A Deal with the Devil
Rogue read the small piece of paper in her hand again. Le Diable Blanc, it said, beneath an address to a bar in Chicago. Her eyebrows were knitted into a small frown and her lips mouthed the words.
Le Diable Blanc.
She didn't know this person, had never met him before and yet she already depended so much on him. That was why she was now strolling around in Chicago's backstreets in search for the bar, in where she was supposed to find him.
Crap, she thought for the umpteenth time. This is not one of mah brightest ideas. Shit, shit, shit.
Similar thoughts had raced through her mind ever since anxiety had overcome her. But despite all her muttering and curses, she still kept going. The thought of the mission she had been entitled pushed her past all the doubts and second thoughts. Nervousness was just another obstacle to overcome. Though it still didn't keep her from muttering every profanity she could come up with.
Le Diable Blanc. The white devil? What kind of a name is that? God dammit! She hissed as she realised she must've walked past the street she was looking for.
After her conversation with Harold, she had gotten home late night and packed her bags. The very next morning she had left for Chicago. When she had arrived she had checked in on a fairly good hotel, taken some time to prepare herself and then went out in the big city to find her potential partner in crime.
After some involuntary sightseeing, Rogue finally found the entrance to the bar in a small, littered back alley she had at least passed three times, insignificant as it was. The door was simple and painted in a dull grey that camouflaged it perfectly to the brick wall around it, unnoticed to anyone if you weren't specifically looking for it. Rogue realised it must be a backdoor and not an entrance as she had come to believe. Why she had to go through the backdoor and not the entrance was beyond her. Maybe Harold had made some kind of mistake.
She paused in front of the door, giving herself a moment.
This is it, she thought. Mah one and only chance to get this mission on the road. If Ah can't this person to help me, Ah just might as well pack mah bags and go home and dammit if Ah won't do mah best and persuade him.
After a deep breath she gathered all her determination and walked inside.
At first sight it was clear that Rogue was notably underdressed in comparison to the people that dwelled inside. The place looked like a hideaway nest for rich people to come and spend all their money on gambling, in poker or pool. It was clear that the customer's status was undeniably weighted by the expensive clothes and amount of jewellery they wore. It didn't take more than a glance to confirm the amount of money in the poker pots and the lackadaisical expressions the players wore that these people played with high stakes and were indifferent to how much money they lost. Rich bastards. A more seasoned player could probably make a living in places like this.
When Rogue made her way through the crowd her ordinary appearance earned a lot of snide glances and scornful muttering. She pointedly ignored their glowers, tossed them off with a shrug and walked pass them, to the bar.
"Hi, Ah'm looking for someone with the name Le Diable Blanc." She told the bartender. "Can Ah find him here?"
The bartender, equally luxuriantly dressed as his customers but in a uniform, gave her a slow onceover while polishing a wineglass, before he beckoned to a dark corner of the room with a nod, not bothering to say a word. Rogue nodded curtly, a bit peeved but decided to let it pass.
The poker table in the corner was occupied with a game already, rich men and women betting for all they're worth. Rogue approached carefully, trying to figure out which one of them who was the mysterious Le Diable Blanc she was looking for. None of them struck her as a thief. Their fingers were way too discordant and chubby. Heavy rings weighing them down, long impractical nails and whatnot, not as lean and deft as she imagined a thief's fingers to be.
Rogue scrutinized the table, looking for a pair of fingers that could match the picture in her mind. About a moment later she spotted them, conveniently hidden by a large pile of poker marks. Her gaze followed the hand, up to the arm and the face the hand belonged to. She frowned as she couldn't discern the face, obscured with shadows as it was, and stepped forward to get his attention.
She stopped mid-step as recognition suddenly struck her like a thunderclap. The planes of the face, the straight nose and the angled jaw she most definitely recognised as Gambit.
His red eyes wandered and then just by chance landed on her, their eyes meeting. The widening of his eyes almost outdid hers.
"Chère?" He marvelled, astonishment evident in his expression. Apparently he didn't expect to see her either.
Rogue's first impulse was to bolt, to run the heck out of there so she didn't had to explain this dreadful mistake. Instead she blurted, "It's you!" quickly followed by a scowl, her eyes shut tightly as the obviousness of her statement rang as silly as it was in her ears.
