"We had to do it all. We did things that we never thought we could...all to be the people we are today."
The final Penny and Aggie
arc takes place, as the title says
, six years after "The Last Summer of Youth." The setting is the main cast's five-year class reunion.
As she leaves the school building, Helen talks on the phone to her friend and mentor Nancy Harper of Something Positive
. She explains that she's leaving the reunion early. Although she's just had a pleasant conversation with Aggie, with whom she'd mended fences online earlier, along with Penny and Sara, nevertheless while still in high school, she hadn't formed any "meaningful relationships," the only sort of relationships, she says, that make reunions worthwhile.
Michelle tells Katy-Ann about her recent relief mission to Zimbabwe, where Marshall, now a pre-med student and in whom Michelle's currently interested, also volunteered. Katy-Ann, mother of a toddler boy she and Jack have brought to the reunion, is currently expecting another child, while doing occasional app design for her church. She encourages Michelle to pursue Marshall because he, like Michelle and Jack, knows that "living for others helps your self-image."
Jack talks with Duane and his girlfriend Yun Sung (from the Minjung
arc) about his graphic design work and his plan to write a graphic novel when the children start school. Their conversation reveals that Stan, a well-paid senator's campaign staffer, is helping Jack and Katy-Ann make ends meet, but otherwise is still—Stan.
Tharqa, slimmed down considerably but still obnoxious, greets Sara and Daphne with a big hug as if they were dear high school friends. Neither, of course, is at all pleased to see her, as Sara makes clear when she alludes to Tharqa having directed the rape slander video about her. Daphne's girlfriend Susan defuses the situation by feigning interest in the novel Tharqa mentioned she's writing, and leading her away to hear about it, while Sara and Daphne, now friends again, note what a devoted partner Susan is. In response to Daphne's question as to where her girlfriend is, Sara says evasively, "This is not her thing." The scene reveals that Sara is still acting, while Daphne is a fashion consultant, whose outfits grace a few other alumni.
One of these is Brandi, now a star player in the new sport of "smackball." She gives an autograph to an ardent fan who credits her fitness ads for making his sister more active. However, she downplays her role in the campaign, suggesting he thank Fred instead. Afterward, Fred's boyfriend Brian gently admonishes her for exaggerating Fred's role, as he's only a production assistant. Brandi responds that she feels it important to support her gay friends as much as she can, which is why she hired his company for the ads and Daphne's company for her smackball uniform she's now wearing. She explains that while there were lots of people in high school who were supportive when Sara and Daphne, or Penny and Aggie, were dating, there were others who were not. As some of the latter are at the reunion, Brandi wants to show them that "the queers are doing better than they are."
Yun Sung rescues a grateful Susan from Tharqa and then, though the two barely know each other, asks her for relationship advice. She explains that although Duane makes her happy, he isn't the most passionate person, which she suspects may be because his heart is with Charlotte, despite his assurances that he loves Yun Sung, whereas Charlotte's a friend. She's all the more concerned because Charlotte will be out on parole soon.
Susan intuits that Yun Sung came to her because she herself is dating someone who's good friends with her ex, and that Yun Sung wonders whether she should be jealous. She explains that when Penny and Aggie broke up partway through senior year, Daphne (whom Sara had already dumped the previous June) was jealous because she assumed Sara would be Penny's rebound. It wasn't until college that she reconnected with Sara, finally understanding that the two of them were meant to be good friends and nothing more. Susan reassures Yun Sung that Duane's the sort who means it when he says he loves someone, and adds that if she still needs to feel sure, then she should be a friend to Charlotte as well, and just before her release, give Duane a "loving reminder" that he's hers.
As Susan speaks, Penny is shown primping herself, and sure enough, she's soon engaging in good-natured snark with Aggie, with whom she's remained in friendly contact although they went their separate ways after high school. Penny is an online spokesmodel for a public relations firm, while Aggie is in law school with intent to go into environmental law. As they catch up, Penny gives short, non-committal answers about her boyfriend Tom, finally changing the subject to tell Aggie she was sorry to hear about her breakup. Aggie admits she'd been overprotective of her girlfriend Caylee, who works for Lisa's online Meme Master
show. As they head outside, Aggie also says that she and Caylee, after college, wanted different things out of life and had contrasting values, despite how much she tried to honour them. Penny says she can relate to that, and this gives Aggie pause. At a nearby pub, Aggie asks Penny to tell her honestly whether she's still with Tom. Penny admits she's not. Then, guardedly, Aggie asks whether she broke it off with him after she heard about her split with Caylee.
