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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


Everyone met back at the stairway where they had appeared upon arriving in Edinburgh. "Did anybody forget anything?" Will asked.

"No, I think we got everything we needed," Amanda replied. She was carrying several packages in her hands, and had foisted one or two others onto Kurt.

"Did you get your movie?" Rahne asked Kurt.

"Yeah," Wisdom grumbled, "he got it. It cost me thirty quid."

"I decided to test my new card," Rogue told Will. "It worked like a charm."

"Good. Shall we get going, then?" They descended the stairs until they were out of the sight of passersby on the street, and Will teleported them back to Muir Isle.

"Your timing is perfect," Piotr said once Kitty announced that they had returned. "The painting just finished drying. Would you all like to take a look?"

They waited for a moment while Piotr brought out the canvas and easel. He set up the easel so that it faced away from the others and placed the canvas on it.

The entire group walked over to the other side of the easel and took a good look at it. There was silence for a few moments. "I like it," Rahne said. "What do you think, Kitty?"

"Very nice," Kitty agreed. "It's a little different than your usual style, Peter."

"It seemed appropriate for the subject. Kurt?"

"A very dramatic approach."

The painting showed Will... or, more accurately, Archetype... sitting in the chair, which Piotr had changed to an ornately carved, wooden one. The luminescence of his eyes gave his face an almost eerie glow. His left hand rested on the pommel of a sword, but his right hand was free, since the serpents which writhed along his arm were supporting the book which he read. The chair sat atop a mountain of books, one of many in the picture. The sky was broken by rolling clouds, with the occasional bolt of lightning adding emphasis to the scene. A hole in the clouds revealed a crescent moon and some stars.

"Nice work, Petey," Rogue said in congratulations. "Were you going to keep it?"

Piotr shook his head. "I ran out of room on my walls months ago. You can have it," he told Will.

"I really don't have the wall space myself," Will admitted. "Most of my room is taken up by bookshelves."

"I'll take it," Rogue offered. "I can use it as blackmail material later."

"Just give me a few minutes to wrap it up," Piotr requested. "I would be very... annoyed... if it were damaged."

"No rush." Will said. "I'll need some time to rest once we teleport back, anyway."

Rogue gave him a suspicious look. "Why? What happened?"

"Remember Eddie Emrys from Chicago? He tried to take me down."

"What could that idiot do against you?" Amanda asked incredulously.

"Let me," Rahne requested. At Will's nod, she explained what had happened earlier that day, but paused for a moment. "What do I call your friends?"

"You can call them the Nameless Ones, I suppose. It's an accurate description, and it doesn't bind them to anything. And I wouldn't exactly call them friends. Allies is probably closer to the truth."

"They do know that I'm on your side, right?" Amanda asked nervously.

Will nodded. "I wouldn't worry. I don't think that neutral or beneficent magic would set them off. They're more likely to react to magic with malicious intent attached to it."

Piotr came back about three minutes later, with the painting in his hands. "I placed dry mounting boards on both sides of the canvas. That and the butcher paper should protect everything."

"It won't exactly be a long trip," Rogue pointed out as she took it from Piotr and placed it next to her luggage. "Was there anything else?" she asked Will.

"Kitty still has my computer," he pointed out.

"I almost forgot," Kitty admitted. "Just give me a second." She walked through the wall to her right and whisked down the hall to her workshop. After taking a moment to make sure that she was completely solid (she still phased inadvertently every once in a while), she grabbed Will's laptop and placed her latest creations in a shopping bag from a London clothing store. She then took the bag and left the room via the door. A moment later, she handed Will the computer. "Here you go. And you forgot this one," she told Rogue as she gave her the bag. "I'd keep it, but it isn't my size."

"Thanks. I'll give you a call later." She glanced at her watch. "What time is it in New York, anyway?"

"About three A.M.," Pete replied after a moment's thought. "I had to get used to having contacts in different time zones in my Black Air days," he said in response to the looks he got.

"Ah," Will replied. He glanced to his left, and a Door appeared a moment later. "After you," he said to Rogue. He followed her, and an instant later, they were back in the foyer of the mansion.

