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Nothing particularly exciting happening during the first year Elsie was on the Waverider.

She got acclimated to the timeship (both Sara and Leonard thought she made the switch to the future remarkably well) and to her new family. She was truly loved on the Waverider, even managing to grow on Rip — he had initially been unsure about Sara and Leonard’s decision to adopt the little girl from the 1930s, however, as he watched Elsie’s relationships with her parents grow (and when he saw that her removal from the thirties didn’t destroy the timeship) he couldn’t ignore the benefit she was bringing to the team. They all enjoyed having Elsie on the Waverider. She added an element of fun to the dynamic amongst the team.

She played dress-up with Kendra and Ray, Jax was teaching her how to play football just like he promised, even Mick had a soft spot for her. Early on in their time on the Waverider, Mick had proven to have quite a knack for cooking, and since Elsie’s arrival, the two had taken to making meals for the team together. She would sit on the metal counter and watch him chop vegetables, and he would always let her stir ingredients together with a big wooden spoon — he even let Elsie stir things on the stove, even though Sara always told her no.

During a brief shore-leave a few months after Elsie moved onto the Waverider, the team returned to the present time and Sara and Leonard introduced their daughter to their families. They legally adopted her on that visit as well, and she officially became Elsie Lance.

“Lance?” Lisa had repeated when they told her.

“The Snart name dies with me,” Leonard had replied, answering her confusion.

“Unless I keep my name when I get married,” Lisa then pointed out.

“That’s not funny,” Leonard had replied seriously.

Elsie’s fourth birthday came and went. They celebrated it on the Waverider with a big game of hide-and-seek that even Rip joined in on, and a trip to Pompeii to watch Mount Vesuvius erupt.

Not too long after, Kendra said goodbye to the team and they welcomed two new members: Nate and Amaya. Rip was relieved to see that Elsie had not become a distraction for the team, but a motivator. Sara had become less reckless on the field, but had lost none of her will or tenacity. Leonard had grown increasingly protective of his team, even the new members. They all seemed to work better together.

Even though Elsie attended all the team meetings and sometimes journeyed into the times they traveled to, she had never joined the team on a mission. That is, she hadn’t joined the team on a mission yet.

“Time to get dressed,” Sara said to Elsie as she walked into her bedroom, “Did you pick out clothes for today?”

“Uh-huh,” Elsie nodded, holding out a bundle of clothing.

“Pink jeans and a pink dress,” Sara commented with raised eyebrows, “Wow. Really?”

“Yup.”

“Okay,” Sara let out a sigh as she shrugged, crouching down to help her get dressed.

“Miss Lance,” Gideon said as Sara helped Elsie pull off her princess nightdress, “Rip would like you to know that he has called a team meeting.”

“Okay,” Sara nodded, “Thanks Gideon.”

“Of course,” Gideon replied. Then she was silent.

“I wanna play with Kendra,” Elsie said.

“We’ve been over this,” Sara said, pulling the cotton dress over Elsie’s head and beginning to help her arms through the sleeves, “Kendra went back to the real world. Then Amaya and Nate came, remember?”

Elsie shook her head

“Yes you do,” she replied, “You played restaurant with them yesterday.”

“Oh,” she replied, gripping her mother’s shoulders as she stepped into the pants Sara was holding out in front of her.

“Ready?” Sara asked, once the pink jeans were pulled up and buttoned.

“You gotta do my hair,” Elsie said.

“I’m gonna do it on the Bridge during the meeting,” she told her, picking up a brush and several hair ties from the surface of Elsie’s dresser, “Let’s go.”

Elsie bounded out the door and down the corridors of the Waverider, Sara following at a much more comfortable pace.

The rest of the team was already at the meeting when Sara arrived; even Elsie beat her to the bridge, waiting for her in a metal chair.

“Miss Lance,” Rip said, “Thank you for finally joining us. Let’s begin.”

Sara crossed the room and sat in her chair next to Leonard. Elsie stood in front of her, leaning against her legs as Sara started to run the brush through her blonde hair.

“Here’s the plan,” Rip said, “Our latest adversary is taking refuge in the year 2025.”

“Hey, that’s close to our time!” Ray said.

“Yes, Mr. Palmer, it is indeed,” Ray nodded, “In 2025, he doesn’t pose any threat to society, but he is in something like a planning mode. He knows what he’s doing, now he’s just getting ready.”

