Author's Note: This was supposed to be really short and angsty and, while it does have angst (the St. Berry kind is always the best), I couldn't write the ending I originally planned to. Ellie, I tried to give you what you asked me. And I took forever to finish writing it, but I finally did.
Disclaimer: Not mine, except for Jason, who it's inspired on Kevin Richardson circa 1999 (he was a hottie!). This is set in 2014. Rachel's a freshman-turned-sophomore college student, Jesse is a junior.
then you can start to make it better
She's on her freshman year of NYU when she meets Jason Hayden. Tall, unshaven, with long dark hair and green-blue eyes, Jason is three years older than her, a TA on her Performance 101 and most likely the hottest bachelor on the campus. Quiet, discrete and observant, rumor has it that he never slept with any girl on his almost four years of college.
Rachel notices him right away, but something in him eerily reminds her of someone she would much rather forget, so she keeps to herself and stays the hell away from him. Her roommate, Denise, doesn't have the same opinion and flirts shamelessly with Jason, being always politely turned down. Denise, who is a beautiful and well-endowed redhead, apparently never once had to live through rejection and is furious when Jason firmly states he's not interested. So she spreads the rumor that Jason likes boys.
It would become a lie she regretted ever saying.
Three months into term, Rachel is sitting on her favorite coffee shop, studying for the exam of the class he helps at, when Jason walks in. He smiles slightly at her, nods and she nods back, something in that smile bringing back memories of the one guy she still fights to forget. He goes towards the barista to place his order, and a quick glance around tells her the coffee shop is full. With a resigned sigh, she flips her book closed and catches his eye by signaling him over. He smiles more widely, nods and once he has his drink (a soy latte), sits across from her.
They spend five hours discussing all sorts of things. Only once before has she had this sort of unstoppable flow of conversation with someone, but she forces herself not to think of blue-grey eyes and curly black hair and teasingly smirking red lips.
Six months later (it's the summer between her freshman and sophomore years), they're dating, he has met her parents and they're living together on his flat. And honestly it's the calmest relationship she ever had in her life. After her year and a half with Finn (that came to an end on her junior year) and a year falling in love with and finding a best friend in Noah (a relationship that ended the day she came to New York, because Noah is going to school on Florida), it's nice to be with a guy who respects her drive, ambition and dreams but still helps her become a better person. He takes good care of her and she knows her fathers believe a proposal is on the cards for them and sooner than she thinks.
Still, Jason keeps to himself quite a bit. She knows he was born from his mother's first marriage and his father died when he was a baby. His mother remarried and had another son with her new husband. His parents are absent from his life ever since he announced he wanted to pursue a career as a musician (he has the utmost respect for Broadway but acting isn't his "thing") because his stepfather hoped he would take over the family business. His brother, a year younger than him, is a junior in California. "My brother is the performer of the family, not me", Jason has once told her, proudly. "Funny enough, he never wanted to come to New York, especially after his senior year in high school. Said it hurt too much. My bet is that it has anything to do with the girlfriend he had that year. She was quite the catch but he fucked it up and she broke up with him".
She has never met anyone from his family and she knows Jason preferred that way. His brother was always busy on summers and breaks with stuff from college and auditioning, while she did the same and Jason always had his gigs (he has (one of) the sexiest voice(s) she's ever heard). (She tries hard not to remember the sexiest voice). But today is his graduation and she knows he sent invitations to the missing parents and that elusive brother, and she knows that at least said brother is coming.
And she's wearing a promise ring from him. "I'm not proposing yet, Rach", he said the day he offered the ring to her, smiling indulgently at her at her panicked face and surprised gasp. "But one day… One day you'll be Mrs. Hayden. I promise you".
(She said yes. To the ring and the promise of a future. How can she not?)
They're on the airport, waiting for his brother to appear, when she sees him and nearly dies on the spot.
Jesse St. James.
And, boy, does he look even better, three years later. At 20, Jesse is tall, but somehow his body filled, looking slightly larger and more defined. His face lost some of the childish features, becoming more masculine. But some things didn't change. His hair is still perfectly coiffed and he's wearing an all-black ensemble. She knows exactly in which moment he catches sight of her, because he comes to a halt, shock flashing on his face as he looks straight at her, and her heart lodges up on her throat when she hears Jason call out, "Yo, Jessie! Over here!"
Her heart sinks as she connects the dots. One day she'll write a script based on her life, because of course her college boyfriend is the older brother of her high school sweetheart.
A cool, collected mask replaces the shock on Jesse's face and she immediately recognizes the showface. I'm an actress, she thinks to herself, hand curled within Jason's grasp as she carefully puts an aloof look of casual interest over her own showface. Showtime.
He feels like Puck has punched him on the solar plexus when he catches sight of his big brother and his eyes naturally slide towards Jason's first serious girlfriend ever and he recognizes the wide, shocked doe eyes.
Figures Rachel Berry would be the one to tame his quietly womanizing older brother. She had the same effect on him after all, didn't she?
He freezes on his spot for a moment as he drinks her in. She's changed, still beautiful, the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, the kind of natural, effortless beauty that made the women in California look like a bunch of overworked, over-tanned, over-toned automatons that turn him off instead of firing him up. But there's a maturity in her looks, a sadness in her eyes, a wisdom on the curve of her lips that he knows, he simply knows, he helped put there. She's thinner – still deliciously curvaceous, but slimmer, her face finer, cheekbones and eyes more pronounced. She's wearing a simple, flowy white dress and her shorter, wavy hair falls down on her fragile shoulders.
She's the hottest woman ever.
His eyes are avid, hungry on the sight of her, and he's about to walk towards her when the very well-known voice of Jason breaks down the spell he has fallen under. "Yo, Jessie! Over here!" Jason calls out and he looks over to his brother. It's then that he notices the small details his brain blocked at the first sight of Rachel. Jason has his free arm thrown casually and possessively over Rachel's shoulder, her own slender arm wrapped around his brother's waist. Jesse feels like another punch has been given to his stomach, and then the final nail is hammered into his coffin.
His eyes zero on Rachel's right hand. Most precisely, on her right ring finger, where Jason's paternal grandmother's engagement ring shines brightly, the small, light pink, oval-shaped diamond making a beautiful contrast to Rachel's skin and shattering what Jesse still has remaining of his heart.
His anguished eyes settle into her face – he sees a flash of… something… in her eyes, before it's hidden behind the bright, blinding, false smile of her showface. Automatically, his own showface slides into place, and he strolls casually towards the couple. "Hey, Jase", he says as he hugs his brother tight, stealing small glances to Rachel, who has let go of Jason and has her arms crossed in front of her chest. (He's pretty sure Jason hasn't picked up on how Rachel's hands are squeezing her forearms, a gesture Jesse recalls she uses to offer herself some sort of comfort).
