The previous 10 chapters have been revised (and updated yesterday). Mostly dialogue related so you don't HAVE to reread them. None of the changes affect the intent or meaning of any part of the story.--- --- ---
They were in Toronto picking up a package for Mac, discussing plans for a trip across the border later in the week over an early dinner, when she felt it. She'd just taken a bite of the decadent dessert Amanda had insisted on ordering. Suddenly, without any warning, she felt faint. As her surroundings faded away she realized she was looking down on a large room packed with vague figures. The air echoed with the voices of dozens of girls and young women. Someone was asking them something she couldn't quite make out from her position. As she tried to push forward into the room to hear better, Fann was brought back to herself by Amanda shaking her arm.
She could hear the concern in Amanda's voice and tried to respond. "What? Amanda?" She mumbled, sitting up in her chair. "What just happened?"
"I don't know," Amanda said, giving her a worried glance. "It was like you were in a trance."
"Something strange is happening," Fann whispered in a strained voice. "I think something big is going to happen. Soon." She shivered. Amanda gazed at her for a long moment, taking in her paler than normal face before casually looking around the dining room, trying to spot any trouble. Fann's ability to detect danger almost before it happened had saved them a number of time in the past year and neither of them took her premonitions lightly.
"Where?" Amanda asked quietly.
"Not here. Somewhere far away," Fann said, keeping her voice low. She felt oddly euphoric and exhausted. "Do you mind if I make it an early night?" She asked, pushing herself out of her chair. "I need to go lay down."
"Okay," Amanda said, nodding before gesturing their waiter over. "I'll meet up with you later. There are some things I wanted to check out while we're in town."
"Amanda... didn't you promise Mac you would stay out of trouble?" Fann asked, grinning faintly at the look on Amanda's face.
"What he doesn't know can't hurt him," Amanda said, smirking at her. Handing a small stack of bills to their waiter, she stood up. "Besides, it was you he was concerned about. I can take care of myself."
"Okay." Fann shook her head, wincing as her head started to ache with the motion. "As long as I don't have to rescue you," she said, heading towards the entrance. Sometimes she felt like the responsible one in their relationship.
"You? Rescue me?" Amanda winked at her as she followed. "What was that in Boston last week?"
"That was different," Fann said, frowning for a moment before grinning at the memory. "He never knew what hit him."
"Nope. You obviously need someone to look after you," Amanda said, waving in the direction of their hotel. "I'll just walk back with you."
They casually strolled down the street, weaving through the light pedestrian traffic. Stopping in front of their hotel, Amanda gave her a quick hug before continuing down the street. Fann gingerly shook her head, watching Amanda until she disappeared around a corner before going up to her room.--- --- ---
Fann was just sitting down to breakfast in the cafe across the street from their hotel when she heard several other patrons talking about Sunnydale. The destruction of an entire town in California had made the news, even in Canada. She sat there thinking, eyes blank, occasionally sipping from her cup as she waited for Amanda to join her. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a number of newspapers being dropped onto the table in front of her.
Without acknowledging Amanda's presence, she grabbed a newspaper from the pile. Intently reading the front page for clues, she ignored Amanda's impatient grumble for a minute as she absorbed the details. It wasn't much. Nothing to explain what had happened. Or exactly when. She threw it down in frustration before looking up at Amanda, now sitting across from her.
The feelings that she'd finally managed to suppress months ago came flooding back. She needed to go there, even if there was nothing she could do. The invitation to Sunnydale that had seemed to be in the distant future was suddenly important. Even if she wasn't ready or willing to be a part of that other world, something so bad it could destroy an entire town couldn't be ignored.
"Amanda..." she looked at her much older companion. They worked surprising well together. They'd developed a close rapport while Amanda was training her, as she learned everything about her new profession that could be taught. And as she taught her how to defend herself, even though Amanda was very protective of her protégé and did her best to not involve Fann in Immortal games.
In exchange she tried to keep Amanda grounded and tried to keep her more extravagant schemes in check. While she had a long life ahead of her, thanks to her Sidhe heritage, Fann didn't have the Immortal ability to survive death. Amanda wasn't going to be too happy with her plans. "I need to go. Alone."
