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    Fitz
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Moving On - 44. Chapter 44

The conclusion to Moving On

Chapter 44

A New Beginning


I continued to visit Steve's grave every week. The visits had gotten shorter, but I still felt connected to him. I still thought of my husband every day. Even though I missed him terribly, I had created a wonderful life for myself in the past seven months, and did not dwell on the past as much as I used to. There were still moments where I would see a movie trailer or hear a song and think how much he would have loved it. Sometimes these thoughts were fleeting and would pass as quickly as they came in. Other times, I would instantly become withdrawn. Noah was well aware of what was happening, and was always supportive. Never once did he make me feel guilty for thinking of Steve fondly.

Two weeks after Noah's birthday, I was visiting Steve when I suddenly realized his birthday was only a few days away. When I returned home, I must have looked like a wreck. Noah called after me as I walked numbly back to the bedroom and crawled into bed.

"What's wrong, babe?" Noah asked, getting beside me and holding me tight. I quickly wrapped my arm around his shoulder and began to sob on his chest. He rubbed my back, and just held me while I let my emotions out.

Somehow, I managed to gasp out between sobs, "Steve's… birthday… Tuesday…"

I have no clue how long he held me, but I somehow fell asleep in his arms. When I woke up, I found myself the center spoon in a three-way cuddle-fest – Noah behind me, and Zach in front. The boy was asleep, but I discovered as soon as I tried to disentangle myself that Noah was not.

"Have a good nap?" he asked quietly.

"I don't know. When did Zach get in here?" I whispered back.

"He was in the doorway watching from the beginning. When you started drifting off, he came up and joined us. He never said a word, but as soon as he got close to you, you turned and wrapped your arms around him. You've been asleep for about an hour."

"I'm really sor—"

"Don't apologize. You have nothing to be sorry for. I know you still love him, and you always will. I'm not trying to come between you and Steve, and I'm aware you'll always feel like a part of your heart is missing. I don't want to fill that hole. I want to be beside it, carving my very own spot in your heart."

"Thank you. Sometimes I think you're more than I deserve."

"Keep that in mind next time I start 'nagging' you," he teased. I tried to smile, but was not able to do so. "What do you need me to do?"

"I don't know. I think I just want to lay here for a while."

"Well, I was about to make dinner, but I have a better idea. Just lay here with Zach, and I'll take care of everything," he said kissing my cheek and getting off the bed.

I wrapped my arms back around Zach as Noah left the room. I dozed back to sleep. When I woke up, Zach was sitting on the edge of the bed, watching one of his movies. It took me a moment to remember we didn't normally have a television in the bedroom, so Noah must have moved it and the DVD player in while I was asleep. As I sat up in the bed, Zach realized I was awake and tore his attention from the screen.

"Why are you so sad?" he asked quietly.

"I just really miss Steve. Did I scare you?"

Zach nodded his head, and I pulled him into a tight hug.

"I'm really sorry, little buddy. I think about him a lot, but it wasn't until I realized his birthday is coming, just how much I missed him. It made me really sad, but I know you can help cheer me up."

"That's what Daddy said. He told me we're gonna watch movies and make you all better."

"Where is your dad?"

"He said he'd be right back, and I had to stay on the bed with you."

"Do you know when he'll be back?"

"I dunno," the boy replied. I made a mental note to talk to Noah about leaving Zach while no one was watching him but didn't say anything. Instead, I pulled my son onto my lap and focused on the movie. It felt like I had already watched this one a hundred times.

Noah walked into the room about ten minutes later, his hands full of bags.

"Oh, you're awake. Sorry, I was hoping to be back. I would've taken Zach with me, but I didn't want you to wake up to an empty house and panic."

"What if something had happened to Zach? No one was watching him."

"I know, but I had to make a quick decision. I wasn't gone long. Here, I brought food," he responded, and began to unpack to-go containers from the bags. The unmistakable smell of my favorite barbeque place in the city filled the room.

"Ok, let me just get up, and we'll eat," I said, wondering why he was unpacking in the bedroom.

"Nope. We're gonna eat in bed, make a giant mess, and everything. We'll pig out and watch some movies."

"You want to eat barbeque. In bed. With a five-year-old?" I asked incredulously.

"Yup, you need comfort food in a comfortable setting. Don't worry, I know it'll be messy, that's why I also bought these," he said, pulling new packages of sheets out of another bag.

I couldn't help but chuckle. Noah knew exactly what to do and say to make me feel better. In reality, I was feeling a lot better than when I first came home. I knew it was just a temporary relapse of depression and I had to fight through it, but I had a feeling it would reoccur again over the next few days.

"I also got a few new movies. A couple we'll watch with Zach, and then there's one for after he goes to bed," Noah added.

I looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

"Not that type of movie, you dirty old man," he said with a laugh. "It's a mindless comedy, but it's got a lot of no-no words, so Zach will have to wait until he's older to watch it."

"How long do I have to wait? I wanna watch it!" Zach piped in.

"It says you have to be seventeen," Noah responded.

"Aw, man! That's…" Noah and I looked on in amusement as the boy struggled to count on his fingers, especially when he tried to figure out what to do when he ran out. "…twelve years away! That's a long time."

"We'll talk about it. Maybe you can watch it a little earlier than that."

