A/N I love it when a chapter basically writes itself. This is rated T.
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G is for Gambling
January was a busy month at the mansion. New classes were starting, holidays were winding down, and everyone was trying to get back in the swing of things. For some reason, the students had a particularly hard time settling into the New Year. All the hectic busy-ness made it hard for the teachers to have any time to breathe, so two weeks into the start of term, Storm let Jubilee organize a little movie night for the staff. And since it was Jubilee, there were bags of chips, candy, plenty of pop, and the movie had tons of Heath Ledger.
"A Knight's Tale, Jubilee? Again?" Kitty asked, settling into a soft chair.
"What? This movie is hilarious!"
"We know," Bobby said from his spot on the floor (which Jubilee had stacked with pillows). "It's just that you tend to watch it a lot."
"Yeah but not with all of you together," she answered with a smile.
Gambit and Rogue were the last to arrive along with a reluctant Logan who'd only come at Storm's insistence. Gambit settled down on to the couch while Rogue snagged them a bag of M&Ms. She sank into the pillows at Gambit's feet and leaned against his legs. Gambit ran his hand across her shoulders before settling back to watch the movie. It wasn't his usual type of movie but it wasn't bad, and Jubliee had been right, they all could use a break.
When they got to the part of the movie when Chaucer was naked after his losing his clothes due to his gambling problem, all eyes turned to Gambit.
"Have we found a distant relative of yours?" Jubilee asked.
"Hey, I've never gambled away my clothes," he said, putting his hands up in mock surrender.
"Plus," Rogue said, leaning back to look at him, "he looks much better naked."
There was a growl from Logan. Storm put a placating hand on his arm. Jubilee waggled her eyebrows and said, "I bet."
"So what is the most you've lost?" Kitty asked.
"Obscene amounts of money. A few hits."
"Oui, mon frère Henri and I used to wager chores and slaps when we were kids and didn't have any money. Whoever won got to slap the loser. Those were some hard losses, not that they happened often," Gambit said. More laughter.
They got back into the movie for a few hours until the redheaded character, Wat, started yelling at Chaucer, "I'm going to lose everything!"
"That's why it's called gambling," the cheeky Chaucer answered before getting tackled by the other man.
Eyes turned to Gambit again, who shook his head dramatically. "Those amateurs," he said with a sigh.
"How so?" Kitty asked.
"Simple, chaton," Gambit said. "You never bet gamble with more than you're willing to lose."
"Hm, makes sense."
The movie wrapped up, the guy got the girl, history was poked fun at, and even Logan felt a little more relaxed after a night of no responsibility.
Gambit stretched and grabbed Rogue's hand, pulling her to her feet. She leaned in and kissed him lightly, smiling against his lips. "We staying in your room tonight or mine, sugar?" she asked.
He ran his hands down her back, linking them around her waist. "Wherever you want, chère."
They ended up in Gambit's room, undressing and crawling into bed. After making her moan his name several times, they slipped into sleep.
Gambit's point that night did make sense. Once Rogue thought about it, she'd never seen Gambit too upset about losing any kind of bet. He gambled, often, and he was ridiculously good at it. She knew it was because of how easily he read people, automatically noticing their little ticks and habits. A good thief needed to know as much about their client and target as possible. And she'd seen him make some outlandish bets. A priceless rare painting, cars, motorcycles, a plane, Super Bowl tickets (why he had them, she didn't know, probably another poker game), and once even the phone number of a supermodel. No matter what the game, poker, pool, even random bets (he'd once started a betting pool around who would win on American Idol. Rogue told him she'd only lost a little bit of respect for him), she rarely saw him lose. When he did, even when he lost the Super Bowl tickets, it was always with a shrug and a smile, asking when the next hand would be dealt.