"Jessie", Jason says, smiling as he lets go of his younger brother. "Damn, man, it's been quite a while!" He laughs and then wraps an arm around Rachel and brings her closer. "Jesse, man, this is Rachel". Jason introduces with a proud, adoring smile on his face that causes a pang to Jesse's heart. "My girlfriend and, hopefully, future wife".
Rachel smiles weakly at Jason (Jesse reads the discomfort in her eyes and is relieved that he isn't the only awkward one in this situation) before turning to Jesse. She hesitates for a moment and he knows he has to take charge of the situation.
"Hi", he smiles and holds out his hand to her. "Nice to meet you. I'm Jesse, Jason's young brother".
She seems fleetingly surprised before nodding almost imperceptibly and holding out her left hand (he says a quick prayer of thanks that she is sensible enough not to shake his hand with the one where Jason's ring is snuggled). But, when their hands connect, a jolt of electricity rushes through both of them, and Rachel drops his hand like it burns her. "Rachel Berry", she says quietly, as she turns to Jason. "Babe, can we go? I'm not feeling well", she lies through her teeth, and Jesse's surprised when Jason doesn't pick up on it (or pretends not to), nods and guides them all towards the taxi line.
It's going to be a fucking long weekend, Jesse thinks as he engages in conversation with Jason.
So he wants to pretend they never saw each other before.
That's okay with her. Or at least she thinks it is. It surely is the better choice they have, because how do you explain to your boyfriend (who, mind you, has been making clear that he wants to marry you) that nearly three years ago you were madly in love with his brother? (Plus, if she's being honest with herself, she can't say with 100% certainty that she isover Jesse. That jolt when they touched…)
Once they're on the cab, Jesse tells the cabbie the address to the Waldorf-Astoria, but Jason refutes and tells the man the address to their two-bedroom loft. Jesse protests quite vehemently against it, saying he doesn't want to invade their privacy, but Jason waves him off dismissively and Jesse, nearly pouting, gives in. She's silent on their way back but it goes unnoticed (she thinks), because Jesse and Jason keep a steady flow of conversation, catching up with each other's lives. Once they're home, she goes towards her and Jason's suite, closing the door behind her and leaning against the wood, eyes closed as she takes deep, calming breaths.
After she takes a handful of deep breaths, she notices her hands shaking violently and blindly searches for her cell phone inside her purse. Once she finds the gadget, she presses five on her speed-dial. "C'mon, pick up, pick up, pick up…" She grumbles anxiously, locking the door behind her and plopping down on the bed.
"Berry, this better be good, I was busy-"
"Jason's Jesse's brother", she snaps, and, on the other side, Noah Puckerman is stunned silent.
"Jesse? As in St. Jerk?" She hears the muffled voice of Noah's companion and on-again-off-again girlfriend. "Yo, Satan, chill out – I'm talking, damn it-"
"What is it about St. Bitch, Berry? Hold your horses, Noelle, I'm putting B on speakerphone!" Rachel chuckles at their bantering. It's summer, so Noah's over until classes resume in September, and of course Santana's again walking the bisexual line since breaking up with her latest girlfriend (the first since the fiasco with Brittany in junior and senior year).
"Jesse is Jason's brother", she repeats, and she hears Santana gasp.
"Holy shit", the Latina breathes. "C'mon, Puck, go put some clothes on. We're going over to Berry's. B, you stay right there-"
"Rachel?" Jason's voice comes muffled from behind the door, and the brunette startles.
"Y-yeah?" She questions, nearly dropping the phone.
"You okay in there, babe? You've been locked in for quite a while…"
"Yeah, I'm fine!" Rachel calls back.
"Okay, Jesse and I are ordering Chinese and popping a wine bottle open, you wanna call Puckerman and Lopez over?"
"Yeah, I'm on the phone with San right now, so I'll tell them to come", she says, and hears Santana hurrying Noah up to go get dressed.
"B, babe, just hold tight on there, okay? We're on our way. No, Puckerman, you can't kick St. Jerk's ass once we get there!"
Chuckling slightly, Rachel closes her phone and paddles towards the adjoined bathroom, turning the tap on and splashing water on her face. You can do that, Rachel. You're an actress. Just think of it as an acting exercise. A wry, dry smile curves her lips as she remembers how she heard about being Jesse's own acting exercise. It's more than fair enough that he is my acting exercise now.
He takes the time that Jason has gone after Rachel to settle his frazzled nerves. His eyes wander to the pictures lined on the mantelpiece, snapshots of moments from Rachel's semester-long relationship with his brother. She's always smiling on the pictures, but the smiles never reach her eyes. Sometimes, in the serious pics he knows Jason took without her noticing, there's a thick shadow of sadness in her lids, a deep loneliness that is eerily a reminder of the girl he met all these years ago in Lima.
He picks up his favorite picture of her. It's a black and white shot of Rachel, dressed beautifully in a long, fluid white dress, hair flowing down her back as she stares absently out of a window. The sunlight frames her beautifully, giving her a halo-like white-ish golden glow. His fingers slide slightly over her figure. He's so deep in his musings and contemplations that the sound of Jason's voice, full of pride. "Beautiful, isn't she? I took this one myself, when we started dating".
"Yeah…" Jesse says, absently. He's so distracted he doesn't notice the quick, speculative frown that mars Jason's handsome face. He opens his mouth, but Rachel comes out of their bedroom, then the bell rings, and she rushes past him to open the door. Jesse is surprised when Rachel returns from the hall squished between no one other than Santana Lopez and Noah Puckerman. What the fuck? Both Jason and Jesse think, Jesse in shock and Jason in surprise at the anger that flashes in Puck's face. It's a deep, enrooted hatred, an emotion he never saw before in his girlfriend's friend.
"Noah, Santana, this is Jason's younger brother Jesse St. James", Rachel says, and Jason, unnoticed, frowns. Is that… nervousness… in Rachel's voice? Much like his brother, Rachel is never nervous when meeting new people, something that happened, according to Puck and Santana, from coming to New York after graduating from high school. "Jesse, these are my best friends, Noah Puckerman and Santana Lopez".
Jason leans against the wall as he watches Jesse shake Puck's hand (he notices the small, concerned glances both Santana and Rachel are shooting Puck's way) and smile charmingly at Santana before kissing her hand (the Latina doesn't look impressed). Awkwardness fills the air, Rachel is fidgeting, fluttering back and forth nervously as she sets the table for their dinner. Santana orders Puck to go help her, and with a little grumbling (nothing unusual), he obeys. Santana settles down on the plush couch and turns to Jesse. "So – you are Jason's elusive younger brother, uh?" She says, coolly, and Jesse is almost relieved to see the bitch persona pop up – proof that maybe there are things that haven't changed. "You remind me of someone. Have I seen you before?"
