NOTES | I'm so sorry it's taken so long to get this last chapter posted for you guys! Thank you so much to the guest who commented asking about it, because I have been so wrapped up in other things that I forgot how long I've kept you waiting! Without further ado, let's get to the final chapter.
"Where the hell have you guys been?" Luis demands, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel when they make it back to the van. They've left the same seats open as before, and Hope sort of wishes they hadn't; as Luis guides the van away from the curb, she is painfully conscious of the way that the back seat isn't quite wide enough for her to have her own personal space. It's a lot like their cafeteria table, with her squeezed in between Scott on one side and Kurt on the other, and she holds her breath as Luis presses his foot down on the gas pedal.
They don't go back to school, but to a mini-golf course, complete with ice cream. "Now, kids, let's try not to get kicked out of this one," Ava says loftily as they pile out of the van in the parking lot. They don't, though there is a mock sword fight with golf clubs that gets them pretty close.
When they return to the van, Hope purposefully makes it through the sliding door first so that Kurt winds up in between herself and Scott. She does this just so, as casually as she can manage, hoping that nobody will notice or comment, and it appears to work – Luis gives her a brief, meaningful sort of look in the rearview mirror as he turns the key in the ignition, but is distracted a moment later by everyone's relative indignation that they've found yet another thing Hope can beat all of them at. Kurt being in the way of seeing Scott anytime she turns her head to the right is incredibly helpful, just as she predicted it would be, at least until they end up clambering out into her driveway so she can get out. Kurt is back in the van a moment later, but Scott hovers for a moment, uncertain, under the guise of helping pick up their friends' backpacks in the trunk so she can reach hers.
"Hope," he says after he closes the hatchback door, frowning a little. But she's saved by the bell (or, in this case, Luis shouting, "Ay, Scotty! Come on!") from the driver's seat, and he just shrugs. "See you tomorrow."
Summer has crawled up slowly, spreading its warmth over the city and drawing everyone outside one by one. Everyone spends the last Saturday before exams at Scott's because it's a beachfront house, and his mother makes enough lemonade to hydrate a small army. That driftwood fort he built is still there, though it looks like he's renovated, and it's practically twice the size it used to be. He won't let anyone touch it, insisting that they all move several paces down the beach so they're more in front of his neighbour's house than his own. "It's Cassie's," he says seriously, "she'll kill me if you guys break it." Hope wonders if that's true, if his sister is as deeply attached to the fort as Scott says she is, if she would have been upset on New Year's Eve when they sat there in the dark to listen to the ocean. He's looking at her as she lays a towel out on the sand next to Ava's, watching how she glances back at the fort, and she can't tell if it's her imagination or not. Maybe he's not looking right at her. She doesn't say a word about the New Year's party, about how she's been allowed into the now-off-limits fort. Some things aren't to be shared with everyone.
They order pizza in the middle of the afternoon, and the boys run up to the house to meet the delivery guy. Ava turns onto her side and stares at Hope so intensely that she thinks she can feel the spot where her gaze lands. "Do you like Scott?" she demands.
Hope frowns and moves her sunglasses down to cover her eyes. "No," she lies.
Maybe if she denies it enough, it will stop being true.
But getting over Scott Lang proves to be more difficult than that. Why is it taking so long? It's not even as if there's much to get over. They're not a thing, never have been, and yet Hope has been slowly slipping into this and now she can't go back. Like quicksand. She's read that the reason people sink in quicksand is fighting it – the flailing and moving and trying to get themselves free. Maybe, then, if Scott is the quicksand, the key is to stop fighting.
Hope's never been very good at that, though.
By the last day of school, she's pretty sure that the only way to get past it is to not see Scott face-to-face even once over the entire summer holidays. Which isn't entirely unrealistic. After all, there's the Pym Tech internship – maybe it's only part-time, but she'll probably be dealing with Darren enough to claim exhaustion anytime Scott calls or texts. She can formulate an excuse to get out of anything if she wants to badly enough, so when Luis inevitably tries to organize something for the whole group to do together when he gets back from Mexico, she'll find a reason not to go. And when school starts up again in September, even Ava will have given up on trying to pointedly ask what her feelings towards him are. It's not a perfect plan, but it's the closest she can get. Only she comes down the stairs after her last exam ends and when she sees him, her entire plan evaporates in about three seconds flat.
