Author's Note: I really should be updating other fics, but I wrote this little ditty this afternoon while waiting for Timeless A-Peel to update Anew – this should provide me with an adequate Gambit fix for now...Enjoy!
The first thing that hit Mike Gambit was sheer confusion. His right eye was sealed shut, almost impossible to open at all. His left eye, although open, was bleary and he was unable to focus. The sheer confusion stemmed from the fact that he'd had two fully functioning eyes just a few minutes ago. He was certain of it. Another cause for concern was the amount of foliage that had suddenly appeared around him.
The Range Rover didn't have a garden...well, not last he'd checked. It also seemed to be raining inside the aforementioned vehicle. Not something which happened everyday. A second look revealed that the windscreen was missing and the front end of the car had wrapped itself partly either side of a rather large, solid-looking oak tree. No mean feat considering the size of the lump under the bonnet.
From his position, the tree looked to still be in pretty good condition, all things considered. Although, it had seemed to be listing dangerously at first, Gambit figured the bump on his head was causing it to do so. He was at a momentary loss, and couldn't for the life of him think what had happened, other than his driving prowess failing spectacularly.
At some point during the journey, he'd obviously crashed. It didn't take Sherlock Holmes to work that one out. He tried to adjust the interior mirror to get a better look at his right eye and groaned as his right shoulder and ribs screamed at him. Now he remembered why he gave up motor racing. Crashing was never fun and he usually came off worse than the car. Using the repositioned mirror and the hazy dusk light streaming through the undergrowth outside, he could see that left side of his face was caked in blood from a gash just above his eyebrow that was sure to require stitches. Hopefully that was the root cause of his eye problem and not something more sinister.
There was no time to catalogue the injury however, as the stench of smoke from the ruined engine dislodged something in the back of his mind, sending a sense of urgency to the rest of him. An all too familiar urgency. Running. That's what he'd been doing, he was sure of it. He'd been running before the unplanned rendezvous with the oak tree. There was nothing wrong with his hearing and he could hear his radio-come-emergency black box beeping steadily, sending out a distress signal to Steed and Purdey. He couldn't recall turning it on though, which bothered him immensely.
A brief flash of lights far off in the distance signalled the approach of another car and Gambit didn't particularly want to wait around to find out who was pursuing him. He knew from experience that the visual disorientation from his concussion would wear off soon enough but there was no time to wait. He quickly snaked his left hand down to unfasten his seatbelt, wincing as the movement pulled on his sore ribs and shoulder. He wasn't about to curse the belt that had obviously stopped him from bursting through the windscreen, but he couldn't help wishing that there were different safety measures available to come to the same ends. One thing was for certain, he wouldn't be crashing into any trees again for a while. It hurt too damned much.
Surprisingly, the driver's door was easy to open considering the mangled mess of the Range Rover, giving it's battered occupant a speedy exit, much to his uncooperative legs' dismay. He landed hard on his knees in the slippery mud, choking the pain back with an array of colourful expletives. In his new position it was hard to miss that the wheels of the Range Rover were shot to bits and several new bullet-shaped holes adorned the vehicle's bodywork.
A brief flash of memory came back to him, of himself tugging at the steering wheel as someone shot at the car from the nearby trees. He wondered how far back that was, trying to calculate how long it would be before the hidden marksman came to finish him off. Almost in answer to his question, the noise of an engine got steadily closer. As much as his body protested, Gambit knew he had to move to stay alive. He was too out in the open, ironically since he'd managed to hit the only tree within a twenty yard radius. There was no shortage of wiry bush and undergrowth, but not a lot of tree cover. A few bushes were unlikely to be strong enough cover from the weapon his pursuer had been using. Besides, if he hid in a bush that close to his crumpled car, he deserved to get shot at.
He spotted another large oak tree and set about crawling towards it. Besides the fact that he was well hidden by keeping low, he was certain that if he tried to stand, he'd be listing like a drunk in the wind. The tree line he was aiming for was already spinning uncontrollably due to the nasty knock on the head he'd received in the crash and he didn't trust his legs to carry him far. He hoped to God that the light was fading enough to keep him hidden and give him enough time to eliminate his attacker. As he clumsily propped himself against the nearest tree and pulled out his gun, the lights of the vehicle swept over the clearing.
