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you and me (and you makes three)

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“Hey— hey, kid! No, wait—”

That’s all the warning Lena gets before the doors to her office slam open hard enough to make the walls tremble. Her hand snaps out to snag her coffee before it can upend itself all over her tablet, fingers already twitching toward the silent alarm beneath her desk before her eyes have fully registered the intrusion.

But for once, it’s not masked gunmen busting into the room. It’s— a young girl?

No older than fifteen, by Lena’s quick approximation. Long-limbed and gangly the way teenagers are before they fully grow into themselves. Her dark blonde hair is mussed from her hasty entrance but her eyes light up when they land on Lena.

Lena is in the final stages of deciding whether her brother would stoop so low as to send a child to murder her – verdict: he absolutely would – with her thumb still hovering over the panic button, when Kara careens into the room.

Lena relaxes instantly as Kara bowls straight into the young girl, fisting a loose hand in the child’s collar as if to prevent future escapes. “When we’re around humans, we act human,” she hisses through her teeth, tone dripping with faux sweetness around her forced smile. The girl lets out a long-suffering sigh.

“Kara, what—?” Lena starts, and two pairs of blue eyes snap to her face.

“Lena!” Kara squeaks as though surprised to see her standing there in her own office, on the top floor of the building with her name on it. “Hi! Sorry, I’m sorry. We were coming to see you, but someone got a little ahead of herself—”

A disapproving tug to the girl’s collar has the teenager sticking her bottom lip out petulantly.

“That’s quite alright,” Lena manages, barely a tremble to her voice to belie the adrenaline-spiked thudding of her heart. Her gaze falls on the girl. “Who— who’s this?”

“Ah. Yes. Well. Funny story, actually—” Kara hedges, and she looks so guilty that Lena’s heart sinks. She’s already mentally clearing her calendar, preparing herself to clean up the blonde’s latest mess as her eyes drift to the girl. Her gaze sweeps over the light blue sweater and jeans, the battered sneakers, before catching on her face. There, barely visible above her left eyebrow, is a tiny faded scar.

Lena’s breath hitches in her throat. The scar. The pout. The earnest expression, those bright blue eyes—

The girl seems to tire of her guardian’s hesitancy. She steps forward, dragging the hero with her. “Hello, Lena,” she says with a beaming smile. “I’m Kara.”

Lena’s mouth drops open. Her eyes dart back and forth between her two visitors, wide and disbelieving.

Kara – her Kara, the elder – shoots her a rueful smile. “Yeah. So, um. Surprise?” Her face scrunches in an apologetic wince. “She’s— well. She’s me.”

 

Lena blinks. Then she blinks again. It doesn’t make the sight before her any easier to comprehend.

“She’s… you.”

Kara’s lips press into a remorseful line. “Technically, yeah. Young me. Me from the past. Me from the past who has rather unfortunately ended up here. Stranded.”

Lena raises her eyebrows in the girl’s direction. The teenager shrugs amiably.

“So I – we – were wondering—” Kara fumbles, “—if maybe you could help us get her home?”

Lena sighs. Right. Great. Perfect. This is shaping up to be just another typical Tuesday.

Taking a deep breath and squaring her shoulders, she rounds her desk to stand before the two blondes. Sticks a hand out for the young girl to shake. “Nice to meet you, Kara.”

The girl doesn’t take it. “Rao,” she breathes, staring up at Lena with guileless blue eyes. “Are you very pretty.”

Lena blinks. “Am— sorry? You’re asking if I think I’m—?”

Kara lets out a choked noise. Cheeks tinted an endearing pink, she nudges the girl with her elbow. “English grammar, kid. Flip the switch. Subject-verb-object.”

“Oh.” The girl pauses for a moment, considering. Then she shifts her attention back to Lena, smiling big and angelic. “You are very pretty.”

Under the heavy gaze of two sets of identical blue eyes, Lena feels her own cheeks heat up to match.

Fantastic.

 

“Sorry. Run this by me again.”

Her tone is incredulous, but she can’t help it. Even with years of experience handling the logic-defying chaos that seems to follow Kara wherever she goes, today’s scenario remains a leap too far.

She chances a glance at the young girl now happily ensconced on Lena’s white couch as she ploughs through the mountain of snacks Jess had delivered at her boss’ request. She seems remarkably unaffected by her little jump through the space-time continuum, far more focused on the bag of mini pretzels she’s inhaling than the fact that she’s just been dropped a decade and a half into her own future.

She turns back to the elder Kara. “You’re saying she just— appeared.”

Kara gulps. “Yeah. Well. I think it was, um. I think your genetic tracing technology brought her here.”

My—?” Lena gapes. “My programme isn’t designed for that, Kara! Not even remotely. If I had the capability to pluck people out of the past and bring them to the present, don’t you think I might have mentioned it?”

“I know, I know,” Kara gabbles. “But that’s what I was using when she showed up.”

Lena shakes her head in disbelief, tugging a rough hand through her loose hair.

“How the hell did this happen?” she hisses. “I created that technology to find missing people! To track specific DNA sequences and map the location of those individuals back through time. Track them, Kara. Not— not teleport them here!”

“I know, I’m sorry,” Kara says, bottom lip pouting. “I don’t know how it happened! I was running your tech on the quantum processor in the Fortress to try and figure out the date that missing alien boy was abducted— y’know, like you showed me. But it was taking forever and I… got a little… bored.”

She winces, grimacing under Lena’s unimpressed stare. “So I inputted my own DNA into the programme. I thought it would be cool to see a map of everywhere I’ve ever been on Earth!” she rushes out when Lena throws her hands in the air with a despairing sigh. “But then I, um. Pressed some buttons, and the next thing I know I’ve got mini-me over there sitting on an ice block whining about being hungry.”

That doesn’t sound familiar at all, Lena thinks but doesn’t say. “Which buttons did you press, Kara?”  she grits out instead. “I need to know everything you did so I can try and engineer the reverse command.”

“Ah. Yes. I thought you might ask that,” Kara says sheepishly, not meeting Lena’s eyes. “The thing is, um. I don’t, ah, know? I don’t know which buttons I pushed.”

Lena kneads her knuckles over her closed eyelids. “Kara.”

“I’m sorry,” Kara wails, shuffling her boots against the tiled floor. “I was hungry so I was eating popcorn and my fingers were all greasy from the butter and they just… sort of… slipped? And then the processor changed colour and started beeping and I panicked so I just— pressed some more?”

Lena sucks in a deep, calming, cleansing breath, the way her therapist taught her. The she does it again. And again.

“Are you telling me—” she mutters, eyes screwed shut, fingers pinching tight at the bridge of her nose, “—that your butter-covered fingers just accidentally invented time travel?”

The blonde at least has the good grace to look a little abashed. “Um. Maybe?”