Gambit looked exactly the same as when she first had met him, though a bit differently dressed and with an uncharacteristic inability to speak. His diabolic eyes were unveiled to the public eye and were glowing softly as he was taking in the sight of her.
Holy mother of all hells.
"Chère, what are y doin' here?" He asked, looking at her as if he couldn't believe it was her.
Rogue was about to scream something in the lines of "What are you doing here?" but then everyone's looks turned to her and in her profound embarrassment she couldn't get past the first "Err".
"'Scusez moi, mesdames et messieurs." Gambit mumbled to his company and left the table. "Follow me." He whispered in her ear as he took her arm and dragged her out of there. Rogue followed without resistance, too shocked to make any objections.
He hauled her through a door, towed her through corridors and didn't stop until he reached an empty guestroom where he shoved her in, gently, without ceremony. He shut the door behind them and turned to her, his eyes inquisitive.
"What are y' doin' here, chérie?" He repeated and stepped closer. Rogue held up her hands in the air, partly to stop him from coming too close and partly to pledge her innocence.
"Uhm, sorry Ah didn't- Ah mean Ah'm looking for someone! He goes by the name Le Diable Blanc."
"C'est moi." He admitted, his eyes now twinkling with unconcealed amusement. Rogue blanched and took a step back.
"Oh." She simply said, her thoughts slow and thick as a mud. "Well," She took another step back as he came even closer. "There was this, uhm, Ah mean, like,"
The corner of his mouth curled up in a grin as she flustered, his gaze shifting between her eyes to her lips. Distracted as she was by his attention, Rogue didn't notice how close to the wall she was until she backed right into it.
"Would yah stop that?" She finally exclaimed, trying to ignore the feeling of the taut muscles of his abdomen as he walked into her raised hands. He stopped and quirked a questioning eyebrow.
"Invade mah personal space!" She exasperated and tried to shove him, but he proved immovable. Her temperament flared and she felt more at ease when the familiar rush of anger stabilized her to a more accustomed mind-set. Her brows were knitted into a disapproving scowl and she growled in a low, warning tone as he remained as close as ever.
"Y' didn't seem to mind last time." He murmured and a mischievous glint entered his eyes.
Rogue's scowl deepened. So this is what it's about, she thought irately.
Last time they had met had been in a club where she had been a lot more inviting than she usually was, because of well, to be honest; alcohol and a mind-set to rebel and do the most outrageous thing she could think of, i.e. fraternize with the enemy. Then it had seemed like a very good idea, just the disapproving look of Scott if he found out about it made her run straight ahead, heedless of the consequences. In the end she had kissed Gambit, someone who needed no further encouragement, passed out and had been left helpless in his arms.
She could see that he could've been deceived by her behaviour back then, but nonetheless she needed to set the record straight. Time for some damage control.
"Listen carefully, swamp rat. Last time we met Ah was drunk, pissed off at mah life and happened to be willing to do things Ah don't normally do. It won't happen again," She poked him hard in the ribs to emphasize her point. "So get it through yah thick head, there will be no more of such… interaction between you and me. So stop looking at me like that and back off."
"Looking at y' how?" He asked, unruffled by her demonstratively venomous behaviour.
"Like that," She gestured at his face. "Like you're thinking of something… unwholesome."
He laughed, a deep rumble of his chest. With the ease of a cat he passed her defending arms like they weren't even there, sandwiching her between him and the wall.
"Y' haven't been inside m' brain since y' laid that kiss on me. I've got all sorts of new thoughts in dere now." He purred, thoroughly enjoying her beat red blush and flustered looks.
"Stop it then!" She snapped, frustrated, and pushed him off her just enough so she could duck and sidle pass him. With her back against him she gave herself a moment to suppress the blush that warmed her cheeks, telling herself that she wasn't at all affected by his behaviour. Stupid, stupid swamp rat, she hissed in her mind, gritting her teeth.
When she had cooled off a bit she surveyed the room for the first time since she got there.
