In Name Only
"...and we ended up talking for half the night."
Brian nodded, then realized that AJ couldn’t see him. "So?"
AJ flipped the remote, trying to find something, anything, on television worth watching. He accidentally hit a button and the stereo started blaring. "God damn…" He started hitting more buttons, turning more things on before turning the power button everything off. "I am never gonna figure out what all these damn buttons do!"
"Want me to send over Bryleigh. She could figure it all out in a under five minutes."
Why had he brought the subject up? He knew he was going to have to say it. And he knew exactly what Brian was going to say in response. He sighed and readjusted the phone. "We're going to grab a bite together later. Just to talk some more."
"We are just catching up. Two old friends who haven't spoken in a long time."
"Rok, would you stop doing that. Its just an early dinner with an old friend. And if you say anything I'll kick your ass."
"Say anything? What would I have to say?" Brian made a thoughtful sound. "Like maybe 'told you so'?"
"That's it." AJ growled. "That is exactly what I DIDN'T want you to say."
"Oh. Then I won't say it." Brian grinned. "Loudly."
AJ growled again.
"Of course I could say that I, as in the person that is me, informed the person that is you. Or maybe even about time you listened to me. They'd both mean the same thing. Then I could also say..."
"That's it!" AJ jumped up. "I am never telling you anything ever again. Shit, man. So Tina and I are going to talk some more. So what?"
"Oh nothing. Just that you were all ‘don’t want to call her’ last night and today you can’t stop talking about it. Face it, Bone, you still have it bad."
"Do not," AJ muttered sulkily. "Besides, I didn’t mean to bump into her. It just happened."
"Ah, sweet fate… what karma…"
"Shut up, Rok. If I wanted Southern melodrama I’d rent Gone with the Wind."
"Frankly, dear AJ, I don’t give a damn." Then Brian adopted a high pitched voice. "Why Mistuh McLean, I don’t know nothing about getting y’all back together with your Tina baby."
"That wife of yours is making you watch too many damn chick flicks."
"Hey! I like chick flicks."
"I get lots of nookie after watching chick flicks," Brian replied pompously. "Are YOU getting any yet? Hmmm?"
"TMI!" AJ snorted. "Hey, speaking of information… What gives, man? I am getting really sick of all this constant cancelling of recording sessions. This is getting tiring, not to mention expensive."
"That was why I was calling you. All I know is that Nick called and said sorry, no sessions for a few days and we’d understand. Then the little shit hung up on me and hasn’t answered the phone since."
"Did the same thing to me. And I tried to get a hold of Howie and all he said was ‘can’t talk’ and hung up on me. What the fuck!"
"Well, Nick did invite them over last night to talk… They probably ended up in another huge fight and can’t come in until the swelling comes down."
The doorbell rang and Brian lurched from the sofa. "My moronic cousin doesn’t seem to be available either. Maybe I should be calling hospitals."
"Maybe you should call your "friend" and ask her. Maybe she knows what’s going on."
"Fuck off, Rok."
"Awww… Is little Bone-y not liking the teasing? Poor baby. Just a sec, AJ. I have to answer the door." Brian tucked the phone against his side and pulled the front door open.
"Can I… Holy shit!"
The sheer curtains billowed as the breeze swept through the open window. There was a infinitesimal smell of chlorine that came with the draft – not enough to overpower but enough that you would know instinctively that there was a pool somewhere beyond the doors.
But you would know that anyway. You lived here for over three years.
Kat shook off the chill that ran through her. It seemed strange: finally coming face to face with Howie at Nick’s house the night before hadn’t fazed her that much. But here… now… standing in the house they had shared for so long. That was somehow more daunting.
"Can I get you anything? Some water? Tea?"
Kat turned and smiled slightly. "No, thank you. I am fine."
"Okay." He went back to fidgeting nervously with the tablecloth. "Did you want to ummm, look around or anything? Can I get you…"
"Howie, I am fine."
"I’m just…" He took a gulp. "Scared, would be a good word. Scared to death would be more accurate."
