Clothes Unmake the Man
by J. Ferguson a.k.a. Timeless A-Peel
Disclaimer: I own neither The New Avengers, nor the characters of John Steed, Mike Gambit, and Purdey. This story is for entertainment purposes only.
Steed entered Purdey's flat, bag in hand, and called out to the empty living area. "Hello?"
"In here," Purdey's voice replied from the bedroom. Steed followed it to the source, found Purdey leaning next to the bathroom door, arms crossed. She looked vaguely annoyed.
"How did Gambit's, ah, costume work out?" Steed wanted to know, searching for his missing colleague.
Purdey snorted. "I haven't the foggiest. He went in to try it on and hasn't come out again."
Steed frowned. "Why?"
"Because Purdey didn't cover the mirror," came Gambit's muffled voice, "and I'm not a masochist."
"Oh, come now," Steed told the disembodied voice, "it can't be all bad."
Purdey shook her head. "I tried that. No go. He doesn't seem to realize that half the pop stars today would think he was cutting edge."
"If you're such a fan, you wear it," Gambit snapped.
"Not quite my style," Purdey pointed out.
"If you think it's mine, I'll never speak to you again," Gambit grumbled. "Why can't Steed do it?"
"Look," Purdey tried, "you're the only one of us who can pull this off. That outfit needs someone young and virile to carry it off."
"Flattery will get you nowhere," Gambit retorted, unswayed.
"But what about those girls chasing after you, screaming? That must be worth something," Purdey said in frustration.
"Screaming with laughter, more like," Gambit amended. "I don't see why we have to get Vasil out like this. There must be some other way."
Steed shook his head, then realized Gambit couldn't see him. "We need a mob, and Perov's less likely to suspect one if it consists entirely of teenage girls."
"And girls chase pop stars," Purdey chimed in. "Come on, Mike, it'll be like your teen years."
"I wasn't blind at seventeen," Gambit said sourly, "and that's what you'd need to be to wear this get-up in public."
"What about Vasil?" Steed put in. "He'll die without this diversion. You don't want to leave him to his fate, do you?"
"What about my fate? Pride ruthlessly murdered by 30 girls laughing at me?" Gambit moaned.
Purdey thunked her hand against the door. "You can't stay in there forever."
"Not true," Gambit disagreed. "There's an endless water supply. I can live on toothpaste, wait you out."
"You're being ridiculous," Purdey yelled at the door.
"Then I'm channeling the outfit. You should be happy." Gambit glanced around the bathroom. He'd already tried the window, but it was too small for an escape, and even if he did manage to flee the flat, that still left him out in public in the lacey shirt. The jeans he could tolerate, but the silky top was too much. To make matters worse, Purdey had somehow charmed him into leaving his own shirt and jacket outside the bathroom, so he was left with only his own trousers, and there was a chill in the air that made going without the top on out of the question. He crossed his arms and sulked at his reflection. Purdey was right—he'd have to leave eventually, but he wasn't ready to give up just yet. Maybe he still had a little bargaining power…
"It's not just the clothes," he said after a moment, and he almost heard Purdey and Steed snap to attention.
"What is it, then?" Steed wanted to know.
Gambit thought back to the layout on the kitchen table. "Purdey's ready to set about with the eyeliner—"
"You want it to look good, don't you?" Purdey protested. "No one's going to believe in you without something around the eyes, maybe a little down the chin…"
"Gambit." Steed had wandered out and returned brandishing half a dozen tubes. "Purdey's right about the eyes—it'll give you a bit of a disguise on top of it all. But I'll have her forgo the lipstick."
Gambit blanched. "Lipstick?! There wasn't any lipstick out there when I went in."
Steed eyed Purdey knowingly. She shrugged and smiled. "You must admit, it would have been fun."
Steed couldn't help but smile at the mental image. "Perhaps, but I think we ought to leave Mike a shred of dignity."
"Oh, all right," Purdey relented. "Did you hear that, Gambit? No rouge."
"Thanks so much."
"And for further incentive." Steed held up the bag he was carrying and waved it under Purdey's nose. "The uniforms came in." He handed it to Purdey, who extracted her skirt and smiled ruefully.
"You'll like this," she told the door.
"The skirt's short."
There was a thoughtful pause. "How short?"
"Swinging sixties short," Purdey alliterated, tongue in cheek. "And I'll be wearing your name with pride," she added, pulling out the T-shirt with 'Mike' emblazoned across in bold letters.
There was silence. Purdey decided to top up the pot. "I'll be your biggest fan."
"In the lead?"
Purdey grinned. "Definitely."
"Oh, all right," Gambit relented, and the sound of a bolt being drawn back reached their ears. "But don't laugh."
Purdey and Steed exchanged serious glances.
"Of course not."
"Wouldn't dream of it."
Gambit sighed and swung the door open.
Three doors down, Mrs. Peabody heard hysterical howls from the basement flat and nearly dropped her watering can. Half an hour later, she watched the flat's occupant, wearing an obscenely short skirt, exit with a man in a bowler and another, sullen one, wearing what appeared to be eyeliner. She shook her head. What was the world coming to?