|And So We Run
Author: kirasometimes PM
They could tell you exactly when it started; when it got so complicated, that was the real story.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Blaine A. & Rachel B. - Chapters: 12 - Words: 132,352 - Reviews: 185 - Favs: 111 - Follows: 134 - Updated: 11-17-12 - Published: 12-04-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7610699
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This wasn't real. It was a fog, like one of those days where the heat made the world swim in impossible lines. This was a nightmare that had taken hold and refused to let him go and if he could only somehow find a way to fight and claw his way out of it, then it would stop and the world would welcome him back with open arms as it breathed a sigh of relief. She would smile, and he would curl into her side and let her warmth wash away this unbelievable cold that was surrounding him.
This is exactly what would happen, he was sure of it if only he could move his arms, or stand up from the chair he felt chained to. If his mind would clear enough to form a coherent thought. But he couldn't function. He felt like he was part of the fog. Everything felt heavy around him, but at the same time, he could have been made of cobwebs as they were carried off with the breeze. There was something holding him down to the earth when all he wanted to do was float away.
"Mr. Anderson?" a voice as if it were coming though a tunnel called his name and he was surprised to notice that it belonged to a pretty redhead sitting next to him dressed in all blue. There was something around her neck – silver and long – and she was shining a bright light into his eyes, a concerned look on her unfocused face. "How do you feel?"
He couldn't make his mouth work abut she seemed to expect and answer so with great effort, he shook his head back and forth slowly. She smiled sadly at him, her hand on his shoulder. "We had to sedate you," she explained and while he knew that should have meant something to him, the words felt empty and void.
"Wh-y?" he chocked out, his throat dry.
She started speaking again, and as he focused on her mouth, his eyes began to regain some control and the world started to get a bit sharper. Words were starting to sound familiar, even if his brain couldn't quite connect them to their meanings just yet. Words like: missing heartbeat... induce labor... placental separation... bleeding... mom's fading... stillborn.
"I'm going to throw up," he gasped, his stomach lurching violently as he doubled over in his seat, his hands over his mouth. A sweat broke out on his neck and a bright red bucket appeared underneath him. Acid burned is throat as it came up, his entire body jerking in spasms that didn't stop even after his heaves turned into dry, wracking things that pulled at every nerve in his body. His eyes began to water and he couldn't be sure if it were an effect of his vomiting or if he had inexplicably started crying in the midst of it all, but he couldn't stop the tears as they fell.
The redhead he now recognized as a nurse was rubbing comforting circles into his back, but it left him feeling numb. "Rachel," he managed to say, his voice torn and raspy. "I need to see Rachel."
"You can't right now," the nurse tried to say calmly.
He just shook his head and pushed the bucket away from him. He tried to stand up and ignore the shaking in his knees, but he didn't even make it out of the chair before the nurse had pushed him back down. She was talking again, throwing all these complicated medical terms and explanations for why he couldn't go to Rachel. But it didn't matter; he didn't care. He needed to see her. He needed to see that she was still there. That she wasn't gone.
"No," he repeated, pushing at the nurse's hands that tried to hold him down. "No, I need to see her and I don't want anyone to tell me I can't. I don't care."
"I don't care!" he shouted, springing up and moving past her more quickly that he should have been able to. He must have taken her by surprise. That was the only reason she had let him go, why he made it halfway down the hall before she caught up to him, whatever warnings she had left falling on deaf ears. He only stopped when he found her door, marked with a hasty scrawled "Berry, R." It was so impersonal; it wasn't her. There wasn't even a star next to her name, nothing to show that it was really her.
He pushed the door open, his hand shaking. It was cold and quiet, the opposite of everything he equated with Rachel, and he was sure he had the wrong room. Because that couldn't be her, lying so still in the stark white sheets lining the hospital bed. She wasn't that pale – she shined like the sun – and there was no earthly reason she would need that many wires jutting out of her skin. Everywhere he looked, there was a translucent cord connecting her to a beeping machine, like she needed help just to be alive. Didn't they understand she was the most vibrant and alive person who have ever existed?
"Rachel?" he whispered weakly into the air, praying she would answer him. But she didn't. There was only silent, pressing down on his chest like the weight of the world.
"I tried to tell you," the nurse said, her hand resting gently on his shoulder as he stood dumb-struck in the center of the room. "She lost a lot of blood during labor. When the placenta tore away from her uterine wall, a blood clot form inside the womb and when she lost consciousness, it burst. We gave her a few transfusions, which will help, but her body was so exhausted from the premature labor and delivery. She's in a medically induced coma right now. We'll take her off the medication tonight, but she has to wake up on her own."
"She will wake up though, right?" Blaine gulped, his eyes still fixed on the fragile figure he still couldn't convince himself was actually Rachel. "Right?"
"In most cases, they do," she replied. "But everyone is different. She could wake up right away, or it could take awhile longer. We'll just have to wait and see."
"Why did-," Blaine choked on the words, tears rushing to his eyes. "How-? What did we do wrong?"
The nurse looked down sadly before she took him by the arm, leading him to the bench that lined the large window in the room. He sat down heavily, his head falling into his hands as he dug his palms into his eyes, trying to fight the urge to actually cry in front of a stranger, again. "You didn't do anything wrong," she explained quietly, her hand still wrapped around his arm. "These kinds of things, they can just happen for no reason and there's no way to tell. In her case, the placenta around the fetus tore away from the wall. It collapsed and... it's complicated but it essentially suffocated the fetus. It's been dead for a least a few weeks and," she hooked her fingers under his chin, forcing his attention to focus on her, "I want you to listen to me when I tell you this – you could not have known this happened."
He shook his head, but she held firm, her eyes drilling into his. "She could have carried to term if the resulting blood clot hadn't caused her to faint. When she came in and we couldn't find the fetus' heartbeat, that's when we induced labor on her to try and save them both. It is not anyone's fault."
