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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


"It breathes!" Henry announced. "It walks! It shows no signs of higher brain functions whatsoever! Is it living?"

"Dead?" Betsy added.

"Keith Richards?" Bobby finished.

"No! It's the X-Men's contribution to altered states of consciousness, Mister Will Riley!" Henry finished with a Kermit the Frog "Yay!"

Will's only response was to let his head thud onto the table and emit a groan reminiscent of Lurch from The Addams Family. "There must have been a switch somewhere. The X-Men have been replaced by the Not-Quite-Ready-For-Any-Time Players."

"Weren't you up earlier?" Betsy asked. "I thought I caught a psi-flash from you at around four." Betsy had worked the night watch, and was having a quick bite before heading to bed.

"Answering nature's call," Will mumbled. "I didn't want to wake Rogue up, so I just headed back to my room." He pulled his glasses out of a shirt pocket and put them on. "Could I see the paper, please?" Taking it from Bobby, he glanced at the front page blearily.

A moment later, he was on his feet, his eyes wide open. "Oh, boy."

Five minutes later, Rogue was awakened by the sound of a frantic knock at her door. She jumped out of bed and started towards the door, but stopped when she caught a look at herself in the mirror and realized that she was still wearing the see-through leotard. She grabbed a robe and put it on, then opened the door.

Will stood there, looking unkempt and nervous. "Can you be ready to leave in two hours?"

"For where?"

"Dublin. Remember when I talked to Jeff Riordhan while we were on the road? His daughter's sweet sixteen is tomorrow, and I promised to be there."

"Can't you just teleport over?"

He shook his head. "Jeff will want documentation on the trip. Besides, I'll need the time to go over my paperwork."

She nodded. "Have you talked to 'Roro yet?"

"She and Xavier already gave their okay. Pack light. Anything extra you need, we'll get there."

"I'll be ready in half an hour."

Ninety minutes later, they boarded a British Airways jet and made themselves comfortable in their business class seats. Rogue carried only a moderately sized purse, but Will's briefcase was bulging with both his computer and a stack of papers.

Once the plane had taken off and the sign indicated that they could unbuckle their seat belts, Rogue opened up her purse and took out her Discman. "What did you bring?" Will asked her.

"Nazgul, Kate Bush, Meat Loaf, and the Grease soundtrack. Are you going to be working the whole trip?"

"Probably," he said with a grimace. "I have a lot to go over."

"Can I do anything to help?"

"Not just yet. Once I have a good idea of how I'm going to tackle this, I can let you know. Just relax for now."

"Okay." She turned on her CD player and focused her attention on the latest Danielle Steele novel.

After about an hour or so, she decided to give her eyes a rest. Glancing over at Will, she saw that he had already finished a respectable portion of his paperwork. She slipped the headphones off her ears and tapped him lightly on the shoulder. "How's it going?"

"Not bad," he said as he removed his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He handed her a notepad. "Can you double-check these numbers?"

She took the pad from him and mentally checked his arithmetic. "Seems right. What's this in, thousands?"

He suddenly blushed. "Not quite."

She looked at him for a moment, confused. Then her jaw dropped. "Millions?" she mouthed silently.

"Since this point last quarter. The second column is since last year."

She added the second column up. "This is your profit? Not your net worth?"

"I'm not even sure what my net worth is right now. That's one of the reasons I'm having this meeting. The birthday party is just an excuse, really. I haven't seen Jeff's family in a while, and I like to keep in touch with them."

"No wonder you said that we couldn't bleed you. You were probably making money faster than we could spend it."

"I wouldn't go that far. Most of what I have is either in long-term investments, or being used to expand my intelligence capabilities. I don't have that much in liquid funds."

"How much is not that much?"

"About eighty mil or so."

"How much do you pay in taxes?"

"Less than you'd think. Jeff knows some very creative accountants."

"When did you hire him?"

"About seven years ago. He had just graduated from law school, but he hadn't been able to make the usual connections that you need to be really good in the field. He'd been concentrating on his work, not back room politics. I respected that, and I respected the fact that he took time off from law school to take care of his daughter when his wife was ill."

"Are you close to his family?"

"I make sure to see them on their birthdays, send gifts on their wedding anniversary, that sort of thing. Since I put a small part of Jeff's salary into my portfolio, they make a comfortable living."

"What does his wife do now?"

"She's a data systems consultant. She and Kitty could probably talk shop for hours." He paused when the flight attendant came by to offer refreshments. "I've debated letting them both into my informant network, but it's a bit risky. It's a damn shame, though, because they're both very bright. I think the odds are good that Jeff has suspicions about how I spend my time."

Rogue blinked in surprise. "Is he trustworthy?"

"Absolutely. His conversations with me fall under attorney-client privilege, since I make sure to mention some aspect of my business every time we meet. When other people are around, I keep the conversation focused on everything but business. It drives Jeff crazy, but he accepts my reasoning." He signed another document and put it on the bottom of the pile.

"What's their daughter like?"

His face became reflective. "Maire? To be honest, I don't really know. I haven't seen her in a few years. I'm looking forward to this party, because it'll give me a chance to catch up on things with her."

"She knows you that well?"

He pointed at himself. "Say hello to 'Uncle Will'."

She grinned. "You've got to be kidding."

"Nope. I made a deal with her a few years ago. I match any money that she makes on her part-time jobs, pay her for high grades, do research into scholarships, and send her care packages around exam time. She's been making high honors for the past three years."

"What does she want to major in?"

