Down on the Slab by DD Agent
I do not own NCIS or any of its characters, or its settings - all belongs to the lovely folks at CBS
Well this is the next installment of the '97 Series! Thank you to everyone who favourited "First Things First", and many hugs to Mrs. Elizabeth Gibbs, MissJayne, left my heart in Paris and MTGZ for such lovely reviews! Any suggestions where to head next with this section in this series are always welcome!
As always, enjoy!
Ducky looked over the scene with utter bemusement that soon turned to delight as he walked into Autopsy late to collect his bag. There were the new partners, on his autopsy table in a way that was very different from what the previous Director had been doing. He had been a little concerned when Jethro had taken on Jennifer, had worried that his usual rough and ready demeanour that he had picked up from Mike Franks would not suit working with the young woman. But after a few teething problems, it seemed they were getting along fine.
Next to his autopsy table, holding a scalpel, was Jennifer Shepard in casual gym clothes. And on the slab, with his eyes screwed up, his t-shirt wet and only wearing his boxers, was Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
"Okay, so you make the incision and open the chest up."
"Shepard, you don't make them for real!"
Ducky wondered if he should disturb them; but he just stood, watching them in the dark for a moment, smiling.
Earlier that Day
Leroy Jethro Gibbs was trying hard not to sigh in front of Morrow. It had been a week and a half since he had told the Director to effectively suck it - he had chosen his partner on his own and was very happy with the choice. They had worked two minor cases since then, and he had been called in after each one to ask how they were doing, and once again to be reminded that Shepard had been scheduled to head for the Naples office. Gibbs believed it was only the fact that Jenny seemed to excel with him as her partner that had stopped them shipping her off to Italy.
"Special Agent Gibbs, I'm sure you are aware that there are several things that Agent Shepard needs to do before she is considered a full Special Agent."
Jethro sighed. No doubt this would lead to more paperwork. "Sir, to me she is already a full Special Agent. I don't consider her probationary, she's already proven herself." Whether it was pulling the trigger to kill a man, or beating a UA Petty Officer with driftwood, Shepard certainly was ahead of most Agents, let alone Probies.
"Be that as it may, Special Agent Gibbs, Agent Shepard needs to prove herself on paper. She needs to sit through an autopsy, perform a notification and an interrogation. She also needs to sit through a forensic and ballistic tutorial. Finally, she needs to go through another firearms proficiency test and sit down with our psychologist. I know she did the last two at FLETC, but after what happened during her time there, I think a visit to the staff shrink would be a good thing for her."
Morrow handed Gibbs a checklist of everything his new partner needed to tick off before she got full Agent status. He was sure if he had gone for that Hawthorne guy, he wouldn't need to do any of this. Jethro believed that this was just a way to get him away from Shepard, an Agent who had better things planned for her than arresting UA marines and working drug cases in DC.
Ah well. She was his now. "Okay, sir. I'll see if Doctor Mallard has anyone in autopsy today, we can get that one ticked off the list straight away."
Morrow looked a little taken aback, which had been the intent. Jethro just smiled and stood up, tilting his head in the direction of the door. "That all, sir?"
He moved out of Morrow's office, looking at the list with distaste. While he usually handled the interrogation, Shepard would need to deal with Jeremy and Sam on a regular basis - she could explain the techno mumbo jumbo to him if she went through a tutorial. As he moved down the steps, his mood grew fouler as he realised that some of the stuff she really did need to be able to do in order to work as his partner.
Jethro turned to see Jenny already at her desk. The tennis shoes she had worn at FLETC had been thrown out in exchange for a variety of high heels. He didn't want to guess how many she had; all he knew was that when she had worn a skirt last week his trousers had tightened at how long they made her legs look. Fortunately, Shepard tended to wear jeans. She was wearing a pair today with an Oxford shirt. She looked good. It took her a little while to look up when she finally realised he was staring at her.
"What did the Director want?"
She snorted. "I've been told not to go into cupboards, closets or Autopsy with any Director, past or present, of NCIS."
Jethro chuckled and perched on the edge of her desk. "Director is giving us a ton of things to do to get you up to NCIS scratch. Mostly to annoy us because you're not in Naples."
"I have delicate skin, can't stand the sun. I could get a medical note from the Doctor."
He laughed at her bright smile and the easy banter they had between them. Now that he was treating her like his partner, life had become easier. Well, as easy as it was with Jenny Shepard. "Well, we're heading down to see the Doc anyway. You gotta observe an autopsy."
