Chapter 11: Fixed Joint
Neither of them could sleep. They had left Baymax to charge in the garage, and were now in bed just staring at the ceiling. There was too much going through their heads.
Tadashi was the most affected by that night’s discovery. “Professor Callaghan-“
“I get that, but-“
“We can't judge him-“
“Or we can try not to at least-“
“It's so unlike-“
Their thoughts looped like that for hours. No matter how much they tossed and turned, they couldn't get to sleep. It didn't help Tadashi that the floor seemed extra unwelcoming that night. Or maybe it was the fact that he was sleeping on the floor for the second night in a row.
"I can't sleep."
"Do you think he noticed?" Hiro worried.
"I wasn't there to see what he might have."
"Right. I'm guessing the others told you the short version?"
"So you know I possessed Baymax."
"And I... I a-almost killed the Professor."
"Hiro." Tadashi leaned up on his elbow to face his brother. "You didn't."
"I was held back." he stated darkly. "I can't say that I wouldn't've."
"I couldn't hear you, Tadashi. I only knew you were alive 'cause you were breathing. Nothing else. It was... it was so cold." Hiro shivered at the memory, pulling his blankets around his shoulders to defend from a phantom breeze.
A moment passed quietly until Tadashi confessed. "You don't need to defend yourself, Hiro. And neither do I."
Hiro’s brow furrowed as he tilted his head in Tadashi’s direction. "What do you mean?"
"I wouldn't've been any different in your position.” Tadashi looked down for a moment, rolling on to his right side so that his eyes peeked over the edge of the bed. “If I'd found you under the rubble, and you were out cold? Callaghan would've lost more than that mask."
Hiro was startled by his brother's admission. Tadashi was always so kind, so forgiving. To hear him say something like that about his old professor... it would take a lot for him to accept it himself, let alone openly tell Hiro.
Tadashi continued, levelling his gaze with Hiro’s. "But what matters is that you didn't. You didn't cross the line, when you easily could have. I like to think a part of you held back, don't you?"
Hiro relented. "Yeah, I do."
Another moment passed. Tadashi closed his eyes and leaned back, letting out a long breath. He needed sleep.
"... I still can't sleep."
"I know, Hiro. Just try."
At some point during the night the brothers drifted off, unable to stay at rest for more than an hour at a time. Hiro was the worst culprit; he woke his brother up every half hour with quiet sniffling and sobs. He clearly didn't want Tadashi to have to see him that way, but he couldn’t help it.
Tadashi could read his brother better than anyone though, and would gently shush him back into a fitful slumber. He'd promised himself that he would do anything to protect Hiro. He had taken beatings and blame to keep Hiro safe, but he couldn't take the fall for this one. He had to help Hiro through it.
Everything was tinted in red. Callaghan cowered on the metal floor, nowhere to run, as the fist levelled with his head. Hiro, dressed in his nightclothes, was yelling at the bot to stop.
"Please! Just wait! Don't do this!" He was held back by a chain of Microbots around his wrists, but he was pulling hard against them. Another strip covered his mouth until all that could be heard were muffled screams.
Honey approached Hiro from behind. He froze when he heard her, his eyes tearing up. Thankyou. Please, hurry.
The nursebot stopped moving when the Microbots were bashed away with the pipe. Hiro ran from the quivering tech which recoiled from the scene, disappearing into the surrounding darkness.
Tadashi appeared in front of him. "Hey, hey. Shhh, sh sh. It's okay, Hiro. No one got hurt. You're okay."
"I-I'm s-s-sorry, T-Tadashi. I c-couldn't s-s-stop..."
"SShhhh, Hiro. Listen to me. You held back. Isn't this proof enough?” Tadashi gestured to the still of Baymax, poised with a raised arm and fierce glare. “You knew what you were doing was wrong. Some people," Tadashi glared at the frozen Callaghan, "don't possess that level of restraint. You have a big brain in there, Hiro, and it shows. You have more knowledge than men four times your age, men who would have lost it in your place. You did well."
Hiro's sobbing lessened so much that he could breathe normally. "Th-Thank you, Tadashi. I'm sorry."
The dream faded and Tadashi pulled open his eyes. Morning light filtered through the Venetian blinds and streamed onto some dust-ridden posters. He spotted the one advertising the Showcase.
It had only been a little over a month, and so much of his perspective had changed. So much of them had changed. Tadashi had lost some of his bounce and Hiro had lost his innocuity. There was only so much that these powers could bring, but they had taken so much too.
A rustling to his right brought the elder Hamada out of his reverie. "Tadashi? You asleep?"
