THE ARCHETYPE ASSOCIATION
"What's our first stop?" Bobby asked Will as they
walked out of the hotel lobby.
"Well, I want to get some clothes that I can wear to
dinner tonight. There's a good haberdashery about five blocks
away, so we'll hit that first. How's the charge on your inducer,
Henry glanced at the device. "I estimate another one
hundred hours remaining, if I leave it on constantly."
"Good. Hopefully, we can get you something off the racks.
After we're done, it'll be the ladies' turn. Once everyone
is dressed to the nines, we can go to a restaurant and club
that I happen to like."
"What kind of club is it?" Rogue inquired.
"Jazz and swing."
"That should be different," Ororo said with a smile.
"Is period clothing required?"
"It's optional, but I thought it would be a nice change
"Sounds good to me," Jean commented. "Let's
"I don't know, Henry. I really think that blue or black
would suit you better."
"I know, Bobby, but the selection of jackets in my size
is limited," Henry replied as he checked the fit of the
brown suit in the mirror.
"I have a blue blazer in the next size up," the
tailor suggested. "I can have it taken in while your
friends are being looked after."
"How long would that take?" Will asked.
"About half an hour."
"We'll do that, then," he said as he looked through
an assortment of matching suspenders and ties. "Do you
also carry fedoras?"
"We have a limited selection, sir. Do you happen to
know your size?"
"Seven and three-eighths. These gentlemen will also
need to be measured."
"Yes, sir. I'll be right back with a size gauge."
"What do you ladies think?" Will asked a few minutes
later as he stepped out of the dressing room wearing a cobalt
blue full-length jacket, pleated grey slacks, a white shirt
with black garters on the sleeves, and black suspenders, tie,
and gloves, topped off by a grey fedora with a black band.
"Elegant," Ororo said.
"Dashing," Jean added.
"Rowr!" Rogue growled.
"I think they approve," Will told the tailor. "Why
don't we just snip off the tags, and I'll wear it out?"
"Of course, sir."
Bobby selected a tan jacket similar in style to Will's, chocolate
brown slacks, and a dark brown fedora. Henry soon found a
black hat which matched his outfit, and Strange chose an ensemble
which echoed the colors of his magical garb, choosing to top
it off with a white hat with a black band. Henry's jacket
was completed soon afterwards, and Will paid for their purchases.
"Any ideas on where we can find something?" Rogue
asked as they left.
"Not really," he admitted. "We've still got
a while before the club opens, so we can take our time. We'll
walk around for a while and see what we can find. Actually
He walked over to the corner of the block, where a group of
teenagers was standing. "Excuse me, I was wondering if
you ladies and gentlemen could help me," he said politely.
The spokesman for the teens, who sported several piercings
and a dyed, spiky haircut, was obviously unused to being spoken
to in so respectful a manner, and hesitated a moment before
answering. "Uh, maybe," he said uncertainly. "What
do you need?"
"As you can probably guess from the way that I'm dressed,
my friends and I are going to a swing club tonight. Would
you happen to know of a place where the ladies could find
clothes that would be appropriate for the occasion?"
"Sure!" a young woman with bright pink hair said
cheerfully. "There's a place three blocks down that way
called Past Out. They have lots of Twenties and Thirties styles."
"Thank you very much, Ma'am," Will replied, tipping
his hat to her respectfully. "Let's go, everybody."
He started off in the direction that the young woman had indicated.
Bobby tapped Will on the shoulder as they made their way
down the block. "How did you manage that? If I'd asked
them, I probably would have gotten mugged."
"Because you'd be projecting that expectation to them
through your non-verbal communication. When I talked to them,
I was nothing more than what I appeared to be. Besides, the
fact that I was completely, and, more importantly, honestly
polite threw them off for a moment, so they didn't have time
to think up a rude reply."
"You're a good applied psychologist, Will," Jean
"Thank you, Jean. Coming from you, that's quite a compliment."
