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This wonderful plan, without danger or loss

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Hope has always believed that the probability of something bad happening is directly proportionate with the good. Simply put, bad things always happen after something good occurs. She’s experienced this so often she’s come to expect it (and no, it hasn’t made her averse to happiness; it just made her ready for these kinds of things. It’s why her contingency plans have contingency plans).

So it wasn’t really a surprise for her when, a day after they find the information they needed, she finds herself in the garden in the middle of the night, trading punches with two men who were trying to break inside her father’s home.

(And the information isn’t complete yet—they have partial coordinates for a place that doesn’t seem to exist but which they have data for because Ross had been there)

It’s a lopsided fight at the start—she didn’t have time to put on her suit and both men are exceptionally well-trained in hand-to-hand combat (even the one-armed one), and incredibly strong. While she can dodge their blows (and not that easily), they effortlessly parry her punches and block her kicks.

So she calls for the ants.

All of them.

It starts with the carpenter ants flying around them, occasionally hitting the men in their faces as she tries to fight them off.

A punch in the gut makes her stumble backwards and fall on the grass. At the same time, a tremendous number of carpenter ants are now in the garden, the buzz of their wings enough to probably wake up the entire neighborhood.

Hope directs the ants towards the faces of both men as she scrambles to stand up. The sight of the ants banding together like a large, thick black curtain and swiftly launching themselves onto the intruders is terrifying, even for her.

And it was a good enough distraction because she was able to take down the one-armed man while he gapes at the ants’ monstrous display of solidarity.

“What the hell?”

Hope goes low, bringing him down with a hard kick behind the knee and he falls. She makes sure that he stays down by ordering the bullet ants to keep him down and for good measure, directs the fire ants to form a chain around his ankles.

She then focuses her attention on the other man who is trying to ward off the swarm and definitely not one-armed.

Hope uses the horde of carpenter ants to conceal her punches. She directs them to swarm his face and then gives way to her fist at the last minute.

His parries aren’t effortless now and the ants protect her from his blows, allowing themselves to be used as her shield. The bullet ants help out by climbing onto the man’s pants and begin their attack.

She needs to end this fight soon. She never managed this many ants before (well, not consciously); and concentrating on five different things at the same time would mean she won’t be able to maintain her hold on the ants for long.

The carpenter ants swirl around the man’s head like a hurricane and then Hope jumps forward, locking her legs onto the man’s neck, using her momentum to bring him down to the ground. The carpenter ants disperse and the fire ants form a chain around the man’s neck.

“Stand down, Van Dyne.” She hears Hank say (although it’s a little bit too late—everybody’s on the ground). She slowly gets up to her feet and looks behind her. Hank’s watching her, and beside him is an imposing man with a patch over his left eye.

Hope can see the amusement on the face of the man with an eye patch and Hank… well, Hank seems to be beaming with pride.

“Gentlemen,” the man says. He has a commanding voice and sounds like he’s a no-nonsense kind of man, “it seems you’ve already met Dr. Pym’s daughter. Now, can we all go inside to talk business?”

~*~*~

They have a total of four guests—a woman who introduced herself as Maria Hill arrived a few minutes after, passing through the front door unlike their two other visitors.

Hope sucks on a slice of orange while waiting for her tea to reach a drinkable temperature. They’re in the kitchen, with awkward silence hanging above them—it hasn’t really sunk in that she just beat Captain America and the Winter Soldier with a lot of help from the ants (the ants!)

She tries not to openly stare at them. They have multiple ant stings on their faces (which are healing remarkably fast) but it doesn't detract from the fact that they're handsome men… who have really broad shoulders. The kitchen suddenly feels too small with all of them inside.

“To what do we owe this honor of a late night visit?” Hank starts, the sarcasm dripping in his tone.

“Well, I was here visiting an old friend until these two fools showed up.” Hank’s ‘old friend’ is Nick Fury, formerly the head of SHIELD. Hope’s quite certain of two things: one, that man’s supposed to be dead, and two, SHIELD is no more.

And yet, Nick Fury’s in their kitchen talking about some present-day SHIELD business with Hank.

Captain America – Steve Rogers – has an expression on his face that looks akin to a child who’s just been reprimanded by his favorite teacher for being too disruptive in class. Beside him is the Winter Soldier (he wants to be called Barnes. Just Barnes) and he looks like he’d rather be anywhere else than here. Looking closer, one can see the weariness fraying in the edges as though they've been battling with problems spanning seventy-something years during the past few days (which, to be honest, is probably the case)

It’s Maria Hill who speaks for them, “We have an area of mutual interest.” Hill keeps her attention on her, knowing exactly who's calling the shots in this operation.

Hope arches a brow but she doesn’t say anything. Not yet, anyway. She can feel Hank observing her as she deliberately takes another slice of orange and eats it, eyeing the woman speaking in behalf of their three guests.

For a moment, everyone is forgotten and it feels like she’s in the boardroom, meeting with another CEO regarding a new undertaking.

She tries to assess what they would want from them-- it’s not like they need any help. They’re SHIELD. Even if they say they don’t have the resources, the fact that they have Captain America and the Winter Soldier on their side means they can still easily destabilize political situations in medium-sized countries.

