A/N: This is it! My God! It's almost over! God, it's been a wild ride! I love every single one of you wonderful reviewers! You have just made his whole process so much easier and been so kind! I love you all and I so hope you will continue to be loyal to my stories! There may be a sequel. MIGHT. I'm not sure yet and I definitely can't make any promises as to whether I'll go through with it or not but just be looking out for it. :D In other news…I'm thinking of maybe doing an "Angel's Diary" thing. Chapter 16 (I think it was sixteen, anyway) was a little kinda-sorta experiment with doing that. Enjoy the last chapter and once again thank you so much to everyone! I love you all and you are so great and thank you all for your thoughtful and encouraging reviews!

Song of the Week (The last one, OMG): My Life Would Suck Without You – Kelly Clarkson. I'm probably gonna do a songfic on this…yup. Probably.

Disclaimer: Last disclaimer of the story! Let's make it an awesome one. I don't own RENT; Jonathon Larson does. But I do own all my own hope that it installed in me and I hope everyone who sees this movie/musical will experience the same feelings. Have a nice day, and Larson bless.

Epilogue: Graduation

Thomas Collins groaned and sat up slowly, rubbing his eyes and glaring at the light streaming in through his bedroom window, outside of which a chipmunk was perched on a long branch of the oak tree which blocked half his window with it's voluminous green leaves. The chipmunk squeaked at the site of movement in the room it had been staring into and scampered into some unseen region of the tree.

Today was the day. Graduation; he was technically no longer a high school senior, but a freshman at New York University. He'd gotten accepted at many other schools, Stanford and MIT among them, but it just wouldn't do to be so far away. Only one day of school left, and it was all going to be over.

Suzan peeked her head in the room and smiled at her son, murmuring, "Hey, baby. Time to wake up; big day today, huh?"

"Yeah…," Collins grunted, rolling out of bed, "big day…"

"I ironed your robe," Suzan offered, holding up the blue graduation robe and hat. She hung them on the door and smiled at her son. He blinked back at her and she shook her head, entering the room and perching on one corner of his bed. "What's on your mind, baby? What're you thinking?"

Collins shook his head and shrugged, at a loss for words. "I guess…I don't wanna…"

"You don't wanna be a grownup, hm?" chuckled Suzan, shaking her head. "We all have to grow up, Tom."

"It's not that," he sighed. "I'm actually excited to get out there, but…not without…"

"You'll miss them," chuckled Suzan. "You miss her. But that's no reason to postpone your whole life. I've said it before, Tom…you're going to look back on this and realize they were good times, but it was just the start."

Collins rolled his eyes. "I knew you wouldn't understand. Just…I need to shower Mom, okay?"

"Okay, that wasn't the best way to put that," consented Suzan, "that girl is good for you. And you're good for her."

"I'm just so afraid that when I go away, I'll loose her," murmured Collins. "These sorts of things never work…"

"Then don't do anything stupid, boy!" cried Suzan, laughing, "it's as simple as that! And as for Angel…well that girl's been miserable for so long I don't think she'd do anything to lose you if her life depended on it! You've been her ground to stand on through everything she's gone through this year. And honestly, it's not like you're goin' outta state. Scarsdale is half an hour's drive from the city and gas is cheap."

With this statement came the realization that he'd been thinking like a fool and Collins chuckled at himself. "Okay, Mom. I see what you mean. But really…I've gotta get dressed."

"There," Suzan sighed, pinching his cheek. "That's my boy." She then soured and muttered, "Oh dear God…what will I have to go through with Jessica when she's your age…?" before slipping out of the room while still contemplating this bleak future.

At seven-thirty, Roger arrived and agreed to a photo op, initiated by Caroline and Grams in which he and Collins struck all the ridicules poses they could think of. Finally their elders had had enough and herded them out to the car.

At school, they met Joanne in the front, already in her blue robes. Maureen was with her and hugged the anarchist and rocker for long periods of time, trying to hold back untimely tears and turning to Joanne in time to let out a wail and hang off her girlfriend. Joanne gave them the standard 'help me' look as she patted Maureen's back and attempted to hush her.

"Maureen's having a queen moment," trilled Collins' favorite sound behind them. He turned to see Angel and Mimi walking up the sidewalk. Marcella followed behind, and Abuela a little farther back, of course with the camera around her neck. The first thing she did was ask for more pictures, but Angel convinced her to please wait for Mark and Tony to show up so they could take a group picture with all four of the graduates of their group.

