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And We Had to Shoot It to Pieces

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I. Prologue

One the left hand side of Kate's desk sat a stack of books devoted to the woman she'd wanted to write her paper on. On the right hand side of the desk sat a stack of books devoted to the subject her history teacher had "suggested" instead.

In between sat a scowling Kate, who had spent more time in the past twenty minutes licking the salt off her pretzels than actually doing any research on her very plain, very boring, and very unimaginative research assignment.

Well, to be fair, there had been a lot of mumbling and glaring at the blank Word document on her laptop screen, too.

Women's History Month was, in fact, kicking Kate Bishop's ass. Which, considering how much enthusiasm Kate had initially had at the beginning of her research project, was kind of depressing.

The drop in enthusiasm was directly her teacher's fault.

"I can understand your enthusiasm for Cecily Williams, Miss Bishop," Miss Hogan had said crisply when Kate had first proposed her research subject.

Kate really hated when teachers called her "Miss Bishop." It was never not condescending.

"But," Miss Hogan had continued, "The bulk of her histories focus on her unfortunate sexual assault - "

"And her philanthropic work in funding counseling shelters for other survivors who needed it," Kate had hastily interrupted.

"Yes, but I'm afraid that you're missing the point of the month. We're supposed to be celebrating positive aspects of women's history. Dwelling on sexual assault contradicts that point, Miss Bishop. Now if it's philanthropic work you're interested in, why don't you take a look at Maria Stark."

And just like that, the conversation had been over, because although she was incredibly and absolutely wrong, Miss Hogan was still the history teacher, and that position afforded her the power to make Kate write crappy papers on boring women who everyone else wrote papers on.

With yet another glare at the computer screen, Kate hunched forward in her seat and began to type. She could at least write the title page. That might motivate her to do ... something with this project.

Maria Stark: Famous for Being Tony Stark's Mother and Only Slightly More Boring Than Miss Hogan's Conception of Women's Contribution to History

Kate picked up another pretzel and licked the salt off it thoughtfully as she ran a hand self-consciously over the still visible scratch marks on her stomach, lingering scars from Kate's own "unfortunate sexual assault." They were less obvious than before, and Kate had high hopes that they would eventually fade away completely.

If they ever did, Kate was pretty sure she would never stop showing off her nice, scar free abdomen. It would be her own triumph, against the man who had given them to her, against Miss Hogan, against Maria Stark, and against this stupid paper she didn't want to write.

Kate bit down viciously on her pretzel before using the back button. As nice as it would be to actually leave her title as it was, doing so would also ruin her grade in the class, and Kate wasn't going to allow her teacher the satisfaction of ruining her straight-A average.

Because Kate Bishop did not let people beat her in a fight.

~~
II. Growing Pains

Actually, there's nothing particularly clever or imaginative about All Quiet on the Western Front and I can't really feel sorry for the protagonist because at least he didn't completely disappoint the entirety of his team by being a big fake.

It was pretty long, as far as thesis statements went, and somehow, Eli didn't think that his English teacher would appreciate it very much. It wouldn't be the first time that Eli's teachers had failed to appreciate what the more sensitive of his teachers termed "Eli's creative approach to classwork."

Usually it was his history teachers that received the brunt of Eli's "creativity." But this time around the culprit was Mr. Travis, a man who, while not necessarily agreeing with Eli's typical "creativity," was usually laid back enough to let it "slide" with a smile, pat, and fake sense of agreeableness that probably made Mr. Travis feel quite proud and righteous of his actions whenever any discussions of racism popped up.

Unfortunately, Mr. Travis seemed to think that All Quiet on the Western Front was the greatest piece of twentieth century literature to be written, and Eli didn't think that Mr. Travis would continue his "laid back" outlook if Eli mocked the "masterpiece."

