THE ARCHETYPE ASSOCIATION
Jeff dropped Rogue and Will off at their hotel. "You
heading straight back to the States?" he asked.
"We might make a stop in Scotland," Will replied.
"It'll depend on how we feel when we get up. Your phone's
Jeff glanced down at his cellular. "It's Nuala,"
he said as he activated the phone. "Yes, love? I just
dropped them off, and I'm on my way home. Is Maire in bed?
Good." He listened for a moment. "You're wearing
that? I'll be home in twenty minutes. I have to get
home," he said to Will as he put the phone down. "All
that dancing put Nuala in a frisky mood."
"Now aren't you glad I gave you tomorrow off?"
Will called after him as he drove away.
"Something tells me he'll be sleeping late," Rogue
said with a grin.
"And while we're on that subject, I need to hit the
sack. What time is it, anyway?"
"Almost three," she said, glancing at her watch.
"What time did we eat?"
"About seven, I think."
"No wonder I'm hungry. Feel like something from room
"I could stand a bite. I want to get out of these heels
first, though. My feet are killing me."
"I'll give you a foot rub."
"You're too good to me."
They took the elevator up to their room, and Rogue floated
over to a chair and kicked off her heels as soon as Will had
closed the door. "Ooh, my aching legs."
"Just let me order our meal," he requested as he
picked up the menu. "How does a big bowl of stew with
"Add a pint of Guinness to that and you're on."
"No problem." He placed the order and hung up the
phone. "It'll take about ten minutes," he informed
her as he removed his own shoes and sat on the floor in front
of her, tucking one leg underneath him and bending the other
one, placing his foot flat on the floor. "Let's see your
right foot first."
Rogue smiled and leaned back, then balanced her right ankle
on Will's knee. Will began by pressing his thumbs into the
arch of her sole, following the contour of the muscles and
moving upwards towards the ball of her foot. He applied firm
pressure to that area, then bent her toes forward and back
to flex the muscles.
Rogue cooed with pleasure and stretched, arching her back
and raising her arms over her head. "Oh, that's so
"Glad you liked it. Let's see the other foot."
A few minutes later, after she had virtually sunk into the
cushions, Rogue heard a knock at the door. "You got that?"
"Of course. Be right back." She kept her eyes closed,
listening as he stood up and walked over to the door. He opened
it, thanked the bellhop, then closed it again quickly. She
heard the squeak of the cart as he approached her again. "Your
midnight snack is served," he announced.
She opened her eyes and smiled, lifting the glass of stout
off the cart and taking a deep drink. "Oh, I needed that,"
she sighed. "One hot shower, and my night will be complete."
"I think that can be arranged," he told her as
he sipped at his mug of birch beer. "What time did you
want to go to Muir Isle?"
"Let's play it by ear. I feel like sleeping late."
They finished their meal in comfortable silence, and Rogue
pushed her bowl away with a satisfied growl. "That's
it for me. If I have anything else today, I won't be able
to fit into my uniform when we get back."
"I don't think that's going to be a problem," he
assured her. Then he paused for a moment, thinking. "Just
out of curiosity, how much effort does it take for you to
fly? Does it burn off any calories?"
"It depends on what I'm doing. If I'm just hovering,
then it's just like standing up for a long time. Gliding around
is like walking, up to Mach One is like running, and anything
above that is a wind sprint. If I'm carrying something heavy,
then I have to factor that in."
"Does the altitude make any difference?"
"Only if it's high enough to make the air thinner. Sometimes
I like to go high enough to see spots."
"That's risky," he said disapprovingly.
"And standing in front of a bullet isn't?"
"Good point." He finished his stew and placed the
bowl on the tray. "I think I'll get ready for bed."
"Oh no, you won't," she informed him. I made you
an offer last night, and now you're going to take me up on
The look he gave her was bemused. "What offer was that?"
Then his eyes widened. "Oh."
"Well?" she asked coyly as she stood up, tugging
gently at his shirt collar. "Aren't you coming?"
