Just a Little: 1
by Miss Kitty E
It wasn't a very large school, Dr. Phillip's. Oh it was large enough that one didn't know everybody's name, but it was also small enough that a new student was invariably noticed and stared at. Lance could feel those eyes as he made his way down the hall to his locker, but he tried not to care. He knew they weren't seeing much, just an average sized kid with eyes that didn't match his mouse brown hair, a kid who didn't dress badly enough to make fun of, but neither did he do it well enough to be cool.
Part Two - Fic Index - Main
He reached his locker and hefted down his bag, overfilled and killing his back because every single one of his teachers seemed to have to a book they just had to assign today. Lance reached into his pocket and pulled out his schedule, allowing himself just a little, unsuspicious smile when he saw that choir was his next class. He unloaded a few of his books from his pack and then pulled out a folder, the same music portfolio he had back in Mississippi. He closed his locker and made his way down the hall, now free from his burden he moved a little easier under the curious glances of the other students. He knew where the choir hall was, too, and he walked with a clear purpose, not a helpless, lost look. He felt only a tiny bit of worry, just beneath his stomach, because lunch would be next and he still hadn't made any friends. He most definitely did not want to end up sitting with his sister Stacey.
When he got close enough to, he watched a few of the other students entering the choir hall, sizing them up as it were. The first he saw was a bitchy looking blonde boy with pretty lips and a confrontational brow. He walked in with another bitchy blonde who checked herself out in the reflective glass on the door. There was a sweeter looking kid after that, maybe just a little younger than Lance, all bright smiles and curly hair, waving good-bye to a girl who had seemed more to have just followed rather than walked with him. Lance pulled open the door just as another boy reached for it, looking up shyly he said, "Um, hi."
"Hey." The stranger looked him over, "You're new right?" He was just a little taller, and a lot thinner than Lance, and had dark hair, and half moon eyes that were neither cheerful nor sad.
Lance nodded. "Yeah, brand new," he winced internally, that came out sounding more lame than cool. "My name's Lance," he said quickly, as if he might cover up his previous words.
The other kid smiled, and stepped through the doorway with Lance, "I'm Josh. Or JC. Or Jace. Pick one, I don't really mind. Have you sung before or is this just a filler class?"
"No, not at all. I've been in choir since Middle School."
"Hey, same here." JC looked around and saw the choir room was free of authority figures for the moment. "Looks like Mr. Henley will be late again." His eyes fell on Lance and they were judgmental but not unkind. Apparently, he'd passed whatever trial there was taking place behind those odd, silver eyes, because JC nodded his head in the direction of the Curly-headed Boy and the Bitchy Blonde. "Come on, I'll introduce you to some of my friends, alright?"
Lance's smile said everything.
When the Choir Teacher did arrive it was with much flourish, as he burst through the door, harried and with a fistful of papers. "Hello, students. Please forgive me, I had a meeting run long. And I'm sure all know what it was about." He threw his briefcase and papers onto his desk as if he were bidding them good riddance. He stared at them for a moment with his hands on his hips, then snapped his head up and moved to get the attendance sheet from the metal podium situated at the front of the class. "Is everybody here?"
"Everybody plus one," the curly haired freshman Lance now knew as Justin called out.
"Oh, so I see," Mr. Henley was already looking at Lance, he patted down his pockets looking for a pen. "I'll add you into the roll. Name?"
Lance felt the flush creeping up on his cheeks already. "James Bass," he answered honestly.
"Beautiful. Thank you, God. We have another bass, children, the shows won't be so awful this year. Right? You don't sing falsetto or anything like that, do you?" Lance shook his head, and blushed, "Perfect. Alright, James," Henley said as he wrote in the name down in his messy script. "Student number?"
"Uh, I go by Lance."
"What's that?" the teacher peered over his glasses, and Lance felt even more absurd repeating it.
"I go by Lance, sir."
"Yes, fine, whatever. Student number?" He added "Lance" in parenthesis beside the new name.
