Disclaimer: All owned by NBC.
Thanks to: Kathy for beta-reading
Spoiler: Up to 2.11 Powerless
On giving your heart to the dragon
Some images stay with you, etched in time with bright, shining colours. New York, Times Square, that wondrous first time; the flames of a burning car, frozen, as Hiro manages to pull a girl out of them; Charlie's copper hair, dancing on her shoulders, and her smile; Yaeko under the cherry blossoms.
Takezo Kensei pulling off his mask, revealing an impossible European face and blue, dancing eyes.
A flying man, landing outside a diner in Nevada, entering the diner and Hiro's life and bringing the certainty that truly, everything is possible.
Hiro can stop time, but he can't keep it. Those moments are irrevocably gone, and he won't ever get them back.
There were many reasons why Hiro was so determined to turn Kensei into the hero of legend. There was the conviction that this was what was supposed to happen, of course; there was also the wonder of being able to live in the favourite story of his childhood, and the longing he felt for Yaeko the swordsmith's daughter, which he hoped would go away once she became Kensei's princess, as she was destined to. But his most convoluted reason had its roots in the moment when Nathan Petrelli whispered in his ear that he was sorry, and Hiro understood that Nathan was already on his way to becoming the man he had seen in the horrible future, dispensing injustice on flickering screens everywhere.
"Forget that jerk," Ando had said, but Ando didn't understand. Nathan wasn't supposed to be like this. He was supposed to be a hero, and maybe if Hiro had remained at his side after their first encounter, this awful moment would not have happened.
Well, it would not happen with Kensei. Hiro would remain with him and see to that.
There are other images that remain with you, but they are not fixed in time, they bleed over into everything else. Isaac Mendez' corpse, and Charlie with her eyes turned to that same horrified stare, and the colour of their dead skin is the same that Kensei's has, for just a moment, after arrows hit him, and before the miracle sets in; Sylar's mother in her blood, and Sylar, with that disbelief in his eyes, and the sickening sound Hiro's sword makes as it enters Sylar's body.
The smell of corpses in the New York of the future is overwhelming, though that might have been Hiro's imagination. Still, when he walks through White Beard's torched camp, he finds the smell of burned flesh everywhere again, and wonders if he brought it with him, from that future that was not supposed to happen, any more than this version of the past was. It clings to him, and won't disappear.
Maybe in the present it will. Past and future may be damaged, but there is still the present. Surely, there is still the present.
Seeing Kensei kill his father showed Hiro that the past was unforgiving and could no longer be fixed. He didn't take Ando with him when he followed Kensei's trace to the labaratory in Hartsdale, and then to Texas. Ando had nearly been killed by Sylar the last time, and Kensei obviously was still determined to make his vow true. Hiro would not deliver any more people he loved to the death of his own making.
He was, however, relieved for all of ten seconds when finding Peter Petrelli in the Primatech building. Peter was a stranger, true, a voice on the phone and a short moment in New York when they had both been battling Sylar, but he had tried to save the world then. It would be good to have an ally. Except that Peter guarded Kensei. "Adam Monroe killed my father," Hiro said, and used the strange name as a shield. Adam, not Kensei. Thinking of him as Kensei would do no good.
Peter turned out every bit as intimidating as his future self, but Hiro wasn't the Hiro that had been any more, and never found out what he would have done if Peter had not electrocuted his sword. Kensei's sword.
When he woke up, Peter and Adam had vanished, and Hiro stumbled outside, trying to think of a way to find them in the huge building before disaster struck. The guilt and anger in him were nearly overwhelming. Which was when the miracle happened.
There he was, in the flesh, just like he had been outside the diner in Nevada. Well, he wore clothes this time, and not the suits Hiro had otherwise seen him in, either, but still, it was him, he was here, and that meant he did not believe any longer that the future was inevitable and nobody could do anything.
"Flying Man," Hiro cried, and smiled for the first time in a long, long while.
There are a lot of things Hiro wants to tell Nathan, starting with the fact he now understands that the world does not give you good guys and bad guys but makes you see the villainy in your own heart at times. And there are even more things to ask. But there is also a virus to stop, and Matt Parkman, who a few months ago in the future that has not happened and never will has beaten Hiro and cut into his mind with an angry, slicing voice, says they know "Adam" will release it if they don't convince Nathan's brother of the truth.
"Your brother thinks Adam Monroe is his friend," Hiro says sadly.
"I'll handle it," Nathan says. "Where are they?"
Matt Parkman closes his eyes for a moment, and then tells them he has found Peter, whose mind he has touched before, and can lead them to him. As they follow, Hiro tries to hold back and keep silent, but silence makes him focus on what he will do very soon, what he must do, and he doesn't want that. He wants to use these few minutes to be the Hiro who first met Nathan again, and that Hiro would never have thought of the idea that has been haunting him since the burial of his father. So he bursts out with the first thing that comes to mind and doesn't sound too important.
"I saw your mother slap my father," he says to Nathan. "It was fearful."
Nathan gives him a look as they walk. "Frightening," he corrects, and though his face remains tense, the corners of his mouth twitch. "Doesn't surprise me. She always was a bit hands-on with your father."
"I didn't know," Hiro says, and he means that he didn't know Mrs. Petrelli and his father knew each other, but as the words are spoken, he realizes he means a lot more. "I – did not know many things, Na-than."
He feels Nathan's hand on his shoulder, giving him a brief squeeze, and it's an oddly comforting sensation. Hiro takes it with him as he teleports to face his destiny.
Perhaps the most surprising thing of all was that Kensei called him "carp" again. It was Kensei, not some stranger named Adam; Hiro couldn't fool himself. It was Kensei who told him that Hiro made him a hero and villain both, that Hiro was his inspiration, and it was Kensei who spoke about being a god come to judgement.
If an explosion didn't kill Kensei, chances were that nothing would. "I should have killed you," Hiro told him, and he could see in Kensei's expression that Kensei didn't understand what this meant, which was a small mercy. "I should kill you now."
But he wouldn't. Instead, he brought them back to Japan, and then he froze time again so he could put Kensei in the one place where no one would find him, the one place he would not be able to leave. The place which Kensei's immortality had kept him from for four hundred years.
Afterwards, he returned to his old office and to Ando, and stared at Ando's computer screen without really seeing anything.
"He won't ever hurt anyone again," he said to Ando, and Ando nodded, with a somewhat awed expression. He probably imagined a duel with the great warrior of legend.
Ando still believed in legends.
Hiro needs to know that the virus is gone, gone for good, so he teleports back to Odessa and tries to find Nathan, Matt and Peter again. There is no sign of them at Primatech. Next, Hiro goes to the Burnt Toast Diner where they still have a photo of Charlie, not really expecting to find them there but needing to find something of himself again. The tv is on, and there is some press conference from the Odessa Police Station, with Nathan talking. Maybe fate is back on Hiro's side, he thinks, focuses and teleports to the station, just in time to watch Nathan get shot, not with arrows like Kensei was four hundred years ago, but with bullets.
There are images that remain with you, piercing through you like a sword. You can't change them once you've seen them. Nathan in his brother's arms, and everyone shouting.
Until Hiro freezes time. Because you can change what comes after, he thinks, and moves forward to change the world.