A/N: I've been planning out this fic for a while now, but I'm finally getting around to publishing it-and I'm a little nervous, to be honest! Just because I've put so much work and planning into it. It's my first multi-chapter and future fic! It focuses on the idea that Kurt, Blaine, and Rachel move to New York City after high school to go to college. It deals with their transition into the "real world" and adjusting to life in the big city. It's probably going to be slightly AU since we don't really know for sure what's going to happen to this trio after they graduate. I was inspired by two songs: "Good Life" by OneRepublic and "For the First Time" by The Script (if I had the time to make a mash-up of these two, I totally would!) Both very good songs, I recommend them highly. The lyrics aren't really relevant to the story (well, certain lyrics are, but not the entire songs), but I was mostly inspired by the... mood of the songs, if that makes any sense.

Enough rambling—here's my story! The prologue takes place on high school graduation. Enjoy!

The Good Life: Prologue

Finn bounded down the stairs wearing a bright smile and an even brighter red graduation gown. He met his mother at the bottom of the stairs and managed to glance her way just in time for her to take a picture of his beaming expression with her camera.

"Finn, honey, you look so handsome," Carole admired, slightly teary eyed as she raised her camera for another picture.

Finn desperately attempted to block his face with his arms. "Mom!" He whined.

Burt appeared from the kitchen holding a soda can, lingering around the doorframe as he watched his wife snap a stream of pictures. "Lookin' good, champ."

"Thanks, Burt," Finn mumbled, turning a similar shade of red to his gown. He held up his arms again, flailing them around frantically. "Mom, c'mon!"

Carole lowered her camera dejectedly, heaving a sigh at her reluctant son. "You only have one high school graduation, honey. Humor me, alright?"

Before Finn could open his mouth to protest, a loud, exaggerated groan sounded from the top of the stairs. A sulking Kurt stomped down the staircase clad in his own red gown, a grimace pulling at his delicate features. Once he reached the bottom of the staircase, the family froze, watching as he twirled around unceremoniously to showcase the horrendously red article of clothing.

"It's like they want us to look ridiculous when we graduate," Kurt griped to the family. "As if the entire high school experience wasn't humiliating enough…"

"Who cares what you look like?" Burt spoke up after he swallowed a mouthful of soda. He shrugged his large shoulders casually. "Everyone else has to wear the same thing, don't they?"

Kurt pouted his lip indignantly. "This gown completely swallows me."

"Okay, boys!" Carole sang over Kurt's quiet complaints before they progressed into an entire rant on the importance of proper fitting attire. She pushed a wide-eyed Finn over toward Kurt until their shoulders bumped together. "Let me get a picture of the two of you together."

Kurt rolled his eyes just as Finn mischievously lifted his hand to put bunny ears on his stepbrother. Kurt promptly swatted Finn's hand away without a second glance. "Don't even think about it, Finnegan."

Carole snapped the photo and beamed proudly at her two sons. She shot a glance over her shoulder at her casual-faced husband and grinned sorrowfully. "They just keep getting older."

"Yeah, kids tend to do that," Burt commented with a deep chuckle. He turned around and headed back to the kitchen with his empty drink can. "We better get moving or we're going to be late for the ceremony."

Carole all but shrieked as she scurried around the house to make sure she had thoroughly stuffed her purse with as many useful contents as she could: sunglasses, camera, cell phone, back-up batteries for the camera and, most importantly, a small package of Kleenex. Burt simply grabbed his car keys and walked out the door, rolling his eyes as his wife paced the living room floor for the tenth time in the past five minutes just to make sure she hadn't forgotten anything. Kurt lingered in front of the hallway mirror to double-check his meticulously styled hair just as Finn passed by, nudging him with his shoulder.

"I can't believe we're actually graduating," He admitted with a sheepish smile. "I thought for sure I flunked English this semester."

Kurt pursed his lips at his reflection, mentally cursing the red gown for making his already naturally rosy cheeks even more pronounced than usual. "It's about time we got out of that Hellhole, if you ask me."

Finn's face contorted into confusion. "You mean you won't miss high school at all?"

"No, Finn. My heart will forever be scarred with loss as I hopelessly pine for the days when my Neanderthal peers would toss me into dumpsters and tape tampons to my back in homeroom," Finn merely blinked as a response. Kurt released a controlled sigh as he realized that he might have just used one too many literate words for Finn to comprehend. "I was being sarcastic."

