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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


Will flew out of bed when his alarm went off.

Literally. Rogue sat up quickly, startled by the unfamiliar sound, and since Will was lying on top of her arm, he did a rather ungraceful somersault, landing on the floor at the foot of his bed.

Rogue winced as Will staggered up, somewhat dazed and punch-drunk. "Sorry," she apologized.

He wove his way over to the alarm clock and shut off the beeper, which was emitting a noise reminiscent of a canary having an asthma attack. "I have to admit," he told her as he flopped down into his easy chair, "I've certainly been getting up more easily since we got serious." Seeing that she was still worried, he smiled reassuringly. "It's forgiven, love," he said gently. "Now come here."

She stood up and walked over to him, then sat in his lap. He wrapped his arms around her in a soft embrace and held her comfortingly. "You okay?"

She smiled, then, since she was still wearing the mask, leaned her head against his. "Yeah," she said after a moment. "Yeah, I'm okay. I really am." The last statement was said more to herself than to Will. "It's weird. I feel... lighter. Does that make any sense?"

"Maybe," he replied. "Maybe just deciding to share your problems instead of keeping them bottled up inside made them seem a little easier to deal with. Maybe your subconscious realized that you're not alone any more." He gave her a reassuring squeeze. "It took long enough for it to get the message. I was considering the idea of putting subliminal messages in the paper."

She giggled, causing her body to shake against Will's in some very pleasant ways. "Well, you're finally starting to make an impact." She pressed her nose to his. "Now, you'd better start making an impact on dinner, before Logan gets testy and decides to make an impact on you."

"You raise a valid point," he deadpanned. "Now, I have to get up if I'm going to make dinner on time. Could you possibly be convinced to move so that I can do so?"

She thought for a moment. "You'll have to be more persuasive than that."

"I could always tickle you again."

"I'm moving! I'm moving!"

An hour or so of boiling water and cooking meat allowed Will to produce five pans of lasagna and eight dirty dishes. After he placed the pans in the oven to heat up, he looked at the pile of in the sink, sighed, then started cleaning. Ororo and Bishop entered the kitchen a few minutes later and helped set the table.

Dinner was calm and uneventful, and soon afterwards Will took the elevator down to the monitor room, bringing his computer, a thermos of cocoa, and a box of thin mint cookies (a confection which, in Will's possession, should have been considered a controlled substance). He got comfortable in the chair, poured himself a cup, opened the computer, and got to work.

After he had finished transcribing his written notes, he scrounged up a legal pad from a nearby drawer and got to work on a new chapter. He glanced up at the monitors every few seconds, making sure that he paid special attention to the displays for the Morlock tunnels.

He lost track of time, as he usually did when he was writing, and Rogue came down to say goodnight, he was completely immersed in his work, only noticing her when her reflection appeared in the monitor. He smiled without looking up. "Okay, I surrender. You can take me to your secret hideout and have your wicked way with me."

"Now there's a tempting offer," she drawled as she turned his chair around. "Are you sure you'll even hear the alarm if it goes off?"

He nodded. "I set the room volume to maximum. It won't bother anybody upstairs, but it would probably shake me out of a coma. You going to bed?"

"Yep. I just wanted to make sure that you weren't feeling abandoned. You comfy?"

"Very. I've got cookies, cocoa..." He wrapped his arms around her waist and drew her close. "And now I have someone who's very cuddly."

"That's nice," she said as she nimbly wriggled out of his grasp, "but I've got breakfast duty, so we'll have to cuddle later."

"Oh, sure," he pouted, "tease me and leave me begging for more."

She became thoughtful for a moment. "Make you beg. I hadn't even thought of that."

"Oh, great," he groaned, "now she's getting inspired."

Rogue laughed as she traced a gloved finger up his chest and neck, finally giving him a light tap on the tip of his nose. "Good night, Will."

"Sweet dreams, love."

After Rogue left, Will focused his attention on his writing, and managed to fill up six pages with handwritten notes in about an hour, allowing him to introduce the last of his main characters. "Now we can get down to business," he said to himself.

Soon afterwards, however, he found that he was stuck. He stared at the pad for several minutes as his frustration mounted, then tossed it onto the work console and started pacing around the room anxiously.

