"That's the funny thing about reputations. Everyone thinks I'm the big heartbreaker, but the fact of the matter is: you broke mine first."
You can't figure out when everything suddenly changed.
It was all supposed to be an illusion. An act. Because acting is part of who you are. You are triple-threat Jesse St. James, and playing the leading role in this grand scheme is exactly what you were made to do. It was supposed to be simple, like stepping back into a character you've played before, a character that you originated. Easy. Natural.
So how did everything become so decidedly and unbearably complicated?
You thought nothing of it when Shelby gave you your job. You are – were? – the lead male of Vocal Adrenaline, the fabulous voice that played the largest part in claiming three National championships. You are the best, and there is no doubt in the matter. Everyone knows it. It was only right that she chose you for this, because only you could be the right fit for the part.
The job was simple enough: take down Lost Directions from the inside, via that overbearing belter, Rachel Berry. You knew who she was, of course. You're two years older than her, but since you both belong to the performing circuit you've heard of each other in passing. You figure that you've probably met at some point, but you don't remember it ever happening. You don't have the time to remember all of the nobodies that don't concern you or your plans.
Even though their little ragtag troupe could never present any serious competition for your team, Shelby didn't want to take any chances. You agreed. You attended their Sectionals and you've seen how a bit of sympathy vote can turn the tables on real talent. How else can a choir of deaf kids even think they have a shot? So you started spending all of your free time haunting places where you might be able to chance across her, prepared to start your starring performance at a moment's notice.
It was only a few days later that it happened. While you were browsing the stacks at the only really good music store in Northern Ohio, looking for new solos that you could dominate and add to your already extensive repertoire, you saw her pawing through a pile of sheet music catalogues. She looked different than you remembered her, than she did at their Sectionals performance. There she was put-together and confident; in her element. She was a star. That day at the music store, she was dressed like your grandmother used to and her head was bowed, all of her focus on the magazines in her hands. She looked vulnerable and exposed. She looked – human.
Storing away those observations to use later, you crossed the store and made your approach. She took your criticism without much reaction, too busy staring at you with wide eyes. She recognized you, knew of you and your talent. She seemed almost reverent.
All you could think was that this would be easier than you thought.
Now that you look back on it, you suppose you should've seen something in that first time you sang together. It was a song you knew, one that you had absolutely no trouble in drawing up from your memory banks and performing on auto-pilot while still giving a hundred-and-ten-percent show. You used that time to watch her, to learn what you could from her body language and find ways to use it. Even though you had just criticized her for lacking emotional depth, or perhaps because of it, she managed to channel something more than you thought she could do. It still wasn't perfection, far from it, but it was passable progress. She had taken what you said and acted on it. Because you were the star in her eyes.
You knew right then that you had her so wrapped around your finger.
Your clandestine relationship was rocky for those first couple of days. You knew that it would take a while to convince her of your intentions, to make her really believe in you. Her teammates tried to turn her against you and tell her that you were only using her. That you were only acting. Which you were, but she didn't need to know that yet. It would be apparent enough later on but for now you used this conflict to make her even more yours. You created a net of charm and lies that would keep her bound to you and pull her further from her team.
You had driven the wedge that would destroy the Directions.
Your first slip came that night after the Wiggles concert. You were so certain of her devotion to you that when she didn't immediately agree to be yours completely, you overreacted. You left. In retrospection this actually worked in your favor somehow, but it was a near fatal catastrophe. It was only as you were sitting at home that night, frantically planning ways to repair what you'd done, that you realized your most prevalent emotion when walking out of her door had been not frustration over being unsuccessful but a feeling much like hurt. You were upset not that your plan had not worked, but that she had not wanted you.
But most disturbing of all was the other feeling that sat heavily in your chest, one that you are fairly certain you had never felt before that night. A type of tightness in your ribs when you thought of the crushed look on her face. It's only now that you are positive of what it was, what you had only speculated about that night. It was guilt.
You dismissed these emotions as a side-effect of method acting. You had let yourself sink too far into your role and the fact that you were experiencing this only meant that you were playing your part well. That was the cause for all of these unwarranted character conflicts. Because Jesse St. James was above such trivial things as relationships and connecting with people. And he especially didn't feel guilt for the people standing in the way of what he wants.
