TITLE: Brief Meetings, Odd Jobs and Money Deals
SERIES: Criminal Minds (story 3)
SEQUEL TO: Dollar Signs, Deceptions and Business Deals (1) - Security Systems, Flirtations and Betting Pools (2)
AUTHOR: Scorpio
ARCHIVE: Want. Take. Have.
PAIRING: None really. Iceman, Gambit. (cameo by) Beast.
RATING: PG-13 (adult situations)
WARNING: If you like your Iceman sweet and fluffy than you might want to look someplace else. ::wicked grin::
DISCLAIMER: Not my characters, so I'm not making any kind of profit (unlike the characters in the story). Also, I claim a vast ignorance of criminal activity, so I don't know if this is very realistic, but I thought it sounded good. ::shrugs:: 
SUMMARY: Gambit steals stuff for fun and profit. Iceman encourages him.

Brief Meetings, Odd Jobs and Money Deals
by Scorpio

Early morning training sessions in the Danger Room would be lots of fun if it weren't for the whole "early morning" thing. Gambit had never been a morning person and his thieves training and mutation only reinforced that concept until by the time he had become a member of the X-Men that it was a rare thing for him to see the early side of noon. As a thief, he was prone to late nights and his red on black eyes really didn't like bright lights. Now, however, he was cursed with a team leader who felt that being awake before the sun was somehow healthy for the body and the spirit or some such shit.

Making his way up to his room while rubbing gently at a sore muscle in his lower back, Gambit briefly considered blowing Cyclops' alarm clock to kingdom come. As satisfying as that might be in the short term, he knew that Scott would only get a new clock and then assign him to some less than desirable duty on the roster. With a sigh, Remy dropped the idea.

Once in his room, Gambit quickly stripped off his armor and uniform. He quickly wiped off his sweat from the kevlar and hung it up. The remaining pieces were pushed down into the hamper of dirty clothes. Then, he wrapped his robe around his body and grabbed up the plastic bucket that he stored his shampoo and body soap in. A towel slung around his shoulders, he made his way down the hall to the men's showers at the end of the hallway.

Forty minutes later found Gambit clean, dressed in another and more freshly scented set of his armor, with a black duffel bag slung over his shoulder. Pulling his sunglasses out of his trenchcoat pocket, Remy slid them on his face even as he yanked open his bedroom door and made his way down the hall towards the elevator.

Making his way to his partner's office, Gambit soon found himself standing before the door he had installed a week or so ago. He knew that most people merely knocked or announced themselves and then Bobby would let them in. Gambit didn't bother with that. He simply punched in the access code on the keypad. A soft metallic click sounded within the wall and Remy was able to turn the now unlocked doorknob. Pushing open the door, Gambit strolled in as if he owned the place.

Iceman sat at his desk glaring at him with icy eyes. Remy's smirk was decidedly unrepentant. A single glance let Gambit know that Bobby had just arrived recently from cleaning up after the training session himself. The computer was still in the process of booting up and the files on Bobby's desk were still unopened. That was good as far as Remy was concerned. He didn't want to interrupt anything or have to wait. He had a lot planned for today.

"Hey Bobby. Got somet'ing fo' y'."

Bobby just grunted and stared pointedly at the door.

"How did you get the passcode for the door?"

Swinging the duffel bag around and placing it on the desk in front of the Iceman, Gambit just shrugged and grinned.

"I'm a t'ief Bobby. One o de best dere is. How do y' t'ink I got de passcode?"

His partner swiveled his head slightly to stare up at him. One eyebrow was arched up in an expression that was meant to look amused but was in reality more of a mask to hide his thoughts than anything else.

"Wow. And he speaks in the first person. Must be important. But where's the inner lesson in that?"

A wholly false and slightly overdone expression of confusion gave way to the classic epiphany of "seeing the light" kind of expression dawning on Iceman's face. Gambit wasn't sure if he should scowl at being teased or if he should grin at his partner's silliness, a sure sign he was preparing to blow this off as no big deal.

"Oh, oh, oh! I know. The inner lesson is that nothing short of stationing Bishop with orders to shot you down would stop you from breaking into my office. Right?"

Gambit forced a look of hurt and insult onto his face.

"Y' don't t'ink Gambit could get passed Bishop? Tsk, tsk, tsk. Where's de fait', mon ami?"    

Iceman chuckled softly even as he unzipped the duffel bag. Reaching in, he pulled out a small neatly stacked pile of paper. Turning it around so that he could look at it correctly, Gambit had the pleasure of watching a true expression flicker across his partner's face. Those were rare. Bobby usually pasted one or another of his "practiced" expressions on in order to cover up his train of thought, but every now and then, a real one got through. This was one such a time.

Looking up at him with a gleam in his eyes, Bobby waved the small stack of bonds in his hand at the duffel bag.

"Are they all like these?"

Gambit smirked, a small fission of pleasure working it's way through him at Iceman's obvious pleasure and approval.

"Mais oui. De best part o all dis, is dat dey won' even know de bonds are missing from de vault until dey actually go t' use dem. Gambit got in like smoke an' left no trail. Smooth job, if I do say so m'self."

Gambit took a brief moment to preen and pose, truly proud of himself and the job he had pulled. Not only had it been a smooth job without a single hitch, he hadn't had that much fun in a long time. He had been afraid that he'd gotten rusty with lack of practice. His sojourn with the X-Men had severely cut into his lifestyle as a thief and more often than not, the only B & E he had done was for them to gather information.

