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Sinister Intent: Chapter Four

Mac O'Roni

     In the six years since Gambit left home in the disgrace of banishment, he’d had the opportunity to speak to and meet with his adoptive father, Jean-Luc LeBeau, a handful of times—never under easy circumstances, always on unofficial guild business. These meetings were cool and formal and utterly professional, with never a word or expression of any paternal forgiveness or affection. Nor was there any expression of culpability, but in Remy’s hurt and betrayed psyche it was there all the same.
     In those six years, the guild patriarch had changed not at all from the tall, broad-shouldered, dark and broodingly handsome man Remy remembered from his childhood. This was not at all surprising, however, as Jean-Luc LeBeau had not aged overmuch in sixty years or better—one of the advantages of having an immortal for a benefactress, even if Candra had renounced the thieves of New Orleans. They had Remy to thank for that, he knew. He’d managed to piss her off, and royally, and it just went to prove what they said about a woman scorned. It hadn’t been at all hard to do, really, but he was something of an expert at pissing people off. It seemed to him he’d spent the bulk of his life angering one person or another. If it wasn’t Candra it was Rogue, or Cyclops, or Sinister, or Professor X, or pretty much anyone he ever met. In spite of appearances, it wasn’t usually intentional.
     Remy stood up respectfully as his father approached the table. “Good t’see you, M’sieu,” he said.
     Manners compelled him to offer his father a handshake. He did not expect reciprocation. Therefore, the fierce hug he received in exchange came as a surprise.
     “My boy,” Jean-Luc said, releasing him. He held his son at arm’s length and cast an eye over him. “You look good. Li’l pale, d’ough. You feelin’ okay?”
     “Oui, M’sieu. I jus’ spen’ t’ree weeks in a mad scientist’s lab but I okay.”
     Jean-Luc arched a questioning brow. “Dat somet’in I should know more about?”
     “It a long story, M’sieu.”
     “I got time,” Jean-Luc said, seating himself across the table from his son. “If you ain’ in no hurry t’get rid a’ me, dat is.”
     Remy sat down. “Well, it started jus’ after I lef’ home,” he began. “You knew how I’se havin’ trouble keepin’ ma power under control, an’—”
     “Wait,” Jean-Luc said, and reached across the table with both hands. He lifted Remy’s sunglasses carefully from his face and folded the bows. He set them down on the table in front of his son and smiled. “Like t’see a man’s eyes when he talkin’ t’me.”
     Remy blinked a few times, as much in surprise as in the sudden painful change in light, even though the restaurant’s interior was quite dark. Jean-Luc had never had any problems talking with a man wearing sunglasses before. Uncertain, he started over.
     Jean-Luc listened without comment as Remy laid out the facts, leaving nothing out. How he had been referred to Sinister when he wanted to bring his rogue powers under greater control, and the payment the doctor had demanded of him in return, from the theft of expensive new medical equipment to the organization, Pied Piper-style, of the Marauders and the subsequent massacre of innocents in the Morlock tunnels far below the streets and subways of New York City. He told of Sinister’s initial interest in his unusual physiology, the experimental procedures he’d forced him to undergo and the early unsuccessful attempts to bring his mind fully under Sinister’s command. He told of how the many frustrations Sinister encountered led him to abandon further trials, and how he’d been deemed expendable when he betrayed Sinister in the tunnels. Told of how Sabretooth had hunted him down in the twisting, endless labyrinth of damp stonemasonry, the sound of his eager, bloodthirsty breath on the back of his neck, and the claws that spun him and tore him open from sternum to pelvis. How he’d been left for dead there in the stale, fetid depths, and how he’d quite believed himself dead as well. And he told of Sinister’s recently renewed interest, and his successes.
     By the time Remy wrapped it up the meal was long finished and Jean-Luc was nursing his fifth cup of strong black chicory.
     “So y’see M’sieu, Sinister le’me go ‘cause I too hard t’control an’ it more fun f’him dis way. When he get somet’in else cooked up he wan’ try out on me, he jus’ gon’ come an’ get me. He had me in his comman’ f’t’ree whole weeks dis time. Nex’ time, he migh’ jus’ have me f’ever.”
     Jean-Luc sat silent for a few moments after this narrative ended. His dark eyes and the set of his stern mouth were utterly unreadable. But the hand holding the coffee cup clenched suddenly, inexorably, and the delicate porcelain cracked and fell to the checked tablecloth in a splatter of coffee gone as thick as tar and three pieces of china.
