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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


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 ringing."

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 service?"

"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 dumplings sound?"

"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 much better."

"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?" she murmured.

"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 it."

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 one."

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 husky whisper.

"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 door.

"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, aren't you?"

"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," Will grumbled.

"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 ago."

"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. "Will?"

"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, I guess."

"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 closer."

He nodded again as his face registered his understanding. "Get dressed for bed," he suggested. "I have an idea."

"Okay," she said with a smile. She slipped into the body stocking and mask, then settled onto the bed. "Now what?"

"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 something, anyway."

"What's that?"

"A good tickling," she informed him just before she pounced.

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 her revenge."

"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 to explain."

"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 out."

"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 quietly.

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 noted.

"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 again, though."

"Oh, no," Rogue giggled. "What did she do this time?"

"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' word?"

"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 me."

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 book.

"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 now."

"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 added bonus?"

"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 up."

"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 shopping, too."

"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?" Meggan asked.

"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."

"What's that?"

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 a snack?"

"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 to ourselves."

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 to him?"

"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."

"Why's that?"

"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 fury.

"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 of satisfaction."

"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 48


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