THE ARCHETYPE ASSOCIATION
The shades moved among the branches of the trees with the
grace of spiders within their webs, encircling Will and Rogue.
They were silent, staring down at them with unblinking eyes
whose soft, eerie green light shone through the leaves.
Will gestured to Rogue, indicating that she should stay where
she was. Seeing her worried look, he gave her a reassuring
smile. Taking a step forward, he looked around at the figures.
"Who are you," he said in a loud voice, "and
what do you want?"
Whispers echoed through the trees, dashing from side to side,
but never staying still long enough for Rogue to get a bearing
on them. They had a dry, hissing aspect to them, reminding
her of wet wood steaming in a hot fire.
"You are the guardian..."
"Call me what you choose," Will told them,
crossing his arms. "What do you want of me?"
"I have made no compact with you," Will
said firmly. "I am under no obligations."
"It does not understand..."
"Burden not yours..."
"I do not understand," Will confessed.
Rogue stepped forward so that she entered Will's field of
vision. "You're talking about Will's fight with Apocalypse?"
The whispers intensified, becoming angry and menacing. "Apocalypse..."
"You want to help Will fight Apocalypse? That will help
you fulfill your oath?"
"What kind of help are you offering?"
"How can you do this?" Will asked.
"Ancient One's pupil..."
"Will lead you..."
"We will protect..."
"Guard from within shadows..."
"Call on us..."
"We will come..."
"And who are you?"
The whispers were silent for a moment. "We have no
"You were never finished?" Will asked, shocked.
"No..." they replied in a despairing moan.
Will sighed regretfully. "What a waste."
"What's wrong?" Rogue asked him.
"There are certain entities that don't become fully
sentient until they find a way to differentiate themselves
from the rest of the collective consciousness. They need a
name to complete the process, and become fully self-aware.
Without one, they can never grow, never change. They'll live
in a continuous state of semi-existence. They're asking me
to name, and define, each of them, and complete a cycle that
was interrupted long ago."
Rogue whistled. "That's... one heavy burden."
"The heaviest." He looked back up. "You
will wait until your task is complete?"
"Then I will call on you when the time is right."
He started to turn away, then faced them again. "Until
then, you will guard the members of the X-Men and Excalibur
from any magical attacks directed against them. Do you understand?"
"Good. I will seek the one you spoke of. Please return
The world darkened for a moment, and the light from the street
lamps reappeared around them.
"Are we back?" Rogue asked timidly.
"Yes," Will replied. "And I doubt
that..." He sighed, then closed his eyes and took
a deep breath. When he opened them again, his eyes had stopped
glowing. "I doubt that any time passed while we were
gone," he said in his normal voice.
"So what do we do now?"
"We head back home, I guess. I'm going to have to get
up early tomorrow and make a call."
"I have to make an appointment with a doctor in Manhattan."
"The Doctor will see you now."
"Thank you," Will said, closing his magazine and
putting it back in his briefcase. He looked at Rogue. "Coming?"
Rogue nodded and stood up. They followed their guide through
a set of double doors.
"Your eleven o'clock appointment is here, Master."
The guide said to the man at the desk.
"Thank you, Wong. Please bring in some tea for our guests."
Stephen Strange stood up, walking up to Will and shaking
his hand warmly. "A pleasure to meet you at last, Mister
Riley. Your reputation precedes you." He was dressed
in a rather dapper blue suit with a red jacket.
"As does yours, Doctor. And please, call me Will."
Strange nodded in reply, then greeted Rogue. "It's been
a while, Rogue. How's Xavier?"
"Still the same. Still bald."
"Is there a reason you came along?"
"I'm keeping an eye on him to make sure he stays out
"Fine," Will said, "but who's going to keep
an eye on you?"
Strange looked at Rogue sympathetically. "You have my
"Thanks. I can use all the help I can get."
Strange laughed. "What seems to be your problem?"
They gave Strange a detailed account of their conversation
of the night before, filling in details regarding Will's powers
and his conflicts with Apocalypse. "So I was advised
to come to you," Will finished. "Do you have any
suggestions for me?"
Strange thought for a few moments. "I can think of a
few approaches that might work, but they're all a bit risky."
"Doctor," Rogue said pointedly, "You've probably
heard about what happened in Syria. Do you think that he's
the type to avoid risk?"
"The risk that's involved is more psychological than
physical. Once you open certain doorways of perception, you
see, they can never be fully closed again."
"Pandora's box," Will confirmed.
