Merry Christmas, Mr. Gambit
by J. Ferguson a.k.a. Timeless A-Peel
Beta-reading by rabidsamfan (with thanks)
Disclaimer: I don't own The New Avengers, nor the characters of Mike Gambit, Purdey, and John Steed. Sadly. They're the property of The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises, and this story is for entertainment purposes only.
Timeline: Fifth in a series. Takes place on December 24, 1976, so well after the end of the first season. It is strongly recommended, but not essential, that you go back and read the previous stories in the arc, Aftermath, Dance With Me, and The Anniversary (which has been revised and relaunched, so you may want to give that a look first).
Author's Note: This story is the oldest one I'll ever publish, written in December, 2005, the week before Christmas, and it hasn't really changed much since. It's fluff, quite obviously, but warm, fuzzy fluff, and I have a special place in my heart for this one. I think I got the atmosphere of the season right. I realise that it's September and hardly the most festive time of year, but this is next in the series, and it needed to be posted before going on to the next piece, which will be infinitely longer and hopefully will last me until I have more time to write/edit again. This one's very short, and thus won't last many chapters. There was no arc when I wrote it, so I've essentially built up the rest of the series around it. Perhaps my writing style has changed. Perhaps not. Either way, I hope you enjoy it.
For more information about the series, please see my profile.
Purdey looked out the window. It was snowing again. Lots of snow in England this year. She didn't mind, though. It reminded her of her childhood, particularly the last Christmas she had ever spent with her father. She had lost him forever two months later. But no matter: she had managed to keep the Christmas memories untainted by those that followed, and her only feelings were of happiness and well-being. All the better to celebrate Christmas.
She followed the lazy path of a snowflake as it drifted toward the earth, glistening in the early morning light. She loved this time of year. All the lights and festivities and decorations never failed to bring her joy—even after that bleak August when she had severed her relations with Larry Doomer and uprooted her whole life in order to disappear. Before the stinging slap on her face reminded her of what the man was capable of. Larry had always said she had a touch of fairy princess, and a tiny bit of it had survived her shattered dreams. She hadn't felt too fairy princessy since that fateful day, but come winter that little piece would spring back into her consciousness, and she could feel it now. That was why she loved the holidays so.
Purdey sighed wistfully and turned from the window. She could have sat with her tea all day and watched the snowfall, but there was much to be done. Today was December 24, 1976: Christmas Eve. Additionally, it was her first Christmas as a full operative with the Ministry. It was hard to believe that a year ago she was still more or less a trainee, doing minor assignments and in the process of finishing her training. That was before sleeper agents and doppelgangers, mad army colonels bent on starting World War Three, and elusive White Rats. Before John Steed, all bowlers and umbrellas, charm and endless quantities of champagne, had asked her to his office and offered her the chance to be part of a team. Before Mike Gambit had locked eyes with her when he shook her hand, and she had felt an almost electric charge pass between them; before friendly karate sessions, and long debates, and dinners, and endless flirtation. Before she had become part of this unit that, in some ways, was an odd little family that helped fill the gap of the ones she had lost, a relationship that was strange and intimate, and which Purdey could never have explained to someone outside the service who knew nothing of the bonds that formed between people when they handed each other their lives out of necessity.
