|Enter Stage Right
Author: RadonStars PM
Talent and a desire to perform isn't always enough. To steal the spotlight, first you have to be able to stand in it. Original Character inspired by The Glee Project primarily Damian McGintyRated: Fiction K+ - English - Humor/Drama - Rachel B. - Chapters: 4 - Words: 13,724 - Reviews: 26 - Favs: 16 - Follows: 17 - Updated: 07-25-11 - Published: 06-20-11 - id: 7102683
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
No sooner had Thom's voice faded from the room than Finn burst back in with a wrinkled, but mercifully dry, shirt. He tossed it at Thom with a grin and a playful punch on the shoulder before the warning bell for first period sent him back out.
"Catch ya at Glee!" Finn called. Thom gave a halfhearted wave, wincing as he lifted the arm Finn had just love-tapped, as it were.
Some school this is. Enemies throw slushies at your face and friends leave bruises, he thought wryly to himself as he peeled his own wet T-shirt off. He regarded it for a minute, then shrugged and tossed it in the trash can. No point in carrying it around all day. He pulled on Finn's T-shirt. As he suspected, it hung like a sack, but there wasn't any point in feeling self-conscious about it. It was that or spend the day half naked. Thom couldn't help but chuckle a little at his reflection - hair sticking out at wild angles, blue splotches, and a shirt that might as well be a dress. The little laugh helped ease some of the tension and anger that still smoldered. He wasn't anything like unaffected, but the boy had a naturally easygoing personality.
With a little of his good humor restored, Rachel's stricken face suddenly popped into Thom's head. Along with it came a sudden wash of guilt. She hadn't deserved his furious reaction; she had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Now with a faint red flush underscoring his blue cheeks, Thom grabbed his bag and headed for the door just as the minute bell to classes sounded, intending to catch Rachel and apologize. But as he stepped out into the hall, the older girl was nowhere to be found. Thom scanned the rush of people hurrying to class, but didn't see any flash of neon green.
Thom bit his lip, looked around once more and then joined the mass of students pressing into classrooms, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach. She must just not have wanted to be late, he told himself sternly. He arrived at English just in time for Tina to give him a sympathetic, knowing look before the lecture started. Her ready, silent, acceptance of Thom's faintly blue and bedraggled appearance only strengthened his resolve. He'd stop off at Glee just long enough to give Rachel a cool apology for shouting at her and then he was gone. There would be no convincing this time around. The finality of his decision made him smile slightly as he settled into his molded plastic desk.
The rest of the day was, mercifully, slushie free. By lunchtime, Thom had stopped flinching at sudden movements and story of the frozen concoction attack had escalated into epic proportions that sent his friends into peals of laughter. By the end of the day, Thom was feeling quite generous and more than a little sorry for Rachel. It wasn't her fault that she had such poor judgment as to pick an asthmatic foreigner prone to panic attacks for her singing club. His expansive generosity didn't quite extend to promptness, however, and he lingered with a pretty blonde from his biology class after the dismissal bell rang. Lisa was prone to giggling fits, but he felt sure he could overlook that.
It's just a shame her eyes weren't a darker brown, he thought to himself after they finally said good-bye. Deeper, more passionate maybe. He felt sure that he had seen eyes like that recently, but before he could quite figure out who they belonged to, he arrived at the choir room. Practice had already started, so Thom leaned on the doorframe, watching the chaotic movement inside. As always, a tiny part of him demanded that he be the one in the spotlight, singing for the joy of it, but the usual fear that quenched it was doubled by the memory of today's slushie. Still, he couldn't help but be drawn to the passion of expression, of performance that the Glee Club gave off. At the moment, they were rehearsing Finn and Rachel's duet. Objectively, Thom had to admit that Finn was technically inferior to Rachel. His voice wasn't as strong and he danced about as well as Thom himself. But the intensity that radiated from the young man was powerful. In fact, Thom suspected that Finn wasn't acting the lyrics about love as much as he was living them.
Thom hummed the few snatches of melody that he remembered from his first – and last- rehearsal before he caught himself.
None of that, he chided silently. With one final twirl, Rachel and Finn harmonized into a more or less smooth ending. It's not as if you could be singing in front of strangers yourself, now is it?
"Alright guys!" Mr. Schuester said enthusiastically from where he had been observing. "A little sharp on the end, Finn, but we've got time. Take five, guys, and then let's try that number Kurt suggested. Sound good?"
A general murmur of assent responded. It quickly grew into a swell of voices and laughter as smaller groups formed. Finn gave Rachel another, flirtatious twirl. Her eyes lighted on Thom standing awkwardly in the doorway halfway through the spin and an expression of relief flitted across her face before it was replaced by annoyance. Rachel disentangled herself from Finn's embrace and strode over to Thom, dragging Finn absentmindedly behind her. She came to an abrupt stop and snapped her arms across her chest.
"Better late than never, I guess," she said, with a nod that sent today's green hairbow fluttering. "I'm glad to see you're recovered from… from this morning, though."
