look at that, we made it to the last chapter! honestly, i wasn't sure if i wanted to keep going or end it here, but i decided to do the latter. i have a bunch of ideas and prompts that i wanna start writing about.

this was such a fun story to write. thank you to everyone who followed, favorited, and reviewed. your support is absolutely incredible, especially during such difficult times. stay tuned for my next story, and don't forget to stay safe! if anyone needs to talk about anything, you know where to find me.

-m


Chapter Five:

As time slowly went by, JJ started to recover from that awful incident with his father, both physically and mentally.

For the first few days, it was a struggle. On top of his multitude of wounds, nightmares consistently plagued him almost every time he fell asleep. JJ just couldn't get his dad out of his head, no matter how hard he tried.

Thank God for Kiara. She was the one who kept him sane, who helped him through every bad dream, every panic attack. If it hadn't been for her, JJ didn't know what he would have done without her. He was so incredibly grateful to have her by his side.

That was why a few weeks after it happened, when he was more or less healed, he took his girlfriend out on a date on the H.M.S. Pogue, but with a twist in mind.

"Can I look now?" Kiara asked impatiently. She'd been told to cover her eyes and not to peek, and she was only getting restless. She knew that they were on the boat, she could recognize the feeling of a moving vessel anywhere, but that was about it. And while she also knew that there was nothing to worry about, that this was JJ, she wasn't too fond of surprises. Not after everything that had happened over the summer.

"In a second," JJ replied as he put in the last touches. He wanted tonight to be absolutely perfect. It was what Kiara deserved.

"You're killing me here," the girl muttered, only to giggle when she felt JJ's lips against her cheek.

"Okay, you can look."

Upon finally removing her hands from her face, Kiara gasped in shock, a pretty, wide smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. In front of her was a makeshift table made out of wooden boxes, with a tablecloth and everything, that was covered in delicious food and scented candles. She quickly realized that this was the best surprise she could have ever gotten.

Still grinning from ear to ear, Kiara turned around and launched herself into JJ's arms. The blond immediately pulled her close, picking her up so he could spin her around. "JJ, this is so beautiful," she whispered, pulling away to kiss him deeply.

"You're beautiful," JJ said softly in return. His heart was fluttering with relief, glad that she liked what he'd done. Though the more he thought about it, the more he wondered why he was questioning his actions in the first place. It was probably because of his father. He'd done everything he could to make JJ question himself.

Kiara's gaze fell on the gourmet-looking meal on the "dinner" table JJ had set up. It was her favorite: a combination of all kinds of seafood. "Did you make this?"

JJ scoffed at her question. "Oh, Hell no," he said, and used his index finger to move some of Kiara's hair behind her ear. "I'd burn the house down. Nah, I got this from Angie's."

"That must have cost a shitload…"

"Don't think about that okay? I saved up for it."

Unable to stop smiling, Kiara crashed her mouth against JJ's. "Thank you," she murmured, so happy just to be here with him.

"Anything for you, mama. Come on. Let's eat."

About an hour later, the two teens were both full and were sitting against a wall, with Kiara curled up in JJ's side, feeling his hand gently stroking her shoulder. His warm breath tickled the top of her head, bringing shivers up her spine. She felt calm, at home, and content. Being in his embrace was her favorite place in the world.

"You okay?" JJ asked her at one point, pressing a quick kiss to her temple when she looked up at him.

"Of course I am," Kiara assured him. "Today was so perfect."

"I actually got you something else," her companion said sheepishly, grinning as he got up and went over to where he'd left his backpack earlier. He quickly unzipped one of the side pockets and took out a small plastic box before making his way over to Kiara. "Open it," he explained, handing it over to her. The girl's surprised expression made him almost shake with excitement.

Kiara gave him a funny look before she did as she was asked, letting out a breathy laugh at what she saw in the little container. It was a ring. Not a super expensive ring from a jewelry store, but one made out of wood, the perfect size for her finger. "JJ…" she said in a small voice, wasting no time in putting it on.

"Made it a couple weeks ago," JJ revealed, a smirk playing on the corners of his mouth, "as a promise. And a thank you."