"Not quite. Pandora's box was filled with limitations,
horrors, and obstacles to growth. What I'm describing is more
along the lines of learning how to ride a bike."
"Once you learn how, you never forget," Rogue finished.
"Exactly. It won't be an easy process, I'm afraid. You'll
be tapping into aspects of reality that most rational people
would avoid like the plague."
"Well, I'm not known for my rationality," Will
replied, "and I don't think a plague could kill me."
"We're agreed, then?"
"Yes. How often would you like to meet?"
"One afternoon a week seems sufficient."
"I'll have to clear the time with the Xavier and the
top brass of the X-Men."
"Of course. Just call me when you have everything worked
out." Strange stood up. "I'd like to get some idea
of your strength, if you don't mind. Would you be willing
to let me monitor you during a display of your powers?"
"Completely," Will said in an agreeable tone. He
also stood up, joining Strange in an area of the room where
the floor was bare.
"What would you like me to do?" Will asked once
Strange said that he was ready.
"What's your default mode for your powers?" Strange
"I don't understand the question."
"He means whether they're on or off whenever you're
not thinking about them," Rogue supplied. "Kitty's
default mode is off, and mine is on."
"Oh. I suppose that they're on, then. I keep blocks
up, and lower them when I need to, but I'm always aware of
the Chorus to some degree."
Strange nodded, then made a few gestures. The area that Will
was standing on was slowly surrounded by a circle of white
light, which settled on the floor. "A safety precaution,"
he reassured Will.
Will nodded. "Ready?" he asked. At Strange's nod,
he lowered his shields and opened his mind to the Chorus.
Rogue watched as Will's eyes acquired their familiar glow.
What she was not expecting, however, was the silver
and purple aura which surrounded him. She looked at Strange.
"Are you doing that?" she asked him.
"I'm making it visible," was his reply, "but
it's all coming from him."
Rogue nodded, entranced by the sight.
The aura started to brighten and expand, filling the circle,
then moving beyond it. "Is that dangerous?" Rogue
"No. It's just a visible reflection of his power."
Strange looked at Will with a look which mixed respect, awe,
and a small dose of fear. "It's unlike anything I've
ever seen." Seeing Rogue's worried look, he smiled reassuringly.
"He's more powerful than I had expected, that's all."
He inclined his head towards the aura, which was still expanding.
"Most people have an aura which extends about three feet
in any direction. His psyche is so strong that it's reflected
in his aura, and..." He paused as he noticed that the
aura was expanding past the confines of the room. "We'd
better follow that." He offered his hand to Rogue. "Are
you familiar with astral travel?"
"I did it a few times with the Professor back when I
first joined the team," she replied. "You don't
have to actually touch me, do you?"
"No. Being in contact with your aura is enough."
"All right." She took his hand, and a moment later
she felt herself floating out of her body, and through the
ceiling of the building. Looking down at herself, she saw
that she was little more than an idealized outline, surrounded
by a red aura which was close to her 'body'. She turned her
gaze to Strange, and found that his astral form was much more
precise than hers, nearly indistinguishable from his physical
body. "Your astral form gets more complex with practice?"
"Yes. And I bring many of my talismans and magical
aids with me when I travel on the astral plane."
They left the building and floated up, looking for the outer
limits of Will's aura. "Buddhist legend says that
the Buddha's aura was visible for three miles."
"I think I see it," Rogue said. After a
few more seconds, they passed through a light, narrow fog
of purple mist. "Was that it?"
"Yes." They looked back down.
"Oh, my," Strange said. They were nearly
a mile above the ground.
"Does this mean we're in trouble?" Rogue
"No, but it does mean that I have my work cut out
for me. He hasn't had any training?"
"Not that he's told us about. We'd better get back
and have him raise his shields before he fries half the city's
"Right." They started to descend. "Does
he disrupt electronics regularly?"
"He shorted out everything Apocalypse had in his
base, from what I was told."
"You weren't there?"
"I was, but I wasn't in any condition to notice."
"Ah." They passed back through the roof
of the building, and lowered themselves back to the floor
where their bodies were. "Here you are,"
Strange said, as he dropped her back down. "Take a
deep breath once you're back in."
Rogue felt a slight jolt, and filled her lungs with air as
she opened her eyes. "That's quite a rush," she
"It's tempting to stay too long," Strange agreed.
He looked at Will, whose eyes were staring into space. "That's
enough, Will," he told him.
Will closed his eyes, and the aura contracted rapidly, with
occasional pauses. When it had reached a distance of about
nine feet around him, he opened his eyes. "Was that what
you wanted?" he asked Strange politely.