Eli twiddled his pencil between his fingers and frowned out the living room window. It was awfully annoyingly sunny and cheerful, like the whole world was mocking Eli's efforts to be a hero and the lengths he'd gone to in order to lead a team that consisted of a warlock, a mini-hulk, and a giant girl when he'd only ever been regular old Eli Bradley.

Regular old Eli Bradley who took enhancement drugs to cover up his shame, of course. Eli took time out from scowling at the sun to look at his grandfather, who was being fed his afternoon snack by Eli's grandma.

When he'd been small, Eli's grandfather had rested his hand on top of Eli's head, full of tight curls at the time, and Eli had wondered how much his grandfather really comprehended about the world around him.

Watching his grandparents, Eli ran a hand over his smooth head and hoped, for his grandfather's sake, that the answer was "very little." His grandmother's disappointment was bad enough. Knowing that he had his grandfather's too ...

Eli shrugged off the thought and opened up the book again.

"Ah! Mother, Mother! How can it be that I must part from you? Here I sit and there you are lying; we have so much to say, and we shall never say it."

"Elijah, how is your paper coming along?"

Eli looked down at the passage he'd just read and over at his grandpa again before he answered. "Actually, grandma, I think I just found some actual purpose in this book."

~~

III. Civil War

My team's involved in the messiest custody battle in the history of ever, courtesy of the Captain America and Iron Man divorce and I'm not even human, so really, why should I care about this biology assignment?

"You do know you said that out loud, right?" Billy asked. His fingers twined in Teddy's blond (except, probably it wasn't really blond, Teddy thought, despite all evidence to the contrary) hair, letting Teddy know Billy was there without demanding anything in return.

"Sorry," Teddy offered, reaching his hand out to curl around the hand that wasn't playing with his who-knows-what-color-it-really-should-be hair.

"Hey, you don't have to be sorry," Billy said firmly, and the teleportation spell from a half an hour before was still cool enough on Billy's lips that it tingled against Teddy's forehead when Billy kissed him.

Forehead kisses were, of course, another way of giving without asking anything in return. Teddy was actually acutely aware that he had one of the best boyfriends ever. Which was why he sat up and kissed Billy back, on the lips.

Teddy had read descriptions in those comics that he and Billy used to bond over (back when they were normal, back when his mother was still alive) about Superheroes who flew too high and tasted like ozone. Teddy didn't know, really, what ozone tasted like, but when he kissed Billy just after a spell - especially a teleportation spell - there was always a lingering taste that Teddy thought could be the taste of ozone.

Teddy himself hadn't had the opportunity to fly high enough to taste any ozone personally, and probably wouldn't anytime in the near future; they were all flying a little low and under the radar these days.

Billy's breath still hitched in that old familiar way and Teddy scooted closer to the familiarity. When they broke apart, Billy took the closeness as the hint he'd been looking for and let his caresses run from Teddy's hair to his arm.

"Tell me what's wrong?" Billy asked, and Teddy expected it, and he knew his reluctance made him a bad boyfriend.

But the time wasn't right. They were in the middle of a war. Teddy didn't have the luxury of having an identity crisis. He couldn't stop and break down about the fact that everyone kept referring to his "real" parents. There wasn't any time or room or privacy to weep for the only mother he'd ever known.

He wanted to, though. But Billy had enough to worry about, with his parents pressuring him to register.

So instead, Teddy offered, "This material is kind of daunting. It's making me crankier than normal, I guess. Plus, you know, the world's gone to hell."

Half-truths, and Teddy felt guilty for lying to his boyfriend. Visions of Greg and the games he and Teddy used to play together swam lightly in the back of Teddy's mind, quickly pushed away when Billy moved in for a second kiss. "I can think of better things to work on than your biology paper," he offered.

"Should we take bets on whether your parents or your brothers are going to interrupt us this time?" Teddy asked.

Billy shrugged. "We're dangerous fugitives on the run, Teddy. Tomorrow we might get arrested by Iron Man's Dark Avengers. Carpe diem."

