Jesse's Broadway début is marvellous, no matter how ridiculous the play itself might be. He absolutely owns the stage, and any scene without him lacks a certain something, the audience less enthused, the actors on stage themselves less dedicated to their performance. From her front-row seat, having rushed to the theatre after a late afternoon dance class at NYADA, she watches him perform, utterly in awe of in his performance.
The boy who had once sung Bohemian Rhapsody with the same amount of passion as Freddie Mercury, the boy who poured his heart and soul into that performance and triumphed at Regionals because of it, well it's the very same boy standing up on that Broadway stage in front of Rachel, only older and so very much wiser.
(She does miss his curls though, and has half a mind to suggest he let them grow out again when the show finishes up. It would be wonderful to be able to run her hands through his hair).
It's been nine months since New Directions won Sectionals and she returned to New York. At first she'd stayed with Kurt and Blaine for two weeks, but it had only taken her a day or two to realise that if the marriage of two of her closest friends was going to survive all the stress that came with studying and trying to make something of themselves, Kurt and Blaine needed space, and the opportunity to have alone time when they were both home at the same time, which was very rare.
She still had a portion of her tv show funds left, nothing quite as large as the amount she needed to support herself throughout the entirety of NYADA, but enough for three months rent on a tiny apartment, enough to ensure she had a roof over her head while she looked for part-time work to support herself. She'd thought about accepting Jesse's offer to stay with him for a while, but after that kiss and the following dinner dates, what was between them was so new, even after all their history, and she didn't want to risk ruining it.
Rachel supposes she started seeing Sam because he reminded her so much of Finn, and the familiarity of him was an immense comfort to her when so much had been lost. But that hadn't been fair to Sam, who was a fantastic guy she hopes will always be in her life, nor to Finn's memory. Finn was gone, and she had to move on, if only to ensure she didn't spend her days in a state of total despair. She knows Finn would want her to be happy. Trying to move on with Sam had been a mistake though, because she couldn't just pretend like he was Finn and that nothing had changed, making plans for the future in the exact manner she would have if Finn was still alive. Sam deserves someone who loves him because he's him, not because he reminds them of someone they loved with their whole heart.
She knows some of the Glee club members disapprove of her moving on Jesse, Kurt included – even if he'll never say anything to her. But what happened between them is in the past now, and she thinks that if she can forgive Shelby all the hurt she's caused her, well then, why shouldn't she forgive Jesse?
And, to be completely honest, she's forgiven him a long time ago, forgiven him the second he appeared on that auditorium stage and interrupted her preparing for prom.
Jesse has grown and changed so much from the boy she once used to know, and she finds that she loves him even more because of it. The love she bears for him, the love she's always had for him, it's equal to the love she felt for Finn, and he makes her happy, blissfully so. She knows that she deserves to be happy, so she doesn't pay any mind to what anyone else might think. This is her life, and she gets to decide how she wants to live it – and who she wants to built a future with.
What Jesse and her have is too complex for a label as simple as 'dating'. She knows he loves her, knows he's never stopped loved her, and that's more than enough. They haven't so much as picked up where they left off, teasing each other before her performance at Nationals, but moved past their history entirely, their new relationship built on mutual understanding and support. Neither of them are hesitant to point out when the other is wrong, and she's more than willing to critique any and all of his performances, often joining in herself. She runs lines with him, and he practices dance moves with her until their legs are both aching – she's landed Cassie July as her dance teacher once again, unfortunately. And dropping out NYADA for a Broadway show and then dropping that Broadway show for a failed television show, well that's just made Cassie's wrath even more horrible. Thankfully, Jesse supports her entirely, showing up to her showcases and clapping so loudly the sound rings in her ears hours after, more than willing to play second fiddle to her at NYADA events.
What her and Jesse have is the type of relationship she's always dreamed about, and as she watches Jesse take his final bow, she can only hope one day they get to perform on a Broadway stage together. After all, it would be a crime to deny the world their musical compatibility.
She hurries to his dressing room as soon as the curtain slides shut, avoiding the cameras and screaming fans as best she can. She'd be jealous, but she knows Jesse only has eyes for her, even when she's exhausted after a full day of classes and can barely be bothered to heat a bowl of soup for dinner.
He's sitting at his dressing mirror when she enters, the room packed to the brim with beautiful flowers. She studies the nearest bunch, the card attached to it reading 'The stage is where you've always belonged. I'd wish you good luck, but you don't need it. Shelby xo', and smiles softly, tracing her mother's handwriting. When she looks up, Jesse is looking at her in the mirror, grinning so very widely it almost seems to reach his ears. He looks so happy, and he has every right to be. He's worked immensely hard for so long to get recognition, and she's pleased he finally has.
