© Kat Morgan 1999/2000

In Name Only

Chapter 19: Tabloid tale

The last few days of the tour were tense. Nick was, alternately, ignoring her and dropping hints about his continued interest. At least now he was trying to be a little more discreet about it. He had said something at one point when Brian was around and gotten a filthy look from Frick for it. Now he only did it when they were alone, which wasnít very often. It wasnít uncomfortable, actually very flattering, and Kat caught herself seriously thinking about taking him up on one of the more blatant offers. Unfortunately she knew that it couldnít work that way for either of them. Neither of them was the type of people who had quick flings, and the variables were too many: if it didnít work out what would happen, or worse if it did work out... Nick wanted a relationship, and she couldnít give it to him.

AJ and Tina seemed lost in a secret world of their own. Funnily, Howieís announcement seemed to pull them closer together. They had been practically inseparable, and AJ was more affectionate towards Tina than Kat had ever seen him. It was almost like someone had hung a huge neon sign saying
"couple in love" over the two. The one time Kat and Tina were alone, the other woman had told her that she had known about Howie for a while and not to worry (not that Kat was). She also blushed a fiery red when Kat asked how AJ was taking it, which made her a bit curious. However, Tina just smiled mysteriously and said that he was feeling alot better about it now.

Kevin kept casting strange looks at Howie and Kat, individually and when they were together. Kat couldnít figure out if she wanted to know what was going on in his head or not. Brian had given her insight into the way that he had been behaving, and Kat was sympathetic, but whenever the two got together for more than a few minutes they ended up sparring with each other. He was probably a lost cause. She was worried about Howieís relationship with him. They seemed to be getting along better, but both were short-tempered, something that was uncharacteristic for Howie at least. Kat had the feeling that a great deal more had been discussed between the two than just "Howieís gay" and considering their history she would have been surprised if there hadnít been. Whatever had happened it was clear that harsh words had passed.

Brian was the only one who was, well, the same. If you ignored the fact that he was practically bouncing with joy over the fact that Leighanne had joined them for the last days. The two were constantly making romantic "googoo eyes" (as Tina called them) at each other. It was so cute; it was impossible to spend more than a minute in a room with the two of them without feeling the need to grin idiotically.

When her agent called from New York to ask Kat to come there for a few days to sign contracts and review editorial revisions, she was grateful for an opportunity to get away from the confusion. Howie was sad to let her go, and the farewell scene at the airport seemed to be on the cover of several tabloids for days afterwards, however, she knew he was secretly relieved to be able to spend some time with his "brothers" alone (well, almost), and try and work on rebuilding.

Kat was also glad to get out of the fishbowl life that she had been leading, and to be able to wander free and concentrate on her stuff, rather than being at the Boysí beck and call. Lauren, her agent, proved to be a great person, and the two women spend several evenings out of the town together. It was only after their third evening out that Lauren realised whom the husband that Kat had referred to was. Kat had managed to sneak a few clauses into the contracts which said that no mention of her husband and "extended" family were ever to be made in publicity material, but Lauren had assumed that that was just the usual "author protecting her family" stuff; something she had run into several times before.

"Damn! I wish Iíd asked earlier," Lauren moaned over dinner that night. "They are at the top of their game right now. Tickets to their concerts are the hottest things on the planet right now. My nephew told me he paid a scalper $500 for a ticket when they last came through New York, and it wasnít even front row."

"I get to see their concerts for free any time I want," Kat teased.

"Oh shut up!" Lauren laughed. "You realize that if you hadnít put those clauses in that the book would have moved at least ten thousand more units."

"Probably," Kat agreed. "But the book isnít about Howie, and I refuse to ride his coat tails."

"Good for you."

Kat smiled. "This is my story, and while heís the one person who has read it all so far, and given me a few suggestions, that is the only input I want from him. This is MY career. I want to be the "hottest ticket," as you put it, in my own right."

"I love the book. I think it could put you on top. I wonít promise it, though," Lauren sighed.

