Corey woke up at the strike of dawn in his mate's arms. It was a nice feeling. And although the slight pain of the loss over his love for Paul was still there, and will be there for many reasons only Corey knew, Jim grew to his heart. Probably the bond they had and grew stronger between them had to do a lot with that too. But he woke up smiling in the afternoon and now too. And that was something that didn’t happen so often.
Gently he peeled himself from the long arms and headed to start his day with taking care of the goats, strengthening the magic shield and holding the rituals for the spirits. He had a good mood and after the duty was done he decided to look over the fridge and make some food for breakfast and for later on for Jim and Mick to have. Jim didn't know yet but Mick would keep him company while Corey went away with their leader to visit and talk to another clan. Corey thought the two wise-guy guitarists would be happy to spend some time together. And he had no idea how long he would be gone, he didn't want his mate to feel left alone. Well of course he would ask him... But thinking ahead never hurt the beast before.
Their afternoon was calm and nice. After they rested out their mating and shared a bath they found the mutual interest in horror movies and after Corey brought out his notebook to watch videos, time flew by. So the evening duties were kinda late, but Jim got to run around with Corey and know more of the building and some other clan members and of course the goats.
Corey smiled while he was beating the eggs to scramble, thinking about how – while Jim was holding the feeding bag – he got "attacked" by the sacred animals that got their dinner late.
Lost in his thoughts while checking the oven for the roast, he started humming old songs they played with the band. It was his lyrics and feelings in the songs, so soon he was lost in singing them on his strong clean voice:
Wish I was too dead to cry
My self-affliction fades
Stones to throw at my creator
Masochists to which I cater
You don't need to bother;
I don't need to be
I'll keep slipping farther
But once I hold on,
I won't let go 'til it bleeds
Wish I was too dead to care
If indeed I cared at all
Never had a voice to protest
So you fed me shit to digest
I wish I had a reason;
my flaws are open season
For this, I gave up trying
One good turn deserves my dying
You don't need to bother;
I don't need to be
I'll keep slipping farther
But once I hold on,
I won't let go ‘til it bleeds
Wish I'd died instead of lived
A zombie hides my face
with its memories
with cryptic entries
And you don't need to bother;
I don't need to be
I'll keep slipping farther
But once I hold on,
I won't let go 'til it bleeds
(Stone Sour: Bother)
After these nearly two days full of new information and impulses, and of course mind-blowingly amazing sex, Jim finally slept like a baby. His mind and body had to process a lot, so no wonder he didn’t even stir when Corey got up at dawn, starting his morning routine. Jim was dead to the world until he started waking up to the smell of coffee, food and most importantly to the sound of singing. It was a strong and clear voice he’d never heard before, but moved something inside him. Without opening his eyes he knew it was Corey.
He was just lying there for a while, listening to that touching voice and lyrics – and enjoying the lack of migraine. Both the voice and the song were beautiful. Painful, but very beautiful. Jim wondered how it’d be to jam together with Corey and some of the other clan members. After all most of them were musicians too.
Sitting up in the bed – which had fresh sheets on after the previous one was ruined by blood and bodily fluids – he watched Corey moving around the kitchen area, Jim’s heart swelling a bit once again from the sight of his mate. Jim knew it’d still take some time to get used to having someone. Especially a mate. He just started to feel the weight of it. He was going to live his life – as long as it lasts – with this one man. And he already felt that he’d probably do and endure anything to keep that cute smile on his face. Wow, some emotional way to start the day, he smiled to himself and climbed off the bed to search for the borrowed cut jeans.
Once they were on, he quietly padded over to Corey just in time for the last few lines of the song. Standing behind the much smaller demon Jim slid his arms around him from the back as he leaned down to rub his nose against Corey’s neck and kiss the still angry red claiming bite. “It was beautiful. I love your voice,” he murmured just holding Corey there for a long moment, enjoying their mixed scent on the warm skin.
