Johnny Cage stepped out into the curb, regretting not having an umbrella. He trotted quickly to the front door of his one storey L.A. house. As he fumbled at the lock, he noticed the light was on inside, and what's more, he could make out a shadow of someone moving into his living room.
He managed to carefully open his door without making any noise. He sneaked around the door, closing it slowly, and making it through the hall to his living room. Just around the corner, he took a deep breath, then jumped around, ready to kick the butt of who ever it was that was in his house. "Alright, buddy, show's ov--Rayden?!"
The God of Thunder and Lightning looked up politely from the magazine he was reading. He was sitting on the couch, calm as could be. "Hello, Johnny. Have a rough day at work? You look a little stressed."
Johnny sighed, rolled his eyes and replied: "Really? I'm stressed because I thought someone was breaking into my house!"
"Really?" Rayden's eyebrows arched. "Is there?"
"Is there what?"
"Someone breaking into your house?"
Johnny sighed again, turning around to take off his muddy shoes. "As a matter of fact, there is." he called from the hall. He hung up his jacket, and walked back into the living room to face Rayden, who was sitting up, looking alarmed. "You're him." Johnny clarified. He walked into the kitchen, and got his kettle filled up. He really needed some coffee right about now.
Rayden walked into the kitchen. "I didn't break in."
"Oh, really?" Johnny said, taking the coffee can out of the cupboard. He noticed the label, and it said decaf. How did that get there? he wondered to himself, replacing it on the shelf and getting the instant regular.
"No. I just thought I'd pop around for a visit. You know, visit with one of my friends, just a bit of a social call. When I got here, and you weren't home yet, I let myself in." Rayden said, looking over Johnny's shoulder. " I'll have some too, if you don't mind."
"Of course not." Johnny replied, getting out two cups. "But I think we should clear a few things up. One, you didn't let yourself in, you teleported with out even telling me that you were coming. And two, in case you haven't noticed yet, we're not exactly the best of friends."
Rayden nodded, draping an arm over Johnny's shoulder. He gave the mortal a friendly squeeze. "I know, I know. I've concentrated too much on Liu, him being Kung Lao's descendant and all. That's why I'm making amends."
Johnny, for his part, stared up at the ceiling, not saying anything. He couldn't. Rayden seemed so sincere--but then again, this was a person who freely admitted to using special powers to get people to do what he wanted.
"How long are you planning on staying, Oh Thunderous One?" he asked, pouring the hot water into the two mugs.
"Just a few days," Rayden replied, ignoring the gibe and getting the milk out of the fridge. "Where's the sugar?"
"You take sugar in your coffee?" Johnny said with obvious scorn.
"Yes." Rayden replied haughtily. "Two spoonfuls."
"Two spoonfuls? Well. Maybe I should give you decaf too, to make sure it doesn't keep you up past your bedtime." Johnny said sweetly sarcastic.
Rayden glared, and got the sugar from the cupboard, and a spoon from the drawer. He accepted his mug and milked it and sugared it to his heart's content, ignoring the amusement in Johnny's eyes.
"So what are you planning on us doing?" Johnny asked, taking a sip of his coffee, which was of course strong and black.
"Oh, the usual. Maybe we could go see a movie. Do lunch sometime. Just hang around, you know."
"If you suggest we get facials, I will hit you." Johnny said with a grin. "I have to work tomorrow, but maybe we could see a movie--mine. It just came out."
"Sounds good." Rayden agreed. "I guess I'll just stay here."
"Why don't you go visit Liu, or something?"
"Because Liu's at the Temple of Light." Rayden said, in the tone of voice suggesting he was talking to a brain deficient lobster.
"Uh huh?" Johnny prompted. Lobster or not, he had no idea why Rayden was here, and he was pretty sure it had nothing to do with "being better friends".
"I live at the Temple of Light." Rayden continued, seeing if Johnny could piece it together himself or if he needed more clues.
"So you live--oh, I get it." Johnny said. He started laughing. "Hiko kicked you out, didn't she?"
"She did not!" Rayden huffed, insulted. "She decided, ah, that we needed some time apart."
"What did you do?"
"I didn't do anything."
Johnny nodded, smiling. "Of course you didn't, Rayden."
"I didn't." Rayden said, dead serious.
"Oh no, of course not."
"I believe you." Johnny lied smoothly. He put his full acting "skills" to work. Rayden stared at him for a moment, but Johnny just took a sip coffee, and tried to think sincere thoughts, just in case Rayden tried his "looking into the depths of your soul" trick that he liked to pull. The only sincere thought Johnny could come up with at the moment was how good looking he considered himself to be, but it did the trick. Rayden humphed, and went back to drinking his coffee, apparently satisfied by Johnny's sincerity.
