Author's Note: I'm somewhat of a newbie to NCIS. A friend of mine introduced me to it during thanksgiving and from that point on, I've been obsessed. (Like I need a new obsession!) Supernatural was enough for me for five years. LOL.

Anyways, Season 2 Episodes of SWAK and Twilight have been my favorite since I've seen them and I've always wanted to write an episode tag for Twilight since so many things were missing… I also wanted to explain Tony and Palmer's relationship and figured that this would be a perfect way to do it. I did some research, looked up all of the episode transcripts, etc. and I couldn't help but want to fix some things that didn't make any sense to me. Go easy on me; this is my first NCIS fanfic. Hopefully not the last. I don't have a beta, so any and all errors are my own.


From the moment that the phone rang, Jimmy Palmer knew that something bad had happened. He'd never seen Dr. Mallard react that way. The man hung up the phone with long sigh before lowering himself on his chair. His face seemed to age as he shared the tragic news.

They both took a couple of minutes to gather their strength before heading out to the field. For once, there was silence in the van; no stories, no arguments about directions, and no emotion. It was the only way that both medical examiners would be able to get through the next few hours.

As soon as they arrived, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs ushered them to a secure location and strapped on bullet-proof vests under their white lab coats. The man didn't utter a word, not an unusual occurrence, but a surprising one given the current circumstances. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask him what the point of wearing a vest was... Agent Todd had been wearing a bullet-proof vest – it didn't seem to help her. The words died before they could be spoken as he stared into the older man's eyes. Gibbs looked, if Palmer had to put a name to it, shell-shocked and Dr. Mallard seemed to be treating him with kid gloves. It scared him; Agent Gibbs was always in control and always unflappable. Jimmy had always considered him to be like the Terminator, indestructible and unstoppable when he was on a mission. Now, he seemed almost human.

Special Agents McGee and Dinozzo were nowhere in sight. Palmer assumed that they were processing the crime-scene; taking pictures, measurements, finding bullets and bullet-holes…

Dr. Mallard put a hand on the lead agent's shoulder in sympathy. "Jimmy," He called out, "If you would be so kind as to prepare our supplies, I will take care of Caitlin."

"Yes, doctor." Palmer acquiesced, sadly walking towards the M.E. van and started to pull out the gloves, body bag, and gurney. By now, all of the preparation was habit; he could do all of this in his sleep as he had lost track of how many bodies he'd delivered to autopsy.

Familiar footsteps came up behind him somewhat heavily, trying not to startle him. "Mr. Palmer, thank you for your assistance. I'll handle it from here." Dr. Mallard kindly patted his arm, motioning towards the coffee shop on the corner of the warehouse district. "Perhaps you could be so kind to get Agent Gibbs a new cup of coffee. I do believe he would appreciate it."

Palmer might be socially awkward, but even he understood that Dr. Mallard was trying to protect him from seeing Agent Todd's body at the…crime scene. In autopsy, it was different. In autopsy, they could clean the blood off, cover the entrance wound, and hide the exit wound with hair. With the magic of reconstitution, she would just seem to be sleeping. They could open her casket at the funeral and all just gasp at how beautiful and young she was. Her parents wouldn't have to see how a .308 round could blast a hole in someone's brain. Her brothers would only be able to imagine how she lay on that rooftop during her final moments in life.

Walking into the coffee shop, he couldn't help but relax slightly. The smell of coffee always calmed him. It reminded him of Sunday breakfasts with the family. There was a line, as usual with Starbucks. Most of the people in line were exhausted police officers who'd been called in to help scout the buildings for the terrorist who'd murdered a federal agent in cold blood. Palmer couldn't help but laugh aloud when they each bought a donut too. There was a truth to the cop-donut stereotype. They just glared at him, so he quickly shut up before they decided to beat him up.

Finally, he was at the counter, ready to order when a harried looking man cautiously approached him. "Sir," the man whispered, gently guiding him to the corner of the shop where he could speak up without disturbing the serene atmosphere. "Are you a doctor?" He glanced at the white lab coat.

Immediately, Palmer straightened, "Is there a problem? Is someone hurt?" He didn't bother to explain that he was only a medical student slash medical examiner's assistant, if there was a medical emergency, he could help while they called the paramedics.

"About twenty minutes ago, a police officer came in here asking to use the restroom. He—uh—his face was covered in blood. I asked him if he was alright, and he just started laughing and asked for the restroom key. I gave it to him… He's been in there for a while and he won't answer the door when I knock. I was just going to call an ambulance."

