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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


 The sliding doors which separated the medical wing from the rest of the underground complex slid open, admitting a frenzy of noise and activity.

"Computer!" Logan barked. "Medical alert!" A klaxon sounded and the voice of the computer informed the rest of the mansion of the situation.

Henry and Logan wheeled Rogue in on a gurney. Ororo held a compress against Rogue's shoulder. "Betsy," Henry ordered, "three units of O-negative, one of plasma. Bobby - dampening collar! On three, Logan. One, two, three!" He and Logan lifted Rogue off the gurney and onto the examining table.

"Collar!" Bobby said, latching it around Rogue's neck and activating it. Henry didn't answer, as he was concentrating on removing Rogue's left-hand glove and cutting the sleeve of her uniform off with a pair of surgical scissors.

"Whole blood," Betsy said as she hung the first bag on the hook and handed the needle to Henry.

"Point five mils?"


Henry nodded as he slid the needle into the proper vein and taped it into place. "Anesthesia?"

"Coming!" Bobby said as he fitted the mask onto the end of the line. "Flowing now," he continued as he placed the mask over Rogue's mouth and nose, then opened the valve. The dry hiss of the gas could be heard a moment later.

Jean, who had been keeping Rogue free from pain telepathically, slowly disengaged her link as she felt the anesthesia taking effect. "She's out, Hank."

"Good. You and Ororo will assist. Betsy, you take over for Bobby. Everybody else out."

Logan and Bobby nodded and headed back towards the main complex. As they stepped out into the main hallway, they heard someone wheezing just beyond the monorail station. They got there just in time to see Will stepping out of the service tunnel for the monorail tube. His face was red, and he was gasping for air, but he stumbled up the stairway and started making his way towards the medlab.

Logan and Bobby each grabbed one of Will's arms, restraining him. "Whoa, bub," Logan told him. "You can't go in there." Will ignored him and attempted to break free of their grip, but he was both too winded and too upset to focus properly.

"Will!" Bobby yelled. "Will, look at me!" After the frantic man hesitantly met his gaze, Bobby continued in a patient tone, as if talking to a child:

"We know you want to help her. But the best thing you can do right now is to let Henry do his job. He's got the best medical technology on the planet, but if you go in there, you'll short it all out. You can help Rogue more by staying out here."

Will slowly, reluctantly, relaxed, slumping in their arms. "Come on," Bobby said in a reassuring voice as he led Will towards the elevator, "we should head upstairs. Hank will call us and let us know what's going on."

They exited the elevator at the first floor of the mansion and led Will towards the kitchen, seating him in a chair. Bobby glanced at Logan and made a gesture that mimed drinking from a bottle, then mouthed the word "schnapps." Logan nodded and quietly made his way towards the liquor cabinet in the dining room.

"You have to calm down, Will," Bobby continued as he started making Will some cocoa, using a huge cup that Betsy had brought home from a coffee shop one day. Placing two cups of milk in a measuring cup, he heated it in the microwave and mixed in six tablespoons of Will's cocoa mix.

Will wasn't paying attention to Bobby or Logan, so he didn't notice when they poured a generous portion of schnapps into the cocoa, blending it in thoroughly. He took the cup when Bobby handed it to him and drank down a good quarter of the contents without tasting them.

"I'll talk to Chuck and Cyke," Logan told Bobby in a low tone. "You keep an eye on him." Bobby nodded, and Logan headed towards Xavier's office.

"What happened?" Xavier asked as soon as Logan had entered.

"Rogue's hurt. Henry's takin' care of her now. It was pretty serious, but I think she'll be okay. Just bumps and scrapes for the rest of us... except Will."

"What about him?"

"He took a knife to the chest."

Xavier winced. "Has he healed from that yet?"

"I don't think it's his body we should be worryin' about, Chuck."

"What do you mean?"

Logan sighed and sat down. "I'd better explain what happened..."


Logan and Betsy, who had been checking on the condition of their unconscious opponent, spun around after hearing Will's voice. Logan saw the smoking wound in Rogue's shoulder and cursed as he started running towards her. Betsy started to focus her telepathy for an attack on the shooter, to prevent her from harming anyone else.

