|Let's Play Money|
|What: The Cuckoos hunt down Gambit to exchange some assets and to invite him to come play their favourite game.|
Remy LeBeau's apartment fits him well. It's equal parts opulent and obnoxious. And that's putting it mildly. The floors are polished teak, with thick-knapped blue and gold rugs tossed about here and there. An improvised worktable has been fashioned from wide planks bolted along one wall. It's loaded with oddities. Locks still attached to splintered bits of wood rub elbows with stacks of playing cards, file folders, eavesdropping devices, and packs of cigarettes. Another corner has been taken up by a huge bed that's overloaded with pillows, cushions, and silky-looking covers.
The rest of this makeshift hideout is occupied by Remy's acquisitions. Those he hasn't sold, anyway. Sculptures, paintings, and other priceless works of art have been wedged into corners, hung haphazardly from the walls, or covered with sheets. Bowls of rough gemstones, gold strips, and diamond buttons have been stacked on the mantle next to a box full of StarkTech nanoprocessors. Wealth beyond measure, and it sits around collecting dust.
Back from another long day at the office, the Cajun slips out of his coat and slings it across a dusty statue that's next to the door. As per usual, he staggers straight to the bed and flops onto it face-first. "Mmm. Bed. I love dat you love me," he murmurs.
|"Well, someone has to,"| someone--someones--murmur in the back of his head. The girls' amusement sifts through like fingers run through hair. |"Though we're sure that's not a problem for you."| |"If you're tired, we can come back later."|
The girls have been--oddly enough, given how they just gave away all that money--on the prowl for a way to make more. There are -reasons- that have nothing at all to do with buying a pony or anything like that. They still have stacks of sequential bills, handfuls of diamonds, and bonds that they need to cycle into clean money and items that can be sold off. It only makes sense they'd gravitate to the person most suited for the task.
"I'd stay outta my head if I were you, ladies," Remy replies, his voice muffled by a pillow. "You might not like what you see up dere. What if I'm thinkin' of you naked right now?"
The rogue rolls over on his back and staggers to his feet. He brushes his hands down the front of his shirt, but stops at his belt, leaving his thumbs hooked in it loosely as he stifles a yawn into his shoulder. "S'good to see you're all still in one piece. Three pieces. Whatever."
|"Why does everyone apologize for thinking of us naked?"| |"We're naked right now."| |"Just under our clothes."| There's a bubble of laughter from the Cuckoos' gestalt mind. |"Really, it's like apologizing for wanting a sandwich."| |"People get hungry, people want sex."| |"It's only an issue because you all keep saying you're sorry."|
The girls are waiting patiently not too far off, but they've been trying very hard to be polite lately. |"May we come in?"| |"We don't mind talking like this."| |"But we know people like to be in the same place to negotiate."|
Remy nods agreeably and turns toward the door. "Yeah. Come in," he replies. "And I wasn't apologizing. I'll take a sandwich if you got one, though. Or if you feel like makin' one."
It's an immature jibe, but it still brings a smile to the swarthy Cajun's face.
|"We're just down the street."| Jibe? Totally goes over the girls' heads. Sandwiches are really good. |"We can bring you something."| |"We'll be there soon."| It may be telepathy but one can -hear- the ponytail flip of righteous efficiency and getting-things-done. It'll mean Remy has to wait a couple minutes more, but what's a little wait for a tasty deli sandwich of your liking delivered to your favourite lair?
The girls get surprisingly fast service, even when no one knows they're there. They're at Remy's door a few minutes later. Sandwich of his liking--sorry, they were in a hurry, they cheated--and hot coffee. They knock politely and then step in when the door's opened.
Remy's mouth stretches into a grinning, wide-open laugh. "You literally brought me a sandwich. Dis my favorite. Naturally."
Still chuckling, he settles down at his worktable to enjoy his treats. The coffee comes first, inhaled to savor the aroma, then sipped. When he takes his first deep, manful drink, he lets out a rumble of pleasure. "You're too good to me, ladies. So. Do what do I owe de pleasure of your company? Or you just come by because you miss me?"
