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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


"Good morning, Will," Xavier said cheerfully as he entered the kitchen.

Will's response was a bleary glare. "You are a member of the unnatural race known as the Morning People. I am obliged, under the rules of peace and quiet, to kill you in a very bloody and grotesque manner."

"You can go back to sleep if you want," Xavier pointed out.

"I'm planning on it, but I have a few things to get done first." He paused a moment. "That reminds me, I have a problem to talk with you about."

"What's that?"

"Rogue reminded me last night that her dressings will need to be changed. Who do I call in town to do that?"

Xavier frowned. "I'd prefer not to call on my contacts for something that trivial. Can't you do it?"

"I can, but I'd prefer not to if I can help it."


Will grimaced. "Rogue and I are still trying to hammer out the details of our relationship. I don't want to jeopardize anything by appearing to take liberties."

"I'm sure that she doesn't see it that way. Just keep it professional."

"Xavier, I may be able to access medical knowledge through the Chorus, but my actual experience in the field is sketchy at best. I'm going to be feeling my way through this." He sighed. "That was not the choice of words that I was looking for."

"I'm certain that you'll do fine. Rogue will be wearing a dampening collar, so her powers won't be a problem. You won't short it out accidentally, will you?"

"I couldn't fry an egg without a pan right now." He stood up. "Time to get started on breakfast. Do you have any objection to Belgian waffles with cherry preserves?"

"You won't get any complaints from me."

Rogue awoke to a light tapping on her door. "Come in," she called.

Will entered with a tray in his hands and a paper under one shoulder. "Rise and shine," he told her.

She examined the contents of the tray as she sat up. "Belgian waffles, apple juice, grapefruit, and hot tea? I haven't had this much to eat for breakfast in months."

"Your body's going to need the nutrients to repair itself," he told her as he handed her a napkin. "And given the time, this is closer to a brunch. After you've eaten, we'll go down to the infirmary and take care of those bandages."

Rogue stuck out her lower lip, pouting. "I was sort of hoping I could take a nice hot shower today."

He frowned. "I don't see how. Let me give MacTaggart a buzz and see if she has an opinion. I'll take care of it while you're eating."

"A shower?" Moria said.

"That's right, Doctor," Will said. "I want to know if Rogue will be running any risks by doing without the bandages for a half hour or so."

"Can you send me the medical file?"

"Give me a minute." Will typed at the terminal for a few moments. "Sending now."

There was a slight pause while Moria uploaded the file and reviewed it. She shook her head. "I'd prefer that she avoid stretching - or standing, for that matter - for any length of time. She's better off taking a bath."

Will nodded. "All right. She'll be annoyed that she can't do her hair, though."

Moria shrugged. "No problem. The dampening collar that she has is waterproof. You do it for her."

Will blinked. "Excuse me?"

"Wash her hair for her," Moria repeated patiently. "Sit her in front of her sink and have her lean back. Trust me, Will, she'll adore you for it. For some women, getting their hair done is the next best thing to sex."

"I'll take your word for it," he said dubiously, running his fingers through his own hair, which was cut rather short. "Thanks for the help. I'll let you know if there's any problems. I'd better warn you now - if there's an emergency, I may not have time to ask before teleporting you here."

"Understood," Moria replied. "Muir Isle out."

"So no shower?" Rogue asked.

"That's right," Will confirmed from his seat at the foot of her bed. "That's the bad news. The good news, for you, is that means that I'll be doing your hair."

Rogue's eyes brightened at that.

"Let me know when you're done with your bath," Will said as he stood up, "and then I'll take care of it."

"You forgot something," she pointed out.

"What's that?" he asked as he picked up the tray.

"I have to get the old bandages off first."

"Uh, right," he said, suddenly uneasy. "Let me go get some surgical scissors."

"Okay. I'll dig out my collar."

"You know, there are certain clubs in New York where that statement would have an entirely different meaning."


Will returned a few minutes later, with the scissors in his shirt pocket. "Ready?" he asked.

"Ready," said Rogue, who had changed into her robe and latched the collar around her neck. "Should I just sit at the edge of the bed?"

"That's probably best," Will agreed.

