AN: Hey guys! I ended up watching this show towards the beginning of quarantine, and something about the relationship between these two just wouldn't leave me alone. So, this is the result, haha! It was intended to fill in a few of the gaps, and takes place before the events of the show, to flesh out the story a bit more. Anyway, I hope you guys like it!
All the Pogues loved each other. That was an undeniable fact, proven through blood, sweat, tears, and plenty of laughter over the years. But it was also an unspoken truth among them that JJ and John B were the closest out of the entire friend group.
It made sense. They had met on their first day of third grade after John B accidentally kicked JJ in the face while swinging during recess. He had immediately jumped off the swing, uncaring of the bloody scrapes the landing created on his knees, and gasped out apologies through growing panicked sobs, hands fluttering uselessly as JJ pinched his bloody nose. In the end, John B cried harder than JJ did, and got so worked up that it ended up being the other boy comforting him instead.
Somewhere in the whole mess, as teachers ushered them to the nurse and called their parents, John B had decided JJ needed taking care of and JJ had decided that John B clearly needed protecting - even from himself, apparently. They were basically glued at the hip from there on out, and you almost never found one without the other.
They hadn't befriended Pope until years later - halfway through middle school - and they hadn't met Kiara until she moved to Outer Banks right before the start of high school. Pope and Kiara had been welcomed with (mostly) open arms, but there was no avoiding the fact that JJ and John B had grown up together in a way that the others hadn't.
The pair of them fit together like puzzle pieces, and it was strange to see one without the other. Their motto was 'Pogues for life', but underlying that for the two of them seemed to be another, quieter motto: 'Brothers forever'.
Kiara was a tactile person by nature. Back when she'd had a lot of friends instead of just three, she could usually be found with an arm slung around someone, her feet on a lap, her head on a shoulder, or pressing a kiss into a cheek. She wasn't always the best at communicating her affection through words, so she used touch to help her say the things her voice seemed to be unable to.
That changed when she moved to Outer Banks, and suddenly the close familiarity she'd developed throughout her life was nowhere to be found. She would reach towards someone only for them to pull away and look at her like she was nuts. Kiara spent those first few months wandering in a confused haze of loneliness until she found the Pogues.
She fell into them almost by accident, but she liked what she saw, so she refused to leave and eventually they accepted her into their fold. Kiara was even more careful about touching them, unwilling to mess this up, and unsure how her touch would be received by boys instead of the mostly-girl friends she'd been used to.
It was good to be careful in the end: Pope didn't touch anyone, usually, since he had a pretty big personal space bubble, and John B could be prickly about contact sometimes until he'd warmed up to the idea. JJ, she'd quickly learned, actively avoided touch unless he'd decided to initiate it, which was rare.
That is, he avoided touch, unless it was with John B - and on occasion, Big John.
It was a slow, subtle thing most of the time, so it took Kiara a while to notice. JJ would sidle up next to John B, before shifting inch by slow inch until he was resting against his side like he'd been there all along. Or he would come lean up behind John B as he sat reading at the table, then lean further and further into his friend's space until he could hook his chin over John B's shoulder with the excuse that he wanted to see what his friend was reading. In turn, every arm John B slung around JJ was accepted, as was every hair ruffle and playful back slap, every fistbump and high five.
Kiara had thought that perhaps she'd been approaching the situation wrong with her own touches, at first, so she had tried to imitate the way John B touched JJ, only for the boy to dance away laughing or duck around her pretending he hadn't seen. Eventually she'd given up, and resigned herself to not touching her new friends very much, after all.
It had taken multiple months and their first time all smoking weed together for her to finally find her voice about the issue.
"How do you do that?" she asked John B, eyeing him a little enviously.
He was sitting up high on the hammock, swaying back and forth with the breeze, and JJ's head was in his lap as he slung himself diagonally across the stretch of fabric - practically half on top of the other boy as he slept. One of John B's hands was twirling the dead remnants of a blunt, while his other was carding through JJ's hair slowly.
"Do what?" he asked, dazed eyes looking at her curiously. Pope snuffled a bit in his sleep, tucked awkwardly into a beach chair matching Kiara's across the way where he'd retreated after deciding he didn't like getting high after all. She gestured towards the pair vaguely, keeping her voice low for Pope and JJ's sakes.
"That. Him," she said, helpfully. "He lets you touch him, and you let him touch you. None of you guys ever let me touch you without looking like you hate every second of it or avoiding it entirely. I - I really miss it."
Kiara was surprised to hear her voice crack a little in the middle of the sentence, and she flicked her eyes away momentarily, embarrassed. John B blinked at her slowly, something unreadable in his eyes, before glancing down at JJ as if he hadn't even noticed the other boy was there.
"I don't even really think about it anymore," he admitted, not stopping his motion. "It's just been like this ever since we met. He needs it, and doesn't get enough of it, so I give it to him and he trusts me enough to accept it. That's really all it is."
