Long Winter 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: A bit of festive fluff. Merry Christmas to all!

"This is terrible, horrible, and outrageous, not to mention inhumane." Gambit had seen Purdey's lips moving through the windscreen, but it wasn't until he popped the Range Rover's door open that he could hear the words themselves. It hardly mattered, though—he'd worked out the most colourful parts of her diatribe through lipreading alone. He flashed a lightning smile at a nervous-looking mother and her young child as they passed him on the pavement, and said a silent prayer of thanks that the audible part of Purdey's rant hadn't included any of the more colourful figures of speech she'd been using earlier.

"I can't believe that we're running surveillance on Christmas Eve," Purdey was saying, as Gambit maneuvered himself into the Range Rover's cab with difficulty, balancing a tray holding four disposable coffee cups in one hand, and a bulging paper bag from the local takeaway in the other. He held out the tray to Purdey in the faint hope that she would take it and leave him with at least one free hand with which to grab onto the nearest stable object when his boots inevitably lost the battle with the icy pavement. His partner, however, was too busy glowering through the windscreen to think about trifling matters, such as her partner cracking his skull open. "And to add insult to injury, they've made us sit outside, in the cold, to stake out a Christmas party. At the very least, they could have put us on the guestlist so we could watch what was happening from inside. Somewhere warm, where we could sip champagne and eat nibbles." She propped her chin in her hand and sighed wistfully. "I have a gold party frock that would have been perfect."

"Yes, I know." Even though he was doing a precarious balancing act half-in, half-out of the vehicle, Gambit's voice still managed to rumble throatily with desire. "You can always model it for me when we're finished."

Purdey cracked a smile for what was possibly the first time that evening. "I'm sure that offer was made for purely altruistic reasons."

"Naturally," Gambit replied with a grunt, bending to store the bag in the footwell. "That's better," he sighed in relief as he settled into his seat, before snagging the Range Rover's door and tugging it closed, sealing out the chill of the winter night. He offered the cardboard tray to Purdey. "Your cocoa's the one in the bottom left corner."

"Thank you." Purdey pulled the cup free of its confines with a squeak of Styrofoam, took a sip, and immediately burnt her tongue on the scalding contents. "What's in the other three?" she inquired as best she could with the tip of her singed tongue pinched between her thumb and forefinger.

"Coffee," Gambit replied succinctly, pulling one cup from the tray and balancing the rest as best he could on the console between their seats.

Purdey pulled a face. "I don't like coffee."

"I know." Gambit sipped his own drink without, Purdey noticed bitterly, accruing third-degree burns. She wondered idly whether it was because the coffee was cooler than her cocoa, or his mouth had been scalded into numbness years ago. "They're all for me."

"Three coffees?" Purdey repeated incredulously. "Mike Gambit, I think your addiction is getting worse."

"Don't knock it. It's the longest relationship I've ever had, and it's got me through a lot of late nights like this one." Gambit took another sip and made a contented little noise as the rich brown liquid warmed him from the inside out. "It's so dark and cold out here that I'm not going to last the night without them. Besides, it's Christmas. Excess is expected."

"Yes, it's Christmas," Purdey confirmed darkly. "And we're out here, in the cold, when we should be in there."

Gambit turned to look at the illuminated windows of the house they were watching, through which several well-dressed people were visible, engaging in festive revelry and general merriment. "It's a private party for a very secretive, exclusive society. I think they might notice if we gatecrashed."

"Not if you acted as though you were meant to be there," Purdey contradicted, taking another, tentative, sip of her cocoa. "But it's a moot point. We shouldn't be working on Christmas Eve at all."

"And we wouldn't have," Gambit reminded, blowing on his leather-gloved fingers, "if Philipps and Harris hadn't walked into the break room in the middle of your rant about how you'd rather spend Christmas Eve working than put up your cousin while she was visiting from Paris."

Purdey pouted. "It was a hypothetical statement. Anyone with half a brain should have realised that."

"And I'm sure you were being hypothetical when you told them that you'd be happy to take over their surveillance detail." He shot her a look across the width of the console. "And volunteered me to join you when I had mouthful of coffee and couldn't protest."

"I told you your coffee habit would get you in trouble one of these days," Purdey snapped sullenly. "And we both know that you'd volunteer to spend the night with me no matter where we were, so stop acting like a martyr."

Gambit made a moue and considered the point, realised that Purdey was right, and shrugged philosophically. "Still, seems like a lot of trouble to go to to avoid spending time with your cousin. What's wrong with her?"

"Her name is Matilda," Purdey revealed dryly. "She's only lived in Paris for a year, and now she makes everyone call her 'Mathilde'."

Gambit's eyebrows climbed toward his hairline. "Ah. I see what you mean."

"I thought you might." Purdey took a, now-pleasantly warming, drink of her cocoa and settled back into the seat. "When I think about her now, being out here doesn't seem quite so bad. I don't suppose that brings you much comfort, though."

Gambit gazed up through the windscreen at the night sky. "I don't know. I've had some pretty bleak Christmas Eves over the years. But it's a gorgeous evening, I've got something warm to drink, something to eat, and I get to spend the night with the most beautiful woman in the world." He flashed a grin at her in the darkness, one that warmed Purdey from the inside out even more than the cocoa had. "That sounds like a pretty good Christmas Eve in my book."

Purdey felt herself melt faster than a snowman on a sunny day. "Mike Gambit," she sighed happily, shifting over in her seat so she could put her head on his shoulder. "Sometimes you really do beat all."

Gambit, never one to let an opportunity to get closer to Purdey pass him by, wrapped an arm around the blonde and pulled her that much closer, with half an eye on the coffee still balanced precariously on the console. "Feeling better?"

"A little," Purdey acknowledged. "I'm almost willing to share my cocoa with you. Almost."

"That reminds me." Gambit set his, now-empty, coffee cup on the Range Rover's dash, and shifted in his seat until he could reach the pocket of his overcoat. "I brought you something."

Purdey arched an eyebrow. "Besides a curry?"

"I don't keep curry in my pocket," Gambit replied wryly. "I've learned from experience that it doesn't travel well. These, on the other hand…" He pulled a packet from his pocket that crinkled as he handed it to the bemused Purdey. "For your cocoa," he explained. "Or just on their own."

"Marshmallows!" Purdey exclaimed, with unfettered delight. "Gambit, how did you know?"

"Experience," Gambit murmured, caressing her flushed cheek. "Long, happy years of experience."

Purdey was grinning broadly now, so broadly that any annoyance at being forced to work on Christmas Eve was forgotten in a cloud of love and adoration. "Happy Christmas, Mr. Gambit," she whispered, leaning across the console, lips parted and aimed squarely at his.

"Happy Christmas, Mrs. Gambit," Gambit murmured back, just before he warmed her lips, very thoroughly, with his own.