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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


Logan's taxi pulled up to the mansion gate, and he stepped out and lit his cigar. "Thanks for the ride, bub," he told the driver as he handed the fare over. After the taxi had driven off, he pulled out his smart key and opened the gate, closing it behind him and walking towards the mansion at a leisurely pace.

I gotta admit, I needed that break, he thought to himself. It was nice seein' Tyger and Xi'an, even if it was in the middle of a firefight. Xi'an grew up to be one pretty woman. I gotta remember to send her regards to Sam, Bobby, and Rahne like I promised.

He looked up at the stars. It's gonna be nice to sleep in a familiar bed again, he admitted to himself. Time was, I wouldn't care where I camped down for the night. Must be gettin' old. Oh well, I've still got a few more scraps left in me.

He walked up to the main entrance to the mansion and knocked. No reason to spook whoever's home. I'm too tired to play the silent shtick tonight, anyway. You'd think that after all the years I've been traveling, I'd be immune to jet lag by now.

The front door opened to reveal Will. Before Logan could utter a word, he said "I'm sorry, but we don't want any copies of The Watchtower," and closed the door again.

Logan counted to ten. Slowly. Then he knocked again.

Will opened the door a second time, glanced at Logan, then looked over his shoulder. "Hey, Xavier! There's somebody here from the Veterans' Association asking for a donation!"

"Which war?" Xavier called back.

"If I had to guess, I'd say Crimean."

"Let him in. We could use a charity case for tax purposes."

"All right, but he looks like trouble to me."

"Okay," Logan said firmly, "that's enough with the comedy."

Will grinned. "Sorry, Logan. I'm just in a good mood today." He opened the door all the way and let Logan in.

Logan glanced around the foyer as he entered. "You guys have been busy. The place looks good." The hardwood floor and carpets had been cleaned, and he could smell the ammonia that had been used in the kitchen and ground floor bathroom.

"We thought that it made sense to clean now, while everybody was out."

"No arguments from me."

"You hungry? I left a pot of soup on for you."

"I'm starving. What's the soup?"

"Beef noodle. Want a sandwich to go along with it?"

"I won't complain." He dropped his bag next to the stairs. "I'll move it when I go up."

Will dished out a large bowl of soup for Logan, and added a turkey and Swiss on rye a few minutes later. "You want a brew to go along with that?" he asked as he put the cold cuts back in the refrigerator.

"If there's a cold one."

Will grabbed a can from the refrigerator and tossed it to Logan, then poured himself a glass of cranberry juice and sat down. "Well, did you get a chance to relax?"

"Saw some old friends, got into a few scraps, gave better than I got. Had a blast." He glanced in the direction of Xavier's office. "Chuck working?"

"Actually, he says he caught up on his work yesterday. Believe it or not, he got at least twelve hours of sleep last night."

Logan whistled. "Are you sure he ain't sick?"

"I think it was more like a reward for getting everything done."

"Where's Rogue?"

"She finished cleaning upstairs just before you got here, so she's taking a shower to get the dust out of her hair."

He nodded. "How's she feeling?"

"Today's her second day without the bandages, and she says she's fine. She hasn't done anything really strenuous, though. We thought that Henry should have a look at her first."

"How about you?"

"I feel fine, but I really haven't been using my powers, either. We've both been taking it easy."

"Any emergencies?"

Will shook his head. "It's been quiet. We've all been getting our rest. I don't think any of us will be getting back to routine until at least a few more people get back. "

"Makes sense. It's hard enough to keep Drake's mind on business when things are normal."

"He does have a tendency to drift, doesn't he?"

Rogue walked in, wearing a maroon sweatsuit and sneakers. "Hi, Wolvie!" she said brightly as she toweled her hair. "Enjoy your trip?"

"Yup," he grinned. "You look like you're feeling better."

"I feel great," she informed him. She pulled out a chair and sat down. "My nurse here took good care of me."

