This story occasionally 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 email@example.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 has 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. Redrocknut was also incredibly helpful providing opinions and insights at a point when I started questioning how everything worked together!! Thank you all!
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.
Sorry this chapter took so long!! I know I keep apologizing, but hopefully it's been worth the wait!!
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GROUP THERAPY PART II
I stood there as the first notes of the song emanated from the speakers in the small coffee shop. As I was about to start singing, it was as if the room faded to black. Suddenly, I was the only one in the room, and I could feel Steve's presence surrounding me. With that, I began to sing Beyoncι's "Halo".
[LINK TO SONG]
I was completely unaware of my surroundings as I finished the chorus the first time. It was just me and the microphone. My eyes were closed as I let the song flow through me. I was no Beyoncι, so I wasn't able to do the runs and belts like her, but I was definitely giving it my all.
I opened my eyes as I finished the chorus the second time, and suddenly I was no longer alone in the room. There were two of us now: me and Noah. My eyes locked with his as I sang the chorus one final time. I could still feel Steve all around me, but I felt a very similar yet completely different energy flowing through Noah's gaze.
When I finished singing, there was complete silence. I blinked, and it was as if lights had been turned back on. Every patron was staring at me with their mouths agape. Most of them had tears in their eyes. After a few seconds, I just put the microphone back on the stand and walked back to the table.
The only people that seemed to snap out of their trance at that point were my three friends, and that was only when I got to the table. Sarah and Tom enthusiastically pulled me into a joint embrace. When they released me, Noah grabbed me, and pulled me into a deep hug, tears streaming down his face.
"You're voice is beautiful. Please don't be mad at me, but I have to ask. Was that song only for Steve?" he whispered in my ear.
I must have tensed when he said that.
"No," was all I said softly, cutting Noah's apology short.
The three of us sat back down, which seemed to bring the DJ back to her sense. "I...um...I don't know what to say about that." She, too, was wiping tears from her eyes. "I can't remember the last time I've felt something so powerful here, no offense, Suze."
The large black woman just waved her hand dismissively, indicating that she understood.
"Anyways, next up, we have..." The next three people all turned down their turn. Apparently, Noah was right about emotions being more important than singing ability. Finally, the DJ announced that they were going to take a five minute break. She put on some house music, and slowly the room was filled with quiet conversations.
Noah suddenly seemed incredibly nervous. I grabbed his hand under the table.
That was all the explanation that Noah needed. His eyes suddenly began to glimmer and sparkle again as a single tear slipped from his right eye. He gave me goofy grin.
I looked across the table and saw Tom's jaw was resting on the table. I quickly jerked my hand free of Noah's. I had been trying to be discrete, because I wasn't sure that I was ready for how Tom and Sarah might react. I cast my head down, and concentrated on a discoloration on the table.
"Are you happy?" Tom asked me, shaking me out of my embarrassment. I'd really expected him to be angry at me for showing any signs of affection towards another person.
I looked up at him, and nodded. I couldn't seem to find my voice.
"Well, that's good enough for me. Now if you'll excuse me, I've finally picked out a song."
With that, Tom got up and walked up to the DJ. Sarah jumped up and ran over to our side of the table, where she embraced the two of us with a squeal that only petite women seem capable of making. When she had returned to her seat, Noah gently took my hand in his, and our fingers intertwined. We rested our hands gently on the table as a scooted my chair a little closer to him. I leaned gently into Noah.
Noah looked around the room as I was doing this, and I felt his body tense a little. I quickly sat up and tried to see whatever he had noticed, but I couldn't find anything out of the ordinary.
"What is it?" I asked.
"It's nothing to worry about right now. I'll explain later." With that, he pulled me gently back against him. I wouldn't have normally let something like this go, but for the moment I wanted to focus on just being close to Noah.
By this point a few people had been brave enough to go up and perform again. The DJ called Suze up, and she gave an amazing rendition of "Me and Bobby McGee" that gave Janis Joplin a run for her money. This woman could sing.
After she had finished she made her way over to our table. She walked right up behind Noah and me, firmly placing both hands on Noah's shoulders and giving him a gentle shake.
"Sugar," she said, addressing Noah, "Where have you been? I ain't seen you in here for two whole weeks. How am I supposed to perform my best if my big competition don' even show up?"
Suze allowed Noah to stand up and they hugged, clearly old friends. He kept his hands around her ample waist as he said, "Sorry, Suze. I just haven't had a song to sing. Besides, I'm no completion for you. Hell, Janis wouldn't even be competition to you!"