He turned his head to scan the territory ahead of them, then
stopped. "Time out, everybody. There's something I need
to get done."
"What's that?" Strange asked.
"A haircut." He walked into the open door of the
barbershop, and was seated in the chair a moment later.
Ororo and Jean looked at one another. "He is
looking a little scruffy," Jean admitted.
"True. Is anyone thirsty?"
"I could stand a soda," Rogue admitted.
"So could I," Strange agreed.
"One six-pack of Coke, coming up," Jean told them
as she walked into a nearby corner store, leaving about a
minute later. They leaned against the building and chatted
for about twenty minutes.
Rogue stood right next to the door, so Will's voice nearly
made her jump.
"All done," he said.
She turned around and stared at him. His hair had been cut
short and slicked straight back. Trimming off the ends had
evidently shorn off the last of his brown hair, because it
was now solidly dark grey. He had trimmed back his whickers
and shaved off the sideburns, leaving him with a short, elegantly
styled mustache and goatee.
"What do you think?" he asked.
Rogue looked at him for a few moments. "I think I'm
going to need some time to get used to it," she confessed.
"Fair enough. Any other opinions? You don't get a vote,
Stephen. As the only other man here with facial hair, you're
"I think it suits you well," Ororo offered.
"It looks good on you," Jean agreed.
"I like it," Bobby said, "but Bishop may feel
like you're muscling in on his territory."
"That's his problem. Let's go."
A few minutes later, they reached the clothing store, and
the ladies were soon happily exploring the possibilities on
the racks. "I'll be back in a minute," Will said
quietly to Henry. "I'm getting something to read while
"I would suggest War and Peace."
"I was thinking Finnegan's Wake, myself."
Actually, it took less than an hour for the women to make
their selections. Ororo walked out of the dressing room wearing
a black sleeveless top and a white, mid-thigh length pleated
skirt. As usual, she didn't wear any hose she found
it difficult to find a color which complimented her, and her
flawless brown skin needed no further enhancement. She wore
a few silver bracelets on her wrists, and had found a pair
of ornate silver earrings which closely matched them. She
finished the outfit with a pair of black stiletto heels.
"Ororo, you look exquisite," Strange said.
"Thank you, Stephen," she replied with a smile.
"I was torn between choosing this or a flapper dress.
I felt that this would be better for dancing."
"So get both," Will advised. "You can wear
the other dress another time. Maybe you can start a trend
in Salem Center."
Jean appeared a few minutes later, dressed in a royal blue
beaded dress, light blue hose, and a blue head wrap, under
which she had hidden most of her hair. "Can anybody teach
me how to do the Charleston?" she asked. "I feel
like I should know how in this outfit."
"The dancing at the place where we're going is a little
more energetic," Will told her. "If you're good
at it, there are a lot of jumps and flips involved."
Jean blinked, digesting that for a moment. "Maybe I
should get some tap pants," she said to Ororo.
"Good idea," she agreed.
"Is Rogue almost ready?" Will asked.
"She said she might be a few more minutes," Jean
"Fair enough. Can I have the tags for your outfits,
so I can pay the cashier?"
"Here you are," Ororo said, handing them to him.
"I'll be ready in just a minute," Jean told him.
She headed over to the lingerie section (although given the
size of the store, it was more like the lingerie corner).
She found something appropriate after a few moments of searching,
and headed over to the dressing rooms to check the size.
As she was about to enter the nearest free cubicle, Rogue
poked her head out from behind one of the curtains. "Psst,
Jean!" she whispered. "Where's Will?"
"He's paying for Ororo's outfit. Why?"
"I want to surprise him. Let me know when he comes back."
"Okay, but I have to try this on first. Otherwise, I'll
be giving a bit of a show."
"Got it." She dropped back behind the curtain.
The tap pants proved to be a perfect fit, and after making
sure that they were covered by the hem of the dress, Jean
stepped out of the dressing room. Will had rejoined the others,
and took the tags for Jean's items. "Is there anything
else you want?" he asked her.