"I don't-," he struggled to speak as he gave up holding his tears back. His voice came out in a wavering mess. "Fuck, how do I tell her that? She's going to blame herself. She's going to feel like this was her fault."
"We can provide counseling," the nurse suggested, "for both of you and we have a chapel to provide religious consultations if you're inclined to that. They can help you come up with certain arrangements that may provide a little closure. A memorial or burial even."
"She's Jewish," Blaine said automatically, because at least that made sense to him more than this did. "She'll want a rabbi. I don't... I don't know their customs very well but I don't think you can do an autopsy."
This was just surreal. He was talking about a funeral, like if his father had died or something. But this wasn't like that. This was for his baby, a little girl he would never get to hold her. He would never see if her hair curled like his did in the humid New York summer, or find out if she had Rachel's voice. He would never get to know her. And Rachel would never know her. Rachel, who had put her entire life on hold for the chance to have this little girl, to be the mother she never had, and who had put all her faith in Blaine that they would get through this together, no matter how difficult it would be. They had prepared for everything - the inevitable fallout with Kurt, the struggles of supporting three people on their meager incomes, and even learning how to function as a legitimate couple for once - but they had never prepared for the possibility that this would happen. Losing this felt almost like losing everything. He hated to admit that they had needed this to come together again, but they had, and now that she was gone, he was terrified that everything else would be soon."Can I be alone with Rachel?" he pleaded, staring blankly at his feet. "Please? I need to be with her."He needed to hold her, as if to prove to himself that she was still there, that he wouldn't lose her. The nurse seemed to understand that even through her hesitation to leave, but finally she nodded and silently pulled a chair close to Rachel's bed and instructed him not to disrupt any of the monitors. As soon as the nurse was out the door, Blaine kicked the chair out of the way and crawled into the bed with Rachel, taking great care to avoid the wires winding out of her skin. His arms wrapped around her waist and the comfort he immediately expected to feel was absent. Her familiar warmth, the one that always washed over him when he held her, now felt so far from him, like it existed in his mind as part of a distant memory. He had wanted to stay with her, to prove to himself that she was still alive, that she was just waiting for him to come find her, but she remained unresponsive."Please wake up Rachel," he whispered, moving to kiss the bridge of her nose. One hand moved from her hip to her hair, carefully threading through the soft curls that framed her still too pale face. "I need you to wake up. I don't know what to do."
He was answered only by the whine of the machines – cold electronic beeps and tuneless hums that only played at being alive. He closed his eyes, trying to find the rhythm of her heartbeat or the quiet sigh of her breathing, anything that would remind him that this was her underneath the gray static; but he heard nothing, felt nothing. It really was like she wasn't there and whatever was left of his heart proceeded to crumble to ash inside his chest, working it's way out of his throat in a wretched sob.
"Come back," he choked, burying his face in her neck as he cried. "Please come back. I can't do this. I need- it's been you and me for so long, through everything. I don't even know how to breathe without you. You can't- you can't just give up, not after this. You have to stay. We have to- please, Rachel, we had a baby, remember? A little girl, our daughter. Yours and mine, ours. And she's- she's already gone. Don't make me bury you too."
There was a quiet rustle and his senses snapped back into place, eyes searching over her still features until he realized that it hadn't come from her. He thought for a moment he might have imagined it; but something else was wrong. He could feel it in the air, in his bones and he hastily wiped his eyes with his sleeve, feeling the cotton rub raw against his already red skin. Looking around the room, it seemed as if nothing had changed until he saw the bouquet of flowers, ribbon unwinding as stems scattered on the floor at a pair of familiar suede boots.
"I got home and no one was there," Kurt said in a dead voice. "I didn't even see your note until this morning. It fell under the coffee table. I would have come sooner."
"I guess I should have," he continued in that same voice, not quite looking at either Blaine or Rachel, but Blaine could see the way his jaw tightened as he spoke; the calm before the storm. "It wouldn't have made a difference. Obviously it didn't matter if I was here or not. This still happened."
"I can ex-."
" 'Ours'? " he suddenly yelled, his eyes ablaze with a fury Blaine couldn't deny he had a right too, the word piercing through them both like a white-hot needle. "I really don't think you need to say another fucking word because that just- that pretty much says it all, doesn't it?"
He turned on his heel, storming out of the room and Blaine tripped over his own feet as he ran after Kurt, skidding down the hall. "Kurt, wait! I'm sorry, please just let me explain," he shouted, grunting in pain as his foot slammed against the side of a coke machine, but the vending area had effectively created a kind of dead end and he reached out, his hand on Kurt's shoulder before Kurt pushed him away.
"God, do you know how stupid I look?" Kurt screamed, shoving Blaine again and this time, he fell to the floor, and he couldn't find the will to make himself stand up. He deserved this, to have to look up at the one person he'd hurt most in the world, to feel lower than dirt. "They told me! For years, it's all I've heard. 'Blaine and Rachel are so close. Did anything ever happen between Blaine and Rachel?' and you know what, I knew something had, but neither of you ever told me and I let it go because I said it didn't matter. Because I had you now, because you loved me and I loved you. I trusted you and I made excuses for you and you took it all and stabbed me in the back!"
"I'm sorry!" Blaine cried again, feeling as useless as he knew his words were to Kurt. "I never wanted to hurt-"
"If you finish that sentence, I swear to God," Kurt sputtered, angry tears spilling over and running down his cheek. "Just get out. Get everything of yours out of my apartment and while you're there, pack her shit too because I'm done with both of you."
"No!" Blaine bellowed, scrambling to his feet in a new panic. "You can't do that."
"I can do whatever I want and you can't do a damn thing about it!" Kurt argued, halfway out the door before Blaine managed to cut him off, his hands bunching into the front Kurt's shirt. "Let go of me."