"Covered in blood?" Jimmy's eyes bulged, "Um, wait, what did he look like?"

"Well, he's he about 6'2" Italian complexion wearing a vest with NCIS printed on the back. I kept calling him, 'sir' and he told me to call him 'Tony' instead."

"That's Special Agent Anthony Dinozzo."

The guy stopped dead in his tracks in surprise. "You know the guy?"

"Yeah, I do. His partner just died up on that roof." Palmer explained with sorrow in his voice, "Do you have a master key for that restroom? If you do, I'll see if I can talk to him."

It only took a minute for the manger to get the master key from his office, leading them over to the locked restroom and unlocking the door. There was a cooler near them stocked bottles of juice and water. Palmer grabbed a bottle of each, slipping them into his large pockets, "I'll pay you for them later…"

"Sir, please. It's on the house… and I'm sorry about the agent." The manger left him to where Special Agent Dinozzo had concealed himself in order to privately deal with his partner's death.

With a light knock, Jimmy opened the door and entered the small room. Agent Dinozzo was sitting on the ground, back against the tiled wall trying to catch his breath. He opened his eyes and swallowed hard. "I thought you were Gibbs."

Jimmy shut and locked the door behind him before slowly approaching him. "Do you want me to go get him, Tony?"

"No!" He shouted, and then repeated at little bit lower volume, "No, I'm fine. I just need a minute." The man's voice shook along with his hands. His breath still came out in gasps.

Jimmy ducked his head to make eye contact with him. "Ok. Well, do you mind if I help?"

"Help? I don't need help." Tony looked confused. "How did you find me?"

He smiled weakly, "I, uh, got sent to get coffee for everyone. The manager came and got me. He thought you were hurt, because of the blood." He motioned to the splatter on Dinozzo's face: the blood of Agent Todd. "The lab coat gave me away. He thought I was a doctor."

"Not just an autopsy gremlin…" Dinozzo tried to joke but it just came out hallow and breathy. He gritted his teeth, looking pained. "I'm fine. Kate – you should take care of her. She shouldn't be left to lie there… I'll be fine here."

"Dr. Mallard is taking care of Kate, Tony. We aren't leaving her there… and I'm not going to leave you alone right now – no matter how many times you tell me that you're fine. You should've been resting this week. You just got out of the hospital, Tony. The pneumonic plague isn't something you're just going to bounce back from in a couple of days." Palmer grabbed a handful of paper towels and wet them under the sink. He slipped on a pair of exam gloves and slowly, he inched his way closer to where Dinozzo sat until he was within reach, kneeling in front of him.

Dinozzo's face warred between rage and resignation. "What do you want?" It was a simple question; most people wanted something from him.

Palmer looked shocked at the question. "I don't want anything, Tony. I'm just trying to help."

"And then, what? You'll have a story to tell Dr. Mallard or your mother maybe? You'll tell them how weak Special Agent Anthony Dinozzo is. That he can't get his hands to stop shaking in order to wipe the blood and brains off his face!" Dinozzo started pounding his fist into his thigh, panting hard. "Or you'll tell Abby while she cries on your shoulder about how she lost her friend! Maybe that'll make her feel comforted enough to sleep with you, Palmer." Tony's eyes blazed with hate, anger and a fury that left the young medical student a little frightened.

Slowly, as if he was approaching a wounded animal, Palmer let his hand rest gently on the clenched fist. He barely breathed, nervous that his actions would be taken the wrong way and he'd be pushed away or even attacked. "I know that you and I don't know each other that well, Tony. But, I, uh, I consider you my friend. And you should know that I would never do anything to hurt my friends. And I would never betray a confidence. I promise, I won't tell anyone…"

Neither of them moved for several minutes; they just listened to each other's ragged breaths and the sounds of a happy tune on the radio system. When he judged Dinozzo calm enough, he held out the wet paper towels. "Let me help?"

Tony stared into his eyes, trying to judge him – forcing himself to trust the young man. "Ok," he whispered softly. "Just – don't make me regret this."

Jimmy gently lifted the man's face, "I would never hurt you." With that he started to wipe off the blood staining his face. "Just, do me a favor…"

With a huff of exasperation, Tony responded, "What's that, Palmer?"

"Try and slow down your breathing. It'll help stop the shaking, slow down your heart rate."

