The day of the first gig with the new band was right around the corner. The clan of the beasts was getting restless and the masks and the costumes were finalized. Along with the list of songs they were gonna play.
After talking the plans over with the rest of the head of the clan, Cristina was sent home with the sentence of cooperating. Otherwise the roots and deeds of her father would be revealed to all the race of Earthy Demons and they’d probably have a more painful punishment from them.
The Gray clan had to re-arrange their lines as well. No matter how they tried to avoid it, the members insisted and logically the clan indeed needed a leadership. The ones who were around to make decisions when Paul lived (and since he was gone) formed the base of a new kind of clan. Democratic demon clan. That was new. With the leadership of two shamans and two warriors.
After sending Cristina on her way and finalizing the stuff for the gig, Corey finally sat back at their back room and fiddled on his guitar just looking out at the street. He really had to move on. Paul would have wanted that. And his clan of the ginger beast shamans too. But nothing new can be built if we don't use the past's ruins.
Sighing deeply he put his guitar down and walked into the living area, looking at the clock on the kitchen wall. Right when there was a knock on his door. And after it Mick walked in, looking pissed and scarier than usual, holding a long chain and handed it to the beast.
Corey pulled on it as a test and a twisted smile appeared on his lips hearing all the rattle. A worthless simple human was on the other end. Collar around his neck. His long black hair braided short like slaves’ was, long chains and shackles on his legs. The beast couldn't hold it back and leaned close to his face, his own transformed and his red power around him as he hissed at Robb Flynn's face: “Who is the animal now...”
Jim was glad about everything coming together nicely with the band. Their masks and overalls have arrived and they looked pretty sick in them. The rehearsals went well too and he couldn't wait to play live in front of an audience again. They were good and everyone with ears could hear it.
Also the new arrangement about the leadership of the clan was something their world had never seen. But it seemed to work so far. Jim wasn't really born to be a leader, but as Corey's mate and feeling protective over his new family, he quickly grew up to the task even if he mostly stayed in the background as a silent supporter and guardian. They didn't hear much news about the witches either, but sometimes they could feel them spying on them when they ventured out into the city.
At least their work with the Bloodstones didn't hit any bumps yet. There were meetings where they talked about how it would be the best to get rid of their common enemy. The plan was forming at least, even if they didn't come to an agreement yet.
Jim was on his way to their living quarters, back from a supply run, which was luckily uneventful. But when he entered their apartment with a bag of new guitar strings, picks and stuff, what he saw made his blood boil. Robb being that close to his mate, that red power surrounding the human made Jim's eyes darken as he went to the kitchen counter to pack out some groceries too, louder than necessary. Corey's been spending quite some time with his pet lately.
And Corey also could feel his mate's childish jealousy over the human pet that the beast just kept close, his power around it like a block to use only.
But they had other things to worry about…
“What you brought, babe?” Corey asked Jim, hugging him from behind and nuzzling his shaved face to Jim's back. “I have a task for you for later…”
Jim heard the chains of that piece of shit clink as Corey got up and came closer to him to hug him from behind. He probably felt him being irritated by the presence of his former clan leader. It was funny how one's life could turn around, right? From a feared leader Robb became a despised figure in Jim's eyes. And while in the past he had gentle feelings for his daughter, now he was completely neutral towards her.
"Strings, picks and some cheese, vegetables and bread," he shrugged, leaning into Corey's embrace as he relaxed a bit from both his presence and attention. "What task?" he finally turned around, leaning against the counter as he pulled his mate close with a possessive arm around his waist.
“We’ll be freeing some kids from the slave market. A small group of mixed breed demons, around 5 or 6. Three of them kidnapped from lower regions perhaps, because they can't even use a human disguise. That means their families have never lived among humans. You will have to work with them.”
That was actually the first smile that graced Jim's too serious and tense face since he got back. Reaching out to caress Corey's smooth face he leaned in and pecked his lips, ignoring the watching asshole for now. "You're the best, love. I'll gladly take up that task. Maybe some of those poor kids gonna be willing to start learning guitar too while we'll try to teach them how to disguise them and all the rest."
