The very first day of her life, (the one thousand, four hundred and twenty second of his) he held his sister close, gentle. He felt the tiny wight against his chest and promised, "I'll take care of you." when there was no one there to hear it but the two of them. There's a 4 year difference between them and while it's not a very big number (two fingers held up on each hand) it's enough to make him entitled to keep her safe. The first time he keeps his promise to keep her safe is nine years later.
He breaths; his breath pouring out of him like a waterfall after a cold night- covered in ice, then- crack- it pours, (and he realizes that he hasn't breathed for the past second-minute-hour-year and after building up for so long the pressure bursts, and his world explodes). He panics, running towards his sister with the speed of a hysterical thirteen year old boy who's little sister is falling out of a tree and oh-god-if-he-doesn't-catch-her-she-might-die (even though she can be the most horrible person he's ever met, the thought of her getting hurt kills him, just a little, because it's his fault he made her mad and she flew up a tree), so he dives, catching her before she hits the ground- instead, his arm does, hitting the spiked grass that would be soft, if not for the added wight of his little sister, with a ominous thud. He lies on the ground, flat on his back, rolls his sister to the other side of his body and cradled her in his non-injured arm, held as though she's the whole universe- imagine that, a nine year old being the entire universe (but the thing is, she is his entire universe- when she's in the room with him it's like she's the sun and everyone else is the moon. He doesn't show it, of course. But everyone could see that he'd give the world for her, in his own quiet way- and no ones surprised, because there's never been a brother who wouldn't give the world for their younger sister).
His sister's freaking out, and he knows he needs to be the omnipotent, all knowing and god-like brother she expects him to be, but his arm hurts and he can't seem to breath the right way, the air coming out instead forced and harsh, cutting his throat with sharp glassy slices, but his little sister needs him, so he pretends he knows everything and nothing hurts, and tells his sister to go get mum-and-dad. The moment she flies away, he curls up and sobs (it-hurt-it-hurt), all he could think about was his breathing; 'just breath, focus on breathing or you might stop;it's so easy to breath. Don't stop breathing. It's so easy to stop breathing (His sister could've stopped breathing. Never let her stop breathing. It's his role in life- keeping her safe)'.
In the end everything turns out fine- his arm heals up okay, and his sisters not too mentally scarred for life. They grow up, fighting as much (maybe more) as the normal brother sister duo; they'd never seen eye to eye, really and it's proved easier to point out the ways they are completely different, then to see the ways they're are alike, (same hair, same eyes, same laugh. The list goes on forever). It's never really worked though, so instead they fight about her boyfriends, her clothes, her music, her friends, and he (in her own words) is the most annoying, over-protective brother who needs to get a life that doesn't involve ruining hers.
Eleven years after the infamous tree incident,one of them lands up in the hospital again – his sister, this time. He (of course) blames himself for not being there, for not saving her; her boyfriend, whom he'd hated till that moment, had done the saving. He gets The Call, rushes to the hospital and reaches there before she gets out of the operating room, so he waits, sitting in the seat next to his sisters boyfriend, and very firmly not looking at him. And then he waits some more. He made a point to think of what could be happening, or what was absolutely not happening behind those operating room doors. Those two man are so alike, both care so much for the same woman, even if they do in ridiculously different ways, and if they don't kill each other, they might help each other, and that would be good, very good. The nurse calls him in, saying family only, and as he rushes past the boyfriend to the hospital room, he silently promises to tell the boyfriend everything with a nod. The nurse tells he medical garble that just means that his little sisters fine, and so he thanks the nurse and god and his guardian angel (who he's pretty sure was that nurse), and walked into the white washed hospital room, shutting the door behind him, and stares at that sister of his who's skin color, at the present moment, would be better suited to a lampshade.
He refuses to patronize her, so instead he just stares, trying to keep a little of the usual intensity out of his gaze, softening the corners of his eyes even as his mouth tightens, uncomfortable. He's reminded with a sharp stab that they haven't spoken in weeks, and that there was a time when they spoke at least three times a week for over a hour at a time. The guilt fills him as he stands there, and quietly drove himself mad (she-could-died-haven't-talked-to-her-in-ages-I-am-a-horrible-older-brother) and then-
"We haven't talked for a while, have we?"
He takes this as a invite to join her and sits behind her on the plastic, crinkle, old-people-smelling bed, resting her head on his shoulder, holding her as tight as he dares without fear of breaking a bone. He sobers up, but inside his head he's thrilled, doing a tiny little dance, because she's sitting next to him, talking to him for the first time in weeks and he squeezes her a little tighter to him as he thinks she may never understand how much he cares. He plays with her hair in a way that should have annoyed her, but at that point she didn't have the energy to care; it made him happy, and if that was the true intent of a woman who wanted to see her brother happy, no one needed to know.