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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 merciless sun beat down on their heads the moment they appeared in the Wyoming desert. Bobby quickly coated one hand in ice and rubbed it against his head and face. "Oh, man. This is brutal."

"And Will's been out here for at least one or two hours," Jean said. "He'll be in bad shape."

"Then we should stop yapping and go find him," Rogue declared as she put on her sunglasses. "Can you give us a direction, Stephen?"

Strange took a few steps away from them, then floated up about three feet with the aid of his coat. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, then pointed to an area to the right of the overbearing bulk of the mesa known as Devil's Rock. "That way."

"Is he moving away from us or towards us?" Ororo asked.


"You'd better let me carry everybody, Ororo," Jean suggested. "We may spook him if you use your winds."

Ororo nodded and let Jean carry her and the others. Strange went ahead of them, levitating above the sparse, dusty ground. They moved quickly, accelerating until the terrain underneath them became a blur.

Rogue tried to remain calm, aware that the anger and worry that had given her the strength to get out of her sickbed would be a liability when dealing with Will. Her best tactic would be to radiate calm and understanding.

While she did not agree with Will's decision to leave after his encounter with Scott, she felt that she could understand it to some degree. She had fled from emotionally stressful situations at several points in her life. But she had always left to seek help; she had left her hometown to go with Mystique and Destiny when she was just a child, but she knew even at a young age that the situation she was leaving would eventually destroy her if she did not escape. She had loved Mystique and Destiny, but they could not give her the help and guidance in her powers that Xavier could.

Will had fled because he felt guilty for hurting her, but Rogue knew from painful experience that fleeing did not end the guilt; it just drove it deep inside, giving it an opportunity to fester and infect the mind and soul. She cared far too much for Will to allow him to fall into the emotional pit that she had been in for so long.

Bobby's voice broke through her quiet musings: "I see him!" he said, pointing ahead of them.

Rogue followed his arm to see a distant figure slowly making its way through the desert. The dirt which coated its clothing made it seem almost a part of the landscape.

"We're lucky you were looking that way," Jean told him. "He's covered with so much dust, we might have missed him."

"Stephen," Rogue asked, "can you keep us out of his sight for a few minutes?"

"Already done. I'm also setting up some small dimensional passages. They won't keep him from teleporting away if he really wants to, but they'll slow him down long enough that he won't just vanish on us without warning."

"Good work," Ororo said. "Do you have a plan, Rogue?"

"You're going to put me down about a hundred yards in front of him, and drop my visual cloak. Then you're going to get out of earshot and out of his sight. I'm going to talk to him, and convince him to come back. I'll wave to you when it's safe to come for us."

"Rogue," Jean objected, "that's too dangerous. We don't have any idea of what his mental state is."

"He won't hurt me," Rogue said with absolute certainty.

"What if he tries to run?"

"Then you zap him. But that's our last resort. Now, let's do this." Jean looked unhappy about it, but she complied with Rogue's request, gently setting her down.

"Give me two of the canteens, Hank."

"Here," he said, handing them to her and helping her clip them to her belt. "Good luck, Rogue."


She watched the others maneuver behind a large boulder, then turned to face Will. His face was downcast, and had the same hopeless expression that she had seen in her dream. Jean, she asked mentally, tell Stephen to drop the cloak now. She counted to ten, giving Strange enough time to dispel the enchantment, then waited for Will to get within twenty feet of her before she spoke.

"Don't you think it's time you stopped to rest?"

Will's head snapped up, and his wild eyes stared at her intently. After a moment, he shook his head and started walking again.

He probably thinks I'm another hallucination, she thought to herself. She took one of the canteens and shook it in her hand, causing the water to slosh. "You could use some of this, too," she told him. "Here, catch."

She tossed the canteen to him, and he reacted by jumping back. Slowly, he bent down onto one knee and touched the canteen with one shaking hand. After determining that it was indeed real, he took it and slowly stood back up, looking at her with both surprise and fear.

"Yes, I'm really here," she said gently, "and I'm okay, and I want you to come back to the mansion with me."

