It's freaking me out knowing there is only one more chapter left of Baby, You're Not Alone. This story is my baby and it's crazy to think of the reception it has had. I will probably have a super long A/N next chapter (the final chapter), but right now I'll keep it brief. Thanks so much for reading guys. Enjoy!
He'd made it. Sitting among his fellow students, Puck was still in shock to think he had actually made it. He was graduating. His mind kept replaying the events of the past year and a half. Everything started with that locker room, when he found Karofsky attacking Rachel. Puck had been there to save her and protect her. He had been there when Azimio promised she was off-limits. He had been there when Karofsky returned and Rachel gained her own personal security guards. He had been there when those security guards turned into both of their best friends. He had been there when everyone learned the truth about Finn. He had been there when she was dealing with her PTSD. He had been there during the court case, and had been there to support her when Karofsky was finally put in jail. He had been there when she was ready to give herself to him in the most intimate way. Now, he was there as she took the stage for her valedictorian speech.
"As most of you know, I've always strived to be the best I could be in everything I do. That's probably why, as honored as I am, I'm not necessarily surprised to be standing up here today." She giggled as her peers laughed along with her. "But it definitely turned out to be a tougher journey than I had expected. I started out high school naïve and rather immature, flaunting my talent and my can-do attitude all over all of you." She was met again with soft laughs. "Some of you felt I needed a bit of an attitude adjustment and chose to administer one through slushie facials. As grotesque and uncomfortable as they were, they were somewhat symbolic of what life is going to be like after high school. We leave this place and enter a whole new world of opportunities. We'll be walking around, bright-eyed and enthusiastic, only to be met with a sudden jolt of something we were clearly not expecting. But what I've learned, as well as some of you have too, is that you can't allow these bumps in the road to stop you from pushing on. As my fellow gleeks and I can attest to, the best way to handle a slushy facial is to immediately rid yourself of its sticky, colorful mess and then continue on with your day is if it never happened. When you encounter something unexpected and unpleasant, you must brush it off and move on.
"When Mr. Shuester decided to resuscitate glee club at McKinley, I jumped at the chance to show off my talents in a more constructive manner. Despite the exile I occasionally felt through being one of its members, glee club led me to some of my best friends." Rachel smiled fondly at the crowd, looking around and smiling at familiar faces. "I managed my sophomore year with the help and support of these amazing people. Then my life changed forever. In the early morning on a promising spring day during my junior year, one of my constant bullies sexually assaulted me in the school's locker room." She took a deep breath, willing her inner strength as she was recounting her horrific experience for the first time publicly. "As it happened, I felt helpless and hopeless. Then, my fellow glee member at the time, Noah Puckerman bursted through the doors and saved me. Well, physically saved me anyways.
"I feel like a part of the old me was destroyed that day in the locker room. When something as horrific as being raped occurs, you are never quite the same again. However, being the person that I am at heart, I would not let what happened to me keep me down. I became a newer version of myself. Rachel 2.0 if you will." She smiled. "I was no longer naïve and I forced myself to be stronger. As I overcame nightmares replaying that same event, anxiety attacks, being told I had post-traumatic stress disorder, and the court case that finally put my attacker behind bars, I was glad to know I was not alone. Noah became my boyfriend and is the love of my life." She smiled adoringly at the boy whose smile was clear in the crowd. "He did so much for me the past year and a half. He convinced his athletic friends to act as my quasi body guards, the same athletes I have grown to love as some of my best friends. He comforted me every time I cried. He sat next to my fathers during the court case and even testified for me. He is my best friend and I don't know where I'd be without him."
