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most of the people in this belong to Marvel, the rest to me. I am making
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So this was Hell.
Gambit looked around with interest. It appeared the priests had been telling the truth when they'd thundered down their sermons of fire and brimstone, the whiff of sulphur and the screams of the damned souls. And he'd always expected that, if it existed, he'd end up here.
Still, he wasn't sure he necessarily wanted to stay here. If he remembered correctly, he was sure there was a loophole.
Casting his eye over the demons that wielded the whips, keeping the newly arrived souls in line, he made his choice. Slowly the line moved upwards until he was next to the demoness he had picked out.
'Excusez moi,' he said, and offered his most winning smile. 'What does Gambit have to do to get an appointment wit' de Devil?'
'LeBeau!' The demon smashed open the door to the chamber - Gambit had learned that knocking had never become popular in Hell. Still, he had learned not to let it cramp his style.
'Dat's me,' he said, looking up at demon.
'The Lord of Flies is ready to see you,' grumped the demon. 'Get a move on.'
Gambit smiled down into the eyes of the demoness and kissed her lips with more than a hint of regret. 'Gambit is sorry, Lilith, but he must go.'
The demoness shrugged, the movement causing her voluptuous form to shiver against Remy's in a way that deepened his regret. 'When Beelzebub calls . .' she said and brushed her lips against his forehead. She concentrated and Remy's clothes re-formed around him. He stood up and smiled at the demon in the doorway. 'Lead on,' he said. He had time to think a final, parting thought to Lilith and then the world dissolved around him.
'Chateau d'Yquem 1954,' said Remy, raising the crystal glass so he could see more clearly the red fire that burned in its heart - a red fire that had nothing to do with Hell. 'Gambit did not t'ink such luxuries were part of Hell.'
The Devil laughed, something old and writhing and evil underlying the mirthful sound. 'I am the Devil,' he said. 'They think to tempt me with their wares when they come to Hell. They think I can be swayed. They do not know that I can rip the wares from their soul and leave them bleeding. But I do so enjoy it when a soul who has appreciated the finer things in life comes to Hell.' He grinned at Remy, who wondered whether it was polite to point out to the Devil that his nostrils were smoking. Probably not, he decided.
Gambit tilted his head slightly. 'Den Gambit does not appear to be bargaining from a position of strengt', non?'
'No,' replied Beelzebub and his voice was acid over gravel. 'Especially not when you have had the temerity to be enjoying Lilith for the last few months. This is supposed to be a place of punishment, not a pick-up joint.'
Gambit shrugged apologetically. 'Lilith liked de look of me,' he said. 'And when she offered . . . well, Gambit is sure you aware dat he's not very good at resisting temptation. Otherwise, I not end up here, non?'
The devil smiled and his eyes reflected fire - at least Gambit hoped it was a reflection. 'Did you enjoy her?' he asked.
Gambit smiled in recollection. 'She was - magnifique,' he whispered, and his voice made his sincerity clear.
'I always thought so,' replied the Devil and for a heart-beat his expression mirrored Remy's. In a moment of communion, both lifted their glasses and silently toasted the phenomenal prowess of Lilith.
'Anyway, LeBeau,' said the Devil after he had drained his glass. 'What did you want to see me for?'
Gambit fidgetted with his gloves for a moment and then sighed and set down his glass. 'I have come to see if I can strike a deal wit' you,' he said. He reached for his glass, but it was gone. Like all luxuries in Hell, it was ephemeral. Only the torment was eternal.
With a frown, the Devil re-formed the glass in Remy's hand. 'And why would I strike a deal with you?' he asked. 'I own you - I own your soul. What could I get out of any deal?'
Gambit smiled, his charm almost blinding. 'But I'm sure dose were de rules,' he said. 'Whenever anyone offers to play you in a game of chance for deir soul, you must accept, neh?'
Satan frowned and twitched his tail lightly. 'I've always regretted that clause,' he said. 'But it was that or having to give up Pandemonium. A capital city seems a bit too much to give up for the odd soul who can beat me.' He looked up at Remy. 'Alright,' he said. 'A game of chance for your soul. But remember,' and his smile was so malicious that Remy paled, 'I have the luck of the Devil.'
Remy smiled back, a little wanly. 'But I have the luck of a t'ief,' he responded.
'What game?' asked Satan. 'Marbles, chess, Monopoly, craps, poker, blackjack, roulette -'
'Blackjack,' said Remy, hurriedly.