"Sug, that's sweet of you, but we both know it's a load of hooey. 'Sides, I finally met real competition tonight. Where you been hiding this cute thing at?"
I squirmed a little in my seat as this woman I never met before sang my praises. I turned a little to face her better, and had just opened my mouth to say something when Noah jumped in.
"Suze, this is my friend Scott. I just met him two weeks ago, but we've gotten really close already. He's gone through hell and back this past year, and I thought tonight might be a way to let out some of the pain he's been holding in."
"Sugar, I figured that out the minute this here boy opened his sweet little mouth." With that she ceremoniously turned to me, and held her arms out wide, expecting an embrace.
I just stared at her blankly for a minute. In my life I'd met many interesting people, but to this day, I've never met anyone else that was quite like Suze.
"Well, sweetie, I'm waitin'. I can't greet someone properly if I don't got two arms wrapped around me. Now get on up here and gimme a right proper hug."
There was nothing but affection in her voice, and I quickly rose to my feet to embrace her.
"It's nice to meet you, Suze," I said, being pulled into her larger-than-life personality that exuded well past her ample frame.
"The pleasure's all mine, Sweetie. Though I got half a mind to whoop your cute tush 'til it burns red for upstaging me. I ain't never seen no one kill the room like that, let alone some little white boy. And Lord help me, but I ain't never met a white boy with the jewels to even think about singing no Beyoncι. What in God's name you thinking, boy?"
I could tell from her tone that her scolding was just a part of who she was. Not that she was aloof, but she hadn't spent this amount of time chatting with any of the other patrons in the shop. I also realized that for her, terms of endearment were more than that. As far as she was concerned, they were our names.
She was clearly the queen of karaoke here, and I was being inducted as one of her princes. After a moment, we broke the hug. Noah and I were standing next to each other, with our backs to the table.
"Thank you, but I really don't know what possessed me to choose that song. I know that I'm not even in the same league as anyone here normally, and yet I chose a song that there's no way I could pull off. It's not like my..."
Suze cut me off using her hand to close my mouth. Her face was gleaming with amusement.
"You may not be Beyoncι, Sweetie, but trust when I say you put everyone in this little shop to shame. Trust. What you did up there was inspiring. 'Tweren't no song you were singing. You were the song. Your husband is watching you, and I know in my heart of hearts that he's ne'er been more proud of you. Or happier for you. Both of you."
Both Noah and I blushed, as he put his arm around my waist. I leaned into him, and wrapped my arm around his strong shoulders.
"Thank you, Suze. You have no idea how much that means to me," I said, as I felt a tear run down my face.
"Oh, Sweetie, but I do. I'm sure your Steve is sitting up there right next to my Chris, and they're having a right good time enjoying the show we been giving them tonight."
Realizing that she, too, had lost her husband, my free hand shot up to cover my mouth.
"Oh, God, Suze! I'm so sorry about your husband! How lo..."
"Don't you go and worry yourself about it, now. Chris got himself killed in a car accident eight years ago. It hurt. Not much can happen that'll hurt worse than that. But everything happens for a reason. I know you don't like hearing that from no one, but believe you me, it does. I know that Chris would never want me to be sad for one minute, and I know Steve would want the same for you. I know part of you don't like the thought of finding a new man, but lemme put it to you like this. If Chris were still alive, as much as I wish he were, I would'a never found my Solice, and I just can't imagine what my life would be without that woman," she said, pointing to her lover across the coffee shop.
"I'm sorry for getting heavy on y'all like that, but sometimes a woman's gotta give some sage advice when she sees it needs giving. I'll let y'all get back to your friends. They look like they're getting lonely without you, but I'm sure they can figure out ways to keep themselves busy!"
With that, she let out a loud cackle and gave us each another hug before continuing to wander through the small coffee shop and talk to the other attendees. I didn't know exactly what she meant by that statement. I didn't have time to really process it, though, before Tom jumped up and chased her down. Noah and I returned to our seats. I turned my body a little so that I could lean my back up against his chest, and he wrapped an arm around me, holding me tight.
While I couldn't hear what Tom asked, I could hear Suze call out, "You sure, Honey? You're plums must be as big as your friend's if you're serious!" They spoke a little longer before Tom hurried back to the table.
I didn't get the chance to figure out what he was up to before Tom was called up for his chance to perform. Noah, Sarah, and I quickly rushed up to the stage.