"Nurse, huh?" He looked at Will. "Somehow, I have trouble seeing him in a white skirt and flats."

"What I do in my off time is my own business," Will informed him primly as he stood up. "I'm going to get some reading done, then I think I'll crash for the night. Just leave the dishes in the sink, Logan. I'll get them in the morning."

"Oh, sure," Rogue pouted. "Just ignore me."

Will smiled at her fondly. "Never." He mussed her hair playfully and left.

"He sure cheered up," Logan remarked.

"We both had a good time," Rogue confessed. "We got a few things out in the open, and got a chance to relax."

Logan pushed his soup bowl away and lit a cigar. "How's he doing? With his powers, I mean?"

"He hasn't been using them openly, at least not that I know of. There was something, though..."


"It's something that I think I want to keep private."

"So it wasn't anything bad?"

"That's right. It was something wonderful."

Logan smiled. "You two had something big happen, I can tell. You've both got The Look now." The various X-teams had learned, over the years, to become acquainted with The Look, a goofiness that was apparent in a couple in the early stages of romantic love.

"Do we?" Rogue asked impishly.

"I'd expect some tongues to start wagging when everybody gets back. Oh well, things have been dull on the personal front around here lately, anyway." He picked up his bowl and put it in the sink. "I'm hitting the shower, then it's off to bed for me. See you tomorrow."

"Night," she told him.

After Logan had left, Rogue sat quietly for a few moments. A low snort escaped her lips, which soon expanded into a giggle. Within seconds, she was shaking with glee, rocking from side to side in her chair and hugging herself tightly. She leaped out of the chair and flew up to the ceiling, floating slowly down to the floor and landing on one toe. She pirouetted gracefully, curtseying to a world that was suddenly full of promise.

Logan got up at sunrise, as usual, and went through his morning katas. Realizing that waking the others up early would not be a wise idea, he decided to make his own breakfast. Taking advantage of the fact that no one was awake to nag him about his culinary habits, he made himself a massive ham steak and several fried eggs, with strong black coffee and Texas toast.

Xavier entered just as he was starting to dig in. "I take it that Will isn't up yet."

"How'd you guess?"

"I can't feel my arteries hardening from the next room when he cooks."

"You want anything?"

"I think I'll wait until everybody's up."

"Suit yourself," Logan said as he downed another mug. "By the way, you can chalk those two up for another case of The Look."

"Really?" Xavier answered with a sly smile. "I've been too busy to notice."

"Accordin' to Rogue, somethin' big happened."

"Any idea what?"

"She didn't say, and I didn't ask. I figure they're both big enough to handle whatever it is."

"They both seem to be happy about it."

"Tell me about it. Did you know, he touched her last night - with gloves on, of course - and she didn't even flinch?"

"Really?" Xavier's eyebrow arched up. "That is interesting, from both of them."

"Why's that?"

"The fact that Rogue's becoming more comfortable with physical contact is encouraging, but the idea that Will actually took the initiative is just as important."

Logan nodded. "Hadn't thought of it that way. He's opening up. Good for him. He talk any about what happened to him?"

"To me, no. To Rogue, probably."

"So long as he talks to somebody. That is a man who's under a lot of pressure."

"That's right, you didn't know. Before his powers stabilized, he had a panic attack. Rogue helped me pull him out of it."

"So he does run into problems."

"It was the reason he wanted everybody out of the mansion. He probably would have just left himself, but he was too concerned about Rogue."

"He's okay now?"

"Seems to be."

"Good. They both went through the wringer."

"It was more like wash, rinse, and spin cycles," Will said as he walked in. "Did you get the paper, Logan?"

"Not yet."

"I'll do it." He winked out, returning a few seconds later with the paper in his hand. He tossed it to Logan. "You were up first," he explained.

"Are you hungry?" Xavier asked him.

"Not really. I think I'm just going to get some exercise in."

"Do you want me to supervise a Danger Room session?"

"I think I'll just practice my swordsmanship, and I can do that outside."

