Cass Hamada paused as she wrote out detailed instructions for her temporary replacement. Hiro had gone to bed much earlier than usual and she'd had Baymax promise to keep an eye on him. It wasn't exactly like his typical routine, though the last few months had been anything but typical for the teen genius. If Cass was being truthful, things hadn't been "normal" for over two years now. It didn't help that he was only now really just recovering from being kidnapped by Hydra and almost dying. Again.
With Tony Stark's, and Phil Coulson's, help, Hiro had managed to avoid getting expelled, along with his friends. His continued education was far too important for that. And since a government agency had basically told the Institute that Hiro had performed some kind of service for them, they couldn't poke into matters without getting into trouble. Hiro had tried to make up for lost time by doubling down on his studies during the summer sessions, even though his professors had assured him he could take whatever time he needed. It helped that he had doctors' notes from some of the most prestigious medical professionals in the city to back him up. But with not much to do besides recover, the teen had become bored quickly, which explained, in part, why he threw himself into his studies so much.
Several months had passed since they'd all returned home. And while Hiro was now back on his feet, more or less, he still had a long way to go. There were several nights when Cass had stayed up late, listening to her nephew call out in his sleep. Now she paused to listen and didn't hear anything, which was a bit disconcerting since she'd thought she'd heard activity only a few minutes ago, knowing the café was closed up tight, with no customers left hiding anywhere. She'd checked.
Hiro was also only just now getting back into doing simple missions, usually taking the less glamorous job of calling the shots from either the garage or their base at Fred's place. He'd insisted on showing her their headquarters after he was up to moving around again. It was only fair, he'd explained, after all the worry he'd caused. She'd felt some relief knowing they had a trauma unit available for their use, along with a pseudo on-call doctor. He'd even gone so far as to promise to let her know if he had to leave to perform any kind of hero work. She'd insisted on having some way to contact him directly should he need to jet off without notice.
Technically speaking, Cass was more than aware that sometimes a person couldn't inform everyone on their list before having to run out and save someone. She accepted that. But the fact that she hadn't heard anything tonight was more than a little disconcerting. Maybe he'd been called out on a mission last second. With that in mind, she headed to the garage to see if he was there. He wasn't. Even the lights were off, a sure sign he hadn't gone there instead of to bed. The computers were also turned off and his extra set of gear, stored there in the off chance he got a call while at home came in, was still sitting in its usual place. That negated the idea he'd been called on a mission.
Cass trudged up the stairs, sure she'd locked the doors and set the alarm, not that such things would stop Hiro from getting around them. He'd found a way around them before he'd even moved on to high school. That was back when he'd first gotten into bot fighting. It was almost ironic he was doing it again, only legally this time, as part of his school's robotics team. As she continued up to Hiro's room, she heard the faint sound of her nephew calling out and hurried up the rest of the stairs.
"Hiro?" She wasn't sure if he was asleep or not, caught in one of those panic-inducing dreams he had much more often than she'd like. But when she looked towards his bed, she only saw rumpled sheets and a few disheveled pillows. And since the windows were firmly closed, she didn't even bother giving them a second thought.
The light to the bathroom was on, the door open so it spilled out into the darkened room. "Hiro?" she called again as she cautiously made her way to the open door. She didn't see Baymax anywhere, hoping the logical side of her brain was being rational in telling her that if there really as a problem, the robot would have come to get her.
Hiro sat next to the toilet, his shoulders heaving as his breath came in almost gasping pants. A sheen of sweat formed across his brow and he looked more pale than usual. He didn't seem to register that someone else had entered the room.
Baymax turned from observing his young charge, his black eyes blinking expressionlessly at the café owner. "Aunt Cass," he greeted before turning back to watch his friend. "Hiro is exhibiting symptoms of physical distress."
Cass shook slightly, bringing her thoughts back into focus. "I can see that," she said as she moved closer to feel Hiro's forehead. It was warmer than usual. "What's going on? Is it anxiety about tomorrow?" While they were indeed going to head out to Los Angeles in the morning, she somehow doubted that was the reason behind her nephew's sudden case of an upset stomach, or the low-grade fever accompanying it.
The teen's body shuddered and he leaned over the toilet bowl, retching. Nothing came up for his efforts, but it was obvious they left him feeling weaker than before. Feeling his aunt's hand pressing against his shoulders, he leaned against her and shivered. "It's so cold," he complained.