"Alright then." Sticking the pen behind his ear, Mr. Henley took a moment to gather his thoughts, eventually coming back to his announcement. "Oh! Yes, that's what I wanted to tell you. As many of you may remember it's a bit of a tradition at Dr. Phillip's for the theatre and the choir departments to get together and put on the first show of the year. They're always bad, and they have almost no budget, this is because they're basically a fundraiser and you come out of the kindness of your heart, not for the quality of the show. Anyway, it's mostly just meant to be a lot of fun and an easy hundred test grade. Auditions are tomorrow afternoon, they are not mandatory, but I'd suggest you go anyway, it's good experience. Any questions?"
Justin raised his hand, "Um, sir? What's the show?"
The teacher blinked slowly, and seemed genuinely unable to remember, a second later he smiled in triumph. "It's Grease."
At lunch, Lance emerged from the line holding his tray and looking a little lost again. He scanned the cafeteria but didn't see anybody he knew well enough. He sighed deeply, Justin and JC had already ditched him, he was just about to move to one of the emptier tables when he heard someone calling his name.
"Lance! There you are," Justin appeared suddenly beside him. "Come on, I'll show you where we usually sit."
Lance smiled tightly, awash with relief, and followed Justin out of the cafeteria into one of the courtyards, JC was already at one of the concrete picnic tables, gulping down a Dr. Pepper, waving with one hand when he saw them.
"It's nicer out here," Justin explained as they sat down. "Quieter."
Lance nodded, agreeing with Justin but having nothing more to add. He was a little surprised that there weren't more people around, JC and Justin both seemed like popular guys, shouldn't there be hordes of... groupies or something like that around. Of course there was no nice way to ask something like that, so he kept his mouth shut.
"So where did you move from, Lance?" JC asked, making idle conversation.
"Mississippi," he said softly. He didn't like to think of how final it was. He'd probably never see his old home again, but right now he still felt more like he was on some strange vacation. "My dad had to move to Orlando for a promotion."
"Mississippi?" Justin asked, "Jeez, you must be glad to get out of there, huh?"
"It's not as bad as the movies make it seem," Lance said defensively. "We don't all wear overalls and marry our cousins."
"But that means some of you do, right?" JC joked, and Justin had to press his lips together tightly to keep from spitting out his milk.
Lance rolled his eyes but didn't say anything. They fell into an amiable silence, and Lance tried not to notice the looks JC was giving to Justin, as if they were sharing some sort of inside joke he wasn't a part of.
"Um, so Lance," Justin started, swallowing a chunk of his roll. "Did you leave a girl behind or anything."
Lance shook his head, "No, not really. A crush, but it wasn't much of anything."
"How I pity you single people," Justin said with mock compassion.
JC snorted, "Whatever, Justin."
"Aw, you're just jealous cause I'm dating a senior."
Lance perked up, and listened more carefully.
"College senior, Justin. He's a college senior. That's just illegal."
Justin face was instantly indignant, and for a moment it looked like he might throw some of his food, but instead he pretended to forget JC was even there.
Lance on the other hand was deathly quiet and lost in himself, going through the steps his mother had sweetly taught him when he was just a little boy. She knew Mississippi's reputation and she knew that her son would be going to school with a handful of unrestrained bigots, so she had taught, and reinforced, and just prayed for her son to be tolerant towards everybody. So Justin was dating a boy, a man really, but that didn't change that he was one of the only people who had talked to and made friends with Lance so far. Just because he was gay didn't negate that right? And maybe Josh was gay too, maybe he wasn't- it might explain why they both felt more comfortable sitting alone and away from the crowd indoors -but whether he was or wasn't didn't change anything, or so his mother told him. He chewed the inside of his cheek for a moment, rather than the food in front of him, and decided that he really didn't care. They were nice and fun to be around, and they liked him, even if there were... different.
"Do either of you think you'll audition for that show Mr. Henley was talking about?"
JC shook his head adamantly, and Justin shrugged. "I don't know," Justin mused. "Do you think you might?"
Lance nodded, "I may."
"I'm stupid," Lance said under his breath. "I never should have come. I know I'm shy, why did I think I'd suddenly be able to do this?"
JC laughed, nudging him with his shoulder, "Oh, quit being a baby. Take a look at the competition. I guarantee you, you won't be the worst one by far."
