The Sincerest Form of Flattery

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Jimmy settled himself comfortably on a stool and set about carefully closing the Y-incision currently marring the body before him. Doctor Mallard had finished with the autopsy and all that was left was a little clean up before they could pass the deceased along to the funeral home.

"I know they think I'm a mama's boy," Jimmy said, referring to the team who had just left. "Which is really kind of funny, because mom and dad hated it when I told them I'd decided to be a medical examiner." He squinted, threading the heavy needle carefully. "'All those years of medical school and you aren't even going to be helping people,'" he quoted.

Pressing the lips of the incision together, he started his first stitch as he went on. "I guess the dead don't count as people anymore. At least not to mom. I know Doctor Mallard would disagree. It's why he talks to them. There's respect and there's indifference and it's hard to tell which is which sometimes, he says. Being careful and being professional isn't all there is to it.

"There don't seem to be too many people that share that opinion, though." Jimmy paused and sat back to check the neatness of his work. He wasn't about to get criticized twice for something as simple as a row of stitches, even if Doctor Mallard was in a bad mood. "We heard stories about the doctor even in college. My classmates all figured he was crazy or senile. Or both. They figured that was why he was working for an obscure agency like NCIS; no one else would have him."

Jimmy smiled to himself as he worked. "You'd think a bunch of medical students would be smarter than that. Everyone tells stories about Doctor Mallard, but everyone knows him, too. He has connections with more coroners and MEs than anyone else in this profession. Crazy people don't have networks like that.

"As for NCIS, well, I've been here less than two years and I've seen more weird and interesting cases than I expected to run into in my whole career. When you've been practicing for as long as Doctor Mallard has, I bet it takes more than gunshot wounds and blows to the head to keep things interesting."

Pausing, Jimmy frowned for a moment. "Maybe I should have saved applying to NCIS until the end of my career." He shrugged and went back to stitching. "Too late now. Besides, I have to have a career before I worry about how it ends. That's why I jumped on this job when it opened up. I can't think of anyone better to learn from than Doctor Mallard. Eventually, when I get good enough, maybe he'll even pass along a few of those connections he's made."

Jimmy tied off the first set of stitches and sat back for a moment, sighing. "I have a feeling that's going to be awhile, though. There's so much that I swear they didn't even mention in school. Sometimes I feel like if I stuff one more obscure detail into my brain, something is going to have to get pushed out. I wonder if Doctor Mallard ever feels like that. He's definitely full of obscure details. And stories." Jimmy smiled. "I think I'm learning more just by listening to him than I did in all my history classes. And geography classes. And half a dozen other classes. Okay, maybe he rambles a bit, but I don't mind. It's interesting."

A subdued whooshing sound interrupted and Jimmy broke off suddenly. He sat up, glancing around self-consciously, but he was still alone in autopsy. Except for Lieutenant Sutherland, of course.

"Just the air conditioning," Jimmy said to himself, sighing in relief. He glanced down at the lieutentant. "I swear I'm not just copying Doctor Mallard," he told the body. "It just gets way too quiet in here sometimes."