Gambit shakily aimed his gun at the general direction of the clearing, ready to shoot his pursuer before they took advantage of his sorry state. He was definitely in no shape for hand to hand combat, and that would be painfully obvious once they got a look at him. He wasn't even sure that he'd be able to hit anyone at this range, with his right hand side out of action, poor light and with only one good eye, which was currently broadcasting everything in treble. Things were not looking good. Thrice.
He squinted as he heard a car door slam. He squeezed the trigger as slightly as he could, to save that half a millisecond in firing, before he blearily made out the slender silhouette of Purdey. Or rather, three identical silhouettes of Purdey racing over to his battered car. Purdey in triplicate. On any other day he'd be in heaven. Releasing his hold of the trigger, along with a deep breath of relief, he called out to her. "Purdey!" Her head whipped around, seeking out the familiar voice and she jogged over to him, frowning as she got closer.
"You've made a terrible mess of that tree back there. Hopefully it has suitable Liverpool Victoria cover." she stated, crouching beside him and raising an eyebrow when he planted a hand on her shoulder to pull himself up. She was finding it hard to remember the last time she'd seen Mike Gambit looking quite so...rumpled. Along with the right side of his face, both the collar of his suit jacket and his shirt were also covered in blood.
"Well, it just jumped out in front of me," he replied, allowing her to take his weight as he stood. Her easy demeanour almost reassured him that he didn't look as bad as he felt. "Don't worry, I'll be sure to take down its insurance details for the releve-" A movement in the trees a few yards away caught his eye, along with the glint of a weapon. "Down!" he cried, heeding his own advice and dropping back down to his knees whilst awkwardly bringing his own gun up to fire.
He shot three times, one for each of the figures dancing in his line of sight. At least one of the bullets struck home and the man fell, spraying the tree line above their heads with loose gunfire of his own. When it stopped, Purdey leapt to her feet, running over to the fallen attacker as fast as she could over the slippery terrain. She kicked away his gun, pulled his arms behind his back and leant heavily on him, getting a slight groan in response.
The bullet had caught him in the shoulder. Her ears pricked with the sound of a car engine and she smiled. Steed's car gave off an unmistakeable growl and he was more than welcome to join them, especially with Gambit in the condition he was. Purdey gave a quick glance over her shoulder, frowning as she observed her almost motionless partner. Despite his light joking a few minutes ago, he was obviously in some serious pain. Something must have happened at the mansion, his cover had to have been blown for him to run. She should have guessed from the bullet holes in the side of the Range Rover that he had been chased. Her unflappable nature had been flapped when she saw his car and all thoughts of his pursuer had been cast aside, especially when she saw the amount of blood on him as he slouched against the tree. She diligently kept an eye on the surrounding tree line, vowing not to make the same mistake twice. If anyone so much as peeked at them through the bushes, they would have a nasty encounter with the pointy end of a gun.
She was glad when Steed joined her as it meant that she could get out of the mud and check back on Gambit. He had sunk back into his awkward position of using the tree to keep him prone. Without it, he would almost certainly be laying down completely on the sodden ground. "I suppose you'll need a lift home?" Purdey asked, casually dropping down to his level as he attempted to wipe the blood from his right eye. The rain that had helped it seep further down his once white shirt collar had done little to actually clear it from his eye. Prodding at the liquid only seemed to make it worse.
His eyes stinging, he let his head fall back against the tree trunk and he winced. "I wouldn't say no to that," he admitted, squeezing his eyes shut as Purdey helped him up for the second time and they started towards her car. Whatever damaged the crash had inflicted on his shoulder and ribs had been magnified tenfold after his rather ungraceful second landing. Hearing another another set of squelching footsteps nearby, he cracked open his good eye to take a look. Almost immediately the horizon flipped and Gambit stumbled awkwardly into his crutch, almost ending up back in the mud. Luckily, Steed was there to catch his fall. Unluckily, he caught the falling agent by his bad shoulder which garnered a sharp cry from the poor man.
"Oh dear. Well, I have to admit, I'd rather hoped you'd fared a little better from that crash." Steed announced, repositioning himself against the injured party, loosening his grip considerably.
"You and I both." Gambit replied through gritted teeth. For some inexplicable reason, the distance to the parked vehicles seemed to have tripled along with his perception of them. The rain wasn't helping them progress much either in the barren field, patches of sticky mud thwarted them on every other step.
"As you're very much aware, we've come an extraordinarily long way in establishing Zephyr's range of operation," Steed continued as they slipped their way over to Purdey's MG, "What on earth did you find to make you run like that?"
