Whispers

 
 
Chapter Twelve: Les Immortels

"The Immortals"

- Ah, a man who quotes the classics is a man after my own heart. -
- You've read the classics? -
- Nope, just like to hear 'em quoted. -
- LeBeau, you are perhaps the strangest man I have ever met. -

Gambit and Bishop, Gambit & Bishop LS 2

-
Jubilee stared into the oddly glowing eyes of the old man and repressed a shiver. All his playful amusement could not hide the dangerous hardness of his face. She had the distinct impression that she was looking at a man that could and would do anything to get what he wanted.

She could hear the two women behind her coming forward. Betsy stopped next to Jubilee and placed one hand protectively on her shoulder. LeBeau continued on by, gliding around the man's desk and leaning over to whisper something in his ear. He smirked, then waved her aside.

Jubilee pulled out a strip of bubble gum. "You mind?"

"Non. Not at all, petite," he said with a chuckle and leaned back in his chair, still studying her.

She popped in the gum and began chewing, letting the strawberry flavor settle across her tongue, calm her as she worked it around her mouth.

Betsy waved her free hand. "Enough of this. What do you want?" she demanded. Her voice was hard.

LeBeau leaned against the wall with one hip, her gun jutting out on the other in its holster. She still wore those red sunglasses that hid her eyes.

The man's amusement did not lessen, until the burning of his crimson eyes moved from Betsy to fixate on Jubilee, deliberately excluding the assassin. "I have a proposition for you, petite." He tilted his head slightly, questioning, daring.

Jubilee glanced up at Betsy, but the nails digging into her shoulder was quite enough to know that Betsy was bothered by this. Strawberry melted along her mouth. She paused chewing and very slowly, purposefully blew out into a large pink bubble. She popped it and continued chewing, eyes narrowed at the old man and his dancing red and black eyes.

Devil eyes, she decided.

Betsy prodded her shoulder.

"Why me?" Jubilee asked and cracked her gum.

Maybe she would only tick him off, but she had no intention of letting him get the better of her in this argument. He wouldn't talk to Betsy. That much was clear. It was up to her.

He appraised her sharply. "Why not you?" Good humor warmed his rich, heavy accent.

It didn't sound quite the way Jubilee had heard French pronounced before. She pondered that, still chewing on her gum. She tasted a question in her mind and decided it probably wouldn't gain a real or useful answer, so opted for a safer one.

"Why not you?"

He sighed and rubbed his hands along the edge of his desk, drawing her gaze. "Still just as suspicious, aren't you, petite? Never knew you to put on a poker face before though." The corner of his mouth tugged upward, but he flattened it into a line. "I am LeBeau. This," he gestured at his companion, "is Tessa. She requires assistance with an assignment I have given her that I am unable to provide in this time."

The black-haired woman remained silent under Jubilee and Betsy's scrutiny.

"You are able to provide it."

"Why her? Why not me?" Betsy demanded. "And what do we care about your assignment?"

His eyes sparked with...something, and he smiled again broadly. "You don't have the necessary qualifications, chère, fine specimen though you are."

LeBeau stood, coming around the desk to approach them. He was tall, lean, still strong despite his age. Jubilee backed automatically into Betsy, who took another step forward.

"What were you doing at the crash site if you have no interest in my assignment? You were looking for someone, non? You want to find them."

His eyes dared either of them to disagree.

"Let's hear this proposition," Betsy replied coolly.

He raised his hands as if in innocence. "That's all I ask."

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Jubilee listened carefully to what LeBeau was saying and blanched when he got to the word 'sacrifice.' "You're going to kill him?" she demanded, shoving her gum to one side of her mouth.

LeBeau turned his red eyes from the fire to Jubilee's face. Betsy and Tessa had left the room after the initial words were exchanged. Jubilee was curled up in one of the fat reading chairs, which she had pulled up towards the old man's desk.

"Non," he said softly. "That's what New Sun wants to do. Hire assassins en masse and make sure he dies." His face tightened and he seemed far away from the stone library, lost in thought. Or memory.

Jubilee eyed him skeptically. "Sacrifice, huh?" She snapped her bubble gum.

He focused on her again, then smiled in a way that sent a shiver down her spine. An almost crazy gleam came into his eye. "Do you play chess, petite?"

Both eyebrows came up. "I'd think you were more the cards type."

He shrugged. "I play what I'm dealt, but more importantly, I deal. Chess is helpful when thinking strategy." He leaned back casually, taking her in intently. "They call him Gambit."

Chess. Gambit. Jubilee racked her brains for any correlation or significance. "Uh...so?"

"A gambit is material sacrificed for a greater return in the overall game strategy," he explained. "He is my gambit."

"And New Sun wants him dead?"