Will tried to speak, but all his parched throat could manage was a dusty cough. He opened the canteen, and took a long, deep drink from it. After another brief coughing fit, he tried again. "But... I hurt you."

"What did you do to me, Will?" she asked in a quiet voice. "How did you hurt me? You're not the one who shot me."

"I wasn't fast enough," he muttered. "I could have prevented it. I could have taken my man down and gone to help you."

"No. You tried not to kill anyone. That's nothing to be ashamed of."

"But... Scott said..."

"Scott didn't know anything about what had happened. He didn't have any right to say the things he did. No one is blaming you for what happened, and we all want you to come home." She held out her free hand. "Please."

Will started to move towards her, but stopped himself and turned away. "I can't," he wailed.

"Why not?" she pressed, feeling that she was close to convincing him.

"You weren't hurt because of me then, but you will be eventually. I hurt everyone eventually." He said the last statement more to himself than to Rogue.

"Will, I don't understand what you're trying to say."

He took in a long, shuddering breath. "Rogue, I've done something terrible. Something unforgivable."

Rogue paused at that, wondering just what Will would consider unforgivable. "What did you do, Will?"

"I DON'T KNOW!" he shouted in a voice which cracked from the sudden strain. "That's the hell of it, Rogue. I can't remember!" He collapsed to his knees.

"I catch glimpses of it sometimes, like it's in the corner of my eye. But it always hides when I try to remember it. It's always there, though, staying in the back of my mind. All I know is that whatever I did, I did it to someone I cared about.

"That's why I have to stay away from you, Rogue. I'd never be able to live with myself if I ever hurt you. Now, please... run away, and save yourself while you can."

"No," she told him in a firm voice. She walked closer to him and squatted slightly, so that she could look him in the face. "You told me once that you didn't care about my past; that it didn't make any difference to you. That works both ways, Will. Your past doesn't make any difference to me."

Will got to his feet and started pacing. "I know that. But every instinct I have tells me to hide you, protect you, put you up in an ivory tower with a dragon to guard you and keep you safe. I know that I can't do that... that you're meant to be free, but that's how I feel. I can't think straight when you're around me... I can't stop thinking about you when you're not. You've become the first thing I think of when I wake up, the last image in my mind before I go to sleep." He whirled around to face her, beating his fists against his chest. "Don't you understand that I'm in love with you!?"

Rogue's heart skipped a beat, and she had to swallow to speak again. "You are?"

He looked at her for a moment, seemingly confused, then walked up to her and, taking her by her uninjured shoulder, gently but firmly hauled her to her feet.

"Oh, you foolish, silly, stupid woman," he said in a low, rough voice. "You stand by me, no matter what happens. You defend me, you watch over me, you bring a light into my soul that I never even knew was missing. Before I met you, the noise in my mind and soul was so loud that it was drowning me out... I was starting to forget just who I was, losing my sense of self. Now I feel more connected to the world than ever before... all because you've refused to give up on me. How could I not love you?"

"Then come home," she begged. "Whatever you did, whatever the consequences are, let me help you face them. I won't give up on you... but you can't give up on us. You let me lean on you when I was weak... now it's your turn to lean on me. You're not alone any more. You have a family that cares about you, and a woman who loves you. Come home."

He said nothing, simply looking at her, then, without warning, started crying, sagging to the ground as the exhaustion and stress of the past two days finally took their toll on him.

Rogue helped him down, holding his head against her chest as he sobbed. Raising her free arm, she gestured for the others to join them. "We don't have to go straight back if you don't think you're ready yet," she told Will as they approached.

"I... I think I need some time," he said in a tear-strained voice.

"Then you'll get it," Jean promised him.