“You do?” Corey laughed and blushed hard, reaching up to stroke over the longer locks of Jim's hair as they enjoyed their closeness for a long moment. “We should eat. And go to Paul. He wants to talk to you before going on duty. Oh and I asked Mick to come over and have lunch and a little jam session with you. He said yes, so it depends on you, if you rather stayed alone that's okay too,” he turned in Jim's arms and pecked his lips. “He also said that you can go over and look for more clothes, the jeans and tee was once his also,” he giggled nuzzling Jim's neck.
Back in that torture chamber Jim wouldn’t have thought that he’d one day find Corey’s giggle and blushing cute, but now he did. He was really fucked. But he dutifully pecked Corey’s lips back and then reluctantly let him go to grab a clean plate and put food on it first for the other demon and then for himself before they moved back to the bed to eat it.
“I’m okay with spending some time with Mick. I should start bonding with the other clan members if I’m going to live here with you and all…” Jim said after swallowing the first bite and grunting approvingly from the taste. “I could get used to this,” he grinned. “Sure, we can go to Paul. Although I don’t like the idea of you going to the other clan without me. But I guess I just have to get used to this feeling,” he mused, examining the protective strike in him he felt when he thought about Corey visiting other demons without him being around. He didn’t press the matter only because he knew Paul was going to be with him to keep him safe.
“Well you will have to ‘cause I love to cook and you are stuck with me,” Corey laughed poking his tongue out at Jim. “You know that I'm a.... I’m stronger than I look. Don't forget that,” he added after changing his mind on what he wanted to say and eating in silence just lost in his thoughts.
“And I love to eat… So we really seem to be a match made in… hell,” he let out one of his cute laughs then he turned a bit more serious. “I know it from first hand that you’re strong. Not many would’ve been able to endure what I did to you back there…” Jim murmured softly, thinking about the torturing. “I know you can take care of yourself. But you’re my mate now and I guess that means that I’ll always worry about you,” he shrugged, a light blush touching his cheeks. “I can’t help it.”
After that they were eating and drinking their coffee in silence, lost in their own thoughts for a while. Then Jim took the plates and mugs, washing them quickly. Drying his hands with a cloth he turned to look back at Corey. “I’m ready to go, if you are.”
“Yeah I am almost ready too,” Corey said and went to pick up a backpack and put on a harness of what seemed to be short twin swords and got a denim jacket on top of it, and the backpack, hiding the weapons perfectly. Yeah he had such weapons, as most demons that fought in battle carried swords of some kind.
“Did you have weapons at the Bloodstone? We can make new ones for you if you need it. You have to tell Paul about it and he’ll arrange it,” Corey said when they were already on their way. He was a bit nervous, partly about what Paul would decide after his one on one with Jim. And partly because of the clan meeting. He didn't say it but he also left behind his new mate with an uneasy heart. Probably that is why he asked Mick over. They still had so much "getting to know you" to do with Jim… But now clan duty first...
“Here we are. I'll fetch Shawn and wait here outside,” he smiled at Jim reassuringly and rolled up onto his toes to kiss him.
Jim watched his mate arm himself and that uneasy feeling returned. He didn’t have a bad feeling about what might happen during their visit. It was more about already being protective over the small beast, no matter how strong he was.
Either way Jim followed Corey down the corridors he was starting to memorize, which was a good thing in case he had to find someone or get somewhere quickly. “Yeah. Throwing knives and stars. But I prefer the knives. I used to have dozens of them with custom made holders,” he murmured, for a moment, wondering about what’d happened to all his possessions now that he was dead to the Bloodstone clan. They probably already threw out or burned everything.
His gloomy thoughts were interrupted as Corey got on his tiptoes and kissed him. Jim automatically put an arm around his waist and kept him there a few moments longer, gently sucking on his bottom lip and pressing a soft kiss on the healing claim mark too. Then he let him go and nodded, taking a deep breath as he faced the door and then knocked. Once he got permission to enter, he stole a last glance of Corey then he was swallowed up by the shaman’s room.
