Theodore Altman was a dick.

Billy didn't care what anyone else said. The boy was a dick.

'Teddy' was the captain of the football team, all-sporty and perfect in every annoying little way. Great smile, wonderful hair, a laugh that made all the girls swoon and giggled and flutter their eyes suggestively at him. He was king of the school.

And he knew it. He was so arrogant, walking around like he owned the place! Who did he think he was?

To make matters worse, Billy was totally head over heels in love with the jerk. Billy didn't dare act on his feelings; do anything that might even begin to indicate. No, nobody had to know what he did behind closed doors, with the Teddy in his head – he locked those feelings deep, DEEP down. Still, when he was hugging his pillow, drooling a little in his near sleeping state, he'd allow himself that sneaky, knowing smile and his brain would fill up and spill over with 'his Teddy', the nice one that Billy had created for himself.

It was so hard to even begin to connect his Teddy with the real one. While his Teddy smiled at him with warmth and affection, the real Teddy barely gave him a second glance, except to maybe laugh when one of his friends pushed him into a locker. His Teddy would have gotten mad at them, told them off and helped him up. But the real one just kept walking.

Billy was a target for bullies. He was small and nerdy, talked a little too much about comic books and a little too little about girls. When the rumours had started to spread that he was gay, Billy was heartbroken – it didn't matter that it was true. It always hurt more to hear Teddy laugh when his friends called 'get lost, fag!" then it ever hurt hitting the locker doors.

Worse still about the whole situation was that if they knew what Billy did at night, when he wasn't alone in his room that was, they'd probably think he was the coolest guy in school. Billy was a superhero – The brilliant and scarily powerful Wiccan. He saved the world. He trained with the Captain America. His mother was the Scarlet Witch. People feared him as much as they revered him.

But nobody knew about that. Not even the other Young Avengers knew his true identity. It was something they had privately agreed upon – keep them hidden. If they didn't know each other's identity then they couldn't reveal it under threat of torture. It was a pretty safe system. There was only one Young Avenger who knew his real identity and that was Speed.

Tommy Shepard was his twin brother, for all intents and purposes, so it was only fair that family gave the reveal. Tommy went to Billy's school, but they'd never really talked until they found out who they really were to one another. Tommy made an effort after that to check up on him. He was a dick sometimes as well, but he never made Billy feel worthless, or like he didn't belong.

Naturally the attention Tommy started giving Billy didn't go un-noticed. Rumours spread that they were an item and it wasn't until another boy tried to push Tommy into a locker for being a 'raging fag' that the truth came out. Tommy had put the guy on his ass in the middle of the hallway.

"He's my brother you DICK!" Tommy had shouted before slamming the other boy into the lockers. This just made more rumours fly and suddenly Tommy and Billy were a focus of attention – everyone wanted to know how the boys, who looked nothing alike and didn't live with one another, in fact had barely known each other, were brothers.

The story they invented was simple – twins, separated at birth and adopted out to separate families. It certainly earned him some sympathy points from the bullies, but mostly he figured that they didn't want Billy's psychotic twin brother coming after them.

After that nobody asked questions.

Billy never used his powers against the bullies. He couldn't control them fully yet and… well, he could hurt them. God, that was ironic, he'd thought with a bitter laugh as he picked himself up out of the dirt one day. They couldn't give two cents about Billy, but he was all about making sure they didn't get hurt.

Now the Young Avengers, they were his friends. They kept him safe, joked with him, laughed with him. Patriot was a little uptight, but Billy liked him anyway – the Cap certainly liked the young man and Patriot had been practically glowing when the Cap had clapped him on the shoulder and told him he was doing well.

Hawkeye and the Iron Lad were good too, always good for a laugh. Hawkeye was a feisty thing, who often got into fights with the original Hawkeye in training sessions. She'd borrowed his name sake and his costume when he was presumed dead. Now he was back and wondering why jail bait was wandering around with his arrows slung across her back. Iron Lad… well, he was from the future. Billy chose not to question that.

And then there was Hulking.

Hulking was his partner – the group had just automatically started pairing them together on missions and patrols. They worked well together. After the first week of training it had been obvious they were the perfect team. Hulking would almost anticipate Wiccan's movements and vice versa – there was no thought, not talking, no need to really communicate at all. They just moved instinctively, snapping into place like neatly carved puzzle pieces.

Billy liked Hulking. He was nice and sweet, his smiles all shy and nervous, his words carefully picked and sometimes even stuttered. Everyone took one look at Hulking and practically ran away in fear – big and green with piercings along his ears like that? But Billy knew he wasn't the big scary monster everyone thought he was. He'd seen Hulking rescue a freezing kitten in the rain one afternoon as they headed home from training, the little thing meowing pathetically at them. Hulking had practically melted at the sight, curling the tiny creature to his chest.

That was just another reason to hate stupid Teddy Altman. He had the same piercings as Hulking and had claimed, loudly and at length, that he'd gotten them done because Hulking was the toughest and scariest hero of the Young Avengers. "Obviously he's a vicious murder. Just look at him!" He'd laughed. That was the first time Billy had ever wanted to punch Teddy in the face or otherwise cause him some kind of physical pain. But he'd settled for just bitterly shouldering his backpack and leaving the library in a huff, ignoring the catcalls of Teddy's friends that followed him out. Why did they even go to the library? It's not like they studied.

But that didn't mean he stopped liking Teddy. He'd been in the library again, hiding at a table in the back corner, trying to get all his homework out of the way so when he got home from training tonight he could just fall into bed rather than have to stay up and finish it, when Teddy and his friends came in one more.