“You will be in charge of them. And hopefully even more of them. Teaching them to use weapons and art and how to live in this part of the land and such. You will need patience for them. We don't know where they are coming from. For a start it's good that they are rather small, around 6 years old. And there is one thing, though... You’ll have to work with the perverse and help the kids understand that he is not evil just looks scary,” Corey laughed as he described Mick.
"I think with Mick's help I'll be able to do all that," he smiled gazing into the blue of Corey's eyes, feeling calmer now. "We're going to give them the life they deserve instead of the one that was forced on them," he said and his eyes and expression hardened as he looked at the peeking pet on chains. Then he looked back at Corey, his expression already softer. "And they'll get used to my beard brother," he smirked, caressing the short hair on his mate's nape.
“They’ll have to,” Corey chuckled rolling onto his tiptoes to kiss his mate deeply, pressing his body to the bigger one.
They will have to do this. The thought that more kids could have the fate they had didn't left Corey and Mick alone. And they would need more members to this small clan, so giving the kids a new home would make everyone happy and the clan would profit from it in the long-run.
“You will be a great leader for us,” the beast said after pulling back from those sweet lips. “How are the plans for the gig coming together?”
Jim instinctively held his mate as close to his body as possible. He didn't even care about anyone else in the room. Which meant the pet and Mick's grinning in the background. At least he'd get some more fuel to his "fan pages".
"The new little ones could add to our numbers too," Jim said, being on the same wavelength as his mate. And frankly, it was a very nice thought to provide them a better future than most of them had.
Jim actually blushed a bit on Corey's compliment about becoming a good leader. "I'll try my best. I can promise you that," he said smiling a bit. "Everything is in order for the gig. The club called back earlier today to let us know that everything is good. We just have to get there and do the show. The tech guys gonna set up our shit. We practically just have to rock the show."
“Sounds good. I'm thinking about what I should do with the animal... Someone might see it… Maybe in the dungeon would be safer for us. And we can go from the show to the slave keepers. We have a plan with Shawn,” Corey said nodding to Mick who signaled back. The plans about this all was hidden before many, and especially hidden before Robb. They had to work all together with the Bloodstones to wipe that place clean off those witches…
"Yeah, you should keep the filth locked up," Jim sent a stern look to the kneeling Robb, who glared back at him but didn't dare to react otherwise. Then Jim looked at his mate and nodded. "Alright. We'll all be riled up after the show anyway. Some fight and a heroic deed will be the perfect way to end that day," he smiled, rubbing the small of Corey's back. He was kinda looking forward to have those kids freed and running around in the building. Although they would have to make sure the place is safe and get new furniture and stuff, maybe even some toys to make things more comfortable for the little devils. Without noticing, Jim was already doing what Corey wanted him to do, making lists and thinking about how to help and teach those kids.
"You can tell me about that plan later when we're alone." Yes, they wouldn't want too many to know about their plans, because in case someone leaked information, it'd risk the success of them. "I have to check on Jay. I brought him some art supplies too. They're still in the car. Just wanted to check in with you first," he explained. In truth he wanted to be close to his mate for a couple of minutes again. Especially now that he found Robb with him again.
Corey just smiled as he saw Jim lost in his thoughts planning ahead. This task will fit his mate well and will help to find his path and place in this new life of theirs.
He hugged Jim closer, laying his head onto his chest and sending love and assurance to him through their bond before looking up into the beloved hazel eyes. “Okay. He will paint something with Shawn as a background to our show. Look at his painting, he is really good. I admit it,” he grimaced then laughed. Yeah, Jay was fantastic and so loyal to all of them. “I'm glad you wanted us to save him too. You did good for the clan with it, babe… Mick, please lock the pet up for now, then we’ll all meet in Paul's room to talk the plans over.”
As the overalls and masks were put on, their wild sides were crawling closer to the surface too. With his eyes looking ahead and his fingers on the strings following the notes of their intro, Jim was as ready as he could be, although he was a bit nervous, too. This was the first time they stepped onto the stage as an official band under the name of “Slipknot”. Would they laugh about the masks? Would they hate it? Or love it? Well, one way to find out… Before stepping into the light, his shimmering eyes shifted to Corey’s blue ones and he gave an encouraging smile to him as his eyes softened with love.