"I was going to ask her that tomorrow. We'll get to Dublin at about five P.M. local time, and I'll call Jeff to find out where he made the reservations. We'll have a light dinner on our own, then get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow, we'll meet up with them about ten or so, and see if Maire has any objections to an all-day shopping spree. You can go along, and Jeff and I will meet you for dinner."

"Where will you two be?"

"Going over business."

"To be honest, I was kind of hoping you'd let me listen in on that."

"I didn't think you'd be interested."

"Why not? Bobby's taught me enough about accounting that I won't come off like a total idiot in front of Jeff. We can all go with Maire after you're done."

He thought about it for a moment. "Okay then. I'll call Jeff later."

About an hour later, they were served a light lunch, then offered headphones for the movie. Will declined politely, choosing to get back to work. Rogue simply closed the shade to her window and fell asleep.

As he paused for a moment to gather his thoughts, Will noticed a pair of blue eyes peeking out from behind the chair in front of him. He smiled, and a blond girl, about four years old, leaned over to smile back. Will put a finger to his lips, then pointed at Rogue. The girl nodded, then pointed to the seat next to her and let her head go limp as she closed her eyes.

Will grinned, then held one finger up for attention. Reaching into his shirt pocket, he took out his sunglasses and put them on in place of his reading glasses. He then started typing again, holding his hands like a piano player and waving his head from left to right. The girl giggled, covering her mouth with one hand. Will grinned at her again, then got back to work.

After a while, Rogue awoke and stretched as best she could in her seat. "What's our time like?" she asked with a yawn.

"New York time or Dublin time?"

"I meant how much more flight time."

"About two and a half hours. Want some coffee?"

"Sounds good. Black, please."

Will smiled and went to the commissary. A minute later, he came back with a mug of steaming hot coffee. "Here you go," he said as he gave it to her.

"Thanks." She sipped at it and looked at Will's paperwork, which had diminished considerably. "You got a lot done," she noted.

"The laptop is a big help. I'd be spending most of my time going over my notes without it. I'll have to think of some way to thank Forge for making it."

"The best way to do that would be to take one of Ororo's shifts so she can go see him."

"I think that's doable." He reviewed another document and signed it.

Forty-five minutes later, Will completed the last of his business work. "Glad that's finally over," he said to himself as he took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"Are you going to rest now?"

"I don't want to risk damaging the plane," he said to her in a low voice.

"That's a good point."

"Besides," he said, "I still have to set us up with a hotel room." He reached down into his seat's armrest and pulled out the phone which was stored inside it. After digging his wallet out of his back pocket, he ran a credit card through and dialed a number. "Hello. I would like to rent one of your double occupancy rooms for this evening and tomorrow evening. The highest grade which you have available. We'll be arriving at about six or seven P.M. Last name is Riley, I'll be paying by charge card, Bank of Ireland Platinum Visa. I'll give you the account number when I arrive." He listened for a moment. "That will be fine. Thank you." He returned the phone to its place inside the armrest.

"We all set?"

He nodded. "I think that's it. We'll figure out where to eat once we've checked in. If customs is too much of a hassle, I may decide to crash at the hotel early."

"That's right, you haven't taken a nap today. Are you all right?"

"Oh, I'm okay. The crowds at customs may wear me out, though, depending on how bad they are." He opened up a pocket in his laptop case and removed both a CD case and a small pair of earphones. "I think I'll just listen to some music for a while."

"Okay. What do you relax to?" She took a look at the title of the CD.


They got through customs fairly quickly, then grabbed a taxi to the Merrion Hotel. After checking in and settling into their room, they went out to find a place to eat. A few minutes later, they decided to simply drop in at what appeared to be the local pub. Will chose to sample the stew and the house root beer, and Rogue had the fish and chips, choosing to sample the stout, which she found to be slightly bitter, but good nonetheless. "I could start developing a taste for this stuff," she admitted.

"It's been keeping Irish workers going for years," Will told her. "I remember reading somewhere that Guinness is so dense in nutrients that you could live on it for a little while."

"Don't tell Logan that. He might try to prove it."

They paid for the meal, then went back to the hotel, where Will called Jeff to arrange their meeting time, which they decided would be eight o'clock the next morning at Jeff's office. "Ask Nuala and Maire to come by the office at about two. We should be nearly done by then. We'll have the limo pick us up, then go to the shops and the restaurant. If she's up to the idea, we can hit a club afterwards. All right, see you at eight." He hung up the phone, then yawned. "What time is it?" he asked Rogue.

She glanced at the clock on the nightstand. "Almost eight."

"It might be a good idea for me to hit the sack early," he mused. "I'll need an hour or two before the meeting to let my brain kick in."

"I'll be going to bed early, too. That nap I took on the plane threw my internal clock for a loop." She stretched, rolling her shoulders to get the kinks out. "I think I'll take a shower first, though."

"You expect me to be able to sleep now that I've heard that?"

"You could always watch," she told him with a wicked smile.

"Now there's a thought."

She laughed and kicked off her sneakers, then walked towards the bathroom, unbuttoning her shirt as she went. She closed the door partway behind her, then tossed her clothes onto a chair just outside the door.

Will stood up and changed into his pajamas, then climbed underneath the sheets and dimmed the lights to a level which was comfortable enough for him to fall asleep, but bright enough for Rogue to find her way around the room. He quickly started to nod off, barely hearing the sound of Rogue's hair dryer from the bathroom.

After a few minutes, the bathroom door opened, and Rogue walked out, wrapped in a towel. "Maybe I should take the other bed," she whispered to herself when she looked at Will's sprawled form.

Will's eyes opened. "Only if you want to," he told her.

