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Lifted Spirits

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Billy will never get used to the wonder of flying. Even though it was something that felt natural to him. Just as mundane for his Captain Marvel form as walking. When he was younger he’d feel jealous of the birds, they could go wherever they wanted, no social services, gruel uncles or  anyone  stopping them. When he was granted his powers for the first time, he felt like a bird free from a cage. Even though he still marveled at how a 200-pound body could stay afloat 7 miles in the sky. Flying never ceases to amaze him. How he could soar through the clouds with no effort whatsoever. Make himself fall and feel the chilly wind around him before catching himself. 

 

He was just about done with his patrol. Fawcett City had been strangely quiet, only a few low-key muggings and an almost-car-crash, but it was the holiday season so most criminals laid off for a bit. Though he knew from experience that it was a lot harder to survive on the streets in the colder months. It would often feel like you were walled off from the rest of the world who welcomed the time of the year that brought them joy but meant just a touch more of misery for you. Billy had to fight off a shudder at the memory of starring at bright Christmas lights and watching happy people walk past the alleyway he was sitting in, legs close to his chest, loneliness and cold eating away at him. 

 

It only took a shake of his head to clear any negative thoughts and the smile that had been stuck to him all day returned. Billy didn’t have to worry about spending the holidays alone. This would be the second one he spent with his new family and he wasn’t going to let the past bring his mood down. This was bound to be the best one, he’d make sure of it. Last year had taken him by surprise because he hadn’t anticipated how big the Christmas spirit was around the Vasquez household. They went all out, a tree, gingerbread, decorations and presents. He hadn’t expected any presents because he didn’t remember receiving any at other foster home but he wouldn’t make the same mistake this year. He had already planned a perfect gift for each one of them. 

 

But before he could go home to Victor and Rosa, get a knock on the head for being late to dinner and flop in front of the TV with his feet on Freddy’s lap, he had to go to the Watchtower. Just a simple report needed to be written up. That mission had taken up most of the day before, leaving no one the time to do it then. Everything had gone according to plan so he didn’t have anything to stress about. Plus, he was one of the four people involved so he wouldn’t be subjected to Batman’s questioning alone. With that thought, he set his course to Fawcett City’s Zeta tube.                       

 

The zeta beam materialized him onto the deck where a monologue voice announced his arrival. A grin edged into his face when the buzz of heroes coming and going hit his ears. Watchtower was rarely not busy. He dashed through the corridors, waving and greeting everyone that he moved passed. Most of the time he got a polite hello back but also a few good-natural eyerolls at his hyper excitement when, in their eyes, there was nothing to be excited about. Either way, he couldn’t stop grinning, his moral was even more boosted when he got a high-five from Flash when he passed him.  

 

Before he stepped inside the meeting room, Billy stopped in front of one of the ceiling-to-floor windows that showed the space outside. Everyone usually got used to the view after a few times but he couldn’t contain the wonder that surged out of him every time he saw it. He wasn’t sure if the stars could beat Christmas lights in a beauty competition but they were close. 

 

Billy didn’t stall too long because home was still calling his name. He loved being there, Watchtower had been the closest thing to home before he’d been taken in by the Vasquez’s. Sure, he couldn’t reveal any details about his personal life to anyone there but they were still his friends, they fought the same battles and took the same sighs of relief after they were over. There was no way you wouldn’t be fond each other after doing this line of work together for a few years. But still, now he had a real home to go to where there was a bile of spaghetti waiting with his name on it. Plus, Rosa and Victor had said that they had a surprise for them which had kept him worked up all day. With that thought, he started almost skipping into the meeting room, prepared to rush through paperwork.  

Chapter Text

Billy’s eyelids started dropping but he held them up with determination. It was getting increasingly more difficult because he didn’t know if he’d ever felt this warm before. Not just physically, though the comfy blanket, full stomach, cozy room and the affectionate shoulder he was leaning against were helping, the atmosphere just screamed family. They treated the word ‘foster’ like it didn’t matter.

He furrowed himself deeper into the couch and looked away from the TV for a bit. Mary and Rosa were putting up some last-minute Christmas decorations. Some salt dough ornaments that they had made a few years before he was a part of their family, they still looked awesome so everyone was too nostalgic to throw them out no matter how old they got. Victor was sifting through a newspaper but you could tell he was paying more attention to the movie.

Billy loved this. When he first ended up with the Vasquez’s he’d assumed, when Freddy said that they should watch a movie, that it would be just him popping in a DVD in the evening but nope. Movie nights were a family event and everyone gathered around the TV. Even if they were doing something else like Victor working on an email or Mary finishing a last piece of homework, they would still keep one eye on the screen and laugh wholeheartedly with the others.

Rosa sat beside them after finding a perfect place for the last of the décor and tugged some of the blanket for herself. “Come on, don’t fall asleep on the couch. We need you guys to be well rested tomorrow or you’ll be grumpy.”

“Why? We don’t have school right now,” Billy reminded her.

Victor and Rosa exchanged glances and grinned to each other. “Well because Rosa and I decided to take a couple of days off from work and take a road trip to her sister house. We figured it would be fun to spend Christmas there.”

Sleepiness instantly vanished and Billy shot up, eyes wide. “A road trip?”

Freddy also bounced up from his position, perked up within seconds. “Tomorrow?”

“Dad,” Mary chided, “I told you we shouldn’t tell them tonight! Now neither of them will sleep.” She tried to look disappointed but couldn’t keep her lips from fighting their way up as Freddy and him worked themselves up.

That was the most probable outcome, yes, Billy acknowledged. He’d met Aunt Lily two times and loved her. Nearly as much as Rose but just nearly. She was a bubbly woman who always had a one liner up her sleeve that would make him and Freddy crack up. Lily also had a kid of her own. She was so young that she wasn’t any fun to play with but that didn’t mean he didn’t like to see her too.

Getting to spend Christmas with them and take a road trip? That was all the Christmas presents he needed this year. Normal road trips were fun but Billy just knew that they were going to load the car up with blankets and pillows and sing Christmas carols all the way there. Victor and Rosa would probably be more lenient about the amount of sweets they were allowed to eat as well.

Life couldn’t get any better than this, it just couldn’t, Billy decided as he got a goodnight hug from Victor and ran upstairs with Freddy.

Chapter Text

A blinding blur of noise and lights, rushing his senses with numbing speed. Completely disoriented as the surface between unconsciousness and waking world was breached, Billy opened his heavy eyes to find himself weighed down upon a hospital bed, an oxygen mask obscuring his mouth and distorting the sound of the air rushing into his lungs. Everything was so bright, and there was a sharp ache in his bones.

"Thank God…" Someone was there, right there by his side. Billy turned his head to better look at them, but quickly winced as a pain stabbed into his head.

"Wha -what hapn’d…?" His voice didn’t sound right. Coming out like gravel at the back of his throat, making him never want to speak again.

Someone grabbed his hand, gently but still overly firm to him. It felt like his fingers would break any moment. He was fairly certain the ground was spinning, and Billy had a hard time concentrating on anything when he was amounting all his energy to endure the flashing lights and sickening weight.

"You were in a car accident, son," The blurry figure said.

Something was very wrong here, he could feel it. The awake part of his mind tried to remember but even thinking felt like too much. Everything hurt and he couldn’t help but whimper. His eyes sunk back shut and sleep took him under its merciful hold again before he could process anything else.

Chapter Text

Muffled words got louder outside his room and the door gently swung open. Billy couldn't bring himself to care, a mundane task like lifting his eyelids or opening his mouth felt like the impossible feats the heroes of old accomplished with the aid of bravery and magic.

Sleeping sounded easier, even though he couldn't actually fall asleep. Something he was grateful for because he couldn’t handle seeing their faces again. People in the hospital tented to back off from him at the slightest mention of sleepiness so he thought he was safe from the nurses who wanted to check up on him.

The person entered the room and he immediately felt that something was off by the click clicking sound of their steps. Nurses didn't wear high heels. Always flats. He knew no one else who would bother coming to see him, not as Billy Batson at least, not anymore. A bang went through his chest but he held still.

Billy's breath hitched, listening as them moved closer. There was a slight creek on his right, indicating that someone sat down on the waiting chair.

It was hard not to shift when he felt like underneath a microscope. Without his consent, his hands twitched a bit but otherwise he was able to keep himself still and calm his breathing. The person sitting next to him let out a long-suffering sigh.

"Billy, please open your eyes," Came the feminine voice. It didn’t sound annoyed, just tired. Sad maybe.

His entire body tensed, not only because of being caught but because he knew that voice. He pinched his eyes closed tightly, not wanting to face what he knew was coming.

"I know, I was hopeful that the last meeting with the Vasquez’s was going to be the last time was saw each other. In the best possible way of course." Now, it was time for Billy to sigh, though it hurt his tender ribs. He blinked his eyes open and took a look at his social worker.

