Timeline: This was written during the hiatus between Season 1 and Season 2, and takes place in a not-too-distant future after the Season 1 finale.
Note: Heroes is based on superhero comics, so I decided to use a superhero comic cliché. This is also my way of marking the ground if it happens in canon, so I can say that I called it. The title is a reference to a Terry Pratchett book and his concept "The Trousers of Time".
Much later, when it is mostly over and there is time to exhale and get some coffee, the trio of Hiro, Ando and Peter do exactly that. It is a nice moment, maybe a little inappropriate, but they know now that the world will never stop spinning and if they insist on running with it, they will never find the right moment. So the right moment is theirs to make, for heroes need a breather as much as the next person.
Peter brings a laden tray to their table as Hiro and Ando prattle at each other in the precise syllables of their language. Peter can understand a few words here and there but they don't mean much on their own, unless an eloquent sentence can be formed from 'yes', 'but', 'and then' and 'that's just stupid'. The cups go clink and Hiro claps his hands at the spread.
"What're you talking about?" Peter asks.
"The space-time continuum," Hiro answers promptly. "Is very important."
"Of course it is," Peter says. "That's pretty much how your powers work."
"Yes, but Hiro is now talking about time moving like weights and levers," Ando says, and he rolls his eyes before attacking a bagel.
"Weights and levers?" Peter asks.
"Yes," Hiro says, and he moves his hands in a motion that, if it weren't Hiro making them, would be considered extremely demeaning to women in certain parts of the world. "This way and that way, up and down. Almost like… fierce river. Whoosh!"
"Time goes whoosh?" Peter asks, and though he is smiling when says it, he is listening to the words and rearranging them in his mind. "The space-time continuum is… dynamic? Ever-moving?"
"Yes!" Hiro says, and briefly gives Ando a smug look. "Mister Isaac saw a little bit, like through paper."
"Paper?" Peter repeats.
Hiro turns around and grabs an abandoned newspaper from the next table. He rolls it up like a viewfinder and sets it to his right eye (albeit on top of his glasses), barely missing hitting Peter in the cheek when he swings it around. "Through paper," Hiro says.
"Yeah, I get it, like a spying glass," Peter says.
"Suh-pai-ying glass," Hiro says, repeating the word with relish. He taps the narrow opening at the end of the paper tube with a finger. "Mister Isaac sees a little bit, right here. But what he sees is a maybe, not a will be."
"Not again," Ando says, and he starts a long litany of Japanese that is batted right back by Hiro in a furious debate that is faster than what Peter can keep up with.
He lets them toss it for a while, enjoying the hot coffee and the streaming rain outside the window, for all that these things represent the moment of right now. Peter can't understand most of the words, but he knows the tones like he knows his own voice, and quickly jumps in when the pitch becomes too shrill.
"Hey hey hey," Peter says, and distracts Hiro with some cream cheese. Ando stops pouting only long enough to drink some coffee and burn his tongue.
"Is like this," Hiro says, and he holds up a finger to cut off whatever word had been about to come out of Ando's mouth. "We know future can be changed. If future can be changed, time is not fixed."
"Yeah, I follow you there," Peter says.
"So," Hiro says, "If time is not fixed, why should space be fixed?"
"That makes no sense!" Ando cuts in. "Time is not fixed because time is time, you can't hold it or touch it, like, like – like…" Ando grabs his bagel and viciously bites into it. The effect is spoiled by a thin sliver of salmon dangling from his lower lip, but the point is there.
"What brought this on?" Peter asks.
Hiro's eyelids drop briefly as he studies the table's woodwork, and he says softly, "Was thinking of dead mes, in the future."
"We all have to die one day, Hiro," Peter says.
"Yes, but I have seen it! I have seen me die! Is not a nice thing to see, but it…" Hiro struggles to find the words. "Yatta. If we came back from bad future, and we change today to make good future, what happen to bad future? Does it go away? Is it only memory in here?" Hiro taps his temple. "It make no sense that any future, even bad future, can go poof. Bad future has people, memories, things that happen. All erase?"
