Billy walked among the crowd of black scanning for Teddy – it would be impossible to find him in the mess of fabric, but that didn't mean Billy wouldn't try. He spotted his mother, settled in a chair between his father and Teddy's mother, the twins fidgeting beside his dad as they waited impatiently.
A few rows behind them he spotted a familiar looking head of blonde hair and had to do a double take.
Teddy was standing by a crowd of teenagers not clad in black, grinning like a fool and chatting animatedly. Beside him Tommy looked like he was going to be sick but he pulled the boy over anyway.
"What's this?" Billy asked to catch Teddy's attention.
"Billy!" A small blonde thing crashed into his chest and Billy laughed as he hugged her.
"Not using secret identities anymore?" Stature – two years together and it was completely unfair that she knew his name and he didn't know hers – grinned up at him.
"It doesn't seem useful now that Iron Lad is back in the timeline…" her smile faltered slightly. It hadn't been a good couple of weeks – after Doom's… death, Iron Lad had returned to the timeline to see how this affected his future. He hadn't returned and it was looking less and less likely that he would come back. Then the Avengers reassembled and took back Vision, re-installing adult programing. The losses had been the hardest on Stature.
Still. They still had Patriot and Hawkeye and Stature, so they were still a team. Still a family. But…
"So can I learn your name now?"
She grinned at him.
"Of course. Cassie Lang. Nice to actually introduce myself to you." She stuck a hand out in a formal manner and Billy had taken it in a firm shake before his mind jumped.
"Cassie Lang? Like Scott Lang? You're Ant Man's daughter?"
"I put it together months ago and I'm not even a fan boy," Tommy muttered beside him. Cassie poked her tongue out at him and he winked in reply. The other girl – brown hair, purple shirt, definitely Hawkeye – nudged Cassie lightly out of the way so as to congratulate Billy herself. Cassie moved next to Tommy, tugging on his messy white and making some kind of comment that had him grinning and passing a sarcastic remark.
"I'm Kate. Kate Bishop."
Billy took her hand.
"That's why we have Bishop publishing house – I thought you found it abandoned."
She grinned wickedly, the move just as fierce without an arrow in her hand.
"Nope. Own it. Anyway, this poor sucker," Kate grabbed the arm of the boy behind her – Patriot, "is gonna have his turn for introductions."
"Eli Bradley," he said with a small, rare smile, catching Billy's hand and shaking firmly once.
"Wow. I mean. Like. I can't believe you're all here! This is amazing!"
"You thought we'd miss this? We save the world together – might as well be there for your other important events. I gotta ask, why didn't we do identity reveals earlier…? It was so much effort."
Billy just shrugged, to overjoyed that not just his family but his friends, who were kinda like his other family, came to see him graduate. Teddy grinned down at him.
Billy frowned at him until Teddy waved his arm out, indicating at his graduation gown.
"Shit. Better go change! See you after?"
Teddy caught his arm, dropping a kiss on his cheek.
"Count on it."
"It's a graduation gown, what did you think it was made of, cashmere?"
"No," Billy huffed, lowing the sleeve of his gown once more, "I just assumed it would be less like wearing a coat of dog hair."
Tommy snorted and checked his reflecting in the mirror, adjusting the gown around a shiny golden sash.
"Waddya think, should I go with the traditional "I thank everyone" or the more personal "fuck you, fuck they lot of ya?" Billy smiled at the sarcasm in Tommy's tone, only just managing to mask nerves and pride.
Billy was nervous about graduation, sure. He knew he was going to trip. Or say the wrong thing to the Principle. Or freak out and teleport off the stage. Or, knowing his luck, a monster or villain of some kind would attack the stage right as he accepted his diploma. But his nerves were nothing like what Tommy's must be.
"I dunno, I've never spoken in front of the whole school before."
"I think I'll go with the second one."
"Well they got the 'dick' part right," Billy grinned at his brother.
"Hey," Tommy said sternly, waving a finger at Billy, "that's Mr. Valedictorian to you, you lousy slightly above mediocre student."
Speed reading and a damn near perfect memory meant that Tommy could basically flip through a text book and have it memorized. Sure, if people knew he probably wouldn't be wearing that golden sash right now. But personally, Billy thought he deserved it. He still worked to get his grades and any free time he had been spent "hero-ing" around the world. Tommy might not be the best student but he was smart and resourceful. Too many people underestimated him. Tommy had offers from some of the best schools in the country (and other countries too) but he had settled on Columbia.
"It's a good school," he had said firmly when he told Billy, "this has nothing to do with you being accepted there."
Still. Columbia wasn't Harvard or Yale or Oxford or Cambridge (all places which Tommy now had acceptance letters too)
Apparently he did really well on exams.
"Billy?" The voice pulled through the curtain of the changing room and Billy fought a groan.
