The next day the tension stayed – if not intensified, but Jim didn't have time to mull too much on that, because he had to handle things in the kitchen. He also handled most of his business from there that day, his men stopping by when they could, but otherwise they were mostly spread out taking or delivering orders. Business as usual.
After supervising Zane, who was in charge of the stove that evening instead of Corey, who was on laundry duty still, Jim allowed himself to daydream a bit about their previous night and how good it felt holding the small redhead to him afterwards. He could also clearly see the cute little blush on Corey's face as they kissed once more before they went off to their duties for the day. Damn, Jim wanted more of those kisses. And yes, he knew he was a bit corny at times, but who the fuck cares? He was in love, for god's sake. Head over heels. No denying that.
Still, of course some shit had to hit the fan and ruin his nice reverie. It was a folded message slid to him. Discreetly reading it, he sighed. Right, back to business. At least the meeting that was going to happen in an hour or so behind the kitchen on a service corridor was going to hopefully clear a misunderstanding. You see, there was some problem around a few orders Craig was supposed to finish up. Jonathan's men insisted that they were a few hundreds short and claimed that it was Craig's fault. This was dangerous waters so Jim had decided to deal with it himself. He knew Jonathan and also how to influence him a bit to keep the peace and the business on good terms. Plus it was his home turf, so all was going to be okay.
That's why when it was time, he discreetly told Mick he was going to step out for a moment onto that corridor to smooth out something business-related. He got the green light and while feeling confident that he was going to be able to solve this, he turned on the corner and smiled a bit under his beard as he spotted Jonathan standing among his men. Jim walked over and offered his hand, but before he could fully extend it, he suddenly found himself pushed against the wall by two of John's brutes. And a third didn't hesitate to land a few punches into his stomach, which obviously took his breath away.
"What the... John! What's the meaning of this?!" he coughed, the iron-grips on his shoulders rendering him just as motionless as the moment he saw Jay stepping out from behind a guy twice his size. "You have to be fucking kidding me... You?!" he spat.
Meanwhile in the laundry rooms, parallel to what was happening in the kitchen, Corey was making business with Jonathan's men. After days of being so distant and strange towards him they now actually were over-friendly…
They were in a hurry to pack everything up and ready for the truck to take it away. And after finishing much earlier than they should, the cat got finally out of the bag.
Jonathan's men were about to break out and escape. Even offering it to Corey that they take him too and free him from that "abusing slave-keeper".
"Yes, me," Jay said with a shit-eating grin. "What did you expect? That the 'nice' necklace you gave me would be accepted without a gift of my own?" Jay pulled the hem of his jumpsuit down to show the healing bruises that were unmistakably hand-shaped.
Jim only had to laugh bitterly. "John, what kind of shit did this little asshole feed you? You know that he's just bitter because I didn't want or love him, right?"
"He made a few good points and I and my men could see enough to give him the benefit of the doubt," the long-haired man walked a bit closer, but kept his distance.
"What are you talking about?" Jim frowned, the smile fading from his face to give place to confusion. "I thought business is going well."
"Me too. That's why learning that you were training your pet to undermine us and take over my part of the business was quite shocking to me, my friend..." Jonathan sighed a bit dramatically and shook his head. "Jim, Jim, Jim... I never thought that I'd live the day to see a nice little ass twist you up so fucking much. Dude... has no one ever told you that business and pleasure shouldn't mix?"
"Wait, John... You're wrong! I had no such intentions. I swear!" Jim tried, but his business partner was already turning away.
"Craig stealing from us for you was the last proof we needed to have. Our business relationship is over. Too bad, because it was good while it lasted and we are talking about years here..."
"And who'd believe a murderer's word who had killed for power before?" John looked over his shoulder once more. Yeah... Jim forgot about that twisted rumor about him. It said that he'd killed those four as the first step of becoming the biker gang's next president – after offing the current one, but he got caught before that could happen. Jim never denied or affirmed it, but it seemed many believed it inside. Which – until now – served him well, but obviously it backfired now. And he wasn't going to tell them the truth. Only Corey will ever know about that in this prison.
Jonathan took his silence as agreement and he snorted. "Jay, he's yours," he said then looked at Jim one last time. "Oh and Jim," he said already moving away with the rest of his men, minus the two who were holding him down. "I'd look over my shoulder from now on. The Clown isn't impressed either."