The shaman felt it as Corey left outside while he waved Jim closer to sit with him by the table. “Come here, Jim Root. First of all, how are you feeling?”
Paul sized up the newcomer with his calm black eyes. His magic-spiced strong energies could be felt from far around him, still he never seemed aggressive. He had to know what the decisions of the half-breed were and how safe Corey would be on his side. Offering a cup of fresh coffee to the sitting down male the shaman waited patiently for him to talk.
Now that it was only the two of them in the room, Jim could feel Paul’s powers easier. They were nothing he’d sensed before. Yes, he’d met shamans before, the Bloodstone clan had one too, but like each demon, shamans had a unique presence too. Sitting down he nodded and accepted the coffee. He took a sip to buy some time for himself and collect his thoughts then as he placed the mug back down on the table, his hazel eyes met the black ones.
“Mostly confused, I guess. Trying to catch up with everything that’d happened in a very short span of time,” Jim said truthfully. “Trying to deal with everything that I had to leave behind and everything I’ve gained since I’ve got here… and mated with Corey…” he said, pausing for a moment. “I have to state something before you say anything…” he murmured then took a steadying breath, holding the other demon’s gaze. “As I understand, you and Corey were close before our mating. I’m sorry that I… the bond ruined it. I mean… I know it was probably supposed to happen since I don’t believe in coincidences, but still… I can feel Corey mourning over what he’d lost with you.”
“Yes, we were lovers,” Paul stated calmly holding Jim's gaze. “I know it had to happen. I can feel it and so know more than you know about yourself probably. Corey and I shared a love that was based on our past. I have to ask you, though. What do you know about Corey's background? And yours?”
Jim stared into his mug for a moment. “Still, I don’t like feeling him in pain. I mean… if it’d make him happy, I’d be willing to try to look the other way, but I doubt it’d work on the long run. I’d probably get jealous at some point since I can feel what he feels through the bond, you know,” Jim made a half-offer, but he didn’t really believe that a love triangle would work. But that’s the only thing he could think of, not to mention that it was a sign that he was trying to see what’s best for Corey. “I’m a bit helpless in this situation so I’d like your input on the question,” he finally met Paul’s eyes. “I want him to be happy. As much as possible. I don’t want to hurt or use him. Since our mating… my attitude and feelings towards him have changed A LOT. It’s insane, really. But that’s how I feel. It’s still messed up in me but I think I can see a bit clearer today, you know.”
“I don’t know much about Corey’s past. He shared just a tiny bit of it. He told me that he was rescued as a kid and was very, very troubled when he got here. I saw his old room. We’re making a music room, a sanctuary from it. I didn’t want to pressure him. I thought he’d probably tell me about his past when he was ready,” Jim rubbed his stubble. “Regarding my past, I obviously missed a lot. But he must be right. It’s still hard for me to believe, but I must be a half-breed if I was able to mate with him and mark him… and partially transform…” he said and as his thoughts took a turn towards the questions about his past, he could feel that migraine starting to build up again.
“I see. And you have a killing headache every time you think about these, I suppose. It can be from a mental block, a kind of magic that wipes the memories out of someone. It can be, yes. I can feel it in you also, but with time and with your realizations it probably will break sooner or later. I'm glad to hear that you want to make him happy. And I know he needs a caring partner who feels like you. I'm okay with how things turned out. My kind knows more from the universe than we should. So I'm happy that I can leave him in your care and protection.”