By the time he had pulled his mental woolgathering back out of his memories of the pinch, Bobby was muttering happily to himself, flipping through his personal phone book and pulling something up on his computer all at once. An indulgent smile spread across his face at the sight of it. Bobby was acting like a kid at Christmas with a new toy to play with. Money did that to bookkeepers. Now all Bobby had to do was launder it and render it untraceable.

Shaking his head in amusement, Gambit started to make his way to Bobby's office door when his partner's voice called out to him.

"Oh. Before I forget. One of my clients in the city and I were chatting the other day. For some reason, the discussion made it's way to the new exhibit at the Met. He just happened to mention that he'd be willing to pay an obscene amount of money for this Renoir that he's had his eyes on. I'm not an art critic, so I don't know if it's worth the effort."

Gambit turned back around and saw Bobby holding out a scrap of paper that looked like it came from one of Bobby's notepads. Reaching out to grab it, he unfolded it and saw that it contained a single phone number. With a grin and a shrug, he refolded it and tucked it into a pocket of his trenchcoat.

"Cezanne be more t' Gambit's style, but dere ain't no'ting wrong wit' y' friend's taste in art. Renoir be a master o' de craft. Good investment, dat. An' a challenge t' get his hands on one, neh?"

They shared a brief conspiratorial smile and then Gambit turned with a swirl of his trenchcoat and walked out of the office to leave his partner to deal with his half of their bargain.

It was late at night as Gambit pushed his big black Harley Davidson up the driveway towards the Mansion. He had come to a stop and turned off the engine a mile back in deference to Wolverine's extra sensitive hearing. Now, with the gears firmly in neutral, he pushed the heavy machine the remaining distance. It had taken Gambit a while to figure out just how far down the way he had to quit the engine to avoid waking his feral teammate, but once he did it usually depended on his own mood as to whether or not he let the man sleep by sneaking onto the grounds or waking him up by roaring into the driveway.

This night he didn't want anyone to be aware of his entrance any more than he had alerted his teammates to his leaving. He knew the codes to the gates and the security systems, so he didn't have to even worry about breaking in or setting them off. He also knew the blind spots that the security camera's missed and he stayed to those blank areas as much as possible. He even managed to avoid Bishop on his rounds. That was not normally an easy task, but Gambit was still riding the high from his most recent pinch and Bishop didn't even realize that he was there.

It was only a matter of moments to get his Harley into it's customary spot in the garage and then he was making his way through the mansion proper. He wandered the halls like a ghost, brief in his passing and leaving no trace of his existence. All too soon, Gambit found himself outside of his partner's office. Pale light spilled out from under the door and a small smirk crossed his face. Quickly punching in the doorcode, Gambit made his way inside.

Iceman was on the telephone, his eyes sparkling in a tired face. Bobby silently waved him in and over to the chair with the blue dyed teddy bear in it. Gambit sauntered over and picked up the lab coat wearing "Hankmiester" and hugged it tightly before sitting down in the chair. Looking over at Bobby, he saw that the Iceman's face was dark with stubble and his t-shirt was wrinkled.

"Yes. Yes. My client feels strongly about this and all of her research indicates that the area will be most tolerant of her activities. She also feels that this portion of the continent would benefit greatly from having a Morning Star Chapterhouse open and available to the less fortunate mutant population."

Instantly, Gambit's attention was snagged and held firmly in place. For some reason, the name "Morning Star Organization" was familiar to him, even if he couldn't place it at the moment.

"That's fine. I will be happy to pass on your concerns to my client. I'm sure that she'll want to investigate into them further. However, at this time my instructions are clear. She would like that location to be purchased immediately. Once she has ownership of the building and the lands, she intends to begin the remodeling and construction phase of her plans so that it will be open to the citizenry as soon as possible."

Listening in, Gambit tried to pull the information out of his mind, but the only thing that he could come up with was that it had something to do with Storm. But what, he had no idea.

"As her factor, I will expect you to facilitate the purchase of this property. Contact me with any and all financial concerns. I will make certain that any necessary funds are available. These other concerns should be pulled together into an organized report and forwarded to me as well. Any proof to back up your claims should also be included. Anything that can give my client a full and complete picture of the situation would be helpful."

There was another pause in which Gambit's imagination pondered just what this "Morning Star" was and how come he thought Storm was involved.

"Yes. Yes. That would be fine. I'll speak to you then. Okay. Good-bye."

Bobby hung up the phone and sighed. He palmed his tired face with one hand and then shook his head. With a wane rueful smile, he glanced up at Gambit.

"Wha' was dat all about, homme?"

His partner shrugged and shook his head.

"Storm wants to open up another orphanage for mutants overseas. So far, her privately funded company Morning Star has five of them up and running around the world."

One of Remy's auburn eyebrows shot up over the rim of his sunglasses even as the information clicked in his mind. He now remembered reading in her financial files that she funded various charity work and that must have been where he had seen the name Morning Star from.

