by J. Ferguson a.k.a. Timeless A-Peel
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. This story is for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.
Timeline: Probably post-series.
Author's Note: This was meant to answer a request by Philippa on the Avengers International Fan Forum for a "romantic Purdey and Gambit story." Well, as it goes with all things Purdey/Gambit, it tended to be a bit of a twist on that idea, not really a straightforward romance, but more of a play on how the series dialogue makes it quite clear that nothing's going on between them, except that lots of people watching the series firmly believed there was. This one could fit into the arc timeline, I suppose, or be considered AU. Either way, it's older, and I wasn't dong very well writingwise at the time, so I don't think the dialogue quite zings the way it does in some of the other shorts. Maybe it's a bit of fun, though, and since it's Valentine's Day I thought it was an excuse to post it. Enjoy!
Purdey opened the door without knocking. Gambit glanced up from where he was bent over the kitchen table, maps and papers blanketing its surface. "Did you get the last set of coordinates?" he asked the blonde.
"Yes," she confirmed distractedly, shrugging out of her blue topcoat. "From this morning, and another set came through an hour ago. Andrews is leading us on a dance, that much we know. But no one's figured out what he's trying to tell us."
"That's where we come in," Gambit said confidently, reaching out for the pages in Purdey's hands even as he bent back over the table and stuck his pencil between his teeth so he could shuffle some of the pages. Purdey didn't seem to notice the expectant hand, though. Instead, she was idly sliding the pages between her fingers, biting her lip as she did so. Her eyes looked off somewhere into the middle distance. After a moment, she spoke, slowly, as though she didn't quite know how to broach what she wanted to say.
"Hmm?" Mike still had the pencil in his mouth, and the hand was waggling impatiently.
"What do you think of the rumours?"
Gambit, clearly realizing his hand wasn't going to be filled anytime soon, dropped it and took the pencil out of his mouth, looked up at Purdey. "About what rumours?"
"The rumours," Purdey said impatiently, a bit of a blush tainting her cheeks. "At the Ministry."
Gambit straightened up and tossed the pencil on the table resignedly. Clearly they weren't going to get any work done anytime soon. "You'll have to be more specific, Purdey-girl. The Ministry lives on rumours. Some of them root out leaks in the system. And the better ones keep us entertained on slow afternoons."
"I don't mean any old rumours," Purdey said with a sigh, looking down as she crinkled the paper anxiously in her hands. "I mean the ones about…about us."
"Ah. Now we're getting somewhere," Gambit said knowingly. "Someone's trotted them out again, have they?"
"Oh, they never go away," Purdey said flatly. "Not really. And the longer they go on the more entrenched they get. And the more imaginative."
Gambit shrugged. "Bound to happen. We've been partners long enough."
"Yes," Purdey said quietly. "I suppose."
Gambit furrowed his brow. "They don't bother you, do they?"
"Oh, I don't know," Purdey said in frustration. "They shouldn't, I know, but really, you can only walk into so many rooms and have the conversation stop without getting a complex." She hugged herself self-consciously. "It all feels so…sordid."
"The entertaining ones usually are," Gambit said wryly, rounding the table to go to her. "Anyway, it's not as if we don't encourage them. All those dinner dates and evenings at the disco."
"I know, but we don't try to hide those," Purdey pointed out. "Anyway, lots of people go out in the evening. It doesn't mean anything."
"And we spend a lot of time at each other's flats," Gambit went on, coming to a stop just inches from her and holding his hands casually behind his back.
"But we work together. Reports. Briefings. There are loads of perfectly innocent reasons," Purdey protested.
"People have good imaginations," Gambit replied. "And you must admit, the whole 'One of these days/I'm looking forward to it' spiel doesn't leave much to the imagination."
"But that should be the biggest giveaway of all," Purdey exclaimed. "How can you look forward to it if it's already happened? I mean, you'd think anyone would decide we'd have to be very odd to go on like that if we were carrying on like that all the time and something was already going on."
Gambit grinned down at her fondly. "Ah, but you are a little mad, Purdey-girl. That's what I love about you."
She wrinkled her nose at him. "And what does that make you?"
"Probably certifiable," Gambit admitted. "But you're forgetting one thing, Purdey. They know what we're like. You're working off assumptions that are meant to throw off the uninitiated. But the boys at the Ministry, they know all the tricks. And more importantly, they know us."
"Well, I wish they'd take things at face value for once," Purdey grumbled, and Gambit chuckled in spite of himself. "What's so funny?" she wanted to know.
"Because I can see right through you." Gambit shook his head. "Honestly, Purdey-girl, you're not worried about your reputation. You're worried someone's going to take those rumours seriously and act on them, get us put on charge."
"Well, aren't you?" Purdey pressed. "I mean, all it would take is one credible backroom boy, and they could use all that evidence against us."
"Circumstantial evidence," Gambit said calmly, putting his hands on Purdey's shoulders. "That's all it is. No one in the Ministry's going to put that much stock in what the typing pool says during coffee break."
"Well, what should we do?" Purdey wanted to know, meeting the blue-green eyes.
Gambit shrugged. "Well, the best option would be to carry on as normal. After all, if we're being so obvious about dinner and everything, there couldn't possibly be anything going on, right?" Then he grinned. "Or if you can't stand the suspense, we could always be really obvious and tell them that they're right."
"Mike Gambit, don't even joke about that."
"Well, they really wouldn't believe the rumours then. If we came out and told them? Obviously joking."
"You're not helping."
"All right then. Think of it this way. Steed. We've always got Steed. Good old trusty, loyal, respectable Steed—who loaned us the stud farm for that weekend while he was away. He's the best character witness we could have. Won't breathe a word, and everyone trusts him—or knows not to contradict him, anyway."
"That's true," Purdey said thoughtfully. "He has been very understanding. And that was a nice weekend, wasn't it?" Gambit responded by slipping his arms around her waist and moving in closer. "Although we didn't really use much of the house. Just that guest room on the second floor."
"Nothing wrong with keeping things simple," Gambit murmured from beneath hooded eyes. "But don't worry about rumours, okay? We've got bigger things to worry about, and life in this job is too damn short without adding extra stress on top of it all."
"I suppose you're right," Purdey agreed, glancing down at the pages still in her hand. "We'd better get on with this, hadn't we?"
Gambit took one arm from around her, and plucked the pages away, tossing them carelessly over his shoulder. "You're wound up like a spring," he observed. "I think it's my job to unwind you."
Purdey arched an eyebrow. "Do you?"
"Definitely. Good for the brain. You're not going to get anything done like this. An hour with my healing hands and you'll be the better for it."
"Well I won't say no…" Purdey said with a smile, even as Gambit's lips pressed against her own.
"Nicest rumour I've ever had," he murmured as he broke away, pulling her closer. "Come on. Let's do a few things they'll never think to talk about."