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The Key, the Sorcerer and the Gate

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Summary: Dawn's powers land them in Colorado Springs. Random? Yes. Supernatural? They don't think so... until Merlin discovers the dimension is magicless and Dawn feels an unusual sensation.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Merlin
Stargate > Dawn-Centered
morenaFR15320,1702326,09213 Jun 1214 Aug 12Yes

Part 3 of 3

Whew, so this part took quite a bit of editing and rewriting to get it to where it is today. But I'm finally happy with it and my beta is happy with it and hopefully all of you will be as well. Happy is good. =) Thanks so much to everyone, who's reviewed so far. Also, thanks to my beta, the Glaistig for editing this chapter and not being afraid to tell me it was crap the first time around (trust me, the first bit looks veerry different now).

Disclaimer: Clearly, I don't own any of this. Except possibly for the plot. Maybe.



The Key, the Sorcerer and the Gate, part 3

Story 1 of The Continuing Adventures of Dawn and Merlin


Merlin turned towards the door with the humans and saw the smoldering staff end held by the warrior he and Dawn had encountered while following Sam. Well, now he knew where those fireballs were coming from. He smiled and nodded to the warrior in thanks and the warrior nodded back. When his eyes widened and he adjusted his weapon, Merlin turned to find himself staring at the end of another staff weapon.

Tauri,” the warrior on the other end of the weapon sneered. “Do you submit to your god?”

Merlin blinked and cocked his head.



“Tauri?” he said, trying to look as helplessly confused as he could. “Nope, sorry, I'm Merlin and I'm already the chosen one of my gods. No interest in any others, sorry. Mine keep me busy enough when they need me. Of course, I am sort of on an extended vacation at the moment, until their champion is needed again to take up his sword and defend the lands against all manner of evil creatures, sorcerers, sidhe, enchanted grasshoppers, blah, blah... It's all rather boring, really; I'm sure you're not interested.”

He smiled widely. The large warrior growled at him. The end of the staff split with a hiss and Merlin was now looking into a red light. He took a single step backwards and the warrior grinned, convinced he had the upper hand.

“Get the hell away from there, kid!” he heard Jack yell.

The harsh staccato sound of gunfire erupted from the mouth of the corridor, sparks flew as bullets hit the metal ramp and ricocheted off. The deeper 'whooshes' of staff blasts answered them along with the dull explosions of their impacts. Behind Merlin, he could here a mechanical sliding noise ending with a metallic thump. He could here shouting and even identified Jack's voice, though he didn't pay any attention to the words.

Merlin didn't look away from the warrior – timing was everything.

The warrior fired. Merlin's eyes glowed as his shield enveloped him and stopped the fireball just before it hit him square in the face. Like before, its energy was distributed and absorbed into the shield. The warrior's eyes widened.

He fired again and just as before Merlin easily absorbed the energy. Then a fireball hit his shield from the right. Not having expected it, he didn't have a chance to absorb it, so, instead, it was deflected back on an angle. Merlin heard a cry of pain and winced inwardly. It hadn't been his intention to seriously harm anyone, but he knew better than to show it during a direct confrontation.

Merlin kept the shield up against other, stray attacks, but also because it meant his eyes were constantly shining. According to Arthur, he looked much more formidable that way. The warrior in front of him looked much less certain of himself than he had when he'd exited the gate.

“I told you I was the chosen of my gods,” Merlin said quietly. He raised his hand and the warrior's eyes widened - there was some measure of fear in them. “Bebiede þe arisan cwicum. Ic sele awesung ae.

For a second, Merlin fondly remembered when this simple spell had once given him such a hard time. He was certain no one else could see the thin sheen of magic that settled into the weapon still pointed at him. The first indication that the spell had worked was a slight flick of the flat fin-like end of the staff weapon. It was barely noticeable, like the lazy movement of a cat waking up from its midday nap and only Merlin noticed. He lowered his hand with a pleased smile.

That seemed to only unnerve the warrior more and he shouted out something in a harsh-sounding language Merlin didn't recognize. He looked down when something bumped his side and his eyes widened in disbelief when he saw the end of his staff weapon swaying back in forth in steady motions. Suddenly, the stiff metal in his hands turned fluid and began to wriggle in his grasp. He looked up in time to watch the head of the staff weapon twist up and around to point at him, the large, spearhead-like end opening up at the lit-up split like a toothless snake that had swallowed a torch. It was completely silent, but if it had been capable of sound, it would clearly have been hissing madly.

The warrior let out a cry of terror just before throwing his previously-inanimate weapon away from himself. It landed onto the ramp with a loud clatter, but quickly managed to curl its tail underneath itself as it raised its upper part to almost eye-level with the warrior (a height that should've been impossible given the weapon's original size) and snapped its jaws angrily in his direction.

The warrior hurriedly backed up several steps and then tripped over his own feet, landing onto his backside and then proceeded to crawl backwards until his back hit a beam on the ramp's railing. His eyes wide and terrified as he stared at the snake-like creature his trusty weapon had become.

Another fireball impacted Merlin's shield. Merlin looked to his right. The other invaders were still firing their weapons at the base's soldiers, except for one, lighter-skinned warrior, whose was trained on Merlin.

