Hello! Wow, it's been forever since I posted something, and I am so glad to finally write again. This is my 100th (yeah, I still can't belive it) fic on this site and I've loved every minute of being a member - I've made some amazing friends and I hope to make more in the future.
So I hope you enjoy this, and I hope you're still with me after such a long time of no updates and my exams (of which I only have one more before relaxing!)
This is only the first part, and I hope that the second and final part of this within the next month!
This is all for s i l v e r a u r o r a (Ellie) because she is amazing and listened to me rant about this over and over, and lied and told me it was all okay and she didn't mind one bit. As soon as you finish reading this you have to go right over to Ellie's profile and read every single one of her fics - they are worth it. Seriously. Thank you a million times for being so amazing.
and who will tell me how it ends, and how it all begins
Jesse is six and standing at the front of a sea of black.
That is all he can see – black hats, black dresses, black nail varnish.
He wants colour, he wants smiles, he wants someone to pick him up and hold him close and whisper that it will all be okay. But that person is his mother, and she is gone (and no one will tell him why). She is (was) the only constant in his life, not like his daddy who works more than he sees his son and daughter, or his aunty Louise who shouts a lot, or his cousin Jamie who smiles at him and says 'hi, Kiddo' but forgets his birthday every year.
He sits next to Grace, his twin, his second-constant, and holds her hand. He entwines their fingers, a habit they both have, something that has always been their little thing. They have no handshake, no hand gesture. Just this.
And that's all Jesse has ever known, really. How to make his sister smile, how to make his dad angry (well, he doesn't know that, but it seems just being makes his dad furious) and how to sing.
Jesse is seven years old and is singing in the school choir.
Grace is watching him, swinging her legs as she sits on the chair in the corner, the only person allowed in the rehearsal that isn't part of the group. She pulls faces when Jesse glances at her and, when Miss Bachelor isn't looking, he sticks his tongue out or crosses his eyes. When they finish singing the last song on the list, all the children rush out, eager to go home. Jesse is slower, heading to Grace at a deliberate pace. His father is hardly ever at home, so Grace and Jesse have to let themselves in using the key under the flowerpot.
"Jesse, can you come here for a second?"
Jesse sends Grace a frightened look. Mrs Bachelor must have seen him pulling faces at his twin. He heads back towards the teacher, trying to pretend that he has no idea what she wants. Jamie taught him how to cross his eyes last summer when they were climbing trees and Jesse's mother was still a constant.
"Jesse I think you have a remarkable talent," she says, and it's then that Jesse realises she is smiling. "How would you like to sing the solo next week?"
Jesse is seven years old, the second youngest in the whole choir after Summer, whose birthday is thirty-three days after his. Everybody knows that the younger people never sing solo.
He remembers when his mom read him the first Harry Potter book a few weeks before she died, and realises that Harry Potter must have felt like this when he became Seeker.
Jesse and Grace's eighth birthday is on a Sunday. They share a bedroom and Jesse wakes up first. He stares at the ceiling, with the fake stars that Grace stuck there glowing in the darkness. It's winter, December fifteenth, and normally Jesse never sees the stars glowing in the morning.
"Happy birthday, Grace." He whispers, looking at his sister and for a small second thinking she looks exactly like momma.
"Happy birthday, Jess." Is the whispered reply, and Jesse realises she's been awake the whole time.
The distance between their beds is tiny, so Jesse reaches out with his hand and Grace clutches it even though she's still half asleep.
Grace and Jesse are separated in fourth grade.
Jesse and Grace walk into class together and go to sit next to each other, but before they can Miss Fletcher walks over and "don't you think it would be nice if you got to know other people?"
No, Jesse thinks, he doesn't think it would be nice at all.
But he finds himself sitting next to Justin Cooper anyway, who copies his work and asks him questions like "so, you're the kid with the dead mom?" and "what's up with your dad, anyway?"
Jesse doesn't answer the questions and stays perfectly still, eyes focused on the board as Miss Fletcher talks about math. Justin gives up and starts throwing paper balls at the boy in front, who flinches but doesn't turn around and confront him.
No, Jesse thinks, this isn't nice at all.
At lunch time Jesse finds himself being pushed onto the playground by Justin and his two friends Mike and Oliver.
"You are such a freak!" Oliver takes the delight in telling him, and Jesse closes his eyes and wishes that he could just go home. "You mom hated you, and so does your dad!"
