CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

GRADUATING

~ MONTHS LATER ~

"Ladies and Gentleman, Heroes, Parents and Students, welcome to Senior Graduation. It's so hard to believe that the last time we were gathered here, we were watching our wonderful Seniors find their partners and now, they're choosing their Hero names and presenting their super suits to us. This is one of the most important days in the lives of your young Supers. We thank you for joining us on this momentous occasion." Principal Powers greeted, looking out at the large hall of people who had gathered to say goodbye to the Seniors. "Over the past four years, I have watched your teenagers learn and grow. We have had good moments, disastrous moments and memories we'll never forget. It is with a heavy heart I bid them goodbye but I know the world will cherish them in the same way we, as a school, did. Without further ado, I present our new Heroes."

Numerous Hero pairs wandered on to the stage and received their diploma before announcing their Hero names and presenting their flashy suits. Steven and Josie Stronghold sat in the front row next to Elizabeth and Jackson Livingston, all four of them proudly waiting for their favourite pair to make their appearance.

"Jason Livingston and Astrid Stronghold." Principal Powers announced.

Ignoring the teasing comments about being called by his name, Lash grabbed Astrid's hand and dragged the nervous girl on stage. Death gripping the hand of her boyfriend, Astrid forced herself to walk onto the stage. However, they had to separate when Lash had to stand on one side of the stage whilst Astrid stood on the other. Shaking Principal Powers' hand, she smiled when the diploma was in her hand. She had done it. Somehow she had survived Senior Year with far more special things than a diploma.

Transforming into his Hero suit, Lash's shirt and tie transformed into an outfit that was similar in style to Steven Stronghold's but was white with black stripes, black gloves and black boots. It was void of a cape and his arm stretched out to twirl Astrid on the other side of stage. Once she had stopped spinning, her sundress had been replaced with a Supersuit similar to her Aunt's but it was white with blue stripes and gloves. A red cape hung from her shoulders and she winked at her Aunt and Uncle as they saw she had kept the Stronghold colours. Using her intangibility, she escaped from Lash's arm before disappearing from view. Their superhero names appeared on the board as she re-appeared by his side.

'Jason Livingston – Lash.'

'Astrid Stronghold – Phantom.'

Grinning at their niece, Josie and Steven couldn't help but think about how proud her father would be if he had been alive to see her on that stage. Not only was she graduating top of her class, she had made friendships that would last a lifetime and had found it in her heart to forgive the Hero that had once been a Villain.

Samuel wouldn't have wanted her holding back on following her heart because of what had happened to him so nothing would've made him happier than seeing the woman his little girl had grown into.


As soon as the last Hero pair had been presented, the Seniors were allowed to mingle with their friends, family and teachers in the audience. The only downside was that they had to remain in their Supersuits.

"I'm so proud of you." Josie squealed, pulling her nice in for a congratulatory hug. "You look amazing in that suit. So does Lash."

"I'm so glad you kept the family colours." Steven said, patting her on the back. "Your father would've loved seeing you up there."

"Thank you. I'm so glad you both came. Is my mother-."

Before she had finished asking, the answer was written across the uncomfortable looks on her aunt and uncle's faces. Scoffing, Astrid doesn't know why she bothered asking. She knew her mother wasn't going to show up.

After her kidnapping, Jackson had been forced to inform Allison as procedure and the woman had flown off the handle. Muttering about powers being dangerous, she had tried her hardest to prevent Astrid from going back to school until Steven and Josie had been forced to intervene.

"Honey, we're so sorry."

"I'm just glad you're here. That's all I care about. You've been here for me since the beginning."

Barrelling into his cousin, Will smacked her excitedly on the arm as he congratulated her on graduating. Lifting up her cape, he commented on how badass she looked as Layla stood to the side, shaking her head at her boyfriend. Chuckling at her cousin's behaviour, Astrid ruffled his hair affectionately before pushing him off her so that she could go talk to Lash.

Wrapping an arm around his girlfriend's shoulder, the pair began heading for Speed and Natalia (who were stood with Warren and his partner) when they were stopped by Principal Powers gaining everyone's attention once more.

"As I said earlier, the world is eagerly awaiting our graduates but some of them have already done a great service to the public. A few months ago, another student abducted one of our beloved Seniors. All by themselves, three of her friends had managed to locate her and save her, bringing the villainous student into custody within the space of two days. They searched relentlessly, without sleep and food until they were reunited with her. Penny Lent was taken to Solitary and our Senior was returned home safely. For their extraordinary acts of bravery and heroism, I would like to present these three Heroes with awards."

