"I'm running late, something came up. Can you pick Cassie up?" Hope was working on the lab when her phone buzzed. She quickly replied.
"Of course, I'll bring her home, Hank will be so pleased to have her here" she smiled. It had turned into a routine since Scott and she went back together; whenever Scott had Cassie, they would go to pick her up from school, take her to the park and spend the evening together when she didn't have homework.
And since Maggie and Paxton were on their honeymoon, Hope and Cassie had spent a fair amount of time together lately; not that neither of them would complain though, they've grown so close. Cassie loved Hope so much; she even called her mom the previous night while Hope was tucking her in bed. Hope associated it with the fact that Cassie was almost asleep, but she loved the thought of it. Even though Cassie already had a mom, she'd hinted to both her and Scott that she very much liked having two, and since Maggie didn't have any problems with it, Hope had started behaving more like a mother and less like a friend to Cassie.
They were both delighted with each other. But Hope still hasn't verbalised it. Scott didn't even know that Cassie called her mom the previous night.
But that was another day's problem. She had to get ready to go pick Cassie up, so Hope left the lab, got into her everyday clothes and left the house.
She arrived early to Cassie's primary school, so she decided to park her car and get into the school so Cassie would see her right away.
She saw a group of people, sitting under a roof and chatting vividly. Not wanting to interrupt, she stood a few meters away from them, right next to the main entrance to the building.
A few minutes had passed when two moms approached her.
"Uhm, excuse me" Hope turned to face them "yeah, hi, I'm Mary Howards, the president of the school's parents committee. Do you have a child studying here? I don't remember you from any of our reunions" she asked in an inquisitive way.
Hope looked at the women standing in front of them not liking them at all. She didn't really have to give any explanations to why she was here, but wouldn't it be weird otherwise?
"Hi, uhm yeah I have my… uhm, my-" before she could think about what to say her phone started ringing. "Oh, if you'll excuse me"
They smiled at her with the fakest of smiles and Hope walked a few steps away from them, feeling the two moms listen curious.
"No, that's not what the contract stated. Yes, I'm kind of busy right now, but tell Mrs Harrison that my company it's not going to work with them without getting all the information about those papers he signed during last year's incident." As she spoke, the school's ring started to sound "Listen, Mark, I have to pick Cassie up from school but tomorrow I'll go to the office and check those forms myself. Yeah, thank you Mark. Bye"
Hope put her phone away and started searching for Cassie.
She then saw a small figure that she recognised at the moment. But when she saw her, Hope's expression changed. Cassie was crying.
She quickly approached her and called her name.
"Hey, Cassie!" Hope called her and Cassie turned to look at her, sprinting to her as soon as she recognised her.
"Hope" Cassie jumped into her arms and started crying again.
"Hey, hey, honey what happened? Are you hurt?" Hope checked her up and down, still carrying her in her arms, Cassie was holding her tight.
Cassie stayed silent while Hope caressed her hair. A few minutes later, Cassie looked up at Hope's face.
"Jack Howards insulted us when Sophie and I asked if we could play with them. He said that we were just stupid little girls and that we should go back to play dolls with our moms because that's the only thing we can do with our small brains" Cassie sniffed.
Hope was perplexed. These are 9 year olds we're talking about.
"Then Sophie tried again so they pushed her to the floor and started pulling her pigtails. So I said 'you want to know what my mom teaches me to do with the bad guys'? And I used that movement you taught me last week so they would stop being bad to Sophie. But the teacher came and he said I was the one who started so she grounded me" she started crying again "Hope am I going to be in trouble? I don't want dad to think I'm a bad kid"
Hope hugged her again. "Oh honey, shhh, don't worry everything's going to be okay. You shouldn't have done that to that kid but you did it to stand up for your friend and that's not something you should be ashamed of. But I would really like to talk with that kid's parents. Can you tell me who he is so I can chat with them?"
Cassie rubbed her eyes and cleaned the tears away. She then pointed to a chubby blonde kid that was playing next to a few people who were standing next to the door.
Hope took Cassie's hand and started walking towards them.
"Excuse me, hi, is any of you Jack's parent?" Cassie held Hope tight, not wanting to let go off her.
"That would be me" the blonde, not so tall women turned to face Hope and looked at her with surprise "Oh, you're the one who were standing there. What do you need?"
"Hi, well I just wanted to talk with you about what your son said to Cassie during lunch break."
"What? I'm afraid I'm not following you."
"Well Cassie came crying because your son insulted her repeatedly and then pushed her and her friend down to the floor just because they wanted to play with him and the other boys"
The blonde woman looked at her perplexed and then called her son.
"Jack, honey, what happened with Cassie during the break? She says you pushed her to the ground and insulted her, is that right?"
Jack looked then at Cassie and gave her the angriest of looks and then smiled angelically to his mom.
"That's not true mom, I would never do that. She's lying; she kicked me with no reason! And said her mom taught her that" And then let a small tear fall from his eye.
Cassie was so angry when she saw how his mother made him go and play with the other kids without even reprimanding him.
"Well my son says that didn't happen, so Cassie better start learning how to say the truth. You always were a troubled kid, but with your father being how he is it's not a surprise to any of us. And your mother taught you what? Maggie wouldn't hurt a fly"
Hope had to take a second to process what she just heard. Oh now she was really mad.
