Chapter 1: Tadashi is Here
"I know what you're gonna say." He took his place beside his brother, lowering his voice in imitation. "I should be proud of myself 'cause I'm finally using my gift for something important."
The elder rolled his eyes. "No, no. I was just gonna tell you your fly was down for the whole show."
"Ha ha, hilarious." He exaggerated each laugh and looked away. He looked down. "What?!" Zip. He punched his brother in the bicep.
The elder chuckled. "Ah!" He backed away before relaxing again. He turned a proud face towards the younger. "Welcome to nerd school, nerd."
The younger smiled. "Hm." He briefly considered his next words. "Hey, uh, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you so, y-y'know, thanks for not giving up on me."
The taller nodded as if to say, No problem.
A siren sounded in the distance. The brothers shared a look and ran towards the screams.
Breep. Breep. Breep.
They rounded a hedge and found people running the other way. The Exhibition Hall was burning.
The elder called out to a woman, one of the last to escape. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm okay," she was breathless. "But-but Professor Callaghan's still in there!" She ran some more.
The elder bolted towards the building, the younger following soon after. The younger gripped his brother's sleeve. "Tadashi, no!" he pleaded with his eyes.
Tadashi paused, turning to face his brother. He looked back at the building, then his brother once more. "Callaghan's in there. Someone has to help."
He made his point by shrugging off his brother and running into the building. His baseball cap flew off his head, landing at the younger brother's feet.
He picked up the cap and was about to follow his brother into the flames. He only moved a step before an explosion pushed him back. No, it seemed to say. Don't go. The back of his head made a jarring impact with the ground, snapping forward and cracking his teeth together. He blacked out.
A moment later he opened his eyes and blinked slowly at the ground, rolling onto his back to witness the scene. The heat was unbearable. "TADASHI!" His brother was in there.
A form lay slumped beside him. He looked at the figure.
"Tadashi?" the boy whispered. "Dashi!"
Tadashi's clothes and hair were burned in places as he lay unconscious on the ground. He was still breathing, albeit raggedly.
The younger's vision blurred. "HELP!" he screamed. "SOMEBODY! HELP HIM!" He couldn't stop the tears. "PLEASE! HELP!"
He didn't know how long he had sat there crying for help. Paramedics came and picked them up, handling Tadashi onto a stretcher and questioning the younger brother, checking him for signs of a concussion or other damage. He answered with satisfactory comments, all the while watching Tadashi.
Please. Please be ok.
“…Minor burns to the right side of his body, but they’ll heal nicely on their own. Probably won’t even scar.” The doctor – James – smiled encouragingly. His face became serious, but soft, in the next instant. “He seems to have suffered a blow to the skull but, given time, the fractures should close themselves. They were amazingly small, considering the weight of the beam... As of now, we are unsure as to whether-“
Hiro glared at the doctor through red eyes.
“-As to when he’ll wake up. We’ll need to keep an eye on him, maintain him for the time being. It’s up to him to do the rest. He’ll be on a light anaesthetic for the pain; we don’t want him fighting against meds for his consciousness.”
James took note of the way Hiro stared fixedly at his brother. Cass shared a look with James, looking the tiredest he’d ever seen her. Shadows laced her eyes and her shoulders were slumped. She held her elbows by her sides, bringing her right hand up to pinch at her lower lip. Her gaze drifted over to her younger nephew. James followed, and allowed a ghost of a grin to tug at his cheeks. Hiro was biting his lower lip, worrying at the thin skin with his gapped teeth. Despite their looks, James could tell that these two were family.
He was snapped out of his thoughts when he heard Hiro wince softly, sucking at his now bloody lip. “Hiro.”
Hiro looked up at the medical professional.
“Look, I’m going to be honest with you. These types of injuries can be difficult to predict, and oftentimes they’ll take a turn for the worse.” James hesitated at the boy’s crestfallen expression. “But, if Tadashi is anything like I’ve heard, and I’ve heard a lot of good things, then he’ll be doing his damned hardest to follow you out of wherever he is right now. I suggest talking to him during your visits; I’ve heard that… similar patients… can hear what’s going on around them. Shouldn’t be too hard for him, what with those ears of his, eh?”
Hiro sniffed in response, lips pressed thinly together. He nodded once.
James smiled sadly. “Atta boy. I’ll see what I can do about your visiting hours.” He turned to leave and felt a pull at his arm.
Cass Hamada had stopped picking at her lip and now had her striking green eyes fixed on his own soft blue. She exhaled audibly before he heard a whispered “Thank you.”
James dipped his head in acknowledgement and strode away once she’d let her arm drop back to her side. One last glance in their direction before he turned the corner revealed the woman holding Hiro’s shoulders tightly, kissing the top of his head and rubbing his back as salty liquid wore tracks down her cheeks.
James absolutely hated this side of the job.
He watched the heart monitor as it displayed a steady beat.
Blip. Blip. Blip. Blip.
He didn't know much about medical machinery, but Tadashi probably would. All he knew was that Tadashi was alive. That was all he needed.
"Hey. The college called. They said it's been a couple weeks since classes started, but, it's fine if I take my time. Someone's gotta look out for you."
His eyes turned down and he fiddled with the pull string of his blue hoodie. He glanced back at his brother.
"What were you thinking, knucklehead?" he whispered. He watched the slow rise and fall of his brother's chest, the web of tubing sliding along the blanket with each breath.
He pulled the visitor's chair closer to the bed. He reached out and started to play with the strong fingers that lay limp at the side of the railing.
He continued like that for some time; leaning in different poses, fiddling with objects, keeping his gaze fixed on Tadashi. He needed to be there if he woke up. When he woke up.
And so he stayed.
