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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13


Written by Karen Bruce
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 8

"Ah've nevah been a fan," the woman, lying curled up against his pillow, told him as she brandished the tatty, well-thumbed paperback in his general direction. The slightly lurid cover proclaimed the novel to be 'The Vampire LeStat'; one of Remy's secret indulgences in a mansion where Beast was forever foisting fine works of literature on his unsuspecting team-mates. Remy still shuddered as he recalled the tedium that was 'A Chronicle of Death Foretold', although Beast had waxed lyrical about Gabriel Garcia Marquez's exploration of gender, class and destiny. Personally, the only thing he saw in the text was that it was short. Although not short enough, he had mused while reading it.

"Naah, Rogue, s'pose ya taste runs more t'Curious George Tries Terrorism," the flip comment covered a range of emotions. Shock was giving way to an unpleasant cocktail of fear and outrage - mainly at himself for allowing her to get this close to him - but with a not-terrible tang of excitement flavoring it. As countless detectives would have said, the game was afoot in earnest and that lent a certain piquancy to the situation, "Or would ya prefer Carol Dee, cherie?"

"Or Yvonne Montgomery, if you like," she said with a smirk, prefixing the statement with a slight, self-conscious shrug, "An' no, sugah, Ah'm fond o' Austen."

"Powers?" he quipped in an attempt to stall her while his quick mind ran over possible scenarios. He had known from the instant he saw her that Rogue and Yvonne Montgomery were one and the same, that his suspicions had been justified. Well, not from the precise instant, he thought honestly - he was a healthy male of twenty-four whose first reaction to a lovely woman in his bed was one that probably would have required a cold shower to get over, had she been she anyone else. As was, the knowledge that a terrorist was posing as an agent of WEST was more effective than the most iciest of dousings would have been. He could not see rhyme or reason to her actions - WEST was hardly in the forefront of security operations, and it would be more sensible to attempt to infiltrate SHIELD. Unless her posing as a member of their corps was a step to that ultimate goal . . . .

"Ha ha ha," she drawled, replacing the book on the nightstand and rolling over onto her stomach to watch him, chin in the cup of her hands, "Jane, actually. Still, th' book-club is fun an' all, but Ah know you're dyin' ta ask me why Ah'm here. So, ask me."

"I know why ya're here," he replied, keeping his voice light as his hand slipped unobtrusively to his pocket to palm a card, "Suspect it involves me not wakin' up t'morrow mornin' after an unfortunate accident."

She chuckled, a low, musical sound, "Oh please, LeBeau, that'd be too cliche. Besides, Ah know your teammates - dense as they are - will figure out that somethin's up if they find yo' bullet-riddled corpse. Which reminds me, how did that Dudley Doright become leader when he ain't got more'n heroic slogans between his ears? Sure, he's got that cleft jaw an' steely look o' dogged righteousness an'\or constipation, but . . . ."

In spite of his loyalty to the team and the potentially deadly mess in which he found himself, Remy laughed. Cyclops, for all his merits, was rather fond of spouting off the Dream instead of dealing with problems in appropriate manners. He privately wondered if Scott exhorted his tyres when they got a puncture to 'understand and accept others for what they are', because that was certainly his approach to combat in Remy's opinion. Her eyes were shrewd as they probed him.

"Oui, belle, dat might be true but de problem is dat, if ya keep me alive, I'll spill de haricots verts anyway."

"Hmmm, Ah'd normally agree," she appeared to be thinking deeply, but then she grinned at him disengagingly: "But Ah know you won't tell 'em."

"Pourquoi? Why?" He protested, knowing that every word that she was saying was true. He would not go to Cyclops or Storm with his suspicions, because they would hamper his private attempts to deal with Rogue\Yvonne\Carol. He had learnt years ago that in matters that were more than black-and-white, it was best to plough through the shades of grey alone rather than depend on the team who would attempt to reduce them to absolutes.

"'Cause 1) they won't believe a word o' it," she flicked a finger up to join the first one, making an ironic peace-sign, "An' 2) you're a lone agent."

"I could be de model o' a team-player f'r all ya know me," he reminded her, unsettled by how much she seemed to have seen and understood in the few moments they had spent together at Mont St Francis and in his room. Oh, this woman was a worthy adversary indeed!

