A year had passed since she made her home on Watchtower. There were a couple of things that she had long gotten over: her ex-boyfriend who was now on the run and known as Clayface (it saddened her that he turned rogue after all that Bruce tried to do for him; she felt even worse that she knew that it would happen) and finding a cure for the mutant DNA strand in her body. Tabitha had other things to occupy her time. She was now considered a full-time technician aboard Watchtower and anyone who needed something that required her expertise hunted her down to request it.
While this kept her busy, she also saw that it kept her off a lot of the major missions. She didn’t know whether to blame the Martian for any of it (he was the only one she actually reported to when it came to doing her work around the space station) but she had a feeling that a lot of her assigned jobs could’ve been placed on hold in order for her to go on a mission. When she thought that she was done with upgrades, he would give her lessons every now and then on how to monitor Watchtower; his theory was that since she was working on the electrical components as it was, there was no harm in teaching her how to monitor.
Learning the controls in the control room guaranteed that the two were around each other more often, which only fueled her attraction to him even more. She knew that she had agreed to be just friends but Tabitha couldn’t tell her feelings that. The only thing stopping her from confessing that her feelings had grown deeper was the fact that she knew he didn’t feel the same. It didn’t bother her much; she knew that he was avoiding romantic relationships with anyone. What bothered her was that it felt that he was hindering her from going on missions. The only times she went was when any of the other founding members specifically requested that she was put on their team.
She was too shy to make her dissatisfaction known to him; for all she knew, anyone who didn’t agree with the Martian would be less likely to go on a mission ever again, not even for cleanup or crowd control! She came up with a plan and smiled to herself as she watched the others across from her in the cafeteria. J’onn was sitting with Diana and John and the three seemed to be having a nonchalant conversation. Tabitha’s smile finally appeared on her face as she looked at the brown bag that sat in the chair beside her; if she had to bribe the Martian into letting her go on more missions, she would!
Her plan had included her getting up, approaching the three and excusing herself and J’onn. However, as she looked him over, she found herself stuck to her seat. He took a couple of careful bites every now and then and she realized that it was the first time that she had seen him eat. It made her mind wander off to other things: what did Martians actually eat and how did their digestive systems worked? Did they have the same organs as humans or were there a few extra/missing parts? As she studied his broad shoulders and muscular chest, she also wondered if the rest of his race had been built the same. Bruce had told her that the Martian was a shape shifter and had preferred his current form to make himself appear more human; however his current shape wasn’t too far from what he really looked like. She tilted her head slightly, resting it in the palm of her hand and tried to picture what he really looked like. Of course, the first image that appeared in her mind was the clichéd large head, opaque oval eyes and small body. It was enough to make her stifle a giggle and go back to admiring his current form, involuntarily tracing the outlines of the muscles in his arms and chest.
She had realized too late that she was a few thoughts away from thinking about him the way the professor did when J’onn suddenly straightened up and stared at her. She bit her lip, blushed and sighed; seeing that he had yet again went through her mind, the “bribe” was going to be used for something else.
“J’onn… could you come here for a sec, please? Don’t act like you’re not in my mind…” she actually smiled at him. He returned the smile, excused himself and made his way over to her. He kept his smile as he sat down across from her.
“I believe I gave myself away…”
“That you did!” she smirked. He couldn’t help it; he was used to Dr. Lindsey having those thoughts about him but Tabitha was an entirely different story! She grabbed the bag and placed it on top of the table, sliding it towards him, “That don’t matter, though. I know your secret…”
“Your guilty pleasure. I know J’onn J’onzz’s weakness!” she teased but nodded at the bag. He gave her a look but reluctantly opened the bag and looked inside. His confused look slowly turned into a smile as he quickly looked at her.
“This entire bag is for me…?”
“On one condition.” she wanted to roar with laughter at the sad and shocked expression he gave her as she took the bag away, “One package for each week you stay outta my head!”
“… Four weeks…” he noticed but she slightly waved her hand at his words.
“I’ll cut you some slack; three. Stay out my head for three weeks and you get three packages. I’ll add in the fourth but we gotta split it!” she winked at him. He narrowed his eyes at her slightly.
“… I do not share my cookies with anyone…” it really surprised her that the Martian possessed a greedy trait. She had no choice but to laugh.
“I bought ‘em so you’re sharing ‘em! Don’t make me not give you one from any of the packs!” she threatened. He opened his mouth to retaliate but thought about her proposition.
“How did you know that I like Oreos?”
“First off, ‘like’ is putting it lightly with you…” she laughed when he gave her a look, “C’mon; you smell like the damn things so don’t give me that look!” she teased. She had to admit that smelling like cookies wasn’t a bad thing at all, “Plus, I’ve seen you eat ‘em; it’s like the only thing you eat regularly. Anyway; we gotta deal?”
“What makes you think that I would keep up with my end of the bargain?” he wanted to know. He was the strongest telepathic known in the universe and could go through minds without even trying; how would she know if he did or didn’t go through hers?
“Cuz your name is J’onn J’onzz and you wouldn’t take your word back over some cookies…” she folded her arms and gave him a look. She had hoped that her theory was right; she figured that he was an Oreo addict and would do anything to get them. It wouldn’t kill him not to go through her mind for a mere three weeks; his reward for doing so would be substantial, “Well?”
“I will agree to it… only if you play a game of chess with me.” he retaliated. It was enough to make her laugh aloud.
“Ain’t no counter-bargaining outta it!”
