Auditions go on. Eventually Mercedes comes in, and yeah, she wows them. She sings... some song he doesn't really know, but whatever it is, she's brilliant at it. He just has to wonder... if she's really right for the part? He's not sure. Mercedes has a very... distinctive personality, and... nevermind.

"So," she says afterwards, struggling to catch her breath. "How'd I do, my man?"

"Brilliantly," he says.

"Bravo!" calls Miss Pilsbury

Mercedes smirks. "Yeah, I knew that."

He rolls his eyes. "Yeah yeah. Now let the next person in."

Mercedes makes her way off, smiling all the while. He smiles to himself too. It was a really good performance.

Though if he decides she's not right for the role – he's got this feeling Maria may need to be... calmer – he's not sure how he'd tell her. He'd still give her a part, of course, but Mercedes does tend to be a bit like this about not getting the lead sometimes. Especially if he gave it to Rachel. That's just sort of the way things go.

God, this was much simpler with Blaine.

Wait. He frowns. It wasn't really. Blaine wasn't even sure if he'd be willing to go for Tony, not because he didn't want to but because of Kurt, and even now he does have reason to think Blaine would take the role he really has to talk to Blaine about it. Because making decisions that people are actually meant to know about based on eavesdropping can only ever end badly.

But it was different. With Blaine's audition, it was just... perfect. Yeah, all this stuff was annoying and complicated, but it didn't matter because just the audition was worth it. And he sounds like a make-up commercial.

But really, that makes him frown more. Why? Mercedes was just as good as Blaine. They're both brilliant, and they're both his friends. But Mercedes song, he's snapped out of its trance quickly and is now considering it in its logical context – not just as a performance but as an audition piece. With Blaine's song... he's more certain. He gets that whole epic! feeling whenever he thinks about it. He knows Blaine has to be their Tony.

"Um, should your... co-director say something before I start?"

"Huh?" Oh right, there are more auditions. A tiny, adorable freshman (freshwoman?) is standing on the stage and clearly shaking her way up the Richter scale. She looks naive to the horrors of the world/this school. "Oh, um, right. Go ahead, uh," he quickly glances over Coach Bieste's shoulder to read the girl's audition sheet (and gets something of a glare from the coach too, eep), "Ella?"

"Anna," she says. "I have really bad handwriting."


"Um," and she starts to sing.

She's pretty good. He's also not sure what she's singing; it may not actually be in English (or his ears are blocked). She wouldn't get lead (she probably wouldn't get lead anyway; she's a freshman, and somehow that seems like asking for protest, doesn't it?), but she'd be perfectly solid for a decent supporting part, with some singing.

He tries to concentrate, but his thoughts wind up going back to Blaine and Mercedes and the difference between the two. Blaine's audition was just... special. Mercedes' was just as good, and he's not saying it was lacking the wow factor (he's still trying to figure out how one quantifies that), but it wasn't the same as Blaine's. Neither was Rachel's, nevermind. Hence why he has to do some internal debate over them. With Blaine, his major argument is the convincing.

"So, uh... how was it?"

Hmm? Oh great, the girl's finished. Good move, Artie.

"Very good, Anna," says Miss Pilsbury.

"Very nice."

"...Oh yeah," he says. "Great job."

Her face falls. "You didn't like it? Oh no! I know I shouldn't have sung in Russian!"

She's starting to panic, and Artie says "No, no, it's fine. Really. We'll get back to you."

She sniffles. "Really?"


"Oh. Okay." She slowly makes her way off stage.

"Next!" he calls.

While the next one's coming on, Coach Bieste leans over to him to whisper "This time, do you think you could try at least looking like you're paying attention?"

...He'll try.

Coach Bieste and Miss Pilsbury seem very preoccupied with the choice of Maria. It's a general Mercedes vs. Rachel thing. Mercedes is fresh, new and innovative; Rachel is safer and not to mention, brilliant in her own right. Artie doesn't know much more than they do, but he has to keep forcing himself to pay attention anyway, so it works out.

"Artie! Hello?"

"Hey kid, you be keeping your eyes to the show, else the show's coming down your eyes."

"...Wait, what?" he suddenly snaps out of it, blinking at them. "Oh, right. Were we still talking about Maria?" Beat. "Sorry I, uh, haven't been sleeping well."

It's true. Miss Pilsbury sighs. "Right, well, yes, yes we were," she says. "We can't come to a decision between Mercedes and Rachel. Can you?"

He thinks about it. "...Nope," he says. "Sorry. But you're right, they're both really good; I don't know what to do about that."

"Hmm," says Miss Pilsbury.

"Problem is, there ain't that many roles," says Coach Bieste. Whoever gets it, the other one's gonna have to slot in somewhere and frankly, someone's getting kicked outta a role."