She wore the same sharp and professional uniform as always. Ms. Glover was a very kind lady but firm and you could always count that she was telling it like it was. Under any other circumstances, Billy would have loved her but whenever they met it was to discuss where else they wanted to dump him. Whether it was when he screwed up, ran away or the foster family he was staying with gave him up because they ‘couldn't handle him'.

"I'm so sorry, William." He looked away again. There it was, the pity. Despite his best efforts he couldn't stop the tears from forming in his eyes.

"Please go." The last thing he wanted was for someone to see him like this. Especially if that someone was going to pity him and try to drag him away to some strangers again.

Ms. Glover gently laid a hand onto Billy's shoulder, startling him. He jumped ever so slightly, causing a wave of pain to rock his small body. A whimper tore it's way from his throat and he couldn't keep the tears at bay anymore. They streamed down and stained his face. "I will go but I will have to be back when you're better. You can't stay in the hospital forever."

The look in her eyes was nothing but compassion. When she tugged the blanket over him even more and told him to sleep well, he couldn't help but wish she had stayed.

The room felt so much colder now and he couldn't stop the intrusive thoughts from bombing him. He was right back where he started. Alone.

Billy couldn't handle it. It took him 5 years to find a family again and they were just taken from him like his first one. He didn't want to suffer through another 5 years of horrible families, surviving on the streets and people pretending to care about him. He just couldn't do it anymore. He didn't want to be alone anymore. He wanted Rosa to come through the door and hug him, wanted Victor to follow right behind her and announce that he’d made dinner and they should get going before it got cold. Freddy would exclaim that they needed to play Risk after dinner, causing Mary to sigh exasperatedly because everyone was tired of that game. Then they’d break off arguing about who would win.

Big, ugly tears started streaming down his face and he couldn’t be bothered to stop them. More and more came as he wished they were back there with him until he was full on sobbing in despair.

He had to get out of here, that much was certain. Somewhere where no one from the CPS could touch him. The thought of being alone on the street send a chill through him, it was winter and he'd be all alone. There was no one he could go to.

Unless... Before he could properly think it through, he uttered, "Shazam."

Lightning struck into the hospital room and once the smoke cleared, gone was Billy Batson. Captain Marvel didn't have any of the injuries that Billy had so he floated from the bed. After a week of being confined in a bed, being able to move again was amazing. He used his flight power to hover in the air as a human would stretch their legs.

There were footsteps coming from outside the room, most likely people investigating where the rumble on lightning came from. Before anyone could enter, he was out the window. Flying at full speed but not knowing where he was going.

He found himself at the entrance of the zeta tube of Fawcett City, disguised as a phone booth. His movements were purely on muscle memory and before he knew it a mechanical voice announced his arrival in the Watchtower.

Billy had no idea what he was doing. All he knew was that this was the only place he had left to go to. It was late, most of the heroes were either home already or on longer term missions. He appreciated the calm but still had no idea what to do. The very fact that he was in the Watchtower was calming in a way. He knew that the people there liked him. They might be annoyed with him when he ranted about something random or acted childish but not once had they asked him to leave. It was assuring.

"Captain."

He jumped when he saw Batman standing beside him. How the man kept sneaking up on him was baffling but at the same time, it could have been how disoriented he felt. Probably not though, because this was Batman.

All he could manage was a nod of acknowledgement, not trusting his own voice.

"You missed a meeting, monitor duty and no one has seen you in two weeks." Oh. Made sense since he was unconscious in a hospital. Not that he could say that, of course.

"I'm sorry," he was impressed how steady his voice held.

"Where were you?" He couldn't find any words. There really wasn't much he could say that wouldn't give away anything too important about his civilian identity. Not that he didn't trust Batman but... yeah. 'My entire family is dead again?' That wasn't something he wanted to dump onto anyone.

"Are you okay, Marvel?" The caped crusader took a step closer.

He didn’t know how to answer that. Doing anything at the moment seemed impossible. Stuck. That’s what he was: stuck. He had nowhere to go, to escape to and it was getting hard to breathe-

A hand was placed on his shoulder, jolting him to pay attention but not really. He couldn’t concentrate on anything. Everything was distant, fogy, almost. Like when he first woke up and was pumped full of drugs. They kept most of the pain away sure, but they made his head fuzzy. The contact was grounding but he had no idea what to do with it.

Sounds echoed like someone was talking but he couldn’t make it out. Head underwater.

Batman tugged him along by the shoulder, that much he could comprehend, but it didn’t feel like he was moving. Only numbing down with colors just drifting by. The single real thing he could sense was the hand on his shoulder. He wasn’t used to being so powerless in this form. Usually it was Billy who was vulnerable and helpless but now his two identities were closer together than ever before.

Suddenly, a second hand was on his other shoulder, pushing him down. Billy went pliantly and found himself sitting on a chair. He glanced around hazily and decided that he was in one of those private meeting rooms. Superman had once told him that even he couldn’t hear through those walls.

Batman gained his attention again by sitting in front of him. “What happened?”

Once again, he was lost for words. Lying was not an option with the world’s greatest detective. He wasn’t sure he’d be capable at that point anyway. ‘Omission,’ the wisdom of Solomon whispered.

“There was an accident...” He didn’t want to elaborate.

“League business?” The caped crusader asked, clearly expecting him to continue. The older man looked uncharacteristically on the edge. Understandable, since whatever the issue was might affect the rest of the League.

Billy just shook his head, flinching a little when he remembered flashing car lights and a deafening crash. “Can I stay in the Watchtower for a while?”

He had no idea where the question came from but the more he thought about it, the less he wanted to take it back. That could have been why he subconsciously went there, Watchtower was always safe. Maybe not in the traditional sense, seeing how many times the fight had been brought up here, but still: safe.

Batman watched him carefully , “There’s always a place for every hero here.” Billy knew that. Everyone had their personal quarters here just in case. Most of the League didn’t use theirs but he’d slept in his once when he’d been too exhausted to drag himself home after a three-day mission. But he also knew that the other hero meant it as much more than that. A warm feeling bloomed in his chest but it was dampened by the realization of how cold he felt.

Chapter Text

The life rolled on but all heroes toke note on how Captain Marvel hung around the Watchtower more often than not and wasn’t exactly the same as before. More quiet. Almost hesitant. His cheer didn’t quite reach it’s usual peak. When they figured out that Cap lived in the Watchtower, a lot of people tried to talk to him.

Hal invited him to hang out after monitor duty, Clark tried to corner the red cladded hero after a mission, and nearly everyone acted as friendly as they could. They knew what it was like to go through a tough time. No one got anything out of him though. Marvel was surprisingly good at skimping around topics when he wanted to. He seemed to like the company, desperately, no matter how much he evaded questions so they kept trying.

It came to a point where they started mentioning their concerns to each other.

Barry was hanging around in one of the communal kitchens. Nothing out of the ordinary but this time he had a mission. His eyes narrowed on Captain Marvel where he sat near the door. Every time someone entered his eyes shot up but did not longer on the person too long. They were fixed on the corridor window behind them, stargazing for as long as he could. Barry loved when he did that because his eyes twinkled every time. Face lighting up until the door slid closed again and going back to doodling on a napkin until the novelty wore off. Then the hero was stirring his tea around numbly once again.

“So I’m not the only one who noticed, right?” He asked Hal and Victor who were sitting beside him with a much of his head towards Marvel’s direction. From the corner of his eye, he saw Superman glancing at them on the other side of the room, indicating that he was listening as well.

“Kinda hard to miss,” drawled Hal.

“What do you think happened?” Barry decided to ignore how defensive the Lantern was, he was worried too.

“Could it have been a mission gone wrong?” Mused Cyborg. It wasn’t uncommon for heroes to get down after not being able to save someone or screwing up their part in a strategy. The feeling of failure got to the best of them. Usually not to this extent.

“Don’t think so, we were on the same mission before he disappeared for a while,” said Hal, “Everything went smoothly.”

“Oh yeah, no one saw him for, like, two or three weeks? If it wasn’t League business then something must have happened in his civilian life.” It made sense to Barry but also made things more complicated. None of them knew anything about him outside of hero work. All of them seemed to understand.

“So what now? It’s not like we can bully it out of him.” Green Arrow sat beside them, making them jump.

“Um... try talking to him?" Victor suggested lamely.

“Already tried that,” murmured Hal, “Didn’t get anywhere.”

“So? He isn’t comfortable with us knowing. With how you’re treating this as an interrogation, it’s not surprising.” Stated Oliver while taking a bite out of his sandwich.

“How about we do something together outside of missions. I mean, if the only way we're interacting with him is beating up bad guys then it’s not the best basis for friendship.” Hal proposed and Barry thought he had a point. Fighting side by side with someone created trust that you had each others back but didn’t go any further. You didn’t learn anything else about that person, especially someone as closed as Marvel. That's what team building exercises were usually for. But what else did they have in common? With their limited knowledge of him, it would be best to go with something everyone liked.