Johnny yawned as he stepped out of the cab. He rubbed his eyes, and slowly walked up the path to his door, half-hoping that Rayden wasn't there. No sooner did he open the door than the smell of chinese food came wafting through the air. Hanging up his coat and taking off his shoes, Johnny made his way to the kitchen, and was amazed to find Rayden at the stove, cooking. Actually, he was more amazed to find the stack of dirty dishes piled high in the sink, and the three chinese guys sitting at his kitchen table. Rayden noticed the stunned star and waved with his free hand, his other hand tossing the vegetables in the wok that he was cooking with.
The three chinese guys all stood up and bowed as Johnny walked in, with one eyebrow raised.
"Uh, Rayden?" he whispered, leaning towards him. "Who are these guys?"
"These guys?" Rayden asked. "Oh, they're just a couple of friends that I decided to make dinner for."
"Oh." Johnny replied, still whispering. Just then, he noticed the smell of something burning, and a thin tendril of smoke curling around his nose. He looked down to see that his tie was on one of the hot stove burners.
"WAAAAAAHHHH!" he yelled, jumping away from the stove, and trying frantically to whip the tie off from around his neck.
"Uh oh." Rayden said, setting down the wok. "I must have left that burner on."
Johnny finally managed to extradite himself from his burning tie and threw it into the sink. Where it landed in a pan with a layer of grease left in it. The fireball nearly torched Johnny's eyebrows off, and he leapt back. In an instant, Rayden gestured and a tiny cloud formed over the fire, raining it out. As soon as the fire was no more, the cloud disappeared, leaving Johnny's singed tie floating in grease.
"Okay guys. Time to go." Rayden said, ushering them out of the kitchen. They disappeared in a flash of light and Rayden turned his attentions to Johnny. He led the stunned star to the table, and got him to sit down. " Try this." the thunder god said, giving Johnny a plate laden with food.
"What's this?" Johnny asked, eyeing the food warily.
"Just a little thing I cooked up." Rayden said. "Go on, try it."
Johnny gingerly dug a small amount up with his fork, then lifted the utensil to his mouth. He chewed slowly at first, but then faster. "Hey!" he exclaimed. "This is really good! This is better than any take-out I've ever had."
"I know." Rayden replied with a grin. "Why do you think they call me the `Chinese' God of Thunder? My resemblance to Jackie Chan?"
"What do you call this?" Johnny asked between mouthfuls.
"Oh, it doesn't have a name, really. It's just left-overs. It's whatever was lying around in your fridge, cooked up with a bit of spice."
"It's really good."
"That's what Hiko always says. You know, it's a good thing that I can cook, otherwise we'd never eat." Rayden said, sitting down with a plate of his own.
"Hiko doesn't cook?"
Rayden laughed, picking what looked like a piece of mashed potato up with his chopstick. "Hiko can barely make toast, let alone a meal. She keeps burning everything."
"And how is the missus? Talked to her yet?" asked Johnny, recognising among the meal the remains of his meatloaf his mother made him two weeks ago that he's stuffed in the back of his freezer. Rayden looked significantly more annoyed at the mention of his wife's name.
"She's still being stubborn." he said irritably, not offering any more information.
"Oh." That, at least, Johnny could relate to. As soon as he was done his meal, he picked up the plate, when he remembered the huge stack of dishes waiting to be done. He became notably down-hearted.
"Don't worry about the dishes." Rayden said. "I'll do them. Don't forget the movie tonight."
"How can I forget?" Johnny said with a grin. "It's me!"
Johnny checked himself in the mirror to make sure his suit was on straight, or something. Actually, he just liked looking at himself in the mirror, but that wasn't the point. He got his trade-mark sunglasses out from his pocket and tried them on. As he thought, they looked dashing with his suit.
A thought occurred to him, and he leaned around the corner. As he thought, Rayden was just sitting there, on the couch, reading the paper. Johnny cleared his throat loudly, and when Rayden looked up, Johnny gestured to his watch. Rayden nodded, and got up from his seat.
"Are you just going like that?" Johnny asked.
Rayden looked at his all-white robe ensemble in the mirror. "What's wrong with it?"
"Nothing, except that you wear it all the time. Not to mention, it is a bit conspicuous." Johnny answered. Rayden sighed, and snapped his fingers. Abruptly his clothes changed, into an immaculate black suit with his white hair back in a pony-tail. He held his arms out, waiting for Johnny's opinion.
"Nice." Johnny answered. "Alright, let's go."
"Did you notice that when you say "all right" like that, you don't pronounce the "l" very well?" Rayden said as they were walking out the door.
"Yeah, I know. It's my trade-mark. Why?"
At the premiere, Johnny got out of the limo to be greeted by several groups of fans, all wanting autographs. Rayden seemed a bit dismayed by the mob, so Johnny told him to go wait at their seats. Rayden nodded, and headed off into the crowd. As he made his way into the theatre, he noticed someone making their way towards him.
