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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 - 9. Chapter 9 - Working Things Out

Scott attempts to understand the emotions evoked by spending time with Noah.

Revised: 10/2013. Some information originally revealed in this chapter is now in Chapter 5.

Chapter Nine

Working Things Out

 

Once I 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 I could unload all of my problems on without any judgment, and the only one I could rely on for advice, even if it hurt you. 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 bring myself to do it. I want to be friends with him again, I really do, but even that seems impossible at this point. After you died, he was the only person who I felt I could talk to about what I was going through. Now I feel like if I open up to him again, I'm just going to give him the wrong impression.

"At least one good thing has come of the past few days, though. Will convinced me to start going to the gym again. I always thought of it as something I did with you, more for fun than anything. I didn't realize how much I had missed it until now. I've gotten out of shape and let my body go. It makes me feel good to think about being back in shape. I know my actions this past year have probably hurt you, but I haven't been able to find a way to ease my pain. All of my attempts have only ended up hurting me in the long run. Now I'm finally trying to undo some of that.

"But I have to tell you about something that happened at the gym. There's this guy I worked out with briefly the other day and again today. He's in really good shape, and has been giving me tips to try to really bring my body back around. The thing is, I can't help but find myself really attracted to him."

Even though I was fully aware of my surroundings, and had been told by Steve that he already knew everything I was going through, I was embarrassed about explaining to my dead husband that I was beginning to have feelings for someone else. If Steve were here, he would have found the whole situation to be hilarious. Then again, if he were, I would not be having these feelings.

I continued to unload all the thoughts that were weighing me down.

"I'm trying 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. I shouldn't have these feelings about anyone. All I want more than anything in my life is for you to come back to me. If I can't have you, I don't want anyone. I just wish these feelings would go away."

As I said that last sentence, I felt a breeze fill what had been a still early afternoon. I could not tell what direction it came from; it almost seemed to come from all directions at once. As the warm breeze circulated around me, my mental anguish seemed to ease. After a few moments, the breeze faded away.

With my head clearer, I slowly walked back to the street. My feelings for Noah had not changed, but I was more at ease about them. It was not that I was thrilled about having a crush on someone else, but I felt like Steve somehow understood. And through it all, he was happy about it.

Between working out, my long walk, and my emotional release at the cemetery, I did not have the strength to walk back to the gym. Instead, I called a cab to return me to my car. Once there I quickly drove home.

–  –  –  *  *  *  –  –  –

By the time I got home, my head was clearer than it had been in a long time. Tom and Sarah were in the kitchen when I walked inside. I realized I needed to start putting myself out there and try to recruit some new clients, which I had not done since Steve had died. Without a word to the others, 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 long time. 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 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. I guess he did, but it wasn't intentional, or anything. We were talking about why I wanted to lose weight, and he commented that he thought I was already good looking. I got uncomfortable, and bailed.

"Before you say anything, I know it was a chicken-shit move, and I feel bad. I told him before I left that I would join 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 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. Hell, if you were straight, I would've left Chris in a heartbeat for a chance to be with you. You're smart, funny, and hot; the total package. Oh, and you're loaded, which is always a nice perk."

"Um… thanks, I think," I responded awkwardly.

"Yeah, no prob," she said dismissively. "Anyway, I'm proud of you. Sure, you got overwhelmed, but overall you handled the situation wonderfully. I'm still not convinced you answered my question, though. Are you sure you're alright?"

"Yes, I'm sure. Why the third-degree?"

I was getting irritated. I already answered her question and explained what caused my funk. I did not know what more she needed to make her get that I was feeling fine.

"I'm sorry; I'm not trying to grill you." Her sincerity was evident. "It's just that you're not on the Spot. We all know it's your usual base of operations. The only times you've come into the house and immediately sat down on the couch, something was really bothering you."

I had not even thought about my actions when I returned; I had simply walked in the house and started working. I told Sarah as much and barely got the laptop out of the way as she jumped into my lap, giving me an excited hug.

