Author's note: As you might guess, this vignette has loads of spoilers for The House That Jack Built. It's kind of a missing scene story as it starts when Steed arrives at Seven Pines and finishes before the tag scene. Just to make things fun, however, this version is from Emma's point of view and the other one from Steed's. I've never tried doing a story like this before so please be tolerant. :-)
Oh, and it's all my philosophy teacher's fault. If she'd set me an essay I could do, I wouldn't have been looking for a displacement activity and my mind wouldn't have come up with this idea. She'll probably be very unhappy to know that I couldn't make said essay more than 1400 words yet the process of trying not to write it produced three stories, coming to a grand total of 6818 words.
The House That Emma Destroyed
by Young Avenger
First the shower of sparks stopped. Then slowly, almost reluctantly, the whirr of the machines died down until silence reigned. In comparison to the pandemonium of the previous minutes, the quiet was almost deafening.
Emma leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes with relief. Her lips moved soundlessly, thanking the fates that her bomb had detonated. Suddenly she'd had enough. She dashed out of the room, fumbling her way through the corridors, desperate to find the exit. When she reached the hall she halted.
Steed was there. He'd come to find her.
Now he was advancing down the hall with a lance plucked from one of the suits of armour, ready to attack anything that got in his way. He didn't know a lance would be no good against this opponent. The thought made her laugh out loud.
Catching sight of her he smiled and lowered his weapon. Her eyes burned with tears but she refused to let them fall. "What happened to the shining armour?" she asked lightly, trying to smile back.
Steed looked so disconcerted his expression was almost comical. "It's still at the laundry." He paused for a moment then extended his hand to her. She remained rooted to the spot for a few seconds, too weary to move. Time to go home. She moved forward to grasp his hand. Giving it a gentle squeeze, Steed led her back down the hall towards the open door.
"Never mind, I'll give you a ride home on the old horse."
It wasn't until Steed opened the passenger door of the Lotus for her that Emma wondered what had happened to the Bentley. "Where's your car, Steed?" she asked.
"I had to leave her a mile or so down the road," he answered, slipping into the driver's seat and setting off. "Somebody seemed to take exception to my driving through the "Road Closed" sign. Not five seconds later a row of spikes punctured all my tyres."
"How uncivilised," murmured Emma tiredly. The adrenalin was fast running out, leaving in its place an overwhelming fatigue. Then what he had said sunk in. "Steed, what "Road Closed" sign? There weren't any road signs apart from the one for Seven Pines."
"Well, when I came past, the sign for Seven Pines led to a dead end so I tried the alternative route. Now we'd just better hope those nasties on the road have retreated." As he spoke they reached the Bentley. "You stay here while I hop out and check for any more surprises. I'd hate to lose our only mode of transport."
"Mmm," his partner agreed drowsily. Once again it took a few seconds to process his words. When she had, she roused herself to call after him. "Steed, you needn't bother. I destroyed the mechanism behind it all. It's all over."
Nevertheless Steed carried out a thorough search. She supposed that this type of caution was what had kept him alive all these years. It was relaxing watching him do the work but she couldn't shake the feeling she needed to be on her guard. She shivered reflexively, then shivered again when the wind blew. With the short January days the light went early, taking with it any vestiges of heat. Now, at four o'clock, a cold wind had sprung up. How appropriate, she thought ironically. She dragged the blanket off the floor and draped it over her knees. After a while Steed made his way back to the car, slipping something into his pocket as he did so. Emma was too exhausted to ask what it was. In fact she wasn't sure she wanted to know. As Steed slid in next to her she closed her eyes. She could afford to relax again.
An hour later Steed pulled up outside her flat. Emma sensed they had arrived home as soon as he slowed down. She hadn't slept during the drive, simply allowed her mind to drift, to absorb what had happened. She opened her eyes and smiled over at him. "Fancy a drink?"
"You must be psychic, Mrs Peel. I haven't had a drop for hours."
"Come on up then," she offered. "And you can borrow my phone and arrange to have the Bentley picked up."
She led the way upstairs in silence, wincing as her legs reluctantly woke up, announcing their return with the onset of pins and needles. When they entered the flat, Emma left him to make his phonecalls while she busied herself in the kitchen. Standing in front of the sink, she debated with herself silently. Tea or coffee? In the end she plumped for coffee on the grounds that it could be laced with something alcoholic. To warm her up. The routine was soothing, a process repeated so many times that it became automatic: put the filter paper on the jug, coffee grains on the paper, fill the reservoir and turn it on. Then wait. After a few minutes she slipped out to go and change. Steed was still talking on the phone. It didn't sound like a garage though. Most likely he was updating Colonel Robertson and telling him he could go in and clean up. The conversation would be resumed later when she had given Steed more information. Much later.
Steed was only just putting the receiver down fifteen minutes later when she reappeared with the tray.