“And what are you proposing?” Hope says, finally.

“A joint venture.” The other woman answers, “We have the exact coordinates of the unit and the necessary equipment required to transport people.”

“What do you need us for, then?”

“Your access to a… certain location, and additional personnel— for discreet matters.”

Hope notes the choice of words and angles her head to the side, “What makes you think we can provide that kind of manpower?”

Maria Hill gives a small smile, “Our files indicate that the ant usually came with a wasp. Since there is ant, somewhere out there, we came here in the off-chance that there might be a wasp.” She says. It sounds cryptic— and it’s meant to be cryptic but Hope knows what she’s trying to tell them.

Hill glances at the two men to her right, “And besides, some problems can’t be solved by punching everyone.”

Hope looks at Nick Fury first before taking an inquiring look at Hank, who shrugs. She looks back at Hill.

“I’m listening.”

~*~*~

Hope stares at the 3D layout of the Pentagon, thanks to the Secretary Ross. The man was fond of going there. Not every day, but he was there enough times that he should probably just give up being State Secretary and be Secretary of Defense instead.

They’ve actually already formulated a plan on how to get in the lab (through this lab technician called Burns, who is as absent-minded as he is smart. And he’s very smart). But with the new people involved, the plan has to be modified. They need an updated blueprint for the Raft (as the prison was called) and since the prison is US-funded, the plans are definitely in the Pentagon.

She magnifies the ventilation shaft at the corner of the lab. She still hasn’t decided whether going to the lab first before going to the servers is more efficient or vice-versa.

“Send the ants to the lab while you’re going to the server.”

Hope looks up and sees Hank going through the doorway, “You said you were going to sleep.” She says, almost accusingly. He’s wearing a dressing gown over his pajamas.

“And you said you were going to sleep.” He counters and sits on the stool beside her, “Yet, here we are.”

Hope rolls her eyes and brings her attention back to the blueprint. Hank might be right, though. It could be more efficient if she and the ants split up-- she can install the backdoor program on the DoD mainframe while Hank can assess the lab’s layout.

(She’s loves working alongside the ants on operations to a point that she might not give them to Scott when he gets back. Let Ant-Man be without his ants).

Speaking of ants…

Hope switches off the map and turns to Hank, “What did Hill mean when she said that the ant usually goes with a wasp?” she asks, echoing a part of the conversation a few hours ago.

“I think you already know what that means.” Hank replies.

Hope chews on the inside of her cheek. She suddenly remembers how Hank had adamantly refused using the Pym Particles against Darren. He didn't want anyone to suit up as Ant-Man because that means at some point, someone will have to be the Wasp. And he didn't want that person to be her… at least, during that time.

“There were other…consequences if I were to choose my successor.”

“Consequences?”

“Nick Fury had an idea of bringing a group of remarkable people together to prevent global threats that ordinary soldiers can’t fight.” He starts and leans back on his chair, “The thought that we aren’t alone in the universe hasn’t actually been at the forefront of everybody’s minds back then but Nick always had foresight.”

Hope has no idea where this conversation is going so she lets him continue.

“Nick knew that I was against anyone using my suit and my tech but he stubbornly proposed that in case I changed my mind, that my successor be part of the…” Hank trails off as if he now only fully regrets his decision, “…the Avengers Initiative.”

“The Avengers Initiative.” Hope looks at him in disbelief, “You agreed to that?”

Hank shrugs, “I didn’t think I’d change my mind.”

“Scott’s an Avenger?”

“It’s a long-standing invitation, so, yes.”

Hope can feel laughter bubbling inside her and she doesn’t know if it’s just exhaustion or the absurdity at the thought that Scott is a member of the Avenger by just being Ant-Man.

(“What kind of power is ant, anyway and would the Avengers even need it?”

“Are you seriously considering applying to become one?”

“I don’t think you can apply to become an Avenger, but that would be really awesome. Plus, I can finally meet Captain America. But I don’t think they’d want me, ex-con. Moral turpitude, and all that. You, though. You’re like, perfect Avengers material.”

“A rich kid with daddy issues, wearing a suit to perform super heroic deeds? They already have Stark for that.”

“Yeah, but I think if I had to choose my benevolent tech overlord, I’d choose the Pyms over Stark. And I’m not saying that because I’m with you.”)

“Scott’s an Avenger.” She repeats, this time in declaratory form.

“Ant-Man is an Avenger.” Hank corrects.

“And you didn't want Ant-Man to be an Avenger?”

Hank sighs and shakes his head, almost sadly, “Hope, there’s an old SHIELD saying that goes, ‘the ant and the wasp are an unlikely pair, but they always go together’. That invitation was for two people.”

This time she hears what he wasn’t saying loud and clear because she can see it on his face.

And I didn't want to lose you like I lost your mother.

But the wistful look on Hank’s face disappears when he smiles at her, “But the way you held your own against two super soldiers was… nothing short of spectacular. That screen of carpenter ants was just sublime. I think you can handle it.”

The feeling of absolute glee from the sheer, unadulterated pride from Hank is a knee-jerk reaction. She knows that she deserves more from him, but she can’t help but feel ridiculously pleased about it because her dad’s proud of her, damn it.