"Ang, baby, come with me for a sec, okay?" Collins requested, tugging on his boyfriend's hand. Angel nodded and followed Collins to a spot a little beyond their table under the tree, to a little clearing surrounded by trees. It wasn't far enough to drown out the voices of the school yard, but they weren't visible and could talk in private.

"What do you need?" giggled Angel as Collins ceased in his pulling her along and stopped abruptly, spinning to face her.

"First, c'mere," he murmured, and took her lips in a passionate kiss which had her gasping and rather disoriented. "Second…you know I love you, right?"

"Of course," she replied, furrowing her brows. "When was the last time you told me that? Yesterday? Not much has changed since that, I was pretty sure."

Collins laughed. "I know. I just never get tired of telling you that."

"And I never get tired of hearing it," Angel murmured, pecking his lips again. "Was that all you wanted?"

"Not exactly," Collins replied, shaking his head. "Uh…I'm not really sure if I'm doing this right, but just know I'm trying, okay?"

Not yet worried, though getting there, Angel simply nodded and watched as Collins became more and more flustered by the second. "I'm with you. Out with it."

"Okay…," Collins cleared his throat, took something out of his pocket, and knelt to one knee. Angel gasped, shaking her head.

"Oh, baby…," Angel whispered. "I love you so much but I…I can't be engaged at seventeen. If we were a year older and this was my graduation, you have no idea how…ecstatic I'd be but…"

"Hear me out," Collins insisted, still smiling despite Angel's words. "It's a promise ring. There's a matching engagement ring and they were my mom's so I had to have it resized because my mom's fingers are smaller than your's but –"

"Tom, you're rambling," giggled Angel.

"My plan," continued Collins "is to propose to you, in this same spot, exactly one year from now. When you're eighteen and I'm nineteen and we can live for ourselves. And in return, I promise myself to you. So…?"

Angel bit her lip, smiled, and flew at him. "Yes. I promise!"

Collins laughed and lay with her on the vegetation-covered ground for a moment and murmured, "In a few years, every thing will be better. Something's gotta give."

"Something's gotta," came Angel's whispered agreement. "And then…we can stay in bed one morning and just kiss, right?"

"Right," Collins laughed, surprised she'd remembered the promise from so long ago.

"Yo! Lovebirds! Come out wherever you are; they need the graduates in the gym and if we're gonna get seats we'd better hurry, 'cuz the stadium's filling up fast!"

'Mimi, you ruin everything', Angel decided that moment. She got up and pulled Collins to his feet. She started to walk off, before Collins grabbed her hand and slid the ring on. Giggling, Angel kissed him again and ran ahead to join Mimi. Her fellow Latina raised a brow and Angel just shrugged, pulling her lips into that universal 'I don't know' smirk. Mimi just shook her head and hopped up and down as they walked across the school yard and through the West parking lot to the football stadium. "I'm so excited, Chica!"

"Okay, calm down!" Angel cried, giggling. "I get that you're excited for Roger but really, Chica! It's not like you're one of the graduates!"

"I'ma datin' a college man, now!" Mimi exclaimed and Angel nearly fell over with laughter. Roger had surprised them all by actually applying for a few colleges. The only one he'd gotten accepted to was a small community college called Barker, but that was better than nothing. He was going for an associate's degree in liberal arts which was, again, better than nothing.

"You can't be serious," Angel sighed, raising a jokingly exasperated brow and shaking her head.

"Well I am!" Mimi cried, giggling. "And you are too! Feel proud of your accomplishments, Angel! Uh…what's on your finger?"

Angel blushed and tucked her hand behind her back.

"Oh no, girl! You're tellin' me!" she cried, grabbing Angel's hand. She gasped, staring at Angel with a gaping mouth. "You're really…?"

"No, not exactly," Angel informed, repossessing her hand from Mimi. "It's just a promise ring. His mom still has the actual engagement ring… I get the weird feeling I'm getting tested."

"Well, you'll pass obviously so there's nothing to worry about," Mimi insisted and then jumped at Angel, tackling her around the waist and crying, "congratulations on your kinda-sorta engagement! Which might as well be an engagement since that's your ring finger and everyone's gonna know who it's from and what it means! You're practically a married woman now, Ang! I wanna be your maid of honor…!"

"Mimi!" Angel laughed, prying her best friend away from her. "It's, like, two years away! We have plenty of time to plan for that! Let's just work up to graduating before we take the next big leap. Now come on, our guys are graduating today and I'll be God damned if I miss it!"

Mimi laughed and followed Angel into the line for the Stadium, and found where everyone else was sitting.

"…Without further ado, let's bring out our graduating class!"

