Disclaimer: Characters belong to
Marvel, Donald Trump, DeBeers and other mentioned real life
entities belong to whoever it is they belong to. Some innuendo
ahead. This story follows the continuity of and falls in between
"And the Wal's Came Tumblin' Down"
and "Happiness (is in the eye of
the beholder)" but it can be read independently.
"C'mon, chere, just a little bit more..."
"Can ya feel it?"
"Don't rush me. Oh, oh, oh God! Yes! Almost!"
"Higher ... higher. Almost."
"Oooooh! Slow down ... Ah'm so clooose!"
It is a moonless night at the Trump/Concord. The Donald's
newest venture is a 23-story luxury hotel on the edge of the
Borscht Belt, prime to soak up all that metropolitan money.
Excess is the norm and decadence oozes from gilded walls.
Among the rolling Catskill Mountains, Manhattan's wealthiest
business people hold corporate retreats and sneak away for
fun in the country with their mistresses (or boyfriends, depending
on which closets you look in).
On the ninth floor, a weary group of merging executives return
to their rooms after 36 grueling rounds on the Monster golf
course and 6 hours of drinks and stories at The 19th Hole.
The briefcase full of bearer bonds in the suite safe is just
that. They can't even hear a whisper of the revelry on the
eleventh floor, where the DeBeers diamond company is celebrating
the U.S. launch of its new design line with wild abandon.
Even at 3 am there are four armed guards and Hakaishu Sercuity
technology protecting all $31.2 million worth of product.
If any of them knew there was an unrepentant thief and a
semi-reformed terrorist on the tenth floor, panic would ensue.
But forty miles from their idyllic Westchester residence,
neither Gambit nor Rogue is particularly interested in a forest
of bearer bonds or an avalanche of diamonds.
In fact, at this moment, they are interested in little but
each other. They are fully occupied by the heat of body against
body. Their bodies intertwine, bathed in the purest dark imaginable.
It runs over them in sensuous rivulets, pooling where soft
curves meet hard muscle. Secluding them from their daytime
heroics and their nighttime self-doubts, darkness urges them
to complete the clandestine acts that have brought them here
tonight. Gambit's arms stretch above his head, holding on
for all he's worth, as Rogue slides slowly up his body.
It is as if the whole world has faded away, leaving them
wrapped in a tight, hot haven. They writhe against each other
with urgency, knowing the private moments can't last, that
discovery is always just around the bend. Face to face, they
pant small encouragements, losing their grips on reality and
grasping the moment like it will never end.
They are partners, united in the shared fervor to bring just
one iota more of satisfaction into their short, feverish lives.
They pause, as if to catch their breath, and begin their dance
anew, struggling to make the moment last as long as the world
Even in the security and anonymity they have garnered for
themselves, every moment has to come to its inevitable conclusion.
Straining against every impulse in his body, Remy manages
to maintain a tenuous sense of self-control. Sweat streams
over his face to his chin, dripping onto to Rogue's reddened
cheeks. Every muscle seems to quiver, taunt against letting
go but it is a losing battle. "Chere ... I can' hold on much
longaaah." His whispered words end in the groan of a man on
He barely hears her reply. "Wait for me. Ah'm almost theah."
Rogue twists her body against him, arching her back and any
other part of her still willing to move. It is like she is
crawling toward a freedom she has never known before, moving
so slowly, yet moving toward her goal. Grunting, she prepares
her legs for a final thrust, anything to get her where she
is so desperately heading.
With an urgent exhalation, "I can'!" Remy's eyes shut tight
with the hopes of mining one last shred of energy.
"Ah'm there. Oh Gawd. Yes!" she breathes, feeling an almost
unimaginable pleasure shivering up her spine.
Remy's groans, a near silent rumble in his throat as he finally
They lie silently, trembling with the enormity of the moment
they have just ended. Rogue smiles in the silence, mentally
patting herself on the back for finally doing something she
could have done a long time ago. All the barriers she has
created to protect herself have only held her down. She feels
like a butterfly emerging from a steel chrysalis. At last,
she is on the other side, and the air does taste differently.
Self-satisfaction shudders through her.
Remy is not nearly so enthralled himself, although he can't
help a small amount of pleasure at what this means for her.
The look of triumph on her face fills him with a momentary
joy. When he thinks about the hurdles she has jumped, the
demons she has faced to lie beside him, his chest swells at
This too must pass, as choked breathes explode from his chest.