"It told me what I needed to know. I think I'd better
talk with Xavier face to face regarding your instruction.
If you don't mind, I'd like to call ahead and let him know
that I'll be accompanying you to Salem Center. Please excuse
me while I call him." He left the room.
"Was it that bad?" Will asked Rogue with a worried
"Let's just say that you and he are going to have some
Strange politely declined Will's offer of teleportation,
choosing to use his own, magical resources to get to the mansion.
He was only a few seconds behind them, materializing on the
front porch and politely knocking.
"Why do you bother?" Will asked as he opened the
Xavier left his office and greeted Strange. "How have
you been, Stephen?"
"You just threw me a curve ball, Charles." He pointed
at Will. "Meet my new project."
Xavier looked at Will and sighed. "What did you do now,
Will raised his hands in surrender. "Only what I was
instructed to do."
"It's not that he's done anything," Strange clarified,
"it's just that he's far too powerful to be walking around
untrained. Everything that he's done so far has been intuitive,
but intuition only gets you so far. I'd like to arrange a
schedule where Will would, barring an emergency, come to my
residence to get some lessons in focus and control."
Xavier considered that. "It does make sense. I
certainly don't have the resources."
"I'd like to come along," Rogue announced. When
she found three surprised looks directed towards her, she
explained. "I may not have any magical skill, but somebody's
going to need the background to tell if anything's going wrong
with Will outside of the lessons. And I have to admit, there's
a part of me that wants to learn some of what I was able to
do against the Adversary."
"Do you have any objection, Stephen?" Xavier asked.
"As long as you don't interfere with what we'll be doing,
Rogue, you're welcome as an observer. But I'll let you know
now that there will be times when you'll be asked to leave."
They all agreed to four hours of instruction per week, starting
the following week. Strange and Will shook hands on the agreement,
and Strange left.
"It seems that you've had a busy day," Xavier commented
as they all entered the kitchen.
Will nodded in agreement. "Putting all those blocks
back up was a pain. I think I'm going to rest for a little
while. I'll be in my room." He went up the stairs.
"Was he that powerful?" Xavier asked Rogue once
Will was out of earshot.
"Strange was really impressed by him, and I get the
feeling that he's not an easy man to impress."
"What's the real reason you want to go along?"
"I want to make sure nothing happens to him. I realized
last night that he's really vulnerable right now."
"Well, think about it. For weeks, he was geared up to
fight Apocalypse. Now that he's done it, he has to find something
else to focus on. You've seen the way his attention wanders."
"That's true, but how does that make him vulnerable?"
"Let's say you're one of those magical groups who hides
in the shadows, and you want to take one of your enemies down.
What better way than showing up to Will as one of those weird
events that keeps happening to him, and convincing him that
your goal is a way to help the Chorus?"
"I think Will's too cynical to be that gullible."
"Maybe, but I've seen his powers in action more than
you have. If there's any really strong magic in the area,
it's going to be attracted to him, and it'll have some kind
of effect on him. I want to be able to recognize the signs
that something's happening to him, so I can snap him out of
it if I have to. I may also be able to learn how to help him
recover faster when he's drained."
Xavier nodded thoughtfully. "I can't argue with your
reasoning. I just hope you know what you're getting yourself
"I've been hip-deep in it ever since I met him. I'm
just making it official now."
Warren and Betsy returned to the mansion a few hours later,
and promptly started showing off the things which they had
bought during their shopping trips. As Warren recounted a
chance encounter with a starlet to Bobby and Henry, Will politely
tapped Betsy on the shoulder. "Can I speak with you privately
for a moment?" he asked. Betsy nodded, surprised, and
they went up the stairs to the main hallway.
"There's no easy way for me to say this," Will
said after taking a deep breath, "so I'll just say it.
I owe you an apology."
Betsy tilted her head quizzically. "For what? You haven't
been rude to me once since you came here."
"Yes, I have," Will disagreed. "I've just
been doing it in my own way." He sat down at the top
of the steps. "I've been letting my ancestry interfere
with my objectivity. I was determined not to like you when
I first got here, solely on the basis of your background.
I haven't been giving you the credit you deserve for supporting
me against Scott, or for your willingness to go to bat against
Apocalypse on my behalf." He stood up again. "I'd
like the opportunity to start over again." He held out
one hand. "Hi. I'm called Will Riley."
Betsy didn't even hesitate. She shook his hand firmly. "Pleased
to meet you, Will. I'm Betsy."
