See Lights, See Stars, See Clear
Spoilers: Some spoilers for seasons 1 to 4.
Disclaimer: All characters that sound familiar belong to Glee and its owners, I'm borrowing them for fun. Please don't sue.
The title is borrowed from the song See Clear by Lightouts.
A/N: I hate everything that's happened to Glee after season two, especially the part where they keep trying to convince viewers that Rachel belongs to someone not named Jesse St. James. And Brody is just Jesse St. James Lite/Wannabe, so don't get me started.
Finn-bashing, for obvious reasons.
It can be a one-shot, but if there's a positive enough of a response, I find no reason not to continue it.
Read. Enjoy. Review.
"I knew it was just a matter of time."
Rachel Berry blew out an exasperated sigh before she plastered on a polite smile and turned to the boy who had spoken.
She hated that smug smile. "Hello, Rachel."
"Jesse." Rachel said politely. She gestured to the seat opposite hers. "Please, sit."
Jesse St. James's smug smile faded to something more... amused, it seemed, but he took the offered seat, placing his bag and jacket on the seat to his left. He leaned back, and waited.
A waitress came by, and he ordered a cup of coffee, black, with sugar and cream on the side, because even if it was a coffee shop in New York, he was the only one who knew how to mix coffee the way he liked it.
And then he waited some more.
She only just kept staring at him, her face unreadable, and while he could understand fascination regarding the magnificence that was his face (all of him, really, if he were to be honest), he really preferred not to be so openly stared at.
At least, not when he wasn't onstage.
When the waitress brought him his coffee, he smiled politely at her before he begun mixing his drink together, all the while watching Rachel waiting for her to blink.
"Not that this isn't a riveting discussion, but I actually do have other places I could be, so if we could hurry this along?" Jesse suggested, hoping to prod Rachel into actually talking.
Honestly, that text message asking for a meeting had been a surprise, since he was sure he was the last person Rachel would ever turn to for anything, but it didn't inconvenience him in any way and the fact that a message had even been sent had piqued his interest, which was why he even bothered to show.
Besides, he was somewhat invested in Rachel's future career - she was an ideal duet partner and a reasonable co-star - so it was probably in his best interests to start rebuilding bridges with the girl.
Rachel blinked from her stupor, and frowned. "Why are you here?"
He gave her a wry look. "You wanted to meet."
"Yes, but why are you here?" She moved her right hand to emphasize her query.
"I could ask the same," he replied, already knowing her reaction to his implied question.
She gasped, affronted. "If you must know, Jesse St. James, I am a freshman at the New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts. I am insulted that you would think I would be anywhere else other than New York City."
Jesse's expression turned skeptical. "You really want me to answer that?"
An affronted huff, which he presumed could be translated to a yes.
"The last time I saw you, you were all signed up to be Mrs. Finn Hudson, and I think we both know he would never succeed in New York. In fact, I'm fairly certain your association with him is what got you nearly Ohio-bound, since your dedication to him prevented you from applying to any back-up schools."
She glared at him. "I got into NYADA well enough."
"From what I gather, entirely based on your solo at Nationals, because you stated yourself of how you humiliated yourself in front of Carmen Tibideaux. I've been meaning to inform your solo was spectacular, by the way, since I failed to see you after the awarding."
Rachel faltered in her indignation. "Thanks," she frowned, confused at her own reaction. She hadn't expected to be flattered that Jesse liked her performance, since she already knew it had been wonderful. She frowned. "Are you here all the way from Ohio?"
He chuckled. "No."
"You live in New York now?"
"What are you doing in New York?" She would be so very jealous if he said he was in a show. Maybe he was just auditioning.
"I don't see how that's any of your business." Jesse said flatly.
Her frown deepened. "What about Vocal Adrenaline?"
He sipped his coffee. "What about them?"
"Won't they be short of a show choir director?"
"New Directions have been short of a show choir director for three years," Jesse pointed out. "Didn't hurt your chances at Nationals last year."
"I will have you know-"
"If you're defending William Schuester, please know that I don't care." He cut her off. "What am I doing here?"
"Rachel, I'm obviously not involved in Vocal Adrenaline anymore. Whatever happens to them is already beyond my control, thus beyond my interest."
Rachel's jaw dropped at his blasé attitude regarding the show choir that he had chosen over her, the one that had won him national acclaim and four National titles, the same show choir he directed for a year and brought to Nationals. "I would never be so dismissive of the New Directions."
Jesse tried not to roll his eyes too hard. "Rachel. If you called me to discuss our high school show choirs, I'm going to stop you right there and sigh over how you just wasted my time. Let me reiterate: I have moved on from Vocal Adrenaline. At this point in my life, and where I am, I can honestly say that I have better things to be concerned about than a high school show choir in Ohio. I've moved on." He reached over and took hold of his jacket in a move to warn her of his possible departure. "I understand that you have a strong sense of loyalty, but you were the one good thing about your glee club, Rachel. The fact that they didn't even make it past Sectionals without you is telling."
Rachel stared at him with a confused look on her face. "They're heading to Regionals."
Jesse scoffed. "Who told you that? Hudson?"
Rachel frowned, because yes.
Jesse sighed. Fine. He folded his jacket over his arm as he leaned forward and explained the lapse of logic she was applying. "They didn't finish their set, Rachel. It's all over show choir circles how last year's winners so spectacularly failed hardly a year later. Your glee club failed with hardly a whimper. Gangnam Style, really? They weren't even trying. They weren't even in the running because they were disqualified by not finishing their set."