"Charles, it's Jean. We found him. Not good... he's physically exhausted, and between that, the stress, and probably having his brain baked from the heat, he's about to collapse. We're in a small town just outside the park. I'm going to look into renting a van and driving back for at least part of the way. No, there's no way he could handle coming straight back. Stephen is going to stay with us to keep an eye on him. For now, we're all beat, so I got the location of the local motel. Would you believe that Will is paying for us? Apparently, he just grabbed things at random when he left - including five bundles of hundred dollar bills. Henry's going to examine Will when we get to the motel, so I'll call again from there if there's anything serious. Rogue's a lot better than I expected... about the only good thing that came out of this is that they finally confessed that they love each other. You're damn right, it's about time. Okay, I have to go. Tell Scott that I love him, but I'm still mad as hell at him after seeing what happened to Will. Bye."

The door to the motel room opened, and Henry and Bobby helped move Will onto a bed. "Bobby," Henry said in a clinical tone, "fill the tub with water."

"You'll want it to be cool, but not cold," Strange added. "Too cold, and he'll go into shock."

"What supplies will we need?" Ororo asked.

"Food, obviously. You'd better get some bottled water, too. There's no telling what's in the water around here. Get him a change of clothes... do you know what size he is, Rogue?"

"Men's medium shirt, thirty-six waist, thirty-four leg. If you're getting jeans, you'd better make them loose fit. I think he's a size nine shoe."

"We'll need aloe gel for his sunburn, and some aspirin for the pain from the burn," Strange said as he and Henry started stripping Will of his clothing.

"Something's sticking here," Henry said as he tried to remove Will's shirt. Unbuttoning it from the top down, he looked underneath the collar. "Oh, my God," he said as his face fell.

"What's wrong?" Ororo asked.

"Remember that knife wound?"

"Of course."

"It never healed properly. The entire front of his shirt is pasted with dried blood." Grabbing the first aid kit, he pulled out the surgical scissors and started cutting the shirt away.

Strange took the scissors for a moment and cut the laces off Will's boots so that he could pull them off. "We'll have to cut through the clot just below the surface, then slowly peel the shirt off. You'd better add hydrogen peroxide to the list, Ororo."

"Give me a psychic yell if you need anything else," Jean said as she and Ororo left.

It took nearly twenty minutes for Strange and Henry to remove the remainder of the shirt. When they were done, they found that the original wound was closed, but not healed. "Can we risk putting him in the water?" Rogue asked.

"I think it's safe," Henry said. "Once we bring his body temperature back down and let him rest, his healing abilities should kick in. Get his pants, Stephen." They moved Will's nude body towards the bathroom a minute later. Bobby quickly moved out of the way to give them room, and they slowly lowered Will's body into the water. Strange grabbed the towels from the rack, soaking them in the water and draping them over Will's chest and the back of his head. "He's lucky he was wearing his hat. The only thing that got sunburned was his neck."

"Why don't we clean him up while we're at it?" Bobby suggested. "We might be missing something under all that dirt."

"Good idea," Henry agreed. He and Strange scrubbed Will down with a clinical efficiency that came from their time spent as interns. Ororo and Jean returned just as they were finishing.

"The local store didn't have much in the way of clothes," Jean said. "Will's stuck with the cowboy look until we can find something that he'd actually buy on his own."

"I can transform it into something more appropriate later," Strange told her as he started to disinfect the wound.

"How bad is it?" Ororo asked.

"Well... it's closed, but the scar isn't too clean. If he were a normal patient, I might be worried, but Henry tells me that Will is anything but a normal patient. So I guess I have to say that he's not too bad." He and Henry pulled Will out of the tub, and Bobby quickly toweled him off. After Will's chest was bandaged, he was deposited in the nearest bed. "He should be all right for a while," Strange said.

"Why don't we get something to eat, then?" Ororo suggested. "Then we can get some rest ourselves."

"I can't argue with that," Jean said. "I'm starving."

"Didn't we pass a greasy spoon on the way here?" Bobby asked.

"I think it was called 'The Desert Skillet,'" Henry recalled.

"Why don't you guys get something to eat," Rogue suggested, "and I'll keep an eye on Will? I'm more tired than I am hungry, anyway, so I'll have something when I get up."

