Chapter 1: Prologue
Shiro stretched as he glanced over to his left. He was sitting atop a building with Wanda beside him. The two of them were waiting for the call from Captain America that they were a go to enter the building to support the team inside. As usual, Shiro felt something twist apprehensively in his gut in regards to the thought of the mission he was sent on. It didn’t take a genius to know the reason either.
They were there as support, or well, Shiro was. Wanda was there to assist in the infiltration. Shiro was the impromptu medic of the team considering his vast medical knowledge. Medical knowledge he didn’t recall ever learning in his life, which wasn’t saying much considering up until a year ago, Shiro’s life consisted of a lab and a containment unit. The lab was to study him, while the containment unit was to protect the people studying him from his lethal flames.
Shiro didn’t really care for remembering the lab he’d spent two years in so he shoved it to the back of his mind while he concentrated on the mission instead.
Wanda Maximoff, or Scarlet Witch as she was known as informally, reached over and gave his shoulder a squeeze. “It will be fine. You’ll be fine. Just breathe, Sunfire.”
“Easy for you to say,” Shiro gave the woman a lopsided smile, “this isn’t your first mission.”
“No, you’re right, but it won’t be your last.” Wanda gave his shoulder a small pat before she stood and looked around. “Rogers and Romanoff should be in position now.”
Shiro nodded and stood himself, his hands briefly going to the pack that was on his hip with medical supplies. He had to be careful. While he couldn’t be harmed by his own flames, the supplies within could be and he didn’t want to try and work on someone with half his supplies useless due to heat damage or being ashes, nor did he want to test how fireproof Stark had managed to make the material of his suit. Therefore, he was determined to direct his flames as much as possible to his hands and defending himself.
A small buzz in his ear snapped his attention back to the present. His hand went up to press on the button of the small earpiece in his ear. “Shiro, Wanda, you have three in the floor below you. Another four are currently in the target area.”
“Copy that Romanoff. Good luck.”
Silence met his ear as soon as Wanda spoke, and Shiro let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. Three agents below, with another four within the lab space they were about to hit. No pressure. He glanced over at Wanda before he focused on the door leading in. Striding forward, he followed Wanda as she made her way down.
It was ridiculously easy for him to help the woman take down the agents on the floor below, his moves swift and fluid as he went through the strikes and patterns he recognized as karate. Where he’d picked it up, he didn’t know, but he was willing to bet it was in that span of time before the lab. He glanced over to Wanda as they made their way down the stairs to the next level. She might have had more experience with being an Avenger, but Shiro definitely had stealth on his side.
Strikes and kicks. That was all he allowed himself to do since he still didn’t trust his flames enough not to cause lethal damage. Stark had joked that he was like a cat that jumped when they sneezed. Shiro couldn’t agree more about the assessment of his own apprehension of his abilities.
When they meet up with Natasha and Steve in the lab, Shiro had succeeded in probably spraining his ankle but at least had been able to dodge fast enough to avoid a spray of bullets. Thankfully Wanda had been there to prevent the young man’s head from being blown off with a well-timed shield, so he wasn’t about to complain about that. Honestly, he could have thought of a thousand other ways this could have completely gone wrong. Not the least of which was if he had accidentally lost control of his abilities and set fire to the building during a freak-out.
Natasha went to work with the computers, something Shiro felt the urge to help her with but refrained from, while Wanda looked over the lab for other files stashed away. Steve had left briefly to check over the rest of the building before returning to the room. “Sam’s got an eye on the surroundings to check for any people making their way back. We should have about ten minutes before someone decides to try and crash this location.”
Shiro was leaning against the window, looking out with his arms crossed to prevent him from trying to go over and… Do what? Try his hand at hacking? He knew he was good with computers, but again like with his knowledge of health care, he didn’t know how he got the skill.
Natasha nodded. “Well good. We have plenty of time then. Stark’s present to these guys froze them out, so it’ll take me five to retrieve what we need to.” She glanced over to Shiro. “Unless Jumpy over there is too skittish to stick around, that is.”
“Be kind. It is his first mission, after all. He didn’t do too badly.” Wanda waved a hand as she finished gathering the sheets on the desk with the other. “Besides, I would bet he might feel as though he wants to do something other than stare out the window.”
“No, I’m fine.” The words slipped out of his mouth and he shook his head. “I just don’t think I’ve ever been shot at before. So, yeah…”
Natasha merely nodded, working quickly while the others worked to gather the intel they had been sent to find. Shiro helped, having been given a brief summary of what they were supposed to be looking for. He couldn’t help but read some of the files he was gathering and swallowed. Metahumans. There was information on metahumans in the files, and he shook himself before continuing with his duty. Deal with this first, he reminded himself. Other Avengers were taking on the other facility, the more heavily-guarded one. This one was child’s play.
Three years ago he had awoken in a lab. He’d had no name, no memories, and worst of all, no clue as to why he was there to begin with. He’d tried to fit what was going on around him with anything familiar, but had realized it was an exercise in futility. Wherever he was, he wasn’t anywhere familiar. That knowledge amplified the moment Shiro laid his eyes on the scientist.
From then on, his life became a cycle of tests, sleep, and more tests. He discovered his inner fire the first day, when they stressed his mind and body to the point of breaking and an inferno engulfed the containment unit he was held in. It didn’t last long, the oxygen in the unit running out before serious damage could be done leaving Shiro gasping for breath and his mind hazing. When they finally allowed air back into the unit, Shiro was left with a feeling of complete dread. Such tests continued for weeks, months.
They never spoke to him, not really. They only called him Subject T, and gave him orders he had to obey. He tried his best to obey them, simply because the moment he refused to, they would cut the air supplied to his unit and leave him struggling to breathe. He learned quickly that he hated the feeling of drawing in air and never getting enough into his lungs.
He didn’t know how many tests they performed, or how much they pushed him, but he knew that eventually they progressed to performance tests, endurance tests, the likes. He discovered that his flames didn’t harm him, nor did any others. They did harm others, much to Shiro’s horror when they dragged in people to test them on. He refused, time and time again, and each time, they deprived him of oxygen.
Eventually he wondered how much brain damage he had suffered during those tests.
It was during a raid on the lab that he discovered how long he had been in there. The Avengers had decided to investigate Hydra’s bases, and the moment that the scientist had tried to order Shiro to attack, the young man had crossed his arms and refused. He knew the scientist wouldn’t kill him, hadn’t in all the time Shiro had been a captive.
It had been two years. Two years worth of trials, experiments, blood draws, samples, things that would haunt Shiro’s sleep for years to come. The Avengers, not knowing what to do with him, had cuffed him and taken him out for questioning, and Shiro hadn’t resisted. All he’d asked was that if they had finally come to find him.
It was discovered when they raided the lab’s notes (most of which were purged from the system) that Shiro had no name, no identity, nothing to say that he ever existed outside of the lab. Whoever he had been before was gone, leaving Shiro a nonentity. He hadn’t even had a name to go by, only Subject T, and he absolutely refused to be referred to by that name. The team that had discovered him hadn’t come to save him, he’d found out. No one had known he’d existed to begin with.
In the weeks that followed, they searched everywhere they could for a missing person’s report that matched his description. Shiro could only provide that he was obviously of Asian descent, that he was (surprisingly) fluent in Japanese, and that sometime before, he’d studied medicine. It was only later, when he had met Tony Stark, that he had discovered a new facet to himself he had never known.
He was surprisingly adept at engineering, robotics, and programming. He’d immediately started asking about the mechanics behind the Iron Man suit, studying it with a critical eye and pointing out things that he’d thought were obvious, but everyone but Tony was confused about. That had led to the then unnamed man being directed through the tower blithely by Stark, a cautious Romanoff right behind them, being given the tour of his open labs. Shiro had no doubt that there were other, more private and secure labs that Tony never mentioned.
Stark had also been the one that suggested the name Shiro to him, since the young man was a blank. Shiro had been confused at first, until the meaning of the word, not the name, hit. White. Pure. Untainted. Shiro was a completely innocent person, no matter what had been done to him in the labs. He had no prejudices, no hate (other than what had been done to him), and no mistakes of his own. It was a fresh start, and as Stark aptly pointed out, Shiro deserved one after what had happened.
The only requirement that was issued was that he had to see a therapist. He went, if for no other reason than he was curious as to why, and he quickly found out. They had originally suspected him of being a Hydra plant, which nearly had the young man laughing at the idea until Romanoff pointed out he could have conditioning that no one was aware of. She of course was the most wary around him, and he wasn’t about to blame her for it either. He didn’t remember anything before the lab, and Romanoff could easily be right about him.
Shiro sat, rubbing his face as he looked around the living quarters of the Avengers base. He’d been left to himself, with mostly his thoughts to keep him company. That, and a TV remote that had him lazily flipping through channels. He settled back, frowning as he flipped to a program discussing something about some kind of future tech and rolled his eyes. The information was correct, if a bit vague, but Shiro couldn’t help but shake his head.
They were crediting a young kid for the advancement in magnetic bearing servos, but Shiro couldn’t help but correct them. How, he had no idea, but the kid hadn’t created them. “No, that’s not right. That was Doctor Robert Callaghan, founder of the Laws of Robotics. He invented them.”
“Who invented what there?” Shiro’s head snapped to the side, and Tony was standing in the doorway, head cocked to the side as he took a sip of something from a tall glass. “Oh, I hate those shows. Never get their info right. I mean, don’t get me wrong, kid’s a genius, but one of my old colleagues was the one that invented those.”
“You know Doctor Callaghan?” Shiro blinked in surprise, but shook his head soon thereafter. Of course Stark would know the guy.
“Knew him. Guy had a mental breakdown when his daughter was involved in some kind of accident. Ended up stealing some tech from a student and setting fire to the exhibition hall that killed one of his other students.” Tony walked over and put his drink down. “I’d feel sorry for him, but killing a kid? Not cool.”
Shiro frowned. “So, where is he now?”
“Currently? Serving a sentence of thirty years in a penitentiary for manslaughter, attempted murder, arson, and destruction of property.” Tony stuck his hands in his pockets and looked Shiro over. “So, I was thinking that since you’re part of the boy band now, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing to get back amongst the land of the living.”
Shiro cocked an eyebrow. “Hasn’t that what I’ve been doing, actually being back around normal people?”
Tony snorted. “Because running around in spandex and setting things on fire is considered normal. Well, maybe for Cap and Widow, but not normal for most people.” Tony shook his head. “What I was meaning was that you have a good brain, kid, and you’ve obviously got something of a higher education under your belt. Why not use it?”
Shiro muted the TV, a frown pulling at his features as he studied the older man. “Maybe because I don’t exactly have anything like identification or legal documents stating I’m even alive? I know that people have been trying to look for who I was before, but nothing’s come up yet.”
“Don’t worry, the legal stuff’s being taken care of.” At Shiro’s incredulous look, Tony shrugged. “I have an entire army of lawyers that I can call and I don’t use them often, unless it’s to disprove yet another paternity suit. I had some of them look into the issue of your legal status, and since no one can find out who you are and you’re stuck in limbo because of it, I figured I could do something.”
Shiro blinked. “Isn’t that difficult to do? I don’t even have a birth certificate or social security card.”
“This is why I came up with the idea of getting you both. Right now you’re what, early to mid twenties? Generally you’d be right, but there are ways of getting you some things so that you can actually function. So far, you could get a temporary number if we could prove your age, which is the trickiest part of this whole mess.” Tony smirked. “However, no matter how tricky, I’m pretty sure I can make it work.”
Shiro crossed his arms, not believing for a second that Tony was going to pull any of this off. After all, he had run through every possible way he could reclaim something of a life, and had run across the very problem that Tony said he could solve. “How do you even know I was born in the US though? I could have been born anywhere.”
“One, you have a California accent. Northern Cali, probably the San Fransokyo Bay area considering the high concentration of Japanese Americans there, since you don’t exactly sound like a SoCal guy. Plus, you have a phenomenal grasp of robotics and programming, which is quite common from someone from the technical schools in the area.” Tony looked at Shiro appraisingly. “So either you moved to the US from Japan and studied here since you were a baby, you moved to San Fran from elsewhere and grew up there, or you’re a native of the area.”
“And all of that information still doesn’t identify who I am, does it?” Shiro slumped, not liking the implications. “What if I just happened to be hatched in a lab somewhere? I mean, there was nothing on the databases when you hacked in regarding anything about me.”
“Except from what I was able to get from SHIELD, they had just acquired you three years ago.” Tony looked unbothered by Shiro’s implication that he was created. “Humans don’t spring fully-grown from labs. You, my friend, are a kidnapping victim. Who you were before, we haven’t been able to figure out yet. When we do, you can bet you’ll be the first to find out.”
And that was the sticking point for Shiro, wasn’t it? For everything that had happened, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know who he was now. His bout with amnesia aside, it wasn’t like he was unhappy with his life. Frustrated, yes, but hardly unhappy. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do if he found himself with his old life again.
Something on his face must have tipped Tony off that Shiro wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of finding out about his past, so the older man patted him on the shoulder. “Hey, don’t worry about it. Whoever you were before, it doesn’t change who you are now. Remember that.”
Shiro wasn’t sure if he could be comforted by that.
Natasha rubbed her forehead, going over the encrypted files carefully and running them through the program Stark had designed specifically for this sort of job. So far, each file had to be sent in individually since from what she could tell, they were all chopped up and placed everywhere within the database she had downloaded them from. There had to be a rhyme to the madness she was seeing on the screen, but she couldn’t yet. She considered asking Stark to take a look, but considering the information on the files, she wasn’t sure that she wanted him to see it yet.
“Looks like someone’s burning the midnight oil down here.”
Natasha glanced up and noticed Sam Wilson strolling over to the computer, a steaming cup in hand. She nodded toward the man and cocked an eyebrow. “Please tell me that’s straight black. I could use the jolt right now.”
Sam nodded and set the cup down, cradling his own in his hands as he glanced over the program running. “I heard from Steve that you’re down here, and I figured you’d need it. How’s the decryption going?”
“Slow and painful.” Natasha took a sip and savored it. “I’m thinking of finding the person responsible for the encryption and making their death slow and painful.”
Sam winced as he sat down backwards on the chair next to the desk. “That bad, huh? What do you think we’re looking at with all of it?”
