pushed back the covers and swung his feet over the edge of the bed onto the carpet, and waited for his head to clear of sleep. He was wearing a pair of blue pajamas. When he'd finally given in to his aunt, he wasn't entirely certain, but it had happened at some point in the past twenty years, probably in his mid-forties, when Purdey had made some wry comment about the cold catching up to him, complete with that secretive little smile of hers. Ironically, he found he quite liked them now. You're getting old, Mike, he thought ruefully. At 55, he was still fit, could still outrun people half his age, still hold his own in a fight. Not that he had much cause to use either of those skills nowadays, but he was determined to be capable as long as physically possible, and he was winning. He ran a hand through the thick, dark curly hair, now sprinkled with gray to achieve that "salt and pepper" look that Steed had sported all those years ago. Hell, he was the same age Steed had been when the agent had made him his partner—a bit older even. That was a little frightening. Steed. That would be why she was up. He shook his head, stretched, and made his way to find Purdey.
Padding his way down the hall, he made as little noise as possible, so as not to awake the other occupants. It was nice to have everyone home, even for only a little while, for their mother's birthday.
He saw the light while he was still descending the stairs. It emerged from the dining room, and spilled out onto the veranda through the open double doors. And there she was, out in the warm summer air, leaning against the railing, light shining off the now silvery-blonde hair, the silhouette still a slim outline betraying the dancer's figure. She still wore the hair short, although not in that bob from years back. She liked it, and so did he. He stood and watched her for a moment, amazed at how she could still take his breath away the way she had all those years ago, when Steed had introduced them. Hard to believe she'd turned 50 only last week. Slowly, he made his way out to her.
Purdey didn't even realise she had company until she felt Gambit's hands on her shoulders. He always had been able to sneak about soundlessly. She leaned back against him almost instinctively, even as the quip escaped her lips. "Show-off."
"Who, me?" Gambit said with mock-surprise.
"Ah, well, you should be used to it by now." He moved his hands to entwine her waist, and kissed her neck. "Out for some air?"
"Couldn't sleep," Purdey replied, looking at the sky.
"I wish. Nightmares aren't still around when you wake up."
She could feel him sigh beneath her back. "Steed?" She nodded. "I know."
"I haven't seen you up with nightmares. Well, not since the usual time of year."
"They're there, believe me. I've just learned to cope with them."
She shook her head. "But it's so hard to believe. I mean, Steed, a heart attack?"
"It happens," Gambit said quietly. "He is in his seventies, Purdey. He's mortal, just like the rest of us."
"I know, but, I mean, Steed! He just always seemed to be sort of, I don't know, eternal. Like he'd just keep going forever, because he was needed."
"He does seem to be charmed, I'll give you that," Gambit replied. "But it could happen to anyone of us, and it could have been for a lot of other reasons. Steed could've met his end in the field any number of times. It could've been him in his fifties. Hell, it could've been me in my thirties." He paused, and she heard him swallow as he tightened his grip. "Or you in your twenties, heaven forbid."
"Don't say that," she pleaded. "Mike, it's not just Steed." She turned in his arms to face him. "It's you. If something happened now, I don't think--"
"I know, Purdey, I know. Same here. Best not to think about it."
She buried her face in his chest, and he held her for a long time. They were both in the top positions in the Ministry now, sharing the role that had been filled by Thomas McKay so many years ago, and Steed after that. They did next to no fieldwork, filling their days with consulting, meetings, the occasional bout of training, that sort of thing. Gambit had been offered the jobs many times over the years, but only eventually agreed if they took the pair of them. They wanted someone from Steed's time running the show, and had acquiesced.
It had been Purdey who had made the demands before, had forced him to take the position Steed had filled in the seventies, when Gambit had nearly gotten himself killed trying to intercept an enemy agent. The shots were nearly fatal, the worse he'd endured since his struggle over the wall early in his career. Purdey, after much weeping by his bedside, and trying to reassure the children, had told her husband in no uncertain terms that there was no way she was going to end up another widow of a spy like her mother, complete with fatherless children. He couldn't help but do as she asked after all the pain he'd put her through. He still remembered that first night back home, and how she'd cried endlessly into his chest as he held her trembling frame. He'd known then what his decision would be. He'd always known he'd do anything for her, and he had. Anything else was unthinkable. The next day he'd resigned from field duty. At least they still had a hand in things, kept the John Steed era alive, even if the man himself wasn't active in the service any longer.
As they stood there, he saw another figure at the doors, looking out at them. He recognized the 14-year-old girl with the long blonde hair, a spitting image of her mother, worry etched on her face. Her eyes met his, and he gave her an encouraging smile, and indicated in a glance that everything was fine, and for her to go back to bed. She nodded and smiled, promptly disappearing again. He sighed. He had traded one life for another, and he was now certain he'd made the right decision.
"Please don't go anywhere, Mike Gambit," he heard Purdey say.
"I won't. Not for a very long time," he told her, and his lips met hers in a kiss.