Smirking at her three friends, she teased them about having to be put back into the spotlight. Nudging her boyfriend in the ribs, she pointed out that she had told him he was a true Hero and now everyone else was acknowledging it as well. Rolling his eyes, Lash jabbed her in the side to stop her teasing and smirked when she giggled and squirmed away from him.

"Could Jason Livingston, Michael Stevens and Natalia Rush join me on the stage, please?"

Giggling as Lash, Speed and Nat shuffled awkwardly onto the stage, she clapped the loudest when each of them received a trophy from the Headmaster. Each of them definitely deserved it and she was glad that everyone else was finally seeing them the way she did. No longer were Speed and Lash regarded with fear and disgust, they were as much a Hero as everyone else.

After commending the three Heroes for the bravery, Principal Powers called out for Astrid before demanding that the girl return to view when the shock of her name caused her to vanish.

"Could you come up here, please? I would like to apologise for the torture you underwent whilst kidnapped by Penny Lent. We honestly believed that, like Jason and Michael here, she would conform to the norms of being a Hero. However, on behalf of the faculty here at Sky High, we would like to award with you a medal recognising the actions you took when our cafeteria wall exploded. You rushed to heal your fellow students until you passed out from exhaustion but you never faltered in your decision to do so. You possess the true qualities of a Hero and it's been an honour to teach you."

Ignoring the smug looks on her friend's faces as they got payback for her teasing earlier, Astrid shook the Principal's hand and thanked her. Forcing the four Heroes together, Principal Powers smiled as a photo was taken of the foursome.

Jumping down from the stage, the four of them had a new sense of Heroism in them. Leaving Sky High had seemed terrifying but they knew they were prepared for whatever life threw at them.


"After this, I am going home and sleeping off the last few months. Screw being a Hero, I've had enough excitement to last me a lifetime." Natalia groaned as the four Heroes clambered off the bus and towards Lash's house where they would be staying the night.

Elizabeth was throwing them a celebratory barbecue before allowing the four of them to spend the night downstairs watching films and eating junk food until they passed out. Arms around each other's shoulders, the worn out girls dragged themselves down the path.

"I couldn't agree with you more." Astrid moaned, staggering slightly, which caused Natalia to also stumble forwards.

"Remind me again why we let them make the decisions?" Speed asked, looking at the two girls that were tilting towards the ground.

"Because we'd probably be dead without them." Lash stated honestly, using his powers to reach the pair of them and pull them back before they faceplanted the pavement.

Unlocking the door to his house, Lash allowed Speed and Natalia to enter the quiet home first. His parents had returned to work after the ceremony and wouldn't be returning until later so they had some time to themselves before family and friends surrounded them.

Eager to claim the comfy armchairs, Speed and Natalia raced each other inside, dropping their night bags off in Lash's room first. Hanging back outside, Astrid glanced uneasily at her own house.

"Maybe you should go over there for a bit. We'll wait for you." Lash reassured, taking the bag out of his girlfriend's hand.

Astrid shook her head but her eyes didn't move from her front door.

"I'm sure she'd love to hear about your medal." Lash prodded but made sure not to overstep too much.

"If she cared, she'd have been there. She wasn't." Astrid said bitterly. "Anyway, she'll hear about it from my Aunt and I highly doubt she wants to hear about be getting a medal for using my powers. Let's just go and have fun."

Jumping on her boyfriend's back, she forced him forwards into the house, kissing his neck as he laughed. Stood in the living room window, Allison Stronghold watched her daughter walk away from her.


Stuffed full of hot dogs and burgers, the four graduated Heroes had tears strolling down their cheeks as they watched Elizabeth attempt to wine-drunkenly twerk. Now that high school was over, they were entitled to some free time where they could just be like regular teenagers until the time came for them to become defenders of Earth.

Snuggling up to her boyfriend as she watched his father try and prevent his wife from scarring the kids, Astrid whispered in his ear. "I love you, Lash. No matter what the future brings, you will always be my Hero."

"I may be your Hero but you're my saviour. You allowed me to redeem myself and I will always be by your side."

Sharing a kiss, they were interrupted by Natalia tackling the pair of them to the floor. Collapsing into a heap of twisted limbs, the four graduates spent the rest of the night eating junk food, dancing along to music and listening to embarrassing stories of Lash's childhood. After the course of the year, they had become a team.

Now they were a family.