“A movie night?” He pitched out.

“Not a bad idea,” agreed Oliver, “But it will be a pain to pick a time that’s fine with everybody’s schedule.” That was true. Since the superhero work ate up most of everyone’s free time, it was a struggle to balance it with their regular life on a good day.

“Sunday?” Asked Cyborg. “Most of us have that free.”

Nods came from everyone at the table. “Let’s just keep it to the evening, I’ve got a date.” Said Hal rather smugly.

Barry rolled his eyes fondly and glanced at Clark who nodded at him. He beamed at the silent approval, “Okay guys, let’s spread the word.”

He picked up his ridiculously filled tray and sped over to where Cap was sitting. On his way he saw Superman say something to Batman and judging by the sour look he got, it was about the movie night.

“Hey Cap,” he flopped himself down by the red cladded hero. “You know, there’s nothing stopping you from eating in the corridor if you like the view that much.” He sneaked a glance at the napkin that contained cartoonish stars and swirls. An odd thought struck him that this was something Wally would do.

Big, blue eyes came to meet his for a moment before going back to the tea. “I’m fine here.”

‘Not that talkative, okay, fine.’ Thought Flash. A month ago they would have been babbling about everything and nothing by now. The lack of energy Marvel had was unsettling.

“We’re having a movie night on Sunday, wanna come?” He got straight to the point.

“Oh, yeah, sure.” No further reaction.

Barry refused to leave the table until he got a chuckle out of him with a few bad puns and sneaked a few sugar cubes into his tea as an experiment to see if he could give a demi-god a sugar rush.

 

Chapter Text

“Come on! Why that movie?”

“Relax, you’ll like it, it’s not that scary. Besides, you can pick next week.”

“Oh, so were doing this again next week?”

Oliver’s and Hal’s Pickering was a nice background noise while they waited for one final person to arrive. Barry had already eaten half of his snacks that he’d prepared for the movie and was trying his hardest to preserve the amount he had left.

Clark shook his head fondly and passed him his sandwich. Flash accepted gratefully and started nibbling on it slowly. 

The movie was brought onto the screen in front of them and everyone got themselves comfortable. It was a miracle but they somehow managed to cramp themselves onto two couches with a bit of room to spare, except for Marvel, who was floating in the air beside the couch with his legs crisscrossed, and Hal who just created an armchair with his ring. Clark was sure it had something to do with everyone being too lazy after a long day to bring another couch. He was just glad that so many people showed up, though many bailed out. There had just been another outer space mission that took up most of the weekend and Kal couldn’t fault them for wanting to take a breather. 

Around him, he could hear a few tired yawns. Even Cap, with his supposed Stamina of Atlas, looked worn. He was slumped in the air with his head resting on his arms and eyes blinking blearily. The Kryptonian made a mental note to keep an eye on him incase he fell asleep in mid air.

They were just getting antsy to get started when Bruce strolled in grumbling something about his kids. Probably about them being little shits if Clark had ever met them. The vigilante snatched the remote from Oliver and raised an eyebrow, goating him to protest. 

Arrow shot Batman an annoyed look but didn’t try to get it back. Everyone settled down again and the lights dimmed.

Bruce snorted when he realized what movie they were watching. “Really? The Exorcist?”

“Don’t be late the next time and you can give your own two cents when we’re picking.” Sang Barry.

“I wasn’t late, I just wasn’t early.”

Half way into the movie, when Victor and Barry were jumping at every cue and Hal had shifted suspiciously close to Diana, a giggle broke through the tense atmosphere of the scene.

Everyone turned towards the sound incredulously and saw Captain Marvel barely holding in laughter. When he felt eyes on him he tried and failed to sober up a bit.

They went back to the movie only for another giggle to follow, then another.

“I swear to god, Marvel, if you laugh one more time I’m sending you to a psychological evaluation.” Grunted Batman, slightly unnerved. Cap didn’t seem like the type to have particularly dark sense of humor.

“Sorry, sorry, it’s just that,” another small snort, “that’s not how spiritual possession works at all.” 

The fact that Cap knew how it actually worked was a bit concerning but after Clark mulled it over: Marvel did operate through magic so he just rolled with the knowledge that, apparently, one of his teammates knew how to summon and expel spirits. Huh. Bruce scowled, so slightly that no one but Clark picked it up, his distrust of magic coming to the surface. He threw the other man a look. Magic or not, it wasn’t much use to ruin your own night by being paranoid. He knew Bruce didn’t see it that way though, so he just hoped that be wouldn’t tear into Cap and try to extract information from him. 

“So how does it work?” Kal resisted the urge to sigh at the Bat's antics.

Cap didn’t seem to analyze the tone he was being spoken to too closely and explained happily. “Well, for starters, beings from the other world rarely want anything to do with ours. Except when they have some urgent urgent business to take care of and some strong willpower. They’re usually summoned.” He lowered himself almost unconsciously to be on level with the others as he explained.

“It’s easy for someone in our world to make a connection to the ones on the other side for a while to communicate with them but to actually anchor your magic to a being and yank them to you takes power. It usually depends on the being summoned but usually they can’t conjure up their own form and have to have a vessel prepared for them. Usually a body, hence the assumption that spirits can just take over your body.” Cap gestured at the screen that no one was paying attention to anyone with a wavy hand. He was keeping it simple for them since they didn’t know magic that well. Solomon whispered the complicated parts to him and made him understand but the others didn’t have that. 

“Wait, what happens if they do know how to make their own.. umm.. vessel?” Asked Barry while wrestling some popcorn from Hal and throwing it into his mouth.

Marvel hummed, "It’s not so much about knowing, more so about being capable. Those that can make a physical form for themselves are the guys you don’t want to summon. The summoners are rarely able to contain their power so they get loose and wreak some serious havoc.”

“Why would someone ever summon something like that… or communicate with it, for that matter?” Mused Diana. She had heard stories about spirits from other worlds but most of them were from other Amazons to entertain her in her youth. The truth in them was doubtful. Even with all her years, her knowledge on the subject was hazy at best.

“The usual: money, power but sometimes knowledge as well. If you connect to an ancient being who used to live in our world then they’re a first hand account of historical events.” Billy was starring into the distance now, entranced by the images Solomon was sending him. Ancient and powerful mages calling upon forces beyond their realm to vanquish their enemies or bring them treasures. He stayed focused on a young girl who’s face flickered in his mind’s eye. She drew the runes carefully, practiced every word and uttered them gently. The creature she called out in her mind told her of generations before her, both the good they did and the destruction they brought-

He shook his head. The movie was almost over.

The realization shook him that this was the most he’d talked in weeks. He was too tired to really evaluate that thought. Punching aliens and inter-galactic negotiations took a lot out of you. Even the idea of his lonely room with plain walls and no company for the rest of the evening didn’t sound taunting like it usually did

Clark realized this too and couldn’t help but think that he had missed when Cap was this chattery all the time. He remembered thinking it slightly annoying in the past but now he noticed how it put his teammates at ease.

Even Bruce didn’t try to take advantage of Cap’s sudden talkativeness. No one wanted him go back to the detached quietness of before. Whatever was bothering Marvel was forgotten for now. Hal and Barry grinned and high fived stealthily. Mission accomplished for the day.

Chapter Text

Ever since the first movie night, the League had been looking forward to the next one. A lot of people who couldn't show up last time were dead set on coming now. Aquaman and Hawkgirl were just the few who had already confirmed that they'd be there.

Cyborg thought he'd help Flash with the snacks this time and make some for everyone. Maybe they should bring a few more couches too. But there was one person he was dead set on dragging with him.

Victor knew that Cap was free around noon but he couldn't find him in any of the usual places he was seen hanging out. Not in the kitchen area sipping tea, not in the monitor duty room helping out or even in any of the recreational areas. 

Either he was out patrolling Fawcett City or hanging out in the Rock of Eternity doing god knows what, he knew a lot of Marvel's free time went into that, but no one had seen him leave. Then it occurred to him that he hadn't even checked Cap's quarters. 

When he reached Marvel's room, he hesitated a bit. Cap was a friendly chatterbox at his best even with his alarmingly declined mood but he still seemed like someone who appreciated his privacy. Since it was basically common knowledge at this point that he lived here, Victor didn't know how Marvel would react to someone else invading his space. Where you lived was supposed to be your safe spot.

In a here-goes-nothing fashion, he knocked, "Hey Cap, you up?"

"Oh, yeah." The response sounded slightly distracted but the door flew open all the same. Only Marvel wasn't the one to punch in the code to open the door. No one had. The door just opened up on it's own. Cyborg reminded himself not to outwardly react. A casual response to a casual use of magic. He didn't want Marvel to feel weird about it. 