Before she had taken three steps, she stopped, feeling something at the edge of her awareness. It felt like the sensation one gets when one's hair stands up just before a lightning bolt strikes. Turning her head, she saw Will bearing down on his opponent. His eyes were blazing, and as they focused on the younger man, Betsy could feel Will gathering in his power.

Everybody hit the deck! she shouted telepathically to the other X-Men, as she did so herself.

The wave of nausea which hit them was far stronger than what Henry and Ororo had felt in the Danger Room. This time, they could actually see the distortion in the air which spread out from Will in all directions, shorting out all the electronics it contacted.

Will drew his right arm back and hit the other man across the jaw. Betsy and Logan both winced at the sound of bone breaking. Before the psi had even hit the ground, Will was moving again, speeding towards Jean and Sandy.

Sandy simply did not have time to finish reconfiguring her shield before Will reached her. She was able to set up a barrier, but did not brace herself against the impact. She was thrown a good forty feet, slamming against a foundation wall. Her shield prevented her from sustaining any serious injury, but it dissipated as soon as she hit the ground. Will was on her a within a heartbeat, boxing her across the ears and scrambling her inner balance. She fainted a few moments later.

"The whole thing couldn't have taken more than a few seconds, Chuck. The next thing we knew, Will was pickin' Rogue up and teleportin' us onto the Blackbird. He made Betsy lower the landing gear and cut the engines, and we were in the hanger half a second later. He'd teleported to the emergency equipment and ran back with a gurney by the time we had opened the door. While we loaded her onto the gurney, he unlatched three of the seats from the monorail to give us room. You don't want to know how far he threw 'em. He wouldn't get on with us... he was afraid he'd fry the motor. He took the maintenance tunnel, runnin' the whole way." Logan paused for a moment. "Oh, hell."

"What?" Xavier asked.

"He's still got that knife in his chest."

Will sat alone in the kitchen, head downcast, holding his cup in his quaking hands. Bobby had left a few minutes earlier to change back into civilian clothes, but had said that he would be right back. Will had only nodded when asked to promise that he wouldn't move.

The patio door slammed open, and Scott ran into the kitchen. "Who called the medical emergency!?"

Will was still in shock, and could only verbalize the thoughts that were spinning through his dazed mind. "Rogue's hurt... she's hurt..."

"What happened?" Scott demanded. When he didn't get an immediate answer, he pushed Will back in his chair so that he could see his face, only to cringe and step back when he saw the knife which was sticking out from between two of his ribs.

Scott found himself becoming angry that Will was sitting in the kitchen while so gravely wounded. Strangely enough, the anger didn't stem from any medical concern as much as Scott's sense of order and discipline. How dare Will sit there bleeding in the kitchen with an untreated wound? He should be down in medlab, where injured people belonged. He said the only thing that made sense at the moment:

"Pull that thing out this instant!"

Will was, at that point, basically running on automatic, so he simply did what he was told. Looking down at the knife, he took hold of it with one hand and removed it from his chest. He let it slip from his hand, and it fell to the floor with a clatter.

"Now," Scott repeated, "what happened?"

"Rogue's hurt," Will said again. "Wasn't fast enough... my fault..."

It should be noted that Scott wasn't at his best. He hadn't eaten well, and an upset stomach always made him a bit grouchy. He was also still angry at Will for his actions in the Danger Room earlier that day. He therefore saw Will's words in the worst possible light.

"Rogue was injured because of you? Again!?"

Scott seized the lapels of Will's coat and hauled him to his feet, slamming him against the wall. "Tell me, Mister Riley... did you come here planning to put us all in the hospital, or are you just so fond of getting yourself hurt that you decided to share the experience?

"Well, congratulations, you're doing a great job. You've done nothing but cause us pain ever since you got here. You keep this up, and soon you'll have Rogue in the grave."

He let go, and Will's legs gave out from underneath him. He landed in a sitting position, still leaning against the wall.

"Now if you'll excuse me," Scott said in his most cutting tone, "I have to go help fix the damage that you caused." He left the room and headed for the elevator.

Will sat on the floor for several seconds, trembling and shaking his head. Suddenly, with the swiftness one sees in a cornered animal, he scrambled to his feet, then ran out of the kitchen and up the stairs. He fled to his room, slamming the door behind him. A despairing moan was all that could be heard from within.