"Wait…someone actually taped a tampon to your back?"

"That's not the point," Kurt hissed. He returned to adjusting his immaculately coiffed hair in the mirror. "The point is that there are better opportunities waiting for me in New York."

Finn winced reflexively. New York had always been a sore subject for Finn ever since Rachel discovered that her destiny—along with Kurt's—truly resided within the concrete streets and towering skyscrapers of that very city. Unfortunately, none of Finn's post-high school plans involved leaving Ohio and therefore—in Rachel's mind—did not involve Rachel. The couple had yet to discuss the prospect of their relationship once senior year came to a close, but Finn knew that graduation was just one day closer to that dreaded conversation and facing the pair's ambiguous future.

Kurt realized what he had just said and whirled around to face Finn. His mind desperately searched for the right words to say, letting his mouth open and close wordlessly. Before anything could come to mind, however, Burt's voice called out from outside.

"What's the hold up in there? Get a move on or you two'll be late to your own graduation ceremony!"

Finn and Kurt looked at each other with blank expressions—neither one knowing what to say. After what seemed like an eternity, Kurt finally moved away from the mirror. He walked past Finn without moving a muscle in his face and exited the house. Finn followed suit.

"I've never seen so much…red," Kurt commented to Finn as they parted ways with their parents and entered the hallway of McKinley High School. All the males of the senior class were standing in line along a wall of lockers just outside the auditorium, clad in their obnoxiously bright gowns and caps. The seemingly endless sea of red was almost too much for Kurt's eyes. He looked away with disdain.

"Finn, Kurt!" A familiar voice called out over the loud chatter of the senior boys. Mr. Schuester came strolling toward the glee club members wearing a wide smile and a nice suit. "Fashionably late, I see."

Kurt raised his eyebrows slightly. "Mr. Schue, everything about me is always fashionable—including my timing."

The curly haired teacher laughed and glanced down at the clipboard that rested in his arms. "We're lining all the boys up alphabetically by last name," Mr. Schue pointed absently toward the messy line. "You two are over with the H's, of course."

The line had morphed into more of a mass of bodies, haphazardly clumping against the lockers. It was rather challenging to figure out who was standing in front of who, let alone where the H section began. Finn stared dumbly at the crowd of boys who were becoming increasingly more rowdy as they were forced to wait for the ceremony to begin. Kurt turned back to Mr. Schue, eyebrows coming together with uncertainty.

"Hurry and find your places, guys," Mr. Schue urged. "We're going to start any minute."

Finn and Kurt turned toward the rest of their class until Mr. Schue's voice caught their attention once again. "Oh, Finn, Kurt."

The boys looked back at their teacher when they were addressed.

"Congratulations," Mr. Schue smiled warmly and seemed to drop his formal demeanor like he tended to do during Glee rehearsals. Kurt and Finn looked at the man who had taught them so much more than music and Spanish over the course of four years. Mr. Schue took Finn and Quinn to their ultrasound. Mr. Schue allowed Kurt to embrace his individuality through song. He was much more than a teacher to the Glee members—he was their friend. "I'm really proud of you guys."

"Thanks, Mr. Schue," Kurt returned the gentle grin. "I'll miss Glee club."

"Yeah, me, too," Finn agreed, nodding emphatically toward his teacher. "I'll probably miss it more than football."

Mr. Schue laughed. "That's good to know, Finn. Now get going."

Kurt paused to take a moment to stare doubtfully at the unorganized line. He figured the best way to tackle the situation would be to start at the beginning. His eyes quickly landed on Artie Abrams who was second in line with the A's. The wheelchair bound boy was easy to pick out among the rest of the standing students. Kurt met Artie's gaze and smiled politely while Finn dashed over to give the boy a high-five. The tall jock moved down the line toward Mike Chang in the C section. The two friends fist-bumped and began engaging in an energetic conversation.

"Kurt! Hey, Kurt!" A voice called out over the noise. Kurt's heart immediately began to flutter as recognition washed over him. The slender brunette let his eyes scan across the line until they landed on the boy who had certainly called his name. Blaine Anderson stood in line a few people down from Artie. The dark haired boy waved at his boyfriend as they locked eyes and Kurt could barely contain his excitement. He practically pranced toward Blaine, ignoring the disapproving stares from a couple of his nearby classmates.