Speaking of Marvel, the champion was pouring over a notebook and some loose pages at the other end of the room. He gave Cyborg a quick wave but resumed scribbling, his hand moving comically fast. It had the distinct air about it that reminded Victor of when he was in school and the teacher was collecting up tests and he wasn't quite done but rushing to finish against all odds. 

A smile quirked his lip and he stepped in and let his eyes wonder. Everything in the room was... bare. Grey walls. Grey ceiling. Basic furniture, which Cap apparently didn't use since he was scribbling on the floor. It looked kind of depressing. Especially for a place where such a cheerful person lived. All the other quarters looked the same but most of them didn't stay in them long-term. Those who did had renovated theirs already. Except Cap, it seemed.

Impersonal was the word he was looking for. This didn't look lived in at all. No pictures on the walls. No personal belongings anywhere. Did Cap really have this little stuff? He couldn't spot anything.

Cap apparently finished whatever he was doing because he shut the notebook and the loose sheets just flew inside it. It was greatly fascinating to watch and Cap didn't even seemed to realise he did it. Or just didn't pay any attention to it. The red cladded hero turned his undivided attention to Cyborg smiled like he was the best thing he'd seen all day. "Hi, any trouble?"

"Oh, no," He was just about to ask if Cap knew how to make snack or if he was interested in learning when he got a better idea. They had time, the movie night wasn't happening until seven. Plenty of time. "Just bored. You ever think about livening this place up a little?"

Marvel tilted his head a bit, "Whatcha mean?" 

"Well, you've lived here for over a month and you are allowed to make some changes. I can help with that!" Maybe Victor didn't have much, if any, experience in interior design but he could still offer some input. Plus, Marvel looked like he could use some guidance in that department if he hadn't picked up the initiative so far. Maybe it would make him feel more at home in the Watchtower.

“Okay... What should I even change,” Billy asked finally after admitting to himself that a little personal touch wouldn’t hurt. A little bang went through him when he remembered his and Freddy’s bedroom back at home. All the posters and trinkets everywhere.

Vic grinned at having gotten Marvel to think about it. “Well, make it somewhere you’d like to be. What do you like? Which colours do you prefer?” He grilled the Captain. “Surely we can to better than grey,” he added, glaring at the plain wall’s distastefully. 

“Well…” Billy searched his mind for some hobby he had that wasn’t related to a kids video game or superheroing. “I like tigers.” He said lamely, blushing a little at how silly that sounded. 

“Tigers?” blinked Cyborg. The younger nodded, looking down.

"Yep, we can work with that,” he assured the other hero quickly, “Colour?”  

“Um.. red but it’s weird because I only like one certain shade of it, otherwise I hate the colour.” Yeah, red like scraps and bruises after being thrown around, like the copious amount of liquid pouring out of a bullet hole or like Freddy’s nosebleed made him fill with thread. Head throbbing with hurt. Or the big neon X on his latest school test that showed him he’d failed yet again. But he’d learned to take comfort in the red of his costume and how it made him a protector. It reminded him brightly of the power and control he had, even in situations where he didn’t have any at all. He imagined that having his living space that shade would put him at ease.

“Gotcha," Nodded Victor and started tugging Cap towards the door excitedly, "Let's go check out the inventory room. If they don't have anything interesting then we can put it on a list there and they'll order it."

That got Cap looking uncertain, "Hey, you know I don't really need anything new here. It's been just fine so far and-"

Cyborg narrowed his eyes slightly at the insecurity he heard in his voice. "Cap, this isn't about being fine. This is about you feeling like your room is super dooper amazing, somewhere you want to live, you know?" He pulled Cap along with new found determination. If something bad happened to his friend to make him stay here then the least they could do was make sure he enjoyed living here. If there was nothing else they could make better.

Vic thought it would be best to start with paint. He knew that Cap liked to doodle so maybe he'd also find painting walls fun. They selected a low key vibrant red that kinda reminded Victor of Cap's suit, a purple because according to Cap, "Nothing goes together better than red and purple", gold, light blue and silver. Once Cyborg felt like Marvel was content with his colours and not just saying it to be polite, they moved on to furniture. 

After Cap more or less gently turned his nose up at all chairs pictures they flipped through, Vic brought up bean bags which practically made him bounce up and down with excitement. They picked the largest and fluffiest one they could find. And added an unearthly amount of pillows to the mix.

When Cyborg more or less had an idea of what Cap's style was he also pitched out fairy lights and fuzzy carpets which were met with equally ecstatic response. 

They ended up arguing about what was the social norm for the amount of LED's a person could have in their room. Vic was glad that he'd decided to do this. He hadn't heard Captain Marvel laugh like that in a while. 

He made sure to add a tiger plushie to the list when Marvel wasn't looking just before they ordered. 

It was fun to hear Cap babbling about which walls he'd paint which colours and where the "biggest bile of pillows anyone had ever seen" was going. He didn't have it in him to tease him about how he'd made the same decor choices as a twelve year old, since he was obviously so happy with the list. No need to ruin the pleasant mood.

"Thank you, Cyborg." That came much quieter and he was almost baffled with how sincere and grateful it sounded. Cap was looking at him with so much admiration that he had to look away for a moment because he wasn't sure it was deserved. What had he really done? It took him a month to realise that one of his nicest teammates was in a mentally bad place and living in a grey box. Still, that smile was so heartwarming and soft that he felt warm inside for a moment before shaking it off.

"Anytime, Cap. And..." He hesitated a bit. "Know that you can come to any of us with anything. No matter how insignificant it might seem. Even if you just need to talk, ok? We're teammates. We look out for our own."

Suddenly, Billy felt a lump in his throat and the joy of getting to decorate his ceiling with fairy lights seemed to dampen a little. It was at the tip of his tongue. The cry for help he'd been swallowing for over a month now. It would be so easy to let go, to just pour it all out there and take all the comfort he knew they'd give him. But he didn't like the cost. If Cyborg, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lanter, Flash and the others knew then he had no pretences to what would happen. He wouldn't be allowed to work with the League anymore. All for his own good of course, because kids his age shouldn't be fighting supervillains or saving the world. They shouldn't have to worry about any of that. 

Plus, he'd have to change back. Something he felt like he hadn't done in an eternity. Ever since... Since the hospital. Meaning he still had all those injuries in his mortal form and it'd be unlikely that he'd be able to stand on his own. 

He should find a quiet spot somewhere in the world where he could heal in small intervals of time, so after a year or so he'd be better but... He didn't want to do it on his own. He didn't want to bear the injuries that came from losing- from... from...

Billy fought to keep tears from clouding his vision but he couldn't deny he wanted his parents. 

Cyborg must have noticed something in his expression because he inched closer. "Cap?"

His resolve hardened before it could fall entirely. "I know." He forced a smile.

Even though Victor felt some unresolved concerns, he let it go and nodded. "Hey, by the way, Flash wanted help with the snacks this week, wanna help?" 

Chapter Text

“Captain Marvel?” 

 

Billy jumped a little and the cup in his hand almost spilled. He tilted his head slightly to look at the intruder in his room. Superman. The Krytonian was standing in his doorway with a quirked lip at the fairy lights that covered the ceiling in vast numbers. Like stars. 

 

“Yeah?” He asked uncertainly. Judging by the file in the man’s hand, this was about a mission. The others rarely asked for his help individually. Usually when he was sent out it was because he was the only one free, but he knew that this wasn’t the case. He had seen Wonder Woman finish up with monitor duty room just an hour ago. For Superman to come to him specifically made him wonder if it was connected to him somehow. Was Black Adam back? 

 

“Sorry for intruding on your free time but you mentioned you know a lot about magic, right?” Oh, it made sense to him now. Billy’s chest swelled with pride that he was sought out for his skill set and not just to punch someone. Though that was his ‘thing’ too but this felt so much better since not everybody could help with this.  

 

“Yup, do you need help with a case?” Billy really didn’t mind helping, even though he was just gearing up for patrol. Superman looked run down which rarely happened. It must have been a busy week of hopping from one mission to another. Maybe if he got involved the older hero could go home earlier. 

 

He gave a grateful smile, “Zatanna is unavailable and I might be unqualified for this on my own.” 

 

Cap nodded. Better to not mettle with things you didn’t understand. “What’s the story?” 

 

“Some magical artifacts were stolen from 3 different museums in Metropolis during the week. The proof that those artifacts really are magic is hand wavy at best but the thief certainly used magic.” Superman opened the folder and showed him photos of the artifacts. Jewellery, carved stones and small statues of unknown figures. One of the pictures captured his attention. An unassuming purple stone which would have looked bland compared to the others if it weren’t for a few tiny runes scarring its side. Not spells, not curses or incantations but.. names, recognized the Winston of Solomon. Ancient ones. 

