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 2013.

 

I love to hear any feedback you have, be it positive or negative.  Send me an email with any comments or questions at movingonstory@gmail.com

 

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.

 

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.

 

~Fitz

 

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CHAPTER THIRTY

REPARING BONDS

 

"Why did you insist I get out of bed, let alone get dressed today, Richard? It's not even noon yet. I don't see what all the fuss is about," Lydia said as I entered the kitchen. Her back was to me as she sat at the table, and I nearly gasped when I saw her. She always had a certain refined poise about her, even first thing in the morning. Though all I could see was the back of her head, it was clear things were not alright with her. Her hair was disheveled and slightly oily, as if she hadn't showered in a few days, and it was gray. I realized she must have been dying her hair all these years, since I only knew her with chestnut-brown hair. I don't recall ever seeing a single gray hair.

"It's me, Lydia, Scott," I said quietly, trying not to shock her too badly.

"Scott? What are you doing here? Oh, I do apologize about the mess, and I must look downright ghastly. I had no idea you were coming to visit. Did Steven come with you?"

I sat down next to her, and laid my hand on top of hers. "Lydia, Steve's dead. He's been dead for over a year now."

"Oh, that's right. Silly me," she said with a little chuckle, before suddenly burying her face in her hands and sobbing. I sat next to her and rubbed her back while she got it out of her system.

"I'm sorry, Scott. I know he's dead, but when I saw you, I just forgot for a moment. I was so excited to see my baby again," she said after several minutes, before bursting into a new round of tears. I pulled away from her side long enough to start some water for tea. By the time she had calmed again, two mugs of tea sat before us, not quite ready to drink.

"I'm so sorry I never checked in on you after what happened. Between his death, and the commotion at the funeral, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I was so focused on my pain I never thought about how much his mother was hurting," I told her.

"You look like you're doing better now. What's your secret? I can rarely get myself out of bed before noon, and there are many days I just lie there all day," she said, taking a small sip of tea.

"It took a long time, and I made a lot of mistakes. I felt so lost, so alone. Slowly, over time, I started to find ways to come to terms with the pain. It wasn't easy, but Tom helped me so much. Let me start at the beginning."

I told her the story of the first year after Steve's death. I explained about the Spot, and how I never ventured far from where Steve died for many months. I told her about how Will had started getting me to open up, but I chalked my decision to leave town up to being suddenly overwhelmed with everything, which wasn't a complete lie. I briefly covered the various coping mechanisms I'd used while away, but omitted the use of anonymous sex, since it was hardly a topic for polite conversation. Finally, I told her of the call I'd gotten from Tom, asking me to come home for the anniversary of Steve's death.

"We meant to visit him that day," she told me. "I'd been doing better; I even went out for groceries at one point. That morning, I woke up and got ready to go out. Just as Richard went to start the car, I collapsed. Physically, there's nothing wrong with me, according to the doctors, but since that day, I just haven't had the energy to do much of anything. All I seem to do is sleep or cry."

"No offense, but I'm glad you two didn't make it that day. I don't know if I could've handled seeing Richard again after what was said at the funeral."

"I know what he said was wrong. I know what he did was wrong. Steven told me years ago you knew exactly what he wanted should the unspeakable happen. I was just so lost in my grief I couldn't handle confronting my husband. You know how he gets."

I knew exactly what she meant. There had been times when the four of us had been in a store, when suddenly Richard announced he was done. Without a word, Lydia would follow him to the exit. He wasn't violent, or anything, and he almost never raised his voice, but they were both raised with the Southern notion that the wife defers to the husband without questioning. I could never stand it, and I confronted him about it several times, but Lydia always confirmed that she was done, even if she'd been eyeing something at the time he spoke up.

"There's something else I have to tell you. Something happened in the month since I came back home that I never expected to happen. I met someone."

"What?! How can you just throw away all the memories of Steven so carelessly? I thought you loved my son!"