“The results of the match have no bearing on anything; I simply would like to play against you…”
“I don’t think you like being outsmarted! Fine…” she smiled. He had to smile back because she was absolutely right; it was very rare that someone would or even could outsmart him. A part of him was actually proud that she had done it almost without trying. Maybe they were around each other a bit too much!
He had seen that even after a year’s time, she still had feelings for him. He hadn’t lied to her; thinking back, he realized that he never confirmed nor denied that he was attracted to her as well. The reality was, he had kept the entire truth from her. He was attracted to her… and it bothered him. He had been willing to live his life alone, romantic-wise; he had to agree with Bruce that it was less complicated that way. He wouldn’t have to worry about losing anyone else that was very close to his heart.
J’onn knew that he was not going to win in a battle with his true feelings and accepted the fact that he wouldn’t have minded starting a relationship with the newest member. Not only was she attractive but he admired her mind; it was a reason why he always went through it. She was selfless, always thinking of others before herself. He admired that the most.
Once he admitted to himself that he was attracted to her, the Martian realized why some of the members felt that dating one another would be complicated. He knew that she could take care of herself; he couldn’t help but to be a bit protective of her. It was the main reason why after a year, he did not assign her to many big missions. It wasn’t a matter of trust for him; it was the fact that there was a possibility of her getting seriously hurt, even under the “guidance” of the ones he trusted the most. He knew that it was hampering her but he felt a lot better knowing that she was safe and sound aboard Watchtower; to compensate for it, he started training her on the controls of Watchtower.
Bruce walked inside the cafeteria and noticed J’onn setting up a chessboard in front of Tabitha. He knew about the reasoning behind the Martian teaching the woman how to play chess: it was to make her more strategic. He thought that it was a great idea, as well as the idea of training her behind the controls of Watchtower; with practice, she would probably make a fine replacement for J’onn. What he didn’t agree with was the lack of experience she had on missions. Regardless, he sat down by John and Diana, who were also looking over with curiosity.
“Doesn’t she know that she’s going to lose…?” Diana pointed out. Bruce shrugged.
“Maybe that’s not the lesson to be learned. What brought on the chess game, anyway?”
“I don’t know. I saw her give him something in the brown bag; the way she was smiling, it was more like a gift.” John piped in.
“Probably a bribe to make him assign her to more missions. I think she’s the only one who hasn’t been on many. I don’t understand why he doesn’t let her go on more missions without us. Doesn’t he know that she won’t learn unless she’s out in the field more?” Diana asked no one in particular.
“Maybe he feels that she still isn’t ready.” Bruce held his tongue; he felt the same as Diana but didn’t want to stir anything else up, “Maybe he wants her to finish upgrading Watchtower…”
“She’ll never go on missions, then!” Diana couldn’t help but to laugh a little.
“I don’t know; she’s almost done with the west side. By the way; how’s your armor bracelet?” Bruce smiled towards Diana. He knew that she would just continue to try to argue about how Tabitha’s talents were being wasted staying aboard Watchtower. Diana gave him a thoughtful look and looked down at her bracelets.
“I owe her an apology. I didn’t think that she would be able to do anything to them. They’re actually… better than ever…”
“That’s because she made them indestructible. I think she can make anything indestructible…”
“Hmm… maybe I can arrange for her to have a little talk with Hephaestus; he could probably teach her a few more things.”
“If she can make anything indestructible… it’s no wonder J’onn wants her here on Watchtower.” John said. As the two got up from the table, Bruce went over to where the others had started to gather, watching the chess match between Tabitha and J’onn. He took a quick glance at the open brown bag and slightly smiled; she was indeed bribing him. He wondered how she found out that Oreos were his weakness; while the Martian never hid that he liked the cookies, he tried to hide the fact that he was addicted to them. The thought made Bruce smile even more as he figured that it was very possible Tabitha found out on her own.
He watched as her light brown eyes danced with wonder as she studied every move the Martian made as well as her own moves. Now that she made her home aboard Watchtower, she only wore her t-shirt head wrap when she went down to Earth; her snow-white hair was pulled up in a loose ponytail. Bruce found it cute that whenever J’onn made a move, her forehead would wrinkle slightly as she analyzed the play. He found her cute for that matter. She was no longer the obnoxious, hotheaded Nikki Strykher but the Tabitha Lyght that he enjoyed eating at the diner with. He tried to shake the thought out of his head; he couldn’t allow himself to date another member.
Something else had him recollecting his thoughts. Bruce paid more attention to the game at hand and noticed that something wasn’t right. Tabitha was actually winning. She had captured a lot of his pieces and it made him re-analyze J’onn’s moves. He’s holding back, he thought curiously. When J’onn failed to take one of her pieces, setting himself up for her to take advantage, it became obvious that he was indeed holding back. Bruce wondered if anyone else had caught on that the Martian was giving her the game.
Ten minutes had passed and Tabitha was shocked that no one showed their impatience towards her; she was still thinking about her move. No way, she kept saying over and over again in her mind. She knew that she was putting J’onn in check for the past ten moves however this possible move wasn’t right at all, she believed. She knew that she was still trying to grasp the game in its entirety so she wasn’t confident about going through every single scenario as far as possible moves. However, she went through the ones she knew absolutely sure of… and they all came up with the same results. She switched glances from J’onn to her two bishops and king and finally made a move.
