This story may occasionally include explicit depictions of sexual acts between consenting adult males. If you are underage or it is illegal to view this for any reason, consider yourself warned. If you find this material offensive, I have to wonder why you came here in the first place.
This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to people, living or dead, is entirely a coincidence. As author, I retain all rights to this story, and it cannot be reproduced or published without explicit consent from me. This work is copyright © Fitz, 2013-2014.
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My wonderful husband gets a shout out for being so supportive and allowing me to bounce ideas off of him. I would also like to thank my editor, David. All errors that remain are mine, and mine alone.
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Zach and I walked over to Tom and Tina's house for dinner around six. Having Tommy over seemed to bring my son completely out of his funk, and he spent the two blocks happily reliving every single moment of his school day. I hadn't even asked how his day was. It was a wonderful change from the forced monosyllabic grunts I would get in response to questions only the day before. Of course, even as he rambled, I couldn't stop thinking about Amy's offer to set me up on a date. While I wasn't sure I was ready for that, I also knew I would need a bit of a push from someone for me to actually take the plunge.
Once at their house, Tom handed me a beer. Other than to drop Zach off and pick up Tom for our weekly karaoke night, I had not been by the house since the week before Mia went into the hospital. The house looked similar to how I remembered it, but there were quite a few changes. Tom explained that things were constantly being rearranged to deal with Stevie, who had nearly perfected the art of toddling around the house. Every time they thought they had made a room safe for him to wander in, he would manage to find something they thought was out of reach. My chuckle when Tom told me this must have been more strained than I realized.
"This must be why you never come around anymore," Tom said. "It must be hard to see Stevie growing up healthy and strong when Mia didn't. I'm sorry for insisting you come over."
"No, don't be. Shit happens, and I just have to find a way to deal with it. Yes, it's hard, but that's not the only reason I've avoided being social. You and Tina are just so happy so in love and all I can think about is the man I loved walked out on me with no notice. I didn't even know anything was up. But I've spent too long in my self-imposed bubble. I need to try to get back to normal. Who knows, maybe it's time to get back out there and try my hand at dating again."
"What about Mike? You two have certainly gotten close over the past couple months," Tom pointed out.
I sighed. "I don't know. He's a great guy, but I just don't know if I can see us as more than friends. He's said repeatedly that whatever happens is on my schedule, but I can't shake the feeling he wants more than I do out of our relationship at this point. Of course, I screwed up and slept with him on my birthday."
"I figured you would. You were both pretty handsy when you came back that night. I almost said something, but didn't think it was my place."
"Had I known anything would happen between the two of us, I would've asked if Zach could just spend the night at your house. Thanks again for watching him on my birthday; I'm surprised Tina and Stevie didn't come over with you."
"Any time. She would have, but we both like an evening mostly to ourselves when we can get it. Don't get me wrong, I love doing karaoke every week, but somehow a night with Zach is quieter and more relaxing."
"How's everything going between you two, by the way?"
"It's going great. Say, have you given any more thought to what we've talked about?"
"Axing the web division? No, because it's not going to happen. Besides, I don't want to talk about work tonight."
"No, I meant regarding Scott. You know, filing papers," Tom said. I was almost impressed by his restraint. He had made it nearly a week without suggesting I should file for divorce.
"Not really on that either. It's no longer just because a part of me hopes he comes back. I'm not even sure I would take him back even if he did. Had he told me what was going on in his mind, it'd be different. But he just left. At this point, I think I just want to wait a few more months. After a year, I can claim abandonment, and from what your dad tells me, it'd be a lot easier. He doesn't even have to be contacted."
"Speaking of, why have you still not gone to talk to him? You know, be the bigger man, and all."
I sighed. "I don't know... there's a lot of reasons. I'm worried I won't be able to control my temper. I'm still so angry and so hurt. Part of me also feels like I'm stuck cleaning up another mess he made. Why do I always have to be the bigger man? He fucked up big; shouldn't he be the one to make the first move if he wants to?"
"Yeah, but what if he feels like he can't because he's waited too long?"
"Are you switching sides on this like Will? He was the first to push me to file for divorce and take Scott for every penny I can, but suddenly three months ago he starts suggesting I contact him and try to work things out. Even Mike and Fey think I should divorce Scott, but my best friend doesn't. I don't know what's going on, but something just doesn't add up."
"No, I still think you should divorce the bastard, but I can see why he wouldn't contact you other than stubbornness."
Just then, Tina called us to dinner. It was nice to eat a home-cooked meal that I didn't have to prepare for a change. After we finished, I reminded Zach to do his homework before Tom and I left for the coffee shop and karaoke. As we walked inside, I thought about all the memories I had of this place. Not just the ones Scott and I made together, but also the ones that happened after he left.