Baymax tilted his head, staring at Cass as she turned back to look at him, not needing to hear her ask again before answering. "As I do not detect any signs of infection, I believe Hiro is reacting to one of the many memories he had to reintegrate, though it does not appear to be one I am familiar with. I believe the process is called reactive reintegration." He'd taken the opportunity to discuss it with the two Doctors before they'd left, shortly after the whole Q incident. They'd confessed something like this likely, though the robot had hoped it wouldn't happen. It was more akin to PTSD on steroids and looked far from comfortable for the teen genius. If they were being truthful about matters, this wasn't the first episode of it either.
Part of Cass wanted to get up and go after the heavy quilt Hiro usually used but part of her also didn't want to leave his side. She'd missed a lot of his life through ignorance already and Hiro didn't look like he wanted her to leave. "Has this happened before?"
"Similar incidents have occurred over the last year," Baymax confirmed. "However, this is the first time Hiro has exhibited these exact symptoms. It is important to note that such symptoms usually last no more than two to three hours. The typical amount of time is between ten to fifty minutes while his body and mind readjust."
The idea that her nephew had gone through all this crap without her knowing it, practically alone, wrenched her heart and she couldn't help but pull him closer, wrapping her arms around him. "I wish you'd told me sooner," she whispered as she tried to smooth Hiro's hair.
"I didn't want to worry you," Hiro croaked. "It's not the first time this has happened. Probably won't be the last. Not even my friends know about it."
While they'd had a more open dialogue about his hero work, Hiro had yet to really go into any details about those experiences the others could only hint at. She felt sure this current bout was brought on by recollections of his repeated time lines. Baymax's words strongly suggested that. The truth of the matter was that even though the robot had relayed the repeats that he knew about, there were likely more he didn't. It was possible that Hiro might not even clearly recall them all, even though he'd had to relive them when he'd had to put the universe back together. Reactive reintegration was probably as close a term to him going through them again as anything else.
Cass sighed. "You know I'd do anything for you, right?" She smoothed his hair, pushing a damp strand away from his eyes. He still needed a haircut, she thought as she looked into his pale face. He'd closed his eyes as he leaned his head against her chest.
"Yeah," Hiro replied. "Maybe I've just been pushing myself too hard."
It was a decided possibility. He'd just finished his fifth online course for the summer only a week ago. And even though the new school year hadn't officially started yet, he was signing up for classes that were on a senior level. The fact that he was trying to graduate around the same time as the rest of his friends wasn't lost on his aunt, though she secretly knew they'd graduate at the end of the calendar year instead of the school one. "It's not a race," she reminded him. In fact, the only reason his friends hadn't graduated the school year before was due to the whole kidnapping issue in New York. They all had to make up for the missed class work. They'd all just chosen to take the summer off to focus on recovering and doing hero work.
Hiro opened his eyes to look up into her face. "I know. I just… I can't help but wonder what will happen when they graduate and I'm still stuck in school. It's not something I really want to think about but I have to. I don't want to be left behind."
Cass pulled him closer so he was now practically in her lap while Baymax watched on. "You're not going to be left behind," she assured him. "You're more family than most families are. They won't leave you behind. Besides, they'll all be with us tomorrow. If it still bothers you in the morning, you can tell them your concerns."
The teen chuckled weakly. "Yeah, maybe." He wasn't exactly keen on the idea but knew it should be expressed at some point. Things were going to be different soon and he wasn't sure if he was ready for that. He already knew of some changes coming up, mostly on Fred's end. The mascot had confessed to something he had planned for this coming week while they were in Los Angeles, though why he'd told Hiro was beyond the teen's comprehension. Maybe it was his way of coping, partially seeing Hiro as Tadashi. Either way, it meant Hiro had one more thing to keep quiet.
"You should get back to bed," Cass said, moving so Hiro could stand. "Big day for all of us. I'm just glad Wasabi's letting me drive his precious van, and that I could find someone to take over the café while we're all down there."
Hiro definitely had to laugh at that. "I know you don't want to let me out of your sight," he joked.
"You've got that right," Cass emphasized as she followed him into his bedroom. "The last time I let you leave San Fransokyo, you got kidnapped. Maybe if I'm with you, that won't happen."
Shaking his head just a bit, mostly because his body was still being wonky, Hiro made his way back to his bed. "It's just a bot tournament between different colleges and stuff. What kind of trouble could follow us there?"