Tony lifted his face slightly as the wet towels tickled his neck, "and how do you know what my heart rate is? You haven't taken my pulse yet, Dr. Palmer." He said it sarcastically, but it just came out tired.

Palmer smiled a bit, wiping a bit of blood that had splashed by Tony's ear, "Well, since we're friends, I'll fill you in on a little medical school secret…in certain individuals you can actually see a pulse rate in their carotid or temporal arteries, especially when they clench their teeth."

Weakly smiling back, Tony threw out a bit of movie trivia, "Yeah, that's not a secret, Palmer. Anyone who's ever seen Tom Cruise in 1996's Jerry McGuire knows that trick."

"Exactly!" Palmer agreed, happy that the ice was broken. "You pretty much could see every vein and artery in that man's head, especially when he's shouting 'Show me the Money'." Finishing up, he dropped the dirty towels into a plastic evidence bag before dropping his gloves inside and sealing the bag.

Tony gazed away from the bloody mess, staring at the toilet bowls instead, "You honestly think that those paper-towels are evidence?"

Jimmy did a double take from the bag to his friend. "Um, no. But, I didn't have any biohazard bags…" He trailed the sentence away as Agent Dinozzo's face darkened again. He felt like Gibbs-slapping himself for mentioning that. "Smooth, Jimmy," he thought. "Sorry…"

In order to cover his growing anxiety, Palmer pulled out a bottle of juice. "Here, it's orange juice." He held it out after breaking the seal and twisting the cap off. He waited patiently for Dinozzo to drink it. With every sip, the man's color seemed to be returning and he seemed steadier.

Dinozzo patted the space next to him, inviting the younger man to sit beside him, and then leaned his head back against the tile tiredly. Turning his face, Tony started talking. "I didn't see it coming, Palmer. I mean, Kate had gotten shot in the chest at point blank range and she was fine! Gibbs and I helped her up, joked around. Her last words… I don't think I'll ever forget them... " Tony let his thoughts wander until they returned back to the bastard that murdered his partner, "We didn't find him! That bastard Ari Haswari got away with it again and I couldn't do a thing to stop him." He pounded the tile under his fist a couple of times, blinded by the need to extract revenge.

Palmer thought really hard about what to say. Sometimes, he wished he was Dr. Mallard. That man always had a story or knew exactly what to say to make you feel better – or at the very least forget what you'd been talking about. But, he wasn't Dr. Mallard and he didn't have all of the man's experiences. So, there was really only one thing he could think of to say. "Well, one thing's for sure, Dinozzo. I don't see you catching the bastard sitting in the restroom of a Starbucks." He said matter-of-factly, with the hint of a challenge, hoping to break the hold that depression, anger, and grief had in their grasp.

Tony froze at the implication, licking his dry lips. "You're right, Palmer. You're absolutely right." With that, he gingerly stood up using the wall to balance himself until that faint lightheadedness faded. He reached out a hand and helped the young medical student off the cold floor. "Thank you for your help."

Jimmy looked at him innocently and earnestly, "You're welcome, Tony. If you ever need to talk, I'm here, you know."

The agent swallowed hard, his throat swelling with emotion he'd been trying to suppress. "Now I do, Palmer. You know—what I said about Abby—I didn't mean."

Palmer cut off his stumbling attempts at apology. "I know. Don't worry about it. Whatever you say to me, it's just between us."

They both nodded at each other in agreement. Tony walked over to the sink to stare at himself in the mirror. The image staring back at him was substantially different than the image he had when he first walked in. The traces of blood were gone, erased with the help of his new confidant.

Palmer was behind him, silently supporting Agent Dinozzo until he was ready to step back out into the chaos of the street. "I'm going to get some coffee for everyone… if you're okay now?"

Dinozzo straightened up, his tough federal agent mask sliding into place right in front of the young medical assistant's eyes. It always astounded Palmer how many persona's Tony had: he'd stopped counting after the first five. The frat boy, the athlete, the federal agent, the leader, and clown had all made appearances at one point or another, but this was the first time that Jimmy had seen a hint of the 'real' Anthony Dinozzo. Palmer felt humbled to meet him… Tony didn't trust many people. He promised himself that he wouldn't let him down.

"I'll be right out. I just need another minute, promise." He took in a deep breath and started washing his hands. Before leaving, Jimmy put the bottle of water on the sink, "You should drink that." He patted Dinozzo's shoulder comfortingly, then unlocked the door and stepped out, taking the evidence bag with him.

