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Forever Partners

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"Scott! Have you seen my bluetooth headset?" Hope cried out from the bedroom she shared with Scott.

"Try the dresser!" came Scott's shout from Cassie's bedroom.

Hope bent down and opened the bottom drawer of the dresser, the one she dubbed the Lost and Found drawer. It was filled with Scott's collection of old electronics, stuff he was trying to fix or re-engineer into whatever bright idea he got in his head.

Hope had already put aside a CD player, old DVDs, a Walkman, an old broken radio, three sets of earphones... But still no headset.

This man hoards too much junk, thought Hope. She continued her search, trying the corners of the dresser.

And then she saw it.

She couldn't have missed it. The small velvet ring box was too classy and clean to belong in this pile of broken, used up junk.

Hope silently knelt and took it out. Her thumb rested on the mouth of the box as she tried to decide whether or not to open it.

She and Scott had been together for years. But neither of them had ever hinted at becoming 'forever partners' as Luis called it

And maybe this was just a box. An empty old box that Scott was saving.

Hope held her breath and opened it.

A wave of confusion washed over her.

"Hope! Hey! Did you find it?"

Hope looked away. Scott stood at the doorway, his eyes darting from Hope to the open box in her palm.

He chuckled. "I forgot I had that."

He knelt down beside Hope and took the box from her. He pulled out the child's play ring inside. The pink band with the large blue diamond on top of it looked more at home in Scott's fingers than it did in the rather elegant looking velvet box.

"Cassie had that wedding phase," Scott said, "You know, the one where the girls want to wear wedding dresses and pretend to get married. I remember getting the role of groom by default because there was a shortage of acceptable boys in the neighborhood."

Scott fondly looked at the gaudy ring again, caressing the huge fake diamond. "She chose this ring herself. Her taste in jewelry was rather concerning at the time."

Hope forced herself to laugh alongside him, but the corners of her mouth didn't quite stretch like it normally would.

"Cute," was all she managed to say. She didn't even know why she felt a little disappointed. "But it's not my headset."

Scott nodded. "Right." He put the ring back in its box and pocketed it. Then, Hope watched him look around for a minute before going to the coat rack in the corner of the room.

He stuck his hand inside Hope's coat, tongue exaggeratedly out for her amusement, and then he said, "Aha!" He pulled out the Bluetooth headset with a victorious grin. "No need to thank me," he grinned. "Just doing my job, ma'am. Ant-Man to the rescue."

Hope smiled tightly. She took the headset from him and murmured a soft, "thanks."

Scott watched her go with a frown.

...

"I found something in Scott's drawer today," said Hope, slowly looking at Hank and Janet's faces to gauge their reactions. Her parents were busy recalibrating The Wasp's blasters or as Hank liked to call it 'The Wasp's Sting' and only hummed at her in acknowledgement.

"It was a ring."

One by one, they turned to face her. Janet was first, a grin spreading on her face, while Hank was a little slower on the uptake. When he finally faced her, his expression was unreadable.

"Hope," Janet began, her voice a little flutter of nervous excitement.

"Before you get excited, mom," she turned to Hank, "And before you burst an artery, dad, it wasn't that kind of ring… It was a toy ring, like what a little girl would play with."

Janet's smile fell. "Oh."

"That was anticlimactic," added Hank.

Janet hit him in the arm.

"It was!"

"Just—could you go and make tea, please?"

Hank huffed but did as he was told.

With him out of the lab, Janet dragged her chair close to Hope's. "Did you want that toy ring to be something else?"

"No!" Hope automatically said without thinking, "I was just a little surprised. It threw me off. It's nothing."

Janet gave her a small, comforting smile and put a hand on her cheek. "Okay."

Janet started to turn back to her work but before she could, Hope blurted out, "It's not nothing, I'm… I don't know. I don't know, mom! I saw it and then I felt a little nervous, and then a little scared, and then there were a tiny bit of fireworks going off in my head. But then I saw the ring and it was… It was a toy! And the first thing I think of is 'This is classic, Scott. You know, proposing with a toy ring which I wouldn't mind at all because he's that kind of dork.' But then he explained and it turns out he was never really proposing and now I feel little disappointed which is weird because Scott and I are fine with the way things are going. Neither of us ever talked about rings, play rings and otherwise... So... I don't know."

"Oh, Jellybean." Janet took Hope's hands. "If you're as disappointed as you say, then… then that means you're not fine with the way things are with you two. You want something more."

"So… you're saying I actually want to marry him?"

"I'm saying… you don't have to wait for his proposal."

Hope looked at her mother.

Janet grinned encouragingly. "Don't tell your father it was my idea."

...

"What do we got, Scotty? I brought the Mysterio Ray, the Death Machine, the Lumber Hack, just tell me who we fightin' and which suit I gotta wear."

Luis dropped a duffel bag on the floor of the living room, his eyes brimming with enthusiasm.

Scott frowned at the duffel and then at his friend. "Luis, what are you—there's no bad guy."

"What do you mean there's no bad guy? You said 911." 911 always meant bad guys, thought Luis.

