Untold Tales of the JLI: "Home"
"When I dream, I dream of Mars.
I dream of the plains. I dream of the butterscotch sands blowing almost silently underneath the palest of blue skies. A vista very familiar to me. A scene I had witnessed countless times from the door of my home.
When I dream, this is where my dreams always lead me."
J'Onn J'Onnz, the Martian Manhunter, wandered the halls of the New York embassy of the Justice League International. He had spent many, many years on this planet since an accident had brought him to this planet from his home on Mars. Over the ensuing decades, he had used his abilities to blend in with the peoples of Earth and learn this world's cultures. Yet, there were somethings about this planet and its people that continued to amaze even him.
J'Onn always marvelled at this time of year. The latter part of the month of December was a time usually filled with joy. The yuletide brought with it a time of good will to all. It was the time when many put their differences aside and shared in a feeling of brotherhood with their fellow man. Even those that didn't share in its religious significance could share in its feeling of fellowship. J'Onn thought it amazing that even the most hardened of people could soften at this time of year.
But, J'Onn realized, this time was also filled with loneliness for some. For those poor souls with no families or loved ones to share this time with, this season was filled with reminders of what they didn't have. It was commonly called "Christmas depression".
As J'Onn walked the halls of the JLI embassy, he felt it here. It was palpable and almost all-present. It was a sense of melancholy. And it seemed that no one was immune to the oppressive feeling.
J'Onn stopped and stood in the doorway of the study and looked accross the room at Ice. She was one of the most effervesent people J'Onn had ever known. She was the heart of kindness, and despite her name, she was warmth personified.
But, even she was touched by the melancholy that had set in on the embassy.
J'Onn watched as Ice stared out the window of the study. She wistfully watched the snow outside fall. Even without his telepathic abilities, J'Onn knew what she was thinking about- home.
Before she became the hero known as Ice, Tora Olafsdotter was royalty to her people. A princess. Daughter of King Olaf. Her people were a society of "ice-generators", and those very abilities caused her people to go into hiding. Over time, her people became very xenophobic ("Something that was sadly not uncommon amongst the peoples of Earth." thought J'Onn.). And being cut-off for so long retarded that society's social changes. Women were looked upon as subordinates to men, and were forbidden to use their ice-generating abilities.
But, young Tora had secretly practiced her abilities and honed them over time. To the point that when strangers came to her people's lands, Tora publicly used her powers to save them. After which she was presented with a choice: never use her abilities again or become an outcast among her people. Tora, realizing that her powers could be used to help people, decided to leave and explore the strange new world that the strangers came from.
"A brave choice." thought J'Onn. "And even though she left willingly, she still left all she knew and loved. At this time of year, is it any wonder her thoughts returned to home?"
As J'Onn stood silently watching Ice, he came to a decision.
"Ice?" said J'Onn softly.
Ice, who was lost in her own thoughts and reflections, was totally unaware of J'Onn's presence and, despite the softness in his voice, was startled to hear him. She turned toward him and tried to shake off her reflections with a smile.
"If you would, could you gather the team in the meeting room?" asked J'Onn quietly.
Ice put on the wane smile again. "Alright." she said brightly, but, J'Onn could see through the facade she put up and still felt the melancholy in her heart.
As Ice walked down the corridor in her mission to locate her fellow teammates, she just couldn't shake the longing feelings she had. She knew what it was. She knew she was homesick. It had been so long since she had seen her family and, even though she was cast out by her family, she still missed them desperately. But, Ice was determined not to let these feelings affect her or what she need to do. She had things to do, and the thing she needed to do at that moment was find her teammates and deliver J'Onn's message.
Luckily for Ice, her search for her teammates started in the foyer of the embassy where Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, dressed in their "civilian" attires, had just come in through the front door.
"It is COLD out there!" proclaimed Booster through chattering teeth as he stood shivering in the foyer.
Beetle looked at Booster with some disdain as he started taking off his leather jacket. "WUSS! It's not that cold out there. Ever feel an 'arctic express' blow in over Lake Michigan? That's cold!"
"I'm a 'hot-house flower'." responded Booster as he unzipped his parka. "Does Arizona need a superhero? Or Florida? Oh, I dream of living in Florida! Especially when it's this cold HERE."
