THE ARCHETYPE ASSOCIATION
Matt Adams wiped his face and finished waxing the last of
his cars. "There you go, honey," he crooned, "you're
all set to rope us in a new mark."
Of course, he said that every morning, even though he hadn't
made a sale in nearly a month. Adams was an incurable optimist,
however... he knew in his heart that another sucker would
always show up eventually.
Stepping back into his air conditioned office, Adams took
a deep drink from the can of Pepsi on his desk and sat down,
turning in his chair and propping his feet on his desk. A
moment later, he was deeply immersed in the fascinating details
of the comics page.
The faint sound of footsteps in the gravel of the lot caught
his attention, and he lowered his paper and peered out the
"Oh, Mama," he whispered to himself.
The young woman who was examining one of the vans could only
be described as a knockout. Redhead, long legs, nice...
His train of thought was rather abruptly derailed when a
muscular man with slicked back hair appeared came into view
from the other side of the van.
...boyfriend. Oh, well, he thought with a sigh, better
get to work.
He stood up with a grunt and walked out, taking his Stetson
off its hook on the wall and plopping it onto his head. He
pasted his friendliest smile onto his face and walked towards
them. "Morning! Can I help you folks?"
"We were looking at this van," the man said in
a scholarly voice. "What can you tell us about it?"
Adams felt a sensation pass through him that is not unlike
what a lion feels upon seeing a blind gazelle with three broken
legs. "Well, sir," he replied in his silkiest voice,
Bobby sat in the chair of his motel room, idly leafing through
a copy of the local paper. He found that the best opportunities
for meeting women would be the square dance or the rodeo.
Maybe I can combine the two and rope up a few dancers.
The sound of deep, regular breathing on the other side of
the room distracted him for a moment. He turned his head to
where Strange sat on the floor, meditating. "I don't
suppose you're up to hitting a bar?" he asked quietly.
"I gave up drinking years ago," Strange replied
in a normal tone of voice, nearly startling Bobby out of his
"Sorry about that," Strange told him as he open
his eyes and stood up. "I was just coming out of the
trance when you spoke."
"That's okay," Bobby said as he composed himself.
"A heart attack every week or so keeps me young. Hey,
can you whip us up a deck of cards or something? I need something
to keep me occupied until we leave."
"I saw a tobacco and magazine store right next to the
diner. Why don't we pick up some things to read on the trip?"
Bobby considered it. "Not a bad idea. Are you going
to change into something a bit less conspicuous?"
Strange snapped his fingers, and was briefly engulfed in
a brilliant purple aura. He emerged from it dressed in a blue
polo shirt and tan slacks. "You were saying?"
"Never mind." Bobby picked up the keys from the
nightstand, and they left the room.
The store was densely packed with paperbacks and magazines,
and had a smaller rack near the candy which held juvenile
and comic books. The extensive tobacco section near the back
of the store gave off a surprisingly pleasant aroma which
seemed to have permeated the wood of the building decades
They each picked up several paperbacks and magazines, and
filled a small sack with penny candy. "Something to snack
on during the trip," Bobby explained.
"Just keep in mind that rest stops are few and far between
out here," Strange cautioned him.
"We should be okay. Want to check up on Jean and Hank?"
"They probably have the salesman ready to cry by now.
Let's go watch their handiwork."
The leaves crunched underneath her feet as she walked
through the forest. The gold and scarlet cape of the trees
billowed above her, undulating with the breeze that cast its
melancholy enchantment over the land.
Draping the hem of her cloak over one arm, she gathered
her skirt up in her hands, allowing her to run through the
bushes, following the faint trails left over hundreds of years
by countless generations of deer and elk. The rich, earthy
smells of the loam of the mossy hills and old, crumbling wood
filled her nose as she wove her way among the ferns.
Shade gradually made way for sunlight, and she walked
out of the woods to step onto a large field, which was cut
by a bubbling stream. Following it, she crossed over several
other trickles of water, joining with the one she trailed
and causing the slow stream to become a cascade of froth as
it pounded on the rocks along its way to the falls.
She didn't slow her step as she leapt off the edge of
the rapids, descending in a long, slow arc towards the bottom.
