Love's Harmony Ch. 14bysimply_cyn©
At long last, Dallas was upon them and Jennifer was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. She had sent her parents tickets, hoping they might just come but knew they probably wouldn't. They weren't really the type to come to a concert but she at least hoped to see them backstage. Pushing herself through the crowd, she came across Nick. "Hey," she said, grabbing a hold of his arm. "Have you seen Fatima?"
Nick turned to her, smiled and said, "Yeah. I think she was getting your parents something to drink. They were heading for the juice bar."
"Great! They're here!" she answered, stepping away from him, but before she took two steps he grabbed her arm, pulling her into his embrace. "Hey, what's this for?" she asked in surprise, hugging him back.
"I just wanted you to know how much we all think of you. You've been great on this tour and I just wanted you to know."
She took a step back, smiling at him. "Nick . . . I know it's the last show, but I'll still be around." She laughed and quickly kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks. You've always been there for me these past couple of months. I appreciate your friendship."
He smiled at her one last time as she continued on towards the juice bar. She really had to fight her way through the crowd. There was a big group backstage and she wondered if she'd ever get through. Just then, she felt a hand on her shoulder and she turned to find Howie grinning down at her. "Hey," she said, smiling back at him. "You look like the cat who swallowed the canary. What's going on?"
"Nothing," he said, pulling her into a bear hug.
She hugged him back. "Thanks," she said, surprised again at another show of affection from one of the band members. "What was that for?"
"I just wanted to thank you for everything you've done for us on this tour. I can't help but wonder how we got through the previous ones without you." He smiled down at her and for a moment, Jennifer wondered if something else was going on.
"Howie, that's so sweet. Thanks a lot," she said, kissing his cheek quickly. "I've got to go. My parents are here."
"I know," he said, releasing her. "They're great!"
"You've met them?" she said, incredulous.
"Yeah," he said, pointing over towards the juice bar. "Brian's introducing them to everyone."
"Brian?" she asked, incredulous again. How did he know what they even looked like? "Where are they?" she asked, quickly scanning the crowd.
"The last time I saw them, they were at the juice bar," he said grinning at her.
"Well," she said, stepping away from him. "I'll see you before the show."
She started off once more, surprised at Howie's revelation. Brian was introducing her parents to everyone. He must have run into Fatima with them, introductions being made that way. It didn't make a lot of sense for him to take on that responsibility and she couldn't help but be a little disappointed. She had wanted to be the one to introduce them to Brian. She wanted them to see that he felt the same way about her that she did about him.
She reached the juice bar, disappointment shining in her eyes as she found them nowhere to be seen near there. "Sam," she said, turning to the man behind the bar. "Have you seen Fatima or Brian?"
"Yeah," he said, grinning at her. He handed a juice to one of the customers that came up. "Fatima had some last minute things to do on stage and Brian's showing your parents around."
"You've seen them?" she asked.
"Yeah," he replied, pointing over to where A.J. stood with a small group of fans, signing autographs and posing for some pictures. "They were talking to A.J. last I saw them. He probably knows where they are."
"Thanks," she said, pushing away from the bar in the direction of A.J. When she reached him, he stepped away from the crowd and grabbed her hand.
"Just the person I've been looking for," he said, kissing her on the cheek.
"Have you seen my parents?" she asked, looking past him into the crowd.
"Uh . . . yeah," he said, looking behind him. "I think Brian took them to find Kevin." He turned back around to look at her. "You look great," he said, admiration shining in his dark eyes.
"Thanks," she said, smiling at him. "I have to go."
"Wait," he replied, not letting go of her hand. "I just wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed getting to know you on this tour. You put up with my shit and I know that took a lot. I appreciate everything you've done . . . for the band, for me and . . . for B-Rok." He stopped for a moment as she looked at him, touched by his impassioned words. "Your friendship means a lot to me and you'll never know how much I respect you and what you've done."
She smiled at him, pulling him into her embrace. As she hugged him, she finally knew that they had come a long way and she was glad. All she ever wanted was for the two of them to be friends and now, finally, they had gotten there. "Alex, that means more to me than you'll ever know. Thank you," she whispered, all choked up. She pulled away from him, tears shining in her eyes. She smiled at him one last time as she pulled away to find Kevin and hopefully, her parents.