"Pull th' other one, it has bells on," she remarked sardonically, "Ah can read lips even on security cameras an' yours were tellin' me that you wanted t'be anywhere else but there. Incidentally, Ah suspect half o' what you wanted Dudley Doright ta do was illegal in most states an' Ah doubt that his parentage was quite that convoluted."

He raised an eyebrow, charging the card in his pocket with biokinetic energy, preparing to end this ridiculous game: "Vous parlez francais, cherie?"

She nodded with a slight, amused twist to her lips, "Tu peux me tutoyer, Remy. Je penserais que les hommes sont moins formal aux femmes qui se couchent dans ses lits." [You can address me by the informal 'tu', Remy. I think men are less formal with women who are lying in their beds.]

"Oui, ya do know how t'get ya average red-blooded male's attention," he said with a smile, feeling the card begin to pulse with energy beneath his fingertips. He wanted a goodly charge on it - she, if she had retained Ms Marvel's powers as urban legend said, would require a fairly substantial explosion to bruise her, let alone knock her unconscious. Not wanting to blow up the wing of the mansion in which his bedroom was housed - it happened too much as it was, making Xavier's builders the happiest and richest in New York (he had heard they were buying an adjacent mansion in Westchester with their payment) - he would wait for her to leave via the window and then tag her. Hopefully, he would have enough power to take her down for the few seconds it would take to collar and cuff her. If he were patient a short while longer, he told himself, he would have Rogue captive.

"You like?" she indicated the white garment that she was wearing. On closer examination, he could see that it was double-layered - a chiffon shift over a fairly tight linen underdress. Tiny rosebuds were embroidered in silver cotton on the . . . bodice of the flimsy fabric and a wide belt cinched it at her slender waist. He liked. Very much indeed.

"Seen better, seen worse," he shrugged non-commitally, then widened his eyes as it shifted to a much tighter, much less demure and much more interesting green spandex minidress. Splotched with gold, it made her appear like a gorgeous bird-of-paradise or orchid; a creature both rare and lovely. The clinical part of him noted that her uniform was either made of unstable molecules or that she had an image-inducer; the rest went slack-jawed and drooled.

"Ah'll take th' stunned silence as a compliment," Rogue commented with a teasing sparkle in her eyes, pretending a supermodel's pout and wink. Reluctantly, he reminded himself that she was the enemy, the greatest threat to the well-being of the planet since the invention of the atomic bomb. That particular weapon, however, did not fill out spandex quite as nicely as she did, and probably was not quite as dangerous.

"If ya'd sent me a few glossies o' ya, I might have taken de job," Gambit shot back with an equal wicked glint in his.

"Yeah, Valhalla," her mouth twisted, "Don't suppose you'll consider forgettin' Ah asked?"

"Only if ya'll consider abandonin' ya plan f'r global domination," he shrugged, only half-joking. This woman was hardly the monster that movies-of-the-week, newspapers and lurid paperbacks made her out to be, although he suspected that she could be putting on yet another flawless act for his benefit. Even if that were the case, she seemed intrinsically someone with whom he could reason, someone with whom he could connect - less fanatical than Magneto, less fundamentally twisted than Sinister. In another time and place, he thought with a strange sense of knowing that was more than instinct and less than precognition [1], she might have been an ally. Might have brought her considerable power - both physical and intellectual - to bear against the team's enemies.

"Ah can't. You know Ah'm only doin' what y'all don't have th' guts ta do. Th ' current administration is rotten to th' core. How long will it be before Kelly, Creed or whatevah bigot du jour decides ta take his place decides that it's time ta find a permanent solution to the Mutant Question?" she said, then added with a slight smile, "Besides, who wouldn't want t'be Goddess-Emperess o' th' world if given th' opportunity?"

"How very Che Guevara," he wryly remarked, "Was dat why ya killed Ms Marvel? Was she part o' a corrupt government's conspiracy?"

Her eyes narrowed, muscles in her shoulders becoming visibly tight. He kept his own expression impassive, but noted beneath his cool exterior with a sense of triumph and guilt that he had discovered her one sore point. Although Remy had never been fond of such callous manipulation of someone's shame, as it had been done so often to him, he also realised that the more figurative cards that he had up his sleeve, the more likely he was to be able to stop her. As was, however, he hoped the very literal one in his hand that scintillated with energy would be sufficient for the job.

"That was personal," she replied curtly, kittenish mien discarded, "Necessary, but personal."

"Same reason ya came t'see me, non?" he pressed, "Had not'ing t'de wit' ya little revolution an' everyt'ing t'do wit' cleanin' up de mess ya tellin' me caused."

