Title: The Boat Riddle (or, How Gambit Screwed Himself Over Six Ways From Sunday)
Characters/Pairings: Ensemble; Rogue/Remy, Scott/Jean/Logan, Bobby/Kitty
Summary: They've all had better days. Retelling of X-3, now featuring 100% more Cajun.
A/N: I know. I know I know I know I know. I should not be writing for a whole new fandom when I've got like eight works-in-progress, especially not a big new fandom with a big new movie coming out and a whole lot of big (not-so-new) canons to work with. However, I have no self-restraint. I'm feeling out some new ideas here, more than just the fact that I'm playing in a new (for me) fandom, and I'm still trying to get comfortable with the characters, so bear with me. Constructive criticism is encouraged; if you feel like I've screwed something big up, please tell me.
Person A works for Person B. This is, and has always been, without question. However, Person A tells you - while leaving the residence of one Person C - that he/she is working this job for Person C, and that if you know what's good for you, you will keep your mouth shut and stick to him/her like glue. And you know - as well as you know that Emeril Lagasse's restaurant is a blight upon the otherwise charming city of New Orleans - that this is a Secret Test of Loyalty. What you don't know, and this is the real issue, is whether it's a test from Person B or Person C.
Do you: A) Tell Person B about Person A's supposed treachery? B) Keep quiet, possibly letting Person B hang? Or C) Tell Person A to shove it up his/her ass, and go get yourself a stiff drink?
Actually - pause, rewind. Let's get some context here.
It started with a cup of (bad) coffee, an old friend calling in an old favor, and a bald man in a wheel chair.
THE BOAT RIDDLE
The Boat Riddle goes something like this: A farmer must transport a sack of grain, a goose, and a fox across a river, but his boat is so small that he can only take himself and one other thing at one time. If he leaves the grain with the goose, it will eat the grain, but if he leaves the goose with the fox, it will eat the goose. How does he get all three across the river?
Remy's life is starting to resemble that of the farmer, except instead of food, a bird, and a predator that has no business being anywhere near the bird, he has the Guild of Thieves, the X-Men, and the Brotherhood. (Fit them to the riddle as you will.) If it was up to him, he would sink the damn boat and let them all eat each other, but in this metaphor that means either running like hell (possibly to another country) or doing something very stupid and very defiant, and if he does either of those, someone will kill him - someone like his father, and if not his father, then Magneto, and if not Magneto, then that beast with the claws. Point is, he'd be dead, and dead is bad.
Also in the mix is a curious woman who is altogether too interested in the concept of a "cure" for mutants, a (possibly) rogue shapeshifter, and a woman who has apparently risen from the dead. All in all, he'd almost rather be in prison. Almost.
AU after X-2, disregarding that "Wolverine: Origins" thing, and playing fast and loose with the canons.
You in? Let's get started.
He figured that he would always blame it on the coffee. It wasn't, strictly speaking, the brownish sludge's fault, but he'd never let that sort of thing stop him before and he had no intentions of letting it stop him now. It was the coffee's fault because it was while he was getting coffee that he fielded the first phone call.
If he'd been driving at the time, he would have been able to safely ignore it, with the ironclad alibi of "I was driving at the time" to give as a reason when (more like if) he called the person back. Never mind that he answered the phone while driving all the time; it was still an excellent excuse.
Instead, he was in a gas station, pondering who, exactly, came up with the concept of a cappuccino machine (and whether or not the tan liquid masquerading as a "French Vanilla Cappuccino" actually had anything to do with coffee, milk, vanilla - French or otherwise - or foam) when the phone rang. With his father's ten latest lectures about "pick up the phone when I call you or I will hunt you down and shove it in your smallest hole" ringing in his ears, he decided that - without any readily apparent reason to ignore it - he had no choice but to pick up the phone.
"Bonjour," he said, fully expecting it to be his father, asking him if he'd made it to New York yet (no), made contact with Magneto yet (also no), or if he had a decent reason for both of the former being no (no). He was startled by a smooth, male, and wholly unfamiliar voice.