It was nicely furnished, with two leather couches facing each other in the middle of the room, with a small table in between. There were some bookshelves standing against the walls, filled with different books of general topics and common interests. Random paintings hung on the walls, depicting varied beautifully painted sceneries. A tray with glasses and a decanter full of what she guessed was bourbon was standing on a small table to the side.
She dumped herself on one of the couches, deliberately slouching to show her indifference. After about two breaths she had managed to gather some escaped composure, enough at least to set her expression into a serious and unconcerned look. That swamp rat had no hold on her, she would show him.
"So, what are y' here for, chère?" He whispered in her ear from behind, making her jolt in the air and shatter every sense of serenity she had managed to assemble. How could he move so silently?! Nerves tingling and with a reawaken mood she turned to him.
"Ah came to-" The words suddenly jammed in her throat as she realised what she was about to say. Ask for your help? Unthinkable! With pinched lips, she glowered at him like it was entirely his fault she was in this predicament now.
Gambit only shrugged, immune to her venomous glare, and served himself some bourbon from the table at the side and a glass to her as well. He sat down on the couch to the opposite of her and pushed her glass towards her. Rogue barely deigned it with a glance before she resumed her death glare.
"I assume y' didn't just come here t' stare at me." He said in a languid tone, eyeing the amber drink in his glass with a detached quality in his expression. His gaze then turned to her and a humorous glint lit his eyes. "Dough I'm sure it was one of de reasons."
Rogue rolled her eyes in disgust, never ceasing to wonder how such an inflated ego like his really could exist. 'Alien experiment gone wrong' was her only explanation.
She eyed him thoughtfully, considering her next move.
It had been a complete surprise for her to find out that Gambit had been this legendary Le Diable Blanc. She had expected an older man, or at least someone who looked a bit seasoned, with the reputation that surrounded the name. Though the 'devil' part of the name she could understand. Wasn't such a stretch considering his red on black eyes. They practically screamed mischief and sin.
But it struck her that Gambit was the only thief who could help her as no one else was apt enough to take on the challenge the Rhavain facility proposed. The realisation that she had to ask him for help tasted like bitter, bitter gall on her tongue.
Him she hadn't even known was a thief until now. When she had asked him of his occupation he had evadingly answered something in the lines of mercenary work. How would she be able to trust him? Apparently he wasn't just a thief, but a liar and a miscreant. It boded no well for her future and if she ever was going to make a partnership work she had to be on her guard. Like a dog eyeing the fox.
She glowered at him.
"Why are you here then?" She asked. "Dumped buckethead already?"
"M' contract ended." He admitted and drank his bourbon.
"Your contract?" Rogue mused. "Hired thief then, Ah presume. Forgot to mention that last time Ah asked yah."
He only shrugged.
"They say yah're the best thief to find." Rogue continued slowly, trying to pry more information out of him. She needed to stall, make him talk so she could get the time and make a decision. Gambit may be the only one who could help her, but was a partnership with him worth the mission?
Gambit flashed her a grin. "'Course, chère. M' a master t'ief after all."
"Master Thief?" Rogue asked, genuinely surprised. She arched an eyebrow. "Yah have a ranking system?"
"Certainement, why wouldn't we?" He gave a laconic shrug.
Rogue's eyebrow rose even higher. "What rank is Master Thief, then?" She asked, though she had a feeling she already knew the answer.
Gambit leaned back on the couch, draping an arm across the backrest. The corner of his mouth curled up in a slow Cheshire cat grin.
"The highest." He replied confidently, no sign of modesty in his voice. Rogue's brow furrowed and she was just about to give some snappy remark when it suddenly hit her.
"Does it…" She sucked her lower lip and rephrased the question in her mind. "How many Master Thieves are there?"
Gambit quirked an eyebrow, looking at her quizzical. "Ten." He replied succinctly, his tone more puzzled than curt.
"Really?" Rogue couldn't help but to feel a small hope flicker in her chest, like she was seeing a sliver of the sun through a heavy rain cloud. She was almost on the verge to ask where she could find them before she rephrased the question to, "Where are they?"
Gambit shrugged. "Qui sait? Haven't heard from dem in years."
The sun disappeared and Rogue's dashed hope went down the drain. So much for that, she thought bitterly and sighed heavily. When she peered at Gambit he was studying her reaction but his face didn't reveal any emotions but a slight curiosity. "Yah sure yah don't know where they are? Haven't heard anything from them?"