"No, just listen to me," Blaine pleaded, his fingers shaking even as he continued to clutch at Kurt. "I'll leave, okay? I swear I will, but don't do this to her too. She's going to wake up and she's going to have to deal with losing her daughter, with losing you if you cut her off and she won't blame you for it. You know she won't, but where is she supposed to go? I don't even know where I'm going, but please, I am begging you, don't kick her out too. Let her stay, just for awhile until she's okay again. Kurt, please, don't do it for me-."
"Just shut up!" Kurt finally managed to interrupt, prying himself free of Blaine's grasp. "I don't owe either of you anything."
"I know but-."
"I said I would do it!" Kurt groaned, ducking around Blaine and back into the hospital hallway and Blaine nearly sagged in relief; it didn't matter that Kurt hadn't actually said anything before then, it didn't matter that later on this would all hit Blaine in the chest like a freight train. His entire life for the past six years and irreparably been broken down in the matter of a few hours and he didn't know how he would deal with that. But at least, in some way, he had taken care of Rachel while he still could.
"Thank you," he sighed.
"Don't thank me yet," Kurt muttered as he headed back towards Rachel's room. "I'll stay with her until visiting hours are over and then I'm going to stay with Eli. I'm giving you 24 hours to pack. I don't care where you go, I don't even want to know. Anything that's left tomorrow, I'm burning and then I never want to see your face again. You ruined us. This is your fault."
He didn't want to leave the hospital, but Kurt wouldn't even stay in the same room with him; Blaine was starting to feel like he might break down again, have another fit or whatever it was that the nurses had sedated him for, and though every step he took away from Rachel felt worse than the last, he knew he had to get away, if only for a little whle. He walked the 32 blocks all the way back to his apartment, the home he'd made and lost, and it was almost impossible for him to turn the doorknob, knowing this would be the last time he did so.
Kurt was right, he had ruined them. Any hope he had – and it had been a feeble hope at best – of keeping Kurt in his life after his history with Rachel came out, it disappeared the instant Kurt heard the truth. And it hurt, just as much as anything else in his life had ever hurt because as much as he loved Rachel, he had loved Kurt. It had been an impossible line to tread, and he'd never done well at it, but he didn't spend his time with Kurt waiting for Rachel. He had been his first real love, the first person to ever believe in him, to love him back in the same way. They had tied themselves to each other in more ways that Blaine could have ever imagined was possible to do with a person. There was a time in his life – a few times actually – when Blaine believed he would want nothing more than Kurt Hummel.
But they fell apart, drifted away, and though they found each other again, there had been one piece they had never gotten back. And it got bigger over time, chipped away more pieces. It wasn't any one person's fault; and even though he had fallen in love with Kurt all over again, it wasn't enough. It hadn't been for a long time. But finally losing it all, no matter how inevitable he had known it to be, was enough to make him want to crawl into a dark corner and sleep for days where nightmares would be better than his reality.
It took him a few hours before he even started trying to pack, trying to shake the numbness off as he threw shirts and jeans and sweaters into the biggest suitcase he could find, wondering how he was going to carry all of his music equipment by himself through New York City. Anything that didn't mean he had to think about why he was doing all this, just enough that he had something to focus on. Eventually he broke down, called around for help, finally reaching Marco who promptly shut down the bar even though it was barely six o'clock at night.
"I got your back, kid," he said, which caused Blaine to spend another fifteen minutes willing himself not to cry again. Together the two of them managed to get everything Blaine decided he couldn't live without boxed and bagged up as Blaine somehow managed to choke out the whole story, only breaking down once when Marco squeezed his shoulder after Blaine told him about the baby. He appreciated that about Marco, that he didn't ask for details or judge him; he knew Blaine knew he had screwed up. He didn't feel the need to rub it in.
"I'm going to start dragging this down to the bar," Marco said after a few hours, grabbing the handle of the trolley cart piled with Blaine's belongings. "I've got some space in the storage closet you can keep this. What doesn't fit, you can put in my spare room."
"What?" Blaine asked dumbfounded.
"You got molasses in there?" Marco remarked, thumbing his knuckle against Blaine's forehead. "You need a place to stay."
"Marco I can't-."
"You will," he shrugged, already halfway out the door, rolling the trolling behind him. "Where else are you gonna do? Loft is above the bar, use the key to get in."
"You don't have to do this," Blaine called after him.
"I know!" he shouted back as he continued out of sight. If he weren't so exhausted, Blaine might have actually have smiled; it was the smallest of all things, that Marco would take him on without so much as a simple question, and even though his tired mind couldn't properly understand why, it meant everything at that moment.
It was well after midnight when Blaine finished cleaning – it was the least he could do for Kurt – and part of him wanted to give into his aching body and fall asleep in his bed one last time, but it didn't feel right. This place already felt like he didn't belong there, like he had scrubbed himself out of it, and as tired as he was, he knew he had to grab the rest of his bags and trudge his way to Marco's. He wondered how long it would take for it to feel like that was home. He wondered if anything would ever feel that way again. Especially if...
He'd tried not to think about it all night, but it was staring him in the face. No distractions left; he fished his phone out of his pocket – no missed messages, voice or text – and he dialed the hospital. If something that happened, Kurt would have told him, right? His heart was beating out of his chest as the receptionist picked up and transferred him to where Rachel was staying. But try as he might, he couldn't get anyone to tell him about her over the phone, claiming that because he wasn't strictly family, they couldn't release that kind of information to him. It didn't matter that he'd come in with her, spent every moment until that afternoon by her side. He didn't matter.
"There's no change," came a whisper from behind him and when he turned, it was very nearly an identical picture to the one Kurt had presented at the hospital. Standing in the doorway, his arms at his sides, staring off in the distance as if he could only speak if he wasn't looking at Blaine. "Her vitals were good when I left."