"The main problem with mutant children is that they are often abandoned by their families and end up on the streets with no home, no food and no medical care. And even those children whose families stand by them get the short end of the stick because most schools refuse to admit them, so they get no education and have no real future to look forward to. So, Storm got the idea into her head to copy what the Professor had originally opened up this school to do. She gives orphaned mutants a safe place to live with healthy food and a medical unit right on the premises. She also sets up a schedule of classes and has them taught to the students that live there as well as any mutants that commute to school from their family homes during the day for purely educational purposes."

Bobby shrugged.

"It's a great idea and the five schools that she has started have done real well in terms of her ideals. Money wise they don't do well at all. I try to keep her assets flowing and I invest them as carefully as possible, but the schools eat up money a hell of a lot faster than they make them. Now, she wants to open a new one and the resources ... well, they just aren't there. I've pulled money from other places when and where I could, but..."

Gambit frowned at this.

"If de money is so tight, why's Stormy openin' dis school. Why not wait till de money's better?"

Bobby grimaced.

"The area she's interested in has a high concentration of mutants. You know as well as I do that some area's have a higher ratio of mutations per human then others. This area has one of the denser mutant populations in it, so the need for something like this is great. How can I tell her no?"

Gambit looked at his partner and saw for the first time that he was not only tired, but stressed as well. And to be honest, he didn't blame the man. He could never say no to Storm, especially when he knew that she was right and when the situation was so important. Almost guiltily, he glanced down at the brown leather briefcase at his side. It was the reason that he had snuck out of the mansion tonight and it was also the reason that he had come to see the Iceman. Guilt poked his conscience with a sharp pointy stick. With a soft sigh, Gambit gave in to all the arguments that he knew he'd be having with himself if he just ignored what he knew was the right thing to do. Standing up, Gambit picked up the briefcase and plopped it down on Bobby's desk and quickly flicked the locks open so that the many neat and orderly stacks of hundred dollar bills were visible.

"Here. Dis needs t' be cleaned up, but when it is, donate it t' Stormy's Morning Star House. Use it t' by de chil'en food or somet'ing."

Iceman glanced down at the small fortune sitting in the briefcase on his desk and crooked one eyebrow up at Gambit.

"You sure about this? That's a lot of money."

Gambit sighed and nodded his head.

"Oui, de chil'en need it more den Gambit does."

Iceman nodded his own head and peered at the money for a long moment. Then, he looked up at Gambit with a serious expression on his face.

"You're a good man Remy LeBeau. Don't let anyone ever tell you differently."

For some reason, hearing Bobby say those words made him feel better and more alive then pulling off a job ever did, and he smiled.

Gambit sat down at the table that the hostess had led him to. It wasn't one of the more posh places in the city, however it was an excellent and well frequented place for business lunches. And this is what this would be, a business lunch with his partner.

A waiter wandered over and Remy quickly ordered one of the better wines and a light appetizer to tide him over. Bobby should be here soon and then they could get down to business. It had been the Iceman who suggested this meeting away from the Mansion. Bobby had some business this morning down in the city with one of his clients, but he had asked Gambit to meet him here for lunch. To discuss what, Remy didn't know.

He didn't have too long to ponder it however, just as the waiter was bringing his appetizer, the hostess was escorting Bobby back to the table. It wasn't long before both of them had placed orders for a light lunch and the waiter left again. Bobby had a slightly disgruntled look on his face that was only highlighted by a faint scowl. Finally, he looked up at Remy, the very picture of frustrated annoyance.

"Would it be wrong of me to flash-freeze one of my clients as punishment for sheer stupidity?"

Gambit couldn't help the smirk that lifted up the corner of his lips. The Bobby that most of the X-community knew and tolerated was a whiny big kid who was more interested in practical jokes and goofing off then doing any real work. That Bobby was just a facade, however. The real Iceman was calm cool and collected at the worst of times and for someone to elicit this level of frustration in him required a special type of stupidity.

"Naw, don' do dat. Jus' drop de fool as y' client. Y' got more important t'ings t' worry about anyway. An' if de fool has got anyt'ing of value, jus' point ol' Gambit in de right direction an' I'll be more than happy t' fix dat problem as well."

Bobby nodded.

"I already told him that I could no longer be of service to him. I informed him that I have a severe allergic reaction to idiocy and as such, I had no choice but to avoid him from now on. I gave him one of my competitor's cards and wished him luck."

Bobby grinned then. It was a nasty sort of grin that made Remy's stomach flutter for some reason that he didn't want to think about.

"And if you want to go visit his home some night, that's fine. His father was a collector of antiquities and he's got some rare and valuable books, statuettes and paintings scattered about the place. I don't know too much about that stuff, so I'll leave it up to your discretion."

They shared a brief conspiratorial smile for a moment. Then the waiter arrived with their lunch and the connection was broken. As delicious as everything smelled and looked, Remy was just a little upset at being interrupted. With an internal wince at the absurdity of that thought, Gambit pushed it aside and patiently waited while their plates were set out in front of them and their wine glasses were refilled.

Once they were alone again, Gambit reached into an inner pocket of his trenchcoat and pulled out a small green velvet bag with a string tie. Carefully, he placed it on the table and slid it across to his partner.

"Wasn't sure if dis was anyt'ing dat y' could do somet'ing wit. Figured dat I'd ask first. If not, den I've got ot'er contacts dat can handle it fo' m'."

He watched with calm eyes as Bobby laid down his fork and untied the strings holding the bag closed. Gently tipping it over, Bobby poured out several cut and polished gemstones onto his hand. They sparkled beautifully in the lights of the restaurant. Then, just as calmly, Bobby slid them back into the bag and retied it. The Iceman pushed the bag back over to Remy.

