Chapter One:

"Don't think I forgot about you and me on the side of the road."

JJ felt his heart start to race as he stared at the gun Barry was pointing at him. His wide gaze briefly found Kiara, who was being pursued by Rafe, and he began to plan how he was going to get her out of here. He needed to protect her.

When the blond didn't say anything, Barry growled, visibly pissed off. "I'm here," he continued, "because I want my motherfucking money!"

The next few seconds were a complete blur for poor JJ, filled with nothing but blinding pain. He could hear Kiara calling for him and struggling to get out of Rafe's grasp, but he couldn't do anything about it. Because then Barry was yelling at him and pulling him up by his hair, only to shove him back down to the ground.

He couldn't help but groan when the drug dealer used his foot to nudge him onto his back, his ribs screaming at him in protest. Wrapping his arm around his waist, JJ closed his eyes to try and block out the nauseousness and agony. Somewhere in the background, Kiara was talking to Rafe, but he couldn't make any of it out.

Until the girl exposed Rafe, which caused everything else to fall down hill.

"Listen," Barry said through heavy punches and kicks, "where is my money, huh? All I want is my money."

Even with the throbbing all over his face, the agony in his ribs, JJ refused to answer, choosing to just take the punishment. The truth would only make things worse. The beating lasted for another few minutes until Barry got bored and threw JJ against the Phantom, right next to Kiara. The girl was holding onto her throat like she'd been choked, tears in her eyes. She immediately scrambled over to him when he collapsed beside her, and JJ quickly wrapped his arms around her so he could pull her close. "Did he hurt you, Kie?" he asked in a low voice, all while glaring at Rafe.

The girl shook her head and buried her face in the crook of JJ's neck. "I'm fine," she whispered, voice cracking. She found herself curling into her friend's side out of fear and desperation, heard him grunt softly. While she knew that she was hurting him, she just couldn't bring herself to pull away. She honestly didn't know why she was so terrified, but she was.

Maybe it was because there was a big chance of these guys killing them if they so desired.

"Hey, it's okay," JJ assured her softly, pressing his lips to her temple to try and ease the tremors coursing through her slim body. "I got you. He won't lay a finger on you, I promise."

"Look at that, he speaks!" Barry taunted, gesturing towards them with the small pistol in his hand. "Maybe now he'll tell me where the fuck my money is."

"Go fuck yourself," JJ replied, frowning when Rafe started laughing.

"I don't understand why you're making this so difficult," the Kook said in mock annoyance. "All we want is John B. and the money you stole. It's not that hard."

"I told you, Rafe, I don't know where John B. is," Kiara said quietly, still holding onto JJ like a lifeline. He kept her calm, made her feel safe despite any circumstance. The closer she was, the better she felt. "He went off the rails after he found out that your father killed his dad."

That turned out to be the wrong thing to say.

Roaring in anger, Rafe lunged forward. But instead of grabbing Kiara like she'd thought he would, he went for JJ, ripping him away from her so he could slam him against a nearby wall. "You're lying," he snarled.

"Let him go!" Kiara screamed, trying hard to get out of Barry's vice grip around her wrists. The bastard was holding her back and refusing to release her, keeping her away from her best friend. She couldn't help but cry out when Rafe hit JJ with so much force that he fell to his knees and spit out a mouthful of blood.

"I'll let him go the minute you tell us what we wanna know," Rafe explained as he kneed JJ in the stomach, almost as if he knew that was where it would hurt most.

The young man let out a strangled moan. Every one of his muscles were seized up, struggling to recover and repair the damage. His mind briefly went back to the last fight he'd had with his father, to the fear, the pain he felt. As Rafe hit him, suddenly it wasn't the college dropout that was dealing the blows. No, that wasn't who JJ saw in front of him for a few brief, brutalizing seconds that made him tremble in fear. It was the abusive asshole that he had to call his parent.

As she watched JJ get pummeled, Kiara started crying, though she was unsure of when she even started. Hot, wet tears streamed down her face, and she flinched each time Rafe hit the blond, wishing that it would just stop. She understood that she couldn't tell them where John B. was because she honestly wasn't sure. All she knew was that they were meeting him at the docks at three. But she wasn't going to let Rafe find out, even though she really wanted to if it meant sparing JJ. He wouldn't want her to, no matter what.

At one point, Rafe finally stopped, breathing heavily and watching JJ, who was sprawled out on the floor and struggling to take in air. The Cameron's eyes fell on Kiara. "Tell me what I want to know and I'll leave," he said, and looked at Barry. "Same with him."

For a few moments, there was nothing but silence surrounding them. In a way it felt good. Because anything was better than the awful sound of JJ's cries of pain.

However, they all jerked at the familiar scream of police sirens.

