A.N. Here is the final chapter of my St Berry prom re-do. And now my story is complete! [does happy dance in celebration]
Hidden away in a corner behind the wallflower girls, Jesse and Rachel shared an armchair which had somehow found its way into the dinosaur themed prom because it was covered with Flintstone characters.
"That was..." Jesse began.
"...incredible." Rachel finished. They smiled dopey smiles at each other, both high on post-performance afterglow.
"Too bad you've given up your dreams and resigned yourself to being a soccer mom," Jesse remarked. "Ouch!"
"Not funny, St James."
"Am I to gather from that decidedly painful poke in the ribs that you have changed your mind about your hopeless future?"
Rachel sighed and leaned her head against Jesse's shoulder. "I don't know what I'm going to do exactly. It looks like NYADA is not an option."
"You know, there's this crazy rumour going about that NYADA is not the only college in America that specialises in performing arts. I've also heard it said that just because you fail at one audition doesn't necessarily mean you won't ace any future ones."
"Like you're one to preach, Mr Flunks-Out-Of-College-After-6-Months-And-Gives-Up- On-Higher-Education-Altogether," Rachel retorted.
"I didn't give up," Jesse argued. "I just decided to chase a different dream."
"What, becoming Vocal Adrenaline's coach? You're better than that, Jesse."
"If you'll recall, applying to Vocal Adrenaline was not my first action when I returned to Ohio. In fact, my first stop was at a small kingdom known as Lima wherein dwelled a very stubborn (but beautiful) princess. But alas, the princess refused to be rescued and chose the ogre instead."
Rachel stilled in his arms, her fingers ceasing from twirling the hair at the nape of his neck around her fingers. "Maybe if the prince hadn't egged the princess and then left her without a word for eight months, she would have been more likely to believe him when he said that he..."
"So it was a matter of faith, not feeling?" Jesse queried, his often-crushed hope stirring to life (seriously, if there was a nuclear war, the only survivors would be cockroaches and his dream to win Rachel back).
"Maybe," Rachel said softly, still finding her way through tangled emotions. She shook her head free of the cobwebs. "We were talking about the future, not the past. Now this Vocal Adrenaline gig – tell me you're not going to make it your life calling."
"Hardly," Jesse snorted. "Once we take Nationals, I'll have the money and the recognition to live in New York. I'm thinking I'll apply to Tisch, Juliard – maybe even give NYADA a second bite of the apple. And in my spare time I'll audition for every theatre production worthy of my talent."
"Second bite? You mean..."
"Yep. Applied, tried and fried. Apparently my diction for Giants in the Sky lacked crispness, according to the great Tibideaux."
"Jesse, this is – "
"Wonderful!" Rachel cried. "I mean, it's terrible for you," Rachel backtracked, "but if someone of your promise can be so utterly misjudged, then it just goes to show that anyone can mess up but that doesn't mean they are not still incredibly gifted."
"I'm not sure, were you complimenting me there or yourself?" Jesse asked with a fond smile.
"I like your New York plan, although I hope it still works for when you place second at Nationals after New Directions. But I think when you go to college you will need a special friend to keep you focused on your studies and not let you get sidetracked from your goals."
"Special friend, huh? Any candidates in mind?"
"Well, since I am also going to be applying to Tisch, Julliard and every other performing arts school in New York of good repute, it is very likely we will find ourselves sharing the same circles. Perhaps we could maybe meet up for coffee sometime?"
"Coffee would be good," Jesse said, his eyes heavy on Rachel's lips.
"Or maybe find each other at a student mixer," Rachel breathed, suddenly finding Jesse's mouth fascinating.
"Social networking is important," Jesse muttered, drawing Rachel closer. Their lips were an inch apart when...
"Well, well, what do we have here?" The couple froze at the amused voice of a certain hot jew. "Falling into old habits, Berry?"
"Puckerman. Your timing really sucks, you know this right?" Jesse sighed as Rachel nervously jumped up.
"Cockblock payback, St James, for that time in sophomore year I put the moves on Rachel but she wouldn't go for it because you had 'spoken for' her." Puck frowned slightly in Rachel's direction. "Although it looks like your whole stance on that fidelity thing has loosened up, from what I just saw."
"Noah, this isn't... we were just talking, I didn't mean for anything to happen," Rachel babbled in guilty confusion. Jesse's face fell, the all too familiar sensation of being led on by this one girl making his stomach hurt.
"No need to go running to Finn about this, Puckerman," Jesse said, standing up and straightening his tux's lapels. "You should know by now nothing that happens between me and Rachel will ever make a dent in her blind loyalty to Frankenteen."
"Jesse, wait," Rachel cried as Jesse turned away. "Where are you going?"
"This is my cue, isn't it? Now that you've stirred your loverboy into a jealous frenzy, you can bend him to your will while I fade into the background. I've played this part so many times now I can do it on autopilot."
"What if I don't want you to fade?" Rachel asked, jaw set at its stubborn tilt.
"What are you saying?" Jesse replied warily.
