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"The Archetype Association"

The Archetype Association

Author's Notes
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49


Will spent most of the next morning in training with Xavier and Jean, attempting to devise psychic defenses which would best make use of his unique situation. The effort was frustrating for all of them, and left Will with a splitting headache.

Rogue had decided to go shopping with Betsy that afternoon, so Will chose to continue his independent study into the history of the X-Men. He made himself a pot of tea, then descended to the War Room and placed himself in one of the seats at the Annotation Secretarial Terminal.

Henry had, once Will had expressed an interest in the subject, compiled a general history of the X-Men, which gave the various missions, with historical background information, in a generally chronological order. The program was designed to run as a multimedia event, providing as much or as little detail as Will desired. It was also designed to turn itself off after an hour, since experimentation had determined that to be the longest amount of time that Will could spend around the computers without his powers putting them at risk.

"All right," Will said to himself, as he took down notes, "Morlock Massacre. Injured X-Men were Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, and Colossus, now all in Excalibur. New Mutants had one casualty, Cypher. X-Factor, pre-Fed, lost Warren." He paused, sipping at his tea. "Computer, if Angel was injured in Morlock massacre, explain current status as X-Man. Is his current condition the result of a new mutation?"

"Negative. Current physical status of Angel result of genetic manipulation by Apocalypse."

Will paused a moment. That name meant something to him, but he couldn't quite place it. "Please show visual record of Apocalypse."

The computer complied, placing the image on the largest screen.

Will froze, staring at the viewscreen. The next thing he knew, he was being shaken gently by Logan.

"Hey, you okay? You spaced out on us there."

Will shook his head, trying to clear it. "How long?"

"At least an hour."

Will looked thoughtful for a moment. He touched the teapot. It was cold. He glanced at the monitor, then got up and left the room, not saying a word.

Rogue and Betsy came back about two hours later, loaded down with shopping bags. "You think Warren'll like that nightie you bought?" Rogue asked Betsy as she shut the door.

"I'll think he'll find some way to show his appreciation," she replied with a smile.

"Rogue?" Bobby's voice echoed from the kitchen. "Is that you?" He entered the foyer, his face concerned. "You'd better look in on Will."

"What's wrong?"

"We don't know. He was going over the historical files, and Wolvie says he zoned out for a while. When Wolvie shook him out of it, he just got up and went straight to bed. 'Roro and me tried to get him to talk to us, but all he does is lie there in the dark."

"Will? Are you okay?"

"Please go away, Rogue. I'd like to be alone for a little while."

"Not until you tell me what happened. You've got everybody worried sick."

"I'm touched," he said sarcastically.

"Hey, you're the one who wanted a family. Now you have to put up with nosy relatives." She switched on the light.

He snarled at the sudden illumination. "You're not going to let this lie, are you?"


He exhaled. "Give me a minute to get dressed."

"Okay," she said, leaning against the wall.


"Why bother? I've seen you naked before."

"You have?" Ororo asked, raising an eyebrow as she walked in.

"Gee, thanks, Rogue," Will said dryly. "Why don't we post it to the Internet?"

"Post what?" Bobby asked as he walked by.

"What is this, 'A Night at the Opera'!?" Will howled.

"Well, we could invite everybody else in if you want..."

"Out. Out! Out!"

"We want you downstairs in five minutes," Ororo said as she shut the door. Will could only make a strangled noise in return.

"How'd you know that would work?" Bobby asked Rogue as they went downstairs.

Rogue gave him a sneaky little smile. "He may not want to talk with us, but he wants to have all of the X-Men in his bedroom even less."

Five minutes later, Will was in pajamas and a robe and sitting in the parlor with the rest of the team.

"This is going to take me a while to explain. A lot of what happened to me took place at an intuitive, gut level."

"Take your time," Xavier said.

"That's what I was trying to do when I was shanghaied down here," he grumbled. "I'm still sorting through it all."

"Start at the beginning," Jean suggested.

"I've got a feeling that the beginning of this started about four thousand years ago, Jean."

