Captain Marvel was at the end of his usual patrol route. His mental Batman grumbled at having too obvious pattern for his daily checks over Fawcett but Billy liked the familiarity too much. It also covered the city perfectly.
He transformed into Cap in the rough-around-the-edges area where he usually stayed and preferred to cover first. Then, he dashed over the outskirts of the city and the quiet neighbourhoods that were usually peaceful but Billy reasoned that you could never be too careful. He also couldn’t forget to pet the rooftop cat that tended to resided there, probably because she knew she’d get belly scratches there once a day. The last step was flying over the heart of the city where he liked hang out as Billy as well. This was his favourite part of patrol because instead of chasing him out of shops and eyeing his ratty clothes uneasily, when people spotted him they usually cheered and waved. From there I was back home.
Billy thought that the afternoon was well spent as he swooped towards his alleyway. He’d stopped a bank robbery, a bus crash and helped an elderly man carry his groceries. That last bit had been the most fun since the man told Cap funny stories about his retirement home as they walked towards it. ‘And there were no giant robots or alien invasions today,’ he mentally cheered. Calm days were the best but they usually didn’t last long.
With one last look, he desperately took in the blue sky as long as he could while lowered himself into the empty alley. Cap glanced around, checking that there were no people around but also memorizing the layout of the trashcans that day and making sure there was nothing to trip over. With a soft sigh, he moved closer to the wall behind him. Not close enough to be scorched by his lightning but at an arm’s distance. “Shazam!”
The smoke cleared but Billy Batson couldn’t see it anymore, he just felt the slight burnt smell leave him. He backtracked two steps until his back hit the brick. Billy turned to his left and with a hand brushing the wall, started slowly walking deeper into the alley. Noises were all around him, a person had opened his window to see where the boom of noise came from and soon closed it with a huff after detecting nothing, cars driving and honking a few apartment complexes over, someone yelling, wind swinging the laundry line high above him, he concentrated on those.
When he felt the rough bump and continued change of texture in the wall, he knew it was time to cross the alley. Only continued practice kept him from pumping into the large dumpster. Billy continued to navigate himself around it and sat down in the corner created between the allay wall and hard metal. It was a perfect place where he went relatively unnoticed. No one passing by would spot him pressed into the corner unless they were actively looking for him.
He tugged his trusty backpack out of the wedge between the dumpster and the brick wall. It felt like it was in the exact same spot as he’d left it in the morning but he unzipped it to check his belonging either way. Billy sat his favourite hoodie beside his knee. It was soft and snug but too warm to wear it in the summer so it was in his backpack. Then he pulled out a noisy plastic package with two cookies inside. After deciding that he wasn’t hungry enough to splurge, he set them down on his hoodie. He pulled out a toothbrush and a broken comb he’d gotten from one of his old foster homes and a pine cone he’d found in the park.
After shifting his backpack, his fingers found the hidden pockets. One of them contained the total amount of four dollars and thirdly nine cents, Billy ran his fingers over every coin to make sure the sum was still right. The second pocket however, contained something much smaller but even more precious to the young superhero. It was just a button, but it used to be on his dad’s coat. Billy remembered when it fell off, C.C. had wanted to sew it back on but after finding out how pleasing his son found its smooth texture, he decided to let Billy keep it.
Just for consistency, he also got his Justice League communicator out from his pocket and rubbed the small device between his fingers before hiding it back where it came from.
He hurriedly pulled everything back into his backpack and clutched it to his chest. Billy leaned against the dumpster in thought. During the patrol, he’d found an empty building that looked easy enough to get into. It wasn’t even that far away but would still probably take him an hour or two minimum. At least he had an advantage of knowing Fawcett like the back of his hand thanks to being the Wizard’s champion. He soared above the city every day and had the map of all the streets in his mind.
Still, the air was warm and he was getting a bit sleepy. ‘I’ll just sit and rest my legs for a bit. Then I can get up and going after that,” he thought.
That didn’t end up happening.
Soon enough, the distant sound of the wind and a dog barking in the distance soothed him into a calm daze. His head lulled to rest on his backpack.
A sharp pain in his stomach awakened him. Billy yelped but his scrambling to get up was cut short by someone grabbing him by the scruff and throwing him on the pavement. He choked on a sob when he felt his skin scrape on the rough gravel. Laughter bubbled up around him.