I was expecting this reaction, but it hurt nonetheless. I stared at my tea as I quietly, yet firmly, replied, "I have not forgotten a single thing about Steve, nor will I ever. He will be in my heart for as long as I live, that I can promise you. I loved your son more than I thought possible, and when he died, a part of me died with him. Noah brought that part of me back to life. I realized I could still be happy; I could still love, and not forget about any of the time I spent with Steve. I know Steve is looking down on me right now, and the one thing he'd want more than anything else is for me to be happy."

Her face softened as I spoke, and the anger began to fade. Like I had for so long, she had always refused to believe that moving on meant simply forgetting the past. I knew now it meant cherishing the past, but letting go of the pain and guilt attached to it. I hoped, with time, she would be able understand as well.

"Are you happy now?"

"I am. I'm almost as happy as I remember being during the best times of our relationship. Trust me, Lydia, I never expected this to happen, and I didn't even want it to happen. I felt torn apart when I found myself developing feelings for Noah. I was so worried I'd forget about Steve, but I haven't. He will always be with me."

"How does he feel about all this?"

"Well, he knows everything about my past. Well, I haven't gone into details about everything, but he knows all the major stuff. He accepts that Steve will always be a part of my life, and doesn't hold that against me. I can't imagine how hard that is for him. I know on a few occasions he felt like he was acting as Steve's surrogate, but I don't feel that way at all. I still love your son, but I've grown to realize I have enough room in my heart for Noah as well. He's even gone with me to visit Steve's grave twice now."

"As hard as it is for me to say it, I'm happy for you. Tell me all about him."

I proceeded to do so. I'm sure I sounded a little bit like a lovesick teenager, but that wasn't too far from how he made me feel at times. I left out Zach's presence until I was nearly done.

"There's one more thing. He has a son."

When I said that, she lost her composure again as the tears began again. They only lasted a minute at the longest, before she wiped her eyes.

"Steven always wanted children."

"I know; we both did. We actually had an appointment with an adoption agency lined up for a couple weeks after Steve's death. We weren't going to tell anyone until we had definitive news. Honestly, the way things have fallen into place in the last few weeks, I can't help but feel like Steve is somehow playing a role in making everything happen. Zach's actually the reason I'm here today."

I told her about Willow, and all the events that went down the previous weekend. I explained how Richard had been instrumental in helping them get Zach out of his situation and into our custody.

"They sound lovely. I think I'd like to meet them someday. Maybe you could bring them by and introduce them to Richard and me."

Not for the first time since this conversation had begun, I mentally cursed Richard. All his wife needed was some good old TLC. She needed someone to repeatedly tell her it would get better. Sure, it would sound like a lie to her at first, but eventually her mind would begin to accept that it's possible that it might get better, and that's when things actually begin to improve. Instead, Richard had distanced himself from her, like usual, and somehow I'd been left with the task of bringing her around.

"Actually, that's why I'm here. Let me rephrase that. That's why we're here. The custody hearing is on Monday, and Richard invited us to visit so we could discuss strategy. Zach and Noah are in the study with him right now. Whenever you're ready, I'll take you in and make the introductions. I know it will be hard for you, and I'll stay here with you until you're ready."

"No, dear, go wait with them, but send Richard to see me. I want to talk to him first."

I nodded and excused myself. I entered the study, and gave Richard his summons before sitting down next to Noah and squeezing his hand. Zach sat on the floor, completely engrossed in his video game.

"Everything ok?" he asked me.

"That went about as well as you'd expect. She looks like hell. I really hope she finds a way to pull herself together. How'd things go in here?"

"Pretty well; I think Zach now understands the hearing is more a formality than anything else. He knows what to expect when we walk in, and he knows the judge will ask him questions and he'll have to tell the truth, no matter what trouble he thinks he may get in for it. When we finished, we just kinda sat in silence while Zach played his game. It's been really awkward."

"I'm sorry, babe," I said, squeezing his hand again. I was just about to give him a quick kiss on the cheek when the door opened. Both Noah and I sprang to our feet as Lydia and Richard entered the room.

"Hello, you must be Noah, my name is Lydia O'Neil. Please call me Lydia," she said formally, making no attempt to shake hands.