"All right," Henry said wearily, "that takes care of the lung. Let's move her to the dermal cloner."

Jean nodded and gently lifted Rogue in a telekinetic embrace, slowly bringing her over to the Shiar machine, which resembled a CAT scanner which had been designed by an Italian sports car maker. They placed her in the bed, then programmed the computer to focus on her injured shoulder and chest. Within seconds, a warm light pulsed over the damaged area.

"Regeneration at 3000 percent over normal," Betsy said after reading the monitor's display. "No malignancy reported."

"I'm always amazed that this thing doesn't give us all cancer," Jean remarked.

"I asked the Shiar doctor who trained me in its use about that," Henry said. "The device makes a comprehensive scan of several healthy cells near the location of the injury, then determines a baseline model and several variations based on the rules of standard deviations. In the end, there is just enough of a mix of cells to mimic the normal mitosis process."

"How long will it take her to heal completely?" Ororo asked.

"Hard to say. The wound itself should close in three to four hours, but full recovery will take one to two weeks. We have to add in rehabilitative therapy and time for her to regain muscle mass, so I'd say three to four weeks total."

"We might want to send her to Muir or some other location for the therapy," Betsy suggested. "Rogue's never really been a cooperative patient."

"She didn't have any problems when Will was keeping an eye on her," Jean pointed out.

"After what happened, why would you want Will keeping an eye on her?"

Everyone turned at the sound of Scott's voice:

"What are you talking about?" Jean asked.

"Rogue was hurt because of Will. He said so himself." Scott was so satisfied at having been proved correct in his reservations about Will that he didn't notice the looks that the others gave him.

"Scott," Jean asked in a level tone, "exactly what did you say to him?"

"That his risk-taking behavior has reached the point where other people are getting hurt because of it. That Rogue..."

"If Rogue's injury is anyone's fault, it's mine," Jean snapped. "I was up against an energy manipulator who was nearly a match for you. I misjudged what she was going to do, and I wasn't able to adjust my shields quickly enough to stop her. Will had absolutely nothing to do with it."

"And even if he had," Ororo said angrily, "you had no right to confront him about it. Firstly, he is under my authority, not yours. Secondly, you were not there, and had no information about what had happened, so you had no basis or evidence to make a judgment." She turned to Henry. "Is Rogue out of danger yet?"

"The worst is over. I'd still prefer it if someone kept her under observation, though."

"I'll do it," Betsy volunteered. "If there's a problem, I'll give a telepathic yell."

"All right. Wait one moment." Henry went to the dispensary and removed a small bottle. Filling a syringe with four cc's of the contents, he injected them into the I.V. bag. "A strong sedative," he explained. "It should keep her under for six hours or so."

"Let's go," Jean said to Scott as she pointed imperiously towards the door. Henry and Ororo followed right behind them.

They took the elevator to the ground floor and went straight to the kitchen, where they were momentarily confused by the fact that no one else was there. "Where'd he go?" Jean asked.

"I don't know," Scott told her. "He was here when I left."

"He went to his room," Bobby said as he came down the stairs dressed in his usual T-shirt and jeans. "After everything that happened, I think he needed a few minutes alone."

"Could you please get him, Bobby?" Ororo asked. "We have to tell him that there's been a mistake." She glared meaningfully at Scott. "Ask him to join us in Charles' office. You may want to come too."

"No sweat," Bobby replied. "We'll be right down." He started back up the stairs.

Ororo knocked on the door to Xavier's office. "Come in, Ororo," they heard Xavier say.

"Charles, we have a serious problem to deal with," Ororo said as she opened the door.

"Is Rogue all right?" Logan asked.

"She'll be off-duty for at least a month," Henry told him, "but she should make a full recovery. That's a secondary issue, however."

"What's the main difficulty, then?" Xavier asked

"There has been a serious abuse of power," Ororo declared, "and one of my people is suffering because of it."

"What happened?"

"There is no charitable way to say this, so I will be blunt: Scott tried and convicted Will of being responsible for Rogue's injury."

"What!?" Logan yelled, jumping out of his chair.

Xavier was just as shocked as Logan. "Have you lost your mind, Scott? Will is already in a delicate mental state, and you've convinced him that he's to blame for injuring her?"


Xavier turned his head to look at Bobby, who had just come running down the hall. "What's wrong, Robert?"

