People keep teasing Jimmy. Gibbs realizes he doesn't like it.
A first time story.
Written: November 2010. Word count: 4,000.
"Duck, can you -" Gibbs came to an abrupt halt as he saw Ducky wasn't in Autopsy. "Palmer," he acknowledged, seeing Ducky's assistant by the sinks.
"Gibbs." Palmer didn't turn around.
Gibbs was about to go. However, something stopped him. It wasn't just Palmer's tone, which was flat and dejected; it was also the lack of 'Agent' or 'Special Agent' before his name; as well as a distinct lack of nervousness that usually accompanied Palmer whenever Gibbs was around. Palmer was very un-Palmer-like.
He stood for a moment, still debating whether to just go. But something made him move nearer to Palmer. "You okay, Palmer?"
Palmer shrugged. "I guess so." His tone was still the same.
Gibbs frowned and touched Palmer's arm. "What's up, Jimmy?"
Under his hand he felt Palmer's surprise and thought he felt the muscles tense up. He was about to take his hand away when Palmer looked at him. "What the -" Gibbs said, staring at Palmer. "What's happened to you, Jimmy? Who did this?" The front of Palmer's shirt and was red, it was the color of blood, but Gibbs knew it wasn't blood - the lack of the right scent told him that. But it was also Palmer's face; someone had painted it, rather like you might paint a kid's face. He could tell Palmer had made an attempt to clean up, as the paint on his face was smeared and his shirt was wet.
Palmer glanced away from him. "It was my Medical School class," he said, turning back to the sink and beginning to wash his face again.
Gibbs stared at him, a surge of anger starting to run through his body. He never liked it when any of his team was hurt or upset - not that he let them see how he felt, of course. But for some reason he realized he was feeling more annoyed than he usually did. "Why?"
"Tradition," Palmer said, coughing as water got into his mouth. Gibbs pulled a couple of paper towels from the dispenser above the sink and handed them to him. "Thanks," Palmer said, taking them and scrubbing his face. When he looked at Gibbs again his cheeks, forehead and chin were red from being rubbed so hard. Most of the paint had gone, but some traces still remained.
"Here," Gibbs took another paper towel, dipped it in the water, put some soap on it and wiped the bits Palmer had missed. "Seems like a weird tradition to me," he said, scrunching the used towel up and tossing it into the trash while Palmer pulled another couple out and dried his face again.
"Yeah. I didn't know about it until they grabbed me." Palmer put his glasses back on and looked at Gibbs.
"What's the tradition?" Gibbs leaned back against the counter as Palmer began to futilely scrub at his shirt front again.
"Oh, whoever graduates top of the class gets - joshed, is the word they used. It's fun, just a way of teasing the person, of . . . You know the kind of thing." Palmer rubbed harder, but all that happened was he spread the red blood-like substance further over his shirt. He sighed. "It's not going to come out, is it?"
Gibbs shook his head. "Don't think so. Why did you come here, rather than go home?"
"I thought Dr. Mallard might have something that would get the stain out or know of something. He knows so many things."
Gibbs smiled. "Yeah, he does. Where is he?"
"He's gone to look at a car. He finished all the work before he went," Palmer added quickly, his tone now defensive.
"I'm sure he did," Gibbs said, touched by Palmer's defense of Ducky. He found himself wishing Palmer had someone to defend him. He shook his head; where had that come from? Then something Palmer said hit him, "Hey," he touched Palmer's arm again. "Did you say you'd graduated top of your class?"
Palmer looked at him and Gibbs saw him begin to flush. "Um, yes," he said softly. "That's another reason I came here. I wanted to tell Dr. Mallard first. You see he paid -" Abruptly he stopped speaking and his look became his 'deer caught in the headlights' one. "Um, forget I said anything. That's meant to be a - Oh, dear. Please, Special Agent Gibbs, don't -"
"It's all right, Palmer. I know. Duck told me. But I won't say anything, about that or your result. You're right, officially Ducky should be the first to know."
Palmer beamed. "Thank you, Agent Gibbs," he said.
For a moment they stood in silence; Gibbs realized he was staring at Palmer who was gazing back at him. He mentally shook himself. "Reckon you better go home and change, it's not going to come out with just soap and water," he said.
