"And boom! The building exploded!" Scott Lang makes an explosive noise and then he's voluntarily falling backwards and shrinking down at the same time, right into the pillow fort. As he falls, there are glimpses of the real explosion that had happened five years ago, the violent shattering reverberating in his ears, the pressure of the detonation blowing him backwards. He remembers his entire life flashing through his eyes - Cassie, Hope, and then he's falling into darkness, crashing under the debris. It still haunts his dreams occasionally, the nightmare only starting to fade during the recent years.
Still, he doesn't know why his throat is running dry and his chest constricts, because in truth, he's at home, he's safe at home with his daughters.
"Daddy! Where are you?!"
It draws Scott back to reality when he hears Hailey's voice, that he's actually under a pile of pillows and blankets, away from the chaos of the battlefield. He reminds himself silently, that was history.
He lets out a shaky laugh, laughing at his own anxiousness and silliness. All these years, his family had been the one keeping him completely calm, whether he's braving through missions with Hope or presenting a simple security plan, everything he does, he focuses on them. So, he pushes himself from the floor, steadying his breath, and makes his way through the pillow fort. He's got a story to tell.
"I'm here cookie!" He reassures Hailey. "It's dark and dusty, and then all of a sudden I hear your Uncle Rhodey and Uncle Rocket calling for help…and Uncle Bruce's trying his best to keep them from being crushed…," Scott's tiny voice comes through the microphone.
"Help them daddy!" Her reaction emerges easily.
Scott beams. They had taught her well.
The youngest of the Lang family is sitting cross-legged on the floor, huddling together with Cassie, her sister's arms wrapped protectively around her as she leans against her. Hailey's lips are curled up in concentration, listening intently to her father. She was the mirror image of Hope, with shoulder-length dark curls framing her pretty face, bright green eyes and dimples bracketing her smile that was so Scott's.
She thinks the world of her father (just like Cassie did at her age, she still does). He tells her the best stories (not like her mother's stories weren't any better) but she always looked forward to his bedtime stories.
He tells her about a super soldier who was a man out of his time, who believes in always doing the right thing, and fiercely loyal. Hailey could tell he was her father's favourite because of the wide, silly grin animating his face whenever he talks about him. He tells her about a brilliant scientist with seven PhDs who not only has brains but brawn. He tells her about a God of Thunder from another planet, who has a weapon that only the worthy can wield. He tells her about a skilled archer who never misses his target. And then there's a spy who's named after a deadly spider, who sacrificed herself to bring back half of the world. And then he also tells her about a genius billionaire who built suits and armours and saved the world. He always seemed so grim while talking about the latter two Avengers, that Hailey knows better than to ask further.
"I sure did!" Scott grows back to size, emerging from the make-up fort, making Hailey squeal in delight. "Because I grew really really big and tall, and saved all of them from the rubbles," he pops his helmet off. Cassie notices that he's grinning proudly, and she can't help but feel proud of her father too.
"As tall as the Golden Gate?" Hailey giggles.
"Yeah, well," Scott tilts his head in consideration. "Almost," he winks at Cassie who snorts in response because she knows he's just exaggerating.
"Was mommy there too?"
"Oh cookie, of course your mommy was there, everyone was there. There were superheroes, warriors, wizards, all of us coming together to bring the enemy down…," as he is listing off each and every one, he imitates their signature stances accurately well, to which Cassie can't help but laugh at his antics. Her father was such a fanboy that sometimes he doesn't realise that he's a pretty great superhero himself. After all, he played a big part in saving the world.
It was a sight he would never forget, and he could still remember the epic battle vividly. Bright orange portals appearing from the sky and ground, thousands of armies materialising from the portals. It was majestic, like a bright light at the end of the dark tunnel, a harbinger of hope.
"Wizards like Harry Potter?" Hailey widens her eyes in excitement.
"They're much cooler than Harry Potter," Cassie whispers, and Hailey claps her hand over her mouth, clearly thrilled over the prospect of real-life wizards.