Noah popped in the first movie, Sister Act, and we ate and enjoyed. The three of us had a blast cuddling and watching the movie. All three of us – yes, even Zach – did our best to eat neatly, but it was unavoidable that the sheets got messy from the pulled pork. The movie was perfect. It was light-hearted and cute, but I did find myself reacting more than I should have to the emotional scenes.

When the movie was over, Noah ordered me to stay where I was while he gave Zach his bath. I protested that I could at least shower and change the sheets, but he insisted. Once he was finished, he led me into the shower and proceeded to give me a thorough, sensual cleaning. I wanted to respond physically to his touch, but it was not in the cards with my current mental funk. He was hard the entire time, but whenever I tried to stroke him, he just batted my hand away.

"No, today is all about you," he told me.

"Babe, you have no idea how much I appreciate this, but aren't you going a little overboard?"

"Nope, you deserve every second of this and more," he told me seriously.

"I'll break out of this funk in a couple days," I promised him.

"I know, and I'm going to do everything I can to make you feel a little better until you do."

After the shower, Noah and I quickly assessed the damage to the sheets. It wasn't as bad as expected, and we decided to try to salvage them. I threw them in the wash while Noah put new sheets on the bed, before the three of us curled up to watch the second movie.

Zach fell asleep between us about halfway through, but we just let it keep playing. When it was over, Noah took Zach to bed, before returning and popping in Clerks 2. It was crass mindless comedy at its finest, and I found myself laughing out loud at the antics on screen. Movie night finally came to an end when the credits rolled, and Noah held me until I fell asleep. The depths of Noah's love for me had never been more abundantly clear.

– – – * * * – – –
 
I was mostly back to normal when I woke up, but spent most of the day feeling just a touch off. I vowed I was not going to let Noah see I was still hurting, but I'm sure he must have noticed. To his benefit, he never once called me on it.

The next day, which would have been Steve's thirtieth birthday, did not go as smoothly. I woke up so crippled with depression I could not bring myself to get out of bed. Noah brought me breakfast in bed, and practically spooned the eggs into my mouth when I made no effort to do it myself. Just before lunch, he came in, got out some clothes for me, and insisted I dress and join him, Terry, and Zach to eat. When I didn't respond right away, he moved to dress me – that got me moving, albeit slowly.

After I nibbled on my sandwich, he directed me to the car.

"Where are we going?" I asked quietly.

"We're going to the cemetery. I wish I could take away your hurt, but I can't. Today was a special day for Steve, so it'll always be special to you as well. Just go, sit beside his grave, and think of all the wonderful times you had with him. Oh, and bring him these," he responded, pulling a dozen calla lilies – Steve's favorite – from the backseat.

"How did you know?"

"I called Tom. Do you want me to have him join you? He asked if you'd want that, but I didn't know. I think he and his parents are going later this evening."

"No, I'll be fine. Thanks again for everything."

"You don't need to thank me for a thing. Again, I'm just trying to support you the best I can."

At my insistence, Noah came with me, and held my hand while I sat next to Steve's grave. I think that might have been the first time I had gone to the cemetery and never directly spoke; instead, I just replayed some of the best experiences of my life in my mind. As they flickered through, I realized several of the moments that brought me the most joy centered not on Steve, but on Noah and Zach. I asked myself how I could be so lucky to have found such an amazing man who accepted me for who I was, and never felt threatened that he shared a place in my heart with another man. He never worried that he was a replacement or a rebound. Noah is not perfect, but no one is. However, I would never be able claim that jealousy or impatience were among his faults.

Visiting Steve did make me feel better, and I mostly returned to normal for the rest of the day. I still wasn't as functional as I had been the day before, and it would be a few more days until I was completely myself again. In the back of my mind, I knew this pattern would probably repeat itself on Steve's and my anniversary, and the anniversary of his death. I think part of what made it take so long for me to get back to normal was that I felt guilty I would be depressed and need to rely on Noah for support three times a year. I rationally knew as more time passed, these events would be easier for me to cope with, but I doubted the pain would ever fully heal. I hated that I would continue to expose Noah to that pain.

– – – * * * – – –
 
For the next several weeks, we happily stayed in our routine. We joined the rest of the gang for karaoke most Thursdays, and always had a blast. Noah and I went on at least one date a week – rarely anything fancy, just a nice quiet dinner, sometimes a movie, or drinks. On at least one occasion we went to a club, but were much more restrained than we had been on New Year's Eve. Of course, we also tried to maximize time with Zach, which was a little more difficult with Noah putting a lot of his free time into making sure everything for his on-campus class was perfect, but he always found a few hours each day regardless of how much work needed to be done. Oh, and our sex life was amazing, of course.

On a Thursday in mid-May, coming back from karaoke, Noah informed me to keep Saturday clear.

"Why, what's going on?"

"Oh, nothing, I'm just taking you out for a special date," he replied.

"Why would I make plans to go out on Saturday without you?"

Noah fumbled for a moment. "Um, I don't know, I just don't want you deciding to throw together a party or something."

"Wouldn't I tell you if I was planning on doing that?"

"What's with the third degree? I just told you to keep it clear," he said, getting a little defensive.

"Sorry, babe, it just seemed out of the blue, and I was trying to understand your motives. I get the feeling that you're scheming."

He gave me a wink as he responded. "Maybe I am."

