I stumbled across a Quick video on YouTube today, and then I wrote this because they're an imperfect guy and an overly perfect girl who never got their chance.
She's not a small town girl anymore. She's a Yale graduate playing May Welland in the Age of Innocence, even though at one time most of her classmates would've agreed she was more of an Ellen Olenska. Every night, she stands on the stage, breathes in the stale air of the theatre and compares herself to Rachel Berry. How many times did she teeter on the edge, soaring high on the sound of her own voice even as she leaned further forward and risked falling into the audience? Rachel Berry is a friend now, now that Finn is not Quinn's, now that Quinn is May Welland, now that Finn is gone and never coming back – but Quinn still doesn't want to be her. She still sings the song of a small town girl in her heart and lives in New York, playing Elphaba, Eliza, herself. Quinn doesn't want to be like that. Quinn breathes in the stale air of the theatre and imagines bigger theatres filled with better people, forgives and forgets all the things she left behind her in Ohio.
She's not a romantic anymore. She doesn't just say she forgives and forgets, she really does. When she's May Welland, nothing and no one else matters but her and the audience, and years of a tight red and white uniform that got tighter as a little life grew inside her fade away. Beth will grow up beautiful, whoever she calls her mother. Beth doesn't need a place inside her anymore.
It's the matter of a night that changes things, of less than a night – an hour. A minute. A performance. She's smiling her long-suffering smile while her fiancé focuses his attention elsewhere when she sees one person not wearing a loafers and a sports jacket but heavy boots and a uniform. She barely recognises him, except she does, and it seems so right he's blending in while she's standing out.
The theatre isn't too proud to beg from its patrons, so she's required to mingle for an hour or so after the performance. She thinks of cancelling and calling her latest one-night-one-hit wonder, but then she doesn't. She brushes out her hair, dawdles long enough in front of the bulb-rimmed mirror to decide she'd look better with a white cardigan over her street clothes, her sundress which is completely inappropriate for the weather but which she planned on taking off for someone anyway. Why is her stomach turning over? It's not like it's 1940 and he's here to wait as long as it takes for his showgirl.
"Quinn Fabray." He grins like an idiot as he lifts her off her feet, dispelling any doubts the second she walks out of her dressing room. "You know your name's in lights out there, right?"
"I might have noticed it on my way in." She pulls back from him, biting her lip. "I can't say I don't know your name, though."
"First class airman Puckerman, Noah." He's gotten broader, if that's even possible, and his scalp is shaved close but not completely clean. He's still Puck, which surprises still Quinn. She wanted him to change his life but doubted that he ever would, was glad to get out of town so she didn't have to see him come back to it with his tail between his legs. Now he has, has changed his life, is walking like a man with his head held high and his arms swinging loose and his eyes full of the light at the end of the tunnel he thought had a dead end. Now he's gotten broader, if that's even possible.
"I know. You were great." He jerks a thumb in the general direction of the auditorium. "I didn't get most of what was going on in there, but you sounded great. You look great."
"So do you."
"I just got back." That explains the uniform, the boots. "I was passing this way, and I saw your name in this pamphlet about culture and performing arts…there are worse ways to spend a night."
"You're a really bad liar, you know that?"
"Yeah," he replies without hesitating.
"You came here to see me, didn't you?"
Even standing on her toes, she can't reach him. She has to hop onto the toes of those heavy boots that have mud and memories clinging to the soles to kiss his cheek. He turns his face towards her, no reason behind it except she smells so good, and then she closes his eyes and lets him kiss her. That is also so good. That is also like being on stage, like playing their parts in a memory, a good one. Their first night together was confused by wine coolers, but their last kiss together has a special tang because of what she said and what she meant, and what they meant to each other. Did he love her? Yes. Especially always. He just got tired of trying to find a way of say it or show it that would make sense to anyone. He just got tired. It's easy enough to understand. She just got tired too, of being a small town girl, of knowing she was a star but not the kind of star who could light up Broadway and still sing about living in a lonely world without a trace of irony, even though her life was so full. It's easy enough to understand.
They go back to her place, where there's an orange comforter and a china cat ornament and not much else to talk about. She takes off her cardigan and he takes off his jacket, and they make love – and it's sharp but sweet, which neither of them can quite believe. It's what they could have been together, to each other, but they never gave each other the chance. It's better this way. They're not Lima losers, and they don't have to stand in anyone's shadow. He touches her, she touches him, they're happy. They slide their fingers up and around each other's bones, each other's shapes, they test each other. They're old friends as well as old enemies, so it's no surprise they respond to one another as quickly and easily as they do. All this is familiar but as distant as the stars.
"Why did you come to see me?" She asks.
"Shit, Fabray. How could I not come and see you? Someone needed to make sure you know what a big deal you are, and you only have so many exes."
"I'm glad it was you." Wrapped in the orange comforter, propped up on one elbow, she traces the insignia tattooed on his shoulder. "Please don't die. Please don't die too."
"Okay." He's as serious as she is, as serious as death. "Not if you don't want me to."
They never plan it, but he always comes home to her. It's a different kind of coming home, walking like a man without his tail between his legs, watching her shrink inside the white cardigan she wore in high school and fight for each excited breath as he strides through the arrivals hall towards her. She's not a small town girl anymore, so what she wants – a house and a yard and a family and true love, since theatre's making her into a romantic after all – have to fall in line behind being an actress and being the girlfriend of someone she sometimes wonders if she'll ever see again. He always dispels any doubts, though, lifting her off her feet as soon as he's within touching distance. He looks like a boy she slept with once in high school who played the guitar. Did she love him? Yes.
It's not like it's 1940, but she's there to wait as long as it takes for her showman.