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 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 begun to proof 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 apologize for the delay, this chapter has been written for a long time, but I've been suffering from the holiday blahs, and am just now getting motivated to submitting it.
– – – * * * – – – * * * – – – * * * – – – * * * – – – * * * – – – * * * – – –
WORKING THINGS OUT
Once I had arrived at Steve's grave, I fell to my knees. Weeping, I poured out my heart to Steve, explaining the events of the past few days to him.
"Steve, you were always the one person that I could unload all of my problems on without any judgment, and the one on whom I could rely for advice, even if it was at your detriment. I don't even know what's going on in my life anymore. I just feel so lost without you.
"For the past few days, I've been trying to forgive Will, but I just can't seem to be able to bring myself to do it. I want to be friends with him again, I really do, but even that seems like an impossibility at this point. After you died, he was the only one who made me feel like I could talk to them about what I was going through. I just can't trust him enough to open up anymore. I don't want him to get any wrong impressions.
"At least one good thing has come of the past few days, though. Will convinced me to go back to the gym again. I always thought of it as something you and I did, more for fun than for any other reason. I didn't realize how much I had missed it until now. I've gotten out of shape and have let my body go. It makes me feel good to think about being back in shape. I know that my actions this past year have probably hurt you, but I just haven't been able to find a way to ease my pain. All of my attempts have only hurt me in the long run. Now I'm finally doing something to try to undo some of that.
"But I have to tell you about something that happened at the gym. There's this guy that I worked out with briefly the other day, and then again today. He's in really good shape, and has been giving me pointers and tips to try to really bring my body back around. The thing is, I find myself really attracted to him."
Even though I was still fully aware of my surroundings, and had been told by Steve in his first appearance that he was fully aware of everything that I went through, I was very embarrassed about the idea of explaining to my dead husband that I was beginning to have feelings for someone else. If Steve was here, he would have found this whole situation to be hilarious. Then again, if Steve was here, I wouldn't be having these feelings.
I continued to unload the thoughts that were weighing me down.
"I tried to fight these feelings, but this guy is just so damn cute. He even makes my knees weak by just looking at me. I haven't felt this way about anyone since I first met you.
"Steve, this really fucking terrifies me. Please understand that I don't really want to have these feelings about anyone. All I want more than anything in my life is for you to come back to me. I just wish these feelings would go away."
As I said that last sentence, I felt a warm breeze blow. It didn't seem to come from any one direction, rather from all directions at once. As I felt the warm breeze circulate around me, my pain seemed to ease slightly. After a few moments, the breeze faded away.
With my head feeling clearer, I slowly walked back to street. My feelings for Noah hadn't lessened, but I felt better about that. I wasn't excited about the idea of having a crush on someone else, but I felt that somehow Steve understood. And through it all, he was happy about it.
Between working out, my long walk, and my emotional release at the cemetery, I didn't have the strength to walk back to my car. Instead, I pulled out my phone to call a cab to take me to it. When I got to the car, I quickly drove home.
– – – * * * – – –
By the time I got home, I felt like my head was actually clear for a change. Tom and Sarah were in the kitchen when I walked inside. I realized that I needed to start putting myself out there and try to recruit some new clients, so without a word to the other two, which I had not done since Steve had died. I immediately pulled out my laptop and started to work.
Sarah walked into the room, and called my name to get my attention.
"Is everything okay? You were gone a while. Tom and I were starting to get worried."
"No, I'm fine. I just got a little overwhelmed working out with Noah, so I ended up taking a long walk to clear my head."
"Oh, so I take it that Noah is the name of the mysterious man that you've got the hots for?" she asked, with a quick laugh before getting serious again. "He didn't do anything to make you uncomfortable did he?"
I blushed. "Yeah, his name is Noah. He didn't do anything intentionally. We were talking about why I wanted to lose weight, and he commented that he thought I was already hot. I got a little uncomfortable, so I bailed on him.