Spying Kevin at the other end of the concrete patio, she squeezed through the crowd, her eyes never leaving him. When she had almost reached him, he saw her, a wide grin breaking out on his face. "Jen!" he called, and then as she reached him, called back over his shoulder, "Brian! She's right here! Hey, B-Rok!" He turned back around, waving Brian and her parents over to where they stood.
Jennifer smiled as she finally spotted them, squeezed Kevin's arm and then ran into her father's embrace, holding him close to her. So much had happened in so little time and she wasn't sure what to say. It seemed as if the years quickly slipped away as he held her close to him, because all of a sudden she was no longer Jennifer Matthews, publicity director for The Backstreet Boys, but Jennifer Matthews, daddy's little girl and she felt the tears spring into her eyes as she clung onto him. He pushed her gently away from him as his eyes sought hers. "My baby girl," he cooed and she hugged him tight to her again.
"Daddy ... " and then she left him for her mother's embrace. She quickly embraced her mother. "Oh, mom . . . it's so good to see you." She stepped back, looking at both of them. "I can't believe you're actually here."
"We wouldn't miss it," her mom said as her dad made a face. Her mother saw it and laughed. "Well, it took some convincing to get your father at a rock concert, but we're here."
"Not a rock concert," Brian interjected, coming over to take Jennifer's arm in his. She hugged him quickly, leaving her arms around his waist as his encircled her shoulders. "It's a blend of pop and R&B."
"Whatever," her father said, rolling his eyes. "It's loud, right?' Ty laughed, nodding his head. Looking at his daughter again, "I don't care if it's rap," he said, "As long as I get a chance to see you."
She smiled at them again and then turning to Brian, "What are you doing showing my parents around?" she asked. "And who introduced you to them?" She frowned at him a moment, feigning the best hurt look she could. "I wanted to do that!"
He smiled at her and she caught the look that passed between him and her father. She looked back at him for a moment, wondering what that was all about but Brian just smiled and said, "I figured out who they were. It wasn't that hard," he laughed, sweeping his hand around the crowd and she instantly knew what he meant. There weren't many people here over the age of thirty.
Jennifer's mother interrupted, "Brian's been a doll." She smiled at him as she patted his arm. "I couldn't have chosen a better one myself," she said and Brian grinned. Jennifer felt that there was more going on here than anyone was saying but she let it go. She was just happy to see them all together and hearing her mother's approval meant her father liked him as well.
"Did ya'll get here okay?" Jennifer asked, wrapping her arms around her father once more as her eyes bore into his.
He reached down, squeezing her into his embrace. He planted a kiss on her forehead and said, "The traffic was awful," he admitted, raising his head and looking around them at the crowd of people in the small area they were using for their backstage pre-concert bash. "Do you have any idea how long it's been since I've been at a concert?" he asked, shaking his head. "This is crazy," and then looking down at her, "I must be crazy."
"I'm just glad you're here," she said, smiling up at him. She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before turning to Brian. "I guess you've introduced them to everyone," she said, giving him a look of disappointment once again.
"I'm sorry," he said, drawing her into his embrace. He hugged her to him and kissed her forehead. "I was so excited about seeing them myself, I guess I got over enthusiastic," he admitted. "Forgive me."
"There's nothing to forgive," Betty answered for her daughter. "You were a wonderful host. Jennifer always hated to do those kind of things."
"Mother," she said, sending her a warning glance. "Please don't tell Brian all my secrets."
"You mean there's more?" he teased her as she playfully punched him in the ribs.
Jennifer was real nervous about the concert. She wanted this one to go off without a hitch. And for some reason, she kept hoping that Brian wouldn't pull another stunt like he had in New York. Being this close to home and near him made her nervous. But she also wanted her parents to love Brian and The Backstreet Boys and just overall, her job. The guys were pumped up and were giving the performance of a lifetime. Everyone was swept up into their enthusiasm and the energy that radiated from the stadium was overwhelming!