"Hiro? Sweetie?" He felt a slender hand on his thin shoulder. His eyes slid open to find Aunt Cass gently shaking him awake. "Visiting hours are over, Hiro. The nurses need to check on him."
Hiro slumped out of the chair, back stiff from sleeping in such an awkward position. He looked over at his brother.
Cass watched with a sad smile. "I'll be out here. Whenever you're ready." She left the private room.
Hiro sighed. Another day gone. He slid his thin fingers between his brother's.
"Same time tomorrow?" he smirked grimly.
"See ya then." He went to pull away. He was met with resistance.
His eyes widened in disbelief. He turned back to Tadashi, and pulled his hand gently.
The hand pulled back. The blips sped up.
"Aunt Cass?" he called, both scared and excited. Don't leave me hangin', Dashi.
Cass entered the room once again. "What's up?"
"Look." He moved aside and tugged again at Tadashi's hand. The response was almost unnoticeable; a weak squeeze of Hiro’s hand.
"I'll go get someone." she breathed, half-jogging away.
The heart monitor sped up another notch. "Tadashi? Come on stay with me. I'm right here, Dashi. Don't let go." He tried not to tear up. He needed to stay focused - he needed Tadashi to focus.
He tried to talk to him more. "Aunt Cass is gonna bring someone in, so you better wake up before then, or else, who knows what they'll inject you with." He forced a smile into his voice, hoping his brother would hear it.
The hand squeezed tighter.
Hiro didn't want to hope. Hope only hurt that much more, but he couldn't help himself.
Another machine Hiro didn't recognise started beeping erratically. He glanced over, trying to make some sense of the readings. Brain activity?
He was waking up. He was waking up.
"Come on Tadashi, almost there. C'mon. You got this."
The heart and brain monitors spiked. Tadashi arched his back and crushed Hiro's hand.
"Hey! Anyone! Nurse! Someone get in here!" Hiro was panicked. Hang in there.
Tadashi slumped and started shaking. Where's Aunt Cass?!
As he waited, Hiro realised Tadashi wasn't the only thing shaking. Tremors travelled through Hiro’s shoes and his abandoned plastic cup shook dangerously on the tray beside him, eventually jumping closer to the edge before it tipped itself over, flooding the tray.
The miniature earthquake increased in strength and Hiro found himself fighting to stay calm. His breathing became laboured and it felt like something was compressing his ribcage.
Don’t black out, don’t black out, don’t black out, he prayed silently, both to the hospital and himself. Since the night of the showcase he had been experiencing minor panic attacks whenever he thought of Tadashi’s condition. In the worst fits he would pass out for indeterminable amounts of time; ranging from a few minutes to a few hours.
"Hey. Tadashi, Tadashi! Calm down! I'm here, okay? I'm here, and you're waking up, and you're okay. We're okay." Hiro assured. You're okay.
The elder brother seemed to calm at the sound of Hiro's voice. The shuddering slowed and stopped. Hiro blathered on.
"Maybe if you wake up today, right now, you can come home by the end of the week. I mean, they'll keep you for tests and recovery and stuff, but you already know that." Hiro held tight to Tadashi's hand, who gripped Hiro just as firmly.
"Listen to me, Tadashi. I'm here. Come back. This is the most I've seen out of you in weeks, and I'm not letting you go back. You're staying right here." Hiro's voice broke. "Please, Dashi. Stay."
Tadashi gasped and his eyes flew wide, jerking forward slightly with his abrupt shift in consciousness. Upon seeing Hiro, he began to calm down. The beeping machines settled with Tadashi's heavy breathing.
Tadashi swallowed a few times. "Hiro? What happened?" His voice was raspy after almost a month of disuse. "Are we-" he cleared his throat. "-are we in a hospital?" He looked down at himself, taking in the crisp sheets and ridiculous patient's gown. "Why am I..."
His eyes widened as he remembered the night. The heat, the noise. He looked back at his brother. "Are you okay?"
Hiro didn't answer.
"Hiro, are you okay?"
The younger brother breathed a shuddering sob. "Yeah, I am now."
Tadashi was okay.
"Hiro, I got the doctor! How's he-" Aunt Cass barrelled into the room like a tornado and saw the brothers. Her eyes shone with fresh tears. "Well, isn't that something? Hiro stays here and I miss all the fun." she joked.
Tadashi smiled past the tubes. "Hey, Aunt Cass."
A man in white walked into the room: slightly taller than their aunt, with scattered grey strands throughout his blond hair. The same doctor from the night of Tadashi’s admission – was it James? "Look who decided to wake up." he grinned. "Mister Hamada, how are you feeling?"
"A little hungry. I could really use a donut." Tadashi winked at his brother.
"Wonderful. That's to be expected after what you've been through. I assure you once we complete a few general tests and examinations, we'll get something a little more substantial in you."
Dr James turned to Hiro and Cass. "I must kindly ask you to leave for now. We'll call when we make some progress - who knows, he could be out by tomorrow. We'll keep you updated."
Tadashi smiled at the concerned frown that shadowed his brother's face. "Hey, don't worry about me. I'll just be sittin here on my lazy butt until I get out. I'm more terrified of what Aunt Cass will cook up tonight." He shot his aunt a lopsided smile. "Stay brave, buddy." He gave a weak salute and watched the grin break out on Hiro's face.
Hiro mimicked his brother's salute. "See ya, Lieutenant Lazy." A worried smile pulled down at Hiro’s lips. "Come back soon, okay?"
"You got it. You still owe me for that bot fight bail, so you better think of something good."
Aunt Cass led Hiro away, waving over her shoulder. "Whatever I'm making, we'll have plenty of leftovers. Don't worry." she grinned devilishly as she saw Tadashi roll his eyes at her.
Tadashi was okay.