Title: The Apprentice (1/11)
Disclaimer: This is a derivative work. All characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Fox Television, Davis/Panzer and others.
Pairings: None
SUMMARY: A Tale of the slayer called after Buffy's death at the end of Season 5.
SPOILERS: All seasons of BtVS and Highlander.
Author's Notes: This story takes place during the two years between the BtVS episodes The Gift (End of Season 5) and Chosen (Last episode of Season 7). There is some speculation concerning the reason we never saw another slayer after Buffy's second death. This story is one possibility for her non-appearance. Most of this story is a BtVS/Highlander crossover but characters from several other fandoms will make occassional appearances.
Note:If fics where one of the main characters is an OC offends your sensibilities, you'll probably want to skip this one.
Revision Posted: 18-Jul-2009

It was a bright sunny day. A warm breeze played joyfully with the fallen leaves along a windswept shoreline, throwing them around in swirling movements like mini cyclones. An overly bright rainbow hung above the gurgling brook, dew glistening on the impossibly fine black sand where the running water met the lake. Butterflies floated above the goldenrod in a nearby meadow.

A tall, slim figure emerged slowly from the water, long raven hair hanging down below her waist, covering her naked form like a shimmering cloth. Water dripped from the tips like small diamonds towards the ground. As she stepped gracefully, almost nymph like, out of the water, arms slightly out, hands with long fingers extended as if reaching for some invisible instrument, the sky turned dark, the air crackling with electricity. Rolling black clouds covered the sun and a sudden cold rain poured down, drenching everything in sight.

With a muffled gasp, Fann sat up in her bed, feeling a sudden chill in the darkened room. She'd been haunted by vaguely disturbing dreams for the last month, since the death of her grandmother, but this wasn't the same kind of dream as the ones she'd been having. In those she was always running, her feet pounding against some hard surface, being chased by something she couldn't see. Something she was too frightened of to turn around and face, as its rancid breath poured over her shoulders.

This hadn't been a scary dream but huddled under her blankets and staring blindly into the darkness, she could feel her heart beating faster than normal. She took long, deep breaths and tried to calm down. After her heart had slowed down and her normal breathing resumed, she lay back down, pulling her pillow over her face and attempted without much success to go back to sleep.

Some time later, in the early morning, she fell back into an exhausted asleep and dreamed again. This time she was just a distant observer. She watched from an impossibly far distance as a small blonde girl dove off the end of a tall tower, falling towards a brilliant pool of pulsating light in a graceful swan dive. When the girl's body passed through the light Fann felt something happening to her own body. Something intensely painful engulfed her in waves. She was driven awake by the horrifying pain, her high pitched screams waking the entire house.

A month after she first dreamed of the falling blonde she was still finding it impossible to sleep for more than an hour or two every night. When she did manage to fall asleep, the other dreams, the ones of being chased, came back, often waking her and leaving her shaking and hoarse from the involuntary moans and screams she would make.

She could feel the patience of her grandmother's friends Alice and Willa, the Boreaus sisters, wearing thin as the nightmares continued. Retired, they lived modestly but they'd gladly taken her in when her Gran had died. For some reason her Gran had wanted them to be her guardians but she knew they hadn't really been prepared for the reality of her being thrust into their quiet lives. Because they didn't know how to deal with her grief, from the start they'd given her almost complete freedom to do whatever she wanted.

When the dreams and nightmares had started they'd tried to help. Tried to find a way for her to get over the nightmares, with little success. Nothing anyone said to her seemed to help. The doctors and councilors they consulted told them it was a delayed reaction to her grandmother's death but Fann knew better. She could feel something tugging at her every night. Something in her wanted to be outside, in the dark. There were times she was unable to resist the impulse. Between the nightmares and the secret nightly excursions into the neighboring woods she could feel herself wearing out from the lack of sleep.

And she had another secret. Something had changed in her when the nightmares had started. She felt different. Stronger. More aware of everything around her. She could see and hear a lot better than before. She could feel the presence of people and animals in her head before she saw them. It was very confusing and the stress of adjusting to these changes was contributing to her sleeplessness. Fann knew she needed to talk with someone about it but from the beginning something told her to keep it to herself for now.

In inspired desperation, unable to think of anything else, the school psychiatrist had given her a journal and told her writing out her nightmares and dreams would help them go away. She was wrong, they didn't. But over the long summer they'd became more manageable. She still had them nightly but they were less intense and she was able to sleep longer. She would still occasionally wake up a worried Alice or Willa with her moans but the screams had mostly stopped.

Shy and solitary, the tall girl had never had many friends, and none of them were ever very close. When the nightmares had started she'd stopped spending any time with even the ones not frightened away by the rumours. There were times that summer when she felt that she was walking in a dark dream, constantly numb to the other people around her. During the day she spent all of her time at her grandmother's house packing the possessions she was keeping so they could go into storage. She'd been convinced by her Gran's friends to sell the house and use the money to help pay for things she might need. She still had another year of high school to go but anything left over after she finished would help with college expenses.

She spent most of her time alone, adjusting to losing her grandmother and to the sudden increase in her strength and the enhancement of her senses. She struggled with it daily, trying to not break any of her favorite dishes or her Gran's nicknacks. On the days she couldn't control her bewildering new abilities she worked until she was exhausted in the large garden in the field behind her Gran's house.

Her Gran had always kept a vegetable garden that had kept them in food all winter and an herb garden that provided a little extra income. Even though everyone in the small Maine town knew better, she still tried to keep up the fiction that her Gran was just away and would soon be back. Every week Fann would collect orders for fresh herbs from her Gran's friends and the local restaurants and shops and deliver them at least once a day.

