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-"'Til Death" and post-series, October, 1977.
Author's Notes: This is an older piece that I dusted off recently and tweaked a bit. I thought Valentine's would be a fitting time to finally post it.
I'll just take a moment to highlight the rating. It's a fairly mild "M", but it is an "M", so use your discretion accordingly.
Purdey sat in the passenger seat of Gambit's Jaguar XJS, idly watching the scenery flash by as the adrenaline rush incited by taking down an enemy agent not an hour earlier pounded in her veins. Beside her, Gambit, in the driver's seat, shifted gear and settled back for the long drive from the country back to London. Steed had gone on ahead with the enemy agent in custody, leaving Purdey and Gambit to tie up loose ends. They'd lapsed into a companionable silence for the past few miles, but though Gambit seemed to be content to cruise home, steering one-handed, Purdey was feeling restless, for reasons she hadn't dared bring up in front of the clean-up crew. She risked a glance at her colleague, and bit her lip. Then she caught sight of a short side road that led straight into a small forest, and made a snap decision. "Pull over," she ordered, and Gambit shot her a puzzled glance.
"Pull over." Purdey grabbed the wheel and gave it a sharp turn, sending the tail of the XJS slewing sideways. Her ad-hoc steering barely managed to keep the vehicle on the road and not skidding headlong into a clutch of trees. Gambit swore in spite of himself, wrested back control as Purdey relinquished her hold on the wheel, utilising all his racing training to keep the car on course. The road Purdey had turned them onto was a dead end, and Gambit barely managed to stop the car short of the trees. He let out a long, relieved breath, and draped his wrists on top of the steering wheel, letting his hands flop resignedly over the edge. He turned to regard her with a wary eye.
"Purdey, what the hell was that?"
"Switch off the engine," Purdey said simply, unperturbed by his tone.
Gambit regarded her incredulously. "We could have crashed."
"But we didn't." Purdey unbuckled her safety belt unconcernedly, and nodded at the key in the ignition. "Switch it off."
Gambit made an exasperated noise, but did as he was told. The purr of the Jaguar faded into silence, leaving only the sound of the birds in the trees as background ambience. "It's off. Now are you going to tell me why—"
Purdey's hands flew to either side of his face, and before Gambit knew what was happening her mouth was pressed against his, cutting off any further comment. For a split-second, Gambit was taken aback, but being fairly adaptable in these sorts of circumstances, it didn't take him long to recover his wits and start to kiss back. His hands left the steering wheel in favour of Purdey's waist as she strained across the console between them. By the time she broke the kiss, they were both breathless, but somehow she managed to say, "Is it clear now?"
"I think we're on the same page." Gambit pulled away to remove his safety belt, which was hindering his mobility. He'd barely managed to extricate himself before Purdey somehow manoeuvred herself over the console and onto him. She straddled his lap, skirt draping elegantly over his legs and onto the seat. A small smile played over Gambit's lips as she settled herself into a comfortable position. "Well, hello," he practically purred, gaze travelling over her face, lingering on her mouth for just a moment before returning to her eyes. "Didn't expect to see you here."
"That's not surprising, considering you've never let me drive this car," Purdey pointed out, tugging his tie playfully.
"Nothing personal," Gambit replied with a wink. "You have to know how to handle her, that's all. It takes a special touch." His hands travelled downwards, moulding to the shape of her thighs beneath her skirt.
"I can see that," Purdey said ironically, though she didn't dissuade him. "Anyway, I thought this might be my only chance to get into the driver's seat."
"If you'd told me this was what you had in mind, I would've offered sooner," Gambit murmured, leaning in to kiss her again. Her hands slid onto his shoulders, and she leaned into him, bettering the fit between their bodies, pressing him between her and the seat. One of her hands trailed down between them, fiddled idly with one of the buttons on his waistcoat until it came undone beneath her fingers, and she could feel the warmth of his body beneath his shirt. Gambit broke the kiss, just enough so he could speak, though his lips brushed against hers with each syllable. "Are we really doing this here?"
