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Even Deeper

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HIRO WAS DRIFTING, spiraling out through the nebulous clouds of dark pinks, purples and oranges. He was trying hard not to panic. The event horizon of the portal he had traveled through was now a tiny dot in the distance. Baymax was nowhere to be seen.

Will I die here?! the boy couldn't help but think. Or will I be alright? Callahan's daughter survived for ages, could this place preserve me somehow?

Hiro thought back to when it had all gone wrong. He and his team of superpowered friends had stopped Callahan when suddenly Baymax had detected a life form inside the portal. Hiro knew at once that it must be Abigail Callahan. In a desperate attempt to save her, he and Baymax had flown into the portal, found her unconscious in her shuttle, and done their best to return to the real world. But a large chunk of cement had knocked into them, sending Hiro and Abigail flying off in one direction, and Baymax in the other.

In a last ditch effort to save Hiro and Abigail, Baymax had launched his hand rocket to push the pair back through the portal. And it had all run smoothly. That is, until out of nowhere another massive chunk of rubble shot through the portal and slammed into the shuttle holding Hiro and Abigail. Hiro had been dislodged and flung out into the mysterious dimension. The force of the impact had hit him hard, and the last thing he saw before falling unconscious was the shuttle carrying Abigail making it safely back through the portal. Then everything went black.

He wasn't sure how much time had passed before he awoke. Since he could still see the portal, Hiro assumed it hadn't been long. He hoped it hadn't been long. The longer the portal stayed open, the more damage it would do. He needed to get back through it! It was the only way he had to get back! But as he looked around at the vast swirling nothingness around him, he knew it was no good. There was nothing in sight but clouds. Certainly nothing that would help him get back to the portal.

Except. . . hold on! Hiro squinted into the distance. He could have sworn he'd seen something. It had been small, but as he continued drifting away from the portal he caught sight of it again. It looked like a dark hunk of metal, moving slowly towards him. Hiro strained his eyes, trying to get a better view.

As he and the object grew closer and closer together, Hiro realized with a shock that it wasn't a hunk of metal. It was a person! He could see their arms, legs, and head clearly outlined now. His heart pounded in his chest. Who can that possibly be?! Wasn't Abigail the only one lost in here?

And then the person shifted slightly and Hiro got a view behind them. He gasped. There was another portal! It was off in the distance, but clearly a portal. It looked identical to the one Hiro was currently drifting away from. But. . . How in the hell? He couldn't explain it. There had only been one portal back on earth. Hiro was sure of that. And yet there it was. Clearly different from the other portal, yet it looked practically identical!

So captivated was Hiro with the portal that he didn't realize he'd gotten close enough to the other person to make out specific details. His attention was jerked back to them, however, when he heard them gasp "no way!" In an eerily familiar male voice. It was a voice Hiro knew well, yet he couldn't place it. It wasn't any of his friends. And yet Hiro knew that the voice belonged to someone he knew very well. But who?!

Then he focused on their features. He nearly fainted. The purple mech suit, the wide, curious, disbelieving eyes, the young face, and the open mouth showing a gap between their front teeth. It can't be! But it is. . . . It's me!

Hiro felt his head swim, threatening to pull him back into unconsciousness for a second time. It couldn't be! And yet it was. Hiro was staring at a copy of himself, identical in every way. And they were getting closer to each other, both seeming to pick up speed. They were on a collision course, but neither of them was paying that any attention.

"No way!" They chorused in unison. "Unbelievable! How-? Hey, you're saying what I'm saying!"

It was uncanny. There wasn't a second of delay between them. They studied each other with awe-struck expressions. "But. . . You're not really me, are you?" They both asked at the same time.

"I'm not you, I'm me! Hiro Hamada!" Again they spoke together. Is he imaginary? Just this dimension messing with my mind? Mirroring what I say?

But then the other Hiro spoke independently. "Well, that's just great. Not only am I lost in here, but I'm going insane, too!"

"You're going insane?! Clearly I'm going insane since I'm the one who dreamed you up!"

Their eyes widened together. "You're real?!" They both exclaimed. "This is trippy," the other Hiro muttered. They were now only a few yards away from each other.

"We're gonna crash!" Hiro warned his doppelgänger, noticing for the first time the collision course they were on. The other Hiro's eyes somehow went even wider. He flailed his arms about, trying desperately to backpedal away.

"Stop! You know that's not gonna work! We've got nothing to offset. . . No opposing force to make us move." Hiro said. The clone version of himself stopped flailing around, then nodded in resolution. It was remarkable how much alike they looked. The only differences in their appearances were the scratches on their suits.

"You're right, or I'm right. Gah, this is unbelievably freaky. But what do we- I- do, then? If we crash we could be thrown off course completely, and then we'll never make it back to the portal!"

Even his voice was identical to Hiro's own. The boy's head was starting to spin at the impossibility of it all. But he was far from giving up. Even feeling dizzy and light-headed, Hiro began to weigh his options. What do we have at our disposal? What can we use? There was nothing physical near them, at least not within grabbing distance. And every second that passed brought the two Hiro's closer and closer. They weren't going very fast, but a collision would certainly ding up their suits even more and would throw then completely off course.

It hit both Hiros at the same time. "The suits!" They cried together. They grinned, both understanding what needed to be done. Their suits came equipped with electromagnets that were used to keep Hiro on Baymax's back while the robot was flying. They needed only to turn the suits on when they were about to collide and the magnets, which would no doubt be set the same way, would propel them backwards away from each other, and, if they were lucky enough, back through their portals!

"Yours are set to positive?" The alternate Hiro asked. The boy nodded and checked the magnets in his gauntlets. The right one looked damaged from the fight, but it would hopefully still work. He only needed one quick, strong push.

"Good! On the count of ten! Ten. . . Nine. . . Eight," the other Hiro began counting down as they grew closer and closer together. Both boys held their hands palm-out towards each other and braced themselves to turn on their magnets at the exact same moment.

"Four. . . Three. . . Two," this was it. Hiro's heart thumped hard in his chest. "One!" Both Hiros turned their magnets on simultaneously. Their approach was halted instantly. Hiro was about to cheer in triumph when suddenly, before the magnets had time to start pushing them back the way they'd come, Hiro's right gauntlet sparked and the magnet in it suddenly switched from positive to negative. At once the two Hiros began spinning, one pair of gauntlets trying to push them away from each other, the other pair trying to pull them in.

"Shit!" Cried the other Hiro as they slowly switched places. "Shit! Turn it off! We're facing the wrong way!"

