Warnings: Violence, transphobia, homophobia, slurs and language.

They throw her into the wall, against the dumpster, onto the ground, ripping her clothes as they spit those words. Queer. Monster. Faggot. She's heard those words a thousand times where she's from. She thought Sternbild would be different, a city of twenty-two million people, too many people to care about the choices of a woman born a boy.

Except they do. They care. They hate her. In the way they beat her, she feels that hate.

Queer. Monster. Faggot. Queer. Monster. Faggot.

They're right, aren't they?

The ringleader undoes his belt, tugging it out from around his pants and whipping it against the ground experimentally. She crawls an inch, but his two friends grab her arms and hold her still, back facing the assailant.

One strike, with the buckle. Queer. Monster. Faggot.

A second strike. Queer. Monster. Faggot!

A third. Faggot, faggot, FAGGOT!

A fourth. Die, faggot, DIE!

And she wishes she could. She wishes she had the courage to climb to the top of the Justice Tower and fling herself off. She wishes she had the strength to shove a gun in her mouth, or the guts to swallow pills in a terminally toxic cocktail.

If I'm lucky, maybe they'll finish the job for me.


The belt stops, and they drop her arms. Her face smears against the pavement, and she barely twists her neck to see the man approaching.

He's beautiful. A streetlight halo glows on his dark skin, bedazzles his jacket—pink sleeves and a sequined waistcoat, with fluffy fur-trimmed collar—and shines down his tight red pants.

Stay back. They'll get you, too.

"Another?" The belter snaps the leather threateningly. "This city is just crawling with fags tonight."

"Let that woman go," the man points, voice unwavering.

The belter howls with laughter. "Woman? Woman? He's a freak and a monster, and we're showing him his place!" He snaps the belt again, and approaches the newcomer. "I think you're a bit cocky, too, you fucking cocksucker."

Run! She prays, but the man takes a fighting stance as the thugs approach him.

Then, with a snap of his fingers, an orange flame bursts into life, along with it a blue aura of NEXT power.

"A hero?" one of the goons cries.

"The new one, Fire Emblem!"

"You're under arrest for assault," the man says, gently teasing the orange flame larger.

The ringleader just continues laughing. "Hero…" he mutters. "Fags aren't heroes."

"Really now?" Fire Emblem approaches, and with a wave of his hand, extinguishes his only weapon. "Well, bigoted idiots are too pathetic to use my power on."

"Fucker!" The belter charges Fire Emblem, swinging the leather strap wildly. Fire Emblem dodges with the grace of a flickering fire, and jabs the man in the solar plexus. She hears the man gasp, wind knocked out of his lungs, and he falls. The two goons split—one to attack the hero, the other running for his life—but they meet the same fate. Fire Emblem clotheslines the fleeing thug with his arm, and then flings the other over his shoulder with a well-timed flip.

Fire Emblem gathers up the brutes and tosses them in the alley dumpster, welding it shut at the corners with a lick of fire from his pinkie finger. Having made short work of the assailants, he turns his attention to the bleeding, bruised woman, kneeling beside her and smoothing her hair.

"Hey, honey," he says. His voice is so soft, soothing like a summer breeze. "It's okay now. They won't bother you."

She can't stop tears falling from her eyes. Her mascara runs down her cheeks.

"Shh, honey, it's okay. It's okay."

The hero wraps his arms around her, and her only thought is, I'm getting blood on his clothes. Her shaking fingers try to push him away, but he holds her tight.

"Say, what's your name?" he asks. "I'm Nathan."

"H… Ho…" Queer. Monster. Faggot. "…Harold."

"Oh?" He's surprised. With the way she's dressed, he probably expected a female name. He has one, but he can't say it. "Well, nice to meet you."

"You should have…" She chokes. "Should have…"

"I should have what?"

"…Let me die."

"No way," He pulls his face away and smiles at her, catching a tear on his manicured finger. "It's people like you that make the world worth saving. If you died, then the world would lose a brave, bright, beautiful candle in the dark."

Overcome, she buries her face in Fire Emblem's shoulder.

"Hope," she corrects. "My name is Hope."

A/N: When first posted to the Tiger and Bunny Anon Meme, I added an author's note at the end, explaining why I filled this prompt.

Nathan's... A bit of a role model of mine. I'm a lesbian, and I don't want to be male, but I want to be treated like a man. Seeing Nathan's character, a man acting like, but not trying to pass for, a woman, really made me reassess the way I live my life. His courage inspires me, and my dearest wish for season two and the movies, or any other T&B media we get, is to see more of him.

Some days, I feel like Hope. But I'm trying my hardest to be a Nathan, because each person with love in their heart is a brave, beautiful candle, and I need to do my best to defend them.