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.