I was surprised that Tom didn't seem that nervous about singing. I guessed it largely had to do with how methodically he had picked out the song he was singing, or possibly whatever he had planned with Suze. He spoke to the DJ briefly, before he walked up to the front of the stage and picked up the microphone.
"I'd just like to say two things really quickly. First off, I'd like to dedicate this song to Sarah, because without her, I would be singing this song for Steve. Secondly, I'd like to ask Suze join me on stage to help me." Without any fanfare or airs of grandeur, Suzanne walked up to the DJ and got a second microphone as the music began.
I noticed that Sarah blushed when Tom dedicated the song to her, but before I could question her about it, the music began. I figured that I had to be thinking of a different song when I immediately recognized "Without You" from RENT as the music began to waft throughout the narrow space, but I was proven wrong when Tom began to sing.
[LINK TO SONG]
When they finished singing, the audience gave them an enthusiastic round of applause, but confusion over the song choice was apparent throughout the crowd. Tom gave Suze a hug and began to walk in our direction. When Tom returned to the table, Noah patted him on the back, congratulating him on a job well done, and Sarah gave him a big hug.
I didn't say anything at first because I was torn between questioning the choice of song or making him aware that I had finally realized what had kindled between Sarah and Tom. Tom explained to me later that he vaguely remembered the song from when Steve would play the album from RENT at home during breaks while we were in college, and knew that it was the perfect choice. The only problem was that he didn't really remember the song well, nor did he remember who sang what part. Suze had actually been the one who explained to him that he was going to be singing the part of Mimi while she sang the part of Roger.
I suddenly realized that Tom was looking at me expectedly, as I was the only one of us that hadn't commented on his performance. Instead of complementing him on a job well done, which it was, I jumped immediately to the million-dollar question.
"So, um, how long have you and Sarah been together? I feel stupid asking this since we live in the same house. Oh yeah, good job, by the way."
Tom chuckled at the way that I threw in my reaction to his performance as an afterthought.
"We started talking a little more than a month before you came back. She originally called me and asked if I thought you'd have a problem with her tidying up inside your place. Anyway, we started to talk a lot, and she told me about the problems she was having with Chris. I told her all about the issues I was having getting over losing Steve.
"You know we've been sharing a bed and all that, but as far as a relationship goes, we've been taking it very slowly. We've kissed a few times, but we wanted to make sure that you were okay with us exploring our relationship before we got too serious."
Sarah cut in before I had the chance to even think of a response to Tom, "Scott, I would have called you, but I knew you were trying to distance yourself from Steve's death, and all of the painful memories you were trying to deal with. It seems silly in hindsight, but I figured that there was no point in contacting you for something so trivial.
"Besides, I was initially calling Tom just to find out if he had any idea when, or even if, you were planning on coming back. When he said you didn't know, I decided to ask about tidying up inside. I know you wouldn't have minded either way, but I think it was largely a ploy for me to stay on the phone with Tom a little longer.
"Actually, even though I never told Tom this, my growing attraction to him was a large reason why I actually filed for divorce. I never felt this way about Chris, and our relationship had become really strained. He had become an obnoxious, jealous brat, and my response was to become a cold and passive-aggressive bitch. It wouldn't have taken much to end the marriage anyways, but Tom was almost the catalyst."
"Wow, guys," I said when Sarah had finished her explanation. "I really wish that I had known what was going on between the two of you. I've been so stuck in my head that I've been having a hard time considering the feelings of anyone else. I'd like to think that even then, had I known about the closeness between you too, that I wouldn't have a problem with it. Even if that weren't the case then, it definitely is now. There is no reason that I should have a problem with you guys seeing each other.
"Anyway, you two are probably sick of trying to hide everything from me. Why don't you two go ahead and head out. I'm not quite ready to leave yet, but I'm sure that Noah will drive me home. Is that okay with you?" I turned to Noah to ask, with a little bit of a grin.
"That's perfectly fine with me. Now you two: scram!" he said with a laugh.
Tom grabbed Sarah's hand, and they wasted no time leaving the coffee shop for Tom's car. Noah and I stayed for a little while longer, just listening to other singers and enjoying each other's presence before we decided to walk around for a bit and talk.
Suze noticed when we both stood up, and she quickly crossed the space to our table.
"Sweetie, Sugar, you boys cutting out early?" she said with a grin as she pulled us in one at a time for a hug. "I declare that boys do NOT have the stamina they used to back in the day!"
