The Best Graduation Present

"Boom-bam, baby!" a voice echoed throughout the valley. Kuzco held up his diploma for all of his loyal subjects-turned-friends to see.

Pacha smiled proudly. "Now you see what all that hard work did for you?"

Kuzco made a sour face as he looked back at the diploma. "Yeah…for the record, I'm never doing 'hard work' ever again. That's what my guards are for!"

Chicha rolled her eyes. "Kuzco, I don't think you'll ever change." She then went back to washing her dishes.

"Hey, I gotta go!" Kuzco threw on his llama poncho and ran to the door. "I'm meeting up with Kronk and Malina for our par-tay!"

Chaka cooed, "Is this going to be the night you ask Malina to be your empress?"

Kuzco winked at her. "This night, last night, the night before…"

Chicha's eyes widened as she placed a dish aside. "You can't be serious. You mean you've asked her these last few nights?"

Kuzco gave her one of his 'duh' looks. "Well, yeah. I can't stop asking… Then she'll think I've lost interest, and she won't agree!"

Pacha raised an eyebrow. "Kuzco, I know that makes sense in your head…but the rest of us fail to make the connection."

"Ah," Kuzco stated matter-of-factly, "and that's why I'm the emperor and you guys are the regular people. Okay, bye!" He ran out the door hurriedly.

Chicha huffed in aggravation before returning to her dishes again.

Once he arrived at the location for the party, the almost-emperor looked around at all of the really cool decorations. Of course, everything bore his face or his trademarks. He saw Kronk talking to Bucky by the water fountain, and just on the other side of the fountain he spotted Malina.

"Hmm, choices, choices," he murmured. "Do I talk to Kronk, master of squirrel talk, first…or my hottie-hot-hottie?" He rubbed his head childishly and whined. "So many choices!"

Kronk overheard his minor rant and smiled up at him. "Kuzco! Hey, buddy!" He picked up his faithful companion and walked over to him.

"Well, guess that settles that," Kuzco said. He grinned up at his friend. "So, Kronk, buddy! How does it feel to be graduated?"

Kronk shrugged. "It's cool, you know? I mean…well, if it weren't for Yzma insisting I join school to scam you in the first place…where would I be?"

Kuzco stared at him in boredom and nodded. "Yeah, uh-huh… I see your point."

Kronk looked beyond Kuzco and spotted a masterpiece: the desert table. "I'll see ya later, little buddy. I have my eye on something sweet!" He ran off.

Kuzco smirked as he looked back at Malina, who was staring at her diploma. "Funny…so do I." He walked over and sat down beside her. "Evening, milady."

Malina turned to him sarcastically. "Oh, aren't you charming?" she asked playfully. "How do you feel, now that you've graduated?"

"I guess it's cool…" He smiled brightly. "Oh, who am I kidding? It's awesome! I'm movin' back into the palace tomorrow!" He did a dance of joy before regaining his composure. "Yeah, you didn't see that."

Malina giggled, "Whatever you say." She sighed as she looked down at her diploma. "I can't believe it's finally over… No more school, homework, cheerleading, or challenges… There's nothing to do."

Kuzco pondered slightly. "Well, you could always go to the university… I think they'd need a brain like you there."

She smiled thoughtfully. "You really think so?"

"Well, duh!" he teased enthusiastically. "You're so smart; they'd be stupid to turn you down." He paused. "Wait…"

Malina grinned softly. "I know what you mean. That's really sweet, Kuzco. Thank you."

Kuzco smiled. It was nice to be appreciated, especially by her. He contemplated on how to begin his next topic at hand: the empress thing. She'd turned him down before, but now that they'd gotten closer…maybe…

"Oh, I have something to ask you."

Malina crossed her legs and set her diploma aside. "Go ahead."

"Now, I know you don't really like talking about this, and you've said no before…but…" He sighed. "This isn't supposed to be hard; especially for me! I'm the emperor for crying out loud!"

Malina giggled and shook her head. "Kuzco, it's just me. Go on and ask your question."

He pulled something from his robe and handed it to her. "Malina, will you be my empress now?"

Malina looked at the ring that rested in her hand and smiled softly. Okay, so he wasn't that wonderful at proposals, but… She handed the ring back to him.

Kuzco's face fell as he stared down at the ring and then back at her.

Malina took his hand. "You're supposed to put it on my finger, silly."

Kuzco smiled happily and slipped the ring onto her 'wedding ring finger.' "Okay, my bad," he joked before looking back at her. "So…will you be my empress?"

Malina thought about this. Kuzco was pretty much her best friend. She'd found him self-centered all through senior year, and yet he had grown as a person. She loved what had happened to his ego in the last few months. Not to mention, any time a girl found any interest in the young emperor-in-training, she'd find herself becoming jealous. That was enough proof for her to realize that he'd somehow weaseled his way into her heart. And besides, he was so persistent in this! She then made her decision.

"Yes."

Kuzco blinked in rapid recession. "Yes!"

"Yes!" Malina cheered happily.