"Now there's a double entendre if I've ever heard
She laughed and continued pulling until he stood up, then
led him towards the spacious bathroom of their suite. After
he sat down on the (lowered) toilet seat, she gently nudged
him so that he sat back. "Just relax," she encouraged
him. "I want you to enjoy yourself."
She reached back and slowly unzipped her skirt, letting it
slip down her thighs and fall to the floor. She had deliberately
chosen her turtleneck for its length, and it reached down
to just below her thighs. She wore a garter belt with her
hose, and she released the clips, then slowly rolled them
down. She balanced the toes of each foot on Will's knee as
she slid the stockings off, causing him to whimper slightly.
"Getting hot and bothered?" she asked him in a
"Oh my, yes," he whispered back.
She grinned. "Good." She stepped back again and
turned around. "Then I'm meeting my goals for tonight."
She pulled her arms inside the sleeves of the turtleneck and,
then reached back and unsnapped her bra, pulling the straps
down her shoulders. She turned around and slipped one hand
out from underneath the turtleneck, bring the bra out with
it. She tossed it to Will with a casual flick of her hand.
Nudging the sliding door to the shower open with her shoulder,
she stepped inside, closing it behind her. The door panel
was made of water glass, and its wavy irregularities distorted
her silhouette just enough to entice the imagination. She
bent down and slipped her panties off, tossing them over the
"Turning the water on might be a nice idea," Will
suggested. He couldn't quite keep his voice from cracking
at the end.
"Hmm," she said, considering it, "good idea,
Here, catch." With one swift motion, she removed the
turtleneck and tossed it over the door. She then bent down
and turned on the water. Within a few seconds, the room began
to fill with steam.
"You're trying to see if you can give me a heart attack,
"You'll recover," she teased. "That's one
of the advantages of being involved with somebody who's immortal."
"There's something unfair about this entire situation,"
"And don't think that I wouldn't take advantage of that,"
she said with a grin. She reached for the shampoo and started
lathering her hair. "I have to entertain myself somehow."
After she rinsed her hair out, she picked up the hotel's
bottle of liquid soap. She poured a generous amount into her
hand, then slather it onto her chest, working it up into a
rich lather. She deliberately shifted her weight and balanced
one leg on the ball of her foot so that Will's view was slightly
obscured. "Enjoying the view?" she asked innocently.
"Immensely so," he said with a lascivious grin.
She glanced downwards for a moment. "So I see."
To his credit, Will was unperturbed. "I refuse to apologize
for a completely involuntary reaction," he said haughtily.
Rogue laughed, then ducked her head into the spray so that
she could rinse her hair off. She opened the shower door and
reached for the tower bar. She then frowned and paused, her
eyes still closed. "Will, where's the towel?"
"What towel?" he asked innocently.
"The towel that was hanging from here not two seconds
"Oh, that towel. It must be the one I'm holding."
"Right," she said suspiciously. "How am I
supposed to dry myself off?"
"Well," he drawled, "while I do admit that
you're quite a glorious sight right now, I was thinking that
I could do the honors. Don't worry," he reassured her,
"I'm still wearing my shirt and gloves."
Rogue thought about it for a moment. "Okay. Is it all
right if I keep my eyes closed?"
"Fine by me," he told her.
She slid the door open all the way and stepped out, then
took another small step forward to give herself some distance
from the stall. "What now?"
"Just hold that pose," his voice told her. A few
seconds later, she felt the soft terrycloth of a bath towel
being wrapped around her. Another, smaller towel was draped
over her head. "We'll take care of your hair last."
Rogue started to say something, but was transported to blissful
silence a moment later when Will began vigorously rubbing
her dry, starting at her shoulders and slowly working his
way down. She shivered with delight when the towel passed
over her hips and buttocks.
"Turn around, please," he requested. She did so,
and he made his way back up. She noticed that he pointedly
avoided one area of her body, although he did seem to enjoy
lingering at her bustline for a little while. He finished
by toweling off her face and arms.