She sighed, swinging her legs over the side of the bed, making a triangle of slim fingers over which she regarded him. The spandex minidress shimmered again to become a simple, green bodysuit with white accents around the waist, neck and wrists. By that token, he suspected that she was ready to talk business, although he still could not fathom the motivation behind her telling him the truth.

"Ah knew it wouldn't take you long ta realise that th' terrorist, Rogue, was Yvonne Montgomery. Ah was stupid ta contact you - yeah, Ah admit it - but Ah hoped that you were as greedy an' immoral as yo' average thief tends ta be. Aftah all, Ah was going ta offer you a plush position in mah new order if you agreed ta help me. Power, riches, beautiful women, th' whole nine yards. Who could resist it, Ah thought? When you turned me down flat, Ah knew it had ta be outta some misguided sense o' honor, an' that that same damn *stupid* emotion would cause you t'try an' do everythin' in yo' power t'stop me," she paused, "So, Ah decided t'play a gambit. Ah'd tell all, show all, an' hope you'd come around ta mah point o' view. Guess Ah was wrong."

"Guess I know too much den," he said lightly, but slipped the card from his palm to rest between his index and forefinger, "Ya can't risk me tellin' de team, so'll have t'either kill me or make sure dat I get lost."

She chuckled, jumping up from her perch and walking closer to him. Her movements had a spare, military elegance about them, graceful but economical. He tensed the muscles in his arm, preparing to attack her if she attempted to do what he feared she would.

"Don't be absurd. You're far too cute to just randomly kill," her eyes were strangely brilliant, the playful tone back in her voice, "Ah'd be hunted down by th' female half o' th' population. Ah'd much rather . . . ."

Actions spoke louder than inadequate words. To his surprise, she pressed her lips against his, twining remarkably strong arms around his waist. For a few brief seconds, he felt a perfect, supreme sense of *rightness*, as if this had happened a thousand times before in a thousand other worlds. Surely he had kissed her before? Had traced the stripe in her chestnut hair amazedly? Had placed his hand on the swell and dip of her waist and hip? Had loved her more than any other woman in his broad acquaintance? Then, however, the universe seemed to melt around him as he felt himself being sucked into a black hole, as he felt consciousness escape him. Struggling desperately, he tried to break away from her, but her grip was too firm, too sure. As he relinquished his hold on himself, he thought with slight, smug satisfaction that he had slipped the time-delay card into her uniform.

With a feeling approaching scorn, Rogue Darkholme removed the flimsy piece of cardboard from where it was wedged in the back of her uniform and drained it of energy with the lightest touch of her fingertip. It had been a clever ruse on his part, she thought, the card had been more than capable of knocking even her out of the sky. Mind you, she thought as she ran a finger over her lips, he needed only to kiss her to accomplish that. It had taken all her willpower to overcome the delicious sweetness that had come about once she had . . . made contact with him, to use her absorbtion abilities on him. She had not robbed him of his psyche entire, having learnt refinement since her encounter with Ms Marvel, but the portions of it involving his knowledge of her. It had been difficult to do, of course, but she had not been taught by Destiny for nothing. The elderly woman, a weak psychic herself, had nonetheless been able to teach her foster-daughter one or two tricks about using her powers effectively and creatively.

"So, LeBeau, you've seen better an' worse?" she addressed the supine figure, "Why do Ah just not believe you?"

With a triumphant smile, she scooped him up in her arms and arranged him on the bed in something approaching a sleeping position on his back. As a final touch, she flipped 'The Vampire Lestat' open to a few pages after that on which she had seen the bookmark and placed it on his chest. As the absorbtion had only been partial, he would wake up in the morning, believing that he had fallen asleep while reading, knowing little or nothing about the connection between Rogue, Yvonne Montgomery and Carol Dee.

She had better leave him nothing to countermand her hard work, she thought, as she stripped him of his bodypack. The laptop was a different matter, being passworded to a fare-thee-well, and she doubted that she could crack it. Still, the gamesplayer in her responded to the idea of giving him some version of a sporting chance - a get out of jail free card, a joker, as it were.

With an ironic kiss of benediction to his forehead, she took the still warm espresso from the table and prepared herself for the tedious flight back to Mont St Francis.

1] Actually, there is a basis in coda for this if you look carefully at the Dreamscrape in Gambit #8.


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