“So what are we trying to do, exactly?” Jax asked.

“Figure out his plan so we can head him off at the proper moment."

“Awesome!” Nate said, “We’re gonna snuff him out before he burns!”

“Did someone say burn?” Mick asked, seeming to tune into the meeting just then, “I’m in.”

“I appreciate the enthusiasm, Mr. Rory,” Rip said, “but we’re going to be doing this mission a little differently. Think early days, Raymond and Kendra buying a house in the fifties. Some of you will be scattered throughout the city. The rest will be posing as the occasional tourist when necessary, and parsing through the information we collect on the Waverider.”

“What happened to diving in and hoping for the best?” Amaya asked.

“Our success rate with that tactic dropped to a level so low it warranted a change in plan. We’re trying something a bit more strategic this time.”

Amaya nodded.

“So,” he continued, “Our new mission will be taking us to València, a coastal city in the south of Spain.

“We’re going to Spain?” Ray exclaimed, “Cool!”

“Yes, Mr. Palmer,” he said, “Our target is Sebastián Reyes. In 2025, he is thirty two years old, and within the following decade, he will become one of the world’s most dangerous people, joining the ranks with Ivan the Terrible, Robespierre, and Osama bin Laden.”

“What exactly is he doing?” Nate asked.

“What any man of his kind does: tries to eradicate what’s unlike him. For him, it is people under a certain tax bracket. It’s his opinion that a lack of money is the result of a lack of intelligence and poor decision-making. There are, of course, other factors involved, but his goal is to eliminate those who earn under a certain amount, take the money they leave behind into the government of Spain and therefore solve the debt crisis and leave more money for the remaining citizens, including, of course, himself.”

“Why are we only hearing about him now?” Sara asked as she wrapped a hair band around one of Elsie’s braids, “If he’s really this bad, why haven’t you ever mentioned him before?”

“Because, until recently, he didn’t exist — that is to say, he wasn’t the person he is now. Something we did in the last month or so changed his story and inspired some terrible actions from Mr. Reyes. We are going to València to fix it.”

“Who are you placing there more permanently?” Nate asked.

“I’m sending Jax and Martin straight onto the campus of the University of València. Martin will be taking up the position of professor of physics and Jax will be a graduate student in the biotechnology department.

“Do they have a good football team?” Jax asked.

“If by football, you mean the game with a black-and-white ball you can’t touch with your hands, then yes, I believe they do,” Rip answered, “To continue, I’m placing Mr. Palmer in the same apartment complex as our target in the hopes that you can get close to him and we can find out more about his day-to-day life.”

“Cool!” Ray said, “I’ve always wanted to be friends with a sociopath!”

He didn’t seem to notice the bemused faces the rest of his team shot him.

“The last group I’m sending in on a slightly more permanent basis will include Sara, Leonard, and of course, Elsie. You three will be placed in a suburban neighborhood a little outside the city. You’ll be posing as a family who moved to the area for work. I have a spot for Elsie in a preschool and jobs lined up for both of you — and I request that you bothactually attend them please.”

“Hey!” Sara protested as Leonard said, “That’s fair.”

“The rest of us — Mick, Nate, Amaya, and myself — will be staying on the Waverider to parse through and organize all the information you collect.”

“When do we leave?” Jax asked.

“Tomorrow,” Rip replied, “I suggest those who will leave us start packing.”


“Where are we going?” Elsie asked her mother later that evening.

“We’re going on a vacation,” Sara answered.

“What’s a vacation?”

“What?” she asked absently, “Oh, right.”

Sara often forgot that Elsie had come from the 1930s. She made the jump to the futuristic setting of the Waverider very well, but part of that was because she was going from one extreme to another; her new home held no resemblance to her old one. It existed in a kind of bubble, separate from any particular moment in time, so Elsie still had some gaps.

“A vacation is when you go somewhere else besides where you live, just for fun. Some people go to relax and some go for sightseeing,” she explained.

“Where are we going?” Elsie asked.

“Spain,” Sara replied, “for a mission. Daddy and I will be working, so I guess it’s less of a vacation than actually moving there…for a little while. Daddy and I are gonna go to work and you’re gonna go to school.”

“School?” Elsie repeated.

