A/N: If you don't know, I'm writing a multi-chapter X-Men fic. This is kinda-sorta part of it, in the sense that it was the inspiration for it. I didn't think it would really fit in with the over-all story, unless I forced in an unnecessary flashback. You don't need to read it to read this, but I imagine the significance will be greatly lessened.
The Saavedra Position
Professor Xavier cherished his fleeting moments of peace. Being a telepath in a mansion full of emotionally charged 20 and 30-somethings without the ability to damped their thoughts lead to many headaches that seemed to become harder and harder to shake. Charles was prone to take in the grounds after nightfall, distancing himself from his charges for an opportunity for precious, rare nothingness. That being said, he was obviously quite perturbed to find a figure silhouetted by the moonlight standing rather obtrusively in one of his usual places of meditation – the mansion graveyard.
The lack of a psionic presence left a rather narrow list of possible intruders. The glint of light reflecting unevenly off what seemed to be a near empty bottle of some sort of liquor brought the list down to one – one of the newest members of his surrogate family – Remy LeBeau.
To find the man – known for his flippant attitude towards all things, particularly death – in such a place was rather jarring. To find this man visually – known for his uncanny ability to blend seamlessly with the shadows when attempting to avoid human contact – mostly likely meant that the bottle hanging in his limp grip was both begun and finished in rapid succession.
Charles was sure the hum of displaced air that accompanied his mode of transportation alerted the man's keen sense of hearing to his presence, but Gambit made no move to acknowledge him. Perhaps it was alcohol induced, but regardless is was surprisingly refreshing. Xavier didn't always relish the borderline idolatry awarded him by most of his students. It was nice to be treated – and in this case ignored – equally on occasion.
The man, who still remained motionless even as Charles settled in comfortably next to him, had played a rather large roll in tonight's round of migraines. There was a lengthy and heated discussion between Charles and Scott regarding the X-Men's field leader's distrust of their Cajun comrade. The team was still struggling with the implications of Bishop's recent accusations – directed towards Gambit and his proposed eventual betrayal – which were no doubt aided by knowledge of the man's less than scrupulous background. It was rather aggrivating to see that the core prejudices the Dream stood in opposition to still took root in the hearts of his pupils. Never trust a thief, he supposed.
"Do you ever play chess, Gambit?"
The faintest angling of his head was all the regard it seemed Gambit would offer. He was silent for an uncomfortably long moment, but Charles had learned not to push the man.
"Do you ever ask a straight to de point question?"
Instantly, countless rebuttals sprang to Charles' mind. If he had been speaking to any of his other students, he would have been quick to voice them, but he stopped himself. He remained in quiet reverie for quite some time as he weighed his options. Platitudes seemed to hold no water with Remy, as Charles had observed many times over in the months that the man had taken up residence in the mansion. Besides, he had come out here to get away from his duties as professor. Tonight he had little patience for games – even his own. "No."
The Professor's eyes darted to Gambit's face, only to find in his hesitance to respond, Remy had resumed vigilant watch over the same spot of empty air he had been staring at before Charles had approached. Remy had not yet struck him as a terribly insightful person when it came to judging others, but Charles would welcome the change. "You have me pegged so easily?"
"Non." There was a whimsical quality to Gambit's voice when he spoke, as if they were merely discussing the weather. When Gambit turned again, ever so slightly to cast Charles in a sidelong regard, the Professor could easily see the thin glaze of alcohol in the man's eyes. "Don' know not'ing about de kinds o' questions you be askin' – 'cept dat one about de chess. Oui."
Xavier's brows arched in surprise. He had fully anticipated Gambit to dance around and side step the question as the man seemed inclined to do. Charles, ever the opportunist, would not let this moment of seeming honesty pass without further inquiry. "A lot of people – even highly educated students – struggle to grasp the concept of a game like chess. Even a master tactician like Scott doesn't enjoy the game. He claims it to be both boring and nonsensical."