“We call him the wild one, because of how he was for years after he got here with Mick. We got them out of the same ‘facility’, so to say.” Even after so many years Paul remembered when the kids, almost his age, arrived from that place, Corey in such a condition it still made Paul grimace. “Corey's family kept up a small separated magic-protected place in the mountains. They were shamans from an ancient tribe and offered a safe place for outcasts. Mostly mixed families between all kinds of demons and even half-human families. The white witches – with the aid of an Earth demon clan – found and burned down the place to smoldering ashes and took the kids away to sell and brainwash. Corey was around a year old or so. My father was the shaman in this clan before. He and the leader then bumped into a place where they held games for all kinds of people to bet on. Kind of gladiator games, kids killing each other, animals or prisoners. Mostly beast demons because of their higher skills. Corey and Mick were two of them,” Paul paused taking a deep breath and sipped from his coffee.
“Corey was trained with pain. Even rewarded with pain, he was kept in a condition and place since his kidnapping that made his powers stronger. His senses sharper and grew his bloodlust. When he got here, he was just a few years younger than me but so much different. He couldn't stand the bright light or the sun, wanted to hide away or was just clinging to my father who saw how broken and love-hungry he really was. Corey is very smart. He shrugged that off fast on the outside. But as you could see in that room, on the inside that darkness kept eating him up. He was everyone's friend but no one knew him really. And he snapped quickly from anything. He was close only to Mick. They are like brothers. And as my father trained him we got close too and fell in love with time. So, you can see why I want to make sure someone accepts him and understands his needs. But as I feel you, his power found his right pair,” Paul ended with a kind smile toward Jim. “You will find a family among us too. An equal member of this clan if you like to be with time.”
A mental block? Well, that made sense and explained why that migraine came only when he was trying to think about his past. Jim wondered what else that block had made him forget. But he didn’t go into that now, because he wanted to avoid the headache getting worse. For some reason it stayed while Paul was talking about Corey’s past. All along Jim had a nagging feeling in the back of his mind. Like when someone is about to remember something but it keeps slipping away from his grip before he could catch the memory. Since he didn’t know with what that memory was in connection, the sharp pain stayed away for now.
Saying that Jim was utterly shocked was an understatement. Yes, he’d suspected a dark past to be revealed, but this was one of the heaviest stories he’d ever heard. He suddenly felt ill and disgusted. Not because of Corey and his past. If something then Jim started to feel a new found and deep respect towards his mate for surviving all this and coming out of it more or less in one piece. He’d noticed in his torture chamber how kinda unnatural it was even for his kind to endure and up to a point enjoy the pain Jim was inflicting on him. The tall demon also thought back on the two times they had sex. It was rough and bloody. Jim could never let go with anyone like this. Looking into himself he knew that he had no problem with giving Corey the pain and blood he needed to free himself. They’ll just have to buy a lot of sheets.
“This is so fucked up,” he finally blurted out, trying to process all the horrible – but useful – information about his pair. “I mean I knew that demons and witches can do very fucked up things, but this…” he ran a slightly shaking hand through his longish hair and took a few deep breaths to calm down. He wanted to tear everyone into bloody shreds who’d hurt Corey, Mick and all those unfortunate children and babies. Information like these were what often made Jim lose hope in this world.
Leaning forward he put both big hands on the table, locking eyes with the searching yet calm black ones. “Thank you for telling me all this, I appreciate both the information and the trust. I swear on my life that I’ll try to keep him safe, happy and loved. Until my last breath. He deserves it more than most of us, even if he might not see it.”
“Thank you. I needed to hear that. And you will see, he is much more than meets the eye,” Paul smiled at Jim. In his energies the little sadness over letting Corey go could be felt. “I do love him back, but I'm not the one meant to be his mate, and over the years we never reached that point. He needs someone like you. And as your powers chose him, you probably need him as well. It is good this way,” the big man nodded. “I have to meet them at the gate and get our thing done. I will talk to him as well along the way. Stay safe and please make a list of what you would need,” Paul said while standing up.
“I already know he’s much more, even if I haven’t known him that long,” Jim nodded in agreement and gave Paul a grateful look. “Thank you too. For your help and accepting me despite my background and the things I’d done to hurt your clan. I’m sorry. I guess I was blinded, but now I’m starting to open my eyes,” he added standing up too. He quickly finished his coffee then turned to Paul to offer him his hand. “I am truly grateful and I’ll give you my list soon,” he shook hands with the shaman, his nice energies running up on Jim’s arm, calming him a bit as he headed for the door. He had a lot to think about – again.