"All of them? No. My first reaction is to advise you to check with Hank and Forge before you do anything else with them. Both of them tend to use high quality crystals and gemstones in various machines and gadgets, so they might make you an offer."

Gambit felt one eyebrow raise up at that. He had never even considered that angle before, but it did make sense. Normally, he would be a bit concerned about working for a scientist. He had learned that lesson the hard way, but Beast and Forge were different. He knew that.

"I can get them appraised for you, but that would be their base value as jewelry, and not their value as machine components. I could also liquidate some of them, but not that many. At least, not all at once. To many all at once lowers the value and makes people ask questions that I don't want them to even consider in the first place."

Gambit considered it for a moment while he chewed his food.

"Fine. I'll talk t' Hank. I'll let him contact Forge, t'ough. He knows de man better den m'. Once dat's done, I'll give y' half de gems t' liquidate an' keep de o'ters in a safe spot dat I got."

Bobby nodded his head and gestured with his fork.

"Good decision. And if you want, I'll even act as your factor with Hank. Tell him that the offer to sell the gems are from an anonymous client of mine."

Gambit considered that for a moment.

"Naw. I'll jus' tell him dat y' suggested dat I talk t' him 'bout it. Hank knows I'm a t'ief an' he never gave m' any problems 'bout it b'fore. He's a smart man. He'll put two an' two together an' come up wit' de answer dat whenever he needs a gemstone, he can hire m' directly t' get it fo' him."

Bobby chuckled.

"You're a wicked wicked man, Remy LeBeau. That's what I like about you."

Remy smirked even as he ruthlessly ignored the warm fuzzies that threatened to wash over him at Bobby's words. He enjoyed his partner's grin for a moment, but then Bobby's face grew serious and his eyes, usually the only true indicator of his inner feelings, grew cold and hard.

"That's not why I asked you to meet me though."

Gambit merely lifted an eyebrow in a silent request for more information even as he enjoyed the delicate spicy taste of his lunch.

"I recommended you for a mission to the Professor last night."

He very carefully didn't show any reaction to that statement. Only years of practicing keeping his face neutral allowed him stay visibly unaffected.

"An' wha' mission might dat be, homme?"

Bobby sighed and stirred his pasta for a moment as he gathered his thoughts. When he looked back up, Gambit was instantly aware that he was once again facing the real Iceman. Ruthless, intelligent and willing to go to any length to reach his goal.

"The Professor plans to send Logan down into South America to meet up with some illegal gun runners. Not that we need the weapons, but they deal mostly with private paramilitary groups. Their most prominent client is the FOH."

Iceman paused a moment while Gambit absorbed that information.

"The Professor feels that if we can get our hands on the majority of those weapons then that will be less for the FOH to buy. Logan's got the connections to get in the door and be taken seriously. So that's why he's going. I, on the other hand, disagree. The more of a demand that an item has, the more a supplier will; one, make you pay for it and two, supply it. That's why I want him to send you."

Gambit nodded and speared a piece of his food with his fork.

"An' wha' do y' t'ink dat I can do, homme?"

Iceman lifted up his glass of wine and gazed into it thoughtfully.

"I want you to find out where their base of operations is. Let Logan handle the deal and get the guns. When they split up, follow the gun runners back to their base. Once we know where they are operating from, then the X-Men can solve the problem at it's source as a team."

Gambit considered this as he watched his partner drink his wine. It made a lot of sense and the logic behind it was strong. There was just a few things that bothered him.

"Jus' one t'ing, homme. Why y' telling m' dis? De Professor could a done dat jus' as well."

The Iceman considered him for a long moment and then nodded as if making a decision.

"Truthfully? Because it was my idea to send you and to follow the weapons dealers back to their base. You have a lot of very specialized skills that can be highly useful to the team, but frankly, they are rarely used. I'm not saying that you aren't a great ground fighter, but let's face facts Gambit, your mind and knowledge are far greater weapons than your ability to blow things sky high. I plan on making sure that the Professor is aware that your talents are being underused by recommending you for tasks that, frankly, no one else can accomplish."

Gambit nodded his head slightly in acknowledgment of the praise with a slightly ironic sense of amusement. When he had first discovered that Bobby Drake was much more than he let on to the world at large, he hadn't considered the fact that he would be essentially letting the man in on his own secret. He worked hard to project the image of a poorly educated wild child from the streets of New Orleans and for the most part, that's exactly how people saw him. But now, the Iceman knew better. And he planned to use that knowledge as ruthlessly as any other tool in his arsenal. He smirked inwardly, the more he got to know Bobby, the better he liked the man.

"Secondly, and more importantly, I wanted you to be forewarned because Scott is going to oppose this idea. I love the man like an older brother, but he's got certain blind spots."

Gambit snorted. It was no secret that he and their fearless leader had butted heads on more than one occasion and that Scott always seemed to ignore Gambit's ideas or assertions that he could handle any given job. Almost as if Bobby had read his thoughts, he began to speak again.

"Cyclops isn't that bad, Gambit. Honest. He will assign even the most dangerous of missions to anyone as long as he feels that they can handle the job. Scott doesn't know you or your talents."

Gambit shook his head and held up one hand.