"Little brothers and nosy parents be damned?" Teddy teased, ignoring the small twist in his heart at using the word parents.

"Exactly."

"Sounds like a plan." And it did, at least a much better one than adding to his team's already considerable troubles. With that in mind, Teddy leaned in close and chose a make-out session in lieu of writing his biology paper.

~~

IV. Initiative

Her team understood why she ditched them. A lot of people didn't, and even at Camp Hammond, snide slurs were frequently tossed in Cassie's direction, questioning the loyalty of a turncoat who'd switched sides in the middle of a battle. Cassie stayed away from any Internet forums devoted to the Young Avengers these days; what those people say about her was worse than what Blake had to say on the average day about her father.

Everyone acted like it was the easiest thing in the world for Cassie to do - to just walk away from her best friend, and the five other people who had given her life purpose for the first time since her father's death.

But she'd loved her father first, and it was her father's life as a hero that made her put on the uniform. It was his life and his dedication to making up for his criminal past that made her want to continue his legacy.

Cassie wanted nothing more in the world than to make her father proud of her. She couldn't do that as a renegade hero, committing what the government was alternately calling treason and terrorism, against Iron Man and the rest of the government-sanctioned heroes. So Cassie picked the side she sure was her father would have chosen (because, of course, he wouldn't have wanted her to be a criminal) and she had sided with Uncle Tony.

Her mother still wasn't proud of her, and Blake still had a chip on his shoulder about all things superhero related (because, of course, he'd never be as good as her father had been; Cassie rather thought the bastard deserved to have every single one of his inadequacy issues.) So, really, Cassie had to believe that she had chosen what her father would have done in her place because she couldn't believe she was letting him down too.

There were times when Cassie wasn't so sure that her father would have sided with Uncle Tony - namely every time she read an editorial about the Civil War, or each time she ran into her actual team and had to pretend to be occupied with something else so she didn't have to give a half-hearted chase - but those moments were fleeting, because Cassie was sure she would go crazy if she were to dwell on it.

Of course, there were times that Cassie wasn't so sure she wasn't cracking up.

She was pretty sure, after all, that her first instinct at being forced to attend an actual ethics lecture shouldn't have been to laugh. Still,based on current superhero behavior on both sides of the SHRA divide, Cassie couldn't help herself.

But if the lecture made her laugh, the "homework" very much did not.

Once they are apprehended, what do you think is the appropriate legal punishment for those vigilante "heroes" who continue to break the law by not registering under the SHRA? What do you think is the appropriate ethical response to their blatant continual refusal to obey the governing laws of the people they are sworn to protect?

Cassie sat curled in her chair for a long time, thinking of her friends and of visits to Avengers mansion in times past. Back when the Avengers was about being a family, not about stabbing that family in the back as many times as possible.

Finally, she dried her tears and began to type.

When I was little, my father found out I was going to die. In order to save my life, he had to break the law and break into Hank Pym's lab, something that could have put him back in prison. But it was a risk he was willing to make, because I mattered that much to him.

After my Dad saved me, Uncle Hank understood why he'd had to break the law, and told Dad to keep the costume and keep doing good things with it.

It was the right solution then. I don't see why it isn't the right solution now.

It was a short answer, but one Cassie believed in with all her heart.

~~

V: Secret Invasion

"'We are not youth any longer. We don't want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing from ourselves, from our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces,' " Eli quoted from his spot at the window.

Tommy didn't understand Eli on the best of days, but he did understand the fact that right now, Eli was using Kate's recent injury as a reason to mope and brood even more than normal.

"That sounds familiar," Kate remarked, because Kate was always better at caring about Eli's crazy moments than Tommy was.

Okay, most of the team was better at dealing with Eli's crazy moments than Tommy was.

"A little too on the nose," Eli muttered, handing her a drink, but nothing strong enough to make that wound stop hurting, Tommy was pretty sure. Tommy would totally get her something that strong, but he was pretty sure that his team would just object about it - especially Eli.

