A/N: Not mine, NCIS and its characters belong to CBS and Don Bellisario, I'm just borrowing them for the time being.
So I was just so amused by the scene with Jimmy and Tony in 'Bounce' that I decided to create a background for the friendship that we saw there. This will be a series of one-shots and drabbles placed between 'Hiatus' and 'Aliyah', specific spoiler warnings will be placed in appropriate chapters.
Setting: After 'Hiatus', beginning of Tony's tenure as team leader.
All mistakes are mine.
The first time Palmer helped him it was purely by accident, Tony had gone down to autopsy under the pretense of needing to ask Ducky something when in reality all he wanted was a break from his team. His team. Nearly three weeks into his tenure as team leader and Tony was still having trouble wrapping his head around the concept, he was still expecting Gibbs to come stalking into the bullpen, coffee in hand, and he knew that he wasn't the only one. He couldn't blame them; not really, especially when he wanted Gibbs back too but did they have to fight him every step of the way? He wasn't Gibbs and Tony knew that trying to even fill Gibbs' shoes halfway would be a hard job but he really was trying his best, he just wished that everyone else could see that. After the pressurized doors to autopsy opened Tony scanned the room looking for Ducky but found it completely empty. Jimmy Palmer walked out of the office and stopped when he noticed Tony, clearly confused as to why the agent was here.
"Is there something I can do for you, Tony?"
"I was just actually looking for Ducky, have you seen him?"
"Dr. Mallard had to go home suddenly, apparently his mother has harassed her temporary nurse so much today that the woman threatened to leave immediately if he didn't go home at once," replied Jimmy as he placed the paperwork on Ducky's desk.
"Oh," said Tony desperately trying to keep the disappointment from his voice. He had been hoping to get some advice from the elderly medical examiner. Often times the advice that Tony would seek would come in the form of a story but Tony didn't mind, he liked hearing Ducky's stories. "Do you know when he'll be back?"
"Um, he really didn't say, I think that he thought it best to figure out how to keep the nurse from leaving before coming back."
Tony nodded and turned to leave, resigned to the fact that he'd have to go back to bullpen and probably to another battle of wills with his team but Palmer's voice stopped him.
"Is it something that I can help you with, Tony?"
Tony only had to think about it for less than a second before answering. "Yeah, I just need a place to think for ten minutes or so."
"Well, you could use the couch in Dr. Mallard's office; I'll just be out here doing paperwork anyway."
"Cool, thanks, Palmer."
Jimmy had been walking towards the interrogation rooms looking for Tony when the other man suddenly appeared and pulled him into the stairwell. A bewildered Jimmy looked at him but before he could ask Tony what he was doing Tony beat him to it.
"So, what've you got, Palmer?" asked Tony in a slightly irritated tone.
"The preliminary autopsy report, Dr. Mallard was looking for you upstairs but he couldn't find you so I said that I'd try to track you down. By the way, why aren't you upstairs with your team anyway?"
"Because, Palmer, I'm trying to avoid them," Tony replied as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Ah, so it was one of those days. Well, it would explain why both McGee and Ziva had been in a bad mood and Agent Lee had looked terrified when he and Dr. Mallard had returned with their newest guest. At that moment Jimmy wished that Dr. Mallard was here talking with Tony but unfortunately he would have to do; it wouldn't do anyone any good if Tony was still in a foul mood when he got back to the bullpen because Tony could be as much of a bastard as Gibbs if he wanted to be.
Apparently that was all that Tony needed before he launched in what happened after they had left the crime scene. The reason behind Tony's foul mood wasn't much of a surprise; he and Dr. Mallard had seen the start of the fight as they were preparing their dead petty officer for transport. Jimmy wondered how much longer they could go on butting heads like that; he even mentioned his concern to Dr. Mallard. Dr. Mallard had, in turn, told Jimmy about the struggles Agent Gibbs went through the first few months after his mentor, Mike Franks, had quit and Agent Gibbs had been given his own team and assured him that Tony would eventually find his own footing, just like Agent Gibbs did. After about ten minutes Tony seemed to be finishing up his story and Jimmy thought that now would be a good time to interrupt him, Dr. Mallard was probably wondering where he had disappeared off to and come looking for him himself.
"So, feel better?" asked Jimmy hoping that Tony really did feel better because he'd really like to get out of the stairwell and back to autopsy where he could get Dr. Mallard to talk to Tony later on that day.
"Surprisingly enough, I do."
"So, does that mean we can get out of the stairwell now?"
"Explain to me why we're in the evidence garage again."
Tony thinks about it briefly before answering the younger man. He's still not exactly sure why but when he had run into that dead end instead of calling Ducky he had called Palmer. Ducky would have been the more obvious choice what with his vast degree of knowledge on just about every subject that Tony could think of plus years of experience as an ME and working with Gibbs to solve crimes but in his mind Ducky would always be Gibbs' confidant. Thinking back to the last two times he had encountered Palmer he had found him to be a good listener and actually quite perceptive, in addition, Palmer was the only besides Ducky who didn't constantly remind him that he wasn't Gibbs. Did they think he was stupid? Of course he wasn't Gibbs, he was Tony and was it so wrong if Tony had actually picked up on some of Gibbs' habits? He had been working with the man for four years, after all.
"This is what we've compiled of the Everett case so far," he said gesturing to the manila folder laying on the table in front of them, "I know that the answer is right there but I just can't see it," Tony finished in a frustrated tone. The Everett case was his first major homicide as team lead and after two weeks of investigating they had hit a dead end with no clue where to go from there.
"Mind if I take a look?"
"Go ahead, maybe a fresh pair of eyes will catch something we missed," answered Tony as he watched the other man bypass the preliminary and final autopsy reports, he probably knew those by heart anyway. Instead he looked over the written notes that Tony had compiled and on the third page he paused and reread a section before speaking.
"Have you talked to her?"
"Who?" asked Tony as Palmer placed the page between them so that Tony could get a better look.