Palmer sighed. "Yes, I will. It's going to make me late," he said, turning back to the sink and empting it.
"Yes, I'm meeting Brenna. We're going out to dinner." Gibbs wasn't sure, but he thought Palmer didn't sound exactly over-excited by the prospect. "I guess I'll have to call her and tell her I'll be late. It'll give her something else to complain about." He pulled his cell phone out.
"Hang on," Gibbs said, before he had time to think. "Come with me?" And he caught Palmer's wrist and hurried him across Autopsy.
"But, Agent Gibbs, I . . ." In the end Palmer fell silent and just trotted along besides Gibbs.
The squad room was deserted, something Gibbs was grateful for. He strode across to the filing cabinet and pulled open a drawer. "Here," he said, holding out a shirt to Palmer. "You can borrow that. It'll be a bit big on you, but your jacket should cover that."
Palmer automatically took the shirt. His mouth fell open. "But . . . But . . . Agent Gibbs, I can't. I . . . I mean, I -"
"Just take it, Palmer," Gibbs said, now turning away and beginning to shuffle papers on his desk. What the hell was his thinking of?
Palmer was silent for a moment or two. Then he said, his tone low, "Thank you, Agent Gibbs. Thank you very much."
Gibbs just nodded. He didn't turn back around. From behind him he could hear Palmer taking off his shirt and pulling Gibbs's on, but he still kept his gaze averted.
After what seemed like an hour, but in reality was less than a minute, Palmer said again. "Thank you. I'll . . . See you, Gibbs."
"Night, Palmer." Now Gibbs did turn back. "Have a good evening and congratulations."
Palmer smiled. "Thank you." He said. He closed his mouth, opened it again, but nothing came out. He stood for another moment or two, before turning on his heel and scurrying across the squad room.
Gibbs stood and watched him go before sighing to himself and sinking down in his chair. Being who he was, he didn't try to analyze his thoughts or replay what had happened - it wasn't the kind of thing he did. But for once that wasn't the main reason he didn't.
SIX MONTHS LATER
"Hey, Palmer, can you - Palmer?" Gibbs strode into Autopsy to see Palmer trying to pull his fingers off the computer keyboard.
Palmer looked over his shoulder. "Agent Gibbs!" he looked away from Gibbs.
Gibbs frowned. The last time Palmer had put the 'Agent' in front of his name had been the evening he'd loaned him a clean shirt.
He crossed Autopsy, coming to stop by Palmer's side. "What's happened? Oh," he said, as he realized exactly what had happened. "DiNozzo," he added.
Palmer looked at him again and spoke quickly. "I don't know who it was. It was just here when I -"
"It was DiNozzo. It's what he does." Gibbs sighed and found himself getting angry with DiNozzo rather than just mildly irritated by the prank.
"Don't get angry, Jet- Er, Gibbs." Palmer coughed and began to flush. "It was just a bit of fun. Teasing the new boy, that kind of thing."
Gibbs stared at him. "But you're not the new boy, Palmer. You've been here for nine years."
"Yes, but it's my first day in a way, isn't it?" Palmer's voice became softer and he stared at Gibbs unblinkingly. "I still say Director Vance was wrong," he added.
"Yeah, Jimmy. So do I."
"Oh, I know you tried, Gibbs. I know you tried hard - the whole office knows." He flushed more deeply.
Gibbs gave a harsh laugh. "Reckon they do." He hadn't made any secret of his anger over Vance insisting Ducky retire. Hadn't made any effort to lower his voice when he told Vance exactly what he thought. But Vance had stood firm; his decision prevailed - he was, as he reminded Gibbs, the Director.
And so Ducky had retired and Palmer had been offered the position of Medical Examiner. Gibbs had a suspicion that Ducky'd had a hand, more than a hand, in that decision. He reckoned the main reason Ducky had gone without any fuss on his part, was that he'd extracted a promise from Vance that Palmer would take over. As Ducky had once said to Gibbs, he knew where the bodies were buried. He never had elaborated - not even to Gibbs. Maybe now he didn't work for NCIS any longer, he might. Gibbs made a mental note to mention it to him the next time they got together.
"Everyone was on your side," Palmer said. "No one wanted Dr. Mallard to leave. Everyone liked him, respected him."
