Written for a prompt on the Glee Angst Meme. Boy, I sure do fill a lot of prompts.
(Rachel calls her former crushes and boyfriends 'love interests' because Rachel likes to imagine that one day there will be a screenplay written about her life like "Selena", though hopefully without the whole 'dying in the prime of her life and career' part.)
It began with admiration.
Rachel wasn't ashamed to admit that she was attracted to talent. That wasn't even new. It was what had attracted her to all of her previous love interests in the first place, to Finn, to Jesse, even to Noah and Will. But talent was only part of it. Kurt had talent, but it was an unrefined talent. What he had was an untrained gift. It almost made her hate him.
Oh she loved his voice, could listen to it all day as long as he wasn't using it to insult her. But his voice was unique in a way that her's wasn't. Rachel was proud of her talent, but she wasn't naïve enough to think that there weren't a hundred other girls in Ohio alone who could sing like her. But there were only a handful of people in the whole world that could sing like Kurt. So while she might have been technically better on most songs, his sheer uniqueness would get him where he wanted to go long before her talent would. It drove her up the wall.
(If the screenplay ever gets written, they'll have to get Kurt to play himself. Because there's no one else in the world who could do it.).
(Years into the future, Rachel will come to understand that if either she or Kurt had ever actually gotten Finn for longer than a few weeks, they'd have killed him. He wasn't what they wanted, just what they thought they needed.)
The second step was jealousy.
Not jealousy on Rachel's part, but on Kurt's. They had both been crushing on Finn and Quinn had realized it before either of them. Quinn manipulated Kurt into taking Rachel off the table and for her part, Rachel couldn't help but wonder if Kurt had known all along he was being conned. A trickster had to recognize a trick when he saw it, didn't he? Maybe he just hadn't cared enough, upset enough about the whole thing that Kurt decided that if he couldn't have Finn, Rachel most certainly couldn't either.
But Kurt's attempts at sabotaging her nonexistent relationship with Finn had an interesting side effect. After the incident, Rachel was reminded (by Kurt, no less) that they weren't friends. Which was true. They had never been friends. And the more she thought about it afterward, the more she wished they were.
So perhaps there was some jealousy on Rachel's part. But it wasn't her being jealous of Kurt. No, it was her being jealous of Mercedes. Mercedes was the only person in the world that Kurt trusted enough to let her see past all of his masks and shields. Even Finn was never granted full access into Kurt's psyche the way that Mercedes was. Trust was a hard won privilege in Kurt's world, and it was much more easily lost. And in that moment, Rachel realized that not only did she not have his trust or friendship, but that Kurt had never even considered giving it to her, and probably never would.
(Rachel only unconditionally trusts those that she truly loves. Kurt only truly loves those that he unconditionally trusts. It takes a long time for Rachel to understand the difference.)
(After she breaks up with Jesse and goes back to Finn, she makes a Venn diagram of all the traits she's attracted to and which ones Finn actually has. To her endless aggravation, the answer is not a lot. And the traits that he lacks are the ones that Jesse had in spades.)
The third step was frustration.
Rachel was angry at Kurt for no particularly good reason. Which wasn't to say that she didn't have her reasons, just that even she knew that they weren't very good ones.
She was mad at him for not telling Finn the truth about the baby, despite ostensibly being in love with him and almost certainly being friends with him. She wanted to be mad that he didn't tell her about it, but she wasn't surprised enough to be.
She was mad that he seemed so damn friendly with all the Cheerios within the span of a week when nearly a year later, she was still struggling to make friends with the glee club.
She was mad that when Bryan Ryan dropped by for no other reason than to stomp on all their dreams, they couldn't help but find each others eyes when he asked who had dreams of stardom, needing to reassure each other in spite of the fact that they still weren't on speaking terms.
She was mad that he could bring himself to make friends with Quinn despite the thousands of ways that she had hurt him over the past years, but he couldn't stand listening to Rachel talk for more than ten minutes.
But mostly, she was mad that he never said his well earned "I told you so," when Jesse abandoned her. He merely stood up with the rest of the boys to defend her. As though somehow, a friendship had formed without him actually informing her of it or changing his general behavior towards her.
She was really mad at him about that one.
(She's even more aggravated when she looks at the list of Jesse's traits and realizes that there are really only two other people in all of Lima who have all of them. And those two people are herself and Kurt.)
