Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Glee writers and creators.
A/N: I just had too many Faberry feelings and had to get them out somehow.
Spoilers: 2x20 "Prom Queen"; nothing too bad, but just to be safe.
"Thank you for helping me with this song, Jesse. I knew I was on the right track, but there seemed to be something off, and now I know what," Rachel said cheerfully, smiling sweetly up at her lost-and-found ally as he slung his backpack over his shoulder and straightened.
His ever-present smirk refused to fade. "You know I'm always glad to help you, Rachel. As one artist to another, it's my duty to help you blossom your wealth of talent."
"As long as I'm not competition," she amended teasingly, and Jesse chuckled, tossing his head to get a stray lock of gelled hair back into place.
"Exactly," he agreed lightly.
The pause that settled between them was surprisingly comfortable considering, well…all the egg yolks painting their messy past, but Rachel had discovered over the past couple of weeks that being in Jesse's presence was nothing short of a relief. He understood her entirely, unlike Finn, who only seemed to understand one thing: don't have, want. She shook her head of the man-boy she'd sworn to move on from, instead focusing on the man-diva before her. The man-diva who got her, who was so regretful for what he'd done that rather than simply dropping college to find fame elsewhere—perhaps 'American Idol' or something—he had come back to Lima, Ohio, one of the smallest dots on the map. Just to make amends.
And he'd been nothing but good to her since his return. And though there was that brief moment of intimacy at the prom she'd allowed them both to indulge in, he'd been nothing but a gentleman. He let her take her time in forgiving him and…well, after this afternoon's session of practice with his unbiased, blunt, but constructive criticisms, she felt she really was ready.
Which was why Rachel crept forward a few steps, into his space, fiddling with her fingers at her waistline as she peered up at him through her lashes.
"I'm really glad you came back, Jesse," she murmured, so that he would have to lean in to hear. He did so, hanging his head low, until their foreheads were almost touching. She smiled. Perfect. "I didn't realize how much I missed having someone who truly gets me like you do."
Jesse smiled-briefly, but it was genuine, and it warmed her heart. "I'm glad I came back, too."
She smiled one more time before sobering, drawing out the wait only a matter of moments before she sucked in a breath and just did what Rachel Berry always did: she went straight for what she wanted. Only Jesse stepped back, and she stumbled and stared in surprise, because…well, wasn't this what he'd wanted? Had she misread the signals? She didn't think she possibly could have.
He came back to Lima for her, because he 'gave up love.' Love! He asked her to prom, he danced with her, he kissed her neck and fought with Finn for her. What was there to misread?
She guessed her shock must have shown, because Jesse smiled that genuine smile again and reached to squeeze her shoulder before finally opening his mouth to explain. "You know, when I first came back, I envisioned this perfect reunion for the two of us. It was supposed to happen for us the way it did in 'The Phantom of the Opera' for Raoul and Christine. It nearly did, as you recall. I saw this vision of perfection with the voice of an angel on stage, I joined you in song, and then I was supposed to ask you to your promenade and woo you back to my side."
He heaved a great, dramatic breath here, gripping the strap of his bag as he wandered past her and the piano, looking off toward the ceiling, as though he could see it all there again—his fantasy playing out on an invisible screen. Rachel frowned, turning with him, awaiting further explanation, because what was the problem then? All that had basically happened. Give or take a punch in the face or two.
At last he turned and smirked again. "But something changed, Rachel. I know you still care about me, but…someone else has your heart now."
Rachel's brow knit in consternation, and she immediately opened her mouth to protest. "Finn? Jesse, you were at prom, you saw my rendition of 'Jar of Hearts.' I could not have been anymore clear about my feelings than if I had ripped a page from my diary. That was about him, about me moving on. I thought you knew that."
Jesse chuckled. "Oh, no, I can see that that ship has sailed." He wandered a little closer, smirk growing to almost frightening size as he teased, "I was thinking of someone a little more…blonde."
Her whole face scrunched up. Okay, what?
