Comfort and Joy

Who decided that a concert on Christmas Eve was a good idea, anyway? MTV, that’s who. What, like you expected any less? None of us had wanted to do it, but with pressure from the record company, of course we did. So we’d spent the afternoon and evening performing a Christmas concert with MTV’s other favourites.

I’m sure you can guess who was there. I’m sure you can also guess who was the first to perform and who was the last. Yeah, Nsync, Britney and everyone else were already well on their way home, while we had to wait until the bitter end.

And that would be why we were scrambling through the airport on Christmas Eve. Brian and I were of course trying to get home to Kentucky, and Nick, AJ and Howie would be on their way to Florida.

I couldn’t exactly say I envied them. Sure it would be nice to not have to deal with the cold (and let me tell you, New York was nowhere near warm.) but I couldn’t imagine having Christmas without snow. Still, I knew that they were going to be with their family, and that’s all that matters on Christmas.

Hopefully we would be there soon enough.

~~~

Airport security is always a nightmare, and not where I wanted to be on Christmas at all. Leighanne was waiting for me to get home with the rest of my family. She wasn’t interested in coming to the MTV concert. Not that I blamed her, if I’d had the choice I wouldn’t have been there either.

That’s not to say I’m not grateful that we have opportunities like this. Of course I am. However it would have been nice to do the concert a bit earlier. What fans would be watching on Christmas Eve anyway?

Okay, I knew the answer to that. But they could have just as easily watched it a week ago. That would have made everyone’s lives easier, I’m sure of it.

As I usually did at airports, I waited impatiently as I watched AJ and Nick go ahead of me. AJ was always setting off the metal detector, and Nick was always getting questioned. Our trips to the airport were like clockwork.

I smiled to myself for a brief moment as Nick gripped Mandy’s hand. As much as I disliked her, she seemed to make him happy. Once again, I wished Leighanne was with me.

But I would be with her soon.

The rest of us got through security without an issue, as we usually did. I looked down at my ticket. The gate Kevin and I were at was different than Howie, AJ and Nick. That made sense, since they were going to Orlando and we were off to Kentucky.

“Well, I guess this is where we split off,” I said once we were all past the scanners and bag checks.

Kevin wasted no time. He was probably more anxious to get home than I was, if you can believe that. Christmas is his favourite time of year and he was pretty unhappy about having to miss even a second of the festivities.

“Merry Christmas guys,” Howie smiled brightly. He was always smiling, even when the rest of us were in a crummy mood.

“Merry Christmas,” I replied, returning the smile. I nodded at Nick, Mandy and AJ and the four of them walked off as Kevin and I began to walk towards our gate.

“I hope they make it back to Orlando in time,” Kevin said, and I nodded my head. Our flight was supposed to be leaving in about a half hour, but the flight to Orlando wasn’t leaving for another hour.

“Me too.”

We were both quiet for a little while until we finally reached our destination. I began digging around in my bag for my passport and other travel documents. Not that I needed them just yet, but I liked to be prepared ahead of time.

“Tell me that’s not what it looks like,” Kevin said slowly as we sat down in the uncomfortable airport seats.

“What?” I asked, looking around.

Kevin pointed in the direction of some airport staff and we went over to where they were talking.

I couldn’t hear a lot of what they were saying, but the basic gist of it was that our flight was delayed due to the snow storms in New York. I could have guessed that, after all we were nearly late getting to the airport since traffic was so bad. Which was probably another reason Kevin was in such a bad mood. So far things hadn’t gone according to plan at all.

I had to admit, it wasn’t an ideal situation. I couldn’t blame Kevin for being upset, I wanted to get home too. Now we were stuck in the airport for a while, until they decided that it was safe to get going.

“Well that’s just great,” Kevin muttered angrily as we sat back down in the uncomfortable seats.

I tried my best to be positive. After all, being in a bad mood wasn’t going to help anything. “At least we’re not here alone,” I pointed out. “And the other guy’s flight to Orlando is probably delayed too, let’s go check on them.”

Kevin just shrugged, but he did get up. So much for trying to be cheerful. I looked at all the families and people sitting sadly in the airport. I wondered why they had decided to travel on Christmas Eve instead of earlier. I guess there are other reasons to be stuck somewhere besides an MTV concert, but still. Everyone just looked so sad. It broke my heart a little.

~~~

“Do you guys want a coffee or something?” I asked AJ, Nick and Mandy as we sat at the gate. I didn’t really know what to do. We weren’t sure how long we’d be waiting for since we’d just been informed all the flights were delayed indefinitely.

Just another reason I loved living in Florida, not having to worry about snow!

They all shook their heads and I decided to go over to the small coffee shop anyway. I was surprised it was open, but it would give me something to do at least.

