Author's Note: This was originally written for Glee Fest, prompt, "Rachel can sing anything. Except for that song." Thank you to my beta for all of her help and encouragement. I never would have done this without you, Goosey, and I really appreciate everything you've done for me.

Out of the Question
By Duckie Nicks

1. Kill Valerie Bertinelli

Without question, her dads have always spoiled her. Dance lessons, singing lessons, custom-made costumes, head and glamour shots shot by the state's best photographer (who did, in fact, used to hold the rolls of film for Annie Leibovitz, so he is kind of a big deal) – anything that allows her star to shine, her dads have given her.

But they're less generous with pets.

Don't get her wrong: Rachel does not want a whole menagerie. She agrees that cats are too judgmental and fish too boring and birds too untrustworthy (there's something in their beady eyes). But she has never appreciated her parents' disdain for dogs. Why her dads' bad memories of seeing Cujo as kids should force her to go without is beyond her understanding. Yet no matter how hard Rachel has protested, her parents have never seen her way.

And so she's left with the animals that don't fall into the cat, fish, bird, and dog category, which means she has several ferrets named after famous 1970s sitcom stars. For a very brief moment, she considers getting a pot-bellied pig, but technically, Jews aren't supposed to have pigs. And way more importantly, she's already unpopular enough, and though they're cute, pigs are, in Rachel's estimation, not good for the image she wants to project.

Granted, her image is one that most people hate. But owning a pet pig is (no matter how cool George Clooney has tried to make it seem) like telling the world that you own an inflatable sheep that you sometimes have sex with.

It's just social suicide.

So she goes with the ferrets, who sort of, if you ignore their squirmy bodies and pretty rancid smell, look like teddy bears.

Admittedly, she was originally planning on buying rabbits, but one look at the ferrets in the store, and she had to have them. Specifically, she had to have the white one that had a reddish tinge to it and the brownish one that looked like a raccoon that were curled up in the back of the cage. Her own brown eyes wide as she assessed each and every ferret, Rachel decided that they would be the best to take. They were the only ones that didn't look rabid or sick, so they were perfect.

With a smile so wide the muscles in her face hurt, she decided on the ride home that their names were to be Mackenzie Phillips (the reddish one) and Valerie Bertinelli (the brown one). When she told her dads, they said she was clever, but Rachel didn't really need to hear that – she already knew.

And after that she never really thinks about having anything other than ferrets. Sure, they don't exactly snuggle with her, and when Mackenzie Phillips has a horrible accident with the dryer, Rachel sobs that she'll never, ever, ever have pets again. But they do listen to her when she sings, and they don't bite (much), and, when she buys a replacement ferret, Meredith Baxter Birney, she forgets all about Mackenzie Phillips' tragic death.

She ends up forgetting about all the bad stuff anyway. She doesn't remember Valerie Bertinelli pooping on her fifth grade dance uniform that had been constructed to look exactly like the sequined number Nicole Kidman wears in Moulin Rouge! for "Sparkling Diamonds" (unless one of her dads mention it, and then the pain is fresh). She doesn't remember the time Meredith Baxter Birney bit her and Rachel needed stitches.

But she does remember – indeed she never forgets – how Valerie Bertinelli likes to watch her when she practices for glee club. Tiny brown eyes trained on her, the little ferret sits still and stares, captivated.

Sometimes (okay, all the time) Rachel likes to pretend that the gaze on her is that of Michael Riedel as he falls in love with her (he would never hate her voice if he heard it) or Stephen Sondheim as he decides which part to give her in his new musical (it would be hard, because she would be perfect for every role). But she's never unaware of the fact that Valerie Bertinelli is the one supporting her.

And though it's sometimes a painful reminder of where she stands in the musical world, Rachel isn't unappreciative of her little friend's support. At least someone, something is interested in her talent.

Unfortunately, Rachel realizes one day that the fascination the ferret has with her isn't reciprocated.

She knows that Valerie Bertinelli (like her namesake) has an uncontrollable appreciation for sweets.