He stopped to think for a moment, standing only a half-meter away from the console. He nearly jumped out of his skin four seconds later when the alarm klaxon went off.

After taking a moment to restart his heart, Will activated the console display. He saw that a message was arriving over the channel dedicated to the Integrated Super Hero Exchange and Conferencing System, a communications link with both the Fantastic Four and the Avengers that Bobby had, long ago, shortened to an acronym he pronounced 'eye sheik'.

Will sat down in the chair and opened the channel. One second later, he was looking at the face of someone he recognized immediately.

"This is X-Men headquarters, Archetype speaking. Hello, Iron Man. What's the situation?"

Light moved across a golden faceplate as the veteran Avenger studied Will intently. "You're the new X-Man," he said in a voice which was not questioning, but simply stating a known fact. "The teleporter."

"That's right," Will confirmed. "Given the hour, I assume that this isn't a social call, so let's get to business."

Iron Man nodded. "Right. A group of HYDRA agents was flushed out by the NYPD's Code: Blue team about ten minutes ago. The bust was going okay until the HYDRA boys managed to remember the combination to their weapons locker. The boys in blue called us for help, but most of our core membership is at a conference in Washington right now, and the F.F. are in Wakanda. Can you guys give us a hand?"

Will nodded. "Who do you have on hand?"

"There's just me, Wasp, and Tigra."

"That should be enough. Can your armor set up a force field?"

"No problem."

"Okay. We'll rendezvous there. What's the location?"

"Sending now." A small window appeared in the window of the view screen, displaying a map.

"It should take five minutes to gear up and get there."

"It'll take seven for us. Meet you there. Out." The screen went dark.

Iron Man and Wasp arrived at the shootout location eight minutes later. Iron Man supported Tigra with one arm, releasing her as he landed, then walked over to the nearest police officer. "Have the X-Men arrived yet?" he asked.

"The answer's yes, and it's singular."

The three Avengers turned around to find Archetype, in uniform, walking towards them from the shadows of a nearby alley. "Where are the others?" Wasp asked.

"I didn't see any reason to disturb them, Ms. Van Dyne. The four of us should be able to handle this." He looked at the nearest officer. "How many are in there?"

"Between ten and fifteen."

"How far did you evacuate?"

"One block in all directions."

"Do they have independent power? I noticed that the rest of the block is dark."

The officer nodded. "We wanted to spook them, but there's not much point now. We'll have everything back up in ten minutes."

"No," he told her, "keep the power off. And tell your people to shut down all of their electrical equipment. Disconnect the batteries on your cruisers and take them out, remove the power cells on your communication equipment, that sort of thing. Otherwise, It's all going to be ruined."

"Right." The officer turned to relay the message.

"What about me?" Iron Man asked.

Archetype frowned. "Once we get the all-clear, fly about three blocks away, wait two minutes, then hurry back."


"Take these with you." Archetype reached into his coat and handed him his two gun sights. "Just a precaution."

Three minutes later, the officer indicated that the police had replied with his requests.

"I'll be back in two minutes," Iron Man said just before taking off. Jeers of victory could be heard from the building.

"Now what?" Tigra asked.

"Now it's my turn," Archetype replied. "Just make sure that none of them leave the building."

"No problem."

Archetype nodded, took a deep breath, then closed his eyes, which glowed when he reopened them. He walked straight towards the front of the building, only pausing when he was occasionally his by a bullet, which bounced off his new uniform. Glaring at the darkened windows, he let his irritation over the situation build in his mind until it became a dull throbbing just behind his eyes. Once the world started to grey out, he released the tension, hurling it towards the building.

There was no visible manifestation of the distortion this time, since the intensity was a fraction of what had occurred in Salt Lake City. The effect on HYDRA's weapons, however, was the usual one. Yelps of pain and shock could be heard as sparks illuminated various windows of the building.

Once he had recovered his bearings, he kicked into overdrive and ran towards the building, teleporting the door off just before he entered. He made his way through the rooms at what was temporarily an unhurried pace, taking careful note of the locations of the HYDRA agents. Once he had them all firmly fixed in his mind, he found an unobtrusive corner with a window view of the street.

Iron Man was within a block of the building, appearing, in Archetype's view, to hang motionlessly in the air. Archetype nodded to himself in satisfaction, then reentered normal time.