"I love it," Kiara gushed, refusing to look away from the absolutely gorgeous ring.

"One day, I'll get you a real one," the young man vowed. "But I guess this'll have to work for now." He paused to kiss the love of his life, his hands resting on the small of her back while her fingers worked their way up his stomach to settle on his chest. "I'm yours, Kie. Forever and always."

Nodding, Kiara couldn't help but shed a few happy tears, looking at JJ with so much adoration in her eyes. "You have no idea how much I love you, JJ," she whispered.

"Not as much as I love you."

They made love under the stars that day, their bodies fitting together almost like missing puzzle pieces. They had this connection between them, one that they couldn't explain but didn't ever want to lose. To them, sex was something extremely special. It was when nothing stood in their way and they were completely honest with each other, in more ways than one. It was when they exchanged all kinds of promises with one another, promises that they would never break.

By the time they finished, the sun was beginning to set, and they watched it together, everything around them a type of utopia, a dream neither of them had ever thought they would be living in.

It seemed like nothing could go wrong.

OBX

A year later, the two of them found themselves still living at the Chateau.

Kiara still wore that very same ring JJ had given her, rarely ever taking it off, and they were both still working, taking life as it was and never wasting a second of it.

They had also managed to rekindle their relationship with Pope, as difficult as it was. While their friendship wasn't what it used to be before the whole treasure hunt, it was something. In truth, the teenagers had really missed each other and were grateful to be back in each other's lives.

JJ rarely spoke to his father after that last beating. He couldn't bring himself to do it, and Kiara wouldn't let him, either. If he ever needed anything from his old home, he would simply wait for Luke to leave before going in and taking it. Thankfully, Luke never tried to get his son back, succumbing to his addictions instead. It was hurtful, but JJ was better off without him. He just wished that that hadn't been the case. Just like any growing young man, he wanted a father to guide him.

Other than that, things were going extremely well. They were slowly saving up more and more money, intending to use it to buy a house on Figure Eight in their future, just like Kiara promised. Even her relationship with her parents was getting better, surprisingly. They seemed much more supportive of their daughter as time passed, which something Kiara never would have expected.

The one thing missing from their lives were John B. and Sarah. The couple mourned for their lost friends almost every day, though the grief was much more muted than it had been in the beginning. It was hard.

But one day, everything changed.

"Kie, I'm home!" JJ, who was coming back from work, exclaimed as he walked inside the small fish shack, only to find his girlfriend and Pope sitting on the living room couch with unreadable expressions on their faces. "What's going on?" he immediately asked, worry seizing his gut.

"Pope got a call this morning," Kiara started, her voice trembling. "It was from them."

It took less than a second for JJ to figure out the them that Kiara was talking about. Taking off his cap so he could run a hand through his hair, he sat down beside his girlfriend and interlocked their fingers together. "Are you sure?"

"Positive," Pope said. "It was them. They're alive. They said that they're coming home. Today."

"Holy shit," JJ breathed out, looking to Kiara for confirmation. "When will they be here?"

"They said they'd be here at four. It's 3:30 now." Kiara sighed, and started breaking out into a smile. "They're coming home."

Laughing in relief, JJ nodded, and pulled the brunette close so he could press his lips to her cheek. "Then let's go," he said, already jittery with anticipation. "We gotta pick them up!"

"I'll go start the van," Pope offered, grinning widely as JJ took the keys from his pocket and threw them to him. With that, he ran off.

Kiara and JJ stayed for a few moments longer, trying to wrap their heads around what was happening.

"I-"

"I know," JJ murmured, cutting Kiara off. "I know."

"This is insane. They're coming home. We're gonna see them again."

Just before he stood up, JJ cupped Kiara's face and leaned in to kiss her, the two of them engaging in a silent conversation. "What are we waiting for?" he teased as he helped her to her feet and started pulling her along. "Don't wanna be late!"

This was it. This was the day. They would be bringing their friends home. After everything that had happened to them, everything they'd suffered through, they'd made it. Thanks to one another.

And honestly, neither would have had it any other way.

The End