 

They can figure this out. She can figure this out.

Lena Luthor is, first and foremost, a scientist, and this is nothing more than an equation to be solved.

“Okay. Okay.” She pulls out a pad of paper, uncaps her pen. Takes a seat opposite the couch and smooths a few non-existent wrinkles from her blouse. “First things first. We need to know when we’re sending her back to.” She quirks a brow. “Judging by her sneakers, I’d say the early 2000s?”

Kara nods. “She’s young. She’s only been on Earth for—” She pauses, brow furrowed, turning to the child on the couch. “How long have you been on Earth?”

“Kizh lorakh,” the young girl mumbles around the chips she’s cramming into her mouth.

“Lorakh kryptahniuo?” Kara asks.

“Zhi.”

Lena shakes her head. “Okay, I know I have a basic grasp of Kryptonian, but I haven’t yet covered the module on mouths full of food. Translation, please?”

“Right,” Kara mutters. “Sorry.” She nudges the girl’s shin with one brown Oxford, fixing her under a disapproving glare. “Plehsu lizrhom ahbrit.”

The girl swallows the exorbitant amount of food in her mouth, looking contrite.

“She said she’s been here for six months,” Kara translates, turning back to Lena. “But six Kryptonian months. So, like, a year in Earth time. That’s all we were saying.” She bites her lip. “Oh. And I told her to stop stuffing her face.”

Lena smirks. Turns to the young girl. “So what was the date—”

“Wait, what do you mean you have a basic grasp of Kryptonian?” Kara the elder interrupts, brow furrowed.

“Kara.” She fixes the blonde with an unimpressed stare. “How would I have been able to programme a polyphasic quantum processor if I didn’t speak Kryptonian? I’ve been learning for almost a year.”

Rao,” Kara swallows. “I didn’t think. It never even occurred to me that— wait.” She cuts herself off, cheeks flushing. “So every time I’ve sworn in Kryptonian around you—”

“You’ve given me quite a comprehensive lesson on profanity, yes.” Lena smirks at the way Kara’s eyes widen comically, leaning in close to whisper in her ear. “Who knew you had such a filthy mouth?”

Kara makes a high choked noise in the back of her throat, reaching up to adjust her glasses almost violently. “You, um, you were asking about dates?”

Smug, Lena turns back toward the young girl. “To get you home safely, I need to know as much information about the time you were taken from as possible.” She extends the pad and pen out over the coffee table. “Could you write down everything you remember from the moment before you were transported here? Date, time, location— any identifying features.”

“Sure,” the girl agrees, reaching out to take the offered notebook.

“Gently,” Kara warns, hand half-extended as though ready to intercept the exchange.

The girl sighs, relaxing her fingers with a roll of her eyes at her older self. “She’s not so hot on regulating her powers yet,” Kara says sheepishly under Lena’s questioning stare. “I don’t want her hurting you.”

“I won’t hurt her,” the teenager complains. “I’m good at controlling my strength.”

Kara levels the girl with a flat stare. “I’m not prepared to take the chance.”

Warmth blooms upwards from the base of Lena’s spine, filling her whole body with light. She clears her throat to hide her blush as the girl scribbles furiously on the notepad in her lap.

“Her English is very good,” she murmurs to Kara. “I mean, vocabulary, verb conjugation, accent…”

“Yeah. She— I was basically fluent after a year. I just got word order confused sometimes. Syntax transference, you know how it is.” Kara flashes her a rueful smile.

And— no. Lena can’t say that she honestly does know how it is, learning English as a native speaker of an alien tongue. But the feeling of being dropped into an entirely new world against one’s will; being asked to assimilate, being punished for mistakes made though no rulebook was given— well. She has some experience of how that goes.

She returns Kara’s smile, a new kind of understanding of her best friend blossoming in her mind. How she can feel such a keen sense of kinship, a connection born of analogous experience, with a woman formed of stardust a few thousand lightyears away, is a mystery to her logical mind.

And yet she does. She does.

 

“So you’re fourteen?”

The girl nods. She and Kara are cross-legged on the couch, heads bent close, catching up on the events of the teenager’s life thus far. It should be distracting to Lena, buried as she is in every report and experiment log she could find on her genetic tracing technology, on teleportation, on the very few and very hypothetical forays L-Corp had ever made into the arena of potential time travel.

It is distracting. But not as much as it is endearing.

“So you’ve still got Mrs Helmstadt for physics?”

The young girl nods. “She’s such an old fart. She gave me an F on a paper just because I accidentally disproved the third law of thermodynamics.”

“I remember that!” Kara crows. “She said I’d made it up and threw my paper in the garbage. Good thing she didn’t actually work through my proof or we would have had to answer some very difficult questions.”

“How am I supposed to keep track of all the scientific laws humans have got wrong?” the teenager asks petulantly. “It’s exhausting.”

Kara snorts. “It only gets worse, kid.” She taps her fingers thoughtfully against her chin. “You said it’s November 2004 for you. Oh!” She snaps her fingers in excitement. “Have you seen The Princess Diaries 2 yet?”

“Of course,” the young girl shrieks, loudly enough that Lena’s pen jerks in her grip and she accidentally crosses through her last two lines of notes. “It’s so good. I can’t wait till they make the third one.”

Kara presses her lips together, suddenly extremely invested in a close examination of her fingernails. “Yeah, uh huh. Gonna be so great,” she says, voice unnaturally high, and Lena has to stifle a snort.

“So, is Alex still being an ass to you?” Kara asks, shifting the topic with a bite of her lip.

The young girl huffs. “Yeah. She hates me. She tells all her friends to avoid me, so I have no one to sit with at lunch.”

Lena feels her own chest tighten in sympathy. Kara hums in understanding. “Don’t worry. As soon as you meet Kenny you’ll never have to eat alone again.”

The young girl’s forehead crinkles. “Who’s Kenny?”

Kara’s eyes widen. “Crap.” She shoots a panicked glance at Lena. “What happens when I tell her things she hasn’t lived yet? Have I just, like, ripped a hole in space and time? Is my entire timeline going to unravel around me?”

Lena shrugs. “I don’t know. Time travel didn’t exist until this morning when you decided to eat popcorn over a polyphasic quantum processor. Forgive me if I haven’t yet caught up on the reading.”

Kara is growing more agitated by the second, bouncing on the couch cushions with enough force to make the entire structure creak and groan. “Lena. This is serious! I’ve just implanted the idea of Kenny in her head. Now she won’t meet him organically, now she’ll be waiting and looking and— oh God, who knows what changes to the timeline that could provoke. Rao, what if I accidentally start World War 3? What if someone is about to find the cure for cancer and they don’t because of me? What if—”

Kara.” Lena reaches out, lays a firm hand on the blonde’s knee. “We’re going to have to wipe her memory of this entire trip when we send her back. Otherwise it would create a paradox in your timeline, give you memories you’ve never lived. She won’t remember anything we tell her now.”