"Sweet shirt, man," Finn jumped in. Thom grinned and gave him a thumbs up.
"Moving up in the world. I've gone from being the fellow with the accent to the fellow with a dress." Thom laughed as he said it, clearly joking, but Rachel's stricken face silenced both boys quickly.
"It's a joke, Rach" Finn said, patting Rachel on the shoulder. She flashed Thom a concerned look. He raised an eyebrow and nodded, trying to maintain a serious expression.
"Oh," she said doubtfully. She plastered a smile on her face and forced a laugh. "Dress, right, that's hilarious. Anyway, Thom, you really need to go ahead and audition today. Despite my stellar recruitment record-"
"Crack house," muttered Finn. Rachel shot him a murderous glare and Thom followed up with a surprised, questioning one. Finn raised his hands in surrender. "Just sayin'," he said defensively.
"As I was saying, despite my practically perfect recruitment record, my fellow Glee club members insist that you audition. And I must say, I agree with them. Until you've proven that you are a talent to be reckoned with, you need to follow all the rules, including showing up on time. You're probably a little traumatized still, so I suppose we can let it-"
"Rachel!" Thom finally said, nearly shouting. His other attempts at breaking into Rachel's monologue had failed. The girl didn't notice anything once her own voice got going. "Please, for the last time, I'm not joining Glee!"
Rachel blinked, clearly caught off guard. "Then…why are you here?" She gestured vaguely at the room behind her. "This is Glee Club."
"I just wanted to apologize," Thom said, in the same slightly patronizing tone Rachel had just used. He immediately felt slightly ashamed, but this girl with her crazy outfits and crazier ideas had a knack for sending his blood pressure- to say nothing of his heart rate- sky rocketing. He continued, making an effort to stay civil.
"You didn't deserve to be yelled at this morning. I was…caught off guard. And thanks for meeting me this morning," he added as an afterthought. Rachel's hard expression softened somewhat at the thank you. She opened her mouth to jump in, but Thom got there first.
"But really and truly, I cannot join your club. I can't handle singing in front of people and I surely can't handle a repeat of this morning. Thanks. And I'm sorry again," Thom finished. He gave Finn a nod. "I'll wash the shirt and give it to Tina tomorrow to return to you. Thanks, man." Finn frowned slightly, clearly confused as to exactly what was happening.
Rachel, however, was not giving up without a fight. Without taking her eyes off Thom, she placed a firm hand on Finn's shoulder. "Finn, will you excuse for a moment?" She pressed slightly on his shoulder, leaving no doubt in the tall boy's mind that she was serious.
"Umm, sure," Finn said, looking at Rachel's stormy countenance and Thom's unreadable one. As he reluctantly turned to go, he was aware of an uneasy sensation in his chest. He pushed it determinedly aside. Nothing to worry about, surely.
Rachel watched Finn's receding back, counting silently to ten before she snapped back around to face Thom. The faint smile she had unconsciously worn with Finn had been replaced by a carefully neutral expression.
"Alright, let's try this again." Rachel was clearly trying for a winning, soothing tone, but despite dozens of stage productions, it still sounded like it was forced through clenched teeth. Thom took a few deep breaths of his own.
"I don't know how I can make it any clearer," the young man sighed. "I won't join Glee. It's not possible."
"A minute ago you said 'can't'. Can't or won't?" Rachel demanded, arms crossed and gaze piercing.
Thom rolled his own eyes in exasperation. "Either, or, both! I just came to say I was sorry for yelling at you. You didn't throw the slushy- even if you were the reason."
Rachel took a deep breath, visibly calming herself. "I won't deny that my request for you to join Glee Club and your subsequent participation may have prompted this morning's unfortunate event. But I just don't understand. We've all been slushied. Kurt has lost more designer clothing in the dumpster than the rest of us own put together. We can help you handle it. I saw you, Thom, I heard you!"
Rachel's grasp on her temper was becoming more tenuous as she went on. The vision of herself taking the trophy at Nationals was becoming fainter the longer Thom just looked at her with those hard blue eyes. She tried a different tactic.
"I'm a star, Thom. I need to shine. I need to prove that I can shine. I have barely a year left to leave a legacy at McKinley and the only way that I – that any of us- have a hope of being recognized for anything other than freaks and antisocial losers is placing at Nationals. I have a better than average chance on my own of doing great things, but, as much as I hate to admit it, other Glee clubs will have full complements of star singers. We have our own…strengths, but we can't afford to leave any holes." The admissions of inadequacy were clearly costing Rachel everything she had, but she forged on.
"You aren't a guarantee of winning, but if I don't at least try, we lose. I've - we've worked so hard the last few years. "
Rachel dropped her gaze for a moment before locking eyes again with Thom, who was looking increasingly uncomfortable. Like on the bus, Rachel's carefully constructed and maintained façade was crumbling and the raw passion and earnestness that fueled her was coming through. At the moment, she looked less like a drill sergeant and more like a desperate little girl.