"Before you say anything, I know it was a chicken-shit action and I feel bad. I told him before I left that I would work out with him again tomorrow. I didn't tell him anything other than that I've been going through a really bad spot the past year. He seems like a really nice guy, and I don't think that he would have said or done anything had he known."
She just looked at me blankly for a moment. I was a little concerned, because I couldn't read her expression at all.
"Scott, I told you repeatedly during the whole thing with Will that you are a very attractive man. Obviously other men can't restrain themselves around you. But I am so glad to hear you say what you just did. You may have been overwhelmed, but overall you handled the situation wonderfully.
"I'm still not convinced that you answered my question sufficiently, though. Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yes, Sarah, I'm sure. What the hell is this third-degree about?"
I was beginning to get irritated. I had already answered that question, and explained what had caused my funk. I didn't know what more she needed to know to make her understand that I was feeling fine.
"I'm sorry; I'm really not trying to grill you." I could tell from her voice that she was being sincere. "It's just that you're not on The Spot. We all know that's your usual base of operations. The only times that you've come into the house and immediately sit down on the couch, something is really bothering you."
I hadn't even thought about what I was doing. I had just walked into the house and started working. I told Sarah as much. I barely got the laptop out of the way as she ran and jumped into my lap, giving me a huge hug.
That evening, after we finished eating, I thought of something that I was surprised hadn't occurred to me before.
"Sarah, I've been so far deep in my head that I haven't been paying attention to much of anything. Did the police ever find the guy who..." I'm not sure if I would have finished that sentence even if my voice hadn't broken. I had tears running down my face as I vividly recalled the day Steve was killed.
Sarah sat down next to me, and pulled me into her arms.
"Actually, only a few days later, police responded to a robbery at a local store. The robber was killed, but not before he shot three cops. One of them died, if I remember correctly. Anyways, the police called your house a few days later. You were so out of it that I'm sure you don't even remember the call. It turns out that his fingerprints were found on the door to the house, and the gun matched the one used to shoot Steve. I would have told you earlier, but I never knew how to bring it up."
I lay there for several hours, leaning into her, alternating between sobs and quiet tears. The entire time, she just rubbed my back, neither of us saying a word. I would have thought that knowing that Steve's killer had been apprehended would have made me feel a little better, but I was wrong. It didn't make me feel any worse, though. It just brought back a lot of emotions.
By the time I went to bed, I did feel better. Even though I hadn't been thinking about it, it was as though a weight had been lifted from my chest. When I crawled into bed, I felt like I had after I had visited Steve.
– – – * * * – – –
I woke up on Thursday feeling even better than I had the previous morning. Again, I hadn't had any nightmares. I was just as excited about meeting up with Noah as I had been the day before, but I was also a little more nervous because of the way that our work-out session had ended. I was still a little bothered by my feelings towards Noah, but talking to Steve the day before had done a lot to make me feel better about them. I quickly got ready and headed off to the gym.
When I arrived, Noah was waiting outside. As someone who has always prided himself on his punctuality, I was beginning to get a little miffed. Four days in a row, the person I was supposed to meet at the gym had arrived before me and had been stuck waiting. I felt a little better when I checked the time on my phone only to discover that I, myself, was a few minutes early.
When I approached, Noah gave me a smile, but his eyes didn't sparkle. Instead, they looked sad. I immediately felt guilty. I didn't realize how much I had been looking forward to seeing that sparkle, but I did realize that I was probably the reason for its absence.
I greeted Noah, and stuck out my hand for him to shake. He looked at my outstretched hand, but did not take it.
"Look, Scott, I want to apologize again for yesterday. I've been kicking myself ever since you left. I'm sorry for assuming you were gay. You just needed a buddy to be there for you, and I fucked it up. I'm really sorry for hitting on you yesterday, and I really hope that you'll be able to forgive me."
I was shocked. I may not be a flaming queen, but I don't think another person had assumed I was straight after briefly getting to know me. In the past year, both Noah and Will had assumed that I was after my reaction to a pick-up line.
