The only sound Scott could hear was that of Cassie's laughter, drawing a bright smile onto his own face. Their fought of pillows and blankets had collapsed and Scott was very much convinced he could fix it. Propping up one side only for the other to collapse in on them repeatedly.
"I don't think it's working, Daddy..." she'd laughed, offering little by way of assistance as she crawled out from under the collapsed den while Scott flopped on his back, defeated, allowing the pile of soft furnishings to fall down on top of him.
A moment later, his phone began to ring prompting Scott to begin attempting to free himself of the tangled mess he'd created. "Peanut. That's probably Hope, can you pass me my phone?" he asked, struggling.
"I'll answer it Daddy" Cassie answered, easily skipping across the room to pluck his phone from his jacket pocket.
By the time Scott had managed to get out from under the tangle of blankets, Cassie had a frown on her face as she spoke on the phone. Scott was beginning to think it was Hope telling them she wouldn't be able to make it tonight, at least until Cassie passed him the phone and said "It's not Hope, Dad..."
Scott waited impatiently for Maggie and Paxton to arrive. The conversation he'd just had playing on a loop in his mind.
"Speaking. Who is this?"
"My name is Dr Francis. I'm calling at the request of Henry Pym from UCSF Medical Centre"
"I'm sorry to have to tell you this, Mr Lang. But there's been an accident..."
An accident... But if they were calling on behalf of Hank...
And that's when the panic had set in.
Maggie arrived a short while later to collect Cassie, who'd sat silently, watching her Dad pace nervously for the past fifteen minutes since he'd hung up the phone.
"Paxton is waiting outside, he's going to take you to the hospital" Maggie told Scott, ignoring his protests. "You are in no fit state to drive, Scott. Go" she insisted, offering him a slightly sad, reassuring smile as she held onto Cassie. She passed Scott his jacket, phone and keys as he left, requesting he phone her as soon as he had any news.
The drive to the hospital was mostly silent. Scott had no details. An 'accident' could mean anything... It had been a Doctor on the phone. Not Hank, not Janet, not Hope... That probably meant it was bad... Scott couldn't keep his mind from straying to the darkest possible places, no matter how much he fought it.
He made his way through the busy waiting room in the Emergency Department, both eager to finally find out what had happened and dreading the bad news he was certain was heading his way. The crowded area was crammed with people, but it didn't escape Scott's notice that among the ill and injured were a group of Police...
Scott approached the desk, finding a young nurse typing away at a computer. "Excuse me- I had a phone call from Dr Frankie- Dr Franklin? No, Dr Francis..." he stammered, trying to remember exactly what had been said.
Scott turned to see an older woman with a friendly smile and short, curly hair greying slightly. She stood with an unreadable face in her scrubs and white coat, clearing waiting specifically for him. He nodded at his name, feeling suddenly numb, and she indicated for him to follow her.
"I'm sorry about the phone call, but Mr Pym insisted you be informed-"
"It's Doctor Pym, not Mr..." Scott informed, surprised at both the fact Hank hadn't corrected her and why he found it important at that moment. She nodded in a silent acknowledgement and lead him down the hallway.
They reached a door labelled 'Counselling Room 1', which Dr Francis opened and indicated he should enter. It was a small room filled with two ageing sofas. Dr Francis offered him a seat, which he took wordlessly, mind once again racing to the absolute worst case scenario as she took a seat opposite.
A Policeman joined him and the Doctor and Scott was absolutely certain he was about to throw up.
"Scott. I'm Lieutenant Gregory. We called you here after an incident today on Greenwich Street this evening at approximately 17:34"
Scott looked at him, waiting for some mention of Hope. Or Hank. Or Janet... Something that would tell him why he was here. His heart was racing, it felt like he had been punched in the stomach and his vision was clouded at the edges. He needed to know what had happened so his mind could focus on one scenario and not several. So he could deal with what happened next...
"There was a car accident, Scott. Witnesses report seeing a young man, texting on his phone, losing control of his vehicle and veering out of his lane and into oncoming traffic"
The nauseous feeling filling Scott's stomach was becoming worse and worse. His mind was working overtime. "Where- where is Hank?" Scott asked, remembering that he'd been the one to request the phone call which had brought him here. He ran his hand over his sweaty forehead and into his messy hair. If he could see Hank, maybe he could get a straight answer...
"Scott, the driver crashed into an oncoming vehicle, before climbing out of the car and fleeing the scene. The driver of the car he crashed into is currently in surgery..." Lieutenant Gregory explained.
Hope. Hank. Or Janet. Hope. Hank. Or Janet... Scott's mind was thinking over and over. Praying for it not to be Hope. Begging. But equally feeling guilty for wishing that fate on Hank or Janet.