"You did push yourself pretty hard today," Jean told her, handing her a twenty dollar bill. "The diner's open twenty-four hours, so sleep yourself out."

"Okay. I'll stay here for now. Wake me up when you get back, and I'll switch rooms."

Jean nodded, taking the room key and shutting the door behind her as she and the others left.

Rogue wearily slumped onto the empty bed, removing her sneakers and lying down. Turning her head towards Will, she saw that his face was still lined with strain and worry.

Biting her lip for a moment, Rogue got up and slid her bed over so that it touched Will's. Placing a pillow between their heads, she wrapped herself up in the top sheet and curled up beside him. Willingly succumbing to the exhaustion and strain of the day, she quickly started to drift into slumber.

Just before she fell completely asleep, her hand searched through the sheet for Will's. Finding it, she gripped it gently, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

"I love you," she whispered, surrendering to dreams.

Jean and the others came in about an hour later. Opening the door slowly, they quietly walked in and looked at the two sleeping forms on the bed.

"They do make a cute couple, don't they?" Strange commented after a few moments.

"We like to think so," Henry said.

"Think we should wake her?" Bobby asked.

Ororo thought for a moment. "No. After the past few days, the least they deserve is a night together."

"Is it safe?" Strange asked in a concerned voice.

"It should be," Jean told him. "Rogue's power isn't active when she's asleep."

"Fortunately, my magic is. I can sleep while levitating. Bobby, would you and Henry mind a roomie for the evening?"

"No problem. You'll just be another target for the pillow fight."

Strange sighed. "Maybe I should set up a protective circle."

Jean telekinetically closed the door behind her as she and Ororo entered their room. "God, I'm beat," she said as she collapsed onto her bed. "I think that the sun baked all the energy out of me."

"I could sleep for a day or two myself," Ororo confessed, "but I absolutely must take a shower first." She slipped out of her clothes and walked into the bathroom. A few seconds later, there was a small rainstorm falling onto the shower tile. "Oh, Goddess," she sighed, "I needed this. I feel like I carried half the desert in my hair."

"Then I must have the other half. Is there any shampoo in there?"

"Two sample bottles."


Ororo stepped out a few minutes later, wrapped in a bath towel. "Your turn," she said in a contented voice.

"You don't have to tell me twice," Jean replied as she practically threw her clothes off. "Don't fall asleep while I'm in there. I don't want to have to explain any flooding damage."

"I can hold out for a few more minutes. Enjoy yourself."

As Jean hummed to herself while taking her shower, Ororo toweled herself off and tied her hair back with some elastic bands they had purchased at the drugstore. "Do you think Will is going to be all right?" she asked.

"If we give him enough time to recover before he gets back, then yes. Could you make the rain a little harder, please?"

Ororo complied. "All done," Jean said a few minutes later. Ororo dissipated the cloud, and soon afterwards, a T-shirt floated out of the shopping bag and towards the bathroom. Jean walked out wearing it after a few moments. "I just adore the way that feels."

Ororo, who had finished drying herself, was now under the sheets, rapidly lapsing into sleep. "Can you get the light?" she yawned.

Jean turned the switch off with a flicker of thought. "I want to go looking for a van in the afternoon," she told Ororo. "I think Hank should come along... he can check the candidates in the car lot for problems, and I should be able to catch any obvious lies from the salesman."

"Excellent strategy," was the murmured reply. "Good night, Jean."


Consciousness returned to Will very slowly, as his weary body demanded food and water. He rolled over onto his stomach, groaning from the soreness in his legs. A few minutes later, he was coherent enough to sit up and open his eyes, which squinted against the morning light. As he sat at the edge of the bed, he became aware of several things:

- His memories of the past few days were very hazy.

- He was nude.

- There was a pile of clothing on the chair to his right... which included a bra and panties.

- He could both feel and see some residual heat from a depression next to him on the mattress.

- The shower in the bathroom was running.

The average man, upon putting these facts together, will react in one of several manners, ranging from an ecstatic "Yes!" to sheer panic.

Will chose to panic.

