This story includes 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, 2011 and 2012.

This is my first attempt at writing a story, so I would love to hear any feedback, be it positive or negative.  Send me an email with any comments or questions at movingonstory@gmail.com.  I'll try to respond promptly to all emails, but any flames will be ignored.

I would like to thank Jay Gordon at jaygordonstories.com, for much of the inspiration to write this, in addition to the many amazing stories that I've read by a wide number of authors.  Jay's stories may have given me the inspiration, but all the excellent writers have created a desire in me to write.  Thank you all.

Finally, my wonderful husband gets a shout out for being so supportive, allowing me to bounce ideas off of him and for taking the time to edit for me.  He is apparently a glutton for punishment, as he keeps volunteering to look at the newest chapter for me.  NCRaider and Uchena have taken on the task of proofing drafts for me, and my good friend Kai has stepped up to the plate and has been indispensable in the editing process.  They have been amazing, and any errors that remain are mine and mine alone.

My story is also hosted at http://fitz.thestorycloset.org, which will likely be updated more frequently than here.  Registered users (free) also have access to discussion forums and a chat room where you can talk to me and other authors from the site.  I have a Subscribed Readers Update thread in the forum for anyone who would like to be on a mailing list.

I will be taking a brief break, and should be posting Chapter 11 in about a month. I'll still be responding to emails (hopefully more promptly than I have been!)

~Fitz

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CHAPTER TEN

A NEW FRIEND

 

 

Tom and Sarah were ripped out of their slumber by loud bangs and cracks emanating from the living room. They came running into the living room, only to see me wielding a crowbar, tearing up the wood floor. In their minds, they probably thought that I had completely lost my mind. It didn't help matters that in my haste to get to work, I hadn't bothered to move any of the furniture out of the way.

 

I had just started, and I hadn't even notice them come into the room. I had just finished exposing the floor boards under The Spot when Tom grabbed my arm to prevent me from continuing.

 

"What the hell are you doing?!" He yelled at me.

 

I was stunned. It was only the second time since I had known him that I had heard him curse, and it made me completely stop as I tried to think of a response. The words wouldn't' come to me, so using my left hand, which was free from his grasp, I reached into my pocket and produced Steve's list. Tom noticed that I was wearing my wedding ring agai, but didn't say anything about it. When Tom read the list, he quickly handed it back to me and released me.

 

"Sarah, help me clear out the furniture in here," Tom said, as he began to grab things to move out of my way.

 

"Tom, what's going on?" She asked. Sarah didn't have a clue what was going on, and she hadn't seen the list.

 

"Trust me, everything is fine, just give me a hand," He told her as I went back to work.

 

When they had finished, Tom asked if I had another crowbar he could use. Sarah was still clueless, but she had at least determined that I wasn't acting destructively. I just handed Tom the crowbar I had been using.

 

"I'll be right back," I told the two of them.

 

"I have no clue what's going on here. Where are you going Scott?" Sarah had had just about enough of being in the dark about everything.

 

"Don't worry about it; I just need to take care of something."

 

I turned and walked out the front door towards my car, whistling as I went.

 

"Tom, since Scott won't explain what's going on, will you? I'm so confused right now. I wake up and Scott's ripping up the floor in the living room. First you try to stop him, then you want to help him, and now he just walked away. Where is he going?" Sarah asked as soon as I'd left.

 

"I have no idea where he went, but he seems to have a plan in his mind. I understand why he's doing this, but I think it's better if he explains it to you. I almost feel like it's not my place to do so."

 

While not happy with Tom's answer, Sarah accepted it as the best that she was going to get for now and continued to move things out of the way. By the time I'd returned about 90 minutes later, she had gotten all of the rooms cleared except the bedrooms. Tom had managed to rip up about half of the flooring in the living room.

 

"Where have you been? I figured you were just going down the street to buy a crowbar. It shouldn't have taken that long," Sarah demanded as soon as I walked in the door.

 

"I did, but then I had to spend more time than I thought I would negotiating," I offered, as if that explained everything.

 

"What does that mean? Tom seems to have an idea as to what's going on, but I'm still completely in the dark here!"