"Oh, don't look so surprised," Purdey chastised, regarding him as though it was the most ridiculous question anyone had ever asked. "Don't all men fantasise about having sex in their car?"
Gambit's eyebrows climbed skywards, but his grin told her she was right. "Maybe," he allowed. "But in my head, we're usually in the back seat."
Purdey craned her neck so she could see the XJS' rear seat. "Wouldn't that be a bit cramped?" she opined. As she settled back into her seat, her elbow jabbed the horn on the steering wheel, startling a small flock of birds from the nearest tree and sending them into full flight.
"Right, because there's loads of room up here," Gambit replied wryly, and was amused when Purdey blushed a little. "Either way, the logistics never really entered into it. But if we're going to do this, I can give us a little wiggle room, if the lady's interested?"
"The lady wouldn't say no," Purdey allowed, and Gambit gifted her with a small salute before dropping his left hand down the side of the seat and feeling around for the right lever. "Brace yourself. I don't want to leave you behind."
"I'm sure you don't," Purdey replied, even as Gambit pulled the lever and pushed one booted foot against the floor. The seat rolled back as far as it could go, which, as it happened, wasn't very far, and hit its limit with a jolt strong enough to force Purdey to automatically grab Gambit's shoulders to avoid losing her balance. She glanced over her shoulder to assess their progress, found that there were now a few more inches between her and the steering wheel, but hardly enough to permit unimpeded movement. She looked back at Gambit, who seemed to sense her lack of enthusiasm and shrugged.
"I have to set it pretty far back so I can drive. If you want more, date a man with shorter legs."
"I have done."
Gambit arched an interested eyebrow. "And?"
Purdey leaned back leisurely, bracing her hands on the steering wheel behind her for support, and gave him an appraising look. "Well, to be completely honest, you, Mike Gambit, are not my type."
Gambit's eyebrows climbed skyward with interest. "I'm not?"
"What I mean is, you're different from the other men I've dated," Purdey clarified. "Compared to them, you're..." She paused and considered.
"Well, too dark," Purdey began, tilting her head to one side as though he were a specimen in a jar. "And too tall. Your legs are too long. Your eyes are too green, your hair's much too curly, your top lip's too bowed, and your nose is much, much too broken."
There was a brief, pregnant pause as Gambit digested the contents of Purdey's summary. Eventually he said, "Is that everything?"
Purdey looked pleased with herself. "Just about."
"I could write you an essay," Purdey offered, "but since this is your car, I expect the only paper I'll find is a wad of napkins in the glovebox."
"I can do without, thanks," Gambit replied with a sigh. "Not unless you balance it out by naming a few things about me that you actually like."
Purdey's trademark 'big helpless smile', modified by the owner to convey innocence, made an appearance. "Silly man," she chided. "What do you think I just did?"
"What? Oh!" Gambit's face cleared as the light dawned. "Even my nose?"
"Especially the nose." Purdey's right hand left the steering wheel to tap the bump on the bridge of said nose with affection. "It's sort of, I don't know, nicely flawed. Besides, you have no idea how encouraging it is for a girl to know that a man's face still looks quite so good even after it's been rearranged."
"Thanks. I think."
"Anyway, I never said I wasn't attracted to you. Just that, traditionally, you haven't been my type." She contemplated that particular conclusion. "Perhaps I don't have even have a type."
"Or you do have one," Gambit contradicted, "and you've had the wrong idea all this time."
"Oh, yes?" Purdey arched an interested eyebrow. "And what would that be?"
Gambit leaned forward, so he could cover her hands on the steering wheel with his own. "What about a one-person type?"
"A Mike Gambit type?" Purdey hazarded knowingly.
"That's a bit self-serving, even for you," Purdey said wryly. "And what about you? What's your type? Or did you take all-comers?"
"You make it sound like I didn't have standards," Gambit protested dryly. "I only went out with girls I actually liked spending time with."
"Then you clearly like quite a lot of women," Purdey pointed out, "if that little black book is any indication."
"You're never going to let me live that down, are you?" Gambit had shifted in his seat, leaning forward to close the gap between them.