"'This cold'?" repeated Beetle, shaking his head, and tsked. He noticed Ice standing there taking in their conversation. "You don't hear Ice complaining about the weather." Beetle said as he winked at her.
Ice smiled and nodded. "This is practically "short-pants" weather where I come from."
That comment alone sent another shiver down Booster's spine.
Ice had to smile at Booster's reaction. She would have enjoyed standing there to watch Beetle ride Booster about his lack of cold-resistance a little longer, but, she had a job to do. "J'Onn wants to see all of us in the meeting room." she said.
"Why does J'Onn always send you with bad news?" Booster asked Ice.
"Because he knows we won't bite her head off." replied Beetle, even though the question wasn't directed at him. "She's the 'velvet glove' to J'Onn's 'iron fist'."
Ice found Fire, her best friend, in the monitor room. Which made perfect sense because Fire was on monitor duty. Surprisingly, Fire had no problem with the meeting. In fact, she almost hugged Ice for bringing the news.
"ANYTHING to break up the monotony of monitor duty!" Fire stated with relief.
Finally, Ice found Guy Gardner, the JLI's resident Green Lantern, in what Guy liked to call his "Fortress of Solitude". His sanctum sanctorum. Also known as the bathroom. Guy said he did his best thinking (if you could call it that!) in there.
Ice knocked tentatively on the door. "Guy?"
"Little busy in here!" Guy's strained voice came through the door.
"J'Onn wants you in the meeting room when you're done." Ice called tentively.
"That might take awhile." Guy called back. "I had mexican last night, and I ain't about to pinch a loaf 'cause Mister Greenjeans said to come running!"
Ice walked away from the door with a shiver of disgust. That was more information than she really needed. She really did love Guy, and she was sure he loved her, but, it was times like this that made her wonder why she did.
The full team of the Justice League International (American branch) convened in the meeting room. All were there except for the JLI's executive administrator, Maxwell Lord IV, who was spending his holidays in Vale, Colarado ("Probably with some young hottie who's only interested in his money!" thought Booster enviously). Blue Beetle and Booster Gold had changed into their uniforms, expecting the worst. The general feeling around the table was tension as J'Onn J'Onnz never convened a meeting unless it was bad news.
J'Onn stood at the head of the table. "I've called you all here for a reason." started J'Onn as he looked around at his teammates. "I have come to a decision." J'Onn stopped to gage the reaction of the team. It was as he expected. They tensed up awaiting the bad news J'Onn was sure to deliver.
"The JLA had a tradition." J'Onn started as he straightened up to his full height, which, at 6'7" was quite considerable. "A tradition that we are going to revive this year." J'Onn waited a second, possibly for dramatic effect. "CHRISTMAS DINNER!"
The reaction at the table instantly changed from tension to confusion. Beetle looked at Booster. Fire looked at Ice. Guy Gardner just had a look of utter incomprehension.
"Say wha'?" asked Guy.
J'Onn kept his head straight and looked down at the team. Most of them recognized this as J'Onn's "leadership stance". The one he put on when he would brook no arguments on a matter.
"We will have a traditional Christmas dinner." stated J'Onn simply. "Turkey. Stuffing. Vegetables. After which, we will exchange presents. This is not voluntary. It's MANDATORY."
The confusion around the table didn't abate with J'Onn's pronouncement. In fact, it only increased.
"Well," said Beetle, trying to get a grasp on what J'Onn wanted. "Who's going to cook this 'traditional' Christmas dinner?"
"YOU are." stated J'Onn as he looked Beetle squarely in the eye..
Beetle was taken aback. "By 'you', I assume you mean all of US!" he spluttered.
"No." said J'Onn and pointed toward Beetle. "By 'you', I mean YOU."
"ME!" exclaimed a shocked and startled Beetle. "I don't know nuthin' 'bout basting no turkeys!" he said in his best Butterfly McQueen voice.
J'Onn pulled a book from under the table and slid it down to Beetle. Beetle's eyes bugged when he saw the cover. "Christmas Dinner for Dummies" was the title of the book. J'Onn had considered all the members of the team. Unfortunately, none of them really knew how to cook. Beetle, however, showed an aptitude in following written directions. Thus, Beetle had the best chance to make something edible and - hopefully - non-lethal.
As expected, the others were enjoying Beetle's predicament. As Beetle looked around the table wildly, each covered a smirk or a smile (except for Guy, who was smiling openly and maliciously). They were, also, thankful it wasn't them that was put into this position.