(When the screenplay gets written, Rachel suspects that Finn will be more of a plot device than an actual character. It's not that Finn doesn't have a personality, it's that he's ridiculously willing to shove it aside in order to be whatever other people want him to be. Kurt is himself and he refuses to be anyone else. But sometimes, when he is himself, he's still someone Rachel didn't expect.)
The fourth step was physical attraction.
That, at least, had not been her fault. For that step, Rachel placed the blame entirely on Finn. They had been going out on their first date since they got (back) together when Finn had gotten a call asking if he'd bring a box of donuts by the auto shop. Rachel hadn't minded since it was on the way to the diner anyway and she was slightly curious since she'd never actually been to the Hummel auto shop.
Out of any hundreds of things Rachel might have expected to see there, Kurt covered in grease and sweat and in the middle of gutting a broken down Chevrolet for scrap parts was nowhere on the list.
Rachel had always known on some level that Kurt was attractive. But she'd never really paid much attention to his looks before because Kurt tended to err on the side of feminine and Rachel's preferences leaned towards the more traditionally masculine.
In the heat of the auto shop, with none of his designer clothes to hide behind and his hair left wild and natural, Kurt was undeniably male. And for the first time in Rachel's life, her libido shot awake in broad daylight and said "Yes, please."
Later, when they were at the restaurant and trying to make awkward conversation, Finn would be too distracted and nervous to ask why she had rushed out of the auto shop like she'd seen a ghost and he was too focused on trying to calm himself down to notice that Rachel wasn't all there herself.
(She thinks that if there is one thing she doesn't want to include in her screenplay, it's probably the fact that even years later, Kurt-in-the-auto-shop remains her favorite masturbatory fantasy. Not because she's ashamed of it, but because Kurt will have to read the screenplay and she'd rather he didn't know just how much power he has over her.)
(Mercedes is one of those characters who develops cult followings despite having a relatively small role in the story. She's not important enough to the main plot to be around all the time, but she has too much force of personality to be a meaningless background character. Rachel hates the idea of a minor character being more popular than the main one, but it's hard to begrudge Mercedes this small victory.)
The fifth step is admission.
There's only one person she could possibly have spoken to about it, and the irony is not lost on Rachel that she was the one who originally warned Mercedes that Kurt didn't and couldn't love her that way. It wasn't as though she needed to be told it herself. She just... needed someone to confide in.
She found Mercedes sitting on the bleachers watching the Cheerios practice. Coach Sylvester didn't generally let people watch but she seemed to be under the impression that Mercedes regretted quitting, so Sue allowed it just to rub it in her face that she wasn't on the team anymore. Nobody had yet pointed out to her that Mercedes was just there to cheer Kurt on.
Rachel had learned over the course of the school year that her fellow glee clubbers preferred it when she spoke as simply and bluntly as possible, so she sat down next to Mercedes and said without any sort of preamble whatsoever, "I think I'm in love with Kurt."
Mercedes didn't even look over at her. "Join the club."
"So am I."
Rachel was quiet for a moment as she watched Kurt bounce energetically on the gym floor with Brittany and Santana on either side of him. She wondered how he'd react if he could hear their conversation.
Almost as if Mercedes had read her mind, she turned to give Rachel a faint glare. "Don't you dare tell him. It makes him feel like it's his fault for breaking girls' hearts. He still apologizes to me sometimes when he's feeling depressed."
Rachel shook her head, "I wouldn't have told him. You think we'll ever get over it?"
"Do you ever really get over the perfect guy? Kurt likes telling me that one day I'll find someone just as amazing as me and we'll live happily ever after. And I can't tell him that what I need is somebody as amazing as him."
"At least you have him as a friend. I don't even have that."
Mercedes gave her a despairing look, "All that means is that it hurts even more when he's sweet to me. Some days I wish he'd be a bitch to me so I could just hate him and get it out of my system."
Rachel sighed. "What do you think is worse? Having false hope or no hope at all?"
"I don't know and it doesn't matter. Maybe it would have been easier if I wasn't friends with him, but having had him? There is nothing you could offer me to make me give him up."
(Mercedes will also have to play herself, Rachel decides. Not because there's no one else who could do it, but because there's no one else who deserves to.)