Rogue sat cross-legged on one corner of the bed, turning so that her back was to Will. She then pulled her arms out of the sleeves of her robe, pushing it so that it slid down, exposing her bare back.

"The scissors may be cold," Will warned as he slid one blade under the bandages and began cutting.

Rogue flinched involuntarily from the metal as the tension of the bandages increased slightly. "You almost done?" she asked.

"Almost," he replied. "Henry wrapped these pretty thick."

"Tell me about it. I've been sweating like a pig under them."

"There," he said as he cut through the last bit of wrapping. Rogue took a deep breath as the pressure subsided. "I'll be back in about twenty minutes. Enjoy your bath."

"Is there any gunk on my back?" she asked as she stripped off the bandages.

"Just a little iodine." He stood up. "I'll be down in the infirmary putting together what I'll need. Buzz me on the intercom if you need me." He shut the door behind him.

Rogue stood up, letting her robe fall to her feet as she did so. She bent down gingerly and picked it up, then entered her bathroom and turned on the water in the tub. She poured a capful of her bubble bath into the water, pulled out her favorite fluffy towel, and placed both it and the robe on the towel rack next to the tub.

She looked in the mirror and took a long look at herself. Her eyes were a little puffy, she decided, and a facial peel probably couldn't hurt. She pulled one out of the cabinet and applied it, scrubbing it deeply into her skin. She then removed the collar, stepped into the tub, and sank into the water with a sigh, letting the froth of bubbles surround her and allowing the heat to penetrate her aching muscles.

A few minutes of scrubbing allowed her to remove the remaining adhesive from her skin. She washed the accumulated fatigue of two days of inactivity off, peeled off the mask, then lay back and relaxed.

All too soon, she heard a knock at the bedroom door. A moment later, it opened up just a crack. "I hate to tell you this, but time's up," Will's voice called in.

"I was afraid you were going to say that," she replied. "Give me a minute."

"No problem." The door shut again.

She stepped out of the tub and toweled herself dry, slithered into a pair of sweatpants, then put both the robe and the collar back on. "Okay," she called.

Will entered, a light jacket slung over one arm and a small hose and nozzle in his hand. "This is a fleece sweatshirt of mine," he told her. "I thought it would be comfortable enough for you to lounge around in." He dropped it on the bed.

"Thanks." She pulled the chair into the bathroom and placed it in front of the sink. She then sat down, leaning the chair back until she was looking at the vanity mirror. "The shampoo's on the top shelf."

Will got the shampoo out, then attached the hose to the end of the faucet. He turned on the water, which ran through the hose, leaving the nozzle in a fine mist. Will adjusted the temperature, then started running the water through Rogue's hair. "Let me know if it's too hot," he advised her.

"No, that's perfect," she informed him.

After a minute or two of saturating her hair, Will squirted a generous amount of shampoo onto his palm and worked it into Rogue's scalp. Rogue didn't say anything, simply humming contentedly as she reveled in the tactile sensation.

Will kept his mind on business, concentrating on making sure that he didn't miss anywhere. After a few minutes, he rinsed Rogue's hair clean, wrapped her hair in a towel, and helped her sit up facing the mirror. He picked up her hairbrush and plugged in the dryer, then started brushing her hair. "Do you put anything in your hair?" he asked politely.

"No, I just brush it back," she replied.

He nodded and turned on the dryer, brushing her hair towards him as he dried it.

Since Rogue's hair nearly reached her waist, it took quite a while to dry. Rogue closed her eyes as she enjoyed the attention, ignoring Will's occasional accidental snagging of a knot of hair, which took him a while to loosen.

"Finished," he eventually said. "Next stop, the infirmary." He gathered her in his arms again, and they both left the bedroom and headed towards the elevator. "Can you get that?" he asked, nodding towards the elevator button. She pressed the button and the elevator door opened.

They arrived on the first sub-basement floor about a minute later, and Will took a sharp left as soon as they exited the elevator. After passing through two automatic doors, they entered the infirmary. Will sat Rogue down on one of the recovery beds, where he had placed several rolls of gauze and some surgical tape.

"Now," Will said in a businesslike tone as he walked around the bed to the other side, "if I'm making the bandages too tight, or doing anything else that makes you uncomfortable, let me know."

