Wow - here it is! I feel a bit emotional that Emma, Ryan, Nick and Ava are graduating from high school! I've been writing about these characters for over a year and I've really bonded with them. And of course, through Glee, I've bonded with Finn and Rachel, and seeing their kids graduate makes me emotional for them. I don't want to say goodbye to these characters just yet. While my next story will be about Finchel after the S4 winter hiatus, I definitely want these characters to be in a story I write in the future.

For the last time - don't forget to review, and thanks for all the support!

Chapter 22: Goodbye Heights

After returning home from New York with the Nationals trophy, the fact that these were the last few days at Cleveland Heights - University Heights High School for the seniors were really beginning to sink in. As Finn and Rachel walked to the choir room to work with the Gold Stars after school, they immediately noticed that it was somber compared to previous practices.

This group of seniors was special. It wasn't just because Finn and Rachel's kids were among this group. There were fourteen of them, and they'd all been great with the underclassmen. It was because of these fourteen people that they'd won Nationals. They would be hard to replace.

The fourteen seniors had picked out a song a while back to sing at graduation as a group. Finn and Rachel had been so impressed with the duet Nick and Emma had done a few weeks ago, they asked them to perform it at graduation as well.

"This is going to be an emotional week," Rachel said as they stood at the front of the choir room. "We're saying goodbye to fourteen of our beloved members. This week, the assignment is simple. You're going to say goodbye. Underclassmen, pick songs to say goodbye to the seniors. Seniors, each of you pick a song to say goodbye to us."

"We're going to begin with the seniors today," Finn said. "For a few weeks now, they've been practicing this number for graduation, and underclassmen, this is for you."

The fourteen seniors came to the front of the room. They'd chosen a pretty upbeat song, which Rachel was glad about. Both the kids had been pretty mellow at home lately.

"We know that our group is in good hands," Ryan said as the seniors took the center of the choir room. "If any of you ever need anything next year, we're all only a phone call away. And we'll be watching your competitions on youtube. And now, this is for you!" The music began.

Nick: What! What! What! What!
One, two
One, two, three
Wake up kids
We've got the dreamers disease
Age 14 we got you down on your knees
So polite, you're busy still saying please

Ryan: Frienemies
Who when you're down
Ain't your friend
Every night
We smash their Mercedes-Benz
First we run and then
We laugh till we cry

Emma and Ava: But when the night is falling
You cannot find the light,
If you feel your dreams are dying
Hold tight

Seniors: You've got the music in you
Don't let go
You've got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don't give up
You've got a reason to live
Can't forget
We only get what we give
I'm coming home, baby
You're the top
Give it to me now

Nick: Four A.M we ran a miracle mile
We're flat broke
But hey we do it in style
The bad rich

Nick and Ryan: God's flying in for your trial
Emma and Ava: Oooh, oh no!
Nick: But when the night is falling
You cannot, find a friend
You feel your tree is breaking
Just then
Seniors: You've got the music in you
Don't let go
You've got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don't give up
You've got a reason to live
Can't forget
We only get what we give

Ryan: This whole damn world can fall apart
You'll be OK, follow your heart
You're in harms way I'm right behind
Now say you're mine

Seniors: You've got the music in you
Don't let go
You've got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don't give up
You've got a reason to live
Can't forget
We only get what we give

Nick and Ava (Seniors): Fly high (Don't let go)
High (Don't give up)
What's real (Don't let go)
Can't die
Nick: You only get what you give
Ava: You only get what you give

Seniors: Health insurance rip off lying
FDA big bankers buying
Fake computer crashes dining
Cloning while they're multiplying
Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson
Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson
You're all fakes
Run to your mansions
Come around
We'll kick you down yeah!
Don't let go
You got the music in you
Don't give up
You got the music in you
You got the music in you

The underclassmen ran up to hug the seniors at the end of the song. Rachel looked at Finn. She could tell he was reminded of their own last few days of Glee.

x

Emma was sitting in her bedroom, looking through her dresses. She knew her black robe would be covering up whatever she wore, but it was still hard to decide what to wear. Then she heard a knock on her bedroom door. She opened it and saw Nick.

"Hey!" Emma said.

"Hey," Nick said. "How are you?"