"I'm trying!" Hiro's eyes were wide. His heart felt as if it had stopped. The right gauntlet was starting to grow hot. He was trying desperately to turn off the magnets. His back was now facing the portal the other Hiro had come through. There was another spark, a small bam! and his right gauntlet exploded. Hiro shrieked in pain as he felt the skin on his hand burn. The smell of smoldering flesh reached his nose and Hiro felt ready to hurl. With nothing interfering with both Hiros' left gauntlets the magnets did their work. Both teens shot suddenly backwards, heading for the wrong portals!

The pain in Hiro's hand was so extreme that, for the second time that day, he passed out. His vision blurred and his eyes closed just as he entered the debris field surrounding the other portal. The last thing he saw was his clone flying far away and becoming a speck in the distance as he flew toward the other portal.

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"Hiro?! Hiro?! Are you OK?!" A familiar voice cut through Hiro's foggy sleep. He couldn't quite place it. He had a dim memory of meeting himself before he had blacked out. Was this happening again? No. . . That voice was different from his own. But Hiro still couldn't place it. A sinking feeling of sadness accompanied the voice.

"That burn on his hand looks bad!" Came a voice that Hiro easily recognized as belonging to his friend Honey Lemon. "Not 'he needs a prosthetic' bad, but still really bad."

It took Hiro a moment to process her words. He had almost no energy, so things like thinking or opening his eyes were proving challenging. But slowly her words penetrated through to his brain, and Hiro remembered how the suit glove had malfunctioned and exploded. Instantly he became aware of the searing pain in his right hand. He tried to cry out but didn't even have the energy for that. Still, the shock from the pain was enough to jolt his eyes open.

"He's awake!" Came Fred's voice. "I told you guys it'd take more than that to count our Hiro Hamada out!"

"Shhh! He needs help!" Came the implacable familiar voice again. "I wish we hadn't lost Baymax. . ."

"The paramedics are almost here," said GoGo. "It's taking them a while to get through all this rubble, but they're coming. In the meantime, we shouldn't move him. Something might be broken."

The words all sounded odd and muffled to Hiro. He tried to trace them back to faces, but he could only see blurred shapes at first. Then, slowly, they started coming into focus. Fred and Honey were leaning over him looking both relieved and anxious. Fred had abandoned his flame-throwing monster suit, and Honey's hair was a singed, frizzy rat's nest. GoGo and Wasabi were standing a short way away, keeping an eye out for the paramedics. And someone was holding Hiro's head very gingerly. At first Hiro thought that his helmet was gone, either having fallen off in the portal or been removed by whoever was holding him. But then he realized that it was just damaged. The front glass visor had been smashed out and a significant portion of the forehead piece had broken off.

Hiro looked around perplexedly. Everything was dimly lit and grey due to the large quantities of dust and smoke in the air, though it was slowly clearing. Hiro was lying on a hard concrete floor. All around him stood crumbling walls, broken bits of glass and furniture, and chunks of what was unmistakably the gate that had opened the portal.

Suddenly everything else flooded back to Hiro's memory. Finding out that someone had used the fire that killed his older brother, Tadashi, as a cover to steal Hiro's microbots. Finding out that professor Callahan had been the bad guy all along, and not Alistair Krei as Hiro first thought. The memory of the final fight with Hiro and his super equipped friends against Callahan came back to him. The old professor had attempted to use the portal to destroy Alistair Krei's company because he blamed Krei for his daughter's death. And Hiro remembered diving into the portal to save that very daughter when she turned out to be alive.

Hiro coughed, clearing dust out of his lungs, and tried to sit up. He could hear voices growing close, accompanied by the sound of footsteps, the shifting rubble, and many sirens in the distance. But as he tried to sit up Hiro felt someone tug him back down.

"Woah there, genius! You're hurt pretty bad. You need to lie still until the paramedics get to us. If I still had Baymax then we could take care of this right now, but he sacrificed himself to save you and Abigail."

It was that voice again. The one that sounded so painfully familiar yet so alien at the same time. Strangely, Hiro trusted it and remained still. He was burning with curiosity over who it belonged to, however. GoGo, Honey, Fred, and Wasabi were all within Hiro's sight. The voice certainly wasn't from Callahan or Krei. Hiro wasn't sure if there was anyone left he knew that it could feasibly belong to.

The sound of the paramedics grew closer. They were here. Hiro could just make out their headlamps through the dust as they moved towards Hiro and his friends. Wasabi and Fred started jumping up and down, waving their arms and calling the paramedics over.

"Where. . . Where are Krei and Callahan?" Hiro asked, his voice dry and brittle.

"Callahan was taken by the police before you went through the portal to get his daughter," the voice replied softly. "Abigail and Krei are safely on their way to the hospital. You did good, Hiro. You saved both their lives!"

Hiro suddenly felt the boy sitting behind him start to stroke his hair soothingly. Hiro's arm hairs prickled, but he found he enjoyed the feeling. It helped take his attention away from the pain in his right hand. Hiro longed to look behind him and see who it was that was talking with him and taking care of him, but he had no energy to do so. Besides, the thought of moving at all was quite daunting.

The paramedics rushed over and Hiro's friends all stepped back several paces to give them room. Even the mystery man released Hiro's head and shuffled away. Hiro gasped as a light was shined in his eyes and gentle hands began feeling him up, checking for broken bones and the like.

"There doesn't appear to be any internal damage," said a man with a gruff voice who was checking his pulse. "Only the burn and some cuts on his face. He's safe to move, let's load him up."

Hiro felt himself being lifted onto a stretcher. The sudden motion made his insides churn and he swallowed back bile in his throat. Once he was safely secured to the stretcher the motion sickness passed. Several of the paramedics began to carry him back through the rubble while the rest went to search for more survivors in the ruins of Alistair Krei's company.

It either took much less time than Hiro expected to reach the ambulances, or he was drifting in and out of consciousness. It felt like only a minute before his vision was overwhelmed by flashing blue and red emergency lights, and his head was filled with the sound of chattering onlookers, police & firemen shouting orders, and sirens. Hiro felt his stretcher being hoisted up in the back of an ambulance and the din was diminished slightly.

"Are any of you family?" Asked the paramedic with a gruff voice. Evidently Hiro's friends had followed him there. His heart sank. He didn't want to be alone with people he didn't know, especially with his eggs extra scrambled, but he knew the paramedics probably wouldn't allow any of his friends to go with him.

But to his surprise, the familiar voice from before piped up "I am!"