And all of a sudden Corey was held against the wall and a short knife was pressed to his neck. It seemed he had no other choice than to escape with the others. Keeping silent on the outside but his mind was running a mile a minute to try to figure out what was really happening and why.
The three guys insisted that it's their "upper order" that they must "help" Corey. So translating that would mean Jonathan personally wanted him removed from around and from Jim's side. But why? Maybe they overacted the tension between them, and the others were thinking he was going to bring something bad for the business? He can't leave... He can't just go without Jim. What the fuck...
But before he could protest more he got hit at the back of his head and the world went black and silent.
"He really isn't..." That was Jay with his smug grin as he walked closer and the guys' grip on Jim's shoulder tightened as the tall man tried to break free and kill the little shit-stirring fucker on spot. He already had a life sentence. One more piece of shit on his ledger wouldn't be such a big deal! Yes, he saw red now as the first shock was wearing off.
He couldn't believe that the asshole could go to these lengths to revenge shit. Jim really should've killed the fucker when he had the chance. He didn't know how he was gonna clean up all this mess.
"Oh and don't worry, your little 'love' is being taken care of too. After all we have to weed out the competition..." Jay chuckled as he reached into the pocket of Jim's jumpsuit and pulled out the shiv with the broken knife tip from there. "Look what we got here. It'll do..."
"Leave Corey out of this, you little shit or I swear..."
"Nuh-huh!" Jay held the weapon up to silence Jim, obviously enjoying having the upper hand for a change. "Two things. One, of course Corey has to be dealt with. After all, everything happens because of him. Two, you can't do anything, Jimmy. By the time you'll be able to, he's gonna be gone. I promise," he chuckled and without any warning punched Jim in the face and his stomach too, making him taste bile.
Then as Jim was trying to catch his breath – which with a broken nose and blood pouring from it was quite hard – a sharp pain pierced through his mind, coming from the right side of his stomach. As he looked down, he saw the shiv buried in him and he cried out when Jay twisted it. "No one can fuck me over, Root..." Jay hissed then pulled the blade out. "Sweet dreams, my prince," he chuckled and looked up at the other males. "Beat him up some then let's get the hell out of here..."
And that's just what happened, leaving a bleeding and bruised biker behind, who only had Corey on his mind even now. If he could just get up and tell someone...
The next time Corey came around he found himself tied up in the back of the laundry truck. Mouth stuffed even. As he wiggled on top of the soft bags, like in quicksand, he was getting frustrated as fuck growling and cursing as he could. From the van's back door he saw a sign... They entered Wisconsin… Fuck... The irony of it all… He got kidnapped from prison. And already left Chicago… Jim… They probably did something to Jim too. But why??
The feeling of helplessness crept up on him strongly. They probably already killed his daddy… Fuck.
"Oh shit!" Alex cursed once he spotted Jim slumped against the wall like a ragdoll, his orange jumpsuit stained with blood at the front. He ran to him and saw that it was bloody by his side too where Jim's hand was pressing down on the wound, breathing raggedly through his mouth. “Hang in there, buddy. Gonna bring help.”
"Corey... Corey, they got to him too," he managed to cough then groaned from the pain in his side.
"I'll look into it. Just don't move!" he promised and ran down the corridor to get Mick and the other guard.
Jim barely heard all the people around him, although he knew he was checked out by the prison doc and his nurse then he was put on a stretcher and carried to the hospital ward. Still when he was given some strong meds for the pain, all he could mutter was Corey's name. Then all went black.
The van stopped a few hours later. Corey figured they went west in Wisconsin, kinda around Chicago for whatever reason. But the doors just flew open and all that insane amount of sunshine blinded the small man, who got dragged out.
Once he could see again, he saw a run down motel's parking lot. The kind that you know from one glimpse that it's the meeting point of criminals.
"Stand up dude, you're free. Jonathan wanted you removed so thank him, man. He also gave you the money you got for today's business so… just go where you what," the taller guy said laughing as he and his partner started to change their prison clothes quickly. They even threw a pair of jeans and an old tee at Corey before starting to untie him.
He just changed in silence. There was no use. All hope was gone… What would it matter if he started a fight or anything??? He can't just "sneak back into prison"...
"What about Root?" He asked almost scared to hear it.
Jim swam back to consciousness a few hours later to the faint sounds of the alarm. What was going on? A riot? An escape? He had no idea and the drug-induced light floating was too good to care for long so he soon drifted back into sleep on one of the hospital wing's beds, the smell of disinfectants strong in his nose.
