Kathy was finishing up the last of her breakfast when her father made an annoyed noise behind his paper. She and Sarah both glanced up quickly, meeting one another's eyes, and then turned towards him. "Everything okay, Dad?" Kathy asked, keeping her voice deliberately light as Sarah went back to her gaeran tost-u. "People in the Capitol being idiots again?" That was usually a good bet and while that might trigger a ten minute rant about politics, it would get it out of his system rather than letting it simmer all day.
"We should be so lucky," her father griped. "No, just another one of them showed up. I swear, they're worse than cockroaches in this damn city."
"Them?" Kathy asked. "What's worse? Who?"
Sarah caught her eye and rolled her eyes, signaling for her to drop it, but it was too late. The questions had been asked and her father was audibly inhaling in preparation. "Another one of these!" he said, folding the paper and thrusting it into Kathy's face. "God, LA's practically infested with them!"
Kathy choked, finding herself suddenly staring at her own face. Not entirely, thank goodness. Her mask was firmly on, her hair tightly braided and coiled at the back of her head. But there was no denying it was a picture of her, rainbows at her wrists, captured mid-bounce with two men zip-tied to a lamppost behind her. She knew exactly when that picture had been snapped, too; Saturday night, about halfway through her patrol. But she didn't remember seeing anyone besides they guys she'd busted trying to rob a convenience store--and she definitely didn't remember anyone snapping a picture of her. But there she was, on page B6, practically silhouetted against the neon lights of the city. "Dad, I can--"
As usual, he talked right over her. "And here's another one, got his powers for Christmas or something and felt like trying them out," he snorted. "He calls himself Banzai of all things. Because what this city needs is one more bonehead vigilante starting fights on our streets. These people are worse than the Sevens!"
So this is what it feels like to be pole-axed, Kathy thought in a distant, dreamy way. He knows about Banzai but he doesn't know about me. I'm safe. I'm still safe. She heard Sarah staunchly defending the superheroes against the insinuation that they could somehow be worse than the gang that practically held their entire district hostage, but she couldn't even muster up the energy to silently remind Sarah not to push. That spike of adrenaline drained out of her, leaving her feeling exhausted, with legs that felt like jelly. I'm safe. Thank you, Buddha. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, JHVH. Thank you--wait.
It was like a record-scratch in her brain. "Wait, did you say he?" she asked, not even caring that she was interrupting. Both Sarah and her father paused to look at her. "Yeah?" her dad said and handed the article over. "Why?"
"Oh," Kathy said as she skimmed the article, noting that, yes, the article referred to her with all-male pronouns. Apparently the gi did a better job of covering her up than she'd thought--or were her curves really that minimal? Sure, pretty much everyone at Fandom had her beat--as did Sarah, who was only fourteen--but was she really...boyish? "Uhh, just all those rainbows," she finished lamely. "I would have figured..."
"Oh c'mon, Kathy," Sarah said, rolling her eyes. "This guy's just an LGBTQ superhero. Obviously."
"Right," Kathy said with a nod. "Rainbows. That makes sense."
"Which is exactly what this city needs," her father interjected. "Some new so-called superhero, pushing his pro-gay, pro-Japanese agenda at all of us."
"C'mon, Dad," Kathy said as Sarah rolled her eyes again. "Just because this, uhh, this guy calls himself Banzai doesn't mean he's got an agenda. Or even that he's Japanese!" That was the closest she could get to calling out her Dad for being racist. Sighing, she pushed herself up to her feet, clearing the table of everyone's breakfast without a second thought. "Never mind. I've gotta go pack. My por--plane leaves in a few hours." Kathy would be very happy if her parents never learned about portals, thank you.
"Aww, do you really have to go?" Sarah asked, following her into the kitchen. "It's only been three days!"
"I know and I'm sorry," Kathy said, turning to give her sister a hug. "But I've got--"
"Schoolwork, yeah yeah, I know," Sarah grumbled. "Still. I miss you. It's boring here with just Mom and Dad and you've gotten way cooler since you went away to school. Even if you are nerd enough to cut your break short so you can go back to studying."
Actually, Kathy had a trip to Japan to get to, with a friend who was the leader of a para-military skating faction and a friend-with-benefits who hunted demons in his spare time. But there was absolutely no way she was going to admit to any of that. Especially where their dad could hear. "I miss you, too. Maybe I can bring you out to me over your break sometime or something. All my friends like you."
"Oh wow, that would be amazing!" Sarah said, melancholy forgotten. "Visiting the island without Mom and Dad around would be awesome."
"I'd better not catch you kissing anyone I know," Kathy teased.
"So you're saying you'd rather have me kiss perfect strangers?" Sarah teased right back. "I can do that."
"You are the worst sister ever," Kathy told her, grinning.
On her way to the Portalocity, Kathy grabbed a copy of the daily paper and flipped to the article about her. The vain part of her still grumbled every time the paper referred to her as a guy, but still, she couldn't deny that it was useful. Her family had accepted the designation without question which meant that there was no way they'd ever link 'Banzai' with 'Kathy,' even though the hero only seemed to show up when she was in town. So, yeah. She could use this. Her plan had been to step up clandestine trips to LA to establish Banzai's presence there while her parents were firmly convinced she remained on the East Coast to keep them from getting suspicious, but this worked too.
[Establishy! This was mentioned once, off-hand in canon, which ofc meant that I had to play with it. With bonus family feels because why not?]
- The Li Family Apartment, Los Angeles, Monday Morning