Taking One for the Team 1.4Mature

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.

“J’onn…”

“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.

“J’onn…”

“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.

The End

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