Gibbs frowned as the double meaning of Palmer's words hit him. He put his hand on Palmer's shoulder. "They like and respect you to, Jimmy," he said.
Palmer looked at him and moistened his lips. "Do they?" he asked, his gaze skittered, unintentionally Gibbs was sure, to the keyboard, which his fingers were still stuck to.
Gibbs squeezed his shoulder. "Yeah, Palmer, they do." He nodded to the keyboard. "Might seem a strange way of showing you, but DiNozzo only does that to people he likes."
Palmer's eyes widened and he looked happier. "Does he?"
Gibbs nodded. "Yeah. He's done it to McGee a couple of times."
Palmer smiled. "And you?" he blurted out. "Do you - I mean . . . Forget it. I shouldn't have asked. I . . ." He glanced away.
Gibbs stood for a moment. Then said softly, "Yeah, Jimmy, I like you and respect you." Mentally, he shook himself at the yet another out of character moment. He didn't tell people that kind of thing; oh, he could tell someone else, but not the person. So why was he telling Palmer? Rather than think about that he said, "I'll go and get something to shift that. Don't go away," he added and grinned at Palmer. After a second Palmer grinned back.
Gibbs was about to go, when he stopped as something Palmer had half said earlier came back to him. "Oh, and Jimmy," he said, keeping his tone nonchalant, "feel free to call me Jethro, as long as we're alone."
Palmer's mouth fell open. "But . . . But . . . What about . . . I mean you're my . . . Can I?"
Gibbs pushed away Ducky's voice that said 'I'm sure you can and you may'. Instead he said, "Ducky did."
"Yes, but you and Dr. Mallard were friends."
Gibbs shrugged. "Yeah, but also the relationship with the ME is different from with the team. Don't if you don't want to, but if you do, I don't mind." Now he did turn on his heel and headed for the doors which swished open for him.
As he waited for the elevator he smacked himself on the back of his head. "Leroy Jethro Gibbs," he muttered, "what the hell are you thinking?" He chose not to answer that question.
THREE MONTHS LATER
Gibbs, dressed in sweats, a tee-shirt and trainers, headed for the gym. He wasn't best pleased; he thought the idea was a foolish one. But Vance had insisted. After a suspect had managed to get away from his guard and fun amuck thought-out the building, taking down one agent and three non-agents, badly injuring one of them, Vance had decreed that everyone would be taught a degree of self-defense. He'd also decreed that Gibbs would be in charge of it.
He'd instructed DiNozzo, McGee and Ziva to make a start, to make sure that people were teamed up, agents with non-agents - that way he reckoned all the messing about, the false or otherwise modesty, pranks and teasing would be out of the way before he arrived.
He strode into the room to find his hope hadn't worked out. From the way the pairs and in some cases groups were giggling and falling over, he saw they were still messing about. He was about to whistle or, given the noise, yell, when he saw Palmer hovering at the edge of the room.
He frowned, turned on his heel and headed towards Palmer. "Hey, Palmer, Director's 'everyone' included you."
Palmer looked at him and flushed slightly. "I know that, Gibbs."
"Then why are you standing here?"
Palmer's gaze skittered away and he shuffled his feet. "Er, there wasn't anyone who want- That is, there weren't enough agents to . . . I'll get a turn later," he added swiftly. "Not that it'll help." His tone was now soft and flat.
Palmer looked up at him. "You know how clumsy and nervous I am. If someone came at me, I'd just -"
Gibbs put his hand on Palmer's shoulder. "Don't talk yourself down, Jimmy. There's not many people who'd put their car in the way of another one just to stop a bad guy from getting away. That was a brave thing to do."
Palmer's mouth fell open. "But you were angry with me."
Gibbs nodded. "Yeah, course I was. You could have been killed. And that -" He stopped abruptly and instead caught Palmer's wrist and tugged him towards a mat. "Come on, you can work with me."
"You?" Palmer's voice went up an octave.
"Yeah, me. It's all right, Palmer. I won't bite. Hang on." Now he did whistle - loudly. "Hey," he called, when not everyone stopped and looked at him. He clapped his hands. "This isn't meant to be a game, you know. You're not meant to be messing around. You're meant to be learning. DiNozzo, stop that!"