"Is this Remy LeBeau?" the man asked, and he hesitated. He was reasonably certain that it was Magneto, since the voice had a vaguely English accent, and supposedly, Magneto had an English accent. However, he couldn't be sure of who it was, since the number was as unfamiliar as the voice, and it went against everything he was to give away more information than was absolutely necessary.
"Depends on who's asking," he replied, taking a tentative sip of his "French Vanilla Cappuccino". As expected, it tasted nothing like any kind of cappuccino he'd ever had before, but it claimed to have caffeine and he was desperate for caffeine.
"This is Professor Charles Xavier," the man on the line said, and it hit something in his memory - he'd heard the name before, although he couldn't quite recall where or why. "I have a proposition for you, Mister LeBeau," he continued. "I would like to discuss it with you at length, once you reach New York, but preferably before you meet with Mister Lensherr."
Several things crossed his mind. First, either he was dealing with a psychic, or someone, somewhere, had told this Xavier person who he was and what he was plotting in New York. Most likely, he was a psychic, because he didn't think anyone who actually knew what he was doing had enough of a death wish to tell anyone else. That meant that, although in his book dishonesty was the best policy, in this case, he would need to be completely above-board.
There were plenty of ways to lie without lying, though, and he was a master of most of them.
"What makes you think I have a meetin' with him?" he asked calmly, paying for his "coffee" (and a pack of gummy worms - he couldn't help it if he had a slight weakness for them) with a little cash from someone else's pocket and making for his car.
"I have ways of knowing things, Mister LeBeau," the man answered, confirming Remy's suspicions. Psychic. He bit back an annoyed sigh, dropping off his candy and "coffee" on top of his car while he fished out his keys. "Do you know where the Xavier's Institute for Gifted Youngsters is?"
"Should I?" he grumbled, finally discovering his keys in an entirely different pocket than he thought he had put them in.
"I would like to meet you there, if at all possible," Xavier said. "Or, perhaps we could meet elsewhere," he added, apparently having seen his vehement disagreement coming.
"How about a hotel?" he suggested, climbing into his car before remembering that he'd left his things on the roof. He paused, taking a deep breath; this was, he supposed, the third clue that his day would not be improving (the first being the not-cappuccino, the second being the phone call). "I won't be gettin' in till after midnight."
"That can be arranged," the other man replied. "I will meet you at your hotel when you arrive, and we can discuss things there."
He almost asked how he planned to get there before him, and how he would know which hotel to find him at, but then he remembered: psychic. That also meant that he couldn't dodge the man by ignoring him. He rolled his eyes. "Sure thing, Professor," he said with as much disdain as he could possibly fit into one word, cutting the call and tossing his phone into the passenger seat. After a moment of thought, he reached over and turned it off.
It might not stop the man from finding him, but he had no intentions of making it any easier than it already was.
"You think this is a good idea?" Logan asked, the moment Professor X hung up the phone (he was, for some reason, chuckling, which, to Logan's mind, was always a bad sign). "I've heard of this fellow, and if you ask me..."
"I appreciate the concern," Professor X said, joining him and leading the way out of his office, "but I believe that all Mister LeBeau really needs is a chance to do the right thing, and he will - in that way, he is much like you."
"You've never even met the guy," he replied bluntly. "I know, that telepath thing'll take you pretty far, but there are some things you just don't know about people you've never met."
"Are you volunteering to join me at this meeting?"
Logan opened his mouth to protest, and then thought about it - sure, Professor X could damn well take care of himself, but at the same time... he'd really rather be there, just in case this LeBeau twit had something up his sleeve. After all, he was a known associate of Magneto, and he didn't trust any of Magneto's lackeys as far as they could throw him (ordinarily, the phrase went "as far as I could throw him" but Logan rather thought he could throw most of Magneto's crew pretty damn far). "Yeah, I'll join you," he said.
