The situation was more than serious. Corey focused hard to not slip his cover as he felt Jim checking him from the mirror while they were riding.
In the back of his mind he heard the others’ voices as the demons were brainstorming hard over what should be the next step. Because the slow but steady process of making Jim know more and wake up his spirit and senses would now surely be set back again.
The sad blue eyes met the suspicious hazel ones from time to time in the mirror, and Corey couldn't hide his devastation showing and taking over him.
The road on which Shawn and #7 were leading them trailed off into the forest, going deeper into the trees. But within like ten minutes they arrived to a very well-hidden old camping site. It was abandoned probably for decades because the wilderness took over the once small clearance. There were three middle-sized wooden houses with four small bedrooms in each and two smaller cabins at the back. Since the world went dark on Earth, camping and other outside activities basically died out. When criminals lead countries and anarchy rules, it is not too smart to sleep in a tent in the wide open.
"Jim, Corey! You two get into that shack," Shawn pointed to one of the small ones in the far back once they stopped at the narrowing dirt road. "You can guard our backs from there. Jim take the bike and stuff there and come back to check on the supply. Corey, come with me…" the prez said getting off his bike with Mick and they nodded to each other, as if some conversation has been happening between them all along the ride.
Corey swallowed and gently stroked Jim's back as he got off from behind him. Even smiled a little at the big guy as he left to follow the others.
The place seemed like it wasn't disturbed for a long time. Which was a good thing now that they had to lay low. It wasn't that new to Jim. Once or twice they had to use such safe houses in the past, so he knew how Shawn would give out the tasks.
Nodding as a sign that he understood his part, he watched Shawn and Mick then turned his head to look at Corey. Sure, that small stroke on Jim’s back felt nice and comforting, but this time the biker didn't return the redhead's smile before he followed the other two.
With a heavy sigh Jim got off his bike too just to start pushing it towards the shack that was assigned to them. Luckily there was a thick bush right next to the shack and Jim could more or less hide the bike behind it but still make it easy to hop on it and flee if needed.
Since he was already there, he looked in through a dirty window and was glad that nothing stared back at him. His paranoia wasn't doing well after the attack and seeing those things... seeing Corey like that...
As he was thinking about that, he turned back towards the others. What will they do now? How many of the others survived? What will happen now? What will Jim do about Corey?
"I'm losing him…" Corey said low to Mick as they followed Shawn inside to the other small building.
The older human turned around facing them both with his piercing eyes for a few seconds.
"You, Mick. You are the one always around me. I saw you tonight in the fight… how you saved me. Like many times before. I thank you for that. And I suppose Corey is the same as you. Right? Now tell me… I saw angels attacking us, right?" he asked with a normal curious tone. No anger or blame was in his voice or eyes. And the demons knew it was going to be a long talk now…
Once the trio disappeared from Jim's sight, he opened the shack to let some fresh air in and once he made sure that nothing was lurking inside, he got some stuff from his bike. Luckily he had more than just a set of clothes for emergencies, but some tools, cigarettes and even a little stash of pot there.
Well, he thought it was high time to get high. To that clever pun he even chuckled bitterly as he rolled one for himself and lit it up. It was getting close to dawn and as he puffed the first strong hit out, he suddenly felt so tired and old. He just wanted to find a little peace of mind for once. He thought he'd maybe find that on Corey's side. But it seemed he was wrong. That… boy... or creature apparently meant more trouble...
The talk went well with Shawn… After that Corey hurried to stand the questions of the other human, who was probably less accepting and understanding in the current situation.
Even more now as he was heavily smoking some strong weed when Corey stepped into the cabin.
"Jim..." he asked unsure "are you... are you alright?"
"No. You're trouble..." Jim chuckled on a bitter and biting tone, rubbing an eye before running his long fingers through his wavy hair, red and tired eyes looking up at the redhead.
"I don't understand anything... What the hell just happened back there? What the fucks were those things? Don't tell me those were actual angels!" he frowned and took the last few drags from the pot, fighting off some coughing as it was strong. Boy, he could've killed for a bottle of whiskey or vodka. Fuck, he didn't even go back to Shawn to check on the supplies as he was supposed to. Oh well. To hell with it all...
Corey felt his heart breaking into pieces. He knew Jim would take all of it hard. Even expected a rejection, but he had real feelings for Jim for so many years now...
