It came as a shock to everyone, the attack.
Because things like this didn't happen.
They weren't meant to.
Not in real life.
Not to them.
Not to someone they knew.
Not to Kurt.
But it had happened, and that was the thing.
Kurt Hummel had been attacked one cold Tuesday evening in December as he was walking home from a glee practise that had run late.
Kurt had been beaten within an inch of his life, his body bruised and battered, his face cut and his bones broken, the injuries distorting the once beautiful young man as he bled from the stab wounds in his side.
And he had been left to die in the empty street, alone in a pool of his own blood, until he was found by some faceless student on their way to school the next morning.
The news had spread within hours, not just through the school, but the town.
Burt Hummel closed his business on a weekday for the first time in seven years. The last time had been when his wife had lost her battle with the cancer she had been fighting for over a year and a half.
Burt didn't reopen his shop.
The teachers of McKinley High attended a mandatory meeting, suggested by Ms Pillsbury and enforced by Principal Figgins. During the explanation for the meeting (it was not needed – the students gossiped, after all) Will Schuester stood abruptly and left the room, fumbling blindly for the door handle.
No one knew what to say, so they didn't say anything.
The Glee kids were given a wide berth by everyone the day Kurt Hummel's body was found on the side of the street, blood dried over his body, stab wounds in his side. No one commented on the tears that the group shared; it seemed that everyone was just trying to avoid looking as the, admittedly, strong outcasts fell apart at their table during the lunch break.
One seat left was unfilled.
The funeral was on a Thursday morning.
Burt wasn't religious. He hadn't Believed in seven years.
He wasn't about to start now.
Kurt had had no family outside his own. Both his parents were single children, their parents dead long before Kurt was born.
So it was only Mr Hummel, Kurt's friends, a select few teachers and a few aquaintances who attended the service on the windy Thursday morning. The nearby line of trees failed to act as the windbreak it was intended to be, the cold wind seeming to rip through the layers of clothes that everyone was wearing, making them shiver even as they shook from the strength of their tears.
The entire Glee club attended, as did some of the jazz band and some of Kurt's drama-club friends.
The only teachers who showed up where Mr Schuester, Ms Pillsbury and to some surprise, Coach Tenaka.
Burt had asked for help carrying Kurt from the hearse to the small marble gravestone that marked his son's resting place.
Finn, Puck, and Mr Schuester ended up helping him.
Burt was numb. He remembered these steps too well. Everything felt robotic.
Lift son's body.
Carry son towards grave.
Lay son in ground.
Crumble dirt over son's coffin.
Thank everyone for coming.
Then he would drive home.
Lie on his bed.
Stare at the ceiling.
Listen to Kurt's alarm going off in the next room.
[All the single ladies, all the single ladies...]
He would ignore the tears.
He would wish that he had recorded Kurt singing more.
Make a note to ask one of the Glee kids about that. If they knew if Kurt had recorded anything.
He would remember his son's smile, and try to memorise it.
The way Kurt's enthusiasm for life spurred him on.
His wit. His mother's wit, because he sure as hell didn't get it from him.
Kurt was his mother's son alright. He had always been incredibly glad that he had still had a piece of her left with him.
He didn't, anymore.
He felt sick. He felt like a failure.
Kurt's alarm song echoed in his ears which were numbed by the wind, the image of his son dancing before skilfully kicking the winning goal branded on his mind. He breathed methodically through his tears.
How he was always strong, no matter what.
Burt felt alone.
His face was blank as he lowered his son into the earth.
Kurt was the strongest person Burt had ever known. Kurt and his mother.
And now he was gone.
What did that say about the strength of men?
Kurt Hummel was dead.
He was dead because some drunks had noticed his fitted jacket and cerulean scarf. He was dead because he had refused to be anything other than what he was, and because he refused to hide that person.
Finn had always admired that about Kurt.
He never seemed to be confused about who he was, or what he wanted out of life.
Finn wasn't stupid.
He knew how Kurt had felt about him.
He also knew that he could never return those feelings.
