Bruises

Disclaimer: I don't own The New Avengers, nor any of the associated characters. They belong to The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises. This story is written for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended. This story is rated "M". It is the reader's responsibility to ensure he/she is old enough to read it. The author bears no responsibility for readers failing to exercise proper discretion before reading.

Timeline: Post-series, fall 1977.

Author's Note: This one started life a few months back. I wanted to write a character piece for Purdey and Gambit where they were fighting about something, as opposed to something on the fluffier side of the spectrum. I wrote it, tinkered with it, but it wasn't working, so I put it aside and more or less abandoned it. Then, a couple of weeks back, I worked out how it could be revised, went back, rewrote large chunks of it, and now I'm happy with it, so I thought I'd post it, as I'm working hard on a new part of the arc, and won't have much new to post until it's finished. Hopefully it's an enjoyably one-shot with a bit of an edge to it.

This is also my first foray into "M" territory on the site. It's by no means the raciest "M" there's ever been, but it is an "M", so I trust that you can use your own discretion in deciding whether or not it's appropriate for you to read it. Fair warning: If you're not old enough, or think it might offend your sensibilities, it's your responsibility to give it a miss.

That's the serious stuff out of the way. On with the fic...


Purdey threw Gambit's door open with feeling. "Of all the ridiculous things you've done!" she rebuked, storming into the flat and throwing her purse forcefully onto his couch. "Intentionally stepping into the path of an iron bar must rank at least in the top three!"

"It was the only thing that made sense at the time," Gambit said calmly, coming in after her and closing the door behind him with a bit more equanimity than Purdey had opened it. "What did you expect me to do? Let it hit you?"

Purdey wheeled around, outrage written across her features. They'd been too busy tying up loose ends to have this conversation at the end of their assignment, and the car ride back to the flat had passed in tense silence. Now, finally, Purdey's rage had bubbled to the surface, and there was no containing it. "You didn't have to 'let' anything happen," she retorted. "I would have dealt with it if you'd left it alone. But you took that option away from me, didn't you?"

Gambit, whose countenance up until this point could not reasonably be called 'cheery', went the extra mile and actually frowned. "I didn't take anything," he countered, then seemed to consider. "Well, except for an iron bar in the ribs."

This comment did nothing for Purdey's mood, and she advanced on him, skirt swirling, the oncoming storm. "So you decided the best, the most logical, course of action was to jump into its path?"

Despite her approach, Gambit stood his ground, both figuratively and literally, jaw set and gaze unwavering, even when her face stopped inches from his. "Yes."

"Idiot!" Purdey said with vitriol, planting a hand in the middle of his chest and pushing him back with each barked insult. "Stupid, thoughtless, reckless, fool-hardy, bull-headed man!" Gambit's back slammed into the wall, cutting his retreat short, but his jaw was still set defiantly. Purdey, however, would not be put off easily, and glared back at him. "Even you must have worked out that's all it was. Your seeming inability to get it through your thick skull that I know how to take care of myself."

"Purdey..." Gambit cut in, voice level, but Purdey overrode him, too angry to observe the niceties of conversation.

"I have all the training, all the fighting experience. I'm perfectly capable of adapting to the requirements of the situation, including that one. But apparently that's not enough for you. You decided that I needed the benefit of your supposed wisdom."

"Purdey," Gambit tried again, but Purdey was well into her groove by this point, determined to speak her piece, eyes burning angrily.

"I thought we'd been together long enough for you to trust me to make the right decision in the field." There was betrayal in her eyes now, mixed with the anger. "That's the most unforgiveable part. I thought you trusted me. Not only in the field, but in everything. I thought that wouldn't change just because we were sleeping together, but it seems I was wrong. Now it seems you don't even trust me to protect myself in a fight, let alone you if the need arose. Do you have too much invested in me now that you can get me into bed?" She stabbed him in the chest with one impeccably polished and filed nail, demanding an explanation. "Is that it?"