She pierced the water like a naked blade, arching her back
and swimming towards the light. As her head broke through
the surface, she flipped her hair back, spraying the surface
of the pool with miniature raindrops.
Gliding lazily through the water, she swam towards a large,
flat, moss-covered rock at the edge of the pool. She climbed
atop the rock and lay on her back, letting the warmth of the
sun bake the moisture from her clothing. Gathering her hair
into her hands, she braided it into one long plait, which
she draped over her right shoulder.
The sound of the falling water had an effect that was
almost hypnotic, beguiling her and making her drowsy. She
stretched, yawning, and slipped into a relaxing doze.
He walked softly through the forest, taking care not to
disturb the creatures who dwelled there. They, after all,
lived here just as he did, and he felt that it was proper
to be polite to his neighbors.
He followed the game trails, knowing that they would eventually
lead him to water. Finding that there were no animals in the
area, he slung his bow across his shoulder and quickened his
pace, moving towards the sound of running water.
The bubbling of small streams eventually increased in
volume until it became the roar of spray. Leaping from rock
to rock, moving quietly enough to remain unheard, he squinted
against the sudden brightness as he stepped out onto a small
but lush patch of grass that faced the falls.
He was briefly dazzled by the play of sunlight on the
surface of the water, and so did not see the young woman who
lay only a short distance in front of him. She seemed to appear
from within a pool of shimmering light, stretched out before
him as if beckoning him to come closer.
She awoke from her slumber gradually, curling up into
a ball and opening her eyes. Finding that her hair had fallen
over her face, obscuring her vision, she lazily brushed it
A heartbeat later, she jumped up into a crouch, wrapping
her cloak around herself and staring at the intruder with
cautious eyes. She did not move from her rock, but did slowly
look him up and down, maintaining a steady gaze.
He was tall and lean, clad in fur-trimmed leather, and
held a bow in one hand. He stared at her for a long, breathless
moment, then slowly bent down and placed the bow and his quiver
of arrows down on the ground, stepping back and holding his
empty hands in front of him. Slowly, the man sat on the ground,
crossing his legs and placing his hands, palms facing up,
on his knees. He kept his eyes on her, but did not move.
Standing up, she warily circled him, trying to determine
if he was a threat to her. He remained still, but tried to
maintain eye contact with her whenever she entered his field
Hesitantly, she reached out with one trembling hand, touching
his cheek and running her fingers along the roughness of his
whiskered chin. She smiled at the novelty of the scratchy
texture, then moved her hand down his neck to stroke the softer
hair on his chest.
Glancing at him, she tugged at the top of his tunic, pulling
it above his head and tossing it aside. As she stared at his
chest and shoulders, she traced her fingers over the dragons
that writhed along his arms. He touch was as light as a breeze,
barely stirring the hairs on his skin. He resisted the urge
to twitch at the sensation, which felt like an insect alighting
on his body.
He slowly raised his right hand, taking care not to startle
her, and brushed the side of her face with the back of his
fingers. She flinched for a moment, but took his hand in hers
before he could pull it back, pressing it to her cheek. He
gently stroked her face, moving his hand along her chin and
brushing the tips of his fingers over her lips. His touch
shifted to her hair as he moved downward, caressing her shoulders
She leaned in close to him, softly brushing her lips against
his, wrapping her arms around him and guiding him to the ground.
As they stretched out on the lush carpet of grass, she draped
her body over his and sealed their mouths together, sharing
a single breath between them.
He made sure that his own mouth and hands were not idle
as he stroked her back and slowly moved downward. She smiled
to herself, and encouraged him by firmly pressing her hips
against his left leg. She slid slowly along his body with
a slow, deliberate motion, savoring the onset of a familiar
tingling sensation deep within her.
She became more frantic in her responses to him, leaving
scratches down his back and blazing a trail of kisses along
his chest. His back arched in response, and he shuddered as
the intense reactions shot through his body.
They reveled in each other's embrace, letting the heat
build as they each sought to find that part within the other
that would make them whole. She felt her entire body stiffen
... She awoke.
Rogue found herself in the bed which she was sharing with
Will. He was still wrapped in the sheet, and by the sound
of his breathing, was still asleep. She, however, was wide
awake, and had an insistent tingling between her legs which
was slowly frustrating her.