"No, this'll be fine. He's here," she called back
"Thanks." She stepped out from behind the curtain
and leaned against the wall. "Well?" she asked the
men. "What do you think?" Her dress was a simple,
long-sleeved one-piece, which had a white floral pattern imposed
on a rich, rust brown background. She wore a pair of dainty
white cotton gloves, white flats, and tan hose. "All
I have to add now is some jewelry," she said as she twirled
around, flaring out the skirt.
"You don't need any," Will said with a smile. "You
couldn't possibly improve on how you look now."
"I have to start writing some of these lines down to
use later," Bobby whispered.
"I don't think you could manage them the way he does,"
Strange whispered back. "It's all in the delivery."
"Is that everything, then?" Henry asked Will.
. wait." He patted his pockets,
searching for something. "Did I have my pocket watch
on me when you found me?"
Henry tried to remember. "I don't think so."
"I'll have to get another one, then."
"Can't you wear a wristwatch?"
He shook his head. "I used to, but I kept reaching for
my pocket whenever I wanted to know what the time was, so
I said the hell with it and switched to pocket watches. It's
the same thing that happens when I try to shave
Chorus looks for older solutions to problems, and sometimes
that affects me in some very subtle ways."
Strange nodded. "Interesting. Does that ever get you
He grimaced. "There was one time when I was traveling
through Europe about four years ago. I was camping at the
time, and had just woken up. I wanted breakfast, so I set
up a simple noose trap."
"That doesn't sound like a problem."
"It is when you set it up on the Autobahn."
They made a quick stop at a watch repair shop, where Will
bought an unclaimed, modern-looking pocket watch with a meter-long
length of chain. The chain, which was composed of linked bars,
was somewhat heavy and looked a bit more substantial than
an ordinary link chain.
"That's the first macho-looking pocket watch I've ever
seen," Bobby commented after they left the shop.
"It's probably going to take a lot of abuse," Will
shrugged, "so I may as well get something durable. Besides,
it could make a decent weapon in an emergency."
"How so?" Strange asked out of curiosity.
"You use the watch as a weight at the end of the chain,
and you can wrap it around an enemy's limbs or neck. If you
made the chain strong enough, you could probably snap bones."
"Gee, that's my first priority when looking for
a timepiece," Bobby said sarcastically.
"It's a way to hide a weapon in plain sight. Law enforcement
and security always look for the obvious
. guns, knives,
that sort of thing. Simpler, more subtle things will usually
slip by them. For example
. Ororo, do you realize that
any of the X-Women could walk around in plain sight, carrying
at least two deadly weapons, and that most people wouldn't
look twice at them?"
"What would they be?"
He pointed at her hair. "Take a metal comb or hair pin,
sharpen the tip, and dip it in poison. You could do the same
with a pair of glasses
.. just take the plastic ends
off the ear pieces and put them back on to protect yourself
until you need to use them. Or you could replace the shoulder
pads in a suit jacket with plastique, strangle somebody with
a belt or kerchief, coat the outside of a pair of gloves with
a contact poison
. the possibilities are endless."
"You should give him a job coming up with these ideas,"
Strange told Ororo jokingly.
"I agree. Mister Riley, I hereby appoint you the X-Man
in charge of Espionage, Mayhem, Deception, and Other Sneaky
Things Like That."
"Yes, Ma'am," Will replied, giving her a snappy
salute. "I promise to never tell you the whole truth
about what I'm doing."
"You'll be following the old espionage tradition, then?"
"Of course. If I didn't, Wisdom would take away my Junior
Spy kit." He glanced across the street. "Time for
"For what?" Rogue asked.
"I'm not sure yet. Let's go." He dashed across
the street and entered a store that billed itself as a secondhand
music shop. The others looked at each other, shrugged, and
followed him inside. They soon lost themselves among the racks
of vinyl records, compact discs, tapes, and sheet music.
