A/N: OK, so here is my first foray into Glee and St Berry writing. I love this pairing and have wanted to write about them since they sang together in the library! I started writing this before Bad Reputations, so there may be a few allusions to them breaking up after "the music video", but it isn't a major plot point and they are together at the start. Should be pretty self explanatory apart from that. It's a 2 parter. I hope you guys enjoy!
It wasn't supposed to happen this way.
He was supposed to be the one breaking her heart, not the other way around.
Still, Jesse St James found himself staring at the pink, scented paper that had her neat, cursive handwriting, feeling a little bit heartbroken. He'd opened his locker to find the note as it fluttered out, landing on the ground and immediately recognized who it was from, smiling subconsciously to himself. Normally he liked reading the sweet nothings that she'd send to him occasionally; they always screamed Rachel, like plaid skirts and gold stars. This note; however, just made him feel a little bit empty.
The words "We need to talk" never boded well. You didn't have to know very much to know that.
When he walks towards the coordinates she gave him, (the auditorium, 4:00 sharp), he feels like somebody should be calling out "Dead man walking" or the appropriate equivalent. He is only just realising that losing Rachel Berry may be comparable to a lethal injection.
Because he doesn't know how or when or why it happened, but he's not sure he knows how to live without her anymore.
She's sitting on the piano stool, playing out solitary notes on the Steinway, when he walks in. He stops at the door for a moment to catch his breath.
He isn't used to being like this; he didn't think he knew how to be anything but reassured, confident to the point where even arrogance seemed to be a spot on the horizon behind him. Now he just feels an impending sense of doom, with no Sondheim autobiographies or props to hide behind. He'd needed that façade of strength, so he tries to get it back and regulate his breathing, repeating a mantra of self-assurance, before coughing to get Rachel's attention.
She starts, whipping her head around to meet his gaze. Her pensive (dare he say hopeful) look fails her as their eyes meet, and it is replaced by one of disappointment, dread and a flicker of anger. More than anything, she seems to have lost that ever optimistic sparkle in her eyes. Replacing it is a slow exhalation of misspent breath
A part of him was hoping that the ending of their relationship came because she wants Finn, or that Puck boy, or wants to put Glee first.
She doesn't have to say a word for him to know that she's found out his secret mission.
And that just makes his heart break a little more. Not only are they done, and his covert Vocal Adrenaline mission has been compromised, but he has no chance of winning her back from this, his ultimate betrayal.
"Rachel…" He does his best to deliver her name strongly, but something tells him he doesn't deserve to even utter it. His normally repressed conscience is having a field day with this, sending him swathes of guilt and remorse for putting his career and his team above them in a way that she hadn't.
"Shelby put you up to this." She tells him from the stage, as she gestures between them, and he looks at the floor. It is a fact, not a question. She knows the truth, but it doesn't empower her. She thinks that she might have, maybe, been a little bit in love with him like she had never been in love before, and discovering his deceit has not put New Directions one step ahead of Vocal Adrenaline, but succeeded on reducing their star to a mess- not that she'd show him that.
"She put you up to this, and you agreed, because you care about winning, not about the carcasses you leave strewn in your path". She's getting into her anger now, dictating his actions to perfection, with a hint of Berry-esque melodrama thrown in for good measure.
This is the first time he realises that her opinion of him really does mean the world to him. All the bad reviews on Earth would fade to dust if only she praised him. He's going to say something, try and defend himself, redeem himself in her eyes, but she cuts him off.
"I have one question, before I send you back to your real team." Rachel says real team with a bitterness he has never seen in her before. He just nods; he owes her an answer to anything she asks him at this point. He goes through a list of what she might enquire; Did you ever have feelings for me? What was the point? How much have you leaked? Why me? Why go through all the trouble? Maybe, if he just formulates a diplomatic response…
"When did she sic you on me? On McKinley?" She asks, and he's genuinely taken aback. It wasn't what he was expecting. But when he thinks about it, it makes sense. She wants to know at what point did their relationship become a lie, or was it always one.