"With Apocalypse?"

"Right." He leaned back a bit in the chair. "While I was healing on my mountain..."

"I've been meaning to ask you about that," Warren interrupted. "Why do you call it your mountain?"

"Because I bought the land as soon as I had enough money. Now you woke me up for this. Do you want to hear it or not?" Will's mood had obviously not improved.


"While I was there, on the floor of my cabin, my mind drifted all over the place. I heard everything from conversations between five-year olds to Gregorian chants. There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it, except for certain times when an emotion and an image converged." He tossed a printout of Apocalypse's face onto the table. "That image."

"What was the emotion?" Henry asked.

"Calling it hatred would be generous."

"But you've never actually seen Apocalypse before today?" Scott asked.

"Never. But when I saw that picture, it felt like someone wrapped a fist around my heart and gave it a good squeeze." His face was grim.

"What do you think this means, Will?" Xavier asked.

"I don't know yet. I'll have to chew on it a bit more."

"So you can reason it out?"

"I don't think reason will have much to do with my answer. It's been my experience that most of the answers that I get are irrational, but true anyway." He yawned. "Can I go back to bed now?"

"Aren't you hungry?"

"Not really. I'll warn you now, I plan to stay asleep until I figure this out."

Xavier frowned. "We'll wake you if I think you're going too far, or if there's an emergency."

"Fair enough." He winked out.

"Well?" Xavier asked everyone there.

"I'm worried about him," Rogue confessed. "This is a side of him I haven't seen before."

"I think we're starting to see that dark side that he keeps talking about," Betsy commented.

"I think you're right," Scott conceded. "Does that make him too dangerous?"

"I don't think so," Ororo said. "He hasn't been violent without cause, and he seems to be aware enough of what his emotions are. So far, he's only been aggressive when he's been threatened."

"I know I would've been a lot tougher on that guy who shot him than he was," Logan agreed.

"We might want to keep an eye on him when he wakes up," Jean advised. "He may take a day or two to get back to the real world."

In fact, it took three days. Will had closed the shutters and drawn the shades, so no light entered his room. He woke up at two in the morning on the second day, put on some pajamas and a robe, and plodded down to the kitchen.

To his surprise, Rogue was there, her back to him, scrounging through the cabinets. She was wearing a light blue pair of silk pajamas.

"Found anything edible?" he asked.

"Give me a minute," Rogue replied, not turning around. Then she stopped for a moment, and looked behind her shoulder. "I wasn't expecting you up yet."

"I just wanted a bite to eat. I'll be going back to bed soon. What were you having?"

"I haven't decided yet."

"How about a sandwich?"

"Are you making it?"

He shrugged. "No problem." A few minutes later, he had assembled a pair of massive roast beef and turkey sandwiches.

"Have you figured out what happened?"

"I've got one or two theories, but nothing concrete."

"This is really bothering you, isn't it?"

He nodded. "I know it's important, but I don't know what to do about it."

"Why not leave it alone? Just let events take care of themselves?"

He thought about it for a moment. "That's good advice, actually. I've been so active since I got here, maybe it would be a good idea to relax for a while."

"What are you going to be doing, then?"

"I'll act as if it never happened. I can't do anything about it yet, so I'm not going to strain my brain." He finished his sandwich and sat up, putting the plate in the sink. "I'll see you in a day or two. Good night."

"Night. No, wait," she said as he started to leave.


"Can we talk for a while?"

"About what?"


He sat back down, waiting, one eyebrow arched.

"I need to know some things about you," she said tentatively.

"Like what?"

"What were you like... before?"

"Before everything happened?" She nodded.

He became thoughtful. "All I really have is random bits of memory, and the emotional impressions that go with them. I do remember that I wasn't a very happy man. I think that I was lonely... depressed. I was very timid. I didn't assert myself. I was cold, impersonal. I buried myself in my work. Does that help at all?"

"Were you ever in love?"

"Not that I recall. I think that I'd remember something like that. I don't think I dated much, if at all. I was too shy."

