Things You Said With No Space Between Us

Two weeks.

It's been two weeks since Tadashi had been swallowed by that night and its heat and smoke and fire fire fire.

Flashes of whites and oranges and yellows and red - so red, someone save him, please, he's all I have left - dance behind Hiro's lids, and the teen jerks into open blackness with the gasp of his brother's name dripping from his lips.

It takes a moment, to gather his scattered thought process, to pull the pieces of himself back into the sobbing, shivering mess that he's been for two weeks - maybe longer - before a hand, gentle, motherly, brushes back the sweat-soaked bangs sticking to his forehead.

"Sweetie, you okay?" Aunt Cass asks him.

A gulp, a sigh, and Hiro nods. He's fine. It's fine. It's-

Not fine. Nothing is fine.

Hiro's world (Tadashi… Tadashi is- was his world) has crumbled around his ears, and he can't get it back. It's gone forever; blown away on the wind as ashes - literal ashes - as Hiro sat there and wondered what he'd done wrong. What he'd done so terribly wrong.

An hour later, after Aunt Cass has tucked him in and kissed his cheek goodnight, Hiro lies awake and listens to his aunt's soft sobbing as she cracks under the pressure of remaining strong for the both of them.

The shrine in their living room gains another photo.

Hiding behind the banister, Hiro listens to the words fall from his Aunt Cass' mouth like the tears from her eyes.

"I'm sorry Maemi, Tomeo. I couldn't protect them; couldn't keep him safe. I'm sorry."

That night, Hiro falls asleep to the soft lullaby in his head of I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, playing on repeat.

It's in the morning that Hiro realizes that the words from the night before hadn't been said in only his aunt's voice.

The call from San Fransokyo General comes exactly 46 minutes, three days, and two months after the fire.

They've received a John Doe at the beginning of the week from another local hospital who couldn't figure out his identity; a patient with severe third degree burns and head trauma from a falling beam hitting him in the cranium. They say he won't have amnesia though. That's good.

But the doctor pulls out that line - that cliché from three centuries back, and Aunt Cass hangs up the phone and closes up the café for the rest of the evening.

There's good news and there's bad news. They've already gotten the good news. The bad news is that their patient was currently in a coma, and by all accounts, matches Hiro's blood type from the records they'd taken from him when he was a kid.

When Hiro walks in to find his aunt as pale as a sheet of paper and gripping the counter in a vice, he questions it.

She tells him about the phone call and then says they've asked her to come in and confirm the person's identity.

At nearly 8 pm in the night, Cass Hamada is not the only person to leave the Lucky Cat café on the way to San Fransokyo General.

It's Tadashi.

Tadashi is here.

Tadashi's alive.

Hiro's world crumbles around his ears, but this time, the pieces start to come together.

Bundled in the hospital bed nearly a year after the fire, Tadashi is alive and more importantly, awake.

"Oh my- Hiro!" Aunt Cass yells, flailing hands tugging on every purchase she has on her nephew - his arm, his shirt, even his hair. She runs back to the other side of the hospital room where Tadashi struggles to blink before a nurse peeks her head in and kindly tells his aunt to 'tone it down a little hun, other patients are sleeping'. Cass shoots the nice lady a guilty smile, and when the door slides shut again, she picks up the nearest cafeteria muffin and throws it at her youngest nephew's head with a hissed, "Hiro, you Knucklehead, wake up! Your brother is awake!"

When the (hard as rock - seriously, what the hell was wrong with this place's food?) pastry hits the teen on the temple, Hiro jumps out of the plastic chair pushed against the wall and stumbles blindly towards his aunt, heart galloping faster than a race horse down a straight track. 'Aunt Cass? What-? What's going on?"

He trips over his own foot and falls face first to the cold-tiled floor. His heart does a flip and starts to palpitate. Maybe being a superhero at fifteen was doing weird things to his health.

Tadashi manages a painful, wheezing gurgle that was probably supposed to be a laugh when he catches the expression on his brother's face. (He's been in a coma for nearly a year, but that didn't mean he hadn't been able to hear things during that time. He'd pieced together enough tidbits to know he was in a coma at least.)