Kara deflates at her words, at her touch, sagging back into the couch cushions and covering Lena’s hand with her own. “Oh, thank God.”

“Do you think J’onn would be able to wipe her memory?” Lena asks, very deliberately not pulling her hand out from under the blonde’s. “Have you— have you told him? Or Alex?”

“No,” Kara grimaces. “We came straight to you. I don’t know how all these consequences will work, but I kinda figured the less people affected by, y’know. Time travel. The better?”

Lena nods. “That does seem sensible.” She sighs. “I suppose I’ll just adapt some tech to erase memories at the same time as cracking the secret to time travel. All in a day’s work.”

Kara squeezes her hand, warm and reassuring. “If anyone can do it, it’s you.”

They smile at each other for a long gentle moment. The sound of a throat being deliberately cleared startles Lena out of the microcosm of Kara’s blue eyes and back into reality.

Young Kara is staring at them from the couch, unimpressed. Lena can feel a blush begin its slow crawl up the back of her neck as the young girl smirks.

So,” the teenager drawls, eyes big and bright and hopeful. “If I’m not going to remember it anyway, can we watch The Princess Diaries 3?”

 

Lena’s search of the literature is not proving particularly fruitful.

Afternoon bleeds into evening which bleeds into night, and she’s still no closer to cracking the formula Kara’s greasy fingers had discovered by accident.

Three separate takeout deliveries come and go, each proving more incapable than the last of satiating two Kryptonian appetites. Lena is picking delicately at her plate of Chinese when she notices the absence of the cheerful conversation that has surrounded them thus far, becomes aware of the heavy scrutiny she’s currently under in the sudden silence of the room.

She looks up to find two identical sets of blue eyes fixed hungrily on her plate which, she looks down to realise, evidently contains the last pot sticker. Both blondes are poised on the edges of their seats, all but quivering in anticipation.

Slowly, languidly, Lena plucks the last dumpling from her plate, holding it delicately between her chopsticks. “I don’t suppose either of you are interested in this, are you?”

“Yes!” Kara-the-younger shrieks in the same instant Kara-the-elder yells, “Me!”

Lena smirks. She tilts her head, eyes locking with her best friend as her lips curve up into a silky smile. Agonisingly slowly, and maintaining eye contact with Kara the entire time, she leans over to drop the pot sticker on the young girl’s plate.

The teenager whoops with glee as Kara flops back in her chair, hand pressed to her heart as though she’s been shot. “Lena,” she gasps. “After all we’ve been through together… How could you?”

“I’ve tried to warn you,” Lena smirks. “Sometimes my Luthor genes just shine through.”

“Well, sure. But— this?” Kara gapes. “Agony! Treachery! Betrayal of the highest order!”

“Drama queen,” Lena chides, grinning. “I was just trying to be fair, since Little Kara will be going home soon. Whereas you’ll get the last of my pot stickers for the rest of our lives.”

She snaps her mouth shut as she realises what she’s just said, as the implications settle over her like a lead weight. She bites down hard on the inside of her cheek and waits. Waits for Kara to pull back, to tell her she’s being ridiculous, that she doesn’t want Lena around for longer than it takes to get her past self home. Waits for her to bolt.

But Kara doesn’t do any of that. She just reaches out one crossed leg to run her toes up Lena’s calf, smiling small and secret, eyes glittering. “I’m gonna hold you to that.”

The delicate moment is shattered by the wet sounds of chewing. “Thanks, Lena,” the teenager muffles out around her mouthful of meat and pastry.

Kara smacks the back of the young girl’s head lightly. “Don’t be so rude. Swallow before you speak. And she’s Ms Luthor to you, kid.”

Lena rolls her eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course you can call me Lena, Kara,” she smiles at the young girl.

Young Kara sticks her tongue out at her older self. Older Kara sticks her tongue out right back. Lena has to stifle a smirk. Perhaps in physical age there is a difference in seniority between these two, but in terms of maturity—

“Have you figured out how to get me home, Lena’kah?” the young girl asks after a moment. Lena has barely opened her mouth to reply when Kara, midway through a large gulp of water, sprays liquid rather forcefully out of her nose and all over Lena’s coffee table.

“Zha-ehworodh iovis zhed!” Kara hisses, wiping furiously at her dripping chin.

“What do you mean, don’t call her that? Why not?” the young girl asks indignantly. “And you should speak English in front of Lena. You’re being rude.”

Kara has the decency to look a little contrite. It’s a comical sight, watching the Girl of Steel receive a scolding from a precocious teenager.

“Call me what?” Lena asks, if only to save Kara a further dressing-down at the hands of her younger self.

“Lena’kah,” the young girl beams, and Kara winces.

Lena’s eyes cut suspiciously to the hero’s face. “What does it mean?”

“Um,” Kara fudges. “Well. It’s the first person plural possessive, so. I suppose it would translate to, um. Our Lena.”

Lena’s eyebrows raise.

“It’s an honorific,” Kara hastens to add, reaching up to tug self-consciously at her ear. “A way of showing respect or, or— um, intimacy. They’re very common in Kryptonian.”

“We use them with family,” young Kara adds, smiling beatifically. “And those we love.”

Kara chokes on air.

“And if Kara uses them, I must use them,” the young girl continues, unperturbed. “As we are the same.”

“Yes,” Kara concedes in a tone that indicates she doesn’t agree at all. “But Lena is not family. By blood,” she clarifies quickly, flashing an apologetic smile in Lena’s direction. “Biologically, I mean. That’s what it— that’s how it works on Krypton.”

“I know she’s not family,” young Kara says impatiently. “But you do love—”

“Okay!” Kara half-yells, leaping out of her seat to clap a hand over her younger self’s mouth. “That was a fun linguistics lesson. Don’t you have something else you can eat?” she directs at the girl she now has in a loose headlock. “Something that might keep your big mouth occupied?”

The last part is muttered low enough that Lena can barely make it out, but the young girl seems unphased. Damn superhearing. She pushes easily out of her older self’s iron grip, shaking her head. “I can’t believe I’m such a kuvaium when I grow up.”

“Watch who you’re calling idiot,” Kara mutters, hip-checking the girl back in the direction of the couch. “Why don’t we all just use each other’s names, huh? I am Kara. She is Lena. And you are Kid.”

“No, I’m Kara,” the young girl huffs. “You don’t get to call dibs. You can be Kara 2.”

“And let you be Kara 1? I don’t think so.”

“I’m younger, I get to be the first one. You’re too—” she waves a dismissive hand. “—old.”

Old?” Kara almost shrieks. “You little rat. I’m not old. Older, maybe. Wiser. Better.

“Wrinklier.”

