calleigh_j: (KittyRogueEvo)
[personal profile] calleigh_j
Title: A Place For Me And You
Author: [livejournal.com profile] calleigh_j
Artist: [livejournal.com profile] enmuse
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: none
Pairing: Rogue/Kitty
Summary: It isn't being in love that's the problem, Rogue thinks, but being in love with Kitty Pryde.
Notes: thousands of thanks to [livejournal.com profile] dis_inclined for her awesome beta work and [livejournal.com profile] enmuse for her gorgeous art


Interlude:

Avoiding Rogue is a fairly easy thing to do when Rogue seems to be working equally as hard to avoid her. Honestly, Kitty's not sure they've so much as a word to one another in the two and a half weeks since the battle with Exodus. And that's fine, as far as Kitty's concerned, because she has no idea what to say to Rogue. What are you supposed to say anyway when you find out that your best friend - ex-best friend? - has been secretly in love with you for years? And when you didn't even have idea she was gay? And when you didn't even find out because she wanted you to, but because some supervillain reached into her head and took the knowledge out to try and break apart your team?

Two days after they got back, she bumped into Rogue coming out of the kitchen. The look on Rogue's face was a mixture of horror and fear and shame and none of the things Kitty imagines ought to be on the face of someone looking at the person they're supposedly in love with. Mumbling something Kitty couldn't make out, Rogue brushed past her and disappeared in the direction of the Danger Room. It's turning into a repeat of senior year, with Rogue spending every spare minute shut away with Storm or the Professor, although this time everyone knows what's going on. They're trying to teach her to control the powers she absorbed from Ms Marvel, who's still lying unconscious in the infirmary. It seems to have been far more successful than any of the attempts Rogue's made to control her own powers.

As the summer draws to a close, Kitty finds it harder and harder to spend time with Lance. Their relationship has, she'll willingly admit, always been a little...rocky. They've never been like Scott and Jean, wrapped up in some nauseating cocoon of happiness. But every time he teases her about something and pushes it a bit too far, every time he blows off plans with her to hang out with Pietro or Toad or Blob, every time he acts the teenage boy he is and sulks when she doesn't want to do what he suggests, it gets a little harder to remember what she sees in him. Because he can be sweet. He can be the most adorable person on the planet when he wants to be. But lately, it seems like those occasions are fewer and fewer and more and more often, she just wants to call it quits.

What does that mean though? She was perfectly happy, at least most of the time. There were always bad times but she never seriously thought about breaking up with him. And now she has this stupid thing with Rogue stuck in her head and suddenly she wants to dump her boyfriend?

"Kitty, what are you doing up so late?" Storm asks as she walks into the kitchen. Kitty, completely distracted by the coffee machine she's been staring at for the past ten minutes, looks in surprise.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I was just getting something to eat," Kitty says quickly.

There's silence in the kitchen for a few minutes as Kitty waits for the coffee machine to beep and Storm makes some tea.

"What was your secret?" Kitty asks eventually, just as Storm's about to leave.

"Excuse me?"

"I'm sorry," Kitty apologises at once, "I don't mean...I really...what I meant was how did you deal with the things you found out about people?"

"What did you find out?" Storm asks, setting her mug back down on the counter and getting straight to the point.

"I don't want to talk about," Kitty says sharply, "but I think it's something sh...I think it's something this person didn't ever want me to know. I mean, it's not a bad thing, I don't think, but I don't think this person would ever have chosen to tell me. I feel awful that I know, but I can't exactly go back in time and not know it, and now that I do know it, I don't know how I'm supposed to react. I don't know how to talk to this person any more. I don't even know how to look at her."

With a hand on her arm, Storm guides Kitty over to the table and into a chair.

"I believe that you need to talk to Rogue about what it is that you learned," Storm says and Kitty's eyes go wide: how is it that Storm always seems to know everything?

"I don't know how to," Kitty admits as Storm sits down beside her, "I don't even know what I want to say. And besides," she continues, turning defensive, "it's not as if she's made an effort to talk to me. She's avoiding me just as much as I'm avoiding her."

It sounds so petty when she says it aloud like that but Kitty feels she's allowed to be more than a little angry at Rogue. After all, it's not her feelings that are the cause of all this tension.

"Kitty," Storm begins and Kitty looks down at her feet, feeling chastised by just the tone of Storm's voice, "I don't know exactly what it was that you found out about Rogue, but I believe I have some idea. And I think you are right: had she had a choice, it's possible Rogue may not ever have told you. But you know and while you had no choice in the matter, she didn't either. Imagine how you would feel if suddenly one of your friends knew something about you that you didn't want them to know."

Kitty controls the urge to roll her eyes - barely - because she knows that what Storm's saying makes sense.

"She already knows how she feels about this secret that you now know, but she has no idea how you feel about it. She might think that you're angry with her or that you hate her: it's understandable that she hasn't wanted to discuss it with you."

"So what am I supposed to do then?" Kitty says a little snappishly, "What am I supposed to say?"

"I can't tell you that," Storm replies, "It has to be your decision, Kitty. You need to work out how you feel about things, and then you need to talk to Rogue. I'm sure she'll understand though, whatever it is that you decide."

Kitty nods, says goodnight to Storm, and heads out of the kitchen. She's not sure that Storm's right about that last bit though, that Rogue will understand, whatever Kitty decides. Honestly, Kitty can't see this ending with anything but tears.

