A/N – Sorry it was so long to finish this story. RL has been crazy busy and I have not been able to find a minute to write. I have had many questions about whether this is the "END" of CJ stories. I have one more story to round everything off and then the CJ stories will be finished.
I wanted to take this opportunity once again to thank gaben and truman's shell for their ideas and advice regarding the story line and proper terminology for the academy.
High school was over. Well at least classes were over; exams were still looming on the horizon. CJ and Steven spent the days before and in between the exams revising at the DiNozzo kitchen table. As they were studying for their last exam Steven sat nervously across from his girlfriend periodically observing her instead of working with the textbooks in front of him. On one of these surreptitious gazes CJ caught his eye. His face looked strained or maybe it was worry.
"You ok?" CJ asked before he could quickly look away.
"Ya, I'm fine" he answered trying to sound as non plussed as possible.
"You expect me to believe that?" CJ retorted in a tone reminiscent of an interrogation.
"I… well… I" he sputtered. He did have something that was bothering him but this probably wasn't the best time to share the information.
"Just spit it out, would you. We have an exam to study for and really how bad could it be" CJ sounded annoyed.
Steven huffed a laugh, CJ was wrong, it was bad or at least she would see it that way.
Raising her eyebrows and tilting her head forward CJ signaled that she expected him to continue with verbal confirmation.
"I got an offer of appointment from Annapolis and I've accepted it" Steven's words spilling out of his mouth so fast they were almost unintelligible.
"You WHAT?" CJ yelled, her voice cracking as it reached a pitch not heard from her in quite some time.
"I accepted it" he said head low so that he didn't have to see the look of disappointment and anger in her face.
"You said you were going to talk to be about it before you made a said you weren't sure what you wanted. You said…." She trailed off because right now it didn't matter what he'd said.
"CJ, I got all the letters from all the programs that I applied to….. and when they all arrived they didn't excite me until I got that one…. I realized that was what I really wanted… I didn't tell you earlier because we needed to concentrate on the exams."
She just sat there looking at him. Her own emotions raw and easy to read on her face he couldn't keep his gaze on her as he was making him feel guilty.
Studying was a very quiet affair for the rest of the afternoon and when CJ made a snack she simply placed it in the middle of the table and didn't acknowledge Steven's presence. Steven made several attempts to continue the conversation but CJ would have no part of it and would simply say "I'm trying to study here you know."
Dejected he left before supper calling a goodbye over his shoulder his is stony faced girlfriend.
That night Steven lay awake thinking. He didn't know how he was going to fix this. He wanted CJ's support. No, he needed CJ's support. She had been his best friend for over a decade and he didn't want to lose that. This was a hard enough decision without having to go it alone.
Down the street CJ lay in bed unable to let sleep over take her. She felt betrayed. She wasn't sure she was more upset about him hiding the acceptance or that he had chosen a path he knew she completely disapproved of. It never occurred to her that she was the one being selfish, that she should be congratulating him on this honor.
When the morning light shone through the two teens' bedroom windows they showered, got dressed and ate breakfast not knowing that the one's actions mirrored their own just in different houses. Arriving at the bus stop together they exchanged courteous greetings but nothing more. They sat together in their usual seat but again they did it in silence. CJ not saying anything because she'd been taught 'if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all' and most of the time she didn't listen today she didn't want to say something she might regret later. Steven on the other hand kept his tongue because he knew CJ needed more time to process everything and pushing would only make acceptance take longer.
The both had their exam first thing in the morning and fortunately they were both able to concentrate on the task at hand and finished their respective exams without much trouble. They met in the cafeteria and ate lunch with the silence only being broken to discuss the paper they had just written.
At the end of the day they cordially say goodbye and for the first time in years they didn't take advantage of the opportunity to be together. CJ sat lonely in her living room watching videos. Steven entered his room and through himself on the bed. He was hurting. He didn't realize how much he needed CJ's approval. It bothered him really. He was more concerned about her reaction then he was about his parents.
CJ jumped with surprise when the front door opened and closed. She hadn't heard anyone pull into the driveway. Looking up from the tv screen she was even more stunned to see Gibbs standing the doorway to the living room.
"Hey" she greeted "Whatcha doin' here?"
He walked slowly over the couch and sat down beside his 'neice' gently taking the remote from her hand and using it to turn off the screen.
