Time, as inconsiderate as always, ground onward with no regard for the two lover's needs. Wrapped together in a tangled mess of limbs and sheets they slept the night away in the comfort of each other's arms, waking from time to time to fly again before going back to sleep. Alas, all too soon it was morning, and time to wake up. With barely a groan, Eric silenced the alarm clock before it could wake up Jason and went back to sleep himself.
Predictably, someone noticed Jason's sleeping in. Unfortunately, it wasn't Ronan. Paul bounded in, speaking in the oh-so-perky tone of a morning person to someone who wasn't, "Rise and shine, big broth-" Paul broke off in mid sentence when he saw the twain on the bed. He very, very carefully backed out to avoid waking anyone, but couldn't avoid the well-aimed pillow his brother threw at him at the last second.
A few minutes later, Ronan's laugh woke the two again as Paul, tone quite apologetic, explained what had happened, and why he wasn't going to go back in there or go close the door properly! Ronan poked his head in the bedroom this time. "If you two lovebirds don't get up soon, I can promise you that-" he ducked a pillow. "Well, if that's the way you're going to be!"
The two of them started to move around on the bed, and while the movement wasn't meant to get another bout going between morning wood and the tangled mess they were sleeping in some things were almost inevitable. Where last night had been fire and need, speed and passion, this was a warm need, a slow, almost lazy, wake up session. Where last night they'd been quiet to avoid waking others, this morning they were quiet simply because that was the nature of this two backed beast.
When Lara and Ronan peeked in, they decided to wait to spring their little surprise. "Those two are like the Energizer Bunny!" Ronan laughingly commented.
Lara just looked at him.
"Oh come on, they were at it all night and now they're back at it again! Tell me that isn't amusing after three months of Eric staring at Jason whenever he thought Jason wasn't paying attention, and Jason oh-so-carefully not looking at Eric when Eric was around. After all the school-girl giggling and-"
Lara just stared at him. Ronan sighed.
"You don't think it's funny?"
Lara nodded, a slight smile on her lips.
"What do you know that I don't?" Ronan demanded of her.
"Eric forgot to let Mom and Dad know he wasn't coming home last night," she said. "And when they called, naturally I told them he wasn't at my place."
Ronan started to giggle himself. "Oh no, don't even tell me..."
"Little bro told them months ago, but I don't think they actually listened to him say it." Lara was struggling. "So when he tells them..." she choked back a laugh. "When he tells them exactly what happened tonight..." Lara lost the battle with her laughter, and Ronan joined in. Eric was such an open and honest boy, when his parents demanded to know exactly what he'd been up to last night that he'd forgotten to call home, they'd get an answer covering, in detail, things no Southern Baptist would want to admit existed. Much less learn their son... Ronan howled with laughter, and Lara joined in.
"So, you got a bed for him to crash in tonight?" Ronan teased.
"Oh, no need, he already has one I'd say," Lara countered with a tip of her head.
"Yeah, but now that he's gotten into Jason's bed, Jason is gonna want to get into his bed!" Ronan laughed.
"We'll work something out!" Lara replied. "Ah, look!" she continued as a door opened, "our two lovebirds are up at last!"
"Jason Bester," Ronan mock-growled, "what could possibly have possessed you to get up so late? I'm going to have to dock your pay at work soon!" Jason and Eric grinned at each other and then ducked into the bathroom. Together.
"Go right ahead!" Jason laughed as he closed the door. "I'm going to take a nice, long, hot shower first!"
"It's all your fault, Lara!" Ronan growled.
"Hey, I just put him back together from the rape. You're the one who encouraged him to learn to feel 'comfortable' with himself and his body!" Lara shot back.
The two of them fell backwards, laughing. Meanwhile, the walls barely covered the rising sound of two very passionate young men entertaining each other in a spray of hot, slippery water and soap. Ronan just smiled...
Of course, all good things must come to an end sometime. Jason eventually made it downstairs to start work. Ronan made good his promise to dock him that hour and a half on his pay... but then turned around and offered him an extra two hours of work at the end of the day, "Normal wages, not overtime," he growled at a rather unabashed Jason. Things continued as normal for a few days, except Jason's room now had two people living, and very occasionally sleeping, in it. Paul grew more and more uncomfortable with each passing day, until finally Jason confronted him about it while they were dumping the trash into the alley dumpster.
"Listen, what's going on bro?" he demanded.
"I... I don't want to talk about this, Jace," Paul responded uncomfortably.
"Bro, the way your acting you don't have much of a choice!" Jason replied.
"It's... well, it's the way you and Eric..."