"Blaine!" Kurt greeted breathlessly as he threw his arms around his boyfriend's neck in a hug. He pulled away, but held onto his elbows, keeping him at arms length to survey him up and down. Kurt pouted internally—how was it possible that Blaine still managed to look breathtakingly attractive in his atrociously red graduation cap and gown?

"Red is your color," Blaine commented politely, as if he could read Kurt's mind. "It matches your cheeks."

Much to Kurt's embarrassment, he could indeed feel a blush creeping onto his face, leaving his cheeks as red as his gown. He playfully smacked Blaine on the shoulder while the older boy chuckled. "Don't make fun of me because I'm pale."

"I'm kidding," Blaine grinned sincerely. "You look adorable no matter what."

This didn't seem to stop the blush from deepening on Kurt's face. Ever since Blaine decided to transfer to McKinley for his senior year, Kurt had been more prone to inexplicable blushing during school. One time, Mr. Schue even asked if Kurt needed to go to the nurse during Glee rehearsal because Blaine had winked at him from across the room. But if embarrassing outbursts of blushing were the price to pay in order to have Blaine close to him, it was well worth it in Kurt's eyes.

"I have to find my spot in line," Kurt announced, using every ounce of control to make sure his voice did not involuntarily raise a few octaves. "I'll see you when we graduate."

Blaine gave Kurt's elbow an assuring squeeze. "I'll be the one in red getting a diploma."

Kurt's giggles were drowned out by the overpowering yell of Coach Sylvester lurching down the hall.

"Porcelain!" Kurt snapped to attention, his eyes widening with fear. "I urge you to tear yourself away from that greasy-haired lounge singer long enough to find your place in line—now!"

Blaine's eyebrows came together, but said nothing to the coach. During his brief stay at McKinley, he quickly learned that it was simpler to just ignore Coach Sylvester's bizarre insults. However, Kurt's tactic was to leave—quickly. And that's exactly what the young countertenor did as soon as Coach Sylvester's demand left her lips. Blaine swirled around to see Kurt already walking past the D's, waving somewhat apologetically for his abrupt departure. Blaine simply laughed to himself and faced forward in line.

Kurt continued to make his way down the line, pausing to greet Sam with a friendly 'hello', indicating that he must have made it to the E's. Finn was already standing in line with the fellow H's by the time Kurt arrived. He squeezed himself in behind his stepbrother as he released a long breath.

"This is it," Finn muttered, barely audible over the boisterous conversation that surrounded them. "After today…everything changes."

"It doesn't have to," Kurt reminded Finn knowingly. He knew without asking that Finn was more concerned about losing Rachel than losing McKinley High. "You can still be with her, Finn."

Finn fumbled incomprehensively with his words as the recognizable tune of Pomp and Circumstance began playing from inside the auditorium. The casual chatter from the senior boys momentarily died down as the song filled their ears, but it quickly fired up again with more excitement and enthusiasm than the first time. Mr. Schue came walking down the hall, trying to stand somewhere in the middle of the line so that all the boys could hear him.

"Alright, guys," He beamed. "Time to graduate!"

Wild cheers and hollers erupted from the senior boys followed by celebratory high-fives and fist-bumps. Finn and Kurt were the only two who remained quiet—Kurt because he refused to participate in his classmates' disruptive and immature behavior; Finn because he was still too busy thinking about Rachel. Kurt could see the A's start to file into the auditorium, including Blaine who was smiling dazzlingly as usual. Soon, the boys in front of him began shuffling closer to the auditorium doors. Finn entered first, looking more like a deer caught in headlights than an accomplished graduate. Kurt trailed in after him, briefly blinded by the flashing cameras of all the proud parents in the audience. He walked down the aisle in single file and smiled when he caught sight of his dad and Carole sitting in the designated parent section of the auditorium. He found his way to his seat beside Finn, suddenly blending in with the rest of his red classmates. Kurt tried to peer over the graduation caps of his fellow males to catch a glimpse of the girl section on the other side of the auditorium. He saw Rachel up front with the B's, Quinn with the F's, Mercedes with the J's… all of his Glee friends were scattered throughout the throngs of red gowns.