"Wait up," Logan told him. "Let me get my practice sword, and I'll join in."

"No problem."

Logan hopped up the stairs two at a time, and heard Rogue's door open as he reached the top. "Mornin'" he called.

"Morning," Rogue replied cheerfully. She came around the corner, dressed in jeans and a yellow tank top, covered by a blue shirt which was tied as a halter top.

"Will and me are doin' a sword practice. Want to watch?"

"Sure." She waited while Logan grabbed his practice sword from the rack, then went downstairs with him. Will was waiting in the kitchen, wearing his coat and holding his sword loosely in his right hand. "Good morning, Rogue," he said with a smile.

"Hi," she replied. "Mind if I watch you two?"

"My dear, you can have the front row seat."

"What's with the coat?" Logan asked him.

"I like to stay as close as possible to combat conditions. If I get used to working without it, then I might not have the same range of movement later."

Logan considered that for a moment, then nodded in approval. "Good idea. Let's get started."

They walked out the back door and took their places on the lawn. "Do you want to do free-style or synchronized?" Will asked.

"Let's do free-style. The only thing the clone method ever taught me is that people who take that route are easy to predict."

"Mixing different styles usually works best," Will agreed. He walked a few paces away from Logan, and they both began.

Rogue observed them as they moved, noticing some significant differences in their styles. Logan fought in a manner that reflected his personality. It concentrated on the attack, and was highly aggressive, designed to overwhelm an enemy and cut it down. Will, in contrast, used a defensive style, which let an opponent get close. Rogue was puzzled by this tactic, until she saw that Will held a long dagger in his left hand, occasionally making a wide sweep with it which would blind or disembowel the target.

"You are a nasty player," Logan told Will after they were both finished.

He shrugged in reply. "Whatever does the job. When I fight, I fight to win. Every second I spend engaged with an enemy is a second I could be helping someone else. So I take them down and take them fast."

"Will you fight to kill?" Rogue asked.

"If I think the situation demands it. Otherwise, I'd try to cripple, aiming for hamstrings and tendons, or cutting someone just above the eyes so that the blood blinds them."

"Taking them down, instead of taking them out," Logan confirmed.

"Right. It's always possible to direct an enemy in a way that'll work to your advantage. That's kind of hard to do if they're dead."

"More manipulation?" Rogue asked.

"I think of it as letting my opponent do my work for me."

When they came back in, Xavier informed them that both Henry and Bobby had called to say that they would be returning that evening. Will frowned at that information, then went to the kitchen and looked in the cabinets. "We'd better get some shopping done," he informed them.

"Good idea," Xavier agreed. "Are you all up for a trip to the supermarket?"

"I don't mind," Rogue said.

"Me neither," Logan agreed, "but it's gonna be a pain with just three of us."

"We'll take out the back seat of the van," Will shrugged. "That should give us enough room."

After Will and Logan had showered and changed, they were on their way. "Who has the checks?" Will asked.

"I do," Rogue replied. The institute paid for groceries and other staples with a corporate line of credit.

They pulled into the supermarket parking lot a few minutes later. "Where's the list?" Logan asked as they walked in.

"I play it by ear," Will replied, pulling a cart from the racks. "Just trail behind me. Let's start with the salad course." They headed towards the produce section. "You both might want to grab a bag."

Logan and Rogue looked at one another and shrugged. Logan took two plastic bags from the roll, handing one to her.

"Do oranges sound good?" Will asked.

"I think they'll get eaten," Logan decided.

"Good. Catch." Will chose several oranges, then negligently tossed them over his shoulder. Logan scrambled wildly for a few seconds an he caught them in the bag. A few seconds later, Rogue had to do the same for the pears.

"What is this," she asked as she laughed, "A grocery run or a Danger Room session?"

"It's just my way of making shopping an aerobic activity," Will told her as he picked out several heads of lettuce.

Since Will would be doing most of the cooking, there was little argument about what was needed. They were, therefore, able to make their way through the store rather quickly.