There was a line of angry patrons at the door, hands on their hips. Palmer sighed, stopping the first man in line from entering. "Wait. Please, sir. Just another minute. Someone's in there."

"I think we've all waited long enough! What the hell are you doing in there?" The large man towered over the medical student, his gaze going from his face to the bloody bag he held in his hand.

Quickly thinking, Palmer explained that there was an accident and that they were cleaning up the restroom. He pushed past all the uncomfortable men, and towards the manager who'd been obviously staring at the door waiting for him to come out.

"Is everything okay, doc?" The manger stared at the bag in his hand fearfully. "We don't need an ambulance, right?"

The bag was surreptitiously slipped into his lab coat, trying to keep everyone from staring at it in horror. "Everything is fine. Thank you for your help. Actually, I'd like to put in an order of coffee, if you could help me out. I have to get back to the field." He pointed to the assortment of law enforcement officers surrounding the area.

"Of course," the manager hurriedly put in his order for 3 black coffees and a hazelnut, pouring the coffee himself and adding the hazelnut syrup into the last one. The cups were covered with their tops and enveloped in the cardboard sleeves before being placed into a carrier. Palmer had pulled out his wallet and was waved away. "If you or the officers outside need anything else, coffee, bagels, sandwiches… you come back here and I'll make sure you get it, Doc. You just ask for Peter." He paused as the door to the restroom opened and Dinozzo stepped out. Peter nodded solemnly at the federal officer, as Tony made his way up to the counter. Palmer smiled hesitantly, handing the hazelnut cup to his friend.

"Let's go, Palmer." Special Agent Dinozzo ordered as he took a sip of coffee. "The Boss gets antsy when he doesn't get his coffee."

The agent slipped on a pair of sunglasses and walked out into the street, Palmer right behind him. The weather had started to turn from a bright sun shining day to a dark dreary thunderstorm. It would rain soon, he could tell, and it would wash away the signs of blood and death.

They both stood side-by-side as Dr. Mallard pushed the gurney towards the back of the M.E. van. All of the officers stopped, saluting the fallen agent as her body was pushed past them. As Palmer raised his right hand to his forehead in honor of Special Agent Caitlin Todd, a drip of water landed on his face. Soon, others joined it and no one would be the wiser as he cried silently. He made his way over to the van, putting on his own mask once again.

No one spoke as she was settled into the back of the van; Palmer had never seen Dr. Mallard treat anyone as gentle as he lifted the gurney that held Agent Todd and shut the doors behind her. Agents Gibbs and McGee just stared into the space where she'd been; they didn't react when he handed them each a cup of coffee.

Dr. Mallard placed his hand on his assistant's shoulder, accepting the last cup of coffee from his hand before leading him to the driver's seat of the van and instructed him to start the engine. "Mr. Palmer and I will take Caitlin home now." Before they pulled away, Ducky called out, "Do be careful, Jethro… I do feel that this is not over, yet."

Agent Gibbs ran a hand across his face, surprised to see that it was wet from the rain he hadn't felt. "You too, Duck. Just – watch your six." He turned towards the remainder of his team and motioned for them get to work. Dinozzo nodded, making his way towards the buildings in the trajectory of the gun-shot. They still needed to find Haswari's sniper nest. McGee followed him like a kicked puppy, the younger agent was still in shock, but was desperately trying to hold himself together in front of the older men.

The doctor gave a half-hearted smile, then motioned for his assistant to pull out. The weather quickly worsened, forcing Palmer to flick on the windshield wipers. The sound of the rubber squeaking against the glass, back and forth, back and forth marked the time and filled the silence that had taken over them again.

Every once in a while, Jimmy would glance at his mentor as Dr. Mallard sipped at his coffee, studying him. The older man kept staring at him, and Jimmy didn't know what to make of it.

"I'm very proud of you, Jimmy." Dr. Mallard mentioned off-hand, as he turned away to look at the road they'd already travelled.

Jimmy took in a deep breath, slowing the van down to stop at a red light. The bright light against the wet darkness made the road shimmer in color. "And I'm proud of you, Dr. Mallard."

"Thank you, Mr. Palmer." Dr. Mallard looked weary and tired. He bit his lip, "Strengthen yourself, Dear Boy…for the hardest part is yet to come."

The light turned green and the van drove forward. "Yes, doctor." Palmer responded, before quieting again.