“From what I can tell, they’re patient files. Possible subjects they were working on. Not sure entirely but…”
“You don’t want to get Shiro’s hopes up that we might have found information on him.” Sam nodded in understanding. “I might not have been part of the strike team on that one, but from what I read, they did a file dump on everything.”
“That they did.” Natasha’s eyes glanced back to the screen and shook her head. “I don’t know why they thought they needed this much security on their files though. Not unless they had something big planned, which from what I thought, they don’t.”
“Maybe they’ve decided to come up with something else since the helicarrier incident. I mean, that was a large plan we disrupted of theirs.” Sam shrugged.
“So was Sokovia. We don’t know what they were planning, but we know they were working with enhancing humans. That much we know about from Maximoff. She told us they used the scepter to enhance them.” She shook her head. “The problem is, the events in Sokovia don’t add up to the events last year. It was a separate event.”
“Unless it wasn’t.” She frowned at Sam, who shrugged. “Look, we’d been raiding Hydra bases all last year, and the one we ran across that had the twins looked like a solid operation that had been going on for a while.”
“And they could easily transfer subjects from one facility to another in the interim.” Natasha could already see where this was leading. “You’re thinking that Shiro might have been one of the ones moved and the others in these files happen to be other surviving test subjects?”
“Makes the most sense.” Sam frowned. “But there’s still something missing though. He said he woke up in that facility. In all that time, he hadn’t moved at all. The twins weren’t either from their location, and from everything we could tell, neither had the scepter.”
“Two different processes…” Natasha was already working through everything in her head, and the result wasn’t pretty. “If you’re right, then that means that there’s another process to make enhanced humans, and Shiro might have been one of the subjects of that.” She leaned back and glared at the screen. “You know, between Steve, Thor, Wanda, and Banner, I almost feel like I’m a lot less of a threat than they are.”
She ignored the wry tone in his voice. “Almost. They obviously either weren’t human to begin with, or had something happen to change them. However, they didn’t go through years of training in the same stuff that I did. Well, except for Thor. He’s got centuries on me.” She focused her attention on the screen again before looking over at Sam. “In any case, we’re looking at super-powered individuals being suddenly injected into the equation. Like they’re upping the ante. How long before they find enhanced humans willing to work with them?”
Sam considered that for a moment and winced. “I don’t want to find out. I really don’t. If and when they do, it’s not going to be a pretty fight. And wings or not, I’m still human. I can take those off and just be another soldier. We’re all very breakable compared to some of the others.”
Natasha nodded. “Yes we are which is why we don’t go barging into fights. We strategize, we plan, and we make contingency plans for when we end up over our heads. But we still fight.”
“You’re going to make me start looking for Tony’s stash in the building with this kind of talk.”
“It’s an open bar. It’s hardly a hidden cache.” Natasha smirked, before looking at the screen again. The computer had dinged, alerting her to one of the files that had been decrypted. She glanced at it and sighed. “Nothing but notes. Granted, notes are good, but…”
She stopped, her brows furrowed as she read through the notes. “Random mutation?”
Sam glanced at the screen as well. “Found the other process?”
“Just notes on people that spontaneously develop strange abilities.” Natasha flipped through the notes. “So far, according to this, they located thirty six different people with them.” She glanced at Sam. “Want to make a wager that our resident amnesiac’s one of them?”
“Do I really want to be making bets with you? I’ve seen your poker face.”
“Hey, when you can manipulate the god of lies into revealing information, you use that gift.” She shrugged. “Besides, I have a feeling this was where the files that were dumped were sent a year ago.”
“So now we’ve got random people developing powers?” Sam snorted. “Way to make a guy feel impotent.”
“I can think of worse things.” She stretched, loosening muscles made tight by the position she was seated in. “In any case, this just got more complicated.”
Sam nodded. “Yeah, because if that’s the case, then there’s no telling who’s going to be a metahuman or not.”
Natasha hummed in agreement, eyes narrowed as she considered the notes before her. “In any case, we need a way to find out who they are, where they are, and if Hydra’s got an eye on them as well.”
Shiro frowned as he was handed a packet by Tony, who seemed completely nonchalant about handing the younger man a large manila envelope. He looked from Tony to the envelope, then back at the older man. “Um, what’s this?”
“Admission papers.” Tony waved a hand at the envelope and went over to the drink station in the main area. Shiro had been reading quietly when Tony had entered, and he watched as the older man poured himself a drink before settling down next to Shiro. “I decided to ask around and found out when the next term starts. You kid are not going to let that brain go to waste.”
Shiro blinked and shook his head, trying to wrap his mind around what was going on. “Wait, admission to where?”
“MIT, my alma mater. They’re going to make you take placement tests, but I’m pretty sure with what knowledge you already have, you’ll blow them out of the water.” He took a drink before he set the glass down. “You have a lot of potential kid, and all of it is going to go to waste if you just do nothing but sit around the base.”
“But I have no records. How am I getting around that?”
Tony snorted, looking affronted. “Oh come on. You doubt my ability to talk to the admission board? They know your situation, they know you have no memories, but they also know that you’re really intelligent. You’re at least halfway through a master’s level for engineering, if not there already. You code like no one else I’ve seen except me. You can keep up with my techno-babble. If you have to start over with some of what you know, so what? You’re at least in the door.”
Shiro looked a bit unconvinced. “I can’t go by just Shiro, and I refuse to go by Subject T.”
“Which is why you’re not going with that stupid name.” Tony waved a hand at the envelope. “Go ahead, open it up, read my genius at work.”
Hesitantly, Shiro opened up the envelope and pulled out the forms. His jaw then dropped as he read the name across the top of the first one. “Shiro-“
“Stark. Congrats. It took a bit, but I finally managed to figure out a legitimate way to return something of a life to you.” Tony raised his glass in Shiro’s direction. “I know my dad’s got to be rolling in his grave right about now, but at the moment, I don’t see a problem with it all.”
“You adopted me?” Shiro sounded incredulous. “But I’m an adult. That’s-“
“Quite legal to do. You technically fell under the diminished capacity category, and considering that we knew your relative age, it wasn’t hard to come up with a birth date for you.” Tony then crossed his arms. “Well, are you going to fill them out or what?”
Shiro stared at the paperwork for a moment before he looked back toward Tony. “Thank you. I just, I didn’t expect this.”
“Well, it was either this or get something completely ostentatious and unnecessary for the anniversary of your rescue. Which now happens to be your birthday.” Tony then looked serious. “It may just be temporary, or it might not be. Either way, you have a place to be until that does or doesn’t happen.” Tony then grinned. “Now I get to find Pepper and hear her yell at me for a bit about going behind her back again and doing something completely out of the blue.”
Shiro sat back and regarded the information in front of him when Tony left. It was like an impossible dream. He was about to go to one of the top technical schools in the world, he had a birthday, and while it sounded strange, somehow he’d gained a family. Maybe this meant that his life was about to turn around.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
One Year Later…
Shiro stood and stretched, trying to work out the kinks in his back and knocking off his Red Sox cap as he ran a hand through his hair. He’d been working on coding now for a good four hours, and he knew his roommate was going to complain if he pulled another all-nighter. Paul wasn’t so bad, but he got pretty cranky when he was sleep-deprived. Shiro, on the other hand, seemed to get a manic type of energy any time he started on a project. Heck, the scanner he’d designed to help identify potential metahumans he’d somehow managed to code in a week, exacerbated only by the fact that Tony himself was pulling the same hours and copious amounts of coffee and energy drinks. He had to go back and check his work, but it had worked quite well. Thankfully they had him and Wanda as a base mark for what they were scanning for.
Currently his final project was in the workshop in the labs, and Shiro had decided to combine his medical and engineering knowledge to create a first-responder robot. The coding was proving to be a pain, but he knew he could pull it off. While Tony hadn’t let him take a look at Jarvis’s old matrix, he was certain he knew quite a bit about designing AIs.
Sighing, he closed his laptop, flopped onto his bed, and checked the time. It was roughly two-thirty in the morning, and he had a lecture in, what? Six hours? Besides, he was almost at the end of his time getting his bachelor’s degree. It wouldn’t be long before he’d be going on to getting his master’s. If he was lucky, he’d survive his stint as an Avenger long enough to actually graduate from college.
His hand went to his wristwatch, pressing a button to check his temperature. It had become a common thing ever since he discovered he ran hotter than most people. Everyone else would have a moderate fever if they ran at the temperature he was constantly at. Thirty-nine degrees Celsius wasn’t something most people considered normal, but it was to him. He figured most people didn’t have an internal furnace inside of them.
He heard a rustling noise beside him and turned to look over at his roommate. Paul was blinking blearily at him and frowning. “Man, what time is it?”
“Two thirty. Sorry if I woke you up.” Shiro could hear Paul’s groan.
“Man, you need to actually go to bed earlier. Doing all this late-night stuff isn’t healthy.” Paul turned over, facing the wall and covering his head up with his blanket.
Shiro couldn’t help but chuckle quietly and turn over himself, and it didn’t feel like time had passed at all before he was reaching over blearily to scramble for his phone. Swiping the alarm off, he looked around to see his roommate had already left, and Shiro hurried to shower and dress for the day. Grabbing up his bag, he rushed out the door to his lecture.
Sliding into the hall at the last minute had become something of a superpower all its own for him, and he took a seat before the lecture started. Physics wasn’t necessarily an easy class for him despite his adopted last name, but everyone assumed it was considering he’d passed most of his bachelor’s credits within a year. He hated to point out that he only got those credits because he’d apparently gone to school before but couldn’t remember where or when.
When class got out, he made a rush to the food court to grab something to eat before he had to head to his lab. Passing by a notice board, he noticed a small crowd around it talking in excitement. He slowed, finally coming to a stop as he heard some of the comments from other students.
“I can’t believe they invited them to the expo. I wonder if they’re going to try to compare who’s got the better students.”
“There’s some genius in the school. He’s almost done with his bachelor’s degree, right?”
“No, he’s started on his master’s already. He managed to crank out enough credits to skip a year ahead of schedule.”
“No way. I wanna see if he compares with Stark. That guy just started this year, and he’s already getting his bachelor’s this year.”
“You know they only did that because his father’s rich, right? Tony Stark probably paid the guy’s way into college.”
“Wasn’t he adopted though? Maybe he’s related to the Hamada kid or something. They could be cousins or something. That’d explain why he’s so smart.”
Shiro pulled his ball cap lower over his eyes and decided to keep walking. Honestly, he hated the fact that he had a famous last name, but well, Tony didn’t exactly give him an option there. He did remember his first months at the school though, and how many professors were trying to vie for his attention to somehow get a grant from Stark Enterprises for their projects. Some of the students were no better, expecting for him to be just like the playboy billionaire and be the partying type. They had been shocked when they found out he preferred a quiet night in.
Then again, none of them had been a science experiment for Hydra to play with, had they?
He shoved the memories of suffocating out of his mind and continued walking, entering the food court and heading straight to grab some food. There was a downside to having what amounted to a furnace for a core. He ate a lot more than anyone he knew besides Steve and, if he ever actually met the guy, Thor. Higher metabolism, he’d discovered.
Settling down at a nearby table, he was in the process of grabbing out some notes to look over before his lab when he felt someone sit down with him. He glanced up and smirked at his roommate. “Paul, don’t you have class or something right now?”
“Nope, Professor Jackson cancelled classes today. Something about a stomach bug.” Paul made a face, making the blond look childish. Green eyes danced with mischief as the heavier man settled his tray down to eat. “Besides, I wanted to hear what you thought about the upcoming expo. You’re still submitting your rescue bot to it, right?”
“Only if I can get the bugs out of his coding. Baymax isn’t ready quite yet.”
Paul groaned. “You could have come up with a better name, you know. Why Baymax, anyway?”
Shiro shrugged. “I just liked the name. It sounds interesting to me.”
“Whatever man, it just sounds lame.” Shiro shook his head. He liked Paul, if only because the guy didn’t try to pry into his business. That, and the fact that he knew for certain that his roommate wasn’t some kind of Hydra plant had warmed him up to the idea of sharing a room together. He had Maria Hill to thank for that, considering she researched him heavily when Tony had asked her to. “He’s still not attacking people when he activates, right?”
“He only did that once, and you can get rid of the pictures of that test result, you know.” Tadashi shoved at Paul good-naturedly. “He does well enough; I just don’t like how his response times are slow. I have to pin down how to speed those up.”
“So, did you see the new teacher’s aide the chemistry department just got?” Paul bit into his sandwich with gusto. Shiro vaguely wondered if Paul could use his higher metabolism instead. “She’s like, really tall and wears platform heels all the time, but she’s a genius when it comes to chemicals I hear.”
Shiro only made an interested hum as he dug into his own meal, glancing down at his notes real fast and realizing he was probably ready for lab. Swallowing, he glanced back to Paul. “Oh yeah?”
“Yeah, she’s right over there. She’s really friendly, you can probably go over and say hi to her and she’d act like you’re friends already.” Paul pointed over Shiro’s shoulder, and the dark-haired male turned to look.
Paul was right, she was tall. Tall and thin, with blonde hair he could see from where he sat with the pinkest outfit he’d ever seen on anyone. Glasses were on her face, but somehow Shiro knew, knew she had green eyes underneath. She was familiar to him like very few things in the world were, but he couldn’t place where.
He hadn’t even realized that Paul had waved the woman over until he saw her turn and walk over. Shiro couldn’t help it, but he suddenly found himself pulling his cap lower over his face. The woman settled into her seat across from the two of them and smiled at them both. “Hi, Paul Simmons, right? You did really well in the test earlier. Who’s this?”
Too late, he felt Paul yank his hat off and hide it behind his back. “Shiro Stark, this is Miss Rodríguez. She was in my class earlier today.”
The woman was staring at Shiro for some reason, and he wondered vaguely if he had accidentally set himself on fire. He didn’t feel heat, after all. “I um, hi. Nice to meet you.” He made an abortive lunge for his hat, only for Paul to shove it into his own backpack. Great, he wasn’t getting it back until after classes were over.
“Nice to meet you too.” The woman blinked out of her daze and shook herself. “You don’t have to call me Miss Rodríguez, you know. Well, maybe in class. I usually go by Honey Lemon with friends.”
“You look like a Honey Lemon,” he said quietly, trying to figure out where that thought came from. She was staring at him again, and it made him self-conscious. He was on fire, he knew he was. “Um, are you okay? You’re staring.”
