The next six months are the best of Scott's life. He's free from house arrest (YES), they found Janet in the middle of the quantum realm (beyond cool), and nothing's going wrong (here's hoping he doesn't jinx it).

He has Cassie and Hope. He's free. He doesn't need anything else.

He's absolutely terrified, the first time he brings Hope to meet Cassie. Somehow they hadn't managed it in the few months they'd been "together" before Sam Wilson called him.

"Are you scared?" Hope asks in the car, right before they step up to Maggie and Paxton's house. It's his weekend to have Cassie, all to himself. But this time she begged to meet Hope—she wanted to "hang out with both of them! It'll be so much fun! Please, Daddy!"

"Of course not," he scoffs. Hope grins, that tiny smile that makes something in his brain and chest melt. He rolls his eyes but reaches a hand—it might be shaking, just a little, sue him—for Hope's.

She hesitates for the barest moment before taking his hand in hers. Then she leans toward him and he meets her in the middle, enjoys the novelty of getting to kiss her. He's kissing Hope Van Dyne.

They're interrupted by a happy shriek. "Daddy!" They pull apart and glance at Cassie, who's running toward them.

"Cassie—" he calls out the window. Sure enough, Cassie doesn't stop in time before hitting the truck. She hops away from it as quickly as she ran into it, and Scott falls out of the driver's seat before Hope can move, pulling her into his arms. "You okay, Peanut?"

Cassie grins up at him from the hug, her smile healing the bit of his heart that breaks every time he leaves her. "I'm good! Come in, Mom and Paxton want to see you and Hope before we go! Hope came, right?"

"Of course I did," Hope inserts. Cassie takes Hope's hand and starts dragging her up the hill to the house before he can blink.

Scott manages to successfully blink before following them. He can't help it, not really, if he thinks that they're the best thing he's ever seen.

Maggie and Paxton love Hope. Of course they do.

Maggie hugs her ("You've managed to make Scott decent again!" Hope looks startled and can't escape the hug. "I wouldn't say that—" "But look at him! He's wearing a nice shirt!") and Paxton pulls all three of them into a hug ("Hey, buddy. Hey, Ms. van Dyne! So glad you could come.")

Paxton retires to the kitchen and Maggie follows Cassie upstairs to make sure she has everything for the weekend, so Scott finally makes it back to Hope's side. "These are the other people I hang out with on a weekly basis, aside from Luis and the sidekicks. Are they any better than those fools?"

Hope pretends to think as she glances around the room again. "Your ex-wife, who pretends you're her gay best friend, and her husband, who appreciates hugging you way too much to be straight." She pats him on the shoulder. "It's just as weird, Scott."

Because he's a grown man who's falling in love, he sticks his tongue out before stepping to the base of the stairs. "You ready, Peanut?"

"Mmhmm!" Cassie stomps down the stairs, closely followed by Maggie.

"Be careful, Cassie…" her mother sighs. "She's got everything now, pretty sure she forgot the blanket to make sure that Hope had time to snoop around the house." Hope blinks a few times and flushes, just a little, and Scott doesn't miss the attempt-at-exaggerated-wink that his daughter throws her way. "I don't mind, of course, might as well prepare you," Maggie inserts, probably trying to stop the flush from becoming any sort of defensive mechanism.

"And on that note, ready to go? Let's just go, I think that's a good idea," he says. This is what he's learned recently—he's good at getting out of situations, almost as good as he is at getting into them.

It's one of the best nights of his life. Him and Cassie and Hope, sitting in a shrunken car in front of a laptop in the backyard. Cassie and Hope bond a bit, Hope getting past her trepidation and Cassie getting past… nothing. She's the child of two extroverts who became far better than either of them, so she's great.

"So, Cassie, what do you want to be when you grow up?" Hope asks, leaning back to look at Cassie.

Cassie takes another bite off her piece of popcorn. "I wanna help people. Like my dad." Ah, frick him, his heart melts again.

Hope smiles as she glances at him. "Really?"

"I wanted to be his partner," Cassie adds. "But he said he wants you."

"Is that so?" Somehow, Hope is still sitting in the car with them, hasn't run away, hasn't done anything he'd probably be tempted to do if he were in the car with a woman, her daughter, and the realization that she didn't want to let him go. And he doesn't want to let her go.

The moth and the moth dust interrupt the moment but it's okay. If Hope hasn't run yet, she's not going to. Probably.

He gets his answer twenty-eight minutes later, when the movie's done.

The three of them have been sitting in the car, chatting about Cassie's class in school, Ant-Man and the Wasp, the merits of cats vs. dogs, the next thing that could threaten the world. Normal conversations, right?

Hope glances to the backseat when Cassie's been quiet for a few minutes. "She's asleep," she whispers.

"I should probably get her to an actual bed," he mutters. "She'll probably wake up when I grow the car again, but that's better than really, really early back damage." Hope brushes her fingers along his jaw, pulls him to her, kisses him. "What was that for?"

That grin he loves—yeah, he'll think it, he's enough of a man to do that, definitely doesn't scare him to pieces—reappears. "You're a really good dad."

