Author's Note: Yes, I know – overused plot! But I'm new at writing St. Berry! And this still has so much potential! Fuck, this ended up longer than I planned!

Summary: Rachel's refusal to give in to the ultimatum leads her, Puck and Santana to their destinies.

there's no one like you baby

Kurt is saying "Everyone is replaceable, Rachel. Even you", andshe can't believe in her own ears. Those four teens she believed were her friends, her team mates, are making her choose between her new boyfriend and them? And they dare to say she's replaceable? A bitter resentment bubbles inside her, but is then replaced by a sense of freedom, because this actually makes the decision she has been postponing for years now much easier to make.

Looking at Kurt, Mercedes, Artie and Tina with a little bit of sympathy, she smiles at them, because she finally has her decision made for her, the perfect decision – and the perfect timing. Sure, she'll miss Noah and Santana, but she for sure won't miss Kurt and Mercedes whining when she's given the solos she deserves, the slushies being thrown in her face and Mr. Schue's immediate dismissal of her ideas. Having Jesse in Carmel is just a plus for her love life. Vocal Adrenaline is much better for her as a diva in training.

"Fine then", she says flippantly, walking out of the choir room but still facing them. Mercedes smiles pleased that she has seen things their way and believes Rachel will finally do what they want – what's best for the team instead of what's best for her. But then Rachel opens her mouth and what she says shouldn't come as surprise, but it does. "Good luck trying to win Regionals without me". She says, and Mercedes has a bad feeling about this, because Rachel seems confident, assured, in a way that she hasn't ever been.

Kurt sighs exasperated. "Here she goes quitting again", he mocks, and Mercedes' bad feeling about this increases because Rachel doesn't flinch – she doesn't look hurt or disappointed. She just stands there in front of them and smiles, and Mercedes has to fight back the urge to apologize, because somehow she feels this won't end up pretty.

"Oh, do not worry. I'm not just quitting, Kurt", Rachel says with a pleasant smile. "I'm transferring".

Artie and Tina gasp in shock, Kurt's jaw drops to the floor and Mercedes grimaces because, apparently, she's right. Rachel has made her mind to leave McKinley and, while they sure can find someone to fill her spot, Rachel can only go to one school – the one school whose glee club is led by her new boyfriend. "T-transferring?" Tina stutters, and Rachel's smile grows.

"Yes, I have a spot waiting for me on Carmel for years now. I was just, you know, postponing taking it. I thought Glee was a reason strong enough for me to stay, but since you guys – and Finn, I'm guessing – have decided to run my life for me, I noticed I can do whatever I want, whatever pleases me. In Carmel, I'll be adored, unlike here where everyone hates me because I'm ambitious and talented. So, have fun sharing my solos, and, once again, good luck trying to beat Vocal Adrenaline without me".

Mercedes grimaces. This didn't turn at all like they planned.

Rachel turns on her heels and leaves the choir room, pulling out her cell phone. She quickly finds Jesse's number (she knows he has free period right now) and presses dial. He answers quickly. "What's wrong, baby? Something happened? You never call during school hours…" His voice is concerned, and she smiles widely. They're together for a few days, but they already know each other so well.

"Jesse, I was wondering, is there any policy in Carmel against students dating?" She asks casually, passing by Noah and Santana who frown at her. Noah's phone beeps and he pulls it out, eyes nearly popping out of its sockets when he reads the text before roaming to her. She immediately knows what it reads and nods confirming. He whispers to Santana and she smirks, impressed.

"Not that I know, Rach, and even if there were, you know students don't care about it. I most certainly don't". He says, and she can see he doesn't understand the reasons for so many questions. "Why are you asking?"

"Well, darling…" She bites her lower lip with a smile, Santana and Noah falling in step with her. "Turns out that Carmel will have a brand new student later today, and hopefully Vocal Adrenaline will have a new member as well".

He's silent after a moment, and then says slowly, "You're transferring? To Carmel? What happened, Rach?"

She freezes for a moment and asks with a tiny voice, "You don't want me to study at the same school you do?" She asks, and he scoffs.

"Of course I do, baby, don't be foolish – but I dropped you off not four hours ago. What happened, Rachel?"

She sighs. "What do you think?"

Jesse is silent for a long moment, and then sighs. "They've found out about me", he says quietly, and he doesn't need her to answer, because he knows what the gentile in her glee club must have asked of her. "And they gave you an ultimatum, didn't they?" She doesn't reply – she doesn't have to, she knows he knows – and he sighs again. "Your paperwork is ready?"