As the concert got closer and closer to the final performance, she could sense a sort of anticipation that radiated from the guys, like they were planning something special for their finale and she wondered what they had up their sleeve. She couldn't pinpoint anything in particular, but every time they came off for a costume change, they shot her certain looks and she just felt that something was going on.
During their last costume change she grabbed hold of Howie. She could usually pry the truth out of him when no one else would budge. "What's up?" she asked him, her hand on his arm as he came backstage.
"What?" he repeated, smiling at her.
"What's going on?" she asked, looking him in the eye. "You guys are up to something. I can tell."
"What gives you that idea?" he said, starting to laugh.
"Howie," she began, but he just shook his head and kissed on the cheek.
"You'll see," was all she could pry out of him. As they were lining up to go back out on the stage, she looked up to see all eyes on her and she stepped towards them. "What?!" she almost screamed. This was eating her up! But all they did was break into soft laughter as they strode back onto stage.
Suddenly Jim, her publicity director from the record company, was standing beside her. She looked up and almost fell over. "Jim! Oh my god! What are you doing here?!" she said in amazement, stepping towards him as he wrapped her up in a big bear hug.
"Jennifer, you look great!" he said, looking her over as he held her arm's length.
"Thanks!" she said, beaming up at him. And then, "You didn't answer my question. What are you doing here?" And then suddenly she put two and two together. She turned her head, looking out onto stage and then turned her head back towards Jim. "What's going on?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said, shaking his head at her. "It's the last concert, last stop, and I wanted to come catch the show."
"Dallas is a long way from Orlando," she said, not sure she believed what he was saying. "We'll be home in two days."
"I know," he said, smiling at her. "But you're not performing in Orlando. You're performing in Dallas." He watched her for a moment, knowing she doubted every word that was coming out of his mouth. "Just relax and enjoy the show," he said, draping an arm around her shoulder. "This is going to be great." She eyed his one last time at that last remark. There was definitely something going on . . . she just wasn't sure what it was!
She could tell the last number was coming up because the crew were all running around, getting the fireworks and special lighting for the last number. They usually sang a fast song for their last number, hence the fireworks. She was surprised when the music stopped right before their last number and the lights came up a little more on the guys. 'Here it goes, whatever it is,' she thought to herself. Looking over at Jim, she said, "They're up to something, but I don't know what it is." She chewed on her thumbnail nervously, wondering what the hell they were up to. "I hope they don't do something really stupid." She hadn't meant for her thoughts to come out orally and was surprised to hear herself saying them.
"Don't worry," Jim said, smiling down at her. "They're professionals. Let them do their job." She looked over at him, feeling a little bit better. If Jim wasn't worried, then she was going to try to relax about it as well.
"How y'all doin' out there?" Kevin called out over the mike. He was answered by thunderous applause and screaming. Jennifer couldn't help but smile. They had made it! They had really made it and it made her beam! Despite all her reservations and the problems they had faced, The Backstreet Boys had come out on top and she had found a new life!
"We're going to do something a little different tonight," Kevin explained. "So we just want y'all to hang with us." Then he handed the mike over to Brian as the crowd sounded their approval. Whatever it was they were planning, the crowd was willing to go along with it.
Suddenly, Jennifer recognized the music that she had heard the band working on for the past couple of weeks. It was the same song that Brian had sung to her that night on the bus. She was surprised they would introduce a new song on the last night of their tour, and their final song at that! As the music swelled and the crowd swayed in tempo, she couldn't help but smile. This was a beautiful song.
She saw the guys walking around on the stage, switching places as Brian took his place in the middle and front. He had the solo lead on this song. She smiled at the words . . . "Don't pretend you're sorry, I know you're not. You know you've got the power to make me weak inside. And girl you leave me breathless, but it's okay ... 'Cuz you are my survival, now hear me say ... " And then the rest of the group fell in harmony and Jennifer smiled at the reaction the crowd gave them. They loved it!
After this first verse, A.J. turned to where Jennifer stood with Jim on the wings of the stage, out of sight. Jennifer was too busy watching Brian until Jim nudged her, saying, "I think you're wanted on stage."