 

His eyes narrowed a little but he scanned the rest of the photos. There was a few shots from a security camera of a rift opening in mid air beside the artifacts and a cloaked hand emerging from it to grab them. Then the small portal closed up. 

 

“Huh,” The portals on Earth usually looked a bit more solid, Solomon informed him, even when done by rookies, because of how close they were to the Rock of Eternity… Anyway. “Is there any info on this?” He pointed at the purple stone, though his thoughts lingered on the portal. Since the Rock of Eternity was the source of all magic, it made it easier to travel through on Earth.  

 

Superman flipped a few pages. “Not much, just that it’s about 4 thousand years old, remarkably well preserved. Found in a destroyed temple, and no one has any idea what the runes say.” 

 

“They’re old names.” He explained his limited knowledge. “I’m not sure who they belong to but names hold power, especially ancient ones like these. We better get them back.” 

 

The other superhero looked a little confused but didn’t question him. Billy got a pleasant feeling he always did when his opinion was trusted and listened to. “So, any idea of who the thief might be?” 

 

“No,” Despite being the chosen champion for magic by the Wizard Shazam himself, he didn’t interact with others in the magic community. He only worked on cases with Zatanna once in a while and took down rogue magic users. It was a little lonely but that’s how his life was. “But let’s go to the museum where that stone was. Maybe I can track their magic.” Billy was pretty confident that he could find the trail of magic left behind. 

 

For two beings with super speed, it didn’t take any time at all for Clark to direct Cap to a huge yellow building in the center of the city. Silver letters read out ‘Metropolis Museum’. Superman was amused as Marvel drank in every artifact giddily with his eyes on their way to the area closed from the public for a while.  

 

Billy couldn’t keep the excited little chitters out of his movements as they flew. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been to a museum! Well... okay, he did. Freddy had a history assignment due so Rosa and Victor took them to the biggest museum in Fawcett City. Even Mary tagged along even though she had been busy all week. Freddy had completely goofed off from his project and started reading about ancient Romans instead of the archeological findings in Fawcett City. Rosa scolded him but, in the end, agreed that it was much more interesting. Billy remembered a moment on that trip when the realization hit him that he no longer felt saddened when exploring archeology. It didn’t remind him of his dead parents, those old memories had been replaced by his new family and he couldn’t bring himself to feel bad about it. 

 

Their laughter rang though his head and made his mouth taste like ash. He stopped looking around and made himself focus on the task in hand. The displays didn’t seem fun or interesting anymore. 

 

He didn’t see Superman’s concerned frown at his abrupt mood swing.  

 

There were a lot of other artifacts on display dubbed as magical but Billy couldn’t feel a thing from them. However, his attention shifted to the corner of the of hallway that emitted a faint flicker of magic aura. There wasn’t anything on display there behind the glass so he guessed that the stone was stolen there.  

 

Superman noticed his eyes lingering around the empty display case, “So can you... um... sense anything?” 

 

“Yeah I can definitely feel a light magic residue,” The signature wasn’t one he was familiar with, eliminating the possibility of someone he knew being behind this. Not that he knew many from the magical community. The villains who he’d busted for misusing magic and Zatanna were it, really. “I hope it’s enough to bring us to its source.” 

each 

Billy offered the older hero his hand. The raised eyebrow he got in return made him fluster a bit. “I’ll try to teleport us to where that portal came from.” 

 

His companion nodded but continued to look... concerned? Nervous?  

 

Oh 

 

Billy wanted to smack himself for being so inconsiderate. Magic was a constant in his life. Had been for a while now.  But that didn’t mean other people found it normal. Sure, he’d been baffled and mystified when he was first introduced to magic, mostly because of how much it changed his life, but someone else could very well be baffled and  horrified.  Especially if that someone’s one of only known weaknesses was magic.  

 

“Don’t worry!” He was quick to add, “It will feel disorienting and weird but nothing bad will happen. Worst case scenario: you pass out. I threw up my first time. But, you know, you fly on a regular basis so you should be fine. It will be like the Zeta beam!” 

 

Billy stopped his babbling and wreaked his head for a moment. What would make this sound safer to someone who didn’t have much faith in magic? A failsafe maybe? The imaginary light bulb went off over his head. He could do that. 

 

With a newfound excitement, he drew upon his magic to conjure an orb into his hands and started chanting. His ancient words, spoken like they were second nature, weaved a spell together. Ready to activate on command.  

 

Cap grinned at his handywork and offered it to Superman. “It’s a portal. Whisper Watchtower into it and that’s where it will take you. Probably won’t be necessary but just in case I can’t get us back.” 

 

The Kryptonian examined the ball in his balm. Just as Billy began to feel stupid for the gesture because of course someone like Superman wouldn’t need it because he could literally feel every heartbeat on Earth and orientate himself in seconds- The hero smiled and slipped it into his pocket. “Much appreciated.” 

 

Just like that, they took others hands and Billy began chanting again. It was harder to concentrate this time around. Superman’s hand was warm, so warm that he didn’t want to let go. He may have stalled while finishing the final lines so he could keep holding his hand just a little longer. 

 

But alas, both of them felt an uncomfortable sensation in their core and then they were flung across unforeseeable amount of space in matter of seconds. He had a moment to consider that usually he  didn’t  have time to consider because the finding spell happened in a fraction of a second, before his magic stopped chasing the trail and they were thrown into the other side. 

Chapter Text

They both staggered a bit. Superman was clutching his stomach as the foreign feeling subsided. Billy recovered quickly and put a hand on the Kryptonian’s shoulder to steady him when he noticed their surroundings. 

 

“Um... Superman?” He asked uncertainly, this was deficiently not what he imagined. An old layer or a villain base was more what came to mind when tracking thieves. 

 

The older man made an acknowledging sound and looked up. He froze too. Wherever they were, it wasn’t Earth. 

 

The sky was a bright purple that put Christmas lights to shame, and Billy thought they could never be topped. He couldn’t spot a sun but knew that there must have been a source to the light somewhere. It was so vibrant that Billy had a sudden, inexplicable urge to start chasing clouds before he remembered who he was with and why they were there. 

 

Other aspects of this strange landscape were just as unique. Compared to the magenta sky, the something-that-looked-like-grass-but-more-succulent seemed matted and grey. There wasn’t much flora after that but the ground was hill-y. No even batch of land as far as the eye could see. Strangely enough, it reminded him of a kid’s drawing. It was simple, like little hands had drawn half circles all along the page for mountains and decided that blue  way  too boring colour for the sky. Or maybe he just thought so because most of his pictures came out like that. Cap wondered if Superman could see anything in the horizon with his super vision. 

 

The scenery wasn’t the strangest part of this place. Magic seemed...  weird  here. Not in a bad way but Billy wasn’t sure if it was in a good way either. He could feel it shimmering beneath the surface. It was imputed into everything around him to a point where he didn’t even have to reach to feel it. It reminded the champion of being in the Rock of Eternity but less endless and ancient.  

 

This place was created from magic, Billy could feel that Solomon agreed with him. Not powerful magic but magic all the less. He had an inkling of where they might be. 

 

“This must be another planet, I can’t feel a yellow sun anywhere near,” said Superman, staring at the sky with a slight frown. A spike of panic went through Cap, that hadn’t occurred to him. He didn’t know much about Kryptonian biology but the other hero had mention once in the passing that his powers come from the sun. 

 

“No, we’re in a pocket dimension. Everything around us was created by magic, this isn’t natural,” he explained.  

 

“How do you- Never mind,” Superman started asking but thought better of it, “That might explain why it’s so quiet.”  

 

Indeed, there was no wind, no birds chirping and definitely no people. It frightened Billy a little bit, he was a city kid through and through. There was always something, be it cars honking, the chatter of people or even the slight mechanical hum in the Watchtower, it was never just  sil ent.   Heck, even the Rock of Eternity echoed a bit , even if he was the only one visiting and checking up ever since th e wizard died .   If he wasn’t talking to Superman then he’d be afraid that something happened to his ears. 

 

“I once made a tiny pocket dimension to hold my things when I was moving around.” He answered Superman’s question anyway. He still had that little box between time and space but it didn’t hold much nowadays. It had been incredibly useful when he’d been on the streets. 

 

“How long can you go without the sun?” He addressed his biggest concern. 

 

Kal tried to give him an assuring look but there was a slight crease in his brow as he thought. “I’ll be okay for a while but the sooner we get out of here the better.” 

 

Captain Marvel agreed with that whole heartedly. While being entirely surrounded by magic was an awe-inspiring experience, the tension Superman was practically radiating was making him nervous too. No one liked seeing their heroes nervous. 

 

“Can you see anything?” He couldn’t follow the trail of magic anymore; it was all around him. Clearly whoever the thief was created this place. 