This night was important and exciting not just because of the show, of course. Like they planned, after the show they were going to go and free those kids from the slave market. Their different masks, clothes and weapons were waiting stacked in the cars outside. Back at their base everything was ready to welcome the young additions to their clan. Jim made sure of that. He was taking his task bloody seriously. He knew that the others cared too and were excited, but Jim wanted everything to be perfect. To help on those poor kids. Maybe it was a bit about not being able to change Corey and Mick’s past. Now they had the chance to do that with these small demons. Maybe even save as much of their innocence as possible. They had the power to provide a better future to them. And they were gonna do exactly that.
The demonic/horror theme of their songs and appearance felt more liberating to Corey as he ever thought, or felt before on stage. The maniac anger, the hopeless madness and creepy short tales set his wild side freer, especially with the mask and suit on to help him and all of them hide their everyday personas and let these characters to the surface to be breathing and alive manifestations of the creatures they created based on dark feelings hidden deep inside their souls. It was therapy as much for them as it seemed to be for the audience, because from the silently listening interest the show turned into a raging, roaring explosion of all those raw energies, fueling and freeing everyone both on and off stage.
As they finished and went to change, Corey hugged the evil Clown tight. This was the best idea ever and they needed it so very much.
Especially before such an important mission... Bursting with power the small group walked from their cars in the dark ally to the meeting point with Cristina and the Bloodstones. The joke was on them, Corey thought as he was wearing a ghost-imitating bag with dreadlocks over his head. He looked at Jim who had a different type of Jester mask on; followed by Mick who changed his Gimp one from stage to one that looked more like a hokey mask. Those fuckers will be shitless from them, especially because their outfit was topped with orange jump suits mostly covered in "blood".
Pumped up and excited from the awesome show and his blue powers still swirling around him, Jim patted Clown’s shoulder too – his way of expressing the same thought everyone had: this was the coolest idea ever. Even if the mask and jump suit seriously stunk afterwards.
The orange jump suits weren’t the best outfit for Jim’s choice of weapons, but somehow he made it work to be able to get to his throwing knives hidden on different parts of his body. He was so up for this. They must have looked shocking as they were approaching the meeting point. Or at least that’s what Cristina’s and the other demons’ expression told them. Jim smiled under the mask and stood next to Corey in a “ready to fight and also kick your fucking ass if you mess with my mate” kind of protective stance. That vibe coupled with his Jester mask was creepy indeed.
They weren’t far from the market that was hidden away from humans, of course. They were on the other side of the city, in the industrial area with many abandoned buildings. Their target was the closed factory building two blocks from there.
Not losing his manners completely, Jim nodded to a kinda pale Cristina, who greeted them then looked at Corey. “So how do you want to do this?”
“Break in, make a bloodbath, you can take prisoners and keep the escape path free, under the inspection of Mr. Seven. I, Clown, and the Jester get the kids free and Seven will signal you when we are done and you can leave with whatever you want.” Eight, Corey looked over all the building before, pretending to be interested in slave buying and although the stock piled up was huge, he didn't care just for the 7 kids, as by then the number settled at that with the remaining little demons. “Shall we then? I want to surprise them, you know...”
She nodded then turned towards her people. “You heard him. I expect no glitch in the operation,” she said and got agreeing grunts and comments. Then they spread out to take their positions.
They were on the move afterwards. The mentioned members of the Gray clan snuck close to the building quietly, spells from Corey and Shawn hiding their presence enough to do that undetected. Jim was already holding two of his knives as they found a door through which they could seep into the building, sticking to the shadows to size up the interior and the number of the guards.
Of course Corey did a good job earlier with mapping out these things. They all knew the layout of the building by then and there weren’t additional guards, but there were some potential buyers present too. Which made Jim’s anger roar up before forcing himself to calm down and keep a cool head – which required some practicing since his mind-block was gone and his instincts and beast became freer. They had to get down to the basement level where the cells and cages were. Looking at Corey he nodded. The show was on.
Leaving Seven and Clown with the Bloodstones, Eight and Jester sneaked behind the two guards and snapped their necks with one silent move walking then down the narrow staircase. Corey let his senses map around, which connected to Jim now was a good way to show his mate how to use beast powers.