"You? Shy?"

He shrugged. "I'm still shy. Do you have any idea how much courage it took me to ask you out? You're an intimidating woman, you know."

"Me? Intimidating?"

"I was terrified you'd laugh in my face."

"I'd never do that."

"I know that now. I didn't then."

"Why did I seem intimidating?"

"I looked a lot different when I was younger. I was your typical pencil neck geek. Girls may as well have been from another planet. The fact that I hated crowds didn't help. I couldn't go to parties – the sort of thing you go to in college nowadays would send me into a panic attack. By the time I got out of the awkward stage, my reaction around women was to clam up and try to blend in with the wallpaper. If you and I had run into one another back then, I would have turned six shades of red if you so much as said a word to me."

"And now?"

He gave her an ironic smile. "Believe it or not, I'm still intimidated by you."


"Because, my dear, you are the most beautiful creature I have ever seen, and I'm surprised that you haven't left a trail of broken-hearted men in your wake."

Rogue blushed at the compliment. "You didn't see me when I first came to the X-Men."

"You looked different then?"

"Let me get a picture. I'll be right back." She walked over to the gallery and removed a photo from the wall. "That's what I looked like when I first joined," she said as she handed it to him.

"Your hair is different," he noted. "What's with that?"

Rogue became embarrassed. "That was one of my dumber moves." Seeing his confused expression, she continued. "I was born with my hair like this," she said, as she twisted a piece of her white forelock in her fingers. "I got teased so much about it, though, that I covered it with dye until I was twelve."

"One day, I saw a picture of Stephen Strange – Doctor Strange. His hair had natural white streaks that I thought looked a lot better than anything I had, so I bleached my hair to look like his. I let it go back to the single streak later, after I joined the X-Men, because I realized how silly I was being about the whole thing."

"When did you go back to your natural colors?"

"Not until the Savage Land. It started curling once I let it go long, so I just decided to stick with what I'd been born with."

"Well, I think you look fabulous with what nature has provided you."

She smiled shyly. "Thanks. I'd better get back to bed," she decided, glancing at the clock. "I've got a Danger Room session at eight."

"I need to get back to sleep, too. I want to be back on duty tomorrow if I can." He shut off the light as they left the kitchen.

"Do you think you're ready?" she asked him quietly as they ascended the stairs.

"I'm not sure, but I know I can't let this throw me off track."

"Please promise me that you'll talk about it if you have any problems."

"I promise. Good night."

As she readied for bed, Rogue reviewed their conversation in her mind. She recalled his portrayal of her as intimidating. That was a word that she had never considered descriptive of herself. She rolled the word around in her mind a few times, smiling naughtily as she drifted into sleep.

When Will woke up again, he seemed to be rather irritated for some reason. "I want to be pushed to my limit on this test," he told Xavier as he walked into the Danger Room.

"Are you sure about that?"

"I've been a lump for the past four days. I need a real workout."

"All right. Give us a few minutes to come up with something." Xavier switched off the intercom, then looked at Henry and Ororo, who were there to observe. "Any ideas?" he asked them.

Ororo thought about it for a moment. "We've done a thorough job of testing him physically. I think we should start looking for psychological weaknesses."

"Not a bad idea," Henry agreed. "Where should we start?"

"Rogue told me that he's an ocolaphobe. Why don't we surround him - slowly, of course - and see how he reacts?"

"Good idea." Henry entered a series of commands into the computer, then switched the intercom back on. "This will be a test of your combat skills only. No powers, please. Just take down your opponents. Destructive force is allowed."

Will nodded his understanding and pulled his sword from the air. Henry executed the program, and three humaniform dummies, mounted on wheels so that they could move around, rose from the floor. This particular model, an improvement on an earlier design, had articulated limbs which gave them the ability to attack and the equivalent strength of a human bodybuilder.

"Here's what we'll do," Xavier told Ororo and Henry. "We're going to slowly increase his number of opponents, then we'll add in visual and audio distractions, while cornering him at the same time. That ought to get some kind of reaction out of him."

