Caught In Your Bad Romance

~o~ I come to you in pieces…~o~

Jesse felt like a thief as he stepped softly along the carpeted hallway.

Despite being granted a tenuous permission, he still couldn't help feeling like he was intruding, as if he were returning to the scene of a crime. He stopped outside her bedroom and listened, his fingers hovering over the handle as he took a deep breath he wasn't aware of. Whether the protective inch of distance was projected by him or her, Jesse didn't know. He could hear the soft murmur of voices beneath his feet, acutely aware of the very wary and very protective parents who paced the floor just downstairs. Yet he was even more aware of the gentle pulse of her breathing on the other side of the door, the warmth of her presence tangible even through the solid walls between them. His throat felt dry, his chest oddly airless, as if his very heart were holding its breath, awaiting its fate.

He knocked once, soft but firm. The reply was muffled but instant, and more than a little impatient.

"Go away, Daddy. I told you, I'm not having dinner. I'm not hungry."

Jesse rolled his eyes to the ceiling even as his lips quirked upwards at the sound of her voice. Refusing food, locked away in her lonely tower, too heartbroken to eat. Such typically dramatic behaviour. She would be starving again by midnight. His movements were measured and calm as he reached for the handle, betraying none of the uncertainty that ran riddles through his mind. He wasn't surprised to find it unlocked. Rachel rarely locked the door against her dads, trust a mutual bond that ran strong through their family. And it was that same trusting nature that he had bruised with a careless hand one too many times.

The room beyond was dark in the gathering night, the silhouette of a waning moon just visible through the curtains that were drawn together against the window. Jesse let his eyes adjust to the darkness as he walked quietly into the same bedroom he had spent more time in than his own over the last few weeks. He found her easily. Her slight frame was shadowed against the bulk of her bed, somehow seeming dwarfed by it. She was facing away from him, her knees tucked up and head pillowed on her arms, curled up on her side like a wounded animal. He hesitated for only a moment before crossing the floor, his gaze never leaving the familiar contours of her body, concern crinkling the corners of his eyes. The feel and smell of her bed as he sat down beside her brought back a rush of memories, the room appearing almost exactly like it had just the other night when they had shared it together, shared each other along with the deepest of their secrets.

Gently he laid his hand on the soft dip of her waist, light enough not to startle but firm enough to defy the lingering doubt that afflicted them both. He heard her draw in a shaky breath and he smiled, running his thumb over the slash of bare skin where her shirt had ridden up, silent as he waited for her to stir from the comatose misery.


It was a confirmation she didn't need, his effect as unmistakable as ever. She knew his touch better than anything else, forever engrained in her memory and forever marked on her body. Slowly Rachel turned over and looked up at him, blinking dazedly as her exhausted mind struggled separate the delirium of her restless dreams from the solid warmth of reality. Her face was flushed and wet, voice thick with tears.

"What… why are you here?"

Jesse adjusted his grip, his fingers continuing to caress soothingly across her waist. His face was inscrutable despite the wry lilt in his reply.

"Well, your text sounded like you wanted to hit me again. I thought it only fair to give you the opportunity face to face."

A ghost of melancholy smile flickered on her lips as Rachel stared up at him, trying to read his expression in the silence that followed. A slight frown slowly pinched between her brows, as if she couldn't make sense of what she was seeing.

"I didn't… I didn't think…"

She trailed off, leaving the thought incomplete.

"What?" he probed gently. A strange yet beautiful sadness rose in his eyes as she watched him, a crack in that flawless porcelain that was mesmerizing to Rachel. All too soon, it was gone again, buried under layers of hard training. It made her heart ache and she suddenly lacked the conviction to answer him. They both knew the answer anyway, the insecurities they shared, proven and disproven too many times to count.