By the time he woke up next, he had no idea how much time had passed. As it turned out, according to the doc, two days. The dude was still checking him up and that made Jim focus on his body too. He was breathing heavily through his dry mouth since his nose was bandaged and it felt double its usual size.
Dr. Jackson told him that it was broken. Not that bad, but still broken. He also had two bruised ribs and several bruises from the kicks and punches. He got lucky with the stab, because the tip of the knife didn't hit anything important thanks to his belly. Jim nearly laughed out hysterically from the thought that Corey would probably appreciate the fact that his "daddy belly" had saved his life. Corey...
From there he didn't pay attention to what the doc was saying under Mick's observing blue eyes. He was standing by the door with a grim expression. Jim wondered why he was there in the first place, since he was handcuffed to the bed and weak as a fly. But then again maybe he had questions or information about what the hell had happened.
Back at the parking lot the two tall and lean guys looked at each other, deciding about something without words.
"Root is out, kid. Forget it. Davis told us to kill you also. He got informed about the plans of you two trying to take over the other top gangs. I'll tell you what. We won't kill you but you gonna go that way and never go near Chicago as long as you exist. Got it? We go back and help with the business from outside. All the Root gang will be taken care of. Don't worry about it. Enjoy your freedom, kid."
Fucking finally the doc left, leaving Jim and the officer in the room.
"Glad to see you alive, Jim. Seeing you like that on that corridor I thought you aren't gonna make it," Mick said with his thumbs hooked in his thick leather-belt as he walked closer to the bed.
"Whatever. I was stupid to let my guard down."
"Who was it?"
"You know well, Mick. That little shit fucked up everything for us. I should've killed him a long time ago. Business is over."
"What do you mean? Can't you fix it?" Mick frowned with a displeased expression on his gloomy face. The usual smirk nowhere to be found.
"Not likely. I'm as good as dead once they put me back into my cell."
"That fucking asshole..."
"Yeah..." Jim looked aside, trying to ignore the pain in his side. "How's Corey and my other boys?" he finally asked what he wanted to ask the second he saw Mick.
Whose eyes widened for a second, making Jim frown, noticing it. "Haven't you heard?"
"What?" the tall man tensed up, expecting the worst. After all Jay promised that they would take care of Corey. Maybe he was true to his words and was already dead? Even the thought made Jim's heart sink.
"There was a prison break. Three inmates broke out and vanished. There's a chase after them but no solid leads as of yet. One was Corey. The other Wilson and Rodrigez, two of Jonathan's small fishes. "He's gone, man. He left you behind."
Enjoy your freedom, kid... What a joke... Corey was on the road for two days already and still felt like an alien dropped out of the sky. He just picked the road to west and started walking. Got a ride from some dude towards Iowa before but no luck that day. He wasn't even sure where he was going. That made him cry then. Really… In the car sitting next to a perfect stranger Corey Taylor broke down and cried from the memory of Jim cuddling him and talking about that diner at the border of Iowa with the best ever burgers...
Now on the side of the road he got lost in his thoughts since he had nothing better to do as the dark clouds were growing thicker above him. If he gets lucky maybe he freezes to death or something... Or get a ride from a psycho serial killer. But he never had luck.
He was thinking back on what the two of his kidnappers were talking about on the road. They mentioned why Jonathan didn't break free with them. Corey knew. Davis was one of the top dogs there. He was feared and respected and considering the circumstances lived like a king on top of his self-built kingdom. Outside he would be another nobody criminal. And now he got even bigger power taking over Jim's gang and business. It was all just so fucked up... What the fuck he should do now???
Mick's words felt like more stabs. The pain was just as sharp as the one that shot up from his side as he tried to move. Muffling a moan he turned his gaze towards the white ceiling, watching a thick strand of spider web dancing in the draft. Jim's poker face was put firmly on his face, making it appear emotionless.
"I see," he said after some calming deep breaths.
"I'm sorry, man. I know you got close to him..." Mick murmured, but Jim cut him off on the same neutral voice.
"And the others?"
"They're fine for now. There were no walks since the outbreak. They are still investigating, trying to figure out how it could happen. I'll keep an eye on them. But if what you say is true, they are likely to be in danger too."
"I know... Tell them... that they can join the remaining two gangs if they get the chance. I don't want them to die because of me," Jim said. He wasn't sure he'd be able to continue living his life with that happening to him again. Cristina's death was more than enough.