"A little of both." The girls find places to perch and one of them picks up a lock to play with, another finds a pack of cards. "This is very interesting," the one with the lock says. She gives Remy a narrow look, then flicks her gaze to her sisters and pouts. |"No picking our friends' brains,"| Sophie says, just to the others.
"We have a cash flow problem we thought you could help us with," Sophie says smoothly, setting a messenger bag down by her feet. "By which we mean, we have cash but it's not flowing. New sequential bills we can't just spend all over town. And, we can always use more. So we thought you might like to help us turn over some of our assets."
"S'that all? Sure. How much is there? I might be able to turn it for you now." Coffee in hand, Remy stands up and starts digging through the various odds and ends he has stashed around his apartment. Bits and pieces start appearing, then piling up. It's an impressive array. One ounce gold slips, each bearing the J&M stamp of authenticity. Bearer bonds in various denominations and from various countries. His hands hover over a bowl of gemstones briefly, and there's a quiet tinkle as he sifts through it. He leaves it on the mantle, though.
After poking through a few hidey-holes that prove to be empty, Remy takes another sip from his coffee and considers the pile. "That's all the pocket money I have lying around, I think."
"Some. We gave most of it away, stashed some. We had four bags of it. Trading is good, but we wanted to hit some games as well." Sophie pulls the bag into her lap. "Oh, there's bonds. Those are... well, I'm sure they're useful." She tosses a thick leather wallet full of bearer bonds onto the table. "Diamonds. We like those." A couple small velvet bags.
"Money." Sophie starts tossing stacks onto the table. The straps are purple, brown, and an ugly yellow--$2000, $5000, and $10000 bundles. "I don't know. There's a lot. We didn't count. We didn't mean to pick up sequential stuff but we were in a hurry." She gives Remy a little pouty face.
Remy hmmmms thoughtfully as the ladies unload their own stash of goodies. The bearer bonds he slides right back to them. "Keep dese. Anonymous assets. Can't be traced."
The velvet bags are considered next. He opens them, spills their contents into his palm, and examines them briefly. "Dese would be easier to move if dey were uncut. It'll take time to get better'n fifty cents on the dollar for 'em. If you in a hurry, I give you twenty cents on de dollar right now. I can appraise de lot for you in about five minutes once I dig out my microscope." The gems are returned to their bags and sealed back up.
The cash makes Remy smile. "God, I love money," he murmurs, tallying it up with nimble fingers and practiced eyes. "Going rate to clean bills is seventy cents on de dollar. Because I like you, I'll do eighty on de dollar if you want cash. Or I can do gold or more bonds."
"Bonds are boring, but okay." "They don't smell right." "Money smells nice." Sophie scoops up the bonds again. "We'll keep the diamonds because they're pretty. And cash, please. Yes."
One of the girls claps and gives Remy a radiant smile. "Cash is like magic." "You don't have to do anything to people's minds." "Just take it out and they do things for you."
"Yeah, I find people do things for me when I take it out, too," Remy quips absently. He's far more focused on counting. When he's reached the appropriate sums and subtracted his cut, he lifts up the corner of his mattress and starts fishing out battered stacks of bills. They quickly mound up into a small pyramid on the bed, which he then transferrs to the table in trade for the cash and goods that the girls want to offload. "There you go. Easy as dat. Gimme a lil' warning next time and I'll be better prepared." It's not a jab. Just professional advice.
"Thank you kindly. We weren't sure when and where we'd be," the girls say as Sophie tucks away the money. "Things have been unsettled. Everything can change so quickly."
One of the girls puts her chin in her hand and looks at Remy while the others are busy. "We don't like it." "It's not the same as not being bored." "It's messy, worse when there are other people around."
Remy takes a final drink of his coffee and sets the cup aside. His head tilted to the side quizzically, he considers one of the triplets as he tries to interpret her statement. "Unsettled? How do you mean?"
It's at this moment that an enormous clap of thunder splits the otherwise silent night. Instantly, rain starts splattering against the roof, the windows, and the gutters. The sky has opened up in a matter of seconds.
"Not like that," one of the girls says, laughing. "Weather is so interesting." The way they say it leaves the impression that weather is something relatively new, oddly enough.
"It's necessary for us to avoid certain people," they say. "But that has become more difficult recently. "In New York especially." For a moment, they look anxious, then it's gone and their faces are serene again.