“Watch our stuff, por favor?” Paul blinked as Honey grabbed Shiro by the wrist and dragged him out of the court. Shiro stumbled a bit, not used to being dragged anywhere before she stopped a ways away from the entrance and away from everyone else. “¡Dios mío, Tadashi! What are you doing here? How are you still alive? Where did you come from?”
“What?” Oh, god, she was crying. What was going on here? “Who’s Tadashi? What are you talking about?”
This time, the tall woman threw her arms around him and started sobbing into his shirt, causing Shiro to awkwardly pat her on the back. He could hear things like, “We thought you were dead!” and “Hiro is going to freak out.” and “You’re so grounded when your aunt finds out.” It only made him more confused and he was glad when she pulled back to stare at him again. It was better than the crying, after all. “I have to call your family. Everyone thinks you’re dead.”
“I’m sorry; I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He was dead? What? Honey looked like she’d been kicked, and a hand went over her mouth. She looked like she was going to cry, and he rose his hands before him in defense. “I don’t remember anything before four years ago. You probably have the wrong guy.”
“How are you in school then?” Honey asked, surprised.
That was an easier question, though he had to be careful. After all, he couldn’t reveal that he was an Avenger, could he? Even if he was only part-time. “Tony Stark. He found out about me and got me in.”
“Paul called you Shiro Stark. Is that how?”
“I didn’t have a name, so he gave me one. Adopted me too.” He swallowed. “You remember me?”
“Well yeah, we went to school together. You, me, Wasabi, and Gogo. Fred just hung out all the time.” She swallowed, and then shook her head. “What class do you have next? Wait, don’t answer that. I need to send a text real fast.” Suddenly Honey Lemon had her phone out and was zipping through a text message faster than Shiro could blink before she put it away. “Okay, I need to wait for the professor to text me back. What class?”
“I have lab time coming up soon.” Why was he even saying anything to this woman? He could already feel Natasha giving him her regular lecture on being too trustful, and he shoved the thought away. “Look, um, how do you even know I’m the same person?”
“Well, I’d have Baymax scan you, but he’s-“
Eyes widening, he then narrowed them and looked at her suspiciously. Okay, so he might be a bit paranoid about someone stealing his tech. He’d heard horror stories from the other Avengers about all the times Tony’s tech got stolen, so he had every right to be. “How do you know about Baymax?”
“You remember him?”
“I’m building him, of course I remember him.”
Honey Lemon shook her head. “No, you built him. Here, look.” Pulling out her phone again, she fiddled with it before she showed him the screen. “That’s Baymax.”
Shiro stared. That was his robot, but it looked strange. Shiro had originally designed it to have the same squishy design before he realized that it wouldn’t be feasible in emergency situations, so he slimmed it down. However, there was no doubt that was his design on the screen next to a teen with unruly short hair and a gap-toothed smile. Suddenly he felt like something dropped out from under him and he shivered.
Honey must have noticed because she grasped his shoulder before blinking and setting a wrist across his forehead. “You’re burning up. Why didn’t you say you were sick?”
“What?” He blinked before checking his watch. No, still the same, he was at thirty nine Celsius. “No, I’m not. I’m fine.”
She looked at the watch and shook her head. “No, that’s not fine! That’s a fever. I’m taking you to the student health center.”
She grabbed his wrist but he pulled his arm out of her grip. “No, it’s fine. I always have this temperature. It’s normal.”
Honey looked ready to respond but her phone buzzed. Glancing at the message she received, she nodded and took his wrist again. “Okay, we really need to talk. Come on.” She pulled him back into the food court back to the table Paul was at, who looked like he was just waiting to hear what was going on. Not that Shiro was shocked, since Paul liked hearing about what was going on with everyone. “You can skip your lab, and don’t say you can’t, because I know you and if nothing else, you always kept up in classes.”
“Wait, Shiro Stark skipping lab? He’s not delirious or anything is he?” Paul looked from him to Honey, trying to figure out what was going on.
“No, I’m fine.” Geez, he knew he was going to get in trouble with how hot he always ran, but this was ridiculous.
“Well, if you’re fine, then you won’t mind if we go somewhere to talk privately.”
Honey was already picking up his bag and notes and handing them off to Shiro, who glanced over to Paul. The larger man just shrugged and shook his head. “Yep, calling your dad Shiro.”
Shiro just rolled his eyes. “He probably already knows.” That meant half the Avengers probably knew already. He wouldn’t be at all surprised if somehow Rhodey showed up with Natasha to give Honey the third degree and a background check, if Tony hadn’t done it already. “He’s not my dad either.”
Paul just snorted. “Could have fooled me.”
Honey just gave Paul an apologetic smile. “I’m really sorry. How about a rain check on lunch?”
“Well, if you’re dropping him off at the dorm later, we could just grab dinner instead.” Shiro nearly palmed his face. Was Paul trying to flirt?
“Oh, that sounds fine. Maybe we can find a good ramen stand and eat there.” She gave Paul a wave and grabbed Shiro’s wrist again, but by this time he was used to it and followed along. He figured he’d ask about it when they weren’t being stared at by half the food court.
Honestly, Shiro wasn’t expecting to be dragged off-campus to a small apartment. He looked around, noticing small things here and there already set up amongst the boxes. Prominent was a picture of Honey with five other people, two of which he recognized as Baymax and the teen from the picture. Others were pictures of other people, probably relatives of hers who resembled her enough to recognize it.
There was another however that unnerved him. The picture was of him and the others from the first picture minus Baymax. The teen was obviously a kid back then, and Shiro found himself walking over and studying that picture carefully. The kid looked so familiar that Shiro could almost put a name to the face. He stepped back, looking back at Honey as she gave him a soda.
“That was taken the night that Hiro got into SFIT,” she explained. “He’d worked so hard on his presentation for it that you complained you had to carry him upstairs half the time because he’d fallen asleep at his desk. You even threatened to bring Baymax home from the lab to keep an eye on him when he was pulling all-nighters.”
“He couldn’t have been more than twelve.” Shiro was shaking his head. This was insane. He’d always wondered about his past, but to have someone that knew him just show up out of the blue was crazy, even for him with his extracurricular activities.
Honey giggled. “Fourteen. He didn’t graduate high school until he was thirteen.”
“Who is he?”
That had to be the wrong thing to say, because Honey was covering her mouth again and looked like she was about to cry. However, she took a deep breath and lowered it before she answered. “Hiro Hamada. He’s your younger brother.”
Shiro shook his head. “I think I need to sit down.”
Honey gestured to the couch, one of the only pieces of furniture that wasn’t covered in boxes. “Sorry my place is a mess. I just moved in a week ago and haven’t had a chance to unpack yet.”
He took a seat gratefully, Honey taking another cushion as he popped the tab on his drink and sipped. “You, you said I died. What happened?”
Honey winced, and she shook her head before she spoke. “The night of the showcase, there was a fire. The exhibition hall went up pretty quickly. Everyone got out of it fine except one person, and you went in to save him. You… didn’t make it back out.”
Shiro winced, then blinked as realization washed over him. “I went in after Hiro, didn’t I?”
Honey shook her head. “No, you tried to save Professor Callaghan.”
Suddenly Natasha’s words of him being too trusting rang through his head, and he palmed his face as he realized she was right. “He set the fire and stole another student’s inventions. Oh god…” Then another, nastier thought crossed his mind. “I must have been helping him.”
Honey blinked in surprise. “What? No, why would you? You’d never do something like that.”
“Honey Lemon, fire can’t kill me. People tried it before.” Flashes of his time in the containment unit went through his mind before he shoved them out.
“Tadashi, it’s impossible you would have. You and Hiro loved each other too much to do that to him. Besides, what do you mean, fire can’t kill you?”
He suddenly wished he could have asked more from Tony regarding the good professor’s incarceration. Apparently he’d managed to recognize a piece of his past without realizing it. He then realized Honey was waiting for the answer to her question and he swallowed nervously. “Um, don’t freak out, and don’t tell anyone. Please.”
Honey nodded. “Okay, I promise.” She still looked confused though.
Shiro shrugged out of his jacket and took off his watch, recalling the last time he’d called up fire, he’d managed to crack his last one easily. Exhaling, he concentrated and lit a palm with fire. He then chanced a look at Honey, hoping she wasn’t freaking out.
She wasn’t, but now she had a look of intense curiosity on her face. “Okay, so how are you doing that? I don’t see an external fuel source or ignition point. You obviously don’t have anything in your hand to burn, and there’s nothing indicating there’s anything different about your arms.”
Oh, he didn’t like that look on her face. The last time someone had that look with regards to his powers, he’d been stuck in a shatterproof tube and struggling to breathe when he’d refused to immolate an old woman. Honey must have realized something was wrong because she pulled away from him in concern. “Tadashi?”
“We’re not testing it. I just, I can’t. I don’t like the idea of testing it. Not again.” Shaking off memories, he realized that the flames in his palm had grown before he closed his fingers around it. Hand shaking, he tucked it into his other and glanced toward Honey’s face.
If nothing else, her expression spoke volumes. She reached over and took his hand and bit her lip, studying him carefully. “Tadashi, what happened to you?”
“Stop calling me Tadashi! I don’t even know who he is. I don’t remember being him.” Shiro shivered. “Look, he was probably a nice guy, at least I think he would be considering I probably didn’t change that much, but I’m not him. I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that you wouldn’t want that.” Honey sighed, paying with the drink in her hand before she took a drink. “What happened though?”
Shiro’s mouth twisted as he considered what he would say. On one hand, it wasn’t a secret that he was obviously tied to Tony Stark and thus the other Avengers. On the other hand, he was trying to refrain from revealing that he was one of the newest members of the team. He absolutely hated lying, especially since it felt wrong to be lying to Honey Lemon, but he didn’t know what else to do. “I don’t know. I… I woke up in some lab.”
When Honey’s eyes widened, he forced himself to continue. “I just remember a lot of testing and everything before I was rescued. The Avengers. They found where I was being held and rescued me during one of their ops. After that, I found out I’d been there for two years.”
“Dios mío,” Honey whispered, her expression horrified. She crossed herself and reached over to grasp Shiro’s hand. “I’m sorry. If we had known… There’s no way that Hiro or any of us would have left you in that.”
Shiro shrugged. “How could you have? You said you thought I was dead. That’s something most people don’t come back from.”
Honey gave him a determined look. “Well, it’s not happening again. I can promise you that.” At his incredulous expression, she added, “Well, it’s hard to kidnap someone that’s high-profile without someone knowing it, right?”
He almost laughed. Almost. She had no idea he could defend himself quite well, or that some of the other members of the Avengers had taken to giving him lessons in evading capture and how to take down enemies quickly with minimal effort and no fatalities. Widow might be more likely to kill her opponents, but she did know how to subdue them instead. “I guess so.”
Honey took Tadashi, or well Shiro now, home, refusing to let him go by himself. Besides, she still had her chemical purse that she kept from her suit, so she felt entirely confident she could take down someone if they tried to do anything. There she had to endure Shiro’s roommate’s attempts to flirt with her, which she was polite, but deflected more often than not. She did have the feeling that Shiro knew what she was doing, if the bemused expression on his face was anything to go by at each attempt.
By the time she had gotten home, it was nearly nine. She debated with herself about what to do with the fact that she had somehow found Tadashi alive, if not completely the same. The fact that he didn’t remember anything was obvious, especially when she’d make a comment about the old Nerd Crew and he’d get a look of confusion.
However, she knew one thing she needed to do, and she didn’t hesitate to send a text to the rest of the team to video chat in about half an hour. They were still in San Fransokyo, while she had moved across the country to the East coast. She’d managed to get a grant to study at MIT for her doctorate, and she was immensely pleased with herself over that. However, a part of her wondered if it wasn’t fate that managed to send her there. If it wasn’t her, then it probably would have been Hiro meeting his long-lost brother as he’d gotten offers already at the prestigious school for his doctorate when he finished his Master’s.
The texts she’d received told her that they were confused about why she wanted the impromptu meeting, but by the time nine-thirty rolled around, she was seated in front of her monitor with her webcam ready. The moment the call connected, she was surprised to see them all in Hiro’s lab, with the exception of Baymax.
“Hey Honey, what’s up?” As usual, Hiro seemed to be tinkering with something on his desk. The others were all situated in a semicircle around the screen. Fred waved enthusiastically while Gogo seemed to be doing some kind of work from school. Wasabi looked like he had pulled himself away from a project, as he still had his safety goggles perched on his head.
“Hey guys. I just figured I’d give you a call and let you know what’s happening over here with me.”
“Which would be…?” Gogo looked up from her papers and popped a bubble, her shoulder-length hair pulled back into a knot at the back of her head.
“Oh, oh! I know! You finally met Tony Stark, right?” Fred looked excited as he hopped up and down, raising his hand like he was in school still. “I told you he used to go there. Pretty cool, huh? Finally got to meet-“
“While I’m sure you’re right about that Fred, I don’t think Honey called us about that.” Wasabi admonished with a groan.
“Well, no, I didn’t.” Honey twisted her hands around in her lap, wondering how to start this. “Um, Hiro, Tadashi’s body was recovered in the fire, right?”
Hiro froze, and the rest of the crew looked at the screen in surprise. “Yeah, he was…” Hiro visibly swallowed. “He was cremated though, so I never got to see anything. Why?”
Honey looked over to Fred instead, knowing that he was probably up-to-date on everything Iron Man. “Freddie, you probably heard the rumor that Tony Stark adopted some guy our age, right?”
Fred blinked in surprise, then nodded. “Well yeah. Everyone thought that some kid was going to end up being one of his kids, but that never happened. Guy’s named Shiro, but no one’s really heard much about him.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Gogo watched Honey carefully.
However, it looked like Hiro was suddenly at his computer, typing furiously away and frowning. “Hold on, I can probably get some information on him. What happened? This guy involved in anything shady? Man, I knew that invite to the expo was too good to be true.”
“Um, Hiro, about that…” Honey tried to get Hiro to pay attention again, but he was too busy with his search.
“Aha! Found him.” The rest of the crew crowded around the monitor, though Gogo kept looking toward Honey with an unreadable expression. “Shiro Stark, age twenty-two. He’s majoring in mechanical engineering and… Whoa, he’s getting his bachelor’s in one year?” Hiro glanced toward Honey. “You saw him at the school?”