Bobby took a moment to catch his breath. "Will's gone."

"What do you mean, he's gone?" Ororo demanded.

"I mean he must have teleported somewhere. I knocked on his door, and when nobody answered, I opened the door. He wasn't in there, and the computer said that he's not on the grounds. This was on his bed." He handed Ororo an envelope.

"'To: Professor Charles Xavier, Ororo Munroe, and all Gold X-Men Team members,'" she read from the front of the envelope. Opening it, she unfolded the letter which was inside it and read it silently for a few seconds. "Oh, no," she whispered.

"Ororo," Bobby said impatiently, "what does it say?"

"'The tragic events of the most recent mission attended by myself, and the degree of culpability which I share in those events, have led me to the conclusion that my presence among the X-Men is an unacceptable risk. I have no desire to cause harm to anyone on either team, so I therefore tender my immediate resignation. I will send for my material possessions when I come to a decision regarding a new location. I ask only that you find a good home for Smoke.

"'I wish to express my gratitude for the kindness and understanding which was shown to me during my tenure with the X-Men. I will cherish the memories of my stay among you as some of the most significant of my life. My only regret is that my presence proved to be so damaging to the rest of you. For that, I can only offer my most heartfelt apologies, and offer all of you the best wishes for the future.

"'Yours truly, Mister Will Riley.'"

The room was silent for a moment. Feeling something else in the envelope, Ororo turned it upside down and shook it lightly. Two small objects fell into her hand. Ororo didn't say anything, but placed the objects on Xavier's desk.

"I don't understand," Bobby said softly.

"It's a military tradition," Logan told him. "When an officer resigns his commission, he hands over his rank insignia."

The two black 'X' pins lay on the blotter, gleaming dully in the lamplight.

Two hours later, in the dark of the night, the mansion was full of activity. Jean, Xavier, Ororo, and Logan were in the War Room, arguing over the best strategy for finding Will. Bobby was helping Betsy and Henry keep watch on Rogue, and Bishop and Warren were doing the returning maintenance on the Blackbird. Scott's offers to help had been coldly rebuffed by all three groups, and Jean had informed him privately that the next few nights would be very lonely for him.

"This isn't working," Xavier said disgustedly as he removed the Cerebro helmet and floated away from the station.

"Did you really expect it to?" Ororo asked. "Will's not a mutant, after all."

"No," he admitted, "but I was hoping that I could get a whisper of the babble that his mind gives off. And I doubt that he's using his powers, so there won't be any technological disruptions that we can track."

"Maybe not," Jean mused, "but we can track other things."

"You got an idea, Jeannie?" Logan asked.

"Well, I doubt that he took much cash with him. Why don't we check his room for his credit card receipts? We'll crack the computer systems of the banks, and watch to see if he uses the cards anywhere. He has to stop to eat or sleep at some point."

"It's worth a try," Logan said dubiously. "I'll go take a look." Five minutes later, he returned to the War Room with a large stack of papers. "This was everythin' on his desk."

They leafed through the sheets, placing the bank statements and credit card bills aside. "Okay," Jean said when they were done, "we have five cards to work with. Let's start cracking some systems."

Bank security was no match for Shiar technology, and they quickly accessed the credit databases. "Nothing here," Jean said.

"Same for me," Logan added.

"All right," Xavier told them, "insert Kitty's flag program. At least we'll be alerted if he does use them."

"We may not have that kind of time, Chuck. Will wasn't real stable before Scott tore into him. There's no tellin' what shape he's in now."

"Could we contact Stephen Strange?" Ororo asked. "Maybe he can use magic to track Will."

"That's worth a phone call, Charles," Jean advised. "He's shown an interest in Will before."

Xavier picked up the phone.

"You have to understand that this could take a few days, Charles."

"We may not have that much time, Stephen. Will is incredibly despondent right now. I have serious concerns that he might harm himself."

Strange exhaled in frustration. "Maybe if I work from inside his room, I'll be able to get a stronger fix on his location." He got out of his chair. "I'll need a few things from my sanctum. I'll be right back." He vanished in a flash of light.

"I'll look in Will's room and see if I can clear a spot for Stephen to sit down," Jean said as she stood up.

"Good idea," Logan said. "You might want to move the easy chair." Jean nodded and left the room.

