Disclaimer: I do not own nor do I claim to own any characters or concepts related to Young Justice. This is a nonprofit work of fanfiction.
I originally wrote this back in January, so some things don't quite match up with canon as it is now. It took me a while to cross-post, haha. Please see the end of the work for additional notes!
Such Vast Deserts We Cross
M'gann does not wish to pry; she remembers the heat of Superboy's rage, his thoughts (GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT) harsher than his tongue. Nevertheless she catches whispers, little ghosts her teammates shed like precious drops of rain.
Wally is loudest of all. He feels deeply, and for this reason she thinks she likes him best. At the beach he darts into the waves and his joy spills over, a rich and sweet thing humming warm over her skin. M'gann allows the surf to wash over her toes, the ocean ever wondrous, and thinks he is like a child who has not yet learned to guard his mind and his heart.
He staggers up from the waves. Seawater courses down his face; it drips from his long nose, his square lips. "Megan! Come on in!"
She laughs and runs out, water rolling up her ankles, up her knees, to her thighs and her hips. Somewhere far out in the harbor Kaldur swims, his thoughts deep and steady. For a moment she forgets herself, slipping into the calm of Kaldur. Then Wally catches her arm and dunks her into the water.
She rises again, spluttering. "Ah, that's cold!" She clutches her arms. "Why did you do that?"
Wally laughs, and she pushes him down into the water.
On the beach, Robin is silent. A breeze pulls at his dark hair, his long shirt sleeves. His longing deafens.
"Okay," Wally wheezes, "okay, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have dropped you. What're you looking at?" He looks to the beach, to Robin.
For one delicate moment Robin's desire, that sadness and that want, floods M'gann. Then he turns away. Even his heart is silent then. M'gann stands still as the waves batter her.
Wally slugs back to the shore, bare to his waist, his legs thick with muscle.
"Hey, Rob! Stop sulking and get out here."
Robin sneers. "No way. You'll have to catch me first."
"Oh, dude," Wally says, "you do remember who you're talking to, right?"
Wally nears him, for once langorous. Each deliberate step sends seawater spraying against his legs; ripples trail after him and are swallowed by incoming waves. Something like triumph pierces Robin's carefully marshalled stillness.
"Hello, Megan," M'gann murmurs.
In the cave, she finds Robin practicing his work in a small antechamber. She settles on her heels.
If he is surprised, he does not show it. Robin pops the batarang free of the target.
"Did you need something? I'm a little busy."
"I know," she says lightly. She circles around to the front of him. "I kind of owe you an apology."
He tilts his head. His eyebrow crooks, a smooth line over his mask. "An apology for what exactly?"
She clasps her hands before her. There is a formal means of doing this, but his mind is closed to hers and she will not trespass where she is unwanted. Get out, Superboy had thought, his anger and his hurt twined about each other, the heat of his mental rejection a blow without compare.
Now, M'gann bows her head.
"I should have known you and Wally share a bond. I want you to know I think of him as a younger brother."
"Does Wally know that?" Robin says, snide.
She lifts her head. Her hair brushes her cheeks. Robin has raised his chin, and though his shoulders are straight, his hips cocked with arrogant ease, anxiety simmers off him, an ill miasma.
"I'm not going to steal him from you," she says softly.
Robin laughs then. "Look, Megan, I don't know what you're talking about. Wally's not mine."
M'gann stares at him. Her brow wrinkles, and she thinks again of Robin standing there upon the beach, looking to Wally. She thinks of the pleasure, the glee, dripping off Wally when Robin said, "Catch me."
She frowns. "No," she says. "I think he is."
"Listen," Robin says, "I have to go. But thanks for the apology, I guess." He jabs the batarang into his utility belt, then he turns and leaves her, his cape flashing at his back.
M'gann tips her head. In the silence of the antechamber, Robin's targets aligned one two three against the wall, she thinks.
"But he is," she says at last.
Red Tornado resides high within the mountain, in the observatory. With the others gone to their respective homes, only M'gann and Superboy remain.
She peeks around the corner at Superboy. He sits stiffly on the couch, a book open in his lap and the television on. The room is dark. How does he read? Perhaps that is one of his superpowers. Raucuous, tinny laughter roars from the speakers.
M'gann curls her fingers around the doorframe. She takes deep breaths and wiggles her toes one by one, and she summons courage and peace from her center. Then she calls to him:
"Can I join you?"
Superboy looks at her. The light from the television flickers across his face, casting shadows along the broad planes, a swell beneath his thick nose. His face is unreadable, alien as a human's face but without the free expression that helps her to understand them.
"Sure," he says.
M'gann runs on light feet to the couch. Delicately, she perches on the cushion, drawing her legs up. She crosses them, tucking her right foot into the crook of her left knee, her left foot to her right knee. Superboy stares down at her legs, then he looks to his book.
"Oh, this is one of my favorite shows!" she says, pleased. She sings: "'Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came. You wanna be where where you can see our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name!' I didn't like the ending, though."
Superboy twitches his finger, stroking the page. M'gann waits. At last he ventures, slowly:
"You've watched this show?"
She beams and turns to him. Superboy stiffens, his shoulders drawing up.
"I've found television's really helpful for getting to know about Earth's cultures. Although," she says, frowning, "sometimes it isn't accurate. That's when it's good to talk to someone who knows more about humans, like my uncle or Red Tornado."
They watch the show together in silence, then the commercial break begins. Superboy hesitates a moment, then he turns the book over on his lap.
"Do you watch a lot of TV?"
