A/N: Hello. This is officially 'The End'. Thank you for coming along for this crazy ride.
I hope that – at some point while reading this final chapter – a smile crosses your face. :-) That would make my day. I really do hope you enjoy this.
With love and much appreciation for you all…
If the Roles Were Reversed
"I can't believe we're graduating in three days," Mike said. He moved his entire body as he violently smashed his thumbs over the controller.
"I know, right?" Matt added as he blew Mike's character up onscreen. "Ha!" he exclaimed in Mike's face.
Mike sighed and dramatically made his body limp, falling back on the couch. "What time is it?" he questioned from the cushions.
Matt paused the game and flipped open his cell phone. "Close enough. We need to leave now or else Rachel will flip out on us for being half a minute late or something." He stood up and turned off the game console and television, moving to look at his best friend. "Come on, I beat you at this game every time. Quit moping." He playfully kicked Mike's shoe.
"No," Mike said, sitting up. "It's just, you know, this is it. 'The End' and all that. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around it."
"At least we're all graduating together," Matt shrugged. He blinked rapidly, trying to play off the emotions he was feeling at the thought of leaving McKinley behind.
Mike stood up and gave his friend a shoulder hug. "You're right," he said with a grin. "But it is kind of funny how all twelve of us original New Directions members are in the same grade, you know?"
"Yeah," Matt laughed as he walked towards his front door, Mike trailing closely behind. "Funny how things work out like that. Almost like it was, I don't know, scripted or something."
"I propose that we mash up every single song we have ever performed over the past three years for our final 'goodbye' performance at graduation on Friday," Rachel said in a rush.
A sizeable whiteboard was on a stand in the front of her living room, and she was writing (in pink) her idea in large, bubbly letters. Around her, people immediately started protesting.
"That's just insane, girl," Mercedes snapped her fingers and crossed her arms in front of her chest.
Kurt – who was sitting next to Mercedes on the Berrys' couch with one knee crossed over the other nodded his head vigorously in agreement with the diva at his side. "Completely insane. That will never do."
Mike and Matt just looked at each other with raised eyebrows as they shared the piano bench. "Do you think she's finally lost it?" Mike attempted to whisper to Matt. Rachel heard anyway ("I swear," Santana had once complained to Quinn, "that girl has hearing like a goddamn bat or something!") and shot a glare in their direction.
Puck just shook his head as he strummed a few notes on his guitar in the doorway.
Quinn waltzed into the living room like a cool breeze with her skirt fluttering lightly as she moved, instantly distracting Rachel. A smile spread across Rachel's lips at the sight of her girlfriend, but it was soon wiped off her face as Quinn said, "Sweetie, that's completely implausible."
Tina spoke up from Artie's lap. "It would be fun, Rach, but maybe we should think of other ideas for graduation. We only have the stage for ten minutes, anyway."
Santana, Brittany, and Finn completely ignored the conversation as they played with Colby in the center of the floor. The tiny girl's giggles momentarily distracted Rachel, and she smiled down at her darling daughter. "You're right," Rachel acquiesced. "You're all right." With effort, she pulled her eyes away from Colby – her curly brown hair and her dimples and her adorable infant-sized argyle sweater – and turned to her whiteboard, erasing the words she had previously written. "Ok," she said. "Back to square one."
"We should do Hate on Me," Mercedes said. "I'll be featured heavily, and it kind of represents the crap everyone else put us through for being in glee club."
People agreed that the song was good, but not the concept. "It's graduation," Quinn said. "We'll probably never see most of the other kids in our class again. Let's not leave on a note of bitterness."
"Yeah," Finn agreed from the floor where he was holding Colby up above his head like an airplane. "I agree with Quinn."
Brittany raised her hand.
"We could all sway in the background while Mr. Schue sings Bust a Move and break dances on the stage."
"NO!" everyone in the room chorused.
"My Life Would Suck Without You?" Tina suggested. When there were no immediate objections, Rachel wrote the song on the blank board.
"We could do a funk number," Artie suggested. Rachel cocked an eyebrow but wisely kept her mouth shut. Artie had been suggesting they do a funk number every few weeks for the past couple years. Tina just patted him on the shoulder and sympathetically shook her head. He nodded solemnly, accepting the fate of the funk number in his imagination.
"I personally think a reprise of Time Warp would be lovely," Kurt said with a flourish of his wrist.