Frantically searching around the room, he noticed a small, neatly folded stack of clothing on a nearby table. He quickly jumped out of the bed and tried them on. The clothes, which appeared to be a country/western style, were not his preferred mode of dress, but at that moment he would gladly have worn a pink velvet tutu and whalebone corset if they were the only things on hand.

Part of him wanted to run out the door and keep running, but he realized that he wouldn't get any answers about just what had happened to him until he found out the identity of his companion. He pulled out the other free chair and sat down, trying to remain calm.

A few minutes later, the sound of flowing water ceased. A brief, quiet rumble indicated that the door to the shower stall was opening.

May as well get this over with, he thought to himself. "Um... good morning," he said in a voice which cracked slightly near the end.

The bathroom door opened slightly, and a head poked out into the bedroom.

"Good morning," Rogue told him cheerfully before pulling her head back and closing the door again.

Will sat there, unmoving, with his mouth hanging open and three words echoing in his head:




Rogue dried herself off with the towel and tied it off around her chest, trying to stay quiet as she shook with laughter. Will's expression, she decided, was beyond words. After brushing her hair, she opened the door a second time. "Can you hand me my clothes, please? They're in the bag by the door."

After the bag seemed to transport itself across the room... she didn't think that Will had enough strength to work in overdrive, but he came damn close... she dressed and left the bathroom. "The other towel's on the rack," she told him.

Will mumbled his thanks and practically flew into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.

Once she heard the shower running, she had to bury her head in a pillow to muffle the laughter.

About ten minutes later, Will stepped out of the bathroom, dressed and with his hair slicked back. "You hungry?" he asked her.

"Starving. I was too tired to eat yesterday." Standing up, she tossed him a pair of leather work gloves. "We got them at the hardware store. Let's go eat."

Will nodded and opened the door for her. "Shouldn't we let the others know where we're going?"

"I told Jean that I'd eat when I got up. She'll give us a telepathic buzz if she gets worried."

"Which way to the diner?"

"Take a right." A few minutes later, the bell on the door clinked as they entered the diner.

"Good morning," the waitress told them cheerfully. "Table for two?"

"Yes, please," Rogue said. They were led to a booth, and a few minutes later, Rogue was starting on her bottomless cup of coffee, waiting for her ham steak and eggs. Will had ordered a stack of pancakes with sausage and toast on the side.

"So," Rogue said.


"Where do we go from here?"

"I could answer that with a few jokes, but that wouldn't feel right. I think we should take this slowly, and see just where it leads. If we try to move to fast, we could ruin things, and that's the last thing I want."

"That sounds good," she said as she reached across the table and took his hand in hers.

"Can I ask you something?" he ventured.


Will covered his face with his left hand for a moment. "I cannot believe that I'm instigating this conversation," he said to himself. "You see, my memories of the past few days are really sketchy. I remember walking around for a long time, I remember my conversation with you... and the next thing after that is waking up about... oh, an hour or so ago. Can you fill in any gaps?"

Rogue gave him a blank look. "You mean you don't remember how wonderful last night was?"

For the second time that morning, Will's mind achieved a state equivalent to that of a car whose engine has seized. "Excuse me?" he asked in a small voice.

"Well, I would have waited for you to take a shower," she told him, fighting to keep a straight face, "but I was so hot and sweaty that I couldn't wait. You weren't as bad, of course, but the rubdown that you got probably helped..."

By this point, Will had the appearance of someone whose brain was undergoing a nuclear meltdown. Rogue decided to be merciful at that point and burst into laughter, explaining the events of the past day. She had finished by the time their meals arrived.

"So how do you feel?" she asked as she put salt and pepper on her eggs.

"Weak," he admitted. "Outside of having some very sore feet, though, I don't think I'm hurt. I should be okay after a few days of rest."

"I think Jean and Hank were going to look for a van today. If they can find one with an extended cab, you'll be able to lie down in the back seat."

"Well, I've never been able to sleep in a car," Will said with a grimace, "but at least I'll be able to relax." His gaze shifted to a point just beyond her. "Good morning, Jean, Ororo."