"Cool. Let me just grab my coffee."
Jethro looked down at Jenny's drink. It had a straw in it, unlike any coffee he had tasted before. He took an experimental sip, hoping for his own Jamaican blend. He spat out what Jenny was drinking into her waste paper bin.
"Coffee is supposed to be hot. You got freakin' ice in that!"
"Its iced coffee. Extra shot of mocha and caramel."
Her new boss made a growling sound and dragged her one handed to the elevators. He then dragged her back to get his coffee and on the way she managed to snag the iced coffee she had bought herself. Gibbs looked at her drink and shook his head, hoping this wasn't an omen. Jenny didn't care what he thought of her choice in beverage. It was hot outside, and she liked her coffee with a little ice to it.
They took the elevator down to Autopsy and came straight through the doors, Gibbs forcing her to dump the remains of her coffee as she entered. Robbie was preparing a body on a slab, and waved at the pair of them. Ducky turned around and joined in the waving before walking over to see them.
"Well good morning Jethro, Jennifer! What brings you down here?"
Jethro smiled. "Our little Shepard needs to watch an autopsy, Morrow's orders. He wants to put Jenny through all these tests to make sure she wins best in show at the Federal Agency Probie trials."
Jenny gave him a stare that would reduce normal men to a quivering wreck, but not her boss, who just winked at her. They walked over to the table where Robbie was preparing the body. Jethro had no qualms about forcing Jenny to do this - she was the girl who had discovered her friend's body hanging from a tree, the Agent who had made her first kill before even graduating. She would survive watching an autopsy, and he could brag to the other Senior Agents about how good his partner was. More than he had been doing already, anyway.
Jenny herself thought she would be fine. She'd sat in a couple of medical classes at college, anything to get out of her dorm room. But she wasn't expecting to find an old navy officer on the slab with greying hair and a serene expression on his face. Right next to the bullet hole in his head.
She was overcome with the comparisons of this man to her father and a million questions ran through her mind. Who had investigated his murder? Had Ducky done the autopsy? Had her father been on this very slab, with Ducky cutting him open and one of the Agents sipping coffee and shooting the breeze, not caring at all that it was a human being that was being cut up like beef jerky?
"Well Jennifer, have a mask." Ducky handed her a mask with a guard to stop blood, brain matter or anything else from hitting her in the face. She took it without a word and placed it over her head. Gibbs pushed her a little closer to the body, and she hit the slab with a dull thud. Her abdomen ached, and that was when the three men noticed that something was off with her.
Ducky moved to start the autopsy. Robbie squeezed her shoulder. "You okay Shepard?"
"I'm fine, thanks Robbie. Call me Jenny, please. Its only Special Agents addicted to coffee who call me Shepard," she replied shakily.
They shared a weak laugh that seemed to put everyone at ease. Gibbs' small frown had turned right way up at the joke she had made. It was a pity Jenny was doing anything but laughing. She kept looking down at the body and wondering if that scalpel had been near her father's, had cut him open like Ducky was doing now, like a butcher did to cattle.
"Now this gentleman is part of a case that the MCRT is working."
"Carter's a freaking loon, he shouldn't be anywhere near that team."
Jenny watched as Ducky made the incisions, trisecting the man's torso. She felt bile rise up in her throat. Tears started to prick her eyes, and Jenny felt her legs start to shake. How could Ducky do this to a man? Why did they have to do this to a person at all? Was this all that was left when you died - the smell of stale coffee and the sharp piecing of a scalpel into dead flesh?
"Well it was the previous Director's doing. My god, I had to spend an entire week sanitising this place after I found them at it."
Jenny would have been okay, she believed, had Robbie and Ducky not started peeling his skin upwards to reveal his chest. At the sight of his skin splayed with all his internal organs on show, Jenny gagged. The dead eyes of a man that resembled her father taunted her, and Jenny sped to the nearest sink to throw up the iced coffee she had had earlier.
Jethro watched as what he thought was his rock steady partner threw up in the sink, heaving at the sight of the dead body in front of her. He took one step to comfort her, but thought better of it. Without a word, he walked out of Autopsy, deciding it was the best course of action. If he stayed he'd either treat her like a child and baby her, or treat her like a Probie and yell at her. Neither option was appealing, so he just left, hating himself for needing to leave her.