You used those unwanted emotions to your advantage, as every great performer does, and channeled them to get back into Rachel's good graces. She forgave you the moment your first apology left your lips. You could see it in her eyes. She agreed to give herself completely to you, and you could only smile because you knew she already had. You refused to believe that any part of that smile, or any of that anxiousness in your stomach that afternoon before you went over to her house, was in any way contributed to her. You told yourself that you were just excited that your plan was working so well.
Of course it didn't go the way it was supposed to. You're starting to understand now that nothing with Rachel Berry every does.
Feeling her slipping away, you knew that you needed to do something drastic to win that last shred of loyalty that she was determinedly keeping attached to her team members. You needed all of her undivided trust to be in you. So you asked around her school, learned what you could about her from other students, and that's when you conceived your most ingenious plot yet. That last elusive bit of loyalty was devoted to her team, so all you needed to do was become part of that team. Then she would have no reason not to have complete faith in you.
You should have realized at this point that your main concern was only in having her trust you, and not in what you would do to achieve what you really wanted once you had it.
Shelby was surprised at your plan when you posed it, you could tell. She has always been a hard person to get off her guard but you completely derailed her with this clever new idea. You grinned smugly the entire time because you know she never would've thought of something so drastic, and that's saying something since you know she had something going with the Directions' coach for the same reason. So two days later you had gotten everything arranged with your family, which took little effort since your parents really aren't around to care what you're doing, and you enrolled at McKinley High School.
You lay it on thick when you are being introduced at your first practice with your new glee club. No one is particularly thrilled to see you, apart from Rachel. She beams at you like you are everything in life that matters. You blamed the warmth that blossomed in your chest on pleasure at your own brilliance.
For the next few days you laid low, not wanting to arouse suspicion since the other team members were already so uneasy about you to begin with. The time for causing mayhem and destruction would come later. You practiced your music with them without drawing more attention to yourself than necessary and in the evenings when you weren't with Rachel you would set up in your uncle's basement and learn the Vocal Adrenaline routines through videos emailed to you by Shelby, as was the agreement.
It was alarmingly easy to settle yourself into your new life in Lima. Your uncle doesn't really understand you, but he leaves you to your own devices and he's supportive enough. More so than your parents, who's only form of support is when they send you the checks to pay for your club expenses and your extra training classes. Even though most of the other Directions kids keep their distance, they are hardly openly hostile and you even grow to like a few of them. For the most part you stick close to Rachel and, except for during classes, you are seldom apart.
You aren't quite sure when the ratio of time spent studiously learning dance routines from your computer screen and time spent curled on the couch watching (or at least half-watching) classic musicals with Rachel changes. You don't even notice that it has changed until it's too late.
You should've known that this lesson would lead to something bad. No lesson that begins with something as trashy as Ice Ice Baby could ever possibly lead to something good, no matter what you tell Mr. Schuester otherwise. Still, you started looking up lame songs to salvage some dignity from, and when Rachel asked if you would co-star opposite her in a music video you agreed instantly. What reason did you have to believe anything bad would come of it? The girl who was hopelessly devoted to you and your relationship wanted you to be the Brad to her Angelina. It should have been perfect.
"Should" being the operative word.
That video ruined everything. She had used you. And not just you, but those other two guys as well. In the three minutes it took for the video to run from start to finish, you felt everything that you'd been working to build collapse around you. There was a really sharp pain in your chest, one that felt so strong and unfamiliar that you couldn't distinguish it. All you knew was that watching that video made you angry and, strangely enough, very sad.
You aren't acting when you storm out of the choir room after Finn.
Sitting in your new bedroom at your uncle's house that night, you tried to figure out where you had gone wrong. You briefly wonder if this was some sort of karmic retribution. You had been using her feelings to get what you wanted, and now it is her using you. But in the end, you don't really believe in karma. How could this have happened? You thought that she cared about you.
And that's when it hits you like a thousand watt spotlight: You care about her.
You have absolutely no idea how or when it happened, but sometime while you were seducing her and making her love you, she won you over. You fell for the enemy. At some point you slipped so far into the role you were creating that you had passed the point of no return and actually became that person. The persona of Just Jesse, the guy who was crazy about this beautiful young singer and was willing to give up everything for her, turned into a living human being.
In the end, the illusion that shattered wasn't the one it was supposed to be. You were supposed to keep your act going until you had what you needed to ruin New Directions, and then you would come clean by throwing off the sweetheart façade. Instead somehow that façade became the real you, and the mask that has been discarded is the badass person you thought you were.
You are triple-threat Jesse St. James. And it turns out the only role you've been playing never existed in the first place.