Iron Man was within a quarter-block of the building when the HYDRA agents started appearing. Twelve men were deposited on the asphalt of the street within the space of four seconds. He reacted quickly, surrounding then with a force field before they could get their bearings.

Within a few minutes, the police had placed all of the criminals into a prisoner transport. "Thanks for your help," Archetype was told by the officer he had spoken with earlier.

"Don't mention it. We're all on the same team."

"Good work," Iron Man added. "You made this job a lot easier. We'll remember this the next time the X-Men need a hand."

"It's all part of the job," Archetype shrugged. "I should get back."

"Tell Angel I said hi," the officer requested.

"I'll do that, Officer..?"

"Jones. Charlotte Jones."

Archetype nodded and vanished, not noticing the speculative look that the Wasp had been giving him.

Logan, ever the early riser, walked into the monitor room just after six in the morning. He found Will seated in a chair, busily writing on a pad. "Morning," he said absently, not looking up.

"Mornin' Anythin' interestin' last night?"

"Same old, same old," Will said with a shrug. "We might get a transmission from the Avengers later today. Some kind of update."

"Nothin' unusual. They do their best to keep us in the loop."

"Good." He sat up and stretched, then picked up the papers and his computer. "Any idea what I'm scheduled for today?"

"Danger Room session at eight-thirty. Bobby an' Hank have breakfast, an' you and 'Roro do lunch. You get the rest of the day off."

"I can live with that. What about Rogue?"

"She's in the session, she has maintenance duty until two, and that's it. We're doin' our best to give the two o' you as much time together as we can."

Will smiled. "Thanks, Logan. I appreciate that. It isn't bothering anybody, is it? No complaints from Scott and Jean or Warren and Betsy?"

"Nope. We've been doin' the same thing for them ever since they got serious." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "Now get outta here, ya bum."

Will gave a two-fingered salute. "Yes, sir. See you at lunch."

"What's today's objective, Betsy?" Bobby asked from his place on the Danger Room floor. He, Will, Rogue, Ororo, and Jean were in uniform and doing some warm-up exercises.

"Target practice," Betsy told him. "You have to work together and neutralize as many hostiles as possible. There will be civilians in this scenario, so be careful what you hit."

"Are you going to be using holograms to distort distance?" Will asked.

"Yes and no." A moment later, the walls of the Danger Room vanished, replaced by a tiled, columned atrium which had the look of government construction to it. "The area inside the columns is the actual Danger Room, Will. Anything beyond that is a wall."

"Thanks, Betsy. That helps." He turned to Ororo. "What's the plan, boss?"

"Jean and Bobby will protect the civilians. The rest of us will deal with the hostiles."

"And those hostiles arrrre..?" Bobby asked.

"You'll see," Betsy replied in an ominous voice.

"That sounds encouraging," Jean muttered dryly.

The atrium was suddenly filled with several dozen people, dressed in conservative business attire, who mingled loosely with one another. "There are terrorists hiding in the crowd. They're all armed, and plan to take down as many people as possible before security gets them. You have to figure out who the terrorists are, then take them down without hurting any of the civilians. I will give you one advantage."

"What's that?" Rogue inquired.

"You'll appear in civilian clothing. Just think of it as wearing image inducers."

"Keep me as is, Betsy," Will requested. "I'll just try to blend in."

"No problem. Everybody hold still for a second." After a few moments of consideration, Betsy 'clothed' Ororo, Jean, and Rogue in pantsuits whose colors mirrored their uniforms. Bobby was given a rather dapper brown tweed jacket and slacks.

Will looked closely at Rogue's attire. "Betsy, can you send the pattern for that outfit to the tailor from hell?"

"Of course. But why?"

"Because you made an outstanding choice. It looks fantastic."

"Thank you," both Betsy and Rogue replied modestly.

"Let's get to work," Jean suggested. "Mingle with the crowd and look for anything suspicious. Bulges in jackets, hearing aids on younger people, that sort of thing." Everyone nodded, and they split up.

Will tapped at his communicator. "Will to Ororo. I recommend that we try to be as unobtrusive as possible. We should be able to take down a few of them without being too noticeable."

"Any other ideas?" Ororo asked.