"Good morning," Ororo said as the two women walked up to them. "How do you two feel?"

"Weak, but recovering," Will said.

"Same here," Rogue added with a smile.

"How's the shoulder?" Jean asked.

"Still a little stiff," Rogue admitted. "I blasted it with some heat when I was in the shower, though, so it's not too bad."

Will gave her a concerned look. "I didn't even think to ask about that."

"Hey, it's okay," Rogue said, patting him on the arm. "You've had enough to deal with. I'm fine. I just need some rest, same as you."

"May we sit down?" Ororo asked. Rogue and Will nodded, sliding over to give them room.

"We already ordered," Will told her. "Any sign of life from the others?"

"I knocked on the door before we came here," Jean told them. "We may want to look into getting an extra room for Stephen from here on. Bobby and Hank were up to their usual antics during the night, and he didn't get any sleep."

"We'd better keep him happy," Will decided. "As the wise man said, 'do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup'."

Ororo chuckled. "At least your good spirits are returning."

"The company that I've been keeping has helped. Rogue told me that you'll be looking for a van today," he said, turning to Jean.

"That's right. I'd like to see if we can get going by tomorrow morning."

"Any idea which route we'll have to take?" Rogue asked.

"I'm not sure. I haven't had a chance to look at an atlas yet."

"The most direct route would be to take I-90 until we hit Chicago," Will suggested. "Then we switch to I-80 all the way to New York."

"I thought you didn't drive," Ororo said in surprise.

"I don't. But I've spent enough time as navigator to remember the basic outline of some maps." He turned his attention back to his breakfast when the waitress showed up to take orders from Ororo and Jean. "You know," he said half to himself, "I don't have the appetite that I thought I would."

"Probably because you're breaking a two day fast," Rogue suggested.

"Probably," he agreed, yawning. "If you need any leverage at the car lot, Jean, come and get me. I'll wave my credit cards around for a few minutes, and get the salesman drooling to make a sale. That should drop the price down a few hundred bucks. Otherwise, I think I'll go back to sleep for a while."

"Okay. By the way, any problem with the clothes we got you?"

"Well, to be honest, they're starting to chafe."

Ororo winced. "Where?"

"Normally, I'd tell you, but you're about to eat. Can I slide out, please?" Ororo got out of the booth, and Will stood up. "See you in a few hours."

"Wait up," Rogue told him as she wiped off her mouth with a napkin.

After they had paid the check and tipped the waitress, they walked back to the motel. Henry, Bobby and Strange left their room just as Rogue was pulling out her keys. "Morning, guys," she said cheerfully.

"Morning," Bobby said. "You two look a lot better."

"I feel better," Will replied. "I still need a lot more sleep, though. I'm crashing until we have some transportation. Ororo and Jean are still at the diner."

Strange looked at Will. "You haven't shaved yet."

"Didn't have my straightedge," was the shrugged reply.

"You shave with a straightedge?" Henry asked incredulously.

"I have to, if I don't want to get lacerated. The safety razor's only a century or so old, and whenever I try to use one, the Chorus keeps messing me up. Besides, I haven't had a beard since I went grey. I'm curious about how I'll look with one."

"To be honest, so am I," Rogue mused. "We'll talk about it later. See you guys in a few hours."

"Enjoy your rest," Bobby said, "or whatever it is you'll be doing."

Will sighed. "Get your mind out of the gutter, Bobby. It's crowded enough with me in there." He followed Rogue into their room, shutting the door behind him. "Remind me to smack him later."

"I get to go first," she told him as she sat down on the bed and removed her sneakers, tossing them aside.

"I should have straightened out the sheets before we left," Will remarked. "I hate sleeping in an unmade bed."

"Poor baby," she teased. "The burdens you have to bear."

"It's so nice to have a sympathetic ear," he replied blandly. "Do you want to split the beds back apart?"

She thought about it for a moment. "I'd really feel better if I was close to you," she said shyly.

