Author's Notes: This fic is a prequel to "Games People Play". I always wanted to explain the mysterious connection between Gambit and Imagerie, hence this. It takes place in that murky time period when he was still living in New Orleans as a member of the Thieves' Guild, before he was exiled. However, I'm still working on reconciling this with Remy's romance with Bella Donna. Also, keep in mind that my description of New Orleans is written by someone who's never been there and has only read about the place. If I slaughter it, I apologize.
Disclaimer: The fic and Lee Holland belong to me. Gambit, the Thieves' Guild, the Assassins' Guild, yadda yadda yadda, it all belongs to Marvel Comics. Meesa maka no money offa dis. The title is stolen from an old Richard Marx song.
Summary: How Lee Holland (an original character) first met Remy LeBeau.
Rating: PG-13 for now.
Archive: My page; if anyone else wants it, just ask.
Feedback: to hutch @ jazmer.com, please.
She hated the summer.
No, Lee Holland amended that generalization with a mental groan. She hated the summer in New Orleans. Hot and sticky it was, a veritable sauna in the street. How anyone could stand this humidity, she was sure she didn't know. But then again, she supposed she should expect to be uncomfortable. She was hardly born and bred in this environment. Cold New York winters and warm Cincinnati summers - no, this is definitely not what I'm used to. She sighed and took a sip of her iced tea. At least they knew how to make iced tea here. That task accomplished, she sat back in her chair and looked around.
Sticky heat aside, she was enjoying her stay in the Crescent City very much. She had been sent down here by the magazine for which she freelanced on a regular basis - almost regular enough to be considered a full employee, but not quite - to do a piece on the "Men of New Orleans". A trite bit of garbage, this little composition was sure to be, but at least she'd get a paycheck out of it. And the opportunity to check out some men of a different variety than the standard whitebread Ohioan.
She finally decided she'd spent enough time lounging at the little café and picked up the bill, eyeing it for a moment before pulling out a credit card and setting it down for the waitress.
Once the bill had been taken care of, receipt tucked inside her purse for her expense account, she wandered down the street, headed in the vague direction of her hotel. Despite the humidity, it was a lovely night, and hardly late enough to seriously consider bed. She considered looking for one of the nightclubs her talkative cabdriver had suggested.
From behind, she heard footsteps running. The sound didn't register at first, buried as it was among other night noise - cars, music, people talking - but as they slowed behind her, she began to get nervous. Her shoulderblades itched as if someone was staring at them. Lee's mind began to plot out possible plans of escape, racing ahead to recall just how far down the street her hotel was. She knew she could slip into 'invisible mode', as she put it, but it would be a strain with the constantly changing environment around her.
The hand that reached out and grasped her arm startled her nonetheless. Her loose hair swirled around her face as she turned, gasping back a breath.
The first impression she got was of a tall, masculine form, deep brownish-red hair loose and long about a lean face. He wore sunglasses, despite the fact that the sun had set an hour ago, and his dark clothes blended him into the shades of evening. He was attractive, though - certainly enough to give Lee pause, an opportunity for anything to happen.
In that moment, he held out a black object. Her purse. She glanced at it, reaching for it without a second thought.
"Sorry t' disturb you." His voice was rich and gravelly. "Y' left this back at th' cafe."
"Th-thank you," she said softly, accepting the purse. "Oh, I can't believe I just left it..."
"Y' not from 'round here?" he asked perceptively, discerning her accent. She chuckled softly.
"No, I'm not. That was very nice of you. Thank you." Something about his presence was flustering her, but in a good way.
"Ah, y' gotta let Remy show y' round, then," he stated calmly, smiling. "Y' won't really see th' Big Easy 'less someone from the area show y' all the best places to visit."
Lee tucked a lock of flame-red hair behind one ear, beginning to recover her aplomb now that she was on familiar ground. "That's all right, thanks," she said. "I have... I have plans."
Around them, the flow of the city continued unabated, the busy nighttime crowds ignoring the two of them. The man calling himself Remy tsked at her, grinning a smile that was downright infectious. "Sure y' do. Like goin' back t' y' hotel room and spendin' the night by y'self?"
She couldn't deny he was charming, but something about him was irking her, too; a certain smug confidence, as if most women usually fainted from sheer bliss at the possibility of spending an evening with him. "Look, Mr.--"
"LeBeau," he supplied cheerfully.
"Mr. LeBeau," she went on, "I do thank you for returning my purse, but if there's something else you want, I'm afraid you won't get it from me. Goodnight." Putting on her chilliest 'ice queen' attitude, she pulled her arm from his grasp and walked off in the direction of her hotel.
He took two steps after her, then let her go. She could almost feel an amused smile coming from his direction, but ignored it.
It was two days before she saw him again.
Lee had spent the morning involved in an interview with a man whom, despite assurances from their mutual contact, was little more than a self-absorbed chauvinist pig. Apparently, his wife found his macho, protective attitude a thrill a minute, but Lee had fought nausea throughout the morning. When he started into a tirade about how women should spend their time in the home, making everything right for their men, she'd finally had enough. Turning the micro-recorder off with a snap, she had stood up, thanked the man for his time -- as politely as she could without spitting in his face -- and left the room.
The muggy noon air didn't do much to cool her down, but not twenty feet from the office building where she'd met her interviewee, she turned left and found a street-market in a wide alley. Color and music danced around her, delicious scents drew her in, and in moments she forgot all about the self-important prig who had so thoroughly ruined her attitude and her morning.