"Please excuse me if I come across as rude. I wasn't expecting visitors, let alone someone important to Scott. I'm afraid I'm a little overwhelmed at the moment, as my husband decided to be less than forthcoming. I assure you, it is good to meet you."

"No, um, I understand. It's nice to meet you as well."

"And you," she said, kneeling down on the floor, "you must be young Zacharias."

I quickly replayed my conversation with her, but was certain I'd never said his full name. I hated that they insisted on calling people by their full name, even when they preferred something else, but Tom and Steve had never complained about it, so maybe it wasn't such a big deal. I was surprised she didn't default to 'Zachary', but realized Richard must have clued her in, as he knew the boy's legal name.

Zach looked up from his game, noticing her for the first time.

"My name's Zach," he said matter-of-factly, before jumping up and embracing her in a big hug that caught her off guard, but not nearly as much as his next question.

"Are you my grandma?"

All four adults in the room looked at the boy, completely stunned. I was about to say something to Zach, but Lydia beat me to it.

"My dear boy, what in heaven are you talking about?"

Zach looked at her as if it was obvious, before responding, "Well, you are Steve and Tom's mommy, right?"

"I am, but good Lord, Scott, Noah, how can you allow him to be so disrespectful to his elders? I mean, using their Christian name? In my day we were taught to show respect!"

"Ma'am, with all due respect, he's been through so much this week. We wanted him to feel comfortable with us since so much in his life has changed. We haven't really had time to focus on teaching him proper etiquette yet," Noah said meekly.

Lydia sighed. "I guess that's understandable. Scott gave me a quick summary of what this boy has been through. Now tell me, Zacharias, what does me being Steven's mother have to do with calling me 'grandma'?"

"Well, it's simple. Ya see, Daddy loves Scott, which makes him my papa, and Papa loves Steve, which also makes him my papa. My mommy splaineded to me that her mommy is my grandma. Since you're Steve's mommy, that makes you my grandma!"

Noah and I immediately clamped our hands over our mouths to keep silent. In hindsight, I shouldn't have been surprised by the chain of logic Zach used. It was innocent and adorably cute, but I worried Lydia might take offense to his brazen deduction. Even Richard looked mildly amused, while Lydia had gone slightly pale and was expressionless.

"Well... I... But..." she stammered, trying to find a hole in Zach's logic. Finally, she gave up and sighed. "I guess in a way, I am. I would be delighted for you to call me 'Grandma', young Zacharias."

"Yay!" he squealed happily, pulling her into another hug before adding, "And you can call me Zach. Everybody does."

Zach then turned to Richard with a big smile on his face. "Since she's my grandma, that makes you Grandpa, right?"

"Son, I reckon it does. Now if you're done giving your grandma a hug, can I get one?"

Zach giggled before responding, "Of course, Grandpa, don't be silly!"

Richard surprised me by wrapping his arms tightly around the boy before picking him up and tickling him. As Zach squealed happily, Lydia addressed me quietly

"Oh, Scott, this is like a dream. He's just too adorable for words, and despite my admonishments, far better mannered than I would have suspected, given his upbringing. While it's a bit painful, it's good to see you happy. I can see how Noah and young Zach bring a light to your eye."

"Is my hearing going, or did you just refer to someone by a nickname? I know how much you detest those," I teased her lightly.

"Maybe I'm just a sentimental fool, but that boy is too gosh-darned adorable to resist. Let's just keep that between you and I, though," she responded with a wink.

"Lydia, why don't you and Zach wrangle up some sandwiches for everyone? I want to talk to Scott in private for a moment," Richard said.

The two left the room. Noah looked unsure what to do and just stood in place awkwardly.

"Actually, sir, is it alright if Noah stays in here? I'm doing my best to not have any secrets, which is difficult with all the baggage I'm carrying at the moment."

"That's fine. In fact none of what I have to say is secret, just better suited for a more intimate setting. Please sit," Richard said, sitting in the chair behind his desk.

He was quite an imposing figure in that position, and it made me feel slightly apprehensive as Noah and I took a seat across the desk from him.