On Saturday, Noah went out to run a few errands, but only after reminding me twice about our date. "Make sure you figure out what you want to wear in advance. Pull out all the stops, babe," he told me as he left.

"Won't you be here when it's time to get ready?"

"Um, I might be running a bit late, so just be ready to leave at seven on the dot. I'll make sure I'm good to go."

Between five and six-thirty, he called me twice to make sure I was getting ready, and that I'd be "dressed to kill," as he put it. Tom came by to pick up Zach at six, and I couldn't help but notice he seemed a little off, barely making eye-contact with me.

"What's going on, Tom?"

"Nothing!" he said, a little too quickly. "Um, I mean, I don't know what you mean. Isn't Noah back yet?"

"How did you know he was gone?"

"… because his car wasn't outside?" he answered hesitantly.

"But if his car isn't outside, wouldn't that mean he's not here?" I asked, beginning to get frustrated and alone in the dark.

"Oh, yeah, I guess it would. Oh well. C'mon, Zach, let's go watch movies and eat lots of candy. Bring Beso, too."

"Oh boy!" Zach said excitedly, running to the car with the puppy close behind.

"Have a great night," Tom said, giving me a mischievous smile before leaving.

I finished getting ready, and was even ten minutes early. I was damn proud of myself, but Noah still had not returned and I was getting irritated that he was going to be late for our date after he made such a big deal of making sure I would be ready on time. I called his cell, but he didn't answer. I sat on the couch and fumed a bit as I waited.

Two minutes after seven, I called him again. This time he picked up.

"Sorry, babe, I'm stuck in traffic. Just watch TV or something while you wait. I shouldn't be long," he said, but I knew he was lying. If he was running late, he would be panicking, but he sounded completely calm.

I angrily tossed the phone back on couch and stewed. It didn't last long, though, since the doorbell rang about a minute later.

"Hello?" I asked, opening the door to reveal a man in a tuxedo.

"Your limousine awaits you, Mr. Hudgins," the man said, gesturing towards a stretch limo waiting at the curb.

"Noah Abrams, I'm going to fucking kill you," I muttered under my breath. However, the anger immediately dissipated as I realized it was all part of some big plan he had clearly worked very hard on. My heart skipped a beat, and I couldn't help but try to piece together just what the night might have in store for me.

The driver opened the door for me, and sitting in the back was my boyfriend, holding a dozen roses and dressed in a brand new suit that fit too well to be off a rack.

"Hey, babe, still mad at me?" he asked as I sat beside him and gave him a quick kiss.

"No, now I just want to know what the hell is going on," I said with a laugh. "I mean for Christ's sake, a limo? And that looks like a custom suit. This is more than just a date. I can't imagine how much this is costing."

"Don't worry about cost, and the suit wasn't that expensive; Will knows a really great tailor who can work wonders with a needle. Now just sit back, and relax. I want you to remember this night as one of the best of your life," he said, pulling a bottle of champagne out of an ice bucket and popping it open.

His comment really sent my mind into overdrive. Maybe, I thought to myself, he was going to propose. That would explain how both he and Tom were acting. We had talked about it a few times, but had never gotten farther than agreeing it seemed like a good step at some point in the future. I did my best to put it out of my mind and enjoy the champagne while being driven through the city with the man I loved by my side.

The limo pulled up to a hot new restaurant that opened a few weeks prior. All new restaurants in Atlanta seem to have a gimmick or quirk designed to set themselves apart from the countless other offerings in the city. Its gimmick was that it only opened for dinner Saturday nights, and was currently considered to be the 'it' place to dine. As soon as I had heard about it, I called to make a reservation, but the first open table was over a month away.

"We're eating here?" I asked incredulously, as we stepped out of the limo.

"Naw, I figured we'd just gawk at all the people lucky enough to get reservations," he responded with a straight face. "Of course we're eating here," he said when he saw the look I gave him.

"How did you manage that? I bitched to you about how long of a wait there was just last week."

"I remember that, and I interpreted it as a challenge. It turns out one of Will's exes – one of the few he's still on speaking terms with, I might add – is dating someone who is friends with the restaurant manager. Will called in a favor, and we now have a reservation."

"You are just full of surprises this evening," I told him with a smile.

We were quickly seated in a quiet little corner. The atmosphere was cozy and romantic.

"You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd think you're just trying to make sure you got laid tonight. You didn't have to do all this," I said after we were alone.

"Yes, I did. I love you, Scott Hudgins, and every now and then, you deserve to be treated like a prince. You've had shit happen in your life that no one should have to go through, but you're still strong and happy, and you're the greatest thing that ever happened to me."

Almost as soon as he finished speaking, a bottle of champagne was delivered, compliments of the restaurant manager. By this point, I was positive Noah was about to propose. I tried to hold the glass up to the light to check for a ring sitting in the bottom. It would be my luck that I would swallow a ring hidden someplace intended to be romantic. There was no ring, but Noah interpreted my action as a toast, so I quickly improvised something, and it seemed to satisfy him.

We ordered our food, and chatted idly while we waited. Noah seemed completely at ease, but I was a basket case, wondering exactly when and how he would be proposing to me over the course of dinner. When the food came, I carefully poked around with my fork, trying to not be obvious.

Suddenly, Noah got out of his chair and dropped to one knee. I let out a quiet gasp, and clasped my hands over my mouth, as my eyes began to water and my heart seemed to jump right out of my heart. Noah picked up his napkin and sat back in his chair. I had not realized he had dropped it. I did my best to play off my reaction, but I was crestfallen, and it must have shown on my face.