"I- thank you," Blaine sighed, throwing a bag over his shoulder before he leaned down to pick up his last one. "I'm leaving now, don't worry. You don't have to stay anywhere else tonight."
"Eli had company over," Kurt said with a nod. "I decided I didn't want to be around people."
"Yeah," Blaine agreed. "I understand." A silence settled over them, so heavy Blaine didn't know how Kurt could stand it. It was dark and sad and angry; everything he never wanted. But this wasn't in his control anymore, if it had ever been. The only thing he could do now was whatever Kurt wanted from him. "I'll just-."
Blaine stopped dead in his tracks, his back turned; he wasn't surprised Kurt was asking, just that he was asking now. But he had a right to know, and if he could stand it, Blaine would tell him everything like he'd wanted to months ago. Like he should have years ago. "Since I moved to the city," Blaine answered, "but not always. We were... we were a secret for a few months my freshman year, but we called it off. And then Christmas came and you- I was starting to fall for you again, but I wasn't over her."
"So the last six years together, I was just your second-best to Rachel Berry?"
"No," Blaine whirled around, his palms cupping Kurt's face before he could stop himself, but Kurt didn't pull away. He didn't lean in or respond in anyway, but he didn't fight him this time. "I fell in love with you again Kurt. I truly did. You are the most wonderful, amazing, man I have ever known and I will regret every day for the rest of my life what I did to you. But Rachel, she- there's just something- I love her the way I wanted to love you and I'm sorry that hurts you. But please, believe me when I say I was never not in love with you."
"How can you say that when you cheated on me for six years?" Kurt's voice shook, tears flowing between Blaine's fingers and he could feel the tremble in Kurt's jaw.
"I didn't!" Blaine exclaimed, pressing his forehead against Kurt's. "I know this doesn't make it better, because it shouldn't have happened at all, but there was only one time that Rachel and I were together when I was with you. It was right after Jesse left, do you remember?"
"She stopped talking to you," he murmured, almost reverently, a light of realization in his eyes.
"Then she came back and she was pregnant," Blaine said with a stuttering breath, "and I swear on my life, I wanted to tell you then. I almost did but I'm a coward. I wasn't ready to lose you. I fucked up and you- you have to pay the price for that and I'm just so sorry Kurt."
"Anything you could have chosen to do, anything that wasn't this," Kurt said, and it was so sad that Blaine couldn't hold back his own tears anymore, "it would have hurt less. It would have made more sense; I could have- I don't know what I could have done, but it wouldn't have felt as bad as this. I feel like I'm dying and you- you're going to be okay when this over because you'll have Rachel. What will I have? You're all I ever wanted."
Maybe it was just years of ingrained instincts, maybe it was just because he knew Kurt needed it, or maybe it was because Blaine really was nothing more than a selfish bastard, but he flung himself around Kurt, his arms clinging to his back as he let Kurt fall into his arms. It was cruel, for both of them, but he couldn't bring himself to let go. It was just Kurt's hand around his neck, his breath buried in his skin, and it was familiar, a last glimpse at a life he'd known and shared with someone he was never quite sure he deserved.
Their lips met in a bruise, harsh and needy and desperate, but it was like nothing they had ever shared before. Because this wasn't something they would have again, or would ever admit had ever really happened. It would scar, a wound deep enough to last a lifetime, but it was necessary, he knew that much. There would be no going forward with this; it was simply an ending. It was goodbye.
It was Kurt who pulled away, because Blaine wouldn't deny him that final moment, and he licked his bottom lip before stepping out of Blaine's grasp. "I want you to leave now," he insisted. "Rachel can still stay here but don't call, don't come over. I need you to not be around."
"Okay," was all Blaine could say.
It was raining again; it had been for nearly two weeks. She didn't mind. In fact, if she could feel anything, she would have appreciated the fact that the weather seemed to be just as depressed as she was. Everything was cold and gray, the colors of the city completely washed out. Just like her, she thought with a sigh as she curled up on the window seat, leaning her head against the frigid glass. She was shivering, she knew, but not even that mattered to her because the one person that could have chased away the chill, wrap his arms around her shoulders and hold her tight, was more than 3,000 miles away in New York, waiting for her to come home.
Her heart ached whenever she thought of Blaine, imagining the look on his face when he realized she had gone. Waking up in the hospital, finding out that her little girl had been dead inside her womb for two months, that Kurt knew about her affair with his boyfriend, that Blaine was suffering so much because of her – she couldn't take it. She cried until her body gave out, and then she would sleep for days. She wouldn't eat to the point that the nurses had her hooked up to an IV of fluids just to make sure she received enough nutrients to get her through the day. They tossed around words like "severe postpartum depression" and "clinical nervous breakdown" and she supposed it made them feel better to have a name for what was happening to her, but it only seemed to make things worse in her mind. They couldn't possibly understand how much it pained her to sit there, knowing this was her fault, this was punishment for her sins, and still let Blaine hold her hand; a comfort she didn't deserve.
The night she ran, she had been scheduled to be released from the hospital the next morning, where she was expected to return to the apartment and forget she had ever been friends with Kurt, that he had ever meant anything to her. They couldn't be friends, he'd told her, and she could feel it in her bones that they probably never would be again and if by some miracle they managed to get past this, it would never be the same. Just as things between her and Blaine could never be the same, no matter how hard they tried; and the sad truth was, she wasn't inclined to try anymore. It hurt too much and they lost too much to keep going on like this. She had to end it, for good, and she knew he wouldn't let her. So instead of waiting for morning to come, she pulled herself together long enough to demand she be released immediately. She signed the papers, let the hospital call her a cab, and she rode that cab straight to La Guardia. Nearly $1,200 later – a surprising small hole in the savings she had managed to acquire since moving to New York – she was tucked into the back corner of a plane pointed straight to London.
