20 Years Ago

Eight-year-old Jimmy Palmer ran to catch up to the other boys. The boys weren't his friends and were all at least four years older than him, but his mother said he should get his head out of his books for a change; it was the summer holidays for crying out loud, and had sent him out to play with them. He pushed his glasses further up his nose and pulled his slightly-too-big shorts up his lanky frame.

"Wait up, you guys!"

The three boys ignored him and kept walking. Jake Seeley pulled something out of his backpack and gleefully showed Harry Bowen and Paul West, who oohed and aahhed over it. Breathless, Jimmy caught up to the boys and finally got a look at what they were staring at. A pair of air horns. Jimmy didn't get it, what was so great about an air horn?

"Do not sound near face," Paul read off the air horn's label, "Huh... I wonder why?"

Harry shrugged, "I dunno," he said, reading over Paul's shoulder.

"Maybe it's because it's so loud," Jimmy offered.

"No-one asked you, Poindexter," Jake snapped at Jimmy, shoving him out of the way.

Still glaring at Jimmy, Jake's eyes narrowed in speculation, and then darkened with something that made Jimmy slightly nervous.

"Hey, Poindexter, you like science, right?"

"Yeah," Jimmy replied warily.

"Oh, goody. Well, guess what? You just volunteered to be part of our little experiment."

"Huh? What experiment? Guys, I don't think this is a good idea."

"Oh, it's a very good idea. We wanna know why you shouldn't blast this in someone's face. And you're gonna help us."

Jake's face lit up with a malicious glee as Harry and Paul grabbed Jimmy by the arms and kicked the backs of his knees to make him fall. Pinning the lanky, bespectacled boy to the ground, his tormentors laughed as he struggled to free himself. With Harry holding his left arm down and Paul holding his right, Jimmy had nowhere to go as Jake stood over him with both air horns. Placing an air horn up against each ear, Jake grinned nastily down at Jimmy.

"Don't worry, Poindexter, you'll be doing your bit for science."

With these horrible words ringing in his ears, Jimmy Palmer watched in horror as Jake pulled the air horn's triggers. A cacophony of noise and pain assaulted Jimmy and squeezed his head like a vice. He could hear the long, loud blasts of the air horns and another high pitched keening sound that he belatedly recognized as his own screams of pain. Waves of pain and noise washed over Jimmy until his tiny, eight-year-old body couldn't take any more and Jimmy sank into the blessed relief of unconsciousness.

10 years ago

Eighteen-year-old Jimmy Palmer fidgeted nervously in his chair. This was torture, plain and simple. How could they expect him to just sit here and wait? This was his future for crying out loud.

"James Andrew Palmer."

Jimmy took a deep breath and walked into the office in front of him, trying unsuccessfully not to show his nervousness. He stopped in front of the desk, looking slightly confused. He had expected an interview with just the Dean of the college. But there were two people behind the desk. A fat, balding man that Jimmy knew to be the Dean and a tall, dark-haired woman that Jimmy didn't recognize. The Dean turned to the dark-haired woman and spoke.

"Have a seat, James."

The woman's hands moved in slow gestures. Sign language. The woman was a deaf interpreter. Jimmy sighed. This was going to be a long day. Turning to the woman, Jimmy's hands moved in rapid gestures. The woman looked surprised, but nodded and signed something back.

The Dean looked confused, "Well, what did he say?" he asked the woman.

The interpreter and Jimmy shared a look before Jimmy spoke, startling the Dean.

"I said, 'Thank you for coming down here, even though you weren't needed. I'm only partially deaf and can talk perfectly.'"

Two hours and a serious headache later, Jimmy walked out of the Dean's office with a bounce in his step. He was going to medical school!


"Mr. Palmer, could you run these samples up to Abby, please?"

"Sure, Doctor, but, um... do you mind if I stay up there for a while and chat?"

"Well, Mr. Palmer, we are very busy..."

"So... that's a no, then..."

"Yes, that's a no, Mr. Palmer."

"Oh, ok, um, sorry Doctor Mallard, the accent kinda threw me, that's all."

Jimmy Palmer picked up the tray of samples to be taken to the Goth forensic scientist and scurried out of the morgue. Doctor Donald 'Ducky' Mallard shot his lab assistant's retreating back a flat look. Turning back to the corpse on his table, Ducky picked up his scalpel and prepared to make the 'Y' incision, talking to the dead marine as he did so.

Realizing he had forgotten the evidence transfer forms, Jimmy Palmer swore under his breath and headed back to the morgue. He pushed open the door to the office and searched through the filing cabinet. Hearing a muffled voice, he looked up and saw Ducky talking to the corpse. He shook his head, after 9 months, he still didn't know whether the habit the doctor had of talking to the bodies was disturbing or endearing. Grabbing the forms and his samples he headed back out to the lab.

Jimmy rubbed his ears absently, they were bad today. Well, with only 50 hearing in one ear and 40 in the other, they were bad every day, but they were worse than usual today. He was relying more and more on lip-reading than actually hearing the conversations going on around him. There! He could've sworn he heard his name. He turned back to the morgue to see if the Doctor was talking to him. No, the Doctor was still talking to the corpse. But... Jimmy frowned and tilted his head to the side, watching the Doctor's face.

"Mr. Palmer is a nice enough young man," Ducky said calmly to the body as he cut into it, "Is it terribly wrong of me to want Gerald back here? Mr. Palmer could be good if he were a bit more confident. But, so help me, sometimes I just want to slap him."

Outside the glass doors of the NCIS morgue, Jimmy Palmer's face fell.