For as long as I can remember, singing has been something of an outlet for me. When I was a kid, my mom would sing as she went about her daily chore, and really instilled a love of music in me. No matter how I was feeling, there was always a song that perfectly matched what was going on, and I often found it was easier to show my emotions through song than trying to put those feelings into words. After my parents died, I had not done any singing in public until I met Will, who was the first to go with me to Solice's coffee shop. Like Scott a few years later, I had been there during the day, but had no idea they offered karaoke every Thursday night. Will had just thought it would be a one-time thing, but I was instantly hooked. Karaoke night quickly became an activity we did together nearly every week. I usually only participated if I felt like I had found a song that perfectly captured my current emotions, but I always had a great time, regardless of the skill level of the other singers.
After Scott left, Will stepped in and dragged me to karaoke. In hindsight, I'm grateful he did, but at the time, I just wanted to be left alone. I don't know why, but I was positive I would be able to get through it all by myself. I was wrong; there's no doubt in my mind. Of course I was hurting emotionally worse than I ever had before. It was tough when my parents died, but over the course of a month, my daughter died and my husband left me. I didn't realize how cathartic karaoke would be.
The first week, I sang "Yesterday" by the Beatles. It perfectly captured what I was feeling. Only a few months before, I was happily married and Mia seemed to be doing well, but now it was all gone. Over the next few weeks, I sang every depressing melodramatic song I could think of. I sang Eric Carmen's "All By Myself", a song made famous by Celine Dion. I sang "Unbreak my Heart" by Toni Braxton, and "My Immortal" by Evanescence. I used to focus on primarily singing classic rock, but nothing was off limits if I felt like it captured my pain. I sang Madonna's "This Used to be My Playground", Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars", and Sinead O'Conner's "Nothing Compares 2 U". None of these choices really helped me cope with my pain, but it did help a little to expose my emotions a bit.
One week, when I told Miranda, the DJ, what song I wanted sing, she refused.
"No, Noah. I'm sick of you singing depressing shit. Why don't you pick an upbeat song for a change? Maybe that'll help some."
So I acquiesced. I thought a bit, and selected "My Happy Ending" by Avril Lavigne. She got her wish and I sang an upbeat song, even if the lyrics were anything but uplifting.
For a long time, the only time I saw Will anymore was at karaoke; as he and Jason repaired their relationship, Will had started taking on clients in Macon to spend time with Jason. He left Atlanta as soon as he finished with his last client on Friday, and didn't return until Tuesday evening. I knew it had taken a toll on Will's desire to open his own self-sufficient practice in Atlanta, but it was clear his relationship with Jason was more important than his career aspirations. After maintaining the status quo for nearly three years, with neither one willing to commit to more than part-time in either city, Will had texted me the day before my birthday that he had big news about their relationship he would share the next time we got together for karaoke.
I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Even though I had never fully broken out of my funk after Scott left, Will took it upon himself to pull me out of the worst of it. For the first few months, I was practically worthless. I did the bare minimum to ensure Zach was taken care of, and barely worked. It was actually at karaoke where Will did his best to pull my head out of my ass. Obviously, it didn't entirely work, but that's when I started paying attention again. I was still going through motions, nearly three months later, but I was far more functional than I had been.
I was just about to sing another depressing song at karaoke, "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misιrables, when Miranda cut off my microphone, and Will walked onto the stage.
"Alright, I think we've had enough of this pity-party shit. Noah, you're depressed as hell because you're husband left. We all get it. Consider tonight something of an intervention. Tonight, we're going to do things a little differently. If you've already put in your song requests, you can still perform them. However, I would really appreciate if you would rethink what you're going to sing. What my best friend needs tonight are songs to help him stop dwelling on the pain and start looking to the future, whatever that may hold. Miranda has agreed to allow any last minute changes, and if you haven't already put in your requests, she's going to restrict you to songs that fit my criteria.
"And Noah, you're going to sit on the side of the stage and just listen. Do you understand?" he asked pointedly, glaring at me.
There was a fire in his eyes when he said that, as he was daring me to say otherwise. I didn't want to follow along, but I could tell he meant well, and it wasn't like he was giving me much of a choice. Resigned to my fate, I simply nodded my head and walked over to a stool he placed on the side of the stage.
"Alright, now that that's settled, Suze, take it away!"
