They sat in the restaurant and ordered lunch. Six teens in dress clothes was not a common sight on Saturday afternoons and so the unknowing waitress cheerfully asked. "You kids skipped out of a wedding or something?"
Owen being the only one with the where withal to answer retorted "No, a funeral." His tone and scowl quickly wiped the stupid grin off the woman's face. The meal was not a joyful occasion but an opportunity to reintegrate into the world. By the time desert dishes were cleared the group was back to taking without intermittent sniffles and the conversation flowed at a normal pace and tenor.
Together they drove to CJ's house and as the group piled through the front door CJ noticed her parents and uncle at the kitchen table eating their own lunch. She nodded an acknowledgment of their presence and then followed her friends into the living room. Each took a turn to change out of their dress clothes and sat for a short time trying to decide which of the comedies they would include in their movie mania for the rest of the afternoon and evening.
Several of them headed to the kitchen to make popcorn and fetch sodas while the others remained in the living room setting up the movie and sound system. Tony, Ziva and Gibbs remained quietly at the table watching as the group went through the steps they had on many Saturday evenings. There was no outward sign that they were hurting or confused. Atticus laughed at CJ as she unsuccessfully tried to catch the kernels as the popcorn spilled over the edge of the bowl and onto the counter and floor. They heard Drew gently rib Owen who was trying to get the movie fast forwarded through the ads and was having terrible difficulties.
Smiling Gibbs nodded to his once upon a time agents as he stood. He hugged CJ close and kissed the top of her head as she made her way back to the couch with bowls of popcorn. His family was going to be ok. CJ was processing the events of the week and although it would take her time she would recover and be able to remember her friend without tears or sadness. His adult children would soon realize that they need not feel guilty for being thankful their daughter was not in that fateful crash. These were human emotions and ones that ultimately you had no control in feeling, just control in what you did with them.
Tony took off to have dinner and drinks with McGee. Something they had started when they were no longer on the same team. It was not an easy task to arrange as they were often on call on opposite weekends. Ziva first went for a run and then squirreled herself away in her room with a new book.
CJ arrived at school on Monday and she and Steven grabbed their things from their lockers. Heading to class felt very foreign. It had only been 4 days since she'd attended classes regularly but stepping into English CJ couldn't help but feel that every set of eyes followed her progression to her desk. CJ's usual chatty banter wasn't heard in any of her classes all day. She spent the quiet of the classrooms to think. Questions still floated in her head and no answers were there to be fished out of the waves . CJ still craved time with her friends.
Throughout the week they were given updates on Avery's condition. He had been transferred out of ICU by Tuesday morning and on Friday afternoon he was released from the hospital completely. Mr. Cooperland had hesitantly approached their table at lunch hour to give them a one on one update. Avery's parents had called to let the school know he would be off for another week recovering at home but that it was suggested he return to school as soon as possible for mental health reasons. Mr. Cooperland explained that Avery had a crush jaw and it would still be wired shut when he returned to school. Thankful for news and also the respect from the administration to be given special updates the teens returned to their lunches happily.
By the time CJ was heading to NCIS that Friday afternoon her loneliness had subsided and she was once again able to concentrate in class. Time really was what healed many wounds. Things were returning to normal and that was both comforting and upsetting to CJ. She was happy that the she felt like the world was still turning on its axis. Yet she felt guilt and confusion that the world could continue to be normal after such a catastrophe. It would take her many months for her to finally get everything in order but once she had she understood those things that were comprehendible and accepted that there were things she could not answer she began feeling a lot better.
The one question that CJ was never able to answer or let go of was WHY?