"Purdey!" Gambit's forbearance, until now admirably maintained, was now well and truly shot. Her last comment had stung more than anything that had come before, and he was no longer content to let her steamroll him while he stood by passively and let her vent. He hadn't raised his voice much, but it was enough to get her attention. "That's not fair, and you know it," he went on, grim and serious, but dropping back to reasonable volume. "I trust you. Of course I trust you. I'll always trust you. But you didn't get the whole story. All you saw was me getting hit. You didn't see that that the heavy was aiming the bar straight at your head. Even if I'd warned you, you'd never have been able to duck out of the way or turn around in time stop him. I couldn't stop him, either, so I did the next best thing and got in his way. It's got nothing to do with me thinking you can't take care of yourself, or me not trusting you, and it sure as hell isn't about me protecting my investment. It was a choice—your head or my side, and you were going to pay for it a hell of a lot more than I did, so it wasn't much of a choice from where I was standing. So I did it. Maybe it was idiotic, and yes, I got a bruise for it, but I don't care. I took it for you, and I'm not going to apologise for it. I'd do it again, and knowing me, I probably will. But—" And he fixed her with intense eyes, making sure she understood. "—I did it as a partner. And I wouldn't be much of one if I let that happen. But it had nothing to do with not trusting you. I don't know how you can even say that with a straight face." He shook his head in disbelief and annoyance. "You'd have more reason to not trust me if I didn't do it." He spread his arms to either side in resignation, and let them flop back to his sides again. "So yell, or scream, or do whatever it is you need to do. But don't expect me to feel bad about it."

Purdey stood there, quivering with what looked like rage, blue eyes flashing, and for a moment, Gambit thought she was going to launch into another tirade, and he braced himself to weather it with good grace. But when she spoke, it was to utter a single word: "Idiot." Then, unexpectedly, her hands suddenly buried themselves in his hair, and her lips pressed hard against his. Gambit felt his own eyes widen in mild surprise, but he recovered quickly, opened his mouth and kissed back, letting his hands settle on her hips, letting his fingers trace the familiar line of her hip bone through her dress. Purdey's own fingers were pressed all the way to his scalp, hard, the curls springing up in between the digits. Her kiss was angry, but passionately angry, and she devoured his mouth as though she feared he'd disappear at any moment. Which, when he came to think of it, she probably did.

She broke away, breathless, shoulders heaving. His own breath was coming out in short pants, eyes half-lidded and probably more than a little glazed. He didn't move his hands, didn't do anything, just waited for her next move, letting her take the lead and work out just what exactly it was she needed to do.

"Mike Gambit," she gasped, eyes still flashing, but a small smile playing about her lips. "You really are the most infuriating man on the planet."

He risked a small smile. "You should have said that before you kissed me."

"You're still an idiot," she added, as though he may have forgotten what she'd said seconds before. Although, admittedly, a lot of the blood had left his brain, so maybe she was right to remind him.

"I think we've established your opinion on that front," he quipped, sliding his hands from her hips up to her waist. "Anything else you want to get off your chest about me? More faults?"

"That depends on the resiliency of your ego."

Gambit pulled a face. "Then I'll pass, thanks," he said wryly, before his features dissolved into something more akin to concern. "You believe me, don't you? About me trusting you?"

She nodded, the tiniest movement of her head, but it was definitely there. "Yes," she confirmed, putting words to the action and taking a step back to a more comfortable, less hostile distance. "But that doesn't mean I'm not still mad at you."

Gambit frowned, and spoke with something akin to outrage. "That doesn't follow. If you believe me, then why..." He trailed off, and seemed to realise who he was talking to. This was Purdey, after all. She didn't have to be logical. "Never mind," he finished resignedly, pinching the bridge of his nose tiredly. "Let me know when I'm out of the bad books, eh?"