She smiled. "I'd rather have the company." She took her body stocking and microfiber mask from her bag and slipped into them, smiling at Will's appreciative whistles and growls. "You're a dirty old man," she told him in a teasing voice.

"You're complaining?"

"I didn't say that." She tied her hair back into a ponytail and pulled it through the back of her mask as she put it on. Will moved over and lifted up the sheets as she curled up beside him, tucking her head into the crook of his arm. She wrapped her arm around his chest and sighed happily. "Sweet dreams, love."

"Hey, that's my line."

"Oh, shut up and kiss me."

They awoke at six the next morning, after Will tossed the ringing phone halfway across the room. "The designers did their job too well," he grumbled.

"How's that?"

"The telephone ring was the fiendish product of both engineers and psychologists. It was specifically designed to be so annoying that you'll answer it just to shut it up."

She laughed. "Go hit the showers. I want a bite to eat before we go to see your lawyer."

They sampled the continental breakfast, then grabbed a taxi to an area of the city where glass office buildings and nineteenth-century flats stood side by side. Will asked the driver to stop beside a small, tasteful three-story house on a corner. He stepped out of the cab and took Rogue's hand as she stepped out. "Nice place," she commented.

"Jeff only uses three rooms. The rest is other offices."

"Do you own the building?"

"I considered buying it, but I decided that it might be a little intimidating for Jeff if I literally owned the roof over his head. I just rent the space."

"What floor is he on?"

"Top. He likes the view," he explained upon seeing her features droop.

She sighed. "Okay. Let's start climbing."

Three steep flights of steps later, they reached a plain office door, with a small nameplate on the side which read J. Riordhan, Esq.. Will tapped lightly on the door, and it opened a few seconds later.

The man who appeared from behind the door was a few centimeters taller than Will, with sandy blond hair and blue eyes which were framed by horn-rimmed glasses. "Will!" he said with a smile. "You're actually on time!"

"Miracles do sometimes occur," Will replied dryly before breaking into a grin. "How are you doing, Jeff?"

"Great. Come on in." He motioned them into the office, most of which was devoted to a large desk, two plush chairs, and several file cabinets. Shelves of law books lined the walls, and a small refrigerator was nearly hidden in one corner.

"You've cleaned up," Will said approvingly.

"I've been switching to electronic records for most of the work. It makes things go a lot faster. You haven't introduced me to your lovely companion." He looked at Rogue with a glint of amusement in his eyes.

"My mistake. Jeff, Miss May O'Hara. May, this is Jeff Riordhan, my attorney, broker, and partner in crime."

"My pleasure, Miss O'Hara," Jeff said, giving her a firm handshake. "I can see that Will's description of you wasn't an exaggeration."

"Oh, we'll get along just fine," Rogue said with a smile.

Will glanced at the clock. "We'd better get started. We have a lot to go over." They all sat down, and Will opened his briefcase, booted his computer up, and handed Jeff the documents which he had reviewed on the plane. "Everything looks like it's in order. What's the total right now for the fund as a whole?"

Jeff glanced at Rogue uncertainly. "You can trust May's discretion. She and I have been together long enough for her to have a good idea of what I've been doing."

Jeff shrugged. "It's your decision." He tapped at his computer for a few seconds. "As of closing in Hong Kong, you were worth... you want it to the nearest million? Okay, about forty-five point two seven billion." He glanced up. "Uh, Will? Your girlfriend just fried a chip."

Will turned his head towards Rogue, then reached over and pushed her chin upwards, closing her mouth. "Remember to breathe, dear."

She stared at him. "You are taking me on the biggest shopping spree later."

"He can only access a small percentage of that money," Jeff pointed out. "Most of it gets rolled back into various investment plans."

"Besides, May, you're worth a good chunk of change yourself by this point. Remember the funds I started? They've been doing very well."

"But they haven't been open that long," Rogue protested.

"You're forgetting that the stock market has been doing very well lately," Jeff reminded her. He tapped at his keyboard again. "Right now your share of the fund is worth about one hundred twenty-seven thousand punts."

"What's that in dollars?"

Jeff thought for a moment. "The punt and the dollar have been running pretty even lately. Let's say it's about one hundred twenty-five thousand. Your initial loan is paid off, so you can touch it immediately if you want."

"I'd feel better if you didn't, though," Will admitted. "I'd like to see the funds at ten million apiece before any withdrawals start."

She nodded, still dazed at the notion of suddenly being a rich woman. Mystique had set up an account for her years ago, of course, but Rogue had not touched it since joining the X-Men, feeling that it was somewhat hypocritical to use money derived from the sorts of activities that she was now supposed to work against. She had never gotten rid of the money however. She was a 'hero', true... but Mystique didn't raise a fool.

"Did you want to go to the Crypt today?" Jeff asked Will.

He nodded. "We'll take care of that after everything else is done today. They won't be awake for another twelve hours or so, anyway. Let's start with the TKO fund. How much is it up by?"

Jeff tapped at the keyboard again. "You've been pretty conservative with that lately. It's up by about one and a quarter points."

"Move it into the moderate risk division. I may be using it soon."

"Right. What next?"

"Let's just go over it all one part at a time."

Over the next six hours, Will and Jeff reviewed every aspect of Will's finances. Rogue listened intently, amazed at both the scope and breadth of Will's influence in the business world. If she understood it all correctly, Will had been spending the past three years quietly amassing large shares of stock in many of the publicly traded companies of the Standard and Poor 500. He had been averting suspicion by using dummy companies and purchasing through one-on-one transactions rather than on the open market. He chose not to exercise his voting options, so he was not bothered by the usual corporate infighting found in the corporate world.