"Don't worry about that," she promised. "I'll probably just deck you."

"I'd prefer a warning first, if you don't mind." He unrolled about two feet from one roll of gauze. "All set," he told her.

Rogue nodded and removed the robe, then raised her arms slightly. Will placed the end of the gauze directly on her spine and started winding it clockwise around her chest. "Take a deep breath," he advised her.

Rogue complied. Will made several passes with the gauze, binding Rogue's chest and restricting the movement of her battered ribs. Rogue winced slightly at one point. "Too tight?" he asked her.

"No," she replied. "I'm okay."

"Almost done." He cut and taped the last of the wrappings. "There you go," he told her as he handed her the sweatshirt.

"Thanks," Rogue said as she put it on. She removed the collar and rubbed her neck, grimacing.

"Are you okay?"

"This damn thing always makes my neck ache," she complained.

"We can take care of that," Will told her. He walked over to a dispenser and pulled out a pair of rubber gloves, snapping them on. He rummaged through the cabinets for a brief time, producing a large bottle. "Liquid heat," he told her as he placed a small amount on his hands. "Where does it hurt?"

She touched the back of her neck. "All along here."

Will placed his thumbs on her spine and pressed firmly as he supported his jaw with her fingers. "That help at all?"

"Much better," she purred in reply, as warmth sank deeply into her muscles.

Will slowly guided Rogue's head from side to side, tilted it forward and back while supporting her neck and forehead, and finally rolled it both clockwise and counterclockwise. "How do you feel now?" he asked her as he broke contact.

"One hundred percent better," she told him with a smile.

"Let's get you upstairs, then."

A few minutes later, Rogue was seated in one of the easy chairs in the living room, with the TV remote, a plate of snacks, and a stack of magazines on a nearby table. "I'll be in my room if you want anything," he told her as he rolled a footrest over. "Just buzz me and I'll be right down."

"No problem," she said. "I'm just going to veg out for a while. I might even take a nap."

"While you're sitting up?"

"I'm so used to grabbing a nap in the Blackbird that I can sleep in almost any chair now."

"If you say so," he replied as he tucked a blanket around her. "Enjoy yourself."

Rogue smiled and turned on the TV.

Xavier, meanwhile, had spent the morning speaking with his brokers and attorneys, catching up on the financial and legal details that were necessary for the upkeep of the Institute and the school. A lengthy, but productive, conference call with Sean Cassidy and Emma Frost had updated him on the status of the students and their academic standings.

As he reviewed the extensive files that Emma had e-mailed him regarding Jonothon Starsmore, his phone rang. He glanced at the phone display, then pressed a button underneath his desk, locking the office door.

He picked up the phone. "Hello, Valerie."

"Charles, what the hell are your people doing up there!?"

Charles smiled. He had few amusements in his life, but keeping Valerie Cooper frustrated was among his favorites. "I'm afraid that you have me at a disadvantage, Val."

"Oh, don't give me that! There was a burst of energy in Syria that my people say is consistent with Apocalypse's power signature. We get nothing more for nine hours, then we get another energy burst, this time in Ireland, with a different signature. An hour after that, we get both signatures in the same place, again in Syria. After they die down, we get a satellite photo of the area, and an entire mountain range has just vanished from the map!

"Now, Charles, you tell me right now - what happened!?"

Xavier sighed. "Val, you'd better pour yourself a drink. You're going to need it."

Will read his weekly correspondence, discarding the obvious junk and tossing it into one of the three piles he had devised to classify his mail - refused, compost, and tinder. He then called his attorney in Dublin and reviewed the investment strategy which he wanted to follow for the next financial quarter. After he hung up, he sat back in his chair, removing his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose.

Fatigue was starting to set in. He had known that it was only a matter of time, but he'd hoped to avoid facing both it and the depression at the same time. This wasn't going to make things any easier for Rogue, Xavier, or himself.

Or could it be, he pondered, that his fatigue was a symptom of the depression?