“Check… mate?” she gave J’onn a look as she made her move. Everyone who was watching stared in disbelief, waiting for the Martian to confirm. He looked at the game, sat back to analyze and then suddenly narrowed his eyes at the woman, sighing a bit. His king was in the corner, surrounded by her two bishops and her own king.
“Indeed that is. Excellent job, Tabitha.” he finally smiled at her.
“Did she just beat J’onn in chess?!”
“This is unbelievable!” was what was heard from the crowd of onlookers. They left the cafeteria, on their way to tell others that J’onn J’onzz had been beaten in chess by Tabitha Lyght. She hadn’t heard what the others were saying; the only thing that mattered to her was that he had confirmed that she had beaten him. Her eyes widened.
“Shut the fu… shut up; I just beat you?!”
“Do not celebrate for long; it was a minor setback and I will have a rematch…” he assured her but quickly packed up the chess game, much to Bruce’s dismay. Tabitha was about to smirk and make a comment about him being a sore loser until she took everything in perspective. J’onn J’onzz was the smartest person she knew, maybe the smartest person in the universe; how did she after so little training, beat him in a game of pure intellect?
“Wait… something ain’t right…” she finally realized. He had packed up the game too quickly. She gave him a look, “J’onn… did you just let me beat you…?” she lowered her voice. He gave her a warm smile.
“Now… why would I do that?” he kept his smile as he started to leave the area. As Bruce tried to hide his smirk, Tabitha simply watched the Martian leave, wondering what reasons he would have to let her beat him.
He knew that he had to keep his word; a deal was a deal. As much as he wanted to, J’onn did not go into Tabitha’s mind. He admitted that he actually missed it; he enjoyed hearing her thoughts. Her thought process was unique to him; one thought always connected to another: before she knew it, she would be thinking about an entirely different subject a few moments after the original thought! He found out that there was a selfless reason for almost everything she did. Her work around Watchtower was something that she really took pride in; those thoughts almost always led to her thinking about getting back to her sculpting (he found himself looking forward to seeing one of her art pieces). She wanted to do a sculpture for Clark; although she wasn’t as close to him as she was with Bruce, Wally and J’onn, Tabitha got a kick out of his nickname as “The Man of Steel”: it played perfectly into what she had in mind for him!
J’onn even admired that she acquired a quick bond with Wally and Diana, always looking forward to going on missions with either one or simply hanging out with Wally. While she never asked, Tabitha actually wanted to meet the gods that Diana knew. She enjoyed spending time with Wally for two reasons: they always had fun together and she could see that he was just as thrilled about the two hanging out as she was. Had the two not reminded him of two teenage boys always wanting to pull pranks, J’onn would have thought the two would make the perfect couple!
Her other thoughts surrounded her family. She had considered Dr. Lindsey a part of her family, as well as her husband and children; especially the children. He knew that at times they made her feel a bit uncomfortable, which was common for someone who wasn’t used to being around children that young. However, she saw that they quickly bonded with her and she loved them just as their parents did.
J’onn knew that she hadn’t seen her own family since she obtained the mutant DNA strand and figured that it was time for her to make a visit. She gave him a slight smile as her door slid open.
“J’onn… you gonna cheat and let me win, again?” her smile widened. He laughed.
“You don’t give yourself enough credit, as always. You won fair and square…”
“Besides, I didn’t come visit to play a rematch. I have a special mission for you.”
“Wait… what? Really?” she lit up; he had forgotten that she didn’t go on many missions. He kept his smile as he entered her room. Her room was simple, just as his was. Her bed was neatly made save for the spot he assumed she was laying on before he came to visit. There were no pictures anywhere, not even of the professor or the children; J’onn wanted to change that or at least help change that.
“Yes. I want you to go visit your family.” he surprised her. When the thought finally registered, she widened her eyes but sat down on her bed.
“I think it’s… too early…” she looked down at her feet. He slightly sighed and sat down beside her.
“Tabitha, when was the last time you actually saw them?” he knew that she wasn’t going to answer right away. He already knew how long it had been: four years, “Regardless of how you look, regardless of what you are now, I think they deserve to see you. It’s been far too long.”
“… I don’t know…”
“If your family is anything like you… I believe they will be willing to accept you. Take Dr. Lindsey and her children with you; they seem to always calm you down in situations like this.” he realized. Tabitha slowly nodded; he was right: whenever Jamila was with her, she felt more confident about things. For this special “mission”, she would need all the courage and confidence in the world, “Will it put you more at ease if I came along as well?” his next question surprised her. She looked at him and slightly smirked.
“What about Watchtower?”
“I am a world class telepathic; I am always connected to Watchtower wherever I go.” she found it funny that it sounded as if he was actually bragging. Looking him over made her blush and turn away.
“Well… if you’re coming with us, you’re gonna have to… shape shift or something! At least into some more clothes!” she motioned towards his outfit. He looked down at his attire and back at her.
“What is wrong with what I have on? No one has ever complained before…”
“We’re gonna go see doc and the trips… first off, you know what type of thoughts go on in that perv’s mind!”
“Which would remain regardless of what I have on.”
“… True… but, the triplets? Yeah… it may be best to just shape shift altogether; they won’t leave you alone if you went like… that…”
“I believe I’m capable of handling a trio of eight year olds!”
It was very rare that J’onn J’onzz was wrong about anything; this was an entirely different exception! As the two stood inside the Lindsey household, the children silently and blatantly stared at the tall green Martian. Tabitha gave her best friend a warning glare as she pursed her lips, attempting to hold her laughter in.