For the first time since entering the auditorium, Jesse speaks more than just her name, "She sent me to see you lot at Sectionals, to scope out the competition. And you were good. There were issues, flaws, but you did it on the fly and you were good. Shelby started hatching up plans, none of which included me spying through you, but then we met in the music store, and somehow word got back to her about our date and….It wasn't orchestrated from the start. That first time I did genuinely ask you out."
Rachel still stands on the stage, with Jesse a few rows back in the audience. She tries to resist the urge to scoff at him saying that he genuinely asked her out the first time. What about all those other times? The concerts and the movies? What about the time that he tried to pressure her into losing her virginity? Those times, was he just there to gather information? Or to wait until she was so in love with him, and had given everything she possibly could to him, so he could break her clean in two?
Forget scoffing, she feels an unfamiliar sick feeling in her stomach as bile scorches the back of her throat.
"Ok." It is so far from ok, but Rachel replies definitively, as if she is putting the matter to bed.
"Ok?" Comes the questioning reply from Jesse.
"Yes. Ok." She reiterates. "Obviously, I am going to have to terminate our relationship, but I assume you already knew that." He hates the way those words sound when they fall from her lips. Terminate. It seems so clinical to him, so completely apart from her and her passion and what their relationship stood for (if you didn't include the lying bit). Jesse just nods because really, he doesn't have the right or the voice to do anything else.
"You should also know that this won't affect New Directions." Rachel continues, because she's stronger than Shelby gave her credit for, and she's really quite ruthless underneath all those smiles and acts of kindness. He thinks that maybe when she says New Directions, she means herself, but a selfish part of him really hopes that she doesn't, because he wants her to be affected by him, to carry him round in her heart like he knows he'll always carry her around in his. "Finn can take the leads that Mr Schuester gave to you, and I'm not going to let this ruin our chances at Regionals. I won't let you get in the way of my dreams."
And suddenly it hits him. She may not want him in the way of her dreams, but he can't fathom her not being in the way of his. And he realises that she isn't just in the way of them anymore, she's one of them. He both loves and hates her for worming her way past his defences. He's never needed anyone but himself before.
So he has to ask, even if she's walking off the stage, because he can't let her go knowing that he didn't even try.
"Rachel!" He says her name and her retreating body freezes. She doesn't turn around and he knows it's because she's too stubborn and proud to let him see her cry, but she's stopped, so she's listening.
"You forgave Finn, after everything he did to you, every time, you forgave him and he didn't even have to ask. And you forgave the rest of them, for all the times they ever were rude or hurt you or threw a slushie at you, and they weren't even looking to repent." She turns around now, having somehow managed to dry her tears, but not hiding the red that laces her eyes. "I guess…what I'm saying is….Well, I'm looking and I'm asking and…" He sucks in a breath of air through his teeth before continuing, "Can you ever forgive me for this?"
He's never stumbled for words before, never in his life, but something about her standing up there, always the one to take the blame, makes his mouth go dry and his language fail him. He knows what the repercussions of this will be. She brought him into this fold, so she'll have to take the fall for his lies, she'll be held accountable, and she'll be ostracized for his sins. Still, he sees something filter into her eyes, like maybe she's considering what he's asking, and whilst right now is not an option for them, maybe someday will be.
But then she goes and says one word, two letters, and walks away from him for good.
When she tells the Glee Club, she doesn't know what to expect.
Finn, as promised, can't look at her, not even long enough to muster up an "I told you so."
Santana and Brittany bitch, as per usual, and call her on the shit that she's brought into their group, the group that was doing just fine beforehand. She isn't sure Puck even heard, so engrossed is he in his phone and whatever text he's just been sent. Mike, Artie, Matt and Tina just look each other, and then at her, trying to be sympathetic whilst trying not to be really mad, but she can see it in their eyes, that this is her fault.