***

Chapter Nine:

Being back in Blackwood is an incredible relief. It's only taken a couple of weeks for Rogue to settle into a routine and although things aren't exactly the same as they were last year, they're similar enough that Rogue can sometimes forget about her nightmarish summer.

Her new powers are pretty much under control now, although it can still be a little difficult when she's tired to remember that she needs to be even more careful these days. She hasn't broken anything other than a few cups though, and even then hasn't done it in front of anyone else. She has to check in with Storm at least once a week though and give her an update on how things are going. Along with the control needed to keep these new powers in check is the possibility of maybe, just maybe getting a handle on her own power. She has breathing exercises to do and a complicated series of mental tasks designed to try and isolate exactly where her power stems from. It's hard work but the hope of finally being able to control her power, vague as that hope might be, is enough to make her keep up with the work.

"Okay," Lisa says, appearing in Rogue's doorway, "What's going on with you?"

Their new apartment is much like their old one except that this year, each of them has a separate bedroom of the main living space. It's one of the larger apartments on campus and, as sophomores, they're incredibly lucky to have been assigned it. Rogue likes the additional privacy and it's especially useful now that she has her training to continue with.

"What are you talking about?" Rogue asks, looking up from her laptop.

"You've been weird ever since we got back," Lisa elaborates, "You're all quiet and shut away in here and we're worried about you."

"You don't need to worry about me," Rogue says, "I'm fine. Summer was just...weird."

"Come on," Lisa prods, sitting down on Rogue's bed and closing her laptop, "Tell Aunty Lisa all about it."

Lisa's teasing with the 'aunty' comment but her expression is serious and Rogue's grateful for it. She's not sure she really wants to talk about it, but if it's affecting her so much that even her friends here can tell, then maybe she should at least try. And that thought says something to Rogue about how much she's changed through being at college. Actually agreeing to talk about something that she barely thinks about when she can? The old Rogue would never have done that.

"One of my friends found out something about me that I didn't want them to know," Rogue replies, "and now she won't talk to me."

"She's avoiding you?" Lisa asked.

"Yeah," Rogue agreed, adding, "and I guess I've kind of been avoiding her too, in all honesty, because I just have no clue how she feels about it and I don't want to talk to her and make things even worse than they already are. I just don't know what I'm supposed to do about it."

"God, Rogue, I love you, you know I do," Lisa breathes, exasperated, "but if you're looking for advice, and I know you wouldn't have even talked to me if you weren't, then you need to say more than someone found out something. You have to...you know...actually use names and explain the situation."

Rogue glares, but Lisa just stares straight back. And Rogue gives in because she just doesn't know how she's supposed to make things better with Kitty.

"It's Kitty," Rogue says at last, "and I..." Rogue stops, not sure how she can explain given the situation in which Kitty found out, but Lisa interrupts.

"Oh my god," Lisa breathes, "That's who it is, isn't it?"

Rogue's confused and asks, "That who what is?"

"Last year," Lisa explains, "after Dan broke up with Jenn and we were trying to cheer her up, you said there was someone but that nothing would ever happen. It's Kitty, isn't it, and she found out how you feel, didn't she?"

Rogue nods. She doesn't feel any different though. Stupid maybe, but she'd hoped that just by telling someone about the situation - or having someone guess the situation - would somehow change things immediately. The healing power of sharing would kick in and suddenly, she would know exactly what to do. She doesn't though.

"How did she find out?" Lisa asks, understandably curious.

"It's...complicated," Rogue hedges, "but she knows and it's been weeks and she hasn't spoken to me."

"And you don't want to start the conversation because..." Lisa prompts.

"Because I don't know how she feels about it. I mean, she has no idea that I'm gay and then one day it's all 'Oh hi, I'm gay, and by the way, I'm secretly in love with you'. If that was you, how would you feel?" Rogue snaps.

"I don't know," Lisa replies, "because it's not me and I'm not Kitty. I don't even know her, so I have no idea how she feels about it. And the only way you'll know is if you talk to her about it. You can't just sit around worrying that she hates you. Maybe she does hate you, but maybe she doesn't. Maybe she's absolutely fine with everything and she's just been avoiding you because she didn't want to make it more awkward for you. You have to talk to her."

"Have I ever told you how much I hate it when you're right?" Rogue says, trying to sound angry but failing completely, because her friend's right and they both know it.

"Many times," Lisa replies with a smile, "so call her."

"I think if we're going to talk about this," Rogue suggests, "it needs to be face to face. And I'm not trying to back out of doing it," she adds when Lisa starts to protest, "I know you're right. But I have to talk to her in person. But I will do it, I promise."

***

Rogue never has a chance to call Kitty and make plans to get together. Every time she sits down by the phone or turns on her laptop to send an e-mail - and she tries it dozens of times over the next week - something happens and she gets distracted. Lisa's pushing it as well, reminding Rogue at every turn that the sooner she gets on and talks to Kitty, the sooner the whole situation will be dealt with, or at least partly dealt with.

She doesn't have a chance to call Kitty because six days after her talk with Lisa, there's a knock on the appartment door and when Rogue opens it, Kitty's standing outside. She's smiling but the smile is awkward and it doesn't hide the fact that Kitty looks nervous as hell.

"Hi," she says quietly, "Can I come in?"

"Of course," Rogue replies and her voice sounds more confident than she feels as she steps back to let Kitty into the apartment.