"Non. De man knows dat I be a t'ief an' yet he has turned down m' offer t' do ot'er jobs for de team b'fore."

"That's because Scott doesn't think of you as the type of thief that you actually are."

Gambit frowned in confusion and Bobby sighed even as he put his fork down on his plate.

"Gambit, Scott thinks of your skills as being on the same level with Storm's. And let's face it, as much as I love and adore Storm, she's not a highly skilled thief. Picking pockets? Yes. Shop lifting? Once again, yes. Trailing highly trained international criminals to their high security base of operations and returning undiscovered with the layouts and plans of that base? Never in a million years. And because Cyclops tends to think of the two of you as being on par skill wise, he'd never go for it. He'd either want to veto the operation or bog you down with backup that would only get in the way and make the job twice as difficult as need be."

Gambit considered that idea. It made sense in some weird way. It certainly explained many of the conclusions that Cyclops had made over the years. Some of those judgments had seemed like poor tactical decisions to Gambit at the time, but in light of this new concept, they made more sense. If Gambit's skills were that shaky, then Scott had done the right thing by stopping or reassigning various jobs in the past the way he had done.

"So, Gambit would either have t' convince Scott dat he's a whole lot better o' a t'ief den he believes or risk him mucking up y' plans."

Bobby nodded his head.

Another thought occurred to Remy then. If Scott had assumed that he was a poorly skilled thief, then all of Gambit's assertions that he could do a job alone were seen by the man as nothing more than outrageously arrogant lies instead of mere statements of fact. That would go a long way to explaining why Cyclops didn't like him personally. Gambit sighed.

"Wha' I don' get is why de man would t'ink dat. Stormy was m' apprentice fo' God's sake. Why would a t'ief take on someone t' train dat already had all de same skills as dey could teach? Don' make sense."

Bobby shrugged and grinned at him again.

"Scott's knowledge of the criminal underworld is fairly limited. He's aware that I occasionally twist, bend or break the laws to do what I have to do. On the other hand, he has no real clue as to how I do it or how far over the line I go. Nor does he want to know. The only difference between you and me is, Scott knows that he can hand me a job and say "get it done" and it will be. The how's and the why's don't concern him because I've proved myself to him. That's what you need to do as well."

Gambit nodded and looked thoughtful as he continued his meal. It was a calculated risk that his partner was proposing. Not so much the gun runners as sitting down and confronting Cyclops. It was something to think about.

A smile on his face and a heavy leather bottomed backpack slung over his shoulder, Gambit quickly punched in the doorcode to the Iceman's office and sauntered on in. He was greeted by the sight of Henry McCoy hanging upside down by his feet from the reinforced ceiling fan and his partner lounging back in his chair with his feet propped up on the desk.

"Bon jour, mes amies."

Hank's wide grin was full of sharp teeth.

"Greetings and salutations to you as well my Cajun compatriot. And how fairs you, this lovely spring day?"

With a wide grin, Gambit swung the backpack off of his shoulder and dropped it down on Bobby's desk. The distinct sound of metal clinking against metal resounded throughout the small room. With a flourish, Gambit unzipped the bag and reached in to pull out a shiny brick made of pure gold.

"Gambit is beaucoup bein. Vraiment."

Hank adjusted his spectacles from his inverted perch even as Bobby whistled and held out his hand for the gold bar. With a dramatic sweeping bow, Gambit deposited it onto the palm of his partner's hand.

"This is beautiful, Gambit. I'm assuming that it's pure and not an alloy."

Gambit grinned at the tone of Bobby's voice. No matter how much money one might have or control, there was just something about solid gold that spoke to the heart of a criminal in a way that nothing else could. Other substances might have more monetary value per ounce, but there was an almost mythical quality of this most renowned metal whose very chemical compound and inherent softness made it almost useless for anything other than pour ornamentation or as an indicator of wealth.

"Oui. De gold is pure. Dere's five more o' dese beauty's in de bag. Twenty more hidden out in de city."

Bobby chuckled and gestured to the bar of gold in his hand.

"This makes me have the urge to lock it and it's friends up in a big iron box with a rusty key, bury it under the floorboards of my office here, and then hoard it forever."

Hank's deep booming laugh echoed around the room.

"Oh, but that's not any fun at all for Gambit and my own blue furry self if you sit on it playing Dragon Hoard. No, I vote that we play Pirates with it. Gambit and I shall be the ruthless pirates and you shall be the Queen's valiant Navy Captain set to guard her riches. Then, we shall steal it from you and sink your battleship."

Bobby pouted.

"That's not very fair! If you and Gambit here manage to steal the gold, then the Queen will be angry at me."

Bobby's pout slowly melted into a smirk.

"Why, the White Queen would probably paddle my bare ass and make me do degrading things ... like serve her dinner while in the nude..."

Gambit exchanged an amused smile with Hank as Bobby's eyes began to glaze over slightly.

"Um, guys? Should I call Emma over and ask her if she wants to play pirates with us?"

His and Hank's ribald laughter visibly yanked Bobby out of his little day dream. He looked vaguely insulted at their amusement at first, but then he too broke down into soft chuckles.

"Okay, okay. I know. As much fun as that would be, it's not a good idea, I know."

With that, Bobby placed the bar of gold back into Gambit's backpack and zipped it back up.