Merlin raised his hand and sent him flying towards the far wall hard enough to knock him unconscious. This did not go unnoticed by his fellows. They paused in their firing, exchanging nervous glances amongst each other. Merlin whispered a spell under his breath.

“Lay down your weapons and you will not be harmed further!” Merlin's voiced boomed throughout the room. He pushed his magic and a single fierce gust of wind whipped from his body and into the rest of the room.

Merlin grit his teeth against the urge to pant. That gust of wind had taken much more effort than it should have – like trying to run uphill in armour (unless you were a knight, who did everything in armour and made it look absolutely effortless).

“Do it!” a deep voice called out from behind Merlin. Merlin turned to look at the warrior, who looked much calmer now, though he was still being watched by his staff weapon. Its jaws were closed now, though its head swayed with an even back and forth motion like a snake ready to strike. “There is no honour in a senseless death! Place down your weapons.”

Merlin was relieved. He was beginning to feel tired and knew that the minute his blood stopped pumping with excitement from the battle, his limbs would feel as though they had lead pumping through them instead. A few tense moments passed and then the other warriors slowly placed their own staff weapons onto the ground in front of them and stepped back, away from them.

Almost immediately, Merlin heard Jack shout out orders and a dozen black and green attired soldiers with guns flooded the stargate room and surrounded them. Merlin watched only long enough to ascertain that the Earth soldiers weren't going to kill the rest of the invaders and then he turned back to the warrior behind him.

He walked up the ramp and grasped the living staff weapon.

Edhwierft,” he said and the weapon stiffened and then unwound itself and shortened until it was, once again, just an inanimate object.

Merlin threw it over the railing, not caring where it landed. As soon as the weapon was gone, the warrior relaxed and moved away from the railing. He made as if to stand, but then stayed down on one knee, bowing with one hand over his heart before Merlin.

“My deepest apologies, my lord,” he said in voice that sounded like forced calmness. “I was not aware you were also a god. Please forgive me.”

Merlin sighed.

“What is your name?” he asked.

“Mol'tek, my lord.”

“Then rise, Mol'tek.”

The warrior rose to his feet. Standing higher up on the ramp made him tower over Merlin, though the sorcerer suspected he wasn't actually much taller. Merlin smiled up at him and let the magic drain from his eyes. There was fear and awe in Mol'tek's eyes, but the terror was gone. This was a warrior resigned to his fate and determined not to dishonour himself any further.

“I am no god, Mol'tek. I am powerful, yes, but still just a man. Once, I was important, the protector of a great man, a great ruler. Were I a god, I would've had both the strength and wisdom to ensure my king did not die. Unfortunately, it is not true.”

Understanding flashed in Mol'tek's eyes. He bowed his head slightly in acknowledgement.

“I see you are as wise as you are powerful,” he said. “Your king was a lucky man to have had you as his protector.”

Merlin snorted.

“You're only saying that, because I haven't accidentally turned you into a cat yet.”

Mol'tek looked confused for a few moments. Merlin, meanwhile, glanced at Dawn. She was still just standing there, although at least more of her hadn't disappeared into the wormhole. He hoped she hadn't gotten in over her head.

“You know, Mol'tek, my friend there's trying to shut down the, uh, gate, so if you and your friends want to get back then you'd better go now.”

“We cannot.”

Merlin blinked. “Huh? Why not?” He suddenly remembered the soldiers and their weapons. He waved vaguely in their direction. “Oh, I'll make sure they don't shoot at you as you're leaving.”

“That's not the problem,” said Daniel from just behind Merlin.

Merlin turned to him, noting the archaeologist's arms were raised upwards, his palms open to show he was unarmed. Behind him, more soldiers stood, looking slightly unsure and nervous, though their weapons were drawn and pointed at Mol'tek. Daniel didn't seem perturbed by the guns around him as he continued his explanation.

“It's an incoming wormhole and you can only travel one-way through an open wormhole. We'd need to close it and then reopen it for them to leave.”

Merlin frowned, feeling like there was something he was still missing.

“And we can't do that?” he asked slowly.

“Oh, we can, of course we can, but that's not really the biggest problem.” He looked to Mol'tek, as though prompting him to continue. Merlin looked to the warrior.

“If we return to my lord with failure, he will undoubtedly kill us as punishment.”

Merlin was horrified. It wasn't like he hadn't known enemies, who'd done such things, but that didn't mean he ever understood it. And here he was, looking into the eyes of a man, who was dead if returned home.

“Do you have a wife, Mol'tek?” he suddenly asked. “Children?”

“I do not.”

Merlin sighed with relief.

“You and your fellow jaffa will be welcomed with open arms by the Free Jaffa,” announced a deep, powerful voice.

Merlin looked up. It was the dark-skinned warrior from the corridor with the odd-sounding name Merlin couldn't remember.

“You are Teal'c,” said Mol'tek.

“I am.”

Mol'tek studied Teal'c for a few moments and then looked back to Merlin, before glancing behind him to Dawn.

“I have never seen anyone attempt to deactivate the gate in that manner.”