"I know graduation's not for another few days, but I'm getting ready," Emma said. "Have you picked out a song to say goodbye in Gold Stars yet?"

"I have," Nick said. "Have you?"

"Yeah, you'll hear it tomorrow," Emma told her boyfriend.

"I'm excited," Nick said. "So, I got the call from the president."

"And?" Emma looked at her boyfriend. She felt a bit mad at herself for forgetting he was expecting that call, but with Nationals and graduation coming up, things had been hectic.

"I got the scholarship!" Nick said.

Emma smiled wide and hugged Nick. "That's amazing! I'm so proud of you!"

"Thanks," Nick said. "So, I just came over so we could talk."

Emma knew what Nick was talking about. She was sure he was about to break up with her. She'd be in Chicago and he'd be in Boston. They'd both be meeting lots of people. "You are my first love, Nick, and you'll always have a special place in my heart."

"The same is true for you," Nick said. "But Emma, I really don't want to break up."

Emma looked at Nick. "Neither do I."

Nick took Emma's hand. "We'll still see each other on breaks. We can come home the same weekends. We can even visit each other at our schools. And of course, we can Skype, text, talk on the phone, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr each other every day."

"Promise we'll interact some way every day?" Emma asked.

"I promise," Nick said. "I'll miss seeing you every day, but I'm confident that after we graduate college, we'll be in the same city."

"I love you," Emma said, hugging Nick. She was going to miss seeing him every day so much.

x

The next day in Gold Stars practice, Emma stood in the front of the room for her goodbye song. Before the song, she spoke to the group. "I really wanted to thank all of you for making this the best experience of my high school years. But there are a few people I want to thank in particular. My parents, our co-directors, for being the best parents in the world and always supporting me and being there for me. Ryan, for being not only my twin brother, but one of my best friends and for always being there for me and looking out for me. My other siblings, Sarah, Grant, Zoe and Jack, are not here today, but I still must acknowledge them for being four of the five best siblings in the world. Ava, who's been my best friend since that day in eighth grade when I was having a rough year and needed a friend so badly. Lizzie, Lexie, Laura, Izzy and Meg, who took me into their group of friends when I transferred schools in the middle of eighth grade and then let Ava in when we began at the high school. And Nick, who's always made me feel loved and special. I love all of you in this room, and this is for each and every one of you as well."

Emma: Say good-bye to not knowing when
The truth in my whole life began
Say good-bye to not knowing how to cry
You taught me that
And I'll remember the strength that you gave me
Now that I'm standing on my own
I'll remember the way that you saved me
I'll remember
Inside I was a child
That could not mend a broken wing
Outside I looked for a way
To teach my heart to sing
And I'll remember
the love that you gave me
Now that I'm standing on my own
I'll remember
the way that you changed me
I'll remember
I learned
to let go
of the illusion that we can possess
I learned
to let go
I travel in stillness
And I'll remember
happiness
I'll remember
Mmmmm...
And I'll remember the love that you gave me
Now that I'm standing on my own
I'll remember the way that you changed me
I'll remember
No I've never been afraid to cry
And I finally have a reason why
I'll remember (I'll remember)
No I've never been afraid to cry
And I finally have a reason why
I'll remember (I'll remember)
No I've never been afraid to cry
And I finally have a reason why
I'll remember (I'll remember)

The group got up on their feet and applauded. Nick came up to Emma and kissed her in the middle of the choir room. She smiled at him. He had made the past four years so special for her.

"Finn, Rachel, can I do the next song?" Nick asked.

Finn nodded. "Of course."

Emma went back to her seat, and was greeted by hugs from Ryan, Ava, Lizzie, Lexie, Laura, Izzy and Meg. She then sat back and smiled to hear Nick's speech and song.

"People think I have it all," Nick said. "My dad was a politician. I'm valedictorian, I'm going to the best school in the country. But as you all know, this year I lost so much. You all got me through it. I may be in lots of sports and clubs, but this was by far the best experience I had. Emma, I love you with everything I have. Grace and Kyle, you are the best siblings ever, and I love you so much. Ryan, you are the best friend in the world. Ben, Evan, Jeremy, Connor and Ricky, you've all been great friends as well, and I hope we can keep in touch. I'll miss everyone next year, but remember, we'll always be part of each other."