"What happens next daddy?" Hailey asks enthusiastically.
"Oh, the next part is the best part," Scott grins, clasping his hands, rubbing them together.
"Hold on!" Cassie holds her hand up, standing up at the same time. She strides across the living room and grabs an item that was hanging on the wall - a smaller replica of Captain America's shield, which was a small gift from old man Steve Rogers.
"It's the part where Captain America says 'Avengers Assemble' and Thor's hammer flies to his hand!" Cassie stands in a wide stance, with her left foot in front while holding the shield in her left hand, posing just like Captain America. She had heard the story countless of times since she was fifteen (because Scott wouldn't stop talking about The Avengers), so, it isn't surprising that she had it memorised like a poem recital. She didn't mind, really. She was just grateful to have her father back.
"And that's when everyone ran into the battle together, taking down all the aliens," Scott steps forward and sweeps Hailey up onto his shoulders. The weight of her takes him a little by surprise, and he marvels by how much she has grown in the blink of an eye. It seems like only yesterday he and Hope were holding her in their arms for the first time.
He starts running around the living room, at a steady enough pace so Hailey wouldn't fall off his shoulders, and she's giggling uncontrollably. "And then I punched a huge giant space slug," Scott throws an imaginary punch into the air. It still amazed him at how he was able to grow that big, and not run out of oxygen and energy at that time.
"I wanna see you grow really, really big!" She holds her arms wide open.
Scott brings her down from his shoulders and carries her in his arms instead. He ponders for a moment. "Mommy wouldn't like it if I grew big and put a hole in the roof," In which the mishap did happen, a few years ago in the lab. It wasn't a pretty sight. But he, Hope, Hank and Janet had since figured out the calculations in controlling the height of Giant-Man.
"But we could try," he grins, his eyes twinkling mischievously. There was a streak of rebellion that Scott could never change, the one that always got him into trouble. He settles Hailey on the floor and she claps her hands, gleefully, waiting in anticipation.
"Dad, are you sure it's a good idea?" Cassie questions when she sees him tapping on the panel on his arm.
"Don't worry, I got this," he reassures her. He just has to get the calculations right. And by the push of the button, he began growing, almost reaching the height of the ceiling.
Hailey looks up in awe, eyes bugging out in amazement, her mouth turning into a big 'O' shape. She had only seen her father growing big on videos, but never in front of her.
He's about to burst into an evil laugh, just for fun, but stop shorts when-
"Shit," Scott freezes, recognising the voice. And the tone. The one when she's annoyed. And then he's hastily pressing the button again, shrinking down to his normal size.
"Shit," Hailey echoes him, giggling at the same time.
"Hey hey, we are not allowed to say that word in this household," he reprimands her gently, brushing Hailey's cheek with strokes of his thumb. "Only mommy can say that," He couldn't see Hope's face, but he's positively sure she's raising her signature brow, lips pursed into a thin line, giving him an icy stare that could probably slice through him.
And then he notices Cassie, one of her hands covering her mouth, trying to contain the laughter that's threatening to escape, so much so that her body is trembling. She shoots him a I-told-you-so look. Scott casts her a sharp glance, eyes seething with betrayal.
Popping off his helmet, Scott turns around slowly, smiling sheepishly.
And sure enough, Hope's standing by the doorway with the exact same expression that he had imagined, hands folded across her chest. It was always a sight to behold, Hope in her sleek pantsuit, immaculately applied make-up, completing the look with her red lips, her hair tied up in a ponytail. It reminded Scott of the first time he had met her (minus the long hair). She was intimidating and a little bit scary, but it had only piqued his curiosity and interest. She was expressionless and closed-off, but when she let it all go and revealed her true emotions, he thought it was beautiful and breathtaking.
"Mommy!" Hailey's entire face lights up while she runs to her mother.
