"Aqua Vitae"

N.C.I.S. Fanfiction by: A J

Guest starring W.i.t.c.h.

(Standard disclaimer applies)

Chapter Six

"My daughter's WHAT?" Tom Lair roared in the conference room he and Hay Lin had been shown to.

"Detective Lair, I am so sorry …" Maria Medina began. "I had no idea this was what we were sent to get you about …"

"Was it … painless?" Hay couldn't help but ask. Her best friend – her first friend ever – had been … jerkied.

"Not exactly, Hay-hay," Irma told her. "But it was quick. I figure, less than ten seconds, maybe? All I rem was suddenly being wayyyy to hot, then it went right through sunburn and straight to 'Ow I stepped in the campfire,' and that was it. Course, obviously, that wasn't it in my case …"

"It's ten seconds your murderer's gonna think was an eternity in Xanadu when I get through with him," Hay returned a little too quietly.

Tom meanwhile was continuing to yell at the only representatives of U.S. authority present in the room. Agent Myers was wincing with every expletive the Heatherfield cop uttered.

"BELAY THAT NOISE, CORPORAL!" Gibbs shouted as he entered the room, and recognised the screaming man. Tom, hearing the hauntingly familiar voice, shut up, turned, and gaped.

"Gunny?" was all he managed to say after an uncomfortable moment.

"Yeah, Tom, it's me," former Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Jethro Gibbs said as he shut the door behind him. "Not the way I saw our next meeting after Nazerat, either." The two men eyed each other from across the room, then met in an armclasp. "How's the civilian life, Corporal?"

"Suddenly a lot less quiet than I remembered, Gunny." Tom turned to look at the bewildered faces of Hay Lin and Agents Myers and Medina. "'scuse us folks … Gunnery Sergeant and I served together in a hot spot north of Israel twenty years ago." He turned back to Gibbs with a sad expression. "Just one more thing we have in common now, Gibbs. We all mourned for Kelly, and Shannon." Another painful pause passed, while the two men grieved for their lost wives and daughters. "What can I do to help?"

"I'd like to be able to tell you to stay out of our way, Tom … but I know you too well to think you'd change that much before the end of the next century …" Gibbs said with half of a crooked grin. "Can I give you the liaison with D.C.'s LEOs so they'll stay off our necks?"

"I …" Tom read the look in Gibbs' eyes, and knew Irma's killer would be brought to justice one way or another, just like Shannon and Kelly Gibbs' over a decade ago. "I'll do what I can, Gunny," Tom said with a sad half-grin of his own – and a proper military salute, for old times' sake – and turned to Maria and Wes. "Which way to the interference desk?"

"Follow me, Detective Lair," Agent Myers said,and led the bereft father from the room.

"What were you saying, Miss Lin?" Maria asked the young Air Guardian, as Gibbs left too.

"Huh? Oh … I was just wondering if she suffered …" Hay said distractedly, while she and the other Guardians (still on the roof, invisible,) were getting all the pertinent details they could telepathically from the victim herself. Irma was filling them in from downstairs in Autopsy, while watching a harried Doctor Mallard. He was in the midst of three autopsies, all on freshly-mummified individuals. Two Marines had predeceased Irma by about three hours, when the new experimental microwave weapon was originally stolen.

"I … wouldn't know, Hay. Our forensics team might be able to say …" Medina said softly. "Would … would you like a few minutes? Alone, I mean?"

"I … yes," Hay said, at a telepathic prompt from Taranee somewhere overhead. "Thank you, Ins … Agent. Agent Medina …" Hay self-corrected, looking from the woman to the window and back distractedly, still in a five-way conversation with the other Guardians.

"Please, Hay-hay," Medina murmured, putting a reassuring hand on the Chinese girl's shoulder. "Call me Maria. I'll be right down the hall …" She squeezed once sympathetically, then left Hay Lin alone in the conference room.

"Finally!" Irma crowed from below. "Hey, Ducky? I'm gonna go upstairs and bring my BFF up to speed. I'll check back in in a few, 'kay?"

"By all means, dear. I shan't be going anywhere for a while," Doctor Mallard replied. He turned to face her disembodied 'voice's location, his transparent faceplate speckled with bone dust and – for lack of any proper medical term in Irma's vocabulary – dandruff from his first patient.

"Yeah, I'd rather not be here when you reach my slab, now that I think about it," Irma told him with a grimace. "Just have Abby page me after you're done, alright?" Ducky nodded, chuckling.

"It shouldn't be too long, dear. And believe me, I more than understand. Were our positions reversed, I dare say I'd be more than happy to leave mystical matters in your more experienced hands." He went back to work on the late Lieutenant Bryce.

Irma willed herself up two floors through the venting and into the conference room, manifesting behind Hay as a cloudy image of herself in the far corner. "Hey, Hay-hay," she began.

Alerted by her best friend's voice, the youngest Guardian jolted from her chair and rushed across the room. "Oh, Irma!" she cried, making to throw her arms around her Watery friend, only to stumble to a halt against the far wall, her front and arms damp and chilled from going through Irma's location. "Irma?" Hay whirled, her eyes tearing up.

"Oh, Hay-hay … ah, geeeezzzz," Irma continued, when Hay started crying in earnest. "Cmon, Hay Lin … I mean, yeah, I can use all the moisture I can get in these over-dehumidified offices, but … Can ya save the Waterworks for later, Hay-hay? Say, my funeral, later? We still got a job to do."

