THE ARCHETYPE ASSOCIATION
"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
"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."
"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
"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,"
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
"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
"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?"
"Almost," he replied. "Henry wrapped these
"Tell me about it. I've been sweating like a pig under
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"One hundred percent better," she told him with
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
Will continued to tremble for several seconds. "Cold.
Trapped. Smothered. Have to go deep. Someplace safe. Place
Rogue looked up at Xavier. "Do you know what he's talking
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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."
"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
"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
"Eavesdropper!" Will said loudly. A mild psychic
grumble could be heard in reply.
"You enjoy getting under his skin, don't you?"
"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.
"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
"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
"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
Continued in Chapter
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