Jesse saw the emotions fighting across her face, different reactions conflicting against each other as they tried to surface intact from the turmoil. Finally the overwhelming instinct of relief and need for comfort won out over her pride and confusion. Refusing to contemplate the consequences she launched herself into his embrace, barely giving him time to catch her before she buried herself hard against him, her arms almost strangling in their hold around his neck. Shifting them only slightly to allow himself the privilege of breathing unobstructed, Jesse quickly gathered her as close to him as both could physically manage. He shut his eyes, pressing his face to the side of her neck and drinking in the soft perfume of her hair. Something jolted inside his chest like a bolt of lightning, as if her mere touch had unlocked the pulse of his heart and set it beating again, driving frantically against his ribs as it raced in overdrive to catch up with all its skipped beats. The sensation almost caused him to start. He felt her grip on his neck seize tighter, as if she thought the slight flinch would take him away from her again. He smiled to himself and stroked his hands down her back in reassurance, matching her embrace just as fiercely.

Rachel felt her eyes burn as he held her almost painfully tight against him. She shook her head, wilfully silencing the calls of caution that objected from the back of her mind. She was tired, so very tired, only at last succumbing to the comfort she so badly needed. It was late in the evening now, her room all but pitch black, bathed in the shadows of a stolen dream. She didn't have the strength to analysis and argue right now. All her thoughts could process was the one indisputable fact she was faced with at this moment. He was here.

How and why and what next could all wait for now.

They stayed like that for a while, the quiet broken only when Rachel turned her head to mumble against his shoulder.

"I still wanna hit you."

Jesse chuckled into the crook of her neck, his breath rippling through her hair and the sound sending a pleasant shiver down her spine. "Fair enough." There was a pause before she heard him speak again, his voice dropping to a soft murmur that sounded uncharacteristically tentative. "You know I'll go…if you ask me to."

Rachel wined in something almost like embarrassment. She twisted her fingers in the back of his shirt collar, the guilt sitting uncomfortably in her throat, making it hard to get the words out. "I'm…sorry about the text. I didn't…I was…"

"It's okay," he interrupted quietly, stroking a hand through her tangled hair as he hushed her, only the faintest smirk creeping into his voice. "I probably deserved it."

Rachel raised her eyebrows. "Probably?" She heard him laugh and smiled despite herself.

Jesse felt her bury her face back into his shoulder, a deep sigh heaving in her chest. He held her tight, hugging her closer to him almost convulsively as he felt the sear of fresh tears fall against his neck like hot pinpricks. Finally, he forced himself to bite the bullet, knowing they could delay it no longer.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Rachel sniffed as she pulled away, not looking at him as she sat back on the bed. She kept her gaze lowered, turning her face away to quickly wipe at her eyes. Jesse's hand fell from her hair, grazing her jaw with the lightest touch, just enough to guide her chin in his direction, a silent request to meet his eyes when she was ready.

Rachel felt worn out, exhausted by the endless refrains that rang through her head, volleying guilt and blame and 'what ifs' back and forth until she was too dizzy to think straight. Truthfully, she was fed up of talking. And yet somehow in spite of everything, or perhaps because of it, she felt she still could with Jesse. They were in this together, right? For the moment anyway. He was perhaps the only person in the world she could really talk to right now, the only one who really knew. They had been through so much in such a short and intense space of time. Rachel could barely believe how much her world had changed in twenty four hours, let alone in the two weeks since he had walked back into her ballet studio that fateful afternoon.

And now here they were again, sharing her bed once more, under very different but no less emotional circumstances. The two painfully fragile spheres of Rachel's world had finally crashed together in a rainstorm of broken glass, a collision that threatened to cut her to ribbons if she wasn't careful.

"They… they saw us," she said at last, her voice dull and quiet, confirming what Jesse had already deduced for himself. She gave a half-hearted shrug. "Turns out the auditorium had an audience after all."

