They had just crossed into Florida when Rogue’s communicator rang. She answered it with a glance at Remy, who seemed to be paying no attention to her, tapping the steering wheel and humming a tune. "Hello?" said Rogue hesitantly.
"Rogue!" It was Jean, her voice at its highest pitch of indignation. "Rogue, where are you?!"
"Flo—" started Rogue.
"You have one chance to bring him back here, Rogue—one, and then we’ll treat you the same way we’ll treat him!"
"Oh, for the love a god, Jeannie," said Wolverine in the background. Rogue heard a scuffle, and then Logan gain control of the microphone. "Listen, Rogue, them that cares ain’t too pleased with the way you took off after Gumbo. Is he there with you?"
"No…" said Rogue, looking at Remy again. He was smiling beatifically, nodding his head with the song now.
"Lie to me, that’s fine," growled Logan. "Listen, they’re worried about him, and if I was you I would be too. This ain’t natural." Rogue felt Remy jerk the communicator off the front of her blouse.
"Logan, mon ami," he said. "Take some advice an’ get dat stick surgically removed from your ass." Over Logan’s incensed cursing, Remy winged the communicator out of the car and settle back, smiling at Rogue. "Nice day for a drive, neh?"
"Yeah," said Rogue nervously. "Remy…can we talk?"
"Not about me," he said shortly. He took one hand off the wheel and reached down, rubbing her knuckles with his thumb and her thigh with the back of his hand. "Can’ you just relax an’ enjoy dis, chere? It may never be de same again."
"I’ll say," muttered Rogue. Remy frowned, and jerked his hand away from hers.
"Mon dieu!" he said. "You are de most unpleasant woman I’ve ever known, when it comes right down to it!" Rogue’s fear broke, and she shouted back.
"And you, Remy LeBeau, are th’ most arrogant, self-serving, stupid son of a bitch I have ever met!" Remy looked at her, shocked, and then reached over almost casually and slapped her across the face. Rogue’s eyes narrowed to dangerous slits.
"Oh no. You did not just slap me!"
"Shut you up, didn’ it?" asked Remy smugly.
"Stop the car!" said Rogue. Remy tapped the brakes once so Rogue went forward into the dashbord. She pushed back, breath coming in enraged gasps.
"Oo," said Remy. "Hissy fit time, eh chere?"
"I’ll give you a hissy fit!" growled Rogue, drawing back a fist. Remy didn’t blink, didn’t even looked the slightest bit worried. HeHe turned to face her, leaned back against his door, and smiled.
"Come on, Rogue," he thumped his chest with one hand. "You know you want to." Rogue made her fist a tight hammer with the thumb on the outside, drawing back until she felt her muscles sing. She’d leveled walls with this hand before…but for some reason, as she faced Remy, she was shivering. "Come on, chere," he said again. "I give you a free one, jus’ for fun." Rogue felt tears prick her eyes and her cocked arm began to shake violently. Remy moved like living mercury, pinning her face down on the seat in a martial arts hold faster than Rogue could react, and then flipping her over to face him. He took her still-tight fist and drove it into his midriff…and it stopped, buzzing and stinging, a few inches away. "Gotta love dat shield," he smiled. He got off Rogue and shoved her away from him. "Sit dere and shut up if you know what’s good for you." Rouge could feel the blackness starting to swirl up, but then Remy shook her violently. "An’ don’ faint!" He muttered a curse in French and gunned the Kharmann Ghia’s motor. Rogue gripped the dashboard like a lifeline, not daring to look at him.
"Mon dieu, what a charmin’ place," said Remy sarcastically. Rogue looked up dully at tall office towers and a few small, cheap stores sandwiched between.
"Where are we?"
"Disney World," said Remy with his new, insane cheerfulness. "Or at least depressing downtown Orlando."
"Orlando?" said Rogue. "What’s here?" Remy took her chin none too gently in his hands and jerked her head sideways to a tall tower in the distance. It had four spires and a huge sign across the front. SunTrust. Rogue shrugged slowly, shoulders drooping. She felt doped, doped and exausted and on edge from trying not to anger Remy. Bash his smirking head and get out of here, said one half of her mind. Crazy girl, he’ll kill you if you try, said the logical half, and Rogue had to agree with it. This Remy was another being entirely from the one she knew, unpredictable as any kidnapper and definitely much more dangerous.