"I might have some strategies, although they're obvious ones. I'll use my hypodermic pen to knock one of them out. Bobby can lower a perp's body temperature quickly enough to induce a minor case of hypothermic shock. Jean can decrease blood flow to the brain of somebody else. Rogue can use either her powers or a nerve pinch. Can you administer a mild electrical shock to a person without being obvious about it?"

"It will be difficult. A nerve pinch would probably be a better choice."

"Whatever works for you, Boss. Should we try to coordinate our attack so we get them all at once?"

"We should find out how many there are, first. Keep mingling for now."


They wandered among the crowd, looking for anything out of the ordinary. "Ororo," Bobby said after a few minutes, "we've got two people hanging near the guards by the door."

"And one woman here with a hairdo that's totally covering one ear," Jean added.

"I see two with shoulder holsters under their coats," supplied Will.

"I've got a businessman who seems to be really possessive of his briefcase," Rogue finished.

"Bobby," Ororo ordered, "you take the two by the door. Jean, you take the briefcase. Wrap it in a T.K. bubble as soon as it's out of his hands. Rogue, you take the woman, since she may be the leader. We won't make any moves until I give the signal. Understood?"

"Understood," they all replied.

"Approach your targets."

They ambled their way through the crowd, trying to look as casual as possible. When they came within a few feet of their targets, they stopped and acted like they were checking their watches.

"Strike on three," Ororo murmured. "One... two..."

Once Ororo said "three," Will casually stepped up to his target, then stumbled, falling against the man and using his pen to inject a very strong sedative into him. The terrorist immediately started to collapse. Bobby lowered the body temperatures of the two near the doors, and kept them from collapsing by freezing their jackets to the wall. They went into shock, hanging limply. Ororo dropped one of their targets with a nerve pinch, while Jean closed the arteries in her opponent's neck, causing him to faint, but supported both him and the briefcase telekinetically. Rogue, for her part, simply removed one glove and touched the face of the woman with the earpiece. The hologram obediently followed its programming and collapsed. Rogue did not experience her usual reaction, since she had not actually touched a living being.

They had neutralized all of the terrorists within the space of three seconds. "Sequence complete," Betsy announced. "Outstanding work, people."

"That did go smoothly, didn't it?" Jean asked with a smile.

"Okay, hit the showers, then come to debriefing."

"We haven't done that well in a while," Rogue said as she shampooed her hair. She and Ororo stood in the showers of the women's locker room, luxuriating in the sensation of showering under the miniature rain cloud that Ororo had created.

"Will's low-key strategy was the key," Ororo decided. "He's taking a more subtle approach to things. I have to admit, it's a refreshing change of pace."

"We didn't even cause any damage," Rogue pointed out. "Doesn't that violate our contract somehow?"

Ororo laughed. "I think that Will's sense of humor is starting to rub off on you." She dissipated the cloud and manifested a warm breeze which dried them off.

As they dressed in casual clothes, Rogue heard a quiet grunt of pain from Ororo. "You okay?" she asked.

Ororo grimaced and rolled her shoulder. "I think I must have pulled something during the night. It feels a bit stiff."

"Ask Will to give you a rubdown," Rogue suggested. "He did wonders for my shoulder and neck while I was recuperating."

"You won't mind?"

Rogue sniffed. "Why does everybody assume that I'm the jealously possessive type? He'll be giving you a massage, not seducing you."

Ororo smiled naughtily. "Maybe you should be more worried about me seducing him. He looks quite delectable in just a pair of briefs."

"He looks even better without them," she replied with a grin. "Seriously, Ororo, I doubt that anything would happen. He'll probably make you wear a towel, or switch his vision to infrared, or something like that."

"All right," Ororo decided, "I'll ask him while we cook lunch."

After the debriefing, during which alternative strategies were debated, Rogue began her shift in the monitor room, Jan and Bobby reported to the hanger to do some routine maintenance on Blackbird Blue, and Will and Ororo went up to the kitchen to start work on lunch. Logan had expressed a desire for Mexican cuisine, so they decided to make chicken and beef fajitas.

As Ororo sliced some peppers and onions into thin strips, she turned to Will. "Rogue suggested that I ask you for some help."

"For what?"

"I seem to have pulled a muscle in my shoulder. She thought that you might be willing to provide me with some massage therapy."