After Strange returned, Jean brought him to Will's room. "Can I help you with anything?" she asked politely as they entered.

Strange glanced around the room. "Could you please bring that mirror a bit closer?"

Jean nodded, choosing to move Will's floor-length mirror by hand. She was uncertain if her powers would distract Strange, and chose to err on the side of caution. "Is this better?"

"Yes, thank you," Strange replied as he placed several other items on the floor, including an elaborately decorated metal tray and a world globe carved from quartz crystal. "If you could please get me two glasses of water, I can begin."

Jean found a small stack of plastic cups in the cabinet underneath Will's bathroom sink. She filled two of them with water and brought them to Strange. Taking them from her, he poured the contents of one into the tray and placed the other beside him. "I will get thirsty eventually," he pointed out.

Jean smiled. "Sorry. I was just expecting a more arcane reason."

"No need to apologize. People keep expecting me to have some kind of mystical reason for everything that I do. It never occurs to them that I might have a telephone, TV, and fax machine in my house." He sat down in lotus position, and floated up off the floor a moment later.

"We'll bring you something to eat around breakfast time," she told him as she shut the door behind her.

Twenty-four hours later, they were still searching. Strange reported that he had encountered several promising leads, but Will had apparently been moving around, and Strange found that he was always a few hours too late.

Warren and Betsy, who had taken the most recent shift in the infirmary, watched Rogue sleep in her recovery bed. She was being kept under sedation, both to prevent aggravation of her injuries and to keep her from becoming distressed about Will.

"You know," Warren said quietly, "for the longest time after I lost my wings, even after I came back to my senses, I refused to talk to anybody about what happened. I thought that nobody could possibly understand what I'd been through, so I didn't even try to explain. I built a prison for myself, I guess." He paused a moment, looking closely at Rogue. "I forgot that some of my best friends were in prisons of their own." Turning to face Betsy, he took her hand. "And sometimes I forget how lucky I was to find someone to set me free."

Betsy placed her head against Warren's chest, but didn't say anything.

She knew that she didn't have to.

Henry and Bobby relieved Betsy and Warren at seven the next morning. Henry changed Rogue's I.V. bag and checked her vital signs.

"Any improvement?" Bobby asked.

"I'm not sure yet. We really won't know for sure until she's awake. I'm going to start reducing her sedative levels. She won't be terribly alert, but at least she'll be able to let us know how she feels."

"Should we tell her about Will?"

"I don't know if that's in her best interest right now." He sat down and removed his glasses, leaning his head back until he was looking at the ceiling. "As her friend, I want to tell her. As her doctor, I know that the emotional stress could hinder her recovery."

"So what do we do?"

"We stall. We say that Will was ordered to go away for his recovery, and that he'll be back soon. Hopefully, before she's alert enough to start asking too many questions that we don't want to answer, we'll have found him and brought him back. I know," he sighed on seeing Bobby's expression, "I don't like it either. But until we have a clear idea of where Will is, we don't have much of a choice."

"She'll go postal if she finds out."

"We'll have to take the risk."

The first sensation to return was smell. Hydrogen peroxide. Disinfectant. Surgical tape.

Next came hearing. Heart monitor. EKG. Ventilation shaft.

She slowly opened her eyes, squinting even in the dim light of the room. Medlab, she realized. The stiffness in her neck told her that she was wearing a dampening collar.

The rustle of paper to her left made her made her turn her head, wincing as the muscles in her shoulder stretched. She saw a figure in a chair, reading a magazine. Licking her dry lips, she tried to speak. All she could manage was a hoarse whisper. "Bobby?"

Bobby jumped slightly at the sound of her voice, then slapped the intercom button next to her bed. "Bobby to Hank. She's awake." He stood up and stepped over to her. "How you feeling, Rogue?"

"I've got a killer headache, I can't move my arm, and I just woke up to your ugly mug. Outside of that, I'm just peachy."

"At least you still have your sense of humor."

"Like hell I do."

Henry arrived a few seconds later. "Ah, I see that our Southern spitfire has returned from the land of Nod. No," he told her when she tried to sit up, "don't move." He pressed a button on the side of her bed, elevating her chest and head. "I want to run a few tests."