"Oui, petite." LeBeau turned back to the fire, staring into the glowing flames with eyes as fiery and red as they were. "He wants every version of him dead in every timeline."

She curled herself up a little tighter and chewed more vigorously on the gum. "What do you mean, 'version'?"

LeBeau laughed, a dry, amused cackling sound and he returned his gaze to her yet again. "I am New Sun. He is me."

She blinked.

"But we be from different times," he dismissed. "New Sun isn't from this timeline at all."

"You're crazy as a loon," she managed to get out, then eyed him warily again. "How?"

"Kinetic energy," he replied smoothly. "It's all about potential." He gestured at the flames. "Potential energy becomes either energy in the sense that you understand it, or it can become time, travel time. Comprenez?"

"So why in the world are you telling me?" She heard the whole theme of then I'd have to kill you play through her head.

"Because you need to understand the wager." He tapped his fingers on the desk restlessly. LeBeau always seemed to be restless. "Because those making the wager will be coming to meet with me today, and you'll be there. You'll need all the help you can get, petite, to keep them both alive.

"I've raised different ones and placed them where they need to be. Some know why they're there." He shrugged. "Some don't. But you must."

"What you want me to do..." Jubilee whispered, trying not to shudder in a room that was suddenly too hot, too confining as the world shrunk to the space between her and her next breath and the burning embers of his gaze on her. He had told her the part he wished her to play. And she stared at him, beginning to understand just what he meant.

"No. You can't mean it."

Her eyes widened and she stared into his eyes as he laughed his low, dry cackle.

"Oui, petite. I can."

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Betsy Braddock stared menacingly at Tessa's back. The woman was seated at a high-tech computer terminal with multiple screens and seamlessly connected keyboards, one leg crossed over the other and a calm, cool expression beneath her shades.

"Why did you call yourself LeBeau?"

Tessa did not turn. "That is my name. He gave me his surname when I was still young." The words were delivered with dispassionate lack of interest. One fingernail tapped a key but did not press it.

Betsy raised a brow. "You don't look that old."

Silence was her only response.

She hardened her gaze. "Why is she in there?"

Tessa swiveled about in the chair. "Jubilation Lee?" she asked evenly.

Betsy's psychic knife sprung hot and ready to her hand, ready to plunge into her target. Instincts rose to place her in a fighting stance. She would have struck, only able to quell her response by the memory that Jubilee could be hurt. Jubilee wasn't where Betsy could protect her.

"How do you know her name?"

Tessa clucked disapprovingly. "Still so violent, Ms. Braddock."

Betsy narrowed her eyes dangerously. "You violate my mind, take our communicators, hold us hostage and you expect me to trust you?" Anger lit hot in her gut, but her voice was cold.

Tessa's eyebrow flicked upward. "It is better if you do not trust me," she replied.

She turned back to her computer as Betsy stared at her in disbelief.

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Jubilee could almost taste the darkness in the cloaked woman's approach. A slender hand gloved in silk lifted slightly and the two large men flanking her backed away and went out of the door.

LeBeau never glanced up from his book. Long fingers continued to caress the ancient pages, turning them every so often. Jubilee watched him, slightly fascinated. He seemed utterly at ease with the bizarre nature of their situation and yet, something in his eyes made her wonder about who he really was and what his motives were. Something like regret.

The woman tapped her foot. "Always one to keep me waiting, aren't you?"

"Bonjour, Candra." He turned another delicate page.

Candra, if that was her name, made some sound across between a groan and a sigh and threw back the hood on her midnight blue cloak to reveal a rather pretty, ageless kind of face, hard blue eyes, and long, blonde hair spilling over her shoulders and to the bottom of where the hood now hung. Her hand stopped on the hilt of a dagger at her waist.

Jubilee kept silent from her perch on the window sill. She felt no need to draw attention to herself in the middle of this "dangerous" meeting of "friends."

"I see you haven't changed, LeBeau," the woman said, a snap in her heavy alto.

He smirked at the words he was reading. "You haven't either, non?"

Candra narrowed her eyes in an icy glare. "You're still under my jurisdiction."

"That so?" LeBeau looked up, snapped the book shut with a quick motion, and set it gently on his desk. He folded his hands together in front of him and Jubilee could see the red in his eyes begin to glow. "You're a patron, non?"

"Just because—" But Candra was unable to finish her angry words, for the door opened to admit another.

This woman came alone, also cloaked. Dark forest green that drank in the light swirled at booted heels. Long green gloves like those that Rogue had worn covered the hands. The cowl was pulled down low, casting the face in dark shadow, more so than Candra's had. Jubilee could see the face of Candra when she entered. This face was completely obscured. The hair was tucked securely beneath the hood.

