This fanfic is my first so please be kind when you review - and please review!

Disclaimer: this is creative joy and I have no ownership of any aspect of the X-men and their associated media, including x-men: evolution

I dedicate it to my wonderful inspiration, the aptly named Inspiration&Strife and I wholeheartedly recommend you read her stories, she is amazing!

thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy my little foray into the world of ROMY...ah, they belong together...


From the darkness Red on Black eyes looked out into the light, reflecting not the stars but glowing from within.

Few people bothered to look into those eyes for long; most were scared at the obvious sign of a mutant in their midst, and others were too superstitious, fearing le Diable Blanc and the tales surrounding the mysterious eyes. Those who did look into his eyes found it took them a long time to adjust to be able to read them, and the red eyed man was hardly an easy person to read.

Only one person had ever looked into those eyes long enough to notice that they didn't reflect the stars, the skies, the light, like other, whiter eyes. These eyes absorbed light and, like their owner, absorbed the world without revealing much of the person looking out of them…and yet, for the one person who had looked truly deeply into those eyes, they revealed so much. They weren't dark, those eyes, they were bright and warm and kind, even while they were wary, intelligent and assessing.

The black so beautiful, like a warm summer night along the Mississippi before the stars came out to play, when the crickets chirruped and the birds sang. That quiet time as the sun sets and the night lazily says hello to the world. That glowing red orb, the warm, hypnotic picture of life and laughter and mystery.

When she thought of those eyes she thought of lazy Southern nights, the sounds of laughter at Mardi Gras, the smell of coffee, cigarettes and beignets.

But the most important, and heartbreaking, were the memories of his eyes, and the memory of that voice followed. his voice, smooth like southern comfort, molasses and chocolate ice-cream on a hot sunny day. God. That voice melted her; heated her to the core, but because she didn't know what to do with a warmth this powerful she turned it into anger until it burned her inside. Challenging her, teasing her, showing her she wasn't alone and she had a family.

She'd been such a fool.

She had been her mother's daughter; the girl Mystique wanted her to be. Raised to keep apart even before her mutation arose, she had learned her lessons too well and even when she tried to break free she did exactly what her mother had taught her; be angry, be so cold inside it burns you, but don't let people in.

Finally when she'd pushed her mother off the cliff she still wasn't free; even then it was a lesson her mother wanted her to learn – hurt them before they hurt you, and if you can't, well, hurt them worse.

Not like Kurt, biologically Mystique's son but so completely different he glowed with optimism, love and faith in people. He had every reason for bitterness and fear but he loved with the same all encompassing power that Mystique hated.

She'd been so blind; thawing only a little with her new family, her first real family.

The x-men let her start to be herself for the first time.

She who they thought was so independent, she who thought herself so strong willed, and yet it was all walls she'd built because Raven Darkholme and Irene Adler taught her to keep the world out and their lessons in. She'd been so naive, so angry, so alone; everything they'd taught her to be and everything she'd made for herself.

Until those red and black eyes opened her green ones she hadn't seen the choice that was there all along. If you couldn't choose your teachers, choose what lessons you learn from them.

That was a hard lesson to learn, finding out how much of her identity was a defence mechanism against her mutation, how much was her mother's manipulation, and how much was really her, just her own self. And it was a slow lesson, peeling back those layers and all the old, outdated stories about how she should be, about who she was and what the world was like.

She promised herself that she was strong enough and brave enough, and loved enough, to start undoing some of what she had always thought was damage her mother had done, and to start looking with her own eyes instead of through a haze of half-remembered lies.

When she'd returned from blood moon bayou she'd been greeted by the professor and as Scott had walked over to Jean she saw the pretty telepath look at her with such worry and compassion it had felt like a slap in the face.

She had started to feel angry *how dare she pity me, Miss Perfect condescending…* and then stopped, all of a sudden, when Jean said "I'm glad you're home Rogue."

All of a sudden, all emotion stopped.

Foggy brained from that moment, she had started her journey of self-discovery with the biggest thing she had never thought of. This, her greatest resentment outside of Mystique, and the person she saw as her total opposite: Jean Grey.

The next morning she waited for Kitty to leave (meeting Lance for a weekend date) and then sat in front of her mirror and looked for the Red Head's psyche. It took time - Jean's psyche wasn't easy to locate, hiding away in Rogue's mind from the resentment Rogue felt toward her, but then she found her and walked a moment in Jean's secret places. She wore this echo of Jean's mind and felt her, knew her, as she had never tried to do before. She had always resented Jean's success, her control of her powers, her family and friends and her easy way with people. Jean was self-assured where Rogue was insecure, outgoing where Rogue was withdrawn, cheery where Rogue was sullen.

