Author's Notes:

I want to thank my Readers. You guys are the best. Okay, these characters are not meant to resemble any living or dead persons. I make no apology to anyone who is offended by anything in this story. If you do not agree with the idea of guys being in love, then find something else to read. Let me know what you think of the story by emailing me at

_Hnstskr4@aol.com_

Copyright 2008-2015 by Chuck B.

The Journey Begins

Chapter - 22

Jason and Eric

Eric gets out of bed, grabs his clothes from his dresser and the closet, and heads for the bathroom. Jason asked him to come over and help with tank cleaning. He had another one of his dreams where Steve and him are no longer together. The dreams shouldn't bother him but they do, and he should have forgotten them but he hasn't. They have to mean something and he has no idea what the meaning has to do with Steve. Each dream has been different but they all end the same way with Steve no longer being in the picture. He's happy when he's around Steve but away from him, doubt flares up in his mind.

***

He starts to sing a song that he is slowly piecing together as he showers. It is a distraction from thinking about his relationship. "I really don't sound all that bad. I should write up some lyrics." He thinks to himself, as he gets ready to wash his hair and then he can wind down the shower. The acoustics in the shower are much better than in his room so he usually reserves singing to the shower. Finally, the shower is done and it's time to dry off and get dressed. After looking in the mirror, he realizes that he forgot to shave. He grabs his electric razor and shaves off the offending whiskers. Grabbing his clothes, he starts getting dressed so he can run across to Jason's so he can get this horrid conversation going.

***

Eric sees that Jason's car is not in the driveway, but it doesn't stop him from knocking on the door since Shaun is still home.

"Hey Eric, Jason isn't home."

"Do you mind if I come in and visit with the animals in the pet room?"

"I-I guess that wouldn't hurt. You can come on in; I have some work to do in the office so have fun."

Shaun made a small detour to unlock the pet room so that Eric could get into it. Shaun then turns and heads to the office to work on whatever is waiting on him. Eric takes his time checking on each animal in the room. In particular, he stops and visits with Lucy. Lucy has grown on him, and he loves when Jason lets him take her out so he can hold her. He hopes that Jason will not mind if he vents his feelings on him.

***

Five minutes after getting into the pet room, Jason enters He's surprised to see Eric already in the pet room.

"Ready to get to work?"

"Yeah, I can't wait. Are we cleaning everyone's tanks?"

"We are going to empty out the tarantula tanks and put in fresh bedding, and then we are going to spot clean the snake tanks."

"Cool!"

Jason grabs all the tools that he uses for cleaning tanks, and then sends Eric out to get water. Eric fills the pail with warm water and then returns to the pet room. Jason takes the Mexican Fire-leg Tarantula tank down off the shelf. He carefully persuades the tarantula into another container and traps it inside. He removes the hide and the water container plus the decorations. The tank is handed to Eric for him to empty the substrate out of the enclosure into the garbage bag. Jason then wipes out the tank and has Eric load up the enclosure with new substrate. They again put the hide, the water dish, and the decorations into the tank. They repeat this process again three more times before turning to the snakes. He removes any sheds (molted skin), feces, and then empties the water dishes into another pail. He then fills the water dishes with fresh water from a milk jug sitting nearby him.

***

As Jason turns to Lucy's tank, Eric smiles because he knows that if Lucy is willing, she will be in his arms. The snake must want to visit because she seems to agree to Jason lifting her out of the tank. She has grown quite a bit since they moved into the house. Jason gives her a quick look over and then hands her over to Eric. Eric is always gets excited when he holds her. Still, he remembers that the snake is a wild creature living her life in Jason's tender care and as a wild animal she could bite at any time. It doesn't bother Eric that she might strike, because she is reacting to instincts built up inside brain over millions of years.

***

With Lucy in his hands, Eric sits down on one of the two stools in the room. He looks at Jason and grins.

"She feels like she's gained some weight."

"Yeah, she has been eating well the last few months."