There were three more guards left, he showed to Jim as they moved in sync like deadly shadows. Judging from the sounds the battle was on upstairs too, and the guards moved from the sounds, running right into Corey's swords and Jim's knives.
“At least make it a challenge…” the Jester growled as the first of the guards landed on the floor with a knife sticking out from an eye and eyehole, the sharp knife edged into the brain. Corey was busy with the other two, his twin blades moving in the air with perfect precision. Jim always loved watching him work or just practice with them. Eight looked impressive (and hot) with them, indeed.
But when one of the guards tried to get behind his mate’s back, the Jester moved closer like a deadly shadow and stabbed the asshole in the guts from behind. “No one messes with my mate… Good night,” he grinned then looking at Eight, he cut sideways then upwards, opening the guard’s stomach until guts and blood were spilling onto the floor. Jim felt no regret for killing them off like this. After all they were fucking assholes for selling off demons and other creatures for slaves. Maybe he should’ve torn his spine out to match his spinelessness. Oh well, maybe next time…
Jim let the guard drop onto the floor and seeing that Corey could handle the other on his own, the Jester headed towards the first cell with the key chain he stole from that bleeding out worm. They were nearly done there.
Eight wanted to spit on the dead guard, but in the mask he only stamped on the body as he moved to Jester to help with the kids. The four boys were in one cell and the tree girls in another. All of them with their demonic features out probably due to fear and shock. Corey touched Jim’s back while the tall demon opened the first cage, nodding towards the next when he was done to take care of that one too and Corey went inside and gently held the shoulder of the first tied up and chained boy from the four and led him out. Sadly the chained-together kids moved from routine, which made Corey's heart sink. He didn't remember himself like this, but saw the arrival of such morbid caravans to the arena not once.
By the stairs he waited for Jim, trying to support his mate mentally and emotionally as he felt the Jester moved while leading the three little girls out of the cell and nodded to Corey that they could start to retreat towards the back door of the building which should be clear by then.
For Jim this was the hardest part of the whole operation. Seeing these poor kids like this just because what they were. Torn away from their families – if they had one in the first place. Blindfolded and chained together, waiting to be sold off to the highest bidder so that later they would be trained like Corey and Mick were – or worse. He didn’t even want to think about that. His heart was sinking like his mate’s was when Jim remembered that once Eight and Seven were exactly like this.
The Jester had to force himself not to let his anger roar up again. He didn’t want to scare these kids even more. They were so silent and obedient that it made his heart break too. Because it meant they’d already gone through a lot to become like this.
As he was leading the blindfolded girls down on the corridor, he made sure to avoid the corpses and the pooling blood on the dirty floor. Concentrating on getting them out of there unharmed was the only thing keeping Jim from falling apart. Of course his mate’s support through both their bond and his look helped a bit too.
The climb up on the steps was relatively short and a bloody but unharmed Jay was coming towards them. “The way is clear. Clown and Seven are bringing the cars while our allies are staying on guard,” he quickly reported, his eyes wide from the sight of the poor kids like this, but he didn’t comment on it.
“Thanks,” Jim murmured and watched as Jay nodded and fell back to protect their back. He was a good kid.
The cool night air felt refreshing for Jim and he knew that the twenty minutes ride back to their base was going to be one of the longest rides he’d ever had. Because they all agreed that in order not to scare the kids even more, they’d first have to take off their masks and bloody jumpers before letting them see their faces. Which meant they had to keep them chained and blindfolded, because the Grays couldn’t afford to let anyone see them without their masks at or around the scene.
So they helped the kids into the back of the vans and he and Corey sat in with them. Cor with the boys and Jim with the girls. There Jim took off the Jester mask and took a deep breath as he closed his eyes, reaching out for his mate in the other van through their bond, letting their powers mix and unfold as Corey’s hiding spell lifted from them. That way a gentle cloud of their united energies could cover all of them to calm the little demons.
Sitting in the back of the other van, Corey pulled the sack-like mask off his head too and murmured the words to lift the cover spell from them. Trying his best to not fall apart and give in to his lurking darkness, he focused on calming everyone, even Shawn, telling the kids through their feelings that they were safe now and gonna be untied soon.
