The team pretends they're not intimidated when they see Psimon's mind is gone. Wally cracks a joke she doesn't understand about a vegetable, but for a moment she can tell everyone else is looking at her like she's just done something new and terrible. They're quiet all through the aftermath and the ride home, and if they're not quiet, they're angry or joking too loud.
When they get back to the Cave, M'gann does something she's never done in earnest before: she shuts her mind. J'onn gives her an odd look when she follows the team off her bioship, and she feels ridiculous when he slips right past the locks like they aren't there. He sees the fear and turmoil, and she smiles like it's a game she's playing and the emotion isn't real, but his mind tightens and she knows he'll be visiting her later.
"Hey, Megan, you all right?" asks Artemis, and she realizes her expression has darkened.
"What?" she asks. "Oh! Yes, of course!"
Artemis isn't one for looking much beyond the surface, so she lets herself be put off. M'gann glances at Superboy and can't help but feel his anger, confusion, and hurt. It's not hard for her to make the connection to him finding out his name was for a fictional character. She keeps forgetting that other species don't think of role-playing the same way Martians do.
Turning, he shoots her a glare that she can't help but recoil from a little, but no one else is paying attention; the other two team members are making their preliminary report already. When they're done, Batman releases them for a few hours to sleep or shower or eat before they begin the full debriefing, and M'gann is glad. She's itching to be alone and put herself back in order. It's so much harder to deal with things while you're pretending everything is normal.
And she wants to hide from Superboy and her lies... and the awful deal she made.
She's sitting on her bed when there's a knock on her door. She doesn't want to get up and she knows who it'll be without looking, so she turns the handle with telekinesis instead of moving.
As J'onn steps in, she doesn't meet his eyes. Not that it matters; Martians don't place the same value on the gesture. When he sends a query, she shares the memories from the mission in the fashion of their kind, though she carefully smooths away the part about being blackmailed. When she is finished, he sighs.
"M'gann...." he begins, but everything just bursts out of her.
"I'm sorry!" she says. "I hurt my own friends! I didn't know what to do! And—and then I lied about it, and I modeled myself after you, and I—I know I should be stronger and not hide it—"
"This is not about that."
Her surface fear is strong enough, she hopes, to mask the bone-deep panic she feels that he knows about Queen Bee, before she realizes he's talking about what she did to Psimon.
Obviously trying to be less threatening, he sits beside her on the bed, but this is the first time he's ever come to talk to her about her actions like this. Martians allow much more independence than humans, and usually that is nice. It is what allowed her to come to Earth, after all.
Sidetracked, she wishes J'onn were more protective of her. She tries to hide the thought, the resurgence of the hurt that he wasn't one of those who went to fight the evil sorcerers holding the Earth in two. The Flash didn't go to save Wally, either, even though he's Wally's real uncle, but....
But maybe she is becoming too human. She thinks not even they have the same expectations as her; they're just things she made up based on the idealized world in their TV. It's unfair and selfish and....
Her mind curls in on itself, half forgetting she's not alone until J'onn brushes over it, light and subtle and strong. There's sympathy in it, and love, and she wants to cry because she doesn't deserve it, because she's just as warlike and cruel as the rest of her kind and she just proved that, but she doesn't really understand how to make tears happen naturally instead of deliberately, so she just sits there with misery wrapping around and around. J'onn doesn't even know the worst of the ugliness inside of her.
"I didn't do it on purpose," she whispers. It would probably be better if she had, because it would mean she hadn't completely lost control. That place Psimon took her was designed to strip away her defenses, but she didn't even really break him to keep her friends from seeing her—it was a blast of pure rage that she didn't truly understand until it was over. Exactly like how she trapped the team in the simulation with her grief.
"I know," he says. "Emotions are strong in our race, but M'gann,"—he turns his face toward her fully and speaks deliberately—"you must learn control. This cannot happen again."
She looks down at the inappropriately cheerful stars on her rug, but after a moment he lifts her chin to meet his eyes. The gesture is so human that she remembers he's been here much longer than she has. His fingers linger, thumb sweeping once over her cheek before pulling away. She misses the sensation; humans are so tactile and this form is so close to that.
"I'm sorry," she says, half for her failure and the half for his disappointment in her.
"You have not been training," he says, and she looks away again.
"I didn't..." she says, fidgeting. "Nobody else has to meditate."