He dropped that line of thought, deciding that it was a chicken-and-egg problem, and turned to his personal mail. It contained the usual group of requests from foundations and organizations asking for donations. They were marked REFUSED on the front. To each group, Will sent a letter requesting removal from their mailing list. He included a check for ten thousand dollars with each letter (Will had no objection to giving money to charity - he simply disliked being bothered by people. Besides, he hated wasting paper, and considered repeated mailings a major culprit in world pollution).

There were a few social invitations, to such things as charity dinners and gallery openings. Will was about to send them polite refusals, but decided that it might be a good idea to ask Rogue if she was interested in going to any of them first.

Having finished the paperwork, he settled into his chair, wincing as he did so. He'd been careful not to reveal his assorted aches and pains to Rogue, although he suspected that Xavier knew. Fortunately, they would fade away with time, as his healing abilities stabilized. In the meantime, however, it was damn annoying.

He stood up slowly, leaning against the desk for support, switched off his light, and limped over to his bed. He gingerly sat down and undressed, throwing his clothes into a corner. Pulling back the sheets, he crawled underneath them and pulled them over his head.

A few minutes later, he began trembling.

Xavier came out of his office just after two P.M. and floated over to the kitchen. Finding no one there, he went to the living room, where he found Rogue dozing in her chair. "Rogue?" he asked quietly.

She slowly opened her eyes and stretched luxuriously as she yawned. "How long was I asleep?"

"About four hours would be my guess. Where's Will?"

"He's working in his room."

"That may explain why he didn't make lunch." He went over to the intercom on the wall. "Xavier to Archetype."

There was no response. "Will? Are you there?"

Again, there was no reply. Xavier and Rogue looked at one another. "We should check up on him," Rogue said.

"Do you feel up to it?" he asked.

"I'll sit down if I get too tired," she promised.

"Sit on my chair instead," he advised. "It can carry us both."

She nodded and stood up, folding the blanket neatly and draping it over the back of the chair.

As they ascended in the elevator, Rogue leaned against the wall. "I'm okay," she told Xavier, seeing his concerned look. "I'm just trying not to push myself."

They exited and approached Will's room. Rogue tapped lightly on the door. "Will? Can I come in?"

There was no response. "Will?" Rogue repeated.

Still nothing. "Can you get anything from him?" Rogue asked Xavier.

Xavier extended his awareness for a few seconds, then hastily raised his shields. "It's started," he said sadly.

Rogue's eyes watered for a moment, but she brushed the tears away angrily. "Then I'm going to help him." Before Xavier could say anything, she opened the door and walked into Will's room.

The lights were out, the shades drawn. The clothes which Will had worn that morning were in a pile on the floor. This was a departure from Will's usual habit of hanging them on his chair.

Will was lying in his bed, facing away from her, his head the only thing visible outside the sheets. Rogue walked around to the other side of the bed.

He stared into space, his eyes glazed. His face showed signs of strain, and he was shivering - whether from cold or terror, she couldn't tell. Rogue studied his face for a few seconds, then moved the chair from his desk over to a spot next to the head of the bed. She glanced at Will's dresser, and picked up the pair of gloves that was on top of it, putting them on.

She gently cradled Will's face in her hands. "Will? Please say something. We're really worried about you. Can we do anything to help?"

He continued to shake, but glanced up at her after a few moments. "I don't know," he admitted.

"What are you feeling?" Xavier asked as he approached the bed.

Will continued to tremble for several seconds. "Cold. Trapped. Smothered. Have to go deep. Someplace safe. Place of Power."

Rogue looked up at Xavier. "Do you know what he's talking about?"

Xavier nodded. "He wants to enter a meditative state, so he can survey and repair the psychic damage. Some schools of meditation call that a Place of Power."

"Like the autohypnosis you taught me?" Ever since she had first joined the X-Men, she and Xavier had used various mental techniques in attempts to control her power and its effects.

"Something close to it." He thought for a few moments. "Maybe I can guide him through a meditation."

"Can I do anything to help?"

He considered that. "If you follow my guidance into the meditation, your mental presence may help him slip into a calmer state himself."

She nodded and slipped out of the chair, sitting on the floor and moving into lotus position. "All set," she said as she mentally centered herself.

"Will," Xavier asked, "can you hear me?"

Will nodded shakily.

"I'm going to lead you into a trance. Listen to me carefully, and so what I say."