Hiro was bewildered. The only family he had left was Aunt Cass, and this man clearly wasn't her. Yet he still sounded so familiar! The answer felt right out of Hiro's grasp. If he wasn't still dizzy, disoriented, and drained from the fight and injuries he had received then he probably would have figured out who the voice belonged to by now.

"In you get, then. We don't have much time. This young man needs to get to the hospital fast. The rest of you-"

"We'll drive after you. Meet you at the hospital," GoGo said. Hiro felt the ambulance shake slightly as the paramedics and mystery man climbed up into the cab with him. The doors shut, and Hiro heard the voice speak again.

"It's alright, Hiro. I'm with you. I love you! You're gonna be fine. I promise."

It was that loving, pain filled tone in the man's voice that finally made Hiro realize who it was. But it couldn't be! The last time he had heard that voice had been the night of the fire at the Technology Institute. The night his brother had died. And yet there was no mistaking it. Am I hallucinating?

But then, at last, the man leaned into Hiro's muddled view. His eyes went wide and Hiro felt tears starting to form. The pain in his hand faded momentarily into the background. It was Tadashi! His red face streaked with grime was smiling down at Hiro, concern and adoration in his eyes. The boy felt his heart throb and he let out a choked sob. He wanted to reach up and touch his brother's face, but his arms wouldn't move. Tadashi's smile slid away as he saw the helplessness in Hiro's face.

The ambulance started moving. One of the paramedics pushed Tadashi aside and loomed over Hiro. "I'm going to give you something for the pain. Don't be afraid to pass out. You're in good hands."

The paramedic started to bend over, but his partner with the gruff voice stopped him. "Hold on, Ed. Is the kid allergic to anything?" He addressed Tadashi.

"He has a small peanut allergy, but that's it." Tadashi attempted another smile. Hiro couldn't take his eyes off him. It had been months since he'd seen his brother! How could he be alive? Hiro wanted to stare at Tadashi forever, but the paramedic nodded and leaned forward. Hiro felt something prick his arm and immediately his head swam.

"N-no! Please! Tadashi! I want my brother!" Hiro's words began to slur and his vision clouded even more. Tadashi rushed back over and took Hiro's uninjured hand.

"It's ok, Hiro! I'm here. I'll be here when you wake up, too."

Hiro was sick of falling unconscious, but he couldn't fight the painkiller he'd just received. For the third time, his vision turned black, and he became lost in a dream.

Chapter Text

THE BEEPING NOISE OF MEDICAL instruments pierced through Hiro's foggy and undefined dreams. At first they were just an annoyance, calling out to him through the void, but slowly they dug into him and began pulling him back to reality. He groaned and opened his eyes, feeling groggy, sluggish, and drained.

His vision was blurred, but Hiro could tell immediately that he was in a hospital room. Everything had a clean, white sheen to it. The overhead fluorescent lights flickered the way they only did in schools and hospitals. And to Hiro's right, next to the head of his bed sat what was clearly a bank of machines beeping and blinking away. Hiro groaned again and licked his chapped lips nervously with a dry tongue.

Immediately there was a shuffling and he heard several people rush over to him. Hiro blinked several times and they came into focus. His eyes first fell on GoGo, who was to his right. For once she didn't look angry or disinterested. She looked worried and caring, and surprisingly like Aunt Cass. And that was the next person Hiro saw. Aunt Cass' eyes were red from crying, and she looked on the brink of tears again already. She was standing by Hiro's head. She reached awkwardly down across him to grab his left hand and smiled gratefully down at him.

Next to GoGo and Aunt Cass, at the foot of Hiro's hospital bed, stood Fred and Wasabi. They had their arms around each other and were clearly trying not to look too concerned for Hiro's sake, though they had both clearly been crying too. But Hiro's mind snapped to attention as he remembered what had happened when he had returned back from the portal, and he turned to look to his left, seeking proof that he hadn't hallucinated.

And there he was. Standing right beside Honey Lemon. Tadashi, Hiro's older brother. A euphoric pounding filled his head. Hiro was too ecstatic at seeing his brother again to feel confused by how Tadashi was standing there, looking completely unhurt and alive. He felt tears start to well in his eyes. Hiro blinked them back, feeling embarrassed, and opened his mouth to speak.

"T-Tadashi?" He rasped. Or, tried to, anyway. All that came out was a choked gasp. Hiro's throat was unbelievably dry.

"Don't talk!" Tadashi commanded. Hiro felt his heart flutter at the sound of Tadashi's voice, now connected to a living face, a face that looked much cleaner than it had in the back if the ambulance. "I'll get you some water. Take it easy, buddy. We're all right here."

Tadashi gave a small smile and turned to a short metal table next to Hiro's hospital bed. He picked up a clear plastic cup with a blue lid and bendy straw and started to bring it up to Hiro's lips.

Instinctively, Hiro began to raise his right hand to take the cup from Tadashi. A sudden sharp, burning pain shot through the arm! Hiro cried out and his vision turned red momentarily. The tears he'd managed to hold back so far spilled freely out of his eyes. He could vaguely hear Aunt Cass let out a shuddering groan of sympathy, accompanied by uncomfortable muttering from the others. Hiro set his arm back down and kept it still. The pain slowly faded to a dull throb.

"Are you alright?" Tadashi asked, his voice brimming with loving concern. Almost immediately he slapped his forehead. "Of course you're not alright! Sorry, I just. . . I'm losing my head seeing you like this."

"It's ok," Hiro tried to croak, but his voice was still as dry as sand. There was also a dull pounding in his head.

"Here, sorry! I forgot for a second. Don't move, just drink." Tadashi brought the cup of water up to Hiro's face and bent the straw till it rested against his younger brother's lips. Hiro drank thankfully, feeling moisture return to his tongue and throat, though he couldn't taste anything.

"The doctor was just in here to check on you a few minutes ago," Wasabi said as Hiro drank. "She loaded you up on pain meds, but clearly they haven't had time to kick in yet."

"She'll probably be back soon," added GoGo.

"What. . . What happened?" Hiro asked as Tadashi set the cup back down on the side table. He had meant How is Tadashi alive?! But he got an answer to a different question instead.

"You saved the day, baby bro. We were right to trust you and upgrade Baymax. You two flew into the portal, and the next thing we knew, Abigail came flying out with Baymax's fist. A few seconds later you came back out, but you got badly burnt when your suit malfunctioned."

That can't be right!? Hiro thought. I was in there for ages! Half an hour at the very least! I can't have come out just a few seconds after Abigail. Unless. . . Unless time works differently in there! That's how Abigail survived for so long inside the portal!