"Let me make a few phone calls and I'll see what I can do with this."

With his smile still lingering, Gambit picked up the backpack and slung it over his shoulder once again. As soon as the heavy weight of it was sitting comfortable, Gambit began to pat down his trenchcoat pockets in search of his elusive cigarettes. Finding the pack, he opened it and slid one out.

"Merci, Bobby. Gambit jus' gonna go and stick dese ones up de bedroom. Den he gonna jump in de shower. It's been a long night, c'est ne pas?"   

Bobby nodded once and then Gambit turned around and stuck the cigarette in his mouth. A flick of a single finger against the tip combined with a tiny charge of kinetic energy and it was lit. It briefly amused him that with all his knowledge of stealing and all his skills at fighting, he was still little more than a glorified cigarette lighter with legs.

"Um ... one moment if I may, my dear Gambit. I seem to be in a bit of a quandary and I was hoping that I might be able to acquire your unique and ... ahem ... artisan vocation for a small fee."

Pausing at the door, Gambit turned his head to look over his shoulder at Hank. The large blue scientist was still hanging upside-down from the ceiling fan, only this time, he held his delicate wire framed glasses in one oversized paw and was painstakingly cleaning the lenses with a soft cloth. The expression on his face was one of grave seriousness. Carefully, Gambit decoded what he had said out of Beast-speak and into plan English. A slow grin settled across his face even as he blew out a smoke ring.

"Wha' y' need ol' Gambit t' steal fo' y', mon ami?"

Hank carefully replaced his glasses back on his face and peered through them at Remy. He paused a moment as if gathering his thoughts and then a look of genuine concern flashed across his face.

"I often find myself in a unique position in the medical and scientific communities. Many of my colleagues tend to shun me due to my status as a mutant while other's seek me out due to my status as being a member of the Avengers, even if it is only on a reserve basis. In such a case, I am often excluded from research projects that I am perfectly qualified for and would, indeed, be an asset to the group and yet, they cannot hide their study or results from my immediate knowledge due to my vast wellspring of 'underground support', so to speak."

Reaching up, Gambit pulled his cigarette from his mouth and tried to see where Hank was going with this.

"So, wha' y' saying is dat y' got friends in high places."

Hank smiled a sort of self-mocking smile.

"Yes. Quite. I can't say that I blame them, I am quite lovable. However, the point is, that some few of my more friendly colleagues have mentioned to me that the Center for Disease Control, or more fondly known as the CDC, has made some type of breakthrough in regard to the specific strain of the Legacy Virus that pertains to the human population. While this particular treatment would not be suitable for mutants, it would help the human citizenry effected with this terrible disease."

Gambit was confused. Hank didn't sound as happy as this type of announcement should have made him. He had been working long and hard to find a cure and he just wasn't the sort that would be angry that someone else had found something that he hadn't.

"But, dat's a good t'ing, right?"

Hank shrugged. It was an odd sort of thing to watch since the large blue furry mutant was still hanging upside-down.

"That depends entirely on whether or not the information that I received in regard to their research is correct. My sources tell me that the scientists at the CDC have taken their studies in a direction that I had not even considered worth going. It seems that the esteemed doctors and researchers at the CDC have taken it into their heads that the best way to defeat the Legacy Virus is to use a mutated and more easily controlled form of DNA taken from the last remaining Phalanx."

Against his will, a shiver of remembered horror traveled down his spine. Being a prisoner of the Phalanx was not something that Gambit recalled with any type of fondness at all. It was the type of memory that surfaced during his more intense nightmares. And for once, he was positive that he wasn't alone in that regard. However, it was Bobby that made the connection before he could.

"Douglock! Hank, do you think that they are experimenting on Douglock?"

There was a blue blur of movement as Hank leapt from the ceiling fan, flipped himself over in mid air and then landed solidly on his feet. One long muscled arm swung out and grabbed gentle hold of the badly dyed blue teddy bear wearing the small lab coat which was identical to the one that the real Hank was wearing. Then, with a single bound that left him perching on the chair, Hank cuddled the 'Hankmeister' to his chest and sighed.

"Honestly? I don't know. That's one of the things that I need to find out. My source of information was not from one of the team researchers, but from a colleague of theirs working on an unrelated problem. I've tried to go through official channels to find out more details, but I continually find myself stonewalled with bureaucratic redtape and the term classified information."

Gambit nodded his head in understanding. An unsubstantiated rumor wasn't enough to call the full X-Men team out on. If the rumor wasn't true, then a full scale assult on the installation would simply cause more trouble for mutants with no benefits to balance the scales.

"Dat's wha' y' need Gambit fo' den? To sneak in an' see if Douglock's dere?"

Hank nodded.

"Yes, essentially. I'd also like to get my hands on the research notes as well. If they are doing something that involves the Phalanx, then we need to know as soon as possible. Once before they thought that they could control it, but they were sadly mistaken. The Phalanx is not just a mere living organism such as a virus or bacteria. It is a sentient form of life, and as such, it will work and adapt and change itself until it can break free of it's captors once again. They are playing with fire and it seems that it is the innocents that get burned the worst in such cases." 

Gambit considered this all for a long moment, cigarette smoke swirling around his head. Finally, he looked up, his burning eyes glowing intensely.

"Let m' go on up an' get m' shower an' a nap. Den later on today Gambit an' y' will sit down an' y' can tell m' all dat y' know about de CDC."