"Yeah, what are you saying, Berry?" Puck asked, stretching out in the recently vacated armchair as though settling in to enjoy the drama. Rachel rolled her eyes at him.
"Don't you have a punchbowl you could be spiking?" she inquired sarcastically.
"Already taken care of, with the help of one Becky Jackson," Puck imparted with a wide grin. "My life's dream of sneaking hard liquor into Coach Sylvester's punchbowl has finally come true."
"Fantastic," Jesse said, "I was wondering where I could find a stiff drink."
"But Jesse – " Rachel tried again.
"I'm sorry, Rachel, but you can't have both me and Finn at your disposal. And as history has taught me which one of us you always choose, I'm just making a pre-emptive strike by taking myself out of the running." His mouth twisted wryly as he squeezed her hand. "Maybe we'll run into each other in New York some day. Goodbye, Rachel." Then he turned and was soon swallowed up by the crowd. Rachel watched him go, her throat feeling hot and tight for some reason.
"New York, huh?" Puck said, watching the stricken girl curiously. "Thought you'd given up on that notion?"
"I had," Rachel spoke in a monotone. "It didn't seem realistic anymore."
Puck snorted. "Of course it doesn't, not in this town. You want to be anything bigger than a real estate agent in Lima and you'll get people telling you it'll never happen. Always thought you were smart enough not to listen to them, but I guess I was wrong."
"Oh, what do you know, Puckerman," Rachel spat. "Your life's dream was to spike a punch bowl. I suppose now you've achieved it you can die happy. It's a little different for people with serious goals."
"Hey, don't knock the small dreams, Berry, especially since you've joined the club and have traded your grand Broadway future in for them."
I didn't! Rachel's inner voice screamed. I won't. But with Jesse no longer by her side, those cold tendrils of doubt that had been choking her for the past few weeks began to curl their way inside once more.
"Hey, it's not so bad. You'll have your high school dream of being the school loser who rises to the top on the arm of her quarterback boyfriend. Finn got his dream of leading the Titans to their first championship last year. Quinn will probably get her dream of being prom queen later tonight, which kind of sucks for Becky as she had her heart set on it as well. Seriously, what is it about that stupid tiara that makes you girls act so crazy? I don't get it."
"It's not the tiara, Noah, it's the validation – to have the majority of the school body voting for you as the person they most admire and look up to – who wouldn't want that kind of accolade?" Rachel sighed, sitting down on the armrest of Puck's chair. "Don't worry," Rachel said in response to Puck's raised eyebrow, "that's one dream I've never striven for; I know my limitations."
"I don't know," Puck put his arm around her waist in comfort. "I think you'd make a cute prom queen."
Rachel smiled down at him sadly. "And I think you're kind of sweet. Insane, but sweet."
Their moment was interrupted by the principal's announcement of the results of the prom vote (after some mention of relocating snakes from the school toilets). Puck took Rachel's hand and lead her to the dance floor where she could already see the nominated prom kings and queens lined up on the stage. She looked around for Jesse and saw him on the other side of the room, sipping at a glass of punch, but he would not meet her eyes.
"And this year's prom king is... Mr Finn Hudson," Figgins announced. With a bashful grin Finn walked forwards, bowing down to allow Kurt to place the crown on his head. He looked out into the audience to find Rachel and winked at her. Knowing eyes were on her, she applauded his win, the very picture of a dutiful girlfriend. Yet she wondered why he had winked at her, and what was the meaning of the conspiratorial little smile he and Quinn were sharing?
"Students, for the second year in a row we have prom anarchy," Figgins announced as he looked at the prom queen card. "Receiving the majority of write in votes... Miss Rachel Berry."
For once in her life a spot light shone on Rachel she was unprepared for. She blinked in disbelief as her fellow seniors, the same people who had jeered at her, called her names and upended frozen beverages over her head, now applauded her, calling out her name and making a way for her to walk towards the podium where Finn stood, watching her with a proud smile. In a daze she walked towards him. She knew she ought to be ecstatic in this moment; being crowned prom queen was a fantasy of hers she had never told anybody, knowing it was an impossible dream. And there was a part of her, the lonely outcast Rachel, who gloried in this unlooked for victory. Yet there was another part that was wildly wondering what Jesse would make of this and would she have the chance to speak to him before he left.
Before she knew it, she was standing at Finn's side with Kurt behind her, a sparkling prom queen crown hovering over her head. "Just breathe," Kurt advised, lowering the trophy onto her shining tresses. This was it, her dream come true... but all she could see was Jesse, mouth twisted into that bitter smile, raising his glass in salute to her coronation, and then turning and walking towards the door.
"WAIT," Rachel cried, so abruptly Kurt dropped the tiara and it fell to the floor with a hollow clang. Rachel drew deep breaths as silence fell over the room. She didn't care that the admiration in her peers' eyes was fast turning to the familiar what-is-crazy-Berry-up-to-now look, all she cared was that a certain curly haired head had stopped his progress towards the nearest exit. "I'm sorry, I can't accept this," Rachel said, stooping down to pick up the crown at her feet. At this range she could see how fake the tiara was; obviously the school was going through another round of budget cuts.