“Um…” Albert tried but Tabitha solemnly shook her head.
“I tried to talk him out of it…” she hoped she answered his potential question. Jamil finally got the nerve to tug at J’onn’s cape.
“Excuse me. Is this a costume?”
“A costume? We’re going to a costume party?!” A.C. switched excited glances between the Martian and his brother.
“All we got are our old Halloween costumes… are we gonna go buy new costumes for the party?!” Jamil looked at his parents, his hands still on the cape. It was Solonia’s turn to touch the cape. She looked up at J’onn, studying him.
“Are you a real alien?”
“… He’s a real alien?!”
“COOL!!! Are you a superhero like Superman?!?!” A.C. looked up at J’onn. He was about to answer, despite the muffled snorts from the adults.
“Can you fly? Are you really from another planet? Do you fight crime? Do you fight crime on your planet? Why are you here? Are we in trouble? You come to save us?”
“You really know Superman? And Batman?! And Spider-Man?!?! And, and, and…”
“… Are you a villain…?” the questions bombarded him all at once. He bent down, becoming eye-to-eye with the three and held his hands up. The Lindsey parents were shocked that it immediately silenced the children. J’onn sighed a bit and smiled. He looked at Jamil first.
“This is not a costume. Yes, I can fly. I am from Mars. Yes, I fight crime but not on Mars. As far as I know, you three are not in trouble.” he turned his attention to the next child in line, “I am indeed a superhero like Superman and Batman… and I know both personally. I have yet to meet Spider-Man but I have heard good things about him…” he slyly glanced at Tabitha and then looked at Solonia, “I am not considered an alien but a Martian… and I am very real…”
“What’s the difference between a Martian and an alien? Ain’t they the same…?” Tabitha’s question drew slight glares from both J’onn and Jamila.
“Really?” Jamila asked. Tabitha threw her hands up.
“No offense but they’re all from a different planet!”
“You’re so gonna be in the doghouse after this…” Jamila mumbled, shaking her head.
“Martians are from Mars, aliens are elsewhere. I hope that I have answered all of your questions…” J’onn put his attention back to the children. They nodded enthusiastically.
“Can we tell everyone that we met a superhero Martian?!”
“You certainly may not! Just… go upstairs and put your shoes on! We’re going on a trip and I want total silence from all of you!” Jamila lectured. The three moaned and headed upstairs.
“… Are we flying there?” Jamil asked, causing the three to giggle.
“BOY!!” Albert took a menacing step towards the three and they bolted upstairs. Tabitha snorted and giggled, ignoring the warning glares from the parents. Jamila sighed and looked at the Martian.
“I hope you’re happy with yourself, getting my kids all riled up like that! They’re gonna want to go up to Watchtower and meet everyone now!”
Everyone was transported to Chattanooga, in front of Tabitha’s childhood home. Two transports within minutes of each other was about enough Tabitha could take and made the decision that they would stay for a while! As her stomach settled, she swallowed back the lump caught in her throat from looking at the modest two-story home. Studying the surroundings proved that very little had changed in the four years since she last saw her family. There were the same two cars parked in the driveway; her father’s silver Cadillac Escalade and her mother’s Carolina blue Toyota Camry. The asphalt of the driveway was finally finished, she noticed, as well as the off-white siding on the house; her father had been busy. The smell of freshly cut grass let Tabitha know that her youngest brother, Terry still kept up with his chores. Jamila’s hand on her shoulder startled her.
“You can do it. We’re all right here with you.” she reassured. The professor looked behind her and instantly gave her children a warning glare. Her look softened as instead of the three hiding behind their father, they hid behind the Martian! He smiled down at the three.
“Remember: we’re all going to be on our best behavior.”
“Yes, sir…” the three said in unison. Tabitha took a deep breath and approached the door with the others behind her. She knocked on the door and it felt like an eternity before the door opened. A thin woman appeared, being eye-to-eye with Tabitha. Their eye color and the shape of their faces were nearly identical; the two had different features past that. The woman was a shade darker with her hair swept up in a loose dark brown bun with noticeable streaks of grey scattered throughout. Olivia Lyght took a step back and immediately covered her mouth with her hands. Tears had no problem streaking down to her cheeks.
“… Tabitha…” she managed before she gathered her daughter into her arms.
“Mom…” she managed through her own tears.
“Honey, who’s at the door?” a voice almost thundered through the hallway; it was enough to make Tabitha cry even more. Olivia gathered her composure somewhat and noticed that her daughter had others with her.
“Oh; where are my manners? Come in, come in…” her eyes automatically landed on the green man with the blue cape. She couldn’t say anything until the group were in the living room, “Tabby…” her mother eyed her. Before she could open her mouth, a man entered the room. It was then that the others saw who Tabitha really favored; she was the spitting image of Curtis Lyght with the exception of his soft grey eyes. He towered over everyone else with the exception of J’onn… and it wasn’t by much that he was taller than the human man. His off brown hair was cut short and muscles tried to bulge out of his comfortable white t-shirt.
There was only one thing that drew Mr. Lyght’s attention and that was his only daughter. His eyes moistened as he stared at her.
“Is that my baby girl?” his deep southern twang rang out. She immediately ran to him and they gave each other a tight squeeze.
“Daddy!” her tears continued to fall. He had to pull away to examine her.