"Done," he announced. She opened her eyes, finding
that he was holding open one of the hotel robes for her. She
graciously slipped her arms into the sleeves, and he tied
the belt around her waist.
"Give me a minute to dry my hair," she murmured
to him, "and I'll be right out."
"Okay," he agreed. "That gives me a chance
to change for bed."
Rogue hummed contentedly to herself as she brushed and dried
her hair. She had surprised herself with her boldness, but
attributed it to the easy familiarity which Jeff and Nuala
had demonstrated earlier in the evening. She wasn't exactly
jealous, but she did feel a need to reaffirm her bond with
Will. The electricity that had flowed between them while they
had danced had only reaffirmed that desire. The question was
how best to go about it.
By the time she had stepped back into their suite, she had
decided that it would be best to confront the problem directly.
"Yes?" He had already changed into his maroon pajamas,
and was sitting at the desk.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Anything, love. You know that."
She hesitated for a moment, unsure of how to put her feelings
into words. "I was wondering... do you have any ideas
about how we can... I don't know... intensify our relationship?
Physically, I mean?"
He looked at her for a moment, seemingly surprised at her
question. "Well," he said, pondering, "I guess
that's up to you. Just what do you want?"
"I'm not sure," she admitted as she sat down on
the bed. "It's just that I'm feeling a bit... wistful,
"About your powers?" He asked gently.
"Not exactly," she said, considering it. "Well,
kind of... it's sort of hard to explain..."
"You don't have to, then."
"No, I think I do. Maybe explaining it to you can help
me clear it up inside my own head."
He nodded. "That makes sense. Go on."
She thought for a moment. "When I watched Jeff and Nuala
touching and holding each other, I started wondering if that'll
ever be possible for us. This isn't about sex," she assured
him. "I'm just looking for other ways that we can get
He nodded again as his face registered his understanding.
"Get dressed for bed," he suggested. "I have
"Okay," she said with a smile. She slipped into
the body stocking and mask, then settled onto the bed. "Now
"Well," he said as he dimmed the light and stepped
over to the bed, sitting behind her, "Let's just see
where things take us." He wrapped his arms around her,
embracing her softly, and drew her close. "We'll do whatever
you want to try. You take the lead."
"Okay," she said with a smile. "I owe you
"A good tickling," she informed him just before
She wasn't actually sure if Will was ticklish, but his nearly
electric reaction supported her theory. She tormented him
for a few minutes, letting him squirm, then gave him a chance
to catch his breath.
"Okay," he said, gasping, "you got your revenge."
"Maybe," she drawled. "Or maybe I'll just
get it in bits and pieces."
"Actually, that's how your mother threatened to get
"Ouch," she giggled. She turned around and leaned
into him, shivering as he nipped at the hollow of her throat.
"You're getting very good at this," she noted.
"I've got a big incentive to improve," he whispered
into her ear. He then proceeded to nibble on said ear for
a few seconds, causing her to gasp in delighted pleasure.
"I like seeing you happy."
"What about seeing yourself happy?"
"What do you mean?"
Rogue sighed. She hated to ruin the moment, but it was the
best opportunity that she'd had yet to discuss the problem.
"Remember what you said the last time we did this? You
said that you were afraid that you wouldn't be able to hold
yourself back. Why is it so important for you to do that?
Why are you afraid to lose control?"
His expression sobered, and he shifted position so that she
was sitting in his lap. "It's not something that's easy
"Try," she asked. "Please. Maybe I've been
there. Maybe I can help."
His eyes went distant, and he paused for a moment as he gathered
his thoughts. "It took me a few months to pull myself
together after I woke up in my cabin. I'd be rational for
a few days, then slip back into the mindset of an animal.
I spent days at a time fighting to control myself again...
keeping the inner beast locked in its cage. I'm sure that
Logan could relate to me situation. Then, once I became aware
of the Chorus, I had to teach myself how to tune it out enough
to be able to hear my own thoughts." His head dropped.