Ducky had cursed Jethro the minute he had exited Autopsy, and unfortunately young Jennifer had left in tears a few minutes later. He had sent Robbie to go find the girl, and the assistant had searched high and low for her. He was not above hitting Gibbs when he found him: watching a Medical Examiner cut someone open in such a traditional violation was not everyone's cup of tea. Eventually, Robbie found her tucked away in a corner of the Ballistics lab. Jeremy was waiting at the door for him.
"How's she doing?"
Jeremy shook her head. "What I got out of her was that Gibbs would be mad at her. What she do, spill his coffee?"
"Threw up in Autopsy - Morrow's making all the Probies sit in now."
"Pity. I was just starting to like her," Jeremy sighed, before moving into the main forensics lab with Sam to help test some of Pacci's evidence.
Robbie found the water cooler hidden at the back of the lab and poured Jenny a cup of water. He then went and sat down with the girl, passing her the cup to sip from. She drank it slowly, and Robbie put an arm around the slight redhead. She didn't look altogether threatening, but she had barely graduated and was already a legend. So far she had survived working with Leroy Jethro Gibbs, which was something award worthy all on its own, let alone the story of her first kill.
"How screwed am I?"
Robbie sighed. "Gibbs is…he doesn't like Probies at the best of times, and he hated the idea of having one as his partner. He's not going to tolerate you throwing up at Autopsy without some ribbing, some yelling about how Agents have to have strong stomachs and crap like that. He may start seeing you as a girl, too, which I think he's been trying to avoid."
"That hasn't been working for him; he looked like he was going to eat me alive when I wore a skirt to work last week."
The ME's assistant snorted. "I mean, he's going to see you as a little girl with pigtails and running away when the little boy down the road shoves a worm in her face." He put an arm around her shoulders, trying to comfort her. "Don't worry, Jenny. Agents throw up during their first autopsy all the time, its okay. It's not exactly a Broadway show."
Jenny wiped the few tears gathering on the end of her nose. "My father died last year. He was an Army Colonel with ties to the Navy, and the guy on the table looked so much like him. I -" Jenny faltered. "I guess if I told Gibbs that he'd see it as more weakness."
"I didn't see him with Mike Franks; I've only known him yelling at the new Probies. But he has respect for you, respect that I think you've earned. This is just a minor setback, like you had on your first case with him. You two just need to strike a balance. You didn't think working with Gibbs was going to be easy, did you?"
"No, I didn't."
Robbie gave her a wink and another hug. He liked the redhead; she was bright and seemed to inspire a warmth in everyone she came into contact with. He would hate to see her go. "Just prove to Gibbs that you're still worth it. Because I think he knows you are, he just needs reminding."
Jenny beamed at the pep talk and burrowed into Robbie's side. She had her first friend at NCIS.
He felt like a bastard. He supposed that was what the second 'b' in his name stood for, but still he knew he shouldn't have left her there, throwing up in Autopsy.
He hadn't known Shepard long, but she didn't seem the type to get squeamish. She could be experiencing the same thing that had happened at his first autopsy. Mike had tried to shield him from it; it was the autopsy of a small child, about eight years old. He'd managed to keep the bile in his stomach until he had been home, and then he had been throwing up and crying all night.
The Medical Examiner there had just stood there with a cigarette, littering ash onto the organs. Ducky was the best Gibbs had ever met, but not a lot of people saw how wonderful he was with the dead. Maybe that was just what Shepard needed, a proper Autopsy tutorial on how Ducky dealt with their victims.
The elevator door opened on the forensics floor, and Jenny stepped onto it. She looked better than when he had seen her last, and she seemed to frown at how sheepish he looked. He did feel bad, but damned if he was going to apologise. If Mike Franks had been partnered with her, he would have already been up to tell Morrow he wanted a new partner. But Gibbs saw a lot of himself in Shepard, a lot of the same troubles. Catching the bad guys was the easy part. Dealing with the victims was harder.
They stood in silence as the elevator went up to the bullpen. Just as it was about to stop, Shepard reached over and flicked the emergency switch, stopping the elevator and flooding it with emergency light. Gibbs planted himself against the wall, looking at Shepard like she was crazy.
"What the hell?"
"We need to talk."
Jethro tried to walk over and switch it back, but Jenny pushed him up against the wall of the elevator before stepping back, blocking the control panel. She smirked as she realised how scared he looked.
"Turn it back on. The cable could snap, and being crushed to death isn't on my top ten list of ways to go out of this world."