"But...but...but..." Beetle stammered as he had memories of his mother making Christmas dinner when he was a child. The long, LOOONG hours it took her. "I can't do this alone! This a big job!"
"You're right." said J'Onn stoicly. "That's why Ice is going to help you."
Ice blinked in confusion. "What?" she asked in a state of shock.
J'Onn knew cooking a Christmas dinner was a considerable undertaking, and that Beetle would need a helper. Simply put, Ice was the best choice. Beetle and Booster together in a kitchen was a recipe for disaster (images of an alum stuffed turkey ala "The Three Stooges" came instantly to mind). Fire would flirt with Beetle in order to get out of work, and no dinner would come of that. Guy and Beetle would attempt to kill each other if confined in a kitchen for hours. Thus, Ice was the best (really, ONLY) option.
"Uh-oh! Someone's in trouble with the principal!" whispered Fire to Ice in a sing-songy voice.
"Fire." said J'Onn in his best authoritarian voice. Fire instictively sat up straight. "You and Booster are reponsible for decorations. I want the study and dining hall to look appropriately festive."
"Festive?" asked Fire.
"Festive." confirmed J'Onn. "You and Booster will get whatever is needed. A tree. Garland. All the things that say 'Christmas', and you two will decorate the embassy."
"What about Guy?" asked Booster. "Is he getting off scot-free?"
"I didn't know he was ON Mister Miracle." quipped Beetle as he paged through his copy of "Christmas Dinner for Dummies".
J'Onn ignored Beetle's comment. "No. Guy, too, has his responsibilities."
"Narc!" said Guy angrily to Booster. "Thanks a lot for droppin' the dime on me, butthead."
J'Onn had thought long and hard about what kind of responsibility to give Guy. If he had his way, he'd have sent Guy off on a long, long journey. But, Guy was part of this team, and, as big a pain as he could be, he was still going to be part of this. J'Onn thought of the perfect thing for Guy to be in charge of. In fact, it was one of his specialties.
"Guy will be in charge of beverages." proclaimed J'Onn.
Guy was taken aback. "You mean... drinks?" he asked as he raised his eyebrows.
"Yes. Do you think you can handle that?" J'onn inquired.
"Does a pig love to wallow in mud?" responded Guy with a smile as he warmed to the idea.
"I don't know." said Fire coolly. "Do YOU?"
"Hah. Good one!" said Beetle, never taking his eyes off the page he was reading, as he held out his hand. Fire lightly "gave him five".
"Hardy-har-har." said Guy, clearly not amused.
"You have your missions." J'Onn stated as he straightened to his full height again. "I want this to go off without a hitch. Any questions?"
"If killed or captured, will the Secretary disavow any knowledge of us?" asked Beetle with a smirk.
"No." said J'Onn. "And this Martian will not self-destruct in five seconds either."
"When I dream, my mind takes me back to my home on Mars.
"There I see my wife and daughter. In my dreams, they are both as lovely and full of life as they were so long ago. And the dream is so vivid that I can touch them. I can hear their minds.
"And my heart aches because I know what comes next.
"My dreams are always the same. They start with my home and family... and then comes 'the Burning'.
"When I dream, the cycle always remains the same."
Blue Beetle and Ice, both dressed in street clothes, were at a supermarket. You couldn't have a dinner without doing the grocery shopping. J'Onn had provided a list of needed items for them to procure. Beetle was pushing the shopping cart down the produce aisle as Ice was reading from a list.
"What's next?" asked Beetle.
"Corn." said Ice as she knit her delicate brow. "I think."
Beetle looked over Ice's shoulder at the list and slowly shook his head. "With as organized as he is, you'd think J'Onn's penmanship would be better, wouldn't you?"
Ice shrugged. "Well, english isn't his first language. So, it's understandable."
Beetle looked at her with narrowed eyes. "No it isn't. English isn't your first language, but, you have beautiful penmanship." Beetle critiqued. "Very flowery, yet, extremely neat."
Ice didn't know how to take the compliment. She had never had her penmanship critiqued. Nor, did she think her penmanship would ever be critiqued. Especially by Beetle, who, for the most part, printed everything except his signature.