 

"Sorry Sarah, I haven't been fair to you this morning. I entered something of a zone when I started, and my brain wasn't able to put my thoughts into words. We'll go out to brunch before too long, and I'll explain everything to you."

 

"Okay, as long I eventually get brought into the loop. Speaking of brunch, I'm hungry. Are you ready to go now?"

 

"Not yet, we just have to wait for a little. I'm expecting..."

 

Before I could finish the thought, the doorbell rang.

 

"That would be them."

 

I opened the door and, and let in the carpenters that were waiting. They looked unhappy to be there, but that was understandable. They hadn't expected to work on a Sunday morning. When they came in, I showed them the living room. I'm sure they were surprised that we had already started without them. I asked they would be able to easily get the living room, kitchen, and hallway to the bedrooms finished in one day. We hadn't planned on redoing the floors, so the bedrooms and office were not ready.

 

They told me it wouldn't be a problem, and with the four of them, they should be finished by around dinner time. I thanked them exuberantly, and the three of us quickly moved the furniture out of the hallway and into the bedrooms while the contractors started working. With that accomplished, Tom, Sarah, and I left to get some food.

 

We drove to a restaurant and were quickly seated. After we had ordered, I explained the 'honey-do' list that I had found and that Steve had wanted to replace the floors.

 

"I know it seemed a little impulsive, but I suddenly felt extremely motivated, something that I haven't felt in a long time. I'm sorry for worrying and confusing you two, but I just felt like it was something I had to do. I went to get a second crowbar. While I was leaving, I decided to check out the flooring place that Steve found the style he wanted. I was surprised to find it open, so I went in to talk to them. It turns out they had the floors in stock.

 

"I had originally planned on installing them myself, but I just decided to get it done as fast as possible. It took a lot of negotiating before we could work out terms that they were happy with in order to bring contractors in at the last minute on a Sunday," I explained. I pulled the list out of my pocket, and showed it to Sarah. She also noticed that I was wearing my wedding ring again for the first time.

 

"Wow, Scott. I'll admit I was worried, but after seeing the list I completely understand. You've made a lot of progress in the last few days. You're wearing your ring again, there's a bounce in your step, your smile seems to be genuine, and your eyes have a glow about them that I haven't seen since he died. Does this have anything to do with the crush you have on Noah?"

 

I had to think a minute before continuing. Neither of them knew that I had been able to have some sort of communication with Steve, and I didn't want them to think that my mind had snapped.

 

"I guess it does. Yesterday, I went for a run, and ended up back at the cemetery. I talked to Steve for a long time, and told him my feelings about Noah. I told him that I felt really guilty about them, and that I wanted a sign that he didn't want me to pursue anything with Noah. It's not that he spoke to me, or anything like that, but I just got a sense that he was fine with the attraction I feel towards Noah.

 

"It was the first time that I actually thought that I might be able to stop dwelling on the pain inside. I can keep all the wonderful memories, but it was okay to let all of my hurt go. I think I can actually feel better about everything without really having to forget anything about Steve.

 

"I'm not saying that I'm going to pursue a relationship with Noah or anything. I just realized that it would be okay if I started paying more attention to my feelings and needs, and less on what Steve would think of everything. He's not here for me, and he would want me to have every chance in the world at happiness."

 

As I told them this, I had a few tears running down my face and both Sarah and Tom's eyes were moist. We continued to chat throughout brunch, but never on any heavy subjects. Afterwards, we went around the city, killing time, before we went back home.

 

When we arrived, the contractors were almost finished for the day. The new floors looked amazing, and I knew that Steve would have loved them if he was still alive. I had forgotten how excited he had been at the prospect of our first major renovation to the house.

 

After they had left, Tom, Sarah, and I worked to get the furniture back into the living room and kitchen, before tidying up the bedrooms so that we could clear those rooms out. The old flooring seemed to complement the new flooring, so I decided to not have the contractors redo Steve's office. I may have made a lot of progress, but I knew that I wasn't ready to start going through Steve's possessions yet.

 

We cleared everything out of the three bedrooms except for the beds themselves. Tom suggested we could go ahead and remove the bed in his room, as he was still sleeping in Sarah's room most nights. He looked a little uncomfortable as he said that, but I didn't think anything of it.

