It was probably silly to think so since Cassie already has a mother, but in the span of time Hope got to know the girl, she felt like she's almost a surrogate mom for her. Scott asked her how she felt towards his daughter after the tenth time all three of them had done some activity together and she told him without hesitation.
Before the decimation, the girl confided in Hope that she considered her to be a good friend and that she was glad her father had a girlfriend like her. The confession warmed Hope's heart in a way she'd never experienced. It was a wonderful feeling to be welcomed to have a place in Cassie's life.
She thought about her past and how hard it'd been for her as a child, thinking her mother had been dead for so long. A girl needed her mother to teach her how to be a woman and if she didn't have that or at least, some kind of maternal figure in her life to guide her, she would be a little lost. So Hope was honored that Cassie looked up to her in such a way even though she had her own mother.
Hope was also grateful that the Avengers managed to get the infinity stones and bring everyone back. When Thanos snapped his fingers five years ago, he took many people away from their loved ones, Cassie's mother, Maggie, and stepfather, Paxton, included. Luckily, veteran Avenger Natasha Romanoff started a foundation that helped look after the children who were made orphans after the snap.
A kind middle aged couple was assigned by Natasha's foundation to take care of her for the past five years. Normally, the orphaned children would move to the home of whoever their caretaker is, but Cassie had been adamant. She wanted to stay in the home she'd lived in since childhood, so her guardians agreed to stay with her there. Now that the events of the snap have been undone, Cassie's guardians said their farewells to her and moved out since her mother and stepfather were home again.
At this moment, Hope and Scott were on their way to visit Cassie. Hope was eager to see the girl again, but she was also nervous. Five years was a long time and since she'd only known Cassie for less than that, she had no clue what to expect.
A hand covered hers and squeezed it gently. Hope looked at Scott and he smiled at her from the driver's seat. He must have sensed her apprehension.
"She's still the same person, Hope. She's just older."
"I know. I hate feeling so nervous about it, but I've got butterflies in my stomach." She sighed and bit her lip.
"Hey, it'll be alright. Trust me. She's looking forward to seeing you."
"Oh, yeah. One of the things she asked about when everyone came back was when she could see you again. You mean a lot to Cassie, Hope. A few years couldn't change that."
"You're right. It's just that...I spent years being away from my father and my mom only came back into my life a month before the snap, so I'm anxious. I feel like things keep repeating themselves when it comes to me being apart from the people I care about."
Scott was aware of some of the issues Hope struggled with because she'd told him a few days after the battle with Thanos and his army. She usually didn't get touchy-feely, but after the trials she'd experienced, she'd begun to allow herself to be more open and express these things. That wouldn't have been possible if she hadn't reconciled with her father, been reunited with her mother and gotten involved with Scott.
He encouraged her through the process and since he was her boyfriend - that was such a mundane word to describe what he truly meant to her - she was willing to. Being more open also helped their relationship.
There had been a void in Hope's life and in her heart, one that could only be filled by her mother, but once Janet came back from the quantum realm, they got to know each other again. Hank was certainly happier with his wife around. For Hope, seeing her parents together again was truly a blessing. Deep down she'd always wondered what it would be like to have such partnership with a man and she discovered that Scott was the only one who measured up to her expectations.
"I understand, but you've handled your relationship with your parents well. I know it was a little rocky at first, particularly with Hank, but I want you to know I'm proud of you, Hope. You are one of the strongest, bravest people I know and I have complete confidence in you. When you see Cassie, you're gonna forget everything you were worried about, I promise."
Hope smiled crookedly and gave his hand a playful tug. "Okay, but just try not to make any wisecracks when Cassie and I have our moment, deal?"
"Psh, I'll think about it."
Minutes later, they were in the house with Paxton and Maggie. They both knew how important this moment would be for Cassie and Hope, so they greeted her warmly before retreating to give them privacy. Soon afterwards, Cassie came bounding down the stairs, eyes sparkling and ran to hug her father.
It was all Hope could do to stop herself from gasping. Scott hadn't exaggerated. Cassie was just as tall as the both of them. The little Cassie she'd gotten to know five years ago was gone and in her place was a pretty teenager approaching womanhood. She hated that she'd been unable to watch the girl as she developed through the past few years, but at least they were here now.
Hope's hands were fidgety and sweaty, so she rubbed them onto her pants. She couldn't fight the smile that spread across her face as she watched them. Then Cassie turned to Hope and threw her arms around the woman.
"I missed you so much, Hope!" She smiled against the older woman's shoulder and they swayed together in the embrace.
Hope felt tears form and spill down her cheeks as her arms went round Cassie's back and she held her tightly.
"I missed you too, honey."
Scott had backed away a few steps to allow them this moment, but his eyes were full of tears too. He'd been anticipating this for a while and seeing it made him emotional. Here were two of the most important people in the world to him and witnessing their reunion made him so happy.
It took a few minutes before they separated, but Hope kept her hands clasped to Cassie's and gave her a good look from head to toe.
"You're just as tall as me!"
"Thank you," the girl replied with a laugh. "I had a growth spurt when I hit thirteen."
"The same thing happened to me around that age."
"Yeah. I was the tallest girl in school and I hated it, but after a while, I got used to it."
"I'm starting to get used to it, too. It's not as bad as I thought, but the one drawback is this boy, Drew, who always hits on me." She rolled her eyes.
