© Kat Morgan 1999/2000

In Name Only

Chapter 7: Acceptance

Kat was awoken in an unfamiliar room, by an unfamiliar sound. It took her a minute to remember where she was. And then the sound came again.

"No, I canítÖ"

She looked over at Howie as he thrashed around in his bed, stuck in a nightmare. She climbed out and walked over to him, sitting beside him. Whatever it was he was struggling with it seemed to be more of a subconscious thing. Not like a physical struggle. Her sister had had nightmares growing up and Kat could always tell the difference between the boogeyman attacking and someone wrestling with their problems. He was definitely doing the later.

She thought about what he had said earlier, and at the restaurant. He was trapped, and that was not a pleasant feeling. She wished she could help, but what he asked was too much for her. I mean even if she was to consider it, they really had only known each other for a few months. More than that; almost eight months. But then it had been online. Sheíd only physically been around him twice. Okay three times, but she doubted that being in the audience at the Skydome, with ten thousand other fans really counted.

She brushed the hair back from his face, noting his flushed cheeks. He seemed to quiet a little at her touch, so she snuggled down beside him, hugging him gently. That helped a great deal. His breathing calmed and he stopped moving frantically. "Why am I doing this?" she thought as she curled herself around him. "Because you care about him," was her mindís response before it pushed her back over to unconsciousness.

When Howie woke she was still cuddled up next to him, only it was his arms around her. He remembered his fretful dreams, and the feeling of being safe that had occurred suddenly and realized that was when she had joined him. It was one of the most peaceful nightís sleep he had had in a long time.

He knew when the bad dreams had started. When he and Kevin had started sleeping together. As much as he loved Kevin, that was when his insecurities about his sexual orientation had really come home to roost. He laughed to himself. "I finally get the man of my dreams and it terrifies me."

He looked down at Kat. "I think I understand why you hid from John Cusack," he whispered.

Heís been trying to be quiet but she must have heard him, because her eyelids started to flutter. She opened them slowly, looking at him.

"Morning," he smiled at her.

"Morning to you. Feeling better? You were restless last night."

"Much better. Thanks. You?"

She nodded her contentment, then stretched, cat-like.

"I better call room service and get some breakfast up here. You want to take the shower?" he said as he climbed out of the bed.

"Sure. Iíll be a few minutes," she calmly wandered into the bathroom and used the shower. Fortunately she also had her emergency toothbrush in her purse. No, she hadnít planned for that when she had come out with Howie! It was just there because she hadnít changed her purse since her weekend jaunt to Kingston. She was refreshed and clean when she emerged.

"My turn. I order some pancakes. I hope that is okay. They should be here shortly."

"Okay."

And he disappeared into the other room.

Kat sat heavily on the bed. This being together stuff had been so comfortable, so natural. It was like her mind had clicked to a different track over night. She still loved him, but not in love. It was companionable. He still made her heart race a little, but in the same way that seeing a good friend after a long time did. It was a nice feeling.

She reached over to the phone on the bedside table and dialed quickly. "Helen? Hi, its Katherine. Could you put me through to Jeff? Thanks."

"Hello Jeff? Itís Katherine. Yes, I know I am late. Yes, I know I disappeared the other day for most of the afternoon. That is why I am calling. Fine, Jeff. No! I am not going to beg you to keep my job. I think we are in agreement on this. I was calling to tell you I quit, effective immediately, anyway. I will be by to pick up my things late this afternoon. Helen can help me, so we do not even need to meet. Get Finance to run me my final paycheque and a record of employment and we are square. No, I am not calling your bluff, Jeff. I have been offered another opportunity that is much better for me. Goodbye."

"Oh gods, what have I just done?" she thought as she put the phone back down. There was a knock on the door, and Kat opened it, letting the waiter roll the breakfast cart in. She signed the receipt, hoping that Howie wouldnít mind, and took a long pull on the tea that he had thoughtfully ordered for them. That was yet another of their common interests, discovered one night after dissecting a novel.

"There do seem to be a lot of those," she mused.

"A lot of what?" Howie had emerged from the bathroom.

"A lot of similarities in our tastes. Breakfast is here; I started on the tea."

They sat and munched on the pancakes, both lost in their own thoughts.

"Kat, about last nightÖ"

"I used your phone. I hope you donít mind."

Howie was surprised by the interruption. "Thatís okay," he frowned. "I wanted to..."

"I didnít call the tabloids or anything. I just called the office."

"To tell them youíll be late? Makes sense. Kat, I really think we should talkÖ"

"I quit my job."

"Are you ever going to let me finish a sentence?" he said, frustrated. Then, as it sank in, "you did what?"

"I quit my job."

"Why?"

She shrugged. "It seemed like the right thing to do."

"But, you loved that job! Okay, so loved is too strong, but you were enjoying it."

"Donít need it."

"WhatÖ"

"Yes, Howie, I will move in with you. I will marry you."

He was stunned. He gaped at her. "You canít! I mean, donít. I meanÖ"

"So now you are taking back the proposal?"

"No! Itís just. I canít do that to you."

"You arenít going to do anything to me, remember?" she smiled at him. "Itís not open for discussion. Iíve made up my mind. Sorry, you are stuck with me."

It was a good thing she was sitting in a heavy chair because he flung himself at her, hugging her tightly. "You will? I was going to say that it didnít matter. But you will? Oh thank you, Kat."

Then he leaned back and searched her face. "Why are you doing this?"

"I donít really know. It just feels right. You said it wouldnít be forever, but it just seems to make sense to me for now."

"You wonít regret it! Iíll be the best husband ever!"

"No, Howie. I donít want that. Just be you. Thatís who I am doing it for. We can figure out the details as we go along. Letís just get me packed up and down to Orlando. We can try for a few weeks, just to see if it still works and then, if it doesÖ the whole shebang."

"You are the most amazing person I have ever met."

She blushed. "I doubt that. But you are right. We can help each other. And if I donít do something about trying to get published now I never will. It is not the best solution, but if, together, we can make a little room for each other, that would be advantageous."

They headed over to the Katís apartment and looked through her things. She was surprised at how little she actually wanted to take with her. The autograph collection was a definite: Howie was still drooling over some of them. Her dragons and a select pile of her books. The computer, of course. And the big oak desk it was on. Howie balked a little at that, but she was insistent.

"Do you have something that brings you luck? Does the group have some sort of little ritual that helps you get through a performance?"

He nodded.

"Well this is mine good luck piece. I have written my best stuff on this desk and I am not parting with it. The rest can go. Not this."

He gave in. She knew he would.

Collecting her things from the office was even easier. Helen had overheard Jeff rage about having his bluff called and had packed up most of her stuff for her (even included a few pens, pads and a stapler Ė just to annoy Jeff). Kat smiled, but removed them, and pulled the rest of her things from her locked desk drawer. Howie was amusing Helen, who was awestruck. Who wouldnít be?

Kat didnít tell her exactly what was happening to her, just that she had an opportunity to work on some things with the Backstreet Boys organization and was heading out immediately. She had had to tell Helen something about the other day and the mountain that moved, and had said that she was meeting with some senior people at a record company. Not a falsehood, but not the real truth either. Helen now understood, or thought she did and was enthusiastic in her praise of Kat.

The two women hugged their goodbyes, and Kat slipped out. With Howieís help, in a matter of a few days she was packed, shipped and ready to leave. She was heading away from her old life. She didnít really know what she was getting herself into, but she and Howie had cemented their high comfort level with each other over the past few difficult days.

Maybe this would work.

Chapter 8