A/N: For Lee who gave me this idea, and Swed, because I've owed her a St. Berry fic since the beginning of time. C:
It's really quite simple, actually. Simplicity at its finest. Finn and Rachel graduate together, throwing their caps in the air with flourish and pledging the rest of their lives to each other. Except it doesn't always work like they say it does - nothing's ever set in stone.
New York calls her name, but Lima whispers right back, and the life with Finn she shouldn't have. He's perfectly content with staying in Lima, flipping burgers and staying in an apartment on the same street they lived on as children.
So it's in the late July, the air still warm and moist, that she packs her bags and tells him quite simply, "Broadway calls."
And he lets her go because sometimes even he knows it's not right to keep a bird from stretching her wings. Lima was always such a small cage.
It's a selfish thing to do, but Rachel does it anyway because she should be selfish about what she wants, which is her name up in lights and an audience with their eyes trained on her. It's always what she's wanted, since she was a little girl.
She gets the role of Elphaba in Wicked - and it takes many years for this to happen, but it finally does, and she runs around squealing at inanimate objects when she gets the part. It's been her dream to be Elphaba, to play that misunderstood person, just as she's always been.
Except then there's Fiyerio.
She recognizes the voice immediately, and everything comes rushing back to her and she whisks around with wide eyes. "J-Jesse?"
He smiles. "You can call me Fiyerio… Elphaba."
She goes home and screams into her pillow. She's a grown woman, damn it, but she's still a little girl on the inside.
It starts, as things usually do, with a cup of coffee. Well, that's how things usually start for romance comedies, don't they?
Except this really isn't too romantic or comedic.
"What happened to you?" She takes a sip and it burns down her throat. "You don't look any… well, I haven't seen you in a long time."
Jesse gulps down his coffee like a pro. She's almost jealous, but she suspects he's done it for far too long. Insomniacs, you know. She's no stranger to no sleep. "I high-tailed out of town as soon as I could. Can't the same be said for you?"
Rachel huffs. "Not really." She decides not to go into it about Finn, because she still feels selfish and wrong when she thinks about leaving him. It was for a good reason, as she's always going to reassure herself; she was ready to move on and he was content to never take another step.
If he's curious, he doesn't show it. "Well, you're here now."
She nods and glances up at the skyscrapers. Everything is so bright in New York. It's daunting and beautiful. "I'm here now."
"Elphaba." He smirks. "I always took you for an Elphaba."
She never took him for a Fiyerio but she doesn't say that out loud. "Ha." She nudges him playfully and spills a little coffee on his scarf. "Oops."
He looks like he's going to laugh but he kisses her instead, quick and fleeting and so soft she could've missed it, even. There are lights reflected in his eyes. "You'll do well. Right?"
She licks her lips and tastes coffee. "I always do."
After their first opening, Jesse takes her for drinks. Adrenaline is running high and she's physically exhausted in every way, but she feels totally accomplished in the way that only performing can make her feel.
Together they decide not to bring up the kiss because that's not exactly professional, and they are nothing but professional people, and always have been.
And it's flattering, in every sense of the word, to see her name everywhere, even if it be paired next to Jesse's, so she's quite willing to do anything. She's on a high from her own success.
"You did amazing." She might be a little drunk but that never hurt anyone. She's a responsible drunk.
He clings onto her and chuckles in her ear. "You've still got some green makeup right here," and he brushes the side of her face with his thumb.
"S'alright," she mumbles. "I'm tired. Take me home, Jesse, I'm tired."
He half-carries her to a cab and pays the fair, and she can feel his lips on her cheek as he cradles her, a bit like a child that didn't know she needed comfort.
Rachel is alone in the big city.
She's never been good at making friends so even the swarm of her fellow cast around her doesn't aid in the loneliness. There's a Jessica, who's friendly but sheltered, that sometimes waves hello to her, and a Michael who rarely ever smiles but murmurs a greeting when she walks into the room.
It's something but it's not enough.
After their second opening, Rachel is too tired to do anything. She curls up in bed alone, alone, alone, feeling like she's done everything she's ever wanted, but there's still something missing.
Jesse. She can smell the coffee from her bed.
He turns the corner and smiles at her, and she might smile back, and she thinks this is what it's like to have a friend. A nice person to look after her. They don't talk about the past. It's better if they didn't.
"I brought you some coffee. Vanilla, your favorite, right?" He sits on the edge of her bed, urging her to lay upright.
"Why are you being so nice to me?" Rachel takes the coffee. It warms her hands.
There's a moment of uncertainty in Jesse's eyes, a shadow of doubt flickering over his face. "I'm sorry about… you know."
It's been so long she can't remember ever crying about it. She smiles a little. "It's done, right? It's over. You're… well, you're here now."
He looks like he might kiss her but they drink their coffee in silence.
It's after their fifth and last opening that she can feel herself developing a cold. Perfect. Her immune system is wearing down too easily.
"Now I know why you're always drinking coffee," she grumbles at him as he hands her some tissues and orange juice.
Jesse shrugs. "It never hurts," he admits with a smile.
Rachel slurps her chicken noodle soup lazily. "God, why are you even here? You don't want to get sick, do you?"
Jesse glances at her. "I don't want you to be alone."
She might be in love with him. History has a way of repeating itself.
He wrestles her out of bed eventually and they have coffee in the cold of December. Rachel's breath permeates fog in front of her and she watches with a playful smile as his does the same. The lights around them are dazzling, reflected in his eyes. So many pretty lights, she could drown herself forever.
"I think we should do this forever," Jesse tells her, like it's the simplest thing in the world, and maybe it is.
"Do what?" She feigns innocence and raises her head to the sky. So many pretty lights.
He follows her gaze. "Just you and me. Broadway. The whole works."
Rachel finally looks at him. "Are you asking me out?"
She kisses him this time. Full circle. "It's a bit too late for that, I think."
He kisses her back. Coffee. She wonders if he could ever taste like anything different.