Nobody's ever fought for her the way Nightcrawler does.

Rogue can barely remember her Mama, her real Mama; she remembers perfume, something flowery and sensual. She remembers green eyes (like hers,) auburn hair that shone red in sunlight, a tall, slender silhouette (there's more than one reason why Rogue has such a visceral reaction to Jean, why the emotions are too tangled and painful for her to sort through.)

She remembers her Daddy better.

Daddy was big and tall, with russet hair and a deep voice; Rogue can't remember him ever smiling at her, and the expression in his eyes when he looked at her always made her cringe. A four year old doesn't really understand the concept of burden, but Rogue didn't need to understand the word to feel what it meant. And she understood being cast aside perfectly well. The only reason Daddy put up with her was because of Mama; with Mama gone, Daddy had no need or want for her at all.

Aunt Carrie had no idea what to do with a willful, angry, somewhat traumatized four year old, nor the patience or inclination to figure it out. Rogue's never bothered wondering if Carrie even looked for her when she disappeared.

Irene was the closest semblance to stability and motherhood that Rogue ever knew, but even then Destiny's loyalties lay more to Mystique than Rogue; Rogue may have been the one taking overt orders, but Mystique was always very much the alpha in their little family. Rogue didn't see her adoptive mother's natural form until after her own powers had awakened, but Raven Darkholme's mothering was what might be expected of a terrorist: a little, manipulative affection, and a lot of discipline and lessons.

Little Rogue learned how to break in and out of bonds, buildings, computers, vehicles; she learned how to drive almost anything, how to find water and shelter and food in various environments, how to avoid attention and pursuers.

Wolverine's infamous survival lessons were nothing new for Rogue.

If there was one thing Mystique was good at, it was surviving, protecting herself. And this, more than anything else, was the legacy she ensured for her daughter. The other lessons dropped off, Mystique's appearances in Rogue's life (in various guises) eventually petering into a total lack of contact, but one way or another Mystique has been teaching Rogue how to guard herself since she adopted her. (Or, technically, kidnapped her; but nobody really counts it as kidnapping, not even the law, because how can you kidnap an unwanted child?)

Anna Marie learned that nobody wanted her, that there was no such thing as affection freely given. There are always, always conditions. Mama left; Daddy didn't love her; Mama Raven was rarely around, but it never had to be said for Rogue to understand that Mama Irene answered to Mama Raven.

Rogue's never come first for anybody.

Even after she leaves the Brotherhood for the X Men, she understands that the Dream is the priority in the Mansion. Being an X Man means making sacrifices. Rogue is used to this.

What she isn't used to is being looked after, loved; she isn't used to somebody seeking an assocation with her because of who she is, not what she is.

She doesn't react well.

But Nightcrawler won't be deterred. Even when she smashes Mystique's petrified form and Kurt's naive hope, he eventually forgives her, still loves her.

It scares her.

It doesn't matter what she does, what she says; he comes back. He still calls her his sister.

Finally one day she can't take it anymore; she whirls on him, his eager smile drooping slightly at the fierce expression on her face, and she demands, "Why?"

"Why what?" Kurt asks, honestly bewildered.

"Why-" her hands wheel in agitation. "Why don't you ever go away? Why do you keep calling me your sister? We're not blood related, you don't have to-"

"But I want to." He still doesn't understand.

"Why?" she shouts, and now he just looks sad; world weary in the way that Logan sometimes does, ancient eyes set in his young face. His tail sags to the floor, and it's ridiculous that someone as demonic- looking as Kurt can manage to pull off kicked puppy the way he does.

"Do you really have so little self- worth?" he asks softly.

Rogue spins on her heel, growling, but her arm is snagged in a surprisingly firm grip. She cants her head, glares at him over her shoulder. "You should know by now not to touch me."

"I'm not touching your skin, and that's the dangerous part." he replies calmly. "You need to learn to let your guard down a little, Rogue. Did you know there was a study where baby monkeys chose hugs over food?"

She folds her arms. "I'm not a monkey."

"No, but you're a primate." He smiles at her, the gentle expression at odds with his fangs. "You need contact. Your powers may prevent it being skin to skin, but that doesn't mean you can't touch at all."

"Yes it does." she counters flatly. "I've put people in the hospital, Kurt, just because I was careless."

He shrugs. "I wasn't being careless. I was answering your question."

"No you weren't, you were judging me," she snarls, and if there's a little hurt mixed in there too, well, he's already judging her anyway.

"Not in the least." Despite the softness of his tone, the conviction underlying it is rock solid. "Rogue, we're not going to judge you. I'm not judging you. I was just surprised that you don't see what's so obvious to the rest of us-"

"So now I'm dumb?" she bursts out furiously, and Kurt raises a three- fingered hand.

"Not at all." He pins her with one pale eye, in a way that Mystique has been known to do. "Let me finish, please?"

She huffs, and he takes it as the grudging agreement it is. "Rogue, there are a lot of reasons why I call you my sister. The first is because you are."

Their mother gave her a pretty good poker face, but Rogue is slightly taken aback by the fervent tone.

"You know what it's like to have a mutation that's more of a curse than a blessing." He grimaces slightly. "I can't even go out in public without the image inducer on, and I have to be careful about touch too, you know."

She shifts a bit, uncomfortable. He's so cheerful most of the time, it's easy to forget how hard his life has been.

"Obviously, we both have ties to Mystique, and we're siblings- in- arms... but, Rogue, I call you my sister because I want to. Because I want you to be. You really are extraordinary, you know that? And not because of what you can do, or your mutation, but because of who you are. You're so strong, Rogue. And," he laughs a little, "and stubborn. You don't let people push you around. I admire that. I'm... I'm a bit of a coward, really. I don't like to fight. I don't like not being liked. But you take everything thrown at you and throw it right back. Most of the time it doesn't even faze you... mein Gott, I've seen you dodge lasers and throw yourself into a fight without even blinking.

"You're extraordinary." he repeats softly. "I just wish you could see it like I do."

He turns to go, and she can't help but feel guilty at the way his tail drags on the floor, the dejected sloop of his shoulders, the way his head hangs. It always seems to end this way- he comes bounding up to her, happy, and slinks off disappointed- and suddenly she's forgotten why it's so important to hold him at arm's length.

Rogue reaches out, takes his hand in her gloved one; he glances back at her, and she smiles at the hope in his eyes. It's a small smile, hesitant, but there. "You're pretty extraordinary yourself, Blue Boy."

He preens- "Of course."- and squeezes her hand, pulling her along in his wake as he lopes down the hall.

Rogue finds she doesn't really care where they're going.