They were finishing up the last of the foreign bonds when Jeff's phone rang. He looked at Will, who nodded, then picked up the mouthpiece. "Hello, Jeffrey Riordhan speaking. Oh, hello, love. Yes, I'm almost done. Just come on up, I should be ready by the time you get here. Goodbye."

"That was our signal?" Will asked.

"They're at the end of the block. Why don't you two step into the loo until they get here?"

"Good idea." He and Rogue stood up and went into the small bathroom which adjoined Jeff's office, leaving the door open just a crack.

After about three minutes, they heard the other door open. "Hi, Da!" a cheerful feminine voice announced. "Ready to go?"

Jeff sighed theatrically. "I'm sorry, love, but I can't go just yet."

"What?" was the hurt reply. "But why?"

"I just finished talking with a client. He and I have some business to discuss, and I can't leave the office until it's taken care of." As he spoke, Will and Rogue quietly opened the bathroom door and sneaked into the office. Rogue could only see the backs of the two women who stood in front of Jeff's desk. They looked similar, with willowy builds and long, straight brown hair. She hung back as Will stood about half a meter behind the one on the left.

The smaller person sighed. "What's so important?"

"Seeing my favorite niece," Will said casually.

The girl let out a high pitched peep of shock and surprise, then spun around, looking up at Will's face. "Uncle Will!" she squealed in delighted recognition as she jumped into his arms and received a bear hug. "I thought you were in the U.S.!"

"Happy birthday, kidin," he told her with a grin. "I decided to surprise you this year. How does it feel to hit sweet sixteen?"

"Not much different," she admitted. "I still have homework due tomorrow." She looked over his shoulder at Rogue. "And this has got to be May."

"Pleased to meet you, Maire," Rogue said with a smile as she offered her hand to the girl.

Maire's grin widened. "Oh, I just love your accent! You're from the Low South?"

"Deep South," Rogue corrected her gently. "Mississippi, to be exact." As she spoke, she studied the girl closely. Maire appeared to take after the woman standing next to her, who Rogue assumed was her mother. The pale, clear skin of her face was framed by straight brown hair, which was tied back in a loose ponytail. Her brown eyes displayed a mixture of playful humor, excitement, and affection.

Maire disengaged herself from Will's embrace and shook Rogue's hand firmly. "I'm glad I finally got the chance to meet you. Uncle Will talks about you in all his messages to us."

"He writes you letters?"

Will snorted. "Who writes letters nowadays? I use email like everybody else." He glanced at his watch. "We'd better get going."

"You're not leaving already, are you?" Maire asked in a hurt voice.

"No," Nuala said, speaking for the first time, "we all are. Tell her what she's won, Will."

Will switched his voice to a passable imitation of Don Pardo. "You, Maire Riordhan, will spend a day in the fashion shops of your choice. After choosing an ensemble, you will be taken to dinner, where you will dazzle all present with your charm and grace. The evening will be crowned by a visit to Renard's, one of Dublin's premier dance clubs. Lastly," he finished as he removed a small box from his jacket pocket and handed it to her, "you have won a free box of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat!"

Maire laughed again. "You never change, Uncle Will. But how are we going to get there? Our car's a little too small for all of us."

As if on cue, Jeff's phone rang, and he picked it up. "Hello, Jeffrey Riordhan speaking. Thank you, we'll be right there. Your answer awaits," he told Maire as he hung up the phone and put on his jacket.

They all left the office and went down to the street, where the limousine was waiting for them. "Ladies first," Will said with a smile as the chauffeur opened the door. Maire, Nuala, and Rogue all stepped inside, taking the rear seat, and Jeff and Will settled into the front seat, which faced the rear of the car. "So, Maire," Will asked, "where can we find your dream outfit?"

Maire thought a moment, then looked at her mother and Rogue. "Are you two going to get outfits?"

"I sort of have to," Rogue confessed. "I wasn't given much time to pack."

"Be nice," Will said mildly.

Maire leaned forward and gave the driver an address. "This place should make us all happy."

Soon afterwards, they stopped in front of a small shop which was tucked between two brownstones. Will spoke with the driver for a few moments, making sure that they could agree on a break schedule (on Will's tab, of course). A few minutes later, they stepped into the store, the ladies went straight to the racks, and the men found chairs to sit in while they read the paperbacks which they had hidden in their jacket pockets. "You know this is going to take a few hours," Jeff said.

"I'm an old hand at it by now," Will shrugged. "Just be ready to 'ooh' and 'ah' when they come out for opinions."

"Right. By the way, you never did explain why you were incommunicado for a few days."

Realizing that Jeff was talking about the road trip following the events in Salt Lake City, Will decided to tell part of the truth. "Exhaustion. I did nothing but rest and bum around, then spent a few days in Chicago with May and some other friends."

Jeff nodded in approval. "Good. I've been telling you for years that you push yourself too hard." He looked at Will closely for a moment. "She's a good influence on you. I haven't seen you this relaxed in a long time."

"It's easy for me to relax when I'm around May. She keeps me from taking myself too seriously."

Their conversation was interrupted by Maire, who practically skipped into their field of vision. "What do you think?" she asked them as she showed off her outfit, which combined a gold lame tube top, a full-length pleated skirt in burgundy with shots of gold thread providing highlights, and a black, waist-length jacket.

"You look fabulous, Maire," Will gushed. "Your father and I will have to beat back the boys with sticks."

"Thanks," she replied, smiling. "May asked me to tell you that she'll be out in a few minutes."

"There's no need to rush. We have plenty of time."