"I don't wanna wear a wig to graduation," Brittany mumbled from the floor. Santana nodded her agreement while playing with Colby and some of the child's toys, making 'vroom vroom' noises and the like.
"Dog Days are Over by Florence and the Machine could be fun," Matt said. "It's one of my favorite songs." Rachel wrote it on the board.
"You know," Rachel said, "I quite like what Kurt said about reprising old songs." Several people began to open their mouths to speak – probably to tell her, yet again, that they weren't willing to mashup dozens of songs into one – but Rachel held her hand up. "No, hear me out. Do you guys remember sophomore year when…"
Five minutes later, everyone was smiling brightly and giving each other hugs and high-fives.
"So that's half of our performance," Puck said. "Now what about the other half?"
Quinn's eyes lit up as she stood to face her friends. "I think I have an idea for a really nice, classy song for us to sing. We need something to balance out the craziness of our second song anyway…"
As everyone left Rachel's – to head to the auditorium to share their ideas with Mr. Schuester and to rehearse – they had bright, beaming smiles on their faces. This is going to be amazing, Rachel thought as she buckled Colby into her 'big girl' car seat and climbed into the front of her car. Quinn reached across the console and laced their fingers together.
"I'm proud of you," Quinn whispered.
Rachel laughed joyfully before leaning over and kissing Quinn, one hand cupped around her neck to hold her in place (not that she was going anywhere). "Trust me, baby – the feeling is mutual."
Mr. Schuester sat at his director's desk in the auditorium seating while he watched his kids perform the song that they had been rehearsing thus far that afternoon. Colby was sitting next to him, raptly staring at the twelve people sitting on stools onstage and singing their hearts out. They were people who the little girl had literally grown up with – they were the kids who babysat her and cheered loudly when Rachel and Quinn showed them all that she could walk, they were the kids who protected her and loved her. These were the memories that her young mind probably wouldn't remember in a few years' time – but the kids on stage would always be part of Colby's life, no matter what.
As the final words faded out into the far recesses of the auditorium, Mr. Schuester stood up and clapped for the New Directions seniors. Colby bounced out of her seat and jumped up and down as she clapped and giggled as well. Mr. Schue bent down and picked her up so she could see better.
Rachel stepped down from her stool and walked to the edge of the stage with her hands on her hips. "How was that, baby girl?" she called out to Colby – who was still clapping in Will's arms.
"Good, mama!" the girl called back. Rachel's smile widened impossibly. The girls onstage 'ahhh'd (including Santana who hastily attempted to cover it up with a cough).
"Ok guys," Mr. Schuester called out. "Let's hear your second number!"
Rachel turned around and glanced at her friends behind her momentarily. Their wide-eyed silence told her that she would be speaking on everyone else's behalf. She turned back out to the audience and said, "Actually, Mr. Schue, we want our second number to be a surprise. For everyone. Including you. So, if you don't mind…"
Mr. Schuester narrowed his eyes suspiciously. But then he thought about the past three years – the heart and strength and spirit these kids had displayed, their love and support for each other, their perseverance against all odds (including devious schemes from players such as Sue Sylvester, Jesse St. James, Bryan Ryan; and the hardships they had endured as individuals – Rachel still had the slightest of limps) – and he realized that he could trust them to perform one number after all this time.
"Sure, guys. Rach, is it ok if I take Colby for ice cream?" He directed his question more at Colby than Rachel, but Rachel gave her assent and they left the auditorium hand in hand with Colby wobbling along at Will's side.
"Ok guys," Rachel said, turning around and bouncing excitedly on the spot. "Let's do this!"
Later that night, Rachel sat on the edge of Colby's tiny bed as she tucked the sheets up under her chin. "Good night, baby girl," Rachel whispered as she leaned down and kissed her soft forehead gently.
"Night, mama," Colby yawned tiredly. "Song?"
Rachel grinned lovingly. "Of course," she replied before beginning to croon familiar words to her tired daughter.
"Stars shining bright above you,
Night breezes seem to whisper, 'I love you'.
Birds singing in the sycamore tree,
'Dream a little dream of me'.
Say 'nighty-night' and kiss me.
Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me.
While I'm alone and blue as can be, dream a little dream of me."
The door creaked open and Rachel looked up into Quinn's face, partially hidden by shadows. She extended her hand, and Quinn moved forward and wrapped the offered hand up in both of her own. Rachel continued to sing to Colby – whose eyes had drifted shut long ago.