“Uh, yeah.” Merlin rubbed the back of his neck. “Like me, she's a bit unique.”

“I see.”

“Speaking of which, I really should probably check on her.”

As Merlin walked up the ramp, he heard Mol'tek telling Teal'c and Daniel he would speak with his comrades. Walking up the steep ramp even just the few steps made him realize again just how tired he was feeling. He hoped he wouldn't need to use any more powerful magic.

He stopped beside Dawn and watched her for a moment. Her eyes were glowing green with visible streaks of blue within the green. He summoned magic back into his eyes to get a better look. There was a green aura surrounding Dawn, which meant she was using her powers. That wasn't horribly worrying. The thin blue aura surrounding the green one, however, was.

“Dawn?” he asked, placing a hand on her shoulder. “How are you doing?”

It took a while for her to respond.

“Merlin?” she asked, her throat a bit raspy.

“Yes, it's me.”

“There's so much to explore here.”

“I know, but you really need to close it now.”

“Right, sorry.”

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Then she pulled her hand out of the wormhole until it was sitting just on the surface. Merlin watched the thin blue aura unwrap itself from around Dawn and slip back into the wormhole. Dawn's aura flashed once and then disappeared along with the blue shimmery surface of the wormhole.

She stepped away from the gate and wavered unsteadily. Merlin leapt to her side and caught her.

“Woah, it's okay,” she said. “I'm fine, just a bit disorientated.”

Merlin steered her around and down the ramp.

“So what was that all about?” he asked.

“Oh, it just wanted to say 'hi'.”

“It wanted to say 'hi'?” asked a voice so heavy in sarcasm the letters practically hung in the air. Merlin noticed the disapproving look Daniel gave Jack. “What? It's a machine, fer cryin' out loud! Granted a really sophisticated and fancy piece of alien tech, but a machine not a kitten!”

Merlin wondered if Jack had noticed his pink hair yet. He certainly wasn't acting like he personally wanted to eviscerate him, so the likelihood was none of his subordinates had built up the courage to tell him.

Dawn, meanwhile, cocked her head thoughtfully and stared at Jack for several moments.

“Hmm... you must be the grouchy old man, who always pretends he's not limping when he comes home,” she said after a while.

“I-I'm – what the... old?! I am NOT old and I don't limp after every mission..”

“Colonel O'Neill, report!” Jack's stuttering was interrupted by the arrival of a heavy-set bald man. “What in Sam Hill is going on down here!”

Dawn noticed how Jack not only went silent, but also straightened when the man arrived. She remembered seeing him up in the viewing room on the other side of the window. So she'd been right, he was in charge. Which brought her to a more important question: what had happened while she'd been mind-melding with the stargate?!

“Sir, we had two situations,” Jack dutifully reported. Dawn grinned at the double-take the general (if she was remembering her military insignia correctly) did at seeing his subordinate's hair. “Situation one, with the jaffa, is being resolved.” Everyone looked to where Teal'c was now chatting amiably with Mol'tek and his friends despite the number of guns still pointed at them. “Situation two, with the gate, has somehow been mysteriously resolved and I'm sure Carter's just chomping at the bit to figure that mystery out. Which brings us to surprise situation number three, which are the intruders that preceded situations one and two, whom we still know absolutely nothing about except that they claim to not be of extraterrestrial origin and clearly aren't nearly as harmless as they led me to originally believe.”

He glared at her and Dawn grinned.

“Aw come on, you didn't actually expect us to tell a bunch of soldiers working in a top secret military organization that we both have powers that defy normal, human understanding?” she said.

Jack glared at her.

“Besides, we never actually lied,” she continued.

“We may have, possibly, omitted a few key facts,” Merlin added. “Which, you probably wouldn't have believed in the first place, so that hardly counts.”

“You mean, like that gizmo you used to deflect the staff blasts?” Jack asked. “Or perhaps you're referring to whatever dohickey you used to make the staff weapon magically come to life?”

“Gizmo?” Merlin asked, having never heard the word before. “Dohickey?”

“He thinks you have a machine of some sort,” Dawn explained. “You know to make yourself a shield with. And, uh, I'm not sure about the other thing; I wasn't actually paying attention to what you did.”

“Oh. I don't have anything like that though.”

“Yeah, right. Listen kid, I saw the glowing eye thing and the throwing jaffas against the wall with a hand device thing. Saw the shape-shifting staff weapon too, although I've gotta say that one was new and inventive. You are definitely a snake of some sort. Maybe you're a Tok'ra, or maybe you're something else entirely, but either way: snake.”

“Wow, and I thought my sister had the monopoly on explanations that confused people more than they explained,” said Dawn, suddenly wishing she'd been paying attention to the action instead of the stargate.

Merlin, meanwhile looked insulted.

“I am not a snake! I could, however, turn you into one. A nice, harmless garter snake.”

“Stand down, colonel!” The general studied both Dawn and Merlin intently for a few moments before coming to some sort of conclusion. “I'm General George Hammond, commander of this facility. Now, I understood from Colonel O'Neill earlier that you hadn't come through the stargate and were, in fact, from Earth.”

He paused.

“It's true,” said Dawn. “I'm Californian born and bred.”