"Don't push him too far," Ororo cautioned. "I don't want a repeat of what happened when he fought Logan."

"Session beginning now," Henry said.

The robots started moving in for an attack. In the space of two seconds, Will struck the head from one, then sliced the arms off the others.

"Is it just me," Henry mused as he observed, "or does this seem familiar?"

"Increasing to five," Xavier announced as more robots arose from the floor.

Will became a bit more inventive this time. As the robots sped towards him, he simply pushed them into one another and severed their hydraulic lines with his sword, causing them to short out and leaving a large pile of metal on the floor.

"Seven." Xavier said. "Adding distractions." A series of small, high-intensity spotlights emerged from the walls, shining randomly. At the same time, the general lighting of the room dimmed, making it harder for Will to see his opponents. Meanwhile, the pressor fields created sounds of gunfire, screaming, and yelling.

"That spooked him," Henry noted, observing Will's reaction.

"He recovered pretty quickly, though" Ororo replied. "Charles, are you getting anything from him?"

"He's off-balance, but he's not panicking yet."

"Time to heighten the pressure, then. Increase the temperature to thirty degrees, and add another ten opponents. We'll try to herd him into a corner."

Will was slowly pushed back by the robots towards the far corner of the room. His attacks became more frantic, affecting the robots randomly, in stark contrast to the methodical steps he had taken earlier in the exercise.

He was finally pushed back to the corner, where he flattened against the wall. He looked frantically for a way out, finding none.

Henry, who had been monitoring Will's medical signs, suddenly gasped. "Get down!" he barked, doing so himself, grabbing Xavier on the way to the floor.

Ororo hit the floor as soon as she heard Henry, covering her head with her arms.

Later, when they talked with each other about the experience, they would have trouble coming up with words to describe it. They all got the sudden feeling, however, that things were not as they should have been - that there was a wrongness to the event.

A wave of nausea gripped Ororo, and she clamped down on her mouth to avoid vomiting. The sensation quickly passed, however, and she stood up a minute later. "Are you both all right?" she asked Henry and Xavier.

They both nodded weakly. Henry struggled up to the window. "Oh my stars and garters," he whispered.

"What is it, Hank?" Xavier asked as he maneuvered his chair to an upright position.

"I think you'd better see for yourself, Charles."

Xavier and Ororo made their way to the window. The room was a shambles. Pieces of the computers which made up the walls of the Danger Room had exploded, leaving small holes scattered over the usually white walls and giving the room a pockmarked appearance. The robots had been hurled against the wall below them, resulting in a pile of junk.

Will was still leaning against the opposite wall. His face was white, and his breathing was heavy and erratic. As he wiped his brow, they could see that his hands were shaking. His face had the look of a frightened child.

"Henry, see to him," Xavier said in a businesslike fashion.

Henry made no reply, but instead leaped out of the room and entered the elevator. When he hit the button to go down, sparks flew out of the panel, causing Henry to curse under his breath. "We'll have to pop the window," he said.

He and Ororo went back to the viewport and peeled off the polymer lining which framed it. Pushing on the bottom of the window caused it to pivot out on its hinges, giving both Henry and Ororo enough room to jump out. Ororo lowered them down on a gust of wind.

They approached Will slowly, taking care not to panic him. "Will," Henry said quietly, "are you all right?"

Will didn't answer him. His eyes were staring into space, not seeing either of them.

"Let me try," Ororo suggested. She crouched down, looking straight into his eyes. He didn't seem to see her. "Will, it's Ororo. Are you all right?"

He glanced at her nervously, then, with a visible effort, brought himself under control. "Yes," he said, as he stood up and straightened his clothing, "I'm fine, thank you. Is the test complete?"

"Yes, it is," Xavier said from above them. "I want Hank to give you a checkup, though."

"Fine." He walked out of the Danger Room, with Henry right behind him.

"I wasn't able to do an EKG scan because of his disruption field," Henry told Xavier later, "but a blood analysis showed extremely high levels of adrenaline. I think that what happened was some sort of instinctive reaction to being trapped."

