by J. Ferguson a.k.a. Timeless A-Peel

Disclaimer: I don't own The New Avengers, nor the characters of Mike Gambit and Purdey. Sadly. They're the property of The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises. This story is for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.

Timeline: Probably post-series.

Author's Note: A fresh short dashed off for Valentine's Day. A little romantic and slightly mad. Where Purdey and Gambit are involved, that sounds about right. Enjoy!

"RPG" is the abbrieviation for a role-playing game, usually used in conjunction with computer games, but I figure there's some wriggle room. Somone's been reading too many issues of PC Gamer.

"Gambit!" Purdey exclaimed when she answered the door. "What a surprise!"

"I thought I'd drop off those files you wanted," Gambit explained, brandishing a pair of folders. He looked her up and down, took in her purple silk robe. "Sorry. Were you in the middle of something?"

"As a matter of fact, I was," Purdey informed, turning and walking back into the flat, leaving Gambit to close the door behind him. "I have a dinner date this evening. I was just about to start getting ready."

"Ah." Gambit's eyes flicked to the kitchen table, where a vase overflowed with red roses, and a rather large bag of marshmallows sat beside it, rather conspicuously, wrapped in a bright pink bow. He set the files beside them. "You've got an admirer, then? Anyone I know?"

"You might," Purdey said with a teasing smile, crossing her arms expectantly. "I don't suppose you've forgotten what day it is?"

Gambit made a great show of thinking it over. "A week since my birthday?" he hazarded. "Thanks for the present, by the way. You can never have too many socks."

"I thought you'd need them to go with the annual pair of pajamas your aunt sent," Purdey said cheerfully. "No one likes a man with cold feet."

Gambit pictured the green and white striped pair gifted to him only one week earlier. The closet he was storing them in was getting very full, and he'd needed Purdey's assistance to close the door again after he'd thrown them in to join their brethren. He really did have to take them in to a charity shop one of these days. If even they'd take them. "What's next?" he wondered. "Slippers?"

"I'm sure I'll be able to find you something suitably fluffy," Purdey quipped with a grin. "But really, Mike, you must know what day it is. I'm sure it's highlighted on your calendar in neon lights ten feet tall."

Gambit smirked at the hyperbole, but didn't deny it. "February 14. Something to do with a certain St. Valentine, if memory serves?"

"It does, for once."

Gambit's face clouded, and not because of the jab. "Wait, you're going out with this chap on Valentine's Day? That's a bit serious, isn't it?"

"Maybe it is serious," Purdey said pointedly.

Gambit looked stricken. He groped blindly for one of the kitchen chairs and used it as support. "Wait, you're not saying…you're in love with him or anything, are you?"

Purdey tilted her chin defiantly. "And what if I am?"

Gambit splayed a hand dramatically over his brow. "But you can't be!"

"Why not? He knows how to look after me," Purdey told him. "Or didn't your powers of observation stretch to the roses?"

Gambit's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. "Those are from him?"

"Well, they're not from Uncle Elly, that's for certain!"

"But…but…" Gambit was clearly having trouble processing it all. "What about us?"

"Us? Mike Gambit, there's never been an 'us' to speak of. Not outside the odd dinner-dance."

"Only because you've never given me a chance." Gambit pushed away from the chair, made a beeline straight for her.

Purdey's eyes widened. "Gambit, what are you—?"

"I can't take it anymore!" Gambit cried, dropping to his knees and clutching a handful of Purdey's dressing gown desperately, staring up at her with forlorn, misty eyes. "I can't dance around it any longer. It's Valentine's Day, and I love you, and I can't bear to see you in the arms of another man. Tell me what I have to do to win you over!"

Purdey's face was a mask of surprise. "But Gambit, I've already told you. My heart already belongs to the man who brought me those flowers. I couldn't possibly stand him up. I'm having dinner with him, and you really ought to have something yourself. I think you're suffering from a rather extreme form of low blood sugar."

"Sod dinner. I need you. I can live without food, but not your love." Gambit's upper lip was now trembling dramatically.

Purdey bit her lip and looked away mournfully. "I'm sorry, Mike."

Gambit's lips moved wordlessly. He his head dropped in despair. His hand released her robe. For a moment, neither spoke. Then Gambit said, quietly, "Well, that's that, then."