"Handwriting says a lot about a person, you know? There are whole studies about it." said Beetle conversationally as he started pushing the cart down an aisle.
"Really? What does my handwriting say?" asked Ice curiously.
"Well," said Beetle as he pulled a large can of corn off a shelf. "I'm no handwriting analyst, but, can you really say anything bad about a person who dots her 'i's with smiley faces and uses little hearts for periods?"
Meanwhile, accross town, Booster Gold and Fire were shopping for Christmas decorations. A task made the more complicated by the lateness of the season and the clash of tastes between the shoppers. Fire wanted more traditional trimmings. Booster, who originally hailed from the 25th century, wanted more "modern" (which to him were "traditional") trimmings. Like in every argument between men and women, Fire's tastes won out.
"You're his best friend." said Fire. "So, what does Ted want for Christmas?"
"A girlfriend." said Booster with a smirk as he examined some garland.
"My budget is limited, you know?" responded Fire with a smirk of her own. "Seriously. Any ideas?"
"Ted's easy." said Booster as he stopped to look longingly at a silver foil Christmas tree. "Star Trek. History books. Joke books. Chicago Cubs. Electronics. CDs (Doesn't matter what type of music. He'll listen to it!). DVDs. Crap. Junk. Toys. He likes 'em all."
"C'mon. No one is that easy to shop for." said Fire as she pulled Booster away from the silver Christmas tree.
"Of course it is." said Booster. "All you need is small grasp of a person's tastes. Take you, for example. You're easy."
"I beg your pardon!" said Fire, her eyebrow quirked, a sure sign her temper was beginning to flair.
"No!" said Booster quickly. "That's not what I meant. I mean it's easy to shop for you."
"Really?" asked Fire, the doubt evident in her voice. "Well then, tell me what your 'small grasp' of my tastes tells you."
Booster shrugged his shoulders. "You like things that are gaudy and expensive." he said matter-of-factly.
Fire opened her mouth to argue, but, she realized that Booster was right - she did like things that were gaudy and expensive!
Back at the supermarket, Beetle and Ice were still in the canned foods aisle.
"You don't like the smiley faces or hearts?" asked Ice, a slight hint of hurt in her voice.
"Are you kidding?" asked Beetle with a grin. "I LOVE the smiley faces and hearts! They're cute."
Ice cringed at the word "cute". She had heard that word used to descibe her all her life. When people described Bea, they used words like "beautiful", "exotic", and "breathtaking". When people described her, they used the word "cute".
Beetle caught the cringe. "There is absolutely nothing wrong with 'cute'." said Beetle.
"Have you ever been called 'cute'?" asked Ice glumly.
Beetle started to laugh. It wasn't his normal belly-laugh "bwahaha", but, rather a chuckle. "A couple of times. When a woman calls me 'cute', I definitely take that as a compliment. I gave up on 'handsome' or 'rugged' a long time ago."
"You do that a lot." said Ice, her head tilted with a touch of a smile on her lips.
"Do what?" asked Beetle, as he knit his brow. He was not following.
"Selling yourself short." said Ice earnestly. "You have a lot going for you: you're smart; you're funny; you're a nice guy..."
Beetle cut her off. "Ding ding ding!" He smiled at her confused expression and slowly shook his head. "I knew you couldn't get through that little description of me without saying 'nice guy'!"
Ice was confused. "What's wrong with being a 'nice guy'?"
Beetle sighed and shook his head sadly. "Oh, Tora, Tora, Tora. It's been my experience that women don't want a 'nice guy'. They want a 'bad boy' that, more often than not, treats them like crap."
"That's a generality. And it's not true." argued Ice, shaking her head.
Beetle cocked his head at her. "Said the woman who's dating Guy Gardner!"
It was like Guy Gardner died and went Heaven. The Green Lantern looked around in sheer awe. It was like he could hear angelic music as he spun around and looked at aisles upon aisles of BOOZE! Alcoholic beverages of all types. All the bottles in every shape and size. Flourescent light dancing off their curved glass beauty.
Guy often thought about chucking it all and opening a bar somewhere. A real manly man's kinda joint. Low lights, neon beer signs, and sawdust on the floor. Not some stupid foo-foo theme restaurant or something.
When Guy realized he had a nice size wad of cash in which to buy the beverages for the Christmas dinner, something creeped upon Guy's face that his fellow teammates would have found disturbing on Guy's usually surly visage: a look of pure, almost child-like JOY!
