Learning to Be

Disclaimer: I don't own The New Avengers, nor the characters of Mike Gambit, Purdey, and John Steed. They're the property of The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises. This story is written for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.

Timeline: Takes place post-series, from September to November, 1977, after the arc story 'Til Death. For more information about my "arc" series of stories, which thread throughout the series' timeline, please see my profile.

Author's Note: Trying to get back into the groove of writing fiction again, after rather a long break. I still have at least one more arc story I'd like to do, so I've been writing a few short snippets to try and exercise those muscles again. They'll all be little snapshots set in the gap between the last arc story, 'Til Death, and the next one I hope to write. Not sure how many there will ultimately end up being, but I hope you'll enjoy whatever winds up making its way here!

Purdey wondered if people at the Ministry would be able to intuit that they'd slept together the minute they set foot inside, if they'd give off some sort of ineffable signal. With Steed, it was just a matter of time before he worked out what was going on, even though they'd decided to play things close to the chest for the moment. They just had to see how long they could throw him off the scent. The bets on that front had already been laid. But Steed wasn't the one they had to worry about. Purdey knew Steed, knew he wouldn't say anything, wouldn't even let on that he'd worked it out unless and until he thought it was presenting a problem, interfering with the team dynamic and their work. It was everyone else they had to lose sleep over: the rumour mill, made up of bored agents doing paperwork who would rather turn their incisive minds to unravelling salacious puzzles, and clerks looking for something to make their tea breaks interesting. Purdey knew this was the case because she'd listened in on them herself. For an intelligence organisation, there were an awful lot of loose lips within the Ministry's walls. Its extensive grapevine was the first place she went when she learned she would be working with Gambit. She'd built a not-completely inaccurate impression of her colleague out of the bits and pieces that had been passed along sotto voce. It was only when she met the man himself that she realised she didn't have even half the picture—maybe an eighth, if she was lucky.

She looked at Gambit, but he seemed unfazed by the situation, not on her guard the way she was—at least, as far as she could tell. He looked a little more cheerful, perhaps, with a spring in his step, but that could be down to anything, she reasoned. People wouldn't automatically think it was because of her.

She could only hope her face was doing as good a job of being inscrutable. Just then, Gambit looked at her, eyes bright with a smile just for her, and Purdey wondered why it didn't seem out of place here, why no one seemed to notice, then realised that he always looked at her like that. In all the time he'd known her, he'd never bothered to hide how he'd felt, so why start now? Where she had spent the past two years doing her best to pretend that she was immune to his charms, Gambit had laid all his cards on the table from the start. But that was his way. Always cutting through the knots people twisted themselves into, moving in a straight line where others zigged and zagged, never playing games, the direct approach—that was Gambit's style. Much simpler, Purdey decided, and she realised his reward was a smoother journey when coping with unexpected twists in the road. Lucky man, she mused ruefully.

There was a reason he was like that, Purdey knew. Or half knew. Intuited, mostly. From experience, she knew Gambit had never been one for being manipulated or gratuitous mind games. People talking out of both sides of their mouths, dishonesty, blackmail were all good ways to try his patience. Who he was, what he was like, was no secret to her. The nature of the job meant that peoples' personalities were exposed more quickly than in the real world, and that left little room for artifice. The why, however, was another matter. She hoped that, with things as they were now, he'd eventually tell her what, exactly, had happened to him to make him like that. Whatever it was, she knew it had to have something to do with that little sliver of sadness behind his eyes. The one that made her heart ache.

So not so lucky after all.