Rogue patiently kept quiet while Henry did a quick check of her eyes, ears, nose and throat, then tried to move her arm through as wide a range of motion as she could manage. She was only able to raise the arm as high as her chest when moving it in front of her, and she hissed in pain when she tried to raise it to her side.

"That's enough," Henry said. "We'll have to keep your arm immobilized for a while. You're going to have to wear a sling." He took a fabric sling out of a cabinet and helped her slip it on. "How's that?"

"Better," she admitted. "I take it we won?"

Henry was silent for a moment. "Yes, we won."

"Good. Where's Will?"

Try not to lie, Henry reminded himself. "He needed some recovery time. Scott ordered him to go away for a little while. We're not sure when he'll get back."

"He didn't even stay to say goodbye to me?" she asked in a hurt voice.

"He said he'd contact us when he got to where he was going," Bobby supplied.

Thank you, Robert, Henry thought to himself.

"Oh," Rogue said quietly. Her eyes started to droop again. "I think your sedative's takin' effect again, Hank."

"Good. Try to get some rest. The buzzer's on your right side. Call if you need anything."

"'Kay," she murmured as she drifted off.

As the door shut behind them, Henry and Bobby looked at one another. "We had to do that, didn't we?" Bobby asked.


"And we did it because we don't want to hurt her."


"Then explain to me why I feel like slime."

"I'll let you know as soon as I answer it for myself."

Henry entered the War Room, where Xavier and most of the X-Men were busy looking for clues to Will's whereabouts. "Rogue awoke a few minutes ago," he announced. "She was asking about Will."

"What did you tell her?" Ororo asked.

"I gave her some very precise, meaningless answers. Has there been any progress?"

"Stephen says that Will seems to be staying in North America for now. He's working on narrowing it down from there."

Jean, who was working at one of the terminals, suddenly stopped and smacked herself in the head. "We're idiots," she announced.

"You have an idea, Jean?" Xavier asked.

"We've been spending our time working from the assumption that Will is acting rationally. Let's make it simpler. Someone you love is hurt, possibly dying. You're convinced that you're to blame. How do you feel about yourself?"

Everyone thought a moment. "I'd be punishing myself," Betsy said tentatively.

"Exactly. You can't punish yourself if you're comfortable, can you?"

"Of course not," Warren said.

"And we've already seen that Will tends to isolate himself when he's stressed. Name a place where Will can go where he'll be isolated and uncomfortable at the same time."

"The desert!" Logan said, snapping his fingers. "He hates the heat!"

"Bring up the map of the American Southwest," Ororo ordered. They all looked at the main screen.

"Death Valley?" Bobby suggested.

"Possibly," Ororo acknowledged. "There are a few other locations that would fit. At least we have a theory to work with now. Jean, inform Stephen of our reasoning."

Rogue drifted in and out of sleep. She was uncomfortable, even with the drugs masking the pain, and her level of awareness was straddling the line between dreaming and wakefulness.

A hot wind caught her attention, and she turned to find the source. She found herself standing in the middle of a dry wasteland, with the sun, directly above her, beating down on her like a sledgehammer.

Looking down at herself, she found that she was dressed in, of all things, her turquoise nightgown and black evening robe. "Talk about fashion mistakes," she muttered.

A sound from behind her made her turn around. A figure, far off in the distance, was slowly making its way towards her. Oddly enough, although the sun was directly above her, the figure cast a long shadow in front of it, stretching across the landscape like a shroud. A massive plateau loomed behind him.

Since the figure seemed to be her only company in this barren landscape, she started walking over to it. The distance was deceptive, apparently, because she soon came close to her mysterious companion.

"Excuse me... hello?" she said in a loud voice. "Could you help me, please?"

The figure didn't speak. Its face remained hidden in shadow. Rogue started to become annoyed, and moved close enough to intercept the mute shade.

Just as she was about to grab the man (how did she know it was a man?) and turn him around, she heard a familiar voice behind her.

"You've done nothing but cause us pain!"

She whirled around to face Scott. Only it wasn't Scott. This man was a giant, with eyes that blazed red and a build that put Colossus to shame. The man ignored her, concentrating solely on the plodding stranger.

"Soon you'll have her in the grave," the giant continued. "What the hell did you think you were doing? You could have killed her!" The last two statements struck a familiar chord within Rogue's memory.