Thom sighed and ran a hand across his jaw before responding.
"I really am sorry," he said finally, in a voice so low that Rachel had to lean in slightly, closing an already small gap. "But I just…I can't."
"Yes, you can." Rachel's voice was calmer, more controlled, but lost none of its intensity. She appraised the boy in front of her. Thom's face was paler than usual, blue eyes haunted and refusing to look at her. On impulse, she grabbed his hand and gently pulled him to a chair by the door. His eyes widened and he stared at the small, tanned hand encircling his pale, square one.
"Look at me." Rachel's voice was still quiet, barely audible over the hum of the other students, but Thom heard it like a shout. He flicked his eyes up to meet Rachel's and they held there.
"No one is looking at you. Even if they look over, they're looking at me."
Thom couldn't help a smile. It was kind of Rachel to make a joke to lighten the situation. At least, he thought it was a joke.
"That certain night, that night we met," Rachel sang quietly, keeping her gaze fixed on Thom. She trailed off, looking expectant. Thom shook his head, going a little paler still. He darted his eyes over to the Glee members. The couple was starting to draw a few curious glances. Thom felt his breath catch and looked determinedly back at Rachel. She smiled encouragingly at him.
"Just try. Look at me. That certain night, that night we met…"
"There was…magic…" Thom managed to get out, barely audibly. He coughed. Rachel frowned, but a slight pressure from Thom's hand kept her silent for a moment more. He took a deep breath, ignoring the slight tightness in his lungs.
"There was magic abroad in the air," Thom sang, slightly louder this time. He kept his eyes firmly on Rachel's wide brown ones. "There were…angels…dancing at the Ritz, and a nightingale sang in Berkley Square."
As Thom's voice grew stronger, the general chatter from the Glee Club began to die down and three, four, eleven pairs of eyes turned towards the strange scene by the door. Rachel sitting uncharacteristically still by Thom, who was apparently totally unaware of his growing audience. As before in the deserted auditorium, Thom's brogue lent a certain impishness to the lyrics, at odds with the deer in headlights look he was currently sporting.
As a matter of fact, Thom was very conscious of his listeners, but found that as he went on, he was less and less affected by their presence. He even managed a few sideways glances of his own at the members of the Glee Club. As he came to the end of the first verse, Rachel nodded at the piano player, who was clearly itching to give Thom's voice some extra support.
The sudden accompaniment snapped Thom back to reality. He was singing- in front of people. His heartbeat raced, but emboldened by Rachel's presence and with supreme effort, came in at the next line. His voice was tenuous again, but each breath came easier and suddenly he found himself standing, his whole body suffused with the joy he had only felt before when performing alone. Still, he remained focused on Rachel, singing to her.
"I know, 'cause I was there! That night at Berkley Square!" Thom finished the song at almost full voice, trembling not only from fear, but surprise and pleasure at the surreal experience. A round of applause filled the void where Thom's voice had just been.
Rachel gave the Glee Club a smug smile. Thom's expression was somewhat more complicated- a grin warred with sheer panic as his knees suddenly had enough of supporting him. He collapsed somewhat less than gracefully into the nearest chair.
"Thom, I am impressed!" Mr. Schuester enthused, coming up beside the young Irishman. Thom blinked blankly at the Spanish teacher. "I mean, I've never heard you put two words together in class. When Rachel said you might be a good addition, I was skeptical, but well done! I think we might be able to put you in somewhere." Mr. Schue gave Thom a firm pat on the shoulder. Thom managed a weak, still somewhat shell shocked smile. A few murmurs of assent greeted Mr. Schue's announcement. Finn, however, remained silent, looking between Rachel's contented smile, Thom's dazed expression, and their two linked hands with a slight frown. Mr. Schue appeared not to notice and turned back to Thom and Rachel, managing an even wider smile.
"Well, that settles it. No solo guarantees, of course, but with a little practice auditioning…Nationals is a whole new game. Glad to officially have you, Thom. Alright guys, let's get back to work!"
In the rush of movement that followed, Rachel leaned in and gave Thom a small smile. Her diva mask was firmly reaffixed.
"We've got a lot of work to do, naturally, but the vulnerable thing was a nice touch. Well done."
Thom raised an eyebrow. Let her think it was acting, if it made her happy. He would simply bask in the glory of having defeated an obstacle that he had always considered insurmountable. What was a slushy to the face compared with that?
"Rachel…thank you. I think," Thom said slowly, but sincerely, as his mind churned. There was something else he wanted to say, especially with Rachel still leaned in so close to him. But maybe because of that, he couldn't quite put his finger on it.
"Of course, whatever it takes. Stardom must always come first. Oh, and Thom?" Rachel asked, looking pointedly over at the almost assembled Glee members. Her smile got slightly wider.
"You can let go of my hand now."
Author's Note: My co-author and I would just like to take a moment to thank everyone who has commented, and those who haven't, but are hopefully still enjoying Thom's story anyway. Your encouragement is wonderful ! We hope that you'll stick with us!