He'd told her that everyone has a tell. Everyone. Some are better at hiding it than others, but it's there. It can take awhile to find, and that's where the danger lies. He wouldn't tell her what hers was until she guessed. She started throwing in random actions to confuse him during games, which he found adorable. It managed to throw off the mansion's other residents though.
At first, she was worried he had no boundaries. A few months into their relationship, he took her to his favorite casino in Vegas, decked out in black tie and her in an obscenely expensive dress at his back at an exclusive game. She very much felt like she was living in Casino Royale. The first hand was slow, everyone getting a feel for their opponents' playing styles, then they started getting a little more aggressive. Finally, Gambit cavalierly dropped a $700,000 bet, causing Rogue's hands to twitch around her drink. He was leaning back in his chair, two legs off the ground, like a schoolboy taunting a teacher. He didn't even bat an eye when the man across from him raised the bet to $1,000,000. When Gambit won, Rogue felt the adrenaline that had been seizing her heart for the past five minutes release with a whomp to her gut. Gambit merely added the winnings to his pile with a small smile.
"You're insane," she told him as he cashed out.
"Oui, possibly," he said, giving her a kiss. "But it makes life more interesting, no?"
"You could have lost a million-"
"I don't care," he said, cutting her off.
"You don't," she said, doubtfully.
"Nope." He thanked the casino worker and arranged his winnings. "That's not why I play. I mean, the money helps, but it's not the draw." He wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her into a secluded corner of the casino among the live trees lining the marble walkway.
"Oh? And what is then?" she asked, sidling her body into his.
"The adrenaline," he said, running his hands up from her waist to where her back was exposed thanks to the dress. He ran his fingers up her spine until they wrapped in the hair at the base of her neck. He leaned in and she could feel his breath on her ear as he said, "It's the danger. The edge of not knowing. Of being caught," his fingers dipped to her side, edging at the fabric covering her breast, "in a bluff." And the hand was gone, back on her shoulder. Her heart was beating fast against his chest. "The competition, the skill, getting one up on the other. Showing what a better hand I have, what I can get-" His arm wrapped around her possessively. "-that they can't"
"Oh?" Rogue managed to say, though they both heard the breathiness in her voice. "So the money is just a bonus, hm?" She nudged her nose against his jaw, mouth tantalizingly close to that spot on his neck she knew he loved so much.
"Something like that." She shivered at the way his voice rumbled through her and his hand gripped tighter against her skin. His head dipped lower, his lips touching her skin when he spoke. "As soon I get you up to our room, I'll be ripping that dress off of you. At least with the cash, I can replace it. And whatever you're wearing under it."
Rogue breathed out a little gasp and throatily answered, "And if I'm wearing nothing under it?"
Gambit grabbed her hand and half dragged her to the elevator. It was a miracle they even made it back to their suite. Rogue stopped worrying about his motivations in gambling after that.
A few weeks after Jubilee's movie night, the school had settled down into a routine. Classes were in full swing. Gambit and Rogue were resuming teaching, Rogue had a few self defense classes and was assisting Logan in auto shop while Gambit taught French. He was irritated at having to actually follow lesson plans, but Storm insisted the students learn standard French taught in curriculum, not his slang-ridden New Orleans dialect. Because of this, and Rogue amping up her combat class, they both needed extra time to plan. They ended up awake late into the weekends, holed up in Gambit's room with lesson plans and notebooks. They were taking a rare break on a Saturday night by sitting in the kitchen and digging into a stash of cookie dough when Storm ran in, her normally calm demeanor cracking around the edges. Gambit took in her wide eyes and clenched hands and immediately jumped off the counter.
"What is it?"
"There's been an attack a mutant support group at Trinity Community Church," she said. "A series of stabbings. One fatality so far, the attacker escaped into the sewer system with a hostage."
Gambit's jaw ground a little tighter at the mention of mutants in the sewers, hoping Rogue didn't notice. Damn he wished he hadn't taught her to be observant of tells.
"Do the police know?" Rogue asked.