"What's wrong, babe?" he asked, rubbing my arm.

"I don't know, I'm being stupid, I think. I guess I'm just reading signs that aren't there," I admitted.

Noah looked at me blankly for a moment before laughing. "Oh, did you think I was about to propose?"

I merely blinked and nodded my head.

"Scott, I promise that when I propose to you, it will be unique and something you'll remember for the rest of your life. It won't be something cheesy straight out of a movie. You'll never see it coming."

That settled my nerves, and we had a wonderful dinner and great conversation. Of course the second bottle of champagne was followed by a bottle of wine, and by the time dessert came, I was definitely feeling more than a little buzzed. Once we finished our dessert, we walked back outside and into the limo, where I noticed another bottle of champagne chilling.

"Ok, before I thought you were trying to impress me out of my pants, now I'm beginning to think you just want to get me drunk so you can take advantage of me," I said with a laugh. "But seriously, Noah, I need to slow down on the alcohol. I don't want to ruin the night by getting sloppy."

"Oh, I don't need to get you drunk or rent a limo to get into your pants, babe. I'm more than capable of doing that anytime I want. Besides, that bottle is for afterwards."

"After what?"

"You'll see. Just relax and let's cuddle as we ride around town."

I relaxed in his arms as we were chauffeured around the city. It did not seem like there was a destination in mind, as we seemed to travel all over. I was content to just take in the sights and enjoy the romantic moment with Noah. After about an hour, with us both staring aimlessly out the window and enjoying a peaceful silence, I felt Noah shift around. I glanced over and saw him texting someone, trying to be discrete.

"What's so important it couldn't wait until later?" I asked, suddenly very irritated that our evening was being interrupted.

Noah looked like a deer caught in headlights, but quickly recovered. "Sorry, I thought I was being slick. Don't worry about it; I just had to take care of something. Here, you can have my phone so I'm not distracted again," he said, although I noticed he quickly turned it off before handing it over.

Immediately, my overactive imagination took over, and I could not help but wonder if he was seeing someone else and the amazing date he was taking me on was his way of assuaging his guilt. Then I realized I was being ridiculous. We were around each other so often, I doubted he would have time to cheat on me, even if he wanted to.

"Here, put this on," he said, breaking me from my thoughts and handing me a blindfold. I looked at him suspiciously. "Just trust me," he added.

I slipped the blindfold on, and was immersed in darkness. I could sense him doing something, but I assumed it was just making sure I was unable to see. I was not entirely sure, though, since I was unable to see. I heard Noah knock on the partition, and resigned myself to my fate and rested my head on Noah's chest as we rode.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably less than ten minutes, we came to a stop. Noah helped me out of the limo, and guided me along a path and up a hill. He carefully maneuvered me into position before removing the blindfold. I blinked rapidly a few times as my eyes adjusted. When I finally took in the scene, I let out a gasp, unable to believe what I was seeing.

I was standing in front of Steve's grave, the entire area brilliantly lit with hundreds of tea candles. It was hauntingly romantic, and in hindsight, I am a little surprised that it did not come across as creepy. I immediately began scouring my brain for important dates or events in Steve's life I might have missed, but couldn't think of anything. The closest I could come was I was pretty sure his grandmother, who had been dead for six years, was born on May nineteenth, but this was the eighteenth and that was already a big stretch.

"Why did you do this… no, how did you do this?"

He wrapped his arms around my waist and stared deeply into my eyes with his golden hypnotic orbs.

"That text you caught me sending was to Will, telling him and Jason to light the candles."

"Will and Jason are here?" I asked, spinning around to look for them. He grabbed me and turned me back so I was facing him again.

"No, they just lit the candles and left. They're probably on their way to the movies right now. It was my treat."

"Ok, now I need to know why," I said firmly.

"Because I wanted tonight to be special," he said simply, giving me a gentle kiss. He spun me around so I was facing Steve's grave, wrapped his strong arms around my chest, and squeezed me gently. I couldn't help but let out a quiet groan of approval.

"Besides," Noah continued, "He's the first person that you're going to want to tell. I figured we could just do it here and save us a trip." I spun around in his arms again and looked directly in his eyes. They twinkled more than normal, and he was sporting a cheesy grin.

"What do y–" I started to ask Noah what he meant, but was cut off when he abruptly broke our embrace and knelt in the grass. From his jacket pocket, he pulled out a small box. I gasped, unaware I had been holding my breath.

"When you say you'll marry me." He said softly. He opened the box, but all I could see were his golden eyes. With all of the candles that surrounded us, they gleamed brighter than the finest diamonds I had ever seen. I was completely lost in those eyes, and part of me hoped I would never be found again.

The sound of Noah clearing his throat brought me back to my senses.

"Scott Hudgins, will you marry me?" This time it was a question. I looked at his whole face, and realized that he was amused by my stare, but also apprehensive that I hadn't answered right away.

"Yes, yes, yes!!!! Oh, God! Of course I'll marry you, you idiot!" Warm tears were streaming down my face, and even though I had practically yelled my entire response, to this day I am not sure how I managed to make a sound with the grin that was plastered on my face.

