by Stephen Greenwood

Vignette title: It's Better to Burn Out Than Fade Away
Rating: PG for this chapter; may change for others.
Spoilers: Based on the montage scene from the end of 2x10 In Utero.
Disclaimer: The good ideas belong to Tom Kapinos and Showtime. Whatever's left is mine.

Summary: The first in an ongoing series of vignettes detailing Hank and Karen's lives during her pregnancy in 1994. Immediately after mailing the letter, they walk through Central Park.

1. it's better to burn out than fade away.

Central Park is burning with the homage of a thousand lit candles. Cobain's soul resides in each one, dances around the wick, does not fade away like the wisps of smoke and old, almost-lost memories temporarily called to arms. The citizens of New York beat back the snatching hand of death from one small corner of the city, just as they did fourteen years ago when a Beatle was shot outside the Dakota. Lennon had Strawberry Fields Forever; Cobain had Nirvana.

They gravitate closer as they walk, two planets in ever-decreasing orbits, nuclei colliding, Big Bang: The Sequel. Life already grows within her. She talks and he listens, not out of duty but of interest, and he finds their connection as delicate as the flames all around, as hopeful and also as fleeting. He nearly lost her once already today, nearly let her leave without knowing, and he doesn't think he has the energy to do it again. The heart-shaped box holding his secrets has her name on it; she is the bearer of the key.

He slips an arm around her shoulders and keeps walking.

The feel of his warm body pressing into her left side is an anaesthetic and she almost forgets what she is saying and why they are here and who they are. To be is enough; there is the answer to Hamlet's age-old question. There is no need to conjugate verbs and make things complex, no need to overcomplicate matters by throwing irrelevant pronouns into the mix. Mine and yours becomes ours. You and I suddenly equals us.

Hank tilts his face and kisses Karen softly, the touch of his lips too gentle to scald even though she feels a rush of warmth come over her body. He is slow and unassuming; she is grateful and pleased. He smiles and silently tells her not to be nervous when she moves to bite her nails. His hand leaves invisible prints on hers; his fingers are loose shoelaces tying their bodies together.

As they walk past, a candle burns out. Just like Kurt wanted.