Through the Night
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.
Author's Note: I meant to post to this to mark what would have been Gareth Hunt's 77th birthday on February 7, but life was not so accommodating. Still, I hope you enjoy this belated tribute to an actor we lost far too soon.
Mike Gambit shifted ever-so-slightly in the driver's seat of the XJS, stretching one leg, then the other, while contriving to keep his eye on the road and the car's speed steady. It had been a long day, and it promised to be even longer with the drive back to London tacked onto the end. He could have—should have—taken a room at the local inn, spent the night, and driven back the next morning. It was only the one night, after all, and like all good agents, Gambit had an overnight bag packed and ready to go, sitting in the boot of the car, put together exactly for situations such as this. Not that the want of a toothbrush and some pyjamas were really an obstacle to delaying a four hour evening drive—he could make do without the former, and never wore the latter. Nor was he expected the next morning for work, it being Friday, meaning he had the whole weekend to type up his report, and no pressing other business waiting vying for his attention at the other end. There was certainly nothing worth the inherent risks of driving after dark, on a sometimes remote stretch of motorway, with no one about to help if he should break down, or worse.
So really, there was no reason for him to attempt the drive. All he was going to do was get in at 2 am, have a lie-in, and be of no use to anyone. He'd played all these arguments out in his head before he set off, even before Purdey had done a very good job of rhyming them off over the phone before he left. He'd conceded that every single one of them was reasonable and sensible and then told her he planned to make the drive anyway. She'd paused, said that she knew he would, and called him an idiot in that good-humoured way of hers. He could picture her face as she said it, and it made him smile, even now, as he drove. But it didn't change his mind.
He supposed getting back to Purdey was one reason he wanted to get back, but not his primary motive. Not that he wasn't looking forward to seeing her again—he was, very much so. But a warm bed with Purdey in it would have been more of an incentive had he had a chance of returning earlier, when Purdey would be awake and in a much better position to greet him. Alas, at 2 am, Purdey was likely to only make an annoyed noise when he came blundering into her flat, before she turned over and went back to sleep. Gambit didn't really want to disturb her, and intended to go back to his own flat rather than hers—unless, of course, she'd anticipated that, and was waiting anxiously for him to return so she could satisfy herself that he hadn't driven into a ditch in the dark. If so, it would be a pleasant surprise, one he'd embrace with open arms. But that still wasn't why he was making the trip.
Of course, he could have taken the train back, but he'd had the urge to drive, and not just because he was loathe to leave the XJS behind. The truth was, Gambit was looking forward to the drive, the solitariness of it, the peacefulness of the night, with nothing but the open, empty road for company.
He'd made drives like this one so many times before, and as he shifted his hands comfortably on the steering wheel, he remembered each and every one of them. Remembered his time in the navy, and squeezing every last bit of juice out of an old rental car, in the days when he'd finally been old enough to drive and no longer had to get around on a bike. He'd use the vehicle to explore the latest port of call as thoroughly as he could, and then pray all the way back that he'd make it to his ship before his leave was up. Remembered his racing days, and travelling across Europe from one race to another, because the budget was only large enough for either him or the car to be transported in style, and the car always came first. Remembered his army days, and making his way back to base at some unearthly hour after visiting family, usually at the hospital, where his uncle was living out his final days. Hell, he'd been regularly making drives like this only a couple of years ago, when he was still a solo agent, and fighting tooth and nail to stay that way, against every partner they tried to throw at him.
Before Steed. Before Purdey.
Now, more often than not, he'd have one of them in the car. Not that he was sorry about that. He wouldn't trade Steed's friendship and guidance, and Purdey's, well, everything, for anything. He'd had more enlightening, illuminating, funny, moving, meaningful, and plain ridiculous conversations with one or both of them in the past couple of years, often while en route from one place to another, and he treasured them all.
But before all that, in the days when he'd travelled the globe with only himself to rely on, he'd treasured these night journeys, when it was just him and the machine gliding along under the open sky and a scattering of stars. Gambit had always fed on solitude—craved it, recharged from it. He'd learned more on these drives about himself, about life, how he felt, what he thought, what he wanted out of life, than he could remember, had made life decisions and come to startling realisations, all while watching the world go by through the windscreen, a narrow band of reality caught in the sweep of his headlights. He never put the radio on—his thoughts, about life, love, and the world at large-were always more than enough to keep him occupied. It was meditation in transit, and it did him no end of good.
Gambit unrolled the driver's side window and stuck his hand out, let the cool night air thread through his fingers and ruffle the curls of his hair. It was both exhilarating and soothing, but above all, glorious. Definitely worth a few lost hours of sleep. He was wide awake, even without any caffeine in his system, and looking forward to a long, refreshing journey with only the purr of the Jag's engine for company. There were more ways of meditating and recentring than his karate master knew, but Gambit had learned about the soothing balm of the open road long ago. And though his life had changed in surprising, wonderful ways, this method of refilling his inner reserves was still one of his favourites.
He changed gear and the XJS decelerated smoothly, the response of machine to man still making the racing driver in him thrill after all these years. He settled back in his seat and smiled contentedly to himself, took a deep, cleansing breath. Life was good. He was happy. And he had four whole hours to lose himself in thought to look forward to.
Mike Gambit was a lucky man.