"Excellent," Professor X said. "We don't want to take too many people. I fear that it would frighten him off, if we showed up in force to meet him. Myself, you, and perhaps Scott should go, no others." Logan honestly thought that bringing Cyclops along would only convince the guy to run screaming in the opposite direction, but he couldn't voice this without it looking like open defiance. He settled for thinking it very hard. Professor X smiled. "I know you and he don't get along, but I think it is best, for the meeting, and for both of you." His expression turned down somewhat. "It has been more difficult than either of you will let on."
He chose not to think about it. Rogue had mentioned to him - once, and only once - that he might find help in therapy, but he refused point-blank to do anything of the sort, especially since he knew that Cyclops had also turned down the offer of seeing a therapist, and he wasn't about to pour his heart out to some doctor if even Scott Fucking Summers refused to.
Not that he had ever planned on going to therapy in the first place, but - it was a case of negative infinity minus one.
"So, what's with this guy?" he asked, instead of dwelling on what Professor X obviously wanted to talk to him about. "Why do we want him on our team, besides not letting Magneto get another mutant?"
"Remy LeBeau has a very useful skill set," the Professor replied. "I'm sure you've heard of some of his more high-profile talents," he said delicately, and Logan snorted. What he meant was, you've heard he's slipperier than an eel, with a bunch of sticky fingers to boot. All he knew about Remy LeBeau - which was, admittedly, not much - was that he was the Thieves' Guild's rising star, had some sort of in with the head honcho, and was a known mutant.
Less than he liked, but better than nothing.
Also, LeBeau was a Cajun. He valiantly bit back a sneer - he hated Cajuns, always had. It was something to do with the accent, he thought, or else some horrible incident in his forgotten past, but he honestly couldn't come up with any situation that he might have ever found himself in that could explain his deep, abiding, and all-consuming dislike of people from Louisiana.
(Rogue had taunted him for it when she found out, but she was from Mississippi, so maybe some of the Lousiana Crazy had crossed the river and infected her. He wondered if their new Dr. McCoy might know anything about cleaning the South out of an otherwise nice girl.)
"So, we're trying to head off Magneto and convince him to work for us?"
"Correct," the Professor said, wheeling himself out of his office and waiting politely for a group of students, apparently late for some class, to run by. He went on, heading off Logan's next question, "Also, he is a very powerful mutant, and I think even he knows that he needs to learn how to better control his powers. That, I can teach him. I suspect that the prospect of learning to control his abilities will be enough to draw him to us."
"And if not, I knock him out and drag him with us?"
The Professor refused to dignify that with a response.
Logan grinned. It wasn't a no...
When Scott refused point-blank to go with them (on the grounds of "I haven't slept in two days and I've been training the youngest members for three and blah blah I'm a rampaging idiot with a stick shoved up my ass blah"), they took Storm instead. She had simply smiled, in a way that chilled Logan to the bone, when the Professor explained what they were doing, and said that they should have asked her first.
"So, why should we have asked you?" Logan asked, glancing at Storm, in the passenger seat of Scott's newest car, which they were driving to the hotel that the Professor insisted they would meet this kid at. The Professor had disapproved of taking Scott's new car, but Logan pointed out that it was one of the only ones fitted for a wheelchair (and besides, all other things about Cyclops aside, he had damn good taste in automobiles).
"I know Remy," she replied, still smiling. "He's an old friend, and he owes me a favor or two."
"Really? How'd he end up in your debt?"
Her smile turned just a little feral, and Logan was suddenly glad that they were on the same team. There weren't many people who scared him, but the mere thought of a lightning bolt on his skeleton was enough to make him work extra-hard to never piss Storm off. "The trick to beating Remy at poker involves tequila," was all she said.
He smirked. "One day, you're gonna have to tell me how you ended up at Xavier's."