"Excuse me?" the man said. "Are you with Johnny Cage?"
Rayden's eyes narrowed. He didn't say anything. The man continued regardless. "I was wondering if you could tell me a few things about him."
"What?" the man seemed a bit confused. "You're not from around here, are you?"
"No." Rayden replied flatly.
"Where are you from?"
"I see. So, what's your relationship with Johnny Cage?"
"We're just friends."
"Okay! Thank you." The man bounded off, to disappear in the crowd. Rayden shook his head, and tried to forget all about it.
As he took his seat, Johnny finally caught up with him. He seemed incredibly pleased with himself, and settled into watch the movie. As the previews started rolling, Johnny leaned over and whispered: "Any problems?"
"Hm? Oh, no."
"None at all?"
"There was one weird guy who kept asking me questions about you."
"What sort of questions?" Johnny asked, a touch of panic creeping into his voice.
"Oh, nothing really that interesting. But I didn't tell him anything."
"That's good." Johnny said, feeling a sinking feeling in his stomach. Those tabloid reporters would stop at nothing to get a story, and if they could find a story, then they made it up. Noticing Johnny's sudden change in mood, Rayden offered him something to cheer him up.
As the movie ended, people filed out as they normally did, talking amongst themselves, joking, etc. It was a pretty subdued crowd tonight, except for the sudden sound of laughter coming from the companion of the movie's star.
Rayden was laughing his head off. "That was such a good remake of Casablanca, Johnny! Who came up with the idea of making it into a martial arts comedy?"
Johnny sighed for the three trillionth time. "It wasn't a remake of anything! It was set in the second world war, that's all, and it wasn't a comedy!"
"But it was hilarious! Especially that scene where you were fighting in the alleyway."
Johnny held his head in his hands. He didn't see how things could get much worse.
As a wise, cranky old man once said: anything that can go wrong, will, and also: nothing is so bad that it can't get worse.
Johnny picked up the tabloid from his front step. He looked at the picture and groaned. He groaned very, very loudly, and stomped into the kitchen. Rayden was calmly eating waffles when Johnny stormed in.
"Morning." the god said casually. Johnny said nothing but threw the paper on the table, sat heavily in his chair, and banged his head on the table. Rayden picked the paper up. "Hey!" he said. "That's us on the front cover!"
"I know." Johnny lamented. "It's too much."
"Oh, I don't know." Rayden said, studying the picture. "It's not that bad a shot."
"Not the picture, the article!"
Rayden flipped the page. "Oh. Oh dear."
"Exactly!" Johnny cried, throwing his arms in the air. "Not only am I a fake in the eyes of the media, I'm now a gay fake!"
Rayden chuckled. "What is so funny?" Johnny fumed.
"Oh nothing. I was just thinking about how you said that you were a gay fake, but since you aren't, you're more like a fake gay. Get it?"
Johnny lay his head down on the table again and whimpered.
"Look," he said after a moment. "I have to run some errands and get some food. Is there anything you wanted?"
"Yeah--could you get me some peanuts and ice cream?"
"Peanuts and ice cream?" Johnny repeated, very, very slowly.
"Yes." Rayden started to read the rest of the paper.
"Let me get this straight: you want peanuts and ice cream?" Johnny continued.
Rayden looked up at him, an odd look in his eyes. "Yes. Peanuts and ice cream. Do you have any problems with that?"
Johnny decided now was a nice time to back off. He held up his arms in the symbol of surrender. "Alright, alright, I give in. I'll get you your peanuts and ice cream. Any other requests?"
"Good." Johnny got up from the table.
Johnny glanced down at his list that he had written out. Along the bottom were the hastily-scrawled words "peanuts and ice cream". Johnny shook his head, but pushed the cart back towards the frozen food section.
After he got the ice cream (he picked at random, since Rayden didn't specify which particular brand he wanted) he pushed the cart into the checkout aisle, scowling as he saw the tabloids lined up against the shelves. The latest Johnny Cage "news" were written across the fronts in bright red letters, and Johnny wished he could rip them all into shreds right here. However, since he didn't exactly want to create a scene ("Johnny Cage Has Supermarket Tantrum") he ignored the magazines, and concentrated on getting his groceries rung in.
"That'll fifty-four-twenty." the cashier drawled, looking very bored. Johnny counted out $54.20 and handed it to her. He retrieved his groceries at the end of the counter, then started to carry them out when all of a sudden someone ran up to him.
"Are you Johnny Cage?" the man demanded. Johnny was confused for a moment, until he saw a notebook being produced from the man's pocket. He was a reporter.
"I have nothing to say to you." Johnny replied coldly, carrying on without stopping.
"Is it true that you and that Chinese guy are "just friends"?"
