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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


Jean ran her smart card over the security plate, unlocking the front gate, and she and Scott entered the Institute grounds. "I wish we'd left earlier," Scott complained.

"You were the one who wanted to finish seeing the game with my father," Jean countered.

"I didn't want to be impolite."

"So that's why you were yelling that the umpire was blind."

They pulled off the main road and took the right fork which led to the boat house. "I'm starving," Scott said. "Do you want to order something?"

"I'm too tired to bother. We'll just buzz the mansion and see if there's any leftovers."

As they approached their house, they noticed that someone was standing on the front porch. "Is that Will?" Scott asked.

"Looks like it." They stopped the car and got out. "Hello, Will," Jean said in greeting.

"Hello yourself. Did you two get any dinner?"

"We were just about to call over and see what was left over."

"No need." He picked up a covered dish that was on the porch. "Chicken casserole. Twenty minutes at four hundred degrees should be enough to heat it back up." As he handed it to her, he leaned close to her and added "I owed you a meal, remember?" in a low voice.

Jean nodded imperceptibly and took the dish. "Thanks. What did you guys have?"

"Chicken Madiera with angel hair pasta."

"Sounds a little rich."

Will shrugged. "We had a light lunch, and I didn't make any dessert. It all evens out eventually."

"Any problems while we were gone?" Scott inquired as he removed the suitcases from the trunk.

Will shook his head. "It's been a quiet week. Bishop just got back this afternoon."

"What did he think of Washington?" Jean asked.

"Well, between the Smithsonian and the war memorials, he seems to have had his fill of history for a while." Will thought for a moment. "It was 'The Wall' that really made an impression on him, though."

"Did he say why?"

"As I understand it, the memorials - or what their equivalent will be - of his era were made of memory chips and holograms. The simplicity of the Vietnam memorial was unlike anything he'd seen before." He yawned. "I'm off to bed. See you two tomorrow." Will started walking towards the mansion.

"How did you know we were back?" Scott asked before he was out of earshot.

"Magic!" Will yelled back over his shoulder.

Scott looked at Jean. "Do you think he was kidding?"

Jean thought about it for a moment. "I wouldn't make any bets."

Everyone gathered in the conference room at nine the next morning. Scott had wanted to start at seven, but Jean had 'accidentally' unplugged the alarm clock before going to bed.

"Is everybody well rested?" Scott asked sarcastically as he sat down.

"No complaints," Logan said with a grin. "How are your folks doin', Jean?"

"My mom's starting an exercise group at Bard College for faculty spouses, and my dad's a candidate for chair of his department. He'll find out next month."

"Good for him," Bobby said.

"By the way, Will, I wanted to ask you... can I have the recipe for that casserole? It was delicious."

"It's a no-brainer, Jean. Cubed, boiled chicken, instant stuffing, celery, and one can each of cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup. Mix well, place in a dish, cover with plain bread crumbs, and bake until everything melts together."


"Can we get to work?" Scott asked impatiently.

"Yes, Boss," Warren sighed.

"We haven't found anything suspicious during out media sweeps," Will said, "but we did become aware of a possibility for an armistice in Genosha."

"We're working through Moreau and Ransome?" Henry asked.

"As soon as my channels can reach them," Xavier assured him.

"Any files left to catch up on?" Jean asked.

"Everything's in order," Betsy said.

"They even cleaned the house while we were all gone," Bishop added.

Jean looked at Rogue critically. "Are you sure you're feeling okay?"

"Very cute, Jean," Rogue replied dryly.

"All right," Scott announced, "if that's everything, then we'll have a Danger Room session at noon. I want everybody there and in uniform."

Henry held up a warning hand. "I still have to examine Bobby, Will, and Rogue, Scott."

"How long will that take?"

"I want to do a full neurological scan on Bobby, and complete physicals for both Will and Rogue, so three to four hours total. You can do without the four of us for one training session," he finished in a stern voice which cut off Scott's protests. "This is a medical decision, Scott, and as such falls under my purview."

"Do what you feel is warranted, Henry," Ororo said. "We are going to have enough problems getting back into routine. Putting in an extra session today or tomorrow will not kill us."