With her usual presence, Suze strutted onto the stage, accompanied with two others. Had it not been for her companions, I'm not sure I would have realized she was impersonating Cher. Of course Suze is a short and rotund black woman, and Cher is... well, not. However, she had with her two of the most authentic-looking Cher impersonators I'd ever seen. Knowing Suze's penchant for the dramatic, I immediately assumed both were drag queens, even though I would have sworn they were dead ringers for the singer.
Will pulled a stool next to me and sat and watched as Suze took command of the stage, performing "(This is) A Song for the Lonely", her look-a-likes performing a clearly-hastily choreographed dance in the background.
"You should have warned me," I whispered to Will.
"If I had, Zach would have mysteriously been sick, or you would have made some other excuse to cancel tonight. Sorry for the theatrics, Suze and Miranda wanted to really take this over the top, but this is exactly what you need right now."
"I don't know about that, but thanks, I guess. I know you care and want to help me get over Scott. I'm just not sure how much this will help."
"Well, even if it only helps marginally, it's worth it. Sorry I'm not around much when you need me. Besides, it's not so much to help you get over Scott, but if it does, it does. This is more to help you get out of your funk. We'll talk more tonight. For now, just enjoy."
Later that evening, we did talk, and it was the first time Will voiced the possibility of me trying to reconcile with Scott. Other than the fact that Will talked me down from confronting Scott when I first discovered he had left, Will had been the first and most vocal to recommend I bang on his door and demand a divorce. I hate confrontation as a rule, and was convinced Scott would either come back to talk to me or drop off the face of the earth if I did nothing, and either of those seemed like better alternatives than having to face the fact my marriage had failed. However, that night, Will suggested I go over to Scott's apartment and simply talk to him. Will even seemed to think I might be able to talk some sense into Scott, but refused to elaborate.
Again, I'm getting ahead of myself. When Suze finished her song, she grabbed another stool, and sat on the other side of me while the two Cher impersonators had their go at the stage. Granted, it seemed to violate the concept of karaoke for them to lip sync, but even I had to admit it was entertaining to watch. The first look-alike performed "Believe", and the second performed "Strong Enough", both by Cher, obviously. After their performances, Suze and Will returned to the audience, and I found myself with a drag queen dressed like Cher on either side of me as the bizarre intervention kicked into high gear.
I'm not sure if people enjoyed trying to find songs to match the stipulations Will put forth, or if they thought they were just doing their small part to help me, but it seemed like people were crawling out of the woodwork to perform. Only a few people in attendance Will, Suze, Solace, Miranda, and Tom actually knew what events had unfolded. That didn't stop people from making assumptions, and many of the songs were about coping with a cheating lover or being left for another person, neither of which applied to my situation.
Three songs were by Kelly Clarkson: "Since U Been Gone", "Never Again", and "Stronger" the Britney Spears song by the same name was also performed. Pink was also well represented with two songs "So What", and "Fucking Perfect". There were a few standards, such as Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive", "Survivor" by Destiny's Child, and Christina Aguilera's "Fighter". There were also several serious blasts from the past "Someday" by Mariah Carey, "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips, "I'm Still Standing" by Elton John. Solice made a rare appearance on stage and sang Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All", a song that didn't really seem to fit, but I understood her message of it being better to love yourself instead of relying on someone else to fill a void.
There were also several songs I had never heard before. To be fair, that was mostly because I don't think I'd ever listened to much country, but that only explained a few of the songs. Tom sang "A Little Bit Stronger" by Sara Evans, someone performed Keith Urban's "You'll Think of Me", and Miranda brought the house down with a performance of "Blame It On Your Heart" by Patty Loveless that made the drag queens on either side of me froth with envy for her ability to control the stage. Even though that song didn't fit in the slightest, it was entertaining, and it made me laugh. I was surprised I hadn't heard Melanie C's "Better Alone" before, since Scott had a tendency to blast pop songs in the house whenever he was feeling bored, and I may have heard "One Day In Your Life" by Anastasia in a club at one point or another, but I'm not sure.
At one point, I saw a man arguing with Miranda over a song out of the corner of my eye. I was getting bored of listening to person after person singing to me, and wanted the distraction, but the singer on stage finished, and like all the others before him, he felt the need to give me a hug and tell me everything would be ok. Like more than one before him, he gave me his address and phone number in case I just needed a good lay to forget all about 'what's-his-name'. Like the previous would-be-suitors, I told him I wasn't interested.
A few songs later, the guy who argued with Miranda came on stage, introduced as Mike. Unlike the rest of the crowd of performers, he chose to address me before he began. He was shaking a little as he approached the microphone, nerves evident.