He stood up, and slipped the ring on my finger. It felt so comfortable, like it belonged. In fact, it felt like…

Noah leaned in to offer me my first kiss as my fiancé. I put my left hand to his face to stop him. I had to know. I gasped in horror, and was suddenly completely aware of where we were standing.

I began to yell. "What the fuck, Noah?! You take me to my dead husband's grave, ask me to marry you, and then give me the same ring my husband gave me, all while fucking standing on his grave?! Is this some kind of sick fucking joke to you?" My voice broke. The pure anger had melted away into a bitter combination of sadness, pain, and betrayal. "I thought you loved me. This isn't love; this is a macabre side show."

One look at Noah told me he honestly didn't know what he did wrong. I pulled my life back together for him. He was the one who taught me to love again, to put away the painful memories and make room for new ones. Realizing that he hadn't expected this outcome possibly hurt more than anything else. He knew how much Steve meant to me, how hard it had been to get over his death.

At that moment, I just wanted to die. At least then, I could be with Steve. He never would have tried to pull this shit on me. Holding in my sobs as best as I could, I turned to leave. I felt Noah grab my arm. I tried to shake him off, but his grip was too strong.

"Scott… shit! I should have explained before. I never thought you'd react that way to the ring immediately. I should have, but I didn't. I hoped that by the time you noticed, I would have had a chance to explain…" Noah paused for a second and let out a deep breath.

His grip loosened on my arm, and I took the chance to pull my arm free. It sounded like the Noah I loved. My Noah. I couldn't tell if that thought was further breaking my heart or healing the wound that had just been inflicted upon it. I knew he needed to explain himself, if only to give myself some closure before I left.

"Remember last August when you brought me here to meet Steve after karaoke, and how he spoke to me, threatening to come after me if I ever hurt you? Well, he spoke to me a second time that night." Noah put his hand on my chin and looked me straight in the eyes. Those beautiful eyes that had lit my entire world just a few moments before looked almost lifeless. Instantly, I knew he was telling the truth.

"After I left, you spoke with him for a few moments. You kissed the headstone and walked back towards me. Before you got to me, Steve told me to come back, because he had something for me. You were so mentally exhausted you collapsed just outside the cemetery, and I let you take a brief nap."

"I remember that." My response came out as a strange combination of anger and wistful remembrance. That night had been – up until this moment – the happiest night of my recent life. It had even somehow managed to be up there with my wedding night and the night Steve proposed as three of the best nights of my life. However, it had now been ruined forever. The anger was fading quickly. I wondered if I had been too rash; maybe if I had not jumped to conclusions, Noah would have explained everything and I would have understood. Then that night would still be remembered for all the wonderful things that happened. The night of our first kiss.

I suddenly realized I had withdrawn into my memories. I looked back to Noah. He was just waiting patiently for me to come back to reality before he continued. He knew me too well.

"When I walked up to the grave, I saw your ring. I knew what you had done." Noah continued. His voice was weak, and I realized he had been holding back tears. He took a deep breath and wiped his eyes. I hoped he was strong enough to get through what he had to say without breaking down, because I was certainly not strong enough to support him in my current state.

"Seeing your ring on the headstone was probably the greatest sight I had ever laid my eyes on. I knew in that instant I had a real chance of being with you – that you could fall in love with me, and I could be yours." He paused again to wipe his eyes.

I took the opportunity to put my hand around his waist and walked him over to a tree. Noah slumped down at the base. I quickly sat down and allowed him to pull me into him. I didn't know where Noah's story was going, but I knew my reaction to the ring had been wrong. This was where I belonged.

"But you gave me his ring," I started. The anger wasn't there anymore. I just needed to know why.

"Steve told me that he wanted me to take the ring. He said I would know what to do with it." He looked at me and half-smiled, I saw that his eyes weren't quite sparkling, but they looked alive again. "Look carefully at the ring, I had it modified. I couldn't just give you his ring, I had to give you our ring."

I stood up and walked to Steve's headstone, where the largest cluster of candles were still glowing. I took the ring and held it in the light. It was different. It looked like it had been covered in thousands of flakes of gold. It shimmered more than Noah's eyes had when he asked me to marry him. I gasped when I saw it.

"Read the inscription" Noah said. I hadn't heard him come up behind me, and I jumped a little as he gently wrapped his arms around me.

I looked, and was confused. Not hurt, just confused. All I saw was "Scott and Steve: Forever in Love". I glanced at Noah, the confusion plainly visible on my face.

He just chuckled. "Other side, babe."

I did, and immediately let out another gasp. I blinked tears from my eyes and turned around. I gently put the ring back into the palm of Noah's hand.

He looked hurt, and I immediately realized how he had interpreted my action.

"No. I just want you to ask me again."

Holding both of my hands, he looked me straight in the eyes. "Will you marry me?"

"Yes." It barely came out as a whisper. I had lost myself in his eyes again.

Noah leaned forward and kissed me. The entire world was lost as we stood there with our lips pressed together. As we broke the kiss, Steve spoke to me for the last time in my life.

We held hands as we made our way back to the limousine, which would take us back to our life together. A life I hoped we would build together for endless years to come.

Noah's inscription had read "Noah and Scott: For as Long as Steve Allows"

Steve's response?

"Forever."

Written by Scott Hudgins, and completed on February 26, 2017

Well, that's all for Moving On, and it's been one hell of a ride. Thank you all for joining me on it! Noah and Scott's story is far from over. I will begin posting Book 2, Moving Forward, in mid-October.