"Yes. Jesse…"

"I'll schedule an audition for you with Shelby, baby, don't worry. You'll do wonderfully – and I'll finally have a female lead with enough talent to keep up with me". She can feel his excitement and it makes her even more certain of her decision. "It'll be great, baby".

"I know", she chirps happily. "I'm so excited, Jesse. Talk to you later, okay?" She clicks her phone shut and turns to look at Noah and Santana. "Yes. How can I help you?"

"You've finally made you mind, bitch?" Santana says, fondly and proudly. Rachel smiles back and nods, and Santana notices she has never seen this Rachel – this assured, proud, overjoyed girl, who is finally in peace. Santana and Rachel have been friends for a long time, and the Latina is relieved to see Rachel finally standing up for those trying to tear her down. "I'm so proud of you, Rach", she whispers, and Rachel's eyes well up with tears. She and Santana hug and not that distant she can hear Noah speaking on the phone.

"Andrew? It's Noah. She's made it". His eyes have a thin veil of tears when they meet Rachel's. "Rachel Berry is leaving for Carmel".

She is cleaning up her locker and telling the ultimatum fiasco issued by Kurt, Mercedes, Artie and Tina to Noah and Santana who are standing nearby, while her fathers are taking care of paperwork, when Mike, Matt and Brittany all rush towards them. "Rach!" Mike pants, leaning down, hands against his knees as he catches his breath. "Is it true?" He asks, and Rachel looks at the three of them sadly.

"Yes", she says. "Yes, I am leaving McKinley". A sobbing Brittany rushes forward and engulfs Rachel in a tight hug, crying against her shoulder. Rachel pats her shoulder awkwardly, and Santana huffs, stepping forward and gently prying Brittany from Rachel.

"Stop crying, Brit, B is not dying, she's just switching schools", Noah says quietly, and then looks at Mike and Matt, who have Rachel sandwiched between them. "It was always a possibility. Rachel just never chose to tell you guys about it".

Andrew and Eli Berry show up at the hall, and smile at her daughter and her friends. Matt and Mike step aside with a last simultaneous squeeze at her; Eli wraps his arm around her shoulder and says, "All cleared up, doll". Brittany breaks into a new round of sobs, and Rachel hugs her first. Santana goes next, then Mike and Matt and finally, Noah. It's only when she is in Noah's arms that a little bit of tears pool in her eyelids.

He squeezes her tight and says, "It's going to fucking suck without you, Rach". She chuckles at him and stands in her tiptoes to press a kiss to his jaw. He slides a finger along her face and smiles softly. "Go kick some feeling into those automatons in Vocal Adrenaline, will ya?" She nods and, with a flounce, it's over.

Rachel Berry walks away from William McKinley High School, with Noah Puckerman, Santana Lopez, Brittany Pierce, Mike Chang and Matt Rutherford watching as she leaves. Matt sighs and says what they're all thinking. "We've fucked at regionals".

They all walk to the choir room, where Artie, Tina, Finn, Mercedes, Kurt and Quinn are gathered. Quinn frowns because they're five minutes shy from practice and still no sign from Rachel – and Rachel is never, ever late. "Have you guys seen Rachel?" She asks Brittany and Santana, and is startled when Brittany breaks down in tears again. She takes notice of their somber faces, and grows worried. "What's wrong?"

"Rachel left", Matt says quietly, and Quinn laughs. Finn is dumbfounded.

"Stop joking, Matt, I'm serious!" She says, giggling and not noticing the way Mercedes and Tina flinch.

"It's fucking true, Q. Ask the stupider siblings of Dumb and Dumber what they told Rachel to do this morning", Santana snaps with a glare at Mercedes who shrinks back guiltily. Quinn turns curiously at Finn, an eyebrow lifted in question, but he looks clueless. She turns to Kurt and he sighs.

"Rachel was dating Jesse St. James, from Vocal Adrenaline. We just told them to break it up or else we'd all quit". Quinn gasps and Finn is stunned, and Kurt raises his hands defensively. "I never thought she'd transfer to Carmel, okay?" He snaps.

"That's the problem, Hummel. You never fucking think", Puck snaps.

"Rachel went to Carmel? She quit?" Quinn says shocked, and falls back against her seat. "Vocal Adrenaline now has Jesse and Rachel. We're doomed".