"I think we should make something big for the weekend, since everybody should be back by then," Will suggested. "How about roast beef?"

"That's a little heavy," Rogue disagreed. "What about chicken?"

"Roast chicken, rice, stuffing, gravy, and celery?"

"That doesn't sound too bad," she mused. "Let's go with it."

Logan, meanwhile, had made his way through the cookie and snack aisle, tossing his favorite pork rinds and bags of chips into his cart. He looked at the cookies and grabbed Bobby's Oreos and Bishop's Nutter Butters. As he continued through the aisles, he ran into Rogue. "Did you want any cookies?" he asked her.

"No way," she said, shaking her head. "After the way Will pampered me over the last few days, I have to keep an eye on my weight."

"You seen him around here?"

"He's over by the baking aisle, looking at the cake mixes. I think he's planning a big dessert for the weekend."

"So your diet's over before it begins," he said with a chuckle.

"I have enough willpower to keep from eating too much," she protested.

"I seem to remember one night with you and a half gallon of peach ice cream."

"That was a special occasion!" she declared. "Mississippi State had just lost to Kentucky, and I had to take Sam's chores for a month. I think I was justified in being a little upset."

"Whatever you say, darlin'" Logan said as he moved into the soda aisle. "Whatever you say."

They caught up with Will at the meat counter, where he was haggling with the butcher over the price of soup bones. "You almost done?" Logan asked him.

"I just have to get some things for soup," Will replied. "Five pounds each of beef and chicken bones. Should take just a few minutes. True to his word, they lined up at the checkout counter five minutes later.

"This is all on one order," Rogue informed the cashier.

The teenager looked at the three bulging carts and sighed. "Paper or plastic?"

"We'll be bagging it all," Will told her.

She exhaled in relief. "Thank you."

"We do what we can to help." He stuffed one paper bag into another, and started filling it with groceries as they came down the treadmill. Logan made his way around the next aisle and joined him. By working together, they were able to stay ahead of the cashier.

As they left the store, Logan glanced at the receipt. "We got away cheap this time."

"That's what I was thinking," Rogue agreed.

"I got a lot of the meat in larger packs," Will explained. "It's cheaper if we cut it up ourselves."

"Well, you've proved that you can handle a blade well enough," Logan decided. "I guess you can manage a cleaver."

"Your confidence is inspiring," Will said sarcastically as he placed the bags in the van. "What time is it, by the way?"

"Just after twelve," Rogue told him.

"Any objections to McBurgers?"

"Are you paying?"

Will shut the van door, then dug into a pocket and counted his money. "No problem. Just don't order the whole menu."

Logan pulled the van out of the supermarket lot, and they entered the drive-thru of the restaurant. "What do you guys want?"

"I'll have a chicken sandwich and medium fries with a root beer," Rogue said.

"Double cheeseburger, jumbo fries, and a large Coke for me," Will added as he handed Logan the money.

"Right." Three minutes later, they were on their way back to the institute.

"I'll put everything away," Will said when they parked in front of the mansion, "but I could use a hand getting it inside."

I think we can manage that," Logan replied.

They soon had all of the grocery bags in the kitchen. Will started placing the groceries on the table, sorting them into groups to make them easier to put away. In a surprisingly short time, he had everything in its proper place, and was taking a cleaver to the meat, cutting it into manageable portions and placing the foil-wrapped packages in the freezer.

"That didn't take long," Rogue said as she walked in.

"It helps that no one's complained about my rearranging things in here."

"We figured that since you do most of the cooking, you had the right to arrange the kitchen the way that worked best for you." She looked at his chef's coat, which had some of the blood from the meat on it. "You look like Sweeny Todd."

"That makes sense. We're having cat pies for dinner."

Rogue blanched. "Please tell me you're kidding."

He grinned. "I am. We really are having chicken pot pie, though."

"Is that what's in the oven?"

"No, that's the beef bones I bought. I have to roast them before I can use them in stock."

