okay, yes, i know this chapter took FOREVER, but writer's block sucks, okay? still, i am extremely happy with this chapter, so i hope you guys like it, too.
thank you all so much for your kind words and all the favorites/follows! it means the world to me. keep it coming!
i hope you're all staying safe and healthy.
About an hour later, the ferry had arrived on the mainland.
The DCS agent - Marsha was her name, or at least JJ thought it was - immediately found her car and told her client to get in, driving JJ to the house he would be staying in for however long. It felt strange traveling so far away from the Outer Banks. At one point, JJ even wondered if he would ever be able to surf again. Would his foster parents let him? Were the waves here even that good?
He honestly didn't have high hopes. JJ just prayed that he wouldn't get put with people that took their frustrations out on him like his father did. He wasn't sure if he would be able to live through that.
In an attempt to ward off yet another panic attack, the memories of beatings and pain already becoming way too much, the blond started daydreaming about Kiara. She never ceased to be there for him, regardless of where she was. Unknowingly, JJ's mind went back to the last night they'd spent together, barely even twelve hours ago.
They'd decided not to think about the fact that they were being separated, but rather appreciate the present and spend as much time as possible together. They'd watched a movie on Kie's computer, ate popcorn and drank beer, all while lying in each other's arms and reveling in each other's presence.
Throughout the entire time, JJ couldn't help but pepper gentle kisses all over her every once in a while. It was his way of forgetting about the fact that he wouldn't be able to do this with her for a very long time. The idea of it made his heart clench and his body tremble.
"You're beautiful," he murmured against her shoulder blade, completely disregarding the film he was supposed to be focusing on.
Kiara giggled softly and nuzzled her face into the crook of his neck while he continued his ministrations on her skin. Each little peck brought shivers up her spine. The good kind. The best kind. "So are you."
It always puzzled JJ when she called him beautiful. Him? Beautiful? Sure, he knew that he was hot. He had abs, after all. But beautiful? That was not a word he would ever choose to describe himself with. He was too ruined and tarnished to be beautiful, at least in his opinion. Yet, Kiara thought that he was, which both confused him and made him feel like the happiest person on this planet.
"You know, we should probably keep watching…"
While Kiara was right, JJ couldn't care less about a movie right now. "Fuck that," he breathed out, and quickly moved to close the computer, set it aside, and turn back to his girlfriend. The breathtaking smile that was pulling at her lips was enough to put butterflies in his stomach.
They made love that night, unable to help themselves. Doing it this one last time for God knows how long was their way of telling each other that even with everything going on, they were still JJ and Kiara. That was something that would never change.
"I wanna stay here forever," Kiara said at one point, spooning against JJ and running her hand along his bare chest. She felt at peace. She felt safe and secure, and she never wanted those feelings to go away. It hurt to think that tomorrow, JJ was going to be taken from her and sent onto the mainland. She didn't want to lose him. After all, he was the one that made her feel so secure. He was the one that provided her with a sense of safety that she couldn't get anywhere else.
"Me, too," the blonde agreed, pressing his lips to her temple. "I'm gonna miss you so damn much, Kie," he continued after a short pause. His voice was sad, hurt from the pain that wasn't from his healing wounds. No matter how much he tried to hide it, he just couldn't. It was too hard to think that he wouldn't be able to do any of this with her after tomorrow.
"I'm gonna miss you more," Kiara replied, reaching up to cup his face so she could look at him. A watery smile played at the corners of her mouth. How was she so blessed? How did she manage to make such a wonderful person hers?
"Not possible, mama."
JJ smiled at the bittersweet memory.
The next morning, the two of them had gone to visit Pope before heading over to the ferry. Unfortunately, Heyward had the boy working that day, so he wasn't able to join his friends in seeing JJ off. Still, their goodbye was full of emotion and love and even some tears. Pope made sure to hug his brother from another mother for what seemed like an eternity, and it was Kiara who had to pull the two of them away.
"Woogity, woogity, woogity," the young scholar had said quietly, before quickly reaching forward so he could do the Pogue handshake with JJ.
"Pogues for life," had been JJ's reply.
Now, he was looking out the car window and watching the trees pass by. The ride was surrounded by silence. Clearly his agent wasn't a fan of small talk. At the moment, neither was JJ. All he wanted to do was close his eyes, teleport somehow, and magically find himself back at the Chateau with Kiara. He knew that at this point, he needed to accept the reality of the situation and look on the bright side, but something in his gut told him that nothing was going to go his way.
When did he become such a pessimist? he found himself wondering.
Within an hour, they seemed to have arrived at the house JJ would be living in from now on. Marsha was quick to step out of her vehicle and open the door for her client, walking him over through the small front yard and over to the porch so she could ring the doorbell. Even from the outside, the place looked rather nice. For a second there, JJ genuinely thought that maybe luck would finally be on his side.
But the minute he saw the woman that opened the door, the blond knew that he was wrong.
"Hello, Mrs. Stephens, this is the young man you will be fostering," Marsha explained, cutting right to the chase. She probably just wanted to drop JJ off and move on. "His name is JJ. This is Anika Stephens."
"Hello, JJ. Welcome." Mrs. Stephens looked to be at least fifty. There wasn't anything friendly in her features. If anything, she looked angry and fed up with everything. Even when she smiled, there was no trace of realness behind it. "We'll take it from here, yes?"
"That's right. I wish you the best of luck."
JJ barely even noticed that his case worker left. Because the next he knew, he was being ushered into the living room, where a man - presumably the husband - and a kid that looked to be about twenty were sitting on the couch. They didn't look all that welcoming, either.
"JJ, this is my husband, Grant, and our son, Peter. He's home from college."