"All right, you three," Henry ordered in an authoritative voice, "follow me." Will, Rogue, and Bobby dutifully stood up and trailed behind him. Henry ignored the fact that Will marched.

"Who's first?" Bobby asked when they reached the medlab.

"You are," Henry replied. "There's no need for me to run from station to station. We'll give you a CAT scan, run a few tests, and then you'll be free until I get the results."

"I'll stay on this side of the lab," Will offered, "just in case my power flares up."

"Not a bad idea," Henry said in agreement. With Rogue's help, he ran Bobby through the scanner, then administered a series of tests to judge his mental acuity and reaction time. A vision test showed that Bobby was still somewhat sensitive to bright light, so Henry gave him some shaded glasses to prevent any migraine headaches. "We'll gradually lighten the shading over the next week or so."

"Okay," Bobby agreed. "You'll work on something that won't crack when I use my powers?"

"I'll see if I can finagle a transparent variation of the polymer we used for your restraining belt."

"Restraining belt?" Will asked.

"I once had my powers magnified," Bobby told him. "Please don't ask how. I wasn't able to deal with the increase at first, so I wore a restraining belt that we turned down gradually over a few months, until I could learn to adjust."

Will frowned. "Wouldn't that be as risky as a dampening collar?"

"Not in this case," Henry replied. "The belt lowered Bobby's power threshold, but it didn't block them as much as channel them into itself."

"The thing was insulated as hell," Bobby confirmed, "and weighed a ton. I was so glad to be rid of it that I bought drinks for the entire team at Harry's the night it came off."

"That must have set you back."

"It wasn't too bad. Logan was away that day."

"Okay, Bobby, get lost," Rogue told him. "Will and I still have to get the McCoy stamp of approval."

"Right. See you at lunch."

After Bobby had shut the door behind him, Henry turned to Rogue and Will. "Who's next?"

"I am, I guess," Will said. He took off his gloves, shirt, and T-shirt, then hopped onto the examining table.

Henry washed his hands with a disinfectant soap, then looked at Rogue. "Are you staying?" he asked her.

"I figured I could help with some of the tests."

"Do you mind, Will?"

Will shook his head. "No objections."

"If you say so," Henry replied with a shrug.

Rogue took off her leather gloves and donned a lab coat, then washed her hands and snapped on a pair of latex gloves. "Ready."

"Could you take notes, please?" Henry asked her.

"Sure." She picked up a clipboard and pen from a file bin on the wall.

Will proved to be in fine health, although he did complain of having some lower back pain. "That's not surprising, though," he noted. "I've had back problems for a few years."

"I can prescribe a painkiller, if you like."

"I'd like to avoid any drugs if I can." Will thought for a moment. "Is there a chiropractor nearby who can be trusted? Maybe somebody on the Underground list?"

"It's worth a look. I'll ask Charles." Henry completed the physical with hearing and vision tests. Will proved to have keen hearing, and while he was slightly farsighted, he was able to discern some extra letters that Henry had added to the chart using an ink visible only under infrared light. "That should do it," he told Will.

"Aw," Rogue pouted. "I was hoping you'd ask him to turn and cough."

Will blushed bright red, but managed to keep his face impassive. "Not until I see your nurse's license," he said firmly.

"Does that mean we can't play doctor later?" she asked innocently.

"We'll talk." He finished dressing and stood up. "Well," he told her, "I'll leave you two alone."

"Sure you don't want to watch?"

Will fled.

Rogue and Henry both burst into laughter once Will was out of earshot. "That was mean," he told her reprovingly. "Inspired, but mean."

"I have my moments."

Henry cleared Rogue for light duty, and she went up to the kitchen to see if Will needed any help. She found that he was making a large bowl of tuna salad while toasting about a dozen and a half English muffins. "What's on the menu?" she asked him.

"Tuna melts and Caesar salad." He placed the muffins on a baking sheet and placed the tuna salad on top of each one, using an ice cream scoop. He then topped each melt with a slice of provolone cheese and placed them in the oven. He attacked the salad ingredients next, using his chef's knife to slice up the lettuce. He took the napkin off a bowl that had been covered, revealing a large pile of croutons, which he mixed into the salad. "Made them just after breakfast," he explained. A few minutes later, he had grated up a large pile of Romano cheese and mixed up a vinaigrette dressing, finishing just as the oven beeped.