Purdey took two small steps and turned round so she could press her back to the wall beside him. They pondered the flat's opposite wall together. "I never said you were in the bad books," she said eventually, and Gambit turned his head to regard her. "Well, not in mine," she added. "I've no way of knowing who else you might have alienated this week."

Gambit's mouth twisted and one side quirked up. "But you just said you were angry with me," he pointed out with exaggerated patience.

"Yes, but I can be angry with you without hating you," Purdey explained just as patiently, holding out both hands in front of her, palms up, like the two halves of a scale. "Anger can exist independently of hatred." She raised one hand, leaving the other where it was. "It's not a guaranteed correlation," she went on, as though teaching some sort of strange emotional statistics course.

Gambit looked at her hands, then her, then back again, and shook his head. "It's too late in the day for this," he groaned, pushing away from the wall. "I don't know if you're staying or going, but I'm tired, I need a drink, and my side hurts like hell, so do whatever it is you need to do." He made to move away, but Purdey caught his lapel and pulled him back to face her, pressing her mouth to his. She could register Gambit's surprise, but his lips, at least, effected a quick recovery, and he kissed back without needing much encouragement. One of his hands splayed against the wall near her head, the other pressing against the same surface just beside her arm, effectively surrounding her but avoiding any other physical contact, as though he was unsure whether she'd allow it. When they broke the kiss, he didn't move away, but he didn't step in closer. She answered his unspoken inquiry with a single sentence.

"You did say to do whatever I needed to do," she reminded.

"I thought you were still angry with me," he replied, breathing unsteady.

"I am," she confirmed. "But as I tried to tell you—" She tugged the lapel a little harder, until his body was pressed to hers. "—they're not mutually exclusive."

"You keep saying that." But he leaned in to kiss her anyway, a little more sure of his ground now, even if he didn't quite understand why. He left his hands where they were, and Purdey offered some subtle encouragement by skimming her own down his chest to his hips, pulling them flush against her. Gambit groaned into her mouth, kisses becoming more urgent, hands dropping to her waist. He pressed her between the wall and his body without further encouragement, and Purdey felt a telltale hardness through his trousers.

He released her mouth just long enough to utter a single word—"Here?"

"Where else?" came the reply, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Don't be an idiot."

"I'll try."

"Do that."

"Wait, what about your side?" Purdey managed between kisses, suddenly seeing a flaw in their plan as she felt Gambit's hands drop and curl round the back of her thighs.

"Let me worry about that," Gambit replied, lifting her off the ground as though she weighed nothing, and helping her wrap her legs around his waist.

"You tried that once before, and look where it got you," Purdey reminded, using his shoulders for grip as she adjusted her position between the wall and his body.

Gambit's eyes were dancing wickedly. "I am. I'm not complaining."

Purdey shook her head in mild disbelief. "You're incorrigible."

"You're not doing a very good job of corriging," Gambit said with a grin, and Purdey knew that she really wasn't in a position to argue. Literally.

"Stop changing the subject," she tried, but Gambit had her, in every sense of the word, and she knew he knew it.

"Happily," he agreed, shapely hands sliding her skirt up her equally shapely legs until it came to rest around her hips. "We can talk about anything you like. What did you have in mind? The weather?"

"Oh, don't be smart," Purdey chastised, trusting him to hold her steady as she reached down to unbuckle his belt and unzip his trousers.

"Smart? I thought I was an idiot?" He was enjoying teasing her—his grin told her that much. For that reason, it gave her a measure of satisfaction to see that grin disappear, and be replaced with a much different expression, as she extracted him from his confines and proceeded to guide him to his destination. She returned her left hand to his shoulder, head coming up just in time to catch his kiss.

"You are. And I'm still angry with you, you know," she murmured against his mouth.

"You can throw something at me later," he promised, just before he thrust and entered her.

She gasped as she felt him fill her, head falling back against the wall. "It had better be something heavy," she managed.

"We'll find something." He pulled out and thrust back in, adjusting his grip to control the angle, and she moaned and kissed him again.