"Sorry, Suze. I'd love to stay, but I want to get the chance to spend some time getting to know Noah. I promise we'll be back again soon."
"You better believe you will. I will let lose a pack of dogs in this town if need be to track your scrawny behind back down here. I'm lucky if I get my Sugar in here once a month, and dagnabbit if that boy can't sing! But he ain't got nothing on you, Sweetie. You best be here every chance you get, because I love me a good competition! Brings out the diva in me."
With that, she gave us one last hug and waltzed back through the crowded room. I thought to myself that she didn't need my help to bring out her inner diva. She did that perfectly all on her own.
Noah and I walked around the block for nearly an hour talking, holding hands the entire time. We didn't talk about anything deep, as we really were just getting to know each other. For example, I learned that he played football in high school. He said he'd considered playing in college but didn't go into detail as to why he didn't. In exchange, I told him the story of how Steve and I met.
He never seemed awkward or jealous when I talked about Steve. He knew that I was still coping with my loss of Steve and that he'd always hold an untouchable place in my heart. Noah treated me talking about Steve in the same way that I treated him talking about his life. Steve was a part of me, and if Noah wanted to be a part of my life, he'd have to accept that as well. So far, it seemed he did.
After I finished, we walked in a comfortable silence for a while before Noah spoke up again.
"I should tell what caused me to tense up in there. As you were leaning into me, I was looking around. Will was standing in the entrance to the coffee shop. I don't know if he saw me looking or not, but he was clearly crying. I think he saw you holding my hand and leaning against me. I swear that I told him not to come. I knew that you would be uncomfortable, and I'm still so damn pissed that he put moves on you like he did."
"I'm glad you told me, but to be honest, I don't really care. I told him many times that I couldn't see him like that. Besides, if we had gotten together, what kind of relationship could we have? He was always there taking care of me, and I think that would always have been the dynamics in a relationship between us. That's too one-sided and not something that I'd ever want. To me, it's just not healthy. But you should have said something. Maybe you or I could have talked to him. Or Sarah. She's good at that sort of thing."
"It wouldn't have mattered if I said anything anyways, because just after I noticed him, he ran out of the shop. I don't know if he'll say anything to you or anything, but I just wanted you to know."
When we eventually returned back to his car, he put his hand up to my cheek. He looked me straight in the eyes as he slowly drew closer. His eyes were ablaze with the fiery twinkle that made me weak. I pulled back just before his lips met mine.
I could tell immediately that he was hurt, not that I really blamed him. I wanted to kiss Noah, but it just didn't quite feel right.
"I'm sorry Scott," Noah said, wiping a tear from his eye. "I screwed things up just now, didn't I?"
He continued before I had a chance to say anything.
"I guess I'm not any better than Will, making a move when you're clearly not ready for it yet. Fuck! Anyways, at least let me take you home."
"Noah, that's not it at all. I want to kiss you. But first, I need you to meet someone."
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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!!!!
Again, I am very sorry for the delay. As I've posted in every chapter, and in the majority of emails I've responded to, my story is also hosted at http://fitz.thestorycloset.org. If you register for the website, you can subscribe to "Fitz's Subscribed Readers Forum", which is located at the bottom of the forum.
I can already see some feedback that I will get on Suze. She's based on a very real person I met at a karaoke bar while I was in college. Her dialect has been exaggerated slightly, but her physical description, larger than life personality and most importantly singing chops are completely accurate! She quickly became one of my favorite characters, despite being very obstinate! Hubby, NCRaider, Redrocknut, and Kai all did wonders helping transform this chapter into what you see.
I also have a few announcements. I have added a Facebook group. I'm not sure exactly where I'm going to go with it, but I figure it'll be a good place for people to socialize about the story (or whatever else). It is a 'closed group', meaning nothing posted in the group is visible to nonmembers, and the group does not show up on your profile. However, searching for the group will bring up the name and the members of the group, so it is not completely safe from prying eyes. The name of the group is 'Moving On', and all content will be kept at a PG-13 level. All are welcome to join by clicking on this link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/226097850809679/.
I also have my own basic free site where I've also been posting my story! The address is http://movingonstory.weebly.com. Not only does it host all current chapters of Moving On, but it also is the only place where you can get a sneak peak at Angels Among Us (which to be fair, I haven't really worked on much, and I even ended what's posted midsentence...oops!)
Alright...enough meaningless rambling! Don't forget to send me feedback, sign up for the Facebook group if you want, and please visit my new site!!
Don't forget to send me any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.