© Kat Morgan 1999/2000

In Name Only

Chapter 60: Trying to calm

"I’m going to kill him."

The others turned startled faces to the speaker. They were all still shocked by the drama that had occurred in front of them. Only Brian seemed capable of movement, having been brought out of his paralysis by Kat’s need to get CJ. But all he was doing was pacing back and forth between the two doors, trying hard to get his brain to process what had just happened.

"I’m going to go in there and rip his fucking head off. I’m going to kick the shit out of him. I’m gonna…" he finally broke off and stalked towards the shut door.

Nick jumped in front of him. "No, AJ! That’ll only make things worse."

"Worse? How could they get worse?" AJ barked as he struggled to get around the larger man. "Did you hear what he said, Nick? Let me at him…. I’ll…"

He feinted right and then twisted left, eluding Nick’s grasp. Only to come face to face with a white-faced, red-rimmed-eyed Howie.

"If you go in there you will upset CJ," he said softly. "He may not be my son, but I won’t let you do that."

"D… Oh fuck," AJ knew his friend too well, He knew that Howie was just holding on by a thin string. He pulled him into his arms, holding him tight. "I am so sorry, D."

Howie accepted it for a few moments, but was too close to the breaking point. Again. He stepped back, breaking AJ’s grasp. "Don’t be sorry, Bone. This is all my fault."

"It is not, Howie," Brian assured him. He knew, they all knew, that the situation had gone on too long. That the strain on the three had been heavy. But Howie was wrong when he took all the blame on himself. And Kevin had been wrong to blame Kat. She was the one who had been right: they’d all contributed to this.

They’d all put the group in front of doing the right thing. They had all been afraid of the fallout from telling the truth. They had all put stumbling blocks in the way of taking the time to straighten things out. It was all of their fault. They hadn’t done it intentionally. But they hadn’t stopped it either.

Howie sighed. "Look, I appreciate it, Brian, but…" He broke off, sighing again heavily. "There is nothing we can do to fix this tonight. Kev’s too angry." He glanced at AJ. "And so are you. Just… let me try and talk to Kat. Try and calm her down. Make sure she is okay. Maybe in the morning…"

"That makes a lot of sense," Nick agreed. Nick? The voice of reason? "Come on guys, let’s pack it in."

AJ glared angrily at Kevin’s door, looking like he was going to argue. Then he nodded and loped down the hall to his room, shoulders even more hunched than usual.

Nick smiled supportively at Howie then headed up to his room.

Brian gave Howie a pat and a squeeze on the shoulder, then gathered the silently weeping Leighanne in his arms. She was so upset he had to half-carry her back to their room.

"And then there was one," Howie muttered, as he stood alone in the hallway. He shook himself and moved over to Kat’s door. He knocked. No answer. He tried the handle, but she had put the security bar across.

Finally he went into his room and tried to enter through the adjoining door. He jiggled the handle. It was unlocked, but he couldn’t get the door to move. He jumped back as something hard and heavy was thrown at the door, hitting right about at head level.

"Kat, please…"

"Leave me alone."

Her voice sounded so cold. So empty.

"Let me in."

"Leave me alone," she repeated. He could hear the hysterical edge to light sobs.

"Forget that," he mumbled, pushing hard on the door. It took a moment, but he managed to push his way in. She’d obviously realized that he would try and get to her that way: she had put the desk in front of the door, but he shoved it aside. He ducked another shoe thrown at him and climbed on the bed beside her.

He tried to take her in his arms, but she fought him. She struggled wildly, clawing and scratching him, landing a few good punches. He was going to hurt tomorrow.

Every time he thought he’d finally gotten her she twisted out of his grip again. It was only the coiling of the bedclothes that ultimately held her still long enough for him to grasp her tight.

Once she realized she was securely entrapped she gave up. And gave in to the shuddering sobs that rocked her body.

Howie closed his eyes, trying to shut out the pain he felt, as she wept unabashedly. He knew how AJ felt. Knew it better than anyone. And she’d been right (damn, wasn’t she always? She knew them better then they knew themselves); he hadn’t said anything lately about her. Just "I don’t want to lose CJ." They had both forgotten all about CJ’s mother. Who had been standing in the middle, keeping everyone sane. Never once reminding them that she was there. And never once hearing that how much they cared about her.

Until now.

And Kevin had made it very clear he DIDN’T care.

Damn him.

Howie was not going to do that any longer. If Kevin was out of the picture, fine, but he was not going to lose Kat.

CJ… there was nothing he could do about CJ. That was one battle he’d never win.

But Kat…

It was time to make his play. It was time to let her know how he felt.

Though not right at this moment. Right now she was too busy dealing with her broken heart. Too busy crying. If he told her right now she wouldn’t hear him. Let her calm down. Give her a few minutes. He’d just be here. Hold her. Let her know how much he loved her just be his presence. When she quieted down he’d tell her. Show her.

It took a while.

She cried so much that the front of his shirt was soaked and the salt from her tears was stinging the scratches she’d given him. He rocked her gently, trying to get her to relax. But not so much that she feel asleep.

He wanted her awake. Aware.

He kissed her forehead gently. "You okay?"

She laughed harshly. "Oh yeah. Just peachy."

"Come on Kat," he said stroking her hair. "You know what I mean."

She sighed. "Then no. No, I am not okay."

"He had no right to say those things to you."

Kat winced, hearing Kevin’s words echo through her again. "I gave him the right."

She glanced around the room – noting the disarray on the bed, the askew desk and the flung objects. "I think we’re going to lose our deposit," she said wryly.

"Hey, who says that pop stars can’t trash hotel rooms as well as rock stars," he joked lightly, happy to hear that she could joke, even a little.

He loosened his arms, letting her sit up, flinching as her elbow brushed against one of the spots where she’d really walloped him during their struggle.

"Howie?" Kat had heard his intake of breath.

"It’s nothing," he replied, but she didn’t believe him. She pulled his shirt up to reveal several long scratches and a couple of beginning bruises.

"I did that?" she asked in horror, tears pricking in her eyes.

"It’s nothing," he repeated, cupping her face, making her look into his eyes. "Don’t worry about it."

"I hurt you… I didn’t want to hurt you. I’ve tried so hard not to hurt anyone," she started crying softly again.

He knew that it was more than just his aches she was talking about, and just held her, stroking her back and murmuring endearments. She only cried for a few moments; she had no water left in her to cry with.

"Sweetheart, it is okay. It doesn’t hurt."

She obviously didn’t believe him because she poked one of the bruises and he couldn’t repress a grimace.

"Okay, so it hurts a little. You have a good right hook." He kissed her puffy and tearstained cheek. "I can live with it."

She nodded, accepting his words.

He brushed her hair back from her face, looking at her critically. "Just a sec. I’m going to get a damp cloth."

He crawled of the bed and went into the bathroom. By the time he got back she was up too, trying to straighten up the room.

"Leave that," he commanded. "Come here." They sat down on the edge of the bed and he gently wiped her face, cleaning away the major residue. "Much better," he said, giving her a quick kiss.

Kat took the cloth from him and pulled his shirt over his head quickly. She cleaned his wounds carefully, wiping away the few tiny pricks of blood that she had drawn.

Howie groaned and moved her hand away. He gulped. "Kat…"

Chapter 61