"Donít worry. I know the reading public can be fickle. I just want it published." She chuckled, "then maybe I can support Howie on the royalties from my book once the royalties from his career dries up."

Lauren smiled. "I doubt that will happen for a long, long time. Todd is nuts about the group, and has been an unwavering fan for years now." She frowned quickly. "Umm, Kat? Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure."

"You do realize that many of the Boysí fans are, well, gay, right?"

Considering her situation, Kat couldnít help but start laughing. It was so ridiculous. "Yes, Lauren, I do know. Please, the video for ĎQuit Playing Gamesí made me all hot and horny, I am quite positive it had the same effect on others, gay or straight."

"Which one was that?"

"First album. They are dancing in the rain, wet shirts and all."

"Oh yeah, I remember. Todd likes that one."

Kat wiggled her eyebrows. "Yep, Howie takes his shirt right off at the end. Rippling muscles and all. I tell you, it is a real chore having that in your bed every night."

Lauren, unfortunately, had just taken a sip of her wine and ended up choking when she started to laugh at the same time as drink.

"And no, I donít care about gay fans. Fans are fans. None of the Boys care, so why should I?"

"I donít know. Itís just that you hear all about them being devote Christians and all..."

"Lauren, I am not totally Christian and Howie is Catholic. He hasnít tried to convert me in any way; neither have any of the others. They are all pretty much live and let live kind of guys," Kat crossed her fingers under her napkin as she included Kevin in that analysis. "I donít think any of them have a problem with gay fans. Itís the psychotic, stalking type they do worry about. But then all celebrities do."

"Have they... I shouldnít ask, should I? It doesnít really matter to me personally. Itíd just be gossip."

"Like I said earlier, Iíd really prefer to keep Howie and the others out of my professional life," Kat replied. "Though if you and Todd, was it?, are interested, I could probably swing you a few tickets if they are playing nearby."

"Not for me, thanks. I prefer classical. But Todd would love you forever."

"Sounds good. Just remind me. I might even be able to get some backstage passes." Kat leaned in confidentially, "I know someone on the inside really well." She winked cheekily.

Lauren laughed. "I think I am going to enjoy working with you."

Kat raised her glass in a toast. "Then here is to good working relationships," and the two women clinked glasses.

It turned out that Todd worked with Lauren. He practically fainted when Kat was introduced to him. HE recognized her right away, and was overjoyed to hear that she could get him an introduction at some point.

Completing the editorial revisions took less time than Kat expected and the book was almost complete (except for the final chapters) by the end of the two weeks she was in New York. An artist had been contracted for the cover and Kat was very pleased with the preliminary sketches. It was all happening so fast.

Less than a year ago she was in a dead-end job, and the only ray of sunshine in her life was her online friendship with Howie. Now she was about to be published, by one of the most prestigious firms in North America. She was married to Howie, though not totally. And best of all, the two were mutually exclusive; the success that she was achieving had nothing to do with Howie. Other than giving her the time she needed to finish her writing, it was only his love and support that had helped her get here. Okay, so the book hadnít been published yet, and who knew if it would be successful, but she had done it; she had finally finished it and it was going to be released.

She stayed in New York for another week; putting the finishing touches on the book. She and Howie had fallen back into their old online patterns, and he had been enthusiastic about the ending. Lauren was also thrilled, and the publisher seemed equally pleased. There would be some revisions, but the presses had been booked and it was going to be a spring release: in time for the summer reading push.

That left Kat with time to do one last errand that she wanted to do while in New York.

She was just finishing up her packing, getting ready to head home to Orlando, when she got a frantic call from Howie.

"Have you seen the papers?"

"No," she frowned. "Whatís happened?"

"The bitch went ahead and did it. Suzanne sold some of the pictures." He stopped, "I never told you about what happened with Kevin and Suzanne."

"Itís okay, D. Brian did. Shit. Which papers?"