"Oh, yes," M'gann says brightly. "Until I came here, I hadn't really had many opportunities to speak with humans. So I thought if I were going to join this team, I should do my best to learn as much as I could."
"Everything I learned I learned through the xenomorphs," Superboy said flatly.
M'gann studies his fingers, hooked over the book's cover. Get out, he had roared. Very delicately she touches her fingertips to his wrist.
"I'm sorry," she says.
He turns his head. The tips of his ears pinken. "It's not your fault."
She coils her toes and ducks her head, hiding her smile in her shoulder. Then she thinks of earlier, of her apology to Robin. M'gann tucks her hands in her lap and says thoughtfully, "Did the xenomorphs teach you anything about romance?"
Superboy turns on her, his eyes wide, his mouth thin, his nose red. "What?"
"What," Kaldur says, "are you two doing?"
M'gann looks up from the kitchen floor. Papers litter the room, discarded plans and sketches thrown every which way. Superboy carefully draws a line across a sheet of paper, completing an illustrative diagram.
"Kaldur!" M'gann throws her arms up in greeting. "Would you like to join us?"
"Sure," he says, "if you tell me what you're doing."
"We're planning," Superboy mutters.
He reaches across M'gann for the box of markers. His arm brushes her belly, and M'gann sits back on her heels, her hearts pumping out of sync with one another. She is tired, she tells herself, but that is not reason enough. He smiles shyly at her as he settles.
"Okay," Kaldur says agreeably. His gills flutter, fanning open, then smoothing again. "Planning what?"
M'gann casts about, searching for the mission statement amidst the various works in progress. Superboy's knee rests upon it, so she elbows him, shooing him off it. Startled, he shuffles back. Kaldur's exasperation rises like a string of bubbles from a hot vent in the ocean.
Triumphant, M'gann thrusts the paper at him. Mission Kid Flash and Robin Love Connection! it says in bright pink bubble letters. Superboy had dotted the i's with blue stars.
"Wait," Kaldur says. "Wally and Robin?"
"Yep!" She nods decisively. "They're obviously in love with each other. The staring, the smiling, the touching-"
"They do everything together," Superboy says.
She counts everything off on her fingers. "Movies, TV, video games, breakfast, lunch, dinner-"
"Annoying everyone else," Superboy adds darkly.
"Okay," Kaldur says, "well, you guys obviously know what you're doing. I'll just leave you two to it."
M'gann lunges for him, catching his leg. "But you have to help us! We're teammates-v'aloki-and that means we have to help each other."
Kaldur takes another step, but she holds on to him. Superboy catches her hand. His palm is smooth, unworked. M'gann hold his hand tightly.
"I really, really don't think I should get involved with this," Kaldur says, straining.
"Um, duh, you're our leader," she tells him through her teeth. "It's your responsibility to help us."
Kaldur drags her across the floor, Superboy still hanging off her hand.
"Hooking Wally up with Batman's sidekick is not my job."
"We can't summon the fish without you," Superboy says solemnly.
"He's right," M'gann says urgently. "We need you, Kaldur. You're the only one who can talk to the tuna."
"This is insane," Kaldur says, "and I'm going away now."
M'gann can hold on no longer. She allows him release. Kaldur vanishes down the hall, his tread heavy on the stone. M'gann rests her chin on the floor.
Behind her, Superboy sits up. Stiffly, he pats her back once, twice.
"We don't have to do that one," he tells her.
She sighs, then M'gann floats upright. She thinks of settling on the floor beside him, of grounding herself. Then she folds her arms and turns over onto her back in the air, her hair streaming red and thick and carefully shaped in mimickry of a human girl's. She stares up at the ceiling.
"Maybe Kaldur's right," she says.
Superboy is silent, as he so often is. He waits. She is grateful to him for that, as she imagines he is grateful to her. She hopes he is grateful. She does not wish to anger him again.
A flash of movement catches her eye. She tips her head back. Superboy looks down at her, his brow heavy. His jaw works. Now she waits.
"What do you think?" he asks at last.
She says, "I think being alone, when there's someone you want to be with, must be terrible."
His brow softens, the crease thinning. He nods. Superboy floats, too, his feet just free of the ground.
M'gann sets her jaw and holds her fist out to him as she has seen Wally hold his fist out to Robin. Superboy starts. He eyes her fist, his mouth pursed. Then his arm jerks, and he holds his fist out. He touches his knuckles to hers, fleetingly. This is enough.
M'gann returns to earth.
"Okay!" she says. "Let's do it."
She glances down to the papers lining the kitchen floor, white leaves obscuring each other. M'gann touches her cheek, thinking, and pivots on her heel. The toe of her boot catches the corner of a sheet of paper, wrinkling it. So many choices, she thinks.
Superboy waits at her shoulder, silent. Or shy.
M'gann shakes her hair back. She turns, smiling, on him. She asks him, "What do you think we should start with?"
He blinks, blue eyes wide, and the line of his broad shoulders tenses and then releases. He looks down to the floor, to the bounty of their work, and he, too, thinks. M'gann rocks softly on her heels as she waits; she bounces as she thinks of how Wally will laugh as he takes Robin into his arms.
Superboy murmurs, "Darling, if I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times, if you want to get a man's heart, first you gotta get his stomach."
M'gann's heels click loudly as she drops. She reels on him, her hair flashing, her hearts running, and she squeals, "You watch Jonesing With the Joneses?" She grabs for his hands; she rises before him, joy lifting her. Her hair falls, a red curtain, against his throat.
He stares up at her, her hair surrounding him, and his face reddens. He looks sideways and mutters, "Yeah."