"Fann!" Amanda started to protest, her voice almost a whisper. "You can't"
"I need to. I should have gone last year when I found out about Sunnydale."
"You weren't ready," Amanda reminded her. "And Cassandra said your destiny is elsewhere. You aren't needed for that fight."
"I remember." She grimaced. No matter how it had shaken apart her world almost two years ago, her connection to the Chosen One line was an accident. Finding out she wasn't completely human at the same time had been another shock that had taken her months to really accept. With her maternal background it should never have happened. She should never have become one of the Chosen.
It was an unwanted debt she suspected she would have to repay eventually. And because of it her future was no longer her own. Someday someone would come to collect the debt. "But I'm still connected to it. I still have dreams and desires and skills that come from that. I need to find out what happened."
"We can catch a flight to LA this afternoon," Amanda acknowledged resignedly, not attempting to fight Fann's plans.
"You're not coming," Fann told her flatly.
"Says who?" Amanda pouted.
"I do." Fann refused to budge on the issue. "It's even less your fight than mine."
"So?" Amanda answered. "You're still my apprentice. Of course it's my business if you want to do something that'll get you killed.
"So you're not going," Fann told her firmly. "You need to let me deal with this."
"You're too young!" Amanda protested. "You don't have the experience to deal with something like this."
"And you do?" She looked at Amanda, shaking her head at the petulant Immortal, knowing she'd won the argument before it even started. Amanda wasn't MacLeod. No matter how she felt about her apprentice she wouldn't interfere. "Since when does your 'hobby' give you the experience to deal with some place like Sunnydale?"
"Well..." Amanda started. "I..."
"I'll be fine. No one will notice me. I'll take a quick look. If nothing goes wrong I should be back in a week or two." She got up from the table. "You can wait for me here in Toronto, or we can meet somewhere else."
"Let's meet somewhere else," Amanda told her with a quick smirk.
"Oh?" She shook her head at her. "So you didn't just go for a long walk last night? Should we be packing right now?"
"No. We're okay." She smiled like the cat that had gotten the canary. "This afternoon is soon enough."
Fann groaned. Keeping Amanda out of trouble was a full time occupation. But she owed her so much she couldn't just leave her. No one else would have taken in a teenager like she had and given her a purpose. Even if Amanda insisted that having an apprentice her age was a distinct advantage, Fann knew that wasn't the only reason Amanda had originally rescued her from her misguided cross-country journey a year and half ago.
"Why don't you eat something," she told Amanda. "I need to go pack and change my flight. I also need to pick up some things in Seacover, so I'll drop off that box for Mac so you don't have to carry it around."
"Okay. Don't be too long. We still have to do a few things before this afternoon." With that, Amanda dismissed her and reached for the basket of rolls as she waved a waitress over to their table.--- --- ---
The trip to Seacover seemed to take forever. Fann attempted to sleep the entire way, only waking up long enough to change planes, but found it impossible. The Sunnydale mystery was on the minds of everyone and she couldn't escape speculation about the cause. And when she did manage to doze off, she dreamed about the first time she'd ever heard about Sunnydale.
A subdued Joe picked her up at the airport. He seemed to be deep in thought, saying few words before dropping her off at MacLeod's dojo. She hadn't given him an explanation for why she was back so soon and without Amanda. She promised him one when she got back in a week or two. He just gave her the same look he gave his Immortal friends when they promised similar things. "Just make sure you get back here in one piece. Mac and Amanda won't be happy if I'm helping you get yourself killed," he told her.
"Amanda already knows where I'm going and it's better if Mac doesn't find out until I get back," she told him with a challenging stare before she slipped out of his car. She waited for him to drive off before reaching above the door to retrieve the key.
She wasn't taking much down to Sunnydale. Just things she could carry on her bike for the long trip. The katana Mac had insisted on giving her when she'd proven she could handle it was too awkward for a trip like this but hopefully its companion wakizashi would work for anything she might possibly run into. It was also a lot easier to hide for a non-Immortal like herself.