Jesse had picked her up, no questions asked. He helped her settle into his guest bedroom and took her around to buy a little bit of everything since she had neglected to pack. He made dinner that night and forced her to eat; and for the last two weeks, that's what life had been like for her. Jesse left her to her own devices, seeming to understand that she needed to be alone, and would only crop up to bring her food, sitting by her until she ate it. He took care of her, and she was as grateful as she could be while still feeling absolutely numb.
She sighed again, watching her breath fog up the glass. Two weeks and she was still no better than when she started. She couldn't talk to Blaine, had only sent him one email - "I'm sorry. I don't know if I'm coming back. Don't waste your life on me anymore" - and he responded by messaging her every day. She'd made the mistake of reading the first one and it felt like dying all over again as she read his words to her; words of love and worry, of pain and heartache, of need, hope. And every day he would send her another one and every day she would let it sit in her message box, glaring at her accusingly until she read it. But she never did. For all she knew, he could have progressed to hating her as much as she hated herself, but she still wouldn't read them.
A warm weight settled on her shoulders suddenly and she looked up at Jesse curiously as he draped a blanket around her still trembling body. "You're cold," he said, sitting on the opposite side of the cushion, eyes boring into hers.
"I didn't notice," Rachel said, even as she tugged the blanket closer around her.
"I know," he replied solemnly, "and that's the problem. You don't notice anything anymore."
She couldn't do anything but shrug, turning back to stare out the window, tracing the raindrops as they raced down the glass pane, wondering exactly how long it would take for them to go crashing against the bottom like she had. But she didn't get to find out as Jesse stood up, his hand around her arm and he pulled her off the cushion, the blanket falling to her feet. She tried to protest, wrench her arms free from his grasp, but he only held on tighter as he made his way to the back door, pushing her through. The frigid air hit her in the face, almost like an electric shock, but Jesse didn't let her just stand on the porch. Instead he dragged her down the stairs, out into the tiny little garden, out into the freezing, blasting rain.
"What are you doing?" she yelled, trying to run around him and back into the house, but he blocked her path no matter which way she went. "Jesse this isn't funny!"
"You want to be cold," he shouted back at her, his hands digging into the flesh of her arms, "then be cold out here because this is all you are right now."
"I don't even know what that means!" Rachel insisted, trying to blink the rain out of her eyes.
"It means you need to wake up Rachel!" Jesse paused to take a deep breath, something he only did when he felt like whatever he needed to say was truly important. He was usually so impulsive, would speak without really thinking and he never apologized for his honesty. But every now and then, he would stop and he would carefully pick his words before saying them. And he was doing this now, for her, and that realization was enough to make her stop fighting him. "Your baby is dead," he finally said and she wanted to slap him; of all the things he could have decided to say, it was this? "She's dead and she's not coming back and I'm sorry this happened to you. But that's the thing, it happened to you, not because of you. No one could have predicted this, but you're acting like this is somehow your fault. You're hurt, and you have every reason to be, but you're hurting every one you ever loved by acting this way."
"Blaine is better-."
"I'm not just talking about Blaine," he shook his head, drops of water falling from the ends of his hair. "I'm talking about your family. Your dads keep calling me, checking up on you. Hudson wanted to know how much a plane ticket was. Even Kurt emailed me, asking if you were safe. And that bartender guy, Marco, he said to tell you he's looking after Blaine for you because he's a wreck, Rachel.
"I let you stay here," he continued, "because I thought it would help you. I thought if you could just get away, put some distance between you and your life for a few days, you'd be able to move on better than you could when it was surrounding you. But you've gotten worse. You don't even... you act like you don't care, but you do, and it's killing you inside."
"I can't care," she whispered, clutching at her stomach, her dress completely soaked through. "Don't you get it? Nothing good has ever come out of me caring. I ruined Kurt's life with my caring. I hurt Blaine because I cared too much to let him go. I even lost you because of my caring."
"You never lost me," Jesse argued, "and you must have known that since I was the one you ran to."
"It doesn't matter," she said stubbornly. "It can't matter."
"It has to matter," he countered, "because if you let this defeat you, then everything that happened was all for nothing and that is worse than just being a little selfish. That is cruel."
"You're calling me cruel?" she choked
"No," he replied, "not yet. But if you don't get up and fight for what you want, even if it is painful, then I will. Because what was the point if you don't?"
"The point of what, exactly?"
"If you don't know that," Jesse sighed, "then you're further gone that I thought. " He released his grasp on her as his shoulders slumped. He looked weary, as if he hadn't slept in weeks and it occurred to her that maybe he hadn't. Maybe he had been looking after her in more ways than just making sure she ate. He had stayed up, worried, spoken to people she should have been speaking to, trying to keep her alive while she made no effort. "Figure it out Rachel," he demanded of her as he turned to walk back into the house, leaving her alone in the rain.
Days later, she couldn't get Jesse's words out of her head. They were the first thing she heard when she woke up, and they kept her awake at night, though considering she had slept more the past few weeks than she had in her entire life, it probably wasn't a bad thing. It was however, annoying, because she didn't want to spend all her time thinking about what she had to "figure out". She just wanted to stop, to make everything go away, but she couldn't do that with Jesse hovering over with a big question mark, mocking her. She was irritated, a bit angry, but more than that, she realized, she had somehow been energized by him.
Which had probably been his whole point.
"Okay," she said one morning over her oatmeal, "you win. I'm a mess and I need to snap out of it."
"And how are you going to do that?" he said with a smirk, though she could see in his eyes that he was still hesitant to really trust her.
"I don't know," she admitted, "but you started this, so you're going to help me."
Jesse laughed at that, finishing the rest of his coffee and rinsing out her bowl in the sink. "How did I know you would drag me into this?" He said it with a smile and, remarkably, she could feel the corners of her own lips twitching into what probably the world's tiniest grin. "Alright Berry, we'll start with getting you out of the house. I have a show tonight. You're coming."