Meanwhile at his own place Mick was waiting for Jim to finish the talk with their leader. He already looked for some old clothes that were a bit slimmer to fit Jim. The height was almost the same anyway. The new mate of Corey was a guitarist too, so he packed some instruments out to jam a little too. The little annoying shit said he told Jim to stop by and made them lunch too, so he must arrive soon… - the muscular demon thought as he was playing aimlessly on his favorite piece.
After his talk with Paul, Jim took a minute or two on the corridor, leaning against the wall to think everything through that he’d learned about Corey. He couldn’t deny that his mate was a remarkably strong one. Speaking of which, when he concentrated a bit more, he could feel him getting further away from him. Which Jim didn’t like, but knew there would be times when being apart was going to be necessary.
Shaking his head he rubbed his forehead and decided to pay his visit to Mick. Maybe some distraction was what he needed right now. He soon found himself by the door Corey simply kicked in the day before. Jim knocked instead then entered, the familiar sounds of a guitar welcoming him and he already felt the tightness in his chest ease up a bit.
“Hey, man. Nice melody. Thanks for babysitting me,” he smirked at the mountain-like demon.”
“Hey kiddo!” Mick stood up kidding him back and gave him a big strong hug. “Look over the stuff on the table. Some of that should fit you, I guess, and Cor said he'd bring you some stuff too... Oooops… You didn't hear that. It's a surprise,” Mick laughed. “Also till he makes that guitar he was talking about promising you, you can pick some of mine too. These are tuned different and more for main guitar parts to play on. Almost all custom made for me,” he couldn't help but grin wide and proud.
A wholehearted laugh left Jim from the fast way Mick was talking to him while he returned the hug with a few pats on a broad shoulder. “Thanks man, I appreciate. And my lips are sealed. I promise to be surprised when Corey gives me the stuff,” Jim said and walked over to the table, picking up clothes and holding them to his body. “Yeah, most of these will work, I think. Thanks.”
He still didn’t get used to the fact that the members of the Gray clan were so willing to share nearly everything with each other. This was new to Jim. Once he picked the clothes that seemed to be fitting, he walked over to the lined up guitars, taking out a black one to try its sound. His fingers quickly found a simple melody. It was like a gulp of fresh air holding a guitar in his hands again. He’d noticed that most of Mick’s guitars had “Seven” written on them and he had the same tattoo on his forearm too.
“Can I ask what ‘Seven’ stands for?” Jim suddenly asked, getting a feeling that it was somehow connected to Corey’s past too, because he had more than one opportunity to see the huge “8” tattoo on the back of his mate’s neck. “I’ve noticed Corey having an ‘8’ tattoo and I have a feeling there’s a connection there.”
“I'm Seven and he is Eight,” Mick winked with a chuckle but got serious picking up a guitar too and started to fiddle on it. “What Cor and Paul said about where we are from?”
“I know he was kidnapped as a baby and you were like gladiators before Paul’s father saved you two. I also know that they managed to fuck Corey up pretty good. Hence the ‘wild one’ nickname,” Jim sat down on the ground, leaning his back against the wall, guitar on his lap as he kept strumming that long forgotten melody that kept haunting him for weeks.
“Yeah, that's the sum of it. These are our numbers to make bets on. 7 and 8. And let me tell you, fucked up doesn't even cover it how he was. Ever wondered how come he is the size of a teenager? He was a hunter. Needed to be small and fast, and bloodthirsty. They made him get used to pain. He is a few years younger than me, I remember he was around 4 or 5 and was already taking beatings and cutting into his flesh as the biggest reward. They fed him while giving him pain, starved him to mess up his brain to crave the pain connected food; fed him raw bloody meat and blood to help his skills as a beast grow stronger. But he got too smart and powerful so they kept him in a cage and in the dark and only gave him food when he hunted the victims in the maze.”