As Will and Betsy came back down, Rogue motioned for Betsy
to come over. "Can you help me with some shopping?"
she asked softly.
"Do you need some fashion tips?"
"I do, but not for me. I want to get Will something."
"All right." They announced that they would be
out for a while, and took the Saab 9000 that Warren had kept
at the garage of his penthouse. They reached the Salem Center
Mall a few minutes later.
"Have you got any ideas?" Betsy asked.
"I don't know," Rogue admitted. "I'm not sure
if clothes are the way to go. Let's just look around and see
if anything catches our eye." They didn't find anything
in the bookstores, and agreed that Will was not the type to
wear any of the clothes which were popular at the moment.
They were about to fall back on that old masculine standby,
a tie, when they passed a window display. "Betsy,"
Rogue announced, "I think I've found it."
Betsy looked, then smiled. "The one in the back, right?"
She nodded. "I think it'll be perfect. We should let
Charles know." She closed her eyes for thirty seconds
or so. "He says no problem."
Will was relaxing in the sitting room, reading that week's
Time, when Rogue and Betsy returned. "Everybody
gather 'round!" Rogue announced. "We've got a surprise!"
Will put the magazine down, and joined everyone in the living
room. Rogue was carrying a large gift box, topped with a red
ribbon, which she put on the table.
"Will," Betsy said, "between coming back for
us, and then sending us all off on free vacations, we felt
that we owed you something small in return. After talking
about it, Rogue and I decided that this was meant for you."
Will looked at the box dubiously for a moment. "You
didn't have to get me anything," he protested.
"No, we didn't," Rogue agreed, "but we wanted
to. And if you don't take it, I'm going to become sad and
"Well, we wouldn't want that, now would we?" Will
sat down on the couch and lifted the top off the box. As he
looked in, they all watched his face switch from surprise
to delight. "Oh, my..." he breathed.
"What is it?" Bobby asked.
Will didn't answer, but reached into the box slowly, lifting
out a black, grey, and white cat, who looked at all of them
with wide green eyes.
"Aw," Bobby said in a soft voice, "she's adorable."
Will gently set the cat on the floor. She looked at all of
them in turn, then meowed softly. "Does she have a name?"
"The store didn't know," Betsy said. "She
was on display from the local shelter. She was scheduled to
go back at the end of the week, and she would have been put
to sleep. She's been spayed and declawed."
The cat walked over to Will, who put his hand out for her
to sniff. She touched her nose to his hand, then rubbed her
head against it.
"She seems to like you," Bobby said to Will.
"She's marking me with her scent," he replied.
"It's a message to other cats that she's my owner."
"Don't you mean that you're her owner?" Warren
"You've obviously never had a cat."
The subject of the conversation was now walking around the
room, sniffing at each of the X-Men in turn. She seemed to
be a bit confused by Xavier's chair, batting at it once or
twice. She finally hopped onto the couch, curled up into a
ball, then fell asleep.
"I'll have to go out and get some litter," Will
said as he stood up.
"We got some already," Rogue told him. "The
store gave us a package deal. We have a litter box, a bag
of the litter she was using in the cage she was in, so she'll
be used to it, box liners, a week's worth of food, a food
and water bowl, and a flea collar."
Will nodded as he went back over to the sleeping cat and
stroked her gently. "Betsy, Rogue... thank you."
"Our pleasure," Rogue told him. "What are
you going to name her?"
He didn't answer, but placed his hand on her head and closed
his eyes for a few seconds. "I think I'll call her Smoke."
"That's a good name for a magician's cat," Logan
"We'd better put her things in the kitchen," Bobby
suggested. "It'll be easier to clean up that way."
A few minutes later, everything was in place. "That
should be easy to clean up," Will said. Then he glanced
at the clock. "I'd better get started on dinner. If Smoke
wakes up, could someone bring her in here and show her where
the litter box is?"
"No problem," Logan said. "What's for dinner?"
"The roast chicken I told you about when we went shopping.
Should be ready by six or so."
"Need any help?" Rogue asked.
"I think I can manage."
As everyone filed out of the kitchen, Will took the chicken
out of the refrigerator and prepared it for roasting. After
it was in the oven, he started to prepare the stuffing, then
turned to look at the items for the cat. His eyes brimmed
with unshed tears for a moment. Will composed himself, smiling
idiotically, then got back to work.
Continued in Chapter
Author's Note: This chapter is
dedicated to Juno, my cat (AKA: She Who Must Be Obeyed).
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