She bit her lip, uncertain about what to do. She could go
into the bathroom, but she was reluctant to leave Will's side.
On the other hand, she had no intention of waking him with
any movement of the bed. She decided to compromise, and rolled
over so that she was in spoon position with him.
Will mumbled incoherently for a moment, then rolled towards
her, lying on his back and bending his legs. Rogue barely
got out of the way in time, and ended up with her right leg
loosely trapped underneath Will's lower body.
She lay perfectly still for about thirty seconds, holding
her breath and keeping her eyes on Will's face. Once she was
certain that he was still asleep, she hooked her left leg
over him and crossed her ankles, effectively wrapping her
legs around him. She then curled her left arm around Will's
chest and pressed herself tightly against him.
Thank God he's such a sound sleeper when he's healing,
she thought to herself. I'd die if I had to explain
She shifted her hips by the smallest amount, but the signals
that her brain received were so intense that she had to suppress
a gasp. Well, if I'm going to do this, she decided,
I may as well take it to the limit. In for a penny...
Slowly, by minute degrees, she increased her tempo, building
herself up to a plateau as her breath quickened. She stayed
at the edge for an agonizingly long time, but was unable to
reach beyond it. She nearly sobbed with frustration.
Will made a sudden movement in his sleep, almost a twitch,
which caused him to twist towards Rogue and settle against
her. Fortunately, the fabric around his head twisted with
him, covering his face. The movement, however, was enough
to help Rogue past the edge. Her entire body tensed for a
moment, and she had to bite her lip to avoid making any noise.
A few seconds later, she relaxed, sinking deeply into the
mattress with a sigh.
She looked at Will, who now had the covered half of his face
comfortably nestled against her bosom, and smiled blissfully.
I should probably feel guilty about that, she mused,
but I feel too damn good right now to worry about
it. She shifted her head to a comfortable position on
the pillow and started to fall back asleep. Before she did
so, however, she wrapped her arms around Will, drawing him
close to her again, and kissed the top of his covered head.
Matt Adams' day was rapidly going downhill.
He had a personal rule against lying to a buyer, based more
in a desire to avoid lawsuits than any moral imperative, but
he had no problem with embellishing the truth somewhat to
make a sale. He had encountered sharp customers in the past,
and thought of himself as adept in the art of creative distraction.
This couple, however, was in a class of their own. Every
time he sang the praises of the van, the man would either
open the hood or crawl under the car and respectfully correct
"She's got a brand new muffler!"
"Actually, sir, I see quite a bit of corrosion. Also,
the shocks seem to be a bit worn."
"Er... well, the engine's been totally rebuilt!"
"Using a secondhand distributor cap, I noticed. What
were you asking for it?"
Adams quoted a price, and the couple looked at one another.
"You can do better than that," the woman
said to him.
"What if I drop that by ten percent?" Adams asked
desperately. That wouldn't give him his usual profit margin,
he realized, but he felt that he absolutely had to
make the sale.
"Take off another two hundred and we'll pay in cash,"
the man countered.
"Deal," Adams declared. "Give me a few minutes
to draw up the papers." He almost ran back to his office.
"Did you do anything to him?" Henry asked Jean
in a low voice once he was sure that Adams was out of earshot.
"Not directly," she admitted, "but I did
sort of increase his determination to make a sale. Don't worry,
he still made a good profit. Do you think this thing will
get us back to Salem Center?"
"It's in very good condition, actually. I don't foresee
any difficulties. Do you want to drive twenty-four hours,
or stop for the night?"
"I think that it'll be better for Will and Rogue if
we take it easy. If we can get in fourteen hours of driving
per day, I'll be happy. If our money holds out... and I don't
see why it won't... we may stop for a day or so in Chicago.
I've never been there for anything that wasn't an emergency,
and I'd like the chance to see the city."
Henry nodded. "It sounds like a workable plan."
He glanced at his watch. "Why don't we gather everyone
together after we finish here, check out of the motel, have
a big lunch, then set out and drive until the pleas to stop
"I like it."