"I wonder who's on watch," Rogue thought aloud. She walked over to the nearest terminal and tapped at it. A few keystrokes later, she had opened a channel to the monitor room. "This is Rogue and Will reporting in. Who's down there tonight?"

"This is Dr. McCoy, my dear. How was your trip?"

"Nice and uneventful," she told him. "How about things here?"

"The same. Are you two going straight to bed?"

"Probably. We'll see you sometime tomorrow. Good night." She clicked off the intercom and glanced at Will. "Are you going straight to bed?"

"I'm taking a shower first. Remind me to send Jeff an email tomorrow, once our 'flight' gets in."

"Right. See you later."

Rogue awoke just before noon, and entered the kitchen just as lunch was being put on the table. "Mornin'," Logan said in greeting as she sat down. "You two enjoy yourselves?"

"Yeah, we did," she confirmed as she took a roll and spooned several meatballs into it. "I was able to learn a bit about Will's finances. He is a lot richer than we thought."

Betsy, who was sipping at her drink, raised one eyebrow curiously. "I thought he was worth ten or eleven billion."

"Try forty-five billion." A moment later, she was slapping Betsy across her back as the telepath tried to recover from choking on her drink. "You okay?"

"Don't ever do that to me while I'm eating," she begged.

"Sorry. Hi, 'Roro."

"Good afternoon, Rogue. How was your trip?"

"Enjoyable. Kitty made the items we wanted. She wants in, by the way."

"Oh, good," Betsy said with a wicked smile. "Jean and I were let in on it yesterday. When do you want to spring it on him?"

"Why not today?"

"I'll call Muir and let Kitty know so Amanda can bring her over."

Logan looked at the three women suspiciously. "Do I really want to know what you have planned?"

"No," they said in unison.

"I didn't think so."

Will awoke at about two, took a decadently long shower, then hopped into jeans and a flannel shirt. Just before he opened his door to enter the hallway, he noticed that a note, in Rogue's handwriting, had been taped to it. He plucked the note off and read it.

We have to talk about something. Go straight to the parlor. Bring your laptop.

One minute later, he stepped into the parlor, where he found that Xavier, Logan, Scott, Warren, Bishop and Bobby were waiting for him. "What's this all about?" he asked.

"We honestly don't know," Xavier admitted. He gestured to the easy chair which had been placed in the center of the room. "You're supposed to sit there."

Will settled into the chair. "Okay. Now what?"

"Well, I've been instructed to give you this." He handed Will a small envelope. "Don't open it yet." He held up another envelope. "I'm supposed to read this to you first."

"Go ahead, then."

Xavier ripped open the envelope and removed a single sheet of paper. "'Dear Will,'" he read. "'It has come to our attention that your recently increased involvement in financial and social matters has become a source of stress fir you. In the interests of team solidarity, it is vital that you remain focused. We have, therefore, devised a new protocol to prevent future difficulties, one which was inspired by your literary interests. You are hereby instructed to open the envelope in your hand and to read the contents in a firm and authoritative manner.'" He put the letter down and shrugged.

Will blinked, then opened his own envelope, pulling out a small card. After glancing at it, he burst into laughter. "Oh, they wouldn't!" he exclaimed.

"What?" Henry asked. "What does it say?"

Will didn't answer, but turned his head to one side. "Front!"

From the hallway, a voice called back.


A moment later, Kitty walked into the room. She wore a cream-colored blouse and a calf-length black skirt, a combination which would have been considered conservative had the skirt not been slit to mid-hip. She had pulled her hair back into a bun, and had perched her glasses on the end of her nose. She held a small personal data assistant in her hands. "You wanted something, Boss?"

As Will (and Logan) began to roar with laughter, Betsy strode into the room, dressed in an immaculately tailored navy pantsuit. "You called?" she asked Will as she touched a stylus to her own PDA.

Ororo stepped in three seconds later, wearing a black thigh-high skirt and a loose-fitting white turtleneck. Her hair was tied back in a loose ponytail, and she had a pen nestled behind one ear. "Was there something?" she inquired.

"Think she'll do it?" Henry asked Scott in a whisper.

