NOTES | Well, here we are with another oneshot from "Rachel's Halloween 2019 collection that she's only just managing to post on FFnet now," which... tells you a lot about who I am as a person. Still, I hope you enjoy!
She doesn't exactly mean to get thrown into a full-on relationship, when she lets Scott Lang kiss her in the upstairs hallway of her father's house. It just sort of happens. This is the way things often go with Scott, she has learned since she met him, and is constantly half-forgetting and learning all over again. Things just sort of happen, whether it's a first kiss with his hand curling around the back of her neck to draw her in close, or catching her hand when they're walking back to his car after a first date that she doesn't remember officially saying yes to, or introducing her to his incredibly-huggy daughter who gives her the assumed title of girlfriend approximately five minutes later.
She's trying not to let it scare her.
Hope van Dyne is not one for jumping headfirst into something like this. She likes to keep both feet planted firmly on the ground, testing before she takes each step to make sure she won't fall. The sheer speed with which Scott and his daughter become immensely important to her is, frankly, terrifying. She shoves that dark, cloudy feeling down, down, down, and pretends not to have noticed it at all. But there is a comfort that comes hand-in-hand with it, too. A stable, secure feeling that she doesn't know whether or not she's meant to trust. A reverence for the quiet evenings she spends on the couch at Scott's house, curled into him with Cassie on the opposite side and a gargantuan bowl of popcorn, buttery fingers and sleepy smiles in the bluish light of the television across the room.
At the beginning of October, Cassie tugs at her sleeve in the grocery store next to a towering display of candy – boxes upon boxes of it, forming something that looks a lot like the Avengers Tower. "Hope, do you like Halloween?" she asks, blinking innocently up at Hope while she tries to figure out how the hell to answer that.
She would like to ask Scott for help – would you like to call a lifeline? – but he's wheeled the cart entirely too far ahead, and she is stuck. "Um, it's okay," she replies after a moment.
The girl looks disappointed, and Hope immediately feels guilty. She is not good around children, has never really known what to do or say when she's close to them. She's been trying to navigate being around Cassie since she and Scott started dating, and has been doing a relatively decent job – or, at least, she thinks she has. But now something in Cassie's face has crumpled into a little frown, and Hope can't figure out what, exactly, she was supposed to do differently. Was she supposed to flat-out lie? Would that have been better?
"What's wrong, Peanut?" asks Scott, casting a concerned glance over his daughter's face when they catch up to him in the bakery section. He tosses four different flavours, one by one, into the cart.
She ignores him, turning abruptly back to Hope and placing her little hands determinedly on her hips. "How come you don't like Halloween?"
Scott glances to her, surprised. "You don't like Halloween?" he asks.
Hope blinks. "I used to," she admits. And God, she did. The first few Halloweens of her life were like something out of the idyllic, peaceful part of a storybook, before everything falls apart. It's strange, thinking how much of her life follows that format (she tries not to, most of the time). Her mother used to prepare for Halloween very carefully, curating the perfect collection of decorations and sitting on the kitchen floor with Hope to carve pumpkins. She handmade Hope's costumes and they were always just what she wanted; she took Hope trick-or-treating around the neighbourhood, visited every house at her side, traded a second empty bag for Hope's full one so they could get more candy.
And then, when Hope was seven years old, she disappeared. Died, or so Hope was told – up until this year, when her father finally told her the truth.
Where Janet was good at holiday traditions, Hank was not. Halloween was not the only holiday that suffered, but it was more noticeable than some of the others. At least Christmas happened, in their house. But Halloween was different. The first October after her mother's disappearance felt just like a regular night – nothing special whatsoever. Dinner eaten quietly and separately, and the light at the front door flicked off so nobody knocked, no matter how many hours Hope waited to see if they would. No candy, no jack o'lanterns, no costumes. There was just nothing. And all the other years, Hope was stuck at boarding school.
She tells Scott about this later, after Cassie has gone to bed. They sit at the kitchen table and their feet touch under the table, and he reaches for her hand on the tabletop halfway through the story and brushes the pad of his thumb over her knuckles reassuringly. She's so wrapped up in conveying the details that she hardly even notices the determined glint in his eye as she speaks.
When Maggie and Paxton come by to pick up Cassie in the morning, she practically bounces right up to her mother and says, "I want to go with Dad for Halloween this year!" Maggie and Paxton exchange a glance that looks a lot like a probably not, but Cassie pays no mind to that. She rushes forward, stumbling a little over her words as she tries to get her reasoning out. "I haven't had a Halloween with Dad in years, since I was really, really little, and I got lots with you guys, and I don't even want the whole Halloween, just the trick-or-treating. Please, Mom? Please?"