She snorts, trying to conceal her happiness, “Sublime? Maybe you need to sleep, Hank.”

“Maybe you should go to sleep.” He replies, “I’m not the one heading to the Pentagon tonight.”

“Just making slight changes to the plan. I’ll sleep when I’m done.”

“You’re not going to sleep, then.” Hank mutters as sliding off the chair, “Good night.” He says and walks out of the lab.

“Good night.” she replies and turns on the map again.

~*~*~

It turns out that breaking into the Pentagon wasn't as difficult as she had first imagined—it was slightly terrifying at the start, since there was an eight-thousand-foot drop involved, but the heist (can she say heist? It sounds like something Scott would say) went well. Her new wings worked excellently (there’s a more instinctive feel to it, and it quickly reacts to a change in her position enabling her to fly much faster than before) and she was able to get the bow, the jet/bird/wing pack (she didn’t ask what it’s called exactly—for all she knows, it’s called ‘marty mcflying bird wings’ and she’d rather call it a bird suit, if that’s the case), and most importantly, the Ant-Man suit.

She didn’t leave the Pentagon with nothing to work on—she left them tiny replicas of the things she stole (back?). Burns the Lab Technician might have had a small accident while working on one of the empty vials from the Ant-Man suit and might have rendered most of the things around his table into tiny objects. He might also have a small burn on his neck, too.

(Hank gave her a new toy to test out and it’s actually really fun to use?)

The downside to a temporary partnership with SHIELD is that she’s going to be in a team. She’s not much of a team-player, especially when the team consists of people she doesn’t know. It took her a while to warm up to Luis, Kurt and Dave, and even then she’s still outside of that circle (the relationship is more like We-are-Scott’s-team-and-this-is-Scott’s-not-girlfriend-who-kicks-Scott’s-ass-therefore-we-like-her kind of relationship).

Scott has always been the buffer in that situation. But Scott isn’t here right now.

And neither is Hank, because he’d rather tinker with the Ant-Man suit than help her deal with this situation.

(Because ‘not playing well with others’ is a personality quirk she did not get from her mother)

A three-dimensional rendering of the Raft’s updated blueprint (together with the data gathered from their bugs on Ross) is projected in the middle of the training area. She stares at it with hands crossed in front of her chest, assessing the routes for possible entry and exit while Steve Rogers and Barnes stand at both sides of the map, doing the same thing.

“The Raft can hold up to one hundred and fifty prisoners so we can safely estimate that it can support guards double that number.” Steve Rogers says, “Hill’s intel indicates that they always have at least seventy-five men guarding the facility. The bulk of the number handles the patrols around the prison.”

Seventy-five men to guard four people, what an overkill.

“What are the mission parameters?” Barnes asks.

She sees a flash of guilt across Rogers’ face but the expression had been so brief that she might have imagined it.

“Well, first of all, no killing.”

Hope doesn’t know anything about Steve Rogers. She knows all about Captain America—she’s read about him in the history books and from countless of features about him ever since that alien attack in New York. Captain America stands for freedom and liberty.

Steve Rogers, on the other hand… he’s a man out of time. People seem to forget about him, as though Captain America was born out of ashes. And maybe for people born after the war, he was born out of the ashes. They can’t seem to reconcile the fact that Captain America is Steve Rogers, a mere mortal just like the rest of them only stronger and beefier (a certain someone might also say that he looks like he has the face and physique of a man chiseled by the gods and seeing Rogers up close, she might actually concede to that description).

A shrug, “Guess I’ll be staying in the plane, then huh?” Barnes replies with a light, almost self-deprecating tone.

“Sure, if you can handle it with just one arm.”

Hope looks at the two men, her eyes darting from Rogers to Barnes. Melancholy and guilt hangs above their heads and it’s getting a little bit unbearable, being in the middle of it.

“Gentlemen, I know you two are working out some trust issues and some time-displacement issues as well, but I would really like to move on with the plan.” Hope interjects.

Scott might joke that she’s the Mr. Miyagi to his Daniel (she understands the reference, but she hasn’t actually seen the movie in its entirety) but the reverse is true when it comes to the art of ruining a moment.

Both men look at her and she’s startled by the intensity on their faces.

It seems they take their issues seriously.

Rogers blinks, “Sorry.” He says and shakes his head. He looks at her, jaws set, “Where were we?”

“Seventy-five men guarding four people, majority of which are assigned in patrols.” She motions to the blueprint, “There are a few guards in the entrance. And then a few more inside the actual containment area.” She says, augmenting the intel that SHIELD has with their own.

Hope reaches out to the 3D blueprint and pinches one of the areas on the plan, magnifying the location, giving them a better view, “Ross stayed in this position majority of the time when he went there. I’m assuming it’s a control room of sorts with at least fifteen men inside. And then he went out of this door,” she touches the 3D map again and makes a small sweeping gesture towards her, “Stayed here for a few minutes, gloated. I’m assuming this is where they’re being held.”

“Gloated?” Rogers repeats, “You bugged the Secretary of State? How did you manage to do that?”

