Jason Blood's face was solemn, and he looked like he wanted nothing more than to be very far away from Batman right now. Sadly, they were in his apartment, so he couldn't exactly leave. "I'm sorry," he said.
"Can't you fix it?" Batman aimed for "angry" and ended up distressingly close to "plaintive," and Jason rested a hand on his shoulder briefly.
"Bruce, this isn't a disease. This is what you are. This is your true nature." Jason shrugged. "Your family must have had some Atlantean blood somewhere."
"Impossible. Magic talent doesn't manifest so late in life."
Jason looked uncomfortable. "No, it usually manifests at puberty...but there are cases where magic ability can get repressed, buried away. In cases of..." he hesitated for a moment, "Psychological trauma, for example."
A case of a small boy who saw in an instant there was no magic in the world, nothing but his own brain and skill, he did not say. But it echoed about the room anyway.
"Why now?" Bruce groaned. It had happened so suddenly. He'd been on the battlefield with Superman, fighting a Starro-controlled Green Lantern Corps, when he'd spotted Kilowog about to shoot Superman in the back.
It had been instinct, as natural as breathing. A flick of his hand and a shimmering shield had sprung up between the Lantern and Superman, deflecting the light harmlessly. A quick command, a whispered word that seemed to taste of sandalwood and pomegranate, and Kilowog had slumped to the ground, asleep and smiling.
Superman hadn't even noticed, and Bruce intended to keep it that way.
Jason's mouth quirked in a slight smile. "Has anything happened lately that might have re-awakened your sense of magical wonder?"
Bruce buried his face in his hands. "You cannot expect me to believe that just because recently I've--I've--"
"--fallen in love with--"
"--become intimate with Superman, now I'm some kind of sorcerer?"
Jason tilted his head to the side. "Sorcery isn't actually your field. Too flashy, all that fire and ice-slinging. Your talents seem to lie more in enchantments and some abjuration--things like causing fear, invisibility, mental control, some protective magics. No knack for summoning or necromancy either, I'd say."
"Thank heavens for small favors," Batman muttered, a chill sliding down his spine. No way he wanted to have any truck with raising the dead. He looked at Jason. "You'll have to show me how to repress it again."
Jason stared at him helplessly. "Bruce," he said, "This is what you truly are. I would never help you cut off your own hands, and I will not help you cripple your mental powers. I will help you train them--"
"--No thank you," Bruce said, stalking toward the door. "I just won't use them. Ever."
: : :
It was, however, harder to keep this vow than he had expected. As Jason had said, nothing felt unnatural about his powers. They were like extensions of his self, and not using them took effort. He had to struggle not to fog criminal minds with fear, had to fight the urge to cast magical protection like cloaks around the young heroes in his care.
It was, oddly, most difficult when he was with Clark. There were times when, locked together with his new lover, flushed with excitement, he could feel how easy to would be to trace patterns on Clark's body that would make all their ecstasy seem like fumbling foreplay. How simple it would be to use his power to cause not fear but pleasure. Superman was, even more than most people, susceptible to magic. Vulnerable. Bruce could feel that vulnerability like a gentle inward current, pulling at his magic like an aching tide. He woke at night from dreams of losing himself in the power, of lifting Clark in a blazing halo of light and doing impossible, maddeningly good things to him. So vulnerable.
Magic. He hated magic. He wouldn't use it, though it hurt like a broken tooth to deny it, his mind flinching away from the raw edges of his power.
Until the day that Morgaine pointed with a bony claw and summoned a magical dragon to attack Superman.
Silver talons and argent fangs ravened toward Clark, sinuous coils wrapping around his body in an instant to constrict. Bruce heard bones crack, and as that sound rang in his ears he felt the power and rage lift him out of himself and into puissence.
He threw an arm forward and cried out a word that seemed to sear his mouth, and white light blazed up around Superman. The dragon howled and released him to turn on Batman, but Bruce was already swiveling to face Morgaine, raw energy crackling around his wrists. "Trouble us no more, witch!" he barked, and felt her mind shrink away from his, fleeing into unconsciousness.
He stood, panting and exalted and terrified, and looked at Clark.
Clark stood up slowly, his eyes fixed on Batman. He held out his hand palm-up, half-inviting and half-questioning. There was a livid burn on the palm he hadn't seemed to notice, and without thinking Bruce whispered a word over it and it faded away. Clark caught his breath. "You're..."
Bruce watched him search for words.
"...Beautiful," he finished, and Bruce couldn't help a startled bark of laughter.
"You don't...mind?" Bruce heard a sudden note of uncertainty in his voice as the power drained away from him. "That I'm not..."
"--You're perfect," said Clark. "Perfect." His eyes were dark with some strong emotion, and Bruce was enchanted anew as their lips met, lost in the only magic that mattered.