"No. It's not that at all Noah. I am gay, it's just that with everything that I've gone through, the comment just made me feel overwhelmed and I needed to leave and clear my head. I know I didn't handle it very well, and I feel awful that you've been beating yourself up over it the entire time."
Noah's eyes sparkled a little while I spoke, which brought back the all-too-familiar weakness in my knees. The sparkle left while I finished, but his hazel eyes were no longer sad. They now looked like deep pools of concern.
"Is it something you want to talk about? I'm more than willing to listen if you want, and I've been told that I'm an excellent listener."
"No offense, Noah, but no, I don't. I'm sure you're a great listener, but I haven't had too much luck opening up with people recently. Besides, we should get into the gym. If you like the way I look now, just wait until I get my flab back under control. You won't be able to keep your hands to yourself!"
I put my hand up to my mouth as soon as the words came out of my mouth. I had no idea where they came from. Yesterday, I had been so upset with a mildly flirtatious comment by Noah that I had fled the gym mid-workout, yet today I was making an even bolder statement back at him.
Noah stood there shocked for a moment after I spoke. He clearly wasn't sure how he should respond. After a moment, he just lifted his mouth into a big, toothy grin, which let me know that he had chosen to interpret it – at least on the surface – in a joking manner. I let my hands fall from my face, and broke into a big grin of my own. What happened next surprised me more than anything.
I laughed. Not a light chuckle, which is pretty much all that I had managed for the past year, but an actual laugh. Noah, for his part, just followed my lead. After our laughter subsided, which took much longer than would normally occur for something so trivial, we walked into the gym together and began to workout.
The majority of the workout was done in a very comfortable silence. We would occasionally make small talk, or Noah would give me some pointers, but for the most part, we just enjoyed each other's presence. Well, I enjoyed Noah's, and I was hoping that the reverse was also true.
As we were finishing up, Noah stopped me before we left.
"Scott, just so you know, I won't be able to hit the gym with you tomorrow or on the weekend. I wish I could, I haven't had this much fun working out in too damn long. Unfortunately, I have a standing weekly appointment that I can't bring myself to miss. Hopefully, you want to get together again on Monday?"
I was going to say 'yes', jumping on the opportunity to see him again. Unfortunately, I remembered my meeting with Will and his friend. I asked Noah if the following Tuesday would work for him, knowing full well that we were nearing the point of having to exchange numbers to arrange a future workout session, something that I was definitely not willing to do just yet – exchange numbers that is.
"Tuesday works perfectly for me. Actually, it would have been a little bit of a crunch to make Monday work, because I have some plans that I just remembered as well," Noah said.
With that, he put his hand out for me to shake. I brushed it aside, and pulled him into a gentle hug. Noah stiffened at first, but quickly returned the light embrace. I don't know exactly what compelled me to do that, but it just felt right. After we broke the hug, we parted, each going our separate ways. As we left, we were both blushing.
– – – * * * – – –
Friday morning, I woke up feeling slightly directionless. The previous four days, I had gone to the gym to work out, but I'd told Will that I was having trouble reconciling our past so far and wasn't ready to see him regularly yet. Noah was unavailable through the weekend, which bothered me a lot more than I was willing to admit.
Sarah and Tom had both left the house for the day, so I putzed around the house for a while, and managed to get some work done. Finally, I threw myself into giving the house a thorough scrub-down. This wasn't really necessary, as Sarah had done an amazing job keeping the house looking better than ever, but it was something to do.
I dusted and cleaned all the surfaces and wiped down the cabinets. I even took stuff out of cupboards so that I could wipe the shelves clean. Then I vacuumed the floors, and began to scrub them. When I got to The Spot in the living room, something wasn't sitting right with me. No matter how much I scrubbed, it just continued to bother me. Finally out of desperation, I moved an accent rug from our bedroom and placed it over The Spot. I'm not sure what that did, but it satiated my worries.
When I was finished, I grabbed my laptop, and sat down on the accent rug. From that vantage point, I continued to work for several house. Eventually, Sarah and Tom returned to the house. When Sarah saw me sitting there, she began to cry.