"No," Purdey agreed cheerfully. "And that's still a very large type."
"I could have two types," Gambit pointed out. "One for the girls that I had fun with. And I did have fun..."
"You're not helping your case," came the tart response.
"But then there's another type," Gambit continued, ignoring her. "The girl I don't just want to have fun with." She could feel his thumbs gently trace over the backs of her hands. "The girl who's so much more than that."
"And what kind of girl is that?" Purdey wanted to know. Gambit was half-out of his seat by now, face agonisingly close to her own, hips resting against hers.
"Fine-boned blondes with great legs, wicked jaws, and the kind of brilliant mind that drives a man mad. In every way."
"And do I?" Purdey asked silkily.
Purdey grinned in spite of herself. "Really?"
"You have no idea."
"Oh, I think I do." Purdey could feel the telltale bulge in his trousers where her hips locked with his. She grinned wickedly at him. "And as for the way my mind works, you'll have to learn to keep up."
"I don't think I do too badly," Gambit murmured, pressing his lips against her hair. "All things considered."
A ghost of a smile lingered on Purdey's lips as Gambit's own skimmed down her cheek and sought out the sweet spot on her neck. "Well, at the very least, I should have thought that how I've always felt about you was painfully obvious," she teased.
"Not obvious, just painful," came the reply, and Purdey felt a twinge of guilt. She had rather strung Gambit along for the majority of the time they'd known each other, playing for time while she tried to admit to herself just how she felt about him, and what to do about it, sending a cacophony of mixed signals to Gambit in the process. He'd let her off easy, but she knew some of it had stung, and she deeply wished she could take it back.
"Is this obvious enough?" she inquired, rocking her hips against his. She considered saying more, but decided not to risk getting maudlin, which would put a damper on the action before they got to the main event. To her relief, Gambit, despite his comment, didn't seem anymore interested in dwelling on it than she did, pulling away from her neck and treating her to a broad grin.
"Just about," he quipped, just before he sank his mouth into hers, and she found herself sandwiched between him and the wheel, back arching gracefully. She slipped her hands from beneath his on the wheel to tangle in his hair, but the shift in weight distribution was too much, and her back wound up pressed against the steering wheel's horn. It blared loudly in protest, causing her to straighten up with a start. She looked over her shoulder and regarded the wheel with annoyance.
"I don't think your car likes me," she opined. "No wonder you don't let me drive her."
"I never said you couldn't," Gambit protested, but reconsidered their position with an expert eye. "But, uh, this can't be too comfortable, so let's..." He wrapped his arms around her waist and let gravity take hold, sending them tumbling back into the seat. They barely missed a beat; no sooner had they regained their previous position than they were tangled up in one another, hands and lips everywhere, the driver's side window beginning to cloud up with telltale fog. Purdey ran her hands down Gambit's chest, stopped at his belt, pulled the end through the loop.
"Wait, wait," Gambit protested, breaking the kiss. "We're going to need a—it's in my wallet." He gestured at his back pocket, trying to reach around, but it was difficult in the cramped quarters of the car seat. Purdey brushed his hand aside.
"Let me," she breathed, pressing against him while she reached round. He shifted his hips upward to give her better access, pelvis grinding against hers in the progress. He let out a groan, and Purdey felt him thrust instinctively against her. It sent a shock through her core, and her fingers went nerveless for a moment, brushing uselessly against the edge of the leather of his wallet.
"That wasn't meant to happen," Gambit said between gritted teeth. "But I'll be damned if I'm not glad it did." He rolled his hips to bring the wallet closer to her questing hand, but that only served to better the fit. Purdey could feel him, hot and solid, pressed against her core, couldn't suppress a moan as her body responded automatically. "Oh, you feel good," Gambit whispered, eyes squeezed shut, almost in prayer.
"Well, hang on," Purdey ordered, trying her best to keep her voice level. "You're not even inside yet."
Gambit made an inarticulate noise somewhere between a laugh and a whimper. "Got my wallet?"
