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A Small Problem

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In the subatomic dimension, everything was a whirl of light, color, and sound. Strange images that were not meant for human eyes to see danced in front of Darren Cross’s eyes, only to be forgotten when the next one whizzed past. Discordant sounds clattered in his ears only to be immediately replaced by something that sounded like the chiming of a hundred bells. Blinding flashes of light in colors that he could not describe dazzled his already overwhelmed senses.

How long had he been here? A few minutes? Hours? Days? Years, maybe? He didn’t know. There was no sense of time and only a limited sense of space- which way was up? Which way was down? He wasn’t sure. Was there even anything left to go back to, outside of this strange world he’d found himself in? When he could muster the strength to try to remember where he came from, he could only recall snatches. A speeding train, something exploding, a terrified little girl, and a very small sheep in a glass jar. A man screaming, gunfire, and a sense of all-encompassing, irrational rage.

But it didn’t matter anyway- whatever he’d been in the past, it was all pointless now. He remembered at first struggling to return to wherever he’d come from. It had been futile, and all he’d managed to do was tire himself out. At least floating aimlessly throughout whatever this place was, was not difficult. He was even beginning to learn to tune out the oppressive overstimulating sensory melee he was trapped in, and occasionally manage to fall into that sort of half-existence between sleep and wakefulness.

Perhaps if he’d been somewhat more alert, he would have noticed that the cacophony that had been his constant companion was beginning to fade in and out like a badly tuned radio, and the strange indescribable colors were fading into ones that a normal human would have been able to recognize. Dozily, he just continued to drift through time and space.

Or, at least, he did, until once again, something exploded right within his field of vision, the force of the blast causing everything to white out around him.


Cassie Lang sat at her desk, frowning at the paper in front of her. The older boy who rode the bus with her said that first-grade homework wasn’t all that hard, and that if she wanted to see difficult assignments she should just wait until he got into the fourth grade, but she had a suspicion that he was lying. Subtraction was really hard! She understood addition just fine, but subtraction.. . somehow it didn’t make as much sense as the idea of addition. No matter what Kevin Johnson down the street said, first-grade work was hard.

She was just focusing on trying to use her fingers and toes to figure out what 9 – 7 was when she saw a huge flash of light appear right in the middle of her train set out of the corner of her eye. All thoughts of subtraction vanished from her mind when she registered the small yellow mech suit lying in the rubble of what had been her toy train tracks.

So Cassie Lang did the obvious thing that would come naturally to anyone in that situation: she screamed, as long and loud as she could.

Obviously, Cassie’s screams brought both her mother and stepfather charging up the stairs into her room. At first, neither was able to determine what had upset her so much. And then Paxton recognized the banged-up small yellow mech for what it was- and who it probably contained. Thinking quickly, he looked around the room and noticed a Mason jar full of colorful sand- Cassie had made it at a friend’s birthday party. Mentally apologizing to Cassie and promising himself he’d take her to make another sand art piece on his next day off, he unscrewed the top of the jar. Ignoring Cassie’s reaction of “HEY!” he dumped the sand on the floor, picked up the limp and unresponsive Yellowjacket armor, plopped it in the jar, and screwed the lid on tightly.

Then, he fished out his cell phone and dialed a number he usually tried to avoid calling. Even though he and Scott Lang were on better terms, it was still awkward having to talk to his wife’s ex-husband. But desperate times called for desperate measures, and your stepdaughter finding a homicidal maniac, even an inch-tall one, in her bedroom definitely counted as desperate times in Paxton’s mind.

Half an hour later, Scott Lang, Hank Pym, and Hank’s daughter Hope were all gathered around Paxton’s kitchen table, all looking down at the glass jar.

“Interesting,” Hank said, peering down at the tiny man inside of it. “This makes two people who’ve returned from going sub-atomic.”

“Uh,” Scott interjected. “Maybe we should poke some holes in the jar. For air.”

“Don’t bother,” Hope muttered under her breath.

“Woah, woah- is he even still alive?” Paxton input. “Because if he’s still alive I’ll take him into custody- he’s a murderer, and embezzler, we’ll need to book him!”

“Paxton, look at him. How are you going to arrest a guy the size of a wasp?” Scott rolled his eyes. “We should just leave him in the jar until we can figure out what’s happening here, and then if we can get him back to his original size, then you can take him in.”

Paxton frowned, not happy with the idea of letting a known criminal (especially not one that had threatened to kill his stepdaughter) just roam around freely, but Scott did have a point. It wasn’t like he had tiny handcuffs, or a bug-sized jail cell. Although considering the amount of weird shit that was happening in the world nowadays, maybe a variety of different sized cells would be a good idea.

Hank pinched the bridge of his nose. “Alright, here’s what we’ll do. I’ll bring him back to the labs, and we’ll run some tests on him, if he is indeed still alive. I’ll also remove that armor from him- doing so might make him go back to normal. If that happens, I’ll call you immediately and you can arrest him. If it doesn’t, then he’s basically powerless without the armor, and at his size, there’s not much he would be able to do anyway.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Hope said, eyeing the tiny man in the jar with distaste. “Maybe we should just swat him, like a fly.”

“I’m pretty sure that counts as murder,” Scott replied, shooting a look at the woman. “And here I am trying to not commit crimes. Let’s not kill him, alright?”

“Easy for you to say,” Hope muttered.

Ultimately, it was decided that the unconscious Cross would go back to the Pym residence, where he would be safely contained while the damage armor was stripped off of him. Then, while Hank and Hope worked on a way to return him to normal size, Scott would be the one looking after Cross. Once he was returned to normal, Paxton would come by, pick him up, and take him away to wait until he could withstand trial.