"Want me to get those?" Rogue asked.

"Could you, please? I still have to set the table." He grabbed plates and silverware and put them in their proper places on the table. When he returned, he placed the melts on a serving platter, holding them in one hand and the salad bowl in the other. "Could you get the glasses, please?" he asked her.

"Coming right up." They had everything in place just as everyone started filtering in.

The Danger Room session had worked up quite an appetite in everyone, and the meal was quickly devoured. "Nice work," Warren complimented Will.

"Thanks. You've got dish duty, by the way."

Warren grimaced. "I should have kept quiet."

Xavier gestured to get Will's attention. "Henry said you wanted to see a chiropractor about your back. I called an Underground member who practices here in Salem Center. She has a three o'clock appointment open if you want to go in for an exam."

Will nodded. "Just give me the address and I'll be there. I assume she'll accept cash?"

"She will, but the exam and first adjustment are free, and she said that she wouldn't charge any of the X-Men anyway."

"I'll accept a free exam, but I'll pay for any future adjustments. I pay for an honest hour's work. I'm not going to take advantage of any of our contacts just because they sympathize with our goals."

"You may have to argue that point with her."

"We'll see." He wiped his mouth and stood up. "I'd better get ready, then." He went upstairs and put on a light jacket, deciding to forgo wearing any weapons to avoid making the doctor nervous. He did, however, place a dagger in his briefcase.

As he reached the bottom of the stairs, Rogue joined him. "Want some company?" she asked.

"I'm not sure if the doctor will let you watch, but you came come along if you want. We can do some shopping when we're done." He created a Door. "After you."

They appeared at the same park location where they were the night they had ice cream. "Which way from here?" Will asked.

"It's a few blocks uptown. We can be there in ten minutes."

He glanced at his watch. "Good. That should give me half an hour or so for paperwork."

Twelve minutes later, Will was filling out some forms asking about his medical history. Rogue busied herself by reading the magazines and literature which filled the waiting room table. "Think this could work on me?" she asked him in a low voice.

"I'm not sure," he admitted. "Your invulnerability would be a bigger problem than your absorption. You may be too resilient for your spine to be adjusted. You can ask, I guess." He finished answering the questions on the form, signed the release, and handed everything to the receptionist. They waited, listening to the soft, New Age music that came in over a speaker.

Less than three minutes later, a petite, dark-haired woman walked out to greet them. "Hello, Mister Riley," she said in a friendly voice. "I'm Doctor Dellamara. Please call me Maria." She had a round, smiling face, and could more properly be called pretty than attractive.

"Pleased to meet you, Maria," Will replied as he shook her hand. "This is May. She's never been to a chiropractor before, and she was wondering if she could watch you at work."

"Of course. Please follow me."

She led them to an office in the back of the building, shutting the door behind her as they entered. "You don't need to use a false name if you don't want to, Rogue. I know who you are."

Since the doctor was a member of the Underground, Rogue wasn't too surprised. "That was more for the sake of your receptionist."

"That's what I thought. Did Xavier have some reason for sending you?"

"No, Maria," Will replied. I'm here for the exact reason all of your other patients are. I'm having some back problems, and since my metabolism sometimes has reactions to medication, I'd like to try a longer-term solution."

Maria nodded. "What about you, Rogue?"

"Same thing. No ulterior motive. If we can figure out a way around my powers, I might try it, too."

"Fair enough. Have you done this before, Will?"

"I've had exams before. Do you want me to stand on the scales first?"

"Please." Will kicked off his shoes and walked over to a pair of bathroom scales which were against one wall of the office, placing one foot on each one. Maria looked at the readings on each scale, writing them down on the chart. "You're right-handed, aren't you?"


"How could you tell that?" Rogue asked.

"People tend to put more weight on the dominant side of their bodies. That places stress on the spine."

Rogue nodded, remaining silent as Maria asked Will to remove his shirt, then run through a series of stretches to determine his range of motion. She measured his neck motion using a device that bore some similarity to a protractor. Rogue left the room with Maria while Will's back and neck were X-rayed, then waited with Will while the film was developed.

