Shawn and Jack are Different
Shawn reminds Eric of Jack in a way that doesn't make him feel sad inside like it probably should. Like it probably would if Shawn were anyone else, or if Shawn was really like Jack. But Shawn really isn't that much like Jack. It's more the ways they're different that make them seem sort of the same. Shawn is different enough than Jack that his presence is not imposing. Eric doesn't feel like he's being suffocated by Jack, memories of Jack, or old feelings that had to do with Jack.
Shawn is different enough than Jack that Eric can live with him.
He can live with Shawn and not think about Jack all the time.
Not that he doesn't already do that without being reminded to.
There's something extremely attractive about Shawn that Eric doesn't try to ignore like he did with Jack. See? Right there. There's a difference that makes him think of Jack. A difference that makes Jack and Shawn seem totally opposite, yet totally synonymous. Like when he's thinking Shawn, he's thinking Jack, and when he's thinking Jack—which he used to almost always seem to be—he's thinking Shawn, which seems to be the case more and more lately.
Jack and Shawn are both painfully attractive to him, but they're different enough that he can look at Shawn and not see Jack.
Not that he doesn't anyway.
Eric has a nasty habit of seeing Jack everywhere he looks. He even has this funny story about this time he was out to dinner with Shawn, Cory, and Topanga, and the back of the head of the guy, from the table across from them, resembled Jack's too the point of Eric craning his neck, trying to get a look at the guy's face when he turned slightly to talk to the person next to him. Eventually, Eric got up to make a trip to the bathroom, so he could walk past the guy, only to realize the bathroom was in the opposite direction. He felt stupid, but at least he knew that that guy was definitely not Jack. It would have made him crazy for the rest of dinner. Everyone thought he was crazy anyway, so it didn't really affect his relationship with any of his companions. The story would have been funny if it didn't make him feel so sad.
He told that story to Shawn a few months after it happened, and Shawn laughed, but hugged him and told him he understood what that was like, and Eric felt better than he had in a long time. Shawn's arms are really good at holding people; He has a real talent for that. If there was an award for most comforting hold, Shawn would get it, hands down.
Thankfully, just living with Shawn is entirely different than living with just Jack. It's waay different than living with Shawn and Jack, but that's not the point. Living with just Shawn, though, is complicated in a way that reminds Eric of Jack, who is probably making love to some beautiful woman right now. Eric has no idea where he would be making love to this woman since he has absolutely no idea where Jack is at the moment. This has been one of the hardest things to get used to: Not knowing where Jack is at almost all times. Because he used to. And that's what's really painful now.
Eric has finally comes to terms with the fact that he's mad at Jack for leaving. He's mad at Jack for being different than Shawn, and for never just holding him like Shawn does. Jack might have at one time, but he'd been weird with that sort of thing involving Eric ever since the time Eric had fallen asleep in his arms when they had been a little tipsy, and Eric had said he was cold. Jack had opened his arms, Eric had gone into them without hesitation, and they were laughing, the TV was blaring, and they were both incredibly tired.
"This is too weird man," Jack had said miserably after they'd both woken up. "We can't do this kind of thing. Guys don't do this. Guys like us. Me. We don't do this."
Shawn tells Eric that Jack had feelings for him too, only he wasn't as accepting of these feelings, so he would avoid touching Eric, and that's why he wouldn't just hold him like Shawn always does.
Eric asked Shawn if Jack had told him this, but Shawn only shook his head and said that Jack hadn't needed to say anything. He just knew. After all, he had lived with them for a long enough time to tell that sort of thing.
Actually, Shawn says even if he'd only lived with them for a day it would have been obvious to him.
Shawn seems pretty confident about this, so Eric allows himself to be comforted by that. It would have killed him if Jack had felt nothing, or if Jack had hated him or been freaked out by him. But Jack had been dealing with it too; He was just a little bit more scared, which must be very scared because Eric is scared, and he's able to deal with his feelings.
Or maybe he and Jack just handle their fear differently.
Jack and Shawn handle fear differently.
Eric doesn't usually see Shawn scared, when he comes to think of it, but Shawn tells him he gets more scared than a lot of people think.
Eric is still mad at Jack for leaving, but at least he's got Shawn who reminds him of Jack in so many ways, yet none at all. So, sometimes Eric can forget that, in some ways, they're the same despite being so different. That thought makes sense to Eric, and that's what counts.
Sometimes Shawn uses the phrase, "whatever gets you through the night." This phrase fits a lot of things Eric does and thinks.
Shawn reminds Eric of Jack in a non-threatening kind of way. Which is probably a good thing. Definitely a good thing. It makes things a whole lot easier, and things are already complicated enough with them.
He used to call Shawn 'Orphan Boy' whenever Shawn's father went away, or when Shawn was over all the time. This was even before Shawn's father had actually died. What? He'd seemed like an Orphan to Eric at the time.