Rachel wiped away a threatening tear, a smile clear on her face, and continued. "What happened to me will burn in the back of my mind for the rest of my life. But today is not about reliving hard times, but remembering the good times of the past, present, and future. Today is about celebrating how far all of us have come. Some of us have grown from bullying Neanderthals to bright, talented gentlemen," she smiled at Joey, Brian, Dylan, and Azimio. "Some have come to terms and accepted who they were after hiding it for so many years," she winked at Santana and Kurt, who sat close to each other. "Some who had slacked off at the beginning, found their paths and strived until they reached today," she smiled at Brittany and Puck, who laughed softly with her. "Although we might have started off on different spectrums, we've all grown together and found those we were meant to be with. I've said one certain phrase to many of you on several different occasions, and I'll say it again. Being a part of something special, makes you special. Right now, in this very moment, this is something special. Wherever life may take you, remember today. Remember the people you've met and all the memories you made together. No matter what happens afterwards, we'll always have today to be special together. Thank you."
As Rachel made her way down the ramp to rejoin her classmates in her seat, everyone in the audience stood and loudly applauded her. The brunette smiled and teared up, giggling softly as her classmates patted her back, some briefly hugging her. Once everyone had quieted down and taken their seats again, Principal Figgins took the stage and smiled down on his students.
"When your name is called, please come up and receive your diploma." He looked down at the list and nodded to Mr. Shuester, Coach Bieste, and Coach Sylvester who stood to the side next to the table with all the diplomas. "Artie Abrams," he read. Artie rolled up, the glee kids cheering loudly. Mr. Shuester handed him his diploma and moved his tassel, bending down and hugging him. "Azimio Adams," Principal Figgins said next. Many jocks hollered for their team mate along with the glee club. Azimio too his diploma from Coach Bieste and shook Mr. Shuester's hand before fist-pumping and walking back to his seat.
After a few names, and after Jacob Ben-Israel went to receive his diploma, Principal Figgins smiled. "Your valedictorian, Rachel Berry." The entire student body stood and cheered as Rachel walked up onto the stage. She smiled at and briefly hugged Sue and Coach Bieste before taking her diploma from Mr. Shuester and hugging him tightly. When they broke their embrace, they both had tears in their eyes and locked eyes as Mr. Shuester moved Rachel's tassel. Rachel looked out at all of her friends, finding those familiar hazel eyes and smiling brightly through her tears. She waved to the rest of her friends before taking her seat and thumbing the edge of her diploma. A few more names passed until finally, Principal Figgins announced, "Mike Chang." Mike stood and walked on stage, hugging Coach Beiste and Mr. Shuester before taking his diploma and taking his seat again. Again, a few more names went past before Figgins spoke, "Tina Cohen-Chang." Tina smiled with tears rolling down her cheeks and strutted up to the stage, hugging Mr. Shuester as well and returning to her seat. The Asian couple shared a smile, and Tina blew Mike a kiss. The pair had been together for almost three years and showed no signs of splitting up any time soon.
More and more students went past, each of their names being called. The Cheerios would be surprised when Coach Sylvester hugged them, while the guys would be the ones to initiate hugs with Coach Bieste. One by one, each of the glee club members would go up and receive their diplomas. When Sam received his, pointed out to Mercedes and put his hand up to his heart, promptly causing many girls to 'awww' and the diva to burst out in tears. Quinn gracefully waved out to the crowd and walked back down, hugging Artie before taking her seat. As Kurt's name was called, there was a loud cheering from the audience, the glee club laughing when they recognized the blue and red blazers of the Warblers. Kurt winked out at Blaine who stood at the front and made a heart with his hands. After hugging Mr. Shuester, he turned and hugged Sue tightly. Sue smiled and hugged him back before pulling away and shooing him off the stage. Mercedes was called after a few other students received their diplomas, and in classic diva fashion, she rocked the graduation stage as if it were a cat walk. She laughed her loud, crazy laugh when she heard her friends cheering for her, and hugged Mr. Shuester before blowing Sam a kiss and going back to her seat.