"Hi baby, I've missed you, so much," Hope picks her up and greets her. Her cold stare melting in a second only to be replaced by an affectionate smile. She kisses the side of her hair, while Hailey wraps her four limbs around her, clinging onto her.
"It's way past her bedtime Scott," Hope mumbles, tilting her head to the direction of the wall clock. "And growing that big? What were you thinking?" Hope mouths at him, frowning. They had set a rule a long time ago to not yell at each other in front of the children.
"Sorry," Scott whispers, running a hand through the back of his hair awkwardly. "But it was perfectly safe, trust me," he explains, but apologetically.
The glare is back.
"Alright, time for bed," Hope murmurs. The boss has spoken. She could already feel her daughter's head heavy on her shoulder.
"Hey Cassie," Hope pulls Cassie in for a hug. "Thank you for looking after the two kids," she whispers, but loud enough for Scott to hear, intentionally.
"Hey! I heard that," They had left Scott in the living room, who's taking off his suit and attending to the mess of the pillow fort.
Cassie giggles again. "You know I love spending time with the both of them, with all of you actually," she replies fondly.
The Decimation had altered their lives, each in a different way. It had made Cassie more appreciative of her family, that she would rather spend time with them than hanging out with her friends. She had expressed interest in learning Quantum Physics and the Quantum Realm the moment she got her father and the Pym-Van Dyne family back, and Hope, Hank and Janet were more than willing to guide and teach her. She had even opted to stay back in San Francisco for college, taking up Quantum Physics as a major.
She wasn't going to lose her family again, if anything like The Decimation happened again.
"I'll see you tomorrow?" Hailey asks Cassie, sluggishly, her voice tinged with sleep.
"Sure thing! I'll drop by grandpa and grandma's place after work," Cassie ruffles her hair. She leans in, "And then we'll go get ice-cream together," she winks at her.
Hailey smiles, perking up at the words 'ice-cream'. "Mint chocolate chip?"
"Absolutely!" Cassie nods.
"Alright, I think it's time we wrap this up," Hope intervenes. She hates to admit it, but her daughter clearly had inherited Scott's ability to not stop talking. "Good night Cassie," she pulls her close again, "Drive safe, and text me when you're home."
Hailey is drifting off to sleep by the time Hope changes her into her pyjamas and tucks her under the covers safely. Hope brushes her hair away, while she sits at the edge of the bed and runs her hand over her cheek gently. She remembers the first time she had held her, so small, soft, and tiny, her heart swelling with love every growing minute and it hadn't stop growing. She doubts it will ever stop.
"Mommy?" Hailey opens her eyes, even though Hope can see she's struggling to keep her heavy eyelids from closing.
"Please don't get mad at daddy. I just…I just wanted to see daddy grow really big. It wasn't his fault…," her voice gets softer and smaller at the end, her puppy dog eyes pleading.
"Oh baby, I'm not mad," Hope's heart breaks instantly. It's adorable how protective their daughter is towards her father. Hope lifts her legs up onto the bed and pulls Hailey closer to her, so now she's resting her head under the crook of Hope's arm, snuggling tightly onto her. "I could never get mad at daddy."
It was well, partially true. Simply because she knows how great of a father Scott is. She's thankful.
"Promise?" Hailey lifts up her pinky finger.
"I promise," Hope smiles and curls her little finger around hers.
Hailey returns her a toothy grin, Hope swears she's fading to sleep, but her eyelids flutter open again. "I wanna be a superhero like you and daddy, mommy. I wanna help people too…," she mutters softly.
Scott and Hope had decided to tell their daughter the truth about their superhero life when she was old enough to comprehend. She thought that the statement 'business trips' were utter bullshit. Hope understood, because her parents had decided to keep her in the dark when she was at Hailey's age, believing that it was the best way to keep her safe. She had finally gotten around on their intentions, understanding their motivations behind it all, because now she's responsible for the well-being of her daughter. But no matter what, she had vowed not to lie to her, ever.