Rachel knows better than to leave her stash of Valentine's Day candy out in the open while she sings "On my Own" to Valerie Bertinelli in her room.

She knows better.

Except she doesn't.

Because just as she's getting into the music, just as she's about to ruin the line, "I love him but only on my own," by crying over how Finn doesn't love her, she hears it:

The crinkling sound of the red foil wrapped around her dark chocolate hearts (given to her by her dads, because nobody else will give her anything).

She swallows hard, her voice sore from singing (and not thick with any sort of emotion regarding Finn). Instinctively she turns to see who would dare to interrupt her and immediately discovers the culprit.

"Valerie Bertinelli!"

But all admonishment is gone from her voice the second Rachel realizes what's going on.

Within an instant, she's stalked the distance toward the ferret, quickly pulling the animal out of the half-eaten chocolates. Valerie Bertinelli, desperate to get back to the candy, squirms under her punishing grip, but Rachel knows she can't let go; chocolate is fatal to ferrets in even small doses according to the Ferret Fancy forums she occasionally visits online.

And Valerie Bertinelli has had enough to make the real Valerie Bertinelli fall off the Jenny Craig wagon.

Rachel sprints down the stairs so fast that her knee socks slip down to the middle of her calves. The ferret's head is bobbing up and down, probably painfully so, but she's not concerned about that. At least, it's not her main concern.

Her dad is thankfully home, so they can take her pet to the vet right away. Which is great, because Valerie Bertinelli starts puking and twitching in a way that almost looks like she's having a seizure. And because of that, Rachel can only believe that the ferret got into the candy earlier than she thought. Much earlier if the animal is this sick, so she knows it's really good that her father was home to help her.

But it's to no avail; she's barely had time to tweet about the incident (as though her zero followers care) and consider why her beloved ferret would decide to commit suicide while she was performing when she gets the news.

There is no hope.

The theobromide in chocolate has been in Valerie Bertinelli's system for too long.

No amount of medical intervention will make her better.

The vet says that the best they can do now is put the ferret out of her misery.

Her dad is ready to sign the papers, but Rachel grabs his hand before he can. "Don't."

She doesn't finish the thought, and her father doesn't ask what she means. Whether he understands that she's not ready to let go of her pet just yet or not, whether he gets that she can't be the one to pull the trigger, she doesn't know. And she doesn't explain.

All she can do is think that she just can't – just cannot – be the one to kill Valerie Bertinelli.

It's only after they've buried the ferret and she returns to her room to find the half-eaten chocolates on the floor that Rachel considers…

She already has.

2. Ignore Tyra Banks' Career

It's not that she hasn't thought about it.

The prominence of her nose, the way the tip seems to press against her lips, the size of her breasts – Rachel would have to be blind not to notice that those things about her own body are…

She doesn't want to say lacking.

Most of the time she doesn't even think that.

But every now and then, there are moments when she takes a look at her reflection in the mirror, and there is the slight twinge of disappointment. There is the burgeoning desire to change something.

It's a desire she tries to rid herself of.

Barbra Streisand never had to have plastic surgery, she reminds herself. People wanted her to, but she never did, and would people care all that much about her if she did have a generic face?

… Okay, probably.

A traitorous voice says definitely, but Rachel ignores that in favor of telling herself that things have changed since Barbra got her start. Looks matter more and more than actual talent in the entertainment industry, and if someone as talented as Lady Gaga can't keep a record deal without taking her pants off, what hope is there for Rachel?

Well, obviously there's some hope. Rachel's way more talented than Gaga could ever hope to be, but the point still stands: Barbra had a choice, but Rachel might not, and the last thing she wants is for her overall awesomeness to be unrecognized by those too superficial to give her a chance.

So, as she does with every other aspect of her life, Rachel decides that it's time to make a plan. Most things worth doing are worth creating a plan for.

After a quick trip to Staples, she goes up to her room and shuts the door behind her. As she sits on the floor, she takes out her brand new navy blue binder, light pink stationary, package of bright gold stars, and gold sharpie.

