Common Ground – A Short Story
Jesse St. James loves the color green. He's seen it often over the last few years, mainly during his days at Carmel, on the faces of rival show choirs or Vocal Adrenaline newcomers. Everyone envious of what he has.
He expected the green tonight, was even gleefully awaiting it, on the face of Finn Hudson. He's always known that Rachel Berry is Finn's girl. Even when she's not his girlfriend, she's always his girl. She was even when Jesse dated and broke her heart before. He completely despises that fact and it always pushes him a little harder to try to get Rachel. Maybe it even makes him a little green.
He saw Finn's eyes on her all night long. He's pretty sure everyone did. After all, Finn Hudson is about as subtle as a bomb. And yes, he saw the green. But after watching Rachel belt out that song directed only at Finn, he's not so sure he really wanted to see it. Regardless of the words she was singing, the fact that she actually sang it at all was evidence enough that Finn still has her.
To be honest, Jesse doesn't understand why Rachel even let him back into her life. He doesn't understand how someone like her could let him humiliate and degrade her and then actually accept his apology. But even though he may not understand it, he's pretty sure he knows why she did it. Because both times she let him into her life, she was nursing a heartbreak of the Finn Hudson kind. She's vulnerable and she's alone and maybe she even convinces herself that Jesse can take that pain away just a little. He's pretty sure she knows he won't be around permanently. He's pretty sure that deep down she's even ok with that. Because even she has to know that Finn will be around to pick up the pieces again.
What he wasn't expecting was for Finn to get physical. The snide comments and glares, expected. The pushing and punching, not so much. So maybe he was trying extra hard to keep Rachel's attention after that song she sang but, truthfully, he was really enjoying himself and this "maybe" date with her. He's always enjoyed being with Rachel, even when it was supposed to be fake.
He's not real pleased when Sue Sylvester throws him out of prom, partially because he was having a good time with Rachel and also because he's fairly certain that Finn's going to try to rearrange his face now that they are alone outside of the McKinley gymnasium. Show choir stars do not do anything to jeopardize their faces, but then again, he is no longer a show choir star. And really, he's pretty pissed at Finn for destroying his evening too. After all, he is right; Rachel is not Finn's girlfriend.
He watches as Finn huffs around for a few moments and then punches his fist into the wall. Better the wall than him. Then Finn's angry eyes are on him and he throws his arm up to point his way. "Stay away from her."
That too was expected. He knew the second he stepped foot into Lima again that Finn would be on the defensive like he had some sort of unspoken right to claim Rachel even when he was pushing her away. He knows it all stems back to the fact that Rachel is always Finn's girl. Admittedly, he is not accustomed to getting bossed around and he certainly isn't accustomed to being the underdog, which he knows he is with Rachel Berry, so Finn's threat just builds the anger in his chest.
"You can't want her again just because someone else has her," he scoffs. "You're being such a hypocrite. You claim I'm the bad guy and maybe I am because I shouldn't have broken her that way, but I think that maybe you need to look in the mirror when you're trying to find the guy whose hurt her the most."
From the look on Finn's face, he knows that. How could he not. But he shakes his head and lowers his eyes. Jesse watches as the anger slips away from him and he's fairly certain that right now he is just sad. "Why are you here, Jesse? You never cared about her and, what, you want to come back and toy with her some more to try to rebuild your ego."
Even Jesse can accept the validity in that question. He was the one who cracked an egg on her head and unceremoniously ditched her without even the slightest explanation. But Finn Hudson, or anyone for that matter, knows how much he has regretted that and how much he missed the tiny neurotic diva from Lima. How much he wished things, and he, were different.
"Because unlike you, I can admit when I made a mistake. And I did. I shouldn't have left things the way I did before and I'm here to correct that." And he is. Even if he knows it won't last.
Finn shakes his head again and takes a seat on a nearby bench. Jesse watches intently as he places his head in his hands.
Jesse St. James knows regret. He has seen it in the mirror many times over the last few months. When he is alone and the fake smile and tattered ego all slip away and he is face to face with the guy underneath the façade he has mastered so well. Face to face with the guy who put music and himself ahead of love and used that as an excuse to humiliate someone who didn't deserve it. He knows the regret of letting Rachel Berry go, just as he knows Finn knows it now.
Jesse takes a seat beside of him, which he wonders is against his better judgment. But he feels like he actually relates to Finn Hudson right now. He knows he does. While they may worlds apart in regards to talent, confidence and just about every other matter he can think of, they are pretty similar when it comes to Rachel Berry and their mutual regret for how they have individually wrecked her heart. That is their common ground.
"I don't know how long I'm going to be here. Lima, Ohio just isn't the right place for me. But it's the only place I could come until I get my feet back on the ground and I'm ready to move on again. You are right in thinking I'm the bad guy because the Jesse St. James I've created is a bad guy. That's the guy who egged Rachel. And ultimately, that's the guy I am. But I like Rachel Berry and I regret what I did to her. So as long as she will allow me back into her life and as long as I'm in Lima, I'm going to try to make up for that. And hopefully by the time I find myself again, whether it is tomorrow or a year from now, and I leave Lima again, there will be some real closure in my relationship with Rachel."
Jesse knows this is unchartered territory for him. Opening himself up to someone, especially to his rival, is not something he would normally do. The well crafted Jesse St. James façade would never allow it. But there are some cracks in that façade right now and those cracks are what brought him back to her in the first place and they are what will keep him here until the façade is healed and he can go his own way again. He knows it will be without Rachel Berry.
"So you're just here so that you can leave her again?" It's not the way he would have put it but it's accurate. But he knows it won't matter because he already knows how Rachel's story will end regardless of what he does during his time with her. And it's part of the reason why he's awaiting the return of Jesse the bad guy. To help him deal with the inevitable as if it doesn't bother him.
"Rachel Berry loves you. And in the end, she will choose you. And I envy you for that. I just hope that by then you realize what a good thing you have and will stop making these mistakes that you will regret." He hates the words as he speaks them. Hates how green it makes him feel. Hates that the one thing he can't admit that he would like to win is the one thing he knows he has no chance in winning anyway. Hates that he is actually giving encouragement to Finn Hudson regarding the woman he could possibly love.
He leaves Finn to think about his words. He will call Rachel tomorrow and continue to find forgiveness and closure during the short time he knows he will have with her. The short time until the bad guy returns and Finn Hudson picks up the pieces of the heart that they both broke.
Jesse, the good guy, may have just done the best thing to right the wrong he did to Rachel Berry all those months ago. Because she's always been Finn Hudson's girl and he knows that is not going to change.
Jesse St. James hates the color green. It's never looked good on him before and it certainly doesn't look good on him now.