"Oh, my gosh! That's only my favorite show!"
Impossibly, M'gann rises higher. She thinks if she touches the ceiling she might pass through it, happiness the incentive she needs to master so advanced a technique.
"I've seen every episode four times! And my uncle says, why do you need it on DVD anyway, surely you have it memorized by now, M'gann, but," she sighs, "oh, osh kosh b'gosh, it's so good!"
"Yeah," Superboy says gruffly. "It's okay."
He glances up to her again, his short eyelashes black over his eyes. M'gann beams down at him. She clutches his hands even tighter. If he were of her people, she would open her mind to him and give to him of her happiness, that he would know the depth of her joy. The thought is a handful of sand thrown upon a precious pool of water, quaffing and polluting the force of her delight.
M'gann sinks slowly to the floor. Superboy follows her with his eyes, his chin lowering as she settles. His hands are cool in her grip, his long fingers curling shyly about hers.
She clears her throat. "So. Do you think we should try out Grammy Jones' cider cookies from episode seventeen?"
"Maybe not cookies," Superboy says.
"That was just once," she grumbles. Then she brightens. "Oh! What about a cake? Wally likes cake, right?"
Superboy snorts. "Wally likes everything."
"He has a serious metabolism, you know," she tells him solemnly.
The corner of Superboy's mouth crooks up.
Superboy calls to her across the kitchen: "Done."
M'gann leaves off organizing the papers; neat stacks hide the table beneath their work. She darts forward on her toes.
The cake, fully frosted, sits upon the island. Tiny alternating red and green stars encircle the top, stars shaped from colored frosting by a steady and exacting hand. The delicacy surprises M'gann, but delights her too. She had not thought Superboy, so brash and so often impatient, capable of such careful work. Perhaps, she whispers to herself, you shouldn't judge others by their appearances.
Superboy turns the spatula over in his hands. The metal groans, warping as he twists it. His brow is heavy, his jaw hard.
M'gann smiles up at him.
"It's beautiful," she tells him. She touches her thumb to the platter, smoothing away an uneven smudge of frosting. "It's very, very beautiful. You did a wonderful job. Thank you, Superboy."
He ducks his head. His ears, which stick out so cartoonishly large, pinken at the tips. She has shaped ears for herself in the fashion of humans; hers are not like his. M'gann wants to run her fingertip along the whorls of his ears, tracing them as she would a river on a map.
She swallows. Superboy straightens the bent spatula with his fingers, then he sets it down upon the counter. The metal gleams, still crooked.
"All right," she says brightly, "now all we have to do is deliver it to Wally."
"Why do I have to do it?" Superboy whispers, outraged.
He clutches the box to his chest. The tag, To KF, from a little bird , dangles from the ribbon M'gann knotted artfully about the box. M'gann purses her lips.
"Well, I can't give it to him. He'd think it was from me."
Superboy frowns. "But-"
She gives him a shove, pushing at his vast back with mind as well as hands. He skitters forward. Superboy whirls on her, glaring.
M'gann flaps her hands at him. "Go on! Hurry up, before someone else comes."
Then she masks herself, wrapping invisibility around her as a cloth. Superboy scowls directly at her. Those ears of his. Perhaps it's her heartbeats he hears; perhaps her blinking gives her away. M'gann sticks her tongue out at him.
Grumbling, he stomps down the hallway, the cake in its box in his hands. M'gann creeps after him.
Wally's room stands halfway down the passage, the door marked with Flash stickers and an assortment of tin safety signs pinned to the front. When Superboy pounds on the door, the signs clang like dulled bells.
A second blow, then the door swings open and Wally ducks low. Superboy's fist narrowly misses his face.
"Whoa, buddy! Try not to mess up my hair. I just finished styling it." Wally rises again, gingerly feeling his spiked bangs.
Superboy thrusts the box at him. Wally oofs, catching it in his throat.
"This is for you," Superboy says.
Wally rubs his throat, but he takes the box. "Oh, hey, thanks, Supey. You shouldn't have?" He sniffs the box.
Superboy glowers. "It's not from me. Someone brought it to my room by mistake. It's a gift. For you. 'Bye."
He turns and storms away, back down the hall as Wally calls after him: "Sure, I-okay? 'Bye? We'll hang out later!"
When Superboy passes M'gann, his glower is somewhat softer, the set of his jaw almost satisfied. M'gann floats silently after him. She looks back to Wally, who stands in the doorway, the box in hand. Curiosity drips from him, and that easy affection, too. "Wally likes everything," Superboy had said.
"Geez, he's got to get out more," Wally mutters, then he sniffs the box again. Pleasure spikes, and as she rounds the corner, following after then preceding Superboy, she wonders if he has turned the tag over to read it.
Later, in the early hours of the evening, she watches reruns of Jonesing With the Joneses with Superboy. A bowl of brownie batter sits between them, a sweet chocolate that Superboy eats with silent voracity and M'gann licks from her fingertips.
On occasion he shifts upon the couch and his shoulder brushes her. The light from the television screen brightens his face; it draws serenity from the hard lines, the square angles. M'gann smiles and rests against his shoulder.
A commercial break, then. M'gann stretches her long legs before her. She wiggles her toes, cracking the many joints one by one.
"Doesn't that hurt?" Superboy asks.
"Nope," she says cheerily, and she cracks her toes again just to see his nose wrinkle.
Doubtfully, he says, "It sounds like it hurts."