Lucy is getting a little wiggly and Eric decides to return her to the tank. Once Jason closed up the tank, and secured it with the locks, he picks up the hand sanitizer and squirts some out on Eric's hands. When Eric was done rubbing the sanitizer over his hands, he then squirted the sanitizer on Jason's hands. As he did, Eric looks at Jason and asks about the trip.

"We had a good time. I would have liked to have spent more time with Shaun's family and especially our little nephew; Joshua Ryan."

"How old is Joshua Ryan?"

Jason's mind tries to come up with an answer to Eric's question. `Joshua isn't two yet but he's just starting to really crawl.' Shaun can rattle off their little nephew's age.

"I think he's around 6 or 7 months."

He cannot imagine what it would be like to have a family with his boyfriend. Jason can see the thoughts running through the teen's brain.

***

With the tanks done and Lucy put away, Jason leads Eric into the bathroom where they wash their hands. They head towards the kitchen where Jason prepares grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. He also heats up some homemade vegetable and beef soup. As he prepares the table Shaun enters the house, heads up to Jason and kisses him on the lips.

"So glad to be home with you."

`This never gets old, I love seeing the love between Shaun and Jason. Why don't I feel like that all the time over Steve?'

"It's good to have you back home. Did you get everything in the mail okay?"

"I did. Eric are you joining us for lunch?"

"I wasn't planning it but it looks like I am."

Jason laughs and says, "Yes, he is joining us." They eat lunch and Eric tries to ignore the sight before him. He doesn't want to see their tenderness that they have for each other. Right now, it hurts so; Eric is quiet during the meal unless one of the guys asks him a question.

***

Jason periodically glances at Eric during the meal and can see Eric's quietness and more than that, he sees the way he's acting. He's on the verge of being anti-social; any more so and his chair would be empty. Jason quietly signals to Shaun that something is up with their young friend. Shaun isn't sure what to do, so he whispers that perhaps Jason should attempt to find out. Jason agrees quietly and begins to figure out how to draw out the problem without upsetting the teen further.

***

Knowing there is an exotic animal swap in one of the nearby cities, he asks Eric if he would like to attend with him. Eric is all about taking the trip. On the way, Jason looks at the young man and again tries to think of what is going on inside his mind.

"Would you like to call Steve and see if he would like go also?"

"No, I don't think Steve would like the swap."

Instantly, Jason has a thought `It's about spending time with you.' Eric begins to look out the window. Eric doesn't want to discuss Steve, but then Eric's heart begins to open up.

"You know how I've been having these dreams where Steve and I break up?"

Jason has heard about each dream and knows that they greatly affect Eric.

"Yeah I know about your dreams, did you have another one?"

"Yes, and I have to think that maybe the dreams have meaning."

There is a frown on the slightly older guy's face. He has always tried to be nice about what he thinks Eric should do, maybe this time, he needs to be more vocal.

"Haven't you heard anything that we've talked about?"

"Yes, I heard you."

He and Steve suffered through parts of the camping trip with Jason and Shaun. Eric realizes that many of his dreams seem to have started after the camping trip.

"Do you remember the camping trip? You and Steve told each other you loved one another. Did you mean it when you told him that you loved him?"

Eric is quiet. He doesn't know what to say to Jason. There is no doubt that he meant what he said to Steve, at least at that point. He doesn't hate Steve, he does love him but there is so much doubt. There is so much fear for the future.

"I think that I love him."

`He thinks that he loves him.'

Jason rolls his eyes because you can't just think that you love someone. He never has doubted his love for Shaun even during the bad times.

"Look, you and Steve are going through a rough patch. I know that you're having some doubts, but don't you think that maybe the real issue lays somewhere in your heart or your brain."

Eric doesn't want to hear it. He knows that there is something causing a rift between him and his boyfriend. Right now, he just wants to find whatever it might be and then deal with it.

"Eric, what is the problem? What is making you doubt your love?"