"Yeah... It's a different kind of emergency. It's Hope."

"Ooh. Someone got her? She kidnapped? She need saving?" Luis started unzipping the duffel and rummaging through the garments inside. "I got the Mysterio Ray suit for that one. Perfect for undercover missions, bro."

Scott held out his hands to stop his friend. "Luis, I told you. There's no bad guy. It's just... Hope found the ring."

Luis' eyes widened and his jaw dropped. "Bro that is 911!"

"I know!" Scott nodded.

"How'd she even go through your drawer?"

"She was looking for her headset and out of habit, I told her to try that drawer!"

"Big mistake, Scotty!"

"Well, she only saw the decoy. I took it before she saw the real one. I told her it was when Cassie had her wedding phase."

Luis nodded quickly. "Nice save. Believable. I had a wedding phase. My ma was my bride after Angela left me in the altar with Juanito. Cause he got some mango pops and I didn't."

"Luis—"

"Right, right, right. Hope." Luis leaned closer and whispered, "You think she knows?"

"I don't know, man! She was a little off when she left this morning."

"There's only one thing to do, Scotty. You gotta move the timetable up."

Scott was waiting at the kitchen when Hope got home that evening.

"Scott?" came Hope's query.

"In here, babe."

Hope followed his voice into the kitchen and sighed gratefully at the sight of wine on the island.

"Great! You have the wine out. I'm gonna need that."

She tossed her bag to a chair by the dining table and marched to the island.

Scott watched her fill the glass to the brim. "Rough day?"

Hope hummed, lifting the glass to her lips. "More like a risky evening." She drank it all in one go and then turned to Scott. "We need to talk."

"I agree. I wanted to talk to you about—"

Hope held up a hand. "Me first. This morning was really weird."

Scott fidgeted. "Yeah."

"I mean, I saw a ring box and naturally, I thought you were going to propose! But you didn't and it was just a toy ring. So, I was a little… disappointed. And I told myself I shouldn't be because you and I never talked about making things official."

Scott took her hand and said, "Hope—"

"So, I thought about it. And something kept bugging me." Hope pulled her hand out from under his and with narrowed eyes, she pointed at him. "That box… it was new."

"Huh?"

"It was new. It was new and perfect and beautiful. Why would you keep a toy ring in a box like that and just toss it in the Lost and Found Drawer? So, I'm thinking you were going to propose but you were still saving up for the actual ring and bought a toy ring as a stand in."

Scott shook his head. "I didn't—"

"And maybe you were a little embarrassed to propose with that kind of ring but Scott, it's fine. I don't mind! I don't care how many karats are in the damn thing, I want you as my 'forever partner.'" Suddenly Hope got down on one knee and Scott took a startled step back.

"Whoa, Hope, what are you—"

Hope reached in her pocket and took out a RingPop candy. "I figured I could match your toy ring for this… candy ring." She smiled nervously. "So, will you marry me, Scott?"

Scott closed his gaping mouth. He took the RingPop, put it on the island, and then pulled Hope up to her feet.

"Okay, um, I have to tell you something."

Hope looked at the RingPop and then back at him. "You didn't answer my question!"

Scott grasped her hands tighter. "I will but I have to tell you something."

"I can't believe it." Hope pulled her hands away and grabbed the RingPop, waving it at him. "I'm proposing right now! With candy! And you think that what you have to say is more important than this?"

"It's equally important, quite similar, really."

Hope sighed. "If you want to say no, you can just tell me because I'm not gonna be mad. We can just continue the way things are and we can—"

"No," Scott said firmly.

Hope blinked. "No? As in 'no' to my proposal?"

"No. I mean, yes."

"'Yes' to my proposal?"

"No! I'm not—I'm saying 'no' to the other part. I don't want to continue the way things are."

"So, you want to break up."

"No! Hope—"

Hope stepped back, eyes suddenly turned to the ground. "You could've led with that instead of letting me embarrass myself with—"

"I was gonna propose!"

Her head snapped up. "What?"

"The ring you found… it's a prop."

Hope folded her arms. "Yeah, I kinda got that."

"No, I mean, it's a prop…" He took the toy ring out of his pocket and twisted the huge diamond. He twisted until it came off and right under it was an actual diamond engagement ring. "...for the real thing."

Hope gaped. "You mean—"

"Yeah," Scott laughed sheepishly. "You found it and even though I put in the prop just in case you did find it, I sort of panicked. Made up a story."

"So, Cassie didn't..."

"She did. She chose this. Quite good taste, huh?" Scott started admiring the ring again. To be honest, he was quite impressed at Cassie's find. Luis' suggestion was more—

"Scott."

"Yeah?"

Hope pressed her lips together, fighting back an amused smile. "You still didn't answer my question." She raised the Ringpop.

"Yes, Hope. I'll marry you. Will you marry me?"

Hope nodded. "Forever partners."

They traded rings, the real diamond ring going on Hope's ring finger and the RingPop on Scott's.

Scott brought it to his mouth and sucked.

His face scrunched up.

"Too sour? Sorry. It was the only flavor they had."