"I'm not surprised you have back pain, Will," Maria announced when she walked back in. "Your spine is lit up like a Christmas tree."

"Given what I've gone through over the past few weeks, that's hardly a revelation. Do you think long-term therapy will do any good?"

"I think so. Once we start correcting the misalignments, your back will be a bit more resilient to future damage. Lie down and I'll point out where the problem areas are." Will complied, lying face-down on the table and placing his face in the built-in recess at the head.

"You may want to see this, Rogue," Maria said. Once Rogue stood on the other side of the table, she started probing with her fingers at certain spots along Will's spine. "If you look at the X-ray, you can see spots where his vertebrae are compressed and twisted. Because of that, the signals that his nervous system is sending aren't getting through properly, and the end result is pain and other difficulties. What we're going to be doing is slowly realigning his spine so that those signals can flow without any impediment."

Rogue nodded; she had learned enough about medicine during her years in the X-Men to qualify as an EMT in most states, and was able to understand what the doctor was talking about. "How do you realign?"

Maria didn't answer her directly, but went to the head of the table and took Will's head in her hands. "Okay, Will," she said in a soothing voice, "relax your neck... relax... relax..." With a swift motion, she twisted his head to the left. A snap could be heard from Will's neck.

Rogue winced. "Are you okay?" she asked Will. "That sounded painful."

"I'm fine," he replied in a contented voice.

"All you heard was fluid moving very quickly to an opening created by the manipulation," Maria assured her. "It's the same thing that happens when you crack your knuckles."

Rogue heard several other snaps as Maria continued to manipulate Will's spine, slowly moving down towards his lower back. At one point, she asked him to turn onto his side, where she applied pressure downward and adjusted his spine laterally.

The entire process took about half an hour. Will stood up and stretched, breathing deeply. "Gods, that felt wonderful," he sighed. "Thank you, Maria. How often would you like to schedule?"

"Let's start with three times a week, then work our way down from there."

"All right. Who should I write the checks to?"

She shook her head. "This'll be on the house. I owe too much to Xavier and you guys."

"I don't mean to be flippant," Will told her, "but I'm still working on getting the background on everything. What did we do for you?"

"My brother's a mutant," she explained. "He underwent genetic testing when he joined the Army, and Kitty Pryde cracked the DOD computers to change the results. He's a captain serving in Germany now."

Will nodded. "Sneaky. I like it."

"I've still got an hour and a half until my next appointment, Rogue. I can give you an exam now, if you want."

"You can do it with rubber gloves on?"


"Okay, then."

"I'll be in the waiting room," Will announced.

"Oh no you won't," Rogue told him firmly. "You'll stay right here."

"I will?"

"He will?" Maria echoed.

"Yes," Rogue announced. "You wouldn't know, Maria, but he and I are involved. He was my nurse all last week, and managed to wash my hair and bandage my ribs without once doing anything improper. I even fell asleep in his arms, and he didn't make any moves. I'm starting to feel unappreciated."

Maria's eyes danced with merriment, but she managed to keep a straight face. "Unbelievable. Why do you put up with him?"

"Three reasons," Rogue told her, counting them off on her fingers. "Gourmet cook. Rich. Nice butt."

Maria glanced at Will. "It is, isn't it?"

"If you two don't mind," Will said, "I'd like any discussions regarding my apparently superior posterior tabled until after I'm gone."

Rogue and Maria giggled, but kept quiet while Rogue went through the same tests that Will had. Maria put on a pair of rubber gloves, and gave Rogue an exam. Rogue decided to spare Will any further embarrassment, and put her bra back on after her X-ray, having been told by Maria that it wouldn't hinder her work.

"Your spine's in pretty good shape, Rogue," Maria announced. "I think you should be okay with a few simple exercises. There's really no reason for you to see me on a regular basis. You might want to come for an exam after anything really traumatic, though."

"Okay," she replied. "I didn't think anything was wrong, but it doesn't hurt to be sure."

"You can keep the X-ray," Maria said, handing it to her. "I'll keep Will's on file, since he'll be a patient, but I don't want to risk somebody else getting any information on the X-Men from me."