Ororo soared on the desert winds high above the town, keeping
herself at an altitude which would prevent anyone from seeing
her with the naked eye. She hadn't planned on flying while
they were on the trip, but the motel room that she shared
with Jean was becoming a bit too confining for her, and she
needed to spend some time in the sky before sitting in a car
Ororo, Jean's voice echoed in her head, we
got a van. We should be ready to leave after lunch.
Thank you, Jean. I will awaken Will and Rogue. She
began her descent back down towards an isolated area outside
of the town. A few minutes later, she walked back towards
The sound of someone on the other side of the door caused
Will to stir. He yawned and blearily opened his eyes.
He was wide awake about two seconds later, when the proper
neurons in his brain fired, and his eyes bugged out as he
realized that he was staring at Rogue's bare chest. He rolled
backwards, right off the bed, and landed with an unceremonious
thump on the floor.
The noise woke Rogue up, and she sat up in the bed, then
grabbed two pillows and covered herself with them as she blushed
"Get in the bathroom, quick!" he hissed to her.
She did so, backing out of the bedroom and shutting the door
behind her. Will grabbed his jeans and shirt and threw them
on. He then took a few deep breaths to calm himself and opened
"Yes, Ororo?" he asked, faking a yawn.
"We have a vehicle now," she told him. "We
will be leaving immediately after lunch, so it would be best
if we were ready to settle accounts with the motel within
"All right. We'll meet you at the diner in half an hour.
Who checked us in?"
"We'll give her the keys at the diner, then. She can
handle checkout while we're waiting for our meals."
Ororo nodded. "Where is Rogue?"
"She's in the bathroom."
"Very well. We will meet you at the diner."
Will nodded and shut the door, collapsing against it in relief
as he locked it. He then quickly finished dressing, making
sure to put on his gloves. He glanced through the room for
a moment, and gathered Rogue's clothes from the chair where
she had evidently placed them before going to bed.
Stepping up to the bathroom door, he placed the clothes right
next to the base of the jamb. "Your, uh... your clothes
are right outside the door," he said in a voice which
cracked slightly. He hurried back to his bed and sat down,
facing away from the bathroom. A few seconds later, he heard
the door open, then shut again. The shower started about a
minute after that.
Will spent the next several minutes folding up his uniform
and placing it inside one of the shopping bags that Jean had
left in their room. He pulled his wallet out of his uniform
pants and placed it in the back pocket of his jeans. He debated
about what to do with his pistol, finally deciding on removing
the clip and spare, placing them and the pistol in separate
bags and covering them with clothes. The only thing that he
could do with his sword was wrap it up in his coat. Just as
he finished, he heard the water shut off. He sat back down
on the bed and waited quietly.
Rogue emerged from the bathroom, her hair tied back with
a rubber band. Her face and ears were still a bit pink. "You're
not going to tell anybody about this, are you?" she asked
"Of course not!" he told her indignantly. "First,
it's nobody's business but ours. Second, how would I find
Rogue couldn't help smiling at that.
As they walked towards the diner, she linked her arm with
his. "You think you're up to the trip?"
He nodded. "I'll rest most of the time. You can dust
me off when mealtime rolls around."
"Wonderful," she sighed. "I've finally become
"Does that mean I'll get a spanking if I'm bad?"
he asked with a wicked smile.
"I might spank you if you're good."
"Quit it," she told him cheerfully, giving him
a light swat across the top of his head. "We're in public."
"Yes, Ma'am," he said meekly as he opened the front
door to the diner and ushered her through.
"Hi, you two," Bobby said in greeting as they sat
down in his booth. "Feeling better?"
"A bit," Will replied. "Did anybody order
"We thought it best to wait until you arrived,"
Ororo said from the booth across from them, where she sat
with Jean, Henry, and Strange.
Rogue nodded and took a menu from the rack on the table.
"I think I'll have the chicken club sandwich," she
decided after a moment.
"And since I finally have my appetite back," Will
declared, "I'm probably best off with the all-you-can-eat
option." He glanced at the menu for a moment. "I
think I'll go with the roast turkey."
"Do you want to get the soup and salad bar again?"
"Not a bad idea," he agreed.
