Hey y'all. So this is Rae writing St. Berry fic, which is weird because I don't even ship them but y'know, when inspiration strikes... So. This fic does have a purpose, I promise, but that purpose will definitely take a while to develop. I have a really rough outline of how this is going to go, and at its completion it will most likely span five years. Obviously not all of those years are going to be detailed heavily, but that does mean this will turn into a lengthy fic. For those of you who like long things, then awesome. For those of you who don't... um, yeah, sorry.

If it helps, the inspiration for this came from something completely random, and the actual point at which said inspiration is reached in the story won't happen for a while. This translates to: Rae is really fucking excited to get there so hopefully this means she'll write fast instead of slow.

This was a really long author's note. Boo. I hate long author's notes.

It's not the story anyone expects.

When Rachel Berry walked into her five-year high school reunion with Jesse St. James on her arm, everyone looking over at them was already filling in the blanks. They had a history together, one that hadn't been all positives. It was easy for those surrounding them to wonder if Jesse had wormed his way back into Rachel's life, if she'd ended up so lonely after four years of college that she was willing to go back to anyone who would have her. But they didn't know the whole story.

The story is as follows:

Following her breakup with Finn after graduation, Rachel had headed to New York determined to push her romantic relationships far behind her. She had failed in keeping a relationship with Finn, failed in finding a boy in high school with whom she had a strong enough connection to last through time and distance. NYADA was hard work, much harder than she'd expected, but Rachel had taken to it with enthusiasm and vigor and a gleam in her eye that had been absent since her sophomore year of high school.

So focused on her career, Rachel let every other aspect of her life slip away. She didn't make friends in New York, falling out of touch with classmates and hall mates once semesters ended and room assignments shifted. She ignored every potential romantic attachment that presented itself. When she graduated, it was with the realization that while she had achieved top grades and had ended up being the star in every show her last year, nobody actually knew who she was.

She had nobody to share her success with.

Jesse St. James, meanwhile, had left Carmel after coaching Vocal Adrenaline for a year. He'd skipped the college part of the road to success, instead taking a couple classes here and there and even managing to get a one-on-one meeting with a higher-up in the Broadway hierarchy, humbled enough to actually ask for advice instead of demanding that one-man show he'd been wanting since he was five years old.

It took the same four years that found Rachel working her ass off in college, but eventually Jesse had a resume with actual credits on it, credits that weren't from when he had been a pre-teen or were roles like "villager number four" and "extra."

They crossed paths in the lobby for a Broadway show, of all places, both of them there as mere spectators. Jesse had a seat down in the front while Rachel was up in the nosebleeds, but they ended up next to one another in the small line waiting to get into the actual auditorium.

It was awkward at first. Rachel was staring at the man she owed her success to, and yet she had no work outside of college to show for it. She was auditioning, of course, but had yet to land her first role. She had no social life to talk to him about, no convenient text she could pretend was a family emergency if the conversation turned sour. He, on the other hand, didn't want to mention that he hadn't gone back to college. The pair of them faked answers to each other's questions, grateful when the lights began to blink, ushering them into the theatre.

They found one another at intermission, though neither would admit to searching. It had been Rachel who had asked him if he'd like to meet up after the show, if maybe they could get a late dinner, and he agreed.

The conversation that followed tasted sweeter than the desserts they bought, squeezed together at a small table in a crowded restaurant.

Jesse hadn't been interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with her. He had wanted to be friends, wanted to support her without simultaneously being someone she felt the need to answer to, and turned her down a few months later when she asked if he wanted to try again. It was too complicated, he had reasoned. They had too much history, too much negativity. They both needed to move on.

And for a time, they did.

Rachel was cast in her first show, a small off-Broadway production, while Jesse had been hanging onto a television job for the past two years. It was nothing spectacular, just a supporting character in a show that looked like it wouldn't make it past a second season, but he liked it well enough. They met up for brunch from time to time, swapping stories, Jesse watching carefully to ensure that Rachel had a sparkle, not a glint, in her eye. He'd always been able to tell the difference, and it made him feel content to see the former more often than the latter.

The story ends a month before the five-year reunion, when Rachel had come bursting into Jesse's apartment, ranting before she'd even crossed the threshold about how pathetic she was going to look, showing up to a reunion alone, and who even had five-year reunions anyway, especially when the majority of the graduates hadn't even left the state, much less the town?

Jesse and Rachel had agreed on a story. They went with most of the true details, keeping the bit about meeting in a theatre, but fabricating the re-entwining of souls that happened afterwards. The lie was that they'd been dating for the past six months, and while the feel of those words on his tongue felt wrong any time he said it, something bubbled in Jesse's stomach that wasn't altogether unpleasant.

They played their roles perfectly, fooling everyone and both ignoring and basking in the jealous looks shot their way any time they dared to mention that they were both working actors in New York City. Jesse had alternated between holding Rachel's hand and keeping an arm around her waist all night long, and by the time they walked out into the parking lot as everyone else began to trickle away to their own homes, his hand has settled low on her waist, feeling the curve of her ass right against his little finger.

They had driven here together, having borrowed one of Rachel's father's cars, seeing as hers had been sold shortly after she moved to New York and had declared "she wouldn't be needing such expenses." Jesse had been the one in the driver's seat on the way to the reunion, feeling it necessary as her escort ("No, Jesse, that makes it sound like you're a call boy!") to play her chauffeur as well. Rachel took the driver's seat this time, taking them back to the small hotel that Jesse would be calling home for the night. Her dads had offered their spare room, but Jesse had declined.

Rachel pulled the car up along the curb, putting the gear into park and then turning the key in the ignition.