"Welcome," Principal Figgins' accent-heavy, monotonous voice resonated through the auditorium, followed by high-pitched screeching noises as he tapped his finger against the microphone. The entire room was silenced as the screeching disappeared. "Welcome, everyone, to McKinley High School's class of 2012 graduation ceremony."

Applause exploded from the masses as the ceremony officially began. Everything after that was a blur to Kurt. He remembered walking across the stage to receive his diploma in his hideous red gown—all the while thinking "don't trip, don't trip"—and cheering loudly every time one of his friends did the same. He remembered turning his tassel across his cap at the end of the ceremony followed by the deafening cheers from the entire senior class as they threw their caps into the air. And just like that, Kurt Hummel's high school career had ended forever. He was done. The thought made him want to laugh, scream and cry all at the same time. Instead, he opted for staring off into the distance in a daze. Kurt didn't even recall leaving the auditorium, but before he knew it, he was standing outside the school in the warm summer air, looking completely dumbfounded as his friends ran up to him, bombarding him with hugs and squeals.

"We did it, dude!" Puck and Lauren passed him first, giving him friendly—yet unintentionally rough—pats on the back. They were nearly gone by the time Kurt broke free of his stupor. "Party at Brittany's this afternoon for all the Glee kids! Be there!"

Artie came by next, being wheeled by Sam at a dangerously fast pace. The bespectacled boy pumped his fist into the air as Sam gave a loud howl. "What up! We just graduated, yo!"

Kurt smiled in the direction of his friends, but suddenly felt three bodies crash against his side. The force would have knocked him flat on the ground if it weren't for three pairs of arms holding him in a tight embrace.

"Oh, my gosh, Kurt!" Rachel's unmistakable voice rang in his ear. "I can't believe it!"

Rachel, Tina, and Mercedes tore themselves away from Kurt's slender figure, each one of them grinning like fools and practically vibrating from excitement. Kurt smiled back at his friends, nodding in agreement. "It's so surreal."

"And now," Rachel began, biting her lower lip to contain her elation. She grabbed Kurt's hands in hers. "We can focus on our next stop—New York City!"

Just the mere mention of this particular city sent Kurt into a grinning frenzy. Ever since their trip to Nationals last year, Kurt wanted nothing more than to leave the boring town of Lima, Ohio behind him and pursue his lofty dreams in The Big Apple. Rachel, of course, had dreamed of nothing else since she was a child. Blaine was enthusiastic to join the pair on their Manhattan journey, and so it was decided. After graduation, Kurt, Blaine and Rachel made plans to rent an apartment in New York City while they attended New York University.

"I can't believe you guys will be all the way in New York," Tina pouted. Today, she had changed the color of her highlights to red to match her graduation gown.

"All I know is that you better come home to visit the rest of us," Mercedes added with mock-sass. The three girls and Kurt laughed together.

"Of course we will," Rachel promised. The brunette singer suddenly stuck her nose up in the air superiorly. "If I'm not too busy rehearsing for my Broadway debut show, that is."

Kurt attempted to hide his eye roll just as Rachel turned toward the other two. Tina and Mercedes shared a knowing glance that went undetected by Rachel.

"I better go find my parents," Tina announced. "And Mike."

"Same—my family's waiting for me in the parking lot," Mercedes added. She faintly turned a shade of pink in the cheeks as she looked away from her friends' eyes. "And, um, Sam, too."

Kurt wagged his eyebrows teasingly. Mercedes and Sam recently went public with their relationship even though Kurt had a hunch that they had been dating since the beginning of last summer. The two were sickeningly cute, Kurt decided. He made a mental note to interrogate her about that later.

"See you guys at Britt's party!" Tina called out as she and Mercedes disappeared among the crowds of hugging families with their recently graduated children.

Rachel turned back to Kurt. "I have to go, too. Finn said he wanted to discuss something with me."

"Ah, the moment of reckoning…" Kurt muttered mostly to himself.

"The what?"

"Oh, nothing," Kurt smiled a bit too cheekily and ushered Rachel away. "Off you go to find your adorably ungainly boyfriend."

