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Did She Matter?
by: taylorgibbs (Send Feedback)
Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 1279
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Jimmy Palmer
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Episode(s): 6-09 Dagger
Summary: In the wake of a tragic death, Palmer questions Gibbs' motives.
Author Notes: Written for the Crime challenge. The crime featured is Homicide, with its close sibling, murder. Thanks to channeld for issuing this challenge :)
Did He Matter?
Set between Road Kill and Silent Night
It had been a couple of weeks since Lee’s death, and Palmer still wouldn’t meet his eyes. Gibbs was tired of the sidelong dirty looks, the baleful gazes magnified by the glasses, the look that would turn ice cold when he realized Gibbs was looking at him. Gibbs got his opening when Ducky called to say Victoria had a fall and he was leaving Palmer in charge for the afternoon. They’d finished up reports for last case and Gibbs wasn’t interested in dealing with DiNozzo flicking wads of paper at McGee or Ziva sending emails and smirking at her computer screen.
And Gibbs wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone but himself, but he was worried about Palmer. Ducky’s assistant and Lee had some sort of…what was the word Abbs used… hinky? bond. Enough information had slipped out from people on the bus and outside it that Palmer had to know what had happened, despite NCIS’ official silence on the matter.
Agent Lee had been killed during an official operation, end of story. But not for Palmer, who would miss her more than anyone else at NCIS. It hadn’t sounded like love to Gibbs but lust had its own attachment. He knew that more than anyone.
The doors hissed open and he walked inside. Even though there were no new bodies in residence, Palmer was leaning over a table, studiously pouring over a textbook. “Palmer,” Gibbs greeted, striding in. It was more attention he usually gave Ducky’s assistant and the man’s head snapped up, surprise widening his eyes before they got stony cold.
It was a bad look on him. Palmer was too damn young to be that bitter.
“Doctor Mallard stepped out, Special Agent Gibbs.”
“Yeah, I know. Came to talk to you, Palmer.” Gibbs hopped up on the table Palmer was using for his work.
“Why?” The word was laced with bitterness and suspicion as Palmer stepped back a pace.
“Got some things to work out. You have a problem with me. Spit it out.”
“I have nothing to say to you.” Palmer probably meant it to be haughty or self-righteous, but there was something almost little boy about it that softened Gibbs. Kid couldn’t be more than a couple of years older than Kelly would have been…
“Yeah ya do, Palmer. Is it about Special Agent Lee?”
As if he’d flicked a switch, Palmer rounded on him, eyes blazing. He poked Gibbs in the chest. “You do not have the right to say her name. You…you…murderer! You committed homicide and Michelle is the victim and everyone is afraid to call you on it. Well, you know what? I’m not! How does it feel to be a murderer? How did it feel to kill that little girl’s mother? Did she even matter or was it just a notch on the great sniper’s belt?”
Gibbs sat there stock still and let Palmer vent, watching the emotion in the other man’s eyes. When Palmer’s eyes started to shimmer with tears, Gibbs leaned forward.
“Don’t touch me! Murderer!”
Gibbs lifted his hands and scooted back again. If it had been anyone else, he would have knocked their block off, but this was Palmer and he was different. He wasn’t even as hard as McGee had become.
“Is that what you think? How long have we worked together, Palmer? Since ’04, wasn’t it?” Gibbs worked to keep his voice calm and soothing. When Palmer nodded and didn’t answer, Gibbs continued. “Have you ever known me to kill someone just for the hell of it?”
Palmer stared at the ground now, not replying.
“I haven’t,” Gibbs said in a level tone.
Palmer said something so quietly even Gibbs’ very sensitive hearing almost missed it. He thought he knew what he heard, but he had to be sure.
“Said you were a sniper. You killed before,” Palmer muttered. There was a thread of uncertainty in his voice, timidity starting to creep back in.
Gibbs sighed, nodding. “I was a sniper, yeah.”
“You killed for a career,” Palmer pointed out, voice firming suddenly.
“Not the same thing. Ya wanna know what happened with Lee or are you gonna draw your own conclusions that I killed her in cold blood?” Ever word was bitter on his tongue. The whole situation burned him up inside. Losing Langer, losing Lee. Keating leaving for another of the three-letter agencies. It was such a mess. One he and his damned famous gut should have prevented sooner.
“Okay.” Gibbs watched Palmer settle on the other table, chin raised now even though his gaze was fixed on some point over Gibbs’ shoulder.
“Shooter was holding her at gunpoint. I’d been hit.” He held up his hand and motioned to his face. “She looked me in the eye and told me to do it. She understood what had to happen. Palmer…she made the choice. She died a hero.”
“I don’t believe you.”
Gibbs shrugged, unsure of what to say. He was impressed with the way the younger man was standing up to him. Without working out what he was going to say or the wisdom of it, he began speaking.
“Her death is gonna haunt me, Palmer. Never wanted it to go down that way.”
“You thought she was a traitor, didn’t you?” The vulnerability in Palmer’s voice hit something deep inside Gibbs.
“She was,” Gibbs said softly, getting off the table and moving closer, resting a hand on the other man’s knee. “But she was also a hero. She’ll be remembered as a hero to everyone who cared.”
“Did you?” Gibbs angled his head, surprised that Palmer was now meeting his eyes so easily. This had all changed Palmer and Gibbs was just now realizing how much.
“Care? Did she matter to you?”
Gibbs nodded once, not trusting himself to say anything. He’d never had to kill one of his own before, not as a sniper and not in all his years at NCIS. This death was going to wear on him for a long time. “She matters,” he finally said, breaking the silence, his voice a little hoarse with untapped emotions. With emotions he hadn’t dealt with yet. With emotions he didn’t want to deal with at all. This was different from Kate’s death. Different from Paula’s death. Different from Jenny’s death. He hadn’t pulled the trigger on those. Even Kate’s hadn’t been so damned intimate. She’d been dead as soon as the bullet had torn through her while Michelle had hung on those few seconds.
Palmer fell silent now, wringing his hands, his posture turning inward. He’d clearly expended his emotional energy confronting Gibbs.
“She matters,” Gibbs repeated. He turned away, pouring two measures of Scotch, downing one, refilling the glass. “Know you don’t understand, Palmer, but I did what I had to do. What she wanted me to do.”
Gibbs slipped the glass into Palmer’s hand, curving his fingers around it. “Even if you’re not willing to drink with me, drink to your memories. She wasn’t all bad. She wasn’t all good. She was human.”
Gibbs started to step away but then Palmer cleared his throat, grabbing Gibbs’ attention. The other man was staring at the liquid in the glass, swirling it. When he spoke, his words were barely more than a whisper. “To Michelle.”
“To Michelle,” Gibbs echoed, raising his glass.
MTAC - NCIS Fic