Title: That Place Between Hope and Despair
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1534
Pairing: Kotetsu/Antonio (Can be seen as a friendship or more, up to the reader)
Topic: None
Type: Canon Setting
Genre: General
Disclaimer: I don't own anything from Tiger and Bunny. Tiger and Bunny belong to Sunrise and their respective creators.
VTM: Getting a little writing in. (Inspired by some of the events in the NewType Ace Tiger and Bunny manga.)

-o-o-

"Hey, how are you doing today, Bison?" Kotetsu said with a smile and his hat held in one of his hands out of respect. He stood awkwardly for a moment, with only the heavy silence as his answer. He cleared his throat and with a strained smile, showed off a bouquet of flowers. "I uh...I brought you some flowers today."

Kotetsu then set his hat down and took a moment to undo the cellophane wrapping from the bouquet. After taking a moment to snap the stems down to a more manageable size, he took a few minutes to arrange the flowers. It was a little clumsy of course but something he had done before, for Tomoe mostly. Kotetsu then stepped back and looked over his handy work. A small smile tugged and the corners of his mouth as he wondered if Antonio would have liked them.

"Heh...Probably not your thing, huh?" he said, in answer to his own thoughts. "Well, that's just too bad. This place could use a little cheering up. It's a little too creepy for me otherwise." he reluctantly admitted, in a quieter tone.

Kotetsu was quiet for a while before he started talking again. Part of it being that he wasn't sure where to start. The other being that the situation was a little awkward for him. Kotetsu never wanted to be in this kind of situation again.

"Ah! Your socc-...er, uh 'football' team won the game last night." Kotetsu corrected himself.

He was sure Antonio would have smiled if he could. Kotetsu often loved to tease the Latino about it and would purposely call it soccer. They were always like that though, teasing and bickering over trivial things one moment, then laughing it off and sharing a drink together the next. It was one of the good parts about being friends for so long. Kotetsu went into the details of the game to try to help get his mind off of where he was and why they were there.

It wasn't easy though, it was all too familiar. These kinds of places sometimes seemed like they could suck the life right out of you. There were the memories too, many unpleasant that still remained fresh in Kotetsu's mind. The light that made everything almost seem sort of gray, the faint scent of disinfectant, the beat of the heart rate monitor right next to him, and the sight of someone he cared about in a hospital bed, motionless. It was more than a little unsettling, to say the least. For a brief moment Kotetsu found himself in that morgue, staring at Tomoe's motionless body.

Kotetsu shut his eyes for a moment as he tried to push the horrible image from his mind. He didn't need to think about that, not now.

"Um, I have been calling your mom like I promised. I keep giving her all the up to date news on you. She said to tell you that she loves you and that she's going to come out here to see you as soon as she can." Kotetsu said as he fidgeted awkwardly with his hat in his hands. "Your sisters also said "hi". Carla said she already came by yesterday, it's easier for her since she already lives out here. Man, she's really grown up, she's become a beautiful woman." Kotetsu added with a small smile.
A few flashes of memory went through his mind at that moment. Of when Antonio of him were a pair of teenage punks, getting in trouble together, and staying at each other's houses. There was even a time where Carla (who was eight then) declared that she was going to marry Kotetsu one day. Antonio took him aside and gave him a warning. Kotetsu couldn't help but give a chuckle at the memory. Antonio was a protective big brother, everyone of sisters' boyfriends feared him.

"But uh, you already know that." Kotetsu sighed as the nostalgia passed. His smile slowly faded away. Past or not his best friend was lying in that hospital bed, as still as a corpse. He noticed his eyes were tear up, he wiped them and swallowed the lump in his throat.

The beeping from the heart monitor continued its steady beat. Antonio lay in bed, bandaged up and looking deceptively as though he were merely asleep. It made the situation a little more frustrating. Sometimes Kotetsu just wanted to reach out and give his friend a small shake or a poke and just wake him up. They could laugh it off and talk about how much of a close call it was, then compare it to their stupid antics back in their high school days. But that wouldn't happen, Antonio wasn't going to wake up.

'Yet...' Kotetsu mentally reminded himself. 'He's not going to wake up yet.'

He could feel his heart sink a little as the pessimistic part of him whispered the possibilities in his mind. That Antonio really wasn't going to wake up again. They'd never have another drink together or banter about the stupidest things. He'd never be able to say that he was sorry or tell him that he was going to try to be a better friend. He wouldn't even have the chance to make good on that promise. He'd also be alone, terribly alone. Kotetsu could feel his heart fill with guilt at that last thought. Being lonely? That's what he was thinking about when his friend was laying there and fighting for his life?

"I'm such a selfish bastard." he admitted. His eyes finally betrayed him when tears escaped them. He then continued with a short, bitter laugh. "I'm a fuck up and a coward." Kotetsu then walked over to a chair that was kept in the room for guests and moved it over to Antonio's bedside. He then took a seat in the chair and really felt the weight that came with a heavy heart. "You get me better than anyone. When Tomoe died, you knew when I was in trouble, even if I could hide it from everyone else."

Antonio did know Kotetsu very well, maybe a little too well at times. Oddly there was a little comfort in that. When Tomoe passed away it was all too easy for Kotetsu fall into a dark place. Not many would have spotted it that easily. Kotetsu put on the act that he was fine for everyone. Not for their sakes but his own. He couldn't take it, all the sympathetic bullshit was just making it hurt more. They couldn't understand how he felt, so he tried to hide his pain. Besides, he was a hero, he still had people and a city to protect. 'A hero can't show weakness' became his mental mantra while at the funeral and on the job shortly after. In the end he found himself alone with his weaknesses in his own personal that he made himself.

When he was just teetering on that dangerous edge Antonio was the one there to pull him back before he could fall. It helped that Antonio knew Tomoe for almost as long as Kotetsu did. They both lost someone very important that day and knowing that made it a little easier to properly grieve.

"I don't know what I'll do if you die here." Kotetsu admitted. "It's so dumb, we all know the job is dangerous, we could die at any time." He paused, briefly thinking of some of the close calls he had during his career. "But we still do it anyway. Do you think that we're crazy?"

Kotetsu could imagine Antonio making a dumb joke or poke fun at him for being so serious all of a sudden; anything to ease the tension. He gave a sigh and glanced at the clock in the room. It was about time for one of Antonio's favorite shows. Kotetsu found the remote for the television and turned it on.

"I still don't see what you like in this show." Kotetsu said as he changed the channel and turned the volume up a little. He kept forgetting the name of it, 'Something Abby'? It was something like that, some show where the people were all dressed in fancy clothes. He never thought Antonio would be into that kind of thing. "I mean, I guess it's not bad, it's kind of cool...maybe." Kotetsu reluctantly admitted. Truth was he was starting to like the show too. "But I'm a little confused, I haven't watched much of it. Maybe when you wake up you could explain it to me a little better." he was trying to think positively again, or at least sound like it.

Kotetsu had to wonder if Antonio could really hear him at all. He remembered hearing from somewhere that sometimes people in comas could hear people talking to them. Kotetsu wasn't so sure about the likelihood of it but he'd continue to do it on his visits anyway. And if Antonio really could hear him Kotetsu would probably have some explaining to do.

Kotetsu looked at Antonio and quietly reached over and held his hand. He'd explain if he had to if-no, when the time came.

-The End-