“He gave us a visit and told us that Scott was aiding and abetting terrorists.” Hope replies, pointedly, “How did you think we got involved in this, Captain Rogers?”

The expression on Roger’s face suddenly turns downcast.

“I’m sorry about getting Scott in this kind of trouble, ma’am.” He says, “I didn’t think Tony… they’d go this far.”

He sounds so genuine, so… sincere. Hope doesn’t know how to handle such an obviously heartfelt apology, so she gives him a nonchalant shrug, “I’m not in interested in making or accepting apologies. Let’s move on for a while, Captain. I’d rather we focus on this prison break because I most definitely do not want to go to jail.”

She can feel Barnes looking at her so she looks back at him. He’s trying to suppress a smile

“You’re not helping, you know.” She tells him.

He gives her a small smile that lights up his eyes, “I’m sorry. It’s just… I thought I’ve seen a new Stevie—do you know he kissed a girl a few days ago? But… I guess some things never change.”

She glares at him because he’s really not helping at all.

"But if we're talking about a plan, we'll be better off by not going in guns blazing." Barnes offers.

"We definitely can't go in guns blazing, but it will take time to prepare an infiltration. I've already let them down by allowing them to get caught."

"Steve, you can't rescue them if you get caught yourself. And no, 'getting caught to gain access to the Raft' is not a plan at all." Barnes shifts on his feet, “Two people against seventy-five isn’t a fair fight. But if there are three of you…” he trails off.

“You’re un-volunteering yourself from plane duty?”

“Oh, no. Someone needs to stay in the plane, just in case.

“We could borrow an agent to guard the jet while we break into the Raft.” Rogers throws in.

Barnes shakes his head, “Too many people.” He pauses for a second, “Why not just bring everybody’s equipment inside via the ants? Let hell break loose.”

“That’s going to be chaos. I don’t want anyone dying in there.”

Hope doesn't say anything and merely listens as Captain America and the Winter Soldier bicker about their approach, like two old men arguing about the migration pattern of pigeons. She looks up at the lab and tries to see what Hank is doing (and if she can make him go down to deal with... this). She knows he can hear them, but Hank has his back turned against the glass window (because he has no plans of trying to deal with anything involving socialization at all)

If this is a glimpse of Avengers team meeting (and she's pretty sure this is a mild version; a real one will have Tony in it and she knows what Tony's like), then she's glad she's only become the Wasp recently; this seems like something she would have very little patience for.

"Ms. Van Dyne, what do you think?"

She looks at the two men, "Oh, I'm part of the conversation now?" She remarks and then ignores the sheepish looks that appear on their faces, "I agree with Barnes, with regard to infiltration. Two against seventy-five is a bit too much, even if they can't see me."

Rogers' jaw clenches and he lowers his head, the expression on his face overcast.

"Look, those four aren't going anywhere." She says, almost with a sigh, "And from what we’ve gathered, there isn't anything shady going on in the facility— at least not in a conducting-unethical-human-experiments way. Infiltration is a much more prudent approach."

Barnes makes a noise of approval and she gives an expectant look at Rogers, who acquiesces.

"Great." Hope takes a glance at her watch, "Now that we've agreed on the approach, let's get on with actually planning it."

~*~*~

They found their way inside the Raft when, after analyzing the blueprints, Rogers realized that the facility doesn’t have room for provisions that can last a month.

She had to sit out breaking into the UN Headquarters because her day job brought her to Tokyo (that Igarashi deal won’t sign itself), but she’s glad to hand that job over to the boys—she’s already had her fair share of breaking and entering the past few days.

But letting Rogers and Barnes take over that job means she comes back home to a finished plan that would be a bit difficult to pull off when you take in consideration the two-week vacation her assistant had scheduled in another continent (her assistant had also threatened to quit if she doesn’t take a vacation so Hope relented).

“I’m sorry if I’m not confident with this, at all.” She tells Rogers, who’s standing in the middle of the training room with his hands in his jeans pocket.

“I did some overseeing.” Hank says.

“Okay, let me give you my perspective.” Hope takes a deep breath and looks at Rogers, “The last time you planned something, people – innocent and well-meaning people – got caught.” She turns to her father and gives him a grim smile, “And the last time you planned something, a building imploded upon itself.”

“You planned that heist, Hope.”

“It didn’t end with an imploding building.” She counters. Hope turns her attention back to Rogers and Barnes, “And you know what the common denominator is, in those two plans? Me. Cleaning up the mess. The imploding building, understandable. Your plan, on the other hand…” she trails off and shakes her head instead.

“If it’s any consolation, you were at the forefront of their minds when they finalized everything.” Hank offers and looks at the two men, who both nod their heads in agreement.

“What, they’re gonna put me in a bottle and throw me at the Raft, hoping they’d hit the mark and not accidentally throw me into the ocean?”

Barnes eyebrows furrow, “No, of course not. No. You’re our infiltration man. Why would we put you inside a bottle?”

Hope glares at him for a few seconds, “So you’re going to throw me out of the quinjet, praying that I won’t get sucked in by the cargo plane’s engine?”

The look on their faces told her that this is what they planned for.

(“What are you so worried about?”