"I thought you didn't have a problem with me being gay!" Jason shouted at his brother.
"I don't!" Paul shouted back. "You can both go be as queer as a nine pound bob, just don't expect me to be comfortable when you're practically shoving your sex acts in my face!" Paul jabbed his brother's chest with each point, "Every single night you wake me up going at it like a couple of bunnies. When you aren't in bed, the two of you are making out. When you aren't making out, you're busy making calf eyes. When you aren't making calf eyes, you're hogging the shower to do god-knows-what, and when you aren't doing that you're discussing what you're going to try next!" Jason fell back a few steps before his brother's tirade, unable to raise a defense. "Every morning when I wake up, I half expect you two to be 'doing it' on the kitchen table!" Jason laughed.
"Don't worry, it's not nearly as much fun as it sounds to-"
"Don't even tell me you've already tried it! I seriously do not want to know!" a red faced Paul insisted. "Just... don't tell me anything about... just don't go there! That is my problem, 'bro'," for the first time, Paul sneered that word at his brother like an insult, "you and Eric are all over the place, making like sex is something public instead of private, and I just... can't... take it anymore!"
Jason swallowed back a retort. "I'm sorry, Paully, I didn't mean to do that to you. We didn't mean to... we didn't think!"
"Tell me something I don't' already know -- if you'd been doing this deliberately, I would have decked you by now."
"If he'd been doing it deliberately," Ronan interjected, leaning against the red brick wall, "I would have had a nice long chat with him by now."
"Ronan!" Jason shouted. "A B conversation, C your way out!"
"More like A B and the whole rest of the world at the volume you two have been using," Ronan replied. "I came out here to remind you to keep your voices down at least a little -- unless you like shouting your brother's sex life all over the city, Paul."
Paul looked just a little bit abashed, "He's the one who confronted me out here!"
"Only because you wouldn't let him confront you upstairs, right?" Paul looked away. "As for you Jason, I trust that you'll talk to Eric and start showing a little more... discretion?"
"Yes Ronan," Jason answered calmly. "All you guys had to do was ask!" He broke out into a grin suddenly as a thought struck him. "I'll let Eric know that using the gym spa is out now..." Paul would have slugged him if Jason hadn't ducked -- in a friendly, brotherly fashion, of course.
That night, Paul didn't show up to dinner, nothing unusual in and of itself, or by bedtime. As ten started to roll around, Ronan started to get a little worried and popped his head in to talk to Jason and Eric, who politely stopped their nightly marathon to listen. "You guys heard from Paul?"
"No, why?" Jason asked.
"He hasn't come home, and I didn't think he said anything about staying out late." The two on the bed disentangled themselves, sensing this wasn't a casual chat.
"Is something wrong, Ronan?" Eric asked pointedly.
"I... do not know," Ronan stated hesitantly. "Something feels... off, about tonight."
"Have you tried his mobile?" Jason asked.
"No help there, he turned it off, and it went straight to voice mail," Ronan groused.
"Um, Ronan, did he have a voice mail message on?" Jason hid an incipient grin.
"Yeah, something about having a good time and getting back as soon as possible..." Ronan's eyes narrowed as Jason's grin started splitting his face. "I'm going to assume this means something?" Jason just let his grin answer. "Jason!" Ronan barked, hiding a smile of his own at the impish mischief this trio of troublemakers could cause.
"It's a code Ronan..." Eric giggled. "Even I know that having a 'good time' is code!"
"Are you two going to clue me in anytime soon?" Ronan was grinning too now, but the next question wiped it off his face.
"Honestly, Ronan, where did you go to high school?" Jason asked.
"Ixnay on talking to him about his past Jason..." Eric whispered quickly.
A loud voice at the front door interrupted them. Ronan turned around to give Paul a piece of his mind only to find Jason pulling him into the room and closing the door behind them. "Not now Ronan, trust me..." Jason started, only to have the reason for his behavior giggle loudly, indicating that Paul had company of the female variety.
"I think I just figured out what 'good time' is supposed to mean," Ronan said. Jason giggled as he got back into bed with Eric.
"Poor Ronan," Eric giggled. "Gonna be stuck in here with us for a few minutes."
"Unless he wants to dreadfully embarrass my poor, benighted brother..." Jason giggled back. Ronan rounded on the two of them and pounced. Putting both of them in a headlock, he made them shut up so they could 'listen in' on the conversation in the other room, purely so he'd know when it was safe to leave, of course.
Though pretty soon they didn't have to be quiet to listen in...