"No I'm skydiving, knucklehead."
Hiro's voice lightened somewhat at his sarcasm. "Sorry for, y-y'know, waking you up."
"It's alright. We better get going before Aunt Cass gets up. We'll leave a note or something."
They had a quick shower and pulled on their suits. Tadashi headed down to activate and assist Baymax with his armour, and Hiro crept around to ensure his aunt wasn't awake. Seeing no signs of her, he scribbled a note on her notepad.
Had to drop by the lab - we don't have the right materials. Might be home earlier than normal. Last hug. He drew an O next to the message. He dropped the pen and turned away as his stomach rumbled.
P.S: Thanks for the donuts. :D
Hiro tossed something at him. He caught it and stared before he realised what it was.
"Can't go saving the city on an empty stomach."
Tadashi grinned and bit into the pastry, savouring the cold jelly. It wouldn't do much in terms of providing stamina, but it would give him an energy boost until something better came along. He was glad to know his brother had thought about him.
Hiro finished his own donut - plain chocolate, of course - and climbed onto Baymax. "To Fred's?"
"To Fred's." Tadashi confirmed. He slid his boots on and they headed out.
"It is just the Hamadas, Master Fredrick. Shall I lower the rifle?"
"As you wish." Heathcliff's voice died on the radio.
The brothers and Baymax landed safely in the yard.
"Dudes, a little warning next time!" Fred shuffled over to the trio, meeting them at the patio door.
Hiro was stunned. "What? I thought you knew we were coming."
"Not so early!” Fred’s eyes bugged out. “Do you know what time it is?"
Tadashi gave Fred a look. "8:30?"
"Exactly! What kind of psycho is awake at 8:30?"
"Almost everyone, on a Monday." Tadashi deadpanned.
Fred's disbelieving demeanour fell. "Huh. Maybe that's why Wasabi yelled at me that one time."
"What one time?" Hiro laughed at his friend's thoughtful expression.
"Oh. I called him during class one day. Almost cut his finger off. He was not happy." Fred shuddered at the memory.
They chuckled. "I bet not." Tadashi shook his head, entertained by the mental image.
"So, you guys hungry? I'll have Heathcliff whip us up a little something. Eggs sound good?"
"Anything does right now.” Tadashi followed Fred back into the mansion, with Hiro and Baymax trailing close behind. “We're running on powdered sugar here."
"Great. I'll go get ready." Fred led them back to his room and picked up his suit, pulling it on without getting changed.
Tadashi watched in amusement. "How're you gonna eat with that thing?"
Fred flipped the hood down. "Same way I flip a sign. With these babies." He wiggled the suit's claws.
“Unbelievable.” Hiro scoffed.
“I know. But that's Fred for you.”
Hiro dumped himself on the couch and the TV switched on instantaneously. The 7-News Live program displayed shots of a successful and confident-looking Alistair Krei, then faded to a shot of the front of the new building. A female reporter chattered excitedly about this great new opportunity.
"Fred, could you call up the team?” Hiro asked. “Looks like we need to be there by 11:00."
"Sure thing, Little Dude."
"Breakfast, Masters." Heathcliff strode into the room holding a polished-wood tray laden with three steaming plates of waffles, with small bowls and jugs filled with thickly-diced fruits and syrups respectively.
"Thanks a bunch, Heathcliff. Fred here wouldn't know what to do without you." Tadashi thanked him.
The butler set the tray down. "Thank you for your kind words, Master Tadashi. Makes me regret almost shooting you earlier." He left the room.
The brothers shared a look before Tadashi spoke. "Do I wanna know?"
Fred eagerly drowned his fluffy food in maple syrup, not making eye contact. "No."
"Thanks for coming so soon, guys."
"Don't sweat it Hiro." Wasabi strolled over to the couch and sat heavily, instantly regretting it. His eyes watered. "Seems like Fred is though." he wheezed. "Dude, you need some deodorant?"
"Nah, I'm good. Wouldn't want to waste it."
"Trust me, you wouldn't be." Wasabi left him alone, distinctly turning his head away.
GoGo popped a bubble, masking her approval at Wasabi's habits.
Honey smiled softly and looked down. Tadashi rubbed her knee, sitting beside her. "What's up, Honey?"
She paused before answering. "Well, I've just been thinking about what Hiro said the other day. About... the people who would want to get to you. I have to admit, I'm-I'm a little scared."
The room quietened. Tadashi stopped massaging her knee and looked up at her. "We all are. But we should be fine, as long as we keep our identities a secret. If we were to separate our superhero life from our regular one, we could easily pull this off. Besides, if Hiro and I exposed ourselves, at least in the suits, no one would know. It would become great publicity, actually." he grinned.