"Yes, boss. On it, boss. Right away, boss," DiNozzo called swiftly, letting go of the arm of the pretty secretary. He stared at Gibbs with amazement as he'd been behind Gibbs and thus out of his eye-line.
Gibbs just shook his head. "And, Ziva, remember it's a teaching session, you're not meant to hurt anyone!"
Ziva glared at him. "Yes, Gibbs," she said, her tone honey-sweet as she turned back to her partner. Gibbs groaned silently, wondering what foolish thing the guy had done. He was pretty sure Ziva would stop short of causing the kind of damage that might involve a trip to ER - at least he thought he was!
"Okay, get on with it. And the next person I see messing around, gets to come and train with me," he called; he was satisfied that would put an end to all the larking. "You ready, Palmer?" he said, turning to his partner.
Palmer looked at him. His eyes, his body language, his tone when he spoke, all screamed 'no'. However, he shrugged and said, "I guess."
"I'll be gentle," Gibbs said, putting one hand on Palmer's shoulder and one under his elbow. He ignored the faint flush that touched Palmer's cheeks - it was warm in the gym. "Okay, I'll show you a throw," he said. "You try and stop me."
They tried four times. Each time Gibbs held Palmer so he didn't hit the mat too hard. But each time he landed on the mat, flat on his back. He looked completely dejected and despondent; Gibbs felt a flash of sympathy and something else he didn't want to identify. He left Palmer lying there looking up at him and pulled off his sweat-shirt and tossed it to one side. "Come on, get up, Jimmy, we'll try something else." He held out his hand to help Palmer up.
But Palmer sat up, pulled his knees partly up to his chest and just leaned over them. "I told you I was hopeless," he said. "I've never been any good any anything physical."
Gibbs had a sudden almost over-whelming urge to put his arm around Palmer's shoulders. Instead, he moved a little nearer and partly bent over, squeezing Palmer's shoulder with one hand and offering his other to help Palmer up. "You'll be -" The next second he found himself flat on his back, with Palmer straddling him.
He stared up into Palmer's damp, flushed face and tasted the hint of Palmer's cologne and clean sweat. He told himself that the reason Palmer's groin was directly aligned with his was simply because Palmer wasn't used to this kind of thing, he didn't know how to land, how to sit. The next second Palmer shifted very slightly and Gibbs had to fight a groan as he looked up into Palmer's smoldering eyes. It was not a mistake. He swallowed hard and hastily began to silently recite the rules of cricket, which Ducky had taught him one Sunday afternoon, as he forced his body not to react.
"Palmer!" he growled, as Palmer rocked very slightly.
Palmer was instantly still. "Yes, Agent Gibbs," he said, his tone oh so innocent. "Didn't I do it right?"
Gibbs swallowed hard at the double entendre. "You did it just fine, Palmer," he said, forcing himself to stay quite still. "Good move."
Palmer beamed and all signs of flirting or whatever else Gibbs thought he'd seen on his face fled. "It's something Dr. Mallard taught me," he said, finally moving off Gibbs and sitting on the mat next to him.
Gibbs sat up and frowned. "Ducky taught you how to trip someone?"
Palmer grinned. "No. But he taught me that we should learn from everything. All my life people have teased me, joshed me, played tricks on me, fooled me into doing something, that kind of thing. Guess I finally leaned about payback." He grinned again. Then the grin vanished and she added hastily, "Not that you've ever done that kind of thing to me. I didn't mean -"
Gibbs couldn't help it. He was, after all, there to teach. Taking advantage of Palmer's lack of defense and concentration, to turn the tables on Palmer. In a swift move, he had Palmer on his back and he straddled Palmer. He tried to tell himself that all he was doing was giving Palmer a taste of his own medicine, showing him how uncomfortable it was to have another man's groin pressed right against your own.
However, as he looked down into the wide green/brown eyes, uncovered by glasses, now clearly showing desire and want, he admitted the truth to himself. Despite the noise of the room, he bent his head and put his lips against Palmer's ear. "My place, eight o'clock tonight." He deliberately pressed down on Palmer again, before rolling off, standing up with a swift movement and offering his hand to Palmer. He pulled him to his feet, steadied him and whispered. "And don't be late." Then he turned and headed away from Palmer, moving around the room, praising and criticizing the people.