Dylan's name was called soon after and he received his diploma at the cheers of his football and glee friends. Santana soon rose and approached after hearing her name and giggled when she heard catcalls and wolf whistles. She winked at Brittany before hugging Mr. Shuester and Coach Sylvester, snagging her diploma and strutting back to her seat. It was quite a while before Brittany's name was called. She was looking up at the sky when her name was called and it took Puck nudging her for her to realize it was her turn. The blonde smiled and walked up onto the stage, waving to Santana before taking her diploma and hugging Sue and Mr. Shue. Principal Figgins visibly stiffened when he said the next name. "Noah Puckerman." Rachel shrieked in happiness as Puck stood and walked up to the stage. He did his signal (kissing two of his fingers and tapping his heart), looking right at her, smiling softly when he noticed tears glimmering in her eyes. He hugged Mr. Shuester and Coach Bieste before taking his diploma and walking back to his seat.
Joey took his diploma a little while later, wearing a clown nose and some giant sunglasses, earning the entire audience to laugh hysterically. He looked out and tapped his heart, pointing to Nelly out in the audience, before taking his diploma and returning to his seat. Finally, Brian was the last name called. He walked up and hugged his two couches and mentors, taking his diploma and returning to his seat. Principal Figgins looked out at the class and smiled. "Ladies and gentlemen, I present William McKinley High School's Class of 2012. You are all officially graduated." With a loud cheer, the students pulled off their caps and threw them into the air.
After finding her hat again (those star stickers along them really worked as the perfect identifier), Rachel navigated her way through the crowd, hugging her friends along the way, until she found her fathers. She hugged them both, laughing happily at their tears. Soon the rest of her friends had found and gathered around her. Out of the crowd, she saw a very familiar smirk, and she sprinted towards him, jumping into his well-toned arms. Her lips latched onto his in a passionate kiss, one that only ended when they needed air again.
"Noah, I can't believe we made it," she said with tears welling in her eyes.
"Me neither," he chuckled. "I can't believe we're both going to New York together."
"I am not at all surprised," Rachel replied, patting her hand on his chest. "I knew you'd make it into Juilliard if you applied yourself."
"Yeah, yeah," he brushed off. "I'm just glad we'll both be there together." He pushed some stray hairs behind her ear. "But something's missing." Rachel looked at him quizzically as he put her down. Then, in front of all their friends and family, Puck got down on one knee and pulled out a black velvet box. Rachel gasped, her hands covering her mouth as he revealed a delicate silver gold band with a star-shaped diamond in the center, surrounded by smaller diamonds that extended down the band. "Rachel, you're one of the most amazing, selfless, strong people I've ever met. You look at life with this great optimism that makes me see the good in things with you. I've said it before, but despite what happened in the locker room that day, you were the one that saved me. I was going nowhere in life until I met you. When I found you that day, my life finally had a purpose. I love you so much, sometimes it hurts. I know some people may say we're too young, but fuck 'em. I can't imagine my life without you in it and I don't want to. Rachel Barbra Berry, water bug, will you marry me?"
Rachel, through the tears that were pouring down her face, nodded and muttered a soft, "yes." Puck smiled brightly and put the ring on her left hand, lifting her up again and kissing her deeply. They didn't notice the cameras flashing around them or the cheers and screams around them. In that moment, it was just Noah and Rachel. When Rachel pulled away, Puck looked up at her. "How long have you been planning this?" she asked him curiously. Puck chuckled.
"Since we got our acceptance letters."
"But that was in December," she pointed out, her eyebrows scrunching. Puck simply nodded, his hand cupping her face. "You've known for that long that you wanted to be with me forever?"
"Baby, I've always known that." Rachel smiled, a tear rolling down her cheek. "I love you."
"I love you," she reciprocated before taking his lips in hers. Although they had gone through so much in the past two years, Rachel and Puck knew that their crazy journey had just begun, and they couldn't have been happier to know they were continuing it together.
Thanks for reading! Please review! I'm not going to put a requirement, but I'd love to hear what you guys think. This chapter was very difficult to write. I think it's because I don't want this to end, but I know it has to. I will try and finish the final chapter and have it published for you guys next weekend. I love you all!