Nick: Woah, woah
Woah, woah
Woah, woah
The sun will still shine tomorrow
So it's time for moving on
There's not a second for sorrow
Even though the moments gone
The puzzle has so many pieces
But you can't, you can't hide
'Cause life just keeps on living
And sooner or later you'll find
This is not the end, no
Your day is gonna come
This is not the end, no
You're not the only one
We all have our ups and all have our downs
That we have to find a way around
This is not the end, no, no, oh, oh, oh
This is not the end

Woah, woah
I know it's never easy
To pick yourself up again
Take a deep breath 'cuz you know that
It's time to look ahead
With one foot in front of other
That you can, you can fly
Into a better tomorrow
And leave yesterday behind
This is not the end, no
Your day is gonna come
This is not the end, no
You're not the only one
We all have our ups and all have our downs
That we have to find a way around
This is not the end, no, no, oh, oh, oh
This is not the end

Oh, oh, oh
Don't ever give up, no
Oh, oh, oh
It's just a start now
Oh, oh, oh
It's just a start now
This is not the end, no
Your day is gonna come
This is not the end, no
You're not the only one
We all have our ups and all have our downs
That we have to find a way around
This is not the end, no, no, oh, oh, oh
This is not the end

Oh, oh, oh
Don't ever give up, no
Oh, oh, oh
It's just a start now
We all have our ups and all have our downs
That we have to find a way around
This is not the end, no, no, oh, oh, oh
This is not the end
Woah, woah

Emma ran up to the center of the room and hugged Nick. Even though she'd be in Chicago and he'd be in Boston, like his song said, this wasn't the end.

x

"So how's the valedictorian speech coming?" Ryan asked Nick as they walked to the choir room. Today was their last day of high school. Graduation was tomorrow. Ryan would miss going to school with Nick. He couldn't believe that this was the last choir practice ever. He and Ava were both performing their goodbye songs today, and so would the underclassmen. He and Ava were the last two seniors to perform.

"It's coming," Nick said.

"Good," Ryan said. "You know, Boston and New York are close enough to each other that we can take a train to visit each other on weekends."

"It's hard to believe graduation's tomorrow!" Nick said as they walked in. "And yes, we'll definitely visit each other."

Ryan didn't want to mention the fact that visits to Emma would be less easy for Nick, but he believed that his best friend and his sister were meant to be. He saw Ava and kissed her. "Do you want to go first, or should I?" he asked his girlfriend.

"You can go first," Ava said.

Ryan raised his hand. "Mom, Dad, I'd like to do my song."

"Go ahead," Finn said.

Ryan went up to the center of the choir room. "I've never had an easy time with words, but I just wanted to thank the most amazing people in Cleveland Heights and University Heights for the best experience of my life. Thank you for all the fun times and the Nationals victory. To the underclassmen, please keep this up next year! The seniors will be cheering you on wherever we are. And to the seniors, it's time for us to take on the world!"

Ryan: So this is what you meant
When you said that you were spent,
And now it's time to build from the bottom of the pit
Right to the top,
Don't look back
Packing my bags and giving the academy a rain check

I don't ever want to let you down
I don't ever want to leave this town
'Cause after all,
This city never sleeps at night

It's time to begin,
Isn't it
I get a little bit bigger, but then, I'll admit
I'm just the same as I was
Oh, don't you understand
I'm never changing who I am

So this is where you fell
And I am left to sell
The path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell
Right to the top,
Don't look back
Turning to rags and giving the commodities a rain check

I don't ever want to let you down
I don't ever want to leave this town
'Cause after all,
This city never sleeps at night

It's time to begin,
Isn't it,
I get a little bit bigger, but then I'll admit
I'm just the same as I was
Oh, don't you understand,
I'm never changing who I am

It's time to begin,
Isn't it
I get a little bit bigger, but then I'll admit
I'm just the same as I was
Oh, don't you understand
I'm never changing who I am

This road never looked so lonely (lonely)
This house doesn't burn down slowly (slowly)
To ashes, to ashes

It's time to begin,
Isn't it
I get a little bit bigger, but then I'll admit
I'm just the same as I was
Now don't you understand
I'm never changing who I am

It's time to begin,
Isn't it
I get a little bit bigger, but then I'll admit
I'm just the same as I was
Don't you understand
I'm never changing who I am

At the end of the song, the group was cheering. Ryan hugged Ava, who then took the center of the room. This was the last song of the seniors before the underclassmen's tribute. Ryan looked on at his girlfriend with pride.

