And the circus was on the road again! The remaining few weeks flew by fast during the preparing of the tour and training Jim to be... prepared. But they were on the bus and rolling on the highway and Corey was lost in his thoughts.
Rather dark thoughts, though. Being on the road with a mate again brought back memories. Even the pouring rain dragged his mood down. Looking out through the 'crying' window at the dark sky was gloomy enough to trigger some lyrics in him and he decided it was better to write down and work on them instead of keeping himself thinking and worrying if Jim was trained enough to protect himself.
He had to admit that the tall male learned fast and his daily doze of talking with the spirits around them helped him to develop a fast way to call them visually and ask them for help. The otherwise best described as a lazy big kitten type of guy proved himself also in the more physical combat. Mick had really thrown Jim into a military training with some high tech computer and mechanic studies. The poor guy was dead tired by the end of the days from all the new things and exercise, plus the more frequent symptoms of the change.
Not even the bumps on the road could wake Jim while sleeping in his bunk as much as he could to regain his energy that he's been using up every day since his training has started. The faint throbbing of his muscles were first the result of the physical exercise he wasn't used to, but as the trainings continued on, that strange pull he could sense growing stronger affected his body too. As he'd learned, it was the pull of the growing moon, fueling the spirit that was taking over his body, rewriting his DNA. It left that constant dull pain and exhaustion in his muscles more and more as they were nearing his first full moon. He tried to accept and kinda ignore it and focus on his training with Mick too and overcome all these things. He had to be prepared for anything. He had to be able to protect most of all Corey and the others and yes, himself too.
It was the first time in his life when he really felt that he belonged to somewhere and after a lot of battles with his otherwise introvert and careful nature, his resolve was born to learn as much as possible. Even if it made him dead to the world and Corey every night.
As he finally woke up from some idiot's horn on the highway, it took him a few minutes of sitting on the edge of his bunk to collect himself and shake off the tenseness of his muscles. At least the physical exercise started to show on him a bit. And he was getting good at using his pebble, too. Yawning he made his way towards the coffee he could smell and took a sip with delight before sliding next to his mate, burying his head in his neck with a sleepy huff.
"You can rest a bit more, love. When we arrive we will be busy with everything," Corey said planting a sweet kiss on the cheek of his mate.
The band and staff knew about their singer's sexual preference over males, so it was not such a deal that he and the new guitarist became a pair. The wolf thing was different, though. But they were well-trained to hide it as they could. Only Craig seemed to be extra pleased about the couple. Maybe because they knew each other with Jim from other bands, and he’d joined as a tech guy just recently.
"How are you feeling? Sid has some herb tea for your joints," Corey leaned his head on Jim's, nuzzling it a bit. Just enough to not be too 'animal like' and strange.
Feeling that his human mask was firmly in place at least, Jim lifted his head a bit, returning the kiss against the shaved side of his mate's head, secretly inhaling his scent. Of course Corey noticed that, but not those who knew nothing about their real nature. Luckily most were busy in other parts of the bus, not disturbing their little piece of privacy where they were sitting. Jay was drawing something in his sketch book, like he often did; Mick and V-man were talking about some guitar-related stuff, while Sid was checking out some new gadget with one of their tech guys, Craig. It seemed only Jim slept in again.
"Sleepy. And that tea sounds nice," he said and that was all Jim was willing to reveal about the aches, although he was certain that Corey knew how it went since he had to go through this too once. "How much longer till we get there? And were you writing? You feel... distressed."
"I already told Sid to bring some," the wolf smiled. Of course he knew how Jim ached, from their bond also not just from experience. Putting an arm around the other body he gently rubbed Jim's arm. "Just some depressed shit. The weather made the mood for it," he laughed a little. "Otherwise we are about two or three hours away. Want me to cuddle with you in your bunk, Mr. big bad wolf?"
"You're the best, baby," Jim pecked his lips then chuckled a bit as he leaned into the embrace. "Yeah, 'crying windows', huh? And cuddling sounds very good for this big bad wolf," he whispered low enough that only the two of them could hear it.
Then before he could, Sid walked to them with the nice-smelling herb tea, placing it in front of Jim. "Ten bucks," Sid grinned down at them, holding out his hand as if waiting for the money.