"Get some sleep," Cass smiled as she tucked Hiro into bed. "We'll worry about that in the morning. And, hopefully we won't find any."
Baymax shuffled behind them, noting that Hiro's vitals were starting to stabilize. The whole episode hadn't lasted as long as it could have, though part of him wondered if the teen would tell them about it later. He particularly was interested in what kind of memory had triggered the reaction.
Hiro watched his aunt leave the room and head down the stairs. Thoughts of the week-long tournament filled his mind as he caught sight of Megabot sitting across the room. He let out a heavy sigh. "Yeah, I hope nothing happens either." With that, he rolled over to one side and closed his eyes.
Kally couldn't help but feel anxious as she bypassed security at the airport. Thanks to a special permit, mainly because the bag containing her fighter bot wasn't being checked, she didn't have to go through the normal check points. It also helped that, for whatever reason, Tony Stark had offered to fly her and her classmates to Los Angeles on one of his many private jets. She figured he was still trying to apologize for everything that had happened with the student expo, even though none of it was really his fault. Outside of the shrimp part, but not even she'd know about the allergy until it was triggered.
The rest of her bags, including enough clothes to last the week, a few books on programming and robotics, along with some other personal items, and a few other things, were stowed in the cargo hold with the rest of her classmates' stuff. Thankfully, there were only a handful of them, though they all acted like it was Spring Break, even though the official school year had barely started.
There was one good thing about this particular plane. It had two separate cabins, the main cabin and the area usually called first class. Her classmates were back in the main cabin area while she was up front with Stark and Banner in the back. Apparently they were both going to be judges at the tournament. When she set foot in the plane, she couldn't help but look around in awe. The others were already on board and were likely being served something to keep them quiet. It was supposed to be a long flight, after all. She just hoped none of them got drunk. Several of them had a reputation of partying.
"You made it," Tony said as he stood from his seat, which looked more like a super comfy office chair mixed with a recliner, all covered in light tan leather. Or at least what looked like leather. He removed his sunglasses. "I wasn't sure if you would, all things considered."
Kally let out her breath. The last time she'd ridden in any kind of plane, jet or otherwise, was the quinjet as they returned to New York after all that craziness at the Hydra base. And, understandably, she had a bit of anxiety about being trapped in a metal tube for almost five hours, give or take. "Yeah. Me neither."
She set her backpack down in a little area meant for the purpose of stowing such items and took the seat he indicated. After the whole incident, she'd take some time off to wrap her head around everything that had happened. And then she'd enrolled in some martial arts classes to help her hone and better understand her abilities. But she'd maintained contact with Hiro during the summer, and when he mentioned signing up for a bot tournament in L.A., well, she couldn't pass up the opportunity of a sanctioned trip just so she could see him. Well, it wasn't the main reason, but it certainly was high up there. It also looked good on her resume, even though Stark had offered her an internship, when she was ready. That might not happen for some time though. She wanted to finish her schooling first.
"I hope you didn't have any trouble getting through security," Tony said, trying to make conversation as he accepted a glass of liquor from the flight attendant. Whatever it was, it had a darker color, along with a few chunks of cracked ice.
Kally shook her head. "No problem." There were just a few older men who had leered at her in a most uncomfortable way as she'd made her way through the terminal. Even though it was part of the private wing, there were still plenty of people there to give her a look over. And since she didn't dress like a rich girl, many of them probably thought strange things about her being there. She still didn't like being in a crowd, any kind of crowd, and wondered how she'd manage to survive the next week.
Tony nodded. "Good." He pulled out a newspaper and flipped it open, signifying the end of the conversation.
The teen settled into her seat, fastening the belt across her lap. The flight attendant gave her a lemon-lime soda, which she clung to as the lights in the cabin dimmed just a little. She wasn't sure if she'd throw up or not but the soda was a nice gesture.
Sure her young charge was settled, the attendant made her way back to the main cabin area to make sure the other students and faculty advisor were situated. Dr. Banner was also back there to make sure no one got into too much trouble. Once that was done, the attendant returned to the front and took a seat out of sight of the front cabin. Moments later, the pilot announced final instructions as they taxied out to the runway.
Kally swallowed hard, her drink nestled in a cup holder as her hands tightly gripped the armrests. Take off was the worst part of flying and she only had a little notice before the plane began to pick up speed as it headed down the runway. With a sickening sensation in her stomach, the plane's rear wheels left the ground; her heart feeling like it was back on the ground with the rest of her classmates who weren't going.