Truth be told, her purchases are more subdued than they normally would be (except for the gold stars obviously). In this case, the desire is to create something innocuous, something no one will feel the need to look through. As tempting as it is to buy a binder with plastic lining on the front for her to put a picture of Jennifer Aniston and the title, "Rachel's Route to a Rockin' Body" in it, Rachel realizes that that would be embarrassing. And in these instances, creating something plain on the outside and special on the inside (she doesn't like this metaphor) just seems like a smarter idea.

Besides, this is more fun. It's like a secret… a secret plan to make herself hot, sure, but that doesn't make it any less exhilarating. If anything, it's more exciting than jumping out of an airplane or getting something pierced would be. Because those things couldn't change your future, but this could.

This could help make her a star.

So she ignores the tiny (very tiny and so small as to almost be non-existent) part of herself that says she shouldn't change to please someone else, because she's not really doing this to please someone else; she'd be doing it to get what she deserves, and if someone else liked her more after that, well, then that would be okay too. And knowing that, Rachel gets to work.

Immediately she rejects the notion of plastic surgery (at least for now). Her parents would never allow for it, and also, she's not exactly sure she wants to be the girl who had plastic surgery in high school. Although she's sure that 20/20 would come knocking on her door, Rachel would prefer to be the girl who had the work done that nobody ever knew about; the last thing she wants is the wrong kind of attention (even if it is attention), and she refuses to let her star suffer because of a little nip/tuck.

But then again, if she's trying to do things naturally, that severely limits her options too. A quick search on Google confirms that there's not really she can do much about her nose. There's noseright dot com, but it looks like a scam, and really, who wants to wear a clothes pin-like contraption on their nose? In fact, isn't the only thing more embarrassing than having a large nose a large nose with a Nose Right dangling from it?

Rachel sighs and buries her face in her hands.

This is hopeless.

A quick search for ways to make her chest bigger confirms that. If the best she can hope for is that daily exercises will make her chest larger, the situation really is bleak. Cause, seriously, who wants their biggest aspiration to be becoming a "butterface"?

Not her.

Moving away from her computer, Rachel decides it's time to take a break. Given her overall lack of success thus far, she's not ready to commit anything to paper. Actually, given the way things have been preceding, she can't deny that plastic surgery is looking more and more like a viable option.

And that's more depressing than she thought it would be, she realizes as she flops down onto her bed. As she turns on the television, she understands that it really does suck more now than it did earlier today. Because when she wasn't actively seeking a solution to her newly perceived problem, there was hope.

Now she just feels curelessly hideous, doomed to never be Barbra Streisand's peer.

The threat of failure begins to tease at Rachel's consciousness. Her lips quiver of their own volition, which is in stark contrast to the way she has to force herself to breathe; her lungs feel as though they have popped, inhaling and exhaling much more difficult than it should be.

Her gaze is blurry, tears welling in her eyes making sight harder as well. And she can't help but wonder angrily why something can't go right for once.

Why is she always the one to have to fight tooth and nail (and occasionally lie about teachers doing inappropriate things to students) to get what she deserves?

The fact that she has no answer to that question makes her want to throw the remote through the LCD-screened version of Tyra Banks' face.

God, the fact that there's an America's Next Top Model marathon on right now, right when Rachel is practically having a mental breakdown over looks, is proof enough that the universe hates her. Especially since it's the cycle where Tyra tries to have a music career, it's all the proof Rachel needs to know that God (if He exists) isn't a caring one.

At least, there's no concern for her if she's watching this. Because, really, this is just too much. It's too much of a reminder that talent rarely is what makes or breaks a career these days. For Christ's sake, Tyra Banks wasn't even a singer and she still had a recording contract!

And sure Rachel can't deny that "Shake Ya Body" is a catchy tune (particularly when models are trying to dance along to it and fall on their butts), but that's not the point.

The point is that if Tyra weren't Tyra, she wouldn't have had a career. If she weren't drop dead gorgeous, she wouldn't have gotten anywhere in the music business.