"Scott, I just wanted to take a moment and offer you a long overdue apology. You've heard the stories about what Steven was like before college, but you never actually saw it. When he first came home from college, he was a completely different person. He was outgoing and confident. Then he told me what had changed within him; that he was now a homosexual."

I was about to interject, but Richard just held up his hand to silence me.

"Steven always told me it wasn't a choice and he had always been that way, but I'm a man of traditional Southern values. All I knew at the time was it went against my Christian teachings. I struggled with it, but I loved my son and couldn't cast him out of the family, despite the urgings of our minister. Then Steven brought you home. Finally I had someone I could vilify, and to be honest, I earned the nickname you gave me.

"But every time I treated you like the scum I was raised to believe homosexuals are, I saw the hurt it caused my son. I'm not saying I understand homosexuality, let alone accept it, but I know you made my son happy, and that's all I really ever wanted for him. Thank you for loving Steven."

Again, I tried to speak, but my voice was caught in my throat. Richard, who I had never seen this side of before, dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief.

"That brings me to the funeral. Everyone tried to tell me you knew his last requests, but I was too consumed by my grief to listen. I still thought of you as the evil homosexual who perverted my son. I thought I knew what he really wanted better than you, better than him. I took advantage of the fact your marriage wasn't recognized by Georgia to force my wishes upon him. I've thought about that a lot over the past year, and I can't imagine the pain I added to the torment you were already in after his death.

"When you lost your temper at the funeral, I took it as a slight against me. At the time, it never dawned on me you were simply no longer able to hold back the anger and frustration you felt from my actions. I look back and realize you were justified saying the things you did. It may not have been the most appropriate time to do so, but I'm not even sure I can fault you for that."

"For what it's worth, at least on a subconscious level, I wanted to make you hurt the same way you made me hurt. I apologized when we spoke on the phone, but I want to repeat it. I'm still not sure I'm sorry for the words I said, but I am sorry for not vocalizing them in a more appropriate venue," I interjected.

"I understand completely, and I appreciate your honesty. When you returned later with the other gentleman, I was livid. Irrationally, I lashed out at you with some of the most hurtful words I've ever spoken. I may be old-fashioned, but I take pride in the fact I've never uttered such hateful words before in my life. To me, what I said was unconscionable, and to say I'm sorry doesn't come close to making it right. Between my guilty conscience, Lydia's mild guilt trips, and a few confrontations with Thomas have made me realize I needed to try to right the wrong I caused after Steven's death."

Noah leaned over and whispered a question into my ear. After looking at him incredulously for a moment, I relayed the question to Richard.

"Tom was very quick to volunteer to stay with me when I came back to Atlanta. He mentioned that life here was getting to be unbearable, but he's never had any issues in the past. Um... Noah was wondering if the fights you mentioned were the reason for that."

Richard looked at Noah, but directed his response to me. "And why didn't he just ask me that question?"

"I was wondering the same thing," I replied.

Noah swallowed and fidgeted in his seat for a second before saying, "Well, sir, I guess part of it is the fact I can't help but feel as though I'm eavesdropping in a private conversation between the two of you. The other part is I'm asking about events that don't involve me, and even took place before I met Scott."

"Yeah, but you care about Tom's wellbeing, and you're just trying to make sense out of everything being thrown at you," I said before Richard had the chance to respond.

"Scott's right about that, but let me answer it a different way. If I had any hesitations about you witnessing my apology to Scott, rest assured I wouldn't have agreed to you remaining in the room. As for the second part, Scott is an important part of your life, and as such, it's essential for you to understand events that occurred before you came into the picture. Imagine what your relationship would be like if he never found out about Zach, for example."

"But that example doesn't really work; Zach continues to play a role in my everyday life, and he would have even if we hadn't gotten him away from Willow," Noah said, a little confused.

"Yes, but all of our experiences shape us into the people we become. Zach is just a physical example, but I'm sure you can think of something that happened to you say, in your teen years that changed who you were as a person. Wouldn't it be important to share that memory with Scott?"

Noah's face went dark for a second, and I knew he had immediately thought of when his parents died. It was my turn to squeeze his hand comfortingly.

