© Kat Morgan 1999/2000
In Name Only
Chapter 6: Getting to know you
"Clinton not inhaling."
"Jesse Camp as a sex symbol."
"Weight loss through diet of grapefruit and candy corn."
"Ralph Benmergui with his own talk show."
Howie broke into her list making, "what are you muttering about?"
"I am trying to remember when I have heard a more ludicrous statement. Get real, Howie. Marry you?"
"Believe me, I am totally serious. I know it is a lot to ask."
"A lot to ask?" she mimicked him. "Its ridiculous!"
"Look, this is how I figure it. You and I get along really well. But we are both at a point in our lives where we don't really have a personal life: me for my reasons, you for yours. Let's join forces."
"Kat, please. I know that what I am asking is a lot. I need someone to help me, help the group, get through the next few years without a scandal. Just for a few years and then it won't matter. I hope. But I don't just want to be with someone because it's convenient. I want to be with someone who I can talk to, someone I can share things with, someone who understands me."
"Understand you?" she cried incredulously. "No, Howie, I do not understand you." She stalked back to the window trying hard to control her anger. When she turned back he was sitting with his head hanging low. She sighed.
"D, I know what I said about giving up on love and all that stuff, but that doesn't mean I want to give up on life. What you are asking is too much. I'd have to give up everything, just to stand beside you, acting like some sort of big babysitter."
"I realize that," he said softly. "I'd be putting you in the middle of a media minefield, forcing you into a lifestyle that I can't even handle most days. And for nothing more than my gratitude."
He paused, "or more…"
She slapped his face. Hard. "Want someone to prostitute themselves? Go get one. I am out of here." She grabbed her jacket and purse, but he seized her before she could open the door.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. I'm sorry," he said frantically as he clutched her arm, tears running down his face.
Kat could never handle seeing anyone cry. Man, woman, child, it didn't matter. She was a sucker for tears and had to help if someone was hurting. "Howie…" She just hugged him.
"You're right. You don't understand. How could you?" he said as he wiped away the tears, regaining his composure. "I am in the spotlight all the time. They're probably downstairs now, all ready aware that I'm in town. I am a gay man who is a heterosexual role model. I have a lover who, as much as he cares for me, is filled with loathing for everyone, including himself. I have friends who I can't come clean with. I have a family who raised me Catholic, and who are very devout. And I have this best friend who I just insulted in the worst possible way."
"It's not that bad," she said smiling sympathetically. "Your friend will forgive you. And I haven't heard the stampede of the press, so I think you are still safe in here."
He laughed, pulling her closer into his arms. "Thank you."
She sighed and kissed his forehead, smoothing his hair back. "You really are trapped, aren't you?"
They sat there, arms wrapped around each other, lost in their own thoughts. The silence stretched, but it wasn't an uncomfortable one. The quiet was broken finally by the rumbling of Kat's stomach, which caused them both to break into giggles. "Sorry, I was too nervous about coming here. I couldn't eat anything," she mumbled.
"Come on, then," he said, standing, and pulling her up. "Let's go get something to eat. It's been getting kind of deep in here anyway."
"Are you sure you want to go out? We could just order room service."
"Can't a guy go out for dinner with one of his best friend? Come on, Kat. I think we could at least brave this."
"But, I'm not a model or anything. It might hurt your reputation," she said, then laughed as heard what she had just implied.
"I just asked you to marry me, and NOW you're self-conscious?" he laughed. "Come on. Food first, life decisions later."
"Wait. Before we go… Who's Ralph Benmergui?"
Kat laughed, "Guess which one of us is the American? He used to be a VJ at MuchMusic, then moved over to the big stations. He has a talk show on CBC, and it’s just an awful show and he is terrible at it. He is one of the most heinous people on Canadian television."
"Heinous, hmm? I like that word."
Dinner was actually a lot of fun. Yes, Howie was recognized, but no, no one bothered them. They went to a little restaurant near the hotel and munched on Mexican food, something they discovered they both had a passion for. They talked for hours. About the 'safe' subjects,' like books, movies, even music. He'd had the opportunity to meet, or be around, people she idolized, and he was impressed by the number of people she had met considering she didn't travel in the rarefied circles he did.
"So John Cusack was in town? Filming down by the end of your street? And you were too scared to go talk to him? He's your favourite actor of all time!" he said, shaking his head.