"I want you to picture yourself in a large room. It's a very comfortable room, and it feels warm and safe. The walls are paneled, and a large bookcase, filled with books, is right in front of you." Xavier knew many variations on this meditation, but felt that Will's perception of the collective consciousness as a library would make this one particularly effective.

"You walk up to the bookcase, and pick out a book - any book you want. You open up the book, and you see that it has red pages. You dive into the book, and you find yourself in another room, with walls that are painted a bright, cheerful red.

"You walk around this room for a while, relaxing a little bit and letting the tension fall from your body. Once you feel comfortable, you walk up to the bookshelf in this room and pick out another book."

Xavier continued the meditation, leading both Will and Rogue through rooms that corresponded with the colors of the rainbow. When they had entered the violet room, Xavier instructed them to open a trap door in the floor, descending a ladder into a warm, dark room, where they sat down.

Xavier gave them both a few minutes to remain in that state. He was unable to read their thoughts due to their powers, but he could sense that they were both calm and centered.

Rogue sat calmly within the sanctuary of her own mind, letting the darkness and the silence wrap themselves around her like a warm blanket. It had been a long time since she had entered a trance this deep, and she enjoyed the peace that it brought.

After a long time, or so it seemed to her, she heard something from quite a distance away. The sound slowly increased in volume, and soon became recognizable as music.

It was a beautiful melody, complex and ever-changing, and it caressed her mind with the touch of a lover, surrounding her and flowing through her. She drank in the music, feeling an ecstasy that was unlike anything in her experience.

As she listened to the song, a small accompaniment to the main theme started to dominate, gaining prominence over the other notes and slowly taking their place around her.

It was a vibrant, energetic melody, but there was a deep, melancholy undertone within it that could not be ignored. It danced around her playfully, drawing near to her and then retreating. Rogue heard majesty and misery together, and determination coupled with despair. Within it all, there was affection and desire, bound together with a deep tenderness.

The music hugged her, tenderly but firmly, and lifted her in its embrace. She floated up the ladder, and was, slowly and gently, carried through the rooms that she had traveled through in her trance. When she reached the red room, she was carefully lowered to the floor. The music danced around her one last time and then merrily scampered away.

Rogue stood in the center of the room for a moment, then visualized a door, which appeared in the middle of the wall to her right. She opened the door and walked through it.

She opened her eyes, finding herself back in Will's room, and turned towards Xavier, who was studying her intently. "How much of that did you see?" she asked him.

"Enough to know that it was none of my business."

"Did we do any good?"

"See for yourself," he replied.

Rogue turned to face Will. His breathing had steadied, and he was now in a deep, untroubled sleep. His face had a smile which reminded her of a Buddha statue.

"I don't know exactly what you did," Xavier admitted, "but it seems to have done the trick."

"Let's just let him sleep," Rogue suggested. "I've got a feeling that the next few days are going to be rough on him." Xavier nodded, and they quietly left the room, closing the door behind them.

"If you do want to talk about it," he offered as they went down the hall, "just knock on my door."

"I think I'm going to take a page out of Will's book and think about on my own for a while. I'm going to head back downstairs and see if I can sort it out."

"That sounds like a good idea," he agreed. "Would you like anything for lunch?"

"I could go for a sandwich. There should still be some cold cuts in the fridge."

"Turkey on rye?"

"Sounds good to me."

That evening, after having a small meal of grilled cheese sandwiches and soup, Rogue retired to her bed with a book. Her thoughts were not on her reading, however, but rather on the events of that afternoon.

A light knock on her door caught her attention. "Come in."

The door opened, and Will's head leaned into the room.

"Hi," she said warmly.

"Hi," he replied, smiling slightly as he walked in. He moved the chair over to the foot of her bed and sat down.

"Are you feeling better?" she asked.

"I feel great. I thought that we needed to talk, and it's a good idea for us to do it now, while everything's still fresh in our memories."

"Okay." She put down her book and sat up, wrapping her arms around her knees and leaning back against the headboard.

"You took a big risk," Will told her bluntly.

"And you didn't when you came back for us?"

"You could have been trapped inside my depression until I came out of it on my own."

"We didn't know that you'd respond the way you did. I was just trying to give you something to grab onto, so you could pull out of your funk."