"But are you really just friends?" the man continued.
Johnny stopped and turned to face the reporter. He was about half-a-head shorter than the movie star, and considerably pudgier. Johnny placed his bags on the ground.
The reporter was puzzled for a moment, until Johnny Cage's fist connected with his nose.
Johnny Cage winced and dabbed at his nose again. The cloth still came away bloody, and he sighed to himself.
"You know, you really shouldn't have gotten into a fight with that reporter." Rayden said from the kitchen table, putting the groceries away.
"How was I supposed to know he was a black belt in karate?!" Johnny exclaimed.
"You're just lucky I came looking for you." Rayden replied. "Otherwise it wouldn't have been just your nose that was splattered all over the pavement."
"Thanks." Johnny grimaced at the bloody cloth. "I hate going out to places where reporters can get at me."
"Why did you bother going out at all? You can have groceries delivered." Rayden pointed out, as he was putting away the cheese.
Johnny mumbled something into the cloth.
"You got the peanuts after all!" Rayden exclaimed. "Uh, what was that you just said?"
Johnny sighed. "I said that I really like going shopping."
Rayden didn't say anything, but suppressed a chuckle. Unfortunately for Johnny, the chuckle didn't stay suppressed for to long. "You?! You like going shopping?!"
Johnny squirmed in his chair, looking distinctly uncomfortable.
Rayden laughed for another few moments, then started to clear away the shopping again. Going through the last bag, he pulled out an icy cold container. "You got the ice cream too! Oh, wait."
"What now?" Johnny asked irritably.
"You got Heavenly Hash."
"I hate Heavenly Hash."
Wordlessly Johnny got up from the table. He walked to the phone, and looked up something on his phone list. He started to dial a number.
"Who are you calling?" Rayden asked, putting the ice cream in the freezer. Johnny ignored him.
"Hello, I'd like to--" Johnny sighed and rolled his eyes. "Hello...uh, Lay ho ma? Oops, wrong dialect. Hajimemashite?" he abruptly held the phone from his ear as the person on the other line voiced their opinion concerning the wrong attempts. Johnny ventured back to the phone. "Let's try this again...Liu Kang?" he said loudly and slowly.
Rayden walked up to Johnny, suspicious. He glanced down at the telephone list, to the first entry: "Temple Of Light--China".
"Hi, Liu?" Johnny began again. "Yeah, it's me. What? Well apologise for me. No, I don't know the difference between Cantonese and...what? I'm not even going to try to pronounce that, Liu. So what if it was Japanese? Yeah, who's going to make me? Oh. Okay, look, this isn't what I wanted to talk about anyway. Hm? Yeah. I know. He's been driving me nuts. No, I don't know why. Oh, that's it? Oh. I see. Can you talk to her? Yeah, I'll talk to him. Okay. See you later, Liu. Bye." He hung up. He glared at Rayden.
"You killed her prize rose bushes?! How did you manage that?" Johnny demanded.
"It was an accident." Rayden answered. "I didn't mean to...they were just in the way."
"The way of what?"
Johnny just stared at him.
"Look," Rayden explained. "She's has these rose bushes that grow on the south side of the temple, okay? She brought them from her home Realm. And Liu and I were practising in front of some of the younger students and I showed off a little."
"Did you really?" Johnny inquired in an extremely sarcastic voice.
"Did you apologise?"
"Of course!" Rayden responded huffily. "It's just that she was--understandably--very upset, so I decided to get out of the house. Temple. Whatever."
"Well, I talked to Liu, and he's going to talk to her, and so everything will go back to being what passes for normal in my life. Okay?" Johnny stormed out of the kitchen. Rayden remained, calmly opening his container of peanuts, and beginning to munch quietly.
"Well," Rayden said finally. "I guess I had better get going."
Johnny nodded. He and Rayden stood in the front hall, each staring at various things littered around--anything that kept them from making eye contact. "I had a nice time." Rayden finally offered slowly.
"Really?" Johnny looked up warily from his shoes. "I guess I did, too, in an odd sort of way."
Rayden smiled broadly, and clapped Johnny on the back, causing Johnny to wince. "Oh. Right. Forgot about the back injury. Anyway, we have to do this again some time."
"Definitely." added Johnny with a slight cough. Rayden nodded, and without a further word, walked out the door, disappearing as he teleported home.
Johnny wearily closed the door, latching it. Just in case. He trudged into the kitchen, hoping to make himself a cup of coffee to rally his nerves. However, as he opened the cupboard, he noticed something was wrong. It took him another moment before he realised that the problem was that there were no clean mugs. At all. Fearing the worst, he glanced down at the sink.
It was piled high with dirty dishes. Dishes that Rayden apparently hadn't washed after all.
Johnny closed his eyes, and decided to go back to bed. He had had a long day.