As soon as they start, Remy remembers how to breathe barely
seconds before his situation becomes critical. He sits up
slowly, silently, unsure of the ceiling height above them.
As he rubs feeling back into his strained arm muscles through
the black leather sleeves of his uniform, he turns to Rogue.
"Next time I tell you to pack climbing gear, maybe you listen
to me, huh?"
Grimacing, Rogue rolls over to peer down the narrow aluminum
passage. "How was Ah supposed ta know it would get too narrow
for flyin'. Momma never taught me nuthin' about scaling ventilation
shafts." In retrospect, she is amazed they found any room
to maneuver--she has seen coffins that were less claustrophobic.
Not that she minds the intimacy it has created between them.
She wonders how long it will last.
"Yeah, well, I ain't ya Mama." He grins wryly, not knowing
how much like her mother it makes him seem.
Exactly according to schedule, the huge ventilation fans
begin their roar once again. The thief and the terrorist pull
their ski masks into place and return to the business at hand.
Whispering to be heard under the mechanical cacophony, Remy
orders, "See if dem t'ings are salvageable. Dey aren't meant
to support dat much weight." He smirks, playfully swatting
her thigh with his gloved hand. Through long practice, he
ducks her answering blow without missing a beat and starts
preparing their gear for the next step.
She lifts the heavy steel grate with far more ease than he
did and removes the suction activated hand-holds. The handles
are bent and scratched from Remy's boots, but still operable.
Stowing them in her back pack, she closes the grate and creeps
towards her partner.
The low ceiling of the maintenance passageway forces them
to crouch. Shuffling along single file, they quickly come
to a small hatch in the floor. According the blueprints from
the construction companies advertising packet, it is the only
entrance onto the floor from the complex system of custodial
access tunnels. Rogue can feel the pressure mount again, her
head sweating under her ski-mask. This is the truly difficult
part of their excursion. Scarcely wide enough for a Teamster,
the hatch is the focus of the entire tenth floor security
system. Just to make things interesting, all the pertinent
wiring is on the other side of the door.
Gambit holds a V.O.M. out to her and settles back on his
haunches to watch. As he has gone over with her in their exhaustive
training sessions, Rogue sweeps the instrument around the
perimeter of the door. The voltage-ohm meter has been altered
significantly, making it sensitive to the currents flowing
in wires, even through metal and insulation. Ironically, for
all the time he put into suping it up, Gambit himself can't
use it. His kinetic powers negate whatever yield the meter
might otherwise have. He keeps his distance and waits for
her to do her job.
The dial spikes twice, to the left and right of where the
handle should be. After completing a thorough sweep, Rogue
springs into place, pouncing on the area with enthusiasm that
surprises even herself. Taking his position behind her, Gambit
proffers another piece of equipment, holding out his left
hand to accept the meter. She fumbles the backward pass but
his experienced hands salvage the transition. They aren't
quite a fine-oiled machine yet, but they press on.
Rogue stares at the tool in her hands. It looks remarkably
like a battery powered ... something. Between her eager excitement
and embarrassed edginess, she draws a complete blank. Racking
her brain, she glares at the floor, half hoping for a voice
There is voice out of nowhere. "You do know how to use a
She jerks her eyes upward, which of course sends her head
back and into Gambit's face. She turns, expecting him to moan
and berate. It's what Pyro or Avalanche would have done. Instead,
she finds him rutting through his pack, apparently ignoring
to his bloody mouth and split lip. She watches, forcibly keeping
her mothering instincts at bay, as he dabs the cut with alcohol
soaked-gauze. Suddenly, the calm and purpose in his actions
clicks with something she learned with the Brotherhood.
Getting another alcohol dressing from their provisional first-aid
kit, she wipes the floor, effectively destroying pesky DNA
evidence. Gambit nods at her, the appreciation in his eyes
a powerful forgiveness. Rogue smiles. In Screw-Ups vs. Do-Rights,
the score (she is sure he is keeping score) is 4-2, but for
some reason she seems to be winning anyway.
This latest crisis passed, they return to their work. Affixing
a blade from the holder in the handle, she turns the saw on.
It's high-pitched whine is so loud she immediately shuts it
off and turns, slowly, to her "supervisor."
Checking his watch impatiently, he indicates she should continue.