"Yeah, I see where you're coming from, but it still wasn't my place to ask about Tom."

"No, it really wasn't. Neither was it Scott's, for that matter, but you are all friends. It's only natural for you to be concerned. The arguing was only part of the problem. I'm sure Scott knows full well what the problem actually was. How did it feel to see Thomas at the funeral?"

"It was like being stabbed in the gut, to be honest. I was looking at Steve a walking, talking, breathing, living Steve. Only it wasn't him. The man I loved was dead, and it felt like Tom was there just to torment me, but how does that... Oh God! You and Lydia saw him every day. He slept in your house, sat at your table, and engaged you in conversation. After the funeral, he was out of my life for a year, but you saw Steve's doppelganger every day," I said. My initial response was largely automatic until I made the connection.

"Don't forget, he was hurting as badly as we were, only he had to deal with the fact neither of his parents could bear the sight of him. Just the sound of Thomas's voice brought Lydia to tears.

"Once I began to realize what we had been doing, I tried to repair the relationship, but it was too strained. I think he was looking for an excuse to move out. Things have improved in the past month, and he and I have talked several times on the phone. I'm looking forward to seeing him this evening, and I know Lydia is as well. Ever since he left, she's been asking about him. She talked to him briefly the last time he called, but she's usually asleep."

"I really hope you are able to work it all out," Noah said.

"I do, as well, but our entire family has a history of hiding emotions, and we are all quite stubborn. I don't think things are beyond repair, but they definitely need lots of work to make it right," Richard replied.

Silence settled awkwardly over the three of us before Noah said, "Thank you for answering the question, sir."

"Next time, just ask; if you are out of bounds or disrespectful, I'll tell you. If I don't want to answer it, I won't; it's that simple. Besides, Zach made me realize something. According to his logic, he's my grandson, which I figure makes you something of a son. Feel free to speak your mind; God knows Scott does," Richard said with a wink and a grin. "Now I don't know about you boys, but I'm ready to eat. Let's see how those sandwiches are coming along."

When we entered the kitchen, small platters of deli meat, cheese, and various fixings were arranged on the table. Zach was seated, eyeing the spread impatiently.

"Bout time! I thought my tummy was going to eated itself!"the boy exclaimed when he saw us. "I helped make the sammiches, but Grandma wouldn't let me cut the tomatoes. She said it was a job for big boys," he explained, before dropping to the conspiratorial whisper that children try so hard to pull off, "but I don't think she knows I'm almost five! If that's not a big boy, then I don't know what is!"

"Yes, you are a big boy, but you have to be twelve to use a sharp knife. I think it's a state law or something. Dick, does that sound right to you?" I asked with a wink, while the four adults had a good chuckle at Zach's comments.

"You know, I think I remember reading something about that."

"Well, poop. What am I supposed to do until then? That's forever away!"

"I'm sure you'll figure something out, Zachy," Noah told his son.

Everyone quickly assembled sandwiches, but I saw the monstrosity Zach was creating, and knew he'd need help. It had thick piles of every meat, cheese, topping, and condiment, except lettuce since it's 'icky', obviously. Noah and I tried to get him to moderate himself, but Lydia was enjoying herself and kept offering more suggestions to the boy. While everyone else enjoyed theirs, I snacked on potato chips and waited. Sure enough, about a third of the way into his sandwich which I'm not even sure how he fit it in his mouth Zach announced he was done. I took on the task of ensuring the results of his over-sized eyes didn't go to waste.

After lunch, we men retreated back to the study to discuss a game plan for the custody hearing. Zach sat on the floor playing his game, while the three of us returned to our previous seats. Noah was hanging on every word Richard said, taking copious notes, and asking every question he could think of.

I, on the other hand, was bored out of my skull. Within five minutes, I realized our guess as to what to expect was spot-on. Willow had absolutely no ground to stand on, and barring intervention from a higher authority, there was no way Noah was losing custody. My custody would be in the hands of the judge, and could go either way, but Noah just needed to sign a form granting me the ability to act in Zach's interests if Noah was unavailable.