"Nice to meet you."
Neither Grant nor Peter made an effort to get up and shake JJ's hand despite his attempt at a greeting. Instead, the two nodded grimly. They probably were doing this for the money, not because they wanted to actually take care of and love a child that wasn't their own.
"How about I show you around the house and go over some rules?" Anika offered.
"Sure," JJ said quietly, the familiar sensation that was dread settling deep in his stomach. There was something in the way that Peter was looking at him that made him feel … uncomfortable. Still, he chose not to pay attention to that and focus on Anika, who was leading him around the first floor and explaining to him the boundaries.
"All the cupboards are locked, and we're the only ones who can open them. Please, don't touch anything unless we give you permission. Dinner's at six every night. Whether you choose to eat is up to you." Mrs. Stephens paused at the top of the staircase, and pointed to the different doors on both sides of the hallway in front of them. "The last room on the left is yours. You may put all your belongings in the closet and make it your own. Just make sure to keep it tidy, and try not to break anything. I clean once a week. You can use the bathroom across the hall to shower. Does that work?."
Nodding, JJ started to make mental notes of what to do and what not to do. He certainly didn't want to piss anyone in this family off. Even though he almost felt like a prisoner, this wasn't the worst thing in the world. A small smile graced his lips when he felt something soft rubbing against his leg, and he quickly realized that it was a beautiful black cat that seemed to have taken a liking to him. JJ was quick to kneel down and scratch its ears gently.
"Oh, and that's Pepper. He's not too friendly, though he seems alright with you."
Since it was only three o'clock now and he had another three hours until dinner, JJ chose to stick to his brand new room, too skeptical of this new family to actually try and get to know them.
His mind kept going back to Peter. He looked like one of those people that was heavily adored by his parents, which meant that no matter what he did, the blame would always go on someone else. In this case: JJ. It worried the blond, to say the least.
The father, Grant, hadn't even said a word to him, clearly not a fan of the strange kid living in his home, so there was no point of talking to him at all. Anika was nice, but she didn't care about him. It was probably her idea to keep everything under lock and key because she was too scared of JJ stealing something. Just like his gut had told him, he wasn't lucky enough to have been put with people that were actually kind and willing to treat a foster kid with a decent amount of respect.
In reality, the only one that was nice to him was the cat. That on its own was saying something. JJ was incredibly grateful for it, though, because at least he'll have something to keep him company while in this hellhole. While he'd never thought of himself as a cat-person, he was pleasantly surprised with the fact that Pepper didn't seem to mind him too much.
Like always, he constantly found himself thinking about Kiara and his life back on the Outer Banks. It never ceased to bring a smile to his face. As he laid on his rather comfortable bed with his hands behind his head, JJ pictured his beautiful girlfriend against closed eyes. At one point, he even took out the photo Kie had given him, staring at it for hours.
He was so lost in his daydreams, that he completely lost track of time. Somehow, he managed to realize that it was nearing six, which meant food. The Stephens had never offered him lunch or any kind of snacks when he'd arrived, so he was actually rather hungry. He wondered if this was going to become a regular thing?
Dinner was awkward and quiet. Mrs. Stephens did attempt to make conversation a few times, but it was mostly to talk about her son instead of asking JJ anything. Not that he was willing to answer, anyway.
As it turned out, Peter was a business major at some university in New York. Since it was summertime and the family didn't want to pay extra money to let him stay in his dorm for the break, he was home. Anika talked about him like he was God himself, like he was perfect. However, JJ could read right through him. His guess was that he was just a junkie that was struggling with school and refusing to admit it to his family. He probably partied all day and all night, picked on people that he decided were inferior, and didn't care about anybody but himself.
In other words, he was a bastard. JJ just prayed that he wouldn't become Peter's plaything, something he could push around and treat like shit.
Once everyone ate, they all went their separate ways.
Wanting to do something that would calm him and make him feel good, JJ decided to take a quick shower before going to bed. The water felt so good against his tense muscles, and for a second, he finally managed to let his guard down for the first time that day and revel in such a wonderful sensation. About two years ago, he would have hated taking showers - he never understood the point. But ever since he'd gotten together with Kiara, his view had changed, since most of the time the brunette joined him in the tub. There were so many incredible moments they'd shared at the Chateau bathroom, that it made JJ absolutely adore showering, as strange as it was.
By the time he finished and wrapped a towel around his waist so he could go back to his room, Kiara was the only thing on his mind. It saddened him to know that he wouldn't be able to see her tomorrow, that this was the first night in God knows how long that he was spending without her.
JJ was pulled out of his wandering thoughts by a cold, hard voice. Turning around, the teen found Peter standing in front of him, eyes raking his body. Almost immediately, he felt incredibly self-conscious. This was the first time Peter was speaking to him since he came. There was nothing friendly in his tone. Just pure hatred.
Choosing not to reply, JJ decided to wait and see what the kid would do next, body tense all over again. It went completely rigid when Peter walked over and started sizing him up, clearly wanting to assert dominance over him. "What do you want?" he asked firmly, despite the anxiety coursing through him.
"I just wanted to let you know that I'm gonna have a lot of fun with you," Peter replied with a menacing smile.
A small shiver traveled up JJ's spine. Shit, this isn't good. What the fuck does he mean by that? he asked himself. He got his answer right away, because suddenly a hand was flying at him and he was thankfully quick enough to block it. Peter had tried to strike him. "Don't you dare touch me," he ground out before he pushed the asshole away.
He made a beeline into his room and made sure to lock the door as quickly as possible so that Peter would have no chance to follow him inside. JJ barely even realized that his breaths were coming out in short gasps, the motions pulling at his still healing ribs.
This was getting really bad. Fast.