A/N: I've had this on my computer for a while and just found it. Hope you enjoy! There is some fun St Berry banter in this one :D

If It Kills Me

She stared at the text for a good five minutes before she flipped her phone shut and got to thinking as to what she would exactly do about it.

The number was an unknown, but she had memorized it months before which made it fairly simple to recall. Her first thought was that he had some nerve to text her. It might have been months since all that happened between them, but she still thought it a bit insensitive. Hadn't he hurt her enough without sending nanobites of painful memories her way?

Her second thought was that she was overreacting.

The message was too impersonal to be intended for her sole viewing, so she had no other choice than to conclude that it was a mass text and she was simply one of the many who had received the message. After all, the contents of said message were rather innocuous. No innuendo or pith, it was just straight information. And there was a sense of plurality in the invitation.

I'm performing at local café Heartland tonight at eight. Going to be singing some stuff I've been working on at UCLA. Hope you all can come.

She, of course, would not be going. It wouldn't be right with Finn, whom she knew for a fact would not approve. He grumbled some negative thing about the guy at least twice a day and she imagined that her hiking it over to some café to see him perform would not go over with her boyfriend. Besides, it was a mass text. Who was to say that he actually wanted her there?

But, who was to say he didn't?

"Doesn't matter," she murmured to herself, shaking her head. "You are not going."

She reached for her phone again and flipped it open to the message. She read it over a third, fourth time. They were just words, she reminded herself. It didn't mean that he wanted to see her. And even if he did, what did it matter? She had Finn. She had the support of New Directions. She had everything that she wanted so there was simply no reason to go.

She would not go.


So, she went.

She could already imagine the hurt and disappointment in Finn's eyes if he found out. He would be crushed and undoubtedly angry, therefore, she had to make sure he never found out. It was that simple. Besides, there would be nothing for him to really "find out". She would only stay for a few songs and then leave.

She settled into one of the back tables, ordering a latte with soy milk and looking around nervously. She didn't see him, but recognized a few familiar faces from Vocal Adrenaline. None of them seemed to notice her in the secluded corner and she was happy for that. Her last memory of that group was broken eggs and stolen trophies, therefore she really was not keen on any hellos and stilted conversation.

She began to feel nervous as the time ticked closer to eight. What was she doing here? It was surely a mass text, and what would he do if he saw her? What would she do if he saw her? She was just about to leave when he strode to the front of the café and she dropped solidly back in her seat.

"Oh," she breathed out, her eyes travelling down from his tight black tshirt to the worn jeans that she knew so well. He looked just as she remembered except his hair was a bit longer. He sat down on a stool and she noticed then that he was grabbing a guitar resting by the stool. She hadn't known he played, but it didn't really surprise her. Him and a guitar seemed to fit. Actually, him and any instrument seemed to fit.

"Hey everyone," he spoke into the microphone, giving the room an easy smile. "I'm Jesse St James. How are you all doing tonight?" The room erupted in a cacophony of "goods", dotted with a few cat calls. "Alright, well, I have some good songs for you tonight. You guys ready?"

Applause broke throughout the room as he strummed a few notes on his guitar. She recognized the song as one by Queen and she pursed her lips in a frown. It seemed he hadn't changed-or at least his taste in music hadn't. At least he had the decency to pick one of the more obscure Queen songs and his voice predictably fit it perfectly. The man was born to sing Freddie Mercury, the way his voice slid up and down with ease.

The song ended and she crossed her arms over her chest, blatantly refusing to clap. She was there only to see if he had changed any, not to condone the outrageous ego-stroking he was receiving from the clearly adoring crowd. She imagined she stood out in her stiff formality, therefore it should not have been surprising when his eyes landed on her.

Still, it was.

Her eyes widened as his own seemed to take cue, and he leaned forward as his hand wrapped tightly around the neck of the guitar. One moment of pause, and then his lips pulled into a brilliant smile. "I'm going to run something new past you guys now," he said. His eyes landed firmly on her as he said, "It's a sort of new direction for me."

She looked down at the table, feeling her cheeks burn. There was no doubt he was referring to her and she felt her stomach curl uncomfortably when he began to play. If he began to sing anything by Journey she was going to throw her latte at him. She didn't recognize the song, but she had to admit it had a good beat.

Hello, tell me you know

That you figured me out

Something, gave it away

And it would be such a beautiful moment

To see the look on your face

To know that, I know that you know now

Well baby, that's a case of my wishful thinking

You know nothing

You and I

Why, we go carrying on for hours on and

We get along much better

Than you and your boyfriend

She felt as if her entire face was on fire, because he was clearly looking directly at her, and the lyrics he sung left little to the imagination.