Storm shook her tousled hair. "We were contacted by the group directly. They know there was a stabbing but not the abduction."
"They were afraid the cops might not use…discretion in tracking the suspect, putting the mutant in the line of fire," Storm said quickly. "I'll explain more as we go, come on." She ushered them out of the kitchen and through the halls until they arrived at the garage where Jubilee was waiting in one of the school Jeeps.
"Is it just us?" Rogue asked as she and Gambit climbed into the back.
"Yes," Storm answered shortly. She started the Jeep and hit the gas, zooming out of the garage. "Logan is on another soul-searching weekend in the mountains, Kitty is sick, Hank's at a conference, and who knows where Bobby goes."
Rogue and Gambit shared a brief look at her tone. They knew Storm was having trouble with the staffing but they'd never seen quite how much of a problem it was. They'd blamed the recent grey skies on usual February weather. Rogue made a mental note to talk to Logan about, as Storm put it, his soul-searching hikes.
"When's Pete coming back from Russia?" Jubliee asked.
"Yesterday supposedly," Storm said, taking a corner so fast that Gambit's head almost went through his window. Jubilee wisely kept her mouth shut after that, for what Rogue could only assume was the first time. Storm pulled over near a sewer access port about a mile from where the cops were gathered with the ambulances and survivors. She paired up with Jubilee and sent Rogue and Gambit in the opposite direction, hoping one of the groups would catch the kidnapper.
It was hard to make little nose in such a wet environment but somehow Gambit managed. Rogue felt a bit like a child stumbling through the dark, but she did her best to follow Gambit, relying on his excellent night vision. From behind him, she could see the tension in his shoulders that had been riding him since Storm mentioned the sewers. He tried to play it off, but as smooth as the Cajun was, she just knew him too well. She thought about bringing it up later, but knew with him, sometimes it was best to let him come to her.
A half hour into their search, Gambit threw a hand back, signaling her to stop. She strained her ears, trying to hear what he did and sure enough, a slight ringing of voices. Rogue had no idea where they were coming from, the stone pipes created such a huge echo, but Gambit pointed left and so they crept on. Rogue tapped her communicator and whispered the junction where they were to Storm.
The farther they went, the louder the voices became until Gambit was sure they were around the next corner. There was the sound of loud, choking sobs and another voice yelling over them "-think I wouldn't notice? That I would find you? Pathetic piece of-"
Rogue and Gambit frowned at each other, both thinking the same thing; this didn't sound at all like the random kidnapping Storm's contact had reported. The splash of footsteps drew farther away but the sobbing continued. Gambit warily peeked around the corner to see a huge junction with pipes going in every direction and a huge area for sewer workers. No one was in sight but an alien-eyed looking woman covered in filth and tied up in a corner. Gambit signaled Rogue and the slipped into the room, Gambit heading for the mutant and Rogue making sure no one was coming up any of the pipes. The mutant scrambled away in fear as soon as Gambit came into view.
"Whoa whoa there, petite. I'm not gonna hurt you. My name's Gambit, what's yours?" A disturbing feeling of déjà vu flooded him, but he pushed it aside.
"Maria," she whispered, eyes still darting around.
"Okay Maria, it's nice to meet you. Did he say where he was going?" Maria violently shook her head, short black hair swinging around her pixie-like face. "Okay, well let's get going before he gets back okay? We'll get you some place safe." She gasped when Gambit gave her ropes a light charge, gently breaking the bonds. He helped her to her feet and asked, "Who is he? Do you know?"
"I'm her boyfriend," came the cruel voice Gambit had heard earlier. Gambit pushed Maria behind him and spun to face the man. He was huge, easily as large as Sabertooth with muscles bulging in ungodly places. If he didn't have mutated super strength, Gambit would eat his deck of cards. A shadow moved behind him and Gambit fought to keep his eyes on the huge mutant, not on Rogue sneaking up behind him. Thanks to a touch from Gambit earlier, she was now equipped with his abilities. She had nothing in her pocket but her cell phone and with only slight irritation, she charged it and sent it into the man's head.
