"I'm awake," Joyce noted.
"Pardon?" Merlin asked, wondering how he'd messed up.
"People pinch themselves to check and see if they're awake because sensations are muffled in dreams," Joyce explained.
"And since I awoke your bloodline, all your senses are sharper than they have ever been, letting you know you aren't dreaming," Merlin realized.
"Exactly," Joyce agreed. "Now, I think I'm owed some answers."
Merlin snorted in a distinctly unfeminine way. "I just gave you a body that's better than you were in your prime, the ability to mess with time, and the complete Slayer package. How does that make me owe you anything?"
Joyce paused. "How about, I would really appreciate some answers?"
Merlin nodded. "I can answer a couple of questions, but you have to realize I'm in disguise for a reason."
"So 'who' is out," Joyce guessed. "How about 'why?'"
"Buffy and her friends are heroes," Merlin explained, "and I quite like heroes, so I thought I'd give them a leg up, since no one else will."
"How does that lead to me gaining powers?" Joyce asked.
"Evil often targets the family of heroes, so I took a look at those that were close to them to see what I could do to make them a bit safer," Merlin replied.
"Alright," Joyce said with a nod, "I can easily see the sense in that. What can you tell me… about everything?"
Merlin considered the question before replying, "Humans evolved on this planet while demons roamed the Earth. No one knows how, but they eventually forced them out of this dimension, leaving behind demons that are tainted with human blood, making them small and weak in comparison. A number of them aren't even evil to any great degree. Vampires are like cockroaches, everywhere and hard to get rid of. So that's mostly what Slayers face these days."
Joyce pinched herself and winced, before reaching over and pinching Merlin.
"OW!" Merlin exclaimed, quickly covering her breasts.
"Sorry," Joyce apologized, mortified after realizing what she'd done, "just wanted to make sure and didn't realize what I was doing until I'd already done it."
"Slayer impulsiveness is probably tied into their speed and reflexes," Merlin said, rubbing her left breast. "There is going to be a period of adjustment, I'm sure." She scooted out of arms reach after a moment of thought.
"How is it people don't know about… everything?" she asked.
"Both sides work to keep it a war in the shadows," Merlin replied. "Evil, because they know they will lose if it comes out and humanity unites, and Good, because of the amount of collateral damage. Not everything inhuman is evil."
"So if demons exist, do angels?" Joyce asked, leaning back against her headboard.
"I'm not really sure," Merlin admitted. "'Demon' is used to refer to extra-dimensional entities, which can be good or evil, so angels would be called demons as well. Now if you're talking about winged messengers of light doing the work of the creator… maybe. There are some beings who fit the bill, but not all of them are what you would consider good either. It's a confusing mess and part of the reason I prefer to stick to realities where good and evil are more readily identifiable."
"You aren't from this reality?" Joyce asked.
"Not remotely," Merlin replied. "I was on my way to school and stopped to use the restroom. The truth is more complicated, but that's what it all boils down to."
"Lucky for us," Joyce said, sitting on her hands to prevent another round of pinching.
"Very much so," Merlin agreed. "It's entirely possible I was manipulated into coming here by higher powers, but if so, they were really subtle."
Joyce nodded. "So now what?"
"So now you go to sleep and have about a thousand nightmares," Merlin replied. "Slayers have some sort of past-cognition psychic dream thing where they get to see all their predecessors fight and often die. It sucks, but it does warn them of the dangers to come as a Slayer and gives them some basic fighting skills."
"That's why Buffy was sleeping so poorly… it was all true," Joyce said in shock and horror as the reality of the situation finally settled in.
"Try not to blame yourself for more than you are actually guilty of," Merlin suggested as she slid off the bed and stood up. "Buffy could have easily proven she was the Slayer by showing off any number of ways. You made the best decision you could under the circumstances with the facts you had available."
Merlin started shifting back, starting with his feet and working upwards before stopping himself halfway as he remembered he still needed to maintain his cover. "Get as much rest as you can. I have to sneak out."
"Can't you teleport or something?" Joyce asked.