“And I was born in Albion,” said Merlin.

“Albion?” Jack asked, eyes narrowed in suspicion. “I thought you said you were from England.”

“Albion's the old name for England, Jack,” said Daniel.

Dawn and Merlin looked at each other, silently debating just how much to tell them. Merlin knew he wasn't up to much more defensive magic in an all-out battle – not without breaking the seal around this dimension's magic and he wasn't sure he wanted to deal with the immediate fallout of that happening – but he was fairly certain he could manage a few more spells to get them out of the gate room and down the hall to where their packs were. Plus, Dawn could open a portal to allow them to leave at any time.

He was also fairly certain they could count on Mol'tek and his warrior friends to help them out if they got really stuck.

Dawn agreed. Besides, now another familiar face was coming down to join them. It was Sam Carter.

“Why didn't he just call it England then?” they heard Jack ask – whine really, but they doubted Jack wanted that pointed out.

“Because, when I was born, we called it Albion,” Merlin answered smoothly, looking away from their silent conference.

Daniel frowned.

“Albion's been known as England or the Britains for centuries...” he said.

Dawn shrugged.

“If it helps we're from other dimensions,” she said simply.

All conversation stopped. That included the whispered one between General Hammond and Sam Carter. Jack's jaw dropped a little. Sam's jaw dropped a little too, although that seemed to have as much to do with Dawn's statement as it did with her first glimpse at the pink mop on top of Colonel O'Neill's head.

The blonde major caught Dawn's eye and looked meaningfully at Jack before gently pulling at her own hair and then subtly pointed at her. Dawn pointed at Merlin and winked mischievously. Sam bit her lip, but her eyes were laughing.

The general didn't miss their exchange and he caught Dawn's eyes with a healthy twinkle in his own.

“You-you're from another dimension?” Jack was getting annoyed now. He turned to Sam. “Carter, I thought the Quantum Mirror was destroyed!”

“It was, sir. They couldn't have come through there.”

“And we, uh, didn't,” Dawn added, rolling her eyes. “Geez, you guys are so military you're no fun. Okay, so short version of how we got here: I opened a portal and we came through somewhere by the police station in Colorado Springs. We wandered around 'till we found a map and then a park. Then, suddenly, I'm feeling something really wiggy. So Merlin and I decide to go find out what it is. I felt it a few more times, which was enough for us to figure out that military base inside a mountain was probably a good place for us to start looking for answers. So we snuck in. We made it as far as the lobby, where we saw Sam and then followed her into your super top secret lower levels. She led us to Daniel's office, where we had to stop following her, 'cause Teal'c over there is, like, amazing and nearly caught us. They left and we decided that, hey, research-guy's office was probably going to have some very useful stuff hanging around that might help us figure out what was going on. I found the jar and coffee and the rest you pretty much already know.”

Daniel's eyes widened.

“You were the one, who translated that jar?” he asked.

Dawn nodded. “Yeah, and don't feel bad that you couldn't figure out the language. Fyarl is one of the few widely-used demon languages that doesn't have any basis in any human language.”

“I'm sorry, but did you just say demon language?” Jack asked.

“Yup, sure did.”

“And you do know there's no such thing as demons, right?”

“Not in this dimension, no. But there are in other dimensions.”

Jack opened his mouth and then closed it. He shrugged.

“Yeah, okay, I guess I can live with that.”

“Is the same true for magic?” Daniel asked.

Merlin smiled.

“Yes,” he said. “Which is not to say your dimension doesn't have any at all. I don't think a world could actually exist without any magic. But yours has been sealed away so that no one can access it. I could if I really wanted to because I'm that powerful, but I don't suppose anyone has ever been born that powerful in this dimension. So, for all practical purposes, this dimension has no magic.”

“Except for you,” said Jack dryly. “And Dawn, I'm assuming.”

“Uhh, sorta,” said Dawn carefully, pausing to figure out just how to explain herself. “I mean, yeah, I suppose I do have magic of sorts, but nowhere near on the same level as Merlin here. I can make the odd pencil float and I can make spells work if I have a precise incantation and/or ritual to follow. But my whole green-eyed, glowy-portal-opening thing isn't the same at all. I-uh-I'm not entirely human. Or, rather, I am, sort of, but I wasn't always. See, I'm either thousands of years old, or about 12.”

“Then you either look really good for your age or, uh, really... good for your age...” Jack made a face at his failure at quipping.

“Assuming you're thousands of years old, what are you then?” Sam asked.

“I'm an entity known as the Key, which was a big green ball of energy until a goddess named Glorificus started searching for it, forcing the monks guarding it to give it human form and memories in order to hide it from her. The Key has the ability to open the walls between dimensions. A couple of years ago, the powers began to leak out, so I had to learn to control them. Which I did. I mean, I'm still learning, 'cause, believe it or not, the thing about being an entity several thousand - or possibly million for all we know - years old that was protected by a secret order of monks that got themselves killed by the goddess they were hiding it from, is that info on said entity is kinda a little scarce.”

Sam Carter was staring at Dawn in awe.

“Okay, so does everyone want to remember back when I said I hated science fiction?” Jack said faintly.

Dawn looked at him and smirked.