Penny says she wishes she could say that so it'd appear she had a plan, but in fact she merely got too busy with long work days, and so Tom found someone who could give him more attention. Reassured that Penny isn't desperately clinging to the past, Aggie kids her about always having wanted to plan things in life, be it career, social status or love. Penny notes that Tom was the exception to the latter, but feels that it was a failed attempt at growing up, that she shouldn't have "settled." Aggie tells her not to obsess over regrets, because they both had to do everything they did in high school, to become the people they are today. Penny asks Aggie who she thinks they are to each other now. Aggie smiles, saying "Now's when we find out."
- All Guys Want Sorority Women: Discussed, jokingly, by Aggie as she kids Penny about her choice of drink (beer) bringing to mind her sorority days (although Penny reminds her she was only a member for six weeks):
And your drink is sponsored by Delta Delta Delta. Official slogan: "Hey, sexy boys! After three of these, who knows what could happen
- All There in the Manual:
- According to Campbell on the comic's forum, Jack's and Katy-Ann's son is named Cyrus, after the biblical character (Katy-Ann's idea). The baby Katy-Ann's carrying will be named Gail, after Gail Simone (Jack's choice).
- As the comic wound down, Campbell answered readers' questions about what happened to characters neither seen nor mentioned in this final chapter:
- Bob became religious but not any more intelligent.
- Braz attended college on an athletic scholarship and now does reasonably well in car sales.
- Charisma gradually expanded her gym into an all-around wellness centre. She and Nick resumed dating shortly after Aggie left for college; however, even without children at home as a sticking point, their relationship foundered, for good this time, because his altruism and her selfishness were irreconcilable.
- Darren found his own identity as someone who befriends the lonely without mixing a relationship into it, and is now pursuing a degree in psychology.
- Elmer caused the retirement of the Darwin Awards by deliberately going for a "near-miss" honourable mention and getting himself killed.
- Karen changed her name "for professional reasons" and became a party planner, but is still bitter and without real friends.
- Lynda became director of social media for a women's gaming site; Rob is preparing to retire from management and tour America by motorcycle with friends, after which he may become, like Lynda, an online columnist.
- Meg is "disappointed."
- Omar is doing data entry and still trying to find himself.
- Samantha briefly fell in, during college, with a group of activists who shared her militant views but were more "proactive." When she saw what this led to, she became more of a moderate and married a white guy.
- Xena became a Jehovah's Witness.
- Babies Ever After: Jack and Katy-Ann.
- Bald Woman: Lisa, as the Meme Master, has shaved her head.
- Beautiful All Along: Subverted. Tharqa does look more attractive (even with her garish ensemble) after having lost weight, but she's still obnoxious and overbearing, and worse, heedless of the pain she caused Sara. The result is that, despite her desperate search for attention, no one wants to talk to her.
- Better as Friends: What Daphne, after high school, eventually realizes she is to Sara, following a year of bitterness over their breakup.
- Big Beautiful Man: Fred has put on weight since high school, apparently due to Brian's cooking, but is still handsome and well-groomed.
- The Bus Came Back: Helen and Yun Sung.
- Class Reunion
- Distant Finale
- Fashion Dissonance: Done purposely. Whereas a few characters wear retro-futuristic outfits to the reunion (see below), Yun Sung shows up in a 1960s Mondrian shift dress, Penny in a Southern antebellum gown and Aggie in a form-fitting Zorro-like suit.
- Fetish: Yun Sung confides in Susan that Duane's turn-on is her dressing as a pirate or ninja. Susan observes that Daphne has similar tastes.
- Fictional Sport: Brandi plays smackball, which Campbell described on the forum as a newly-created sport something like a cross between jai alai and tennis.
- High School Sweethearts: Katy-Ann and Jack are the one couple, out of the teenage cast, who started dating in high school and have been together ever since.
- Last Episode New Character: Susan and Brian, both of whom have substantial roles in the chapter.
- Maybe Ever After: Penny and Aggie.
- Offscreen Breakup: August ended with the title characters' relationship in serious doubt, but with Aggie's promise to keep working at it. In the present chapter, Susan mentions that they did indeed break up during senior year.
- Shipper on Deck: Sara reacts with astonishment to see Penny and Aggie engaging in affectionate snark once again.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Averted. Although Aggie has retained the same hairstyle she had in high school (as have most of the characters shown here), she no longer dyes her hair blue. (Although the comic is in greyscale, her hair is a noticeably lighter shade of grey in this chapter.) Campbell confirmed that her hair, six years on, is its natural brown colour, because she now wants "certain people" to take her more seriously. Presumably, this is related to her attending law school.
- Zeerust: Helen and Daphne wear outfits of this type to the reunion. Sara even lampshades this by telling Daphne, "The retro-future trend was made for you."