Disclaimer: I own nothing- the characters and story idea belong to Joss Whedon/Twentieth Century Fox and TTH user littleoldme respectively.
Summary: A twist on the old "parent trap" motif- what if the parents came from two different times?
Timeline: The Prologue is set a year after Serenity and several years after Chosen, when Dawn is twenty-one.
It was an age-old story. Boy meets girl, boy falls madly and inexplicably in love with girl, boy and girl get married and have twin baby girls, girl decides to go back to her own time, five hundred years in the past, when things don't work out.
"I'm a gonna need another drriiinnnnkkkkkk," Simon Tam slurred. Beside him, a man with an aura of danger and a smirk on his face shook his head.
"Now, doctor, I'm thinking that statement of yours might be a bit of an untruth." Mal put his arm around Simon and hauled the younger man to his feet. "Being as how I'm a fugitive who makes his living in a rather creative way, I don't shy away from a bit of alcohol now and then, but I'm thinking that the last thing you need is another drink."
"Buh Daw's gooown," Simon murmured pitifully, his voice resembling nothing so much as a stray puppy trying to howl at the moon, but failing to work up the strength of a real howl.
"Now, I was as fond of Little Summers as anyone, but she's gone, and I reckon there's not much we can do about it." Mal fixed Simon with a hard look. "But I also know there's a baby girl on the ship, and I suspect that she could use some taking care of."
"Elizabeth," Simon said, losing his slur for a moment.
"That's right," Mal coached. "Elizabeth. And she needs her pa to be good and sober and not crying like a little girl when she wakes up."
"Ewishabet," Simon said, his voice sinking back into a sorrowful almost-howl. Mal winced at that pronounciation of the little one's name. The babies had just started talking when Dawn had left, and little Serenity had never managed to pronounce Elizabeth's right. They'd tried shortening it to Lizzie or Liz, but the best the little ones could do was "Wish," short- the crew had always joked- for Ewishabet.
Mal closed his eyes briefly, his own sorrow making its way up to the surface. Though he never would have admitted it, the twins were so close to his heart that they might as well have been his own, and as much as he missed Dawn's constant chatter, the ache of losing one of the baby girls was far, far worse.
Wish hadn't stopped crying since her mother and sister had left.
"Bar-keep," Mal yelled, settling Simon back down on the bar stool. "I suspect we're going to need another round."
"Dawnie?" Buffy's voice broke as she said a name that hadn't passed her lips in the two and a half years since her little sister's disappearance.
The figure on the front porch- soaking wet, too skinny, and holding what appeared to be a mound of blankets- nodded, but didn't say a word.
"Where have you... are you all... what happ-" Buffy couldn't manage a full sentence, so she swallowed her question and stepped forward to embrace her sister. She wrapped her arms around Dawn's shaking body and pulled her close, and it wasn't until the bundle of blankets squawked that Buffy realized that her sister was holding a baby.
Dawn stepped back from the hug, adjusting the bundle on her waist and whispering nonsense words of comfort to it. After a long moment, she pulled the blanket back, and Buffy saw a set of bright blue eyes peering back at her. Blue-black hair covered the baby's head, and Buffy tried to place her age.
"This is Serenity," Dawn said softly. "She's fifteen months today."
Those were the first words Dawn had said, and Buffy instinctively knew better than to question them. "Are you guys hungry? Does she eat?"
Dawn rolled her eyes. "No, Buffy. She's a robot who subsists totally on microchip meals. Of course she eats! She's a baby, not an alien."
Though, Dawn thought quietly, depending on your definition of alien, that last statement might not be entirely accurate, given that Seri had been born in a spaceship in an alternate dimension.
"Don't you roll your eyes at me, missy," Buffy found herself saying, and then she grinned, broadly. Dawn was here. She was okay. And, best of all, she was really Dawn. Her Dawn. Careful of the baby, she crushed her sister in another hug, and this time, Dawn broke, her entire body heaving with sobs.
"It's okay," Buffy murmured. "I'm not going to let anything hurt you. Whatever happened, wherever you were, I swear, it will never happen again."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Dawn whispered, but her words were lost in her sobs.
"Mama?" the baby said, her voice loud and clear. "Mama?"
"Mama's okay, baby," Dawn said, but looking at Seri tore a hole right through her being, and for a second, Dawn honestly thought that she would die from the pain of it all.
As if she knew exactly who- and what- her mother was thinking about, Seri's bottom lip began to tremble, and before she burst into wails that matched Dawn's, she lisped a single word. "Wish?"
TBC... when Simon and Dawn send the girls to a "special" summer camp, they don't know just how "special" it is...