Kat clenched her hands into fists, trying to stop her shaking. "I can understand that."
The silence was deafening. Neither knew exactly what to say. Or maybe they had so much to say that they didn’t know where to start. Unfortunately neither knew which of the two was the case.
"How have you been?"
Kat looked at his anxious face. "I’ve been alright. You?"
Could the clock on the mantel tick any louder?
"So, you’re an actor now."
Howie smiled. "Yeah. Got a couple of films under my belt. Nothing major…"
"You got an Oscar nomination," Kat reminded him wryly.
"But I didn’t win." He chuckled. "Sorry, I forgot – ‘It was an honour just to be nominated.’ You would think that after all those years of award shows and stuff like that I’d have that quote down right."
"Slipped your training. Not a good thing."
"I..." He could hear the bitter undertone to her comment. It had been a double-edged statement. He knew what she meant. What could he say? Where did he start? He wanted to throw himself at her feet and beg for her forgiveness. He wanted to prostrate himself in front of her and cry all the tears he’d held in for so long. And part of him, oh that shameful part that had never fully gone away, wanted to pull her into his arms, smother her lush mouth with kisses and feel her flesh against his.
"No, no it’s not." Was the only response he could muster.
There was a loud slam that echoed down the hallway, then running steps. "Howie?"
AJ came scurrying quickly around the corner, then skidded to a sudden stop when he saw Kat. "Oh my God. It’s true."
"Nice to see you too, AJ."
He took a stumbling step forward. "It’s you. It’s really you."
"In the flesh. Which reminds me… Do you have any of your original flesh left or is it all tattooed?"
"Jesus…" Then he did exactly what Howie had wished he could… He pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly. "Oh man, Kat… it is so good to see you!"
Kat tried not to hug him back. She was determined to keep the walls up. But that damn Nick had already put a chink in her armour, and it was hard not to react to the feelings of love and support she felt coming from him. She tried to pull away, but the stupid jerk just pulled her closer and whispered his joy at seeing her again over and over in her ear. He just kept telling her he’d missed her and how good it was to finally have her back. That he was tired of being the only one with any sense around here.
That’s what got her. The notion that AJ was the voice of reason… it started her giggling, then laughing. By the time he finally released her she was sobbing.
"Hey, sweetheart, come on. Don’t cry," he murmured as he brushed the tears from her face. Then, to Howie’s horror, he gently kissed her tearstained cheeks. "It’s gonna alright now. It will be; you’ll see."
She shook her head sadly, leaning back to look him straight in the eyes, those dark eyes that he rarely left uncovered, and revealed her deepest fear. "No, it won’t Alex. It’s never going to be okay."
He could see the fear. He understood it. Had shared it too. "It will be. We’ll make it better. It’s gonna be hard; you were away for so long. And we’ve all gotten set in our ways. But we’ll fix it. I promise."
"I… I’m not certain I want it fixed," she whispered.
"You’re saying that because you are scared. You’re saying that because you’ve gotten set in your ways too. But we have to make it all right. Win or lose, it all has to be dealt with properly. And I am going to be right here, by your side, helping you on this. And kicking your butt if you need it."
Kat gave a low laugh. "Good gods, he HAS become the voice of reason. The world is obviously coming to an end."
"So I admit to an ulterior motive. This whole thing has totally overshadowed ME!"
Kat chuckled in earnest as she wiped the remaining tears from her face. "Can’t have that."
"Damn straight. I am AJ McLean. I am meant to be the center of attention. I am meant to be worshipped."
"Knock it off, Ego Boy." Kat stepped back and looked around the room. "Where’s Howie?"
"I think I scared him off."
"Well with that face…"
"Hey!" He pulled her in for another hug. "Damn I missed having someone who can kick my ass regularly."
"Hard to do. Not much of a target," Kat smirked, and AJ rolled his eyes. She glanced around quickly. Making sure that Howie really wasn’t in the room. "Why Alex? Why do you say you are on my side? You weren’t before."