The words are light, but a shadow lurks beneath them, casting unexpected goosebumps along Peter's arms. "So you're saying… Every time you come back from the future, and change something now, that creates a whole new future for us, but the bad future still exists, somewhere out there?"
Hiro says, "Yes," and his voice is just like that of the battle-hardened Hiro Peter once met in a frozen subway train. "So if there are many futures … Is logical there are many todays, too."
"Baka," Ando sighs, verbally rolling his eyes. "I always say you watch too much Star Trek, Hiro. You won't look good with a beard."
"Is not silly!" Hiro says, and the lights go out. Not metaphorically, but literally, and the three of them are suddenly bathed in a kaleidoscope of blue light filtered by furious rain drops outside the wide glass window. The trio fall silent and Peter opens his mind to actively listen, filtering through the mundane to find anything that isn't.
"Gawddamn fuse," the man behind the counter thinks just before he disappears through the door marked Employees Only. Peter keeps listening, working through the whispers to find anything that could be a threat.
"Maybe it was a short-circuit," Ando says.
Then Peter hears it, clear as day and in a voice that is so familiar, "Here we go, brace yourselves." He opens his mouth to warn Hiro and Ando but he doesn't manage it in time.
There is a deafening crack and an explosion of light. For a moment it feels like going nuclear all over again, but there is no pain and no heat, just utter blindness of white. Peter feels himself standing up, as if standing up will make everything make sense.
Then it is over and they are back in the darkened café, and it still raining outside. Peter finds that Hiro is standing right in front of him, his eyes wide and slightly disoriented.
"What was that?" Peter asks.
Hiro doesn't answer, but instead yells a battle cry and flings himself away from Peter in a panicked shuffle of feet. His right arm goes round to the poster case on his back, and in a flick and a swing, his sword in his hands, the pointy bit aimed directly at Peter.
"Hiro, what…?" Peter says. Then he notices that there's another Hiro still sitting at the table, exactly where he had been a moment ago.
"Ore?" seated Hiro says, gaping at his doppelganger.
"Nande?" standing Hiro says, having just noticed seated Hiro.
Standing Hiro isn't alone either, and Peter just notices the two forms right behind him. The shadows and flickering light delays Peter's recognition of them, but it is still swift.
"Claire?" Peter says.
"Oh my god, oh my god," Claire says, and Peter knows that this isn't Claire, not his Claire, because her hair is wrong and her clothes are wrong and the way she's staring at him is definitely wrong. "Why is he here? I thought you said we'd—"
"Hiro, what happened?" says the third figure; a tall man who is gangly and slightly hunched to compensate for the fact that he stands an easy extra head over his two companions. The three of them have the same bewildered look, and are slowly backing away from Peter. Though Peter has had a long history of dealing with people looking at him that way, he has never quite gotten used to it.
"Something go wrong," standing Hiro says, his eyes firmly on Peter. "I think… instead of going back, we go sideways."
Claire's mouth becomes a straight line of hardness, just like how Peter's mother used to before she cut him down with a few words of cold steel. Claire says to the standing Hiro, without a trace of hesitation, "Kill him again."
"Stop, stop!" sitting Hiro says, quickly jumping to his feet and finding his place blocking Peter from the pointy sword bit. "Peter is not bad guy! Don't hurt him! Sylar is bad guy! Was. Was bad guy."
The tall bespectacled man frowns. "Who the hell is Sylar?"
"Uh… you?" Peter's Hiro says.
Peter sees it now, past the glasses and the hair to see who it is underneath, except that this isn't Sylar, because the Sylar that Peter knows cannot be standing here at this moment, and even if he was, he wouldn't be caught dead wearing what he's wearing right now. The fact that no dangerous objects have started flying in Peter's direction is also a hint.
The other Hiro relaxes the grip on his sword, and says in an all-knowing voice, "Ah, space-time continuum."
This Hiro nods in agreement. "Space-time continuum."
Both Hiros turn to look at Ando and say, "Told you so."