     “Sapriste,” he said at last, low and decidedly without emotion. “So dis Sinister been messin’ in yo’ head.”
     Remy’s eyes flicked back to his father’s face from their contemplation of the broken cup. “Oui, M’sieu.”
     “An’ ‘side from makin’ you int’ a loupe garou an’ a telepat’, you don’ know what all he done wit’ all his ‘sperimentin.”
     Remy shook his head.
     “Well, you jus' better fin’ out, boy.”
     “De p’fessa, he wan’ Gambit t’come back t’de mansion an’ let Doc McCoy mess aroun’ ‘til he fin’ out jus’ what Sinister done t’me. I ‘spose I oughta let ‘im do it, but d’t’ought a’ goin’ t’rough all dat testin’ jus’ gi’me d’freesons.” He shuddered at the prospect. Association with Sinister had given him an entirely justifiable fear of medical procedures.
     “Be easier jus’ t’get it over wit’,” Jean-Luc observed.
     “Dat what I afraid of. What if it ain’ never over wit’?”
     “Dis McCoy,” Jean-Luc said musingly, “he be de one you call d’ ‘Beas’,’ right?”
     “He yo’ frien’, ain’ ‘e?”
     “Guess so. Much as any of ‘em is, any way.”
     “You t’ink he gon’ do anyt’ing t’you dat’s gonna hurt ya?”
     Remy dropped his head and laughed. “Don’ know, Papa. I really don’. He a good fella, none better, but when he get t’workin’ on somet’in in’erestin, he turn int’ a whole ‘nother person. Not bad, but real p’fessional, y’know? De kin’ a’ doctor who jus’ might start t’inkin a’ someone as a ‘speriment ‘stead of a frien’.”
     “You t’ink he be as bad as dis Sinister fella?”
     “Non, M’sieu. Never dat bad. But ‘sept for his sunny disposition…yeh, he could act jus’ about d’same, I’m t’inkin.”
     Jean-Luc grunted. “Well den, what? You know someone else you trus’ t’fin’ out what been goin’ on in yo’ head behin’ yo’ back?”
     He looked away, his hands restlessly fiddling with his sunglasses. “Non, M’sieu.”
     “Den you jus’ gonna hafta pick d’one you trus’ mos’. ‘Less you wan’ let Sinister mess aroun’ some mo’.”
     “Yah, I reckon you right, M’sieu. Guess Beast is d’bes’ choice. An’ de mansion be de safes’ place, too; Chuckles was right about dat. An’ I can see f’m’self how my Stormy be doin’.”
     Jean-Luc smiled. “When you gon’ wake up an’ marry dat girl?” he asked.
     Momentarily stunned, Remy gaped. Then he groaned. “Papa, we jus’ frien’s. ‘Sides, I t’ought you was still hopin’ me an’ Bel’d get back t’gether.”
     “I fig’ed, since she seem pretty well bent on killin’ yo’ ass now, maybe dat ship done lef’ d’harbor. An’ you seven dif’ren kin’a fool f’chasin dat Rogue when you got a lady like Storm. T’ink about it, boy—she gorgeous, she smart as hell, she classy as dey come…an’ she a t’ief.”
     “Former t’ief, Papa. An’ maybe if she wa’nt s’in’rested in makin’ Gambit ‘er brot’er, I maybe t’ink about it s’more.”
     Jean-Luc waved these minor details aside. “You know all dey is t’know ‘bout card games, boy, but you sure dense ‘bout women. An’ here I t’ought dat reputation you got wit’ de ladies was deserved. I seen dat girl, she jus’ about ready t’shove her tongue so far down your t’roat you won’ never fin’ it again.”
     Jean-Luc sat back and crossed his arms over his chest. “Quoi? You got tender sensibilities all’uva sudden?”
     Gambit felt the hot flush of embarrassment on his cheeks and prayed that it didn’t show as an actual reddening. “Dat’s jus’ a li’l bit more of a vis’al dan I care t’ink about.”
     So was his father’s knowing grin, for that matter. “Ain’ not’in wrong wit’ lookin’, boy. Sometime you fin’ somet’in wort’ lookin’ for.”
     “M’sieu, I don’ t’ink I quite cut out f’dis whole wedded bliss bid’ness anyway,” he said. “Look how long me an’ Bel lasted, hein? Hardly made it t’rough de ceremony.”