"I … I guessss …" 'SNIFF!' Hay said as she dragged a sleeve across her eyes. She looked miserably at the floor for a minute, then brought her eyes, now hard and blazing, back up to meet Irma's. "So … what is our job here?"

"We should probably get Cassidy here just in case," Irma and Will both replied, the latter as the other three girls teletransported from the roof to the room.

"This isn't exactly our jurisdiction, Will" Taranee said as the trio became visible to Hay and Irma.

"Hey, this place killed one of us! I think it just became our jurisdiction!" Cornelia fumed.

"Actually, I think Taranee's right," Will said hesitantly. "I mean, yeah, we're involved, obviously, but … this is the job these people get paid for … including your dad, Irma …"

"Ohmigod, I completely forgot about Dad …" Irma blurted.

"We'll go back for Cass," Cornelia told Will, pointing at herself and Taranee. "You two tell Candracar."

"I can't just leave," Hay sniffed. "I've been seen!"

"Nah, I need her here to keep an ear on these people for me," Irma deadpanned. "But we should definitely tell the Council …"

"Can you go?" Will asked the freshly former Water-girl.

"I … don't know," Irma admitted. "I was kinda pulled along when they moved my body here from Union Station …'

"OOOOH!" Hay Lin the science-fiction fan squealed. "You're a focused, non-terminal, repeating phantasm!" There was a suspicious splashing sound as Irma facepalmed.

"What?" the other three Guardians asked.

"She watched a Ghostbusters marathon over the weekend," Irma muttered in answer.

"Miss Lin? Is something wrong?" came the voice of Agent Maria Medina through the door.

"Yipes!" Taranee gasped telepathically. She, Will and Cornelia became invisible once more and flitted to the ceiling as the door opened.

"Ohmigod, it's Small-fry! " Irma chuckled. Hay rolled her eyes while shaking her head in Maria's direction.

"No, Agent … Maria," Hay said with a tremulous grin. "I mean, nothing new, anyway … other than the obvious." She nabbed a tissue from the table and made a noisy production of blowing her nose to distract Medina from the Watery spirit and her three invisible friends leaving over the Agent's head. "Maria? Could you … show me around? Something tells me I'm gonna be here a while …" She used her most plaintive puppy-dog eyes on Maria, learned from years of overexposure to the recently late Irma Lair.

NCIS Special Agent Medina gave her a sad smile. "Sure, Hay-hay. Come on, I'll introduce you to the team on Irma's case."

"I'd like that," Hay said tearily, and followed her out to the bullpen.

Gibbs and Fornell were holding court over the double dozen NCIS and FBI agents they were coordinating to start checking sewer exits. Fornell even had his own assistant from the FBI office along to help field calls between teams. It was throwing many of the NCIS agents for a loop though, because her name was also Abby.

Tobias caught on after the third time someone craned their neck looking for the raven-haired gothic lab-tech, and started using his assistant's last name, instead. "Ab … Mizz Cadence," he started, "could you read the team list back for us, please?"

"Sure, Director." The petite blonde in a no-nonsense cream power suit stood, straightening her notepad absently. "Team one, sector Kappa, Agents Light, Medina, Myers, and Noguchi …" She continued through the twenty other agents present, while Maria surreptitiously pointed each one out to Hay Lin as they were named.

"Wow, all these people're on Irma's case?" Hay whispered afterwards.

"Well, it's not just Irma's," Maria replied. "What happened to your friend, well … we're trying to make sure it doesn't happen to anybody else, Hay-hay …"

Hay's only audible answer was a gasp muffled by both her hands, while she was busy telepathically telling that information to the rest of her team.

"We'll keep an eye out, Hay," Taranee sent back. "We're off to Candracar quick first, then stopping to get Cass on the way back. See you soon, Hay-hay."

"Right, T'ree. And I'll give her a call if anything comes up here before you guys return."

"That's my girllll …" Irma's voice faded as the four Guardian girls left their home dimension for the Temple of the Congregation in Candracar, the Heart of the Infinite Dimensions.

"If you're all leaving, what should I do?" Hay asked Medina.

"Hmm, I know they've got Officer Lair helping in the Liaison office, but if you don't have any authority or experience …"

"Well, I can answer phones like it's nobody's business," Hay replied, watching Abby Cadence set up a switchboard's worth of telephones on a table in one corner. "I've got loads of practice from taking orders at the Silver Dragon," she continued, referring to her family's restaurant.

"It can't hurt to ask her," Maria said with a reassuring smile. "Oop, here comes Myers. I'll talk to you later, if you're still here, Hay-hay." Maria Medina left with her partner and their assigned teammates, and Hay walked over to volunteer to help the search coordinators.

Aqua Vitae

Will, Taranee and Cornelia arrived in Candracar's central audience chamber, and immediately missed Irma. "What the ..?" Will started, about to open another fold right back to Washington, D.C.

"That needs to wait a moment," their Fire mentor Halinor told them. "We have news for you before you return," she added, her pale blonde hair swirling behind her as she turned and led them towards the gathered Council of Candracar. The Oracle, a bald young man from Basiliade, smiled at the three girls.

"Welcome back to Candracar, Guardians. We unfortunately cannot tarry to visit. You must not let them perform an … autopsy … on Irma. She may yet be saved, Guardians. Return to her, and swiftly!"

The girls traded startled, scared looks, and immediately folded away.

Freeze Frame