However, I wasn’t surprised to see Kevin and Brian walking towards me. After all, their flight was probably delayed as well. There was no sense in the two of them waiting alone at their gate.

“Just our luck, huh?” I smiled as I approached them, and Brian nodded back with a smile on his face too. That was Brian for you, he’d always try to put a positive spin on things. Or at least be upbeat when we thought it might help.

“Of course the storm didn’t get really bad until the concert was over. The snow couldn’t wait another couple of hours.” And that was Kevin for you, grumpy whenever things didn’t go his way. Especially when it was so far out of his control.

After we were mildly comforted with coffee and some baking from the display case, we sat back down at the gate with AJ, Nick and Mandy. Nick and Mandy looked fairly content, reading some magazine. On the other hand, AJ looked bored as he seemed to be staring off into space and watching the people around us.

Personally, I found it amazing that no one had recognized us yet.

“Oh my God!”

Spoke too soon.

A girl who looked about ten years old was rushing towards us, holding the hand of a girl who looked to be about six. I guessed that they were sisters. They both looked alike, anyway.

She stopped about ten feet away from us. I figured she was considering if she she approach us or not. I gave her a small wave, trying to let her know that it was okay. I looked over at the others, and only Brian seemed to see her as well. I guess the rest of them were too wrapped up in being miserable to notice.

“Hi,” she said timidly as she walked up to Brian and I. She looked behind her at who I figured were her parents. They gave her a slight nod and she looked back at me.

“Hi there,” I smiled at her. “What’s your name?”

“Andrea,” she said shyly, then pointed down to the girl with her. “And this is my sister, Jenny.”

“Nice to meet you,” Brian said, also giving them a smile. “Where are you girls flying to?”

“My Grandma’s house in Raleigh,” she explained. “We had to leave late because of my Dad’s job.”

I nodded. “We had to leave late too because we were working,”

She beamed. “I know, I watched it on TV. You guys were the best part.” Then she lowered her head a little sheepishly. “That’s another reason why we’re here late…”

I smiled a little. At least they wouldn’t have to worry about missing their flight since everything was so delayed. “I’m glad you liked it,” I said. “Would you girls like an autograph?” I asked. Not because I was trying to get rid of them, but because I knew that sometimes the fans who approached us, especially in situations like this, were too shy to ask.

“I’d love one!” she squealed, pulling off her backpack and fishing around in it for a second. She pulled out both of our CDs. “Could you sign Millennium for me and the other one for my sister?” she asked, taking the jackets out of the plastic cases and handing them to me.

“No problem,” I said as Brian handed me his sharpie. He was always prepared with one of those, just in case we ran into a fan. It happened a lot. “How do you spell your name?”

She showed me how to spell hers and her sister’s names correctly and I signed the CDs quickly. I passed them on to Brian who got the attention of the others behind him. They gave their autographs as well and soon I handed Andrea back her new prized possessions.

“Um,” she started, looking a little braver than before. “Would it be okay if I got a hug….from Nick?”

I had to do everything in my power to not laugh. She was adorable, and Nick was always the favourite. “Oh Nicky,” I turned around to get his attention. “Come over here and make this girl’s Christmas, would you?”

And that was when Nick flipped the switch on his charm. No wonder all the girls flocked to him. He sauntered over and gave each of the girls a big hug. “Merry Christmas, girls,” he grinned.

“Merry Christmas,” they both said in unison.

Andrea quickly thanked us for the autographs and the two girls ran back to their parents. I gave them a small wave and they smiled back at me gratefully. It made me feel better about being stuck in the airport. At least us being there had made their Christmas that much better.

~~~

I was surprised that so far, only one fan had approached us. Not to be arrogant or anything, but usually once we were spotted it was all downhill from there. I looked around the terminal. Everyone seemed to be too wrapped up with their own business to notice us. I guess that’s what happens when you’re stuck in the God damn airport on Christmas Eve.

Nick and Mandy were sickening, sitting there in the airport holding hands and whispering to each other. I didn’t get why she had to be there, other than riding the coat tails of our career to further her own. I didn’t dare say that to Carter… at least not while she was there, anyway.

They were annoying me even more than usual because I was missing my panda back at home. Being stuck in an airport blows, but being stuck in an airport on Christmas Eve is like hell on earth. Everything is busy, everyone is pissed off, and no one wants to be there. Not even the people who work there. It’s just one big cheer sucking suckfest.

Bah humbug. Where’s the eggnog?

“Don’t pout, J,” Brian said lightly, offering me a small smile. That guy was always trying to see the best in every situation, and sometimes it really annoyed me. Especially today, because you could tell he was just doing it to try and cheer himself up too. “We’ll be home soon enough.”

“We’d better,” I snapped. “How long does it take them to clean off the damn runways?”

Brian shrugged. “Probably a long time when the snow keeps falling.”

“Fuck,” I muttered, looking out the large glass windows. It didn’t look like the snow was going to stop anytime soon. Was my Christmas doomed to be spent in the airport with these four guys and the gold digging girlfriend?

Maybe if I started walking to Orlando I’d get there faster.

“This isn’t the worst Christmas ever,” Howie laughed. “Remember 1996?”

Okay, he had me there. That one was pretty bad. Mostly because Kevin doesn’t know how to cook. And at least this year we had the possibility of being at home. That year we were stuck in Europe. It was shitty. Nothing against Europe but I’d much rather be home for the holidays.

“Shut up,” Kevin rolled his eyes. He could never take a joke, especially when he was in a shit mood.

We all laughed at Kevin’s expense. That made me feel a little better.