"I don't think you have", Jesse says coldly, eyes flashing in warning. He and Rachel have an unspoken (literally) agreement not to mention their past to Jason, to protect him, and he wants to keep it that way (if not to protect his brother, then to let Rachel keep the happiness she has found with Jason).
But he should know better than to believe Santana would leave sleeping dogs lie (she and Rachel are similar that way). She snaps her fingers and exclaims, "Of course! You were Carmel's show choir lead! What was their name? Oral Adrenaline, Shot of Epinephrine, Vocal Intensity?"
Jesse narrows his eyes and mumbles, "Vocal Adrenaline".
"That's it! We faced off against you guys in, I don't know, 2010, I guess. You guys only won because Rachel's mind – she was our lead – was elsewhere". The lightness leaves her voice and she looks straight into Jesse's eyes when she says, "The fucking hijo de puta she was dating turned her into a living, walking, breathing omelette. And she was a vegan, back then. It took months for her to recover, at least outwards… Honestly, I think she only truly moved on once she met Jason here", she smiles affectionately at his brother, and Jesse flinches inwardly as he remembers the devastating event that ended their relationship.
"Do it. Break it like you broke my heart", she said, eyes flashing with vulnerability – a plea for him not to do that to her – but her voice firm, steady, unwavering.
"I loved you", he mumbled, before slamming the egg in her forehead.
"I need a glass of water", Jesse mumbles, agitation coursing in his veins (damn it to hell the moment he decided to be a good brother and attend Jason's graduation) as he stands up and moves towards the kitchen. Inside, he hears Puck's soft voice humming quietly (Sweet Caroline), and Rachel's labored breathing. He knocks on the doorframe, gently, and Rachel turns her face away as Puck looks up and frowns. "I just need some water", he explains, and Puck tilts his head towards the fridge.
"Noah…" Rachel says after a moment, Jesse gulping quickly his bottle of water, and after a moment he hears the scrape of a chair and heavy footsteps leaving the room. Closing the fridge, he leans against it, eyes focused on the soft nape of Rachel's neck.
"So…" He says, cautiously. "You are my brother's famous heaven sent".
"It looks like", she replies, icily. "God knows if I knew he was your brother I'd have stayed the hell away. My track record with the St. James family isn't the best".
Jesse flinches and closes his eyes, the jab hitting the nail on the head. "Jason isn't like me, Rachel. He won't hurt you".
"Yeah, well, forgive me for not believing that", she stands up and, as she is about to walk away from him, back to the relative safety of the living room, he wraps his fingers gently around her wrist.
"Rachel… Can one day you ever let go of that?" He asks her, quietly, eyes pleading.
She takes a deep breath and turns to him, staring pointedly at his fingers on her skin. Her eyes are so cold they make him flinch, and he lets go of her as he silently begs her to give an answer, a hope, anything.
"Do you remember what I told you when I went to Carmel?" She says slowly, mindful of the possibility of Jason walking in on them and making questions she doesn't answer to answer… Yet.
(She tries to convince herself there's a yet on the end of that sentence. She tries to ignore the teeny voice in her head that questions if she even has the answers).
Jesse closes his eyes as his mind flashes to the fateful day she just mentioned.
"I have to ask you something, and I need you to tell me the truth, otherwise there will be consequences – life and death consequences. Because if I give myself to you, and it turns out that you're just playing me, I might die. Okay, not literally, but emotionally. It'll be the kind of heartbreak that girls like me hold for the rest of their lives. Like Barbra in 'The Way They Were'", a teenage Rachel says nearly desperately, making him chuckle slightly at her drama queen antics.
"Yes", he answers.
"Well, I always do as I say", she hears the doorbell ringing and leaves the kitchen, meeting Jason on his way to the hall.
Jesse stays behind, cursing, as usual, the day he went with the Vocal Adrenaline goons.
The next day is Jason's graduation, and a proud Rachel and Jesse stand side by side, giving the performance of their lives as they act nonchalantly towards each other, talking just when it's extremely necessary and unavoidable. Jonathan and Claire Hayden-St. James call their son and congratulate him, telling him to take his friends for a night out in the city, courtesy of them. Jason decides to make that happen the next day, a Saturday, and on Friday night the grad student takes Jesse, Rachel, Santana, Puck and a few assorted friends (including Rachel's former roommate Denise, who sets her sights on Jesse, making Rachel's insides clench and burn with jealousy) to dinner. Wine is passed around and drunk like water, especially by Jesse, who has to watch front row of The Rachel and Jason Show. Jason and Rachel are acting like newlyweds on their fucking wedding reception and it makes both sick to his stomach and disgusted with himself (he feels like a shitty brother because he wants Rachel to look at him with the adoring eyes she's giving his brother).
By the time night draws to a close, Jesse is more than drunk, Rachel is nearly going insane with anxiety and jealousy (Denise has been kissing Jesse's neck for the past fifteen minutes and he has yet to shove her away) and Puck and Santana are worried Rachel and Jesse's past will remain no longer a secret. Jason sees as Jesse's hand slide higher and higher up Denise's thigh and decides to interfere before he causes any embarrassment. "I guess we can call it a night, uh?" He says loudly, frowning slightly at the relief in Rachel's face. Letting that slide for now, he turns to Denise with a winsome smile. "Sorry, Dee, but I'll take baby brother home now".
Denise, more than tipsy, giggles. "Oh, don't worry, I'll take Jesse home… With me", she laughs loudly, and the few sober ones look away, uncomfortable. Jesse grins drunkenly and Jason is in a loss on what to do (being the older brother sucks ass sometimes), when Rachel steps in.
"Jess", she pleads, quietly, so exhausted that she doesn't realize the endearment escaping her lips, "let's go home, okay? It's been a long day".
A transformation operates in Jesse in front of Jason's eyes. He looks dutifully chastened and slips his hand from underneath Denise's skirt (Rachel feels her heart shatter within her chest) and disentangle himself from the redhead's arms (if looks could kill, Rachel would be cold and hard now). He smiles adorably up at Jason, who shoots a grateful glance at Rachel and hauls Jesse up. Denise is looking murderous at Rachel, but Santana steps in and in no-nonsense terms orders Denise out and home.
Jesse, Jason and Rachel all pile in a cab, Jason on the front seat, Jesse and Rachel on the back one. Visibly intoxicated, Jesse is looking adoringly at Rachel, and Jason finds this amusing, because he never thought his baby brother would be the rare childish kind of drunk. "You're beeeeeeautiful!" Jesse states loudly, sounding like a little boy, and Rachel blushes bright red and Jason guffaws in amusement. "You always were. I lied, you know? Your rendition of Don't Rain On My Parade was never flawed. It was perfect. Just like you", he declares, and Rachel is frozen with shock and terror.