"Je suis sûr." He leaned forward a fraction and flashed her a disarming grin. "Now dat I've answered all your questions mebbe y' can answer mine. Y' came here to…?"
Rogue stared at him, perplexed. There really was no other option than to tell the truth. He was the only one who could help her and she really needed to do this mission. She had uncovered the plans behind the human sentinel and she had an obligation to finish the mission, she felt it into her very core. This was her job and she couldn't hand it over to someone else with clear conscience. All she needed was Gambit's help and then she could get it done. But oh, mother, this is gonna be painful.
Unconsciously she gripped her knees as she was bracing herself and fixed her gaze on the table in front of her, not willing to look Gambit in the eyes while she asked.
"Ah came here to-… to…ask," Her grip tightened and she squirmed in her seat as if it was physically agonizing to form the words. It was with force she spat out the rest of the words. "To ask for your help." She finally managed.
Gambit's eyebrows shot upward.
"Help? From me?
"One more word and Ah'll wipe that smug grin off your face permanently."
If only it made his grin only widen as her temper flared. Oh, he really enjoyed to irritate her. His eyes were practically glinting in amusement. It was every bit as painful as Rogue thought it would be.
Her glower reached new dimensions of toxicity.
"So," Gambit drawled, looking about as content as a cat in the sun after a huge meal. "What can I do for y?"
It was a surprise Rogue had any teeth left after all the teeth grinding.
"It's a mission." She revealed while trying to reign in the urge to strangle him. Calm down girl, she thought. Yah need him, not his carcass. Think of Dalai Lama. Calmness and serenity.
"Hmm, I got de impressions y' were aiming for somet'ing entirely different." Calmness and serenity. "'Less de mission involves long nights," Dalai Lama, Dalai Lama. "lot o' sweat an'-"
She interrupted him with a bristle and spat a few curses his direction.
"-recon and planning. Quoi? What did y' t'ink I was gonna say?"
Her breath wheezed out of her clenched teeth in an angry hiss. Gambit chuckled.
"Easy dere, kitty cat, b'fore y' tie your tail in a knot." He drank the last of his bourbon and shifted position a fraction. Though the same grin was still playing on his face she could feel that it was time to get down to business.
Her facial expression smoothen a little as she calmed down, though her anger still simmered beneath the surface, ready to explode at the smallest sign.
"What kind of mission are we talkin' 'bout?" He asked in a sombre voice.
"Break-in. Rhavain facility." She answered in a mutter, still feeling a bit peeved. Gambit looked at her in surprise.
"Y' sure pick your targets, chère." His face morphed into a thoughtful expression and for once was silent. Rogue stared at him blankly for several moments before an ill notion stirred in her.
"Yah can break in there… can't yah?" She asked gingerly when he hadn't made any further comments, looking at him unsurely. He looked up at her and blinked, for a second looking as if he hadn't heard her.
"'Course I can. M' a Master T'ief after all." He replied in the same cocky tone as ever.
Rogue rolled her eyes and drawled, "Right. Sorry, Ah forgot."
Gambit nodded absently, either missing the irony in her tone or ignoring it.
"What's de objective of the mission?" He inquired at length. "Sabotage? Theft?
"Essentially; escorting. Ah need yah to get me in there so Ah can destroy a certain document, wherever it is."
Rogue blinked. "What'yah mean 'no'?"
"Non as in, I don't escort people. I steal, I sabotage and quelquefois I do mercenary work, mais jamais escorting missions. It involves partnership."
"And partnership is bad, why?"
"Too much work when y' have t' teach even de simple basics as not to set de alarms toujours. Would never work."
"Correct me if Ah'm wrong." Rogue tilted her head to the side and peered at him through narrowed eyes. "Yah're saying no to me?"
"I'm saying no t' partnership. However, if you'd tell m' what y' want t' destroy, I'll do it in a flash pour toi." He grinned devilishly.
"No way!" Rogue exclaimed. "It's mah solo mission and Ah'd rather keel over and die than to give it to someone else. "
"Solo mission? Not so much solo if y've got me anyway."