He is not overly concerned about the noise, seeing the building
is keeping up quite a racket on its own. "Just be careful
not to bust through the sound proofing on de ot'er side."
They don't have any more time for delays. This may be the
Home Depot School of Thief/Terrorist Basic Training, but that
doesn't mean he has to lower his standards. If she doesn't
get the door open before the fans are scheduled to shut down,
he will make her wait through the entire 9 minute cycle before
trying again. If she figures out that the sound proofing eliminates
the need to use the fans to mask the noise, he will have to
find something else that qualifies as work but lets him sit
behind her while she bends over.
He has drilled her about how dangerous it is to let your
mind wander when on the job. Recalling the way she rolled
her eyes, he is sure Mystique was as ... creative at teaching
self discipline as Jean-Luc. Of course, he's never had this
much temptation to daydream. Even when he was working with
Zoe or Sek, that disquieting "You're probably -- make that
definitely -- going to die any second now," feeling kept him
on his toes. Not to mention the nagging quality of "You're
supposed to be in love with someone else, remember!!" However,
the Mengos are in Latveria, the job is a cake-walk and the
someone else is right here -- even if the love thing isn't
-- so it takes every scrap self-control just to stay on task.
Before he can drift any farther, she hands back the saw,
moving to the side of the passage to display a clean, narrow
channel in the metal and foam. Gambit slides in, his tools
slipping into the crevice she has opened for him. He dives
right in with his cutters, prepared to work from memory. Just
before making the first snip, he swings his tiny flashlight
around the area. Sucking in a sharp breath, he starts counting
the wires. Instead of the standard wiring associated with
a PyungTek key pad, there are upwards of forty separate intertwined
pairs. Rather than the standard red/blue/yellow/green, they
are each different shades of gray, most of which even Sherwin
Williams would have trouble identifying.
Crouching motionless, Gambit lets his mind work over this
new wrinkle. Ninety percent of those wires are accessory,
serving no real purpose except confusion. He mentally chastises
himself for getting lazy. This is something he should have
checked on long before starting this job. Cursing the Donald,
he begins tracing the wires from the keypad to the door lock
to the alarm, searching for the ones he needs.
As much as she would like to watch him work, Rogue must examine
the sketch of the hall below them. According to the layout,
which she helped Gambit make by watching the Trump/Concord
promotional video 12 times in a row, there should be security
cameras on both ends of the hall. Both cover the area they
are concerned with. Rogue removes two palm sized black squares
and a roll of electrical tape.
Flying low and tight, she is grateful Gambit has not imposed
his own reluctance to use his powers on the job upon her.
In fact, he hasn't imposed anything on her. She had been a
bit apprehensive about asking him for help to begin with.
They gave up their own bizarre version of Romeo and Juliet
a long time ago. They are seeing other people -- at least
she is -- but she is thankful for his patience with her. They
devote countless hours to planning jobs they never do or simulating
jobs they never plan. She takes their sessions seriously and
enjoys the playful friendship that has developed between them.
Smiling rueful at how much trouble she could get into for
ruminating when she should be working, Rogue finds the place
she has been looking for.
Directly above where the security camera should be, she locates
the correct panel and exposes its inner workings. At this
point, a cup of water could do the trick, but she couldn't
carry the bottle in her pack. Instead, she takes one of the
degauzers and depresses the button, securing it with several
circuits of electrical tape. By running the degauzer over
the camera she hopes to create enough static to obscure the
hallway. Taping it into place, she begins to worry about the
time constraints they must now operate under. The battery
won't last long, but it is the best solution she came up with
during the planning session.
Rogue begins to wonder at Gambit's delay as she darts back
to the hatch from setting the second degauzer. She has seen
him rip through security with more ease than if he had a key
to the door. To conceal her anxiety, she focuses on why she
is here in the first place. During the time they were both
leading the X-Men, she had tried to emulate the leadership
the team had always had, just adding her own flair. It took
Remy pointing it out for her to realize her own flair came
from her time as a terrorist. Even after relinquishing the
team once Cyclops returned, Rogue was plagued by the thought
that her former life would always haunt her. She eventually
decided that if she had to have to guilt she might as well
had the skills to go with it. With her powers finally under
control, it is finally time to test out her other aptitudes.