Eric clams up as they pull into the parking lot for the swap. His silence is eating at Jason. It tells Jason that Eric really doesn't want to fix whatever is going on with him. Jason pays for their entrance into the swap and the guys continue forward into the building. Eric keeps thinking about what the problem might be `It's silly that Jason wants to know the problem, when the problem is the end of our senior year' Eric's thoughts are all about Steve, but every cute guy that walks by grabs at his attention. Jason no longer carries any attraction, but lately other guys have been on his mind. He doesn't know why, because he does love his boyfriend or at least he tells himself that he does. Jason spends a half hour walking through the swap and then decides to leave and not spend money on animals that he doesn't really need.

***

On the way home, Jason stops at a coffee shop and the guys go in. Jason orders a coffee and Eric , a smoothie. Eric notices that the guy taking their orders is a guy from school; he's a senior. He doesn't know his name but once more Eric is noticing this guy's hotness. Not only is the guy hot, but he's wearing a pride choker. It's a clear signal that he's gay or at least bi. Now, he's even hotter, at least in Eric's mind.

"Here are your drinks."

Jason and Eric head for a booth so they can talk. Suddenly, Steve is fighting with this senior in his mind for the right to still be in Eric's life.

***

What Eric doesn't know is that the senior noticed him. He's left the counter and is clearing off empty cups and mugs from tables. As he walks by the booth that the guys are sitting at, he smiles at Eric. Instantly, Eric again notices his eyes and the slightly older teen's muscles. Jason sees Eric's eyes on the assets of the teen.

"Dude, really?"

"What?"

"Do not tell me what, you were staring at the guy's ass."

Eric rolls his eyes, he doesn't need to answer Jason's question. It's not like he grabbed or pinched his ass. There was no groping involved. All he did was check the guy out and there is nothing wrong with doing that, is there?

***

Eric changes the subject a little bit by bringing up college. He is scared of what the future hold.

"Jason, I can't get over the idea that Steve and I will be graduating soon. It looks like we will be going to different schools."

"So is that fear causing your mind to wander?"

Eric silently replied no, and continued to nurse his drink. The older guy doesn't believe the young man, at least not completely. Something is causing him pain.

"Okay, so if it's not that, something else is eating at you."

Suddenly it hits Eric, there has been a splinter in his heart since the camp out.

"Jason, there is something still bugging me from the camp out."

Jason smiles, because it sounds as if there is some good coming from this conversation. Eric needs to come to terms with whatever is locked away. Eric suddenly starts to feel some growth in his pants.

"When I saw you and Shaun during your make out session, I was forgiven by both you and Steve. There is a part of me that has become curious about other guys."

"The trick is to remember what Steve looks like, when you begin wondering what other guys look like, just think of your first kiss."

Eric cannot stop wondering what other guys look like. He struggles not only with this issue but with the added fear of college. Still, Jason has given him a weapon in the battle for control of his emotions. It's compounding in his heart. Jason knows that Eric loves Steve and doesn't want to see them walk away from each other.

***

Eric stands up to use the restroom and as he does, Jason slips out his phone. There is one person who needs to be here to talk with his boyfriend. He dials Steve's number and waits for him to answer the call.

"Hello Jason, what's up?"

"Can you meet me at The Mug? Do you know where it's at?"

"Yeah, I know it, but why do you want me there?"

Steve sounds a little nervous.

"I want you to see Eric."

"I will have my mom bring me up there. Can you get me home?"

"That may or may not be a good idea."

Steve doesn't understand why he needs to see Eric. He can see Eric at any time he wants too. Still he convinces his mom to drive him out to the coffee shop.

***

Steve's mom starts to head towards the coffee shop as Eric rejoins Jason at the table. As he sits, the senior guy comes up to the table. Vince Erikson is feeling the beginning of an attraction. He knows about Eric and Steve but IF Eric is going to flirt with him, then so be it.

"Hi!"

He reaches out his hand to Eric and Eric warmly accepts. Jason does his best to act as if he's blind to the situation.

"My name is Vince. Do you want to get together tomorrow?"