Kuzco jumped up and down. "Yay!" He took a hold of his friend's hands and twirled her around. "You've made me so happy, Malina!"

Malina ceased their twirling and looked up at him. "Whoa, now. It's great that we'll be getting…married…and everything. But you can't just marry me without getting to know me better."

Kuzco pointed at her. "You're right. You're from the village, I know that. And you're really nice, and smart, and pretty…"

Malina rolled her eyes. "It figures you'd only know that much. But I guess it's a start for someone who's always been too consumed in his own reflection…"

"Hey!" Kuzco pouted slightly. He then grinned slyly. "I also can't marry you without getting to do this."

Before Malina could ask him what that meant, or even protest, Kuzco kissed her. Okay, he'd been wanting to do that forever! And Malina had always avoided this kind of thing. But now that she was experiencing it…it wasn't all that bad.

Kuzco broke the kiss and stared down at his puzzled bride-to-be.

"What was that all about?" Malina asked curiously, still feeling that tingling sensation.

"How many people do you know that never kissed before their wedding?" he asked seriously. "I mean… That's just weird."

"So was kissing you," Malina retorted playfully, knowing he would get all defensive about it.

"Oh, that was so wrong! Don't diss the emperor!"

Malina giggled and tapped his forehead. "Emperor-to-be, remember?"

Kuzco smirked before stealing another kiss.

A few days later, the day of the wedding, Malina was very nervous. She had only had one "date" with Kuzco before, and that was just a picnic! She sighed as the servants pulled her hair back into an elegant bun and draped a veil over her eyes. Okay, not the dream wedding she'd always wanted, but still…

She smiled as her friends from school and her family gathered in the room to wish her well. It was good to be loved.

One of her friends, Moxie, elbowed her gently. "Are you sure you're ready for this, Malina?"

Malina started, "Well, that's a fine question to ask ten minutes before my wedding!" She giggled at Moxie's expression. "Don't worry, Moxie. I'm sure I'm doing the right thing."

The group dispersed as the bride stood up from her seat and sighed. "Well, it's now or never!" She put on a determined look and walked to the hallway with the guards escorting her.

Meanwhile, down the aisle, Kuzco stood with Kronk, his best man. It wasn't even a last minute decision! Kronk was actually a pretty good friend, so Kuzco had decided he'd get the honor of being in the wedding. Kronk tapped Kuzco on the shoulder.

"You feeling okay, Kuzco?" he asked in concern. "You're not feeling anxious or anything?"

Kuzco laughed. "The only thing I'm anxious about is becoming emperor again with Malina as my empress." He stared out at the large crowd that had gathered. "Oh, man, I hope I'm doing the right thing…"

When the music began playing, the crowd stood up. And pretty soon, everyone had made it down the aisle…except Malina. The crowd began whispering. It wasn't like a bride to be ten minutes late to her own wedding!

Kronk whispered to Kuzco, "What do you think is keeping her?"

Kuzco shrugged. "Probably last minute jitters."

When another ten minutes passed by, Kuzco started growing anxious. He decided he'd go check on her.

"I'll be right back," he told Kronk. "Stall them as long as you can." He crept down the stairs and out the back.

Kronk gulped as the eyes from the crowd fell upon him. He smiled nervously. "So…didja hear the one about the monkey and the goat?"

In the back, Kuzco looked around only to find Malina curled up on a velvet cushion. He smiled to himself, noting how pretty she looked in her wedding gown.

"Malina?"

Malina opened her eyes and gazed at him. "Kuzco…" She sat up and sighed. "I'm sorry, Kuzco… I thought I was ready, but I'm just not. I can't go out there and face all those people!"

Kuzco sat next to her on the cushion. "Hey, if you're not ready for this, we can always put it off."

"No… I want to marry you, really! But…I get…" She sighed as she took off her shoes. "Well, I get nervous when I'm facing all those people. They expect you to be perfect!"

"But I am perfect," he joked, making her smile and roll her eyes. "No one expects you to be anyone but Malina. Malina is perfect to them. They won't question anything you do when you're the empress. And if they do, I'll simply hafta beat them up!"

Malina giggled, feeling better now. She placed her shoes back on and stood up. "Thanks, Kuzco. I needed that." She gave him a hug.

Kuzco hugged her back. "Any time, Malina… Now come on. Let's go show those guys who's boss!"

They walked back into the cathedral together, only to see everyone laughing at their new stand up comedian. They blinked at each other before clearing their throats loudly.

Kronk paused and gasped. "Oh, they're here! Theme music!"

Hours later, after the ceremony, the newly weds told everyone goodbye and thanked Kronk for being the ultimate distraction of the night. Once they were alone in the palace, Malina smiled up at Kuzco.

"Thanks for making this a great day, Kuzco."

Kuzco grinned down at her. "You're welcome, my hottie-hot-hottie. Now, come on! We've got presents to unwrap!"

He pulled her down the hallway as they ran. An echo rang through the hallway… "Stop calling me that!"

The end!