A W.i.t.c.h. Fanfiction by: A J

Disclaimer: Don't own; don't sue. The O.C.'s Steph and Gen are mine, as is the plot.

Summary: Zenith was NOT the end of the story, even if it WAS the end of W.i.t.c.h. …

Chapter 25

Subtlety was getting here nowhere, Miranda realized. She waited until the three teens had separated in the … mall? She thought the red-haired boy had called it thus, when they stopped for privy breaks on their walk. Doing her best to not use her nose, Miranda transformed around a bend in the corridor and followed the girl in. It wasn't ideal; it was close quarters at best, but here was her first chance at one of them alone all day.

Cassidy was through with her duties to body and digestion quickly enough, but she spent several slow moments afterward in front of the giant wall-mirror, just looking at her own reflection. What was new? What wasn't? What had changed irrevocably after last night's disastrous conclusion? She stared into her own eyes, contemplating the last question, smiling sadly whenever the water kicked back on in the automated faucet due to her proximity.

That's when the monster caught up with her.

Someone really should have warned Miranda of the dangers of attacking a water-wielder on a dimension that had modern plumbing, the shape-shiftier thought later, sourly. She never knew how many jets of water hit her, knocking her out. She came to, drenched, in an unfamiliar (to her at least) world of towering metallic mountains and glittering trees.


Lionel & Theresa Cook came home from their concert in Middleton late that afternoon to a most unwelcome sight. Their little girl was home alone, in her room, with the red-haired Ansbury boy. The pair were fully dressed, but that didn't reassure the two overprotective parents in the least. Then they saw the expression the teens both wore, and Theresa and Lionel knew something else, much worse than the possibility of their teen daughter growing up sexually, was wrong.

"Taranee?" Theresa asked, gently, sitting down on the bed next to the two. Her daughter's pale heartbroken face looked up from Nigel's shoulder, and crumpled further. Mother and daughter fell into each other's arms, and Nigel stood for the first time again in several hours.

"What happened?" Lionel asked him urgently.

"The other girls …" Nigel started, and coughed the lump he'd had at the back of his throat all day out of the way long enough to bring the last set of parents up-to-date … at least, cover story up-to-date. "Corny, Hay, Irma, and Will … They're gone. The Galemore collapsed in a fire, and they saved everybody else … but they're gone … Taranee's the only W.I.T.C.H. left …" He broke off, unable to keep his head up. He turned to walk out blindly, leaving Taranee to her mother's more capable ministrations even as Lionel collapsed into his daughter's desk chair. Nigel had gotten barely three steps when he heard her parents both exclaim, and Taranee was once again wrapped in his arms. "Tee …?" he gasped.

"Don't go!" she cried, fresh tears soaking his shirt on the other side. "Please …" she added mentally. He nodded, turned, and walked them both back to the bed. Theresa wrapped sorrowfully around them both from Taranee's other side once they'd sat back down, and Lionel set a steadying hand on Nigel's shoulder.

They stayed like that until Peter found them, coming back with Cass and Kor (now masked as Matt instead of Nigel) to escort Taranee to the Silver Dragon.


Anna opened the door reluctantly after checking through the eyehole in the reinforced panel. She didn't have anything against her fellow bereft mother Susan Vandom. She just wasn't sure she had it in her right then to talk about all of it more. "Susan, Dean, Hi … and … Who're you?" She asked their blonde companion.

"Hi, I'm Stephanie," she replied haltingly. Then with a grin she added, "Susan's youngest." Dean cleared his throat, interrupting the young woman.

"Yes, well … Won't you come in?" Anna asked unenthusiastically. She stepped to the side, creating a minute but available entrance. Dean and Susan exchanged a glance, then both just shook their heads.

"We've got more stops, still, before the Lins, Anna," Sue said quietly. "We just came from the Galemore. Tom and Paul were there, along with a couple dozen rescue workers. We're going around to tell all those involved …" She choked to a stop.

"What?" Anna hissed. "Tell us what?"

"Search and Rescue found some bodies," Dean told her. "It's probably all over the news …" He had to reach out and grab Anna's arm as she spun to run back in to the television. "Anna! It's not the girls!" he yelped when she whirled on him, furious.

"Who else was there? Taranee said they got everybody else OUT, Collins!" she exploded.

"Missus Lair, please! We're trying to tell you …" Steph started to say, when …

"Mom! MOM! Dad's on TV!" Chris yelled from the Lair living room.

"We better take this inside, after all," Sue sighed.

"Oh, by all means, inside," Anna spat. She waited for the three to pass her, slammed the door, then shoved through them on her way to Chris' still-yelling side.

"Jeez, mom. Glad I'm not gushing blood're nothin'…" he groused.

"Oh, he's not related to Irma," Dean observed drolly. Anna rolled her eyes.

"Now, what about your father?" she asked Chris. He played with the remote for a second, putting the news back up and rewinding with their DVR feature.

"… REMAINS HAVE BEEN FOUND, YES, BUT THEIR IDENTITIES HAVE NOT BEEN CONFIRMED, YET …" Officer Tom Lair's voice blared from their home-theatre system. Chris hurriedly turned the volume down, so he was once again looking the wrong way (he'd been busy yelling for his mom the first time) when HNN showed a fleeting glimpse of the slab as it was moved, and the four bodies underneath it. Anna's gasp and Susan's groan made the six-year-old look up, but the scene had already shifted.