He gave her a look, silently reprimanding her for her interruption. "Getting The Warblers disqualified didn't get them the victory; it just made them look even more pathetic. Either Schuester doesn't care and is just lying to his group to save face, or he can't read because I'm pretty sure he would have gotten an email from the Ohio State Show Choir Committee informing him of the results of Sectionals and an elaborate explanation on the disqualification and the change in placing after The Warblers also got disqualified, which doesn't matter, because New Directions got disqualified, therefore making The Rosedale Mennonites the team to go on to Regionals."
Rachel hesitated. "Finn is directing them."
His derision was magnified ten-fold. "Suddenly both explanations are plausible."
He shook his head. "Unless you called me here for reasons not involving high school show choir, rest assured I'm heading out that door. So. Again. Are we here to talk about show choir?"
Rachel relented. "No."
Jesse returned his jacket to the chair beside him, and settled back in his seat.
She envied the way he was so comfortable in his body, the way he moved so gracefully, communicating his intent and emotions clearly in his movements without any effort at all.
Jesse regarded her. "Let's try this again. To what do I owe the honor of this meeting, Rachel?"
Rachel eyed him critically before she sighed. "As I mentioned, I'm studying in NYADA."
"You don't say."
She ignored him. "While I have been... thriving, I was recently informed by one of my professors that he doesn't believe that I am pushing myself hard enough in my efforts. Which, I admit, might have some grain of truth, a truth that may have been contributed to by distractions pertaining to my personal life."
"Surprise." He muttered.
She shot him a glare. "May I continue?"
Jesse rolled his eyes, but motioned for her to continue.
"One advice he gave me was to work with someone who I trust, implicitly, as a performer." Rachel admitted.
"Barbra wasn't available?"
"I've had a really trying past few weeks, Jesse, please do not aggravate me."
He leaned back, and studied her thoughtfully.
She looked different. She was not the naive, bright-eyed ingénue he'd known when they first met, nor was she the old soul with the hopeful heart and sad eyes he'd returned to after his disappointing foray into California climate. Then again, he preferred either of those versions to the one he saw last year in Chicago, the one he apathetically called Rachel Hudson. This version of her looked more mature, with the highlights in her hair, but was obviously a watered-down combination of the first two. There was still some spark in her eyes, but the girl he'd lov- liked would never have allowed herself to be so distracted by "personal distractions".
Across from him, the subject of his scrutiny fidgeted. Her professor had been firm in his request for her to challenge herself, because while he could see her obvious talent, and her work was acceptable, he felt that she could do better, that she had a wealth of talent yet untapped. He had advised her to seek out a performer she could look up to, someone who would force her out of her safe zone, someone who could challenge her. Think of people she had worked with before, he suggested, someone she could go toe-to-toe with.
It had been that term that had sparked a memory, of someone whose obvious talent had matched - even eclipsed - her own; the only person who had found a flaw in her brilliant rendition of Don't Rain On My Parade at Sectionals.
She had tried to convince herself of other peers - there was a girl in one of her classes that could sing opera beautifully, a boy who could blow her voice out of the water - but Finn had never been a match vocally in terms of her range and strength, the same held true for Brody, Kurt saw her as a rival (and she now realized that deep down they were still two divas fighting for the solo for Defying Gravity), and Santana didn't like her enough to sit through long rehearsal sessions. Honestly, none of her immediate circle had her talent or discipline, and her classmates would be able to smell blood in the water if she asked for peer advice.
She had sent Jesse a simple message: Hi. Hope we could talk. Are you available this week? He had responded with a request for date, time and location, and now here he was.
He had already confronted her about her insistence to discuss something she now understood to be trivial: that of high school show choir competition, and now she was worried that he would think she was incapable of moving on, of moving forward, and found her desire to work with him laughable.
Seriously though: what was he doing in New York?
When he still refused to answer, she hastened to explain why she'd contacted him. "I'm sure you're wondering why, of all the people I know, that you would be the one I would reach out to..."
He waved his hand dismissively. "No. Please. It's obvious. You're asking for professional help and considering you've been in NYADA for months and surely by now you've come to realize your previous assumption of talent - your precious Glee club - was woefully mistaken, and I'm the most talented person you know." He grinned. "Other than yourself, of course."
Rachel was sure she would never get over the pure, incredible conceit of this boy.
He nodded. "Very well. I'm available every day after five, and Thursdays and Fridays after two. Saturdays are up for requests, but Sunday is my rest day. I will contact you if there are changes to my schedule. You will be in charge of our meeting locations, there should be a piano and acceptable acoustics. I will bring the sheet music. You cannot bring any of your friends. I will tolerate healthy debate, but I will not accept insolence on your end, Rachel. You've asked me to do this."
"I can draw a contract up regarding this partnership."
"Mentorship." Jesse corrected. "You create the contract, and list down your expectations. We'll discuss tomorrow."
Rachel frowned. "Tomorrow?"
"Success waits for no one, Rachel." Jesse pointed out. "And you've been in NYADA for months apparently without an adequate partner. That's simply unacceptable, we can't allow your voice to continue to languish in sub-par duets."
She was pretty sure he meant Finn, but...
Jesse leaned back in his chair. "Tell me about NYADA."
Jesse smiled, and he was suddenly less a brash instructor telling his student off, and more the boy who had once stolen her heart. "We'll be seeing each other a lot in the coming weeks, Rachel. And if this is going to work, I need to have an understanding of where you are, and you're going to have to accept that I'm a part of your life now. So, tell me about NYADA."
She knew she should hesitate. She shouldn't be so open and trusting, especially since Jesse had hurt her before. But she had broken his heart, too, and she had missed having someone to talk to that understood where she was coming from, all her references, how she felt, her self-belief and her insecurities; someone who didn't begrudge her anything, didn't envy her, didn't offer her false platitudes. He would understand her difficulties, her worries, the fact that she had been the best singer and most talented person in McKinley High, but that was no longer true in her new school.
He asked her to trust him, to tell him about NYADA.
So she did.