"Not at all! Of course," she adds, "my skeletal structure isn't like a human's skeletal structure. My bones are more, um, fluid? I guess." She frowns, thinking. "So maybe if I were human, it would hurt."
Superboy looks to his own feet, bare upon the floor. The bones in his feet are long and strong, and his toes are long as well, the knuckles spotted with tiny patches of dark hair. Experimentally, he crooks his big toe. The pop resounds, and his eyebrows shoot up.
M'gann touches his arm. "Are you okay? Does it hurt?"
Another pop: he crooks his other big toe. His mouth curves.
"It doesn't," he says.
A man on the television sings, "One eight hundred forty-nine sixteen-" and M'gann raises his arms, hooks her hands together, and stretches. Her shoulders pop, one-two.
"Eight six!" she sings in time with the pops and the television.
Superboy makes a sound: a strangled laugh, barked out between his teeth; then he starts.
M'gann drops her arms. Superboy stares at her. His laugh, alien, hangs between them.
"So what're you guys watching?"
They jump, Superboy instantly closing off. Alarm washes over M'gann: how could she not have noticed another's approach?
Wally drops onto the couch beside M'gann and grabs for the bowl.
"We're eating that," Superboy snaps.
Wally, reaching into the bowl, pauses. He squints into it, then his face clears. "Ahhhh. Doing some baking, huh?" He grins at M'gann. His right eye flickers. A wink, she remembers.
"Seems like a lot of people have been doing some baking today," Wally continues. He grins, still.
"Oh!" M'gann says. "Shh. It's back on."
She turns decisively to the television screen. To her left, Superboy is stiff, his shoulders drawn taut. Wally relaxes into the cushions; he folds his legs casually before him, his shoelaces swinging undone.
M'gann tucks her feet beneath her, one leg folded, then the other. Wally says, "Why are you watching Jonesing With the Joneses? This show is ancient," and she thinks yes, he is very much like a younger brother.
M'gann sends roses to Robin, "from your Kindly Friend," and she doodles a little lightning bolt in the card. "It's not very subtle," she tells Superboy, "but subtlety's not what we're going for."
He nods gravely at this and helps her arrange the fragile baby's breath blossoms in the vase, a pale mist from which the creamy yellow roses, fat and fragrant, emerge. His lips pinch as he concentrates; a fine line runs between his eyebrows. M'gann straightens the red rose standing at the heart of the lot. The thorns prick her fingertips, so she turns her fingertips to fill the spaces between, cradling the stem where it allows her to do so.
In the afternoon, as Robin works on the computers in the lab, M'gann sighs noisily and says, "Wouldn't it be nice if we had some flowers around the cave?"
Silence. She widens her eyes at Superboy, who stiffens.
"Yes!" he says. "That would be nice. To get flowers." He glances at M'gann, and she flashes him a thumbs up.
Robin clicks his tongue. "Another bug in the system. The League should have upgraded the computer grid before we moved in. This technology is practically Stone Age." He unhooks his laptop from the system and rises. "I'm going to go check with Red Tornado."
In his wake, M'gann crosses her arms and frowns. Superboy crosses to stand beside her. He folds his arms in mimickry, the muscles in his shoulders tensing.
"This is trickier than I thought it would be," M'gann allows.
Superboy shifts. His arm brushes her, and she looks down to where his thick right arm rests against her slender left one. He clears his throat.
"It's okay," he says. The words fall like rain upon her. "We'll try again."
M'gann feels her hearts convulse, as if she is a child first emerging from the dark, deep, cool comfort of the caves to the dry sand and harsh winds of her planet. She smiles at Superboy, and she nudges him.
"Let's," she says.
M'gann wafts from one room to the next, reading as she walks on air. Uncle J'onn has recommended several important pieces of human literature, and she has resolved to read as many as she it is possible for her to do. The letters, so strange, blur together. M'gann blows air out through her lips and slaps the book shut.
Her v'aloki have gathered in the lounge area. M'gann goes to them.
"Hello, M'gann," Kaldur says.
"Yo! Megan! Where've you been?"
This is Wally, of course, who waves to her as she enters the room. Superboy, alone upon the couch, looks up from a children's book. The cover shows bright between his fingers.
M'gann sinks to her feet. "Hey, guys. What're you doing?" she asks Kaldur.
He is seated before a checkered board littered with small black and white sculptures, their colors corresponding to the squares. A respectable pile of black pieces rest beside his foot. Ah, she thinks. A war simulator.
"It's called chess," says Robin, seated opposite Kaldur. Wally sits beside Robin, his arm cast across Robin's shoulders, his thumb at Robin's throat. "It's a strategy game."
M'gann ahhhs. "For combat training."
"For fun," Kaldur corrects. To Robin he says, "It's your turn, you know. Feel free to move whenever."
Wally leans against Robin. "Dude, I told you, you gotta move your knight to-"
"Who's playing?" Robin demands. "Me, or you? You can wait for the next game."
Wally groans; he tightens his arm about Robin; he claws at Robin's shoulder. "Rob, you're killing me. You are the slowest chess player on the entire planet. My dog is faster at this."
"You don't have a dog."
"If I had a dog, it would be faster than you. Look-" Wally slides away from Robin to look at the board. His hand lingers upon Robin's nape. "If you move your knight here, then Kaldur will move his rook here, you sacrifice a pawn which sets your queen up for this, when Kaldur moves his knight here your queen's in position to take it which should set off a catastrophic series of events culminating in-"
"You're right," Robin says, "that's a good idea. But I have a better one."
He moves one of the tiny foot soldiers forward, and Wally drops his face onto Robin's shoulder with a soft thunk.
