Who* is* that strange boy in the lair?
The first thing Tommy Dawkins saw upon entering the lair was a leather-clad backside. They had been through so much weirdness together that Tommy barely even thought to be surprised by the fact that he could recognize Merton by his rear-end alone. The pants, however, were--different. Tommy blinked, shook his head and cleared his throat before venturing a wary: "Merton?"
The backside swayed irritably. "That's Lord Merton to you!" Merton said, still rooting around in his supply cabinet. He gave an irritable huff and straightened a moment later. Merton swung his--was that? oh god, it was, wasn't it?--purple cape back over his shoulder and turned to face Tommy. Merton bent his knee, foot planted on a conveniently located pile of books, threw his head back and glared at Tommy imperiously. He looked rather like something out of a bad promo shot for an even worse movie.
"Oh-_kay_," Tommy drew out; he managed not to laugh by pure force of will. Paused. "Did they move Halloween around without telling me? Or--" he furrowed his brow before smiling suddenly. "I know! They're filming a new horror movie and you got a part as an extra. Way to go, Merton!"
Even in the dim light, Merton's hand flashed red with jewels as he thrust out his hand. "Cease your foolish yapping, dog!" Merton cried with spirit enough to make any drama teacher proud. He narrowed his eyes and twitched at his cape. "And where," Merton said softly, "is your collar?"
Well now, _that_ was irritating, Tommy though. He could deal with irritating. He could. Really. After all, this wasn't _too_ much worse than most of Merton's other--eccentricities. "Merton," Tommy said. "Buddy. You aren't on the set. Give it a rest, will you?"
He figured that Merton should be relived to take a break from the acting thing. Tommy shook his head, amazed at what Merton was willing to do: Leather pants. Purple cape. And some weird criss-crossing mess of leather straps and silver buckles. Tommy couldn't figure out how Merton had gotten into that top. They would need the jaws of life to get him out of that getup, and Tommy firmly decided that best friends or not, he was _not_ helping Merton undress. Even if Merton did whine.
Merton's eyes widened as if he had been insulted beyond all measure. He stomped his foot angrily before stalking towards Tommy. It was so unexpected that Tommy didn't have time to do more than blink before Merton slapped him across the face.
"I am Lord Merton," Merton intoned with the voice of someone who had long practiced their lines, "and I rule Pleasantville with an iron fist!" Merton waved a pale fist around in emphasis. Tommy decided that there was no way he was paying money to watch this film when it came out in the theater. "You will not speak to me thusly if you wish to keep your head!"
This had passed beyond irritating. They were way beyond the Merton-zone and into completely new and uncharted territories of annoying-ness. "You rule Pleasantville from your parent's basement?"
Merton shrugged and his eyes flashed briefly with the off-beat humour Tommy had learned to enjoy so much. "It's a tight housing market out there." Merton shifted and fell into a new pose. He lifted his voice into movie-villain melodrama mode once again: "now fall to your knees and beg my forgiveness for your impertinence!"
Tommy growled. Enough was enough! "This isn't funny, Merton."
"Lord Merton!" Merton snapped.
"_Merton_," Tommy said warningly.
"_Lord Merton!_" Merton shrieked, rising to his toes even as his voice broke.
Tommy stared at Merton incredulously. This was--odd, even for Merton. Considering where they lived, there was a good possibility that it _wasn't_, Tommy decided. "Did TnT knock you on the head today?" Tommy asked. He was ready for Merton's attack this time and grabbed the other boy's wrist before his hand could connect with Tommy's cheek.
"Tn--?" Merton blinked. "Oh, _those_ two," he muttered in something like his normal voice. He switched back into his Villain Voice a second later and threw a sneer into the mix for good measure. "I disemboweled those Neanderthals in the first week of my Reign of Absolute Terror," Merton snapped. "I drew upon the Forces of Darkness and--you should know this," Merton said suspiciously. His free hand jerked forward and tugged at the front of Tommy's pants.
Tommy released Merton and jumped backwards. "Merton!" he yelped.
Merton's lower lip trembled. "You aren't Tommy!" he wailed.
Tommy glowered at the other boy, still clutching defensively at the waistband of his pants. He didn't know how sneaking a peek into them was supposed to prove anything--except that this wasn't Merton. "What do you mean I'm not Tommy! Of course I'm Tommy--you aren't Merton!" And to think, all that he had been planning on doing tonight was watching a Slimy and/or Oozing Monster Marathon with his best friend. Instead he had this, this--Not-Merton with his surprisingly quick fingers. Tommy refused to blush.
"I should have known something was wrong when I couldn't find my disemboweling knife," Merton said mournfully. He looked at Tommy: "it's my favourite knife--even better than my slice 'n dice one." Merton thoughtfully stroked his lower lip with the pad of his thumb. "I suspect that I have somehow been transported to an alternate universe."
Tommy nodded. "Alternate universe. Got it."