–  –  –  *  *  *  –  –  –

On Thursday, I awoke feeling better than I had in a long time. I could not contain my excitement about meeting up with Noah. As with the day before, I was anxious, but on this wonderful morning, my nerves had nothing to do with my attraction to the hunk of a man. Instead, I was nervous because of how our work-out ended the day before. Do not get me wrong, I was still bothered by my feelings, but talking to Steve had done a lot to help me come to peace with them. I quickly got ready and headed off to the gym.

When I arrived, Noah was waiting outside. Even though I always seemed to run late for everything, I had been really trying to be punctual, but for 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.

As I approached, Noah gave me a smile, but his eyes did not sparkle. Instead, they looked sad. I immediately felt guilty. I had not realized how much I had been looking forward to seeing that sparkle, but I did realize that I was probably somehow responsible 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 for yesterday. I've been kicking myself ever since you left. I'm sorry for assuming you were gay. For whatever reason, you just need 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 you'll be able to forgive me."

I was shocked. I may not be a flaming queen, but I don't think many people had assumed I was straight after more than about ten minutes around me. In the past year, both Noah and Will had assumed I was after my reaction to a pick-up line.

"No. It's not that at all Noah. I'm gay, it's just that with everything I've gone through, the comment overwhelmed me and I needed to 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."

Noah's eyes sparkled a little when I spoke, which brought back the all-too-familiar weakness in my knees. The sparkle left while I finished, but his hazel eyes no longer looked sad. Instead, they were deep pools of concern.

"Do you want to talk about it? I'm more than willing to listen if you do; I've been told 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 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. The day before, I had been so upset with a mildly flirtatious comment by Noah that I actually 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, unsure how to respond. After a moment, the corners of his mouth lifted, revealing a big, toothy grin, and I knew he chose to interpret it – at least on the surface – as a joke. I let my hands fall from my face, and broke into a grin of my own.

What happened next surprised me more than anything. I laughed. Not a light chuckle, which is pretty much all I had managed for the past year, but an actual laugh. Noah followed my lead. After our laughter subsided, which took longer than it should for something so trivial, we walked into the gym together and began to workout.

The majority of the workout was done in a 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 hoped 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 a damn long time. Unfortunately, I have a standing weekly appointment I can't bring myself to miss. Hopefully, you want to get together again on Monday?"

I was going to say 'yes', jumping at the opportunity to see him again. Unfortunately, I remembered my meeting with Will and his friend. I asked Noah if the following day, Tuesday, would work for him, knowing full well we were quickly nearing the point of having to exchange numbers to arrange a future workout session, and I was not quite ready to cross that bridge yet; asking for it seemed a little too much like admitting my crush.

"Tuesday works perfectly for me. Actually, it would have been a little bit of a crunch to make Monday work, because I do have some plans I almost forgot about," 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.

–  –  –  *  *  *  –  –  –

Friday morning, I woke up feeling directionless. I was not yet able to reconcile Will's and my past to spend time with him, and Noah was unavailable through the weekend, which bothered me more than I was willing to admit.

I slept in since I had no plans, and Sarah and Tom had both left the house for the day by the time I woke up, 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. It was not really necessary, as Sarah had done an amazing job keeping the house clean, but it was something to do.

I dusted and cleaned all the surfaces and wiped down the cabinets. I even took everything out of cupboards so I could wipe the shelves clean. I vacuumed the floors, and began to scrub them. When I got to the Spot, something wasn't sitting right with me. No matter how hard I scrubbed, it 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, since there was now a rug off-center in the living room that horribly clashed with the décor, but it satiated me.

When I finished, I grabbed my laptop, and sat down on the accent rug. From that vantage point, I worked for several house. Eventually, Sarah and Tom returned to the house. When Sarah saw me sitting there, she began to cry.