"How annoying. There's always some guy who does that, even when you ask him to stop." Hope tsked and drew Cassie over to the couch to sit down. Scott joined them, sitting on Cassie's left side.
"You didn't tell me about that, Peanut. This boy isn't doing anything inappropriate, right? I'm fine with beating the crap out of a pushy classmate if I have to."
"Ditto," Hope chimed in. "I'd love to teach someone a lesson in respect."
"Nonono, you don't have to do that. Honestly, he's not touching me or anything. He just keeps flirting, but I'll tell my teacher, Mr. Hawkins. Everybody is a little scared of him, but he's pretty cool and since I'm one of his favorite students, I know if he says something, they won't bother me again."
"That's what I like to hear, good teachers looking out for their students so their parents don't have to make a trip to the school and beat someone down." Scott cracked his knuckles.
"You're an adult, dad. You'd get in trouble if you beat up a teenager."
"What a shame. There should be an exception if the kid's a creep."
Hope interjected, "I'd still like to teach you some fighting moves to use if you ever need to defend yourself, you know, like how I did when you were younger." Cassie smiled at Hope when she said this. "Although, I think you could handle more intensive training this time around."
"Whoa, just make sure you don't wear her out. She is a kid after all."
"Dad, I'm not a kid anymore! I'm fifteen now!" Cassie crossed her arms and gave him a scowl.
"No way. You're still my peanut and you always will be." He kissed her forehead and poked her nose.
She huffed at him, but her face softened after he kissed her and she nudged his shoulder. "Okay, okay. You win, but just don't call me that in front of the Avengers. I want to look cool."
"I'm sorry? What makes you think you'll be hanging around the Avengers?"
"They're your friends now, aren't they?"
He hadn't expected such a random change in topic. "...uh, yeah. I mean, Cap is and I guess Sam and Natasha are too."
"He's my friend too," Hope added not so quietly.
"Well, he's more my friend than he is yours." Scott quipped back.
"So you say, but Natasha actually invited me to dinner with some of the others, so that trumps you being friends with Cap."
"Because everyone knows when the girls hang out, it means you'll end up being friends with their husbands, too. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if she and Steve asks the two of us over for dinner, sometime." She flicked an imaginary piece of lint off her shirt.
It was all Cassie could do to hold back her giggles. She knew they were just being silly for her benefit, but it was still amusing to watch.
"How do you know Steve didn't already ask me if you and I would like to have dinner with him and Natasha?"
"Because you would've told me by now. You're a Captain America groupie, Scott. I can't count the number of times you've mentioned him to me."
Cassie raised her hand. "Me either, actually."
Scott gasped mockingly. "You too?"
She merely shrugged. "The truth will set you free, dad."
"I'll show you truth!" He tickled her and she squealed, pulling away from him.
"Stooop!" Her words came out interspersed between her laughing.
Hope laughed and tried to shield the girl with her hands, but it didn't work well because Scott started tickling her, too. By the time he stopped, they were all gasping for breath.
"Okay, I give up," Cassie raised her hands in defeat. "If you keep tickling me, I might have a heart attack."
"Then I'll stop. The last thing I'd want to do is face your mom and Paxton and tell them how I killed my daughter by tickling her too much."
"So where are you guys taking me? I'm starving, you know."
"Peanut, it's one thirty-eight. Haven't you eaten lunch yet?"
"Nah, just a lunchables to tide me over until you came to visit. You did say that you were taking me somewhere."
Hope wrinkled her nose and made an exaggerated wave of her hand. "They still make lunchables? What a shame. You'd think that after being dead for five years, the world would do things a little different."
"Hey! I like lunchables. They're good." Cassie pouted, but a corner of her lip was raised. She knew Hope was playing around.
"But they're not as good as pizza," her father replied, getting to his feet.
"Oh, nothing is as good as pizza."
"Alright, then. Your call, young lady. Where should we go? Papa John's or Pizza Hut?"
"Papa John's is the best!"
"Papa John's it is!" He handed his daughter the keys to the car.
"What's this for?"
"You want pizza, so you have to drive."
"Scott, she may not have her permit yet."
"Yes, she does. I talked to Maggie about it before we came. She's had it for a month now. I expect to see some responsible driving, kiddo. And take the long way so I can observe how you handle all of the traffic lights."
Cassie gave Hope a pleading look, knowing that she would be embarrassed by her dad's reactions to the way she drove, but the woman just patted her shoulder.
"You know he likes to tease. Just go ahead and it'll be over before you know it."
"Fine." She gripped the keys in her hand, but turned to give her father a stern glare. "Please try not to backseat drive too much."
"What do you mean? I'm sitting in the front with you."
Hope and Cassie nodded to each other and ran out of the house to the car. Scott followed as quickly as he could, but they had a lead on him and Hope managed to get in the passenger side of the car before he could stop her. He stood in front of her door window and raised an eyebrow.
"Get in before we leave you," she said with a playful tilt in her voice.
He muttered to himself and entered the car, seating himself behind Hope. As Cassie put on her seatbelt and started pulling out of the driveway, he leaned forward to whisper in Hope's ear.
"I'm gonna make you pay for that later."
"I'll look forward to it," she purred in response and turned her head to the side, giving Scott a wink.
It was good to be back.