"M'gann, you cannot forget that you are not one of them. They already understand this, even if they do not know the whole truth."
There's a surge of anger at his insinuation that she could forget she wasn't human after this, after everything that happened, everything she did to keep the gulf of her difference secret. She starts to clamp down on it in the human fashion, then feels foolish as J'onn carefully guides her mind through the correct way to mitigate the emotion instead.
"Did you ever tell the League?" she asks quietly. "About me?"
Something she's not quick enough to catch or decipher glints over his mind before it it is swept away. She knows there's a lot of J'onn that's beyond her reach, but most of the time it doesn't matter and she can forget how different they are. She's never wished more that they were open to each other.
"No," J'onn answers after a moment, and something stirs up inside her—if it's J'onn's secret, then she's justified to—
"But," he continues slowly, "it is your secret as much as mine. It is yours to keep or reveal."
She sinks down again. Even though she hides it deliberately, she wishes her friends would guess; she feels like they should know if they are true friends. A tiny, unworthy part of her hates them for being so gullible and conceited as to think an entire planet of shapeshifters would look just like them, only bald and green. She knows they have plenty of reasons for thinking this—the form J'onn uses, for example, and the fact that Kryptonians do look exactly like humans—but she can never quite get that part of her to be completely silent, only quieter.
J'onn touches against her mind again, and this time it's easier to remind herself to incorporate the feeling back into herself rather than externalizing it. She feels a flicker of approval from him before he stands.
"As humans say, accidents happen," he says. "But I will return every weekend to check on your progress, and you must consider how far you are truly willing to take this charade. I would prefer not to become your enemy."
She knows it's not a revocation of trust, but it still feels that way.
"Okay," she says. She's unable to quite keep down the thought that he's right not to trust her; if she was going to lie to her teammates, why not everyone else?
She doesn't need to be prodded this time to weave the dark feelings back into herself. Bad emotions were only dangerous when they left the core of you, after all. They were always a part of you, but they could only be acted on if they were externalized.
White Martians were never as good at that kind of control. Maybe... maybe something like last night was always going to happen.
A twist of dissatisfaction in J'onn makes her look up.
"You are not doomed by your origins," he says before he goes. "You have the same capacity as the others to be great, because what you are does not dictate who you are. As I have told you before, you are who you choose to be. Remember that."
Before she can quite recover, he's through the door, but she sends a whisper of thanks after him.
He doesn't know the depth of her betrayal, that what he really ought to have done was lock her up, but she supposes it's the thought that counts. Even if she doesn't deserve it.
Three hours later, she hasn't washed or slept or eaten, but she's confident that she's buried her secrets deep enough that not even Batman will find them.
After the debriefing, she's in the kitchen with Robin. He has a textbook from school open on the table; he's been trying to get Artemis to guess they go to the same school for weeks. Now, though, he's not studying it, in the same way that she's not really reading the recipe book while the cookies are in the oven. He's gearing up to ask her something.
"I'm just curious," he says casually, "about why you lied."
"What?" she asks.
"I'm not trying to attack you or anything," says Robin, "but there was this incident a few years back where the Martian Manhunter was trapped in his true form, and... I know that can't be what you look like."
Fear spirals up in her, tightening and burning... and behind it is an anger that she is beginning to fear even more than discovery. Robin looks up and instantly projects apology.
"Like I said, I'm not trying to attack you," he says. "I'm just... well, I spend a lot of time around Batman, and I thought I'd ask you outright instead of going behind your back. I think paranoia may be contagious."
"I..." she begins, looking away. "Robin, do you trust me?"
"How can you even ask that? Of course I do."
"Please don't ask me again."
She looks down at the book again, and after a moment Robin reluctantly goes back to his own. Every instinct in her screams to wipe his memory of the conversation, to clean the suspicion out of his mind like dusting cobwebs from the corners. She could still do it—she could do it right now, even. She wants to keep him as her friend, like the others, but she'll lose him much worse if he finds out how awful she is. It would be so easy. It would just be what she is, a continuation of the thing she's trying to hide already.
She knows it's the wrong reason not to do it—she knows she shouldn't even be tempted—but she thinks of J'onn's face if he discovers what she's done.
So she turns back to the counter and opens the oven to check the cookies. They're perfect: golden and just turning brown around the edges.
She closes the oven again and waits five minutes to make sure they burn.