Neither of them spoke again until they'd safely entered their domain with their precious cargo intact. Their co-workers all lined up in the garage, saluting them. Dr. Mallard kindly refused their offers to help carry her as he and Palmer made their way into autopsy. He'd made them disperse from the halls, asking them all to respect Agent Todd's privacy as he and Palmer examined her.

A few seconds later, the doors whooshed closed and they were alone again. They both took a few minutes to help each other out of the bullet-proof vests that weighed heavily against their chests. As he removed his lab coat, Palmer took out the bloody evidence bag and tossed it in the large red biohazard bin. It felt like a symbolic moment, but for what, Palmer didn't know.

"Mr. Palmer, please call Metro PD's medical examiner and see if they will deliver the other unfortunate souls mixed up in this tragedy to us. We are going to have a long night…perhaps you should also call your family and tell them that you'll be late. Use my office." Dr. Mallard ordered.

"Dr. Mallard," Jimmy started.

"Jimmy, please. Just do as I say. I need your help." He once again pointed at his office, shooing his young assistant away as he opened the body bag holding their coworker.

"Oh, Caitlin." The doctor whispered softly as he stroked her hair. "You didn't deserve this."

He donned a pair of exam gloves and started taking photos of the damage Ari's bullet caused. Once he downloaded the files to his computer, he started the task of removing her protective clothing and cleaning her up. By the time Jimmy was finished making his phone calls, Special Agent Caitlin Todd looked like she was merely asleep, a white crisp sheet covering her naked body – the only mar, the bullet-hole that killed her.

Jimmy stared at her for a while sadly, picturing her as if she were alive. Dr. Mallard put an arm around his shoulders, comforting him. "Are you alright?"

He took a page out of Agent Dinozzo's book and said, "I'm fine." Taking another breath, he explained that the M.E.s would deliver the bodies of the terrorists within the hour.

"Well then, we should start with Agent Todd first." Palmer nodded; the cause of death was fairly obvious. They just needed to complete the basic autopsy and fill out the paperwork declaring her deceased. Once her parents were informed, they could release her body to a funeral home for burial in accordance to their beliefs.

They both worked professionally, pretending that the body in front of them was just another stranger – mentally separating themselves from their work. The local M.E.s arrived forty-five minutes later, reports in hand for each of the terrorists who'd been taken down by Agent Gibb's team.

Each of the terrorists were treated with respect, even though neither of them felt inclined to be kind to the men who'd tried to murder their friends. They were processed mindlessly and quickly. At this point, all Palmer wanted to do was go home.

After they completed the last autopsy, and put the last body in the drawer, Dr. Mallard thanked him for his service. "Thank you, Mr. Palmer. You did a wonderful job today. However, I think it is time for the both of us to go home and get some rest."

"Thank you, Dr. Mallard…" Jimmy mumbled, "If you need anything, just call me."

"I will." The doctor smiled, "Jimmy, don't be alone tonight…promise me."

"I promise." Palmer echoed. "Good night, doctor."

"Good night, Mr. Palmer. Sleep well." It was said as if a prayer, for he knew none of them would be sleeping well tonight, if at all.

Dr. Mallard took off his lab coat and hung it on the coat rack by his desk. He picked up his umbrella, hat, and his jacket, taking one last look at his friend before moving to zip up the bag holding her. "Good night, Caitlin. I will see you in the morning… I wouldn't leave, except for my mother… You understand, don't you?"

"I'm sure that she does, Dr. Mallard." Jimmy reassured him, flicking off the light as they left autopsy.

They both walked towards their cars, each one deep in thought.

Dr. Mallard prayed for his friends out in the field – agents who were hunting down a ruthless killer who'd stop at nothing to kill them all. He prayed for Gibbs to find peace, for Dinozzo to stop blaming himself for everything gone wrong, and for McGee to get through all of this without losing him to his fears.

It would be okay. Maybe not today, or tomorrow. But soon, it would be alright, Palmer thought. He only needed to get through one more week. Dr. Mallard's previous assistant Gerald would be back next week, and he wouldn't be needed in autopsy any longer… perhaps he could even get his old job back at the veterinary clinic…

THE END


A/N:: I just thought it was weird that Gerald was coming back in a week. I highly doubt that NCIS would keep two medical assistants for Dr. Mallard, so I figure that Palmer was going to get laid off… Of course, it doesn't matter anyway, because Gerald is traumatized by Ari again in Kill Ari Part II.

Anyway, please review! Make me happy!