"Not really. You still have to get an outfit."

Will looked at his grey tweed jacket and slacks. "What's wrong with this?"

Maire rolled her eyes, muttering a few naughty words in Gaelic. "It's fine for a board meeting, but not for a dance club. You may have grey hair, Uncle Will, but that doesn't make you an old man. It's my birthday, and I say that you're going to wear something that'll get attention tonight."

"You tell him, sugar," Rogue said as she walked out in a knee-length green skirt, black turtleneck, and tweed jacket. "I can never get him to dress down when we go out."

"It looks like you're outnumbered, Will," Jeff observed.

"You're not going to rise to my defense?"

"Do I look suicidal?"

"I'm doomed."

"Okay," Will sighed when they reached a mens' clothing store that met with the ladies' approval, "did you have anything in mind?"

"Let's start with the jacket," Rogue decided.

"What about it?"

"Lose it."

Will shrugged and handed his jacket to Jeff. "Keep an eye on this," he requested. "I'll wear what they pick out to the club, but not to dinner. And I get power of veto," he warned the women.

"We'll see," Rogue said ominously. "Any ideas, Maire?"

"Let's see how he looks in blue," the young woman said thoughtfully. "That should go well with his hair and eyes. Black would work, too."

"Let's combine both," Will suggested. "How about a grey shirt, blue pants, and black coat?"

"Sounds a little basic."

"What if the coat was black leather?"

Rogue thought about that. "That could work. Let's see how it looks on you."

After a few minutes of searching through the racks, the requisite items were found, though Rogue needed a moment to mentally convert the sizes from European to U.S. "Give these a shot," she told Will as she handed him the clothes.

"Okay," he said with a resigned expression as he went to the dressing room, "I'll be out in a minute."

"I'm not sure if this was the right outfit for me, May," Nuala suggested as she sat in her chair. She was dressed in what could best be described as the typical Little Black Dress, with red heels and a red, sequined jacket which made her appear to be a bit curvier than was actually the case.

"You look great, Nuala," Rogue said with a grin. "By the way, I wanted to ask.... what does your name mean?"

"It's from Celtic mythology. Will was amused by that, as I recall. It used to get me in trouble one in a while back when I was in school."


"Try having a pagan name in a country that's ninety-seven percent Catholic."

"That must have hell for you.... no pun intended."

Nuala shrugged. "It gave me a thick skin, and taught me not to give a damn about what other people think. Jeff told me that's what he found most attractive about me."

"The fact that you were... and still are... the most beautiful woman that I've ever met didn't hurt, though," Jeff said as he sidled up behind Nuala and wrapped his arms around her.

"Thanks, love," Nuala murmured as she leaned her head back and kissed him lightly on the cheek. Rogue found, to her surprise, that she was not made uncomfortable by the open display of affection, as she might have been in the past. Will's been influencing me more than I thought.

Maire simply rolled her eyes. "Save it until you get home, da."

"Are they checking each other's tonsils again?" Will asked as he walked out.

"'Fraid so, Boss," Jeff said with an unrepentant grin. "What's the verdict?"

"I like it," Will admitted as he studied himself in the mirror. His coat had a somewhat glossy sheen to it which complemented both the navy shirt and the highlights of his hair.

"So do I," Rogue agreed. Then she frowned. "Something's missing, though."

"You're right." Will picked up his jacket and removed his sunglasses. "Much better," he said as he put them on. He looked at Maire. "What do you think, kidin?"

"Not bad," Maire said thoughtfully. "I think we can do something with it."

"You think he's salvageable?" Rogue asked.

"There's definite potential here," she conceded.

"I'm so glad to hear that," Will said dryly. "I was afraid that I'd be the only billionaire at the party that no one wanted to talk to."

After a sumptuous meal at Maire's favorite restaurant, they were driven to Renard's Will advised the driver that they would likely be inside for several hours. "Do you have a beeper?" he asked.

"Yes, sir."

"Tell you what," he offered. "I'll pay your cover fee if you promise that you won't drink, and will leave as soon as I buzz you."

"No problem, sir," the young man said with a grin as he stepped out of the car and tossed his cap inside.

It was still relatively early in the evening, so they did not have long to wait before entering the club. Will reacted immediately to the loud music, quickly inserting his earplugs. A brief talk with Maire led them to a table above the dance floor, where a respectable crowd had already begun to gather.

"I'm going to go down there, okay Da?" Maire asked Jeff.

"Just check in with one of us every once in a while," Jeff requested. "I don't want you vanishing on us."

"I'll come by every half hour or so," she promised. "Besides, if there is any trouble, I always have the last gift Uncle Will gave me." She grinned and bounced off.

"What did you give her?" Rogue asked.

"A ten centimeter, one-hand action, liner lock folding knife."

"He gave me one, too," Nuala added. "I never go out without it. Some parts of Dublin can get pretty dangerous at night."

"You don't have to tell me about that," Rogue supplied. "I live an hour or so from New York, and I've run into some of the Underground." The Morlocks count, I guess.

"Is New York really that bad?" Jeff asked.

"It's like any other city," she shrugged. "As long as you're careful, you won't have any problems."

A waitress came by to take their orders, and they were all sipping at their drinks a few minutes later. Jeff had ordered a shaken vodka martini, Nuala a glass of Merlot, Rogue a pint of Guinness, and Will a Coke. "So, May," Nuala asked with an impish smile, "what's a girl like you hanging around with a lump like Will?"

"He's my sugar daddy," Rogue said, grinning. "I'm just sponging off him until somebody better comes along."