"I'm sorry. Those were real actual angels. What I've told you about the worlds and beings were all true. But I am no trouble to you. I am your guardian. You felt me around you ever since that first time your father had beaten you and locked you in the basement into that small wardrobe. I am with you ever since and trying to keep you safe. I couldn't make you feel better, though... And when you… saw me the other night and accepted my existence and spoke to me... I came fully over the border of the worlds and materialized in this form," the demon spoke clearly and looked deeply into Jim's eyes. He had nothing to lose. If there was anything to be saved between them he had to be honest. "Look inside you. I am not lying. I... I’ve been singing those love songs for you for the last few years… I love you, Jim Root. I know you hate lies. But I couldn't just tell you all this at once right away..."
If Jim was shaken up before, now he was shaking apart at the hinges from all Corey was revealing to him. He asked for it though. He asked those questions but maybe he wasn't ready for the brutally honest answers he got.
"How do you..." he started to ask about the wardrobe but cut himself off. He'd never told about that to anyone. Or how he was afraid of small dark places for years afterwards. How he felt like suffocating from the lack of air while swallowing back blood.
Suddenly the world started spinning with Jim from those strong memories, bringing back the pain, fears and hopelessness he felt. It took every ounce of strength in him to stop getting sick or having a panic attack – like so many times in those following years.
"Never... never ever mention THAT again," he gritted through his teeth as he pressed his eyes shut, not being able to concentrate on anything else that Corey was saying. Not until the world stops spinning around him.
His whole world... everything he knew and believed in was cracking and crumbling. Like a mirror, leaving a distorted picture at its wake.
"What... do they want? Why did they attack and kill us? Why us?"
Corey took a step towards the trembling man but swallowed hard and didn't touch Jim in the end.
"Others know about such creatures too and about the other worlds. This gang has many who are special. Like you… And were born with more of the ancient abilities than most humans.
What I said is true. Angels and demons are not like how human religions say. They can be bad or good just like humans. Most angels are good and helpful. But some want power and like how humans think of them only because they are born from light. The gang that attacked had a deal with angels. Like many decades ago, four presidents before Shawn, this gang had a deal with the Demons of Mercy for protection. It's a gang war. They had special mercenaries for the attack. It's nothing more," Corey said looking at the human feeling a desperate need to hug and console him...
As Jim seemed to take a hold of himself, he finally realized what else Corey told him. Could it be possible? Could a demon love a human like that? The creature sounded and looked sincere enough, but Jim didn't know anything anymore. Or at least that's how he felt in that moment.
"Angels and demons? Sounds as if I got into a Dan Brown book..." he chuckled bitterly, his head still spinning a bit. "Can you even love like that? If all that you're saying is true... Why would someone like you love such a fucked up human like I am?" he snorted shaking his head.
"It's not enough that we have such gang fights with other MCs, now even with angels and demons? This must be really good shit..." he looked up at the still black and starry sky through the window, obviously meaning the pot he just smoked.
"When you are close to me, you don't feel the need to get high or drunk. You know how it's true… Our… spirits are alike. That's why I am protecting you. I... I'm just sorry you see it that way. And I couldn't make you happy after all. I'm sorry I failed you, Jim," Corey said low, totally falling apart and choking on his tears for the first time in his human body. All the emotions taking him over suddenly and so strong. He just couldn't bare it anymore.
"I will try to keep you safe till I can... I'm really sorry…" he whispered and rushed out of the cabin into the bushes and right into the big arms of the approaching Mick who took the heavily sobbing kid away from sight.
Corey's words were still ringing in Jim's ear even after he rushed out of the shack, leaving the door open. It took Jim a moment or two to get up and stumble towards the door to look outside or close it or... well, he didn't even know why he got up. But after a few steps he kicked into something, nearly falling flat onto his face.
When he looked down in the faint morning light while cursing, he nearly choked on the next curse as a hollow eyed scary face was staring back at him from the floor as if the rest of the body was left below the boards. It scared the shit out of Jim as it was so unexpected. But as he stood there frozen and nothing happened, he slowly realized that he'd seen this face before. And that it was Corey's backpack that he accidentally kicked open.
After swallowing hard and with a wildly beating heart, Jim leaned down and carefully touched the mask. It made his fingertips tingle but was softer than he expected. As he carefully lifted it up and took it into both of his hands, he knew in his heart that it was Corey's demon face. The one he'd seen in mirrors or shop windows and other reflective surfaces time after time during the years. He was telling the truth.
Still... it didn't look as solid as he remembered. It was softer and thinner, like some fine leather. Jim didn't know that it was like that because of the crumbling spiritual bond between the two of them. It was fading and soon was going to be gone.
