Author's note: As you might guess this story has loads of spoilers for The House That Jack Built. This is a companion piece to The House That Emma Destroyed - Emma's story, retelling the same events from Steed's point of view. It shouldn't matter which order you read them in, though, or even whether you read both of them. Please be tolerant as I've never tried doing a story in this way before. ;-)
Before I let you get on with the story, I have to pause and say a huge THANK YOU to a very good friend, Mrs Vials. She (but you are the cat's mother <g>) patiently betas every draft of my stories, even when I give her three at once, and puts up with random bits of Avengers trivia at the most inopportune moments. Whatever you may think of my stories, they'd be an awful lot worse without her careful beta-ing.
The House That Emma Destroyed
by Young Avenger
The house wasn't difficult to get into, in fact all Steed had to do was open the front door. He walked down the hall cautiously, alert for any sound. There was nothing. No sooner had he reached the stairs than chaos broke out - a wind rose, machines started screeching and he heard a distant explosion. That was when the rooms started spinning. He clutched at the bannister desperately with one hand, keeping his bowler on with the other.
Almost as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. Steed examined the passageway carefully, looking for signs of life. Silence. Nothing stirred. For some reason that made him more uneasy than the bedlam of minutes before. He advanced forward, glancing around for a weapon, anything that he could use to protect himself. In front of him was a suit of armour. That won't be much use. The lance, now, that could be helpful. He grabbed it and held it out in front of him, moving ahead slowly.
A peal of laughter to his left made him spin. Emma was standing in a doorway watching him. "What happened to the shining armour?"
She was alright. Steed looked down at himself. "It's still at the laundry," he replied, searching her expression more deeply. Now he could see the tears glistening in her eyes. He stepped towards her and held out his hand. She just stood staring at him. Then a smile lit up her face and she came forward to take it. He squeezed it gently and started down the hall.
"Never mind, I'll give you a ride home on the old horse."
It was only when they reached the drive that Steed remembered the whereabouts of his own car. He'd have to give her a ride home in hers. Well, there wasn't anything he could do about it now. He held the passenger door open for her before getting behind the wheel. She didn't even notice which car she was in until she sat down. "Where's your car, Steed?"
How to answer? "I had to leave her a mile or so down the road. 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." Tyre changing hadn't been a priority at the time but he didn't need to tell her that. He contented himself with accelerating down the drive.
Her response was quiet, lacking in energy. "How uncivilised." There was a long pause before she spoke up again. "Steed, what "Road Closed" sign? There weren't any road signs apart from the one for Seven Pines."
Why didn't that surprise him? He'd rather gathered by now that Emma was supposed to be the only visitor. "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 he could see the Bentley in the distance. It might be an idea to make sure nothing was going to impede their departure. Steed examined Mrs Peel out of the corner of his eye; she didn't look ready to leap out and search the road enthusiastically for spikes and bombs and assorted other tricks. "You stay here while I hop out and check for any more surprises. I'd hate to lose our only mode of transport."
He'd already started examining the bushes for sensors when he heard her voice. "Steed, you needn't bother. I destroyed the mechanism behind it all. It's all over."
There was a note of longing in her voice as if she were willing herself to believe what she was saying. Steed carried on with his search. At worst he would delay their return home by ten minutes, at best he might save their lives. Even as the thought crossed his mind he caught sight of a light blinking in the undergrowth to his left. A sensor was on. He approached it warily so as not to trip it. When he got close enough he examined the leads. After a few yards they disappeared underground. Steed sat back on his heels and considered the position. If the leads went under the road then the sensor most likely detonated a bomb. He could hardly start major excavations for it now, not with Emma in the car. No, this called for the subtle approach; he had to disconnect the wires. The light went off. It shouldn't set off the bomb. To be sure, he lobbed a large stone onto the road to make sure it wasn't triggered by vibrations. Nothing happened.
Steed completed his search rapidly, coming across several more inactive sensors, connected to the road signs. The spikes, he was glad to see, were now horizontal. On his way back to the car he retrieved the now useless sensor. Maybe the lab boys could work out why they hadn't tripped it before. Whoever was behind this certainly didn't want Mrs Peel to leave alive. Once back at the car he discovered his partner was asleep. For a few minutes he was tempted to wake her up and tell her what he had found but then he dismissed the idea. She didn't need to know now, there would be time enough later. With luck she hadn't even seen what he'd done.
What was the best way to wake Mrs Peel? He'd been hoping switching off the engine would wake her up but it didn't seem to have worked. As if hearing his thoughts she opened her eyes and smiled at him. "Fancy a drink?"
"You must be psychic, Mrs Peel. I haven't had a drop for hours." That was one problem dealt with. Now he just had to sort out his car.