"I'm terrified that if I let go of what little control
I have, I'll never be able to get it back. If that happens,
I'll fall into a pit, and I'll never be able to pull myself
"So you're going to keep your emotions under a lid for
the rest of your life? However long that could wind up being?
Let's be honest, Will, that's not realistic. You can't expect
yourself to be under control all the time. You need to let
yourself relax your discipline once in a while." She
placed one hand on his chin and tilted his head up so that
he looked at her. "I won't let you fall," she said
He looked at her for a moment, then nodded reluctantly. Exhaling
slowly, he relaxed, letting Rogue support his weight. She
cradled his head against her chest for a few moments, then
eased him back onto the bed. "You look tired," she
"I am," he admitted. "Keeping my powers reined
in tonight was a pain."
"Well," she told him with a smile, "I'll do
what I can to make you feel better."
He touched one hand to her cheek. "You make me feel
better just by being here."
"That's sweet," she said, "but I think I can
help the process along a bit." She unbuttoned his pajama
top and opened it, exposing his chest. She repositioned herself
so that she straddled his hips, then began to lightly massage
his shoulders. As she did so, she covered his face and neck
with soft, gentle kisses.
At first, Will remained tense, but after a few minutes, he
began to relax. As he focused less on his inner anxieties
and more on the sensations which Rogue was causing in him,
his eyes closed and his facial muscles began to go loose.
Rogue watched in amazement as he seemed to slowly become,
if not younger, at least more youthful. "Wow," she
whispered to herself.
He opened one eye. "What?"
"You really are relaxed," she told him.
I haven't seen you looking this calm in a long time."
"I haven't had such pleasant company," he said
with a smile as he wrapped his arms around her and started
to pull her closer to him.
"Oh, no," she said as she pulled herself back up,
"I'm in charge here, remember? You can just sit
on your hands for a while."
"You do realize that you're driving me crazy?"
"Of course I do. That's what makes this fun." She
traced her fingers down and across his chest, then kissed
him deeply on the lips. She stretched out her legs and linked
her fingers with his, effectively laying her body fully atop
his. "I have to maintain my reputation as a sex kitten."
"That one went right over my head."
"When I first joined the team, Logan and Kurt joked
that no man in town would be safe on the day I learned to
control my powers. To get even, I vamped it up for a few weeks."
"So who said that your being a sex kitten was an act?"
"Why, thank you," she cooed, letting her drawl
creep in full force. Then she let out a yawn. "Feel like
going to sleep now?"
"Only if you're beside me," he said as he wrapped
his arms around her.
"I think that could be arranged," she advised him
as she shut off the bedside lamp.
They had a light brunch at about ten the next morning. Once
they were packed, Will handed Rogue his phone, and she called
Kitty at Muir Isle. "We'll be there in about fifteen
minutes," she said.
"Can I talk to her for a second?" He took the phone
and placed it to his ear. "Ms. Pryde? I would appreciate
it if, during the next fifteen minutes, you spoke with each
and every member of Excalibur, and advised them of our arrival.
I would really like to avoid a repeat of what happened the
last time I visited you." He listened for a moment. "Thank
you. We will see you in a few minutes. Good bye." He
shut the phone and placed it in his jacket pocket. "Ready
to check out?" he asked Rogue.
"All set," she told him as she picked up her bag.
Ten minutes later, they walked out of the hotel and made
a turn into the first space between buildings which they found.
A moment later, they were approaching the residential complex
of Muir Isle.
Kurt opened the door just as they came close to it. "Hello,
you two!" he said warmly, embracing Rogue and shaking
Will's hand. "How did your business go?"
"I made a few punts," Will said blandly. "How
have things been here?"
"Quiet, thank goodness. Kitty's been amusing herself
"Oh, no," Rogue giggled. "What did she do
"For the past six hours, every time the Web site for
the British branch of the Friends of Humanity gets hit, they
get charged for a year-long subscription to Britain's largest
gay porn site."