"Just about." It was hard to concentrate on the task at hand with Gambit's hips making tiny, but exquisitely-targeted, movements against her. She was resisting the urge to grind against him with every fibre of her being, but her resolve was weakening quickly. She slid her hand down Gambit's back pocket, managing to elicit another groan from the man, and pulled it out quickly. She leaned back, resting a restraining hand on his left hip, and he lowered himself back into the seat gradually, though she could tell what the effort cost him. He licked sweat-stained lips and eyed the wallet in her hands.
"Find it?" he asked hopefully.
"Not yet." She was rifling through the contents.
"It should be near the back, behind the pocket for the paper money."
Purdey slid her fingers into the pocket as instructed, came up with a small foil packet. "Ah!"
Gambit almost sagged with visible relief. "Thank heavens for that."
Purdey smiled to herself, and took advantage of her position to rifle through the rest of the wallet's contents. She came up with a driving licence and eyed in appraisingly. "This is a terrible picture," she opined, sizing up the black and white thumbnail.
Gambit gave her a look that clearly told her he wasn't amused at having his likeness critiqued at that or any other time. "They all are. It's the rule."
"I disagree. Mine's very flattering." Purdey grinned at him over the top of the card, teasing him shamelessly.
Gambit shook his head in amused disbelief. "You would bring that up now, wouldn't you? Well, don't worry about it." He plucked both card and wallet from her, and tossed them carelessly onto the passenger seat. "You're with me, not the bloke in the photo."
"I didn't realise I had a choice," Purdey quipped. "As it happens, he's rather growing on me."
Gambit kissed the corner of her mouth. "Do you enjoy torturing men, or am I the exception?"
"Oh, you're always the exception, Mike Gambit," Purdey assured, letting her hands return to their original destination, and unbuckling his belt. "You should never worry about that." She unbuttoned and unzipped him, before delving inside. "Never ever."
"Oh, good," Gambit managed, willing himself to stay lucid as Purdey extracted him from his confines. He was hot and solid in her hands, and Purdey stroked him once, twice, watched his mouth fall open in ecstasy, felt his hands fist her skirt. She passed her thumb over his tip, her own desire building as she stimulated him. It was only when it was clear he could take no more that she released him, tore open the packet, and rolled the contents on with a practised ease she hadn't possessed, she mused with a touch of amusement, until she'd started sleeping with Gambit. Practice makes perfect...
He opened his eyes as he felt her hands leave him. "Okay," he managed, taking deep lungfuls of air, willing himself to calm down. "Okay. We need to, uh, rearrange." He slid his hands up her thighs, pushing her skirt back to give her better manoeuvrability. "Just, uh—" She nodded, and they moved, lining things up, placing themselves in the optimal position. "Purdey, if you could..." His thumbs grazed the insides of her thighs, and she felt herself begin to tremble, but she moved her legs slightly farther apart, instinctively knowing what he meant. "That's better," he murmured, voice hoarse, throat dry. "That's fine." He met her eyes, sweat beaded on his top lip. "Whenever you're ready."
She'd been ready for some time, but he already knew that. All the same, when she pushed her panties aside and lowered herself onto him, taking him inside in one smooth motion, she let out a sharp gasp as he filled her, felt him take up all the space within until there was none left. Gambit's head fell back against the seat with relief.
"That's better," he whispered, expression the picture of bliss.
"Better than what?" she managed, feeling impossibly content, as she always did with him.
"Better than not being here with you," he replied, tilting his head forward again so he could meet her eyes, chest heaving. "Oh, Purdey, Purdey, you're amazing," he pronounced, reaching out to stroke her cheek, trace her jaw.
"I haven't done anything yet."
"I know. That's why you're amazing."
Her mouth quirked up on one side. "Flatterer." She shifted slightly, adjusting their fit. It didn't hurt, but she gasped at the sensation as her body stretched to accommodate him. "I may need a moment," she admitted.
Gambit nodded, letting his head fall back against the headrest. "Take your time," he murmured, voice hoarse but slightly more steady than it had been. He grasped her hand, brought it to his mouth, pressed tender kisses against her palm with soft lips. "Take your time," he repeated. "I'm okay."