The Professor led them to one of the nicest hotels in the city, which seemed to annoy Storm, and failed to impress Logan. If the little he'd heard of this LeBeau twit was true, then he was probably using someone else's credit card to pay for his room. Only a few minutes after they arrived and set up in the lobby, a shady figure in a trenchcoat shuffled in the door.
Definitely paying with someone else's credit card.
He spotted them almost immediately, and visibly winced when he saw Storm, but quickly covered it with a luminous grin. "Stormy," he said, in a reasonable facsimile of a cheerful tone. He was younger than Logan had expected, probably somewhere in his early twenties, and apparently had a death wish, because no one called Ororo Munroe Stormy. "It's great to see you!"
"You know you can't lie to me," she replied, giving him a hug and indicating to the seat next to Logan. He stared at the seat for a long moment, apparently trying to decide whether or not it was safer to stand, before collapsing in the seat and finally removing his sunglasses.
It was, Logan reminded himself, past midnight. Great, he thought, one of those people. At least LeBeau and Cyclops would have something in common. They could shop for sunglasses together.
(The image of Scott Summers cheerfully skipping through a market hand-in-hand with Remy LeBeau flashed into his mind, amusing him and earning a sharp glare from the Professor. He smirked.)
"So," he drawled, in one of the thickest Cajun accents Logan had ever heard (his blood pressure spiked accordingly), "to what do I owe this pleasure?"
"I am almost certain that you have heard of us," Professor X said, calmly folding his hands in his lap. "But if not, we are the X-Men. I would like to extend the hand of friendship and alliance to you."
"You askin' me to join you?" LeBeau said bluntly, and then sank back into his seat, propping an ankle up on his knee and grinning cheekily. "You got more than the hand of friendship to offer me? 'Cause Magneto's offerin' a hefty price for my services."
Even better, Logan thought, a mercenary. He almost hoped that the kid resisted them, because he would just love to bash his skull in.
"Remy," Storm said, a tiny smile on her lips, "We're offering you a valuable partnership."
And, Logan heard, floating under her words, you owe me. He smirked again as the kid's smile twitched and slowly faded, even though Storm calling in one of her favors would mean that he lost the chance to punch this twit in the face.
"You're callin' in that favor, aren't you?" he replied bluntly, and Storm smiled. "Look, no offense, but if I turn down Magneto, I get it from two ends, y'see?" he said, and made a hand gesture to demonstrate his exact meaning. (Storm, it should be noted, seemed to be praying for patience.) "'Cause this partnership, I didn't set it up. He went through the Guild, and you can't offer me enough to cross the Guild."
"Is Remy LeBeau giving up without a fight?" Storm teased lightly, in what Logan would later recognize as masterful manipulation. "To a reasonable authority figure, no less?"
LeBeau scowled. "I'm not suicidal," he growled, but the Professor held up a hand.
"I'm not asking you to turn down Magneto. I understand the position you're in, and I sympathize. However, we can work out an arrangement that suits both of us."
"Now you want me to spy on Magneto for you," he said, and did something strange with his hand, like he was itching to throw something at them. "That's worse than suicidal."
"Not at all," Storm said, still smiling. "If you agree to this, you would have the full support of the X-Men. If you were found out, we would come to your aid, in force."
"And if I refuse?"
"I knock you out and drag you along," Logan said cheerfully. The Cajun looked at him, an expression of great surprise on his face.
"The beast does know human speech!" he exclaimed, and Logan snarled at him.
"Logan," the Professor said sharply, and he sank back into his seat, still grumbling. "We will not force your hand," the Professor continued. "However, if you turn us down, we will not be able to protect you in the future, and I doubt that Magneto will offer you any sort of trust or back-up. If you ally with us, you have our word that we will support you to the full extent of our abilities. Also," he added, leaning forward slightly, "I can teach you how to better control your powers."
Now, that got the kid's attention, but he feigned disinterest. It was only the slight twitch in his eye that gave him away. "What makes you think I can't control myself?"