"It's nice," Kitty says, looking around, "Bigger than the last one."

"Yeah, it's one of the bigger apartments on campus - we were pretty lucky to get it really."

"You still living with the same people?" Kitty asks.

They spend a few more minutes in idle, pointless conversation discussing minor issues of little to no importance. It's Kitty who finally breaks out of the small talk though.

"Look, we really need to talk, and I'm sorry it's taken me this long to get round to it, but it's not as if you made it easy."

Rogue's head is spinning - Kitty goes from apologetic to pissed off in the same sentence - and Rogue has no idea where she's even supposed to start. It's fine then with her that Kitty apparently wants to keep on talking.

"I'm really sorry about how I found out - I know it can't have been easy for you, especially with the thing with Ms Marvel and all that crazy stuff with Exodus. But, you know, you could've talked to me," Kitty continues, finally sitting down on the couch, "You could've told me you were gay."

"Kitty," Rogue says as she at least finds the words she's looking for, "I didn't know how to tell you. I didn't know how to tell anyone at the mansion."

"Except Storm," Kitty interrupts, sounding more than a little bitter.

"That's different, you know how Storm is. She probably knew anyway - I think she knows everything."

"Totally," Kitty agrees and the tension eases a little.

With Kitty looking a little less terrified, Rogue takes a moment to compose her thoughts and think of the best thing to say. The situation is...delicate to say the least. She doesn't really want to be talking about it and she's guessing that Kitty doesn't either. But they're both here and Rogue knows that if the conversation doesn't happen now, it'll be far too easy to just brush it off and never truly say what needs to be said.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you," Rogue says at last, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you that I'm gay and I'm sorry I didn't tell you about...the other thing. Until I came here, I hadn't talked to anyone about it ever. And I didn't know how you'd feel about it - about any of it. The last thing I ever want is to lose you as a friend."

"You haven't," Kitty says quickly, reaching out as if to touch Rogue's hand and then pulling back, "You'd have to do a lot worse to get me out of your life."

Another silence falls over the pair as Rogue tries to think of a way to phrase her next question.

"So how do you feel about this?" she asks.

"About you being gay?" Kitty starts, "Rogue, I could honestly care less. It doesn't change anything about you, and I guess it kind of does make sense now that I think about it. Although I kind of always thought you liked Scott..."

"No," Rogue interrupts, "You just thought that, and it was easier to go along with it than try and explain why I didn't."

"Plus," Kitty adds, "I'm sorry, but there's no way you're ever getting that guy away from Jean's side."

There's a moment of shared understanding between them before Kitty speaks up again.

"And as for...the other thing," she says awkwardly, "I...I guess I don't know what to do about that. I mean, I'm dating Lance and we're happy together, I'm straight, I'd never thought about you like that, I..."

Rogue can see the list of reasons Kitty doesn't feel the same getting depressingly long depressingly quickly and interrupts.

"You don't have to feel the same. I never for one moment expected that you would. Just, if there's any way that things can not be awkward between us because of it, that would be amazing. I know you just had it kind of sprung on you and I'm sorry - I honestly never meant for you to find out. Not because I wanted to lie to you or anything," Rogue adds quickly, "but because I didn't see how anything good could come of it."

"I'm sorry," Kitty says sincerely, "I wish I felt differently."

"So do I," Rogue admits.

Kitty hugs her then and it's bittersweet. The air between them is clear now and Rogue is thrilled about it, but with it has come the confirmation of what she always guessed: that Kitty doesn't feel the same. It's not that she'd honestly ever expected anything to happen, but to have it confirmed like this is still painful. It seems like maybe it won't ruin their friendship though and Rogue will take what she can get.

"So, enough of the mushy stuff," Kitty says definitively, standing up and offering her hand to Rogue, "I think it's time you showed me around this college of yours."

***

Chapter Ten:

Christmas brings Rogue back to Bayville. When she left after the summer break, she'd been planning on spending the holidays with Lisa and her family again. But now that things have been sorted out with Kitty, it seems like the mansion is where she needs to be. It's so different to the summer: the moment she steps through the front doors, dragging her heavy suitcase behind her - so much easier now she has her super-strength - it feels like Christmas and it feels like she's where she belongs. There's no welcoming committee, no crowd of people to greet her, but as she heads up the stairs, Bobby and Amara say hi as they run down. Sam's hurtling down the corridor with Jamie and five copies of Jamie following him and instead of it being all awkward and uncomfortable like it was last time, it feels right.

She has just enough to take everything out of her suitcase and sort out all the laundry she needs to do before Tabitha yells from down the corridor that it's time for supper.

Supper is its own, unchangingly loud event. Technically, there are enough chairs and enough space around the table for everyone, but it never feels like that. There are people yelling for plates and cutlery, calling for other people to pass them sauces or condiments, and the general hum of conversation. Rogue chats to everyone but finds herself distracted as she looks for Kitty, who doesn't seem to be there. Storm catches her eye and gives her a look that says she knows exactly who Rogue's looking for and why, and she probably does. Kitty doesn't turn up though and Rogue schools herself to stop looking up every time the door opens. Instead, she gets into conversation with Jean about college and the meal passes quickly.