“Oh cool! There’s a picture with his student file. No one’s ever seen what this guy looks like…” Fred trailed off, his eyes widening in shock as he turned to stare at Honey Lemon. “No way.”
Hiro’s eyes immediately darted toward the screen, and he froze in shock. Wasabi was already putting a hand on his shoulder to steady the young genius, while Gogo turned toward Honey. “What kind of joke is this?”
“That’s what I was trying to say before Hiro looked him up. I met him at lunch today, and I thought I’d seen a ghost.” Honey twisted her fingers together, uncomfortable. “But he seemed familiar with my nickname, and he’s already working on his final project. It’s… It’s Baymax.”
“I do not understand. Your cortisol and norepinephrine levels are: elevated and your heart rates have: increased.” Honey finally had confirmation that Baymax was the one doing the call as the camera moved to look at the screen everyone else was staring at. It only took a moment before the robot spoke. “That individual looks like: Tadashi.”
“He’s dead. I saw him run into the fire.” Hiro whirled around to stare at Honey. “We even had a funeral, and Aunt Cass had to identify the body. There’s no way that he’s alive.”
“I don’t know, but it had to be him. He doesn’t remember anything. But he was over here earlier today, and he freaked out when he saw the picture from the showcase.” Honey took a deep breath, watching Hiro slump back in his seat in shock. “There’s something else too. Apparently he was kidnapped, but he didn’t say by who, and stuck in a lab. He said the Avengers saved him.”
“Wait, he got rescued by the Avengers? How cool is that? Man, he’s gotta introduce me to Captain America. Or, oh! The Hulk. Man, that’d be awesome.” Fred was grinning, but then his grin dimmed as he realized what that meant. “Why was he in a lab? Some evil guy trying to make him build killer robots or something?”
“That’s the other thing.” Honey took a deep breath, knowing this was going to sound crazy, and that she was already breaking Shiro’s trust less than twelve hours into seeing him. “This goes no further. Not even your aunt can know, Hiro.”
Hiro got a mulish expression on his face. “Know what? That Tadashi’s alive? I can’t keep that from her. That’s crazy! She’d kill me if I didn’t say something about that!”
“No no, it’s the other thing I learned today.” She bit her lip. “He’s… different. He says it’s completely normal, but he’s constantly running a temperature of thirty nine centigrade, and that’s not even the weirdest part. He can make fire, and was completely convinced that fire can’t hurt him anymore.”
“What kind of crazy is that? Sounds like something from one of Fred’s comic books.” Wasabi sounded incredulous, while Fred looked shocked, then got a small grin on his face. “And don’t you even think about it. I don’t care how Tadashi got fire powers, that’s not scientifically possible!”
“Why doesn’t Tadashi want anyone to know about that?” Gogo’s eyes narrowed. “And how do you know?”
“I think when he was in that lab, they were testing him. A lot. He didn’t say what happened, but he didn’t want to have any tests done on what happened to him.” Honey recalled the near-panic in Shiro’s eyes when she’d started asking about it and winced. “He showed me when I found out he was running a high temperature, and nearly panicked when I started asking him about everything.”
“Well, we’re going to be there shortly. We just need to catch a flight to Cambridge.” Hiro looked determined as he started loading things into his bag. Everyone looked at him with concern, but Hiro glared at everyone. “I don’t care what you’re going to say. If it’s Tadashi, then I’m bringing him home, and you’re not stopping me.”
“Only if you’re not freaking out on us,” Gogo stated frankly.
“It’s Tadashi! Tell me none of you would do the same!” When everyone else shifted hesitantly, Hiro turned back to the camera. “Besides, who better to make sure nothing else happens to him than us? We’re Big Hero Six, remember?”
“Yeah, but doesn’t he have the Avengers watching him? I mean, if he was adopted by Tony Stark, they’ve gotta know about all this already.” Wasabi reasoned.
“Man, that’s gotta be awesome though! Major robot enthusiast, adopted by Tony-freaking-Stark! Dude’s gotta be pumped because of it.” Fred looked like Christmas had come early. “Maybe when we get there, we can have a meeting of the teams. That’d be sweet!”
Gogo rolled her eyes and popped her gum. “Honey, we’ll be there when we can. We’re going to the expo anyway. Might as well see what’s going on.”
Honey nodded, and the call cut off with Hiro talking plans about what they were going to do. She glanced toward her closet, where she knew her super suit was stored. She had a feeling that it was going to be very necessary very soon. Abruptly standing, she made her way toward it to pull out her suit. Might as well get started on learning the layout of Cambridge and campus, right?
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Sorry about this chapter being late, but it wanted to wring everything out of me. However, it turned out to be longer than the others as a result, so you get that bonus. Not sure if the pacing's really great, but there is a reason for it. Also, I suck at writing fight scenes, so... Um. Practice makes perfect, right? :'D Also, you get a Baymax for your trouble.
Shiro sighed as he scrambled over a rooftop to look over the other side. He’d discovered he was much too like some of the other Avengers for comfort. Such as a predilection toward vigilantism and an uncomfortable realization that, like most vigilantes, he had a traumatic experience to back up his reasoning for why he partook in midnight jaunts around town looking for suspicious activity. Granted, he didn’t try and take out every criminal, but he didn’t like the idea of being blindsided by another attempt by Hydra to kidnap him for any reason.
That was why he was so confused by the fact he started spotting criminals bound up in bright pink foam here and there around town. He’d spotted it a week ago, and had he not been patrolling the city and campus for a year now, he’d have only heard about it in the news the next morning. As it was, he was surprised when said criminals were accompanied by a note written in a curly cursive accompanied by a ball stating how to free them from the foam. He had to fight off the urge to take one of the balls and a sample of the foam to run them through a spectrometer to find out the chemical composition of the formula used.
At the moment, he was looking at a group of people that were walking out of the front door of an apartment with several tech items. He knew for a fact that the undergrad that lived there wasn’t in the group, as he’d seen her in the lab talking about pulling an all-nighter, so he dropped lithely from the roof and landed in a crouch. “You should put that all back where you found it.”
One of the men nearly dropped what he was holding as the group turned toward where Shiro had appeared. “Shit, that’s Sunfire!”
“So? We can take him.” Another man snorted. “Doesn’t even have any of the other Avengers here to stop us.”
The third man didn’t hesitate, chucking the computer he’d been holding into the back seat of a waiting car before he took a swing at Shiro. Shiro sidestepped the attack and drove an elbow into the man’s solar plexus. The man dropped back, gasping in pain while one of the other two kicked at Shiro’s legs.
Shiro took the hit, grunting as it connected, but twisted along the man’s outstretched leg to grab at his wrist to pull him off-balance. Shoving him at the other two, Shiro then pivoted on one leg, kicking out to catch one across the temple to knock him out cold. He then followed up with an uppercut to the second, also laying him out next to his buddy.
When Shiro turned to face the third, he was startled to find him enveloped in pink foam, and a long-haired woman in the pinkest outfit he’d ever seen stood ready to launch a ball at him. Shiro paused, blinking for a moment as he let the adrenaline leave his system and his heart rate return to normal. Then one of the men groaned on the ground and Shiro was reminded that he still had to bundle the other two up.
Taking out some zipties, he bound the other two together and looked back toward what the woman was doing. She was busy picking up the various pieces of equipment and returning them to inside the house before she scrawled another note, leaving it and one of her balls on the seat inside the car. She then turned to walk away, but Shiro had to know what just happened and who she was. After all, people didn’t just start this occupation without some reason behind it.
He caught her as she was about to climb up a fire escape, and grabbed her arm. “”Who are you, and what do you think you’re doing? You could have been shot or stabbed!”
“Shiro?” He froze, hearing the voice underneath the visor and pulled up his own. Green eyes stared into his own brown as Honey Lemon gaped at him. “What do you mean, what am I doing here? What are you doing here?”
“Doing my job. What does it look like?” Shiro crossed his arms and stared her down. “You didn’t answer my question. Just what do you think you’re doing out here?”
“I’m patrolling and keeping an eye out for trouble.” Honey looked him over. “For someone that was kidnapped, you seem to be trying really hard to get caught again.”
“You’re Sunfire. When did that happen?” Honey crossed her own arms and looked him over.
Shiro had to admit, running around in body armor and fighting crime wasn’t exactly normal behavior. However, Honey was doing the same thing. “When it happened doesn’t matter. You’re a civilian. You shouldn’t be out here doing this.”
“I’m a member of Big Hero Six. Of course I should be out doing something.”
“Unbelievable…” Shiro rubbed his face, sighing. “Look, we should get off the street and talk about this somewhere else. You know, where normal people won’t overhear my identity.”
Honey blinked, then looked bashfully where the guys they’d stopped were not that far away. Together, the two made their way up to a roof where Shiro did a quick look around before he faced the blonde. Honey looked like she was biting her thumb and debating what to say, when Shiro decided to say something first. “Okay, you have your questions. Go ahead.” He figured he’d deal with the fallout from the rest of the team later.
Honey frowned, considering her words carefully. “When did all this start?”
Shiro bit his lip. “A year ago. I kept on freaking out every time one of the Avengers came back needing to be patched up and Falcon suggested I become the team medic. When they found out I had martial arts training on top of everything else, Tony decided to make the suit so that I didn’t incinerate anything I was wearing in case of accidental flare-ups. I’ve been on the team ever since.”
“Wait, you’re an Avenger?” Honey blinked in surprise.
Shiro shook his head. “Part time. I’m not with the team all the time, so I only join in on missions on occasions they need me.” He then frowned. “What about you? You said you’re with Big Hero Six?”
Honey nodded. “That’s a bit of a long story. When you died, we didn’t realize that it was because Professor Callaghan had set the fire to steal Hiro’s microbots. Then Hiro discovered they were stolen, and proceeded to track down who did it. We couldn’t let him do it by himself, so we joined in. We’ve been a team ever since.”
“We? Who else is in this?”
“Well, Wasabi, Gogo, Fred, Hiro, and Baymax. We’re all in it.” Shiro pinched the bridge of his nose, not believing what he was hearing. How had they managed not to get killed yet?
Glancing back up, he spotted Honey Lemon observing him carefully with a hint of worry on her face. Honestly, he worried more about her, and the rest of her team. “Look, um, no offence, but I’ve actually had some training. Basically what amounted to Avengers boot camp. You guys, from everything I’ve heard, were just college students.”
“You are too,” Honey pointed out gently. “We’ve also been doing this for four years. Shiro, we know what we’re doing.”
Shiro laid a hand on his helmet, shaking his head. “Okay, we make a deal then. We patrol together. That way, I’m not worrying over you getting in over your head, and you’re not worrying that I get kidnapped by someone for whatever reason.”
Honey looked thoughtful for a moment, then nodded. “I can agree to that. Do you have a communications device that we can share a frequency on or something so that if we need to, we can contact each other when we’re separated?”
Shiro tapped his helmet. “I do, yeah. Though I can’t give you the frequency for the Avengers. That’s encrypted by Tony, and I’d rather not try to maneuver though his coding if I can help it.”
Honey nodded. “Ours is by Hiro, so we’d have to wait for him to look it over if we wanted to communicate that way.” She crossed her arms, looking to be in thought.
Shiro, however, blinked at the mention of his supposed brother. “Wait for him? He’s coming to Massachusetts?”
“Well, yeah, he’s in the expo this year. He, Gogo, and Wasabi were invited to it this year.”
Shiro sighed, thinking things over. “I can’t believe I’m thinking about this…”
Honey simply looked confused, before realization dawned on her. “You’re thinking about making your own frequency.”
“It’s easier than going through either your team’s or the Avengers’. Besides, I can encrypt it myself and ensure that we can contact each other. I can probably even extend the range far enough out so that we don’t have to worry about distance.” Shiro was already mentally figuring out how much time that would take and shook his head. It didn’t need excessive encryption, just enough that people couldn’t hack into it.
Honey grinned, her expression bright. “I’d honestly forgotten how much you like to find solutions to problems. I’m pretty sure that most people wouldn’t bother and just go for an open frequency.”
Shiro snorted. “Most people didn’t need seventy-five trial runs of their project to get it running.”
A giggle escaped the tall blonde. “At least it was seventy-five and not eighty-four like last time.”
Shiro blinked. That… sounded about right, actually. He didn’t know why it did, but he was sure of it. Still, he felt he had to ask. “The original Baymax?”
“Yeah.” Honey looked thoughtful for a moment. “I’m pretty sure you’ll see him at the expo next week. Hiro wouldn’t leave him behind no matter what.”
Shiro didn’t know what to think about that. On one hand, it was the simple fact that after meeting Honey Lemon, things from Tadashi’s past were cropping up with sudden regularity, but then there was the fact that he’d managed for two whole years outside of Hydra without even a hint of a possible past that made him reconsider the idea of submitting his own Baymax to the expo. He couldn’t even think of the one Honey knew as his, even if he recognized the design, simply because he had no memory of it. He shoved those thoughts out of his mind as he realized that he still had to figure out when and where to work on the radio frequency.
“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been up since six, and I should get some sleep before I fall asleep in class. Catch you tomorrow evening if you’re not busy to work on the frequency?” Shiro glanced toward the would-be robbers. Police were there already, and they seemed to be trying to work out the one stuck in foam.
Honey nodded. “That can work. We can grab something to eat while we work on it.”
Shiro gave her a lopsided smile before saluting and heading off back to where he could get out of his suit and back to his dorm. Thankfully by this point next year, he wouldn’t have to worry about sneaking around roommates and doing any of it. So far Paul believed that he was busy in the labs at all hours. He was busy in the labs, just not while he was patrolling. Though if his professors ever decided to look at his notes, they’d realize that most of it was reminders about what they were learning about before Shiro took catnaps in class. It was a good thing he didn’t do this every night.
Hiro stood, tapping his foot impatiently as he looked at the security checkpoint for the airport. He’d wanted to leave immediately for MIT the moment he’d heard that Tadashi was there, but unfortunately that got shot down by Gogo and Wasabi, who had told him that Honey was there and therefore Tadashi would be fine for a bit while they finished up classes for the semester. Hiro just couldn’t find the patience that the others seemed to possess regarding the situation, though he’d seen Wasabi straightening up everything over and over again around the lab. Probably from nerves, Hiro thought.