Thanks as always to my editor, David. All errors that remain are mine, and mine alone.

Moving On is © Copyright Fitz, 2011-2013. All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Fitz,

First of all, I want to thank you for sharing this story with everyone; I know that it has touched me deeply from the very first chapter. At times, I felt anger, betrayal, depression, just like Scott...and it was healing for me to go through these and many other emotions again. I don't think a person ever fullt recovers from such a tragic loss, we must learn to incorporate that loss into oour lives...it becomes a part of us...but we must realize this and not let it define us.

I would like to let you know how good it was that you allowed us to see Scott in one of his "funks" and how Steve is always somewhere in his thoughts...that's the way it is, and you reflected that in this chapter. Noah is truly Scott's savior in that he understands how Scott is not rejecting him...he is trying to make room in his heart and mind,a place that had been promised forever to Steve.

Enough of my ramblings...GREAT STORY, GREAT CHARACTERS......I LOVED IT...........Mike

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This story has been heartbreaking at the beginning that slowly moved into a beautiful love story. This last chapter was beyond beautiful, I can't find the words to describe it. When I first met Noah he seemed so young but the Noah I seen tonight was ageless. His comment about not wanting to fill the hole in Scotts heart but rather carve his place beside the hole left by Steve brought tears to my eyes. By the end of the chapter after reading the inscription and then hearing steves response those same tears were rolling down my face. Both of these men have had experiences that I would never wish on anyone but the love they have for each other surpasses everything.

Most people would be appalled at what Noah did that night, but to me it showed the strength of character and the unlimited love that he holds for Scott. This has truly been an awe inspiring night that is a beautiful place to not end this story but rather to say gently... Til we meet again.

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On 09/02/2013 01:32 PM, flamingo136 said:
Fitz,

First of all, I want to thank you for sharing this story with everyone; I know that it has touched me deeply from the very first chapter. At times, I felt anger, betrayal, depression, just like Scott...and it was healing for me to go through these and many other emotions again. I don't think a person ever fullt recovers from such a tragic loss, we must learn to incorporate that loss into oour lives...it becomes a part of us...but we must realize this and not let it define us.

I would like to let you know how good it was that you allowed us to see Scott in one of his "funks" and how Steve is always somewhere in his thoughts...that's the way it is, and you reflected that in this chapter. Noah is truly Scott's savior in that he understands how Scott is not rejecting him...he is trying to make room in his heart and mind,a place that had been promised forever to Steve.

Enough of my ramblings...GREAT STORY, GREAT CHARACTERS......I LOVED IT...........Mike

As always, thank you! You and I have gone back and forth a few times on our beliefs on loss, and I think you summed it up quite succinctly!

 

One problem I ran into when figuring out how to make this chapter work was simply how long the story ran, and how much it's grown from Scott simply 'moving on'. Showing his funk around Steve's birthday is actually the largest reason the story went past chapter 40, and I needed to reiterate how strong the bond he still felt was to make it seem reasonable for Noah to choose that venue to propose, or to repurpose Scott's wedding ring.

 

I promise a whole new roller coaster of emotions in Moving Forward!

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On 09/02/2013 01:36 PM, Daithi said:
This story has been heartbreaking at the beginning that slowly moved into a beautiful love story. This last chapter was beyond beautiful, I can't find the words to describe it. When I first met Noah he seemed so young but the Noah I seen tonight was ageless. His comment about not wanting to fill the hole in Scotts heart but rather carve his place beside the hole left by Steve brought tears to my eyes. By the end of the chapter after reading the inscription and then hearing steves response those same tears were rolling down my face. Both of these men have had experiences that I would never wish on anyone but the love they have for each other surpasses everything.

Most people would be appalled at what Noah did that night, but to me it showed the strength of character and the unlimited love that he holds for Scott. This has truly been an awe inspiring night that is a beautiful place to not end this story but rather to say gently... Til we meet again.

That is definitely the story arc I set out to convey, and I'm happier with how it turned out than I expected to be (I am by far my worst critic!)

 

Noah may be the young one, and his youth shows in his lack of ambition early on, but in general, he's far more mature than Scott is. Scott is quick to jump to conclusions and irrationally over-thinks everything.

 

Noah's proposal, and the repurposing of Scott's wedding ring would be grossly inappropriate for most relationships, but he chose to think outside the box, and act in a way that made it unique and personal to them. My hope was the first part of the chapter would re-emphasize the bond that Scott continues to share with Steve, and it seems, based on initial reactions, that I was successful, which is always good.

 

As always, thank you so much, and til next time!

Fitz

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On 09/02/2013 05:28 PM, atorusandanode said:
I don't know how to interpret Steve's ghostly presence :P but this was a good story. I look forward to the sequel!
I purposely kept the supernatural elements mundane enough that they can almost entirely be explained away as the result of a slightly-unreliable narrator, sensing, hearing, and dreaming what he wants to be true. The rest can be explained by Scott being even less reliable in an attempt to 'tell a better story', although then you have to begin to question which parts of the story are 'factual', and which parts he's embellished to suit whatever needs he has.

 

Or you can take his words at face value, and accept the slight addition of a supernatural element to the story. Personally, I believe deceased loved ones can find ways to pass on messages to us if they need to, but leave us alone to find our own way 99% of the time.

