NOTES | Welcome to the first multi-chapter fic I've ever actually completed! This is a high school AU feat. some of that sweet, sweet fake dating trope and a little bit of a coming of age sort of feel to it. Kind of. I wrote and posted this elsewhere through the very end of 2018 and early 2019, but I felt like it was worth revisiting, and I wanted to make it available on here for any of you guys who still read AMATW fic here! So without further ado, here's the first chapter. Enjoy!

It starts because Darren asks her if she's got a date to the staff Christmas party. Which she doesn't, but she feels very, very compelled to lie.

He corners her when he's on his way out of Hank's office and she's on her way in, and the not-truth automatically materializes on her tongue before she can think about it. His mouth twists unpleasantly on one side. "The Mexican guy? Luis?" he asks disbelievingly. He doesn't pronounce the name right. "No way he's good enough for you. Really, Hope."

"No," she half-snaps back. It comes out more defensive than she means it to. Because yes, the plan was to get Luis to go with her. He comes to half the Pym Tech events, anyway – he's a good friend to have on one side of her around all her father's colleagues. They like to sit in a far-off corner and make up whispered stories about the party guests. He's better at it than she is. Luis is possibly the most creative person she knows, though his talents when it comes to whispering could use a little work. "Not Luis. We're just friends. No, it's someone else I'm, um, seeing." Her voice comes out higher-pitched than normal, but she thinks she's convincing enough, besides that. It gets Darren to back off, at least. She feels inordinately proud of herself for about thirty seconds until he disappears into the elevator, and then she realizes the trap she's effectively pushed herself into.

Okay, so the whole thing is a damn mess, and now Hope van Dyne is stuck.

The good news is that anyone from school is a fair game, because Darren goes to a fancy private school across the city, and he doesn't know any of them. She's going to ask Tony Stark. That's the original plan, at least. She decides this when she sees him down the hallway the next morning. There are several reasons why this plan is a good one, and she lists them all out in her head while she absentmindedly pulls her math textbook from her locker. Like the fact that they're friends, sort of, even if they've grown apart since their respective fathers' falling-out. Like the fact that he's a senior and Darren is only a junior, like her. Like the fact that he would probably say yes, really, because it would piss off his dad. And, perhaps most importantly, the fact that it would piss off her dad, too. Really, convincing Tony to go to the Christmas party with her checks all the boxes, only by the time Hope has shut her locker and squared her shoulders and taken one step in his direction, she's already remembered the very specific reason she can't follow through on that. Pepper Potts. They've been hovering in that strange almost-dating-but-not-quite territory since last spring break, or maybe even longer, and she isn't about to throw a wrench into the middle of that.

No, it will have to be someone else.

"I'm in a situation," she complains at lunch. She doesn't feel like eating. She has under a week to find a date to the stupid Christmas party, and the entire thing makes her feel sort of sick. Blurting out the details to Ava, Carol and Luis doesn't do much to ease that, and Hope pushes her food off to the side so she can lean forward and rest her forehead on the table. To her friends' credits, they begin to scan the cafeteria and suggest other options, though the names come seemingly at random and she emphatically turns down all of them. "This is ridiculous," she mumbles into the tabletop. "I'm just going to have to tell him the truth."

"Or," Luis interjects, sounding far too excited. Hope closes her eyes. She can recognize his I-have-an-idea tone anywhere, and while said ideas always have some sort of brilliance to them, it's often buried deep, and usually hidden by several run-on sentences strung together. "Or, listen, you could just tell him the guy bailed on you or you broke up or something and you're just, like, absolutely heartbroken and never want to look at another guy again, and –"

"Hope, heartbroken? Unlikely."

Great. The rest of Luis' friends have arrived, squeezing in around the table. There isn't really enough room for seven, but they manage by sacrificing trivial, unimportant things. Like Hope's elbow space. Good thing she feels too sick to move, let alone sit up properly and try to eat without moving her arms at all.

Luis doesn't even come up for air, even as he changes tracks mid-sentence. "– he'll have to back off, you know, because all guys pretty much repulse you – hey, guys – Hope's just found herself in a bit of a predicament." And then he's off, explaining everything on her behalf, which is completely unnecessary. It's not like she wants them to know this particular thing about her, that she impulsively lies to cocky Pym Tech interns about stupid things like having a date to the Christmas party. It's embarrassing. She keeps her head down, but she can feel everyone's eyes on her. "So now, like, she's gotta find someone to go with, except she doesn't think any of our suggestions are good enough, right?"

Someone gives a low whistle, and she's pretty sure she knows which one of them. "Well, damn, isn't that a pickle," he says, and she was definitely right. Nobody else at this table is going to use that phrase in a hundred years, even ironically. "What the hell. I'll do it, if you want."

Plot twist.

Hope finally lifts her head up, but she does it a little too abruptly and then feels slightly dizzy. "You what?" she asks, shell-shocked. Because there's no way she's taking Scott Lang to this dumb party. Not in a million years. Not a chance in hell.

She doesn't like Scott Lang; she tolerates him, at most. He's stubborn and makes dumb jokes even if he's the only one laughing at them, and he constantly wavers between acting very full of himself or drowning in self-deprecating humour, with no real middle ground. He doesn't seem to understand the concept of personal space, either, though that one is a trait shared with the rest of Luis' friends, too – something that she discovered rather quickly when she got paired with Luis for a history project freshman year and somehow wound up accidentally merging their friends into one messy collage. Hope clashes with Scott at every opportunity simply because it's so easy to eye-roll at half the things that come out of his mouth. Maybe he's smart enough to pull off decent grades, but he has this annoying habit of not trying. His immaturity is, she thinks, defined by all of these facts, and only highlighted by the close-up magic tricks he constantly tries to impress everyone around him with. And so she tolerates him, puts up with his presence for Luis only, and he endures her clear distaste for him in return.