After a few minutes, Rogue found Will in the back of the
store, looking at a rack of secondhand instruments. "Thinking
of getting something?" she asked.
He nodded, then walked over to the older man who sat behind
the counter. After a few minutes of haggling over the price,
he purchased an old, but still serviceable Telecaster and
a portable battery-powered speaker. The salesman then took
a measurement of Will's left ring finger and cut a small length
of copper tubing to use as a slide.
"You play the blues?" Strange asked.
"A little," Will replied. "I'm a bit more
comfortable with classical music." He plugged the speaker
in, then played a tune that was familiar to Rogue's ears.
"What was that?" she asked.
"Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, by J.S. Bach.
I always thought that it would make a great cover for a metal
Jean thought about that. "It probably would."
"We are now going straight to the club," Will said
firmly. "If I get distracted again, take my hat off and
whap me over the head with it."
Three whaps later
"Okay, we're here. Now stop hitting me."
"Darn," Rogue said with a pout. "I was starting
to enjoy it."
The doorman, upon noticing how the seven newcomers were dressed,
urged them to move ahead in the line, and they were soon walking
into the club. It was decorated in a retro-Forties style,
and the dance floor was surrounded by tables where the trend
seekers watched one another looking fashionable. The band,
composed of a full complement of horns and drums, was playing
a fast rendition of Glenn Miller's In the Mood.
"Very nice," Rogue commented, as she surveyed the
"I thought you'd like it," Will said with a smile.
"Remember, everybody, the sky's the limit here."
After a few moments of discussion with the head waiter, during
which some money changed hands, they were led to the upper
level of the club, where three tables were pushed together
They were given a few minutes to look over the menus. "I
believe I will partake of the surf and turf," Henry decided.
"I'll go with the Porterhouse," Strange added.
"I will have the clams casino," Ororo said.
"Lobster Thermidor for me," Bobby decided.
"I'm going with the Veal Picatta," Rogue finished.
"Good," Will said after they were done. "That
leaves the sausage and portabello ravioli for me." He
glanced at the bottom of the menu. "I'd also recommend
the tiramisu for dessert. It's a local specialty."
"Sounds good to me," Rogue told him.
"Do any of you want to get wine?" Will asked. "I'll
just order a carafe."
"I think I will try the chenin blanc," Ororo
said. "Henry, would you care to split it with me?"
Once they had given their orders to the waiter and been served
their drinks (Will, Rogue, Stephen, Jean and Bobby had all
ordered soda), the dance floor started to become more crowded.
The band alternated between playing old swing standards by
Miller, Goodman, and Basie, Fifties staples like Little Richard
and Spike Jones, and some of the newer, neo-swing revival
pieces by the Brian Seltzer Orchestra.
Rogue noticed that Will was tapping his foot, and drumming
his fingers along with the music. She smiled at him indulgently.
"You want to be up there, don't you?" she asked.
"Is it that obvious?"
"You're practically drooling. Go on," she told
him. "Jean'll give you a buzz when the food gets here."
He took one of her hands in his and kissed it. "You're
a treasure." He then stood up, grabbed his guitar case,
and made his way towards the band. Two minutes later, he was
up on the stage, plugging the guitar into the speakers.
"What do you think he'll play?" Jean asked.
"I'm not sure," Ororo admitted.
As the brass section of the band began, Will went up to the
I got a lover, but it's not what it seems,
Pour me a drink, if you know what I mean!
Don't mix it up,
Give me straight what you got!
I don't want it on the rocks,
I want my lovin' straight up!"
"Brian Setzer," Rogue said.
"How do you know?" Strange asked.
"Will has the CD with this song. I borrowed it."
"His singing voice is better than I expected,"
"He's a good tenor," Henry agreed.
After Will finished the song, the audience gave him a fair
amount of applause. He smiled, tipping his hat in response,
then turned back to the band and talked with them for a few
seconds. Stepping back to the microphone, he cleared his throat.