"Okay." said Fire, starting to warm to Booster's sudden abilities. "What about Tora?"
"Something sweet or cute." said Booster decisively.
"Guy?" asked Fire.
"Pornography, pro wrestling, or football."
"Nothing with a flame or green."
Fire cocked an eyebrow at that last remark.
"Hey!" said Booster, innocently putting his hands up. "Don't blame me. I just calls 'em like I sees 'em!"
"When I dream, I dream of the last days of Mars.
"Some compare me with Superman. We are both sole survivors our respective races. But, Superman never witnessed the death of his people. I envy him that... I was not so fortunate. I watched everyone and everything I knew succumb to the flames.
"'The Burning' was a psychokinetic plague that swept through my people, a race of telepaths. The final stage of it caused its victim to spontaneously combust. It was merciless and unforgiving. It touched every mind on Mars, my wife and daughter included. It touched every mind of my people... except for mine.
"When I dream, I dream of the flames."
J'Onn J'Onzz was sitting in front of the monitoring station, deep in thought. Thankfully, the season had caused a considerable drop in world-threatening crises. Monitoring sweeps all came back negative. The embassy itself was very quiet with everyone, save him, out.
The quiet was a blessing to J'Onn. It allowed him to relax and drop his psychic shields without fear of catching someone's stray thoughts. Most never realized what a considerable strain it was to keep from reading others minds when so many were in close proximity, as they were in a team environment.
The quiet allowed J'Onn to gather his thoughts. Which, ironically, turned to his absent teammates.
Ice was the most severe case, but, all of the members of the JLI had been suffering from this "Christmas depression" to some extent. All of them were classic examples of those most prone to it, as a matter of fact.
Booster Gold, Michael Jon Carter, was a stranger to this time. Cut off from friends and family. The only family he had in this time, his sister, was killed. Leaving Booster alone in this time with no lifeline to the time he was native from.
Beatriz Da Costa, Fire, was orphaned at a young age and grew up on the streets of Rio de Janiero. A hard life, indeed. But, she perservered. She went on to become an entertainer, a spy, and, finally, a hero. But, she tended to be distant and distrustful from most people (save Ice), using her "attitude" to keep people at an arm's length. Not willing to be hurt again as she was at such a young age.
Guy Gardner came from a home with an abusive father and a mother that allowed it to happen. He lived in the shadow of someone his whole life, whether it was his "sainted" older brother or fellow Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Although he was deemed as worthy as Jordan to bear the ring, Jordan was chosen. It was still a bitterness that Guy carried inside him. If Guy couldn't "live up" to their standards, he'd create his own.
And Ted Kord, Blue Beetle, despite his facade, still carried the sting of his mother's death at a young age. A still-strained relationship with his father resulted. Feelings of isolation and social ineptitude resulted from his being intellectually advanced for his age, always being "advanced" farther and farther away from his own age group.
All had feelings of isolation and loneliness. They either had no families to share the season with or no families they cared to share the season with.
"Or none that they're aware of." said J'Onn aloud, almost with a smile.
"Guy is not a 'bad boy'!" exclaimed Ice. "And he does not treat me like 'crap'!" Ice couldn't understand why people always had such a low opinion of Guy. Couldn't they see that there was more to Guy than the rough exterior he showed to the world? Couldn't they see that inside there was that sweet side of Guy just yearning to get out?
Beetle just stared at her as he pushed the shopping cart down the canned food aisle. "Uh-huh." he said.
That response agitated Ice even more. "No. I'm serious. Why does everyone always assume Guy is a 'bad boy'?"
Beetle stopped pushing the cart and lowered his head. "Guy is obnoxious, arrogant, rude, violent..."
"That's just a mask he puts on for the world." argued Ice. And Ice truly believed that. She knew that there was a side to Guy - "Guy's real side," thought Ice - that very few saw. It was the side she first saw in Guy when she joined the JLI. The others said it was an aberration. The result of taking too many blows to the head.
Beetle sighed. This was not an argument he wanted to get involved in. The fact was he thought Ice could do a lot better than Guy, but, for the most part, he kept that opinion to himself. He didn't want to go "over-protective" on Ice like Fire did. She was an adult and could make her own judgements on who she wanted to date and who she didn't. It was just that nagging voice in the back of Beetle's mind that kept telling him, "Some how...Some way... Guy's going to hurt Tora, and you just sat back and let it happen."