This was the band's queue and they started up 'Pomp and Circumstance' as the signal for the seniors to start marching in from the locker rooms. Two abreast, they filed into the many assembled chairs on the field, facing away from the bleachers in front of the hastily-erected stage. Collins walked with Benny Coffin on his left and Roger right in back of him. The rocker had a girl named Alexi-something walking beside him.

It took a whole twelve minutes for everyone to get in the stadium, durring which all the seniors had to remain standing, shuffling their feet. Finally, the band stopped (much to the relief of the woodwind and brass players, whom had just about died playing for so long without a break) and graduating members of it scrambled to find their seats while everyone else was told to sit down with a sweeping gesture from the principal, Mr. Harlan. Collins was now right between Benny and Alexi-something with Roger on the other side of her and Tony on the far end of the row. The Italian leaned around Alexi-something-with-a-D and waved. Collins waved back and craned his head around, searching for Joanne. He found her sitting a few rows back and a three people over.

The principal reappeared and said a few more words before straightening as though about to make a large, important announcement. "Now, your commencement speaker; The Mayor of Scarsdale, Mr. Dwight Dawson."

Everyone clapped for the large African-American who stepped onto the stage. He had made a light, humorous speech, talking about how he himself was an alumnus and his experiences in the school. He was then treated with the same rousing applause as the walked offstage and Mr. Harlan appeared again.

"…Now, I'd like to introduce to all to our Valedictorian," announced Mr. Harlan. "He's been quite a bit of trouble over the years. But his smarts are unsurpassed and we've all…adjusted to his unique sense of humor. Where are you, Tom?"

Collins stood up and grinned when over the polite clapping emanated a yelp of, "THAT'S MY MAN!" from the stands somewhere behind him. This was followed by the sounds of two energetic Latinas and one drama queen cheering and screaming while their mothers (and Mark) were undoubtedly hiding their faces behind their purses or camera.

Butterflies swirled in his chest as he approached the mic and adjusted it to his height (Mr. Harlan was Collins' complete opposite; short, stout, and pale) before clearing his throat several times over, looking for the familiar faces. He found them halfway up and wasn't surprised to see Angel, Mimi, and Maureen standing up and annoying the people in back of them with their uprightness.

"Ah-hem, hi everyone," he said, waving. "Uh…nice day, ain't it?" the crowd laughed a bit, finding him humorous though not really sure what he was doing. "Look, I'm just gonna kinda wing this so bear with me. A lot of things have happened this year and not a lot of them were good. As you can tell, there are a few empty chairs here today." The students had been informed they were going to pay homage to those lost that year and make spaces for them, even though they weren't there to claim their spots. "And I think I speak for everyone when I say I'd like to initiate a moment of silence for those who aren't with us anymore." Just to make sure, he glanced at Mr. Harlan who smiled and nodded.

The crowd bowed their heads and waited out a moment in silence before Collins cleared his throat and continued. "Thanks. Anyway, I know people come up here and tell you all to 'be good, for goodness sake' and stuff like that but…I just want to tell you all that you're great people in your own way. I might not like some of ya," as he said this, he met Laurence McIntyre's eyes and the Linebacker sunk a little in his chair. "But I can look past that if you can.

"Some of you are going to go off right after this and start your lives; not bother with anymore schooling. Some of you are going after sports and arts dreams and I'm sure you'll make this school proud to see an alumnus up in lights. Some of you are going places, like Harvard," he grinned at Joanne, whom grinned back and held up and thumb, "and some of you have more practical dreams. But, wherever you're going, just know that you've made this school proud just by standing the test of four years and sitting here today.

"This school is what we arrived to, scared and foreboding in ninth grade. And we slowly evolved from there. Finding knowledge, and wisdom, and a wealth of many other things in its halls and I for one will never forget where I came from and my experiences in this school. Let's just vow to remember these years and I hope the best for all of you. I relate to you all in some way, and even if you think I don't, I feel the same pain as you. The happiness and sadness and anger that you have lives in me to. So instead of being them and us, for one day let's just be an us. Thanks."

Then he walked off stage. Everyone stared at each other for a few seconds, surprised at the abrupt end before someone – Angel, he was sure – cheered loudly. Everyone followed that, cheering and clapping. Mr. Harlan himself still looked a little confused when he stepped back to the podium but smiled and said a courteous, "Thank you, Tom." Before, without much preamble, beginning to announce the graduates.