"You should all recognize this one." He launched
directly into the opening riff of Johnny Be Good. Five
seconds after he had finished that song, he gave a spirited
rendition of Eddie Cochran's Summertime Blues.
"I didn't know he could hit bass," Bobby noted.
After he had finished, Will bowed to the audience and spoke
with the band for another moment, then unplugged his guitar
and rejoined the others at the table, just in time for their
meals to arrive.
"I needed that," he confessed as he sat down.
"The applause?" Henry asked.
"The music. Having so many people in sync with what
I was playing was kind of a psychic boost." He took a
deep drink of his water. "Now, let's eat."
Their meals were expertly prepared, and they found themselves
torn with indecision when the dessert cart came by. Rogue
took Will's suggestion and chose the tiramisu, which she found
"Any ideas for tomorrow, Will?" Jean asked as she
nibbled on her blueberry cheesecake.
"That depends on what you'd prefer. We can do architecture,
sports, culture, or more shopping. What sounds best to you?"
"Why not combine it all?" Bobby suggested. "I'll
see a Cubs or White Sox game, and the rest of you can catch
a museum or tour in the morning, have a nice lunch, then go
shopping in the afternoon."
"That sounds workable," Will agreed. "The
two big choices for museums here are the Art Institute and
the Field Museum, which is a lot like the Museum of Natural
History back in New York. Afterwards, we can take the Frank
Lloyd Wright tour in Oak Park."
"Let's do the Institute," Strange advised. "We
can split up to see the periods that we like best."
"Good idea, Stephen," Ororo complimented him. "We
can decide on whether or not we want to continue our support
of the country's economy when we are finished."
Strange chuckled, then abruptly froze while bringing his
fork to his mouth. He glanced at Will. "Did you feel
Will, whose posture had also stiffened, nodded in response.
"The energy signature rings a bell. Give me a second
to come up with a name." After a few moments, his expression
became one of contempt. "Oh, not him."
"Are we in any danger?" Ororo asked, concerned.
"Not unless you can be bored to death. It's Eobard Emrys."
Will snorted with laughter. "Eddie Emrys? He's still
at it? Oh, Bright Lady save us!"
"Who is this guy?" Bobby asked.
"He's proof of the maxim that a little knowledge is
a dangerous thing," Strange explained. "There was
a half-decent sorcerer in his family about six centuries ago,
and the magical potential was passed down the family line."
"Unfortunately," Will continued, "intelligence
and common sense were not. He's a total idiot. Three-quarters
of his spells come out wrong, and even the ones that are right
end up turning on him most of the time."
Strange took over. "But he thinks he has some sort of
grand destiny because of a scroll that he found when his powers
manifested themselves. It said that when the heir to the throne
of the original sorcerer's kingdom is back in power and the
nation is independent, then the full might of Eddie's magical
heritage will be his to claim."
"Sounds pretty straightforward," Bobby said. "So
what's the problem?"
"The problem," Will said with a grin, "is
that the nation is question is the Archbishopric of Trier,
which was wiped off the map by Napolean. The area is part
of France now. Somehow, I don't see the current residents
stepping aside to let Eddie take over."
"But Eddie thinks that all he has to do is get together
enough money to buy a good sized plot of land over there,
and then the prophecy will be fulfilled," Strange finished.
"I've tried to tell him that his ancestor's prophecy
can't be taken at face value, but he won't listen to me."
"What was wrong with the ancestor?" Jean asked.
"The historical evidence suggests that in the last few
years of his life, he had developed a syphilitic brain infection,"
Will told her. "That made him almost completely insane.
He probably would have been locked away eventually, but the
bubonic plague hit the area and wiped out most of the population,
including Eddie's forebear."
Strange glanced up. "He's coming this way."
Will thought for a moment. "Do me a favor, Stephen.
Don't tell him who I am at first."