"I thought you said IT WASN'T THEM?" Anna Lair fairly shrieked.

"Who wasn't? What wasn't?" Chris asked, confused. He went to rewind again, but his panicking mother snatched the remote from his hands.

"Mom?" Chris squeaked, seeing the wild look in her eyes. She collapsed onto their couch, trying not to cry. Susan sat next to her, taking the distraught woman's hands.

"Anna," she said forcefully. Their eyes met, mother to mother. "That wasn't the girls. That was something Taranee and Elyon thought up as an emergency back-up …"

"This was their back-up?" Anna choked. She glared from Sue to Dean to Stephanie. "What's your part in this ...?"

"Me? I just moved here, I'm too new to know anything about anything yet …" Steph blurted.

"Know anything about what?" Chris whined. He was six, not stupid. He knew when he was getting the runaround. "Is this about Irma?" he asked Dean Collins, vaguely recognizing the older man from various parent-teacher conferences at Irma's school.

"Yes," Dean admitted while Sue and Anna lowered their gazes.

'Oh boy.' Steph found herself thinking. "Heya, kiddo … How about you show me your room while the grown-ups get to be boring out here?"

"No! If this's about my sister and Hay-hay, I wanna know too!" the youngest Lair shouted, stomping a foot.

Stephanie gave the adults a small 'Hey I tried,' shrug, and sat on the couch next to Susan.

"What is going on?" Anna asked in exasperation.

"Okay, we're getting this second-hand from … Cassidy and Caleb, who went back to Can … Can … wherever, last night," Susan began. She went on to relate the conversation held in the Council Chamber. Dean and Stephanie added what they remembered the other pair saying whenever she forgot – or skipped – a detail they though relevant.

"&*, that's messed up," Chris spat, getting surprised snorts from Dean and Sue, a quickly-suppressed giggle from Steph, and a hand waved warningly at him by his incredulous, staring mother.

"You go wash your mouth out, young man," She squeaked, glaring. While he dragged his feet leaving, obviously wanting to hear whatever else was said, Anna turned back to the others.

"Let me get this straight … This Council of otherworldly busybodies sent a pair of their spare kids down to look for our lost ones, not knowing the last one left made some emergency duplicate dead bodies because she wasn't sure yet that there was anything to search for?" Anna was short of breath by the end, huffing with her anxiety. Susan could hardly blame her.

"Pretty much, yeah…" Stephanie said. That was what she'd gathered from the whole thing so far, as well.

"So … what now?" Anna asked.

"We pass it along to the other parents, we keep our eyes open for any sign of our missing girls … and we hope," Dean replied, his arms around Sue's shoulders from over the back of the couch.

She gave him a shaky smile, while Anna added, "And we pray."


Fang answered the backdoor of The Silver Dragon at Matt's knock. "Yes? Ah, Caleb! Did you forget your key again?" The Lins' best unrelated cook looked at the two boys expectantly. From his blotchy face, they could tell he'd been crying … or into the onions …

"My key? Er … yeah …" Caleb managed. So far as he knew, his key for the Chinese restaurant was still in a backpack full of walkie-talkies he'd left behind in Meridian sometime last week. Caleb cleared his throat. "Did the Lins tell you about Hay-Hay?" he managed to ask as they followed Fang inside. The crestfallen look that took over Fang's face spoke volumes.

"Where is everyone?" Matt asked after an uncomfortably silent minute. Too silent; even the restaurant, through the kitchen doors, was quiet.

"Chen never opened up at lunchtime," Fang rumbled, then pulled his apron up and blew his nose loudly on it. "That's when he told me. I stayed to keep them all company … none of them have slept, or even eaten, since they got back this morning …"

"Not slept?" Matt muttered, now doubly worried. "Even Yan and … Mira?" He hoped Fang wouldn't catch the pause.

"No … but Chen did drink something …" Fang admitted to then, with a teary sigh. "Actually, Chen drank a lot of things. All the cooking alcohol in the restaurant …"

"Fang … where are they all now?" Caleb asked.

"Oh! They … saw the news, about the bodies at the Galemore, and went down to the Morgue to … identify little Hay-hay …" Fang broke down sobbing again before the two boys, so he didn't see the alarmed look they traded.

"All …" Caleb had to gulp down the sudden lump in his throat. "All of them?" he finally managed to ask.

"Yes!" Fang wailed. He looked up and saw the fresh worry on their faces. "Oh … OH! Don't worry! I made sure Joan drove. She didn't drink … any … anything," he added miserably. Matt and Caleb traded another look, this time of shared sorrow and relief, and guided Fang back to the chair he'd obviously risen from to answer their knock at the door. Caleb wrapped a throw blanket from the basement around the sobbing man, and Matt made sure the alley door was locked behind them as they left.

Once outside, Caleb turned to the young Regent. "Now what?"

"Now, we hope they get stuck in traffic, so we can meet them there before they see Hay Lin's dead body up close, so we can tell them it isn't," Matt said, grabbed hold of Caleb's arm, and teletransported the pair from behind the Silver Dragon to the darkest corner of the underground employee parking levels below Saint Nicholas Hospital. They ran from there to the Morgue as fast as they could …