The only one that seemed to be completely laid-back was Gogo, as she was taking the situation as it came, but even she was more liable to snap. Fred, who had insisted on coming too, had grabbed every bit of Avengers paraphernalia he could and tried to bring them with him to get the team to autograph it. Gogo had threatened to shove it all somewhere that Wasabi squawked at for mentioning, and Hiro was certain that Fred had looked beyond crushed at the fact. However, everyone was excited or nervous, and it all stemmed from the fact they were about to see someone that all of them had thought dead.
Hiro sighed, wishing for the thousandth time that he could bring Baymax with him on the plane. Unfortunately he couldn’t be classified as carry-on luggage and Hiro had to cough up the extra money to have him in with the rest of baggage. However, he did have his laptop bag and a backpack that he had over his shoulder, so it wasn’t like he didn’t have anything. He was just more nervous about the fact that he’d stored his super suit in with Baymax and worried that someone would connect the dots.
His thoughts drifted to where he’d found them more often than not over the last week though, and that was regarding his brother. His very much alive brother, if that’s who Shiro Stark really was and not just some guy that looked like Tadashi. Honey Lemon stated that he had amnesia, and remembered nothing from his past, but he’d somehow managed to retain all working knowledge of what he’d learned before, and had vague impressions of the life he led as Tadashi. Hiro didn’t know what to feel about that, since he’d gotten past his days where he was still really grieving. Oh, he still grieved, but the pain wasn’t as sharp, and he could look back at his life with Tadashi with fondness instead of tears.
However, if the guy really wasn’t Tadashi, then Hiro wanted to know why he seemed to echo his brother so strongly. No one knew Baymax save for those at SFIT, and even then it was really the Nerd Crew. Callaghan was behind bars, and the only person aside from that was his Aunt Cass, who Hiro had declined to tell about the possibility that Tadashi might really be alive. He didn’t want to get her hopes up when it all turned out to be a lie, after all. It was bad enough part of him really hoped that Tadashi was alive, and the moment it was proved otherwise, it was going to crush him just as badly as when his brother ran into the flames at the showcase.
Hiro winced, his fingers catching the ear cuff that adorned his left ear and let them trail down to the gauge in said ear instead. He’d changed over the years, enough that he worried that if that Shiro guy was Tadashi, he might not recognize Hiro anymore. Granted, the cuff was more of a device than jewelry, but the rest of it, the gauges, the tattoo on his forearm, his eyebrow piercing, it might be too different for Tadashi to remember him.
If it was Tadashi, a voice warned in his head.
There had been a body when they searched the rubble of the showcase hall, and Tadashi couldn’t have survived, not when Aunt Cass had been in tears when she came home after they found the remains, clutching Tadashi’s phone and wallet and had escaped into her room after delivering the news. Hiro himself didn’t remember much after the reveal, as he’d gone into a depression so deep he’d had to form a superhero team with his brother’s nurse bot to track down his brother’s killer. After everything was said and done, Hiro had been perfectly content to let his brother’s memory lay to rest, knowing it still hurt but he could move on from it.
Now? Now it seemed like he was being thrown back into the grief, though Hiro knew he was doing the throwing instead of Callaghan. This time, he was opening Pandora’s Box, and if he managed to somehow get his brother back after all of the hurt, then it was worth it. Even if it didn’t, he’d lay it to rest for good and never think to open that up again.
If Tadashi had managed to survive, Hiro already had planned to yell at him for an hour straight, take a page from Gogo and punch him, and then maybe forgive him for running into the fire in the first place. He certainly wasn’t going to let him forget that in every single safety situation he’d ever seen since becoming a superhero, the first rule of thumb is to assess how safe the situation is before going into it. Hiro had been in car chases, runaway trolleys, and in one memorable occasion, a flying fight with some lunatic that decided that throwing civilians around was better than coming quietly. Baymax had lectured the man for his actions while they were putting him in the police car, and that actually was pretty funny to watch. Still, it wasn’t the same as knowing that he’d been smarter and better prepared than Tadashi had been when he flew into the portal to save Abigail, even if it meant he’d had to rebuild Baymax afterward.
He shifted, then felt Gogo shift next to him and glanced over to the woman. She looked bored, and seemed seconds away from jumping though the checkpoint. He couldn’t blame her, and he was honestly tempted to remotely call Baymax and have the nurse bot fly them all the way to the East Coast. He doubted the battery would last that long, but it was a nice thought.
She must have realized he was looking at her because she blew a bubble in his direction and cocked an eyebrow. “Something on your mind?”
“Only that the airport’s really slow.” Hiro crossed his arms, staring at the checkpoint as finally the person they were inspecting was let through. “I thought they were faster than this with the checkpoints.”
Wasabi patted his shoulder as he looked over from the pamphlet he was perusing. “They are, except when someone’s not familiar with airports. Then you get holdups.”
“Don’t worry little dude. We’ll be in Massachusetts soon and you’ll be reunited with the Bromada here soon.” Fred grinned as he shoved his hand into Hiro’s hair, ruffling it as the younger male glared at him.
“One, I’m not little, I’m almost as tall as Tadashi was, and two, Bromada?” Hiro looked at Fred skeptically. “That’s really lame, you know.”
“Besides, why couldn’t we just take your family’s jet?” Gogo popped her gum as she leveled a cool gaze at Fred.
“Because it’s tres chic to fly in coach.” Hiro heard Wasabi mutter about hygiene and stifled a snicker. “Besides, I figured it was time to give Tadashi his own nickname, and I couldn’t figure one out until just recently. Besides, any ideas on how he can join in with our super-secret project?”
Hiro recognized the look on Fred’s face and shook his head. “Look, I don’t know about that. I mean maybe it’s not a good idea to get him involved. He’s been through a lot in the last four years.”
Fred apparently wasn’t to be deterred. “I know that, but seriously. He’s got one of the best origin stories, and he’s got something all his own to use. You gotta admit he’s prime material.”
“No, not happening. Tadashi isn’t getting involved in that stuff. It’s too dangerous.” Hiro crossed his arms and leveled his best look at Fred.
Wasabi blinked and shared a look with Gogo while Fred looked unbothered. “Well yeah, of course it’s dangerous. That’s why we have to make sure he knows what he’s doing before he joins in.”
“Fred, I think we’re witnessing the infamous brother-complex in action.” Wasabi shook his head. “You know, the complex that had Tadashi running out of the lab every other night because Hiro was bot-fighting?”
“Didn’t stop him from running into a burning building,” Hiro muttered. He then glanced at the rest. “It’s just that, it didn’t stop him from doing something stupid, and with what’s been done to him since, it’s not a good idea.”
“Well, I get to punch him when we see him again.” Gogo rolled her eyes at Fred when he opened his mouth to protest. “Hiro’s right. If nothing else, we don’t know what all that time did to him. We can’t throw him into this stuff like he’d be ready for it.”
“Well then, I nominate myself to make sure Bromada’s still on the light side.” Fred nodded sagely. “After all, anyone that’s been through what he has is bound to have evil urges. We just gotta make sure he doesn’t act on them.”
Hiro rolled his eyes at Fred’s comment, but was glad that they were willing to help out. He didn’t think he’d be able to deal with it alone otherwise. “Hey, um, I don’t think I say it often enough, but. Um. Thanks guys.”
Natasha walked down the hall, looking for a specific lab she knew would be open this late. She had Stark to blame for that one, encouraging Shiro’s tendency to work himself into the ground by doing the exact same thing himself. However, it worked in her favor at the moment, as she had just come in to the country and decided to check on the young man. No one was really around, and the staff was busy finishing up so she could find the young man alone.
She smirked as she spotted Shiro leaning back and observing his work. She’d heard about it from Stark, but the idea that Shiro could build a functioning AI that learned from its environment was quite an achievement. She knocked, leaning against the door and crossing her arms. “You’re up late. Should I get Pepper to make you go to bed like she does with Stark?”
Shiro started and nearly dropped his wrench before he set it down and turned to look at Natasha. “What are you doing here? I thought you were still in Zimbabwe.”
“Got done early, and I heard a rumor that you’ve had an interesting week.” Natasha stepped fully into the room and closed the door behind her. “So this is Baymax, huh? Weird name.”
Shiro rolled his eyes. “Why does everyone keep saying that? I mean, I like it, shouldn’t that be good enough?”
“As long as you’re not trying to get me to thank him when he does something. Sam keeps trying to get me thank that drone of his.”
“I hate to say it, but you probably should when he does since it stimulates his rewards subroutine.” Shiro grinned at Natasha’s eyeroll.
“Yeah, well, not going to happen.” Natasha settled herself on his desk and glanced toward a note that was written in curling cursive. “So, Tadashi Hamada, huh?”
“That’s what Honey Lemon said my name was.” When Natasha cocked an eyebrow in amusement, Shiro held up his hand. “That’s what Amora Rodríguez’s nickname is. I didn’t ask. She seemed pretty convinced though.”
“Well, from what I was able to pull up, she might not be wrong.” Natasha pulled out a thumb drive and handed it to Shiro. “Right age, your appearances match, and I’m willing to bet that if you did a DNA test, it’d come out identical.”
Shiro didn’t take the thumb drive and instead frowned at it. “Yeah, but I bet the guy never had the same issues with fire that I do.”
Natasha snorted. “I’m going to be blunt with you. Your powers might have been the thing that caused you to survive the fire at SFIT to begin with. I don’t know. What I do know is that up until we found you, the only way that people were developing abilities was because they either had something mess with their DNA or sometime in the distant past their ancestors were guinea pigs to aliens. Now we’ve located six people that fit the same parameters that you do, you and no one else. Something’s going on, and I don’t know if it’s random mutation or something, but I’m willing to bet they won’t be the last six people to fit that profile.”
Shiro took the thumb drive reluctantly and twisted it in his fingers before looking toward Natasha. “Wait, you mean these people have been kidnapped by Hydra?”
“Nothing in the checks that both Hill and I have done says they were. I’m also sure that Coulson hasn’t run across them either on his end.” Natasha then frowned. “There were also thirty-six others including yourself that were on Hydra’s database, but you’re the only one from that group that we have confirmation on. The others just vanished.”
Shiro winced. “And if they made those people vanish, there’s a good chance they were going to do the same to me.”
“It wouldn’t have been hard, either. If-“ Shiro hesitated a bit before speaking again, “if they went through the trouble of making sure this Tadashi guy was dead, then no one would look for him. And with my amnesia, there’s no way for me to be traced back to him either.”
“Except you built something that kind of resembles the Pillsbury Doughboy a bit there.” Natasha pointed toward Baymax. “It resembles the original one that Hamada kid built enough that if people were looking to connect the dots, they’d find you on the other end.”
Shiro nodded. “Which is why I’m nervous about showing him off at the expo now.”
“Which is why you have me playing babysitter right now.”
“When did Avengers need babysitters?” Shiro cocked an eyebrow at Natasha. She could tell he had a hard time believing it.
“When I had to babysit Stark several times in the past. And Rogers. And Banner.” Natasha smirked. “You’d be surprised at how often those guys get into enough trouble that they need someone to step in to keep them from tripping over everything.”
Shiro considered that before shaking his head in bemusement. “Well, that’d make two babysitters then.”
“Oh?” Now this had Natasha intrigued.
“Yeah, Honey Lemon said she’s going to keep an eye on me too.” Natasha shook her head in disbelief before Shiro continued. “I ran into her when I was patrolling one night. She’s pretty good in a fight.”
“Yeah, well I hate to say it, but pretty good in a fight doesn’t mean that she’s going to be able to do what she said she was.” She then fixed Shiro with a look. “Even if she’s on a superhero team.”
Shiro opened his mouth for a moment as he looked like he was going to speak, but then shook his head. “I forgot, former assassin and SHIELD operative. You probably did your research before coming out here.”
Natasha smirked again. “You make that sound like a bad thing. Besides, where else did I pick up the files on this Hamada guy?”
“Considering how strange my life’s gotten, do you really want me to answer that?” The young man crossed his arms and leaned back. “So I take it you already know her team’s coming to MIT’s expo then, right?”
“Yep, and got Stark to not plant a bug on you too in the process. He’s gone into papa bear mode with you kiddo.” She mentally chuckled as Shiro groaned.
“I wish people would stop calling him my dad. He’s not, you know.”
“Since you’re the closest thing he’s gotten to having a kid, you’re stuck with that. I’d say good luck, but you’ve got that covered I think.” She rose, casting a look back at Shiro in the process. “Don’t stay up too late Junior, you’ve still got classes in the morning.”
Shiro watched Natasha walk out of the lab, fingering the drive that was in his hand and considering looking at the files in the morning. The niggling doubt was there, the same one that he’d had since discovering that someone seemed to know more about him than he did. It wasn’t so much that it bothered him that someone knew more about him than he did, it was more that what they knew about him was the issue.
Sighing, he tapped his mouse and inserted the drive into his computer. He then glanced through the files listed. Medical, biography, schooling, it was all there, and Shiro hesitated before he clicked on the bio portion. He read through it, frowning as he realized it wasn’t much, but apparently it was more like a synopsis for major events in Tadashi’s life. Two parents, both deceased from an accident when Tadashi was nine, a younger brother that Shiro knew about, and an aunt the brothers had lived with since the deaths of their parents. Then it detailed Tadashi’s death in a fire and contact information for his family, and that was the last bit that he could see in the file. It wasn’t very informative.
Closing that one, he opened the one for the schooling and blinked as that one was definitely more in-depth. Graduated two years early, involved in the robotics club in high school, multiple incidences of fights in school… Shiro frowned at that last point, as he didn’t think he’d be the kind of person that got into fights, but he could be wrong. Then it moved into his college years, and he blinked as Tadashi apparently was majoring in engineering and programming, and a minor in medicine. He’d already gotten his bachelor’s degree and was well into his master’s before his untimely demise.
He exited out of that file as well and went into his medical history, hoping that something would trigger anything that felt familiar. The peanut allergy was something that surprised him, though he recalled he tended to steer away from the legumes more often than not. Everything else, from stitches when he was twelve from what was apparently a hovercraft incident to a broken leg from a martial arts competition when he was sixteen, it just seemed like he was reading a medical file more than events from his life.
His eyes flicked to Baymax, and the young man stood, deciding to test out the scanners he’d built into the bot. “Help.”