Looking down at the small figured trapped in a Mason jar, Scott didn’t think this would be too much of a problem. Sure, Darren Cross was an asshole of epic proportions, and really, all things considered, Scott would be perfectly fine with slipping the miniature man through the mail slot on the next-door neighbor lady’s apartment as a mobile cat toy- the bastard had threatened his daughter, after all. But he also had less reason to hate the other man- he’d never betrayed him, like he’d done to Hank, and he’d never been involved in an intimate relationship with him, like Hope.

Yes, Scott Lang was the best option for containment of the miniature-ized supervillain. Hopefully, Hank and Hope would be able to figure out a way to return him to normal quickly. The less time they had to spend together, the better. And hey, with any luck, maybe he’d stay passed out for most of that time…


Darren Cross suddenly awoke back to a reality perceivable by normal humans only to find himself half-naked and staring up at an absolutely enormous, fleshy mass that he belatedly realized was a human face. A few seconds later, his brain processed that he sort-of recognized the face- his former boss and mentor. The same former boss and mentor that he’d purposely screwed over and almost killed. The same former boss and mentor that he’d almost killed, and who was the father of the woman he’d had a relationship with, before he’d turned and tried to kill her too.

So, of course, he did what any sane being would do. He screamed “ARGH!” and tried to wiggle himself free, only stopping a moment to realize he wasn’t actually wearing anything other than his boxer shorts. Deciding that decency could be damned, he resumed his frantic struggling trying to get away. Had he died? Was this actually Hell? He’d never been particularly religious in life, but he remembered going to church with his family as a child, where the priest had informed the congregation of all the horrible scenarios that awaited them after their death if they were not good people in their lives.

It was just his luck that his Hell was going to be filled with gigantic versions of all the people he’d wronged, crossed with the indignity of the “taking an exam in your underwear” dreams that had plagued him all through high school and college.

And then, an even more horrible thought occurred to him. Before, well, the Yellowjacket incident, he’d sometimes have to get on the interns about slacking off at work- sometimes they seemed to think that if the boss wasn’t around it meant it was free time to watch Netflix. And once he’d caught one of them watching some sort of bizarre animated show about giant humanoid creatures that literally ate people alive. Maybe his version of Hell was going to contain giant versions of the people he’d wronged chasing him to eat him, while he tried to escape in nothing but his boxer shorts. The thought just incited even more panicked struggling.

“Stop struggling or I’ll drop you,” the giant being that looked like Hank Pym boomed. Of course, that just caused Darren to fight even harder. Which, of course, only caused Hank to grip him even harder, if you could really consider holding someone’s legs with your thumb and index finger “gripping.”

Darren did the only thing that made sense to him at the time. He shouted, “I won’t let you eat me, you bastard!” right before he bit down, hard, on the thing-that-looked-like-Hank-Pym-holding-him-hostage’s thumb.

That did not have the desired effect. The thing-that-looked-like-Hank-Pym-holding-him-hostage turned an extremely unimpressed look onto him, and did not let get at all.

“Are you done?”

“I mean it; I won’t let you eat me!” Darren shrieked.

Rolling his eyes, Hank moved Darren carefully over to the Mason jar, and set him down gently in it. Then, before Darren could do anything else or try to escape again, he screwed the lid (now with air holes, courtesy of a staple gun) on tightly.

“There. Are you satisfied?” Hank said, grumpily. “I’m not going to eat you.”

“Then tell me what’s going on!” Darren shouted. Once again, Hank fixed him with an extremely unimpressed (and to Darren, an extremely large) stare.

“That’s what I was hoping you could tell me.”

It took a while for Hank to get Darren to believe that he was not some sort of demon from the afterlife sent on tormenting him, planning to eat him (or really, otherwise kill him), or that he was not some sort of hallucination. It took a little longer still for Hank to convince Darren that the questions he was asking were really innocuous, only being asked in an attempt to return him to normal size- after all, people weren’t supposed to be an inch tall. And if Hank had ulterior motives (such as trying to determine whether or not his supposedly-deceased wife might still be alive somewhere), then, at least in Darren’s mind, it was not a threat to him.

Unfortunately, Hank found that, like with Scott, Darren remembered nothing of the subatomic realm, except for some strange bursts of color and light.

Once he’d determined that Darren had nothing of use to tell him, Hank called over Scott, and then handed him the jar. “I’ll call you when I find something,” he said. Scott nodded, carefully putting the jar into his backpack, despite Darren’s protests.

“Don’t take too long,” Scott said, only half-jokingly. Hank nodded.

“We’ll do what we can. Just try to endure it for now. We’ll figure it out.”

“I don’t know, man, I don’t think this is a good idea,” Luis said carefully, giving the trapped Darren a suspicious glare. “You remember what he did, right? And this ain’t normal, man- how did he end up that small? It’s like the time my cousin’s girlfriend’s coworker’s husband brought back a dog or something, and it acted real friendly, until one day it snapped and attacked the UPS guy. The UPS guy had a gun and he shot the dog, but the bullet missed- went right through the bushes and it hit the neighbor’s car and shot out a tire!” Luis nodded, satisfied that he’d gotten his point across, but Scott just blinked. Darren didn’t seem like he’d understood any of it either, but he was pretty sure that Luis was trying to compare him to a mad dog. Or a shot-out tire, or maybe the UPS guy. Actually, he wasn’t sure what the comparison was supposed to be at all.