Her stomach did a little flip and she immediately began to question if this had been a good idea, trying to force herself out of this shell she crawled into just to prove a point to Jesse, but he was looking at her as if he'd issued her a challenge he didn't expect her to accept. So she steeled her nerves and nodded; Jesse beamed, and the small voice inside of her that was whispering she could always back out was immediately shut out. He promised to send a cab to pick her up around six and he'd leave a ticket in her name at the booth. He actually thanked her, a strange mixture of relief and excitement, and then, before he left for the day, he kissed her on the cheek. It was just a friendly gesture, one she'd given and received so many times in her life that she almost forgot what it felt like. The warmth and the comfort; it was almost overwhelming.
It shouldn't have shaken her as much as it did, but instead of letting it take her over, she used it to her advantage. It was her reminder that someone was counting on her. It's what made her get in the shower and wash the slight layer of grease that had formed in her hair, what made her go out on her own to the corner store and buy a facial mask to cleanse her pores. She actually went through her entire nightly routine, down to the ice bath, until it was mid-afternoon, and she had to admit, she felt good. It was the best she'd felt since she those blessed few months she'd spent with Blaine, pregnant and in New York. And even though the realization threatened to drag her under, she was determined to get through just one day, if not for her, for Jesse.
But the thing was, as she searched through her meager clothing for the simple black cotton dress Jesse had purchased for her, she felt new. Her hair was shining, her eyes were bright, and even though she wasn't instantly better, she at least looked the part. It reminded her of who she was, at least who a little part of who she was. She was an actress. She could put on the clothes and the make-up and she could become anyone she wanted to be. Right now, she just wanted to be Rachel; she wasn't quite there yet, but she could pretend. She could try.
She was waiting on the porch when the cab pulled up, afraid that if she waited for the driver to come to the door and knock, she wouldn't answer. Jesse had already given him the address and paid the far in advance, so the ride was entirely silent all the way to the theater. Rachel wasn't paying much attention as she picked up her ticket and found her seat in the orchestra section. They were premium seats and she wondered how much money he had spent to guarantee her a ticket like this at the last minute, especially since more and more people were filing it and it was clearly a sold-out production. All the people milling around made her feel claustrophic and she was frustrated with that; she was Rachel Berry. She didn't shy from crowds. She wanted to be in the center of them.
She distracted herself by looking at her program, letting out a little gasp as she looked at the familiar white mask on the front of the cover and the romantic scrawl that spelled out The Phantom of the Opera. She hadn't realized that this was the show Jesse had been working on. Had he ever mentioned it to her? Had she just not paid attention? Was she really this out of touch with what was going on around her? She looked through the cast billing, starting in the choreographers and working her way up, looking for Jesse's name and a hand flew to her mouth once she found it, her eyes welling with tears and an incredible sense of pride.
Debuting: Jesse St. James as The Phantom of the Opera
She wanted to find him, to throw her arms around him and tell him over and over how proud she was of him, how amazing she knew he would be, how he deserved this so much. But the lights dimmed and the show started before she could even stand up. The entire exposition was like torture for her, as she waited and waited to see him. She cried when she heard his voice for the first time and she was sure she was driving the people seated next to her crazy, but she couldn't hold herself back from applauding loudly after his first scene with the little slight of a girl playing Christine.
He was breathtaking, the most perfect Phantom she had ever seen and watching him thoroughly become this iconic character, knowing how hard he must have worked to prove himself ready for this, she felt like he was somehow bring her back to life. He was taking her by the hand, leading her down the dark corridor and secret passages, reminding her through song and music who she had been, who she could still be. It was rejuvenating, exhilarating, and everything she needed to pick herself up. It wouldn't be easy, and she knew this feeling would be fleeting, but as long as she could hold onto even a little bit of it, she would make it through.
She couldn't stop crying when she met him backstage, clinging to him to the point that he had to carry her over to a couch just so he wasn't having to hold her up on his own. "Thank you," she kept saying, trying to put into words exactly what he had done for her. "You were outstanding. You were perfect. I needed this so much, Thank you. So much."
"I didn't do anything you need to thank me for," Jesse chuckled, his hands soothing through her hair.
"You did!" she insisted. "You may have just saved my life, I swear to you."
"I didn't save your life," he said kindly, cupping her tear-stained cheeks. "I just reminded you that there's still a life out there, that it's yours, but you have to take it."
"Thank you," she cried again, burrowing into his neck. "Jesse, thank you."
"I would have been a terrible mother," she said to Jesse out of the blue three days after his debut as the Phantom. She had been in London almost three weeks now and, except for that brief mention when he had yelled at her in the rain, she had avoided this subject as much as possible. She still didn't even want to acknowledge it, but if she was ever going to accept the baby she has lost, she had to do what she always did, and that was talk about what was bothering her, even if it only upset her more.
Jesse looked at her sadly, shaking his head. "No," he assured her, "you would have been a great mother. A little crazy, but you've always been that way. That kid would have been lucky to have you."
"I try not to think about it," she whispered, her voice already shaking as she stared at her hands. "I can't understand how I could just go to sleep one day and wake up the next without her. This baby, this little thing that I carried around with me and somehow had fallen in love with without even seeing her yet, she was just gone. She had been gone for a long time and I just... didn't know. How could I have not known something like that?"
"No one could have predicted this," Jesse said calmly, as if that was meant to make her feel better. It didn't, it just made her angrier because he clearly didn't understand either. She wasn't trying to say she could have stopped it, or changed it somehow. That wasn't nearly as important.
"I should have known!" she screeched, her voice cracking as she became more and more frantic. "I should have felt it when it happened. I should have felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest or like I had forgotten how to breathe, or something! But I felt nothing!. She was counting on me to be there, to protect her and I failed her. I let this horrible thing happen to her and I didn't do a damn thing to stop it."