That was one mystery solved. Hiro wanted to tell Tadashi, who was the other mystery, this new revelation, but his brother pressed on. "Baymax, of course, sacrificed himself for you. But I've got his chip! We can rebuild him, only this time we'll work together," Tadashi ruffled Hiro's hair, and as Hiro's facial muscles worked in reaction to this, he realized for the first time that there was something on his face.

Aunt Cass must've understood his wince, because she sniffed deeply, then said "you had a couple of nasty cuts on your face. Those ones had to get stitches, but the others will heal quickly enough on their own. That's what Dr. Whittaker said."

"You'll have some scars, Hiro," said Honey. "On your face and your arm. Especially your arm." Her voice quavered.

"And dude, at least you're alive!" Fred said. "We all are. Thanks to you and those super suits you made us, no one died when Callahan attacked Krei."

Aunt Cass chuckled. "And I'm too proud of you to be mad. You saved the city and countless innocent people! Plus, I'm sure those scars'll be more effective than any lecture I could give you, even if I was angry with you."

"And scars are cool, anyway," Tadashi grinned. "Sure, they're ugly and painful now, but when they heal up I'm sure you'll look like a badass! An adorkable badass, but a badass all the same."

Despite his overwhelming heartache and confusion, Hiro chuckled. It was nice to have Tadashi cracking jokes with him again. It felt like old times. Old times? Is it really old, though? He's here, after all. He never should've left. . . .

Hiro felt more tears start to slide down his face. The happy looks that had finally shown on the others' slid back to concern.

"What is it, Hiro?! What's wrong?" Aunt Cass squeezed his uninjured hand.

Hiro shook his head. "I can't. . . I just. . . C-can I talk to 'Dashi alone? Just for a minute?"

They all nodded and stepped away. "Of course, Hiro," said Honey. "We'll be right outside. Take all the time you need."

They all filed out of the room, shoulders hunched, and Tadashi stepped closer so he could take Hiro's hand now that Aunt Cass was gone. "What is it, Hiro?"

His voice was calm and full of love. It took all of Hiro's willpower not to start full on sobbing then and there. Looking at Tadashi, Hiro felt as if he'd been both punched in the gut and kissed gently. This mix of emotions was making his heart beat faster and faster. He could hear it on the monitor beside him. Hiro saw Tadashi glance at it nervously and he began breathing deeply, trying to calm himself. The beeping of the heart monitor slowed, but stayed faster than normal.

"What is it, Hiro?" Tadashi coaxed again. Hiro took another deep breath.

"How. . . How are you here?" Hiro's voice sounded shaky and childish, even to his own ears.

Tadashi squeezed his hand and looked his brother in the eyes. "What, you think I wouldn't come see my favorite person in the hospital? Hiro, I love you. Of course I came!"

Hiro shook his head. "N-no! Not why. I mean how are you here?! You were dead, 'Dashi! I know you were." His voice trembled with emotion and he gripped Tadashi's hand as tight as he could in his weakened state, as though fearing the older boy would suddenly vanish in a puff of smoke and memory.

"Oh, yeah, Callahan got me good. Those microbots overtook me pretty quickly. Knocked me out. But I wasn't dead, Hiro. I woke up just as you and Baymax flew into the portal. I'm the one who destroyed the gate when you came back out."

Hiro shook his head again. "No, not the fight against Callahan. Before that! You died! In the fire. We had a funeral for you and everything! But now you're here and I don't know how or why, or what to do and think a-and feel!" Tears started to flow freely again. Hiro felt them trail down his cheeks, along his stitches, and drip off his chin.

Tadashi looked seriously worried now. "Hiro, no!" He shook his head. "I never died. The night of the fire you made sure I stayed with you, remember? You were scared and I didn't want to leave you alone. We got to safety. There was never a funeral. Are. . . Are you OK?"

Hiro wasn't sure what to say. He knew Tadashi had died. It wasn't a dream or hallucination, though it had certainly been a nightmare for months after the fact. Aunt Cass had cried for weeks even past the funeral. Hiro had shut himself in his room for that time. The only reason he'd confronted Callahan was that he wanted revenge and justice for his brother's death. But here was Tadashi saying none of that had happened! Had his injury addled his brain after all, making him remember things that hadn't happened? But if so, what had his motivation to catch the man who'd stolen his microbots been?

And then Hiro remembered. The second portal. The clone of himself he'd met drifting through that other dimension. The way his suit malfunction had sent him through the wrong portal. Everything clicked into place. I'm in an alternate universe!

Hiro's eyes went wide with dawning understanding. "Tadashi . . . I'm going to tell you something, and it's going to sound crazy. I need you to trust me."

"I trust you, otōto," Tadashi replied without hesitation, though he still looked scared and concerned. Hiro tried to smile, but only managed a grimace as his right arm and stitches throbbed again. He hadn't been able to gather the courage to look at the arm yet.

"Ok, like I said, this is gonna sound crazy. But I swear it's the truth!" Hiro took a deep breath, then delved into his story. He told Tadashi about the fire and how he'd seen Tadashi run into the building just in time for it to explode. He told Tadashi about the funeral, then Baymax discovering one of Hiro's microbots trying to go somewhere. He explained the journey he had taken with Fred, GoGo, Honey, and Wasabi, leading them to Callahan and the portal.

"Yeah, Hiro, I know!" Tadashi interrupted, a nervous edge in his voice. "Other than me dying, I was there for all of that. I was with you when Baymax figured out the Microbot was trying to go somewhere. I'm the one who talked you into following it, remember?"

"No, I don't, 'Dashi! But I've figured it out! Just. . . bear with me! Please."

Tadashi held up his hands in surrender, then motioned for Hiro to continue. Hiro told his brother about going into the portal to find Abigail, only to be separated and come across a doppelgänger of himself. He told the tale of the suit malfunction and falling through the wrong portal.

Tadashi was silent for the rest of the story, though at certain points his eyes would go wide or his breath would catch in his throat.

"Well. . . That's what happened," Hiro finished rather lamely. "Can you see now why I'm so confused?" Hiro's eyebrows scrunched together in a look of pain, but for once Tadashi didn't try to console him.

"So. . . You're from a different universe? One where I'm dead?" His face was unreadable. He released Hiro's hand.

Hiro nodded solemnly.

"And my Hiro, or, the one from this universe. . . He's stuck in your world?"

"Probably."

"So you're not really my brother, then?"