"Come on up then. And you can borrow my phone and arrange to have the Bentley picked up." She knew him too well.
Once in the apartment, Emma nodded him towards the phone before disappearing into the kitchen. His first call was to the garage. Although they were quite happy to replace the tyres and bring her to Mrs Peel's apartment they weren't so keen to do it immediately. Especially when he warned them that there was an unexploded bomb in the vicinity. Steed wasn't surprised. It was 17:00 now so they wouldn't be finished until 20:00. The bomb wouldn't have made the repair work an attractive prospect either. After some argument, however, he brought them round to his point of view and they agreed to drop her off in a couple of hours.
His next call was to Colonel Robertson. The Colonel wasn't best pleased to hear about a country house equipped with a bomb in the driveway and the possibility of other booby traps inside. Then again he never seemed to enjoy talking to Steed. He shouted so loudly that Steed was sure Emma could hear the whole conversation from the kitchen. Eventually Steed pacified him by promising to call back when he had more information. He just hoped Emma hadn't left too many corpses inside.
He had only just finished when Emma appeared with a tray. "Any luck?" she asked, setting it down.
"They'll replace the tyres then drop her off here. I hope you don't mind." He wouldn't normally bother to ask but it occurred to him that she might just want to be left alone tonight.
To his relief she shook her head. "Not at all. I don't envy your mechanics, changing tyres in the dark in a country lane in Hampshire."
He grinned at her, trying to match her light tone. "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," she produced a bottle from the sideboard, "something stronger?"
He squinted at her, trying to decide which was the best option. If she'd made coffee then she obviously wanted some. He'd be sociable and join her. "Since you've made it, I think I'll have the coffee. Cream?"
As he spoke she curled up on one end of the couch and grinned up at him impishly. "The cream is in the kitchen."
Of course it was. At least he didn't have to fight her to get to it this time. "Ah yes. How could I forget?" He settled himself at the other end of the couch. "I think I'll take it black."
Emma didn't seem inclined to talk so he just kept her company, waiting for his coffee to cool down. He really ought to ask her what had happened, what Colonel Robertson's team could expect to find when they went in tomorrow, but he didn't have the heart. He'd ask her to ring up in the morning if there was anything they desperately needed to know. The details could wait.
"What brought you to Seven Pines?"
Steed raised his eyebrows. He hadn't expected her to think along those lines just yet. Not that it mattered. "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."
That wasn't a great surprise either. If Pongo had been alive he'd have reported in by now. 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 post-haste and speeded along to Pendlesham. After a few misdirections and mishaps I found Seven Pines. The rest you know."
Now it was her turn to nod. He could see her mind ticking over, considering what he had said. She was frowning slightly as if her thoughts weren't very pleasant. Or maybe she was just having trouble concentrating. She'd looked relatively awake when they sat down but then again this coffee was very alcoholic. More than enough to negate the effects of the caffeine. At any rate she appeared less tense than she had been. Not that she'd been hysterical before, he reminded himself sharply. Whatever she'd been faced with, she'd dealt with it on her own and come out unscathed, just slightly quieter than usual. Steed examined her again. She was tired. She'd be asleep soon, half an hour at the most.
Before she drifted off he needed to know something of what had happened, if only to make sure nobody was going to break in and finish what they'd tried to do earlier. He spoke softly, trying not to rouse her too much. "What about you? What brought you to Seven Pines?"
There was a pause. "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."
Emma looked over to him, expecting some sort of reaction. He kept quiet; he'd learn more that way.
"So I blew him up." She gurgled with laughter. Yes, she was exhausted. Her day must be catching up with her. "With his own key. Bang!"
"Bang, indeed," he murmured gravely, eyes twinkling. He wondered how much of this conversation she'd remember tomorrow. Not much, probably.
"Bang!" she repeated for emphasis. "Then whooshing and whirring and..." She halted suddenly and looked confused for a minute. Then Steed watched as her eyes closed and her head fell back limply against the cushions. His guess had been right. He looked at his watch. Half past six. He had at least an hour before his car was dropped off. He really ought to clear up for her but that could wait. For now he'd just sit with her on the couch.
At quarter past seven he got up carefully and took the tray out. It was the work of a few minutes to wash up and put everything away tidily. Returning to the living room he looked at his sleeping partner. It might be warm now but it would get chilly as the night drew on. A few blankets wouldn't go amiss. He didn't have a clue where to find them though - their relationship wasn't exactly domestic. Fortunately they were in the first cupboard he tried. He grabbed a few and tucked her up carefully. Now to draw the curtains and watch for the car.
An hour later he was disturbed by the purr of an engine. His car was here. Not wanting to wake his partner up, he switched off the lights and slipped through the door, locking it quietly behind 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