"What would you have done?" Jesse asked, still as calm as he had been before. "How could you have fixed this if you had known?"
Rachel blanched, throwing her hands up in the air, exclaiming, "that's not the point!"
"It is the point!" he finally yelled, slamming his fist on the table between them. "You couldn't have done anything. This was so far out of your control and nothing you think you could have done would have made a difference. It wouldn't have prevented this."
"A mother should know, right?" she repeated, shaking her head as if that would make Jesse agree with her. "They're always talking about the mother who woke up in the middle of the night because she knew her child was in trouble. I didn't do that. I don't even know when it happened and I know I'm capable of having that, because when you love someone, you have to feel that. Because even 3,000 miles away, I can feel Blaine's heart breaking. Why couldn't I feel that with my own daughter?"
"You feel Blaine's heart breaking because yours is too," he stated like it was a fact; and really, she knew it was. This was why being numb was easier for her; she didn't have to face these things if she didn't feel them and once she started letting it all back in, she couldn't stop it. "You have attached yourself to Blaine in ways that I don't think even you understand. It's powerful. It's... quite frankly, it's maddening. And when you try to take yourself out of that, it hurts you. It hurts him."
"I hurt him anyway," she sighed feebly.
"You love him anyway," he corrected her. "There's not a single other reason why he would come back to you over and over again if you didn't love him and he didn't love you. The rest of us, Kurt and I especially, we never stood a chance."
"That doesn't mean-."
"Don't be stupid Rachel," he snapped at her, chair scraping noisily across the linoleum. "It means everything. What happened with your baby wasn't your fault, but if you use this as an excuse to run away from the only thing worth having in life, then that will be your fault."
She wasn't sure why she had decided to do this. It was late, after four in the morning, and she hadn't yet gone to sleep. All she could think about was, come Saturday, she would have been in London for a month. She appreciated what Jesse had done for her – given her a place to stay, a means of escape even as he pushed her back on her feet – and she found that once it stopped raining, she really did love London and she could understand exactly why Jesse had thrived here. He truly had found everything he had been searching for; his real dream had come back to him, he was respected in the British theater business even as an American, and amongst all that, she was surprised to learn, he had fallen in love again. He was actually engaged to the actress who played Christine opposite of his Phantom, finally introducing her at a cast dinner.
She was happy for him. He deserved it, but she couldn't help the melancholy that crept over her. Watching Jesse with his fiance, seeing how at peace he was everything, especially knowing all that he'd gone through to get there. He had run away to London once before, but he'd made this his home. This was where he belonged and she could see that now. She wanted to be like him, to start over in some strange new world but she knew it would never work for her; because if he belonged there, she belonged in New York. She'd always found her strength in that city, in what it had done for her, in her dreams, and in the people she loved.
She took a deep breath and switched on Jesse's computer, logging into her email. 44 unread messages, some spam, two from her dads, a couple of concerned former castmates, and 30 from Blaine. Those were the ones that she was detemined to read. It didn't matter that she was already a little choked up to see that he never gave up on her, that he still sat down to write her. She would read every word. She owed him that.
Some were short, just long enough to say he missed her, and others were longer, telling her about how he had tried to start going back to classes but he couldn't concentrate. Some were were obviously written drunk and he would lash out at her, asking how she could just abandon him to deal with this, that he was just as hurt as she was, that he needed her to come back to him. The ones that came after ones like that seemed to hurt the most as he apologized, saying he didn't mean it, that he loved her and he could understood why she had run away. He wanted to run too, he just didn't have anywhere to go. One asked if they could just run away together, if that would make things better?
But it was his last one, the one she'd received from him around noon that day, was the one that crumbled all her resolve and she sat sobbing quietly at the computer, reading his words until she was sure she had memorized them, that they were etched into her skin.
"Rachel, I don't even know if you're reading these anymore. I wouldn't if I were you. There's nothing I can say to you that I haven't said before, but that doesn't make them any less true. I love you. I miss you. I hate waking up and knowing that you're not there. I hate knowing when I can see you next.
But I know you need time. And I realize now that I need time myself. It'd be easier if you were here, but I can't ask you to come home anymore until you're ready. So I want to be ready for you. I want to be stronger, a better person. Someone who isn't confused, or lying to himself about what he wants. I have to be right for you and I have to be right for me. Even if we can never work this out, even if you never feel the same way about me.
I don't want you to feel like I'm pressuring you. I don't want you to feel like I have expectations. I do, and that's probably wrong of me. But that's something I have to deal with, not you. And that's why this is my last email to you. I just wanted you to know, so that if you are reading these still, you didn't think I just decided to ignore you. I'm always thinking about you. I'm always loving you. That will never change.
She didn't go to sleep, instead stayed up and watch the sunrise with a cup of hot chocolate. She couldn't bring herself to email him back; she didn't know what she would have said back after that. This was his way of letting her go and the strangest thing was, now that she was free, all she wanted was to find her way back into his arms. She wanted to go home.
"You're up early," Jesse yawned as he stumbled into the kitchen, pouring the rest of the hot chocolate into a mug and heating it up.
"I never slept," she admitted with a slight shrug. "I've been up all night thinking."
"Another downward spiral?" he said teasingly and she stuck her tongue out at him, laughing at his obvious surprise.
"An upward one actually," she said lightly. "You won't be surprised to hear I cried, but I think it actually did me good this time. I had a revelation."
"Intriguing," he muttered, motioning for her to continue and suddenly she was nervous. Because as soon as she said the words out loud, there would be no backing down. She would have to follow through with it and part of her doubted that she could. But that didn't change the fact that she needed this, more than Jesse and London, more than anything else in the world.
"I have to go back," she said quietly, "don't I?"