"The driver of the other vehicle was Hope Van Dyne" Lieutenant Gregory said, and Scott promptly vomited on the floor.
They left Scott alone for a few minutes to process the gut wrenching news he had just been delivered. But all he could do was focus on a few key words that had hit him in the chest like a sledge hammer. 'Hit and run', 'drunk driver', 'coma', 'critical'... How any of them could apply to Hope was beyond him.
Hope Van Dyne was the strongest person Scott knew. She was smart. She was capable. She was anything but vulnerable...
Until today. Until someone, knowing they were unfit to drive, climbed behind the wheel of a car and purposely endangered her life. The same someone who, despite being unfit to drive, had shown further disregard for anyone's safety by picking up his phone... Scott Lang, who believed in second chances above anything else, hoped they'd find this guy, lock him away and throw away the key.
Scott turned his phone off after the fifth missed call from Paxton, sending a quick message to let them know he was waiting for an update and would be in touch soon. He knew they were trying to be supportive, but right now Scott couldn't face talking. He couldn't think of anything but Hope lay on an operating table fighting for her life...
Scott had been in love with Hope pretty much since the moment he'd met her. And he'd never told her. They'd spent a while flirting around each other, kissing, dating... Hope had spent some time with him and Cassie, they were getting closer. Scott was happier than he'd ever been. And he still hadn't told her... Everything he wanted to say was spinning round his head while his heart broke at the thought of never getting to tell her... What if she didn't know? What if he never saw her again?.. Scott paced the three steps the small room allowed, sipping at the glass of water a nurse had dropped off for him while fighting off the urge to vomit all over again.
It was more than five hours later when Dr Francis returned. Scott had almost begun to think he'd been forgotten, but was too afraid to hear any bad news to seek out an update. "You can see her now" the Doctor offered, causing an exhausted Scott to almost fall off his seat.
No matter how much she had tried to prepare him for what he was about to see, the sight of Hope broke his heart.
Scott lingered in the doorway of the small hospital room. Hope's beautiful green eyes were shut and her skin was unnaturally pale where it wasn't bruised. Her lips were parted around the tubing of a ventilator. There were wires everywhere, monitoring her heart rate, blood pressure, breathing; connecting her to IV fluids, a blood transfusion, antibiotics...
She looked so small and broken. So unlike herself. Most of all, it struck Scott that Hope didn't like to lie on her back. Ever. She slept on her stomach or on her side, he wanted more than anything to tell someone so they could make her more comfortable, but the words just wouldn't come... The Doctor and Nurses withdrew from the room in silence, leaving them alone.
He stepped closer, already feeling the sting of tears in his eyes. It felt like someone had forced him to watch his worst nightmare play out in front of him. "Oh, Hope..." he whispered as he reached her side. He gently brushed her dark hair back and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
It was only then that he realised Hank and Janet sat in the corner of the room. Janet was asleep, eyes red and swollen after a night of tears, her head lay on Hank's shoulder while his jacket lay over her lap. Hank was watching him carefully through sad, tired eyes. "I'm sorry, Scott" he said eventually.
"I wanted to tell you myself. But I couldn't leave Janet" he explained.
"No. Thanks for calling me" Scott replied, his eyes fixed on the slow, steady rise and fall of Hope's chest while the quiet hiss of the ventilator sounded in time with the movements.
"She would want you here..." Hank replied.
Scott spent the next sixteen days visiting that same hospital room, turning up at nine-thirty promptly with a fresh bouquet of flowers. Each day he brought a hand drawn card from Cassie and placed it on the increasingly full unit in the corner of her room. Scott sat with her all day, every day, until visiting ended at eight.
He sat and talked to her; told him about the new taco truck down the street he wanted to take her to and how Cassie had been cast as a donkey in the school nativity. He told her about her Doctors, the ones he knew she'd like, and those she knew she wouldn't. And he told her how much he missed her, how much his life felt wrong without her in it.
Scott sat in silence as Janet held her daughters hand and cried, he accompanied Hank to get a daily update from her consultant. He brought her parents coffee from the Starbucks around the corner from the Hospital rather than the crappy stuff he drank from the cafeteria. And he ate two meals a day by her bedside, because any minute spent away from her felt like time wasted.
Despite everything, Scott never gave up hope, because this was Hope. Nothing defeated her. Ever.
There was a never ending blame game that went back and forth between the three people who cared about Hope most. Scott blamed himself because she wouldn't have been on that road if she wasn't on her way to his house. Hank blamed himself because she wouldn't have been on the road at that time if he hadn't allowed her to leave work early. And Janet blamed herself because Hope had left work early in order to pick something up for her after work...