 

Billy watched Superman as he scanned the distance carefully. “There’s a building over there.” He gestured left of them. There wasn’t anything to be seen in that direction except endless dunes but he didn’t doubt that there must be something out of eyes reach. “I can’t see any people.” 

 

With a nod, they both set flight. Not a minute later he could see the house. Or rather it looked like an apartment building with how tall it towered. Streight and grey, like someone had plucked it up from a city centre and dropped it there.  

 

The corridor inside was a bit more lively. Some pictures littered the walls. Among them, Billy could spot a few runes, like someone was hit with a brilliant idea out of the blue and had to write it down so badly that they didn’t have time to search for paper.  

 

“Somebody is upstairs,” said Superman. 

 

They moved up, and Billy saw a few herbs growing in huge pots here and there on the steps. Some of them looked old and carved from stone. He wondered if they were stolen from museums as well.  

 

Superman nodded towards a door. When Cap listened closely, he could make out the faint sound of pacing. He waited for the older hero to give him a sign before they burst into the room. 

 

The sight wasn’t really something Billy expected. Stealing magical artefacts and building portal realms didn’t exactly bring the nicest image to your head. Those were blown away when they came face to face with a gangly teenager muttering angrily into a book. While sitting on a table. Wearing Flash themed pyjamas. Their abrupt interruption caused him to squeak and drop the book he’d been cursing at. 

 

He looked about five years older than Billy, with a pinched nose and sunken face. Like he’d spent the last year inside without sunlight. When he scanned them with alarm, Billy couldn’t help but think that his brown eyes were pretty. He didn’t dwell on it and looked for more information. 

 

The purple, runed stone sat on the table beside him. Cap wasn’t inclined to believe that he was the thief but didn’t rule him out. If there was anyone who knew that age didn’t define you and that appearances were often deceiving, it was him. When he probed forward with his magic, he confirmed it, he was the source of the magic signature they’d been chasing. 

 

“How are you here? You can’t be here!” The other boy scandalised, a little dramatically. He looked skittish and sounded quite panicked so Billy tried to assure him by reaching out to him with his magic again, this time with purpose. He reflected his good intension in which he hoped was a calming way. Cap hadn’t even realised he’d done it until his magic was enveloping the other boy. Weather it was the wisdom of Solomon or instinct, he was glad he’d done it because the magic thief didn’t look like he was about to have a panic attack, he was just weary now. 

 

A flash of realisation dawned on the other kid’s face as he examined Captain Marvel more closely, his wide eyes were zeroed in on the golden bracelets on his forearms. 

 

The magic thief didn’t get the chance to open his mouth because Superman, blissfully unaware of the interaction that just happened, flew towards him, “Are you the one who stole those?” The Kryptonian pointed at the various items scattered around the room that should have been resting in a museum. 

 

The teen didn’t pay the slightest attention though, he was too fixated on Billy. “You’re the champion of the wizard Shazam!” There was so much awe in his voice that it threw Billy off. Sure, he was a superhero and people looked up to him like that sometimes but that was because of Captain Marvel and all the good he’d done as him. No one had ever mentioned the wizard, not even Zatanna or Doctor Fate. All he could do was nod. “My mom told me about you!” 

 

He started grinning like a little kid and bounced around in a way Billy couldn’t in a while now. “She said he’d choose someone to guard magic for him. Your magic comes straight from the source! So that’s how I know it’s really you! I’m so glad I get to meet you and-” 

 

His chattering that he’d been so engrossed in came to a halt when Superman put a hand on his shoulder. The innocent action to get his attention was met with a violent jerk back. 

 

Superman was stumped at the fear he saw in the kid’s eyes and changed his tactic by taking a step back. He was okay with criminals being scared of him but this was something else. Not an ‘oh no, I’m busted’, more like a ‘don’thurtmedon’thurtmeplease’. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you but we really need you to talk to us,” he soothed in the tone he always took with scared civilians. 

 

That didn’t help. If anything, the magic thief looked far more like a deer in the headlights than before. He moved to a defensive position and mustered as much defiance into his voice as possible. “I’m not going anywhere.” 

 

Before the only adult in the room could object, Billy stepped in, “Well, we need the stuff back either way. Why do you want them anyway, um...?” He realized that they didn’t know each other's names. 

 

“Dylan.” He responded before muttering, “Magic has no place in a museum. Do you know how much more I could learn from some of the things I’ve taken? It’s a crime to let them collect dust where no one can even guess their value.” 

 

“It’s also a crime to steal them,” Quipped Billy, “But seriously, some of them aren’t even magical.” He pointed out to a clutter of artefacts in the corner that he assumed was the reject bile. 

 

“Well I didn’t know they were useless when I took them,” said Dylan dejectedly. He was eyeing the purple stone on his desk mournfully. With how many notes were scattered around the place, Billy guessed he was deep in research and felt a little bad that they’d have to take them back.  

 

Superman cut in, “We need to talk to your parents.” The other boy flinched a little at that. Billy was sure the older hero didn’t mean anything bad by it but he could see Dylan closing himself off. The magic thief patted Billy’s magic away from him coolly while schooling his face. Cap tried to not take it personally, they just met, but the older boy's magic felt nice so it stung a bit. 

 

“Get out,” Dylan all but growled. 

 

The Kryptonian didn’t listen and stalked forward to grab him again, “No can do, kid, we need you to come with us.” 

 

Billy could pinpoint the exact moment something in Dylan snapped and he threw a ball at Superman’s feet. 

 

They both recognised it as a portal activator a fraction of a second too late. A vibrant gateway circle opened up below Superman and he fell in with a surprised yelp. 

 

In the heat of the moment, Billy forgot that Superman could fly and dived in after him. As soon as he crossed the border, he knew something was terribly wrong. 

 

He started to fall but couldn’t concentrate on anything around him except the horrible feeling of being barred off and suffocated. Like he’d suddenly been cut off from air, which was ridiculous considering he didn’t need air when he was Captain Marvel. Billy couldn’t pinpoint the source of the depravity but felt like he was missing something essential he couldn’t live without.  

 

Cap felt blind and deaf. And numb. And unable to access anything he needed to function properly. The only thing that disproved that theory was the flashing light around him that he couldn’t make sense of and a ringing in his ears. His skin tingled painfully and wind flapped against it. 

 

Just as he thought he’d be falling forever in a pit of painful confusion, a pair of strong arms caught him. His blurry eyes picked up blue and red shades. 

 

‘Supes,’ his mind whispered. 

 

Billy tried to make sense of anything else around him but his brain felt fuzzy. He looked to the wisdom of Solomon to guide him but startled to feel the constant reassuring knowledge unaccessible in his head too. That’s when the realization hit him like a train. 

 

Magic. He was blocked off from magic.  

 

A new panic struck him like lightning, stealing the already non-existent breath from his lungs. Frantically he tried to reach towards it but he was walled off. Whatever this new place was, magic wasn’t a part of it. He was an anomaly and it was trying to snuff him out so what natural order it had could prevail.  

 

He could feel his surroundings  grating  at his form. It was painful and felt like he was being crushed and picked at.  

 

Superman was still holding him firmly. Billy could just barely make out the other hero’s voice over his ringing ears and bounding heart. He saw his hand and it was almost flickering, like a bad hologram. Like it was trying to go out of existence. Billy had enough sane mind left to know that the last of his magic that was focusing on keeping his Captain Marvel's form going was running out. Desperately, he tried to reach out to his connection to the Rock of Eternity and the gods but came up blank. 

 
 

Tears bricked his eyes. This was agony but if he didn't keep this up then he'd turn back to Billy. In front of Supes. It would be so easy to let go, even say the word to move the process along, and be relieved of his pain but he couldn't. He clung on with all his might but blacked out nonethelesss. 

Chapter Text

Opening his eyes was surprisingly easy, wreaking his head enough to make sense of where he was the hard bit. He felt weak and didn’t attempt to shift upward, just letting his eyes wonder.  

 

The lights were bright but not enough to blind him, he thanked the gods silently for that small mercy. The ceiling above him was grey and metallic looking. ‘Familiar, though,’ he mused to himself almost absentmindedly. It was a testimony to how tired he was for it to click that this was Watchtower. He woke up to that same ceiling, only covered in fairy lights, every day!  

 

It sounded like too much effort to feel embarrassed. Billy concluded that he was in the med-bay instead. 

 

An uneasy déjà vu feeling overcame him but he tied everything to ignore it. It wasn’t the same as that time in the hospital anyway, there was no searing pain or agony. Now all he could feel was a minor but constant aching, but above that: a bone deep fatigue.  

 

Billy reached out to Solomon in his consciousness to see if he had any idea what was wrong. It was startling how faint the ever-present wisdom was in his head but he still managed to detect a stronger than average intuition to check his magic. He concentrated the best he could, not that his willpower was much right now, to conjure up some lightning. Panic crippled him when he realised that only a few sparks left his hand. He tried again, again and again but nothing happened except his vision started to blur. 