Paul started moaning loudly when Ronan, Jason, and Eric trucked into his room to wake him. "Aaaaw, is poor wittle baby bwother having a hangovah?" Jason teased.
Paul just pulled his pillows tighter over his head and groaned out, "What the hell happened?"
Ronan pulled the pillow away, and spoke a little louder than needed, "From the sounds of it, you had quite a bit to drink last night, Mister Paul. Strange for someone who is going to be nineteen in a few months yet..."
Paul tried to burrow under his bed covers, only to have Eric rip them off and comment, "Or maybe that headache is from what that girl did to him..."
"Girl?!" Paul bolted upright, then fell backwards clutching his head.
"Yeah, apparently you brought a girl home last night. Only problem is you'd had a bit too much to drink..." Jason grinned at his brother.
"Oh God no, please tell me I didn't!"
"Oh, don't worry," Ronan reassured him, "you're still a virgin. The young lady in question was most upset that the alcohol had shriveled certain parts up until they were... what were her words..."
"Thinner than a pencil, and short enough she couldn't bite it off?" Eric provided thoughtfully.
"Sounds about right!" Ronan agreed.
Paul just groaned miserably, and Jason decided mercy was not in order. "Quite a vocabulary on that little lady bro, I must admit. I was most impressed with how she promised to describe you... to everyone she knows. After, that is, she walloped you over the head a few times to make her point more directly."
Paul threw an arm up under his eyes and declared, "I'm ready to die. Just shoot me already."
The three of them pulled him up and shoved him in the shower instead. Paul's scream told them he'd forgotten to check the temperature they'd set it to before he stepped under the spray, but at least he was all the way awake now!
When he came out, Paul gave them dire promises of a suitable revenge. Unafraid, they just continued to taunt him mercilessly until it was time to go.
That night, Ronan got an urgent call and ran out. Nothing too terribly unusual, but Eric seemed to tense up a lot. Paul didn't notice, but Jason did. After they'd finished their nightly rituals, and entertainment, Jason asked his lover about it. Eric just snuggled up closer and stayed silent. Jason could feel his lover begging him to let it drop, so he did. Both of them fell asleep... but when they woke up, they were on opposite ends of the bed.
They didn't talk a lot the next couple of days, and without talking about it Eric just slept in his sister's apartment most nights. Jason didn't follow him. He heard all sorts of talk from people in the gym about what had happened between them, but even he wasn't certain what was going on, so he couldn't enlighten the many people who came up to ask him about it. Eric was getting more and more distant each passing day, and Jason didn't have a clue why.
Strangely, it didn't seem to bother him much. He chatted up some of the other men who frequented the gym -- the ones who happened to be interested in his 'status', to be precise -- but didn't go past mild flirting. When Eric caught him at it one day, he gave Jason a look that was somehow both betrayed and accepting -- as if he were hurt by it, but had expected it.
Jason wasn't the only one with problems; all of a sudden no one was talking to his brother for some reason. Ronan pointed out to Paul that it was his own fault for drinking before his 'first night', but Paul was not interested in hearing it. Things were building to a boiling point, and Jason was going nuts. Finally, he decided to confront Eric about it.
Eric was nowhere to be found though. He searched high, he searched low; he checked the gym, Eric's parents (who weren't much help), Lara, the nearby bars and no one had a clue where Eric was, and they hadn't seen him. Even Ronan was useless, he refused to discuss the matter with Jason. "He gave me something before he left, but he told me not to open it. He said... he said I'd know when." Ronan looked deeply disturbed, and Jason left his office even more upset than when he'd entered.
Jason felt it in his heart, in his soul, that something was coming, a tempest that would change everything.
And Eric was at the heart and soul of it, and so was he.
To clear his head he walked home, and as he was passing by a dark alley someone darted out and pressed something to his face. Before he could react, Jason convulsed, and fell to the ground unconscious.
"Wake up, queer boy!" someone slapped the insensate Jason awake. His arms were up over his head, and he twisted trying to move them, but rope bit cruelly into his wrists instead. Opening his eyes, he stared into a hate-filled mob and knew them.
He should; they'd tried to kill him. And some of them had nearly killed Sam. His 'friends' from the night he met Ronan were back. And this time they were carrying, mostly hand weapons, but more than a few firearms thrown into the mix.
And they'd caught him by complete fucking surprise, damnit! Strung him up in an alley somewhere, and now it was fucking raining on him, great. Just fucking great. His tormentor slapped him again. "Cat got your tongue, my little faerie?" He almost didn't recognize the man, then suddenly something clicked.