Thankfully, the cab comes to a stop in front of their building – Rachel shoots out of the car like the devil is in her heels and hurries up to the apartment. After paying, Jason (who has the sinking feeling Jesse is also the babblish kind of drunk) hauls his brother and helps him up. By the time they're home, Rachel is apparently soundly asleep (Jason checks on her after he puts Jesse into the shower); he helps his brother into dry clothes and tucks him in. Jesse is silent the entire time, only speaking when Jason is about to bid him goodnight. "You take care of her, okay? I had my chance with her but I fucked it up and now, no matter how much I still love her, she'll never be mine again. But you… You'll be great for her. Rachel Hayden has as nice a ring as Rachel St. James, I guess".
With this, Jesse passes out, leaving a dumbstruck Jason behind.
(And, unknowingly to both boys, Rachel has heard everything, face awash with tears. She sneaks quietly back to the bedroom and pretends to be asleep when Jason comes to bed).
Jason only sleeps at the crack of dawn. Rachel, however, is wide awake, sitting on the cool tiled floor of their balcony, her back against the icy glass door, watching as the sun rises and the city wakes up to a new day. Her mind is filled with everything that has happened the last few days. How did her organized, safe routine with a loving boyfriend go downhill so fast she lost track of it? She had the perfect little life with Jason until Jesse entered their lives – bringing with him the past she so desperately wants to forget and the feelings she tried hard to get over. Every time her eyes find him, her heart races and she feels like the awestruck teenager she was when they met.
"Hey", a soft, deep voice startles her out of her reverie and she looks up to the blue-grey eyes of Jesse. He settles down against the other glass door, eyes into the horizon like hers. "You're up early", he says quietly.
"You've hinted about our past last night", she says instead, and he flinches.
"Yeah, I know. Look, I'm sorry, Rachel. I'll come up with something to tell Jason".
"No", she replies, surprising him and, deep down, even herself. "Don't. I… I can't keep hiding my past from him, Jesse. It feels wrong. You're his brother and I'm his girlfriend. As long as I'm in his life, you and I will run into each other. He has to know the truth, Jesse, about how you and I dated when we were children and about how a part of me will always be irrevocably broken because of you". She stood up, her voice heavy with sadness. "I loved you, you know. I think a part of me still does. After you left I spent a year and a half trying to convince myself I didn't, looking the other way when Finn screwed up, and then trying to move on with Noah. It was only with Jason that I managed to find some peace of mind. I love him, Jesse".
"I know", Jesse whispers. "I'm so sorry, Rachel".
She smiles wryly, humorlessly. "Well… Saying sorry doesn't change our past, does it?" She then walks in, straight to the bathroom.
Jason is sitting on the kitchen, heart heavy with everything he just learned.
A long hour later, he has made his mind.
She knows something isn't right the minute she lays eyes on Jason and he has bags underneath those beautiful green pools. Jesse is in his bedroom doing God knows what and Jason is busy doing breakfast (cutting fruit for her cereal bowl), so she wraps her arms around his waist from behind and presses a kiss to his cotton-covered back. "Is something wrong, Jason?" She asks quietly, feeling him stiffen slightly when her body presses lovingly against his.
"No, babe", he says, quietly, eyes closed as he savors the feel of her next to him. "Just tired. It was a long night and early morning, you know? And today it'll be another long party night, with an early morning tomorrow because Jesse leaves on the first flight". He feels her nod behind him, oblivious to the pain that flashes in her eyes and tears a new wound in her heart.
"We can call the night out off if you want, babe", she offers, rubbing soothing circles on his shirted abs.
"Nah", he says, shrugging. "It's fine. We'll go out and have fun. My last night partying as a college guy". He smiles weakly as she giggles and nods again, standing on her tiptoes to press a kiss to her shoulder. With a last squeeze on his abs, she leaves the kitchen and he closes his eyes, trying to calm his racing heart. I have to do this, he thinks. Jesse loves her. And she loves him.
The day trickles by slowly, and Rachel notices something wrong with her boyfriend. Jason is quiet and withdrawn, holding, touching and kissing her like it's the last time he's doing that. She tries to press him, but he always looks at her mysteriously and says it's an impression. Even Jesse notices something is not right with his brother and discretely tries to pump Jason for information, but to no avail (He would try the same to Rachel, but she avoids him like the plague).
Night comes and Jason, Jesse and Rachel go to a karaoke bar with a few other friends, including Puck, Santana and Denise. To Rachel's (and everyone else's) deep shock, Jason showers Denise with attention the entire night, leaving his girlfriend to fend for herself and making Rachel's former roommate smirk presumptuously. "Hey", Jesse whispers to Rachel as Jason and Denise are talking (read: flirting shamelessly), "you want to sing something?"
She nods, seeming lost (not surprising, considering who Jason is hitting on). Jesse reaches out and puts his hand over hers, patting it gently. "Hey. Don't worry, okay? He always was a life-of-the-party type of guy. And Denise is here alone, being a numberless wheel, he's only being nice to her".
Rachel nods again and shifts her hand so she can squeeze his with a small, grateful smile. "Thank you", she mumbles as she slips her hand off from his and begins to flip through the song catalogue. Jesse leans forward, peeking at it over her shoulder and piping in every now and then with suggestions and commentary. Slowly, the two of them begin to really talk, falling into the easy conversation they always fell when they were together.
Jason watches as Rachel talks and laughs with his brother, his heart breaking but resolve firming. Distracted with his thoughts, he doesn't hear the scrape of metal against wooden floor and the thud of someone settling into the chair next to his. "What the fuck you think you're doing?" Puck's voice startles him out of his trance, but Jason never looks away from Rachel.
"She never looked this happy with me", he says quietly, knowing his friend has heard it when Puck sighs and mumbles an expletive.
"You know about them", the younger man states needlessly, and Jason shrugs. "Jason, it was a long time ago. She was – we were – they were just kids".
"Puck… I know my brother. That relationship was never a fling to him. Rachel wasn't a nameless little girl he fucked up for the sake of being the best. You know, when they broke up, he flew in to see me. And for the first time in his life Jesse was heartbroken. He kept saying he was stupid and dumb and immature and coward".
"Well, he was", Puck agrees. "It wasn't easy for Rachel either. I was the one who found her…" He silences as he ponders how to phrase it. "… after it, and she was a mess. I honestly could've killed him". He lets this settle, and carries on, "But she is finally okay, Jason. With you. Does it matter that she used to be your brother's girlfriend?"