The waitress appeared a few minutes later, and they all placed
their orders. "Tell me, Stephen," Will asked after
they were alone again, "Now that you've seen the mutant
metabolism in action, have you formed any opinions?"
"Well, I'm considering the idea that it all goes into
a pocket dimension."
"We're not that bad," Jean said in a chiding
"You ladies aren't, no, but I'm becoming convinced that
if Hank were left to his own devices, he could single-handedly
wipe out a species or two."
Hank snorted. "You can't fuel eight hundred pounds of
muscle with diet shakes."
"Point taken," Strange said with a smile. "I
promise to refrain from bottomless pit jokes for the rest
of the trip."
"We tried putting him on that diet with the shakes once,"
Bobby joked. "We couldn't find an oil drum-sized glass,
"That's brave talk," Strange observed, "considering
that you have to fall asleep in the man's presence eventually."
"Don't worry about it, Stephen," Jean assured him.
"They started joking with one another five minutes after
they met, and I doubt it's ever going to end. I'd probably
miss it if it did."
"It makes the rest of us feel a little more grown up,"
Rogue added. "We can always tell ourselves, 'Well, at
least we're not as bad as those two'."
"It's so nice to know that I'm a baseline for aberrant
behavior," Henry said as he leaned on one hand. "It
makes me feel special."
"Is there anything else that we need to get before we
leave?" Will asked.
"Well," Jean thought out loud, "we got munchies,
water, books and magazines, and a few tapes to play during
the trip, since I'm not about to listen to country music all
the way to Chicago. Any other ideas?"
"You might want to consider getting some pillows and
blankets," he suggested. "Even if we trade off on
the driving, we're all going to get tired from watching the
road roll by. And I guarantee that I'm going to need
to conk out every once in a while."
"It's a good idea, Jean," Henry agreed. "I
want Rogue to get some extra rest as well. We will simply
have three people in one of the bench seats from time to time."
"Okay. We'll hit the general store when we're done here."
"And I'll stop off at the drugstore to get a sleep mask,"
Will added. "With the way the sun is out here, I'm going
to need it."
After they finished lunch, everyone split up for about half
an hour. Jean and Ororo purchased some light sheets and two
pillows at the general store, while Will and Rogue spent time
in the drugstore, where he bought a sleep mask, a notebook,
and some pens.
"Planning on getting some writing done?" she asked
him from behind his shoulder.
"Maybe. We'll definitely have the time, and I'm not
planning on sleeping twenty-four hours a day. Besides, my
agent's going to start foaming at the mouth if I don't send
something to her soon."
"When's the last time you were published?"
"I had a short story included in an anthology about
two years ago. I think I want to do something a bit more challenging
this time around."
"You have any ideas yet?"
"I'm running some concepts around in my head, but I
haven't decided what genre to work in yet."
"Want to bounce some ideas off me?"
"I think I want to let them cook a while first. Once
I finally get started, I usually get the whole thing done
pretty quickly. Tell you what... you can read the whole thing
once it's complete. You'll get to see it before my publisher
"Ooh," she breathed, widening her eyes, "I
get a sneak preview?"
He nodded. "Of course, that will be before my
editor tears it to shreds." He shook his head. "I
really shouldn't say that. They've been very good to me."
"When is it due?"
"About three months from now."
"You're going to write an entire novel in three months?"
"It's not as hard as it sounds. Before I even put pen
to paper, I have a basic outline of the plot in my head, from
beginning to end. I write everything out by hand, one chapter
at a time. That first draft is revised when I type it into
my word processor. I e-mail everything to my publisher, usually
a few hours before the deadline."
"Is it always last minute?"
"I've found that I do my best work at the last minute.
The pressure of a looming deadline helps kick my brain into
"It is," he admitted, "but it keeps things
from getting boring."
"Oh, I'm sorry," she said in a mocking tone, "have
we made life too predictable for you lately?"
"I think I can live with some normality for a little
while," he replied blandly.
"Everybody set?" Jean asked once they had all wandered
back to the van.
"Did we all go to the little boys and girls rooms?"
Bobby added in an exuberant voice.
"Are you absolutely sure that we can't leave
him here?" Strange pleaded.
"That isn't an option, I'm afraid," Ororo sighed.
"The doctors say that he has to be kept under close supervision."