"Rachel, what are you doing?" Finn hissed, grabbing her hand. "Just put the damn crown on and smile and wave. Then we can dance together, as king and queen of the whole school. Doesn't that sound good?"
Rachel shook Finn's hand off of her, "I'm sorry, Finn. I can't do that."
"Why not? Rach, this is your dream – you and me, on top, untouchable." Rachel shook her head; when he said it like that it all seemed so petty. Had she really wasted the last three years of her life chasing something so trivial?
"That dream is too small for me now, Finn," Rachel said quietly. "I've outgrown it." She picked up the skirt of her gown, preparing to walk away, but Finn's hand on her arm held her back.
"How can you be so ungrateful? After Quinn fixed the results so you would win and we could show everyone we belong together, and you just throw it all back in my face?"
Rachel looked stunned at this revelation, mainly from the concept that Quinn was capable of self-sacrifice. She looked towards the blonde and mouthed sorry for making her act of kindness meaningless. Then she tugged off her engagement ring and gave it to Finn. "But we don't belong together, Finn, not in the real world. We made sense here in high school, where dreams are small and childish, but now it's time to grow up and become the people we were meant to be. And I'm sorry but I can't be that person with you." She craned her neck upwards and brushed a kiss against his cheek. "Goodbye, Finn."
Finn looked crushed but finally released his grasp on her, recognising the futility. Rachel hurried down the stage steps, her gaze fixed on a certain pair of blue-grey eyes that were watching her from the edge of the crowd. Jesse stood still, refusing to move towards her; this time Rachel would have to do all the work but she figured that she was due. When she was only a few feet away from him she suddenly froze in place as though remembering something. His heart stopped for the length of time it took her to hold up one finger, as though asking for a minute more of his long suffering patience. She then raised her wondrous voice which needed no amplification to be heard and lifted up the prom queen crown which she had unconsciously held onto.
"People of McKinley, I abdicate my crown in favour of one who is truly deserving of it. I give you your 2012 prom queen – Becky Jackson!"
She lowered the glittering circle over the short blonde girl's head with some difficulty as Becky began jumping in joy. No sooner was the crown on her head than she was practicing her "royal wave" at her stunned subjects, crowing "I did it, bitches!" Only then did Rachel complete her journey to stand before Jesse St James, free of all fake diamond accessories.
"So," she said a little breathlessly, "About that coffee."
Four months later...
"Schwimmer! She calls me little miss Schwimmer and tells me my pique turns suck! Cassandra July is the most horrible, abusive shrew of a dance teacher ever created in the fires of Hell."
Jesse pushed a soy milk capp towards his girlfriend with an amused but sympathetic smile. "Really? That's surprising – she was very complimentary to me. Even offered to give me some private tutelage at her Soho loft."
Rachel looked aghast at the concept. "I swear, Jesse, if you ever give that harpy access to your body without the benefit of witnesses, then don't expect any access to my body in the near future." She sunk down into the cafe booth and took a long sip of her coffee, her frustration unravelling as the caffeine hit her bloodstream.
"Like I went through three years of chasing you to pass you over for a gin-soaked cougar," Jesse mocked. "Give me some credit, Rach." When his girlfriend continued to look broodingly at him he threw up his hands in surrender. "Fine, I'll help you work on your pique turns until even Cassandra July can find no fault."
Rachel smiled widely at him. "I knew there was a reason I loved you so much."
"There are many reasons," Jesse said airily, sipping at his Earl Grey tea with grace. "Now, tell me about something good that happened to you today."
Rachel threw her hair over one shoulder. "Well, Carmen Tibideaux did say that my rendition of New York State of Mind was 'nice'," she admitted, not quite hiding her pleased smile at the memory. Jesse whistled.
"Impressive. People who have been at NYADA for four years would kill to get a 'nice' from Tibideaux, and you get one on your first day. Then of course, she does have a bit of a crush on you, ever since Nationals."
"Jesse, don't be silly!"
"I mean it! I saw the way she looked at you when you sang It's all coming back to me now. Her eyes lit up like she found the next Celine Dion." Rachel smiled at the memory of singing that song; she had selected it because it was like the lyrics were written solely for her and Jesse. It had made it that much easier to pour her heart into the number which stood as her greatest performance to date.
"Personally, I think it was the endorsement you gave when you cornered her in the hotel lobby that convinced Ms Tibideaux to give me a second chance. Not to mention she wouldn't have even been at Nationals if you hadn't convinced me to beg her to come until she said yes."
"I think the fact that both of us are here in New York, attending NYADA against all odds, proves that when we work together, nothing is impossible." Rachel smiled at Jesse his favourite smile, her eyes misty with happy tears. "What's wrong?" he asked, bemused.
"Nothing. It just takes my breath away sometimes."
"The way you make my dreams come true."
Jesse leaned over the table and claimed her lips with his own.
"Back at you, princess."
Hope you enjoyed!