"Probably," Scott replied. "I'd be disappointed if she didn't."

A heartbeat later, Jean walked into the room dressed in an outfit which could only be described as every schoolboy's dream teacher... or, at least, an adolescent schoolboy's dreams. Her short tweed skirt and matching jacket were set off by a bright red turtleneck and green hose.

By this point, Will was laughing so hard that he was having trouble breathing. After about thirty seconds, he was able to get himself under control. "And where, pray tell, is the mastermind of this devious plot?"

"You have to say the magic word," a voice singsonged from outside the room.

"Okay, please."

"Wrong word," the women said in unison.

"Oh." He glanced at the card. "Front!"

Rogue stepped into the room, and the men's jaws collectively dropped. Her black leather skirt barely qualified for the thigh-high category, and was so tight that it was quite possible that her super-strength was the only thing which allowed her to move. She wore the white stockings which she had purchased while in Chicago, and a pair of stiletto heels which should probably have been registered as deadly weapons. Her blouse was almost indecently tight, and had several of the upper buttons undone, revealing a black bandeau bra, along with more than a bit of cleavage. She had restyled her hair into a peek-a-boo, covering one eye and partially hiding her smile. "Yes, Boss?" she asked with a husky sigh.

It took Will a moment to answer, as he had to suppress the impulse to drool. "Memo," he said in a businesslike voice.

Rogue produced her own PDA from a pouch on her belt. "Ready."

"Subject for research: the human female. Are they truly conniving, manipulative, devious creatures... or do they have some bad points?" He burst into laughter again. "Seriously, what's the idea behind all this?"

"We decided that you'd be more receptive to the idea if we could get you to laugh about it," Jean told him. "We are serious about the concept, though."

"What concept is that?" Charles asked.

"That he needs some kind of personal assistant to help him keep track of things," Kitty explained. "Otherwise, he's going to get overwhelmed."

"So we four decided to split up the duty," Ororo added. "This way, it's more like a hobby than a job."

"And thanks to these," Betsy said as she held up her PDA, "we'll all have access to the same information."

"What do you mean?" Will asked.

"I designed them to be compatible with your laptop," Kitty informed him. "They all recognize handwriting and store voice data, and they'll automatically update your computer and each other. They all have GPS chips, so you'll be able to tell where everybody is, they'll act as communicators, and they'll all work simultaneously."

Will took Kitty's PDA and examined it. "It has the same security protocols as my computer?"

"They go beyond it, actually." She touched her thumb to a touchscreen set underneath the main display. "This checks for fingerprints and does a genetic scan epidermal cells by using an ultraviolet laser. Combined, they should be able to block anything short of a shapeshifter. Since we all wear gloves a lot, the stylus will also do a scan if you touch it to your skin. The main unit also checks for voiceprint."

"Can the stylus be used to check anyone's DNA?" Xavier asked.

Kitty shook her head. "Not yet. I still have to work out some of the glitches that keep popping up in the program. I know I can do it, but I need enough uninterrupted time at my computer before I can torture the bugs into submission. All the unit can do right now is confirm a pattern that's already in the memory. I set the genetic markers on each unit for its user, and for Will. It can home in on our communicators, though. Once I finish debugging the scan program and figure out how to pack more memory and speed into the units, I can do an upgrade. I'm going to work on making them mini-Cerebros, too."

"The color display is a nice touch, by the way," Will said in compliment.

"Is there a self-destruct function?" Bishop asked. "I wouldn't like to see this technology fall into the hands of opponents... or the general public, for that matter."

"Neither would I," Kitty agreed. "There's a program in the operating system called Napalm. It'll wipe the memory, then send a command to crack open two small caplets that are inside the unit. Once the contents mix, they'll burn, and this thing," she said, tapping at the PDA, "becomes a charcoal briquette."

"Can that program be triggered remotely?"

"From the laptop, the mansion, Muir Isle, the Blackbirds, or the Midnight Runner. It'll take the agreement of three senior team members to do it, though."

"You've outdone yourself this time, Kitty," Henry said admiringly.

