Billy had not intended to lie to the Justice League about his age but he had forgotten to mention it. To be fair none of the other members had elected to share their age, not that Billy or anyone thought that was a reasonable excuse. He hadn’t even been trying to hide his age. He thought everyone knew, or at least Superman and Batman knew. He had been right about Batman knowing but apparently Superman had no clue. Wild.
The reason he had assumed the two knew was that they were very lenient about the times when Captain Marvel couldn’t attend meetings or take Watchtower duty. Many of the other members seemed annoyed about it. Well until he thought he cleared things up but it was apparently unclear. It happened during one of their weekly meetings about Watchtower duty.
“And Captain Marvel will take the four am shift on Friday and Sunday morning,” Batman concluded.
Flash groaned. “Why does Cap always get weekend shifts? Do you know how hard it is to always be taking random hours off?”
Billy had been confused but just answered anyway. “I know a lot of you live alone but my parents would be very upset if I was always skipping meal times and cutting classes.”
Hal leaned forward, “You’re still in school!”
“And you still live with your parents.”
Billy stared at his hands. Why was that so weird? He had only been fifteen for a couple of months. Had they thought he was emancipated?
“Yes,” he whispered, slightly embarrassed.
“Oh geez, Cap’s a freeloader,” someone joked.
Marvel bit his lip. “My parents said I wasn’t allowed to work odd jobs anymore. They want to focus on school.”
“Odd jobs,” Wonder Woman echoed, clearly confused.
He rubbed the back of his neck, nervous. “Yeah, like raking leaves, cleaning cars. The kind of stuff I did when I was homeless.”
“You were homeless!” Flash yelled, eyes so wide they looked like they were about to pop.
Marvel stood up. He had not intended to say that.“I need to leave. My sister will be upset if I don’t help with her latest dinner creation. Sorry. Bye.”
Before anyone, heaven forbid Batman, could say anything he raced off towards the Zeta tubes and off to Philly.
The next time it came up was when Billy had been on a Watchtower duty with Black Canary. He had been working on an English essay while Canary was checking the cameras for the Young Justice base. When it was finished he let out a sigh of relief. It was after all, due in four hours. Canary glanced at him.
Marvel smiled tiredly. “I finally finished my essay.
Canary looked intrigued. “For what subject? Would you like me to look it over? I help the kids with theirs all the time.”
“Um, sure. It’s for English.”
Marvel hovered nervously as Canary read over the assignment. She was frowning. That was not a good sign. Billy felt he could be forgiven for not understanding what she meant when she finished ready the essay and asked him:
“Cap, do you really think a college professor is going to accept that?”
Billy didn’t think much of the question. His teachers asked him that question all the time. “Billy, do you think college will let you get away with walking in late? Do you think colleges accept work that’s a week late? Stop making excuses, kid. That won’t fly in college.”
So, yes. Billy thought it was a reasonable reaction to his mediocre high school English paper.
“Probably not. I just had so much trouble figuring out a thesis---”
“You don’t have a thesis.”
“I don’t! Oh, snap. This is due at, like ten.”
Canary gave him lots of good advice. Maybe too good because when he got it back his teacher asked him if he had cheated. He had the highest grade in the class on that essay.
The third time it came up, the league had been on a more covert mission. The league had disguised themselves to sneak into a gala hosted by the mayor of Metropolis. Batman had received intel of a bomb threat and the mayor had requested the league to take care of it quietly as the gala was being held to raise money for the city’s foster care system. Billy was not a fan of this mission. Wearing formal clothes over his Captain Marvel suit was very hot. Green Lantern, Flash, Martian Manhunter, and himself were carpooling to the event.
Flash and Green Lantern were arguing over who should drive. Martian Manhunter sighed as Marvel fidgeting with his hands.
“Perhaps, the Captain should drive, if you two can’t come to an accord,” J’ohn suggested.
WHAT?! That was a horrible idea!
“I don’t have a license,” Marvel admitted sheepishly.
Flash and Green Lantern paused, and turned toward Billy, completely in sync. J’ohn nodded at Billy.
“Aw… I see. I apologize for putting you on the spot Captain. I had believed most of the league had licenses.”
“Dude, you can’t drive.”
Marvel blushed and adjusted his tie. Philly had a good public transit set up and his foster parents would usually drive them to school in the family’s van. And other days they would walk. Victor had been planning to teach Freddy and him after both of them turned sixteen. So about next year in May, after Freddy’s birthday.
“My dad’s going to teach my brother and me, soon. But there isn’t much need since we only have one car.”
“Man, I just thought you would already know, considering…” Barry gestured at his head.
That was silly. The Wisdom of Solomon bridged many gaps but it did not instill one with knowledge. He relayed this to them.
The next time was when the “truth” came out. Green Arrow was inviting the team out for drinks and he asked Billy if he was down to come. Captain Marvel frowned.
“But that’s illegal,” Billy replied in the same breathe that Batman interjected, declaring that the Captain was underage.
The room froze and turned to stare at the Captain.
“Oh my gosh,” Flash yelled, suddenly behind him. “You’re not twenty-one yet! When’s your next birthday.
“Um… January 24th. But you know I won’t be twenty-one on that one, right?”
Flash blinked. He looked like Billy had just told him the sky was neon pink or something.
“How old will you be turning, Marvel?” Superman asked. “Twenty?”
Billy cocked his head and gave him a confused look. Was he turning twenty? What was Superman playing at?
“Nooooo,” he said, drawing out the word. “I’ll be turning sixteen.”
It was quiet for all of ten seconds before the room exploded.
“How are you so tall?”
“But you look so old?!”
“I do not!” Billy protested the last one.
“Dude, you look mid-twenties, like maybe thirty.”
Batman pinched the bridge of the nose on his cowl. Sadly it provided no relief. Billy wondered if he could even feel the pressure.
“Captain Marvel is magic. He can change his form.”
Wonder Woman looked furious. “You knew Marvel was a child.”
Billy’s eyes widened, everything finally clicking. “Wait, I thought you all knew.”
The room wailed as if asking what on earth gave you that idea Batson?!
“Or at least Batman and Superman, since they recruited me and it isn’t exactly a secret. All my villains practically shout it from the rooftops.
“I thought they were mocking you, or something,” Cyborg confessed. “Although I did suspect something was off considering your use of language and the homework I’ve seen you do.”
Black Canary butted in asking why the homework would have hinted at anything. She had helped Billy with his homework and had not noticed any discrepancies.
“You probably haven’t spotted him with his SAT prep books or seen the books he has been reading for English. It’s the standard fair of high school English garbage. Of Mice and Men , The Scarlet Letter , To Kill a Mockingbird , et cetera.”
Billy protested this, of course. Sure, the essays sucked, but the books were great. Cyborg then proceeded to tell him he was a nerd. Billy scoffed and shot back that was rich coming from the team’s resident hacker. The two then began arguing over whether an interest in literature or hacking was nerdier, ignoring the rest of the Justice League descending into chaos. Batman, tired of all this chicanery, began to walk towards the Zeta tubes as the rest of the League followed him, questioning him about letting a fifteen-year-old into the League. Once he was in the tube he turned to face them.
“His mom signed a permission slip. Take it up with her.” And then he was gone leaving anger and confusion in his wake.