"You're not," Purdey said with a knowing smile, but he'd had some of the edge taken off now, and she knew he could wait it out more comfortably than he would have otherwise, though that hardly mattered. Gambit was very good at waiting, particularly when it came to her. She'd given him plenty of opportunities to demonstrate that particular quality in the nearly two years it had taken them to get here.
She rested her hands, side by side, against his chest. Through the fabric, she could feel the warmth of his skin, the gentle hitch in his breathing caused by their recent activities, and the steady, though slightly-elevated, beat of his heart. One day, she knew, that wonderful heart would stop beating, whether it was in five days or fifty years, she didn't know, but it would stop all the same. It could be any day, on any assignment, and she'd come to accept that a long time ago, though she knew it would be almost impossible to bear whenever it happened, should she still be alive to see it. Pushing him away hadn't made that particular scenario any easier to bear, a lesson she'd learned the hard way, which was why they were here now. Whatever happened tomorrow, he was here, now, with her, and nothing would change that. But it was nice to feel that heart all the same.
Gambit seemed to sense her train of thought, because he was looking at her with a measure of concern written across his features. "You okay?" he managed, curling his fingers around one of her wrists, thumb brushing idly against her forearm.
Purdey treated him to her most delightful smile. "I will be in a moment," she told him, just before she planted her hands on either side of his face and sealed her mouth to his, her hips moving automatically. Gambit groaned, and kissed back, hands dropping automatically to grip her hips, and things started in earnest.
It was only once the main event was well and truly underway that Purdey realised that Gambit had a point about the logistical problems of their current location. The cramped quarters led to not a few banged elbows on the car door, the steering wheel dug into Purdey's back more than once, and the leather seat creaked an accompaniment to their every move. But as far as Purdey was concerned, none of that mattered, not when Gambit's hands were everywhere, gripping her hips, stroking her thighs, brushing over her breasts, and tracing delicious patterns down her back, always exactly where she wanted them a moment before even she herself knew what she wanted. Her own hands tangled in his hair, lost in the moment and his kiss. He broke away and mouthed kisses along her jaw. If she listened very carefully, she could just make out the sound of him whispering her name, softly, over and over, as though in fervent prayer, every time they moved. Purdey sighed happily, let her head fall back, a small smile on her lips. Gambit took full advantage of the change in position, pressing open-mouthed kisses to her throat. "You're awfully quiet," she murmured. "You do know only the birds can hear us? And before you even think about making a terrible joke, I mean the feathered variety."
She felt him grin against her throat, which told her she'd correctly predicted what he was going to say, and that he'd been thwarted, though he didn't seem to mind. "Poor birds," he lamented, although it didn't sound particularly genuine. "Probably were having a nice, relaxing afternoon before we showed up."
"Aren't I entitled to a nice, relaxing afternoon?"
"Depends," Gambit said with a chuckle. "What kind of bird are you?"
"The kind who doesn't have the sense to leave you when you start making bad jokes," Purdey commented wryly.
"Poor, long-suffering girl," Gambit said, without much conviction. "I'll have to make up for it somehow."
"If you're fishing for compliments before we've even finished, Mike Gambit, I may not be held responsible for my actions."
"Sorry. I thought I was being too quiet."
"Oh, shut up," Purdey said, without malice.
"Make up your mind," Gambit teased, and she felt one of his hands slide up her thigh and beneath her skirt. She let out a short, sharp cry as his fingers went to work, hands gripping his shoulders for support, head falling forward to meet his eye. "Sorry, I thought the birds might be getting lonely." He had one of those infuriatingly smug smiles on his face, but she was rapidly losing the ability to be annoyed with him.
"Mike Gambit, one of these days..."
He leaned in close, close enough that their lips were barely touching, but he kept them that delicious fraction of an inch apart. "Do you want me to stop?"
"I didn't say that," she breathed, then shuddered as another wave of pleasure shot through her. "Gambit!"
"Try again. I think someone on the motorway didn't hear."