"Any luck?" she asked, setting it down.
"They'll replace the tyres then drop her off here. I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all." She moved over to the sideboard. "I don't envy your mechanics, changing tyres in the dark in a country lane in Hampshire."
Steed grinned at her. "They're fond of the old girl. They hated the idea of leaving her out alone in the dark as much as I did so they were happy to do it. For double the price, of course."
Emma grinned back. "Of course. Now, would you like coffee or," producing a bottle from the sideboard, "something stronger?" She looked at him expectantly.
Steed screwed up his face as he weighed up the choices. "Since you've made it, I think I'll have the coffee. Cream?"
Emma curled up on one end of the couch before grinning impishly. "The cream, is in the kitchen."
Steed cocked his head on one side and grinned fondly. "Ah yes. How could I forget? I think I'll take it black," he continued, settling himself at the other end of the couch.
They sat companionably in silence, each sipping their coffee. Emma let her mind wander, revelling in the sensation of sitting on her own settee, with a sane person, in a room that stayed still. Automation was all very well but it didn't have to make the world go round. How the ghosts of the past came back to haunt her. She asked herself how many more disgruntled employees and acquaintances were planning her demise. None sprang to mind, but then again she wouldn't have named Keller as a grudge-bearer before today. If she could do it again, would she still remove him from the board? Yes, she may be older and wiser but her position hadn't changed - she still preferred man to machine. Still, it was disturbing to think she'd aroused such a vendetta in someone she thought she'd treated fairly. Of course there were legions of enemy spies and diabolical masterminds that would be only too glad to see her destroyed but that was different, that wasn't personal. And Steed would always know where the threat was coming from. Steed...
"What brought you to Seven Pines?"
Steed raised his eyebrows. "Your key played havoc with my holiday snaps. I wondered what kind of uncle would leave you a radioactive doorkey so I called Pennington to find out. Only he didn't know either because he'd never heard of this Uncle Jack and he certainly hadn't informed you of a bequest. So I got hold of Pongo Withers..."
"Pongo's dead," she interrupted. "Bayoneted."
He nodded. "I rather thought so when Colonel Robertson rang to say he hadn't come back and what did I want to do. So, I got the old girl out posthaste and speeded along to Pendlesham. After a few misdirections and mishaps I found Seven Pines. The rest you know."
Emma nodded slowly, digesting what he'd said. If she'd thought about it she might have become suspicious of the key when her radio mysteriously stopped working. Of course she often lost the signal out in the country anyway, that was why she hadn't taken any note of it at the time. As for the letter from Pennington telling her about her "Uncle", well, she hadn't even thought to question that. It wasn't until her parents died that she discovered that she had a large extended family. Even now she wasn't really in contact with many of them, apart from the odd Christmas card. Every so often a relation did pop up, curious to know how she was getting on on her own or unaware that her parents were gone. So she'd just accepted this "Uncle Jack" as a long lost relative, determined to leave something to the last Knight of the line. Emma became aware her thoughts were drifting. She was tired, and the coffee wasn't helping to keep her awake. Quite the opposite in fact. It must be the cognac she'd laced it with. She suddenly felt very sleepy. It was so nice and warm in her flat, so relaxing. Nothing to worry about, nothing to fear.
Steed brought her back to reality. "What about you? What brought you to Seven Pines?" he asked, his voice deceptively casual.
Emma struggled to marshal her thoughts. "One Professor Jack Keller, formerly of Knight Industries. He wanted to replace man with machine I asked him to leave when I took over because I couldn't agree with his ideas. It seems he didn't appreciate my point of view. So he tried to drive me mad. To make a point."
She looked over to him but he didn't say a word. "So I blew him up." She gurgled with laughter, fatigue beginning to get the better of her. "With his own key. Bang!"
"Bang, indeed," he murmured gravely, eyes twinkling.
"Bang!" she repeated for emphasis. "Then whooshing and whirring and..." She stopped in midsentence. She was asleep.
Emma stretched as she opened her eyes, expecting sunlight to be flooding in through her bedroom curtains. But she wasn't in bed and the room was pitch black. Her tired brain struggled to produce a reason; oh yes, she'd fallen asleep on the settee. She got up to turn the light on, only to trip on the blankets that had mysteriously entwined themselves round her legs. Where had they come from? Switching the light on she looked at her watch. Midnight. She must have been asleep for hours. Still half asleep, Emma stumbled over the door to lock it. That was funny, it was already locked. An answer surfaced from the recesses of her mind. Steed was here. She staggered off to bed, yawning. Must remember to thank him...
© Young Avenger 2002
No aspect of this story may be used elsewhere without the expressed prior written consent of the author. These stories may not be altered in any way or sold; all copyright information must appear with this work at all times. Please read disclaimers and warnings on top of each story. Feel free to send constructive comments to the author.. :o)
Back to The Avengers Library