“Yeah, like how Sofia goes to princess school in that show you watch. You’re gonna go to school and have a teacher and learn new stuff everyday with kids your age.”

“Cool!”

Sara was feeling cautiously optimistic about the mission, although she would be lying if she said she didn’t feel a twinge of worry about the sudden change in tactic. Rip wasn’t wrong in his comment about their previous few missions not going particularly well, but they always accomplished what they needed to. They had a routine: screwing things up before they made things better. Maybe it wasn’t particularly efficient, but it managed to be effective. Changes in their routine might not go over well, and this was the source of Sara’s anxiety. 

Her main concern was Elsie, who had only ever left the Waverider for more than a few days at a time. This was her home, the only one she had known since war-torn Norway. Perhaps choosing this mission, one that would completely uproot her daily life, as her first mission wasn’t the best idea. However, Elsie didn’t seem too fazed by the prospect of moving to Spain for an indefinite amount of time, so Sara chose not to worry — or, rather, pretended not to worry.

Rip had told Sara and Leonard that, to spare them the inconvenience of furnishing an entire house, Gideon had generated everything they would need, down to the silverware and toys. All they had to worry about was clothes and any personal items that would be missed during their time away from the Waverider. Both Sara and Leonard had packed everything they needed into two boxes and while the latter began dinner (the chore wheel had landed on him that day, much to Leonard’s disgruntlement, as he thought he’d get to evade the job entirely for at least several months), Sara began going through Elsie’s clothes, tossing the ones more apt for warm weather into a cardboard box with Elsie’s name printed on it.

She hit a roadblock when she told Elsie to pick just a couple toys to bring with them to Spain.

“But who’s gonna play with them while I’m gone?” Elsie whined.

“Maybe Nate will,” Sara said, trying to hide her frustration, “You can’t take them all. Rip said there’s toys for you at the new house so, like I’ve said seven times, pick three and put them in your backpack. I’ll be back in five minutes.”

She turned away and headed for the door so she wouldn’t have to see Elsie’s pout (she made a mental note to make sure Leonard stayed away from her room for a while — if Sara thought she might cave, he certainly would).

Eventually Elsie picked her three toys — a stuffed elephant, a Rapunzel dress-up dress, and a set of markers that Sara traded out for a deck of rainbow playing cards when she wasn’t looking because she knew Elsie would miss them more (and they would be impossible to find in València because Gideon made them herself). The team ate dinner together in the mess hall (the last team dinner for a while, Ray realized sadly) and then Sara and Leonard let Elsie have dessert — blue popcorn, another one of Elsie’s farfetched requests neither Sara nor Leonard knew how Gideon accomplished — in their bed while they watched a movie.

“What happened to not letting her sleep in our bed anymore?” Leonard asked quietly, gesturing to Elsie who had fallen asleep about an hour into Bridge to Terabithia, curled up in Sara’s arms.

Sara locked down at her daughter.

“Yeah, wishful thinking, I guess,” she replied. She looked to him, furrowing her eyebrows when she saw an expression on his face that usually signified he was having some kind of internal debate, “What?”

He let out a sigh, “I just was wondering if this is a good idea. We never involved her in a mission before, never mind a new type of mission. We don’t know how this is going to pan out.”

“I know,” Sara nodded seriously, “I’ve thought about that too.”

When they decided Elsie should stay with them on the Waverider, they hadn’t been ignorant to the knowledge that having a toddler onboard the timeship during a mission to safeguard all of time would not be easy. Leonard and Sara had quickly agreed they wouldn’t bring Elsie on missions, not even simple reconnaissance trips — they had seen those go sideways — but that still left the concern of what to do with her when they had to be out on the field. More often than not, at least one person from the team wouldn’t need to go on the mission — usually Rip, as of late — and that person would watch her. Occasionally, however, a mission would require the efforts of the entire team. In that case, Gideon had assured Sara and Leonard she could make sure Elsie stayed safe.

Although those types of missions were few and far between, and nothing bad had ever happened during any of them (in fact, the Waverider hadn’t been attacked in a while — not since long before Elsie came onboard), Sara and Leonard still hated the idea of leaving their daughter alone on the Waverider.

“And I know we said we wouldn’t take Else on missions,” Sara continued, “but this is gonna be different. It won’t be like our normal missions where we, you know, kick ass and then get the hell out. It’s gonna be longer, more strategic.”