Will nodded at that. "I'd say that it worked pretty well. I wouldn't say that I feel great, but I'm not about to start hiding in a closet either."

"Thank God for that," she said. She was quiet for a moment. "Will... what happened while I was meditating with you?"

"I only know my end of it. I was slipping into trance, and I felt that there was something nearby. I moved closer to it, and the panic started to quiet down. Once I could think clearly, I realized that it was you."

"The music that I heard... was that you?" That question had been nagging at her.

"Partly. You caught a glimpse - just a glimpse - of my perception of the Chorus."

That statement stunned her. "You mean that - that beauty - was the Chorus?"

"A small part of it. The music that became louder and helped bring you out of the trance - well, that was me."


His face reddened in embarrassment "Think of it as my way of saying thanks for your help. And..." he faltered.

"And what?" she pressed gently.

"I wanted to give you something," he blurted out. "I thought that after the hell you went through with Apocalypse - because of me - you deserved something that came straight from my heart."

Rogue was touched, but puzzled. "Why didn't you just talk about it with me?"

"I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to put my feelings into words. Besides, I might have chickened out later."

"Do I still intimidate you?"

"Not you," he clarified. "My own emotions."


"I'm usually pretty level headed. I don't really go to any emotional extremes. In the past few days, though, I've been going all over the place from hate to pain to concern to panic. I'm not used to that, and I'm still trying to find some way to deal with it."

"It's not something that you have to do alone. We're all here to help you."

"Not all of you," Will clarified. "There's an important exception."


"Bingo." His eyes became flinty. "Normally, I wouldn't give a damn, but when it affects the team, I have to be concerned."

"We'll take care of Scott. You worry about patching yourself up."

"No problem. I'm planning on taking your place in that chair downstairs. Staring into a fire's helped me meditate in the past, so I'll burn a cord or so of wood."

"The Professor's going to love that."

"I'll give him back twice whatever I use," he shrugged. "I've got enough wood stacked at my safe houses to build a good size log cabin. I need the fire to focus, so I'll do what I have to." He stood up and put the chair back into place. "You should get some rest yourself," he advised her. "You're still not fully recovered."

"I'm going to sleep as soon as I finish this chapter."

"Good." He playfully tweaked her toes where they could be seen poking up under the covers. "Sleep yourself out. I'll start on the cooking again tomorrow."

"You don't have to."

"I think getting back into a routine will help. I'll take a nap later in the day if I get too tired. Do you feel up to going outside tomorrow?"

She smiled. "I'd love to. I'm feeling a little cooped up in here."

"I'll see what I can do. Sleep well, gorgeous."

"Thanks, sexy," Rogue replied impishly.


"You've got a cute butt."

"Wonderful," he said dryly. "That should strike fear in the hearts of my enemies. Maybe I should cut a hole in the back of my coat and put clear plastic inserts in the derriere of my pants."

"I guarantee that you'll make the Van Dyne list."

"The what?"

"I'll tell you about it in the morning."

"Whatever you say."

At nine o'clock the next morning, Will stumbled into the doorway of the kitchen, leaning against the jamb.

"Morning," Rogue told him cheerfully.

"Glmpf," he replied.

"Still a little tired?" Xavier asked.



"Nmf," Will grunted as he shook his head.


He nodded, taking the paper from Xavier and glancing at the front page. He blinked several times, trying to focus his eyes. After a moment, he gave up and waved one hand absently. His glasses appeared in the hand, and he put them on.

"Do you feel all right?" Xavier inquired after a few minutes, when it seemed Will was, if not alert, at least in the general vicinity.

Will yawned. "I'm fine." He turned his gaze to the stove. "Any objections to cherry crepes for breakfast?"

"None here," Rogue offered.

He nodded and dug the crepe maker out of the kitchen cabinets. Rogue and Xavier watched, amused, as he gathered all the ingredients together without opening his eyes. Will poured a generous serving of heavy creme into the mixer and set it on maximum. A few minutes later, he had mixed and poured out several crepes. One can of cherry preserves later, breakfast was on the table.

"What do you have planned for today?" Xavier asked Will once they were all seated.