Their entire so-called friendship depends on this dynamic, and now he's throwing it all off balance. Offering to help her is just so unlike the rhythm they fell into immediately, and she's going to say no. Obviously. They've got four more days of school before winter break, and the party is this weekend, and she has no intention of spending a single minute of the holidays hanging out with Scott Lang, of all people.

"Ay, Scotty!" exclaims Luis. She's not looking at him, because she's busy staring wide-eyed at Scott like he's grown a second head, but she can tell from his voice that he's grinning broadly. Of course Luis would think this is a good idea. He doesn't seem to understand how downright infuriating it can be to spend long stretches of time around his friends. Maybe his ridiculously-high energy levels simply free him from growing tired of their antics.

"No," she says abruptly, "you don't ha–"

She's cut off by Scott placing a hand on her arm. It might be intended as a comforting gesture, but she's not sure how well it works. "I want to," he tells her earnestly. Somehow, he manages to look serious and smile at the same time. How does he do that? "This Darren guy sounds like an ass."

"He is," admits Hope. She tilts her head, examining him closely, green eyes searching green. Maybe he's got an ulterior motive, she thinks. Maybe he wants to come to the party just so he can tell Darren face-to-face that Hope lied and just how far she's gone to fool him. Then again, maybe not. Scott Lang is a lot of things, but plain evil isn't one of them. That little voice in the back of her head telling her not to accept the offer might be worth ignoring. It is very rarely anything but automatically distrusting. Everyone else at the table is watching this exchange with bated breath – no one is even touching their food, and all the rest of the cafeteria noise has faded into a barely-noticeable murmur in the background. And so, trying to sound extremely casual, like this is not a big deal at all, Hope shrugs and says, "Okay, yeah. Sure. Um, thanks."

He holds out a hand, and she rolls her eyes, but she shakes on it, anyway.

By the time the Christmas party actually rolls around, though, Hope has had a few days to steep in her regret. It was downright mortifying, telling her dad that her plus-one isn't Luis like usual, or even Ava or Carol, her usual go-to backups when he can't make it. They don't enjoy it as much as Luis, and Bill stopped tugging Ava along in his wake years ago (God, she wishes Hank would drop the mandatory attendance, too), but they understand Hope's need to have someone familiar to interact with there. And she had to heavily imply to her dad that Scott is more than just a friend, because Darren idolizes him and will try to make conversation with him all night. He's got to believe it in order for Darren to believe it, and she can't have him ruining everything. At this point, it feels like there is far too much at stake.

"Maybe I can just fake sick," she says to her reflection in the bathroom mirror. It wouldn't be a total lie; she does feel sick. She could call her dad, who always goes early to make sure setup runs smoothly, and tell him she's not feeling well. Then she could text Scott and tell him he doesn't need to pick her up, after all. And then she could take off the makeup she's just finished carefully applying, curl up in bed, and watch movies on Netflix until Christmas morning. It would be so easy.

Ava's voice echoes on the counter from where Hope has her phone propped up against the toothbrush holder. "No, not happening. You have to go. This is the way to get Darren to leave you alone. It's going to be great." She glances down; Ava has leaned in very close to the camera to eye her seriously. Hope sighs. The point of the FaceTime call while she gets ready is for support when she tries to bail, not this. Ava looks off to one side. "Care, tell her it's going to be great."

"It's going to be great," says Carol faintly from off-screen.

Lips turning down at the corners in a pout, Hope takes the only shot she has left. "Are you sure you can't come this year?" she asks, purposely adding just a hint of a whine to the words. "They probably wouldn't even bat an eye at you for not being on the official guest list. I bet you could even get Carol in."

The response she gets is immediate: Carol snatching Ava's phone out of her hands just to shake her head emphatically. "No can do. We're going to a movie. Already bought the tickets and everything. You're going to that party. And you can handle Scott, you do it every day."

"That's different," insists Hope, but Carol only sarcastically blows a kiss to her (can one do such a thing sarcastically?), wishes her good luck, and hangs up. Hope lets her friends' words echo in her head and fortify her from the inside out. You're going to that party. You can handle Scott. It's going to be great.

It's not going to be great, but she doesn't bail.

Scott picks her up in his dad's car, which smells like cigarette smoke. They put the windows down even though it's December, and while he drives, she goes over the game plan. "We've only been dating for, like, a couple weeks. We met through Luis, obviously, because we should keep as much truth in this as possible. This is the first time you're meeting my dad, and you have to shake his hand. Take the next right, it's a shortcut. A firm handshake, okay? Or he won't take you seriously, and it won't work. We'll be fighting by New Year's so my dad doesn't think it's weird for you not to come to that, and we're breaking up by the time school starts again. And under absolutely no circumstances are you allowed to kiss me."

"What if there's mistletoe?" he asks, very innocently. She glances sideways and he's grinning. He lets his eyes flicker to her for only a brief moment, and she looks back at him, deadpan.

"Absolutely no circumstances," she repeats. She waits until he gives her an affirmative nod before she looks away. "Keep your eyes on the road, Lang."

NOTES | I'll be posting updates relatively quickly, probably the next chapter in a few days, since it's already ready to go! And here goes, because I'm trying to get more comfortable with asking for this kind of thing: I'd love some reviews, if you've got a moment to leave one! Reviews make me happy!