Kara growls. “Watch your mouth, kid.”

“I’m not a kid,” the young girl whines, her brow scrunching.

Kara snorts. “No. That’s giving you too much credit, maturity-wise. You’re more of a baby. You’ve barely even started living.”

In a heartbeat the teenager’s eyes flash dark and deadly, the sudden venom in her tone cleaving hot into Lena’s chest. “I’ve lived through plenty already.”

She shoulders past her older self with enough force to send Kara stumbling and slams her way out onto the balcony. Kara stares after her with wide, sorrowful eyes, her chest heaving.

“Fuck,” she mutters, eyes fixed on the young girl’s shaking shoulders where she leans against the railing, looking out over the city. “I never should have—”

She’s silent for a long moment, gaze unblinking. “It’s almost easier to forget, you know? How hard it was, those first few years here.” Lena nods, though Kara’s eyes haven’t moved from her younger self. “I have to bury that part of me so far down—”

Her voice cracks, and Lena feels a corner of her heart follow suit.

Kara swallows hard before continuing. “But it’s so raw for her. So recent. She hasn’t learned yet, how to live with it all. How to live despite it all.”

Lena pushes up from her seat to step closer, and it’s a testament to how absorbed in memory the blonde is that she actually jumps when Lena lays a gentle hand on her arm.

“But she will learn,” she whispers, hand sliding from Kara’s elbow to her waist, wrapping around her back to pull her into her side. “You’ve learned. She’s going to grow up into a strong, kind, beautiful woman with the biggest heart I’ve ever known. I know she’s going to be just fine, Kara.” She tilts her head until blue eyes meet her own. “Because she’s going to be you.”

Kara is almost trembling under her touch. Lena strokes a thumb back and forth over her hip, smiling gently. “So for now, all she needs from you is understanding. Compassion.”

Kara sucks in a shuddering breath as her arms come up around Lena’s waist, tugging their bodies fully together. Lena can feel the way the blonde is shaking where her face tucks against Lena’s neck, and she tilts her head to press a light kiss to golden curls.

“You could save a little compassion for yourself as well,” she whispers against Kara’s temple and the arms enveloping her body tighten around her back, hands twisting tight into the sheer fabric of her blouse.

They stay there a long moment, breathing one another in. Lena cards her fingers through silky strands, cupping the back of Kara’s neck reverently as she sways them gently back and forth.

“Thanks,” the blonde manages thickly when they eventually disentangle, cheeks and nose tinted pink and eyes glossy with unshed tears.

Lena bobs up on her tiptoes to press a kiss to the corner of her mouth, the lightest pressure of lips to warm skin, and is it her imagination or does Kara lean into the contact?

But in the next moment the blonde is pulling away, sniffling as she wipes at her nose and turns toward the balcony door. Lena’s hand on her wrist stops her.

“Let me,” she murmurs, crossing to the door herself and throwing a wink over her shoulder at the blonde. “I think I have something of a knack for comforting Danvers girls.”

Kara chuckles wetly. “As long as you don’t try it on Alex,” she says, sniffling around her smile. “I’d really hate it if she shot you.”

 

The city is alive and twinkling with a hundred thousand lights, spread out below Lena’s balcony like it’s putting on a show just for them.

Young Kara is staring out at the vastness of the view, her shoulders shaking. As Lena approaches, a single glistening tear slides down her cheek and splashes onto her hands. Her hands which, Lena can now see, are wrapped tight around the railing, the metal warping and deforming in her iron grip.

Lena doesn’t mind. It’s not the first time she’s had to replace that railing after a show of Kryptonian strength. She doubts it will be the last, either.

“Hey,” she murmurs quietly, coming to stand next to the girl but leaving a respectable distance between them, her gaze fixed on the city. “Are you alright?”

“Fine,” the teenager snaps, voice clipped and jaw tight.

Lena nods amiably but doesn’t respond, just continues to stare out at the glimmering lights. It’s quiet for a long moment, the only sounds the whistling of the wind and the muted bustle of the city below.

“She’s forgotten,” the young girl says after an interminable silence, the words exploding out of her like the release of long-held pressure. “She’s forgotten, and she’s happy. She’s happy because she’s forgotten.”

She turns her head to face Lena then, eyes alive and burning with the desolate blaze of stars long dead. “How do I forget?” she whispers, tiny and broken. “How can I be happy? Everything— everything’s gone. Everything hurts. All the time. They’re there, all the time. My parents. My world. My home. They’re there in my head but I can’t reach them. I can’t ever go back.”

Lena’s heart has migrated up into her throat. It’s making it incredibly difficult to swallow, to breathe. She takes a half step closer to the girl so their elbows nudge together. The tiniest show of solidarity.

“I want to be happy, but I don’t think I can be. Not now. Not without them. I miss them so much, Lena,” she says softly. “I don’t belong here, on Earth. I’m all alone. Sometimes—”

The young girl sucks in a shuddering breath. Her hands are trembling. “Sometimes I wish I had died on Krypton,” she whispers, the words barely audible. “I don’t want to outlive them alone.”

Lena digs her teeth hard into her bottom lip. It takes every scrap of her self-restraint not to throw her arms around the young girl and never let go. Kara needs to say this, she can tell. She needs to say it so she can be free of it.

“I want to be happy,” the teenager says again, two more tears tracking over the apples of her cheeks. “But not if it means I forget them.”

There’s silence for another long moment as the words settle into place like a fine gossamer web, encasing the two of them in a moment suspended in time.

One tiny, logical corner of Lena’s brain is screaming at her that none of this matters. Nothing she says now, no amount of comfort she tries to give will amount to anything because the young girl will forget it the moment they send her home.

But she takes another look at Kara’s agonised, tear-streaked face, and kicks that part of herself unceremoniously back into the darkest shadows of her subconscious.

Of course this matters. It’s possible that nothing Lena’s ever done has mattered more.

“I promise you,” she starts, clearing her throat when her voice cracks under the heaviness of the moment. “I promise you that Kara has not forgotten. You can hold those memories, hold those you love in your heart for the rest of your life, and still find happiness.”

She swallows hard. “I need you to hear me when I tell you that you deserve to be happy. It does not negate the losses you’ve suffered, and it is not a betrayal of the people you’ve lost. They would want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy, Kara. You’re still here, you survived. You deserve to live. To thrive.”

The teenager shakes her head, her face crumpling. Lena presses closer, presses the lengths of their arms together. “Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but since your memory will be wiped when we send you home anyway—” Lena purses her lips. “I suppose it’s okay. Won’t make the universe collapse or anything.”

The young girl smiles a little through her tears, and Lena nudges a rock-hard elbow with her own.

“Kara. It will get better. It will get easier. I know a lot of people have probably said that to you,” she starts, and the teenager rolls her eyes. “But I need you to know that I’m not most people. I would never tell you something that wasn’t true. And, well. I’m very clever.”