"I agree," Xavier said. "Anything else?"

"He had some minor cuts and scrapes, but that was it."

"Where is he now?"

"I believe he went outside."

It was Bobby's turn for perimeter duty, and he made a game of it as usual, tossing snowballs at anything that looked like a likely target. He sauntered along, whistling to himself as he entered the woods which bordered the lake.

As he wound his way through the trees, he created six snowballs, juggling them with the ease of long practice. Bobby had been taught juggling by Nightcrawler, and liked to keep his skills up.

He became more daring as he continued, tossing them higher and higher until they went up into the trees. After long practice, he had reached the point where he could send all six balls into the air, then catch them without breaking stride. He waited for them to come down.

They didn't.

Bobby frowned, thinking that they must have stuck to something up in the tree. He wandered under the tree for a few moments, trying to get a better view, but the thick leaves prevented that. Finally, he iced up and ascended into the tree on an ice platform.

Will was comfortably settled in one of the larger branches of the tree, a writing pad balanced on one knee. He had a small lunch hanging from a bag next to him. The snowballs had been placed on another branch.

"What are you doing up here?" Bobby asked.

"Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits."

Bobby thought about that a moment. "I know I've heard that somewhere before."

"I saw it on a poster once when I was in college."

"You okay?"

Will nodded. "I just needed to be alone for a little while." He placed the pad and pencil in the bag and jumped out of the tree. "I have to get started on dinner."

"Dinner's not for five hours," Bobby protested.

"I'm making chili. That takes a while."

"Oh. How hot do you make it?"

"Let's just say that you don't want to be in your ice form while you're eating it."

Ororo entered the kitchen two hours later, attracted by an intriguing smell. "What are you making?" she asked Will.

"Chili," he replied as he cut up some onions and peppers. "And there's bread in the oven."

Ororo peeked into the oven. "That's quite a bit of bread."

"I'm going to hollow them out and use them as serving bowls for the chili. Less mess to clean up later."


He shrugged. "Elementary."

"Can I help with anything?"

"There's some cheese on the top drawer of the refrigerator. Could you pull out the food processor and shred it?"

"Certainly." A few moments later, Ororo was chopping the cheese into manageable blocks. "Will?" she asked after a few minutes.


"May I ask you a question?"


"Rogue told me that you serve the Goddess. Is that true?"

He looked at her and nodded. "Yes, it's true. Why?"

"Were you raised to believe in her?"

He shook his head. "No. I was raised Catholic, actually. But I never really believed in any of it."

"I don't understand."

Will looked thoughtful as he stirred the vegetables into the pot. "Did you ever get the feeling that a situation that you were in was just wrong? Well, not entirely wrong, but just wrong for you?"

She thought about it a moment. "Yes. I was once trapped in a world that was full of life, but had no soul. I always felt that there was something... hollow about that place."

"That was the Adversary's world, right?"


"Well, Catholic school was a lot like that for me. I just couldn't bring myself to believe that what I was being taught was the truth. I decided that it might work for everybody else, but it didn't work for me. Once I graduated, and stopped being surrounded by nuns and priests eight hours a day, I started doing some research into my Irish heritage. Once I started that, I eventually learned about Celtic paganism, and that eventually led me to Wicca. That was when I discovered something that was very important to me."

"Which was?"

"That Wicca was what I had always believed. I just didn't have a word to describe it before."

Ororo nodded. "I think I can understand that. I had what one might call a personal experience with the Goddess when I was a young girl."

"You did?" Will asked, raising one eyebrow. "Would you mind describing it? If it isn't too personal," he amended hastily.

"Not at all," she replied, as she placed the cheese back in the refrigerator. She sat down, thinking back. "What do you know of my life before the X-Men?"

"Not much. I'm still working on the history of the team. I don't want to get into individual histories until I'm done with that."