Maggie smooths her palm over her daughter's dark hair. "We'll see, okay, honey?"
She's trying to sound ambiguous, so nobody will get too attached to an answer either way, but Hope thinks she looks like she's leaning towards saying yes.
The next weekend, they pick Cassie and her backpack up after her soccer game. Maggie and Paxton bring her there, and Scott and Hope stand next to them on the sideline, cheering when she scores a goal, and after the game, when the girl is moving down the line very seriously to shake hands with the other team and the referee, Maggie says abruptly, "If you want to take Cassie trick-or-treating this year, I'm going to tell her that's okay with me."
Hope feels Scott freeze briefly next to her, but he breathes again a moment later. "Really?" He sounds almost hesitant, sounds like that a lot when he gets more time with his daughter than he originally anticipates. It's like his jail time has lowered his expectations nearly to the floor, and at this point, he's happy with anything, as far as interacting with Cassie is concerned. He always wants more, but he's trying his hardest to be respectful of what Maggie wants, too. To show her that she can trust him not to screw up again. His ex-wife nods, and a joyous smile breaks out over his face, curving at the corners of his mouth and creating dimples in his cheeks. "Mags, seriously, thank you. I've really, you know, missed the whole trick-or-treating thing."
She shrugs, not looking directly at him. "Yeah, well, it'll be nice to have a calm, relaxing Halloween. Just sit at home and watch scary movies and hand out candy." She uses this to deflect, a technique Hope is familiar with in her own right. It says, I'm doing this for me, not for you, even if it's clearly a little white lie. Hope isn't sure she'll ever completely understand the way that the two of them operate around each other. There are years worth of hurt there, missed time when Scott was in prison, Maggie's hesitance to let go of that. And yet they still manage to be good friends, working slowly past it for one reason: Cassie.
So a few minutes later, when Cassie pops up in front of them in her soccer cleats and jersey, Scott tugs fondly at the end of the girl's braid and makes the announcement. "How would you feel about going trick-or-treating with me this year, Peanut?"
Wide-eyed, Cassie looks from him to Maggie. "Mom?" she asks. She is so young, but so much more mature than her years, clearly trying to hold in her reaction until she gets clarification. Maggie nods, smiles, and Cassie's energy nearly explodes out of her – a rather shrill scream, a little happy dance right on the spot. "Yes! Daddy, wait, I already have an idea! For our costumes!" She pulls at his shirt so he bends down to dramatically whisper into his ear. She's not good at whispering, really – Hope is pretty sure she hears the words Vader and Leia in there, but she and Maggie and Paxton all pretend not to have overheard, so as not to spoil the surprise later on. And then the girl raises her voice again to ask, "Is Hope coming?"
Scott looks to Hope sideways. "I don't know. Is Hope coming?" he asks. She hears the genuine question in the words, the way he actually wants her to come, but he follows up, anyway. Just to make it clearer what he'd like her answer to be. "You should come out trick-or-treating with us. What do you think?"
"I – no," is the immediate answer that falls from her mouth. She tries to backtrack when she sees that Cassie actually looks a bit crestfallen. "This is your first Halloween together in years, I don't want to intrude. And besides, I don't like Halloween, remember?"
Maggie and Paxton take this as the prime moment to say their goodbyes and head out, leaving Hope alone with her boyfriend and his daughter. Who, predictably, spend the entire car ride home trying to convince her of all the reasons she should go trick-or-treating with them. Her arguments – their first Halloween together again, her general distaste for the holiday itself, the idea that she should stay at Scott's house to hand out candy – are shoved aside in favour of repeated rebuttals of, But it would be so much fun!
He corners her in the kitchen before dinner, trapping her with her back to the refrigerator so she can't go anywhere. "I think you should come with us on Halloween," he tries again earnestly. His fingers press lightly at her hips and he has this barely-held-back smile on his face, and he looks so hopeful. "I want to give you a really good Halloween. Help you get back to liking it, maybe."
So she cracks, and she gives in.
Triumphantly, Scott spins away from her. "Cassie, I got her to break!" he yells up the stairs.
Cassie thunders down into the kitchen, where Hope remains frozen exactly where Scott left her. They stand before her and examine her critically. "You're going to come trick-or-treating?" the girl asks, and waits until Hope nods (a little reluctantly, still, but that's not the point). She nods decisively back and agrees, "Okay. Yeah, you can come," as if it was Hope's idea to begin with. "On one condition. You have to wear a costume."
NOTES | There will be a second part to this one, though it functions well as a stand-alone oneshot so I will be posting it separately instead of as a second chapter! Please keep an eye out for that to go up tomorrow or maybe the next day. In the meantime, reviews and favourites make me super happy!