With another heavy sigh, he walked to the open door with the mask in his hand and looked out into the still dark forest, not seeing Corey outside. Did he shift into his demon form to hide from him? But then again... if all that he told Jim was true, then that legend should be true too about demons only being able to shift back into their original form when they had their mask...
"This is all so fucked up..." Jim murmured. Still, some worry awoke in his heart.
A little bit away between the trees Mick kneeled beside Corey, keeping one of his big hands on the shaking back. Violent spasms ran through the small body as the young human body experienced pain and some sort of grief like never before. He didn't think of it or knew that Jim felt his agony too.
All the panic and pain he only knew through Jim before now tore his soul apart… Or at least he felt like that… Their bond was going to break and he will be sent to protect another human... He will lose Jim Root forever... And he was sure there was no way back from that.
As still standing in the door with the mask in one hand, Jim fisted his hand around his T-shirt in the middle of his chest. A sharp pain could be felt there, making his heart skip a few beats and Jim gasp for air.
It somehow... didn't feel like his own pain, but was similar and strong and for a moment or two Jim wondered if it was possible that he could feel Corey's pain through that... bond they had between them. Or perhaps it was just caused by the eventful day and the pot.
With a sigh and feeling more uneasy, Jim closed the door behind him and after putting the mask down, he laid down fully clothed, trying to rest a bit. Soon he fell into a restless sleep. Dreaming about evil angels, fleeing and sad, sad blue eyes.
After Corey could calm down a little, he told Mick all about the talk with Jim. But when Mick suggested to go to his and Shawn's cabin, he refused. He has to be at least helpful to the human he loved. He didn't know yet how... But he still felt the bond and love between them, faintly but there…
As he got back to their cabin he saw Jim sleeping. Like so many times he sat on the edge of the bed just looking at him. His fingertips caressed the frowning forehead to ease the heavy thoughts.
He saw the backpack on the floor and his fading mask on the nightstand but he didn't care. He only cared about easing Jim's soul. And like so many times he started quietly singing to the sleeping man. A love song about how he felt.
The disturbing dreams seemed to ease up after a while for Jim. First he didn't know it was because of Corey's soft caresses and quiet singing since he was too exhausted and too deep in his sleep.
Then after a while as his conscience drifted closer to the surface and he thought he heard singing, he jerked awake as he knew that voice. Corey was close. As he opened his eyes and instinctively sat up and pulled back a bit, he saw that he was right.
With a little confused moan – as his mind tried to catch up with reality – he ran a hand through his hair, trying to fully wake up.
"I accidentally found your mask," he said to Corey, nodding towards the nightstand. "You can take it back..." Jim added, not knowing what that would really mean to Corey.
"I saw. I don't want it back," Corey said low, turning away from both Jim and the mask. Being in human form and living the human emotions started to show on him. His blue glowing eyes were sad and still watered quickly and easily as they got irritated from all the crying. The dark circles only highlighting it and making Corey look older and exhausted.
"I was... I just came to check on your sleep... I can go away if you want that," he added being unsure how to act now or what to do. "Shawn knows all. As a president he was included into the deal by the previous leader and so all the joking about demons protecting the gang were more than jokes. Just... I think you should know that. Also that if you accept your abilities, you will be able to find peace and use your skills. Like seeing through the worlds and summon beings by their true names. If you know their full true name... I will stay around till I can. Just... you had to know these things…" he sighed low and stood up to leave.
"Why don't you want it back? I thought you need the mask to be with you..." Jim frowned confused. Man, he could've killed for a strong coffee to make his confused brain work normally again. This whole angels vs. demons with the different dimensions shit was just too much for him to handle at the moment.
Then it dawned on him. Did Corey choose him or something? Were his instincts right about that? Should he ask? Was he ready to hear if it was the case?
"Did you... somehow choose me?" he finally asked before he could change his mind or Corey left the shack again. Also it came a bit as a shock that Shawn knew about all these things and never mentioned them aside from those jokes – which apparently weren't jokes at all. That made Jim a bit angry or rather disappointed because if Shawn had told him, maybe Jim wouldn't have felt as such a freak during the years. He could've had someone to talk these things over with...
"What will happen now? Will they attack again? Can they track us? I have to know these... to be prepared or something..."
"I would need it to be with me, yes... But I don't want it. If... if our bond fades and…" Corey gasped even from the thought of being hated by Jim "so... I want to be able to protect you from relatively close. If I change back then I get assigned to someone else," he said and right at the door he turned to face Jim again.
