Summary: AU adaptation of Jane Austen's "Persuasion." Six years ago, luckless stage actress Rachel Berry made a choice. She chose career over a whirlwind romance. Now, the boy she rejected, Captain Finn Hudson, is back-and she realizes that the whirlwind has only just begun.
Author's Note: An abundance of gratitude goes to mah Marzipan ( username: carmenmauri)! Who came to me with the glorious idea of a Finchel version of Jane Austen's wonderful novel Persuasion-and has also been a great beta, helping me along in this journey! The title of the story is after one of my favorite songs ever "Nature Boy," and it has been covered by countless artists since the '40s. My favorite cover, however, is by My Brightest Diamond. It is sung by a woman, and I like to imagine it being Rachel, singing of the "magic day" she came across her "nature boy" again and all that she taught him.
Please do enjoy my very first AU fic ever!
I'm late, and I never run late!
That is, I never ran late until I was thrown in with my current flock of airheaded roommates. I guess it's not their fault because three girls (and a boyfriend who never leaves) sharing a single bathroom is a terrible idea, in the first place.
I should have known better, but I was desperate. I was 21, freshly graduated from New York University, proudly wielding my degree in Theatre—and no one I auditioned for really caring.
And I was massively in debt—still am. Even more in debt because I took a two week seminar and got an expensive photoshoot done—which I only learned later was a total rip-off and didn't tell me I was selling my soul for a year-long program. The so-called "agent" I got was no help whatsoever, and I cut myself off from that program as soon as I could, feeling like a fool.
I had no job yet, and I could not afford a better living arrangement.
Still can't. Three years later.
I am 24 years old, and ten years ago, I thought I was going to be someone by now. In those days, I did not hesitate to inform everyone of this. It cost me friendships for years, my self-assertion, but I was determined.
Once upon a time, a pair of soft eyes would glisten as they were locked with mine. His mouth would tell me what his heart and his brain felt: I was going to make it. With such ease, he would say it again and again. We just knew it all—like the teenagers we were.
We were freely ourselves together. Unrestrained, easy embraces. Wide, bright eyes. Open, yearning mouths. Warm, sweet breath. The excitement.
"Are you about done? All I need is to brush my teeth! I'm going to be late, as it is!" I shout my plea as I bang on the bathroom door.
My fist goes up for another swat at the door, but I stop it just in time as I see that Brittany has opened the door. I start, stare, then rush into the room and brush vigorously, trying not to get any toothpaste on my outfit. Then I flounce out of there, unable to resist as I call back to my roommate:
"I told you yesterday that I needed the bathroom earlier than usual because of my audition, and you said you'd make it work!"
"Alarm clocks confuse me. I mean, which is a.m. and p.m.? They're the same numbers …" Brittany says as she disappears into the bathroom.
I take a moment to very slowly and emphatically roll my eyes. She is the newest roommate, and she is not helping the chaotic situation of so many people sharing an apartment.
"Good luck!" I hear my other roommate Tina shout to me over her coffee—as her boyfriend next to her, Artie, winces at the loud sound, still half-asleep.
Tina presents another tangle in the difficult web of my life. She has Artie over nights and nights in a row. Though, it's not really his fault. Our old, crappy apartment building has no wheelchair access at the entrance, so he stays long periods, and when he leaves, he waits until Brittany comes home because she's the only girl strong enough to help him and his wheelchair down the stairs.
I swear Artie used my toothbrush when he was drunk one night, but of course, no one believes me—
But I'm running late and should really stop my complaining. What would Barbra say at my shameful pessimism?
(She'd be grossed out if she woke up to a toothbrush which reeked of whiskey, too, honestly, but that's not the point … Optimism is so difficult when you're poor!)
I'm not late. I make the subway on time, and I smile at my watch as I realize that I will, in fact, arrive ten to fifteen minutes before my audition.
I am auditioning for a lead role in my off-Broadway theatre company's first original production. It is a war musical, and there are only two female roles, but I have a good feeling about this. The director, Will, put me in leads my first year with the company. Then he disappeared, and he's now back.
Yes, things are looking up for Rachel Barbra Berry.
As I exit the subway station, my phone gets its signal back, and I feel it buzz in my purse. I take it out. It a text from Santana.
"Won't have to fuck the director for this part! In the bag! But good luck, anyway, Berry. -San"
I can't help but smile even though I want to cringe. And to punish her for her crudeness, I type back:
"If it's a female director, I might!"
She's fast in her response: "Don't you dare! You ditch men I need to be the 1st to know Babs!"
I arrive at the theatre where my audition is, and I take a moment to lean against a wall in a corner and giggle at the message.
We have an odd relation, Santana and I. We met in the dormitories of NYU. She was a loud and proud lesbian, scarily intelligent and insensitive (I should have known she'd be a lawyer!) who lived in my otherwise quiet and concerned dormitory wing. She turned my world upside down with her fluid—and fluent—sexuality, her bluntness and fearlessness in The Forbidden Topics (politics, religion, you name it). She made any party interesting.
And she had a crush on me. Or, more accurately speaking, she had the hots for me.
Her flirtations were flattering, I'll admit. She spent weeks trying to convince me to experiment with her—even to give up on men altogether (as none of them were working out). Even though she gave up on this silly endeavor, she has never dropped the subject since. It's our awful, tasteless inside joke that, sometimes, keeps me going through my gray days.