Fann kept herself going for most of the summer in this fashion. She would get up early, head off to her Gran's house, and after a day of packing or gardening return to the Boreaus' in the evening for dinner and to sleep. On several occasions during the day she found herself carving pointed wooden sticks like the ones she would sometimes see being wielded by some girl her age in her dreams. These she hid in the garage in the saddlebags of her mother's treasured motorcycle.

Some days at her gran's house were better than others. The day she came across an album full of pictures of her mother and father wasn't one of them. She could just barely remember them. They'd died in an accident when she was ten and she had to concentrate hard to bring their images back. Until she found the album in her Gran's bedroom. Collapsing onto the floor, she looked at it with tears in her eyes. It was full of happy pictures. Of her parents with her and with others she didn't recognize. Of them smiling at each other and at her. Of places that seemed to be right out of a travel book.

Leafing through the pages there was one picture that seemed out of place among the others. It appeared to be very old, scratched and a fading sepia in color. In it stood a tall, thin woman with an almost dainty face and long hair so blonde it was almost a silver white. Gazing at the photo, Fann felt she should know her from somewhere. Carefully packing away the album and several other pictures she'd found that week in a heavy waterproof envelope, she kept out that photograph, another one of her parents together, and one of her Gran.

That night at dinner, Fann pulled out the picture and asked the Boreaus, who'd known her grandmother for a very long time, if they recognized the woman.

"Willa? Alice? Do you know who this is?" she asked them, placing it without fanfare on the table.

"It sort of looks like you," murmured Willa, after taking the photograph from Fann. She passed it to Alice across the table. "Doesn't it."

Alice took it and pursed her lips for a moment. "Different hair color and a little taller but yes, it does. Hmmm..." She thought for a moment. "I believe I've seen her before," the elder of the two sisters commented.

"Really?" Fann straightened up in her chair excitedly. "Where?"

"I think she's your other grandmother," the slight, round woman told her. "She wasn't around that often."

Fann couldn't remember ever hearing her Gran say anything about another grandmother. "What happened to her?" she asked Alice curiously.

"I think she died the summer before you were born." She frowned as she looked at the photo. "I think she lived a long ways away. In some foreign country. Your parents were gone for a month after it happened."

"Oh." Subdued after the initial excitement, Fann took the picture back, placing it in a pocket. "Thanks."

"How are you doing with the packing?" Willa asked her, giving her a concerned look. "Are you ready for us to help you?"

"Not yet," she said. "Soon. For now I need to do it alone," she told them sadly, surprising even herself with how grown up she sounded.

"Let us know," Willa told her gently, Alice nodding in encouragement.

"Thanks. I think I'll go up to bed now." Fann picked up her plate and silverware and took them into the kitchen before heading to bed. It would be another night of doing her homework and then staring at the ceiling for hours until she could escape into the night for an hour or two.

By August, she felt like she'd accomplished a lot. While she still wasn't getting much more than several hours of uninterrupted sleep at night, it was getting better. And she was actually starting to see some pattern to her dreams. Several nights of dreams of following different girls fighting for their lives against frightening creatures would be followed by several nights of dreams of that small blonde girl diving into that light.

The dreams always seemed to end at a critical point. She wasn't sure but she had the disturbing feeling that none of the girls she dreamt about had actually survived the things she saw them doing. And the dreams were too vivid to not be real. She'd gone through several slim journal volumes recording the dreams. She kept the filled journals hidden in a box at her Gran's house. She felt very protective of the girls she dreamed about. They belonged to her and she didn't want to share them with anyone.

She was almost done with the packing by mid August. Everything that she'd decided to keep was now securely boxed up, ready to be stored away. Everything else would be auctioned off before the house was put up for sale.

By late August, Fann was feeling confident in her control over her increased strength and the improvements in her senses. She felt comfortable enough to give in to the incessant pressure in the back of her mind to start venturing outside every night, not just occasionally. She wasn't sure what she was doing but something in the night called to her. And while the creatures she dreamed about in her nightmares seemed just that, nightmare creatures, she tensed at every sound when she was out at night. She had yet to run into anything more dangerous than the occasional fox or wild cat but she knew that she would run into something eventually.

Even with the summer almost over, the dreams continued to affect her sleep. The Boreaus had adapted to her sleeping problems but she was starting to sense that time was running out. She needed the dreams to stop. School was starting soon and there was no way for her to survive both school and her restless nocturnal wanderings on so little sleep. But she had no idea what, if anything, she could do about it.

The auction occurred as planned, just before Labor Day. She watched silently as piece by piece her life with her Gran was sold to neighbors and strangers in the crowded yard. The dining room table she remembered eating many Sunday dinners at; the large cherry china cabinet her Gran had been so proud of; the four poster bed she'd spent many nights dreaming on. These and many other physical memories now gone, scattered forever. She had no room for the larger furniture and just barely enough room in the small corner of the storage loft they'd rented for her for the things she could keep, like her Gran's rocking chair. The contents of the garage were the last things to go.

The tools in the garden shed would remain with the house when it was sold, hopefully after she finished with the gardens for the year, after the Fall harvest. She'd spent so much time on them over the summer that she was reluctant to let them go. And she'd managed to convince the Boreaus to let her keep her mother's motorcycle. They didn't believe she would ever use it. They thought she was too young to keep it, but her gran had promised to let her learn when she was old enough. She didn't tell them that she'd taught herself to ride it and take care of it over the summer. She didn't think they would be too happy with her and kept it from them.