“If it makes you feel any better, you can think of it as more supernatural or horror. My sister is the Vampire Slayer, after all.”

“The what?” He put a hand up to stop any response. “No, you know what, I don't know and don't care, yadda. None of that in this dimension, right?”

Dawn paused. Suddenly, everything made sense. Well, maybe not completely everything, but a lot of things.

“Oh my god, no there isn't!” she exclaimed. She grabbed Merlin in her excitement and shook him. “Merlin, that's it! That's why the magic was sealed! This isn't just another dimension like Pylea or Camelot – or maybe this proves that all dimensions are actually alternate dimensions only with more extreme differences from one another than who won the elections last year!”

Merlin allowed himself to be shaken as he tried to figure out whether or not what Dawn was saying made any sense. He decided that, no, he honestly had no idea what she was going on about.

“Dawn,” he said, stopping her. “I'm sorry, but I think you need to fast backward that. I have no idea what you're trying to say.”

Dawn stared at him. Then she giggled.

“Fast backward? Merlin, it's fast forward. You mean rewind.”

“Right, that thing.” Merlin blushed at the chorus of snickers and badly-muffled giggles. Finally, he threw up his hands. “Oh, leave off, the twenty-first century is bloody confusing!”

The laughter stopped. Well, except for Dawn's, who took one look at everyone else and promptly lost it completely. She leaned against Merlin as she tried to get ahold of herself.

“Albion,” said Daniel once Dawn had managed to stop her laughter. “That's why you called it Albion, because you're from the past.” He paused. “Or possibly your dimension is at an earlier point in the timeline?”

Dawn nodded. “Pretty much. Time also seems to run differently relative to my dimension. I kept randomly popping into it when my powers were first, um, maturing, I suppose you could say. It's how we met.”

“So where in Albion exactly are you from?” Daniel asked.

“Camelot,” Merlin answered.

Jack immediately started looking around above them.

“As much as I'm sure I'm going to regret asking: Jack, what are you doing?” said Daniel with a pained sigh.

“Looking around for an owl named Archimedes.”

Merlin blinked. “An owl? Why would there be an owl?”

“Yup, we sooo have to watch that movie,” said Dawn. She turned to the general. “So, now that the craziness has been dealt with and all mysteries have been more or less solved, I don't suppose we could just be on our way now?”

“Well, considering what both of your are capable of, I don't suppose we'd really have a chance of stopping you,” said General Hammond with a shake of his head. “However, I'd be very obliged if you'd tell me just how you got in. I understand you were invisible, but there are security measures in place even against that.”

“Oh, I wouldn't worry about that,” said Dawn honestly. “I highly doubt there's anyone, who can replicate what Merlin did to get us in.”

“I think we'll be the judges of that,” said Jack. “We've seen some pretty strange stuff travelling through that gate, you know.”

Dawn looked at him. “He stopped time.”

Jack looked at Sam Carter. “I jinxed myself there, didn't I?”

“'Fraid so, sir,” she said, before turning to Merlin with eyes that shone excitedly. “How do you it? Not even the Ancients managed to properly manage time.”

Merlin sighed.

“I honestly don't know,” he said. “It's just something I've always been able to do. I sort of tell the world to stop and it does. I can do it to an object too, freeze it in time, I mean. I start feeling a strain after a few minutes, but doing it is easy enough for me. I've, uh, never met anyone, who could do the same thing, so I don't have anyone to compare experiences with.”

Sam looked disappointed.

“Here's a silly question, but how do we know you're even telling the truth?” said Jack. “I mean, it all sounds-”

Dawn looked at Merlin and raised an eyebrow. Merlin grinned back. Then his eyes glowed and Jack froze mid-rant. Dawn giggled as then raced through the open doors and down the hall. She grabbed their packs and raced back. Placing them down, she rifled through the front pocket on hers until she found what she was looking for. A quick glance to Merlin's sweating form told her to be as quick as possible.

When she was done, she stood back beside Merlin, who unfroze the world around them.

“-a bit hooky to me. I mean, really, freezing time?”

“Hooky, Jack?” said Daniel. “After everything we've seen, how is that possibly any more bizarre than...oh.” He blinked. Then he chuckled. “Actually, nevermind, I think you're proof enough.”

“What?”

“I believe, O'Neill, that what Daniel Jackson is trying to tell you is that you have been taken advantage of.”

“I wha-”

“Airman, get the colonel a mirror,” General Hammond commanded, his shoulders shaking slightly.

“Yes sir,” said a nameless soldier with blond hair before running off.

The general turned to Dawn and Merlin. “Alright, I think you two have made your point quite aptly.”

He looked pointedly at the green marker in Dawn's hand. Dawn smirked evilly, looking once again to the confused colonel, who was now eyeing her and her marker with narrowed, suspicious eyes. She looked proudly upon her handiwork.

Colonel O'Neill had a lovely green heart drawn on the centre of his forehead and the tip of his nose had also been decorated with a small, green circle. His left cheek had the words 'I luv Sam' written onto it. His right echoed it with the words 'I luv Daniel'. She'd decided that writing 'Dawn is a genius' across his neck would've been overkill, so she had left that alone.