He thought about it for a moment. "All right. How about right after lunch?"

"That would be perfect. Would my room be acceptable? It has more open floor space than yours."

"Of course." He added the vegetables and some seasonings to the meat, then started preparing a tray to bring down to Rogue.

Will picked up a few things from his room, then knocked on Ororo's door. "Come in," she called.

Being a man with a great deal of respect for personal privacy, Will had never actually been in Ororo's room before. As he saw the multitude of hanging and potted plants, his mind provided jungle sound effects.

"I will be out in a moment," Ororo called from the bathroom. Will nodded to himself and laid out his supplies on the floor: a large, sky blue comforter, a hot water bottle, a small, squeezable bottle of almond oil, and a small bowl. He poured a generous amount of oil into the bowl, then removed his shoes, sat on the floor, and waited.

After about a minute, Ororo walked out of the bathroom, dressed in a plain white dashiki. "Is everything ready?" she asked as she finished pinning her hair up.

"I just have to fill this," he replied, holding up the hot water bottle.

"I will do it." He tossed it lightly to her, and she came back with it a few moments later. "Is there anything else?"

"Are there any sounds or smells that help you relax? They tend to help your muscles loosen up a bit."

She nodded and went to her stereo, choosing a cassette from the rack. A moment later, the soft sounds of a violin emanated from the speakers. "Who's that?" Will asked.

"Ithzak Perlman." She then reached into a drawer and took out a stick of incense and a holder. "The sandalwood we purchased that day in New York," she informed him. "We never did have that full moon ceremony."

"We had a few minor interruptions, as I recall."

"True." She lit the end of the stick with a small tracer of lightning, then blew it out. A moment later, a thin wisp of smoke started to waft into the air, distributing its scent throughout the room. She lit a large candle with the same method, then took a small remote control out of a pocket of the dashiki. She pressed one of its two buttons, and an opaque blind covered the skylight, reducing the illumination in the room to a comfortable, intimate dimness.

"All set?" Will asked her as he rolled up his sleeves and kicked off his shoes.


"Good. Now, would you prefer to do this sitting up or lying down?"

"Lying down, I think." She loosened the belt of the dashiki and shrugged it off her shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. Will politely looked away as she stretched out onto the comforter, lying on her stomach. She untied the towel from around her waist and spread it out.

"Comfortable?" he asked.


"Good." He placed the hot water bottle on her shoulder. "We'll let this sit there for a few minutes to relax the sprain."

Ororo closed her eyes and listened to the music as the heat started to reduce the tension in her muscles. Once Will felt that she was sufficiently relaxed, he dipped one hand into the bowl of oil. Taking hold of the hot water bottle with the other hand, he removed it and placed his free hand in its place with one smooth motion. Ororo barely noticed the switch.

Will began manipulating the tissue of Ororo's shoulder, starting with a light touch, then gradually increasing the pressure until he felt the bands of muscle start to yield to him. Working very slowly, he took care of the whole of her shoulder, from her collarbone to her bicep.

When he finished, he stopped the motion of his hands, but did not remove them. "Does that feel any better?" he asked quietly.

"It feels like my muscles have been transformed into Jell-O," she sighed. "Now I understand why Rogue spoke so highly of you."

"Thank you," he said modestly.

"Could you possibly take care of the rest of my back?"

"I don't see why not."

Over the next half-hour, Ororo was given a thorough backrub which relaxed her so much that she was nearly asleep by the time she was done. "How do you feel now?" Will asked.

Her reply was a contented purr. "Just throw a blanket over me and wake me for dinner."

He grinned. "Yes, Ma'am, Boss Ma'am, three bags full."

Once he was certain that Ororo was comfortable, Will quietly left and went back downstairs to his room. He checked his e-mail, deleting the spam and studying the remaining messages. One in particular caught his attention, and he opened it up.


Sorry I'm late writing to you, but I've been very busy. I had three club
meetings this week, the new construction on my flat has just begun,
and I just found out that I'm pregnant! I'd appreciate it if you could
send me as many ideas for girls' names as you can.

Bandia duit,

Will studied the message intently for a moment, then clicked on the 'Reply' button.

Congratulations! I hope that your girls bring you plenty of happiness. Will do
some research and send to you soon. Keep me informed.

