Two hundred students sat in neatly-lined chairs on the football field, their families in the bleachers, everyone smiling in the bright Saturday sunlight. The students wore red gowns and caps, tassels hanging off of them and waving in the light breeze. In the stands sat crying moms, proud dads, bored siblings, and an overly happy, squealing baby boy. Mercedes had not been joking when she said that Kurt and Rachel would have really cute and loud babies.
Principal Figgins gave a speech about being successful and having bright futures and returning to Lima to share their knowledge (hah, like that would happen) before it was time for the Valedictorian's speech. Quinn Fabray stepped to the podium, speech in her shaking hands.
She absolutely glowed in the sunlight, her blonde hair and blue eyes shone in the May air. Looking out at the crowd, she took a deep breath and began speaking.
"For some of us, these past four years have been the longest years of our lives," she began, looking out at the crowd where her mother beamed proudly from the front row. "Some of us were bullied," she glanced at Kurt, "Some of us met the love of our life," she glanced at Sam, "Some of us thought there was no hope of finding love," she glanced at Mercedes, "And some of us held strong and tried to teach others the most important lesson anyone could ever learn," she looked at Rachel. "Being a part of something special makes you special," Quinn said firmly.
She scanned the crowd and her eyes caught on some football players sniggering. Taking another deep breath, she continued bravely, "We didn't all get along with each other, and that was fine. That's the way high school works. But in our groups, whether it was the football team, hockey team, the Cheerios, or glee club, we found people like us; people we could relate to. Those people we hung out with, the ones that knew exactly how we were feeling at some point or another, they're the ones that taught us the most. Sure, we all know when the Declaration of Independence was signed and how to conjugate verbs in Spanish, but that's not all that matters. Our friends taught us how to make it through hardships," she glanced at Finn, "They taught us to appreciate every little thing we're given in life," she looked over at Puck, "And most importantly, they taught us that appearances don't matter," she looked pointedly at Ms. Sylvester, who looked uncomfortable. "When we stay true to ourselves and stop worrying about what others think, only then are we truly successful," she looked at Mr. Schuester, who was smiling proudly, his eyes brimming with tears.
"We may not know what the future holds, but I can say this for each and every one of us: we're ready for it. So, congratulations, class of 2013 – we finally made it out of here!" she said, her beautiful smile beaming out at the audience.
The crowd applauded as she stepped back down to her seat. Principal Figgins stepped forward to begin reading off names while Ms. Sylvester and Mr. Schuester handed out diplomas to the students. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but Alex squealed particularly loud when Kurt's name was called. Even more coincidentally was the fact that the only other time he squealed that loud was when Puck's name was called.
All the students were grinning from ear to ear by the time the ceremony ended. Hats were tossed into the air and soon the families were walking out onto the field in search of their son or daughter. The field turned to chaos and several people made their way out of the mess in search of their families. On the outskirts of the crowd Finn, Puck, and Kurt stood, waiting. Puck's mother was first to arrive and she pulled him into the biggest hug he'd ever gotten from her. "I'm so proud of you, honey," she said, her eyes full of tears.
"Thanks, mom," he said, embarrassed.
"Yeah, I thought you were too stupid to graduate," his sister said, her arms crossed as she watched her mother finally let go of Puck. Kurt was laughing at his side until he felt tiny hands grabbing for his shoulder. He turned around and scooped Alex out of Burt's arms. "Little guy wouldn't shut up," Burt laughed.
"I know," Kurt said, busying himself with tickling Alex. "He takes after his mother in that respect."
When the little boy giggled and grabbed for Kurt's hair, his eyes bulged. "No, no, no," Kurt said, swatting Alex's hand away gently. "That ridiculous graduation cap ruined my hair enough, I don't need you making it any worse."
Puck laughed and asked, "Want me to hold him while you fix your hair?"
"Yes, please," Kurt said.
He held his hands out to Alex who reached out for Puck with his tiny hands. Puck lifted him away and held Alex on his hip, holding his hand up to get a high five from the boy. Mrs. Puckerman watched in amazement as Alex felt so at home in her son's arms. Kurt found his pocket mirror and readjusted his hair just in time to be ambushed by Carole and her camera. "Come here, it's time for pictures!" she called.
She greeted Mrs. Puckerman and offered to send her copies of the pictures. They switched up combinations of people as Burt held Alex off to the side.