There was a lot of whooping when Collins and Roger were handed their diplomas, and Collins nearly burst out laughing when Mark let out an almost involuntary yelp of, "Go Tony!" when the Italian limped on stage and took his diploma with a particularly hearty handshake from the principal. Tony grinned, even though the man had mispronounced his last name.

Once they'd received their diplomas, organization didn't matter much and they all gathered in a crowd at the base of the stage. Joanne found Roger, Collins, and Tony and hugged them all.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Mr. Harlan announced when he'd called the last name (Yamin, Ester) and given her her diploma. "I present to you the class of 1990."

There was a roar from both the crowd and the assembled graduates, whom removed their hats and threw them into the wind. Then a virtual wall of people came barreling out of the stands and before he knew what had hit him, Collins was enveloped in a huge hug, almost a tackle. Then something else found his knees and he bent down to pick it up. He was shocked to see a devastated looking Jessica in his arms.

"What's up, Jess?" He asked as his other attacker – Angel – backed off at the look on the now-eight-year-old's face.

"YOU CAN'T LEAVE, TOMMY!" She wept, squeezing her brother's neck. "PLEASE! I'M NEVER GONNA SEE YOU AGAIN!"

"Jess! Calm down!" Collins cried. "First, we've got the whole summer, and second I'm only going to the city. I'll be home every weekend. Third, you're kinda chokin' me here, kid."

Jessica loosened her arms and whined, "…Promise? Every single weekend?"

"Well, sweetie," Angel helped. "He'll have to do to classes sometimes on the weekend so not every single weekend but I promise if he's not over I'll come over, okay? And we can hang out and do girl stuff together."

"Will you still come over even when he is?" Jessica mumbled into Collins' shoulder, obviously conflicted.

"Well duh!" Angel cried, chuckling and patting Jessica's head. "I owe it to you. I can't let you deal with him for a whole weekend by yourself! Besides…I'll kinda miss him too." She smirked softly at Collins.

"…You two are gonna kiss now, aren't you?" inquired Jessica with a disgusted look on her face.

"Yup," Collins replied, setting her down as she made exaggerated gagging noises. "Be gone!"

Jessica went running off to find Suzan and Collins saw her whisper something in their mother's ear. Suzan chuckled and nodded, walking off towards Marcella.

"Well?" Angel asked, nestling in his arms. "You gonna hold that promise to your sister or leave us hanging?"

"Have I ever lied to you?" Collins inquired. Angel took in a deep breath and Collins rolled his eyes. "Cut me a break, Ang. I told you the sky was that color because you were being stupid and gullible."

"You said it was green. Don't you know what a green sky means, Tom?" Angel asked and Collins laughed.

"Well I sure hope I do after having my eardrum busted by you screaming at me." Collins rolled his eyes.

Angel simply kissed him and let out a happy sigh when he recuperated, cradling the back of her head and tipping her face up towards his the way he always did while her arms slipped around his neck. They kissed blissfully for a few minutes until Roger burst into the middle of them, laughing and sitting a graduation cap on Collins' head. There was no way to know it was his but Collins kept it on, knowing he'd never wear it again so what was the point in complaining.

Angel laughed and jumped at Roger, hugging him before going off to look for Tony and Joanne. Collins himself was then bombarded with squishes and squashes, and he laughed through all of them. But their gravitational pull never kept him far away from Angel or her from him.

They were connected. It would work out. It wasn't the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.

And every tear that had to fall from my eyes,
From everyday I wondered how I'd get through the night,
From every change, life has thrown me.
I'm thankful,

For every break in my heart.
I'm grateful,

For every scar.
Some pages turned,
Some bridges burned,
But there were lessons learned.
Oh, some pages turned,
Some bridges burned,
But there were lessons learned.
Lessons learned.
Lessons learned.


A/N: That was it, people! It's over, goodbye! I love you all and thank you sososososo much, one more time, LET'S HERE IT FOR MARKY'S SCARFY! I love you, Katie! Lol! :D Now, aren't you happy to see me gone? I'm not gonna be in your face every Friday and Tuesday? YEAH! I'M NOT MONOPOLIZING YOUR INBOXES ANYMORE! YOU SHOULD BE THRILLED!

JK…Someone out there loves me, right? You'll miss me, person who loves me, right? *Whine*

One last announcement: we may have a Mimi, so applying for her is out for the moment. But we STILL NEED ROGER AND BENNY! We could probably start without Benny, but we need a Roger! So if anyone out there would like to be Roger for the site The Bohemian Life (wetpaint(dot)bohemialives(dot)com) PLEASE go, read the rules, join the site, and submit your application! :D

And, one last time; please review!