“I’ve been running on little sleep the past few weeks— I don’t think I’ll be able to do this perfectly.”

“No one’s asking you to do this perfectly, Hope. Besides, you have three days to sleep. Take advantage of that vacation.”

“You just told me I’m going to fly towards a cargo plane. Have you seen the engines on those?”

“Your mom used to fly towards planes, and she never had an incident with the engines. The physics behind your wings is sound.”)

Hope still doesn’t get enough sleep during the first few days of her “vacation” (she’ll sleep when all of this is done); instead, she reviews the plan over and over, committing the blueprints to memory while also doing some light work for Pym Tech

(because her assistant said, ‘go on a vacation’ but didn’t say anything about working while on vacation).

She did all of these by the beach because Pym Tech’s social media team made it clear that Hope Van Dyne: CEO is taking a vacation and she needs the suntan to show for it.

Although if she’s being perfectly honest about it, the reason why she’s anxious about doing this operation perfectly is because this will be the first time that Hank won’t be the voice in her ear, telling her that she’s on track. Hank won’t even see their progress—he’s staying home to dispel any suspicion that they’re somehow involved in the breakout (while SHIELD’s on hand to make it look like she’s out and about in her vacation).

So while Hank’s at home, she’s inside a metal can flying at a thousand miles per hour in the middle of god-knows-where surrounded by a vast ocean, to rescue a man who made a spur-of-a-moment decision to help out the hero he has idolized in a fight he knows nothing about and doesn’t concern him, and in the process turned into a giant and broke some planes before getting caught.

Putting it in that kind of perspective makes her question why she’s doing this.

(Crime-fighting partner. Friend. Cassie)

“Are you ready?”

Rogers stands with her as the quinjet’s loading hatch opens. They were nearing the Raft and the cargo plane is on its final descent.

Hope looks at him, “More or less.”

She doesn’t trust them – not the way she had recently learned to trust her father – but she trusts that they want to rescue their friends as much as she wants to rescue Scott.

“I’ll be right behind you.” He says, almost with a reassuring tone.

“You better be, you have my ants.” She replies and puts on her helmet before jumping out of the quinjet.

She freefalls in her normal size and counts to ten before shrinking. Her suit’s wings automatically pop out, quickly adapting to the angle of her body and the speed of her fall.

The cargo plane gets nearer and Hope can feel the force of the air pushing against her and her wings. Her heart thumps against her chest and she can hear her blood rushing in her head but she ignores all of it and twists her body, and flies against the wind.

She reaches the inside of the cargo plane a few minutes before it lands, and she makes herself comfortable on the topmost box in the pile with a Stark Industries logo.

“Wasp, status.”

Rogers will be the voice in her ear for this operation, and then later on, Scott.

"Two inside the cargo plane, fourteen boxes of provisions, landing in three minutes."

"Copy that."

The moment the plane's hatch opens, Hope zooms out, doing a quick recon of the landing bay.

"Two men for the welcome party. Three more assisting."

They were all in agreement that stunning precision is required for this prison break. There are only two of them and Rogers doesn't have his shield in the inevitable event that people start shooting at him.

She flies towards the door at the end of the landing bay, the only way inside the Raft (and the only way out). There were two more men with high-powered firearms standing guard. She passes on this information to Rogers as she makes her way to the landing bay's control room.

There are more men inside the Raft holding high-caliber weapons. She counts them as she whizzes past their heads, reporting the numbers back to the quinjet.

Their attack starts when she reaches the control room, the first of five that they have to disable before they can successfully breakout the facility's four prisoners.

"I'm in position." She says when she reaches the control room. Hope stays in a corner with her wings tucked inside her suit, on top of one of the three surveillance cameras in the room. She watches the two men keeping watch in front of the screens.

"Copy that. En route to the Raft."

Hope waits for the signal to drop the frequency disrupter (of unknown origin-- they decided against using the SHIELD-issued ones because don't want to start…something. Just in case it's found) and basically starting chaos.

Time goes by slowly when you're tiny and it feels like she's been waiting for hours when, suddenly, the video feed from the ants' cameras go online in her helmet.

Rogers has landed.

"Commence phase two."

She quickly flies towards the processors and drops the device. The moment it hits the floor, a loud hiss fills the room. Then the screens go blank, the radio goes silent, and the lights in the surveillance cameras go out.

Hope immediately incapacitates the men inside the room, flying behind the head of one of the men and slamming his head on the screen and then punching the other's jaw.

"Sector one's offline." She reports and flies out of the control room.

Hope takes out the men in the hallways, moving like a bullet ricocheting on the walls. She keeps her punches light— the speed of her flight and a hard punch is a deadly combination.

The ants meet her as she makes her way to sector two. They swarm around her, hiding her from the surveillance cameras as she flies as close to the walls as possible.

She repeats the same thing in the control rooms in sector two and three. There's little indication that the facility’s personnel has been alerted to the chaos in sector one, although someone has noticed that, "shouldn't we have started with the submersion protocols?" (then she knocks them all out with a punch in a face and a kick in the gut)

"Sector three's offline. En route to sector four."

Hope and the ants slip inside a ventilation shaft to make their way to sector four's control room, the largest in the facility, which also has direct access to the cells where Scott and the rest of Rogers' team are being held.

