A/N: I realized at the gentle reminding of one reviewer that in my haste to post the previous chapter, I completely forgot to acknowledge which songs I used. So, here they are: Quinn and Mercedes sung Calling All Angels by Jane Siberry, a song most well-known as the ending song to the movie Pay It Forward (awesome movie, if you haven't seen it. Go rent it. Now.) At the very end, their ensemble song was Falling Slowly from the music film called Once (another awesome movie that you must see). Now that that's taken care of, here's the epilogue:
"I say nothing works any more, but I get up and it's tomorrow."
"See ya next Monday, Coach! Last week of the season!"
Noah Puckerman nodded a goodbye to his left tackle as the kid exited the locker room. Adjusting his baseball cap on his head, Noah erased all the strategy plans from the white board and checked his watch. He sighed, casting one last look around before leaving himself, locking up the door behind him. Friday was finally over, but he wasn't sure if he was looking forward to this weekend or not. Not much had changed around the school in the last fifteen years – sure, the faculty came and went, the styles evolved, the coffee in the staff lounge got weaker, and Miss Pillsbury was promoted to principal once Figgins retired. Noah himself had left and done two tours in Iraq before returning permanently. But the buildings all looked the same, save for a little wear here and there. Noah switched his clipboard to his other hand as he walked back to the main building where his office – formerly belonging to Coach Tanaka – was located, his mind elsewhere.
He didn't have Summer over from her mother's this weekend, so there was nothing to distract him for the next day and a half from the approaching event on Sunday – the Fifteen-Year Anniversary Memorial Service for the Victims and Survivors of the McKinley High Shooting. He hated the name; it sounded like a fricking fundraiser, but it was on the banner that hung over the school's Main Entrance, and it had glared him in the eye every morning for the past week, and so was branded into the front of his brain and was all he'd thought about since the banner had been put up. Then again, the memorial meant that his old friends, the ones he hadn't seen since graduation aside from the few who had stayed in Lima, would be back. The saddest of reunions.
Passing the choir room, he stopped and backtracked until he was standing in the doorway. A young-ish woman, wearing a professional-looking outfit, stood in the center of the room, her back to him.
She turned around, her face breaking into a smile. "Noah! How are you?"
They hugged, and Rachel straightened her jacket. "I'm doin' good, you? What are you doing here? The memorial's not til Sunday."
"Oh, I came up early to make some rounds, see some old familiar faces and spend time with my dads. I'm doing well, actually," she said. "I actually recently got promoted to junior partner at my firm."
"Wait, you're a lawyer?" he asked, his brows shooting up.
She nodded, her ponytail bouncing.
"I thought you were… you know, going to Broadway or something."
Her smile faded somewhat, and she fiddled with the wedding band on her finger. "Well, I got a small part in a show for a while, but… I don't know, it just sort of lost its charm," she said. "Besides, the courtroom requires a good amount of acting as well as wit."
Noah nodded, understanding. After the shooting, Rachel had never quite regained the same attitude towards the performing arts that she'd had before. She'd quit the ballet club, her dance classes, sticking only to Glee. She stepped down and sang backup more often than lead, and, while she seemed to enjoy it, the pushiness that she'd always maintained when it came to her talent was gone, and the Gleeks had never seen it again. "So you're married?" he switched topics, eyeing the ring she was toying with. "Anyone I know?"
She brightened again. "Yes, actually," she said with a laugh. "Mike and I ran into each other in New York about a year after graduation, and we just sort of hit it off."
"Wow, you and Chang? Congrats."
She grinned. "I kept my last name, though. Rachel Chang just had a weird ring to it. Mike is a professional choreographer, you know. He's working on the revival of Hairspray right now," she told Noah. "It's funny…he made it to Broadway, but I didn't."
She shook her head. "Really, it's okay. It was just a dream, I wasn't really that good."
"Yes, you were."
She looked down. "Thank you, Noah," she said softly. Then, she forced herself to straighten up again, turning the topic of the conversation around. "What about you? Are you married?"
"Nah," he replied with a shrug. "Couple girlfriends, but nothin' special."
"Oh, she's great. You know she runs the Glee club now?"
"Really? That's amazing! She works for the school?"
"Yeah, biology teacher. She's real good, too, all the kids like her."
"That's incredible!" Rachel exclaimed. "And Summer? How is she?"
A healthy glow crept into Noah's eyes, the same glow that Rachel always saw in her dads' faces whenever they spoke to their friends about her; a fatherly pride. "She's beautiful, Rach, really. Straight-A student, too, and she can sing like you wouldn't believe. I get her most weekends, but she lives with her mom."
"I'm happy for you, Noah." There was a long pause, a silence that almost-but-didn't-quite reach the comfortable.
Finally, Noah spoke up. "Wanna grab a cup of coffee?"
Rachel smiled. "Thanks, but Mike is picking me up in a couple of minutes. I just wanted to look around the school while he ran a few errands. So…we'll see you on Sunday?"
"Oh. Yeah, okay. See you then."