"Thank you," she said, fixing him with a grateful smile. He grinned down at her, pleased to see that twinkle in her eyes he loved so much. Jesse wasn't sure when his smile softened or who moved forward first, but then he was pressing a soft kiss to her lips, both their seatbelts tugging painfully at their necks.

He pulled back, offering another small smile, then turned to open the car, his seatbelt clicking open. He pretended not to feel the tug on his sleeve, knowing that she had reached for him and changed her mind presumably as soon as her fingers had closed down upon the fabric. She had meant to say something more; he knew that because nobody parked their car just to drop someone off. Still he walked towards the hotel, wondering if he should turn around and wave, or give some indication of when they'll meet tomorrow for their flight back to New York.

Jesse needn't have worried.

Ten steps along the sidewalk and he heard the clicking of heels behind him. He turned, and no sooner had he done so than Rachel was flinging her arms around his neck, lifting both of her feet off the ground as she squeezed. His arms went automatically around her, holding her there, one settled along the curve of her hips, fingers clutching her waist.

She was the one to kiss him first this time, he knew, but there was no hesitation on his part to kiss back. It was soft at first, like before, a hesitance born out of uncertainty. But she felt the same in his arms, the same as she had years before, when they'd been two stupid teenagers who still hadn't quite learned how to use their mouths or their hands or their heads. Familiarity won out, and he was the one to coax her mouth open, heartbeat stuttering in time with her eyelashes fluttering against his skin as her eyes closed.

Jesse wanted a lot of things in that moment, but the desire to reacquaint himself with Rachel – physically – won. It felt as if they had simply vanished from the spot on the sidewalk and up to Jesse's hotel room; he couldn't remember holding her hand as they walked through the lobby or the way they giggled like schoolchildren in the elevator on the way up. All he was conscious of was the fact that Rachel was here, that it was her body underneath his, her mouth his own was exploring.

All they did was lay there, kissing until Rachel's mouth opened wide and it was a yawn that came out, which made the pair of them break apart so they could laugh. Laugh they did, until they were even more breathless than they had been.

"We are talking about this in the morning," Rachel informed him, after he'd changed and Rachel had borrowed a T-shirt, the light turned out, the pair of them tucked neatly together in bed.

"Of course." Jesse hadn't expected any less. Rachel had always been the kind of girl who was upfront and honest about the way she felt, and no matter how perfectly right it had felt to hold her and kiss her again, this really was something that couldn't be ended with silence.

They went out for breakfast the next morning, after Rachel had glanced at the room service menu and deemed their selection offensive to all things vegan. It was a small shop they'd visited once on a date in high school, though the décor had changed and the prices had all increased since then.

"I want to be with you," Rachel told him as soon as they sat down, not even bothering to wait for someone to come take their orders for drinks first. "It's not because I'm lonely, because, God, I've gotten used to that, and I am not the kind of girl who settles for the first thing that comes my way after a five-year dry spell. But," she reached across the table and laid her hand on top of Jesse's, "not being lonely would be a perk."

That was when a waiter came over, asking if he can get them anything to drink. Both of them spoke quickly, their words tangling together when Rachel added specifications onto her requested tea and Jesse assumed she'd finished speaking. Her hand pressed down upon his own, wordlessly telling him to shut up, repeating her order before letting him ask for a simple coffee.

"We've talked about everything that tells me it's a bad idea," Jesse began speaking as soon as their waiter was out of earshot. "We got rid of those skeletons the day we found each other again, and I know you're not going to choose someone else this time and you know I won't choose something else." He shifted his hand, threading their fingers together. "I didn't want to before. I didn't think we could work again, but after last night–"

"Jesse St. James, I swear if you tell me that me throwing myself at you and letting you assault my mouth is what changed your mind–"

"Well I was going to say that lying to all your former classmates about how happy I am to be back with you was what did it, but if I may steal your own phrase, that certainly was a perk."

She kicked him under the table, but didn't try to pull her hand away from his. They sat in silence for a few moments, Rachel's expression eventually breaking into a wide smile. Jesse considered that smile, his head cocking slightly to one side, enough for Rachel to notice and ask him, "What?"

"When you say lonely–"

She pulled her hand away at that, waving it dismissively.

"Forget it," she tried, smiling over his shoulder at what revealed itself to be their waiter returning with their drinks. He took their breakfast orders, neither of them having glanced at the menu and instead ordering what they remembered eating here seven years ago.

"I can't forget you telling me that you're lonely," Jesse shook his head. "Rachel, I do want to be with you, but I'm not willing to go into this for the wrong reasons. Again. Having me in your life romantically won't change much. I'm already in your life, just as a friend instead of a," the word 'boyfriend' seemed so immature, but he really couldn't put it any other way, "boyfriend."

"No, no, it's not that," Rachel insisted. "I love having you back, even just as a friend, and if that's all you're willing to give me then that's what we'll be. I just…" She laughed a small, nervous hiccough of a laugh, then continued. "I miss having you. And you're not a consolation prize or someone I'm going to because I miss having a relationship. I miss you." She looked down at her teacup, stirring it with her spoon even though she had no reason to. "I think it can work this time."

Jesse remembered the bubbling in his stomach he had felt the night before, the bubbling that had had nothing whatsoever to do with nerves or dishonesty and everything to do with the fact that he wanted her back. Except he wasn't remembering, because he was feeling it now. Rachel had always done that to him, always made him feel something just because she was there, because she existed.

It was something he could mark off to nostalgia, to the old saying about how you'd forgive your first love for anything, how you never forgot them and would always treasure them. He could ignore the way his stomach was telling him to jump out of his seat and dance, telling him to kiss Rachel right here in front of all the other diners, telling him that this was a good idea.

But he didn't, because it wasn't just his stomach telling him to do it.

Jesse smiled over at Rachel, offering her his hand, his entire face lighting up when she threaded their fingers together.

"They do say the third time's the charm."