The words spilled out of Tadashi's mouth before he could stop them. He knew immediately what he'd said was wrong. His eyes went wide and he stood up fast, holding up a hand in protest.

"No, wait! I didn't mean it like that! I-"

But it was too late. Hiro felt what remained of his spirits drop into his stomach, and his heart received a sickening, stabbing pang. It wasn't even that fact that Tadashi had said those words that made the tears start flowing faster, clouding Hiro's eyes. It was the fact that they were true. All Hiro had wanted for months was to see Tadashi again and he'd gotten that wish. But Hiro wasn't this Tadashi's little brother. Not really. The boy that this Tadashi loved with all his heart was trapped in another universe. Hiro didn't belong here. He didn't deserve to be happy to see this Tadashi, not when some other version of himself who was supposed to be here was trapped in a universe without Tadashi.

"I'll get him back to you," Hiro choked out through his tears. Tadashi, still looking horrified with what he had said, opened his mouth to speak. But at that moment there came a knock on the door and the handle began to turn. Tadashi eyed it nervously, then turned back to Hiro.

"Hiro, you have to keep this between you and me for now! No one else can know you're from a different universe, understand?! We can tell Wasabi and the others later if we need to, but for now no one can know!" Tadashi hissed this under his breath, eyes narrowed to indicate the seriousness of this affair.

Hiro nodded shakily in agreement just as the door swung open and a blonde woman in her late 20s stepped into the room. She had a kind look about her, and her clothes told Hiro quite clearly that she was his doctor. Behind her followed Aunt Cass and the others.

"Hello, Hiro. I'm Doctor Whittaker. It's good to see you up. Now. I need to ask you a few questions."

She did the whole "on a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your pain?" "is there anywhere else that hurts?" "How many fingers?" thing, then she shone a light in Hiro's eyes and checked for a concussion. She monitored his pulse, and finally turned to look at the burn. Hiro couldn't help but look as well. He was relieved to see that the arm was wrapped in bandages. He wasn't sure how he would react to seeing the actual injury.

But Doctor Whittaker began to unwrap the bandage carefully, wanting to look at the actual burn, and Hiro found he couldn't look away.

It wasn't as bad as he'd expected. Hiro had heard horror stories of people who had been burnt so badly their bones showed. But his was just an ugly red and pink wet, veiny mess. The burn didn't even go all the way up to Hiro's elbow. His fingers had the worst of it, though. Parts here and there were blackened, though the doctor assured Hiro that it was mostly just ash and singe marks, and it wasn't nearly as bad as it looked.

"This'll take a few weeks to heal. You'll want to wash it in cool water. Apply burn cream to it at night and in the morning, and change bandages every two days. I'll give you medicine for the pain. But since Hiro is awake and there don't seem to be any complications, I'd say he's safe to go home today. Besides, a hero shouldn't be locked up in a hospital!"

Everyone else thanked the doctor and breathed sighs of relief, but Hiro was thrown. "Wh-what do you mean, 'hero'?" At first Hiro assumed the doctor was making a bad pun with his name.

Doctor Whittaker blinked in surprise. "Well, you, of course! You're a hero. Everyone knows what you did. It was on the news and everything. You all saved a lot of people three days ago. And then you went through that gate to save Abigail Callahan! Absolutely inspiring for a 14-year-old! For anyone, really."

Three days?! I've been out for three days?! Hiro frowned. He should've realized it had been a while. Honey, GoGo, Wasabi, and Fred were all wearing their normal clothes now. The last time Hiro had seen them they'd been wearing their Super Suits they had designed and Hiro had developed. But three days for just a burn?

"Well, I'll get the release paperwork, the medications, and maybe some soft food like applesauce for Hiro to eat. I'll send in a nurse to remove his Catheter, IV, and heart monitor, and then we'll let him go home!" Doctor Whittaker bustled out of the room, smiling.

Hiro immediately sat up as best he could, gritting his teeth and grimacing while trying to move his right arm as little as possible. "What, aah, what did she mean it's been three days?! I only got burned! I shouldn't have been out that long!" Hiro flinched as he said those words. Tadashi- his Tadashi- had died in a fire. The words "I only got burned" made him feel shameful and shallow inside.

"Hiro! When you arrived here at the hospital and they took off your helmet, or what was left of it, you were seriously dinged up!" Cass said.

"Yeah," Honey pipped up, "it looked like you got hit by something big either during the fight or in the portal. We were afraid you might have a concussion!"

"And then there was all the drugs they pumped into you. At first they had to knock you out! Then they had to give you stuff to numb the pain," Tadashi rested his hand against Hiro's uninjured one, but Hiro tugged it away. He felt bad about it immediately afterward, but Tadashi just bit his lip and continued.

"Honestly, it's a wonder you woke up so soon, or that they're releasing you!"

Hiro felt slightly better, though not much. He found himself hanging onto every word Tadashi said, however. He knew he should distance himself from his brother. Well, not MY brother, He thought sourly. It wouldn't do to get too attached. Hiro knew the right thing to do would be to rebuild the portal in a secure location and get Tadashi his real little brother back. But in the meantime Hiro would have to keep a distance. If he grew too attached it would hurt so much more when he returned to his own universe.

I can't do that to myself! It isn't fair that I've already lost Tadashi once, and now I have to go through it again! But it's the right thing to do.

Chapter Text

The ride home from the hospital was a long one. Or rather, it felt long. Hiro, all bandaged up and loaded with pain meds, was sat in the back seat of the family car next to Tadashi. He barely listened as Aunt Cass talked the entire drive home about how she was both proud and mortified at what Hiro and Tadashi had done, how they were heroes who would be famous in San Fransokyo for the rest of their lives, how she loved them both, and how she'd gotten burn medication to treat Hiro's injuries.

"You'll have to apply it to the burned areas directly every evening before bed, and in the mornings when you wake up," she was saying as the approached their house. "And of course we'll have to go back to the hospital in a couple weeks to get those stitches removed. . . ." Hiro tuned her out again and shot a nervous glance at Tadashi.

Ever since Hiro had revealed to him that he wasn't the same Hiro Tadashi had grown up with, that he wasn't the right Hiro, that he wasn't even from this universe, Tadashi had fallen silent. He'd spoken not one single word since they'd left the hospital, and had even stopped looking at Hiro.

Hiro had already felt helpless and heartbroken, if also warm and protected and comforted when he looked at Tadashi. But since Tadashi's proclamation that he wasn't actually his brother, Hiro felt fearful and hollow when he looked at him. He longed to love this Tadashi. No, he did love this Tadashi! He wanted the feeling to be reciprocated.