"I know. But I was scared. I just hid at home, rarely going out at all. I mean, he's a god to me. It's not always a good thing to meet your idols."
"Yeah, I guess," he said sadly.
But Kat was two steps ahead of him. "Of course, in your case it was the best thing ever. Besides, I got to know you before I knew you. So you are still an idol, but not a god."
He laughed. "How do you do that? Separate the two Howies. I don't know how. Its like you still listen to our music and stuff, but it is distinct from how you treat me."
She shrugged. "I don't know. It's funny. I never really think about it. You're you, and Howie D is some other famous guy who just looks like you. I still enjoy the music," she smirked. "Even after meeting Kevin."
"Oh boy, big mistake," she thought as his face fell. "Howie, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring that up."
"It's okay," he sighed. "You and Kevin didn't meet under the best of circumstances. I wish you could see him the way I do. He's not like that usually."
"Fine. Tell me about him, then."
"God, how do I describe him? He's incredible. He has been the force who has kept us together trough everything. He is so strong, but caring. He practically raised Nick. And he is always there for us and he always has good advice..."
Kat smiled as she listened to him talk. Howie was clearly in love with Kevin and had been for some time. She tried hard to reconcile the man that Howie saw with the one she's seen, but failed.
"So why is he so..." she couldn't think of a word that worked.
"Why was he such an asshole?" Howie offered.
"He's been through a lot over the past while. He recently…" he stopped when he saw Kat hold up her hand. "What?"
"Howie, look, you can tell me all the stuff you want about yourself. I won't pass it on. But please don't tell me things about your buddies. Not without their approval. Just say he’s been under a lot of pressure and leave it at that. I have a sneaking suspicion that Kevin wouldn’t take too kindly to having you tell me anything about him."
He sighed. "You’re right. He has taken a big dislike to you. That’s why I couldn’t answer whenever I saw you waiting. He wouldn’t let me."
"So he was there too? Watching me?" Kat was starting to get angry again.
"Yeah," he hung his head.
Kat released the breath she had been holding in. Then shook her head. "Okay, so if he is going to invade my privacy, I’ll invade his. Dish, Howie."
He laughed. "You are doing it again. Making me relax, when I really don’t deserve to. No matter what, I hope we can continue to be good friends."
"I do to," she smiled, then leaned forward conspiratorially. "But you are not getting out of it now. I want gossip! Enquiring minds want to know."
"Groan. Forget it. Let’s go, I think they want to shut the place down." He rose and offered her his hand.
The cool late evening air hit her like a ton of bricks, and she could not repress a series of yawns.
"I’m not that boring, am I?" Howie said, as he noticed her try and cover yet another one.
"No. Its just too much food, that wine, and I didn’t sleep well last night."
"Poor Kat. Come on. You can stay in my room."
"Look, I know you live here and all, but it is awfully late, and there is a spare bed in the room. I won’t bite. Remember?"
"I can take a cab…"
"No, you can’t. Come on. And Kat? If there are any reporters in the hotel, please don’t make me look bad by having to drag you up to the room."
She laughed, which turned into another yawn. "Okay, I knew when I’m beat."
Sleeping in the same room as Howie. How many girls on the planet had THAT fantasy? And here she was doing it. Well, she’d worry about the implications later. She was too tired to stay awake any longer.
Howie watched her sleep. This was one of the few times he had ever regretted being gay. Kat was like no other woman he had ever met. Strong, though she didn’t seem to know it. Beautiful, though she vehemently denied that. Intelligent, funny, caring. Damn, why was he the way he was?
He was more convinced than ever that if he was going to spend a lot of time with a woman that this was the one. He realized he was asking far too much, and really had nothing to offer her in return. Except maybe the security of a home and an opportunity to concentrate on the writing that she loved so much. He had read her stuff and it was great. Much better than some of the novels he had read recently. He was sure that, given the chance, publishing companies would be fighting each other to get her on their authors list.
The other things he had to offer her were all double-edged. A loveless marriage, okay, not totally loveless just sexless. A centre stage position in the public spotlight. The only support she would get, from any one other than him, would be the others in the group, and if Kevin was any indication there would be little or none of that. She’d have no one to turn to; she wouldn’t be able to tell her friends or her family, just as he was unable to tell his folks.
He couldn’t do it. He’d find another way. Or he’d start paving the road for coming out. If it was a slow, subtle thing it might work out okay. He liked Kat too much to do this to her. He felt like a creep for even asking.