“I’m so glad you’re back home; you ain’t changed a bit, honey! Well, you gotten a bit pudgy; what you been doing with yourself?” he lightly poked his daughter in her stomach, causing a series of snorts from the adults and an uproar of laughter from the children.
“Daddy…” Tabitha tried to warn, turning a slight shade of red. He gave his daughter another tight squeeze and his eyes finally landed on the strangers in his house.
“Who’s all this?” he actually stared J’onn down. Tabitha cleared her throat, thinking that the best way was to just be straight forward with the introductions.
“Uh, daddy… mom… this is…”
“Tabby!!” a young man’s voice was heard. As she turned around, she was immediately grabbed and twirled around, being lifted off her feet. She looked in amazement at the youngest of the Lyght children; the last time she had seen him, he was at her shoulders. Now that Terry Lyght was the same height as his older sister, the two could’ve passed for twins, “Oh, man; you’re finally home!! I gotta call Ty and tell… whoa!! Is that Martian Manhunter?!?!” he surprised everyone.
“You know who he is…?” Curtis asked his son. He glanced at his father and nodded.
“Are you kidding me?! He’s like only the best superhero there is in the Justice League!”
“Kiss ass…” Tabitha coughed, making her brother immediately push her.
“Justice League…?” their mother continued to look at the Martian, “You’re a… superhero?”
“… No offense but… what are you doing with my sister… wait…” Terry’s eyes widened. Everyone gave him a confused look except J’onn, who actually blushed slightly.
“Your sister and I are not dating.”
“Mr. J’onn and Miss Tabitha are boyfriend and girlfriend?!” Solonia widened her eyes at the two. The thought was enough for A.C. and Jamil to make disapproving faces and for Tabitha to give Solonia and Terry a bewildered look.
“… You make it sound like a bad thing…” J’onn surprised her even more. When she shot him the bewildered look, it was enough to put a smile on his face and to lighten the mood in the room as the others laughed. She blushed furiously.
“J-Just… can I talk to mom and daddy alone?! Take the triplets upstairs to your room!”
“What? What are they supposed to do up there? I ain’t got no toys for ‘em!” Terry told his sister. J’onn smirked and wondered if bad grammar simply ran in the family or if it was a southern thing; the professor (while not as big of a culprit as her best friend) spoke nearly the same way.
“You still watch wrestling?”
“… Yeah. Don’t tell me you do!”
“These three are avid fans…”
“Really? You guys ever heard of ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage?” he asked, taking the three upstairs. Everyone else sat down in the living room.
“You’re not gonna tell us that he saved you… are ya?” Curtis decided to break the ice. Tabitha bit her lip and sighed slightly.
“Actually… she did…” she pointed to Jamila, “This is doc… uh, Jamila and her husband, Albert. Guess… the only way to tell you everything is to just… tell you…” she decided and started her story. She told her parents everything, from the day the machine malfunctioned on her to her eventually making Watchtower her new home. She was glad that her parents sat and listened without interrupting her; something that was unusual for them, especially since they hadn’t seen their daughter in nearly four years.
As more tears welled up in her mother’s eyes, her father sat in his chair barely moving. He was seething; the general had the nerve to come to their home and tell them that their daughter was deployed over to Iraq. She had never been deployed before; had barely even left the state of Tennessee for that matter, but he knew something wasn’t right when she did not contact them at all. Their worst fears almost came to light when they heard of her best friend’s death in Memphis. Now that he listened to her speak, all of their questions were answered. It still didn’t make things right what General First did.
“That son-of-a-bitch!” he suddenly blurted out.
“Curtis!” her mother looked at him wide-eyed. He shook his head apologetically.
“I’m sorry. That damn general; waltzing in here and telling us nothing but lies…”
“There was no way he would’ve told us the truth; that he killed our baby…”
“Mom…” Tabitha lightly grumbled. She couldn’t help but look at her daughter. She knew that superheroes existed however she never paid much attention to them. Now to hear that her daughter was one of them… it was somewhat unbelievable.
“So… these powers of yours… do you still have them?” her question almost made Jamila cringe in her seat. She knew that she was supposed to have told Tabitha that she would never be normal again… she just never could find the heart or the time to tell her the news. J’onn gave her a slight look; had he known that her best friend couldn’t muster up the nerve to tell her, he would’ve done it himself the moment he found out.
She knew that her mother was the type of person that needed physical proof to believe in anything although she knew that her daughter would not make these things up. It made her slightly huff and immediately took off the t-shirt head wrap. Both parents gasped as she shrugged.
“Side effect of being struck by lightning twice…” she ran her hand through her thick hair, “So is this…” she stood, deciding to give her mother a full demonstration. She let the currents flow from her hands to her arms and made them travel all over her body before letting them dissipate. She had expected for her parents to gasp but not for it to echo. She abruptly looked towards the bottom of the stairs.
“She’s magic, she’s magic; Miss Tabitha’s magic!!”
“Oh, hell…” Jamila knew that her daughter was going to run and tell the others what she saw. Tabitha was right on her heels as the two women tried to catch the girl in time. When they walked into Terry’s room, Tabitha knew they were too late as the triplets bombarded her with excited eyes and jumbled up questions.
“Can you fly like Mr. J’onn?!”
“You know Superman and Spider-Man and Batman, too?!?!”
“Are you a superhero, too?!”
“A super heroine, baby…” Jamila tried to correct A.C.
“Do you fight crime with Mr. J’onn? Do you save the day? Were you sent to protect us?!”
“Now can we tell everyone that we know two superheroes?!”