Bandia duit,

Just as he was sending the message, there was a knock on his open door, and Rogue poked her head in. "How did 'Roro like her backrub?"

"She's sound asleep. I think I can take that as a positive response."

She grinned and walked in. "We've both got the rest of the day off. Any ideas on what we can do?"

He thought for a moment. "How about a nice, quiet dinner for two in the day room?"

"That sounds nice. What about right now, though?"

"Well, I need to catch up on some sleep. It's been a while since I stayed up all night."

"A very busy night, from what the Avengers told us."

Will flushed with embarrassment. "Scott must have been thrilled."

"He doesn't know yet. Logan got a good laugh out of it, though."

"I do what I can to keep everyone entertained." He shut off the computer and leaned back against the headboard of his bed. "What would you like for dinner?"

"I don't want you cooking on your night off. Why don't we just order out? Italian sound good?"

"Make mine a calzone with a canoli for dessert. Here." He dug into a pocket and handed her thirty dollars. "That ought to cover it."

"What time do you want to eat?"

"Let's make it around seven. That way we can watch a movie or something later."

"Okay. Want to go out for the movie or stay here?"

"I sort of feel like being a lump tonight. I've seen how many tapes are in the cabinet downstairs. I'm sure we can agree on something from there." He finished with a yawn.

"I'd better let you get to sleep," she said with an indulgent smile. She glanced towards the door, and smiled again as Smoke walked in and hopped onto the bed. "Hi, Smoke," she crooned, bending down to pet the cat, which rubbed her head against Rogue's hand and purred ecstatically. "Where have you been all day?"

"She likes to sun herself on one of the reading alcoves in the day room," Will informed her. He stood up, than ran his had up Rogue back through her shirt, sending a delicious shiver up her spine. "See you in a few hours, love," he told her, ending with a light kiss on her shoulder. "Oh, can you wake Ororo up just before dinner?"

"No problem. Now, get changed for bed I'm going to tuck you in."

He grinned. "Yes, dear."

While Will changed into sweat pants and a T-shirt, Rogue gently moved the dozing Smoke to the foot of the bed, then drew back the covers. After Will lay down on the bed, she covered him up to the neck, then pulled the sheet over the lower half of his face. Lowering her face to his, she gave him a long, lingering kiss. "See you tonight, handsome. Sweet dreams."

"I'll be dreaming of you, halainn. How could it not be a sweet dream?"

After relaxing in front of the TV with Bobby and Henry for a while, Rogue went up to Ororo's room to wake her for dinner. She found that the older woman was stretched out on her back, snoring softly. It was fortunate, Rogue decided, that Will had sent her to awaken Ororo, rather than one of the men, since her fearless leader had managed to kick off most of the blanket, and was currently in a position which could probably be used as the centerfold of a men's magazine.

Smiling naughtily at that thought, she gently shook Ororo by the shoulder. "'Roro? Boss? Will asked me to get you up."

Ororo slowly opened her eyes, then gave Rogue a drowsy smile. "Thank you, Rogue," she said with a yawn. Curling up into a ball, she rolled forward onto her feet and then gracefully stood up, raising her arms above her head and arching her back as she stretched. "By the Goddess," she marveled, "I haven't felt this relaxed in months."

"I told you that Will was good," Rogue replied with a grin. "And that was just your shoulder."

"Actually, I asked him to take care of my back, too. Maybe I should ask for a full-body treatment next time."

"Then you'll be so relaxed that you'll barely be able to tell him thank you."

Ororo gave Rogue a wicked grin. "I'm sure that I could find some other way to demonstrate my gratitude." Then her face became apologetic. "Oh, I'm sorry, Rogue," she said as she picked up her dashiki and put it on, "I shouldn't have said that."

Rogue was silent for a moment, then gently placed her hand on Ororo's shoulder. "Look, Ororo, I don't think that, unless there's a major change in my relationship with Will, he'd even consider the idea. Having said that, though... if something did happen, and you were both honest and up front about it, I don't think I'd be that upset."

"Not that it's any of my business," Ororo asked, "but why not?"

"I'm just being realistic, Ororo. Will's been incredibly patient and understanding, but he still has physical needs just like anybody else. I just sort of feel bad that he's been giving me so much, but I haven't been able to give him much in return."