 

After we had finished, we sat in the living room for a while and talked before we all headed to bed.

 

-- -- -- * * * -- -- --

 

Monday morning arrived, and I opened my eyes. Something seemed a little different, but I couldn't quite place it. As I looked around, I realized that I was still on my side of the bed, and I hadn't seemed to move throughout the night. Often, even when I stayed on my side, I had grabbed Steve's pillow to hold close while I slept, but I hadn't. I realized that for the third night in a row, I hadn't had any nightmares. In fact, I knew that I had had some great dreams. I couldn't remember any specifics, but I knew that while I had been dreaming, I had been happier than I could recall being in a very long time. I felt like today was going to be a great day.

 

After I showered, I got dressed, paying close attention to what I wore. Today was the day that I was meeting Will's friend, and I thought I should try to make a good first impression. I didn't really know why I wanted to impress the person, but it just felt right. I was already beginning to see the improvement in my body since I had started going to the gym. My arms and chest were a little bit more defined, and my stomach was a little flatter than it had been. I still had a ways to go in order to get back to where I had been, but there was some definite progress.

 

For the first time in over a year, I actually took the time to style my hair. Granted, I had used product a handful of times, but I hadn't really fussed over it. I spent close to 20 minutes trying to get my hair to do exactly what I wanted it to.

 

We quickly removed the beds from the bedrooms, so that the contractors could replace the floors, then I sat on the couch for a while and did some work before I left the house to meet Will and his friend. Just before I left, I took one last glance at myself in the mirror to make sure I looked exactly as I wanted to.

 

-- -- -- * * * -- -- --

 

I made sure to arrive a few minutes late, which is uncharacteristic of me. I wasn't sure if the two would arrive together or separately. Granted, I wouldn't know the other guy, but I still didn't know if I was comfortable being alone with Will if showed up early by himself.

 

I walked in and immediately looked around, trying to find Will. In the corner, I saw something I definitely wasn't suspecting. Noah was sitting there, facing the entrance, talking animatedly to someone. I couldn't tell who it was, partially because his back was to me, but mostly because I was so enraptured by Noah's presence.

 

As I stood there, staring, for a few seconds -- although it felt like an eternity -- I felt myself becoming agitated. I couldn't quite describe the sensation, as it had been so long since I had last experienced it. I think the closest sensation that could describe it is would be jealousy.

 

I decided that I had to leave. I figured that I would just call Will and apologize profusely for standing him and his friend up, and then I would just set another date to meet them. I could just claim that something came up, so long as they didn't see me.

Just as I had reached the door, I heard someone call my name. I turned around, and it was Noah. His eyes were sparkling again, and I wanted to kick myself for feeling my knees get weak again. Noah beckoned me over to the table, so I made my way over, looking around to see if I could find Will and his friend. I figured that I would greet Noah quickly, and then return to searching for them. As I neared the table, I finally got the opportunity to see who Noah was talking with. As I looked down, I couldn't believe my eyes; it was Will sitting across from him.

 

Will moved to a neighboring seat so that I could sit across from Noah. He seemed surprised that Noah had called out my name. Before we had a chance to greet each other, he started the conversation.

 

"Wait...do you two know each other?"

 

"Yeah, Scott and I met at the gym last week. He's the one I told you that I had saved on the bench press. I guess I never did mention his name. We actually worked out together several times last week, why?"

 

I'm sure that Noah had noticed the distinct change in my appearance, but he didn't say anything about it. He may have even seen the wedding ring, which I somehow felt slightly self-conscious for wearing at the moment, but I wasn't positive about that.

 

Will looked a little agitated, as he had just found out why I had changed my workout schedule, but he quickly pushed it aside.

 

"Well, even though you two seem to already know each other, let me introduce you to Scott, the person I was telling you about. Scott, this is Noah, one of my best friends. He's been there for me whenever I needed someone to talk to."

 

Neither of us responded to him. His eyes had locked onto mine shortly after I had sat down, and I had become lost in the golden pools in front of me. I could feel his gaze piercing into my soul, and I couldn't help but wonder if he'd become just as lost in my eyes as I had in his.