She sighed, her reluctance evident. The last thing Rachel wanted to do was relive any of the headache and confusion of the last few hours, and yet she could never seem to resist spilling her heart to him. And so she told him. She told him of everything that had happened since he had left her standing alone in the wings of the stage, two fingers pressed lightly against her smiling lips in a last kiss, following him with her eyes as they had parted company earlier just that afternoon. As yet, still unaware of the devastating revelations that were waiting just around the corner.

Rachel chanced a cautious glance at him as she spoke, as if afraid of what she would find in his shaded gaze. Jesse's expression was hard under the carefully calm exterior, only the tension in his jaw revealing the effort behind that control. She took a deep breath as she paused in the story, trying to keep the emotion out of her voice, and he took the opportunity to finally pass comment.

"Someone really needs to teach that girl a lesson," he remarked in a deadpan tone, though Rachel knew better than to believe the threat an idle one.

She couldn't help but profoundly agree, yet she felt herself shaking her head with a long sigh. "Tempting, but it really wouldn't help things."

"But it might be fun," he countered, earning a reluctant smile from her lips.

Rachel didn't know quite how it happened, the response perhaps too natural to be conscious, but they had somehow become entangled once more during the course of her tale of woe, shifting until they were curled up at the head of her bed. She didn't recall when his arm had settled along her side, or when her head had come to rest on his shoulder as she stared blankly across the room, lost in the painful echoes of her memories. The rhythm of her voice was the only sound in the darkness as she told him what had happened in his absence, in a bit more detail than her heated text had afforded. She could feel him tense next to her, the anger palpable in his reaction to the glee clubbers attack, though he stayed carefully silent. She was evasive in relaying their exact words to her about him, but she knew he would easily fill in the blanks for himself. She felt it in the way he squeezed her a little tighter, his grip taking on a possessive reflex, but she but didn't object, folding into his embrace compliantly. Rachel hesitated, not daring to turn her head to gauge his expression. The rational part of her longed to challenge him on their accusations, to look him dead in the eye and ask him outright if there was any truth in their words, yet she found herself remaining quiet. Perhaps she was more afraid of the answers than she could ever admit.

Jesse had to consciously force himself to relax when she came to her confrontation with Finn. Though she was guarded about their exchange, he could read the devastating effect on her in her body. The waver of her voice, the bite of her lip and the haunted pain in her eyes, the way she unconsciously nestled further into him, her fingers clenching softly in his shirt. It wasn't hard to guess the contents of Hudson's reaction, though Rachel's side of the conversation was more ambiguous in Jesse's imagination. Finally, the words ran out and quiet fell on them once more, heavy and expectant. It felt like a long time before he finally spoke.

"I didn't want you to go through that," he said tightly. "I should have been there."

Rachel smiled a little ruefully, knowing that if Jesse hadn't been there in the first place then her secret might not have been exposed quite so publically. She sighed to herself, but she could tell he felt it. She had known meeting in the auditorium had been courting trouble. Yet neither of them could ever be dissuaded from grand gestures at the best of times, both too fond of the theatricality that came from making all the world their stage. And if Jesse had been there for confrontations, violence would have ensued and everything would be so much worse than it even was now. She wanted him out of the line of fire, as strange as that urge of instinct was, considering he was the one who had led her in front of the firing squad in the first place.

"It was never going to be pretty," she said at last, the words released on a weary exhale.

Jesse thought on the tone of her reply, his sharp ear picking out each layer of her voice to studiously analyse. There was sadness of course, resignation and regret… but perhaps more a regret at the pain of the situation, rather than the situation itself. There was almost an acceptance there that this was in some ways inevitable – a rite of fire they had to cross through. Whether they would emerge the other side intact remained to be seen.