And okay, Rachel has watched the Tyra Banks Show enough times to know that Tyra is all about empowering women and inner beauty and fiercely real beauty and all of the above. But as Rachel watches the supermodel writhe around in the rain on television, she can only think that Tyra's words don't match her actions, don't match her success.

Rachel and Tyra might like to think that talent and inner beauty are the only things that matter. But as the success of a modeling reality show proves, Rachel knows, worries, fears:

She can't bank on her talent alone to get her places.

Defeated, she trudges back to the computer and starts searching for plastic surgeons in the area.

3. Beat Kurt

Mr. Schuester says that he's her biggest fan. His brown eyes sympathetic and kind and earnest, Rachel feels the desire to blacken them both when he talks like this. Because he only tells her this when he's giving the part to someone else.

"But Mr. Schuester, I am more than capable of –"

"It's not about being capable, Rachel. You know that. It's just that the part was written for a man, so –"

"You and I both know that 'Being Alive' has been performed by some of Broadway's greatest female performers: Bernadette Peters, Barbra Streisand, and my all-time favorite interpreter of this classic Sondheim song, Patti Lupone," she insists, air rasping against her vocal chords and making her voice sound shaky with excitement.

"I'm sorry." But he doesn't sound all that sorry. "The part's Kurt's. You'll get the next one." However, considering he's been saying that for the last four parts, Rachel can't believe him.

"You just don't want me to succeed," she says knowingly. "You don't want me to shine." Even to her own ears, the way she said that last word makes it sound like a threat. "You gave up on music after you graduated high school, and you're taking it out on me, because I have more drive than you ever did."

"That may be, Rachel." Again, the tone of his voice doesn't match what he's saying. "No one can deny you have drive. And talent. But it's my job to make sure that all of the glee club members have the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities," he tells her, gesturing toward himself. "I can't give you every part, even if you are talented enough to perform them."

"Why not?"

"Because this isn't the Rachel Berry club," Kurt interrupts smoothly, reminding Rachel that they're having this fight in front of the rest of the glee club.

Rachel turns to look at the classmate who always seems to be her competition. She wants to say something really mean to him, although she doesn't know what, to get him to butt out of a decision that doesn't really involve him. But Mr. Schuester is quick to say, "We can talk about this later. We only have a half hour of practice left anyway, and we need that time, guys."

She glares at Kurt but acquiesces. "Fine."

As she goes to take her place, Kurt looks over at her and says, "Since Patti is your all-time favorite, perhaps you should take a look at her career."

Rachel detects a hint of derision in his tone, and outraged that he would dare insult Patti Lupone, Rachel asks him, "Are you insulting –"

"Everybody knows Patti's talented," he interrupts, as Schuester helps Quinn with her harmony part. "But even a fan like you should realize that she doesn't get a lot of work, because nobody wants to work with her. And though I would like to believe that it's because she sounds – and looks – like a drunken bear who shops the clearance rack of the local TJ Maxx, we both know it's because people don't like her."

"People always think that unconventionally attractive, strong, and driven women are bitches," Rachel tells him knowingly. She doesn't like swearing, especially not when Mr. Schuester is only feet away, but it's the truth. An ugly one, yes, but there's no sugarcoating the sexist insult.

"And sometimes they are bitches," Kurt replies with a smile.

Rachel opens her mouth to say more, but at that moment Mr. Schu announces, "All right, guys. From the top," and she knows she can't keep fighting with Kurt.

He, of course, smiles at that knowledge. And this time, it's his eyes she wants to blacken, because he's made his point, and they both know he's won, and God, she hates him sometimes.

If they weren't in glee together, she thinks she could have liked him. But since they are in glee together – and for some bizarre reason, always fighting over the same parts – she can only think of him as competition. She can only think how much it sucks to lose to him.

She can only wonder when the day will come when the tables are reversed and he's the one on the losing end.

4. Come in second

The first eleven times Finn kisses her, she's happy. His fingertips running through her hair and caressing the small of her back, her hands cupping his cheeks, the first eleven times make her toes tingle and her heart sing. The first eleven times make her wonder if she's already in love with him and, more importantly, convince her that every second pining she's done has been worth it.

