Disclaimer: I own none of the NCIS characters.
Author's Note: I doubt this story will make any sense on its own! However, it should be the last of the introductory stories to fully integrate James into Gibbs life.
The day of Johnston's funeral had finally come. To say Gibbs was concerned about James' was an understatement – he completely and utterly consumed by worry. He hadn't felt like this since Kelly had decided she had wanted to take up kickboxing. Max was also going; Gibbs may have had some input in that decision, with his mother and step-father who James had never met. Gibbs was anxious about that too – the mother, Christa, had not seemed too keen on keeping James in Max's life.
'Are you ready?' he asked James. James nodded in reply; he was not in a talking mood. He looked smart though, dressed in his new grey and black striped shirt and black jeans. Gibbs handed him a plastic bag and told James to open it. He explained, 'I thought you might need it today.'
James smiled and nodded – it was a burgundy tie. Gibbs told him to put it on while he went to put his shoes on. When Gibbs returned a few minutes later James was still staring at the tie. James looked at Gibbs sheepishly. Gibbs raised his eyebrows.
'What?' he asked.
'Um… I don't know how to do it.' He answered. Gibbs was annoyed that the possibility of James not knowing how to fix a tie had not crossed his mind.
'That's ok. I'll show you.'
Gibbs undid his own tie and stood next to James so he could copy his movements. James had it nailed (well, slightly off centre) on the 5th attempt. Gibbs smiled as he watched James – his face was screwed up in concentration.
The journey was a silent one. Luckily, living in D.C. meant the marine base was not too far and they hadn't had to leave too early to get there. There was something about the military that meant that events tended to be held in the morning – Johnston's funeral was scheduled for 11am. If James was up for it, Gibbs had something scheduled for the afternoon as an attempt to cheer him up. The duo arrived at 10.44 exactly and found a place to park. As soon as they entered, Gibbs saw a blonde haired boy run over to James.
'James! James! James!' James smiled, and as he swooped down to pick him up Gibbs saw the resemblance between Max and his late father. A tight-lipped woman followed, and Gibbs knew it was his mother. She reached over to grab Max back – James showed no emotion. Gibbs inwardly frowned – there was no need for that.
'Max,' she scolded, 'what did I tell you about running in here?'
Gibbs disliked this woman, but he kept up his front for James' sake.
James, rather bravely, took control of the situation. 'Hey Max. This is Gibbs. What have you been up to with your mum?'
Max said hello back and, in the slightly garbled way of a 4 year old, told James about his new teacher.
'Mr. Gibbs, we spoke on the phone.' She said as she held up her hand to shake.
An overly- polite conversation ensued, but the frostiness was overshadowed by James and Max. Suddenly Max burst out, 'Mum, can James sit at the front with us? Please?' he asked.
'Honey, I don't think so. They have seats further back.'
After a pause, Max tried again, 'James, will you sit with me? Please?'
Gibbs was still unsure of this woman, but she was fine with her son, so his acceptance of her grew. But he knew he was damn proud of what James said next.
'That's up to your mum Max. It looks like just family at the front.' James said levelly, looking at Max.
Due to another pleading glance from Max, Christa (or Mrs. Haywire) decided to compromise. Gibbs and James were told to sit on the benches directly behind the family. Christa told Max to go and sit down, and spoke to James,
'Be warned, Max is going to make a 'speech', he wants to tell the world he loves his father. Anyway, I have a duty to tell you this – my ex made you a godfather. I'm not sure what he was thinking, making a kid a godfather.' Her facial expression was soft when talking about Max, but returned to neutral soon after. After that, she turned on her heal to sit down.
Gibbs was bristling – how dare she offend James like that? In contrast, James was astounded, him – a godfather? Gibbs decided it was time for them to sit down – once they were settled he whispered in James' ear. 'You did well to talk to her like that. You'll make a great godfather.'
The service was short. Half of the room was in tears which made it very emotional. The family and close friends made their way to the yard – there was going to be another short ceremony outside. Gibbs had found it hard watching James, he had remained completely impassive during the whole process, but he knew it had to have hurt inside. Taking them both by surprise, Max grabbed James hand and dragged him out of his seat. Max was in tears, and James had no option but to follow him. Gibbs gave an apologetic (but somehow forceful) glance to Christa and made to follow – there was no way he was leaving his kid alone. Even she didn't retaliate.
'Hey kiddo. You're alright.' James comforted him. His mother had been up at the podium for the whole service and her husband had had no idea what to do with a crying kid. James picked Max up and hugged him, while he cried into his shoulder.
When they got to the grave, James set Max down and stayed kneeling beside him, still holding his hand. The priest made a few comments before the volleys were fired. And, as suddenly as it had started, it was all over. Everyone went their separate ways, some left while others made their way to thank the priest.
'Kiddo, look at me.' James whispered to Max.
Max looked up at him with a tear-streaked face. 'You're going to be ok, I promise.'
'I miss daddy.'
'I know.' James hugged him again. Max's mother was astounded at James – the boy she considered a 'stranger'. Gibbs was amazed as well – he couldn't believe the maturity James was showing and the depth of the relationship these two had. It really was unique.
Max straightened up. 'Steve said only girls cry.'
James expression darkened for a fraction of a second. 'Don't listen to him Max.' James said firmly. 'You can cry as much as you want.'
Innocently, Max asked, 'Do you cry James?'
James answered, 'Boys cry too.' Max nodded his head and hugged James tightly. It had gone unnoticed to Max, but Gibbs had realized that James had not actually answered the question.
Eventually, Max calmed down. His mother made his way towards him. She gave James a searching look, almost if she was trying to take back her earlier comment – Gibbs knew it wouldn't happen though, she was too proud.
'Honey, if you come with me, there's food inside. And I got your favourite, cookies!' Max grinned, every 4 year old loves cookies.
'Just before we go, I have something to tell you. James is your new godfather.'
Max looked puzzled. 'What's godfather?'
James answered for her, 'It means you get to see me a lot more kiddo!'
Author's Note: I have no idea if you can make a 10 year old a godfather, but it's done for the purposes of this story. I know it's a bit morbid, but it gets better from now on, I promise!