She walks over to him, placing her hands on his shoulders gently and resting her head on top of his. “You were fantastic,” she murmurs, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. “Utterly breathtaking.”
“I could say the same about you,” is his reply, and she laughs at him, shaking her head.
“Charmer,” she drawls out, fingers rubbing soothing circles into his shoulders as he begins to remove his stage makeup, his blue eyes still bright with the excitement she knows can only come from performing on stage, from knowing the entire crowd is being compelled by your performance. She would say she doesn't miss the feeling, but that would be a lie. But NYADA is fantastic, if you take away Cassie's constant insults, and she knows it's only a matter of time before she's back up on stage again – with Jesse beside her, hopefully.
“How was class?” he questions her, patting his face dry with a towel. She shrugs at him, screwing her nose up as she remembers that this afternoon she missed a step in the routine and struggled to catch up afterwards. Dancing is still not her forte it seems, especially after going months without vigorous training. But she'll get there, even if she has to dedicate all of her free time to practising routines. She's been given a second chance to start her career right, and she's going to make the most of it.
“As terrible as usual,” she tells him, stepping away from him as he stands up. He quickly shrugs off his costume, a shirt printed with one of Tito's original designs, and slips his arms into a button-up shirt. “Definitely not as fun as watching you perform.”
Jesse grins down at her as she steps closer to him, beginning to button up his shirt. “I think it went pretty well,” he murmurs, as she pushes the last button through its matching hole, her hands moving to smooth down the fabric stretched over his shoulders. She looks up at him, shaking her head lightly and stifling the urge to laugh. Jesse might be a lot of things, but he's not particularly good at fishing for compliments without making it quite obvious - to her, at least.
She rolls her eyes at him. “You know you were spectacular.”
He grins once more, drawing her close and placing a soft kiss on her forehead. “Well if the great Rachel Berry thinks so, then it must be true.”
They stay entwined for a few minutes, Jesse's head resting gently on hers, his breath warm against her hair, until there's a soft knock at the door, Jesse's manager peeking his head into the dressing room. She smiles softly at him, stepping away from Jesse and taking his hand, the simple contact, even after so many months, still sending a tingle through her body.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Alex tells them. “But the after-party's due to start in less than half an hour, and there's a massive crowd of fans and press out here eager to see you.”
Jesse looks at her, and she laughs at him, slipping her hand out of his and pushing him towards the door. “Go!” she exclaims. “It wouldn't do to deny your fans the sight of you.”
He smiles back at her, stepping towards the door. Alex slips away from it, the door shutting behind him. Before Jesse can open it though, he steps back and turns around to face her. “You'll be at the after party, won't you?” he asks her, his eyes searching her, a hand soft on her cheek. She nods her affirmation.
“I wouldn't miss it for the world,” she assures him, and she wouldn't. She can't wait to stand by Jesse's side and watch him enjoy all the admiration and praise that is thrown at him, and then stay up all night with him because he's unable to sleep for all the excitement coursing through his body.
He moves his hand from her cheek to tilt her chin up slightly, bending down to press a kiss to her lips. Kissing Jesse is so very familiar, but no matter how many times they might kiss, the action still brings her the same joy it had the very first time their lips met. When he pulls away from her, he licks his lips together as if to memorise the feel of her mouth, and the action thrills her. It takes tremendous effort to disentangle herself from him and push him once more towards the door, for all she wants to do is pull him towards her, rip his shirt off and have her way with him, right here in his dressing room, with his fans all waiting for him outside.
Maybe another time, she thinks, opening the door for him and grinning as he walks through it and down the hallway, his appearance immediately met by loud screams.
She'd be worried, especially of all the female attention, but she knows Jesse only has eyes for her. He's only had eyes for her since she was an over-achieving, melodramatic sophomore, and when she thinks about how constant and consistent his love for her has been for all these years, she wonders why they didn't reconnect before.
But, she supposes, she needed time to heal, and Jesse needed time to grow. She can only hope they can continue growing together, taking New York by storm one Broadway show at a time.
If it had been anyone else she would have been annoyed beyond belief, but as she watches him sign autographs and take photos with his fans, leaning against the doorway of his dressing room, she's so very glad Jesse St. James has a tendency to interrupt her when she's singing.