“Luis, can you get to the point?” Scott said, half-exasperated, half-entertained by his friend’s habit of relating stories of what happened to friends of his friends in the most convoluted way possible.

“What I’m saying is that this dude is dangerous!” Luis exclaimed. “Sure, he’s like, really tiny now, but what if he breaks that jar and escapes? He’s gonna kill us, he’s already tried twice! And you- you know tiny people can be incredibly strong! It’s weird as hell when you do it, but you can do all that crazy shit when you’re ant-sized!”

“Because I have the suit,” Scott reminded him. “Hank already took what was left of the Yellowjacket armor away. Take a look at what he’s wearing.”

And indeed, Darren was not wearing his armor. In fact, Hank and Scott had realized the problem once they had removed it. Whatever Darren had been wearing under the Yellowjacket armor had either fused with it, disintegrated in the subatomic dimension, burned off, or met any number of other fates. Miraculously, the only thing that had managed to stay reasonably intact was Darren’s Hugo Boss boxer shorts. And as neither man had any particular interest in looking at the other man’s amazingly resilient undergarments, the need to find him some other clothes arose. Regrettably, clothes sized for a shrunken man were somewhat difficult to come by, at least until Hope had the idea that doll’s clothes would work well. As Cassie had been unwilling to part with any of her Barbie’s clothes, Hope had spent some time digging through boxes in the attic that contained her own childhood toys. Ultimately, she’d found something- an outfit that had once belonged to a miniature Ken doll, that, through a sub-contract with Disney, had been made in the image of Aladdin. Apparently a young Hope had seen the movie and really liked it, so for a birthday, she had received the doll.

At first, Darren had objected- “I won’t wear that! I’m not walking around with my chest exposed like that!” But Hope had just smirked at him.

“Then your options are the outfit from Princess Jasmine, or walking around naked. Don’t worry, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.” And as Darren had sputtered his tiny righteous indignation, Hope had turned on her heels and walked out the door, whistling cheerfully.

Luis took another look at his new, unwanted, temporary (hopefully, anyway) roommate, and couldn’t suppress the snort. “What, you couldn’t find him a tiny business suit?”

“The only male doll Hope had in his size was an Aladdin, and I didn’t want to ask Cassie for doll clothes for him. It would be weird,” Scott replied. Luis nodded sagely.

“Understandable,” he said. “I’m going to see my nieces tomorrow, I’ll ask them if I can have some doll clothes. Aracely doesn’t like boy dolls, she’ll probably give me some- or at least she’ll tell me where I can buy some, anyway.”

“Thanks, man,” Scott said, gratefully.

“Anytime,” Luis replied cheerfully. “Although I’d appreciate it if you stopped bringing inch-tall crazy-ass corporate executives who tried to kill us into the house.”

“Yeah, that’s something I definitely will try to avoid,” Scott snorted. “Believe me, I’m not really thrilled about it either.”

“I’m right here, you know,” Darren snapped, irritated by the exchange, yet powerless to do anything about it. When you’re your usual six-foot-three self, it’s not hard to deal with people shit-talking you right to your face. In fact, most people wouldn’t do that, considering the risk of getting knocked the fuck out, he thought bitterly. But when you’re an inch tall with no special abilities, such as what you’d have with the Yellowjacket armor, you just have to sit there and take it. Hopefully, Darren thought, maybe they’d get tired of sniping at him after a while and just leave him alone. Or maybe this shrinkage problem would be resolved extremely quickly. He could hope, at least.

The shrinkage problem was not resolved quickly. It had been at least a month since Darren had come to live with Scott and his roommates. The first few weeks were rough- Luis’ niece Aracely had been more than willing to give him some doll clothes for Darren to wear.

Unfortunately, most of her doll clothes had been meant for female dolls, or for dolls much larger than Darren currently was. But there had been a few outfits that worked for everyday wear. Scott and his friends spent about one day trying to come up with the most absurd outfits for Darren to wear that they could think of. After all, they’d suffered at his hands, they figured it was just payback to embarrass him a little bit by making him wear a wedding dress over a pair of cowboy boots and a witch hat on his head, or a powder-blue leisure suit that probably should have been left back in the 1970s, with a pretty sparkly plastic tiara on his head to complete the ensemble.

Oh, Darren complained, and moaned, and fought back, but one unnaturally-tiny man against four full-sized humans with a grudge had no chance. All he could think was that at least this was the worst they wanted to do with him- at his size, there were so many terrible things they could do and no one would be the wiser. Considering what could have happened, being forced to wear stupid outfits was really the least of his troubles.

Mercifully the “living Ken doll” session ended within an hour and a half, and they’d just left Darren with a pile of reasonable, small clothes meant to fit a male form. They weren’t perfect- toys for young girls lacked certain, er, anatomical attributes that living humans (even tiny ones) possessed, so pants were a bit of a struggle, but other than that, the housemates mostly left him alone.

It actually wasn’t terrible, Darren found, living with them. Oh, sure, there was the day the Comcast guy came by without warning to install something Kurt had ordered, and Kurt forgot about Darren hanging out on the coffee table, causing the cable guy to panic. Luckily they were able to pass him off as an experimental remote-controlled toy, thanks to Luis’s quick thinking. And then there was the time that he’d hopped up into the fridge to get something to eat (Scott helpfully cut various foods into pieces small enough for him to eat without trouble and put them in a Tupperware container on the bottom shelf for easy access) and Dave complained about Scott leaving the fridge open, and trapped him in there. Fortunately, Kurt had been standing right there and had been the one to open the door for him in the first place, and saved poor Darren from becoming an inch-tall popsicle.