"I haven't really had a chance to see what my reputation
in the magical community is lately. I want to see what his
gut reaction is when you introduce me."
A few moments later, a middle-aged blond man walked over
to their table. "Good evening, Stephen," he said
in a German accent. "You're not usually in this area."
"Hello, Eddie," Strange replied in a bored voice.
"What are you up to this time?"
"I'm staying focused on my goal. I'm going to fulfill
. any way I can."
Strange looked at him sharply. "What is that supposed
"Since you and the other practitioners of your caliber
have refused my requests for aid and training, I've been forced
. for guidance."
"Who did you bargain with, Eddie?" Strange demanded.
"He prefers that I not mention his name on this plane.
I won't be mocked anymore, Stephen. Don't be surprised if
you have a challenger for your position sometime soon."
"That will not happen," Will said flatly.
Emrys turned to Will with a contemptuous sneer. "And
who are you, you ignorant peon?"
Strange smiled. "Eddie, I'd like you to meet my newest
student, Mister Will Riley."
Emrys' jaw dropped as his face was suddenly drained of all
color. "The Archetype?" he whispered.
"The same," Strange said with a grin.
"Please continue, Mister Emrys," Will said in a
silky voice as he leaned forward and cupped his chin in one
hand. "I find your speculations on the future fascinating.
Tell me, do you keep that talisman of yours on you twenty-four
hours a day?"
"H-How did you know about that?" Emrys stammered.
"The problem with a talisman," Will continued,
"is that you have to keep it close at hand." He
waved his right hand negligently, and a small bag appeared
in his palm. "If it falls into the hands of an opponent,
then you're in real trouble."
Emrys put his hand to his shirt pocket, then got a look of
"Go home, little magician," Will told him in a
stern voice as he flicked his hand and tossed the bag back
to him. "You are way out of your league. As the
good Doctor is currently my instructor, I'd be honor-bound
to fight on his behalf if anyone were to act against him."
He glanced at Emrys' belt. "By the way, there seems to
be something wrong with your beeper."
"What are you talking about?" Emrys demanded. "I
just bought this!"
"It appears to have shorted out." Will's eyes flashed
for a moment, and the beeper started spitting out sparks.
Emrys frantically batted at the beeper for a moment, then
yanked it off just before it burst into flames. He looked
at Will with a terrified expression for a moment, then ran
for the door.
Will calmly took his glass of water and poured it over the
remains of the beeper. "Do you suppose it was something
I said?" he asked the others innocently.
They looked at him for a moment, then burst into laughter.
"You're horrible," Jean told him.
"I've never pretended to be anything else." He
held his hand out to Rogue. "Shall we dance, my dear?"
"Why not?" she replied with a smile, linking her
hand in his.
They made their way towards the dance floor, and Will nodded
at the bandleader as they stepped in front of the bandstand.
The bandleader nodded in reply, and stepped up to the microphone
as soon as the band finished its latest song.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have some special requests
for this evening." As he spoke, the drummer began a quick,
rhythmic backbeat. "The first is
The crowd cheered and surged onto the dance floor as the
band went full blast into the song. Will surprised Rogue by
spinning her around quickly, then catching her as she dropped
back onto one leg. She quickly got into the spirit of things,
however, and joined him in a dance which combined elements
of the Charleston, the Twist, and the Jitterbug.
They were surprised to see Jean and Henry on the dance floor
a few minutes later, followed quickly by Ororo and Strange.
"I didn't realize Ororo was that good a dancer,"
"She doesn't do it that often," Rogue confided.
"If you can get her to loosen up, though, she can really
get down. The wine that she had probably helped."
The band began a rendition of Louis Prima's Jump, Jive,
and Wail, and the acrobatics that Will had promised earlier
came into play as some of the more adventurous dancers started
flying into the air. "Want to try some of that?"
she asked him.