Grabbing a change of clothes, a pair of throwing knives, and several stakes from her locker at the dojo she quickly packed her small travel bag. Before taking her helmet and riding clothes out she stashed her suitcase in Mac's office and placed the box from Toronto on his desk with a note from Amanda.
Feeling like she was getting into old familiar armor, Fann changed into the leather clothes she'd kept from her brief nomadic life, before meeting Amanda had changed everything. It had been a long time since she spent any amount of time on her bike, mainly using it to get around town in good weather when she wasn't traveling. She would have to travel in several stages if she wanted to be in good shape when she got there.
Taking one last look around, Fann pulled on her helmet and backed her bike out of the small shed behind the dojo. In the stark morning light she gave it the once-over, making sure there was nothing wrong with it before attaching her bag and stowing her wakizashi in its special sheath. Satisfied, she climbed on and kicked the bike to life. Double checking to make sure she had enough gas to get several hundred miles down the road, Fann pulled out into the street and headed south.--- --- ---
When she wasn't thinking about her destination, Fann thought about the job she'd been working on when she'd learned that Sunnydale was the home of the current Chosen One. It'd been her final training job for Amanda, though Fann hadn't learned that until afterward. It had everything a full scale job did - the planning, the preparation, the complications. It even had the rare attempt by another party to take away the prize before they could deliver it. And she'd seen her first real magic during that job.
Opening the display case without setting off the alarms hadn't been the hard part of that job. No, the hard part, or so they initially thought, would be arranging for the museum guards to be occupied while she retrieved the sword and Amanda repeated her actions with the decoy in a wing on the other side of the museum.
It'd been a clever idea worthy of her reputation, or so Amanda claimed, to take more than one sword from the museum. It would confuse the issue, or so Amanda had hoped, though Fan later learned that to Amanda the clever part lay in turning a simple retrieval into a bit of sleight of hand.
To deal with the guards, they'd snuck in the night before and placed several knockout bombs in strategic locations that they could set off remotely. It should have given them thirty minutes to get to the swords and get back out if nothing went wrong. But their luck hadn't been with them that night.
It had taken her less than a minute to open the case and swap their target with the look-a-like Amanda had found in an antique shop earlier that week. It'd easily slid into the carrying case their contact had procured for them, cutting off the slight tingling she'd felt when she'd picked it up. She'd reassembled the case and was on her way to her rendezvous with Amanda when everything fell apart.
There'd been no signs but someone must have somehow been watching the sword, they decided later. The moment Fann stepped out from the museum's shadow, there were more than a dozen thumping noises, like the sound you would get if you slapped your palm over a half full glass of water.
Months later, she could still remember the feeling of wrongness that had followed the sound, deep in the pit of her stomach. Even now she didn't know how to describe it. It had been like a wrongness in the fabric of the universe. Thinking about it now brought her back to the present, where she belonged. She was almost in California now and she couldn't let her mind wander so much. Even with her fast reflexes and enhanced senses, inattention would be her death if she wasn't careful.
Watching the exit signs as she crossed the border at dusk, Fann breathed a sigh of relief when she spotted the exit for her hotel. A couple hours of sleep and hopefully she'd be ready to face whatever she would find in Sunnydale.--- --- ---
All of the roads leading to Sunnydale were full of gawkers trying to see what had happened to the little known town. The closer the road she'd picked got the slower traffic moved, until it eventually came to a halt at a barricade manned by black clad soldiers directing traffic away from the crater, back towards civilization.
She eventually discovered that all of the roads into Sunnydale were blocked by similar men. And all of the hotels and motels were full of reporters or refugees from the town. She was almost to LA before finding a place to stay for the night, some national chain motel that was able to squeeze her in for what she thought was an exorbitant fee. Still tired from her long trip, Fann put up only a token protest.
Parking her bike in front of her room, the large yellow school bus with 'Sunnydale' plastered on its sides barely registered. Ignoring the voice whispering in the back of her head, trying to alternately warn her of danger and safety, Fann stumbled into her room. Stripping, she collapsed on the lumpy bed for the night, the phrase 'you can find her in Sunnydale' repeatedly running through her mind as sleep claimed her. --- --- ---
Fann knew immediately that it was a dream of that night at the museum. She'd had them before, though it'd been a while. And it was the first time she'd sensed another presence in one of her dreams, though she couldn't see them.