The bot activated, and he blinked at him briefly before the bot looked around the lab. He then turned his attention to Shiro. “Hello. I am Baymax. What is the emergency?”
“No emergency buddy, I just wanted to see if you happen to have your sensors properly calibrated.” Shiro stood back and held out his hands, ready to see if maybe the rescue bot could spot anything that was in that medical report. “Scan me.”
Baymax tilted his head to the side before scanning Shiro. After a moment, the results were displayed on his screen. “I am detecting an increase in cortisol that suggests that you are: stressed. You also appear to be suffering from insufficient sleep. My scans also indicate that you are also suffering from decreased caloric intake. Might I-“
“Okay big guy, I know all that.” Shiro rubbed his forehead and realized he should have specified what he wanted Baymax to detect in his scan. Well, this was going to be a pain. “Can you detect previous injuries and conditions in your scans?”
Baymax paused a moment before replying. “Previous injuries include: indications that your left fibula was fractured, scar tissue located above your right ear measuring four point two five centimeters, and an older injury to both your: right ankle as well as your: left shoulder. Scans do not indicate whether or not the injuries are causing you any distress. Recommendations to reduce the risk of reinjury include-“
“Okay, okay, I got it.” Shiro ran a hand through his hair, feeling along his scalp for the scar that Baymax indicated. His jaw clenched as he felt the irregularity in his scalp, and couldn’t for the life of him recall how he got it. “I don’t have a peanut allergy, do I?”
“There is a mild allergy to: peanuts as well as: hay fever.”
“Oh man…” Shiro glanced toward the computer, where the files sat innocently on his screen. He stared for a good long moment before slumping back into his seat. Everything was there, staring him in the face, and he couldn’t remember any of it. Why couldn’t he remember?
“You appear to be: distressed. What seems to be the problem?” Baymax moved to behind Shiro and glanced at the screen himself.
“It’s not really anything you can help with, buddy.” Shiro shook his head and closed the file, not wanting to look anymore at it. “I don’t think there’s a way you can bring back memories.”
“Would assisting you with bringing back your memories help with your: distress?” Baymax looked confusedly at Shiro, and the young man was sure he hadn’t programmed that into the bot.
“If there was a way, then the rest of the team would have figured it out by now.” Shiro rubbed his forehead and made to take out the thumb drive. Instead, he saw an arm reach out and touch the computer, causing the young man to blink back at his creation while his screen flickered though what seemed like hundreds of websites. “What are you doing?”
“I am downloading a database on: amnesia. Please wait while I compile the information necessary.”
“Wait, hold on, I didn’t program that!” Shiro stared and wondered if there was a fault in the coding.
“You programmed me to adapt to various situations. As there is no current emergency, this condition takes precedence.” Baymax stated matter-of-factly before removing his hand from the computer. “Compilation complete. The best treatments recommended for someone with amnesia include: being surrounded by the familiar, talking about past experiences, regression therapy to possibly unlock memories that are lost, treating the underlying condition that caused amnesia.”
“Okay great, nice to know. Look, I’m one-hundred percent sure that my amnesia isn’t caused by any underlying condition so you can-“
“Contacting family now.” The sound of ringing could be heard, and Shiro waved his hands trying to figure out where he put the emergency off switch.
“Whoa, wait! You don’t need to-“
Shiro froze. Baymax stood serenely by, his screen now displaying the image of an older woman with brown hair and green eyes. She looked vaguely familiar, but Shiro couldn’t place where he’d seen her before.
“Hello? Who is this?”
“I’m sorry, I must have the wrong number.” Shiro stared up at Baymax, finally finding the switch and reaching up to turn it off.
“Oh my god, Tadashi? What?”
The shock in the woman’s voice was palpable, and Shiro felt a stab of pain in his chest. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to call you. I’m just going to hang up no-“
“Wait!” He froze again, and the woman continued. “Look, I don’t know why, but you sound like my oldest nephew. I’m probably imagining things-“
Mouth dry, he timidly asked, “A-aunt Cass?” Honey had mentioned her numerous times, and the files did state he’d lived with her. However, all he was getting was an air of familiarity, and nothing more.
He heard her breath hitch before she spoke again. “Oh my god… You are Tadashi, aren’t you? What’s going on? Where are you? How-“
“I don’t know.” It hurt saying those words, and he realized that unlike with Honey Lemon, there was something there he couldn’t put his finger on. “I just… I don’t know. Baymax, he…”
“Baymax is with you? What about Hiro? Is that who found you baby? Where are you?” He could hear it. Tears were thick in her throat and her voice trembled.
“No, I built him. I-I don’t know. Everything’s wrong.” He could hear himself yelling at him to shut up, to just end the call, but Shiro found his mouth was working without his consent. It was the most surreal sensation he’d ever had in his life.
“Tadashi Hamada, if you don’t tell me this instant where-“
“School. I’m at school. In Massachusetts. I just, don’t remember.” He grimaced, the yelling progressing to screaming. What was he doing?
“You don’t remember? What don’t you remember?”
“Anything.” He swallowed, licking his lips and trying to remind himself that he should be turning Baymax off any moment now. Why wasn’t he? “I don’t know who Tadashi Hamada is.”
There was a pause, and he could hear the woman breathing. “Sweetie, listen to me. What school are you at?”
“His current location is: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It would be beneficial for friends and loved ones to help in the recovery process of someone with: amnesia.” Shiro’s head jerked up, and he found his gaze locked on Baymax’s. The robot blinked and continued. “Shiro is currently experiencing high levels of: distress due to this condition.”
“Look, Tadashi, I’m going to call your brother. He should be there in a few hours. Do you just go by Shiro or…?”
“Stark.” Now he definitely felt weird using that name. He swallowed and continued. “Shiro Stark. I’m… I’m not listed in the directory of students. At least not my address.”
He could hear her moving throughout wherever she was. “Well, I’m going to talk to some people to cover the café for a while. I’ll be there when I can, okay?”
“Wait!” He shocked even himself with his exclamation, and he shook his head before continuing. “Please, don’t hang up. I don’t…”
There was a pause in the noise on the other hand, and he wondered if she had hung up already. “Tadashi, I’ll be there, I promise. It has to be late there, and if I find out that you’ve stayed up too late…”
“Yes Aunt Cass.” The response was automatic, and he found that the ache in his chest lessened as he realized what it meant.
Unbeknownst to him, Natasha smiled a bit as she left her perch from just outside his door.
Cass stared at the phone in her hand, hardly believing what she just heard. However, it was impossible to ignore. She’d picked up the phone, expecting the long-distance number to be Hiro calling her to let her know that he was there safely, but instead…
She sighed, patting the old cat that sat next to her. Mochi was losing weight, and she couldn’t help but worry about the implications. However, he was rubbing his head against her hand and rumbled with a purr she could feel through her fingertips. It comforted her, especially considering the strange phone call.
She looked down at the phone in her hands and thought about the time. It was still too early to call her youngest nephew, as he’d still be in the air. However, a glance over to her right caused her to stand and make her way over to the shrine in the corner. Taking two pieces of incense, she lit them both and stuck them in the holder before she turned her attention to two of the three pictures arranged there.
“Thomas, Maemi, I know it’s been a while since we’ve last spoken, and I know you’ve been doing your best to watch over your sons. But, I have to ask, Tadashi hasn’t been with you, has he?”
She gave a small laugh, shaking her head before she continued. “You watched over him during the fire, didn’t you? There’s no other reason I can think of that can explain how I got a call from someone that sounds exactly like him. You made sure he got out of there safely.
“He sounded so confused and lost. It was like he wasn’t sure of anything.” She then bit her lip. “He even said he doesn’t remember Tadashi. If it’s him, oh god, I want to do the best I can for your baby to help him come home.
“But, even if it isn’t him, I can already hear you Thomas. You’d be telling me to help him out, and Mae would be urging me to help him find where he belongs, regardless of if he’s Tadashi or not. Because that’s what the both of you would do, wouldn’t you?”
Cass took a deep breath before turning to look at her nephew’s picture. “Tadashi, if it isn’t you, I’m sorry. Please, though, keep an eye on everyone. Maybe you can help him. I know it’s a long stretch that it’s you. I mean, I was there when they asked me to identify you. And yet…”
She paused, before letting this tiny seed have light. “Yet I do hope it is. You died too young, sweetie. You know that running into fires is a bad thing to do, but you did it anyway to save someone. I’m never going to be annoyed at you for doing something you felt was right. I will be annoyed that you didn’t think of your own safety first, young man. If it’s you, you’re grounded until you’re thirty at least.”
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
Yep, no excuse for how late this one was. I kinda got stuck in the middle of Fred's part so that took me the longest. Though, to be fair, I also got an idea for continuing this story into Endgame so... yeah, I apologize since the 'Not Civil War Compliant' tag no longer applies. But, at least you'll get a full story out of this. Also, the long-awaited brother meet-up so that's gotta count for something!
Also, is anyone else happy that now that Disney has the rights to the X-Men that they can include them in the MCU? Cause now I can use the term 'mutants' guilt free! So congrats, the first known mutant in the Rising Sun 'verse is officially Tadashi, so there! :P
The fire was intense. Shiro blinked as he looked around, trying to get smoke out of his vision. The air was filled with smoke, and Shiro could hardly breathe without coughing. He turned around and searched wildly though, knowing that he needed to find him. He was in danger, and Shiro had rushed in to save him. “Professor?!”
He coughed again, and he could barely make out the auditorium he was in. There were numerous devices in various booths, and Shiro wished that Baymax was there. At least the bot could point him in the direction where the professor was, and they could get to safety.
Suddenly something exploded behind him and threw him to the ground. Gasping, he twisted around to look, ignoring a throbbing pain in his shoulder as he realized the entrance was now gone. He tried scrambling to his feet, but his shoulder wouldn’t cooperate and he slumped. He was trapped and he was going to die. Why had he been so stupid?
A hand suddenly grabbed his shoulder, and Shiro gasped, turning around to look. The professor was there, looking concerned as he looked Shiro over. “What are you doing here? You should have evacuated with everyone else!”
Shiro didn’t even know why he’d come back, but he shook his head. “I came back in looking for you! Someone said you were still in here.” Wait, what?
The professor looked torn, and yet he seemed to argue with himself for a moment before nodding. “All right. Come on, we need to get out!”
Shiro’s eyes landed on what was in the professor’s hands, and his eyes widened. “The microbots…”
“We can get out using them. Your brother left them in here.”
Shiro nodded, and yet he was wondering why the professor even had the neurocranial transmitter. Then he wondered how he even knew what it was to begin with. Shoving that to the back of his mind, he nodded toward the exit. “Well come on, we need to go!”
Scrambling to his feet, he ignored the pain in his shoulder as he and the professor started for the exit. The professor had settled the transmitter onto his head, and a wave of black followed them. Shiro didn’t know where they were going, only that the explosion that had knocked him down was probably the main exit. The professor, on the other hand, seemed to know exactly where he was going, and led him to one of the side exits.
“All right.” Wait, what? “You can get out through here. Get going!”
“Professor, I can’t just leave you in here!” Shiro wasn’t even sure what was going on anymore, and it almost felt like he was reliving an event rather than actually in control. “Professor Callaghan, you need to get out too! This place isn’t going to last much longer!”
Callaghan turned toward Shiro then, a frown marring his features. “No, I need to get something out before this place goes. Otherwise it’ll take o…” His voice petered out, and his mouth dropped in shock. “You’re on fire!”
Shiro opened his mouth, probably to tell him that it wasn’t possible, that he would feel it, when he looked at himself. His hands were encased in flames, and his shoes were quickly melting off of his feet. He stared in horror for a moment or two before he looked back at Callaghan in panic. “What’s going on? What’s happening to me?”
The professor backed away however, shaking his head. “This isn’t possible. You should be in pain from that. How?”
Shiro’s clothes started to catch on fire as well, and Shiro desperately tried patting the flames out. He couldn’t even feel them, and all the while he heard in his head a chant of this is wrong, he should be feeling something. His panic heightened as more and more of himself caught fire.
Callaghan stared, and Shiro was suddenly struck with foreboding. He backed away, unsure about what was wrong, and trying to put himself out. However, something gripped his arm and pulled him forward, out of the building. He struggled against it, and realized that Callaghan had directed the black wave to toss him out of the building. Callaghan followed a moment later, breathing heavily as he glared. “You fool! I don’t know what is going on, but backing away from the exit is a foolish idea. You should never have been in there to begin with!”
Shiro couldn’t reply, and he tried desperately to put out the flames. His clothing was already in ruins, and he could feel himself hyperventilating. He heard a distinctive ‘shit’ from right beside him, and Callaghan seemed to think before scowling. “Stop breathing for a moment!”
The order shocked Shiro enough that he held his breath without realizing it. However, to his shock, the flames seemed to die down on him before sputtering out after a minute. Shiro fell back, gasping as the last flame flickered out and turning wide eyes toward his professor. “What just happened?”
Callaghan opened his mouth to reply when Shiro heard the distinct click of a gun. Head jerking around, Shiro realized that he and the professor weren’t alone. Ten men surrounded them, guns pointed at them and Shiro felt cold.
Callaghan however seemed to know what was going on, because he glared at the man next to him. “We had a deal.”
The man snorted. “The deal was that we had access to whatever was available inside that we could use. In exchange, we would make this look like an accident.” The man smiled, and Shiro could find nothing comforting in the expression. “I believe we found something more valuable as recompense.”
Shiro stared at Callaghan. “What’s he talking about?”
“No deal.” Callaghan seemed to understand whatever that meant, because the black mass that was at his feet seemed to move threateningly. “I said you could take tech, I never said you could kidnap one of my students.”
“On the contrary.” The man looked Shiro over. “I believe that the agreement was for anything of scientific value. The boy will suffice. After all, he is quite exceptional.”
“No!” Callaghan seemed to make a move, but one of the people surrounding them lifted the barrel of his rifle to point it at Shiro.
“You have what you wanted, Callaghan.” The man seemed bored. “You also know that if you do anything at this point, we will act to ensure the government knows exactly what you are planning. I would hate to be the one responsible for letting your daughter’s killer run free.”