There's still a little more than a week to go before Christmas but the mansion is already decorated in full. The tinsel hanging from the ceiling is especially distracting and Rogue can only imagine who put it up there and how it's staying put. Rogue herself is fairly unprepared though - with exams in the last week before the start of the holidays, she hadn't exactly had a chance to do any Christmas shopping. She and Jean make plans therefore to hit the mall the next day, before the local schools have broken up, and try and get everything they need and eliminate the need for the insanity of last minute shopping. Kurt snorts as he overhears their plans - it's no secret that the guys probably won't even think about the gifts they need to buy before December 23rd and think that shopping more than a week in advance is crazy.

They're clearing plates and loading the dishwasher when Kitty turns up.

"Hey, there's food if you want," Jean calls as Kitty passes the kitchen. She stops, turns, and comes in.

"What is it?" she asks, and it looks to Rogue as though she's been crying.

"Pasta," Jean replies as she levitates a stack of plates over to the dishwasher, "and there's sauce in the other pan."

Kitty grabs a clean plate from the cupboard, heaps pasta and sauce onto it, and slumps down at the table. It's just the three of them - Rogue, Jean, and Kitty - in the room now and once all the dirty dishes are out of the way, Jean and Rogue sit back down with Kitty.

"You want to talk about it?" Jean asks and clearly she's noticed the same thing Rogue has.

"No," Kitty replies, stuffing pasta into her mouth as if she hasn't eaten in days, adding "and don't try prodding." The last is said with a glare at Jean, who has the grace to look away.

So Rogue and Jean continue their conversation about college until Kitty's finished eating. She scrapes the plate clean, lays down her cutlery, and looks up at Jean and Rogue.

"Lance and I broke up," she says plainly, then sits back to wait for them to share their opinions.

"What happened?" Jean asks, her tone a mixture of concern and curiosity.

"Are you okay?" Rogue asks at the same time, desperately trying not to sound as if she's actually happy about the situation. Which she is, or the end result at least, not that she expects anything to come of it with her and Kitty, but she's just always thought that Kitty could do so much better. The situation itself does suck though: Rogue hates seeing her friend upset like this.

"It wasn't working," Kitty replies, "Hasn't been for a long time."

It's such an odd thing to here from Kitty's lips - the words sound like they belong to someone far older and Rogue wonders just how badly things had been going between Kitty and Lance.

"Was it..." Jean starts, "I mean, did you..."

"You mean, who broke up with who?" Kitty extrapolates from Jean's awkward question, "It was pretty much a mutual thing. I should've ended it ages ago."

Rogue's confused. It hasn't really been that long since she and Kitty were sitting together at college and Kitty was talking about being happy with Lance and now she's saying that she's been unhappy for a while. Rogue doesn't know what she's supposed to read into that, or if she's supposed to read anything into it at all. Despite every piece of information pointing to the contrary, there's a little part of Rogue that can't help but wonder if maybe she has a chance now. She doesn't want to think that though. She's supposed to be Kitty's friend, not some lovestruck crush mentally calculating how each situation might work to her advantage. She hates that part of herself and wishes she could just turn it off. She wishes there was some way she could just stop being in love with Kitty and just be the friend she's promised to be. But looking at Kitty's puffy eyes and hearing the half-hidden hurt in her voice, Rogue wants nothing more than to find Lance Alvarez and use her new super-strength to make him hurt the way Kitty's hurting.

"Whatever," Kitty's saying with a shrug, "It's over, done with, finito. Are we done talking about it now?"

Jean and Rogue exchange a look, then nod at Kitty.

"Good," Kitty says, "Come on, I think they're picking a film. We should probably get there before Kurt forces us to watch 'Lord Of The Rings' again."

***

"So," Storm's asking, "what do you think when you pick up a glass or open a door and you don't want to break it?"

"I don't know," Rogue repeats, frustrated, "I can't, like, pinpoint the thought or anything. It's just there, I just think about it. Or I did to start with, and now it's just natural. I don't really have to think about it any more."

"Okay," the Professor says over the speakers, "Rogue, I need you to fend off Logan's attack."

Rogue looks around and suddenly Logan's in the Danger Room with her and Storm, hovering by the door with an air about him that Rogue knows means he's ready to attack.

"I will monitor you," the Professor continues, "and at some point, I will ask you to stop using your enhanced strength. Hopefully I will be able to isolate whichever part of your brain controls those powers. We may then be able to teach you to employ the same mechanism to control your absorption powers."

Rogue nods, focussing on Logan. She's not going to get her hopes up. She's tried so many different techniques with Professor X to try and gain even some small measure of control over her own power and none of them has ever been successful. She has no reason to expect that this attempt will be any different.

Sparring with Logan is hard work, even with her increased strength, speed, and stamina. He's had so much longer to learn how to use his strength and speed to his advantage, while Rogue still sometimes finds her powers taking her by surprise. Still, she holds her own until she hears the Professor's voice telling her to hold back. The minute she does, Logan lays her out flat. It doesn't hurt, but she's a little winded and takes a moment to just lie there on the floor and look up at the ceiling. She waves off Storm and Logan's concerned questions and by the time she sits up, the Professor's down from the control centre and sitting in front of her in his chair. He doesn't exactly smile very often but the look on his face now is almost happy.

Rogue just listens, open-mouthed, as the Professor explains what his psychic probe of her mind has revealed: that he thinks there's a way she can learn to control her original power like she controls her new ones.

"I understand now," he explains, "how you control your new powers. I believe that, with some guidance, you may be able to use the same technique to control your powers of absorption."