Restroom needs were also a bit complicated. At his current size, it was absolutely not safe for Darren to attempt to go to the toilet or take a shower with the normal-sized appliances. Scott had found a small, realistic-looking (complete with flush!) miniature toilet and was able to mess with it a bit to make it actually work, and actually hook up to a water source- so that took care of Darren’s need for that. Showers were a little harder- there wasn’t any way to make a small shower, and water drops were so large that they injured Darren every time they hit him.

At first, they tried to just hope that Darren wouldn’t get dirty that easily, or start to smell, but it did seem as though he retained the same needs for hygiene as a normal-sized human. Eventually, it was decided that if they didn’t turn on the vent fan when one of the others was taking a shower, it would get moist enough in the air for Darren to take the equivalent of one. “One of the others,” of course, usually ended up being Scott, since, as Luis put it, “he’s your problem.”

And really, the system seemed to work very well. Scott would get into the shower, undress behind the curtain, toss his clothes out, then turn on the shower. When it got humid enough, Darren would do the same, and take his version of a “shower.” When Scott was done, he’d turn off the shower, reach around the curtain to grab his towel, and then wrap it around his waist to exit. That way, neither of them had to see anything they didn’t want to. While the inherent awkwardness of the endeavor was unable to be mitigated, at least this way it was tolerable for everyone.

He was even getting along better with everyone. Oh, sure, they all sort of resented him for trying to kill them, but after talking to Darren for a while, it became clear that whatever he’d been using to power the Yellowjacket suit was probably not for human consumption. After watching an episode of a telenovela where a character had amnesia with Luis and Kurt, Darren admitted that he had huge gaps in his memory from even before the incident with the subatomic realm- usually right before and after test uses of the Yellowjacket armor.

It was this that caused Darren to ask to speak privately with Scott. Scott would probably never forgive him, for what he did. Taking his daughter as a hostage… Darren wouldn’t have blamed him if the other man had just decided he wanted nothing to do with him and flushed him down the toilet, or smushed him straight-up, or just left him with the Pyms (who really didn’t have much more reason to be merciful towards him than Scott did.

So Darren cornered him in the kitchen one day, while he was getting a glass of water.

“You know, I never intended to hurt your daughter.”

“What?” Scott asked, blinking as he set his glass of water down, not sure if he’d heard correctly. Clearly Cross wasn’t insane enough to poke at the one sore spot that was more likely to make him go nuclear than anything else.

“I didn’t want to hurt your daughter, that night.” Darren muttered. Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea after all. “I think I was trying to get a reaction out of you, get you to fight me out in the open, but I wasn’t sure how else to do it. I don’t remember what I was thinking, or what I thought it would solve.”

Scott gave him a hard stare, considering carefully what he wanted to say. What he really wanted to say was to shout furiously at the other man, tell him never to bring up his daughter again, that he had no right to even speak her name, not after what he did. But looking at Darren, he saw a contrite man who seemed to have nothing but regret for his actions, as inexcusable as they were.

He couldn’t forgive him, not after what he did. But he could at least acknowledge a man who wanted to do better in the future, who did not want to repeat his past mistakes. At the very least, Scott could agree with that.

After a long time, he finally said, “Yeah. I understand.”

That was really all that needed to be said.

After that, things thawed to a slightly less uncomfortable détente. Scott and Darren would sit down and discuss things completely unrelated to the incident. It turned out that Scott had a very impressive mechanical mind, and Darren enjoyed talking to him about the different potential applications of the Ant-Man suit. In fact, Darren’s own experience was actually able to solve a slight problem with the suit that led to random changes in size- not too much, Scott wouldn’t go from ant-size to giant-size without warning, but it did occasionally result in ant-size Scott suddenly becoming tarantula-sized Scott at random. Which wasn’t so bad, but could be problematic in certain situations. And it definitely wasn’t comfortable for Scott. That little bug- pun unintended- was causing major headaches for the team, since it could certainly be dangerous in certain situations where an ant-sized man was perfect, but a tarantula-sized man was too big.

Darren knew exactly what the problem was, and how to fix it. And as already an inch tall, he was in the perfect position to solve it. A few wires switched into different sockets later, the suit would no longer change size without Scott’s express order.

After that, Scott and Darren were more willing to spend time together in situations that weren’t necessary. Sometimes, they actually talked to each other and seemingly enjoyed each other’s company.

Regrettably, it was short-lived, and it was ruined completely through an accident that should have been in some sort of chase comedy.

It was a Tuesday night. Everyone except Darren had places to be in the morning, and Scott really wanted a shower that evening so he wouldn’t have to deal with it in the morning. It was about time that Darren took one as well, so the small man followed into the bathroom to take advantage of the steam. The usual arrangement for modesty took place, and before long, both men were deeply involved in their personal care rituals.

But that night, something went wrong. Scott slipped- not uncommon in the shower, since the bathtub was notoriously slippery and tended to aggregate soap scum. Unfortunately, this time, he lost his balance, tripped on his own feet, fell sideways, and crashed over, pulling the curtain down with him, but failing to preserve any of his dignity, in all senses of the word.

And that was how Darren Cross came face-to-face with, ah, Scott Junior. And he couldn’t look away.

Scott, for his part, could definitely have handled it better than he did. Maybe it was the incredulity reflected on Darren’s tiny face, or maybe it was just the fact that he was soggy, naked, and sort-of spread-eagled on the dirty tile floor in the bathroom, but it was almost like something inside of him snapped. Blushing hotly, he grabbed the shower curtain, wrapped it around himself like toga, and hauled ass out of the bathroom, leaving an equally-hotly-blushing inch-tall former super-villain sitting awkwardly on the bathroom counter.