"That's good," Will said admiringly. "That's
very good. I'll have to keep it in mind. I'll catch
up with you in a moment."
They entered the building, where they were greeted by Kitty.
"Hi, Rogue!" she said cheerfully as she embraced
the other woman. "I heard that you got Mister Mystic
here to say the 'L' word. How did you manage it?"
"I wouldn't recommend the process," Will advised.
"It involves getting shot."
"That would be a drawback," Kitty agreed as she
shook his hand. "How hot are your powers running today?"
"About average. There shouldn't be any problems."
He hefted his computer. "I thought that you might want
to take a look at the new toy Forge gave me. Just try not
to erase the hard drive, please."
"No problem. Peter and Rahne should be should be down
in a minute, I tried to wake Pete up early, but he's not ready
to face other human beings just yet. Give him another hour
or so, and he should be presentable."
"Fair enough," Rogue agreed. "Come on, we
can catch up on things while you're tearing the computer apart.
Besides, I want your help on a project."
Once Kitty and Rogue had left, Kurt turned to Will. "So,
what did it take for you two to break down and say the 'L'
"A shooting, a stabbing, and a nervous breakdown,"
Will replied seriously.
"That's nothing unusual for the X-folks. You already
fill the 'death and resurrection' category, so you shouldn't
have to worry about any imposters."
"I doubt if that's going to be a problem. Redheads are
common enough, but redheads with white forelocks and prefect
bodies who can fly, bench forty tons, and possess a voice
that can make your glasses steam up? Not a chance."
Rahne and Piotr greeted Will a few minutes later, and Moria
took a few moments away from her research to say hello.
"Mister Riley," Piotr requested, "I was wondering
if you would agree to pose so that I could make a sketch of
you. Kitty pointed out after your last visit that you are
the only X-Man who I have not portrayed."
"I have no objections, Mister Rasputin. Would you prefer
that I be in uniform or civilian clothes?"
Piotr thought about it for a moment. "Why don't you
change into your uniform, and I will see what looks better?"
"That makes sense. I'll be right back." He teleported
away, returning about a minute later with his uniform in his
hands. "Just give me a moment to change. Where do you
want to do this?"
"Moria lets me use an empty storeroom as a studio. Rahne
can take you there after you change."
"You can use the bathroom," Rahne offered. "Follow
Eight minutes later, Will stepped back into the hall. "All
set," he told Rahne. "Lead the way."
Piotr was preparing his canvas when they walked in. "I
am almost ready," he told them.
"No need to rush," Will told him. "Any ideas
for a pose?"
"I might have one," Rahne offered. "Rogue
said that you view the collective consciousness as a giant
library. Is that right?" When Will nodded, she continued.
"Well, why don't you hold your sword in one hand, and
a book in the other?"
"I like that idea," Peter decided. "We could
pile some other books around you, and you could roll one sleeve
back to show your tattoos."
"Sounds good," Will agreed.
Rahne led him to the Center's library, where they grabbed
several old volumes, bringing them back to the studio and
stacking them around the chair. Will sat down, spreading out
his coat and letting some of the books lean against him. "Would
you like my eyes to glow?"
"If you could, please."
Will grabbed his sword out of the air, placing its tip on
the floor. He put his glasses on, then rolled his left sleeve
back. He glanced at his left arm, and the dragons there rose
up and extended to about twenty centimeters away from his
wrist. "Now all I need is something to read."
"Anything in particular?" Rahne asked.
"Something historical would be nice." A few minutes
later, he was engrossed in a boo on Czarist Russia which Piotr
had just finished. His eyes glowed just enough to be noticeable,
and the dragons positioned themselves to help support the
"Perfect!" Piotr declared as he picked up his brush
and palette. "Now hold still while I set up an outline."
"No problem," Will said without moving his lips.
Almost two and a half hours later, the portrait was finished.
"Done," Piotr announced. "You can stand up
"Just let me finish this paragraph," Will muttered.
About ten seconds later, he stood up with a groan and stretched.