But this Tadashi clearly wanted no part of that. Hiro stared at the back of Tadashi's head, wishing the boy would just turn and look at him, to give him a smile, to tell him "it'll be OK, genius." But he can't even look at me. I'm wrong. I'm not supposed to be here. I'm not his real brother.

Hiro looked away from Tadashi before the tears could start flowing. It felt like he'd lost his brother all over again. Why did I have to tell him?! Why couldn't he be mine and I be his just a little while longer?

But he knew he never could have done that. It wasn't fair to his counterpart from this universe, who was now presumedly trapped in the version of reality without Tadashi. My reality. No, Hiro'd had to tell Tadashi. They had to work to fix things.

"Here we are!" Cass exclaimed, her voice jumping suddenly and dragging Hiro back to the present. "Home sweet home! No place like it. Bet you've missed having your own room, haven't you Hiro? With no nurses or doctors to bug you. Just you and your brother, back where you belong!"

Hiro felt a pang at her words, but forced himself to smile, ignoring the sting of the cuts on his face. "Yeah. . . Yeah, it'll be great to be alone again."

"It's been a few days since you showered," Cass said, parking the car out in front of the café entrance. "So you'll need to get on that. But first we eat! We need to celebrate your homecoming and get something in your system that isn't blue Jell-O." She smiled widely, then opened the door. The three Hamadas made their way inside and up to the dining room.

Dinner turned out to be leftover fried chicken from the refrigerator reheated in the microwave. After Hiro had gotten the soft hospital food down without a problem, Doctor Whittaker had given them the go-ahead to try something more solid.

Aunt Cass helped Hiro eat, as he was still getting used to his burned hand. Hiro focused on each bite. While most of him was still feeling numb, the scientist in him was trying to find some flaw in this universe, some difference in it from his own. Each bite, each taste was a test to see if even something as simple as chicken was an exact match to where he was from. It was. The chicken triggered all of Hiro's sensory memories dating back to early childhood.

It had the same smell as the time aunt Cass had brought home dinner to her two starving boys the day they had installed the heavy metal soundproof door to their room. They'd bounded downstairs as soon as the heard the door open and Aunt Cass' feet padding down the hall. The grease-soaked bottom of the bucket had promptly given way just as Hiro and Tadashi reached the bottom step, dumping fried chicken all over the kitchen floor. They ended up eating it anyway. Hiro and Tadashi had been too hungry and in too good a mood to let that ruin their day. Besides, as Tadashi had pointed out, there was a five-second rule.

Hiro allowed himself a small smile at the memory, but it quickly faded. Here I am looking for flaws and differences between this world and my own, when the biggest one is sitting right across from me! Hiro looked over the table at Tadashi. He was perfect in every way. The warm brown of his eyes, the smooth black hair, his muscular yet still nerdy frame. Everything was as it should be. This was his brother. This should have been his brother.

And yet he wasn't. Tadashi had said so himself, and Hiro couldn't help but remind himself, going over and over it in his mind, replaying it. Tadashi wouldn't even look at Hiro! Might as well pretend he's just some guy. . . I won't be here for long, and if he doesn't want me around then there's no point in getting attached all over again.

"Hiro, honey, are you OK?" Aunt Cass' voice pierced Hiro's absorbed inner monologue. He shook his head slowly, clearing away his scattered thoughts, then looked over at her.

"Uhh, y-yeah. Sorry, just spaced out a little."

She nodded sympathetically. "You've been through a lot. Why don't you go on up and get your shower? If you're still hungry after that then come on down and eat more. If not. . . Well, you need all the rest you can get."

Hiro nodded and scooted his chair back. "Thanks, Aunt Cass. I. . . I will."

As Hiro turned to leave, Tadashi finally looked over at him. Their eyes locked, and Hiro saw some strong emotion swim through Tadashi's. He was trying to silently communicate something, but Hiro was far too weary to translate. The boy turned and headed up the stairs.

He got into his and Tadashi's room no problem, but the second he walked in he was halted in his tracks like he'd walked into a brick wall. Something was different. Something big. Something Hiro had nearly forgotten about.

The smell! The room smelled like Tadashi! Hiro had been living without his older brother for so long that his smell had long since vanished from the room they used to share. But in this world, where Tadashi had survived, the smell had never gone away. Hiro breathed in the familiar yet new scent deeply. Freshly cut grass, old spice deodorant, and new shoes. Tadashi had always brought freshmen sticks to keep in his sneakers. This is what home smells like!

Hiro would have stood there sniffing the air until he became used to the smell, but the thought of a shower was too strong. His first fully conscious shower in several days. And nothing helped Hiro come to terms with things quite like time alone under the hot water. He stripped (with enormous difficulty, having use of only one hand and many cuts to be wary of), grabbed his pajama bottoms, and made his way down the hall to the bathroom.

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Hiro had only been gone for five minutes, but already Tadashi ached to go make sure he was alright. He must hate me! The things I said to him. . . Tadashi shuddered. When Hiro had told him about the portal and the universe he was from, Tadashi barely took a second to think before blurting out his initial reaction. He'd been harsh and blunt. Said something he didn't truly mean. Something he wanted to take back more than anything.

But how could he? It would be wrong to jerk Hiro back and forth like that, wouldn't it? To say one thing then turn around on it completely. And so he'd kept quiet, fearing anything he said to Hiro would make it worse.

But as it turned out, inaction was in itself a form of action. Tadashi had watched these last few hours as Hiro dug deeper and deeper into a stupor. I have to set it right! It's better for him to know I'm on his side. He's still Hiro, after all. He's still my little brother, even if not actually my little brother.

Tadashi stood abruptly. "May I be excused?"

Aunt Cass had barely opened her mouth to say yes before he was barreling up the stairs.

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Hiro had only just stepped into the shower and closed the curtain, having had to wait for the water temperature to adjust, when there came a soft knock on the bathroom door. Hiro nearly jumped several feet in the air! "Wh-what?!" He said in a quavering voice. He heard the door open and someone step into the room.

"It's me," came Tadashi's voice. Hiro could see his brother's outline through the curtain. The older boy walked forward and sat down on the toilet. "There's probably a better place to do this, but what I have to say to you is something that can't wait."

Hiro stood frozen still, letting the hot water pour over him. It stung his burned arm even through the bandages, but Hiro didn't mind. It helped keep him grounded. Tadashi cleared his throat and continued.