Kitty responded with a smile and a slight curtsey as she swished her skirt to the side. "Can you get me back to Muir?" she asked Will. "Pete and I were planning on going out tonight."

"No problem," Will said. After Kitty finished saying goodbye to everyone, he opened a Door. "Tell Rahne I said hi."

"I will," she promised before giving him a light peck on the cheek and vanishing into the Door.

Once the portal had closed, Will turned to the other X-Women. "Can I get back to work, or are you ladies not done embarrassing me yet?"

"Well," Rogue thought out loud, "I still have to show them the painting."

He rolled his eyes. "In that case, I'll be in my workshop." He picked up his laptop and disappeared.

About an hour later, Rogue sashayed into Will's workshop, where he was putting on a tool belt. "Want any help?" she asked.

"Sure." He filled a pouch on the belt with roofing nails. "I was going to start replacing the roof."

"So the old one has to go?"

He nodded. "I'd like to recycle the wood, but the tar and shingles make that impossible. I'll just have to dump it."

"I'll toss the old panels in the dumpster. Want me to rip them off? It'll be faster."

"Okay. Just make sure not to damage the rafters."

A few well-placed, enhanced-strength taps were enough to dislodge the wooden panels, and she simply tossed them over to one side of the building. She did a quick inspection to make sure that there were no loose nails, then landed. "Now what?"

"Well, if you'll grab a hammer..."

A few minutes later, they were nailing a new sheet of OSB plywood onto the roof. After about an hour of cutting and hammering, the last piece was fitted into place. Logan sauntered over just as they came back down. "Nice work," he said after glancing at the roof.

"Thanks," Will replied. "The next step is the tar paper."

"I'll get it." He took one of the rolls of paper out of the building while Will and Rogue went back onto the roof. He tossed the roll to Rogue, and she and Will started unrolling it and nailing the sheet down. Logan, meanwhile, started bringing out the bundles of shingles and then placed a ladder up against the building. "I can put down the first row while you're finishing the other side."

"All right," Will agreed. He glanced over the edge of the roof, then frowned. "Think we should cut the chimney holes yet?"

"I'd wait until you have enough bricks. We'll just put asphalt shingles there for now. They'll be easier to cut through."

"Good idea. By the way, who's been keeping the fire going while I'm away? I haven't thought to ask."

"Bishop changed the patrol route so that it goes right by here. Whoever's on detail just pops in, tosses in a few logs in, then runs right back out."

"Was that his idea?"

Logan nodded. "He seems to be interested in what you're doin'. You'd have to ask him why."

"And how many batches of bricks have been done so far?"

"The fourth one just came out of the pit yesterday."

"That's sixty-four, then. I think that's enough to get started on the base of the kiln. I can get to work on that once the roof is done."

"You going to start building it yet?"

"I might. I could set up another reflector over the base. Do we have anything we could use as a flat griddle?"

Some rummaging through the tool shed produced a sheet of metal which had once been part of a Sentinel's chest. Rogue bent some pieces of rebar into a makeshift frame, and they placed the sheet atop it. "That should hold up under the weight of a few bricks," Will decided.

"Want to put in a batch yet?" Rogue asked.

"Why not? It makes sense to do it now, before we build the fire." They put a dozen bricks on the plate, and Will started a fire underneath it a few minutes later. They then got back to work on the roof.

Henry came by just before five to find that the roof was nearly finished. "You three have certainly been industrious."

"Thanks to my helpers," Will said, "we should be done with this tonight. The only exterior work left is the gutters, and I can carve them later."

"So what's next?" Rogue asked.

"I'm going to put the rest of this flashing on the posts in the back of the building so that nothing catches fire. After that, I'll get to work on the wood shop." He thought for a moment. "I think I'll order that windmill and battery tomorrow."

"Do you think your powers will cause any difficulties?" Henry asked.

"I'm going to add a cutoff switch. If I have any problems, I'll just turn off the power. I'll keep some candles and oil lamps on hand, and the forge and kiln should provide some light."

Henry nodded. "I came by to let you know that dinner is almost ready."

"In that case," Rogue decided, "I say we call it a day and go get cleaned up."