"Wow, everyone else has already done their songs," Ava said. "It's hard to think of something to say that everyone else hasn't already said, but everyone here is so special. Don't let anyone tell any of you otherwise! Keep in touch, everyone! I see us all like my parents and their friends from New Directions in the future."

Ryan smiled up at Ava as her song began. He definitely thought that, too.

Ava: I can almost see it.
That dream I'm dreaming, but
There's a voice inside my head saying
You'll never reach it
Every step I'm takin'
Every move I make
Feels lost with no direction,
My faith is shakin'
But I, I gotta keep tryin'
Gotta keep my head held high

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waitin' on the other side
It's the climb

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down, but
No I'm not breaking
I may not know it, but
These are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep goin',
And I, I gotta be strong
Just keep pushing on, 'cause

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waitin' on the other side
It's the climb

Yeah

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Somebody's gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waitin' on the other side
It's the climb

Yeah, yeah

Keep on movin'
Keep climbin'
Keep the faith baby
It's all about, it's all about
The climb
Keep the faith, keep your faith, whoa

That was it. That was the end of the songs for the seniors. The underclassmen performed a tribute - and then the last meeting ever for the seniors was over. Finn and Rachel reminded that the seniors were always welcome to come watch the musical, the competitions or even just stop at a practice.

x

The next day, Finn and Rachel sat in the living room with Sarah, Grant and Zoe. This was it, the day that this whole year had been leading up to. Today, Ryan and Emma were graduating from high school. Finn couldn't believe it. It was 20 years ago that he and Rachel had graduated. Today, he and Rachel were watching their two oldest children graduate.

Ryan came downstairs in his gold cap and gown, and Finn felt emotional. "You're really graduating," Finn said to his oldest son.

"I really am," Ryan said. "Don't worry, you'll still have the three of them next year."

"I'm going to come visit you in New York all the time," Sarah told Ryan.

Ryan hugged Sarah as Finn got the camera. "Finn, you should wait for Emma before you take the pictures," Rachel said.

"That's right," Finn said.

"You don't have to wait long!" Emma said, coming down in her black cap and gown. Now that both the kids were in their caps and gowns, it felt even more unreal. Finn and Rachel took pictures of Ryan, Emma, Sarah, Grant and Zoe together, then of just Ryan and Emma, then had Sarah take photos of them with Ryan and Emma. Emma then took pictures of Finn and Rachel with Ryan, then Ryan took them of Finn and Rachel with Emma. After that, the family got in the car and drove to Playhouse Square, where the graduation was being held. Ryan and Emma went to join the other graduates while Finn, Rachel, Sarah, Grant and Zoe went to take their seats in the theatre.

"How's it feel to have your two oldest graduating from high school?" Finn heard a voice say. He turned to see Burt, Carole and Ally coming to join them in their row. Since Ryan and Emma both got five tickets, Burt, Carole and Ally had come in from Lima to see the graduation. Ally was home from New York for the summer.

"It's crazy!" Rachel told her in-laws.

"Wait until Zoe graduates high school," Carole said. "We felt so old when Ally graduated!"

"I just got a text from Beth," Ally said, looking at her phone. "She and Shelby are in the parking garage." Shelby and Beth had come into Cleveland as well.

Sarah opened the program. "It's weird seeing their names in here as graduates."

"It is," Finn said, looking on with his middle daughter as he read the section about tributes by the Gold Stars. He and Rachel had finalized these performances weeks ago, but they were actually in print now.