All I really want to do is to love you

A kind much closer than friends use

But I still can't say it after all we've been through

And all I really want for you is to feel me

As the feeling inside, it keeps building

And I will find a way to you if it kills me

If it kills me

Her entire body responded to the words, and she felt guilt wash over her. She was powerless to the music, though, the moving beat that seemed to pulse in time with her own heartbeat. The song was sexy, that she couldn't deny, and that was without the way his eyes slid down her form as if he had seen her naked.

If I could be so bold

I'd ask you to hold my heart in your hand

Tell you from the start how I long to be your man

But I never said a word

I guess I'm gonna lose my chance again

Cuz all I really want to do is to love you

A kind much closer than friends use

But I still can't say it after all we've been through

And all I really want for you is to feel me

As the feeling inside, it keeps building

And I will find a way to you if it kills me

If it kills me

It might just kill me

The moment the song ended, she knew she should leave. If the text had been mass, impure intentions were still displayed from the dubious choice of song. This was not just professional interest between the two of them. She still felt her entire body burn when their eyes met, her hands twitching in her lap.

Still, she stayed. This was all a mistake. She saw this from the moment she sat in that blasted table in the corner and now she was powerless to leave. She was powerless to do anything but sit there and watch him, knowing full well that he would be coming to her table when it was all over.


She stared at her empty coffee cup, willing him not to come any closer. He had gone to his Vocal Adrenaline friends first, the loud hum of reunited high school chums reaching her ears. It was only a matter of time; that she knew. He was coming to her table and there was nothing that she could do-besides leaving, of course, but she knew that was not really a feasible option. Truth be told, she wanted to see him. She wanted to look him in the eye and tell him that she knew exactly what he was doing. She knew all his tricks, could finally see past his show face.

"Rachel Berry," he drawled from above her. She looked up from her coffee cup and gave him a surprisingly cavalier smile. She imagined he was probably thinking that she had learned a few things from him in their time together.

"You were good," she told him. "Really, you've improved a lot from Carmel."

"Thank you."

"You're accepting the compliment," she noted, wrapping her hands around the empty coffee cup. "I would have thought you would refute that there was anything to improve on."

"NYU has stripped a bit of my ego," Jesse answered easily.

"But not your affinity for Queen," she remarked. "At least it wasn't Another One Bites The Dust."

"So, does the great Finn Hudson know you're here? I doubt he'd approve of you fraternizing with the enemy."

"This is hardly fraternizing," she told him. "You'd have to at least pay for my coffee."

He chuckled, running a hand through his hair. "I'm surprised you came. I didn't think you'd show."

"I usually make it a rule not to respond to mass texts but I figured I'd make an exception this once."

"Well, you can keep your clean record Rachel, because it wasn't a mass text." Suddenly all her logic for coming proved faulty and she felt her cheeks redden. "But I'll remember that information-that I am the exception to the rule. Might come in handy one day."

"Finn and I are very happy," she stammered, unable to think of any other way to assuage the onslaught of guilt. "We are extremely happy."

"Well, good for you. A happy couple is one that lasts, right?"

"I suppose," she mumbled, looking down at the table. A silence fell between them, both of them remaining quiet for longer than either usually could. She thought to herself that he was the only one who could rob her of speech. Sighing softly she reached for her bag and said, "Well, I should be going."

"Yeah, how'd you get here?"

"Bus," she told him, reaching into her bag to find some money to tip the busboys with. She found a few dollars and put them on the table when Jesse said, "Me too, actually."

She looked up at him. "You-you took the bus here?"

He nodded, rocking onto his heels. "Mind if I head back with you?" She shook her head. "You probably shouldn't be alone at this time of night, anyway."

"It's nine o'clock," she told him.

"Yes, and it is dark. I'm looking out for you here, Rachel."

She smiled slightly and shook her head. "Sure you are. So, you ready to go?"

He nodded and she moved from the table, heading for the door as Jesse followed behind her. They stepped out of the café and he fell into line beside her. She glanced over and quipped, "You better not try anything, Jesse. No grabbing my hand or anything."

"I wasn't even thinking of it," he said. "But clearly you were."

"I know how you work."

He shook his head and remarked, "Paranoia is not a very good look on you."

"Did you really take the bus?" she asked. "Last time I checked you had a perfectly functioning car."

"Which my parents are using tonight," he said slowly. "Again with the paranoia."

She couldn't think of a clever retort, so kept her mouth shut as they walked under the bus shelter. The wind was heavy that night and she pulled her hat further down her head.

"Waiting is the worst part," Jesse said, attempting to make conversation. She looked over at him and thought to herself that they were treading dangerously close to talking about the weather.

"Why did you text me?" she asked.

"Why do you think?"