As I sit down in the theatre's lobby, I see Mercedes Jones, a perpetual chorus girl, smiling at me in surprise at my jovial outburst. I must have quite a goofy grin on my face to get a smile from her. She is generally quite stoic—and passive, very passive. She is agreeable to everyone—even to myself, the most unpopular member of the company.
(Looking back on three wasted years of alienating myself, expecting my move to Broadway to come at any minute, I almost envy her now—but that's a different story.)
"What's so funny?" I hear Quinn Fabray, my main competition, sitting in a seat next to Mercedes, ask.
Quinn Fabray is everything you don't want in competition. Not to say I don't see the advantages of healthy competition, but that bright and shiny view of my career diminished when I became poor and in need of a part so that I may afford my next cell phone bill.
She's blonde, with a perfect-shaped face and large, perfect eyes. Her singing voice, though a bit too stylized and lacking emotion for my taste, rivals my own perfect pitch and wide range.
And what's worse, she has a story! One of those great stories every aspiring star wants. Tragedy struck her as a teenager when she was accidentally punched in the nose, and her voice became nasil and soft. However, she refused to accept her devastated situation and went to vocal therapists and hired a vocal coach who specialized in deviated septums.
Then, according to her story, she worked hard and practiced every day, and her pre-punch voice came back!
Isn't that devastatingly dramatic and altogether perfect? I honestly wish I had been punched for the solid gold drama of it all. What a story to tell! The golden yarn to raise yourself above the status of actress/singer to role model, garnering fans all across the city and the nation. Imagine the Tony speech! The tears of triumph! The sympathetic reporters!
Though, if you ask me, I don't think that's how it happened at all. I know my vocal technique and science, and one cannot practice one's way out of a deviated septum. One gets corrective surgery, and I think that is exactly what she did. Daddy got a raise, and she batted her gorgeous eyes—and that was that.
Oh, she is expecting me to reply, sitting regally in one of the lobby chairs.
"Funny text," I answer and sit down in my chair, smoothing my navy skirt.
"Hey, you know who's here?" Quinn continues.
I tilt my head at her, confused. She's never this chatty.
"Captain Finn Hudson!"
I gasp then cough, choking on my own spit.
"I—I beg your pardon?"
"The Finn Hudson! The army guy who was in New York Times like four times! Yeah!" Mercedes chimes in.
I bite back my tongue from making a comment that I am mostly clueless to topical events because I can't afford a newspaper or the internet—and my roommates have our television constantly tuned on the current popular reality series.
"Refresh my memory …. What's he known for … again?"
This couldn't be the same Finn.
It just couldn't.
"He's a war hero," Quinn tells me as Mercedes is called in for her audition. "He saved a bunch of people in Afghanistan, and, well, I don't really remember the details, but he's really important and really hot."
But how many Finn Hudsons are there? Who am I kidding?
"Still not computing? Do you really need more than War Hero? Okay, well, he's got medals, and now he's an activist for Post-Stress Disorder treatment, promoting music as a form of healing for vets who suffer from it. But all that pales in comparison to the fact that he is successful, hot, and has money. And he'll be watching the auditions!" Then she laughed, "He's mine, and he doesn't even know it. The Things They Carried is his favorite novel, and he's the reason Will chose to do a musical based on it."
My jaw is slack. In fact, it may have ceased functioning. In fact, the pit of my stomach feels like it is churning with acid due to Quinn's last statement. I also feel the sting of tears, and I just don't want to be here anymore—audition be damned.
It's him. It's Finn. My Finn.
Quinn is called into her audition, and my jaw is still slack.
In Kurt's last email—six months ago—he told me that Finn was coming home "to great fanfare." I honestly thought he meant to be dramatic. Maybe there was a great fanfare.
A fanfare for a hero.
Kurt was the closest thing I had to a platonic friend in high school. We exchanged email addresses before I moved to New York and he to Stanford in California. A few days after, I broke his step-brother's heart.
I didn't think he would truly email me. Not after what I had done. So I cried for the lost love and the only other friend I had in the world.
But he did email me. It was mostly awkward, what with Finn being a big part of his life and a painful, gaping wound in mine—but we carried on. When it wasn't hard, it was wonderful.
But the emails got less frequent when Kurt graduated from college. He got busy. He got important, just like I knew he would.
For a year, our correspondence was stagnant. Not a single email from the end of the summer he graduated to the end of the next summer.
Then, out of nowhere, Kurt emailed me this news (among other news that he may go to New York City to visit, that he is thinking about graduate school, and perhaps we could have a reunion lunch). And right in the middle of the public library's computer lab, I wept from joy that Finn had finished his service and was home safe. I tried to convince myself that was the only reason Kurt informed me of this. I tried not to wonder. Not to hope.
I am now jerked out of my reverie as Quinn prances out of the auditorium and gives me a semblance of a nod to notify me that it is my turn.
Oh, God, I can't do this.
But something in Quinn's face re-ignites the spark. Her face is a challenge. She is daring me to go home crying—the leading female role already lost to me.
I puff air from my nose and straighten my shoulders. Like hell will I give up this opportunity!
Whether it's a heart attack or heartbreak, just like Broadway, the show must go on.