"Sam? Jesse, please tell me that LA did not force you to succumb to the pressures of recreational drug use and—"
He heaved a great sigh, cutting through her words, and said loudly, "I meant Quinn, Rachel."
Silence instantly filled the space between them. Jesse only raised his eyebrows, awaiting more of a reaction than Rachel's flapping jaw and immeasurably wide eyes. He got one. She started shaking her head rapidly and, as usual when she couldn't process something properly, she started to pace madly, brushing past him toward the back of the stage where there was more breathing room.
"That's completely absurd! Qu-Quinn and I? Preposterous, unfounded, and just plain…silly!" she burst out, panting heavily after that short speech and glaring mildly at him.
He just huffed a chuckle. "You can deny it all you want, Rachel, but I know I'm right. I've seen the way you two look at each other, especially after prom. Something shifted. I don't know exactly what, but there is something there whether you want to acknowledge it or not."
"You're insane," she said firmly, turning away again as she folded her arms protectively against her chest.
Things had been…strange between herself and Quinn, since that moment in the bathroom where the blonde actually let her guard down, let her dry her tears. Let her take care of her. Rachel had been shocked by how much she cared about Quinn. Jesse was right, something had shifted, and she wasn't sure exactly what it was, only that to let it in, to acknowledge whatever that feeling was that crept into her chest and curled up contentedly in her heart every time she looked into Quinn's eyes was simply…dangerous.
And Rachel had suffered enough heartache. She had to start protecting herself again.
It didn't help that every time they met eyes now, a small, genuine smile would quirk and pull at Quinn's pink lips, her hazel gaze softening, showing that fragile side of herself she had shown in the bathroom. It was as though now that Rachel had finally pried that wall open, rather than merely cracking it as she usually did, Quinn was unable to hide from her. And it wasn't good for someone with feelings like Rachel's. Someone whose heart began to race—in the happiest, lightest sense—every time they saw that beautiful, sweet girl beneath the icy mask.
Rachel shook her head of it, closing her eyes to the memory of drying those tears cascading down porcelain cheeks, trying to shut it out. Unfortunately, she couldn't shut Jesse's voice out so easily.
"I'm right," he said decidedly, no trace of hesitance in his tone. And she remembered why he annoyed the hell out of her sometimes. "And honestly, it wouldn't bother me so much if circumstances weren't as they are. I would probably still pursue you and win you back, but right now I don't stand a chance."
She faced him sideways, still not directly meeting his eyes, but she saw his lip curl into an even bigger smirk. She hated that she gave him the satisfaction, showed him her curiosity. "What are you talking about?" she asked reluctantly.
Jesse's smirk was unbearable at this point, and she wanted to slap it right off his face when he started to swagger over to her as he spoke, stepping right in front of her until she had no choice but to look up into his eyes. "Quinn and Finn are going to crumble. Maybe not right away, but after what happened at the prom, it's not just a possibility. It's a matter of time. And once Finn is out of the way of your friendship, it's not a stretch to think that you'll start to bond on a more profound level. If there's an underlying love, Rachel, anything is possible. And I get the impression that that's the case with you and Quinn—the underlying love thing?"
She shook her head, slowly. "You're crazy."
Again, he just smirked. "You can keep saying that, but it doesn't make me any less right. You two have something, and sooner or later it's going to make itself known. I'm not going to be in the way when it does."
He shrugged unapologetically, and Rachel licked her lips as she thought, trying not to let how much his words affected her show. It struck a chord, one she wasn't quite ready to listen to yet, so she latched onto something else—the string of fear he'd also sprung in her. She met his gaze tearfully.
"You're not going to leave, though?" she whimpered, though it came out as more of a plea, and in a matter of moments, she was in his arms.
Rachel let loose then, crying quietly on his shoulder, and smiled lightly when Jesse kissed the top of her head and said, "And leave you with only your denial for company? No way. Someone's got to knock some sense into you. Besides, who needs theater when you provide enough drama to last a lifetime?"