Leonard nodded his agreement.

“And,” Sara continued, “I actually trust Rip with this stuff. He’s a dad too. He wouldn’t do anything to put her in danger.”

“I know you’re right, but you know me, I get stuck in the hypotheticals. If something happens to her…” he trailed off.

“I know,” she nodded, “We’re just gonna have to be careful. If something bad does happens, we bring her back to the Waverider — and hey, bonus points: we get to hold it against Rip for the rest of his life.”

Sara saw Leonard smirk slightly.

“I should get Else to her bed,” she said, carefully shifting Elsie in her arms and getting to her feet, “Long day tomorrow; we’re moving to Spain.”

Chapter Text

The next day, the Waverider was on its way to València, Spain, 2025.

“I’ll have you know that all of your future selves are present in 2025,” Rip told the team, “So no galavanting off to Central or Star City. Try to stay within València if you can.”

“Does that mean we all make it to 2025,” Sara jokingly asked.

“It does,” he replied, his expression serious, “and I think we’d all appreciate it if that didn’t change, so be careful. All of you.”

They all walked to the cargo hold where the team would part ways — even if only temporarily.

“We’ll be landing in about a minute,” Rip informed them, “You may say goodbyes if you so desire.”

They all said their farewells and then Rip directed the half of the team heading for València towards three separate cars. He climbed into the drivers seat of the large black SUV that apparently belonged to Sara and Leonard.

“What is it about having one child that makes parents think they need a car that seats seven of them?” Sara grumbled as she buckled Elsie into her carseat.

“An excellent question, Miss Lance,” Rip replied, starting up the car.

Soon, they were driving away from the Waverider into the city of València, Spain.

They first dropped Jax and Stein off on the campus of València University and then stopped at an apartment complex to show Ray his new home for the next several months. Finally, they pulled down the street of a gated neighborhood.

“Now remember,” Rip began, “You’ll be posing as a well-to-do American family who moved for Mr. Snart’s job when the company he works for was absorbed into the one based here. Sara, you’ll be posing as a stay-at-home mom — don’t roll your eyes — and while Elsie’s at school, you teach kick-boxing and self-defense classes at the gym.”

“And if I don’t know how to do that?” Sara asked, eyebrows raised.

“If my memory is correct, your tactic for our last mission was, I believe, to ‘wing it’,” he said, “I suggest you take your own advice.”

Sara rolled her eyes.

“Now,” Rip continued, “I know you are not going to enjoy this, Miss Lance, but there is a community of mothers in this neighborhood who I believe could provide some valuable information to us throughout the mission.”

“You want me to be a PTA mom,” Sara clarified.

“Not exactly. This group isn’t connected to any school district, but I suppose there will be similarities,” he conceded, “Mr. Snart, you’ll be working at a security company — yes, I do see the irony, Miss Lance — that also employs our target, Mr. Reyes. I do implore you to be careful. He may not be a sociopathic dictator yet, but some of those tendencies may already be there.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Leonard replied. Rip let out an exasperated breath, but said nothing until they pulled up to a driveway near the end of the street, just before a wide cul-de-sac.

Ivy and leafy, climbing bushes grew along a tall wrought-iron fence, blocking the house from view of the street.

Rip pushed a button on a remote attached to the sun visor and the gates opened to a gravel driveway. He drove underneath the drooping branches of a weeping willow tree and then they saw their new home.

It was different from what Sara had been picturing — although she wasn’t quite sure what even that had looked like.

It was very big — not quite a mansion, but about as close as a house could get in a suburban neighborhood — with a very green lawn and vibrant shrubs and flowers growing along the driveway and against the side of the house.

The walls were made of a white-painted stucco that contrasted the dark window frames and black Spanish tile roof. There were two rocking chairs on the front porch, shaded by a roof balanced on two dark wooden beams, with two floral pillows set purposefully on the seats.

“This house has been here for two hundred years,” Rip told them, “It’s been highly renovated, but the original structure remains.”

“This looks like the type of house I’d only go in to case,” Leonard said.

“Well, prepare to experience the other side, Mr. Snart,” Rip replied, “I meant it when I said ‘well-to-do’.”

They followed the driveway as it curved towards the side of the house, becoming a wide circle that looped back the way it came. In this space was parked a large moving truck.