"You'll need to bring me food too for that," Jim joked back, slapping his hand away.
"Bollocks. And here I thought I'll get the 'best waiter of the year' award!"
"That would go to Corey for all he does in the kitchen," the tall man smirked at his mate then he washed down the coffee with the tea and got up, barely flinching. "Thanks, though. I appreciate," he added to Sid who took the mugs away with a "No problem".
After the short intermezzo the mates did cuddle in Jim's bunk. "So... how are you feeling really?"
"Worried," Corey shrugged and moved closer to the bigger body. Even nuzzled it behind the protection of the curtain. "I don't want anything to come up. I even stopped the investigation after those gangs. And want to focus on you and the band. After all, I promised you a hit band with success," Corey added with a chuckle and moved to kiss Jim deeply with love.
"I can understand why you are worried. This... touring situation must tear up old wounds too," he murmured after that deep kiss and he tightened his long arms around his small man. "I'm sorry if I didn't give you as much attention lately as you deserve. I was just busy with the trainings and soooo tired," he chuckled a bit, rubbing his nose fondly against Corey's. "I want to be strong and able to protect you and our family if something does come up. I want you just as safe and loved and help the band to be successful. I can't wait for the show tonight. I love playing with you on stage. And I can't wait for the full moon either. To run with you as a wolf. I know it's near. I can feel the pull."
"I'm curious about your color too," Corey giggled and pressed his hips to Jim more. "You’re doing amazing. Don't worry, baby. And with an awesome guitar god like you we are sure to be a top hit!" The kinkiness kinda thickened in the air around them. Maybe the long days with his mate being overtired caught up with the redhead after all. "You know that back in the past wolves had a big mating session during the full moon?"
"You see right through me," Jim snorted then growled low, feeling the change in the air between them and also Corey's awakening lust hit his nose in a thick wave. "You really don't need to flatter me if you want something," Jim said on a playful tone, stroking the curls at the back of Corey's head. "But the compliments do feel good, I admit. So... tell me a bit more about this mating session. You made me curious, my dear wolf," he added, sliding a hand under Corey's sweat pants to rub him. Maybe they had time – and room – for a quick hand job if nothing else.
"No! I want more!" Corey growled low as he was listening to Jim's thoughts. He grabbed the big hand and pulled it out of his pants. "Turn around and I will show you what’s usually done during those nights," he licked Jim’s ear teasingly.
"Someone didn't get his fix lately..." Jim giggled shortly, although he was the same, so without any objections he turned around in the small space, still shivering from that lick. Once he had his back to Corey, he suppressed a low rumbling growl and pushed his ass closer to his mate. "Don't just talk then..."
The muffled and not so subtle sounds coming from the covered bunk made Mick stop in his track. He thought he’d check on how Jim was doing but he sounded just... fine… Shaking his head the buff man used the little empty space by the window to look over the messages from Shawn. These four bunks at the back belonged to the four of them in the family and so they got some of that very rare thing called 'private space' on the bus. Plus after the years spent next to a wolf with a mate, he never batted an eye anymore from hearing or walking in on some animalistic sex...
Shawn had sent him the messages he was waiting for. First the backgrounds he could find on the crew and band members. Along with a list of the possible dangers at the first two venues. And there was also a short summary of the wolf and hunter activities known around the places.
As he read further, ignoring the pleasure-filled moans and growls from behind, his light-blue eyes narrowed down and he rubbed his beard. "Not good," Mick mumbled to himself, brows knitting together as he read two waaay too familiar hunter names he'd rather not see anywhere near them. But they were next to a venue further down the list. Still, he'd have to figure something out and put his personal feelings aside like he did in the past too.
In a few minutes Jim's whole body was still shaking as his breathing slowed. But this time it wasn't because of his aching joints and muscles. This time it was because of what his mate just did to him, making him a boneless, relaxed mess with a somewhat scratched and bitten up back. It was perfect. Corey was perfect. And he drifted off with that thought into a much needed nap until they get close to their destination, his mate's scent and warmth surrounding him.