Every booth had something attractive, something to draw the eye. She found beautiful crystal in one, woven purses and hats in another. The smell of something hot and spicy from yet another stand made her stomach rumble, and she realized that all she'd had to eat so far that day was a grapefruit and some breakfast cereal. She inquired of the vendor as to what exactly the concoction was, and within moments she was holding a styrofoam bowl of vegetables, meat, and beans, mixed together in a spicy stew.
"Careful wit' dat, it'll burn your mouth."
Somehow, Lee was completely unsurprised to see the face of Remy LeBeau when she turned to look. Holding the bowl carefully in both hands, she raised an eyebrow at him. "And you're the resident expert on things that burn, correct?" she inquired.
He shrugged one shoulder in Gallic fashion, the other one propped up against a supporting pole of the booth. The man within the booth, an ancient, grizzled black man, swore at Remy in French, but the curses had a good-natured tone to them. Remy grinned at the vendor in return before looking to Lee again. Though, as before, his eyes were hidden behind sunglasses, she had no doubt that the look in them would be annoyingly smug.
"I'm good wit' things that burn, yeah," he replied, in a deliberately sensual tone that somehow grated on her nerves.
"Following me around?" she inquired.
He shrugged. "Could be."
He's told you his name. Although that doesn't mean anything, probably isn't his, probably just for show, LeBeau, the beautiful, hah! Lee focused on her stew as her mind raced from good possibilities to bad ones. This guy could be anyone, someone who preys on tourists maybe, and I'll never be heard from again, except when they dredge my body out of the river--
"Well, I'll thank you to leave off. I don't need an escort."
"Y'sure about that?" Remy moved quickly to tag along when she turned to leave. "Never know what could happen, to someone alone in a strange city. We get lots o' people disappearin' 'round here."
And I don't want to be one of them. "Leave me alone already," she snapped. "I don't want your company, and I didn't ask for it. Good day, Mr. LeBeau."
That was when the mouth of the alleyway erupted in chaos. A group of men dressed in odd red and gold outfits, all alike, appeared as if out of nowhere, evoking screams and shouts from the passersby filling the crowded sidewalks. Swords and other implements of destruction flashed, brandished bright in the midday sun. Lee let go of a gasp, and another, this one pained as her still-hot stew spilled over her hands, the bowl sloshing to the street-- Like a rolling tide, the masked group streamed towards them.
Remy's hand caught her around the waist. "Up!" he yelled, and suddenly she was in the air. Her hands went around the lowest rung of a fire escape, through sheer luck; hardly knowing what she was doing, she pulled herself up, wordless prayers dashing through her brain, and climbed for all she was worth.
The ladder shook beneath her, Remy's weight added to it. Lee pulled herself up to the first level of the fire escape and dared a look below. Remy was right behind her, the suited men only feet behind him. "Go! Go!" he panted, pulling himself up. She darted up the stairs, adrenaline pushing her into a rush of speed, hardly daring to think about who the men might be or what they might want. Just get to safety, worry about the rest later, what the fuck is going on--
Only a few stories, then the rooftop loomed. She went over, stumbled over a deep wall onto gravel. Remy tumbled over after her, righted himself in a swift athletic move, and grabbed her hand.
"We gon' run over the next building and hit the underground, we be safe there," he assured her. Behind them, the men were boiling over the edge of the rooftop. They were eerily silent; that scared Lee more than if they'd been yelling threats.
"Underground?" Lee didn't have time to contemplate that any further. At the opposite side of the roof now, Remy put a foot up on the concrete wall, pushed, and jumped the few feet over the alleyway onto the next roof. She spared not a look back, but ran right after him, with an inadvertant thought of gratitude to whichever deity had inspired her to wear sneakers and jeans today.
But the sound of something hissing through the air made her duck and roll when she landed on the next rooftop, lower than the previous one. No bullets - no gunshot sounds anyway, and she hadn't thought that any of the red-suited men were carrying guns - then what the hell was it?! She looked up in time to see Remy throwing another handful of gravel at their pursuers. And blinked, as the gravel - if that was what it was - glowed pink, and exploded on impact with the men in the lead.
Then Remy was grabbing her hand again, urging her to a door in the roof. She went without argument, the rush of adrenaline still pumping in her veins, hearing the muffled wince of pain from him, and then the door slamming shut hard.
The first level down was an unused attic, dusty and mired with all sorts of crates and trunks. Lee didn't have much time to look around, though; Remy came down after her, blood trickling down the side of his face, and took the lead.
"Wait!" she gasped, fighting for breath. "What was that, what did you throw at them?"
"Tell you later, chére," he shot back. "We not safe here."
Lee gulped, shook her head. "We can be. Find someplace quiet. I can make them think we're not here."
He stopped, then, and looked back at her. "What you sayin', girl?"
She bristled in spite of herself. A matter of pride, now: she drew herself up, and without a word, went invisible.
Remy's surprised gasp was worth it. "All right, I believe ya. You a mutant too, then, neh?"
Too. It confirmed her suspicions. She dropped the illusory mask, nodding curtly. "And you do something to make things blow up, that's your little trick?"
"Close 'nough." He glanced around, shook his head, then bit back a breath as the pounding on the door upstairs grew louder. "C'mon. Someplace down below we can hide. Then you tell me how you do that."
to be continued...
this page last updated on 18 january 2003