After the “shower incident,” things became even more awkward. Scott and Darren were unable to be in the same room as each other without one or the other flushing, saying something extremely sarcastic, or pretending to be extremely interested in whatever they were doing at the time, no matter how boring it actually was.

And to make matters worse, Darren couldn’t stop thinking about Scott- or more precisely, Scott’s body. He dreamed about it. When he was watching La Pasión del Amor Muy Picante with Kurt and Luis, every time Candelaria and Emilio had a love scene, he couldn’t stop picturing Emilio as Scott (and awkwardly enough, Candelaria as himself- although he’d never wear the skimpy lingerie or evening gowns the busty blonde always seemed to wear, even when doing mundane things).

It was during one of these telenovela-watching sessions that Kurt finally snapped. “Will you just talk to him already?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Darren said, coldly. Kurt rolled his eyes.

“You are stubborn. Is like- a girl who has a crush on a boy in her classes in high school,” he said. “You will not look Scott in the eyes, and you have blush on your face every time you are in same room. It’s very annoying to watch.”

“He’s right,” Luis nodded. “You really need to tell him- and man, I’ve got to tell you, it’s really disturbing to watch you pining. Just get it over with. The worst he can do is reject you. It’s not so bad.”

“He’s already tried to kill me once,” Darren replied, without trying to deny anything this time. Kurt rolled his eyes once again.

“You were trying to take over world, and sell weapons to Hydra. Of course he was trying to stop you.”

“That was necessary,” Darren tried to defend himself. “It was necessary to keep the company afloat! Pym ran it into the ground and then left me with the remains. I had to rebuild it from the ground up, since he refused to develop anything that would really make money, and stay competitive in the market! I stopped a takeover from Stark Industries! I needed to do what I did!” He was beginning to get worked up, and Luis shook his head.

“Okay, okay, we don’t need to hear all about your business dealings. Just go talk to Scott, will you? Kurt’s right- it’s getting annoying.”

“But it’s not like anything will come of it,” Darren tried to protest. “Look at me!”

“Yes, you are small and cute. If anything Scott will respond well now. Small and cute things are better than big and ugly things,” Kurt nodded sagely. Both Luis and Darren looked at him incredulously.

“...I don’t even want to know what that meant, man.”

The three of them fell into silence once again when the commercial break ended. It was a very exciting episode of the show- Emilio’s rival Pepe had rescued Candelaria from the clutches of the evil Dolores, who planned to kill her so that Emilio would fall in love with her instead.

Candelaria- I must tell you- I saved you for a reason,” Pepe said. “I know you are engaged to Emilio, but the truth is, I will not let the marriage go forward. I love you, Candelaria, I always have and I always will. Emilio has had many women fall for his charms, but none of them have ever lasted that long. He and Dolores deserve each other.”

You’re lying!” Candelaria exclaimed, chest heaving and eyes burning brightly. “I know he loves me, and that you planned this with Dolores!”

“It is getting good,” Kurt said, on the edge of his seat.

It is true- I did speak with Dolores,” Pepe replied. “But it was not about you. Dolores… Dolores is my mother!”

“What.” Darren’s voice was flat. “How is that even possible? Dolores looks like she’s about sixteen years old!”

“Don’t think about it too hard,” Luis advised. “It’s La Pasión del Amor Muy Picante.”

Your mother?” Candelaria repeated.

Yes,” Pepe replied. “I was asking her about the plans for our family’s Christmas celebration when I was visiting her last week. When she went to get something for me to drink I noticed a piece of paper on her desk that had the plans for kidnapping you. I knew then that I had to save you. Because there was something else I saw. Two plane tickets to Monaco, and the other one was in Emilio’s name! Emilio doesn’t love you, Candelaria, but I do!”

“This is getting completely ridiculous,” Darren complained.

“Ah, but if Pepe can tell Candelaria he loves her after his mother kidnapped and tried to kill her, then you can tell Scott how you feel,” Kurt said.

“Life isn’t a TV show,” Darren groused back.

“Come on man, you can’t live like this forever. It’s getting weird,” Luis added.

Darren was silent for a while, then finally nodded. “I’ll tell him. Soon,” he promised.

“It had better be soon,” Kurt said, almost ominously.

Of course, it wasn’t that simple. The very next day, Scott was called out to do some super-secret superhero stuff- nobody really knew what, exactly, was going on, but the news pundits seemed to think it had something to do with the terrorist attack at the signing of the Sokovia Accords. Dave thought that Scott had gone out to try to catch the terrorists. Kurt figured he was taking advantage of the chaos to try to steal of the very valuable vibranium from Wakanda while the country was in turmoil after the murder of the king. Luis thought it had something to do with the Avengers- obviously they were going to go to try to repair some of the damage they had caused in Nigeria by helping the people involved in this most recent attack rebuild.

Then the viral videos of the fight on the tarmac hit the Internet, and all bets were off.

“WHAT THE FUCK IS HE DOING?!” Luis hollered on seeing the video where Ant-Man suddenly grew to a giant size so that Captain America and the Winter Soldier could escape from Iron Man and his allies.

“That’s not stable!” Darren exclaimed. “I told him not to use that functionality until it was tested more! It could collapse on him and crush him in the suit!”

“We have to save him!” Kurt exclaimed.

“How?” Dave said, sounding shaken.

