Disclaimer: I own none of the NCIS characters.
Author's Note: I've made a small adjustment to the previous chapter, thank you for pointing it out that 4, not 10, year old's love cookies!
Max exchanged James' hand for his mother's and made his way back inside.
Gibbs wanted to ask if James was ok, but knew he would get no response. Besides, he may not be showing it, but there was no way James was fine. Instead, the duo made their way back inside where they found food had been laid out. It was lunchtime after all. They got some weird looks, people were obviously unsure about an unknown kid who had been so at ease with Max. They halted close to the buffet table.
James muttered to Gibbs. 'I've never met any of these people.'
'Are you hungry?' Gibbs asked.
James shook his head. He was beginning to retreat into himself. In an effort to stop it Gibbs said, 'I think you should eat.'
'I'm not hungry Gibbs.' He snapped, glaring at Gibbs. Gibbs decided food might be a good idea none the less so went to get a few things.
Christa's husband ambled over. 'I had no idea you knew my step-son so intimately. Intimately means close, if you weren't sure.' He added dryly, giving James an accusatory look. James merely looked at him.
'I've just been told you're a godfather. Congratulations. ' It was a statement, and it was not said generously.
'Yes.' James spat. He was getting angry.
'Watch your tone, young man. Respect your elders.' Gibbs made his way back over and saw that James was seething. He immediately spotted the reason why. He moved in to diffuse the situation.
'Hello Mr. Gibbs. It's good to meet you.' He drawled. 'I was just telling James here how difficult it will be to set up regular meeting times with Max.'
'Bastard.' James yelled, and lunged at the man. Gibbs immediately grabbed James, as he began shouting in (what he assumed was) Italian. In the end he picked James up and carried him out. Luckily, the combination of music and a noisy room meant there hadn't been too much of a scene.
James continued to struggle against Gibbs as he was taken from the room. Gibbs wasn't surprise at the outburst, James had been close to breaking, and that … man… had tipped him over the edge. Privately, Gibbs agreed with James' "nickname" for him.
Knowing what James really needed was comfort he said, 'Alright James. It's ok.'
'F**king get off me Gibbs. Let go of me!' James yelled.
Despite understanding his reasons, the swearing was a step too far. 'Quit swearing James.'
James didn't stop. Very quietly Gibbs added, 'Come on Matthew, quit it.'
That finally got James to calm down. A bit. Gibbs let go.
Still fuming, James said. 'He can't stop Max seeing me. He can't.'
'Can he?' James added quietly, looking at Gibbs. He sounded really young.
'As a godfather, you have a right to see him. But getting mad won't help, understand?'
James nodded, still angry, but controlling it. Gibbs sighed. 'Would you like to go home?'
James nodded again.
Tense wasn't quite the right word for the journey home. It was more like tenterhooks – Gibbs knew at the slightest moment James could crack under the strain of controlling himself. In addition, he was avoiding saying anything to set James off, knowing it would end badly for them both.
Gibbs hated it; Steve, Christa's blasé comment about James being a godfather, the fact that Max had been told he couldn't cry… The list went on. And what's more, there was nothing he could do about it without jeopardizing James' ability to see Max. He was also having second thoughts about this afternoon; his little surprise didn't quite fit with the tone of the day.
James went straight to the kitchen. After declining Gibbs' offer of lunch (even Gibbs didn't want to force him to eat today) he started rummaging in the newly-filled cupboards. Gibbs didn't have an ounce of cooking expertise, but he guessed the ingredients now on the counters were for cookies. Deciding to leave him to it, he told James he was going to work on his boat.
He returned about an hour later to a good smell and utter chaos in his kitchen. Gibbs hadn't seen it look this used since… Well, he didn't want to think that.
'Hey!' He said, but not unkindly. 'What happened to the clean kitchen?'
James spoke for the first time in two hours. 'I'm not the tidiest cooker.'
Gibbs grunted his acknowledgement.
'Do we get to eat these cookies when they're done?' Gibbs asked, grinning.
'Yep.' James smiled back. Gibbs watched James cleaning up, he was still angry, but yet he was more relaxed. That was an odd combination. His initial assumption was that cooking calmed James down, like working on his boat did for him. Of course, this was the first time it had happened, he could be reading into it too deeply. Gibbs was reconsidering his earlier decision, perhaps an active adventure was what James needed to fully let go of the day's stress.
He ended up helping James dry up. As James got the cookies out, the kitchen looked recognizable again. They smelled good. James put them on a plate to cool a bit.
'Get the milk out. I'll get some glasses.'
James looked puzzled. Gibbs raised his eyebrows. Had no one ever explained the concept of milk and cookies to this kid?
'Lots of people drink milk with cookies. It's good, you'll like it.' He said with a smile.
James nodded and got glasses out. After a few minutes, the duo couldn't resist them any longer. They had plates and milk, and all it took was a, 'I'm thinking what you're thinking look,' to get them started on the cookies.
As they munched, and drank, Gibbs said, 'They're good. You made them up right?'
James nodded and swallowed (quickly, they were still quite hot). 'I always use the same recipe.'
'Uh huh. Who's is that? I need their autograph.' Gibbs joked. James grinned, but didn't answer.
James looked better, except that he'd only eaten a quarter of his 2nd cookie. Gibbs decided to breach the subject. 'Hey, you doing anything this afternoon?'
'Yeah, Gibbs. I was planning on going out with my new found friends, taking my skateboard and spending a couple of hours practicing my moves at the skate park.' He replied, flashing a cheeky grin.
Oh yes, Gibbs thought, definitely feeling better. 'I have something booked for you at 5, if you're interested.'
'Something? What kind of something?'
'A sport, maybe something you'd like to do as a hobby.'
James nodded. 'What kind?'
'Wait and see.' Gibbs teased.