The instant the magenta flash lit up the room and the huge man roared in pain, Gambit was moving. He pulled the shocked Maria to the sewer tunnel he and Rogue had emerged from and sent her down it, promising she would meet two women on the way. There were grunts and sounds of a fight from behind him and when he turned around, the man had Rogue pinned by her neck to the stone wall. Rogue was gasping slightly, but the man wasn't squeezing hard enough to kill. Not yet.
Gambit had a charged card in his hand already, heading towards the man who shook his head. "Nuh uh. One step more and your girlfriend loses a windpipe."
Gambit glared, weighing his options. He could hit him from this distance, he knew he could. Perfectly too, but there was still the slight chance he could singe Rogue. And he hadn't seen the man move, what if strength wasn't all? What if he could crush Rogue's throat before Gambit's card hit him? The man shook Rogue by the throat for emphasis and Rogue let out a strangled gasp when her feet left the floor. Gambit growled and decharged the card, letting it flutter to the floor at his feet.
The tower of a man nodded and jerked Rogue in front of him like a human shield and backed toward a pipe opening. Gambit helplessly watched as Rogue scrambled for anything to charge at all, but besides her clothes, she had nothing. "I'm going to go, and take this little one along as security. You take my lady, I take yours." Gambit took a step forward. "Nuh uh! I even think you're following me, I snap this neck."
Gambit's hand itched to be on his bo staff, so close at his hip but unable to be grabbed. It was pure, blind luck that the huge man had no sense of his surroundings. He stumbled a bit at the lip of the pipe behind him and for a half second loosened his grip on Rogue's throat. She took advantage of this small distraction, whirling out of his hand and landing a vicious blow to his throat, then sternum, then kicked out his knee cap. He collapsed, writhing in agony until Gambit ran up and whacked him on the head with his bo staff, knocking the man out.
Storm and Jubilee helped the frightened Maria out of the sewers, giving her the address of a mutant shelter, while Gambit and Rogue bound the unconscious mutant to a pipe. After they cleared out, they left an anonymous tip to the police that they could find the assailant there. Later on the news, the police department was given great accolades for finding the dangerous murderer in a local mutant stabbing.
Gambit held Rogue a little tighter that night, clutching the woman he almost had to live without closer to his chest. He breathed her in like she was air, wrapping himself in the sweet pomegranate smell of her shampoo mixed with the natural scent of her that to him made up the most intoxicating perfume he'd ever encountered. Rogue drew small patterns on his skin, ghosting her fingertips across his chest.
"Can I ask you something?" she asked, turning her head up to meet his eyes.
He kissed her forehead before answering, "Of course mon amour, anything."
"I thought you had a shot at him in sewers, before you dropped the card," she said, running her hand along his jaw line.
"I did," Gambit agreed. "It was close though. I wasn't sure if I could get it and not hit you."
"I know, I'm not upset or anything," Rogue said, kissing his jaw for emphasis. "I'm just curious…why didn't you take it? You've hit smaller things more times than I can count."
Gambit hummed, eyes furrowed, searching for the right words for his answer. He ran his hands up Rogue's back before cupping her face, staring at her. "That would mean risking you," he finally said. "Something I can't do."
Rogue smiled under the feel of his touch. He leaned in lips brushing hers before speaking again.
"I have a rule chère. I never gamble more than I'm willing to lose."
A/N Thanks again reviewers, fannut (glad I could make you laugh!), HermioneSakuraGardner07, massi14, Gidgeygirl (sorry to hear about the burn!), AnnaWalker.92, and Mia!
Some of you asked if I was still in need of letter suggestions. Hit me with them! I have some planned out with things I really want to do but I'm open to ideas and suggestions, especially if there's something any of you really want to see.