Purdey nodded. "I'm afraid so."

Gambit looked back up to meet her gaze. "Then there's only one thing left for me to do," he said quietly. Without warning, he clutched at his heart dramatically, made a gurgling noise, then flopped backwards onto the floor, sprawling untidily over the carpet. He lay very still.

Purdey stared at him incredulously for a moment, then her composure cracked, and a small smile twitched her lips. Soon she was laughing uncontrollably, tears running down her cheeks. Gambit's 'corpse' cracked open one eye and regarded her with interest.

"Too much?" he inquired, a wicked grin stretching his lips.

"Just a touch." Purdey reached up to wipe away a tear with her hand. "Oh, Mike. I'm sorry. I held out as long as I could, but I can't help it. You're perfectly awful at role-playing. You sound like something out of a bad Victorian melodrama."

"We both do," Gambit corrected, stretching luxuriously and folding his arms behind his head. "It's your own fault," he went on. "You're asking me to pretend I'm jealous of myself. I'm supposed to be outraged that you have a dinner date, with me, and that you got roses and marshmallows, also from me. It's so ridiculous, how can you expect me to play it anything but over-the-top. I was all for going for the old standards. Flowers and candy at the door, dinner, dancing, afters at my place…" He raised his eyebrows meaningfully.

"I thought role-playing would be fun," Purdey defended. "And everything we said, we meant. It gave us a new way to say them."

"Mmm," Gambit said, decidedly non-committal. He crossed one of his long legs over the other and turned his head to look at the kitchen table. "I'm surprised you haven't started in on the marshmallows yet."

"I'm saving them. I didn't want to spoil my dinner."

"Is that possible?" Gambit quipped with a wink, and Purdey pulled a face.

"Really, Mike Gambit, you have no sense of adventure," Purdey chastised gently, adjusting the sash on her robe as she settled down beside him. "Anyway, you already sent me the roses and the marshmallows." She sighed and shook her head. "I thought you'd enjoy it, all those things I said about you. You're quite wonderful to me, you know." She reached out and brushed a loose curl off his forehead affectionately. "I would have thought you'd be willing to use your imagination a little, play the game, but I suppose it was asking too much. I'll dress for dinner." She moved to rise, but Gambit caught her arm.

"I can be very imaginative," he protested, as Purdey looked back down at him. "But not when it feels so…scripted. You even gave me a bloody brief." He shook his head in mild disbelief. "As if I'd ever need help acting like I was in love with you. In any case, I'm a great believer in improvisation." He looked at her meaningfully, blue-green eyes shining with unspoken possibilities. "Especially when I'm in my element, so to speak." The pitch of his voice deepened near the end of the sentence. He was really looking at her now, eyes almost hooded, drawing her in and pulling her away into some private world known only to the pair of them. Even though she was still kneeling, Purdey felt her knees weaken a little.

"I can improvise," she said, a little breathlessly. Her heart was doing some sort of complicated dance in her chest, but she found she didn't care. Coming from Gambit, 'improvising' could mean all sorts of things, none of which she would be willing to discuss in respectable company, but all of which she had no doubt she would enjoy and would make this a Valentine's Day to remember.

"I know you can," Gambit said huskily, a slow, knowing grin spreading across his features. "Why don't we start by finding out what's under that robe?"

Purdey arched an eyebrow. "What makes you think there's anything under here at all?"

"What makes you think I won't find nothing interesting?" Gambit countered wickedly. He propped himself up on his elbows so he could lean in close enough so his lips just barely brushed hers. "Should we step into the bedroom and find out? Or should we stay here and test the pile of the carpet?"

Purdey smiled knowingly, even though Gambit was making it increasingly hard to think straight. "I don't see why. I know exactly what I'm wearing. Not exactly a mystery for me, is it?"

"I'm sure we'll be able to find something else to keep you amused," Gambit quipped, and before she knew what was happening, he'd rolled her over onto her back. Purdey squeaked in surprise as she sprawled onto the carpet.

"Gambit! What about dinner?" she asked his mischievous expression.

"Ah, yes. Dinner." Gambit reflected. "Do you know something? There was one line of the script I liked."

"Oh? What's that?"

"'Sod dinner,'" Gambit told her. "There's no need for improvisation there at all."

"Mike Gambit," Purdey said with a laugh, and prepared to enjoy herself.