     “Dat were Julien’s fault,” Jean-Luc pointed out. “You an’ Bella Donna was made for each ot’er. Weren’t for dat salope Candra, she still be lovin’ you.”
     “An’ dat anot’er example,” Remy plowed on. “Yo’ boy Remy din’ ‘xactly have d’bes’ of luck wit’ dat lady, neit’er. ‘Course, I din’ want to, but a more politic solution coulda been helpful…”
     Jean-Luc shrugged. “Candra been ‘live too damn long. Woman like dat, she jus’ gotta be bored outta her min’. She play wit’ de guilds ‘cause it keep her occupied but it can’ las’ forever. Playin’ wit’ you be her lates’ hobby. She can’ have ya like she wan’, it be jus’ as entertainin’ t’try an’ kill ya. She crazy.”
     “Yah, well dat crazy lady done cut off d’whole damn guild ‘cause a’me.”
     “Mebbe, mebbe not. She can’ make all her ‘musemen’s las’ f’ever, so she migh’ jus’ get in’rested in d’guild again someday. An’ if she don’, so what? So we don’ live two hun’red years apiece anymore. We can handle it.”
     “Candra done a lot more f’us dan jus’ makin’ us live halfway t’forever,” Remy said gloomily. “An’ she still got d’Assassins Guild in ‘er back pocket. She take a min’ to, she set de whole damn guild ‘gainst us. What you gon’ do when you got six hun’red ‘ssassins knockin’ at d’door?”
     “I won’ answer it,” Jean-Luc said, smiling grimly. “We’ll survive, Remy. We always do. T’ieves is like ‘skeeters. You can squish a t’ousan’ of us an’ you won’ never make s’much as a dent.”
     “Dat’ll be a great comfort t’me when I’m buryin’ you an’ Tante Mattie an’ Mercy an’ all de ot’er t’ieves I grew up wit’.”
     “It ain’ gon’ happen, but if it do, den you gon’ be in charge, boy. You won’ have no trouble fillin’ d’vacancies, neit’er.”
     “M’sieu, I don’ wanna be in charge. Dat was ‘spose t’be Henri’s job, not mine. I never wan’ed t’be yo’ heir.”
     “Well Henri’s dead,” Jean-Luc said flatly. “So you don’ have a whole lotta choice.”
     Remy hung his head, ashamed at having thoughtlessly allowed his big mouth to run away with his brains. That particular wound was still fresh—his older brother had been dead just over a year. “’M sorry, M’sieu.”
     “’Sokay. ‘Sides, you might not have t’worry ‘bout it none. If dey’s still a guild council when I’m gone, dey gon’ have d’decidin’ vote on wet’er or not you gonna succeed me. An’ you ain’ none too pop’lar wit’ d’oze ol’ boys jus’ now.”
     “Not real pop’lar wit’ anyone.”
     Jean-Luc’s hand was heavy on his shoulder. “You got a way a’ makin’ enemies, boy,” he said. “But you a good man. It jus’ take a while t’see t’rough all d’wise cracks an’ smart mouth.”
     He riffled Remy’s hair fondly and stood up. “Well, I reckon I oughta get back home. Dem idiots I lef’ in charge prob’ly done screwed up enough in one day t’take me ten years t’set right again. Nice treat t’get home an’ fin’ half de guild been ‘rested, non? Could happen, dumb as dem councilmen is.”
     Remy stood as well. “It really have been nice seein’ you again, M’sieu,” he said. “Merci.”
     Jean-Luc accepted his offered hand and clapped him on the shoulder. “Good t’see you, too, boy. I tell Mattie you lookin’ like you eatin’ good, even d’ough you don’, but you know how she worry ‘bout you. She’d a’ come wit’ me, but you know how hard it is gettin’ her out d’Big Easy. Like pullin’ a sleepin’ alligator’s tooth—it be a damn dangerous proposition.”
     Remy grinned. “Dat woman set one foot outside d’Quarter she start gettin’ homesick.”
     “Jus’ about right, boy. Jus’ about right.”
     “Tell ‘er I’m t’inkin ‘bout ‘er, an’ tell ‘er I promise t’try an’ take better care a’myself. Hard t’get ‘long sometime, wit’out any dat good cookin’ a’ hers,” he said, and winked.
     “I do dat. You be all right, son. Jus’ ‘member d’fam’ly motto an’ you never go wrong. You do remember it, don’ you?”
     Remy’s grin widened. “Sure do, Papa. ‘Lassez bon temps roulèr!'”

On to Chapter Five!