A series of vignettes by 88Keys

Finished: 1/5/07

Water is a series of one-shots, each about a different character at different points in their lives. Each involves water (duh) and what it means to the character at that time. It is life to some, death to others.

These vingettes are stand-alone one-shots. They do not run together. Think of them as individual scenes, not so much as a continuing story. This was kind of an experimental piece, so I hope it works. Your reviews and comments are always appreciated.


He couldn't seem to wash it off.

He'd been in the shower for almost an hour now. Soaping, scrubbing, rinsing, and repeating, with the water as hot as he could stand it. His skin was bright red all over.

He still felt dirty.

He'd spent last night in a sewer. A damp, filthy, bacteria-infested sewer. The walls and floor were wet and slimy with rainwater and urine and feces and God-knows what else. The stench was powerful. Overwhelming. In fact, he was pretty sure it was the smell that had brought him out of unconsciousness.

"Welcome to Hell," Atlas had said.

For a few moments at least, he had believed him.

Oh, and there was a dead body, too. A long dead, decayed, almost completely decomposed body. It was slimy and wet and smelly, too. Does being in a sewer make a body decompose faster? He wasn't sure, but he wouldn't be surprised if it did.

He tried not to look at it while he was down there. But every time he did see it, he couldn't shake the feeling that he was looking at his future. Seeing how he would look in six months or so. Atlas would go first, and he would have to watch him decompose while he himself slowly died of starvation.

He could still see it, even now, in his mind. He blinked to clear the vision, and focused his eyes on the downpour in front of him. He turned the water temperature up even hotter.

Trapped. Starving. Dying.

It had taken him three hours to unlatch the door. The first dozen or so times that the knife slipped off the latch, he wasn't too bothered. He just had to get the right angle, the right amount of pressure. But each time after that, he felt his frustration level rise and his hope die a little. Each time the bolt fell back in place, he saw the body. Saw his future.

This was his tomb. It would be his grave.

Just like Cohen.

When it was finally over and he got back to NCIS, they were too polite to say anything. Too kind to point out how awful he looked, and how nasty he smelled. He could feel it, seeped through his clothes and on his skin and even deeper. He debriefed as quickly as possible, and Gibbs let him go home without even finishing his report.


"Yeah, boss?"

"Go home. Take a shower, get some rest."

He hadn't argued.

He'd seen a lot of dead bodies during his career. A lot of pain and suffering, blood and senseless violence. Being able to shake it off was part of the job. Only one other case had made him feel so filthy. He had been a rookie cop, on the job for about four months, when he worked a homicide involving three little girls. The killer had abused them. Killed them. Mutilated them.

He had managed to hold it together until he got home late that night. Then he went in the bathroom and sobbed so hard that he threw up.

He had showered for an hour that night. Just like he was doing now.

The water was getting cold. The hot water was all used up. He looked down at himself as he toweled off.

His skin was clean, at least.