Eric immediately brings up Steve's face and his voice. He is trying his best to ignore Vince's attempt but he's failing. From nowhere Steve enters the building.

***

Steve sees where Eric and Jason are sitting and he also sees Vince. He quickly heads towards the booth.

"Excuse me." Steve says.

Vince moves to let him sit beside Eric. Eric is not only surprised by his boyfriend's appearance, but he's also upset. He knows that Jason called him to come to the shop. It's the only way that Steve could have known where he was at today. Eric cannot but feel like Steve is intruding on a moment. Jason is dismayed by the look on Eric's face.

"Hi Babe, I didn't get a call to join you?"

"I...didn't think you would like the animal swap."

"You should have given me the chance to experience it."

"Are you guys arguing?"

Vince is caught with a smile on his face. `If they are arguing that can only mean that there is a chance for him to weasel in and be Eric's boyfriend.' Steve is little mad that this guy is trying to sneak in on his relationship.

"Umm...can you please go away and do your job. He has a boyfriend."

Eric just looks at Vince walk away and then looks at Steve with a bit of anger in his heart.

"Why are you here?"

Steve doesn't answer his boyfriend's question.

***

It's pretty clear that Eric is upset. Steve has known him long enough to know how to read his emotions. He's the one who should be upset. There isn't a guy on the earth who couldn't tell what was happening. Eric was flirting with Vince. The guy who told him repeatedly that he loved him seems to have a problem showing it. He thought they were passed all the heart ache and games. All their talks meant nothing to Eric if he's going to flirt with another guy. Steve doesn't consider himself a jealous guy but something was now eating at him, and that something is his boyfriend.

"I've gave you a chance and I forgave you. We talked about college, and I thought we were good...so why were you flirting with that guy?"

Eric went to walk away but Steve wouldn't let him get up. He was trapped. Even Jason was giving him the stinky face.

"Maybe I made a mistake, okay?"

"No it's not okay. Considering that you've been struggling with us, this is not okay. I am giving you one more chance to pull this around, or we are done."

Hearing Steve talk like that only pushed Eric away even more. More than that, their argument was being viewed by a very interested person.

***

Vince wants them to fail. He wants to have a chance to date Eric especially since his last boyfriend broke up him. He hates being alone so this opens the door to have someone else fill the empty space. Surely with all the attention that Eric was showing him, it must mean that Eric wants more than just a date. Steve might be a causal acquaintance but Eric has real promise. Vince then takes out his phone.

***

Steve is sitting with Eric in complete silence. Any more discussion and he might just walk away and not come back. As he's sitting there, Vince calls Steve. Steve notices the caller id and excuses himself to take the call.

"What do you want?"

"Nothing, it just couldn't hurt to notice that your boyfriend looks a little pissed off. Maybe you should give it break for a little while."

"To be honest, that is NONE of your business."

Steve is pissed and it's only growing inside of him. He doesn't want to face Eric or Vince at the moment. He should hang up but he wants to hear what the ass has to say.

"Considering that you're arguing in the shop that I work at, it makes it everyone's business around you. Why don't you do Eric a favor and leave? It's what he wants anyway."

Finally, Steve gives up. He can't fight against Vince. He walks back inside grabs his hat. "Mom is next door shopping, so I'm going to go join her. " He says looking at Jason, and then he turns to Eric.

"If you want Vince, then have him. I can't take this anymore. Until you figure out who you want, we are done."

Steve walks out of his Eric's life. Jason looks at Eric and wonders why he isn't going after him.

***

Eric is in shock. He isn't sure what happened exactly, but he's feeling horrible at the moment. Vince comes up and sits down next to him.

"Here's my number call me."

Jason wants to take the number and tear it up, but maybe this is just what the doctor ordered.

"Umm..thanks."

Eric said, as tears started to move down his face. He didn't want to be here anymore and Jason picked up on it too. There was no way this guy was getting a tip. The only tip Jason wants to give him is his middle finger.