Merton scowled at him. "You aren't even the teeniest bit frightened of my Immense Supernatural Powers, are you?" he muttered irritably before blowing out a sharp breath. "Do you have any idea of how long it will take me to begin a _new_ Reign of Absolute Terror? Do you? Gah! The infrastructure I'll need to put in place! The monsters I'll have to summon! The executions I'll have to--no, no, wait. Those were fun."
Tommy gaped. "Hey! You aren't staying in _my_ world! And I'm not about to let you execute anyone!" Not-Merton had just sprung up to the top of Tommy's Big List 'o Weird. With one of those sparkly star-shaped stickers to boot.
"You aren't any fun," Merton snapped. "I. Want. My. Tommy."
It was almost reassuring to realize that even Evil Mertons could deliver a powerful whine-pout combo. It might have been sweet except for the fact that Merton was slicing his hands in purposeful patterns and speaking softly but clearly--and the words he was saying were making the hairs at the back of Tommy's neck stand on end. Not-Merton was dorkily-familiar _and_ dangerous-unfamiliar and Tommy really, really didn't like him at all.
"Hold it!" Tommy said quickly. "I want my Merton back. You want to get back home. We can work something out."
Merton paused, mid-spell. "Work something out?" he repeated, as if the words were fully foreign to him. "You mean--work _together_?"
Tommy nodded encouragingly. "Yeah. That _is_ how these things tend to go. You come up with a plan, I kick butt and all's right with the world."
Merton looked stunned. The energy gathering around his hands faltered and blinked out. "This world's Merton didn't sell his soul for Ultimate Power and you're still his friend? You--Tommy Dawkins and Merton J. Dingle are. . . 'buddies'?" Merton howled, clutching at his stomach. "This world," he said around gasps, "is _warped_."
Let it go, Tommy thought, just--let it go. "Merton's books are over there," he said, pointing. "I suggest that we get to work. Now." Because another minute in Not-Merton's presence and he suspected that he would go stark raving mad. Damn it, he missed his Merton!
Tommy's sanity was sorely tested in the next hour and a half. Not-Merton felt it necessary to remind Tommy of his Ultimate Power every few minutes. He also seemed determined to make Tommy blush as much as possible before they found a solution to their dimensional hiccough. Tommy refrained from decking Not-Merton by running mental replays of some his best football games. When even football lost its hold on him ("shouldn't you be curled at my feet, dog?"), Tommy reminded himself that he was doing this for Merton--and the other boy had better appreciate what Tommy was going through on his behalf.
"Aha!" Merton exclaimed, stabbing his forefinger at a passage in the book before him. "A simple, yet elegant solution to our cross-dimensional transference." He leaned back in his chair, smirking. "Am I good, or am I _good_," he purred, smugness dripping from every syllable.
Gloating was obviously a transdimensional trait for Merton. Easy, Tommy reminded himself, you are cool, calm and collected: "Well? What is it?" Okay, forget cool, calm and collected. He was tired, irritated and frazzled and he'd take on a herd of demon-possessed elephants over an Evil Merton any day. Not, Tommy quickly amended, that he was especially interested in taking on a herd of demon-possessed elephants--got that, universe?
"I just cast a simple spell on that mirror over there," Not-Merton said, waving at the mirror in question, "and open a portal between this world and my own." He paused a moment before his eyes lit up: "I could rule the multiverse through a system of mirrors!" Not-Merton cackled gleefully.
"If I so much as hear another peep out of you on the subject," Tommy growled in warning. "The spell, Merton--now!"
"Geez, take it easy, Tommy," Not-Merton huffed. "I'm going, I'm going!"
Not-Merton rubbed at one of his top's shiny buckles, smoothed a hand over his leather-clad hip and tested his spiked hair against a fingertip. He flung his short cape over his shoulders, lifted his chin and brought his hands towards the ceiling. Tommy gritted his teeth and rolled his eyes when Not-Merton turned to wink at him over his shoulder. "Oh hear me, Powers of the Universe! I, Lord Merton, have need of--" blah, blah, blah, Tommy glazed over the rest Not-Merton's enthusiastically melodramatic speech, "--heed my call, Oh Powers!"
A single puff of smoke rose from the mirror.
"No feel for drama whatsoever," Not-Merton muttered sourly. He cleared his throat and turned to face Tommy. "Behold! I, Lord Merton, have summoned forth an Interdimensional Portal with the Forces of Darkness! Tremble at my might! Fear my power! Wonder at--hey! hey!" Not-Merton protested as Tommy nudged him towards the mirror's liquid surface.
"Remember, not a peep," Tommy said firmly.
"Evil Overlord's honour," Not-Merton said and patted Tommy's rear. He had time enough to yelp before Tommy pushed him through the mirror.
Another plume of smoke rose from the mirror. The portal wavered before disappearing with a pop.
Tommy wheeled around to face his Merton. The other boy was wrapped up in red silk sheets and his dark hair shone with sparkles. "Heh heh--_don't ask_," Merton said.
Tommy nodded. "Sure. I can do that."