Gambit closed his good eye, trying desperately to recall what had him spooked enough to blow his cover and run. Nothing seemed to spring out of the darkness and he clenched his jaw, annoyed with himself and yet not really knowing why. For all they knew, he could have been simply running an errand for the gang. Unlikely, considering the rather large bullet holes adorning the driver's side of his vehicle. "I, uh...I'll need to come back to you on that I'm afraid. Once my head clears..."
Steed sensed the younger man's frustration at being unable to remember and quickly moved on. It would come back to him eventually and they were doing no one any good by pressing him for an answer now. "Still, it would be a shame to cut short the investigation over a setback such as this..." he waved his hand towards Gambit's mud covered Range Rover.
"A damned shame." Gambit reluctantly agreed, knowing that there would, no doubt, be a point to Steed's open musings. The cogs were turning in the old grey matter. They needed to salvage something from the operation. Zephyr had one less man, two if he counted Gambit running as a blow to the gang. It would seem more of an accomplishment if Gambit could only remember how many men there were in the gang to start off with...four, five? An answer was in there somewhere, past the fuzziness and just out of reach.
"We've only got a few hours before the big visit. It's a shame we have no clue as to how they plan the kidnapping. A substantial part of the gang is behind bars thanks to our earlier intervention, but they're still one step ahead of us at every juncture. Still, I can't help thinking that we could use this," the older man continued, discontentment tingeing every word. "Turn it to our advantage somehow."
"We could treat it as an opportunity." Purdey added instantly. "To get some more of Zephyr's people to come to us, so we can apprehend and identify them. Gambit obviously struck a nerve somewhere. They won't want him reporting back to headquarters with names and faces so close to their deadline."
"Yes. I like it. We're relying on them to kill him off, finish the job so to speak." Steed announced. "If we want to weaken his crew further we need to catch them in the act."
"...of killing me off?" Gambit asked, trying desperately to keep up. The plan wasn't sounding too promising so far. He hoped it was just the fog from the knock on his head that made it sound like Steed had a long-serving desire to get rid of him.
"They obviously plan to eliminate you before you talk. We can lay a trap at the hospital for the next man they send." Steed explained, "you won't be there of course."
"Of course." Gambit repeated, relieved. He really didn't fancy being the bait for his own assassination attempt. That sort of business had it's disadvantages, many of which involved getting filled with unnecessary holes.
"We'll use your new friend in your place. I'm sure Zephyr will also be keen to keep him from talking to the authorities on such an important night," Steed added as they stopped and regarded the mystery gunman impounded on the back seat of the Jaguar. "I'll report in to the department that you're being taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital. Which leaves you to make your own arrangements to clean yourself up from here, but I'm afraid you won't be able to return home. That's the first place they'll come looking for you if your cover has been blown. We'll put our mystery man in your place at the hospital, the second place they'll look, which means I'll have to make the necessary arrangements, and that could take half the night in itself..." he stopped to regard the younger man. "I'd really rather you weren't alone, not in your current state...we need you for extra security at the embassy at eleven." Steed looked the younger agent up and down, trying not to pull a face at his shocking appearance. "I'm not sure that the local Dry-cleaning service covers minor first aid..." he trailed off.
"It's okay, Steed. Gambit can stay with me and get cleaned up." Purdey relented, taking the mammoth hint. "Not one word!" she added, putting her finger to Gambit's lips as they curled into the shadow of a smile.
He knew better than to comment. The thought that Steed might abandon him on Dr. Kendrick's doorstep when they returned to the City had already occurred to him. His eyesight was slowly improving. He could just about focus on Purdey's car without it moving of its own accord. A stiff drink at Purdeys was bound restore his mind. He was relying on it. The thought that he had already let down the team on such an important task was weighing heavily on his battered ego.
"We'll rendezvous at headquarters in three hours," Steed said, watching carefully as Gambit slowly climbed into Purdey's car, pain and fatigue etched on his features. The last thing on Steed's mind was putting his agent through unnecessary suffering, but this was, as Purdey rightly said, an opportunity to get back in the game. A little girl's life was at stake. Besides, Gambit was an experienced agent, and he knew the risks more than most. A few hours of care with Purdey watching over him would be better for him than any stuffy hospital. "On second thought, I'll come to you," Steed added, remembering who he was leaving each of the agents with.