"Big bad Gibbs afraid of an elevator?" Jenny teased, and despite his anger and his fear of the elevator, he was proud to see that Jenny had bounced back from throwing up in Autopsy. He realised that she was like that - she would bounce back quicker than usual Probies. She wanted to get the job done; she wanted to prove people wrong. She was his partner.
"I don't like things I can't control. Like cables breaking."
Jenny walked over to him and pressed both palms of her hands onto his chest, the heat seeping through his shirt and making him swallow. She looked up at him with those emerald eyes, and Jethro couldn't help but smile.
"But you still like me, don't you?" Her voice cracked a little. "You still want me, don't you?"
Her hands were busy making him squirm on his chest. She didn't see the head slap until it connected with her skull. Unfortunately for Gibbs, the force meant she whacked into his chin at the same time.
When they had both recovered from their minor injuries, Gibbs turned to her, realising he needed to be the one to clear up this mess. He needed to abide by his own rules; especially rule twelve - it was a constant mantra to him now. "Ducky goes home bout seven on week nights, if he hasn't got a late body. After we've filled in all our paperwork, we'll go down."
He reached over and flicked the elevator stop button to on. He noticed that that had thrown Shepard for a loop. She had expected yelling, a speech, maybe even a rule. But there was nothing, which was playing Shepard at her own game. A game that partners play, not mentors with their protégés.
The elevator doors opened up and he moved out of them, heading back to his desk. He noticed she hung around at the door for a while, and he hoped she was watching him walk away. She wasn't the only one with a nice ass.
Jenny didn't know why her boss wanted them to go down to Autopsy after Ducky and Robbie had gone home. But once all the other Agents had started milling out, and Ducky had dropped a box of tea on her desk with a smile, Gibbs grabbed her hand and took her down to Autopsy. He had allowed her to get changed out of her jeans and shirt into the clothes she wore to the gym. After their little excursion she wanted to hit the mats and as she didn't know what they were doing there, she didn't want her expensive clothes ruined.
"Okay, Shepard. Now this is Autopsy." She gave him another glare and he snickered. "You've seen dead bodies without any problems, so I guess you've got problems with the process."
Shepard avoided his gaze. "No problem I can think of."
"Really? So you just got food poisoning over that weird coffee then?"
She hit him on the arm, and he grinned. "I always thought of an autopsy as necessary. Now I just see it as…something Hannibal Lecter would do. Reducing us all to meat."
Gibbs didn't say anything, just walked over to one of the autopsy tables. She followed. He put on the light and patted the metal slab. "Up you get, Shepard."
"There is no way I am getting up there."
She realised at that point that she should have just got up there, rather than be dragged up onto the table by her boss's hands around her waist, pressing her down to the cold metal. With one of his warm hands holding her down, she didn't feel scared of what the table could do to people, how it could physically reduce them to just flesh and bone. She was more thinking of how the previous Director and Ducky's assistant could have quite easily made love in Autopsy.
"Okay, now here is the Autopsy process. Ducky talks to his patients," Gibbs chuckled, adopting a very awful British accent. "Now, dear Jennifer, what do we have here? Oh my dear, the worst case of a broken heart I've ever seen!" She kicked him in the arm. "Oh my dear, you're supposed to be dead. Reminds me of a time, several thousand years ago, when a body I was investigating at - OW!"
"Get on with it!"
He smirked. "Okay, well Ducky usually combs their hair first, to get any trace elements." He produced a comb from his pocket. "Sit up a little; you've got more hair then a standard dead person."
Jenny snorted as she moved up on her elbows and took out her ponytail. She expected to hit him again, thinking he'd brutally attack her hair and the no doubt tangles with vigour. But he was gentle as he moved the comb through her red strands.
"Bet your wife will be jealous that you're brushing your partner's hair," Jenny whispered, not realising she had said it aloud until the combing stopped and she felt Gibbs' mouth close to her ear.
"I'm not married."
She felt butterflies beat hard in her chest at the simple statement. Suddenly, the hair brushing stopped and Jenny felt herself being sprayed with water. Gibbs laughed at her screams. "Ducky then washes the body. Simmer down Shepard; it's only a little water." One of his hands planted itself on her stomach, forcing her back down to the table. "Play dead."
Jenny laid back down, a little annoyed. She was so thankful she had changed! However, her legs started to tremble when Gibbs brought out a scalpel. He moved it down so it was about a centimetre from her skin.