It's not true; it's not true Jesse chants, his hands curled into fists that he'll never use. He doesn't want to hurt them because he's then they'll just hurt him more.
"And you sing in the choir because you're a girl." Justin adds, and Jesse screws his eyes shut even tighter until it hurts. If he can't see them maybe it won't hurt as much.
"Jesse is a –" The three boys' chant comes to a halt with the sound of a shout:
"GET AWAY FROM HIM!"
Jesse opens his eyes in fright and finds his sister, eyes wild, running towards them. She grabs Oliver first, pushing him to the ground, before hitting Justin and Mike. Jesse watches, unable to move. His sister is screaming and shouting, clearly upset.
"Gracie, stop!" He finally manages to say, but it's too late because Mr Cera is running towards them, a stern look on his face.
"Grace, Jesse, come with me. And you three better come too." He says to the three bullies, who are lying in a pathetic heap on the ground. Grace blinks up at the teacher, realising too late that she's in serious trouble. She grabs Jesse's hand though, holding her nine year old head high as she walks.
"They deserved it, Jessie." She whispers as she entwines their fingers.
The next day Grace sits next to Jesse and Justin sits by himself at the front of the class.
The first performance Jesse does with the choir is 'Amazing Grace'. Its three weeks after his sister attacked Justin and his friends, and the irony of the song is not lost on him.
Grace sits at the front, and Jesse has to look above her head because she keeps making faces and he doesn't want to burst out laughing. His dad isn't there, but he didn't expect it so he keeps singing. At the end Grace applauds the loudest, shouting his name and smiling brightly. Jesse grins back, waving slightly.
After 'Amazing Grace', Jesse has his solo. Mrs Bachelor let him chose the song, and so Jesse picked the one song that reminded him of his momma. He steps to the front of the group and focus' on Grace this time, because she's stopped making faces and instead there are tears in her eyes. Jesse knows that she remembers too.
He finishes his momma's lullaby and gives a watery smile at the loud applause. Grace runs up and hugs him, and nobody stops her. The hold each other, two children clutching on to the one person they have left.
His sister is his favourite person in the whole world, even if he is nine years old and too old to have a girl for a best friend.
In his first year at middle school, Jesse punches Sam Moreno in the face.
"Jesse James," the principle says with a sigh, "I know why you did it but you have to know this is not acceptable. I know Sam was being mean to Grace and I know you too are close, but you have to learn to control your anger. You have to learn that there will be punishment. I'm sending you home for the day, and your solo has been given to Charlie –"
"But Sir-" Jesse protests, angry. Sam Moreno deserved to be punched in the face. "Me punching Sam has nothing to do with my solo, or my singing! It's not fair to take the solo away from me!"
"I'm sorry, Jesse. They'll be other solos. Unfortunately for Sam, there isn't a quick fix for a broken nose. You're a good kid, and I'm aware that this week is going to be hard for you considering, but that doesn't give you an excuse to lash out. Now your dad is picking you up in five minutes and I expect to see you apologize to Sam tomorrow, got it?"
Jesse nods. He likes the principle, he really does, but he still thinks it's unfair. "Thank you, sir." He says, heading back through to the office. He wonders who'll drive him home when his dad doesn't turn up, and who Grace will walk home with now he won't be there with her.
"Jesse! That was awesome! If I knew you could punch like that I wouldn't have beaten the crap out of those bullies back in fourth grade!"
Grace laughs, pulling her brother into a hug.
"Hey, he was hurting my little sister, he deserved it," Jesse replies, returning the hug and smiling.
"You're a saint, Jess. Saint Jesse James!" Grace laughs again, sitting down on her bed.
"I think Jesse Saint James has a nicer ring, personally." Jesse replies, pulling a face. Grace nods enthusiastically.
"I am the sister of Jesse Saint James!" She declares proudly, and she continues to giggle before her eyes rest on the picture in the corner. It's of their mother, eyes shining and mouth smiling happily while Grace and Jesse, five years old, sit right beside her.
"I think she'd be proud of you, Gracie." Jesse says, because his sister is the smartest person he knows and this week has been hard for both of them.
"We're visiting tomorrow, right?" Grace says, making no implication that she heard what Jesse said.