And as Kiara thought about it, yeah, that was really all it was. JJ trusted John B - and sometimes John B's dad - like he didn't trust most other people. That trust allowed them to touch each other the way that they did - the way that other people didn't normally get to touch them, with easy familiarity.
"It's not that we don't like it," John B said suddenly, and Kiara jerked her gaze back to him. His expression was serious without being solemn, and his voice was soft. "When you try to touch us, I mean. We just aren't used to it, Pope and me. Not from you - and not from girls in general. It seems different, even if it isn't or shouldn't be, so we get a little stuck. JJ… well, JJ is a little different. If you're patient though, he might let you eventually. But just give us time, and maybe let us know how to respond when you try? I know Pope's been really worried about accidentally crossing any boundaries with you."
Kiara blinked, brain a little slow to respond from both exhaustion and the weed. Then it clicked, and her eyes widened in surprise as she looked at John B. Then a slow smile spread across her face as JJ buried his head deeper into John B's stomach, trying to escape the noise they were making.
"I can do that," she said softly, feeling a lot lighter than before. Catching John B's head bobbing, she then snorted. "Go to sleep already, dumbass. We can talk more in the morning."
"Kay. Night, Kie," he slurred back in response, hunkering down further into the hammock and turning into JJ almost unconsciously. Kiara shook her head, before leaning back in her beach chair and closing her eyes.
"Night guys," she said softly, drifting off herself.
Big John emerged from his investigative haze as he heard voices in the other room. Curious, he stood up from his desk and walked over to the door, carefully opening it to peer down the hall.
The sky was just barely turning grey through the windows, and Big John winced as he realized he'd worked through the night again. In the other room, his son was sitting at the table, his head resting on his arms as he blearily watched JJ work at the stove. The other boy was dancing around to the quiet sound of the radio and singing off-key softly as he made what smelled like eggs and potatoes.
Bird was watching the whole production with a sleep-softened smile despite his half-closed eyes, and Big John could tell that JJ was playing up the whole thing to get that exact reaction from him. A quiet beeping from the other end of the room drew JJ's attention, and he moved across the kitchen to pour two large mugs of coffee. One mug JJ left alone and sipped out of, and the other he dashed some milk and sugar into, placing it in front of the other boy.
"Drink up, sunshine," JJ smirked, moving back to the stovetop to dish out the eggs and potatoes onto waiting plates. "We both know you need the caffeine to function this early in the morning."
Bird mumbled something unintelligible before latching onto his coffee cup. JJ approached with the two plates and his own coffee mug balanced carefully in his arms. Upon seeing Bird's clinging to the cup, he snorted, setting his own meal down first, before reaching out easily to tip the taller boy back a little, sliding the other plate into the now-free space.
"Seriously, dude, what would you do without me?" JJ teased, sitting down across the way. "You're helpless on your own, sometimes."
"Crash and burn, probably," Bird mumbled into his eggs, that slight smile still on his face. He was too half-asleep to see it, but Big John wasn't, and he could see the slightly taken-aback look JJ suddenly gained on his face. JJ stared at Bird with that same surprised look for several seconds, before his expression softened and a slightly lopsided smile formed instead.
"Hell yeah, you would," he said, before ducking behind his own food as if to hide the fondness clear as day upon his face. "Now would you wake up and eat? We're going with Pope to the beach today, in case you forgot. Dude still hasn't figured out how to surf right yet, somehow, despite our expert teachings."
With the reminder, Bird seemed to wake up a little more, blinking a bit more and eating a little faster.
At this, Big John decided to make his presence known, knocking on the doorframe as he made his way to the kitchen. He didn't outwardly react to the startled flinch JJ gave at the sound, even if he once again raged internally at the boy's father. There was a reason he never protested JJ's constant presence in the house, even if he never told the boys that.
"Morning, boys," he said, moving to get a cup of juice from the fridge. "You're up early. Big plans for today?"
"Morning," Bird responded, looking more alert than before, though his eyes narrowed as he looked at him closely. "You're up late. And yeah, we're hanging out with Pope today, to try and teach him how to surf again. He keeps getting too rigid and losing his center of balance."
"Well, you two have fun then," Big Jon replied, sipping his drink. "I'll probably take a nap and then head on out to the lighthouse to look around a bit - and the keeper told me he had an idea he wanted to run by me last week, too."
"Sounds good," Bird said, a hint of displeasure flashing through his eyes at the mention of the lighthouse, but Big John already knows his son's feelings about his hunt for the Royal Merchant.
"See you boys when I get back," Big John said, covering a yawn. He reached out to gently ruffle JJ's hair, ignoring the startled flinch that came right before the boy leaned into it, and giving a one-armed hug to Bird before moving back to his bedroom to get some sleep.
He overheard the boys quiet murmurs as he closed his door, allowing himself a small smile at the sound of his son and his friend's laughter as he went to flop on his bed and pass out for the next few hours.
Big John's last thought before he succumbed to sleep was that he was glad Bird had found JJ, and that the other boy would always be welcome in their home - especially since the kid was clearly Bird's brother in all but blood, making him Big John's own honorary son.