 

Magic was always with him. Always. Even when he was at his lowest, even when he wasn’t Cap but a little street runt, it was always at his fingertips. A constant reassurance. He’d never felt this distant from it.  

 

It was scary, being so weak as Captain Marvel. Billy wasn’t ashamed to admit it, he didn’t have the courage of Achilles at the moment after all. 

 

He didn’t feel right at all. An unquenchable need to go to the Rock of Eternity itched under his skin. Once he got the thought into his head, he couldn't shake it off. Solomon whispered that it was okay. That he should follow that instinct in him. Getting there though... A teleportation spell felt impossible. Just the thought of it made him want to bury his head, if his hands worked, that is.  

 

Without his fail-safe he felt caged in the bed. The quiet hum of machinery in the walls never seemed this eerie.  

 

He hated waking up alone. 

 

As if summoned by the thought, the door slid open to reveal Batman. Cape pillowing and all. The older hero zeroed in on Cap and saw him peering up at him with barely open eyes. “Captain Marvel.” 

 

All he could do was blink at him, too tired to greet him.  

 

Batman didn’t seem bothered by the lack of response. He pulled a chair up to sit beside his bed. “Blink twice if you remember anything that happened before you passed out.” Billy couldn’t have been more grateful that the detective understood his sorry state so quickly and didn’t make him talk. He wasn’t sure he could and wasn’t up to testing it. 

 

Superman had asked for his assistance on finding a magic thief. ‘Dylan,’ he remembered. He blinked twice, but then his brow furrowed in concentration. How did that story end? He remembered finding the teen... and then everything closing in and air burning around him like it wanted to snuff him out. 

 

Suddenly it was harder to breathe. The all-consuming pain was so vivid in his head that it become hard to think about anything else until the other hero’s deep voice distracted him. “Good. Zatanna wasn’t able to tell us what was wrong with you exactly, only finding that your magic was weak. I’m guessing that your extreme reaction is because your powers come from magic.” Only Batman could make a question sound like a statement. “Twice for yes, once for no, and three times for nor sure.” 

 

Billy had to think about that one. Since his entire being was magic as Captain Marvel, it was only natural that he would be more affected by its absence than a regular mage. Maybe that’s where that portal Superman and him fell through led. A place where magic didn’t exist. That would explain why his connection to the Rock of Eternity was so weak. He hadn’t known that there was a place like that in the entire universe. Billy hoped with all his heart that he’d never have to go back. He blinked twice. 

 

The dark knight nodded, “You’ve been unconscious for three days. Superman already filled us in on the mission details but I need to debrief you on what caused your current state later. Right now, once for visitors and twice for too tired. 

 

The champion felt faintly surprised that he had visitors before hastily blinking once. No matter how drained he felt, he didn’t want to be alone. Even if he might nod off in the middle of a conversation.  

 

Batman made an acknowledging sound and stood back up. As he took his leave, there were quiet murmurs outside. Before the door could slide back closed, Superman walked inside. Billy perked up as much as he could from seeing him. 

 

“Looks like we found your kryptonite,” the hero said sympathetically and took up the chair beside his bed. “How are you feeling?”  

 

Cap worked his throat and made an undecipherable sound.  

 

Superman still sagged in what looked like relief. He lifted his head from where he’d lowered it and blinded him with a smile, “I’m glad you’re fine.” He seemed to deliberately not put him anywhere above fine, Billy supposed it was because he really didn’t look it. “You were  flickering , like you’d  disappear  any second, when I...” The  Kry p tonian  showed him the grey  orb  in his  hand .  So  that’s  how they got home.  

 

The older man sounded shaken up, something Billy had a hard time associating with Superman. He felt the need to assure him. “’m okay,” his voice sounded raspy and broken but he pressed on, “Really, ’ll pounce back up.” 

 

The other hero gave him another smile but shushed him, “I know, but don’t try to talk right now, okay?” Marvel gave a slight nod, it had been a bad idea and he was already paying for it. Superman started telling his about when had been happening while he was out. Not much. He’d postponed going after Dylan again because no one could get a hold of Doctor Fate, and Zatanna was busy working on something Batman roped her into. Him and Flash looked after Fawcett for Cap. He gave him a grateful look before closing his eyes, knowing that Superman could tell he was still awake by his heartbeat and breathing pattern. He also told him about news all over the world, with extra detail in the stories surrounding Metropolis which made Billy wonder for a second if he was being read a newspaper. It was slightly soothing anyway.  

 

Clark continued to drone on and on about anything that came to mind. Mostly about the articles he was writing because of his current lack of creativity. In no time at all, Cap’s breathing evened out and he was out like a light. 

Chapter Text

Superman talked until the Captain fell asleep. It didn’t take long, and Clark was glad that the other hero was getting his rest. He sure looked like he needed it. 

 

He stood up, floating a bit to stretch his legs. Taking one last glance at Marvel, the dark circles under his eyes and his pale complexion made him look worst for ware, he started making his way home.  

 

This was usually the time they started tracking down the contacts of whoever was injured during a mission. There was always someone worrying, be it family or friends. Normally the few other heroes closest to the injured party knew who to inform and reassure. Sometimes when the situation was very bad, they’d allow them on the Watchtower to visit. It made a lump form at the back of his throat when he thought about how there was no one to find for Marvel.  

 

He was always at the Watchtower. Never really disappearing for long. Captain Marvel was fully immersed in his hero persona, if he wasn’t patrolling Fawcett, helping out in a battle or volunteering to take up someone's Monitor Duty shift, he was in the rec room. It made Superman wonder if there really was someone behind the cape. Someone with a family.  

 

The more he pondered on it, the more he doubted it. At the beginning, when Marvel first joined the League, he disappeared at the end of the day like the rest of them. He watched the clock tick by on debriefings like he was excited to be somewhere else, there were people waiting for him. His presence at the hero community wasn’t that abundant. Something changed. Now, Captain Marvel was on his own.  

 

A new sense of determination overtook the gloom Clark felt. It wasn’t going to stay that way. They were his team and they were going to step up. 

 

---- 

 

When Billy woke up again he didn’t feel much better than before but it was notably easier to concentrate. Superman was gone from his bedside but he wasn’t alone. The slight sound of tapping filled the room. Cap strained his eyes to see Flash at the other side of the med-bay, twirling on the same chair Superman had sat on and playing on his phone.  

 

It took Marvel a few tries of his throat failing before he made a grumbling sound. The red speedster was alerted instantly, his eyes snapped to Cap and went wide like saucers. In a snap he was beside his bedside and talking with energy that was making Billy’s head spin, “Ohmygod you’re awake! You’ve not been awake for a long time, like, worryingly-long-time. But Batman said he already told you that but still! You’re okay! Wait, are you feeling okay? Everyone’s been so worried! Oh yeah, I was supposed to call someone when you woke up! They want to check you! Hold on- I'll be right back!”  

 

Just like that he was out of the room, leaving Billy behind, blinking and trying to put together what the other hero had said to him. Before he could do that, Flash was back with a very disgruntled looking Green Lantern and, in another blink, Cyborg too.  

 

“Stop doing that! We agreed, only in battle situations where it was necessary not whenever you feel like- Cap?” The Lantern immediately dropped his annoyed voice and rushed to his bedside.  

 

“M’okay.” he croaked out.  

 

“You don’t look so good, man.” Cyborg sat on the bed nearest to Billy’s, his legs made a little clink sound as they connected with the metal bed frame.  

 

“Better than before,” insisted Flash, “When Supes brought you in, you looked  dead .” Billy wasn’t sure he liked the imagery but it was probably true, when considering how burned out he still was but less than before. Even if it was just by a nudge. Keeping his eyes open wasn’t as big of a problem for now. 

 

He made an acknowledging sound and yawned a bit.  

 

Flash pushed a cup of tea towards him and set it beside his head with a straw sticking out before settling around Cap’s bedside with the others. Billy was grateful to note that the tea was just how he usually made it: with a ton of sugar.  

 

They didn’t let the silence last long. Green Lantern pulled out a deck of cards and started shuffling them, “Any of you know how to play Hearts?”  

 

Cyborg answered negatively while Flash nodded enthusiastically. Billy thought the name sounded familiar. Maybe it was the one played by those guys who always hung around the front of the shop. That didn’t give Billy an inkling about the rules so he shook his head. 

 

If anything, the Lantern sounded cheerful at the news, “I can teach you. You feel up to playing, Marvel?”  

 

Slowly, he shook his head again. “I’ll watch you,” Billy said while snuggling into his pillow and keeping his half-lidded eyes on the cards being shuffled.  