"No one is saying that you can't control yourself, Remy," Storm said. "However, you and I both know that you are very powerful, and such power is, by its nature, difficult to control. You can't lie to me," she continued archly. "I know it worries you."
"Vous les gens," LeBeau grumbled, but then ran a hand through his hair. Obviously, Storm had been right on the nose about the kid's worries, and between her and the Professor, they had him right where they wanted him. "All right," he sighed. "Fine. Say I help you. How do we go about with these lessons?"
"We can meet whenever you have a moment to do so," the Professor replied, raising an eyebrow. "If what Ororo has told me is true, sneaking away is something of a talent of yours."
"Oui, but even I can't get away with everything," he said sourly, like he just hated admitting that to a stranger. "They'll get suspicious if I sneak off too much."
"I understand," the Professor said. "We can begin with rudimentary lessons tonight, and occasional, further lessons at your leisure. After your contract with Magneto is up, if you are so inclined, you can continue to learn at the Institute."
"You say he isn't going to trust me," the kid said, in a classic gotcha! tone. "How am I supposed to get this information for you?"
"Remy, please," Storm replied, just this side of patronizingly, "you're more than capable of finding out about Magneto's plans without his knowledge."
LeBeau made a face. He muttered something under his breath, looking and sounding vaguely like a cornered animal. "Sure, I'll do it."
Rogue wasn't especially happy. In fact, a better word to describe her mood at the moment would be "infuriated" but she was steadily dampening it with triple-chocolate-fudge-brownie ice cream.
It was emblazoned, in thick, black marker (with cute decorations, but she would never admit, even under pain of death, that she kind of liked the squiggles around the name) with "Kitty's! DO NOT TOUCH." It wasn't quite like vengeance, not like, say, punching the other girl in the face, but it was far less likely to get her in trouble, even if she couldn't even begin to pretend that she hadn't known it was Kitty's. The most she'd get for eating someone else's ice cream would be a stern talking-to, but decking another student would end with an extra hour or three in the Danger Room, and she spent enough time in there as it was.
Also, she couldn't come up with a reason to do it that didn't make her look like a heinous bitch.
That was the really frustrating thing. Bobby was circling ever-closer to Kitty, being extra-nice to her and laughing at her jokes and sitting just a little too close to her, but it wasn't anything conclusive - and worse, it wasn't Kitty's fault. But being mad at Kitty kept her from being mad at Bobby, and she just didn't like being mad at Bobby.
Even though it was Bobby's fault, and they all knew it. The problem was, he hadn't done anything yet, and if she acted on her suspicions, she would look like a jealous girlfriend, and everyone (most notably Jubilee, who was sure to tell everyone) would take Kitty's side. And besides, she could practically hear them saying, he can't even touch her. She should have seen this coming.
She sneered into her ice cream, because, really, she should have seen this coming.
"I don't like him," someone was saying - Logan, she guessed, from the timbre of the growling. "He's slippery."
"He's very intelligent," Storm's voice said, "and I think he knows that we have the most to offer him. Remy is good at many things, but taking care of himself is what he does best. That isn't to say that the Professor is wrong, but Remy... he watches his own back, and then worries about everyone else. He'll do the right thing, as long as it doesn't get him killed."
"I still don't like him," Logan grumbled, and then turned the corner into the kitchen. He raised an eyebrow. "You know that's not your ice cream, don't you?" he asked, but took out a spoon and dug out a chunk of it anyway.
"Nope," she replied calmly, staving off a brain freeze. "I have no idea who it belongs to."
"Liar," he said under his breath, but smirked, and she grinned back. She really was spending too much time around him; he was starting to rub off on her.
"Rogue," Storm said sternly, arms crossed. "That's Kitty's."
"Is it?" she asked, putting on a show of being dismayed, but Logan just waved Storm off.
"I didn't see any name on it," he lied, digging the spoon in and taking another large bite. "So," he said, tuning out Storm's exasperated glare, "what's with the midnight ice cream run?"