Jesse meets Rachel in her house, glowing with joy. He can't believe she actually did it – she actually transferred to Carmel! Of course, he's aware of her spot in Carmel (she's told him of it in their first date, last Friday), but then she seemed so sure that she belonged in McKinley with New Directions that he's still reeling from her sudden change of mind. She skips next to him with a big smile, and he notices the change in her demeanor.

Rachel is more relaxed, more secure, more herself – this is not the same nervous, starstruck girl that he met a week ago. This is a star in the making, a woman with talent to equal his own, and this new side of her – this glowing happiness of who took control of her life in her own hands and did as she pleased, is very, very sexy. He pulls her to him and kisses her passionately, and she giggles before wrapping her arms around his neck and melting against him. "I can't believe you actually did it!" He whispers when they break apart for air (air is overrated – he'll die a happy man if death came from Rachel Berry's kisses).

She giggles and presses a soft kiss against his lip, grinning. "I had a choice to make. And I made. I chose you, I chose us, but first and foremost I chose me, my talent, my future, my life. And it feels… It's exhilarating! Empowering!" She giggles once again, and he chuckles along with her, because her laughter is contagious. "C'mon, daddy and dad are making dinner, they told me to ask you to join us".

And so that's how Jesse St. James meets Andrew and Eli Berry. He has never seen her happier, and her fathers are immediately charmed. The next morning Jesse helps Rachel enroll at Carmel, but before he can actually walk her to her class, that goon, Finn Hudson, finds them. "Rachel! Thank God I've found you!" He screams, and Rachel seems shocked and upset that he is here. Jesse wraps an arm around her waist and she puts on a show face.

"Finn. What a… surprise. What are you doing here?" She asks dryly, but Finn doesn't seem to realize and opens a big, toothy grin at her.

"I've come to bring you home. C'mon, Rach, quit the joking. It's not fun anymore".

Rachel is slack-jawed and Jesse raises his eyebrows because, seriously? Not even Rachel is that dramatic. "Finn…" She sighs impatiently. "You and the others forced me to choose. So I did – I chose me. I'm out of McKinley. Have a good morning and see you at regionals. Or not", she shrugs and tugs at Jesse's hand, leaving a completely dumbfounded Finn in her wake.

Jesse drops her off at her classroom and before going to his makes a stop at Shelby Corcoran's office. She's thrilled and excited to learn that Rachel Berry – the Rachel Berry, from sectionals – wants to join Vocal Adrenaline. Jesse smiles – a real smile, Shelby notices – and suggests that Rachel will be a perfect female lead. Shelby laughs and makes no promises, setting up Rachel's audition for the next morning.

Of course, Rachel's audition is a success. She sings 'Thank God I've Found You', with her eyes on Jesse and a bright smile on her face. Shelby is impressed.

Three months fly by Lima, Ohio. The glee club of William McKinley High School has a brand new member, Sam Evans. The boy sings decently but makes the numbers uneven – seven boys and five girls – and they still don't have a strong, fierce female lead. Mercedes, Tina and Santana all share the solos, but now they are keenly aware of how Rachel was important. She was pure talent and passion and could sing everything from showtunes to old rock and power ballads. Puck and Santana refuse to do anything more than carry their own weight, still pissed with those involved in sending Rachel away.

Rachel herself, however, blossoms under Shelby Corcoran's strict tutelage. Two weeks after Rachel enrolls in Carmel and successfully auditions to Vocal Adrenaline, the fact that Shelby is her mother comes to light, and after a long and emotional conversation Shelby and Rachel come to the agreement that they're keeping their bond outside the auditorium. Rachel gives her best and Shelby is harder on her than she is with the other performers, but little by little Rachel earns respect, admiration and the position of female lead with Jesse.

Her relationship with Jesse is serious and committed and everything Rachel always dreamed but always feared she would never have. It comes to the point where the parents – Andrew and Eli and Shelby – start dreaming of a wedding and grandbabies, and at school Rachel is jokingly called Mrs. St. James. Even Jesse takes on the nickname and playfully calls her wifey.

She introduces Jesse to Puck a month into their relationship, and they bond over their mutual love of Queen and her. Santana meets him a week after Puck and teasingly names their coupling St. Berry. New Directions and Vocal Adrenaline are never mentioned, but Puck once mentions he had to beat Finn up for trying sex Santana up. Rachel is shocked and Jesse laughs, Santana makes a gagging noise and Noah smirks. Rachel is relieved that her best friends and her boyfriend get along great.