"Why not?" he replied. Before she could say anything,
he wrapped his arm around her waist and spun around. Her legs
went limp and crossed over his back when he stopped. He placed
his left arm behind her knees and swung around again, letting
go of her waist. She yelled in delighted surprise as she fell
and swung out about a foot above the floor. Will spun around
for a full turn, then stopped, using the momentum to swing
Rogue across his chest and cause her to land in a sitting
position on his right shoulder. He stopped her by supporting
her back with his right hand.
Rogue gasped, then laughed again as Will lowered her down.
"Why didn't you tell me you could do that?" she
"I'd never tried it before," he told her with a
They danced for nearly an hour, until Will let out a gasp
and gestured for her to leave the dance floor with him. "Are
you okay?" she asked him as they sat down.
"I think I might have done something to my back during
one of those flips," he confessed.
"What time is it?" she asked.
He pulled out his watch and glanced at it. "Almost ten."
"Why don't we call it a night? I'll let Jean and Ororo
know that we're going to head back to the hotel."
Five minutes later, they walked out of the club. "Jean
said that everybody'll probably sleep in tomorrow morning.
We can hit the museums and the other stuff in the afternoon."
"Sounds good to me."
The streets were still busy, but not unduly crowded, so they
had little trouble getting back to the hotel. "Why don't
you let me hit the shower first?" she suggested as they
entered their room. "Then you can blast your back with
hot water until it loosens up."
"Sounds like a plan." He looked in one of the closets.
"Here's a robe," he said, tossing it to her.
"Thanks." She stepped into the bathroom and slipped
out of the dress, then opened the door a crack. "Can
you put this on a hanger?" she asked as she held the
dress out to him.
"Sure." He took the dress from her, placing it
in her closet.
After she finished undressing, she entered the shower and
let herself relax under the spray of water for several minutes.
A quick scrub removed the last of the perspiration that she
had built up during the dance, and the body wash that the
hotel had provided woke her up a little. She toweled herself
off, dried her hair, then put on the robe, gathered up her
clothes, and stepped out of the bathroom. "It's all yours,"
she told Will. "I made sure to turn the heat down before
"Thanks. I shouldn't be too long." He had already
changed into his robe, so he sat up with a grunt and went
into the bathroom. He found that the showerhead had a pulse
setting, so he set the spray for a massage and gradually turned
the heat up as high as he could stand. After what seemed to
be an impossibly long time, the muscles in his back began
to relax, and he found that he had a bit more freedom of movement.
Groaning with relief, he quickly washed his hair and soaped
himself down. After rinsing himself off, he stepped out of
the shower and toweled himself dry. His new, shorter haircut
was nearly dry within a minute after being toweled off, and
he simply combed it back.
"You all done?" Rogue called through the door.
"Coming out now," he said as he hung the towel
on the rack and opened the door.
"Feel any better?" she asked.
"A bit," he replied, just before his voice trailed
She had changed into a matching set of white satin bra, panties,
and stockings, complete with a garter belt. "What do
you think?" she asked.
"You look fantastic," he said after a moment. "Did
you pay for that?"
"I asked Jean to pay from our cash reserves. I wanted
to surprise you."
"You did that," he admitted, "and very pleasantly
so, I might add."
"Thanks," she said with a smile. "Okay, lie
"Since my shoulder feels as good as new, and you're
the one with muscle pain now, we're going to switch roles
for the massage tonight. So come on, handsome, lose the robe."
Will thought about it for a moment, then shrugged. "If
it makes you happy," he decided. He removed the robe
and settled down onto the bed. Rogue spread the sheet out
over him, and he tucked it into place.
"Where does it hurt?" she asked after she lowered
"Lower back, right along my spine." He was startled
a moment later, when he felt her weight settling over his
hips as she straddled his back.
"Relax, Will," Rogue told him as she felt him stiffen.
"This is as much for me as for you." After a few
moments, the tension in his muscles subsided, and she began
to apply firm but gentle pressure to his back. "I've
never done this before, obviously," she told him, "so
if I'm pressing too hard, let me know, okay?"