Rogue hesitated and licked her lip. "The Professor says Ah need… backup if anything happens. Besides," She continued in a reproachful tone. "Ah'm qualified for this job. Ah can break an entry."
"Really?" Gambit drawled, unconvinced.
"Can y' plan a heist?"
"Wha- uh. No, can't say Ah've done that."
"Your lock pickin' skill?"
"Sort of, well, nonexistent."
"Ah've done that. Once."
"Stealth skill? Hacking? Previous experience? Acting skill?"
The longer the list grew the more Rogue came to realise how complex a single heist could be. Her version of a heist wasn't more complicated than bash the windows in, grab the goods and then bolt. Now she was proven how very wrong she could be. But however right Gambit was, Rogue still had it hard to be proven wrong by someone she didn't like. Her lips were pressed to a thin line and her expression steeled.
"Y' still t'ink y' can do it?" He asked mildly.
Rogue didn't answer him.
"Tu sais, I can do de job for y'. It would be easier and definitely cheaper."
"No, it would be pointless 'cause Ah'm the one who's supposed to do it. Yah're just a sidekick."
"M' flattered." He deadpanned.
"Ah need to do this." She emphasized and looked him square in the eyes. Maybe he heard something in her tone or saw something in her eyes because he suddenly paused and seemed to absorb the situation, silently. She could almost see how the thoughts raced though his mind, risks and rewards properly weighted and measured with a flash of his eyes and a twitch of his mouth. He held her gaze.
Rogue waited in silence. He had to agree. It was essential, otherwise she couldn't proceed. Otherwise, it wouldn't even be a mission to accomplish. But she couldn't say or do anything more than she already had to convince him. It was up to him now.
His eyes averted hers for a second.
"Y' really are dat desperate, aren't y'?" He said it an even tone, without any sort of subtext, but it still grated on Rogue's pride, like nails scratching a black board, to be called desperate. Nevertheless, she gave a short nod (she could acknowledge it was true on some level). He sighed theatrically.
"I suppose I can't say no t' a lady in distress." He finally said and Rogue's heart did a flip flop in sheer excitement and at the same time she managed to frown at the expression. Lady in distress?
"But," He said warningly and Rogue caught herself. "There will be conditions." The corner of his mouth curled up in a smug grin. She blinked. Oh, this can't be good.
"Premièrement, y' will agree t' training wit' me b'fore de actual mission." He said and ticked it off with a finger.
"Deuxièmement, I will be in charge toujours. If I say run, y' run. If I say don't move, y don't move." Another finger.
"Troisièmement. We won't go near Rhavain facility until I say y're ready. D'accord?"
Rogue stared at him, speechless, her jaw hanging slack. He must out of his- !
Gambit grinned and opened his mouth, most assuredly to make another teasing innuendo when the door opened and a man peeked in.
"Mr. Lebeau, I'm sorry to disturb you but you have a phone call waiting."
Gambit nodded and turned to Rogue who was still sitting motionless like a stone statue. "That is my offer, chère. Why won't y' t'ink 'bout it while I'm gone."
Before she even had the chance to say a word he had already left the room. Silence fell and she suddenly became aware of how lonely it was to sitting in a strange room, all by herself. When the shock finally released its hold of her, she slowly shook her head and ran a hand through her hair.
What in the world had she gotten herself into?
The glass of bourbon she had so far ignored was still placed on the table in front of her. Without thinking, she took it and drank all of it in one sweep. The drink exploded in her stomach like fire and she coughed hoarsely in surprise, wheezing her breath in.
When the worst had settled, she sighed heavily and dropped back on the couch and closed her eyes. The fire in her stomach slowly faded and was replaced by a warm comfortable feeling that spread out through her limbs, loosening the tension in her muscles.
She peered through her lashes, her vision strangely obscured as she processed what she had just heard.
Training? With Gambit? When her day couldn't have gone any worse, he stepped up the game another notch.
She bit her lower lip, frustrated, but forced herself to relax and let her mind wander.
The barriers that kept the psyches at bay fell at her command and the psyches emerged into the world she called her mind, joyful and excited to be released. Like weightless, shimmering ghosts they floated around, laughing and playing like there wasn't a care in the world.
