Notes and disclaimers: all made up. All characters property of large corporate entities who are not me. No profit garnered here ever. Thanks to Tigs and Circusgirl for beta magic. Title from Kristin Hersh.




AND WHEN YOU'RE SMOKE, HOW DO YOU SPEAK?



The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible – Oscar Wilde


An advantage of working for NCIS was that this was only the fifth time in the last decade that Ducky had had to autopsy anyone under the voting age. Today was not advantageous: he had two children on his tables.

*

"Both kids, uh, both boys, were murdered," McGee said.

Like Tony, he kept his eyes down, like looking at Gibbs or anyone else would be taboo. Or possibly too painful. Ziva wondered if she was the only one in the room used to dealing with dead teenagers and younger. Tony, she remembered, had worked for the police in Baltimore, so no, she was not the only one. She decided "used to" was the wrong phrase. It had been a more regular occurrence in her previous position. And Tony's. No one was truly used to such an event.

"Ducky will give us more details," Ziva said. "But yes, it was clearly not an accident."

"Clearly," Gibbs said. He wasn´t as snappish as Ziva expected. She thought something like this would make him angry rather than quiet and patient. His "clearly" was barely even exasperated.

Ziva had decided she wanted to decipher and tally the notes in Gibbs's words. The many shades and tones of feeling in his words. Like music, she would try to hear the melody and harmony and all the other parts. To better understand him.

She had decided when they stepped into the house where the children had been discovered. Where they had lived. She knew it was a defense mechanism.

*

Ducky briefly thought about asking Mr. Palmer if he knew the story of Medea and the child she had after the ones she murdered. He decided this was not the time.

*

"The killer had to get on the naval base, to the house," Ziva said. "Enter the home without alarming the boys. While the younger one would not be much of a threat to an adult, the older was 13, 5'6" and 150 pounds. He played Papa Warbucks."

"Pop Warner," Tony said. "It's football. For kids. Snoop Dogg has his own team out in LA." Tony's attempt at distraction and changing the mood petered out before anyone even told him to stop. Tony said, "He played wide receiver. He was pretty good."

McGee said, "Snoop Dogg?" He looked back at his desk. "No, you mean the boy. Sorry, boss."

"You think the older boy would have been a threat," Gibbs said.

Ziva declined to state the things she'd seen thirteen year old boys do in her time. She noted Tony did not add anything either. Many of those thirteen year olds had been armed, of course. Unlike a boy who spent his Sundays playing American football. She said, "He did seem to have more defensive wounds."

She wondered when they had all tacitly decided to not use the children's names.

*

Ducky had chosen to do the youngest boy's autopsy first. He thought that would be the harder of the two. As he catalogued the third of the older boy's defensive wounds and Mr. Palmer nodded while covering another involuntary gag, Ducky realized he had likely chosen wrong.

*

Abby was subdued, of course. She delivered her findings without any of her usual tangents. She did not mention what she had done the night before and there was no music on in the lab. When Ziva looked back, Abby had the Redskins figurine from the younger one's room in her gloved hands. She put it on a shelf. It was apparently not evidence.

She went upstairs to report Abby's findings. The ID pictures of the mother and father were on the large screen. The father had never served in the military. "That is what Abby thought, as well," Ziva said. "I can enumerate the evidence that leads to thinking one of the parents is responsible, if you want."

"Statistically," McGee said. "The father is most likely because of the age of the children." He looked like he wanted to throw up. But then, he had looked that way since the crime scene.

No one said anything.

*

"It was the father," Mr. Palmer said.

Ducky said, "Are they sure?"

"They're bringing us the mother. Her body," Mr. Palmer said.

Ducky was glad that both of her children were already finished and off the tables. He wouldn't want her to see, he thought.

*

"No history of abuse," Ziva said. "No surreptitious hospital visits by the mother. She never called a domestic abuse hotline. She never consulted her pastor or superior officer. We talked to the neighbors and again, we found nothing. We talked to the teachers and guidance counselors at the boys' schools. They never showed any signs of abuse either. They were popular, without being bullies or cruel."

Tony said, "Abby says the younger child had a different father than the older one."

Gibbs raised his eyebrows and then grimaced. "I take it that would probably be news to the boy and the father."

"Maybe not the father," Ziva said.

"That's not a motive," McGee said. "I mean, is it? Why kill both?"

Tony said, "Why kill either?"

Gibbs said, "You think there's going to be logic here?" He almost sounded like he had genuine hope someone would say yes. It was only a tiny note, a faint whiff.

*

The mother put up the least fight of all.

"She knew her children were dead," Ducky said. Mr. Palmer did not disagree with the assumption.

*

"So there was no reason," McGee said. "Except maybe he found out his younger son wasn't his. So he snapped, killed both kids, killed his wife and then himself. No one wanted revenge or anything like that. It wasn't for money or anything we can find. It was all in his head. It came out nowhere. The father wasn't on any drugs or anything."

"Yes," Gibbs said. No notes besides tired, Ziva thought.

"And there was no warning, nothing could have been fucking done," Tony said. "Sorry, boss."

"I've heard the word before," Gibbs said.

"I know it's, I just don't understand," McGee said.

"No," Gibbs said. And this time there were too many notes for Ziva to discern.

THE END.


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