By J. Ferguson a.k.a. Timeless A-Peel
Disclaimer: I don't own The New Avengers, nor any of the associated characters. They belong to The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises. This story is written for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.
Steed crept quietly into the hospital room, taking great care not to disturb Gambit, quietly snoring in a chair by the hospital bed. For a moment, Steed thought the bed's occupant was asleep as well, but after a moment or two, blue eyes opened and regarded him with weary interest.
"I'm sorry, Purdey," Steed apologised, not bothering to whisper. Trying to be quiet would be more likely to engage Gambit's sixth sense and wake him than everyday noises would. "Did I wake you?"
"No, no you didn't." Purdey shifted against the pillows and indicated for Steed to have a seat on the opposite side of the bed from where Gambit was dozing. "I'm having trouble sleeping after all the excitement today."
"I'm not surprised," Steed opined, setting bowler and brolly at the foot of the bed and pushing the chair closer to Purdey before taking his seat. "Delivering a child ten days before Christmas is one thing. Going into labour in the middle of a Ministry lockdown is quite another."
Purdey wrinkled her nose at that. "You'd think as agents we'd have better timing, wouldn't you?"
"Timing isn't in it," Steed disagreed. "Not when you've no way of predicting the event in question to begin with. I know Kendrick's surgery may seem a rather inauspicious start to a life, but as far as I'm concerned, the important thing is that everyone came through the whole chain of events healthy and intact. These things can go wrong at the best of times, and you managed admirably in less than ideal circumstances."
"Yes, a building with an enemy agent on the loose is less-than-ideal," Purdey agreed wryly. "I suppose we should count ourselves lucky we were there dropping off Gambit's lab results before the holidays. The surgery at least had some accoutrements. I don't think we'd have been quite as successful if we'd had to make do in Files."
Steed chuckled. "I have infinite faith in your abilities, my dear. And Gambit's, of course."
"Well, all he really had to do was catch," Purdey said with a smile, seeing the funny side to the whole ordeal. "Though the way he's sleeping now, you'd think he was the one who gave birth. But I suppose I'm not giving him enough credit—he was remarkably level-headed about it all, once he'd finished uttering every swear word he picked up at sea. I shudder to think what the baby will say when she starts talking."
"No doubt she'll be just as eloquent," Steed opined, rising and moving to inspect the tiny occupant of the cot on the opposite end of the room, where Gambit was still blissfully sleeping the evening away. "Have you thought of a name?"
"Emily," Purdey supplied, without hesitation. "She's called Emily."
Steed arched an inquisitive eyebrow. "Not after the Emily?"
"She turned up in the least-likely of places and put us in some very difficult situations," Purdey said brightly. "What else could we do but name her after that exasperating car?"
"What indeed?" Steed agreed with a chuckle. "I don't expect you'll ever end up running through a car wash with her."
"I'm not ruling it out," Purdey said flatly. "She'll probably get into all sorts of trouble."
"Like her mother before her, no doubt," Steed said knowingly, allowing Emily's tiny fist to curl around his index finger. "The resemblance is uncanny."
"Steed, are you suggesting that I was anything less than a sweet, docile child?"
"Of course not, my dear. But your mother has regaled me with several, ah, eventful stories over the years about your childhood exploits."
"Oh, those." Purdey rolled her eyes expansively. "Mum's been dining out on those for years. You'd think I did nothing but hang from the rafters and fall out of trees. I'll have you know I was extremely well-behaved." She paused, then added, "For the most part. And anyway, her older siblings haven't burned down the house or anything."
"Not yet, no," Steed agreed, "though to be fair, some of them are still too short to reach the drawers containing matches."
Purdey blushed a little. "Yes, well, keep in mind that Gambit's genes are floating around in there, too."
"I am. I think the combination will keep things...interesting." Steed smiled down at the baby girl squirming impatiently in the cot, as though already keen to go on her first adventure. "Leaving that aside, are you still planning on returning to full-time Ministry work next year?"
Purdey nodded, serious now. "Just as soon as Emily's not so dependent." She bit her lip. "Does that mean you'll be taking over for McKay soon, then?"
"Yes," Steed confirmed, breaking away from Emily and returning his attention to her mother. "And Gambit will take over my position, as agreed."
"He's already converting one of the guest rooms into an office," Purdey said, with a fond smile at the still-sleeping Gambit. "He keeps insisting he's going to enjoy working from home and holding down the fort, but I know he's going to miss going into the field so often."
"I expect he will," Steed agreed. "But Gambit's intelligent enough to recognise what's important and hang onto it. As, I hope, we all are."
"He is," Purdey murmured, feeling tears well up unexpectedly. "But it's never going to be the same again, is it? The way it was. You, me, and Gambit, running assignments, just the three of us. A team."
"Oh, I suspect we'll always be a team in one form or another," Steed contradicted with a twinkle in his eye as he moved to stand near her. "I may be head of the Ministry, but that doesn't mean there won't be certain agents I give freer rein than others. Just the way I doubt Gambit will withhold certain details from me he would from McKay, or that you'll defer to either of us the way you might if we were any other senior operative. You'll have a new partner, and Gambit and I won't be with you as often, but the bonds will always be there. No change in rank or circumstance can take that away."
"And all that aside, would you really wish that things had stayed the same after all these years? No promotions, no children, no progress in your relationship with Gambit?"
"No. No, of course not," Purdey objected. "It's all been for the best. I know that. But all the same, it is a bit sad." She sniffled and brushed away a tear impatiently. "It's the end of an era. It was a very good era, wasn't it?"
Steed's smile was wistful and kind. "It was indeed. But there's a little life left in it, yet. Things won't change until we officially reach 1985, and we've not even had Christmas yet."
Purdey threw her arms around Steed's neck and hugged him tight. "In that case, Happy Christmas, Steed."
"Happy Christmas, my dear."
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everybody!