Billy didn’t understand anything that was happening. Running blind towards an unknown direction, stumbling over curbs and tripping over his own feet, he hadn’t felt this disoriented in a long time. His ears were ringing slightly, ruining all chances of pinpointing his exact location. All he knew that he had to run.
Shout Shazam- no he couldn’t, they were right behind him! They’d see.
Another kick to his side and he was on the ground again. “Looks like we found ourselves a hero.”
Billy couldn’t calm his racing heart but he saw through his panic enough to recognise that voice. He cringed. Bernard and his gang liked to torment him whenever they happened upon each other, which wasn’t often since he was careful. The last time had been a few weeks ago when they had hung around the post office and cornered people, ‘politely’ asking them to empty their pockets. Billy had hidden his backpack near the park that day so he just got away with a black eye. He had felt too bad to walk away so he stayed near the corner and warned people to take a different turn. Apparently Bernard was still mad about it. That, combined with the faint smell of alcohol in the air, meant bad news to Billy.
A new foot hit him in the ribs but it didn’t disappear, it continued to press at his chest. The pressure felt dangerous and Billy was too scared to breathe. “I heard you cost me quite a bit of money,” the foot pressed harder, making Billy choke in pain, “How about you pay for it now?”
Another blow, this time to his head by one of the others. “I- I don’t have anything,” he sobbed out, treacherous tears creeping up on him.
A few more kicks. “Check his bag.”
Billy’s breath hitched under the pressure and he renewed his attempts to get up. Bernard stomped his foot and there was an audible crack. Billy let out a piercing scream. A few of the guys there stopped laughing and took a step back. “Well? Anything?”
One of his thugs shuffled with his backpack a few feet away from them. “Nothing useful,” he said, though he sounded a bit concerned. Billy felt distantly grateful that they didn’t find his money but most of his mind was consumed by pain. The guy threw the bag at Bernard who caught it.
The man towering over Billy gave the contents of the backpack a glance before agreeing, “Yeah.” He took one of Billy’s cookies before tossing the bag into one of the nearby trashcans. He took a few steps to walk away before spitting and throwing the cookie away too, “Shit taste, Batson.”
Billy had a hard time registering the footsteps running away as he concentrated on whizzing in air. He scrambled towards the nearest wall and pressed himself against it as tightly as possible. His chest felt wrong wrong wrong . Breathing was wrong and hard and painful.
‘I’m okay, I’m okay,’ he thought a bit hysterically because clearly nothing was okay. He tried to tell himself that he had had worst and he’d probably be right as rain in a week or two but that didn’t help at all. Last time he’d had a sprained wrist, he could still move and breath e.
He didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t say here but he couldn’t go to a hospital either. Even if he managed to drag himself that far, he had a vague idea of which direction it was since he delivered people there as Captain Marvel all the time, or scream until someone found him and took him, they’d put him back in the system. He wouldn’t be in the shape to run or defend himself for at least a while so that was permanently out of question for him. He had friends on the streets but they were all kids in the same boat as him, no way would they be able to help.
Tears started to stream down his cheek as the helplessness of his situation sunk in. He didn’t even know what they did to his backpack.
‘But I have friends in other places as well...’ Billy thought as he fished the JL communicator out of his pocket and hugged in to his aching chest.
He was about to do something incredibly stupid.
“Hello...? S- Superman?”
Said hero straightened his back immediately and gave his full attention to the communicator in his ear. The call he’d received was from Captain Marvel’s communicator but it became apparent as soon as he answered that it wasn’t the champion on the other end. Clark didn’t need super hearing to catch the distress in the voice of whoever it was, nor how young he sounded, but it did help him pick up on the abnormally ragged breath they had and the hammering of their heart. He couldn’t help but think that they were like a little hummingbird in there before refocusing on the issue at hand.
There was a faint hitch of relief on the other side, which put Superman on the edge even more.
“I- I’m sorry to bother you, sir, but- but- I need help. I’m Captain Marvel’s friend.” Slight suspicion crossed his mind that someone had stolen his teammates communicator and was trying to lure him into a trap with it, before he dismissed it. There was real fear in that voice. He still wanted to know how this kid, a boy if he went by the sound of his voice, had gotten his hands on Captain Marvel’s communicator, though.