"Thanks," Rogue said, taking the print. "What about the negative?"

"I'll give that to Will at a later appointment, if you don't mind. I'd like to finish the roll of film."

"No problem."

Will set several appointments for the next few weeks, and they left. "Do you want to go anywhere else?" he asked Rogue.

"Not really. Let's just go home and relax."

"All right." Looking around, they decided that the street was too crowded to teleport or use a Door without being noticed, so they started walking back to the park. "Can I ask you something?" Will queried her after a few minutes.


He pointed a finger and thumb at her. "Bang. Ever since we announced that we were a couple, I've been wondering something. When I act in a physical manner with other people - like I just did with Maria - are you okay with it? It doesn't make you uncomfortable, does it?"

"No, I'm fine with it," she promised him. "Don't worry, I'm not about to become jealous just because you act normally around other people."

"I just wanted to make sure. I don't want to do anything to hurt you, even unintentionally."

"I know. You've been doing great," she assured him. "I get more than enough of your attention."

"Even with your new rival?"

That stopped her in her tracks. "Excuse me?"

He looked at her, confused. "You can't tell me that you didn't know about her. You're the one who introduced us."

Rogue's mind raced through the history of their relationship. She could think of only one woman, beyond the members of Excalibur, who she had introduced to Will. Emma!? Oh no, he wouldn't...

"You remember her," he continued, "dark hair, green eyes, graceful, very affectionate..."

Rogue couldn't remember any such person. She swallowed. "What's... what's her name?"


She looked at him for a moment, her eyes narrowed to slits. "You..." she stammered, "You..." she finally burst out laughing. "You're impossible."

He grinned. "I just wanted to get a smile out of you." He glanced at his watch. "Now that I think about it, it's time to feed her. We'd better head back."

"I thought you wanted to go shopping."

"I did, but we took twice as long as I expected at that appointment."

"Good point."

"You can still go shopping if you want. I'll just see you later."

"That's okay. Let's head back." They reached the park a few minutes later, and Will teleported them back to the foyer of the mansion.

"Betsy was walking down the steps, and she waved as they appeared. "Hello, you two," she said with a smile.

"Hello, Betsy," Will replied cheerfully. "Have you seen Smoke wandering around?"

"She was sleeping on the living room couch about half an hour ago."

"She decided to move," Xavier said as he floated into the room. As he entered, they saw that Smoke was nestled in his lap, purring contentedly.

Will cringed. "Sorry about that."

"Oh, I don't mind," Xavier told him. "It's kind of fun, actually. I'm getting echoes of her dreams because of her proximity, and right now she's running across the living room, chasing something."

"What's she chasing?" Rogue asked.

He pointed at Betsy. "The sash of your costume."

Betsy thought for a moment. "I'll give her one of my spares for a toy."

"And I'll donate one of my headbands," Rogue added.

"By the way," Betsy told them, "you missed the fun earlier. Scott walked in about two hours ago, and started to sit back in the chair that she was sleeping in. Nobody had gotten around to telling him or Jean that we had a new resident, so when Smoke opens her eyes and sees Scott bearing down on her, she arches her back, raises her fur, and hisses. Scott nearly hit the ceiling, and you could hear his yell from the other side of the mansion. Somehow, I don't think that he and Smoke are going to get along very well."

"Lovely. Like I don't have enough problems," Will said as he rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Do you know if anyone fed her yet?"

"I don't think so."

"We'd better take care of that now, then." Will gestured for Xavier to hand Smoke to him. He took her and gently cradled her in his arms. "Hey, Smoke," he said in a soft voice, "time to wake up."

Smoke opened her eyes and yawned, stretching. Will set her down on the floor, and she followed him into the kitchen, where he changed her food and water. "Betsy," he asked, "could you give me one of the plastic bags from the box under the sink?"

Betsy nodded, handing it to him. He emptied the remaining food from the previous day, and cleaned out the bowl. Sifting through the litter with the scoop, he added the waste to the bag, then opened a Door and dropped the bag into it. A minute later, he had rinsed out the food bowl, added some new food, and changed the water. "There you go, Smoke," he said as he placed the bowl in front of her. Smoke didn't need any further encouragement. She went straight for the food, eating ravenously. Will glanced at the empty can. "Let's keep in mind that whitefish and tuna is a hit."