That tugs a wet chuckle from the girl. Lena feels her heart flip over in her chest.

“So I know what I’m talking about,” she continues quietly. “I know you, Kara. In your future. I know who you grow up to be, and I know that you will have a wonderful life. It won’t always be easy—”

Images flash gunfire-quick behind Lena’s eyelids. Kara beaten bloody by Reign. Her body shot through with Kryptonite, her life-force waning. Kara in the Fortress, broken by Lena’s own hand.

She swallows hard, sucking in the air she needs to carry on. “But you will get through it. You will overcome more than most people could ever dream of. You already have,” she acknowledges, watching as tears drip steadily from the young girl’s chin to spot dark on the mangled railing. “But you will come out stronger for it. And Kara—”

Lena bites down on the inside of her cheek, willing away the tears prickling at the corners of her own eyes. “Through it all, you will never be alone. You are so, so loved.”

She reaches out, resting a hand lightly atop the young girl’s clenched fists. Kara uncurls her fingers, threading them through Lena’s and squeezing tight. Lena doesn’t mind the pain.

“You’re loved now, and you will be loved for the rest of your life,” she says with a certainty she feels in her marrow. “You’re loved by this city. By the whole planet.” She runs her thumb back and forth over the girl’s knuckles. “You’re loved by your friends. By your family, Kryptonian and human. Eliza and Alex— you mean the world to them, Kara.”

The young girl sniffles, body trembling where her shoulder presses against Lena’s arm. Lena stays quiet. Gives the child a chance to collect herself. Keeps her thumb running steady and sure over the back of her hand.

After a moment, the girl looks up. Her blue eyes are glassy and wet and beautifully, impossibly earnest. Lena cannot imagine a world where she doesn’t end up falling for those eyes.

“What about you?” young Kara asks softly, and Lena’s brow furrows.

“Me?”

“Am I loved by you?” the young girl whispers, voice tremulous and soft as though the answer could break her in two.

Lena’s mouth goes dry, heart thudding hard and unyielding against her ribs. Her own words echo in her head. I would never tell you something that wasn’t true.

“Yes,” she whispers, her voice only half-strangled. “Yes, Kara. You are so, so loved by me.”

The teenager is quiet for a moment, absorbing the words. Gradually her heaving breaths begin to slow, hands unclenching from the dents they’ve formed in the railing..

“I wish I could meet you now,” she murmurs after a moment. “My now, I mean. When I first landed on Earth. I think you would have made it easier.”

Lena feels like her heart is breaking and soaring all at once. She feels tears well hot at the corners of her vision, finds herself unable to articulate a response.

“Or I could have met you on Krypton,” the young girl continues, voice lost somewhere amongst the hazy shadows of memory. “But you would have had to escape with me. That pod journey would have been very cosy.”

A wet chuckle tears itself free from Lena’s throat at that and she gives up trying to hold herself back, slides her arms gentle and hesitant around the girl’s shoulders. In less than a heartbeat the teenager sags into her, clutching at Lena’s body with a desperation that’s all too familiar.

“Oh, Kara,” Lena murmurs, pressing her face to the crown of golden curls. “I wish I’d known you my whole life, too.”

 

She leads the girl back inside, shivering a little from the chill of the night air.

Kara stands nervously in the middle of the office, wringing her hands together. “I’m sorry,” she blurts out as soon as the teenager enters, teeth digging hard into her bottom lip. “I was insensitive. I know— I do remember what things are like for you, now. I know how much they suck. So you can—”

The corners of her mouth turn up in a hopeful smile. “You can be Kara 1.”

The teenager ducks her head, but she’s smiling too. “I quite like Little Kara,” she says, eyes flickering shyly to Lena’s face. “And I suppose kid is fine too. As long as I get to call you grandma.”

Kara feigns outrage, but she’s grinning too widely for it to be effective. She chuckles as her younger self bumps lightly into her shoulder on her way back to the couch, the teen dropping heavy onto the cushions and rooting through the detritus of takeout boxes looking for scraps.

“Thank you,” Kara the elder murmurs as Lena approaches, leaning in to press a gentle kiss to her cheek that has Lena’s heart beating out a samba in her chest. “Again. Is there no problem you can’t solve with that big beautiful brain of yours?”

“Only the question of reverse time travel,” Lena deadpans, running a hand through her hair with a sigh. “It’s getting late, and I have a feeling the answer doesn’t lie in any of these files.”

Kara’s brow furrows, and she motions for the young girl on the couch to stand. “Rao, you’re right. I’m sorry we’ve kept you so long. I didn’t realise how late it was.”

“No, that’s not what I—” Lena starts, but Kara is already bowling over her.

“I’m so sorry, Lena. We’ll leave you alone,” she mutters, tugging on the teenager’s sleeve.

But the young girl plants her feet, pouting. “We can’t leave.”

Kara sighs. “We aren’t making the decisions here, kid. I am, and I say it’s time to go.”

“But you said, you said—” the young girl whines, tone turning petulant as she sticks out her bottom lip in indignation. “You said we had to go and see Lena because she could send me home. You said she knows how to fix every problem. You told me she makes everything better—”

Kara’s eyes widen comically with each word that falls from her younger self’s mouth, her cheeks glowing hotter by the second. She’s not alone. Lena feels heat begin to crawl up the back of her own neck, wonders absently which of the two of them is blushing harder in this moment. Between them, the force of their combined flushes could probably power an underprivileged youth centre or something.

Kara lets out a choked little noise, her eyes wide. “Didn’t I also tell you to shut up?” she hisses through her teeth. “Rao, your memory’s selective.”

“Kara, we can try again tomorrow,” Lena says, appeasing. “If I can access the processor directly I might have more luck finding the reverse command.”

Kara nods enthusiastically. “Yes. Perfect. Tomorrow we’ll go to the Fortress, get this whole thing squared away. Come on, ki— Little Kara. Let’s give Lena some peace.”

She flashes a warm smile in Lena’s direction. “We’ll pick you up in the morning?”

But the teenager is still having none of it. “I don’t want to leave,” she whines, turning her big blue eyes on Lena. “Can stay I with you?”

Kara sighs, rapping her knuckles lightly against the girl’s skull to punctuate each word. “Subject, then verb, then object.”

The young girl pouts. She turns her gaze back to Lena, puppy dog eyes in full force. “Can I stay with you?”

“No you cannot,” Kara answers before Lena gets a chance. “We’ve bothered Lena quite enough for one day. I have a double bed; you’re staying with me.”

The young girl grimaces. “Ugh. I don’t want to share a bed with you. You kick.”

Kara’s mouth opens in indignation. “Well, you drool.”

The teenager pouts. “You float off the bed in your sleep and take all the blankets with you.”