"Stars fading, but I linger on, dear.
Still craving your kiss, I'm longing to linger till dawn, dear.
Just saying this: 'Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you'.
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you.
But in your dreams whatever they be, dream a little dream of me."
Quinn watched Rachel sing. Her heart fluttered as the young woman who had captivated her years ago poured all of her love and care for her child into every lyric of the song. And she watched Colby slumber. She couldn't help the cheesy grin and the twinkle that was undoubtedly shining from her eyes as she stared at the little girl who she considered her own. Along with the two men who were downstairs watching the news, they were a family.
Rachel stood when she knew with certainty that Colby was peacefully resting. Her hand still connecting her to Quinn, she pulled them both out of the room and into the hallway. Before long, they were in their bedroom and lying down together on the bedspread. Quinn's front was pressed tightly against Rachel's back with her arms wrapped protectively around the tiny brunette. Quinn's eyes closed as she breathed in deeply, savoring the sweet scent of Rachel's hair and remembering a time – years ago, now – when she had felt the first inklings of what it meant to be falling in love.
"Wow. Your hair smells really good," Quinn murmured against Rachel's hair as she softly held the crying girl. Rachel looked at her like she was crazy, to which Quinn replied, "What? It does." And then Rachel giggled and Quinn smiled, curiously wondering if this was maybe what it felt like to begin falling in love with someone…
"I think I'm going to do it," Rachel said suddenly, startling Quinn out of her memories.
Quinn's mind immediately went to a wicked place as she asked, "You're going to do what exactly?"
But Rachel – her thoughts on a completely different track – didn't catch the playfulness in Quinn's tone. Instead, she reached forward and opened the drawer of her bedside table that she had been eyeing for the past few minutes. She stuck her hand inside and pulled out the note that had made its way into her possession a long time ago – it now lay flat in her hands from the many times she had opened it up to read it. "I'm going to call my mother," she whispered. But, despite her quiet tone, Quinn heard.
"Are you sure?" Quinn asked. She sat up and leaned over Rachel who was now lying on her back and staring at the words on the paper.
After a few moments, Rachel shakily lowered the letter to her chest and stared up into Quinn's hazel eyes. "You're the most beautiful person I know, Quinn, and I've got to be the luckiest person on earth to be able to call you mine." The words left Rachel's lips in a reverent, loving tone that had Quinn quickly leaning down and pressing their lips together hungrily.
After several minutes of passionate kissing, Quinn pulled back and rested her forehead against Rachel's. "You spoil me, you know." She kissed the side of Rachel's face, her eyelids, the tip of her nose. "You make me feel beautiful and special and as if the rest of the world is waiting at my fingertips." Their lips crashed together again and their moans mixed together deliciously. "If you want to call your mom, I promise to be right here next to you when you do it."
Rachel smiled and exhaled against Quinn's lips. "Let's get it over with then, shall we?"
It was easy enough for Rachel to place the note back on her bedside table. And it was relatively simple to pick up her phone. Even dialing Shelby Corcoran's number was uncomplicated – Rachel had memorized it months ago. But when it came to pressing the tiny green 'call' button, Rachel was at a loss. Quinn was still lying with her body pressed firmly – lovingly – against Rachel's when the brunette turned to her girlfriend with a pleading look in her eyes. And it was easy for Quinn to kiss her lovingly on the lips and remove the phone from Rachel's hand, hitting the necessary button and moving the cell phone to Rachel's ear.
There were only a couple of rings before Quinn heard Rachel say, "Hello? Shelby? This is Rachel…"
And then there was nothing Quinn could do except wait and prepare herself to catch Rachel if the girl ever truly needed to be caught.
Shelby rinsed the soap from her hands while she stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her cheeks were slightly rosy, her eyes were shining, and she was smiling like she hadn't smiled in years.
She reached over and pulled down a couple paper towels to dry her hands, and she left the bathroom with her chin held high. When she walked into the proper room, Shelby had the briefest feeling of déjà vu – of another place, another time, another life.
Walking over to the bedside, she took a seat and immediately took Holly's hand in her own. "It's lovely to see you," she said with sincerity.
Holly just smiled back. "This day has been a long time coming, hasn't it?"