“It’s already happened. There’s nothing we can do,” Luis sounded hollow. “If something did happen, there’s nothing we could do to stop it. He’s already on the other side of the world, and this happened, what, yesterday? There’s nothing we can do.”

Three days later, Hank Pym stopped by the apartment.

“I know where Scott is,” he said by way of greeting. “And I cannot believe I’m actually asking this, but Darren, if there’s any good left in you, if you’re at all still the man I knew, then I need your help.”

He was only somewhat surprised when Darren immediately agreed.

“You know, you shrinking was probably the best potential outcome from that situation,” Hank said. “You might not have the same strength that you would with the suit, but that’s not what we need for this. I know where Scott’s being held. He doesn’t have his suit. But we do have you.”

“What do you need me to do?” Darren asked.

The plan, such as it was, was simple enough. All they had to do was take a boat out to the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the ocean, infiltrate a secret supermax prison supposedly under the jurisdiction of the US government, and break Scott out. Hopefully without alerting anyone who was watching the prisoners, although Darren didn’t have the highest of hopes for that. Supposedly this prison was designed for the event that they had to contain someone like Captain America, Thor, or the Hulk- people/beings who could easily break out of any normal containment. You would have to be a complete idiot to put people like that somewhere and leave them unguarded.

Hopefully, whoever in charge of this clusterfuck would have decided that since without his suit, Scott was essentially harmless, to have left him in one of the lower-security areas of the prison, if such a thing existed at all. Which, according to some blueprints that Hank had downloaded off of Wikileaks, they did not.

“Were they expecting to have to contain an entire herd of charging elephants?” Luis exclaimed on seeing the convoluted building plans. “Electrified transparisteel? Automatic IV sedative delivery system? Vibranium-alloy restraints?”

“All is missing is a fluffy cat and pit of sharks,” Kurt agreed. Hank shrugged.

“Supposedly they started building this place after the incident with Bruce Banner,” he explained. “Trying to lock him up would probably piss him off, so they needed something that would withstand the Hulk’s rage.” Kurt shuddered.

“I wouldn’t want to be Scott right now.”

“I wouldn’t want to be us, either,” Darren muttered. “How are we supposed to do this, again?”

“Dave and Kurt will override the security footage and run a blank tape so that nothing is seen by the guards,” Hank explained. “There’s a space that’s about half an inch between the glass and the floor, with no electrodes there- it should be enough for you, and a spare Ant-Man suit to squeeze through,” he continued. “You and Scott will be able to get out the same way.”

“But how are we going to get in there in the first place?” Darren wanted to know. Luis grinned.

“That’s where I come in!” he said brightly.

“State your name and business,” the metallic voice from the speaker droned. Darren had to admit that Luis’s plan was actually pretty good. The man seemed to know pretty much everyone, and apparently he had a friend who worked for Sadexa- the company that supplied food to the prison. Luis’s friend had clocked in at work, then ducked around the back of the building to switch clothes with Luis. Luis would play the part of the deliveryman, and gain access to the prison that way. Currently, they were sitting on a mid-sized boat, stacked with boxes of food, being buffeted by the small waves that formed. Well, at least Luis was sitting on the boat. Darren was in Luis’s shirt pocket. At least he wouldn’t be seen that way.

“Uh, this is Raul Hernandez from Sadexa. We’re bringing in the shipment today,” Luis called back.

“Sadexa? I thought you guys were coming in tomorrow,” the metallic voice replied.

“Uh, yeah, we had to move it up, there’s supposed to be a bad storm tomorrow, and they’re not sure how long it’s gonna last,” Luis said. This was actually true- Sadexa actually had decided to move it up due to a potential tropical storm coming through.

There was silence for a few minutes on the other end. Luis and Darren sat, growing more and more nervous by the minute. Finally, the voice cracked through again.

“Yeah, you’re clear. Please stay where you are, we will be opening the delivery entrance shortly.”

There was a groaning, creaking sound, and then the sea seemed to split apart at the seams. Luis and Darren watched in fascinated horror as large metal doors rose out of the ocean, then opened with a rather alarming crunching sound. The speaker crackled again and the voice returned.

“Alright, you’re clear- go slowly. Do not go fast enough to create a wake.”

Slowly, carefully, Luis steered the boat through the doors, into a large docking area. There were already many boats in storage. Darren supposed that the employees had to get to work somehow.

Once Luis had tied up the boat, a sickly-looking man in a uniform hurried over to him. “Mr. Hernandez?” he asked.

Luis nodded, hesitantly- the movement jolting Darren in his shirt pocket. Darren wished he was able to poke his head over the top in order to get a better look at what was going on, but the man already seemed suspicious. If he noticed Darren hanging out in Luis’s pocket, it would cause him to panic and probably lock down the prison- and Luis and Darren would be in danger themselves.

“I’m afraid it’s just going to be the two of us unloading your cargo today,” the man said. “Non-essential staff were sent home- this storm is looking like it’s going to be pretty bad. We’ll try to get it done as quickly as possible so you can get out of here.”

“Oh...” Luis said, relieved it wasn’t anything else.

The two men unloaded the cargo as quickly as they could. Unfortunately, it seemed that there wasn’t going to be any chance for Darren to dash off and complete his part of the mission. If he escaped now, he’d either run the risk of being squashed by boxes of food, stepped on, or worse, noticed by the dour military official.

Finally, all the boxes were off the boat, and the man turned to Luis. “Payment will be sent via the usual channels,” he said. “You should go- the storm looks like it’s going to hit soon, and it would be bad for you to be stuck here.” The man shook his head. “I don’t know what they’re thinking, personally- these people need to be transferred to a more secure area. Especially that freaky Sokovian girl.” He shuddered. “I don’t think even the maximum-security cells are strong enough to contain her in the event of power failure.”