"But maybe All Quiet on the Western Front wasn't as overrated as I thought it was," Eli finished, and Tommy decided to ignore the rest of the conversation between Eli and Kate, because they are sitting awfully close together, and that was just wrong.

Unfortunately, the rest of Tommy's teammates thought a prolonged discussion on All Quiet on the Western Front was their idea of a good time, even if it involved the Eli and Kate bonding show.

Tommy made a face that no one saw, and decided to go through Billy's things instead.

It wasn't a goal without purpose; there were times that Tommy actually missed the kind of family and normal life that Billy, and most of the other Young Avengers, had. But mentioning that wasn't really his way.

Going through Billy's things and reading them without permission? That was absolutely Tommy's way. Usually by the time he was done, he would be reminded about just how much he'd always hated school, which was a productive goal in and of itself.

While the voices of his team members droned on in the background, Tommy came across an assignment that served that goal well.

In studying modern warfare, which is a more beneficial approach: social and cultural history or political history? Why?

Tommy rolled his eyes and glanced over at his still oblivious brother and the rest of their teammates. It should be pretty obvious that politics alone didn't give a full picture of why any war was fought.

Really, if someone couldn't understand that much, Tommy didn't see the point in explaining it. If they had to be told, they'd never get it.
~~
VI: Dark Reign

That's a really good question, Mrs. Evans, because I'm not at all sure what my career goals are, though based on recent events we can rule out both Sorcerer Supreme and teacher.

Billy carefully ignored the fact that his boyfriend was spending his free time in his Skrull form yet again - some type of rebellious clinging to parents he didn't know in order to postpone mourning the one he did, Billy's mom had suggested gently, and Billy supposed she knew her stuff, but wow, that was a depressing thought - as he leaned back into Teddy's arm.

"Not exactly the paper you wanted to write after dealing with the other Young Avengers?" Teddy asked.

"Exactly," Billy agreed simply. Because Billy's team might have won, but they'd still lost the few good members of the would-be Young Avengers to the dark side.

That was hardly a heroic victory to write home about.

Fortunately, a tiny tap at Billy's window was enough to distract him from the paper he wasn't writing.

"Hey, Cassie," he greeted, opening it enough to let her in.

"Hey, guys," she said, after growing to her correct height. "Are you busy?" She glanced curiously at Teddy, sprawled out onto the bed.

Billy flushed at the implied suggestion and shook his head. "Really not. Just procrastinating some homework, you know."

Cassie chuckled, in a way that Billy totally ignored, because it was obviously an "is that what they're calling it these days?" chuckle.

"What brings you by, Cassie?" Billy asked.

She stopped laughing then, and took up a genuine interest in the floor as she began to speak. "I just wanted to... I know everyone suffered during the fighting over the Registration Act. But out of all my teammates, you two suffered most. And I've never gotten a chance, with everything that's gone on, to apologize for the role I played. But -"

"And you don't have to," Teddy said firmly, and Billy could see that she was getting ready to argue with Teddy, so Billy stepped forward and hugged her.

She was tense at first but slowly hugged him back. "You really, really don't have to," Billy assured her. "You didn't put anyone in that prison, and you were only doing what you thought was best."

"And you never forgot us," Teddy offered helpfully. Teddy took a moment to shift back into the human form that Cassie needed before joining them in the hug.

"How could I?" Cassie murmured into Billy's shoulder.

It was a good point. "I think we should make this a pizza night," Billy suggested as the hug broke apart.

"What about your 'homework'?" Cassie pointed out, in a voice that said she was still doubtful about the existence of the homework and didn't want to interrupt what were clearly epic make-out sessions with Teddy.

Billy appreciated that, really he did, but "The homework can wait," he assured her, since homework really was waiting on him. A completely ridiculous homework assignment about a career choice that Billy stood little chance of actually making.

Then again, why worry about the future when he was a Young Avenger now?