~~~

I rested my head on Mandy’s shoulder as we began to tell stories of all our doomed Christmases. If I’m telling the truth… I was kinda glad we were stuck there. I didn’t really want to go home to my family, and the guys always felt more like my family than my own did anyway.

Although, I had been looking forward to the turkey. I love turkey. It’s the best part of Christmas aside from the eggnog. I also love eggnog. I’m really particular about my eggnog, though. It has to be the more creamy brand, not the kind that looks all yellow and gross. That kind of eggnog sucks.

It didn’t seem like they had any eggnog in the airport. Which sucked. Maybe that would cheer everyone up. All the people sitting around and waiting looked really pissed off and sad.

It was pretty different from that MTV thing we’d just finished. Everyone there was really happy and in a jolly Christmas mood. Probably because we were making them a lot of money. There were a lot of people at that concert and probably tons more watching at home. It had been sort of fun, even if the other guys thought it was stupid to do that on Christmas Eve. I liked singing Christmas carols though, I always have. It was another one of my favourite parts of the season.

And if I couldn’t have my turkey and eggnog… at least I could still sing.

Jingle bells, Batman smells…” I sang once there was a pause in the conversation. That was another thing I loved. Stupid Christmas carol parodies.

Kevin hates them.

“Cut it out Nick,” he said sharply, giving me a look. He was in a really bad mood. I knew he wanted to be home with his mom, so I didn’t press it any further. Under normal circumstances, I would have. But I knew how to pick my moments.

So did Brian. “God rest ye merry, gentlemen…” he sang, looking over at Kevin. Singing always cheered Brian up, and he probably felt even better singing Christmas stuff. If he hadn’t been in the group he’d probably be in a church choir right now.

We’d sang that song in the concert earlier, so I knew all the words to it. We all did. “Let nothing you dismay…” I joined in.

Remember Christ, out saviour…

Was born on Christmas day…” Brian and I looked at each other and grinned. Mandy, AJ, Howie and Kevin looked at us like we were nuts. But we just kept going, because what else was there to do?

To save us all from Satan’s power, when we were gone astray. O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy…

Then something weird happened. AJ, Howie and Kevin started singing along with us.

From God our heavenly father, a blessed angel came. And unto certain Shepherds brought tidings of the same. How that in Bethlehem was born, the Son of God by Name. O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy…

We stopped and looked each other. We all smiled a bit, feeling sort of cheered up. Even Kevin. That’s when I looked around and noticed that most people at our gate had stopped talking and were watching us.

“Um, guys..” I said, eyeing all the people around. “I think we should keep going.”

I felt like we were in some cheesy Christmas movie, but you know… this is sort of what we do for a living! If us singing was going to make the people in the airport forget that they were stuck there for a few minutes, we might as well do it.

We all stood up and continued the song.

‘Fear not then,’ said the Angel. ‘Let nothing you affright, this day is born a Saviour, of a pure Virgin bright. To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might.’ O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy O tidings of comfort and joy…

We were such hams, gobbling up all the attention that we were getting from singing in the airport. People will still watching us, and I’m pretty sure a lot of them had no idea who we were. Just some guys randomly singing in the airport. It was kind of funny when you thought about it like that.

And when they came to Bethlehem, where our dear Saviour lay. They found Him in a manger, where oxen feed on hay; His Mother Mary kneeling down, unto the Lord did pray. O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy…

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s being dramatic on stage. This wasn’t exactly a stage, but I could still do it. I took over the last verse of the song with the other guys backing me, just like we’d done a few short hours ago.

Now to the Lord sing praises, all you within this place. And with true love and brotherhood, each other now embrace…

I put my arm around Brian as I sang that last line. It seemed very reflective of our situation at the moment. I closed my eyes and stuck my other hand out dramatically as we finished the song. Most of our area was silent now, and it was a really weird feeling. I felt like we’d done something good.

This holy tide of Christmas, all other doth deface. O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy…

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