When Pope first befriended JJ and John B, he'd actually thought the two were brothers. They were always together, and every time he went to visit John B, JJ was already there. One day he'd actually showed up early in the morning - the sun hadn't even been out yet - so that John B could teach him how to surf, and JJ had emerged from John B's bedroom yawning and shirtless. There had been several lessons after that, each as early as the first, and every time JJ had already been at John B's house.
It wasn't until several months into their friendship that he realized that they weren't actually brothers by blood - even if they seemed to be in everything else. JJ had his own dad and his own house, even if he never acted like it.
John B and JJ were so connected that it was a little weird to think about them ever being separate from each other - weird to imagine that there was ever a time when they had no idea who the other was. But there had been a time like that, and during that time they had both made enemies - enemies that they still had, and had decided to share between the two of them.
Pope realized this when he went to meet the two of them in town and arrived just in time to see John B get jumped. He froze, panicked, as three Kooks immobilized John B and appeared to be taunting him. Pope saw the moment JJ emerged from the store carrying a bag with what looked like a six-pack of beer and some snacks, and saw what was happening.
The glass bottles clattered on the pavement as JJ launched himself at the nearest Kook holding John B, and with that the fight was quick and everyone was fighting dirty. JJ fought like a wildcat, fists darting out sharp and fast, while John B was a heavy-hitter, slower but stronger in his approach. The Kooks held their own for a while, but eventually one of them caught a bad blow to the nose, and they ran off, blood on their faces as they glared over their shoulders at the Pogues.
Pope hadn't even realized that he'd been frozen and holding his breath until he slumped with a gasp of relief. His eyes found his friends then, and he saw JJ help John B up off the ground. What followed was the weirdest series of mother-henning from the both of them that Pope had ever seen anyone do.
JJ was patting John B down, looking for injuries, and batting away the other boy's hands as much as possible. John B wasn't trying to stop the inspection, but he was trying to get a better look at a few of the bruises and cuts that JJ was sporting, even though the slightly shorter boy was making it difficult for him. It looked well-rehearsed, like this was something familiar to them and something they were both comfortable doing in the middle of a busy street.
Having satisfied himself with the fact that JJ wasn't too injured, John B seemed to submit to the other's more thorough investigation, standing there patiently as his eyes wandered. He caught sight of Pope and his face lit up, seemingly unconcerned with a witness to JJ's mother-henning.
"Pope!" he called out, smiling. While John B didn't care, JJ seemed to mind having a direct witness to his concern, since he patted John B on the back and stepped back from his friend as he saw him approach. John B spared him a glance, before turning his attention back to Pope.
"Hey, dude," JJ said nonchalantly, nodding at Pope. Pope didn't stare at the way the teen's fingers twitched towards the beginnings of a bruise on John B's face. He didn't. "When did you show up?"
"Just a minute ago," he lied, seeing the way that JJ's shoulders relaxed a little. "What happened to you guys?"
"Ah, don't worry about it," John B said, rubbing the back of his head as he glared down the road in the direction the Kooks had gone. "Just had an incident, we're fine. We can just clean up back at the house. It doesn't hurt."
"Liar," JJ snorted under his breath, lightly poking at John B's side, causing a flinch. John B opened his mouth to protest, but then JJ's eyes caught the toppled bag he'd dropped earlier. "Aw, man! I think one of the bottles broke."
He rushed over to check it out, and Pope turned to look at John B. His friend met his gaze and rolled his eyes good-naturedly. Glancing over at JJ whining about the broken bottle, they both laughed, and Pope filed away the entire experience as a JJ and John B thing and decided to let it go.
For the rest of the afternoon, the trio hung out together eating the snacks JJ had gotten while he enjoyed several of the beers he'd bought. John B had one of them, but Pope declined, well aware of what his parents would do if he got caught drinking - much less if he actually got drunk.
When JJ got a little stumbly, he leaned his weight partially onto John B as the other boy rolled his eyes but shifted so that his friend was better supported. Watching the pair of them interact, Pope felt a sudden, intense longing for a sibling - something he'd never felt before. He liked being an only child most of the time, enjoyed the one-on-one time with his parents, their attention, and the lack of harassment that came with siblings.
But JJ and John B sometimes felt like one soul in two bodies, like they had once been one person and were now two. Their edges had bled together over the years, so that where one part of JJ ended a part of John B began, and vice versa. Maybe it wasn't obvious to an outsider, but to anyone who knew the pair at all, it was clear as water. Seeing a bond like that made you want it too, Pope realized, before pushing his momentary wish for a brother of his own aside.
"Pope, want to head back to our house?" John B asked, turning to him. Pope was sure he didn't realize he'd called his house JJ's too, even if the other boy clearly did by the fact that he was hiding his face by looking away.
"Sure," he smiled, jogging a little to catch up with the pair that had gotten a little ahead of him as he was thinking about everything.
It didn't matter in the end what people thought about the two of them, he figured, or even what Pope himself made of their bond. So long as those two knew where they stood with the other, then things would turn out okay.