"I will keep this brief, then. I was orphaned as a child, and lived on the streets of Cairo as a thief for several years. Eventually, I wandered down to Kenya, where I was adopted by my mother's tribe, who thought me a goddess."

"Because of your appearance?" he guessed.

"Yes. I resembled their goddess so closely that it was uncanny." She stopped for a moment, frowning. "Let me rephrase that. They considered me an earthly manifestation of the Goddess. As my mutant powers developed, I realized that along with them went a awareness of the state of the environment around me. I could feel the health of the earth itself.

"In any case, it was a custom among the tribe that a young woman, soon after menarche, would go up into the hills to speak with the Goddess as an initiation into womanhood. Because of my importance to the tribe, my initiation was a highly anticipated event.

"The initiation was preceded by a three-day period of fasting and meditation, intended to purify the body and spirit. I went into the hills, and sat on the top of the highest point, staring at the stars.

"I have never been certain of just how long I stood there, waiting. Even to this day, I am not sure that I expected anything to happen. After a while, I suppose that I became bored and anxious. I gazed up at the full moon. I can still remember my exact words: 'Great Mother, Bright Lady of the earth and air, heed thy daughter's call!'"

"And to my amazement... she did."

"What did you see?" he asked her in a quiet voice.

"The most beautiful woman I have ever seen, before or since. Her hair was the silver of the moon, and her skin was flawlessly smooth, unweathered by the elements. Her eyes held a timeless wisdom and love that I have not experienced since.

"When I came back down, the villagers could see in my eyes what had happened. From that day on, I became a protector of the lands, sending rain whenever the crops risked failure. I remained in that role until Charles approached me and asked me to join the X-Men.

"And now and then," she said to herself, "I wonder if I made the right decision."

Will looked at her for a moment. "I envy you, Ororo. You were gifted with something that I've tried to attain for ten years now.

"One of the disadvantages of my powers is that serenity is not something that I can attain easily. My mind bounces around so much that I can't gain sufficient balance to meditate properly. I've wondered just how much more I might be able to accomplish if I could focus properly." He glanced back at the pot, then went to the cupboard, removing some spices, which he added to the chili. "We'll just let that simmer for an hour or two." He stood there for a moment, thinking, then straightened up. "The full moon will be next week. I usually hold a private worship service, and I was planning on going to one of the places that I own that night, so that I wouldn't disturb anybody else. You're more than welcome to join me if you wish."

"I would be honored, but you don't have to leave," Ororo informed him. "We will all respect your privacy. If you ask Charles, I am sure that he will allow you to hold your service in the gardens."

"I'll think about it." He opened the oven. "These are ready." He grabbed a pair of oven mitts and removed the loaves. "They should be cool by dinnertime."

Dinner was attended by most of the residents of the mansion, since the aroma from the chili had attracted most of them at one point or another. Will had hollowed out the loaves, poured in the chili, and placed the tops back on as lids, placing the cores beside them on the plates. The cheese was placed in the center of the table, and pitchers of water and milk were at the ends.

Bobby dug right in. "I want to see if this stuff is as hot as you say it is," he told Will.

Will poured a glass of milk and handed it to Warren. "Could you pass this down to him, please? I give him about ten seconds."

Bobby's face turned a shade of red that none of them had ever seen before. He grabbed the glass from Warren and gulped it down. "What did you put in this stuff!?" he exclaimed.

"Oh, the usual - dragon fire, lava, brimstone."

Logan ate with relish. "Haven't tasted chili this good in a while," he complimented Will.

"Thanks. Think it rates a six-alarm rating?"

"I'd give it a five."

"Everybody's a critic," Will sniffed.

After everyone else had sufficiently cauterized their taste buds, they came to the conclusion that the meal was quite good. Afterwards, Henry and Logan took care of the dishes. Will flopped into an easy chair in the parlor and stretched. Rogue sat next to him a minute later. "You feeling any better?" she asked him.

"I'm not as anxious as I was before, if that's what you mean."

"Good. Are you up to doing anything tonight?"

"Any ideas?"

"I thought we could rent a movie."