Shelby bit her lip as she attempted to hold back the happy tears that were threatening to spill from her eyes. She nodded as she squeezed the fingers that her hand was wrapped around. "Yes," she whispered, her voice overflowing with emotion. "It has been." Shelby took a deep breath before she added, "Rachel called me last night."
Holly's attention was immediately sparked. "Did she?" she questioned, her tone even but her lips turning upwards ever so slightly.
"She did. Kind of ironic that you and I met because of her and, well, here we are." Holly nodded at Shelby to continue, and this time she was the one reassuringly squeezing the hand of the other. "We didn't talk overly long, but she told me so many things." By now, the tears she had previously attempted to hold back were flowing precariously down her cheeks. "She told me that she's happy; that she and Quinn are still a couple, that Colby is the most incredible little child, that Quinn's portfolio was accepted at NYU's Tisch School of the arts, and that Rachel was accepted to Julliard –" Shelby's voice broke as she was overcome with emotion. "Despite the difficult obstacles in her life, she's doing it."
"Doing what?" Holly gently asked. She knew the answer. But Shelby needed to say it.
Shelby looked up from their entwined hands. "Making her dreams come true. But then," Shelby sniffled, "I guess if there was ever a young woman – a young mother – who could handle everything that she's been through and still come out on top, chasing after her dreams with a vengeance and catching them… Well, I haven't spent a lot of time with her personally, but I know that she's that girl."
Holly's smiling lips parted as she was about to respond, but the nurse chose that moment to walk in. "Good afternoon, ladies," she said sweetly.
Greetings were exchanged and in only a matter of moments, Holly was giggling at the smooth, cold sensation of the gel on her stomach. The nurse pointed out a few characteristics on the screen as Shelby and Holly stared with rapt attention. As the nurse began to clean Holly's tummy, she casually asked, "Would you like to know the sex?"
Holly looked to Shelby – this was her child, after all. The choice had always been hers to make. Shelby continued to stare at the monitor; she hadn't taken her eyes off of it since the image became still, frozen in time. She finally turned to look at their nurse, nodding her head vigorously. "Yes, please."
The nurse smiled kindly before saying, "You're going to have a baby boy."
Tears of joy again found their way down Shelby's cheeks as she jumped up and pulled the nurse into a firm hug as she was walking out of the room. And when she was alone with Holly again – Holly, her guardian angel, she was sure of it – Shelby pulled her to her chest and wrapped her arms around her surrogate, her friend. "Thank you," she whispered. "Thank you so much."
Holly rubbed her hands up and down Shelby's back as the other woman cried heavily into her shoulder. "Oh honey," she said. "You never even had to ask."
"I really don't understand the concept of pomp and circumstance for any event that doesn't involve Sue Sylvester," Sue Sylvester grumbled as she took her place in the stands before McKinley High's graduation ceremony for the Class of 2012.
"Oh Sue," Principal Figgins huffed out. He didn't say anything else. There really wasn't much else to be said.
A few seats down, Marcus and Brendon sat with Colby nestled lovingly between them. Brendon fiddled nervously with the tripod for their video camera. "Ohh," he breathed out. "I think I forgot the backup battery! What if this one dies?"
Marcus chuckled and reached into his jacket pocket, extracting the fully-charged spare battery. "No worries, dear. I've got you covered."
Brendon looked up from the camera stand and to the battery that was lying in Marcus's open hand. He laughed loudly before wrapping his own hand around his husband's. "What would I do without you?" he tenderly asked. Marcus didn't reply – but only because it was a non-issue.
"I'm so excited for the kids," Will whispered to Emma. "It's so great that they're finally getting to graduate. And I can't wait for this performance! You're going to be moved, I promise."
Miss Pillsbury giggled and blushed and said, "I'm sure it will be magical." She placed her hand on the edge of the bleachers they were sitting on between herself and Will. He looked down when he noticed her slight movement and smiled before slowly-lightly-carefully placing his own hand on top of hers.
The gymnasium echoed with the sounds of family and friends cheering for their loved ones as the WMHS seniors walked inside in pairs. Quinn and Rachel were standing shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, as they proceeded to the rows of chairs set up in front of a stage. The band was off to one side of the large room, and Rachel shuddered as one of the woodwinds squeaked unceremoniously.
"Are you nervous?" Quinn whispered in Rachel's ear as they waved at their family.