I was worried. She hadn't seen upset when she first walked in, so I had absolutely no idea what had caused her reaction. 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 had no idea the Spot held any significance to her, or anyone else other than 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 you covered it up. Honestly, I couldn't stand seeing it every day. You know, such a blatant reminder of what happened. I knew it was important to you, so I 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 as I pulled her deeper into our hug.

When Tom came home, there was a less dramatic repeat of the same encounter. We 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 already used to working out, and I felt a little off after taking three days 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 had not put any focus on cardio in the past week at the gym, nor had I done much running in the past year. As a result, I quickly discovered I was unable to run very far before I was gasping for air. 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, desperate to get back into shape. I was sore from the past week at the gym, but I was not going to allow physical pain to stop me from reaching my goal.

Like I had the past several times I had spent time on foot, I was not really paying attention to where I was going. In hindsight, I probably should have paid more attention to that, if only so I knew how far I was from 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 I was, once again, at the entrance to the cemetery. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but I think my subconscious was trying to send a message, because I seemed to find my way there whenever I was not paying attention.

I had been there three times in the past two weeks, but before that I hadn't been there since his funeral. I felt bad I had not been by more frequently, but strangely I felt a bit guilty about how frequently I had visited recently; 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 I didn't visit you for so long. It was just so hard living here without you. I also almost feel like I've been bothering you the past two weeks. I'm sure you don't 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 badly. 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 was not quite sure 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 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 you didn't. I need you to give me a sign. Please, Steve, just tell me they're wrong, and I will keep fighting them."

As I finished talking, it was like the entire world stood still. The light breeze that had been blowing through the trees stopped suddenly, and even the ambient city noises seemed to disappear. I stood there for about five minutes, surrounded by complete silence with the still air hanging heavy around me. I wracked my brain trying to understand the signal Steve was sending. The only thing I could think of was he was refusing to tell me to fight my attraction.

"So are you trying to tell me you want me to keep spending time with him, and possibly see where this takes me?" I finally asked cautiously.

Suddenly, 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 never vocalized them.

"Steve, you don't know how much this means to me. I promise that no matter what happens, I will never 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. 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. I also thought about Noah, and our budding friendship that I was beginning to seriously hope 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 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 of the bed, I saw my ring still lying there after all that time. I had not thought about it since I had left town. Without a second though, I put it back on my finger, where it belonged, before I continued into the living room.

–  –  –  *  *  *  –  –  –

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 revealed it was only five o'clock, far earlier than I was expecting, especially considering the strain my recent workouts had taken on my body.

I was on my side of the bed when I woke up, and had managed to avoid having any nightmares the night before. In fact, I vaguely recalled having pleasant dreams throughout the night, although I could not remember anything specific. I began running my fingers on my right hand over the gold band I put back on my finger the day before.

Without really thinking about it, I slipped the ring off to study the engraving. I did not need to; the words were burned into my memory deeper than they were in the metal, but I really wanted to see it again.

Scott and Steve: Forever in Love

As I stared at those words, I could not help but think back on the wonderful years we spent together. I thought about the awkward early dates, our first kiss, the first time I told him 'I love you', the night he proposed to me, and the day I married him. All ranked at the top 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 I had shed since Steve died. As I slid the ring back on my finger, I felt something I had not felt in the past year; I felt hope. Hope for my future.

I continued to lie in bed for a while, thinking back on our life together. I suddenly recalled how Steve had loved to come up with lists of things he felt needed to get done around the house. More often than not, he would pawn the completed lists on me, insisting I should do his bidding, 'like a good wife'. I always complained about the lists, but I secretly loved them. Steve had so many hobbies, so other than the lists, there was little around the house for me to help with.

While thinking about his obsession with lists, I realized Steve had started one the day before he died. Since he usually thought of things right before going to bed, he usually kept any lists on his nightstand. I glanced over, but did not see one, so I opened the top drawer. Sitting right on top, in his hideous scribble, was the last to-do list he wrote.

