Chapter 24: Back to BSB-Land
He rolled over, one arm falling across the empty sheets. It took a second for his sleep-hazed brain to realize that something was missing, then sat up quickly. Kat was sitting in a chair by the window, wrapped in a blanket, watching the sunrise. He could tell by the expression on her face that something was troubling her.
"Hey," he said softly.
She turned to him, eyes haunted.
She just shook her head.
"Come back to bed."
She shook her head again, this time more vehemently.
"Kat talk to me," he pleaded as he edged to the foot of the bed.
"What was that, Howie?"
"That, that. Last night. That wasnít me, that wasnít you, in the bed last night."
He thought back to their lovemaking session, and realized that she was right. There had been little or no "love" the second time. Just sex. Raw sex.
"That was just sex, Howie," she said bitterly, articulating his thoughts. "Is that the way itís going to be from now on?"
"No! ItÖI donít knowÖ"
"Heís always going to be there, between us, isnít he? No matter what we do?"
He knew whom she was talking about. Heíd been the one who had passed on those "techniques" one late night on the tour bus.
"Guys talk, Kat," trying to explain, knowing it wasnít adequate.
"Yeah, well, I donít want to be a practice session for locker room conversation." She turned back to the window, looking out at the orange sky. "I donít want to be sleeping with AJ."
"Iím sorry. I donít know what came over me. Maybe it was seeing his face on that news report last night. I just..."
"I have apologized for that as much as I can. I have tried to show you how much you mean to me and how much I regret that night. If you are going to punish me for it for the rest of our livesÖ I canít handle that, Howie."
"Please, Iím sorry. It wonít ever happen again. Please come back to bed, Kat."
"I am not getting into that bed again," she spat
He looked at her, realizing the depths of her animosity and apprehension. Silently he rose, grabbed the pillows from the bed, and cushions from the sofa. He made a small nest for them on the floor, away from the offending mattress.
Kat watching him, the play of muscles in his back as he organized the pile of pillows, his firm naked buttocks. He was like a Michelangelo statue come to life, so perfect in form. She had to swallow back tears as she realized what he was doing, trying to build a retreat for them, away from the actions of last night.
"Come to this bed, Kat?" He asked, holding his hand out to her, and she threw herself in his arms.
The plane that Howie had chartered had been sent back soon after their arrival in Las Vegas. So the only way back to Orlando was a commercial flight. It wasnít so bad, except that with the Boysí faces being flashed on television screens across the country in the aftermath of Nickís release, it was hard to go anywhere without a storm of whispers following them.
Arriving in Orlando was worse. The group still hadnít made a public statement, were cloistered from the press. The only people not yet in seclusion were Howie and Kat, so it was open season on them. Howie had called ahead, letting Brian know when they were arriving and the other man had arranged for a limo to pick them up. The only problem was getting through the mob to the car.
Kat got as many questions thrown at her as Howie did. Some of the reporters had done their homework and recognized her from the picture on the Boysí official site. She ducked her head, clinging to Howie, and ran with him to the waiting car.
"Okay, that was a mess," Howie said as they settled back in the plush seats.
ĎWhy havenít they said anything? A public statement would calm things down," Kat complained.
He shrugged. "I told you. Nick wants you to be there when they finally speak. Youíre going to be famous."
"Great," Kat groaned.
"Hey, Iím used to this. Iíll help you through. Weíll just make the announcement and then things will move on to some other scandal. Itíll be old news by the end of the week."
"It better," she muttered. She was a little grumpy from lack of sleep, and Howieís desire to show her that he was "back to normal" this morning had worn her out. It was a very, very happy worn out, but she was exhausted nonetheless.
"Did you ever see the movie No Way Out?" he asked as he pulled her into his arms and kissed her head.
"Yeah? Oh no, HowieÖnot the limousine scene," she giggled. "You are going to be the death of me."
"What a way to go," he whispered huskily in her ear, sending shivers down her spine.
She snuggled closer to him, smelling the light fragrance of his cologne, feeling her strong arms wrap tighter around her. "I like this."
"Just being in your arms."
"Good. Because you are going to be stuck like this for a very long time."
Kat dozed lightly, safe in his embrace, until they pulled in front of the studio. "Here? Why here?" she asked as she looked around.