"No Rogue, you mustn't think like that." She motioned Rogue over to her bed, and they both sat down. "Will adores you. I can see it every time he looks at you, or talks about you. Did you know that his expression softens every time he hears your voice?"

"It does?"

Ororo nodded, smiling. "Remember when you were injured during our encounter with Apocalypse? I saw Will's expression when he saw what had been done to you. He was devastated. I saw his behavior in Salt Lake City when you were shot. Believe me when I tell you that his world absolutely crumbled when he thought that you were in danger. Why else would he have been so vulnerable to Scott's tirade?"

"That's true," she mused. "Will can usually just blow off any criticism. But I'm more concerned about how he's been... I don't know, holding himself back. He's been absolutely willing to let me call the shots, but hasn't been taking care of his own needs. He has a tendency to be... I'd call it..."

"Ascetic?" Ororo suggested.

"That's the word. I mean, think about it: he's got all that money, but he doesn't really use it, as far as I can tell."

"He bought you your statue, and spent a few thousand when we went to that art exhibit.."

"But he was spending that money on others, not on himself. He could spoil himself rotten, but the only time he takes a break is when he's ordered to, or when one of us is injured. Even when he was still hurting from his knife wound, he was more concerned about me, even though his injury was much worse than mine."

"Good point. I really don't see what we can do about it, though. If we simply order him to take some time off for himself, that would be defeating the purpose."

"Well, I do have one idea. He's been talking about wanting to concentrate on his business interests for a while now, but I think he's getting bogged down in the details. I think we can help him with that."


A moment later, anyone walking by Ororo's room would have been surprised to hear her laughing hysterically.

After ordering their meal, Rogue went to Will's room and woke him up, playfully skipping out of his reach when he tried to convince her that an extra hour or so of sleep would be good for them both. "Dinner should be here in about half an hour," she told him "Want to get ready?"

"I think I need a shower first. Meet you in the day room in twenty minutes?"

"Okay. That gives me some time to freshen up, too. Can you grab some dishes from the kitchen?"

"No problem."

Will practically ran through the shower, then put on an old, comfortable pair of blue jeans, a soft, powder blue cotton shirt, and a black suede vest. Before leaving his room, he slapped a dash of cologne onto his cheeks and put on his gloves.

As he descended the stairs, he remembered something, then mentally kicked himself. As he picked up the dishes that he needed, he caught a glimpse of Ororo walking by in the hall. "Ororo?" he called, sticking his head through the open doorway. "Can I ask you for a favor?"

"After that backrub, I owe you several favors," she told him with a smile. "What do you need?"

"I don't have time to get to the florist. Could you bear to divest one of your plants of a bloom or two?"

"I think I can do better than that."

Rogue stepped into the day room, finding that Will had already picked up the food, and was placing some roses into a bud vase. "All set?" she asked.

"Just finished," he told her. He took a moment to admire her outfit, which combined a nearly transparent, grey body stocking with a midnight blue, sleeveless one-piece dress.

She spun around once. "You like?"

"I like very much." He held out a chair for her, and they both sat down. "You look fabulous."

"Thanks." She took a sip of her water. "I picked out a movie for tonight."

"What's that?"

"When Harry Met Sally."

"Just remember to turn down the volume during the restaurant scene."

"Darn. There goes that plan." She looked at the roses. "Why are these all different colors?"

He smiled. "There's a bit of symbolism involved." He sat up a little and took the four roses out one by one, handing them to her. "White is for purity of intent, which I had when we first met. Yellow is for the respect which I developed for you as a warrior and teammate. Pink is for the friendship which began on our first date."

"And red?" she asked in a teasing voice.

"Red is for the passion which you've ignited in me."

"That's nice," she murmured as she took his hand and kissed it lightly.

"It's the truth, beautiful. You've bought light into a world where I was only noticing the darkness. I've reached a point where I can't imagine my life without you."

Rogue beamed as her eyes started to water. "Let's finish eating. I want to get to the really enjoyable part of tonight."

"What's that?"


Shortly afterwards, they entered Rogue's room, where the VCR was already set up. Rogue made herself comfortable in Will's lap as they sat in their usual positions, then started the movie.