Jean and Ororo had collaborated on dinner, resulting in the interesting combination of yogurt-covered chicken and scalloped potatoes. After dinner, Scott announced a surprise Danger Room session. There was some grumbling, but everyone dutifully marched out to change into uniform.

"What's today's plan, Chuck?" Logan asked from the staging area fifteen minutes later.

"Survival." The walls of the Danger Room melted away a moment later, to be replaced by a barren, devastated urban landscape.

"Oh, great," Logan grumbled. "Another alternate future."

"I'm not so sure," Will disagreed. "It might just be downtown Detroit."


"Who are we fighting?" Warren inquired.

A synthesized voice boomed through the air a moment later:

"Surrender, mutants!"

"Never mind."

The sound of shifting gears announced the approach of the Sentinels, which walked out from behind several buildings and began to approach the X-Men. "The Mark III model," Ororo observed. "Challenging, but not impossible."

Will looked up at where he knew the observation booth was. "Can you give me some markers to work with, Xavier?"

"Already done. Those halogen lamps are the four corners of the room."

"Got it," Will replied as he took note of the locations of the markers.

"You don't get out until all of the Sentinels are inactive. Begin."

The Sentinel closest to them reached out one hand, then fired several energy beams from its fingers. "Scatter!" Ororo barked. Those who could took to the air, while the others ran for cover.

"Any ideas?" Bobby asked Henry as they paused to take a breath.

"I think we should compare notes." He tapped at his communicator. "Beast to Archetype."

"Archetype here."

"Can you teleport off a few pieces of our adversaries?"

"I'm honestly not sure, Henry. If they were real, it wouldn't be a problem, but I'm not sure if it'll work in here. Are they mechanical, or just energy?"

"They could be either."

"What happens if a foreign object enters the Room? How do we handle cleanup?"

"We have lasers that will disassemble the molecular structure of non-organic material. It's part of the basic cleanup program."

"In that case, keep your distance from the Sentinels. There may be some fallout."

"From what?"

"You'll see."

The Sentinels continued their march forward, oblivious to the Doors which opened above them. The lava which fell on their heads soon afterwards, however, most definitely got their attention.

"Where did you find the lava?" Henry asked Will.

"One of the uninhabited Japanese islands."

"Put 'em on ice, Drake!" Logan yelled once the robots were glowing red-hot. Bobby quickly dropped the ambient temperature around their targets, and they were soon covered in thick coats of ice.

Rogue built up some speed, then smashed her way through the now-brittle chests of the Sentinels. Another pass let her knock off their heads.

As the robots collapsed to the ground, Scott ended the program. "Well, I think you just set a time record for this particular scenario."

"All right!" Bobby said, signaling Henry for a high five. Henry's responding hand slap threw him off-balance and sent him sprawling to the floor.

Will, however, seemed dissatisfied. "That really wasn't much of a workout. Feel like sparring for a while, Logan?"


"Of course."

"Mind if I join in?" Betsy asked. "The automatic partner's been getting predictable lately."

"I don't have a problem with that," Will decided.

While Logan and Betsy got their swords from their rooms, Scott changed the Danger Room programming so that it resembled the traditional Japanese dojo, complete with tatami mats and scrolls hanging from the walls.

Logan and Betsy returned a few minutes later, each holding a practice katana. "How do we want to do this?" Betsy inquired.

"Logan fights the winner?" Bobby suggested from the control booth. The three looked at one another and nodded. Logan walked over to one corner of the room and sat in sieza.

Will and Betsy each stepped back so that they were each out of the reach of one another's blades. Betsy gave the traditional bow, while Will raised the hilt of his sword to his face in a salute.

Betsy immediately sprang out onto an attack stance, but Will took a step back, keeping his blade slow and turning slightly so that his sword arm was slightly obscured. They spent several moments slowly circling one another, each waiting for the other to show some weakness or opening. Betsy decided to take the initiative, and moved in for a swing which would graze Will's arm, hopefully leaving him open for a 'killing' strike.