After about forty-five minutes, I couldn't take it anymore. Richard was in his element, and Noah was a captive audience who wanted to leave nothing to chance. I couldn't blame him, but it seemed like beating a dead horse. I excused myself and tracked down Lydia. I was not surprised to find her in the kitchen, but I was surprised to see her digging through the pantry like a woman on a mission.

"Is there anything I can help with?"

"I'm trying to figure out what all we have for food. Richard neglected to even tell me Thomas was coming home, so I have to feed six. I can't even remember the last time I cooked. We've been having canned soup and frozen dinner for the longest time."

I shouldn't have been surprised to hear that, considering how she'd been faring, but I was. Lydia was one of the best cooks I knew. She had taught Steve all he had passed on to me, and even taught me a few tricks she withheld from him.

"How are your parents?" She asked me, catching me off guard with the abrupt shift.

"You know, I honestly don't know," I replied, realizing I hadn't spoken to them in eight months. I knew they'd been kept in the loop by Ethan, Dustin, and Tom, but I hadn't actually communicated directly with them.

Lydia sighed, and reverted back to the original topic. "I give up. I simply have to go to the store if I'm going to be able to scrounge together a satisfactory meal. Will you be a doll and accompany me? Oh dear me, I have to make myself presentable. What people would say if they saw me like this? Maybe a hat...

"Why don't you contact your parents while I get ready? Feel free to use our phone, if you need."

Without waiting for an answer to the question, she left the room. I figured it couldn't hurt to call home, so I walked out to the back patio, pulled out my cell, and made the call.

"Hello? Hudgins residence," my mom said when she picked up.

"Hi, Mom."

"Scott! Mike, come here, it's Scott! You're dad's here too, Scott. Now how do I turn on the blasted speaker...?"

I waited patiently while Mom pressed random buttons on the phone. She was technologically challenged, but always insisted on figuring it out for herself. I just hoped she didn't accidentally disconnect like she had several times in the past. After a minute, Dad's voice came through the speaker.

"You there, buddy? I think your mom got it. It's not hard, Fey; it's the button labeled 'speaker'."

"I'm here."

"Good, I told you I could figure it out. How are you? Is everything ok? Is anything wrong?"

I laughed. "One question at a time, Mom. Nothing's wrong, I'm perfectly fine; actually, I'm doing pretty great."

"Excellent, son," my dad said. "I called your house last Saturday, but Tom said you were out of town for the weekend. He said you were doing well, but you probably wouldn't be able to answer your cell. He said he'd leave a message for you. I was travelling all week, and it slipped my mind you hadn't called back."

"Sorry, last weekend was... chaotic. I guess Tom forgot to tell me about your call. Listen, I have something to tell you, but I don't have a lot of time. A few weeks ago, I met this guy "

"That's great, Scott!" Mom gushed. "Tell me all about him!"

"Well his name is Noah..." I proceeded to give them the quick of how we met, and told them a little about him.

"So you and this Noah guy were holed up somewhere cozy last weekend, 'getting to know each other', huh?" Dad asked. I could hear Mom smack his arm as she chastised him.

"No, we didn't even have sex until no! I'm not talking about that with you. Actually, last Friday, he took me to meet his four-year-old son, Zach. The mother had custody."

"I'm not sure I like the idea of you getting involved with someone with children, honey," Mom said. "It's a lot of work, and you haven't been together very long. Wait; did you say she had custody?"

"Yeah, she was neglectful, abusive, and an addict. She was arrested that Friday night. While I appreciate your concern, I'll be fine. We haven't been together long, but I love Noah. We're at Lydia and Dick's tonight. He's helping Noah with custody, and there's a hearing Monday. I think he invited us more to give Lydia some company than anything. By the way, it may change on Monday, but for now I share legal custody of Zach with Noah. Noah had to move out of his efficiency to get custody, so they're living with me. Oh, and Tom moved out earlier this week."

"Well things have certainly changed for you," Mom said. I could tell by her tone she wasn't convinced it was a good arrangement, but at least she didn't belabor the point.