"You have his medication, don't you Hank?" Jean
"One whack across the head, administered as needed,"
Strange laughed. "You know, I thought that this would
be a somber trip, but I don't think that I've relaxed this
much in a long time."
"We aim to please," Rogue told him with a smile.
"But we shoot to kill," Will added.
"And on that note," Ororo said as she rolled
her eyes, "all aboard."
"I'm driving," Henry announced.
"I'm nervous," Jean replied. "Please drive
forwards this time."
"Okay, if you want to do it the boring way."
"Please... let's do it the boring way," Will asked.
"I've had enough excitement over the past few days to
last for a while. Boredom, dullness and monotony sound very
appealing right now."
"Good," Jean said, tossing a pillow to him. "You
can stretch out on the back seat. And you take the
middle one," she told Rogue as she handed her the other
pillow and a sheet.
"I call shotgun!" Bobby yelled as he scrambled
into the front passenger seat.
"Which means that I'm forced to sit between two beautiful
women," Strange sighed. "Poor me."
It took about two minutes for everyone to get comfortable.
Rogue stretched out on her seat, placing her pillow against
the side wall of the van and letting her feet hang over the
other end of the seat. Will tucked his sheet around himself
and curled up slightly, pulling his sleep mask over his eyes
and turning so that he faced the back of the seat.
"Ignition in ten," Henry counted. "Nine
"Get on with it!" the others yelled.
"And awaaay we go."
Seven hours later, Bobby pulled into the parking lot of a
truck stop. "Mealtime!" he announced as he cut the
An assortment of moans and grumbles answered him as the others
piled out of the van "I think I'll get the name of the
nearest motel," Jean said as she leaned back and stretched.
"We've been cooped up enough for one day."
"I second the motion," Strange added. "Any
"Hard to say," Bobby admitted. "Two of our
voters aren't exactly present."
Ororo glanced towards the back of the van, where both Rogue
and Will still slept. Will had turned over at some point,
and his face the portion of it not covered by the mask,
at least was now visible. His mouth was creased into
a small frown which could almost be called a pout.
Rogue was still lying on her back, and had an expression
on her face which was almost identical to Will's. The others
watched, fascinated, as the two of them moved in almost perfect
tandem while still asleep, turning onto their left sides.
"Are they psi-linked, Jean?" Henry asked.
Jean concentrated for a moment. "Not exactly. It's more
." She paused, searching for the right
.Synchronized. They're acting independently,
but I think it's to the same stimuli."
Strange pulled at his goatee as he thought. "Interesting.
That leads to some speculations."
"Such as?" Henry asked.
"Let me see something first." He pulled a pen from
his shirt pocket and ran it across the sole of Rogue's right
foot. As she drew it back, Will mirrored her actions.
Bobby whistled. "Wow. That's almost creepy. Maybe we
should just leave them alone. We might hurt them if we wake
"Not if we do it gently," Strange disagreed. "Right
now they're in a state that's similar to a shared trance.
Which one of them is easier to wake up?"
"Rogue," Ororo supplied.
"Could you do so. then
. slowly, please?"
Ororo nodded and shook one of Rogue's feet gently. "Rogue?
We've stopped for dinner. Time to get up."
Rogue and Will both shifted their heads upwards, passing
their right hands over their faces. Ororo shook Rogue's foot
again, a bit more firmly. "Rogue, wake up."
The two sleepyheads opened their eyes and stretched, arching
their backs and yawning at the same time, resulting in a curious
dual tone. Rogue sat up first. "What time is it?"
"Just after eight," Jean replied.
"You let me sleep for seven straight hours? I'll be
up all night now!"
"Don't bet on it," Will yawned as he put on his
shoes. "Your body wouldn't have let you go that long
if it hadn't needed the time to repair itself. You'll be up
for four hours or so, then you'll start to drift off again."
Rogue shrugged at that, then winced as the movement caused
a twinge of pain in her shoulder. "Hank, you might want
to give me a once-over before we all turn in. I still feel
a bit sore."
"All right," Henry agreed. "How do you feel,
"Physically, I'm fine, outside of still being tired.