"Oh," Will said in mock anger, "so now the truth comes out. I was wondering what the getaway car was for."

Jeff laughed. "You two definitely make a good team. What did you have to do to make him say the 'L' word?"

"You wouldn't believe it," she said in perfect honesty. "I'm still not sure I believe it."

"Well," Will drawled, "you're the one who said that you wanted an exciting, passionate relationship. I supply the first part, and you supply the second part."

"He does have a way with words, doesn't he?" Nuala said with a smile.

They chatted about various innocuous subjects for a while. Rogue was surprised at how easily she was able to relax with the married couple. Although both Jeff and Nuala were professionals who were wealthy in their own right, they were absolutely without a trace of ego, a trait which she surmised had endeared them to Will. They were honestly interested in her as well, and she felt slightly bad that she had to give them answers which were, at best, only half-true.

They were interrupted by the appearance of Maire, who bounded up to their table, practically quivering with excitement. "Just checking in," she assured them.

"Enjoying yourself, kidin?" Will asked.

"I'm having a blast!" She took his hand and tried to pull him to his feet. "Come on. I want to get at least one dance out of you tonight."

Will looked down at the dance floor with a dubious expression. "Well," he mused, "it's not too crowded yet..."

"Great!" She virtually flew down the stairs, eliciting a squawk of protest from Will as she dragged him along for the ride.

"I'll be down in a few minutes," Rogue called to him just before he dropped out of sight. "He'll probably be playing with the band before the end of the night," she told Nuala with a chuckle.

"He's still playing music, then? He used to entertain Maire by rattling off old songs and poems. She loved it whenever he did anything by Shel Silverstein."

"He plays every once in a while. He's been concentrating on his writing lately."

"That's good to hear," Jeff said with some relief. "He has a novel due soon. I don't want to have to field calls from his publisher."

"I don't know how far along he is, but he's been spending most of his free time working on it."

"He should be done pretty soon, then. He usually doesn't take more than two months or so at a time."

Nuala sat up in her chair, glancing over the railing. "Well," she decided, "he isn't making too big a fool of himself."

"He probably asked the deejay to play some Eighties tunes," Rogue said, having noted that The Escape Club's Wild Wild West was playing.

After the dance floor had experienced the extended mix of Donna Summer's I Will Survive, Rogue, Jeff and Nuala decided to head down themselves. As she went down the stairs, Rogue surreptitiously checked to make sure that her gloves and the collar of her shirt were firmly in place.

She found Maire and Will after weaving her way through the crowd. "One side, girl," she told Maire in a mock growl. "I'm cutting in."

"No problem," the younger girl replied with a grin. "I'll find something closer to my decade." She laughed at Will's expression as she danced off.

"I wonder if I could spank her without being called a dirty old man," Will thought out loud as the song ended.

"I thought we already agreed that you are a dirty old man."

"True," he conceded, "but that's not for public consumption." He glanced upwards as the next song began. "Oh, good," he said with an evil grin. "I like this one." He adjusted his coat. "I was sort of in a Gothic mood tonight, anyway."

"Who is it?" she asked.

"Rosetta Stone," he answered as he put on his sunglasses to hide the fact that his eyes were starting to glow. He wrapped one arm around her waist and drew her closer.

 I'm told that eyes
are the windows of the soul
Godspeed be with you
Drawn inside by razor lines
And now I'm up upon the ledge inches beyond the edge
Indications start to shine
Cloud nine white line this time I'm on adrenaline
I'm on adrenaline
I'm on adrenaline
I'm on adrenaline

Although her earplugs muffled the sound of the music, Rogue was still able to feel the vibrations of the bass through the air and floor. She slipped his hands underneath Will's coat and pressed herself against him. I may as well experience some kind of 'bump and grind' tonight, she thought wryly.

Will, surprisingly, didn't seem to mind the close contact. He playfully dipped her down so low that her hair brushed the floor, then drew her back up. She draped her arms around his neck and gave him a beguiling smile. Even through her several layers of clothing, she was able to feel a spark between the two of them, and a warmth beginning to build within her.

Don't get too wound up, she chided herself. It's not worth the grief, and it won't be fair to Will if you're bitchy later. Just relax and enjoy the music.

They danced through several songs, including a medley of Fifties tunes. The next song was a slow tune, and Rogue leaned her head on Will's shoulder, enjoying the feel of his breath wafting through her hair. For a few moments, the rest of the world seemed to fade away, and she was only aware of his presence, of the way his hand rested casually on her hip.

The moment was, if not ruined, at least interrupted when Maire walked up to them and tapped on Will's shoulder. "Sorry to break it up," she apologized, "but I have class in the morning."

"No problem," Will said as he and Rogue disengaged themselves from one another. "We'll drop you off at home, then we and your father can visit the Crypt." They made their way off the dance floor, and Will pulled out his phone and dialed their driver's beeper.

"You two all set to go?" Jeff asked them once they had returned to their table.

Will nodded. "I beeped our driver. Just let me pay for our drinks." One swipe of a credit card later, they left and got back into the limo. Jeff gave the driver his home address, and they were off a moment later.

"So, kidin," Will asked Maire, "did you enjoy yourself?"

Maire's face lit up. "It was the best night I've ever had!" She jumped forward in the seat and embraced him fiercely. "Thank you, Uncle Will!" She turned to Rogue and started to open her arms to hug her. Rogue accepted the hug freely, but was careful to gently direct the girl's head towards her shoulder, rather than against her cheek.

They dropped Nuala and Maire off at their flat, then went back to Jeff's office, where they paid the driver. Will gave the driver a one hundred punt tip. "Thanks for being so patient," Will told the man.