"Yeah, but that's like driving an SUV to visit the neighbors," he replied. "I tend to sneak around for the most part."
"Naked?" she asked.
"I generally use animal forms and just create clothes when I change back to human. I was pushed for time, so I took your form, figuring it would make things strange enough I could convince you that you were dreaming," he replied with a shrug.
"It worked," Joyce admitted.
"Good," he said, walking to the door. "Night," he whispered before sneaking into the hall and closing the door behind himself.
Naturally it was at this point that the door to Dawn's room opened. The two girls froze in surprise at seeing their mother standing naked in the hallway and then in shock as they saw how different 'she' looked.
Merlin bit his lip for a moment and then decided to bluff it out. "What? You've never been curious about how the other half lived? Now if you'll excuse me, since this is my dream, I'm going to raid the freezer for ice cream."
"Does that make Mom our Dad as well?" Dawn asked Buffy, as Merlin made his escape.
Fred ran as fast as his legs would take him. He was a simple vampire, not going in for all the 'end of the world' and 'bring hell to Earth' schemes. All he wanted was a few simple things, a belly full of blood and the occasional sweet young thing to torture and kill over a couple of days. Was that so wrong?
He could hear his pursuer following him, its unhurried tread his constant companion as no matter what he did he couldn't shake it!
Running out of options, Fred lead it towards a nest of the type of vampires he'd normally avoid. If they liked death and destruction so much, they could make themselves useful and kill the monster chasing him!
"Come on luv, tell me what's wrong," Spike said, stroking Drusilla's back and rocking her back and forth.
The insane seer looked him straight in the eyes and willed him to understand. "Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?"
"Someone put the telly on PBS!" Spike called out.
Drusilla slumped against him, knowing it was too late. She'd failed to get the point across and now they were all doomed.
"You just point out what it is on the screen and we'll figure out how to deal with it, OK luv?" he said as he carried her into the main room.
"Big and blue," she whispered with a shudder. "Children laugh as everything crumbles."
"I vote Chicago," one of the fledglings spoke up. "I hear its nice this time of year."
"This isn't a bloody democracy!" Spike snapped out, glaring at the fledge.
The fledge looked at Drusilla and then back to Spike.
"OK, good point that," Spike decided. "Road trip, let's go people!"
Fred burst out of the sewer drain and into… an empty warehouse? He spun around but the place was deserted. It looked like everyone had left in a hurry, leaving scattered possessions about and the television still on.
Fred turned and stared at the nineteen inch RCA as a green frog announced, "…the number three and the letter C!"
"Doomed!" the vampire moaned as a blue monster came on the screen and messily devoured the letter C.
A large blue monster, a dead ringer for the one on the screen, climbed out of the sewer drain and rose up behind Fred yelling, "COOKIE!"
Fred spun around and stared up at the eight-foot-tall blue monster, grabbed his chest and fell limply to the ground.
HK-47 stepped out from behind Murphy. "Incredulous statement: I do believe you have given him a heart attack. I was not even aware that was possible."
Murphy shrugged and stomped on the vampire's chest, driving a rib through its heart and dusting it.
"Observation: Your hypothesis was correct. Even when fleeing in terror, a vampire's foot speed does not exceed human limits, despite their speed and reflexes," the robot noted.
"Leaping faster, but not human," Murphy muttered.
"Statement: They do seem to cling to their meatbag ways, even when they become ex-meatbags."
Murphy raised an eyebrow, clearly amused.
"Grudging acknowledgement: My programming has become corrupted by exposure to… certain amusing groups of meatbags you made me watch."
"More testing," Murphy decided.
"Delighted agreement: Further testing would be quite enjoyable. Are we going to duplicate this test or do you have a different test in mind?"
Murphy grinned as his form shrunk, his fur turning white, while his eyes became blood red.
HK-47 stared at the little white rabbit for a moment before saying, "Statement: You are the best Master I have ever had!"
"Big pointy teeth!" Drusilla moaned aloud.
"Drive faster!" Spike ordered the vampire who was behind the wheel of the short yellow school bus they had stolen.
The fledge didn't reply, already shifting into a higher gear.