"Thereí s a huge meeting room at the front. Thatís where they are going to hold the press conference. Come on."
He led her in the back entrance, towards the room where the others waited. She was uneasy, afraid to see them all again for the first time in so long.
"Howie, just a sec. Iím going to the washroom. Wait for me?"
He nodded and she slipped into the room, splashing water over her tired face and putting on a little makeup. "Not great, but itíll do," she thought.
Howie was down the hall, talking to someone. He recognized Brianís dark blond tresses and walked forward. Howie saw her approach and smiled, Brian, turning also, in greeting. She had almost reached them when a door behind her opened and two arms grabbed her quickly, pulling her into the room. She shrieked a little in surprise before focussing on whom had captured her. The room was dark, and she heard the click of the door being locked and then the flick of the light switch.
"Kat," he breathed softly, then kissed her.
She could feel the velvety softness of his lips, but didnít return the kiss. Behind her she could hear Howie pounding on the door, calling her name. She pushed AJ away, and tried to open the door, but his hand held onto the handle.
"Howie. Iím okay. I just need to talk to AJ," she called, hoping her heard her through the heavy door, and turned back to the man in front of her.
"Why are you doing this?"
"I told you. I love you and I want to have a chance."
"Itís not going to work, AJ. I love Howie."
"That night meant something to you too, Kat. I know it did," he insisted, stroking her arms lightly.
Howie was still hammering on the door when Brian pulled him back.
"D! They are in the sound booth. We can see them if we go down the hall."
"If he hurts herÖ" Howie muttered as he and the other three men walked down the hallway. Kevin and Nick had come running out once they heard the ruckus. They glanced worriedly at each other and followed Howie and Brian into the control room. They could see Kat and AJ through the glass, arguing. Kevin had to physically restrain him when he saw AJ kiss Kat, but calmed down when she pushed him away.
"Whereís the sound button?" he asked, looking at the control panel.
"No." Brian said firmly, covering the knob with his hand.
"No, Howie. They have to talk. We know sheís okay. Just let them get it over with."
Howie looked at the others, searching for support, but it was plain that Nick and Kevin agreed with Brian.
"Howie, Kat is a part of your life, and so is AJ. We have to let them straighten this out," Nick said sympathetically.
"Do you really think that sheíd give up on you now?" Kevin asked softly.
Howie looked back at the scene being played on the other side of the glass. Kat continued to push AJ away and was arguing quite forcefully with him. "No. She wouldnít. I justÖ"
"Youíre worried about her. Donít be. She can hold her own," Kevin replied.
"Can she, Train? She left before because of this," he asked, scared of the possibility.
"That was different. In the last few days she has stood up to a lot of trials. Has she backed down?" Howie shook his head. "Sheís not afraid anymore. She loves you and knows you love her. You do love her, donít you?"
"Then trust her. Let her deal with AJ. Just be there for her if it hurts."
"Hurts? Why should I hurt?" Howie was anxious again.
Nick piped in; "D. Whatever else happened Kat and AJ have been friends. She jumped to my rescue pretty damn fast; I doubt she likes having to wound another friend. And she is going to." He nodded to the window where they could see Kat trying to explain something to an AJ who was shaking his head.
"I canít believe you just took him back. Not even talking to me about it first," AJ raged.
"AJ, he was my boyfriend. I betrayed him. I am damn lucky he even wanted to see me. Why would I check with you first?"
"That night was incredible, and I will always remember it. You gave me affection when I needed it. But that was all it was, AJ. Two people reaching out for each other."
"It was more than that for me."
"I didnít know that AJ. I am sorry, but it wasnít for me."
He was lost in memory; "Iíd been falling harder and harder for you for ages. You always made me laugh, stood up to me when I was being a jerk, stood by me when I was upset."
"Thatís what friends do."
He looked at her with hurt eyes. "And youíre saying that is all we are? Friends?"
"No, I donít believe it. Tell Howie that you need some time. Be with me for a while. Iíll prove to you that this is more than just friends."
Kat sighed. She really didnít want to have to do this, but the younger man wouldnít see sense.
"Howie and I didnít come straight here from Toronto."
He was confused by the sudden change in conversation. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"We stopped in Las Vegas. He asked me to marry him."
"Heís my husband, AJ. We got married last night."