Will, however, had other ideas. Twisting quickly, he dodged Betsy's overhead sweep, moving so that his back was less than an inch from the blade as it descended with a hiss. He kept the point of his sword low, poking it out from underneath his coat and deflecting Betsy's blade just as she completed her strike. As Betsy attempted to regain control of her sword, Will used some of the force of the strike to help propel his own blade in a long arc which he ended just before the edge of the sword touched the back of her neck.

Betsy cursed silently as she relaxed her grip and let her blade drop to the floor. "I can't believe I let myself do something that stupid."

"You're used to techniques using curved blades," Will suggested, "and my sword can take a harder blow from the side than yours can. Don't feel too bad... it's too Mickey Mouse a strategy to use in a real fight." He lifted the blade off her neck and stepped back. "Want to try it again?"

"I think I've embarrassed myself enough for one night," she decided. "He's all yours, Logan."

Logan stood up, picking up his own katana as he did so. "I hope you don't expect that sort of thing to work on me."

"I've got a few other tricks," Will said with a shrug. He smiled evilly, raising his sword into a defensive position. "Come a little closer, and I'll show you a few of them."

"I'm sure," Logan growled as he leapt forward.

The next few minutes were literally a blur, as Will and Logan parried one another's strikes, increasing the speed of their blades until the people in the observation booth couldn't keep track of things. "When should we step in?" Bishop asked.

"I don't see the need," Jean answered. "They're both pretty centered right now. I'm not reading any anger at all. They're enjoying themselves, actually."

Will jumped back and shrugged out of his coat, tossing it into a corner. He let the tip of his sword drop low, then tipped his hat to Logan. "Good workout," he said a breathless voice.

"Not bad," Logan agreed. "You ready to call it a night?"

"Not a chance." He nodded his head towards Logan's sword. "That's just a blank, right? Nothing special about it?"

"I go through a couple of them a month," Logan shrugged.

Before he had finished lowering his shoulders, something covered his face, and he was thrown flat on his back. A moment later, he heard a snapping sound and felt something pressing against his Adam's apple.

"Uh," Scott's voice said, "sequence over."

Logan slowly lifted one hand and pulled Will's hat off his face. "Neat trick," he admitted. "How'd you break my sword?"

Will reached behind his back and drew out a curious-looking dagger, which split into three blades once he squeezed the hilt. "A blade-breaker," he explained. "I found an old design one night while I was wandering around the Chorus, so I fed the dimensions into our CAD/CAM unit."

"Nice. That's why you asked about my sword?"

He nodded. "I wasn't about to break something valuable." He grabbed Logan's wrist and helped him to his feet. "To be honest, I wasn't sure if it would work. Blade-breakers are mostly European in design, but I decided that the design weaknesses of a katana made it an idea worth trying."

Logan took the dagger and examined it. "Can you make me one?"

"Machine or handmade?"

"Let's say handmade. It'll give you something to keep you out of trouble."

"Fat chance of that," Rogue said from where she stood in the doorway. She took a step back as the two men approached. "Woah. You two are heading straight for the showers."

"No problem," Logan agreed cheerfully. "I'm hittin' the sack, anyway. See you two in the mornin'." He walked to the elevator.

"What about you?" Rogue asked Will.

"I think I'll go to bed myself. I need to get my body clock reset to Eastern time."

"Okay. Betsy wants my input for some shopping, anyway. See you tomorrow?"

"Wild horses couldn't keep me away."

"Great. See you then. Bye, 'Roro!" Rogue waved cheerfully to the older woman as she left the room.

Will started to walk out to the elevator, but Ororo blocked the doorway. "Where do you think you're going?" she asked him.

He blinked. "To my room, so I can shower."

She shook her head. "No."


"No. Go on," she told him, gesturing. "To the men's showers with you."

"I can't smell that bad," he muttered to himself as he walked towards the locker room. He was surprised to find that Ororo followed him.

"I'll be providing the shower tonight," she explained upon seeing his expression. "It's my way of saying 'thank you' for that backrub you gave me."

"Oh. In that case, I'll be just a minute."

Ororo waited patiently outside the locker room as Will changed out of his uniform and wrapped a towel around his waist. "It's safe," he told her.