“Forget the mirror, I want a camera,” said Daniel.

“Already on it, Doc,” said someone in a torn and dirty uniform holding a video camera.

“Ferretti,” Jack growled.

“Nice one, Lou,” said Daniel. “Just, uh, get ready to run when he gets that mirror.”

“Oh, don't worry, Doc, I plan on being the wind.”

Jack growled and took a few steps towards Lou Ferretti, who backpedalled expertly. Dawn giggled. She saw the general shaking his head at his people's antics.

“Looks like this place never gets boring,” she commented.

“It most certainly does not, young lady,” the general answered fondly. Then he looked at her and Merlin intently, a thoughtful look on his face. “I don't suppose I could persuade you and Merlin to stay here for a while. I'm sure Doctor Jackson would agree we have much we could learn from you.”

“You have no idea how tempting it is for me to say yes to that,” she said wistfully. “But, well, first of all, I can't guarantee that the same thing that happened with the stargate today won't happen the next time you try to use it while I'm around. Secondly, the whole point of this exercise was to explore my powers and I've really only started that. Plus, I think it'd be kinda neat to find out how and why the dimensions we come across are different from ours. Like a sort of science project, only I'm the only one, who can properly do it.”

“Well, we have come across alien technology capable of interdimensional transportation,” said Sam.

Dawn's eyes widened.

“Really?”

“Yeah, it looked a bit like a-”

“Major!” Sam winced at the tone of Jack's voice. “Do I need to remind you that you work in a top-secret military facility. You know, the kind that doesn't go around sharing its day-to-day operations with others.”

“Well you don't get much 'other' than us, that's for sure,” Merlin commented, turning his full attention back to the conversation and away from his confused observations of the jaffa warriors. “Except maybe for them.”

“And if there is, let's not find out about them,” said Jack.

“Dawn?”

Dawn turned to Daniel, who was looking rather thoughtful.

“I don't suppose you have any theories as to what was in the jar you translated? I didn't get a chance to read your translation thoroughly, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't mentioned. I need to make sure it's safe before we attempt to open it.”

“I think it should be safe,” said Dawn confidently. “I read your notes on the planet the jar was found on and what it looked like. Based on that I'm pretty sure it's already been opened. If someone tried resealing it for some reason, it wouldn't have made any difference.”

“And you think whatever was in that jar in the first place caused that scale of destruction?” Sam asked incredulously.

Dawn nodded solemnly.

“I'm pretty sure I know what happened. I just don't know how the jar could've gotten to that planet – other than that someone obviously carried it through the stargate. As in, I know why the jar exists and what its purpose was, but I don't get why someone would take it to another planet. Seems a bit of an extreme hiding place.”

“The universe is actually full of humans, who were originally from Earth and were displaced to other planets by an alien race called the Goa'uld as slaves,” Daniel answered.

Dawn thought about that.

“Okay, that could actually make sense.” She paused before continuing slowly as she articulated her theory. “If the jar hadn't been used then someone would've been guarding it and they couldn't have been willing to risk it falling into enemy hands or even that it would be found by someone, who didn't know what it was. It's weird that it wasn't written in a human language, our version was written in Sumerian. Well, sort of. We didn't have a jar, because it had already been used, so maybe they picked a language that they could make sure only a select group of people knew...”

“Yadda,” Jack interrupted impatiently. “Can we just skip to the part where you tell us what was in the damn jar?!”

“A demon,” she said simply.

Jack blinked.

“Well, gee, somehow I would've expected a demon to be a bit, well, bigger. Or were we supposed to rub the jar first?”

“It wouldn't have had a corporeal form, like a spirit only waaay more evil and powerful.”

“I thought you said there were no demons in this dimension,” said Daniel with a frown.

Dawn shook her head.

“There aren't anymore. But there were once, a long, long time ago. That jar would've contained the last demon in existence in this dimension. Merlin would probably need to take a look at the jar to be certain, but I'm pretty sure it must have some really powerful wards and enchantments on it. First of all, to keep the demon inside the jar, but secondly to feed it just enough power to keep it alive despite the absence of magic outside the jar.”

“Wait a minute,” Sam interrupted suddenly. “If I've got this right, you're saying that there are no demons in this dimension because the magic that exists here has been sealed off.”

“Yes,” Merlin answered. “Magical or supernatural creatures can't exist without magic to draw upon.”

“Which means it's probably safe to assume whoever sealed the magic in the first place probably did it in order to destroy any demons in this dimension?” Dawn and Merlin nodded. “So, why then would they go to all the effort of keeping one, last demon in this dimension?”

“Insurance,” said Dawn. “In case the 'what if' factor came aknockin'. As Merlin here can probably attest to first-hand, the problem with getting rid of magic is that if someone or something magical manages to get in anyway, you then have exactly zero defences against it. And, like we've already proven, moving between dimensions isn't impossible whether on purpose or by accident.”

“Uh, Dawn?” Merlin said with a frown. “I think you've missed something in your explanation. I know I'm confused as to why a demon would be helpful with defence against magic.”

Dawn blinked and went back over what she'd said. She nearly smacked herself.