Still, there was no denying that Rachel was obviously deeply stung over her so-called friends' reactions of the afternoon. Jesse frowned. Naturally he had seen this coming but he still couldn't help but feel frustrated at his lack of influence over that side of her life, his inability to cushion the blow of such wounds. She always put such stock in other people; let them have such control over her self-esteem. It was part of what had bothered him the most about her infatuation with Finn, that unhealthy amount of power she gave him. It was true that Jesse hadn't been able to stop himself from looking for such repeating patterns in their own relationship, but their dynamic had proved rather unique. While Rachel would always be more invested in her peers than him, she had never seemed shy about being herself around him, embracing all the talented crazy that made her so infuriating and exciting to be with. Yet seeing her now, it was clear that the longing for acceptance had come to dominate her usually defiant personality, leaving her more vulnerable and apologetic than he had ever imagined. And it only made him angrier at the ones who had caused Rachel such pain, the hypocrites who had lashed out at him through her. He firmed his grip around her waist and allowed his fingers to drift across her stomach in an unconscious gesture of assurance, one that was as much for him as it was for her. He was distracted from his thoughts at the sound of her voice once more, her tone now pensive and curious.

"How did you get past my dads?"

There was a pause of consideration. "With difficulty," he answered finally.

Rachel smiled a little at the thought of Jesse talking his way past her worried and protective parents. She knew she'd have a lot of explaining to do come tomorrow, but right then she couldn't bring herself to feel anything other than grateful that despite all their misgivings, they had let him come to her. She would never know how her dads managed to do that, always somehow making the right call even when they were in the dark. Somehow sensing what she needed even before she did. Because as she lay there in the warmth of his embrace, Rachel knew even if it was just for tonight – that this, that he, was exactly what she needed right now. She didn't want to be alone anymore.

"You know, I don't think they like me."

She smirked. "Imagine that."

Rachel wasn't sure how long they lay like that, still and quiet, lost in the limbo of their own minds. Truthfully, she didn't quite know where all her anger had gone. She could hate him, she could decide it was all his fault, she could accuse him of playing her all along. But she didn't. Maybe the bitterness had been overtaken by exhaustion, but she found it was only the chill of apprehension that flickered inside her heart as she slowly tilted her head up to catch his eyes.

"Jesse, why…"

He was silent for a long moment as he looked at her, the strain in his throat barely perceptible as he swallowed back the painful words that just wouldn't reach his voice. He brushed a finger down the side of her face, tracing an ebony curl, guilt preventing him from holding her gaze any longer. "Why what?" he asked softly.

Rachel felt her eyes flutter close at the caress of his touch, her chest tightening. Everything, she wanted to say.

Why did you not fight for us?

Why did you come back?

Why did you sleep with me?

"Nothing," she said instead, shaking away the questions and laying her head down on his shoulder again. Blinking through the fire in her eyes, she pressed her lips together and wrapped her arm tight around his chest, needing him here right now more than she needed answers, not prepared to risk the replies that might break this precious reprieve.

Coward. Coward. Coward.

Jesse winced at the voice inside his head, biting his tongue as he held her close, feeling her settle down against him with a white grip, a simmering desperation growing between them that wouldn't be held back much longer. Why couldn't he say it? He'd spent so long building up the perfect show face, those walls of steel and thorn that made him so ruthless, and it was a survival habit not broken easily. Yet underneath all those hardened barriers was a more fundamental reason behind his compulsive reluctance. He was afraid. The truth was that the consequences of Rachel's love terrified Jesse more than anything else. He couldn't lose his heart, he couldn't leave it here. A thin and bitter smirk touched his lips, unseen by the girl curled against him. As if withholding the words would make the inevitable hurt any less.

Once again the melody of her voice broke into his thoughts, barely more than a murmur but somehow chiming clearer than the sweetest bell.

"Talk to me," she said quietly, the words neither a request nor a demand.

He stroked her hair, lips brushing the crown of her head. "About what?"


She just wanted to lose herself in his voice, to let him distract her, to think about anything else but what lay waiting for them outside these walls. To try and forget, just for a little while. And Jesse was perfectly willing to oblige.