"But why would another technique work?" Rogue asks, "I've tried so many before and none of them has ever worked, so why would this one?"

"Everyone's brain works differently," the Professor says patiently, "The techniques you've tried before have been ones I've developed with other people to help them control their powers, such as Jean and her psychic powers. Your power is in itself somewhat different to most others because it allows you to instantly be able to use a power which is not related in any way to your own mutation. However, the way that you control the powers you gained from Ms Marvel is unique to your brain and thus it seems logical to assume that the same technique can be transferred to give you control over your own innate power."

***

It's not nearly as simple as the Professor's explanation made it seem. Learning to control Ms Marvel's powers was relatively easy: breathing exercises, mental training, and a little self-awareness were all it took. This, learning to control her own power, the power over which she's never had even the slightest bit of control, is far harder. It's like trying to isolate exactly which muscles she uses in any given movement, except the 'muscles' in question are in her brain, and the 'movement' involves sucking the power and the life out of another person.

Logan's the guinea pig, the unlucky one who Rogue has to touch every time the Professor needs to see if she's made any progress. He's a logical choice - his powers are similar enough to Ms Marvel's that she can control them fairly easily, and he has a higher tolerance for her touch than most people. Still, it's getting tiring to keep calling him into the Danger Room only for him to stagger away a few seconds later when it becomes apparent that Rogue still can't control her power.

This time, when he turns up, he's looking a little irritated with the whole situation and Rogue can't blame him. He's shown a patience more typical of Storm than himself but it's been a week and a half of failed attempts and a week and a half of having his powers drained just a little three or four times a day.

"This is the last time, I swear," Rogue says sincerely.

"No it's not," Logan replies, "The Professor believes he can teach you control over this power and I think you're gonna be going at it until he stops believing that."

"Rogue, remove your glove," the Professor says from his chair, "Visualise the switch in your mind, visualise yourself turning it off, visualise yourself as a solid, immermeable mass."

This is the latest technique. She has to imagine that there's an actual physical switch in her brain that she flicks, and when she turns her power off, she's supposed to see herself as a solid object through which nothing can pass. The whole thing is more than a little ridiculous but the Professor is still convinced that it's going to work.

"Logan, prepare," the Professor instructs, "Rogue, reach out."

Rogue closes her eyes and extends her arm. She finds it easier when she can't see what she's doing. That way, she can focus on her visualisations and she doesn't get caught up in the moment when she makes contact with Logan.

She's so focussed on picturing herself encased in metal - her own personal variation on the theme of 'being a solid object' - that she doesn't hear Storm approach until there's a soft voice telling her to open her eyes. She does, and when she looks down at her hand, she's touching Logan's arm. Her bare skin is touching his and that's it. She's not absorbing any power, any of his life. Or at least she's not until she realises that she's not, at which point Logan gasps and pulls his arm back.

It's a shock to her system, that brief rush of strength, but not as much as the realisation that, even if just for a few seconds, she touched another human being without stealing anything away.

***

Chapter Eleven:

"I can't believe you're going back already," Kitty says, sitting unhelpfully on Rogue's bed and watching her pack.

"I've been here for four weeks," Rogue points out, checking the stack of books on her desk again, certain that she's missing one but completely unable to remember which one it is and where it might be.

"I know," Kitty admits, "but you've been spending so much time in the Danger Room and all the rest of your time working it seems like I've barely seen you."

She sounds a little whiny and Rogue looks away from her books and towards her friend.

"Sorry," Kitty says quickly, "I'm just not looking forward to going back to college."

Rogue stops packing and sits down next to Kitty on the bed.

"What? I thought you were enjoying college."

"I don't hate it," Kitty says with a shrug, "It's just not how I thought it would be. I thought it would be...more different, I guess. But it's basically just like school, except harder work."

"Maybe you should try living on campus," Rogue suggests.

"Nah, it's too late," Kitty says, shaking her head, "Everyone's already got roommates and stuff and besides, there's no-one I like enough that I'd want to live with them. Because they're there all the time, you know, and I just turn up for lectures. I hang around sometimes, go out with people, but it's not the same."

And suddenly, Rogue understands. Kitty feels the same way Rogue has felt for most of her life: alone, different, an outsider on the edges of every group. And while college has done wonders for Rogue and given her a new place to belong, as well as helping her sort out her feelings about the X-Men and her place at the mansion, it's been a very different story for Kitty. It's almost as if they've just switched places: Rogue's the one now with friends to call on and Kitty's the one who feels like she doesn't belong.

"What are you going to do?" Rogue asks.

"Don't know," Kitty replies non-committally, "I guess I finish out the year and see where I want to go from there. I was thinking I might see if I can transfer. I mean, it's not like there's anything really keeping me around here any more, apart from the fighting of evil, and I think the others can probably cope without me for a while."

"Is this about Lance?" Rogue asks suddenly, as the significance 'any more' hits.

"No," Kitty says, far too fast for it to be the complete truth.

Taking a deep breath, Rogue pulls off her right glove and reaches out her hand. She does it slowly but keeps reaching, images swirling in her head, until her hand touches Kitty's. Kitty laces their fingers together, seeking comfort, and then stops, staring across the bed at Rogue.

"This is why I've been in the Danger Room all the time," Rogue explains and can't help the smile that comes to her face.

"So you're...cured?" Kitty asks, astonished.

