“Dad still won’t tell me how he and the Avengers beat Thanos!”
It was basically the first thing out of Cassie’s mouth the moment everyone sat down to dinner. Scott really shouldn’t have expected any different at a hooray for us all being alive and/or returning to life dinner party. It was just—he’d really thought he and Hope could pull off a real, adults who have our shit together dinner party, their first as a couple. No disasters, no supervillains, just a nice, normal, dinner party with their friends.
He’d kept the guest list small—just him, Hope, Cassie, Luis, Agent Woo, and Maggie and Paxton—and the menu was nothing fancy: roasted chicken, potatoes, some salad and a couple other sides. He’d prepared a list of possible small talk topics, vetted by Hope. She’d rolled her eyes, but she had still gone over his list to approve all of Scott’s conversational icebreakers. Well, all of them except for the entire topic of ANT FACTS and all its subheadings.
How We Defeated Thanos had not been on the list of approved dinner party topics. For, god, so many reasons. Like, it wasn’t that Scott wasn’t proud or anything, he was, he definitely was, he’d helped save the entire damn universe, after all, but...well, Falcon had had it right. At what cost?
“Honey, it’s really not appropriate conversation for the dinner table,” tried Scott, while Hope took an enormous swig of wine. No help from that corner, clearly.
“Sweetheart, we talked about this,” said Maggie in a low voice. “Your dad went through a lot during the Decimation, and we have to respect that he’s not ready to talk about it yet—”
“Oh, they think you’re traumatized, homes?” said Luis. “Nah, nah, that’s not it. I mean, yeah, it was terrible, half the planet gone, but, like, the actual fight?” Luis widened his eyes and grinned broadly at the same time, which made him look pretty crazed. “That was just badass.”
Scott winced, and Luis realized his inadvertent pun and started cracking up.
“Uhh, so...you’re not traumatized?” asked Agent Woo, fidgeting in his seat. “This chicken is delicious, by the way, did you brine it?”
Yes, thank you, a topic that was on the approved dinner party small talk conversation list.
“Yeah! Or, not brine, but I let it soak in buttermilk, and—”
“Dad’s not traumatized! He just won’t tell me what happened!”
Scott felt a small, strong foot kick him under the table, and Cassie glowered mightily at him from across the table. He made a face back at her, so she escalated into full eyebrows of fury, then he crossed his eyes and puffed out his cheeks, and she almost broke before she angrily shoved some roast potatoes into her mouth.
“Um, I’d like to know what happened,” said Paxton. “But only if you’re feeling up to talking about it, Scott.”
“Yeah, me too,” added Agent Woo.
Maggie bit her lip apologetically and nodded. “I’m maybe sort of dying of curiosity,” she confessed.
“You should all cherish your ignorance,” said Hope, before pushing her chair back with a grimace of a smile. “I’m gonna get another couple bottles of wine. You’re all going to need it.”
“Bro, you gotta let me tell the story!” said Luis, bouncing in his chair.
“Uncle Luis tells the best stories!” said Cassie, smiling like sunshine now, all traces of fury gone.
“Yeah. Yeah, okay. Just—I want it known, for the record, that I did try to tell you all that this story wasn’t appropriate for the dinner table.”
Agent Woo snorted. “How bad can it be? You’re fine, the Avengers are all fine, everything got fixed…”
“You’re one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Scott!” said Paxton, beaming, as he raised a glass of wine in Scott’s direction.
Hope returned and thunked two new bottles of wine down onto the dinner table. “Uh huh! To Scott!” she said, and then there was a toast, and Scott was blushing, because Hope was only being a little sarcastic about it and the way she kissed him was equal parts sweet and wry.
Once the toast ended, Luis tapped a fork to his wineglass delicately and cleared his throat.
“Ahem. So. This is the story of how my BFF Scott totally defeated Thanos and saved the universe.”
“The other Avengers helped. Obviously,” added Scott.
“Yeah, yeah, sure, but it was all you at the end, bro! So, like, okay. Here we go. It all started with that crazy portal shit in New York, right? But, like, not the first crazy portal, though, I guess, kinda, yeah, that first crazy portal, Thor, you know, the god of thunder, he told me that portal was Thanos too, only he didn’t have all of these crazy powerful infinity stones yet—”
“The second portal,” prompted Hope, before Luis could really get going on this tangent.
“Right! The portal! So, like, there was that crazy portal shit in New York, and that was the beginning, even if we didn’t know it. But, like, Scott and Hope and her parents had that trip to the Quantum Realm scheduled and they figured they should go through with it anyway—”
Agent Woo raised his hand. “Um, excuse me, what’s the Quantum Realm?”
Hope and Scott both opened their mouths to answer, but Luis got there first.