She listened as he told her of his favourite haunts back in California, the latest shows he had seen in L.A, and Rachel felt her brow pinch a little in jealousy as she realised the extent of the artistic scene he was exposed to there. Maybe there was more to L.A. than burger bars and strip clubs after all. Content to just let him talk, she let his words wash through her weary mind, calming the pounding ache of her tortured thoughts. It was only when he mentioned an amateur production of a play that she hadn't yet heard of, did she lift her head to immediately ask about it. Rachel already knew that Jesse was a captivating storyteller and she found it easy to drift away in the sound of his voice, the evocative imagery of his script, as he smiled and indulged her curious questions. She laughed a little as he described the play, a tale of children and lovers and crossing worlds, until the ultimate tragedy of their misadventures made her heart pang in grief and empathy. She absently watched her fingers tracing one of the buttons on his shirt before realising what she was doing. She pulled back, wishing she could sit on her hands without making it obvious. Jesse gave a small smile of sad amusement but said nothing.

It was some time later, when the conversation had fallen back into companionable quiet and her eyes were heavy with exhaustion, did Jesse set about gently extricating himself from their knotted limbs. His movements were met with soft sounds of protest, to which he smiled and assured that he was just going to the bathroom. Rachel blinked a little blearily, as if only half aware of her actions. Her fingers loosened on his shirt as she laid her head down on the pillow again, rolling away from him with a sleepy mumble. Jesse made his way to the en suit in the darkness without much difficulty, his familiarity with the room negating the need for light to guide him.

The cold water was a welcome snap on his senses, stinging his eyes and making his skin tingle. Bracing his hands on either side of the sink, Jesse stared into the mirror for a long time, a pained frown gracing his beautiful features. His gaze was distant, searching somewhere miles and months away, fighting to find a resolve he wasn't sure he could live with. Finally tearing his eyes away from the glass, he ran his hands back through his hair and straightened up with a sigh. He glanced over the pink toothbrush that stood to attention in its neat silver cup, the soft monogramed towels that hung beside the shower, before he turned the light out over them all.

He was not surprised to find Rachel fast asleep when he returned, all the emotional drama of the day finally catching up with her. She was curled up in the faint impression left by his body on the bed, almost like a cat seeking out the comfort and protection of a familiar warmth, the dark silk of her hair falling to fan out about her shoulders. Jesse hesitated, unsure whether to take the opportunity to slip away, but one look at her only confirmed that he couldn't leave like that. He had to see through the night. Ever so gently, so as not to disturb her, he lay down again on the edge of the bed. Her breathing was deep and steady, matched only by the disembodied tick of a clock somewhere in the darkness, and Jesse let the sound comfort him, the only anchor to ground him in the turmoil of his thoughts. His eyes drifted across her face again and again, as if the answer was hidden within the curve of her lips or shadow of her lashes, until finally he too succumbed to sleep.




"Are you awake?"


His response was received with an insistent poke to the chest. He groaned and stirred to find that the small space he had carefully left between their bodies had since been closed during their sleep. Rachel's arm was draped across his torso at an angle, her hand reaching up to his neck and her face pillowed on his shoulder, their toes touching. He felt fingertips digging into his shirt persistently and pulled the warm form in his arms closer against him, their bodies moulding together like fitted puzzle pieces. "What?" he mumbled.

There was a pause before she answered.

"I'm hungry."

Jesse opened an eye and squinted down at her face in the darkness. He blinked for a moment before chuckling softly, smiling into her hair. "I think your dads may have mentioned something about leftovers in the fridge…"

"Of what?"

"Hmm, I believe falafel and hummus was on the menu."

He saw her eyes light up and laughed, kissing her forehead. "I'll get it," he offered, despite how reluctantly he removed himself from her side.

Rachel smiled in gratitude. She didn't want to face her dads just yet, although she knew they had likely retreated to their bedroom by now. She watched as Jesse stood and disappeared into the hallway before rolling onto her back with a drawn out sigh. She frowned as her foot touched something hard and she leaned over, reaching down to fumble through the tangled covers and finally withdrawing her cell phone. She had forgotten all about it. Turning to put it back on the nightstand and out of the way, she hesitated as she noticed the familiar blinking light that announced she had a new message.