"You sure?" Mick frowned and looked kinda surprised, but Jim didn't see it nor did he care.
"Yes. The Root gang is done. Now I'd like to rest, if you don't mind."
"Alright. I'll try to find out more and come back when I can. And Jim... I am sorry about the kid," and with that Mick left.
As the door clicked shut behind him, Jim turned his face towards the bright light coming through the barred windows and a dry sob escaped him, making his bruised ribs and his stitched up side burn up, but he didn't care. Corey had left him much, much sooner than he expected. He was alone again. It was just Jim, the cutting pain and the rising panic. His two old and fucking hated friends.
The rain just didn't want to stop outside on the road. Corey felt the cold creeping into his bones as the night started to fall on him.
He had it all… All he ever wanted… The nights in the warmth of Jim's arms around him. The loving kisses, the feel of his gorgeous beard brushing against his skin, Jim's scent filling his senses. The way he was so patient and taught Corey all the tricks about how work was done in the kitchen. How to cook the dishes. Even if it was inside a prison filled with killers and strict rules he never felt happier than in the months he’d spent with Jim.
How could it all be real??? How did all this happen??? First he got sentenced for thirty fucking years and now became free and lost everything he’d cherished. He had nothing. In every meaning of the word. But what hurt the most was that he’d lost Jim.
Of course… the biker was sentenced to death behind the bars. But that could have been so long from... from this… And so much different... Damn it Corey was planning already to do something when his years were going to be near over so he could stay behind bars with his love...
He looked at one of the road signs and at the sky. He couldn't stop sobbing low for hours, the rain kept falling and the great skies refused to help him know about what time it could be. He might as well sit on the edge of the road and wait till he dies. What's the use anyway?
Deep down he knew he’d caused this all. Jim got into trouble and killed ‘cause of his appearance. Maybe if he resisted Jim and fought him or something... Act like he didn't desire the tall man… Maybe he would have been removed too or something and Jim wouldn’t fall for him to get into all of this. He just ruins everything and everybody… Like always...
As the silent tears dried up somewhat – for now – Jim was just lying there in silence, staring into nothing. His brain was still a bit slow from the strong painkillers as he tried to regain control over his breathing – which was really panting through his dry mouth since he couldn't really breathe through his nose just yet. Crying didn't help. He was lucky he didn't choke on the bloody and watery snot. But then again maybe it would've been better that way.
Corey was gone for good. His group was just as good as dead since the two other were ganging up on the Roots. He was going down sooner or later too. Rather sooner than later. He knew he was either going to be made the new underdog or die. Neither was too appealing, but at the moment death was probably the better option. Or he might go on a killing spree and get locked up in the restricted block. Yeah, he could've fought for the gang, for his boys, but frankly he'd lost his will after Corey's betrayal.
Jim thought that they were deeply in love. Or at least he was... is. Apparently he was wrong thinking that the little shit was too. Because he took the first opportunity to leave him. Without a fucking word. He surely was just killing some time until he waited to break out with Jonathan's men. Maybe Corey was John's man from the start. If he truly was a spy then he was a fucking good one at it and just as good of an actor. Because someone faking even a part of how Corey acted and talked with Jim required a LOT of talent. As his dark thoughts were dragging Jim lower and lower with them, he was starting to guess how much was true from what Corey felt and told him about his past. Was it all a big fucking lie to break him? Because if it was then he'd succeeded.
"Hey man! Need a lift? I'm going to Iowa…" some middle aged woman called at Corey at the road side. Probably the beaten up rain-soaked stray dog look caught her eyes.
Looking up Corey just nodded. That was an unconscious impulse, out of his inner will to survive, ‘cause inside his mind he wanted it all… Stay there miserable and die slowly from the cold and fever that started shaking his body.
The nice lady even fished some blankets out and helped the man sit on the passenger’s seat. Only then did Corey find his voice. "Thank you."
"Oh it's okay. I and my old man were traveling a lot to festivals and fairs back in the day. I know how good a lift can come," she smiled at the clearly broken man.
"Yeah… Festivals are great," he nodded still with a bitter lump in his throat from all the crying and emotions over mourning the man he loved… Still loves like no one he ever did. "My... lover died…" he whispered low as new tears rolled down from his eyes, finding solace in a stranger’s company while heading to the place Jim would have wanted to go one last time. Corey knew by then, he had to go there…
In a few days Mick came back with some news. None were good. But Jim just... didn't find the will to care. Staying awake and letting his tired thoughts rattle around in his otherwise so damn silent mind was a big enough effort to him. He felt so... cold. As if someone sucked the last warmth out of him. Like a fucking dementor. He couldn't help but think how different he felt when holding that small body to his in his bed, sharing soft kisses or talking quietly. He felt so nice warm then. Now all that was gone for good.
