Most people at AEGIS seemed to think Arthur’s background as an accountant made him immune to the tedium of filling out document after document. In reality, it meant two things: 1) he was more aware of how tedious it all was, hunting down signatures and digging through pages of past paperwork just for the sake of checking one box that he knew for a fact was insignificant data, yet for some reason could get you in serious trouble for leaving it unchecked, and 2) he was better at hiding how tedious he found the endless paperwork.
Granted, his personal history outside of accounting- namely all the doctors and therapists and court order forms he’s had to toil with, from whether he was fit to live independently from his caretaker with his psychosis to whether he could legally change his name to the one he had gone by since he was eight - has likely jaded him to all redtape.
Still, as he helped the Tick fill out documents about their rescue of a construction worker who somehow got stuck in a giant robot, he had to admit that sometimes it was nice to have an external excuse to sit around for a while. His leg was killing him and the thought of putting weight on it was daunting. He had opted for flying to the AEGIS office instead of walking that morning, and if he could have, he probably would have flown all the way into the Hero Lounge.
In the year and a half he had been on T, Dot had been the one to administer most of his injections. After joining Overkill as a semi-vigilante- a job that often took her, Overkill, and Dangerboat overseas for missions- Arthur had more or less taken over control of his T shots. The trouble was he wasn’t very good at it yet- his hands often shook, at least twice some of the testosterone has leaked back out, he nearly always bleed after, and his leg was often sore for at least two days when he injected it.
All the trans-masculine advice Subreddits he had visited had told him he was doing something wrong, but everytime he tried to follow their advice- switch to longer/shorter needles, inject in the glutes instead, pull the skin of the injection site back slightly- he’d always manage to get something else wrong.
Arthur palmed his chin in his right hand, leaning his elbow into his thigh- it hurt to do so, but it hurt more to not apply pressure- and began filling out a list of damages while Tick scanned and checked boxes on the Hazards Encountered list on the next page. He heard the door open, followed by Sage and Bronze Star’s voices.
“-gone out for drinks a few times. Red Scare really isn’t that bad a guy when you get to know him.”
“Nah, there’s something not right about him.”
“Is it the communist thing?”
“That’s the thing- I’m not even sure he’s actually a communist. Geez , did you two pick a fight with a tornado made of paper in here.” Sage appeared next to Arthur and the Tick, bracing his arm against the couch. He made a show of twisting his hand in the air, a croissant appearing in it.
“If only. I’d rather be fighting off the mighty stick of a thousand paper cuts right now that feel like my brain was being cut why this paperwork,” Tick groaned. Arthur’s leg twitched at the thought and he winced.
“I hear that,” Sage said. He lingered by them, an apprehensive look suddenly appearing on his face. He shared a look with Bronze Star, who stiffly shrugged.
“Uh,” Arthur sat up and saw Tick do the same from the corner of his eye. “You guys okay? You look a little…”
“Like Arthur here does when a reporter tries to talk to us after a day of fighting crime,” Tick popped in.
“Well, we were actually meaning to ask Arthur something- out of curiosity, you know,” Sage said.
Bronze Star held his hands up. “Now, normally we don’t ask these kinds of things. We take the Twenty-Eighth very seriously, and even if its wheren’t in act, we of all people know why its just not appropriate to ask these kinds of things.”
Sage jumped in. “It's just that since you’re out about your identity, we were just wondering, you know…” He waved the croissant vaguely in the air as he trailed off.
Arthur cringed. “You want to know why my hero name is the same as my real name.”
“Yeah, man. Mainly settle an argument here.”
“... You-you’ve been… arguing about my name?”
“More like theorizing,” Bronze Star said entirely too cheerfully. “It's not often you have a publicly out hero.”
Arthur raised an eyebrow at the unusual emphasis Bronze Star put on the word “out.”
“It all seems like an unnecessary fuss if you ask me,” Tick said, completely abandoning the paperwork. “Trying to juggle yourself like a big house performer with a dozen bowling pins will just lead to you dropping yourself in from of the most cynical circus audience.”
“Speak for yourself. Anyway,” Sage said, “a bunch of us got together after stopping this big heist near where the city’s pride parade’ll be, and we started wondering if you choosing to use your real name out in the field was like a form of trans pride.”
Arthur dropped the pen he was holding. He wanted to bury his face in his hands.
“Which would be totally cool, for the record,” Bronze Star piped in.
God, it would be, Arthur realized. There weren’t many openly queer heroes out there- there was Friendly Fire, who was openly gay, and technically Superian, who had been a leading voice in establishing marraige equality and seemed to prefer men but also seemed confused or disinterested in human sexuality. There was also Dangerboat, but his existence was kept from most of the public- and most of AEGIS, or that matter- for the longest time.
Arthur, who could name drop nearly every active and inactive superhero and villain since the late sixties and probably had a reference folder in his apartment for all the supers who came before that, could only think of a handful of trans superheros, and most of those had either been outed after dying horribly, faced some public backlash after coming out, or had never stepped foot in the city.
Arthur had never really had the option of living stealth thanks to that damn photo from when his father died. Anyone who knew how to google knew he was trans- that’s probably how Sage and Bronze Star knew.
What was it the tick had called him the morning after they first met? A “Precious Balloon of Hope?” For who?
Maybe he could be the hero he needed growing up as well as the hero he always wanted to be. Maybe-
“Actually,” the Tick cut it, “the last time Arthur was arrested-”
Arthur flushed red, and without thinking he plucked the croissant from Sage’s hand and shoved it in the Tick’s mouth. “Uh, yeah sure- yes, I mean. Let-Let’s go with that. It was totally a, uh, deliberate act of trans pride.”
Arthur pointedly returned Tick’s judgemental side eye for lying with his own. The Tick sighed and took a bite of the croissant.
Bronze Star grinned and gave them a stiff thumbs up. Sage raised an eyebrow, looking unconvinced by Arthur’s admittedly unconvincing attempt at lying, but seemed more annoyed at the theft of his croissant.
“That really is so cool,” Bronze Star said.
It beats the actual story of how he accidentally got stuck with Arthur as his superhero name for sure.