 

Of course, it doesn't help that the last time Steve spoke to Scott was back in like chapter 12, and since then, he's only spoken once, and it was to Zach.

 

I'm glad you enjoyed the story. Too bad I can't just sit back, but the muses are calling, so it's back to the grindstone for me!

 

As always, thank you!

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Knowing this was the finally chapter, I found myself tearing up almost as soon as I started reading. So by the time I got to the really emotional stuff, the tears were flowing freely. My heart stopped for a moment when Scott reacted angrily (understandably so) to Noah giving him Steve's ring. I was afraid I was going to have to be pissed at you for throwing us a curve. So glad Scott gave him a chance to explain and didn't let his habit of jumping to conclusions allow him to run away in anger. Whew!

 

Thank you so much for sharing this story. You have a gift for creating both characters and a story line that elicit strong emotions and keep us wanting more. I can't wait for the next chapter of their lives. I think I'm going to go back and re-read this in its completed form while I'm waiting for Moving Forward to begin.

 

Lynette

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l feel happy, sad, annoyed, confused and a lot more at the same time. That was one hell of a proposal and i'm gonna miss the guys, it's good that i only have to wait till mid october that is OVER SIX WEEKS!

I so much loved "moving on" it was so real it was like i was moving on with scott.

Thank you so much for the hard work and the wonderful story.

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Fitzy, you know me by now so you have to realize I'll have more to say later. For now I HATE YOU will suffice. I'm such a sap! Your writing is the cause of all the water running down my face and I have a strong desire to bill you for all the tissues. Nice going my friend, ready to move forward!

:worship::2thumbs::worship:

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The ending was so sweet. I thought it was funny how you had Scott on pins and needles wondering if Noah was about to propose. There was a lot of tragedy and pain, especially at the beginning… I’m glad the spirit of Steve moved things along with Noah and Scott. The graveside proposal was an awkward idea but you pulled it off nicely. I must say that Zach was my favorite character in the story. For me, he stole the show with his innocent child behavior.

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Fantastic ending, Fitz! I am another reader who needs to run out to 7-11 to buy more Kleenex.

 

"Moving On" has made me cry, laugh, cry again, feel sadness, betrayal, depression, anger and pure joy. It has been a pleasure to read.

 

I look forward to the sequel in October.

 

One question though: I know you had mentioned in the past that the story was written by Scott in the future, which of course is shown in this last chapter. I just wondered if there was any significance to this. Why 2017? Just curious...

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On 09/02/2013 05:56 PM, ChubbyCheeks65 said:
Knowing this was the finally chapter, I found myself tearing up almost as soon as I started reading. So by the time I got to the really emotional stuff, the tears were flowing freely. My heart stopped for a moment when Scott reacted angrily (understandably so) to Noah giving him Steve's ring. I was afraid I was going to have to be pissed at you for throwing us a curve. So glad Scott gave him a chance to explain and didn't let his habit of jumping to conclusions allow him to run away in anger. Whew!

 

Thank you so much for sharing this story. You have a gift for creating both characters and a story line that elicit strong emotions and keep us wanting more. I can't wait for the next chapter of their lives. I think I'm going to go back and re-read this in its completed form while I'm waiting for Moving Forward to begin.

 

Lynette

Considering how willingly I go to dark places to tell a story, I'm a huge sucker for the happily-ever-after. Maybe it's the fact I suffer chronic depression, yet am somehow still an optimist. Scott tends to have two reactions when something upsets him. He over-reacts, and runs away. He had all but given up, but fortunately, he found a moment of strength to suck it up and actually listen to Noah. Also, in Scott's defense, Noah probably should have showed him the ring and explained the story behind it first, but Noah is a bit too idealistic and romantic to have thought of that.

 

Ugh...that reminds me, I've rewritten the first ten chapters of the story. Nothing major changes, although the order of some events change (Emma and Ethan explain what they learned about Steve's death to Scott in chapter 5, instead of Sarah doing so in Chapter 9, for instance). Mostly it was a lot of rephrasing. Right now, the only place the story exists in that form is on www.saberpeak.com. I'm eventually going to give the whole story that treatment and fix a few pacing issues, but I have other plans than uploading it to the internet!

 

Thank you so much for accompanying me on this journey, and I'm sure I'll hear from you again!

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On 09/02/2013 08:27 PM, nostic said:
l feel happy, sad, annoyed, confused and a lot more at the same time. That was one hell of a proposal and i'm gonna miss the guys, it's good that i only have to wait till mid october that is OVER SIX WEEKS!

I so much loved "moving on" it was so real it was like i was moving on with scott.

Thank you so much for the hard work and the wonderful story.

Thank you so much. It was a helluva ride writing it. I stopped saying it a long time ago, but this is the first story where I've written more than a few paragraphs, so it's very bittersweet to finally have it come to an end.

 

Fortunately, there's much more planned. Hopefully you'll accompany me on that journey as well!

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On 09/02/2013 09:27 PM, Carlos Hazday said:
Fitzy, you know me by now so you have to realize I'll have more to say later. For now I HATE YOU will suffice. I'm such a sap! Your writing is the cause of all the water running down my face and I have a strong desire to bill you for all the tissues. Nice going my friend, ready to move forward!