SENIOR TRIBUTES

"Roots Before Branches"
by Room For Two
Performed by Nicholas Robert Dougherty and Emma Grace Hudson

"You Get What You Give"
by the New Radicals
Performed by the Gold Stars seniors: Richard Anthony Badovick, Isabella Madeline Carter, Ava Marie Crispin, Evan Francis Crowell, Nicholas Robert Dougherty, Connor Joseph Feldman, Jeremy Stephen Hahn, Ryan Nicholas Hudson, Emma Grace Hudson, Benjamin Andrew Morgan, Laura Allison Peters, Megan Nicole Ullman, Elizabeth Michelle Walker and Alexandra Caroline Weber

x

Emma stood backstage with Ava, Lizzie, Lexie, Laura, Izzy and Meg backstage. "I'm really going to miss you girls," Emma said.

"The seven of us will be friends forever," Izzy said.

"It will be weird all being at different colleges though," Lexie said.

Laura began flipping through the program. "Our names are actually in there. We're really graduating."

"Since it's in print, we know it's really happening," Lizzie said.

"Mom, Dad, did you have to put that baby picture in?" Meg asked as she held the program open to the section with messages the parents had left for their graduates.

Emma opened her program to that page. Her parents had gotten an ad as well for both her and Ryan.

Ryan and Emma -

The past eighteen years have been a joy. We knew from the day you came into our lives that you were special. We are so proud of you both and all you accomplished. Don't ever forget the fun you had and all you learned in high school. We love you.

Mom, Dad, Sarah, Grant, Zoe and Jack

Emma smiled as she continued to read the ads. Then, the chaperone came up to the girls. "Girls, you need to get in line!"

The seven girls gave each other a group hug and then got in their places in line.

x

In the stands, Sarah heard the opening chords of "Pomp and Circumstance." She felt her phone vibrate and realized she hadn't turned it off, but looked at it and saw it was Adam. "Hey, what's up?"

Sarah smiled to herself and texted back. "At Ryan and Emma's graduation. I'll text you later!" She turned off the phone and watched as the graduates processed in, the boys in gold caps and gowns, the girls in black ones. Grant nudged Sarah after a few graduates had processed in. "I see them!"

Sarah looked up and realized Grant was right. "There they are!"

The ceremony was great - the seniors' songs, the band performance, Nick's valedictorian speech. Sarah noticed both Finn and Rachel crying as Ryan and Emma got their diplomas, and she felt a little emotional herself. Her older brother and sister wouldn't be living with her in the fall.

The Class of 2032 were declared official graduates. The tassels were turned and the procession out began, and the family went out to meet the new graduates.

x

Nick took Emma's hand and ran into the crowd to meet their families. Emma couldn't believe it. They were graduates. She saw her parents and siblings with Burt, Carole, Ally, Shelby and Beth. Rachel was the first to hug Emma.

"I'm so proud of you," Rachel whispered.

"Thanks Mom," Emma said.

"Where's Ryan?" Nick asked.

"I think they're with Ava's family now," Rachel said. She got out her camera and took a picture of Nick and Emma. Emma then hugged Finn, Sarah, Grant and Zoe.

"Are you ready for high school?" Emma asked Sarah.

Sarah looked at Emma. "I think so. I'm going to miss you next year."

"We all will," Finn said.

Emma looked over at Burt, Carole, Ally, Shelby and Beth. "Thanks for coming into Cleveland."

"Oh, it's our pleasure," Burt said.

"You guys have now joined the ranks with Ally and me!" Beth said.

Emma smiled and hugged Beth and Ally as Rachel took a photo of the three girls. Then Emma looked and saw Ryan and Ava coming over. She hugged her best friend and then her brother. Finn and Rachel took photos of the four graduates. It was still hard to believe. All four of them were graduates.

"We have a surprise for you guys," Finn said.

"What?" Emma asked.

"The four of you deserve a graduation celebration," Rachel said.

Emma looked at Ryan, Nick and Ava, and then at her parents.

"We rented a party room," Finn said. "Let's get going."

Emma smiled as she followed her family out of the hall. They were joined by Nick and Ava's families, and then left the hall. High school may be over, but it wasn't the end for Nicma, or Ryva, or any of the amazing friendships Emma had made.

SONGS: "You Get What You Give" by the New Radicals (performed by Gold Stars seniors), "I'll Remember" by Madonna (performed by Emma Hudson), "Not The End" by the So Manys (performed by Nick Dougherty), "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons (performed by Ryan Hudson), and "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus (performed by Ava Crispin)