She directs the ants to Scott's cell, monitoring their progress while she stays inside the room, where chaos is starting to brew. Half of the screens - she presumes to be those for sectors one to three - are down and the highest-ranked officer is barking out orders to make contact with the other sectors and ordering a team to investigate.

"Captain, expect more men headed your way." She says and flies way above the men's heads, taking a cursory check to see if Rogers has been discovered (he hasn't, yet). So far, so good.

"Hello?"

Her heart skips a beat and there's a momentary sense of relief when she hears Scott's voice. She can't see him clearly, though— the ants' point of view are... well, it's an ant's point of view.

"Do not talk unless absolutely necessary." She says, a little too tersely, "How many guards are there in your location?"

A pause.

"Eight."

"Armed?"

"To the teeth."

"There's twenty of each kind of ant we have in the lab." She tells him as she switches off the link to the ants’ cameras, "Marie Antoinette has your suit. Wait for my signal."

Hope changes her location in the room, determining the positions of the people she needs to incapacitate first. The highest-ranked officer is in the middle of the room, but the men near the phones are scattered around. Trepidation claws inside her. They're mid-operation, almost nearing the end. She can't make a mistake.

"Commence phase three."

Hope drops the frequency disrupter and launches herself towards the officer, throwing a sturdy jab on his jaw. She hears a crack after she makes contact (oops) and the man drops down to the floor, unconscious.

"Scott, suit." She orders and flies around the room, knocking out people left and right as she would the dummies during training (or, in Luis' words, like a game of human pinball).

"You have no idea how happy I am to hear your voice." Scott says almost breathlessly, his voice standing out from all the shouting around her, as she knocks out the eleventh man inside the control room.

"You won't be too happy when I punch you in the face later." She replies, slamming the twelfth man against the wall and then casually throwing a jab-hook combo at the thirteenth.

"I deserve more than a punch after what I did."

(Fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth)

"Yes, you do."

(Seventeenth)

"You're free to punch me as many times you want."

(Eighteenth, nineteenth)

"Are you really prepared to face the consequences of that offer?"

(Twentieth)

"Uh...not really."

Hope does a once over of the room, double-checking if anyone's still conscious or dead.

"Control room in sector four is clear, Captain." She tells Rogers, "Scott, keep the room clear."

"Wait, Captain America is here?"

"En route to sector five." She says, ignoring Scott's question (and his somewhat excited tone) and goes to that last section of the facility alone.

The last sector is the easiest to clear and she's in and out of that area in less than three minutes.

"Sector five's clear."

"Good job. Rendezvous in the hangar."

Hope catches up with them in sector two. Scott is ahead of the group with the ants, just in case anyone recovered quickly from the beating they took from Captain freakin' America. Rogers is carrying Maximoff, while the two other members of Rogers' team flanked them. The deathly pallor on the girl's face seems to be the reason for the grim expression on everybody's faces.

She flies ahead of them, getting a lead on Scott just before they reach the hangar. Barnes has managed to land the quinjet despite the cargo plane, and has been waiting for them by the hatch, holding a large gun in his only hand.

Hope transforms back to normal size a few feet away from Barnes.

It startles him slightly, but he recovers quickly, "Where's the rest of them?"

"They're right behind us." She answers, releasing the faceplate from her helmet. Cold air whipped her face as she finally lets out a sigh of relief. Fucking finally.

As if on cue, Scott appears beside her.

Barnes takes a glance at the watch hooked on the front pocket of his tactical vest. "Twelve minutes." He says. There's a small quirk at the corner of his lips, "Guess, Steve owes you again." He then goes inside the quinjet to get ready for takeoff.

"Steve?" Scott asks. "Oh my god, you're on first-name basis with Captain America."

Hope turns towards Scott and sees that he has also taken off his helmet. There's a fresh bruise underneath his left eye, and a cut on his lip that's healing.

Her eyes narrow, "What happened to your face?"

"Prison fight?" He replies shrugging, "You, on the other hand, look all glow-y."

"I'm supposed to be on vacation."

Scott's face lights up, "You closed the deal with the Japanese company?"

"How did you know I was going on vacation after that deal?"

He makes a face, "You told me? You were already half-asleep when you said that though, so I don't think you'll remember. That was right before I went to Germany and..." He trails off with his expression falling, after realizing they're here because of what happened in Berlin.

She doesn't say anything and instead gives him a long, hard stare. This only works for several seconds because he looks back at her with an expression of contriteness. It also doesn't help that he's also flashing her that stupid puppy dog look.

Hope leans forward and gives him a quick, hard headbutt.

Scott yelps in pain and doubles forward, his hand covering the right side of his face.

"I knew you weren't going to give me a kiss." He says and peers at her from the spaces in between his fingers, "But yeah, totally deserved that."

She smirks and moves towards the quinjet when suddenly, she feels herself get pulled backwards. Strong arms wrap around her waist as Scott presses his lips to hers. It’s a gentle kiss and a short one; just enough for her to realize how much she had missed him the past few weeks.

“Did you seriously just give me a rescue kiss?” she asks, brushing her thoughts away (because Scott is too perceptive for his own good).