He stares at her for a minute. Hope doesn't have much experience in the matter, aside from ages zero to eight and then now, but that means something, her opinion. He thinks. It's enough that he feels like he can cup her cheeks in his hands and pull her back to him and indulge in a bit of making out in the front of a car. Luis would giggle, partially because it's "Hope and Scotty!" but also because he imagines they look a little like teenagers.

They get Cassie tucked into bed, unscarred by adults kissing and returned to her normal (blessedly still small) size. And if Hope doesn't make it back to her own apartment that night because it was a bit too late? Well, no one cares.

Certainly not Cassie, when she sees that he's making pancakes in the morning and Hope's watching him burn pancakes. Cassie may or may not jump into Hope's arms and squeal for a while. Hope may or may not look slightly overwhelmed but mostly happy. He may or may not spend the rest of breakfast with aching cheekbones.

Short expeditions continue over the next few months. He and Hope find the guy who was controlling Burch and take him down. They finish the mission as quickly as they can and leave within hours, not quite sure what the man had wanted to do with all that tech and a bit twitchy that they don't know, but—Hope had barely escaped some sort of cement-melting chemical getting thrown at her and he'd barely escaped about twelve bullet holes in his chest.

If they need some sort of life-affirming action afterwards—like making out in Hope's apartment until they're suddenly lacking shirts and the rest of their clothes and waking up hours later with fingers and legs entangled—instead of tracking down the true big boss… well, then they're terrible superheroes.

But they're alive and together, and that's all he wants right now. And Hope isn't complaining too much.

Hope does later insist that they find the big boss, and they take him down the next weekend. There may be more in the chain of command after that, but she's satisfied to stop with that one.

He's grateful. The suit is still malfunctioning, and he doesn't like being without it while Hank fixes it. That means Hope's going without a partner. And he'd do a lot to make sure she doesn't go out without someone to watch her back.

Most weekends—he gets Cassie almost every weekend now, since Maggie and Paxton both have jobs that occasionally require weekends and he's his own boss—they take Cassie places.

One day they go to the aquarium, and Cassie stares at the sharks until Hope has to push her chin back up because she's so awestruck. He and Hope—clad in a strange short blond wig that makes him jump the first three times he glances at her (he's over it and almost into it by the fourth glance)—wander behind her as she runs through the maze of aquatic creatures, and when some old lady coos at Cassie and says "You and family are so cute!" to him, Hope doesn't even flinch.

It kinda makes his day. Hope stares at him all day because he can't stop grinning.

The next weekend, they go visit Hank and Janet on the coast. There, Cassie is adored, Hope is fawned over, and he is tolerated. He swaps witticisms with Janet until Hank threatens to punch him—yeah, he made a joke about when Janet took over his brain (which is still a weird thing, honestly) and he and Hank held hands—and Hope has to drag him away to avoid being murdered. Cassie doesn't want to leave, and Janet promises that they'll have them over again soon.

Hope watches her parents as they drive away. "Cool seeing them together again, huh? Also kind of weird," he says. "They're probably making up for thirty years—"

"Scott, shut up."

"Shut up, Daddy," Cassie chimes in. "They're happy and they love each other! It's cute. Like you and Hope!"

He whispers it into her bare shoulder that night.

Hope rolls over to face him. "Really?"

His heart's beating up a furious sort of storm but he manages, "They're three little words in all the words in the English language, it's kinda hard to put them together on accident. I think I meant what I said, yeah."

Hope snorts, and he soaks in the sight of her grin. "With you, I never really know." She curls into his chest and sighs. He thinks she's gone back to sleep, but her voice penetrates the threatening fog of sleep. "I love you too, Scott."

"Really?" He doesn't give her a chance to take it back when she pulls away to glare at him, one eyebrow raised. "Awesome."

Janet figures out the plan to keep helping the Ghost—Ava—by going back into the Quantum Realm. He and Hope draw straws for who gets to go in, and he makes Hope promise to watch over Cassie when he draws the long straw.

Yeah, they were both crazy enough to want to go in rather than stand outside and wait. She's perfect and he's probably an idiot, but there's still got to be something wrong with them for actually wanting to go in.

Maybe he's rubbing off on her. Or maybe she's just reckless. Either way, he loves it.

They don't answer the intercom. They're not answering.

It's been an eternity and a second in the Quantum Realm.

He can't hear Cassie's voice this time. He can't hear Hope. There's nothing but silence.

He's alone.

They're not there. Where are they? Did they abandon him? No, Hope loves him. He knows it.

Are they… dead? Can't be.

He's alone and it's quiet and he can't hear her.

He wishes he had kissed her before he stepped away.

Eventually he hears a voice. "Scott, are you there? Scott?"

He finally recognizes her. "Ava? That you?" He feels the quantum tunnel pulling him back to earth and he sees Ava standing in Janet's place. "What happened?" he asks once he regains his footing.

Tears streak down Ava's face. She motions toward the piles of ash at her feet. "It happened all around the world. Half of the world is gone. It took them too. All three of them."

He doesn't have time to think more than Hope Hank Janet what about Cassie before his phone rings.


"Scott Lang? It's Steve Rogers. We need your help."