"Hm, maybe I won't need an answer from you after all," Rafe said, an almost psychotic tint to his tone. He was clearly assuming that the cops had a location on John B, that he could use it to his advantage. "Let's get your money back, yeah?" he asked, pointing his question to his "friend"' of sorts.

Finally letting go of Kiara, Barry nodded. "Let's get out of this shithole!" he exclaimed, walking over to JJ so he could give him a hard kick to the stomach. JJ simply whimpered in response and curled up into a tight ball. "Your little bitch ass better hope that I get that twenty-five thousand dollar reward. Or you're gonna have Hell to fucking pay."

With that, the two of them ran out of the warehouse, which left Kiara and JJ all alone and in complete shock.

"JJ!" Kiara cried out when she actually realized that those bastards were gone. She hastily jumped to her feet and ran over to the young man lying on the ground, crouching beside him so she could help him sit up. "Fuck," she breathed out, cupping his face in her hand.

He immediately leaned into her touch, his body unable to stop shaking. Slowly, carefully, he forced himself to stand up, using Kiara as his crutch. "I'm alright," he said in a strained voice. In reality, he knew that he wasn't. Not really. JJ had no doubt that he had a couple of broken ribs at least. And while he could probably patch it all up without a hospital and wouldn't have to go to any hospital, they were still going to be a bitch to deal with. He wasn't looking forward to it at all. "Come on, we gotta get this thing outta here."

"No, wait, JJ…" Kiara could see how hurt her companion actually was despite the brave face he was putting on for her. He was barely standing up straight. "We need to figure you out first."

"I'm fine, Kie," JJ tried to assure her, only to gasp from a sudden rush of dizziness. That could mean a concussion on top of everything else. Shit. "We need to get the boat to John B. so he can get the fuck outta here."

"Why are you just brushing this off?!" Kiara chastised, sounding just a bit hysterical. Really, she was so confused as to why JJ was being so nonchalant about all of this. "Rafe could've killed you! And now you're seriously hurt and you just wanna keep going like nothing happened? I can't believe that you're taking this so lightly. What if I'd lost you?! What if-"

She didn't get a chance to finish her sentence because all of a sudden, JJ's lips were right on top of hers, effectively cutting her off. Kiara yelped in surprise, but did nothing to pull away or yell at JJ anymore, lost in such a wonderful sensation. A soft gasp escaped her when he deepened the kiss. Her hands traveled up to rest on his chest while his arms wrapped around her slim waist. The two of them were so lost in each other's mouths that they completely forgot about everything. They forgot about the gold, the police, Luke. All of their problems seemed to wash away in an instant.

It hadn't been too long ago that Kiara realized that she liked JJ more than just a friend. The night she and Pope had found him in the hot tub, hurt and heartbroken in more ways than one, that was when the realization was solidified. Kiara loved JJ. His loyalty, his protective nature, his recklessness, his insecurities were what made her feel this way, even though she tried hard not to think about it or act on it. The saying no Pogue-on-Pogue macking always came to the forefront of her mind, and she had to constantly push all those feelings about JJ away. She didn't want to hurt any of the others, didn't want to make things any more complicated than they already were. It wasn't easy, but she forced herself to do it.

But now Kiara's dream had come true. She was kissing JJ. And it was the most wonderful feeling she'd ever had in her entire life. He was so gentle with her, almost as if he was afraid to break her, yet forceful at the same time. It was absolutely perfect.

At least until she heard the blond moan softly and start to pull away, clearly in pain.

"What was that for? Kiara asked breathlessly, running a hand through her tangled locks.

"To shut you up," was JJ's teasing reply. A small, tired smile graced his lips and he leaned forward to kiss her once more, much gentler this time. "Don't worry about me, okay Kie?" he murmured against her mouth. "I'm okay. You didn't lose me." He paused, then asked, "Did you at least like it?"

Kiara just couldn't wipe the shocked expression off of her face. "Yeah," she replied with a laugh. "I did." More than anything else in the entire world. Being kissed by JJ was so magical, and all she wanted was to have him to do that again and again.

"Good," the blond said softly. He slowly reached for Kiara's hand and interlocked their fingers together, jerking his head towards the Phantom, the thing they'd come to get in the first place. "Let's get this thing to John B. Then we'll figure everything else out. Promise."

"Okay," Kiara agreed, pulling JJ closer so he could press her lips to his yet another time.

She meant it as a promise to him, as confirmation that she wanted him no matter what happened to them with this whole treasure hunt catastrophe. Kiara needed to let him know that she felt the same way as him, for better or worse.

And as they hitched the boat to the car and got in to drive over to the docks, they sat hand in hand, unable to let go of one another even for a second.

Whatever happened to them, they would face together, they decided. Forever and always.

The End