“Oh, right, of course, sorry. So, to back up here first, you know how I said I'd figured out that my dimension and this one are really just alternate realities, but with really extreme differences between them?”

“Remember it, didn't understand it then, still don't understand it now,” said Jack. Out of the corner of her eyes, Dawn saw the blond airman from before returning, carrying a small hand mirror.

“You mentioned your sister and that she was some sort of vampire hunter and that none of that existed in this dimension,” said Daniel, the corners of his lips twitching as he too noticed the returning airman.

“Vampire Slayer – and, yes, there is a difference. A Vampire Slayer is a chosen warrior given super strength, speed and healing powers in order to fight vampires and demons as their equal. She's like the boogie man, er, woman, of the things that go bump in the night.”

Dawn saw Jack take the mirror and decided to speed up her explanation.

“The Vampire Slayer was created thousands of years ago, when demons still ruled over the world and humans were fighting them for control. A bunch of elders took the essence of a very old and very powerful demon and forced it into the body of a young girl. When that girl died, this essence passed on into the body of the next one and so on and so forth-”

And outraged cry cut off Dawn's explanation. Dawn looked over at Jack and grinned at the expression of incredulous horror on his face. He was attempting to tug strands of his short hair into his line of sight to confirm it wasn't an illusion of some sort.

“You know, it's not a bad colour on you, Jack,” said Daniel.

Jack growled.

“You froze time for long enough to dye my hair?!” he ground out.

Merlin laughed.

“Oh no, the time freezing was for Dawn to get a marker and draw on your face,” he said. “I don't need that much time to change hair colour! It's a very simple spell. Used to use it on Arthur all the time when he annoyed me.”

Jack glared at the too-bright smile on Merlin's face.

“Your hair has, in fact, been of that shade since you came down to help defend the gateroom,” Teal'c said helpfully. The warrior's face was bright with amusement.

Jack opened and closed his mouth.

“WHAT?!”

He turned furious eyes on Dawn and Merlin.

“Get rid of it, now!” he hissed furiously. “The paint, the hair, all of it!”

“Oh please, I used washable marker,” said Dawn with a dismissive wave. “Soap and water's all you need for that. The hair, though... well, that'll be a bit trickier. You're just going to have to be really nice to Merlin and maybe he'll turn it back.”

Colonel Jack O'Neill's eyes narrowed and he turned his full ire onto Merlin, advancing slowly on the grinning sorcerer. Merlin backed away in sync with the colonel's advancement.

“Uh, general, with your permission I'm going to head down to see Doc Fraiser for my post-mission checkup now,” said Lou Ferretti, who was no longer filming and had, instead, managed to slide past the enraged colonel and to the general's side, clutching the video camera as though it were a valuable artifact.

“Granted, major,” General Hammond said with an amused twinkle. Then, more quietly, he added: “You'd better hurry.”

“Yes sir!”

Major Ferretti turned and walked casually towards the exit, brushing past Sam Carter as he did with a wink.

“Freeze major!” Jack barked out. His eyes did a quick back and forth between Merlin and Ferretti, before he apparently decided making sure there were no pictures was more important than threatening Merlin to turn his hair back.

“Uh, sorry, colonel, I need to report to Doctor Fraiser, protocol and all that, you know,” said the major as he backed away quickly, his hands hidden behind his back. “I mean, I could be carrying a symbiont and not even know it and that would be really bad. But I'll be sure to stop by right after my exam.”

Jack growled. Lou Ferretti turned abruptly and booked it out of the gateroom.

“Stop, major! That's an order!”

Jack dashed after him.

Because his attention was very much elsewhere, he didn't notice when Merlin's eyes flashed. He also didn't notice until some time later that his hair was no longer sporting a trendy bright pink.

No sooner had he exited the gateroom, Sam pulled a video camera out from behind her back.

“Sergeant Siler!” she called. A tall man with glasses walked up to her. He was holding a staff weapon, which he'd been examining closely up until now.

“Yes, ma'am?” he said with a raised eyebrow.

“Take this to the lab and tell the techs to start working on it immediately. Make sure they make multiple backup copies and e-mail me a set as well.”

The sergeant demonstrated a stoicism that would've made even Oz envious of as he accepted the video camera and hurried out of the room through the other door. Dawn giggled.

“Okay, that was good,” she told Sam. Sam grinned back at her. “I almost feel sorry for Jack.”

Daniel snorted.

“Don't bother. He'll get his own back.”

“I figured. Hence the 'almost'.”

“Major,” General Hammond said, interrupting the general jocularity. Sam winced before turning to her commanding officer. “I have no idea what just happened here, however I feel it is my duty as commander of this base to be fully informed of all on-base operations.”

Sam grinned.

“Absolutely, sir,” she said. “I'll make sure to e-mail you as soon as I have exact details. Expect multiple attachments; I'm sure the techs will want to be very thorough.”

“Thank you, major.”

“You're welcome, sir.”

“Aaaand on that note, I think it's about time the two of us became gone with the wind,” said Dawn. “Or big green bubble, you know, whichever works.”

“Already?” Daniel asked, looking disappointed. He turned imploring eyes to the general. “Surely, we could at least offer you lunch or something before you head off. I'd love to learn a bit more about the differences between our dimensions.”

