© Kat Morgan 1999/2000

In Name Only

Chapter 9: Unexpected Support

Kat poured herself a stiff cup of tea. She had let it steep even more than usual, knowing she was going to need it. The "honeymoon" was over. She had heard the noises coming from Howieís room last night. The sighs, the moans and the cries. It didnít take a rocket scientist to realize what was going on. Kevin was back.

She heard a gasp behind her and spun around to face the man himself. His hair was ruffled, muscles rippling, wearing nothing but a pair of dark blue silk boxers. Gods, he looked so damn beautiful, so damn sexy.

"Morning Kevin. I made tea, but there are coffee grounds in the freezer. I guess they are yours. Iíll make some if you want," she said pleasantly.

"What the hell are YOU doing here?" he asked rudely.

"Thatís something you better take up with Howie. I assume thatís a no to coffee? Good," she brushed past him and headed up to her room.

The slam of the door to the room next to hers told her than Kevin hadnít wasted any time, so she hurried down to hall to the study to get away from the shouting.

She tried to concentrate on the computer screen, to write some more, but it was no good. She really wanted to go down and help Howie, but also knew that that would only make things worse.

"Screw it," she said turning off the computer and heading downstairs. She couldnít find the keys to Howieís car, so just left him a note saying she was going out and headed out.

Not a lot of people walked in this area of town; too affluent to use their feet. So she did get a few strange looks from the people who drove by, but she continued on, determined. Where she was going didnít really matter, just as long as it gave her a chance to think.

She knew this was coming. There was no way that she and Howie would be able to carry through the plan without Kevin being involved somehow. Here was her chance to make a break for it. Only she didnít want to. She was more comfortable being with him than she had ever been with anyone. Even her family. It just seemed so natural. She had never been so content. Her decision to walk away from her old life had been right. And now that Kevin was back it could all blow apart. Howie had been determined that this was the thing to do, but in the face of his lover? Who knows what he would do.

She noticed a bus coming, and was tired of walking, so waved it down and climbed on board. After a few minutes the bus came to a stop in front of a mall, and Kat remembered that all she has had this morning was a cup of tea. "Bound to be a food court," she thought as she walked across the parking lot to the main building.

There was, and she happily munched on an Egg McMuffin, washing it down with some orange juice and another tea. She was still nibbling on her hash brown when someone plopped himself down in front of her.

"AJ?" she said, startled.

"Shh, not too loud. What are you doing here, Kat? You gonna finish that?" he grabbed half of the hash brown.

"Hey! Thatís my breakfast," she laughed.

"Its okay, Iíll get more," and before she could answer he had gone up to the counter and ordered more.

"You didnít say why you were here. Shopping?"

"Yeah," Kat lied, unable to tell him the truth. "Just looking, really."

"What you looking for? I love to shop," he replied.

"Oh gods, Iíd be afraid what Iíd end up with if you were in charge," she grinned. "You have a lot of style AJ, but itís not me."

"Thatís because you havenít tried it. Come on."

She spent the next hour with him. He kept her laughing, and she was impressed by the way he charmed the few people who did recognize him. He managed to sign autographs and still extract promises that they wouldnít let anyone else know he was about. Considering the fact that they hadnít been stampeded the promises held. At least for the time they were there.

"Do you want me to drive you home?" AJ offered.

Kat thought about what awaited her there and shook her head. "I want to look around more."

"Okay. See you later," he gave her a quick peck on the cheek and headed off.

She wandered around aimlessly, unable to get away from the fact that a few short miles away her fate was being decided and there is nothing that she could do about it. And there was no one she could turn to, to talk to. Dammit, and if this charade continued it would only get worse.

"You canít seriously be interested in that dress," a voice said.

"What? Oh, hi Brian."

"That dress. Itís hideous. You canít really be interested in it."

Kat looked at the dress she had been staring at, seeing it for the first time. "Youíre right. It is awful. I think that is why I was looking. Who would make that dress, let alone wear it?" she replied, trying to cover.

As they watched an elderly woman walked out of the change room, wearing the selfsame dress. Kat and Brian looked at each other and burst into laughter.

"That answers that question," he chuckled.

"What are you doing here, Brian? You missed AJ. He left about a half an hour ago. Stole part of my breakfast, the freak."

"The McMuffin or the hash brown? See, travel with the guy for six years and you get to know all his idiosyncrasies. Or idiot-syncrasies as Nick would say."

"And I suppose he knows all of yours?" she smiled.

"Yep. But he better not tell anyone what they are," he smiled back. "So what are you up to, other than not buying dresses."

She shrugged, strangely unwilling to lie to Brian as she had to AJ. "Just needed to get out."