"Why did you do that? Rob, you just lost the entire game-"
Kaldur strokes his chin. His gills fan out, and his brow arches. "No, actually, if he's setting up what I think he's setting up, that was a pretty good move."
"You should listen to me," Wally says urgently, "I know what I'm doing. I'm the chess champion."
"You lost to Batgirl," Robin retorts, "three times."
"She's really good!"
M'gann tips her head. Kaldur frowns at the board, his fingers moving across his chin like seagrass rocking in a current.
"Could you teach me?"
He smiles at her. "Sure thing. I have to warn you, though, Wally really is the chess champion. You might be better off asking him."
Across the board from M'gann and Kaldur, Wally wrestles with Robin, his fingers twisted up in Robin's thick, dark hair. Robin catches Wally's arm and bends it so the elbow turns out, and Wally both laughs and yelps, shaking as he falls upon his back. Robin bends over him and says, "Who's the champion?"
"Mm," M'gann says, "no, I think I want you to teach me."
Kaldur grins. "That's probably the best idea I've heard all day."
"Fine," Wally shouts, still splayed on the floor. "You'll just have to play without me."
"I've been trying to," Robin shoots back at him.
"Children, please," Kaldur says, "don't make me have to call your parents."
M'gann stands, dusting off her knees.
"You can sit here."
Bending to pick up her book, she pauses and turns to see. Superboy, alone still, moves to make room upon the couch. His throat tenses.
M'gann takes her book in hand, and bearing it, she crosses to the couch and to Superboy who lifts his face to her.
"Thank you," she says.
When she sits, their legs touch; their knees knock. He doesn't pull away.
They leave secret love letters in Robin's locker and cookies in Wally's, but the restaurant is their coup de grace, a master stroke borne forth from a late night marathon of The Love Boat.
M'gann rolls over on the couch to peer down at Superboy. "Superboy," she says, "you're a genius."
He smiles, pleased, and offers her the bag of popcorn. She scoops out two handfuls and snarfs them down, savoring the sweetness of the butter and the stinging tang of the salt.
"We'll send them out on recon," she mumbles. She cracks a kernel between her teeth. "I'll disguise myself as Red Tornado and make up some excuse."
"Mobsters," Superboy suggests. He picks at his lip, sucking salt from it. "Stake out."
M'gann, swallowing, pounds her hand against the couch. "Mm! We'll say they, uh, need to scope the restaurant out." She wiggles her fingers at Superboy, who lifts the bag again. "Are there even any fancy restaurants in Happy Harbor?"
Superboy nods. "Clio's. I saw a commercial for it earlier."
"Clio's," she murmurs, and she shivers. "Even the name sounds romantic, doesn't it?"
He lifts one shoulder expressively. M'gann thumps his head, and he lurches forward before turning to glare at her. The corner of his mouth dimples when he frowns, and his eyes crinkle at their edges.
She tells him, "You need to watch more of this show."
Superboy rubs the back of his head; his scowl deepens. But he turns around again. His head bows; he mutters.
M'gann smiles at his nape and says, "More popcorn, please."
Cloaked, M'gann lurks without the restaurant. She peers through the elegant windows into Clio's warm and glowing depths. Wally, his red hair combed, his necktie loosened just so at his throat, smiles at Robin. Robin's back is to her, but the angle of his shoulders is loose, the line of his back nearly relaxed. She does not need to see his face.
Wally speaks, then he reaches for his glass of water. As he leans for it, his sleeve gaping at his wrist, he glances up at Robin. He smiles again, a sweet smile. Wally holds his glass out to Robin, who lifts his head. M'gann presses her cheek to the window and listens. Through the glass, through the smoked brick of Clio's walls, through the air so thick with promise, Robin is silent.
M'gann touches her fingertips to the glass. She wants to say, Be happy. Be happy.
"Why don't we go inside?" Superboy whispers. He stands near to her, warm at her back. His breath ghosts along her jaw. "They can't see us."
M'gann shakes her head. "It's up to them now. But look." She taps the glass.
At the table, Wally laughs; his throat flashes, long and tanned. His pleasure she hears loud as thunder, bright as lightning creasing a night sky. His freckles are constellations, and when he turns, shining, to Robin, they are Robin's to map. Now, like a quiet song just begun, she hears: Robin, joyful.
M'gann turns, smiling, from the window. "I think they'll be okay. Let's go back home."
Superboy nods, and together they rise from the earth. She thinks of Wally smiling across the table at Robin and she thinks of the muted angle of Robin's arm, how he turned to Wally, and M'gann spreads her arms wide as if to embrace the whole of the world.
"Be happy!" she shouts.
A week passes, then another.
M'gann watches and listens. She creeps about on the tips of her toes and spies upon Robin and Wally as they play video games in the designated lounge area, and yet she cannot see how they have changed. They do not kiss, nor do they cling to one another. Wally does not stroke Robin's face in the fashion of lovers.
A third week passes, and yet: nothing.
M'gann throws herself upon the beach and says, "I just don't understand humans!" The surf rolls up to lick her fingertips, white froth and salty foam swallowing her hands, then it slides again to sea.
Superboy crouches beside her, his toes digging into the wettened sand. His face fills the sky, blocking out the sun as it shines weakly through the thickening cloud cover.
"On my planet," she says, grit on her lips, "if you like someone, you let them know." She pushes off the sand, and Superboy sits back, neatly avoiding catching her face with his forehead. "They're idiots! They'll both die alone and unhappy, and it's their own faults! Why can't they just tell each other how they feel?"