“Mmm,” Luis said, noncommittally. He wasn’t entirely sure who the official was talking about- the team had really only paid attention to news of Scott and ignored pretty much everything that wasn’t related to him.

Darren, however, recognized exactly who the man was talking about- he’d shuddered at the footage of the woman manipulating red material and blowing up that building in Nigeria. He wasn’t sure what would happen if she got loose, but he didn’t particularly want to find out. He was here to grab Scott and get the fuck out- anyone else being held wasn’t his problem, they could figure out their own escape plans.

Luis chuckled nervously, subconsciously smoothing down the front of his shirt. “Yeah, that would be bad. I’ll be on my way, but first, is there a bathroom or something I can use? The one on the boat’s all backed up.”

“Huh?” the official muttered. “Oh, yeah, bathroom- sure. Go down that hall and it’s the third door on the left. Knock first, though, Lieutenant Dennis has a stomachache and has been hogging the bathroom- and believe me, she will shoot at you if you barge in on her.”

“Uh… good to know,” Luis said, before hurrying down the hallway. Luckily, there were no trigger-happy military personnel occupying the bathroom, so Luis quickly shut himself and Darren inside.

“If those blueprints were correct the vent that’s in here leads to the cell block,” Luis said, pulling the rather ruffled other man out of his shirt pocket. “You know what you’re supposed to do, right?”

“Of course I do,” Darren said, a little annoyed that Luis thought he wouldn’t have figured it out after the hours and hours they’d spent going over the plan. Luis lifted him up to the vent located right below the ceiling, and off Darren went.

The internal structure of the building was surprisingly simple, for something intended to contain so many potentially dangerous humans (or humanoids, anyway), but he supposed the fact that it was underwater complicated the design- making it too complicated could potentially compromise structural integrity. And they probably hadn’t designed it against escape attempts from inch-tall people, either.

Before too long, Darren found the point of egress that would put him closest to where Hank believed Scott was being held. He slipped out and skittered across the floor, peeking up at the occupants of the cells.

There was the man in the flying bird costume who spent a lot of time hanging around Captain America, scowling at his lap- Darren couldn’t remember his name- Sam? Sebastian? Anthony? No, Stark was Anthony, this guy was someone else. Sam, probably. Something like that anyway. The next cell held the woman whose powers scared Luis so badly- and truthfully, Darren as well. The third cell contained… Scott Lang.

Darren was relieved to see that he looked more or less healthy enough- he had a few bruises and scratches on him, and he was lying listlessly on the cot in the cell, but he did look as though he would be able to walk. Which was good- in his current state Darren didn’t think he would have the ability to help him out.

Hoping that it wouldn’t be too difficult to attract Scott’s attention, Darren slipped under the crack separating the floor from the transparisteel cell door, and ran back and forth, making a squeaking sound as he did so- hopefully Dave and Kurt would have overwritten the video feed, but if they hadn’t yet, at least a cockroach running around making sounds wouldn’t be seen as being anything weird.

Apparently, Scott found, it did not matter if you were being held in a probably-illegal black site underwater run by a possibly rogue faction of the military, or in the normal, everyday state pen- some things about prison never changed. One thing was that the food sucked. The other was that prison was really fucking boring.

Apparently, even undersea-probably-illegal prison had vermin too. Scott could hear something skittering around and squeaking on the floor. Ugh. Mice. Or roaches or something. Disgusting. Even if he had a new appreciation for ants, that new respect did not extend to some of the other members of the insect kingdom- especially roaches.

Wait a minute.

Technically this place was underwater.

So unless Ross had gone and genetically engineered sharkmice or octoroaches or something (and honestly Scott would not put it past him, the man was unhinged), it probably wasn’t some sort of vermin.

Curiously, he leaned down, realized what was making the sounds, and quirked an eyebrow.

“You know I know you can talk normally, right?”

Darren just shrugged.

“I was hoping that even if Dave and Kurt hadn’t overwritten the feed yet if anyone looked at it all they would hear was a mouse.”

“Yeah, an underwater mouse.”

“Maybe it came in with the Sadexa shipment,” Darren defended himself. Scott wrinkled his nose.

“No wonder the food here sucks,” he said with a laugh. Then, he sobered. “But seriously, what are you doing here?”

“We’re getting you out,” Darren said simply. Scott’s eyes widened.

“You can’t, that’s insane!” he exclaimed. Darren rolled his eyes.

“You broke out of jail once already, and that was just with the help of some actual ants,” he said flatly. “With your friends, and me, working with you, don’t you think it would be easier?”

“You don’t understand-” Scott started, but Darren cut him off.

“We’re on a tight schedule. Luis can’t stall forever and sooner or later they’re going to realize that the security cameras haven’t shown anything different. Let me get this door and we’ll go,” he said, shimmying his way under the transparisteel door and into the locking mechanism.

“WAIT!” Scott yelled, but it was too late.

The transparisteel door sparked, a klaxon-like sound went off, there was a horrible crunching and squelching noise, and Darren barely had time to scream before everything in his world went bright white.

The last thing he remembered was someone screaming his name, and a weird feeling like he was being torn in half lengthwise.

Slowly, Darren came back to consciousness- it felt like he was floating on a cloud. Huh. That was weird, he thought- how did he know what a cloud felt like? It wasn’t possible to float on a cloud. And now that he thought about it, what was that beeping sound in the background? It was annoying. It sounded like a pager. It was 2016- who still had a pager?