“The house is already mostly furnished,” Rip said as he shifted the car into park, “There’s a few boxes left in the truck, just for the sake of neighbors seeing you bringing things inside.”

As Leonard unbuckled Elsie from her car seat, Rip handed Sara the keys to the SUV and got out of the car.

“There’s another car in the garage,” he told them, “A smaller one, for you to get to and from work, Mr. Snart.”

They headed for the front door.

“I know this all seems extravagant, but it’s for a reason,” Rip said, “It’s crucial to the mission that you integrate yourselves into the community of the neighborhood.” 

He fished a key out of his pocket, unlocked the front door and led them inside. 

“Mama!” Elsie pointed out one of the windows that looked into the backyard, “A pool!”

By now they had moved into the foyer, with the same white stucco as the exterior of the house. The hallway, rather than extending forwards, stretched to either side, with archways leading into other rooms. Across from the front door was a large window with stained-glass detailing that looked out into the backyard where they saw a patio and, as Elsie had pointed out, a pool. 

“Yes,” Rip said as Sara went to look, “There’s a pool back there. You also have a room with some tech that will connect you to Gideon. It’s how we can keep in contact so you don’t have to frequently return to the Waverider, but I suppose you can use her knowledge for anything else you might need — although you don’t have her medical tech or the fabricator. Hopefully, you’ll need neither.”

“Huh,” Sara said, taking the house keys Rip handed to her, “Haven’t gone grocery shopping in, like, twelve years.”

“I believe you’ll adjust, Miss Lance,” Rip replied, heading down a hallway. He pointed out a closed door across the hall, “That door leads to a bedroom — there are four bedrooms in total in the house.”

“Four?” Sara asked skeptically.

“Yes,” Rip nodded, “Three upstairs and one downstairs.”

“You do realize we don’t have five children, right?” she asked, glancing back in the direction of the car, “and the one we do have sleeps in our room half the time, so…”

“Well, if ever any of the rest of the team needed to stay in town, it wouldn’t make sense for them to stay with any of the others, so I gave you guys a couple guest rooms.”

“Great,” Leonard exhaled. 

They followed Rip into the kitchen.

It was very bright, with white cabinets and walls that contrasted the terra cotta brick tiles on the floor. A glass door in the opposite wall led out to the patio by the pool.

“In those files,” Rip said, pointing to a stack of manila folders on the marble counter, “is all the documentation you’ll need, including birth certificates, driver’s licenses, bank paperwork and the like. There’s also information you’ll need about your jobs and Elsie’s school.”

Sara nodded as Leonard opened the top most folder and started skimming over its contents.

“Mommy,” Elsie said, pulling on Sara’s arm, “I wanna go see my room.”

“First door at the top of the stairs,” Rip told her, tipping his head in the direction of the hallway. Elsie looked back to Sara.

“You can go,” Sara encouraged her.

“Can you come?” Elsie asked quietly.

“I will when Rip leaves,” Sara replied. Elsie nodded, her hand moving from Sara’s sleeve to grip onto three of her fingers.

“I trust you’ll make smart decisions,” Rip said, looking between Leonard and Sara, “It’s been a long few years, but somehow, it’s not the pair of you that concerns me anymore.”

“Yeah, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to leave Ray in the same building as the future mass murderer  we’re trying to take down,” Leonard drawled.

“Point taken,” Rip said with an exhale that conveyed it wasn’t the first time this issue had been raised to him.

“I think,” he continued, “it’s time for me to take my leave. Trust me when I say the neighbors will be stopping by and it’s best that I’m not here when that happens.”

“Should we be…worried, or something?” Sara asked.

Rip didn’t answer as he headed for the door.

He stopped, his hand on the doorknob.

“Do enjoy your time in the normal world,” he told them, “I’ll be in contact shortly with directions on how to proceed.”

And then he was gone.

“Ready to explore the new house?” Sara asked Elsie. She nodded, a mischievous smile growing on her face as she squirmed out of Sara’s arms and headed for the stairs.

Sara watched her go before she turned back to meet Leonard’s eyes.

“So we’re actually here,” she said, “I kinda thought something would happen before…”

He nodded, his eyes sweeping over the foyer of their new house.

“Mama!” Elsie called. They looked over to see Elsie sitting on the top step, “C’mon!”

“Just a second, bear,” Sara said before looking back to Leonard.