 

While Green Lantern was explaining the rules to Cyborg, Flash leaned in to whisper to Cap. “Me and the big blue took up your patrol around Fawcett for a while. I gotta say, that city is something. I mean, which other city can say they have crocodiles up to no good while also dressed in suits? I’m pretty sure that’s just Fawcett.” Cap giggled a bit. The speedster took that as an invitation to tell him stories of all the weird things he encountered while there. 

 

---- 

 

The rest of Billy’s week in the med-pay passed in similar fashion. He was never alone for long. Whenever one of the heroes were in the Watchtower, they came to visit him. Over time, Flash accumulated more and more bean bags onto his bedside, to the point that Cap felt like he was back in his room.  

 

Billy couldn’t be more grateful for them. His thoughts tended to wonder when he was alone. It was easy to associate this incident with another that landed him in a hospital months ago. The ache in his chest from missing his family came back with vengeance. But this time around, there was always someone beside him, asking how he was feeling, telling him how things were going. He clung to the warm feeling he got from them, it made everything feel okay.  

 

Being cared for like this made him think, maybe they’d care about him just as much if he was Billy Batson instead of Captain Marvel... He could recover from the car accident with them beside him- He could go back to school- Maybe they’d tell him stories on those nights he had trouble falling asleep-  

 

Billy shut that trail down before it could fester too much. Or maybe they’d tell him to go because kids weren’t supposed to be up here. Couldn’t risk it.  

 

---- 

 

He was still condemned to bed rest once the next movie night rolled around and he couldn't complain. The task of standing up seemed taunting so he was prepared to not show up but apparently the League had other plans. 

 

Superman showed up and gently lifted him up like a feather. He flashed them through Watchtower, causing Billy to groan slightly at the strain on his muscles, and placed him on the extra couch that wasn't usually there during the movie nights. 

 

When Billy blinked at him, confused and admittedly a little dizzy at the sudden change of scenery, the older superhero had the audacity to  smile  innocently and sit beside where he was laying. When one of the others who were already there threw a horde of pillows and blankets over him, he accepted his fate and relaxed under the soft bile. The warm body next to him and the dim light made dozing off before the movie was done so easy. He didn't even remember what the movie was about, only that it was funny.

Chapter Text

Captain Marvel was pouring over a spell book, missing the Wisdom of Solomon now more than anything. It was startling, to realize how much he’d relied on that aspect of his power set. Billy relived the motions over and over again in his head like a mantra. He was usually able to do it without having to voice the spell out loud but though it better to stay safe. The connection he had with magic was shaky at best. The champion sighed and set the book down on the beanbag beside his leg.  

 

Two and a half weeks into his stay at the med bay he’d been cleared to move back to his own quarters after showing no signs of getting worse. He’s recovery was dragging on but he was at a point where he didn’t nap for most of the day. There was still a bone deep fatigue in all his limbs and he could only walk a couple of steps at a time before collapsing, so bed rest it was. The Leaguers were by his bed side for most of the day. Billy had noticed a pattern in how they came and had a sneaky suspicion that they agreed on a schedule amongst themselves. The thought made him bristle a bit, because it wasn’t like he needed then to be with himIt was just... nice, that’s all. 

 

Not having access to his powers was making him restless. Batman had stated that until he was in his usual peak condition again, he wouldn’t be allowed back on the field. While he understood the reasoning, he didn’t have to like it. He was taking up their time constantly, every time Superman came to him with some new reading material (because according to him, spell books don’t make for interesting stories. Billy was sure that the guy only said that because he didn’t know half of how many cool charms he could conjure with the grimoires he had in his room-), when Flash brought him food and made sure he ate everything being offered, and when Green Lantern would gather as many people as he could so they could play Clue (even though everyone knew Batman  always  won). The amount of care they showed him made him feel warm warm warm. Cap was constantly taking up their time and attention, with nothing to give back for it. It made him feel a bit selfish. Covering their backs on missions should be the bare minimum he should do, right? So- 

  

Sitting up a bit in his bile of pillows and bean bags, he struck out a hand and chanted. There was a soft sensation at the front of his mind like always, just fuzzier and less clear. Slight sparks of electricity danced around his finger tips and Billy could have shouted from joy. The cheer quickly disappeared when lightning didn’t ascend from his hand and the sparks died down.  

 

Cap felt devastated, even though he knew it was such a small thing. It was probably expected, seeing how much magic it took to keep up his Captain Marvel form and his connection to the Rock of Eternity was basically non-existent. Still, magic was his domain. What if he never got it back? What it the gods decided that he was a terrible champion and took their gifts back? He’s never going to be a hero again, the League is going to realise sooner or later that he won’t be the same anymore and kick him out, and he’ll be all alone again- 

 

He was working himself up to panic and curled in on himself. The bad thought were getting to him when the door slid open. Martian Manhunter walked in, he always took his steps so seamlessly that Billy felt like he was floating. “Captain.” 

 

Feeling faintly embarrassed, he straightened himself and sniffled. “Hey J’onn, what’s up?” While the Martian did visit him in the med bay, it wasn’t often, his presence was usually very valuable at the deck, cooperating missions. As much as Billy wished today would be one of those days when he would bring his work and do it by his bedside while Billy enjoyed the calm and reassurance he brought, this could be about something important.  

 

“I felt your distress and thought it best to check up on you.” Oh, that. When Captain Marvel first joined the League then J’onn had freaked him out a bit. Mostly because he had been afraid the Martian would read his thoughts and figure out that he was really a kid. He’d consulted Solomon on how to shield his mind from telepathy, and then figured out pretty quick that J’onn was pretty good at respecting people’s privacy since Billy felt no one hanging out in his consciousness. The Martian just felt their minds passingly at a distance and didn’t linger, he knew how important it was to humans. Something told Cap that Batman had driven that lesson home.  

 

Some time ago he would have been nervous about being near him without the ability to raise his mental defences but now he was use to relying on the League. J’onn wouldn’t do anything to him, this would always be a safe place. “I was just trying something...” 

 

The Martian tilted his head, motioning for him to continue. “Well, I’m used to magic being as easy as breathing, but now I can’t even cast lightning anymore! I feel useless like this- What if my magic won’t ever go back to normal?” Billy didn’t know how to explain the absolute terror that thought filled him with, instead he tried to project it loudly in his head and hoped that the other would be able to sense it. Apparently it worked because J’onn nodded slowly, almost sadly, and sat down cross legged in from of him.  

 

“Everyone on this station has their own power that they utilise to be a hero, losing that would be devastating.” He agreed. Sometimes J’onn felt like his abilities were the only things giving him purpose these days, that is until one of the core members drag him out of his depressive state. Unable to return home, he felt a kinship with Captain Marvel, who almost radiated similar sorrow. “But you are recovering, are you not? It is too early to plan a retirement.”  

 

Cap shook his head, “But look!” He summoned his energy and tried to strike lightning to the ceiling but only harmless sparks derailed down his arm. He slumped. Not only because of defeat, the effort failing that spell took more energy out of him than he’d like to admit. 

 

“Is that not progress? I remember you being in a much more severe condition weeks ago.” The Martian hardly wanted to recall it. Even now a teammate in such a state, unable to perform a task that used to be so simple before was making him ill at ease. 

 

“It’s going to take forever,” mumbled Billy, wincing at the memory of the hard weeks he had had. Who knew how many more there would be? Why couldn’t he just pounce back up from this, like Captain Marvel always did? He didn’t feel like Captain Marvel now. “I wish I could go to the Rock of Eternity. Being in the centre of magic would probably help.” 

 

J’onn hummed. “What’s stopping you?” 

 

“Are you kidding?” Billy huffed out an easy laugh, “Creating a portal would probably kill me right now if I can’t even get lightning right.” Technically, there was a way to get there without magically exerting himself  if  he had bothered to remember the proper rune signature. There he went again, relying on the wisdom of Solomon too much. Billy swore, the second he got his magic back to working order, he’d write it down for himself. If he knew them now, then he’d simply have to carve the runes onto the nearest door seven times and boom; a working portal.  

 

“So I take it there’s no physical entrance there?” The concept interested J’onn, since that should be impossible but he’d long since learned that when magic was involved, anything was plausible. 

 

“Yeah,” Billy sighed, “Magic generally exists on a different plain of reality. The Rock of Eternity is the only place of magic, the source of it all, to have links to earth at all. It’s connected to Fawcett, that’s why everything tends to be a bit wacky there sometimes-” he stopped in his tracks as a thought struck him. The only time he’d entered the Rock through a physical entrance was the very first time. At the train station, being chased by bullies. That’s where it had all begun! Billy wondered... was it still there...? Or had it closed after he had no need for it anymore? No, it had to be still there! “J’onn, you’re a genius!”  

 

Giddy with excitement, Cap started getting up when a wave of dizziness forced him to slow down. That served as a rude reminder that he wouldn’t get far on his own. Much to Billy’s chagrin, J’onn had a solution. “I’ll get a wheelchair.”