"How long will that take?"

"About another hour and a half. Then I'll simmer them overnight with some celery, carrots, and onions."

"What about the chicken stock?"

"That only takes four hours. It'll be done before dinner."

"What are you going to do with it? We're not having soup tonight."

"No, but it'll keep in the fridge for a week, and I can use it in other recipes."

She nodded. "You all done?"

"Just finished," he said, removing his coat and tossing it onto a chair. "Does anything else need to be taken care of?"

"Just me," she said with a shy smile.

Will smiled in reply. "Oh, really?" He stepped close to her. "And how can I take care of you, my dear?"

"I'm sure we can think of something," she purred in reply.

"Would you two like some time alone?" Logan asked as he walked in.

"Maybe later," Will said casually. "Did you want to review the intelligence files today?"

"Chuck said you caught us up on everythin'."

"We did, but you might catch something that we missed."

"That's okay. I think we can trust you."

"I just thought that a second check wouldn't hurt." He shook his head. "Don't worry about me. I'm just a big believer in redundancy. It's my way of making sure that everybody can do any job. I try to avoid making anyone irreplaceable in my businesses. If I lose that person, the whole structure that I've built my financial success on could collapse. It took me a while to hammer that point home to some of the executives. I finally had to put a quote from Heinlein in all of the offices."

"What's it say?" Rogue asked.

"'Specialization is for insects.'"

Henry and Bobby, upon their return that evening, were greeted warmly and then given time to relax. Henry brought out a large tin of cookies which Edna, his mother, had made for the X-Men.

"Think it's fair that nobody else can have any?" Bobby asked as he munched on a chocolate cookie with peanut butter chips.

Will leaned back in his chair and looked towards the stairs. "Hey, Bishop, do you want some cookies?" he yelled. After a few seconds of confused silence from the others, he turned back around, shrugging. "I guess he didn't hear me."

"He's in Washington!" Bobby exclaimed.

"That's not my fault," Will replied, taking another cookie.

"And what, oh guardian of our nutritional satisfaction, has been designated for our evening repast?" Henry was obviously back in top form.

"I decided to keep it simple for tonight. We're having chicken pot pie and buttermilk biscuits."

Henry nodded in approval. "I spoke with my mother regarding your culinary skills. She gave me some recipes to pass along to you."

"I won't be accused of swiping McCoy family secrets, will I?"

"Not once you take the oath. I'll teach you the secret handshake later."

"How are you two feeling?" Bobby asked.

"You first," Will shot back. "How's your head?"

"I've still got a slight headache. I had to wear sunglasses, because I almost went snow blind my first day on the slopes. It's not so bad now."

"Do you still need the sunglasses?"

"I think I'll be okay if I stay inside for the next day or so. Besides, I was able to milk some sympathy out of the snow bunnies."

"What did you tell them when they wanted to know how you got hurt?"

"I said I was a photographer, and a high intensity flashbulb went off in my face while I was installing it. That line got me the phone numbers of four would-be models."

"And you tell me that I'm devious?" Will asked Rogue. "At least my limit my scams to people I know I'll never meet again."

"Hey," Bobby protested, "it was all in fun, and they knew it too."

"I'm kidding, Bobby," Will told him with a grin. "I'm just in a good mood today. Do you two have laundry to run through?"

Henry shook his head. "With my mother hovering over me? She even starched my white shirts. You could probably draw blood with the collars."

"If you can still fit in them," Logan teased him. "I've seen how much food she packs into you."

"Farm cooking," Henry shrugged. "Add to that the fact that she became accustomed to feeding an adolescent mutant metabolism."

"I'll have my laundry down in about ten minutes, Will," Bobby said as he stood up. "I just have to unpack and sort through everything."

"Take your time. I'll get to it after dinner."

Bobby nodded and went upstairs.

Will glanced at the clock. "I'd better put the pie in the oven. Be right back."