She looked away from him, irritated at the circles they always seemed to talk themselves into. Why couldn't he just answer the damn question? "I don't take you as the pining type," she began, shoving her hands deep in her pocket. "So, I honestly don't know. You know that you hurt me, so I can't imagine why you would invite me to anything that involved seeing you."

"You came, though."

"I missed the music," she admitted. "I still hate you, but I missed the music."

The bus pulled up and he smiled slightly before murmuring, "You don't hate me, Rachel."

He walked ahead of her into the bus and sat near the middle. She sat beside him and refuted, "Yes, I do."

"No," he said simply. "If you did, you would have deleted my number."

"I did," she shot back, pulling out her phone to show him. In between Jess and Jim, the spot where his name would appear did not exist. She thought this was her trump card. It proved just how over him she was, but then he replied, "You still remember it, though."

"I have a very good memory."

"Not for numbers," he said.

"I can remember phone numbers," she argued. "I am very good at remembering phone numbers."

Jesse plucked the phone out of her hand and she went to complain but he interrupted her and said, "Fine, I'm going to give you a number and you will tell me who it is."

"This is ridiculous." He read her a number and she frowned, having absolutely no idea who it was. The truth was, she was terrible at remembering phone numbers. His was about the only one besides her home number that she could recite without hesitation, but she would never admit that. "Jesse, I have no idea."

"You sure?"

"Yes," she snapped. "Who is it?"

"Finn Hudson."

She clamped her mouth shut and turned her eyes from his. She just admitted to not knowing her own boyfriend's number. This was wrong on so many levels. She snatched her phone from his hand and stuffed it in her purse.

"You really want to know why I texted you?" he asked.

"Yes, please enlighten me. Just try not to piss me off anymore, okay? I already feel like punching you."

He smiled slightly. "I wanted you to see how I've changed."

"You haven't changed."

"Musically," he clarified. "I won't make any promises for other parts of my life, but musically I have developed. And out of all the people that have been in and out of my life, Rachel, you were the person that I wanted to see that." She looked away from him, unsure of how to respond. For all the haughtiness he had spoken with before, his voice was genuine then and she felt herself grudgingly flush. "Say something," he softly urged.

"What do you want me to say?"

"I don't know. That I was good?"

"You're always good," she responded with an indulgent glance in his direction. "You could be singing the phone book and be good."

"Well, thank you."

The next stop flashed on the monitor at the front of the bus and Rachel recognized it as his stop. "Don't you get off there?"

"I'm taking you home," he said simply.

"Jesse, I'm perfectly fine on my own."

"You can say that until you're blue in the face and I am still taking you home. No point in arguing." She frowned and he added, "Although we are good at it."

She shot him a look and they made the rest of the ride in silence. They arrived at her stop and he rose with her. She looked over her shoulder at him and sighed. "Jesse, I am really fine."

"Really?"

"I have my rape whistle."

"Yeah, I've seen you threaten with that," he reminded her. "Not really that intimidating."

She sighed and walked ahead, leaving it for him to decide whether or not to follow her. Predictably, he trailed behind her, offering the driver a jaunty farewell as he got off. They walked down the street, turning the corner and she stopped suddenly when she recognized a car parked outside her house.

"You can't come with me," she breathed out. "You-you need to go back."

"Rachel-"

"I should have never gone to this."

"Finn is at your house," he said, understanding the panic in her voice. He could see the misplaced guilt consuming her and quickly stepped forward and placed his hands on her shoulders. "Calm down," he instructed. "I will leave you here and everything will be fine between you and Hudson."

"Seriously?" she asked, voice full of relief but her eyes still dubious.

"Yeah, go ahead."

"This is sort of a nice thing you are doing," she said slowly. "You're not trying to ruin my life for once."

Jesse chuckled. "Believe it or not, Rachel, I never had the intention of ruining your life."

"Added bonus, huh?"

"Tragic coincidence."

She smiled softly up at him and her shoulders relaxed beneath his fingertips. "You were really good tonight, Jesse."

He dropped his hands from her shoulders and stuffed them in his pockets. "Thanks, Rachel. I'll see you around? Send a mass text your way?"

"I don't respond to mass texts," she said with a small grin.

"But I'm the exception, remember?"

He offered her one devious grin, a little wink, and then turned away and headed back to the bus stop. She watched him walk away for a moment and then turned back toward her house, returning to what was safe and familiar.

She realized a moment later that what was in fact safe and familiar was at that bus stop. She stole one look back and turned her head quickly when she caught him looking back. As she returned home, she softly hummed a song to herself. She had only heard the song once and already, the words were burnt into her memory.

I will find a way to you if it kills me

If it kills me

A/N: So..no happy ending really. But I did love all the dialogue between them. I had fun re-reading this one :D What did you guys think?

Also- Glee last night? I thought it was really good. Almost like first season again! Thoughts?