The mating and the nap helped Corey to get in a rather good mood actually. When they arrived and Sid 'kindly' woke them up with his whistling and kicking the frame... the small wolf was ready to step on stage and sing his heart out to the audience.
Jim was in a similarly good mood despite his tiredness. His fingers slid on the fret board of his guitar with ease and his head and heart felt light as he let his love for music and Corey as well as the audience's nice energies carry him along.
The only thing that could bring them down from their good mood were the info Mick told them and Sid in private some time after the show, making them swear that they would be very fucking careful.
It was easier said than done. The band’s newly came fame and upcoming album brought a lot of fans to the festival. And so many people wanted to greet them, take pictures, buy their merch and get their autograph. Corey was worried how to keep track of safe and unsafe senses, because filtering people got somewhat harder for him.
Corey only could hope that the small annoying things, like stuff getting misplaced here and there and the power shortages and other things were not 'bad omens'.
The tour's beginning was good aside from the worrying news and a few glitches. But maybe they asked for too much with wanting things to go smoothly. Well, in Jim's experience that was rarely how things went with a tour. At least dealing with the upcoming shift was easier on Corey's side. Sid's herb teas could ease a bit the symptoms for a while but it was the morning of the full moon now and it took some extra concentration for Jim to maintain his human look and to get out of their hotel bed too. But at least they had two days off before the next show. Corey made sure while arranging the tour that they had at least one day off after every full moon.
As Jim was sitting by the table with a mug of coffee in hand and watching Corey, he smiled a bit. It was unusual that he got up earlier than his mate since the redhead was who needed less sleep. Jim liked to sleep in and take naps too. Maybe he was a big cat by heart, not a wolf. That made him chuckle to himself then he sipped from his coffee, his eyes going back to the form of his naked man barely covered by the blanket.
Today Jim was too restless, excited and aching to sleep. He could feel the pull of the moon stronger than ever. And he was looking forward to tonight. He could already picture them running as wolves. It was all arranged. After dinner they would get into a rented car and drive to a nearby reservation from where they would go deep into the protected part of the forest. Frankly, Jim couldn't wait for that and for the constant ache to finally disappear from his body. That was perhaps the most inconvenient part of the change.
With a sigh he picked up his phone from the table when it chimed with a message. Scrolling to it he quickly read it then cursed. "Fuck." There goes their peaceful morning.
From the change of Jim's mood Corey stirred in his sleep and opened his eyes. "What's wrong?" he asked sitting up with a yawn.
“Someone fucked up…”
Soon they where on the field searching for Jim's favorite red and black guitar. It was too early and they were almost late to get on the road again. So the news that something, and such a precious item was missing was fucking frustrating. No one was allowed to go alone at dawn, so they decided that Corey would go with Mick and Jim with Sid, asking around and searching for the instrument.
Jim's patience was starting to wear thin. His favorite Jazzmaster was gone. It pissed him off beyond words and with his heightened emotions it was even worse. "How can someone lose something like that? I mean... if the whole box of guitars were shipped to the wrong venue or something, I could understand that. But the box and the rest of the guitars are fucking there!" Jim huffed and puffed to Sid as they were running around for hours by then to track down said guitar. "What if someone stole it on purpose?" he voiced his question more to himself, trying to figure out if it was just a greedy human or something more.
Meanwhile on the other side of the festival place, far in the nearby city Corey started to give up. "It's getting late. We should get going or we're out of the next place. I feel sorry for Jim but we have to give this up," he growled looking at his phone at the time.
Mick nodded with a sigh. For a guitarist as himself he could deeply understand Jim on losing one of his babies. "Call him back. We can't risk a bad review from a venue or fans in this early state before the album comes out."
Nodding with a helpless sigh Corey called his mate. And frowned when he got no response. "Something is up... I try Sid."
Mick's brows furrowed and he pulled out his own phone too to check if he'd missed some important update, but there was nothing. Glimpsing at the clearly tense Corey waiting for Sid to pick up, Mick's bad feeling that's been with him since they'd split up to help out the few techs and staff members who could be spared for the search while the rest had to already ship and prepare the shit in the next town's venue.