Billy was really getting sick of this. He needed to find a new study spot. He tried to ignore them, focusing on world history, when Teddy's voice cut across his partial concentration.

"No, really, Wiccan is amazing." Billy's pen froze on the page and his eyes widened, but he managed to keep them on the page.

"Dude, he's so small! It's like, pathetic." Then Teddy laughed.

"Haven't you seen some of the videos? The dude is BAD ASS. He had like, unlimited powers or some shit. Did you not see the way he teleported an ENTIRE BUS full of people out of the way from that falling rubble? Or went he made that giant slime thing EXPLODE?" Billy had to fight to keep from blushing. Teddy spoke of Wiccan with a reverence, in the same voice that Teddy's idiotic friends had talked about girls.

"I thought Hulking was the best Young Avenger?" One of his friends argued.

"Yeah, he is," Teddy argued defensively, "but Wiccan and Hulking work together man. You gotta give Wiccan some points."

"Yeah, alright, he's kinda cool I guess. But what about that Hawkeye chick?" he whistled, "She is FINE. I got an arrow for her to handle, if you know what I mean!" Then laughter and the sick jokes. Billy wondered what Hawkeye would say if she knew. She'd probably smack them on the upside of their head. The thought made him snort – maybe a little too loudly.

"What you laughing at, fag?" One of Teddy's friends sneered, noticing him in his corner. Billy rolled his eyes and returned to his work. He couldn't be bothered with this today, and he actually had a lot to do.

"Oi, I'm talking to you! Are your ears to full of your fucking gay pixie dust to hear me?" the boy had continued, but Billy ignored him some more, scribbling some notes on the paper. His shouldered tightened and he tried to look like he was concentrating, not fighting the urge to leap across the table and shoot powerful bolts of lightning at the boy.

Hitler's avowed aim was to establish a New Order of absolute Nazi German hegemony…

"Guess your ears are too full of it! Want me to come over there and smack it out? Bet your brother wouldn't even mind if I did, you're suck a little prick. It must suck for him, having such a fag like you as a brother." Laughter.

His foreign and domestic policies had the goal of seizing Lebensraum (living space) for the Germanic…

Don't respond. Don't look up. Ignore him. Ignore h-

"Hey, fag, want me to come over there?" The boy continued. Something in Billy snapped.

"God, Jacob," He said haughtily, "if you wanted to hook up, you could just ask!" The table went quiet and Billy was surprised at his own courage.

"What did you just say?" Jacob asked darkly. Billy stood, scooping up his books and throwing his bag over his shoulder.

"If there's one thing we 'gay' kids have it's a fantastic gaydar. I know for a fact you're a bottle blonde, you spend way too much time lookin' at Teddy's ass to be 'admiring his playing skills', not to mention you felt up Tommy last summer at Kel's party. Yeah. He told me. So shut your mouth, you hypocritical closet case, and grow some freaking balls, you simpering girl." Billy shot bitterly. He only took in Jacob's horrified and infuriated expression for a few seconds before he was out the door of the library and resolvedly deciding to go home.

It took all of ten minutes for Jacob to find him, two friends on his side. By the time he got away, his powers still unused, he was barely aware of his surroundings. How he made home he didn't know – he was about 70% sure he teleported. He'd just landed on his bed and stayed there, aching and bleeding, until his alarm went off, warning him it was time for training. He didn't want to go. The last real battle was so long ago that Billy could hardly claim leftover damage. He sighed, and moved to the bathroom for a shower.

Well now, that was a sight. Busted lip, a cut over his eyebrow that had reopened in the shower, bruises that were steadily growing over his cheek and chest; he'd look like hell in the morning. He stuck a butterfly bandage over the cut on his forehead and tired his hardest not to wince as he slid into his costume. In his costume his wounds looked bad ass. As Billy they just looked pathetic.

He really didn't have the energy to train, feeling exhausted when he popped tiredly into Avengers HQ and fell onto the couch to wait for the others. He was falling asleep there when "Hey, Wic" was called happily from the doorway. He sat up slowly, trying not to wince, and smiled at Hulking.

"Hey, Hul." The happy, carefree smile on Hulking's face slipped away, shifting instantly to worry and anger.

"What happened?" He asked quickly, crossing the room in two strides and grabbing Billy's face, turning it on the side to examine the bruise there more carefully. Billy could see the dangerous side of Hulking like this – he looked livid, but his grip was soft on his cheek when he turned it.

"Nothing, nothing. Just, you know, got caught up." Billy said, trying to brush it off. Hulking's eyes narrowed.

"Really, cuz it looks like someone beat the shit out of you." Billy shrugged out of his grip.

"Yeah well, it doesn't matter."

"Wic," Hulking started, sounding concerned.

"Hul, leave it."

He did, pursing his lips unhappily. Billy shook off the others easily when they questioned him. Tommy gave him a sharp look, raising an eyebrow, and Billy decidedly didn't look at him the rest of the session. Billy was just about ready to pass out by the time they were done, his head pounding painfully against his skull and his aching intensified to real pain.

"You were pretty sloppy today Wiccan. Is something wrong?" The Captain had asked him quietly when they were done.

"Just tired." Billy said stiffly, suddenly on the verge of tears. Captain bloody AMERICA had noticed something was up. And he sounded disappointed. God. He just wanted to go home, to get out of here; he wanted to go to bed. And then, he blinked, and he was home. He didn't have time to think about the fact he hadn't said goodbye to anyone, that the Cap had opened his mouth to continue talking when he'd vanished, or that he was skipping the regular post training meal. He just collapsed onto his bed and fell asleep without even changing.