"Of course we are," Jesse replies firmly, sitting beside his twin and entwining their fingers. They both stare at the picture, trying to remember the woman who, with every passing day, they forget a little more.
The gravestone reads Maria James, loving mother, wife and daughter. She will be missed.
Jesse and Grace set the flowers down on the soil. Grace speaks first, always has since they started visiting a few months after the accident, every Sunday. Though today is a Wednesday, and it's a little unfamiliar.
"Hey mom. It's been six years now and I suppose it's easier. I get scared every morning when I wake up because I forget you a little more. It's terrifying that one day the only memories I'll have will be photographs. I miss you a lot, we all do. I wish every day that maybe … that … well I suppose wishing won't change much, right? I love you momma, forever and always."
Jesse tries to speak but suddenly everything is black. That is all he can see – black hats, black dresses, black nail varnish. He remembers the funeral, the sympathy, the confusion. He chokes, his throat clogged up and his brain full of memories. Grace calls his name and he stumbles backwards, away from the grave, away from his sister.
He's two years old, his mother laughing as she finds him covered in flour in the kitchen. He's three, and his mom is singing his lullaby. He's four and watching Cinderella, singing along with his family. He's five and he's climbing up the tree in the backyard with Jamie's help, his mother calling to be careful. He's six and he's sitting at the front pew with Grace and nobody will tell him where his momma has gone, why she's not with him.
"Momma," he cries, and he forgets that he's twelve years old because he's only six, really. He can't grow up, because growing up means leaving his mom behind.
Grace holds him and they stand together, crying for everything they've lost – everything that's been left behind.
In eighth grade Jesse meets Kurt Hummel.
It's brief, and he hardly remembers it until tenth grade, when he's standing at the front of a classroom and saying he's transferred. Grace is at her friend's house, and so Jesse visits his mother. It's a Friday, and he assumes he'll be alone, but there's one person standing next to him, to the grave on the left of his mother's. He turns slightly and catches a glimpse of a boy his age or a little younger.
He doesn't say anything, just places down the flowers he bought for his mother's grave and shuffles slightly to make his presence known. The boy turns and Jesse was right – he is a little younger.
"Hi," he mumbles, uncomfortable. The boy blinks and nods slightly.
"Hey," he replies, before pausing and adding "I'm Kurt."
"Jesse." Jesse says, and then he waits a while and indicates the gravestone, "my mother," he says to Kurt, though he doesn't really know why he's explaining anything to some guy in a graveyard. It sounds like the beginning of a horror movie, but Kurt looks like one of the kids that gets bullied daily in high school so Jesse thinks he's probably safe.
"Snap," Kurt replies, nodding at the headstone he's closest too.
The two boys are silent for a long time before Kurt says he has to go.
"Yeah," Jesse replies, "me too."
"See you around." Kurt adds, though they both doubt they actually will, much less acknowledge each other. But Jesse smiles softly anyway and replies:
"Yeah, see you."
In the summer before ninth grade, Jesse gets a new look. Grace doesn't approve, and it's the first thing he's done that has angered his sister in a long time, if not forever.
He changes everything in his wardrobe for something dark, mostly black. Highschool is not going to be easy, he knows, and he figures that if he wears dark, and if he keeps his head down, the bullies will leave him the hell alone.
He's not stupid, he knows that singing in a choir, or singing at all, labels him. So he becomes a walking contradiction – the choir boy who dresses like a badass.
Grace takes one look at him and rolls her eyes. "Jesse, just be who you are. Be a dork!"
"This is who I am." Jesse says firmly. Maybe if he says it enough he'll actually start to believe it.
The first day of freshman year, Jesse walks in on a Vocal Adrenaline rehearsal.
He stands at the back of the auditorium and watches, his eyes wide. They are flawless, and he realises that all this time he's been in a choir when he could be doing this.
Afterwards, when most of the students have gone to enjoy the final two minutes they have left of lunch, Jesse feels a tap on his shoulder. He didn't hear anyone behind him so he whirls around, nearly losing his footing. The woman is who Jesse saw just a few minutes earlier telling the students that their flawless routine wasn't good enough.
"Kid, I'm sorry to break your bubble but your lesson starts in" she checks her watch before saying "one minute and thirty three seconds, so you better get a move on. What's your name?"
He remembers Grace after he punched Sam in the face and grins, knowing that even if she is pissed at him for the whole wardrobe transplant, at least he can give her something to smile about.