Jennifer turned to look at him. "What did you say?" she said, suddenly feeling A.J.'s hand grasping her own. "What . . .?" She turned, imploring Jim with her eyes.
"Go on," he said, smiling at her. Only then did she relax and follow A.J. out onto stage, her hand clasped in his. The crowd went crazy, throwing things onto stage like teddy bears, roses, whatever they could get their hands on. Jennifer stopped, picking up one of the teddy bears in her hand before A.J. deposited her before Brian, his eyes boring into hers.
"And every time I breathe I take you in and my heart beats again. Baby I can't help it, you keep me drowning in your love." She smiled at him as his hand came out to clasp hers and she heard the rest of the band singing in the background. "And every time I try to rise above, I'm swept away by love ... Baby, I can't help it. You keep me drowning in your love." The rest of song was spent right at the front of the stage, Brian singing directly to Jennifer. She would smile at him and then look out into the audience, surprised at the encouragement she felt and heard throughout the song. This was okay! They had accepted the fact that Brian was taken and not given it another thought. They still loved The Backstreet Boys and Jennifer breathed a sigh of relief.
As the song ended, Brian leaned over and kissed her as the crowd went crazy. "I love you," he mouthed to her and she smiled.
Suddenly Nick was there, standing beside them as the rest of the band made a half circle around Jennifer and Brian. Looking out into the crowd, he said, "Y'all have been great Dallas!" Once again the crowd went crazy and Jennifer waited for the fireworks to go off, signaling the end of the concert, but they didn't and the crowd was going crazy. It was if they sensed something else was going to happen as well.
Then she heard A.J. tell the crowd, "We have one last surprise up our sleeve!" and the crowd answered with a loud cheer. "We need it quiet first," he announced as the rest of the band used their hands to quiet down the crowd. Eventually it did get quieter but every once in a while you could hear someone yell out that they loved Nick or A.J. or the whole band.
Suddenly Brian turned towards her, his hand caressing hers and her heart skipped a beat at the look he gave her. She clutched onto the teddy bear still in her hand as he brought her hand to his lips. The auditorium stood quiet, watching the drama unfold before them like a scene out of a movie. He was still wearing his headset from the concert so everyone in the auditorium could hear every word he said. "I love you Jennifer Matthews," he said, his lips caressing her hand.
She could hear a muffled mutter whisper across the crowd as her heart caught in her throat. "Brian, what are you doing?" she whispered.
"What am I doing?" he repeated for the audience's sake. "I'm laying my heart in your hands. You want the stars? I'll get them for you." He pointed towards the top of the auditorium. "Just say the word Jen, and I'll give you anything."
"You spoil me terribly, Brian," she said, tears forming in her eyes.
"There's only one thing I ask in return," he said, suddenly bending down on one knee and the crowd erupted. Jennifer's heart skipped a beat. Did this mean what she hoped it did? He let go of her hand temporarily as he reached into his pocket, extracting a small velvet box. As he opened it, her hand fluttered to her mouth. Nestled inside the velvet box was the same exquisite ting she had chosen at the Houston jewelers. Plucking the ring from its nest, Brian reached for Jennifer's left hand once more. "Marry me, Jen. I love you more than I've ever loved any other woman, or ever will again. You're that other half of me that's been missing all these years, and now that I've found you, I don't want to ever lose you. Please say you'll be my wife." The crowd's thunderous applause drowned out any answer Jennifer might have had at that moment.
The teddy bear that Jennifer had been holding suddenly dropped to the floor as he hand flew to her chest, as if to keep her racing heart from leaping free. "Oh god, Brian!" she breathed. "I love you with all my heart and every fiber of my being!" The tears that had been filling her eyes suddenly swept down her cheeks as Brian slipped the ring onto her hand.
"Then, you'll marry me?" he repeated, not sure he understood her the first time.
"Oh, yes!" she declared, her eyes glowing with joy. He'd scarcely slipped the ring onto her finger as she launched herself at him, her arms flying around his neck. His headset screeched in protest and he reached up, flinging it to the ground as his arms went around her, in her hair. He kissed her quivering lips, tenderly and lingeringly as the crowd roared their approval.