"Those types of angels want power. They now know some of you are special. And they don't allow humans knowing the full truth. In history people built up a picture over them as good beings. So humans help them without question if they show themselves. They will try to hunt you all down. That's why I don't want to leave after the next full moon tonight," he finished but didn't move. He felt that Jim had more questions. And by that understood another human behavior… Closing up and feeling numb to prevent more pain.
Needless to say, Jim tried to be as guarded as possible, not being sure how much more revelations his crumbling worldview would be able to take. But he also let himself ponder on what the demon was revealing about himself and their... so-called "bond". For a moment Jim wondered what would happen if he let it fade.
"Would someone else be signed to protect me if you were reassigned to someone else?" he asked, wondering if he'd be unprotected – or rather fully alone for the first time since that very fucking long and terrifying day in that small and uncomfortable wardrobe. Because yes, Jim could sometimes feel a presence around him afterwards, but he just thought that he was finally going crazy.
Jim wanted to ask something else too, but right before his eyes, in the right corner closest to the door, he saw the shadows move and form a black figure with wings and a scary ass gimp mask. His hazel eyes widened and he couldn't look away as his whole body tensed up.
"Who... who the hell is that?" he whispered bewildered, so wanting to close his eyes and cover his ears, telling himself that nothing was there – like he did countless of times as a kid, fighting with his tears while trying to convince himself he was normal. Apparently he wasn't. He was "special"... as Corey said. And because of that a target for the rest of his life... Fucking awesome...
As the bond was already fading, Corey felt only parts of Jim's thoughts and emotions. It came to him that Jim only asked and cared not to be alone. And it made his heart sink even more.
"You'll get someone else. As I failed you... You won't be alone or unprotected, don't worry about that," he said and couldn't help his voice break as his aching human eyes filled again with tears. How the hell do they stop that from happening?? He didn't want to cry more...
Quickly wiping his face and taking a deep breath, he continued. "He is the one protecting Shawn. He is my... humans would say trainer or... helper… I don't even know… He taught me how to be a Demon of Mercy. I am a very young being, really..." He wanted to add that 'it wasn't a lie' but bit his trembling lip. "He will look after you too now as I failed him too."
Well, then there went the opportunity to be left alone. Because from now on, now that he knew that he was going to be always watched, Jim would never be able to fully relax. It was crazy how so far Jim felt so alone in his life and now that he knew that he was never alone a part of him longed to be left alone. Maybe he was still in shock and trying to process this all. It was so confusing that it gave him a headache and a need to flee or at least put some distance between him and this whole ordeal...
But then finally he looked at the very broken-looking short demon hearing the devastated tone in the small voice. Did he do that? Did he just ruin the life of another being? God, how Jim felt like an utter failure. Always ruining lives. First his parents' then his own and now this creature's too...
"I'm sorry. It's just... too much at the moment. I'm not as strong or special as you think..." Jim shook his head. "I need coffee and some space to think..."
"Don't worry, we stay away. We are trained to know when humans need their privacy. I was giving it to you before too. We are matched with ones who have a similar spirit as we do. So by being around the building or a bit further away we know and feel when it is trouble or when we are needed. Our bond... that helped more to do that. You are very strong and special, Jim. I need to find out some things too now," Corey said as almost a whisper, not looking up because he couldn't let his emotions loose again.
He saw #7’s somewhat angry look and that he was shaking his head. But the shadow wings wrapped around him as they walked out.
"Take care, Jim," Corey said low, looking up one last time at the biker then closed the door.
"Yeah..." That's all Jim could utter as that last sad look with a wing-protected Corey burned into the biker's mind. The second the door closed behind Corey, the itch to snort some – or a lot – of coke or get fucking wasted until he knocked out attacked Jim. Though it was a defense mechanism, he knew. His rational mind was trying to refuse all this in order to protect the little sanity Jim was left with.
Still, no matter how good of an idea it might have seemed, Jim knew he couldn't give in. He had some serious thinking to do. But first coffee. Getting up that's exactly what he started to make in the really small kitchen corner of the shack. Everything else could come afterwards.
Later when he finally emerged from the shack to actually do his duty with the supplies, he didn't see Corey anywhere, just Shawn and Mick packing at the house. It seemed they already started sizing up their supplies.
As the worn-out biker approached the other two, he noticed the "human" Mick's SEVEN tattoo on his forearm which was left bare by the black tee he had on. And seeing that just made something click in his mind. If Mick was "Seven" then Corey was "Eight" in the demon world. That must be their demon names then... That realization made Jim stop for a moment and just stare. Because he knew it was power to know someone's real name.
Shaking his head he joined the others, focusing more on the packing and learning how many peeps managed to survive and check in so far.