To him, Kurt was just a friend. A fashion-smart, music-suave, kind, generous, valuable friend.
Finn thinks, perhaps one of the most valuable.
Because Kurt taught him to be himself, had shown him that it was ok to be different.
Because Kurt had liked him when he was himself.
After years of throwing him in the dumpster, Kurt had still held him in high regard – enough so to want to spend time with him, to want to help him when he needed it. To want to be with him.
And all he had given – all he had been able to give – in return, was his friendship.
Finn tried to hide the guilt that was coursing through him as he helped carry Kurt to the spot where he would be buried.
Because in his eyes, it didn't seem like much, in comparison...
Will Schuester was a great many things.
He was a dedicated teacher.
He was a talented singer.
He was a good friend.
But he wasn't sure that he was a very good role model. In fact, he thought bitterly as he stared blankly at Finn's heels in front of him as they carried what was once his student, he was a hypocrite.
At least, where Kurt came in anyway.
New Directions was supposed to be about having fun, and being yourself, no matter what.
He had supported Artie when the others hadn't taken his point of view into consideration. He had supported Tina and Mercedes, giving them leads. He had supported Rachel (perhaps too much). He had helped Finn through his baby-crisis, and had helped him leap to the challenge of becoming a leader in time to take out sectionals.
But he had skimmed over Kurt.
The thought at the time had been that, obviously, Kurt knew who he was.
But now he knew, he hated it but he knew – he hadn't wanted Kurt to... promote himself anymore than necessary.
Glee club was thought of as gay by enough of the school.
Kurt sort of just... helped the theories.
Will felt awful. He hadn't been fair to Kurt.
He should have been fair to him. He should have supported him just as much as the others.
But that didn't stop the traitorous little voice in the back of his head from whispering poison in his ear.
Kurt hadn't had trouble with who he was. He didn't hide, or pretend to be something he wasn't.
Kurt was himself alright.
The muffled Thud of the coffin being placed in the earth nearly stopped Will's last treasonous thought, but not quite.
And look where that got him.
Puck had left with the others, but had doubled back, saying to go on ahead, he'd catch them at the reception.
He didn't end up going.
Instead, he stood, and stared at the freshly turned over earth, the marble tombstone marking the spot where Kurt lay.
He doesn't flinch at the use of the first name anymore.
He has been calling him Kurt for about ten months now.
Not aloud, of course.
That was partly the reason he had come back.
Because he had never had the chance to say what he needed to.
That was a lie. There had been plenty of chances.
That time when after Kurt had blown the Wicked song, Puck had forgotten his guitar, and had gone back to the choir room in time to hear Kurt belt out the song flawlessly to himself, almost in reassurance that he could in fact do it.
Or the time when he had broken down just outside of town, and when the mechanic finally arrived to try and fix his damn useless car, it was Kurt, blue overalls and everything.
It didn't matter how many chances there had been.
What mattered was that he'd been too fucking scared to take any of them.
Puck wonders if Kurt had been scared... during.
He feels his legs begin to shake so he sits on the cold ground, staring at the grave in front of him. His throat is sore, his eyes are red but he can't cry, hasn't been able to cry and he's never wanted to be a pansy and just bawl as much as he does now, because he thinks that if he does, maybe it won't hurt as much, maybe he won't feel this almighty pain and anger and regret. It's the regret that really gets him, because he's used to it, because he screws up a fair bit, but it is nothing like this, and it is this burning in his chest that finally pushes him to say what he came to say. To say what he's held back for the better part of a year.
"Hey, Kurt... So I kinda like you. Like, a lot man. Like, that crap you're always on about, fairy-tale, Broadway, butterflies in my gut kind of like. And I have for a while now."
He makes himself stop before he begins to ramble in earnest, and he waits in silence, hoping for.. for God just.. something.
The wind keeps blowing, and the ground is soft and cold beneath him.
The grave in front of him is silent, and final.
Because Kurt Hummel is fucking dead.
Puck rests his head in his hands as the tears finally come.
He hopes that the pain will go, soon.
He knows it won't.