It's Quinn that surprises her, by standing up and shooting looks that could kill at the rest of the club. She envelopes Rachel into a hug, one that the brunette eventually relaxes into, and that, somehow, pieces her together a little bit.
Although that isn't to say that she isn't still completely broken.
Mercedes and Kurt join in and it's just the four of them, being stared at by the rest of the club, who are all looking at them like they have no idea what they suddenly have in common.
But really, it's so simple and so human and so binding.
They all know what it's like to have their hearts broken, really broken; Quinn after baby-gate and then in her ensuing relationship with Puck, Kurt constantly with Finn, and Mercedes all that time ago with Kurt.
Mr Schuester keeps her behind after the practice is over, and all she can seem to do is apologise and berate herself for her stupidity, and before she knows it she's crying hysterically in front of her teacher, who just lets her cry. He tells her that it's ok, and that she isn't to blame, and that it's just as much his fault, for letting him into New Directions in the first place, and she really believes that he understands at least a part of her guilt.
After she recovers from her meltdown, she resolves that she's done crying over a boy who deceived her for the better part of their relationship. He was nothing, and they were evidently nothing, and she still has a whole lot of dreams that she needs to work towards.
Following that day, she builds up a tougher skin. She isn't so haphazard with her heart and forthcoming with her feelings, but you can still hear it in her voice when she sings. The sparkle returns to her eye slowly, and her smile once again takes up its permanent residence on her face, even if it's a little less genuine and takes a little more effort to keep it there. She learns to laugh when Jacob makes more passes at her and she finds herself becoming closer and closer to Kurt, Mercedes and Quinn, like they all have something unsaid that's still there, even if they're moving on.
When they get to Regionals, she has prepared herself for seeing him, and is ready to put on her best show face teemed with some pretty awesome jazz hands and win the competition. He fluffs a high note when he sees her really smiling at him. It's disconcerting and not at all what he expected and he doesn't know what to think about it, and his performance suffers for it. Afterwards, he sees the devilish glint in her eye as she nods to Mercedes, and he knows that they planned this, planned to psyche him out, and he can't really find it in himself to blame them for it. If Vocal Adrenaline were planning on winning through cheating, they didn't really deserve to win.
And this time, when she opens her mouth to belt out the opening song they've chosen she's flawless in a way she wasn't before. It seems crazy, but her voice is a little more full of something, maybe a little more world-weary and experienced. He thinks maybe he had something to do with that, and even though he still misses everything about them and hates that he hurt her, he can at least see a silver lining in that.
When New Directions are awarded top place, he's not surprised. Rachel gave the performance of a lifetime and she pulls that little group that could up to a level that most wouldn't even dare to dream of. Even Shelby gives Will a begrudging congratulations before mumbling something about how she should have poached Rachel for Vocal Adrenaline, not targeted her.
He's happy that she's happy, or at least he is until he sees Finn lean down, and whisper something into her ear that looks a lot like "I'm sorry", and that makes his blood boil with jealousy and anger and a whole lot of other things he knows he has no right feeling. He can't lip read, but Rachel looks contemplative as Finn keeps talking, and then a wide grin bursts onto her features as she nods her head vigorously before turning to the boy who isn't him and is swept up in his arms, and twirled around, and kissed without an ulterior motive.
Jesse just thinks he needs to break something, preferably Finn's nose.
Because of course they can get their shit together, and she can forgive Finn and Finn can forgive her (although he is adamant that Rachel shouldn't have to be forgiven). He hates that she won't make the effort for him.
When they lock eyes on the stage, she looks guilty for what he just had to witness, but Jesse decides he's done looking apologetic for her (even though he genuinely is). He tried that and she told him to pretty much go to hell. So he smirks that arrogant smirk of his, and that little speck of guilt he saw in her eyes is replaced by anger. He likes that even though she got under his skin earlier, he can still get under hers.
