The God of Wine
"I don't think she's coming today either, John," Keith Goodman said to his furry companion, who looked up at him sympathetically. They'd been waiting on the same bench since sunset. Going by the clock in Stern Bild Tower, it was now a quarter to eleven. Keith pushed up from the bench, rolling his shoulders. They couldn't do anymore today; he had work in the morning, and John was probably hungry. The lab nudged at his hand. It was time to go.
He led them out of the park, the bouquet of flowers—roses this time—crushed against his breast. The scent tickled his already reddened nose. He knew he was allergic, but they hadn't bought them for himself.
During the dark days when Tiger and Barnaby were rising through the ranks, poised to dethrone him as the King of Heroes, Keith lost himself. He was happy for the duo who had been struggling up until that point, but Poseidon Corp expected more of him. He needed to maintain his position. If he didn't deliver, he would be out the door. If there was an answer, he couldn't see it, and his mood only got worse. He was letting everyone down.
One night, on his way home from grocery shopping, John got off his leash and lead Keith directly to her. Her hair, the color of moonlight sparkled in the lights of the fountain. She was a newly awakened NEXT and was having trouble controlling her new power. It seemed she was a super strength type, but Keith had never asked. He'd never even asked her name! He'd just complained about his own issues and she listened patiently. He'd intended to help her cope with her knew lot in life, but in the end it was she who'd helped him, not with speeches or pep talks, but with compassion.
And he hadn't even bothered to ask her name…
Keith wanted to thank her for her kindness and at the same time… confess that he'd started to fall for her, but when he returned to the bench where he'd always met her—their bench—she was gone. He'd come back every night for two weeks on the off chance he'd come too late or too early, but she hadn't returned. Soon, every night turned into every other night, and then once a week because roses were expensive and it was about all his sinuses could take, but she never showed.
"Maybe she moved?" John whined in response. Yeah, Keith didn't think that sounded likely, either. Chances were she just didn't want to see him again. She wouldn't be the first woman to blow him off.
He stopped in front of his building, startled by how quiet the normally busy street was. Even in a city like this one, there were times when it felt quiet, empty and unfathomably lonely.
"Are those for me, handsome?" Keith jumped at the voice. So mired in his thoughts, he hadn't noticed Nathan's flashy car or the equally flamboyant owner standing less than six feet away. He smiled to cover his agitation. The taller man came over, gave John a scratch behind the ears. Keith handed over the flowers and Nathan buried his nose in them.
"They're lovely. Who were they for, your lady friend?" Nathan fluttered his lashes Keith's way and the Wind Wizard flushed.
"Yes, well they were… she didn't show up." Keith smiled despite the ache in his chest. "I think I'm going to have to give up on this one."
"You poor dear," Nathan pulled Keith against his chest and threaded his painted fingers in the blonde's hair, surprising Keith when he left it at that. "She doesn't know what she's missing. Why don't we have a drink and tell Nathan all about it."
"I'm not really in the mood to go hang around a bar," Keith mumbled, trapped against Nathan's bronze chest. Keith's place was a good distance away from the heart of the city, in a more mundane district, everything near him would already be closed.
Nathan released Keith long enough to reach into his coat. He brought out a bottle filled with brown liquor and swung it gently by the neck. "Honey, who said anything about going out?"
Three tumblers of whiskey later, Keith was feeling decidedly better than he had when he first got home. Nathan kept his cup full and provided a sympathetic ear, just like her… He shook himself, feeling silly for the comparison. Nathan Seymour and the girl were nothing alike, but something about this situation felt painfully familiar. Keith had never met with Nathan outside of their duties to Hero TV one-on-one, but he decided that he would have to do it again. He liked Nathan, but he didn't care whiskey too much.
"That's such a sad story, Sky High," Nathan said from across the coffee table, John's head resting in his lap. After shrugging off his feathered coat, Nathan had been lavishing John with attention and the pooch looked like he was in doggy heaven. "It seems like you really like her."
"I thought I did," Keith said, looking sheepishly into his half-empty glass. "But I didn't even find out her name."
"You can care for someone without knowing everything about them." Nathan shrugged delicately. "You feel how you feel." Nathan preoccupied himself with rubbing one of John's ears between his thumb and forefinger. "Are you really giving up on her?"
Keith looked away. He didn't really want to, but it was foolish. He had no way of finding her, didn't even know where to begin looking. He couldn't really wait for her to come back to the park forever, could he?
"You don't have to answer now," Nathan supplied. He took a sip from his own glass. "She might not have left by choice, you know. Who would want to leave someone as handsome as you?"
"Do you really mean that?" Keith rasped. He didn't know where the question was coming from, but he was helpless to silence it.
Keith set down the glass and looked down at his hands. "That you think I'm handsome."
"Why wouldn't I mean it?"
"You say it to Barnaby a lot."
"He's handsome, too."
"Who's more handsome?" Keith leaned across the narrow table, until he was on Nathan's side of the divide.
Nathan paused, tapping a bright pink index finger against his chin. "Bunny gets extra points for being young, but otherwise it's very close." Nathan laughed. Keith didn't find it very funny.
"N-Nathan I'm trying to be serious here." He tried for angry, but the liquor just made him sound whiny. "What if I—what if I kissed you? Would that help?"
"It might." A sly smirk curled Nathan's lips. "Let's see what you've got, then."
Keith flushed. He hadn't really expected Nathan to take him up on his offer, and it didn't seem sportsman like to back out now. His eyes closed, Keith leaned more over the table and fell promptly into Nathan's lap. The table gave way under his weight sending Keith, Nathan, the glasses and the empty whiskey bottle sprawling to the floor as John yelped and jumped out of the way.
Nathan gave a throaty laugh as he lay there, Keith at his side feeling embarrassed and ridiculous. He couldn't even do that right. He needed to apologize, right now and start to clean up this mess. Keith tried to get up, but is limbs wouldn't obey him. Fatigue was setting in, lying down was so comfortable and Nathan was so warm. He couldn't move, no matter how much he wanted to.
Gentle fingers feathered across his forehead as his hair was brushed aside. Somewhere above him, he could hear Nathan chuckle low in his throat.
"You were always my favorite… Next to Bison."