"Hey Bonehead," Tadashi barely manages to rasp, voice smoky and flat and so, so warm.

Despite its warmth, Hiro freezes at the sound.

(The nurse scolds Tadashi when she gets called in to the sight of her patient in the middle of a coughing fit for talking just after he woke up. Tadashi is banned from talking for at least another few days.)

Later, when Hiro is no longer a stiff caricature of a fallen hero on the floor of the hospital, and Tadashi has spent nearly two months in rehabilitation, they head home.

Everything goes back to normal - at least, as normal as it can be with the undead amongst them; Cass runs the café, Mochi lounges around the house, and Hiro and Tadashi go to school. Together.

A lull in Hiro's thoughts pulls his eyes to the figure of his brother hunched over Baymax's coding running up the screen of their shared computer. The burn scars are visible, even from the back. But that's fine.

Hiro's world has finally pieced itself together, burn scars or no. Maybe not completely - there were still cracks and missing pieces - but now it's standing again.

Words spring to life in his head, screaming and wailing, and the teen subtly lifts his hands to try and block them out - even as they slip through the spaces between his fingers and screw his brain inside and over:

"That was his mistake!"

In that moment, Hiro swears he'd be damned if he let his world fall apart like it did the first time.

One night, as the city falls virtually silent and Tadashi's breaths come easier, Hiro shuffles into his elder brother's bed and curls up against his side.

"I've considered it," Hiro whispers into the empty space between one inhale and the next. That's the only space in this room at the moment, and soon Hiro thinks that even that will diminish; shrink and shrink until there's none left - no space between anything at all; small and too tight, just like how his body feels at the moment lying beside his brother.

Tadashi's attention on him sharpens to a knife point and becomes as heavy as the ocean Hiro wishes he could drown himself in as the elder comes out of his half-asleep stupor. For a second, the teen considers the possibility of shirking that weight off; sliding it off his shoulders and into the abyss, where it would never be able to crawl back up again. The knife point stabs the teen's gut with guilt.

He takes another second to consider. It would be so easy; just a few subtle, deflective words, a solid reassurance and maybe a couple of white lies and it would be gone - disappeared like gravity in space.

Except it couldn't disappear like gravity in space; because it was still there.

Tadashi makes a questioning noise and turns over to wrap his little brother in his warmsafesecure arms.

"Tonight-" Hiro's breath gets caught on its way up his throat; he forces it out and takes in a new one. "Tonight it's you. Everything is for you."

"Hiro…" Tadashi says, and the teen feels his insides shudder with the tone of his name that was said through an open mouth and not behind clenched teeth.

"Please," the younger whispers. Hiro tugs at the familiar white-black ninjas shirt, mouth pressing against the pulse point on his older brother's neck. The muscles underneath shift and strain, but relax when Hiro pushes his lips to it again and again, repeatedly in the same spot, repeatedly just as soft, repeatedly just as tender. "Let me do this."

The whoosh of a sigh - noiseless and big - ruffles the hairs on the top of Hiro's head. It's a yes then.

Sitting up and rolling them over so Tadashi is on his back and Hiro straddles his thighs, the teen begins with the scars on Tadashi's hands, lifting the dead-weight limbs up to his lips so he can trace every twist of the gnarled, oversensitive skin.

He moves onto his brother's torso then, but speeds through it, keeping in mind the elder's tendency to kick when tickled. A brief kiss to the scars on Tadashi's rib cage, his sternum, over his heart, the collar bone, shoulder, then down to his brother's bicep and back up to the side of Tadashi's neck.

Hiro finishes with a flurry of kisses that skim over Tadashi's face, and the teen feels more than hears the other's laugh.

"You're being awfully affectionate lately."

They both know the reason why.

"Shut up," Hiro says instead, pressing his pout into the middle of Tadashi's chest once he pulls down the other's shirt. Another laugh.

"Language, Hiro," his brother lightheartedly retorts.

They stay like that for the rest of the night and into the early morning, Hiro pressed close to Tadashi, until their Aunt Cass comes in to wake her boys and walks out with a picture to add to the family album.