"God, it feels like all of them. I am sure the New York Post has them. The Enquirer does, and so do all the TV tabloid shows. The bitch planned it perfectly: we just get back from a hugely successful tour and this is the first thing that hits once we get back. Shit!" Howie was very upset.

"Forget her; what about Kevin? Is he okay?" Kat asked worriedly.

"Hell no. He is flipping right out. You know how he is about anyone knowing about his personal life. Brian has been talking him down all day."

There was a knock on the door, and Kat asked Howie to hold on a sec. Todd was outside, with a worried look on his face, clutching several newspapers.

"Thank you, Todd. I just found out," Kat grabbed the papers and picked up the phone. "Howie? Someone just brought me the papers, and.... Oh my gods!"

The grainy picture on the cover was of an almost naked Kevin holding a blonde woman, and the pictures on the inside were more titillating. They included pictures where the two were clearly having sex, though the major parts were blocked out.

"Umm. Kat?" Todd said, handing her another tabloid. "It gets worse." Most of the pictures in that one were the same, however in this one was one that was clearly of her giving him oral sex.

"Oh gods, Howie. He must be hysterical." Kat was crying now. Whatever fights she and Kevin had had, he didnít deserve this.

"The media is camped out in front of his house. Brian had to sneak over the back fence to get in," Howie said sadly. "I donít know what to do, Kat."

"Go see him, Howie. He needs you."

"But Iíll just make him feel worse. He all ready hates me for our affair; this will bring it all back," Howie was starting to sound hoarse, like he was crying too.

Kat glanced at Todd, who kindly walked over to the other side of the room. "He wonít hate you, love. Howie, he has been hurt really bad by this. He needs his friends. Be united. It will all pass. He needs you, Howie."

"When are you coming back? I need you, too."

"My flight was this afternoon anyway. I will try and get an earlier one."

"Kat?" Todd piped in again. "There are reporters downstairs. They know you are here."

"Shit!"

"What?" Howie didnít know that there was anyone else around.

"Sorry, D. Todd is here; you know, the guy from my agentís office who is a fan. He brought me the papers. He says there are people downstairs waiting for me."

"That damn farewell scene that the Firm insisted on. Dammit," Howie said.

"Sweetie, donít worry. Iíll ride it out. You just go see Kevin. Iíll be there as quick as I can."

"Thanks. Kat? I really miss you, you know?"

Kat felt a surge of joy at his words. "I miss you too, Howie. Iíll be home soon. Bye."

She hung up the phone, but stood staring down at it with a little smile for a moment. Then glanced at the papers that lay on the table beside it and swore again.

"What can I do?" Todd asked, and she swung around, having forgotten he was there.

"I donít know, Todd."

"Are the pictures real?"

"Probably," Kat thought, but knew that wasnít an answer that she should give. Clearly no one had made a statement yet. Maybe there was a chance to nip this in the bud...

"I doubt it," she lied. "Not to say that Kevin couldnít be the man in the pictures, but knowing him it is very unlikely. He is very protective of his privacy; having pictures of him like this out there...no, I very much doubt it."

Todd wasnít convinced. "It does look very much like him..."

Kat laughed lightly. "I have pictures at home of me with all sorts of famous people that I whipped up with a scanner and a computer." She chuckled, "I even have one of me and Howie together that I created with a graphics program several years ago. I still havenít shown him that one."

Todd smiled. "Lucky you - your picture came true."

"Yeah," Kat sighed happily, then shook her head. "This is not something that Kevin needs. Why him? The tabloids usually go after AJ for this sort of crap." She was determined to plant the seed of doubt deeper in Toddís mind. If she could convince him, maybe...

"He is Mr. Body Beautiful," Todd pointed out and then blushed.

"Aha! So Kevin is your favorite," Kat smiled.

Todd turned a deeper red. "Umm, actually Howie is."

Kat giggled. "Mine, too."

Todd grinned. "And you donít mind..."