"Is it ready for viewing yet?"
"I need to add some details, but the basic elements
are there. Tell me what you think."
Will walked around to the other side of the easel. He studied
the painting for several long moments, then nodded in approval.
"Very nice work, Mister Rasputin. Do you always use watercolors?"
"For portraits, yes. They take the least time to dry.
Speaking of which..." He set up a heat lamp in front
of the canvas and turned it on. "I can add the details
in about an hour. It should be ready for transport in three
hours or so."
"In that case, I think I'll change back into my civvies.
Then we can see what the ladies are up to."
"So do you think you can do it?" Rogue asked.
"No problem," Kitty replied confidently. "Ororo,
Jean and Betsy all agreed to be in on it?"
"It's the only way we can make it work." She paused
a moment, then grinned. "You want to help spring it?"
"Why not?" Kitty thought for a moment. "I
even have the perfect outfit. I bought it to tease Pete, but
it'll be just right for this." She turned her attention
back to Will's computer, which had been opened up so that
she could study the components. "Just give me a minute
to put this back together, and I'll get right on it."
"How long should it take?"
"About an hour and a half. Less if you help me get all
the components together." She gestured to a shelf of
drawers against one wall, which held various electronic parts.
"No problem. Start giving me some lists."
After about an hour, Kitty had progressed enough for the
structure of the objects to start taking shape. "They're
smaller than I expected," Rogue observed.
"I thought it'd be nice if they weren't too noticeable.
This way, they'll fit right into a pocket, or onto one of
our equipment belts." She finished a connection, then
pointed to the object. "And how's that for an
"Nice. And they'll all be linked with the main unit?"
"Along with each other. Should come in handy if you're
ever separated. The link range should be about a kilometer."
She glanced up at the wall clock. "I should wake Pete
"He's still asleep?"
"Pete could sleep all day if you let him. Just give
me a few minutes to toss him out of bed and into the shower."
"What if he decides to toss you back into
bed?" Rogue asked with a knowing wink.
"I still know more about martial arts than he does."
They stepped out of Kitty's workshop and walked down the
hallway to the residential wing. As they approached the kitchen,
they found Meggan vainly trying to suppress giggles. "What's
up?" Kitty asked.
Meggan looked at Rogue. "That boyfriend of yours is
a very twisted man."
"What did he do this time?"
"Come on." They followed Meggan into the Lounge,
where Wisdom and Will sat on a couch. Rahne, Piotr, Kurt,
and Amanda were sitting at the breakfast bar, all grinning
broadly. They motioned Kitty and Rogue to silence.
"What are they doing?" Rogue whispered to Meggan.
"The Sex Pistols," Meggan replied.
"Ready?" Will asked Wisdom.
"Ready," was the slurred response.
"One, two, three..."
"We're the muuutants,
no one liiiikes ussssss,
and we don't caaaarrrre!"
Kitty burst into laughter, then covered her mouth. "You're
evil," she told Will once she had composed herself.
"It's a gift."
Once Wisdom had showered and downed several cups of black
coffee, he was a bit more presentable. "So what's the
plan for today, Pryde?"
"Good question. Feel like joining Meggan and me on a
shopping trip, Rogue?"
"Sounds good to me. What about you, Will?"
"I could stand some time at a bookstore," he decided.
"What about you, Miss Sinclair?"
"I'm not one for clothes shopping," Rahne admitted.
"I could use a few new books, though. Is it all right
if I go along with you?"
"I'd be delighted. And you, Mister Wagner?"
"Well, I do need to get a new copy of Captain Blood."
He looked meaningfully at Wisdom.
"All right, all right," the Englishman said, raising
his hands in surrender, "I'm sorry I taped over your
copy. I'll pay for a new one."
"Do you need anything for your magical studies, liebchen?"
Kurt asked Amanda.
"No, I stocked up last time. I think I'll go clothes
"Where were you planning o going?" Will asked politely.
"I'd like to avoid London if I can."