"I'll miss, of course," she continued, when he broke away to press his lips against her neck.

"Of course," Gambit agreed, hardly listening at this point, too caught up in the sensation of her in his arms, him inside her, and the softness of her skin beneath his lips.

"Just barely," Purdey went on, hips moving in time with each of his thrusts. Her nails scrabbled for purchase on the fine fabric of his suit jacket, and she could feel the smooth ripple of his muscles beneath the garment as he held her in place. The steadying grip on her thighs was firm enough to ensure she didn't fall, but never, ever, painful or possessive. They fell naturally into an easy rhythm. They hadn't been doing this for very long, but it had proven remarkably easy to get in sync right from the start, without the usual awkwardness that accompanied some initial encounters. Purdey didn't know if it was because they worked together, or if it was a simple case of mutual compatibility, but really, the former owed a lot to the latter, so it hardly mattered, nor was it surprising. She'd never met a man that she clicked quite so well with as she did Gambit, so it seemed natural for that connection to stretch to the physical. And it did. Very nicely.

She'd said she was still angry with him, and she was, really. But it was the sort of anger that made her want him more, not less. Initially she'd been angry because she thought he was starting to treat her differently in light of their new relationship, or at least she'd told herself that. But as he'd put that argument to bed soon enough, she'd lost a layer of pretence, and she was left with nothing but her own emotions, something she still had difficulty dealing with, even at this stage of the game. If she was honest with herself, she was angry at him for getting hurt, especially for getting hurt because of her. She was angry at him for letting her see it happen, although that had hardly been his intention. She was angry at him for taking away another reason to be angry at him, one that didn't make her feel so damned vulnerable. Angry at him for reminding her that she loved him so desperately that whatever hurt him hurt her just as badly. Angry at him for getting under her skin, for stripping away her defences. Angry at him for unintentionally reminding her that he could—would-die one day, possibly before her, and that she would have to cope with it, without him. It was irrational anger, anger born of love. The kind she hadn't remembered she could feel, and hadn't felt, not for years.

She thought Gambit understood that now, at some level, despite what he'd said earlier. But of the two of them, he'd been the one who'd made himself vulnerable from the start. She'd hurt him far more times than he had her, and he'd done so without much in the way of recompense for much longer than he should have had to. But it never seemed to stop him coming back for more. She didn't know if it was linked to his physical capacity for pain, or if it was just the way the man was wired, but he was braver than she was, and she knew it. She'd gone into hiding while he kept asking for more. Letting her heart in for an inevitable battering, no matter what happened, had terrified her. Sometimes it still did.

But was it worth it? Purdey's fingers ghosted over the nape of his neck, tasted his lips, smelt his sweat, tangled her other hand in his hair, felt him move within her, and knew the answer was 'yes.' It was worth it. He was worth it. Because this was Mike Gambit, after all, the one and only, and she took him as she found him, battle scars and all, because anything else would hurt more than any bruise. She was lucky to have him at all, and she wanted as much of him as humanly possible in the time she had.

She felt like she really ought to tell him all this, that he deserved more of an explanation than she'd given him earlier, but when she released his mouth, her own only seemed capable of saying, "Mike..."

"It's all right," he interrupted, and his eyes told her that he knew, somehow. "It's all right," he repeated, pressing his lips to her neck. He didn't say what was all right, exactly—Anything? Everything?-but it didn't matter. It was what she needed, and she felt herself let go, let her head fall back against the wall. She closed her eyes and thanked the heavens that Gambit had seen fit to spend the money to soundproof his flat when his neighbours had made it known that they didn't care for his musical preferences. It meant that she could scream his name as loud and as long as she needed to as she came. Meant that she only had to worry about holding on to him as he did the same.