Rogue watched them with her inner eye, almost smiling at the display. With great caution she projected images and impressions of what had just happened between her and Gambit. They absorbed the information eagerly and started to chatter among each other, sending their own thoughts and opinions back and forward.
»What do Ah do?« She asked them when she was done. Rejoiced by all the attention they suddenly got, the psyches enthusiastically sent her all kinds of suggestions.
Some wanted her to break the promise she made to the Professor and break into the Rhavain facility on her own. Some wanted her to go on a vacation to Hawaii instead. Some wanted her to decline and go home, but the majority of the Psyches wanted her to accept and give it a go.
Rogue listened to every one of them, feeling a small pang of guilt as she felt their happiness to be able to help her. Ah should do this more often, she thought remorsefully.
In the middle of the entire racket she could feel Gambit's psyche brush against her conscious. He had been listening and projected his amusement with that one touch. Rogue didn't acknowledge him, but neither did she push him away. When he simmered around her, she forced her focus back to the task at hand.
She was bathing in a sea of doubts and hesitation. The options were clear before her; go home or agree to Gambit's conditions and endure. It was a lose-lose situation for her.
Irritation gnawed on her nerves and she dug her fingers in her arms like claws.
"Goddamn stupid swamp rat! Ah'm gonna knock him over with a frying pan and feed him to the gators!" Seething, she gritted her teeth and spewed another batch of profanities.
»Oh, come on Rogue!« A voice of reason exclaimed in her mind. »You already know what to do, otherwise you wouldn't be so aggravated.«
Rogue snorted, disbelieving. It wasn't at all that easy!
But she soon found out that no matter how much she twisted and turned on the situation there was no way around it.
Ah'm gonna kill him for putting me in this situation! She thought vindictively.
At the same time, Gambit stepped inside of the room, his eyes landing directly on her. Rogue stood up and turned to him to glower.
"Fahne!" She snapped. "Ah accept your terms."
Gambit nodded, his mouth twitching as if a grin in triumph was about to break out.
"But Ah won't call yah by your real name." Rogue added stubbornly. "This is work and yah said Gambit was your job name so that's what Ah'll call yah."
"And no flirting."
"I'll try to exercise m' legendary self-control den." He grinned. Rogue glared.
He chuckled. "I t'ink it'll be hard for y' t' keep your hands off me."
Her expression darkened for a second but she soon smothered her annoyance. With crossed arms in front of her chest, she stepped up to him and arched her neck to look him in the eye.
"We have a deal then." She declared, her voice stern.
"So we do." He hummed and kissed the back of her hand softly, his eyes never leaving hers.
French translations ;
Chère – Dear
'Scusez moi, mesdames et messieurs – Excuse me ladies and gentlemen
Chérie – Darling
C'est moi – That's me
Certainement – For sure,
Qui sait? – Who knows?
Je suis sûr – I'm certain
Quoi? – What?
Non – No
Quelquefois – Sometimes
Mais – But
Jamais – Never
Toujours – All the time, Always
Pour toi – For you
Tu sais – You know
Premièrement – Firstly
Deuxièmement – Secondly
Troisièmement – Thirdly
D'accord – Okay
A/n; Hello good people, I'm back from my vacation!
And thanks to tfobmv18, Luka1Sakura and ChamberlinofMusic. I had a great vacation ^^
Thanks to everybody who reviewed, it was very fun to come home with a full mailbox!
So I'm back and running again. I wrote this chapter on my vacation and when I came home I edited it. I've celebrated my birthday, 18 (which means I can now drive car, drink and smoke legally. Oh great day) and already started my last year of school. And with our grand school system we have, the last year is not the worst, I've already gone through the most taxing part (at one point I thought I was going to fall apart into teeny tiny bits of all the pressure, but I managed) Still no idea what I want to do after school but hopefully it'll work out somehow *whew*.
So what happens in our story now? Rogue did finally agree to work with Gambit, and take thievery lessons from him, after a lot of pain. Gambit will be, well Gambit and be as shameless as always, to Rogue's great chagrin. Just wait and see what he does next chapter;
Chapter 15; Turn and Turn Again
Now my customary plea for reviews;
As a birthday present? *puppy eyes*
See yah soon!