Her gut dropped with dread. She really didn't want to look. It would just be more abuse, more pointed digs and accusations. But it was nigh on impossible for Rachel to shelf her compulsive need to know everything, the anticipation and possibilities would only taunt her for the rest of the night. Grasping the cell firmly, she took a deep breath to brace herself and opened the text before she could think about backing out.

The message wasn't from Finn, or Mercedes or even Kurt. Rachel blinked in surprise at the three simple words that popped up on her screen and the name that accompanied them.

Are you okay?


The small but sincere message of concern was almost enough to start her crying again. Shaking her head she quickly brushed the threat of tears away, closing her eyes as she wondered how on earth to answer such a question.

Everyone hates me.

She wasn't really expecting a reply at this hour, so she was taken aback when her cell flashed in response almost immediately, surprised that he was still up. Then again, she did remember him mentioning that he had trouble sleeping and often kept late nights. It was all that restless energy that fuelled his gravity defying dance moves running riot.

Everyone's…in shock. Rach, are you sure about this?

No, she thought with a sad smile. Rachel sighed, combing her fingers through her hair before wincing at how tangled it was. All that crying had taken its toll. Her eyes drifted over Mike's text again, deeply touched at the sole olive branch of support offered in her forest of exile, no matter how much it hurt. She swallowed down the lump in her throat.

Have you seen Finn?

There was a definite pause in his response this time.

No. Don't think anyone has, though Puck did try to call him a couple of times after rehearsal. But it's pretty much radio silence.

Rachel bit her lip, feeling awful at the thought of him suffering somewhere out there all alone. And it only made her feel all the more wretched for indulging in the company of the one person that Finn hated more than her right now. Talk about rubbing salt in the wound. She dreaded to think of his reaction if he knew just whose arms she was taking comfort in tonight. But at least Finn had people reaching out to him; at least he could choose to open the door to support and friendship when he wanted to. He would get through this. Rachel had to believe he would, even if she didn't.

Mike seemed to sense her hesitation and was quick to reassure.

He just needs some time to cool off. Don't worry, they're not going to go looking for a fight.

Rachel arched an eyebrow. She had doubts about that, remembering just how violently Finn had turned on Puck, his best friend, when the whole babygate saga had come to a head last year. Everybody had a breaking point. She laid a hand over the pillow next to her, still warm with his heat, and she knew that Jesse was out of reach of the boys of glee right now, and the thought made her feel guilty and relieved at the same time. This was her fight ultimately, not his.

Thanks Mike.

She wasn't sure what else to say.

It's okay. I just hope you know what you're doing.

So do I.

Closing the phone over, Rachel let out a long sigh, trying to fight off the encroaching headache. Lost in her thoughts as she was, she didn't notice Jesse as he returned a few minutes later to see her twirling the cell absently between her fingers with a soft frown on her face.


Looking over at the sound of her name, she saw him stiffen as his eyes flickered to the phone. His expression was clouded, his jaw set tight, and she knew what he was thinking. Putting the cell aside, she tried to give him a confident smile.

"What happened?"

"Nothing, it's fine," she assured, gesturing that she was okay and that there was no cause for concern. Not right now anyway. Mike's text had caught her off guard, yes, but it was nothing like the unpleasant attack she had been expecting. It had just given her some more troubles to think about when she had the energy to function again.

Jesse was not convinced, her words doing nothing to ease the worry that filled his mind at her sudden introspectiveness. Pronounced shadows of sadness had crept back into her eyes and it pained him to see it. However it was clear that she wanted to drop the subject and he had no right to push it, so he decided not to.