"I'm sorry, Hiro. You've been through so much in the past couple of days and beyond. You did everything my Hiro did. You faced Callahan, beat him, rescued his daughter. And you did it all without me." Tadashi paused. Hiro could feel his heart thumping hard in his chest.

"Then you got burned and woke up here. You saw me and probably thought you'd gotten your big brother back. And I took that away. I slapped down your triumph and reward. I shouldn't have. I spoke too soon. I said you weren't my brother, and I was wrong. You are my brother! You have to be! I know it because only my little bro, my genius, my Hiro could be strong enough to go through what you have. I shouldn't have said the things I said.

"Ignoring you probably didn't help any either. It's hard for me to admit I'm wrong, and I didn't want to pull you around by the nose. But I had to tell you how I feel now. I'm sorry for everything, otōto. I. . . I live you." The declaration at the end sounded a little shaky, like Tadashi was only just realizing it to be true himself.

Hiro was silent. He didn't know what to say. He'd only just decided not to be a burden to Tadashi by acting familiar, and here Tadashi was taking back everything he'd said that led Hiro to this decision. It felt surreal. Like when you're really tired and you close your eyes & it feels like everything around you is moving, rocking you gently to sleep. But some other feeling was welling inside Hiro, too. Love. He wanted to toss aside the shower curtain, dive headfirst and fully naked into Tadashi's arms, and sob into the older boy's chest until he fell asleep.

But his body wouldn't move. All of his joints and muscles were frozen up. Tadashi gave a single nod and rose to his feet. "Tomorrow we need to start fresh. We're both acting too sad and lonely for our own good. But we're brothers. We should act like brothers. I love you, Hiro." This time Tadashi's voice was firm, Almost daring himself to challenge the statement.

And with that, Tadashi turned and swept out of the room, leaving Hiro feeling both elated and deflated. Hiro stood there for a long time, well after the water turned cold, letting his tears wash away until he couldn't and didn't want to cry anymore.

Chapter Text

When Hiro arrived back in his and Tadashi's room after the shower, it was with a new feeling of hope. He still held many mixed feelings about this whole predicament, but Tadashi's words had helped rectify a lot of that. Still, it was a long way to go before Hiro would be healed, both inside and outside.

He closed the heavy door firmly behind him and made his way over to his side of the room. It was shocking how exact everything was in relation to his own world. Some things were out of their usual place, but with Tadashi alive that was to be expected. Still, everything was the same color, same size, same everything! Even the bot Hiro had built for bot fighting was present at his workstation.

Hiro passed through the divider that gave him privacy from Tadashi. Or it had, anyway. Hiro had taken it down after his brother's death back in his own reality. The move hadn't been born from acceptance of Tadashi's death. Hiro had wanted to be able to see Tadashi's side of the room from his own.

The boy was so captivated by the room and its vivid sameness to the one Hiro was used to that he almost walked right into Tadashi himself! He'd clearly been waiting for Hiro to get back.

"Gah!" Hiro jumped with fright as he suddenly found himself face to face with the older boy. "T-Tadashi! You scared the crap out of me! What are you doing in here? I could have been naked for all you knew!" Hiro's voice was still shaky, and his eyes were still red, but he tried to hold his composure. He was defeated, however, by a yawn which showed off the gap in his teeth. It also stretched his stitches, making him wince.

"No, you wouldn't be," Tadashi said in a matter-of-fact voice. "You always get dressed in the bathroom after a shower. Plus, I saw your pajama bottoms on the sink in the bathroom." He grinned. "Anyway, I'm here because you've gotta apply your burn medication," Tadashi held up a squat white plastic jar. "I figured you'd probably want someone with full use of both their hands to do that?"

Hiro blinked. He'd completely forgotten about the burn and the medication it required. Part of that was because of the pain meds the Hospital had given him when he'd left (even though they were wearing off), but mostly he was distracted by. . . Well, by literally everything else. The pain in his arm was, at the moment, really only a hot throbbing like a malignant heartbeat, allowing Hiro to easily forget about it in the wake of all that was happening.

Hiro was also thrown by Tadashi himself. The way he spoke told Hiro quite clearly that he was trying to act like his outburst at the hospital had never happened. His actions, however? Offering to help Hiro with something like this, something that would most likely be as difficult for Tadashi to get through as it would be for Hiro. Was this true caring affection, or guilt? Yet as Hiro reflected on how difficult it would be applying the burn cream by himself, he decided it didn't much matter which one it was. At least, not immediately.

"Al-alright, thank you. How do you wanna-?"

"Well, to be honest, the best angle is from behind. Can you bare to sit on my lap for a couple minutes? I'll be gentle. No tickling like that time when you were six and I was supposed I take your bandaid off." Tadashi cocked an eyebrow humorously. Under other circumstances, they both probably would have found it funny.

"Yeah, of course!" Hiro allowed himself a smile at the memory Tadashi had brought up. He'd actually been seven, but still terrified of taking off bandaids. Tadashi had told him there was a fool-proof method to removing them without any pain. He was right, of course. As soon as he'd gotten Hiro in his lap, the tickling had begun and Hiro hadn't noticed that the bandaid had come off until five minutes later.

Despite all he knew about the truth of this world and everything that had happened to him, Hiro found his heart fluttering at the thought of getting close to Tadashi. He didn't want to feel so happy about it, but he did nonetheless. And yes, Tadashi had apologized, but that didn't change the fact that Hiro would be trying to go back to his own universe as soon as his arm was healed. And that departure would hurt much less if he didn't become attached.

Is that even possible? He's the same Tadashi, just. . . Different. Can I go for weeks, months even, without growing close to him? Should I fight it at all?

Tadashi moved over to Hiro's bed and sat down, then gestured for Hiro to come over. The boy took a deep, calming breath, and strode over. His hair was still damp from the shower, a fact he chose to focus on as he lowered himself onto Tadashi's lap.

"We'll take this slow. Don't want to rush things and mess you up worse than you already are." Tadashi's arms wrapped around Hiro, reaching carefully for his injured arm, and Hiro found himself leaning back naturally against Tadashi's warm chest. He fit against it perfectly.

Tadashi's fingertips touched Hiro's arm so softly that, were it unburnt, he would've hardly felt it. In its current state, however, Hiro felt a searing sting shoot the length of his arm, strongest where Tadashi was touching. He hissed loudly, tears welling in his eyes, his head feeling somehow simultaneously light and heavy.

"Sorry! It's gonna hurt, there's no way around that. . . You can cuss if you need to? I promise I won't tell Aunt Cass." Tadashi's eyebrows were knit together with concern.

"I'm. . . I'm fine. Just sick of crying."