“I’m gonna go check out the town,” he told her, “get the lay of the land, figure out where everything is.”

Sara chuckled.

“What?” he asked, unable to hold in a smile at the look of fondness on her face.

“Some things never change,” she said, matching his smile.

“Mommy-y,” Elsie whined from the top of the stairs.

“I’m coming,” Sara replied, starting towards the stairs. She turned back to Leonard, “Pretty sure I saw the keys for the other car on the counter if you don’t want to take the monstrosity of suburbatory.”

He nodded with a smirk and headed back towards the kitchen.

“Where’s Daddy going?” Elsie asked, getting to her feet as Sara climbed the stairs.

“He’s gonna go explore the new town,” she told her, “Find all the important places like your school and his new work.”

“But what about the new house?” she asked.

“It’ll still be here when he gets back,” Sara replied, “We can show him the coolest parts then, and maybe we can convince him to find a pizza place while he’s exploring. Sound good?”

“Yeah!” Elsie exclaimed with an excited smile.

“Okay, Rip said first door at the top of the stairs,” she said, “I think this is it.”

Elsie pushed open the door.

“Woah!” she exclaimed.

Elsie’s new room was large, bigger than her room on the Waverider. Three of the four walls were wallpapered in white flowers over a light blue background. The bed was pushed against one of the corners opposite the door, a dusty pink comforter almost completely hiding light blue sheets.

“Mommy, look! A canopy!” Elsie exclaimed.

There was indeed a canopy, a pink one that hung idly from the ceiling over the head of Elsie’s bed.

A woven tapestry was hung on the wall between two windows and above a dark wooden trunk Sara was sure was filled with toys.

Sara looked down to see Elsie lying on her back on a cream colored shag rug.

“Is that soft?” she asked, laughing.

“Uh-huh!” Elsie nodded. She jumped to her feet and ran over to the dresser, opening and closing all the drawers, “It’s empty.”

“I know,” Sara replied, “We can put all the clothes and stuff we packed yesterday in it later.”

She waited while Elsie finished exploring her room before they moved on.

There was an open living space upstairs with a big TV and a couch and some bookshelves, one of the spare bedrooms Rip had mentioned, and a bathroom that, judging by the yellow flowery shower curtain and the basket of bath toys, was supposed to be Elsie’s.

The master bedroom was also very large. Glass doors opposite the king bed opened to a balcony that looked out over the backyard.

“I want a balcony,” Elsie grumbled, gripping the metal railway and looking out at the pool, “Can we go swimming?”’

“Sure,” Sara replied, “We gotta get your boxes out of the truck, though.”

“Okay!” Elsie called, already halfway towards the stairs.


 

A couple hours later, Leonard returned to the house with the pizza Sara and Elsie had requested. He found them in the backyard, Sara sitting in a wicker chair on the stone patio with a book, Elsie splashing around in the shallow end of the pool, yellow inflatable floats on her arms.

“What happened to not getting in the water?” Leonard asked when he saw Sara’s damp hair. She turned towards his voice, putting her book down and standing up.

“Well, Elsie decided she wants to learn how to swim,” she replied, “and even though I managed to leave the League of Assassins…twice, I can’t say no to her.”

“Pizza!” Elsie yelped, pulling herself out of the pool. She sat down in another chair at the metal table, doing an anxious little dance as she waited for her dinner.

“You’d think we don’t feed her or something,” Sara said with raised eyebrows as she pulled a slice of pizza from the box. Elsie was eating as soon as the plate was in front of her.

“Good?” Leonard asked her.

“Uh-huh!” Elsie nodded.

“Babe, you’re dripping all over your pizza,” Sara said, “Here, let me get you a towel.”

“No-o.” she whined, leaning away.

“Okay,” Sara said, watching with an expression of bemusement as Elsie’s dripping hair left wet spots on the paper plate  She turned to Leonard, “So what’s the town like?”

“It’s nice,” he answered, nodding, “Old. A lot older than Central. We’re not too far from the university,” Leonard replied, “Jax could be here in ten minutes if he need to be. Ray’s building is a little further in the other direction, closer to the center of city. If Rip ever needs us to have a meeting all together, it’ll be here.”

“Fantastic,” Sara said drily. 

“We’re close to the beach,” Leonard added, “maybe walking distance if Elsie’s in a good mood.”