"Well, as long as you're happy, that's what matters to us," Dad chimed in. "We should plan a trip down soon. I can strap this Noah fellow down to the racks and run him through the ringers. Do you still have that pair of handcuffs?"

"Mike!" "Dad!" Mom and I shouted at the same time.

"Let me get back to you on that one, Dad. Noah should be starting school after Labor Day. I was thinking it might be nice for us to get a vacation in before he has to buckle down."

"Let us know as soon as possible. Unless something comes up, I don't have to travel between now and then, so we'll both be available."

"Will do. I'm sorry I haven't called sooner. I love you both, but I have to go."

"We love you, too," they managed to say in eerie synchronicity.

"Bye," I said, ending the call.

Walking back inside, I found Lydia waiting at the table for me. We told Richard and Noah we were running out, and left for the store. Before long, we were back in the kitchen, whipping up a feast. Around five, Richard, Noah, and Zach moved to the family room. Immediately, Richard was relaxing in his recliner, baseball on TV. I joined Noah on the couch, Zach between us. I quickly learned I hadn't really missed anything by stepping out of the discussion. I could tell Noah was counting down the minutes for the hearing to be over, and our situation be more finalized.

Dinner in the O'Neil residence began promptly at 6:30. When Tom hadn't even called by 6:15, I tried his cell, but it went straight to voicemail. Out of curiosity, I tried Sarah's cell, her house, and even mine, but no one answered. Richard made a few calls of his own, but couldn't get any answers. By 6:50, Lydia insisted we'd have to eat without him, or dinner would be ruined.

We tried to reach him again after eating, but to no avail. There had been no accidents, and he wasn't in any hospital; we checked everywhere we could. I even sent him an email, just in case his phone was acting up. Giving up, we settled down in the family room, and watched a movie together. Zach started off in my lap, before moving to Noah's, but finally settled down in Richard's, who looked beyond pleased with himself for this turn of events. Zach was asleep by the time the movie ended.

Noah carried him upstairs, and we got him changed for bed. He awoke just long enough to "Nite-nite, Daddy, nite-nite Papa. I love you."

We watched him sleep for a few minutes before we returned downstairs. Like usual in the household, there wasn't any conversation in the family room. The TV was the center of attention, and Richard was glued to the sports channel. By eleven, Noah and I had enough, and decided to turn in for the night. After climbing under the sheets, Noah tried to get frisky, but I rebuked his advances repeatedly.

"Stop! It was kinda exciting to screw around with Steve in his parent's house, but it just feels weird tonight. It's almost like I'd be abusing their hospitality. Sorry, tiger, no pouncing until tomorrow night."

"Damn, well you can't fault me for trying!" he said with a grin.

We kissed and exchanged pledges of our love for each other, before curling up in each other's arms and drifting off to sleep. Again, I had the dream from last night, but this one didn't stop after Noah said the sex looked like fun. He began to walk toward the bed.

"Where are you going?" I yelled after him, unable to move from the chair.

"What's it look like? I'm going to join in," he replied with a smile that turned into a sneer as he pulled his shirt over his head. Noah climbed on the bed, and Steve turned his attention to my boyfriend for the first time.

"Hey, stud, wanna have some fun?"

Finally, I was able to wake from the torment. I sat upright, gasping for what seemed like an eternity before I could catch my breath. When I had regained my nerves a little, I knew what I had to do. I gently nudged Noah, but he didn't respond. Not patient enough to deal with it at the moment, I shook him violently, and he quickly opened his eyes.

"What the fuck? What's wrong?" he asked.

"I need to tell you something," I said.

"What's so important it can't wait until morning? I was having a great dream," Noah asked groggily.

"I'm sorry, babe. I wasn't, that's why I woke you."

"So because you had a bad dream, I'm not allowed to have a pleasant one?" The irritation was evident in his voice.

"It's not like that, and you know it. The last two nights, I've had the same horrible nightmare. I know it all has to do with that asshole, Ian, and my own insecurities, but the dream awoke fears I haven't had for years. I used to have this same dream years ago when Steve was in law school. I just really need to talk to you and get everything off my chest. I'm sorry, but I really don't want to wait until morning," I explained.