It isn't all bad either. He's named Male Vocalist of the night, and unsurprisingly she gets the female equivalent. They don't have to talk, or duet, or anything, but it means that she can't really gloat, because he still won all by himself, even after missing a note. To him the competition proves his vocals, and whilst getting the same award at Nationals may have made him even more assured, this isn't something many people can claim to have been awarded four times, and Finn can't even say he's gotten it once.
He hears when she wins Nationals, as well as Female Vocalist there. He smiles to himself when he discovers that Finn, once again, does not garner any individual recognition. He feels a little smug about it too, even though he supposes he isn't really in competition with Finn anymore.
When he starts to think more deeply about it, his smugness fades, because Finn still gets to hold and love and cherish the only girl he can ever imagine could have matched him.
Still, by the end of the year he's out of Ohio, and moving on to his new life in Los Angeles. And whilst things don't start happening for him as quickly as he'd like, that doesn't mean things don't start happening. He lands small roles, with a couple of lines, and he sings in a choir that sings the backing vocals on an album that gets onto the Billboard, and at some point he moves onto bigger parts, and he starts getting noticed at all the open mics he's been doing, and after three years in California he's choosing between a recording contract and a pilot.
He goes with the pilot- singing reminds him a little too much of her at times and after they sang together, duets don't seem to fit right with anybody else.
He has girlfriends, plenty of them. The closest he got to something meaningful was Katie, who was on a choral scholarship to UCLA, but when he sang with her, her voice swelled whilst his dimmed and something was always off. He loved her for a time, and she loved him too, but she loved him more than he could ever reciprocate and at some point she realised that she deserved more than he could give her. He was a little heartbroken when she left, but he was eligible and talented and extremely charming and he wasn't single for long.
He's pretty sure that the nature of his relationships have had little to do with Rachel, and what they had when they were, in reality, just kids. He doesn't need a ball and chain right when he's taking flight, and that's what all those girls were to him; a dead weight he'd have to carry.
Still, Rachel wasn't exactly dead weight. She had some pretty lofty aspirations too.
The next he hears of Rachel Berry is a year later. His pilot got picked up, and both the critics and the audience seem to adore it, and whilst he doesn't love his cast mates, he likes them enough to tolerate their baggage.
He's hiding from fans behind a newspaper when he sees a picture of her in the reviews of the New York Times. She's playing the female lead in a new show on Broadway and she's already being tipped for a Tony nomination for her "perfect portrayal of imperfection" (so the journalist writes). She looks beautiful in the still image of her that they print, with her chocolate hair falling across her face as she bows her head, singing for herself and to herself so that a whole world can see.
He buys the paper and keeps the review in his desk draw. He manages to convince himself he's just being nostalgic.
But still, he can't help thinking what would have happened if she'd given him the hope that he so desperately wanted when he asked for her forgiveness. He thinks maybe it's a good thing that she said no, because they're both making waves in their own ways and their dreams are coming true. If she'd forgiven him, he may have gone to New York, or maybe she'd be in L.A. and neither of those places would be where they should have been.
Still, if he sees her name, he'll buy the publication, and cut out the article, and at some point the few pieces of paper in his desk drawer turn into a box full of them that he shoves at the back of his closet.
He wonders if she watches his show, or keeps his interviews and reviews in a box somewhere. He finds himself wishing that she's just as nostalgic as he is.
The truth is, she is (she screamed at her TV the first time she saw him on it, playing a postman who was on air for about 2 seconds. She still has that episode TiVo-ed), and she does (well, not a box, so much as an organized scrapbook).
Still, they haven't talked since high school, and they're coasts apart, as well as totally irreconcilable.
So they both convince themselves that nostalgia is all that they'll ever feel towards each other.
Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or any of the characters. If I did, Bad Reputation would have ended differently....
Please review! The second part is nearly done, and the more well received this is, the quicker it'll be up!