"Rachel does seem like she could fit in at any level – Mercedes, it's a little like she has to be the star," says Miss Pilsbury.

Artie can't help but raise an eyebrow. "Uh, have you met Rachel?"

"I didn't mean in their reaction, just... the way it would seem on stage."

"Mm," says Bieste. "Artie's got a point though. I mean, neither of them are going to be too happy if the other one gets the role."

"True," says Miss Pilsbury. "They're both the type to... take things seriously."

"Hmm," says Artie. There isn't much else to say; it'll have to be thought about later. They've sorted out most of the cast, haven't they? Even a good role for Tina. Of course, with the Maria thing, there's still a chance someone will suddenly come in and wow them again. Auditions are still open, although it's mostly the people thinking what the hell? now rather than I must I must I must! Because who even talks like that?

He supposes if another person like Blaine came in, that'd change things. When Blaine came in, it was pretty obvious who their Tony'd be. Thank god Miss Pilsbury and Coach Bieste agreed with him, 'cause really couldn't stand it if he had to give the role to someone else.

He shakes his head. Okay, focus,he gulps. Don't get all distracted. He was good; move on!

He does keep doing that. Keeps thinking about Blaine and his audition when it's not really appropriate, and frankly–

"Uh, Artie?"

"Hmm?" He looks up and finds Miss Pilsbury staring at him. "Oh, uh, sorry."

"Let me guess," mumbles Bieste. "Thinking about our choice of Blaine?"

"How'd you know..." Bieste and Miss Pilsbury share a very, very uncomfortable look. "Oh. That was meant to be something I didn't actually hear, right?"

"...Right." Miss Pilsbury looks like she's desperately searching for the fire escape, which is funny because hey, no fire. "Anyway, I think we're all comfortable with our choice there, right?"

"Yeah," says Bieste. "I mean, there's no denying it, the kid was perfect."

Artie can't help but smile.

Then the two teacher share another one of those looks and he smiles less. Shit.

Thankfully, the awkwardness is interrupted by the beeping of his cellphone. "Oh," he says as he pulls it out and reads the text. "Uh, my dad should be here in a few minutes; I should probably go get my stuff."

Miss Pilsbury nods. "Yeah, I... shouldn't keep Will waiting too long."

"I don't have anything in particular to do, but I'm not sticking around if you two ain't."

Artie chuckles a bit and slowly rolls down the corridor, hearing the two collecting their things behind him.


Miss Pilsbury runs up to him when he's just about to leave his locker. "Oh, Miss Pilsbury, hey," he says. "What's up?"

"I... I thought I should talk to you."

He raises an eyebrow. "About anything in particular, or just in general?"

And there's that look. The, I'd rather be buried up to my neck in mud than having this conversation look, which is saying quite a lot. Artie sudden feels a lot more anxious about this.

Miss Pilsbury sighs. "...Look, it's about Blaine," she says. "And, well, his audition."

There's a pause, but Artie doesn't say anything.

"You've seemed... kind of preoccupied with it, really."

That sick feeling in his stomach is back and he can't really explain it now, either. Miss Pilsbury is biting her lip and looks so nervous she may actually melt, so he takes pity on her. "Yeah, I... kind of have been, haven't I?" he says. "I'm sorry. I guess it was the performance that sort of... stood out the most."

Miss Pilsbury looks skeptical. "Is that what you were thinking about in our conversation this afternoon?"

He hesitates. Badly. "...Not... really?" It wasn't all the time. It popped up, quite frequently he'll admit, but it was hardly the only reason he kept zoning out. And it did stem from a logical chain of thoughts. See, nothing to worry about.

Miss Pilsbury looks out the window and Artie kind of wishes he could too, if only to discover when his dad is going to show up and save him from this nightmare of awkwardness.

She looks back at him. "Artie–"

"Look, Miss Pilsbury, could you please cut to the chase?" he asks. "I need to get home at some point."

She sighs. Gradually, she crouches down a little, which he thinks is meant to lower her to his level, but it looks more condescending than anything. "Look, Artie, do you want to... talk, about what's going on with Blaine? Because, well, this can be kind of a difficult process to go through, if you are... and with Kurt..."

Oh. Yeah, vague as she's being, he knows what this means. "Ah, Miss Pilsbury," he says. "I assure than my... interest, I suppose, in Blaine is purely professional, alright? I'm just focusing as a director. Well, and he's a guy I know who seems like a pretty cool guy, and might be a friend, or at least may become so at some point. But that's all, Miss Pilsbury, I promise."

She blinks. "I see." She doesn't really look like she believes him, and he still feels sick. Has he been acting that weirdly, that he's making people think...? Christ, what does Blaine think? Or Kurt? He couldn't have...

