THE ARCHETYPE ASSOCIATION
Everyone met back at the stairway where they had appeared
upon arriving in Edinburgh. "Did anybody forget anything?"
"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,
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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,"
"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
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
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.
"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
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?"
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,
"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
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
"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
"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?"
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Do you think your powers will cause any difficulties?"
"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
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
"Oh, great," Logan grumbled. "Another alternate
"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:
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
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."
"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
"In that case, keep your distance from the Sentinels.
There may be some fallout."
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
"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
"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?"
"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?"
"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
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
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
"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
"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?"
"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
"I go through a couple of them a month," Logan
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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."
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
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
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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