Henry smiled indulgently as he watched Will head towards the kitchen. "I suspect that that man would make a wonderful grandmother."

"We'll get him a nice frilly apron for Christmas," Logan promised.

"And I'm sure that he'll give you some nice bruises in return," Rogue said sweetly.

"He's got the skills to do it," Logan admitted, "but I'll still get the thing tied around his waist."

Will, meanwhile, had overheard the conversation, and crept silently behind him. "Don't bet on it, Shorty," he said in a rumble which rivaled Logan's. "You might end up being the one wearing the skirt... and I'll add a nice pair of nylons to go with it."

"Nice impression," Henry complimented him.


After dinner was finished, Will put the serving dish in the sink to soak overnight, then went up to his room to relax. A few minutes later, there was a knock at his door.

Rogue opened the door and popped her head in before he could say anything. "You doing anything important?" she asked.

"Just inspecting the insides of my eyelids."

"Feel like going out?"

"Can I get some time to relax first?"

"Sure. What do you want to do?"

"That'll be your choice. This'll be your first night out in a while, so I think you deserve to indulge."

"Why don't we just go out for ice cream?"

"All right. In half an hour, then?"

"See you then."

The free half-hour gave Rogue a chance to shower and freshen up. She chose a bright red turtleneck and blue skirt, then added a black vest, gloves, and hose, ending with a pair of red pumps. Glancing at the collection of perfumes on her dresser, she chose Erin Mist, the scent which Will had responded so positively to back in Dublin.

She decided to meet Will at his door, and went down the hall, where she encountered Logan at the stairs. "Nice outfit," he complimented her. Then he sniffed the air. "New perfume?"

"I got it back in Dublin. Will and I are going out for a little while."

"Have a blast."

She smiled. "We're going out for dessert, not to a nightclub. We shouldn't be out long." She gave him an amused look. "You think you remember how to run everything?"

"I think I can dredge it out of my memory," he replied dryly. "Go on, get out of here."

"Yes, sir," Rogue said, giving him a snappy mock salute. She walked to the men's wing and knocked on Will's door.

"Come in," Will invited her. She entered, finding that he was slipping into his shoes and putting on a grey vest to go with his white shirt and royal blue slacks. "I'm running a little late," he apologized.

"We're not on a timetable," she told him with a shrug, as she closed the door behind her. "Don't worry about it."

"I hate being late just on general principle." He finished buttoning up his vest, then opened the drawer of his night table and pulled out a shoulder holster, putting it on. The holster was designed to fit over the wearer's back, and wasn't visible once he put his jacket on. He pulled his pistol out of the drawer and stuffed it into the holster.

"Do you really need that?" she asked him.

"Normally, I wouldn't carry it," he admitted, "but I don't feel well enough to trust in my powers completely yet. I'd like to carry some insurance, just as a precaution." Noticing that Rogue looked unhappy about it, he sighed. "Look, if you think, beyond a doubt, that you're in top form, I'll leave it here. But I'm not going to take unnecessary risks when we're both just off the inactive list."

Rogue thought about it for a moment, then nodded reluctantly. "All right. But I want you to know that I don't like it."

"I don't like being this paranoid either," Will agreed, "but I appear to be very good at it." He put on a blue, three-buttoned linen jacket, then added a pair of black gloves. "I forgot something," he said to himself, frowning. He rolled his eyes and grabbed a belt from his closet, putting it on. "Almost ready," he promised her as he placed his wallet, pen, keys, and handkerchief into his pockets. "All set," he said. He grabbed his hat from the coat rack and opened the door, gesturing for her to precede him. Smiling, she left his room and headed for the stairs.

They waved to Bobby and Henry as they left the mansion. Once they were outside, Will created a Door, and they walked through it to appear in downtown Salem Center, at the wooded area of a small park which was near the center of town.

"Why did you bring us here?" she asked him.

"The tree cover gives us an edge in case somebody sees us. This way, we can say we were behind a tree and it'll be plausible."