The first eleven times are perfect.

The twelfth is not.

At first she tells herself that the problem is the Sloppy Joe Finn ate only moments before pressing his lips to hers. She tells herself that the problem is the obnoxious taste of tomato and vinegar and beef that somehow manages to fill her mouth when he strokes her tongue with his.

But then number thirteen isn't that much better, and there were no Sloppy Joes involved there. There's also no tingling or singing going on inside of her body, and that makes Rachel wonder if something's wrong.

She doesn't ask, of course. She doesn't want to have her suspicion confirmed, and as long as she denies that something is wrong, she can pretend that he's just nervous about the game tomorrow and she's nervous about glee club's upcoming performance. So she simply kisses him back, a forced smile on her face when they pull away.

Kisses fourteen through thirty-nine end similarly, and Rachel's forced then, after Finn drops her off at her door, to consider why things don't feel right.

But nothing comes to mind. No reason pops into her head. No quick answer occurs to her. If things are wrong, there is no foreseeable reason as to why that should be the case. And Rachel goes to bed that night crying into her pillow. The mascara she forgot to wash off of her face running onto her yellow and pink pillowcase (so much for being waterproof), she wonders why something so perfect should feel so… wrong now.

And the longer she dates Finn, the more "wrong" seems like the right way to put it.

Wrong and awkward.

Now that she's perceived that there's a problem, she can't help but notice all the times where things are weird between them. When they go to hold hands in the hall and his hands are sweaty, when they go to kiss one another and some band geek barrels through them, a tuba hitting her in the face – she can't ignore any of it.

And Rachel definitely can't ignore the way he seems to almost cringe when his football buddies are around.

At first she gave him the benefit of the doubt and thought that he was nervous about word getting back to Quinn, about upsetting Quinn. Which was sort of endearing in a way; some women might have been jealous or angry about it, but Rachel could only think that it was kind of sweet for him to be concerned about his ex-girlfriend, who might have been his ex for a very good reason but who was also still a human being nonetheless.

But now though… Rachel isn't so certain.

By the time kiss sixty-one rolls around, they've been together long enough that Quinn should have already figured out that Finn is dating someone else. And even if they are completely mentally deficient, the football team should have figured it out by now as well.

So Rachel can only suspect that something else is going on, and the more they kiss (ninety-one, ninety-two, ninety-three), the more she knows that she has to say something.

By kiss one hundred twelve she does. Only she doesn't ask what's wrong, so much as the diarrhea spewing out of her mouth twists everything she's trying to say into an accusation. "Why are you embarrassed to be with me?"

Finn looks at her dumbly, confused, a wisp of cotton candy stuck to his lip. For a very brief moment, she considers kissing it away; having come to the annual summer carnival every year since she was seven, Rachel has always had that fantasy. She's always dreamed of coming here with her boyfriend and taking a romantic ride on the Ferris wheel and pretending to get mad at him when he guesses her weight wrong at the little kiosk and making up with him when he wins her a giant stuffed duck at one of the games. And kissing away a delicate strand of bright blue cotton candy fits right into that fantasy.

But the fear that she's about to enter nightmare territory stops her from doing that.

Unfortunately for her, Finn is too dumb to do anything but shove them right into the bad dream she's feared. Because…

He doesn't even try to deny that he's embarrassed to be with her – not really anyway. His eyebrows crinkled together, he says instead, "You mean when the guys are around?"

"So you admit it."

He shrugs. "I just thought it would be better for the both of us to avoid that kind of attention.

Rachel knows that it makes sense. Considering she was still trying to get grape Slushie out of her favorite Banana Republic sweater, she gets that what he's saying makes sense. Being all couple-y while the football team was around would just make them want to beat them both up.

And yet…

She doesn't believe him.

Or maybe she does, but there's something about what he's saying that falls short. Since she doesn't know what that is, Rachel simply says, "Yeah, you're right."

"Want to go on the Zipper?" The question is a clear indication that he's over their mini-spat, if he even considers it a fight at all. And rather than trying to create a distraction, he just sounds eager to be flipped upside down.