The rest of the Gray clan was waiting for them, all the members volunteered to help take care of the little ones. There were five older kids in the clan and the few females really wanted to take them in. Thinking about them made the beast smile. Hopefully all will be better and easier for these little demons. They were young and could learn everything more easily to adapt and try to lead a happier life. Without the mark of their past like many of the rescued ones like Corey had.
Jim would be perfect to teach them. This made him feel all warm inside and sent that to his mate as the vans finally parked inside the warehouse and the full Gray clan gathered there to welcome the new ones with love.
The tall demon was grateful for Corey’s non-verbal message and reassurance that he could do this. Jim let that feeling bloom in him as he sent a “thank you” to Corey through their bond, his eyes searching and sizing up the little ones as much as he could in the half-light. They felt a bit calmer now and one or two had a spark of curiosity too. That gave hope to Jim. He also hoped that the presence of the whole clan wouldn’t be too overwhelming to them.
Once they arrived, they let the others help them out of the van while he and Corey got rid of their masks and overalls, Jay taking them out of sight. In a simple and clean green T-shirt and black shorts Jim finally walked back to the kids and while murmuring reassuring words to them, using the key chain he brought along, he started clicking the locks open, which tied the girls and boys to the two chains. He could feel the attention of the whole clan on them as he gently took off the blindfolds too and then just knelt there opposite them while their eyes got used to the light and they quickly sized up their surroundings.
“No need to be scared. My name is Jim and I’m gonna be your mentor, helper. You are all free and safe now. We are the Gray clan and your new home if you want to. We all are here to protect and help you,” he said with a soft smile, kneeling on the ground in front of them. “And this here…” he reached out for Corey’s hand to pull him down next to him “is my mate, Corey.”
Corey swallowed the lump in his throat as he watched the kids closely. They were somewhat curious and felt still like kids, judging by their energies which got a bit freer to flow around too and size up where they were now. That was good. Kid. Not tortured slaves. It was better for them all to face now. Even if they would not give up on any troubled ones and "hard cases", Corey's mental state would take it very roughly if he saw his miniature self reflecting in one of those small eyes.
“Hello, little ones. My name is Corey and I, Jim and two other males lead this clan,” he pointed to the arriving and clean Mick and Shawn. “Shawn and I are Shamans. Jim and Mick are fighters, warriors,” he told on a soft voice to the very curious line of kids who were drinking in his every word. “The others behind us all wanted to welcome you. They, we all will be your new family. Now… Who knows where they came from? Anyone?” The boys and girls shaking their heads made the beast swallow hard again. “Okay… Do you have names?” With a shine in their eyes the “yeses” came but they one by one held out their wrists, showing the witch symbols on it. So no names either.
“Alright. Let's go inside. These moms made a lot of nice treats to eat and will show you all where you can sleep. Alright?” Shy nodding and a few low yeses came as a response and a little girl made the first step towards the others and the upfront coming demon woman who gently hugged her and the little boy who looked similar to her with same fair blond hair and skin, green eyes and similar vibes. It was very likely that they rescued a pair of siblings too. Soon the Gray clan and the kids were mixed up nicely, Jim as the great mentor was helping and telling everyone what they can find where as they walked inside.
Corey stayed there sitting on his legs just watching them, feeling them up with his powers. Mick patted his back without a word as a reassuring gesture for a good work.
There was a little, probably the youngest girl, who just adored Shawn, holding the man's hand and looking up at him with large blue eyes and her little fangs out from her half-open amazed lips. Corey could sense a touch of magic skills in her and so it was good that Shawn could teach her. Also Corey could feel a dark haired boy – with small brown eyes, clearly lost about what to do now – with shaman powers. Corey felt some strange energies around him and a thought and a name that sunk in more and more.
Needless to say, Jim had to fight with his own emotions while feeling Corey's too as he was explaining things to the little ones. They seemed to understand what was happening to them and they relaxed a bit more, feeling nothing but love and acceptance towards them. It was no wonder though, because the kids of their kind were born "awake" too, which meant that they knew, felt and understood much more from the world around them than any human kid could.
Of course Jim helped the mingling kids with the demons who would take them in. Once only one boy was left, he looked over at his mate, feeling out his emotions. With a small friendly smile Jim sat down cross-legged next to him and offered a hand for the boy. "How would you like if we called you Paul?"