That probably reflects the fact that my nerves are still shot,
and that I'm feeling really unbalanced right now. I
think that I'm going to have to go deep into the Chorus for
a few hours to get myself centered again."
"How are your power levels?" Strange asked.
. and that's part of the problem.
Normally, I'd just lower my shields and let my mind drift
for a while, but right now I'd probably trip a circuit breaker
and cause a blackout. I don't even want to think about what
would happen to the van."
"Don't worry about it," Strange said. "I set
up some barriers while you were asleep. Anything within one
hundred feet of you should be safe, unless you're actually
concentrating on shorting it out."
"In that case," Will said as he stepped out of
the van, "let's eat." He offered his hand to Rogue,
who smiled and took it, slipping her sneakers on as she stepped
down. "What are our choices for dinner?"
"There's a regular diner," Jean told him. "We
also have a Tex-Mex place and a McBurgers. The Tex-Mex place
has music tonight."
"McBurgers sounds good to me," Rogue said. "I
don't think I could handle a room full of singing cowboys
"Okay, that's fifteen double cheeseburgers, five chicken
sandwiches, eleven jumbo fries, and seven mega-size Cokes.
Jean looked at the total. "No. I think we just justified
your opening for the day. Can I have a receipt, please?"
She, Bobby and Strange took the trays and brought them back
to the tables where the others sat. "Here you go,"
she said to Will as she handed him the receipt.
Will took it, but gave her a confused look. "Why would
I want this?"
"To keep track of how much of your money we're spending?"
His reply was a snort. "Like I care. Jean, you couldn't
even begin to make an impact on my finances. If you
run out of cash, just tell me and I'll either get more wired
to me or switch to plastic. So go ahead, all of you
use me, abuse me, chip away at my credit rating. I can take
"My God," Henry moaned, "we've taken in a
"Doesn't that mean that it would be crueler to not
abuse him?" Bobby asked.
"Shut up and eat."
They divided up the food and ate. Will discussed their timetable
with Jean. "I think we can hit Chicago in another two
days," she told him. "We might have to push it near
the end, though."
Will thought about that for a moment. "It might be a
good idea to factor in an extra day. Let's face it, unexpected
events have a tendency to land in our laps. I'd rather pay
for another night at a Howard Johnson's than lose a suite
of reserved rooms at the Drake."
Ororo nodded. "Good idea. Can you make those reservations
"I'll take care of it as soon as we check in."
"That reminds me," Jean said. "I wanted to
ask you if you'd mind if we spend two or three days in Chicago.
I thought it would be nice to just sightsee."
"No, I don't mind. Actually, I'll make a pretty good
"You've lived there?" Rogue asked with some surprise.
"I got my counseling degree at U. of C., worked at one
of the better restaurants as a chef's assistant, and cut my
teeth as an investor there."
"Do you still have a place in the city?"
He shook his head. "The rents are too ridiculous."
"What would you suggest as tourist stops?" Henry
"The usual places
. the Sears Tower, Wrigley Field
and Cominisky Park, the Field Museum, the Navy Pier, the Frank
Lloyd Wright tour. And then, of course, there's the Million
"It's a long row of very ritzy shops. Matter of fact,
I think we might stop there before we check into the hotel.
If we're going the grand tour, then we're doing it in style."
"Well, I suppose that we can endure it," Ororo
said with a straight face.
"Are you sure? I can change our reservations to a Motel
6 if you want."
"That's all right," Jean said hurriedly. "We
think that your plan will work just fine."
"Okay, if you insist." He folded up the wrappers
to his burgers and stuffed them into the fries box. "I'll
go check us in and make the reservations. I'll be back as
soon as I'm done."
"You'll be at the place down the road that the waitress
told us about?"
"Right. I shouldn't be long." He picked up his
trash, tossing it into the wastebasket and getting a refill
for his drink on the way out.
"He seems to be doing a lot better," Henry noted.
"The rest that he got was a big help," Rogue informed
Strange looked at her closely for a moment. "Would you
be opposed to telling us just what you were dreaming about?
You and Will were linked very closely. I don't want to pry,
but it might give me an insight into the nature of his powers."
Rogue sat back in her chair and thought for a few moments.