Genuine concern flits briefly across Remy's face. He crosses his arms over his chest and picks one of the girls at random, looking her in the eye and studying her closely. "Can't say I've ever seen you wearing that particular expression before. You're not in some kind of trouble, are you?"
The girls have to confer for a moment, deciding whether or not to reveal any of it to him. They come to a compromise after the blink of an eye--long enough for them to hold a real conversation.
"You've seen what we can do," the girls say quietly. |"Did you think no one would consider us useful?"| That is as close to sharing the truth of things as they can come, at least with someone not likely suited to working against the Weapon programs.
Remy holds up both hands, palms facing out in the universal sign for 'not my business'. "I get you," he replies. "I been dere, too. Nobody likes being a tool. Or a weapon."
The Cajun blinks. A hard, angry expression takes him over, just for a moment. A memory relived, then the moment passes.
"You don't gotta trust me. I probably wouldn't. But if I can help, let me know." His offer made, Remy lets his hands fall back to his sides.
That gets Remy a smile from all three girls. "We find it sad." "How many understand us." "And know what it is to be used."
One of them--Phoebe--puts her head on a sister's shoulder. |"You have your own honour,"| they say. |"But we would not involve you in something that could be deeply unpleasant."| |"Not unless it were a choice between asking and going back."| And then, all bets are off. "But thank you.""
This is another concept that Remy understands. He nods, a bit reluctantly, but there's respect, too. Even a bit of admiration for the plucky young trio. "You want to fight your own battles," he acknowledges. "I get it. But we're friends, right? Friends help each other out. Lemme know if you change your mind. I don't like bullies. Especially ones who pick on lil' girls."
|"Is that what we are?"| |"Funny, that it should take eighteen years."| |"For someone to see us that way."| The gestalt is both amused and a little wistful.
"If we had known this world was like this," one of them says aloud. "We would have come to it far sooner." "It is a better place than others by far."
"Funny to be seen as lil' girls? Or as friends?" Remy's tone and his smile are gently teasing. "You're... strange. I'll give you dat much. But you're nice girls and I like you. Seem like you could use a friend."
His piece said, the Cajun sprawls out on a comfortable-looking couch and pulls a priceless tapestry across himself as a coverlet. Another crack and peal of thunder sends a delicious shiver down his spine.
"We're learning about friends." "We like friends." "It's quite pleasant," they say, drifting over to sort themselves around him companionably. One on the floor by his feet--Sophie--sorting through the boring bonds, Esme and Phoebe on the couch.
"But we meant the other." "We were never that to anyone." Sophie looks up from the bonds and twists a little to look Remy in the eye. "We think you understand that, no?"
"I understand that," Remy agrees solemnly. He considers each of the girls in turn. His inhuman eyes are difficult to read at the best of times, but he's clearly feeling sympathetic to their plight. They linger longest on Sophie, meeting her gaze evenly. Then, with an older brother's touch, he reaches out to tuck an errant lock of hair behind her ear. The other two girls are tucked under the edge of the tapestry. "Is not easy," he finally continues. "But you manage. You have to."
"Manage or die," Sophie says easily. "We have it far better than most," one of the others says. "At least we are what we are... it may make us targets but we're also weapons." They laugh quietly at that.
"And life is good." "Especially with people in it." "And money." |"You should come play money with us,"| they add, dropping images of Atlantic City, Vegas, and other gambling havens into Remy's head. |"It would be more fun if we knew how to play ourselves."| |"Instead of simply stealing people."| They also give him a crystal clear picture of what it is to borrow someone else's body and go play the casinos in an untraceable meat suit.
"Don't worry," Sophie says solemnly. "We give them a cut."
"I'd love to 'play money' with you sometime, ladies," Remy chuckles, images of proverbial sugarplums dancing in his head. He might not be anyone's idea of a good role model, but sometimes society's forgotten children have to learn from one another.
His laughter still trailing off, the ne'er-do-well shakes his head ruefully. For all his attempts to avoid entanglements, there's a protective, almost paternal way about him as he gives the girls each a ruffle, a pat, or a nudge. "We're gonna have fun," he declares.