Title: When the Sky Falls Down
Author: Nemo the Everbeing
Rating: PG-13 for dark themes
Summary: A missing scene during the credits of "Kill Ari, part 1" about how Ducky and Abby got the news.
Spoilers: 'Twilight', minor for 'SWAK'
oOo oOo oOo oOo
Abby perched on one of the metal exam tables, watching Ducky examine yet another lifeless body—this time a woman, no piercings, tattoos or other identifying marks—laid out one table over. Partially eaten. Abby was waiting to see if he could pull dental impressions or iron filings from the knife used. Plus, she'd always wanted to assist in an autopsy, and with Jimmy Palmer out with the flu, today was the perfect day to try.
She hopped off the table, camera in hand and moved to stand next to Ducky. He was so caught up in examining the outside of the body that he didn't pay her much mind. She started snapping each cut- and saw-mark on the exposed bones. Abby had a zooarchaeologist friend at U Penn who focused on butchery techniques and she wanted his opinion.
"It's all pretty Ted Bundy, you know?" she asked as she worked.
Ducky hummed noncommittally, and then lifted one limp arm, examining it from all angles. Abby watched what he was doing. It was so much like how she moved when she had evidence that she had to smile. Not noticing that smile, Ducky continued. "There are no holes in the skull. Mister Bundy would often—"
"Drill holes in their heads and pour acid in. I know." She knew she sounded midway to morbid fascination, but it took one twisted bastard to come up with that sort of thing, and the forensic specialist in her was always fascinated by twisted minds. They tended to leave the best evidence. "I saw it on A&E, I think. You?"
"I was there."
Abby gawped. "Ducky! Are you telling me you were the ME for the Bundy case?" That was . . . really cool.
"Of course not," he said. "I was, however, asked to examine some of the medical evidence before the trial."
"Wow." That was major stuff. Why had she never heard this before? Gibbs kept his past all shadowed, but then ex-wives and love affairs kept cropping up to ruin the whole air of mystery thing. But Ducky? He was the one no one knew anything about. Sure he talked all the time about his past, but it was all so fragmentary, and none of the big stuff ever came up. Like why he was always traveling the world, or where he worked once he'd gotten his medical degree. Or what he'd done in Vietnam. She wouldn't be surprised if she found out he was some sort of international man of mystery or something. He was surprising like that.
Of course, Ducky had already moved on, treating the whole 'I assisted in the prosecution of one of the most heinous murderers of the century' thing as though it was just another tidbit. "You know," he said, reaching for his scalpel, "I've often wondered why it is that whenever cannibalism is mentioned, Mister Bundy springs to mind. It isn't as though he was being terribly original. People have consumed each other's flesh since time immemorial. In fact, there are some cultures that believe that the only way to honor the dead is to consume them."
"Sick!" Abby said, but in the best possible way. Things that grossed out most people just filled her with a sense of wanting to know more. "So if your grandpa dies, you eat him?"
"You and your extended family, yes."
"Do you cook him first?"
"From what I recall, it varies from culture to culture, but I do believe the deceased is cooked before being eaten."
"And this is supposed to do what, exactly?"
"Incorporate their being—their soul, if you like—into you."
It made sense. It was sort of like church communion if it was real bits of dead Jesus instead of the bread substitute. "Cool," she concluded at last. "But I still think I'd rather get buried."
Ducky glanced up from his y-incision, a smile playing around his lips. "Abby, you surprise me. I was certain you would want to be cremated."
"Are you kidding? First, if I'm murdered, I so want some forensic tech to exhume me and get all the good evidence. With cremains, you're lucky to find enough teeth to do a dental match." She shrugged. "Plus, I've been sleeping in a coffin for years now. Why would I want to change the habit just because I kick it?"
Ducky's smile went from almost-there to all-the-way as he went back to work. Abby wasn't sure what her assisting was supposed to entail, so she just watched in fascination as Ducky pulled the skin of the woman's chest up from the ribs. And she took more pictures.
The phone started to ring. Ducky frowned at his bloodied gloves.
"Do you want me to get that?" Abby asked.
"If you would, my dear."
"No prob, Bob." Abby bounced on the toes of her heavy black boots. As Ducky continued to pin the skin back away from the ribs, Abby moved to the phone and picked up the receiver. "Autopsy," she said, with no small amount of pride. "This is Abby speaking."
Abby heard harsh breathing, and her smile faded. "Shit," she heard, and realized it was Gibbs. Something was wrong. He sounded choked. "Get Ducky for me."
"Something's wrong, isn't it?" Abby asked, her voice small. She knew she needed to do what he'd said, but her legs wouldn't work. She remembered that dream of hers and the image of Tony's face covered in blood. Her heart started to pound.
"Look, I just need to talk to Ducky," Gibbs was saying. Ducky, meanwhile, must have picked up on the bad vibes across the room, because he was approaching as rapidly as his limping gait would carry him, peeling off his gloves as he went. Something detached and possibly hysterical inside Abby appreciated his accuracy when he threw them into the garbage as he passed without even a glance.