I was worried. Since she hadn't seen upset when she first walked in, I had absolutely no idea what had caused this or what the actual problem was. A part of me couldn't help but wonder if I had had something to do with her sudden change of mood. I jumped up off of the rug, and pulled her into a hug. Before I even had the chance to ask her what was wrong, she began to explain.
"Scott, you covered up the stained floor. I'm just...it's...I can't believe..."
I had never seen Sarah at such a loss for words. I didn't know that The Spot held any significance to her or anyone else but myself.
"I'm sorry, Sarah. I'm not sure why I put the rug there. I was cleaning, and I just couldn't shake the feeling that I needed to do something. No matter how hard I scrubbed, I felt like I had to do more. I ran out of ideas, so I tried the rug. It seemed to help, but if it bothers you, I can move it back to the bedroom."
I was just about to break our embrace and move the accent rug when she stopped me.
"No, don't do that!" Sarah said more forcefully than I expected. "I'm not upset that you covered it up. I honestly couldn't stand seeing it every day. You know...such a blatant reminder of what happened. I know it's important to you, so I've never said anything. I'm not crying because I'm upset. You're beginning to pull yourself back together, and that just makes me so happy."
Her tears fell again, heavier this time, as I pulled her deeper into our hug.
When Tom came home, there was a less dramatic repeat of the same encounter. We just sat around and chatted, and had a pleasant, if uneventful evening.
– – – * * * – – –
When the sun came up on Saturday, I awoke feeling good overall. However, my body was so used to working out every day that I was feeling a little off. I decided to go for a run. Tom and Sarah were still asleep, or I would have asked them to come with me.
I hadn't put any focus on cardio in the past week at the gym, nor had I done any real running or jogging in the past year. As a result, I found I wasn't able to run very far before I was gasping for breath. I began to alternate between jogging and walking. I was enjoying the nice July morning, before the heat and humidity made it unbearable. I kept pushing myself, as I desperately wanted to force myself back into shape. I was sore from the past week at the gym, but I was no longer going to allow any physical pain to stop me from reaching my goal.
Like I had the past several times that I had spent time on foot, I wasn't really paying attention to where I was going. In hindsight, I probably should have paid more attention to that, just so that I was aware of how far I had to go to get back to the house. I pushed myself to a run for a few blocks, before I had to stop completely to catch my breath.
With my hands on my knees, I looked around and noticed that I was, once again, right across from the entrance to the cemetery. Maybe it was just a coincidence, or maybe my subconscious was trying to send a message because I seemed to find my way here blindly whenever I wasn't paying attention.
I decided to take the opportunity to stop and visit Steve again. I knew I'd been there three times in the past few weeks, and that before that I hadn't been by to visit since his funeral. I felt bad that I hadn't been by more frequently, but strangely I felt a little bad that I had been coming by so frequently in the past few weeks. I almost felt like I was disturbing him.
When I had arrived at Steve's grave, I started to speak.
"Hi, Steve. I'm sorry that I didn't visit you for so long. It was just so hard living here without you with me. I also almost feel like I've been bothering you the past two weeks. I'm sure you don't really mind, but you were always the only person I could really talk to when I had any issues.
"I still think about you constantly. The emotional pain isn't quite as bad as it used to be, but it still hurts so bad. I miss you more than words can express. The only times I'm not thinking of you is when I'm with..."
I had to stop for a second to gather my thoughts. I needed to tell Steve more about my feelings for Noah, but I just wasn't quite sure if I was ready, or how to do it.
"...when I'm with him," I finished.
"He seems like a great guy. I don't really know him yet, but he's smart and funny. He's also got a really good body. He's actually been helping me get back into shape.
"Look, Steve, I feel really guilty that I'm having these feelings for him. I've been trying not to ever since I met him on Monday, but I just find myself drawn to him – both physically and emotionally. I know you can communicate with me. Please, I need you to tell me that these feelings are wrong. I asked you to make them go away, and they didn't. But I need you to at least tell me that they're wrong, and that I have to keep fighting them."