As she stood there, trying to remember, the shadowed figure passed by her. Looking down at the footprints that he left in the sand, she noticed some small spots of brown. Bending down, she found that they were wet. Her eyed widened in realization.

She ran after the figure, who had suddenly traveled what seemed an impossibly long distance. She gasped with exertion, but managed to catch up with him. Grabbing an arm, she whirled him around.

Will looked at her with soulless eyes, and a face convinced of its own damnation. A knife was buried in his chest, skewering a heart which was still beating. Drops of blood dripped from the knife, landing on the sand below.

"What happened to you?" she whispered.

His answering voice was sad, resigned:

"Nothing that I didn't deserve."

She awoke with a gasp, sitting up in the bed. A quick glance at the clock told her that about three hours had passed.

Rogue grabbed the buzzer and started pressing it like mad. Within a minute, Henry was running into the medlab. "What's wrong?" he wheezed.

"Henry McCoy," she said in a tight, controlled voice, "I want you to tell me exactly what happened to Will."

Once they were able to determine a general area, Strange was able to come up with several possible locations for Will. The team had begun a discussion on how to proceed from there. Scott, who had been walking aimlessly throughout the complex, stood in a chair some distance away, listening to the discussion but not adding to it.

"Okay," Logan said, "he's gotta be in one of the Four Corners states. Question is, which one?"

"If I go to the center of the area," Strange suggested, "maybe I can narrow it down."

"He's in Wyoming," someone said from the doorway.

They all turned around. Rogue was leaning against the doorway. Henry stood right next to her, seemingly prepared to catch her should she fall.

"Rogue," Xavier said urgently, "you should be in bed, resting. You've been through a terrible trauma..."

"He's in Wyoming," she repeated firmly. "Near Devil's Tower National Park."

"How do you know?" Strange asked intently.

"He's hallucinating. I caught some sort of echo of his dream... which I guess a hallucination is, in a way. Devil's Tower was right behind him, clear as day."

"It fits, Stephen," Charles suggested. "An isolated, brutal environment, where the conditions are severe enough to make him extremely uncomfortable."

"I agree." Strange turned his gaze towards his globe, waving his hands with complicated gestures. A moment later, he nodded. "I have a fix on him. If you get a team together, I can transport them there immediately."

"We should keep it small," Jean suggested. "Too many people would seem threatening. He'll vanish, and we'll have to start all over again."

"Good idea, Jean. You, Bobby, Henry, Stephen, and myself."

"And me," Rogue added.

"Out of the question," Henry told her.

"Hank, he left because he thinks he hurt me. Nothing that any of you can say will convince him otherwise. If I'm there, in one piece, talking to him, then he's going to be a lot more likely to listen to reason. I have to go."

They all looked at one another. "She's right," Logan admitted.

"I have to get a medical kit, and some canteens," Henry said. "I'll be back in five minutes." He rushed out the door.

"You don't want to go dressed like that, Rogue," Betsy pointed out.

Rogue looked at her pajamas. "Good point. Stephen, could you...?"

Strange nodded. A moment later, Rogue was dressed in jeans, sneakers, and a plain blouse, with one sleeve rolled up to accommodate the sling. "Thank you. Jean, please ask Henry to bring my right glove from what's left of my uniform."

Henry returned a few minutes later, a first aid kit slung over his shoulder and a small cooler in his hands. He tossed Rogue her glove as he placed everything on the table, and she used her teeth to help put it on.

Two minutes later, they were ready to go. "All set?" Jean asked.

"One second, Jean," Rogue said. "There's something I have to say first." She turned to face Scott.

"Scott, I made Henry tell me what happened. I'm not going to demand an explanation, because there are some things that just can't be excused. I'm just going to try and forget that it ever happened. But I want one thing to be absolutely clear between us.

"If I can't convince him to come back, to give us another chance, I'll still be an X-Man, but you and I will be quits. You will no longer exist to me, because you'll be responsible for taking away the best thing that's ever happened to me.

"I love that man, Scott. I've just been afraid to say it - to him, and to myself. I want to share my life with him, in whatever way we can, powers or no powers, and if I've lost him because of what you've done, I will never forgive you."

Rogue turned her back to Scott and stood next to Ororo.

"Let's go."


Continued in Chapter 36


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