Looking into Jean for the first time, she discovered another side; Jean had the confidence of being loved by her family so completely. It had given her the generosity of spirit to make all those around her like family too; the x-men and her friends at school were welcomed into her heart as an extended family and it was natural for her to play the big sister role. But Rogue now saw for the first time what that love and warmth meant within Jean. It meant responsibility to the older girl and a desire to protect those she loved and to make things better for them. Because of that Jean warred with her own telepathy; picking up stray thoughts, feelings and the knowledge that not everyone knew how to take into themselves that same sense of warmth, and her frustration that she could just show them with her mind, but mustn't.

Rogue gasped as she felt Jean's mind open up to her and realised that just as she kept her own mind locked tight to control her psyches, and kept herself covered to avoid touching others, Jean too held doors closed which were too easily opened, keeping her mental shields up constantly, exhaustingly, so as to not take in too much of others. Jean could physically touch, and had many talents Rogue could only steal but –

*not true...*

Rogue jumped.

The mental voice was more than an echo now

*…you're using my telepathy, I think you connected to my psyche in your head and it led you directly into mine* thought Jean from her room along the corridor.

*Oh my God Jean Ah'm so sorry…* Rogue panicked, pulling away.

*It's OK, I knew you hadn't noticed you'd gone outside your own head and into mine. When I realised you were there I thought you'd be so upset it'd be better if I just waited, but then you were so down on yourself I couldn't keep quiet…*

*You'd let me just wander through your mind? That's crazy, Ah could've…*

*I trust you Rogue, and well, you always seem so angry at me…I was so surprised I kind of didn't know what to do*

Roguestarted at that, she was generally angry at most people so why should Jean single herself out?

She felt Jean's amusement through their link as the telepath replied: *No, I'm a telepath remember? Even when I hold everything out I still get glimpses. And even if I wasn't psychic Rogue, I think I'd know*

*Ah'm sorry Jean Ah know it ain't always fair of meh, you're nahce, Ah just…Ah dunno*

*It's OK Rogue, you think I'm everything you're not, but it's not true, you don't steal other people's lives or their psyches or talents anymore than I spy on their thoughts and hopes and dreams. We are the way we are, it's what we do with it that counts and from what I see you try so hard and never give yourself any credit…and I understand what it's like not to know whether a memory, a thought, an idea, even a feeling is yours or someone else's. I know for you it's harder; I can keep most of it out but they're already inside you. I don't know anyone else who can do what you do every single day in keeping those psyches at bay. You can use other people's powers better than they do but even though you have all of us inside you, you still don't see how much we all care for you*

In her room Rogue blushed with embarrassment at the complement, feeling Jean's sincerity *Ah don't know if we'll ever be the best of friends Jean but Ah'll try to see you for who you are, 'stead of as everything I haven't got*

*Thank you Rogue, and thank you for really seeing me. I hope one day we will be good friends at least* with that Rogue felt herself fully returned to her own mind with the strange sensation of Jean's psyche dissipating within her, peacefully and without a sense of loss.

She'd felt calmer after that day, still the same feisty and forthright Rogue but she was getting better at looking at herself, and others, without a legacy of grudges and resentments in her way. It had helped her tame her psyches too, more cautiously from then on to avoid accidentally 'visiting' the real person instead of the echo in her head, but still thoroughly.

One by one she opened them up and they dissipated, leaving her with access to the knowledge she had absorbed and even sporadically the power, but without the echo of a consciousness that didn't belong to her, behind her eyes.

She had even started working with Jean on both their powers. Once in a while they'd go up to the roof at night and Rogue would use her natural prowess with other people's powers to help Jean learn how to use her own more effectively, and Jean would help Rogue explore her own barriers to true control.

For some psyches though, like Mystique and Sabertooth and Logan, she had needed the professor and the real Logan by her side for fear of what she might find. She had not only managed, she had even been able to recollect for Logan some memories he himself had lost decades ago, of Japan and a love lost among the blossom trees.

Still, even though she had begun to feel at home with other people's powers, touch still eluded her. From Pyro's fire playing to Kurt's teleporting to Fred's strength (minus the size) she could instinctively use their powers in ways they couldn't imagine, and yet her own were a mystery to her.

Sometimes she dreamt of the smell of the bayou and the glow of those red eyes. But she had stopped herself resolving his psyche as she had the others. She wanted him to remain a mystery; wanted to ask him the questions, learn about him the right way, not because he was in her head.

It probably didn't help that some nights she sensed him out there watching, and sometimes in her daily activities she felt his eyes on her. He probably knew she could sense him. She suspected it was only because of the resonance of his psyche that she could sense him now, but sometimes she wondered if he had purposefully made his presence known to her.

Why he didn't come forwards she didn't know but from his psyche she sensed his self-loathing. With every fibre of her being she knew she couldn't, shouldn't trust him, that trusting him only led to people dying or being hurt. Powerfully she also knew those feelings weren't hers, they belonged to his psyche and in her heart and soul she knew something more powerful; she knew that he loved her. And she loved him. Whether she could love someone she didn't know how to trust was something she wouldn't know unless he stopped watching her world, and started being part of it.