Now she was where she had always wanted to be, leading the life her father had led. In the thick of excitement, pushing herself physically and mentally to her limits and beyond. It had been quite a year. Only two days ago Steed, Gambit, and she had put away yet another diabolical mastermind planning his rule over England. Thankfully that had been wrapped up by Christmas. She sincerely hoped that all the madmen of the world would postpone their plans until after the holiday. She didn't fancy going out to thwart the enemy on Christmas, especially since she would be spending it at her mother's. Mother would be none too amused if Gambit or Steed showed up on her doorstep, politely asking if her daughter could come out to play spy games when she should by all rights be sipping eggnog with her family. No, she corrected herself, that would only be partly true. If it were Gambit (Steed was considered to be "too old for her" and "a schoolgirl crush"), Mother would drag him inside and start asking rather personal questions of him, such as 'How well do you know my daughter?' and 'Which way did you vote in the last election?' and 'What are you views on the institution of marriage?' and 'When do you think Purdey will stop playing games and settle down?' Purdey could only imagine the answers Gambit would supply her with if he were feeling particularly cheeky that day. She'd never hear the end of how that nice Mr. Gambit was so charming and wouldn't it be lovely if the two of you quit that awful job and got a nice place in the country and come to think of it dear what did he mean when he said he liked your plans for redecorating your bedroom he hasn't been in there has he and are you listening to me dear? She already had more than enough ammunition for the "it's not really proper for a single young woman to have two men popping in and out of your house all the time and calling you by your first name" lecture. "What must the neighbors think?" she often lamented. Purdey didn't know—they'd started avoiding her around the time Gambit carried her out of her flat in her slip. She doubted anyone would buy the curare poisoning explanation. At least no one asked questions anymore.
Purdey sighed. She didn't blame her mother for worrying about her well-being. She was, after all, in the same business that had claimed her father, a fact worthy of anxiety. And after Larry, Purdey had more or less abandoned dreams of motherhood and marriage, at least for the foreseeable future, but she could understand why the former Mrs. Bryde wanted to see her daughter settled down securely with a family, and one or two grandchildren to boot. She had always lamented that naming Purdey after a gun had had a severe impact on her domestic possibilities.
Purdey finished her tea and rinsed out the cup. Twenty-eight and she wasn't raising children but two men with marginal success. She grinned a little and made her way to the bathroom. Slipping off her light pink dressing gown and pajamas, she stepped into the shower and mentally ran through her plans.
Today she was going to a Christmas party hosted by Steed at his country house. Gambit, of course, would be there, as well as the usual leagues of friends that Steed seemed to have in no short supply. This would be her first Christmas party at Steed's, and although she had attended her colleague's fetes before, she was certain that this one would be a tad more…high-spirited. Gambit, having been present at last years' do, had been more than happy to recount his experiences, and Purdey had gathered from the various winks and grins that she would be lucky if she left relatively sober, alone, and able to feel her head the next morning, a notion her colleague likely didn't share, and hadn't experienced either, judging from the self-satisfied look he gave her. She had shot him down fairly quickly, but she'd seen him pocketing his little black book later that day. Damn him, she thought, with more affection than she would have liked.
After leaving—hopefully—solo and sober, Purdey would go to her mother's for the night, and spend Christmas Day with her and Purdey's step-father, the bishop. In the evening she would be attending another party in the area, and would spend the night at her mother's once more. Although she enjoyed the woman's company, Purdey was somewhat dreading the inevitable host of questions. Her previous line of thought returned—was she seeing anyone special? her mother would ask. The answer was always no, no matter how Purdey tried to phrase it. She only had two steady men in her life—friends, colleagues, but not lovers. Steed, although she sensed something between them, had yet to overstep that boundary, and it looked as though he never would. And Gambit, well, there was no future for her with Gambit. Just flirting. He could never give her what she needed.
She turned the tap to cold.
Stepping from the shower, she grasped a towel, wrapped herself in it, and proceeded to the bedroom to choose an outfit. Selecting a simple white blouse and black skirt, she began to get ready. Steed had asked her to come by that morning and help with the party preparations. First, though, she had to stop by Gambit's and pick up his presents for Steed and herself to place under the tree that evening. Gambit would be out later, but neither she nor Steed knew when. He'd been frustratingly vague on that point. His reasons for not driving them out were equally obscure, but it was a harmless request. Hence, she would take them out now.
Ready now, she pulled on her gloves, and coat, flipped up the fur trimmed hood, and headed out into the snow, glad that she'd subscribed to that neighborhood snow removal service last week. Otherwise those 21 steps would have presented a problem.