"Rudolf Irrigo, what the hell-" Rudolf slapped him again, and Jason's ears ringed as the bulky man put his full force into it. As he put the muscles he'd built up at Ronan's Gym -- at the place Jason lived and worked! -- into it. Jason spat into his face. "When Ronan find out about this, you are a dead man," he reminded the man.
"Ronan won't know a thing. I've blocked his powers, and you aren't going to be carrying any tales," the man grinned evilly as he cackled in near sing-song. "Oh, I've spent my time wisely figuring out how to deal with you perverts, and tonight it begins." The men in the mob echoed his grin and started cracking knuckles, cocking guns, and all the other ways men can show bravado. Strangely, Jason really wasn't that scared. Once he got his hands free, somehow, he'd show these men just how far he'd come in the last six months. Six months of pain, sweat, exhaustion, Lara and Ronan had changed him. He'd found the steel in his soul, and if anything, the rape had made the steel stronger once he'd found it, and he would not break. His body held the resilience of youth, and now had been reforged with the skill of a master martial artist. He had a long way to go before getting into any tournaments, sure, but when it came to raw violence he had it down to an art. Ronan had insisted on that.
All he had to do was get his hands free. And then they'd discover how far he'd come. Of course, given how tight these ropes were, and how many they'd put around his wrists and forearms, that was quite a challenge in its own right.
Rudolf stepped forward and slammed a fist into Jason's gut, when suddenly a voice shouted from the end of the alleyway, "Enough!"
Jason, and everyone else there, looked. A figure dressed in skin tight black leather stood, heedless of the rain, at the center of the entrance to the alley. His tall, lean figure was defined rather than hid by the close fitting leather, and a long, sharp sword gleamed in his hand, the distinctive curve of a katana screaming lethality. His dirty blond hair rippled in the nonexistent breeze, and his green eyes seemed to glow. Every line of him screamed danger and power, and Jason nearly didn't recognize him. The figure brought his hands together and gripped the katana in both hands, and commanded the men before him. "Release him!"
The men laughed, and one pointed a pistol at the figure. With a crashing roar the pistol fired, and Jason screamed at the death of his lover, Eric.
Eric laughed, and let go with one hand to reach up and pick something out of thin air right in front of his eyes. Holding it up to show the bullet to the men in the mob, he sneered and then tossed aside the bullet. Suddenly his sword flicked out and a whip of razor thin fire streaked out across the heads of the men, neatly severing the rope that bound Jason's wrists. "I said, release him. Now, get the hell out of my way, or by God and all the heavenly hosts you will not live to oppose me again!" Eric's voice still held a strange power to it, and the men backed up a step before Rudolf charged forward, picking up a sword of his own off the ground on the way.
"Get him!" Rudolf roared, and the men charged. A few had the presence of mind to turn around and deal with the suddenly released Jason, and that proved their undoing. They targeted themselves for him, and he danced the way Ronan had taught him. Smoothly, with barely a moment's hesitation, he grabbed the rifle out of one man's hands and brought the butt around in a crushing blow to a man's jaw. He moved from blow to blow, striking to disable, not kill. He sensed, more than saw, the battle at the head of the alley.
Where he struck men down one by one, Eric's sword scythed back and forth, claiming men two or three at a time as he struck through flesh and blood and bone with effortless ease. He moved with the quicksilver grace of a cat, matching blows and blocking and killing his foes. Where Ronan, six months ago, had moved with precision and power to smash men aside, Eric used that same precision, that same power, to cut them down ruthlessly. The crash of steel meeting steel announced Rudolf's arrival at the front of the alley, but lasted for barely a second before Eric's blade found its target, sending Rudolf's head flying.
Only a half dozen men remained, and they were now behind Eric as he'd moved through the mob to reach Jason, weaving from side to side to catch all who were armed with guns. With a grin, Eric enveloped his friend in a bear hug, careful to keep the sword clear, and sighed. "Hello, Jason."
"Eric..." Jason murmured into his ears in the few moments they had, hands loosening around the pistol he'd grabbed at some point.
From a rooftop above came a crack of thunder, and Eric stiffened against Jason. Jason jerked back, and screamed when he realized the import of the hole that had appeared in his friend's forehead.
It was no thunder he'd heard, no natural phenomenon. It was the death of his friend; it was the sound of murder; it was a sniper's rifle.
Jason faced the darkness in his soul, and embraced it as he once embraced his lover. He let Eric fall, and brought the pistol up in a two handed grip, targeting the nearly unseen target by instinct more than training, more wish than knowledge, and a simple scream of rage and horror. One single bark of his pistol, and Eric was avenged.
One single shot, and he'd tainted himself forever with the blood of another's life.