Fire Emblem waltzed into the hero training room, positively simpering. He seemed to bounce from one foot to the other, waiting for someone to ask.
Karina, not wanting to pause her deltoid workout, but also not wanting to put a damper on whatever Fire Emblem was about to combust over, humored him.
“What is it, Nathan?”
He perked up instantly, “I thought you’d never ask! I’ve just come from Apollon Media with news: behold your poster child for queer heroes - I am your token gay superhero!~~”
“You’re our what?” Dragon Kid paused her staff exercises mid-swing and wandered over to where Karina was still stubbornly lifting dumbbells, face scrunched in concentration.
“Don’t you remember? After my dramatic coming out story on live television, that touched the hearts of millions, I’m being formally recognized as the first official gay superhero! Finally some much needed representation for the public.”
“Pfft, as if you’re the only one,” Karina scoffed, relenting at last in her workout.
Nathan paused his happy dance, “whatever do you mean?”
“Well, I mean, Rock Bison is definitely not straight,” Pao Lin shrugged.
“We’re all well aware you’re tapping that,” Karina kneaded her temples, flashbacks of previous Nathan-oversharing-at-girls-night too fresh in her mind.
“He-hey!” Antonio called from the other side of the training room, “I’m right here. And Nathan what did I tell you about broadcasting our- um -” he jogged over indignantly to join the conversation.
“Relationship, Pumpkin?” Nathan supplied, slinging an arm around Antonio’s shoulders.
“Please not the nicknames -” Antonio groaned, facepalming.
“Alright girls, I fold, there is more than one gay super hero,” Nathan made a dramatic waving motion with his free hand, “but only one who’s right out there in the public spotlight and he is me!”
“What about Mr. Tiger and Barnaby?” Pao Lin asked casually.
“They’re just partners, we can’t assume -” Nathan trailed off when Karina produced an official looking half-sheet of paper.
“Can’t assume, hm? Their wedding invitations came in the mail today. Kaede and I designed them, which is why they don’t look hideously tacky like the first one Mr. Tiger suggested,” Karina flashed a smug smile.
“Looks like highlights of the wedding will be broadcast on Apollon Media, as per Agnes’ demand,” Pao Lin added.
“M-married?” Nathan stammered, “when did they even start dating!?”
“Eh sometime after the Maverick incident and before the Golden Ryan fiasco,” Karina shrugged, “doesn’t really matter now. Oh yeah you’re all invited too.”
Nathan was still reeling from the revelation, “ok, Tiger and Barnaby are an exception, but you’re still straight Blue Rose - you- you even have a crush on Tiger.” He expected her to become flustered, try to deny it, but instead.
“I’m over it, I had a stupid crush, so what. Actually…” She glanced at Pao Lin who nodded, “Pao Lin and I have been dating for just over a month now. We were going to go public with it at our next talk show but -”
“It’s good that we’ve told our fellow heroes first,” Pao Lin nodded, taking Karina’s hand in hers.
“Wait-wait-wait, you’re serious?” Nathan spluttered.
“Uhhh, yeah?” Pao Lin raised a judgmental eyebrow.
“Not that! I’m so happy for you two but, to think that so many of us heroes are…” Nathan shook his head. Then, his eyes sparked with inspiration, “What about Ivan? Where is he?”
“Ivan?” a new voice inquired. Keith emerged from the men’s locker room in his civilian clothes, ready to head to lunch.
“Young Ivan is visiting Edward at the local high security prison,” he stated with his usual surety.
“Who is Edward?” Nathan gave Sky High an incredulous look.
“A N.E.X.T. with sand powers we encountered a while ago,” came Pao Lin’s reply.
“Yeah Nathan, Ivan’s just visiting a high security prison....to see his boyfriend,” Karina grinned slyly.
“It is truly heartwarming,” Keith wiped the corner of his eye, “Ivan tries to spend every visiting hour with Edward, going so far as to eat a prison food just so they can have lunch together. - a truly noble pursuit. I even hear Edward might be released for good behavior, sometime next year.”
Fire Emblem was beside himself, never in a million years did he think his thunder would be stolen from him like this except -
“Keith, are you seeing anyone?” Nathan asked primly.
“Yeah, I’ve been wondering, you’re so quiet about your personal life, what ever happened to the girl you met in the park?” Karina implored.
“Oh, ah,” Keith laughed nervously, “I never saw her again, so that didn’t work out-”
“You sound like you’re trying to hide something,” Pao Lin narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
All three clustered around Keith, staring intently.
“Tell us Keith, are you seeing anyone?” Karina drilled.
“Are they a boy or girl, I must know for - for reasons!” Nathan probed.
“C’mon Mr. Goodman, you can trust us with anything!” Pao Lin insisted.
“I ah - um - well - you see-” Keith stammered, horribly flustered by their proximity and insistent pestering, “the truth is -”
Just then the door to the gym swung open and the pale blonde head of Judge Petrov poked through.
“Keith, are we still going to lunch?” He inquired in his usual dry, even voice.
“Ah! Yes Yuri I just - got tied up at the gym is all,” Keith called back, sensing an escape route he disentangled himself from the triple inquisition and took his place by the judge’s side.
“Good. We can go to my office, I made piroshkis,” Judge Petrov’s usually cold eyes washed over Keith with undeniable warmth.
It wasn’t until he snaked an arm around Keith’s waist that Nathan’s jaw dropped farther than it probably ever had before.
His expression was mirrored by both Karina and Pao Lin.
“Judge Petrov?” Pao Lin asked, breathless.
“Heros,” the judge nodded curtly to them, drawing Keith towards the exit.
Keith offered his fellow heroes an apologetic smile before leaning up to give Yuri a peck on the cheek, earning him a wry smile from the stoic judge.
The door closed behind them with a soft, anticlimactic thud.
Karina and Pao Lin had mostly recovered from their shock; Nathan had not. He still stood frozen in the center of the training room, mouth hanging open, eyes bugging out. Never in his wildest dreams had he expected...all of this.
“Too bad Golden Ryan isn’t still here,” Pao Lin said airily, “then maybe we could have had a token straight super hero.”