“Ooh, can we go?” Elsie asked, bouncing in her chair.”

“Maybe tomorrow,” Sara told her, “Depends on the weather.”

“Nineties and sunny all week,” Leonard sighed, leaning back in his chair.

“Aww, do you think you’ll make it?” Sara asked him, feigning concern.

“No,” he replied. Sara laughed, running a hand up and down his arm.


 

After dinner, Elsie showed Leonard all her favorite parts the new house: the canopy in her bedroom, the flowery shower curtain, the balcony. Then, after a bubble bath in the new bathtub with all her new toys, she started getting tired.

“I don’t wanna get dressed,” Elsie whined, lying in a heap on her bedroom floor, tangled in her goldfish-shaped towel.

“You have to, bear,” Sara said calmly, from her spot on Elsie’s bed, a pair of blue cotton pajamas in her hand.

“No-o,” she said tearfully.

It took another fifteen minutes to get Elsie into pajamas and downstairs.

“Long day, Else?” Leonard asked as Sara ran a hand through Elsie’s hair. 

Sara felt her nod underneath her touch.

“I’m not surprised she’s being like this,” she said, looking up at Leonard, “She was all excited about the new house, plus it’s thirty degrees warmer than she’s used to. I’m actually surprised she’s not being worse.”

“Hey!” Elsie said, her voice muffled in her arms.

“I was saying something nice, bear,” Sara told her, then added, “Sort of.”

“At least she’s not jet-lagged,” Leonard pointed out.

Sara nodded seriously.

“I guess that’s one of the perks of having a timeship — no time difference.”

“Can we read stories now?” Elsie asked.

“Not yet,” Sara shook her head.

“Why-y?”

“If we read now, you’re gonna fall asleep, and if you fall asleep now you’ll wake up at,” Sara glanced at the clock on the microwave, “four in the morning, which I don’t really want to deal with. Do you wanna color until bedtime?”

Elsie raised her head and nodded.

Just as Elsie was uncapping a yellow marker, the doorbell rang. a low chime that sounded through the house.

Sara met Leonard’s eyes.

“They’re here,” she said, feigning fear, “Turn the lights off. Hide Elsie.”

“Stay away from the windows,” he added, his voice low, a small smirk on his face as he headed for the door.

“Who’s here?” Elsie asked, looking up at Sara.

“I dunno,” Sara told her, “Some of our new neighbors probably.”

She heard the door open and then Leonard’s voice, too far away to be distinguishable words. A minute or so later, she heard footsteps in the hallway and then Leonard was walking into the kitchen with their first new neighbor behind him.

Before Leonard could introduce her, she stepped towards Sara.

“Hello!” she said in a high, clear voice, “I’m Laura.”

Laura was a tall woman, and probably only a year or so older than Sara, with brown eyes and dark brown hair that was pushed back from her face by large sunglasses. She was pretty in a fashionable way, and dressed as such in black narrow-leg pants and a white blouse. She wore shiny black heels that clicked on the tile as she approached Sara.

“Hi,” Sara replied, shaking her hand, “Sara. Nice to meet you.”

“Sara,” Laura repeated, “Nice to meet you too. Welcome to the neighborhood. Your husband was telling me that you just moved here from the states.”

“Yeah, we love it here already,” Sara replied. She saw Laura’s eyes travel to Elsie, who was making herself very small in her chair, trying her best not to be seen, “This is our daughter, Elsie. Else, can you say hi?”

“Hi,” Elsie said shyly, looking at at Laura through her lashes.

“Oh, she’s precious!” Laura exclaimed. She looked back at Sara, “How old is she?”

“Four,” Sara answered, nodding.

“How nice! I have a four year old at home as well, and an eighteen month old. They should meet!”

Before Sara could respond, Laura continued.

“There’s several kids in the neighborhood,” she said, “Myself and the other mothers get together about once a week. The kids play and we sit and have coffee and chat. Here, why don’t you give me your phone number and I’ll let you know our plans for this week. You can meet everybody and your daughter can meet the kids.”

Sara recited the new number she’d memorized for the mission and Laura put it in her phone.

About five minutes after Laura left, her phone buzzed. The message read:

Hi, it’s Laura. Nice to meet you and your family today! I’ll let you know when our next get-together is.

Sara shot back a quick response and then look up at Leonard.

“I’m gonna kill Rip.”