"Well, I want to do a light exercise routine after we're done here. I have plans for lunch, and I'll review the files this afternoon. We've let a few things back up, and I'd rather not have to explain why when everybody gets back."

"I can help with that," Rogue offered.

"Okay. You can warn me if the electronics start to become affected. I might be too preoccupied to notice."

"I'll be in my office again," Xavier interjected.

"You're growing roots in there," Rogue told him.

"I'm finally making a dent in the paperwork. I'd rather not quit while I'm on a roll."

Will nodded. "I feel the same way when I'm writing. I can go two or three days at a stretch when I'm inspired."

"Do you sleep?" Rogue asked.

"I might take catnaps, but that's about it." He looked at Xavier. "Do you want me to make you a lunch?"

"I think I can manage. Work at your own schedule."

"In that case," Will said as he stood up, "there's a set of weights downstairs with my name on them."

"I'll spot for you," Rogue told him as she polished off the last of her breakfast. "We'll clean up before lunch, Professor."

"Don't worry about it. I'll probably eat in my office, anyway. Just run everything through the dishwasher after dinner."

A few minutes later, both Will and Rogue had changed into sweat suits, and were preparing the Danger Room for an exercise session. "Do you want Nautilus or free weights?" Rogue asked Will.

"Better make it both."

Rogue nodded and entered the program. A moment later, the various pieces of equipment were in place. They descended in the elevator, and Will took his place on the bench. Rogue stood just above him, placing her hands above the weight bar. "All set?" she asked.

Will nodded. "Let's start with something light, then work our way up."

"Computer," Rogue said, "set weight to fifty kilos. All increases to be in five kilo increments."

"Confirmed," the computer replied.

"Remind me to change the voice on that thing one of these days," Will asked Rogue.


"I get enough of Xavier's voice on a daily basis. I'd rather not have him nagging me while I exercise."

I heard that, Xavier's voice echoed in their heads.

"Eavesdropper!" Will said loudly. A mild psychic grumble could be heard in reply.

"You enjoy getting under his skin, don't you?" Rogue asked.

"It keeps him young." He tightened his grip on the bar. "Ready."

For the next twenty minutes, Will built up a good sweat, moving through a full range of upper body exercises. While he was in the middle of his second set of abdominal crunches, however, he gasped and gingerly lowered himself until he was flat on the ground.

"Are you okay?" Rogue asked.

"Give me a second," he told her in a strained voice. After a few moments, he rolled onto his stomach and slowly stood up, grimacing as he did so.

"What happened?"

"Back," he said tersely. "I'm going to hit the showers and see if some heat will loosen it up." He slowly walked over to the door.

Fifteen minutes later, Will left the showers and went to the library, where he picked up a few magazines to read, then moved on to the kitchen. He pulled out the chicken stock which he had made the week before, and put some on the stove to heat up. He added some diced carrots and celery, then cut up a chicken breast and put it in the pot. Twenty minutes and a few pinches of herbs later, the soup was ready. Will poured it into a thermos, then made a large sandwich to go along with it. After placing everything on a tray, he added a large glass of apple cider. He balanced the tray on one hand and walked over to Xavier's office.

"Come in, Will," Xavier said just before Will knocked.

"Since you had a fifty-fifty chance of being right," Will said as he entered, "I'm going to guess that me shields are back up to par."

"Good guess. Actually, I heard the dishes clinking, and the timing is about right for lunch."

"Sure, take the mystery out of it. You could have kept me paranoid for weeks, but you blew your chance."

"Do you always think in terms of psychological manipulation?"

"Only when I'm on duty," he shrugged. He placed the tray on the small table which was next to Xavier's desk.

"But you're not on duty right now," Xavier pointed out.

"I will be after lunch. I'm just trying to get in the right frame of mind."

Xavier looked dubious about Will's last statement, but decided to let it pass. "What's the sandwich?"

"Turkey, mayonnaise, cranberry sauce, and cornbread stuffing."

"Isn't that a little heavy for lunch?"

"You haven't been eating well lately. This should take care of that."

"Yes, mother," Xavier sighed.

Will's eyes narrowed. "Just for that, no dessert for you tonight."


Continued in Chapter Twenty-Nine


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