Superboy shrugs. "They're idiots," he says.
"M'elaf'inka-a-a-a-a!" she shouts. If Uncle J'onn heard her use such language - but Uncle J'onn is not present, and anyway, she thinks resentfully, it is not his place to tell M'gann what she can and cannot say.
She falls back upon the sand. "I'm out of ideas."
"We could lock them in a closet," Superboy suggests. "That worked on Unmatched."
"Oh, my gosh, no spoilers," M'gann hisses.
He winces. "Sorry."
M'gann sighs again. She folds her hands together upon her belly and stares up at the sky, grey and gloomy. Soon it will rain. Usually this cheers her, to think of water falling from the very sky, sweet and wet; now she thinks it rude for the sky to mock her.
Superboy lowers himself to the sand at her side. He stretches his legs out, then he leans back so he, too, gazes up at the sky.
The ocean murmurs, singing a sloppy tune as the wind rocks the waves: a sonorous, alien song. Superboy is quiet. Does he listen as she listens? This ocean is alien to him as well. M'gann feels small, an insignificant thing. She cannot even help her friends to be happy.
"What should we do?" she asks softly.
Another speaks: Kaldur. His voice is deep, rich with the ocean's song, honeyed with its echoes. He rises from the waves, and as he rises he says, "Leave them alone."
M'gann cranes her head. Superboy sits up from the sand, which clings to his t-shirt, pale grain on black cotton.
Kaldur stands above them, the ocean twining about his ankles, and he says again, "Leave them alone. Whatever's between Wally and Robin is between them. They have to figure it out on their own."
"But they're idiots," says Superboy.
Kaldur wriggles his mouth in a way that says, Well, yes. He drops into a graceful crouch, his webbed toes spreading wide across the sand. The surf recedes, leaving white bubbles to pop upon his toes.
"You can't make them be happy," he tells them. "You can't force them to be together if they aren't ready or if they don't want to be. Do you even know if they want you to do this for them?"
"We're not forcing them to do anything," M'gann protests. "We're helping them. You know, like leaving hints for them."
Kaldur persists. "Is that how they'd see it? I know you want to help, but are you?" He hesitates. Glancing at Superboy, who remains silent beside M'gann, Kaldur says, "Like with your telepathy. Here, without permission or need, it can be an invasion of privacy. How is sending Robin a card and saying it's from Wally any different than-"
M'gann turns on him, rising from the sand.
"I would never," she snarls. "To invade someone's mind like that is - it is tantamount to murder. It is the most heinous of violations. I would die before I would do that."
Kaldur stares at her, then he lowers his eyes.
"I'm sorry," he says.
Her heartbeats deafen, so cruelly do they sound.
"I'm sorry," he says again, and M'gann looks away to the mountain climbing up to the darkening sky. "But please. Megan. Think about this before you do anything else. Is this what they'd want?"
The breeze off the ocean is cool, the smell of the water so thick with salt her stomach cannot bear it. She draws her knees to her chest, and the softness of her human breasts, the weight of them in this moment, makes her flesh crawl.
"Megan," Kaldur says.
He is her tem'nanis, her elder. She hunches her shoulders.
"I will." She rests her forehead upon her knees. "Think about it." Then, because she must, she whispers, "Thank you, Kaldur."
Kaldur is warm, his kindness at odds with the chill of the water as it reaches out for her.
"That's all I'm asking. Thank you, Megan."
She thinks, M'gann.
Superboy stands abruptly. Grit showers upon her, shaken from his jeans, his shoulders, his black hair which has flattened at the back. He does not look at her.
"I'm going in," he says, and he does not wait for M'gann; he does not even wait for her to speak. He pushes off from the sand, and he soars, a beautiful, dark bird flying into the grey embrace of the sky.
She watches him go and her chest aches; her face itches. She wants to crawl into a cave; she wants to crawl into the earth, where it is dry and cool and she can sleep, dreamless. Is this how Robin feels when Wally does not look to him?
M'gann slides her hands down her legs to her bony ankles. No, she thinks. This is how M'gann feels.
At night the cave is silent; the cave is empty. M'gann peeks into the lounge, but the room is dark, the television off, Superboy gone.
She curls up alone upon the couch. Tomorrow she should apologize to Robin and to Wally. She thinks of how Wally had looked at Robin in Clio's, then she thinks of how Superboy had turned from her.
M'gann curls tightly about herself. She aches, still. The hours are slow, the night long. Rain falls without, and the ocean moves.
After a time, she sleeps.
She wakes to the bray of a klaxon. M'gann slips from the lounge area and follows the klaxon's call to the monitor room. Red Tornado turns to her. His eyes shine.
"Good morning, Miss Martian," he drones. "We have a mission. The others should be with us shortly."
Kaldur is first to arrive, still damp from the ocean. Then Wally darts into the room, already suited, then Robin. Superboy is last, and when he enters he does not look at M'gann; he does not look at anyone. He stares fixedly at the great monitor looming before them.
"If you are all ready," Red Tornado says, looking to Wally and Robin, who settle after a moment. "Let's begin the briefing."
The mission is simple or should be, and it goes smoothly enough for the first half hour as they descend lower into the earth, tracing the footsteps of the secret organization Batman declined to name. Then deep in the labyrinthine catacombs a haunting wail goes up, then another, then a third, and out of the deeps something else emerges, a monstrous beast that drips flame like water from its flesh and casts long and flickering lights before and behind it.