"Okay," he said in a contented voice. "I have
to admit, though, this feels a little weird."
"Why, am I doing something wrong?"
"No, you're doing fine. I just mean that I'm not used
to being on the receiving end. I'm usually the one giving
"You're usually the one who's giving, period. It's all
right for you to be the needy one every once in a while, Will.
Nobody's going to think any less of you."
"I know that," he said, "It's just that
ohhhh, right there, please." He groaned in appreciation
as Rogue applied firmer pressure to the base of his spine.
"It's just that my instincts are to protect and take
care of people. If I'm in a situation where I'm the one being
protected, I feel like I'm not doing my job."
"And how long do you think you'll last if you're always
the one who's shouldering the burden?" she asked in a
soft voice. "I'll be honest, Will. Some of us have been
afraid that you're going to burn yourself out."
"There's not much chance of that."
"Oh yeah? You already do most of the cooking, you do
extra combat sessions with Logan and lessons with Jean and
the Professor, you're trying to get us all set financially,
you'll be training with Stephen again when we get back, you
have your plans for the Underground, and you still have your
personal financial work and social contacts to maintain. If
you spread yourself any thinner, you'd be translucent."
He grunted. "I see your point. But, except for the cooking,
all those things are things that I can only do myself. Even
if I could find someone who could handle the work, I still
need to deal with it personally."
"Maybe, but what about the grunt work, like your correspondence?
That took you the better part of an afternoon."
"True," he conceded, "but let's be realistic.
I'm not exactly in a position where I can call the local temp
service and get an assistant. There's too much high-security,
high-risk information to deal with, and I'm on the move so
much that it would be nearly impossible to keep up with me."
"Good point," she admitted. "I'll have to
think about it some more." She returned her attention
to the massage, slowly moving her way up Will's back and towards
his shoulders. Taking his right arm by the wrist, she slowly
drew it back, stretching the muscles and feeling where the
tension was greatest. She gently rubbed the tight bands of
tissue, smiling as they relaxed under her ministrations. "I
cannot believe how tense you are," she told him.
"I like to think of it as being extremely alert,"
"If you got any more alert, you'd be paranoid."
"Who told you to say that?"
She snorted and moved up to his neck, where she found that
she had to apply a degree of pressure that almost worried
her. After a few minutes, however, the muscles yielded to
her, and Will's head was soon lolling limply from one side
to another. She felt a bit of pride at that accomplishment,
and she moved down to his tailbone and buttocks, giggling
a bit when she kneaded them as he had during her massage.
"This is fun," she observed.
"I have no complaints," he replied.
She moved down to his legs, rubbing behind his knees and
the muscles on the backs of his ankles. She then gave him
a thorough foot rub, grinning when he rumbled incoherently
in thanks. "Okay," she told him as she gave him
a playful smack on the rear, "turn over."
He was silent for a moment. "Er, that might be a problem."
"You've succeeded in relaxing most of my muscles, but
you've managed to tense a few up in the process."
"What do you
. oh." She blushed bright red
as she realized what he meant. "Well, I can't say that
I'm not flattered. The question is, what do we do now?"
"How about you turn around while I wrap myself up, and
then we just go to sleep?"
"I can live with that. Are you sure you'll be okay?"
He laughed. "After my body realizes that it got itself
all worked up for nothing, it'll relax."
She smiled and turned around. A few moments later, Will had
settled back into the bed. "All done," he told her.
"Good." She turned back to face him. He was loosely
draped by the sheet, facing away from her. "Don't turn
around," she told him.
A moment later, a white stocking fell across his face before
being drawn back.
Over the course of the next minute, the rest of Rogue's underclothes
were thrown onto the bed. Will was nudged over a bit as she
climbed into bed behind him and shut off the light. She wrapped
an arm around his torso and settled into spoon position with
him. "G'night," she murmured.
"Sweet dreams, m'love."
Continued in Chapter
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