"Right," Rogue said. "Anybody want some tea?" Everyone nodded, and she filled the kettle and put it on the stove to boil. Will pulled out his cocoa from the cabinet, then filled a Pyrex measuring cup with milk and placed it in the microwave to heat up.

They all sat at the table a few minutes later, nibbling on cookies and sipping at their drinks. "How did your appointment go?" Betsy asked Will.

"Pretty well. I've set up appointments for the next few weeks, and Maria thinks she'll be able to twist my spine back into shape."

Xavier nodded approvingly. "I have to admit, I haven't really been using much of what I learned while I was traveling in the Far East. With both Henry and Moria both acting within the bounds of Western medicine, I didn't think that my knowledge was required. However, Will, I think it could be very useful in your case."

"Meditation and diet seem better suited to you than injections and pills," Betsy agreed.

"No argument there," Will said. "Who has night watch, by the way?"

"Warren and Jean," Xavier informed him.

"I've been meaning to ask about that. I've noticed that couples are never placed on the same watch. Is there a specific reason why, or is it just policy?"

"It's something we came up with back when Jean and Scott first started getting serious. They spent so much time looking at one another that the Sentinels could have been tap-dancing on the roof and they wouldn't notice."

Will snorted. "Were they that bad?"

"Worse." Xavier chuckled. "I remember one day when I was testing Jean to see if she could sense my presence even when my shields were up. I was on my way from my office to one of the classrooms, so I could check up on Warren's progress on a project. As I passed by the study hall, I got a flash of... well, let's just call it 'Eros' and leave it at that. I made sure that I made a bit of noise just outside the door. I heard several seconds of shushing and clothes being straightened. I counted to ten, then opened the door. Jean and Scott were sitting several desks away from one another, with their noses buried in their books. I chose to ignore the fact that Scott was holding his textbook upside down, and Jean's hair had come loose from its ribbon. I did, however, try to avoid leaving them alone with each other for extended periods of time after that."

"For all the good it did," Rogue said sardonically.

"After a while, I realized that I was fighting the tide," Xavier admitted, "so I spoke with both of them separately and asked them to be a bit more discreet." He grinned. "Of course, it helped that I shifted their schedules so that they had the same free period."

"That would make things a bit easier," Will drawled. He was startled a moment later when Smoke jumped into his lap, then up onto the table.

"She's exploring," Rogue said with a smile.

Smoke touched her nose to most of the items on the table, then rubbed her head against Betsy's hand. She moved on to Rogue next, sniffing a lock of hair which dangled before her. She finally dropped down into Rogue's lap, letting out a purr of contentment, and curled into a drowsy ball. "I guess she likes me," Rogue said.

"I would never associate with a cat that didn't have excellent taste," Will told her. He glanced at his watch, then jumped. "Uh oh. I'd better get started on dinner. Any suggestions?"

"We haven't had seafood in a while," Betsy mused.

"I think there's still some shrimp in the freezer," Rogue offered.

"And I got sweet potatoes and onions when I went shopping. How does tempura sound? I'll make a huge pot of white rice and some dipping sauce."

"Logan will love it," Betsy predicted, "but Warren doesn't like shrimp."

"I'll make chicken teriyaki, too. That should be enough to satisfy everyone." He stood up and pulled the wok out of its place in the cabinet, then filled a pot with water and placed it on the stove to boil. He removed shrimp and chicken from the freezer, then defrosted them, placing the chicken in the microwave and immersing the shrimp in cold water. While they were warming up, he peeled two sweet potatoes and an onion, slicing both thinly. He quickly mixed up a batter of cake flour, water and egg yolks. After peeling the shrimp, but leaving the tails on, he poured some peanut oil into the wok and placed several cups of rice in the now boiling water. He dipped the vegetables and shrimp in the batter and fried them in the oil, placing them on paper towels to dry. He seared the chicken in the wok, added some fresh mushrooms and bean sprouts, and mixed it all together as it cooked. He finished just as the rice started to boil over. Will quickly grabbed a pair of pot holders and drained the rice. "Could someone please set the table with the Japanese dishes?" Logan had been given a service for sixteen by the Yashida clan several years ago.