"Know the feeling. Want to grab some lunch? I know it is a little early, but..."

"Iíd love to."

Kat had heard that Brian had a strong sense of humour, but nothing could prepare you for the real thing. One of his idols was Jim Carrey, a fellow Canadian Kat pointed out, and he did a wicked impression of the man.

By the end of the meal Kat could hardly breath from laughing so much.

"Thanks, Brian. That was exactly what I needed," she said as she wiped away a laughter tear.

"I thought so. You were thinking deep thoughts earlier. Donít do that too much. Causes worry lines."

She smiled. "Iíll try and remember that."

"Come on, Iíll walk you to your car."

She looked away, "umm, I didnít bring one. I took the bus."

"What? Why did..." he looked at her face. "You really did need to get out for a while."

She smiled weakly. "Everyone needs a little time alone sometimes."

He took her hand, giving it a little squeeze. "Iíll give you a ride home."

The car ride was pleasant, and Kat was starting to relax when Brian began his questions.

"If you are living with Howie, is this some sort of prequel to a marriage?"

"Ah...maybe."

"Kat, please. I know the guy too well. I knew he would try and come up with some sort of convenient cover story."

She looked at him, surprised. "What?"

"Kat, I do know."

"Know what?"

"That Howie's gay."

Kat stared at him, remembering what she had heard about his very Christian upbringing. "And you're okay with that?"

Brian sighed, eyes focused forward on the road. "Not totally. I was brought up to believe that itís wrong. But he's my bro. I've lived with or around him for years now. I've seen him struggle through it. Howie has always supported me and the guys through all of our difficulties. What kind of friend would I be if I didn't support his decision?"

"So you know that this marriage possibility..."

"Would be fake? Yes. I know why heís doing it and the other night you answered my question about why you are doing it. It still doesnít make sense to me, but you've got my support," he said simply.

"Just like that?"

"Just like that."

She smiled, "thank you, Brian."

"B-rok," he corrected her.

She laughed. "Thank you B-rok. One down, two to go."

"Not three?"

He face clouded. "No," she said firmly. "Kevin was over this morning. He made his views on this very clear."

"It's hard when your lover is marrying someone else."

Kat was glad he was driving because if she had been she would have driven them off the road. She gaped at him - again.

"The others don't know but I figure it out. Not the dumb old country hick they think I am."

He glanced at her. "Oh stop. You look like a fish."

"ButÖ"

"Okay, that one I have trouble dealing with. Kevin's my cousin and I love him. And I can understand why he turned to Howie, but I really don't like it. I am hoping that this marriage thing will set him straight. But I am going to keep my mouth shut. And I expect you too as well."

She nodded. "Keeping my mouth shut seems to be all I do these days."

He changed the subject. "Heís the reason you needed to get out?"

"Yep."

"Damn. I was hoping heíd stay in Kentucky a little longer. Get his head turned on straight by his family. And I take it..."

"He spent the night," was all Kat would say.

"Damn," Brian said again.

"Look, Brian," she saw the glare he shot her, "B-rok then. This is all ridiculous. By the time I get back Kevin will have blown the whole idea to bits. He was furious about seeing me again, and..."

"Whoa. Hold up. You knew about all of this before last night? I thought you only just found out about Kevinís part in it."

Kat sighed and told Brian about the sight she had overseen, and Howie and Kevinís visit to her.

"He never treats people like that," Brian said in amazement. "I mean he can be a jerk sometimes, but never like that."

She shrugged. "He was angry. He didnít know me from a hole in the wall and suddenly I knew his deepest secret. Then to find me in Howieís house this morning. He must be totally freaking out."

"Iíll talk to him."

"No! Donít you dare. If you say anything heíll figure I told you. No, Brian, you canít. Look, I knew what kind of a mess I was getting myself into. I knew he wouldnít like it. Let me just go back home," she laughed humourlessly, "find out if it will still be my home, and face it down."

"Why are you doing this?" Brian asked.

She shrugged. "Because Howie asked. I told you how I feel about him that doesnít change just because he canít be a husband to me. If you want to know if I am getting any financial compensation," she ignored his protest, "that isnít happening. I have all ready told him to get a prenuptial agreement going. And he knows that I am going to be the one making the most stringent clauses. All that I am "getting" out of this is what he offered: time to work on my books, a roof over my head and a man who may not love me but definitely cares about me. Itís more than most women have. And in a few years none of this stuff should matter and Howie will be free and I will be on my way. But until then he needs me and I wonít let him down."

She said back, surprised at her long speech.

After a moment, Brian said, "then tell Kevin that. He may not believe you. Yet. But like I said, you have my support. And a friend to talk to if it gets rough."

Chapter 10