'Blackjack it is,' said the Devil. The chamber around him hazed out and re-formed into a casino, with demons as waiters and damned souls chained to poker machines, endlessly watching the wheels turn. They were seated at a blackjack table and dressed, somewhat incongrously in the Devil's case, in a tuxedo. 'But we need a croupier.'
A succession of people flickered behind the table, a blur of faces, some which Gambit thought he recognised. Finally, the flicker resolved into a tall, blond woman, whose green eyes were icy cold as they glared at Remy.
'Belle?' he said, shock in his voice. His ex-wife glared at him, but did not reply.
'She's been here for some years,' replied the Devil.
'But - but - she doesn' deserve it,' responded Remy.
The Devil raised a sardonic eyebrow at him. 'She was the leader of the Assassins,' he said. 'She tried to kill you - and Rogue - and quite a few other people. Of course she should be here.'
'But she was - her memories were stolen, she was changed, manipulated - Belle was good at heart,' Gambit cried.
'Circumstances,' replied Satan, dismissively. 'Besides she was weighed as evil - so here she is. A few thousand more years of punishment and she may be allowed to move on. But for now, she is our croupier. She will be honest,' he said, and grinned. 'She hates you enough to make up for any sympathy a damned soul would have for you, but she has no affection for me.' His smile was truly evil. 'Deal!' he said shortly and Belle dealt, her face a mask.
'Twenty-one,' said Gambit, as his cards were turned over.
Satan stared down in dismay at his hand. He said a swear-word in a language Gambit had never heard and hoped not to again. It made his ears hurt.
'I told you not to draw on seventeen,' said Gambit and grinned a little as the Devil's tail twitched and smoke poured from under his collar.
The Devil snarled at him. 'Pack your things,' he said. 'You can go - I'll get Lilith to take you up in the Hellevator. She's got special dispensation - Gabriel likes her as well.'
Gambit looked down at the cards in his hand and sighed. 'How 'bout,' he said, barely believing he was doing this, 'how 'bout another hand?'
Satan turned a disbelieving face on him. 'You've won,' he snarled and his voice was a land-slide on a dark night. 'You're going to Heaven. And you want to play another hand?'
'Oui,' Gambit sighed. 'Another hand. And if I win - I get to take Belle wit' me.'
Satan's laugh rolled over him, almost painful in its malicious hate. 'For her?' he said, and his laugh deepened. 'She hates you. She tried to kill you when you were alive. And you'll play for her?'
'Oui,' repeated Gambit. 'She deserves better dan dis.'
'If you lose, you stay in Hell,' said the Devil. 'And no Lilith, this time.'
Gambit nodded his agreement. Satan nodded at Belle. 'You can't be croupier,' he said. 'You are now the prize. Stand behind him.'
Belle shook herself and moved from around the table. She paused as she passed the Devil. 'I don' hate him,' she said, and her voice was soft and rusty with disuse. 'One day, Lord of Flies, you may learn why Remy's women do not hate him even after he leaves dem. I would watch over Lilith if I were you.'
Satan's roar was enough to bring down Hell, but Belle stood unmoved before him. With quiet defiance she faced him until she finally turned and walked behind Remy, standing at his shoulder. Remy glanced at her and smiled, but she did not return it.
'Another croupier,' hissed the Devil, and Remy wondered whether it would be polite to tell him that his tuxedo had burst into flames and vanished, leaving him naked. Probably not, he thought, and tried to think how to concentrate with a naked Satan beside him.
But the new croupier focussed his attention sufficiently - for it was Candra. Remy gasped, startled. Candra was supposed to be immortal. But it was definitely her.
'Not immortal,' said the Devil, answering Remy's thoughts. 'You stole her last vial of elixir. She faded then, until she died and came to me. This is one of your women who does hate you,' he finished, and Candra's glare did not bely his words.
The Devil did not take losing well. Some poor demon had been obliterated and a worker crew was scraping the bits off the casino walls.
'Go! Go!' screamed the Devil, at Remy and Belle.
Gambit sighed and looked into Candra's eyes, harsh hatred glaring from them, her every movement a song of hate at him. But underneath he could see the drowning despair and horror and need for salvation.
His women never hated him. Belle knew why, Candra knew why, Remy knew why. Even when he left them, they knew he would sell his soul to save them if they needed it.
And so he held out the deck to the Devil once more.
'Double or not'ing?'