"No. It doesn't matter that he had her first", Jason whispers, and Puck smiles and stands up, clapping a hand on his shoulder in wordless approval before joining Santana on the dance floor.
It matters that she and Jesse are still in love with each other, though.
Rachel and Jesse finally take a breather from their deep discussion over the work of one Bernadette Peters, when she looks around and doesn't see Jason. Noah and Santana are grinding together with a second girl on the dance floor (the girl's front pressed to Santana's, and her back to Noah's), Denise is nowhere to be seen and several of their other friends she can spot scattered around the packed club. "Jesse, excuse me, but I have to go to the facilities", she whispers, and he nods and smiles.
"I'll go with you. You're too pretty to wander around alone, and it's late enough for guys to be drunk and do something against your will. Unless you have your rape whistle", he adds, teasing, and she blushes slightly as the memory of the last time she threatened to use it explodes in her brain.
"Who's there?" A beautiful, anxious sixteen-year-old calls out, clutching blindly to her purse. "I carry a rape whistle!" She states to the bright blinding light, and hears a throaty chuckle coming from somewhere near the spotlight.
"No rape whistle", she replies as she stands up, smoothing the back of her little black dress' skirt. "Just a kickass heel", she adds as she lifts one of her feet showing him the dangerous-looking high-heeled sandals Santana had convinced her to buy despite being taller than she was used to wear. Jesse laughs and places his hand lightly on the small of his back, guiding her to the ladies' room.
"You know, you seem very comfortable wearing sexy outfits-" he's saying as they near the hall that leads to the male and female restrooms, when she freezes and he runs straight into her. She's staring at a point in the semidarkness, eyes wide and shocked, slowly filling up with tears. Alarmed, he looks at the same spot she's looking at…
… And his heart nearly stops.
Jason, boxed between Denise and a wall, is passionately making out with the curvaceous redhead, fingers tangled in the burgundy locks.
"Fuck", he whispers, wrapping an arm around Rachel's shoulders and leading her out. His blood is boiling with anger, furious at his brother for doing this to Rachel, for humiliating her this way. He feels Puck's and Santana's eyes on them, and as soon as he and Rachel are outside, so are they, Rachel's coat and purse hanging from Santana's arm.
"What happened?" Santana asks, worried, as she notices the glassy, dull look on Rachel's eyes and wraps Rachel's coat around her shoulders.
"We'll go to your apartment and I'll tell everything", Jesse states as he flags down a cab. He, Puck, Rachel and Santana pile up within the first one that stops; five minutes into the ride, Rachel's quiet sobs fill the air, as she clutches to his shirt and cries against his chest.
She can't hear, see or feel anything beyond the thunder of her blood in her veins, Jason's lips on Denise's and her heart shattering.
Cheated upon… Again.
Rachel loses focus of time and moment. She feels an arm around her shoulders, carrying her outside, but all she sees is that image, forever branded in her memory. Of the man she wanted to marry making out with the girl who used to treat her like dirt, kissing her passionately, bodies pressed together. She distantly hears Noah and Santana's voices, and feels the slightly chilly night air licking her skin before someone – San, maybe – wraps her coat around her.
Then they're moving, in a car perhaps, and it all comes crashing down on her.
Jason Phillip Hayden, the man she was almost engaged to, just cheated on her.
Tears bubble up in her eyes and her fingers curl around a warm, soft shirt. The man wearing it hugs her tightly and she sinks into him, tears washing away the thick layer of makeup and wetting the fabric. She breathes in a lungful of expensive male cologne and wonders what it is that she lacks and makes all of her boyfriends choose something – someone else over her.
They arrive at Santana's place and Jesse carries her upstairs – she's still too busy crying her heart out. He lays her on Santana's queen-sized bed and her best friend comes to lie by her side, her arms wrapped around Rachel as Rachel rests her face in Santana's shoulder and cries.
Standing on the doorway, watching as the girl he knows since babyhood tries to deal with yet another broken heart, Puck turns to Jesse and says, "It's all your fucking fault, again, but I'm going to kill him, you know".
Jesse widens his eyes in shock, completely baffled. "My fault? It wasn't me who cheated on her!"
"You stupid ass, Jason knows. Don't ask me how but he knows about your past with Rachel. But he told me it didn't matter. I wonder what changed his mind?" The thicker-built boy shrugs. "Doesn't matter. Gonna kick his sorry ass anyway. Stupid son of a bitch", he mutters as he walks away, leaving a dumbfounded Jesse behind him.
Jesse's mind is reeling from what Puck just dropped on him. Jason knows about the time he and Rachel dated and that prompted him into cheating on her. "What the hell was he thinking?" He blows up as he marches towards the front door, leaving Rachel in the more than competent hands of Santana.
The two boys make the journey to Jason's apartment in silence. Jesse's rage grows as he remembers how happy Rachel looked the beginning of the night, before it all happened, and how utterly shattered she was in front of his eyes when they caught Jason with Denise. "I want to talk to him first", he mumbles to Puck, who snorts but nods in agreement. Once they arrive at Jason's apartment, the door is wide open, and Jason himself is sitting on the couch, drunk out of his ass, a bottle of José pending from his fingers. Puckerman is about to burst into the apartment, when Jesse holds him back, eyes wide and dark as he realizes his brother is drunk out of his ass.
"Let me", he says, and walks in the room, plopping down on the seat next to the intoxicated Jason. Silence reigns between the two brothers for a moment, until Jesse breaks it. "You're one big son of a bitch, did you know that?" He says casually, legs stretched out in front of him and feet propped on the center table. Jason snorts and lifts the half-empty bottle to his lips, snorting derisively.
"Pot meets kettle?" He mumbles. "At least I didn't egg her".
"No. You didn't. What you did was worse. You healed her heart, only to break it all over again". Silence again. "Puckerman wants to kill you. So do I, mind you. I thought you loved her".
Jason throws the bottle on the floor, the glass shattering loudly and the liquid spilling on their mother's expensive Persian rug. "Never, do you hear me, never question what I feel for Rachel. I love her more than you ever will. That's why I did what I did. You'll make her happy – truly happy. And that's what I want for her". Jason wobbles towards the room, back turned to his younger brother. "Do go away".
Jesse is quiet for a moment, and Jason, eyes closed, heavily breathing, hears him standing up, the sound of feet pressing into the liquid and crushing the shattered glass. He hears the door being pulled open, and Jesse stopping on the doorway. "You don't love Rachel more than I do. You broke her heart thinking that would send her running into my arms. I made the conscious decision not to shatter the happiness she had with you because her being happy makes me happy. Her happiness matters more to me than my own".
The door clicks closed behind Jesse, and Jason is left alone, fists clenched and body shivering in anger. As he picks the faint ring of the elevator bell sounding, he slams his fist into the nearest wall. "FUCK!" He cries out as tears run down his face.