 

I'm not sure how long we had just sat there staring at each other, but it was probably less than a minute before Will cleared his throat, causing us to break our trance. I glanced over at Will, and he was clearly uncomfortable.

 

"You know, I just, uh, thought of a few things that I should really, um, get done today. I think I'll go ahead and head out, but you two should definitely talk. Scott, you can trust him to open up, I promise.

 

With that, Will stood up and left quickly. I wasn't entirely sure why he was acting so strangely, but a part of me couldn't help but wonder if Will felt jealous of my reaction towards Noah. The two of us just stared at each other awkwardly for a few minutes, neither of us knowing exactly how to begin the conversation. Finally, it was Noah that broke the tension.

 

"I wonder what the hell got into him," Noah said, looking a little bit angry. "I've never really seen him act like this. He's usually very calm and collected no matter what happens."

 

I knew, or at least had a very good idea what caused Will to act that way, but I didn't feel like sharing it with Noah at the moment.

 

"Anyways, Scott, I know I asked you at the gym if you wanted to talk about what you were going through and you weren't interested. Has that changed? If it has, I'm more than willing to listen."

 

I looked down at my coffee and began to idly play with my ring. After a moment, I just nodded my head.

 

"I'm sure you're a good listener, and if Will trusts you, then I can too. It's just very..." I choked up a little as I was saying that, and it took me a moment to find my voice before I could finish the thought, "...very hard for me to talk about."

 

If Noah hadn't noticed my ring when I first came over, he clearly had by now. Before I got the chance to say anything, he took the opportunity to ask about the changes in me since he had last seen me on Thursday.

 

"You look very different today. I mean that in a good way, of course. I don't know anything about what you've been through, but I can't help but wonder what caused the changes since Thursday. Maybe it's just that you knew you were going to the gym, and didn't want to spend the effort only to have it ruined by sweat, but then there's your ring..."

 

Noah's voice trailed off at the mention of the ring. It was clear to me that he hadn't put the story together, but he was definitely thinking about it. I decided it was time to tell him the whole story. Well, not the entire story. I figured that I would just tell him about everything up until I came back into town, and take it from there.

 

"Let me start from the beginning. Bear with me, because it's very painful for me to think about..."

 

Over the next two hours, I proceeded to tell him everything. I started with the day Steve died. I told him about the funeral, and everything that happened between me and Will. I even told him about my desire to remain as close as possible to the spot where Steve had died. I thought about glossing over some of the more lurid details, but I realized that in order to explain why I left town I would have to explain how Will had betrayed my trust. I felt a little bad about it, as Will and Noah were very good friends, but I had started talking, and just couldn't stop. I did, however, leave out the two times that Steve had come to me while I was asleep.

 

I also told him all of the details about how I spent the nine months that I was gone from the city. Again, I almost left out the details of my sexual excursions in Baltimore, but that was more because I was worried about what he would think of me. I hoped he would understand, especially since I wasn't proud of my actions in hindsight.

 

I had planned on stopping when I arrived back in the city, but I kept going. I told him about my first visit back to Steve's grave, my reunion with Will, and our agreement to go back to the gym. I did stop there, however. I still didn't know exactly how I felt about Noah, and I definitely didn't know how he felt about me.

 

At several points while I was telling Noah my story, I had to stop to wipe tears from my face, or to clear my throat before I could continue. Noah, for his part, had tears in his eyes the entire time, and they frequently were dripping down his face. I had expected him to tear up a little, but I hadn't expected such an emotional display from the man sitting across from me. He made no attempt to mask his tears, nor did he at any point seem ashamed of them, as he made no attempt to wipe them away.

 

After I had finished catching Noah up on everything that happened between Steve's death and the day I met him, we sat in silence for several minutes. I figured I'd give him a chance to respond to everything I had just said, but knew that he would need a few minutes to digest the entire story. It wasn't uncomfortable, just neither of us knew what to say. Eventually, Noah spoke.