“Well, you did rescue me— us. And I could easily turn that into a rescue make-out but I also know PDAs aren’t your thing and also, we’re not yet in that stage of our friendship…” he trails off and gives her a dopey smile.

She feels her lips tugging upwards and she looks away from him. She then sees Rogers and the rest of the team emerge from inside the Raft.

The small smile quickly vanishes from her face, "All the ants are accounted for?" She asks as she puts her faceplate on.

Scott nods, not needing to look to the side to know what brought about the change in her tone.

When she hears her helmet lock into place, she motions for Scott to follow her.

“Get inside or I’m gonna lose my bet with Rogers.”

~*~*~

SHIELD might have limited resources but the resources they do have are impressive.

A medical team was on standby when they arrived in the helicarrier. The four - Scott, Wilson, Barton and Maximoff - are quickly whisked away to the medical bay while the three of them are brought to a conference room where Maria Hill is waiting for them for a debrief.

Hope could barely follow the discussion between Hill and Rogers-- the exhaustion has finally caught up with her and for once her brain and her body are finally in agreement that she should probably rest.

They're almost done with the debrief when Scott and Wilson enter the room.

"Where's Barton?" Hill asks.

"He's staying with Wanda. Said he can do the debrief later." Wilson answers as Scott, who's still wearing the suit, finds his way to her side. The medical team put some ointment on the bruise underneath his eye and the one forming by his right temple.

Hill looks at Scott, "Lang?"

Scott glances at her first with a confused expression on his face before looking back at Hill and raising a hand, "Present?"

The woman turns towards the large screen beside her, which lights up when she makes a motion with her hand, "This was just uploaded online a few hours ago."

Footage of a giant man breaking off a wing of a parked plane and waving it around pops up on screen. It's a video from the fight in Berlin, but from a different perspective-- a nearer one from a very good vantage point.

"I think I'm going to get sick." Scott says when it gets to the part where he crashes down on the plane (and she admits, he's looking a little green around the edges).

Hope assumes that no one has made a connection between the suit and Pym Tech (not yet?) because she doesn't think they have the budget to pay for the damages (they could probably pay for the plane and the equipment Scott crashed into but they - whoever they may be - might expect them to pay for all the damages... maybe they can say someone stole the suit? Should she get the legal department to look into this?).

"We're expecting this to be news tomorrow. Internet's going insane about it." Hill says and turns her attention back to them, "Speaking of which, the good news is that none of the countries who have signed the Accords have ratified it yet. Meaning, as long as it's not been ratified in any of those countries, the Accords will be toothless."

"And the bad news?" Wilson asks.

"The bad news is that that footage might spur some countries to ratify the Accords. Stark's offered to pay for the damages in the airport--"

"Thank god." Hope mutters. Scott throws an apologetic look her way.

"--but at some point, Stark's habit of throwing money at everything will get old." Hill looks at them "Right now, the only people we can possibly pull out of this mess legally are Lang, Wilson, and Barton."

Silence fills the room. Rogers flashes another one of his repentant expressions (he seems to have a lot of those). Barnes remains impassive beside him.

Hope is fighting the urge to nod off. The room feels oddly conducive to a nap.

"In the meanwhile, I think it'll be safer if the three of you lay low."

"If the Accords would need to be ratified, doesn't that mean we can go home?" Scott asks Hill. "At least, for now?"

Hill glances at him and shrugs, "Legally? You can go home. But the reality on the ground is that Ross will just bring your ass back to the Raft."

Wilson crosses his arms in front of him, "Is there a way to get rid of Ross?" He asks. Hill's brow rises, which makes him quickly follow up with, "Not by assassinating him or killing him through an accident or something. Just him out of the picture. Alive."

Hill pauses, "We're looking at all the possibilities." She says, after a while. She then takes a sweeping glance at all of them, "Debrief over— for now. We've assigned you living quarters while you're here. Unfortunately, we've run out of singles."

The last bit was directed at her but she doesn't mind rooming with another person (except if it isn't Scott). An agent escorts them to their room, with Wilson getting to his room first, because they suddenly hear him whooping. He's obviously seen his bird suit inside.

"Your things are already inside." The agent says, a young man in his mid-twenties, "Breakfast at the hall is served at 0500 hours to 0800." He adds, except Hope has no idea what time it is at this part of the world...wherever they are.

"Thanks." Scott says and Hope moves ahead of him, a little bit more desperate to get to a bed.

The overnight bag she brought with her when she was fetched by SHIELD from her vacation getaway sits on one of the tables. Another bag, the one that contains Scott's clothes, is deposited beside it. Someone also transferred the ants and their portable ant farm from the quinjet.

"You brought me clothes?" Scott asks, almost in astonishment.

She gives him a quizzical look, angling her head the side which she immediately regrets because it made her eyes twinge.

"I kinda thought after that stunt I pulled off, I don't deserve this kind of... I dunno, thoughtfulness?"

Hope looks at him with a thought that he might be right, but at the same time, there were practicalities to be considered. One of which is that he can’t wear the Ant-Man suit every day.

