new story! this one's gonna be full of angst and hurt/comfort and goodness, so be prepared! i hope you all enjoy.

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Chapter One:

Instead of running to her parents when they arrived at the scene, Kiara rushed into JJ's familiar arms, the two of them almost collapsing onto the cold, hard ground.

"He's gone, Kie," the blond whispered in her hair. Hot tears welled up from deep inside of him and coursed down his cheeks, the salt stinging his myriad of wounds. His bruised, battered body was trembling violently, refusing to stop no matter how much he tried to force it to. "They're gone."

"I know, JJ," Kiara said through gasps of shock and grief. "I know." Her fingers were desperately running over his back, as if she was trying to find something. Finally, they settled in his hair, taking comfort in its softness. She could hear her parents talking to the cops nearby, and it only made her cry harder. Whimpering softly, she continued to cling to her partner like her life depended on it, like at any moment he was going to disappear.

Just like John B. and Sarah did.

Their plan to protect their friends had completely blown up in their faces. After everything that they'd done, they'd still lost the people they loved so much. It had all been pointless. All the running, the beatings, the risk had been for nothing.

JJ had suffered for nothing.

As she pulled away from her boyfriend, Kiara studied him, frowning at what she saw. The poor thing looked defeated. The bruises on his perfectly shaped face were standing out against his paling skin, and he looked utterly exhausted. Visiting his father, getting beat up by Barry, and having to let go of one of his best friends was clearly taking a toll on him. Kiara realized that she needed to help.

"Come on," she said softly, cupping his face gently. JJ immediately leaned into her touch, his calloused hands traveling down her sides to rest on her hips. "Let's go to the Chateau."

The blond seemed to hesitate. "What about your parents?" he asked quietly, tiredly. He slowly let his forehead fall against Kiara's and closed his eyes. All he wanted was a soft bed to lay in with her sleeping beside him. He wanted to forget that this nightmare had ever happened.

"I don't care," Kiara replied with a smile, pressing her lips to his in an attempt to assure him. "They'll be fine. I just wanna be with you."

Thankfully, the police didn't try to stop them when they started to leave, and neither did Kiara's parents. Pope just gave them a heartbroken look, but didn't say anything. JJ wasn't sure how he was going to face any of them if they hadn't been so lucky.

The storm had subsided by the time they exited that God-awful tent, but they were still soaked in seconds. They couldn't care less. Since they hadn't been able to take their car when Shoupe found them, they had to walk to the old fish shack that housed so many memories for them, both good and bad.

For JJ, that shack was almost like a safe haven, a place where he could escape his father and forget about his troubles, surrounded by friends he considered to be his real family. For Kiara, it was a place where her upbringing didn't matter. She didn't have to worry about living up to her parents' standards. It was where she was most free.

Upon arriving at the Chateau, JJ felt himself struggling to hold himself up. His breath hitched as he stared at the dilapidated building, his mind on a rampage. How could this be happening? he kept asking himself. How did I let this happen?

"I-" he tried to say, but his voice broke and he stopped. Unable to help himself, he jerked when Kiara touched his shoulder, her touch feather-light.

"It's okay," she said softly, a weak smile gracing her lips. "I know."

The inside of the house was the same as always: somewhat disheveled, but still clean. JJ shivered as he inhaled the familiar scent that belonged to John B, and he had to lean against a wall so he wouldn't fall to his knees.

"You hungry?" Kiara asked with a quick peck on his cheek. She could literally feel the no-doubt painful tremors running up and down his muscular figure as he shook his head no. "Then let's just go to bed, okay? We can both use some sleep."

"Yeah, sure," JJ said, sighing deeply.

Kiara wasted no more time in leading him to the pullout and waited for him to take off his shirt and board shorts, secretly admiring him. As she eased him down onto the soft mattress, he immediately curled into her, clearly desperate to have her near. "I'm here," she assured him.

"I just … They're gone, Kie," the young man mumbled. "We lost them."

"Maybe they made it," Kiara offered, ever the optimist. "The police could have been wrong."

"In that storm? There's no way."

"There's a chance." Using her finger to raise his chin up, Kiara locked gazes with JJ so she could cup his cheek and kiss him. If words weren't enough, actions were, she decided. "That's why we're gonna stay here for now, keep this place going until John B. gets back."

She knew that JJ couldn't go back home, not after the last argument he'd had with his dad. Even though she had no idea what had happened when they'd gone to get the keys to the Phantom, the unshed tears in his beautiful blue eyes that day were enough to tell her that he couldn't go back. No matter what. By telling him that they were staying at the Chateau for their lost friend, she was giving him a reason not to return to the abuse and pain that came with living with Luke.

"Are you sure?" JJ said, voice laced with exhaustion. The recent events of the last few days were slowly catching up with him, draining him from any energy he had left. "Your folks-"

"I'll talk to mom and dad," Kiara interrupted, gently playing with his hair. "They won't like it, but they'll have to deal. I'm staying here. With you."

"God, Kie, I don't deserve you. Or this. Or any of it," JJ managed to say in a hoarse whisper, and buried his face in the crook of her neck while his arms pulled her closer.

"Of course you do," the girl replied. This was his father's doing, she thought bitterly. He had ingrained this sense of self-loathing into JJ. He had made his own son so terrified of having good things in his life. He was the one who ruined such a wonderful, incredible person, destroying his spirit one by one, day by day. If it wasn't for Luke, JJ wouldn't have been as broken as he was. He would have been able to see that he did deserve her, more than he would ever know.

"It should've been me. I should've somehow taken the fall for them, right from the start."

Kiara would have slapped JJ if he hadn't been so shaken up. "No, JJ, it shouldn't have been. We did everything we could. Please, don't go blaming yourself. None of this is your fault." The minute JJ started crying quietly, she hugged him tighter, hoping to ease his suffering. Somehow. "Just sleep. I'll be right here." She paused then, debating whether or not she should say what she was thinking. "I love you," she murmured in his ear. "We'll get through this."

"I know," JJ agreed, and closed his tired eyes. "But that doesn't make it any easier."

The fact that he didn't say that he loved her back was more than a little worrying.