He set her down as gently as possible with shaking hands, and she whimpered a little at the sudden absence as they disengaged. How her own legs managed to hold her, she didn't know, but she managed despite some weakness in her knees. Her skirt fell back into place, absorbing some of the sweat left behind on her thighs by his palms. Her forehead was beaded with perspiration as well, and a quick brush of her fingertips over her collarbone revealed that it was in much the same state, though whether the sweat was his or hers she didn't know, or much care. Just now, there were many, many worse things than smelling of Mike Gambit.

He was sweating himself, though some of it was already drying on his flushed face as he fixed his trousers. His hair was attractively mussed, curling up more under the influence of the moisture, his entire appearance devastatingly dishevelled, and when he raised his eyes to meet hers, they were dark with post-coital intensity, and Purdey was left to wonder how it was possible to feel a stab of desire for a man who'd just done a very good job of defying gravity and taking her up against a wall.

He wiped the back of his hand over his mouth, and regarded her expectantly, a man still unsure of his ground, wondering what she had in store for him now.

"Still angry?" he inquired, in a voice rough from shouting in the heat of physical battle, and the verbal one that had followed.

She shook her head and smiled to show him that she meant it. "No."

His shoulders sagged with visible relief. "Thank heavens for that," he opined. "I don't want you angry with me, whether you hate me or not." He ran a hand through the untidy curls and treated her to a saucy grin. "Still, we got some make-up sex out of it, so it's not all bad."

Purdey, smile unwavering, shook her head. "That wasn't make-up sex," she contradicted.

"Oh, come on." Gambit regarded her incredulously. "I know make-up sex when I have it."

"Make-up sex necessitates that we make up before we do the deed," Purdey pointed out, logical brain on full-tilt. "We didn't properly make up until after."

Gambit pulled a face that suggested he didn't believe her. "I thought we were over the worst of it before we even got started."

"And I distinctly recall saying before we started that I was still angry with you," Purdey reminded, straightening her skirt, and smoothing out the worst of the wrinkles. "Just before I promised to send a large, heavy object toward your head."

"Right, but you didn't mean it," Gambit said, although he was eyeing her uncertainly, as though checking the immediate vicinity for blunt objects. "I mean, given what we did..."

Purdey cocked her head at him inquisitively. "Are you suggesting, Mike Gambit, that I'm not perfectly capable of loving you, sleeping with you, and being annoyed with you simultaneously?" She tsked in disappointment. "And I thought you prided yourself on understanding women's contradictions."

"I'm getting to be an expert on yours, I know that much," Gambit responded dryly. "Is it safe to say we made up halfway through, or have I gotten it wrong again?"

"Possibly," Purdey conceded. "But even if we did, it would have been too late in the day to qualify. We have to make up beforehand, or it misses the point entirely."

Gambit put his hands up in resignation. "You know something? I'm not going to argue with you about it. All I care about is that we did it, and you hopefully don't want to throw something at my head anymore." He paused, and eyed her warily. "I hope."

Purdey ran her fingers unconcernedly through her hair to tame some of the errant strands, and Gambit took a moment to wonder at her ability to look so serene and composed after the act, even with the thin sheen of sweat now drying on her skin. "Hmm," she hummed, as though considering his options. "Somewhere along the line, it seemed to lose its appeal."

Gambit smiled with a touch more relief than he would have liked, and said, "Right. I'm going for a shower, then. I'm still grubby from the fight, and now I'm sticky for some reason." He shot her a meaningful look.

"I can't imagine why," Purdey said innocently. She let her eyes drift over his form a second time. His tie was askew, and his shirt wasn't properly tucked into his trousers. Combined with his mussed hair, courtesy of her earlier wandering hands, he looked rather like an unkempt schoolboy, only there was no doubting it was a man's muscles and sinews moving beneath the fabric. She bit her lip as she allowed herself the luxury of taking him in from head to toe, and wondered if it was wrong to want him again so soon. It wasn't as though she'd had the pleasure of undressing him for the act. And speaking of which...

