It’s December when Kurt gets the knock on the door. It’s snowing, and little flakes drift in to his house, swirl around his socked feet like playful creatures and melt onto the hardwood floor.

A hand, roughened from work and chapped from cold, presses something into Kurt’s slack palm. He’s still trying to process the words, the visit. He thinks he may be swaying, may have stopped breathing, but he doesn’t know, can only blink and stare.

The dog tags are cold in his palm, the metal of the chain clinking where it sways with movement like a pendulum’s. The words fade out, meld together into some unintelligible language that Kurt never wants to learn the music of.

He knows it was because Blaine was playing the hero again. He knows that in some house an ocean away a family lives, safe because of a selfless man with a big heart and the bravery of a thousand men. He knows, because Kurt had fallen in love with that man.

The Christmas tree stands regal in the corner, its lights pulsing, glimmering, too festive for this nightmarish moment. The snow still floats into the house, and the officer looks at Kurt with solemn eyes that show nothing but steadfast professionalism. Kurt wonders if he even knew Blaine, if he knew Blaine’s laugh and personality and the way he loved with every inch of his heart.

It’s still static in his ears, a ceaseless buzzing, and when the door closes, a faint click with the distant sound of the officer’s boots walking away, Kurt presses his hand to the chilled wood. The tags slip slightly, jingle and sway in his loose grip.

Blaine’s letter, I’ll be home in time for Christmas, I promise.

“You promised,” Kurt whispers, choked and harsh. Swallows past the lump in his throat and sobs, painful and heartbroken, and squeezes his eyes shut, falling to his knees. He presses his fist to the soft flannel of his pajama pants and feels the tags dig into his thigh. He wants to ask why, but he knows why: because Blaine is a hero and that’s what heroes do.

A photo on the mantle, a man in uniform with a proud, handsome face, a half-smile and warm eyes. A stack of letters, written in sloppy, quick hand and full of empty, broken promises, I love yous and when I get homes that will always be past tense and rhetorical, will always be a whimsy and a day that will never come to pass.

A stack of presents, bright, carefully-wrapped and ribboned, thought put into each box and bag. A house full of Christmas cheer that seems deadened, muted like the soft white world outside that still turns even though Kurt’s world has come to a startling, shaky stop, sun and moon that will never rise and set again. Presents that will never be opened, joy and love that will never be on the face of the man who was supposed to open them, a man whose last actions were selfless and unplanned.

A heart, beating but fractured, and a man, small and suddenly lost now in the world without his tether and his compass.

Somewhere, someone is safe.

But here, now, someone is broken.

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