The group sat around the table silently most looked down at their coffee cups or plates feeling like intruders in a personal moment. The spell finally broken when the waiter brought the check and handed it to Tony. Everyone began talking at once, what was the plan now? Who was going to come back to the house? With the decisions made the group stood and made their way out to vehicles each of them climbing into one of the cars that had brought them all to the restaurant in the first place.
The drive home wasn't that long as it wasn't rush hour anymore, but CJ spent the time replaying the stories her 'family' had told. Smiling and laughing internally as she pictured the actual events. She also spent a few moments remembering her own stories about these people. Times she had spent with them, the times that she would always remember about them. There would be people who would suggest that CJ did not have the 'best' of upbringings as she was left with a sitter a lot or alone as she got older. But to CJ she wouldn't trade her family for the world. She was proud of what they did and she was glad that they cared for her as much as they did and loved her as much as their own flesh and blood.
Tony was the second vehicle to arrive home and he left CJ in the car as he made his way inside. "You can't come in until everyone is here."
"Pardon me?" she asked incredulous.
"I promised everyone that they would all be here for you to open your presents. So you need to wait outside until everyone gets here."
As this discussion was taking place the others arrived and they all congregated on the front porch which in reality wasn't large enough for all of them. Tony shoo'd them all inside while he gently pulled CJ back away from the door so that everyone could enter without hindrance. While waiting Tony undid his tie and used it to blindfold CJ. He led her to the door and scooted into the hallway away from his daughter.
CJ clumsily stepped into the house and tried to proceed through the entrance by memory. She only took half a step before an arm blocked her way. She stopped and turned to face her restrainer. And while she heard Cindy's voice count out 1, 2 she felt very light taps to her bottom. CJ laughed as she quickly came to understand what was happening. The arm was lowered and CJ walked forward one step before another arm was raised and blocked her way. This time it was Jimmy's voice that counted out 3, 4 as again she felt a light tap with each number spoken. This time when the arm was lifted she only walked one step and never felt an arm lowered to block her way. Abby's voice counted out 5,6 with their corresponding birthday spanks. Stepping forward one pace CJ stopped in beside the next adult in line. Tim's swats were so light that she could barely tell they had made contact and knew more because he counted out 7, 8. CJ figured that Tim's one and only attempt at a physical reprimand had sort of back fired he was not confident in even this little charade. CJ continued to smile as she stepped forward willingly again and stopped again without physical restraint. Gibbs' voice was heard loud and clear count out 9 as a solid swat landed. "Ow" CJ scowled in his direction "that was not gentle." "Who said it had to be gentle" he said with a smile in his voice. 10, 11 were counted in the same confident tone and the matching swats were just as firm as the first. CJ playfully pouted, stomped her foot and glared at him through her blindfold. Gibbs gently pushed her ahead so that she was now beside her mother. Counting 12, 13, 14 with gentle smacks landing as each number was spoken. CJ now stepped forward to beside her father; the last person in this line of silliness. Like Gibbs Tony did not swat gently but they were not severe enough to actually be considered punishment quality. He counted 15, 16 and then with the last one landing to him exclaim "and one to grow on".
"Now that you have all had a lot of fun at my expense can you PLEASE take this blindfold off!" CJ barked in feigned indignation.
"Sure" Tony answered as they all stood in front of CJ. Tony reached out and took off the blindfold. CJ stood in her front entrance staring at her family. They were all standing around a bright yellow bicycle with a big red bow wrapped around its handle bars. Not knowing exactly what to say or how to say it CJ just smiled at her family and gave each member a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek. The adults all sat back and drank some coffee and CJ took her bike out for a quick spin before it got dark.