Meanwhile, Puck and Jesse make their way back to Santana's building. Jason is out of Jesse's mind, his thoughts now entirely focused on the shattered young woman that waits upstairs. He meant what he just told his brother: Rachel's happiness and well-being matters to him more than his own. "Hey, man, can I crash here tonight?" He asks Puck, who shrugs.
"I guess. If I know Rach, she told San to call up Hummel and Blaine to bring the vegan ice cream and the usual bunch of chick flicks. They'll eat crappy soy ice, watch a handful of awful movies and bitch Jason and most likely you too out. As long as you don't mind watching sports with me, you're welcome to stay".
Jesse nods and they're silent for a moment. Before they walk in the apartment, Puck stops and puts a hand on his shoulder. "Listen, man. Hurt her again and I swear to God I'll allow Santana to kill you".
"What in the world are you talking about?" Jesse asks, seriously baffled by the unexpectedness of the question. Puck rolls his eyes and snorts disbelievingly.
"You're gonna put your showtune-loving moves on B. Hurt her and prepare to pay".
"She just broke up with my brother!"
"So? Doesn't mean you're not gonna sweep in and play hero to her damsel in distress. Quit the lying, St. James, we both know B still has your balls. You're head over ass in love with her. And believe me, I know the feeling".
Jesse freezes and looks at Puck, eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Why don't you go pick her pieces then?" He snaps, his voice holding only a trace of irritation and non-admitted jealousy.
"Listen, man, no offense, but I've done third fiddle to Berry for quite some time a year or so ago. And while I'm sure I could make her fall in love with me if I really put my heart on it, I've learnt the hard way not to go for girls who don't want me. You're it for her. Go on and get her".
Jesse looks dumbfounded at the younger man in front of him. "Have you just quoted the Beatles?"
"So what if I have? McCartney is badass", Puck shoots back as he unlocks the door and walks in the living room, the muffled sounds of a movie coming from behind Rachel's closed bedroom door. Rolling his eyes at their predictability, Puck goes to the kitchen, picks a beer and offers it wordlessly to Jesse, who shakes his head negatively. Sighing after chugging a good portion of the cool liquid, the former left tackle tilted his head towards the darkened hall. "Go", he said, lifting the bottle to his lips.
The melody of an old Celine Dion ballad – probably her most famous song – comes from the bedroom, growing stronger as Jesse approaches the closed door. The soft sounds of Rachel's sobs ring from behind the thick wood, mixed with the muffled lilt of Santana's voice whispering sweet nothings in Spanish, Kurt and someone Jesse thinks must be this Blaine he never heard before. Knocking gently, he says, "It's Jesse". A flurry of movement comes from inside the room and Santana appears on the doorway, her fingers curling tightly around his biceps as she pulls him down the hall towards the kitchen, light pouring out from the closed door she left cracked open.
"Listen, St. Douche, B is pretty messed up because of that maricón you call a brother, so if you're planning on screwing her then leaving, you better stay the hell away!" She hisses angrily, dark eyes flashing.
Jesse sighs and runs his fingers through his now messy curls. "I love her, Lopez. I have since I was eighteen. I was young, stupid and downright freaked out. So sue me. You never fucked up with the one you love when you were young?" He asks, knowing he has hit a nerve when her eyes cloud up and she lets go of him like she's burnt. He nods at her and goes back to the bedroom where Rachel is holed up into. Kurt and a tall, dark-haired guy pass by him, Kurt nodding once before walking into the living room. Taking a deep breath, Jesse knocks at the door, Rachel's muffled voice allowing him to come in.
"Hey…" He says quietly as he slides into bed next to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her close. The bedroom is now dark, the only light coming from the TV. "I'm so sorry, Rach", he breathes against her hair, her fingers clutching at his shirt. The silence falls over them, not heavy and uncomfortable, but familiar and sweet. He begins humming in tune with the song now ending, and she hums along until she asks a question that catches him off guard.
"Why do the men in my love life feel the need to hurt me?" She questions quietly, startling him so badly he lets go of her, jaw dropping in shock. At his silence, she elaborates, "I mean, you made fall for you, Jesse, head, heart and soul, and then you leaves me for Vocal Adrenaline and if that wasn't enough you egg me. Then after being messed up by Finn I finally fall in love with Jason – your brother, I should've known – and he cheats on me!"
"Rachel, stop. Finn was a douche, he never deserved you and you're better without him – and he's worse without you, so it's his loss, really. Jason… I can't explain why the hell he did that. He's fucking stupid. Fuck, I chose not to acknowledge the woman I love because I saw you two together and knew you were happy with him-"
A bitter laugh escapes her lips, interrupting him as she turns within his arms, facing the open window. "Happy. Yes, I think most would think so. I'm an actress, so it would be insulting if I couldn't sell basically anything. But you know what, Jesse Jonathan St. James? I haven't been truly happy since the day you walked out of my life with my mother, my trophy and my heart in your hands".
He doesn't really know what to reply to that so he allows the silence to fall over them. After a while, the TV shuts down and darkness envelops them. She begins to hum quietly and he recognizes the song immediately, heart clenching as he remembers the last time they sang this specific duet. It was one of the last songs they sang together, as a couple, and one that brings tears to his eyes even now, so many years later, whenever he hears it. "Turn around", he whispers, knowing that like her she's best working her feelings out through music.
"Every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you're never coming 'round", she whispers back, in tune, chest heaving slightly. Tears splash on his shirt as she turns back into his embrace, her fingers splayed on his chest, the warmth of her palm pressing on his cotton-covered skin.
"Turn around", he sings quietly, pressing a tender kiss to her forehead.
"Every now and then I get a little tired of listening to the sound of my tears", she shivers and her voice is trembling slightly, so he hugs her a little tighter and rubs his hand up and down on her back. He has no idea why she's allowing him of all people to comfort her, but he's not going to look a gift horse on the mouth. "Once upon a time I was falling in love, now I'm only falling apart", she sings, her voice thick with tears but still beautiful.
In the silence of her bedroom, his voice joins her for a duet for the first time in almost four years. "There's nothing I can do, total eclipse of the heart". She sobs in earnest against his chest and he clings to her tightly, nose diving into her hair and breathing in the scent of her shampoo. "I'm so sorry, baby", he whispers, heart breaking for her. She clings tighter to him after the endearment escapes his lips, and he allows her to wallow and grieve.
The next morning, she gives Jesse her key (and her ring) and sends him and Noah on their way to pack her stuff from Jason's loft. She has no idea where she's going to live since she refused her fathers' offer to rent her an apartment on Santana's building so she could move in with him, but for now a storage room for her things and Kurt and Blaine's couch for her to sleep at are her best options and they'll do. So, after Jesse and Noah are out on their mission and she manages to convince Santana, Kurt and Blaine to go out and shop like they had planned before this whole mess happened, she sits down with her phone on San's living room and makes the painful call to her fathers.