"That reminds me. I haven't had a chance to assess the damage." She waved her hand vaguely at his upper half, and stepped in close. "Come on, let's have it."

Gambit's smiled was wicked. "I love it when you say that."

"Gambit..." Purdey simply smiled and shook her head. "It's not in your interest to give me more trouble."

"Aye, aye, ma'am." Gambit saluted her smartly, then stretched out his arms so Purdey could get to work. She stripped him of his jacket, then slipped off his waistcoat, before pulling out the knot on his tie and discarding that as well.

"Let's see what you did to yourself," she muttered, as though he were a six-year-old who'd hurt himself on the playground, pulling his shirt from his trousers and rucking it up on the left side. She bent her neck at a forty-five degree angle, and surveyed the rectangle-shaped darkening mass of purple slapped diagonally across his ribs. "Oh, Mike," she half-chastised, half-bemoaned. She kept the shirt up with her right hand, and sent the left out to gently explore the injured area. Gambit hissed in pain the second her fingers came into contact with damaged flesh, and she glanced at his face with more than a modicum of worry. "Broken? Cracked?" she hazarded.

He shook his head. "Just bruised," he managed. "If they were broken, we couldn't have done what we did."

"Well, I suppose that's one method of diagnosis," Purdey remarked wryly, tracing the outline of the wound delicately, searching for anything that might be more serious. "You really ought to do something about that. Should we take you in to see Kendrick?"

He shook his head vehemently, as she suspected he would. "No, I'll be all right."

"In spite of yourself," she shot back, letting the shirt fall back into place. "If you insist on being stubborn, then I'll have to take care of that myself. There really should be something done to it."

"If you say so," he acquiesced, rubbing the sore spot absently. "I'll deal with it after the shower. No point putting something on it and then washing it off again."

"Well, once you have," Purdey said slowly, "we might be able to manage some proper make-up sex." She ran her fingers up and down the length of the buttons on his shirt seductively, and when he met her eyes, they were sparkling mischievously. "Assuming you don't do anything to make me angry with you again in the interim."

"Purdey..." Gambit's voice was a low, husky rumble with a definite pleased note. "Again?"

"Why?" She took a grip on his shirt, and tugged, just enough to make him move. "Is there a problem?"

"No," Gambit purred, definitely looking happy with this turn of events. "Not at all."

"Good," Purdey whispered, very near his ear, then added, in a very different voice. "Just as soon as I've taken care of your side."

Gambit's expression went from anticipatory to sour in one second flat. "Right," he said laconically. "Should've known there'd be a catch."

Purdey grinned unrepentantly. "Well, I needed to give you the proper motivation," she defended. "Otherwise you'll keep fobbing me off out of fear I'll call you an idiot again."

"Can you blame me?" Gambit said wryly.

"Would you like me to?"

Gambit snorted. "Very funny. Did you mean any of that, or were you manipulating me?"

"That would be telling," Purdey teased. "You'll have to wait and find out."

"That's what I thought," Gambit sighed, leaning in to give her a kiss, gentle this time. Purdey kissed back, laid one hand aside his cheek. When they parted, he asked, very quietly, a glimmer of doubt still in his eyes. "Are you going to be here when I come back? Or have we still not managed to make up?"

Purdey smiled away his fears. "Mike Gambit," she chided softly. "You must have learned by now that, no matter how annoyed I am with you, it will take much more than a few bruises to keep me away."

"I might," Gambit allowed, taking the hand against his face and kissing the palm. "But it doesn't hurt to be sure. Make yourself comfortable. I'll be back in a bit." With that, he released her hand and headed for the bathroom. Purdey stayed behind, looked down at her hand, and felt a pleasant warmth radiate from the spot he'd kissed, up her arm, until it fizzed through her whole body. She suddenly felt very, very happy. She turned and set about finding the first aid kit as a way of keeping herself occupied. She had a sneaking suspicion that the few minutes until Gambit returned were going to feel very long indeed.

End