No, instead, she walks right up to him as he turns away from his locker and tugs him down by the collar of his shirt and kisses him, right there in the middle of the hallway where everyone can see, and she doesn't even care. Scott's hands settle automatically at her hips and when she breathes, she breathes him in, and it's nice.
She pulls back just enough to catch her breath. Someone has whistled, the sound infused into the usual start-of-summer noise, the chatter, the locker doors slamming. She only barely registers this, can't take her eyes off Scott's. The green in his eyes looks darker, more mesmerizing, from this close. "What was that for?" he asks.
"Um," she says, as if that's not the most embarrassing thing in the world, having no capacity to speak at all. She takes a deep, shaky sort of breath and shrugs, her fingers still curled tight on his shirt collar. "I guess I like you? Maybe?"
There. Now it's out in the open. She's spent every day since prom thinking that if she ever says it out loud, he'll laugh, roll his eyes, never speak to her again. But there it is, hovering in the space between them, and he just grins broadly. "Really?" he asks, like he doesn't believe it. Hope nods almost imperceptibly, holding her breath. "Hope, I – I've been trying to figure out how to ask you out, but I was scared you'd say no."
"Me, too." He was scared she'd say no. Has she really been hiding what she's thinking that successfully?
"You, scared?" He laughs lightly, and his breath tickles her cheeks. "I didn't think Hope van Dyne was afraid of anything." He's wrong; Hope is scared of a lot, more than she likes to let on. It's probably a good thing that he doesn't let go of her, because she really isn't sure which is more powerful: The desire to run, or the desire to stay. Either way, it's terrifying.
She doesn't say that, though. Admitting it to herself is enough. Instead of answering him properly, she slides one hand down over his arm and finally releases his collar with the other, smoothing out the wrinkles she's left behind in the fabric. "What were you scared about?" she questions.
Scott seems to take the fact that she hasn't pushed him away yet to mean that it's okay for him to tighten his grip on her hips, just slightly. "Under no circumstances, remember? I thought maybe there'd be some kind of death penalty."
"I guess we could maybe, um. Revoke that rule."
"Hey. Lovebirds." It's Carol, rapping her knuckles on the locker next to Scott's to get their attention. Apologetically, she adds, "Okay, so the only way I could talk Ava and Luis into not ruining your moment was if I agreed to ruin it instead, so… here I am. Might be a little less, well. Crazy. Anyway, Luis has his mom's van again and already has a surprise destination in mind, so…" She gestures down the hallway, and Hope twists to see both of them waiting, side by side, Luis jingling his mom's car keys with an ear-splitting grin, Ava looking rather like she might burst. God, she's never going to hear the end of this one. This will be added to an ever-growing list Ava has been tallying mentally since December, she's sure.
Scott releases her, only for a moment, and then reaches to lace the fingers of his left hand between the fingers of her right. At first, she stiffens a little, but then she inhales and breathes out every bit of tension she can. Maybe she's not used to being close enough to touch someone in this way, but she could grow accustomed to it. "The summer awaits," he says grandly, in the kind of tone that carries, even with the noise of an entire student body achieving freedom around them.
When they approach the van, Kurt and Dave are already waiting. Kurt is tapping his foot impatiently. "What took you guys so long?" asks Dave, pushing off the hood of the car to stand up straight.
Luis positively beams. "You owe me ten bucks. It finally happened."
"You bet on –"
"That's right, Scotty." Luis slides into the driver's seat and twists to face the rear of the van as the others claim their spots. "You all owe me, actually. Pay up, guys." Hope opens her mouth and closes it again without saying a word. "It's no biggie, you know. I just saw this coming a mile away – or, like, a lotta miles, you know, like two years, maybe? When Scott said you were pretty –"
She looks sideways at Scott, a glimmer of a smile on her lips. "Two years?" she asks. He shrugs vaguely, as if to say he has no idea what Luis is talking about, but they both know that Luis has a knack for details. She lets herself lean into him there in the backseat of the van, his arm around her shoulders like it's always belonged there and always will, and that's how it ends. Or maybe how it starts, depending how she looks at it.
NOTES | Well, we've finally reached the end! Please let me know your thoughts if you've got a moment to review! Also, I figure I'll let you in on a little secret: I have another project coming. When I have the time to get it actually on paper. So keep your eyes peeled for more of this ship from me - I'm not done with them yet!