"In here Mom."
Rebecca Kaplan bustled in, comb in hand and was chatting before Billy could so much as say hello, running the comb though his hair and reminding him to thank the principle, and don't do that weird squinty thing when he collected the diploma, rubbing at a small spot of dirt on his nose that he had obviously missed.
"Yes Mom," he sighed obligatorily. She smiled at him.
"Good. I'm so proud of you!" She hugged him happily and he was sure that was it – but when she let go she turned, straight to the unsuspecting and lightly snickering Tommy and started on him, combing the hair and tugging the sash perfectly straight, smoothing it down, telling him not to be nervous because he had earned his place as valedictorian.
"I'm so very, very proud of you Thomas."
"Th-thank you Ms. Kaplan."
"Oh call me Mom, I already think of you as my son."
Tommy's expression was a perfect layer of shock, but his eyes softened as she hugged him.
That didn't stop him from scrunching up his nose when she kissed his cheek and wiped at the small amount of lipstick left behind there. She mimicked the move on Billy before waving them off and disappearing.
Billy shot a sideline glance at him when she was gone – he was standing stock still and had a look kind of like someone had punched him in the stomach.
"You okay in there? You're not gonna be sick while giving your speech are you?"
Tommy flushed a light red.
"I just. You know. Didn't expect it. I didn't expect anyone. Just kinda. You. And Teddy," Tommy admitted, not meeting his eyes, "but… Cassie and Kate and Eli… and your Mom. It's just…"
Billy felt his jaw click. Sometimes Billy forgot that Tommy's family had abandoned him, so wrapped up in his little world of school, magic and Teddy. He was lucky to have his parents out there, a mother to smudge the dirt off his nose and a father to ruffle his hair and little brothers to annoy the shit out of him.
He stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Tommy before the other boy could protest.
"You know they love you right?"
Tommy made a huffing sound at the contact but still returned it.
"You sound like your boyfriend."
"Yeah, yeah," Tommy said, grinning as he pushed Billy away, "I know, I know."
Tommy turned back to the mirror and inspected his cheek, making sure the lipstick was fully wiped off.
"Alright wonderboy, quit with the pruning," Billy joked, "we gotta get out and line up." Tommy nodded, choosing not to bite back at the comment and following Billy wordlessly out of the changing room.
He must have been really nervous.
There were speeches. And more speeches. Then someone played some music and a song was song. Then yet more speeches.
Tommy's was the best by far, sending ripples of laughter through the crowd before closing with a rather heartfelt mention to his "family of friends, the brother he lost and found and the mother not afraid to use a comb on his hair."
Sure enough, Billy's glance toward his mother confirmed tears and laughter when he nodded at her specifically and she cheered rather enthusiastically at the end.
And then. THEN.
Teddy was in the first batch – Altman. Billy smiled and waved nervously as Teddy took the stage and shook the Principal's hand, pulling his tassel over to the left. There was a small eruption of sound at his name from the back of the room, and with a glance Billy saw it was Cassie and Kate, whooping beside a very embarrassed looking Eli who simply clapped louder. This was rivalled only by Teddy's own mother who stood and cheered.
Then more names, half of which Billy didn't remember or couldn't place faces too until,
Deep breaths. One step at a time. His heart was pounding in his chest. There was clapping from the crowd.
Don't trip, don't trip, don't trip, don't trip, don't trip…
He shook the principal's hand with a dazed smile. The man said something and Billy vaguely remembered saying thank you in there somewhere before moving off to the left. He pulled the tassel across his cap and grinned at the crowd, listening to the applause before walking off and trying hard once again to not fall.
He practically fell back into his chair and took steadying breaths until Tommy was called. He looked a lot calmer than he had before he went onto the stage, smiling serenely into the crowd before tossing a wink toward the back, presumably at Cassie who no doubt had stuck her tongue out at him (which a quickly glance confirmed).
And then the Principal was taking the stage, announcing something and suddenly everyone around him was standing, caps thrown into the air. Billy was just a second too late, but still, you couldn't tell in the crowd of caps flying.
Everyone was talking and moving and jostling and trying to find their families. He got lost in the crowd for a moment before he crashed into Teddy, who pulled him close, laughing and grinning and trying to help him fight the crowds to their mothers.
And that was when Cassie crashed into them with a grin and held up her beeper.
"Come on Graduates, day's not done till we kick some portal creatures ass."
Billy and Teddy exchanged a look and agreed to quickly excuse themselves from the family for an hour or so.
"Reckon we'll make it back for the celebrations?" Teddy ask as they ditched their robes and took off for the nearest alley to change.
Billy grinned up at his boyfriend as his Wiccan costume wrapped itself around his form.
"I'd bet on it."
He'd graduated high school.
He'd survived high school.
At this point? He could take on the world.