“Guys, guys, guys, guys, GUYS!! Just… calm down for a sec, okay?” she kneeled down towards them, “Okay… yes, I’m a superhero… can it, doc!” she warned as Jamila opened her mouth, “I can kinda fly but not like Mr. J’onn…”
“Wait a sec… what?” Terry looked at his sister. She sighed and stood up.
“That’s the real reason why J’onn is here with me; I’m part of the Justice League, now…”
“Wait………. WHAT?!?! Shut up, Tabby… my sister is not in the Justice League for real!!”
“This don’t leave this house, Terry!” she sighed once more, “Alright. I’m gonna show you one time but you all gotta promise not to tell no one else!” she decided to give them a small demonstration. The triplets and her brother looked on in awe.
“Told you she was magic!” Solonia looked at her brothers. Tabitha looked at her brother, who was still staring at her.
“That… was… AWESOME! You gotta tell me your superhero name!”
“I had two, actually. When I was with Spider-Man…”
“YOU WERE WITH SPIDER-MAN?!?!?! I gotta sit down…” he actually sat down on his bed.
“… And Batman…”
“… I’m gonna pass out…” Terry put his head in his hands. Tabitha shook her head as Jamila laughed.
“Guess that’s gonna make four visitors to Watchtower, now!”
She was really glad to finally be able to see her family after so long. Despite her warning, Terry called her other brothers, anyway and told them that their sister was a member of the Justice League. Regardless, she had to admit that it felt good spending time with her family once more. J’onn didn’t want to make her family feel even more uncomfortable around him and decided to make his way back to Watchtower, giving her time to be with her loved ones. He knew that once the attention died out on her, the questions would immediately transfer over to himself.
Back on Watchtower, however, Tabitha found herself in the same rut as before: her making upgrades all over the space station and J’onn not letting her go on the big missions. She couldn’t help growing some sort of resentment towards the others who came back with tales of their missions while she was stuck being called on for damage and crowd control. Yet again, she didn’t want to risk voicing her opinion to the Martian. For all she knew, he already knew how she felt; the three weeks were long gone… as well as the three packages of Oreos! Whenever she thought about it, she had to let out a frustrated sigh and continue to work; she felt that she should be happy that she was even a part of the league!
While she reluctantly accepted her role in the league, there was someone who was as frustrated as she was. Bruce thought that it was really unfair but had to realize that it was partially his fault; he was the one who had made the suggestion that she not go on many missions. However, it had been a year and she had clearly moved on; she was definitely ready to take on the bigger missions. He couldn’t fathom the reason J’onn had to keep her away from the big missions; was he afraid that she would forget her rehabilitation, slip up and let her rage take control of her? If that was the case, why was he so reluctant to even assign her to one of the founding member’s team? Bruce knew that even he was capable of stopping her by himself if it was to ever happen again; he had no idea what the Martian’s problem was.
Another thing that was making him slightly frustrated was the sudden feelings he had for the woman. Who was he kidding; they weren’t sudden: they had been building up since he was introduced to Nikki Strykher! It helped that she was a changed person; she was more herself ever since going through her treatment. He understood completely how and why Ethan fell in love with her; what he had seen in her.
As he told himself that any man would be lucky to have her, it made him realize that he was somewhat jealous. Because of her work around Watchtower, she was busy, too busy to spend time with no one else except Wally… and J’onn. He knew that Wally thought of her as a sister and J’onn… Bruce had to admit that he had no idea how the Martian felt about the lightning woman! All he knew was that the two did spend a lot of time with each other on a daily basis. If he wasn’t training her on the controls of Watchtower, he was playing chess with her… or sharing a package of Oreos with her. Maybe if he took the time to play chess with her, they would be able to spend time with each other like they did in the beginning of their friendship.
As much as Bruce tried to shake the thoughts out of his head, he couldn’t. He knew that he was adamant about not dating a Justice League member… and this was making it hard on him. It made him think of Diana and how she would react if he was to have went ahead and pursued Tabitha, or at least tell her how he felt. Bruce didn’t want Diana to grow resentment towards either of them, especially seeing that Tabitha would be an innocent bystander in it all. This is the reason why I don’t date within the league, he reasoned to himself. Once he admitted it in his head, it also made him realize that they were all grown. Beyond the fact that Diana was as good of a friend as Tabitha, why did he worry about either of their reactions if he had chosen one of them to date? The other would have to understand, get over it and either continue to be their friend or choose to not deal with them… which would be awkward seeing that the three had to work together. Bruce shook his head and continued to walk down the hallway.
As he slowly walked past her door, Bruce knew that some sort of decision should be made. She had to know; he wanted her to know about his feelings for her. Maybe she would decide that it would best to remain friends. The thought made him remember when she approached him with her awkward question of whether he had liked her. Despite Wally putting that idea in her head, she had to have some type of feelings for him if she was willing to put herself in an embarrassing situation to find out, he thought. He made the decision as he stood in front of her door; she had to know.
Bruce was about to knock on her door but was stopped by the warning blare from Watchtower, indicating that there was an emergency mission. Before long, he was in the main control room, along with the rest of the Justice League members. He did a quick scan of the room and noticed that Tabitha was nowhere to be found. As J’onn debriefed everyone on the situation in the Midwest portion of the U.S., Bruce wondered if she was on Earth visiting Jamila or her family. He was sure that the Martian would summon her via her communicator, seeing that the mission was huge enough to need almost every available body aboard Watchtower.