General Hammond smiled indulgently.

“Yes, Doctor Jackson, I'm sure we could arrange for something to be brought up to the briefing room.”

Dawn and Merlin exchanged looks and then shrugged.

“Well, we certainly won't say no to free food.”

Colonel O'Neill rejoined them along with the arrival of several plates of sandwiches and a bowl of fruit salad. He was still fuming, but his face was freshly-scrubbed (although there was still a faint outline of a green heart on his forehead). He also loudly promised many, many years of unpleasantness to whoever had the camera. Everyone assured him they had no idea where it was.

Which was more or less true: none of them had any idea which technician Siler had taken the camera to.

“You know, I kinda wish we had magic in this dimension,” said Daniel wistfully as Dawn and Merlin shouldered their packs to leave. Sam had a few (in her words) instruments standing by to record Dawn's dimension-jumping. “I mean, it just feels like there's this entire underground culture we're missing.”

“Yup, I definitely think we're missing out not having all those people-eating monster lurking in dark alleys,” said Jack sarcastically.

Daniel rolled his eyes.

“Yes, but think of all the extra ways we'd have to fight the goa'uld.”

“Hm.”

“Actually, the goa'uld probably wouldn't have been able to establish themselves in the first place,” said Merlin. Jack perked up at that suggestion. “I mean, it's rather difficult to be false gods in a place that has real gods. Or at least beings that have similar enough powers without the need for any sort of technology.”

“I've certainly never heard of the goa'uld or the stargate and the Watcher's Council has records going back to ancient Sumeria,” said Dawn with a shrug. “I mean, yeah, a lot of their collection was destroyed about 10 years ago or so, but there were copies of a lot of it in private collections that we've since then recovered.”

“It would seem that one decision made a big difference in the development of our two dimensions,” Teal'c commented.

“Yeah,” said Dawn thoughtfully. “And you know, I'm not even sure which was the better decision. I mean, yeah, sure, even to me it feels like there's something missing in this dimension, but... Well, in this dimension the elders chose to fix the problem by cutting it off at the source and keeping a Pandora's box in case their seal ever broke. In mine, they solved it by creating a warrior that could fight it. And, in both, the end result for the human race was sort of the same: they won and the ruling demons were cast out.”

She paused, thinking back to Sunnydale, to everything that had happened since then, to what she knew was still happening.

“But, you know, we may have won the war, but the battle didn't end,” she continued softly. “It'll never end. My sister was 16 when she was called as a Slayer and that's considered old for a girl to be called. She became the oldest slayer ever when she turned 23.”

She met Daniel's wide eyes.

“You might have the goa'uld and they sound like total supervillians and I'm sure they've done lots of horrible things along with enslaving and killing thousands of humans. If they never managed a foothold onto my Earth, then I'm sure the universe in my dimension looks very different and without their huge human slave base, they're probably not nearly as big and bad. But my world's still locked in an endless war of good versus evil - in the cosmic sense. Humans in my dimension can live peacefully because of the sacrifice of thousands of girls and young women, who have had no choice but become warriors against the darkness and dedicate their short lives to The Good Fight.”

Daniel seemed to have nothing to say to that.

Dawn took a deep breath and forced herself to think happy thoughts. She smiled sheepishly.

“Sorry, didn't mean to go so maudlin there,” she said.

“Wha- no, no, that's perfectly fine,” Daniel hurried to reassure her. “You're right. It's a trade-off. And- and, even with a first-hand knowledge of what the goa'uld have done and are capable of doing, I don't think I could choose which option is better either.”

“Then it's probably a good thing you don't have to choose,” said Jack, a finality in his voice that signalled the end of this particular discussion.

“Yeah, it probably is,” said Daniel.

“Okay, I'm all set up!” Sam announced cheerfully. She was holding some sort of box-shaped instrument in her hands with an antenna she pointed at Dawn.

“Guess that's my cue,” said Dawn. She scanned the room. “It was great meeting you all! We'll try and stop by again some time if we're in the neighbourhood.”

“Yes, yes, by all means please do,” said Jack. “Only next time, maybe try knocking on that front door. Saves a lot of trouble in the long run.”

Dawn smirked.

“Sure thing, Jack.”

As Merlin said his own farewells, she turned away from them and stretched out her hand, feeling for the dimensional walls. Her eyes glowed green and a green bubble began to grow in the corner of the room. Behind her, she was pretty sure she could hear Jack make some sort of comment, but she wasn't paying attention. It took her a bit more concentration than usual to stabilize the bubble-shaped doorway.

With one last wave, she and Merlin stepped through the bubble and into their next adventure.



Author's Notes:
Merlin's Spell - The spell Merlin used to animate the staff weapon is a variation of the spell he used to animate first the dog statue and then the snakes on Valiant's shield back in season one (episode 2 or 3, I think). The first part is the actual spell thanks to the Merlin wiki and the second part is my own mangling of Old English with the help of an online translator.

Well, that's the end of this part. Not sure when the next installment in this series will be up, but be assured there will be a 'next installment' eventually. Thanks for reading my story!

The End

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