He shakes the thought away. Of course not, Miss P.'s just trying to explain things, and got it wrong. No offense to anyone; he likes Kurt and Blaine and all, but he just... doesn't swing that way. Remember Tina and Brittany? Yeah, not a problem. He doesn't know what Miss Pilsbury's thinking.

His phone beeps again. "Oh, right," he says reading the text. "My dad's right outside. I should... probably go..."

"Oh right," she says. She sounds very surprised. "Just... if you need to talk – not necessarily about this, just, anything – my office is open, y'know; that's what I'm here for."

He nods. "Yeah, of course. If I need anything, I'll come to you, alright?" he says. "Anyway, see you tomorrow."

"Don't you want me to walk you to the ramp?"

He shakes his head. "I'll be fine," he says.

"Alright then," she says. "Well, tomorrow."

When he gets downstairs, his dad smiles and waves. "Hey, you're late," he says. "Something interesting happen at school today?"

He shrugs, ignoring that sick feeling in his stomach. "Nothing in particular."

The eventual option taken with the Rachel/Mercedes dilemma is to try again. He's not sure they'll take it well, but nevermind. It winds up being that Rachel's okay if a little... Rachel, and Mercedes is scary. Maybe this is why he was so reluctant to do this job in the first place.

Anyway, when it comes time for their callback it's declared his duty to roam the halls and find them. They've tried putting an announcement over, but it didn't work. Artie ducks into the art room, because Mercedes does take art, and everyone's always in there even when they don't need to be because the art teacher is crazy and and the course is crazier.

He gets there, but there's (unusually) only one student there. It's not Mercedes. It's Blaine, and Artie gets a little bit awkward.

"Oh," says Blaine when he looks up, smiling at Artie. "Hey Artie. What are you doing here?"

"Oh, uh, I was looking for Mercedes," he says. "What about you? You're new; I thought you'd still be under the impression that Art is the subject where no-one will ever need you to put in any effort."

"It's not?" Blaine asks. "I was trying to catch up with whatever necessary information I missed last year; if Art is actually hard..."

Artie vaguely considers what one is supposed to say to that. "Well the teacher is insane and demands far more work than it's really worth. However, this is by the standards of our school, so possibly that needn't be taken so seriously."

Blaine laughs. "I see," he says. "Well, I guess I'll have to try my hardest and hope for the best."

"Indeed." There's a bit of awkward moment. Artie desperately rummages for something to say; come on, Artie; you and Blaine have things in common, right?

Blaine saves him. "Wait, why do you need Mercedes anyway?"

"Well, uh, it's her and Rachel. Callback auditions for Maria... shouldn't have said that."

"I promise I won't tell a soul," Blaine says. "Though between you and me, speculation for certain parts has been pretty open."

"...I'm not going to think about that," because really, Artie has no idea what that would mean.

Suddenly, a look clouds over Blaine's face. "Oh. Oh," he says, much confusing Artie. "Right. I, uh, meant to talk to you about the Tony thing; kind of forgot..."

"Oh." Artie settled it with himself after overhearing what Blaine said to Kurt; he didn't think about Blaine informing him in a way that he was actually aware of. Quick, how does he say he knows without having to tell Blaine he's a creepy eavesdropper? "Uh, yes, well; I think we were all kind of operating under the assumption you'd be just fine at the part, and would overall be okay with it – I mean, if you really mind–"

"Oh no, no," Blaine says, shaking his head. "What I meant to tell you was that I'd be alright with the part, after I cleared it with Kurt and... it seems like a stupid think to forget, honestly."

Artie shrugs. "I guess you just assumed we'd give it to you anyway," he says. "It's probably a good thing. Another secret I shouldn't give away; you're kind of my top pick there."

"Oh really?" Blaine gives him a warm, pleased smile that makes Artie feel good inside. He worries that Blaine isn't fitting into McKinley well enough (and if he's honest, Kurt's not doing enough to help Blaine fit in), so it's good he can do something to make Blaine feel proud of himself. It feels like he's making progress there.

Soon, Miss Pilsbury's words come back to him. You've seemed... kind of preoccupied...

Artie shakes his head. That was her being paranoid, nothing more. It is Miss Pilsbury, after all.

He coughs awkwardly. "Uh. So I still kind of need to go find Rachel and Mercedes..."

"Oh. Right." Blaine blinks in surprise. "Well, if it helps I think about ten minutes ago I saw Rachel heading to that IT room... next to the sewing club? I can't remember that think you do with the letters."

"ITC," Artie says. "Thanks. Well, see you."

There's a pause, as Artie finds himself not budging.

"I should go now, right?"