It isn't easy, just like she knew it would be. Ever since she and Jason started dating, her fathers finally began hoping for a wedding for their only daughter (something they had stopped to think after her devastating split with Jesse), and Jason seemed to be the husband-to-be every man wants for their little girl. Like expected, Leroy (dad) is pissed and wants to kill Jason (she has to talk him out of flying in). Hiram (daddy) is stunned silent and when he speaks again, his voice is thick with tears. Once she manages to wrap it up, she's trembling and tearing up and seriously considering going away from the city, at least for now. But to where?
She works best with lists and goals. So that's what she starts doing.
When Noah and Jesse comes back with her bags and boxes, she's sitting on Santana's kitchen counter with one of Santana's legal pads in front of her and her phone pressed on her ear. She's talking to dad again and he's wholeheartedly supporting her decision to transfer. They're discussing her options – she's not going back to Ohio, so Ohio State is out. Then her dad mentions UCLA, which also offered her a full ride, and her eyes lock with Jesse.
Los Angeles. It's on the other side of the country. And she has a friendly face there, if only for a year (having to deal with Jesse and the women she's sure he juggles and the dull ache of their broken relationship seems the lesser of two evils right now). "That can work", she says, and can almost see her dad nodding before he offers to make all the calls for her. She accepts, thanks him and hangs up, and turns to Jesse. "How do you feel about having a roommate?"
Noah's jaw drops to the floor and Jesse's eyes widen for a moment, both staring surprised at the brunette powerhouse sitting in front of them. Noah's mouth opens and closes but no sound escapes. After a few minutes, a big smile cracks Jesse's face into two and he quickly crosses the space between them and wraps his arms around her. He lifts her off the ground and a small, shocked squeak escapes her lips before she giggles quietly and hugs him back. "You're more than welcome", he whispers.
"You're leaving the city?" Noah exclaims as the door opens and Santana, Blaine and Kurt pour in. The three freeze in the doorway and Rachel glares at Noah for a moment before sighing and ordering Santana, Kurt and Blaine to drop their purchases on the main bedroom before coming back so she can explain everything to all of them. Noah decides to hop in the shower and leaves Rachel alone with Jesse.
The former VA lead takes the opportunity to give back to his former girlfriend the ring she very discretely slipped into his palm when he was about to leave with Puckerman, with a whispered instruction to hand the ring to Jason himself. She looks surprised up at him, a question in her mahogany eyes, and he replies quietly, "He arrived when we were finishing packing for you. I tried to do as you asked me to, but once he saw it in my hand he refused to have it. He said he gave it to you… as a gift".
Rachel snorts quietly. "Well, then do me a favor and send it back to your mother. I don't want that ring, Jesse". She clenches her eyes shut tightly. "It brings back to many memories that I'd rather forget right now".
"Jesse", she snaps firmly. "If you don't give it back to your mother or your brother, I'm gonna mail it back to either of them. Or throw it in the Hudson when I leave. I'm not keeping that ring, no matter what. Jason should've thought better than to cheat on me if he was so keen on me staying with that", she makes a dismissive gesture at the jewel in his hand, and turns her back to him, going straight to Santana's bedroom to pick the bags she already has packed. Sighing (he's more than used to her stubbornness), he shoves the ring back into his pocket and decides to sneak it back into Jason's vault at the bank where their parents have an account.
Three hours later, Rachel and Jesse are checked in their flight to LA. Noah, Santana, Kurt and Blaine, the middle two with tears in their eyes, hug her tight and wish her good luck. Blaine and Puck take the time when Santana and Kurt are busy smothering Rachel with love to quietly threaten Jesse to sing soprano for the rest of his life if he ever hurts Rachel. Rachel cries when Noah last envelops her in a bear hug and presses a sweet, friendly peck to her lips. "I love you, Berry", he whispers, sincerity in his voice. "You take care, 'kay?"
She's sniffling, tear tracks marring the beautiful face, when she nods and hugs him tightly back. "I love you too, Noah. Come visit me in the City of Angels, okay?" He nods in response when her and Jesse's flight is called. More tears spill from her eyes, but she squares her shoulders, latches her arm around Jesse's waist and waves at her friends, walking past the security with her ex's arm wrapped firmly around her shoulders.
"Care to make a wager?" Santana asks casually, face pressed against Noah's shoulder. Kurt eyes her speculatively, and so does Blaine, and the smaller boy makes a gesture for her to carry on. "How long do you think St. James will take to charm his way back into Rachel's heart?"
It takes six months. Noah wins the pool.
For the first month, Rachel is a zombie. She only focuses on her classes and her auditions and her assignments from school. Being Jesse's roommate, she immediately becomes the one who the guys want to hook up with and the girls want gone. She keeps mostly to herself and the only guy she hangs out with is Jesse. Her heart is just too broken for her to trust anyone with it again.
The second month, it gets easier. Her fathers come to California to check the apartment she's living at, and then suddenly Jonathan and Claire Hayden-St. James are there, and, surprise, surprise, Claire and Rachel's daddy Hiram were childhood best friends. For the first time in almost two months, Rachel laughs genuinely as Hiram and Claire remember stories from their childhood. The two families have dinner together, and the only time Rachel's heart aches is when Claire discretely approaches her while Rachel is looking out at the sea in the apartment's balcony and apologizes for the pain her sons have caused her. The older woman is surprised when a soft smile curves Rachel's lips.
"No need, Mrs. St. James. Jesse was scared and stupid, and he has apologizes to me himself and has more than made up by allowing me to live here. As for your other son…" She looks out at the sea, the slight breeze gently blowing her hair back, "… he's a grown man and he made a mistake. Fortunately, he did it before I tied my life to his permanently. I take marriage very seriously, Mrs. St. James. If I had married Jason, and he had cheated on me, I wouldn't have left. I'd be stuck in a loveless relationship".
"Well, Rachel, if you say so. But even then, I apologize".
"Can you do something for me, please?" Rachel asks, and at the woman's nod she hurries to her bedroom. She comes back with a small box in her hand, which she gives to Claire. "He gave it to me, before. I don't want it. It belongs to your family – your first husband's family. You should have it. Please, take it".
With a small nod, Claire slips it into her purse, and the two women return to the living room. Jesse quietly approaches Rachel and wraps an arm around her waist, whispering into her ear, "You okay?" She nods with a small smile, a weight being gone from her shoulders now that she no longer is in possession of a jewel that isn't hers.