As I finished talking, it was like the entire world stood still. A light breeze that had been blowing through the trees stopped, and even the ambient city noises seemed to disappear. I just stood there for about five minutes, surrounded by complete silence with the still air hanging heavy around me.
"So are you trying to tell me that you want me to keep spending time with him, and possibly see where this takes me?" I finally asked.
Suddenly, it was as if the world around me came alive. The breeze began to blow again, and the sounds of traffic could once again be heard. I felt like Steve had just given me his blessing, even if he had never vocalized them.
"Steve, you don't know how much this means to me. I know that you are well aware that no matter what happens, I will never be able to forget you, nor will I ever love you less than I did the day you married me."
I kissed my hand, and placed it gently on Steve's headstone. As I turned to leave, I felt a large grin spread across my face, and with a hop in my step, I walked out of the cemetery feeling like a new man. I slowly walked back home. The entire time, my head was filled with thoughts and memories – both old and new. I thought about Steve, and our wonderful relationship together, and I also thought about Noah, and our budding friendship that I was quickly hoping might lead to something more.
When I got home, I immediately took a shower. Between the jog in the morning, and the long walk back in the growing heat, I was a sweaty mess. After the shower, I walked back into the bedroom to get dressed.
As I walked past Steve's side, I saw my ring still sitting there. I hadn't really thought about it since I had left town. Without thinking twice, I put it back on my finger before I walked back out into the living room to get some work done.
– – – * * * – – –
When I opened my eyes on Sunday, I felt more refreshed than I had in a long time. In fact, I felt like it really was the first day of the rest of my life, as trite as that sounds. A quick glance at the clock told me that it was only five o'clock, far earlier than I was expecting, especially considering all of the strain my recent workouts had taken on my body.
I was on my side of the bed when I woke up, but I knew that I hadn't had any nightmares the night before. In fact, I vaguely recalled having pleasant dreams throughout the night, although I wasn't certain. I began running my fingers on my right hand over the ring that I had just put back onto my finger the day before.
Without really thinking about it, I slipped the ring off to study the engraving. I didn't really need to, as it was burned into my memory, but I wanted to see it again.
Scott and Steve: Forever in Love
As I read those words, I couldn't help but think back on our wonderful years together. I thought about the awkward early dates, our first kiss, the first time that I told him 'I love you', the night he proposed to me, and the day I married him. All of the best days of my entire life. I felt a tear run down my cheek as I reminisced. It was not a tear of sorrow. It was the first tear of happiness that I had shed since Steve died. As I slid the ring back on my finger, I felt something that I had not felt in the past year. I felt hope. Hope for my future.
I continued to lie in bed, thinking about our lives together. I thought of that Steve loved to make up lists of things he wanted to get done. Usually, he would pawn the completed lists on me, insisting that I should do his bidding. I always complained about the 'honey-do' lists, but I secretly loved them. Steve had so many hobbies that other than the lists, there was little around the house for me to help out with.
As I was lying there, I suddenly remembered that there was a list that Steve had started the day before he was killed. Since he usually thought of things right before going to bed, he usually kept any lists on the nightstand. I hadn't seen one, but I got up and opened the top drawer. Sitting on top, in his hideous scribble, was his last 'honey-do' list for me.
I picked it up and looked at it, straining to read his chicken-scratch, and amused by the only thing on the list: 'Replace the floors'. In everything that happened, I'd forgotten that Steve had gotten sick of the floors very quickly. They were old, and hadn't been well maintained over the years. We'd tried just sanding them, but that had been done enough in the past that the nails were showing. So Steve had decided we needed new floors.
Feeling a new sense of purpose that I had recently been lacking, I got out of bed and threw on some clothes. I walked quietly down the hallway, so as not to disturb Tom and Sarah while they slept. I had been deep in thought for a long time, but I still didn't think it was necessary to wake them up early on a Sunday morning if it could be avoided.
I walked down to the basement, where I grabbed my toolbox and the crowbar. Steve wanted me to replace the floors, and I knew just where to start.
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