Clark mustered as much reassurance into his tone as he could while swiftly making his way towards the Zeta Tube. Monitor duty could wait for now. “Of course I can help, where are you? Do you need me to come?”
“Fawcett City, I...” The kid sounded a bit disoriented before continuing, “I don’t know the exact address but it’s near the park.”
Superman didn’t let the lack of detail deter him and immediately set out the coordinates to Fawcett. He’d ask for more detail once he got there. “I’ll be there in a second. Now tell me, are you alright?” Clark was growing wearier by the minute because the more he listened to the kid’s heavy breaths, the more he felt like there was something wrong with them. It sounded like they were an effort to him.
“I don’t know...” He sounded on the verge of crying, or trying not to cry more, so Clark translated it to: definitely not alright, feeling scared, and sporting an injury that he didn’t know how to identify.
“Well, that fine. I’m going to take a look myself once I get there, okay?” He stepped out of the only Zeta Tube in Fawcett, one disguised as a phone booth, and flew to the slowly darkening, evening sky. There were blotches of green areas reaching all over the city but only one looked big enough to be a park. “Is anyone with you?”
“No...” That could be seen as both a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand, if someone was involved in him being possibly injured then Clark thought it was a good thing they weren’t present anymore. But on the other, a child was completely alone and he sounded so scared.
Clark thought it best to try to distract him, if only to slow that little hummingbird heart a bit. “So, Captain Marvel’s friend, huh?” He was nearing the park. Not a lot of people were around because of the late hour but none of the ones he saw were the one he was looking for. “Do you have a name?”
There was a pause on the other end and a slight shuffle, “Billy.”
“Billy,” Superman toned out the breathing in the comm link in his ear and concentrated on the area, looking for his heartbeat. His mind flicked from the evening traffic, to some teenagers hanging out in the park, to an elderly man whistling, to a dog parking his head off, to- There it was. In an alleyway that faced the park.
He swooped there on a speed that would make Flash demand a race and hovered closer to the trashcans that he knew the kid was hiding behind. “Nice to meet you,” he offered while switching his communicator off and assessing the situation.
The kid seemed skittish and jumped at his voice, pressed into his shadowy corner. Judging by his ratty shirt and skinny form, he must be homeless. There were a few fresh bruises on the side of Billy’s face that made Clark's insides lurk a little. A quick glance with his x-ray vision told him that the story was much worse under his shirt, a few ribs were cracked and one poked his lung. He needed to be brought to a hospital now.
Clark took a gentle step forward and held his hands up in what he hoped was non-threatening manner, “I need to pick you up to get you to someone who can help, ok?” He tried to coax the kid into looking at him.
Thankfully Billy didn’t seem wary and nodded faintly but instantly, that usually wasn’t the case with street kids. Superhero or not, they didn’t trust easy. Maybe it had something to do with him knowing Captain Marvel as he said. That raised a couple of questions in him, mainly centred around how Marvel could know this boy and how did he ended up having his communicator.
Billy shifted and looked like he was trying to get up. Clark put a hand on his shoulder and was about to tell him there was no need for that when he got a good look at the kid’s eyes and his words died on his lips. They were blank and grey, staring straight ahead. Compared to his openly fearful and expressive face, they were so dull. He was blind . Oh god, and he was on the streets? Clark wanted to cover his mouth but he needed to help. “Don’t try to move right now.”
He tried to be as gentle as he could while lifting Billy but the kid ended up sobbing in pain anyway. Clark murmured a soft apology and maneuverer the little body in his arms so that Billy’s hands were around his neck in a position that would put the least pressure on his chest. “Do you know which way the nearest hospital is?”
The kids heart rate spiked again at that and he began shaking his head and burying his face into Superman’s chest, “N- no, I can’t go to a hospital.”
Clark frowned at that, there were many... unpleasant scenarios that came to mind for why the kid didn’t want to go. But maybe he just didn’t want CPS to find him. “I’m sorry Billy, you have to.”
“Please no, n- no.” He sounded so scared... Superman found his resolve slowly cracking.
“Hey, it’s alright, I knew another place that can fix you right up,” he soothed and headed back towards the Zeta Tube.
B was going to kill him.
Thanks for reading :D