Callaghan seemed to freeze, and that caused Shiro to panic. Blindly, he struck out, catching one of the men aiming at him in the face. Hands grabbed at him, and he felt the barrel of a gun pressed against the back of his head. Opening his mouth to scream for help only resulted in something being shoved into it. He tried spitting whatever it was out as he struggled, but that only resulted in being cuffed upside the head and his hands bound tightly behind his back while someone secured the gag in his mouth.
Dazed, Shiro was hauled to his feet. It took a moment for him to realize that the men holding him were taking him away from the fire, toward a section of campus that seemed to have no traffic save for a lone black van. Before being shoved into the van, someone stripped him of what remained of his clothes. Another secured him within the van. The man seemed to follow behind, only pausing long enough to hand over the remains of what Shiro wore with a nod. “Make sure no one can find him.”
Shiro struggled again, trying to get free. However, a prick to the back of his neck caused Shiro to fall limp, fogginess beginning to claim his sight. The last image he saw was of Callaghan leaving on a wave of black before the doors to the van slammed home.
Shiro awoke with a blink and a gasp. He sat up quickly, trying to gather his bearings and determine where he was. No gag was present in his mouth, and his arms and legs were free. Sunlight streamed in through a window and caused Shiro to squint. The last vestiges of his troubled sleep faded, causing Shiro to wonder just what he had been dreaming about.
It wasn’t the first time that Shiro had awoken to night terrors. He had them quite often, usually regarding fire and suffocating and feeling trapped. Usually he chalked it up to his time in captivity, and never thought much of it beyond that. Usually they felt different than this one, but something about the dream from last night felt different, and yet he couldn’t pinpoint why. It didn’t help that he couldn’t remember the dream, only that he knew he’d been bound and gagged.
A whirring noise drew his attention to the right, where he spotted Baymax studying him and moving forward. The rescue bot stopped when he was in front of Shiro and cocked his head to the side. “Shiro, I detect elevated stress-related hormones in your system as well as: increased heart rate. Are you well?”
Shiro frowned, then looked around. He was in his lab. He’d fallen asleep in his lab. He looked at his desk, realizing that there were two scorch marks on it. “I fell asleep here?”
Baymax nodded. “You fell asleep not long after you ended your conversation with: Cass Hamada. You seemed to be relieved after your call and I did not wish to disturb you. However, I must recommend that you sleep in a much more suitable location next time.”
Shiro smiled ruefully, rubbing the back of his head. “Noted. I’ll try that next time.” He glanced around then frowned as he realized something. “Why haven’t you deactivated yet?”
“Your treatment has not concluded. I cannot deactivate until you are satisfied with your care.”
Shiro sighed, wondering how he’d forgotten that bit of coding. It had taken the better part of two weeks to work out how to deactivate him without leaving behind someone in danger, and he had figured on a simple command that would work. Not that he thought he’d actually be the recipient of said care before, or have to deal with Baymax and his programming firsthand.
A bemused smile graced his face before he looked around for his hat. “Well, if that’s the case, I need to go shower and actually make myself presentable. I still have to present you to my professor as finished before the expo, after all. I am sati-“
“Shiro!” Shiro blinked, looking over to the door. He got a brief glimpse of blonde hair before Honey Lemon wrapped her arms around him. “What are you even doing in the lab? I thought they locked it up every night.”
Shiro coughed as Honey pulled away from him, allowing him a chance to catch his breath. “I have a key to lock up behind me in case I stay too late. It was surprising, but then again, I haven’t given the faculty a reason to rescind the privilege. What are you doing here so early?”
He heard a snort from the door as well a definite pop. “He says early like it’s five AM.” Curious, he looked behind Honey to see four individuals. One, the woman who had spoken, was blowing a bubble and looked Asian with two stripes of purple in her hair. Another was a blond Caucasian who looked rather lanky, and the third seemed to be a dark-skinned man with broad shoulders and dreadlocks. It was the fourth that gave Shiro pause, a teen who seemed to be hanging back and watching the scene with a look of distrust.
“Um Shiro?” His attention was pulled back to Honey, who was looking at him curiously. “Are you okay?”
“I believe his attention is elsewhere.” Shiro managed not to start in surprise as Baymax made himself known. “He had a rather disrupted sleep earlier and might still be suffering from the aftereffects.”
“I’m fine big guy.” Shiro sighed and rubbed his face. “What time is it?”
“Well, it’s about nine AM, which, umm…” The larger male looked apprehensive for a moment as though he were struggling for something to say. “I’d say that was normal for you, but I don’t know if you’re really who I think you are so…”
The blond man simply walked forward and tossed an arm around Shiro’s shoulders. Shiro tensed, not sure as to who the man was, and not exactly feeling comfortable with the physical contact. “What he means to say Bromada is that we’re here to check on you and see if you’re really Little Dude’s brother and you haven’t turned to the dark side.”
Shiro blinked and extricated himself from underneath the man’s arm. “One, my name’s Shiro, and two, what? Who’s Little Dude?”
It was then that the teen hanging back frowned and spoke. “Fred gives out nicknames and when he decides on one, you’re stuck with it. He’s meaning me, and I’m not convinced you’re Tadashi.”
Shiro opened his mouth and then shut it, recalling the conversation that he had the night before. “But you’re not unconvinced though.”
The teen waved a hand blithely. “You look exactly like my brother, you tell me.” He stepped forward, and Shiro noted the piercings and had a sudden urge to scold the kid for it. Which made no sense whatsoever to Shiro. Why did he care what the kid did with his own body? “”I’m Hiro, Hiro Hamada. Aunt Cass said you called her last night?”
That caused everyone to look at Hiro in surprise, and Fred muttered something about repressed memories and something about how every amnesiac protagonist in comic books seemed to have a knack with somehow finding their relatives again. Shiro merely wondered when his life turned into a comic book. “Baymax called her. He found the number, and when I told him I didn’t remember anything, he decided to download a database on mental health related to it and proceeded to make the call.” He sat back, feeling really uncomfortable all of a sudden. “I’m sorry, I just don’t remember any of you at all.”
“Reconnecting with loved ones often helps sufferers of amnesia,” Baymax suggested helpfully.
“He almost sounds the same…” Hiro walked over to Baymax and started studying him. “What’d you give him, titanium skeleton?”
“Carbon fiber.” Shiro was getting a strange sense of déjà-vu. “He can lift close to a ton and the carbon fiber can handle better stresses.”
“And I guess that you manufactured his actuators right in the lab here.”
Shiro stared at the teen, confused. “How did you even know that?”
Hiro rolled his eyes, but didn’t answer. Instead, he examined the robot closer. “………That’s not vinyl.”
“Uh, no, I had to use something tougher to withstand abrasions and tears to the fabric.” Shiro watched as Hiro prodded Baymax’s exterior. “You still haven’t answered my question.”
“I’m getting to it.” Hiro stood back and frowned. “You probably still used lithium ion batteries, didn’t you? I told you to use-“
“Actually they’re supercapacitors. I was thinking of using lithium ion, but something told me to use something different.” Shiro crossed his arms. “Are you done yet?”
Hiro whirled around and stared at Shiro hard. “You actually remembered. You don’t remember anything else, but you remembered the supercapacitors.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Because I told you to use them before!” Hiro closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “No one else was in the room when I told you that, and I tried to make sure that Baymax was still your creation, but you made the change already.” When Hiro opened his eyes again, Shiro was startled to see tears in them. “What happened?”
Suddenly Shiro knew that Hiro wasn’t referring to Baymax anymore, and the look on his face made Shiro’s own chest ache. “…I don’t know.”
Honey looked torn, and the large guy walked over to place a hand on Hiro’s shoulder. “Hiro-“
Shiro started and looked over to where his robot sat quietly, but it was something coming from the hallway that diverted his attention. He could hardly believe it when he spotted something extremely similar to his original design for Baymax walk through the door. Looking around, it turned and gave a small, circular wave toward everyone. “Hello. I am Baymax, your personal health care companion.”
It was getting too crowded, and the room felt too small for Shiro all of a sudden. Hiro didn’t seem to notice Shiro’s step backward as he turned toward the newest body in the room. “Baymax, scan him.”
The scan was over in less than a moment as the robot seemed to glance over Shiro. “You seem to be having erratic breathing as well as an elevated heart rate. Your core temperature is also currently at forty point one degrees Celsius. Might I suggest tha-“
“Get out. Please.”
It was a whisper, but Shiro’s Baymax seemed to hear it. The rescue bot seemed to step forward and interpose himself between Shiro and everyone else. “It would be best if you please leave the room. My patient is currently experiencing a: panic attack. If his core temperature reaches a critical point, he will combust.”
“Combust? What does he mean combust?”
Shiro didn’t hear much, trying to concentrate on Baymax’s reassuring tones and calm down. However, it wasn’t until a white vinyl hand holding a paper cup of water entered his view that he actually was able to focus on anything beyond the feeling of too small and tight. He pried his grip from his upper arm and reached out, only wincing when he realized that his hands had left charred imprints on his sleeves.
“Sorry.” Shiro frowned and looked over, surprised to see Hiro still there. “I should have thought that through a bit better. But, um, no offence, you do realize that I had to make sure. I didn’t know if you were my brother or…”
“Or someone that was wearing his face.” Shiro took a sip from the cup and grimaced. It felt cold going down, which meant that he had probably heated up so much that anything was cold right now. “To be honest, I didn’t… I’m still not sure I believe it myself. I mean, what are the odds, right?”
“Don’t ask that. You haven’t seen half of the crazy things I’ve seen before, trust me.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
This time it was Hiro’s turn to frown. “I had my microbots stolen by some crazy professor of yours that tried to use them to destroy one of the biggest names in technology. You can’t get crazier than that.”
Shiro snorted. “Despite you being part of Big Hero Six, that still doesn’t mean I haven’t seen crazy stuff of my own. Being kidnapped by a megalomaniac terrorist group intent on conquering the world does that kind of thing to you.”
Hiro stilled. “Honey Lemon said you were kidnapped by someone but you wouldn’t say who it was.”
“Hydra.” The mere mention of the name left a bad taste on Shiro’s tongue. “That’s why I don’t believe it. They’re big into human experiments, and I’m not sure I’m not one of those.”
“Hydra did this to you?” Hiro looked livid. “They kidnapped you from your family, experimented on you, and what? Used you to build stuff?”
Shiro chuckled humorlessly. “I wish. I didn’t see the outside of a lab for two years, and even then, I was…” He couldn’t bring himself to tell Hiro that he was trapped in a tube that entire time. He couldn’t. “I had very limited mobility, and they never let me outside of my cell unless it was for tests.”
Hiro stood and started pacing, his expression furious. “That’s just… I knew about an info dump on the ‘net years ago, but I had no idea that they had you. If I had…” He gestured uselessly. “This never would have happened. We would have come for you.”
The idea of Hiro being anywhere near Hydra made Shiro terrified. He wasn’t sure if it was because his brother, and if that was who Hiro actually was, actually suggested going after Hydra, or if it was the idea of what would have happened if Hiro had failed, but either option didn’t sit well with Shiro. “No, it’s… It’s really better that you didn’t.”
“How is this better?” Hiro shot him an incredulous look. “Look, you had a panic attack when there were too many people in the room, your shirt looks like two irons landed on your arms, and you’re shaking! I would have given anything to stop this!”
“Because I was tortured by them!” Shiro hadn’t realized he had stood until he was facing Hiro directly. His hands were clenched, and he was afraid that there was smoke seeping through his fingers. “I was trapped in a glass tube while they poked and prodded me and made me do things…” Shiro shook his head, trying to banish the memories that accompanied his words. “They would have caught you too and there would have been nothing I could have done to stop them!”
Hiro stood there, eyes wide as he paled considerably. “Someone would have helped out. The team would have-“
“Hydra erased everything about me. I had nothing, no name, no memories, and no one knew I was even there. I got lucky when the Avengers took down the lab I was in. If I had been there any longer…” Shiro couldn’t finish that sentence. He took a deep breath, trying to calm down his racing heart before he ended up having another episode.
He didn’t expect for Hiro to wrap his arms around him, or for the teen to bury his face in Shiro’s shoulder. “Tadashi, I’m sorry this happened. I should have done something. I should have stopped you.”
“Stop me from what? Getting kidnapped?”
“No.” Hiro took a step back and looked at Shiro, his eyes glistening with unshed tears. “Stop you from running into the showcase. I should have held on tighter, maybe distracted you long enough until the building exploded. Anything.”
“I don’t remember that night.” Shiro laid a hand on Hiro’s shoulder. “I don’t know what Tadashi was thinking, or what went wrong.”
Hiro frowned. “You’re talking like you’re not him.”
“Because I don’t think I am him.” Shiro shook his head. “I could be a clone for all I know. All of my memories are of when I woke up in the lab and beyond. Besides, I don’t think Tadashi could do some of the things I do.”
“The fire generation, right?” At Shiro’s incredulous look, Hiro shrugged. “Honey said something about it, and she mentioned that you nearly freaked out on her about it. I don’t know about you, but you could have encountered any number of the experiments at the showcase during the fire that caused it.”
“Hydra also gave Scarlet Witch her powers. They could have done the same to me.”
“I’m going to guess you don’t want me to figure out how.” Hiro shook his head, then turned to look at his Baymax. “Baymax, during your scan, was there anything different about Tadashi from the first time you scanned him and now?”
Hiro’s Baymax tilted his head. “Other than a higher core temperature and symptoms consistent with a panic attack, Tadashi has suffered from a soft tissue injury to his shoulder and ankle in the past. There are no other differences I can detect.”
Hiro turned smugly toward Shiro. “So I’m going to rule out genetic manipulation then. Maybe you always had them?”
Shiro frowned, running through his head everything he could think of about what he knew about himself. “Wouldn’t that have been obvious before though?”
“Unless they surfaced all of a sudden.” Shiro cocked an eyebrow at Hiro. “What? You got saved by a super soldier, a genius billionaire, and a god. Don’t tell me that my hypothesis is any weirder.”
“Thor disappeared before they rescued me,” Shiro corrected.
“Details, details. Still amounts to the same thing.” Hiro crossed his arms. “All I know is that Fred is going crazy with the idea that you got a superpower and disappointed that he didn’t.”
Shiro was silent for a moment. “I still don’t think I’m Tadashi. It seems too convenient.”