"Does Edinburgh sound good?" Kitty inquired.
"I can teleport us there in five minutes."
Six minutes later, they all appeared in a stairwell near
the center of town. "What time does everybody want to
meet back here?" Kitty asked.
"Two hours sounds about right," Meggan decided.
"Would you mind leading the way to the bookstore, Miss
Sinclair?" Will requested.
"Follow me," Rahne said with a smile. "See
you guys later!"
"Come on, Wagner," Wisdom muttered. "I'm not
going to get trapped into looking at women's knickers all
day long." He gave Kitty a quick peck on the cheek. "See
you later, Pryde."
"Do you have your heart set on anything, Rogue?"
"I have a few ideas. You lead the way."
Rahne led Will to the bookstore, where she went straight
to the Christian fiction shelves. Will spent his time bouncing
between the history, psychology, metaphysics, and true crime
aisles. After about an hour, they decided that they each had
enough books to keep them busy for a while. "I'll pay
for everything," Will offered. "I did well enough
this quarter to celebrate for a few days."
"Thanks. Oh, that reminds me. I wanted to ask if you
could help me find a few good books on Celtic history. I got
interested in it after your last visit with us."
"Are you interested more in the history or the mythology?"
"Both, Really. I just want to start looking into my
heritage a bit more."
Will thought for a moment. "I think I can come up with
a few books for you from my library. Have you ever gone to
see Hadrian's Wall?"
I keep meaning to, but something always comes up."
"You have a bit of ethnic pride involved in the Wall.
The Romans conquered the Greeks, the Egyptians, and the Gauls.
Then they come to Scotland, where they find legions of naked
hairy, blue screaming men and women. They say 'to hell with
this', then build a big honking wall to keep the weirdos out."
Rahne laughed at that image. "Well, the hairy part I
can understand. But how do naked and blue come into it?"
"The Celts... men and women... went into battle nude.
It was a way to intimidate the enemy... 'I don't even need
my clothes to deal with you'. As for the blue part, the Celts
mixed up a sort of blue pasty make-up that they called woad.
They put all sorts of mystical designs on their bodies to
protect themselves in battle. Since the Celts grew their hair
long, and the men favored thick beards and mustaches... one
Roman writer said that the Celts could strain wine with their
whiskers... they also put woad in their hair to make it stiff,
so that it would stand out straight."
Rahne tried to visualize that. "It sounds so bizarre."
Will agreed with a nod. "And then, of course, they sang
while they put all this stuff on."
"What did they sing?"
"'On the woad again, I'm sittin' here just puttin' on
the woad again...'"
Rahne groaned and buried her face in one hand. "Rogue
warned me about your puns."
"Then you should have seen that one coming."
"She also told me what to do about them."
Rahne replied by snatching Will's hat off his head and hitting
him with it.
"Oh." He pulled out his pocket watch and looked
at it. "We've still got some time to kill. Feel like
"Sure," she replied. "There's a nice bakery
three blocks down."
As they made their way down the street, Will stopped suddenly.
"What's wrong?" Rahne asked him.
"There's magic nearby," he said in a low voice,
"and it's directed towards us." He nodded towards
a nearby alley. "Go in there. We don't want to draw attention
Once they had entered the alleyway, which was halfway in
shadow due to the angle of the sun, and put their packages
down, Rahne shifted to her transitional form. "Just in
case," she told Will.
"Good idea," he agreed. "I'd better..."
He never got to finish the sentence, because a bolt of bluish
energy shot into the alleyway, hitting him in the chest and
hurling him against the far wall. He gasped in pain as he
felt two of his ribs crack with the impact. The bolt remained,
keeping him suspended and off his feet.
"Well, well, well," a voice said. "It looks
like the disciple is not as powerful as his reputation suggests."
Rahne turned towards the voice, seeing a blond man with Teutonic
features stepping into the alleyway.