A bit baffled, Rachel walked off. Kurt turned around in place, surveying the area around him for a familiar face. He placed his hands on his hips when he spotted Blaine near the edge of the parking lot, talking animatedly to a group of his Warbler friends who had made the two-hour trek from Westerville to support their ex-star performer when he graduated. Blaine gave each of them a long hug goodbye before they started toward Wes' car. Kurt took the opportunity to approach him.

"I'm glad they could make it," Kurt spoke up from behind Blaine. The curly haired boy spun around to meet the ocean blue eyes of his boyfriend. In one swift motion, Blaine threw his arms around Kurt and squeezed tightly.

"Kurt! Can you believe we just graduated?" He rested his chin on Kurt's shoulder, the stiff fabric of his red gown brushing against his face.

Kurt smirked. "Yes, actually."

Blaine chuckled as he released Kurt, staring into his eyes with adoring contentment. Kurt's eyes were fixed on the group of Warblers as they piled into Wes' car in the parking lot. He subtly motioned toward them with his chin. "Do you miss them?"

Blaine looked over his shoulder as his friends drove away from the school and turned onto the highway. His gaze flickered back to the ground between them, but a delicate, nostalgic smile still tugged at his lips. "Sometimes."

"Like now?" Kurt guessed. It didn't take Kurt long to realize that Blaine was not kidding when he said he wasn't the best at talking about his feelings. Although he was often sentimental and sympathetic to others, Blaine was used to hiding away his own deeper feelings inside himself, fearing that he would only be burdening the listener with his own problems. It always took a little pushing from Kurt's end to get Blaine talking about what was really on his mind.

"I guess I just miss the predictability of Dalton and the Warblers," Blaine admitted with a sigh, appearing a bit bashful as he spoke. "Don't get me wrong—I really like McKinley, but it's much more…intimidating. There aren't any uniforms; there aren't as many conservative rules. I feel so vulnerable here…it brings back a lot of memories from my old school."

Kurt's eyes widened in dismay. He was well aware of the torture that Blaine had to endure at his old school before he transferred to Dalton. Kurt began shaking his head rather forcefully. "Blaine, I had no idea…you didn't need to leave Dalton."

"You're right—I didn't need to," Blaine gave Kurt a lopsided grin. "But it was the right thing. Dalton was my cop-out. It's where I ran to when I was too scared to stand up for myself. McKinley was my second chance; a place where I could be myself and not have to constantly worry about fitting in."

Kurt blinked, stunned by Blaine's confidence.

"I'm glad I came here. It reminded me of who I really am—without a uniform to hide behind," He chuckled lightly and imperceptibly took Kurt's hand in his. "Plus, I got to be with you."

Kurt almost forgot that they were holding hands in public. Neither of them were keen on public displays of affection—especially not in a town like Lima. But Kurt didn't care. He was beyond proud to be holding the hand of such an incredible person, no matter who was watching.

"Let's not talk about this now," Blaine waved off the topic with casual disinterest and squeezed Kurt's hand. "Right now we should be celebrating. We're high school graduates! C'mon, let's find our parents."

They walked hand in hand through the swarms of people. And Kurt didn't even mind the glares.

A/N: Wow, this is looooong… sorry about that! I kept trying to find places to stop, but I didn't want to make the whole graduation sequence longer than one chapter. So I crammed everything into one. :P Basically, this prologue sets up the rest of the story. Hope I didn't lose any of you in this chapter! I know it's long and kinda slow right now, but it'll get better—I promise! Stick with me!

Side note: It was really important to me that I put in that section about why Blaine left Dalton. I know there's been speculation about him transferring in season 3 (which I'm all for, btw), but I really hope he has a better reason than just "I wanted to be with Kurt!"... okay, really? The kids in Glee already transfer around every other week like it's no big deal so I really hope Blaine has a legitimate reason for his transfer. Not that I don't want Blaine and Kurt to be together (dear sweet Lord, I do), but that should be a bonus-not the main reason. It's not healthy for them-or any relationship, for that matter-to be so clingy. I feel like Blaine transferring to McKinley to better himself and break away from Dalton's conformist ways would be a logical and acceptable excuse. It shows that Blaine and Kurt are individuals who can take care of themselves without the necessity of the other...but if they did decide to stay together forever and ever and ever, there would be no complaints from this girl. ;)

Thanks for reading! Next chapter coming soon!