Paris After Midnight

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: Just a little something in honour of Joanna Lumley's 74th birthday.

Purdey convinced herself that she wasn't waiting up for him right until the moment she heard the "snick" of a key in the lock and the slight creak of the door to her hotel room as it swung open and then closed. If it hadn't been for that, she wouldn't have heard him at all—he could move absolutely silently if he wanted to, and it was the lack of sound that followed that allowed her to positively identify him long before she heard his voice.

"Purdey?" He spoke as quietly as possible, barely audible in the pitch-black space. "Are you asleep?"

"I ought to be," she huffed, after spending half a second pretending that she was just to spite him, but the desire to ream him out was too strong to wait until morning. She reached out from under the covers and switched on the light, turned over just in time to catch Mike Gambit instinctively raising his hands to shield his eyes from the sudden brightness of the beam. "I need my beauty sleep, and you, Mike Gambit, are not helping."

"And I keep telling you, you don't need it," Gambit parried, lowering his hands and blinking as his eyes adjusted to the light. He took in Purdey's sheet-draped figure, topped by her pouting face and a head of perfectly-tousled blonde hair. "Definitely not," he reaffirmed, voice dropping an octave to a throaty purr.

"Compliments won't save you," Purdey replied pertly, but Gambit didn't miss the way she preened slightly in response to his appreciation. "You have some explaining to do. The ambassador turned in fifteen minutes after I accompanied his wife back to their flat. I know because I rang her to make sure she was all right when I got back to the hotel, so don't bother trying to deny it."

"I wasn't going to," Gambit said simply, putting his hands innocently behind his back.

Purdey frowned in incomprehension at his lack of concern. "That was—" She cast an angry glance at the clock. "—two hours ago. If you and Steed went out to the follies afterward to paint the town red, I'll—"

"Steed," Gambit cut in, sauntering over to the foot of the bed in that particularly jaunty way he had when he was feeling particularly pleased with himself, "had a nightcap and turned in half an hour after the ambassador. I teased him about feeling his age. He said he'd make me pay for it. If you find my body in the Seine this time tomorrow, you know who the guilty party is."

"If anyone's going to put you in the Seine," Purdey muttered darkly, "it's going to be me. If you've been out wandering around sampling the delights of Paris solo for the past ninety minutes, I'll—"

Gambit held up a hand. "I wasn't at the follies," he assured, rounding the bed with the smooth, muscular grace of a panther, an impression only reinforced by the matte blackness of his tuxedo. "I was out trying to get these." His hand darted into his inside breast pocket and produced two pieces of card as if by magic. "Happy birthday."

Purdey snatched them out of his outstretched hand with unseemly haste. "Tickets to the ballet?" she identified, squinting in the lamplight to read the print. "For tomorrow night?" She looked up at Gambit in incomprehension. "But they're sold out!"

"They are," Gambit confirmed, settling down onto the edge of the bed.

Purdey was gaping at him, bed-head hair falling into her puzzled eyes. "Then how…?"

Gambit shrugged, broad shoulders rolling unconcernedly. "I made some inquiries. One of the first things I learned in the navy was that you can get almost anything if you know who to ask."

"One lesson among many, I'm sure," Purdey muttered under her breath. "And that's where you were?"

"Almost impossible things take time," Gambit said lightly, gaze heavy-lidded as it met hers. "But it was worth the effort."

Purdey cleared her throat in an attempt to break the spell. "You do realise that my birthday was officially over half an hour ago?"

"It's still yesterday in London," Gambit pointed out, consulting the watchface on the inside of his wrist. "You thought I'd forgotten, hadn't you?"

Purdey turned the tickets over in her elegant fingers rather than meet his eyes. "Well, I might have thought…"

"Didn't you?" Gambit had a knowing little smile on his face that told her he knew he had the upper hand for once. "That's why you were annoyed with me. Not because you thought I was out at the follies."

Purdey's head snapped up sharply, one eyebrow raised high. "Not only because I thought you were out at the follies," she qualified, and it was Gambit's turn to look sheepish. "There will be dinner first, of course."

"Of course," Gambit confirmed, settling comfortably back onto the mattress. "I know better than to take you anywhere without feeding you first—ow!" Purdey had leant forward to swat his leg, and he met her eyes. "Will that do for a birthday present, even an almost-belated one?"

Purdey considered for a moment, before her face broke into a wide, brilliant smile. "That, Mike Gambit," she began, crawling out from under the covers and tucking her legs underneath her, bent knees just touching his own, "will do very well indeed."

Gambit's face lit up in a smile of his own, and Purdey could tell that, happiness aside, he was also relieved that he'd done well. Not that she'd doubted he would, not really, odd bit of petulance aside. "Good. I'll, uh, let you get back to your beauty sleep, then."

"In a little while," Purdey temporised, biting her lip, eyes dancing mischievously. "Since it is still my birthday in London—" Her hands slid up his chest to grasp his lapels. "—I think I'll unwrap another present first."