"I'm Jesse Saint James."
He's the youngest person to ever be in Vocal Adrenaline and suddenly people respect him.
Singing is what he does, and suddenly failing History doesn't seem so bad. Shelby's mood definitely improves when Jesse joins the team, and although this does cause jealously nobody acts on it, which Jesse is grateful for. He learns quickly because he watches every move, every emotion, every hand gesture. Soon he can do routine after routine without glancing to check he's doing it right. Vocal Adrenaline is a cool thing to be a member of, and although Jesse didn't expect that at all, the smiles he gets speak for themselves.
He doesn't complain when people say hi to him, because he's popular (for once), even if his best friend is stillGrace, who walks beside him and mutters under her breath when the football team ruffle Jesse's hair.
"For God's sake, you're fifteen, not five." She grumbles, but Jesse just nudges her slightly with his shoulder and smiles.
"It's a sign of respect!" He adds later, when one of the senior's repeats the hair ruffling again.
Grace just looks at him, and it's obvious that she can see through him. She knows he hates people messing up his hair. He laughs at her, and as they leave the corridor and start walking home he grabs her into a one armed hug.
"I still think you look stupid dressed in black." She says in response, but she doesn't shrug off his arm.
It's a Friday when it first happens.
Grace has gone to her friend's for a sleepover and so Jesse is walking home alone, trying to prolong the journey as much as possible so he doesn't have to face his father.
He's just about to exit the school when an arm grabs him and he tumbles backwards.
"Shut up, newbie."
Well, that's pleasant, especially considering Jesse didn't say anything. He looks up and recognises the face – it's the co-leader of VA, Adam, and Jesse is pretty sure he's been failed in various classes more than once so he can stay and sing solo.
"Um," Jesse says, unsure what is happening. Then he hears snickers and turns to see the rest of VA, all with their hands closed around something. Jesse isn't quite sure he wants to know what they are, but then he hears Adam whispering again:
"So here's how it is, kid. You are going to help us egg this kid, and you're going to be badass. If you don't help us, you're out. We'll tell Shelby you were a mistake, and she won't even blink. Got that?"
Jesse blinks, stunned. Adam nods, seemingly for Jesse himself, and places an egg in Jesse's hand.
"Now or never, kid."
And then Jesse comes face to face with Tony, the guy in his English class. Tony is trembling as he stands there, unsure where to look. His eyes land on Jesse and suddenly Jesse realises what this means. He either inflicts pain on Tony or Vocal Adrenaline inflicts pain on him.
Jesse wishes it was a hard choice to make, but really it's easy. After all, singing is all he's got, and if he has to be badass then so be it.
"Well, go on, newbie."
His hesitation is slight before he aims at Tony, aiming for where it'll hopefully hurt the least. He feels like it should be in slow motion, but instead he throws the egg and it all happens pretty quickly. His throw is the trigger and within milliseconds every single member of VA had egged Tony.
Everyone else leaves, laughing loudly. Soon it's only Tony and Jesse, but Tony is staring at the floor, egg yolk dripping down his face, shells cracked on the floor.
Jesse wants to say 'I'm sorry' to the trembling boy in front of him, but he can't. Because after all, now he's a respected member of Vocal Adrenaline, and that's all that counts. Right?
So when Tony looks up to meet his gaze, Jesse doesn't say one word.
He just turns and walks away.
The response is almost instant. Within days Shelby gives him a few solo lines, and Jesse wonders what the other members told her, but doesn't question it. He's ecstatic, and so is Grace, who seems to think that three solo lines mean he's suddenly the next big thing for Carmel High. He practises in his room, making Grace listen over and over and when he finally performs he's never felt better.
That's when he finally realises. He's standing on the stage, after the song, and Shelby is smiling and praising them all. Her eyes land on Jesse as she says "I'm proud of you guys" and Grace is standing quietly at the back smiling and giving him the thumbs up. Its then that Jesse finally, truly realises that singing is who he is and what he wants to do.
He'll become a singer, he knows it. And nothing is going to get in his way.
By the third egging, his hands stop shaking and he stops hesitating (and his heart stops thumping so hard he feels like he can't breathe). It becomes a routine, almost, and that scares Jesse more than anything else. That now he doesn't even flinch when Adam grabs him and tells him about the new victim – that he expects it. Except when, on the last week of freshman year, the victim of the cruel prank is someone he knows.