There are sparks from the alarm system just as the fans power
down. Gambit compliments himself on both his ability to memorize
alarm systems and his track record of making really good guesses.
He whispers a warning, "Get ready."
Rogue catches the spring loaded door as Gambit finally connects
the right wires. Holding it open to a sliver, she doesn't
even blink as he crawls under her to see what is in the hall.
Feeding a fiber optic sensor through the crack, he watches
the hallway through a small video display. Rogue's eyes narrow,
envious of his high-tech equipment. He won't let her play
with the high-dollar stuff until she proves herself with lower-end
Two men walk down the hall from the elevators, another, a
busboy, rolls a cart toward one of the rooms. The security
cameras are right where they should be and he thanks heaven
for small favors. If he was on his own, he would have at least
three different gadgets to handle the problem. He needs to
have faith in Rogue's skills -- that's the only way she'll
learn to trust them herself. He puts his tools where they
belong and slings his pack over his back
He signals clear, snaking down the hatch as soon as she lifts
it. He takes the ten foot drop rolling, creeping behind a
Queen Anne table. For the next thirty seconds they have to
rely on luck to avoid discovery by wandering guests. Rogue
alights beside him and holds out the floor plan they devised.
Quickly orienting themselves, they dash for the door of their
target. She had figured out how they were going to get past
the key-carded door, and without waking up the whole floor.
In seconds she has the wire hanger straightened and under
the door. Before they left the mansion, she wrapped duct tape
on the hook, making it solid enough to grip the handle without
sliding off. Hours of practice on her closet pays off and
there is enough strength in the tips of her fingers to pull
the hanger back, thus opening the door. Smoothly pushing it
open just enough for a human body, she follows him into the
Consulting a sketched layout of the three-room suite, Remy
estimates the position of their target. Daniel Brown is on
a business trip for GetTech.Com. According to his interview
with CNet, no matter where he is, he believes in "early to
bed, early to rise." In other words, he is supposed to be
asleep right now.
Unfortunately, Gambit's calculations don't take into account
Ducking behind the couch just as the room's occupant stumbles
out of the bathroom, they hold their breaths and stop their
Rogue closes her eyes and prays he won't collapse on the
couch. Gambit, on the other hand, wills the man to make it
back to the bedroom. Whether the credit belongs to his charm,
a guardian angel or dumb luck, Gambit exhales, free of the
Checking her watch, Rogue taps him. She holds up three fingers.
Remy checks his own watch and holds up four. The batteries
will run out before the fans start running again. Either way,
they don't have much time.
In tandem they slink around the couch to the coffee table.
Extensions cords run from the desk and its convenient outlets
to the array of office equipment on the low table. Rogue watches
the doors to the hall and bedroom while Gambit pulls the plugs
from the phone jack, printer, scanner, and power strip. Tucking
the laptop into his pack, he stands watch while she gathers
stray disks and shoves them in her bag.
They retreat silently, not even allowing the door to "click"
as it closes. The hatch's security system blinks a deceptive
green as Rogue opens the door. Leaping up through the aperture,
he grabs her wrist and smiles. They have 23 seconds to spare.
Plenty of time.
She retrieves the degauzers while he rewires the alarm system.
There is nothing to be done about the gash in the metal, but
he shoves the insulation back in. With time and soldering
equipment, he could leave less of a back trail, but since
nothing about this could ever lead back to him, he has to
let it go. It is small comfort but it isn't the first time
he's had to cut corners either.
The security crew should already be in the hall below them,
and Remy begins to feel the intoxicating rush of running for
your life. Most people hate the tightness in the gut and the
pounding of the heart, but with his history, he has the choice
of becoming a paranoid schizophrenic or an action junkie.
He counts himself lucky for having an addictive personality.
Standing on the grate that had almost defeated him less than
20 minutes earlier, he watches Rogue open their escape route.
The ventilation shaft is the exact opposite of the one they
came in through. It returns the tenth floor air to the main
system. Taking one of the hand holds from her, he waits as
she enters the conduit.
It is slow going up the shaft. She stands on a hand hold
while he hangs from it. He passes her the other and she pulls
herself up to stand on that one. They continue the cycle until
they reach the main duct. Not as exciting as their entrance,
but decidedly more effective. She doubts he will let her live
her earlier mistake down, but for now, she is taking the lead.
Rogue grins mischievously. Here it is wide enough to fly.