It was all downhill from there. Purdey's control was well and truly broken, Gambit coaxing her past the point of no return. Before long, lights were flashing behind her eyes, and she could feel her body contracting around him even as she cried his name, voice drowned out by his as he followed her over the edge and beyond. Outside, the birds startled at the noise emanating from the car, and took flight up over the treetops.
She slumped forward in the aftermath, falling bodily against him, breathing hard, body sublimely relaxed even as his chest heaved beneath her. His arms were wrapped loosely around her waist, mirroring her own, and her head rested comfortably against his shoulder. His mouth was close to her ear, and she could hear his rapid breathing gradually slow into a regular rhythm. When he had his breath back enough to speak, he said, "All right, if it means that much to you, you can drive my car."
Purdey snickered in spite of herself, turning her face into his shoulder to muffle the noise, but she felt that same shoulder shake with barely-controlled laughter of his own. When she felt she could control her own voice, she said, "On second thought, I think I'll leave it to you. You seem more than capable in the driver's seat."
"Not only the driver's seat, I hope," Gambit quipped, and Purdey raised her head just in time to catch his grin. "Bit inconvenient if we have to keep coming back here every time the urge strikes."
"I'm sure you'd adapt," Purdey murmured back. "There's still the back seat."
"I thought you said it was too cramped."
"Yes, well, now that I've gotten the lay of the land up here, I think there's room to reassess," Purdey allowed, letting her fingers trace delicately over his tie. "But I don't think it'll be necessary to abandon our tried and true locations."
"Thank goodness. I don't think the upholstery could take it." Gambit's smile was so infectious, she couldn't help but return it, nor his kiss when he leaned in to press his lips to hers and cup the back of her head. They carried on for a moment, the kisses relaxed and leisurely now that the need had been satisfied. Eventually, reluctantly, Gambit broke away, treated her to an apologetic smile. "I'd like nothing better than to carry on, Purdey-girl, but I really should, uh..." He shifted meaningfully beneath her. "Take care of things. Sorry."
She took his meaning, nodded, used his shoulders to brace herself as she rose onto her knees, gently disengaging herself in the process with a little groan. With Gambit's assistance, she half-crawled, half-flopped, into the passenger seat. She settled back comfortably, curling one arm above her head, and let out a contented little sigh.
"That's what I like to hear," Gambit commented, and she could hear from his voice he was pleased with himself.
"Who said it had anything to do with you?" Purdey smirked but didn't look at him, heard the hiss of a zipper, and then the clank of a belt buckle.
"Just an educated guess." She did look now. He had that self-satisfied, slightly smug expression that she usually quashed at the earliest opportunity, but she still felt rather like jelly, and the will just wasn't there. Besides, it wasn't as though he was wrong to be pleased with himself, so she just smiled at him and let him draw his own conclusions. From the way his eyes were dancing, they were pleasant ones. Then he cleared his throat, and nodded at the door. "I'm going for a walk. Hide the evidence."
Purdey arched an eyebrow. "What are you going to do? Bury it?"
"Possibly." He winked at her. "Either way, I need to stretch my legs, get the blood flowing. It all took up residence somewhere else for some reason."
"I can't imagine why."
"I'll bet you can't. I won't be long." With that, he opened the Jag's door and stepped out, shut it behind him. Purdey watched him go through the driver side window, then turned away when his retreating back disappeared from sight. She sighed and flipped down the visor, examined herself in the small mirror mounted on the reverse side. Her hair was tousled, and both her lipstick and mascara would need refreshing, but they weren't anywhere near as noticeable as her flushed cheeks and the telltale glow of her skin, accentuated by now-drying sweat. She smiled at her reflection, and wondered idly how much of that glow would still be in evidence by the time they got back to the Ministry, and how many people would pick up on it. She combed her fingers through her hair, and promised herself she wouldn't give the typing pool too much to talk about.
By the time Gambit returned, she had stepped out of the car herself, her legs more than a little stiff from being seated one way or another for so long. She was leaning against the driver's side when he approached, elbows draped casually on top of the XJS's roof.
"Everything neatly tucked away?" she inquired when Gambit was within hearing range. "Or do I need to worry about someone stumbling across the evidence?"