When Corey started cussing and growling under his nose when he couldn't reach Sid either after the forth call, Mick unlocked his phone again. "Wait. I'll try to track down their phones," he announced, trying first Jim's with the app he'd designed for emergencies like this. Because it smelled like an emergency. "Shit. His phone is off. Not looking good," the buff guy murmured then tried Sid's.
"Okay, we have a signal. The phone isn't moving. I have the coordinates. Come on," he turned on his heels and marched to their nearby rented car to get in and start driving towards the red dot on the map.
It's was a good thing that Mick was driving. Corey started to lose his shit and they probably wouldn't have gotten farther than the first tree if he had to hold the wheel. Deep down in his guts he felt that something was very wrong. He tried to focus but couldn't feel his mate as fully as usually. "Mick..." he said low as another wave of despair rushed over him.
"We're almost there. Everything will be okay. I promise you. Whatever may have happened we will manage and he will be okay," Mick said swallowing. Even nodded as he tried to believe his own words some more. But the dark thoughts tightened his throat too as they reached the edge of a forest. "There. Come on. Sid should be near." Or at least his phone, he added in his head while looking at his phone as they walked into the bushes.
Only a few feet away they found Sid, alright. Laying on the ground unconscious with a bleeding head.
A couple of hours later Jim was slowly coming around. The first thing he felt was that his head wanted to split in two. For a brief moment he wondered if it was another side-effect of the coming full moon, but then his strangely dull senses told him that something wasn't right. The ground was too cold and hard on which he was lying.
Forcing his eyes open after taking a deep breath from the dusty air, he carefully looked around without moving his body. It was still daylight outside, but probably late afternoon judging by the shadows that were crawling over the dusty floor of the abandoned warehouse. He suppressed a WTF comment then he remembered.
Everything happened so fast they had no chance to defend themselves. He and Sid were about to give up and regroup with the others when suddenly Jim heard a thud and Sid's muffled moan. The tall man turned on his heel just to see Sid collapse onto the ground from the blow his head had received from a grinning stranger. Then Jim felt a needle pricking his neck and seconds later the world went black. He was clearly drugged.
"Wakey-wakey, hairy princess!" he suddenly heard an unpleasant voice and there was the loud sound of metal being dragged along bars. The bars of the small cage he was in. As he sat up with a snarl, the same guy – probably a hunter – laughed on the other side, holding a spear with silver tip in his right, pulling it along the bars once more for a dramatic effect. "Welcome to hell, wolfie."
"And now? What now?" Corey growled loud, his eyes glowing and teeth getting pointy. Even if he tried to hold himself back from blowing up. It was clear that Jim was taken and he failed miserably with keeping back his rage.
"What? Tell me!!! WHAT THE FUCK WILL WE DO NOW MR. ALL IS UNDER MY CONTROL BIG ASS HUNTER GUY??? WHERE DO WE FIND HIM?" he yelled at Mick while going against the big guy and almost knocking him off his boots with the force he pushed Mick. "YOU! YOU PROMISED ME! WHEN HE WAS TAKEN YOU PROMISED TOO. AND NOW JIM IS GONE TOO. WHAT ABOUT THAT MR. BIG SHOT MICK??" By then the wolf was very visible on Corey. Even his face changed slightly and his words where mostly growls. Kicking a trunk in his helplessness, he left Mick and went over to check on Sid.
The long-haired ex-hunter swallowed hard, not feeling any better than Corey. Words would've been useless in this situation, he knew. And it was a close call that he didn't get scratched up by a very pissed off wolf. He'd failed again. Fucking fuck!
He also bit back the only comment he could think of and something they both knew to expect from now on. 'They will call eventually.'
Instead of voicing that thought, Mick started making some calls and punching codes into his phone and everything else he could think of to figure out how could they move so under the radar and take Jim. But most importantly to find out where the hell they had taken him.
Jim hissed and jerked back slower than he should have as the tip of the silver spear was pushed into his side with a quick and precise move. Fucking drugs! Fucking cage! He bit back a painful yell, not wanting to give the satisfaction to this sadistic psycho. "What the fucking hell do you want from me?!" he shouted instead, but as an answer Jim only got the spear's tip into his back while the hunter chuckled.