They stayed silent. He looked at each of their faces, minus Fred who was behind his hood. He was sitting unnaturally still.
"Fred? You alright?" Tadashi leaned over and pulled off the hood. Fred was beaming.
"You know what this means?"
Hiro leaned away, concern growing on his face. "...What does it mean, Fred?"
"Who's Fred?" asked Fred.
Tadashi shared worried looks with the team. "Did you hit him too hard, GoGo?"
"Don't look at me. I haven't touched him."
"Don't you guys get it?" Fred jumped up, his hood falling into place. "We need superhero names!"
They stared at him blankly. He rolled his eyes and raised his hand. "I call Fredzilla!"
Tadashi was the first to snap out of it. "Isn't it kind of obvious if you use your name?"
Fred sighed dramatically. "No. It would be too obvious. Nobody would suspect the guy in the suit, who works and spends his day in a suit. You wouldn't even see my face!"
Wasabi held his chin. "I have to admit, he has a point."
GoGo huffed. "Okay, granted, this idiot's a genius, but where does that leave the rest of us?"
"You could use your nicknames." Hiro stated.
"Your nicknames! Nobody else knows what they are. It's gotta be better than making up new ones. This way, we won't slip up over the comms. We already call each other that, so it'll come naturally."
They stared at him. "Let me get this straight." GoGo pinched the bridge of her nose. "You want us to go around, using names that only we call each other, and not expect any kickback?"
Wasabi stared in shock. "Are you serious right now?"
"It could work." Honey spoke up. "I mean, my parents don't even know you call me Honey Lemon, and they ask me about everything. If it doesn't come up after the few years I've known you, then it never will."
"You've gotta be kiddin me." Wasabi facepalmed. "This'll never work!"
"Hey, I'm fine with it as long as it keeps us safe. Sorry, Wasabi, but that's the name you're going with." GoGo relaxed slightly.
"I still call Fredzilla."
Tadashi high-fived him. "Sure thing, buddy."
"Uh, guys?" Hiro raised his hand. "Where does that put Baymax and I?" Baymax perked up at the sound of his name.
Fred looked guilty. "You don't have nicknames." he said sadly.
Tadashi pointed at his project. "We'll call him Medic, for obvious reasons."
GoGo stepped forward. "Sorry to burst your bubble," she glanced at Fred and added "- no pun intended -"
"But wouldn't the single-only nursebot in all of San Fransokyo be a little recognisable?"
"I've tinted all your visors. A button on the right side, same as the one to flip the visor on and off." Hiro explained. "We could give him a voice modulator too. He'll probably do the most public speaking, since he'll be helping anyone on-site."
"Well we have Baymax. What about you?" Honey asked.
"I... don't know."
Fred couldn't hold it in. "I have some ideas!" his hand shot up, only to land back on his mouth.
Hiro considered. Well, the other names seem okay. This can't be too bad. "Shoot."
"Where did you think of that?"
"Well, you're a technopath, hence the 'tech' sound. Your name is Hiro. Put them together. Tech-Hiro. Techhiro. Tekiro."
Hiro looked at the rest of the group hesitantly. "What d'you think?"
Tadashi made a face. "Don't ask the guy who took the name Freak."
"It's not bad." Honey commented. "It kinda sounds like a real name, so it's more believable."
Hiro took her words into consideration. He nodded. "Tekiro it is then."
Wasabi checked his watch. "Well, Tekiro." 10:30. "Welcome to the team. We should get going."
The group stood and followed, GoGo strutting out first. They patted Hiro on the back on their way past in a sort of rushed congratulation-initiation ceremony. Tadashi was the last one to leave. He held out a fist.
Hiro didn't move.
"Don't leave me hangin'." He joked. Still no response. He turned to face his brother, hands on his brother’s shoulders. "Hey, what's wrong?"
Hiro shook his head and paused. "So, this is a thing that's happening." he muttered.
Tadashi chuckled. "Guess so."
"It's just... if you'd told me a year ago that I would be in a superhero team with college students, you know what I would've said?"
"Unbelievable?" Tadashi wiggled his eyebrows.
"Improbable." Hiro corrected. "I mean, it could happen, sure. But the odds of it? Slim to none."
"I know what you mean. But you're forgetting one small factor."
Hiro's helmet slipped gently over his head thanks to Tadashi although he still held Hiro’s shoulders. "That's that." Tadashi smiled down at him. "Was there any other choice?"
Hiro smiled back. “I don't think so.”
“There we go.”