Merlin stared at the glass tank where flesh was slowly growing over a T-800 frame, most of the internal organs only half grown as of yet.
Ted nodded at him on his way past as he checked the nutrient levels and filtration system.
"That is one hell of an upgrade," Merlin finally said.
"Language please," Ted said politely.
"Sorry," Merlin replied, "just a bit surprised here."
"That's understandable," Ted replied, "I'm still trying to come to terms with it myself. If everything works out right, I'll have the best of both worlds."
"You have fun, I'm going to go get some sleep," Merlin decided.
"Probably a good idea," Ted agreed, "Boys your age need their sleep. If it's not prying, may I ask why you're naked?"
"I went to visit Joyce," Merlin began and then paused as he realized how it sounded.
"My girlfriend Joyce?" Ted asked, crossing his arms.
"Yes, but my intentions were completely non-sexual. I copied her form so she'd think she was dreaming while I empowered her so she'd be less vulnerable to demonic attacks as Dawn requested," Merlin explained.
"Why did that require nudity?" Ted asked curiously, his posture changing to a much more relaxed one.
"It was faster and more convenient to sneak in as a raven," Merlin explained, "and they aren't known for their carrying capacity."
"Since Dawn is the one who requested your help, wouldn't it be simpler to have her hide you in her room so you didn't have to sneak in?" Ted asked, as he considered the situation.
Merlin frowned. "Why didn't I think of that?"
Ted chuckled. "When you get older, and transfer your mind into an android duplicate of yourself, you pick up a bit of wisdom. Next time you need to do something like this, please ask for my help rather than just… winging it."
Merlin snickered, catching the pun. "Fortunately, I only needed to do it once, but I'll consider asking if I run into a similar situation again."
"Mistakes are how we learn," Ted said cheerfully, before returning to doing his checks on the cyborg in the tank.
Merlin chuckled and headed for bed, wondering how much of his impulsiveness was because of his current age as opposed to his normal impulsiveness, which had lead to a number of interesting situations over the years.
"I'll have to watch that," Merlin said as he climbed into bed and looked forward to a good night's sleep.
He could have sworn he'd barely dozed off before he was awoken by a sharp pain in his ear and Dawn yelling, "-and think about what you've done!"
Merlin blinked and looked around while rubbing his ear. Dawn was nowhere to be found and there was a compact on the floor near his bed, reflecting the empty room.
"I guess she figured out it was me," Merlin said, climbing out of bed and stretching. From the complete silence outside and the absence of the majority of the ashy heat he normally felt radiating from the Hellmouth, he knew where he was, he was in Dawn's world.
"I've done all I need to do in Sunnydale for the moment," Merlin said thoughtfully as he walked outside, "and Murphy can simply trump to me when he's finished."
Looking at the sky he was unsurprised to find it was still fairly early. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath, concentrated, and walked.
It was much easier this time, without the Hellmouth pulling at him, trying to draw him back, or alter his course.
In three steps he was in a world far removed from any realm the fell portal touched even lightly.
Merlin took a deep breath and let it out. This was much better. He felt clearer and more levelheaded than he had just a few moments ago.
"I completely forgot to guard against being influenced by the Hellmouth," he realized, as he opened his eyes to see where he was.
"Why is there a naked ten year old in your base?" a blond haired, freckled, teen boy asked a blue skinned scientist, his normally goofy gaze promising pain if he didn't like the answer.
"I don't know!" the scientist shrieked, shrinking back in fear.
"I'm eleven," Merlin replied, making a mental note to start wearing pajamas to bed and to never again make any decisions while under the influence of a Hellmouth without double-checking them, "and I'm more than old enough to decide to become a nudist."
A red-haired teen cartwheeled away from a blast of green plasma from a dark haired woman with green skin, both so engrossed in their battle, they didn't even notice the new arrival.
"Fuck!" Merlin screamed as a burst of green plasma slammed him into the wall of the lab, flames destroying skin and burrowing deep into his chest.
Typing By: Abyssal Angel
AN: Disney is a long ways away from the Whedonverse.