It's Grace's friend, Emily, and she looks like she's going to burst into tears. Jesse feels his stomach curl and his hands start shaking, just like they did when his eyes met Tony's weeks ago.
"Well, what are you waiting for, Jesse?"
Jesse can't answer that question. He can't say anything, because Emily is looking at him with eyes that say please and all he can see is Grace's face, how angry she'll be, how she'll yell and scream and tell him you've changed, Jesse, what happened?
So he can't do it. He turns, faces Adam and uncurls his fingers, dropping the egg to the floor.
He doesn't speak, but words don't need to be spoken. Adam glares at him before nodding to the other members, who laugh and turn their prank on Jesse. He feels the eggs crack in his hair and on his face, wincing on the impact. He feels like crying but he's Jesse St. James and there is no way he's crying over this.
Within two minutes it's over, and the people he thought were his friends have walked away. Their laugher is ringing in his ears and Jesse wants to scream at them, punch Adam until he bleeds, but he stays where he is. He may be kicked out of Vocal Adrenaline, but the one person that means more to him than singing is Grace and if he went through with pranking Emily he knows that she'll stop talking to him - and silence cuts into him much more than anger.
His eyes have closed and he doesn't realise until he feels someone touch his arm lightly. His eyes open and he comes face to face with Emily, who is smiling at him, thankful.
"I'm sorry they did that to you – I didn't know they would-"
"It's … okay. Just ... can you not tell Grace about this?" Jesse doesn't smile. He didn't do it for Emily, but he doesn't tell her that.
Emily nods, an expression of understanding crossing her face."Well … thank you. I really do appreciate it. And I am sorry."
And then she kisses his cheek and walks away, leaving Jesse standing in a circle of egg shells and broken dreams.
Adam emails him the next day.
Jesse has no idea how Adam got his email, and he's tempted to delete it, but he opens it anyway.
You screwed up. Lucky for you that you have one more chance. Pull a stunt like that again and I can assure you that we won't just kick your sorry ass out of Vocal, but we'll make your life hell.
See you tomorrow, and don't even think about bringing up anything about yesterday to anyone.
Jesse can only see the words 'one more chance' and he smiles so much that it hurts.
Freshman year finishes without any more pranks, which both encourages and scares Jesse. As promised there is no word about the egging, but instead, to his surprise, Jesse gets a solo. It's to be performed at a welcome back concert at the start of his Sophomore year.
"Don't screw it up, kid." Shelby says as she hands over the lyrics to a song Jesse is unfamiliar with. He reads them as he leaves the auditorium and wonders how Shelby thinks this makes a good welcome back song. The lyrics are good though, beautiful even, and Jesse has never been more proud of himself than in that moment.
"who will I belong to when the day just won't give in"
He sings the solo on the first day back – there is a welcome back school assembly where everyone is packed into the hall. Jesse can sees all the irritated looks from where he is standing behind the stage, and when he walks on everyone goes deadly quiet. It would be frightening, but Jesse knows he's better than most the people in here – and he's not even being vain by saying so.
So he stands in the centre of the stage (spotlight) and feels like a nine year old, singing Amazing Grace all over again, but instead the words he's singing are much closer to home.
So he sings the final line with his head held high and, for once, his heart on his sleeve.
"I'm only human"
Shelby calls him back on a Friday after rehearsal.
It's March and Grace is waiting for him outside but Shelby looks a little worried and that's enough to make Jesse follow to the side of the stage.
"You're familiar with William McKinley?" Shelby asks, and Jesse hopes she means the school because he's nodding.
And so Shelby tells him about her long-lost daughter who isn't really lost at all, and for a while Jesse thinks she's joking, though he has no idea why she'd joke about a surrogate daughter of all things.
"And I was wondering, Jesse, if you could find her for me?"
Jesse wants to say no. He wants to say 'do it yourself, she's none of my business'. He wants to turn around and walk away. But instead he looks into Shelby's tear filled eyes. If he does this, surely she'd owe him? So he gives his best fake smile and hopes this is damn well worth it. The word tumbles from his lips and lights up Shelby's face for the briefest moment.
And then Rachel Berry comes into his life in a swirl of colour and talent and just a little bit of annoyance.
Jesse assumes this is where it all goes wrong.