Her life, she decides, is perfection, and she has Mercedes, Kurt, Artie and Tina to thank for that.

The opportunity arises at Regionals. Rachel and Jesse are talking quietly at the common area when New Directions arrives. She smiles politely but widely at everyone, Brittany rushing forward to hug her, with Mike and Matt behind her, and Noah and Santana join right after. Mr. Schue smiles at her and waves, and she tugs Jesse towards them. Sam, Quinn, Finn, Artie, Tina, Kurt and Mercedes are together in a huddle quite apart from the small circle surrounding Rachel.

"New Directions, meet Jesse St. James", she introduces proudly, "my boyfriend and male lead of Vocal Adrenaline. Jesse", she squeezes his hand lovingly, "meet New Directions", she smiles fondly at her former team mates. They all nod or say 'hey', but in the end it's the same little group: Noah, Santana, Brittany, Mike, Matt, Jesse and Rachel, talking and laughing and making plans for summer. Rachel hates planning for summer because she knows Jesse is moving to LA – and she wants to delay the pain of being without him. Santana notices she's with her show face on and changes the subject quickly.

"Jesse! Mrs. St. James! Coach Corcoran is calling!" Andrea calls out for them, and everyone (but Puck and Santana, that is) reacts to Rachel being called Mrs. St. James. Puck and Santana find it hysterical and break into laughter, Rachel giggling and Jesse chuckling. Rachel can sense Quinn, Kurt, Mercedes and Tina zeroing in her hands in search of a ring, and with a smile she approaches them.

"No, I'm not married. It's a nickname my friends at school gave me because Jesse and I are together every available time; we're like an old married couple already", she says and impulsively hugs Tina, Artie and Mercedes. She smiles at Quinn and puts a hand on her belly. "When is this beautiful baby girl supposed to be born? You look stunning, Quinn". She stops in front of Sam and smiles. "Hi. I'm Rachel. You must be Sam. I've heard quite a lot from you". Puck snorts behind her and she giggles.

"Rachel", Jesse says softly, "Shelby will throw a fit if we stay here any longer. Not even being her daughter will save you from hearing a very long lecture".

Rachel nods ignoring the perplexed looks of everyone and smiles at the four that led her to her path. "I'd like to thank you for making me choose. It was the best thing you could ever do for me. It led me to true happiness, to the realization of my high school dreams, to the love of my life and soulmate. And, for everything that I've won thanks to that ultimatum – my mother, my boyfriend, my place in Vocal Adrenaline – I am truly grateful to you guys".

An older, more sophisticated version of Rachel appears on the hall, her voice very demanding. "Rachel Barbara Berry! Jesse Jonathan St. James! Dressing room, now!" She barks, and Jesse flinches, but Rachel giggles and they run towards her. Jesse wraps an arm around Rachel's waist and whispers something in her ear and she laughs and kisses him.

The ten members of New Directions are left stunned. It's like they've just met a whole new Rachel. Puck and Santana exchange a grin, proud of their best friend.

Vocal Adrenaline, of course, wins. Rachel has proved to be quite the adition to the team, her passion and drive injecting the much-needed shot of emotion that Carmel's glee club had previously been missing. Her version of 'Total Eclipse of the Heart', a duet with Jesse, is heartbreaking but hopeful at the same time, the air around the lead couple sizzling with chemistry and love. They also do 'Another One Bites The Dust' with a touch of funk. Puck and Santana watch from the wings grinning like proud siblings, Shelby looking on at her daughter with unspeakable joy.

New Directions is runner up, and Rachel smiles widely at them before being hoisted in the air next to Jesse, both holding the trophy. Puck and Santana are swept into their celebration, and Jesse laughs when an enthusiastic Puck kisses Rachel on the lips. She blushes fiercely but laughs, and Santana ends up pecking Rachel too, making the boys whoop. The Vocal Adrenaline kids begin teasing Rachel and Jesse, and the New Directions kids are shocked at how… how normal Rachel is.

It turns out to be an amazing night for Rachel. Not only does she win Regionals with her boyfriend under her mother's regency, but she and Jesse share their first time together. It's erotic, romantic and all-around perfect. She and Jesse are recuperating from their lovemaking when Rachel's phone rings.

It's Noah – Beth is in the world, and he has decided he wants Shelby to adopt her.

And so Elizabeth Noelle Corcoran joins the family. Quinn decides on a closed-up adoption. Puck goes with an open one since, he reasons, he'll see her all the time, him being both Jesse's and Rachel's best friend. Jesse watches Rachel with the baby and plans. Five years from now when they're both Broadway stars, he decides, he'll propose.