"I think we're safe, unless one of the squirrels talks," Gambit quipped back, smile playing over his lips. He came to a stop inches away from her, and she noticed he had yet to make any attempt to fix his hair, which was still in the tousled disarray in which she'd left it. His face was still slightly flushed, too, much like her own, though he had managed to button up his waistcoat and generally fix his clothes during his walk. A pity, she mused idly. She was rather looking forward to fixing them for him, though that may have proved counterproductive and led to something else entirely.
"Something you want to say?" Gambit asked, as a wicked grin spread over Purdey's features.
She shook her head. "I think I've said more than enough for one day."
"That's a first," Gambit said wryly, and jerked his head to one side. "Scoot over. I need to readjust the seat."
"You really know how to charm a girl, don't you?" Purdey replied a little tartly, but shifted back until she was clear of the door anyway.
"Well, you were the one I pushed it back for," Gambit pointed out, opening the door and bending over to lean inside. "I could have been charming now, and let you take the steering wheel in the back."
"And I suppose it's too much to ask for both?"
He peeked out of the door at her. "Depends on what the logistics are like."
"I'll bear that in mind."
They were silent for a moment, as Gambit rolled the seat back into place, and Purdey listened idly to the birdsong. She was daydreaming quite happily when Gambit's voice, slightly muffled, came from within the car. "Listen, I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it, but, uh, are we going to talk about what just happened?"
"Hmm?" was Purdey's eloquent reply.
"You know what I mean." Gambit stretched to retrieve his discarded driving licence and wallet from the passenger seat and returned them to his pocket, then straightened up and regarded her, serious now.
Purdey blinked her big blue eyes at him. "Do I?"
"Purdey..." Gambit was really looking at her now, staring past the veil into her soul, something he'd always been irritatingly good at, despite her best efforts to keep him out. "You know we made a rule. You were the one who insisted on it. We decided we weren't going to let our relationship get in the way of the job. That way we wouldn't give anyone a reason to separate us. And it made sense, so I agreed. We agreed."
"Yes," Purdey confirmed crisply, suddenly studying her shoes with an inordinate amount of interest. "But we're not on assignment now, are we?"
Gambit shook his head, very slowly. "Try again. We've just finished an assignment. We're on our way back to the Ministry, and you know as well as I do that we're going to have to file some paperwork when we get there before we can even think about clocking off for the day." He rested a hand on the roof of the XJS, very close to where one of hers was still dangling just over the edge. "I may not claim to understand everything that goes on in that wonderful mind of yours, Purdey-girl, but I know the rule, and I know that by your standards what we just did goes against it." He looked up at the sky, said with studied nonchalance, "Anything I should worried about?"
Purdey's head snapped up with alarm. "What? No!" she exclaimed, eyes flashing with outrage at the mere suggestion. "What on earth made you come to that conclusion?"
Gambit continued looking heavenward as though seeking strength. "Purdey, look at it from my end," he said patiently. "I wasn't the one who came up with the idea to have sex in the Jaguar. Maybe I'm imagining things, but I don't think so." He regarded her uncertainly. "Did I...did I do something?"
Purdey pursed her lips and shifted uncomfortably against the car. "You did," she said finally, then caught Gambit's stricken expression. "But not in the way you think." She reached out and took a handful of his lapel, tugged insistently. "Come here."
He did, pushing away from the car to step in close. She released his lapel, but let her fingers trace the shape of the cloth idly for a moment. She could feel the tension in his chest, and knew it was cruel to keep him waiting. "You're right," she said finally, raising her eyes to meet his. "It is me. It's my habit of making rules. Personal rules." She paused, considering how to explain. "For a very long time, I needed to draw boundaries. It kept me sane over the years, through difficult times. For a long time it meant not letting you in. And now that I have..." She shrugged. "I did what I've always done. I drew a line, this time between the professional and the personal."
"But that made sense," Gambit protested. "For the sake of our jobs. If the Ministry thought we were too caught up in each other to finish an assignment-"
"But it went beyond that," Purdey cut in. "Or at least, it did in my mind. I've become a little too used to setting strict limits on myself. But I don't want to live like that, not anymore. Not when I've already broken the habit once, and it worked out so well."