"You make three cuts and peel the skin open to get to the rib cage. You break the ribs, and then you take out the organs and weigh 'em. Then you examine the organs; look at the X Rays that you take at the beginning to see about the cause of death. All the while, Ducky is talking to them. Some people think it's weird, but it makes them Human, even in death."
"They're not meat."
Gibbs shook his head at Jenny, who was smiling up at him. "They're always people in this room. Always."
It seemed to be what she needed to hear, and he was glad. She shifted up on the autopsy table, and looked down at the cold slab. She didn't have to tell him, but she felt she needed to. "I lost someone, last year. The body this morning, it reminded me of them."
That was something he could understand. He didn't need to hear anymore - to him, grief was a personal thing, even between partners. "It's okay, Jenny. It's okay to still grieve."
"Grief isn't a sign of weakness?"
He shook his head. "Grief is human. How can it be weak to miss those that aren't here anymore?"
The moment was quiet, reflective. And then Jenny dragged him by his shoulders up onto the autopsy slab. "Your turn!"
"That's not how we play this game."
"It is!" Jenny got the spray that he had squirted her with earlier, and soaked his shirt and his jeans.
"Goddamn it Shepard!" Jethro cursed.
He pulled off the shirt and tie he was wearing, happy that his t-shirt was dry. He then pulled down his trousers and found that, thankfully, his boxers were also not soaked. He was about to wrangle the hose away from Shepard when he got sprayed in the face again. He glared at her, but she just grinned.
"Not funny Shepard."
"Be a man. Lay down on the slab. Let me go through the process again."
Jethro frowned as he laid down on the cold slab that he had slept on many times. He wasn't worried about what Shepard would do to him, but more how the cold in Autopsy would affect parts of him. He knew he shouldn't worry so much, but he was attracted to Jenny Shepard and couldn't stand her teasing in that department, as he would then have to do something about it.
He liked her as his partner. Rule twelve existed for a reason.
"Okay, so you make the incision and open the chest up."
He found himself being poked by a scalpel. "Shepard, you don't make them for real!"
He ended up having to twist her wrist to make her drop the scalpel. He looked up at her, and saw that she had something on her mind.
"Why did you leave me in Autopsy?"
Jethro sighed. He wasn't used to being honest with a woman - white lies had been part of his relationships with both his wives. But he wanted to tell Jenny the truth. "You throwing up reminded me of what people keep reminding me, that I'm supposed to be teaching you and that you're a Probie. I left because if I stayed I would have yelled at you like one, which isn't fair. You're my partner, you've earned that."
Jenny nodded, her fingers tracing the edge of the slab. "You want us to be partners?" He nodded. "Then you shouldn't have left me to throw up. Partners don't do that. Partners hold your hair back and give you a glass of water."
Jethro nodded as he sat up on the autopsy table. "You're right. I owe you better than that."
Shepard grinned. "Robbie told me that I have to prove to you that I'm worth being your partner. It goes both ways, Gibbs. You want me as a partner because you trust me. I want you as a partner because I know you'll do what's right. Promise you'll never leave me again."
"Promise you'll always have my back."
They shook hands, before Gibbs pulled Shepard tumbling on top of him. She hit him on the chest, before Gibbs put his hands behind his head. She laid half on top of him, head on his chest.
"You know, it's quite nice down here without any dead bodies."
"Great place to store ice cream."
Jenny laughed into his shoulder, and he couldn't help but laugh either. They were going to be okay.
They had their own case the next day. Morrow had come down to check on Ducky, and witnessed Jenny Shepard officially observe her first autopsy. He smiled at the pair of them as he left, nodding to Shepard like a particularly happy teacher.
"Well that's one thing down on this damn checklist," Gibbs muttered, ticking it off the small piece of paper he had written them all down on.
He turned around to find Jenny staring at the body. This time it was a woman, this time it had been a stabbing. Wearing a pair of surgical gloves, and now that Ducky had completed the autopsy; Jenny closed the eyes of the woman so she looked like she was sleeping. Jethro watched as a small smile lit up her face.
Her moment was broken as she felt one of his hands rest on her waist. She turned to him, and she knew that he was thinking exactly the same as what she was.
"Let's catch the son of a bitch who did this."
Ducky and Robbie watched as the new partners walked out, and exchanged bright smiles. The two of them would work well together. As long as they kept their attraction in check, Ducky didn't see why they couldn't be partners for a long, long time. Of course, Ducky knew Jethro Gibbs and his penchant for redheads. He had already put down twenty dollars for them to be an item within the next month.
It was the first time in his life that he hoped his bet was wrong.