8:OO P.M. - GIBBS'S HOUSE
Gibbs heard a car pull up outside and had the door open as Palmer, only tripping once, arrived at it. "Jimmy."
"Jethro." Palmer said the name firmly, definitely. It wasn't the first time he'd used it, but he didn't use it that often and when he did he sounded (just as when Ducky had told him to call him Ducky not Dr. Mallard) as if he had to force himself to say it. However, tonight it came naturally; completely naturally, as if he'd been saying it every day of his life.
"Well don't just stand there, come in." Gibbs moved away from the door and Palmer slipped inside.
"I brought you this," Palmer said, pushing a bottle of wine into Gibbs's hands. "It's got a nice taste," he added.
Gibbs swallowed. "I'm sure it has," he said taking the bottle. "Bet it's not the only thing," he added, almost laughing as Palmer's eyes widened and he swallowed hard, Gibbs watched his throat constrict. And then under his eyes, Palmer's look became flirtatious again and he deliberately licked his lips as his gaze travelled up and down Gibbs's body.
Now it was Gibbs's turn to swallow hard. "You do that again, Jimmy, and you know what'll happen, don't you?"
Palmer stared at him, his look one of feigned innocence. "No, Jethro," he purred the name and with even more deliberation licked his lips again.
"This," Gibbs growled, grabbing Palmer, pushing him back against the door and kissing him, while he pushed his body against Palmer's. Palmer's mouth opened for him within seconds and Gibbs slipped his tongue into the inviting mouth. Palmer was making soft noises in the back of his throat as he kissed Gibbs back, pushed his own body against Gibbs's and slipped his hands up under Gibbs's shirt and undershirt to caress his back.
Against his will, Gibbs gasped as Palmer's cool hands touched his heated skin. He broke the kiss and moved back, still keeping Palmer in place. He looked at Palmer who suddenly to his eyes looked smug, teasing. Gibbs glared and wound his fingers in Palmer's hair, holding him. "This isn't a joke is it, Palmer?" he growled.
Palmer gasped and the smug and teasing look - if it had ever been there at all - fled, leaving him aghast. He slid his hands out from under Gibbs's shirts and maneuvered them to cup Gibbs's face. "No, Jethro," he said gently. "No. Please don't think that. I love you. I've loved you for so long. I want you. I want to make you happy. I'm not teasing you, really I'm not,"
Gibbs looked at the earnest young face and read honesty in the steady gaze. He untangled his fingers, angry with himself when he saw Palmer try to hide a wince as several stands of hair came out. "Sorry, Jimmy," he muttered. "It's just -" He cut himself off. What could he say? Just that he felt so old? That Palmer was so young? So innocent? So sexy? So gorgeous? Such a turn on?
But he didn't need to say the things because he saw in Palmer's look and felt it in the way Palmer stroked his face that Palmer understood. "I love you, Jethro," he said softly. "Now why don't you show me your house?"
SEVERAL HOURS LATER
"Thought you said you weren't good at anything physical?" Gibbs said, as they lay, hands still entwined in his bed.
Palmer turned on his side and gazed at him; the look confirming the words he'd said several times. Then the faint smile he'd had since they'd arrived in Gibbs's bedroom fled and he looked like the nervous deer he could sometimes be. He swallowed several times, glanced away from Gibbs and tried to pull his hand away.
Gibbs may have been some twenty-eight years older than Palmer, but he was still stronger. He caught Palmer's hand and held it more tightly. He hurried through possible reasons in his mind as to why Palmer might suddenly be distancing himself from him. Various thoughts came to mind, but he dismissed all of them except one.
Taking a calculated gamble, he pushed himself up on one elbow and looked down at Palmer. "And I'm not teasing you either, Jimmy," he said, stroking Palmer's cheek. "This is real. For as long as you want it," he added.
Palmer's face lit up and he eyes sparkled both with happiness and Gibbs thought the hint of a tear. "Forever?" he whispered, as Gibbs lowered his head and kissed Palmer's already kiss swollen lips.
"Whatever you want, Jimmy," he murmured, lifting his head. "Love you," he muttered, swallowing the words as he lowered himself down on top of Palmer and kissed him again.
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