When Claire, Jonathan, Hiram and Leroy all bid farewell for the night, Claire takes the moment when she has her younger son in her arms to whisper in his ear, "Be good for her, Jess. She'll be fantastic for you".
The ring being gone marks the start of Rachel's true recover, three months after the breakup. She begins to open up more and makes new friends. Some of them are even guys. She's not ready yet to date, but Jesse notices changes in her behavior that gives him hope. Since she moved in, he has kicked all the girls to the curb, and once he realizes her heart is at long last healing, he slowly begins to court her. It's so discrete she doesn't know it's happening, but it's there. Their friendship really grows during this phase. They truly become best friends.
Four months into the breakup, Rachel is asked out by a guy in one of her classes. By this time, she has come to realize that she's still in love with Jesse (who has still to make his move), so she politely refuses, explaining to the boy how she just left a relationship and is now determined to date the one she knows is the right person for her. Once Jesse learns of the invitation, he's furious (and jealous), and he grows partly hopeful, partly worried as Rachel tells him what she said to the boy to have him back off. I wonder if…? He thinks.
A month after that, five months after the breakup, Jason writes an e-mail to Rachel. At first, she's reluctant to open it, but for the sake of closure – she knows she needs it in order to truly leave him and their relationship in the past – she decides to read it.
My dearest Rachel,
Hopefully you'll see this in your inbox and find it in your heart to read it before you throw it out. Hopefully you'll understand what I did what I did, and I'll be able to know I made the right decision.
On the summer between his senior high school year and his freshman college year, Jesse came up to visit me. He was definitely devastated by something he had done to the girl he had fallen in love with and been dating for quite some time (which I now know is you). I swear, I had never seen my little brother so broken up over a girl. He'd take every chance he had to get hammered and sing really crappy, emo songs when we went to karaoke. He would refuse to sing anything by Queen. Hello by Lionel was also one of the blacklisted songs. He said it remembered him too much of the love he had lost.
The morning before we went clubbing, when Jesse woke up with quite the hangover, I overheard the two of you talking. I knew you had fallen in love, years before, with someone. I also knew that it had taken quite some time for you to move on from that love. I had imagined that lucky guy as some son of a bitch who had made you fall for him and walked away without a second glance back, some heartless bastard whose stupidity was my gain.
Imagine how shocked I was when I found out that, in fact, the guy had been my brother. The same brother whose tears over the breakup I had wiped and who I had leant an ear when he praised how beautiful, smart, sexy and talented that mysterious girl was, who I had comforted when he bitterly would blame himself for their devastating breakup. Jesse loved you, Rachel, truly, madly and deeply. You were the first one he ever loved – the only one, I think, he ever will.
And I knew, I know, you still loved him. He had laid claim on your heart and you hadn't really moved on from him. From my privileged point of view in that morning, I could see you two were still as crazy about each other as I imagine you were when you were dating. Who am I to stand in the way of a love so strong it managed to overcome whatever shit my stupid brother pulled at you?
So that's why I did what I did. I had to remove myself from your life and your heart, whatever little bit of it you had given to me, so you could find your way back to my brother (which, according to my mother, you have). I apologize to the pain I've caused you. It hurt me too, you know. But it was for the best. It had to be the way it was – you would've fought me to the grave if I had approached it as a conversation.
Give him the shot I know he so desperately wants, Rach. He deserves it. He'll be good for you this time, if you take a chance on him. And you know the song… If you change your mind, I'm the first in line… ;)
She has tears in her eyes by the time she's done with it. Six months into their living arrangement and they never discussed how they felt after their breakup, three years previous; it's a relief to know it had been as hard, as painful for him as it was for her. A love so strong it managed to overcome whatever shit my stupid brother pulled at you…
She wants to believe Jason, she really does. By now, six months after their messy breakup, she knows he has made the right call. By forcing her to leave him through making her believe he was having a thing with Denise, he extricated himself off the equation and left the road free for her to find her way back to Jesse.
"He had my best interests at heart", she muses quietly, fingers gently wiping the tears that still roll down her face. Squaring her shoulders, she quickly types a response to Jason, then slams her laptop closed. She marches to the piano, knowing Jesse's somewhere in the house, doing God knows what. "Jess!" She calls out. "Wanna sing?"
His head pops out from his bedroom door, a grin curving his lips, and he comes to sit next to her, curiosity sparkling in his eyes. "What will we duet with today, Miss Berry?" He asks with a fake pompous voice, and she giggles.
"I think this one should go a cappella", she winks, and starts singing.
I would give up everything, before I'd separate myself from you
After so much suffering, I've finally found the unvarnished truth
I was all by myself for the longest time – so cold inside
And the hurt from the heartache would not subside
I felt like dying – until you saved my life.
His eyes are wide and surprised as he hears her sing, turning slowly in his seat so he's straddling the bench, face turned to hers and eyes sparkling. He knows this song – his mother's a sucker for Mariah Carey – but he would never imagine Rachel knew it so well that she could run by it solely relying on her voice. That girl never stops surprising him.
His heart is hammering in his ribcage, because he can't believe she's singing this song – a love song – for him. It's been only six months since her breakup, and while they've been slowly getting closer, he had no idea she was so ready to label their feelings. After the mess of their first try at this, he thought she would want to take things slower.
Thank God I found you, I was lost without you
My every wish and every dream somehow became reality
When you brought the sunlight, completed my whole life
I'm overwhelmed with gratitude – my baby, I'm so thankful I've found you
With a wide smile on his lips – a smile, not a grin, not a smirk, but a true and genuine smile – he takes her hand into his and leads it to his lips, pressing a tender kiss into her nimble fingers. She giggles, blushing adorably, and his heart is about to burst inside of his chest when he takes over the song.
I will give you everything
There's nothing in this world I wouldn't do to ensure your happiness
I'll cherish every part of you
'Cause without you by my side I can't survive – don't want to try
If you're keeping me warm each and every night, I'll be alright
Because I need you in my life
A small smile curves her lips as her voice joins his. It's been a long time since she felt this… alive… just because of singing. Only he made her feel this way, so strong, powerful, talented, beautiful. She knows they have a real shot here – no secrets, no rivalries, nothing to keep them from having the epic romance he promised her back when she was sixteen.
See I was so desolate before you came to me
Looking back, I guess we were destined to shine
After the rain to appreciate the gift of what we have
And I would go through it all over again to be able to feel this way
Once the song is over, he smiles, she smiles back. Her fingers entwine with his, squeezing them gently. An overjoyed grin curves his lips, an expression she mirrors.
In New York, Jason smiles when an update of Rachel's and Jesse's facebook pops up on his screen.
Rachel Berry is in a relationship with Jesse St. James
Jesse St. James is in a relationship with Rachel Berry