When Jesse graduates, the Berry-Corcoran family is there cheering him on, Rachel with a big proud smile on her face, along with Puck and Santana. After Jesse is given his diploma and his final performance of 'To Sir With Love' with Vocal Adrenaline (Rachel never lets go of his hand during it), the extended clan gathers around a festive dinner at the Berry house, and Shelby, Andrew and Eli make an announcement.

When Jesse moves to California, they say, the entire family will tag along. Rachel is shocked but thrilled, as is Jesse. Santana and Puck are torn between the joy of seeing Rachel happy and the heartbreak of her move. They learn, however, that once friends with Rachel, you become an honorary member of the family: Shelby, Andrew and Eli notice how upset they are of being split (Rachel and Santana are holding hands, Jesse and Puck with arms around their girlfriends' waists) and, in the end, Puck and Santana will join them in the move. Anne Puckerman knows how close Rachel and her son are, and knows the Berry family will keep him in line in California. Santana's aunt always wanted to give her niece a blank slate in another place, and she is absolutely nuts for Rachel, so she gives her the okay.

And so Andrew and Eli buy a large house with rooms enough for the four teens, Shelby and Beth. The four teens decide to tell the news of their big move only for their closest friends. The last week of August finds Brittany, Mike, Matt, Puck, Santana and Jesse spending basically every waking moment together. When it's time for them to leave, Rachel invites them all for breaks and holidays over at California, and they promise to be there.

The new school year starts and Jesse settles into blissful life with his family. Rachel decides it's time for a makeover, something Santana takes to like ducks to water, and the animal sweaters are given away (Santana wants to do the same to the miniskirts but Jesse puts his foot down – and so the skirts stay). Santana drops the bitchy, slutty persona and is more open and friendly. Puck jumps headfirst on his studies because even a badass needs a college diploma, and also leaves his manwhore ways in Lima. All three audition and join their school's glee club. Puck tries out for the football team and gets in. Santana tries out for the cheerleading squad and gets in. Rachel joins the drama club. All four teens have pretty tight schedules, but they make each other a priority – week nights are reserved for homework together, weekend days are for family and nights for double dates.

They get a weekly update on life in Lima from Brittany. Apparently, a foreign exchange student named Sunshine Corazon joins and fills in Rachel's long vacant position of female lead. A boy named Blaine transfers from Dalton Academy and is Kurt's new boyfriend. Quinn and Finn are finally back together, Artie is dating Brittany (Santana and Rachel gasp at this), Mercedes and Matt started dating shortly after their move to LA and Sam is slowly romancing Sunshine.

Five years down the road find the Berry-St. James-Corcoran-Puckerman-Lopez household pretty much the same. The only visible changes are the rings in Rachel's and Santana's fingers. Puck gave Santana a commitment ring after their high-school graduation, four years previously. She is an UCLA student (with Rachel and Puck), majoring in Law. Rachel is a Drama major with minor in Music, and engaged to Jesse since the previous year (he promised to himself he would propose to her in five years. And so he did, with epic romance). Puck is studying Architecture and is the self-appointed best man in the future Berry-St. James wedding.

Brittany, Mike, Tina and Matt (Dance, Fashion and Med school respectively) all join the foursome in California, bringing news from those they left behind. Finn and Quinn are married and studying at Ohio State. Kurt and Blaine are in New York, Kurt in Tisch, Blaine in NYU. Sunshine is back at Philippines. Sam and Mercedes are down in Florida.

Jesse auditions for a promising pilot and is approved. The pilot is a success and Jesse is praised for his acting. Rachel almost bursts with pride at her boyfriend. Shelby, Andrew and Eli break a champagne open and they toast to their son-in-law-to-be's success. Soon the younger photos come out, and Rachel finds her last Thunderclap. She, Puck and Santana stare at their photo. Meanwhile, Jesse finds his own yearbrook from the year before Rachel stormed into his life, and stares at his picture with Vocal Adrenaline.

They've come a long way from the obnoxious diva, arrogant male lead, slutty cheerleader and BAMF footballer. With each other by their sides, they know they can face the world, head on. When Mercedes, Kurt, Artie and Tina gave Rachel the choice between New Directions and Jesse, they've altered not only Rachel's destiny. They've saved Puck and Santana from themselves, and cemented their romantic and friendly bonds.