Hiro chewed on his lower lip. “Look, I’m going to be honest. I came here initially to find out the truth. I was all for the idea that you were just a creepy lookalike, and wanted to make sure it wasn’t just me or anyone else making the mistake. But, Baymax says it’s you, and no offense, but you made another. I don’t know why, and I really want to know, but I also know that whatever happened before, it won’t change that you probably are my brother. If we need to, we can get a DNA test done to confirm it, but I have a feeling that it will prove what Baymax said.”
“You’re really convinced about this, aren’t you?” Shiro’s mouth quirked into a slight smile. It’d figure that the kid who claimed to be his brother was stubborn.
“I look at everything from every angle I can find. You taught me that, and you’d know I was right.” Hiro crossed his arms again. “So, you ready to meet the Nerd Crew again? I promise the only one that might overwhelm you is Fred, and he’s promised not to try and get you to introduce him to Tony Stark. Which, I have to admit, the mere fact that he adopted you at all makes me jealous. But I got the better deal I think.” Hiro smirked.
“Oh yeah, how so?”
“I’m the one that currently lives above a café that makes the best crullers in San Fransokyo.” Hiro stuck his tongue out, and Shiro couldn’t help himself. He ended up chasing the teen down the hall to catch up with the others, knowing that Hiro had done it on purpose but not minding a bit.
“So there I was, standing right between this dude and the girl we were trying to save. And do you know what happened? Girl marches right by me, takes her purse off her shoulder, and proceeds to start swatting the man with it.” Fred grinned, in his element. “You’d have thought a guy that had just held Wasabi at gunpoint wouldn’t be intimidated by that, but he literally ran. Gogo caught him like two blocks later after she had knocked out his accomplice. It was epic!”
Fred had decided that the best way to gauge how Tadashi was doing after his kidnapping was to talk about some of the different things that Big Hero Six had done over the four years the team had been together. He figured that if Tadashi was sympathetic toward any of the bad guys, he might be slipping, but as it stood, Tadashi was more interested in groaning and rubbing his forehead at every tale. Fred hoped that was a good sign, since the Bromada had always had this kick about keeping people safe. Now he was just getting an update on how the team was carrying on his legacy.
“Why is it that bad guys seem to think that applying paint guns to a solution works? I’ve never once seen anyone actually fall for that.” Tadashi shook his head. “So where was Hiro in all of this?”
“Oh, Little Dude was busy stopping the guy that drove off in the car. From what he said, Baymax was the one to scold the person for reckless driving. I don’t think she liked that too much.”
“I am not that little anymore!” Hiro groaned, hanging upside down on Tadashi’s bed. “That was literally just three weeks ago. I’m legally an adult now.”
The three were situated in Tadashi’s dorm, Gogo, Wasabi, and Honey Lemon having left to get something to eat. Baymax had offered to go as well, commenting that Tadashi hadn’t eaten anything yet and that, as his current patient, he needed to get proper nutrition. The only downside to the whole exchange was that Tadashi had insisted that his name wasn’t Tadashi, and while Fred could understand that, knowing that he was probably protecting Hiro from Tadashi’s kidnappers, it still left a pang of hurt in the blonde’s heart. After all, Tadashi had no recollection of any of them, and if this was what happened to him, Fred was afraid of what could happen if they ran across the guys that did it.
“So let me get this straight. The team is okay with letting a minor fight crime with them?” Tadashi sounded exasperated.
“Well, not at first. It wasn’t until someone had stolen Baymax’s designs and made a whole army of them that we officially became a team.” Fred leaned back, remembering that event. “Pretty sure Yama regretted that whole mess.”
“Yama?” Tadashi looked confused, frowning. “That sounds like a bot fighter name or something.”
Hiro and Fred exchanged glances. Fred had of course heard all about Hiro’s exploits as a bot fighter, but no one had mentioned them to Tadashi. Fred only hoped this was a good sign. “I think he was, wasn’t he?”
Hiro nodded. “Yeah. I trashed his bot in a bot fight once. Little Yama. Yama was going to cream me if you hadn’t shown up when you did.”
Tadashi frowned. “Bot fighting is illegal.”
Hiro smirked, looking a little more confident, as though they’d had this conversation before. “No, betting on bot fighting is illegal. But it’s oh so lucrative.”
“Unbelievable.” Tadashi rolled his eyes and sighed. “Let me guess, you never got caught.”
“Oh no, we both got caught. The lecture Aunt Cass gave us for that was epic. She started stress eating as soon as she got us home right afterward.” Hiro rolled over and pushed himself into a sitting position. “That doesn’t ring a bell, does it?”
Tadashi shook his head. “Not a bit. Sorry. The name Yama sounds familiar though.”
“You know, I have my own hypothesis about why you can’t remember anything.” Fred nodded sagely.
Hiro tossed Fred an exasperated look while Tadashi looked over at Fred questioningly. “Oh? What’s your hypothesis?”
Fred gestured to Tadashi. “I’ve got a feeling the reason you can’t remember anything is because you’re trying to protect someone. Like, subconsciously. It totally fits with the whole kidnapping victim not wanting the evil organization to get a hold of loved ones cliché.”
Hiro groaned again. “Fred, we’re not in a comic book.”
“Au contraire, mi amigo. You forget that Shiro was kidnapped but rescued by the Avengers. We’re superheroes ourselves. We are literally living a comic book.” Fred grinned, crossing his arms in triumph. “Besides, my dad says that there’s more superheroes out there. We’re just the newest incarnation.”
Tadashi crossed his own arms. “And this is the same dad that idolized Captain America as a kid, right?”
“Naturally.” Fred leaned back and studied Tadashi. “Which, you already know who he is so I don’t need to explain him at all.”
Tadashi sighed. “I’m going to be honest. All of that sounds reckless and dangerous. Why are you guys even doing all that?”
“The superhero thing?” At Tadashi’s nod, Fred continued. “Well, besides it being super awesome, we’re doing it to help people. You know, what you wanted to do. Only with more kicking villains’ butts than you probably would have considered.”
Tadashi looked torn, and shook his head. “I’m not so sure about that…”
Suddenly the door opened and all three heads turned abruptly. It was Tadashi’s sudden curse that made Fred blink, but his attention was quickly redirected to the man who seemed to be standing in the doorway blinking. He was heavyset and blonde, but he turned his attention to Tadashi. “Um, Shiro, who’s the visitors?”
Tadashi looked like he was about to stammer a reply when Fred stood abruptly. “Fred Lee. Old friend of Shiro’s here. We’ve just been catching up and everything with each other.” He grinned as he held out a hand. “And who are you? Shiro mentioned a roommate. You him?”
The blonde blinked and looked over at Tadashi, but the Bromada simply shrugged. “Paul. Paul Simmons. You certainly don’t look like how I envisioned any of Shiro’s friends.”
“Yeah, well, we weren’t expecting Shiro’s roommate to suddenly show up.” Hiro had decided to take Fred’s lead and stood. “Hiro Hamada. Shiro said you were out for classes.”
“I was.” Paul gave Tadashi a look that screamed that there was some explaining to do in the future, but Fred was quite used to dealing with that sort of thing. “I was just going to grab one of my books for class, but…”
“Yo, you going to stand in the doorway?” Paul nearly jumped several feet into the air as Gogo made her presence known. “We’re trying to get through.”
Fred would have snorted with laughter at Paul’s expression as he spotted the diminutive Korean girl behind him, but decided to take pity on him. “Sorry, we were planning on making a picnic or something in the room. You know, since we haven’t seen him in a while.”
Honey, who was right behind Gogo, looked apologetically at Paul. “Hey, maybe all of us can go out to eat sometime. We’d love to hear what Shiro’s been up to since coming all the way out to Massachusetts.”
“It would be beneficial for patients with retrograde amnesia to have friends and family involved with the recovery process,” Baymax supplied, standing somewhere just out of sight of the doorway. “Tadashi’s mental health would improve much faster.”
Paul looked confused. “Who’s Tadashi?”
“Oh, um, dude, you’re gonna be late for class!” Fred scanned the books on the shelf next to the other bed and plucked what he thought was Paul’s textbook from the pile. “Here you go man, hope you’re not late to lecture or anything!”
Paul’s eyes widened comically as he looked down at his watch. “Damnit, you’re right!” Ignoring the book in Fred’s hand, he grabbed another from the shelf and stepped back into the hall, Gogo and Honey Lemon stepping deftly out of the way while Baymax and Wasabi stepped into view, looking as though they were watching Paul’s progress down the hall.
Fred, however, breathed a sigh of relief and slumped down in the chair he had occupied previously. “Whoa, that was close.” Ignoring the others staring at him, he gestured everyone inside before he scooted over to close the door. “Baymax, rule number one of someone trying to protect someone else by hiding their identity, don’t say their name out loud. You’re going to blow Bromada’s cover.”
Gogo’s eyes narrowed. “And just what kind of cracked idea is in your head now?”
Wasabi looked confused and groaned. “I’m going to agree with Gogo. Why are you suddenly talking about hiding Tadashi’s identity?”
“It’s not like Tadashi’s a superhero or anything.” Hiro had grabbed a bag from Wasabi and was digging through it, snagging a bag of gummy bears out and plopping it next to him. He then paused as Tadashi shifted uneasily.
Honey herself was looking a bit uneasy, but decided to speak first. “Um, actually, about that…”
Gogo’s eyes travelled over to Tadashi as she frowned. “Wait, you’re a superhero?”
Tadashi sighed and rubbed his face. “Yeah. Um, it started a year ago.” His jaw clenched though. “I wasn’t going to wait around for someone to kidnap me again, and I wanted to help people.”
Hiro looked cross. “Bro, you are not allowed to lecture me about being a superhero when you’ve been doing it too.”
Wasabi looked beyond stunned. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but is Fred right and you’re hiding your identity to protect Hiro or something?”
“Nope!” Fred shook his head. “It all makes sense. He was kidnapped by some crazy organization that probably threatened to grab Hiro since he’s all genius-y and make them both work for them, but Tadashi totally went into ultimate big brother mode and made himself forget everything to protect the little dude.”
“I’m seriously thinking you got dropped on your head as a baby,” Gogo snorted. “That made no sense whatsoever. No one can forget their entire past like that.”
“Memory repression is mainly caused by a traumatic event in a patient’s life,” Baymax added. “As there is no evidence of previous brain injury that I can detect, it is safe to assume that Tadashi’s memory loss coincides with his time in captivity.”
Fred glanced over to Tadashi, who looked like he was rubbing his temples. “I can honestly say that the doctors I saw when I was rescued said nothing about a head injury.” He opened his eyes and sighed. “Look, I don’t know why I forgot everything.”
“Which is why I’m trying to think of every possibility.” Fred crossed his arms, smug. “Since you obviously don’t know why you forgot it all, it’s a matter of piecing together the pieces. Kinda like Doctor Destructo and the Blue Cyclone. Blue Cyclone forgot everything once in issue two hundred and fifteen, and everyone around him was putting the pieces together, but it was hard since Doctor Destructo kept hiding the most important evidence.”
“That is still the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.” Gogo blew a bubble and popped it in annoyance as she fished out fries from a bag. “My guess is you probably saw something horrific and your mind just shut down.”
“I’m still not convinced that you didn’t have some head trauma at some point,” Wasabi stated. “That, and I’m pretty sure if we brought you back home, some of your memories would start surfacing.”
Honey Lemon was chewing her lip, obviously thinking. “Shiro, who’s the woman that keeps shadowing you?” When the others looked over to her, startled, Honey shrugged. “I keep seeing this red-haired woman around campus, and she’s not part of the faculty.”
Tadashi groaned. “If I plead the fifth, will you guys leave it alone?”
Hiro blinked. “Wait, lemme guess. One of the Avengers, right?” Tadashi grimaced, and Hiro sat up properly. “I’m right?”
“I can’t answer that.” Tadashi pressed his lips together while crossing his arms before speaking again. “Look, can we drop this?”
Fred nodded, sagely. “Yeah, sure. We got you covered. Your secrets are safe, man.”
Tony rolled back from his project, frowning as he examined it. It was an upgrade to his Mark XLVI, and he’d been fine-tuning the armor since the events in Sokovia. So far, it’d done the work well enough, but he figured that he’d be almost complete with the ideas for his next suit here soon.
He was actually tempted to work on a suit for Shiro, considering the kid didn’t have any real protection in his current suit. However, considering that Shiro was a martial artist and needed mobility, plus the limitations considering his abilities, well, Tony hadn’t gotten much beyond tossing around ideas for trying to find a good material to withstand Shiro’s extreme heat.
Which, he couldn’t outright ask Shiro to test out different materials to see their resistance. The kid had way too many hang-ups regarding his fire abilities and tests. Not that Tony blamed him one bit. He’d come out of his stint with terrorists with probably as many issues, and he still dealt with PTSD regularly. Still, he’d had to rig up a heat chamber that could hopefully reach the same heats that Shiro produced to see the effects on different materials.
He rolled his neck, massaging it a bit before he tossed his screwdriver down onto a worktable. He frowned then, glancing toward a clock on the wall before he winced. It was probably a good thing that Pepper had agreed to go to one of his meetings that day. He was sure he’d have missed it by now, and considering that he was also certain he had another meeting to attend in a bit, he probably had less time to get ready than he thought.
Besides, he had other things to worry about. According to information that Romanov had gathered, Shiro had apparently discovered pieces of his own past, and Tony hoped that the kid was having an easy time of meeting people from his past. Not that Tony complained about it, but Shiro really needed something more concrete to hold onto than just the Avengers. The kid was dang-near reclusive and paranoid, two things that didn’t mix well. Couple it with Shiro’s very-real fears, and it was a recipe for disaster.
Making up his mind, he stood, walking toward the elevator to take him to his suite. “Hey Friday, can you contact Hill and tell her to reschedule my meetings leading up to the expo?”
“And what should I tell her when she asks why?” Friday was a great assistant, but Tony couldn’t help but miss Jarvis’s snark right about now.
“Just let her know I’m going out of town until the end of the expo. Pepper’ll let me know if there’s anything important I need to address.” Tony’s upper lip twitched as he imagined Pepper’s expression. “Also remind me to get an apology gift for Pepper later.”
“I’m sure she’ll enjoy it.”
Was it his imagination, or was that genuine sarcasm? Either way, he grinned and looked toward Dum-E and pointed to his workstation. “Clean this up for me. Daddy’s gonna be back later tonight so don’t wait up.”