"Boring nonsense?" The other man laughed – his usually dry laugh infused with alcohol-induced, genuine mirth. "Sounds right up de homme's alley t' me."
Charles refused to give rise to the barb he was sure was purposeful. It seemed Remy's first line of defense was to irritate – push the appropriate buttons until frustration and anger wins out over curiosity. It was quite remarkable how well it worked on the other X-Men. "It's beyond thinking a few moves ahead. Even a grunt soldier can think ahead – but a general? It's about knowing your endgame strategy before you make your first move."
Gambit's brows knit as his mind changed gears – finally considering the game of chess over the game of rhetoric. "Never cared for dem overly fanciful rituals."
"Strategy bores you?"
"De nobility about it does. No use namin' and categorizin' dem."
"I had a friend, once, who thought similarly about the game."A shadow of regret passed over Xavier's visage as him mind recalled days when the world was younger, and so were he and Erik – his once and hopefully future friend. They had spent many nights unwinding from their work in Haifa over a chess board – their moves a poorly disguised metaphor for their increasingly differing views on humanity. Perhaps if he had realized his friend's aggressive style of play for what it was at the time, things may have played out differently for them. "Every strategy is used and applied differently, in different circumstances. Every victory wrought a new, never before seen set of tactics."
The unpleasant hint of tobacco assaulted Xavier's nostrils. It was a nasty habit that Gambit had and Charles had full intentions of breaking him of it, despite his failed efforts with Logan. Nonetheless, it was a tick he had noticed Remy indulged in most frequently when he seemed troubled – after an assignment in which Scott was particularly "nagging" towards Remy, or after a fight with Rogue, with whom Remy was strangely infatuated. He had noticed, though, that despite most humans' compulsion to do so, Gambit rarely smoked while drinking. He hoped the out of character occurrence tonight meant he was making headway with the young mutant – to be troubled meant he was actually thinking instead of just reacting.
"Non. It all de same. Dere only one real strategy."
"And what would this ultimate strategy be?"
Gambit looked to him with a sly grin that reflected a mischievous sort of pleasure in his eyes. "Easy. To win."
And with that, Gambit seemed to grow bored with their line of conversation and continued on past Charles, destined for the mansion doors. Much to his surprise, though, he was stayed by Charles' hand wrapping loosely around his wrist, rooting him in place. "I know why you're here, Remy."
For the first time this evening, Gambit seemed genuinely interested in whatever Charles was saying. The alcohol helped bring on honesty, but Charles knew better than to trust that the guise had fully fallen away. If he wanted Remy to stop this verbal waltz, he had to do so in kind. It was time to get to the heart of the matter.
"I see what you're doing, and I understand it."
There was an unmistakable hue of malevolence coloring the once amiable smile on Remy's lips. "If you know – you see – you understand – den why are we talking about it?"
With that, a thousand unspoken words passed between the two. Remy challenging – do you really know what you think you do about me? Charles assuring – yes; perhaps not everything, but more than you'd like. And the one word than hung like a guillotine over both of theirs heads, that neither would dare utter: Sinister
"In chess, it is a very immature playing style to make bold moves without knowing how they fit into the larger art of the victory. I see what you're doing, but I can't fathom your endgame. Can you?"
With a hearty laugh – one of true pleasure and amusement – Gambit twisted his arm from Charles' grip and headed back to the mansion. Amidst the laughter, quickly turning uncontrollable, Gambit managed to stammer out barely intelligible French - "Oui, monsieur. Oui."
Charles had come away from this little endeavor a good deal more frustrated and with even less understanding into the enigma that Remy presented than when he started. With a sigh, his fingers rose to his temples to preform a light massage. His headache was returning.
"Hey! Mon professuer!" Charles turned with a start to find Remy, perched on the wooden railing surrounding the deck leading to the back door of the mansion like a gymnast dismounting from a pommel horse – arms spread in victory before a bow.
"Le fin de partie? De king is dead, long live de king!"