This is why he was always hesitant to let people close to him. He always lost them in some way. Death, betrayal, misunderstandings, hate, whatever... At the end he was left on his own with a broken heart and nothing else. What he feared came true: he'd lost everything once again. And while lying there, he'd finally accepted his fate. Whatever may come, he's gonna go with it and take it like a man. If it's death, then let it be.
"Jim..." Mick started, walking to the bed and pulling a plastic chair to its side to sit down with a grave face. "Things aren't looking good. Neither for you, nor on my end."
"What happened?" Jim asked, not really caring, but his mask was firmly on so no one could tell. Not even Officer Mick.
"Sid died," he cut right to the chase to get over with the worst news.
Well, that kinda grabbed Jim's attention. He carefully sat more upright, the handcuff clinking against the metal frame of the bed. "How?" he asked just that, eyes darkening.
"He refused to give up on the Root gang and join Jonathan's or Shawn's. He was very vocal about his opinion regarding their backstabbing and well... someone took care of him to avoid more problems with him in the future, I guess..." Mick sighed concerned while rubbing his black beard.
"That poor kid. He deserved better..." Jim closed his tired eyes for a long moment, saying his silent goodbyes to that crazy one. And putting one more on the list of why he had to hate himself. It happened again then. Sid died because of him too. "Fuck!" he cursed and hit the bed, making the handcuff dig into his skin, but he didn't give a shit.
"Yeah. He was funny. Weird but a good kid compared to some of the inmates here. I'm sorry, man," Mick said then chuckled a bit. "At least he went out with a 'Fuck you all' attitude and took his attacker with him."
That twisted the edge of Jim's mouth upwards too. Yeah, that was Sid. Still losing him like that was painful for the broken man. "And Alex and Craig?"
"As you suggested, they joined the Clown. They start from the bottom, but at least they are more or less protected now."
"Good... That's good." Jim was glad they found their place just like the rest of his men. At least they would be okay. Hopefully. The bitter taste still stayed in his mouth, though.
"And there's something else..." Mick waited for Jim to look at him again. "Jay threatened me that he's gonna ask for an audition at my superiors if I keep helping you."
"It was to be expected," Jim sighed and turned his face towards the windows again. "I'm sorry, man. You don't have to any more. I don't want you too to go down because of me. It was enough. Whatever happens, happens," and with that Jim went silent.
After crying his heart out and even confessing that his lover was a man – it was all okay, Debby was very cool about such things and really felt with Corey as it seemed, her husband died in a robbery – Corey felt a bit better. Of course he skipped the details about prison and murders but gangs and the gang war he mentioned and how he was removed from the scene and left to 'live'. Probably the fact that the woman saw that Corey had money with him at the first road stop where he paid for their coffees and cakes and bought some clothes also made her sure he wasn’t gonna just want to rob her or something.
Yeah he had a good couple of thousands with him as two days of orders money was with him and the amount the outside delivery guys brought too. He was a bit happy about it that he could cut Jonathan shorter with not only the daily pays.
Along the trip many things came up, Debby was quite the chatter, really. But she was a smart woman too, running her own place of business and was actually a good company to talk with and get his mind occupied.
Otherwise he just got lost in his dark thoughts, daydreaming about Jim's giggle and long arms around him, the wild passion he pulled his prison jumpsuit off and made sweet love to him... Or rough… Or both… But his eyes welled up every time with his silent tears. It was all just unreal...
He will love Jim till his last breath. That was sure for him.
"You don't happen to be good at cooking, are you? Oh sorry, I'm just silly," Debby laughed. They kinda made friends by the time they crossed the border of Iowa.
"I was working at a kitchen. A... diner kinda place. Cooked for many," Corey replied still careful about his words, even more as he felt more comfortable in the company of Debby.
"That sounds interesting. You see, I have a diner and would need a good cook. You seem like a good guy, who got into a bad situation. But nothing is a coincidence… So… would you try to work in my kitchen? I think it was meant to be that I find you at the right time. You said you don't have anyone or anywhere to go… So…? What you say?"