Gambit raised an interested eyebrow. "Very well?"
Purdey rested a hand alongside his face. "Very, very well," she told him fondly. "And today, on this assignment...well, you were very, very good." She allowed herself a small shrug. "And I watched you, and I wanted you. My resolve broke."
"Sorry, what was that? Something starting with a 'w'?"
"Gambit, don't tease me."
"I'm not teasing. I want to be sure I've got all the facts."
She shot him a look, cheeks still red. "I wanted you," she repeated. "And I didn't want to wait." She shrugged. "So I decided to hang the rules. It wasn't going to do any harm, no one was going to find out. So I didn't second-guess myself and went for it. Without worrying about it for a change." She grinned. "And it turned out rather well, if I do say so myself."
Gambit grinned. "Well, it's always nice to be wanted," he purred.
"I knew I shouldn't have told you. There won't be enough room in the car for both me and your ego now," Purdey sighed, but she accepted Gambit's kiss with not a little pleasure. The crackle of the XJS's radio interrupted the moment.
"Gambit, are you there?" It was Steed's voice, and Gambit broke away with a sigh.
"Duty calls," he said resignedly, and Purdey released him so he could lean through the still-open Jaguar door and pick up the receiver. He pressed the transmit button. "Gambit."
"Where are you? I expected you back at the Ministry at least a quarter of an hour ago." Steed's tone was a unique combination of concern and annoyance, and the reason for their tardiness would determine which emotion gained dominance.
"Sorry," Gambit apologised. "We stopped for petrol, and then we had to, uh, satisfy Purdey's appetite."
Purdey elbowed him in the ribs at the bad pun, but it wasn't a terrible excuse. Her relationship with food was rather a running joke between the three of them. Steed didn't need to know it wasn't her stomach she'd chosen to satisfy this time.
"I see." Steed didn't sound particularly annoyed, but his patience was clearly going to wear thin soon. "Well, you're needed here, so I hope Purdey's satisfied."
Gambit grinned wickedly up at her. "I'll have to ask her," he told Steed. "What do you say, Purdey-girl? Are you satisfied?"
"Oh, give me that." Purdey snatched the receiver away and pressed the button. "It's my fault, Steed, but I promise we're on our way again. Knowing Gambit's driving, we should be back soon."
Gambit pulled a face that feigned being cut to the quick, and Purdey stuck her tongue out at him in response. "See that you are," was Steed's response.
"We will. Purdey out." She handed back the receiver. "You heard the man. Get a move on."
"You're very demanding today," Gambit teased. "Any more marching orders?"
Purdey considered as she made her way around to the passenger side door. "Dinner tonight."
"I think we can manage that."
"And dancing," Purdey went on, opening the door and sliding inside.
"And some chips," Purdey finished, closing the door and fastening her safety belt. She caught Gambit's incredulous look. "What? Now that you've mentioned food, I'm hungry."
"Steed expected us back ages ago, you're the reason we're late, and now you want to stop for chips?"
"Yes," Purdey confirmed, as though it were the most reasonable demand in the world. "You'd better hurry up. He'll be waiting." Gambit was still looking at her with a mixture of disbelief and annoyance.
"If you want chips, why don't you drive?" he suggested. "You said you wanted a chance in the driver's seat."
"On further consideration, I've decided to leave that to you," Purdey declared, before shooting him a wicked look. "You know how to handle your stick better than I do, anyway."
"I can't believe you just said that."
"Despite what you may believe, you don't have a monopoly on terrible jokes, Mike Gambit. Besides, what's the point of riding with an ex-racing driver if you're not going to take advantage of it?"
Gambit stared at her a moment longer, sighed, and turned the key in the ignition. "Sometimes I wonder why I bother arguing with you," he muttered to himself. "I think I need my head examined."
"You should have done that long ago," Purdey declared as the XJS pulled out and accelerated off down the road at a speed that was probably not entirely in keeping with the local traffic laws.
"I love you, too, Purdey."