She watched from a distance as a dozen black cloaked figures wearing white masks appeared out of thin air, surrounding Amanda and herself.
The figures silently waved sticks at them. Green or red light would shoot out of the tip of one and fly towards them. She could see herself getting tired as she dodged one bolt of light after another, unable to get close enough to stop them.
She felt the despair again, as one of those bolts hit Amanda, dropping her to the ground in a heap. Not matter what Amanda claimed, she'd never quite believed that she couldn't be killed. And the remembered rage as she watched herself grab the decoy sword and charge the closest figure.
She still felt nauseous when she thought about the damage she'd done. She'd managed to skewer a couple of them before help arrived. Nothing fatal but there'd been blood everywhere.
Fann watched herself fall to her knees and grab Amanda, refusing to let her go for the eternity it took her to revive.
The dream repeated several times before Fann fell into a deep sleep where they couldn't follow, though the angle seemed to change each time as if her invisible observer was moving and pressing rewind over and over again.
When she woke the next morning the bus was gone.--- --- ---
It took her a day and a half of poking around to find a place where she could see the Sunnydale crater, a cemetery along its edges. But by then the crater was already more than half full with the water that was drowning its secrets. Surprisingly, the cemetery was empty except for its permanent residents. It was almost as if no one knew it was there. As if everyone thought it was at the bottom of the crater with the rest of the town.
She hadn't been in a cemetery since her Gran's funeral. From her dreams, she knew most cemeteries weren't safe places at night but in the later morning sun this one seemed peaceful.
Sitting on a tombstone, Fann stared across the crater, a light breeze making small waves in the water. She wasn't sure if she was imagining the faint prickling along her arms and the back of her neck, a sign that she had learned meant that some kind of magic had been used nearby fairly recently. Standing, she walked down a path to the edge of the crater, staring into its depths for an answer. She wasn't sure what it meant but the faint pull towards Sunnydale that she'd felt for a while, though much weaker, was now pulling her east. Whatever had drawn her to the west coast years ago was now somewhere else.
Sighing, she headed back to her previous perch. Before she could sit down, a cold clammy feeling enveloped her. Something she couldn't see was now occupying the space she'd been sitting in earlier. Stepping back, Fann took a deep breath and tried to clear her mind as Cassandra had attempted to teach her.
Two figures gradually took shape in front of her. The afternoon sun shone through them, giving them a faint glowing look. One of them was a blonde woman who smiled faintly at her from her perch on the tombstone. The other was a smaller, almost familiar looking young woman whose eyes seemed to bore into Fann's heart, her light brown skin glowing with an unearthly light.
Fann stared at the ghosts, waiting for them to say something. At least she thought they were ghosts.
"What do you want?" she finally asked after a long silence. The blonde merely pointed at the name on the tombstone, shaking her head in what Fann thought was amusement. "Sorry!" Fann blurted out.
The other ghost started talking, though it took Fann several seconds to realize she was being addressed.
"Go home!" the ghost breathed, with just a faint hint at an accent.
"What?" Fann stared at her in surprise.
"Dere is nutthing here for you."
"Dey will come to you," the ghost continued, crossing her arms and staring at Fann.
"It's not time yet." the blonde ghost said, her soft voice mixing with the sound of the breeze blowing through the nearby trees.
"Who are you?" Fann asked desperately as they started to fade away.
"She was one before you," the blonde whispered before disappearing completely. The other ghost stared at her for several moments longer, gradually fading away Cheshire Cat-like, the last thing to disappear were her eyes.
"That was helpful," Fann muttered to herself. "In a cryptic sort of way."
She wasn't sure how these things worked but just in case the two ghosts were related, Fann memorized the name on the tombstone. She could look it up when she got back to Seacover, before she caught up with Amanda in London in two weeks. Taking one last look across the crater, Fann shook her head before walking back towards the entrance where she'd parked her bike.--- --- ---Final Note:
This isn't the last we'll see of Fann and Amanda. We'll catch up with them again before the end of The Other Girl
. And who's to say that their further adventures won't appear in some venue like the Quibbler.