"It was a lot like the dream that a few of us had the
night I caused Will's
"I was drifting through a dark, warm place, with music
and whispering all around me. I guess it was like what a baby
feels in the womb. I felt calm, safe
"After a while, things started to change. Instead of
floating, I felt like I was sort of drifting along with a
current, and I knew that I had a specific place to go to.
I turned so that I could see what was in front of me, and
after a while I saw something up ahead.
"It was a huge tube, as straight as a ruler. It looked
like it was made of some kind of dark, glossy stone, but it
had a sort of organic appearance at the same time. It went
as far up and down as I could see."
"Were there any entrances?" Strange asked.
. and that started to worry me after a while,
because I was getting closer and closer to it. I wasn't going
too fast, though, so I sort of flipped over so that I'd land
on my feet. I figured I'd be able to stop myself."
"And did you?"
"Yeah, for about ten seconds. I took a few steps, and
then I started to sink into the stone."
"Were you frightened at all?"
"That's the weird thing. I know I should have been scared
out of my mind, but I felt completely safe. The stone was
warm and thick, but wasn't sticky at all. I could feel my
feet hit air again, so I knew that I wasn't going to drown."
"Another question," Strange said, interrupting
her, "and it may seem a bit odd. Were you wearing anything?"
She thought for a few moments, trying to remember. "To
be honest, I don't know. Is that important?"
"It might be, depending on what happened later. Go on."
"Well, to be honest, sinking through the stone felt
. sensuous. It felt like I was getting a full
body massage in just a few seconds. I closed my eyes once
my head started going through, and didn't open them again
until I felt my hair was free. When I did open them, I was
inside the tube, and I was looking at a huge library, about
twenty feet across, shaped like a circle, and stretching up
and down as far as I could see. Shelves and shelves of books
were on the walls, as far as I could see. The noise was a
lot quieter, too."
"By this point, I had figured out that I was dreaming,
and I also figured that Will was somewhere nearby. The moment
that I thought about finding him, I started to float up. I
was going pretty slowly at first, but I picked up speed really
quick, and soon I was really zooming past the shelves. After
a few minutes, I started to slow down, and I could see something
"It was a wooden desk, made of stained redwood, I think.
It was one of those kinds that have two sections that fold
out and have lots of compartments inside them. I was seeing
it from the bottom at first, but I leveled out with it after
a few seconds. There was an old-fashioned lamp, with a green
shade, floating right next to it. There was an old-fashioned
wall clock that wasn't attached to any wall. It was just floating
in the air, ticking. It didn't have any hands or numbers on
its face. All it did was tick.
"Will was sitting in a chair, leaning back in it with
his feet on the desk. He was wearing jeans, sneakers, and
a grey turtleneck."
"Did he notice you?" Bobby asked.
"If he did, he didn't say anything. He just sat there,
reading the book that was in his lap. I decided not to bother
him, so I just sat down and listened to the music. After a
while, the ticking of the clock relaxed me enough that I sort
of blanked out for a while. The next thing I knew, you were
waking me up."
"Rogue, what you just described is exactly how Will
described the Chorus to Charles and me," Jean informed
her. "I think that you were actually experiencing, passively,
what Will does when he goes deep inside the collective consciousness."
Rogue blinked, absorbing that information. "Wow. Do
you think I was in any danger?"
"I'm not sure," Jean admitted. "It would depend
on whether you got there on your own or piggybacked onto Will's
"I'll ask him about it later. Right now, I want to finish
my food before it gets cold."
Will returned about fifteen minutes later, and they all got
back in the van and went to the motel. "You get your
own room from here on, Stephen," Will said as he handed
the magician a key.
"Thanks. Any reason why?"
"Let's just say that I don't think that I go well with
condiments." Jean, Ororo, and Rogue laughed, but the
men just looked confused.
Continued in Chapter
Authors Note: Sorry about any delay
in getting this out, but my computer's operating system melted
down, and it took me a week to fix the problem.
I'm curious about something, and I would like the opinion
of my readers. How do you picture Will Riley? Put another
way, who would you like to see play him if The Archetype Association
was a movie? (No, this is not an X-Men movie casting call.
I'm only asking about Will.) Please e-mail me if you have
any ideas. Thanks.
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