Noah sighed, and sat up in bed. "Start from the beginning. Tell me about the original dream."

"The first time, Steve was in bed, having sex with Ian while I watched. To the best I can recall, that was the only time where the other guy looked like Ian, but every time, I knew it was him. The entire time they were screwing, Steve kept making comments about how he never really loved me."

"Is there anything behind the dream, other than a worry that Steve would cheat on you? That seems like the most logical explanation."

I told him everything I knew of Ian's role in my history, both what I witnessed first-hand and what Steve admitted to.

"Christ," Noah uttered when I finished, "no wonder you kept having that nightmare. I can see why it resurfaced after finding that picture, but I don't get why you're this freaked out by it. It's part of your past, and there's no reason to allow the demons to continue to haunt you."

"That's just it, though. The last two nights, the dreams were different. You were there, too. Tonight, you went to join them when I woke up."

"Ok, now I see the real issue. A part of you is worried I'll find someone else and you'll go through with me everything you went through with Steve and Ian all over again," Noah responded. He wrapped an arm around my shoulder as we sat beside each other. Before I knew it, I was laying beside him, my head resting on his chest as he gently rubbed my back.

After a few minutes of silence, he continued, "I'm not like that I'm sure Steve said the same thing, but it's the truth. I can't even bring myself to think about being with another man when I'm in a relationship. I love you with all my heart. Unless that changes, I'm afraid you're stuck with me, babe."

"Thank you," I responded, squeezing him tightly.

"What did I do?"

"I'm being irrational and freaking out in the middle of the night. Even though you just wanted to sleep, you calmed me down and made me feel better. I love you, too," I said before craning my neck up to give him a tender kiss.

We continued to lay like that until we drifted back to sleep, the rhythmic thumping of Noah's loving heart providing the last bit of solace I needed. I had a dreamed again that night, one I hoped would reoccur many times to come. Noah and I were sitting on a park bench. It was a beautiful summer day. As I held his hand, I took in the sight of my lover. His gray hair had receded, and the story of life could be read from the wrinkles and age spots on his face. The golden twinkle of his eyes shined brighter than ever. Neither of us spoke a word, nor did we move from the bench for the entirety of my slumber. It was the best dream I ever had. 

 

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On a personal note, my life is entering a very crazy and chaotic place. Earlier this week, Hubby and I put an offer on a house, and we are now under contract. In less than two months, we will officially be living in our very own home!!! I currently have five chapters completed, and one that I haven't sent to David yet. I had considered picking up the pace of posting, but with all the upheaval in my life, I'm worried that I won't find the time to write, and don't want to leave you in a lurch if I run out of chapters! The story is far from over, and I expect it to run to somewhere between 45 and 50 chapters total (remember back in the day, when I expected it would be no more than 25?!)

 

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!!!!

 

My story is also hosted at http://fitz.thestorycloset.org, http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/story/fitz/moving_on, and on my story website, http://movingonstory.weebly.com. Not only does it host all current chapters of Moving On, but all characters have bios except a few minor characters! I still need to find pictures of the characters. If you have any suggestions for ANY NAMED CHARACTER, please email them to me! (There are now two for Noah, since I liked both suggestions!). My personal website also has the short, Our First Christmas, which is about the first Christmas that Scott and Steve spent together.

 

I tend to update all sites at the same time, but because of the way Nifty works, new chapters tend to show up on the other three sites a day earlier (sometimes two depending on how backlogged Nifty gets with updates) than they do here.

 

The story's Facebook group, 'Moving On' is a good place to also receive updates on the story. Mostly, it seems to be used for me to provide teases or vent mild writing frustrations, but it's welcome to all for whatever purposes that come. It is a 'closed group', meaning nothing posted in the group is visible to nonmembers, and the group does not show up on your timeline for others to see.  However, searching for the group by name will bring up the name and the members of the group, so it is not completely safe from prying eyes.  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/.

 

Alright...enough meaningless rambling!  Don't forget to send me feedback, sign up for the Facebook group if you want, and please visit my site!!

 

Don't forget to send me any questions or comments to movingonstory@gmail.com.