Rachel smiled as she saw him set the tray down, the tubs of food, forks and two bottles of water he had stacked it with. Apparently they would be eating picnic style tonight. Not that she minded or was particularly surprised. He was a guy after all. Things like crockery didn't really occur to him, tupperware would suffice. She was surprised and touched though when she noticed the little bottle of tobasco sauce he had brought up, apparently remembering how much she liked to add it to this favourite dish of hers.

As he straightened up to pass her a drink, Rachel caught him by the front of his collar and pulled their faces close across the bed. She could feel him tense slightly, though she didn't know if it was with surprise or anticipation. Maybe both. "Thank you," she murmured, her whisper warm against his mouth. For what, neither could comprehensively say, yet they didn't need to. She was almost unnerved to find that their proximity was just as electrifying as ever, a familiar fire flaring in her stomach as she breathed in his scent like fresh spring air. She felt her senses slipping away and she couldn't bring herself to think anymore. Slowly, almost shyly, Rachel moved in and pressed her lips to his with a teasing softness. Her head reeled as she felt him return the kiss with growing heat, his hand coming up to cup her jaw and drawing her deeper as they savoured the all-too-brief touch, the taste sweeter than nectar and more intoxicating than the headiest wine. At last Rachel forced herself to break the contact, withdrawing gently to catch her breath and open her eyes once more, a quirk of her eyebrow bringing their attention back to the food he had retrieved. As much as she was tempted, as natural as the response was, she really was very hungry. Jesse sighed and took the hint, his mouth tugging in a grin which echoed her own.

Somewhere in the house a clock struck one in the morning but neither took any notice of the hour as they settled themselves down on her bed, wreathed in the glow of a solitary lamp, with their forks and plastic tubs of cold falafel salad. And as they shared the meal, they also shared memories and anecdotes of times less dark, less complicated and unsure. Small moments from their pasts that still drew a laugh or a smile from each. And for the first time in what felt like forever, Rachel felt like herself again. Like she could forget about the rest of the world and pretend everything was normal again, even if it was just for a few hours.

Conversation flowed easily, far more comfortably than it should have, enjoying the amnesty of an unspoken truce. Keeping to the harbour of safe and familiar topics, their discussion soon turned to the most hotly debated topics of the latest Tony Awards, including the nominees for Best Original Score and Nina Arianda's choice of dress. Rachel smiled to herself, reflecting that Jesse was the only guy she could have this kind of conversation with. Well, the only straight guy, she mentally amended with a smirk. She remembered the first time she had confronted him on this curiosity of his character during a similar discussion last year, to which he had just shrugged and said that it didn't mean he couldn't still appreciate good fashion taste.

"You're so vain!" she laughed. "You could give Kurt a run for his money sometimes."

"Just what are you implying?"

She smirked innocently, though her eyes shone bright with mischief. "Only that you have almost as many hair products as I do."

"Nothing wrong with taking pride in your appearance."

As she continued to tease him mercilessly, Jesse replied with only a wolfish smile before swiftly capturing her lips in a bruisingly hot kiss, as he set about proving just how straight he was. It was decidedly the most wickedly ravishing kiss they had shared so far, and it left Rachel dazed and dangerously breathless and firm in the conviction that if he ever were to switch teams, she might just die. Surely, the world couldn't be that cruel.

"Convinced yet?" he queried smugly, pulling back an inch to graze her mouth with the smouldering words.

She licked her lips subconsciously, looking up at him with a dusky gaze through lidded eyes, their faces still so close. "Not entirely."

Rachel yelped in surprise as he flashed a grin and pushed them over back onto the couch, before wrapping her arms and legs tight around him and eagerly disappearing into his kiss again.

Coming back to herself, Rachel found her cheeks blushing warm at the memory and noticed Jesse raise a quizzical eyebrow in response. Shaking it off, she lowered her eyes and quickly stuffed a forkful of salad into her mouth with such intent concentration that she heard him chuckle in bemusement. Catching his gaze again, she smiled a little sheepishly. The awkwardness was soon waved away as the conversation easily resumed and they returned to their midnight supper.