"Not fully," Rogue replies, "I have to concentrate all the time when I touch someone, but it's getting easier. The Professor reckons that with a little more time and a little more practice, it should be just like my other powers - I'll be able to turn it on and off."

"Is it weird?" Kitty asks, looking down to where their hands are touching.

"Yeah," Rogue says, her voice taking on the same quite, almost awed tone Kitty's been using, "I mean, I can actually touch people without killing them. It's...kind of amazing really."

"I'm really happy for you," Kitty says.

They sit in silence for a few moments and Rogue can't get over just how amazing it is to be able to touch Kitty like this. It's incredible to be able to touch anyone, but the only people she's actually touched up until now are Storm, Logan, and the Professor, and this is Kitty.

"I should go," Kitty says suddenly, pulling back and standing up from the bed, "You have packing to do and I still have a two thousand word paper on something I don't even understand to finish for Wednesday."

"Hey," Rogue calls as Kitty nears the door, "Is this about Lance?"

"Not as much as he'd like it to be," Kitty says with just a hint of viciousness in her tone. It says to Rogue that maybe Lance Alvarez underestimated Kitty and that he's probably regretting that now. The thought makes her smile as she goes back to her packing.

***

Interlude:

Rogue confuses Kitty. She always has done. There's something about Rogue that Kitty's never really been able to understand. She gets that her friend's been through some really difficult times, but sometimes Rogue seems to act like she deserves them, that she's done something wrong at some point and all of this is her punishment. It feels like she doesn't ever try and get the things she wants. Instead, she just goes through life assuming she'll never get them and doesn't even bother fighting for them.

Kitty's been thinking a lot recently about fighting for the things she wants. Since Christmas, things at college haven't gotten any better. It's not as if things are actively bad, but she's just not enjoying herself and if there's one thing that's important to Kitty, it's having a good time. She has friends, sure, but no-one close - no-one like the friends Rogue seems to have made. She'd had so many ideas about what college would be like and this just isn't living up to any of them.

Her mind is all but made up now: she's going to transfer. She doesn't want to give up on college, but she doesn't want to stay where she is and stay miserable. She's talked to the Professor about it and he agrees that it's a good idea. Now, she just has to find somewhere to transfer to. Without a doubt, she wants somewhere far enough away that she has to live on campus - then she won't have to deal with her parents trying to convince her that she ought to just keep living at the mansion. And the more she thinks about it, the more she's looking forward to getting out of Bayville.

It's not about Lance, not really, despite what Rogue might think. Kitty will admit, if a little reluctantly, that Lance did have at least something to do with her agreeing to stay at the mansion for her first year of college. They'd been dating, on and off, for almost a year and it seemed like moving away would put their relationship firmly into the 'off' side of things. But she doesn't want to move just because they broke up. She'd been thinking about it over the summer and decided she would see how the first semester back went. That she's broken up with Lance just makes the decision easier.

It is though, maybe a little bit, maybe more than that, about Rogue. Because, try as she might, Kitty can't stop thinking about the fact that Rogue's in love with her. At first, she didn't want to think about it - the whole idea was just too weird. Then, when she'd had a chance to get used to it, she forced herself to think about it because she knew that she and Rogue needed to talk about it. And now, since they've cleared the air and gotten everything out in the open, Kitty's more confused than ever. She meant everything she said to Rogue - about being straight, being happy with Lance, never having thought about Rogue like that - but if they were to have that conversation again? Kitty's not sure it would go the same way.

Because Rogue is confusing, but she's intriguing. She hides so much of herself away and every time Kitty learns something new, it explains something else. And when she's happy, which is far more often now than it used to be, she has a gorgeous smile and a wicked sense of humour. She's pretty too, and Kitty doesn't know if she always thought it, if she always thought all of these things, or if it's just because of what she knows. That's the problem: she can't tell how influenced her feelings have been by Rogue's. She feels like maybe her feelings have changed, but she doesn't know if they really have or if she's just convinced herself they have because she knows there's someone out there who wants her.

That's a bizarre feeling too - knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that Rogue loves her. There's a certainty in that that she never had with Lance and that, she assumes, most people will never have. It makes it harder to assess her own feelings too though.

In the end, she decides to talk to Storm about it. Storm knows the basics of the situation and Kitty's driving herself crazy with all this navel-gazing.

"How do you know if you like someone?" she asks Storm when they're preparing supper one night, "I mean, like someone like someone." It sounds so incredibly high school, but there's no way Kitty's willing to cop to anything more than a bit of a crush right now.

Storm eyes with that all too familiar gaze.

"I can't tell you that, Kitty," she says, "You're the only one who knows what you're feeling."

"But how do you know if you actually feel something or if you just think that you do?" Kitty asks, frustrated.

"Your feelings can be influenced by many things," Storm says, halfway through chopping up an enormous pile of tomatoes, "Sometimes we learn things about people that make us consider them in a new light. And if that new light makes us reassess our feelings towards them, then you're right: it can be hard to know if you really feel something or if you're simply reacting to whatever you've learnt. So imagine yourself with this person: do you really see them as more than a friend, or are you just seeing your relationship through their eyes? How does it feel if you picture them with someone else?"

