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Title: Just One Beat Away.
Fandom: Young Avengers.
Warnings|Contents: Mentions of canon character death, mourning and grief.
Characters/couples: Scott Lang, Kate Bishop.
Summary: Scott missed almost two years of Cassie's life. There is only one person he can think who can, at least, tell him about them.
Rating: G.
Notes: I've been wanting to write this since Children's Crusade.

Just One Beat Away.
As my heart holds you
Just one beat away
I cherish all you gave me everyday
To Where You Are, Josh Groban.

He arrives at the cafe earlier than they agreed, almost fifteen minutes earlier, and he's not sure why. Nerves, perhaps, allthough Scott doesn't really understand nerves about what. From what he has heard, from what he has been told, Kate Bishop's word is as good as it gets, and, with the way their very short telephone conversation went, he has no reason to expect her not to come.

It ends up being a good thing he does, because Kate is already sitting there, worrying at her lip, tearing up a paper napkin in small pieces.

She stands up when he arrives and Scott can see the sadness in her eyes in ways that are just the same as the ones he sees in the mirror every day.

“Mr. Lang...”

“Scott is fine, if you'd rather,” he offers alongside his hand. Her grip is firm despite how pale she looks, and Scott decides to pretend he doesn't feel her shaking. “It's Kate, right?”

She nods. Scott can almost see her questions pooling over her head. Why did he call her, is he mad at her, at them? Does he hold her, as team leader, responsible for his daughter's death?

“Cassie and I used to come here a lot,” he says. He calls over a waitress, asks for a banana split, two spoons. “It was our hideout.”

Kate bites her lip, nods before she leans down and picks up a small box. Scott recognizes the teddy bear over the top.

“It's the stuff Cassie had on our base,” Kate says, fingers touching softly the fuzzy, washed out paw of Mr. Bear before she hands him the box. “Or, most of it. There's still some clothes and like, homework stuff.”

“Thank you,” he whispers. A sweatshirt, dried out flowers kept in frames, pictures of his Cassie with her team, photo albums. The two years he wasn't alive and his daughter was in his hands.

“I hope you don't mind that I kept some things?” Kate asks. She tries to smile, but Scott can see the way it's kind of trembling a bit over the corners. “I don't think a dad should read his daughter's diary, with all respect. And, well, there was this bracelet that was originally mine but she liked it so I gave it to her and she wouldn't accept it forever so she had it a month and then I had it a month and it was so stupid because I didn't even really like the stupid thing, not the way she did and.”

Kate stops her rambling. Scott can see the tears forming over her eyes and he can see the way Kate takes a deep breath. He notices the bracelet shining over Kate's wrist, red and black and the leather worn soft and creaky.

He puts the box down, taking out a picture frame to give Kate a chance to catch her breath. In the picture, Cassie has one arm over Kate's shoulders, the other one around the Vision. Jeremiah's grandson is on the back, leaning forward, resting his head over Cassie's, Wanda's kids sitting below alongside the blond Skrull. There are party hats and a piece of cake left by the side.

Was it Cassie's birthday? Her sweet sixteen, maybe? He had asked her if she wanted a big party. With how wrapped she had Tony around her pinky, she could have had it, the biggest sweet sixteen party any girl could have wanted.

But she had said no, had said instead how she wanted to travel. Maybe, she had asked, the two of them could go to Europe and backpack for the summer and the idea had seemed so sweet...

“I'm sorry,” Kate says, sounding like herself again. A very sad, very lonely self. “You must think I'm crazy.”

“Not really. It's actually why I wanted us to meet, Kate” he says after a few moments, putting down the picture frame. “Something like that.”

“Like what?”

It's his time to take a deep breath. For a moment he can't look at her. But who else should he ask?

“I missed almost two years of my daughter's life. And I'm never getting those back,” he says and he tries not to cry. It feels it's all he has done, and he's pretty sure he will do it again soon, but he can't, he will not break down in front of his daughter's best friend. He won't have this girl carry that as well, when she's already carrying her own guilt. So he takes a deep breath and tries to smile. “Jessica told me you were close.”

“She's the best friend I could have ever asked for,” Kate whispers.

In the pictures, in the videos, this girl, this young woman... she looked different. Something in her pose that had made it obvious, to him, why she was the leader of the team and not Jeremiah's grandson. The times they've spoken since he came back, Clint is full of praise for this young woman, and Steve and Jessica add to that admiration. Scott had started to form in his brain this picture that turned the other Hawkeye into an assertive, strong minded and independent young woman, making him wonder, before today, how that young leader was friends with his mischievous, smart, reckless little girl, unable to fully accept that his baby girl had grown up without him there.

But it's not only that Cassie grew up, not really. Because he's certain that Kate is, most likely, all those things he thought, but the person sitting in front of him is a young woman, not much older than Cassie, in the midst of mourning her best friend, trying her damnest not to cry. And in this girl, Scott finds the one person alive who is hurting as much as he is over Cassie, of the real Cassie Lang, the hero.

“I understand what I'm asking,” he says, taking out some kleenex so he can hand them to her. “It's okay if you don't want to talk right now. Sometimes I can't even think her name without wanting to scream. But... could you consider it? Maybe one day? That we could just talk about her?”

Kate takes the kleenex he offered her, bunching them up in her fist. Her hand is shaking. Scott is about to ask her if she's fine, if she needs water or for him to call someone when she starts talking.

“We were friends from the moment we met. Have you ever met someone and you just click? Cassie and I were like that. The time it took us to walk from the hospital to Avengers Mansion, I already knew we were going to be friends. We were the ones who made the team. Well. Not made. But we kept it together, because the boys were stupid and wanted to quit. But we wouldn't let them. Oh, you probably should talk to Teddy as well, because he was her best friend as well, probably because they are the sweetest people on the team.”

Scott nods and just listens as Kate rambles on her points, painting this Cassie he didn't get a chance to meet for him, the almost two years where this Stature heroine existed and fought and loved, but now her leader and teammate tells him about the times she fought to save the world while she cries, pressing the bone of her wrist where the black and red bracelet shines against her eyes to try and stop the tears with no avail, talking and talking until the tears close up her throat, and he can't say anything because he's crying as well, and he had thought that, maybe, if they were in public, neither of them would cry and that was a really stupid plan.

“... she just wanted to make you proud, Mr. Lang,” Kate whispers, her voice rough, face blotchy and her shoulders shaking. “You were her hero. She just wanted to make you proud.”

But I always was, he doesn't say. There was not a day he wasn't proud of his daughter, of his girl.

He doesn't say it, because now his daughter's best friend is crying, broken hearted, shaking as she tries not to cry and doesn't stop, can't stop. And he can't do a thing for his little girl, for his brave girl, he won't get to hold her again or wipe her tears and promise her that everything was going to be okay.

But there is one thing he can do, one last thing he can do for Cassie, and that is hold her best friend and let her cry against his shoulder and allow her – allow them both – to mourn her and have each other not to crumble down in pieces.

It's the least they can do for Cassie's sake.

January 2013

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