In Name Only
"Howie? You still there?" Todd's voice sounded shrill through the telephone.
"I'm... I'm still here," Howie replied weakly.
"Are you going to say anything?"
"I... I don't..." He sighed. "I don't know what to say, baby. I mean after all this time..."
"Yeah, well, I can tell you what I'd say."
Howie smiled weakly, having a feeling he knew what Todd was about to say. He asked anyway. "What?"
"How the hell could you go to another agent!?"
Even though the words were expected, the vehemence behind them was funny and Howie chuckled.
Then they both sat in silence for a few moments.
"Howie? It’s up to you. I mean, I don't know for sure. It might not be her."
"How long would it take you to find out? Definitely?"
Todd shrugged. "Not sure. From what Bianca says this Jeanne woman is very reclusive. She's not even sure she's got her real address. All we know is that the writing styles are similar enough that it twigged in Bianca's mind. And having read the manuscript, I'm even a little hard pressed to tell the difference. If it is Kat, it is not her best work but its not her worst either."
"And if it’s not? If we get all the way there and its not her... I don't know if I could handle that. And I know that Kevin couldn't."
"Then don't tell him. Wait. Just until we can find out a little more about her. If things start to match up, then we can get him on the first flight."
"Not we. I. You aren't supposed to know about any of this," Howie reminded him.
"If this really is Kat do you honestly think that Kevin will care if I know or not?"
Howie shook his head, then remembered they were on the phone and Todd couldn't see him. "Probably not. I just... I need to tell them something. I can't just show up for recording then take off without an explanation. And if I do tell them why, then..."
"Stop it! Howie, you are doing it again. Look, it happened a long time ago. Maybe she's forgiven you, maybe she hasn't. Deal with that when you can. Kevin has forgiven you, or at least as best he can until Kat and CJ are back where he can see them. Give me a few days. If we have anything to tell him then we will. Don't worry about it until then."
"Sure thing, Dad," Howie joked.
"Knock it off or I'll come up there and turn you over my knee."
"Ooooh, would you?"
Todd laughed. "Any time you want, darling." He paused. "I miss you."
"I miss you too. And Todd? Even if this is her, it doesn't change anything between us. I love you."
"Thanks D. I needed to hear that."
"Can I follow it up with a thank you for doing this? And for calming me down?"
"Howie, we both know that you are Mr. In Charge when it comes to your career, heck, when it comes to most of your life. This situation with Kat is unresolved and you still feel a lot of guilt. So it's the one thing that makes you un-calm."
"Shut up. I'm not the writer; I'm the agent. My English isn't perfect. What I was trying to say is that as good as your marriage to Kat was, your breakup, or the reasons for your breakup, stunk to high heaven. Some of it your fault..."
"A lot of it."
"You're pouting again. Don't do that unless I can be there to kiss it better. You know what those luscious lips of yours do to me."
"As I was saying before I was so lusciously interrupted... It was partly your fault, partly Kevin's, hell, partly everyone’s. Having it drag on unresolved for so long is still making all of you crazy. And if it helps you any, I love you too."
"It helps. Just... Please find out if it’s her, Todd. Please."
"What do you think?"
"I think you should cut your hair," Tina replied not even looking up from her magazine.
"We are not talking about my hair. Come on, tell me what you think of this suit."
She glanced him up and down quickly, then returned her gaze to her magazine. "Very sexy."
"Gee, say it like you mean it," he snorted.
"Kev, you always look sexy in black. That suit’s not going to change anything. Now could you just buy it and let’s go?"
"What’s with you?" Kevin replied as he started to remove the jacket. "You’ve been a miserable grouch all night."
"Man troubles," Tina muttered.
"Is this about Jim? I hate to say I…"
"If you dare say ‘I told you so’ Kevin Richardson, I am going to go out into the mall and scream loudly that you are in here and you’re scantily clad!" Tina growled.
"Fine, then how about if I said he wasn’t good enough for you?"
Tina sighed. "Who is then? Seriously. Who is good enough? Why can’t I seem to have a decent relationship anymore?"
He unbuttoned the crisp royal blue shirt he was wearing and untucked it from his pants. "You’re asking me?" he asked with a smirk. "Me? The King of Skirt-chasers?"