"I thought we could have a chat" she said looking down into her questioning face.
"Ok" she said shrugging her shoulders and feeling confused.
They then sat without exchanging any words for some time. Then Gibbs began "I heard you aren't very happy with Steven."
CJ's confusion only grew, before she answered many thoughts ran through her head 'how did you know? What did he care? Why was he talking about this?'
"Ya, so" she answered crossing her arms over her chest defiantly.
His immediate response was to raise his eyebrow and purse his lips. Years of dealing with her uncle meant she quickly changed her outward attitude.
"You do realize what an honor it is for Steven to be offered an appointment, right?"
"Ya, I know" her attitude quickly returning.
"Then why the attitude?"
CJ didn't answer right away. She sat staring straight ahead and was deciding what words would best describe her feelings. Finally she began to speak. "He said he would talk to me before he made his decision. He said that he didn't know what he wanted… but he did… and he didn't tell me."
Gibbs didn't say a word he just sat watching the girl, she looked so young with her knees drawn up to her chest, head resting on her hands grasped around her legs. He continued to wait.
"I… I…" CJ started before tears began to spill out of the corners of her eyes. "I …I" Not letting her finish Gibbs wrapped his arm around her and pulled her towards him so that her head rested on his shoulder. He rubbed her upper arm as he spoke.
"You're worried about him? Scared of what might happen?" Gibbs suggested.
Until he'd verbalized CJ hadn't realized that it was fear and not anger that she was feeling. She was terrified that once Steven graduated he could shipped to anywhere in the world. And the world was not a safe place. Steven might be taken from her.
"Your feelings are normal…. But Steven needs support… he needs you to congratulate him as he did for you when you got into the program you wanted… he loves you as much as you love him…."
CJ remained curled up on the couch cuddled into Gibbs listening to the rest of his explanation and story. Gibbs shared his own experience with boot camp and that having someone back home to listen was needed. He explained that Steven would be close to home, closer even then she was. He continued with stories and advice and the teen sat and listened. She would look up into his face every so often and he would smile when their eyes met.
"Angel, things are going to be different, things are going to change, but that doesn't mean that YOU TWO will change and if you do… do it together." After another long pause he added "Do you understand?"
Nodding yes she stayed huddled against him for another few minutes, processing the guilt and selfishness she had been portraying over the last 24 hours. Eventually she sat up slowly, smiled and then commented "I'm going to go and cleaned up" pointing to her face covered in tears.
When CJ returned to the living room she found Steven standing in the middle of the room. Gibbs wasn't anywhere she could see him. The two teens stood looking at each other both examining the face of the other. Then without any warning CJ closed the distance between them, threw her arms around his neck and held him tight, tears running down her face once again. He too returned the embrace and kissed the top of her head. After a few seconds CJ looked up into his face "Congratulations" and then standing on her tip toes and kissed him gently on the cheek. "I AM happy for you… if this is what you truly want… I'm here for you… I'm ….. sorry….I'm sorry I was so selfish" her tears turned to actual sobs.
The smile on Steven's face was all CJ needed to know she had been forgiven. "I …" she started "it's just that…" Steven stopped her by placing his forefinger on her lips. "I know… I understand… you don't need to say it… "
Confusion was once again written all over CJ's face. "How do you know?"
As she finished the sentence she heard movement behind her and watched as Steven's gaze followed the noise. Turning to see who it was CJ remained enclosed in Steven's arms. Seeing Gibbs standing the doorway once again with a steaming cup of coffee CJ realized that her earlier conversation was not kept confidential. In that first second she was about to feel betrayed but the feeling passed as she realized Gibbs had been trying to help and that was definitely a good enough reason to not keep their discussion to himself.
Ordering Chinese takeout the three sat around the kitchen table talking; Gibbs giving advice on Steven's upcoming Plebe summer as well as telling a few stories. Tony and Ziva found them still sitting at the table the garbage from supper still strewn about. Gibbs along with the CJ and Steven had made plans have how they could support each other through the distance as he had experience with such things.
When CJ went to bed that night she felt more at ease with the upcoming life change then she had before. Things were going to be alright, things would work out, and she had family that supported them both. And Steven was still Steven; they were going to be there for each other helping each other as needed.