She doesn't share his enthusiasm but nevertheless says, "Yeah, sure." She says it in such a way that she hopes will illicit some sort of an apology. But Finn doesn't pick up on that and so they instead head toward the ride in silence.

And it's there, when she's hanging upside down fifty feet in the air, that she realizes what's bothering her.

It's not just that he pulls away from her when the football team is around.

It's not just that he doesn't understand when she's upset or doesn't get that she's annoyed with him now.

It's that she had to fight so hard to get to this point with him.

The metal car they're in flips them once more, and she feels sick from the movement and the realization that she's spent months trying to get him to see that she could be good for him.

The fact that she's had to put any effort into it at all – especially when Quinn was treating him like crap and lying to him – is what has been getting to Rachel slowly but surely. And now that she realizes that she's worked so hard for something that he can't even be confident about, she just wants to pull away from him all together.

Because wanting to protect her from the cafeteria's signature frozen drink is one thing. That she could see as being a loving gesture. But only seeing her worth when there was nobody else around?

Only wanting her because Quinn hurt him?

Rachel's not sure what that is. She's not sure that that's something she can get behind or understand.

When the ride finishes and they're back on the ground, she looks at him carefully. He's dumbly looking out at the other rides, probably trying to decide what to go on next, but she's assessing him with way more seriousness.

In her mind, she thinks that she's wanted him for so long. She wanted to be with him for so long.

And now she has him.

But somehow being a consolation prize isn't what she had in mind, and she's not sure she can do it now, even if she does really like him.

Sighing, she licks her lips and says, "Finn… we need to talk."

5. Do "Rose's Turn"

The historical theatre nearby is in danger of foreclosure, and by Rachel's own insistence, the glee club will be performing musical theatre's greatest hits to raise money for the foundation.

A few of the club members are obviously unenthused by the idea that Mr. Schuester happily approved of. The football players and cheerleaders are afraid for their reputations, fearing that the label of "theatre fag" will be placed upon them as though the slur were a patch to put on their letterman jackets. And still upset about having to be a Jet, Mercedes doesn't seem too keen on the idea either.

Well, she is until she learns (much to Rachel's dismay) that she could potentially sing the pièce de résistance (at least in Rachel's estimation): "Rose's Turn."

Clearly, this part is meant for Rachel. That Mr. Schuester is willing to give anyone who can hit the notes a shot at auditioning for it is just… tragic, and Rachel is determined not to let this entire event to be marred by silly concepts like "equal opportunity" and "fairness."

There's a time and a place for all of that, but when it comes to performing one of the most iconic numbers from Broadway…

Well, lets just say that's not one of them.

Knowing that the club is in jeopardy of becoming a laughing stock if Kurt or Mercedes get the part, Rachel understands that she needs to practice as hard as she can to make sure that does not happen.

Looking at it rationally, she knows what she needs to work on, knows where her perceived weakness lies: her pathos. Technically, Kurt and Mercedes can't compare; Rachel can hit higher notes, can hold them longer, and her lower range is comparatively bigger as well.

But she's also figured out that Mr. Schu has this tedious tendency of being moved emotionally by performances and rewarding parts based on that. And Rachel can easily see that happening here.

A gay boy taking on a seminal role that's always been for women before now? What's not to love about that?

Mercedes and her ability to infuse emotion into every word she sings? On a part like this? Mr. Schuester will eat that up like Santana consumes laxatives to keep her weight down.

So Rachel knows that she'll really need to bring an emotional component to the song if she wants to get the part.

Admittedly, it seems wrong that she should have to audition for something so clearly meant for her to sing. But she tries to not focus on that (it's distracting) and instead tells herself that competition is good.

Naturally it doesn't feel that way now, but she knows that once she's beaten everyone else out for the part, it will feel great.

So she goes through the song over and over. The first day she practices, she has no idea how many times she repeats herself. And once her throat is hoarse and sore, she figures it doesn't really matter; it's enough to know that if the opening lyrics were real, the curtains would have been raised and the lights lit many, many times by now.