Will gave her a gentle smile. "Okay. But it's my turn for the Boris Karloff impersonation." He kicked off his shoes, then took the top sheet off the bed and wrapped himself in it in a manner similar to the way Rogue had when she was in his room. Standing at the foot of the bed, he let his eyes roll back and tilted forward, collapsing onto the mattress.

Rogue laughed as she caught him and gently rolled him onto his back. "I've finally got you where I want you," she told him with a mischievous smile.

Will gave her a look of mock fright. "Oh, my. I've fallen into the clutches of the legendary Mississippi Marauder. Whatever shall become of me?"

"Whatever I want," she replied in a husky whisper, a smoldering look building in her eyes.


Rogue examined the sheet where it surrounded Will's head. Taking a loose section below his chin, she pulled it taut and covered his face up to the bridge of his nose. "Perfect," she declared.

"For what? Planning on using me to start your own male harem?"

"No," she said with a chuckle. "Perfect for this."

She slowly lowered her head, breathing softly over his forehead and eyes. Moving down, she tilted her head slightly and brought her lips in contact with the cloth. She could feel the pressure of his lips through it, and the warmth of his body penetrated the fabric, allowing her to sense the flush riding in his cheeks.

The kiss lasted about a minute, and both Rogue and Will had to gasp for breath when their lips separated. "Wow," he whispered.

"Haven't you been kissed before?" she asked with a smile.

"Not like that," he admitted.

"You're going to make me blush," she said, yawning as she finished. "We'd better take that nap now." She stood up and walked over to the door, placing the 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the outside, then closing and locking it. A moment later, she closed the curtains, reducing the light in the room to a level comfortable enough to fall asleep in. "That's your only change of clothes for the next day or two," she pointed out. "It might be a good idea to let them air out."

"Good idea," Will agreed. He sat up and disentangled himself from the sheet.

"I'll be out in a minute," she told him as she went into the bathroom and closed the door.

Will stripped down to his briefs and bundled himself in the sheet again. It actually wasn't that uncomfortable, he decided. He had slept in a mummy style sleeping bag at times during his travels, and the sensation was a similar one. Before covering his arms, he pulled back the next level of sheet on the bed so that Rogue would not have to make him move. Turning away from the door, he started to relax and drift into the beginning stages of sleep.

After a few minutes, he heard the bathroom door open, and felt the mattress shift as Rogue settled into the bed. "Comfortable?" she asked.


"Good." He felt the pressure of her body against his as she leaned her head against the back of his neck. She draped her left arm over his chest, and curled her left leg around his waist.

Will glanced down at her leg - he did have normal desires, after all - and was slightly surprised to see that she had removed her jeans. I suppose it's safe with me covered up like this, he decided. Besides, even with invulnerable skin, sleeping in jeans can't be too comfortable.

Rogue shifted a bit, getting into a more comfortable position, and lifted her hips off the bed for a moment. This brought her left side into Will's field of vision for about three-quarters of a second. Will's heart caught in his throat when he realized that he saw no band of fabric or elastic crossing Rogue's thigh.

He found that his throat had suddenly gone dry. "Uh... Rogue?"

"I know what you're going to ask," she said in a quiet voice. "You're right. I'm not."

"No," she told him firmly, as she felt his body tense. "Relax." She tightened her embrace, being careful to keep the pressure at a level firm enough to immobilize him, but not hurt him. "You love me, and I love you, and we're going to find something that works for us. You're weak, and you need to let someone else be the strong one for a while. You've let me lean on you, so now it's time for you to lean on me. I won't hurt you, Will, and I won't let anyone else hurt you. Trust me. Please?"

She felt him slowly relax, and heard his breathing soften. "Good," she said in an encouraging voice. "Now sleep, and heal."

After a few minutes, his breathing became deep and regular, and she realized that he had fallen asleep. She yawned, letting her own drowsiness overwhelm her, then kissed the back of Will's head through the sheet.

"See you in dreams, lover," she whispered as she drifted off.


Continued in Chapter 37


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