As everyone was teleported to the area in question, Bruce was looking forward to seeing Tabitha already there. A couple of teenagers had found an alien ship equipped with robotic insects that were devouring everything in their path; he knew that Tabitha would be able to make quick work of the aliens, knocking them into submission. When he saw no sign of her or her lightning, he shook his head at the reality of things; J’onn decided to not let the woman join the others on this mission.
He had no choice but to fight the things with all that he had however he saw the immediate problem; the insects multiplied every time they were hit. Maybe it was a good thing that Tabitha wasn’t there, he thought as he pressed his communicator.
“Big problem. We’re hitting these things with all we have but they’re splitting into two with every hit…” he notified the Martian. J’onn gave it a quick thought and shook his head.
“Nanotechnology. Can you spare anyone to get to Ray Palmer?”
“I’ll do it myself.” he made the decision. Ray Palmer was better known as the Atom, a physicist capable of shrinking in size; J’onn needed someone to infiltrate the mother ship without being detected. He didn’t know how long it would take Bruce to get in contact with the scientist and with what he was told, he knew that the group needed something else to hold the mechanical monsters until the deed was done. He hesitantly looked over at the button that would launch Watchtower’s main weapon: a nuclear laser.
“I’ll try to buy you some time.” he notified Bruce as he began to set the coordinates. It took Bruce a moment to respond, thinking what the Martian could do to hold off the insects. His eyes slightly widened.
“Tell everyone to stand clear for a moment…”
“… Fine…” he had hoped that seeing they were in the middle of nowhere, the radiation wouldn’t be so bad. He sighed as he began to tell the others to fall back; J’onn wouldn’t do anything that would risk the well-being of others.
His plan was to create a crater between the nanobots and the small town; if the crater was large enough, it would buy plenty of time for Bruce to retrieve the Atom. However, the energy it took to fire the laser drained the entire space station of its power. The sounds of Watchtower powering down was enough to knock Tabitha out of her sleep. She blinked a few times, trying to adjust her eyes. When she realized that it was actually pitch dark in her room, that her eyes were not playing tricks on her, she fumbled out of bed, trying to get out of the room. Something happened, she thought as she tried to open her door. Seeing that the power was definitely out, she had to force it open by hand. She was greeted by more darkness and silence; something was definitely wrong, she realized as she tried to find her toolbox. She didn’t bother going through it for her flashlight; she grabbed the box and did a Lightning Cloud to the main room. There was little light there and she saw J’onn’s silhouette standing over the controls. He immediately turned to look at her, a bit of guilt rising through him.
“Yes. Everything is fine here.”
“What happened? Where’s everyone?”
“There was an emergency mission on Earth. A large group of nanobots are making their way into a town. I dispatched Bruce to get someone who has a great deal of knowledge to deal with the situation. In the meantime, I had to buy him some time…” he tried to explain. The woman had her flashlight out by then, trying to survey any damage.
“I don’t get it; what did you do?”
“In extreme cases of an emergency, Watchtower was equipped with a nuclear weapon…”
“… w-what?” she stared at him, putting two and two together, “It’s that bad down there?! You… nuked everyone…”
“No; I only wanted to create some space between the nanobots and the town. The radiation level was very low.” he hurriedly explained. She let out a small sigh; she should’ve known better than to think that he would do something like that.
“Ugh… how did I sleep through the alarm…? I’m sorry…”
“It’s quite alright. I didn’t want you down there anyway, especially now that I know what we’re dealing with. We’ll be powerless for about an hour. I’ll know the status on Earth then.”
“So… even at the lowest level, it takes away all of Watchtower’s power?” she wanted to think of something else. When he nodded, she focused her flashlight on the main control console, “Hmm… never had to deal with anything nuclear before. Don’t know if I can stop it from draining all the power… maybe shorten the time it takes for the power to come back…” she thought aloud to herself.
“That would be appreciated. I’m hoping that the weapon wouldn’t have to be used again… at least not towards Earth.” he told her. She could only nod back. At least everyone’s okay, she thought. She decided against starting to work on the system or even trying to restore some of the power; the longer she stood in the room with him, the more upset she got. She could be of some assistance down on Earth, she knew it. However, yet again, she had been left behind. He had tried to assure her that it was for the best and if he had felt that way, Tabitha tried to tell herself, then maybe there really was a good reason for her not to be down there. The only thing she could do was wait until the power came back on; then she would worry about attempting an upgrade on the system.
“If it’s okay with you, think I’m gonna head back to my room…”
“That’s fine.” he told her, feeling even guiltier that she had already turned to leave before he responded. He knew that she was upset with him without even going through her mind. She had every right to be; he didn’t want to send her down to help the others. If she found out that he even manipulated her mind to sleep through the alarm, it was a high possibility that she would never speak to him again.
She jumped slightly as the power came back on an hour later. She wanted to go back to sleep, to at least pass the time quickly. However, her mind wouldn’t let her. It kept trying to think of why she wasn’t down there helping… and how she could’ve slept through the blaring alarm; someone knocking on her door was enough to startle her out of the deepest of sleeps: how was it that a blaring alarm had come and gone and she was none the wisest?
An hour was enough time for her to collect her thoughts about how she was being treated. She appreciated everything that the League had done for her, especially J’onn and Bruce. However, if she wasn’t allowed to go on missions even after a year of living there, what good was she really? She might as well be one of the civilian workers, she fumed. She had to grow a backbone, she decided as she hopped out of bed; she had to tell the Martian how she really felt about everything.