Opening his eyes, Darren realized he was lying in a white room- on a cot of some kind. There was some kind of needle in his arm. Oh. He was in a hospital then, and that beeping must have been from some kind of medical device.

Belatedly, he realized that he felt… taller. Looking down, he did appear to have reverted to his usual 6’2” self. Pleased that he was no longer wasp-sized, he did a celebratory wiggle, enjoying the feeling of being a normal human again.

“Oh, you’re awake,” a voice said. Darren turned towards the voice, and almost jumped right out of the bed in his surprise. Scott Lang was sitting in a hard plastic chair next to the cot, looking like he hadn’t slept or showered in about a week. “Good.”

“What happened?” Darren asked.

“I honestly have no idea,” Scott replied. “What I know for sure happened was that you electrocuted yourself- I was trying to warn you that the hinge in that door was booby trapped. Other than that, I have no idea. Maybe getting zapped like that caused whatever was keeping you shrunk to reverse, but you started to revert to your normal size while you were still in the lock.”

Darren stared at him. “I started turning back inside the door’s mechanism?” Scott nodded.

“You’re extremely lucky you weren’t cut in half. And we were lucky that what you did caused a huge power surge and unlocked all of the cell doors. You were bleeding pretty badly, and damn man, you’re heavy! It took all three of us to drag you to that boat.”

Darren stayed silent for a moment. Scott had saved him? Even after all the trouble he’d caused- and that was an understatement. He’d tried to kill the other man, threatened to kill his daughter, tried to kill his friends, and sold dangerous technology to Hydra. Given that information, the logical thing for Scott to do would be to have fled and left him to bleed out on the floor of that prison.

Finally, he gathered his wits. “Why?” he asked.

“Why?” Scott repeated.

Darren nodded stiffly- now that he thought about it, he really did feel like he’d gotten run over by a particularly overloaded bus. “Why did you save me?” he asked.

Scott stared at him. “You busted me out of prison! I wasn’t going to leave you to die.”

“I would have deserved it.”

Scott took a moment to respond. “A month ago I would have agreed with that,” he said. “But after living with you- I couldn’t do it. I was surprised, really.” He shook his head. “You know, I talked to Hope while you were out,” he continued. “And she told me… she told me that whatever you were using to power the Yellowjacket armor messed with your mind- it was corrupting you. According to Hope, you weren’t always the greedy bastard I met.”

If he could have, Darren would have hung his head. He really had been a greedy bastard, and he had not treated Hope very well towards the end.

“But you’re different now, though,” Scott said thoughtfully. “You weren’t really all that bad to live with. Even if you did spend a lot of time staring at me like you wanted to rip my clothes off,” he said with a grin. Darren bristled.

“I did not!” he exclaimed. Scott laughed.

“Come on. We both know you were,” he replied. Then he dropped his voice a little bit. “You know, I didn’t mind, really. But I wasn’t sure how it was supposed to work.” Leaning in closer, he whispered something into Darren’s ear, which caused the other man to blush bright red.

“I don’t think that would have been physically possible,” he finally said after a pause. Scott shrugged.

“Maybe not, but it would have been interesting to try- then I got locked up.”

The two of them sat in silence for a few moments, until Darren finally spoke again. “You… you really want to try? With… me?” he said hesitantly. Scott nodded, then leaned in close again- close enough that their breath could mingle.

“Yes,” he said simply.

Not entirely aware of his actions, probably acting on instinct and painkillers, Darren leaned forward slightly, so that his lips pressed up against Scott’s. Scott accepted, and made a move to deepen the kiss. Darren enjoyed the press of the other man’s lips, and the little light flicks of his tongue.

Eventually, they did have to break apart for air, and the two stared at each other once again, understanding that something had changed between them. Neither one of them minded much, though.

Suddenly, Scott moved forward again, catching Darren by the mouth. This time, it didn’t start out soft- Scott’s tongue invaded his mouth almost immediately, and he maneuvered his body so that he was halfway onto the cot himself. Darren hissed slightly as Scott moved his leg in between his own thighs, stimulating something that just a few days ago Darren had started to think would never be able to feel anything with again. He moved forward a little to push into the touch… and promptly strained something that was painful enough to get through the fog of the painkillers he was on.

Wincing, he broke the kiss and shifted, attempting to get more comfortable. Scott immediately scooted himself off of the cot and got back on his chair.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Darren waved his concerns off. “I just… moved something I shouldn’t have.” He grimaced. “I never thought that would be painful… but I’d like to do it again.” Scott smirked.

“Oh, we’re going to do it again,” he said. “But we’re going to wait until you’ve recovered more.”

A few days later, Darren was well enough to leave the hospital. Scott collected his things, and helped him to the van. “Everyone else is waiting at home. I should probably warn you- Kurt baked a cake. I would suggest not eating it.”

“I’m going back to the apartment, then?” Darren asked. Scott shrugged.

“You can’t really go back to your old place,” he said. “As far as the government- and your landlord- is concerned, you’re dead. I guess you’re just one of us outlaws now,” he chuckled. Darren smirked, leaning in to steal a quick kiss.

“It beats the hell out of the subatomic realm,” he cheekily teased once he broke apart. Scott laughed.

“I’ll drink to that!” he said, raising his free arm in an imaginary toast.

“To the future,” Darren agreed.

And that was really all that needed to be said. The past was the past. The future was the future. But for now, Darren and Scott were happy. What would come would come- let it. The important thing, both of them thought, was that they made the most of the present. Especially now that Darren was back to normal human-size!