I picked it up and looked at it, straining to read his chicken-scratch, and was amused at the mundane: 'Do laundry', 'Fold laundry – seriously', 'Dust', 'Mow yard', 'Get groceries – see list'. But the item that really stuck out at me was the last one: 'Order new flooring'. In everything that happened, I had forgotten how quickly we had gotten sick of the current wood flooring in the house. It was old, and had not been well maintained over the years. We had the entire house refinished, but the flooring had been redone enough in the past that the nail heads were visible. Steve decided we needed new floors. We had even picked out the replacement floors, and for over a month, I had been tasked with the final step of actually making it happen.

Feeling a sense of purpose I had 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 wanted to avoid waking them up early on a Sunday morning if possible. In hindsight, it was pointless, given the task I was about to undertake, but at least I meant well.

I walked down to the basement, where I grabbed the toolbox and crowbar. Steve wanted me to replace the floors, and I knew just where to start.

Revised: 10/2013. Instead of Sarah revealing details behind Steve's death in this chapter, Emma and Ethan reveal them in Chapter 5. There are a few hints to Sarah's hidden personality added. A few extra items have been added to Steve's 'honey-do' list.

I have heard so many moving stories that people have shared with me about their lost loves and their personal attempts at moving on. Some have happy endings while some are tragic. Either way, if you'd care to share those stories with me, I would be honored to hear from you.

Any comments, suggestions, or criticisms that you would like to share would also be greatly appreciated! If you have criticisms, please be specific, so that I can try to address them in the future!

Moving On is © Copyright Fitz, 2011-2013. All Rights Reserved.
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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.
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I am so happy Scott is finally trying to move on without feeling like he's betraying Steve. After all, Steve would want him to be happy again; he wouldn't want the man he loved so much to wallow in self-pity and shut himself off for the rest of his life.

 

I also have a funny feeling that Noah is Will's friend who Scott is meeting on Monday. I actually got that feeling when Noah asked Scott if he wanted to talk about the bad year he had. Noah said he was a really good listener and that got me thinking that maybe he's the person Scott's supposed to see.

 

I'm glad you'll be updating more Fitz; I really enjoy this story. :)

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Ok, truthfully, for me this chapter was quite dreary. We spent almost the entire chapter inside Scott's head listening to his thoughts, many of them repeatedly. What dialogue there was was obviously intended to be stilted and awkward, so no help there.

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On 10/13/2012 04:13 PM, Lisa said:
I am so happy Scott is finally trying to move on without feeling like he's betraying Steve. After all, Steve would want him to be happy again; he wouldn't want the man he loved so much to wallow in self-pity and shut himself off for the rest of his life.

 

I also have a funny feeling that Noah is Will's friend who Scott is meeting on Monday. I actually got that feeling when Noah asked Scott if he wanted to talk about the bad year he had. Noah said he was a really good listener and that got me thinking that maybe he's the person Scott's supposed to see.

 

I'm glad you'll be updating more Fitz; I really enjoy this story. :)

Thanks as always, Lisa! Of course, you'll have to wait and see, but since I'm playing catchup, you only have to wait a day to see if you're right :)
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On 10/13/2012 05:11 PM, Conner said:
Ok, truthfully, for me this chapter was quite dreary. We spent almost the entire chapter inside Scott's head listening to his thoughts, many of them repeatedly. What dialogue there was was obviously intended to be stilted and awkward, so no help there.
Thanks for your critique! I think part of the issue with this chapter was that I really wanted to deal with him finally beginning to grasp what 'moving on' actually means. Since Scott is loosely modeled after me, and I spend WAAAAY to much time repeatedly cycling thoughts in my head, I may have done the same with Scott in this chapter. (Honestly, although I remember the basics of what is in each chapter, I just copied and pasted and wrote it quite nearly a year ago. What little of the early stuff I've reread recently, I really want to go back and overhaul a lot (for instance, I kept using 'anyways' and now it's really grating to go back and see it!)
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