"Ain’t you gonna give me de big puppy eyes an’ ask ‘why, what’s SunTrust, Remy my darlin’?" Rogue turned her head slowly, eyes burning.
"Wasn’t plannin’ to." Remy flicked out a card and charged it with a glance.
"Thin ice, girl," he tossed the card out of the car and blew out a section of the sidewalk. "Thin ice."
"Fine!" snapped Rogue, unable to keep up her scared-little-girl attitude any longer. "What is freaking SunTrust, Remy my darling?" He braked, ignoring the horns behind him.
"I should kill you, you little wench." Rogue’s tears broke, all the stress compounding.
"Then do it, Remy! Kill me!" She turned to him and screamed at full volume. "Kill me!" Remy blinked, and for an instant it was like a window in his mind had opened. His eyes became the soft, laughing, understanding ones she knew, and his thin faces changed, looking almost confused. Then the lock snapped back into place and he smiled at her, cool and utterly evil.
"Anot’er time, cherie. Right now…" he jerked his head at the SunTrust tower. "We’re gonna pick up some travelin’ money."
The SunTrust tower, Rogue found out, was the headquarters of a Florida bank, with huge vaults in an armored room on the twentieth floor. "Why not the basement?" asked Rogue.
"Because, my cute little idiot," said Remy. "De water table in Florida is so high they have too much of a flood risk. If it was a basement vault I would’ve used you for target practice miles ago."
"Why are you doing this?" cried Rogue, suddenly, desperately. "This isn’t you, Remy! What’s turned you into this thing?"
"Wouldn’t you like to know," chuckled Remy. "An’ as for de rest of dat impassioned speech…dis is me, Roguie. Dis is de me I was before you an’ de X-Men. T’ese are Gambit’s true colors." He stopped in a community lot a few hundred yards from the tower. "An’ damn, it feels good to let ‘em show." He vaulted the door and started walking. "Come on, chere!" he called. "Get dat sweet rear in gear!"
The robbery was very smooth. Marie, shaking still, gripped Remy under his arms and floated off the ground. "One t’ing before we get down t’business," said Remy as they passed the third floor windows. "If you’re t’inkin of droppin’ me off before our stop, I won’ waste anymore time. I’ll kill you." Marie was silent, merely gripped his arms tighter. "Understand?" said Remy sharply from below her.
"I understand," said Marie tightly. Remy smiled and settled back against her hands.
"Bien, chere. Could ya possibly fly any slower?" Marie gritted her teeth, and then kicked in a burst of speed and rocketed them up to a twenty-second floor windowsill. Remy jumped off and quickly blew out the window, and the vault after it. In hardly any time, Marie and Remy were driving away from the screeching alarms wailing police cars, just a normal couple in a Kharmann Ghia with two hundred thousand dollars in the trunk.
"Don’ mean to excite you, chere, but we bein’ followed," said Remy once they were cruising up Interstate 95, heading for Pensacola and ultimately Louisiana, Texas, and then, Rogue knew, her death. She was of no use to Remy any longer. "Ey," said Remy, jabbing her on the shoulder. "Is everyone payin’ attention?"
"What?" growled Marie. Remy grinned at her.
"Don’ be like dat, chere. You’re wit’ me. Be happy. Turn dat frown upside down." He grinned. "An’ I said we’re bein’ followed."
"What?" said Rogue. "By who?"
"Whom, chere, and I don’ know," said Remy. "Wouldn’ be your X-friends, now would it?"
"You know it’s not," sighed Rogue. "I came down here on my own to try and help you."
"An’ you certainly did," agreed Remy. "Let’s find out what dey want, non?" He jerked the wheel over in to a deserted rest area, the tropical forest growing over the picnic areas and the tiny information center. Soon a black limousine pulled off the highway and came to a stop behind the sportscar.
"Who is that?" said Marie. She felt a shiver up her spine. Something was not quite right. Remy felt it too. He got out of the car and stood in a ready stance, black eyes narrowed to slits. Slowly, slowly the door of the limousine opened. Rogue felt an almost anticlimactic sense of recognition at the figure that stepped out, but Remy flipped out two cards and dropped to a fighting posture.
"You," he growled. The figure nodded his head once, courteous and not the least bit threatening.
"Good afternoon, Mr. LeBeau," said Sinister.
Go on to Chapter 7