"Sounds good to me. I assume you have a membership somewhere near here?"

"There's a place in town. I'll drive."

They stood among the various offerings of the video store. "Okay," Will asked, "do we see something new, or a classic?"

"Let's go with something older. How about Gone With the Wind?"

"A bit too sappy for my taste. What about Spartacus? I'm a Kirk Douglas fan."

"Let's make that your choice. I want a romantic movie."

"We'll get three, then. I'm off duty tomorrow, anyway. Here's one," he said, handing a tape box to her.

"The Princess Bride? Kurt's been telling me about this movie for years, but I haven't gotten around to seeing it yet."

"Romance, comedy, and adventure, all in one."

"Sounds good. What's the third one, then?"

"How about Casablanca?"

"Ooh, I love that movie!"

"Well, then, sweetheart," Will said in an awful impression of Humphrey Bogart, "next time we can look for the black bird."



"Don't quit your day job."

When they got back to the mansion, they found that the television was being used by Logan and Bishop. Logan was watching The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and trying to answer Bishop's incessant questions about the historical setting at the same time. "We'll never pry them away from there," Will complained.

"That's okay," Rogue replied. "I have a TV and VCR in my room. Come on." She started up the stairs. Will simply raised one eyebrow and followed her.

Rogue dug her TV/VCR combo from the closet and placed it on her hope chest. "Which do you want to see first?" she asked him.

"Your room, your TV, your choice."

"The Princess Bride it is, then." She popped the tape in and sat up against the header of the bed. She noticed that Will hadn't moved. "What's wrong?"

He looked around the room. "Where do I sit?"

"Right next to me, silly."

"Isn't that a little risky? I mean, with your powers?"

She looked at him pointedly as she kicked off her shoes. "Will, you haven't been anything less than a perfect gentleman since the day I met you. I don't think that's going to change. We're both wearing gloves and long-sleeved shirts. If I'm not worried, you shouldn't be."

He thought about that a moment, then nodded. "Fair enough." He removed his shoes and sat down next to her, stretching out his legs. Rogue gestured with the remote and the movie began.

Since she had never seen it before, the various perils of Wesley and Buttercup kept her entranced, while Senor Montoya, Fezzig, Prince Humperdinck, Miracle Max and the Man in Black kept her in stitches, and the duel between Montoya and Wesley floored her. "No wonder Kurt loves this movie. That's the best sword fight scene I've ever seen," she said at the end.

"Remind me to rent The Court Jester next time. You liked it?"

"It was great. Which one next?"

"Let's watch Casablanca next. It's getting late, so we'll watch the other one tomorrow."

"I'll switch tapes."

Rogue had always seen Casablanca on television before, so watching it without incessant commercial breaks was new to her. She had sat back on the bed a bit lower than before, and after a few minutes, she decided to take a risk. "Will?"


"Would you mind if I moved a little bit?"

"Of course not."

She paused the movie for a moment, then moved so that she was leaning back onto Will, her body positioned between his legs. She lay back slightly, her head resting against his chest. She took his right hand in hers and held it loosely. "That's better," she sighed as she started the movie again.

Will said nothing. He had decided back in Paris to allow her to control the direction of their relationship, seeing immediately that she was nervous about any sort of intimacy. He was glad to see that she had relaxed enough around him to be able to instigate a degree of casual contact. He smiled and turned his attention to the movie.

As the closing credits rolled, he squeezed Rogue's hand lightly. "What did you think?"

He didn't get an answer. "Rogue?" he asked.

After a moment, he heard the soft sound of her snoring. He gently disengaged her hand from his, then slowly moved his body out from underneath hers, trying to disturb her as little as possible. He quietly put the TV back in the closet, then opened the chest and removed a blanket, which he draped over her. He looked at her a moment, his eyes soft, then put his gloved fingertips to his lips and placed them on her forehead. He picked up his shoes and the tapes, then left her room, closing the door behind him.

"Sweet dreams," he whispered just before shutting the door.


Continued in Chapter 21


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