"We are headed out...maybe I can...you can call me later."

"Count on it hot stuff."

Jason didn't like the way Vince said that, there is something in the way he said it that seemed dark. Eric is too sad to even know how to react to the comment.

***

Eric had no intentions of breaking up with Steve when he woke up this morning, and yet here they are broken up. He can't see that Vince is the reason that they are no longer together. It seems for now that the only other person besides Steve who can see is Jason. As they walk out, Vince looks at Jason.

"Take care of him for me. I need him in one piece."

Jason turns and says "He was in one piece until you butted your nose into his relationship."

Vince didn't say a thing. He can say what he needs to say when he calls Eric, but then he realizes that he didn't get Eric's number. He's positive that Eric will call him. At the moment though, Eric has no energy to call anyone.

***

When Jason pulls up to his house Eric gets out without saying a thing. Mark and Sarah are out of the house at the moment, so Eric digs for his keys and manages to get the door open. He runs upstairs to check his phone. There are no calls or texts from Steve. He hops online and checks Steve's status. Steve's relationship status has been changed to single. Eric collapses on to the bed and begins to cry. The loss of his boyfriend feels worse than when Dale was screwing up his life. Now, he has a huge empty spot in his life. One that hopefully someone will fill someday. Eric ends up falling asleep.

***

Meanwhile, Steve calls Sarah and Mark. He's managed to calm himself down to the point where maybe the mere mention of Eric's name won't upset him.

"Hey Steve what's up? You know that Eric is out with Jason, and we aren't home."

"I...I know that Eric isn't home. I...I...I just needed someone to talk too."

She can hear his voice and doesn't like what she's hearing. Steve doesn't want to get Eric into any trouble but he also doesn't want him to hurt.

"Steve, what's wrong?"

For a second or two Steve kept it inside, still unsure if he wants to involve Eric's family.

"Do I have to go home and ask my brother?"

"It's...it's...just that, I broke up with him."

Now, she is worried about Eric. She knows he loves Steve but why did they break up. She thought they were okay together.

"What happened Steve?"

"He was flirting with this guy from school. I thought we were good...didn't know he still had some issues with us. I guess he told this guy that he wanted to break up me. I just couldn't take it. The reason I called is that this guy has a history. Just watch after him, I still love him, but I can't compete."

"I know sweetie, I will."

Steve hung up having fulfilled his final act of love. He is trying to protect the guy who stole his heart.

***

Sarah told Mark what had happened, and it didn't take long for Mark to head upstairs. Eric is sleeping in his bed when Mark enters the room. He sits on the computer chair and throws Steve's teddy bear at Eric. The bear hits Eric in the ear and it's enough to wake him. He's had two hours to sleep off the emotion.

"What...what are you doing Mark?"

"I want to know the same thing. What are you doing Eric?"

Eric has no clue what Mark is talking about.

"What do you mean?"

Mark looks serious and he decides to hold nothing back.

"What I mean is, why did your sister get a phone call from Steve saying that he broke up with you. Aren't you in the least bit sorry for what you did?"

Eric is ticked off, he had no right calling Sarah and telling her what happened. He picks up the bear and throws it into the garbage can sitting by his computer.

"He said you were flirting with some guy from school?"

"It wasn't a big deal. I never meant to hurt Steve."

Mark just looked at him with a look that said "Stupid."

"Have you ever seen me even look at another woman since I married your sister?"

He had to admit that even though they've had some troubles, Mark has never once even batted an eye at another woman. Still, Steve over-reacted. He didn't need to storm out of there like he did.

"Mark, he goes outside to talk on his phone and then comes in acting like I told that guy that I wanted him over Steve."

Eric didn't get it at all. He did think that Vince was cute but honestly that is about it. Problem is Eric didn't know about Vince's history.

"Eric, Steve told your sister to watch out for you, that this guy has a history. Do you know what he means?"

"Umm...no, no clue. I don't think I'll have to worry about it."

Mark seems to think that things will be alright but he still worried."

***

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