Still, there's always the fear of not being able to make it back after a mission. So, they remember to say goodbyes like they mean it every single time they're leaving for a mission, just in case the unthinkable happens. Grabbing every opportunity to spend time together as a family, cherishing every moment, making the best of it.
And then Hailey's bidding the night goodbye, eyes closing, floating off to sleep, dreaming about superheroes and fighting villians.
"You can be whoever you want baby," Hope whispers, (as long as she's doing the right thing), unsure if she could still hear her. "Good night," she kisses the top of her head.
"She's asleep?" Scott asks, noticing Hope standing at the doorway from the corner of his eye. He's already taken off his suit, and is now folding the blankets and keeping them away.
His gaze cruises over her. Her make-up is off, her dark curls are let loose around her face, her pointed smile gone, replaced by a warm smile that takes his breath away. He likes seeing her like that, relaxed and unguarded.
The days are getting colder, and although it doesn't get very cold in San Francisco, Hope likes to keep herself warm. Which is why she's wearing his old, dark blue baggy sweater that he could never seem to find from their bedroom closet. Now he knows why. And then he squints, because if he's not mistaken, she's not wearing a pair of shorts underneath the oversized sweater. He confirms his suspicions when she bends over and picks up a pillow from the floor, and he can't help but stare a little bit longer. She's still so beautiful, just like the day he had met her.
A pillow flies to his way, which he deftly avoids but another comes and it lands on the side of his head, almost knocking him off sideways.
"Are we having a pillow fight?" Scott smirks, his hand already clutching onto a pillow. "Because if we are, this is war!" He declares loudly and throws one to her direction, but she avoids it with ease.
Hope narrows her eyes at him anyway, giving him a scintillating smile, and settles on the couch, stretching her legs over the length of it.
"Incoming!" He warns, not giving up, grinning stupidly, aiming another pillow at her. She catches it easily before it hits her face, her reflexes as quick as ever.
"That was such a bad throw, Ant-Man," Hope laughs, hugging the pillow in front of her chest.
"You're no fun," Scott deadpans. He scoots over to her, and sinks into the cushions next to her feet, pouting.
Hope chuckles as she extends her right foot out and starts to prod his upper arm playfully. Scott grabs it, when it reaches his shoulder, and he presses a kiss on her ankle. And then she's bubbling over with a shriek-laugh when he catches her by surprise by yanking both of her feet, with just enough force but still gentle, pulling her closer to him until she's sitting on his lap.
So now she's wrapping her arm around his neck, her fingers toying with his dark hair above his ear. They stay like that for a moment, in silence. Hope takes in the surroundings of the living room, the house she had called home for the past few years. She looks at the picture frames that sat on the shelf next to the television set, of she and Scott, and Cassie, and then Hailey. Of the stack of her books on another shelf, along with his collection of DVDs. Of the set of his security plans spread on the work desk with her piles of business and science plans. Of Haileys' stuffed animals that's enough to form a zoo lying on the corner of the living room. She would have never imagined a life of happy domesticity if someone would have asked her back then, but now here she is, with the man she truly loves.
Honestly, she would have called anywhere her home, as long as she's with him.
"So, did you close the deal?" Scott's voice breaks through her thoughts. For the past few weeks, Hope had been working late nights, poring over plans and proposals and researches, just to seal a deal with one of the largest companies from Japan.
"Yes I did," Hope smiles. She places her elbow on his shoulder and rests her hand on her cheek.
"That's great!" He congratulates her. "I wouldn't expect anything less from you though," he brushes a kiss on the side of her head. It gets the gears in his brain running, already thinking of ideas to celebrate with her over the weekend.
"They're throwing a celebratory party tomorrow night," she makes a side long glance at him.
"Am I invited?" A lopsided grin appears on his boyish face.
"Well, considering you're the boss's husband, it wouldn't be nice if you weren't invited."