"She's talking about me I'm afraid." Hope said to the woman, who just looked at her as bad as she could.
"You don't get to speak that way about any of them. You have no idea what Cassie's life's been like, and you certainly don't get to talk about his father. And yeah, I taught her how to defend herself from bullies like your kid, whom I'm assuming learnt all that misogynistic and abusive crap from you. So, the next time Jack-" she looked to the entire group of mothers from the woman's crew "or any other of the other boys dare to harm my child in any way, it won't be her but me who will have to take the adequate measures. Are we clear?"
The woman looked at her silently, not knowing what to say. Hope took this as a perfect moment to leave, so she knelt down and put on Cassie's backpack.
"Come on honey, my father is waiting for us."
"Yay, I love being with Grandpa Hank! Do you think he'll take me to the park?" Cassie said as she took Hope's hand and left the group of mothers behind.
"Maybe if you ask him politely and give him the biggest of hugs" Hope said, looking back at her.
She had dry tears still visible in her cheeks but Cassie was such a happy kid she was already smiling again. Hope was completely in love with her and she couldn't, nor wouldn't deny it.
There was no doubt Cassie was her father's daughter. Just like Scott, she made her way into Hope's heart so smooth that she didn't notice it until it was as strong as a hurricane; just couldn't be stopped.
And she couldn't be happier.
"Hope, I'm home!" The sound of keys and the door opening was the only sound to be heard in the Lang-Van Dyne household. The dining room and the living room were empty.
"Hope?" Scott asked again.
That's weird, usually Hope waited awake for him so they could see each other even if it was only for five minutes and have a kiss goodnight. And plus, lights are on.
He made his way up the stairs and checked their bedroom. Nothing, it was empty. But then she heard the sound of a voice. It was barely audible from where he was standing so he followed it to Cassie's room.
He placed himself out of the room, in the threshold and what he saw melted his heart.
Hope was lying in Cassie's bed, with an almost asleep Cassie in her arms. She was singing a lullaby, and caressing one of Cassie's small arms at the same time.
Scott felt something deep inside him. It wasn't something he could describe. It wasn't anything physical.
He just felt it. It came the same way a strong wave crushes against the shore. And it proved what Scott had been thinking for the past two months.
He knew at this exact moment that he was hopelessly in love with Hope Van Dyne and she was the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. He wanted her kids; he wanted this to be something typical around here.
"Wow" Scott said not audible enough for anyone around here.
He was so lost he didn't notice that the singing had stopped and there's being movement in Cassie's room.
It was just when he felt thin arms hug him from behind that he realised Hope was no longer at Cassie's bedroom but at his side.
"Hey, you're home late" Hope said laying her face in him.
"Yeah, sorry about that, there were a few things that didn't go as planned" he sighted and turned around, not letting Hope go, and faced her, surrounding her with his arms and keeping her close. "How was your day? Did Cassie behave?"
Hope raised her gaze to look at his face "yeah, we had a pretty fun evening with my dad. She loves him so much" Hope smiled, and then remembered the incident at Cassie's school. "But, hm, there was a problem at Cassie's school. One of her classmates, Jack, insulted her during recess and he pushed down to the floor one of Cassie's friend. She then kind of used that kick I taught her the other day to help her and the teacher grounded her" Hope was now looking at Cassie, who was sound asleep. "You should have seen her cry; she was so worried you might think she was a bad kid"
Scott was a little taken aback "What about the kid's parents? I'll ask Cassie tomorrow, I need to speak with them about this"
"Well about that, I actually already did it" Scott looked down at her "yeah I just; well I talked to his mom and she said some pretty mean things about Cassie and you, so I couldn't hold it. Let's say I don't think her nor his kid will be bothering Cassie in a long time"
Scott was looking at her in awe. "Wow Hope, thank you for doing that, you didn't have to"
Hope, who was looking at Cassie again, with love and affection all over her face, let her filter slip for a moment "well, no one gets to make my child cry and go with it like nothing happened"
Scott turned as soon as he heard what Hope said and looked at her, surprised. Hope realised what she said and quickly tried to take it back somehow even though she knew she couldn't.
"I mean, that's not what I meant!" It was silly but Hope felt it was a big deal "Um she, emm well Cassie she's just-" and before she could pronounce another word Scott shut her up with a kiss that caught her by surprise.
When they parted, Scott looked at her right in the eyes "God, Hope, I love you. You don't understand how much" Hope smiled "And Cassie… she's just so lucky to have you. She might not be your biological child but she's definitely yours. We're a family"
Hope looked at Cassie sleeping at her bed. She smiled and laid her head in Scott's chest.
So, this is her life. This is what she's always wanted, a family of her own, and she couldn't have asked for something better. She had Scott, who was the most perfect boyfriend ever who loved her endlessly. And Cassie. Cassie was just… Cassie. She was so resilient, intelligent, brave and loving.
Hope never thought she would get the opportunity to be this happy again. And while she tried to fight it at first, she now knows letting Scott in was the best decision she could have ever made.
A point that would be proven to her again three years later when they welcomed their first child together, a beautiful baby girl.
Oh well, that's hell of a good life.