"Emrys!" Will hissed, bringing a bubble of blood
up to his mouth. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Eliminating a rival," the German sorcerer said
calmly. "My new master decided to give me quite the power
boost." He shrugged. "It cost me my soul, but you
can't have everything."
"I can't die, you idiot," Will snapped.
"Don't you even do basic research?"
"True, but I can wipe your mind easily enough. All that
will be left is a living lump of power that I can draw energy
from. And with your power added to mine, defeating Strange
will be child's play."
Rahne growled from deep in her throat. "You won't get
it without a fight, you damned fool."
"And what are you going to do about it, little
wolf-girl?" Emrys snapped his fingers. "Ah! I
know!" he exclaimed as a ball of energy formed in his
hand. "You're going to die!" With a flick
of his fingers, he sent the sphere hurtling towards Rahne.
Just as Rahne was starting to brace herself against the impact,
one of the shadows of the alley rose up and enveloped the
fireball, snuffing it out. Before any of the three combatants
could even register their surprise, the shadows began to darken
and coagulate, and a whispering noise appeared to surrounded
them, seemingly coming from all directions.
"How are you doing this!?" Emrys demanded of Will,
his voice becoming shrill. "You have no power!"
Will responded with a cold smile. "That doesn't mean
that I don't have allies."
Will glanced at Rahne, then back at Emrys. "Do not
kill him," he instructed the shadows. "My
friend would frown on it. Otherwise... use your imagination."
The shadows leapt out and surrounded Emrys, who was gesturing
wildly and babbling as he sent bolt after bolt of energy into
them. Slowly, the shadows began to spin, forming a miniature
cyclone, which enveloped the magician, who was beginning to
scream in terror. As he started to sink into the vortex, the
screaming died out. A few moments later, the vortex narrowed
and slowed, and finally faded away.
Will strained his arms for a moment, and the energy which
was holding him vanished with the sound of breaking glass.
He landed on his feet, then walked over to Rahne. "Are
you all right?" he asked.
She nodded. "He never touched me." She stared at
the spot where Emrys had stood. "What's going to happen
"He'll be stripped of his power and get dropped back
in this alley sometime tonight. He won't be physically hurt."
He broke into a vicious grin. "But he will, never,
ever, sleep soundly again." He wiped the blood
off his mouth with his handkerchief and looked at it with
distaste. "At least my clothes are still in good shape.
I just got this outfit." He picked up his books and
looked at her. "You ready?"
"Sure," she said dubiously as she picked up her
packages, shifting back to her human form in the process.
They walked out of the alley, returning to the street and
continuing on their way.
"You took that whole thing pretty well," he commented
in his normal voice as they crossed the street. "I was
expecting you to get a bit moralistic on me."
She shrugged. "The sorts of things that we've been running
into since Mister Wisdom joined have made me appreciate the
grey areas of life a bit more. I might not agree with the
way you do things, but that doesn't give me the right to say
that you're wrong." She thought for a moment. "You
know, I wouldn't have said that a year ago."
"I've been thinking a lot about why I've been so...
I guess the word I'm looking for is extremist, in the past.
Do you know why Lady Moria took me in?"
"I'm afraid not," Will admitted. "I've been
to busy lately to keep up with my studies on X-history."
For the next few minutes, Will became increasingly horrified
and enraged as Rahne calmly described her treatment and near-death
due to the instigation of Reverend Craig. Her final revelation,
that Craig was her father, made him go nearly beet-red with
"Your own father was willing to burn you to death?"
he asked in a voice that quaked with anger.
Rahne nodded calmly. "I think that I reminded him too
much of my mother. He couldn't deal with his own guilt, so
he took it out on me. The fact that I turned out to be a mutant
was a convenient excuse to get rid of me... permanently."
She noticed how Will's expression was becoming progressively
murderous, and hastily tried to calm him. "I confronted
him about the whole thing not long ago. I got my own measure
"I hope it was something satisfyingly bloody."
"Oh, no, nothing like that. Let's just say that I hit
him where I knew it would hurt... in the Bible Belt."
Continued in Chapter
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