“I'm this huge because I was trained to fight one on one with huge creatures. Fed and trained till I was 15 and we got rescued. I was the only one he was close to there and here too. He is like my little brother, man. I have this fucked up thing that when the worse times come, the more fun I make of it, and once Corey said to me that I helped him keep a little of himself and his sanity with my stupid jokes and non-stop talking shit, and that was the biggest compliment anyone ever had made about my existence,” Mick took a deep breath at the last lines, clearly moved from all the memories. But sniffing and shaking his head punched into the chords and laughed a little at Jim. “But that's over now. He is in good hands now with you.”
Jim couldn’t help it, his eyes grew wide the more Mick was sharing about the story behind their numbers. If he thought he’d felt sick while Paul was telling him about what Corey had went through, now he probably took a greenish shade – which was a big thing to achieve because he’d done some nasty things as one of Robb’s favorite torturers. But this wasn’t about some enemy, a stranger he didn’t know or cared about. This had happened to his mate and his friend. He could’ve been easily in their place too if his life took that same turn.
“Fuck, man. I’m sorry. This is sick. But… I’m glad you both came out of it alive and in one piece,” Jim joined the melody Mick was picking out, his own playing complimenting it. “I want to torture and rip everyone apart who did this to you and forced you two and others to do these things…” he frowned deeply as he kept his eyes on the fret board, watching his long fingers moving with ease. “But… what makes you think I’m gonna be good for Corey?” Jim asked curiously, glimpsing up at the big guy.
“Because he is like... he’d gotten his fix or something,” Mick laughed playing along with Jim easily and from his wide smile enjoying it to the fullest. “You make him tamer... He feels strangely happy. I mean… It's weird to feel him like that. A good weird. He is a good guy, though… Writes wicked songs and has a voice you piss yourself from,” he chuckled again, speeding into a solo part on his guitar.
Some of Jim’s hair fell into his face, more or less hiding the light blush there, but not his grin. “Well… it’s good to know I’m able to give him what he needs. This is fucking new to me too. Not that I’m complaining, because I’m not. Just have to adjust to a lot of changes, you know,” he explained, giving a nice rhythm on the guitar – although it wasn’t really tuned to be one for that – to help that kickass solo. “Oh yeah, he woke me with his singing. I was blown away,” he said then snorted from the double meaning. “I mean his voice is fuckin’ amazing. And the lyrics were beautiful too,” he said while changing the pace, turning his playing into a solo too that mingled with Mick’s as if the sounds were playing with each other.
“He is awesome, man. He can roar and scream too so fucking sic!” Mick said with clear adoration for Corey's voice. “But maybe you know that already,” he winked giving his chuckle to Jim again. “Pick a guitar then let's go eat what your mate cooked. He cooks awesome too, you know.”
“I think someone has a crush on my mate’s voice – which is understandable,” Jim teased Mick back as he got up from the floor with the black guitar in his hand. “And yes, I already know and like how he roars and screams,” he laughed with a playful wink. It was so easy to talk to and joke around with Mick. It was refreshing after the serious happenings and topics of the last few days. Rolling his shoulder, where some bruises from his torture were finally healing faster, he nodded towards the guitar in his hand. “I’ll borrow this then. Thanks, man. Being without a guitar felt as if I was missing an arm or something. No matter how short that time was,” he said, already missing his white piece, which was lying broken somewhere in Corey’s… their apartment.
Walking there with Mick to eat the prepared food, Jim looked at the other demon. “After lunch could you help me with painting Corey’s old room? He offered it to me to have it as a music room or a sanctuary where I can be alone with myself and my music. Also, I have to make a table for him. We kinda broke the one he had,” he chuckled as they reached the door and entered, heading towards the kitchen area. Once Mick said yes, they busied themselves with eating everything Corey'd prepared for them.