In actual fact, the blame belonged to Asher Sanderson. Asher was arrested following the accident after a witness came forward and identified him as the driver of the pickup truck who had driven into Hope's car. Asher was a seventeen year old who had had an argument with his ex-girlfriend, had too much to drink and decided to drive over to her home to argue some more. He had been texting her, becoming increasingly enraged, when he had veered out of his lane, over the road and into oncoming traffic.
Lieutenant Gregory had kept Hank and Janet, and at their request, Scott, up to date on the progress of the investigation. Scott was relieved he had seen Hope before he'd been shown the images taken of the crash scene. Because at looking at her car, he was amazed anyone could have survived that. The images showed her car as a crumpled mess of metal, they showed the blood and chaos left behind by the paramedics and fire service who had battled that night to keep Hope alive, they showed the empty bottle of vodka that had fallen from Asher's open car door after he had fled... There was CCTV footage, recordings from traffic camera and videos taken on the phones of passersby. It showed the crash and the aftermath from almost every angle, including a drunk and panicked Asher running from the scene.
On the seventeenth day, Scott arrived at nine thirty as usual, holding a bunch of sunflowers and a drawing from Cassie, to find Hope's room unusually crowded. There were a couple of Doctors, a few Nurses, Hank and Janet, even Lieutenant Gregory was there. And as Scott entered, frantically searching for a sign as to what was going on, he caught the sight of a pair of familiar green eyes looking back at him.
Hank and Janet had received a phone call at 04:56 to inform them that Hope had woken up. They'd rushed back to the hospital to find their daughter awake, breathing unaided and stable... Lieutenant Gregory had wanted to speak to her before any other visitors arrived but had had to wait for the all clear from the Doctors first.
Lieutenant Gregory informed them that Asher Sanderson, the man they'd arrested for crashing into Hope, had been charged with several offences and had finally pleaded guilty. He would, thankfully, face a lengthy jail sentence. Lieutenant Gregory, who Scott had recently learned was called Dan, made to leave, nodding to Scott as he exited, to where Scott had fallen back into the corner, overwhelmed with relief. The Doctors and Nurses once again filed out and the room suddenly seemed so large, Hope seemed so far away...
"Scott?.." Hope's voice was raspy and quiet from the other end of the room. His grip had tightened on the stems of the flowers as he stood and stared.
Janet crossed the room towards him and hugged him, whispering her thanks and pressing a kiss to his cheek before exiting the room. Hank followed, pausing for a moment as he reached Scott. He rested a hand on his shoulder and gave him a small nod; a silent confirmation of his thanks and his approval.
Scott had proved to everyone, including himself, during the difficult days how much he loved Hope. How much she meant to him... Janet had always had a soft spot for Scott, but Hank's air of disapproval had always been obvious... Now, however, it seems the tension between Scott and Hank was over, the older man squeezing his shoulder before joining his wife outside the room and leaving the pair of them alone.
"Hope..." he smiled, oblivious to the tears that rolled down his cheeks and the flowers that now lay in a forgotten pile on the floor.
Scott crossed the room in two steps, resting his hands gently on her cheeks as he examined her face carefully. The bruising had faded slightly, and he could once again see the freckles that trailed over her cheeks and the bridge of her nose.
"Scott..." she smiled, reaching for him weakly. He leaned in and pressed a kiss to her forehead before moving to kiss her lips.
"I have never been so scared in my life" he told her, gripping her hand and smiling as he felt her squeeze his back.
"I'm sorry" Hope whispered, her voice still horse.
"Don't" Scott interrupted, sitting gently on the edge of her bed. Hope shifted slightly, as much as she could, allowing him to squeeze onto the bed beside her. Scott lay his head on the pillow beside her, watching her closely, her hand still safely in his.
"I don't want to spend another day without you" he whispered, brushing back her hair with his free hand.
"I didn't go anywhere, Scott..." Hope replied with a small smile, enjoying the gentle touch.
"But you did. Sixteen days without hearing you laugh. Sixteen days without seeing those dimples..." He traced his thumb gently over her cheek. "Without having the sheets stolen off me in the middle of the night and waking up with your hair in my face" Scott smiled. "Without you there to paint Cassie's nails for her, or make her favourite cocoa. Sixteen days without you punching me in the face or throwing me on the floor during training. Without sneaking a kiss while your Dads back is turned in the lab... Sixteen days without you, Hope, is sixteen more than I can stand"
Hope lay and watching him, green eyes bright behind tears that didn't fall, and dimples giving away the small smile building on her face.
"I'm sorry" he said, carrying on before she could interrupt. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. I love you Hope. I love you so damn much. These last sixteen days have been hell. Actual living hell. And I couldn't wait a second longer to tell you how much I love you"
There was silence for a moment, and Scott worried he'd said too much. He turned to her, to see a single tear roll down her cheek. "I love you too, Scott" she whispered. And Scott felt whole again for the first time since he and Cassie had been in their pillow fort...