The violence of its mind strikes M'gann, then it breaks free of its prison and whatever fear she knew before is as nothing when she sees it, a towering flame, a creature wrought of fire. It screams, a roar that shakes the ancient and pockmarked stone walls about them; embers fly forth from its mouth. M'gann shrinks away, her hearts beating and beating until she feels they may burst in her chest.
"What the fuck," Wally yells. "Nobody said anything about a freaking Balrog!"
Kaldur turns, shouting. "Fall back! Everyone fall back!"
The creature screams again, its howl flooding every passage, every twist and alley. The heated crackle of its cry burns within M'gann. They run; they run. The thing follows. Freed, it hunts.
"How exactly do we take that thing out?" Wally shouts as he rounds back. Swiftest on foot, he scouts ahead, tracing their path back through the labyrinth.
"It's fire, so we ought to be able to hit it with water," Kaldur says. "But I don't have enough juice on me. Megan, are you okay?"
Her hair twists before her eyes, like worms writhing on a line. "It's the fire," she pants, "I'm weak against fire, I can't-" Her stomach churns. Fear is the worm, writhing in her belly.
Kid Flash returns again, blurring as he skids to a stop. "There's an underground lake this way, but we'd be going away from the surface."
Robin looks back. The creature's light nears; it rises after them. "We can't lead it out of the catacombs."
Kaldur nods curtly. "Agreed. KF, you're on point; show us the way. Superboy! I need you covering the rear! Megan," he says, turning to her, "are you going to be okay?"
"Yes," she says shortly. "I will be fine. I'll go with Kid Flash, if he can carry me."
For once, Wally does not leer. "No problem. The Kid Flash Express is in the station, but we gotta go, like, now."
He holds his arms out to her, and she takes his hands and jumps up into his embrace. Light as air, she thinks; light as air. Wally hitches her high, his arms tight about her, then the world collapses into a smear.
"Wow, you're a lot lighter than you look," Wally says, straining. "I mean, not that you look heavy or anything. Is something wrong with your face? You look like you're melting or something."
The wind drags at her hair. M'gann touches her cheek and feels it thinning, rearranging. She looks down to her chest and that, too, is thinning, her breasts blunting. She turns her face to his shoulder.
"I can't concentrate long enough to keep this form," she admits.
"Form? What form? We're here," he says. Wally kicks up a cloud of dirt as he slows.
The lake spreads on and on, motionless and black so far below the surface of the Earth. Phosphorous rocks glow beneath the water. It is a cold lake and it is pristine, and the sight of it calms her.
"Okay," Wally says, "I'll be right back," then he is gone.
M'gann blinks away the afterimages. Alone, she looks over the lake. Her hearts jitter, out of sync. They will lead the beast here, her v'aloki, her team, her brethren. She must not distract herself with maintaining this form.
Alone in the dark she closes her eyes. Her head elongates, her joints narrow; the distribution of fat and muscle shifts throughout her body. Balance: she has missed this.
Distant footsteps sound. Her v'aloki will be here soon. Faint lights flicker along the corridor, the advent of the beast. M'gann breathes in the sweet fragrance of cool water, then she stretches her hands out to the lake and summons the deeps to her. The lake shivers; it rises from its bones.
Her teammates spill into the great, dark chamber. "Just like I told you," Wally says, then he sees M'gann. "Whoa! Megan?"
Kaldur claps Wally on the back. "Nice work. This should do it." He claps his hands together and blue light twines along his arms.
"Whoa!" Wally says again.
"Close your mouth, smart guy," Robin tells him.
"This is what I meant," M'gann says to Wally. "This is my true form."
"Well, hey," Wally says, "still looking good."
Robin pushes him deeper into the chamber. "Really not the time."
"Okay," Kaldur shouts, "we've got incoming in less than a minute. Robin, Kid Flash, you two stay back as much as-"
A loud crack sounds. Something flashes through the air, thrown wide: Superboy. M'gann catches him with the water and swings him back to shore, where he stumbles to his knees.
Kaldur's voice rises: "Everybody ready?"
"Yes," M'gann says, though her hearts choke her.
Then the creature is upon them. Light spills into the darkened chamber, and fire spills off its many limbs; a pool of flame slithers along the rock behind it.
"You can do this, M'gann," she whispers, then she draws the water above her head and shouts, "Everybody get down!"
The wave smashes upon the creature, and its scream whistles like the steam hissing off it. The fire flickers, sinking low, but still it gleams. Kaldur rushes forward, trailing two long whips of lake water from his wrist, and then they are blades he wields as he carves into the flame. Superboy flies into it, pounding at it, his fists cracking into its hide.
M'gann sweats, her skin too dry, her flesh too thin. She reaches again to the lake and calls the water with her trembling fingers. Another wave rises, shuddering, and she drives it down upon the beast. She calls a third wave and she calls a fourth. Her gut crawls.
"Again," she says, "come on, M'gann, pull it together."
A fifth wave begins, sluggishly, to come to her.
"Robin!" Kid Flash shouts suddenly, and the water falls down again to its bed.
The beast, falling into itself as a burnt log crumbles to ash, stretches out three long arms, fire licking in search of new wood. That violent, alien intelligence brushes her again, and she reels.
Kid Flash is a blur; he is lightning striking towards Robin. Not swift enough.
"No," M'gann says, "no, no, no-"
She drops. A shield, she must make a shield- She falls too quickly; she cannot control her flight. Rock rushes up at her. Someone screams her name: M'gann, not Megan. A shield, a shield-
Wally wails, the scent of burnt flesh strikes her, then M'gann smashes into the rock. She screams, not in pain, but rage, and the sound of her own anger surprises her. This is her v'aloki; she must protect them. She wraps her shield about Wally and Robin and holds it tight.