As she tears up lettuce leaves and puts them into a salad bowl, Kitty tries to picture herself from Rogue's point of view. She can't see what it is that would make Rogue fall in love with her - they're so different and so much of the time, when they were first at the mansion, Kitty was certain she just irritated Rogue. She can see why someone would be attracted to Rogue though, and she remembers Gambit. It's been a long time since she saw him but she remembers how he was with Rogue. She tries to imagine him turning up at Blackwood College and knocking on Rogue's door. She imagines Rogue opening the door and when she imagines Rogue smiling at Gambit and inviting him in, it's like a bucket of cold water to the face. She hates the idea, and when she replaces Gambit with Kurt or Scott or Spyke or any one of a dozen other guys she knows, and then replaces him with Tabitha or Wanda or one of the girls from their homeroom at Bayville High, it's the same reaction.

She replaces Gambit with herself. She imagines herself walking down the hallway and knocking on the door of Rogue's appartment. When Rogue opens the door, she grins, takes Kitty's hand, and pulls her into the room. And Kitty knows that in this hypothetical scenario, she's smiling too. The realisation makes her light-headed and she leans heavily on the counter.

"Are you alright?" Storm asks, concerned.

"I'm fine," Kitty replies faintly. Whatever else Storm asks her, she just nods in reply to and says she needs to go lie down.

She escapes from the kitchen and hurries up the stairs. She has her answer, and now she has to deal with it.

***

Chapter Twelve:

It's raining. Of course it's raining. Rogue's pretty sure it's rained every time she's ever signed up to do one of the campus tours. The tours, for prospective students and their parents, run year round and the groups are led by students through the various departments of the college and all the residential buildings. Rogue actually gets a strange amount of enjoyment out of doing them, as well as a little bit of cash. She's proud of her college and proud of herself for being there and she enjoys showing it off.

She turns up at the reception desk in the main building the requisite ten minutes before the tour's due to start. There's a big crowd, all looking a little worse for the weather. Rogue is just grateful the campus is fairly small and most of the tour is conducted inside. She chats with a couple of the other regular guides until Lisa turns up and the visitors are divided up amongst the different guides. All the groups are sent off in different directions and Lisa and Rogue take their group just down the hall to one of the ground floor lecture theatres to introduce themselves and answer any questions.

They're just waiting for everyone to get sat down when Rogue casts her over the crowd and sees a familiar face. Kitty's sitting there, at the end of one of the rows, grinning down at her. The brief introduction she and Lisa give, the same one they give every time, passes in a blur. They answer a couple of questions and then Lisa starts to lead people out of the room to head towards the English department. Rogue's job is to walk at the back of the group and make sure they don't lose anyone on the way around. Kitty waits by the doors until everyone else has left.

"What are you doing here?" Rogue asks, completely surprised by her friend's presence.

"I'm getting the tour," Kitty replies as if it's the most obvious thing in the world.

"Why are you getting the tour?" Rogue asks, confused as to why Kitty would want to take a tour of Blackwood College.

"I was thinking," Kitty says as they follow the group up the main stairs, "about transferring here. They have the kind of classes I'm interested in, and it's far enough away from Bayville that there's no chance my parents could make a case for me staying at the mansion."

"You want to come here?" Rogue says, knowing that she sounds foolish but not sure if she's actually understood what Kitty's saying.

"I do," Kitty answers, "I mean, don't worry, I'm not going to be hanging around you the whole time - I want to be here to meet some people and get out of Bayville myself. And if you're not comfortable with the idea, then there are plenty of other colleges I can look at."

"No," Rogue says firmly, resting her hand on Kitty's arm, "You should come here. I think you'd like it."

"I think I might too," Kitty agrees, and there's something in the way that she's looking at Rogue that doesn't quite add up.

Before Rogue can ask anything else, one of the other people on the tour turns around to ask her a question about something.

"I'll catch up with you at the end of the tour," Kitty says, moving up into the crowd.

Rogue answers the other person's question as best she can and does the rest of the tour on autopilot. There's definitely something going on with Kitty that Rogue's missing and the thought distracts her until she and Lisa are saying goodbye to their tour group.

***

After the tour, Rogue spends the rest of the afternoon showing Kitty round campus and showing her all the things they don't show on the tour - the vending machine that gives you two of what you want if you kick it in the right place, the best seats in lecture theatres if you were out too late the night before and really need to catch up on some sleep. Things are so much easier between than they have been in years and Rogue thinks it could be pretty awesome to have Kitty around all the time if they're going to keep getting on like this.

They end up back in Rogue's apartment. Everyone else is out but Kitty suggests they talk in Rogue's room anyway. And now Rogue just doesn't know what to think.

"How's the practicing going?" Kitty asks, "I mean, with controlling your powers."

"It's really good, actually," Rogue replies, more confused than ever, "I barely have to think about it any more. Just sometimes when I'm around a lot of people I have to work a little harder, but other than that, it's great. I can hug people and bump into people in corridors and nothing happens."

"That's good," Kitty agrees, and then she leans across the bed and kisses Rogue.

In retrospect, it really speaks to the success of Rogue's practice that even as her brain shuts off, taken aback so completely by Kitty's actions that she just forgets to think, her carefully learned controls stay in place. At the time though, the thought of what could go wrong doesn't even occur to her. All she can think is that Kitty's kissing her, she's kissing back, and that probably, unfortunately, she's just dreaming.

Kitty pulls back, looking unsure of herself, and Rogue thinks that maybe this isn't actually a dream.

"What was that?" Rogue asks, stunned.

"Uh, I've been thinking," Kitty starts, leaning back a little further as if worried about what Rogue's reaction might be, "and ever since I found out about how you felt, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. And after I broke up with Lance..."