But, Beetle didn't want to hurt Ice's feelings in the present for something that might or might not happen in the future. So, he kept his mouth shut.
"Okay." Beetle mumbled, hoping to end the argument.
As "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" played on the Liquor Emporium's public address system, Guy gleefully pushed his cart between the aisles. And the sight of a muscular man with a flaming orange Moe Howard haircut gleefully pushing a shopping cart was disturbing, indeed. He pulled a bottle down from a shelf and looked at it, almost longingly.
"Nothing says Christmas like peppermint schnapps!" Guy noted to himself, put the bottle in the cart to join the other bottles he had already placed there, and merrily went down the aisle.
"Alright." said Fire as she walked into the aisle containing Christmas lights. "So what should I get Ted for Christmas?"
Booster smiled. "I already told you - A GIRLFRIEND!"
Fire stopped looking at the lights and gave Booster a disapproving look.
"No." continued Booster in faux-earnest. "Seriously. Can you imagine the happiness on his little face as he finds that under the tree? And the pure child-like joy as he unwraps THAT Christmas present?"
Fire laughed despite herself. "She'd have to be a pretty FORWARD present for Ted to appreciate it!"
That comment confused Booster. "What do you mean?" he asked.
"You really are dense, aren't you?" asked Fire as she examined a string of lights.
Booster shrugged. Fire sighed as she realized that she'd have to explain it to Booster.
"You've gone to clubs or bars with Ted, right?" started Fire.
"Uh-huh." confirmed Booster.
"Ever see a woman flirt with him from accross the room?" asked Fire.
"Yeah." said Booster, still not sure where this was going.
"What does Ted do?"
"Actually, Ted does this cool thing where he ignores it!" stated Booster. "It drives women nuts! Personally, if I hadn't seen him do it, I wouldn't believe Ted could pull off something that cool."
Fire started laughing. "Don't you think it's a little odd that someone who always complains about meeting women would be that 'cool' when a woman's sending signals his way?" asked Fire.
Booster's eyes started to bulge. "You mean Ted's... GAY!"
Fire slapped Booster in the back of the head. "No, stupid, Ted is not gay. But, when it comes to trying to read women, Ted is clueless. Without clue. THICK. And I mean 'Booster-thick', too!"
"HEY!" Booster knew an insult when he heard one.
"Our boy Teddy," continued Fire. "Has absolutely no clue when a woman is coming on to him subtly. Or not-so-subtly, for that matter. A woman would have to grab him by the head and plant a kiss on him before Ted would recognize that - maybe, just maybe - she's interested in him!"
Luckily for Beetle, Ice was content to let the argument rest. Both were quiet as they entered the frozen foods section of the supermarket. And the silence was starting to make Beetle feel hinkey, like he hurt Ice's feelings. And that was something Beetle really didn't want to do.
"So," said Beetle, trying to start a conversation. "What did you ask Santa for this Christmas?"
"Anything's fine." said Ice, still acting coolly toward Beetle.
"Anything?" asked Beetle, a touch of amusement in his voice.
Ice heard the amusement in his voice, and she ignored it. She nodded her head.
"A tee-shirt with 'I'm cute. Get used to it' printed on it?" asked Beetle with a smirk.
Ice looked at Beetle, and he knew he almost got her on that one when the corners of her mouth twitched.
"I know!" said Beetle suddenly. He snapped his fingers as inspiration hit him. "A billboard in Times Square with your picture and, in flashing lights, the word 'cute' underneath!"
Ice knew Beetle was just teasing her, but, she couldn't help herself. "Don't. You. Dare!"
Beetle was undeterred. He smiled at Ice as he asked, "A customized dictionary with you picture as the entry for 'cute'?"
Ice smiled, but, she responded threateningly, "Have you ever had your behind frosted?"
"Of course I have" said Beetle lightly, as he waved her off. "Even the thermal undies version of my costume is no match for a Chicago winter! Some nights my costume wasn't the only thing that was blue!"
Beetle felt better as Ice laughed at that. Ice really was the nicest person Beetle had ever known, and just the thought of her being mad at him troubled Beetle in ways that didn't like.
TO BE CONTINUED...