Title: Concrete Angel
Characters/Pairings: Jimmy/Michelle, Abby
Genre: Angst, songfic
Word Count: 2500
Warnings: Some faint spoilers for Chimera. Violent imagery and mentions of child abuse. The song belongs to Martina McBride
Summary: While Ducky was off on the Chimera, what was Jimmy up to in autopsy?
Jimmy secured the last of the x-rays in the light box, each one bearing a legend in the corner that said Sarah Barnes, age nine. They'd be ready and waiting for whichever ME was sent in to do the autopsy. With a deep sigh, Jimmy turned back to the tiny body on the cold table. He was running out of noninvasive tests and preparations.
He could probably go up to Abby for company, check up on Doctor Mallard and Agent Gibbs, but it didn't feel right. He didn't want to leave her alone.
Autopsy was all too quiet without the usually verbose presence of Doctor Mallard. The silence was starting to get to Jimmy, so he pulled out the Ipod he usually hid in the desk. Just a bit of noise, a touch of a distraction while he cleaned the body.
He shivered as the words of Martina McBride's Concrete Angel began to echo through his ears. It was all too appropriate today.
“What were you holding back?” Jimmy whispered to the child. She lay on the table, her blue eyes now closed in death, her blonde hair matted with blood, a scalp laceration being one of the more minor injuries she'd sustained in the battering that had finally taken her life.
Her dress was folded in an evidence bag, laying with the blood sample and various detritus he'd found in an evidence sweep, all waiting for him to take them to Abby.
The bruises certainly weren't hidden now. The bright lights of Autopsy lit up every dark shadow on her fair skin, and there were plenty. Gloved fingers traced the dark bruise along her jaw before Jimmy turned to grab a wet washcloth. He might not be able to begin the cutting but he could wash her down.
As he turns, he caught the door sliding open from the corner of his eye. Even as his hand slipped down to turn off his Ipod, he turned to see Michelle come gliding into the formerly lifeless room.
“Hey,” she said shyly, walking towards him with a sway in her hips.
“Hey,” he replied uncertainly, glancing back over his shoulder at the girl on the table.
“You expecting anyone?” she asked teasingly, resting her hands against his chest.
With her fingers at nipple level for him, her hands were about at eye level for her. Usually, that reminder of how small she was, how delicate, seemed a turn on. Not today. “This isn't a good time,” he said, gripping her wrists lightly and pulling her hands away from his scrubs.
“Why?” she asked, not hiding her confusion. She didn't resist his touch, but also didn't move away. “Doctor Mallard's off on some secret mission. We have the place to ourselves.”
“Agent Balboa caught a new case and I ... I'm sorry, Michelle. I just can't right now.” How could he explain to her that, no matter how long you worked down here, there were cases that you couldn't numb yourself to, that there weren't enough jokes in the world to help you deal with. Some situations were just reminders that humans were animals in civilized (and sometimes not so civilized) clothing. Those reminders did nothing for his libido, even when the fission of the forbidden was added.
“What's so important?” She pulled away now and walked past him. It took a moment for the body on the table to register, but when it did she gasped. “Oh ...” she breathed, looking horrified. “What happened?”
“Her mother ... well, we don't know for sure yet,” Jimmy admitted. “Agent Balboa is investigating still, and of course no one is here to finish the autopsy. I'm just setting things up.”
“I'm ... I'm sorry for interrupting,” Michelle gasped, turning away from the hard sight. “I should ... should go. I'll just ... I'll contact you later ... maybe tomorrow ... I'm sorry.” As she stuttered, she began to move towards the door, slowly at first and then faster and faster. By the time the doors whooshed open in front of her she was almost running. Jimmy wasn't entirely surprised to hear gagging before the door shut behind her.
He sighed deeply. He liked Michelle, maybe even loved her, but there were points where they just didn't seem to understand each other. He knew he should probably follow, comfort her, but instead he went back to what he'd been doing. He could be there for Michelle later, or someone else would help. There was no one else to help little Sarah and he still needed to wash her down.
He hit play.
Bearing the burden of a secret storm”
The words brought a prick of tears to his eyes. What secrets had this child known? Who knew how long this had been going on? Well, Agent Balboa would try and find out. NCIS agents were trained to look behind the mask.
Though, it was a pity Agent Gibbs wasn't in town. Jimmy had seen him on cases with hurt kids before. Nothing could stop him.
“Someone will do right by you,” he promised as he washed the blood from her forehead and hair. If Agent Balboa didn't then Agent Gibbs would when he got back, that Jimmy was sure of. It was a promise that was safe to make.
That line always made him cry. Working this job had taught him how sacred every life was, how special, how precious. Even though he saw only the remains of those lives, he saw the impact they all made.
“My mother would have loved you,” he told her, gently working the knots from her long blonde hair. “She always wanted a daughter.”
If no one else would love her, then he would.
In a world that she can't rise above”
Rigor had set in and Jimmy worked delicately to wash each stiff finger. The comparison made him laugh softly. Maybe it was sick and inappropriate, but you had to have a twisted sense of humor to survive in this line of work. Though, maybe his was a bit more inappropriate than most, given how often even Doctor Mallard gave him weird looks for his comments.
Oh well, he'd sort it all out eventually.
At least he'd never gone so far as to molest the corpses under his care, no matter what Agent McGee had written in his book.
Where she's loved
What did she dream of? Jimmy wondered.
When he'd been ten, he'd dreamed of being a doctor, and his parents had supported his dream. He didn't know what he'd have done if he hadn't had that support.
This girl had probably had no such support. Did she dream of getting away from home? Of parents who loved her? Of making a friend?