Sunday dawned drizzly and grey, but cleared up as Quinn climbed into the driver's seat of her old Subaru and headed to the school. Summer sat in the passenger seat, her feet up on the dashboard, twisting a lock of blonde hair around her finger.
"Thank you for coming with me," Quinn finally said, keeping her eyes on the road.
"Really, Mom, it's not a problem," Summer said, not looking away from the buildings passing by the window. "You don't have to keep thanking me."
Quinn smiled, like she did every time Summer said anything that remotely sounded like her or Noah. She wasn't even fifteen years old, and she was so obviously a blend of the two formerly foolhardy teens that sometimes she made Quinn laugh out loud at seemingly nothing, not realizing she'd looked exactly like her mother during the high school years when she'd successfully accomplished a dance move or exactly like her father when he was planning some evil little plot to launch against an unwary underclassman. Quinn loved Summer, more than could ever be put into words, but sometimes she was a little unnerved by how much she looked like Noah sometimes, and then she'd wonder how she could have ever thought she'd be able to pass the girl off as Finn's offspring, and after that she'd be slammed with a ridiculously strong wave of guilt. It was enough to drive her crazy.
When she pulled into the WMHS parking lot, people were already beginning to gravitate towards the school. The banner above the door fluttered silently in the breeze, the names of the victims written along the bottom, bouquets of flowers piled along each side of the stairs leading up to the school. Summer by her side, Quinn ascended the stairs and the two of them headed for the gymnasium.
An unsettlingly cheerful woman sitting behind a table greeted them in the hallway outside the gym. "Are you one of the survivors?" she asked bluntly.
Quinn was a little offset by the sudden question. "Uh, yeah," she said.
"All right, here's the program—"
As the woman shoved a small stack of brochures and contact information for various fundraising programs into her hands, Quinn tuned out what the woman was saying, moving on as soon as she stopped talking. Inside the gym, she scanned the crowds for her old friends.
"Quinn! Over here!"
She turned, Summer on her heels, to see Santana standing with a group of people – one of the many milling about as they waited for the service to start. Santana, having never left Lima, now worked at a jazz club as a singer. It was good that she'd found a job that didn't require too much physical activity – even after a decade and a half, her knee could only take so much pressure before she'd end up back in the hospital.
Two girlish shrieks were then heard and suddenly Quinn found herself wrapped in an almost-suffocating embrace. When the perpetrators finally drew back, she broke into a smile. "Kurt! Mercedes! God, it's so good to see you! Guys, this is Summer."
As the formalities were exchanged, Quinn took the moment to study her old friends, evaluating how much they'd changed in the thirteen years since graduation. Mercedes hadn't changed much; a few lines around her eyes, but other than that still looked in her prime. Her style had changed quite a bit, no longer as flashy, but she was still extremely fashionable compared to the average passerby. She'd gone to nursing school after graduation and now worked at a hospital in Chicago. Kurt, on the other hand, had taken a path that had been surprising even to him. As a last-minute decision, Kurt had decided on going to police academy, and eventually graduated the top of his class. He'd gone on to the FBI, of all things, and now lived in D.C. Quinn briefly remembered him saying something along the lines of it making him feel like he was doing something important in one of his emails. His flamboyance-with-a-stylish-flare act was apparently gone; he was dressed in a simple, professional-looking suit and tie that, while not Armani or McQueen, fit him perfectly. He'd filled out since then, gained a respectable amount of muscle that he attributed to the "rigorous FBI training routes that include, but aren't limited to, crawling through mud pits, dodging barbed wire, and climbing thirteen-foot riggings."
Quinn broke into another smile when she saw Artie wheeling toward the group. She leaned down and gave him a tight hug, letting Summer introduce herself. Artie was now running a nationwide program that promoted the musical education of children in situations such as his own, and the gleeks had followed his story on the news whenever he was too busy to send an email. Artie laughed when Kurt happily greeted him, overjoyed that the sweater vests had finally disappeared. Brittany, who had been standing with Kurt for most of the time, then asked if Kurt really burned them, since that's what he'd told her earlier.
They were soon joined by Rachel and Mike, and they all fell into an easygoing small talk that befit a group of old friends from high school until Artie asked Mike if Matt was going to show up. Mike shrugged unhappily and said that Matt had a show tour he couldn't get away from. Somehow, Matt had made it big time in the music industry as a rapper, but he'd lost contact with them all except for Mike, and even with his oldest friend the emails were scarce.
Noah didn't arrive until it was time for the gathered people to take their seats. Slightly rushed, Noah gave Summer a kiss on the temple, said hi to the gleeks he'd not seen in the last ten years, and sat in the same row as the entire group.
As Principal Pillsbury (even after five years, it was still weird for Quinn to think of Emma as her boss rather than her guidance counselor) took the stand and began her opening speech, welcoming back all the survivors, Quinn reached over and took Noah's hand. And for a single, blissful moment, they were a club again, with no thirteen-year gap to fill, none of their past dramas and animosities. For a single moment before they would once again part ways, they were innocent.