“So do you!”

“I know! That’s why I don’t want to share with you!”

It’s taking every iota of Lena’s propriety and decorum training not to burst out laughing at the showdown taking place in the middle of her office. The two blondes have squared up to one another, two jaws set in rigid lines, two bottom lips sticking out. If it weren’t for the potential of, like, shattering the space-time continuum or something, Lena would snap a photo.

“I have a guest bedroom,” she hears herself saying before she’s really thought through the implications of the offer. Two sets of blue eyes snap to her face. “You could both stay with me. Then you wouldn’t have to share.”

What she neglects to mention – what her own brain had neglected to mention until the suggestion was already out of her mouth – is that with two beds between the three of them, someone’s going to end up sharing.

But if those particular ramifications register with either blonde, they don’t show it. The young girl bounces excitedly up and down, each time floating just a split-second too long to be obeying the laws of terrestrial gravity. But Kara shakes her head. “Lena, we’ve already imposed so much—”

“Surely I get to decide what constitutes an imposition?” Lena smiles, unwilling in this moment to examine why the need to keep Kara – both Karas – close is so strong.

The elder blonde’s mouth opens and closes. She can’t argue with that, Lena knows.

“Good,” she says with finality, turning to collect her coat and purse. “That’s settled then. Off we go.”

 

All things considered, the evening passes without major incident.

The utter devastation Little Kara experiences upon learning that the third Princess Diaries film does not yet exist is assuaged only by her joy at being able to watch The Incredibles 2 on Lena’s flatscreen less than a week after she’d seen the first movie in theatres back at home.

By the time the teenager has been kitted out with Lena’s smallest hoodie and sweats and shepherded into the spare room, Lena’s about ready to fall asleep where she stands.

She and Kara pad through their night-time routines side by side with no mention of their inevitable sleeping arrangements. Clad in Lena’s old science camp t shirt and sleep shorts, Kara just slides beneath the sheets on what Lena has come to think of – very privately and with a secret flush of pleasure – as her side of the bed and turns off the light.

It’s easy – it’s so easy – to climb in next to her. To let the stresses of the day sigh out of her as Kara’s hand reaches across the gap between them and interlaces their fingers, bringing their joined hands to her lips to press a feather-light kiss to Lena’s palm.

It’s easy, perilously easy, to fall into the trap of this comfort, this normalcy. To pretend that this is a night like any other; that Kara is always here, permanently, warming her bed and her heart.

Lena frightens herself with how much she wishes that were the case.

But that is a longing, a craving too big and too unruly to be dealt with tonight. So for now, for the moment, she just squeezes their entwined fingers and lets the heady warmth of Kara beside her, the steady cadence of her breathing, lull her into unconsciousness.

 

She’s ripped from slumber by a scream.

Kara is already up and vaulting from the bed before Lena can blink herself back into awareness, all but flying out of the room and almost taking a sizeable chunk of Lena’s drywall with her.

Lena stumbles out after her, following the noises of disturbance down the hall to where the door to the guest bedroom stands ajar.

Inside, illuminated by the dim light from the hallway, she finds two figures huddled on the floor beside the bed in a mess of sheets and blankets. As her eyes adjust Lena can make out that young Kara is curled in on herself in a sobbing ball, her breathing harsh and unsteady as she presses her face against her bent knees. Kara the elder has wrapped herself around the young girl’s back, moulding tight to her body and rocking the whimpering child gently back and forth.

Heart in her throat, Lena makes her way unsteadily across the dark bedroom to kneel before the pair.

“Night terrors,” Kara mutters when their eyes meet, barely audible over the teenager’s cries. “I used to get panic attacks a lot. Holding her like this is good, the pressure—”

“Calms the limbic system,” Lena supplies, nodding. She focuses her attention on the young girl. “Hey, Kara. You’re safe. You’re safe, sweetheart.”

She keeps her voice calm and low, doesn’t make any sudden movements or try to touch the trembling girl. “I’m Lena,” she says softly. “You’re in my apartment. You’re quite safe, and you’re going to be just fine. Do you think if I hold your hands, you’d be able to squeeze my fingers?”

The young girl is practically hyperventilating, choking in great heaving sobs, but her eyes emerge from the cradle of her folded arms to lock onto Lena’s. “Good,” Lena encourages. “That’s good. Here, squeeze my hands.”

“Lena, no,” Kara interrupts urgently. “She’ll break your fingers. Here, kid,” she says, loosening her hold on the girl’s abdomen to grasp her hands. “Squeeze mine instead.”

After a moment the girl complies, knuckles white with the effort. At her back, Kara grimaces but doesn’t complain.

“Good job,” Lena soothes. “Now that we’ve got your hands sorted, let’s take a look at our breathing, hmm? Watch me,” she prompts, waiting until tear-filled eyes meet hers again. “Breathe when I breathe, okay? That’s all you have to do. Just breathe when I breathe.”

It takes several long, agonising minutes, but eventually the girl’s rapid breaths slow and deepen, her trembling body beginning to calm.

“Well done, sweetheart,” Lena says, reaching out and very slowly, very deliberately, laying her hands over both Karas’ clenched fists. “You’re in my apartment, in the guest bedroom,” she continues. “Can you tell me five things you can see?”

It’s a lengthy, arduous process but eventually the young girl manages it, her awareness brought back to her physical surroundings rather than the terror gripping her mind. “Good job,” Lena smiles, stroking her thumbs over the girl’s knuckles. “Now tell me four things you can hear.”

They move through all five senses until the young girl is no longer shaking in her older self’s arms. Until her white-knuckled grip on Kara’s hands finally slackens and she slumps against the elder blonde’s chest, exhausted.

“How about we try and get her back into bed?” Lena murmurs to Kara, stroking sweat-matted curls back from the young girl’s forehead. “It’s not too comfortable down here.”

Kara nods, straightening and scooping the girl’s limp body up to lay her gently back on the mattress. Lena covers her with the discarded blankets, listening to her breathing even out.

“I should stay with her,” Kara whispers once the girl is settled. “That was— that’s such a huge part of the terror. Just— being alone.”

Lena nods, a potent mixture of empathy and sadness and overwhelming love crashing into her like a tidal wave. She waits until Kara has settled in behind the girl before turning to go. “Should I leave the door open?” she asks quietly. “Or a light on somewhere?”

“The open door is good,” Kara whispers from the bed. Lena nods, turning to leave, but a warm hand on her wrist stops her. “You— you could stay too,” Kara says hesitantly. “If you want to.”

Lena swallows hard around the sudden lump in her throat before nodding, rounding the bed to crawl in on the young girl’s other side. She faces the two of them, eyes tracing over their near-identical profiles in the faint light, and wonders if there’s anything she wouldn’t do for this woman.