Maybe she'd had friends. But if so, why hadn't anyone noticed? The bruises that covered her arms were yellow and fading now, but they had been visible below the sleeves of the dress she'd been wearing.
The neighbors hear but they turn out the light
A fragile soul caught in the hands of fate
When morning comes it will be too late”
Jimmy jumped at as a husky voice cut through the next verse. A gloved hand slapped the paused button as he turned to find Abby had slipped in while he was working.
“We'll take care of this case,” she added confidently
“Too bad we're too late for her,” Jimmy replied sadly, turning back to the table.
Abby walked up and stood at his side, empathy radiating from her skin. He'd always admired that ability in her. It wasn't the only thing he'd admired about her, but that admiration never got him anywhere with the forensic technician and now he had Michelle.
But it was still Abby who could stand next to him and radiate understanding.
“It's often too late by the time they get to us,” Abby said.
“We're the last line. Someone else should have acted before she got to us,” Jimmy said harshly.
Abby didn't say anything, just leaning her head against his slumped shoulder, providing comfort in her unique way.
He stood there, absorbing that comfort in silence for several minutes, but he couldn't stay silent forever. “Are you here for the evidence?” he finally asked.
“Whatever you've got ready,” Abby said.
“Everything's on the table,” he said, not really trying to turn to point. He didn't want to move right now, even if it did mean he was staring at the array of technicolor bruises across the small ribcage before him. Without meaning to, he started estimating the timeline of her beatings based on the shades of purple and yellow radiating across the lightly protruding ribs.
“How did she die?” Abby asked softly, her fingers reaching out to gently cup a bruised cheek, but stopping before she made contact. She wasn't wearing gloves.
“Um, well, as you can see, the autopsy hasn't been performed yet,” Jimmy stuttered. But even so, his fingers reached out to press against the bruise that marked the site of the fatal blow.
Abby straightened and punched him lightly on the shoulder. “But you took x-rays.”
As violent as it was, it was very Abby and that was comforting. “Whoever beat her broke three ribs,” Jimmy said glancing over at the x-rays he had studied as he developed them. “And not for the first time.”
“Whoever?” Abby questioned sharply.
“I don't have direct evidence it was her mother,” Jimmy pointed out.
“Yet,” she added viciously. “So, broken ribs?”
“One punctured her left lung and it collapsed. Cause of death was probably heart failure from the pressure.”
“Poor child,” Abby whispered. “Someone should have noticed.”
“Agent Balboa promised to interview the neighbors and everyone at her school.” Jimmy remembered the pained expression on the Special Agent's face while he'd looked at the body. “I don't think he'll be gentle about it.”
Abby growled. “I just hope it makes them think twice next time. She wanted to be a doctor, I read it in her journal. She wanted to help people, make them better.”
“I bet she would have been a great doctor,” he said, more to the child than to Abby.
“She would have. Her father's a doctor in on the USS Kitty Hawk.” As she spoke, Abby nudged him in a friendly manner, accidentally turning his Ipod back on.
“She wrote that just before he left, her father watched The Little Princess with her.”
“She read the book while he was gone, but she liked the movie better because the father survived.”
Where she's loved”
“She thought she'd feel like Sarah Crewe when he got back. He was going to retire and stay home after this tour.”
Jimmy finally slapped the Ipod to pause the music. “Too late,” he whispered sadly. “How long was he gone?”
“Almost a year.”
“I wonder what went wrong.”
“Well, if Agent Balboa can't find out, Gibbs will. When he gets back.” Abby smiled at him reassuringly.
“I hope he and Doctor Mallard are all right ... wherever it is they are.”
Abby bounced, looking embarrassed. “Oh, I was just going to come down and grab the evidence.” She ran over to the table with its pitiful pile of evidence, the few remains of one small girl's life. “I've got to run back. They should arrive any moment and when they do they'll call.” A flurry of pen strokes left signatures on every bag. “Sorry to grab and run ...”
“It's ... it's all right,” Jimmy stuttered, amazed as always by the energy she managed to expend and still stay upright.
“I'll come check on you later,” she promised, hustling over to plant a kiss on his cheek before rushing out. In the open doorway she paused and looked back. “Or if it gets to be too much, come on up.”
“I don't want to leave her alone yet ... but thanks,” he said, grinning under his glasses as she grinned back and ran for the elevator.
He turned the music back on, shaking his head with amazement. Abby was a heck of a girl.
“She's an angel,” he told Sarah as he started to wash her legs. “And so are you.”
“It'll be all over soon, sweetheart,” he promised. “You just rest and let us take care of everything.”
“The autopsy won't be fun, but it won't hurt a bit. It's too late for that. But once it's over, you can rest and know everything's all right. I bet it's beautiful up there, in Heaven.”
The phone rang and Jimmy turned off the music as he strode over and turned on the speaker phone.
“Mr. Palmer? This is Agent Balboa.”
“What can I do for you, sir?” The honorific almost felt odd in his mouth after so many years of Agent Gibbs correcting him.
“Is Sarah Barnes presentable? Her father's COD just landed and he's on his way to identify her.”
“I'll have her ready,” Jimmy promised.
He turned his Ipod back on as he turned back to Sarah.
“You're not forgotten,” Jimmy promised as he washed the last of the blood from her skin. “You're father's coming. Perhaps a little late, but he's coming. And don't worry, we'll take good care of him.”
In a world that she can't rise above”
Jimmy fetched a fresh white cloth and laid it over her, covering the bruises and the protruding ribs. With her hair drying and her eyes closed she almost looked like she was just sleeping, much better than lying in the puddle of blood where they'd found her.
Where she's loved”
“We'll take good care of both of you.”