"Yeah, okay. We should go, you're the chairman and CEO Hope, and you put a lot of effort into this business deal," he encourages her but he can't help but feel a little bit let down. He shifts uncomfortably in his seat. He's sociable, affable even, but he wasn't particularly comfortable being in a suit and tie. He didn't belong in the world of the rich and businessmen, unlike Hope.
"Are you sure you want to go?" Hope takes one look at him, already able to read his mind. She's absolutely sure that she's thinking along the same lines as he is. Hope wasn't fond of parties, never was, putting up with fake smiles, or transforming into formidable CEO mode. It was mentally exhausting. "I mean, we can can not go, it's not a big deal. And besides, Hailey will be off with my parents tomorrow…," she trails off, giving him a knowing look.
Immediately, he understands, "And we could really spend some time together, just the two of us," Scott finishes her sentence. Because they've been occupied, with work, with Hailey. Also, he prefers a private party with her, to be exact.
Bingo. He said what's on her mind.
They stare at each other, and then they're bursting into a fit of giggles, both wondering why they needed to list out the reasons to not attend the party. Hope's the chairman of Pym Tech, she could do anything she wants.
"We could do something really nice," Hope continues. "Like cook a nice meal, or catch up with the list of Netflix movies we never got to finish…"
"Or we could do nothing at all," Scott presses a kiss on her cheek, "For example, staying in bed the whole day," he starts to nibble on her ear lobe, one of her soft spots, sending shivers down her spine.
"Sounds perfect," she gasps breathily.
There's still one thing she hasn't told him yet though.
"You know the story that you were telling."
"What about it?"
"You might have to tell it again in a few years time," Hope stares at him pointedly.
It takes Scott a little while to process the meaning behind her sentence, until he sees her smile growing wider, reaching her beautiful green eyes, and she's absolutely glowing with happiness, and then it dawns on him. She had told him the same thing when she found out she was pregnant with Hailey.
"Shit," he curses, dumbfounded.
"That's what I said," Hope laughs. There had been talks of having another child, but they weren't really trying. Because, come what may.
"Just don't grow big the next time you tell it," she smirks.
Scott is grinning till his cheeks are hurting but he doesn't care because he's overflowing with joy. He cups her face, and kisses her, soft, gentle, taking their time. At that moment, he sees flashes of their life together, from meeting her for the first time, their first kiss, to fighting alongside with her, partners in every way. He sees their reunion after The Unsnappening, sees the way she's waking up next to him countless of times, sees the time they almost burned down the kitchen because they were too occupied with each other, sees the time when they argued and dared each other into marriage, her in a wedding dress. And then when Hailey was born, Hope as a mother, him having a perfect little family.
He isn't greedy, but he wants more of this life with her. He wants to see their family growing together. He wants to see himself and Hope growing old together, and he figures he'll probably buy a house next to the beach when they retire, so they can watch the sunrise and sunsets together.
Scott doesn't know how he ended up lying on his back on the couch, because Hope's already straddling his hips, her fingers working through the buttons of his red plaid shirt. And then his hands are travelling underneath her sweater, her warm, smooth skin greeting his palms. He stops at the curve of her flat belly, sighing against her lips, at the thought of their unborn child, safe inside. Suddenly, he draws away from her, realising her intentions when she undo the last button, pushing the fabric away from his shoulders.
"Wait, right here?" he questions, though his mind is clouding with desire. They weren't strangers to uninhibited couch sex, but the thought of their daughter waking up and finding them tangled together on the couch wasn't one he wanted to experience. "What if Hailey wakes up?"
"I think you've already exhausted her with your stories. Besides, she sleeps like a rock, just like you," Hope teases cheekily.
"Fair point," he swats her bottom playfully. "As long as we're not too loud. Oh God, I love y—-," he doesn't get to finish his sentence when she slides her sweater over her arms, and closes him up with a sloppy, passionate kiss. They're definitely spending the next day on the couch, or in bed, whichever.
God, he loves her.