"Not at the beginning," he admitted. "But we overcame that didn’t we? Hell, I was jealous of you being so close with D, then I wondered how the hell you put up with him. And Kevin," he shook his head and missed seeing her tense up. "They had to hold me back, you know. When he said… umm, what he did to you. Nick and Howie had to hold me back so I wouldn’t kill him."
Kat leaned in and kissed his cheek. "Thank you, Alex."
He winked at her. "We’ll fix him too."
Can you fix something that was broken that way? What was gone is impossible to find again. No, no matter what AJ said it was better to just leave that alone. Let Kevin and Chris be together. He’d never stopped loving his son that way he had her. She’d learnt to live with the knowledge that he didn’t love her. There was nothing that could change that.
"I am more concerned with Chris spending time with his father." See? She couldn’t even say his name. Take a breath, Kat. It’s going to be hard being around him, but you can do it. You’re strong. "It would be nice to spend some time with you and all my other old friends too."
He could sense her hesitance, and decided to avoid it much as he was sure she wanted him to. "And Howie? You going to spend time with him?"
"I believe I was talking to him before you burst in."
"Oops." AJ actually looked sheepish. "So you were. Maybe we should go find him, hunh?"
It wasn’t too hard to locate the older man. He was sitting at the kitchen table, a cup of tea clutched in his hands. He nearly overturned it in his haste to stand when they entered the room.
"Bone. How you doing?"
"Good. Look, I’m gonna go now. Sorry I interrupted you I just… Anyway, I’m outta here." He turned back to Kat. "CALL ME!"
"Yes, sir," she grinned.
"Finally getting some respect around here," he chuckled, then walked over and gave Howie a hug. Kat could tell from the nodding heads that something was said, but she wasn’t about to ask. Howie’d been good enough to leave the room when she and AJ had spoken…she’d give them the privacy they needed. She turned and walked back into the living room.
He’s changed it around somewhat. Or maybe Todd had. She knew about that… it was a lot easier finding out things about famous people than the other way around. She wasn’t sure how she was going to bring it up, but she would. Eventually.
"I made tea."
She didn’t bother turning, just continued looking through his pile of cds. "Haven’t we had this conversation before?"
"I just meant that…" He broke off. Damn it, he was NOT going to shake at everything shed said. AJ was right – he had to stick up for himself. "Suit yourself."
She was about to turn back to him when something caught her eye. And the anger that surged forward… She bit it back as hard as she could. "What’s this?"
She pulled the cd out of the pile and held it out to him. "Kim Stockwood’s Bonavista. Why have you got a copy?"
"It’s the album you told Kevin to listen to when you left."
"I know what the damn album is, Howie." She was having a great deal of trouble keeping her temper in check. "Why the hell do you have it?"
"You had to take that too? My final message to him and you had to take that away too?" She opened the case and took out the cd, then flung the case at him. If he hadn’t ducked it would have it struck his head.
"You want messages, Howie? Well here’s a damn message for you. One I should have given you a long time ago. Funny how it’s on the same album, hunh." She slammed the cd into the player and clicked a few buttons. "Here. This one is for you. Sums you up so well."
He recognized the song immediately as the first chords came through the speakers. "Kat… " he said as he stepped forward.
"What? You don’t get it yet? Here, let me turn it up." She cracked the volume button around, so that the sound of the words echoed through the room.
Since you’ve been gone I feel so much better How I’ve waited for the day You Jerk
Cause I saw how mean you could be
I used to want some explanation
Now all I want it my Patsy Cline CD
When I could finally say
You are such a Jerk
There are other words
But they just don’t work
How I’ve waited for the day
She was singing along now – Kat never sang, not when she knew others were listening, but she was singing. Flinging out the words of the chorus with such rage, such anger, such hate. God, what had he done to her? How had he hurt her?
"You jerk! You asshole. You fucking bastard! How could you? How could you do that to me?" she screamed at him.
He grabbed hold of her flailing arms and pulled her against him. "Oh God, Kat I am so sorry, I am so sorry."
She struggled, but he held on and the two of them finally slid to the floor, both sobbing
"Jerk" by Kim Stockwood (duh!)