When the gnawing hunger in her stomach had sufficiently retreated and the tray had been safely stowed away, Rachel felt the lull of tiredness begin to beckon again. She nestled easily against him as they settled back down on the bed, the habit of his embrace too comforting to resist. Tucking her head under his chin, they lay quiet for a long time, both searching the darkness around them for the hint of a spark, a light to lead the way forward.

"What happens now?"

The voice that left her lips was timid and unsure, so unlike her own. It sounded lost.

I don't know.

And the truth was he didn't. Probably neither of them did.

"We try and get some sleep."

"Good for the soul?" she teased half-heartedly.

He shrugged. "Insomnia is bad for your complexion."

She laughed a little, curling up tight against him, before turning silent. Rachel lost track of time as the night stretched on, seemingly endless. She was so tired, yet found she could not sleep anymore, dozing in and out of consciousness but still her thoughts swirled and spun and pounded against her head. Shifting, she turned over, breaking away from his contact in the hope of soothing her restless mind. It didn't help. Tears sprang unbidden to her eyes, filled with the salt of frustration and confusion and exhaustion, and in the darkness she cried. Pressing her face into the pillow she tried to stifle her soft sobs, to choke back the tears that rolled down her cheeks, not wanting to wake the boy who lay beside her.

She didn't know that Jesse had been awake ever since she had broken their hold, since her warmth had left his chest and her tremulous breathing had stirred the silence. He swallowed hard, unable to lie still any longer. They were pressed too close, he was too attuned to her body, and he could feel every shiver that shook her small frame against his. He could hear each sob that caught in her throat, and it pained him more than he ever thought possible. Moving carefully, so as not to startle her, he turned onto his side and gently eased her back into his embrace. She tensed for just a moment before slowly relaxing as his arm wrapped gently around her waist, reaching for his hand and firmly threading their fingers together.

Jesse felt her squeeze his hand, heard her sniff as she fought back fresh tears, and his heart jumped painfully in his chest, as if straining to get physically closer to hers. The fateful memory suddenly filled his mind, bringing a strange sense of calmness. Stroking his thumb over their tangled fingers, he leaned close to her ear and softly sang the words they had once shared such a long a time ago.

I've been alone with you inside my mind
And in my dreams I've kissed your lips a thousand times
I sometimes see you pass outside my door
Hello, is it me you're looking for?

Rachel drew in a breath at the familiar melody, the mutual memory washing over her in a tide of bittersweet warmth. If possible, it sounded even more beautiful the second time around, the bewitching rhythm of his voice matured with history and raw with intimacy. Smiling to herself through her tears, she picked up her cue with perfect timing, just like she had done before. Their songs in a seamless harmony from the moment they had met.

I can see it in your eyes
I can see it in your smile
You're all I've ever wanted
And my arms are open wide

Turning over in his hold so they were facing each other, she met his eyes with a small but genuine smile. Jesse reached out and ran his thumb over her cheek, brushing away the tear tracks, both hesitating for only a moment before they sang the last lines together, completing each other's verses as they had always done.

'Cause you know just what to say
And you know just what to do
And I want to tell you so much
...I love you

His palm lingered on her cheek, their gazes locked until the last note faded on the same breath. With a sigh, Rachel laid her head down on his chest and closed her eyes, her mind finally finding a peace within his voice as Jesse continued to softly hum their song in a lullaby until she fell asleep.

What are you doing?

He shook his head only slightly, forcing the thought aside, shutting a door on the accusing voice that piped up from the depths of his mind. Tonight was about her, what she needed, everything else could wait. At least for a few hours. He could give her this, only if it was just for tonight. Blinking fiercely, Jesse pressed a kiss into the fall of her hair as his heart broke into pieces.

~o~So you can make me whole ~o~

A Christmas gift to all the St. Berrians still out there (especially the ones who review, lol) Happy Holidays!