"Thank you, sir," was the reply. "You're the first customer I've had in years who remembered that I was there."

After the limo had driven off, they got into Jeff's Renault, and drove to a flat about fifteen minutes away. "Welcome to the Crypt, May," Jeff said as he parked the car.

"It looks innocent enough," Rogue commented as she glanced at the flat, which looked like every other one on the street.

"Just wait until you get inside," Will told her. He had kept his eyes closed for most of the ride, pleading fatigue as his reason. Rogue had easily surmised, however, that he was reining his powers in so that he would not affect the computers.

As they stepped up to the door, Rogue was slightly startled to find that there was a keypad discreetly hidden on the side of the jamb. Jeff removed a keycard from his jacket pocket, inserted it into a slot on the keypad, then entered a six-digit number. The door clicked a moment later, and they went inside.

The room which they entered was dimly lit, but Rogue was able to see that there were about a dozen surge suppressors on the floor, linking several servers which had been double-stacked. A moment of mental arithmetic told her that there were thirty-six servers in the room. The walls held shelf after shelf of racked CD-RWs, and a grooved track was built into the floor, guiding a robotic arm which fed them into one of four readers. "I'm impressed," she admitted. "Are these things always on?"

"Twenty-four seven," Jeff confirmed. "We're constantly updating our intelligence."

"That why we have the air conditioning on at full blast," Will added. "This place would be a sauna without it. The really expensive part, though, was paying for the emergency generators downstairs."

They walked up a narrow flight of stairs to a plain wooden door which stood against the right wall. Jeff was about to knock on the door when Will tapped him on the shoulder.

"Let me," he whispered, smiling evilly. He stepped forward at Jeff's nod, and changed his expression to one of repressed, cold fury. He firmly rapped on the door three times, then waited.

Rogue's angle of view was not good enough to allow her to see behind the door as it opened inward. The shriek and subsequent slamming of the door, however, were hard to miss.

Will grinned as he looked at her. "I know it's evil, but I just love doing that."

"How long do you want to give them?" Jeff asked.

"Let's make it about three minutes. You did rent the jumbo dumpster this time, right?"

"Right. They threw all the trash and contraband out the window the last time we did this," he explained to Rogue. "It took us two days to clean it all up. We decided to save a step this time and put a dumpster in the alley."

"Makes sense to me."

The sounds of bumping and crashing lasted for about five minutes. When the door opened again, a young man with shoulder-length blond hair stood nervously behind it. "H-hello, Mister Riley," he stammered in an American Midwestern accent.

"Good evening, Mister Holland," Will said smoothly. "Tell me, I'm curious... why was I just shut out of my own facility?"

"I'm sorry, sir, it's just that... er, that is, we weren't expecting you, sir. We needed a moment to clean up."

"Ah. I see." He paused for a moment. "May I come in now?"

"Uh... yeah, sure!" The door was nearly jerked off its hinges by the nervous employee, and Will, Jeff and Rogue calmly stepped inside.

The room they entered was somewhat chilly. This was most likely due to the fact that a window was open. The center of the room was dominated by a workbench which was cluttered by an assortment of electronic components. A single work shelf, interrupted only by doorways, was attached to the walls. Then large-screen workstations were evenly spaced along the work shelf. Another shelf in a corner held several faxes, document scanners, and laser printers. The room was lit primarily by the light from the monitors, and only a single, incandescent light fixture on the ceiling provided any additional illumination.

Five young men dressed in jeans and T-shirts stood nervously, waiting for Will's next move. Rogue guessed that the oldest of them was twenty-five, the youngest sixteen or seventeen. They all had the unnatural pallor of those who rarely venture out into natural light. Three of them were Caucasian, one black, and one Asian.

"Hello, gentleman," Will said in greeting. "I was in the area, and thought that it might be a good idea to see how things were going. Have there been any problems that I should know about?"

"No, sir," the Asian replied quickly. "No problems, no complaints. Would you like a full report?"

"I don't have that kind of time, Harry. Just give me the short version. There are some other things to take care of first, though.

"Gentlemen, It's my pleasure to introduce you to Ms. May O'Hara." He inclined his head towards Rogue. "May, meet the Crypt Crew. This is Mister Roger Holland, Mister Mike Winston, Mister David Ryan, Mister Kevin MacGregor, and Mister Harry Zhao."

Rogue gave each of the men a friendly handshake. "Nice to meet all of you."

"David," Will requested, "I'd like you to help May set up a few alternate identities. Could you run her through the gauntlet?"

"No problem," he replied. "If you'd please follow me, Ma'am? He led Rogue into another room, where a bluescreen was set up against one wall. "If you could stand over there, I can set up the cameras."

"Sure," Rogue agreed with a smile.

She stood and waited while David set up a tripod and digital camera. "All set," he told her a minute later. Then he paused. "Um... I hate to have to tell you this, but..."

"Let me guess," she said dryly, knowing what was coming. "You need me to strip."

He grimaced as he nodded. "That's probably why Mister Riley asked me to do this. You're not my type."

"Care to clarify that?"

"I can ask my boyfriend to explain if you like," he explained as he set up some lights.

"Oh. That's a little different, then." She removed her clothing, placing it on a nearby table, then stood in front of the screen again.

"A little to my right, please... good. Now turn to the right..." He took several shots of her from the front, side, and back. "Now for the tedious part."

"What's that?"