The woman came directly toward them, then abruptly swerved and fingered a book on one of the shelves. She lifted it quickly with deft fingers and flipped it open to a bookmarked page, then traced her hand down the page as if searching for a remembered passage.

Candra sneered.

The woman moved closer to the fire.

"We're not all here," LeBeau said evenly.

Candra whirled on him. "And what right does he have to come? He is not Guild. He is no patron."

"Non," LeBeau agreed.

Jubilee watched the fire dancing in the crimson irises. It brightened, flared, expanded, blending into the black on the edges, dimmed, then brightened again.

"But he's the one that proposed this wager."

"Never could leave a wager, could you, sugar?"

Jubilee almost started and reminded herself to keep still. It was the green-cloaked woman who had spoken, eyes never leaving the page she read. The accent was thickly southern, thicker than even Rogue's had been. For the first time, Jubilee started to feel the tinglings of horror.

LeBeau merely chuckled.

Candra slid one hand up to her hip and pursed red lips while narrowing her eyes. Then she too laughed, a soft unfriendly sound. "You haven't changed a bit, have you?" Her eyes danced with cold amusement.

A sharp snap drew all of their attention. The woman had shut her book with a flick of her wrist and was now setting it gently back in its place on the shelf. A tiny bit of long, silky white hair, slightly curling, slid out from under the cowl where Jubilee could see it. The green glove rose and tucked it back out of view.

"You're the one who hasn't changed, Candra." The voice was almost silent, deadly calm, with acid tendrils curling about the edges.

Jubilee suppressed the urge to shiver in the sudden tightness of her nerves.

The hooded figure moved toward the window, stared out, and continued in the same deadly tone. "The Witness is nothing like he was."

"Oh?" Candra flicked an eyebrow upward.

LeBeau said nothing. His crimson eyes were completely unreadable in his sharp, expressionless face. His hands smoothed the edges of his desk. He rubbed his fingers together on one side, then rested them on the desk. He never once broke his gaze from the woman's back.

Jubilee could hear the curve of a smile in the southern drawl when next she spoke. "I should know."

"You'd think," LeBeau flipped back before leaning backward ever so casually in his chair.

The door began to open.

LeBeau looked up, his gaze sharpening. Candra's other hand moved to her hip and she turned to face the door, legs braced, chin held haughtily high. Jubilee sank further back into the unyielding stone, her eyes fixed on the door as worry gnawed in the pit of her stomach. The woman made no motion.

The form that entered the room was enough to make Jubilee feel very real fear. He was a man, if you could call him that, seemingly made of blue fire or energy of some kind. His tall, lean form remained human in shape, if not in composition or expression. The voice that addressed them held an otherworldly quality to it.

"Jacob sends his greetings," he stated.

LeBeau nodded acknowledgement. He tilted his head back ever so slightly, to allow his words to travel towards the woman by the window, dressed in green. "We are all here, Fatale."

Fatale. Jubilee tasted the name and found it deadly.

A slight motion caught her eye and she shifted her focus to her peripheral vision to see Fatale draw a dagger and test the blade against her gloves. The faintest hint of red stained the deep, dark green.

Candra sighed impatiently. "Let's get on with it. I have other matters to attend to than just this."

"Don't we all, Benefactress," Fatale drawled softly, then turned, dagger still naked in her hand. "Immortals generally do."

Jubilee felt queasy and prayed as LeBeau had said that she would not be noticed.

Candra shrugged easily and aimed her sharpened glare at the newcomer. "The wager."

"And what have you to do with it?" he spat angrily. "Witness?"

LeBeau merely chuckled. "She has staked a claim in our quarry, New Sun. You want him dead. I want him alive. These others," he gestured towards the women "have their own wishes and the right to claim them."

New Sun. Witness. Jubilee's eyes darted back and forth as she tried desperately to follow what was being said.

"He is mine, from my jurisdiction," Candra said, drawing herself up with a regal air. "I am patron of his Guild."

"You will try to save him?" New Sun asked, his energy flaring brighter for a moment.

Fatale laughed softly, drawing New Sun's attention.

"And what is your part in this?" he demanded.

All eyes sharpened on her. Candra's were hard and resentful, New Sun's suspicious, LeBeau's bright, burning, and interested.

When she did not speak, he prodded. "Fatale?"

"Diable." She wiped the dagger with a soft cloth and sheathed it. "I am a Guild patron. I have reasons for being here and reasons for placing my own wager on the head of Remy Etienne LeBeau." She stood straight, and Jubilee strained to see her face without moving, but could not. "You all have your uses for him, don't you? Have everything figured out. Sending out the hounds of heaven and hell to hunt him down." The cold, faint amusement that colored her tone frightened Jubilee in her corner.

Fatale returned to looking out the window. "Well, so do I."
 


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