"Oh I'm just killing some time until it's showtime!" he twisted the tip to make sure the hunter's blood got deeper into the wound. "They were nice enough to let me have this little pleasure while we wait for that heroic idiot you call your mate," the guy said as he pulled out the spike from between the bars and walked along the cage to find another angle from where he could torture Jim. "I hope you'll shift at some point and we can skin you too for Taylor."
"You're fucking sick!" Jim spit and reached up with a hand to dodge the next attack, but he barely managed because of the drugs still in his system.
Finally after long minutes of calling him, Sid started to come around. Corey carried the man to the rented car and laid him on the back seat. "Holy shit... Corey… I'm sorry. We wanted to go back and call you then I got hit and all went black. They took Jim, right?" Sid looked at them devastated.
"Yeah. It's not your fault Sid. Mick is trying to find out something. Stay here while I sniff around," the wolf patted the young man's arm and headed back to the bushes to try and pick up on anything that could lead them to his mate.
The smells left were surely hunters’ and it ended at a clearing. They used spices to mess up the trail and probably went by car anyway. It was all useless. And why even? Jim was innocent. All the fighting against those clans and corrupt families was Corey's deed. And even he stopped and pulled back since he newly mated. He brought all this on Jim's head and the dark thoughts filled his mind and soul more and more because he couldn't even feel his mate. Maybe they already killed him? That thought pierced through his chest painfully when his phone began to ring.
After the fifth wound Jim's control started slipping even with a foggy mind. His eyes were yellow as he snarled at his torturer, his nails and fangs sharper. He knew the guy wanted to provoke the caged animal which he was at the moment. He didn't miss the irony.
"I won't shift. Not like this. Not for you sick fuck!" Jim growled on the deeper voice of the wolf.
"Actually..." the hunter started, but then was cut off by a second voice.
"Eventually you will. You won't be able to hold back the shift if my colleague here provokes you enough and we get closer to the moonrise," the second guy with a dark cloth in front of the lower half of his face said. He was dressed similarly as the spear guy. Dark combat gear that would help him hide in the shadows if necessary. Definitely a hunter outfit.
"I won't let you to do that to Corey again. He suffered enough because of you," Jim gritted through his pointy teeth, meaning the hunters sending a second bloody skin. His skin. Jim was trying to think of a way to get out of there before they could do that or hurt Corey and the others. He just had to hold on a bit longer. He tried to focus his senses (although they were still somewhat dull and messed up) to let Corey know that he was alive.
"Ah, that's so naive of you, Mr. Root. He's far from getting his fair share of pain for meddling into our business. Now, smile. This will go to him," the guy held out a phone and nodded to the spear guy who caught Jim off guard and stabbed him on his lower back, making yet another dark sizzling hole on his otherwise naked upper-body while the masked guy snapped a photo. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to make an important call to lure our guest of honor to the scene..." and with that he melted back into the shadows.
It was just one ring from an unknown number without an ID. It was happening again. The same way when he’d lost his last mate. Then they used him as bait and wounded him badly. He barely survived it and his mate was taken. They wanted them both but Mick promised he’d keep at least Corey safe. The same nameless calls. Not waiting to be picked up.
The sudden panic gripped Corey's mind and he ran back to the car. "Mick! They called. They called like last time," he said worried.
"Maybe they give away something about their whereabouts. I'm worried too but have to try to keep our head clear," Mick tried to keep them all on the ground. He already contacted a few people to track down Jim.
Even Sid started to come up with ideas. But not much to Corey's liking, to be honest. The last thing he wanted to do was to get Sid in danger as well. He was not safe being his close family anyway. Their arguing was interrupted by another beep of Corey's phone. "A photo message," the wolf whispered then whined when opening the file he saw the half-shifted Jim getting poked and in pain. Then the phone rang again....
"Helloooooo....." a sing-song voice said "it’s Little Red riding Hood waiting at grams for the big bad wolf," Corey froze. The same words... Even the cold laugh after it like many years ago. Then the line went dead.
"It came from Jim's mobile. Can't you track it down?" That was all Corey could say barely audible to Mick.