 

"Scott, I...shit. I don't even know what to say. You told me that you had gone through a lot in the past year, but I never imagined it was anything like this. My natural response is to say something like 'I'm sorry for what you went through,' but that just seems contrite, and slightly condescending. I do have a few questions for you, if you don't mind. I really don't want to pry, but I just want to try to understand a few things better."

 

I was moved that he seemed to be taking everything in better than I had expected. I really had anticipated his first words after I finished being a standard generic statement of sympathy, but clearly, he felt that it was inappropriate. I greatly appreciated that.

 

"I've told you so much about my personal life in the past year, Noah. I'm not sure that any questions you ask can delve much deeper, or unleash any additional hurt from me, so go ahead. I'll answer everything the best that I can."

 

"It's just that you look completely different today than I've ever seen you at the gym. When you came in, you looked, I don't know, happier than I'd seen you before. You're dressed in stylish clothes, and you're hair...well, it looks amazing. Is that his..."

 

Noah allowed his voice to trail off again. I knew he was talking about my wedding ring. Since I hadn't worn it until Saturday, I couldn't blame him for being confused about it, and I'm sure he felt at least a little uncomfortable asking about it.

 

"Yes. It's the ring he gave me when he proposed about three years ago. After what happened with Will, I felt too guilty to wear it anymore, so I took it off just before I left town. After everything that happened this past weekend, I can't explain it properly, but it just felt right to start wearing it again. I also woke up today feeling like I should go back to paying attention to my appearances. I haven't really cared in so long," I explained.

 

"Scott, I hope you realize that I would never have said anything even remotely flirtatious if I had any inkling as to what you were going through. I can't help but feel like such an ass. But then I see you now, and it's impossible for me to not notice what a hottie you are."

 

Noah realized what he said as soon as the words leaved his mouth. I got a little bit uncomfortable and couldn't help but blush. He noticed my discomfort, but I don't think he noticed the change in my complexion.

 

"I'm sorry. I really didn't mean for that to come out that way. Please..."

 

I cut him off.

 

"No, it's okay. I knew what you meant."

 

We both sat there in silence for a minute or so. I knew he had more questions, and I had been too flustered by his comment to initiate any conversation for the moment. After a few moments, he continued to ask for more details.

 

"You mentioned something happening this weekend that caused you to change your mind about wearing your wedding ring. Is it okay if I ask what it is?"

 

"It is. I know you're just trying to get a better understanding of everything that's happened, and it is helpful to be able to talk to someone about everything."

 

I told him about the weekend, starting with how I had been cleaning on Friday and had decided to cover The Spot with an accent rug. I told him about my jog on Saturday. I didn't tell him my reason for talking to Steve, but I did say that I felt that Steve had sent me a sign that he wanted me to stop dwelling so much on the pain and begin to look towards the future.

 

I knew he wanted to cut me off and ask additional questions about my interaction with Steve, but I just held my hand up to signal that I wasn't done with my story. I wanted to get the rest of it out before I got distracted.

 

I finished by telling him about the list of Steve's that I found and my decision to replace the floors immediately. I went into the details of how I started with The Spot and explained that contractors were at the house as we were speaking, finishing the bedrooms.

 

"Now I'm sure you want to ask me why I think Steve sent me a sign."

 

"Well, yes and no. First off, I don't doubt you at all. I've always believed that loved ones are fully capable of communicating from beyond the grave. I'm more wondering if that's the first time that Steve sent you a message."

 

I told him it wasn't and explained that something similar happened the previous two times I had gone to the cemetery. I even told him that I felt like Steve had whispered in my ear once. I didn't tell him that it was moments before I had first laid eyes on Noah, though.

 

I paused for a second, trying to decide if I wanted to tell him about the two times that Steve appeared when I was asleep, but I figured that I had already explained so much, and he didn't seem freaked out yet. Besides, I told him about what Will had done, and realized that my conversations with Steve helped to actually explain a lot of my motivation. I decided to tell him.

 

I was almost disappointed with his reaction as I told him. I really did expect him to act like I had completely lost my mind, but he just nodded his head as I told him. When I had finished, I asked him if he thought I was just imagining it, or if he was weirded out with the idea that Steve could come to me.