"Um... hi everyone, I'm Mike, and this is the first time I've ever gotten the courage to actually come up on stage, but I've come a few times now and always had a good time. I had to beg the DJ to play this song, since it doesn't really apply. Noah, I don't know all the details behind what you're going through, but I'm recently divorced, and this song has helped me a lot. While it doesn't fit with the theme of the night, it just makes me really happy, and I'm hoping it'll have the same effect on you. So... yeah, um... here goes..."
The music started, light chipper piano chords, and I knew immediately I hadn't heard the song before. Mike's voice shook a little bit as he began, but by the time he hit the chorus, he had found a groove and had lost himself in the song. Even though I didn't know him, I was proud of him. I'd seen plenty of people work up the nerve to finally sing, only to freeze with stage-freight when their song began to play. He was right, it didn't apply at all, but the repeated refrain of "Fuck you very, very much" was just too upbeat and adorable to keep me from smiling and bouncing my head along to the music.
After he finished, he came over to me.
"So what did you think?" he asked with a cautious grin on his face.
"You were right. It is one of those songs that just kinda makes you feel better. What's it called? I've never heard it before."
"It's "Fuck You" by Lily Allen. Say, if you're not doing anything afterwards "
"I'm sorry, Mike, I'm sure you're a nice guy, but I'm not interested in hooking up with anyone right now. If you want to leave your number with the drag queens, maybe I'll call you in a few weeks, or never, or something."
"Down, girl, he seems nice," one of the Chers told me.
"Besides, he gives me his number, and I'm keeping it to myself. Hello gorgeous!"
"Sorry if I gave you the wrong impression. I just wanted to see if you wanted to talk. Maybe I'll see you around, though." He started to walk off the stage dejectedly.
"Wait!" I called after him. He turned and walked back over to me.
"Sorry, I've been getting a lot of propositions from strangers tonight. I just assumed, apparently incorrectly, that's all you wanted as well. I'd like that to talk, that is."
"You don't have to. I mean, you don't know me and I don't know you. I just thought a friendly ear could be helpful. Then again, you seem to have a lot of friends already looking out for you."
"No, I really want to talk. My friends are great, but they tend to do these grand gestures, like this whole stunt, and they're all friends with Scott as well... It makes it kinda weird to open up to them with how I'm feeling. I doubt there's too much left. Why don't we try to find a quiet corner after everyone's finished."
I texted Miranda and asked how many more they had. She responded immediately with "He was the last. Can we go back 2 regular karaoke now?"
I stood up and thanked everyone for participating and said I was done hogging the stage. I walked off the stage, and turned to Mike. "Let's go talk."
That's exactly what we did, for several hours. I told him about Zach, meeting Scott, our marriage, as well as Mia's death, and Scott's disappearing act. He, in turn, told me about his divorce about a year prior. His wife had been cheating on him. He had always known he was gay, but curiosity got the best of him, and he had sex with a girl senior year of high school and gotten her pregnant. He had done the 'right thing' and married her, and stuck by his vows even after she had miscarried. When he walked in on his wife and another man, he immediately told her he wanted a divorce, and went straight to a bathhouse to experience what he'd been missing.
"I've more than made up for my delay in coming out, now I'm looking for a relationship, but I haven't had much luck so far," he confessed.
"Well, to be clear, I'm not looking for anything right now... except maybe a friend," I told him firmly.
And that's how I met Mike. He started hanging out with Will, Tom, and I at karaoke, and we started getting coffee a few times a week together. It was about a month into our friendship when he admitted to having a crush on me. He was very attractive, and I told him as much, but also told him I wasn't ready for a relationship; I was still holding out hope that Scott might come crawling back. Mike made it clear he wouldn't cross any lines, but was willing to be my friend and hope something might develop on its own. In the end, I guess he was right, since I made the first move on my birthday. In hindsight, it shouldn't have come as a surprise, since our relationship had definitely become more flirtatious. I'm also pretty sure sleeping with Mike is what sent me into the emotional tailspin I'd been in the few days leading up to that night at karaoke.
When Tom and I walked into karaoke just after my birthday, we immediately saw Mike sitting at a table with Will and Jason. Since Will spent most of his week in Athens, it was rare to see them both in Atlanta. The last time I'd seen Jason was at Mia's funeral. I immediately gave the man a bear hug. He was beaming, and I had a feeling it had to do with whatever good news Will had alluded to. I gave Mike a hug, and he responded by kissing my cheek. Will, on the other hand, wouldn't even make eye contact with me. I gave up on a hug, or even a handshake from my best friend, and settled on a 'hey'.
"Will, what's up? Did I do something?"
"No... it's... um... you see... I'm sorry, Noah. I'm really sorry."