Rachel posed momentarily for a picture with her arm wrapped around her girlfriend's waist before continuing her forward progression. "For what?" she asked. "For the performance?"
Quinn shook her head. "No. For life."
Quickly, Rachel turned her head to look up at Quinn. The expression on her face was one filled with so much love that Quinn thought she could quite easily melt into a puddle of Quinn sauce at any second. "I'm absolutely not nervous for life, Quinn, because you're going to be there with me every step of the way. Together, we can do anything."
They took their seats – which was good for Quinn, because her legs were jelly-like. The other ten members of the Original New Directions were in the same row, and they all exchanged waves and thumbs-up's as Principal Figgins took the stage to deliver a speech.
Before long, he was introducing the glee club. "The New Directions is our glee club here at McKinley. For the past two years, they have been selected to compete at the National Show Choir competition. Last year, they placed 5th in the country; and this coming June, they will be competing yet again. We wish them the best of luck!" There were scatterings of applause from the audience as Principal Figgins invited the group up onto the stage to perform. There were already twelve stools set up for them in a semi-circle behind the podium.
"Ok guys," Rachel whispered down the row as they stood up. "It's showtime!"
Rachel stepped up to the microphone – she had been their leader from day one, and they weren't about to change that on this day, their last day performing together for such an audience.
"Good afternoon," she spoke into the microphone softly, sweetly. "We'll be performing two songs for you all today. And, if you know me at all, you know I like to talk. But I think that this first song, at least, will say everything that I could never properly express with words."
She stood back and cued the sound guy off to the side. Their background track started to play as she walked over to her stool. Tina began to sing over the supporting background vocals of her friends, her voice lifting beautifully to the rafters.
"You with the sad eyes,
Don't be discouraged.
Oh, I realize
It's hard to take courage.
In a world full of people,
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you fell so small."
Everyone shared smiles around the semi-circle as they continued to lift their voices as one, harmonizing and passing the lead from voice to voice, talent to talent.
"Show me a smile then,
Don't be unhappy, can't remember
When I last saw you laughing.
If this world makes you crazy,
And you've taken all you can bear,
You call me up
Because you know I'll be there."
Mr. Schuester wiped a tear from his eye. Sue Sylvester spotted him doing it, and she sneered to cover up the painful grimace she had experienced at the nauseating sight.
"And I'll see your true colors
I see your true colors,
And that's why I love you.
So don't be afraid to let them show,
Your true colors,
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow."
The final notes faded into nothingness as the twelve kids on stage received a standing ovation. Rachel took a moment to play the bashful card, ducking her head to her chest as she approached the podium again. "Thank you," she said, and a hush finally fell over the audience. "Our next song – and our final performance as the seniors of New Directions – is one that some of you –" she stared blatantly at her classmates "– may fondly recall. Others of you, however –" she allowed her eyes to flicker towards Coach Sylvester for a moment "– may not be so pleased." Sue narrowed her eyes, but Rachel continued before anything else could be said. She turned to the sound man and yelled, "Hit it!"
"Get up on this!" the kids chorused together as they threw off their caps and their gowns to reveal bright blue t-shirts and denim skirts and jeans, fanny packs (in Kurt's case) and headbands and black Converses. Sue's jaw immediately dropped in horror.
"Oooh, baby, baby.
Oooh, baby, baby.
Initially, Mr. Schuester had been shocked and appalled at their song choice – especially considering the fact that they had gotten into so much trouble for this song the first time around. But then all he could focus on were the smiles on their faces and the fun they seemed to be having. So he decided to let it all go – because these were his kids, and he would forever be proud of them.
"Salt and Pepa's here, and we're in effect,
Want you to push it, babe,
Coolin' by day then at night working up a sweat.
C'mon girls, let's go show the guys that we know,
How to become number one in a hot party show.
Now push it!"
Rachel's voice was fun and spunky and when Quinn danced with her, her heart soared like never before. This girl was her future.
"Yo, yo, yo, yo, baby-pop,
Yeah, you come here, gimme a kiss.
Better make it fast or else I'm gonna get pissed.
Can't you hear the music's pumpin' hard like I wish you would?
Now push it!"
Finn was as awkward as ever.
"Push it good.
Push it real good!
Push it good.
P-push it real good!"
The group came together for one massive, final hip thrust to celebrate their graduation (because, well, it would be entirely unreasonable to expel them at this point anyway).
"Ahhhhh, push it!"