"Hey," Rogue says immediately, her voice hard, "I'm not your rebound girl. I haven't been waiting around for you to decide you're done with Lance and you want something new."

"That's not what I meant," Kitty says quickly, grabbing Rogue's hand, "Me breaking up with Lance had nothing to do with you and nothing to do with this. I broke up with Lance because I wasn't happy. And this," Kitty continues, gesturing between herself and Rogue, "this is because I can't stop thinking about you. This is because when I think about you meeting some girl here and bringing her home for spring break, I feel sick. This is because I want this. This is because I want you."

Rogue just stares at Kitty, trying to work out what's actually happening. Kitty's face shows nothing but sincerity and anxiety, but the whole thing just feels too easy. Things like this don't happen, not really, at least not to Rogue. She's wanted this for so, so long and now it's happening and it just doesn't feel real.

"Are you okay?" Kitty asks.

"I'm a little surprised," Rogue replies, "I mean, this really wasn't what I was expecting." She's aware that she sounds weirdly formal but she's just trying to sort through the rush of thoughts flooding her brain. What the hell's going on? Why is Kitty doing this? Does she really mean it?

"Hey, where did you..." Lisa asks as she pushes the door of Rogue's room open, finishing with, "Oh," when she sees Kitty.

"Sorry," Rogue says at once, "I just wanted to finish showing Kitty round."

"Cool," Lisa enthuses, "You know, Allie's going to Spain next year - you should totally come live with us." As much as that really isn't a conversation Rogue needs to be having right now, it's such a typical Lisa thing to do - to just pull someone right into her life as if she's already known them for years.

"Lis, did you need me for something?" Rogue says firmly, hoping Lisa will get the hint that she really needs to leave.

"No," Lisa replies slowly, looking back and forth between Rogue and Kitty and getting the point, "No, I'm good. I'll talk to you later."

She pulls the door closed as she backs out, shooting a frantic 'what the hell?' face at Rogue right before she clicks the door shut. The moment, intrusive as it is, is what they need to break the tension. Rogue grins, all too used to her roommate's lack of understanding of the concept of privacy. Kitty smiles too, and then they're laughing, neither sure exactly why.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," Kitty says through her giggles, "I shouldn't have sprung this on you like this. I had a whole speech planned, I spent ages thinking about what I needed to say, and then I got here and it was just so good to see you. I wish...I wish..." Kitty's looking down at her hands now, the confidence from earlier gone, and weirdly, that makes Rogue feel a little better.

"I wish I knew how to make you believe me," Kitty finishes at last, "I wish I could make you understand how I feel. I know it seems completely absurd and stupid and like I can't really mean what I say but I don't really understand it either. All I know is how I feel, and how I feel is that I want to be with you. I completely understand if you want me to just go..."

This time, it's Rogue who initiates the kiss. She thinks, she takes her time, she memorises because this is her second kiss with the girl she's been in love with for years. That it's her second kiss ever is beside the point. It's the second time she's kissed Kitty and it's incredible and mind-blowing and so much more than she could ever have imagined. The kiss itself is, she guesses, probably nothing close to an actual perfect kiss but for Rogue, it's nothing short of miraculous.

***

Epilogue:

"Last box," Kitty calls as she heaves the large box down the corridor and into the flat.

She drops it onto the floor with a huff and pulls open the lid.

"Rogue, I think it's yours - there's a book called Jeopardy In The Courtroom on top."

"Yeah, that's mine," Rogue calls from her room, "I'll come get it in a minute."

Kitty picks up one of the many bags of her things littering the living area and drags it into her room as Rogue comes out of hers. She's taking things out of the box - some of the books are destined for the large bookcase in the living area - when Jenn and Lisa come back in, a group of people Rogue doesn't recognise following behind them.

"So, this is our flat," Lisa's saying, gesturing into the room, "and this is Rogue, roommate number three. Rogue, these are the guys from flats ten and eleven."

Rogue looks up from the box and smiles at the curious faces peering in.

"And this is roommate four, Kitty," Lisa adds as Kitty comes out of her room.

"Hi," Kitty says brightly before grabbing another bag and disappearing again.

"We're heading down to dinner," Jenn says, "You guys coming with?"

"Uh, I think we'll be down in a few," Rogue replies, "Just gotta get these boxes out of here and then at least everything will be in the correct room."

Lisa, Jenn, and the random other people from their floor head off and Rogue turns her attention back to her box of stuff. It only takes a few more minutes to sort through it and put everything that needs to be in her room in there. She goes into Kitty's room then.

"Hey, I told Jenn and Lisa we'd go down for supper with them. Are you ready to go?"

Kitty's looking out of her window and turns when Rogue comes in.

"Yeah, I'm ready," she says but makes no move to actually leave.

"You okay?" Rogue asks.

"I am," Kitty replies as Rogue crosses the room to stand beside her, "I'm just so happy to be here. Last year was a complete bust and now I get a whole new start here. And I get to be here with you," she adds, slipping an arm around Rogue's waist.

"I love that you're here," Rogue says, "This year is gonna be awesome."

"Absolutely the best," Kitty agrees, "Now, did you say something about food?"

They head out of the flat and down towards the dining room, hand in hand, and Rogue can't wait for the year ahead.


Part One
Part Two
Art and soundtrack
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calleigh_j

December 2010

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