“Oh, it’s like, where things are really, really, really small. Like smaller than a molecule, man. That quark and charm subatomic shit from Cosmos, did you watch Cosmos? It was dope. Anyway, they were headed to the Quantum Realm, and Scotty told me about it, ‘cause we had a job scheduled later that afternoon and he said he was gonna try to make it, but—well, you all know what happened that afternoon, y’know?”
“The Decimation,” whispered Paxton. He’d been one of the dusted, along with Hope and Hank and Janet.
“Which is a dumb name, by the way,” said Scott. “Us Avengers—”
Agent Woo made a skeptical noise. “Are you really an Avenger now, or—?”
“Us Avengers called it the Snapture.”
“You did not!” said Cassie, wide-eyed and delighted.
“We so did,” said Scott, but he could never straight out lie to Cassie, so he amended, “Well, okay, maybe not all the Avengers called it that, but me and Falcon and Bruce—the Hulk—we definitely did.”
Cassie held out her fist for a fist bump that Scott returned.
“So, you know,” continued Luis, making a poofing gesture with his hands. “Half of the planet turned to dust. I was the only one left in the office, and like, I started freaking out, right? Like everyone freaked out, but I was freaking out, ‘cause I’d watched it happen to Kurt. And then all my family and cousins and shit were calling me, freaking out, and telling me who was gone, and it was a bad scene, man. You know, if you weren’t dusted. So anyway, eventually, I remembered about Scott, and I tried calling him, but no answer, duh.”
“Yeah, no cell reception in the Quantum Realm.”
“But I knew where the Quantum Van was—”
“Please don’t call it the Quantum Van,” said Hope.
“I knew where the Quantum Van was, so I went there, only Scotty wasn’t there, and neither was Hope, or Dr. Pym and Dr. Van Dyne, not big or small, but the machine was on, right? Now, I don’t know how to work that machine, and there’s no instruction manual, natch, plus, I’m scared I’m gonna step on some tiny Scotty or Hope—”
“Okay, is this part really relevant, or—” said Agent Woo.
“Okay okay okay, I’ll skip ahead. I figured it out, or at least, I pushed the right buttons, and got Scotty back and, uh, broke the news, you know?”
There was a moment of silence then. As terrifying as being stuck in the Quantum Realm for hours had been, Scott thought he was lucky, really, to have missed seeing the Snapture. To have missed watching Hope and Hank and Janet turn to ash. Luis’s secondhand hysteria and horror had been bad enough. Hope and Hank and Janet being gone had been bad enough.
“And you know this part already, Cassie,” said Scott. “I called you and your mom, made sure you were okay.”
“Then you went to find the Avengers,” prompted Cassie.
“Then we went on a road trip, yeah! We took the Quantum Van, ‘cuz we figured it could come in handy, and maybe the Avengers might need it, and we headed out! Woulda been a nice road trip, if it weren’t the end of the world and all. So, like, montage: we’re driving across these great United States of America, and I’m gonna be real with you. It was bad out there. Whole Midwest went Mad Max, for real. We rode real historic on the Fury Road though, like, raawwrr, witness me! You know? Anyway, we got to the Avengers compound in New York eventually, and Scotty like, knocked on the door, all ‘hey team, it’s me! Ant-Man! I got a Quantum Van!’ And they let us in.”
“I did not say that,” said Scott.
“You basically said that. So like, Captain America was there and Black Widow and Thor and War Machine and that guy that turns into the Hulk, and they told us what happened. But, like, you gotta picture it. All the Avengers—well, the Avengers that were left—they looked rough, yo. Not physically, but like? Emotionally? Thor had crazy eyes going, and Cap looked dead inside, only he’d just start crying sometimes, same with Black Widow, and War Machine looked old, and it was a bad scene. So yeah, they told us that some crazy purple alien got these magic rocks and used them to kill half the population of the universe, which. Whoa.”
“You guys know this part too, it was part of the press conference,” said Scott.
“Yeah, the...time travel?” said Maggie, as if she still couldn’t believe it.
“And the time manipulation,” said Agent Woo, in a tone of deep suspicion, like he was sure it was illegal in some way.
“Yup. Time travel. We had to get the Infinity Stones back, and if we used the Quantum Realm, we could do it. There’s like, these time vortexes, and portals and stuff, so we could bust the heroes who got Snaptured out of the Soul Stone and get some of the Infinity Stones back, the ones we could get back and then put back without causing paradoxes, anyway...it was just like a bunch of heists, really. And then some reverse heists? Anyway, once Thanos was dead and we got all the Stones back, Thor rewound time to just after the Snapture. Which you know, obviously.”
“He couldn’t have rewound it all the way? It was still a hell of a mess to deal with,” said Paxton.
“Also that was a really scary few hours,” said Maggie, her voice wavering, and there was a murmur of agreement around the table.