They walked a few blocks down the street to the ice cream parlor, which was, surprisingly, not very crowded. A waitress walked over from the counter. "Counter seats or booth?" she asked with a polite smile.

They looked at one another, then smiled. "Booth," they said together. The waitress nodded and led them to a seat near the back which offered some privacy.

"Slow night?" Will asked.

"Report cards went out today," the waitress answered with a grin. "A lot of our regulars will be staying home for the next few days."

Will nodded. "I can relate. I was never the greatest student." He glanced at the list of flavors on the wall, then looked at Rogue. "What looks good to you?"

"I'll have a banana split with butter pecan, vanilla fudge, and strawberry ice cream, with caramel topping."

"I'll have a regular sundae with hot tin roof and rocky road, with hot fudge, peanut butter sauce, and peanut butter cups," Will told the waitress. He glanced at the menu. "And a large chocolate malt with two straws."

"All right," the waitress confirmed, writing down the order. "Would you like water with that?"

"Yes, please," Will nodded, handing the menu back to her.

"That'll be about five minutes," she told them as she walked to the counter.

"Two straws?" Rogue asked with a smile.

"It seemed the thing to do," he shrugged.

"That's nice," she murmured, placing her elbows on the table and leaning towards him.

"I try."

Their order arrived quickly, and they found that they didn't have much time for talking, as their sundaes were melting quickly. They polished them off rather quickly, and attacked the shake next, after following the obligatory ritual of blowing the straw wrappers at one another.

Rogue felt like she was living in a movie from the Fifties as she looked into Will's eyes from the opposite side of the soda glass, and couldn't help giggling. "What's so funny?" Will asked.

"I feel like I should be wearing a poodle skirt and bobby socks."

"I'll look into buying a car with tail fins."

"I am stuffed," Rogue declared as they walked back to the park.

"Me too," Will confessed. "I think I'll be scheduling some extra exercise sessions."

"I'll be right behind you. Can we sit down?" she asked. "I could use a few minutes to rest."

"Are you okay?" he asked in a concerned voice as they reclined in a nearby park bench.

"I'm fine," she assured him. "You've just been pampering me so much lately that I'm getting a little soft."

"But I like you that way," he told her with a smile. "There are certain soft parts to you that I find very intriguing."

"Lecher," she teased him. She swung her legs up onto the bench and lay on her back, placing her head in Will's lap.

"You're not going to go to sleep on me again, are you?"

"Nah. I just wanted to relax for a second." She reached up and gently touched his cheek. "I like to be able to relax around you."

Will caressed the underside of her chin, slowly moving his hand down her neck. "I'm glad that you can relax around me. I don't want you to think you have anything to be uncomfortable about with me."

"Keep doing that," she purred.

"Making you comfortable?"

"Well, there's that... I meant what you're doing now." She closed her eyes blissfully. "It feels good."

He flushed slightly. "Oh. Okay. Tell me when to stop." He continued to stroke the hollow of her throat, slowly widening the area covered by his light massage.

"Lower," she instructed him. He complied, covering her collarbones and sternum.

"You're missing some spots."

"I am not going to massage those spots in a public area," he told her firmly. "The last thing I need is a misdemeanor for public lewdness on my record." He tensed under her.

"What's wrong?" she asked, still too relaxed to open her eyes.

"We've got company."

She laughed. "What, are some kids violating curfew?"

"No, Rogue," he said in a low voice, "my kind of company."

Her eyes snapped open to find that his were glowing. "What is it?" she demanded, now all business.

"See for yourself."

She stood up, looking around. The moon, which had not been visible a few minutes before, was now a crescent high in the sky, casting silvery light through the trees and leaving long, twisting shadows on the ground. High in those trees, shadowed outlines of figures perched on the limbs, gazing down at them with eyes whose green glow matched Will's silver.

"Will," she asked nervously, "what's happening?"

His response was very matter-of-fact.

"There's magic afoot."


Continued in Chapter Thirty-One


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