It's not really news to anyone that Eric has never been the brightest crayon in the box. Especially not when he was a teenager. Oh the good old days.
Shawn may never have gotten over or past the 'Orphan Boy' days. Eric doesn't know whether or not to believe Shawn when he says he has. He may be planning on killing him in his sleep for throwing dirt on him and Cory one day. Or for pulling Shawn's hair once when he had it longer when they were kids.
Shawn probably won't kill him, but he might be planning something. You never know with Shawn. Eric should know by now since they've been living together, just the two of them, close to a year already, but he still feels he has a whole lot to learn about Shawn.
The Hunter boys are a big mystery box to him, waiting to be opened. If only he could find the key to unlock The Mystery Box.
Can a box have a lock on it?
He'll have to ask Shawn if that analogy works. It probably doesn't, but whatever gets you through the night, right?
Eric doesn't pretend to be brilliant, and neither does Shawn. But Jack pretended that a lot.
Eric remembers Shawn being a lot stupider as a kid. Cory still makes fun of him for that one time when he said something about stabbing him in the back in front of his eyes. Shawn is probably one of the sanest from their gang, now. Probably one of the calmest too.
For the longest time, Eric wondered why Shawn kept that, "I'm the screw up, you're the one who isn't, Cor," statement going for so long, because Shawn seems to have everything pretty much together in his world.
Eric thinks he's pretty wise and smart.
Eric thought Jack was pretty smart too, but apparently Shawn doesn't think that because the first time he kissed him, Shawn said something entirely different than that.
Eric remembers Shawn smirking at him like he knew everything in the world, and Eric didn't. He was still smirking when he said. "My brothers an idiot, and I'm supposed to be the screw up, but you love both of us, and, for once, I'm not screwing up." Shawn's face had been so close to Eric's that he'd been able to feel the words from Shawn's lips going onto his in the form of soft air and breath.
Certain aspects of Shawn and Jack's personalities are the same, but they are two different people. Two completely different, separate people.
It's easy for Eric to remember that they only share a father.
Shawn is different enough than Jack that he would just kiss Eric when he wanted too, without even worrying about being rejected. But then again Shawn seems to be able to read him and Jack so well that he probably knew he wouldn't be rejected.
Eric wishes he was lucky enough to read Shawn and Jack that way too. Life would be a lot easier if he could.
Eric has known Shawn long enough—longer than Jack even, although, sometimes he forgets that—that he will never be known to Eric as 'Jack's Little Brother' or 'Replacement Jack.' Shawn will always be Shawn. At first when they were much younger—about the age where he threw dirt, and pulled hair, and called Shawn 'Orphan Boy' even though then he technically wasn't an Orphan—Shawn was known as 'Cory's-best-friend-what's-his-name-oh-yeah-Shawn-right-the-sort-of-almost-orphan-Orphan Boy', but now it's just Shawn, and that's a whole lot easer to say.
Sawn reminds him of Jack in a way that doesn't make him think about Jack at all. Just love in general.
He likes living with Shawn because, even though sometimes Shawn gets upset and thinks he's just a replacement for Jack, they still get along really well.
And even though the apartment isn't too great (they're still trying to save up for a better place), and everything in it seems too small, they still take showers together, they still share a bed, and they still cuddle on the couch that seems a bit too big for the room. They can still do everything they could in a less crappy apartment.
Sometimes Eric wants to build Shawn a city out of everything inside him. But mostly with his love for him, just so he knows what he means to him.
Eric has never pretended to know where his life will take him, and neither has Shawn. Jack always pretended to know, though. Jack always seemed to have everything planned, except for Eric, and that scared Jack, so he ran, and damn him for it. But at least Eric has Shawn to pick up the pieces and make up theories about Jack with him.
At least he has Shawn, who seems to understand his need to talk about Jack sometimes. A lot of times. Shawn probably understands his need to talk about Jack because Shawn still has the need to talk about Cory sometimes.
A lot of times.
And Eric always tries to let him. He even let Shawn get drunk, which Shawn really appreciated, since no one else let him just get drunk anymore without giving him shit about the fact that there're alcohol problems in his family. He let Shawn get drunk and bitch to him about how Cory had left him for Topanga, and Jack had left Eric for the Peace Corps or whatever shit Jack had left him for.
They're probably meant to be because they both have a thing for the other's brother, and no one thought that they of all people would end up together.
Jack never planned for Eric. And Eric never planned for Shawn. So he's a little scared of this, but it hasn't stopped him so far.
Shawn never planned for Eric either, but Shawn and Jack handle things differently, especially their fear, as Eric has said before.
Eric's glad for that.
Shawn says he always expects the unexpected, and Eric definitely falls under that category.
Shawn and Jack are different enough that Eric can love Shawn without getting his love for Jack confused with what he feels for Shawn. And Shawn and Eric are different enough that Eric can love Shawn without getting sick of him.
Jack and Eric are different enough that Eric can love Jack, but he can also let him go.