© Kat Morgan 1999/2000
In Name Only
Chapter 27: Donít fail
They managed to get to the stadium before the others, sneaking in the side door. Kevin went straight to his dressing room after giving her a quick, discreet hug.
The others entered about 20 minutes later, laughing and joking, then settling down as soon as they saw her sitting there scribbling in her notebook. Judging from the sheepish looks on their face Howie had all ready broached the subject of Paul with them.
"Hey guys," Kevin said, coming out of his room when they others stumbled in.
"Train! Where have you been, cuz?" Brian asked, glad of someone else to focus on. If he was hoping for a change of subject he was disappointed, as Howie and Paul entered the room.
Kat rose and gave her husband a kiss on the cheek, then turned to the others. "Sorry, I borrowed Kevin for the day. I needed help with something. Besides, I think Howie had something he wanted to talk to you about. Kevin and I had all ready stated our views so..." she shrugged.
"It would have helped to have you around to tell us your thoughts," Nick said.
"Kat and I both approve. Iím sure Howie told you that," Kevin put in.
"He did. It just would have helped to hear it from you," AJ pointed out.
"And the verdict?" Kat asked.
"Umm. They wanted to talk to you first," Howie replied.
She looked at each of them in turn. "I donít believe you. For gods sakes, arenít you adults? Canít you make a decision on your own?
"Come on Kat, this is..."
"A big decision. Yes, I know B-rok. But itís also one I canít make on my own. Thatís why I knew you and Howie had to talk about it on your own. Just because I said it was okay with me, doesnít mean you would agree. He needs to hear your views from YOU."
"Kat, weíre still adjusting to all this. How are we going to..." AJ started but she cut him off. "Why are you telling me this, Bone? Talk to Howie. Look, heís right there."
AJ stayed silent.
"Howie, Kevin and I talked about this at breakfast. It is a big thing to ask. And it will affect each and every one of you. Which is why it canít be something that Howie and I agree on by ourselves."
Nick snorted. "Its not like you two havenít gone out and made decisions without us before."
"Youíre right, Frack. We did," Howie said softly. "But we apologized for that and told you that weíd involve you in anything else that could affect the group."
AJ sighed. "True. And you did ask us all individually to think about it, D." He glanced at Kat. "And I do appreciate that you stayed out of this the way you did today."
Kat flushed, knowing the reason sheíd stayed away had nothing to do with Howie. Kevin noticed and placed his hand on the small of her back, offering her support.
Nick cleared his throat. "I know Iím the baby of the group and you never ask for my opinion until last...so Iím jumping in now. I donít like it. But Howieís stood by me too many times in the past for me not to support him now. And I think we are going to have to get used to the fact that he is gay. I mean weíve said we are but weíve never had to come face to face with it like this. You have my approval, D."
Howie flashed him a huge smile, which Kat seconded.
Brian looked up. "Okay, here is where the country bumpkin totally throws over his rural Christian stereotype. Itís okay with me, D." He got up and offered his hand to Paul.
AJ sighed. "So what kind of cover are we going to come up with for why heís here?"
"I think that is an okay, Howie," Kat chuckled. "I think weíll just stay with the one I used last night. Paulís here to help me with my book." She paused, "that way I wonít have to borrow Kevin for as long as I did today," she glanced at him and he chuckled.
"Whoa! Wait just one minute!" Brian said spinning around. "Kevin was helping you with the new book? And Nick helped with the last one? That is not fair! I wanna help," he whined.
"Me too," AJ laughed.
Kat rolled her eyes, "anyone care if I borrow Brian for a while tomorrow? Clearly my book suddenly requires a whiny character," she laughed.
"No fair," Kevin responded, mimicking Brianís voice. "I thought I was the model for the petulant characters."
Kat, who had just taken a sip of water, spat it out, choking on laughter. Howie patted her back, trying to help her regain her breath, chortling heartily.
"I think itís a private joke," AJ stage whispered to Nick.
"I hate those," Nick replied.
Kat finally caught her breath. "So are we agreed?"
The others nodded their heads.
"Good," she said as she wiped the tears of laughter from her face. "Now if you little stage boys will excuse me I would like to talk to my new assistant." She smiled at Howie, flicked a quick glance at Kevin, then grabbed Paulís arm and escorted him out of the room.
"So can I stay? Can I be with Howie?" Paul asked softly.
"Come on, I want to show you something." Kat took him to the front of the stage. There were roadies, technicians and security people scurrying around: a veritable city of people preparing for the concert. She pointed to the people, then out to the thousands of seats in the stadium.
"See all this?"
"This is all for five guys. Just five guys. They get up on this stage and perform and tens of thousands of people come to see them. People who love their music. Who idolize them. And behind the scenes there are hundreds of people who feel the same way. Whose livelihoods depend on them."
"I understand all that."
"Good." She turned and looked at Paul straight in the eye. "And if you do anything to hurt that I will personally rip you limb from limb."
Paul was silent. Shocked by the vehemence of her tone.
"Paul, I need you to understand this. But I need you to understand me. I love Howie and I will do whatever I can to make him happy. I also like you. But if I have to chose between the two itíll be Howie. Every time."
"I realize that."
"And if he has to chose, heíll chose me, and this," she gestured to the huge theater. "This is his life; what he has worked so hard for."
"There is more to him than this," Paul protested.
"I know that too. But Howie made some choices about how he wanted to live his life a long time ago. Before he met you, even before he met me."
She sighed. "You two are good together." Paul flushed. "And I want you two to work out. But you need to know that you, like me, are strictly a behind the scenes person. No body can notice you. Itís been hard for me, but you are going to need to be even further behind than me. If Howie needs someone on his arm itíll be me, not you. You are going to be a ghost. And the only time youíll be able to see him is when it is totally safe."
"Do you think you can handle that, Paul?"
The man looked around at the stadium and the people on stage. "I really care about him. I want to be with him. I know itíll only be for a little while; I have to get back to Florida to work in a few weeks. But I want to spend this time with him - for as little or as much as I can."
"There are five guys back there who are putting a lot of trust in you," she reminded him.
"I realize that, too. And I could see how wary they are. I wonít fail them. I wonít fail you," he promised.
"Just donít fail Howie and the rest will take care of itself."