Mick felt the biker approach and he was unable to force a friendly 'hello' out right then so a nod and a grumble left his lips as he walked into the main building with some big crates.
Shawn seemed amused about the scene as he watched the big man's back before he welcomed the other one. "Hey, Jim. I heard you've learned about things. You go first. I listen and answer as I can," he said straightforward, aiming at the tension around Jim as he sat down on one of the wooden boxes.
Jim wasn't even surprised about Mick's reaction. He was probably just as pissed at Jim for making Corey feel miserable like Jim felt for doing so. So instead he focused his attention on Shawn and sat down on a crate too.
"Yeah. It was quite shocking. And you knew about it all along... Could've spared a lot of misery and money I spent on drugs and booze in an attempt to survive or forget all this shit..." he said with some accusing undertone, though he stayed kinda respectable towards their leader. After all he took Jim in after a long examining look when he wanted to join the MC. Jim always wondered why he decided like that. Shawn probably saw a stray broken puppy in the young man. Or perhaps something else in the sad hazel eyes.
"And how you imagined it, Jim? You arrived messed up and I took you in because those whispers in my head said you are worthy and like us so in need of protection. What I should have said? 'Hey kid. Sure, come and join us! We have actual demons protecting the gang so what you are running from you may find plenty here'. What I've learned from the others and in my life is that no one can be forced. You know and accept things when you are ready. Corey… He materialized because you acknowledged him as real. Existing... And even if I had my own guardian, I only faced him fully last night after we arrived here," Shawn spoke slow and calm like he always did, making the impression of a wise old man even when he was younger. He probably was an old soul for sure.
"How are you now that you know? I hope you know that they all are with us really to help… Never do harm to us…" he added hinting at Corey and what's been forming between him and Jim.
"Touché..." Jim murmured and nervously scratched his arm before stroking down his bushy beard. "So this confirms it... Mick is a demon too, huh? Not that I had doubts about that after earlier today... I saw... his real form. I've been seeing Corey and other creatures all my life. I thought I was insane..." he finally admitted it out loud to Shawn, his still confused eyes showing him much older too than his actual age.
"I'm shocked. And scared. I don't want any of this. Never asked for it. Being like this... different... only caused trouble to me. It fucked up everything. I'm not sure I can handle it..." he admitted very quietly.
"He is, yes. But I didn't realize he was around me saving my life till the attack last night. He is much older… He's been through what Corey is going through now. He is… like a father or master to the small one," Shawn sighed patting Jim's back slowly and gently.
"What else would you want to be? I grew up in a very religious family. Went to schools where nuns told us daily that we are born sinners and beating and physical pain can only save us. I saw things as well and only accepted myself when I arrived here and joined this gang. It was when the world started falling apart. Since that I've seen many things that assured me I have to go on and keep the truth left in this world. Because it's not the end. This... hell now is only the road towards something else and as the other worlds are preparing, I can't let humanity be kept in ignorance and blind to what is coming to them.”
“You now know things and with that accepted some of it. You are not alone Jim. We live our lives and help. You must know. There is a league that formed way back when the two other races mixed. The mercy. Angels and Demons of Mercy are around in this dimension and protect humans. You don't have to handle it all of a sudden. Take a deep breath. Look around... It's all the same… Your eyes just see more as you’re awaking to it. We are with you," he smiled reassuring and even Mick arrived back and nodded slowly to Shawn's words.
For a brief moment Jim wondered what Mick's story could be. And if it was about being rejected like apparently Jim was doing to Corey. Even if he didn't really want to do that.
"I... I was beaten too, by my dad. For years," Jim admitted that secret to Shawn for the first time. Only his late mother and Corey knew about that. And probably Mick to some extent. Still, it was a big step for the always closed up biker to involve another person in that secret. "So yeah, I know how that feels at least," he shivered from the memories and looking more sympathetic at their leader. Not that Jim didn't know that Shawn was a clever and fair – even if sometimes rough at the edges – kind of dude. No wonder he picked this MC and not another one. Shawn had a reputation and name.
And now he looked gratefully both at him and Mick. "Thank you. For both. If you don't mind... I'll finish packing now then take a look at the bikes while thinking all this through..."
To the understanding nods, he did just that, feeling his heart a bit less heavy now that he talked with Shawn. Still... as he was checking the president's bike on which he came, Jim's racing thoughts stopped abruptly when he finally realized something. The hints Corey was dropping about "protecting him while he can" and "being reassigned"...
Will that mean that Jim will never ever see him again?