First up were Finn and Puck, who had been best friends for as long as they each could remember. They had been through many hard times, but that hadn't changed a thing. They'd still sit around and play Halo for hours (but now they wouldn't start until after Alex was asleep, unlike in the past). They stood next to each other, laughing, their arms around each other's shoulders.
Puck was traded out for Kurt, for the next photos. Finn and Kurt, the now inseparable step-brothers, looked like a surprising pair to someone that didn't know them. Finn was tall and burly, his muscles and height setting him far apart from Kurt, who was shorter and much more slender. They stood next to each other, closer than Finn would have ever allowed two years ago, and smiled, Finn's arm around Kurt's shoulders.
Kurt moved out of the way so Carole could take a picture of Finn and Rachel. It had been painful for Finn given everything he had been through with her, but they had decided it was better that they broke up. It was a mutual decision, however difficult it was for the two of them. Both seriously doubted that they could completely trust each other once they started college; the distance between California and Ohio was more than either could really handle. Smiling next to each other, Finn's arm around her, they let Carole take a picture.
Kurt reached out to grab Alex from Burt. Much to Kurt's dismay, Alex's tiny hands went right to his hair. Again. It took a few minutes, but they managed to get a good picture of the father and son, both turning and smiling at the camera. "Get in there, Puck," Carole waved him over into the picture.
Puck looked surprised but did as he was told. He stood to the side of Kurt, Alex perched between them on Kurt's hip. Carole snapped a picture and looked unbelievably proud of all of them. Puck walked over to his mother for a moment as Rachel approached Kurt. "I um…I wanted to give you this," Rachel said, holding out a piece of paper to him. "It's my address. I was hoping you'd mail me some pictures of Alex every once in a while?"
"Of course I can," Kurt smiled, taking the paper and sliding it into his pocket.
She looked at Alex, a sad look in her eye. "He's adorable," she said, her fingers reaching out to touch his hand. "You're raising him really well."
"Thanks," Kurt said, his expression serious.
They stood in silence for a moment, Rachel just looking at Alex, who watched her with a strange look, his head rested on his father's shoulder. Kurt watched them for a moment in silence and only moved when she glanced over Kurt's shoulder and nodded. He spun around to see Puck approaching. "This came in the mail for me today," he said, holding it out to Kurt.
They traded; Kurt took the envelope while Puck took Alex. Kurt opened the letter sized envelope and pulled out several papers. The top one had the University of Ohio Lima letterhead and Kurt read it over slowly, his heart beating a million miles a minute. Puck had been accepted into the business program. He looked up at Puck, surprised. "I thought you didn't know what you wanted to do?" he asked curiously.
"I can do anything with a business degree," Puck smirked.
Confused by Kurt's silence, he raised an eyebrow and asked, "I thought this was what you wanted?"
"Is this what you want?" Kurt asked.
Puck looked at Alex, then back to Kurt, "Well, I'll have a family one day and I can make good money for them if I go to college. I suffered like, thirteen years of school, four more years can't suck that much. Plus, they have a basketball team so I can still play sports."
Of course he looked at sports teams. As much as Kurt wanted to be frustrated, he just couldn't. It was still a little shocking to him that Puck had so much motivation all of a sudden. "Congratulations, Noah," Kurt smiled, hugging him.
Puck smirked; he was obviously proud of himself and Kurt had only boosted his ego. Kurt couldn't help but laugh at this, and inside he was swelling with pride. When they first met, Kurt would have never pegged Puck for someone that would not only graduate high school but actually go on to college. Whatever had changed in Puck's brain, it was the best change in the world. Sure, he was still the sex-craving, flirtatious, slightly-smelly jock Kurt had met two years ago, but there was more to him (now).
Their families gathered and all decided to go out for dinner. The trip was only to Breadstix, but it was okay. Kurt realized as they were sitting around a big table, all eating and laughing, that the last time he was there had been when Rachel told him about Alex. Wow, how his life had changed since then.
He, Kurt Hummel, had survived years of taunting, threats, and bullying. He raised a child during his senior year. He graduated high school in the top ten percent of his class. He had a boyfriend. Things were finally going the way he always planned, even if a few events threw a wrench into his "plan."
Kurt was content with his life and was rested ahead. If the giggling from his right where Alex was making a mess of a breadstick wasn't a good enough indication, the big grin from Noah Puckerman at his other side definitely was. Finally, life was good, and it was only going to get better.