Abby, meanwhile, wanted to demand that Gibbs tell her what was going on, but the words wouldn't come any more than her legs would move. With an arm that felt like it was attached to weights, Abby held the phone out to Ducky. He took it from her and she leaned back against the desk with shaking arms bracing her up. She stared at him hard, begging silently for him to act relieved or just smile or something to tell her that everything would be okay.
"What's happened?" he asked, his tone clipped.
He listened, his shoulders hunched against bad news. Abby studied his expression as he said, "Just tell me." Gibbs was stalling. Gibbs never stalled.
Whatever it was that he said next made Ducky's breath hitch, and then he collapsed in on himself, his eyes closing. He didn't cry, but the phone fell from his hand.
Abby swooped down and grabbed it up, pressing the receiver to her ear again. "Gibbs?!" she demanded, hearing the hysterical edge in her voice. Ducky had sagged against the wall.
It was Tony. It had to be Tony. Tony was . . . he was hurt. He must have gotten injured. Something in her knew that this was wrong, that Ducky wouldn't have reacted like that if he'd just been hurt, but she couldn't—
What? Kate? But Tony . . .
The unexpected blow of shock and grief hit her like a fist to the stomach. "No," she whispered. "No! Tell me you're lying, Gibbs! Tell me this is all some . . . some really crappy joke. Tell me . . . tell me . . ."
"She's dead, Abs."
Abby shook her head violently enough to scatter black-stained tears all over the white floor of autopsy. "She can't be dead. She's not dead. You need . . . you need Ducky to say she's dead. She could just be—"
"She was shot between the eyes, Abby. The back of her head is gone." Gibbs' voice was awful and harsh. The words were worse, and they broke through all her defenses and all her easy denials. She broke down, sobbing loudly. She didn't even know she'd fallen until she felt the linoleum hit her knees. The pain made the tears come harder.
Then Ducky was there, on his knees next to her. He took the phone from Abby's unresisting hands and brought it to his ear. "Bring her home, Jethro," he said. Then he hung up.
Even in this, the worst possible moment, all he had to say was 'bring her home', and she knew Gibbs would. It was why Gibbs had wanted to talk to Ducky in the first place, because he always knew what to say. Abby resented that eloquence. How could he still know what to say when the world was falling apart around their ears?
He touched her shoulder and murmured, "Abigail."
"No!" she snapped. "No, something has to be wrong here! She was here this morning and . . . she can't be . . . Gibbs must be . . ." There was nothing to explain it away, of course, and her stumbling attempts to find one were just pathetic. But she couldn't believe it. Not even after what Gibbs had told her. The phone clattered to the floor as Ducky pulled her close. At first, Abby was rigid, Gibbs' words repeating again and again in her mind: 'the back of her head is gone'.
Abby suddenly twisted in Ducky's grip, turning in to him and clinging to his lapels. She pressed her face into the crook of his shoulder. Her tears soaked his jacket and her eye makeup smeared across the light tweed. "She's dead," she said. "I gave her a hat and now she's . . . and Gibbs said that the back of her head is gone. How can it be gone?"
Ducky's hand, busy stroking her hair, faltered for a moment before continuing. He didn't say anything.
Abby curled into him, wanting the world to stop long enough that she could understand this. None of it made any sense. "Are you going to do the autopsy?" she asked. It wasn't something she should ask, she knew, not right then, but it was there in her head, and she was too broken to do anything but blurt it out.
Ducky didn't hesitate. "Yes."
"How?" Abby looked up at him. Despite the fact Ducky still hadn't broken down and cried, his expression was hollow and the eyes behind his glasses were shattered.
"Because there can't be anyone else. Caitlin . . . I don't think she'd want someone else to see her without her clothes on."
Abby nodded. Ducky knew that Kate would want this kept in the family. "Ducky," she said, her voice tiny, "tell me what I'm supposed to do."
"Abby?" he asked.
"I mean, my parents are both alive. My grandparents are alive. I don't . . . I mean, I see it all the time, but it's never . . . it hasn't ever been . . . I don't know what I'm supposed to do to make this stop! She's dead! The back of her head is gone and she's dead, and I don't even know what I'm supposed to do about it!"
And of all the things, that was what got to him. The tears in his eyes turned his irises a brilliant blue. Then those eyes were closing, and the tears were running down his cheeks, and his hug tightened. His voice was choked when he gasped out, "Oh, Abby."
Abby clung to him, crouched there on the autopsy floor surrounded by the smell of antiseptic and decaying flesh. And she realized that it was the best answer she was going to get, because there was nothing to be done. Nothing to make this right and nothing to make it go away. There was just Ducky and a linoleum floor until the others got there.
'Bring her home, Jethro,' he'd said. And he'd been right. Kate needed to get away from whatever had killed her. She needed to get out of that place.
Abby pressed her face into Ducky's shoulder and waited for Kate to come home.