They did not talk often, choosing instead to communicate with caresses and low sighs. They both howled with laughter at the restaurant scene, and Rogue found herself giggling uncontrollably when Billy Crystal found himself in bed with Meg Ryan. "What's so funny?" Will asked her.

"You had that exact same look on your face when you saw me in our hotel room."

"So life does imitate art."

Once the movie ended, Rogue turned off the TV and turned over so that she could look into Will's eyes. "I've got a surprise for you," she whispered.

"And what would that be?" he asked, an amused glint in his eyes.

"Don't move," She got up, walking over to the far end of her room and turning on a halogen floor lamp which was there. After lowering the lamp to its dimmest setting, she moved back to the bed.

"Feel like napping again?" Will asked her.

"I had something different in mind. Close your eyes."

He obeyed. A moment later, he heard a click from the lock on her door, followed soon afterwards by the soft rustle of cloth. A few seconds later, he felt her weight on top of him as she settled back onto the bed, straddling his waist.

"You can look now," he was told.

His eyes opened, and almost fell out of their sockets a moment later.


She was still wearing the body stocking, having removed the dress and lain it across her chair, and had put on another of the transparent microfiber masks, so she was covered from head to toe.

However, she wasn't wearing anything under the body stocking, so her physical assets were not only quite visible, but vying somewhat aggressively for attention. She had also cut a hole in the back of the mask to let her hair spill through.

Rogue bent down and gave Will a light kiss on the nose. "Tonight is just for you. You've spent too much time worrying about what I need, and not nearly enough about what you need. I love you, and I want to make you as happy as you've made me."


"Hush. Let me finish." At his nod, she continued. "You're a very giving man, Will. You give everything you've got to help the people you love. But you have to learn to accept what we have to offer you... what I have to offer you, tonight."

"Now," she said as she straightened back up, "I'm going to take the lead here, but I want to hear about what you like and don't like, what feels good and what doesn't. Okay?"

He nodded silently. Smiling seductively, she ran her fingers lightly across his face and neck, tracing them over his lips and eyes. Moving down, she slid her hands underneath the collar of his shirt and lightly massaged his shoulders and collarbone. As the tension in his muscles subsided, Will began to slowly relax.

After a few minutes, he had reached a point where he was almost dozing as he luxuriated in the delicate touch of her hands and fingers. He opened one eye, however, when she began to unbutton his vest.

"Trust me, Will," she said reassuringly. "Please?"

He smiled. "Always."

Once he had closed his eyes again, she finished parting the front of the vest, then opened his shirt. Easing herself off his body, she gently rolled his torso from side to side so that she could slip his arms out of the sleeves.

"Your scar's faded a bit," she told him as she lightly traced her fingertips over his chest. "Maybe because your mood's been improving."

"Could be," he agreed. He opened his eyes a few seconds later, startled by an unfamiliar sensation. She had flipped her hair forward so that it spilled over his chest, and was slowly dragging it back and forth, resulting in a very light caress. "That's a new trick," he observed.

"I got the idea from one of my romance novels," she said with a smile. She lowered her head still more, and began blazing a trail of kisses down his body, combining them with light strokes of her fingers along his ribs. He responded to this with a low, gratified sigh.

When she reached his lower abdominals, however, she felt him tense up. "That's... far enough, love," he said in a husky whisper.

"Don't you trust me?" she asked, hurt.

He sat up and embraced her. "I trust you completely, halainn. It's me I don't trust. If we go past a certain point too fast or too soon... I may not be able to hold myself back."

"Oh," she replied softly. "I understand."

"Besides, I'm starting to get a little tired."

She grinned. "I thought that wasn't supposed to happen until afterwards." She laughed as he blushed, then playfully hit him with a pillow. "Hop off, handsome. Let me pull the sheets back."

Once he stood up, she glanced at him. "What are you wearing under those, anyway?"

"Plain white boxers," he replied with a shrug.

"Are those jeans comfortable enough to sleep in?"

"No problem."

"Let's turn in, then," she said as she settled herself in the bed.

"Are you comfortable enough?" he asked. "I don't want you to get tangled up in that thing."

"I'm fine. It feels like a really soft mosquito net. What's so funny?" she asked when he suddenly burst into laughter.

"I just got a mental image of you bumping over and over again into this really big screen door..."

The pillow fight that followed was epic in scale.


Continued in Chapter Forty-Six


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