Jesse's eyes widened and lit up with approval. "I think it's time," he nodded, sitting in the chair next to her before pulling her into his lap. "I'm going to miss you but your life isn't here. It never has been."
"What if I get there and everything goes wrong again?"
"It won't," he promised as she leaned against his shoulder. "And if it does, you'll just face it down this time. You won't run away, you won't let it beat you. You'll be Rachel Berry and demand things go your way. But," he said gently, pulling away from her until she could look him in the eye, "if that still doesn't work, I want you to know, you can always run back to me."
She laughed, squeezing his neck until he protested he couldn't breathe. "I love you Jesse," she giggled, kissing his forehead before bounding off his lap and heading for the room she'd made her own. "Now come help me pack."
=:= three months later =:=
Coming back to New York had been the best thing for her, she knew that now. She was surprised at how easily she was able to slip back into her skin once she was back in the middle of Times Square, looking out over Broadway. She'd stood there once, as a junior in high school, exclaiming that she had "made it" with such excitement. She felt that now, but it was calmer somehow. This was peace, this city and it's lights. This was home.
Well nearly. She had called Blaine, his voice wary and hesitant as he answered the phone as if he didn't quite believe it was actually her calling, and asked him to meet her at the top of the red stairs, even though it would be packed with tourists. He was there in less than ten minutes, his cheeks flushed as if he had run the entire way and she didn't have a chance to say a word before he swept her up into his arms, his hands tangling in her hair as he whispered her name repeatedly until his voice cracked and she realized he was actually crying.
They talked all night, sitting on the steps until security closed them down and they had to move to the street, sitting on the concrete for hours. He surprised her by being the one to say he wasn't ready to jump into anything with her again, that he had meant it when he realized he needed the space to heal. She almost cried herself, because part of her knew he was saying this for her sake, and the other part was just so grateful that she didn't have to be the one to put that kind of distance between them again.
They still saw each other as friends but not nearly as often as they were used to. He threw himself into finally finishing his last semester of his masters degree, though he already had offers from both major and independent labels to work for them as a producer. She occupied herself with rejoining the ranks of theater, going to every audition she could find, and being welcomed back by anyone who recognized her. It felt good, finding her footing again, finding her voice. It made her stronger.
But right now, she was panicking again. She had known this would happen. It was getting harder to say goodbye to Blaine at the end of the night when they would have dinner or meet for coffee, and if she was feeling it, she knew he had to be feeling it too. She shouldn't have been so shocked when he asked her out, officially, on a real date. Her first instinct had been to say no, and that's what she did. He just smiled, shook his head, and asked if she wanted more tea. It was the fact that he just let it go so easily that convinced her, she thought. Because suddenly, there was no pressure on it. She could say no and he would leave it at that, and more that that, she could say yes and it would mean the same thing.
It wasn't the same thing though. The more she thought about it, the more she understood this was a pivotal moment for them. They had tried keeping each other at arm's length, but they had broken down those walls without even trying and if they were going to do this again, fall into each other despite their terrible history, she had to know that it would actually mean something to him too. She couldn't go though this again otherwise.
She held her breath as she knocked on his door three hours too early, already made up for their date. He answered with a toothbrush dangling from his mouth, and his eyes widened with worry when he saw her. "Rachel!" he sputtered, wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve. "I thought we were meeting-"
"We were," she said quickly, stepping into the apartment before he could actually invite him in. Her urgency seemed to put him on edge. His eyebrows furrowed together, his jaw set in a hard line, and she could see his mind trying to work out why she was there so early. She knew she should say something instead of letting him suffer in silence, but her own thoughts were reeling so quickly, she didn't know which to think first.
"You're canceling on me," he finally said.
"I'm not," she replied gently, with a shake of her hair.
Blaine swallowed so hard she could actually see the lump in his throat as he sat down on the tattered couch, slumping in his seat and looking helpless down at his hands. "Now I'm really scared," he tried to joke, but any trace of humor was lost in his sad voice.
"I am too," she confessed, sitting down on the opposite end. "I'm terrified actually."
"Of us," Rachel affirmed. "Blaine we've spent seven years making this as hard as it could possibly be and I'm afraid of accidentally going back to that. But more than that, I'm afraid of not having you in my life. This year has been the worst year of my life, but when I look back on it in all the good parts... they were all with you."
He looked up at her, hope flooding into his eyes, and it was like seeing him as he had been all those years ago when he first moved to New York. Young and strong, open and willing to fall in love despite the pain in his past. It was the way he looked at her their first day together, when they'd spent all day in her apartment learning each other's bodies and souls. She had known on that day that something profound had started and now, for the first time, she could truly appreciate what it had been. It was a struggle, it was fighting, but it was pure and warm and it was theirs. It was a love that would last for both their lifetimes, no matter what the end result would actually be.
"I don't want to pretend like I'm not in love with you," she said, her voice unwavering as she moved closer to him, taking his hand in her own and holding it to her heart. "It's killing me, trying to deny this. I love you Blaine, and I need you. But I have to know that you're with me on this. Because if it's just me that's in this deep, you have to let me walk away now."
He didn't say anything at first, just gazed at her as his free hand traced the curve of her cheek; then he leaned forward, his lips brushing against hers as softly as she could ever remember him kissing her. It was like a feather, a whisper, just a passing moment, but she felt it down to her core. And then he closed his eyes, smiled, and his forehead rested against hers.
"It's not just you," he finally whispered, his grip tightening around her hand. "It's never been just you." That was all she needed to hear. All she needed to know.
They could do this now.
AN: I am so so so very sorry it has taken me so long to write this chapter, especially after I left it on such a big cliffhanger. I don't really have an excuse, other than life and school. So this is my crappy apology and my hope that you enjoyed this chapter as much as you've enjoyed the rest of the story
In other news, the next chapter will be the epilogue, and then that'll be it; we'll be done.