"Luis picked your clothes." She says, finally and rummages through her bag, "And, before I forget." She says and hands him a small, analog cell phone.

He stares at her and her outstretched hand.

"It's a burn phone from SHIELD. Untraceable." Hope checks the clock on the phone “It's just dinner time back home. You can call Cassie.” She says with a small smile.

Scott looks at her like she grew two heads AND speaking in some archaic language he doesn't know even existed.

Finally, he takes the phone from her hand. He has a tentative expression on his face.

"Maggie isn't too pleased with what you did. But they're expecting your call."

"Maggie? You met Maggie?"

"No." She answers, a little too quickly. "Luis told me that Hank told Paxton, who told Maggie." She winces slightly when she remembers how that narration went.

"That would have been a very long story."

“You have no idea.”

They stare at each other for a moment before Scott ashamedly looks down at the floor as if all the idiotic things he had done in the past few weeks are quietly catching up with him.

Hope tries to say something but finds that she actually doesn't know what to say. So she merely sighs and shakes her head. She then takes a set of clothes to change in and her bag of toiletries (because she's not going to wait for Scott to decide what he wants to do when her eyelids start to feel heavier by the minute) and makes her way to the bathroom.

"Are you sure they're expecting my call?"

"Yes." she replies and looks back at him, "And I think you should call before that video of you destroying a plane is all over the news... if it hasn't already been shown, that is."

Scott blinks, "That's a good idea."

It takes her several minutes to get out of her suit and when she steps out of the bathroom, Scott nowhere inside the room.

(Maybe he was kidnapped? By SHIELD? Aliens? She’s too goddamn tired to think about where he went; she’s already rescued him, he's bound to be somewhere)

She goes to the nearest bed and sprawls on it, finally allowing the exhaustion from the past few weeks to bear down on her. Her bones feel like it’s sagging off her skin but being in bed with very little to worry about also makes her feel somewhat lighter.

Sleep claims her the moment she closed her eyes.

~*~*~

Hope wakes up with a start when she hears something rustling beside her.

“Oh god. I’m so sorry.”

Scott’s voice pierces through the haze of disorientation and she blinks trying to remember where she was and how she got here.

“I just thought you looked cold so I’m putting a blanket—”

Helicarrier. Middle of the Indian Ocean. Prison break.

Scott.

She reaches out and clasps her hand over his wrist, tugging him towards her, which he takes as an invitation to climb on the bed with her (she doesn’t mind).

“Better?” he asks, settling in between her and the wall. Hope shifts her position in the bed, lying on her side to wrap her right arm around his waist and locking her legs around his. He’s very warm.

A pleased sound escapes her throat.

“Guess that’s a yes.” He says, answering his own question, “But I’m gonna need that blanket.” He moves slightly and she feels something cover her waist down to her feet.

Scott gently rubs her back and she burrows her face on his chest.

“You’re being uncharacteristically snuggly.”

She doesn’t open her eyes, “Don’t like it?”

“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with this. Very okay, if it’s okay with you.” He answers, “But well, I basically offered to be your punching bag and you willingly accepted.”

"Maybe I just missed you."

If she had been wide awake, she would have noticed that Scott's gone absolutely still. She would have noticed his sharp intake of breath and she would have automatically interpreted both as signs of rejection. But she's in that space between slumber and consciousness where cautiousness with her emotions is momentarily forgotten.

"Really? All this time I thought you found me annoying."

"You are annoying. Doesn't mean I can't miss you."

"I missed you too." He says, and kisses the top of her head which makes her smile. "Also, thanks for breaking me out of that super max."

She sighs and nestles her head on the crook of his neck, "What are partners for?"

"Yeah, but I’m pretty sure you’ve broken a lot of laws to do it. I didn’t see you as a law-breaking type of woman.”

"Was in the middle of industrial espionage when I met you." She mumbles.

"Oh. Right."

Hope shifts in the bed again. She hadn't realized how cold she was until Scott joined her in the bed. He's like this solid, man-sized, cuddly pillow of warmth.

"Thank you for cleaning up this idiot's mess." He says softly.

Scott Lang might be an idiot who makes poor life decisions but he’s her idiot, the one whose heart skipped a beat when she told him she missed him (oh god, she hasn’t told him that he’s technically a member of the Avengers), the one who wanted to drape a blanket over her because he thought she looked cold (tomorrow, she’s not going to remember how they got into this position, or the entirety of this conversation but she’s going to remember how she felt and that’s going to be a little bit more terrifying), and the one who didn’t know which part he should be more excited about—her coming to their rescue, or getting to shake Captain America’s hand again (she thinks it’s the… latter? Definitely the latter).

“Next time—no wait, there’s not going to be a next time. This is going to be the last time I’ll do something stupid—”

Hope snorts.

“No, really. Okay, no. The last time I’ll do something remotely illegal. Not doing something stupid might be a just a little—”

"Scott?" she says, interrupting him.

"Yeah?"

"Shut up."

She feels his chuckle reverberate in his chest. He presses his lips on top her head and pulls her closer to him.

“Good night, Hope.”

“G’night.”

It doesn’t take long before she falls asleep in Scott’s arms, her heart beating against his chest.

 

 

FIN