"I can't tell you. I promise you I want to, but I can't."
"Don't mind him, Noah," Jason said softly. "He's dealing with something of a professional dilemma. Whatever happened at work today has him acting like this, and he won't even tell me what's going on. It seems my fiancι is intent on taking the thrill out of our big announcement."
"And what's this big news? Does it have anything to do with why you're actually here for once?" I asked.
"Wait... did you say 'fiancι'? Are you two engaged?" Tom piped in.
"Shit, that slipped out, but yeah, I asked Will to marry me this weekend. Also, I'm moving back to Atlanta."
"That's great!" I exclaimed. "But I thought you didn't want to come back to APD."
"I'm not. I talked with my captain a while back about possibly transferring to one of the suburban districts. He said he would see what he could do, and didn't bring it up again until last week, when he asked if I was still interested. I don't know what he did, but my transfer comes with a promotion. You're looking at the new lead detective for Brookhaven."
Tom, Mike, and I offered sincere congratulations.
"Will, can I talk to you for a moment?" I asked.
He nodded, and we stepped away from the table.
"Noah, I'm so sorry," he started.
"No, it's not about that, although I'm beginning to think I should be angry with you for something. I just wanted to get you away from Jason and ask if you're happy. You look like shit, honestly, and I just wanted to make sure it was because you didn't feel like you could say something in front of him."
"No. I've been hoping this might happen for a long time. Jason is one of the best things to ever happen to me, and I can't believe he asked me to marry him. Like Jason said, it's a professional dilemma. Please don't ask any questions about it, because I'm not sure I trust myself. Just know I'm sorry."
"Ok, whatever," I responded. "If you ever can talk about it with me, you know I'm here for you, and I'm so happy things have worked out so well between you and Jason. I always thought the two of you were perfect for each other, and I was devastated when you broke up the day of my wedding. I'm glad it all seems to have worked out."
"I am too."
We returned to the table. Will just sat there morosely while the rest of us were chatting away. Mike went up to put in a request for a song, and I began to think about what I would sing. I decided enough was enough. I needed to say goodbye to Scott and try to move on with my life. I briefly thought about singing "Goodbye to You" by Michelle Branch, but settled on "Say Something" by A Great Big World. I was just about to put in my request when Mike was called up to the stage, so I decided to hold off and listen to his performance first.
Mike always chose songs that were fun and never really cared about deeper meaning behind the lyrics. He just enjoyed getting up on stage and having a good time. It was different from my usual method, since I almost always concentrated on finding a song with lyrics that really captured the emotions I was dealing with.
As the music started, Mike did his best Lady Gaga impersonation while singing "Paparazzi". While it was amusing, I kept feeling like the lyrics revealed his true feelings for me. I don't think he intentionally chose the song because of them, but it was his subconscious desires coming to the surface. Of course, it could just be that I was reading way too much into them, but the changes in the way he acted recently led me to believe his feelings were much stronger for me than he ever let on.
The way he looked at me as he sung the line, "But I won't stop until that boy is mine," I couldn't help but realize Mike's feelings for me ran much deeper than mine for him. I knew in that moment that a relationship with Mike was not in the cards for me. I couldn't keep waiting for Scott, but I thought it might be better to keep Mike as a friend and take Amy up on her offer to set me up on a date.
My plans to submit a song were thrown out the window. When Mike returned to the table, I smiled and told him he did well, but I was lost in my inner turmoil. I needed to talk to Mike and make sure he was aware I didn't reciprocate his feelings. I was also continuing to dwell on Will's strange behavior. Whatever he was struggling with seemed to involve me, since he kept apologizing.
I had finally gotten my head together to the point I was ready to submit my song, when Miranda announced the next performance.
"Alright, next up we have a special performance. Normally I'd announce his name, but he wishes to remain anonymous. I'm still not sure this is a good idea, but it is what it is."
My curiosity was piqued. It's not like Miranda checked IDs, so someone not wanting to give their name could always make one up. I was wondering who the mysterious singer was, when Will looked at me, completely white in the face.
"Again, Noah, I'm so sorry. I told him this was a bad idea."
Before I could even process what he said, the anonymous performer walked on stage. I blinked twice in disbelief. It was Scott!
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I told you Scott would be returning soon! Also, this is the one planned cliffhanger in Moving Forward. There may be a few minor ones, but otherwise I don't plan on any huge cliffhangers again this story. Special thanks to Fajar, Brandi, Michael, Mikey, Kyle, Alex, Chineche, Michal, Trish, Don, Oliver, MommaB, and Ashton for help with this chapter with song recommendations. Most were not used, but I'm grateful for the help!!
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