There’d still been casualties too, Scott knew. But— “Paradoxes. Trust me. Rewinding to when we did…it was for the best.”
Luis nodded, his usually bright and smiling face gone startlingly solemn. “Yeah, take it from the ride-along. Going almost full rewind was the best call. You didn’t miss out on anything good, and the universe didn’t start collapsing in on itself.”
“Okay okay okay, we knew most of that already!” said Cassie. “How’d you beat the big purple guy!”
“We went to space!’ exclaims Luis. “It was the coolest. Like, way better than the Mad Max road trip across America. I mean, yeah, we were going for a big battle, but like. It was so cool. We were on a spaceship! Kinda cramped quarters, gotta admit, but this one time, I went on an RV trip with six other people, and that was way worse, with only one bathroom, so the spaceship was alright. And there were aliens and a talking tree and, okay, holy shit, there was this lady, this Captain who was the most badass, and she could fly, and she could, like, glow and punch and like. She was like the sun, man, the sun, it was so amazing. More badass than Iron Man and Thor combined.”
“Yeah, Colonel Danvers is pretty great,” said Scott.
“Carol is the greatest,” said Hope, a little too loud.
“So did she beat the big purple asshole?”
“Cassie, language!” said Maggie and Paxton at once.
“Would that Carol had beaten Thanos,” said Hope, and poured herself more wine. “That would’ve been a real pretty light show, huh?”
Hope smiled, bright and wide and kinda mean. Scott smiled back at her.
“Yup, sure would have!” said Scott.
“So...who did beat Thanos?” asked Agent Woo.
“How did you beat Thanos?” asked Paxton, leaning forward.
Luis beamed. “My boy Scotty here came up with the plan!”
“Scott?” said Maggie, in unflattering tones of disbelief.
“I’m sorry, Scott came up with the plan? Not Captain America, the greatest tactical mind of two centuries?” asked Agent Woo.
“Nope. My plan.”
“And not Iron Man, who’s an actual genius?” asked Paxton.
“Again, no, it was my plan.”
“Not Black Widow, who’s, you know, wily and tough and a super spy?” asked Maggie.
“Nah, all Scotty!”
“So...what was the plan?” asked Agent Woo slowly.
“Tell ‘em, Scotty!”
“So, I got real small, like I do. Because I’m Ant-Man.”
Cassie put down her fork, her dinner long-forgotten, her eyes wide and avid. “And then?”
Scott closed his eyes and took a long, long swallow of his wine. Really, his plan had seemed great at the time. Foolproof. And it was, obviously, because it had worked. Just—Falcon may have had a point, about the optics of the situation. Scott’s realizing that now, faced with his precious baby girl’s shining eyes as she waits for a tale of heartwarming and thrilling heroism.
“Then I went up Thanos’s butt.”
There was total silence for many seconds.
“Excuse me?” asked Maggie.
“Scotty went up Thanos’s butt! It was super stealthy, right? Like, all the other Avengers were going blam! And pow! And bzzzz! And like, explosions, and energy beams, and thunder and lightning, and punches and kicks, and there’s Scotty, so tiny we couldn’t see him, and he went up Thanos’s backdoor, you know, up his butt. And then—”
“Oh my god,” said Agent Woo, who had apparently caught on by now. Yeah, he was a smart guy.
Hope pointed at him, and wow, okay, she was definitely a little past tipsy now. “He’s got it. The FBI agent has cracked the case!”
“No. No way,” said Paxton.
“Daddy. Daddy. Oh my god.” Cassie covered her face with her hands, and Scott winced. That didn’t seem good.
“Scott, no. You didn’t.”
“I did, Maggie. I did. And it saved the universe.”
Agent Woo sat back in his chair. “So wait, am I getting this right? I can’t be getting this right. You—you—”
“It was me versus butt. And I won. I won!”
“Hell yeah you did! Scotty went in there all tiny, and then he got all big, and—boom,” said Luis, making an entirely unnecessary but unfortunately illustrative hand gesture.
“You were right,” said Maggie faintly. “That was not appropriate for the dinner table.”
“So that’s the story, sweetpea,” Scott said. “That’s how your daddy helped save the universe.”
Scott braced himself for tears, or worse, but then Cassie dropped her hands to reveal her face, and there was no horror or disgust or disappointment there, just supernova-bright glee.
“Daddy, that was so awesome!!!”
Cassie ducked down under the dinner table and popped back up on his side, flinging her arms around him to smack a kiss on his cheek.
“That was the best way to beat that big purple jerk. Was it gross? I bet it was gross.”
“The grossest, oh my god,” said Scott, grinning wildly, and Hope burst into giggles, and so did the rest of the table, their laughter loud and raucous and absolutely perfect.