A/N - This is the last installment of the CJ stories. I hope to show you where she is going... and maybe a few antidotes of where she's been ... I have not yet decided exactly what will be included but I do know how it will end... I thank all the readers who have read, reviewed and continue to do so... I have had a couple of requests and will try my best to include those things here if they fit...
Exams were over and the graduation ceremony was only a couple of days away. CJ was full of mixed emotions. Graduating was such an exciting time, new starts, new adventures all waiting on the horizon. But it was also full of losses. She was losing the known and heading straight into the uncharted territory.
And to top it off the day after high school graduation was Steven's Induction Day to the Annapolis Naval Academy. CJ still had major reservations about his chosen career but with Gibbs' help had seen that she needed to support her best friend is what he wanted and be there for him. After their initial conversation Gibbs had spoken to CJ a few more times about what Steven's choice meant and what he would be experiencing. At one point in the conversation when Gibbs was describing Plebe summer CJ stopped him and with as smile on her face and a laugh in her voice "People chose this on purpose?" Responding by tickling her mercilessly he continued his description. He described it as a method of indoctrination, CJ thought it was more like brain washing but kept her thoughts and feelings to herself realizing that they might come across as hurtful.
CJ sat on Steven's bed as he packed. Tonight was graduation, tomorrow he would be leaving. CJ couldn't muster the enthusiasm for today's activities dwelling instead on what was to come. Steven reading CJ's sullen face correctly decided he needed to get CJ laughing or things were going to get pretty dark. Throwing her a booklet he said "Read it to me again… so I'm ready for tomorrow".
CJ took the booklet and began to read. She'd done this several other times and so Steven knew what to expect. In a formal military tone CJ read from a random page and random paragraph "Plebe summer is no gentle easing into the military routine. Soon after entering the gate on Induction Day you are put into uniform and taught how to salute". CJ paused long enough to do a half assed salute, knowing that it would drive Steven nuts. She continued to take excerpts from the booklet, from this page and that. Her tone and occasional hand gestures keeping the mood light and Steven smiling.
Steven for his part was terrified. What had he gotten himself into? He was ultimately a computer geek and he'd chosen a career in the military. Now he would study computer engineering getting there not the 'normal' path. Another thing that worried him was how happy his father was. What if he failed? What if he couldn't handle it? Would Commander Arnott disown him because he couldn't cut it? CJ's escapade helped him keep his mind off of that which was truly bothering him.
Continuing to pack, his mind wondering he didn't hear CJ's question until she pitched his pillow at him. "Hey… it says here that no car without DOD permits is allowed to park on campus… that people have to park at the stadium… does your dad had a DOD permit?"
"Ah… ya… he does… what does that matter?"
"'cause now we don't have to park at the stadium and take the shuttle bus with everyone… I think you father is going to stand out enough I don't need to be on the bus alone with him and your mother being looked at by everyone" CJ explained.
Steven didn't understand that statement on so many levels but he decided to only address the practical one. "Why would you be alone with my parents?"
"Ah … DUH!... We drop you off… you start the registration process… and well… we get 'kicked' out… we don't see you again until the Induction Ceremony at ….. 4:45 pm… so if we drop you off and have to park at the stadium then I have to take the shuttle bus with them…. "
"Oh… I didn't read that part" Steven said quietly. Then thinking out loud he said "You don't have to come with me you know."
"Steven Michael Arnott you take that back right now" CJ barked in her most authoritative voice while wagging her finger at him.
"I just mean… it's going to be a long day for you… and well… you'll be alone with my parents ALL day…what are you going to talk about?" His face contorted with worry. Knowing her friend like she did she understood that the worry was more about his choices, his summer then her and his parents.
"Well… let's see… " she started looking up and pursing her lips while tapping her finger on her chin "I think as long as I avoid any discussion about our sex life I should be ok". This time it was Steven's turn to pitch the pillow, both teens erupting in gales of laughter.
The took a few moments to 'make out' before CJ stood, straightened her hair and then announced that she'd best get home and get ready for this evenings events.
At 4 CJ stepped into the shower in her own home, down the street Steven was doing the same. Allowing the hot water to run down their faces they contemplated tonight, tomorrow and themselves. At 4:30 they both climbed out of their showers and stood staring at their steam encrusted mirror. CJ used the hair dryer to clear a circle big enough to see her own face. Steven used the outside of his fist to do the same. Talking to her reflection was not a new thing for CJ but this time she was convincing herself that Steven would be alright. He for the first time in his life spoke to his reflection ordering it to 'smarten up' and telling himself he'd made the right choice.
By five both were dressed and waiting by their respective front doors. Tony hurriedly grabbing his keys as they all headed to the car while Mrs. Arnott was running back into the house to grab her hand bag. Driving into the city they arrived at the parking lot together and holding hands CJ and Steven lead their parents into the restaurant.
It had been weeks ago that they planned on eating dinner together before the graduation ceremony. CJ was not sure what possessed her to think of the idea. It was probably borne out of selfishness that she wanted to be with Steven as much as possible but knew that both sets of parents would want to have that night with their child.
CJ's extended family was not joining them for dinner. An after graduation dessert was planned where the entire crew would gather. Steven and his family were also invited to that portion of the evening.
Tonight signified the end of an era, the end of adolescence, the end of the world as CJ knew it.