"Ha ha. I wish I’d been there when she’d called you that. I could have used a good laugh."
"You wouldn’t have wanted to be. She was all over Bone like, like… Hell, I don’t know. She was just all over him. Even he looked embarrassed." He undid the zipper on the pants then remembered he was standing in the middle of a store. "Be right back."
"Whatever." Tina suddenly found an article that was oh-so-fascinating. What the hell was she thinking? It had been almost a year and a half. They had broken up because they just didn’t mesh anymore. So why, for the last few months, had she been unable to get AJ off her mind?
Maybe it was because now that she was doing more freelance work and she was able to pick and choose her jobs. Staying in touch with Kevin had not been without its benefits; he had suggested her name to a few high-profile movers-and-shakers in the entertainment industry. As a result when she worked, she worked hard and long hours, but she also made enough money that she didn’t have to work as often as she had in the past. She controlled her schedule. She could have as much free time as she wanted. Or not. That had been one to the problems with her relationship with AJ; he wanted her around all the time, and she was determined not to "sponge" off him so she had to work.
Or maybe it was because, again, of her friendship with Kevin. Now that he was back with the Boys he was seeing AJ more regularly. So naturally he was going to talk about him whenever he and Tina got together.
Or maybe it was because she hadn’t had a relationship that seemed worth anything since they had broken up.
Its not like she hadn’t tried. She really had worked hard on making things work with Jim. He was just absolutely incapable of being faithful. I mean, once she could forgive. It’s not great, but it happens. You talk it out (okay and maybe throw a few plates) but you worked it out and moved on. A second time was inexcusable. And, having found out about the second time from another friend, marching home to confront him and walking in on a third escapade…
"I wonder if he ever figured out exactly why his car wouldn’t start," she mused.
"Talking to yourself is the first sign of insanity."
"You oughta know," she shot back. This time he was wearing a light grey shirt with a dark, almost charcoal, grey suit. "That outfit’s nice."
"It speaks! And it even notices what I’m wearing," he replied as he preened in the mirror.
"Sure do, pretty boy. You look, umm, funereal. Tall, dark and brooding. Lose the tan and you could be the next Lestat."
"Oh goodie," he retorted. "Just the look I was going for."
"I’m the dumbass? Who are you trying to kid?" He knelt down in front of her. "Face it girlfriend, the reason you keep dating loser-men is because you’re still nuts about one AJ McLean."
Tina looked at him, wide-eyed with shock that he had seen what she had tried to keep so well hidden. Even from herself. Then she blinked. "Say that with a lisp and you could put RuPaul out of business."
He chuckled and gave her a kiss on the forehead. "Smartass. You know its true."
The magazine got interesting again. "I will neither confirm or deny. I plead the Fifth."
"Yeah well, you plead your Fifth right on over here and tell me which suit to buy."
"What is this for again?"
"How can you be up for awards already? You guys only just got back together! What are they giving awards for the group you thought most likely to never get back together again and then they went ahead and did it anyway?"
"Now I remember why I keep you around: comic relief. I’m up for two awards for those songs I wrote last year. You remember... they both went number 1. Were there for weeks."
"Oh yeah. The overplayed ones," Tina replied as she straightened the tie around his neck, then turned him back to face the mirror. "Yep, definitely this one. Tall, dark and brooding always worked for you."
He grunted. Then looked at her uncertainly. "Did you really never think we’d ever get back together?"
"I thought it would happen. Just not until after…" her voice trailed off.
"Until she came back and things got straightened out," Kevin finished.
"Don’t tell anyone, but I thought the same thing." He loosened the tie and started to unbutton the jacket. "Do you think…" he started nervously.
"That she’ll come back?"
"No." He couldn’t ask the question. He was too afraid of the answer. "Do you think that maybe you and I are missing the boat? Maybe we should get together; we seem to have the same luck in love and at least we get along."
"Sorry. No more dating guys with commitment problems for me."
"Hey! I don’t have… Okay, so I do. But you have to admit; I haven’t cheated on anyone. If I need to try something else I end the relationship."
"Yeah, but only be a matter of minutes," Tina retorted. She grinned impishly. "Its like eating and swimming, Kevin. Wait at least an hour after breaking up with someone before you hop into the sack with someone new."
He laughed, wrinkling his nose. "That explains the stomach cramps."