Hank nodded, visibly relieved.

"And what payment do you require in return for your services?"

Gambit tilted his head in thought and then smirked a nasty grin at his friend.

"Gambit want t' be dere t' watch y' inform Wolverine dat he due f' a checkup complete wit' a prostate exam."

Hank paled beneath his fur and Bobby howled out loud in amusement as Gambit turned and nonchalantly sauntered from the room, cigarette smoke swirling about his head.

It was early evening and the mansion was filled to brimming with various X-Men relaxing in their own ways. Logan, Sam and Ororo were arguing over the television. Logan wanted to watch the hockey game, Sam wanted to watch an action movie staring some overly muscled actor who couldn't act and his beloved Stormy wanted to watch some special gardening program focusing on perennials. Gambit put his money on Ororo to win that argument.

He walked passed the door to the rec room without even peeking in. If he did, then he'd be drawn into the argument and he didn't want that. It would only draw it out longer then necessary. And he already knew how it would end. It was the same whenever any of the X-women wanted to watch something during a guy flick or a game. The female would watch her show, the movie would be taped for later viewing and the guys would all go down to the local bar to watch the game there. It was only male pride that made them argue about it at all in the first place.

In Gambit's mind, the trick was avoiding the argument process, but being available to be invited along to the bar once it was over. Hopefully, his business with Bobby wouldn't take very long and then he and the Iceman could go out with Wolverine and Cannonball to Harry's. He could even twist it around in his head to make it seem like they were owed a night out drinking. After all, a gardening special on the television almost guaranteed that the men were going to soon be drafted by Storm to help spread fertilizer in her garden. Or something equally distasteful. Mulch, for instance, was not one of Remy's favorite substances.

Making his way swiftly through the hallways, he punched in the doorcode as soon as he reached his partner's office. Swinging the door open, he walked in to the sound of furious typing. His face set in the stern lines and angles that he had come to think of as the 'Iceman', Bobby was focused completely on what looked to be some sort of email program. A quick glance at the computer screen let him know that Bobby was using Cerebro for the email, so Gambit knew it wasn't one of Bobby's normal flatscan business contacts.

He waited patiently for a few moments, letting his eyes play over one of Bobby's supermodel posters while his partner finished up. Finally, with one last punch on the keyboard, the sounds of typing stopped and he heard a soft sigh escape the Iceman's lips. Turning his head away from the poster, he looked directly into the cold hard eyes of the Iceman.

"What'cha got for me tonight Gambit?"

A cocky grin spreading across his face, Gambit placed his brown briefcase on top of Bobby's document covered desk. Flipping open the locks, he lifted the lid and showed his partner the neat rows of stacked hundreds.

"Jus' dis. A little somet'ing dat I picked up somewhere. Careless of de bank t' jus' leave it lying around where anyone could pick it up, neh?"

One of Bobby's eyebrows arched up and a slight twist of his lips sketched a cruel smirk.

"And where did you find it 'just lying around'?"

Gambit's grin widened.

"In de vault."

Bobby let loose with a sharp bark of laughter.

"Yeah, I can see how that was negligent of them to do so. What were they thinking putting it under lock and key where nobody but a skilled thief could get to it?"

Gambit chuckled and bowed down low at the praise.

"I t'ought so too."

When he stood up, Iceman's expression was once again serious, but there was a gleam of triumph in his hard eyes.

"Have a seat Gambit. I've got some good news that I'd like to share with you. And on top of that, I've got a new business proposition for you to consider."

Intrigued, Gambit walked over to the overstuffed chair that he was beginning to think of as his. He swept up the blue dyed teddy bear in his arms and flopped down into a graceful sprawl.

"So, wha's up, homme?"

Bobby grinned a shark's grin, all teeth and no morals behind it. That ruthless expression made the butterflies in Remy's stomach flutter about madly, but he didn't have any sense of fear from it, only excitement. Self analysis being what it is, Gambit ignored this now familiar reaction to the Iceman showing his true colors as a hardened criminal.

"The good news is that I've managed to secure you, and several other teammates, Shi'ar banking accounts. On the Thrownworld itself, no less. I was able to accomplish this by hiring a factor, someone to oversee the accounts and transmit all of the documentation from the Thrownworld to Earth and back again."

The small flutter of excitement in Gambit's stomach grew larger and his small smirk shifted into a full blown smile.

"Dat's great news, mon ami. But who is dis factor dat will be handling t'ings f' y' over dere? Y' sure y' can trust him?"

Bobby shrugged.

"As far as I am aware, this person is completely trustworthy and he has impeccable references. But do I trust him? No. I don't trust anyone, Remy, you know that."

Gambit chuckled and nodded. He did know that, and what's more, he agreed with the philosophy wholeheartedly. To the point where he practiced that lack of trust himself.

"My factor was recommended by the Majestrix herself. Apparently, he's some great-great cousin four times removed from her. However, he's supposed to be a genius with money and he does carry the house name Neramani. That is one of the things that made me willing to deal with him. Stabbing me in the back would dishonor his entire family, including Lilandra. And she wouldn't stand for something like that, family member or not."

Gambit nodded his head in understanding. Bobby could use his status as a X-Men and his familiarity with the Majestrix to browbeat his factor into playing it straight with him. It was a hold that he wouldn't have on someone else.