"You know, JC, somehow that isn't comforting at all." When JC laughed again he felt warm, like he and JC were really good buds, and Lance wasn't just some annoying sophomore that JC felt sorry for. "Is Justin coming?"
"Mm? Nope, basketball practice, among other things. I don't think he'd have time for a play."
Nodding thoughtfully, Lance asked, "What about you, huh?"
Josh shook his head stubbornly, "No way. I'm just here for moral support, remember? The last thing you want to see is me on stage trying to... emote or whatever you call it."
Lance considered it, and decided he probably agreed. "I'm starting to get sick to my stomach, you know? What am I gonna sing?"
"Old Man River," JC suggested, and for that he got a glare. "Just do a song from the show. You've seen the movie right?"
"Well, yeah, but that doesn't mean I know the words."
Josh shrugged, "See what the other people do, then." The lights in the house were lowered suddenly and the director sat somewhere in the back looking quite serious and bored. The stage was lit up and Lance felt the ball of apprehension in his stomach spread a little, pushing up and moving around his insides.
"Who's first?" came the director's accented query.
"I'll go," a tall body made it's way down to the stage and hopped up on it. Lance cocked his head to one side, watching him. The boy just didn't fit; the big chin, the broad shoulders, and the thick waist all belonged on the football field or something, but there they were, under the lights and completely comfortable in front of a small audience. He stood totally unselfconscious and grinning at the crowd he probably couldn't see, waiting for the signal.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Joseph began, hamming it up a little. "For your listening pleasure, the, uh... 'Birthday Song.'"
Lance didn't think it would be much good from the intro, the boy sounded like he had a cold, and his voice cracked a little as he spoke, but surprisingly, the slow and careful version of Happy Birthday sounded good, really good.
When he was done, Joseph bowed deeply to the non-existent applause and as he walked to edge of the stage, the director said, "Very good, Joey, let's hope you can still act, too."
Lance waited until there was almost no one left, Josh poking him in the side every now and then until he whispered "Alright!" and walked up to the stage. The girl who had gone before him had been truly awful, and the boy before her had been alright, but nothing special. The director seemed pleased with him, and when he was done, asked for his name.
"Lance Bass," he said just barely loud enough to be heard.
"Don't get your hopes up," Lance said firmly under his breath, but however many times he told himself he wouldn't be on the cast list another voice piped up and insisted that he might. He hoped the director had kept his word and posted it on time because he didn't think he could take another day of suspense. As he rounded the theatre building he gave a short sigh of relief, seeing that on the back entrance two pieces of white paper were duct taped there. No one else was around and for that he was glad, he'd rather win or lose alone.
He trotted up to door and searched for his name, grinning wide when he saw his name written clearly under "The Gang (Chorus)." He hadn't been in a play since third grade but he'd always wanted to, just never had the room in his schedule or the courage to actually take theatre. An arm slid into his view, from behind, kind of resting on his shoulder as a thick finger ran down the names, stopping at Joseph Fatone. Lance felt like he was snooping somehow by glancing over to see what role he'd gotten, but he smiled when he saw it was "Danny." Joseph had gotten the lead.
The arm was removed and the body heat that he hadn't even realized had been so close to his back took a few steps away. He debated for a nanosecond whether or not to say anything. "Congratulations," he blurted, turning.
The other boy smiled, and Lance's stomach did something funny, kind of twisted, or dipped, something that made him notice how utterly kind and warm Joey's smile was, and appreciate the way the eyes crinkled almost shut. He hoped he smiled back, but he wasn't sure.
"Thanks. Did you make the show?"
Lance nodded, "Yeah. I'm in the chorus. God help me if that means I have to dance."
He laughed, "I'm sure you'll do alright. I'm Joey."
"Lance," he replied. He tried to think of something else to say, but his mind kept coming a blank.
Joey clapped him on the back as he left, palm connecting firmly and lingering for a second on his shoulder blade. "See you at rehearsals, I guess."
Lance nodded without realizing that Joey wouldn't see it walking away. For the first time since leaving Mississippi he felt like things would be good here, maybe even better than they had been back home.