"It really wouldn't bother me all that much if it wasn't," she told him as she walked in. "Nudity was never much of a concern where I grew up." She focused for a moment, and a small rain cloud formed inside the showers. A moment later, a steady, intense rain was falling on the floor tiles.

Will took his shampoo and body wash out of his locker and stepped into the center of the cloud. A moment later, He tossed the towel out onto a nearby bench. "I'm sure the fact that you never get cold helped a bit."

"I'm sure it did." She let the cloud become a bit denser, obscuring Will's body a bit more, then stepped into the showers and sat on the bench. "I also spent quite a bit of my youth alone, so I was never exposed to any standards of modesty."

"I can't argue with the result," he said as he shampooed his hair, "and all those years of walking kept you in great shape." He paused a moment, thinking. "Did you have any problems once you started wearing shoes again?"

"Not really. I had worn shoes until I was about six, so my feet had already been bent into the proper shape. Now I'm perfectly comfortable either way."

Will nodded. "I was lucky, I suppose. My body maintained its general shape after I finished healing."

"And a very nice shape it is," she said as she appraised the outline of his form.

"Now, now," he chided. "I'm taken."

"So? I may not be able to get anything from the store, but that doesn't mean that I can't window shop."

"Funny," he said as he finished lathering up his torso. "I'm ready for the rinse cycle."

Ororo intensified the rainfall until it became a virtual torrent, and Will quickly rinsed himself off, slicking his hair back and stretching up onto his toes. "That should do it," he said after a few minutes. "Could you toss me my towel, please?"

"I have a better idea," she replied. She dispersed the cloud and created a strong, warm breeze in the room, which surrounded Will and quickly dried him off.

He stood still for a moment, breathless from the force of the wind. "That was almost overwhelming," he admitted as he walked over to his locker and took out his robe, deciding that if Ororo wasn't going to make a big deal about nudity, there was no reason for him to do so. He looked at his hair in the mirror. "This is going to take a while to comb down. How in the world do you keep your hair from becoming a rat's nest?"

"It took me a while to learn enough fine control," she confessed. "It's second nature to me now, though. I can just keep it in the back of my mind while I'm riding the winds."

They walked over to the elevator. While they waited for it to descend, Ororo looked closely at the dragon tattoos on Will's forearms. "Do those still hurt at all?"

He shook his head. "No. I've sort of gotten used to them. I'm always aware of them, though."

"How so?"

He took a moment to put it into words. "It's sort of like wearing glasses, or a ring that you've had on for years. I don't actively think about them, but I know that they're around."

She nodded as the elevator doors opened and they stepped inside. "My awareness of local weather is somewhat similar. I usually don't think about it unless I want to alter things, but I know if there's any change taking place."

"I know that your emotional state can affect the weather around you. Does it work both ways?"

She shrugged. "I've been told that I can get a bit cranky when things outside are very extreme. I suppose that at times like that, I'm not at my best in observing my own moods."

"Very few people are when they're under stress." He stepped out of the elevator as the doors opened. "Well, I have breakfast duty, so I'd better get to bed. See you tomorrow."

"Good night, Will," she said fondly.

She went up to her own room and undressed. As she settled underneath the sheets of her bed, she thought back to her youth in Kenya. Perhaps it was time, she decided, for the Wind-Rider to visit her people again. And perhaps, given what had happened the last time she had gone alone, it might be best for her to have company. In any case, it was high time for some of her new family to meet some of the old one. Having decided that, she drifted off to sleep.


Continued in Chapter 49

Author's Notes: Many of my readers have written to me asking about the delay in this latest chapter. All I can plead is that life got in the way. First, there was the kidney stone debacle, which landed me in the hospital for three days (write me and I'll tell the story about how I stopped breathing for several minutes while in the E.R.), then the bizarre schedule which I was forced to keep while working in a department store during the holiday season, which had me catching up on my sleep at every possible moment.
I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks to those who voted for Will as Best Male Character, and The Archetype Association for Best X-Men Team Story in the 1999 CBFAA Awards. I hope that this and future chapters will justify your support.
On a personal note, congratulations are in order for my uncle, Joseph Roberts, who won $250,000 last Saturday on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. Way to go, Joe!


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