"Look up." She did so and saw another camera, which was mounted onto a track shaped in a half-circle, which was in turn attached to a circular track. "This camera will give me the data needed to create a three-dimensional texture map of your body which we can use to make a computer model. We'll be able to make still pictures of you from any angle, in any outfit. That way, if you need 'proof' that you were somewhere else at some point, we can supply it."

"Good planning," she agreed. "But if I ever see these pictures on the Web..."

"No chance. I'll be encrypting the files myself, and the CDs will be under lock and key. Those perverts out there will never see them."


"Please hold still now," he requested. "This'll take about ten minutes."

She remained motionless as the camera was lowered and began to take a series of pictures. It crossed the length of the half-circle in one second, taking ten pictures as it did so, then moved slightly to her right and repeated the process.

"In case you're wondering," David said, "the camera moves one degree after each pass. We'll end up with thirty-six hundred exposures." He paused a moment. "Maybe that was the wrong word to use. Anyway, once this is done, we'll get pictures of you in high and low heels to get your posture right, then a few of you smiling and talking so I can match your dental profile. Making the teeth look perfect is the first mistake that amateurs make."

Rogue found it difficult to hold still for the required amount of time, but she managed to endure it. She posed while David took pictures at eight different angles of her posture in both sets of heels. She was then asked to give a wide smile, and finally to open her mouth wide and tilt her head forward and back so that he could get good shots of her teeth.

"That should do it," David finally said. "You can get dressed while I process all of this." He sat down in front of the computer and proceeded to ignore her for the next few minutes as he called up files.

Rogue dressed quickly, then stood beside David and watched him work. He pulled up a head shot of her, then ran a program which added a white blouse and suit jacket to her frame. "What color do you want it?" he asked her.

"Kelly green." The color of the suit changed appropriately. After another moment, the blouse was changed to a cream color.

After another five minutes, several other head shots of Rogue were 'clothed' in various suits and casual outfits. "That should be enough," David said. He sent them to the color printer, then pulled up another program. "What languages do you speak?" he asked.

"French, German, Spanish, Russian, and Japanese."

"Good. That means I can be creative." He thought for a moment. "We'll make you a citizen of France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, and the U.S., and vary your age between twenty-four and twenty-seven. Your Irish and U.S. passports will be as May O'Hara. What do you want for a middle name?"

"Irene." That's for you, Destiny, she thought.

"Place of birth?"

"Let's make it Biloxi, Mississippi."

Over the next five minutes, Rogue 'became' Olivia Claubert, a Fashion model from Saint Chapelle, France, Brigette Darkhoelme of Dresden, Germany, Stephanie Robin of Bern, Switzerland, and May Irene O'Hara of Cork, Ireland. David sent the documents to another printer, then opened up a drawer on his desk and fished out the appropriate passport covers. "They should be ready in about ten minutes," he told her. "I'll bring them out to you."

She replied with a nod and headed towards the door, but came back a moment later. "Can you burn me an extra copy of the CD?"

"No problem. Why?"

"That's my little secret. Don't tell your boss."

"Ah," he said, smiling. "One of those secrets."

Rogue grinned and entered the main room again, where she found that Will was instructing the rest of the Crypt Crew on the subjects which he wanted them to focus on for the next few weeks. "Keep an eye on any unusual activity in the business sector. I may be making some large transfers of funds during the next quarter."

"Yes, sir," Harry replied. "Anything else?"

"That should be it for now." He glanced up at Rogue. "Ready, May?"

"Almost. I'm waiting on David. He says ten minutes."

Will nodded, then glanced at the researchers, who were all staring at Rogue with smitten expressions. "Roger, why don't you tell Miss O'Hara a little bit about our setup here?"

Well, Rogue thought to herself, now I know how he earns employee loyalty.

She played dumb for the duration of the tour, during which she was shown the multitude of cable and satellite links that the lab was connected to. She found that she was honestly impressed by their competency. They had managed to push their intelligence capabilities close to the limit of what was available through off-the-shelf technology. They evidently found time to tinker around, as well, because she was given two gifts: a small radar detector which had a range three times greater than standard units, and a small device which would allow her to use a pay phone without putting in any money.

David came back into the lab just as her tour was nearing its end. "Here you go," he told her, handing her a large manila envelope. "The rest is your department, sir," he said to Jeff.

"Are you staying through tomorrow?" Jeff asked Will.

"Probably not. I have to get some things done by tomorrow evening, so we'll probably be out of the country by noon."

Jeff frowned at that. "I can set them up, but they'll take twenty-four hours to process."

"Set up what?" Rogue asked.

"Your line of credit. It'll draw off your share of the fund." He sat down at the terminal and started typing. "Can I see the passports, please?"

Five minutes later, May O'Hara (and her alter egos) had a line of credit through the Bank of Ireland, with the gold card to prove it. "I can take care of the payments if you want," Jeff offered. "One less sheet of paper for you to worry about."

"Sounds good to me," she agreed. "Is there anything else we need to do?"

"That should cover it," Jeff said as he stood up. "I have to get home and get to sleep, Will."

"Sorry, Jeff," Will apologized. "I keep forgetting that you have problems adjusting to my hours. That should do it, gentlemen," he told the Crew. "Keep up the good work, let me know if you need anything, and please remember to go outside once in a while. If you guys don't get some fresh air soon, you're going to develop mildew. Ready, May?"

"All set." She placed her new I.D. back into the envelope and stepped over to the door. "Thanks for all your help, guys," she said to the Crew. "I really appreciate it." She blew them a kiss as she shut the door behind her.

The young men were silent for several moments. "Do you think..."

"If we could ever..."

"Not a chance."

"Lucky bastard."



Continued in Chapter Forty-Seven


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