"I know, Hiro. It's a standing offer, though. You ready to continue?"

Hiro nodded, and Tadashi slowly started to unwrap Hiro's bandage. The pain was at least as bad as it had been when Hiro first woke up in the Hospital. The tears slid down his face and he gasped and panted hard, groans slipping out with impunity. Hiro couldn't help but squirm slightly, butt rubbing against Tadashi's crotch. But slowly, strip by strip, the bandage came free, exposing the ugly, gleaming burnt red skin beneath. Somehow it looked much better than it had earlier that day in the Hospital. But then, Hospitals make everything seem worse.

Soon enough the bandage came off completely. The pain died down to a low crawling, prickling heat, but was still very much there. Tadashi's right arm wrapped around Hiro's midriff and pulled the boy close.

"You'll have to hold that arm up for me," Tadashi said in a low voice as he raised the jar of burn cream and began to unscrew it. Hiro nodded and averted his eyes as the cap came off. He remembered reading about pain sometimes being visually triggered.

Perhaps unconsciously, perhaps not, Tadashi's chin met the top of Hiro's head and tucked it back beneath it. Either way, Hiro found it oddly comforting. Tadashi didn't seem to mind that his shirt was getting wet from Hiro's hair, either.

"Ready?" Tadashi asked, his lips barely moving. Hiro gave a single nod. Even with his eyes averted he found himself awaiting and anticipating more pain at least whenever pressure was applied to his injury. Yet the second Tadashi touched a cream-coated finger to Hiro's burned skin, the boy felt cool relief spread through his arm. A loud moan escaped his lips, but Hiro didn't care. His eyelids started to feel heavy and he closed them at once, surrendering to the sweet relief from the cream.

Tadashi stirred ever so slightly and spread the cream around, applying it thinly and conservatively. "You know. . . You're really showing strength today. I don't know if I could have done it. You ate some solid food, though it wasn't much, and you took a shower on your own! And on your first day, too! I'm proud of you."

Hiro said nothing but felt his cheeks flush at Tadashi's words. With his head turned and his ear pressed against Tadashi's chest, Hiro could hear the older boy's heartbeat, steady and rhythmic, lulling him sweetly. If he had been told only an hour earlier that he would be this happy and close to his brother, he wouldn't have believed it. Yet here Tadashi had tried to make amends, was currently relieving Hiro's pain and worries, and seemed to actually want to be near the younger boy. With Hiro just being close to him. . . It made them both feel content against their better judgment.

Tadashi gently spread the cream all up Hiro's forearm, making sure to rub it in similar to how he'd applied sunscreen to Hiro's legs and back hundreds of times before when they used to go to the beach together as kids. He reached Hiro's hand soon enough and held it gingerly as he applied the medication.

"Tadashi. . . Thank you," Hiro's voice was almost a purr, yet it was also quiet. He was drifting off! The day had caught up with him. His contentedness was turning to dizzy exhaustion in his head. Hiro was fighting to stay awake

"Oh, no you don't!" Tadashi shook himself slightly, keeping Hiro awake for the time being. "I'm nearly done. Stay with me until then, at least, baby."

Hiro couldn't argue. He let Tadashi dress the rest of his burn, and felt as the older boy started to put the bandage back on, wrapping it tightly up his arm. The pain was gone for the time being, but Hiro focused on the tight pressure of the bandage to keep himself awake.

"Just about. . . There!" Hiro could feel the low vibrations in Tadashi's chest when the older boy spoke. Hiro looked hazily back at his arm to see the bandage put back in place, if a little less neat than the hospital had done.

"Thank you," he murmured sluggishly. "That would've been a nightmare to do on my own."

"It would've been even more of a nightmare if you'd forgotten about it and just gone to bed," Tadashi chuckled, patting Hiro's knee twice before resting his hand there. "And speaking of bed. . ."

"Wait!" Hiro said, sitting up straighter. He was about to disregard everything he'd decided concerning Tadashi since he'd woken up, but in that moment he didn't care. "Could you stay with me? Hold me? Just until I get to sleep! I just. . . It's been so long without you, and. . . I wanna be closer to you." Hiro blushed. Hard. But if Tadashi agreed it would be worth the embarrassment.

"Oh, Hiro," Tadashi's voice, strong all the way until now, quavered. "I'm so sorry for what you went through over there. Of course I'll stay."

Tadashi wasn't dressed for bed. He was still in the clothes he'd been wearing at the hospital. But he immediately kicked off his shoes, gripped over Hiro's shoulder & across his chest, and leaned slowly back onto his brother's bed. Hiro kept his head resting against Tadashi's chest until they were both lying down in the middle of the bed with Hiro on top of Tadashi.

"Ready to roll?" Tadashi asked, voice ever so slightly strained from the new weight atop him. Hiro nodded, still fighting to keep his eyes open. "Alright. My arm is going under your armpit and over your chest so it's not agitating your burn while you sleep."

"You can leave once I'm asleep," Hiro reminded him. Tadashi blushed and nodded.

"Err, right. Anyway, here we go!" The two boys rolled onto Hiro's uninjured side, practically in spooning position now with Tadashi's crotch pressed against Hiro's butt. Hiro hardly seemed to notice, caring only for sleep and being close to his brother.

"Can. . . Can you do this with me every night?" Hiro asked, then bit his lip, realizing how emotional and needy he sounded. "I mean help me with my medicine! It'll be hard doing it by myself. I wouldn't ask you to hold me like this every night."

"Of course, Hiro!" Tadashi said in an astonished voice. "That should go without saying. And, if you wanted. . . I mean, I'll stay with you anytime you ask."

This time, Hiro could hear the guilt in Tadashi's voice. But that didn't deter him in the least. So what if it's guilt-driven and not love-driven? The boy decided. He offered, and it's not like he doesn't like it.

It's time to stop thinking! Came a smaller voice in Hiro's head. Get some rest. Hiro shifted a bit in his brother's arms, getting comfortable.

"When we wake up, we should talk. About everything. We need a game plan, we need to come to terms with. . . Whatever this is. Okay?"

"Yeah, we do. When we wake up. Goodnight, Hiro," Tadashi nodded. It wasn't even nighttime yet, but both teens were drained. Tadashi kissed the younger boy behind the ear. Hiro gave a small smile and closed his eyes.

"Goodnight, Tadashi."

He was asleep within a minute, soft breaths passing through his lips. But Tadashi didn't leave him. He stayed put, feeling Hiro's warmth and thinking to himself until, eventually, he too drifted off to sleep.