Kara’s arm stretches out from where it’s wrapped around her younger self, fingers pushing through blankets until they can tangle with Lena’s again. “Thank you,” Kara whispers, stroking her thumb over Lena’s palm. “You were amazing. I wish I’d had you for all my night terrors.”

She glances down at the younger version of herself laying between them. Shakes her head with a soft chuckle. “You know what I mean.”

Lena does. She squeezes the fingers interlocked with her own, brushing her other hand over the young girl’s brow, smoothed out now in sleep. “You have me now,” she whispers, soft and honest.

Through the darkness, she thinks she can just make out Kara’s smile. “You have me, too,” the blonde replies, just as soft. “For as long as you want me.”

 

The morning dawns bright and chilly, punctuated by the soft sounds of singing and the unmistakeable smell of cooking pancakes.

Lena wakes to an empty bed but a full kitchen, stumbling out of the bedroom to find both blondes dancing around the stove to an old Britney classic. The sight makes her feel warm from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.

The soft fuzzy feeling only intensifies when Little Kara sits Lena down ceremoniously at the kitchen island, presenting her with an extra-large mug of coffee and a bowl of cut fruit.

“We made you breakfast to say thank you for last night, and for taking us in and helping us even though we’re both idiots,” the young girl recites solemnly. Lena sniggers at the way adult Kara is mouthing along to the words over the child’s shoulder, as though this was a script they had worked on together.

An inhuman amount of pancakes and chocolate chips later, they’re washed and dressed and touching down in the Fortress’ icy antechamber.

Kara reaches out to tug the woolly hat she’d insisted Lena wear a little more snugly down over her ears as the teenager takes off to investigate the Fortress, whooping with glee.

“Don’t break anything!” Kara calls after her with a sigh of resignation, offering her arm for Lena to take and leading the way – at a much more human pace – through to the main cavern.

 

Four hours later, and Lena still has not cracked the secret of time travel.

Kara, for her part, does try to help. Young Kara, in contrast, spends the first two hours exploring every inch of the Fortress and the next two lying on her back with her legs kicking up in the air, reciting every cheesy advertisement jingle she’d ever heard with increasing delight.

Lena would be lying if she tried to claim it wasn’t grating on her nerves, but she’d worked through far more distracting situations than this in the past. Kara, on the other hand, is growing increasingly irate with each slogan to fall from her younger self’s mouth.

When the teenager sing-songs the Lucky Charms jingle for the third time in twenty minutes, Kara’s long-held composure cracks.

“Rao, you’re irritating. You’re like the world’s most annoying kid sister,” Kara grumbles under her breath. “If this is what I was like with Alex, it’s no wonder she hated me.”

“You’re so mean to me,” the young girl pouts. “I don’t wanna talk to you anymore. I’m gonna go talk to our Lena.” She shoves off the ice block she’d been using as a recliner to flop down unceremoniously at Lena’s side.

“Will you stop with the our Lena thing?” Kara says incredulously. “English doesn’t use honorifics like that, and it’s not even grammatically correct in Kryptonian. Knock it off.”

“Well, yeah,” the young girl concedes. “Technically I should say my Lena. That’s what you would say, right? And we’re the same person.”

Kara splutters, face puce. “That is not what I would— I wouldn’t say—”

“Why?” the young girl asks innocently. “Is she not yours?”

“No!” Kara and Lena say at the same time. Lena’s heart is thudding hard in her ears. Kara won’t even look at her.

“Huh.” The young girl considers for a moment. “Well, why not?”

Lena’s pretty sure she hears the exact moment two jaws hit the floor, superhearing or no. Kara’s eyes are flicking rapidly back and forth between Lena and her younger self, her mouth agape. It seems she’s completely lost the ability to respond in any language.

Lena’s saved from the agony of having to formulate an answer by an insistent beeping sound. She taps through several messages on the processor before gasping in delight. “I’ve cracked it!”

“What? Really?” Kara asks excitedly, by her side in an instant. Both blondes crowd her, one head peeking over each of her shoulders as Lena double checks the code she’s just written, then double checks again. Face breaking into a wide grin, she nods.

“Wow,” Kara breathes, awed, as the teenager throws her arms around Lena’s shoulders. “How did you manage it?”

“I looked at which buttons had the most popcorn grease on them and worked backwards from there.”

Kara gapes. “Really?

“No!” Lena rolls her eyes in good-natured exasperation. “Of course not. I went through the processor’s command history and figured out how to engineer the reverse.”

“You’re a genius,” Kara says solemnly, pressing a wet smacking kiss to Lena’s left cheek.

“You really are,” the young girl agrees, mimicking the action on her right side and Lena’s entire face is glowing brighter than a fire hydrant but in this moment she cannot bring herself to care. She’d just cracked the secret of time travel, for Christ’s sake. She can blush if she wants to.

“Now I just have to figure out a failsafe memory-wipe for when we send you back and you’ll be good to go,” she smiles at the teenager, whose arms tighten around her neck.

Heart pounding and chest full to bursting, it’s all Lena can do to hug back.

 

Kara shoots out to buy them celebratory pizzas while Lena works on solving the final piece of the puzzle.

The Kryptonians inhale at least a dozen each while Lena picks delicately at her single slice. Struggles to finish even that much and hands her crust to Kara who gratefully accepts.

With the end in sight, the mood in the Fortress turns light and jovial. The teenager has finally stopped reciting old cereal commercials, for which Lena is immeasurably grateful.

She listens to the easy banter between the two blondes as she works, letting the gentle ribbing and terrible puns wrap around her like a warm blanket.

“So, do you have a Match yet?” the teenager asks after a while, mouth full of pizza.

“There are no Matches on Earth.”

“A mate, then. What?” she asks at Kara’s shocked expression. “That’s what Alex told me you call them here.”

“Alex is fucking with you,” Kara says bluntly, and Lena has to stifle a smirk. “Don’t listen to any translations she tries to give you for at least another year, you hear me?”

The young girl huffs. “You’re avoiding the question.”

At Lena’s back, Kara sighs. “No. I don’t have a— a partner.”

“Why not?” the teenager asks, apparently oblivious to the delicate nature of the matter at hand. “Aren’t there, like, seven billion people on this planet? Is no one suitable?”

“Of course there— of course some people are suitable,” Kara manages, voice a little strangled. “But it’s not that simple, here.”

“Why not?”

Kara sighs again, long and heavy. “There’s just— there’s a lot to consider. A lot of different factors at play. You’ll understand when you’re older.”

“That’s such a nothing answer,” the teenager says indignantly. “Everything is based on love here, isn’t it? So what could be so complicated?”

Lena can’t explain why her heart is suddenly thudding so hard against her ribs. Why her every sense is suddenly attuned to the Kryptonian across the room instead of to the code she’s supposed to be writing.