Grabbing Gambit by the back of his coverall, she navigates
smoothly until they reach the top.
The three fan blades create a thunder that makes conversation
moot. Rogue slows and hovers in front of an accessory tunnel.
It is dusty, narrow and low. Remy climbs in first to lead
the way to the grate. They shimmy their way there without
pause. The slats are barely wide enough for his fingers. He
picks the padlock nonetheless. Pushing it open, they step
onto the roof.
Instead of immediately breaking out his repelling gear, Remy
finds himself dumb-struck by the beauty around them. He has
been as high as several hundred stories up, but it was always
in the middle of a city. Here, they are surrounded by rolling
hill country. The lake glistens with light from the hotel.
Houses look like candles in the dark and a corona of reddish
light places a large town off to the far left.
There isn't much time to enjoy the view. "I'll admit, you
bought us some time wit' de flyin' in dere, but we go down
de traditional way."
Rogue is tempted to sulk, but she knows he is right. They
need to follow the plan. An idea strikes her. "Gambit, wait.
Ah was wrong. We can' repel down this building. Everyone and
their brother'll see us."
Gambit's only response is a raised eyebrow. She is on her
own when it comes to figuring out a better way. Gambit stares
absently at something across the roof and Rogue tries to hide
her aggravation with his less than helpful attitude.
Those same people will see them if they fly away from the
roof top. The same goes for jumping a trusting her invulnerability
to save them both. Pacing, she creates and discards scenarios
as quickly as she wrings her gloved hands.
When he starts smirking, she knows whatever she is missing
is very obvious. Taking a chance, she follows his line of
Standing out against the night sky is their way out. The
Sitting at the kitchen table and drinking very hot coffee,
Remy pushes the laptop over to her. It is late morning, and
this is his fourth cup, but he still looks like, well, like
he spent the morning driving through the woods on a dirt bike.
Rogue enjoyed that least of all. Having to turn her uniform
inside out -- so that the biking emblems were on the outside
-- while riding a hotel service elevator, with a half-naked
Gambit two feet away was not nearly as bad as getting hit
in the face with pine branches at 45 mph. After a while even
invulnerability didn't make much of a difference. She smiles
with bruised cheeks. They had ridden right past the hotel's
gates, looking like a couple of locals out for a ride.
There is an emblem on the laptop, one she recognizes as some
Silicon Valley start-up with a big advertising budget. Poking
at their prize, Rogue asked, "So what's on this thing? Product
designs for the next micro-micro chip?"
Shaking his head to get the caffeine flowing, he pulls the
laptop back, and opens it up. He does not look forward to
hacking it. "Nope, a detailed record of how much money this
M. Brown's embezzled from his company over the last four years."
There is the off chance that he can con Kitty into doing it,
but that would require a lot more effort than he can muster
at the moment.
"Oh." She had hoped for something more interesting. The last
time they did this sort of thing, a one day trip to Pennsylvania
had netted them all the Hershey's chocolate they could possibly
eat or use for bribes over several weeks. This take seems
like a waste. "All this just to expose a corrupt Internet
Remy shrugs and pours himself another cup. He could go to
bed, but then he would miss his Danger Room session and he
really doesn't feel like getting yelled at today. He has had
his fill of loud noises. Grinning at her through his bangs,
he says, "Oh yeah, and the access codes for de Swiss Bank
Account he keeps it in."
There is no one in the kitchen or even the rooms beyond.
Still, she has to force herself to say the right thing. "So
we can, uhm, return it to its rightful owners, of course."
They share a look. Rob from the rich to give back to the
rich. "Or not." Remy smirks.
Rogue laughs. "We're more Bonnie and Clyde than Robin and
Chuckling tiredly, Remy quips, "You got dat right. I migh'
wear fushia but I draw de line at tights."
They laugh until fatigue dampens their sense of humor. They
sit, quiet and content, until Neal and Betsy bustle into the
kitchen with every intention of making lunch.
Remy pushes away from the table and places his mug in the
sink. Walking with great deliberate he almost makes it out
the door. Rogue clears her throat to get his attention. He
sighs and leans over her to retrieve their prize before it
becomes a topic of idle conversation.
As he moves away again she smiles coyly and whispers, "Either
way, we make a great team."
Remy nods and begins the long walk back to his bedroom. He
turns, one last time, as he swings the kitchen door open.
"We always did."
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