Unfortunately her practice is only getting her so far.

Each time she goes through the song, she records herself doing it. She would probably be doing this anyway with any other song she sang, but this time, instead of uploading it to her MySpace page, Rachel merely reviews the tape and critiques herself.

But by the third day of doing this, she can't deny that she's not getting any better.

Oh, don't get her wrong: she's still way better than anyone else in glee club. Particularly on the first section of the song, she's unbeatable.

And that comes as no surprise.

It's not hard for Rachel to give voice to a woman desperately asserting her talent.

That's who she is every day of her life.

And when she sings, "Ya either got it, or ya ain't. And, boys, I got it," there is a voracity that she didn't even know she possessed.

It's so powerful, if she does say so herself (and she does), that if Schuester stops the audition there, she knows she will have gotten the part. But if he makes her continue…

The decision won't be quite so clear cut.

Because as good as she is in the first part of the song, that's how badly she sucks in the second half.

And tragically, the part that matters is the second one. Since that's the moment Momma Rose asks herself what all of her hard work has been for, since that's the moment she realizes she's lost both her children and all hope of ever being a star, that's the part anyone ever cares about.

Rachel tries over and over to force herself into giving a better performance. She practically screams, "Everything's coming up Rose!" into her empty room. Her cheeks are reddened with effort as she holds the last "For me!" And she can tell that she is literally giving everything she has to make it seem like she can relate to the character, to make it seem like she is that character.

But when she watches herself on the tape, she still seems flat.

Not in terms of pitch, obviously, but in terms of her ability to convey that complete and utter collapse in the belief that things would be okay, in the belief that stardom was just around the corner.

She isn't doing that right.

And Rachel understands why.

She just… can't relate to that.

She can't imagine even considering abandoning her dream of being a star. She definitely can't picture herself using her future children to get her foot in the doorway. And although she knows that times were different back when Rose Hovick was alive, Rachel can't sympathize with someone who would give up their dream and abusively live vicariously through their children.

In fact, the truth of the matter is that, for as much as Rachel loves the character, she can't help but hate everything Rose represents.

Really, Rachel despises it.

And though she tries, she can't divorce her voice from those feelings. She can't separate her heart from her larynx, and every time she gets to the meat of the song, her musical abilities fail.

Rachel can hear herself hitting every note perfectly, but there's something so off about her performance. Her breathing is fine; nothing sounds strained, but the bitterness and denial in her voice seems, even to her own ears, even without listening to the recording, oddly placed. Which is really weird, because she thinks that both of those emotions would probably be good for this tune under normal circumstances.

But coming from her, it just sounds like she's thinking about something else entirely. And she supposes that she is; she's trying to conjure up the right emotions, but she's not really in the moment. She's not really doing it for the song or the character as much as she is singing the words and privately thinking that Rose's future will not – will not – be her own.

And because of that, by the time she finishes the song, she knows it will be the last time she ever tries her hand at it. Although chances are, if she auditioned for the lead, she would still beat Kurt and Mercedes, the truth is…

Rachel doesn't think it's worth it.

If the price is to be reminded that stardom is not guaranteed, that having talent and looks and drive might not be enough to ward off the whims of fate, she doesn't want to do it. And if she can't even sing the song right, she definitely doesn't want to do it.

She just can't.

Monday afternoon, Schuester asks everyone who wants to try out for the lead to come to the front of the near empty classroom. For a very brief moment, he looks at her expectantly, as though he thinks he knows that she'll want to go first. But when she doesn't, he looks at her more carefully.

His eyes assessing her silently, Rachel half-hopes that he doesn't say anything; the last thing she wants to do is have to explain her reasons in front of everyone else.

In the end, though, he doesn't ask her why at all. One bob of his head is all the acknowledgement she gets, and she can see that, in the way that he starts the auditions, he's comfortable with her not wanting the part. He's okay with knowing she won't try out for everything, that she can't do everything.

As Kurt begins to sing the opening notes to "Rose's Turn," Rachel wonders why that information is so hard for her to accept.

The End