 

"Not at all. Besides, even if I didn't believe you, I would know that you believed it, and that alone attests to your sanity in my mind. Steve was such an important person in your life. It'd be impossible for you to not want him to somehow continue to be a part of it.

 

"But I really do believe that he did send you signals and speak to you. The way you describe how he came to you leaving you feeling unsettled is completely different from how you would have expected him to, which is exactly why I have no doubt that he did.

 

"Going back to the last two visits to the cemetery, are you sure you didn't leave anything out? You mentioned that he sent messages, but you never explained what you were hoping to hear from him."

 

I couldn't answer his question, even if I wanted to. There was just no way that I was about to tell the beautiful man sitting across from me that I couldn't get him out of my head. I just lowered my head and blushed. He unavoidably noticed that I was unable to look him in the eyes. I think my actions made it pretty clear why I had gone to see Steve, but fortunately, he decided to graciously change the subject.

 

"Will told me that you are averse to all forms of therapy, is that true?"

 

"I don't need to see a shrink. I never did. I've always known what my problem was. Why?"

 

"Because I have an idea. It's not therapy, technically. It's just something that I've been doing for a long time when I have a lot on my mind. It's actually a better form of stress relief than working out, if you'll give it a chance, and I guarantee it will work. Would you be willing to trust me?"

 

The twinkles in his eyes were back in full force, and I couldn't help but stare at them for a moment. They were just mesmerizing. I knew I didn't want to say yes, but staring at those eyes, I couldn't bring myself to say no.

 

"I don't know, Noah. It's not that I don't trust you, but..."

 

"Great! Then it's settled. You'll meet me in front of here Thursday evening at eight. Just to make sure you don't get the wrong impression, feel free to bring anyone else you want."

 

"You're not going to give me a chance to say no, are you?"

 

"Not on your life, buddy," Noah said with a laugh.

 

"Will you at least tell me exactly what we're doing?"

 

"I'll just tell you that it's an alternative form of therapy, that's guaranteed to work if you keep an open mind."

 

I was really skeptical about this, but he was clearly not taking 'no' for an answer. I knew it was some sort of group activity, since he had readily invited Tom and Sarah along without me even asking, so I wasn't worried that he might possibly misconstrue this as a date. Even though I didn't know Noah that well, I did trust him, and if he told me that it would help, and wasn't therapy, I figured I should give it a chance.

 

"Is Will going to be there?" I asked him.

 

"I actually hadn't thought about that. He usually goes with me, but I have to admit that I'm pretty angry at him for what he did to you. When he told me about everything, it was fairly generic, how 'he screwed up', and stuff like that. To actually hear from you exactly what happened, I think he really fucked up bad. Don't get me wrong, Will is normally a really nice guy. I'm not sure what the hell got into him.

 

"We had talked about you. To be fair, I didn't know it was you at the time, and I didn't know exactly what you had been through. I knew he had feelings, but I didn't think he was going to do anything so...so...fucking stupid.

 

"Anyways, if you want him there, I'll gladly bring him along. Otherwise, I think I'll just tell him to sit this one out, if that's alright with you."

 

"That's actually what I was hoping. I wouldn't mind being friends with him eventually. But all I can think about when I see him is everything that happened before that night before I left," I told Noah.

 

I really was grateful that I didn't have to ask him not to invite his friend along. While I really didn't think I wanted Will around, I would have felt really bad asking Noah to not bring him.

 

I thanked Noah, and gave him a grin. He responded in kind, and his eyes gave off their glorious sparkle. As I felt myself beginning to be drawn into them, I blinked to try to clear my head. He noticed, and we both looked away, blushing.

 

As we left, he stopped me at the entrance.

 

"Just promise me one thing, Scott."

 

"What's that?"

 

I was a little concerned about the idea of having to make a promise about Thursday night. I figured that no matter what it was, I could probably deal with it, even if just for Noah's sake.

 

"I just want you to keep an open mind. You don't have to participate if you don't want to. But if you do, I want you to really put in an effort."

 

 

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I'd like to thank my readers for all the wonderful comments I have received. A very special thanks to those of you have emailed me. Please, keep them coming!!!!

Don't worry, I may be taking a brief break, but there's a lot more to come!

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