She shrugged noncommittally and took another bite, using it to give her a moment to think up a viable lie. It wasn't that she didn't trust Logan - because she did, probably more than she trusted anyone else - but she wasn't entirely certain that he wouldn't kill Bobby if she told him her suspicions. He probably wouldn't do any more than put the fear of Wolverine into him, but she could never be sure with Logan. "Couldn't sleep," she mumbled around a mouthful of chocolate.
He saw straight through it, like always, but didn't push her, and for that she was grateful.
"So," she started, in as bright a tone as she could, "who is it you don't like?"
Logan made a face. "New guy," he said off-hand, and glanced behind him as though to indicate to Storm, but she had already left, "One of Storm's old buddies, Cajun by the name of Remy LeBeau. Professor and Storm think we can trust him to spy on Magneto for us."
"Why don't you trust him?" she asked, even though Logan never trusted anyone, except maybe the Professor - and Jean, but she was gone now. She blinked away the memory of Dr. Grey before it could form in her mind. "I mean, besides all the usual reasons."
"He's slippery," Logan repeated, digging into the ice cream carton. She made a strangled noise in her throat and snatched it away before he could finish it off. "Member of the Thieves' Guild in New Orleans, which is reason enough, as far as I'm concerned."
"There's a Thieves' Guild?"she repeated, aghast. "Isn't that a little, I dunno, high-profile?"
Logan snickered. "If anyone can avoid the law, it's gonna be this guy."
It wasn't until he actually met Magneto that he began to doubt his commitment to Stormy and her creepy bald friend. It wasn't that he didn't trust Storm - because he did, and she was probably the only person in the world that he did trust - but if he thought that the Professor was creepy, then Magneto was downright terrifying.
(Also, he had a smoking hot shapeshifter second-in-command, who apparently walked around naked. He didn't know how this was important, but he was sure that it was.)
He decided to focus on the shapeshifter woman because he vastly preferred the view, and Magneto worried and confused him in many ways. His name was vaguely German - or maybe Polish - but his accent was English and his face was hard as nails and he knew Professor Xavier but didn't seem to like anything that he did know. More to the point, he knew Remy's father and had apparently called in a favor to get the Prince of Thieves up there to aid him.
Yes, he thought, if this went south, he would probably have to flee to Canada. Or maybe the Arctic. Or possibly the Antarctic. The problem was, it was now his job to ensure that Magneto's plans went south and Professor X's plans went right, which would undoubtedly leave him minus a large payoff and deep in the Guild's bad books.
But - the upshot of it all was, he would be able to fully control his powers, and that was a big upshot. Keeping everything under control was starting to be a real strain; explosions were bigger than he meant them, he got shocked by damn static electricity every time he touched anything metal, and he had a weird other sense that constantly taunted him, almost on the verge of his peripheral vision - every now and then, and getting more often all the time, he would see a flicker, which he was starting to think were energy fields. It was beginning to seriously worry him, and if this professor could really get it all under control, preferably without just taking it all away, then he figured it was worth the risk.
To get there, he just had to pull off the biggest con of his life, with the most dangerous man he'd ever met, with the highest possible stakes. He hid a smile; this would definitely be one hell of a challenge, and he loved challenges.
"Remy LeBeau," Magneto said, smiling congenially, "I trust the trip wasn't too difficult?"
He shrugged. "It was nothing," he lied blatantly. It had been the most miserable two days of his life. "I'm happy to help an old friend of my father's."
(They were not, and had never been, anything like friends. If anything, Jean-Luc LeBeau hated Magneto more than he hated anyone else in the entire world, but both he and his father knew that keeping Magneto happy was Priority One, even above that stuff with the Assassin's Guild.)
"Good, good," Magneto said, gesturing for Remy to follow him. "I have a very specific job in mind for you."
"Oh?" he asked, a horrible feeling crawling into his gut. Please, he thought, I will do anything to have your next words not be -
"I want you to spy on our adversaries, the X-Men."