Betsy and Rogue both nodded. "I'll put out Logan's sake set, too," Rogue said. "He usually has some when we eat Japanese."

"I'll fill the rice and sauce bowls here and bring them in," Will said. "I'll just have water, please."

"Should we call everyone in yet?" Betsy asked.

"May as well. Dinner should be ready by the time everybody settles down."

Betsy sent out a psychic dinner's ready! to the entire mansion, and soon afterwards the rest of the team was walking in and sitting down.

Logan sniffed the air. "Chicken and shrimp?"

"Tempura," Rogue informed him.

"I hope it meets with your approval, Logan," Will added as he walked in, carrying a tray which held the rice bowls and tempura sauce. He placed one of each bowl in front of everyone, then went back to the kitchen, returning a few minutes later with the plates which held the tempura itself. He gave Warren his plate first. "I just left out the shrimp and gave you some extra chicken," he said.

"Thanks," Warren told him.

"I'll have your sake ready in a minute, Logan. I'm afraid that I had to warm it in the microwave."

"That's okay," Logan replied. "I'm not that much of a purist when it comes to food."

Will nodded, brought out the sake, and sat down, picking up his chopsticks. He had been uncertain about placing only Japanese utensils on the table, but was assured by Xavier and Rogue that the X-Men had all been to Japan enough times to be familiar with their use.

"What's the orange stuff here?" Bobby asked, taking some of it from his plate.

"Sliced ginger," Will said. "Be careful, it's a little..."



Bobby quickly downed his glass of water and gasped. "I have got to stop eating your stuff without taking a small taste first," he told Will.

"Prudence is always a wise course of action," Will replied solemnly.

Rogue yawned as she walked into the living room after finishing her meal. She flopped into one of the easy chairs and sighed, stretching, She wasn't really tired, but she did need some quiet time alone to rest.

"You okay?" Will asked as he sat across from her.

"I think so. I think I just need a night to myself. You didn't have anything planned, did you?"

"I had some tickets for a gallery opening, but I can skip it."

"No, go to it," she urged him. "Have fun." She thought for a moment. "What's the exhibit?"

"East African tribal art." He pulled the invitation out of the air and looked at it. "Wish I could make heads or tails of the artist's name."

"I can probably pronounce it," said Ororo, who had just walked in. Will handed the invitation to her. A moment later, she gave a gasp of delight. "Oh, how wonderful!"

"You've heard of the artist?" Will asked.

"Even better. I know him. He's a member of my tribe. I haven't thought about him in years."

"It looks like you have a date, Will," Rogue told him with a smile.

"Can I have half an hour to change?" Ororo pleaded.

"Take your time," Will told her. "I have to get changed, too. And you let me know if there's anything wrong," He said to Rogue as she got up out of her chair.

"I will," she promised. "I'm just going to read myself to sleep."

Forty-five minutes later, Will sat in the living room, dressed in his usual grey. Logan turned the corner from the kitchen, then glanced at the main stairs. "'Roro's comin' down," he said.

"Thanks," Will replied as he stood up, grabbing his hat and sword cane. He swiftly made his way to the stairs. "Are you ready?" he asked. Then he stopped and stared.

Ororo was dressed in a dashiki which had blue and black patterns superimposed on a white background. She had wrapped her hair in a black sash, and wore several bracelets on her wrists, including the pair which Will had given her upon returning from his European trip with Rogue.

"That's a new look for you," Will finally said.

"It's an old look, actually. This is how I dressed when I first came to the mansion."

"When you dressed at all," Logan teased her.

"Was someone a bit of an exhibitionist?" Will asked with a raised eyebrow.

"It took a while to get the concept of a bathing suit across," Logan explained.

"Ah. Are you ready to leave?" he asked Ororo, turning to her.

"Yes. Will we be teleporting?"

"Unless you prefer to drive. I assume that, given the way you're dressed, you don't want to fly."

"That's correct."

"Shall we go, then?" He opened a Door, and they walked through it, arriving in Soho a moment later. Will crooked his arm out for her. She smiled and took it, and they made their way to the gallery.


Continued in Chapter 33


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