The chamber brightens; fire lashes at her. M'gann turns from it and pushes, driving Wally and Robin back toward the lake, away from the fire. Her vision spots. She hopes it does not hurt as she fears it will.
Then Superboy roars, near to her, and the rock beneath her buckles. Heat washes over her and she curls, seeking peace within herself. The fire does not touch her. Striking Superboy, it withers and it dies as flame driven into stone must perish.
"M'gann," he shouts, "M'gann!"
"Okay," she mumbles through her cracked lips, "okay, I'm okay. But Wally-"
A final cloud of steam billows, issuing forth from a vast, crumpled stone the color of deeply burnt bark. Kaldur, breathing heavily, steps back from it. Water drips from his fingers.
Superboy kneels beside M'gann. He touches her cheek, her neck, her shoulder. She tries to smile, but the gesture hurts her lips. She whispers, "Thank you," and Superboy strokes her head; he strokes her long, bare head with his smooth palm.
"We have to get out of here right now," Robin says, very calmly.
Wally arches, gasping, in his arms, and that stink of flesh burnt deep spills off Wally. His side flashes as he breathes, bloodied and blackened with fire, his suit burnt away across his chest.
M'gann lets fall her shield.
"He will be fine in a few days," Red Tornado reported in the silent hours after the surgeon's report. "He's fortunate to have his metabolism. For anyone else it might have been fatal. His body began repairs as soon as he was injured. For now, he requires rest."
Now M'gann lurks without the medical bay, peeking in through the door. Fragments of Wally's dreams reach out to her, odd images, strange passions. I'm sorry, she thinks at him. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
At her back, Robin says, "Thank you."
M'gann lifts her head from the doorframe. "What?"
"Thank you," he says again. "You saved both our lives."
She turns away. Wally dozes fitfully, his hair a startling crimson against paled skin.
"I wasn't fast enough."
"If you hadn't covered us with your shield," Robin says, rough, "he would have died. I would have died. You were fast enough."
He brushes past her, into the room. In t-shirt and jeans, he looks so young, nearly as young as he is. A child. He perches light as the bird for which he's named upon the edge of the bed. M'gann wishes to wrap him in her arms, him and Wally, her little brothers.
Wally stirs. He blinks owlishly and mumbles, "What're you doing here?"
"Making sure you didn't choke on your IV," Robin says.
"Ha ha." Wally yawns. "IV's intravenous. Latin 'within a vein.' The drip. Can't choke on the drip."
"At least your mouth's still working."
"Mmm. They got me on the good stuff?"
"The very best," Robin promises.
Wally smiles. His eyelashes flutter, then he closes his eyes. M'gann hides her face in the door. Oh, her chest hurts.
"Gonna sleep now," he murmurs.
"You should do that. You won't be much help to the team if you're dead."
"Not dead," Wally whispers.
In the silence that follows, Robin stretches his hand out and touches Wally's brow. He smooths the hair back from his brow, then he strokes Wally's cheek, his thumb ghosting over the freckles sprinkled thickly there.
M'gann steps back, her fingers light upon the door then light upon the wall as she walks down the long and quiet corridor.
At the door to the kitchen she pauses. Superboy's wide back faces her; he stands bent over the island. Her heel scuffs the floor. She thinks of turning and leaving, then he straightens and she knows she wouldn't.
M'gann steps into the kitchen. Her boots click on the tiles, and Superboy turns. She touches her elbow for comfort. He looks to his feet, then to hers, and he lifts his head slowly, his eyes running up the length of her. She tightens her grip on her elbow.
He says, "I'm sorry."
Her chest tightens. She cannot speak for surprise.
He holds her gaze, the blue of his eyes so bright beneath the kitchen lights.
"I got mad at you and I shouldn't have. I lied to them, too. Sorry," he says again.
She steps toward him. One step. Two steps.
"Thank you," she says. "And I'm sorry, too. I'm the one who asked you to do it."
He sets his jaw. "But I said yes."
"Okay," she says. "Then we can both be sorry."
A moment, then he nods. M'gann edges forward again, peering around him at the island. An assortment of bowls and boxes have been stacked upon it, arranged in descending order of size.
"So," she says, drawing it out. "What are you working on?"
He turns back to the island and to the cookbook opened upon it. Superboy tugs at his ear. She traces the curve of it, the angle at which his ear sticks out.
"I thought I'd make cookies," he says. "For Wally."
M'gann plays with her fingers at her back. "Would you like some help?"
Superboy looks at her over the book, and her hearts speed up, tick-tick-ticking in her chest. A vastness looms between them.
"Yeah," he says, and he smiles. Though she does not seek it, she catches a soft murmur, a little whisper calling to her across that vast loneliness.
M'gann can cross such deserts, too.
1) Someone over at the YJ anon meme asked for fic in which M'gann plays matchmaker for Wally and Dick, so of course I wrote 8,000+ words of M'gann/Superboy. I guess that was always a risk? Maybe not. Anyway, the original idea wasn't mine, and to the anon in question: sorry, my fellow nerd. I have failed you.
2) To anyone who reads this in the future: I wrote this after three episodes had aired, so characterizations may be wonky/totally inaccurate. Be gentle with me; I worked with a limited canon.
3) In the comics, Miss Martian was a White Martian raised in the Vega System, but if she's J'onn J'onzz's niece in YJ (TV) continuity, welp. I do what I want, etc.