"Dat's true. Lil's a lovely femme, but she does have a nasty temper when she don' get her way."

Iceman chuckled at that statement of fact and they shared a brief smirk.

"The other thing that I wanted to discuss with you has a direct bearing on the Shi'ar accounts. Specifically, how to fatten them up as fast as possible. It's not really possible to simply transfer money from your Earth accounts over to the Shi'ar accounts. The money systems are incompatible and Earth money has little to no value on the Thrownworld or any of the subject worlds beyond that of a collector's item."

Gambit's smirk shifted instantly into a thoughtful frown. He shifted slightly on the chair and flung one leg up and over the arm even as he pulled the 'Hankmeister' in close to his chest for a hug.

"Didn' t'ink o' dat. If simply transferring funds ain' gonna work, den wha' will?"

Bobby smiled and spread his hands wide to gesture with.

"See, that's why I needed a factor. If it was just a matter of an electronic transfer, then I could do that from here. What we need to do is provide him with material things from Earth that could be sold to interested parties. Precious gemstones and crystals that are indigenous to Earth would be popular with jewelers and the scientific community. Artwork and literature would be collectors items to those noble families that pride themselves on their vast cultural archives and knowledge. Just about anything can be sold as long as it's in good condition and you know where to sell it."

Gambit nodded his head. It made perfect sense to him now. What Bobby was referring to as his "factor" was actually more in the line of a well paid and highly respected fence.

"I can see how dat would work. It's actually a real good idea. De question t'ough, is how y' gonna get all dis stuff t' y' factor on de T'rownworld?"

Bobby chuckled and shook his head in amusement while tsking softly.

"Gambit, you're not thinking. How do we get anything from the Shi'ar Empire? How do we always send stuff to them?"

Gambit's eyes opened wide in astonishment.

"Y' gonna use de Starjammers t' send stolen goods across de galaxy?"

Iceman nodded.

"Are y' nuts, Bobby? Scotty'd kill y' if he found out wha' y' planning."

Bobby just waved his hand through the air as if to brush away Remy's concerns.

"Don't get your panties in a twist Gambit. It's no big deal. Look. Corsair only stops by to drop off shipments from Lilandra once a year and I've already worked out the deal with him anyway. He's a space pirate by trade so he knows how to work with and for criminal types. For him this is a nice break from the smuggling business. It's easy money. And he knows not to spill the beans to Cyclops because it'll make him look just as bad as us. As far as Scott figuring out what's going on, maybe in a few years he'll catch on to it, but by then, who cares? We just have to make sure that everything will be crated up and ready for delivery to my factor. Then, when Scott's having his annual brood fest over his relationship with Corsair, we sneak it on board the ship." 

Leaning back in his chair, Gambit let all this information swirl around in his head. On the surface, it sounded like a good plan and a great deal. It seemed as if his partner had thought of everything, but Remy needed time to consider all the angles. Which was fine. Corsair wasn't due for a visit for at least another four months, so there was plenty of time to figure out all of the details and study them. Just for his own peace of mind, Gambit decided that he would have to hack into Bobby's email and read through all of the communications between him and this mysterious factor as well as the communications between him and Corsair. Then, if he spotted any holes in the plan, he could bring it to Bobby's attention and demand that he fix it.

"Oui, sounds good so far. Gambit'll have t' look into seeing what he can find t' sell t' de idle rich o' de Shi'ar Empire, neh?"

Glancing up at Bobby, his partner wore an expression on his face that let Gambit know that he wasn't fooled for a second. Iceman knew that Gambit planned to check into this situation on his own, and Gambit knew that Iceman knew. Neither one really minded though. Business was business, after all. Still, the intensity of the moment was building, so Gambit flashed his most charming smile at his partner and reached up with one hand to slide his sunglasses onto the top of his head.

"Stormy's gonna be taking control o' de tv tonight. How 'bout we grab up Logan an' Sam an' den head on over t' Harry's? Could be fun."

Bobby grinned back, but shook his head.

"I don't drink very often Gambit. You know that."

Remy shrugged. It was true, Bobby didn't drink very often, and even more rarely did he drink to excess.

"Oui, mais why is dat, mon ami? Y' need t' relax jus' as much as de next X-Men. Mebbe even more den most."

Bobby grinned another one of his surprisingly boyish grins.

"Because when I get drunk, I forget that I'm supposed to be nice to people. Obnoxious prankster aside, Bobby Drake is a nice guy. I loose sight of that fact when I drink too much."

Gambit smirked at him.

"Den y' turn int' de Iceman an' mess wit' everyone's head?"

Bobby chuckled darkly.

"In a manner of speaking, yeah."

Gambit smirked back at him and nodded.

"Don' worry 'bout it. Gambit likes de Iceman better anyway. Come on, y' can cheer m' on as I hustle Sam at pool fo' all his money."

Bobby laughed even as he stood up and began to walk around the desk. Grinning unrepentantly, Gambit also stood up and put the 'Hankmeister' back down on the chair. Bobby glanced back over his shoulder at him and smirked.

"You are a bad bad man, Remy LeBeau."

Gambit chuckled.

"Oui. Mais dat's why y' love m'."

Grinning like a fool, Remy followed the trail of Bobby's deep amused laughter out of the office and down the hall.

END: Brief Meetings, Odd Jobs and Money Deals

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