She tracked him down in one of the recreation rooms. He couldn’t explain it; he didn’t want to be in the control room nor did he want to go to his room. He actually wanted to see if Tabitha was fine but wanted her to calm down before he did. At first, he was glad to look in her light brown eyes until he felt that she was still upset. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
“I need to talk to you… about a lot of stuff…”
“I’m always here to listen…” he had a feeling where the conversation was going. She looked at him finally, her eyes moistened slightly.
“”Why won’t you let me go on missions? Well, big ones, anyway! What; you don’t trust that I can handle myself out in the field? That I need a babysitter every time I leave here?”
“It’s not that, Tabitha…”
“So, what is it? You think I do a better job doing upgrades up here? Cuz, let me tell you; if I wanted to be a technician, I would’ve stayed in Gotham! I’ve been here for a year and I got nothing to show for it!”
“That isn’t true; you’ve improved a lot…”
“Yeah, on my rage; I know that! And maybe it doesn’t mean much to some folks about going on missions, real missions. But, it does to me! You know what gets to me? Look around, J’onn; everyone is gone… everyone! But, I’m still here! And I know you had a hand in making me sleep through that alarm; a fucking ant walking across carpet wakes me up!” she couldn’t stop the couple of tears escaping from her eyes; she was really hurt when she realized that he resorted to using his ability in order to keep her from joining the mission. Did he not understand that even if she disagreed with him, he was a founding member: whatever order he gave her, she would have no choice but to obey it? All he had to do was simply tell her, as always that she would not join the others on the mission.
He was surprised at her outburst as well as her tears. He knew that she was prone to using profanity… a lot but she tried to refrain from using it in front of him out of respect. This explosion of hers showed him just how upset she really was; it was giving him no choice but to let her know how he really felt.
“Tabitha…” he tried but she shook her head, angrily wiping at the tears.
“… I’m sorry. Guess I said too much. Maybe I just need to turn in my communicator and…”
“Wait!” he grabbed her by the arms as she tried to leave. She looked at him, shocked that he would touch her, that he would want her to stay. More tears forced their way out of her eyes, “I should be the one apologizing. I didn’t want to use my ability on you but… I simply couldn’t let you go on this mission.” he admitted. It was really all she wanted. The rest of the times, he had never given out an explanation as to why she was left to stay aboard while the others left; he just simply told her that she wasn’t going and that was the end of the conversation. It still made her wonder why he didn’t want her to go, especially on this one.
“W-why not? I can handle myself, regardless of what you think!” she cried. He had enough; it was either have her highly upset with him for the rest of her life or tell her the truth.
“I just… I don’t want anything to happen to you!” for the first time since meeting the Martian, she saw his emotion come out. Her heart thumped hard through her chest at his words.
“W-what…?” she blinked at him. Was he saying what she thought he was saying? Her body stiffened and melted simultaneously as he gently wiped at her tears.
“I had a family once. A wife and a daughter. I… lost them and couldn’t do anything about it. I never wanted to experience that ever again. I refuse… I refuse to lose you the same way… I don’t want anything to happen to you that I’m unable to stop. This is why I’ve held you back from a lot of missions.” he fully explained. He wanted badly to go through her mind, to know what she was thinking at that moment; she had fallen into a shocked silence at his words. If anything, she felt foolish for her outburst as well as the tears and wanted to simply leave. However, the Martian had a firm grip on her arms and wasn’t letting her go, let alone even look away. He held her gaze, “I apologize for making you upset with me. I never want you to feel that way towards me… ever again.” he finished explaining. More tears fell from her eyes; she knew that this was his way of pouring his heart out to her. He had kept his emotions at bay for so long that it was almost like a new feeling for him; he had no real idea on how to act. She was relieved that the feelings she tried to push aside for the Martian for a whole year were not in vain; they both felt the same about each other.
“J-J’onn…” was the only thing that escaped her mouth. He saw that she wasn’t going to fight him, that she was no longer upset with him and let out a small sigh as he cupped her face. Although she now felt her heart beat in her throat, she slowly leaned towards him. Warmth traveled throughout her entire body when he did the same and without warning, placed his lips softly on hers.
As the others were transported back to Watchtower, Bruce made the decision to go ahead and tell Tabitha how he really felt. He had made up his mind while he was on his way to Ray Palmer’s lab, actually; the scientist was able to infiltrate the mother ship and took down the nanobots’ control from the inside. He pushed the success of the mission aside for the moment; he also was going to fully voice his opinion to J’onn about his hindering Tabitha’s experience. He knew that it was risky however he knew that he was only one of the very rare few that was able to crudely talk to the Martian without any repercussion.
His keen perception made him abruptly stop as he made his way past one of the recreation rooms. He went back to see what exactly had caught his eye… and couldn’t help standing there, watching with an almost broken heart. There was the lightning woman and the Martian… tightly embraced with each other. Her arms were wrapped around his neck as she stood on her tiptoes, a somewhat flustered look on her face as she let the Martian kiss her. Bruce quickly left so that the two could have their moment. So that’s why he didn’t want her on missions, he sadly realized. He wanted her out of harm’s way… because he truly cared for her. The Manhunter from Mars was in love with the human woman… and had beaten the caped crusader in letting her know. Bruce could do nothing but carry himself back to the teleportation pads, wondering if falling in love was ever meant for him.