She shook her head, thinking "if only you knew." "His picture is up on bedroom walls all over the world. I meet people with crushes on him all the time. I knew it was going to happen, and I have received some hate mail, but he makes it all worth it." She looked down at the papers in her hands, the photos of Kevin, and the look on his face. The trust that that horrible woman had shattered, and all the repercussions of it. "This on the other hand, isnít worth it." She shoved the papers in the garbage bin in disgust.

"Todd? Can you call the airlines? Find me an earlier flight to Orlando. The one I was supposed to be on is leaving at 4, but I want to get home earlier."

The man nodded and grabbed the phone book and telephone and began making calls. Kat finished her packing quickly, making sure that one special piece she kept with her. Todd had found her a flight that left in an hour, which gave them just enough time to get to the airport. It was a first class ticket, something Kat still hadnít gotten used to, but having it would ensure that she got herself on the plane, and her bags checked quickly.

She checked out using the phone, telling the desk manager that she was leaving the key in the room. He said it would be best, and warned her that there was a small press huddle forming in the lobby. He suggested that she sneak out the back way, but Kat thanked him and said she wasnít about to hide over something so ridiculously false. He agreed politely, and Kat was unsure if she had sold him on the idea, but she was going to keep on going the way she started.

Todd helped her carry her large bag down, giving her all the flight information as they went. She let him take the bag out and hail a cab, while a few reporters quickly surrounded her, several of whom she recalled from the interview she and Howie had given before their wedding.

"Have you seen the photos, Mrs. Dorough?" one asked, thrusting his TV camera, with the logo of the trashier tabloid TV shows on it, in her face.

"Yes. Hilarious, arenít they?" she replied calmly. It was clearly not the reaction any of the press had been expecting. One, that awful jerk from the Enquirer who had been so nasty about the engagement, actually dropped his jaw in shock.

"Hilarious?" the TV man repeated.

"Of course," she frowned prettily. "You donít think they are real, do you?"

The woman from the tabloid that had published the worst of the pictures reacted indignantly. "We checked the source of those photos carefully. They really are of Kevin Richardson."

Kat snorted derisively. "Please, it doesnít even look like him. A good graphics program and you can put his head on anyoneís body. Remember, I was a fan before I had the good fortune to marry Howie. I have seen lots of picture like that over the years. Iíve just never seen a paper stupid enough to publish them before."

The womanís mouth moved, but no sound came out. One of the other reporter snickered.

"You deny that they are of him?" another piped in.

"I have spend the past few months on tour with my husband. I know the Boys very well, and I doubt that Kevin would ever let himself be in this kind of position."

"Which position was that?" the awful Enquirer man shouted.

She cast him a disgusted look, but refused to answer him. "I do not believe that the man in those pictures is Kevin. It doesnít even look like him. Check out any of the many videos that the group has released over the years, I am sure you will agree."

"So you are not speaking from personal experience?" It was the Enquirer man again.

"I am married to Howie. I donít pay much attention to the Boysí bodies when I have such a beautiful man to call my own," she spat. "I have seen them shirtless or in shorts, same as anyone else has over the years. Thatís it."

"Your taxi is waiting, Mrs. Dorough," Todd said politely, from the edge of the crowd.

"Thank you." She turned back to the press. "If you will excuse me, I find this whole situation ludicrous."

She moved away, but one last question was flung at her. "If those pictures do turn out to be true, then what do you have to say?"

She shrugged. "If it really is Kevin, more power to him. Itíll dispel the stupid rumours that her paper," she indicated the woman reporter, "has been trying to spread about the Boys."

"Thatís it?" The Enquirer man said incredulously. "No condemnation?"

"What for? I have no problem with Kevin being a practicing heterosexual. Heís almost thirty; he had to have sex at some point. Heís even admitted to it on several occasions. Big deal. I do think it is pretty rude to print photos and claim they are of him." She shook her head, "why canít you leave them all alone? The only thing that the Backstreet Boys have ever done is be good at their job. It is more than I can say about whoever faked those photos."

She turned and climbed into the taxi that Todd had waiting, murmured her thanks to him, and headed out to the airport.

Chapter 20