:worship::2thumbs::worship:

Hahah...umm the check is in the mail? ;)

 

This chapter is the first in a long time where I still got emotional rereading before posting. Most of my emotions from the story got worn out back when I was outlining (November 2011!), so it's sometimes easy to forget that people don't know what's coming (especially with evil cliffhangers). It's also a bit easier to disconnect from the emotions the characters are experiencing while writing, but I've definitely gone through my fair share of kleenexes and have laughed along side everyone else many times on this journey.

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On 09/03/2013 03:30 AM, Arabesque said:
The ending was so sweet. I thought it was funny how you had Scott on pins and needles wondering if Noah was about to propose. There was a lot of tragedy and pain, especially at the beginning… I’m glad the spirit of Steve moved things along with Noah and Scott. The graveside proposal was an awkward idea but you pulled it off nicely. I must say that Zach was my favorite character in the story. For me, he stole the show with his innocent child behavior.
Noah is a die-hard romantic, and he wanted to not only propose in a grand manner, but to do it in a way that was completely unique. Of course their relationship is unique, and they've never shied away from the lingering footprint Steve has left on their lives.

 

My favorite character will always be Suze, and I hope I can work her into being more of a major character in Moving Forward. That said, Zach is a close second. He went from being a cheap plot device to a wonderful character that was a lot of fun to write. Since he was largely ignored in my outline, I often had no idea what would come out of his mouth when he began to talk. The name 'Beso' for example... even as the author, I don't know where he came up with that from 'Blackie Schwarz'!

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On 09/03/2013 07:20 AM, KaimukiMan said:
you had me in tears. well done.
Thank you so much! I started outlining Moving On to deal with a bout of lingering depression, never really expecting to actually write it. When I finished the outline, it ran 78 pages, and hubby insisted I had to actually do it. I figured a few people would start reading it, hate it, and find something else. I never expected the story to turn out nearly as well as it has, nor that my words would be able to resonate with so many people.

 

I've laughed and cried while working on this story, and it brings me so much joy to be able to share those emotions with you!

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On 09/03/2013 11:22 AM, Lisa said:
Fantastic ending, Fitz! I am another reader who needs to run out to 7-11 to buy more Kleenex.

 

"Moving On" has made me cry, laugh, cry again, feel sadness, betrayal, depression, anger and pure joy. It has been a pleasure to read.

 

I look forward to the sequel in October.

 

One question though: I know you had mentioned in the past that the story was written by Scott in the future, which of course is shown in this last chapter. I just wondered if there was any significance to this. Why 2017? Just curious...

As always, thank you so much! It really has been an emotional roller coaster, hasn't it? lol

 

All I can say in answer to your question is that Moving Forward begins on February 28, 2017, Noah's 30th birthday. The full answer will come with time, but not for several chapters!

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Sniff, Bravo,Sniff,Sniff! This has been the most emotional story I've read in a long long time. Forget the tissue, I used a towel. haha. These characters are so real, that I cheered when good things happened and cried when it all went downhill. Zach was just too precious for words. The chin tapping....priceless!!!

Noah at 30? This is gonna be. Can't wait to read and review Moving Forward. And I'll keep my towel ready!!

Thank you for sharing.

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On 09/03/2013 01:53 PM, LadyDe said:
Sniff, Bravo,Sniff,Sniff! This has been the most emotional story I've read in a long long time. Forget the tissue, I used a towel. haha. These characters are so real, that I cheered when good things happened and cried when it all went downhill. Zach was just too precious for words. The chin tapping....priceless!!!

Noah at 30? This is gonna be. Can't wait to read and review Moving Forward. And I'll keep my towel ready!!

Thank you for sharing.

Thank you so much! I wanted to create a story that had emotional significance, yet the end result has far surpassed my wildest dream. Back when I didn't know what really lay in store for Zach's character, I wanted to create a handful of little quirks I could rely on ("I'm not little!", the nickname 'little buddy' and the chin-tapping are the first that come to mind) As he evolved into the scene stealer he became, I relied less on those, but they had become so much a part of who he was, I found myself writing it more often than I intended!

 

At least you'll have time to run the towel through the laundry before Moving Forward!

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What a great story. Fell in love with Zack and Noah right off. I love a true love story. I can't wait for book 2.

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On 09/25/2013 06:32 AM, ricky said:
What a great story. Fell in love with Zack and Noah right off. I love a true love story. I can't wait for book 2.
Thank you so much! I hope you mean a 'true love' story, and not a 'true' love story, though. Moving On is partially loosely based on how I think I'd react if I found myself in a similar situation as Scott, but the story is entirely fictional.
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Restaurant...the Quinones Room? What else is only open on a Saturday? I liked this story. Looking forward to more.

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On 09/29/2013 02:25 AM, impunity said:
Restaurant...the Quinones Room? What else is only open on a Saturday? I liked this story. Looking forward to more.
Actually, this is one of the few times I didn't base it on a real place, although Quinones is a good guess. I wanted it to be popular and trendy, but Scott and Noah can easily go out any day of the week, and are not constrained by the typical 'date-night', which is why I thought a Saturday's only option would be good for the story. When I was spit balling ideas, I was reading some to hubby. When I mentioned the 'hip trendy fine-dining restaurant only open on Saturdays', he immediately asked 'where is that? when can we go?', and I knew it was the right concept choice! :P

 

Thank you so much. Moving Forward should be coming out in the very near future!!

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