Kara huffs out a harsh breath. “You don’t understand—”

“I sure don’t!” the young girl agrees. “If you love a person and they love you back, you’re partners. Together, properly. In every way that counts.” She rolls her eyes. “What could be simpler than that?”

It’s quiet for a long moment. Lena tries to keep her breathing even, her heartbeat steady, lest the change be picked up by the two sets of superpowered ears in the room.

And then Kara releases a long, slow exhale, voice breathy and wondering. “Maybe you’re right.”

She can practically hear the teenager smirk. “I usually am,” she croons just as the interface at Lena’s fingertips lights up green and glowing.

“Got it,” she says, clearing her throat and turning to the blondes. “Mind wipe code, good to go.”

She helps the teenager press her fingerprint to the biometric scanner so the programme will lock onto her genetic markers. “Is this going to work?” the young girl asks. “It’s not gonna, like, blast me into a hundred billion atoms spread out across the universe?”

“Only if you’re really lucky,” Lena winks, reaching out to brush a stray eyelash from the girl’s cheek. “I’m sure it works,” she continues, tone turning serious. “I would never risk you if I wasn’t certain.”

The teenager surprises Lena by throwing her arms around her then, face pressed tight to the cradle of Lena’s neck and shoulder. “I know,” she muffles out against Lena’s skin. “Thank you, Lena. Future me is really lucky to have you.”

Lena finds her own arms coming up to match, smoothing over the girl’s back and shoulders. “Well, I’m really lucky to have you,” she manages in return, voice thick and throat clogged. “Past, present, and future.”

The young girl chuckles, pulling back after a long moment to turn towards her older self. “Well. See you in sixteen years, I guess?”

Kara swallows, throat working. “C’mere, kid,” she mutters, pulling the younger girl into a tight hug. Lena doesn’t eavesdrop on the Kryptonian words exchanged between the pair. She probably wouldn’t be able to translate them if she tried.

Eventually the two break apart, pink-cheeked and glossy-eyed. “Don’t let it get you down,” Kara mutters with a smile, chucking the young girl under the chin.

The teenager grins. “And you, don’t let it slip away,” she says pointedly, and Kara nods.

“Alright then,” the girl says, satisfied. “Beam me up, Lena.”

Kara snorts. “God, you’re such a dork.”

The teenager rolls her eyes. “I wonder where I got that from.”

With one last smile and one last wave, Lena types the final command into the processor and the grinning girl melts away in a flash of silver-blue light.

 

It’s deathly silent in the aftermath.

They both stand frozen, wide-eyed, braced for the apocalypse. For all of time to unravel at their fingertips, for all of reality to come crashing down around them.

Nothing happens.

“Um,” Kara says after an interminably long moment. “Does that mean it worked?”

“Yes?” Lena answers hesitantly. “I mean, it’s your past. Do you remember any of this ever happening when you were fourteen?”

Kara pauses for a moment, thinking hard. “Nope.”

“And you’re still here in the present, so I didn’t manage to accidentally wipe you from existence,” Lena says, to reassure herself as much as the other woman. “So I’d say it worked.”

“It worked?”

“It worked.”

“It worked!” Kara whoops, darting forward and scooping Lena up into a giant bear hug, spinning them round and round until Lena is breathless and giggling against her.

“Rao, you really are a genius,” Kara murmurs against Lena’s hair, setting her gently back on her feet. They separate slowly, not really pulling back much at all. The air between them suddenly feels heavy and thick with anticipation.

“Well, I’m not the one who accidentally invented time travel,” Lena manages around her suddenly dry throat.

“No, you’re just the one who re-invented it on purpose,” Kara smiles, her hands still looped heavy and warm across the small of Lena’s back.

The moment feels loaded with infinite possibility, and Lena suddenly feels bold. “What did she mean, the younger you?” she asks quietly. “Don’t let what slip away?”

Kara swallows hard, throat working. A kaleidoscope of emotions play out across her features, shock and surprise giving way to fear and anticipation before finally settling on something that looks a little more like bravery. A little more like hope.

The blonde takes a deep breath. “She meant this,” she whispers, her breath ghosting across Lena’s lips. “She— she meant you.”

Lena’s heart stops. Then it starts again, frantically, thrumming fast as a hummingbird’s.

Kara smooths a warm hand up her back, tangling in her loose hair. “If you love a person and they love you back, you’re partners. Together, in every way that counts,” she says quietly, blue eyes aching in their sincerity. She takes a deep, uncertain breath. “If they love you back.”

Lena’s chest cracks straight down the centre, her heart beating clean out of its confines. It no longer belongs solely to her, she realises. It hasn’t for quite a while.

“They love you back,” she whispers, immediately and without hesitation. It’s not even a conscious decision. It is, quite simply, inevitable. “I love you back.”

“You do?”

“Of course I d—”

She never gets to finish the statement because in the very next heartbeat, Kara’s lips crash into her own. They mould together hot and perfect, a rolling softness cloaking roiling passion beneath and Lena thinks that all of reality could come crashing down around them in this moment and she wouldn’t really care. Honestly, she might not even notice.

It’s a long time before they break apart. A long, beautiful, perfect time of kissing like Lena’s never kissed before. Kara kisses her deeply, filthily. Like she wants to drown in it, tug Lena down with her to the depths. If this is the riptide beneath the smooth surface, Lena doesn’t think she’ll ever resist the pull.

When they at last pull back, gasping for air, Kara leans their foreheads together with a breathy chuckle.

Lena can’t help but smile too. She might never stop smiling again. “What’s so funny?”

Kara huffs out a giggle against Lena’s mouth, nipping at her lower lip before soothing it with her tongue. “I just— I can’t believe I got wing-womaned by my fourteen year old self.”

Lena can’t hold back her own laughter at that, nudging her nose against Kara’s as she tightens her arms around the blonde’s neck. “At least she won’t remember it. That kind of thing could scar a kid for life.”

Kara leans in to nudge gentle kisses against Lena’s cheeks, her brow, the tip of her nose. “She might not remember, but I won’t ever forget a second of this,” she murmurs against Lena’s jaw. “Not one second of you.”

Lena squeezes her eyes shut against the sudden inexplicable sting of tears, only to feel Kara’s lips brush feather-light over her eyelids. “I won’t forget a moment of you either,” she whispers, fingers twisting into the fine baby hairs at the nape of Kara’s neck.

Kara presses another kiss that feels like adoration to her lips before resting their foreheads together once again. “Not even the moment where I sprayed water out of my nose at you yesterday?” she asks, pressing her grin to Lena’s cheek. “I really wouldn’t mind if you forgot that one.”

Lena smiles. She smiles, and smiles, and smiles. “Well, I have cracked the codes to both time travel and mind wiping now,” she says primly, pulling the blonde in for another searing kiss. “I’ll see what I can do.”